Friday, December 31, 2010

Ode to 2010

Another year of blogging under my belt

Blogs telling of what I thought or felt

Typing away, this mother of two and a wife

Still blogging about pieces of my life

Year 2011 lies ahead

More blogs to be written

More blogs to be read

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Too Pretty to Eat...Well, Almost

These are a box of chocolates from a little shop in town called Swiss Connections.

They are handcrafted by artisans and use only the finest Swiss chocolate, quality butter, aromatic spices and fresh fruits and nuts.

There are 36 different confections to choose from. It is not easy to narrow ones choices down to a few as each confection looks beautiful and delicious.

The Colonel and I had to visit Swiss Connections the other day. We needed to drop off some information for the owner so that she could place an ad in the program we are putting together for our museum's annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast. Well, we couldn't leave without buying some of these gorgeous chocolates.

After purchasing the chocolates we had to make another stop, DSIL's house construction site.

I knew I would want to blog about these edible works of art eventually, so I needed to take a picture of them in an artsy-fartsy way.

The Colonel found a discarded palm frond that I could place the boxed candies on and snap away.

I was getting odd looks from the house builder as I was creating my tableau. To stop him thinking I was a complete idiot as I lovingly composed my shot, I informed him of my blogging and to further pacify him, once I was done taking pictures, I offered him a chocolate of his choice. He chose the mango flavored chocolate. I also offered one to the man who was working on DSIL's house. He chose the strawberry.

I know you are curious as to the identity of each of these confection cuties below, so I'll tell you, starting with the top row, left to right.

Champagne, Peanut Butter Banana, Strawberry
Rum Cake, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Pina Colada
Mango, Peaches and Cream, Tiramisu

Almost too pretty to eat....Almost.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A New Christmas Tradition in the Making?

The Colonel and I took a day trip about a month ago to a little town near us that is full of antique shops.

We did not come back with any antiques, only the taste of delicious, frozen, chocolate-covered bananas on our tongues, the desire to have more of them and to be able to make them ourselves.

We researched recipes for the bananas on line. We found one and decided to try it. We bought some ripe bananas, peeled them, cut them in half, inserted Popsicle sticks and put them in the freezer. The next day we melted some semi-sweet chocolate chips in a double-boiler and when the chocolate was liquid we added the butter like the recipe said and began stirring. Almost instantly the chocolate became thick and brownie-like and unusable. First attempt...disaster.

The next day we went out and bought more chocolate. Melted it again but did not put the butter in. We dipped the frozen bananas. Delicious, but the chocolate coating was too thick. There had to be a better way.

I found some commercially made, frozen, chocolate-coated bananas in my local grocery store to fill the void until we devised a way to make perfect home-made bananas of our own.

At Thanksgiving, when we had The Colonel's parents and sister here, we all became "addicted" to the bananas. We began to rethink a new recipe for our home-made bananas.

Darling-Sister-In-Law (DSIL) went home after Thanksgiving and began working on a recipe.

She used Smucker's Magic Shell for ice cream. She put some of the shell liquid in a little glass and dipped a frozen banana in.

She then put the bananas back into the freezer. Eureka!

When The Colonel's parents and sister (she brought her little, banana-dipping glass with her) were here for Christmas we put her new recipe into action.

We tried some other Smucker's Magic Shell flavors like caramel (Yam and I thought it tasted like butterscotch) as well as Hershey's Shell (we all agreed that the Hershey brand of shell tasted better than the Smucker's).

We dipped some of the bananas in both shell flavors, delicious! We also sprinkled chopped pecans on some of the bananas, excellent!

The biggest hurdle in our banana production was a way to keep the bananas upright and separated from one another while in the freezer. I took two Styrofoam food plates (the ones with separate food compartments) and stapled them together so that they formed a hollow core. I then cut slits in the plates to place the Popsicle sticks into. It wasn't pretty, but it worked (still need to work on this).

Our homemade bananas were better tasting than the store bought ones.

We all agreed that making frozen, chocolate-covered (and nut-covered) bananas will probably become a new Christmas tradition for this family.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Constructing a House and a Citrus Salad

Darling-Sister-In-Law's (DSIL) house is finally under construction. If all goes smoothly and on schedule it should be done sometime in April.

Watching the construction brings back memories of our house being built.

It will be a beautiful house on a nice little lot in town.

On DSIL's lot are some citrus trees. There is a tangerine tree that produces very delicious and juicy tangerines, a lemon tree whose fruits we have not yet partaken of, an orange and grapefruit tree that DSIL planted a while back that have produced their first fruits of six oranges and two grapefruits.

DSIL and I picked the oranges, grapefruits, some of the lemons and tangerines.

We placed the citrus we harvested on what would eventually become the floor of DSIL's screened-in porch at the back of the house.

