Thursday, July 28, 2005


My eye are still swollen and it's hard to focus. I can't see the monitor very well so yet another brief entry. I hope to be able to sit here long enough tomorrow to share a recipe or story or two.

I think I am allergic to a new facial wash or soap or make-up product. I've stopped using all of them. Whatever is causing this, it's not fun. The light hurts my eyes and I'd prefer to wear my black satin sleep mask all day long. I also need to have my eyeglass script checked. It's not much fun wearing out and getting older but it beats the alternative.

36 Days and counting.

Campus Gator

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


I seem to have some sort of eye strain thing happening. I have a headache and I can't focus and my eyes hurt. Maybe I need new glasses or something. If not better by tomorrow, I guess I'll have to make an eye appointment. Bummer.

Here's what we see when we look out the side door of the kitchen. The tree that grows up through the side deck looks right back atcha. Note that it was 2:45 PM and 91 degrees. Feels hotter than that.
Tree Face

Off to rest my eyes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Into Orbit

Did you see the launch of Discovery today? Wish I had been there in person. Like many Floridians, the space program holds a special place in my heart. Many of us grew up with NASA in the beginning phases. My father worked at Cape Canaveral in the early 60's and we had passes to see many launches. On a morning in May of 1961, my family and I stood on the beach watching the first manned space flight lift off. We worried that Alan Shepard would make it back safely. Shepard was only up there for three or four minutes before he plopped down into the Atlantic but it was scary and fascinating at the same time. The space age had arrived!

In 1962, we saw John Glenn lift off and orbit the earth three times. He was the first to do so and it took about 5 hours before he splashed down. Astronauts were our heros and we Floridians took enormous pride in the space program. I recall being afraid that the little Mercury capsules would sink and the ships wouldn't get to them in time.

Before manned flights, I remember my mother keeping a list of satellite orbit times and we would sit in the yard in the 1950's, reclined on our aluminum chaise lounges watching the night-time sky and identifly the little lights as they traversed the sky. It was a big deal if we could see more than one satellite at a time in the southern sky. My mother would know which satellite each tiny moving light was, what was its purpose and if it was American or Russian. Mother always loved anything to do with the heavens and space.

Over the years I saw many Atlas, Titan, and Saturn rockets as well as the Shuttles lift off. It was a habit that I never broke. Even before DH was an H, we would hear of a pending launch and drive from Tampa to the Cape on the spur of the moment. The night launches were always my favorite. The whole sky lights up just like daylight and it's an awesome sight and sound.

I urge you to try to see a shuttle launch. Waterfront areas on most of the east coast of the state are popular with people waiting for the launch and it is a party atmosphere. Everyone has a radio and nowadays, a portableTV or laptop, and you can hear the countdown and NASA chatter even if you are not close by in a VIP area. First, you see a huge billowing white cloud of water vapor. They use water to cool the launch pad before and when the burners fire and the massive, rising steam cloud is very impressive. Then, through the cloud, you see a hint of orange or red fire glowing and the top of the large fuel rocket start to rise. It rises so slowly that you can't beleive it is going to make it off the pad. While a shuttle ship itself only weighs 165,000 pounds, once attached to the boosters and the main fuel rocket with all three loaded with fuel, the whole kaboodle weighs an astounding 4.5 million pounds. It takes a lot of thrust and a few seconds to make that puppy start to move!

MSN video: Watch complete shuttle coverage

It takes a while before the sound travels to you. After all, you are probably at least 3 miles away. While you are holding your breath, thinking that the shuttle is moving too slowly and isn't going to rise, the rumbling reaches you,and is so loud, so intense, that it literally rattles your chest. The earth vibrates and everyone starts to cheer and whoop and applaud. It is such a rush, such a magnificent accomplishment that people cannot contain their excitement.

In about 40 seconds, the shuttle is but a glowing dot, speeding along at about 3000 KPH, the roar of the engines hardly discernable. If the weather is cooperating, you can see the booster rockets fall and if you've brought your binoculars, you can see the big fuel rocket split from the shuttle. All over the state, people pause to look up. On a good day with the right conditions, about half of the state of Florida can see a shuttle launch once it gains some altitude.

You can write NASA for tickets onto the causeway or for VIP passes but you can see all the action very well from anywhere on the west side of the Intracoastal near Cape Canaveral or Merrit Island. All along the Indian and Banana Rivers, people gather to watch and it's a festive atmosphere. Just remember to arrive early, Most people come the night before and stake out their spot. I can't decide who enjoys a launch more, the kids or the adults.

If you are planning a trip to Florida, check for scheduled launch dates and request a Causeway pass. It is something you will really enjoy and the pass is good for a specified period of time. Since launches can be delayed by many things, try to plan on being in the area for a few days. A visit to Kennedy Space Center is something you will always remember. The Canaveral National Seashore and Cocoa Beach are fun places to visit and you'll only be about 45 minutes from Orlando and all the major theme parks as well.

Yikes. I sound like Tourism Board. nevermind.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Young and Foolish

Did you ever do something you lived to regret? Something that makes you physically ill just thinking about what an idiot you were?

