Sunshine Again….

While we had more sun than clouds yesterday and not a drop of rain, I do have family in Mandeville, LA which is just north over Lake Ponchitrain. I haven’t heard directly from them yet, although it sounds as if they should be okay. This is one of those times when not being able to afford the lake front property is a good thing. Actually, I also have family in Houston, so we do tend to pay attention when hurricanes target either here or the Gulf. Houston is far more protected of course since it came into existence as a result of the terrible 1900 Galveston hurricane. Survivors determined that digging a canal and moving further inland was a prudent course of action. A powerful Cat 2 and above can still wreak havoc with flooding, wind damage, and power outages, but Houston isn’t as vulnerable as Galveston.

Which brings me around to the subject of those of us who choose to live in vulnerable areas. Mother Nature is not, has not, and perhaps never will be controlled. She whips up hurricanes/typhoons, torandoes/cyclones, heaves the earth with quakes that cause tsunamis, releases flood waters, and sends blizzards. That doesn’t even count droughts and wildfires. Although freak weather and disasters do occur, for the most part, if you live in a cold climate, you can expect blizzards; the Gulf Coast is prone to hurricanes, and “tornado alleys” are called that for good reason. In other words, when you choose to live in a particular place with known weather issues, you pay attention. You take time to learn what it is about, how to prepare. You listen to people who know how to cope with these conditions.

It may be that you determine that you aren’t cut out for certain things. This is one of the reasons that people relocate and that’s okay, providing you understand why you are relocating and where. You leave blizzard-prone states to travel south and the balmy winters come with sticky, sultry summers, and perhaps hurricanes. That’s the way it works. In our effort to meet our own needs, we (that’s the big “We”) do tend fault Mother Nature when she is merely doing what she has always done. Are we gong through certain climate change? Yes, alhough no more so than has been true for thousands of years if you take the time to do more than superficial research. That’s not the point of this post though. The point is that few places have idyllic, stable weather and it is important to remember that when the literal storm clouds gather.

Fortunately, entrepreneurs are always tinkering to find new technologies to help us cope with unpleasant and dangerous weather. When you live in places that can be impacted, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for new equipment and supplies coming on the market.

Bands of Wind and Rain….

Tropical Storm Isaac is about 7-8 hours out depending on wind speed. The outer bands of wind and rain are mangeable at this point. Many of the neighbors haven’t been through one of these yet and it’s interesting to see the different levels of preparation. Having the accordion shutters does make a tremendous difference though since it requires only about twenty minutes to close them as opposed to the hours for putting up (and taking down) the bolt-on variety. Of course, if you can afford it, the ideal is wind resistance security glass. If you plan to be in a home for a long time, that can be a good investment since you do generally get homeowner’s and windstorm insurance discounts. Speaking of which, for those who haven’t lived in this area, you probably don’t realize that you have to carry three insurances here; regular property insurance, a separate windstorm insurance, and a separate flood insurance. Fortunately, the flood insurance tends to be fairly reasonable and that, by the way, is good for everyone to have no matter where you live. Even if you aren’t near the water, backed up storm drains and similar circumstances can cause “flood damage” that is not covered under regular home insurance. Anyway, back to the triple insurance. These cost, plus the high deductible that comes with them is why people sometimes self-insure. It can reach a point where that makes the most economic sense. Hopefully, however, Isaac will stay within what is predicted, not increase to a Cat 1 (or higher) hurricane and we won’t have to worry about insurance claims.

Here’s wishing the best for everyone in Isaac’s path.



Hurricane Warnings…….

For those who aren’t aware, today is the twentieth anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Andrew, as Isaac churns in the Caribbean (or Atlantic – I haven’t seen the latest track). We were overseas during Andrew and this area had suffered through the very lengthy recovery period by the time we relocated. It has been interesting to hear the many stories over the past month or so as people reflected back on the terrrible destruction that impacted everyone who lived here.

The very first summer we were here was 2005 when we had Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma blow through; none of which did significant damage in our neighborhood and limited damage in the general area. We did, however, buy better hurricane shutters and a small generator; neither of which we have used since then. We don’t mind though – far better to have them and not need them. Like most people though, we have selected the weather sites that we prefer and my husband has become quite proficient in reading about “cones” and “millibars”.

Although our house is built to the newer, very strict codes and is rated to withstand high winds, we are of the mind that if it is a Category 1 or 2, we will stay – higher than that, we are likely to head to GA and AL to visit family and friends. It isn’t that the house can’t handle it as much as we don’t want to deal with the extended loss of services that inevitably occurs in a storm that powerful. Hopefully, we won’t have to make that decision any time soon. We have properly stocked for Isaac other than needing to go get more rum and scotch and shall see what the next few days bring.



Florida Avocados and More…..

Florida Avocados and lemons waiting to turn yellow

Unless you know much about avocados, when someone says the word, you probably think of the Haas avocado about the size of your palm and with a dark green, “pebbly” exterior. That was what I’d always seen in the grocery store. While I am not a big fan of eating slices or chunks of avocado, I do enjoy guacamole. When we were stationed in Puerto Rico we went to the produce section where we expected to see avocados and there was something distinctly different. It was significantly larger, lighter in color, more pear-shaped, and smooth skinned. The label said, Florida Avocado and when we thought about it, it made sense considering the geographic and therefore shipping distance to get fruit from Florida instead of California or Texas. The taste was excellant and we didn’t give it any further thought.

