Girl Scout Cookies…..

Ah yes, each January – and this is the part I find puzzling – we have the Girl Scout tradition of massive cookie sales taking place in the exact same month where there are leftover sweets from the holidays and many people are at least trying to cut back on calories. Now, in all fairness, some people don’t need to cut back and if one has lots of kids/teens to provide snacks for, this takes care of that and supports a worthy cause. We, of course, are in a position where it’s simply one more charitable contribution as I actually take possession of usually only two boxes. The rest is, “No, I don’t need more cookies, but here’s the $5.” I suppose I have now answered my own question as to why sales continue to be strong. It is indeed a tradition people still appreciate.

I do admit I was startled to see the upcoming (or maybe it aired and we missed it) Girl Scout Cookie Baking Competition. I am always amazed at the culinary artistry of most of the decorative baking competitions and from the trailers I’ve seen, this will be quite creative. I’m not certain of what the rules are and if there are extra points for incorporating as many of the kinds of cookies as possible. Which leads me to the next aspect. Even though I tend toward the time-honored favorites of Thin Mints, Shortbread, and Do-Si-Dos (for Hubby), the lemon are tempting and I nearly caved at the sight of Toffee-tastic and Caramel Chocolate Chip when I was at the grocery yesterday. There are some other new ones, too, and as a former logistician, I do wonder a bit. I haven’t spoken with the dedicated parents who do this year-after-year about how they manage the increasing number of choices. Anyway, I’ll see if I hold off for another week or if at least one more box will make its way into the pantry.

About Those Frozen Iguanas….

The few and mostly infrequent “cold snaps” we get in South Florida bring some real issues and a fair amount of humor. This one, where the temperature plunged to 39 degrees before the day time high of only 63, will be over tomorrow. We have had prolonged snaps of up to two weeks with serious consequences for the tropical fruits and certain animals.

“Iguana Rain” is familiar to anyone who has lived here for a while, but is startling for newcomers. Iguanas of all shapes and sizes roam around, but many also like to be up in trees. When the temperature dips into the low 40s, they “freeze” although it is actually a temporary dormant state unless the low temperatures are extended. They do, however, fall out of the trees and appear to be dead. In cases where people toss them in a garbage can for instance and they recover before the can is emptied, it can make for quite the surprise and mess depending on the size of the iguana and sturdiness of the can.

Iguanas can be a real nuisance with tearing up yards and gardens, so there are people who dislike having them around. We have very few in this neighborhood, and most are fairly small. I did have to slam on the brakes one day to keep from running over a large one in the middle of the street and not in a hurry to finish crossing. Fortunately, there wasn’t a car behind me. The upside to a prolonged cold snap is the likelihood of killing pythons too which of course is a far greater problem here and none of us mind that.

We are a bit concerned for the hummingbird, but he should be okay since we’re only talking about a short time. Hubby did bring the orchids inside though as a precaution.

Carefully Embracing Something New…..

I grew up with a pressure cooker in the house as did many of our generation. My mother was not a particularly accomplished cook, but she did like using the pressure cooker for several dishes and there weren’t too many of the “explosions” common to its use. I never bought one as an adult though. Fast forward to a few years ago when “Instapot” came onto the scene and was met with praise by quite a few people. Hubby mentioned a while back he was intrigued with the idea and this is how we wound up with one under the Christmas tree.

In essence, it is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, and warmer with a sear function. It can do all this through electronics and “smart technology”, which also means it ha all sorts of read-outs and steps in preparing a dish. As Hubby read the instructions (and multiple warnings), I knew I had no intention of using this thing until I watched him a few times. So, black eye peas from the dried state New Year’s Day was the initial trial. Rather than having to soak the peas for hours, it required only a quick rinse. In this case, the pressure cooking option was the way to go. Everything is electronically sensed so you set the cooking time and there is a digital “countdown” as it goes from preheating to cooking, then venting. While you don’t have the old worry about carefully controlling the temp to avoid the infamous “explosions”, the warning is very clear about keeping hands away as it vents after finishing the cooking time. We didn’t need to, but if we had not been home, it would have automatically gone into warming mode for a period of time. Our next try (maybe this week) will be to attempt the sear the meat and then switch to slow cook so you really do need only the single pot. Naturally, things can also be programmed ahead, but we will be taking this one step at a time.

 

All the Star Wars…..

This is actually a two-item post. In early November, the ShowBiz Entertainment Complex opened in Homestead. We did several articles about it for the paper and it is impressive. The company has quite a few movie theaters in multiple states, but only five of these complexes, and ours is the first one in Florida. When you enter the complex, there are thirteen bowling lanes to the right, an electronic arcade to the left and a full bar in between. In addition to the standard concessions, there’s also an ice cream and coffee bar and a cafe that serves a nice menu. Beyond all this are ten movie theaters; one of which is equipped with a very high tech system, SDX. All the theaters have Dolby sound and big screens though so any of them present quite the experience. I was going to go with Hubby a couple of weeks ago to actually watch a movie, but some kind of last minute crisis interfered. Son and daughter-in-law had “date day” while they were here and went to see Star Wars. The plan to take granddaughter New Year’s Day didn’t come about as other things took priority. Anyway, I finally went with Hubby this week to see Star Wars. The reclining leather seats are quite nice and the fact I could take in my glass of wine was even better. Each seat has not only a cup holder, but also a tray to comfortably hold items.

