About Charlie Hudson

Off with my combat boots and onto writing best describes Charlie my two careers. Born in Pine Bluff, Ark., and raised in Louisiana, I count myself as a military veteran, wife, mother, freelance writer, and author. What was intended to be a quick two years in the Army became a 22-year career instead, and somehow in the process, I discovered that I was an inadvertent pioneer by serving in several positions that had previously been held only by men. By the time I was in Desert Storm and later Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti, women in leadership assignments was more widely accepted. My love of writing never left me though whether it is a short article that highlights an animal rescue group, penning the stories of a female police detective in the Florida Keys, or presenting issues about aging that Baby Boomers need to address, or working on a corporate proposal. When my husband, Hugh, also retired from the Army, we relocated to South Florida where we can both enjoy the underwater world in dive sites all around Key Largo. We do break away though to still travel, and especially visit the Washington, D.C. area where son Dustin is a professional dancer and lives with his wife, Samantha.

Timing Meals During NASCAR Weekend…..

For those not familiar with our geographic situation, we live about two miles from the Homestead-Miami Speedway. There are only two accesses into our gated community; one from a primary street leading to the Speedway and the other is around to the side. During the three days of NASCAR racing, traffic is terrible. Due to a circumstance of timing, this year is even worse because of construction on two major streets. Those of us who live here are coping as best we can with the daily inconvenience and the correct answer from yesterday until around noon on Monday is be off the streets by 11:00 a.m. Due to extra commitments Thurs and Fri, there was no way to get to the grocery store until this morning. I managed to get there and back before 10:30. With Hubby shooting for the paper – something he absolutely loves as I have previously explained – he is at the Speedway for around ten hours each day with literally miles of walking in going from spot-to-spot. As a member of the press, he has access to the media center where they have food and beverage. However, it’s more of a grab something in between events and the chance to have a real meal is limited. By that same measure, it’s difficult to know exactly when he will get back home. Once the race ends, there is the post-race ceremony, then traffic. Friday night is of course pizza night and that’s easy enough to heat up when he finally makes it in.

Tonight is somewhat complicated because we will have company and the scheduled time to eat around 7:30 is probably doable. The menu though is such that everything can “hold” if needs be for a later start. At the moment, a pot of a sort of stew is cooking to be cooled and put into the other refrigerator. That will be for tomorrow night as it re-heats pretty quickly. The other rule is all comfort food. What Hubby doesn’t know is it will include apple pie as a special treat.

Always Enjoyed Walking, But….

I have posted before about my constant struggle with weight. While I might not be the poster child for yo-yo-dieting, I could be in the running. During my Army days, it wasn’t as intense as I was younger and of course, we had strict weight limits as well as constant physical fitness training with required runs three days per week. In my waning days, there was the time I was cajoled into running a half-marathon, but that was most assuredly a one-time event.

Anyway, I hated to jog and after retiring, I swapped to walking instead which I did enjoy. I managed to not put on too much weight, then circumstances with available time changed and I allowed myself to basically get out of control. My aging didn’t help, nor was it the single defining cause. Despite having put on extra weight, I’ve always kept up a program of walking at least four times a week, using time walking as opposed to distance. What I hadn’t realized was my efforts had become less effective. I had previously posted about us getting a stationary recumbent bicycle after I injured my knee. At that time, I was using a combination of walking some days and on the bike others. A few years ago during my travels, I was on a treadmill in a hotel gym. I did the usual amount of time and comfortable pace/elevation. Then I looked at the number of calories burned and saw it was less than when I used the bike. There was also the one age-related factor of being out for a walk and needing to go to the bathroom. I admittedly cut the walk short by a few minutes on more than one occasion to make sure I arrived back at the house in time.

Despite the delays due to an improperly installed part, Hubby did keep working with the manufacturers of the new recumbent bike and it is fully functional. Indeed, there are functions I have no idea how to use and that’s okay. It gives me the kind of exercise I need. Well, the kind I’m willing to do. No doubt a trainer would tell me I could do more.

