Two Nice Dives……

Okay, I didn’t manage my birthday dive and I don’t usually go out on the weekend because of crowded boats. Saturday, however, the morning boat was within the number I’m happy with, although the afternoon was predictably booked solid. Hubby was teaching a family of three, plus a friend of the daughter. Visibility was still limited for us due to recent algae blooms, but had gotten to 45-50 feet. That’s one of those relative factors as individuals who dive in other parts of the country are lucky when they have 20 feet of vis.

We did two of the “real wrecks” as in neither was deliberately deployed. They are near each other and both went down in the early 1900s, They weren’t very big and with a century and more of storms and being in warm water, there isn’t much that looks like a vessel. Scattered pieces provide shelter for marine creatures though so you always look underneath to maybe find an eel or lobster. There are also reefs (cause of the original wrecks) for more marine life and nice coral. We did get a couple of small Caribbean reef sharks on the first dive and I saw my lovely rock beauties as well as plenty of the regular inhabitants. Others saw an eagle ray, eel, and turtle. There were quite a few jellyfish. Those are at or near the surface and while they do sting, if you push them away with the back of your hand, that generally moves them and you don’t really feel the sting. They keep a vinegar-based spray and a gel on board. The husband of the family Hubby was teaching wasn’t wearing a full wetsuit and his wife was worried about the jellies. He put himself between her and them and did need his legs sprayed when they got back on board.

A very special treat on the second dive was Hubby spotted a Queen Triggerfish. They are common in the islands, but we rarely see one here. The photo below is not from here, but it’s the only one I have of the kind of jellies I am talking about.

A modular design for an artificial reef created and provided by Walter Marine of AL

Things That Pass….

Musings ahead alert. An incident recently occurred which brought to mind how no matter what one wishes or how one tries, there are times when certain things are no longer sustainable. This is hardly a new thought and has been rendered in story, song, and other arts for probably as long mankind has been able to acknowledge and express the sentiment. After all, most know Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, There is a time for everything”, if not through church lessons then the Byrds song of “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

Back a few years ago, a longstanding non-profit closed out as a combination of aging participants to where membership dwindled and a few other factors. I’ve posted before about family businesses that often don’t make it past the third generation. The house and property that was in my first husband’s family for I think seven generations was another example. We were supposed to eventually move there and carry on the tradition which we would then have passed to our son. In the “life happens”, it simply didn’t work out that way. The small law office my maternal grandfather established might not go into the fourth generation either; only time will tell. History comes in all forms with certain ancient places enduring to at least be remembered if no longer used. In far more modern applications, there are frequent struggles between “progress” or “economic benefit” that override a sense of history. There are multiple cable TV series of individuals and organizations that seek to preserve or restore places, buildings, or items that have been neglected or abandoned. In other cases, there is merely documentation of something that will be allowed to deteriorate to the point of no longer being recognizable.

There can be a sadness in losing what once was, yet sustaining something of historical value/legacy requires resources of usually funding and effort that aren’t always available.



Murder Mystery Events….

We’ve been to several of these over the years and last night was a fundraiser one so they did things a little differently. It was a Kentucky Derby one and they had like 24 or 25 characters. Instead of handing out descriptions of them, they had one set posted on the wall. Some folks did take photos on their phone. There really were too many to mess with and the building where it was held is incredibly noisy. I decided early on not to bother with trying to figure this one out and just socialize. Tickets of course were not inexpensive since it was a fundraiser and the two things they did differently for extra funds was “sell” 2 and 3 of clues. By sell, that ,means each set was $250 so the lady taking the cash walked around and collected whatever people contributed until the total reached at least $250. The other thing was to have a paper bag marked with each character name and you could buy tickets to then place into the bag of the character you thought was the murderer. Oh yes, then they bid off the opportunity for you to be the first person to say who you thought the murderer was with a prize to be had if you were right. As it turns out, one of the guys at our table had the highest bid, but didn’t get the correct character. He “won” the basket anyway for some reason I don’t exactly recall.

The dinner would have been good as the food – choice of prime rib or chicken was tasty. Unfortunately, most of the meals were not hot and some were said to be cold. The salad was excellent and they did have key lime pie. Although large crowds are always tricky, I’m really not sure why this seemed to be a problem across the board.

Anyway, we have a completely different event tonight and dinner after at a nearby restaurant. That should work better.


Another Leftovers Idea……

I’ve posted several recipes or dish ideas about how we use leftovers and I’m going to try a new one this week. Hubby prefers bone-in chicken for grilling which also means the pieces are large. We usually have leftovers and usually make chicken Alfredo for our traditional Thursday pasta meal. Last night as we were clearing away from dinner, he made a comment about enough to do so. I agreed, then he said something about, “or doing deconstructed chicken parmigiana. Hmmm….., an interesting idea. The trick of course is the chicken is already cooked and not breaded. So, working out how to manage that is one thing. We do have a Le Crueset au gratin dish that would allow the mixture to be spread out.

