Wednesday, August 31, 2005

SMOG Alert -- Incoming!

I had my hair styled today. My hairdresser has moved from the shop where he used to work into a nice new salon he has added to the back of his house on his horse farm. Think Truvy Jones from Steel Magnolias meets Jonathon from Blow Out. The salon is comfy and casual with gossip and lots of local humor mixed with a city salon decor of sophisticated golden walls with black and mixed metal accessories and track lighting. You have to drive up a dirt road to get there and I was a bit leery but once inside, it is a haven. Cool!

I had decided to have my hair foiled. I've never had it done before and it went along surprisingly quickly. I was foiled and "processing," reading a magazine and listening to some dandy
John Mayer muzak, wishing I had brought my digital camera so I could take pix of my head looking like a silver Christmas tree when my cell phone rang.

Now, I may have mentioned that my stepson is getting married in a few weeks. There are a whole lotta wedding preparations going on here in central and north Florida. On the cell was my husband's First Wife, Mother of the Groom, AKA, FW-MOG. That makes me SMOG -- Step Mother Of the Groom

As near as I could tell, W4D's FW, MOG wanted to discuss wedding gifts. A month or so ago I told W4D that I wanted to either give the newlyweds their honeymoon trip or a computer system since they don't have one at all. We went ahead and purchased a dandy new computer and printer for their wedding gift and apparently, FW-MOG wanted to check and make sure which we had decided to give so she could give them the other. I am never again telling W4D anything personal because obviously, after 34 years, he still blabs everything to FW. But, I digress.

I was sitting in a lounge chair at the salon, wearing my Christmas tree foil chapeau, looking somewhat like that aerial atop that space age building from the Jetson's, trying to concentrate on Architectural Digest while I wistfully glanced out the corner of my eye at the trashy Star headlines, other gossip rags and the movie mags. When your stylist personally selects Architectural Digest for you to peruse, one tries not to ruin the illusion.

Some new peppy tune that I did not know started blasting from my purse. W4D has changed the cell ring and I do not recognize it. It takes a while to realize that it is the cell. I fumbled for the phone.

"This is Flaurella," I said, sorta... since that isn't my real name but I always answer the phones for business by saying "This is blah-blah" since it is habit.

"Hello kkkkkkkkKk This is kKKKKKkkkk."

I can't hear diddley. I think it is because my cell phone antennae is touching my foiled Christmas tree head. It occurs to me that maybe I can get electrocuted if that little silver ball atop the cell antennae touches the wet hair color goop that is wrapped in foil all over my head.

Cautiously, holding the phone as far away from my head as possible, I said, "HelloooOOOoo! Hellooo? I can't hear you."

"KKKKkkkKKKKkkKKKk KKkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkk kkkkkkkkk kkkkk."

Damn! I can't hear a thing so I head over to the door, open it and stick my head out into the friggin' rain. A small overhang protects my expensive foiled head and the thunder rumbles. (sick of rain, sick of rain!)

"kkkkKKKkkk KKKKKKkk kkk kkk kkk kkkkkkk" Can I speak to Frank?"

"I can't hear you. Please call me back!"

"kkkkKKKkkk KKKKKKkk kkk kkk kkk kkkkkkk"

The cell rings again. This time I am sure who it is but I have no idea what she wants. Another failed communication but at least my head isn't getting zapped by electricity. Still, I wonder if the foil is fouling up the transmission since I can only make out 3 or 4 words here and there.

I am certain FW-MOG thinks I am toying with her at this point and I can't help but grin. It's not true but it's a golden opportunity.

After yet another failed attempt to communicate, I suggest another call back. At this point, I went outside onto the stoop and waited for the call. Grrrr.

Finally, after catching about a third of the call on three separate occasions, I figured out what MOG wanted from SMOG. We bought the computer system so she wants to give the couple the honeymoon. Fine. Perfect. Damned head foil ruins cell phone reception. Sorry. I guess I shoulda just turned the phone off while I was indisposed and head foiled.

This eve, my stepson phoned. I mentioned that I had spoken with his mom today.

"Really?" he said. "She's having so much trouble with that cell phone of hers that I can't hear her even on my brand new state of the art cell. She needs to dump that cell and get a new one."

Never again will I stand in the rain with my head foiled like a Christmas tree to try to take a cell call from any former wives of W4D. Nope. Not gonna do it.

And again, I am going to keep harping on this. If you haven't yet made a $$ donation to the Red Cross for relief of victims of Hurricane Katrina, get yer butt over to right this minute. Be thankful for your comfortable life and help those in need.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Send Money

Sorry, no post today. Have been out all day and no time at the puter. Besides, the devastation along the Gulf Coast is so heartbreaking that I cannot think of anything else. Please help, if for no reason other than it wasn't you who lost your home or business or loved one. No donation is too small. Every dollar will help.


Thank you for your generous gift to the American Red Cross 2005 Hurricane Relief Fund. This fund makes it possible for the Red Cross to help nationwide Hurricane disaster victims of 2005 with critical needs such as shelter, food, clothing, counseling and other assistance. It's because of the 2005 Hurricane Relief Fund that our response can be immediate regardless of its location or the community’s ability to financially support our efforts. Your generous support means the most to the families who rely on Red Cross to help them through some of the most difficult times of their lives. Please continue to visit us at <> to see how we’re using your 2005 Hurricane Relief Fund donation to make a difference, and for the most current disaster updates and stories about the people being helped.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Help Needed

Hurricane Katrina was a massive storm. I figure it was the size of Texas if you include all the feeder bands. Look at this NOAA satellite image. You can see wind and rain in Louisianna, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida as well as Cuba and the Yucatan peninusla of Mexico all at the same time, Sunday afternoon. That was one enormous storm!

NOAA Satellite Photo

The actual storm diameter without the outer bands was about the length of Florida. The eye was huge and perfectly formed.

