Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fantastically Fresh Frittata

This morning The Colonel and I harvested all of our swiss chard and a few of our onions. With the help of Spud, who is home from college, I made a frittata with homegrown items from our garden.

I chopped a bunch of the swiss chard as well as some of the red onion I picked earlier. I sauteed these in some coconut oil until they were softened. I then added some fresh oregano and basil from my herb garden and continued to saute for a couple more minutes. Spud beat six eggs which I added to the sauteed vegetables and herbs. I turned down the heat, covered the pan with a lid and let the egg cook for about five minutes.

We enjoyed the delicious, can't-get-any-fresher-than-this, swiss chard frittata for lunch.

I grated some excellent Dubliner Cheese (Irish cheese) onto the top of my slice of frittata and tucked in. It was very delicious and the fresh herbs, especially the oregano, which had a slight peppery taste, made the frittata even more delicious.

I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride, knowing that this extra-fresh, fantastic frittata was made possible with the help from some of our garden's bounty.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Some First Fruits

I am becoming quite the gardener much to my surprise. I don't think of myself as having much of a green thumb but my little garden is proving me otherwise, at least so far.

A few weeks ago I bought four strawberry plants and they are thriving and producing tiny, but delicious berries. I like to mix strawberries and blueberries so when I was last at The Home Depot I purchased a blueberry plant. I have yet to plant it in my garden; it is still in its original container.

I went out to check on my little berry plants the other day and was able to harvest two tiny strawberries and two plump blueberries. I gingerly carried them into the house and washed them off in the kitchen sink.

The Colonel and I each had one strawberry and one blueberry. They were delicious! The strawberries were sweet and the blueberries were slightly tart. I am looking forward to more of them.

I must admit, I am not single-handedly tending this garden, The Colonel has a lot to do with it as well. We have been able to harvest cabbage, brussel sprouts, tomatoes, swiss chard, onions, collard greens and herbs from our garden. We hope to add a couple of pineapples to the list in a couple of months. My "John Henry" pineapple is coming along very nicely and baby pineapple #2 is not too far behind.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Remembering the Titanic

One day before the 100th anniversary of the R.M.S. Titanic's sinking, The Colonel and I attended a living history presentation at a regional library.

As we entered the library doors and looked to our right we were welcomed by a line-up of some of the characters who would be telling us about their experiences on the Titanic 100 years ago.

The "unsinkable" Molly Brown, played by our friend, Jackie Brown (no relation to Molly) was the first to welcome us as we walked down the gangplank, er,uh, the hallway. At the end of the hallway was a table. We were stopped at the table and I was asked to pick out a boarding pass from a big glass fishbowl. The lady at the table then match my boarding pass and gave it to The Colonel.

With boarding passes in hand, we made our way into the room where the event would take place. We were met by a maid, who upon looking at our boarding passes, informed us that we would be in Second Class. First Class chairs had gold ribbons around them, Second Class, silver and Third Class, no ribbons.

We chose our silver-ribboned seats and waited for the presentation to begin.

The living history character-actors stood before us in costume and told us their stories. There was the captain of the ship (the character-actor resembled the real captain).

Lady Duff-Gordon constantly sang the praises of First Class and did not let us forget that she and the others of First Class were infinitely far more superior than those of us in Second and especially Third Class.

The gentleman in the gray suit played the part of the Titanic's designer. In the background you can see a man in a chef's hat. He portrayed the ship's head baker. The story he told was interesting. When the Titanic began to sink, he and his fellow bakers carried several pounds of bread up to the ship's deck so that those in the lifeboats could have something to eat while they waited for rescue. Once he had taken all of the bread up, he went back down to his kitchen and began to drink until he was drunk. Once drunk, he made his way back up to the ship's deck just as the rails began to meet the water. He stepped onto the rails and into the icy waters. He was able to cling to some flotsam from the Titanic and was eventually rescued. Those who rescued him said his drunken state played a pivotal role in his surviving the frigid water.

Another character told us about her fiancee. He was one of the band members who played on while the ship sank. The band members were not members of the Titanic's crew. They were musical agents out of Liverpool. They had to sign the ship's articles agreeing to the authority of the captain and officers just like the ship's crew but they were treated as 2nd class passengers. No band members survived the Titanic's sinking.