When we make ragu, we use jarred marinara sauce (although rarely the Ragu brand) and often add extra onions, or garlic, and other spices depending. If I take that sauce and add to it to simmer away for a bit, I can then put some of that in the baking dish, add the chicken, another thin layer of sauce, the cheeses and bread crumbs to bake for whatever amount of time I work out. That allows the rest of the sauce to continue to simmer as the pasta cooks. Serve the chicken on a plate with the pasta marinara as the side rather than putting it together in a pasta bowl. The trick will be to get enough sauce on the chicken for it to not dry out as it bakes as well as to get that golden brown color. I’ve had difficulty with that in doing other dishes. One reason comes from my reluctance to use the broiler although I don’t really know why. Alton Brown, one of Hubby’s favorite celebrity chefs, talks about that in several of his episodes – using the broiler I mean, not making deconstructed chicken parm. We’ll see how this goes.

Another Week Slipped By Again….

It’s been extra hectic, although that shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

Anyway, the passing of Queen Elizabeth II does bring an era to a close.May she rest in peace.  Aside from the fact my middle name is Elizabeth, her coronation took place in Jun 1953, only a couple of months before my birthday. I am not what one can call an Anglophile, however, the constitutional monarchy has served the UK well and she has reigned through many changes. It is a different time now and I have no idea how King Charles III will be. At the risk of incurring shocked comments, I was never a big fan of Princess Diana’s handling of their divorce and haven’t paid much attention to Camilla although I think she has probably been long preparing for this day. There will no doubt be a great deal of pageantry over the coming days and while I won’t watch any of that either, I do appreciate the traditions that will be followed. And unlike some of what has happened recently in this country,I doubt they will permit politics to enter into the multiple events.

My husband of course thinks the entire monarchy is long past when it should go away. I don’t have any firm feelings other than I see the functionality of it until such time as the culture might change and there be a referendum. For those who have read or might read, “To Play on Grass Fields”, I chose the intent for the King of Malathos to transition to a constitutional monarchy because it does have a workable structure as seen in a number of countries.



Winning at the Top……

HBO is running the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer”, multiple times; a movie I love on multiple levels. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it. Aside from a great cast, it’s beautifully written and well-acted. It’s based on the book of the same name which is based on the true story of Josh Waitzkin who came to chess acclaim at age seven. Unlike many child prodigies, he came to the game inadvertently as no one in his family nor anyone he knew at the time played chess. I don’t want to get into details in case someone does decide to watch, but this post deals with different aspects of becoming top in a field and how to view winning.

Josh’s father is a sports writer and his mother a stay-at-home mom (if the movie is accurate). Joseph Montagena plays the father and Joan Allen the mother. Juxtaposed with Josh is the street-wise guy who initially teaches him (played by Lawrence Fishburn) and the highly rated man who takes over as the professional instructor (played by Ben Kingsley). As Josh progresses, does the ability to win become so important that “winning is the only thing”? Does everything else have to take a lesser priority? Does the competition have to “be the enemy”?  The mother grows increasingly worried that Josh will change too much in pursuit of what is clearly within his capability. The movie is interspersed with clips of Bobby Fischer and the impact winning had on him.

In one memorable scene between the mother and father, she questions the intensity of expectations. The father and Josh are huge baseball fans and in trying to get her point across, she asks the question, “How many players are afraid of losing their father’s love when they get up to bat?” “Everyone of them,” he counters before leaving the room.

I worked with a great guy who was cut from the Dallas Cowboys on the last day they could cut potential rookies. It was long enough ago for the Coach to have been Tom Landry and he provided a nice letter praising my friend’s spirit and talent. My friend said it was tough to get to that stage and not make it, but he also recognized how few players who have dreamed of the pros as children make it even that far.

Georgia Trip Finishing Up…..

The last part of the visit was the gathering at Hubby’s cousin’s and by the final count there were 18 of us; three generations worth. The third–generation kids enjoyed the pool of course and second generation heard some new and some old stories. Each of them are well established now with careers; a mix of families and “living single and loving it”. We hope perhaps in the fall to make a big loop and go up to Huntsville to see the dear friends who weren’t able to make the reunion, then swing back down for another Georgia visit. We’ll see if that happens.

The trip back was as smooth as could be with only a couple of short showers, no major accidents or construction delays. Even the anticipated slowdown with hitting Miami around 5:00 wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It was basically 11 hours that included necessary stops. We keep those as brief as possible and I have made notes in my phone of the best Turnpike/I-75 exits. “Best” in this case means easy access to a fast food place and gas station, Brand loyalty takes second priority to access, so Wendy’s won out this trip.

It’s a full week ahead and of course I worked some while we were gone, but that’s always the case when I travel.

