Not Really Italian Bolognese


My husband’s cousin and her husband are in Florida visiting and will be coming for dinner. We have not seen them in ten years. I am making Bolognese Sauce, which might be bold since according to my husband, aka, Mr. Wonderful, I am not really Italian. He is right. My father’s side was Irish, English, German; my mother’s side all Irish on her mother’s side and all Italian on her father’s, at best, I am one-quarter Italian.

However, when my friend Marshal returned from Italy, where evidently all he ate was Rigatoni with Bolognese sauce; and now in withdrawal, I sent over a pot of sauce. He phoned to say, “Claudia, you make the best Bolognese sauce I have ever had, can you teach me?”

The next Sunday, I went to his house with my “Not Really Italian Bolognese Sauce” recipe written down in my head. Like many cooks I rarely follow a recipe exactly and make changes according to what is in the pantry.

Start with what is referenced as the trio; equal amounts of finely chopped onion, celery and carrot sauteed in pan lightly covered with olive oil. The pan needs to be hot enough that you hear or see a piece of onion sizzle. This takes about five minutes. Remove the trio from pan and brown two pounds of chop meat. Remove chop meat from pan, discard any liquid and brown or scorch at least 2 TBSP of tomato paste. You’ll smell the scorching.

Then add the trio back into the pan, de glaze the pan with ¼ cup white or red wine, add the sauce, meat, dried spices and whole garlic and simmer, for several hours. If you like thick sauce leave the pot cover off, for a thinner sauce leave the cover on.

Not Really Italian Tips

  • Use jar sauce, low in sugar or two cans of crushed tomatoes and or add chopped fresh tomatoes.
  • Add a whole carrot while sauce simmers then remove before serving if not sweet to your taste
  • Add whole garlic to sauce when simmering. I don’t chop or brown the garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried Basil and 1 or 2 dried bay leafs, even dried basil will make the sauce bitter if you add too much
  • Red or White Wine whatever is open

. . . . Just Saying

Aspetta and The Italian Bulldozer


Port of Civitavecchia

We will be traveling soon, a cruise on the Azamara Pursuit, to seven coastal cities around Italy. We will fly to Rome and board the cruise ship at Civitavecchia.

 Therefore, I have homework; a refresher course on geography and the weather, deciding what to pack and wear; and what to see at each port.

I have also found it helpful to read novels set in our travel location and previously read “Under the Tuscan Sun,” by Frances Mayes, and found one by my favorite author, Alexander McCall Smith. He is known for the “The #1 Ladies Detective Agency” series featured on PBS.

The title, “My Italian Bulldozer”, grabbed my attention, and when the main character, Paul, describes Tommy, the man his significant other ran off with, as a tattooed MESOMORPH, I knew Tommy had a fat neck before viewing the Kindle definition; a compact person with muscular body build.

Alexander McCall Smith transforms the mundane with insight, i.e. “the past has a bigger shadow than people believe,” and Paul takes off for Tuscany. I am hoping to  get an education about Italian wine.

Northern Italians are fair, and that is why my mother says I have blonde hair;  her side of the family, the De Salvo’s, were from there. My husband says I am not really Italian.



The first port  will be Amalfi, then Sorrento,; Taormina, Brindisi, Trieste and final port, Venice.

Really Italian, or not, growing up, we thought we were.



On Saturdays, my grandfather, Achilles DeSalvo, would take the train from the Bronx to  Long Island, wearing a sharkskin suit, a pressed handkerchief in his breast pocket, shoes with a spit shine, and hat, arriving around noon. After lunch he sat in the living room to read the newspaper and smoke a cigar. We gathered at his feet and watched his manicured hands unwrap the cigar then present the cigar band as a ring to one of us. Next, a Mounds bar was divided into four parts for all to share. After reading the newspaper, he phoned his bookie.



We called our grandfather Pop-Pop and and the only Italian that past his lips were the words aspetta, meaning wait and capisci, asking, do you understand? Other than his sharkskin suit, he wore, pajamas, or a guinea t-shirt with his trousers.  His father, Alfonso DeSalvo, came to America from Abruzzi, to be an American, owned a tailor shop in Manhattan, and English was spoken in their home.



