S.G.I. 2021 Chapter 4

Rain greeted us mid-week.

Along with fog – thick as pea soup. Yikes! Driving into town, you can barely see the river from the Apalachicola bridge.

They say take lemons and make lemonade. We’re taking rain and eating oysters! The day was the perfect time to head west for Indian Pass Raw Bar. Outside seating in a screened room was perfect for the current Covid environment.

This is the place that operates on a honor system.

First up was oysters two ways: raw and baked.

Preceded by some fish dip and cups of seafood gumbo.

Cole slaw was my choice of side, to go along with my chicken tenders – sorry Eric. At least the corn dogs were not my choice. Spoiler alert – they were Audry’s, both of them.

Topped it off with a slice of key lime pie before heading back to Apalachicola. BTW – Eric and I both got our own slices. That makes a lot more sense if you read the blog posts for S.G.I. 2020. 🙂

A trip into town was not complete without going to Piggly Wiggly.

I am always amazed at their intense selections. Look at these options for canned artichokes on the top row in the photo – at least 6. My Publix at home doesn’t carry that many! Party-size condiments and veggies underneath. How long would it take to get through that jug of mayo?

What place needs this many BBQ sauces? I stopped counting at 55. Really? Really.

This next photo was intended to show their jelly/jam selections (55+) but then I noticed the nut butters (15+) and that doesn’t count the ones chopped out of my photo.

Okay, you can laugh now. I love to visit grocery stores when we travel. There are usually items I’ve never seen, locally-made product (great for souvenirs or gifts) and just ‘stuff’ that is interesting. Eric just lets me wander as he gathers items on his grocery list.

Still two more stops before leaving town: 13 Mile Seafood Market and OCB. Googled 13 Mile Brand and discovered the name refers to a tiny community 13 miles west of Apalachicola. The family business began in 1957 and four generations harvest oysters, shrimp and fish from the Apalachicola Bay and Gulf of Mexico. Their seafood market opened in 2009 along the Apalachicola River.

Directly behind the seafood market is one of their shrimp boats.

OCB = Oyster City Brewing. Instead of cans, he gets the growlers filled. Also picked up their local newsletter The Forgotten Coastline. It is always interesting reading.

Oops, meant to include a third stop – our lot. It looks rough and definitely needs mowing and some tree trimming cleanup. It’s just not an attractive sight. Ugh.

But no, we can’t head to the rental yet. On SGI are several local businesses and one we occasional visit is Sometimes It’s Hotter. Usually it’s to pick up some locally-baked bread, which was our original intent this day.

They have an amazing wine selection for such a small community. This is only 1 of 4 walls that contain their wine choices.

Although not a purchase – since we make our own – I like they have things made from the area.

By the time we got back, the rain had stopped and I had a chance to walk to the beach. I started walking along the coastline, no storm in sight, just clouds. But boy, was I glad I wore my raincoat. The weather changed that fast and I would have been soaked in just a few minutes.

One more post is coming to finish out the week. Stay tuned.

Ginny

S.G.I. 2021 Chapter 3

Ahhh, the meals. Some could argue this is the best part of any vacation. Traveling with Eric, food is never far from our agenda. SGI food is mostly (but not always!) about a meal that is a ‘production’. And by that I mean it is a good thing.

Our first production meal was Paella. A Spanish rice dish, generally accepted as originating in Valencia, Spain. A unique seasoning associated with this dish is saffron. Depending upon your location the veggies and meats can vary. We’re using clams from Cedar Key, Florida and shrimp from the surrounding bay.

No finished photo, we were too busy eating this delicious dish. Maybe next time.

Another evening turned into a (former) typical SGI meal: fried fish and fried shrimp.

Sushi, Poke’ bowl and rolls. Who would have guessed in those first SGI trips I would be eating raw fish for dinner. And, who would have guessed that a sushi mat needed to be packed from home. And, who would have guessed that you could find a sushi mat kit on the island! Below are the results, courtesy of Dennis.

This production involved Eric and Dennis.

The shrimp were steamed before topping the rice, along with a slab of raw tuna, sliced thinly for the other offering. Someone made plans………otherwise why would you pack black sesame seeds – just saying.

The Poke’ bowl I mentioned earlier………….here it is with some asian-marinated and grilled redfish, tuna, cucumber, shrimp and avocado.

Etouffee, a dish found in both Cajun and Creole cuisines, typically served with shellfish over rice. Etouffee is French for ‘smothered’. Also, one of Eric’s favorite dishes to prepare and eat. Warner prepped the shrimp.

While Eric chopped some green onions. Along the side you can see part of the ‘trinity’: onions, celery and bell pepper, chopped and diced.

Yeah, I got a photo of the finished meal.