Another NOAA satellite image from August 28, 2005

The clean-up and repair from Hurricane Katrina is going to take a long time and be very costly. Thousands of families no longer have a place to call home. There is an immediate need for food and water and shelter.

Americans are a generous people. It was heart-warming how everyone rushed to help after the Tsunami last December. Your help is needed again. Please make a donation to to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and request that your funds be used to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. You can send a check or use a credit or debit card and your donation is tax deductible. All it takes is a couple of clicks online. Please be generous. Your neighbors need your help.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Dilated Pupils

Katrina was a minimal hurricane across South Florida as anticipated. Now it is out in the Gulf, south of us and strengthening. It's probably going to curve north and do a double whammy on Florida. Our weather is gray and breezy and at the very least, we expect rain and wind through Monday. This weekend is going to be a washout. Check the current NOAA radar loop here:

gladiola Blurred Vision

The photo on right above is what my world looks like when I am weraring my glasses. Not good! I am off to the eye doc this afternoon and I have W4D to lead me around since I won't be able to drive for an hour or two. I can't see squat without glasses and I guess my eyes have changed in the last month or so 'cuz lately, I can't see squat even with my glasses.

Wanted to mention one thing more about the 6FU finale. It was odd to see obits from 2025, 2044, 2051, even 2085. The dates of demise hit me hard and I can't stop thinking about it. This was the first time I remember a series where people died well into in the 21st Century.

When I was a girl, I had a dream that I would live until age 87. What if that turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy? In this day and age we might live longer than we thought possible years ago. My daughter will probably live into her 120's -130's; at least I hope so. Now that we have mapped the Human Genome and are making great strides in medicine and genomics, people will live much longer lives. I'd like to live into my 100's if I can have a good quality of life. I want to live as long as Claire, and you can bet I won't have long, unstyled white hair. L'Oreal and I are old friends. Sure, I will be blind as a bat but I will make certain my hair is colored and styled.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Waiting Game

hurricane warning flagLooks like we are in for a wet three days. We don't expect a lot of wind from Katrina, just rain. Currently a tropical storm, we think it will be a minimal hurricane by the time it hits Southeast Florida late this afternoon. Expected to travel across the southern part of the state and into the Gulf, Katrina will probably head west northwest once she crosses the state. Worst case scenario for us is that she grows stronger in the Gulf and curves back into the peninsula at Cedar Key and hammers us, not that I think this will happen. My current hurricane preparations consisted of closing the three large market umbrellas on our patios.

I keep the current and latest NOAA weather radar on my desktop. These are the same maps and radars that the meteorologists use. Controls at the bottom the NOAA pages rock the action or loop it. You can also add the prevailing winds, isobars, and county lines. Very cool!

Atlantic Loop

Florida Peninsula Loop

Florida and Gulf Loop

Some local weather links close to home:

University of Florida Weather Station

University of Florida Outdoor Camera at Turlington Plaza

South of us, Central Florida Weather Cameras:

Some hurricane facts:

In the last century, Florida has experienced 57 hurricanes. I guess that will be 58 by tomorrow.

The costliest hurricane was Andrew in 1992, which came onshore at Homestead, Florida. Andrew did 26.5 BILLION dollars of damage in 1992 dollars.

For a hurricane to form, the water temperature must be at least 80 degrees up to a depth of 150 feet. The Caribbean water temp is now actually 95 degrees.

I don't think we will need to "hunker down" through the weekend. This isn't a fierce storm so all should be well. I don't mind a little inconvenience as long as we don't lose the electricity.

Follow the paths of storms past and present.

And yes, I did serve W4D a hunk of cardboard last night as promised. I was nice though and made homemade Thousand Island dressing for him. Damned fool liked his salad.

iceberg wedgie

What can I say?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Planning a Wedgie

I am dieting and I don't like it. I miss the usual rich foods and especially, the wine. I really miss my wine. I haven't even had a martini in almost a week. :::sob::: This is hard but I have promised myself a month of caloric depravation so am eating light, not drinking and working hard at losing a dress size.

As a form of self flagellation, I made myself a salad of cardboard lettuce. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know I hate that crappy iceberg lettuce. It has no nutritional value whatsoever and it tastes like recycled cardboard. Worse, it isn't even appetizing or pretty.

The other day, my grocery shop-aholic DH came home with a big head of iceberg lettuce. I couldn't believe my eyes for he knows I won't eat it and when was the last time I have ever seen him sit down and make himself a salad? -- NOT in this lifetime.

I hefted a head of lettuce about the size of a basketball out of the grocery bag and groaned. "Why in the hay-ell did you buy this disgusting crap?"

"It was a bargain at only 50 cents for this huge head of lettuce."

"You know that I will not eat this kind of lettuce."

"I always ate this kind of lettuce growing up. It's the only kind of lettuce we ate. It is good lettuce."

"It tastes like cardboard and it has no color and no vitamins. I am going to throw it in the garbage."

Now, W4D knows that I abhor wasting food and that I can't really throw away food because that is the way I was raised but I really think I could have tossed it in the garbage anyway. Maybe.

W4D tried to hide a knowing grin and said, 'Don't toss it, I will eat it."

Yeah. Right. in 33 years, I have never seen the man make a salad for himself. This huge head of anemic lettuce is taking up practically the whole bottom shelf of my fridge. Of course, that is where the wine is usually chilling and it's empty anyway but still. ::::pout::::

For lunch, I decided to make myself a couple of hard boiled eggs. I peeled them and they just looked so bland and boring that I couldn't bear to eat them. I looked in the fridge and there sat that huge pale ball, devoid of calories, egging me on, as it were. So yes, I made a little colorless nest to hold my hardboiled egg luncheon. I added the last of my cherry tomatoes, a few scrapes of Locatelli cheese and some slivers of red cabbage. It still looked pitiful so I pinched a bloom off the alstromaerias that W4D recently brought home. At least the man is pretty good about keeping me in fresh flowers. I decorated the plate with the flower.