I may not be that Italian, but have a real Italian name, Claudia Chianese. My husband’s family came from Naples, my best guess is from Casamiccola. There were many Antonio Chianeses sailing from Naples, or the equivalent of looking for John Smith in the USA, it has been difficult to know for sure.                                  




Aspetta, our cruise will end in Venice, capisci?

. . . . just saying

Girlfriends Weekend



Girlfriends Weekend

I recently flew to Boston for a girlfriends weekend and came home thinking I have to get away more. It was not just the good company but getting out in the world of Uber, Lyft, and Google Maps.

I did not know you could “Fly Dry” or that there are several head devices and hats to stimulate hair growth. The Delta Sky Magazine tucked inside the seat pocket (along with a vomit bag) advertised these products.

Having made a commitment to reading or rereading as many of the 100 books on the Great American Read list, I was reading Lois Lowry’s novel, “The Giver.” Last week I read “1984” and thought this a good choice to read next because both have similar themes, loss of individuality, but from contrasting societal views. “The Giver” takes place in a utopian world and “1984”,  a dystopian. Neither are happy reads, although there is no expectation of a happy ever after ending from Big Brother, “The Giver” leaves you guessing and me personally, annoyed.

So bored and grumpy over the ending of “The Giver” I thumbed through the airline magazine. Zach Posen, the designer of new uniforms for Delta’s attendants, was on the cover and I recognized him from Project Runway. Yes, I was a fan. The attendants on the plane wore the new plum colored uniforms that looked practical, comfortable, and wrinkle free. I was reading along when low and behold after the hair restoration advertisements, an ad for icon underwear similar to what I purchase for the trip appears. The tag line Fly Dry, caught my attention and I slipped a pair of cheaters on to read the smaller print, Pee-proof Underwear that keeps you dry on the fly.

I refrained from poking the person next to me and saying aloud, “When did peeing discretely in your pants, find a market?” Then thinking, perhaps it is a better option for those in the window seat reluctant to disturb fellow passengers, especially with the beverage cart in use. Thankfully, further investigation revealed the undergarment is for incontinence of three teaspoons or less.

Relieved I reclined my seat the one quarter of an inch allowable, closed my eyes, and savored the weekend trip.

thWe arrived late in the day, Saturday, but managed an ocean view meal that evening, at Renzo’s in Revere Beach. Sunday morning we viewed The Blaschka Glass Models of Plants and Flowers at the Harvard Museum  of Science, and then walked “The Secret Gardens of Cambridge” stopping for lunch at Toscana’s. In the evening, we went to Cheers Restaurant where no one knew our names, but Norm was there even though he was not. His presence was a cardboard cutout.


The following morning we were up and out of the hotel early for a Duck Tour. The tour guide, an over-weight past prime super hero, wore a red letter S on his chest and swirled a blue cape. His humor and knowledge of Boston, made us forget it was raining. Lunch was at California Pizza, we did not have pizza. It was the closest restaurant in the rain. After lunch we walked two blocks to the Public Library, a beautiful museum in itself and then made the trek to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to see missing artwork stolen in 1990 (you have to look for the empty frames). I say trek because, Google said it was a mile (the distance birds fly), it had to be a good three miles. I had a latte in the elegant Isabella Garden Café (white tablecloths) before mustering up the energy to climb the stairs and hunt for the missing pictures.IMG_0926

The finale of the trip was dinner in North End at Lucia on Hanover St. The meal was memorable.

I loved Boston and would return in a blink but the best was being with friends who have been friends for years. Two I have known since moving to Newton, N.J. in 1981 so that gives us 37 years of friendship. My oldest friend I met when we were thirteen. She is not older I have simply know her the longest, 57 years. Yikes! I am very blessed.

Year to date I am flying dry on my own, but you never know.

