As The Tree Waited…..

There are odd things that happen occasionally and this is one. The lapse of the past few days in me posting isn’t so much odd as it is having way too many overlapping obligations with all the regular stuff and holiday events thrown in. Anyway, Hubby went and got the tree early because he was concerned there might a shortage. It turns out that wasn’t a problem in this area, but we also like to get a certain size tree and they can sometimes run out of the ideal for us. So, we were all set and got the tree stand out of the garage. Everything was fine except we have one of the stands that has the three prongs you extend out to “bite” into the trunk and stabilize the tree. For whatever reason, things just wouldn’t align this time and the poor tree kept listing. Let us just say there were multiple attempts and then it seemed prudent to let it sit for a while. Then there were some unexpected classes to be taught and before you know it, more than a week elapsed as the green tree sat with no decorations. Hubby also remembered we usually swap the position of the one table with all the marine sculptures with where the tree was and if we did that, it might help. That was sort of correct. We finally made the decision it was close enough and it is stable if not entirely upright. He was able to get the lights all strung yesterday and the rest of the decorations will go on probably tomorrow night as we have an event this evening after both having very full days today. In other words, there is likely to be a low energy level by the time we get home.

However, wreaths are up, Poinsettias are outside and the little tabletop Cajun Christmas tree is in place. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we don’t do much in the way of gift-giving from a “put things under the tree” perspective. That’s particularly true this year as Hubby very much needed a new grill and that most assuredly doesn’t fit in the room. I suppose once he assembles it, we could take a photo and nestle that into the branches.

We keep our decorations up until after Three Kings Day, 6 January

A Bit Chilly, But Worth It……

My schedule has not been compatible with my intent to dive once a month, so despite the temperature being less than I cared for yesterday, I did make it out. I think I’ve mentioned before that diving here in the December through February months is relative. The water cools down to around 70 as it starts the Nov decline at about 78 degrees. When you dive, you have a variety of options for wetsuits. Some people do choose to dive without them, but I prefer to have even the thin layer of a “skin” which is my summer choice. As the name implies, it is quite thin, but does provide a bit of protection in the event of a small stinging thing floating about. Next is a 1mm wetsuit, then it goes up to maybe 8mm for colder water. You can also add on a hood, vest, etc.,. There are “drysuits” that I have also mentioned and those are for cold water or extended deep diving. There’s actually a tropical weight drysuit a number of people here (to include Hubby) have because as I have also mentioned before, locals don’t like the water temperature below 75. Divers who come in from places like New England, the Great Lakes or Europe find that amusing as they consider such conditions to be “balmy”.

Anyway, the surface temperature dropped a bit lower yesterday than predicted, the sun wasn’t very strong and the breeze did pick up. All that combined to make it less than comfortable with what I was wearing. I do admit when I made the decision to dive in my 1mm suit, it was questionable. As I said when I came up, “It wasn’t quite a mistake, but the season for 1 mm is over.” Visibility wasn’t great, although again, at 40 feet, this is terrific for people who dive in places where they’re lucky to have 20 feet.

I didn’t see too many of the “big things” we all enjoy even though I did find one large green moray eel and a little yellow ray. There were lots of fish, to include my angels which I always enjoy. There was also a spotted drum. More of an adult than in this photo. As an adult, the coloration remains about the same and the “plume-like” fin decreases in size .

Juvenile Spotted Drum

You Never Quite Know….

In the course of writing for our weekly community paper, I’ve run across some people who’ve done some remarkable things “back in their day”. As time passes, their accomplishments are certainly dimmed, if not forgotten. In a case like this, it was something not locally known. The full article I wrote is here: http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/eedition/page-a/page_95874306-7dde-54f3-841a-d10e560a297f.html

One of the guys on active duty reached out to the newspaper publisher to tell him about Joyce Kutsch, one of two women to be the first to go through U.S. Army Airborne training in 1973. That was during the initial phases of closing out the Women’s Army Corps (as well as the other women’s services) and integrating women into the regular services. Jump school, as it is commonly referred to, has never been easy. Yes, people who sky dive for fun can go out and get a quick lesson, especially if they’re planning a tandem jump of jumping together with a professional. Military jumping is quite different and in Joyce’s case even more so. She was to go to jump school because it was a prerequisite to being a parachute rigger. This was one of the male-only fields (except for necessity during WW II) opened to women in 1973. While the specialty does mean packing parachutes for soldiers, it also involves packing for equipment drops; everything from pallets of supplies to vehicles. Try figuring out how to rig a 5-ton truck for a drop and you get the idea of skill required.
In addition to being a rigger, Joyce was assigned to Fort Bragg in support of the 82d Airborne Division and finding a more testosterone-filled unit would be difficult. Like many “inadvertent pioneers” at the time, Joyce wasn’t looking to make history, but she and the other women weren’t going to let skepticism and derision nor the intense physicality of the training/follow-on duties stop them.
Despite forging the way for other women, Joyce didn’t stay for a career and she wound up here and has been a postal carrier for more than twenty years. Interviewing her was a delight and we’ll be staying in touch.

 

Our Poor Backyard…..

