Making Connections….

The phrase, “It’s a small world”, exists for a reason. I’ve previously posted about Robs Rums and how Rob and Robin Burr hold an annual Rum Festival.  In a discussion yesterday, I was explaining how we came to actually meet each other.

For reasons that are not important, when I spun the character of Chris Green off to make a separate mystery series with her as an underwater investigator (Deadly Doubloons, False Front, Georgina’s Grief and soon to be Idyllic Islands), I decided to also have her be a rum enthusiast. When Hubby and I began to spend time in the islands, he took up estate rum and I drink it occasionally. I knew a few of the rums and went on-line to search for a guide to expand my knowledge. This is how I originally found

I introduced myself via email and explained I wanted to reference his site in Deadly Doubloons and future books. That’s when I discovered he and his wife Robin were avid divers and had traveled extensively for dives. It also happened to be close to the time when they were having the annual Rum Festival and he invited us to be their guests. We went, but as happens, they were of course quite busy with the festival and we didn’t have a chance to link up in person. Fast forward several months and a girlfriend and I were having lunch. She said she had some friends she wanted me to meet – Rob and Robin Burr – because they recently relocated from Coral Gables to Redland and with our diving in common, she thought we would all enjoy each other. I explained we “sort of” already knew each other and we did schedule a lunch together not long after that.

“There’s Always Next Season”…..

Ah yes, the phrase spoken by millions of fans as the end of each sport’s year nears. In fact, I use this in my short story, “Midnight Pumpkins”. (It’s a fun read).

Anyway, I had so hoped my Saints would maintain the lead last night and pull off the win. The problem though is when one is in a playoff game against what is basically an equally matched team, mistakes will cost you. One or two are the most you can hope to recover from. There weren’t many more than that, but enough to mean the Saints’ season is over for the year. Now, I’m old enough to remember when making it to the playoffs was almost a dream – just having a winning season was considered something to celebrate. I sometimes wondered if part of the reason was New Orleans is a party town. One parties for a win of course. On the other hand, one can party to commiserate as well. There can be no question that Drew Brees as the quarterback has been the linchpin in turning the team into a contender for most seasons. With his injury earlier this year there is question as to if he was really healed enough to be playing last night and it is difficult to know what effect that might have had. There has also been a level of talk that this would be his last season in light of the age and injury. Ah, for those who don’t follow football, with Brees (age 42) and Brady (age 43) this was the first time two quarterbacks “that old” went up against each other in a playoff game. And the fact is, 40-anything is “old” in football years. While there will definitely be a “next season” for the Saints, we’ll have to see if the same is true for the player who has had such a major impact on the team.

The Great Chili Debate….

I was interrupted in posting this, so let me get it done this time.

As I may have mentioned before, aside from grilling, Hubby has a few dishes that are “his” and I do not mess with them.One is chili and as with many such dishes, there are variations and often strong opinions, and that doesn’t count the numerous Chili Cook-Offs. Some are of course community-based often as fundraisers and others are serious with significant prizes involved.

I may also have mentioned Daddy did a lot of the cooking until I began at a fairly young age – like nine – because Mother was often ill. Chili for us was with ground beef, onions, tomatoes, beans, and few seasonings other than salt pepper (red and black) and chili powder. We usually served it over rice and also with tamales. Now, for those familiar with the range of debate it starts with two issues – first is the use of ground beef and second is with including beans. A separate point is use of meat other than beef and I’ll get to that in a minute. Hubby adheres to the practice of no ground beef. He generally gets 3-4 pounds of steak and cuts it up rather than buy packaged pre-cut “chili meat”. He also uses the Carroll Shelby seasoning mix and yes, that is the Carroll Shelby of race car and Mustang fame. If he’s remembered to get them, he picks up a couple different fresh chili peppers. If not, he adds a can of chopped green chilies and we often have dried anchos or another in the pantry. He does use tomatoes of course and beans; sometimes black, sometimes kidney. We go with a medium heat and he adds hot sauce later as his tolerance level is higher than mine.

