Good and Better Dives……

Having missed diving in July, we managed to go yesterday in the hope I can also slip in a day in late August. I always try to dive on or close to my birthday, so it might all come together.

We did a repeat of last time with a trip to the wreck of the Benwood, then on to French Reef. There are nineteen different mooring sites on the reef and one of the Captain’s favorites is Sand Bottom Cave. There aren’t actually caves; more like thick arches to go through. Anyway, visibility was not very good on the wreck – not uncommon. There were the nice schools of fish and I saw all three types of angel fish; a French, then a gray, then a queen angel. There were quite a few butterfly file and a pair of file fish together. The resident turtle wasn’t around. Coral bleaching is a lot in the news these days. With the extended number of days of high water temperatures, there is some bleaching with the shallow corals and that’s what we saw. The deeper (below 30 feet) are mostly unaffected.

We had much better visibility on the second dive and some special treats. We see cute trunk fish on most dives and on this one we saw a larger variety, too; don’t have a photo yet as Hubby hasn’t finished with them. One of the other Horizon instructors found a big green moray tucked way up under a ledge and showed it to Hubby. I almost didn’t see it at first. It has been ages since I’ve seen a ray, but about five minutes after the eel, we found an average size one on another part of the reef. It was intent on something it was getting out of the sand and didn’t let Hubby disturb it so he got some good shots of it was well.

Scrawled Cowfish have pretty colors

We did have time for lunch after and went next door to Shipwrecks. They have been having real problems with getting food orders out. Hubby said we could see if it was better and it was. We did the usual with him a grilled mahi sandwich and blackened mahi basket for me.


Including Tips…..

As the population here increases and we’re getting more new restaurants, and there has been no genuine let-up with inflation, a number of restaurants have begun to include an automatic tip (service charge). Several of them previously noted that only for parties of six or more. The new practice is generating a lot of discussion among people who are fairly well split in opinion. We do have quite a few foreign tourists who claim not to know about tipping. I have always doubted that as most travel books include that kind of information. Let’s set that aside for the moment.

We always tip well (pretty much 20%) and there have been times when it was over-tipping considering the service, but that’s not the point either. The automatic tips being added here are mostly 18%, although one is at 20%. One friend in one of my three lunch groups especially doesn’t like it because she gives cash to servers. Ironically, I had started doing that if the tip less than $20 since I don’t know when I add it to the card, if the server gets the full tip or if the service fee is held back. Moving on to another issue though.

A number of the restaurants now also use the table side card readers which is nice. Except the software on the readers automatically displays blocks to touch to add tips; 10%, 15%, 18%, 20% and custom or No Tip. If an individual is not aware a tip is already included and hasn’t looked closely at the itemized bill, a second tip is likely to be added. I know of three or four people who have done this. To start with, “service charge included” should be clearly marked on the menu – each page of the menu. More importantly, the servers should explain the inclusion when they present the bill. I understand the human inclination to not do so and pretend it’s the customer’s fault for not paying attention and sure, it will work a few times. On the other hand, how many people will continue to patronize a place where this occurs?

Kids and Summer Camp….

I’m wrapping up a piece for the paper on a long-running summer camp that is only six weeks long, but it does provide enrichment for children ages 5-high school whose families would not otherwise be able to afford it. There are quite a few programs around that do assist with similar camps and we try to spread the word through the paper about these.

Further along the spectrum; granddaughter has her first time at a day camp this week. She was excited about the idea and we hope it works out. Her mom and dad are heavily involved in wrapping up the summer intensive dance camp and they need to be able to focus.

In looking back with what we did with son – and I may have mentioned this before – we sent him to multiple camps; all of which were science-type with the expectation he would be pursuing such a thing. Although he did love Space and Aviation camps, the Audubon and Marine Mammal camps were what led him to the plan of Wildlife Ecology. If you happen to be new to the blog, that of course derailed when he fell headlong in love with dance his freshman year at university and college went by the wayside. The utter irony is if we had had a clue, we could have put him into dance and performing arts camps and he would have had at least a chance of getting on the professional dance ladder at a much better time. Ah, the “you don’t know what you don’t know” truism strikes again. A potential irony which might not unfold for a bit is granddaughter has literally been raised in the dance studio and she’s already swapped from ballet to tap. Currently either of her planned careers include being a dancer. On the other hand, at age eight there will no doubt be other ideas to come about.

More Leftover Ideas…..

Restaurants often have some kind of a “mixed grill” and seafood places will have “Captains Plate” with different items on it. When we do Sonny’s BBQ, one of us frequently gets the Pork Three Ways which comes with some ribs, pulled pork, and sliced pork.

