June 2020 Birthday 3.0

HOLY COW – I forgot to post this! Instead of a birthday week, maybe I should call it a birthday month or a birthday summer. Regardless, here you go. Man – I’m wishing we had the freedom to go fishing whenever we felt like it – like we did this Spring.

We made a quick middle-of-the-week trip to Crystal River. Why? Because we can (!) since (at the time) we’re still furloughed.

At first glance, the photo below just looks like me posed in front of our boat. What is really represented was…………..(1) the first time I drove the boat without Eric – solo, and (2) first time I docked the boat, tied it up and put out the bumpers by myself – solo, waiting for Eric to show up. Okay, so that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but while I’ve driven the boat numerous times, there was always someone more experienced on the boat with me. Not this day.

First time docking.
King’s Bay Lodge

We can no longer keep the trailer at our lodging so Eric’s arranged to park it at the place we bought out boat – Crystal River Marine. Our plan was to launch the boat at Pete’s Pier, Eric drives away to drop off the trailer, then parks the truck at our motel as I drive via water.

My only problem was kayakers – 30+ of them. I was getting ready to motor around a corner and here they come. They had varying degrees of experience and were spread out, so I waited and waited until the last one passed by me. BTW – she was cutting corners since she was so far behind the others.

Waiting for Eric at the motel, I glanced over the side and saw this group of mullet swimming by. They don’t take a hook and are caught using a net. They are good eating when offered on a menu. Wish I had a net – just saying.

Heading out to the Gulf, we only had the one spot of rain to watch.

Three hours later, that spot turned into this.

Which doesn’t look very close or menacing, until you see this. Yep – it’s time to go in, quickly.

Regardless, we had a good day of fishing.

Top & Center – 2 mackeral, Bottom & Center – 2 seatrout with the fish on the sides being Grunts.

Well, I guess I should say that I had a good day of fishing………….. The mackeral was 22″ and they are fuuuuunnn to catch! Once they take your hook, the line starts ‘zinging’ and there is no guarantee you are bringing them into the boat. They can bite off the line and leave you with nothing. That was not the case this day.

22″Mackerel

This was also a (very) nice seatrout caught the same day. They don’t pull as hard as a mack, but the bigger ones still give you a nice fight.

21″ Seatrout

The mack fillets were our evening meal, along with some conk peas and cubed potatoes – tasty!

We were out early the next morning, hitting the water. It seems like Eric is getting really good at hooking sharks (and also unhooking them).

We had another good day on the water, bringing home this catch.

Top to bottom: 1 mackerel, 2 seatrout, 1 bluefish and another seatrout.

HAD to take a photo with (my) biggest seatrout. It was a nice hefty size, perfect for filleting and eating. In the background is King’s Bay.

22″ Seatrout

Eric is getting very efficient at filleting our catches.

This day he had some help with the leftover trimmings. These birds were anxiously eye-balling his work.

Being it’s the middle of the week, one of our favorite restaurants was open AND it’s walking distance from our lodging, yeah!

We both devoured their hot, garliky herb- buttered bread, while sharing a bottle of wine throughout the meal.

They are known for their she-crab soup which Eric said did not disappoint. I had the fried green tomatoes, topped with bacon pieces and crumbled goat cheese as my starter.

We both ordered additional appetizers for our entres with Eric having braised pork belly and I had the Aji Tuna appetizer, very artfully arranged on the plate I must say.

And………….this is the reason we kept to the appetizer plates as we both wanted dessert. Eric really enjoyed his chocolate sundae while I loved my carrot cake & coffee.

It was a nice meal, followed by a leisurely walk back to our motel, truly feeling special for my birthday (month). 🙂

We were able to extend our stay for an additional night, thus getting in 3 days of fishing before heading home. Once again, Eric hooked a shark – a bonnet head shark this time.

This day we brought home 5 seatrout.

Going to Crystal River was an ‘escape’ for us while also allowing us to indulge in our hobby of fishing. For many, this is their livelihood. I was reminded of that several times on our last day. First was saw the shrimp trawl at Pete’s Pier.

Immediately to my right was one of the crabbing boats pulling their traps.

That bluefish we caught a few days ago turned into this VERY tasty fish dip once we got home. It was some of the best that Eric has made.

I drove the boat after we launched it at the beginning of our get-away and now drove it back to Pete’s Pier to pick up Eric. I’ve yet to drive the boat onto the trailer – but that’s coming soon.

Ginny

Nature Calls!

It was time to go out and enjoy the Natural Florida.

Work is definitely interfering with my blog writing! It was much easier to write (okay, type) when I was furloughed versus working 9+ hours daily, which doesn’t include the 40+minute drive to and and the 40+ minute drive from work. I am thankful I have a job and was called back. But…………I can’t wait until retirement! This little taste of staying home whetted my appetite for the next leg of life’s journey.

