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.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fossiling With My Fella

We haven't had any rain around here for nearly a month and it is still our rainy season (as I write this, we are finally getting some much needed rain).

Everything is dry and the level of the Peace River's water has dropped.

This dryness has been hard on plants and yards but it is perfect for fossil hunting along the river and its tributaries, like the Charlie Apopka.

Last week The Colonel and I packed up the kayaks and made for the part of the Peace River that is north of us. The river was so low in spots that we had to get out of our kayaks and pull them behind us or leave them completely behind us as we walked the couple inches of water covering the riverbed.

As we walked the river, we spied many remnants of fossilized Dugong rib bones. These bones were larger than those we have found in the past. (The three smaller rib bones next to the dollar bill are those we found earlier and the larger ones are the ones we found during this fossil hunting trip).

We couldn't believe the size of some of these fossils. These are just pieces of the rib bones. We imagined what an entire rib bone would look like. The animal they came from must have been gigantic.

I am holding the tip of a rib bone in my hand below.

The circumference of some of the fossilized rib bones was nearly that of a soda can.

The Colonel found this vertebra bone. It is roughly the size of a coffee cup.

I found this part of a leg bone. The larger end of the leg bone is about the size of my fist.

The Colonel and I also dug down into the riverbed and found a few sharks teeth.

No Megalodon teeth...yet.

I wouldn't mind finding one like this lady is holding.

Even though we did not unearth anything like that pictured above, we had a terrific day.

We will be entering the real dry season soon and I look forward to lower water levels on the Peace River as well as the Charlie Apopka so that I can go fossiling with my fella again.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween 2010

The Colonel and I walked the streets of our town's historic district again this year for Halloween. It has become a tradition.

Hundreds of people bring their children to go Trick-or-Treating along the historic district's streets. Hundreds more are like the Colonel and I, people watching and admiring the Halloween decorations of the houses.

We love seeing all the kids in their costumes.

Sometimes I think it is more fun to see the adults in their costumes.

The Castaway:

Cruella DeVille:

A couple as some of Tim Burton's characters:

Some of the house decorations: