TBT: Lesson #12

No fancy wedding picture, but 35 years later, we’re as happy today as on our wedding day.

August 4, 1979 - Celebrating 35 years on Monday!
August 4, 1979 – Celebrating 35 years on Monday!

What were we thinking…getting married so young! Fortunately, my mother married at age 18 and John’s mother was 19 when she walked down the aisle, so at 20 no one questioned the wisdom of marrying my sweetheart of over two years.

According to experts, twenty-five is the earliest age for making a marriage that will last, but we’re proof that’s not always the case. Common goals, support of friends and family, and being content with one another when running errands, doing chores, or just hanging out experiencing the mundane moments of life serve as better tests of compatibility than age.

TBT Lesson #12: There are no rules as to when someone should marry. Too young, too old, too poor, too busy. When it’s the right person, none of those things matter.

Browsing Bumpers

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Is it still called a bumper sticker when attached to a window? I’ve always been fascinated by these adhesive labels and their messages.

They express school pride,

and support of organizations.

IMG_6784I always wonder about the families that display stick figures of themselves on their vehicles.

Favorite places cling to cars.

And of course bumper stickers provide a clue as to the causes supported by the vehicle’s owner.

Some just bring a smile.

IMG_6781Love this one celebrating the place John and I met.

With election season around the corner, I’m sure we’ll all learn a lot about those in our communities from the bumper stickers bombarding us with the political views of our neighbors.

Alexander Springs: Spring #13

AlexanderUpon exiting the car, the smell of summer filled the air. At only 10:00 in the morning, the grills were lit with hamburgers and hot dogs cooking. Numerous grills and picnic tables scattered throughout the park provide ample space for those looking to spend a full day enjoying Alexander Springs Recreation Area, part of the Ocala National Forest.

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After staking out a table, we gathered masks and snorkels and waded into the refreshing water. Although there were dozens of swimmers, we had the water over the spring to ourselves. Occasionally, someone would drift into the area of the head spring, but for the most part, the other swimmers were content floating on tubes or noodles.

The park has canoes and kayaks available for rent, but unlike the lines of people waiting to launch at Weeki Wachee, the boat ramp was deserted. Our plans for the day did not include padding down Alexander Run, but it would have been a great day to have the run to ourselves and perhaps even throw in a line for a little fishing.

Alexander Springs is the only place in the Ocala National Forest where scuba diving is permitted;  and as we left the spring, a group of about a half dozen divers hauled their tanks to the water ready to explore.

After snorkeling in the refreshing cool spring head, we walked the short distance following the Timucaun Trail along the perimeter of the spring. The easy one mile walk was close enough to the swimming area to hear the splashing and laughter of swimmers throughout the hike. Our only encounters with wildlife were a couple of skinks, one even posed so it could be photographed, and a critter of unknown origin that splashed away in the water as we approached. John says a small gator, but I believe it may have been an otter.

IMG_6878Alexander Springs, a perfect place to spend a summer day, and the 13th spring we’ve visited in 2014.

Be Prepared: Carry a Pocketknife

Like most girls, I didn’t grow up carrying a pocketknife, but when I became a mother I realized that a pocketknife is an essential tool, not only for boys and men, but for everyone.

My first Swiss Army Knife, the classic model in green, included seven implements: scissors, nail file with screwdriver, tweezers, toothpick, blade, and key ring (yes, the key ring is considered one of the implements, not tools, included in this knife). I immediately attached the ring to my keys so it was easily accessible and wondered how I ever managed without it.

My collection of knives has expanded over the years to include a couple of pocket-sized Leatherman tools. After all, you never know when you’ll need a corkscrew or bottle opener, but the needle-nose pliers and wire cutter are indispensable.

Just a few ways I’ve used my knife:

  • Open those crazy packages. Packages of food, candy, fishing lures.
  • Peel and cut fruit.
  • Sharpen a pencil.
  • Attach a license plate.
  • Cut straws.
  • Separate stuck Legos.
  • Cut tails off zip ties, another must have tool.
  • Cut fishing line.
  • Clip those itchy tags out of clothing.
  • Scrap battery terminals.
  • Unscrew the compartment so you can change batteries.
  • File your nails.
  • Remove a splinter.
  • Trim nails.
  • Snip threads from clothing.
  • Cut a pill in half.
  • Open a box.
  • Cut ribbon so you can open that gift.
  • Remove staples.
  • Loosen a knot.
  • Open a bottle.
  • Cut those hard to open pill containers.
  • Cut a flower.
  • Prepare a stick to roast marshmallows.
  • Add a new hole on a belt or on a shoe strap.
  • Remove auto fuse.

