Celebrate Florida

magThe arrival of Florida Travel + Life magazine inspired lots of reading and reminiscing about previous travel throughout the state. This month’s edition focused on the 500th Anniversary of the founding of Florida and it motivated me to make plans to visit sites in the state that I’ve overlooked and revisit places I haven’t been for years.

What a great way to spend a cold, holiday weekend. We gathered all the Florida books we could find in the house…I was amazed at how many we own. Then we started reading. We recalled previous trips and started planning future ones.


The best find of the weekend was the WPA Guide to Florida. I haven’t read this book for years. It’s a Federal Writer’s Project Guide to Florida in the 1930s, but this is the revised, 1985 edition, with an introduction written by John’s dad. The first portion of the book provides information about Florida’s background with articles about the culture, history, and folklore of the state. Part two highlights the “principal” cities, but the real treasure lies in the final section called “The Florida Loop”. Detailed descriptions of twenty-two tours round out this final part of the book. Tours cross every region of the state and provide a terrific travel plan for exploring all of Florida.

Tour 6 starts in Thomasville, Georgia with stops in Monticello, Williston, Brooksville, Tarpon Springs, Clearwater, ending in St. Petersburg. While we would look at this as a single day’s drive, the tour provides details on must-see spots in each of the stops along the path. From the introduction:

The real heart of Florida, and thus the real heart of the guide, is in the countryside and the hundreds of little towns described in Part Three, “The Florida Loop”. Here is a series of tours  from town to town, crisscrossing the state following the old highway routes, many of which retrace Spanish and Indian trails.

Here in the innumerable asides, interruptions, verbal stopovers, side glances down silent, infrequently traveled roads, we hear whispers of adventures long forgotten, of mystery and magic, of earlier scandals and misdemeanors, or fears and hopes, and of minor tragedies and, sometimes, huge successes.

We are warned to watch out for redbugs, snakes, and gnats and not to eat poisonous plants. We are told of speed laws and somewhat reproachfully informed that some motorists habitually drive faster than the 45 mph than legally allowed. – John I. McCollum

wpaThe highlight for me, Tour 3, FernandinaBeach to Cedar Key. This tour plots the path we’ll take on our quest for seeing the sunrise over the Atlantic in the morning and the sunset over the Gulf in the evening. We’ll wake in Fernandina and then travel the route detailed through Baldwin, Starke, Gainesville, and finally to Cedar Key in time for the sunset. While I don’t anticipate encountering any cattle on the roadway which the book warns may be a problem near Baldwin, I do plan to look for landmarks and historical places outlined in the tour; and yes, we’ll take SR 13 and US 90 and US 301 as well as the other roads from the tour as we complete this 159.8 mile trek.

After reading this book over the weekend, I’m encouraged to drive many of “The Florida Loops”…looks like a good way to get reacquainted with Florida.

Take Your Vitamins

Recently, I’ve had several nights of sleeplessness caused by extremely painful cramps in my feet. In the middle of the night I’ve been awakened by severe pain with my toes curled up in knots. Massaging, stretching, walking, and ignoring have not effectively stopped the cramps. In fact, several nights I’ve resorted to getting up and going to the living room to read or watch TV because after working on cramped feet for as long as an hour, sleeping is no longer an option.

The other night after a foot cramp episode I decided to research causes to see if I could find a solution to this irritating problem. The two causes that I repeatedly read about were dehydration and lack of certain nutrients such as potassium. I find it hard to believe that I’m suffering from dehydration since I drink a quart or more of water daily as well as tea and juice. However, as a precaution, I am being increasingly vigilant about drinking plenty of water.

Upon further research, there are numerous vitamin or mineral deficiencies linked to cramping of the feet and legs. It’s not as simple as eating more bananas to increase potassium intake, since several of the B vitamins have also been linked to the problem and some sources link a lack of calcium or vitamin E to cramping of the legs and feet as well. This made me wonder if the changes I’ve made to my diet in an effort to lose weight could be the culprit.


My solution, start taking a daily multivitamin. This seems like an easy, reasonable attempt to solve this irritating problem. I found it interesting that you great uncle, E.V. McCollum, who’s credited with discovering the B vitamins and recognizing the importance of vitamins D and E as well as numerous minerals regarded “drugstore vitamin pills and supplements as snake-oil quackery” until his dying day. He felt strongly that eating a good, balanced diet was the way to get the vitamins and minerals needed by your body.

