On the Sideline With Photography….

Just as I don’t “proud mom/grandma” too much in my posts, I also don’t often “proud wife” even though I do frequently mention Hubby. Today is the exception. I’m not the world’s worst photographer, but I’m not very good either. (Granted, the sophistication of today’s smart phones significantly help.) My husband bought his first underwater housing for a camera for scuba in the latter months we were in Puerto Rico. He took some photos in becoming adjusted to the camera and then there was a lapse during the process of our move to here. He didn’t do much with photography for a while, but this is a wonderful environment for photography.

Fast forward a few years as he did more, bought new cameras and lenses, learned the computer software for processing, printing techniques and so forth. When they established the South Florida National Parks Camera Club within Homestead Center for the Arts, that was major step as was his designation to become the primary photojournalist for our community paper. While teaching scuba is still a priority focus, photography comes in close. He of course especially loves shooting motorsports and spends much of his leisure time in the Everglades. His range is amazing and for the second year he’s exhibited at the Artz305 event one of the County Commissioners sponsors the first weekend of December. In fact, last month, he sold a couple of pieces at another event. I don’t try to understand how he does what he does, especially when it comes to printing on canvas and on metal. I admit I’m not overly enthused when he photographs insects and he makes sure not to show me any he does of spiders. Aside from that, I love his work and not long ago, we did install a gallery hanging system in the front room to accommodate more of his pieces. He has been on a couple of photography trips and that’s why we have some from areas like the Smoky Mountains.

All That Techy Stuff….

This is not exactly rambling, merely an interesting observation. As I have mentioned on multiple occasions, my technical abilities are limited. Hubby has learned the mutterings  or even first volley of curses coming from my office might not warrant immediate offers of help. He does call out and it is often more my error – or the way the computer does those weird things like the cursor jumps around causing me to inadvertently delete sentences or passages. Not being able to locate a file is another frustration. I will go into his office to ask him to come over, or in the case of me being on the computer really early, I’ll explain the issue as we are having our first mug of coffee together. He can, in general, fix the problem or explain what I’m doing wrong.

Shifting into another associated world is that of social media. I’m marginal with Facebook and am routinely puzzled by it. I’m also marginal on Twitter – now X or whatever. I guess I have a Pinterest account set up by someone and have never used it. I don’t have Instagram, YouTube, nor any of the many others and I am fiercely opposed to even logging on to TikTok. I do go onto YouTube at times. From a financial perspective, I do have Square although it’s been so long since I’ve done a transaction, I’m not sure how to do so any more. Hubby has Venmo and I think he finally added Zelle because so many people use it. I can’t bring myself to do any of those.

The fact is all of this changes so much and so often I don’t have the desire to learn how to do it. I’ll probably be forced into a few more things as the “old-fashioned way” can become literally obsolete. After all, I do still have a bunch of hard disks with files and no idea of how those could be accessed. Oh, speaking of changes, it never occurred to me our new vehicles would not have CD players. We listen to audio books when we travel and the first time we were going to take a trip in the new truck, Hubby explained we couldn’t do CDs any more. He has the deal where he downloads audio books and then plugs his phone into the truck to play them. Once again, I have yet to make that happen on my phone. Maybe that can be a task for the new year.

Even With Less Than Great Conditions…..

Okay, so my November dive yesterday – which I wasn’t sure I would get in – started out well. Conditions had improved after a few days of wind and there weren’t many people on the boat. What should have happened was two good dives, then a leisurely waterfront lunch. Mother Nature, however, didn’t care what the forecast had showed. On the “upside” a manatee decided to come into the canal and passed under the boat twice while we were still docked. Can’t beat that for a pleasant surprise.

Trip out to the first site was okay although heading into the gray clouds made the timing tricky as to if we would get into the water before the rain started. We all did. Visibility was only about 30-35 feet, but we did see some of my favorites. Lots of blue parrots, rock beauties, little chromis, couple of queen angels, hogfish, and Hubby found a spotted drum which I hadn’t seen in ages. Toward the end of the dive Hubby found a turtle. Hooray! Came up and moved to the second site and rain had stopped. Better vis, but fair amount of surge with nothing very special although there was a nice grouper and several schools of yellow tail snappers. We all managed to get on board as the rain started up again. This time wasn’t so gentle and fortunately, everyone could fit under the covered part of the boat. The mate finally had to close the plastic forward curtains. The temp dropped some and it was right on the edge of manageable for me. The poor folks who didn’t have as much “natural insulation” were chilled. Surface conditions had kicked up too, so ride in was bouncy.

