Pumpkin Season…..

I have previously posted about one of the aspects of living in South Florida is the lack of traditional “seasons”. In many parts of the country, this is the time of crisp fall mornings with smoke wafting from at least some houses and brilliant colors are seen as the leaves change. Treks are often made to pumpkin patches to pick out decorations as either just pumpkins or to create jack-o-lanterns and perhaps homemade pies, bread, etc., While I appreciate the decorative characteristics, other than roasted pumpkin seeds, neither Hubby nor I care for the taste of these famous gourds. I know it’s strange and I have friends and relatives who welcome the array of pumpkin-flavored items. I will admit my former mother-in-law did make a pumpkin chiffon pie that was mild in flavor so that when combined with graham cracker crust and the meringue topping, it was enjoyable. And a neighbor from another time did a pumpkin cheesecake that was also mild enough for us.

We actually eat pumpkins seeds routinely either as a snack or in a salad. We made a couple of attempts roasting our own and fairly quickly decided it wasn’t worth the effort. Since I don’t do any of the pumpkin items I  don’t know how many people bother with true “made from scratch”. If one goes by the many cans stocked in the grocery store, I assume most people opt for that approach. And speaking of real pumpkins, I saw a post on Facebook the other day that said if you are in an area with chickens, rather than tossing out jack-o-lanterns, give them to someone with chickens. Apparently they don’t even need to be cut up, as the chickens will peck away at them. I don’t know if it’s true, however, it does sound reasonable.

A Special Diamond….

I’m not sure what prompted this thought; probably a TV ad about a jeweler. While I don’t necessarily agree with the “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” sentiment, I do like  them and for those who have ever lived there, diamonds with one’s jeans are common accessories in Texas.

Anyway, in looking at my quarter-carat ring, I recalled a couple of friends that also involve “special stories”. In one case, a friend was coming up on their twentieth wedding anniversary. She was hoping her husband would ask what she wanted which was to up-size her original ring to a full carat. As it turns out he surprised her instead with a very thoughtful different piece of jewelry which she did appreciate. That’s been quite a few years so I don’t know if she ever got the larger diamond. In the next case, the husband frequently bought jewelry as a present and therefore he had a good relationship with the jeweler. I don’t recall what the actual occasion was, but when he came home with a two-carat ring to replace hers, she was stunned. Although he did say he got it for a good price, it was definitely unexpected and she said it took her a few months to actually become accustomed to wearing it.

Now, the reason I have a quarter carat – and don’t want anything larger – is because I am tough on jewelry. I did have a larger one from my first husband and didn’t want to do the same thing again. The story with that diamond is it was his paternal grandmother’s and he had it re-set for me. It was lovely in white gold with two very small diamonds on either side of it. I continued to wear my rings for about a year after he was killed, then placed the rings into my safe deposit box in Louisiana. Three years ago when I went for my annual visit, I retrieved the ring and took it to my jeweler here. We picked out a white gold chain and he made it into a pendant. I wore it to son’s ballet performance the year they had to use an alternative theater because the one at the Kennedy Center was being renovated. I  explained to him what I’d done and said at some future point in granddaughter’s life, I would give it to her to continue the family heirloom. I have no idea yet what the occasion will be, but it will be something as special as the diamond is.

New Grill On The Way….

Hubby’s birthday gift was easy this year. The grill needed a replacement part not long ago. When the wrong part was accidentally ordered and received, it then became a question of was it better to just replace it? I pointed out birthday was coming up, so voila!, question answered. The next question was whether to stick with the same brand or change. Let me say I’ve never owned a grill nor cooked more than I think one thing on a friend’s grill. I may have posted before that I know a few women who have mastered this type of cooking and I have very occasionally, and briefly, considered it.

Hubby, like many, started with a hibachi when he was on his own and then moved up as he had the space. I don’t know when he swapped from charcoal to gas. We have friends who prefer the old-fashioned method or who simply don’t like to mess with propane, but Hubby enjoys the ability to come up to temperature faster and the control of gas. He almost always buys a grill with the side burner too, even though he doesn’t use that often. He has had multiple brands over the years, to include a Weber, and he’s decided to go again with the Charbroil (or whichever main brand Lowe’s carries). The fact is he grills at least twice a week, often three and sometimes more, so the “life” of the grill for him is measured more in service than time.We do also have a smoker which I think could use replacing, but he rarely takes the time for smoking so that may not happen. As I have posted before, the turkey fryer gets used a few times a year and that is quite the process.

Anyway, new grill is scheduled to be delivered tomorrow, the day before his birthday. We haven’t had fish yet this week and the plan is to inaugurate it with a tuna filet for him and swordfish for me. (This is one of those situations where we happen to have one of each left from a three-pack)

Farewell to Cicely…..

I’ve written few posts based on watching the entire television series, “Northern Exposure” about the quirky characters and goings-on in the fictional Cicely, Alaska. It’s always interesting to see how they choose to close out a series and after six seasons, there were some definite “loose ends” to resolve. This one was done well with an montage of scenes at the end shown as an intriguing song played. I didn’t catch the title, but it contained the lyrics of “sun setting on our town”.