W4D went off to college in the fall of 1965 to the University of Tampa. Freshmen weren't allowed to have cars on campus unless you lived locally and were a Florida resident. DH was from Philly so a car was not allowed his freshman year.

The summer after his first year of college, he returned home and worked as a lifeguard, just like our daughter does. Hey, the peeps in my family recognise a cherry job when they find it. Anyway, DH worked on his tan, saved up his money and returned to school for his sophomore year driving this little baby below. Here he is parked in front of McKay Hall at U. of Tampa, right before he moved into the Sig Ep House. Good Grief! Were any of us ever that young? Well, I was and still am since DH robbed the cradle but I digress.


What you are looking at is W4D in his (used) 1959 Corvette. It was red and white. DH bought it for $600 and drove it down to Florida and looked very hot in it for a couple of years. fine Florida winter afternoon, sun shining, top down, W4D-aka-DH and his best bud, fraternity brother, Bill Pitt (Bill, do you still live at 56 Redcoat Lane?) were driving down Bayshore Blvd in front of the Colonnade Restaurant, smelled something acrid and then saw black, sooty smoke barreling from under the hood. The starter burned up and caught stuff (forgive my technical terminology) under the hood on fire and the guys had to bail. No injuries but all of the wires under the hood had turned to toast.

DH promptly sold the car for exactly what he paid for it, $600, and he felt mighty smug about it, too. Pretty cool, eh? Buy a car, drive it for over 2 years, fry all the electrical and sell it for exactly what you paid for it? After all, Bill had just bought a brand new, mint green Pontiac GTO, 428, triple deuce carbs. Does that sound right? - anyway, that is what I remember - there was something special about those deuce carbs. DH wasn't sad about the old Vette since the GTO was hot and lookin' fine and he and Bill could use that on their exploits. It was after all, brand new and much better than a 10 year old Corvette.

Who in the world thinks a new GTO is anywhere as good or as hot as a '59 Vette?

Sometimes, people are just too young to know any better.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Living Southern

Summer drags on and on yet the days get away from me. How can that be? Where do they go?

Congrats to my sister, Sharon. Her vintage clothing, millinery and accessory shop, The Twisted Sister, is mentioned in the August 2005 issue of Southern Living Magazine as a great place to shop.

Southern Living

If you are ever in the nabe, stop by Micanopy, (pronounce it "mih-cuh-NO-pee" - not "my can of pee.") just south of Gainesville, Florida, and pop in - or I should say squeeze into the Twisted Sister Boutique and say hey! In addition to all the fab vintage clothing and accessories, you will find a huge selection of hats of all kinds, hundreds of them! If you don't see the perfect chapeau, just let Sharon know what you are seeking and she will make it for you. My sister makes some of the best and most original hats in the South.

Y'all have a good weekend. I'm trying to think of someplace to go where it is cool and refreshing. I'm off to dream of the temperate Swiss Alps or maybe a ski lodge in the Andes. I hear Tasmania is nice this time of year. Guess I'll go turn down the thermostat and pout some more.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Best Friend

Sorry. Am behind schedule today. Our wee beastie boy, Dirty Harry, AKA The Bubba is not having a good week. After all, he's 107 dog years old and the vet warned us last February that he probably would succumb within that month. She was wrong! Heart disease and prostate cancer be damned! She advised is to keep him happy and pampered and let him gain a few pounds. Happily, he is still plugging along with good quality of life but he is slowing down drastically this last couple of weeks.

We've spent the last 6 months babying The Bubba. We take him on car rides to nowhere -- to a dog that is rather like a gambling cruise out into the Atlantic. The destination doesn't matter, it's the going and coming that is the event.

His poppy takes him on long manly-man walks where he lets The Boy sniff things that I do not allow. I get down on the floor several times a day with the little guy and give him massages and let him give me a thousand kisses.

We take him to drive in restaurants and let him order from the car. He loves chicken nuggets and plain hamburgers. Tonight, I asked W4D to go by Arby's on the way home from work and get the dog a roast beef sandwich for supper.

Trust me when I tell you that our dog has lived the Life of Riley. He has been a movie star and has a dramatic death scene to his film credit, he's traveled internationally, he loves boating and sailing and camping and he has his own raft for swimming in the pool.
Bubba and Raft
A wet pooch in the pool.

He has done everything that a pampered pet can do except father puppies. His whole life has been a righteous joy for him and for we who love him. While we have been preparing for his passing for many months now, it still is not going to be easy on any of us. While I take great comfort in knowing that The Bubba (Omar Shariff Kyam) has lived the best possible life, it doesn't make it any less sad for us to lose our beloved companion of more than 15 years. As long as the vet says he is not in pain, we just keep loving him and making him happy. When the day comes that we sense even a small amount of pain or discomfort, we will help ease him over to the other side.

