3 Down; 11 To Go

Not all of the 14 in 14 items require a lot of time and effort. Our first two of the year both involved extended weekends as we drove to Birmingham and South Florida, but #3 on the list: Eat at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddlehouse at Deleon Springs State Park.

Since the first (and only time) I visited Deleon Springs I’ve wanted to eat pancakes at the Old Spanish Mill. Despite the fact we eat pancakes weekly at home, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of cooking breakfast at the table while overlooking the springs.
Upon arrival a little before 10:00, we reported to the restaurant to add our name to the waiting list. The expected wait time of forty minutes provided just the right amount of time to walk through the park and museum. Since the temperature was in the forties, no swimmers, not even those from the North waded into the 72º waters of the spring. That worked for me since I wanted to take pictures!

We’d been warned that names would only be called twice and then the table would be given to the next guest on the list so twenty minutes later when “John, party of two” boomed over the speaker, we hurried across the park so as not to miss our pancake cooking opportunity.
The host seated us next to the fireplace and turned on the griddle at our table before explaining the dining process. Pancakes, French toast, and grilled cheese sandwiches are cooked by diners at the table. All other items ordered are prepared in the kitchen and served by the staff.
We both ordered pancakes and sausage and within minutes two pitchers of batter were delivered to the table. In the blue pitcher, a multi-grain batter and in the red pitcher an old-fashioned white batter. We passed on the optional fruit, chocolate chips, and nuts sticking to a plain traditional pancake topped with butter and syrup. While much different in flavor and texture, both were delicious.

Only about an hour from home and with a price of $4.99 for all the pancakes you could eat. Breakfast at the Old Spanish Mill made the third item on our 14 in 14 list easy to accomplish and a bargain.

Lots of fun without a lot of time or money!


International Table Top Day: No Bored Games Allowed!

How many of these games are collecting dust in your closet? Well, it’s time to dust them off or maybe you need to buy a new game or two in preparation for International Table Top Day.

Never heard of International Table Top Day? Well, it’s a celebration of tabletop gaming with the purpose of spending time together and having fun. Check out this video of last year’s event and look for the comments of Meghan’s friend, Devan.

The first games I remember playing were checkers and Block Head. Later, Yahtzee, The Game of Life, Careers, Clue and Scrabble entertained me. And then card games like Tripoli, Uno, Canasta, Pinocle, and Hearts provided hours of fun.


In recent years, thanks to my son-in-law, Jonathan, we’ve been introduced to a whole new world of games. You may want to try out the new version of Trivial Pursuit: Bet You Know . The one Sarah won recently moves more quickly than the original game since players earn the pie shaped wedges on any correct answer and everyone’s involved in every question because players place wagers on their opponents’ ability to answer each question.

IMG_3288Or maybe you’d prefer to play Steam Park, a board game Jonathan won on a recent visit. In Steam Park players build an amusement park in an effort to attract visitors and earn the most money. (Much better than building houses and hotels in Monopoly…and in only about an hour!)

A good two person game like Hive, a strategy game, or Jaipur, a tactical card game, or 1960: The Making of a President in which players replay the Presidential Election of 1960 may be more up your alley.

IMG_3055So many games. So little time.

Start making plans to join in on the fun of International Table Top Day and don’t forget to Tweet pictures of all the fun!

Image 13And share your favorite games! I’m always in the market for another!


Wordless Wednesday: Signs of Spring


My favorite season…autumn…but there’s no doubt about the beauty of the signs of spring.

IMG_3100Flowers, flowers, and more flowers.

Butterflies and birds.


Time to head to the beaches and rivers.

The Vernal Equinox begins tomorrow a little after noon. Enjoy the signs of Spring!

Hontoon: A Different Kind of Island

IMG_3404Sanibel Island, Honeymoon Island, Caladesi Island, Amelia Island, St. George Island…what do they all have in common? Sand, salt water, beach…not so with Hontoon Island. Instead, Hontoon Island State Park is located in the St. John’s River far from the Atlantic or Gulf and Florida’s famous beaches.

The only access to the island is by private boat or the park ferry. The ferry is limited to passengers and pets, no vehicles. And since I love ferries, that’s a bonus!

Boating, canoeing, fishing, and picnicking are popular activities for park visitors. Picnic areas include tables and grills as well as a playground. No fishing this trip, but Meghan and Jon paddled eleven miles around the island and John and I motored up and down the St. John’s exploring as far south as Blue Springs and as far north as the bridge at S.R. 44.

A three-mile nature trail follows the Dead River and leads hikers to a large Indian mound at the southwest corner of the island. We hiked each day, once to the Indian mounds and a couple times to the nest of a bald eagle trying to get a good view of the eaglets.


We enjoyed camping in the one of the twelve tent sites, but since no cars are permitted on the island campers load their gear in wheel barrows and then the park van transports tents, sleeping bags, ice chests, firewood, food and other items to the campsite with a strict limit of one trip per site.

