Enter a Photo Contest

Enjoy visiting Florida’s state parks? Enjoy taking pictures during these visits? Then you may want to enter the 2014 Florida State Parks and State Trails Photo Contest.

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Big Talbot Island State Park

The process is pretty simple: register for a photographer id number, and then submit up to 10 photographs each month with accompanying release forms. Each month photos selected by a panel of Florida Department of Environmental Protection are posted on the Florida State Park website for online voting. Winners are determined by the total number of votes received in the online poll.

Winners of the monthly contests are entered into the annual contest which is judged by professional photographers and  receive park passes. The photographs may be used in state park publications or on their website.

I’ll keep visiting the parks and taking photos and maybe I’ll get lucky and capture an image worthy of entry in the 2014 Florida State Parks and State Trails Photo Contest.

 

 

http://www.floridastateparks.org/thingstodo/photocontestinformation.cfm#requirements

May Pound Cake of the Month: Lemon Blueberry

After picking nearly five pounds of blueberries, I knew I’d be using blueberries in this month’s pound cake. After searching many magazines, cookbooks, and websites, I settled on a Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake for May’s pound cake of the month.

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However, when I started preparing a shopping list of ingredients needed for this month’s baking, I noticed a problem with the recipe I’d chosen. While the finished product pictured in the recipe clearly showed the cake filled with berries and while they were listed in the ingredient list, there was no mention of using blueberries in the directions.

I decided to scrap the chosen recipe fearful other mistakes may turn my hard work into a disaster, but I had my mind set on Lemon Blueberry and after a little more research, I found just what I was looking for.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour OR 3 cups plus 6 Tbsp. Swans Down cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups blueberries

Glaze

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice (add one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency and taste is acquired)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Spray 12-cup Bundt pan with baking spray or grease and flour pan.
  3. In a large bowl, sift 3 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. (Confession: I did not sift!)
  4. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, vanilla, and buttermilk.
  5. In another large bowl (preferably the mixing bowl of a stand mixer), beat butter, sugar, and lemon zest until fluffy. Continue beating while adding eggs, one at a time.
  6. Add 1/3 of flour mixture, and then 1/3 of buttermilk mixture, repeating by alternating dry and liquid mixtures until combined.
  7. Pour mixture into prepared cake pan.
  8. Bake approximately 1 hour until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.
  9. Let cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes and then remove and place on cake plate.

Glaze

  1. Mix confectioner’s sugar, buttermilk and 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice stirring until smooth.
  2. Add lemon juice a little at a time, until it reaches desired consistency. Glaze should be able to be poured.
  3. Pour half of the glaze over warm cake.
  4. Then after an hour, pour the remaining glaze over the cake and serve.

I skipped the final step because I was baking late at night and that was a mistake. Much of the glaze pooled on the cake plate since I poured it all on the warm cake. I’ll have to start earlier next time. The delicious glaze needs to be on the cake, not on the plate!

I know I’ll bake this cake again next year during blueberry season!

Click here to see the Lemon-Blueberry Bundt Cake recipe I used on my recipes.

TBT: Lesson #3

Another Thursday, another picture from the past, another lesson to be learned.

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There are so many things wrong with this picture, but the big question: Why is Sarah drinking a can of soda at such a young age? Did she go directly from a bottle to soda? What kind of parents let preschoolers gulp cans of sugary drinks?

Lesson #3: Don’t let young children drink soda! (Sorry, Sarah, that your parents didn’t learn this lesson.)

American Graffiti Revisited

The first thing you notice in The Villages: golf carts. Golf carts fill the parking lots of grocery stores, restaurants, drug stores, and line the streets.

IMG_5450Golf carts display the names of owners and show team pride.

With colorful paint jobs, dual ice chests, sliding doors to secure stereo equipment, and unique body styles golf cart watching provides entertainment for anyone visiting The Villages. I even saw one cart with a pair of golf clubs strapped to the back. Imagine that!