While I’ll never claim to be an expert on vitamins, minerals, and nutrition like ‘ole E.V., I will tell you that most doctors today believe it is important for people, especially young women to supplement their diet with a daily multivitamin and here are just a few of the reasons for this recommendation:

  • Lack of iron and B6 – anemia, confusion, tiredness, and headaches
  • Lack of vitamin C – muscle aches, unhealthy gums
  • Lack of vitamin D – depression, osteoporosis
  • Lack of vitamin A – numerous eye problems

Did you know vitamin deficiencies are linked to sensitivity to insect bites? Looks like I really do need to take my vitamins!


The March of Dimes has some of the best information of all for young women regarding vitamins and nutritional supplements. The focus of their research is related to the health of babies -“working together for stronger, healthier babies”; but as it turns out, good health for unborn babies is good health for women as well. They recommend folic acid for the development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord (and this week a report linking folic acid to reduced risk of autism was released), but also to protect women from cancer and heart disease. Iron to lower the risk of low birth weight and preterm babies, but also to prevent anemia in women. Calcium for strong bones in a developing baby, but just as important, to prevent the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. Good advice!

So finally, take your vitamins! They even make adult gummy vitamins so they’re more fun and less difficult to choke down. But do listen to Uncle E.V., don’t get carried away with what he called “drugstore snake-oil quackery”. His advice about eating a healthy diet is certainly worth taking as well.

Gummie vitamins - a big improvement
Gummie vitamins – a big improvement



Wear Sunglasses

Spending the day fishing without wearing sunglasses – a mistake. I should know better, but I hate to wear sunglasses because they impede my ability to see clearly. When wearing sunglasses, not only can I not read, I just can’t see! I’m constantly lifting them in an effort to get a better view of the world around me. Sunglasses make me miserable.

So why do I say fishing without wearing sunglasses is a mistake? Well, my eyes burn, itch, and have that lovely bloodshot appearance. This is nothing new. It happens whenever I spend an extended time in the sun. I’ve even been warned by my eye doctor of the importance of always wearing sunglasses due to the pterygium or growth on my eye. Not only is this growth caused by excessive exposure to the sun, but it’s aggravated by ultraviolet light. That’s why my eyes always look red, bloodshot, and tired; and that’s why they feel tired all the time as well.

Even the EPA warns about long term exposure to UV radiation. Not only pterygium, but cataracts may result from UV exposure. There is some good news regarding sunglasses selection…while it is essential that the glasses block 99%-100% of UV-A and UV-B radiation, that does not mean they must be expensive. Even prescription sunglasses can be purchased at reasonable prices at Costco or Sams. After all, it’s not the designer frames that project your eyes.


As you know, the cheap glasses are never the ones you lose, or sit on, or scratch. No, it’s the expensive ones that are misplaced or broken. While I can’t buy a dozen pair for a dollar each like I do for reading glasses, I can buy three or four pair for $20 each so I’ll have a pair in each car and at the house. That way I won’t have an excuse for not wearing them. No excuse for red eyes. No excuse for burning eyes. No excuse for irritated pterygium. I’m sure I’ll still lift them so I can see. I know I’ll be unhappy about my vision when wearing sunglasses, but I need to change by habits if I’m going to protect my vision.

Go buy a pair of sunglasses!


2 Down; 11 To Go: Operation Big Bass

When we developed our list of 13 in 13, I included “catch a big bass” to the list. John asked my definition of a big bass and when I said an eight pounder, he suggested that I might want to reconsider since a bass of that size would be considered a lifetime catch by most fishermen. Since I don’t claim to be a fisherman, I took his advice and modified my definition to “at least six pounds”. (However, if you refer to the original 13 in 13 post I said – catch a big bass of at least six pounds, but hopefully closer to eight.)

Three weeks ago in my first attempt at this challenge, I caught what I thought at the time was a pretty big bass only to be told that it was “only” 2 1/2 pounds. I needed to catch something almost three times the size of my current record. This may be more difficult than I anticipated.