A few years ago when we remodeled the public part of downstairs, we also had two exterior  improvement done. In front, we  received permission to expand the driveway a little to accommodate one extra car. Parking in a gated community is an on-going source of frustration although admittedly, nothing as bad as urban setting. Anyway, one of the first things we did as we waited for the plans on the major pieces was to have a local landscaper come in for the back yard. The guy we use for normal upkeep is good and we’ve been with him for years. Designing and bringing in a team to re-do a yard in one day is not something he can handle. We stuck with the basic concept we had except the landscaper added a wonderful “green island” on one side and cleaned up four trees that were really messy, She also planted two other tall, slender ones that were perfect for our size yard. We even managed to keep up with everything for a while. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the way plants grow around here is amazing and that means good as well as “super weeds” and requiring constant trimming. It simply doesn’t take long for things to get out of control. I’m not talking “jungle”, yet definitely ragged. Despite how much Hubby does, the amount of work we still need to do is a bit daunting and the climbing blossoming vines we’ve had seem to have finally run their course. We did sustain some damage to our fence last year in Hurricane Irma and haven’t had anyone come in yet. The reason is because there was a high demand for fence repair for months and we wanted to let the “rush” get over with.

I’m setting up an appointment with a fence guy and if Hubby agrees, my inclination is to go ahead and tear away the old vines so the fence repair can be done with less interference. After the fence is taken care of I’ll call the landscaper again and acknowledge our neglect. The only good part is the design she did is still good; it basically needs to be refreshed. I also want to talk to her about extra native butterfly attracting plants.

Inflatable Decorations…….

Notwithstanding Hubby’s occasional “Bah humbug” about those who decorate extensively for the holidays, I do tend to be a bit torn about all the inflatables. As I have explained in previous posts, our decision to remain in South Florida meant saying good-bye to the dream house we would have had in either Louisiana or Mississippi had we moved as once intended. Part of the dream house would have been adequate space to store seasonal decorations. I never planned to have like mounds of things, but definitely more than we have now. Anyway, the inflatable items do make sense from a storage space perspective. It’s the sight of the poor things in their deflated state on lawns that always makes me wonder if it’s puzzling to young children. Since granddaughter wasn’t old enough last trip to discuss such things perhaps this year she can express it from her point of view. On the other hand, maybe young children don’t even notice if Santa and the reindeer are flattened out during part of the day.

We did get the Christmas tree a week early this year with the concerns of shortages, but for the first time, we’re having difficulties in getting the clamps in the stand to keep it properly aligned. Hubby will work on that and we’ll do the decorating later. We went with the six-foot size which is what we like and that pretty much causes me to focus mostly on the marine/tropical decorations we gathered or been given over the years. I will try to toss out some of the older items we simply never use anymore. I must admit the Nutcracker wreath didn’t get moved into storage after the holidays so he’s still up on the stairway.

 

The Lack of Lettuce…..

I have to admit a nation-wide (or maybe it’s global at this point) ban on romaine lettuce was not something I anticipated. As much havoc as it is causing in our personal shopping, I feel terrible for restaurants who have moved away from ice berg lettuce in favor of romaine as being more upscale and popular. There are many who do the “classic wedge” though so I guess that works if they can get adequate supply. It appears that field greens and of course spinach are safe, but again, romaine does tend to be a greater percentage of the trade. This brought to mind our time in Desert Shield/Desert Storm when fresh vegetables simply weren’t available. We did get some fresh fruit such as apples, oranges and tangerines, and figs (which I don’t eat). There was also fruit juice. Lettuce was simply too perishable and in the huge quantities of food needed for military rations, the big cans of vegetables are what are used. The Meals-Ready-To-Eat (MRE) as rations have some vegetables in items like Chicken A La King or Beef Stew, but at the time, that was about it. I know they’ve done a number of changes with the menu since then so there may be more options.

Anyway, when we did finally return to Germany, it was mid-May so the growing season was in full swing. That meant no shortage of lettuce and for at least a while it was strawberry season. Their strawberries are always delicious and especially so that summer. I’ve always loved the white radishes although at the time I was not a fan of white asparagus. There were naturally other culinary items we’d missed such as the wonderful pastries and we caught up on those as quickly as we could. Not surprisingly good German beer and wine were in the liquid category.

Wandering Around the Square…..

I’ve written in previous posts about the town square of Covington, Hubby’s home town. We always have lunch one day there and I then stroll around as he goes to take photos. The New Orleans-themed restaurant was closed, as does happen the day before Thanksgiving and we were already scheduled to have dinner at Mystic Grill with his sister and her husband. The “Fish Camp” place close to the square is being converted into a Japanese place and unfortunately, the Irish Pub didn’t succeed either. We went to the Your Pie which has pizza, paninis and salads. As an aside, the romaine lettuce recall is causing issues for restaurants and diners alike. Anyway, Your Pie is unique in it is set up similar to Subway. They serve 8-inch thin crust pizzas and you pick from a variety of crusts and toppings or you can order one of their creations. They do give you a number and bring your order to the table. I went with whole wheat crust, marinara, pepperoni, salami, sun dried and fresh tomatoes. Hubby had a turkey and pesto pannini.

