Saturday, May 30, 2009

Crazy Corn

I had my husband's family here recently. They came for my daughter's high school graduation. They, my husband and I are all originally from the Midwest. Corn features heavily in the lives of Midwesterners. I have planted it, hoed it, picked it, shucked it and ate it many times for many years.

My mother-in-law, sister-in-law and I made a trip to Wal-Mart where we saw some corn for sale. Our Midwestern roots would not allow us to pass it up (sale or not). We chose 10 ears to take back for dinner that evening.

It was time to prepare the corn for dinner, so I took it out to my back porch, sat down and started to shuck the ears with my mother-in-law's help. The shucking was ordinary and predictable (remember I am a semi-pro at shucking corn) until the final ear's husks were pulled off...

...this is what was hiding underneath...

An ear of corn with a "Parasitic Twin"!

In all my years of corn wrestling I have never seen an ear of corn like this. I was taken aback by it and quickly showed it off to everyone. All of the other "Seasoned Midwesterners" had never seen anything like it either. I knew this event was destined to become "Blog Fodder".

I separated the "twins" with my sharpest kitchen knife, disposed of the smaller "twin" prior to cooking the corn.

My husband ate the larger one and said it tasted quite ordinary.

The Graduate

On May 28th my daughter graduated from high school. She graduated Magna Cum Laude, which is to say she was recognized as having a 3.85 or higher weighted cumulative GPA, at least six weighted course credits with a "B" or higher (three of which must have been dual credit or Advanced Placement course credits), and no grades below a "C". Needless to say (but I will anyway and very loudly), I am very proud of her.

May 1979 to May 2009. The 30 years have rushed by in the blink of my eye. My daughter's graduation had me thinking of my own in 1979. I was a fresh-faced 17 year-old (I would turn 18 in September) and my future was awaiting me. I had plans to attend a small university and major in Broadcast Technology...I did. My future also included plans to work as a television news reporter/anchor woman. I did that too (the television station was small and third in the market of three). I wanted to be married one day, after I made my "mark on the world", and hopefully have a family of my own too...currently fulfilling this plan.

My daughter has a bright future ahead of her. As she looks to that future, I wish her success and happiness always. May she do what she loves, and love what she does (and be able to make a good living at it too).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Just a Swingin'

My husband has made us a new swing (with some help from me). He drew up his own plans for the swing because he could not find plans he liked or a pre-made swing he cared for to replace our old one. He wanted the swing to be long enough to lie down on so one might read a book or take a nap on the swing, while enjoying the shade and breeze on the back porch. This new swing is six and a half feet long.

The six foot swing construction started out with a trip to our local home improvement store. Wood had to be chosen, as well as nuts and bolts.

The wood and hardware were brought home and set up in the garage. Lots of sawing, gluing, drilling and sanding...

When the swing was finally built (in only 8 hours of construction time) it was time to think about what color we wanted to paint the beautiful, new, super-sized swing. We made yet another trip to the local home improvement store to check out our many options...

We decided to paint it a tropical blue color called "Sea Life". It looks pretty against the yellow of our house.

I can already feel the slight swing and cool breeze as I drift off into a nap while loosely clutching a best selling paperback book. Life is good.

Monday, May 18, 2009

To Have and To Hold II

On Saturday, May 16th, my daughter and I attended the wedding of the daughter of one of my high school friends. I have not been to a wedding in over two years and my daughter was only 6 months old when she attended her first and only wedding. She was curious to see a wedding again (one she could remember this time) and I was curious to see my friend. It has been twenty years since I last saw her at our 10-year high school reunion.

We arrived ten minutes before the outdoor wedding was scheduled to begin. We found our seats, which turned out not to be our seats, but those of the parents and grandparents. These were not reserved as such with any informative signage, so an honest mistake, my bad. We make the seat changes before the wedding starts and before we cause any embarrassing scene. I catch glimpses of my friend, but have yet to say hello. She is busy with the "Mother-of-the-Bride" things. It is hot and humid, but thankfully we have been provided with a fan that has the bride's and groom's names printed on them, and the fans make for great shade and relief. The music starts and the procession begins.

