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

Our Poor Backyard…..

A few years ago when we remodeled the public part of downstairs, we also had two exterior  improvement done. In front, we  received permission to expand the driveway a little to accommodate one extra car. Parking in a gated community is an on-going source of frustration although admittedly, nothing as bad as urban setting. Anyway, one of the first things we did as we waited for the plans on the major pieces was to have a local landscaper come in for the back yard. The guy we use for normal upkeep is good and we’ve been with him for years. Designing and bringing in a team to re-do a yard in one day is not something he can handle. We stuck with the basic concept we had except the landscaper added a wonderful “green island” on one side and cleaned up four trees that were really messy, She also planted two other tall, slender ones that were perfect for our size yard. We even managed to keep up with everything for a while. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the way plants grow around here is amazing and that means good as well as “super weeds” and requiring constant trimming. It simply doesn’t take long for things to get out of control. I’m not talking “jungle”, yet definitely ragged. Despite how much Hubby does, the amount of work we still need to do is a bit daunting and the climbing blossoming vines we’ve had seem to have finally run their course. We did sustain some damage to our fence last year in Hurricane Irma and haven’t had anyone come in yet. The reason is because there was a high demand for fence repair for months and we wanted to let the “rush” get over with.

I’m setting up an appointment with a fence guy and if Hubby agrees, my inclination is to go ahead and tear away the old vines so the fence repair can be done with less interference. After the fence is taken care of I’ll call the landscaper again and acknowledge our neglect. The only good part is the design she did is still good; it basically needs to be refreshed. I also want to talk to her about extra native butterfly attracting plants.

Inflatable Decorations…….

Notwithstanding Hubby’s occasional “Bah humbug” about those who decorate extensively for the holidays, I do tend to be a bit torn about all the inflatables. As I have explained in previous posts, our decision to remain in South Florida meant saying good-bye to the dream house we would have had in either Louisiana or Mississippi had we moved as once intended. Part of the dream house would have been adequate space to store seasonal decorations. I never planned to have like mounds of things, but definitely more than we have now. Anyway, the inflatable items do make sense from a storage space perspective. It’s the sight of the poor things in their deflated state on lawns that always makes me wonder if it’s puzzling to young children. Since granddaughter wasn’t old enough last trip to discuss such things perhaps this year she can express it from her point of view. On the other hand, maybe young children don’t even notice if Santa and the reindeer are flattened out during part of the day.

We did get the Christmas tree a week early this year with the concerns of shortages, but for the first time, we’re having difficulties in getting the clamps in the stand to keep it properly aligned. Hubby will work on that and we’ll do the decorating later. We went with the six-foot size which is what we like and that pretty much causes me to focus mostly on the marine/tropical decorations we gathered or been given over the years. I will try to toss out some of the older items we simply never use anymore. I must admit the Nutcracker wreath didn’t get moved into storage after the holidays so he’s still up on the stairway.


The Lack of Lettuce…..

I have to admit a nation-wide (or maybe it’s global at this point) ban on romaine lettuce was not something I anticipated. As much havoc as it is causing in our personal shopping, I feel terrible for restaurants who have moved away from ice berg lettuce in favor of romaine as being more upscale and popular. There are many who do the “classic wedge” though so I guess that works if they can get adequate supply. It appears that field greens and of course spinach are safe, but again, romaine does tend to be a greater percentage of the trade. This brought to mind our time in Desert Shield/Desert Storm when fresh vegetables simply weren’t available. We did get some fresh fruit such as apples, oranges and tangerines, and figs (which I don’t eat). There was also fruit juice. Lettuce was simply too perishable and in the huge quantities of food needed for military rations, the big cans of vegetables are what are used. The Meals-Ready-To-Eat (MRE) as rations have some vegetables in items like Chicken A La King or Beef Stew, but at the time, that was about it. I know they’ve done a number of changes with the menu since then so there may be more options.

Anyway, when we did finally return to Germany, it was mid-May so the growing season was in full swing. That meant no shortage of lettuce and for at least a while it was strawberry season. Their strawberries are always delicious and especially so that summer. I’ve always loved the white radishes although at the time I was not a fan of white asparagus. There were naturally other culinary items we’d missed such as the wonderful pastries and we caught up on those as quickly as we could. Not surprisingly good German beer and wine were in the liquid category.

