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.

Loving the Blues….

I’ve posted before about Homestead Center for the Arts and the range of things we are involved in. Five years ago (another of the, “Can it really have been five years ago? Yep.”, moments) a somewhat casual comment turned into a program for bringing different genres of music 2-4 times a year into Homestead. At that time, few restaurants featured live music although a couple are now doing so regularly on weekends. Not surprisingly, the main type of music played is the 1970s+ and lots of Jimmy Buffet tunes. So the Music Series (MuSe) of HCA looks for other genres; as local as possible, which means no further north than Miami. We don’t have a large budget, plus the idea is to highlight local talent. Last night’s (Thus, Jan 17th) group of Sonny East was superb and a few people, to include the director for Seminole Theatre, took their contact info.

The courtyard of the White Lion Cafe was perfect, even though I did put my sweater on the latter part of the night. It was fried broccoli for the table as a starter, then I had the dolphin dippers and hubby went for the blackened prime rib.

Anyway, back to music. I am not enough of an aficionado to hear the difference in Delta, Chicago, Memphis, or Saint Louis Blues. I know there are regional aspects and perhaps if i heard examples back-to-back I could pick up on the variations. We haven’t decided yet what our next performance will be and we do have a group that loves the classical string trio or quartet in from Frost School of Music (U of M). And as odd as it seems with so much Latin influence around, we have yet to locate a good Latin Band within our price range. The search shall continue.

And More Days Slip By…..

Most decorations have been returned to their storage spot, although somehow, what appears to be the single addition of one item given as a gift now necessitates needing a box for it and three others. Apparently not everything went exactly back into the usual place, but we do also have boxes around the correct size. Leftovers have been consumed, tossed, or give away appropriately and when I pick up a pie crust tomorrow, an apple tart will complete the last of them. I don’t think there is enough apple for a full pie, plus there is still extra chocolate candy in the pantry. Small pieces, granted, yet candy nonetheless.

My lack of posting is an indicator of what the schedule has been like and not surprisingly there is no real let-up in sight. On the other hand, boredom is hardly an issue we need to be concerned with. I did manage to fire off an email to the fence company we will probably use to finally get that back in order which is the required step before contacting the landscaping lady. It so happens the big Seafood Festival will be the last Saturday and Sunday of Jan and last year, she had a booth there. This particular fence company tends to work fast if they are available and thus, it is possible, they will either be finished or have a completion date for us by that time. If she is at the Festival again, it will be a much shorter visit to talk to her than going out to her place. It isn’t really that far, but hey, every shorter errand does help.

Anyway, a very busy week ahead. In all the excitement, our only disappointment is it seems as if the hummingbird we so happily celebrated has gone away. It’s been several days with no sighting or apparent activity. Perhaps he was migratory after all. However, if we finally had one, another many well appear. Keeping fingers crossed.

 

Very Pleasantly Surprised…..

I have mentioned before we don’t really do musicals, but have been to some of the performances at our Seminole Theatre to support the theater. In view of the fact we’ve had almost non-stop events and company all the way through Jan 2, looking at our tickets for the show F”orever Young, Your Life, Your Music” on Jan 4th gave us pause. On the other hand, we did have the tickets and we did have time to enjoy dinner before going to the theater. There was a decent-size crowd, but timing no doubt affected a number of decisions about attending. We said hi to friends, chatted with the theater director who told us it wasn’t really a musical; more like a music revue. Okay, we’re good with that.

What a great time we had. “Based on a true story” doesn’t always mean that, but for the sake of this, we’ll assume it’s close. Five guys who love playing baseball together in NYC hang out in a basement and all discover different songs they really love. They go through all the teen things one goes through, certain songs making memories. The five split into their separate ways; a couple of them in fact as singers; one a baseball player. At some point, they each come to realize music is what they are truly passionate about and want to have a shot at. They individually start performing, and ultimately make their way to Branson where there are lots of singing gigs available. One of the guys teams with his brother to capture all this by creating Forever Young.

