The Benwood Wreck….

Some who follow the blog are familiar with the wreck of the Benwood as one of the artificial reefs in Key Largo. This is what is referred to as a “natural artificial” reef as opposed to a planned one. All shipwecks become artificial reefs since the coral polyps that move through the water don’t care what they affix to as long as the surface will support the beginning of the colony. The same is true for small fish seeking shelter – a shipwreck is no different to them than a series of rocks. The Benwood was a freighter during WW II and was running under blackout conditions as was required. Unfortunately when two vessels in close proximity are under blackout conditions, collisions can occur. They salvaged as much as possible, but couldn’t save the ship. As happens, with more than 70 years underwater, storms have also battered the wreckage and scattered it even more. However, there is a large section still together and lots of pieces, to include the anchor, spread around. It is a shallow wreck at only 30-42 feet deep. There is always plenty of marine life around, usually multiple schools of fish and you never know what else you’ll see.

In finally getting out to dive again, it didn’t disappoint the other day. Hubby didn’t want to jinx it, but apparently a few months ago a sea turtle took up residence. I haven’t seen a turtle in ages and sure enough he was on the wreck. He seems to be quite comfortable being around divers. He hung around for a while, surfaced for air, and then came back again. He passed right in front of us, not the least bit concerned. They are always fun to watch, especially when they linger. Another fish I hadn’t see in a long time was a puffer and they really do tend to dart off. This one though didn’t and I got a nice long look at it. A very pleasant dive on the Benwood.

This photo was taken some time ago, but they do rather all look alike.

Turtle in Key Largo. Photo by hubby, of course.

Ah, Now I See….

We were supposed to travel to the Washington, DC area in late March, but of course that was upended. We were holding off thinking the event might be rescheduled and that, too, is not going to happen. We decided, okay, we’ll go up toward the end of October for a short trip to celebrate son’s birthday. We hopefully still have our credit from the flight that was cancelled. Apparently I will have to do that with a human being so I went on-line to see what flights are available before trying to navigate the process. Was I in for a surprise. We generally fly in and out of National Airport although the kids live about the same distance from National and Dulles Airport. The difference in the past is the things we were doing with the kids while we there made it more practical to go in and out of National. This trip is the opposite and thus using Dulles makes more sense. Except I checked and there were no direct flights. Huh. Okay, that means adding in transport from National to Dulles or getting a rental car – hadn’t planned to, but that’s manageable.

Based on what I’ve heard from people who are flying, things are a bit crazy. I now understand. When I went on-line to check the flights to National I was shocked to see only two very early morning direct flights instead of the six per day there used to be. (If there are limited direct flights, that hour makes sense for when it gets someone to DC who is on business.) All other flights go through Charlotte or Dallas. Why one would leave Florida, fly to Dallas and turn around to go to Washington is a puzzler, but let’s leave for the moment. I don’t have the energy to deal with this today and so will tackle it next week. Sigh!

Well, What Have We Here….

It has been quite some time since we did the remodel on the house and re-landscaping of the back yard. We had the banana plant, which had never borne fruit, in this wonderful pot. The woman who did the design and work for the yard (same one we originally used) replanted it into a corner of the side yard. She told us it would bear fruit some day. Quite frankly, it’s been so long, we haven’t even thought about it. So, a couple of days ago when I was coming downstairs, I glanced out the window and therefore saw the banana plant at a different angle. I was startled at what I thought I saw and moved to the window for a closer look. Hubby is always outside, trimming, etc., as we (well, he) tries to keep things under under control with the rapid growth of plants common in this environment. I asked him to come look. He, too, was startled as he realized there was not only a batch of green bananas, but also at least one more “pod” that should soon reveal more.

They are all on a single side of the plant and were obscured by some of the larger leaves.  That and not expecting to see any such thing is why we hadn’t noticed them before. An element of irony though is of fruits I don’t care for, bananas are at the top of the list. I may have mentioned this before – I don’t even like the taste of banana. I have no idea when I came to know this as I must have eaten them as a baby/child – everyone feeds kids bananas. Hubby will enjoy them, but since we have no experience with this, we don’t know what the yield will be like. We may or may not become a banana supplier to some of the neighbors depending on how that works out.

Our first batch of bananas – Sept 2020

Fish Vera Cruz Style and Other…..

Hubby had a Camera Club gathering in the Everglades Sunday afternoon. While he expected to be back around 7:30, our regular dinner time, they do sometimes get caught up in post-gathering discussions. We’d already planned to do swordfish, but rather than grill as usual which meant waiting for him to get home to start, I mentioned we hadn’t done Vera Cruz style for a while and we did have a can of tomatoes with green chilies in the pantry. We agreed that was the way to go.