Florida is more than theme parks and beaches – I know, I know, hard to believe. We have a lot of ‘nature’ to observe in this state. The north shore of Lake Apopka was 21 miles or almost a 35 minute drive on a Sunday morning from our home.

It had been written up in the local paper over the weekend, so we weren’t the only ones that had this idea.

This is a one-way, 11 mile drive around the north shore of Lake Apopka, Florida’s 4th largest lake at 50,000 acres. It is a restoration project from when in 1941, 20,000 acres were separated by a levee and the land drained for muck farming. In 1996 the Florida Legislature began to fund buying back the agriculture lands and restoring the lake.

They have an audio tour, along with a paper guide to share highlights as you’re traveling -safely- in your air-conditioned vehicle.

The levee mentioned above was the road we followed. The shot below gives you an idea of the vastness of the land.

Really, the first animal we saw was one from the dinosaur age – an alligator.

Then we saw another alligator.

Yep, the gators were definitely putting on a show. This one was slowly swimming through the plant life looking for his next meal.

It was kind of a game – who could spot them first.

There may have possibly been direction given to ‘back up’ if we thought we spotted one.

This guy ducked under the water before I could get a photo. You can see him along the edge of the water, near the cattails. He was one of the smaller ones.

Very important to stay inside your vehicle.

There was other wildlife seen during our drive – like these Great Blue Herons.

Odd, I always seemed to get the same head angle in my shots.

This structure used to be a pump house draining excess water from the farmlands.

I don’t know who would want to fish, but apparently some have tried, hence the signs.

We came across these weather instruments gathering data on the other side of the pump house. This view of Lake Apopka is part of the original 50,000 acres.

And, I couldn’t resist a shot of this flowering Mallow bush.

Just in case people would forget…………………big brother was watching.

You could spend 1-2 hours, slowly driving the road, searching for gators and gathering a few photos. I read that the ‘birders’ LOVE this place in the winter for spotting species and taking counts. That’s not my ‘thing’ but we did enjoy the drive.

We’ll be back a different time of the year when having the windows down provides a nice cooling breeze, instead of a desire to turn up the AC.

Ginny

I got the call………

Yes, I got the call to come back to work and end my furlough, effective Sunday June 28, 2020.

However, this time being at home could be interpreted as a ‘preview’ or test for retirement – before it happens. So……..how well did that work?

Let’s see, what did I accomplish?

Sewing. Haven’t done this in QUITE a while, even though we have two sewing machines in this house (not including the two antique sewing machines that run on your pedal power). Projects completed thus far are cloth napkins, kitchen towels, five scarf make-overs and most recently hair scrunchies.

Yardwork. I’ve always enjoyed puttering around in the yard and this gave me the time to work on details I’ve thought about but didn’t make (or have) the time. Things like brick borders, new plant beds, starting plants from cuttings and of course our backyard.

Wildlife. Being outside daily, gave us the chance to clean up existing bird feeders, create new habitats, take the time to observe happenings and (spoiler alert) certify our backyard as a ‘Wildlife Habitat’. Waiting on the paperwork and signage before I was going to share, but ‘I got the call’.

Did not realize how unique this photo was, until I’ve waited for it to happen again, and it has not.

Mated pair of Red-shoulder Hawks.

Painting. Finally had the time to repaint & create these ladybugs, finished staining my wooden wine boxes & others and painted a few frames along with various other items.

Created Organization. Took the time to focus on items we use daily and things we don’t, created a sitting area outside that we actually use and brought together items to signify seasonality.

Eric’s Creative Cooking………….never would have grilled pizza & street corn or created our own Hot Pot meal or made French Curd JUST to name a few of my new favorites.

Going back to work I’m definitely going to miss some things……………

Markets……..picking up bread at a French bakery, locally-grown eggs at small markets and visiting this family farm in an adjoining county – weekly.

Last minute fishing trips………….we missed out on one week of St. George Island, but substituted visits to Crystal River. Finally have some fish in the freezer.

Non-Disney hair highlights.

To answer the question posed at the top, we will enjoy the time together when we retire! We didn’t really doubt that, but if we can enjoy this time during a world-wide pandemic, we can enjoy the ‘official’ retirement when that comes.

The sign came! I literally was getting ready to send off this blog post and Eric picked up the mail. Our Wildlife Habitat sign had arrived.

There were a series of questions asked – no inspection needed – and I can honestly say we faithfully met all the items asked, with the recent time spent working in the yard.

So to end this post……….I got the call.

