Mermaids For Real (Sort of)…..

You can imagine the fun I had with the article about the new Oceans Sirens Mermaid Academy found at http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/news/ariel-and-aquaman-you-ve-got-company/article_8096b1dc-17ca-11ea-abad-8b4cfba390e4.html

Aside from the fact I did use free diving to stage a murder (sort of) in my first scuba-themed mystery (Shades of Murder), I’ve never been inclined to go through training for free diving (also known as breath hold). Also setting aside the people who train for making/breaking records, 4 to 5 minutes underwater is more the standard for  a trained free diver. While that may not seem like a long time, it does give you a nice interaction on a reef or the ability to spear a fish if that’s your thing. Part of taking a scuba course does also involve (or used to) one quick lesson in free diving. It isn’t much in the way of training; more to give you the sensation. There is a little bit of crossover in both types of diving in the sense that how long you can stay underwater on scuba is a function of depth and air consumption.  (Those who know this can skip or bear with me). The deeper you dive on scuba, the shorter the amount of time you can stay at depth because of the risk of decompression sickness (DCS or “the bends”). You will also need to save enough air for a 3-5 minute safety stop during your ascent from anything lower than 50 feet as another precaution against DCS. But if you are diving shallow around thirty feet, how rapidly you use air is the main factor in how long you can remain underwater. In general, the more you can relax underwater, the slower you breath and therefore extend your time. The most important difference in free diving and scuba is you absolutely should not hold your breath while on scuba due to potential pressure on your lungs.

Anyway, even though I choose the “techno mermaid” option of scuba as opposed to free diving, I am thrilled with the idea of having a mermaid school close by.

Ah, The First Nutcracker….

While I don’t do much “grandma” stuff on the blog, our granddaughter will be in her first Nutcracker performance this year – part of the Mouse Army, as is common. She actually was in the Spring performance in June as a “chick” and apparently the kinder ballet instructor is having to explain to the budding ballerinas that these are different movements.

At any rate, I remember when my sister and I guess it was another mom took young sons to their first Nutcracker in Houston. It was a gala affair with getting dressed up and enjoying either dinner before or perhaps it was ice cream treats after in addition to the wonder of the experience. (That has been quite a while ago.) For reasons that I don’t exactly recall; probably because we had back-to-back overseas assignments, our son didn’t attend his first Nutcracker until he was in middle school in Hawaii. He enjoyed it and somewhat ironically, he didn’t seem enamored of it. I don’t think the later “spark” was initiated that evening, but who knows if there was a lingering impact. I’ve lost count of the number of times he has now been in Nutcrackers and doing the Russian Dance for Delta Festival Ballet in New Orleans was his first professional appearance as in someone paid him. He generally dances at least two and sometimes three each season, although this year it’s only one, plus “A Christmas Carol” for a studio that often calls on him. There is a scheduling conflict with New Orleans, so he won’t be able to join them this year. On the other hand, that means he isn’t flying back on Christmas Eve for a change. That will make the week of Christmas a bit less hectic for them.

Granddaughter dressed up for the first ballet she attended.

Timing Meals During NASCAR Weekend…..

For those not familiar with our geographic situation, we live about two miles from the Homestead-Miami Speedway. There are only two accesses into our gated community; one from a primary street leading to the Speedway and the other is around to the side. During the three days of NASCAR racing, traffic is terrible. Due to a circumstance of timing, this year is even worse because of construction on two major streets. Those of us who live here are coping as best we can with the daily inconvenience and the correct answer from yesterday until around noon on Monday is be off the streets by 11:00 a.m. Due to extra commitments Thurs and Fri, there was no way to get to the grocery store until this morning. I managed to get there and back before 10:30. With Hubby shooting for the paper – something he absolutely loves as I have previously explained – he is at the Speedway for around ten hours each day with literally miles of walking in going from spot-to-spot. As a member of the press, he has access to the media center where they have food and beverage. However, it’s more of a grab something in between events and the chance to have a real meal is limited. By that same measure, it’s difficult to know exactly when he will get back home. Once the race ends, there is the post-race ceremony, then traffic. Friday night is of course pizza night and that’s easy enough to heat up when he finally makes it in.

Tonight is somewhat complicated because we will have company and the scheduled time to eat around 7:30 is probably doable. The menu though is such that everything can “hold” if needs be for a later start. At the moment, a pot of a sort of stew is cooking to be cooled and put into the other refrigerator. That will be for tomorrow night as it re-heats pretty quickly. The other rule is all comfort food. What Hubby doesn’t know is it will include apple pie as a special treat.

Another Easy Italian Sauce……

I have mentioned before how we had not expected to be assigned to Italy. There are very few Army installations as most are Navy and Air Force. Notwithstanding the charm of living in a seaside village for 18 months in Tuscany, the jobs we had were intense and did not allow nearly as much time for travel as we might have wished. On the other hand, when you are in the virtual heart of Tuscany, you don’t have to travel far to enjoy yourself.