Another Easy Italian Sauce……

I have mentioned before how we had not expected to be assigned to Italy. There are very few Army installations as most are Navy and Air Force. Notwithstanding the charm of living in a seaside village for 18 months in Tuscany, the jobs we had were intense and did not allow nearly as much time for travel as we might have wished. On the other hand, when you are in the virtual heart of Tuscany, you don’t have to travel far to enjoy yourself.

Anyway, as I’ve also mentioned, we learned how incredibly regional cuisine is, and one of the sauces we were not familiar with was Amatriciana. In it’s simplest form, crisp up diced pancetta, remove it from the pan. Use the rendered fat to saute onions and garlic, add tomatoes, a splash or so of wine, red pepper if desired, add pancetta back in, stir thoroughly and serve over pasta.

I often use the “party trays” for events that come with cheese and salami, etc., A few years ago as I was looking at the leftovers, I decided to do a variation of this sauce. I had salami, pepperoni, and ham. I thin sliced rather than diced. I crisped everything up and set that aside. I used one can of tomatoes,but in addition to garlic and onion, I added sun dried tomatoes and some roasted red peppers (we almost always have a jar in the fridge). In the way of most Italian sauces, this one is not long cooking. This can cook for as little as ten minutes before putting the meat back in. Give it a good stir, and cook another couple of minutes before serving over pasta. I didn’t give proportions, but one can of tomatoes basically manages enough sauce for 2-3 servings of pasta. In our case, I use a fair amount of meat, but that isn’t necessary.

Halloween Prep….

We live in a neighborhood where there are already a great many children. For reasons we don’t quite understand, residents invite friends/family to our gated community for Halloween which expands the population even more. We are generally here and I usually buy seven large bags of candy (we get the good stuff) and even with that, we often have none left for the latecomers. Now, to be honest, we think no one should still be out looking for treats much past 8:30. Anyway, I had already bought five or six bags with the intent of rounding out the stock when I discovered we probably had another commitment that evening. We talked it over and decided not to put any decorations out since we weren’t going to be at home.

We have some new neighbors moving in across the street. It’s a local move so they have been back and forth a good bit doing things. I took most of the candy and asked if they were going to be there for Halloween. They weren’t sure, but they also get lots of kids in their current location, plus they have four of their own, so were happy to take the offering. I did hold out two bags in case we returned home earlier than expected. We didn’t and even though there were still “creatures” out, it was coming up on 9:00. We made the decision to leave the lights off rather than get something started at that hour. Which means I now have too much leftover candy. As soon as Hubby chooses what he wants to keep, I’ll make another trip across the street. In talking with people who live in other neighborhoods, some were all set and got basically no kids. As we said though, had they not been ready,  dozens would probably have shown up.

Things Do Have To Give At Times….

Ah, there are often “ripple effects” that impact our plans and November is a prime example. The big scuba trade show is held in Orlando every other year and we always go. It’s a great time to meet up with people we sometimes only see there, attend interesting seminars, enjoy Orlando restaurants, and we often add on a day or two to do something at either Disney or Universal. We were all set to make our reservations when Hubby realized they changed the dates by a week this year for reasons that I don’t know. That put it in direct conflict with the NASCAR Championship Week. Aside from the fact Hubby loves to cover this, NASCAR has decided to rotate the Championship in the same way as other major sports. This will be the last time it’s held in Homestead for the foreseeable future since there are 22 other tracks where NASCAR runs. Therefore, there was no way the scuba show could have a higher priority. We’ll put out a Facebook post soon to let all our dive buddies know we won’t be around this year.

Next up are Thanksgiving plans. Our tradition is to go to Covington to see Hubby’s family. The ripple effect this time is going to be availability of that group due to some medical issues (nothing life-threatening) and other travel plans. I’m still trying to get a handle on all that. There are also multiple events here in November, some of which are overlapping although most just require some tricky scheduling.