He had a good time with the Camera Club and called me with his estimated arrival which did happen to be close to 7:30. In putting the finishing touches on dinner – used some leftovers for sides and made the usual salad, I commented on the first time I had snapper Vera Cruz – snapper being the most common fish used in the dish. In a moment of digression, being raised in a small town in Northwest Louisiana in the 1950s-1970s, Mexican food was Tex-Mex and seafood was not in the mix so to speak. Our part of Louisiana is 230 or so miles north of the Gulf and local restaurants carried only freshwater fish and frozen, breaded shrimp. Someone would occasionally bring in a load of fresh shrimp, but it wasn’t common then. Anyway, when I was in California for a few months while on a special assignment in the Army, it didn’t occur to me there was a difference in Mexican food. Was I in for a surprise. A pleasant one of course and snapper Vera Cruz was one of those first dishes I tried. Shredded beef instead of ground was also different as was a heavier use of cumin and a couple of other spices. Being here in Homestead with lots of Mexican restaurants, I was happy to see they have a variety of regional choices depending on what mood we’re in.

Birthdays and Hurricanes…..

We generally don’t make a big deal out of birthdays anymore although they can be an excuse for something like Hubby wants a new piece of dive or camera equipment and it gets claimed as a birthday present. The big Australia trip coincided with our 60th birthdays and 25th anniversary all rolled in together. (Okay, we played a bit with the timing, but they did all occur in a three-month span.) My standard birthday celebration is to dive in the morning, then go next door to Shipwrecks (wonderfully funky place) for lunch and later have a nice dinner at home. As sometimes happens, diving wasn’t feasible yesterday, so we’ll go early next week. That led to having a nice dinner out and in this case we went to Snook’s in Key Largo. They have one of the best sunset views, the food is good and it’s priced no higher than similar places.( If I’d felt like us driving another 30 minutes south we’d have gone to Chef Micheal) Anyway, it was a delicious hogfish meal with a lobster tail added in (we shared that). We also shared a chocolate peanut butter pie.

A fair amount of the day had been spent checking Facebook and a text from one cousin about the status of family and friends in Louisiana as Hurricane Laura slammed in at a Cat 4. It did drop quickly to a 3, but still lots of damage. It was a Cat 2 as it moved north. So far, other than losing power and a lot of lost sleep, everyone seems to be in pretty good shape. Actual damage assessment can start today. We’ll wait for the reports and to see who need what help in recovery. My sister in Houston said it was far enough east not to affect them.

Time to Transplant Another Orchid….

In our on-going effort to manage orchids, the one we’ve had the most success with is in the front yard. From soon after Hubby tied it to the tree, it began to thrive and we’ve had to do literally nothing to it since. Of the ones we have in the back, he tied one to another palm and it bloomed successfully for quite a while. The leaves still seem healthy and we think we’ll have another round of blooms before long. Part of the problem is we keep losing the tags to tell us what kind we have and therefore we don’t know what their blooming cycle is.
Anyway, of the five in pots, one has started to literally shoot roots off from a stem. When I first noticed this, I erroneously thought these were buds. I made a comment about that to Hubby and he said he didn’t think so. In looking closer, I realized he was correct.

We checked with our orchid friends on Facebook and they all agreed it meant it was time to move the whole thing to a tree. I don’t understand the exact growing process, but since it seems to work well, we’re happy to accept the advice. With the tropical storm situation, Hubby will wait a couple of days. (We’re fine; manageable wind and rain as the system weakened.)

There is something special about living in a place where having orchids in your yard is “routine” – at least for those who can follow directions. Interestingly, a friend who has a fabulous collection bemoans not being able to grow roses. There are actually hot weather varieties and although one of the local women is an undisputed expert, my friend claims he’s had no luck with any he has attempted. That is certainly not anything we’re going to try.

Orchid in Our Front Yard

Time for the Tooth Fairy…..

Ah, another of the firsts for granddaughter. Her tooth – bottom one was “all wiggly” and she just “pushed it and it popped out”. Which was better than her dad who used to mess with them from the moment one felt loose. He’d go at it for three or four days sometimes. Anyway, I didn’t do a follow-up to see for sure the tooth fairy visited, but the tooth was cleaned and safely placed into a pouch. I’m also not entirely clear if it was to be transferred to underneath the pillow or the swap made in the pouch. As I posted before, the whole Santa Claus/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy business is part of parenting and without an older sibling to burst the bubble, it can go on for a while.

Oh, and the first real haircut recently occurred too. The lovey curls are still in place; the mass is simply reduced to a more manageable state. This was apparently granddaughter’s request. When I was young I always wanted long hair, but for reasons I never understood – more likely didn’t want to understand –  my mother was absolutely opposed. We finally reached the point of letting my hair grow out with all the attendant messiness of the stages that don’t look so good. Growing up in the era of girls ironing their hair was interesting, but without so much as a hint of curl, that was never an issue for me.Having it long did also get rid of the home permanent.ordeal. With only one bathroom and five people in the house, there were quite a few shampoos accomplished in the kitchen sink. That was also in the days of the bonnet hair dryer. I’m not sure who came up with the first blow dryer, but I hope they weren’t in a company where your inventions belong to the company.