Ginny

June 2020 Birthday 2.0

The last post mentioned it was going to rain and rain and rain while we were at Crystal River celebrating my birthday. Upon checking into our motel, we walked out to the dock – where the boat should have been – and saw the results of tropical depression rain + high tide = coastal flooding. Yikes!

King’s Bay Lodge floating docks June 2020

That just doesn’t look like a safe place to dock a boat. As I was surveying the flooding, I saw the owners were trying to grow some tomatoes and didn’t remove them before the water encroached. It’s more like hydroponics now!

King’s Bay Lodge tomatoes June 2020

Eric thought it would be fun to swim in the ‘natural’ springs and jumped into the water. Nope, no way was I going to do that, nada.

King’s Bay Springs June 2020

And then he jumped into the motel’s pool, which is filled by a nearby diverted spring. Look at that form! The water is the same temp year around 72 degrees F – that’s cold for some of us (mostly me, ha!).

The high water also made it easier to spot manatees. Lots of people pay money for an excursion in the springs for this to happen. Here I could look over the edge of the floating dock.

The ducks seemed to like the area around the floating docks also. These guys hung around quite a bit.

King’s Bay Lodge ducks June 2020

We were never in any immediate danger from the flooding. The following morning when the tide changed (and the rain stopped and the tropical depression moved further north) the docks were back to normal.

King’s Bay Lodge tomato plants June 2020

Right behind our room (literally out the back door) is the King’s Bay River Walk. While I’ve mentioned it in previous posts, the city leaders continue to expand and enhance the walkway.

Crystal River June 2020

Naturally, along the way they showcase the manatees of which this area is known.

Crystal River June 2020

They have also done a good job with adding some flowering plants along the way.

But they have these amazing totem poles which kept drawing your back to find more animals. I’ll tell you right now, while I’ve seen them before, they never really drew more than a glance from me. But with Eric along, he could help identify 99.99% of the carved animals and it became a contest – he won.

And yes, the ones that have some paint/stain defining the animal life made a difference for me. They could be a scavenger hunt!

Behind the Kings Bag Lodge is a crab trap operation and restaurant. Hundreds upon hundreds of crab traps are sitting in a nearby lot. Here you see old crab traps (still in use) along with the newer coated-metal traps.

Totally didn’t see the artistry in this shot, until we got home and I was culling the extra photos. I like it.

Although Adrienne departed early Monday morning to head back, it looked like there could be a ‘window’ for fishing the next several days. Eureka! We stayed two more nights.

Eric also got up (somewhat) early on Monday and went home to pick up the boat. Ultimately the weather Monday afternoon did not cooperate, so we found a new place to pick up some seafood. Eric got to use his culinary talents again. Poached local shrimp and grilled Grunt with bread crumbs was very delicious!

FINALLY……………Tuesday morning we could take the boat out into the Gulf. There was a bit of green (rain) we needed to keep an eye on, but it was worth the chance.

Gulf Coast June 2020

Man – there is no one on the water. Plus, no wind, the water is like a sheet of glass – smooth boating.

We had a good day catching fish. Eric caught this nice trout while apparently I had the knack for catching mangrove snapper. Fish caught (top to bottom): two sand perch, six mangrove snapper with Eric’s seatrout holding the bottom spot.

The snapper made a good meal that evening, along with rice. Lately, Eric has been cooking fish whole (for himself) while ensuring I had boneless fillets for my meals.

Day’s catch: grilled mangrove snapper. June 2020

Yeah! we are able to have another day of being on the water fishing until chased off by this storm mid-afternoon. Even though north of us, it was getting too close for comfort. Don’t want to ruin a birthday getting struck by lightening!

It didn’t prevent us from bringing in a nice haul of fish that day.

Five mangrove snapper and one sea perch.

When making birthday plans months ago, we had no inkling of the state of our world that was to come. However, you make the most of what you’re dealt. Take lemons and make lemonade.

Ginny

Found on the dock of Pete’s Pier.

June 2020 Birthday 1.0

Yes, indeedy, it’s someone’s birthday – mine! I always take off the week of my birthday, just because I can. We had made plans months ago……………..

We debated if we should cancel since we’re furloughed, but were going to lose our first night’s deposit anyway, so the decision was made. There was another thing making us reconsider our decision. These green, red, orange & yellow amoebas covering up a good deal of Florida.

Ugh – it’s going to rain (buckets, almost continually) again for the third year in a row early June. We could watch it rain at home or we could watch it rain in Crystal River. Crystal River won. We’re not taking the boat or any fishing stuff since that looks to be a washout. Calling on the drive over we discovered our room at Kings Bay Lodge would be ready soon, stopping for lunch took up most that time.

What better place to stop for lunch than Seafood Seller & Café – a local fan favorite.