Lastly is my anticipated publishing of, “Small Town Quilting Treasures”, the final of four books in the series. The editor had some events occur which delayed that process and it is highly questionable if I can do a Thanksgiving release. I didn’t have my heart set on that one, so I will simply adjust to whatever makes sense once I know what all has to be done with the manuscript.

Electronic Gremlins….

As I have previously posted, many of us have become so accustomed and at least somewhat dependent on electronics today, we have to change our patterns when problems arise. My poor laptop was having issues which of course merely worsened as the days went by. Taking it into the “Geeks”, however, meant leaving it, and that of course meant selecting which files to back up. As an aside, I do have an on-line backup service, but that’s for this computer, not the travel one I would be temporarily using. Okay, I finally get the laptop in, then discover I’m having a connectivity issue with my travel computer which was fine mere weeks ago as I traveled. After the usual burst of loud profanity on my part, Hubby came over and managed to get me connected. Fortunately, my laptop required only a short stay with the Geeks. All seems to be well now and I’ll wait couple of weeks to take the other one in. There appears to be a problem with a driver of some sort and I have now exhausted my technical knowledge.

Okay, so we’ve been waiting for the arrival of the DVD of season five of the TV show Shetland (great show I think I posted about before). Hubby goes to remove the DVD in the player and can’t. He messes with it for a while and determines no amount of effort will prevail. I suggested we go upstairs to the small TV and he countered with using the one in the master instead. I did point out we hadn’t used it in probably five years and I doubted it still worked. I was correct, and by that stage we were getting close to my regular bedtime. Episodes of Shetland are complicated and there are the Scottish accents to follow; not something to do when I’m not at least somewhat fresh. Hubby will go in search of new DVD player/players today, and no, we haven’t signed on to any of the streaming services yet.

About The Saints Football Team….

As I have previously posted, Hubby is the big football fan,but I’ve come to appreciate it more since watching with him. However, being in a traditionally male career included understanding enough about football to “join in” during social events that included watching a game. Also, when one grows up with a hometown/home state team, there is often a certain degree of fondness. I do believe I may have indeed posted about the Saints several years ago. New Orleans is a great place to visit and I did set “Georgina’s Grief” there and it does feature in some chapters in the upcoming, “Small Town Quilting Treasures.”

The team, though, does not have a long history of being a winning team. There was a time when faithful, yet sparse fans donned paper bags with “Ain’ts” written on them rather than Saints. On the other hand, New Orleans is a party city and partying in consolation works almost as well as celebration. They once hired a well-known coach to try and turn the team around. I knew it would not be a good fit because from my perspective, the individual simply didn’t have a compatible attitude with the fans. He was a good coach, by the way; just not the right one for New Orleans. Then along came the current coach and Drew Brees. I always find it fascinating when one or two individuals can have such a tremendous impact. There are those though who can definitely, “bring out the best” in people, or in this case, a team. Don’t get me wrong, there were other players and staff brought in to build on success, yet the real catalyst was Brees. Now, there is the other notable individual – Teddy Bridgewater – who’s stepped in when Brees was injured in only the second game. For people who knew his background, his superb performance is perhaps not too much of a surprise. For the rest of us, it has been. More importantly, the entire team seems to have stepped forward to prove they do not depend only on Brees. They won again yesterday on the road and have in fact won every game since Brees’s injury. Will it carry them through? Hard to say, but at least for now, they are on a roll.

Business Can Be Tough….

