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.

Virginia Trip, Day 4…..

As I think I explained, this trip was family-time heavy. The State Plaza Hotel is a pleasant place and Hubby did take his camera and walk extensively yesterday to get down to the Mall and some of the monuments. I had work to do plus make sure the logistics for the evening were on track. I walked the five blocks to the Founding Farmers restaurant to see how their delivery timing was and had a light lunch as we would be eating dinner very early. Across the street from them was a place where I should have had lunch. Duke’s Grocery and Pub looked really interesting and I almost did go in there first, but waited until after. They definitely have more a sandwich-type menu and were not what we were looking for from a dinner perspective, yet had at least three great-sounding sandwiches. Anyway, Founding Farmers is part of a regional chain that started up in Minnesota (or somewhere like that) and has grown into three or four different versions. Founding Farmers | A Farmer Owned Restaurant (wearefoundingfarmers.com)

They use Door Dash for their main delivery and it worked perfectly. Mini cheeseburgers and fries for granddaughter, fried chicken salad for daughter-in-law, slow roasted pork chop for me, shrimp and grits for Hubby. I knew son would be starving after the very long day so ordered him the honey-thyme roasted chicken to have late. (Thanks for  invention of the microwave)

The dance program was the longest and most complex in the tribute to Bowen-McCauley’s 25 years. There were also a presentation from the State of Virginia for her/their contributions to arts and community outreach. I’ve previously explained Lucy was the first to adapt Dance for Parkinsons therapy in this area. She had mentioned she was going to continue with the program through another venue. What she didn’t know was the founder of the program from New York coordinated with the Kennedy Center for the program to continue there. He came on stage and made the announcement as part of acknowledging Lucy. By the way, in the string of accolades, she said she would not be making a speech. She thanked everyone and said she was  “an emotional wreck”. Closing out 25+ years of your life usually does come with intense emotion. During the after-party gala, Lucy did speak with different people about selected projects (yet to be disclosed) she’ll be involved with.

Our friends from North Carolina were able to make the trip. Even though we weren’t able to have dinner together because of the timing situation, we did get caught up with them.  It was a little after 11:00 when we headed to the hotel, then a bit for unwinding. Breakfast at the hotel at 9:00 this morning to let everyone sleep in for a bit. We’ll see how the trip home goes.

Virginia Trip, Day 3……

This was the long day, well – not as long as today will be – as a scheduling conflict meant we did extra “grandparent duty” instead of resetting into the hotel near the Kennedy Center. We did have a late morning business meeting, then discovered an interesting place not too far away. The Blue Iguana featured a mix of Southwest theme, yet a slight Cajun flair as well as standard fare. Good food, enjoyable ambience and of course there are lots of craft beers in the area. We came on into the city for yet another new experience as we are staying at the State Plaza Hotel very near the Kennedy Center. It’s sort of a “boutique” hotel which is also close to the Foggy Bottom Metro station. Unfortunately, they are only serving breakfast instead of the usual full service bistro with a bar. This affects us for tonight as well, but more of that tomorrow.

Anyway, we got semi-settled and returned to Falls Church for the experience of picking granddaughter up from school as they still don’t have enough drivers to resume bus service. There were no great academic first-grade achievements to report and we made it back to the condo for a round of “Minecraft” with Grandpa. Not that he’s skilled in the game, although he did manage to maneuver a bit with practice. We later were given a tour of the property – a short tour considering the size – then walked over for dinner at the nearby Dogfish Ale restaurant. Wood grilling is their signature in addition to craft beers even though I did opt for crab cake again. Hubby had salmon and we did take wood grilled pizza back for mom. Then it was ice cream at home followed by curling up on the sofa with Grandpa to read two books. The change into nightshirt came next with only a little while Mom made it home about 8:30 and bedtime. Son was still at tech rehearsal, not expected in for at least an hour.

Virginia Trip, Day 2…..