                           .  .   .   .  just saying

Mr. Mouse and Beach Street


Daytona is famous for the beach, racing, and Bike Week ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­. Water in shades of blue turquoise continue to roll across the flat beach front  that initially attracted John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford to race cars here and Bike Week is now world famous however, Daytona is simply a nice small town where I discovered and fell in love with Mr. Mouse.

My sister, Mel and her friend, Ellen, came to escape single digit temperatures in the North and had visited Flagler Beach, New Smyrna, and CiCi and Hyatt Browns Art Museum, so I suggested lunch at the Dancing Avocado on Beach Street in Daytona. Having been there before, I knew there was shaded outdoor seating.

Although reports that Homeless plague the area discouraging shopping, I frequently attend a writers group at The City Island Library and have not experienced problems. Beach Street is quite nice and home of the famous Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory, as well as my favorite Used Book Store, Abraxas.

Parking is easy to find, and free.


A recent Daytona Beach News Journal article by Mark Lane reminisces about the area in the 1960s and details his family’s arrival in 1962 as engineers for General Electronics Apollo Support Program. Lane talks about the music scene, segregation (“He didn’t share a classroom with black kids until seventh grade”), and Beach Street as the place to shop.

So we headed to Beach Street and the Dancing Avocado.

As we drove, I explained to Mel and Ellen that although we were driving on Beach Street they would not be looking at the Atlantic Ocean. The view was of the Halifax River.

Mel asks, “So where is River Road?”

I responded, “ The east side of the Halifax is called River Road, lots of big expensive houses and part of The Loop.  My guess is Floridians went to the beach along the river because back then, there was no bridge to the Oceanside.”

“Really?” Mel was amazed.

It was a cool fifty-five degrees so we sat inside at the Dancing Avocado and selected Veggie Burgers and Symphony salads made with carrot curls, sprouts and sunflower seeds.

Afterwards, we perused the shops and I confessed my search for a vintage cookie jar. Something to fill in an empty counter top space, as we entered “Sisters Décor & More.”

13321656_1709493119301735_5649400088070015355_nThe store was stacked with floor to ceiling shelving and cluttered with previously owned items. Ellen spotted an Old Mother Hubbard jar and drew my attention saying, “She’s kind of nice.”

I moved closer for a better view, and responded lackadaisically, “She doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t know what I’m looking, I’ll know when I see it,” and turned around.

In the corner, his nose pointing towards me was Mr. Mouse.

There was no discussion, no debate. He was perfect  I loved his extremely large ears, his small beady eyes and spidery whiskers.

At home, Mr. Wonderful was unimpressed with my new purchase, not even the $19 price tag! He thought his ears too big, I thought them just right, although he believed an open stack of saltines would nestle easily in its long snout.

I love Mr. Mouse’s small beady eyes and spidery whiskers, and the way he sits on the counter oozing personality.  Mr. Wonderful . . . not so much and roams the house saying, “Eek, eek! I see a mouse.”

. . . . just saying

Mr. Wonderful, aka, Bob is my husband of 46 years.












Hobnobbing and Sailing


Some would say I am MIA, not having published a blog post since January. I apologize. We did move and I could use unpacking and decorating the new hut as an excuse. But the truth is, I am struggling creatively. In the past an obscure word or thought would dance in my head until I put pencil to paper. Recently I have only pondered what to eat for lunch and how to get a better night’s sleep.

This morning however, the word hobnob and music from Gilligan’s Island interrupt my thoughts. While Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning asks questions about Google and mobile websites, I hum  “What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?” When Gayle King comments about a lost wedding band returned to a Boston marathoner I blank out, and say hobnob aloud.

You see, I have been hobnobbing. To be more specific, I just returned from a Road Scholar trip called, “Day Sailing for Beginners.” And yes, I feel like I am swaying on land and extremely dizzy when bending over.

