Stirring More Memories…..

I did an interview last month for the first time in a while. It’s a niche magazine someone referred me to. (http://voyagemia.com/interview/meet-charlie-charlotte-hudson-charlie-hudson-writes-homestead/?fbclid=IwAR1wsIV1PChdlwrK9DzTU61B5f8KBczTM6zlfwnnGAlrCzXxtO89jR9YQTI)

Yes, I know it’s a long link, but I didn’t do a  shortcut. Anyway, they had a couple of interesting questions about did good luck play a part in my careers and did I encounter bad luck? As I said to them, I think everyone has a mix of both. (I won’t go into the tragedy part most of us face at some point or the other). As I have posted before, the path I wound up on in the Army was certainly not one I expected. Had I not been the first female officer assigned to my unit in Germany, I would not have been placed in the position that I was; a position that then led to other “female firsts”. For a time, I thought I wasn’t performing to the level I should have been and come to find out, I was beating everyone’s expectations. To be clear that was, “Yes, she makes a lot of mistakes, but never the same one twice.” It wasn’t that I had been put into the higher level position in order to “try” me; it was they simply weren’t sure what to do with me. The lessons I learned there provided a stronger foundation for what I would go on to do later. On the “bad luck” side, in my very next assignment, I was once again placed in a difficult position and three of my four senior officers were quite frankly enough to cause me to want to resign as soon as my service obligation was over. My direct boss was fortunately the exception. Within about four months though, the other three left in the normal way these things happen and all three that came in were the opposite side of the coin. While one was a bit of a screamer, I was used to that. They were all the kind of officers one could look up to and learn from.

A Week of Back to Backs….

This is one of those weeks when I won’t say scheduling got away from me, but not everything was on the calendar at the time we set up an artist reception for tonight. That will of course be followed by dinner with friends. Yes, the afternoon meeting for tomorrow was also on the schedule. What wasn’t was the short event last evening and the dinner, then Celtic Group performance at the theatre tomorrow night and attending the City Eco Fair Saturday afternoon. Granted, the performance and the Eco Fair were on someone’s calendar; I just didn’t realize we would be adding them to ours.

Both things will be enjoyable; having them all run so close together is not my preference though. The first week of March and the first week of April will be similar. Sigh! This is what happens when one is involved with multiple groups. Everyone has their own events and if one wishes to have individuals from Group X support one we are involved with, it is only reasonable for that group to expect us to then support their event. A high degree of mathematical ability is not required to figure how quickly it adds up. Throw in the events to cover for the newspaper and the count increases. At least for me this week it was only one. Hubby just got tagged though to do an extra photo shoot tomorrow which of course now means we have to juggle transportation to keep from winding up with having two cars at the theatre. It’s manageable, although inconvenient. There is also the matter of me wearing my theatre clothes to the meeting tomorrow afternoon as I won’t be coming home in between events and I don’t wish to carry a change of clothes. Ah well, at this point there is certainly no way we find ourselves running the risk of getting bored.

“Hey Mom, My Arm Is In A Cast”….

Mixed content ahead. A passage periodically goes around Facebook with something like, “I survived riding in the back of a pick-up truck, no bicycle helmet, playgrounds without rubber mats,” and several other instances of things kids raised in the 50s did as routine. My brother and three male cousins didn’t exactly have reserved spots in the Emergency Room, but they were frequent visitors. I’m not saying times haven’t changed and there aren’t some very real dangers out there we didn’t face as kids. On the other hand, ordinary kid activities do sometimes come with the risk of accidents that will range from the “band-aid and kiss” solution to the trip to the ER.

Son was not quite seven years old when that call came as he was in Maine with his grandparents. They had installed a swing set in the yard and as happens, using the swing set as it is intended apparently wasn’t quite adventurous enough one afternoon. Why not instead climb out to grasp the top rail and swing back and forth like an acrobat? The break wasn’t too bad; actually a chipped elbow. That was in the day of plaster casts and at least it was his left arm. No complications either. (Of the later trips to the ER, three were far more serious, although none the result of an accident.)

Active kids are likely at some point to get hurt and medical emergencies do occur. In truth, I can’t recall if the lingering scar on my sister’s forehead had been the result of stitches or if that was a case where maybe stitches should have been required. For sure, the cut on one of my fingers was a borderline situation, but neither of us were anywhere nearly as accident-prone as my brother. Anyway, granddaughter is proving to be a bit on the daring side. It is possible all will go without incident. The day may come though when the call is, “Hey Grandma and Grandpa, my arm is in a cast.”

 

FIGAT, Here’s What It Is….

There is a charming place, Cauley Square, about 25 minutes north that I have written about in previous posts. It’s a ten-acre, beautifully landscaped historic area filled with small shops and two main restaurants. The one up front is quite well-known and enjoyable. The second, the Village Chalet, is tucked back into tropical foliage and you do have to walk to get to it. Like the other buildings, it is in an old house brought in. It has a wrap-around porch to allow for outside dining and is cozy inside. It has passed through multiple hands over the years and the latest version is FIGAT Chefs Kitchen.

