Black Peppered Shrimp and Belgian Beer…….

Okay, we didn’t have those together, but as we made our first round of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, we decided to focus on beer and wine will be today. We will also spend time actually going through Epcot since our previous trip was concentrated on the Living Seas when we did the dive with them.

As novices to the Festival we hadn’t understood the set-up, but it really is fairly simple. There are events such as presentations by chefs, food and wine experts, seminars, etc.,. and a daily outdoor concert. We arrived mid-afternoon and so wanted to just do the walk-around samplings. For those who may not have been to Epcot yet, there is a small lake where almost a dozen countries are represented. They have shops, restaurants/snackbars, and some attractions. For the Festival, they set up special kiosks with 2-3 menu selections and 3-4 beverage selections. You pay a cashier and then move to the food and beverage spot to collect your choices. The food items are tapas-size and they have the beer in 6, 12 and 22 ounces. Since we decided to sample many beers, we did go with the smaller size.

The lollipop lamb chop and shrimp skewer with a wonder dipping sauce from Australia were great. The black pepper shrimp on noodles was from the China kiosk. The beef skewer and empanada from Argentinia were equally tasty and by that time we thought that we might save food from the other countries for wine day. After all, we were planning to hit Great River Brewing and Grille for dinner. We had actually had a pint of their micro-brewed brown ale and red ale before we set out for Epcot and thought dinner there would be a good idea.

Okay, that’s the run down from yesterday. The drizzle seems to have stopped and more adventure awaits us. And yes, I know that not everyone is getting to spend their Monday this way.

On to Food and Wine Festival….

After a two year delay, we are actually going to attend the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. Each year there is a major scuba diving industry show and it alternates between Orlando and other locations (DEMA is short for Dive Equipment Marketing Association). It is a competely awesome event, but more about this later in the week.

Two years ago, when DEMA was last in Orlando, I had carefully made arrangements for us to go to the Food and Wine Festival in tandem with DEMA. Unfortunately from a timing perspective, I also had an urgent project request that required me to travel to the DC area. This was one of those last-minute things and we couldn’t adjust our schedule so we had to cancel the Epcot part. Here’s keeping our fingers crossed that nothing goes awry today – a good friend is coming to house sit and the weather is predicted as perfect for strolling around at Epcot.

Although it is the Food and Wine Festival, there are allegedly wonderful beers as well. I suspect that may be where we start our sampling this afternoon and then we will segue into wine. I will most assuredly keep you posted as to food, drinks, music, and more. Who else out there has attended the Festival?

A Lady Who Is Devoted to Elder Care…..

Those who do not live in South Florida may be unaware of a recent and rather lengthy series of articles that have exposed and highlighted cases of abuse and neglect in Assisted Living Facilities (ALF). This has understandably triggered investigations into many aspects of elder care. There are multiple ALFs in and around Homestead and after I published Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid, I took it over to one of the newer residences that is active in the Chamber of Commerce. I spoke with one of the senior staff members who has been with the facility as it moved through different owners until its current group. I have no reason to believe that the former operations of the ALF were inappropriate, but in the present state, it appears to be a genuine model for what an ALF should be. The decor is sunny and open, there are grounds to enjoy, activites for residents, nicely prepared food, and so forth.

The director also initiated a monthly luncheon that brings together people within various aspects of elder care for networking and to showcase how this ALF functions at a high level. I attended the luncehon yesterday and naturally one of the discussions was about the recent revelations and what investigations might take place. The lady to whom I am referring agreed that the focus is on the negative, yet her take was that those in elderly care very much need to constantly be aware of the potential for neglect and abuse. “We have to face and solve these problems,” she said at one point in a conversation. She, like a number of the attendees, came up through the nursing professsion and while I am not certain when she made the decision to specialize in elder care, she serves as a strong role model for exactly the kind of individual who should be in the field. She recognizes the physical and emotional issues of the elderly and does not fall into the habit of infantalizing the residents.

Different living arrangements is a topic of Your Room at the End, and even though I discuss various options, Assisted Living is likely to be a reality for many Baby Boomers and our parents. There is significant cost associated with ALFs, and while less expensive ones may offer fewer services and amenities, the way in which an ALF is staffed and operated is the real key. Paying more for a place does not automatically ensure that it is a better place. It is the attitude of the staff that makes the real difference. As I urge throughout Your Room at the End,  researching available residences before you need them can make a world of difference. By doing so, you can have a list of resources (particularly if those in your area have a waiting list) that you have “pre-approved” before you are required to make a decision during what could well be a time of emotional crisis. Yes, you are correct, this isn’t a “fun” topic; that is precisely what the book is sub-titled, Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid.

A Gathering of USS Spiegel Grove Veterans……..