Anyway, as I’ve also mentioned, we learned how incredibly regional cuisine is, and one of the sauces we were not familiar with was Amatriciana. In it’s simplest form, crisp up diced pancetta, remove it from the pan. Use the rendered fat to saute onions and garlic, add tomatoes, a splash or so of wine, red pepper if desired, add pancetta back in, stir thoroughly and serve over pasta.

I often use the “party trays” for events that come with cheese and salami, etc., A few years ago as I was looking at the leftovers, I decided to do a variation of this sauce. I had salami, pepperoni, and ham. I thin sliced rather than diced. I crisped everything up and set that aside. I used one can of tomatoes,but in addition to garlic and onion, I added sun dried tomatoes and some roasted red peppers (we almost always have a jar in the fridge). In the way of most Italian sauces, this one is not long cooking. This can cook for as little as ten minutes before putting the meat back in. Give it a good stir, and cook another couple of minutes before serving over pasta. I didn’t give proportions, but one can of tomatoes basically manages enough sauce for 2-3 servings of pasta. In our case, I use a fair amount of meat, but that isn’t necessary.

Things Do Have To Give At Times….

Ah, there are often “ripple effects” that impact our plans and November is a prime example. The big scuba trade show is held in Orlando every other year and we always go. It’s a great time to meet up with people we sometimes only see there, attend interesting seminars, enjoy Orlando restaurants, and we often add on a day or two to do something at either Disney or Universal. We were all set to make our reservations when Hubby realized they changed the dates by a week this year for reasons that I don’t know. That put it in direct conflict with the NASCAR Championship Week. Aside from the fact Hubby loves to cover this, NASCAR has decided to rotate the Championship in the same way as other major sports. This will be the last time it’s held in Homestead for the foreseeable future since there are 22 other tracks where NASCAR runs. Therefore, there was no way the scuba show could have a higher priority. We’ll put out a Facebook post soon to let all our dive buddies know we won’t be around this year.

Next up are Thanksgiving plans. Our tradition is to go to Covington to see Hubby’s family. The ripple effect this time is going to be availability of that group due to some medical issues (nothing life-threatening) and other travel plans. I’m still trying to get a handle on all that. There are also multiple events here in November, some of which are overlapping although most just require some tricky scheduling.

Lastly is my anticipated publishing of, “Small Town Quilting Treasures”, the final of four books in the series. The editor had some events occur which delayed that process and it is highly questionable if I can do a Thanksgiving release. I didn’t have my heart set on that one, so I will simply adjust to whatever makes sense once I know what all has to be done with the manuscript.

About The Saints Football Team….

As I have previously posted, Hubby is the big football fan,but I’ve come to appreciate it more since watching with him. However, being in a traditionally male career included understanding enough about football to “join in” during social events that included watching a game. Also, when one grows up with a hometown/home state team, there is often a certain degree of fondness. I do believe I may have indeed posted about the Saints several years ago. New Orleans is a great place to visit and I did set “Georgina’s Grief” there and it does feature in some chapters in the upcoming, “Small Town Quilting Treasures.”

The team, though, does not have a long history of being a winning team. There was a time when faithful, yet sparse fans donned paper bags with “Ain’ts” written on them rather than Saints. On the other hand, New Orleans is a party city and partying in consolation works almost as well as celebration. They once hired a well-known coach to try and turn the team around. I knew it would not be a good fit because from my perspective, the individual simply didn’t have a compatible attitude with the fans. He was a good coach, by the way; just not the right one for New Orleans. Then along came the current coach and Drew Brees. I always find it fascinating when one or two individuals can have such a tremendous impact. There are those though who can definitely, “bring out the best” in people, or in this case, a team. Don’t get me wrong, there were other players and staff brought in to build on success, yet the real catalyst was Brees. Now, there is the other notable individual – Teddy Bridgewater – who’s stepped in when Brees was injured in only the second game. For people who knew his background, his superb performance is perhaps not too much of a surprise. For the rest of us, it has been. More importantly, the entire team seems to have stepped forward to prove they do not depend only on Brees. They won again yesterday on the road and have in fact won every game since Brees’s injury. Will it carry them through? Hard to say, but at least for now, they are on a roll.

More Unique Talent…..

As our Seminole Theatre enters the new season, the original director has gone on to greater things. That was to be expected at his age. He was immensely popular and the woman who was his assistant from almost the beginning and who has held multiple positions within the small staff is now director. They had worked together prior to his departure to select what is called the Showcase Series. Those are the major performances locked in for Oct-May, one or two which are well-known and also the most expensive. This year’s “big group”  is Asleep at the Wheel. Anyway, the others are a continuing search for a range of options to appeal to different audiences. Last night was Shana Tucker – Chambersoul Chronicles, a singer/songwriter who does jazz with a cello. That did catch people’s attention and she added to it by collaborating with a nearby community’s children’s group to incorporate them into a couple of numbers. It was a thoroughly enjoyable performance. She has a wonderful voice, engaging stage presence, and the children were quite talented. Unlike what I had thought, she opened the show and a few numbers later had the members of the Children’s Voice Chorus begin to sing from the back of the theatre and then come on stage for more.