Lunch was still ugly.

Cardboard Salad

I ate it anyway but it would have tasted a lot better with tender leaf lettuces and a glass of wine.

The flower is now on my desk to remind me to cut a huge wedge of that cardboard lettuce and serve it to W4D tonight for supper. He bought it. He has to eat it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Til Death Do Us Part

I've watched it twice now. I am going to miss the Fisher family. And the Diaz family... but not so much the Chenowiths even though they were so grossly dysfunctional that you were drawn to them like a moth to a flame. I liked the ending of 6FU very much. I worried all season that something bad would happen to Claire - that Billy could carve out her beating heart or something equally bizarre or heinous. Claire was the free spirit, the one I wanted to see break the cycle. I liked them all but Claire had big things to do and to make it, she had to leave.

I thought all the obits at the end were great. I am not sure why none of the Fishers ever heard of hair color but aside from that wild white hair, all but Nate ended up with long lives and seemed to have escaped the dysfunctional circumstances that were holding each back from happiness. Ruth found herself and finally did what she wanted -- establishing her doggie daycare. Gentle George was right there to support her through it all. He truly loved Ruth, didn't he? Keith, the worker bee was still working as a rent-a-cop at age 61 when he got shot in the armored car. The man looked so good in uniform that he just had to wear one all of his life. I was glad David and Keith got married and had 24 more good years with their sons and family. David was teaching the older son about the funeral business so I guess it stayed Fisher and Sons for at least another generation. And after Keith died, we saw that David found another love in his life even if his heart saw Keith when he stroked out and died 15 years after Keith's murder. David also looked the most realistic as an older and balder man without the wild white hair. Finely groomed until the end, that was David. Kind-hearted Rico obviously retired successfully since he had a heart attack on a cruise with Vanessa. I'm glad they stayed together.

It was interesting to see that Brenda ended up, by all appearances, with a normal man and had at least one more child. We know she had at least three children counting Maya but this is surely because she was very pregnant in real life when they shot the finale. The best death scene was 70-something brother Billy talking earth mother Brenda to death at age 82. He was probably still raving about Claire and Brenda just couldn't stand to listen to another word! Did you see the look on her face when she gave up the ghost? Priceless! And Claire, I loved it that she ended up marrying the Republican lawyer 20 odd years down the road. He showed up at Ruth's funeral in 2025 and they married soon after that. She had the same hairdo so we know the time frame. I liked that she had all the pictures on her wall in that fancy NYC apartment where she lived. Oh, yes, I am going to miss the Fishers and the Diaz family and even the Chenowiths. RIP Six Feet Under, RIP.

This is my friend Dee from Arizona who came to McIntosh so she could eat watermelon in the Cemetery where I'll be planted one of these days.

Watermelon in the Cemetery
Such a sport!

When I was a kid, if we were up north visiting at the right time of year, we always went to the cemetery on Memorial Day and on Labor Day. We took a picnic and we cleaned the family graves and then the adults sat around and had a few while they reminisced and we kids ran around and played games. I loved playing hide and seek in the cemetery. We'd also make up stories from the writings on the headstones of people we didn't know. I wonder if people still have mini reunions of a sort at the cemetery? It wasn't at all morbid. It was fun.

Here's a photo of my Dad and my aunts and uncles at the cemetery for the annual cleanup picnic at the start of summer 1936. (No, I wasn't born yet, LOL!)

Family at the Cemetery
Daddy in saddle shoes, center.

WOW! Just found the written obits for all the family on the HBO site. If you were a devoted fan of 6FU, you will want to click here and read them.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bella Luna

I slipped out the kitchen and into the pool last night for a quiet little swim. The moon was still almost full. They call that a gibbous moon - when it is between full and half full. Anyway, I was bobbing around enjoying the night and the huge golden August moon when I turned around and saw another full moon. The second moon was pasty white and bending over sitting a bottle of Yukon Jack at the edge of the pool, just the bottle. No glasses. That should have been the tip-off.

Don't drink straight Yukon Jack under a full moon. It will get you in trouble. If you do decide to skinny-dip and drink straight liquor right from the bottle, then please do not howl at the moon. It disturbs the neighbors who will then turn on their lights and peer out their second story windows and they can see a lot better with the light of the full moon.

Forgot to post pix of the lobsters which were not boiled alive. If there's anything that tastes better than lobster, I don't know what it is.


Friday, August 19, 2005

Martini Almondine

It is so miserable hot I can't stand it. Our poor air conditioner is working hard to keep up but it's impossible, even with 12 foot ceilings and paddle fans. Outside, my tropical plants are wilted. Heck, even the wisteria is withered and suffering and everyone knows, you can't kill wisteria. My heritage roses, the Seven Sisters that have survived in this yard for over 100 years don't have a single bloom and even the rose hips are dried up and brown. I hardly ever see that old rose not blooming, particularly in summertime.

The only plants I have blooming in this intense heat wave are the Mexican heather (those love the heat), one pink vinca (AKA periwinkle), one pink impatien (miracle!) and one wilting bloom on a leggy red petunia. I just hate it when I can't go outside and cut fresh flowers.

red petunia
Lone red petunia blossom

I'm off to mix a big shaker of Sapphire martini's before W4D gets home. I'm out of garlic olives and pimento olives and jalapeno olives. All I have left in the fridge is almond-stuffed ones - not my fave. I'll have to suffer. Yep, I'll need to suffer at least twice this cocktail hour. Poor me.

Y'all have a good weekend.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Another day of intense heat. Predicted high is 97 degrees with a heat index of 105 to 110 degrees. Have I ever mentioned that I hate summer? It doesn't usually get above the low nineties here but when it does, our high humidity makes it miserable.

