Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pass the State Tree Please

This is a picture of a Sabal Palm, also known as a Cabbage Palm. It is the state tree of Florida. I have heard that Florida is the only state that eats its own tree.

The Colonel, Spud and I partook of the state tree a couple of days ago when we attended the 14th Annual Florida Frontier Days.

Every year Frank D. sets up his tent and cooks "swamp cabbage" made from the heart of the Sabal Palm.

Swamp cabbage does not taste like cabbage. It has a mild flavor and is tender to the bite when cooked properly.

Frank's swamp cabbage is delicious. It is made with pork in a clear broth.

When you eat swamp cabbage you must always have some Everglades Seasoning on hand.

Frank had some at the ready as he scooped out three servings for us.

The Sabal Palm is a tasty tree. I am glad I live in Florida and not Alabama...their state tree is the Longleaf Pine...although I have heard that many parts are edible...right Euell Gibbons?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fantastic Fossil Find

My family enjoys hunting for fossils. We've hunted them in Indiana, Texas, Oklahoma and Florida. We've found gastropods, horse, shark and Camelops teeth. In our fossil collection we also have many kinds of bone and shell. We recently went on a fossil trip with renowned fossil hunter Mark Renz. It is always exciting when you find a fossil.

The Colonel found this the other day...the fossilized tooth of a Snaggletooth Shark. Here it is in situ.

He marked the spot with a flag.

The tooth, as you can see, measured roughly 2 inches.

This is where The Colonel found the fossil (note the little white flag near the base of the oak trees). He found it in our own driveway!

Our driveway is made of crushed (fossilized) shell. We have had a couple of days of heavy rains (of nearly biblical proportions) and the rain uncovered the shark's tooth.

Not seven steps away I found a partial tooth of a Megalodon (ancient, 67-foot long shark).

With a few more rains who knows what we will find...maybe a Mastodon tooth!

"Cashing In" My Golden Ticket

I can't believe I am running late! I know I planned out to the minute, what time my Darling Sister-In-Law and I would have to leave home to get to the theater in time to see Stephen King.

Speaking of my Darling Sister-In-Law...where is she, she's not in the car with me? OMG, I've left her behind! I can't afford to turn around and get her, that would really make me late but then I can't leave her behind, she has been eagerly awaiting the Stephen King visit as much as I have, maybe I can call The Colonel and have him bring her to the theater. I feel terrible, sick to my stomach.

Wait a minute, my cell phone is ringing.


I hear Stephen King speaking in the background.

It has started without me...It is my Darling Sister-In-Law on the other end of the line...she is holding up her phone so that I can listen to Mr. King.

How did she get there before me? I am running very late now and will be mortified when I have to walk into the theater and interrupt everyone as I find my seat (and face Darling Sister-In-Law).

I feel terrible...anxious...stupid.

My alarm clock...thank God it was only a anxiety dream...a nightmare! How appropriate as I was going to see the master of scary stories, Stephen King later that morning.

You can bet, with that bad dream behind me, I would make darn sure we would not be late to see and hear Stephen King speak.

He was to begin speaking at 11:00. Darling Sister-In-Law and I left the house at 9:45. We stopped to gas up the car (should have gassed up the night before; this fact fueled the anxiety dream I am sure, even though a stop for gas was built into our travel time) and then proceeded to our destination.

We arrived at around 10:20 and finding a parking spot was not as daunting as we had anticipated; we found one not far from where the line was queuing up at the theater entrance. We were about 11th and 12th in line.

It did not take long for the line behind us to grow, snake down the sidewalk and curve around the building.

The doors were opened at 10:35. Once inside the doors, we followed the line to a table and at the table were two women who handed out plastic bags for us to put in a copy of Edgar Allan Poe's, The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings, a CD of an introduction to the stories and poems of Mr. Poe and a reader's guide to his works, all free.

With our bag of goodies in hand (as well as our golden tickets), we crossed the thresh hold of the theater door and handed the tickets to the man. He tore the tickets in half. I wanted to say to him, "Hey, what if I wanted to put my ticket in a scrapbook fella?" but I didn't want to cause a scene and hold up the line, plus I haven't had a scrapbook since I was a girl.

We easily found our seats...and great seats they were! Row C, seats 101 and 102. Just three rows away from Stephen King. Nice.

Darling Sister-In-Law in her seat. Look how close we were sitting.

The minutes were ticking away as more people found their seats.

The lights dim and a gentleman steps out on stage. He is meant to represent Edgar Allan Poe. He speaks a few words and tells some jokes. Darling Sister-In-Law and I do not find him convincing nor amusing. We've come to see Mr. King.

Mr. Poe exits stage right and next on stage is the Editor of the Charlotte Sun newspaper. She will act as moderator and will ask Stephen King questions.

