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.

Trip, Day 7…..

You can’t expect no rain on a 9-day trip. Mother Nature will have her way at some point. At least it did taper off early afternoon. Although Hubby didn’t get to go into DC for his photo shoot, there is a Wild Wings within decent walking distance of our friends and he had a nice lunch as well as watched some football before returning here and watching more football.

Girlfriend took me over to the National Harbor which is a great place if you haven’t been. It’s at the base of the drawbridge on the Maryland side. It’s modeled after the Inner Harbor of Baltimore with hotels, restaurants, shops, lovely water views, now a Ferris Wheel, and not too long ago an MGM resort complete with casino. It is quite large and we walked all around before going to the Sports Bar for lunch. The three really nice sit-down restaurants weren’t open until evening except for the Asian-themed Ginger and we weren’t in the mood for that. The sports bar wasn’t so loud we couldn’t talk. I probably should have had the crab cake, but may have that today with the kids.

The performance last night was enjoyable and they did include some of the younger students, mostly to give them a chance on stage before the bigger audiences for Nutcracker. Son choreographed two pieces and we would have been impressed even if we hadn’t known they were by him. Both modern and the influence of Lucy from Bowen-McCauley Dance was easy to identify. As we suspected, granddaughter was overly tired by the time it ended and we prudently decided to catch-up at early lunch today. She had become restless after the intermission and I did “Grandma duty” by taking her out to run around in the open spaces of the lobby and up and down the staircases a couple of times. We did use our “inside voice” to make sure she wasn’t disrupting the group that had some event going on upstairs. After lunch today, it’s on to PA.

Trip, Day 6…..

The Acela return trip went well and we can highly recommend it. Granted, the cab ride from the hotel to Penn Station was more circuitous and took longer than when we arrived, but I think that was a function of time of morning. The driver also put us in a spot we were not certain of at the Station although it turned out to be fine. I am glad, however, we had a red cap leading us because I think you need a couple of times at Penn Station to figure out how to get around. The ride in from DC to Alexandria was not quick of course being a Friday afternoon even though it was better than if we’d come in at peak traffic time, as we have occasionally had to do. The rain even held off to merely light until we got to friend’s house. She had already called to ask if it was okay for us to stay tucked in for the evening. We had a lot of catching up to do and that kept us out of the weather. Not totally sure about today. There is chance for rain until around 1:00. Hubby was going to the Mall area with his camera while friend and I do “girl stuff”. Mother Nature may dictate him staying in with TV though.

Talked briefly with son last night as they had to push the performance for tonight back to 8:00. Since this is with the dance studio as opposed to the performing company, the performance is not in a place with many restaurant options. We also won’t be done until pushing 9:30, do depending on how everyone is doing, coffee and ice cream sundaes at McDonald’s may be what we wind up with. Ah well, being together is what counts and we’ll have a nice lunch with the kids tomorrow before we head to Hanover, PA to see last set of friends.

Trip, Day 5…..

Time to head back to DC. For a change on a trip I was able to book all our transportation so we are not having to get up terrible early and mostly not caught in the heaviest urban traffic. Yesterday was the Museum of Modern Art with a surprisingly large exhibit about post-WW II rebuild of Yugoslavia and the subsequent development of the Adriatic as a major tourist draw. The use of concrete was a particular focus. In the gallery with the older definition of “modern”, there is something about seeing “Starry Night” in person.

Having not yet been into one of the many Irish pubs, we had lunch in the nearby Connolly’s. Hubby had traditional fish and chips and I had a salad special with shrimp.

We went early for Top of the Rock to be able to walk around and did see the skaters in the Plaza. Once we made our way through the line to get up, I told Hubby to take his time. Had the weather been less cold – quite a wind at 67 stories – 68 for him since he did that last one using the stairs – he would have hung around an extra hour to get the sun setting colors.

We’d saved the NY steakhouse for our last night and our first choice was booked. The runner-up was okay, although not what I experienced a couple of years ago at a well-known one, nor one I will name since I don’t particularly recommend it. The service was quite good though and the steaks were flavorful. The ambience was also okay and I will say it was nice to dine where we weren’t crammed up against two other tables.

I have to post this and get ready for departure. Hope the Acela trip back to DC goes as smoothly as the trip up.

Trip Day 3….

The visit to B and H, the massive store for photography and all sorts of electronics, was the prime event on the calendar. I had only somewhat jokingly said I hope there was a spa or bar or something next to it. Across the street was indeed an Irish bar, although we had passed other places close by. Had there been an actual coffee shop, I would have been in it right away. The camera “world” was on the second floor and they did have a “guest lounge” at the exit. There were seats, but let’s say the amenities were quite limited. I had allotted an hour to sit and basically play games on my phone and either through some innate sense that would be my limit or by being nearly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of equipment, Hubby appeared at about the hour mark. It was a great experience for him and he was able to see and discuss this one lens he’s been considering. He will probably rent it for an upcoming event, then decide if that will be his Christmas present. As a side note, it never occurred to me one could rent a lens, but he did so when he went to TN for the workshop. The process works quite well.

On the way to B and H, among the restaurants we passed was the Five Napkins Burger place. How could we not stop there for lunch on the return? The actual name-sake burger probably would have required five napkins had they been paper, but cloth was in use, and yes, it was messy. Hubby went with that and I had something slightly smaller; both delicious.

There was a bit more wandering around the Times Square area. We decided for this trip not to go out and about much (Top of the Rock this afternoon) and instead focus on walking. We enjoy walking and we do need the exercise. So for dinner last night, it was the Hourglass Tavern. I’d run across it when searching for places near Times Square that were not touristy. It’s an old converted brownstone and definitely not spacious. The “hourglass” part was the original restaurant was only downstairs so in order to turn the tables, they used an hourglass as a measure of time. Even after the other two floors were converted for dining, the name lingered and they do a pre-theater menu to get you out within an hour if needs be. You do have to let them know if that hour applies. I was concerned at first about the “close quarters”, but it was a delightful place and the food was quite good. Hubby had about decided on an entrée when the special turned out to be slow-cooked lamb shank. I had a lovely rosemary and garlic chicken with a honey-cumin sauce on the side.