Okay, a quick word about meats such as buffalo and venison – they do work, but not something Hubby has ever substituted or even blended in. That leads to the recent discussion at his work about “white” or “chicken/turkey” chili. As I understand it, the one proponent in the group was quickly told that while it does include chili flavorings, it did not qualify to be called chili. As you can imagine, the same holds true of his opinion of vegetarian chili. And there may be a chili cook-off occur sometime in the future at the dive shop.

No Letup in the New Year…..

With Three Kings day behind us, the tree is waiting for bulk pick-up and I’ll put the ornaments away later this afternoon. It turns out brie does not freeze well and Hubby wasn’t thrilled with the idea of brie stuffed pork tenderloin so I scratched that idea. Ah well, he did like the leftover lemon chicken topped with Havarti and dill. In other words, leftovers are just about under control again.

Being asked to do an extra article again this week for the local paper kept me extra busy and that doesn’t count extra tasks I’ve had with a couple of the non-profits I work with. On the other hand, I don’t ever have to worry about being bored. The big thing for many of my older friends now is hoping the supply of COVID vaccine increases soon to allow them to be seen to. Most have been severely restricting themselves since March. The issue here of course is the large population of older people as Florida is very much a retiree state. Hubby and I qualify to be in a higher priority, but will hold back for a while to let those who are both older and in more vulnerable health get the shots.

I am in the final stages of editing Idyllic Islands before contacting the same publishing group I used for Shades of Deception. That should put me with a February release. This is one of the books where the reader doesn’t have as much information as usual about odd goings-on, however, I have been assured by the two people who have read it there is enough to pick up on. Unlike many of my mysteries, the second point of view is not told by the “bad guy” (okay, it was a “bad girl” in the last one). I do have to get Hubby to go through his underwater photos and pick one to be incorporated as part of the cover.

Okay, let me close this out before I fail to post again. And no, I haven’t seen able to go diving yet. Sigh!




Finding More Ways for Leftovers….

Ah yes, my consistent concern for not having enough food for a group does always lead to leftovers after any gathering. Some can go to neighbors and friends and I’ve about exhausted those avenues. One item I was able to freeze and will use at a later time. Last night was risotto cakes as the side for lamb chops and the remaining shrimp to make it a Surf and Turf. The extra cheeses call for several adapted dishes. Tonight will be the leftover lemon chicken nestled in peppers and lemon sauce topped by Havarti with dill. At some point there is likely to be pork tenderloin flattened, stuffed with sun dried tomatoes and brie and either roasted or grilled. The smoked Gouda will go in sandwiches Hubby has as his default lunch. Hmm, now that I think of it, I need to find a recipe for cheese sauce that can be mixed with either vegetables or soup as the thickener. I have not been successful in just using cheese as a thickener because it has a tendency to clump instead. I know I am missing a fairly simple step because a couple of restaurants around do a roasted red pepper and Gouda soup that is delicious. Since New Year’s Day was on a Friday and we had the traditional meal to include black eye peas, we didn’t order pizza. That means Hubby will be short on breakfast of his usual leftover pizza and can do an egg dish instead loaded up with cheese.

Let’s see – I’ve about covered the bases for that and all the sweets – most of which were presents – have a long enough shelf life to be parceled out over time. It seems as though last year they lasted until about Easter. We won’t have leftovers Wed since it’s Three Kings Day and the spicy Mediterranean seafood stew is what is likely to be on the menu. We generally have that for either Christmas Eve or Three Kings Day. What kind of creativity does everyone else bring to the table during this time?

When Holidays Are Tragic….

No, I’m not trying to be anti-holiday. I’ve seen multiple Facebook posts of people who have lost loved ones over the past few days. These deaths are never easy, but somehow when it occurs during a major holiday, it usually has extra impact. It can also mar that holiday for many years to come.