The wedding party, parents and grandparents are in place and the vows begin. Beautiful words are spoken by the officiate, words about the bride's and groom's clasped hands, these hands that will help lift one another up during good times and bad, hands that will hold any children that come along, hands that will wipe away tears of sadness or joy...As these words and vows are spoken a suspicious cloud is looming overhead. It is becoming darker by the syllable. The rings are exchanged and the words, "You may kiss the bride", are uttered and down comes the rain from the cloud. It was like we were on the set of a Doris Day movie and the rain was on cue. We all sought shelter under the eaves of the porch. The rain did not last long and was not heavy so pictures could be taken soon after the cloudburst.

Finally my friend has a break in her picture taking and "Mother-of-the-Bride" duties and can sit a while with my daughter and I. She is still the same....same voice, same sense of humor, same is like it hasn't been 20 years since we've seen one another. We laughed, talking about our times in high school and the other dear friends we ran around with. I enjoyed listening to her talk about her life and family since high school and watching her interact with her family and friends at the wedding and reception. It was a simple, pretty wedding and the reception was held at a family campground on a lovely lake. The atmosphere was very relaxed and family oriented. The food was catered by Sonny's Bar-B-Q, a restaurant chain here in the south. YUM! Lots of food, music and heartfelt toasts to the newlyweds.

The reception winds down and I snap a picture of the parents of the bride. My friend is happy but glad it is almost over and she swears she will pay for a wedding planner for daughter number two and is glad her last child is a son. I tell her it has been lovely to see her and her husband again and to share this happy day, and let's not make it another 20 years until we see one another again.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Award Winning Children

My daughter and son have given me the best Mother's Day gifts I could have ever wished for and my gifts were given to me over the last couple of weeks. These weeks were peppered with awards banquets and awards programs.

I proudly sat at the table, beaming, as each time my son was called to the stage to receive a medal at the NJ ROTC awards banquet. This year he received the following medals: Naval Science II Outstanding Cadet, USMC League, Sons of the American Revolution Leadership, Teddy Roosevelt U.S. Navy League, Rifle Marksmanship, Rifle Team and VFW Bronze Star.

During the Class of 2009 awards program, I couldn't help but proudly smile as my daughter walked across the stage to be recognized as a recipient of the Florida Bright Futures Program, Florida Academic Scholars (FAS) Award. This will pay 100% of her college tuition this Fall. She walked across the stage a second time to receive her American Legion Auxiliary Unit #103 award; a monetary award that will help off-set some of the college needs not covered by the FAS award.

Motherhood is one of the most influential and sublime vocations one can hope to aspire to. More reasons to be proud of my children are the gifts they gave me. I am proud of my children and love them, for who they are and who they are becoming. I must be doing something right and with God's help and my husband's, I will continue to do so.

Florida Oranges

The orange originated in India and it still grows wild there. Alexander the Great introduced oranges into Europe from the subcontinent. Arabs carried the orange west through the Mediterranean until it was brought to Spain by invading Moors. These oranges were sour and were known as Seville oranges. The Chinese modified the orange and made it sweeter. This sweeter orange was introduced into Europe by Portuguese traders.

Learn about Florida's "Citrus Wizard", a Chinese immigrant named Lue Gim Gong.

In exploration's hey-day, the length of a sea voyage was determined by how long it took scurvy to disable the crew of a ship. Scurvy is a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C. It is characterized by general weakness, anemia, gingivitis, and skin hemorrhages. When it was discovered that oranges prevented scurvy, mariners of many countries planted oranges along their trade routes. An orange (or its juice) a day, keeps the Scurvy away!

Columbus brought the orange to the Caribbean. It did very well there. Ponce de Leon brought the orange to Florida. Spain decreed that all ships heading for America bring orange trees to plant. The descendants of these trees can still be found growing wild in Florida's forests. Florida is the number one orange producer in the United States.

My personal favorite orange juice to drink is made by TROPICANA.

I grew up in the Midwest and we always drank orange juice made from frozen concentrate. The first time I drank Tropicana's orange juice, I knew I could never go back to drinking frozen concentrate. Tropicana's orange juice was like drinking liquid Florida sunshine (chilled of course).

Since posting this blog I have found a new favorite orange juice, Florida's Natural. I think it tastes better than Tropicana's and it is made from only Florida oranges.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Delicious Dinner!

I made an easy and tasty dinner tonight. I have a knock-off recipe for Wendy's chili. I think it actually tastes better than the restaurant's chili. It makes 12 cups, so you can have leftovers on a plain baked potato the next day.