We called Kait earlier in the week and suggested she get home to visit him ASAP. He doesn't appear to be in any pain but his heart is wearing out and sometimes, it takes a very long time to awaken him. The Bubba was her birthday gift in 1990.
Kait and The Bubba 1990
Kaitlin and Her Bubba in 1990

We didn't want her to miss saying goodbye to him. So Kait came for a visit today and we played with the dog and chatted and reminisced and I can't stop crying and that is why there is no blog today.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Vacation Accommodations

Finished my taxes and caught up with my shipping duties. I should be working on updates to Vintage Lockets and Enamel Roses but instead, I am pouting. Can't seem to concentrate since I've already worked enough for one day. Dammit, I'm self-employed. I should be able to daydream a little in the afternoon if I wish.

I was poking around the web looking for unusual trips for long weekends when I read about Sharecropper Shack cottages. Did you know you can stay in an authentic, tacky, tin-roofed, shotgun shack in the Mississippi Delta? Read all about it here:
Cadillac Shack
If you enlarge the picture of the Cadillac Shack,
you can see the Bottle Tree and
the Outhouse in back. I am NOT kidding.

I visited the web site of The Shack Up Inn - The Ritz, it ain't! Gotta admire good ole American ingenuity. Here's a promotional picture of the kitchen area of the Legends Shack. I guess you could prepare your meals in house if you want the total experience.
Legends Shack
Photo of Legend's Cabin interior,
compliments of The Shack Up Inn, Clarksdale, Miss.

I don't think I'll be making a reservation there any time soon. But maybe, I can find a nice old cabin way down upon the Suwannee River and watch the lazy river go by within an hour of home. Or, we could book a hotel for a long weekend in Biloxi or Gulfport to go gambling and gorge ourselves on local seafood. Maybe a trip to Crescent or Flagler Beach would perk me up. No, probably not. :::pout::: One friend just got back from almost a month in South Africa, another from Italy and yet a third, from Portugal and here I sit, browsing share cropper cottages.


I'm depressed. It's winter in Australia.
Have I ever mentioned that I hate summer?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Pasta Para Duros

I just realized that tomorrow is the 20th and my quarterly taxes are due. How the heck did this last three months go by so quickly? I have a ton of posting to do before tomorrow so this entry shall be brief.

Yesterday, I mentioned a new, (well, new to me) product I bought over the weekend. Has anyone else ever heard of Pasta Para Duros? I had never seen or eaten this cute little pasta treat.

Pasta Para Duros

As closely as I can figure, the name translates to hard paste noodle adornments. The neat thing about it and the main reason I bought it was that the label says you can cook it in the microwave. No water required. Just place a few of the little pasta wheels on a paper towel and nuke them for 30 - 35 seconds and they puff up into cute and crunchy doo-dads.

Soft Taco with Para Duro Garnish

Apparently you can nuke them or deep fry them. The packaging suggests sprinkling them with lime juice and pico de gallo seasoning or dipping them in salsa. I bet if I deep fried them, they would be good sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, like a churro. I may try dipping them in dark chocolate for a desert garnish but this was the first time I experimented with them. Look how cute they are as a garnish with last night's supper of soft tacos (yes, I know I am on a taco kick lately), cold marinated green beans and chilled pasta salad. The best part is, it took one paper towel and 35 seconds to make them! You can purchase them online at

Since it's too hot to cook during Florida summers, I like to make a different pasta salad every week or so. This one is made with tri-color rotini, tarragon, zucchini, chicken, asiago cheese, olives, peas, onions and a touch of garlic. I dressed it with good olive oil, fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper. Very simple, very quick to make and a great way to use up all those extra zukes and that leftover chicken from last night's supper.

Pasta Salad

Time to start working on the quarterlies. If I don't get sidetracked, maybe I can be done with it all tonight and not have to waste any time tomorrow thinking about tedious things like record keeping and taxes.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Argh! Ye Mateys!

No, nope, no sir, no m'am, haven't read the latest Harry Potter book and I don't intend to do so. I tried previously on several occasions since my daughter and many of my friends love the series. I even tried to watch the films on cable but they just don't appeal to me. However, I am delighted that a book, any series of books, so captures the attention and imagination of the public. It is wonderful to see people getting so excited about reading.

I am typing as I drink my second perfect Sapphire Martini with the perfect garlic olive. I make excellent martini's; vodka or gin, plain or exotic. I can't say the same for many bars and restaurants.
On Sunday, we drove down to "Slow-cala," (Ocala, Florida) and battled the "raisins" out on State Road 200, the main mall area, and then popped into the Sam's Super Store (like a Costco in other areas of the country). We browsed through an amazing amount of merchandise and had fun people watching and looking for bargains but when it was time for Sunday dinner, every restaurant was so dammed crowded at 4:00 PM on SR 200 with the early bird raisins from On Top of the World and Spruce Creek and the many retirement areas west of Ocala, that we gave up trying to get into a restaurant on the main drag and headed to old, downtown Ocala for a more gentle, a quieter dinner at Harry's Bar and Grille on the Square.

We eat at Harry's in Gainesville and St. Augustine all the time. It's a local southern chain of New Orleans style food so we thought the Ocala storefront would be fine, and after all, we know the menu. The service was dandy and the food was as good as usual but the bartender needed some education.