Anyway, back to the topic of first – Kindergarten is coming up soon and even though at least the first few months will be virtual, it will be a new experience.

When Things Are More Difficult Than Expected…

Many of you who follow this blog helped me out last week when “Deadly Doubloons” was up for a vote with Tale Flick, an entertainment company that provides a service of a catalogue where authors can post their books. This company has links with many movie and television producers and they run contests for people to vote on one particular book they would like to see made into a movie or television series. Deadly Doubloons was up against 39 other books last week. The winner received 7,304 votes, four times more than the previous contest winner. Even though I certainly was not in that league, Deadly Doubloons is in the catalogue. As I said in the Facebook post when I thanked everyone for their help, some producer may get the idea one day of doing a scuba adventure and there I’ll be for him/her to look at. In the process of vetting the book for the catalogue, one of the analysts compared it to, “The Deep” meets “Lara Croft, Tomb Raider”. Not quite the description I would use, but I’m not a Hollywood type.

Anyway, during some back and forth of Facebook posts, someone asked if the book was available on Audible. This question has been posed before and the sad answer is “No”. Despite what seems to be an explosion of audible books, in reality, it makes up about 20% of “readership”. Considering the millions of books, that’s still a large number. The “sad” part of the answer is the actual cost of converting a book to audible format. It runs about $3,000. If you decide to publish only on audible (as some do), that’s similar to the cost of publishing with a physical copy and e-book. The issue for me of course is I would have to convert. Hubby and I have talked about trying one to see and we still might. At the moment, however, the economic impact of COVID-19 on family, friends, local small businesses, and non-profits we support is having to take priority. We’ll see what the future brings.

Absentee Voting and New Twist……

As regular readers know, I avoid politics as a subject. This, however, is a case where civics can cross into politics. In all the noise about mail-in ballots, there seems to be confusion about objections. I’ll start by saying “mail-in” has existed for a very long time, but was traditionally called absentee ballots. That’s because in years past, many people made voting day a priority. Employers were (still are) required to give a certain number of hours off to allow time to get to the polls, vote, and return. There was no early voting then. People who would be absent would apply for their ballot, fill it out and yes – mail it in. Generally, that applied to military and other personnel who knew they would be away on election day. Even older people often had someone take them to the polls to be able to vote. That’s what some of the drives during the Civil Rights Era were – filling buses with people to ensure they could make it to the polls. Population growth, longer commutes which might make it difficult to get to the polls in time, and those who didn’t have access to transportation, etc., began to use absentee/mail-in at a greater rate. Early voting came into play to try and accommodate some of these situations.

There have always been issues with ensuring absentee ballots are properly accounted for and counted. Some errors are human carelessness, some will full mistakes, some delivery errors, and fraud. The concerns with increasing mail-in to large scale is proportionately increasing errors and fraud. Example of a will full mistake is throwing away ballots rather than delivering them. Example of fraud is filling out another person’s ballot, influencing them to fill it out in a way they might not otherwise do, or knowingly having an ineligible person fill out a ballot.

Absentee/mail-in is and always will be a legitimate form of voting. Greatly expanding it comes with risk.

And Yet Another Feature……

In the on-going attempts to learn what all the features are on my Escape and how to use them, we did master the Memory Control for the driver’s seat. This is a feature we’ve never had before and it is nice. You can actually set it to remember three different drivers, but since the only other one who will use it is our son and that’s only for a few days each year, we probably won’t program his preference. The setting are for the seat, not the mirrors so those have to be adjusted each time. I accidentally discovered something yesterday that may well bring a chuckle to anyone this applies to. Okay, most Ford vehicles have the gas tank filler on the driver’s side. I realize this, but for some reason I will occasionally forget and either pull up on the wrong side or stop the vehicle before I get to the pump and check. As it turns out, there is a little indicator as one of the dash lights. There is a pump image and the handle for the pump shows it being to the left on the driver’s side. How clever is that? I hadn’t noticed it before and certainly wouldn’t have thought to look for something like that in the thick owner’s manual.

I also noticed while I don’t there are no cup holders in the pockets of the driver and passenger side doors, there is a slight recess that will steady a water bottle. The only drawback to the cup holders in the back seat is they are in the fold down console of the middle seat. Those door pockets also have spots for water bottles, but it does leave out whoever is sitting in the middle seat. We don’t have that very often though so I guess we can mange. It will be interesting to see what I discover next.