Here was a first for us (really, just Eric and myself)………….baked, lightly seasoned, crisp greens. Ansley had done this at home and it was a great idea to use some of the greens we ‘gifted’ them from our garden. Collards, mustard greens and kale were trimmed for step 1.

Before tossing with olive oil, salt and freshly chopped rosemary for Step 2.

Then came the waiting game in a low and slow oven. Very nice and quite tasty! Nope, no photo. 😦

Prior to any S.G.I. trip, Eric usually brings along some home-made frozen food. It was perfect for lunches. Thaw, heat and serve. Can’t get much easier – at least for me.

A week prior to the trip, Eric smoked a chicken and made gumbo – my absolute favorite and always requested recipe from Eric’s repertre’. Gumbo comes from the Bantu langage, meaning okra, a typical ingredient used for thickening. It’s defined as ‘aromatic soup-stew charactistic of Creole cuisine’. Eric always has to serve it over rice. Me? I can eat it with or without rice. Yes, there are bits of okra in Eric’s gumbo.

We also brought some frozen chili. Love my beans in chili. Can you see them below? Eric – maybe a few more beans next time?

Potage soup – what is that? Old French calls this ‘food cooked in a pot’. It had its origins in the medieval cuisine of northern France. It’s different every time and created from what it’s on hand. Ours was composed of potatoes, carrots home grown arugula & mustard greens. Add in a drizzle of creme fresche and you have a tasty, warming meal.

And a frozen package of our cooked greens. We periodically harvest our greens in the winter and blanch before putting them up to serve the remainder of the year. Those ‘white’ pieces of goodness in the pot – pork, for extra seasoning.

My contribution………………..frozen cookie dough balls. One evening I actually baked them, while the rest of the week, they were eaten as is.

Why did I include the shot below? Peas. These were supposed to be a part of the paella and they were missed. Sorry Dennis. Maybe Eric will remember next time.

Ginny

S.G.I. 2021 Chapter 2

The previous post I mentioned The Cut. Formally it was known as Bob Sike’s Cut. A google search revealed it as the #2 activity from TripAdvisor. BTW – #1 was the State Park, ironically at the opposite end of the island. Ha! It’s odd this being #2 since they only way to access this area is (1) rent/own a place inside The Plantation or (2) have a boating vessel to get you there.

But I digress. It was created in 1954 and I found an on-line photo from that time. It was named for Bob Sikes, a prominent politician from this area. He was a state representative for the US Congress 1941 – 1978.

It’s creation was for efficiency, giving more direct access to the Gulf – both for recreational fishermen and commercial operations. Here is a more recent photo I found on the internet. Weather and hurricanes have taken their toll. And yes, so has development. Looking at the bottom photo you can see some docks and houses have been built. This area is gated off – a gated community within a gated community.

Take a glance as the anglers. You can definitely see the rocks that keep The Cut channel open.

Notice all the coats? These were the temps that greeted us one morning. Add in the wind, the moistness, and sitting on the rocks – you have one cold day.

It wasn’t too bad walking to The Cut to grab my photos but was a real bear walking back. Not running today.

So how was the fishing? See for yourself. Audrey was the first angler to hook a keeper redfish. That wording was deliberate. She hooked it, Eric reeled it in and Warner netted the fish. Definitely a team effort.

Dennis caught this beauty. There are a minimum of 10 ‘spots’ on this Redfish and we only see one side………..

Eric pulled this one in – out of the slot, thus after a quick photo it went back into the water. Redfish this size tend to be the females and are a breeding size and are not kept to ensure the Redfish population continues. This lady is only showing 1 spot near the fin.

The following day Dennis caught another redfish.

Winter fishing (for us, well not me) was all about The Cut. Next up, some of the fabulous meals that sustained us during the week.

Ginny

S.G.I. 2021 Chapter 1

Yeah! We headed back to St. George Island. The drive up was going to be a bit harrowing with this storm in our path. But, the mighty Tundra pulled us through.

We knew from last year’s drive open restaurants were few and far between. Some old favorites had fallen on hard times and were no longer open. Although we had eaten breakfast at home before starting, driving all the way to St. George Island was quite a stretch. Maybe I should clarify…..there were plenty of fast food joints, but we make every effort to eat local. BBQ was Eric’s ‘snack’ of choice – really? BBQ is a snack? He thought a few ribs would carry him over until supper. Me, I just wanted the fries. Dipped in hot BBQ sauce – mighty tasty!

We can’t check into our rental until after 5pm due to all the enhanced cleaning protocols. Rats! In the past it was 3pm and sometimes we could ‘cheat’ the check-in if no one had been renting our selection. Not now. What to do?????? Drive into Apalachicola of course.

Eric needed (I use that word loosely) to fill his 2 Oyster City growlers and this task would help eat up some time.