Last night I carried that idea into a leftovers dinner. We actually used some leftover steak on Monday to make carne asada. We also had a portion of chicken paprika and some grilled pork tenderloin in the fridge. Either could have been used for a lunch, but I had decided to do a combination instead. There was enough sauce in the chicken to be able to just slice it and reheat in the microwave. The pork was not sauced and would have dried out too much with re-heating. Jars of roasted red peppers are a pantry staple for us, so I took one out, added chicken broth, and white wine and blended it up for a sauce. I put that in a skillet, added a little salt and cracked black pepper, reduced the sauce by about half to give it more depth of flavor, then added the slices of tenderloin to cook on low heat for about eight minutes, turning it a few times.

There is a brand of frozen crispy green beans we like as well as red roaster potatoes with onions; both items bake at the same temperature. The potatoes go in ten minutes before the green beans and it all comes together nicely. It made for a nice-looking plate. While we normally drink red wine with grilled pork, Hubby agreed to Chardonnay in this case since we also had the chicken paprika.


Not the Same Town……

When I travel back to Louisiana to visit family and friends, the three (now will only be two) towns have different degrees of change. Minden, where Daddy lived, is a bit larger, yet not by much. Natchitoches, the historic town had changed more although not that it has lost it’s core nor has it become so populated as to strain the infrastructure. Many, the very small town where my mother was from, has few new things. It is in great contrast to Florida and especially South Florida where population is exploding.

When we moved here in late 2004, even though I was disappointed to learn this area is one of the only places on the East Coast that doesn’t have actual beaches, there were other aspects to enjoy. A fair amount of building was going on and as I have posted before, I wasn’t thrilled about living in a gated community. That, however, was the only viable choice for the type of house we wanted. It was enough of a small town to be reminiscent of where we both respectively grew up. As a quick reminder, the building boom went bust in 2008-2009, and was grim for people who were caught in bad timing. That cycle did pass and the book has come back multi-fold.

As always, it’s much faster to build houses than infrastructure and you can only do so much to improve traffic flow if you increase the density of traffic beyond a certain point. We may not be quite there yet, although crawling, stop-and-go patterns are common now in a number of places. There are those who have left, seeking somewhere else in Florida or neighboring states where growth is limited. Others are adapting, while those who recently arrive from even more crowded places find it “normal”. There are new services coming in as well which are generally more positive than negative. We shall see what the next few years bring.

New Owners of Red Crab……

Other than when we need fast food we prioritize dining at family-owned restaurant, but do have some franchises we frequent at times. I posted last year about how all of a sudden we were seeing the trend of crab places. We went from none to three in a couple of years. The first one is still good (Krab Kingz) and we use them for carryout. They aren’t exactly a sit-down place though and they don’t have wine or coffee. Then a Crafty Crab in Homestead and a Red Crab in Florida City both opened within months of each other. Red Crab is a little closer to us and we tried it first. It was okay, but they didn’t serve coffee so my friend and I tried Crafty next. The menus were almost identical, the ambience was better even though they didn’t serve coffee either. We tried Red Crab a couple more times, then decided not to bother with it again.

Maybe four months or so ago, I saw it was closed and wasn’t surprised. Then about six weeks ago, it looked as if they were open again. I didn’t think anything about it because there might just have been a building issue they needed to take care of. An individual contacted me recently and said friends of theirs owned Red Crab and could I maybe get them some publicity. I cautiously sent a text asking if they were new owners. That was a “yes”, so Hubby and I went for dinner. The ambience was like night and day. They also had an expanded menu and indeed have coffee as regular, espresso, or cappuccino. Service was fine and prices were essentially the same. It was a pleasant surprise and later this summer, I’ll do an interview for a  write-up for the paper. I have another one to do before them.

Another Week Zipping Past…..

For some people, summer is actually a bit of a break. That is most assuredly not the case for others. The areas that may not be as busy are overlaid by new ones or by either the ones on the “yes, I’ll get to it” list. These are the tasks that simmer along until such time as they really can no longer be avoided.This week has been a combination of the two. Ah well, we are at no risk of being bored in the near future.

After queries from a few fans I have begun work on Shades of Remorse, the fifth in the series featuring Police Detective Bev Henderson. As I explained to one of these individuals, I did not set out to write a series. My plan was for all stand-alone novels, but one idea led to another. As a reader, if I find a book I think is interesting and see it is a series, I try to go back to the first one instead to see if I like the writing and characters. As an author, it’s tricky to decide how much information to include about the characters and other background if a reader chooses to jump into a series beginning with a later book. Oh, I did plan the “Small Town” quilting cozies as a series so was able to set that up accordingly.

In this case, the long lapse between novels has to do with the structure of “Remorse” in order to tell the story in the way I should. I generally write in first person or dual Point of View depending on the book. This particular story requires writing with a triple Point of View and I’ve never done that. While I have the story pretty well outlined, there are a couple of gaps yet and rather than continue to wrestle with it, I’ve decided I have enough to start. The rest should develop as I work through the main and subplots. We’ll see.


About Stories in Bars…..

