Authentic Florida

A couple of months ago I started receiving Authentic Florida,  a monthly newsletter which focuses on simple and delightful pleasures for living in Florida. The newsletter highlights Florida travel and Florida living, and I’m often reminded of places I’ve visited or hope to visit.

This month’s edition included 50 Authentic Things To Do In Florida in recognition of their 50th newsletter. I was amazed at how many of these things I’ve done during the past 12 months.

How many I’ve done in previous years:

  • Tubing the Ichetucknee
  • Reflecting at the Bok Tower
  • Snorkeling for Florida Scallops
  • Cabbage Key’s Cheeseburger in Paradise
  • Historic Cedar Key
  • Spelunking Florida’s Caverns
  • Letting Go on the Hillsborough River
  • Birding at St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge
  • Alligators at Myakka State Park
  • Matlacha’s Lovegrove Gallery

And how many are on my “To Do” list:

  • Reflecting at the Bok Tower
  • An Oak Canopy on Ft. George Island
  • The White Sands of Siesta Key
  • Old Florida on the Chassahowitzka River
  • Paddleboarding
  • Wateralls at Rainbow Springs
  • Fossiling on the Peace River
  • Picking Florida Blueberries
  • Beachcombing for Shark’s Teeth

It’s great to read about the adventures of others to plan weekend getaways. Any suggestions?


Summer Reading List

Those three words send chills down the spines of middle school and high school students all over the country. Every student relishes the first day of summer – no homework, no projects, no studying for tests. Unfortunately, too many schools and teachers sabotage the joy of reading by assigning required books to be read and reports and projects to be completed on these books during the days of summer.

As a person who can’t wait for Tuesday to roll around so my teaching responsibilities will be behind me giving me time to read, I hate the idea of required summer reading. I’m all for teachers providing suggested reading lists for students. Those who want to read but need help finding titles of books that may enjoy will appreciate these lists and students who already love to read may refer to the list but will probably have developed their own reading plans for the summer now that they have more free time. Of course, there are others who will not read, but that’s preferable to resenting reading and books because they associate books with assignments, projects, reports, and school work.IMG_1280

Personally, my summer reading list grows every day. I’ve downloaded a dozen or more non-fiction books on my Kindle and I visited the library on Thursday and picked up the three books on my list. I’ve decided to concentrate on Florida books this summer. Among the titles on my list (in no particular order):

Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White (actually South Georgia)

Team Rodent by Carl Hiaasen (non-fiction)

Florida Forever and Allapattah by Patrick Smith

Totch A Life in the Everglades by Loren G. “Totch Brown (memoir)

Ocali Country by Eloise Robinson Ott and Louis Hickman Chazal

Condominium by John D. MacDonald

Barefoot Mailman by Theodore Pratt (time to reread this one)

Tourist Season by Carl Hiassen

To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway

No book reports. No projects. No deadlines. No requirement to finish a book I’m not enjoying. Now that’s what I call summer reading!

Island Grove – who knew?

IMG_0526Off the beaten path is an understatement when it comes to the community of Island Grove. Between Ocala and Gainesville on Alachua County Road 325, Island Grove barely commands notice as you drive through the lightly traveled roads in this part of the state. However, I sought out Island Grove as an intentional destination looking for the burial site of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

After visiting the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park and eating lunch at The Yearling, a restaurant named after her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, it seemed only natural to head east a few more miles to the Antioch Cemetery in which she was buried. Wandering through a cemetery and reading headstones would be a great way to walk off lunch so Connie, Maureen and I set out to Island Grove.

Fortunately I’d read that although the gate to the cemetery is latched, it’s open to the public. I’d also read that visitors to Rawling’s grave decorate it with statues of deer so within a few minutes we’d located it. Deer and writing utensils decorated/littered the relatively plain headstone. After locating Rawlings burial site, we spent close to an hour reading other markers and looking for the oldest graves. It’s great to have friends who enjoy cemeteries as much as I do.

As we were leaving, we noticed a sign for the Island Grove Winery. We followed a series of signs down roads that seemed to be leading nowhere, but we finally found the winery out in the middle of blueberry fields. What a surprise! Although we were unable to squeeze in time for a tour, we tasted their Kinda Dry and Sorta Sweet Blueberry Wines and even came home with a couple of bottles.IMG_0537

Looking for an adventure off the beaten path in North Florida? Make a day of it visiting the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park (make sure you take the tour), eat lunch at The Yearling (only open Thursday – Sunday), visit the Antioch Cemetery in Island Grove, and top it off with wine tasting and a tour at the Island Grove Winery!


Step Back in Time: “The Year of the Yearling”

IMG_0515“The Year of the Yearling” celebrates the 75th anniversary of  the publication of Marjorie Kinnan Rawling’s story of a boy and his pet fawn set in rural Florida. What better way to recognize this event than to visit the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park?




The state park provides a great opportunity for visitors to step back in time as they tour the cracker style house and farm where Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings lived and wrote her Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Yearling as well eight other books and numerous short stories.

The home, located in Cross Creek, has been restored as it was when she lived there and our tour guide on a recent visit transported us back to 1930s and 40s as he told stories of how she worked, entertained, and protected her moonshine. Well worth the $3.00 charge.

From the Spring of 2013 to the Spring of 2014 events have been planned to celebrate “The Year of the Yearling”.  Read the book. Watch the movie. Visit the park. Step back in time!

Frog Legs, Gator, and Fried Green Tomatoes

YearlingSignConnie, Maureen, and I started our meal at The Yearling in Cross Creek with the Cracker Sampler Platter. I’m not usually an adventurous diner but felt I had to at least taste the foods that have earned The Yearling recognition as one of the best restaurants in Florida by Florida Trend Magazine.CrackerSampler

I can’t say I’d order frog legs, gator, or fried green tomatoes as my main meal, but I’m glad I tried them. They’re all better than they sound, and the frog legs were a pleasant surprise and the catfish sandwich…delicious.YearlingExterior

Time stands still at The Yearling. The rundown building made me wonder if our fifty minute drive was a mistake. I expected rustic, but this makes biker bars look good. Inside, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings memorabilia as well as other “old Florida” touches decorate the restaurant, and on the day of our visit, there was even a fire in fireplace of the dining room in which we ate…you really can’t judge a book by its cover!YearlingInterior


We topped off our meal with a slice of sour orange pie, a yummy treat similar to key lime pie but with a tangy orange sauce. Step back in time and check out The Yearling.SourOrangePie