Sunday, December 31, 2017

Ode to 2017

Ode to 2017

Posts this year were slim within my blog,
Life got in the way and of my time was a hog (or maybe I was just lazy, 
who knows, it's all kind of  hazy).

I wished to share more, with pictures to boot,
To lament this now is a point that is moot.

I did share some things and some things were missed,
The following lines name just a partial list.

I told some of my tale with the aid of Story Corps,
A calendar girl and parade member, in colonial garb I wore.

I had lunch with George and Martha Washington,
Visited real and imagined Calusa villages, what fun!

Sawfish DNA for science The Colonel and I did share,
A visit to the Bell Witch's cave gave us a little scare.

A trip to Charleston, discovering real pimento cheese, so filling,
With DAR friends I learned the old art of Quilling.

Funding and writing local markers historical,
Braving historical Hurricane Irma without becoming hysterical.

A family trip with a purpose to Key West,
To bury Darling-Sister-In-Law, she was the best.

My hopes for my writing in 2018 are to be more prolific,
And my wish to all is that the New Year be happy, healthy and terrific!


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Roughly three years ago, Yam stated the desire to have a cat and as luck would have it, a young, black one had shown up in our backyard a few weeks prior to her proclamation. The Colonel called him Henry.

Henry looked very similar to Shadow; a cat that had been hanging around our yard a while before Henry's arrival. We all agreed that Henry was probably the offspring of  Shadow. Their facial structures were very similar and their personalities were also very similar...sweet and loving.

Yam would come over after work to spend time with Henry. She eventually made a vet appointment for him to have him looked over, neutered, chipped and vaccinated. All went well and she was able to take Henry home. He is still a sweet and loving cat. Being a house cat agrees with him. He has filled out and has become a very handsome boy. When you pet Henry his fur feels like a mink coat.

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, a young, gray cat showed up in our backyard. He was sitting in the grass just looking at The Colonel and I. The Colonel went to get some cat food (he always has some on hand). He opened the can and put the cat food on a paper plate. He set the plate a few feet from the back porch steps and called for the cat. The cat ran to the plate and gobbled up the food. The Colonel opened up another can which the cat too gobbled up.

We called the cat to us and to our surprise he came without fear and let us pet him. He loved the caresses and ear-scratches. He came to visit us everyday. He liked to be near us. When The Colonel was rebuilding a porch swing for a friend, the cat was under his feet.

Yam was not aware of the new cat at our house but one day while we talked to her she said that she was entertaining the idea of getting another cat. We told her about the new cat. Yam came over to see him. She liked him and he liked her. She decided then that she wanted to "adopt" this cat.

Yam asked if we could bring him into our house so that nothing would happen to him while she made a vet appointment for him. We said of course. He fit right into the house cat role. He picked the most comfortable seat in the living room, my Lazy Boy recliner. He slept in our bed (especially on my side. He could not be far from me at any time, day or night).

Yam decided on the name James for her new cat. Since her other cat was named Henry, she wanted to continue the kingly names. She researched the names...Henry means "Ruler of the house" and James means "Supplanter, one who follows or overthrows". How were they going to get along when the time came to introduce them?

Yam was able to make a vet appointment for James on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. She had to work, so The Colonel and I took James to the vet early that morning. All of James' blood work was good, so they were able to neuter, chip and vaccinate him. We picked him up around 2 p.m. and brought him back to our house. 

The next day was Thanksgiving. Spud came into town from Jacksonville. Yam and my in-laws came from in-town. We had a lovely lunch with all the fixins. James did not mind the full house. Everyone loved James and James loved everyone.

When it finally came time for Yam and my in-laws to head back into town, Spud went to stay with Yam. He was going to help her with the task of introducing the "boys" to one another over the long, holiday weekend. I missed having James around me.

Spud stayed in the guest room with James. Yam and Spud slowly introduced the boys to one another, as did The Colonel and I the next day when we went for a visit. James was eager to meet Henry and would chatter to him from the other side of the door. The Colonel and Spud went to The Home Depot to get a piece of wire shelving. Yam used it to make a barrier between the boys; they could see one another but not get to one another. There was very little hissing or growling form either cat. Finally the shelving was removed and the boys were able to get near one another (if they wanted to). Yam reported no major fights.

The Colonel and I visited Yam and the boys last week. The boys were getting along nicely. Henry licked and head-butted James and James did not flinch. Yam texted the following photo to us the other day. It is entitled "Nap time"...