FIGAT is Federation of International Gastronomy, Art and Tourism. It’s an international organization that celebrates the love of food. Chefs are rotated every so often to different places and the reason they are in Cauley Square is because of the proximity to Redland which has unique agriculture. While they are not precisely Farm To Table, they focus on fresh. At the moment, their menu is heavily influenced with Spanish and Caribbean. They are not inexpensive, but portions are generous and worth what you spend. There will also be culinary workshops and events in the near future. Service is impeccable. This is not a place to dash into for a meal. It is intended to be leisurely and the sort of place where one has wine with lunch. Interestingly, their array of desserts (at least for lunch) are shooter size with choices of mousse, key lime pie, multiple flavors of cheesecake, and yes, the coffee is delicious. I will be sitting down with the lady in charge soon to write an article for the paper. They are involved in programs with various levels of students as well as entities associated with tourism. Unless we specifically wish to travel into the Keys to dine on the water, this will be our special occasion place if we want to go beyond our city limits.

 

Opening Acts…….

Lynyrd Skynyrd, BruceSpringsteen, and Steely Dan are among famous musicians who were once opening acts for others. Most of course don’t go on to be mega stars, but can be quite successful in their own right. Thursday, we attended the Seminole Theatre performance of Asleep at the Wheel as part of the Showcase Season. Neither of us had heard of Brennen Leigh and Hubby now has one of her CDs. Songwriter, guitar player, mandolin player, and singer, she is a two-time Texas Music Awards Best Female Vocalist and 2018 Ameripolitan Music Honky Tonk Award winner. She pairs with different people and last night was Melissa Carper who was on bass; not something you often see women play. She performs primarily with the Buffalo Gals Band and their debut album, “Brand New Old Time Songs”, came in at Number 2 on the European Americana charts in 2018. Both women have toured nationally and internationally and began their music careers fairly young. As the opening act, they provided a thoroughly entertainment stretch of music and I suspect we weren’t the only ones who purchased a CD.

Although the main show, Asleep at the Wheel, is not the kind of music for everyone, they have been around since 1970. Ray Benson, the only original member still with the band, was in fine form and the drummer, David Sanger, has thirty-five years with them. Western Swing is a combination of elements of American blues, swing and traditional fiddling even though I don’t have enough of a music background to identify how much of each element is involved. On the other hand, I don’t need to know. I’m sure that of almost 250 people in the audience, some could explain it in detail. For the rest of us, it was just a fun, lively show.

We don’t usually attend two performances in the same month, but we have been told Derina Harvey and her Celtic rock group are quite good, so we shall see about that one.

Small Town Quilting Treasures is Ready….

After a much longer lapse than I intended, the final book in the series has gone live. I don’t have the first chapter posted to my website yet, but will take care of that later this week. Since this does close out the series, I included some chapters/scenes to help resolve different situations with some of the recurring characters. The two main plot lines are a mix of pure fiction for the one introduced in Chapter 3 and the second one is much later in Chapter 19. That’s the one that has a kernel of family history (mine) very much wrapped in fiction. I’ll be happy to explain that later if anyone wants to know the “true story” after reading it. There is a slight pang with saying good-bye to Helen, her friends, and family and I do hope everyone enjoys the way in which I chose to end things.

I used a different publisher this time (still self-published) so I should have my copies by the end of the week. As you can see, they did an excellent job with the cover and they were quite professional to work with. The only drawback is more of a requirement than before for me (which means my husband) to actually upload the final files. There was only one issue which we will (that means me) use as a “lesson learned” in case I go with them for the next Chris Green novel. The advantage was I am able to keep the paperback retail at $12 on Amazon; something I couldn’t initially do when I published Shades of Deception through the publisher I used for that. There are multiple considerations for selecting a publisher and I really wished the one I used for my previous four novels had still been available. But, it’s a tough business and there are frequent changes in the industry.

Oh, don’t try to read the text on the back; I couldn’t crop it for this image.

Much More Complicated Than Anticipated…..

We are continuing to check off certain improvements to the house. The whole house water filtration system is working nicely. The next part was replacing the front door and the outside lights. For those who don’t live in Miami-Dade County, replacing a front door is quite a process. This is due to code reference being hurricane resistant. The cost is of course far greater than an ordinary door and thanks to the architecture of the house, these are custom which also increases the cost. This was not a personal choice as all the houses were designed this way by the builder. While they do look nice, it’s not something we would have included.

Anyway, I had no idea the installation was as complicated as it has turned out to be. It has to do with re-drilling the holes for all the hinges and apparently the bottom plate where the door closes has to be fixed into mortar. This, also unknown to me, involves tearing out all the existing wood and rebuilding it. I suppose I should have gotten a hint when the first thing they did this morning was drape plastics over all the furniture. My idea they would be finished and gone by around noon is obviously not remotely accurate, although they do seem to be working as quickly as they can. The other good thing is once this is done it ought to last a very long time. It’s somewhat like getting the new fence. If you pay the extra for the higher grade, it should not require replacement for the foreseeable future. Granted, this does also assume the whole issue of a hurricane doesn’t alter everything. As a reminder, the county did face up to reality after the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in that building codes were out of date and not properly enforced. This is why our county and Monroe (covers the Florida Keys) now have the most restrictive wind-storm codes in the country.

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.