There’s something about watching the American Graffiti generation cruising the streets in their decked out golf carts that reminds me of teens of the ’50s and ’60s cruising the streets in their cars meeting up with friends and showing off their wheels. Fifty years later, they’re reliving the days of their youth still cruising the streets, still meeting up with friends, and still showing off their wheels.


For more about The Villages and their golf carts, listen to NPR’s story, The Villages: Florida’s Disney World of Retirees.

It’s Pickin’ Time

This week I spent a morning picking blueberries…something I had never done before, and in little more than an hour, I’d collected a bucket full of berries.

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Lisa, Jody, and I picked about 20 pounds of blueberries at Abshier Blueberry Farm in Belleview. We wandered from row to row picking a variety of berries with names like star, jewel, and emerald tasting and evaluating the berries as if we were knowledgeable berry connoisseurs. I’m not sure about the others, but as for me, I looked for the largest berries. After all, more berry equals more flavor.

U-pick farms can be found throughout north central Florida and while Abshier Blueberry Farm ends its season on June 1st, many others are open throughout June and a few in July. A list of additional U-pick farms as well as tips for picking, cooking, and freezing blueberries is available at the Florida Blueberry Growers Association website.

Florida expects to produce 25 million pounds of blueberries this year so I’ll be checking out the Florida Blueberry Growers Association recipes for drinks, salads, sauces, entrees, and of course, desserts. With nearly five pounds of berries in the refrigerator, I need to get busy.

 

Pray for R.L.

I first met R.L. 2 1/2 years ago. Assigned to the registration table, R.L. was one of the first people to sit down in front of me to complete a form requesting assistance asking for help in obtaining his Florida ID. I took the application, informed R.L. to return the following week, and continued with my duties.

A couple of months later, my responsibilities changed, and now I was part of the team helping people in their quest for ID as well as birth certificates, social security cards, and other documentation needed to as part of the ID process. Again, R.L. met me asking for an ID. He’d been working with other volunteers for weeks without any success in getting the documentation necessary to meet the Real ID requirements of the state.

In fact, we explained to R.L. that we didn’t see how we could assist him since he lacked any of the proof needed to obtain his birth certificate or social security card, without which an ID would not be possible. Disappointed, R.L. went on his way, but every few months he returns with the same request, and despite our best efforts, we have been unable to help.

Last week, I met with R.L. once again and he’s becoming more desperate recognizing that he’ll lose the benefits he receives if he cannot obtain a government issued ID.

Now I’m sure that sentence will illicit negative comments by many. What? He receives government handouts? Yes, R.L. receives a monthly benefit as well as a small amount of food stamps. Just enough that he’s been able to mange to survive with a roof over his head.

I can hear the outrage. Cut off the handouts. Tell him to get a job.

That sounds great, but there aren’t many employers standing in line to hire a 60 year old African American male with few if any skills, with many missing teeth, especially since he wears clothing from the donations received at the church and the black T-shirt with the phrase, “I’m the Bride”, isn’t exactly work attire.

But even if R.L. is the perfect candidate for a local business, he can’t get a job because he doesn’t have ID. You see, employers must verify the ID and social security number of their employees, and some even require birth certificates.

So without an ID, R.L. CANNOT:

  • get a job
  • access services from the Salvation Army or other organizations designed to help those down on their luck
  • open a bank account
  • vote (not high on his list of priorities)
  • ride a bus, train, or plane (not that he can afford a ticket)
  • recycle – that’s right, you have to have an ID to get cash for cans collected along the roads

and soon, R.L. will not be able to access the benefits that currently keep him off the streets. So without your prayers, without a miracle, R.L. will join the ranks of those living on the streets.

I’m sure you may still be confused about why we can’t help R.L. with an ID. What’s the big deal? You go to the health department, fill out a form, hand over $13 and bingo…birth certificate. However, there’s one other requirement. You must prove who you are to get that important document. You must show your ID. No ID, then have a parent apply for you. R.L.’s an only child, not married, no children, and his parents are deceased. Of course, there are some other documents that can be used to prove your identity, like a passport…right! or military records…not a veteran! or a health insurance card…uninsured! or a tax return…remember, no job! or a W-2…again, no job!