When it is just too damn hot to cook, try a light supper of salad greens with fresh avocado, fontina cheese, grape tomatoes, fresh mushrooms and an egg roll. Well, technically, this is a spring roll but I usually have both in the freezer.

Too Hot To Cook

It's even too hot to drink anything but ice tea or lemonade. I want fall and I want it now! Fifteen more days until GATOR football...

I have to go shopping now. I hate shopping. I hate summer. I hate the heat.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Crude TeeVee

Since we finally have digital TV in our little town, we have a lot of new channels that the rest of the urban world has probably had for years. But, new to us is The Learning Channel, A&E, Bravo, Court TV, The History Channel, Animal Planet, the Cooking Channel and much more. Flipping the bipper through the offerings last night, I stumbled across a program that looked like Cops vs. Mad Max. It turned out, I had found, "DOG, The Bounty Hunter."

I had enjoyed last year's HBO series Family Bonds, about the Long Island bounty hunter family. It was so disgusting and tacky that I didn't dare miss a moment of that series, but compared to The Dog and his bounty hunters, the Family Bonds folks were only twice removed from the Brady Bunch. I had to check out this DOG character, even if it meant missing Big Brother. DH aka W4D and I both sat here with our mouths open. We couldn't tell the good guys from the bad guys at first and it took us about 15 minutes to realize the locale was Hawaii not Florida.

I admit that I am fascinated by low-lifes and pond scum. DH says my character is flawed because I like these tacky, tawdry, cheesy crime capture shows. Haruumph!

By the time the second episode started, I had dragged out a TV table and planted myself squarely in front of the tube, finishing a lite summer supper and sucking up wine, never taking my eyes off the TV. I started waggling my wine glass over my head so W4D would get me a quick refill. I couldn't bear to miss a second of the action. This was exceptional TV!

"What have you done with my wife? asked DH

"Shssssh! I am watching this. Look at these people! Look at that hair! Check out those tats! Look! Mama has lost a fake nail! Did you think people really dressed like this beyond Thunderdome? Need more wine, please!"

"Why are you watching this crap?"

"Check out the mullets. I don't think I have ever before seen that many mullets on one screen in my lifetime. Those look like gang tattos to me. I bet it really hurts to get your neck tatted."

Checking out the biggest bosoms he has ever seen , W4D asked, "Do you think those are real?"

"I'm not sure but The DOG Dude has hair extensions. and, he has a DA on top of his head. Ut, oh. I can see the bald spot under the extensions. Bwahahaha!"

As the Dog and the Posse clasp hands and begin to pray to Jesus before their next take-down, DH said,
"I can't believe you like this stuff."

"This, my dear, is quality television. At least I don't watch NASCAR."

It's just that I have never been exposed to the seedy world of bounty hunters or cops tackling perps or busting crack ho's. See how easily I just tossed in that technical crime word, perps and how comfortable I am speaking of crack ho's? I've come a long way, bay-bay. Anyway, I was glued to the TV for half an hour and then at the break, they announced it was DOG MARATHON NIGHT on A&E. Whoo-Hoo! I saw 8 half hour episodes at one sitting. How could I have never heard of this bizarre program before??

dog & chuck
Dog and Chuck

I had to check out the web for more info on this Dog Dude and "his posse." I went to the Dog, The Bounty Hunter website. I read the bios of his posse to W4D and we both laughed so hard I fell off the chair and W4D snorted bourbon out his nose.

dog tees
You too, can be a Dog

Do go to the site and read the bios. I promise you chortles, guffaws and snorts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Boiled Alive

When I was a kid, I remember that you could swim out about a hundred yards at Dania Beach and in 6 - 12 feet of water, take a big breath and dive down and snag a fresh lobster. People cooked them right on the beach. 20 years later, we used a string mop in Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys and entangled lobsters in the mop heads. Effortless, free lobster. I wonder if they are still as plentiful? Here in North Florida, we have to buy them at the seafood market.

We usually buy just the lobster tails and cook them on the outdoor grill but once in a while, a nice whole Maine lobstah is a special treat. Before we cook them, we ice them to slow their metabolism. We bring them home in a cooler and then add a bag of ice and keep them that way until the pot is boiling and we are ready to cook.

Bubba Eyeballs Lobsters
The Bubba, fascinated with live lobsters about to be iced.

A very cold lobster is a lot less rambunctious. I used to just plunge them into boiling water but now, I spike them first, down through the skull with a filet knife while they are lethargic. While I am no pansy when it comes to eating animals or fish or anything that was alive, I surely don't want anything to suffer. The cold makes them numb and the spike severs their nerves so they can't feel the boiling water. Once you think about boiling something alive, it isn't very appetizing, is it? Read more about the humane way to kill a lobster.

Lobsters also have a pretty interesting love life. You will be amazed when you read how they have sex. Here's the book that tells all: "The Secret Life of Lobsters."

Our daughter Kaitlin will eat almost any kind of seafood. She'll suck crawfish heads but she won't eat lobster. When she was younger, Kait always said she could hear the lobsters "screaming" from the boiling pot and refused to eat them. In reality, what she heard was the air escaping from their shells in sort of a high, squeaky sound. She knows the truth now but she still won't eat lobster.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Keyboard Gumbo Limbo

I finally thought to do something I should have done about a year and a half ago. I am really hard on keyboards. I have never had one on which I didn't wear off the letters. Keyboards usually last about a year for me before my acidic fingertips or my acerbic wit eats the letters off all the keys. AEIOU and STRNLC are always the first to go and the rest of the letters and numbers disappear sooner or later.