The 2-hour show with intermission was not-stop, high energy, and incredible voices. There is narration as opposed to dialogue, but everything flows together seamlessly and the range of songs are from the 1950s to more or less current. It was a terrific evening and I’m glad we went.

Forever Young is set in a NY basement. Great show.

(https://www.foreveryoungbranson.com)

In A Child’s Eyes….

Setting aside the angry/tearful outbursts that come from a variety of reasons, spending time around a child at certain ages does bring different perspective. Granddaughter was three in March and thus, her vocabulary was considerably increased from the previous visit, as was her reasoning ability.

One of the first questions as we exited baggage claim was if those were palm trees? Yes. Do they have coconuts? Not those, although we will see some that do. This is courtesy of having watched the animated movie of “Moana” set in Hawaii. Are we in Florida? Yes. Can we go in the pool when we get to your house? Tomorrow will be pool time. Oooh, the neighbor has big and little minions in their yard. (I think that’s the movie “Despicable Me” and sequels). In discussion of what adventures to go on – No, I don’t want to see alligators; they might bite my toes. Okay, I can see that.

A word about swimming – for the first time, the weather was cooperative enough to allow pool time each afternoon. It wasn’t entirely comfortable, but tolerable for an hour and hot coffee after helped. Grandma was in each day, Daddy two days, Grandpa and Mommy each also had a day. The wonderful swim vest worked well again although she was also tall enough to stand in the hot tub (not heated of course) and in the shallow end of the pool. If all goes well, there will be swimming lessons this coming summer.

I didn’t have personal experience, but had heard good reports of Pinto Farm, close to Monkey Jungle and open only Saturday and Sunday. It was a big hit and involved her first actual Shetland pony ride. The next day was let Mommy and Daddy have a “date afternoon” with movie and a stop by Exit One Taproom. The fairly long walk to the small Tot Lot yielded seeing butterflies, coconut palms, quite a few decorations, and the ability to fly in the swing since it was a “sit-in” type where hands were not always required. With Grandma pushing, it was flying like a plane, or bird, or acrobat – we cycled through all the comparisons.

Oh, and going back to an observation of an earlier post – seeing the inflatable decorations flat on the ground was remarked upon, but we used the opportunity to discuss the process of inflation. Ah, and in case you weren’t aware, a puzzle can become a cake which must be slid into an available cabinet which serves as an oven. Hey, these are the sorts of things we forget in our journey into adulthood.

“Rolling New Year Toast”…..

First, Happy New Year. Today is the last day for the kids to be here and I am hoping for a little more sunshine and less wind for our final pool time. Ah well, hot coffee and cocoa are to be had.

For our annual New Year’s Eve party, we invite a limited number of people because we don’t want anyone to drive far. The one set of friends lives about two miles away with only a few turns in between. The others are even closer. We also started a new tradition last year. We begin the party at 7:00 and at 9:00 we toast New Year’s in Brazil; at 10:00 in Argentina; at 11:00 St Croix, and midnight here, of course. That way if anyone wants to leave early, they have already raised a glass in toast. I wanted to include Iceland or Greenland, just because, but they’re too far ahead of us. It works well and by the same token, if someone wants to come later, we’ll have the festivities going until midnight.

Hubby had to work today and tomorrow, so there wasn’t much sleeping in although he did have a slightly later start. Granddaughter tried to stay awake last night, but did get a bit wired so she finally gave in and got into her nightgown. She did sleep in a bit this morning, too although not very late.

I am slowly recovering the house and one of the rules I have for the party is nice paper plates and high end disposable cutlery which includes no food that requires cutting so you don’t get into the issue of that. Even though there is still quite a bit to clean and rearrange, big garbage bags take care of much of it.

Closing again with Happy New Year and hope it is a good one for all.

Slight Delay…..