Spent much of the day watching the bobber
Spent much of the day watching the bobber

Yesterday we took the day off to make a second attempt at catching a big bass. We couldn’t have picked a more perfect day. The 45 degree temperature and cloudless sky guaranteed a great day on the water with or without fulfilling the big bass requirement. We returned to the Withlacoochee River and Lake Rousseau since Dad reported that he and his guests caught several big ones throughout the week.

After about three hours, we started planning the next attempt since not only had I not caught a big one neither had John. And, in fact, we hadn’t landed a single bass. In an effort to help me meet my goal, John sacrificed catches. He handed me his rod on three occasions so I could set the hook and reel in the catch…no success…I lost all three. I finally announced that I thought I should change my goal from catching a big bass to being in the boat when a big bass was caught.

Then it happened. I actually saw the bass hit my line only a few feet from the boat. John talked me through the process…let it take some line…now reel in slowly to take out the slack…jerk hard to set the hook and start reeling. I guess I followed directions pretty well. I maneuvered the bass around a stump and reeled it up to the boat so John could scoop it in the net and lift it into the boat.

Time to collect the data…24 inches and 8 pounds! I’m pleased to announce I caught a BIG bass! Yes, I even caught the once in a lifetime version.

Mission accomplished - 8lb., 24in. bass caught on 2/15/13.
Mission accomplished – 8lb., 24in. bass caught on 2/15/13.


Not only was John there to support my efforts by guiding me to the best spots on the lake and talking me through the process of bringing in the fish once I felt the hit, but he was also there to document the event with a quality picture. Thanks, John! In addition, thanks Dad for your scouting reports and the trip with Max to the far ends of the county to locate the shiners needed for this adventure.

A bald eagle - quite a bonus!
A bald eagle – quite a bonus!

As a bonus, we noticed a bald eagle in the top of a snag as we headed back to the boat ramp so I not only caught a big bass, I photographed a bald eagle in flight. Another once in a lifetime event for many birders!

A beautiful day on Lake Rousseau
A beautiful day on Lake Rousseau

What a wonderful way to start a long weekend!



Thumbs Up for Next Issue

The Next Image icon
The Next Image icon

The alert on my calendar indicates that it’s time to make a decision about Next Issue. Three weeks ago I signed up for the free trial of the Next Issue app and since I entered my credit card information at the time, I set an alert to make sure I cancelled before being charged. Now, three weeks later, I’ve decided to keep this app. I’ve read more magazines in three weeks than I’ve read in three years.

The Basic Plan includes unlimited access to over 70 titles including one year of back issues for each title. Better yet, the print content is enhanced with digital features which make for a better reading experience.

I knew I’d read Real Simple, HGTV, and Southern Living, but I’ve also enjoyed Fitness and Health.  What I’ve found most surprising is how much I’ve enjoyed reading Fortune, Money, and Inc.

A few of the titles available on Next Issue
A few of the titles available on Next Issue

Occasionally, I pick up a magazine while waiting in the checkout line at Publix, but they don’t offer the selection; and I can’t remember the last time I drove to the bookstore to purchase a magazine.

The best surprise so far has been Inc. It’s a magazine I’d never read but have thoroughly enjoyed…reading three back issues. So the verdict’s in. I’m going to keep this app. The $9.99 monthly payment is less than the cost of any two magazines purchased at the newsstand, and I’m able to share it with my family since the subscription can be loaded on five devices.

This one earns a thumbs up!

Next Issue earns a thumbs up.
Next Issue earns a thumbs up.

Be My Valentine!

Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible – it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.

-Barbara de Angelis

That seems like a good way to start a message about love and the way we celebrate it.


I’m sure you’ve received emails or other advertising encouraging you to get that special something for your true love – not just a card, or candy, or flowers, but special dinners, electronics, event tickets, and even getaways. I’m here to say that I don’t believe any of these are necessary just because the calendar says the date is February 14th.

As a teacher, I’ve never enjoyed Valentine’s Day. It’s always marked by too much candy, spilled drinks, hurt feelings, and wild student behavior. Nevertheless, I’ve tried not to be a party pooper or come home from work in a bad mood since this is a day designated for love.