You often don’t know why a small business fails, but there are numerous reasons. We learned yesterday a specialty shop we really liked in the Keys closed. Granted, we hadn’t been in quite some time; essentially due to not being convenient from a distance perspective. Perhaps the closure was only due to poor sales, or there could have been other factors. In another case, a pub we enjoy is changing hands with a different format planned and we’ll see if it continues to be a favorite or if it goes in a direction we don’t care for. This is a place people flocked to at the grand opening, talked about how wonderful it was to have this type of place to go to and then within months, they were down to limited clientele enough nights to be cost-effective. The simple fact is people do only have so much disposable income and both the instances I cited are not necessities of life. Even though Americans spend a tremendous amount of money eating out, there are lots of choices. And, as this area grows, more restaurants open to create greater competition. That’s one of the most difficult businesses to manage under the best of circumstances. Staring any business comes with so many challenges, yet it is a dream of millions and despite the trillions of dollars of the huge corporations, small businesses really are the “backbone” of most communities. I’ve mentioned before in other posts, individuals and families who have to count literally every penny must take the cost of anything into consideration. The extra spent to buy from a small business may come with not being able to buy something else that is needed. For those of us who do have discretionary income, it is an action we can take to help those taking the risk to achieve their dream

More Unique Talent…..

As our Seminole Theatre enters the new season, the original director has gone on to greater things. That was to be expected at his age. He was immensely popular and the woman who was his assistant from almost the beginning and who has held multiple positions within the small staff is now director. They had worked together prior to his departure to select what is called the Showcase Series. Those are the major performances locked in for Oct-May, one or two which are well-known and also the most expensive. This year’s “big group”  is Asleep at the Wheel. Anyway, the others are a continuing search for a range of options to appeal to different audiences. Last night was Shana Tucker – Chambersoul Chronicles, a singer/songwriter who does jazz with a cello. That did catch people’s attention and she added to it by collaborating with a nearby community’s children’s group to incorporate them into a couple of numbers. It was a thoroughly enjoyable performance. She has a wonderful voice, engaging stage presence, and the children were quite talented. Unlike what I had thought, she opened the show and a few numbers later had the members of the Children’s Voice Chorus begin to sing from the back of the theatre and then come on stage for more.

As for the cello, she did use the bow, but played it more like a bass with plucking. In yet another unique aspect, she had some sort of synthesizer for one number where she literally recorded what she was singing, put it through to become just as if she had backup singers; all done flawlessly (at least to my ears). I don’t know how that technology works; only that it had a great sound.

Her background and the many musical/artistic endeavors she is involved with make for fascinating reading. That’s www.shanatucker.com

Two Sides of Self-Publishing……

A degree of musing is ahead. As with most things in life, there are two sides to a coin, and that most assuredly applies to the world of self-publishing. The politically correct term is “independent publishing” with “being an indie author” as the casual phrase. If, for some reason, this is your first time to visit the “Cafe”, what I’m going to say may sound a bit blunt. For those who know me and/or have been following for a while, you’ll understand my context.

Advances in technology are what have made self-publishing economically feasible for hundreds of thousands of writers. As I’ve said on a number of occasions,my decision to self-publish was not necessarily a bad decision, but it was not a fully informed decision either. There were some things I thought I understood and other aspects I simply didn’t know about. I’m always happy to talk with someone contemplating the choice. I have a paper I drew up several years ago and I update it periodically as changes occur in the industry. As those who know me are also aware, my social media ability is modest and I lack expertise beyond the fundamentals. A friend who is a marketing whiz set me up with Twitter as a “must” within social media. Several months ago, an individual set out on a campaign to increase the Indie Writer Community and the response has been pretty astonishing from my perspective. Thousands of writers have reached out and my own following has indeed increased. That, however, is not so much the point. The thing is, I made a conscious decision to buy and read (or try to read) more indie authors along with other selections. In having been at this for a few months, I’ve found some books I enjoy and others I’m neutral about. There have been several I simply couldn’t manage beyond a chapter or two and have literally deleted multiple books from my Kindle. They were either so poorly written or the subject matter was such that I didn’t want to continue. I have had the same response though with “best sellers” and books traditionally published.

There are few reasons I would discourage someone from writing a book and self-publishing as an option. On the other hand, quality is still key no matter what path is taken.