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.

Days Slipped By Again…..

I would ask how almost a week passed since my last post, but barring computer or internet issues, it’s the usual answer of extra tasks thrown in to get me off-schedule. Nothing bad although a couple of genuinely annoying things to deal with. They aren’t worth getting into. I had vague hopes of being able to dive this week and that isn’t happening.

Speaking of diving, a friend who has found and/or identified numerous shipwrecks has done it again. Michael Barnette (met him while working on Mystery of the Last Olympian) has done exploration in many places and apparently, a famous yacht sunk in 1931 is his most recent success. Here’s part of a Facebook post from earlier today. “The wreck of INGOMAR has eluded divers until just recently. A survey conducted by William Hoffman, Joseph Hoyt, and William Sassorossi documented the unidentified yacht in 2017. Imagery collected by John McCord revealed the graceful lines of an elegant yacht. Using their baseline data and looking through archival information, I suspected the wreck was INGOMAR. The dimensions, machinery, and position largely match the attributes of INGOMAR. The wreck rests on her starboard side in deep sand. While not a conclusive identification, the available evidence coupled with the lack of other suspect sites strongly suggest this shipwreck site is indeed the historic yacht INGOMAR.”

The process for officially identifying a wreck after it’s located can easily take years and when I wrote Idyllic Islands, I did a few chapters about how it works. (https://charliehudson.net/books/idyllic-islands.html) That part of the book served two purposes. I needed to introduce a character who would become important much later and the reason I chose that way to do so is because it is such an intricate process. In this case, I made it fairly easy to better match the rhythm of the story.

Lessons From “The Gambler”…..

We support and attend an annual fundraiser each year for the Military Affairs Council that does different things for the military community. It’s a Casino Nite and I think I have explained before that neither Hubby nor I gamble. As I explained, I have nothing against it as it’s been going on for thousands of years and it’s as good a source for entertainment as any. While it can also bring tragedy through addiction, that’s a different issue. The corruption and crime are also other issues.

Anyway, the singer for the evening of course had to do “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers, another of his great songs. In the repeated words of, “know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em; know when to walk away and know when to run” and “never count your money while sitting at the table; there’ll be time enough for counting when the dealings done.”, there are good points for life. However, it’s important to add in the other phrases such as, “The House always wins”, or in the best case, “The odds favor the House.” Whatever the gambling establishment, a certain number of people have to win; otherwise, only the addicts will come. Although there is definite skill involved with some games and even “techniques” for playing something as random as slot machines, chance is ever a factor. A friend from a long time ago said in his one time in Vegas, he was on a streak. He was up by $10,000 and in classic fashion, instead of walking away, he kept betting and lost most of it.  I don’t gamble because I’m no good at it and in Hubby’s case, he doesn’t want to devote the time it takes to become skilled.

A dear friend of mine loves going to Biloxi to whichever of the resorts it is she favors and she frequently takes a group. Her husband and mine grew up together and like my husband, he graduated from Georgia Tech. He, too, understands the math behind gambling and he’s fine with this as a source of entertainment for his wife. He indulgently shakes his head when she “wins” – which she absolutely does at times – because he knows when you add up the losses, the House will indeed come out ahead.

 

Chocolate Musings….

Watching part of “Brunch with Bobby Flay” the other morning started a discussion about chocolate as he was featuring it in multiple forms for this particular brunch. I do know people who don’t care for chocolate and there are those unfortunates who are allergic to it. My brother is one which is how we discovered white chocolate. Bobby was using it on his show and explained how it doesn’t contain cocoa powder, yet has the taste because it is derived from cocoa butter. I don’t recall who told us about white chocolate all those years ago; perhaps another individual who was allergic and was happy to pass on the information.

There is also the debate about dark versus milk chocolate and while I prefer milk chocolate, dark chocolate with different combinations is delicious – I mean there is a reason Girl Scout Thin Mints has been a best seller for decades. Where I differentiate is if I am going to eat a plain piece, I’ll always choose milk.chocolate. The restaurants’ infamous desserts of Death by Chocolate – and there are multiple variations – probably does it best with between four to seven types depending on the restaurant.

Going back to Bobby’s show, he was also using chocolate in the Mexican/Southwestern style of it as an ingredient for a savory dish. I have found that to be tricky and always follow a recipe the few times I’ve done it. The proportions have to be correct or it tends to end up with a bitter taste.

In an aside, toward the latter part of Desert Storm, we were getting Hershey’s Desert Bars, one they created to not melt until around 140 degrees. It was actually pretty good, but they didn’t produce a great many before the War ended and I’m not sure why it didn’t seem to catch on with the general public. (The M&Ms motto of, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand”, is correct unless you are in a desert-type climate)

The French Riviera…..