It was getting near dinner time so we left the construction site and headed back to my house with our citrus collection.

The next morning DSIL and I peeled the grapefruit, oranges and some of the tangerines to construct a homegrown citrus salad.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Waiting in the Wings

Spud got some great news in the mail yesterday. The large envelope contained a blue folder that held a letter (and other paperwork) informing Spud that he has been accepted by the University of North Florida.

We are so proud of him and happy for him. UNF was the first choice in his lineup of college preferences.

Spud will be an Osprey, the mascot of UNF.

Yam has been an FGCU Eagle for one and a half years now.

I think it is interesting that Yam and Spud (are/will be) both birds, an Eagle and an Osprey.

Bird's baby birds are on the road to leaving the nest and one day soon The Colonel and I will be empty-nesters.

But for now, the empty-nesters are waiting in the "Wings".

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Channeling Jackson Pollock

I think I have been channeling Jackson Pollock for some time now. He was an American artist who was a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement.

This is one of his pieces.

And this is my shirt after lunch a few days ago.

This seems to happen to me quite a much so that I bought myself an adult sized bib at an arts and crafts show a while back. The bib covers my entire front, all the way down to my waist.

Yam, Spud and The Colonel laughed at me when I bought it. I promised them I would only wear it while at home. It has saved a few shirts since I purchased it.

Sure wish I had it on during lunch the other day and I sure hope the stains come out of my shirt.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bringing Home the Bacon

I saw this box of Aplets & Cotlets in a lovely, holiday display in my local grocery store's produce section.

I just had to buy a box and bring it home.

Aplets & Cotlets are not my favorite sweets. They are very similar to, if not indeed actually Turkish Delight candies which I could take or leave (obviously I couldn't leave them this time). The founders of Aplets & Cotlets were two Armenian immigrants who settled in Cashmere, Washington in 1920, so my guess is that the sweets are indeed Turkish Delight candy with a catchy, Americanized name.

Seeing the box took me back to the 1989 holiday season and the only time I "brought home the bacon" since becoming The Colonel's wife.

The Colonel and I had an understanding that I would not work (to me, work is a four-letter word) outside the home once we were married unless our finances dictated it a necessity. It never became a necessity, thank God. I have always been a stay at home wife and mother. According to, all my duties as a stay at home mom (and wife) would equate to an annual salary of $117,867.00. That's a lot of "Virtual Bacon" being brought home.

Which brings us back to the only time I brought home the "real" bacon back in 1989.

A friend of mine was working for Liberty Orchards, the company that makes Aplets & Cotlets, and it was the height of the Christmas Season and she needed help with setting up displays in stores. We worked together for about 3 weeks.

In the trunk of Lisa's car were cases of Aplets & Cotlets as well as cardboard display towers we had to build once we arrived in the stores (put tab A into slot B). Lisa would talk to the store manager first and ask them where they wanted us to build the candy display. Usually they wanted us in the produce section but sometimes they would put us at the end of an isle, the end cap, a highly coveted area in stores.

I remember one set-up in particular in a K-Mart store. Lisa was on her knees on the floor, putting the finishing touches on the cardboard display tower as I was opening a case of candy, getting it ready for the tower, when a young man with Down's Syndrome came up to Lisa and started petting her hair (I really couldn't blame him, Lisa had long, thick, wavy hair, it was beautiful). As he was petting Lisa's hair he informed me that Lisa was his girlfriend. The tress touching lasted a few minutes until the young man's mom arrived and pulled him away without a scene. Lisa was a real trooper about it.

I made around $900.00 dollars helping Lisa out.

The Colonel likes to lovingly tease me about not working outside the home except for that one time, 21 years ago...according to my ciphering, I'm worth more being a stay-at-home-mom and wife.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Robert Roberta

Last week on Friday I was in the doctor's office. I was there because it felt like I had an ear infection coming on and the weekend was definitely coming on and I always seem to get sick over the weekend when doctors' offices are closed and I wanted to preemptively strike any illness before the weekend hit (I didn't thank God, turns out I just needed an over-the-counter antihistamine to help clear my ear canals).

As I was sitting in the waiting room, a patient came in. From the corner of my eye I sensed that something was different about this person. Without being rude, I chanced a longer, surreptitious glance and determined what the difference was.

My mind instantly fixated on a line from Bob Seger's ballad, Turn the Page.

Most times you can't hear 'em talk,
other times you can.
All the same old cliches
"Is that a woman or a man?"

It was a Transsexual. Male to Female.

Her name was Roberta.

I gleaned this information from the fleeting conversation the girl at the front desk had with Roberta as Roberta signed in.

"Hi Roberta, how are you today?" said the cheery front desk girl.

"Not doing too well," answered Roberta in a low octave.

"I bet you're enjoying this cooler weather so that you can wear cute sweaters," cheery girl said.