Thanksgiving Trip……

The somewhat significant to-do list was whittled down enough for us to make the trip yesterday without too many follow-up phone calls and emails. Traffic until we were well north of Fort Lauderdale was quite heavy although once they cleared the single wreck we encountered, it flowed well. Fortunately, threatening clouds resulted in only short bursts of rain and the temperature didn’t really drop until the last part of the trip. The 85 degrees we began with at 6:00 a.m. was down to 53 when we pulled into the motel parking lot a little after 5:00 p.m. We do have sweaters to wear.

Hubby’s plan to go to a place he’s heard about for a special photo shoot has changed because it’s a longer drive than he had realized and we do try to stay clear of the main highways the day before Thanksgiving. He has an alternate spot though of one of the old mills where they have used the model of converting the area into condos, apartments, and retail. It’s always nice to see that rather than the abandonment that can often happen when a single, major industry shuts down. The key has to be viable options. In this case, it is close enough to the major metropolitan area of Atlanta to draw commuters and better yet, telecommuters, who can make a decent salary. This, combined with being an easy day-trip for those who live in the city, supports the restaurant/retail side. Successfully converting such areas requires first, a vision, then a realistic assessment of what can work, and of course adequate capital to make the conversion and carry through long enough for it to take hold. Revitalization can look great on paper and always sounds good; genuinely understanding how the process works can be another matter altogether.

Anyway, we will be spending lunch and the afternoon in the charming Covington town square which as many of you know, is one of four places I used to create the town of Wallington for the Small Town Quilting Series.


In A Quandary About A Character…..

Not really a spoiler alert. I find myself in a slightly unfamiliar situation. My original plan for the Small Town Quilting Series was three or four books. As I have previously mentioned, with the shift away from publishing by AQS, I self-published Small Town Quilting Blues and had already started thinking about Small Town Quilting Treasures. I got behind in working on it and am getting re-focused. Having created the romance between Helen and Max, I find myself conflicted about where to take them. My inclination had been to have them get married, but a couple of women think I should not go down that path. Not as in have Max propose and Helen say no; rather to not introduce the subject. Other readers have the opposing view and see marriage for the two characters as a logical outcome. I, of course, do have complete control of this particular situation and have been going back and forth for months as to which option to choose. Any thoughts?

And while we on the subject, I’m planning to have the book out for the spring. The core plot is no problem although I’m having a little delay in working out a couple of the sub-plots. This isn’t terribly unusual and I’ll probably “skip forward” rather than write the chapters sequentially. I do this occasionally and allow the process to work so I complete a latter part of the story, which can then lead to connections to other chapters. I’m only introducing a couple of new characters this time, but am highlighting some that were minor in earlier books. It will  be a fun story again. Oh, I will say this one has dolls in it. I need to learn more about them and will probably check in with my cousin who has a nice collection.

Veterans Day and Memories…..

For most people today, the idea of women in the military is considered so normal they don’t realize the different women’s services were actually in effect until the 1970s. In other words, the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), the Women’s Army Nurse Corps, Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service (WAVES) for the Navy, and Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) were all separate organizations with distinct rules as to how women could be assigned and were controlled by women. The structure was for women to be assigned only within the female service and while they had duty assignments with men, they came under the administration of other women. There were also rules such as a woman could be married, but not remain in service if she had children. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I came in during the transition period when women were being phased into the regular services and therefore I met a number of senior women who had only been familiar with the separated services. As usually happens in a major organizational shift, there were those who looked forward to the new opportunities and those who were not able to adapt.

There was of course tremendous resistance in some cases, both male and female who didn’t think integration could be successful. It was probably true there was more reluctance on the male side because they had difficulty in imagining women could handle jobs in traditionally male fields. Part of the transition was the restriction of women going into branches of Infantry, Armor, Artillery, Field Artillery and Combat Engineers. Those branches were restricted until such time as they could work out physical requirements and the psychological impact of women being placed at the “front lines”. As the type of warfare shifted so “front lines” became blurred, the very real issue of physical requirements for certain things also underwent changes due to technology advances. Some tasks that required brute strength such as lifting 50-plus pound artillery rounds were made easier by auto-loaders. In other cases, there is simply no way to lessen the muscle-driven demand. It’s not that some women aren’t as strong as some men; they, however, are the exception rather than the average. And so, when people ask me if I think it’s fair when women are still restricted from specific duties, my response is, “the mission must always come first”.

Container Gardening….