We always start with the tomato chips. I don’t know why Eric doesn’t make them at home (hint, hint) but they are darn good (thinly sliced green tomatoes, cut in quarters before fried).

Seeing as we won’t be catching any seafood, everyone chose a seafood entre. Eric of course went for the crayfish while I went for a shrimp po-boy.

There’s a local brewery in this area (where isn’t there one – just saying) and we stopped by to kill some more time before checking-in. They do their brewing out back of their serving area.

We had a variety of beers between us and HAD to get a pretzel to soak up the liquid.

We finally made it to King’s Bay Lodge.

It’s another cute room for an efficiency at this old-time Florida motel. By this time we’ve stayed at a number of different rooms (they only have 20) and have probably slept in five different efficiencies – we’re still debating that number.

We found an Irish pub for dinner and had way too much bar food. Oysters, fish dip and sandwiches were ordered. It will probably not be a repeat. Ideally, we would have been eating seafood we caught on the boat, if they weather had cooperated.

Sunday morning dawned cloudy and rainy. 😦 It was no surprise so we had planned on driving (south) to Tarpon Springs for Greek food. A local had recommended Mama’s as a place that locals visited. We tried it out.

Naturally we had to start with the flaming cheese. Oom pah!

Followed by a platter of seafood specialities: (Top, clockwise) fried smelt, grilled octopus and fried calamari.

On top of that, we all ordered entres, with myself going for the chicken souvlaki and Eric & Adrienne choosing a traditional gyro meal.

See a theme……………we’re ordering waaaaaaay too much food.

For those not aware, Tarpon Springs was settled early on by Greek immigrants and their expertise was needed for the developing sponge industry. Yes, we can grow sponges in the Gulf waters of Florida. They’re proud of their heritage and images abound representing the sponge diving industry.

Tarpon Springs sits along the Anclote River and you can easily see the sponge vessels along the waterfront. We saw several boats with nets full of sponges ready for processing.

Where else would you buy a sponge, except at the Spongerama!

We have purchased sponges in the past and use them regularly. This was Adrienne’s first time visiting Tarpon Springs.

She was listening intently to the benefits and care of your natural sponge. Spoiler Alert – they’re not cheap.

Before leaving the area, we made a short visit to several of their local breweries. The first stop was at Five Branches and was literally across from our restaurant. They are owned by members (and friends) from the five branches of the Armed Services. Not sure if you can tell, but underneath our craft beer are pennies – hundreds and hundreds of pennies that were placed meticulously for their bar countertop. Brews in order L to R, Forsythia, Windtalker and Blue Falcon.

Before leaving Tarpon Springs we stopped at the Silverking Brewery Co. Love, love, love their logo. Yes, Eric came home with a hat and yes, another growler was added to our collection.

Just as important, their brews went well with our last purchase………….

That’s right, baklava! How can you stop at Tarpon Springs with their focus on Greek customs and foods and not pick some up? We were convinced (okay, really it was me) to purchase a (8 x 8) pan of baklava for the dollars we were going to spend individually, Baklava is great for breakfast – just saying.

Ginny

Dunedin, Florida

Who? What? Where is this place? Let me get you up to speed. Here are a few things to note about Dunedin (pronounced de-ni-din):

  • One of the oldest towns on the West coast with almost 4 miles of waterfront yet able to maintain their small-town charm.
  • Embraces its Scottish Gaelic heritage with a yearly Scottish Dunedin Highland Games.
  • The 39-mile Pinellas Trail bisects the downtown area which holds a number of microbreweries, restaurants, an Art Gallery, a chocolate shop and fun vintage stores.

Interesting little city, hard to pronounce the first time you see it, but definitely a place for a future repeat visit. It’s located north of Tampa/St Pete. We’re branching out of Central Florida for weekend activities.
Things are starting to loosen up around the state and everyone is trying to get back to some type of new normal. We have several goals this day. One, taste some new brews and two, eat at a favorite Cuban restaurant.


At the beginning of the main drag was The Dunedin Woodwright Brewing Co.

At the moment, the only way to visit, was to sit outside. They had some overhead shade which made it more bearable. The photo on the right is their interpretation for social distancing, ordering your brew outside with a glass barrier -formerly a window.

They had a foodtruck Coattails Kitchen and what goes great with beer – a pretzel. Unfortunately, they sold out the previous day and we had to settle for French fries. Ok, if we must. They were good, very good French fries. 🙂


One of their employees recommended our next stop, 7venth Sun Brewery.

The only seating was outside and I got overheated just walking the several blocks to find it. This is not the place to visit in the heat of the day. Hence very few photos. I found some info in a Brew booklet.

Our last brew stop was another unusual name. Their sign says it all.