We sat down and while looking at our menus, promptly order two vodka martinis, up and dirty. They arrived very quickly and we raised our glasses in a salute (not clicking, of course), eager for a taste of what is to us, mother's milk. Right here, I shall insert our supposition that a day without a fine martini totally sucks. Anyway, we raised our glasses in unison to express our joy of not being raisins who require walkers or someone to read us the menu, and we each took a big, and highly anticipated, refreshing swig!

Do you know that face that you must make when you drink pure pickle juice? That puckery, dour, pruney face that automatically ensues after you taste something so salty or sour that your face automatically retracts, recoils and contorts into an anus of wrinkles about the mouth while at the same time, one eye repulsively squints shut in salty and shocked disbelief?? Well, that's the look we both had on our faces but DH, (aka, W4D, aka The Lubricator), also immediately spurted out a beautifully executed perfectly pirateous, "ArrrrGGGGggghhh!" just like a Johnny Depp shipmate in "Pirates of the Caribbean."

Yes, the spousal unit was for once, far more vociferous than I, who just sat there with a stunned look on my face, lips pursed, brows puckered, unable to gather enough saliva to form words.

"Arghhhh! Ye Mateys," expounded W4D, as he crooked a brow, made a terrible pirate face and took another big sip.

Now, right now, I can inform you, I would not drink more of that foul, dirty martini but DH, not to be deterred by really bad brine, took another sip.

"ArgggGGGGhhhHHHh!!" he bellowed again!

For some reason, possibly that I was still totally hungover from a lovely dinner and drinking session at Cathy and David's the night before, this struck me as terribly funny and I could not stop laughing. I immediately slid my toonie over toward DH (he'll drink anything) and called the waitress to order some Chardonnay as a better substitute while we ate.

Dinner was delish but every time DH took a sip of martini, he crooked that eyebrow, puckered, and I giggled like a fool. Don't ask me why he didn't send them back. I wouldn't have drank that crap for love nor money.

I still like Harry's Bar and Grille, and the service us usually fine. I have had fab drinks and puckery toonies from the briny deep but I've always enjoyed myself there, even when they don't give me Mardi Gras beads.

While I think if it, I found a new taste treat at the grocery yesterday. Am anxious to try it tonight and will report tomorrow. Happy Monday! (If you are reading this before I get the links hooked up, come back later. Damn! I hate Mondays! I can never keep up to speed.)

Friday, July 15, 2005


Did you know that there are over 1.5 million alligators in the state of Florida? That's approximately one alligator for every 25 tourists.
I think we need more alligators.
Florida Transportation

BTW, I got my take-out-taco salad last night so tonight, I will acquiesce and make the BBQ rib dinner that W4D wanted. I'll also steam some fresh green beans and then briefly sauté them in a little butter and garlic and roast some sweet corn and the bake the danged sweet potatoes, but he will pay for my kitchen time on a hot, summer's day.

Y'all have a good weekend.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Only Good Thing

Have I mentioned that I am sick of summer? I want to be on a cruise to Alaska. I want to be dipping my toes in a glacial waters so cold that it is as thick as syrup. I want to feel the need for a sweater, long pants, a pair of socks. Have I ever mentioned that I hate summer in Florida? No, I didn't think so...

It's too hot to cook. W4D emailed to ask me what I wanted for supper earlier this afternoon and I told him a banana split. I was not kidding. He suggested green beans, sweet potatoes and BBQ pork ribs. Blecch. It is too hot for anything except ice cream, or fruit.

I just ate some lovely, very cold and fresh Bing cherries. I adore fresh cherries. Don't they look delish? They were!
Bing Cherries

I think I will go make a margarita. Rest assured, I am NOT cooking ribs and sweet potatoes and veggies for The Lubricator. I am thinking a taco salad sounds like a possibility and I am not cooking that either. Go food! That's the ticket, Take Out!

Right after I made my margarita, W4D (What's For Dinner, AKA, The Lubricator, DH) pulled in from work. He's been to the produce market. W4D, like most Gainesvillians, loves to go to Ward's Market on the way home from work. Sitting on my kitchen island right now are 2 pounds of fresh green beans, a bag of summer squash, a big head of leaf lettuce, one large eggplant, fresh broccoli, four ears of sweet corn, three pears, two peaches and a nectarine. There may be more but I told him to put it all away because I AIN'T CooKin'!!

BTW, all of the aforementioned produce cost less than six dollars. That's the only, and I do mean ONLY, good thing about summer. Abundant and inexpensive fruit and produce. And even though it does look good, I am NOT cooking. Nope. Nada. Not Tonight.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Easy and Fast Summer Supper

Cooking plain everyday foods makes supper fast and easy. Adding a few special flavors or ingredients to those everyday foods makes them special. It takes no more time to add a little extra flavor and panache to foods than it does to cook them without.