While every business seems to be capitalizing on Valentine’s Day, I think it’s interesting that this is a day that wasn’t just created by clever businessmen, but one that’s been celebrated for about 700 years – since the Middle Ages! Cards, sweets, and flowers became a tradition associated with romantic love in the 1300s. These simple expressions of love I can appreciate, but I’m not a fan of the Valentine extravaganzas. I heard on the news that the average amount spent on Valentine’s Day last year was in excess of $125. Is that per person? Per couple? per household? In any case that seems like a lot of money.

If you receive an expensive gift from your Valentine, that’s great! Smile! Say thank you…and mean it! But if you don’t …smile and have a great day anyway. A card, especially a homemade one, a back massage, a movie at home, a home cooked meal, even kind words make excellent Valentine gifts. In fact, the actress Audrey Hepburn said,

“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.”

Sounds like a good Valentine’s Day gift.

Being together is really all that’s necessary to make the day special, but even if that’s not possible, you can always “do a time warp” – celebrate on a different day – one that’s more convenient. Who needs to spend extra on flowers, restaurants, or gifts just because it’s February 14th.

So, what do I have planned for Valentine’s Day? Well, it does not involve a party with 10 year olds. It doesn’t involve spending a lot of money. Instead, I plan to bake a coconut cake. I’ll spend less than $5, but I know it will be appreciated, and I’m pretty sure I’m getting a home-cooked meal prepared by my Valentine. We’ll enjoy the evening on the porch at the lake relaxing together without a lot of fanfare – perfect!

Finally, here’s my math geek Valentine to you. Paste the following into Google and search:


Happy Valentine’s Day!




Weigh In Wednesday – Week 7

Happy Chef Badge - earned for sharing a recipe.
Happy Chef Badge – earned for sharing a recipe.

Success this week! Lost 1.5 pounds and re-established the routines that have proven successful. I earned the badge for sharing a recipe on Lose It. The Happy Chef Badge recognizes users for adding their personal recipes. The ability to add recipes to Lose It makes it much more useful, and then when I’ve gone to the trouble of adding a recipe it’s great to be able to share it with others using the app.

I added the recipe for a pitcher of Hurricanes. The bad news…one serving is 317 calories. The good news…two cans of Coke are 292 calories. Since my goal this week is to eliminate soda from my diet, drinking a Hurricane wasn’t a diet killer.

Have a Hurricane!

Hurricanes-Pat O'Brien style!
Hurricanes-Pat O’Brien style!

In 1977, my college roommate, Barbara and I drove from Cullowhee to New Orleans to experience Mardi Gras. Fortunately, I had a friend at Tulane University so we had free lodging and a personal guide to the city and the parades. We collected hundreds of beads…thrown from the floats during the parade, rode the trolley cars, ate red beans and rice from carts on the street, and drank Hurricanes at Pat O’Briens.

John and I enjoyed Mardi Gras a few years later and braved the cold and crowds for a wonderful weekend. We’ve decided the next time we go to Mardi Gras it’s going to be in style…no more dorm rooms or basements of sorority houses but a hotel in the midst of all the fun. Guess we better make our reservations soon!

Hurricane Recipe

10 oz. Dark Rum

10 oz. Clear Rum

10 oz. Sweet and Sour Mix

10 oz. Orange Juice

10 oz. Roses’ Grenadine

Mix all ingredients in a pitcher and chill for an hour. Serve in a tall glass with crushed ice. Remember to take the keys from your guests!

Glass from my first Hurricane at Pat O'Briens, New Orleans 1977 Mardi Gras
Glass from my first Hurricane at Pat O’Briens, New Orleans 1977 Mardi Gras


Since we’re not in New Orleans for Mardi Gras this year we’ll be drinking Hurricanes to celebrate.

Batten down the hatches and stay at home if you plan to enjoy this potent New Orleans specialty drink, This recipe is Emeril’s version of the fruity concoction. Kay introduced us to this recipe, and we’re hooked.



Give Up the Big Gulp

biggulpI was disappointed to hear the NYC Board of Health voted to support Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to ban selling Big Gulps in NYC last September. And now that the law will go in effect in just a couple of weeks I’m still baffled. Why the need  to tell the public they can’t buy sodas larger than 16 ounces? (Note: you can still buy ridiculously large cups of beer.) Sure, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that drinking sugary drinks isn’t good for you, but neither is eating foods with too much salt. Should extra large fries be banned? And by the way, did you know that Mayor Bloomberg declared NYC Donut Day the day after announcing the Big Gulp ban?

