Top Chef

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Jumping around Top Chef a little lately for the first time as I had never watched it. I began watching it for two reasons, but one of them was after reading a new article about Chef Nina Compton ( See here Chef Nina Compton )

Her season (11) of Top Chef took place in New Orleans (with some at the end in Hawaii) and she is from St. Lucia so all of that interested me. I have also been on a huge kick from San Antonio to Florida on women chef’s and women owned and run restaurants. I had been to both her first and her newest restaurant in New Orleans. So…I watched the season 11 Top Chef.

Joe comes home and with him and with an upcoming project and being on the restaurant kick and he and I being total foodies (we travel for food but as example our Sunday was a bite shared and a drink at several restaurants, creating our own little through town tour. Before that in another city. In one weekend we’ve done two cities. One being New Orleans, all tying into the Top Chef watching. I had already previously mapped out the majority of our little tour myself but a few extra got added in. That food truck, though…..

Mostly drink wise we judged on Old Fashioned and French75’s. Let. Me. Tell. You just how BAD a bartender can be…and just how amazing. There was a patron margarita in there as well that I will admit, as a come from Texas gal, was the best done drink I’d ever lay on my taste buds. I don’t even like margaritas much.

This is how we travel. Usually not as much on the drinks as this weekend but we felt like remembering that we were grown ups. We enjoyed our time and ate and drank a lot of water and meandered slowly. And we truly enjoyed some classic drinks and a lot of judging because we are very judge people. We enjoyed at each place good bartender conversations as bonus…or bad like their obviously don’t know what a French75 even is kind.
Funny enough…the personality usually matched their drink ability.

So…anyway…all about Top chef these days. Nina is awesome….how the heck a chef who had to be told he had no salt on EVER single dish, and turned out TERRIBLE dishes on several attempts won over her I just don’t understand. But the woman moved to New Orleans (from Florida at the time where she was chef) and opened her very own beautiful restaurant. And since then…a second as well more recently. She ain’t no small deal and maybe the title of Top Chef wasn’t won by TV reality but it was certainly won by peoples hearts and palettes and I can understand why by both show, meeting her, and tasting everything on her menu’s.

With Joe home I decided to jump to watch the Charleston season (season 14) but it was SO bad that we had to switch and try another season. NOLA S11 had been produced SO well and the show as a first really sold me on the TV show altogether. Charleston would have ruined it full stop had it been first. It was just poorly produced to tears of boredom and lack of clarity, a badly put together team (although I was excited for Shirley back from season 11). I will likely discuss that in more detail later.

So, I jumped to Season 10, the episodes prior to the one I had enjoyed so much. And…better than Charleston. Not as better as New Orleans for sure. Even down to I see clearly when and where Padma (love her) really finally gets a real and good stylist (from hair to makeup to clothes finally) to the team working a bit better together and more. However…still more out of kitchen drama than in and frankly…I ain’t here to watch a soap opera. The production on season 10 is much better than season 14 but still pretty terrible and not clear on what some of the challenges even are or the end product of the food (both parts of which season 14 truly failed on greatly) and where New Orleans season 11 was VERY god on. My full props go to production, stylists, team, chef’s, and every detail of season 11. Even Judges discussion, played out challenges where all so well done and kept a person from boredom.

I still can’t get over the obvious stylists changes you can tell for Padma…like my bartenders and a French75…some people had it…some did not. Greatly. Did. Not.

Still watching season 10 now and soon I look forward to trying the after my favorite season 11 and jumping to 12 and see how that one goes. Then I am looking forward to watching the Kentucky season happening as we speak. I will totally have to watch Miami (s4) and of course, Texas (s9) if I don’t watch the entire catch up of it all. I don’t know, as much as I’d love to finish a Charleston season, if I can make myself finish S14 at all. I ask #BRAVO for a redo.

Also…throw out there real quickly…I LOVE chef’s Table but also my newest start on Salt Fat Acid Heat two eps in and I am swooning.

Vacay preparation.

peggy

Tuesday.

The last of my research away from home days before vacation begins. Meaning, really, no more time for the library in the next few days.

The shift begins.

Though I have a few spot locations to go to and more actual research to do…the library is done for for a few weeks. I likely won’t enter another for two weeks and two days time.

I kinda do need that break…never thought I’d hear myself say that.

The fun part is that much of my vacation wraps into Stuff To Do For My Work in multiple ways. So travel and work get combined, vacation and work intertwine. Pretty much always for me.

After this two week Vacations, though, we will actually be off to new and next adventures. I won’t be researching anything for work for a good minute. Actually…I do take that back. Because work for me is not only ever a book in progress but also articles from whatever to whatever and also travel and food and music and art and politics…a lot of politics. And a lot of whatever. So, I do take that back. But the bulk..the bulk of research for the big projects is coming to a close with a few months of none of that left to do. For me…a huge chunk of time to other things (perhaps actual writing, which I also still do now for no less than three hours a day on this one project alone but…still..huge chunks of time spent doing Other). Because of the slow down of the holidays, however, the after-vac month of work until the next vacay begins is still to be research.

I know….it sounds so terrible and all. That my research is being buried in books, archives, newspapers, walking streets and cities and towns and neighborhoods with a camera and a notebook in hand, museums and talking to locals and historians. Among so much more. Terrible…it is not. I know. I know. But mind boggling and at times incredibly emotional it is. I am not complaining. Hear the pure tease of my tone.  I mean…lord knows how much I hate books and old photos and architecture and the like.