There is a fairly lengthy explanation on my web site about Gun Mounts and Groupers: Inside the USS Spiegel Grove, a new non-fiction book that will be out in November. The short version is that Don Altemus, a Miami banker and underwater photographer, kept after me until we finally sat down and worked out what seemed to be a logical approach to the book. There are two groups that have a special interest in the Spiegel Grove – those who served on her and those who embrace her today as an incredible artificial reef. Finding a way to bridge those two groups and keep a photo-heavy book at a reasonable price posed some difficulty. After much thought, the end result is a 53-page, soft cover book with 14 photos and 1 illustration. (Most of the photographs are from Don.) The book provides the essential history of the ship, the transformation into an artificial reef, and a level-by-level discussion of her as a dive destination today. In the process of writing the book, I was invited to be the guest speaker at the 2011 Spiegel Grove Reunion Association meeting in Jacksonville, Florida this past Saturday. My husband put together a video of several sections of the ship, and as it turned out, Don Altemus was able to join us.

There were approximately 50 people at the reunion; to include some who served on the Spiegel when she was first commissioned and at least one gentleman who was on the ship during her final active duty days. The men and their wives were so much fun and Don had gone to a great deal of trouble to have copies of some detailed engineering plans available. We spent most of Saturday with the plans spread out in the lounge of the hotel and a spiral-bound proof of the book so they could have some idea of what it would be like. Don and my husband were given some incredible insights into the workings of the ship from engineering and operational perspectives and I was treated to more great stories.The evening was enjoyable and after the presentation, I think that most of the attendees who had felt a pang of loss at the idea of their ship being deliberately sent to the bottom of the ocean came to see how highly regarded the Spiegel is now as an artificial reef. It was a rewarding experience for the three of us and we hope that we can sustain the relationship that we made with the group.

  Attendees to the 21st Spiegel Grove Reunion came from every part of the country for the multiple day event.


Kindles, Nooks, and So Forth…….

I am the first to acknowledge my lack of technical ability. I use only a fraction of the functions on my IPhone and my husband is constantly on the alert for howls of frustration when I am on the computer. I have gotten better and do have a number of technology improvement goals that I am working towards.

With that said, I want to now confess that my reluctance to embrace Kindle was misplaced. “Oh, you’ll both need one,” a friend assured me when I explained that we finally got one as Shades of Murder went onto Kindle. At that point, I had barely turned it on while my husband was happily downloading old Sherlock Holmes and other books. My friend was correct though. Once I became comfortable with the basics, we did order a second Kindle. This does not mean that we love regular books less, or that we will stop buying books. Having a wonderful repository of titles literally at your fingertips though is so much fun. Classics that you haven’t read in years and others that you always meant to read are often downloadable for free and many independent authors price their books at a low cost so you can explore new writers.

As for the “feel of a book” and being able to turn corners down (tsk, tsk if you do), that doesn’t work well with an e-book reader. On the other hand, I have a nice leather holder for mine and my husband opted for a fabric holder (the same fabric as they use with luggage). The holder almost duplicates the “book feel”. Being able to increase the size of the font isn’t something that we’ve used yet, but I can see the day coming for that.

All-in-all having an e-book reader, whether a stand-alone item or an application for your Ipad/smart phone, is a nice gadet to have.



Soggy Sunny Florida…..

Notwithstanding SciFi scenarios of weather control, it really is a shame that we can’t manage to shift rain. Family and friends in Texas and Louisiana are parched and here in sunny South Florida we are into our fifth day of rain and just ten days ago we got 6 inches of rain in about 12 hours. This is rare for not having a hurricane swirling about. The reports do say our sun and normal conditions will return tomorrow.

Today, however, is another day when working on a manuscript for a while, then cleaning up old files and putting a pot of chili on for dinner seem like good ideas. The aroma of simmering beef and chili seasonings will permeate the house and when I get tired of sorting through files – paper or electronic – I will probably switch the television on to see what movies are available. This is one of those things that my husband doesn’t really understand. I can easily tune in a movie that I’ve seen 20 or 30 times, knowing where my favorite scenes are. I will simply stop what I am doing at that point and go watch the scene, content with the dialogue, narration, scenary, or whatever it happens to be that touches me about the movie. Sure, sometimes I will sit through the whole thing, but more often than not, I let most of the movie play as pleasant background and focus on the special scenes. It’s the equivalent to listening to music for me. Of course, if none of my favorites are on, I do tune to a music channel instead.

If staying at home, how do you pass a rainy day?


How a Bourbon Drinker Converted to Single Malt Scotch…….

Yes, this is an odd juxtaposition to my last post, but that’s one of the things about blogging – there’s a fair amount of stream of consciousness that goes into it. With that said, the bourbon to scotch thought was triggered by the visit from some friends last weekend and my husband’s birthday this past weekend.

My husband and I are both from different parts of the deep South, and therefore almost by definition, both bourbon drinkers notwithstanding my very strict Southern Baptist upbringing. Bourbon and Coke or bourbon and Seven were what you drank as “the hard stuff” until such time as you moved to bourbon on the rocks or with water. Yes, there were Scotch drinkers, but they were a distinct minority. Of course I added rum, gin, etc., along the way, but when it came to whiskey, my only change was when I could afford a better quality bourbon.