A conversation last evening set me to thinking about this. If you happen to be new to the blog, a quick bit of history of my writing journey. I was around ten years old when I knew I wanted to be a writer (Yes, influenced by Little Women). As a middle class, one-income, three children family, financial support for me to do that wasn’t going to happen and I didn’t want to do the “starving writer” bit. I had written short stories and some poetry of course although sadly, in the time before computers I lost the file in my subsequent moves. Anyway, I did tinker with short stories later, did some professional writing, and kept the dream of the novel for “some day”. Fast forward to my decision to primarily self-publish and thus the body of work I have.

I enjoy short stories though and am inspired periodically to write a new one. I did even have one published (“Ferris Wheel Love”) a number of years ago. A great many of my stories do take place or at least start in bars and that does come from the phrase of, “Write what you know”. Indeed for fans of my first novel, Orchids in the Snow, that combines my military background with the social aspects of the Officers Club. The list of stories and essays are in the Archives on my website,

Those that take place all or in part in bars written from early to later are: Come Here Often?, Draft With a Sprig of Mistletoe, Painted Cabanas, Twelve Pack Trip (not exactly in a bar), Closing Time, Closing Day, Running Yellow Lights, Forty-two Beers on Draft, Herding Seahorses, and Flight Delay.

Hmmm, just thinking about short stories might bring on another idea. We’ll see. Oh, there are also a couple that are really long, but generally 3,000 or so words in length.


Burgers on the Menu….

This is one of the rare Fourth of July times Hubby doesn’t have to teach/guide scuba. On the other hand, he does have to go to the big Race to the Fourth the city puts on at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Not a car race; music, vendors, fireworks later. In years past, they had a special event where people could go into the Champions Club and we would attend that usually with a few friends. I would stay there as Hubby ate quickly, then went out to get “cute kid pictures”, and re-set for the fireworks. The population has increased so much, they can’t have that event any longer and quite frankly, I’m past the stage where I want to spend three hours in the heat basically by myself. It is a fun time though for those that go.

So, we’ll do our burgers at lunch – potato salad and coleslaw as the sides and Hubby will go later for the photo shoot. I can see the fireworks from the house and I will put the apple pie in the oven to where it is still warm when he gets in probably around 10:00. I will try to still be awake although there is not guarantee of that.

We generally swap around three standard menus for the Fourth – burgers, BBQ, or fried chicken. They all work as traditional and whether just the two of us or if we have others over. There will of course be neighbors out on the street for the fireworks and the folks on the gate will be really busy as this is one of the holidays with lots of visitors. Fireworks will be going late as well and some of the internal displays are pretty extensive. Hmmm, that means I probably will still be awake when Hubby gets in.

Happy Fourth of July!

Speaking of Amazing Women….

100 women in almost 40 airplanes making a 2,684 mile race from Grand Forks, North Dakota to Homestead, Florida. Now that isn’t something you see everyday. The small planes, each with a pilot and co-pilot, left ND Tuesday, Jun 20, 2023 and had until Friday, Jun 23 at 5:00 p.m., to make the trip to be qualified to win. Programmed stops were Mankato, MN, Ottumwa, IA, Hastings, NE, Ponca City, OK, Sulphur Springs, TX, Jonesboro, AR, Pell City, AL, and Cross City, FL before arriving in Homestead. This was also the first time in the 46-year history they came as far south as Homestead. The race changes each year to different parts of the country. This is from the initial Press Release we were provided:

“he oldest race of its kind in the nation, the Air Race Classic traces its roots to the 1929 Women’s Air Derby, aka the Powder Puff Derby, in which Amelia Earhart and 19 other daring female pilots raced from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio. This year’s ARC celebrates the 94th anniversary of that historic competition, which marked the beginning of women’s air racing in the United States. Today, the ARC is the epicenter of women’s air racing, the ultimate test of piloting skill and aviation decision[1]making for female pilots of all ages and from all walks of life.”

There were of course weather issues and a couple of mechanical failures, but most arrived, tired, sweaty, yet successful. Since they all had different airplanes (quite a few Cessna 172s), there was a formula used in a controlled course prior to the start of the race to provide a “handicap” that was applied to the final flight information to determine the winner. Ages were mixed with college teams all they way into women in their seventies. Hubby was taking the article because it was definitely one that needed great photographs. There was one team in particular the paper was interested in as the pilot is a member of Rotary. Hubby began following her using the tracking system and with the delays, he had to finish teaching a class when the team was scheduled to land. I went out to snap an easy photo, get a few details and set up a time for Hubby to interview them that evening.

I spoke with several volunteers, mostly women, again in a mix of ages. It takes

One of the all women teams in the 2023 Air Race Classic

quite an effort to put something like this on and to have that many accomplished women in one place at one time is incredibly inspiring.


Air Race Classic Inc. is an all-volunteer, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization with a mission of encouraging and educating current and future female pilots, increasing public awareness of general aviation, demonstrating women’s roles in aviation, and preserving and promoting the tradition of pioneering women in aviation. For more information, go to Follow Air Race Classic on Facebook. On Twitter: @AuthenticARC”