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.

Thanksgiving Leftovers…..

 I suppose it is as much “Turkey Part 2” as anything. In having the meal, sending food/leftovers with friends and having turkey sandwiches Thursday night, there was a brief discussion yesterday as to if we had enough turkey for the traditional heat up leftovers. Hubby was concerned and I double-checked to reassure him. There was some ham although we are planning some of that for pasta matriciana next week. Anyway, it did work and in the gap I had late afternoon I retrieved the turkey carcass and put it on the simmer away to have the stock and get the last meat off for turkey soup which I will finish tomorrow to have ready for lunch. I am not a fan of dark meat, although I can do it in the soup as there are plenty other flavors to blend. Back before I was more careful with carbs usually did a turkey with wild and brown rice, corn, and some veggies or went more veggie heavy with potatoes. I think I’ve posted here before about finding the new line of “riced cauliflower” that works well in soups to provide body, plus extra veggies in a low carb way. That’s how I’m leaning at the moment as soon as I make a quick trip to the store for just a couple of things to hold us over. Regular grocery shopping is Monday or Tuesday, but we have some errands we really have to deal with Monday and Hubby’s wreck diving class he’s teaching (one of his favorites to teach) was rescheduled for Tues & Wed. He might take care of it Wed afternoon; we’ll see how long the errands take on Monday and work it from there.

Oh, and there is enough apple pie for him to have another three nights; another important part of the holiday meal.

Sort of Quiet Thanksgiving….

It does involve a 14-pound turkey though. This is one of the first Thanksgivings in a while Hubby hasn’t been asked to work most of it and the friend who usually does Thanksgiving dinner for our “group” wasn’t going to be able to. Additionally, our “group” has shrunk with the recent relocation of one who usually also had his daughter and sometimes son-in-law along. We offered to do the holiday meal and Hubby was concerned about getting a turkey. We still weren’t entirely sure of how many were coming to lunch the day I went  to the store and I thought it best to go a bit larger rather than smaller. This is why we have a 14-pound turkey. Hubby has decided on using dry brine (I think it’s easier to deal with although I don’t intervene in such decisions) and to fry. I’ve explained the frying process before and it is a kind of cool part of the holiday plus makes for an excellent turkey. I’m not doing anywhere near the variety of dishes of some and am sticking with the classics of stuffing – well, it’s more like dressing since you can’t stuff a fried turkey – a small ham, mashed potato casserole, green bean casserole, rolls, gravy, and cranberry sauce. Neither of us are pumpkin fans so dessert is apple pie and a friend is bringing a lovely cheesecake with lemon curd. Another couple we’re friends with are going to drop by for dessert if she doesn’t get overwhelmed in preparing their evening holiday meal. Even though the group will be small, I will send two meals worth home with the friend who is bringing the cheesecake and cranberry sauce, send two meals worth of leftovers with the other friend and take one meal’s worth to another friend on Sunday. That does equate to eight meals, the only difference being three of them won’t include anyone going for seconds.

And as of this morning, the weather is to be sunny and up to 84 so we will be having lunch on the covered terrace,

Changing Interests…..

Turns out our granddaughter won’t be in Nutcracker this year. She’s decided to try tap and apparently is liking it more than ballet. I’ve always been curious to see if she will stick with dance as she is literally growing up in the studio. She began to mimic movements about as soon as she could walk and quickly took to things as she could actually understand what they were. Even though three was the official age for kinder ballet, she was “playing at it” even before. With that said, her advantage won’t necessarily translate into a continued interest. Any parent who is realistic understands this although there is often a fine line between acknowledging a child should move on from an interest versus “don’t be a quitter”.

Our son was not a team sport player other than a couple of years in Little League. He was an okay player and it just wasn’t a good fit for him. Soccer was never much of an interest.Karate was where he did well from when we moved to Virginia all the way through high school. He did achieve his second degree brown belt, has a batch of trophies from tournaments and wasn’t far from black belt when he went to college (for that period), discovered dance, and utterly embraced that as I have discussed in numerous posts. I think the kids are philosophically prepared for granddaughter to not continue with dance if that is her choice, but it’s too early to try and project if that will be the case. I don’t know much about tap   even though they do always include it in the Spring and Fall shows.

Anniversary Time….

Thirty-four years; we chose a long weekend because back then, it could work well for the attendees and it so happened to be Veterans Day weekend. We did do the military wedding with the arch of swords as we exited the church and it was a beautiful afternoon. A slight chill, but lovely sunshine. Over the years we’ve had some memorable anniversary celebrations, but an ironic situation was in 1990. Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait in August and the initial response was the forward forces who went to Saudi Arabia to hold the line in Desert Shield as then Top Secret plans were being drawn up for Desert Storm part. We were in Germany with 2d Corps Support Command (2d COSCOM) with VII Corps set to add to their forces and deploy at a time yet to be determined. Hubby and his boss had been chosen by our one-star general to be the Forward Liaison for 2d COSCOM although we didn’t know the exact day they would leave. We were all working extra hours of course in different preparations and on the Saturday evening before our anniversary we decided to go out to dinner just in case. This was also in the days before cell phones. Our wonderful live-in sitter was at home with son as we walked up the street to go to the restaurant. The call for Hubby to be ready to depart Monday morning came as we were in fact close enough for us to walk back to the house, but the sitter said she would take the message instead. She wanted us to have that evening to ourselves.