With our son continuing to dance Nutcrackers, the last of which is performed the weekend before Christmas, he and his family are exhausted by Christmas Day. That’s why we have them stay at home and bring them to Florida after. I’ll head to the airport soon since they were delayed for about 30 minutes with take-off. It will be Fort Lauderdale because I fly them Jet Blue and that airline doesn’t come into Miami. If you’ve never flown Jet Blue, I recommend them for a number of reasons. The main drawback is limited airports although they have expanded a good bit over the past few years. Initially, they did not fly out of National Airport in DC; only Dulles. Anyway, as I have mentioned in previous posts, Fort Lauderdale is about 20 minutes further north than Miami Airport, so it’s not too bad unless of course there’s an especially snarled traffic issue. The return trip today will be slow, even though better than when schools are in session.

We’ll have dinner at home tonight with one of the neighbors coming over and get everyone settled in. The “toy cabinet” for granddaughter will no doubt soon result in stuff scattered all over the floor. I only added a couple of things since last year because she won’t remember what was there before. We’ll go through it in case she feels like there’s a toy she’s outgrown. I think we can hold her off from wanting to get into the pool since it will be dark not long after we get home. At least the forecast is calling for the temperatures to stay in the low 80s. That makes pool time tolerable. Unfortunately, the vacuum system is broken and Hubby hasn’t had time to get someone out to check it. We’ll make a game of cleaning out the leaves.

Apparently, there is also a desire to see a baby alligator and I imagine we can make that happen without too much trouble.

Something Slightly Different…..

For reasons that aren’t important, we will be taking the turkey as the “second meat” to our friends’ house for Christmas dinner. Although we often fry the turkey, it is a bit of a production and then you do have all that oil to deal with after. That leads us to the option of roasting. We did smoke it one year, but that really does take a long time. Hubby is a big fan of Alton Brown and using a brine for the bird is something he strongly recommends. Once again though, you have a  large quantity of liquid to deal with after the fact. (It does help that the gallons of brine liquid aren’t boiling hot.)

So, when we were in Georgia for Thanksgiving and Hubby’s cousin said she had used a dry brine this time, he was intrigued. The turkey was excellent and we are giving it a try. It’s a two-part process of mixing the kosher salt, sugar, pepper, etc., together to completely cover the bird, but placing it on a wire rack on a baking sheet uncovered in the refrigerator overnight. Part two is to place an apple into the cavity, mix unsalted butter with more herbs and spices and rub that mixture all over the turkey before roasting at 350 degrees.

Tonight we will be making a modified version of “siete potencias”; a seafood stew traditional in Puerto Rico and other places as the Christmas Eve meal. The origin is apparently African although I’ve never really checked into that. There are of course regional variations and we have done the full seven-ingredient version. With only the two of us though that makes for a lot of stew and it doesn’t keep for more than a few days. Since the kids don’t arrive until Dec 28th, it’s just easier to have less leftovers as I’m stocking the refrigerator for what we’ll have with them.

 

Finally (Maybe)….

First, I do not have a photo to back up my claim, but that’s difficult to do. Here’s the thing. Aside from the fact we’ve neglected our back yard as I previously posted, until recently we did have three different blooming climbing vines the butterflies enjoy. What we haven’t had is hummingbirds. A nearby neighborhood has plenty of them and quite some time ago when we expressed our puzzlement, someone told us it has to do with territory. Allegedly, if hummingbirds leave an area, it will be around ten years before they return. The neighborhood we’re in was constructed about twelve years ago and construction actively continued into 2006. That meant noise, dirt, etc., and limited landscaping depending on who was doing what with their yards. The public area foliage is mostly non-flowering shrubs and different palms for the sake of practical upkeep.

