Rodeo Weekend Again….

The expression of, “This ain’t my first rodeo,” is of course only applicable to people who understand that rodeo really is a way of life. Not ours, yet I’ve lived in a couple of places where you can learn about it. There have been lots of different movies depicting the mindset; some of which have at least accurate segments. And so this is the weekend for Homestead with the 74th rodeo founded back in 1949. There have only been three years of interruption; one relatively early in the history; the year Hurricane Andrew destroyed the grounds; and 2021 due to COVID. Apparently it is a sell-out crowd for part of the time. It kicked off Friday night, was held yesterday afternoon, and concludes this afternoon, Jan 29th. I’m not attending this year, but Hubby will be there to shoot the event. He does get some amazing photos, even though he is definitely not a fan of horses. We did go for a while to the Blue Jean Ball last night. That’s one of the traditions and is the main fundraiser for whichever woman’s group holds it. The Homestead Soroptomists took it over a few years back and it’s always a fun time. Who provides the food also changes out periodically and when you’re serving a couple of hundred (or more) people, it can be tricky. It is buffet and there is the dinner option or just come after for music and dancing. Texas Roadhouse had it this year and they did include a chicken option. I was glad to see that as I’m not a big prime rib fan. I like it from a flavor perspective, but I generally find it too fatty to want to deal with. Anyway, the food was good and the band was too. We don’t stay long and the crowd was pretty much at capacity as we left.

Announcement of the Rodeo Queen took place on Friday although I didn’t catch who it was. Unlike some contests, the Rodeo Queen is determined by who brings in the most ticket sales. A couple of months before the event, posters go up around town and on social media and the contestant often make the rounds of other events to garner support. All are accomplished riders and carry on a long tradition.

I know there are people who object to rodeos, but in reality the animals are well cared for because there is a very special bond between owners even though the horses and bulls for riding aren’t what one can call “cuddly”. They do each have their own spirit.

Of Rahm Schnitzel and Other……

One of the things about travel, whether living somewhere else or as a tourist, is learning about new food. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in small towns in North Louisiana and we didn’t travel far for vacations. Our cooking was basic and we certainly didn’t have access to different cuisines, although there was Mexican due to agriculture, and some Cajun. When we went to the big city, we were far more likely to go to the Picadilly Cafeteria than any thought of say one of the few Italian restaurants. I’m sure there probably was a Chinese restaurant somewhere, but again, not anything we would have known about.

My first airplane ride and foreign encounter was the summer session in Canada followed closely by the year I spent in France. I detailed the French part in previous posts. While I was wasn’t overly adventuresome in what I was willingly to try, there was a definite expansion of my tastes and I did become accustomed to more seasonings/herbs, and cooking techniques. Later, my initial Army training was at Fort McCellan, AL, so no great culinary changes there from where I grew up. Going to Maryland though included lots of fresh seafood. (Being in North Louisiana with limited truck transportation back then meant mostly freshwater fish and little shellfish).

My assignment after training to Germany is where I broaden my preferences in both food and wine – well, beer, too. German food has quite a range and Italian, Chinese, and other cuisines were commonplace, although I didn’t venture into the Middle Eastern ones. Anyone who has lived in Germany is aware of how many ways schnitzel is prepared. The basic meat is pork or veal and one of those is Rahm which is similar to country fried steak. In fact, the large German population in Texas introduced the meal with it changing from pork to cubed steak due to that cut of beef being more available. Our Publix doesn’t always have cubed pork and I noticed it the other day. I picked some up and that’s why Rahm Schnitzel is what we’re having for dinner. I admit I’m not making the sausage gravy from scratch and am using the prepared version instead.

Delays and Recovering…..

Air travel during the holidays is always subject to frustration and this year was no exception. Unfortunately, once again, what should have been the kids departing at 5:45 yesterday turned into much later with extra “airport time” because the exact departure time was a bit uncertain and better to be at the airport just in case. Anyway, it was after midnight when they managed to get to their condo and I’m assuming they were able to sleep in. That was part of the reason to fly them back Jan 1st; it allowed for one down day (today) in case of issues and trying to re-establish routine. It was a great visit though with perfect weather. Not as much pool time this trip due to other “adventures” and that was okay, too.