Road Scholar educational adventures are conducted by Elderhostel, a not for profit world leader in lifelong learning. The trip description read, “Have you always wanted to experience the freedom and pleasure of sailing? Then this small-group program is for you.” The adventure included five days of sailing in Boca Ciega Bay (St. Petersbury, Florida), three meals a day and lodging for $935. A bargain! I stopped reading and mailed my check. Realizing “learning” to sail, not sailing, was the trip focus, while reviewing the trip itinerary and recommended reading list. I was still game. What the heck, I earned a knot-tying badge as a Brownie and know how to swim.

The small group of nineteen consisted of twelve women and seven men. The refrain “Ear-ly in the morning,” from the song, intrudes my thoughts as I now write, and recall the trip orientation and dinner on Sunday evening.

There were three couples, of which one were in their eighties and married sixty-five years. Seven of the participants were from Florida, four from New York and the rest scattered between Alabama, Indiana, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont.

Not everyone was retired. Their backgrounds were eclectic, varying from kindergarten teacher, geophysicist, law professor, computer programmer, and commercial farmer. Many had traveled extensively and lived in other countries. Several enjoy ballroom dancing. Two disclosed they had built sailboats in their youth then reluctantly admitted the boats sank.

We all lacked sailing experience when we entered the lecture room at Eckerd College,  to met, the lead instructor. He earned his facial wrinkles not by smiling but from numerous sailing certifications and dedication to the sea. Attractive, although, his nose was clearly designed to hold glasses on his face, his full head of white hair streaked with yellow suggested he was older than he looked. He had skinny knees and I speculated his mustache had been penciled on after shaving. He shut the lecture room door quickly, and a no-nonsense approach sprinkled with infinite patience was quietly revealed. He stood alongside a podium, a smart-board marker in his hand and said, “I am Richard, your Captain.”

Learning to sail was a wonderful experience. The learning curve was high however, and on Wednesday, I vowed to either do more new learning or abandon all learning that is new completely when my brain twisted Jibe and Gybing. That night a fellow crewmember stayed up late replacing the words in “What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor,” with nautical terminology.

A Brit, she shared her, “Sea Shanty in Honor of the Inestimable Captain Richard,” in the morning, and instructed the group to repeat each line three times then follow with the refrain “Ear-ly in the morning.”

Reef him to the boon vang, til he’s bowlined
Moor him to the jib sheet til he’s cleated
Winch him in the pulpit til he’s port tacked

There are numerous other stanzas calling for wrapping, lashing, tying, and dragging Captain Richard about. The group loved her rendition and ignored the implication of  bondage.

I am still dizzy when bending over and debating if it is a side effect of new learning or a brain tumor. I have doctor’s apppointment next week.

. . . . just saying

Stetson Mansion Showcase of Quilts

20140802_102345                                                                          Aging & Attitude

 Thanks to my friend Christine (who writes Pudbudder), my interest in quilts and sewing is rekindled.

Christine dragged me around to participate in the Central Florida Shop Hop. It is fun, if you live in Florida where the steering wheel is too hot to handle in July and August.

What is a Shop Hop?

It is a clever way to attract people to Quilt Fabric stores. Customers pay a five dollar fee for a passport and list of twenty-eight stores where they receive a free fat square of fabric when they visit. Quilting is now considered an art form. The stores are different and each a unique aesthetic experience.

At the Byrd’s Nest a Quilter explained why their business is booming. She incorporates a silhouette of the owner’s dog into a custom-made quilt. The quilt she worked on was constructed from beautiful mosaic black and brown fabric for a chocolate lab owner.

In our travels I learned about the Showcase of Quilts at Stetson Mansion. I have been to the Stetson Christmas tour and was eager to see quilts displayed throughout the mansion. I snapped some pictures, however, the tour was so interesting; I stopped to fully listen.  You will see those pictures below.

The Stetson Mansion is the restored summer home of John Stetson, maker of the Stetson Hat. TripAdvisor named the mansion one of  three hundred must see attractions in the United States, more popular than Disney. Orlando Disney is near Deland.