No reply from Roberta (she probably wasn't feeling chatty from not doing too well and all).

Roberta had on a gray, long-sleeved sweater, an ankle-length, denim skirt and cute (albeit larger than normal women's shoe size) sandals; kinda Roman-esque.

Roberta's hair was shoulder length, an ash blond with a little curl to it. I was sitting when I saw her, but I guessed her to be around 5'10" and about 60 years old (gosh, I feel like I'm giving the cops the description of some perp).

I couldn't take a picture of Roberta, but she looked similar to Stu Rasmussen, an Oregon Mayor. Roberta was wearing glasses if I remember correctly (remember I didn't want to appear rude and stare too long).

Seeing Roberta was a little jolting, for a moment.

I had hoped I, as an adult, and one who had lived in Key West for 3 and 1/2 years and saw much gender-bending going on, would not have blinked an eye when Roberta made her entrance.

Maybe it was the human nature that is hardwired into all of us that made me blink; the nature that causes us to desire and expect that males are male and females are female and never the twain shall meet. Maybe I had been away from Key West too long.

I think people like Roberta are courageous and I hope she is happy now.

I hope she is feeling better now and that it wasn't anything serious enough to ruin her weekend.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It Runs in the Family

A few months ago I wrote a blog entry about my dear friend's knitting design making the cover of a national magazine called, Creative Knitting.

Well, her daughter has made the cover of Kiki magazine. It is a great magazine for girls with style and substance (where was this magazine when my own daughter was younger?).

The magazine is sold in many bookstores across the country (as well as Canada, for one dollar more, as I gathered from the cover).

As soon as I found out about The Young Lady and her cover debut, I went out a purchased a copy of Kiki.

The Young Lady's likeness is also found within the pages of the magazine.

The Young Lady and Yam share the same birth, in a convoluted sort of way, I am feeling a bit of a mother's pride for The Young Lady and her cover girl status. For all of that, I know my feelings are a mere trifle compared to those of my dear friend.

Congratulations to The Young Lady!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Real Fountain of Youth or Eastern Europe?

Two years ago, on our anniversary, The Colonel handed me this Golden Ticket (of his own making) entitling me to a spa day, gourmet lunch included, at Warm Mineral Springs. The ticket has been stuck to my fridge the whole time, until today (Monday, November 15), when I cashed it in and The Colonel and I visited the springs.

On the bottom of the ticket it states; no rain checks, offer not good in conjunction with other offers, offer expires without notice, redeem for cash value of $1.35 (Canadian).

Thank God The Colonel did not void my Golden Ticket due to my procrastination.

First a little history and stats about Warm Mineral Springs...

In 1942, the Director of Health Foundation Washington, D.C., Jonas E. Miller, officially declared that after extensive research of the available historical accounts, Warm Mineral Springs is the real Fountain of Youth.

Then in 1958, retired Army Colonel, William R. Royal, an an underwater archeology enthusiast, moved to Florida. He explored many under water caves around the state looking for sharks and prehistoric fossils.

He dove the waters of Warm Mineral Springs and discovered stalactites and stalagmites of an underwater cave. After entering the cave he found a bone from a Saber-Toothed Tiger and a human skull with the remains of brain matter still inside. Both the bone and skull were carbon dated at 10,000 years old. The skull was later identified as that of a 16 to 19 year old female.

10,000 years ago Warm Mineral Springs was a dry sink hole with Colonel Royal's yet to be discovered cave about 65 feet down inside and around 8,000 years ago and the end of the last Ice Age, water began to fill up the sink hole to its current level.

This drawing gives you an idea of the different levels of the spring.

This is an aerial view of Warm Mineral Springs.

The miracle waters of Warm Mineral Springs contains 51 minerals; the highest mineral content in America. The waters boast restorative and health benefits. The 9 million gallons of water that flows daily is a constant 87 degrees - perfect for swimming and soaking.

This is what we saw first of the springs, an Old-Florida style, tile mosaic sign. Seeing this, I knew we were in for an Old-Florida attraction treat.

We then entered a tiled tunnel, paid our fee and continued down the tunnel until it opened up onto the grounds of the springs.

The grounds gently sloped down to the water's edge. We made our way to the water and grabbed two of the many lavender chairs that surrounded the water and placed them closer to the shore of the springs.

The springs looked like a round lake and there were entry ramps at certain points around the shoreline.

The Colonel and I didn't get into the water straight away. We sat in our chairs, reading and people watching. There was tranquil, spa-like music being played over speakers on the grounds. It was relaxing, sitting alongside the water, warm sunshine on our shoulders and listening to the music.

The pull of the water began to be too much for me (just like it always did when I was a child at our family's lake house). "I'm going in," I told The Colonel. He was right behind me.