Here's a rather boring meal of roast pork, carrots, fruit, salad and bread. You can tell I was disgusted with doing dishes since I served it all on one plate. ha! Plain, simple everyday foods, but you can make it special any number of ways.

Pork Tenderloin Dinner

Take the pork roast.... Instead of butt or shoulder roast or pork chops, try a boneless pork tenderloin. I always marinate pork tenderloin depending on my mood. I tossed this tenderloin in a zip lock bag with some lemon juice, a little peanut oil, minced garlic and some chipotle sauce. Chipotle sauce is a sauce made of roasted habanero peppers. It is smoky and rich and hot. Whenever you marinate pork chicken, beef, etc., you need something acid to permeate the meat. The acid makes the meat tender and allows the flavors to get inside. Lemon juice and pepper sauce are acidic. The oil makes the sauce cling and helps perfectly brown the meat when you cook it. Peanut oil, canola oil or olive oil are my oils of choice for marinating. You will probably find it helpful to whisk together your marinade before you pour it over the meat in a Ziploc. I often add cracked peppercorns but I never add salt to marinade. You can always add salt after cooking but you cannot remove salt while cooking. Play it safe with the salt. I like to marinate meat for at least 12 hours or overnight. It makes meats extremely tender if you can remember to start marinating the morning or even the night before.

For the carrots, I julienne'd them because I didn't want anything else that was round on the plate. Mixing textures, shapes and colors makes for a more interesting presentation and it's just as easy to chop lengthwise instead of across.

fresh carrots

I steamed the carrots by dropping them into boiling water for no more than 2 minutes. Carrots should have a little crunch. Then, I immediately drained and removed them to a bowl into which I had finely grated some fresh ginger, about a teaspoon or a little more, and a couple of small pats of butter. I always keep fresh ginger root in the freezer. I use it a lot and it is easier to grate when frozen. It lasts a long time this way, too. So, to the carrots in the bowl with the ginger and butter, add about a teaspoon of honey and gently stir. I like to slap a pot top (pan lid) on top of my serving bowls to keep them warm. Easy and delicious, it only takes a couple of minutes to make honeyed ginger carrots.

Pork dishes go well with fruit. Stay away from the applesauce unless you have babies or invalids in the house. Instead, toss a couple of slabs of fresh (or even canned) pineapple onto the grill the last couple of minutes you are grilling the pork. I sometimes brush the pineapple with melted butter or a flavored sauce but for this dinner, I just grilled the pineapple plain, The pineapples this year are so sweet they hardly need anything additional anyway.


For salad, always use the darkest greens your market has to offer. The darker the green, the more vitamins and nutritional value. Besides, they look better and are much more tasty than that gawd-awful cardboard, iceberg lettuce.

So, you have the spicy pork and the sweet honey ginger carrots on the pineapple -- you surely don't want to use Ranch salad dressing or some creamy bottled crapola on your tender greens. For this meal, I used a little olive oil and fresh lemon juice to dress the greens or if you must, some bottled Italian dressing will work nicely, too.

If you are eating bread, buy good bread. Always use real butter not margarine. I sprinkled the bread for this dinner with a little freshly crushed rosemary and dried thyme. Rosemary is the perfect compliment to pork and after all, if you are going to waste calories and carbs on bread, it should be really delish!

Remember, no matter what you cook for dinner, adding a few herbs or spices will make it tastier and planning the plate will make it look more appetizing. And yes, I prep plates at my house. Doesn't matter if it is just the two of us or a whole crowd, I serve restaurant style unless it is a buffet. It's just easier.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


I am still grumpy. I don't expect my mood to improve until the end of August when it is once again time for GATOR Football. I hate summer.

In the meantime, I am dodging lightning bolts and trying to cheer myself with a frozen strawberry daiquiri. I froze these so hard that I had to float an extra shot of rum in the glass to slush it up enough to drink. I can't get outside to get some fresh mint for garnish due to lightning.
stawberry daiquiri

Damn! I have to unplug. That last bolt rattled the windowpanes and almost made me spill my beverage.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Hunker Down

Hurricane Dennis has moved on and we finally saw a little sunshine today. The state of Florida was well-prepared for this storm. After all, we've had a lot of practice recently. There was a 98.8% evacuation rate in the areas with a mandatory evacuation. Law enforcement doesn't actually make you leave but they will take down your next of kin info or leave a toe tag if you refuse to cooperate. It's good to see that people listened to the warnings.
Hurricane Neon Sign

After three days of incessant channel surfing Hurricane Dennis news coverage, we were starting to go stir crazy. The national news weather eejits who go on location are something else. We always root for them to get blown into the sea.

Watching those guys play "Chase the Hurricane" is like watching small gangs of 10-12 year old, neighborhood
boys trying to one-up each other. You can tell they really want to get blown over or have a piece of sharp metal whiz by their little hoodie heads. The more vain ones worry about rooster hair and make sure the wind is blowing into their part rather than across it. They report with great glee whenever something large like a roof or house gets blown away or trashed.