W4D once had the nerve to write the letters back on the keys of a light colored keyboard on the family puter with a Sharpie. He's left-handed and no one can read his writing anyway but I had a tizzy fit since he made an ugly mess of a nice blank keyboard. Yes, a blank keyboard looks sort of nifty but I didn't realize that some people can't touch type. I touch type fairly well as long as my hands don't get in the wrong position but I must admit, when I can glance down and check, typing is much easier, foolproof and thereby faster. Why in the world it never occurred to me to get a new keyboard is beyond me. I would often type for a while and be looking at copy or watching the tube and only occasionally glance up at the screen and see that I had typed gibberish for 60 to 100 words. This is what happens when your hands accidentally move over a key or two and you don't have any letters on your keyboard.

"Rgus us wgjsy happens ehen upi aen'r [auing arrwmtion."

Type 100+ words a minute with your hands in the wrong keyboard position and it is most irritating to have to go back and do it again. Having letters on my nice new keyboard is going to be a big timesaver. Yaye!

August is Okra Month in the South. Okra is a starchy, pod vegetable that goes bonkers when it is too hot to breathe. When the sun is so brutal that you can't be outside for more than 5 minutes, okra thrives. If it rains a lot, okra pods will grow an inch a day. If it doesn't rain and there is a terrible drought, okra pods will only grow 3/4 of an inch a day. If a hurricane comes and blows everything away, okra will survive. You can't kill it and you can't eat it fast enough. By the end of August, you just pick it and dry it and use the excess pods in flower arrangements (pretty spray painted gold) or as Christmas decorations (little white angels or red and white okra pods crafted into clever southern Santa Claus ornaments). BTW, for $58 (floral price for dried okra in above link) you could plant enough okra to feed a small town and have enough left over in August to make a few thousand ornaments or floral arrangements. But, as usual, I digress...

Okra should be eaten when it is no longer than 3 or 4 inches or it can become tough and stringy so if you don't pick some every day, it will grow too large.


Okra was originally brought to the South from Africa by slaves in the 1700's. The African names for it sounded like "gumbo" which is also the name of the stew dish made with okra. It is a treat often eaten dredged in egg, a mix of corn meal and flour, and then deep fried. My mother always soaked it in ice water first to cut the stickiness and it's tasty fried, even though it is a lot of work.

My favorite way to eat it was taught to me by a Texas email pal. He suggested I cook it like I make grilled asparagus. It is so easy and fast and just delicious. This is my pal, How's way to grill okra:

Fresh okra, 3 to 4 inches long
Oil (I prefer olive or peanut oil)
Salt (sea salt is best)

Can you believe it? This is the easiest recipe ever! Wash the okra and pat dry. Place in bowl and drizzle with olive oil - or peanut oil - or even Wesson if you must. Get in there with your hands and make sure the okra is all coated with a thin layer of good oil. Then, liberally salt and pepper. Place on hot grill. That's it!

Now, it is easier if you skewer the okra in rows with two skewers so you can turn it easily like a little rack but you don't even need to do that. Just toss them on the grill and toast them for about 3 or 4 minutes on each side. Tastes like popcorn! Thanks, Howard. We love okra this way and I don't need to mess up the kitchen.

Friday, August 12, 2005


Another weekend rolls around and I must spend this one shopping for wedding clothes and wedding gifts. Shopping isn't my favorite thing to do. Used to love it, now I hate it.

The good news is that GATOR football season starts three weeks from tomorrow. I am ready. Football means summer might actually end one of these days/months. We still have the worst 6 weeks of hurricane season to weather but with football season near, hope springs anew that summer will soon be history. I can't wait to see our new coach in action.

Orange and Blue Florida

GatorSports and the Message Boards

Was out walking around the yard between deluges and the usual vivid orange fungi are growing around the spot where an old tree root system decayed. I don't think our soil has been dry a single day this season.

Orange Shrooms
Even the 'shrooms in Gatorland are Orange.

As it should be.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Pomodori Freschi

I am sick and tired of humidity, lightning and electrical outages. I am also getting tired of eating tomatoes every day. Today is the last of them and I bet before the weekend is over, I will be wishing for more.


When you have wonderful, fresh tomatoes, the salad greens aren't so important, are they? Here are huge slabs of tomatoes with feta cheese, olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Compared to the tomatoes, the greens and croutons are just garnish.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I have gas

I know I am lousy when it comes to writing recipes. As someone who always assembles all the ingredients first, you'd think I could write about it in a more organized fashion. Yesterday, I omitted telling you to toss the pasta in a little butter and olive oil before serving. I also didn't fully explain about the white Worcestershire sauce.

Worcestershire sauce has been widely used since chemists John Lea and William Perrins created the first batch in 1835 in Worcestershire, England. Lea & Perrins White Wine Worcestershire with the often mispronounced name (Wooster-shire is correct) is thicker than original brown Worcestershire sauce and features a combination of white wine with the zest of Indian spices. Lea & Perrins White is specially formulated for use with chicken, fish, pork, seafood and vegetables. I just love the zippy flavor and use it often. Look for it next to the brown Lea and Perrins sauce in your market.

One other thing I didn't expound upon was if using fresh lemons in your piccata, you need to slice them across the "equator" into rounds as thinly as possible and then just scatter them on top of your dish. I usually toss them onto the chicken for a few seconds to soften them and loosen the flavor but you can also use them as a garnish uncooked. I am a big fan of tart and piquant foods so you decide how lemony you want your food to taste.

Dinner last night was fresh, lightly steamed broccoli and cauliflower with mahi-mahi (dolphin the fish, not Flipper) and nine grain bread with spinach spread. Since I had tomatoes that had to be eaten ASAP, I chopped, seeded and drained three, tossed them into a little skillet with a splash of olive oil, added a minced clove of garlic and a bit of fresh, chopped parsley. In two minutes over medium high heat, I had a Spanish style sauce to serve on the mahi. The veggies were so good we didn't even butter or salt and pepper them. A true diet dinner for a change!