I tease, really. I love it all. And still I look forward to an actual break and vacation of two weeks. Time where I may read a LOT but actually research less. Time where I will still take photos and explore but without the pressure and with companionship of Joe who will be home and who is actually really fun to do these things with…though I need my time alone for it even more, the change, balance, difference and company are still an enlightenment for a couple of weeks.  At least I talk to my pets less…or rather not…but to a human a little more. And not just strangers and librarians and archivists.

I am excited for this trip. I have been missing the guy whom I actually do share my life with. Though we have text and email and phone calls, it isn’t the same. As much as I will likely utterly complain that he does everything wrong, I will bask in the warmth that he is. As much as I am ready for him to leave I am always just as ready or more for him to come home. And he makes my coffee first thing when he wakes up.

We’ve been talking a lot about this trip and our next coming up and have a lot of plans and things to do.

However, it is about time to put away books and about a truck load of notes. Fold away my laptop. And do a little laundry and deep cleaning to get it all out of the way for vacation time. I will have planned To Do lists, details, plans, and grocery lists, too…all of which I will lose or forget to use altogether or look at and wonder what the hell I meant by that.

Joe does have a Honey Do. A leak to fix. Light bulbs to replace. Taped to the fridge which he will completely ignore. Aquarius. They like to do things. But never actually tell them to do it. Except if you live with me. You pretty much do as I say.

Do I have any chick shows I wanted to watch before he gets home? Do I have plans or reservations I have forgotten to make yet? Do I have enough books on my bedside and the couch side that don’t have to do with work related reading?

Have I still forgotten to break out the Christmas present I bought us for some of our adventures? And where the heck DID I hide them? Do I have clear camera cards and have I backed up the computer and what is it that I feel as if I am forgetting to do?

This is my brain right now.

Ahhhh, vacation…the before moments. You’d think it would be different when you don’t have that suitcase packing to do which you have completely until last minute put off doing. It is not.

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To a New Year. To Hope.

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I went to bed last night with huge Monday plans. My time in The South is closing in soon and the time seems to speed, the Grinch stole like a week and a half with the holidays it seems, I have had since June, and I have still so much to do. More research at libraries (most of which are closed a lot right now of course) and more museums, etc. And a lot about town, in the city, around it, and in cemeteries and like…all over. I typically do a lot of walking with my camera in a place to A. Enjoy and have fun and marvel at the architecture and gardens, B. To capture my travels C. To capture images for my storyboards and so forth. This how I write. As a writer, photos really do help me. And being around town I also sit and write. I take a notebook typically for the area or for the specific project I have at the moment (currently my DeepSouth5). I listen to people talk, their voices, accents, language, discussions (FYI, being on a bus and listening to peoples new years plans and NY of past and going to church drunk is pretty interesting). And I breath it in. Heck…I can sit and marvel at a tree for hours by itself. I might take a few photos. then sit and just…be. Then write what comes. Then even sketch a little (not a talent of mine at all but something I have begun doing as a different mode of Being, traveling, exploring, and describing, and seeing). This. Is. How. I. Write.

 

I explore and discover as little by internet as possible when I am in a place. I will prefer to walk and find by myself, to talk and ask questions and learn of a place the things that I could likely Google. But then…when you google mayors of certain cities you also see their “image” and not what the people actually feel. And then exploring the demographics of that even deeper can easily take me off track of DeepSouth5 but put me into my articles and writings of politics and social justice, even economy and travel and more. Mostly, I like to meet the people and know them and their thoughts and feelings of places persons and things. I learn things that Google can not teach me. Nuance plays a large role.

This is how I write.

 

Google can paint one entirely different picture of a place. To listen to some…all the good places/businesses/safeness are white. And all of the black people are in the newspapers committing crimes…this is a very sad truth of what image can come across. And a very false truth. I will discuss that more later because it so very deserves the time.

In The south you can’t travel, much less be a writer or photographer, and not see the social part of any city and all that that word might mean. If you’ve managed…then you are truly gifted with blinders. I don’t find all gifts to be virtues.

A recent overheard topic that stands out as I was crossing a street and nearby there was a group of women of color, one woman says to another “No, that’s jaywalking. We can’t jay walk” The other woman says “she’s doing it”, and the first woman says “She’s white. We can’t do what she can do.” She didn’t even mean for me to overhear this. She wasn’t being mean or rude. She was speaking truth to her her friend and protecting a woman who still, in 2018, can not do as I can do with my white skin. And it broke my heart to pieces.

I feel like I have so much more to do. Here. For DeepSouth5. And for everything. For those women wanting to cross the street. In 2018 as it breaths its last breath. More than my 2019 calendar can hold.

Today I had plans to take my camera and walk the streets of an area and my notebook and sit on park benches and write and the library to check a few more things off my list. Writing about a particular time and place and going and seeking that place and learning about it in that time.

…And then I woke up to rain. Heavy rain. Enough to make me lounge a little longer in bed with my pup curled up. (He doesn’t even get out of bed in the morning until I am at the door with his leash in hand.)