Being out in a hurricane is much worse than it shows on TV. Having been through quite a few, I am always surprised that the storms look so mild on TV when in person, all hell is breaking loose. I am amused by listening to the pitch of the reporters voices rise as the storm gets closer and stronger. They wouldn't have to yell a the top of their lungs if they would stand where the wind is blocked but of course, that's not dramatic enough for the network ratings. Still, the news teams appear to be enjoying the adrenaline rush and excitement of the whole thing and often take very foolish risks. I believe their main objectives are:

  • To try to lean at least 45 degrees into the wind without falling over.

  • To come as close as physically possible to getting seriously hurt without actually drawing blood.

  • To drive though flood waters just high enough that it doesn't actually swamp the SUV and wash them away.

  • To foolishly traverse bridges after they have been officially closed.

  • To report in front of sea walls and hope they get some good wave action shots before the road or wall washes out.

  • And the best coup, to have the wind blow you completely off camera.

  • This year, CNN had Hurricane One, a Hummer with a three man crew cruising about like 16 year old boys on a small town Saturday night. They were having so much fun that the anchor couldn't even keep a straight face. I bet they had a few cases of beer in a cooler in the back of that HumVee.
    hurricane cooler

    We watched all the local channels plus,
    The Weather Channel, CNN, MSNBC, Headline News, Fox and anything else that was showing hurricane news. The catch phrase of the weekend was "Hunker down!" Every channel, every network, every announcer, said "hunker down," ad nauseum, at least once every minute all weekend long. I figure they said "hunker down" over 2800 times. W4D and I would scream in unison right back at them every time they said it.

    "There's nothing left to do but hunker down!"

    Hunker Down!!

    I wonder why we are hoarse today? I can also only hope that they come up with a new catch phrase by next weekend when the next storm reaches us.

    Friday, July 08, 2005

    Summer Sucks

    I've always hated summer. The heat makes me grumpy. My perfect world would have 3 months of winter, 4 months of spring and 5 months of autumn. You will note that summer is not included in my perfect world.

    We've already had our first little band of gusty wind and rain from the farthest reaching band from Hurricane Dennis. It lasted less than 10 minutes but much more is on the way.

    Poor Florida. We've taken far more than our share of weather this last year. Dennis is predicted to make landfall close to Pensacola. Poor Pensacola had the brunt of last big hurricane of the season last year, the first tropical storm (T.S. Cindy) this year in June and now it looks like Dennis is going to storm onto shore there as well.

    Everyone in Florida and along the Gulf Coast of the US is watching this storm closely. It's early in the season to have a storm this strong. The Keys are pretty much evacuated except for the die-hard Conchs who will not leave. I imagine most of SW Florida has moved inland as well. The whole state is in for plenty of wind and rain for the next couple of days but it the storm stays in the middle of the Gulf and doesn't sweep right up the peninsula or the coast, that is the best case scenario.

    The orange X in the 4:00PM, July 8th NOAA weather map below is where I live. The NNOAA site is great if you want to track the weather. Here's the URL for the weather screens, loops and static.

    Here's hoping that come Monday, we have electricity and no major damage.


    Time to batten down the hatches. Hope to be back soon.

    Thursday, July 07, 2005

    Fish Eyes & Dough Blobs

    You now know that I detest tripe. Here's something else that totally disgusts me... Cookie Dough Ice Cream.

    Shame on those nasty, gooey blobs of raw doughy stuff taking up valuable ice cream space. The color of those blobs is in itself totally unappetizing. I will not ever eat the stuff. Never. I won't even eat the ice cream that touches the dough blobs. If you want to see what's in cookie dough ice cream, this dude has a whole series of great pictures on the subject.

    And that brings me to people who dunk their cookies in milk and their do-nuts in coffee. What happened to manners? There is an ad currently on TV with a grandpa and grandson eating and dunking cookies in a proud family tradition of poor manners. How totally tacky. Sloughing your food into your beverage and then sucking down dripping sweets is gross. Puh-Leeze, do not do this, gentle people.

    As a kid, I was always totally freaked out by tapioca. I called it "fish eyes" and I refused to eat it. Okay, I've grown up, out and old, and I've eaten tapioca but I still do not care for the texture. Tapioca is made from the cassava root. Cassava roots contain traces of cyanide. For me, that is reason enough to avoid tapioca even without thinking of those various sized of fish-eyed, gelatinous balls that make up the stuff. Euuu.

    It is apparently fashionable to float large black tapioca balls in hot or cold tea. It's called Bubble Tea. It's tea with crunch. Rest assured that if I find a large black gummy ball that looks like a fish eye in my tea, I will bolt. While I can finally eat a few spoonfuls of tapioca, I cannot and will not ever allow large, black, fish eyeballs of cassava in my sweet tea.