Now we not only live in South Florida, but live in the largest agricultural area in South Florida and avocados are a major crop here. There are the commercial enterprises of course, but out in the Redland, a number of houses have avocado trees in their yard. The yield is so high every year that you can literally see avocados rotting on the ground because the occupants can’t use them up or give them away fast enough. One of our friends has been growing avocados and mangos all his life and the point is the two fruits have different growing seasons. Our friends were in the group that gathered for dinner the other night at Num Thai and so we not only had a great dinner out, but came home with two lovely avocados. That was an especially nice way to end the evening. The avocados should be ready for a big batch of guacamole tomorrow.





A Boatload of Sushi….

One of the small “boats” of sushi at Num Thai Restaurant

As I have mentioned, I don’t do sushi, although I love Thai and other Asian cuisine. We have two nice Sushi/Thai restaurants in town and one that many of our diving friends in Key Largo enjoy. So, after spending time viewing all manner of marine creatures during the day, there is a periodic gathering at Num Thai in Key Largo. Last night was to welcome back a couple who have been sailing the Caribbean for a number of months now. They are only here for a short time before they set sail again and we were all delighted to get together. One of the signature aspects of Num Thai is that they have these wooden “boats” you can order filled with a variety of sushi and since five of the eight were up for that, the waitress decided that two identical boats would be easier to manage. There was general agreement and my goodness what a boatload of sushi it was! And yet, despite what looked liked a massive quantity, the array was handily consumed by the those who eat such things.

The three of us who prefer food cooked shifted around to sit together to make the process simpler and my chicken green curry was excellant as were the crunchy fried shrimp. In either case – raw or cooked, the Kirin beer was cold, the sake warm, and the friendship filled with laughter. Who knows, we might have to have another round as a Bon Voyage!


A Dolphin Underwater….

Where did the last two days go when I meant to post this? One of the many great things about diving is that it is not unusual to see dolphins as you travel to and from dive sites in tropical settings. There has also been a significant increase in the number of dolphin encounter programs that divers (and non-divers) can participate in. Those have a special thrill, but a chance encounter underwater with a dolphin is a treat that you don’t routinely get. (Well, not in most places.)

We were in Grand Bahama years ago, and in fact, had done the dolphin dive in Freeport. We were staying and diving on another part of the island and on our last dive of the trip, we were headed back to the boat when a single dolphin appeared, swam within a few yards, played around for almost a minute and then shot away. Naturally that was in our days before my husband took up underwater photography. Earlier this week we had dinner with friends in Key Largo who were down from Philadelphia and related this story as part of the usual, “where have you been diving?”, discussion that always arises when divers socialize. We also mentioned that we’ve never had that happen since. So yes, in one of those pleasantly ironic moments, my husband came home two days later and sure as the world, what had he seen that day? A dolphin underwater – again, no camera. He did have a couple of witnesses though who were as excited as he was. Ah, if only I had been along! Oh well, maybe my turn is coming up soon.

It’s Time To Pull Up Your Pants…..

Streaks of purple (or whatever color) hair, Mohawks, a profusion of tattoos – these are fashion (or other) statements that I may not care for, but I have become accustomed to. Well okay, I still don’t get the eyebrow, lip, and tongue piercing. The pants showing the underwear, however, is a different matter and quite frankly, I am tired of the disrespect that it shows for common civility. Again, this is a choice, a personal choice that no one is forced to follow. It is also entirely within the control an in individual. I do not care where the habit originated or what it is allegedly intended to represent. What it does represent is an unwillingness to acknowledge the absurdity of it, if a male is being remotely honest. And parents/guardians/older siblings – this is on them as well. At some point an adult or older person says, “No, this is ridiculous, inappropriate and will not be permitted.” You want baggy pants that you can hardly walk in – that’s fine, as long as displaying you underwear isn’t involved.

Unlike some situations requiring change,  pants can be pulled up without it costing much, and usually without it costing a single dime. Belts just aren’t that hard to come by or that expensive. This is also a change that doesn’t even require any real effort. What it does require is a few minutes to acknowledge the inappropriateness of continuing this behavior. Is it the most pressing problem in the world? Not precisely, but again, it is indicative of a lack of self-discipline that is a problem in a great many areas. It’s time to say that this has gone on long enough. Set a National Pants Pull Up Day if you want to, but those who persist in showing their underwear to the rest of the world should stop, and those who encourage it should be ashamed.

Electing Officials By Default…..

Although I skirt politics in this blog, this subject is about Civics, not politics. In our local area we tend to have low voter turnout and that is not unusual throughout the country. We have a primary coming up later this month and one of the candidates for Judge has been getting around to a lot of events. Her point is, “Look, I want you to vote for me, but more than that, I want you to find out about the candidates and make a real choice. We need to stop electing officials by default.”

She is so correct about this. We do tend to take voting for granted in this country, and it is confusing. Who do you trust to tell you about the candidates? And why are there so many elected positions anyway? How are you supposed to figure it all out? It is easier to elect an incumbent, latch onto a “sound bite”, or to let a local paper/organization endorse a candidate than to actually do your own research about the candidates. This is one of the reasons that seemingly small groups of people can dominate an election. It is often a case of who actually goes out to vote. I have made a resolution this time to look beyond the “big” positions and to check out candidates for positions like judge and school board. Now, that may be nothing more than looking at their web site and then doing a quick search to see if they have made the newspapers (one way or the other), but I am going to do that. Thoughts, anyone?