Looks like the boys are getting along nicely (despite their kingly names).

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Marking History

I have been waiting for 28 months...finally, today, "my" historical marker was unveiled and dedicated.

Back in early 2015, The Colonel (who chairs the Historical Advisory Committee (HAC) for the county) told me of a new historical marker that was being proposed. It would mark the WWII military history of our local airport.

The Colonel said the HAC was looking for a sponsor for the marker. The marker would cost $2,200.

At the time, I was a trustee for my deceased father's foundation. As a trustee, one of my duties was to make grants to non-profit organizations. I chose to have the foundation sponsor the marker.

Now that a sponsor was found and the marker paid for, The Colonel informed me that the verbiage for the marker had to be written. He handed me a thick stack of paper and each piece of paper was filled with military facts about the airport's historical past.

"Will you write the verbiage for the airport marker?"

"Sure. I have never done this before. What does it entail?"

"Read through all of these pages and distill the information to no more than 1,235 characters".


With my "marching orders" in hand, I began to read through the stack and to distill the facts.

I worked on the verbiage for a couple of days. The Colonel liked what I wrote. He took it to the next meeting of the HAC board for its approval. They accepted it and signed off on it in May of 2015.

Next writing to be cast in metal for an historical marker at the airport.

The marker was ordered and delivered to the county. It was slated to be dedicated in July of 2015 (four months was the usual time span for approval to dedication of a marker).

28 months later...November 2017...The dedication of "my" marker...

(Yam designed the dedication program)

It was a beautiful morning at the airport and a nice crowd showed up for the dedication. My Favorite-In-Laws were there too.

The high school NJROTC Color Guard posted the colors, the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance and then we watched as two old "Warbirds" perform a fly-over before the dedication began.

The Colonel gave the welcome and introduction at the podium.

He was followed by Commissioner Deutsch who spoke about the Historical Marker Program, Mr. Andrews of the Airport Authority who spoke about the roles of the airport, Dr. Carlson a history professor at Florida Gulf Coast University who spoke of the historical significance of the airport and finally Mr. Scott, Director of Community Services (Yam's big boss) who gave the closing comments before the unveiling of the marker.

Usually the sponsor of a marker is listed in the program and is mentioned during the dedication. I was not listed in the program but the Commissioner did introduce me and have me stand up. His introduction was odd though. He sits on the HAC with The Colonel, so they know and like one another, and his introduction went something like this:

"I want to thank The Colonel's wife, Bird, Bird please stand up. Thank you for being behind this marker and behind The Colonel. Thank you for allowing him to get out of the house and do the things he does for the county".

Odd and a bit awkward. His words made it sound like I am an iron-handed wife and controls when The Colonel can leave the house. Again, odd and a bit awkward.

The Colonel and I are both glad that "my" marker is finally dedicated.

 It has been a long time in coming. Some of the reasons for the 28-month delay are chalked up to Airport Authority issues and county employee issues.

I have written four more historical markers for the county. One about the railroad town of McCall, which no longer exists and one about the Hickory Bluff Mound, an ancient Indian mound along the water that no longer exists (The Colonel and I gifted money towards this marker and my DAR chapter is the sponsor) and one for the Hickory Bluff Cemetery, a pioneer cemetery of African Americans and the Lt. Carl A. Bailey Cemetery, an African American cemetery that is still used today.

I have no idea as to when these two markers (McCall and Hickory Bluff Mound)  will be dedicated. The park where the Hickory Bluff Mound marker is to be placed was damaged by Hurricane Irma in September. The marker cannot be placed until the damage has been repaired.

The Colonel and I always stop to read historical markers when we see them. We like to learn the history of the places. It makes us happy to know that we contribute to the historical markers in our county by funding and writing them. It makes us happy too to know that others will stop by these markers and learn about our local history and that these markers will still be here once The Colonel and I are history.

Below is the verbiage I wrote for the airport marker (notice the year on the marker):

Punta Gorda Army Airfield
World War II

In May 1942, the Army Air Corps chose this site for the Punta Gorda Army Airfield (PGAAF). Construction began that October at a projected cost of $700,000.

The Army Air Corps activated PGAAF on December 11, 1943 with a mission to train pilots for overseas duty. The first student pilots arrived in February 1944. Average class size was 30 students per squadron. This included the 490th Fighter Squadron and the 502nd Fighter-Bomber Squadron. Over 750 student pilots completed 15 weeks of training at the base. There were six training-related deaths. Pilots flew the Curtis P-40 Warhawk and the North American P-51 Mustang.