And I realized while walking him that this was New Year’s Eve. I hate crowds. I hate drunk drivers. I hate unsafe situations. I hate knowing that this is a heightened night of crowds for those types of terrorist gunmen who go out to kill people in the name on nationality, white skin, sexuality “pureness”, and God.

No thanks. I am staying home. Plus half of the places I need to go will be closed. And the rain falls heavy. And I have enough coffee before I need to head to the store next.

 

~

 

Even with feeling that time is slipping away too quickly and my To Do list grows. I will check off things I can do from home and safety and comfort and dryness and warmth….realizing that not everybody has that. Realizing that as I look toward the new year with my grand plans, my full editorial calendar already set for the entire year with work, and promise, and food, and travel, and love, and fun, and experience….that there are those who don’t even know what day it is…or that it is only one more day to be survived. Those who see no hope,  who held on until they were too tired. Surviving is exhausting. I know that. I still to this day am recovering from a childhood of surviving. There isn’t often energy to work toward…. forward.

I have to work very hard to seek that energy myself even now. I have been saved by many second chances. I hope for second chances (even if it is the 100th second chance) for those who need it this year. Tonight as the calendar page turns. And I hope that in the finishes and accomplishments of my own energy and work that one day I can help give those second chances. Little by little.

I was just discussing role models and mentors. People and things to learn from, admire, and shape after bit by little bit. Lessons in life to learn…and things to learn NOT to do, or to be like, too. How to fix mistakes, not make them, and move on from them, make something of them.

What makes us. Shapes us. Creates us.

And what we do with that is us.

Going into the New Year this is on my mind.

Who we shape ourselves to be…what life shaped us to be.

I feel like the start is the clay you are, the type you come from.

I feel like next is the hands that shape you.

I feel like with that is the power of the wheel that spins you.

I feel next is the shape that the clay takes between all of the hands and the spinning wheel and the type of clay and how much water is added or not and the conditions that still change was what The Plan, what was In Mind. How that even underneath the direction of hands, the clay still finds some of its own form.

There is the hardening, setting parts of life. Those things that set into you. Ingrain into you. Make you who you really are. What is going to stay with you.

There is a glaze that can create a barrier or make you shine, give you strength, or all of  the above.

There is a paint which adds color, design, decor, shape, change, flare, personality, and own self.

There is the shelf upon which it can blend into the background on, or stand out upon.

There are the cracks which form over time to break us down, our weakened moments. Which all add a little of who we are and the character that makes us us.

There are the hands that we pass through, the lives, the mantles, the voices we hear, the places we’ve been, and those places we’ve been put. Not all are places w wish to be. Not all places are near a window where we can feel the sunshine through. Some times we are like within a box stored within a forgotten attic or a cold basement. Sometimes we just kinda move through life not getting the chance to really be US. To show our beauty.

Some hands will throw us, shatter us, break us. Neglect us. Put us in our wrong places. In our not best places. Less prominent less shining places. Hide the best of what we are. Some hands will misuse us. Be careless with us. Move us around like we don’t really matter and have little or no value. Forget about us. Mistreat us. Pack us away.

Some hands will pick up the pieces of us. Repair us. Match our pieces where they belong. Glue us back together. And some even bond our breakage with gold. Some hands will save each and every of our little pieces as if in a jewel box, honoring the memory of us. Some will treat us with love and tenderly and care for us.

Sometimes we collect dust. Sometimes we don’t shine bright. Sometimes we are admired. Sometimes someone knows our worth and sometimes our price.

Sometimes we get broken. And sometimes we get put back together. sometimes perhaps with a little chip left here and there, a wider crack, a little less left to us than what was there before, and sometimes that glue that binds us stands out. And sometimes what binds us is gold.  Sometimes our golden cracks make us shine more pure, more brightly, more beautiful than ever before.

Over time we only become more valuable. Stronger. Beautiful. Colorful. Cracks and all.

 

Here is to New Year’s 2019. 365 new chances. 365 Do Over’s. 365 second chances. 365 First tries. 365 days to shine. 365 possibilities. 365 days to discover. 365 days to start anew. 365 days to wake up and be in awe of what this Earth and Life give us.

 

Building Traditions & Memories.

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Joe and I have been traveling full time for our third Christmas now and before that we were busy working, he was out of town for actual Christmas for work, he was new on the job, and we were settling into our new loft in Galveston at the time as well. I had just done a month of NaNoWriMo and was in my editing process and layering and second draft and preparing for the next year. We just really didn’t do Christmas at home.

We haven’t really been able to decorate much for the holiday. Many times (only once in four Christmases now) we don’t even get to be together on actual Christmas (Joe will be on the boat/work). But we always take Two pre-Christmas vacation weeks together to truly enjoy the holiday to its fullest.

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With our traveling we realized that decorating (currently in our RV, next in our boat) just didn’t work out for us. We tried it one year in our RV with a brand new kitten but by the next holiday season we’d added a puppy. And even prior to that I discovered that the storage of Christmas decor just didn’t work out in our limited space (it takes space from my books). Even the when-out-decor space was limited and became more cluttered rather than enjoyed. And I hate clutter.

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If we had a house the decorating would be to the fullest. Joe enjoy’s the outside home decor…I am sure we would have a great time trying to out do each other.

