Sorrow for Notre Dame…

I think for most – and certainly for many – the initial news of a terrible fire at Notre Dame was viewed as possibly either in error or not the immense blaze it became. If you have been to the cathedral, you know the awe-inspiring engineering, the beauty of the architecture, the splendor of the Rose Window, the joy in strolling in the gardens. Setting religion aside, it is a  piece of incredible history on multiple levels. I can only imagine the even deeper sorrow for my friends who are Catholic.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Hubby and I have been to Paris several times and the last two trips, we stayed near Place Saint Michele. From a location perspective it’s ideal for us. It is a short walk to Notre Dame and so of course, we always spend time there. In an amusing anecdote, when son was eleven and we were in Italy, we decided to go to Paris for Thanksgiving. On that particular trip, I booked us into a little hotel on Ile St Louis – also a nice location. We were literally in the shadow of Notre Dame. We all went to dinner and as often happened, son asked if he could go back to the hotel as Hubby and I lingered over dinner. That was fine, but when we returned, he was in the small hotel lobby reading. We asked why and his explanation made sense. The hotel was quiet and with the gargoyles of the cathedral dramatically lit at night, it did create a somewhat spooky feeling to be all alone in one’s room. He was well aware it was simply an emotional response, and he was fine, but I can’t say I blame him.

And closing on the word, “blame” –  notwithstanding the number of terror and other attacks that have become a sad reality, those were not my thoughts when I saw the dismaying photos. Buildings that old have weaknesses and in many ways, it is a wonder it survived the French Revolution and WW II. I don’t know how they will proceed with repairs nor what the end result will be. We can hope for preservation of as much as possible.

A Market to Grow….

I’m going with “Third time’s a charm” on this particular project. A few years ago I did a post about the Verde Garden Market in Homestead close to Homestead Air Reserve Base. There are 22 acres and a farmers’ market adjoins it. They had completely refurbished the market to add a commercially approved kitchen and an area where they could serve food, put in a number of picnic tables and display area for art as well as places for the fruits, produce, and a couple of refrigerator cabinets. I was so excited when I toured and told as many people as I could. Unfortunately, things never took off, nor did the next try at it.

Last week, I was back with the group that is now in charge, which is a combined program. Redland Ahead (I have posted about then before, too) is a non-profit with goals to:

  • Work in unison with FIU to provide support to the FIU’s Agro-Ecology program in South Florida in expansion of the newly awarded FIU Hispanic Land Grant University status.
  • Support the training of underserved populations and Veterans to become farmers & explore careers in Agri-business in programs offered by FIU and UF (TREC).
  • Support training to improve the profitability from existing or future crops through university and private development of incubators, commercial kitchens and other ventures in the Redland community.

The main farming program provides up to a year of training and then the opportunity of a low-cost lease on acreage to begin farming. In general, the individual starts with approximately one-quarter acre and can expand up to four acres. The products can then be sold at the Redland Community Farm and Market at Verde Garden and other venues.

The commercial kitchen option is available for someone who may not be interested in farming, but may have a talent for, and desire to be in, a culinary career. Small batch producers who create baked goods, candies, jellies, and so forth can use the kitchen at the market and sell there. Perhaps someone wants to develop their own line of sandwiches, soups, or other hot items, and operating a food truck or opening a café is not feasible. A part time arrangement at the market is a workable way to begin. Currently, Tuesday through Thursday 12:00-4:00 p.m., is when Phillip Bryant and Veronica Valdivia are on-site with Johnnie’s Pit BBQ. Since the market is open seven days a week, other food vendors will be welcome.

Redland Community Farm and Market is open 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., seven days a week. Twice monthly Friday night events are also held with extra art, music, and food choices. The purpose of the Friday night events is to extend the regular hours from 6:00 – 10:00 p.m. and help spread the word about the market. A special note, as of this post, is road construction at 127th which was the most direct route. The detour is from 288th onto 132d through a residential area to SW 280th St. Detour signs are posted.

http://www.redlandahead.org

 

Having Perrier in the Desert….

No, there’s not a punchline here; merely one of those odd events that occurred when we were in Saudi Arabia for Desert Storm. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Hubby and I were assigned to the same very large organization that provided logistical support, to include water production and distribution. That actually is another subject, but when people think of what it takes to equip and support a large fighting force, ammunition, fuel, food, and maybe medical support come to mind, rather than something like water. Each country, however, can have different foodstuff requirements for their personnel. Americans for example, include pork products in rations, whereas Muslim units obviously do not.

Anyway, French troops were part of the Coalition put together to defeat Saddam Hussein. Our unit was set up out in the desert about 150 miles toward Kuwait, although not very close to the border. After the “Lightning Victory”, forces were drawn down as quickly as they could be and redeployed back to their respective countries. That, too, is a massive effort and in some cases, items needed during the war were left behind for different reasons. Now, I wasn’t in the location where this particular event took place although the individual who told me about it was generally accurate. Large metal shipping containers that get loaded on trains and ships come in two standard sizes of 20 feet and 40 feet long. They are about 5 feet high – maybe 6. Apparently, part of the French logistics support was Perrier in the small green glass bottles and for whatever reason, they had two 40 foot containers packed full they decided not to ship back. (It was probably a matter of available transport.) They simply turned the containers over to our guys and next thing we know, little bottles of Perrier are being distributed among a number of our units. Now, it so happens as we relocated out of the desert and into the edge of a major Saudi Arabia military complex, an ice plant was part of the complex. Not surprisingly, shipping ice out to our units was greatly appreciated and for the remaining several weeks, we had a pretty steady supply of ice. I will admit, swigging iced-down Perrier while winding up desert operations wasn’t something I expected to do. On the other hand, it is a memory that’s stayed with us.

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.