When I married my first husband, I was startled at the number of Christmas gifts; the regular one expected, but also one from the dog and Santa. I mean we were after all adults. And they were incredibly thoughtful gifts, the type someone puts time and effort into. Since we only had two Christmases together before he was killed, I never got around to finding out what that was about. Years later, my mother-in-law brought the subject up. As it turned out, her only sibling was a brother whom I knew had died fairly young. He contracted scarlet fever (I think it was) and died a few days before Christmas. Their father declared there would be no celebration of that or any other Christmas in the household. He never relented and so each Christmas was ignored. Once she left home, she was determined to cherish the holiday. Not that she didn’t love her brother, but she understood the two were not connected.

It isn’t just the person most affected in these cases; relatives and friends can sometimes feel awkward too about how to react. It is commonplace for the first major holiday (or any special day like a birthday) following a death to bring more pain. That can cause the individual to want to pull back rather than be around others. These feelings can be compounded if the individual doesn’t want to “spoil things for others”. If you find yourself in this situation, it is tricky. Inviting the individual for festivities and then being understanding if they decline is usually best. Or perhaps being able to have some sort of one-on-one interaction such as a luncheon can be good. It is possible the individual will want to express the sensation of additional emotion and a shoulder to lean/cry on is what is needed.

George Carlin’s “Stuff”…..

Comedian George Carlin did have incisive wit. I essentially no longer watch comedy sketches as they all seem to be either mean-spirited or so vulgar as to be disgusting. Don’t get me wrong – I curse profusely  – in fact I can’t think of a day that goes by that I don’t do so. Nor do I mind the use of profanity in a witty fashion. When one can’t manage more than two lines of dialog though or have a focus on sex and bodily functions, I do not find that to be clever.

Anyway, notwithstanding Carlin’s famous, “words you can’t say on TV”, (for those of a certain age), one of his funniest segments was about getting “stuff”. The idea is that most of us don’t have much “stuff” when we go out as adults. Sure, we may have left things with our parents, but we generally don’t initially move into a place that will hold much stuff. As we obtain stuff, we suddenly think/realize we need a bigger place. Ah, we have more room. Well then let’s buy more stuff. Setting aside the multiple sizes of clothes many of us have as we age, it is not always us simply getting more stuff. Items from other generations may begin to come our way, too. Although moving on average every two years in the Army had definite issues, there was the tendency to clear things out in conjunction with a move. In the same way, when we had to clear out the front room and kitchen during the remodel of our current home, I did give away a number of boxes of household items and few pieces of furniture. While I have held the line somewhat, I once again look around and know there are probably things that can go.

On a related note, and a topic I have posted about before, is the matter of books. None of us can bear the thought of throwing away a book, but finding a place to give them to is very difficult. This is one of the major reasons we have two Kindles. This allows us to get lots of new books with no shelf space required. What to do about the seven crammed bookcases we own is another matter entirely.

Practical Can Be Okay…..

I have previously posted about how years ago Hubby and I agreed the easiest way to do presents was not to try to surprise each other per se. In some cases – such as the most recent  drone acquisition, the research he completed about what type he might want coincided with upcoming birthday and anniversary. Easy choice there. Mostly though when it comes to Christmas, we each buy whatever we want for ourselves, and the “surprise” is the other individual doesn’t know what it is. The only rule is the item must remain wrapped and placed under the tree until Christmas. This is a very workable system although there was one year when I found the lovely pendant I wanted like in October and had to remember where I had it tucked away until December.

As it turns out, this year, I purchased an item for the guest bedroom – not to be revealed in this post – to use in anticipation of the kids coming for the holidays. In helping set it up, Hubby commented it seemed like a good thing. Ah ha, I later thought. Even though it is practical and somewhat mundane, that can be okay. This is assuming he was being serious in his comment, which I suppose I’ll find soon find out. In my case, I bought the new Escape and there is an item – technically a set of items – I wanted and again, yes, they are practical and also somewhat mundane, but I will enjoy them (at least I think I will). In all fairness, they have been advertised on television so I won’t be the only person getting them. Speaking of the Escape, I really liked my Fusion, and while there are a couple of features I do miss, those are  offset by others I didn’t have and things about the Escape I appreciate more. I have indeed become accustomed to some of the technology although I still have to learn to use a few other things.