The change for my husband occured during our trip to Scotland, a lovely excursion where we made our way up into the Highlands. We were stationed in Italy at the time and it was school spring break. Our route did include looking for Nessie and if you are ever going to try scotch this would seem to be the place. It took my husband about two sips of a peaty single malt to win him over. I tried, I did, but it wasn’t there for me. As we moved through the region, he would try a local favorite each night and determined that the really smoky (peaty) taste was what he enjoyed. Even though he still appreciated a good bourbon, you could tell that he had made the transition. Not blended scotch, mind you, and not a single malt with a sweet undertone. Single malt scotch was not yet trendy in the U.S., although it always carried a higher price than did the blended variety. My husband is not an extravagent guy about many things, so this became one of his few real indulgences. The upside to an increase in the popularity of single malt scotch has been greater availability, and thus when we go to a liquor store with a large selection of sinlge malt, I simply move away to let my husband spend as much time as he wants reading the labels, and he has added a few extras to his initial two favorites.

And yes, one of these days, we will return to Scotland for the prime purpose of going along the “Whiskey Trail”.

Pedicures Aren’t Just a Luxury……

I will confess that notwithstanding the fact that I am a firm believer in capitalism and free enterprise, if cosmetic and beauty salons had to depend on my support, those industries would have declined long ago. I have nothing against cosmetics, it’s just that because of my particular lifestyle with a lot of outdoor activity, skin care and sunscreen are my real concerns. As for hair, this fine, thin, flyaway stuff I inherited works best in a braid or put up in a clamp. And nails – Lord, am I rough on nails that no manicure can stand up to. Pedicure – not for my ticklish feet. Now, with all that said, I have come to appreciate a value of pedicures that I had simply not previously understood. Have you ever tried to trim your toenails without bending over or bending your knee?

One of the many eye-opening experiences that I had when coping with the elder care situation that resulted in Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid, was how something as mudane as trimming toenails could create such a problem. Numerous physical conditions can prevent you from being able to perform this task and it doesn’t take more than a few months of neglect for toenails to thicken, curve, and/or become in-grown. Shoes may no longer fit properly and unconscious nighttime scratching can result in cuts to the feet and legs. People who have always considered pedicures as an “unnecessary luxury” may well begin to hide their feet rather than admit to having problems. Once the problem becomes severe, it will require a visit to a podiatrist or a specially trained nurse to resolve. Having a pedicure 3-4 times a year is normally enough to keep this under control, although other foot problems that do require a podiatrist may also occur and then nail care is often combined as a part of treatment.

So, if you have an older relative who has difficulting in reaching their toes, find a subtle or candid way to ask the question and perhaps you can help make arrangements for perioridc pedicures. Another topic in Your Room is about how we reach a point where gifts just causes us to accumulate more stuff. A gift certificate for a pedicure is a type of “consummable” gift-giving. I know this whole things sounds a bit odd if you haven’t been through it, but it really is something to check into.

What Is It With Yogurt…..

Our good friends did manage to slog through the unusual downpour that hammered Miami-Dade and the Uppers Keys on Saturday. It was almost 10:00 p.m. by the time they struggled through delayed flights, driving directions that didn’t take detours into account, and the still-terrible signage coming out of Miami Airport. I had lasagna, ciabatta rolls, Pinot Grigio, and marble cheesecake waiting for them though.

Anyway, the next morning as I was preparing the Meyer Lemon poppyseed muffins, my girlfriend and I discussed yogurt when she confessed that she didn’t care for it. We are both well aware of the nutritional benefits of yogurt and my husband likes it. I, however, have tried – I have really, honestly tried different brands, different types and I just can’t manage to get more than a spoonful down. On the other hand, I do enjoy frozen yogurt and I make fruit and yogurt smoothies. Can anyone explain to me how there can be so much difference in a single food product?

Good Friends, Hot Tub, and Rum….

Some good friends will be arriving for a short visit tomorrow and if Mother Nature is kind to us, we plan to “tourist it up” for them on Sunday. With their hectic lives, they may opt for extra leisure time, in which case it will be a lingering brunch by the pool – plenty of fresh fruit, Meyer Lemon poppyseed muffins and other things, then a trip a bit later down to Seven-Mile Bridge near Marathon so they can see the view of the Keys that is in so many movies. We’ll head back this way, stop at the Wyland Wall (actually it’s a small building), and then proceed to Jimmie Johnson’s Big Chill for sunset and an early dinner. If the timer works on the hot tub (usually, but no guarantee), it will be up to temperature when we return. It will be sitting under the stars, drinks in hand, Tiki torches flickering, Jimmy Buffet in the background. While my girlfriend said she wanted plenty of rum and Coke, we intend to introduce her to my husband’s killer mojitos, too, and then she can decide.

If they are feeling up for a morning excursion, breakfast will be earlier and we’ll go out to the Everglades first, or even the Coral Castle, followed by a light lunch and then proceed down to the Keys. I mean, seriously, isn’t this why you have friends in South Florida to start with?