Christmas Traditions…..

The area for the tree is almost clear and we’ll probably decorate Saturday. We’ve had the tree a couple of weeks in the stand keeping it watered until we could get things rearranged. In watching a TV ad this morning, I was reminded of something from growing up. I don’t know who all had this and remembers. We had a special nut bowl made of wood with a center round piece where the nutcracker and six picks fit into. The grocery store carried bags of almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, and walnuts in shells and the bowl stayed in use from Thanksgiving through Christmas. (New Year’s was not really a thing for us.) Even though we did often have pecans during the year (lots of orchards around us), this particular blend was only available during the holidays.

I may have posted before that Christmas Eve was always at my maternal grandparents with the gift exchange of having drawn someone’s name at Thanksgiving. It was more a “grazing event” than meal with extra sweets. Papaw gave each grandchild a stocking filled with fireworks and that was the climax of the evening. (Lots of room in the backyard for the roman candles.) Then it was back there for Christmas noon meal. It seems to me Christmas morning was cinnamon rolls after opening presents, although I may be mis-remembering that one.

When I began to work parttime at a department store I would arrive for Christmas Eve later due to closing time and the drive over, but the store was not open in the days where basically nothing was as there were no 7-11 type places then.

Since the kids don’t come down now until after Christmas, our tradition is quiet morning and usually day if the friends who do the dinner have everyone in at 6:00. If it’s a noon meal, that gets us home around 4:00 for a quiet evening. The New Year’s Eve party we do will be small this year as two of the couples have moved away.



Musing ahead alert. There is an awesome principal at one of our charter schools which is a grades 6-12 academy and we have covered them a few times for the paper. We deal with a lot of the schools and when the principal reached out to the paper a few years ago, I wasn’t impressed with the location for reasons I’m not going to detail here. However, it was another one of those situations where I was so glad I went because the principal has made it her mission to provide what is in essence an educational opportunity oasis to students. We have some of the widest school choices in the country and charter schools are a major part of that. (I’m not going to get into the pros and cons of charter schools here)

The particular charter school company this school belongs too seems to be especially good and this principal is determined she will bring in every advantage she can for the students no matter what path they choose. Here is the link to the article we did last week, bottom of the page:

Going back to STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math curriculum which is all the rage (I mean that in a good way). STEAM is one of two things where A is either for Aviation or Art. As I have posted numerous times, trying to make a living in any of the arts is usually difficult, yet when the passion for art in whatever form exists in an individual, it is equally difficult to balance the need for a “practical” choice and fulfill the passion. Deriding or trying to suppress the passion is not something I recommend based on our experience. If I could go back and change one thing when son was in college, I wish I had accepted his request to swap to theater major with dance minor (major wasn’t offered). Insisting he do something more “practical” did not work for any of us.

Of Horses and Such……

I can’t claim to be a horse person as such although I appreciate them. Hubby, on the other hand, had bad experiences as a child and remains convinced they are always plotting to hurt humans. (That’s only a slight exaggeration). Anyway, I’ve mentioned Daddy grew up on a farm in rural Arkansas. Papaw had a horse that he used as both a plow horse for the twice a year prepping of the large garden and rode once or twice a day depending on which meadow he sent the cows to for grazing. Part of the fun in our visits was to sit on the fence in the later afternoon for “the round-up” when he would bring the cows in to the barn for the night. Giving us rides on Tony (the horse) was a bit of a process for him, but he would occasionally take time and let all of us have a turn around the fenced in area. I think the reason we never got into riding more was because a) that wasn’t the purpose of the horse and b) my oldest cousin did give it a try a few times and that didn’t go very well. (We weren’t around, but apparently the end result was a broken arm).

Moving on, when we were in Hawaii, I did take son for riding lessons and that continued briefly when we moved to Virginia. The lady giving the lessons relocated the horse and it wasn’t as convenient, plus son decided he was into other things. He did go on a couple of riding excursions on vacations, but never wanted more than that. In reality, “being into horses” definitely requires time and money, so that wasn’t something to urge him to reconsider. In looking at activities for the kids when they come after Christmas, I ran across the Redland Equestrian Center. They have a working farm as well as give regular lessons, etc., Granddaughter enjoyed going to the Pinto Farm a couple of years and this is kind of a “cut above”. It involves a two-hour tour of the farm, petting zoo, and so forth and a 20-minute guide-led horse/pony segment. That is, someone actually leads the horse/pony by the reins. I had sent the link to son and he said he thought they would enjoy. After having now booked them in, I realized I didn’t specifically ask daughter-in-law if she would. If the answer turns out to be “no”, she can let son and granddaughter do the horse part and share in the rest.

Enduring Movie….

