Income, Profit, and Making a Living……

During dinner last night with friends, the discussion entered the realm of the difficulty in making a living in the arts. There are multiple dimensions to this, but if one strips to the core, it’s relatively simple – all be it disconcerting. As much as people do enjoy the arts, for those who have money to spend, what they are willing to pay is a different story. Almost as important is the reality there are many, many talented artists/artisans (this includes writers), and as in any commodity, markets are often “flooded”. Oh, for the sake of this post, I’m referring to freelance. Yes, there are teaching positions, but that’s a different path.

Unlike numerous careers where you won’t become wealthy, but you can earn enough to achieve and sustain middle class, few in the arts are genuinely likely to achieve that. Certainly not if there’s a family to care for as well. The tiny percent in the arts who do “make the big time” help fuel the dream though of all who have such aspirations. (Yes, there are also those who create only for “art’s sake”; that though is yet another topic).  The desire to create, whether it’s acting, art, craft, dance, music, or writing is something that should never be discouraged as it is a profound aspect of being human. Balancing the drive with “real life” is the trick as I’ve posted about when we were faced with son’s intent to be a dancer. And of course I’ve written  plenty about my own experience which was part of last night’s discussion. In never having the commercial breakthrough, my writing has been a consistent tax write-off, but the IRS does get a bit touchy with year in and year out of that. Since I do primarily self-publish and I no longer publish at least one book a year, it  works out that I “make a profit” every few years. That is very much a relative term as it means yes, I have more income from writing than expenses. Let us say the ability to make a living with that income is not the same. On the other hand, I’ve refined the process to where my costs are no more than we spend on an average vacation and we do both take pleasure in my books.

It’s Frying Time Again…..

Ah, the many years of roasting the turkey – what a tradition with the regional elements I’ve encountered being assigned to different places. Being raised in the deep South, dressing was the given and quite frankly, stuffing was never considered. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my maternal grandmother’s dressing – mostly cornbread of course – was terrific. Like so many family dishes though, she didn’t follow a precise recipe. One reason was because she used cornbread and leftover biscuits and the amount of moisture in them did vary based on the batch. Subsequently, the amount of eggs and broth needed to attain the correct consistency varied and how much spice to add was based on the volume of the dressing. It was very much a matter of her “sensing” what was required. My sister had the patience to observe and experiment enough to finally get really close with a written recipe. Stuffing was something I didn’t experience until traveling to the Northeast, and while I enjoy it, given the choice, I do prefer dressing.

The roast turkey of course was always the centerpiece and came with all the good and bad of managing the thawing, seasoning, timing, and carving. I never actually did a turkey on my own as I, then we, usually spent the holiday with family. Hubby and I started hosting what we referred to as “orphans” those times when we didn’t travel. In a military setting, there are almost always singles around who appreciate an invitation.

Smoking turkeys became a thing for a period of time even though we didn’t attempt it. We weren’t really on board with the frying technique initially until Hubby’s cousin by marriage did one and oh my, it was delicious. I may have previously posted about the Christmas when I bought him a turkey fryer. There are a couple of big parts and the box is fairly large. Fortunately, we had a three-quarters bath in the basement of the townhouse that we never used and it fit perfectly in that shower with the curtain drawn. Hubby doesn’t go with fried all the time as it is quite the process. This is going to be one of those years and the appropriate number of gallons – yes gallons – of peanut oil are on-hand ready to look positively medieval as it achieves the right temperature. It does have to be carefully controlled and safety is important.

Not That I Like Them…..

I have mentioned on numerous occasions about my “picky eating” in the sense of not caring for quite a few things considered “normal” by most people. I brought this up not long ago as I explained about our banana plant finally bearing fruit. As an update, these are the small sugar bananas. They still seem to take quite a while in ripening on the tree and we aren’t entirely certain what the optimum point for bringing them is. Hubby’s trying different times to experiment since we have quite a few. Some, he’s only been able to one or two bites from, but says they are delicious. In all fairness, at their size, four bites is about the max anyway.

On to the subject of eggs. I think I did once explain when Hubby and I were in our early stages of dating the first dinner he cooked for me was this wonderful stuffed game hen dish. He was disappointed to learn about me not eating eggs because he does make a great omelette. (He’s since converted to frittatas, but that’s not the point here). Although his normal breakfast continues to be leftover pizza, he does periodically take the time to make a real breakfast. There were some TV ads not long ago about the “Just Crack An Egg” product. It’s a microwavable round container where you crack and stir in one egg, recover the lid and zap for a nice hot dish. There are different flavors and rather than dehydrated items, they have them in packages inside the container. For example, a little packet of real sausage bits or diced peppers for the Denver Scramble. He’s gotten several of those and liked them. This week he discovered “Sausage, Cheese, and Egg Balls”. Similar concept in the pre-made balls are in a round microwavable container. He said they are good. For both products though, since they don’t use dehydrated items, you do have to check the use-by date.

Mentoring Women for Racing….

