Desert Aspects….

I suppose Hubby’s venturing out into the Everglades at ungodly hours for the recent meteor shower and then Blood Moon is what caused me to think of this. My only passage through American deserts was many years ago when I went cross-country to California for a special Army course. My objective was to get there as quickly as possible so there was no lingering for sight-seeing although I do wish there had been time to at least go by the Grand Canyon. That will come about in some future travel.

Although I do not fall into this category (not does Hubby), I can understand how some people are drawn by the uniqueness of a desert environment and there are distinct differences depending on which area you are in. During Desert Storm, we were deep in Saudi Arabia, but not as far as Kuwait. Unlike the initial forces that deployed in early August, we didn’t arrive until November/December and most of the troops were out by May. Hubby and I managed to not be part of the residual force that stayed into the summer. During the first few weeks and the last few weeks we were in a city, but when in the desert there was literally nothing else for miles. We operated under blackout conditions at night until Iraq surrendered. That means even though we did have generators running for power, sound travels oddly and it is difficult to pinpoint a location by sound. It’s amazing though how the smallest light can travel. All openings were secured and our flashlights had the dark red lens which provides minimal illumination. Vehicles could use only their blackout lights often called “cat eyes”. Interestingly, one of the few documented gender differences is while men are more prone to colorblindness than women, they do tend to have better night vision than women.

The lack of light anywhere in the area did result in extraordinary brilliance of stars and the moon. A full moon really was astonishing. The connection about Hubby going to the Everglades for their photo shoots has to do with trying to get away from light in order to have a better view of the night sky. Being in a remote place certainly does give you that.

An Interesting New Series…..

We don’t have a streaming service for TV so I’m not sure how the series, “Shetland”, can be accessed. I’ve ordered the DVDs and just finished Season 3. Shetland is a small island in Scotland and both the scenery and music are captivating. The small police force allows learning more about each character, although the DI Jimmy Perez is the main focus. And yes, from the beginning, the idea of a Scotsman named Perez is remarked upon. The answer is a long-ago sailor ancestor who decided to remain on the island instead of returning to Spain or it might have been Portugal. At any rate, the stories have been intricate while believable with appropriate plot twists. The personal lives of the characters have not yet become “soap opera”. Perhaps the most complex one is the DI’s wife was divorced, teenage daughter living with mother and stepdad with real father in the same village, so of course there are some issues, especially after the wife died. There are times when the accents are hard to follow and watching it on DVD means I can replay to catch the word or phrase that slipped by me. I plan to order Season 4 and I’m not certain they go past that. Midsommer Murder is the one I’d been most fond of before and still enjoy. I’ve gone through most of those (I think), but have to check. Hubby enjoys even more of the shows, but some I’m not so keen on. I never warmed to “Vera” nor “Inspector Morse”.

I do also have some of the old American shows – Harry O, Mannix, Banacek, Nero Wolfe, Ellery Queen, and quite a few Colombos. The real reason I have Murder She Wrote is son and grandmother loved it so and I keep the one DVD set I have in the guest room in case he’s feeling nostalgic when they visit.

“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.

Wandering Around the Square…..

I’ve written in previous posts about the town square of Covington, Hubby’s home town. We always have lunch one day there and I then stroll around as he goes to take photos. The New Orleans-themed restaurant was closed, as does happen the day before Thanksgiving and we were already scheduled to have dinner at Mystic Grill with his sister and her husband. The “Fish Camp” place close to the square is being converted into a Japanese place and unfortunately, the Irish Pub didn’t succeed either. We went to the Your Pie which has pizza, paninis and salads. As an aside, the romaine lettuce recall is causing issues for restaurants and diners alike. Anyway, Your Pie is unique in it is set up similar to Subway. They serve 8-inch thin crust pizzas and you pick from a variety of crusts and toppings or you can order one of their creations. They do give you a number and bring your order to the table. I went with whole wheat crust, marinara, pepperoni, salami, sun dried and fresh tomatoes. Hubby had a turkey and pesto pannini.

After, he went off with his camera and I went to the Town Square Olive Oil shop. We haven’t been down to our Olive Morada for longer than we like, but we aren’t going to deal with holiday traffic. I had to restrain myself in stocking up, but how is one to resist cilantro and roasted garlic infused olive oil and I had to have blood orange and Persian Lime. Then there was the new bacon and I did stop at that. The Cork wine store was open as well and they did have the Nouveau Beaujolais in. Not for us – that was the gift to give Hubby’s cousin who hosts Thanksgiving. Then there was time for coffee at the Bread and Butter Bakery and I very carefully ignored the pastry section.