I saw somewhere this is the 80th anniversary year of “Casablanca”. Aside from always loving the movie, it was the first one Hubby and I watched together at his place. The actual first movie we saw together was the comedy “Outrageous Fortune” when we had our first official date. Anyway, back to Casablanca. In reading the background, they apparently had no idea it would be as big a hit as it was and certainly wouldn’t have anticipated it would endure for decades. From my perspective, it had the most memorable “one-liners” until “Big Chill” came out. And the terms of, “Of all of the gin joints in all of the world,”; “Here’s looking at you Kid,”; “We’ll always have Paris,”; :”Shocked, shocked, I’m shocked to find gambling going on,”; and “Louie, this may be the start of a beautiful friendship,” have been used so many times in so many ways. I doubt anyone even knows how many times the song has been played. I can’t imagine ever watching it without tearing up at the final scene between Rick and Elsa.

It is a such an interwoven story of love, drama, world events, good versus evil, personal sacrifice, and redemption. Not being in the world of film, I can’t speak to all the aspects that is studied from that perspective. As much as I enjoyed Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, etc., in other movies, if forced to choose, it would have to be Casablanca as my favorite. I don’t know if young people watch it these days, but I hope so. I’ll have to ask the kids when they come for their holiday visit which is now less than a month away.


Thanksgiving Leftovers…..

 I suppose it is as much “Turkey Part 2” as anything. In having the meal, sending food/leftovers with friends and having turkey sandwiches Thursday night, there was a brief discussion yesterday as to if we had enough turkey for the traditional heat up leftovers. Hubby was concerned and I double-checked to reassure him. There was some ham although we are planning some of that for pasta matriciana next week. Anyway, it did work and in the gap I had late afternoon I retrieved the turkey carcass and put it on the simmer away to have the stock and get the last meat off for turkey soup which I will finish tomorrow to have ready for lunch. I am not a fan of dark meat, although I can do it in the soup as there are plenty other flavors to blend. Back before I was more careful with carbs usually did a turkey with wild and brown rice, corn, and some veggies or went more veggie heavy with potatoes. I think I’ve posted here before about finding the new line of “riced cauliflower” that works well in soups to provide body, plus extra veggies in a low carb way. That’s how I’m leaning at the moment as soon as I make a quick trip to the store for just a couple of things to hold us over. Regular grocery shopping is Monday or Tuesday, but we have some errands we really have to deal with Monday and Hubby’s wreck diving class he’s teaching (one of his favorites to teach) was rescheduled for Tues & Wed. He might take care of it Wed afternoon; we’ll see how long the errands take on Monday and work it from there.

Oh, and there is enough apple pie for him to have another three nights; another important part of the holiday meal.

Sort of Quiet Thanksgiving….

It does involve a 14-pound turkey though. This is one of the first Thanksgivings in a while Hubby hasn’t been asked to work most of it and the friend who usually does Thanksgiving dinner for our “group” wasn’t going to be able to. Additionally, our “group” has shrunk with the recent relocation of one who usually also had his daughter and sometimes son-in-law along. We offered to do the holiday meal and Hubby was concerned about getting a turkey. We still weren’t entirely sure of how many were coming to lunch the day I went  to the store and I thought it best to go a bit larger rather than smaller. This is why we have a 14-pound turkey. Hubby has decided on using dry brine (I think it’s easier to deal with although I don’t intervene in such decisions) and to fry. I’ve explained the frying process before and it is a kind of cool part of the holiday plus makes for an excellent turkey. I’m not doing anywhere near the variety of dishes of some and am sticking with the classics of stuffing – well, it’s more like dressing since you can’t stuff a fried turkey – a small ham, mashed potato casserole, green bean casserole, rolls, gravy, and cranberry sauce. Neither of us are pumpkin fans so dessert is apple pie and a friend is bringing a lovely cheesecake with lemon curd. Another couple we’re friends with are going to drop by for dessert if she doesn’t get overwhelmed in preparing their evening holiday meal. Even though the group will be small, I will send two meals worth home with the friend who is bringing the cheesecake and cranberry sauce, send two meals worth of leftovers with the other friend and take one meal’s worth to another friend on Sunday. That does equate to eight meals, the only difference being three of them won’t include anyone going for seconds.

And as of this morning, the weather is to be sunny and up to 84 so we will be having lunch on the covered terrace,

Changing Interests…..

Turns out our granddaughter won’t be in Nutcracker this year. She’s decided to try tap and apparently is liking it more than ballet. I’ve always been curious to see if she will stick with dance as she is literally growing up in the studio. She began to mimic movements about as soon as she could walk and quickly took to things as she could actually understand what they were. Even though three was the official age for kinder ballet, she was “playing at it” even before. With that said, her advantage won’t necessarily translate into a continued interest. Any parent who is realistic understands this although there is often a fine line between acknowledging a child should move on from an interest versus “don’t be a quitter”.

Our son was not a team sport player other than a couple of years in Little League. He was an okay player and it just wasn’t a good fit for him. Soccer was never much of an interest.Karate was where he did well from when we moved to Virginia all the way through high school. He did achieve his second degree brown belt, has a batch of trophies from tournaments and wasn’t far from black belt when he went to college (for that period), discovered dance, and utterly embraced that as I have discussed in numerous posts. I think the kids are philosophically prepared for granddaughter to not continue with dance if that is her choice, but it’s too early to try and project if that will be the case. I don’t know much about tap   even though they do always include it in the Spring and Fall shows.