I’ve posted before about NASCAR, but also about how Homestead Speedway has lots of other activities that aren’t as well known. One of those is the FARA races that come I think twice a year. Hubby was at the track all yesterday afternoon. FARA is Formula and Automobile Racing Association and there are different classes of cars and types of racing. Some have the potential to go on to the higher level circuits of Indy, NASCAR, and so forth. In other cases, people have the resources to be part of racing at this level with no expectation of anything else.

Something special though has to do with a program called Shift Up Now. Hubby discovered it back in February and included this in his overall article: “Arguably the most well known racer to participate in the Miami 500 was Pippa Mann. She is an Indy Car Racer who competes regularly in the Indy Car Series and finished 16th in last year’s Indy 500. She now also works with Shift Up Now as a driver coach.

Mann was in Homestead to coach and co-drive with Kristina Esposito, a 17-year-old New York racer.

Shift Up Now Founder and CEO Lynn Kehoe was also on hand to support Kristina. Ms Kehoe summed up the mission of the organization as “We’re all about helping racers and non-racers by inspiring and instilling confidence in women and girls.”

With their partners such as TLM Racing, Shift Up Now will be supporting Kristina as she competes in the FARA series of races with her goal being a class championship.

Kristina also uses her racing to raise money to support the New York Fire Department’s Widow’s and Children’s Fund.”

Both women are here in Homestead this weekend, still doing well in their racing and promoting interest along the way. Hubby’s article will probably be in next week’s paper.

The Three Celebrities Pattern….

Sigh. We are all familiar with “three celebrity deaths in a row”, and this has been no exception. While Ken Spears, who helped create Scooby-Doo, wasn’t someone I knew anything about, there were many episodes of Scooby and the gang watched when son was at the cartoon age.

And to be fair, Sean Connery did make it to 90. Despite him having grown up in poverty, how could he have not achieved basically everything he wanted in life? Well, okay, he was a fierce proponent for Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom, and that hasn’t come about. What wonderful movies from him though and what class over the decades. He was the quintessential James Bond, and others were from okay-to-good, but none could truly match him.

Which brings us to Alex Trebec. If you caught the Monday, Nov 9th intro to the episode, there was no way to not tear up as the studio VIP paid his tribute and explained all thirty-five of the final episodes with Alex would air. The fact he was able to do as well as he did during his battle with cancer was remarkable enough. That he taped his final show only two weeks before died was symbolic of why he was admired by so very many. I suspect no one will ever know the thousands of youngsters (and perhaps adults) he inspired in all those games of Jeopardy. RIP, gentlemen, and thank you for what you shared with us.

When Willing To Pay A Little More….

This is one of those fun things to hear. I may actually have previously posted about this  but if so, it’s been a while. As I have discussed before, I am not into spending money for the sake of doing so and those times when I have bought a “luxury car”, it has been a pre-owned, low-mileage one. The same goes for dining. Yes, we can afford the really high end places for special occasions, but quite frankly, we don’t care to special the extra money to encounter the attitude that too often comes with those.

On the other hand, there are times when spending extra is worth it, especially when it does support a small business. As we came back up from Islamorada this afternoon we heard an ad on the radio for a second location for Key Largo Chocolates.The couple that opened the store are hard working and have established a business that is pure, 100% discretionary. No one actually needs specialty chocolates.To succeed in such a business is impressive enough, but to be able to open a second store with everything going on right now – how great is that? Their secret isn’t really secret; it’s making this work the old fashioned way. They started with an excellent product of hand crafted chocolates. I won’t list the many types because you would start drooling. Yes, they cost extra, but they are fabulous. They added more kinds and create novelty shapes. Then they added an ice cream section. Apparently they also offer cakes now although it has been a while since I was in. They market well and attend many big public events as vendors.

A few years ago when my cousin brought her daughters down, she commented about wanting to get something special to take back for the lady who was looking after their dogs/checking on the house. I explained I knew just the thing. They were, of course, captivated and purchased a box as the present as well as some for themselves. Halfway back to our house my cousin remarked that perhaps she should have doubled up on what they bought.

It’s https://keylargochocolates.com and yes, they do ship.

Adopting Italian Dishes….

Hubby made pesto the other day as our basil is beginning to get “leggy” and may have to be cut back soon. I know some of this post will be repetitious to longtime followers, so do bear with me. I’ve previously mentioned, Hubby grew up in a small Georgia town and I in small Louisiana towns. In my case, North Louisiana, which at that time did not embrace Cajun/Creole dishes the way they do now. On the other hand, both of us enjoyed the standard Southern fare of fried chicken, homemade biscuits, a can of bacon drippings on the stove to use as seasoning, etc. In other words, our culinary experiences did not expand significantly until we left our respective homes.

As I may also have explained, there are not many Army personnel in Italy, more Navy and Air Force which is why we never expected to be assigned there. Notwithstanding the intensely difficult professional positions we were in, there was most assuredly personal pleasure in spending 18 months in Tuscany. One surprising thing we discovered about Italian cooking was how very regional it is. Pesto is a good example. Predominantly a dish found in Liguria, especially around Genoa, there were only one or two restaurants where we lived that carried it on the menu. The same was true of something like veal saltimbocca – very popular around Rome and rarely seen where we were. Certain others, such as frito misto (the fried seafood mix) was common almost everywhere as was pizza.