    "Sweet tea" is what we call iced tea in the South. You may order ice tea (we don't say "iced" tea, we say ICE tea") without sugar but in the South, we mostly drink sweet tea and it comes in a 16 - 24 ounce glass, with a special ice tea spoon that is slender has a very long handle so that in case the tea is not sweet enough to immediately send you into diabetic shock, you can add a few more spoonfuls of sugar. The tall glass is filled to the brim with ice and then strong tea, into which as much sugar as possible was added when the tea was just brewed and hot. One always adds the sugar immediately after the tea is steeped and still piping hot since the hot solution can hold much more suspended sugar than when sugar is added to cold tea. Sweet tea in the South is strong and syrupy sweet and full of caffeine. We don't dunk anything in it and we don't add fish eyes.

    Wednesday, July 06, 2005

    Eating Local Delicacies

    When we travel, we get a kick out of going in the local grocery markets and produce stands. We look for food products with which we are not familiar. We always find something of interest.
    Mexican Groceries

    A few years back, we were in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico and had picked up some nice pepper ristras at the outdoor market and cruised the local grocery stores looking for unusual taste treats.
    Pepper Ristra

    We had found a Mexican food that was new to us, something called menudo, some new hot sauces and salsa verde plus, we'd picked up some wine and cheese and crusty bread for a snack as we headed north for Taos. Kaitlin and the Bubba were with us and we were enjoying poking around the back roads of New Mexico as it is my favorite western state.

    We happened to notice a little sign for a state park we hadn't seen on the map so we turned up the mountain road and decided we'd check it out. While we mostly stay in hotels, we do always carry a small tent, a two burner Coleman cook stove, four collapsible chairs (the dog has his own) and a collapsible cocktail table (one must be civilized even in the woods) for impromptu camping opportunities.
    Coleman stove

    Up into the back country we went until we came upon this lovely campground set in the pines with sites all along a tumbling creek. Charming! Of course, we decided to pitch the tent and spend a night tucked into the pine forest so we could sleep on the dense, fragrant carpet of pine needles next to the rushing water. We didn't have many provisions but we did have bread and wine and cheese and some cans of that Mexican stuff we'd bought. We could eat light and just enjoy the scenic beauty of the special place we'd found.

    I got out the picnic basket and set the table and looked for the can opener. I sent Kait and DH off to look for wood and got out the bag o'groceries and opened a can of
    genuine menudo.
    Canned Menudo

    I could tell it contained a tomato sauce, some herbs, and hominy, maybe beans? but I really had no idea what else was in that can. I started to warm it on the Coleman. I put the bread and cheese on the table and poured a couple of glasses of wine. I began to notice a foul odor and chastised the dog for cutting one.

    About this time, W4D arrived back at the camp with a big armload of wood for an evening fire. I suggested he take The Bubba for a walk and I continued to keep an eye on Kait down the hill picking up tinder while I stirred the pot of menudo.

    Something really smelled foul. I checked the bottoms of my feet, peered under the picnic table for dead carcasses and looked all around the area. Suddenly, it occurred to me that what was in the pot was making the stench.

    I dipped a spoon into the sauce and touched my tongue to it. Euuuu! Disgusting! Quickly, I put some in a bowl as W4D was walking back toward our pretty little camp. By now, Kait had given up the search for wood and was wading in the creek bed down the hill. I called down to her and told her to be back at camp in 5 minutes for supper.

    "Here, eat your menudo while it is hot." Keeping a straight face, I plunked the bowl in front of W4D and started cutting chunks of bread.

    W4D will eat anything and at the time he was a heavy smoker. He must not have been able to smell it. He smiled at me. I smiled back ever so sweetly and he took a big spoonful.

    His eyes grew large, his cheeks pooched out like a blow fish and he spun around and spat the menudo onto the ground. I, laughing like a fiend, made him clean it up. He gathered his spew into a paper napkin and tossed it into the fire pit. About that time, I noticed Kait coming up the path carrying an armload of tiny sticks and twigs for her contribution to the fire. She popped down her tinder by the fire ring and settled at the table. That child always had a hollow leg an she was an adventurous eater.

    "What is this, Mom?"

    "It's authentic Mexican stew, it's called Menudo," I said.

    "Cool." Kait took a big bite, swallowed without chewing and had a second spoonful in her mouth when the stench hit her. A look of disgust spread across her face, at which time she jumped up, ran to the nearest tree and spewed.

    "That is SO dis-GUST-ing!" she coughed and gagged.

    W4D and I were laughing our butts off. We all three decided to give it to The Bubba. We sat the bowl on the ground and carried him over to it. He sniffed, turned tail and ran back to his chair. No one would eat the menudo, not even the dog. Everywhere we went, we saw it advertised, on restaurant marques, at supermarkets, at neighborhood stands. Who knew it would taste and smell like that? Ugh!

    We decided we had better dig a hole and bury the stuff since we were afraid it might attract a bear or something. Anything that stinky could probably draw critters from miles away. We buried the menudo remains while Kait was scrubbing her tongue with her toothbrush. We dined that evening on the loaf of bread, the hunk of cheese and a lot of wine. Kait had mostly cookies and Co-Cola.

    We brought home the other cans of menudo and kept them for a while. I kindly offered them for supper every few weeks until we tossed the cans once and for all. Kaitlin still speaks of the time we tricked her into eating menudo.