Tours are by reservation only, as the owners live at the mansion and maintain the property themselves. The cost of  renovation was contained by contributions from over three hundred sponsors, secured through letter writing. Over time, the campaign mailed some sponsors one hundred letters to obtain commitment. The renovation scheduled to take years was completed in eighteen months. Their story is enchanting and the the manison a definite must see.











 Dawn also posted some pics!

                                                        . . . just saying

Happy Passengers At Wrong Airport

imagesWhat, Me Worry?
Mad Magazine, Alfred E. Newman

“How Could That Happen?” I say aloud, but really talking to myself.

Mr. Wonderful* replies somewhat distracted, “How could what happen?”

He is lounging in his favorite sunny spot on the couch doing the New York Times crossword puzzle with an ink pen. I sit nearby, viewing a you tube video on my laptop.

“How could an airplane land at the wrong airport?”

“I haven’t a clue,” he says mimicking Brad Hawkins, a spokesperson for Southwest who said, “There is no explanation.”

Evidently, wrong airport landings happen.

In this particular incident the pilot brought the plane to a screeching halt to avert falling onto the interstate.

Brad announced that Southwest would refund tickets and provide future travel credit, whatever that means.

Passengers, waiting for bus transportation to the right airport, smiled and called the pilot a hero.

How could Southwest make this blunder? I love Southwest; there are no fees for checking luggage, or to change a flight. Plus, on the flight home from Albuquerque New Year’s Day, the flight attendant sang to us.

“Whatever happened to air traffic controllers? Don’t they tell pilots when and where to land. Remember, when Regan threatened to fire all of them, did he?

“Claudia, that was in 1981, they’ve probably been replaced with technology.”

“Like a GPS or Bluetooth.”

“I haven’t a clue. What’s a six letter word for gabardine?”

“Fabric, that’s what happened.”

“What’s what happened?”

“Technology, automation and pilots forgetting how to fly, there are two articles online. Do you think the pilot was texting or taking a selfie, maybe he fell asleep like the conductor of that Metro-North Train?”

“That conductor is not being charged; neither drugs, nor alcohol were involved and falling asleep isn’t a crime.”

“Not even if you’re driving a train?”

“Guess not, the investigation of the wrong airport thing should be interesting.”

“Technology is to blame; those stupid voice commands don’t work. You know what happens when we use it. We say phone Janine, and the Blue Tooth repeats, ‘phone Judy’.  We say no, it says ‘phone Janice’, we yell louder NOOOOOOOOOOO Phone JJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJanine. The automated system phones Judy. We disconnect and try again. This time the commands say press one to phone Judy, press two to phone Janice and Janine isn’t in the mix. We hang up, grab the cell, and dial Janine’s number. I’m sure that’s what happened to the pilot.”

“Right Claudia, you’re right, you’re always right.”

“No think about it, replace Janine with airport code BKG, Judy with MGC and Janice with KBGB and you’ll see what I mean. The pilot’s ‘automatic pilot’ kicked in and he landed the plane without any annoying automation.  No worry it was the wrong airport, the passengers were happy.”

. . . . just saying  

*Mr. Wonderful is my husband of 43 years.

Eating Moose


                                                    Aging & Attitude

Eating Moose

Miss Eva giggles, when her mom, Sasha Martin, announces they will be eating moose. The little girl’s flirtatious glance causes Sasha to clarify and add, banana mouse. This week the country is Sao Tome and Principe, and the menu Sweet Potato Frittata, Cod Fish Feijoada and Banana Mouse with Chocolate Shavings. Miss Eva started eating  international cuisine as a toddler, has a sophisticated palate and would not be surprised if moose were on the menu.

Do you dream of world travel? Not Sasha Martin, she turns dreams into travel around the world without leaving Tulsa, Oklahoma. I discovered Sasha and Global Table Adventure listening to NPR. Global Table Adventure, a way to experience the world, educate her daughter and take her picky husband with her, is her brainchild.

Tag lines reveal the mission and nature of her character.

Imagine if it were possible to create peace one bite at a time.

Let’s eat out way around the world.