Hubby did have his rain jacket with him and told me to stay on the boat as he off-loaded everything. He did say he was okay with going in search of conch chowder instead of straight home and I gave up the idea of lunch out in favor of heading to the house. The rain had pretty well stopped except it was moving north which meant rain on the way home. This is when seat heaters in the truck came in handy. Ah well, so it goes. This photo was from a previous dive, but also a Key Largo reef.

Juvenile Spotted Drum on reef off Key Largo, FL

Double Turkeys……

Okay, this year is definitely a bit different. While we frequently travel to Georgia for Thanksgiving, this is a year when we had already planned not to. When we stay here, we usually go over to friends who live in a neighborhood we could walk to if we weren’t carrying a platter of fried turkey. (Our contribution to the feast).

As it turns out, the unexpected loss of a friend added another aspect. The friend had been struggling with health issues, however, the rapid decline last month took us all by surprise. The couple has no children nor family nearby. I’ve been helping a fair amount and for those who have ever suffered a loss right before the holidays, it can be especially difficult. In order to try and bring some semblance of “normal”, we’ll have Thanksgiving lunch at our place for this friend, a neighbor, and another friend who will travel for Christmas, but be alone this week. Nothing elaborate and that will still provide time for Hubby to do the second turkey for the late afternoon at our other friends.

I’ll do a traditional roasted turkey with only the basics for noon – turkey, ham, dressing, kicked-up mashed potatoes, rolls, and apple pie. Friends are bringing cranberry sauce, green beans in some form, and cheesecake. Timing the oven temperature will involve putting the apple pie into the oven between 7:30-8:00 in order to get it done, then turn the temp down to 325 to manage everything else. It will also mean making the herb butter the evening before as Hubby does the chopping and I don’t want him to have to deal with that part on Thanksgiving morning. Oh, I’m not doing the dressing from scratch – am using one of the Publix ones from the deli case. Also not doing potatoes from scratch (never do). Those are again refrigerator ones that I add butter, sour cream, maybe milk, salt and pepper and bake for approximately half an hour.

I will remember to pick up cold slaw and potato salad at Publix today though for Hubby to have to go with turkey sandwiches later.




Back From Orlando…..

Well, Mother Nature was not as kind to us on the trip home although the intense storm that ranged in from Broward County through the Upper Keys did get much worse after we arrived home. We had decided to have a big breakfast and not do an actual lunch stop which helped time-wise. The rain set in for about the second half of the trip. The truck certainly won’t need to be washed for a while.

Okay, the Big Fire Grill was the more casual “best place” we dined. It was at City Walk and there was both a fire pit outside with seating around it and by a stroke of luck our table inside had one of the best views of the open kitchen with an elaborate grill set-up. I’d never seen one like this although Hubby said he had on one of the big BBQ TV shows. It was a double grill with a rack above to move food to that required different cooking times. They use a mix of three woods for grilling and at one point, we did watch the guy move extra wood to the grill to “feed” the fire. We ordinarily would have had two different dishes, but in this case, there was a bison steak and that plus the trout were the only items we can’t get here. Since we regularly get good seafood, we both did the bison. It was perfectly cooked and had fig jam based sauce which we expected wasn’t going to be very “figgy”. We were correct and it was delicious. The potato gratin side was excellent and done with stacked thinly sliced potatoes, a couple of different cheeses and topped with a Parmesan cheese sauce that we think had a little nutmeg as flavoring. We did resist dessert and stuck with coffee. If we lived in the area, we would recommend Big Fire Grill for anyone.


Orlando Trip, Day 3…..

Okay, Cowfish first for last night’s dinner. Apparently it is actually a regional chain; Sushi, Burgers, and Bar. Yes, I know, but it is an intriguing idea and the menu is pretty extensive. Modern decor and furnishings, bright colors. They did have chicken and pulled pork sandwiches as well as burgers; no entree type dishes. Also only sweet potato fries and other sides like Spicy and Sweet Thai cucumbers. Hubby decided to go with a sushi sashimi combo and it was nicely presented; excellent quality according to him. I mis-read the menu and went with something that was a “take” on a burger and it was a mistake so I won’t even describe it. I disassembled enough to have a light meal and what I ate was good.