I’m not sure what caused me to think of the first time I went to Nice, but it was another of those incredible moments. It was while I was at the University in Angers and one of the group had a distant relative who lived near Nice. She invited three of us to visit over the spring break. We took the train which was about six, maybe eight hours, with one or two transfers. I had of course seen movies showing scenes of the French Riviera, but you don;t expect the colors to match. And yet, they do. There is the glorious blue of the sky with scattered white clouds and the Mediterranean with so many shades of blue you can barely count them. The mountains to the east and coastline to the west are simply breath-taking. We did spend most of the time at the “farmhouse”and the relatives spoke no English, but by that time, we’d been in classes for seven months so between the three of us, we managed. That was also the first time I watched mayonnaise being made by hand.

We did go into Nice one day for a few hours and were startled to see the “beach” was all pebbles/rocks. It never occurred to me at least that you could have a beach with no sand. Anyway, fast forward 20+ years when we were stationed in Italy. I may have posted before about the fact the Pisa airport was only regional and the two closest international ones were Rome and Milan, both about a four hour drive. At some point I discovered Nice was only 20 minutes further and much easier to get in and out of, plus the drive was magnificent.The other two were scenic, although not as spectacular as winding your way along the Italian and French Rivieras and through Monaco. In bringing people in, flights from the States arrived around 8:00 a.m., and going back departed in the afternoons. It was perfect to leisurely drive over the night before and have a late lunch or just dinner depending on what time we set out. For out-bound flights, it was drop someone off and then spend the night.

Next post, I’ll talk about other aspects of Nice.

 

Multi-generation Businesses……

Rumors had been swirling around that the local family-owned restaurant that’s been in business for 50+ years was going to be sold. Those of us who are regulars have known for a while it was more or less on the market. As often happens, the third generation of the family doesn’t want to continue. It is a “legacy” restaurant and the intent has always been for someone to agree to maintain that aspect, so there was no plan to just sell out. The current deal is still in the “process stage” and we’ll see what actually comes about.

The point to the blog goes back to what I’ve written about the next generation in a small business. In writing for the community paper, I’ve now encountered one family business with the fourth generation, several with three and more with two. A friend and I were discussing this the other day and she quoted, “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” I wasn’t familiar with that one and found this on-line: “from proverbial saying, early 20th century; meaning that wealth gained in one generation will be lost by the third.” In the situation I’m talking about, it isn’t so much the loss of wealth (although that certainly does happen), but rather the loss of interest. In some cases, it’s because interests simply diverge; in others, it’s having “grown up in the business” and deciding it isn’t a fit. That’s what happened on my father’s side. Even though Papaw had the farm in good shape with the amount of land he handled and the acreage he leased out, none of the four sons wanted to follow in his footsteps. On my mother’s side, it was the opposite. I don’t recall if my uncle stepped into the law office before Papaw became a judge or as soon as he did. As I explained, I was supposed to be the third generation and when I stayed longer in the Army than I initially planned, my cousin joined the office. His younger sister did too for a while, then she followed the line of being a judge. In talking with her oldest daughter, now a lawyer, married to a lawyer, whether or not they choose to take it over remains to be seen. Moving back to the really small town where she grew up might not be  in the works.

Yes To Pork With Seafood…..

I agree that a combination of pork and seafood may seem a bit odd, however there are multiple dishes. Think Cajun with jambalaya or seafood gumbo and crawfish boils that include sausage or Paella for an international flair.

There are other regional cuisines as well. Shrimp and grits is another dish that often includes bits of ham although that is a variation not everyone uses. The topic came up the other day when I mentioned we’d made our ham wrapped fillets for dinner. I posted that recipe a year or so ago. Anyway, the Chesapeake Bay area eastward into Tidewater and the Carolina’s Low Country is where I think I first encountered a lump crab with ham dish. It was delicious although you do have to be careful because it’s easy to overcook and overwork the crab. The ham wrapped fish came from an Emeril’s recipe which we did modify slightly.

Another one I posted not long ago is a Portuguese recipe that nestles fish into a tomato and chorizo sauce. I happen to prefer a little crunch to my sausage and so I cook the sausage slices first to a bit of crisp, remove them while leaving the oil from the browning in the skillet and use that to saute the onions and garlic. The tomatoes and white wine go in to simmer covered for about ten minutes, then cook the fish for six to eight minutes (until it flakes), and stir the chorizo back in for only like one minute before serving. (I also posted this full recipe a while ago). That by the way is a Publix recipe, or at least the back of a package of frozen fish flllets was where I found it. I’m not sure if they create their own or simply transfer them from somewhere else.

 

Nice Conditions, Nothing Big….

I didn’t have the kind of time I usually like for diving yesterday, but I missed both May and June for different reasons. I know if I didn’t make it out, there might not be a chance as the rest of the month is hectic. We had pretty flat seas, which is good. We were on the “fast boat” that does get to the reefs quicker although it pounds more against the water. The extra saved time was important because a couple of errands/task I had  for Tuesday were slipped to yesterday due to having to be at home Tuesday for the AC repairmen. Anyway, the class Hubby was finishing up was with two sons of a guy who was here for several years and now lives in Minnesota. He’s well known at the dive shop and the sons seemed to be enjoying it.