I grasped the metal rail as I walked down the ramp that sloped down into the warm water. My feet left the ramp and landed on the sandy (with an occasional rock) bottom.

The water was 87 degrees, cooler than body temperature, so it took a little bit of getting used to, and then it was perfect. Because it is a Florida spring, the water had a bit of a sulfury smell to it. I also thought it smelled a bit like chicken broth so I told The Colonel the water reminded me of egg drop soup. I was floating in a huge bowl of egg drop soup! After a while you got used to the smell. Some of the water splashed onto my lips and I discovered it had a slightly salty taste to it.

The shallow part of the spring was separated from the bottomless deep part by a floating rope (refer to the aerial photo of the spring). Most swimmers/floaters stayed in the shallow area, moving in a clockwise fashion. The Colonel and I ventured into the deep area. I was more buoyant than The Colonel. I do not know if this was due to my body's reaction to the 51 minerals or my adipose tissue (of which I have more than The Colonel does, so my money is on the adipose tissue theory). The Colonel needed a pool noodle to help him float better, but this being our first visit, we did not think to bring one as many of the others there did. Noodle-less, we made our way back to the shallow area.

Floating clockwise in the shallow area, The Colonel and I caught snippets of the conversations of our fellow floaters. If we closed our eyes we would have sworn we were in Russia or the Ukraine. Nearly every person there was foreign (with an average age of 68). We did hear two couples not speaking Russian, they were speaking German. We also heard three ladies speaking English. They were commenting on the number of non-English speakers at the springs. As I floated by I verbally agreed with her. She was shocked saying, "I didn't think you could understand me." I don't think I look Eastern European...maybe it was my "swvim-vear"?

Remember, my Golden Ticket included a gourmet lunch, so after a bit of soaking, we got out of the water to dry off before lunchtime.

On the grounds is a little restaurant. I ordered a Talapia (type of fish) Reuben. I love Reubens. This fish dish was interesting, but I think I prefer my Reubens with corned beef. The Colonel had a starter of Borscht, a soup of Ukrainian origin (how could they not serve it with all of the Eastern/Central Europeans floating outside and eventually working up an appetite). The Colonel liked his soup. I tasted it, it was Okay, I guess, I don't like beets like The Colonel does. It sure was a pretty color though.

After lunch (without waiting an hour), we went back into the water. It was relaxing, slowly floating around the spring. There was a slight current that gently pushed us along.

We spent about 4 and a half hours at Warm Mineral Springs. It was a very nice day and a great experience to be able to take a dip in the real Fountain of Youth. So glad I finally used my Golden Ticket.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Better Than The Big Easy's

The Colonel and I made the most delicious Red Beans and Rice for dinner the other day.

The preparation for this dinner started 24 years and three days before we served it at our table.

Let me explain.

In November of 1986, one month after The Colonel and I were wed, we made the trip to the very first duty station of our 20 years with the U.S. Air Force.

We began our trip in the state of our births, Indiana. We packed all of our meager, newlywed belongings in our new Nissan truck and towed my fully packed, little, black, Ford Escort behind.

Our final destination would be a tiny town in Texas (I know, nothing in Texas is supposed to be tiny).

We made a stop along the way in New Orleans. It was our first time in "The Big Easy". We fell in love with the city and had our first authentic red beans and rice in the heart of the Vieux Carre, or the French Quarter.

We enjoyed the delicious local dish very much. It was spicy with just a bit of heat to it and tasted a little exotic to our Midwestern palates.

Throughout the years we have tried many different recipes and nothing seemed to come close to that dish of red beans and rice we had in New Orleans 24 years ago.

Once in a while we like to watch Food Network's show called Good Eats, with Alton Brown. I think he is funny. We happened to be watching the day he had a recipe for red beans and rice.

Could this finally be the elusive red-beans-and-rice-recipe-holy-grail we had been searching for, for so long? I faithfully jotted down each ingredient and step to the recipe (the link at the beginning of this blog will take you to the recipe, thus saving me loads of typing).

Mr. Brown said what makes this recipe New Orleans authentic is the pickled pork.

It would take three days for the pork to pickle. When we pulled the pork out of the brine we had made three days prior it wasn't a pretty sight. Pickled pork is pale (I was beginning to doubt Alton Brown's culinary wisdom).

The Colonel and I continued to follow the recipe.

Twenty-four years, three days and many different recipes later we had indeed found the Holy Grail. This little bowl of gastronomical heaven was proof (please forgive us our temporary shadow of doubt Mr. Brown).

Our red beans and rice were much better than The Big Easy's.

Ils sont tres bon; ils etaient tres delicieux!

Have no fear New Orleans, we will visit you again one day and eat some of your red beans and rice. Although ours are more delicious, we can't create the ambiance of the French Quarter and we have not mastered your praline and beignet recipes.