The problems plaguing four of the couples were happily resolved and two of the characters continued in their lives without partners although that was more in keeping with the way they had been portrayed throughout the series. Two of the four couples were older; one in their respective 70s. A recurring theme in the series had been to candidly address older characters with their perspectives often providing insight to younger characters. It was rarely couched as advise; rather as observations which frequently included consequences of decisions made years prior. One of the aspects of the writing  I enjoyed was those exchanges reflected a mix of good, regrettable, and surprising outcomes as the characters explained why they’d made the decisions they did.

And speaking of outcomes and endings, it did bring to mind my agreement to change the ending of my first novel, Orchids in the Snow. I originally had the “mega-happy” wrap-up and the editor acknowledged that was acceptable, yet suggested I reconsider based on the character of the strong female who was almost a co-protagonist. I debated the issue for a while and then realized poignancy was probably a more reasonable approach. When I discussed this later with different readers, opinions were pretty evenly divided as to which ending was preferred.

It Could Be Worse…..

Having unexplained car troubles is annoying, especially if it involves needing a tow. On the other hand, when I went out Monday afternoon to head to Publix and the vehicle wouldn’t start, I naturally assumed it was the battery since it hadn’t been driven for almost a week. Technically that should have been correct as it is a 2020 and doesn’t have enough miles for the battery to be down. Weird things can happen and so it was. Hubby was working all day, but neighbor was in and the first jump got me cranked. Except, in an utterly puzzling twist, that didn’t “hold”. Okay, we all know you sometimes have to let it run a few minutes. Except as I sat inside, I realized none of the instruments were on – not a single one nor was anything functioning even though the engine was running. By this time the other neighbor pulled up and we all puzzled at the oddity. Sigh! As Hubby was scheduled to work all the way through Thursday, now I’m into the will-need-a-rental car plus get vehicle towed. In light of the oddness of the situation, I decided to arrange everything for yesterday morning. Got all set into motion. When Hubby came home and I described things, he of course had to see for himself. (I can’t blame each person who knows anything about vehicles from thinking I am overlooking something.) The tow truck driver did the same thing initially yesterday as it cranked when he put the battery charger on it.

As annoying as this is, it would have been far worse had I made it to the grocery store and been parked between other vehicles with my perishables. Although the tow guy was available for an early morning tow, that is often not the case in the afternoon when the average time is 60-90 minutes. Hope to have the problem identified today and that part or parts are on-hand.

Louisiana Trip, Day 5…..

Birthday arrived yesterday and Daddy made it for over an hour before he tired and needed to return to his room. He enjoyed cupcakes, ice cream and the lady who does his hair every few weeks brought by some treats as well. One was an unbaked cookie ball rolled in coconut that tasted a great deal like a lemon tart. We had about nine of us there and a couple of the residents also stopped in the activity room. Through a very strange situation, my sister and brother-in-law didn’t make it after all and the step-sister in Texas had previously said they couldn’t come. The idea is both those sets will try to coincide a visit in a few weeks. The youngest whose name I have forgotten meant we had four generations represented; not unexpected when the oldest is 97. The rain did stop prior to everyone arriving and with the sun out, it was a bit steamy although we  were inside so it didn’t matter.

Brother and I went to my favorite Mexican restaurant last night. Not that we have a shortage of Mexican restaurants in Homestead, but my sister-in-law doesn’t care for the cuisine so it was what he wanted to do. There are actually four good Mexican restaurants in Minden/Dixie Inn; three of which serve alcohol. (One does have to have one’s priorities). My favorite doesn’t have quite as much atmosphere as the one downtown, however, they have a signature dish I really like. It’s a “Ranchero style” with either chicken, steak or shrimp, and has a little tomato, roasted green peppers, onions, all in a cheesy sauce (not heavy). The flavors are well balanced. Oh, and when they put the basket of tortilla chips on the table, they are often still warm from the fryer. And yes, the salsa is homemade.

Louisiana Trip, Day 3…..

The motel complex where I stay in Natchitoches is out on the I-49 exit where seven different motels are and multiple food and fuel options. I took an early morning walk through adjoining parking lots watching a variety of vehicles getting their start. Not surprisingly, there were several trucks with bass boats, plenty of 18-wheelers, and numerous classic cars parked as their events weren’t starting until later in the morning.

I met my high school friend and her husband for lunch at El Rio, a fairly new Mexican restaurant on the north edge of town away from downtown which was being closed off for the car show. It was a pleasant place, good food and they had tales of their recently completed (as is Wed) 4,000+ mile trip. They basically did the “Lonesome Dove Trail” going from Texas up into Montana, Dakotas, etc. Lots of photos to go through and her husband made detailed notes of places stopped, time between points and so forth. My friend’s daughter has now returned and is working in the library so we swung by to see her, then went to their place for coffee.