Mahi-Mahi Diet Dinner

For my friends who don't live in the Florida countryside who marvel at the low cost of produce here, a head of cauliflower was $1.50 and broccoli was $1.79. That's the least expensive these two veggies have been all season. I hate to pay over a dollar for broccoli or cauliflower but I was craving it. At least the green (string) beans I bought were only 69 cents a pound.

One more thing, another reason I cook so quickly is I cook with gas. You couldn't pay me to use an electric range. Gas is immediate heat at an immediate temperature with infinite control and you can turn off the heat without needing to remove the pan from the burner. I wouldn't ever cook with anything but gas.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

You Say Picatta, I Say Piccata

Chicken Piccata is one of my fave meals. The hard part is trying to spell it. Some people prefer Picatta to Piccata and I can find no definitive answer on which is correct. Just as the spelling is varied, so are the additional ingredients. My choice of the garnish and extra ingredients depends upon what is in the pantry or fridge but however I serve it, it always tastes piquant, lemony and delicious.

Piccata Rustico by Flaurella

I rarely measure ingredients. Sometimes, I cook for 2, sometimes for 20. I can't recommend anyone follow my recipes exactly since I never cook anything exactly the same way twice but this is basically how I make my piccata and I've mentioned the important things to remember.

I like one totally skinned, boneless chicken breast per person. I don't use dark meat or anything but boneless, skinless breasts for this dish. I usually pound the chicken with a meat mallet until it is of uniform thickness. Pound the chicken breasts between two sheets of professional restaurant film. It holds up well and you will not have any mess to clean up afterwards. Pound the boneless chicken breasts to about 1/2 inch thick. I always flip the saran-like film packet and pound both sides. You will find you can pick up a whole sheet of breasts and flip them easily after you pound the first side and make sure each side of the heavy Saran is in contact with the other along the edges.

Remove the top piece of the film from the pounded chicken and work on the bottom layer. Lightly salt and moderately pepper one side and then sprinkle lightly with a shaker of flour on both sides of the chicken. You don't even need a plate or a bowl and when you are done, just fold up the restaurant film and toss it. Of course, everyone knows to be careful with fresh poultry clean-up. I like a good spray cleaner and a paper towel for counter-top cleanup. I never use a sponge when working with raw poultry, but you already knew that, right? Back to the food...

For each breast, I add to a medium hot skillet, one pat of unsalted butter and a small splash of peanut oil, about a tsp or two. Keep in mind, you don't need to measure, just estimate. You need enough oil and butter to cover the bottom of the pan once all of the chicken has been added. The oil keeps the butter from burning and the butter adds flavor to the oil. For three breasts, add three pats of sweet cream butter and about a tablespoon of oil. When the butter stops sizzling and foaming, swirl the pan to mix the butter and oil and add the chicken.

Brown the chicken on both sides. Do not overcook. About 3 to 5 minutes per side ought to do it if your heat is medium high. Since the chicken has been pounded uniformly, it will cook evenly.

At this point, you need to see if you have too much or too little oil and butter in the pan. You want the bottom of the pan to still be lightly covered in oil and butter. If there is a lot there, spoon some off into a side dish. (that way, if you need it later, you didn't toss it) Now, add splash (about a tablespoon or two) of lemon juice and my fave ingredient for this dish, a few shakes of WHITE Worcestershire Sauce for each chicken breast. I always keep Lea and Perrins sauces on hand in dark and white. In the South, you can't cook without it. Trust me on this one and buy it if you make this dish. You can use L&P White Worcestershire Sauce for many seafood, chicken and pork dishes. Look for it in your local market.

The acid from the lemon juice and white Worcestershire sauce is going to deglaze your pan so give it a gentle shake and then flip the chicken to the other side with a fork or tongs. The sauce will start to brown and when it does, you can add about a quarter cup of good white wine. Use the same wine you plan to serve with dinner. Never buy wine for cooking. Cooking wines taste like gasoline and will ruin your dish.

Shake the pan again and the little brown bits on the bottom will mix into your sauce and add flavor. The sauce may have reduced in volume about 1/3 at this point. If you don't have enough sauce, add a little oil/butter mixture that you reserved and some more lemon juice and L&P Sauce.

Now, you are ready to add your favorite combination of artichokes, minced garlic, mushrooms, capers or olives, whatever.

Mushrooms, olives, fettuccini and artichoke hearts

If you have fresh mushrooms, add them first if you haven't already cooked them and give them a minute or two to cook. You could also use canned, well drained mushrooms if that's all you have on hand. I always add artichokes, quartered hearts or bottoms, to this dish. I also include mushrooms if I have them and I will add either black sliced olives or capers, whichever is convenient and in the fridge. I have made piccata many times when all I had was chicken, artichokes and the sauce ingredients so use what you have and what you like.

Add the artichokes - plain canned or frozen (drain both well first) is fine, but don't use pickled or the kind you buy in oil for salads. Add capers or olives to the mushrooms, cover and turn down the heat. At this time, taste for seasoning. I always add some freshly minced garlic and I almost always add some tarragon at this point. You should try tarragon if you like complex flavors. Parsley works okay too, but at least try the tarragon once.

You can cover and simmer this entree at this point as needed while you prep your plates. I prefer to serve piccata with fettuccini. Spinach pasta or green and white pasta is attractive with this entree but you can serve it alone or with rice or your choice of veggies.