Hubby always laughs at me for buying too much food for the holidays although it doesn’t change that ingrained habit of mine. I’ll be distributing items among friends and neighbors over the next couple of days to get things back in order plus we will be creative with leftovers for most of the week. The only culinary disappointments for the kids was something really odd happened when they were supposed to have lunch at Chefs on the Run and they weren’t open. Also, Exit One didn’t work out schedule-wise, but we did go on to Capri which they were very happy with. Amelia and I still don’t eat sushi and Suvi has enough other choices so the kids got their “fix” the first night they were here. White Lion was the usual hit and with four people to share we were able to have the big brownie dessert. We would have had five sharing except granddaughter wanted a Sprinkles cookie which might also have been part of her breakfast the next morning. And there was the slice – well, slab really – of chocolate peanut butter cake that came home to be consumed the following afternoon.

Gap During the “Whirl”….

The good new is the kids were not delayed by much this year with their flight. It does tend to be “a whirl” of activity when they’re here. Part of that though is to allow “Mom and Dad” to sleep in as granddaughter is the other “early bird” in the family. She usually gets up around 7:00 and joins me to give them an extra hour or so. Then it’s a real breakfast and off for an adventure. The kicker is trying to make sure the day’s adventure gets them back in time for a pool session, then manage whatever dinner plans we have. Yesterday was extra tricky as they decided to go a greater distance than usual to Shark Valley, one of the parts of the Everglades to the west. One of our neighbors was coming to dinner and Hubby had to go get my new computer. It did all work out without much time to spare. The pool conditions weren’t the most comfortable – water is at 84 with the heater on – it’s the air when you get out that makes it less than ideal. With granddaughter’s latest growth spurt and the max depth of the pool at five feet, she can now go one-third the length and it isn’t over her head. She still doesn’t want to put her face in the water, but is good with dog paddle and can make the length in that way. Mom and Dad provide the audience and we did set a 30-minute limit which went just a little longer.

Suvi for sushi and Thai food was Tuesday night and we did pork tenderloin and chicken with sides here last night. Today is date day for the kids and if they get stirring in time, we’ll drop them off at the movies where they will catch as early show and then have a leisurely lunch at Chefs on the Run. Granddaughter and I have our own adventure planned. Hubby is of course working although he will be home in the afternoon. He’ll make the run to Publix to finish provisioning for Saturday’s party as I once again will do pool time. He has been in the cold water for days now teaching so I want to give him this break.

Planning Adventures…..

I have grocery list from daughter-in-law now and granddaughter’s favorites haven’t changed much, so will do the rest of the provisioning Monday. Am still keeping fingers crossed they have no significant flight delays as last year was really bad and we lost almost two days of visiting. With the horse/farm experience locked into place, that leaves them with two days for adventure as a three-some and one “date day” which they usually choose for a movie. Traffic is so bad going into the Keys this time of year, they might pass on doing anything down there. On the other hand, if they can be on the road by a little before 11:00, it can be more manageable.

Anyway, granddaughter has never been to Monkey Jungle or Coral Castle, both great places the kids haven’t been to for a while either. They did Everglades Outpost Wildlife Refugee last year and the regular Alligator Farm the year prior so those probably aren’t on the list. Granddaughter may want some repeats though and we can play everything by ear. We have not yet checked out Heritage Market now they have their main building open and their new menu looks terrific. Their coffee is allegedly some of the best around as is the reputation of their ice cream and sorbet. It may make it onto the list for something. The threatened cold front is arriving and all we can do is hope the short duration followed by sun and the normal 80 degree weather does follow while they are here. As I have mentioned, it will mostly impact pool time. We have laid in hot chocolate which tends to be needed post-pool even when the temperature is better.

I’m still chipping away at the multiple domestic house-prep tasks to do. Linens are all swapped out and only a few things left to clean.

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.

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 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.