    Just in case you don't know what is in menudo, the prime ingredient is tripe. Tripe is the stomach lining of the cow. Now a cow has four stomachs so maybe there are four grades of menudo. Apparently, some cooks like to toss in a calf's foot, too. Or, you can buy it by the can like we did here at the Mexican Grocery.

    Speaking of tripe, the first time I went to visit W4D's aunts and uncles in Trenton, New Jersey, they prepared for me, a special traditional dinner, Trippa alla Genovese. That was years before the menudo experience and I wouldn't eat the Italian version either. I just pushed it around my big rim soup bowl for an hour while everyone else ate.

    Apparently, most cultures who eat cows, eat tripe. You can read about the various dishes here. Even Philly has it's traditional tripe dish of Philadelphia Pepper Pot Soup. Bleccch!

    The only, and I mean ONLY way I will eat tripe is in Andouille (pronounced ahn-DOO-ee or ahn-DWEE when said quickly), a spicy heavily smoked sausage made from pork. Several variations exist that use different combinations of pork meat, fat, intestines and tripe.

    Originally from France or Germany (the exact origin is uncertain), the most well known variety in the US is the Cajun style. French andouille is traditionally made of pork intestines and tripe. It is heavily seasoned and smoked though not as spicy as the Cajun variety. The German andouilles are made only in certain regions of Germany. They are made from remaining intestines and casings that are seasoned and pulled through a larger casing then smoked.

    Cajun style andouille is the spiciest of all the variants. Made of pork meat (usually butt or shank) and fat, they are seasoned with salt, cracked black pepper, and garlic. The sausages are smoked over pecan wood and sugar cane for up to seven or eight hours at approximately 175 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius).

    In Italy a variation derived from Andouille is known in Calabria (a southern region of Italy) as 'ndulla. It is similar to Cajun's andouille but with more red pepper. 'Ndulla is smoked over and seasoned. The 'ndulla origin probably is connected with the Calabria French domination, from the year 1060 until nearly all the 12th century.

    Andouille is also an insult in French, designating some ridiculous, incompetent or stupid person. Tripe is also a slang term synonymous with rubbish, in the sense of something of little value, or nonsense. Don't forget, "stinky!"

    Tuesday, July 05, 2005

    Plumb Tuckered

    Another Independence Day and Birthday Bash has been duly celebrated. It was a fab long weekend of celebrations and a good time was had by all -- great food and drink, best friends and dearest family all smooshed together into four days of rolicking good times.

    If you know me, you know that I detest summer heat. Take today for example: add 96 degrees to 98% humidity and the temp outside feels like it is 147 degrees of dripping, saturated swamp air. (I am NOT kidding!) I am tired and I need rest so instead of writing about it, here are a few pictures including my cracker doodle birthday gal who is now legally, an adult.

    Here's a pic of the cute star ceiling decoration in the kitchen. We decorated inside too, just in case it rained. (It didn't!)

    Stars Falling

    I made pom-poms for a couple of weeks. There were poms blooming in the shrubs outside, all around the pool and on the gifts. Instead of the usual flowers, Kait got a candy bouquet this year. I think her favorite gift from us was the margarita pitcher and glasses set with the accompanying margarita bar setup. But check out the Chinese take out box. That was one of Kait's gifts, too.

    Candy Bouquet

    I had a time trying to come up with a clever way to give cash as a gift. I almost made a bouquet of money but the candy bouquet was so cute that I made Greenback Noodles and served them in a take-out container, complete with more pom-pons.

    Greenback Noodles

    Here's the birthday gal wrapped in a towel, decorating her cake with fresh fruit.

    Decorating Her Own Cake

    Here's the finished cake. Kaitlin always asks for a patriotic birthday cake. I can't imagine why I never before thought to ask her to decorate it herself. She loves fussing with cakes.

    Birthday Cake

    Here she is, blowing out the candles yesterday afternoon.

    Finally, 21!

    She left in time to get home and have a quick nap before heading out with more friends for another birthday gathering but not before she snagged all the leftovers out of the fridge and coolers and loaded the car down with enough food to feed a small army. She took all the pool decorations and the balloons and the banners and flags and after she left, it looked as if a plague of locusts had swept through the house and yard. At least we don't have to eat leftovers!

    Happy 21st, Kait.
    Hope you don't have a headache today!

    Saturday, July 02, 2005

    Statistically Speaking

    I participated in the MIT Weblog Survey. It was painless.
    If you blog, you might like to participate.

    Take the MIT Weblog Survey

    Whole Lotta Hoopla here at Casa Flaurella! The 4th of July is a big deal at our house. We are trying to get the yard and pool ready for a special birthday bash for our DD's 21st and the USA's 229th Independence Day but it keeps raining. Rain is supposed to abate by Monday. I'll believe it when we go a whole day without the wet stuff.

    In a little while, we'll drive to town to big up a carload of balloons and more party goods. Back to decorating and cooking. At least I don't have to weed-whack in the rain like W4D is doing as I type.

    Enjoy the long holiday weekend. I'll check in as time permits.