One pocketknife no longer meets my needs. I carry a knife in my purse, in the first aid kit, in my technology bag, in the glove compartment of both cars, as well as many drawers in the house. And we never go on the boat without a knife since John always has one attached to his life jacket.

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There’s one thing I hope you won’t do with your knife, PLEASE don’t use it as a toothpick – not even the toothpick tool. That’s just gross!

The motto of both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts is “Be Prepared”, so carry a pocketknife and be prepared.

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Mom

By the way, don’t buy one of these tools new! You can pick them up for next to nothing at garage sales or thrift stores!

 

July Pound Cake of the Month: Pina Colada

One of my goals for 2014 is to bake a different pound cake each month of the year.

Both of the pound cakes I’ve made this summer have been inspired by refreshing summer drinks. In June, I baked a Lemonade Pound Cake, the least favorite of the year; and this month I tackled a recipe based on a favorite summer beverage of adults…a Pina Colada Pound Cake. This one did not disappoint!

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I found the original recipe on Shugary Sweets, a blog devoted to “easy to make dinners and desserts, along with a few ‘over the top’ sweets” written by a mom of four. While I’d make some minor changes in the recipe, the Pina Colada Pound Cake not only tasted great, but looked just as good as the photographs on the Shugary Sweets site. That’s the sign of a well written recipe!

The first step of the recipe calls for the coconut to be toasted for 30 minutes in a 225° oven. While the coconut was toasting, I made the batter for the cake, step 2 of the recipe. According to Shugary Sweets, the cake preparation should take about 15 minutes, but it took me a full 30 minutes which worked out pretty well since I needed to wait for the coconut to come out of the oven anyway.

Ingredients:

Step 1

  • 1/2 cup sweetened coconut (half as much as original recipe)

Step 2

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
  • 2 tsp rum flavoring

Step 3

  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp rum flavoring (different than the original recipe)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened, toasted coconut (different from original recipe)

I found the cake did not need to bake an hour and 25 minutes in my oven. I set the timer for 1 hour 15 minutes, and it was ready so make sure you check early in case your oven bakes more quickly like mine.

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The glaze was by far the best consistency of any I’ve made up to this point, yet it’s the one part of the recipe I’d change. The original recipe called for one tablespoon of rum flavoring, but I felt the taste was too strong. To compensate, I doubled the recipe to cut the rum in half. Next time, I’ll reduce the rum flavoring to 1/2 tablespoon, and I wonder if using rum instead of rum flavoring would work just as well…it would definitely be cheaper. I also changed the amount of coconut to 1/2 cup since I used less than half of what I toasted.

Click here for the Pina Colada Pound Cake recipe as found on Shugary Sweets, and while you’re there, you may find a couple more recipes to try. I’m thinking about the mango salsa!

 

Porch Living

Living on the lake, we are frequently asked if we eat at Gator Joe’s all the time or if we’ve eaten at Eaton’s Beach yet. Well, the answer to both questions is no. The allure of both places is the ability eat while looking out on the lake, but that’s something we prefer to do at home.

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Four years ago we made the decision to screen in the porch upstairs, and while we were concerned that the screen would diminish the view of the lake, it’s been a great addition to the living area. We live on the porch now that we don’t fight mosquitoes at sunset.

We eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the porch.

We read, play games, visit, and listen to music.

I even work from the porch.

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And now we’ve made the downstairs porch another living space. We’ve enjoyed relaxing in the hot tub for years, but during our recent home renovations, we increased the porch size and upgraded its appearance.

Father’s Day brought rockers to the porch, and I can hardly think of a better way spend time with family and friends than rocking, roasting marshmallows, playing games.

I’m sure we’ll go to Gator Joe’s and Eaton’s Beach, but I’d prefer to enjoy the sunrise, sunset, rainbows, and clouds from the comfort of my own porch!