Two and a half years. No ID. No solution in sight. Pray for R.L.

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Mom

What’s a hero? Best hero quotes

A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom. ~Bob Dylan

A hero is someone who, in spite of weakness, doubt or not always knowing the answers, goes ahead and overcomes anyway. ~Christopher Reeve

It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle. ~Norman Schwarzkopf

Heroes are made in the hour of defeat. Success is, therefore, well described as a series of glorious defeats. ~Mahatma Gandhi

A hero is someone who walks into the unknown. ~Tom Hanks

The true hero is one who conquers his own anger and hatred. ~the Dalai Lama

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. ~Joseph Campbell

I think a hero is really any person intent on making this place better for all people. ~Maya Angelou

A hero is one who kindles great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. ~Felix Adler

True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others, at whatever cost. ~Arthur Ashe

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Visit Veteran’s Park

Monday’s Memorial Day which signals the end of the school year and the beginning of summer, but it’s also a day to remember the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. Special events are taking place throughout the nation at memorials and national cemeteries, but these places are open for visitors year round.

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The Ocala-Marion Veterans Memorial Park was established in 1997 as a memorial to veterans who fought for our country’s freedom. The park includes more than 500 bricks, 200 benches, and 100 plaques recognizing those who fought in all conflicts in our nation’s history.

The park serves as a place to learn about our history beginning with the Indian Wars in the 1600s and continuing through the present while honoring those who lost their lives in service to our country. A small museum with artifacts donated by local citizens is located in the park office which is open Monday-Friday from 9:00am-1:00pm.

Monday’s Memorial Day, a day to remember; but Ocala-Marion Veterans Memorial Park as well as the national cemeteries provide an opportunity to learn and remember any day of the year.

 

 

Yardbird – A Twist on Fried Chicken

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The first thing I noticed upon being seated at the extra large farm table at The Yardbird Southern Table and Bar in Miami Beach was the sign hanging over the bar that said, “There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love fried chicken and communists.” I’m pleased to say I’m the former, and if you’re a fried chicken lover, then The Yardbird is the place for you.

Meals are served family style so our waitress encouraged us to order a variety of dishes that we could share. Ordering Llewellyn’s Fine Fried Chicken was a no brainer. After all, the fried chicken is their specialty. The “27 hour” recipe creates a crispy yet moist dish and the spicy Tobasco honey provides a perfect sauce for dipping.

However, our group unanimously chose Mama’s Chicken Biscuits as our favorite dish. Fried chicken served on a biscuit with honey and pepper jelly…heavenly! We also ordered two sides of macaroni and cheese, another hit; but I wish we’d ordered a side of fries. The House-Cut Fries are served with buttermilk dipping sauce and “bacon salt” which sounds delicious.

Shrimp N’ Grits, Jar of Corn Bread, Cinnamon Apple Hand Pies, and Chocolate Chunk Sour Cream Coffee Cake are just a few more items on the Brunch Menu I’d like to try. Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday starting at 10:00 am with an 11:30 am opening for lunch on weekdays.

Going to Miami? Then a trip to the Yardbird is a must!

 

TBT: Lesson #2

Another crazy picture, this one from the ’70s. Another lesson.

ponyTBT: Lesson #2:

When your knees touch the ground, you’re too big to ride that pony!

What’s amazing about this photo is that John had a horse and even taught horseback riding yet he’s riding this pony that’s way too small. In his defense, children should not really ride ponies either. Ponies are generally not pleasant creatures, and this one fit the pony stereotype…difficult to ride with an unpleasant disposition. Nevertheless, he should not have ridden this creature.

Throwback Thursday’s been a trend on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for a couple of years now – the posting of old photos inspired the idea of changing up Throwback Thursday (TBT) by including a lesson that we should learn from these pictures from the past.