She tells us, before Mr. King gets on stage, that we may not take photos during the program. This does not stop several people from doing so, myself included. (No Mom, I wouldn't jump off of a cliff if everyone else was doing it). I refrained from snapping photos until the tail end of the program (and then only upon Darling Sister-In-Law's urging) but did not use a flash like others did (so the quality of my photos is poor...Cosmic Karma?).

The editor readies the audience for Mr. King by naming some of his many books and she quizzes us by giving a clue about a book and we have to shout out the title. Hello...of course we know our stuff...the fact that we are there should render a quiz a moot point...but it was fun anyway.

The editor finally introduces Stephen King and we give him a rousing welcome with applause as we leap from our seats. As we clap, he smiles and waves and walks across the stage to his wicker chair and sits down. We all sit down. It is so quiet now you could hear a pin drop.

My first impression of Stephen King is that he is tall and thin, almost to the point of being lanky. He looks quite ordinary, not at all flashy or famous looking. He was very much at ease and was funny as he answered the moderator's questions or went off on a different tangent altogether. Darling Sister-In-Law and I both agreed he seemed like he would be a fun guy to hangout with.

Stephen King said lots of things scare him and one of the reasons he writes scary stuff to be able to turn it around and scare someone else. Some of his writing material comes from his imagination and also from reality. The Pet Cemetery idea can be traced to the death of his daughter's cat and its burial in an animal-friendly cemetery behind the King house in Maine. The plot for the book also was inspired by a near-death incident on the same road his daughter's cat was killed. His youngest son was 2 years old and made a dash for the road and Stephen King tackled him at the shoulder of the road just as a huge truck zoomed by three seconds later.

King spoke about who influenced him as a writer. He mentioned Robert Bloch, H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury and to some extent Edgar Allan Poe.

In 1975, King put his own twist on Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart". He retitled it "The Old Dude's Ticker". The story features a Viet Nam veteran suffering from combat fatigue and uses language reminiscent of the 1970's. It has never been published. Mr. King told us about it and then said, "If you beg and scream, I've got it in my pocket, I can read it to you", as he reached for his jacket pocket. We all cheered and applauded. "You really want to hear this story?", he asked. We cheered and clapped even louder.

With an animated voice and matching hand motions he read us his story. Not only is he a great story writer, he is a great story teller too. He read the story like he was in a play.

I think that was the highlight of the hour-long event for me, having a "bedtime" story read to us by Stephen King himself.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Area 7 Annual Inspection and Review

Spud asked The Colonel and I if we would like to watch the annual inspection and review of his NJROTC group (on St. Patrick's Day).

"Of course, we wouldn't miss it for the world!", we said.

Commander Herbert was there to conduct the inspection and review. He is the commander for the Area 7 NJROTC groups. Area 7 encompasses all of it was a big deal.

We took our seats on the bleachers in the gym and waited for the exercise to start.

The Color Guard marched in, presented the colors and we listened to one of the cadets sing The Star Spangled Banner, a cappella. He did a great job. His mother was in the bleachers and was pleasantly surprised when she heard him sing.

A few words of welcome were spoken by the NJROTC group leader as well as an introduction for Commander Herbert. With all of the preliminaries out of the way it was time for the inspection and review.

Spud is in the background, wearing the white hat.

Commander Herbert walked up to each cadet, inspected their uniform and questioned them about military protocol and current affairs.

When the inspection was complete it was time for the parade pass and review.

Spud in the white hat

The cadets walked in formation past Commander Herbert as the rest of us watched from the bleachers.

One hour later, when the inspection and review were done, Commander Herbert proclaimed that all of the cadets had passed the inspection with flying colors. The cadets were dismissed from ranks and smiled with the knowledge of a job well done.

The Colonel and I congratulated Spud and smiled because we were full of pride for our son and his fellow cadets.

Nope...we wouldn't have missed this for the world!

Spud is second from the left.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Goodness Gracious Gravy

My mom makes delicious gravy, especially round steak gravy which she always serves over rice and peas. She has said she cannot make a decent brownie to save her life, neither can I (even when I use a box mix) so I believe I inherited that gene from her. I did not, however, inherit the gene for her innate ability to make delicious gravy which lead to a disastrous result in my younger days.

This "genetic defect" was made obvious one dinner time when I was in high school (circa mid/late 1970's).

Mom was not home for dinner that evening (a very rare occurrence); it was Thursday, my night to set the table and make dinner (or help Mom make dinner when she was there).

On the menu...round steak, rice, peas and gravy.

How hard could it be to make gravy? I had seen my mom make it, it did not look too difficult...easy, peasy (no pun intended).