But until that time, we quickly realized that, here we were, two in our 30’s people, sometimes alone on the holiday but still a couple for two weeks somewhere in the holiday season, and no kids…Christmas can be a lonely time, depressing, and Joe isn’t the Go Home For Christmas kind of guy and I might have a very large family but they are a very large and broken and spread out family. And frankly…I don’t really fit in any parts of it.
So we knew that we needed to really be able to make our own traditions, that were fitting to us, both loving the holiday we also did not want to just let it pass us by, and also I realized that being home alone for part of the season and often the days themselves I needed to really make a tradition for myself, by myself, too…I love the holiday and I wanted to be in the spirit.

 

 

So while not decorating our own small moving home (s) for many years we decided to travel a different city (or often many cities) and enjoy the decorations, giant tree’s, and lights wherever we went. We sing carols (ok, I sing, Joe rolls his eye’s) and we will drive around neighborhoods and walk George for the traditional home lights decor. We see large tree’s in city gardens, town squares, and whatever else a city may offer.

 

At home we break out movies for the holidays, hot cocoa, cider, music even while driving (love the classic holiday music), and we always cook and bake something along the lines of the holidays…though I have been tweaking and updating my traditional life long recipes and wow…so much more us today and really fun to do!

 

I even make some cranberry oatmeal cookies…a favorite of Joe’s. So even at home, we still do a lot of Holiday spirit, even if not the decor…then we go out and do a part of a city, or a new city (or section of) each day for two weeks .

 

 

I personally get more holiday time to myself than that and continue on or start beforehand. I like doing my photos when by myself, my writing in parks, coffeeshops, and various park benches. And I have my own thing to make my holidays rich even by myself…and my two stinky pets.

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I watch old classic versions of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade -1981 was my birth year so that I did this year – I watch super traditional to my own childhood nostalgia movies. I listen to a lot of holiday music that reminds me of my grandmothers beautiful tree or happy childhood moments.  And holiday music makes me HAPPY, so I am sure to play it through my day for about a month..from ending Thanksgiving to ending Christmas. I bake a LOT and give away cookies and loaves of breads of many kinds. I walk George through neighborhoods and admire the lights in the evening. I discover other holiday things that weren’t able to be done with Joe. I go to see theater holiday themed shows where ever I am. In San Antonio and New Orleans this is amazing. Sometimes I go if I am not even really interested in the show. And I am always uplifted for the holidays for it and enjoy the architecture of the theater. And more to still enjoy the holiday when…basically alone and single. And honestly? I really do enjoy it.

 

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Don’t let the holiday stuff get you down. I don’t understand the being stressed for the holidays…like stressed about being able to buy presents…just don’t stress over that stupid stuff. It isn’t what the holiday is about. Build memories. Not piles of stuff you will throw out later. I enjoy my own time and make the best of it. I enjoy time with Joe and we really have a lot of fun and make memories…way better than presents. And stress about family or get depressed or sad about the things that people get depressed or sad about during the holidays? I just can’t allow it for myself. I did that one year. It was horrible. I hated that black sunken hole in the Earth feel, that feeling of total emptiness it left me. So I know I don’t want to feel like that again and I know to do that I must make an effort.

~

I have some rules I go by.

  • I don’t allow myself to swell on the sad parts but I do enjoy remembering the fond moments. I even spend time listening to music that makes me most remember those times, sip on a warm drink, be all cozy and thankful for that coziness in my home, and write those memories down…and write about them for myself now in life.
  • I don’t watch sad movies. I will watch uplifting things, listen to uplifting music, and even write uplifting writings while setting my usual pretty depressing stuff aside.
  • I walk George and wave to people and end up talking to locals and see the lit up Christmas trees in lit up windows at night and the lit up yards. When Joe was home I made a big deal of yelling out CHRISTMAS every time I saw a good batch or tree or decor. This year nearly got me down because so few people decorated. So few towns seemed to really show the spirit that I remember and know my home towns to do. So little was festive without super searching for it. It seemed that way at times at least. There were a few times when both Joe and I were like “This is it?” So rather than get grumpy…we bought it out and then really allowed ourselves joy at our discoveries.
  • I even put aside much of the news and negative things in the world that can get a person down.
  • I created little rituals and fun days. I super experimented with banana bread (making a super yummy but also WAY healthy version). I got creative with cooking, baking, and in the kitchen. I didn’t stress when things didn’t turn out right.
  • On Facebook I silented negative people for 30 days and payed closer attention to the holiday cheer sharing.
  • I only read happy books. In fact, I read over some old classic Christmas stories and read them out loud…something I had never done and frankly was quite lovely. Doing this by volunteering time at story readings for kids at the local library or nursing home makes that even better. And if there are any open mic readings I could attend…I did this there, too.

 

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We have celebrated in Galveston Island, our last Christmas there for both of us, our first Christmas together as a couple in 2015. Houston was another year when we came back for part of the holiday and ended up with a kitten from Neiman Marcus pet adoption happening with the HSPCA. She wasn’t planned. We had planned for a dog.
And Austin/Fredericksgurg/Marble Falls/San Marcos and other Texas cities on another partial trip. We spent some time in some very small outside of Texas cities. We had a lot of time in the woods that year.

 

 

And then we celebrated in San Antonio last year…when asked where I wanted to go that year (2017)…that was it. I wanted to see SA in Christmas.
I gained ten pounds on tamales alone without regret. We love this city and if it wasn’t land locked we would certainly make it home…but we are both mermmammals at heart. We saw SO many lights there. We love the Pearl and seeing it in Christmas spirit was a whole new experience. The River Walk even more festive was inspiring. The spirit of the city is always dancing there but at Christmas…it came truly alive. Snow that Christmas on the Alamo topped off the magic of the city.