On Monday, I was looking out in the back yard and saw a flick of color. I thought at first I’d seen a large butterfly and opened the door for a better view. And yes, there it was – a hummingbird flitted from the flowering plants to the left over to what had been blooms of our climbing vines. He then went on his way. I had mixed feelings of excitement and of, “Okay, if I go get a feeder, will he come back or will we have been found lacking in attraction?” It was worth a try and the spot where he had been searching was perfect for two reasons. First, it’s the center of the yard where we have the fountain and where we will replant. Second, it’s the spot where we have the shortest line of sight when standing inside. I got the feeder set up and Hubby was at work. He wasn’t going to be home until nearly dark and besides, maybe the hummingbird wouldn’t come back. Yet Tuesday morning, there he was even if Hubby had already left. It wasn’t for long, but it counted. On Wed, Hubby got to see him too, and he came back in the afternoon as well as the morning, and I saw him yesterday. Will we finally have our regularly visiting hummingbird? We shall see.

As The Tree Waited…..

There are odd things that happen occasionally and this is one. The lapse of the past few days in me posting isn’t so much odd as it is having way too many overlapping obligations with all the regular stuff and holiday events thrown in. Anyway, Hubby went and got the tree early because he was concerned there might a shortage. It turns out that wasn’t a problem in this area, but we also like to get a certain size tree and they can sometimes run out of the ideal for us. So, we were all set and got the tree stand out of the garage. Everything was fine except we have one of the stands that has the three prongs you extend out to “bite” into the trunk and stabilize the tree. For whatever reason, things just wouldn’t align this time and the poor tree kept listing. Let us just say there were multiple attempts and then it seemed prudent to let it sit for a while. Then there were some unexpected classes to be taught and before you know it, more than a week elapsed as the green tree sat with no decorations. Hubby also remembered we usually swap the position of the one table with all the marine sculptures with where the tree was and if we did that, it might help. That was sort of correct. We finally made the decision it was close enough and it is stable if not entirely upright. He was able to get the lights all strung yesterday and the rest of the decorations will go on probably tomorrow night as we have an event this evening after both having very full days today. In other words, there is likely to be a low energy level by the time we get home.

However, wreaths are up, Poinsettias are outside and the little tabletop Cajun Christmas tree is in place. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we don’t do much in the way of gift-giving from a “put things under the tree” perspective. That’s particularly true this year as Hubby very much needed a new grill and that most assuredly doesn’t fit in the room. I suppose once he assembles it, we could take a photo and nestle that into the branches.

We keep our decorations up until after Three Kings Day, 6 January

A Bit Chilly, But Worth It……

My schedule has not been compatible with my intent to dive once a month, so despite the temperature being less than I cared for yesterday, I did make it out. I think I’ve mentioned before that diving here in the December through February months is relative. The water cools down to around 70 as it starts the Nov decline at about 78 degrees. When you dive, you have a variety of options for wetsuits. Some people do choose to dive without them, but I prefer to have even the thin layer of a “skin” which is my summer choice. As the name implies, it is quite thin, but does provide a bit of protection in the event of a small stinging thing floating about. Next is a 1mm wetsuit, then it goes up to maybe 8mm for colder water. You can also add on a hood, vest, etc.,. There are “drysuits” that I have also mentioned and those are for cold water or extended deep diving. There’s actually a tropical weight drysuit a number of people here (to include Hubby) have because as I have also mentioned before, locals don’t like the water temperature below 75. Divers who come in from places like New England, the Great Lakes or Europe find that amusing as they consider such conditions to be “balmy”.

Anyway, the surface temperature dropped a bit lower yesterday than predicted, the sun wasn’t very strong and the breeze did pick up. All that combined to make it less than comfortable with what I was wearing. I do admit when I made the decision to dive in my 1mm suit, it was questionable. As I said when I came up, “It wasn’t quite a mistake, but the season for 1 mm is over.” Visibility wasn’t great, although again, at 40 feet, this is terrific for people who dive in places where they’re lucky to have 20 feet.

I didn’t see too many of the “big things” we all enjoy even though I did find one large green moray eel and a little yellow ray. There were lots of fish, to include my angels which I always enjoy. There was also a spotted drum. More of an adult than in this photo. As an adult, the coloration remains about the same and the “plume-like” fin decreases in size .

Juvenile Spotted Drum