Cooking the world A-Z

Catchy phrases like “stove top travel” and “I’m giving you the recipes, facts and reviews,” lure you to culinary delights. With eyes closed you can experience being there.

Sasha is focused, and organized; the website user-friendly and the pictures fabulous.

A student of the Culinary Institute of America she tackles a list of 195 countries alphabetically. If only I had discovered the adventure sooner,  she has explored 151 countries.

Travel Tuesday, tells about the country and culture, Menu Wednesday reveals what to cook, Thursday shows techniques and Fun Friday includes tidbits and polls. Saturday the family cooks and dines and the following Monday is meal review with photos and occasional video.

There is an Interactive Map, Adventure Status, and Global Gift Guide of twenty items with links to the manufacturers if you like to buy. Everything from Fred M Matroyshkas dry measuring cups, to Buddy Trainer Chopsticks, a set of two for $5.99.

The journey is real and sincere.

Proverbs are included this year, and Sasha tells of a recent visit with a friend  to share the wisdom.

If I am a prince and you are a prince, then who will lead the donkeys?” – Saudi Proverb

Sasha captures their conversation by concluding; “May we all let our hair be wild.”

I agree.

  … just saying

My Most Embarrassing Moment


 Wet & Wild

Aging & Attitude

   My most embarrassing moment occurred the summer of 1986 on Long Beach Island, a well know vacation spot for families from the New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia area. The drive along the Garden State Parkway to exit 63A and over the Manahawkin Bay Bridge, affectionately called The Causeway by locals, is a true Jersey experience. The unique bridge lights, famed Strand of Pearls, are memorable viewed at night.

Called LBI, the island known for its beach umbrellas, sand castles, and surfers, has no boardwalk, and is minus the frenzy of other nearby beach communities like Seaside Heights, famous for Snookie and the TV show “Jersey Shore.”

My husband says his most embarrassing moment was asking a cousin when her baby was due and she responded, “I’m not pregnant.”

His experience pales next to mine.

Makes you wonder what is behind embarrassment.

My children and husband watched the incident.

In 1986, my son was eleven, my daughter, nine, and me; I was thirty-eight years old. I do not know the age of the pimpled face teen.

The week was uneventful, no rain or black flies, and the mosquitoes only came out at night. Our friends and their two kids visited a few nights, and we went to the Wet & Wild slide in Beach Haven.

Recently, I Googled  Wet & Wild on Eighth and Bay Ave, and it is renamed the Thundering Surf Water Slide, but the giant pink bubble gum colored slide remains the same.

The kids enjoyed Wet & Wild so much we went back. My husband, not up for the wet and wild experience, joined other parents in the gallery to cheer and applaud when the ride ended. I was eager and grabbed a rubber magic carpet for the ride.

For the vacation, I purchased a hot turquoise one-piece swimsuit; halter-top, knotted behind the neck and perfect for swimming.

After several carpet rides, I was starting to enjoy myself, you know let loose, when the embarrassing moment happened. To this day I am thankful my husband was standing in the gallery, keen-eyed.

I landed in the bottom pool with the heavy magic carpet on my head, choking on water. My eyes opened to Pimple Boy staring at me like he is stoned.

I managed to remove the mat from my head and stand, then heard a voice call my name. Once my husband had my attention he pointed to his chest.  I looked down. Yes, I was fully exposed and playing to a full crowd, about twenty people.

Pimple Boy popped more zits and I scurried to hide and put things back in.

I sort refuge behind the stairs, where my two children where hiding, and exclaimed out of breath, “The most embarrassing thing just happened.”

In whispered tones, they mouthed, “We know, Mom.”

I wonder what Pimple Boy’s most embarrassing moment is.

What is your most embarrassing moment?

                                                         …just saying

Homeless in Apalachicola


Aging & Attitude

   My head turns with the slam of the restaurant’s screen door and I watch a woman my age, seat herself at an empty table for eight. It feels odd and she is toting too many bags.

Uninterrupted, our waitress listens to our comments and says, “Um, one got me bad the other day. I’m still scratching,” and puts menus and glasses of water on a blue tablecloth, its wrinkles accented by a small vase of pink plastic flowers.