One character told us about her harrowing story. She was a First Class passenger travelling with her husband and two children. When it came time to enter the lifeboats she did not want to go without her husband. She wanted her family to stay together. In all of the confusion the family was separated. The baby and his nurse were missing. The woman did not know where her baby was and they were never rejoined before the ship sank. She, her husband and their daughter perished. Later it was learned that the nurse and baby made it to a lifeboat as survived.

There were more stories told. The character-actors did a very good job in portraying those from the Titanic's past. The object of this living history presentation was to give the Titanic stories a very personal feel and to tell stories we may not have heard before.

When all of the stories were told, we were asked to look on the back of our boarding passes. If the county seal on your pass was black you were to stand up. Once standing, you were informed that you were one of the unfortunate ones that did not survive the Titanic's sinking.

The Colonel and I were among the survivors. There was a man with his two little girls sitting in front of us. The man did not survive but the girls did.

There were refreshments offered after the presentation. The refreshments were segregated into the classes. Those in First Class had dainty, fluted glasses in which to drink their punch. Their cookies were seated upon elevated, glass, cake tiers. The mints were chocolate filled and a vase of roses was on the table. (How do I know the mints were filled with chocolate? I snuck over to First Class and nicked one).

The Second Class refreshment (The Colonel's and my class) glasses were simple wine glasses. The cookies were placed on a ceramic plate and our mints had no chocolate within. The vase contained pretty blue flowers.

Third class refreshment glasses were not glasses at all but paper cups. The cookies were on plastic plates and no chocolate in their mints either. In the bud vase were a couple of yellow daisies. (I nicked one of their mints too).

The Colonel and I liked the attention to detail in all aspects of the presentation: the stories, the costumes, the boarding passes, the segregation of classes/seating, the differences in the refreshment presentation and the fact-filled program hand-out.

What a memorable way to mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Backyard Bocce

Recently an Ancient Roman game called Bocce has entered my life again.

The first time I was introduced to Bocce was back in the summer of 1992 at my mom and dad's first lawn party. For ten years my parents held an annual lawn party at their house. They would rent a large white tent (like those at weddings) and have it set up in their back yard (their house sits on a few acres). The tent was filled with tables and chairs and the guests dined on delicious, homemade foods and lemonade. There was always music too.

My mom did not want the lawn parties to become family reunions, so none of her nor my dad's brothers and their families were invited. Each year my mom would have a finite number of invitations printed. She would give each of us kids (8 of us) a couple of invitations so that we could invite some of our friends. You were special if you received an invitation.

There was a dress code for the lawn parties. Men and women had to wear whites or pastels. Some years there was a theme to the lawn party and one could dress according to the theme instead of the whites or pastels.

The theme for 1997 was a Celtic one. The Colonel, Darling-Sister-In-Law, Yam, Spud and I were in town for the festivities (all of us had some form of plaid on). The Colonel and I were "dressed to the nines" Celtic style and won the best dressed male and female awards (can't remember what the prizes were).

At every lawn party a Bocce competition was held. Teams would be drawn for and then single eliminations began until two teams remained to squared off. The winning team was awarded a trophy, one per player on the team. The Colonel and my youngest brother were on a team together. Love those kilts!

The winners of the Bocce competition were my Darling-Sister-In-Law and her team partner, Dan (the husband of one of my sisters). Their names would be added to the annual cup's brass plate (the award in the middle of the picture).

Here is a close-up of Darling-Sister-In-Law's trophy (I asked her to email me a picture of it so I could use it in this blog post...Thanks DSIL!).

My youngest brother played the pipes for us during the lawn party.

Here is a picture of Yam (she was six years old) with her cousin Sean enjoying the lawn party.

As stated at the start of this blog entry, Bocce has come back into my life recently. The Colonel and I were at Wal-Mart one day and spied a Bocce set for sale. We had been toying with the idea of getting a set and the price was unbelievably low so we bought it.

The Colonel and I introduced his parents to Bocce in our backyard and they loved it! They came over to play when Yam and Spud were home for their spring breaks.