About Traditional Sweet Potato Casserole….

We have a great local DJ, Doug (Dougie) Hitchcock, on Thunder Country. He does the late afternoon into 7:00 p.m. show and always has tidbits to share as well as good music. Right before Thanksgiving, he said that yes, survey results were that the favorite holiday meal side dish was the green bean casserole. I wasn’t surprised and the friends who hosted this year did theirs with bacon added. That was a variation we certainly enjoyed.

Moving on though to the traditional sweet potato casserole also usually found on the table/buffet line. Notwithstanding our deep Southern roots, neither Hubby nor I are sweet potato fans. We definitely don’t like the usual method of adding even more sweetness to with brown sugar or maple syrup and topping with marshmallows. However, a few years ago Hubby ran across a savory version that included part of a chipotle pepper in adobe and lots of cheese. Now in all fairness, any time you use chipotle, it can be tricky because the peppers vary in intensity of heat. An option is a quarter teaspoon red pepper flakes or leave it out altogether. The rest of the recipe should work if you prefer no heat. I do take a short cut as our Publix has containers of mashed sweet potatoes in refrigerator section.

Step one. Rough chop half a small onion. Peel two whole cloves of garlic. Coat with favorite olive oil or use olive oil spray and roast in 350 oven approximately 20 minutes until caramelized and soft. Mash the garlic with a fork and mix in with the onions. While those are roasting, take one container of prepared sweet potatoes. Follow the directions for microwaving them for 1-2 minutes less than the full time. When partially cooked, place the potatoes in a bowl. Stir in two tablespoons butter/margarine and half teaspoon kosher salt. Add the roasted onions, garlic and spicy pepper (if desired). Stir in 1 cup grated cheese (whatever you like; we use a six-cheese Italian blend). Put mixture into buttered casserole dish and top with grated Parmesan (can use any hard Italian cheese). Baked covered (can use foil) for 25 minutes and check. If top not lightly browned, bake for another 5-10 minutes uncovered.(You may need to add 1/4 milk to mixture before baking if it is really stiff. The butter and roasted onions/garlic should give enough moisture)


And Now For the Drone….

I knew the odds were Hubby would eventually want a drone. I suppose we loosely categorized it as his present for his birthday/our anniversary since the two things are about a month apart. You probably can’t see it well in the photo, but I can’t find the shot he took of just it. So, as it turns out, not surprisingly, there are all sorts of different license categories. In his case, since he will use it at times in a commercial capacity, he fell into whatever category that is. It included him having to take a particular test that was administered at our small airport at the Executive Jet Center.

There are all sorts of restrictions – as there should be – about heights you can fly the drone and obviously places. Interestingly, they are prohibited in National Parks. Apparently, when they first became easily accessible, there was real or perceived  harassment of wildlife to bring about the rule. He studied up for his test and of course did well and his real card came in yesterday to take the place of his temporary. His first “commercial” use of it was for the December 5th, Holiday on Krome Ave Drive-thru Parade where he did get some great aerial shots.

Roughly speaking, he can shoot from I think it’s 400 feet and down. Because of our closeness to Homestead Air Reserve Base (HARB), large sections around here fall under extra restrictions, but as with so many things these days, there in an on-line form to fill out to receive permission to still fly within certain parts. Downtown Homestead falls into that sector. It is several miles from HARB, so permission is pretty routine. It really is too bad the kids aren’t coming this year for the holidays; I can just imagine how much drone flying would be going on. And no, I have no interest is messing with this thing.

Hubby with drone; Nov 2020