The Army Air Corps assigned 44 officers and 1,097 enlisted men as permanent staff. The base had 61 service buildings including hangars, repair shops, chapel, theater, mess hall, and classrooms. Personnel lived in 268 “hutments” consisting of wooden lower halves and canvas tops.

PGAAF contributed to the victory in World War II and was deactivated on September 1, 1945, one day before the surrender of Japan
Today the Punta Gorda Airport serves our community through both private and commercial aviation.

Charlotte County Board of County Commissioners, 2015

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Halloween and History

Once again, Halloween has come and gone.

Throngs of people (costumed or not), with or without costumed kiddies in tow (or in strollers), shuffled along the streets of the historic section of our town and begged candy from people in decorated houses along the way.

Once again, The Colonel, Yam and I (costumed) joined the throngs.

On Halloween night, when I was a child, I would be too excited to want to eat supper. I just wanted to put on my costume and pound the pavement for candy. Mom said we could not Trick-or-Treat until we ate and until it was dark enough (usually around 6:30 or 7:00 p.m.).

This Halloween evening found me excited (mainly agitated) around supper time again. The Colonel and I had worked all day at the museum (10 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.). We had made plans with Yam to have supper at her house (she got home from work around 4:45 p.m.), put on our costumes, walk next door to show our costumes to The Colonel's parents and have a couple of pictures taken before walking downtown. We wanted to be downtown around 6:30 p.m. so that there was still some light to be able to see the costumes and decorations.

Best laid plans...this is where the agitation came in...Before we left the museum, I called (on the museum's phone) an order for pizza to be delivered to Yam's house around 5:00 p.m. I told the girl on the other end of the line what address I wanted the pizza to be delivered (Yam's house of course). The girl said, "Oh, I will have to change the address of delivery because it is showing the address of the museum because you used its phone to make the call." I said okay, completed the order and hung up.

The Colonel and I closed the museum and headed to Yam's house. Yam let us in and we chatted while awaiting the 5:00 p.m. arrival of our pizza. No pizza delivery man showed up. The girl did say they would try to get the pizza there as close to 5:00 p.m. as possible. So, we waited some more.

As each minute ticked by I felt I was channeling my younger self; I wanted to hurry to get supper done so that I could get dressed and hit the streets. We gave the pizza delivery man a bit more time, thinking it was Halloween after all and maybe many others were ordering pizza for supper too.

Finally (5:20 p.m.) with my agitation meter fully pegged, I called the pizza place (trying to keep a civil tone).

"I ordered a pizza for a 5:00 p.m. delivery and it has not arrived yet." (Notice no exclamation point?)

"Oh, he has been to the house, knocked on the door and even has called the house but no one is answering."

"That is because you sent him to the wrong place. I told you it would be a different address from the phone number's." (Please God, do not let me loose it...I do not want the pizza man to spit on my pizza if it ever arrives).

I hear the girl on the phone talking to one of her associates. They figure it out. They call the pizza delivery man and he is at the door very shortly thereafter. He was full of apologies. I know it was not his fault.

The pizza is still warm and it is delicious.

I do not like when businesses only go by the phone number you call them on. They never listen to you. They only notice the phone number and what address is associated with it. Another case in point.

When Darling-Sister-In-Law passed away The Colonel called her television company (which happened to be the same one we use) to tell them that she had died and that he wanted her cable stopped. He had supplied them with her name, address and customer account number. Because he called from our home phone they disconnected our service instead. They never listened to what The Colonel said, just went by the phone number. We had quite a run around with the cable company as we tried to straighten them out. We got our service back, but they think we are new customers (we have been with this company for several years).

Back to pizza...

We ate our pizza (saving some to take over to my In-Laws when we went over later) and then began to put on our costumes.

Yam's costume was "practically perfect in every way". She dressed as Mary Poppins. She had virtually gotten everything from Goodwill.

The Colonel's costume was equally perfect. He had been purchasing items on line a few months prior to Halloween. He went as a Templar Knight.

Because I am in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), I have some some colonial costumes. I decided to go as Betsy Ross. I even made a representation of the colonial flag (I used Stitch Witch...sorry Betsy) and carried it with me in a basket.