Okay, it was a pleasant park we took granddaughter to while the kids went to see whatever that latest Marvel Comic movie is; apparently lots of great special effects. The Dogwood Tavern last night was very nice; the kind of place that has something for just about every taste. That included some Cajun dishes so Hubby had shrimp and grits. The sauce was excellent and he said the dish was delicious. I did a build-a-burger with blackening seasoning, bacon, caramelized onions and Monterey Jack cheese. Son did almost the same except smoky gouda. Daughter-in-law did a tuna poke bowl and granddaughter has basic grilled cheese. There was the warm brownie sundae shared for dessert. In a moment of amusement, granddaughter has at least temporarily become enamored of another nearby restaurant, The Beach Shack. Daughter-in-law thought it was too close to what we usually get, however, there is one difference. I think I have mentioned previously that despite great seafood around us, almost no one does crab cakes well. If it is one culinary items you can be assured of in this area, it’s crab cakes. We will, however, forgo key lime pie for dessert.

Tomorrow is going to be a bit tricky as we will be picking granddaughter up from school because mom has to work late and dad will be stuck at the Kennedy Center in tech rehearsal. We don’t mind of course although we were supposed to re-set to hotel near the Kennedy Center tomorrow so won’t be able to get there until pushing 10:00 p.m. Ah well, it’s for a worthy cause.

Virginia Trip, Day 1…..

Okay, flight out of MIA had a few delays, but not too bad. Airport services are definitely better than last year although still not back to pre-COVID. The Centurion Lounge was open with less seating, although we did get settled. The lack of logic of course is the “social distancing” everywhere, then you sit in coach virtually shoulder-to-shoulder. Anyway, we meet the kids this evening for dinner and are taking granddaughter tomorrow so mommy and da can have a date day.

Hampton Inn for the first two nights is nice, also with some limits. Indoor pool is open though. Plan for tomorrow is take granddaughter to one of her favorite parks in morning, lunch wherever, then pool in afternoon. It will be me again so Hubby can relax with football. NASCAR X-Finity is on right now, Cup is tonight. With us dining early, he’ll get to watch the latter part of the race back here. We’re meeting the kids at a place we haven’t been to before, the Dogwood Tavern. Menu is not extensive, yet looks good and Hubby may have a hard time choosing. They have shrimp and grits which I suspect is the way he will go. Several really nice beers on tap to include a porter. Report to follow tomorrow.

On a more serious note, our route from the airport did bring us past the Pentagon, and as with MIA, there was a notable local and state police presence. Many of you who follow this blog know we were in D.C. on 9/11. Hubby was scheduled to go with a few others to the Pentagon that morning for a meeting. They were gathered before going over discussing what they would be presenting when word came in of the attacks. My sister was visiting from Houston and I was taking her to Baltimore for her flight home. We didn’t have the TV on or the radio in the car and so didn’t hear until we were on the way up and she called her office to check on something she was scheduled to do the next day. It took her three days I think it was to be able to arrange a flight back.

“We Can’t Help Everyone”……

In writing for our weekly community paper, I have and continue to cover many non-profits and often pass them along in posts here. Some are events held by the national/international organizations like the Kiwanis and others are regional or local. I have also covered multiple small groups that aren’t able to sustain even though they had good intentions. Running a non-profit requires a certain level of organization and some administration as it should if you’re going to ask people to give you money. There are, unfortunately, those groups that do spend far too much of their revenue on “administration” rather than programs and even worse are those that are out-and-out scams.

Setting aside the negative aspects, I’ve also previously posted about the sheer number of legitimate organizations means no one – not even the multi-billionaires – can contribute to all the worthy causes. Which leads to the phrase, “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”. I used that as a lead-in to this week’s article about one of the local non-profits that has managed to sustain since they started a few years ago when I first learned about them. (https://brightseasons.org) I did a post as well, but that’s been a while. The lady and her husband began with a small group of friends and have grown. Their mission and goal are to help people who are going through a “tough time” and just need a bridge to help them across the turmoil.