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We drove through neighborhoods of the most beautiful tree filled front yards in front of the most wonderful area of solid Mid-Century homes I have ever experienced, seeing them lit up made me feel like a kid. I sang carols loudly out my open car window.
We drove through the neighborhood of Mansions off of Broadway up past the Central Market (still my favorite grocery ever). And we drove through so many beautiful homes from modern to victorian to mid-can to tiny to huge. The diversity of that city is truly on point. And we had Christmas tree’s…giant…everywhere to see. Lights over other tree’s in the city full of them that transformed them completely from the gardens of the Alamo to the hundreds of lit tree’s at the college off of Broadway. That city knows how to do magic. And I did suffer whiplash when I heard someone yell out TAMALI’S!

 

 

This year has been The Deep South and New Orleans. We have hit every single city and town along the Gulf Coast from Fairhope, AL to New Orleans (and then some). We knew this holiday season we would be in the South still so we chose to say one last goodbye before leaving it for awhile and we certainly wanted more time in New Orleans (my research took me back there anyway). Along the way we celebrated among the Southern hospitality.

It is truly easy to drive through a state full of many cities hugging the Gulf of Mexico all in a day….but we took our time, too. Fairhope and Mobile Alabama. Ocean Springs, Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach, Pass Christian, and Bay St. Luis in Mississippi…a state that really has built some memories for me this year. And New Orleans…the grand Jewel. Need I say more?

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Ok, I will, though….I had particular things in mind here…jazz carols in the cathedral concerts every night for free. Gardens decorated. Garland everywhere. And a city that seems decorated when it isn’t. And popping in and out of every single hotel lobby along the way…especially…the grand jewel of them…The Roosevelt. I also had hunted out any bar or restaurant or hotel lobby with a fireplace, hot and cold days flipping back and forth or not, I was determined for the winter spirit, dammit! There are four in particular, one is a grand gay bar…famous…it is a place to go. Another is The Absinth. And still others. With so many trips to the city we had yet to actually do any bars, and even now we didn’t do the “bar scene” but we did do cozy, with a good drink for the city- we are always about old 1920’s-1940’s classic drinks- and fireplaces. We stayed away during the weekends…oh lord do they spill out into the streets! Joe never knew where we were going until we got there…and we joined an old man at the table near the fire of one on a very cold night to share the space nearest and bought him a drink.

 

We listened to non-Christmas jazz in many places but also we had particular tastes in mind. A Muffaletta to split for lunch at Napoleon house. Where their tradition is to hand out bells at Christmas. We jingled the rest of that day. A French Onion soup for a lunch another day…ohhh, we indulged in that bread as well, warm butter over crusty on the outside, oh so soft like a cloud on the inside bread to dip into our soup. The restaurant beautiful, the people ever so kind. A gumbo for lunch before we hit City park on another day…a restaurant on a corner of streets, no one sat inside but one table of two old fat black men and a bar with the three people who worked there and even owned the joint. The server jolly as all to fuck.

 

We had yet to do this so we rode the streetcars all around their full routes and through one portion of The Garden District, which we knew…the homes there cool, quaint, cute, adorable, even large for some, small for others but our kind of place for sure. Then we discovered a portion of another part of The Garden District which we had yet to explore before…the houses, if you can call them…well, they are mansions…but even then…huge mansions…and they kept getting bigger and bigger and they kept going on and on. And I found the most beautiful library to stop at on another day when we came back to enjoy the gardens and some walking around…though to walk one block was only to see one house there. But the library, once a home to a fmaouse silent film acctress, had been transformed and now I was able to enjoy both architecture and books. Otherwise we enjoyed by streetcars the lights of the holidays at night as well. The peeks inside the windows of homes with their Christmas tree’s decorated in the front windows. We also walked through many neighborhoods and saw this a bit closer.

 

Next we plan on New England Christmas and a Miami/Keys Christmas among others in our future. Creating our tradition of enjoying a cities decor for the Holidays when we aren’t doing our own. Eventually perhaps we will have our own house and you will be able to see it from space I am sure.

Here are a few of the photos along the way to share (I have lost most from 2015, our first Christmas together, up until now in 2018,  and even some of those, however. In some places I didn’t even take photos at all. Other photos were non-holiday related so I am only sharing here those that are).

 

But memories live on.

 

You can see the full photo album HERE.

  • What are some of the traditions that you grew up with?
  • What are some that you tweaked and made your own?
  • What are some “Single or No Kid or just a Couple or Spending by yourself” traditions you have created?
  • Favorite Christmas movie?
  • Favorite Christmas song?

 

Four States and Seven Days.