Basic Ingredients:
Chicken breast halves, boneless and skinless, one for each serving
1/4 to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and coarsely ground pepper to taste
1 pat unsalted butter for each chicken breast
1 splash (maybe a TBSP) peanut oil per serving
Lemon juice
White Wine L&P Worcestershire sauce
Canned or frozen artichokes, drained well (one can or box for each 3 to 4 servings)

Select Your Favorite Optional Ingredients:
3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
Sliced or quartered fresh mushrooms (about 1/2 pound for 4 servings)
Pitted and sliced black olives
Paper thin whole slices of lemon with the rind intact
Garlic (minced finely)
Freshly chopped parsley

For example, you might like the basic chicken piccata with artichokes, mushrooms and garlic. Or perhaps you don't have any artichokes on hand but you have capers in the fridge, fresh lemons on the counter and tarragon in the spice cabinet. Use the ingredients you like/have and experiment.

Flaurella's Piccata recipe as described

When ready to plate, serve the chicken picatta on top of your pasta, rice or solo. Arrange your artichokes and other ingredients with the chicken. If your sauce is too thin, just turn the pan up for a minute while you are making the plates and the sauce will thicken nicely. Pour it over the piccata and enjoy.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Low Country Hitch Hiker

Today I gave a hitch hiker a ride to and from the post office. Mr. Lee Zard was napping in the well at the bottom of the front windshield that holds the wipers when I backed Carmela out of the drive. He didn't seem at all concerned but climbed up higher on the passenger side front glass and started looking about. I drove the 5 blocks to the post office without mishap and went in. Mr. Lee Zard was still on the glass looking around but I figured he'd be gone when I came out.

A few minutes later, I returned to the car and my hitch hiker was still there. I started the car and headed up the hill toward home when Lee ran down the hood and stood front and center of Carmela. I figured he was panicking and going to jump. After all, there are 4 ninety degree turns each way to the post office. Must be pretty scary for a little guy that's only about 6 or 7 inches long, clinging to a highly waxed, slick hunk of black steel. But, he perched there, his front legs clasping the very edge at the front of the car, head raised into the wind like a canine, a perfect black and yellow hood ornament. He secured his stance at the first corner and rode the wind right back home and under the canopy where we originated our drive. I gathered up the mail and got out of the car. Mr. Lee Zard sauntered back up the hood to the wiper tray and settled in awaiting more delicious skeeters for his afternoon repast. I guess he'll have bragging rights among his peers. If he's up for another ride tomorrow, I'll take his pic.

The low country boil on Saturday was delicious. There were two kinds of sausage, Kielbasa and spicy Italian, pounds and pounds of pink Gulf shrimp, what looked like a bushel of crawfish, as well as sweet corn and new potatoes. I forgot the danged camera so here is a picture I took of another LCB. It is always a treat whenever Cathy and David cook up low country.

low country boil

Everything gets put into the huge pots on a timed schedule and it all comes out done perfectly at the same time. We cover a table with newspapers and all gather 'round and eat right off the newspapers. Yum!

low country boil 2

It was a grand feast and I had a fabulous time until I fell off my platform flip flops. I'm bruised but at least I didn't break anything. Doh! Glad I wasn't carrying my camera after all.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Kettle Crunch

I have the avian mothra marinating and ready to braise (see yesterday's photo and comments) but in the meantime, I have discovered the perfect nibble. The hottest. spiciest, crunchiest chips ever -- Jalapeno and Aged Cheddar Cape Cod Kettle Chips . INTENSE!

Cape Cod Kettle Chips are the best chips. I have been chowing down on the plain ones and the russet kettle chips for a few years but Publix was running a special, a dollar off with store coupon, so I decided to try the only flavor left on the shelf, Jalapeno and Aged Cheddar. Normally, I am not a big fan of flavored chips since they tend to taste like chemicals but these are perfectly seasoned and totally addicting. If we still owned a bar, this is what I would feed the customers to make them drink faster. These hot chips require libation. Jalapeno and Aged Cheddar CCKC are the best ever crunchy, spicy and not too salty, chip. The aftertaste is smoky and flavorful and I heartily recommend them with cocktails, with sandwiches, or whenever you need an extremely crunchy, intensely hot munchie.

cape cod chips

Buy them by the case online or visit your local grocer. If you like chips with substance and one that will bite you back, you'll like them, too.

W4D will be home this afternoon or evening. After the Bombay Sapphires and the avian mothra croustade, I will need to feed him real food. A friend dropped off a peck of home grown Tennessee tomatoes so I am thinking linguini and white clam sauce with a big salad made of those juicy ripe tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella for supper tonight. Tomorrow we are invited to a Low County Boil hosted by Cathy and David. Ahhh, the anticipation! Low Country Pix will surely follow. Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Road Kill

The thing I missed most when Adele was indisposed was my Google. I didn't realize how often I read something or see something on the tube or hear a reference and require more information. Maybe I'll just be thinking about a place or a product and have a need to know more about something. Spoiled by the information age, I want that info within seconds. Hadn't realized that I google at least 2 dozen times per day. I love having the library of the world at my fingertips and I hadn't noticed how dependant I have become upon this massive web, this instant knowledge base that I can use whenever and however I wish. That revelation caused me to think about LBI, Life Before Internet.

I signed onto the web in fall of 1993. That computer was in color which totally amazed me. Before, I had only a black and white C Basic set up and I could never do much with it but word process and make forms but early in '93, DH bought me a new computer with something called MS DOS and Windows 3.x.

My amazing machine with all of its vivid colors and pretty interface didn't come with an internal modem. Believe it or not back then, modems were an option. When my mother inquired as to what I wanted for a birthday gift, I requested an external modem. She gave it to me two whole months early and I was very excited. It was a state of the art US Robotics 14.4 external and I hooked that puppy up and was checking out all the bulletin boards I had found listed in the newspaper. I also started reading ads for Compuserve, Prodigy and a new company called America Online.
AOL's ads were slicker than the others so I requested a disk and installed AOL 1.0. I didn't even care that most of the time, our phone service prevented me from being online faster than 9600bps. Back then, static on a phone line was no reason for the phone company to pay a service call.