Georgia Trip, Day 3……

I managed to get a morning walk in since I knew the afternoon would be tight. We returned to the town square to first go to the Olive Oil shop and pick up some small bottles to take to Hugh’s cousin. We were out of blood orange, they had a new mushroom and sage, and a new line of Greek organic we picked up to try. It isn’t that we are big on organic, but the product sounded intriguing.

We went on to Mystic Grill where even at 11:45, there was a bit of a wait. It is good although the real draw is whatever the connection is to the TV show Vampire Diaries and the tours they do. Neither of us have ever watched the show so we aren’t clear on that. The building is a draw too, as a wonderfully renovated old bank with lots of woodwork saved and this great staircase. They have a creative menu and had we not had burgers the night before (and they are on the cookout menu for tonight), we would have gone for them. I opted for the chicken salad sandwich instead, the type made with dried cranberries and some chopped walnuts. Hubby had the fried fish sandwich and no they don’t do catfish there. I thought he might go for the shrimp and grits which he has enjoyed in the past. Then we did our usual of splitting up for about forty-five minutes for him to wander and take more photos and I popped in and out of some shops. There are two art galleries. One is a non-profit where they exhibit different artists as well as have classes. I picked up a few lovely blank note cards which is something I almost always do when traveling. These had scenes of the town square. The second also does classes and one of the women (not sure if she is the owner) specializes in whimsical children’s art with mostly animals. There was more abstract in this place along with other pieces. I picked up a small piece that I have a plan for.

As I mentioned yesterday, sister-in-law and her husband were to pick us for the reunion and while there had been speculation about how many would attend, there were pushing the 200 expected. It was held in kind of an odd place as it was a conference center in an industrial park. It was a nice facility although the beautiful tin ceilings in the very large room with tiled floors and a band meant the noise level was tremendous. There was the usual “haven’t seen you in years” and so forth as I met quite a few people. Dinner was catered BBQ and with BYOB, we had an ice chest with a six pack and I threw in my small bottles of white wine just in case. We were among the 9:00 p.m. departure group though and the actual schedule was to end at 10:00.

The mini family-reunion is this afternoon.


Georgia Trip, Day 2…….

The Hampton Inn had biscuits and sausage gravy as part of the breakfast so Hubby was happy. Lunch later at his sister’s was perfect with a taco salad that included wonderfully fresh tomatoes from a local market. They did a great job remodeling the house and it fits nicely into the old, established neighborhood. The incorporated some of the original features like leaving one of the corner cabinets in the dining room, The other one went as that wall came down allow for a much-needed expansion of the kitchen. The old den is now a designated playroom for the stair-stepped three grandchildren as the oldest is now a young man. While there are a few things she said they would have done differently, it is a warm, welcoming place complete with a front porch and adult and two child-size rocking chairs.

We got caught up on everyone and they are going to the reunion tonight so will pick us up which makes it nice. I spent part of the afternoon working on an article for the paper as Hubby listened to a photography podcast (or something like that). We went into the town square for dinner which has indeed become incredibly crowded. There are multiple tours as “The Vampire Diaries” continues to be popular and there are also ghost tours. We were glad to see the former Irish pub was replaced by a Gastropub, The Social Goat. Apparently it recently changed hands and our waitress didn’t know where the name came from. I thought there might be an explanation on the menu, but no. It was a fairly short menu with a focus on gourmet burgers, a long list of taco options, a few entrees and nine rotating beers on tap in addition to the bottled beers, plus some intriguing sounding cocktails. We did the burgers; Hubby with The Social Goat version which included pimento cheese and bacon jam. I went traditional.

Georgia Trip, Day 1……

We had a slight delay in departure in one of those semi-amusing things. Since we were traveling on a weekday, traffic issues meant it would be better to wait until 8:30 to leave. Literally jut a Hubby was ready to load the truck, Mother Nature brought in a pop-up rain; all while it was partly sunny of course. These don’t usually last long so we were on the way not long after. The traffic hadn’t completely cleared although it was manageable. Once we passed Fort Lauderdale, we lucked out with no big accidents, not much construction, and only a few scattered showers. We made it into the Hampton Inn a little before 7:30. There is a Chilii’s in front of the motel and the Holiday Inn Express next door is finished and they are now building what looks to be an extended stay place next to the Chili’s. We got everything into the room and walked over for dinner. Having over-indulged a little at Wendy’s when we did a Turnpike stop for lunch I balanced out with a cup of chili and the southwestern grilled chicken salad. We frequently have pasta on Thursday so Hubby had a cup of chili and their Cajun pasta with shrimp.

We start our round of family visits today going to his sister’s for lunch – her husband has to work, but he’ll be at the gathering Sunday. We’ll ask about restaurants in town and hope the Mystic (whatever the actual name is) is still open. The Irish Pub had closed, but perhaps someone re-opened it or something replaced it. There is also a New Orleans type place just off the town square. The other is on the square and even though there are good places in other parts of town, the square is delightful. Of course, we may also go there tomorrow as is our habit.