Okay,  in a coincidence of timing, this year the Rum Renaissance Festival is our anniversary weekend (https://www.rumrenaissance.com/). We have a lot going on and decided not to try and do anything else big, but did have a lovely meal last night. I had the butcher at Publix cut us some filets and I have a great au poivre sauce recipe. There was some lovely asparagus as well and we did have a glass of champagne for “chef time”, then a nice Zinfendal with the steaks. The reason we had only one glass of champagne is because we had another one a few minutes ago when we did brunch. The Rum Festival is this afternoon.

Crawfish Now Available….

Actually, Hubby found frozen crawfish – yes from Louisiana – at Publix several months ago and we’ve had them a few times and they will be our dinner tonight. In the unlikely case you have never had crawfish, they do look exactly like tiny Maine lobsters. The legend is when the French were driven out of much of Canada and made their way to Louisiana, lobsters were so sad to see them readying to leave some of them made the long trek with them. The distance was so far, they diminished in size along the way until they finally arrived at the destination at only a fraction of their former size. Notwithstanding such folklore, they are delicious although there is one genuine drawback. There are only 1-to-2 bites of meat in each tail and the claws are so small you can rarely get anything from them. Now, I will declare with no shame that I do not – nor ever will – “suck the heads”. I won’t even explain it other than to say you are welcome to do an internet query about what some people claim is a culinary delight.

Okay, in having a crawfish boil, it’s the standard as with a crab or shrimp boil to toss the crawfish in a large pot of boiling water with small ears of corn, often small potatoes and chunks of Andouille sausage. Cajun seasoning and maybe lemon wedges provide flavoring, and the other ingredients might go in first for 15 or 20 minutes as the crawfish cook fairly quickly. Then it’s pile everything on platters or tables covered in newspaper or something similar and have lots of paper towels handy. Twist the tail off and peel away the shell. Melted butter, cocktail or remoulade sauce are standard condiments. I will be honest that if I want to do other dishes such as crawfish etouffee or pasta, I will look for packages of crawfish tail meat (difficult to find around here). Trying to boil up, then peel enough to get ready to cook another dish is simply more work than I want to bother with.

DEMA Trip, Day 4……

We made the decision to not stay for one of the sessions and came on back Thursday instead of Friday as originally intended. Hubby did have to run over before we left to get some shots of a particular rebreather they either carry at the dive shop or plan to – I wasn’t clear on that. We were on the road at the best time to be able to avoid peak traffic in Orlando and Miami. No weather issues either and made it back as smoothly as possible.

Our last night tradition is to dine at the Everglades, the fine dining restaurant at the Rosen. They have a beautiful large mural, another smaller one, sculptures of manatees and an alligator and a nice aquarium. The menu did not include venison this time and we both opted for seafood.They do make a delicious alligator chowder. Hubby had that as well as Chilean sea bass with tomato and artichoke infused risotto. I had the lobster bisque garnished with truffle and the swordfish with sauteed chard (gave that and the truffle to Hubby). It is the kind of place where they bring a dessert cart around and the coffee is served at the table in a French press. It is the one night we do share a dessert. There were fewer choices than in the past, however, the apple cheese cake was excellent. I’m still not quite sure how they did it because there were thinly sliced apples on bottom (similar to a tarte tartin). The topping was a lovely cinnamon apple sauce with walnuts.

It was a good trip as far as seeing several folks and meeting a few new ones. Hubby had a chance to talk to those about Horizon Divers and I gave out maybe a dozen bookmarks. The sessions we attended were good, too, and the only thing I didn’t accomplish was finding a t-shirt for granddaughter. There weren’t many booths with apparel this year. Finding an ocean-theme t-shirt around here for her isn’t difficult though.

DEMA Trip, Day 3……..

Our intention to attend a couple of different 10:00 a.m. sessions went by the wayside although we did make our 11:00 sessions. The one I attended was entirely different from what I thought it was going to be and turned out to be of even greater interest. In fact, so much so that I have asked permission to do an article for the paper. I’ve posted here before about the wonderful work of the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) in Key Largo. For those who may not have read that blog – it was a long time ago – they are a now world-known organization that began as a small 4-H project with daughter and father to see if she could fragment a coral and use that to grow another, then replant it on a reef successfully. There are multiple organizations now around the globe using that or similar techniques to try and restore reefs. Some are non-profit, others university efforts or government entities. Anyway, the session this morning is about our National Marine Sanctuary taking in the lead in getting CRF and quite a few others together in a partnering effort to focus on seven specific reefs that range from Key Largo down to Key West. By focusing on these specific reefs, they can have solid base-line data and track progress in a meaningful way. It is a three-phase program to run for 20 years with the goal of increasing coral growth to 25% of each reef. That’s about 10% less than what is considered optimal for a reef to sustain. Going under the percentage is because there may also be some “natural” growth that occurs in what is basically like cross-pollination once the planted corals start to flourish. Lots more to come on that.