When I left AOL at version 3.0, I found a small local ISP. The guy ran the server out of his house and he personally came to my house to install Netscape since it would take too long to DL by modem. That was which became which was sold to Time flies.

Now, the web and internet is so woven into my everyday life that I had to make lists of things I needed to know while Adele was out of service, things I needed to know at once but would not be able to research until later. How inconvenient. How spoiled I have become.

It's pretty quiet around here with W4D out of town this week. I should be working. I should at least be setting up more stuff on this puter but I am sleepy. I was successful in transferring my mail to the slave drive when we reinstalled Windows and I have 1298 unread emails in my various in-boxes. Have already weeded through and answered my customers who surely thought I had fallen off the face of the earth. I think I will delete all the unread mail. Betcha I can sort and delete at least 1200 pieces of unread mail in less than 10 minutes. Then I can go take a nap. When I wake up, perhaps I will drink martinis and eat junk food. This has been an exhausting 6 days. I feel like road kill.

Speaking of road kill, check out this critter that was stuck to the grate on the car. Part moth, part grasshopper, part bird, it measured almost 6 inches tall. I swear I heard a thump when it hit the car while crossing The Prairie and wondered if I had hit a rabbit or a bird.

Road Kill
Part bug, part bird, large enough to serve two

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Tweaking, Not Cooking

Still stuck in re-install hell reviving Adele. Have to find all the disks for my apps and a lot of shareware can no longer be found. Then, there's all the tweaking of Windows and the customizing of all the apps I use on a regular basis. I figure I lost 300 apps and programs. I've been reinstalling, tweaking and customizing for several days now. How is it that I cannot remember how I did stuff just a week ago? I guess when Adele lost her mind, I lost mine too. Just setting the preferences and tool bars on all my photo and DTP apps will take a long time.

I keep an address book of passwords so at least I have those. Have XP updated and I have been trying to ignore as much of Service Pack 2 as possible today. I really don't need Microsoft telling me what is safe to view. It takes a long time to get everything just the way I like it.

One if the Dell techs I spoke with was telling me that he re-installs Windows on all four of his personal machines every year. That's not a bad idea. It would keep them uncluttered and speedy.

Not a lot going on in my kitchen this last few days. W4D is out of town and I have been eating convenience foods since my butt is glued to this chair and I am working non-stop trying to get my work station back to normal. Last night, I had fried chicken, a mixed green salad and a nice refreshing Waldorf salad.

Fried Chicken and Waldorf
Dinner for one

I didn't fry the chicken (who in their right mind would fry chicken for one?) but I did make the Waldorf. I use different colors of apples and grapes but I always make it the same. I do not ever put raisins or marshmallows in Waldorf salad. If you add either of the above or other fruits like oranges or whatever, it is not Waldorf, it is a fruit salad. True Waldorf salad is apples, grapes, celery, mayonnaise, walnuts and salt and white pepper. Don't use black pepper - it looks like dirt.

Sometimes, I will use pecans instead of walnuts but walnuts are the original ingredient. You can use any color of apples but I prefer a crisp or tart apples like Granny Smith (pictured), Fuji or Gala. You can use your choice of grapes but you must split and seed them if they are not seedless. The green seedless grapes I used yesterday were huge, 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, so I cut them in half.

Green Waldorf Salad
2 Granny Smith apples
2 cups seedless green grapes
2 ribs of celery, sliced
1/2 cup walnut pieces
TBSP of lemon juice
1 good Large Spoon Splat of Mayo (or to taste)
Salt and white pepper

Assemble ingredients and chop your celery. Cut the apples into bite-sized cubes. I like to leave the peel on for color but you can peel your apples if you prefer. As soon as you get the apples cut and in a bowl, sprinkle them with lemon juice to prevent them from turning dark. Add the celery and the whole or halved seedless grapes. Add that splat of mayo. It will thin out a bit thanks to the lemon juice. Mix gently and then add salt and white pepper to taste. Be careful with white pepper as it is easy to add more than you wish. The difference between black and white pepper is that white pepper has the outer black or colored part of the peppercorns removed before it was ground. I never use pre-ground pepper unless I need white pepper. White pepper is preferable for mashed potatoes or fish or cream sauces so you should always have some on hand. Anyway, gently stir everything together and then add the walnuts. Chill for at least two hours.

Green Waldorf
Tastes Like Summertime

Monday, August 01, 2005


To make a long story short, Adele got fried in a Progress Energy electrical poltergeist last Friday morning. Yes, I have an APC battery back-up but we still took a hit. 45 minutes of constant rolling brown-outs and black-outs after the power was "restored" was more than the battery back-up could take. My APC back-up is over 5 years old. Maybe I need to replace it. At least the fridge and TV's didn't get toasted this time. (insert very unpleasant memories of power poltergeists during hurricane season last year) My back-up computer isn't on DSL and dial-up is a PITA at 28.8 so I have been MIA since Friday morning.

Anyway, Windows on my work station was damaged beyond the points of restoration. My data and files were all still there but we could not access them. After two and a half days of diagnostics and trying everything possible, we went to Best Buy yesterday afternoon, bought a new 120G drive and installed it. Now, I have access to all my data on the new drive and I think all my data is safe. Tonight, we will make sure everything is transferred and then remove the new drive and re-install Windows on the original drive. Lost hardware will be restored and software re-installations will follow. It's a time consuming process but worth it to me. Everything will be safe on the new HDD and I will be backing up on daily basis from now on.

Adele spills her guts.

The folks at DELL have been great. Their tech support has been excellent.

My eyes are better, no longer swollen and hurting, no more blurred vision. Whatever irritated them is no more. Still have a little eye strain, probably need new glasses. Am going to get an eye exam next week anyway but at least I can see normally again.

Here's hoping this week is better than the last.