Okay, as I have mentioned, gardening in not my thing and all plants around me tend to be at risk. However, this area is extraordinary for growing and within Homestead Center for the Arts we have both the East Everglades Orchid Society and the South Dade Garden Club. The Garden Club is a more recent member than EEOS, but from what I understand, it is a fun group to be with and there are everything from novice to master gardeners. No, I’m not sure what master gardener means exactly, although I do know it includes quite a bit of work. At lunch today, we were discussing container gardening as the prime solution here for two main reasons. There are some nasty little critters that live in the soil and will do all sorts of damage unless you expend a great deal of effort in keeping them at bay. The other thing is the type of ground here is difficult to dig in despite it being an agricultural area. The commercial farms have their own techniques and equipment; individual gardeners are far better off choosing containers.

That leads to a variety of options from basic plastic to beautiful pottery in all shapes and sizes. Treated wood works, too even though extreme sun exposure is harsh. There are plenty of synthetic materials, too, and those can have a longer life. One of the easy choices if you don’t mind the initial weight are concrete blocks. You can stack them two-three high and configure them in whatever dimensions suit your available space. At only two-three high, they will tend to stay in place with just gravity so there’s no requirement for mortar. The other idea to consider is a commercial waist-high bed to allow for gardening without the need to bend over. Some sort of watering system is important of course and there is an organization that promotes the use of rain barrels. They have some clever designs and do periodic workshops. I do admire people who embrace gardening despite my personal lack of ability.

About Those Mushrooms…..

When we have leftover steak, one of the dishes we make is steak in mushroom sauce. It so happens Publix often carries a gourmet mushroom mix with something like six or seven different types. We can use any variety in the dish of course, but I always get this one if they have it in stock. I also very carefully push the mushrooms to one side for Hubby to have and me to avoid. This, as with a number of other foods, concerns Hubby as he continues to think I might someday discover a mushroom I like. I won’t say it’s impossible since I did finally find one method of cooking Brussel sprouts and that took me by surprise. Anyway, mushrooms are another case of not minding the flavor which is why I’m fine with having them in a dish as long as I can pick them out. It’s the texture I can’t handle.

When I’m at restaurant with Hubby it’s not a bit of a problem to order a dish with them because he’s happy to have extra. If I’m with anyone else, I politely inquire before ordering the dish and mostly there will be someone at the table who will take them. That also generally initiates conversations about who doesn’t eat what and there can be some amusing stories shared. I’m not referring to allergies which are rarely amusing – rather to likes and dislikes – and then there are those people who seem able and willing to eat literally anything. One guy I worked with who quite frankly could be rather odd swore he loved tripe, sweetbreads, tongue, and so forth. It might even be true and if so, he probably didn’t have too many people trying to swipe food from his plate.

Asparagus is another example of me never having been a fan. I could manage it lightly steamed with lemon juice or other flavoring. It was not until I had it roasted and grilled that I came actually enjoy it. Preparation can make all the difference at times.

Naked Magicians and Other…..

It’s true, although Hubby and I don’t plan to attend. I admit, when I first heard this I was waiting for the proverbial punchline. However, these two Australian guys have put together an act which is apparently quite popular. Based on the description, they disrobe on stage and then cleverly manage to perform magic tricks with very obviously “nothing up their sleeves”. It’s another of those comedy-infused shows which is the opposite side of the dramatic type. It’s also very much an adult show and not intended to be otherwise. I’m not sure if the word “bawdy” is used much these days, but my impression is that’s the appropriate term. They will be at the Seminole Theatre October 14th and several friends have tickets already. ( I have no problem with the show and think it’s an entertaining idea – we just aren’t much into magic and comedy.

In fact, this is the fourth season for the theatre which means the director (who is superb) has had the chance to analyze attendance and actively seeks feedback. The 2018-2019 season is bigger than ever and has quite a mix – literally something for everyone. The way performances and events work is the theatre books the Showcase Series and then other performances come in through a variety of means. Local/regional groups book, attendees can refer ideas, etc. With another nice grant last year they were finally able to have film capability, so that medium has been added. There was an element considering the original Seminole Theatre was for silent movies and when the renovation was done to transform it into a performing arts center, film capability was initially held back. That was an economic decision since the retrofit could be managed without too much difficulty.

The season opened with Lee Ann Womack and a packed house. Not only was she as good as anticipated, the opening act of Andrew Duhon (a Louisiana guy) was excellent. We picked up his latest CD and Hubby is thoroughly enjoying it.