This particular place we could sit inside (rules are strange here) and they had floor fans to keep the air moving. While no air-conditioning, they knew how to keep the place bearable even in sunny, hot Florida. Not everywhere was selling half-pours, or if so, it wasn’t obvious. At least this place I could get a ‘baby’ beer since I’m the designated driver.

Earlier I mentioned Art was part of this environment. Here’s one example. It’s one way to keep padlocks from appearing everywhere.

At the beginning of this post, I also mentioned Cuban food………………….

Friends of ours had taken us here, several times, and its always a great repeat! First thing that arrived was Cuban bread, slathered with butter – Yum. You really have to pace yourself or you could fill up on this alone.

Although not really needed…………..we ordered an appetizer to share, fried yucca. A fabulous garlicy oil dip enhanced their flavor.

My entre arrived. Roast pork with two sides (French fries and black bean soup were my choices. LOVE the pork! It was way too much food, but leftovers were brought home.

Eric had a dish that featured beef.

We were too full for dessert at the restaurant. But….……..later that evening, I had a craving for some ice cream (you know, it fills in the cracks 🙂 ) . My new personal favorite at Ritters in Clermont is the turtle sundae with hot caramel, hot fudge and a few chopped pecans. I can eat the whole thing!

We have made several trips to Ritters during our furlough. They even gave us a ‘frequent repeat visitor’ card since they recognize us. We’re trying to limit our visits to once weekly to keep the ‘furlough 15’ pounds off.

My previous post talked about the ‘pesky squirrels’ that are hogging our backyard bird feeder. Eric got a surprise one morning. He was keeping the birdseed inside of a 5-gallon bucket with a lid, inside of a Rubbermaid box in our back yard. Yep, you guessed it. The squirrels found it. They gnawed a whole in the Rubbermaid box (upper left), gnawed a hole in the lid AND the squirrel was in the bucket!

Man – if I just had a photo of that.

Ginny

Furlough Month #2 – DONE!

Can’t believe it. We’ve gone through 8 weeks of being home. One of our jokes is ‘What day is it?’. I solved that problem – as long as I updated the signs placed on the fridge. 🙂

We’ve been able to squeeze in two separate fishing trips. The first was at the end of May – totally forgot it was the start of Memorial Day weekend. Aarrgghh.

Eric doesn’t understand the ‘pressure’ of parking the truck and boat trailer. This day I had to drive a block away and park in a grass lot. Unbeknowningst to me…….a representative from Pete’s Pier was following me in a golf cart, flagging me to a specific spot (Pete’s Pier owns this land) and then drove me back to the dock. Sweet!

Out to the Gulf we went! It was kind of slow in the beginning, but we moved to deeper water and caught a variety of things. I got a few shots with Eric catching this black sea bass (L) and mangrove snapper (R) – both of which were kept and eaten.

Coming back we passed these boats. This family was having a bad day. You can barely see the disabled boat on the other side of the TowBoat. They were landing at the same place we parked. Fingers crossed we never have to call one of the tow boats companies.

Although more crowded than what we have been seeing lately, we were still successful with our catch. Fish caught were: top – sand trout, 2 red scaled fish on left – mangrove snapper, 2 black scaled fish on right – black sea bass, a sea perch in the middle and a fish we always get excited about – a mackerel at the bottom!

Why get excited about a Mack? It’s eaten the night its caught in sushi form – very tasty. Our Mack was eaten as a Poke bowl and included cooked shrimp, shredded carrots, avocado, edamame and sliced cucumbers. Top it with spicey mayo. Delicious!

The black seabass was a more involved preparation. Eric found this recipe.

He pulled together a number ingredients to start: garlic, jalapeno pepper, shallots and crushed tomatoes. He slightly modifies recipes to cater to our tastes. The cooked sauce is on the right.

Combined with saffron rice, roasted potatoes & radishes and you have a satisfying meal.

Six days later, fishing was a different story. See that parking lot? Yep, we were the fifth vehicle in the parking lot – loved it! The weather was changing so much day-to-day that we had to wake early each morning to check the forecast. Finally………….had a morning that showed a ‘window’ when we could fish. Quickly packed up the boat and drove to the Gulf coast.

First radar shot is when we put rods in the water………….two hours later, this storm popped up, then we saw lightening on the horizon. Time to go in.

The short time on the water was fruitful. Here’s our catch for the day. Six fish – seatrout, macks, black sea bass and sea perch.

We finally had enough fish to freeze fillets and create a seafood-broth based soup with (fabulous) locally made French bread. Eric threw in a few shrimp to round out the meal.