The Filling Station v The Jarrett House

What does it say about my taste in food when I enjoy eating at converted “filling stations”? When we discovered Tasty’s, a hamburger joint in Fernandina Beach located in a one time gas station, I thought it to be an anomaly, but maybe not.

On a recent trip to  Bryson City, North Carolina I found myself not only eating in another of these converted spaces, but enjoying it just as much. The Filling Station Deli serves soups, salads, and sandwiches with creative filling station inspired names like The Regular, The Premium, No-Lead, Fill’er Up, and Ethyl (that’s a term I hadn’t heard in years). We ordered the N.C. Ham Melt and fries and made our way to one of the half dozen tables.

Delicious! The only word to describe the food. With lots of variety on the menu including sweets, The Filling Station will not disappoint.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for The Jarrett House in Dillsboro, a restaurant that’s been a favorite for nearly 40 years. Don’t get me wrong, the food was not bad, but it also was not up to the standards of past visits.

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The replacement of the antique furniture in the parlor which serves as a waiting room signaled the changes we would encounter in the dining experience as well. In the past, meals were served family style with bowls of biscuits, slaw, potatoes, green beans, apples, and tomatoes or beets refilled through out the meal. Now, diners order two of the side dishes with their meal. The fried chicken and chicken and dumplings did not disappoint, but I guess it’s just as well the side dishes were limited. No one wanted extra of the rather bland vegetables.

We decided to finish our meal with the vinegar pie we’ve come to love, but this was by far the biggest disappointment of all. The dessert looked like a slice of cake instead of the custard pie we expected. After a couple of bites, we quit trying to make it something it was not. When asked if we wanted to box the left over pie for later, we declined and told the waitress it wasn’t what we expected. She asked if it was dry, a complaint she’d heard from other diners, and then removed the charges from our bill.

I’m sad to say The Jarrett House is no longer a must. In fact, I doubt we’ll return. Instead, we’ll head up the road and grab something at The Filling Station.

 

TBT: Lesson #11

So what would possess a grown man to wear red shorts? Simple, the coach needed to match the red shorts of the team’s uniform.

coachBe there for your children. Coach their teams. Keep score for their games. Paint sets. Drive to meets. Volunteer to help. Work in the concession stand. Cheer them on. March in the parade. Sell cookies. Parental participation in the activities of their children validates the worth of these activities and strengthens the bond between parent and child.

TBT Lesson #11: Support your children, even if it violates your fashion sense.

Wandering through Waterfalls

Last year was all about the beach, fishing and sea turtles and in 2012 the focus was bats and caves. This year has been the year of water…rain, rivers, springs, and waterfalls.

On the first day of 2014, a cool, rainy day, we started the year at Rainbow Springs State Park walking through the gardens and man-made waterfalls.IMG_2002Falling Waters State Park, the home of the 100-foot deep Falling Waters Sink, is an impressive Florida waterfall we visited later in January.

Then this summer waterfalls dominated our trip to North Carolina. First at Deep Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

And then at Panthertown Valley, Nantahala National Forest.

“There is a hidden message in every waterfall. It says, if you are flexible, falling will not hurt you!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

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Homosassa Springs: Spring #12

After a disappointing trip to Weeki Wachee Springs, the day got much better when we stopped at Homosassa Springs on our way home. While we determined Weeki Wachee “wasn’t anything”; Homosassa was not a disappointment.

IMG_6302Shortly after arriving we made our way to Homosassa’s famous Fish Bowl where the people descend into an underwater observatory and watch the manatee and fish swimming in the spring that surrounds them…much more interesting than watching the mermaid show earlier in the day.

By following the paved trail and elevated boardwalk, visitors can check in on the progress of manatee being rehabilitated in the Manatee Care Center which cares for injured and orphaned animals.

The manatee at the park share the spotlight with Lu, the resident hippo, as well as the alligators. Park Rangers or volunteers lead daily educational programs teaching about the role of the American alligator in the Florida ecosystem and then feed Lu, an exotic species allowed to remain at the park since being made an honorary Florida citizen.

In addition to its more famous residents, black bears, bobcats, playful river otters and a variety of birds including owls, eagles, swan, and flamingos inhabit the park.

However, the manatee and crystal clear water of the spring remain my favorite parts of the park.

It looks like we’re going to make our goal of visiting at least fourteen of Florida’s springs this year since Homosassa Springs State Park makes number twelve!