“I’m Rachael, and I’ll be your server.”

We are in Apalachicola, a small fishing town located in the Florida Panhandle, and were sitting outside to watch a river sunset when the no-see-ums attacked and forced us indoors.

Always intrigued by the name, Apalachicola, Mr. Wonderful has surprised me with a stay at The Coombs Inn, a Bed & Breakfast.

“Where are you all visiting from? Rachael inquires, a pencil and spiral assignment pad clutched in one hand. She is wearing an orange t-shirt with Caroline’s Restaurant in cursive letters angled across her chest, and looks as incongruent as the wrinkled tablecloth.

“Ormond Beach on the east coast. We’re retired.”

“Now that’s a long haul, first time in the Oyster Capital? I bet you want a dozen fresh oysters.” She says with the enthusiasm of one who had a good night’s sleep.

We agree and Rachael says, “I’ll get that started and be back for your order, take your time now, no hurry.”

Apalachicola is a curious mix of old and new. A throwback town that looks loved and lived in. The Victorian homes are restored; most with tin roofs. The retail signs are not deliberately retro, just never replaced. You can enjoy gelato made with Florida mango, at the Apalachicola Chocolate Company on Avenue E as long as you get there before 5PM, after that all shops close.

The only new construction is The Water Street Hotel and Marina tucked at the end of Water Street alongside the commercial oyster boats. The smell of gasoline is strong as weathered oystermen smoking cigarettes, and wearing yesterday’s clothes fuel up.

I watch the woman actively arrange her bulging shopping bags, as another waitress slips beside her. I hear no conversation, suspect it is hushed and my curiosity heightens.

The woman’s bags are not new. The retail logos on several are disappearing.

She is served a class of white wine, instead of being asked to leave or move to a smaller table, and stoops over a menu as though she needs glasses. All day travel or slept-in creases distinguish the back of her jacket.

Rachael brings the oysters, takes our order and hightails it back to the kitchen.

Mr. Wonderful continues talking, reviewing the day; a visit to St. George Island and the lighthouse.  Our conversation with the museum volunteer who informed us there are eight hundred and some year round residents on the island now, and house prices have dropped five hundred thousand to one million dollars. Yes, dropped, she reaffirmed and suggested we visit the Nature Center, which is free and contains a beautiful mural of the Gulf area.

Rachael returns with house salads and casually asks, “Have you been to Panama City or Mexico Beach?”We have and recount their beauty. The blue-green gulf water rolls in to smooch the shore,its sand the texture and color of boxed table salt, unlike the ocean waves that slap the eastern coast to prove who is boss.

Realizing we have our salads but no silver, I look around to rob some from a nearby table. Surveying the area, I notice the woman stand abruptly and leave carrying her bags, the glass of wine untouched. I surmise she cannot pay and has come to her senses to explain the abrupt departure.

“Did you see that woman leave?” I ask Mr. Wonderful

“No. What woman?”  He answers.

“The one sitting by herself with all the bags, looks homeless.”

Rachael’s arrival with the entries interrupts our conversation and we ooh and aah about the fancy plating.

My meal is broiled grouper, shrimp, and bay scallops in reduced teriyaki sauce topped with wasabi, and sides of mixed vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes. Mr. Wonderful’s dinner is broiled scallops and a crab cake in lemon butter sauce, asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes.

We are enjoying our meal when I notice she’s back, without any bags.

Keeping my head down to control my confusion I say, “Look, look in the corner, it’s her.”

“What are you talking about?” Mr. Wonderful says with food in his mouth.

“Maybe she’s staying at the motel next store and went to put her bags in the room. She’s probably mentally ill. Or even run away, had enough of everything,  I start to speculate when I notice her perfectly manicured hands flip open an iPhone, and conclude . . . maybe newly homeless.

The dinner is memorable, and the day outstanding.

I could do homeless in Apalachicola.                                                                                                                             . . .just saying