All this time at home has really upped the value of a ‘drive’ to get out of the house. There is a well-known German bakery in a tiny town (north) that gave us a break from the norm – Yalaha Bakery. This is one of the few times that we have eaten out. And I do mean that literally. After ordering our food, seating has always been outside under shade trees. In the past, we’ve been here and there were tour buses in the parking lot – yikes! Not today.

Eric’s cooking break lasted one day – sorry hon. Some of his meals have included more street corn and carnitas tacos.

We’ve had steak with stuffed zucchini, accompanied by roasted potatoes and the last of our French radishes. Fabulous sauce for the steak (which was also good when potatoes happened to get dunked in it).

And one of my favorites………………..grilled pizza!

Eric wanted some different ‘inspiration’ and picked up one of his former (highly used) cookbooks which he’s had 20+ years.

He wanted soup. He found a really great recipe that didn’t require a trip to the grocery store. All of the greens for the soup recipe we were growing, substituting radish greens for the sorrel.

Shot on the left were his ingredients with the final result on the right.

Notice the sandwich sitting next to the soup? A French grilled cheese. The title says it all. Yes, the grilled cheese was extraordinary.

I have a shot of his ingredients but am including the basis for his awesome-tasting meals, local eggs and the French locally-made bread.

I’m still watching wildlife visiting the Darden Garden. We have two blue jays eyeing each other while the red-shoulder hawk is eyeing them.

In the beginning when we were working from home, never envisioned we would still be here after 2 months. At the time of this post, Disney has announced opening dates and they are starting to bring cast and leaders back. While no specific date for us yet, we’re making the most of the ‘loosening’ of restrictions in Florida. Next excursion was Dunedin.

Ginny

Darden Harvests & Darden Wildlife

Several posts made reference to ingredients from our garden.  I like to grow things.  I can confidently say that 12 months out of the year, we have something edible growing in our yard.  Now, I will also say, we don’t always get a large bountiful harvests from said plants.  But hey, we don’t need it.

The previous post mentioned several times that our tomatoes showed up in a meal.  We are at the end of our tomato growing season.  We had three tomato plants in pots and only the yellow-fruited tomato plant has continued to adapt to the Florida heat and keeps producing fruit.

The cherry tomatoes picked for our grilled pizza last week were near the end of the season and only a few were left on the vine.  I was waiting for these last few cherry tomatoes to get ripe before removing the plant.  This is the last harvest.

Tomatoes are one of those things you cannot typically grow in Florida during the summer.

Factoid:  hot summer nights prevent the tomato flowers from setting fruit, hence you can (sometimes) get lots of growth, but no fruit to harvest.  

We pretty much have some type of pepper plants growing year around.  Currently we are harvesting japenlos.  This plant was overloaded with fruit and these needed to be harvested.  Otherwise, we pick them as we need them.

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The swiss chard is another plant that is almost done for the season.  It doesn’t love the Florida heat so we only grow it in our winter.  I was able to find some seedlings that were three distinct colors for us to grow these past months:  purple, yellow and pink.

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Cabbage is also a winter crop.  We grew ours in pots.  Three heads have been harvested and three more are going to be turned into kraut.

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Eric cut the heads one morning in preparation for this upcoming task.

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We’ve also been growing ‘greens’: collard greens, mustard greens and kale.  Eric got this photo early one morning when I was harvesting the leaves.

These French radishes have been used several different ways (as mentioned in a previous post) and this is the end of them.

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We have a Key lime bush growing in a half barrel.  The fruit are fairly small and ripe when yellow.   Oopsie, the green ones fell off when I was trying to get a photo.

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We also harvest herbs.  I have a ‘hedge’ of rosemary that gives definition to one of our planting beds and use the branches in bouquets.

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We have a pot of English thyme that is the best ever yet.  Eric uses this herb in a lot of his cooking, primarily soups. To give you some context, this pot is 14″ tall.

Otherwise, we still have basil, Italian parsley and curly parsley growing in the garden and used frequently in Eric’s cooking.

This next herb started as a potted plant purchased 20+ years ago and once we finally put it in the ground, it flourished.  People typically use bay leaves in soups and probably buy dried leaves at the grocery store.  I cut our bush back heavily this spring and the subsequent sprouting looks great.

I’ve also dried some of the branches and they’re hanging in our kitchen.

Unfortunately, this may be one plant that I don’t get anything to harvest.  The squirrels are eating the growing tips off of my beans.

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So, the title mentions Wildlife.  Man – with all of the attention we’ve been giving the yard and all the time at home during furlough………………….we’ve had the chance to really see what’s going on, mostly in the backyard.

Moving a birdbath to the backyard and repairing the birdfeeder has attracted bluejays and a pair of cardinals.  The birds love to splash the water!