I had finished frying the last piece of round steak in Mom's old cast iron pan, put it on a plate and set the plate in the oven to keep the steaks warm as I prepared the gravy.

I pulled the gallon of cold, creamy milk out of the fridge, measured out a couple of cups worth and poured that milk into the cast iron pan. I knew, from watching my mom, when making gravy you needed to stir the gravy constantly as it cooked until it thickened.

I began stirring the milk, occasionally eyeing the clock (dinner time at our house was 5:00 and not a minute later), thinking this gravy better start thickening or dinner would be late.

I continued to stir as the minutes ticked away....

Why wasn't the gravy thickening? I had dinner to serve to a hungry dad and siblings!

This was ridiculous, Mom's gravy never took this long to thicken. What was wrong? Stupid gravy!

Still stirring away, I sense someone looking over my shoulder. Turning (and still stirring) I see my dad's face, then I hear him say, "Did you put any flour in it before you added the milk?"

Flour? What? I must have missed that step when watching my mom make her gravy on some of those past Thursdays.

"Uhm, no."

" Guess the gravy's off."

This significant, emotional event ensured I learned that making a roux is a step that is never optional when making gravy.

I can now make a decent gravy but have pretty much given up on ever being able to make a palatable brownie to save my life.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Paparazzi or Bagging the Perfect Blog Shot

Last week Yam was home on spring break from college and brought her friend from New Jersey along with her. We all had a great week together. Yam's friend was very polite, extremely helpful (she even packed some work clothes just in case we had yard work lined up. Yam had informed her that we do a lot of outside work around here. She never had to break them out of her suitcase) and a very happy person who was quick to laugh. It was a pleasure to have her here.

We girls watched old movies together like Sabrina with Bogart and Friendly Persuasion with Gary Cooper and ate real popcorn, not microwaved. The whole family took Jersey Girl to dinner one evening at the Icehouse Pub (we were thinking of you Uncle Jim!)

I took the girls to Boca Grande on the prettiest day of the break. We walked the beach and looked for shells. Later Jersey Girl treated Yam and I to lunch at beach side.

As we were strolling the beach I happened to see a woman ahead of us who was also looking for shells. I thought the color of her hat and jacket against the beach and water made for a nice blog shot.

I followed this woman at a distance, using my zoom, snapping away, trying to get a good shot. I felt like I was stalking her; like she was a Hollywood starlet and I was the Paparazzi. I must have been snapping away so much that Yam decided she needed a picture of me, taking a picture of the lady in the pink hat.

I don't know how many photos I bagged before I finally introduced myself and asked the pink hatted lady if she wouldn't mind posing for a couple of shots for my blog (I wasn't getting the shots I wanted via zoom and needed to be closer to her and I thought she might think me creepy and stalkish if I did not introduce myself and ask permission to snap away at close range).

I told her I loved the color combination of her pink hat and peach jacket against the sand and surf. She was very accommodating and took my direction well (LOL). During her "photo shoot" I discovered she was vacationing that week and that she hailed from Minnesota.

Here are a few of the shots I bagged...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Mini Vacation with The Colonel

This mini vacation started out with a bit of business first. The Colonel and I had to deliver a display to the Spady Museum in Delray Beach. This was our first time to Delray Beach and the Spady Museum and we were treated to a private tour of the museum by the friendly and gracious staff.

After our museum tour, we took a little tour of the beach of Delray Beach. We walked to the beach through a beautiful tunnel made from a canopy of sea grapes...

The beach was lovely...I let the pictures speak for themselves.

We continued up the coast and made our way to Jupiter. There we visited the Jupiter Lighthouse and its museum.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the lighthouse. It was designed by George Meade (later general of the Union Army of the Potomac). The Colonel and I walked up the 105 steps to the top of the lighthouse and were treated to these gorgeous views.

The Colonel took this shot of the lighthouse's Fresnel lens. This is the original lens which was made in Paris 150 years ago.

Walking up to the top of the lighthouse and back down made us tired and hungry so we checked into a cute little hotel and asked the man at the desk where could we find a good seafood place for dinner.

This was the view from our room's window.

The man told us the Hog Snapper was a good place to eat. It was.

We had a somewhat restful night considering the bed was queen-sized and we were obliged to use the hotel's pillows (We sleep on a king-sized bed at home now but slept on a queen for 20 years and the hotel's bed looked sooo small to us and I don't know why we forgot to pack our own pillows this trip. The hotel pillows were as thick as a whale omelets!)

After our continental breakfast at the hotel we began our way back home. On our way we stopped in America's Sweetest Town and visited their little museum.

The Colonel and I enjoyed our mini vacation and we want more of 'em. We've got a few ideas on where we'll go next. Stay tuned.