Anniversary Time….

Thirty-four years; we chose a long weekend because back then, it could work well for the attendees and it so happened to be Veterans Day weekend. We did do the military wedding with the arch of swords as we exited the church and it was a beautiful afternoon. A slight chill, but lovely sunshine. Over the years we’ve had some memorable anniversary celebrations, but an ironic situation was in 1990. Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait in August and the initial response was the forward forces who went to Saudi Arabia to hold the line in Desert Shield as then Top Secret plans were being drawn up for Desert Storm part. We were in Germany with 2d Corps Support Command (2d COSCOM) with VII Corps set to add to their forces and deploy at a time yet to be determined. Hubby and his boss had been chosen by our one-star general to be the Forward Liaison for 2d COSCOM although we didn’t know the exact day they would leave. We were all working extra hours of course in different preparations and on the Saturday evening before our anniversary we decided to go out to dinner just in case. This was also in the days before cell phones. Our wonderful live-in sitter was at home with son as we walked up the street to go to the restaurant. The call for Hubby to be ready to depart Monday morning came as we were in fact close enough for us to walk back to the house, but the sitter said she would take the message instead. She wanted us to have that evening to ourselves.

Okay,  in a coincidence of timing, this year the Rum Renaissance Festival is our anniversary weekend ( We have a lot going on and decided not to try and do anything else big, but did have a lovely meal last night. I had the butcher at Publix cut us some filets and I have a great au poivre sauce recipe. There was some lovely asparagus as well and we did have a glass of champagne for “chef time”, then a nice Zinfendal with the steaks. The reason we had only one glass of champagne is because we had another one a few minutes ago when we did brunch. The Rum Festival is this afternoon.

Crawfish Now Available….

Actually, Hubby found frozen crawfish – yes from Louisiana – at Publix several months ago and we’ve had them a few times and they will be our dinner tonight. In the unlikely case you have never had crawfish, they do look exactly like tiny Maine lobsters. The legend is when the French were driven out of much of Canada and made their way to Louisiana, lobsters were so sad to see them readying to leave some of them made the long trek with them. The distance was so far, they diminished in size along the way until they finally arrived at the destination at only a fraction of their former size. Notwithstanding such folklore, they are delicious although there is one genuine drawback. There are only 1-to-2 bites of meat in each tail and the claws are so small you can rarely get anything from them. Now, I will declare with no shame that I do not – nor ever will – “suck the heads”. I won’t even explain it other than to say you are welcome to do an internet query about what some people claim is a culinary delight.

Okay, in having a crawfish boil, it’s the standard as with a crab or shrimp boil to toss the crawfish in a large pot of boiling water with small ears of corn, often small potatoes and chunks of Andouille sausage. Cajun seasoning and maybe lemon wedges provide flavoring, and the other ingredients might go in first for 15 or 20 minutes as the crawfish cook fairly quickly. Then it’s pile everything on platters or tables covered in newspaper or something similar and have lots of paper towels handy. Twist the tail off and peel away the shell. Melted butter, cocktail or remoulade sauce are standard condiments. I will be honest that if I want to do other dishes such as crawfish etouffee or pasta, I will look for packages of crawfish tail meat (difficult to find around here). Trying to boil up, then peel enough to get ready to cook another dish is simply more work than I want to bother with.

DEMA Trip, Day 4……

We made the decision to not stay for one of the sessions and came on back Thursday instead of Friday as originally intended. Hubby did have to run over before we left to get some shots of a particular rebreather they either carry at the dive shop or plan to – I wasn’t clear on that. We were on the road at the best time to be able to avoid peak traffic in Orlando and Miami. No weather issues either and made it back as smoothly as possible.

Our last night tradition is to dine at the Everglades, the fine dining restaurant at the Rosen. They have a beautiful large mural, another smaller one, sculptures of manatees and an alligator and a nice aquarium. The menu did not include venison this time and we both opted for seafood.They do make a delicious alligator chowder. Hubby had that as well as Chilean sea bass with tomato and artichoke infused risotto. I had the lobster bisque garnished with truffle and the swordfish with sauteed chard (gave that and the truffle to Hubby). It is the kind of place where they bring a dessert cart around and the coffee is served at the table in a French press. It is the one night we do share a dessert. There were fewer choices than in the past, however, the apple cheese cake was excellent. I’m still not quite sure how they did it because there were thinly sliced apples on bottom (similar to a tarte tartin). The topping was a lovely cinnamon apple sauce with walnuts.

It was a good trip as far as seeing several folks and meeting a few new ones. Hubby had a chance to talk to those about Horizon Divers and I gave out maybe a dozen bookmarks. The sessions we attended were good, too, and the only thing I didn’t accomplish was finding a t-shirt for granddaughter. There weren’t many booths with apparel this year. Finding an ocean-theme t-shirt around here for her isn’t difficult though.