We started a bit later today and went to Universal Studios Park. We did a few things and the main rain did fall while we were inside. A light drizzle lingered as we went to Lombard’s Landing for lunch, but lifted and no more rain for the day. It was a lovely restaurant in the “San Francisco” area. Clam chowder for Hubby and onion soup for me helped with having just come in from the drizzle. Lobster rolls won out although everything on the menu sounded good. We had some time before the movie we were planning and decided to take Hogwarts Express back to the other park as one last piece of Harry Potter fun. We took in “A Haunting in Venice”, the most recent of the Hercule Poirot movies. I generally like Kenneth Branaugh, but simply cannot get used to him in that role. The movie was good of course and the theater had the same leather reclining seats as in the ShowBiz theater in Homestead.

We’re off soon for dinner at Big Fire Grill. Like Cowfish, it was not here during our last trip. No possibility of mis-reading the menu tonight as everything is traditional.


Orlando Trip, Day 2….

Okay, I have to back up to yesterday – or rather last night – to talk about dining at Bice, the fine dining restaurant at Portofino Bay Hotel. It was everything you want when paying those kinds of prices. Lovely ambiance, great service, excellent food, and presentation. Hubby did go with the veal osso bucco and loved it. I had veal piccata that was wonderful. We shared a mixed salad to start and not surprisingly, the fresh baked (and warm) bread was served with two dipping olive oils and balsamic vinegar instead of butter. We did do dessert – chocolate torte with vanilla gelato. We had wine by the glass though because I brought a bottle of champagne for us to have later. Well, have a glass then save the rest for today.

Mother Nature was not as kind to us as she could have been although it could have been worse. We did take advantage of early park entrance today because the specific ride in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hubby wanted to go on is the only ride in the park that isn’t on the Express list. Even with getting there early, it was an 1.5 hour wait. With that said, you do wind through a scenic path and the castle making your way to the ride, so it is somewhat entertaining. I do not, in general, go on roller coasters and did so only as a “gift” to Hubby. It was right on the edge of what I can tolerate. The other two rides were not quite as bad and the Hogwarts Express train was pleasantly calm. We did manage to cover all the Harry Potter items today – to include lunch at Three Broomsticks. Fish and chips for him; pasties and salad for me and we shared. Nothing fancy this time, but part of the experience. Light rain set in not long after lunch and we were prepared with a rain jacket and hood for him and small umbrella for me.

Dinner tonight will be at something kind of different – The Cowfish. I will explain tomorrow.

Orlando Trip, Day 1……

Trip up was as good as can be expected; no accidents or back-ups. Staying at a different hotel at Universal – the Portofino Bay. Lovely, but massive. Might need to get some breadcrumbs to drop to find way around. We have the fine dining restaurant tonight as it is our 35th anniversary. Will report on that in the morning.

Coincident of timing. We stopped for lunch at one of the Turnpike plazas. Granddaughter sometimes Facebook messages us on Sundays and she did at exactly the best time she could have. Hubby was waiting for sandwiches and I was at the table. She wanted to swap to Facetime so we traded off. I talked to her while Hubby at half his sandwich, then we swapped. Turns out science is still her favorite subject and she is now trying jazz for dance. She thinks she will like that better than ballet and tap and quite frankly, I can see that considering how active she tends to be.

Anyway, we’re headed down shortly to stop by the Universal desk to pickup our park tickets, then get oriented. This hotel is on the far end of the complex and the opposite side of where we have previously stayed. The water taxi goes to the parks and there is a walking trail which is about 3/4 of a mile. We’ll go down for dinner at 7:15, so if we have time, we’ll go over to Citywalk which is where the shops, non-Hotel restaurants, etc., are. Margaritaville will be a stop depending on a couple of things. After all, a good way to toast Jimmy’s legacy. If not this afternoon, we’ll catch it tomorrow or Tuesday.

Tomorrow will be our only early start as there is the newest Harry Potter ride that doesn’t take the Express Pass, so we have to take advantage of the early entrance for those staying in the on-site hotels.

Guest Post and Gap…..

I’ve been longer than usual in posting due to an unavoidable situation that will be resolving soon. In the meantime, I have a guest post here. In writing for the paper, I’ve covered stories occasionally of women who have come through the trauma of domestic violence. Abby Holt, the guest blogger, is also familiar with such cases, and while it is an intense topic, her points have application to those who may be facing major changes for other reasons.

The Key to Using Major Life Transitions to Your Advantage

Going through major life transitions is a fantastic opportunity to change things up, start fresh, and replace bad habits with positive ones. Taking on a new job, moving to a different area, and other transitions are challenging, but they can also help us realize our true potential. Below, Abby Holt of Craftability explores five major life transitions that you can leverage as a domestic violence survivor to nix bad habits and adopt good ones.