 

Peggy J Davenport
I had to run up to the office and came back after having coffee with the lady up there (this is the south, you don’t run in and rush out- you sit and have a chat and a coffee). When I come back he has the bed made (very important to me) my coffee made, the pets cared for and has George hanging outside with him while he is fiddling with the jeep. My heart is warmed.
We are sunburned, tired, have been to every boat dock in four states on the coast just in the last week, six beyond that so far, and more in the coming near future, and often in the bays. We have had long days and walked a million miles under the beating hot southern sun in July. Boat docks, btw, are like walking the damn desert with all their glare from white boats to hot decks both wood and cement and glistening water. The morning may at times begin overcast and cloudy and soft on you but the sun will make up for it with a vengeance when she does decide to wake up. Between walking and standing on hard ground a lot and a lot of driving and a lot of boat time and heat and sun our bones are tired and long days. We feel 80 in our 30-something bodies by the end of the day. But we hold hands and smile and say to each other “I am happy” with a satisfied smile.
I am becoming quite the expert (nowhere near it) on sport fishing boats and yachts and Joe, in the falling into it, in the moment, the people who love to show off their boat and a good sailing time and because…boat people are the most welcoming, is learning sailboats, quite by accident. Though we are in search currently of the sport fishing boat/yacht for live aboard and south islands fun, moving from RV to water, the sailboat is a future project dream of mine and where my expertise lies, so we are both learning quite a bit about the other, we call these his project and my project. I loved the old seaman who whispered to me “once he gets used to understanding sailing he will be much more comfortable with it and fall in love and you will have no problem with him on them” Sailing people get me. Joe worries about me alone…out there, the times that he will be away.
We are looking in the lines of the Hatteras 50 (a yacht would be nice but harder to find especially in price range and a sports fishing is actually live aboard super nice and bigger than our RV now) but open to good and bad, project redo and pretty well done and other boat names depending, but in the idea of. Being so open means more possibilities to look at. This will take us months. I only wish I could combine the interior of the Viking with the exterior of the Hatteras and I think my favorite boat would be born. This is about as far as my knowledge for them goes so far. Though listening to the engine talk…I somewhere in my dreams might be able to draw a very good diagram of them now.
We have had gelato slash book shops open for us on a day it was closed completely for the entire day with a lovely man in long graying dreadlocks and inviting smile waving us in and we realized it was closed and began to walk on. Who gave us samples and then free gelato to go, though we ate it up while conversation began and took awhile before an end. They have the right idea with their Old Fashioned gelato, based off of one of two of my favorite drinks, though I do believe it might be more my winter drink while the Pimm’s Cup is my summer. We found and discovered Indie bookshops slash coffeeshops with grand displays of southern authors (the Mississippi book festival is next month) Pass Christian Books and Cat Island Coffeehouse and and I hear the tongue of many when they say the name of their town like silk falling off a woman’s shoulders. I drink up the accents and speech of some, of many, of all, from the harshest to the most delicate, and tuck it away for my own book writing. I find that that this is a place where Jesmyn Ward and many like her have come to read and been supported and where I am invited to come soon. I buy the last two of her books I have yet to read. (I have so far read and LOVE Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel and Where the Line Bleeds: A Novel.
so I picked up, The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race and her memoir, Men We Reaped: A Memoir And I still have her other book I will soon get,Salvage the Bones: A Novel. Not only because she is long an author on my list, an amazing author to read, btw, but also because I am in my Deep South Five writing project currently and currently reading books by authors and in the setting of New Orleans and of the deep south, as well as the movies I am currently watching.
I learn that the gelato shop owner is the same as the bookstore/coffeeshop owner and we discuss literary south, authors, readings, book events, and the scene. That they have no shortage of literary events and readings and authors and are half a year booked in advance and busy, they do not give up and lay dormant like one indie bookshops I met did and who had saddened me greatly at their defeat of a literary scene only a few cities and the same state down. Joe has an understanding here that I have listened to talk of boat engines enough to not rush us to an end.
We stumbled into an antique shop in the middle of the beautiful (and one of my newest favorite places) Mobile Alabama. Historic buildings…this one in particular has seen better days. I am more saddened while traveling through New Orleans and Mobile and other like smaller places from Miami/Hollywood Florida to Texas how little Galveston Island actually does put the effort in to preserve what should be even easier. I am more saddened that the Hughes building there is no more. And then here I see so many…so many and never going away and so much harder work put in and so much more they have gone through in hurricane and storm and flood and yet standing so gallantly. And as much as I love the island and thought once they did well I see how little is really there, left, and standing and how flat the peoples efforts really are and yet once had so much more potential but so much of it is already lost…gone. I even see so many other states with so much preservation effort put into the nature side of it and know that there is about one lone woman who works so hard to do all that Galveston offers in that aspect. Without her they don’t care and even with her the city itself is one of her main enemies and with whom she battles against their destruction. I see how other places take care of their tree’s…from San Antonio to Florida and I know another woman who places her work there but when you leave the island you find that you have missed trees, and funny enough, it is so far the least of the boating community for which we both love and felt we were missing. I am not done there with dreams I have built but I am glad I am broadening these horizons. I honestly don’t know if there will be enough left for me when I come back, able to put in myself. For those who put in…keep it up, you are the islands saving grace. For the city, I ask you to visit San Antonio, New Orleans, Mobile, Alabama and Pass Christian, Mississippi, Hollywood, Florida and Miami and a few conservation and state parks along the way and all in between and too many to count for both city/town and nature conservations and economy and …life, for a few suggestions of how to do better. Funny enough for resources you have much more at hand than some of these do.
In Backflash Antique in Mobile Alabama only a short few blocks away from what is now the Malaga Inn that was in the 1940 census the address of my great grandparents and two of their four daughters, one of which was my grandmother, aged 10, I discover the perfect camera bag (thanks to Joe’s good eye) that I have been in search of for months. And I hear the most beautiful name I have ever heard…Charlana, added to a combination with a last of exactly the kind of name amazing people are born with, Charlana Quiovers. And a gentleman there, meek and quiet and a love for antique and history who was amazing at tour guiding us through to exactly what we would like to see. He got us immediately. We aren’t the typical RV’ers. We don’t do it for the BBQing and pools. We do it for the exploring, the history, the learning of the people, the architecture, the discoveries, the antiques and art and literary and music and the food…oh…the food. We exhaust ourselves with the miles we put our feet to in walking all around a town or city, and when in the right place and time, the mountains and hills of the nature a place has to offer, and now even, by boat more often, the swamps with a rest upon our feet but a sharpness for our safety, and our senses. Birds and nature and animals and trees upon the cool waters in the warm air underneath the shade of these grand ancient moss laden trees. But the walking…It is the only way to stop for hours on end in an afternoon and have perfect conversations with perfect strangers. And at times be invited upon a boat for the next several hours and taken out into the open waters, sails unfurled. If you never hear from us again, we likely died happy.
In seven days and four states I haven’t taken one picture. I have simply enjoyed it all. Good thing my storytelling is in words…..more coming on all of that. Within the binds of a book and a story of a character.