Probably the most amazing was seeing the pair of nesting red-shoulder hawks.  They also like both of the items seen above.

There’s a garden trellis that had not been put away………………….and it’s turned into their hunting perch, so  now it’s staying!

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One afternoon, I got extremely lucky.  Wow!!!

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We also have these pesky squirrels which like the bird feeder.  If you look in the bottom left corner, you can see a male (red) cardinal waiting for the squirrel to leave.

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Seeing red cardinals always reminds me of my Grandma. They were one of her favorites.

One day I couldn’t believe how gutsy this squirrel was.  I have yet to see ‘the circle of life’.

We also have some rabbits, usually seen in the front yard.

One morning, he/she was in the back yard.  Nope, still haven’t seen the ‘circle of life’. It lived to see another day.

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Occasionally we get small flocks of ibis rooting through the yard, looking for insects to munch. We like them because their beaks punch through the grass, essentially aerating it.

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Eric’s been reading about crows.  And he’s feeding them.

He says he’s training them.  I think it’s more accurate to say they are training him.  He got a shot with one of his crows gathering a peanut.

Seeing wildlife and having the time (and energy) for focusing on the Darden Garden has been a silver lining in this unprecedented time we’re living.

Ginny

Daily I receive these ‘chirps’ from Natural Life. I really liked this one and wanted to share.

Eric’s Culinary Inspiration Continues!

Eric continues to amaze me in a multitude of ways not the least being his food adventures.  Purchases are focused on locally available produce whenever possible – in season.

Let’s start with his onion soup.  He cooked down sliced onions until translucent, letting them simmer in some homemade beef stock.

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Meanwhile………….prepping our ramekins with cheese and french artisan bread (baked locally).

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Before adding more cheese and broiling them in the oven to finish.  That was our supper one evening.

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BTW – one thing that makes his life easier is this chest freezer.  Throughout the year he cooks down stock for any future meals thus only requiring some defrosting for his prep.

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Digging in the freezer one day, he came across pulled pork.  With our recent visits to a local ‘fusion’ takeout, he made our own street tacos.  While the pork was thawing he made the topping.  OMG – where does he find this stuff?  I can tell you now, these spices are nothing that I would consider if I was grocery shopping.

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The results were amazing, adding in some advocado and crème fraiche.68EC290C-DB73-4CA4-977D-EA638541D307

Eric was sneaky and captured this photo.  We’re really enjoying the ‘tailgate meals’.  When done, dump any leftover food onto the paper tablecloth, roll up and throw away.

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This is also the time (mid-May) for Florida sweet corn and our visits to local Farmer’s markets have been fruitful.  Sticking with ‘street’ food, he made some ‘street corn’.

F436050E-4B74-412F-A226-F1246E10CBE2 OMG – I may never eat sweet corn any other way!  His method was (1) grill corn with husks on (2) remove the silks (3) slather on butter (4) place back on grill for more char (5) brush with Eric’s special ‘corn butter’ before devouring.

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Man – look at those flames, they were kissing the corn.  The street corn was so good we had a repeat performance later in the week while grilling hamburgers.

Our goal is only two meals daily – so his inspiration doesn’t run out – while also keeping an eye on calorie in-take.  People are joking about the ‘furlough 15’ so we don’t want those extra pounds if we can help it. One evening we tried his version of a kimchi hot dog.   It was good, but not as good as Tako Cheena (sorry hon).

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Or when super hot outside,  Greek salad with pita bread.  Those squares of yellow below……….our yellow tomatoes harvested that morning.

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We’re not above having a typical ‘breakfast’ for a meal other than breakfast.  A Cheese omelette and sausage patties satisfies the soul.

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While this next dish was not for a meal, it qualified as a snack.  We had something similar in Lyon – but it was MUCH better there.  Maybe it had somethng to do with the country and company.  🙂

I planted some French radish seeds a month ago, on the cusp of our planting season, and we’re starting to harvest them.  Dip them in softened butter, a little bit of sea salt then eat.  You can see how the bottoms are scored in the left photo.

We had another ‘tailgate’ meal that was totally awesome – grilled pizza (the small red tomatoes were from our garden).

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Since we have time on our hands, Eric wanted to make his own pizza crust – of course.  After mixing the yeast, flour, sugar, water and olive oil the dough balls sat out in our Florida room to rise.

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Added the homemade tomato sauce with fresh buffalo mozzarella balls and fresh basil (also from our garden) and the topped pizza was complete.

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He placed a ceramic tile in the oven before the grill to get it super hot prior to adding the pizza.

Totally awesome pizza, but the ceramic tile broke while cooking.  Two days later we tried again and used our pizza stone.  It was also really good pizza – but not as good as with the tile.  The tile put a char on the bottom of the pizza that tasted great.  Eric guessed the tile must have been close to 700 degrees F.