As for the cello, she did use the bow, but played it more like a bass with plucking. In yet another unique aspect, she had some sort of synthesizer for one number where she literally recorded what she was singing, put it through to become just as if she had backup singers; all done flawlessly (at least to my ears). I don’t know how that technology works; only that it had a great sound.

Her background and the many musical/artistic endeavors she is involved with make for fascinating reading. That’s www.shanatucker.com

Trip, Day 7…..

The trip up was easy and uneventful, passing old familiar landmarks. There aren’t many motel choices in Minden and I waited too long to book the “nicest one”, but I like the alternative. There are also limited dining options, especially for someone alone and not needing to take leftovers. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, they did finally allow liquor by the drink although based on what I’ve seen, there may not be package stores. Those are in the adjoining town; a short drive to the west.

Interestingly, quite a few years ago, the gas station/food mart next to the motel where I mostly stay included a small café (no beer and wine) with food that quickly gained them a reputation. While they do have some packaged “grab and go” items, everything else is made to order and the menu has quite a variety of burgers and sandwiches, to include gator. Aside from the fact I can get gator in Homestead, it really isn’t something I am overly fond of. I am a bit surprised they don’t have catfish at this place, but I’ll be going to the traditional spot for that today for take-out for Daddy’s “treat lunch”. Anyway, the point is, this place is about more than good food. It’s friendly service and people who apologize when there are delays – which they try to keep to a minimum. I am only here a few days each year so perhaps they have “slumps” I’ve simply never observed. On the other hand, there was the year I was here four times and it was the same. I did indulge my “spicy taste” with the jalapeno burger last night and they were liberal with the peppers. As it turns out, my friend who would have made for my “seventh” meeting isn’t available tonight so I might stop in at the Italian place. That’s the one where they converted an old bank and the building is charming.

Trip, Day 6…..

Segment two, three and four of the trip are completed; five and six yet to come – may possibly squeeze in a seventh. Yesterday was pleasant although hot. Mariners on Sibley Lake continues to be a favorite spot for brunch and when you pick an early enough time, a table by the window is usually available. I have now had my next to last culinary “must” of Natchitoches mini-meat pies and they were as delicious as always. The prime restaurant for them wasn’t open on Sunday, but most everyone does well with them. My friends are doing fine and have a couple of nice trips planned for next year to include their first time to Paris. I’ll send some tips later as well as the link to the Paris card where they can get museum and Metro passes combined.

My aunt and cousins are also doing well; three of them came by for a visit and we all got caught up on everything. My aunt is adapting to her need to slow down and the massive pine tree in front of the house did have to come down since my last visit. By the time they carefully removed it and extricated all the roots, there was speculation a pool was going in. Not that it would make sense in that spot, but apparently it was a quite a large hole. The house – originally purchased by my grandparents – has been updated somewhat over the years, yet the welcoming front porch and much of the floor plan are still the same. The drive up to Minden was easy enough and I head out in a few minutes to go see how Daddy is doing. Not sure if will be meeting with another old friend either this evening or tomorrow; we’re trying to see if schedules will sync.

Trip, Day 5…..

As I have mentioned in the past, Natchitoches is the town in Louisiana where I lived the longest – 4th grade through college. Daddy was transferred to Minden (1.5 hours north) during my senior year of college. In leaving after graduation to go into the Army, I did not return for 20 years. It was, in fact, a high school reunion that coincided with our travels that brought me back into the “circle” of the three women I knew best in high school and college. I did use parts of Natchitoches in the creation of the fictional town of Wallington, Georgia for the “Small Town” quilting series. Aside from it being the oldest town in Louisiana (contrary to what some people believe about New Orleans), its modern recognition comes from Hollywood. That is the “Horse Soldiers” for the 1940s folks and “Steel Magnolias” for later generations.

Anyway, unlike so many towns that struggle with downtown revitalization, they have succeeded mostly by becoming a city of different festivals. The “Christmas Lights” – again made famous in the movie – had always been a draw and attendance literally exploded after the movie became so popular. Subsequently, the idea for even more festivals took hold and I’ve lost count of how many they have now. Like everywhere that does this, parking has become an issue, but there’s not much way around that. There is a charming art gallery and it’s another place where artists can choose to work in the store in exchange for exhibit space. The woman on duty yesterday also happened to have some notecards she and her husband had done. Since we don’t need more pieces of art at home, I always buy cards. Granted, the artist doesn’t make much, but it is a level of support.

Lunch with friends yesterday was in another fairly new place and the friend crawfish atop salad was good. Brunch is later today with other friends, then I will probably be off the grid until late Monday afternoon.