On another note, we hadn’t realized a friend (and sister author) was involved with one of the newest scuba technologies. And yes, she is based out of Maui. Hugh and I had split up while I went to get a quote for an article. He got in on the explanation of what the new rig does and I’m still trying to get a full understanding. It was nice to see Jennifer again and we’re thrilled she’s doing well.

DEMA Trip, Day 2…….

Actually, today there was sort of diving as we attended a session with a VR set with short dive clips from Palau. The tech aspect was impressive, especially since it provided for sound as well as visual. I did find the headsets to be rather heavy and I had to support it with one hand in order to balance that. It was fine for no longer than I had it on. I don’t know enough about the various headset options, but I imagine there are some less bulky/lighterweight ones available or soon will be. The reefs of Palau (we’ve never been) looked a great deal like the beautiful reefs in Fiji and it was nice to see Moorish idols again. They are a Pacific fish and we did see them all the time in Hawaii.

I attended a morning session and Hubby went to two. He walked all through the exhibits this afternoon when I came back to do a little work before we joined up again for the VR session. I only made it through a little of the exhibit hall this morning and will spend my time there tomorrow afternoon. We had lunch in the food court area with Hubby have a gyros and I did a pulled chicken bowl. Both were pretty good at the usual kind of prices you pay at event venues.

As we suspected, a place called Hampton Social was a new addition to Orlando Pointe. It had a seafaring theme and a limited menu. The Ceasar salad we shared was quite good and Hubby’s short rib and sweet corn polenta were excellent. I went for the crab cake and you would think I would learn by now. Crab cakes outside Maryland and certain parts of Virginia tend to be only okay and this one was no exception. I think we’re going to the British Pub up there tonight. It is a pleasant walk.

DEMA Trip, Day 1……

Okay, not scuba fun as in diving; rather as in being part of the community. The Diving Equipment and Manufacturing Association trade show is not open to the public; only businesses and individuals in the dive industry. Interestingly, even though there is a category for writers as a member, this year’s registration was more restricted than in the past. Since Best Publishing (publishers of Mystery of the Last Olympian: Britannic, Titanic’s Tragic Sister) is not attending this year, I couldn’t tuck up under them. As a freelancer, I’m not on assignment with any publication, so I had to go in to get special clearance. The stipulation with me as Media is I write an article within 90 days and send them the link to publication. I periodically cover dive things for the South Dade News Leader and even though I didn’t clear it with them first, I’ll be doing an article about the Women’s Diving Hall of Fame. One of the members is Dr. Sally Bauer, the co-founder of the History of Diving Museum in Islamorada. More importantly than the “local” angle is part of their mission is to encourage women into the many aspects of a career in marine sciences, etc., as well as diving. There are some amazing women who have done incredible explorations, too. Anyway, more about that later.

Orlando Pointe, a shopping/entertainment/dining complex is about a 20-minute walk and we usually go there all but our last night when we dine at the fancy restaurant at the hotel. Unfortunately, it looks as if one of our favorites, The Funky Monkey Wine Bistro, didn’t make it through the closures. Ah well, there are other places and two new ones are listed. It was a very nice layout and perhaps one of the new places went into the “Monkey’s” spot.

We completed registration this afternoon for the show and now I have to look through the schedule to see what I want to attend tomorrow.

Series Follow-ons Don’t Always Work…..

As with many fans of “Game of Thrones”, (not one who follows the blogs or whatever though), I’d heard there was to be either a prequel or a sequel featuring the character of Arya Stark, who at the end of the series was sailing away to discover what lay beyond the well-known lands. The last of the dragons had disappeared with thoughts he would never be seen again.

It turned out they decided to go with a prequel instead, “The House of Dragon”, to show House Targaryen, the primary house with dragons, in power and set 200 years before the events that began in Game of Thrones when everyone thought the dragons were no more. Notwithstanding this series definitely has more dragons and we have seen them from egg hatching to training to mighty beasts and some interesting bits about how riders are selected. However, there are two specific issues most of us are commenting on. No one knows how many seasons are planned (Game of Thrones went for eight I think) and okay, 200 years have to be covered. They keep skipping chunks of years between episodes with no lead-in narrative to explain what has happened. There’s usually something in the written description, but as the episode opens you suddenly see things that have apparently occurred and in conversation a character might say, “Well, it’s been three years since you were here”. Ah okay, a lot can happen in three years. One episode had a ten-year gap and that one took a while to work through. The other point for a lot of us is the characters don’t seem to be as developed. Granted, characters in “Game of Thrones” were generally complex, yet several were more good than flawed and so far, there’s only really one that can be said of in “The House of Dragon”. Of course, as in “Thrones”, it’s not wise to get attached to a character as he or she may very well get killed. Anyway, Season 1 has ended with a couple of bloody deaths and the question as to if war for the true succession of the throne is inevitable. We shall see what the future brings.