We were all dressed up and definitely had someplace to go. We walked across the street, with pizza box in hand and rang my In-Laws' doorbell.

"Trick-or-Treat", I chimed.

They loved our costumes as we eagerly showed them off (once again, channeling my inner child) and had our pictures taken.

We took our leave and walked towards town, a mere two blocks away. It was around 6:30 p.m. and still light out. The Colonel said his vision was slightly impacted by his metal helmet's eye slits but he navigated the sidewalks and streets very well the entire evening as it grew darker.

As we walked around several people waved, called out to Mary Poppins or sang "A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down" as they passed by. Many people called out to the Knight saying, "It's only a flesh wound" or "What game are you from?" There were a few that knew he was a Templar Knight and not someone from a Monty Python movie or a video game. Several people snapped pictures of the Knight and Mary Poppins. I heard a couple of people say, "That was Betsy Ross" as they passed by. One man (an aged hippy) came up to us, gave us candy and strummed his chimes so I asked him who he thought I was. His vacant stare then prompted me to point out what was in my basket. Still a vacant stare.

"It's red, white and blue", I said.

"Oh, it's a flag?"

"Yes, and there are 13 stars on it..."

"Um, the colonial flag...oh, you're um Betsy Ross."

Finally, like pulling teeth. To be fair...he was an aged hippy and had probably partaken of much weed for the majority of his life and maybe even that evening. The long term effects just are not known. So much for legalizing recreational marijuana. Just say no!

Mary Poppins, the Knight and I decided we did not want to eat his candy.

A family of four came up to me and the mom asked her youngest girl who I was supposed to be. She knew I was someone from history and that I sewed the first American flag but she could not remember my name. Her older sister finally told her I was Betsy Ross. Another woman came up to us and wanted to take our picture with her kids. It was their first year Trick-or-Treating downtown. We obliged. She knew I was a historical figure named Betty Ross...close, I would cut her some slack. I was expecting more people (young and old) to know who I was portraying....maybe it is symptomatic of the lack of American History taught in our schools today or dare I say, maybe my costume wasn't as thought provoking as I thought it would be.

We stayed on a street corner and just people-watched for a while. It was fun to see the kids and adults in their costumes. A few people stopped and snapped pictures of Mary Poppins, the Knight or all three of us. The Colonel and Yam's costumes were a hit. I may have harbored a tiny bit of jealousy with the attention the were paid, but I was more proud of the great costume ideas and their perfect execution of them.

We finally called it a night around 8:30 p.m. and walked back to Yam's house. We de-costumed and had a little apple cider. The Colonel and I did not stay long, as Yam had to work the next day.

I have a whole year to come up with another costume for next year. I may forego any historical figures though.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Cooking Craze

The newest craze in cooking uses a new machine...the Instant Pot (an electric pressure cooker). The Colonel has been wanting to get one. He has seen many tasty looking recipes on line that use an Instant Pot and the other day he "pulled the trigger" and ordered one. After the Instant Pot arrived I bought an Instant Pot cookbook and we decided to make the Spanish Arroz con Pollo recipe within its pages.

As The Colonel cut up the onion, sweet red pepper and garlic, I lightly browned the chicken breasts in the Instant Pot. I removed the chicken and then cooked the vegetables.

When the vegetables were tender I returned the chicken to the pot and added the rest of the ingredients: tomatoes, paprika, oregano, crushed red pepper, white wine, water, rice and saffron.

The Instant Pot pressure cooked everything in 15 minutes.

The recipe called for the use of a natural release to depressurize which took about 40 minutes. When it was time to open the pot this is what the Spanish Arroz con Pollo looked like once I added the peas.

This is what the finished recipe looked like in the cookbook....

This is what ours looked like when plated up....

They never look like the pictures in the cookbooks!

The Spanish Arroz con Pollo was good but I had expected it to have more flavor. The chicken was fork-tender though. The Colonel and I are looking forward to trying more recipes with the Instant Pot.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Making Hurricane Irma's Acquaintance

(Image from Internet)

The strongest recorded hurricane on the entire planet...the first time that nearly the entire state of Florida was effected by a hurricane (due to its size...roughly 400 miles wide or three to four times as wide as the Florida Peninsula)...Irma sure did make my 56th birthday memorable. Irma jinked west then north instead of hugging Florida's east coast as everyone thought it would at first.