After, he went off with his camera and I went to the Town Square Olive Oil shop. We haven’t been down to our Olive Morada for longer than we like, but we aren’t going to deal with holiday traffic. I had to restrain myself in stocking up, but how is one to resist cilantro and roasted garlic infused olive oil and I had to have blood orange and Persian Lime. Then there was the new bacon and I did stop at that. The Cork wine store was open as well and they did have the Nouveau Beaujolais in. Not for us – that was the gift to give Hubby’s cousin who hosts Thanksgiving. Then there was time for coffee at the Bread and Butter Bakery and I very carefully ignored the pastry section.

It was a lovely afternoon and a sweater was enough warmth since the temperature didn’t drop much until after the sun went down.

Thanksgiving Trip……

The somewhat significant to-do list was whittled down enough for us to make the trip yesterday without too many follow-up phone calls and emails. Traffic until we were well north of Fort Lauderdale was quite heavy although once they cleared the single wreck we encountered, it flowed well. Fortunately, threatening clouds resulted in only short bursts of rain and the temperature didn’t really drop until the last part of the trip. The 85 degrees we began with at 6:00 a.m. was down to 53 when we pulled into the motel parking lot a little after 5:00 p.m. We do have sweaters to wear.

Hubby’s plan to go to a place he’s heard about for a special photo shoot has changed because it’s a longer drive than he had realized and we do try to stay clear of the main highways the day before Thanksgiving. He has an alternate spot though of one of the old mills where they have used the model of converting the area into condos, apartments, and retail. It’s always nice to see that rather than the abandonment that can often happen when a single, major industry shuts down. The key has to be viable options. In this case, it is close enough to the major metropolitan area of Atlanta to draw commuters and better yet, telecommuters, who can make a decent salary. This, combined with being an easy day-trip for those who live in the city, supports the restaurant/retail side. Successfully converting such areas requires first, a vision, then a realistic assessment of what can work, and of course adequate capital to make the conversion and carry through long enough for it to take hold. Revitalization can look great on paper and always sounds good; genuinely understanding how the process works can be another matter altogether.

Anyway, we will be spending lunch and the afternoon in the charming Covington town square which as many of you know, is one of four places I used to create the town of Wallington for the Small Town Quilting Series.

 

Headed Up for Thanksgiving…..

One of the reasons we made such a fast trip to Georgia for my mother-in-law’s service was because we were already scheduled to go there for our annual Thanksgiving trip. We’ve only missed it a few times; last year being one of them. Apparently, this is not going to be one of the mild weather stretches so I have sweaters in the suitcase and will put the coat in the car as opposed to the wrap I last carried. It would be nice if we didn’t hit rain  as we have the past two trips. On the other hand, we really don’t have any control over that. One of the nice things though is they did finally open a Chili’s within walking distance of the hotel we stay at. With a 10 (or more) hour drive, it’s so much easier to simply walk over for dinner than head downtown. I suspect, however, Thanksgiving night will be a repeat of previous years when none of the alcohol-serving restaurants will be open. I have mixed feelings of course. After all, people who work there ought to get time with their families. For travelers though, it does leave limited options. In this case, it means fast food or I-Hop, and yes, we do tip extra. I realize as we are moaning about feeling utterly full at the bountiful Thanksgiving meal, we do tend to all say we won’t need to eat later, and yet, that hardly ever seems to be the case.

Anyway, we will have a good time and hopefully this year, no emergency room visits will be required. It wasn’t either of us – my husband’s second cousins got a bit rambunctious in a golf cart whizzing about the property. Just about the moment their mother looked out and commented the speed did not bode well – the event occurred. By the way, we are not talking children or even teens engaged in this and fortunately it was a sprain other than something more serious.

In A Quandary About A Character…..

Not really a spoiler alert. I find myself in a slightly unfamiliar situation. My original plan for the Small Town Quilting Series was three or four books. As I have previously mentioned, with the shift away from publishing by AQS, I self-published Small Town Quilting Blues and had already started thinking about Small Town Quilting Treasures. I got behind in working on it and am getting re-focused. Having created the romance between Helen and Max, I find myself conflicted about where to take them. My inclination had been to have them get married, but a couple of women think I should not go down that path. Not as in have Max propose and Helen say no; rather to not introduce the subject. Other readers have the opposing view and see marriage for the two characters as a logical outcome. I, of course, do have complete control of this particular situation and have been going back and forth for months as to which option to choose. Any thoughts?

And while we on the subject, I’m planning to have the book out for the spring. The core plot is no problem although I’m having a little delay in working out a couple of the sub-plots. This isn’t terribly unusual and I’ll probably “skip forward” rather than write the chapters sequentially. I do this occasionally and allow the process to work so I complete a latter part of the story, which can then lead to connections to other chapters. I’m only introducing a couple of new characters this time, but am highlighting some that were minor in earlier books. It will  be a fun story again. Oh, I will say this one has dolls in it. I need to learn more about them and will probably check in with my cousin who has a nice collection.