Cooking out, roasting marshmallows, relaxing in the hammock, playing bocce ball and board games occupied our time at the campsite between hiking, canoeing, and boating.

In addition to the tent sites, Hontoon Island has 40 boat slips for boat camping and six rustic cabins. We’re trying to figure out how we can boat camp since it looks like the perfect way to stay on the island, sitting out on the dock in the light of the full moon…we’ll need to find a boat to rent…buying is not an option.

The Hontoon Island Friends held a cookout with live music on Saturday, and not only did we buy tickets to the cookout, we ended up members of the Hontoon Island Friends. Guess they’ll be contacting us to volunteer for future events.

Carry Cash

I know I’m old and I guess that means I’m also old-fashioned, but I don’t understand leaving home without any cash.
I’ve reluctantly slid into the 21st century by using a debit card to buy groceries, an occasional meal out or to make a purchase at a big box store, but just when I was getting comfortable with debit card purchases, the Target security scandal hit me making me reconsider the use of a debit card for anything other than making my weekly withdrawals of cash from the bank.
It’s unrealistic to expect you to follow these same practices, but is it really too much to ask  you to carry a few dollars?
Without cash, how do you pay the entrance fee at a county or state park with a self serve pay station? The fee of $2-$5 must be paid in cash…with exact change.

How do you buy firewood at the campground?
How do you buy drinks or candy or snacks from vending machines?

How do you make a bargain purchase at a garage sale?

How do you determine who kicks off at the beginning of a football game?
How do you pay for parking at a parking meter in a small town?
How do you buy food at a street festival?

How do you buy cotton candy at the Macy’s Day Parade?

How do you make a bet at the track?

How do you buy items from the concession stand? When I need a milk shake at a baseball game, I know I better have $6 in cash – no cards accepted!

How will you pay to listen to tunes on a juke box?


How do you donate to the Salvation Army kettles at Christmas? (I guess not carrying cash may be a good excuse in this case. How many times should you be expected to donate from Thanksgiving to Christmas?)
I know each of you have been in situations where you’ve had to depend on someone else because you wanted to make a purchase when only cash was accepted. Don’t leave home without some cash. Keep a few ones and some change in your car for park admission or parking meters. Carry $20 in your wallet…just in case.
The use cash budgeting plan is still my preference, but if that’s not your style, at least don’t be 100% dependent on cards. Please carry some cash!


Today Feels Different

On Sunday’s I’m posting poetry written by my mother-in-law, Bettie Lou. Writing poetry was a form of therapy after losing her husband and then her youngest son in 1985.

Today Feels Different

Today feels different.

It must be special

Maybe it’s the weather-

Wind hit me smack in the face

            As I walked

I remember such a felling

Many years ago.

It wasn’t the weather, but

Absolute materialistic comfort-

A white Lincoln – air and stereo

            Working at top efficiency.

In those days I could sing

            All six parts—

            At the same time—

            A sextet from Lucia.

I’ll do it again—

            Without a white Lincoln.

Maybe this is what she had in mind?


Crocodile Hunters

During the second of our 14 in 14 adventures, I photographed a mysterious reptile while completing the biking leg of the Tamiami Triathlon. In fact I posted the picture and asked for help in identifying the creature we thought resembled a five foot long crocodile.


When we spoke to a ranger at the Shark Valley Visitor Center and shared the picture, she said Florida crocodiles can’t navigate to that area of the Everglades. Of course, I lost faith in her assessment when she suggested we saw an immature alligator. No, this was not a young alligator. Not only was the color wrong, its snout was much too pointed to be that of a gator.

Maybe we witnessed an exotic species. One we didn’t even know existed in the state.

Last Sunday, a young, man-eating, Nile crocodile was captured 5 miles from the site where we photographed what we thought was a crocodile. According to a report in the Miami Herald, the 5 1/2 foot Nile crocodile escaped from a south Florida facility several years ago and has been the subject of a search ever since.

  “They initially identified it as a caiman and then we took a look and said, er, it looks more like a croc to us,” Mazzotti said.

On Friday, the croc was confirmed as a Nile, which can grow up to 17 feet, three feet longer than Florida crocs, and three times heavier. They are also far more deadly, blamed for hundreds of fatal attacks annually in Africa. Caimans, native to Central and South America but also found in South Florida, are far smaller, averaging four to six feet.  -Miami Herald (click here for complete story with photographs)

It’s time to reassess the photo taken in February. Our original thought…a crocodile or maybe a caiman…sounds familiar. Are they sure only three Nile crocodiles escaped?

It’s Jambalaya Time

Red beans and rice, gumbo, muffuletta, and po-boys…foods that made New Orleans famous; but my favorite is the classic Creole version of Jambalaya. Chicken, sausage, shrimp, rice together in a single dish…scrumptious!