Florida. The Art-Deco Heaven.

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So the travels have begun with a long (very long) drive to Florida from Galveston Island. In Joe’s little car with no A/C. So much for my start back to life on wheels after five and a half years of car-free living. Florida is a place that I have been in and out of a few times for equestrian related things in my long ago past but I never really got to see it and never have I been to Hollywood or Miami where I’ve been able to go this Spring/Summer.

We started here to pick up the RV that Joe and I will begin our American Road Travels in, as well as to visit, while there, some of his family.

I was also getting to see Florida with the new eye’s of a traveling tourist rather than work or mission.

And I’m in love.

Art-Deco ANYTHING is my favorite…my love…my choice in all. And so of course the houses, the cute little motels all over the place…even the frickin trailer parks have grabbed my heart here.

Joe thankfully is all about the get out on foot travel and that we have done. But the sun shines very bright and the heat itself isn’t felt long before the sun exhaustion is…so we also end each day rather tired…simply worn out. Even our feet hurt, but we’ve had so much incredible joy walking for hours and hours among these buildings, these houses (many mid-century as well so a double whammy of perfect love.)

The water here is blue blue blue and the way much is built for walkable living….the artistic community…the food trucks and oh. my. gosh the most amazing food and restaurants and so unbelievably cheap but GOOD….ok, the list grows of why I have played with the idea of just staying here. In any case….I will forever have Florida on the map to come back to…and we haven’t even done the Keys yet! Not even Hemingway’s house yet! There is so much more to do!

On this trip I have lost about half of my pictures sadly but as I said, there is still more time and so I hope to be able to recapture some of those as well as much more new.

I have been utterly fascinated with Cuban food (Can’t wait for an actual trip to Cuba) and the fact that Florida is SO preserved! The historic Art-Deco entire cities and the houses are in great shape, and for such a hurricane hit state, too. I mean, coming from Galveston, this is a big deal. I truly think that Galveston should check out the preservations processes here.

Another item I have been absolutely in love with and just can’t get over is all the greenspace and trees and grass area’s and the lay out of places, such as Miami beach. Ok ok, I am comparing Galveston a lot but seriously…the beach, the park space, the baordwalks, the restaurants, shops, hotels and the houses are laid out in such perfection that this is truly a city to take note and example of. PEOPLE. Especially in the size of space and amount of people…this state really knew how to build for the people and for growth while keeping comfort and beauty.

Hollywood is very much a mix of Burbank, California and Galvesto Island, Texas in a way.

The one thing I see a lack of and am pretty surprised at is the bike community, but much of it is car-free still. Where I am staying, in Hollywood, I am smack dab in the heart of Down Town and there are about a hundred restaurants at my feet. I’ve eaten three meals out daily and have yet to be able to have bee to all of them. And the gelato is not helping bikini season at 500. There are parks and grocery store and library all in walking distance and the beach is less than a mile and a half away but an easy walk or a hop on the trolley (bus style…again, Galveston take note for the bringing back of the island trolley) take care of that, too.

http://www.cntraveler.com/galleries/2015-02-20/10-great-art-deco-cities-you-might-not-know-about/1 Doesn’t even name Miami in this top 10 list but it is apparently the largest area of Art-Deco in America. On the list I have been to 5 out of 10 and it is a pretty good list that I hope to finish the next five of but in the meantime I am super happy that I decided to come to Florida and see a state that I seriously never had given thought to…and was very very wrong to have done so. Especially in my love of certain types of architecture. Not to mention food. And art…and….oy. Florida.

I will talk much more but in the mean time…here is a thousand words in each picture of simply gorgeous Art-Deco architecture.

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Florida. Livable Community.

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So my travels have begun with Florida. Florida is a place that I have been in and out of a few times for equestrian related things in my long ago past but I never really got to see it and never have I been to Hollywood or Miami where I’ve been able to go this Spring/Summer. Btw, anybody know any ideas on natural safe sunblock? I can’t stand slathering cancer causing chemicals on my skin only to prevent cancer but even staying covered up my skin is needing it here.
I am meeting family and playing tourist and living the food, art, walkability, of the community.