The other thing we hadn’t realized was how quickly sauces were created and how few ingredients were often used; the key being freshness more than complexity. What we call marinara was usually referred to as pomodoro. Garlic, olive oil, crushed or diced tomatoes, salt and pepper and that was it – maybe fifteen minutes to prepare. Stir in cream and it became a rose sauce. Although the demands of our jobs didn’t allow us to travel as much as we would have liked, we did make it to Venice where other delicious dishes awaited us. Okay, I didn’t care for the varied ways of offering cuttlefish, but Hubby thoroughly enjoyed them.

 

No Caterpillars Yet…..

As I have previously explained, Hubby and I are still unclear when it comes to certain gardening things and it looks as if one of the orchids may have died after doing well. It  for months. It happened rather suddenly and the others are okay, so perhaps it was some sort of bug. One of the other plants (the chocolate raspberry) we thought was a goner has re-bloomed and is looking great.

That leads me to the milkweed. Last year we had a few caterpillars, chrysalis and butterflies. I mean we have different types of butterflies flitting about every day, but these were some we felt certain came from the milkweed plant. It was devoured though and seemed to be down to bare stem. We left it alone and sure enough it has also grown a great deal. We haven’t seen any caterpillars yet, but then again, we don’t know what the cycle is. There are quite a number of black “dots” on the underside of a couple of the leaves toward the back of the plant. Perhaps those are eggs although I can’t be certain. We will pay more attention this year. I know we can order chrysalis through the mail, but it would seem in this environment it makes more sense to allow nature to take over.

Oh, a related topic is the bananas haven’t ripened yet even though they are growing. I say haven’t ripen as in they haven’t turned yellow or softened very much. We’re still not certain as to that process either. Yeah, I know. You would think after being in this house as long as we have been we would understand how these things work.

October Trip, Day 4…..

Okay, am posting this from the house. Flights went smoothly today and traffic from airport was not bad. Even made it inside 20 minutes ahead of the rain currently falling.

We did have a late night last night as Clyde’s, the restaurant we went to, took longer than we expected – good food and the delays were understandable. For one of the first times ever, I did not get my crab cakes during the Virginia visit. I fully intended to, but when they have lobster Shepard’s pie on the menu, how does one resist? I did have Maryland crab soup though, so a regional homage was involved. We all wanted to spend a little more time together and thus did a nightcap in the room as granddaughter was a bit “wired” and needed to wind down. Had done my Grandma duty with an hour in the pool earlier in the afternoon and let’s just say it was not overly comfortable. The kids did have a nice “date day”, but with the weather rainy and chilly, they mostly relaxed rather than went anywhere special.

A very different experience on the connecting flight to Miami which went far better than I thought. We were in aisle and center seat and lady was right behind us who was in the window seat. Okay, we step back out to let her and her dog in. Some kind of long hair terrier mix. As she was juggling everything, I made the comment of it would take her a minute to get the dog in the carrier. She said, “No, she wouldn’t be needing it.” Ah, the dog was to be in her lap for the entire flight. You can understand my concern. Now, my sister, who is allergic to animal dander, has commented before about this being something that bothers her. We happen not to be allergic, but it was a full flight. I have no idea what would have happened if one or both of us were allergic. The dog did squirm around a bit, but also behave and it wasn’t an issue. In truth, as startling as it was, the dog was quieter than having an crying baby/child next to us.

 

 

October Trip Day 3….

I was actually expecting granddaughter to be knocking on our door by now (8:45 a.m.), but she did expend a lot of energy yesterday. Today’s plan is for the kids to have a “date day” as we take granddaughter to the Air and Space Museum annex near Dulles. That’s the reason for staying on this side of D.C. For those not familiar with it, the official name is the Smithsonian Institution Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The Air and Space Museum in D.C. has far more items than they can display and there are physical issues with being able to expand. Many years – okay, decades ago – there was the idea to build an annex out close to Dulles where a facility could be constructed to hold the famous SR-71 – the “Blackbird” supersonic spy plane and even a space shuttle. That was obviously a major effort. I don’t recall now when it opened, but the kids have visited it once and Hubby has wanted to for quite some time. There are of course restrictions now as to capacity, so tickets are issued for timed entries. We’re at 10:30 so no one had to rush around. Will report after.

Good exhibits even with a number of really cool ones closed because of COVID restrictions. Kept granddaughter’s attention for 1.5 hours and the trip through the museum shop was reasonable. In discussing potential careers like engineers, astronauts, etc., learned granddaughter’s intent is to be a vet so she can take care of puppies and llamas.

Moving on to next unexpected travel irritant. Turns out there is no housekeeping. Process is beds don’t get changed (not an issue as we take that option anyway when it’s only a few days), towels can be delivered when you ask for them as are other amenities. Trash is to be placed outside and is picked up. No actual cleaning provided until after checkout. In sorting through that logic, it would have been nice to have been informed of this on their website before booking or certainly as least when we checked in.