The Colonel and I discovered two Bocce courts in one of the parks near our home. They were full of "Snowbirds" and we stayed to watch the games for a while. We decided to take away a few pointers for our own backyard court. For instance, the first game we played in our yard we wrote the score on a piece of paper. This is the scoreboard we saw in the park.

Here is our new scoreboard (a handheld version).

Sometimes measurements have to be made in order to determine whose ball is closest to the pallino (the little ball a player aims for in hopes of getting their balls closest to) and we were using a regular tape measure for this. When The Colonel and I saw what they were using at the park's Bocce court we knew we needed something like it too. The man who was measuring placed an item on the pallino and then stretched a string from it to the nearest ball(s) to determine which was closest. The Colonel made an oak measuring device and his parents were impressed by it (as well as by our new scoreboard).



The Bocce court in the park vs. our backyard court.

Playing Bocce on the grass in our backyard presents a few challenges. The uneven surface can make the best tossed ball go awry, causing the player to use "sentence enhancers" as they verbally display their disgust.

One day I would like to play Bocce on one of the courts in the park but first I will have to wait until all of the "Snowbirds" have gone.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

Florida "Easter Basket"

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mamaws, Manatees and More

If The Colonel's grandmother (aka Mamaw) were still alive she would have celebrated her 100th birthday this year on April 4th. In honor of her birthday, The Colonel and I drove to the cemetery (about an hour's drive north) and placed some flowers on her grave.

Everyone should have a grandma (and great-grandma) like Mamaw in their lives. She was smart as a whip, funny, witty, kind, generous and thoughtful. I am glad I had Mamaw in my life and the lives of my children.

Since we were going to be up Mamaw's way we decided to visit a few other places while in that neck of the woods. 

We drove to Anna Maria Island to have lunch at one of our favorite places...The Rod and Reel Pier.

There were a lot of people on the pier, some were fishing but most were waiting to be called in to a table (the place only seats 50). The Colonel and I walked up the stairs expecting to have a long wait ahead of us when we put our name on the list. As soon as we made it to the top of the stairs a young man waiting there asked if we wanted to sit inside or outside and The Colonel said, "First available" and the young man then immediately pointed us to an outside table not five feet from where we were standing. We couldn't believe our good fortune. I ordered grilled shrimp and The Colonel, fried. Delicious!

 After lunch I had to use the bathroom (cleverly or cheesily labeled "Outboards" and "Inboards", you decide), so I left The Colonel to pay the bill. Once done, I walked around the restaurant's lower deck taking pictures when I heard someone shout, "Manatees!" I quickly made my way down the pier through the crowd of onlookers. I could see the Manatees slowly swimming from one side of the pier to the other. I reached a viewing and photo taking spot shortly after the three Manatees emerged from under the pier.

I met up with The Colonel and took one more parting shot of the Rod and Reel Pier.

We made a short stop at a little research library so that The Colonel could look up some information for the museum we volunteer for. Next stop on our little day trip was Manatee Village Historical Park. In this park were several restored historical buildings from Manatee County's past. On our self-guided tour we saw some pretty, old buildings.

General Store (1903)

 Stephens House (1912)

Courthouse (1860)

1887 church

It was a nice little step back in time. We had one more place to visit before we headed back south for home; the ruins of Braden Castle.

In 1850, Dr. Joseph Braden, using slave labor, built his plantation house on 900 acres along the Manatee River. He operated a sugar and grist mill there. The "castle" was two-stories and its tabby (lime, sand and crushed shells) walls were 20 inches thick. There were four rooms on each floor and each room was about 20 sq. ft. Dr. Braden's castle had eight fireplaces and four chimneys.

In 1856 the castle was unsuccessfully attacked by Seminole Indians. Later it was abandoned and destroyed by a woods fire in 1903. In 1924 the ruins were purchased by the Camping Tourists of America.

The ruins today look nothing like the old postcard picture above. A chain link fence surrounds the much more weathered and dilapidated ruins. These are some of the pictures I snapped of what remains of Dr. Braden's castle.

The Braden Castle ruins are located within the grounds of a "55 and over" community. The streets are narrow, winding and sloping. Along the streets are some of the cutest and smallest houses we have ever seen. Many of these houses were built in the 1920's and 1930's.

Our little day trip was coming to an end and it was time to head back south for home. It had been a most excellent day.