I am still surprised not to see much of a biking community here (In Hollywood area mostly) though the traffic, round abouts roads and such are a little scary. Though Miami Beach and St. Augustine, Florida are listed on Wikipedia as car-free communities in the world. And I have found Hollywood and Miami Beach to be incredibly walkable with a decent pubic transport. The grocery is easier and closer to get to than Galveston for me and the sidewalks and safe neigborhoods give me no reason to see why you couldn’t live car-free here.

The Street list’s Miami as a car-free place to retire.
But not everybody likes the Heat either.
I am a huge fan of both mid-century and art-deco architecture and living by the water. The water ways here are so awesome and the way it is but and laid out is just really…well thought I think. There are more yachts then boats and the amount of sailboats has me swooning.

I have lost some of my pictures from this trip but will take some more. Frankly I can’t get enough. It is so sunny and pretty here and the entire state seems to well thought out. From living young or retired to vacation and tourism to shops, Entertainment and restaurants and parks and greespace and on the water life and fun.

The food is very affordable. I have been really surprised, though Joe keeps reminding me that I live on what we call “Island Prices” back in Galveston. In one other comparison is how different the menu’s are from restaurant to restaurant and in a two bock radius there are no less than forty restaurants. The island really offers very little in type and then on top of that the problem there is that each place has the same menu…and usually even the same cooks who have rotated around to each place. Small town living. Sigh. I am not trying to bash but there it is.I love it. Sometimes I want to fix it. Like a bad relationship.

Joe and I have loved it here and got really interested in the thought of investing in a home here. We are still looking into that and I am still trying to figure out why so many homes are in foreclosure but also something about not being forced to move once you are? Not sure so if anybody can shed some light that would be great. Aside from foreclosure we are finding beautiful homes for half the price they would be on the island. Not bad at all…and swoon…many mid-century or art-deco ! And pools!

I’ve been a bit surprised by having read that a lot of people say that there is no diversity here….as in no Asian or Indian, very little African-American or black and mostly Spanish. I have found a wide variety of Spanish from all kinds of places (Cuba being only one) and a lot of Jamaican and Thai and even Indian (maybe not as much in restaurants is all.) Though Spanish is probably the heaviest of all of those it seems pretty even with white. Of course for me I change and travel to a lot of places and each place will be heavier in one or two than another so it doesn’t freak me out or even bother me. It just seems to be a heavy topic when looking things up about Florida on the www and an observation.

And how I love the Cuban’s for the food….my heart belongs to the Cubano sandwich.
BTW, a really cute recommended movie is the Chef , but be ready to be hungry is you watch it. It’s on Netflix.
I AM very pleasantly surprised at the huge artistic community that Florida offers, especially in the Hollywood area. There are Artwalks here and not far there is a (soon to be visited) Artist Lofts of Artspace. The parks and greenspace really blows me away…and the tree’s ! It’s very family friendly here but seemes a very bend of young and single, older and retired, lower and very upper class, family and children, business and art. I am still hunting out some live local music spots that aren’t about and for the tourists.

We haven’t headed to the keys yet and are actually planning to come back in winter for that and head up to Chicago before snow weather happens. But there is still so much more to see in Florida and cant do it all in one trip.

The trailer home parks and tiny old motels still fascinate me. The historic preservation . Especially in a hurricane hit state.
The colors…oh my…the colors.

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Florida Living. Food. Library. Coffee. Trees.

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I have lived in Galveston for six years and one of the things that brought me there was the architecture (more of the industrial and Down Town than the Victorian), and now it’s onto other travels and adventures and my first place, Hollywood, Florida, has really offered me a lot on the architectural front.

Not only that but the preservation that amazes me and the mid-century and art-deco that are my favorites. The city lay out (Hollywood, Miami especially which include the greenspaces, parks, trees, restaurants and shops, outside seating, bike boardwalks at the beach, a large spread of beach (and wash off systems and public bathrooms at the beach, which if Galveston took a lesson means that people will actually come off the beach to shop and eat at restaurants), the fact that they have recycling bins at the beach (eh hem, Galveston, stop making me compare.) And they have a more set up trash system at the beach which I see working for keeping it clean and making people care more than what I have seen in Galveston.

The boating, houses on water ways and the waterway/canals are so awesome and everything…traffic to boats to parks to beach to Down Town all seem to blend so easily. The bright and clean look of it here strikes me (on stucco and in the humid weather), and the art, and the recycling at the beaches, show that the city and the people put a lot into the beauty of Florida. There is seriously no dirty here. Everything is shiny, colorful and bright, and clean.

There is much to explore, and here I am absorbing it all.

The street art, artistic community of Hollywood, Florida, and the parks built for art are really awesome. The Art Park has an event just about every night and is only a bock away from where I stay, it’s beautiful with the most amazing huge trees by day, great picnic and reading. Classic Car shows, a Food Truck night, food and wine festivals, an Artwalk and more, every night. They have an entire gallery and stage building built just for glass blowing and have live shows as well as “make your own”. The city obviously puts a lot of money and focus into the artistic community and it’s a great blend of retired, young adult, families, and artists, and business. There are also a lot of art galleries and studios around here, too.

I’ve lost some of my pics but will try and replace/retake.

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