Now onto the movie. Since we are of an age to have seen the original Star Wars, that puts us in a different category than the kids. I will acknowledge still being somewhat confused with prequels and sequels that make up what I think are now nine movies total. It’s been interesting watching the original stars age as they have and of course the unexpected death of Carrie Fisher three years ago was especially poignant in seeing her on the screen. It’s difficult to know how many young girls have been influenced by her role as Princess Leia. The movie, Rise of Skywalker, was true to the format and the special effects were amazing as always. I really do think it can come to a close now, but Hollywood may well have other ideas.

There was a big crowd for the ShowBiz ribbon cutting.

Loving Sports…..

I think I have mentioned before I watch more football now because other than racing, that’s the sport Hubby really loves. He unfortunately has had a terrible football year since his alma mater had to “rebuild” – something that occurs when you lose a large number of seniors. On top of that, the Atlanta Falcons played terribly the first two-thirds of the season. He always has the Saints as a back-up and they’re gone from the play-offs now. As it happens, we like three of the four still vying and will see which way that goes.

The above is an intro though because my first husband’s mother (the one who inspired me to write Your Room at the End) was a true sports enthusiast. She subscribed to and avidly read Sports Illustrated; not something you would think in looking at her or reading her background. She loved baseball, football, hockey, and most of all golf. Her son and my first husband, a New Englander through-and-through, started in Pewee Hockey and played all the way through college. He said it always startled him when his mother would yell at the referees because she just didn’t give that appearance as a first impression. Anyway, back to her enjoying golf. For her, it was a “gentleman’s game”, and one played with skill and style. (She did not golf herself, but then again, New England isn’t exactly a place where one has long seasons for such.)¬† In view of making it almost to her 89th birthday, she could well remember some of the “greats” I know only vaguely by name. Golf was also the professional sport she felt was less impacted by money although the purses have of course greatly increased.

I can’t recall if she followed tennis much, but she probably did. She also wasn’t into soccer, but that was also a function of time – it simply wasn’t a sport popular in the United States in her formative years.

Another Memory Stirred…..

During dinner the other night, a point about my military career jogged another memory of a series of events. I’ve explained before that my “inadvertent pioneer” status was largely an issue of timing although also my response to opportunities presented. The initial odd one was being trained in maintenance as I have also covered. When I arrived in Germany¬† as the first ever female officer of the organization, the decision to place me in a captain’s position even though I was a junior 2d lieutenant was because there was still the reluctance to put me into position I was allegedly trained for. It so happens two other female officers were assigned within months of me and they did have to go into lieutenant positions because there was no way around it. So, in the position I held, there were times when I was at cross purposes with one of the captains; the one I would have by rights gone to work for. I tried to get along with everyone, but there were certain procedures which I had to enforce as is common in the military.

After a year, I was due to rotate positions as was also common, but it was fairly well-known the captain was basically waiting for me to be assigned to him as was appropriate considering the ordinary way things worked. At a minimum, he intended to make things difficult for me and could have quite frankly easily ruined my career. Unknown to me, the senior officers I worked with went to the decision maker and essentially said it would be unfair to place me in that position since I had demonstrated the ability to work above the rank I held. He agreed with the assessment of, “Yes, she makes mistakes, but never the same one twice.” (Hey, that’s a technique for learning.) I was subsequently provided the opportunity to command the Headquarters Detachment as a first lieutenant and also the first female to do so in the history of the unit. In other words, in the space of one year, I racked up three “firsts”.

Close to Swimming Success…..

I’ve mentioned being in the pool is top of our granddaughter’s “visit” list and the weather doesn’t always cooperate. This year was marginal; decent enough temperature to be at least tolerable. I had hoped she would have swimming lessons over the summer, but as it turned out, she resisted the idea. She hates to have water up her nose and hasn’t figured out yet how to prevent that if her face is in the water. I guess they did get her some kind of mask. We got a mask, snorkel, and fins, not certain if they would suit her. She had also outgrown her swim vest and since that is very much a seasonal item in Virginia, there were none available to buy before the kids came down. Despite being assured we, the grown-ups, would make sure she was okay, not having the vest meant she couldn’t be independent. I had to go run some errands the first afternoon and “Grandpa” was going to be in the pool with her and teach her to use the mask, snorkel and fins. I promised I would find a vest for her the following day. When I returned later, however, I was told there was no need for a vest as she had swum on her own. Huh?