I made it over to Many about 3:00. Only two of my cousins were able to come around, but at times that’s better than the whole group as we were able to get all caught up. I did manage to get in before the downpour that lasted almost an hour. With just my aunt and I for dinner I drove her the 20 minutes to Toledo Bend Lake and the restaurant close to the big bridge. She had fried oysters and I did the catfish/shrimp combo. We talked for a while longer after we returned and then we had breakfast together this morning. My cousin who lives next door came over for a bit before I headed back to Minden. My brother and I went to lunch a bit ago and will leave for the “party” in half an hour.

Louisiana Trip, Day 2…….

Some emotional content. Day 2 was good. Checked out of the motel and verified will have room when return there tomorrow to meet up with sister, brother-in-law, and brother. Arrived at the assisted living facility and met the woman brought on to sit with Daddy from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., either three or four days a week. She works independently and has the right kind of personality for caring for older patients. Many of whom she has of course “lost” over the years. I would imagine she treats them all in the way she seems to treat Daddy. There were actually only a few faces I recognized from previous visits and the two other gentlemen that used to sit at the same table are no longer there. Okay, enough of that. Daddy was asleep in his chair in his room when I arrived and it took him a couple of minutes to “orient” after he woke up. Part of it was he didn’t know I was coming for a visit. I caught him up on everyone although did not tell him about the planned party tomorrow. I don’t think he would remember if he was told, however, I followed the request to keep it as a “surprise”. He did want me to go get catfish for lunch and we sat in the dining room where he also enjoyed the lemon pie on the regular menu as well. It turns out they have started serving catfish sometimes there, too. I didn’t stay as long as in previous visits because he was tired again after lunch and needed another nap.

The trip down to Natchitoches was easy and as I passed the small ranches (beef cattle, not dairy), there were Texas longhorns in one pasture. They are impressive animals. The annual classic car show is this weekend down on the riverfront and there were a few in the parking lot of the motel. Most will arrive today. I was here one year for it and people come from lots of different places. The first of my high school friends are redoing their kitchen and it will be really nice when they finish. The new granite countertops are in place, most of the tile for the backsplash, the fabulous new gas stove that also has an air fryer in the oven and the kitchen island is almost completed. We went to a new restaurant downtown; Mayeaux’s, which is supposed to have really good steaks. Although I was planning to try one, I the saw one of their redfish specialties. Despite the great seafood we get at home, redfish is not one of them. It was lightly fried then topped with a creamy sauce that included shrimp and crawfish. I mean, how would I pass that up? We went back to friends’ house for coffee and more conversation. They missed seeing Hubby and perhaps next year we’ll work the schedule to both come.

Louisiana Trip, Day 1……

I can’t imagine why I booked the later flights today and decided to come on to Minden for the night. I should have booked into the Bossier City Hampton Inn since I won’t go to see Daddy until around 9:00 in the morning and it’s less than 30 minutes from Bossier to Minden. Ah well, a reminder for next time.

Anyway, things were okay at the airport; used the local driver who is a pleasant young man. Hubby was off today, but he won’t be around Monday when I return, so I decided to use the driver for both days. Flight was a little late leaving although they did make up time. Connection for the second flight was really tight and I hate rushing through airports. Had turbulence on both legs; not as bad as some I’ve been in, but definitely bouncy for a fair amount of the way. The part of Minden where the two nice motels are actually have no restaurants close by and by the time I checked in I didn’t feel like changing and going into the downtown area. There is a sort of grill across the road at a gas station that does good burgers and sandwiches so that was dinner tonight. I’ll make up for it tomorrow when I take my friends out to Mariners in Natchitoches. That’s a restaurant on Sibley Lake and is in at least the top three of the town. I think that’s where we’re going; a new favorite may have opened since I didn’t make it last year.

Made My September Dive…..

With my upcoming trip, I was concerned that September might slide by without me getting into the water. I do normally avoid diving on the weekends as it tends to be more crowded on the boats, but yesterday worked out. In fact, there were several Horizon Divers “family” (in one case literally) on board. Hubby had students for the morning dive and stayed down as I joined him for the afternoon. The water temperature was still good, there was basically no wind and it was mostly sunny. Visibility was pushing seventy feet and even though we didn’t see anything “big”, the usual array of marine life was around. The “bonuses” were a nice green moray eel and a small spotted one on the first dive, then a reef squid and a large scorpion fish on the second. We think Hubby got some good photos and won’t know for sure until he has a chance to process them.

There was a bit of current on the second dive although it was quite manageable and no surge. The elkhorn coral on the second site is some of the best in the area and I did find yellow-headed jaw fish on both dives. They are some of the most enjoyable small fish to observe and I’m sure Hubby has lost count of how many photos he has of them. The phosphorescent  blue chromis are other favorites of mine and I even saw some juveniles which are really small. A couple of people did see a reef shark, but missed the squid. That’s often the way with dives as everything depends on where you are at any given moment on a site. I was able to point put the green moray to two different sets of divers to “share” the find.

Rock Beauties are the smallest of the angel fish we have on our reefs.

Chromis are seen on most of the local reefs.