We went to one of the shallow real wrecks which means very little is recognizable as a vessel with lots of sections scattered about. However, it’s been down a long time so there’s plenty of growth and always good marine life. I saw all three types of angelfish and rock beauties which are in the same family. I love the bright blue chromis and there were plenty of those as well as pairs of butterfly fish. Visibility was good, too, and water temperature was at 86 so I was diving in what is called a “skin”, a very thin suit. The second dive site was close by and I did wind up snorkeling on that one because I was feeling some pressure in my left ear on the first dive. I was puzzled about that, but it happens at times and you don’t want to take a chance. It was a good snorkeling spot and I did see a medium size Southern stingray and quite a few little jellyfish.

Rock Beauties are the smallest of the angel fish we have on our reefs.

Chromis are seen on most of the local reefs.

Steak One Way…….

A discussion about steaks the other day reminded me of Joe Allen’s in Abilene, Texas. I may have posted about this in the past, but if so, it’s been a while. I don’t know if the place is still there, or if it is still in the same family. As a newcomer to Abilene (this is when I had my ROTC assignment), I was of course interested in the restaurants. Several people mentioned Joe Allen’s BBQ, but it wasn’t in the direct line of most places I drove through, although it isn’t as if it was much out of the way either. I did drive by one day and it was definitely what one would call ramshackle and not in a newer part of town. I put it on my “one of these days” list and several months later, a friend was startled I hadn’t been there yet.

We went and it was much the same on the inside as outside with wide plank floors and a large tin tub filled with ice and long-neck beers close to the buffet station. The station was actually the sides that came with their BBQ meals. Notwithstanding the name, they were equally known for their steaks. The thing was though it was one cut – boneless rib eye – cooked one way – grilled over mesquite. You could select from 1/2 inch to 4 inches thick and that’s how it was priced. Yes, I said 4 inches and in Texas you’ll always have some who can handle such a hunk of meat. Obviously, other restaurants served steaks and the two “nice steakhouse” our regular Friday night group went to did well. Hands down though no one made a better steak than Joe Allen. As much as I appreciate a hearty red, ice cold beer in long neck bottles was also the correct beverage choice. I do hope the place has passed to the next generation..

No Big Celebration This Year…..

Although the City does a really nice Fourth of July celebration nearby, I’m not going this year and not sure if Hubby will go shoot the fireworks as he has done in the past. We’re also not inviting the neighbors over, but we haven’t done that for a few years anyway since we’d been attending the big City celebration instead.

We do have hamburgers planned and will time that for early if Hubby does go to shoot the fireworks. He was supposed to work all day and the class was cancelled which is part of why he isn’t certain yet of what he’ll do. I don’t think he’s gotten a text from the paper about it, but that could be because they assume he’ll be there. Anyway, we’ll see how the day goes.

I enjoy the big event with what is usually plenty of rousing music and people dressed in a variety of red, white, and blue. They have fun activities for the kids, too. The “melting heat” of early July in South Florida can be managed with appropriate hydration – especially making sure to have a water in between the nice cold beers. The jammed traffic in trying to get home is mostly what I don’t have the energy for this year. We can see the high-shooting fireworks from the house and in general, we actually see three different displays as Florida City does one as well and if the sky is clear, we can catch the one from Key Largo. There are usually multiple families who do a lot of fireworks in this and surrounding neighborhoods, too. Not sure what the kids are planning up in Northern Virginia as they had a week-long trip to Maine recently and their month-long summer intensive dance session starts tomorrow. I suspect they’ll stay in and watch specials on TV.

A Cajun Flair……

We usually have pasta on Thursdays and like tonight, it will be a second meal for the chicken Hubby grilled on Tuesday. In these cases, our default is chicken Alfredo, but for some reason, when we were discussing it – and it may have been because we weren’t sure if we had as much leftover chicken as we needed – the idea of getting Andouille sausage and going Cajun came up. The other idea was for “rattlesnake” which means adding jalapenos. In the strictest sense Cajun cuisine includes red peppers and hot sauce for heat, so jalapenos makes it a sort of hybrid dish. We’re okay with that and the result should be good.

We do use prepared Alfredo sauce and always depart from classic because we add onions and often sweet peppers as well as sometimes sun dried tomatoes. We enjoy the extra flavors and it’s not something we serve to guests as you never know when someone is a “classicist” about such things. We will include a little Cajun seasoning, too for tonight. We picked up a different brand when we were in the cute little Abita Springs market on the trip to Texas and Louisiana. We normally keep Emeril’s and/or Tony Cachery’s as our staple. In fact, I brought another container of the new one for a friend and they’re enjoying it. Naturally, it would have to be a brand not likely to be found around here. Ah well, that’s part of what makes it a treat.