Thanks to Irma I couldn't even celebrate my birthday on my birthday (Sept. 9th). A couple of days prior to my birthday, The Colonel and I had been prepping our home, as well as the homes of Yam and my In-Laws for the arrival of the hurricane. We cleaned furniture and plants off of porches. We lengthened downspouts and sandbagged them in place.

We put my car into the garage as well as some of the plants and furniture.

The Colonel and I then began filling containers with water at home.

Many people run to the stores and fight the panicking crowds to buy water. The beauty of a hurricane (ha) is that you have days to prepare for it and/or flee from, you do not have to buy your water just fill containers (and your bathtub) while you await the storm. We just kept filling containers....

The day before my birthday (Yam had half a day off from work to prep for the hurricane), The Colonel, Yam (Spud sent a card and gift from Jacksonville) and I went over to my In-Laws so that I could open presents and cards. I got everything on my wish list plus a few surprises. I had wanted to go to a certain pizza parlor in town for my "birthday" lunch but it was closed and boarded up but another pizza joint in town was still open so we went there. After lunch and a visit, we parted ways to finish last minute hurricane preparations. That mid afternoon Yam texted saying in town was given a recommended evacuation order. We told her and The Colonel's parents to hold tight until the next morning to see if the evacuation order changed. It did. At nearly 8 a.m. a mandatory evacuation order was given in town.

Yam and her cat Henry arrived at our house around 9:45 a.m. The Colonel and Yam went to collect my In-Laws an hour later. We were all too busy to remember it was my birthday (thank goodness we celebrated it the day before). At 9:15 p.m. the rain started but it was not heavy. There was light to medium rain all through the night with limited wind gusts.

The yard was beginning to fill with water.

On Sunday, September 10th (the height of hurricane season), stronger rain was coming and a big gust of wind occurred around 11 a.m. Shortly after the gust we saw that one of our banana trees had broken and fallen over.

Throughout the day the wind and rains increased. Our power flickered at 5:05 p.m. and the Internet as well as the television were bumped off. The power would flicker off and on most of the day as well as losing Internet and television. With the threat of loss of power, we microwaved items in the freezer for meals, in hopes of not having any waste. We only had two items left when the power finally went out for good at 8:07 p.m. 

Hurricane Irma was roughly 35 miles southeast from us before the power went out. We figure the eye of the hurricane was about 13 miles east of our house around 9 p.m. With no power (read that as no more television), the In-Laws turned in early. Yam, The Colonel and I stayed up a until we heard the wind gusts and rain lessen around 10:30 p.m. I forgot to tell you that water was seeping in through our side door and the dryer vent throughout the raging storm. I used several towels to block off and soak up the invasive water. When the towels became sopping wet I replaced them and wrung the wet ones (by flashlight). Oh my poor arthritic hands and wrists. The Colonel helped too.

The rain and wind dropped off by 6 a.m. the next morning. We were still without power, but The Colonel cooked eggs and hash on our kitchen's gas stove. He had boiled water for our coffee too. It was an impressive breakfast considering the lack of normalcy we were experiencing. 

By the light of day we could see how much water was now in our yard. We had gotten a lot of rain dumped on us.

 The brown strip you see near the top of the photos is the road in front of our house,it is under water.

Once the sun came out the water began to recede. We had our yard back within a couple of days (it is still very soggy but at least we can see grass again). I could almost hear the water receding as I hung up my very damp towels. The Colonel strung up a temporary clothesline for me on the porch.

Hurricane Irma was a Category 2 (96-110 mph winds) when it was in our area. It had grown weaker and faster when it finally reached us. We also were on the west side of the hurricane which is the less powerful side. We were very fortunate. Our power came back on the day after the storm passed at 11:12 a.m. There are a few in town who still have no power as I write this. Yam and the In-Laws' power came on around the same time ours did and we took them back to their homes at 12:20 p.m. Everyone was ready to get back to their homes and routines. 

The Colonel and I waited to go to the grocery until yesterday (three days post hurricane. We had canned foods still but wanted fresh meat and veggies). Some of the shelves were sparse but we saw many stock boys working. There are still lines at gas stations but each day they become less congested. Now comes the part of debris cleanup. We do not have much yard debris at our house. Yam and the In-Laws' yards were full of downed limbs and palm fronds. It appeared that in town got more wind and outside of town, where we live, got more rain.

I do not wish to have another birthday experience like this one any time soon or better yet, ever again...but when your birthday falls around the height of hurricane season and you live in Southwest Florida...