It was a lovely afternoon and a sweater was enough warmth since the temperature didn’t drop much until after the sun went down.

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.

 

Headed Up for Thanksgiving…..

One of the reasons we made such a fast trip to Georgia for my mother-in-law’s service was because we were already scheduled to go there for our annual Thanksgiving trip. We’ve only missed it a few times; last year being one of them. Apparently, this is not going to be one of the mild weather stretches so I have sweaters in the suitcase and will put the coat in the car as opposed to the wrap I last carried. It would be nice if we didn’t hit rain  as we have the past two trips. On the other hand, we really don’t have any control over that. One of the nice things though is they did finally open a Chili’s within walking distance of the hotel we stay at. With a 10 (or more) hour drive, it’s so much easier to simply walk over for dinner than head downtown. I suspect, however, Thanksgiving night will be a repeat of previous years when none of the alcohol-serving restaurants will be open. I have mixed feelings of course. After all, people who work there ought to get time with their families. For travelers though, it does leave limited options. In this case, it means fast food or I-Hop, and yes, we do tip extra. I realize as we are moaning about feeling utterly full at the bountiful Thanksgiving meal, we do tend to all say we won’t need to eat later, and yet, that hardly ever seems to be the case.

Anyway, we will have a good time and hopefully this year, no emergency room visits will be required. It wasn’t either of us – my husband’s second cousins got a bit rambunctious in a golf cart whizzing about the property. Just about the moment their mother looked out and commented the speed did not bode well – the event occurred. By the way, we are not talking children or even teens engaged in this and fortunately it was a sprain other than something more serious.

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.

Travel Home…..

It’s always nice when travel goes smoothly and especially in this case when we hit the traffic well from MIA to the house. Our schedule didn’t even require us to get up too terribly early for the morning flight.

We certainly checked off a number of blocks for the trip despite the unseasonable chilly temperatures. If all goes well, between the intensity of tasks I accomplished prior to departure, what I managed to get done yesterday, and the line-up for the next two days should get me mostly caught up. We did order pizza last night since going to the grocery store was more effort than we wanted to expend after we made it home. Besides, we did need to have breakfast pizza available for Hubby. He’s all fixed up now and in light of all the wining and dining we did, he will picking up plenty of salad when he goes shopping.

Anyway, other than our usual quick Thanksgiving trip to Georgia to see his family, we will be staying around for a while. We do still want to slip away a couple of days for the hammerhead shark diving in Bimini, although we’ve said that the past two years and haven’t made it happen yet. The main issue is the prime season for that bumps up against all kinds of other “main annual events” of some of the community activities we are involved in.

So, Happy Halloween to everyone and we’ll see if we can get the skeleton into the rocking chair for our minimal decorating. And of course, despite the number of bags of candy I bought, I’ll think, “Oh, maybe we do need a couple more.”

Trip, Day 8…….

Have completed sort of the last leg depending on how you want to count it. We spent yesterday afternoon, last night, and a bit of this morning with old friends in PA we hadn’t seen for a couple of years. They are closing in on a kitchen remodel, so we went out to eat at one of the older inns; a nice place with plenty of choices. Having had my crab cakes at lunch with the kids, I opted for a creative chicken dish, although everyone else went for seafood in one form or the other. I had already passed on the oysters on the half-shell – never been something I can deal with. Actually, I don’t eat oysters in any form, nor other mollusks for that matter. Anyway, we got caught up on lots of things and commiserated with Dodgers’ fans afterward when the outcome of the game/series seemed pretty obvious.

The trip down this morning was smooth and we’re ready for the warmer weather that has eluded us for the past week-plus. This late in October, you never quite know what you’ll get and unseasonably cool was it for the week. The rain has passed though, so that does help. Tomorrow is scheduled to be clear for good flying barring those different things one can encounter when traveling. I stocked up on Halloween candy before we left to avoid having to shop for it on the day of. If Hubby has time he will get the skeleton out of the garage and place him on the porch in the rocking chair. I don’t think we’ll mess with much of anything else and he is the most popular decoration we have anyway. I suspect the battery to ensure his eyes glow will need to be replaced and think we probably have a spare on hand.