One of my favorite stories of many was the cheerful young man who worked at Starbucks and was a student at the local college. Aside from paying for college, his wages went to help his single mother and younger brother. So, one of the organization members learned his old car had broken down and he was waiting to make enough money to fix it. This meant taking the bus and walking to work and school which of course meant even less free time than he usually had. The first discussion was to pay for the repairs, but his car was really old. Another member had a basic used car, yet still serviceable and they said they would contribute that. Someone else did take it in to make sure it was tuned up as well as fueled. They delivered it to the young man who was stunned and incredibly grateful. While this was more of a “big project” if you consider the value of a used car, most of the good deeds they do are smaller in scope, yet greatly help the recipient.

Hectic Days and Other…..

Once again, I managed to lose a couple of days without posting due to multiple commitments and unfortunately was not able to dive during my “birthday window”. Ah well,  maybe I’ll squeeze a day in even though I have the two trips scheduled for Sept.

On the good news side, my brother and sister-in-law in Louisiana do have power back as of last night and they didn’t suffer any serious damage to their property or flooding. They were just far enough north to be hit with lesser winds. Being without power for almost five days is difficult, but the destruction for those severely impacted is always tragic.

When it comes to living in hurricane zones as we, and both my siblings do, I remember a few years ago in talking with someone who had moved from California. His view was at least with hurricanes, you have warning. He couldn’t adapt to the idea of earthquakes. Then there are the various “tornado alleys” around the country; another destructive force that comes with little warning. When we were hit by Hurricane Irma, much of that wind damage was from tornadoes spinning off rather than the actual storm winds. And speaking of annoying rather than hectic – wind insurance has jumped up again this year by right about 12%. According to our agent, that’s on the low side of the increases. There aren’t many options though. And also like most newcomers, when we moved here we were startled to learn that wind storm was a completely separate coverage from hazard insurance. I already knew hazard insurance did not cover flooding due to an unfortunate experience when I was in Texas. The fact is blizzards plague the cold parts of the country and other areas are prone to flooding. And even though we don’t have many, there is the volcano danger and that is very real for Hawaii.

The Comedy of Pompous….

Having now finished watching the series “Northern Exposure”, I had never seen the first season of “Fraiser”. That was another one we didn’t watch routinely and at only half-hour, the episodes can’t include as much as an hour-long show. For those who may not be familiar, it was a spin-off show from “Cheers” where the psychiatrist Dr. Fraiser Crane, played by Kelsey Grammer, leaves Boston after his divorce and goes back to Seattle to become the psychiatrist for a call-in radio show. His brother, Niles, played by David Hyde Pierce, is still a practicing psychiatrist. Their father, a tough cop who certainly hadn’t envisioned both his sons being so very different from him, was forced to retire when he was shot in the hip. In not yet healing, it became apparent he could no longer live at home so the first episode and several subsequent ones were the utter disruption when the decision was made for him to move into Fraiser’s well-appointed apartment. Niles has a large, expensive house with plenty of room, but his wife (whom I don’t think we ever see) has many issues that are also worth a chuckle. Naturally, there is a spunky British live-in added into the mix who helps care for the father (played by John Mahoney) and his scruffy dog Eddy.

There are the other members of the radio staff and personalities to add humor as well as the pricey coffee shop where many scenes take place. There is the constant display of how pompous both sons are juxtaposed against the common sense of the dad and assistant. At the same time though, there are the moments when the dad or assistant stop to see things from Fraiser’s perspective to draw out the gentler person he can be. A few poignant exchanges serve as reminders that most of us do at times get caught up in our own views and perhaps fail – or are slow to consider another as valid.

Birthday On the Approach…..

As it is birthday eve, Mother Nature is being a bit “blustery” and so diving tomorrow is more than I care to mess with. They cancelled yesterday afternoon’s trips and according to Hubby, the wind and waves definitely picked up the latter part of this morning. As long as I can get a dive in by Tuesday though it still counts as a birthday dive. Depending on what else I have tomorrow, I might jump in the pool to get wet at any rate. We are joining friends this evening though who are down from New Jersey. That steered me more toward a leisurely lunch out Saturday and nice steaks at home Saturday night. Yes, that’s the day after, but again, it’s close enough to count.