Now that makes sense. Requiring calorie information on menus in NYC was certainly a reasonable decision to help people make informed choices regarding food consumption, but banning foods or limiting the amount that can be purchased is extreme.

Even though I strongly oppose the Big Gulp ban, I’m encouraging you to give up the Big Gulps, and soda in general. I wonder if I made mistakes when you were growing up by allowing you to drink soda. Soda for special occasions, soda at meals, soda at the movies, soda at ball games, soda, soda, soda. But then I think maybe you didn’t think of soda as something special or to be desired because it was off limits. I don’t know the right answer.

I’m pleased that you figured out on your own that you wanted to limit the amount soda or sugary drinks you consume. Of course, these decisions were made for a variety of reasons, not necessarily based on any overwhelming concern for the impact soda has on your long term health. I’m not so pleased with my own decisions regarding the consumption of soda. I gave up soda while in college but that was short lived. I’ve done better in the past couple of years, but on many occasions I’ve consumed three, four, or more sodas while eating out.

I remember when Sonny’s giant sodas were a trademark item since no other restaurants served drinks that large. Now that size drink is pretty standard. That was also before the advent of free refills. Increasing the price of sodas at restaurants or eliminating free refills would be a good change, but those changes need to be made by restaurants, not the government.

So why the sudden change of heart about drinking soda? Well the evidence is clear that soda (and other sugary drinks) makes us fat and increases our chances to develop diabetes and heart disease.  I can’t count the number of stories I’ve read about people losing significant amounts of weight by eliminating soda from their diets. Recently I read that a study was conducted which added one sugary drink per day to the diets of children between age 5 and 11. After one year, these children weighed an average of two pounds more than the control group. That’s pretty significant.

I hope you’ll join me in trying to kick the habit. It won’t be easy for me. It may not be easy for you, but it’s certainly worth the effort. You might lose a few pounds and you’ll decrease your risk of becoming a diabetic so give up the Big Gulp.


By the way, the one exception I plan to make to this policy is when I go to NYC. I plan to take my own Big Gulp cup, fill it with soda, and walk around the city just waiting to get locked up for daring to drink soda! You know that old saying, “Soda doesn’t kill people, people who drink too much soda kill themselves (or risk their health).” Maybe that’s not exactly how that saying goes, but I think you get the point.

State Weightlifting Meet


In the 1970s, we felt we made real progress when Pompano Beach High School added girls cross country, basketball, and track teams. Before 1974 girls participated in swimming and tennis, and while I thought my visit to the principal’s office in the spring of 1974 resulted in these new sports, I realized later that something called Title IX provided the inspiration needed to add more girls’ sports to high school athletic programs.

Only a few years later volleyball and slow pitch softball were available as well. Twenty-five years later Meghan, Emily, and Sarah ran cross country and track and played soccer and fast-pitch softball. Girls could still play basketball and volleyball and swim, but there were bowling teams (I’d have loved that!), flag football teams, golf teams, competitive cheer teams, and a weightlifting team.

Shannon - 1st place; Hannah - 2nd place at Regional Meet
Shannon – 1st place; Hannah – 2nd place at Regional Meet

Several coaches suggested the girls might want to consider joining the weightlifting team as a way to build strength and improve their performance in other sports, and although they went to a couple of sessions, none of them stuck with it. I’m afraid they are too much like their mother. I can’t even lift the bar. How can you expect me to lift it with weights added?

Well, somehow, my nieces not only were persuaded to give weightlifting a try, they’ve excelled at it. Yesterday Hannah and Shanon both participated in the FHSAA Girls Weightlifting Championships in Kissimmee. Shannon took the 5th place medal in her division lifting 270 pounds, and while Hannah’s 235 pound effort did not medal, it’s quite an accomplishment to qualify for the state competition. Congratulations on your success!

Hannah - Regional Runner-Up
Hannah – Regional Runner-Up
Shannon - Regional Champ
Shannon – Regional Champ
Shannon's 5th Place Medal - State Meet
Shannon’s 5th Place Medal – State Meet