Of course, what better time to enjoy the food of NOLA than during the time of Mardi Gras celebrations. Inspired by the jubilee, jambalaya was on the menu last Tuesday.

IMG_3252The recipe we use for jambalaya is a modified version of one from the November 2013 edition of Southern Living. Their recipe calls for andouille sausage instead of the little smokies and a few additional spices, but we decided to make it a little less spicy and we’ve simplified the original recipe slightly making it our own.


1 package little smokies, cut in half

2 TBSP. vegetable oil

2 cups diced sweet onion

1 cup diced celery

1 large bell pepper, diced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp. Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried oregano

2 (10-oz.) cans Rotel tomatoes with green chiles, drained

3 cups chicken broth

2 cups uncooked long-grain rice

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 lb. peeled, medium-size raw shrimp, deveined

chopped green onions


Cook little smokies in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or until browned. Remove little smokies.

Add diced onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, Creole seasoning, thyme, and oregano to hot drippings and saute’ 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in Rotel, chicken broth, rice, cooked chicken, and sausage. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

Stir in shrimp, cover and cook 5 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink. Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped green onions.

For the original recipe from Southern Living, click here.

This dish freezes well so that it can be made ahead or since the recipe above will serve 8-10, some can be served and a portion frozen for another time.

To Freeze: Prepare the recipe as directed. Line bottom and sides of a baking dish with enough aluminum foil  to extend about 3 inches over sides. Fill the baking dish with jambalaya and then cover and freeze. To serve, remove the foil and return the casserole to the original baking dish and cover and thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Bake at 350° until thoroughly heated.

Serve with crusty French bread. You may also want to serve Praline Pound Cake for dessert.

The Gang’s All Here: Mid-week Family Reunion

It’s not often that you experience a family reunion on a Wednesday night, but that’s what happened last night when the University of Miami baseball team traveled to DeLand to meet Stetson for a mid-week game. Family drove from Ocala, Dunellon, Jacksonville, New Smyrna Beach, Orlando, and Oviedo for the game and to celebrate John’s birthday.


Even though, the family knew John would be cheering for the Hurricanes, only a handful of those in attendance joined him rooting for the Canes. That’s because Danny, our nephew, wears the uniform of the opposing Hatter’s.


Fortunately, things didn’t get nasty. As a pitcher, and one who’s only recently been released after surgery to his pitching arm, Danny did not see action in last night’s contest so even those cheering for the Canes didn’t have to choose between family and tradition.

My deal with Danny: I ALWAYS cheer for him over any opponent. If he’s pitching, I’m a Hatter. If he pitched and could earn the win after leaving the game, I’m a Hatter. However, it’s all about Danny. If he’s not in the game or if his stats won’t be affected by the outcome, I’ll be cheering for the Canes.

The Canes didn’t come through and provide John with the outcome he’d been hoping for as a birthday gift, but the smile on Danny’s face after the Hatter’s win was a pretty nice consolation prize.


My advice to Stetson, get Danny on the mound. Did you see and hear the crowd cheering at last night’s game? We’ll return and cheer for the Hatters…but it’s all about Danny!

We’re looking forward to more DeLand family reunions.
Check out the Stetson University baseball media guide:


Meet Dr. Skype

drTwenty-five years ago we may have been one of the last families to experience a medical house call when Dr. Bobby stopped by the house to check on Emily on his way from the hospital to his office. I remember being stunned when our pediatrician offered to see Emily for a recheck at home so I wouldn’t have to drag a sick child to his office.

Now it appears there’s a new type of medical house call…Telemedicine. Since December, Doctor on Demand has been available in Florida as well as more than a dozen additional states providing medical services via a home computer, tablet, or even cell phone.

Voice or video calls to physicians enable patients to receive 15 minute consultations for a $40 fee. The Doctor on Demand app requires users to register for the service and then move through a four step process:

  1. Tell what’s wrong – typing in symptoms, allergies, and medications
  2. Confirm payment – entering credit card information
  3. Chat with a doctor – by video or voice (patient’s choice) and even share photos of a rash or insect bite; then get advice, a prescription, or a referral
  4. Provide feedback – rate the doctor and the service

Apparently, the military’s been using a version of telemedicine for over two years in which individuals anonymously discuss problems relating to depression, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or substance abuse. Video Doctor attempts to reduce the stigma associated with accessing mental health assistance and provides screening and referral services. It looks like virtual medicine is a reality.


I’m not sure how I feel about a virtual doctor, however I did download the app on my phone. We’ve needed basic medical care while on vacation in the past and the $40 fee, although not covered by medical insurance, would have been welcome compared to an emergency room visit or an out-of-network medical care facility. And for those without insurance, it may be a good alternative to the $200 visit to a walk-in clinic.

What do you think? Will you be a Doctor on Demand patient or have you used a virtual medical service?