Everything is not always successful.  One night we felt like Mexican and Eric thought ‘Chimichangas!’ would be interesting to make.  Started with a flour tortilla, put a layer of refried beans, meat and a bit of shredded cheese.

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A few minutes in the fryer then topped with a green tomatilla sauce.

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It looked good, satisfied our need for sustence, but does not bear a repeat.

Once in a while, Eric wants to do some baking.  We came across a farm stand with Florida peaches.  They’re such a rare commodity,  it was a no-brainer for our purchase.

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Going in, we knew these peaches were not ‘cling-free’.  I was good at peeling, Eric was good at slicing.

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First attempt was fried peach pies.  They were good.

Second attempt was a peach tart.  Dough was made along with a (fantastic) cream filling.

With a beautiful (and tasty) finished product.

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Wow!  Again, Eric continues to amaze me with his culinary adventures – a definite plus during the furlough.  🙂

Ginny

Another week of Furlough activities

It was nice starting another week being on the boat!  And just as nice, plenty of easy boat trailer parking!  Last week it was a total zoo, even through the middle of the week.  Last week I had to drive out of the designated parking, circle the block and enter the parking area going the wrong way – aacckk! – before parking the trailer.  Soooooo much nicer this week.  I just had to include a photo. I did a rather nice job of parking if I do say so myself. Eric doesn’t understand my stress of parking the truck and trailer.   He’s on the boat, impatiently waiting for me to get back.

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This was another week with catching a variety of species, some of which was edible.  The first shot is of a sea robin.  Its a tasty fish and we would have kept it if a tad bigger.

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Eric caught a remora – which is not a keeper.  If you can see in the photo, a rough spot on its head becomes a means by suction for it to connect with a host fish and feed on the leftovers.  Cool to see, but not edible.

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We ended up with a nice haul of keepers:  (top to bottom) 1 bluefish, 3 trout, mangrove snapper (side) and the tiny fish (sea perch) in the top right corner was used for stock.

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Today there was just two of us as Adrienne has gone to visit her family.  It’s fun with friends and it’s fun just the two of us.  Man – look at that blue sky and white fluffy clouds.  L.O.V.E. being on the water.

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This was another week of organizing more cabinets in the kitchen.  I mean come on -what else can you do.  You’ve seen the other posts and our yard is just about done.

We have lots and lots of glassware and while nothing has fallen out when the doors were open (that would be bad, really bad) it was always dicey putting clean glasses back.  You put a glass on a shelf, gently pushed back and hopefully enough room was available.  Now there’s no problem.  I think Eric would freak if I labeled the shelves – its a thought.

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Ah heck, might as well organize the cabinets under the glasses.  This time I remembered a before and after shot.

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Yep, all that stuff on the floor and  countertop was inside that one area.  Confession here………we have a bag of this misc. kitchen stuff going to Goodwill when it opens.

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Just when you thought I was done, nope, one more set of cabinets.  With only the two of us, we had way too many plates.  Our normal everyday (white) plates totaled 12 – really, we truly don’t need that many any one time.  And yes, we use the remaining four sets of plates, sometimes daily.  Paring down also gave us a chance to keep a few fun (fishy) serving platters on the top shelf.

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Okay, okay, I’m done for a while with cabinets!

 

Getting out of the house is MUCH more important these days otherwise I feel like a hermit.  Eric plans most of these – trust me its in his best interest. Ha!  One day we went in search of a seeded watermelon heading west on SR 50.  It goes into a rural area with some agriculture happenings and we’ve seen roadside stands in the past.  Kind of a weird goal, but hey we’re furloughed!  We both definitely like watermelons with seeds versus the seedless ones found in most grocery stores.  The seeded ones have flavor!

We drove past this farm and stopped in.

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It’s a small family run operation.  They used to take their produce to local farmer’s markets – which are currently closed.  For the first time they opened this small market essentially in their backyard – open 2 days each week, we got lucky hitting one of those days.

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Eric was scouting their produce to see what he could make with ‘whats in season’.

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They had some good looking green beans and sweet corn.  We also found these green tomatoes.  Fried green tomatoes were a good appetizer one evening.

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Ultimately we did find a watermelon AND I forgot to take a photo.  We’ve been eating the watermelon outside for dessert.  Yum!

Now here’s something that I totally would not have expected as an activity during furlough – a drive-in movie!

Turns out our local movie theater got creative and had a schedule of movies.

Yep, after a number of years (maybe decades) I saw the movie Grease again.  Had to include a few key shots of the movie.

What a way to finish a week!  Another post is coming with Eric’s cooking.

 

Ginny