Since we have trip to D.C. area coming up that will also involve some nice dinners out although it’s difficult to know how things will be with the COVID situation. Hopefully, not as bad as last year’s trip with hotel services curtailed. On the other hand, we have that to use as a gauge, so don’t expect it to be worse. Other friends we haven’t seen in quite some time are coming up from North Carolina and while my girlfriend does have business to attend to she might take part of Tues, the 14th off. If she can’t, we’ll still all have dinner, plus the performance and the gala after for “catch-up” time. The reason we’re staying close to the Kennedy Center for the night of the performance is because the gala always runs late and at least we’ll have a short distance to go when we unplug. It is a school night due to how they had to reschedule from last year’s date and I don’t think the kids have decided yet if they will get up extra early to take granddaughter to school or let her skip a couple of hours. It probably makes sense to wait and see before making that decision.

 

Back in the Water At Last…..

In all fairness, I often don’t get to dive in June and July due to crowded boats and my limited schedule. Therefore, this summer hasn’t been unusual other than I was really making an extra effort this year. Anyway, Hubby’s classes were postponed with the effect of “Fred” and the weather stabilized for yesterday morning. Since it was a day off gor him.  he was able to take his camera. Unless he’s teaching a specific photography course he’s not allowed to have a camera when with students.

We went to the wreck of the Benwood, a favored site because it is a) and authentic WWII wreck which makes it interesting. If I haven’t related the story before, the quick version is it was a Norwegian freighter and in the required nighttime running under blackout conditions to try to counter the U-boat threat, the Benwood and another vessel whose name I don’t recall collided in the dark. The Benwood was too damaged to salvage and is very broken up. It does have seven-plus decades of marine growth and always lots of fish. You can also see the anchor and a turtle has taken up residence. In this case, we saw him later on the surface rather than underwater. Although there was nothing very special on the dive, there were multiple different types of schools of fish and they are fun to watch. I saw my queen and French angel fish as well as quite a few hogfish and the big barracuda nicknamed “Psycho” took his usual place under the boat. I don’t actually know where the name came from. The behavior though is common as the barracuda use the boat to “mask” their presence and wait for prey. Interestingly, I’ve never seen a barracuda going after a fish while doing it.

Our second dive was on a popular reef and there was a large nurse shark taking a nap which allowed Hubby to get some good shots. Nothing else extra special, but once again a great many enjoyable “regular reef inhabitants”. In watching the snappers, groupers, and hogfish, it was a bit like looking at a menu and we did have hogfish for lunch later.

Tried An Oven Version, Plus…..

We had friends over last night for their last time to dine with us as they are moving tomorrow. Probably not last time forever because they aren’t going that far away, but those, “of course we’ll visit”, plans do seem to get tangled in our busy lives.

Anyway, as I’ve posted before, one of Hubby’s specialties is risotto and neither of them cook that. We decided on the three-onion version for a side dish and I wanted to do an oven dish which could finish baking while he managed the risotto. I found a version for chicken cacciatore where you do the browning and initial sauce stove top, then a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or 45 if the chicken is bone in. I was going with boneless as I didn’t want to bother with the mess of bones while eating even though bone-in does add extra flavor. The other reason for me to do an oven dish was Hubby also decided to do his Italian green beans with onions and sun-dried tomatoes. In explaining the chicken was tomato heavy, he reluctantly agreed to use only onion as I thought of an alternative. I can usually find pancetta at Publix although it’s never a guarantee. The plan was I would render the fat from the pancetta to add to the olive oil for browning the chicken and set the crisped pancetta aside to then add to the green beans. That satisfied Hubby and gave me the extra flavor boost for the chicken. The recipe I found also used carrots which I don’t normally include in cacciatore, but went with it.

The only drawback is I do like one-pot cooking when possible and I no longer have a large enough dutch oven to pull that off as I was making six chicken breasts in case anyone was really hungry. I did the stove top part of browning the chicken, removing it from the skillet to saute the thinly sliced carrots, chopped sweet peppers, onions, and minced garlic before adding the tomatoes, wine, chicken stock, and seasonings. I did let the sauce simmer for about ten minutes (my preference) before placing the chicken in a casserole dish and covering it with the sauce. I also don’t have a cover for that size casserole and used foil instead.