Take Stock of Your Bad Habits

Before you can begin replacing your bad habits, you must first take the time to understand what they are. CoughPro suggests starting by making a list of every bad habit you can think of and the situations or triggers that lead to them. Then, you can develop a plan to overcome them.

Leave Toxic Relationships

Relationships do a lot to shape our behavior, both positively and negatively. That’s why it’s essential to take a close look at the people in your life if you’re trying to break a bad habit.

Say, for example, you’re surrounded by people who engage in the same negative behaviors or enable your bad habits. In that case, it’s time to reevaluate. Leaving toxic relationships can be hard, but it’s a major life transition that can help you cut out negative habits and adopt positive ones.

Reexamine What You Put in Your Body

The old saying is true: we really are what we eat. So what you put in your body can make a big difference in how you feel. Relying on fast food and sugary drinks is a common vice that you can address by seeking out farmers markets and restaurants that serve whole foods.

If you drink several cups of coffee or espresso beverages a day in order to stay energized, take a look at the amounts of caffeine in each drink and cut back. You may be surprised by how much caffeine you’re actually consuming. And caffeine is both a stimulant and a diuretic, so too much can affect your sleep (hello self-perpetuating cycle) and dehydrate you.

Become Your Own Boss

Owning a business allows you to take control of your work environment and create an atmosphere that supports your mission to change your habits. It’s also an excellent opportunity to establish a fresh, healthy lifestyle for building something from the ground up! You can even simplify your passion project by leveraging online resources to streamline the startup process. There are services that can help with legal paperwork, name selection, and other important aspects of starting a business.

Further, you can also use online resources to research your competition, identify a potential customer base, and develop a marketing strategy. Doing so will accelerate your startup process and help set you up for success.

Moving to a Different City

Along with presenting the opportunity to break bad habits and adopt positive ones more easily, relocating can give you the chance to change your environment and start a new chapter in your life. Maybe you end up finding a new, more fulfilling job. Training & eTracking Solutions points out that a simple change of scenery can do wonders for your mental health. When it comes to overcoming bad habits, few actions are more effective than moving away.

Making Healthier Choices

Times of transition are an opportunity to make healthier choices. For instance, if you move to a city with excellent outdoor recreation opportunities, you might find that you naturally adopt healthier habits. Or if you relocate somewhere that has more walk-friendly areas, you might find yourself walking more than driving. New routines and environments also allow us to establish new habits more quickly than we would in the day-to-day lives we’re used to.

Embrace the Changes

As difficult as they may be, major life transitions provide you with a chance to take stock of your life and replace the habits you’ve been wanting to replace. Exiting toxic relationships, taking on a new career, making healthy decisions, and relocating are a few of the many waves to improve your quality of life.

Change can be scary, but it can also be thoroughly rewarding. Take this opportunity to start fresh and create the life you’ve always wanted. Approach your next transition with the right mindset, and incorporate positive habits into your routine!

End of post.

Plenty of Candy…..

With everything going on, we haven’t decorated for Halloween this year although some of the neighbors have been creative. I did pick up the usual quantity of multiple bags of candy as we get lots of trick or treaters. Hubby will post a few photos to Facebook no doubt. They do range in age from toddler to teenager and we don’t mind that. Sometimes the older ones are bringing young one around and other times, they may just be hanging on to a last bit of childhood for a few hours.

Hubby teases me some, but I have two candy bowls. The one with the most is the good chocolate/nut stuff and I have a second smaller one with no chocolate and no nuts just in case. Speaking of food, we will have a steady stream of visitors from around 5:30 to 9:00. We usually have dinner at 7:30 while watching Jeopardy and with one of us having to answer the door every few minutes, we will fix tuna etouffee tonight. Since it’s a stew-like meal, it will stay hot between bites.

I do tend to try and err on the side of too much rather than too little candy and we do have a bag or so left over at times. It has been known to last until nearly Christmas. On the other hand, I am supposed to make sure there is a bag – or at least most of a bag – of Butterfingers for Hubby to enjoy for later. That mostly works out. Sometimes he prefers Snickers as leftover, but not this year.

I am also okay with all the places that choose to have some sort of event for kids rather than have them go to houses. Oh, and I do have a few friends whose favorite holiday is Halloween and they go all out whether with decorations, costumes, or party. None happen to be in this neighborhood; I know I’ll be seeing FB posts tomorrow from them.