Apparently, she took to the fins and as Grandpa held her up, she at some point pulled away from him and made it several feet unassisted. With that boost of confidence, she wanted to do more. She keeps her head above water and hasn’t quite figured out how to do anything with her hands except dog paddle, but it works. She was all excited and the next day when I was in the pool with her, it was more of the same. Our set-up is the hot tub is elevated a bit above the pool with the “waterfall” into the pool. She’s tall enough to stand up in the hot tub and also at the bottom of the steps into shallow part of the pool. She refers to the hot tub as the “little pool” and likes to move back and forth between them. She very quickly understood how to “shuffle” in the fins and carefully step into each pool. It was fascinating to watch her and hopefully by next summer, she’ll be ready for real lessons.

A New Decade….

While I had wanted to post yesterday, we always do a party for about a dozen people and balancing prep plus having the kids and a very active four-and-a-half year old, computer time was limited. In fact, I’d hoped to sleep in this morning. On the other hand, having a bit of quiet time is useful. And yes, I did have a mini-cupcake and a shortbread cookie for breakfast. I will seek a home for some of the extra sweets that have come our way. We have a new family across the street with four children, so I’ll see how “over-loaded” they are. Fortunately, one of our neighbors and party-attendee is a widower who just returned from visiting family in California. He will be happy to take leftovers of pulled pork, chicken wings, etc,. and we do have plenty to share. I always buy too much and even then think, “Maybe I should add one more thing.” Hubby sighs and no longer tries to reason with me.

Anyway, it’s interesting the number of people who are asking, “Where did the decade go?” In our case, everyone at the party (less granddaughter of course) remembered entering the New Millennium and what excitement that was. In fact, our son was in the High School Class of ’99, and he’s still not sure if that was cooler or if being in ’00 would have been.

It has certainly been a decade of change and I think many of us have mixed feelings. It’s difficult to know what the next ten years will bring. I haven’t done formal New Year’s resolutions for a long time although great for those who chose to do so. Hoping for the usual for family and friends, knowing the odds are someone will have difficulties to deal with. Perhaps at least the first year of the new decade will be calm.

Maybe a Coincidence….

A friend who is a local radio personality has me come on one of the location-specific show sometimes. It’s a bit of a drive, but takes place at a fun waterside restaurant in Islamorada. Hubby and I usually go down, have fun on the show and enjoy dinner after. Last night was the exception as traffic was terrible and he had to work all day which meant we had to drive separately. I say traffic was terrible although it was for only part of the route. Fortunately, he had not started out yet. I called the dive shop and told him not to bother because there was no way he would make it in time for the show and better for him to head home. I would plan to grab a bite either at the restaurant or at a fast food spot on the way back.

At the end of the show, there’s usually a give-away and I take a copy of whichever book I discuss. For last night, I had a copy of Small Town Lies since that’s the first of the series I’m finishing up with Small Town Quilting Treasures, due out January or February. There must have been around 20 women in the audience (only women get a ticket for the drawing) and since it’s random, one never knows what someone likes in books. I always explain it can be re-gifted and offer to inscribe it for the individual who wins, someone specific or generically. The first thing the woman who won said is, “I am an avid reader”, and she had just finished the book she’d been reading so was ready to start another one. Added to that, she has done some quilting. I suppose there might have been a better match for the book somewhere in the audience, but probably not. And traffic was definitely better on the return trip.

The Principle of Cost….

Having owned a Saab, a Mercedes, and a Jaguar, I take nothing away from those vehicles. They were quite nice and no, that’s not meant as an understatement. With gift-buying time here (and the number of car commercials seems to have increased), there can be the urge to spend more than is necessary. What actually set me off today is another Christmas party we attended last night at a place I won’t mention. It involved an activity which most everyone enjoyed and there was a nice buffet. There is also a bar/restaurant and we were among the last of the group to arrive. Most already had drinks and the group was moving to the area where we would have our party. The host told us to go ahead with everyone and thought there were drinks waiting there; if not they would be along shortly. There was a bit of a delay with that and I told Hubby I would just go back to the bar and get the first round for the two of us. Now, in somewhat of a degree of fairness, when I ordered a draft for him and asked if they had sauvignon blanc, I did not specifically ask if they had it as a house wine. I did see what bottle it was poured from and therefore when given the check showing the glass as $17.00, I was stunned. While that was the only glass of that I drank, it did raise my hackles. One of two things applied; either they priced all their wines absurdly, or the bartender simply decided to sell me a more expensive type than mention what their house was. I don’t care for either answer, and that brings me back around to what I am willing to pay for.

I certainly indulge at times in expensive things. By the way, the Mercedes and the Jaguar were both purchased used (low mileage) through Carmax. As much as I appreciated those vehicles, it was the cost and inconvenience of service that caused me to turn away from luxury brands. That includes having to run premium gas in them for the best performance. For us, in many cases, it isn’t about can we afford a particular thing – it’s are we getting what we consider value for that item? In some situations, absolutely – like when I booked us first class last year on the Acela train to NYC. Many times though, it is not, which is why we didn’t dine in the famous, ridiculously priced NY restaurants. We’ve had that experience in other cities and don’t need to repeat it too often. The same with gifts; it can be appropriate to spend extra for something truly wanted. Measuring a gift simply by the cost is not our style though.