"Wendy's" Chili

2 pounds of extra lean ground beef

2 (15 oz) cans tomato sauce

2 (15 oz) cans kidney beans with liquid

2 (15 oz) cans pinto beans with liquid

1 cup diced onion

4 oz can diced green chilies

1/4 cup diced celery

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 teaspoons cumin

3 tablespoons chili powder

1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups of water

Brown the beef and drain. Add all remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over a medium-low heat for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. One cup is worth 4 Weight Watchers Points.

I made some beer bread to go along with the chili. It is an easy bread to make and delicious. The bread will take on the flavor of the beer you use, so use your favorite! Delicious with butter or plain. I got this recipe from my mother-in-law. Thanks Jane.

Beer Bread

3 cups of self-rising flour

3 tablespoons sugar

12 oz warm beer of choice

Mix all ingredients and put into a greased loaf pan. Bake @ 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes. If cut into 10 servings, each serving is worth 3 Weight Watchers Points.

Give So Others May Live

Every three seconds someone, somewhere, needs a blood transfusion!

Today my husband and I donated blood. We have been doing this since our college days. My husband is working on his 3rd gallon and I have completed my 2nd gallon of donated blood. We try to donate every 56 days or when we can.

I want to tell everyone who is eligible to donate to do so. Your one pint of blood can save up to three people. Giving blood is good for you. Before you donate you have a mini checkup...blood pressure check, iron check, temperature and pulse rate. Your blood will be checked for cholesterol levels and you will get that number later in the mail. A mini checkup without the co-pay!

Giving blood is beneficial for men. It cuts down the chances of heart attack and stroke. This was explained to me by the phlebotomist. He used the analogy of an oil change in a car. The car runs better when the oil is changed every 3,000 miles or so. A blood donation causes the body to create new red blood cells to replace those taken through the donation. Nature has given women a monthly "oil change".

Who can donate? Any healthy, 110+ pound adult. There is no discomfort during donation and just a slight sting from the needle at the beginning. Just think of the lives you are saving during the needle stick. You have 10 to 12 pints of blood in your body. Whole blood donation takes just one of those pints which weighs about one pound. The whole blood donation process takes about 5-10 minutes. The entire process, from registration to post-donation refreshments (cookies and juice, yum!), takes about an hour.

People with O negative blood are known as "universal donors". In an emergency anyone can accept O negative blood. My husband and I both have O positive like 37 % of the population. The rarest blood type is AB negative, but ALL blood types are needed.

I cannot stress enough to those who can donate, to please do so. No, I am not being paid by the blood centers...I believe it is our duty to help in this capacity if we are able. Remember, your one pint of blood can help up to three people and you never know when you or someone you love may need a blood transfusion.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

River Ride

On the first day of May my husband, his parents, his sister and I took a pontoon boat trip up the Peace River. This trip was a present for my Father-in-Law. Captain Louie Desguin, a Punta Gorda native and owner of Punta Gorda River Boat Tours, piloted us up the river while telling tales of his youth on the river. He told us that parts of the river were used in the filming of Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller.

Captain Louie

Within minutes of casting off we spotted a small pod of dolphins.

The weather was perfect. Sunny and warm with a slight breeze. The banks of the Peace River are very much the same as when the Caloosa Indians lived here and when Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon landed, looking for the Fountain of Youth. The boat ride up the river was relaxing.

We saw many kinds of wildlife along the river. As well as the dolphins, we saw a couple of alligators, many nesting wood storks, cattle herons, tri-colored herons, ibis, moorhens, pelicans, an osprey and finally some manatees.

In the Peace River there are small islands that the birds use as rookeries. Our captain was able to pull the boat close to the islands to allow us to see the birds clearly. They were loud and stinky, but it was great to see them up close.

Baby Wood Storks

As part of the boat trip (but not included in the trip price), we had lunch at The Nav-a-Gator restaurant. Delicious seafood surrounded by Old Florida charm. The Nav-a-Gator reminded me of some of the places we used to frequent in the Keys. I ate a delicious grouper sandwich with sweet potato fries.

After lunch we boarded the boat and headed back down river. Along the way we stopped by another island rookery where we saw, heard and smelled more nesting birds. The boat trip was very nice and one I would highly recommend. My husband and I want to take some of the other boat trips Captain Louie has to offer.