While waiting in their line, he started up a conversation (I know, everybody’s shocked) and the gentlemen turned out to be a real estate agent……..who could help with selling our land, east of Tallahassee – great! Eric needs to keep that connection going.

Soon enough time passed and we could check into our rental. First you had to get onto the island. BTW they really could upgrade this welcome – just saying. The grass is scraggley, shells in disarray not really a beautiful spot.

Leading to our next sign……….

Houses are a bit pricier here, but winter fishing is most successful at The Cut. Did you notice, we didn’t bring the boat. This time of the year, boating was not the preferred method of catching fish. Plantation is a gated community at the far west end of SGI and The Cut is the furtherest point of land.

FAITH was the name of the rental. Yep, we drove right past it the first time.

Typical SGI beach house: parking underneath, first floor had the bedrooms.

Top floor had the kitchen and gathering spots.

Have to walk to the beach! We can see glimpses peeking between the pine trees and the few houses built nearby.

Interesting boardwalk and literally right across the street from our rental.

The unsettled weather had the beach churned up quite a bit as seen by the erosion. Besides myself, there are a few hearty souls.

If you look waaaaaaay in the distance of the photo below, you can just about see evidence of The Cut – large rocks lining the opening. That’s where the guys and the kids will be spending most of their time fishing – not me.

First dinner on the island is rarely about seafood, or at least not about seafood we have caught. This time was no different, except for our appetizer. Naturally, oysters start the evening.

Grilled steaks, Eric’s homemade scalloped potatoes and Dennis’s famous brussell sprouts rounded out our meal.

I just need a little something sweet to finish the night – Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies – delicious!

Ginny

Sanford’s Shantell

Previously, while visiting historic Sanford, Florida, we had never noticed Shantell’s restaurant. It’s a local fan-favorite featuring comfort soul food. It’s a gathering place, a social hall and an entertainment venue. And oh yeah, it has good food. 🙂

Sanford is not a decision made on a whim – waaaaaay too far for us to go on a moment’s notice for eating. Typically our Sanford destination is a (fabulous & authentic) German restaurant but one weekend we went outside our norm.

At this time in our world, we’re looking for outside dining and this location fit the bill.

Let’s talk the food before going any further. It all starts with a way to ‘whet your whistle’. No soft drink but nice ‘southern’ refreshments with lemonade and ice tea our drinks of choice. Got to tell you, most every time I’ve ordered lemonade somewhere, it’s too sweet and I keep adding water to make it something I can drink. Not this time – perfect.

Typical Dardens, we ordered way too much food. Eric thought this was interesting and we asked for it before our meal arrived – Jam-faican Beef Patties. Totally loved the dipping sauce, it had a kick to it! Oh, and the patties were good also. For me, it’s all about the sauce.

My choice was Jerk Chicken & Rice. The spices were spot-on. The portion was too much food for me and half went home.

Eric ordered their fried chicken, accompanied by collard greens and fried okra (of course!).

My next visit I will order the fried chicken – it looked absolutely delicious, very tasty and very crispy. We couldn’t stop there – nooooooo. Eric ordered a slice of hummingbird cake – made locally – and we shared it. Oopsie, we were in such a hurry to dig in, I forgot my photo. GOT to remember that next time.

Near the end of our meal, Shantell drove up, on her motorcycle. (FYI, not my photo but one I found on the internet.)

She has a big personality with a big smile. She’s a chef, business owner, mother of 10 and holder of a Harley Davidson world record, driving through the 48 contiguous states in 27 days. She set out on her journey to draw attention to a Floridian named Bessie Stringfield – VERY interesting story. Google it to find out more details.

Since it was mid-afternoon we were one of the few guests on-site. Shantell stopped to talk after driving up on her Harley and her story was even more interesting in person. Totally enjoyed talking with her. The food is good but talking with Shantell takes the whole experience up a notch. We’ll be back!

BTW – I have a number of blog posts that need to be written up and shared. I soooooo want to travel overseas but that is obviously on hold at the moment. In the meantime, we’ve been traveling the state, finding interesting spots that probably we would have missed and never discovered. There is an upside to everything, sometimes you have to hunt harder to find it.

Until the next blog arrives……..

Ginny

2020 S.G.I. – Chapter 7

The beaches of SGI are a main attraction for most and we were no exception during our visit. Even when the weather was dicey, it’s interesting to see the beach in all its various moods. Our last day we visited the Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park at the east end of the 28 mile long island – occupying 9 of those miles.

We got Eric here with his fishing poles.

Even in the surf, he caught something – a small whiting, edible but not needed on our last day.

Feathered wildlife joined us, curious why we were invading ‘their’ beach. This little guy came over to check me out, getting closer than I expected.

This Great Blue Heron was curious and persistent.

Adrienne went over to check him out.

He kept showing up in our photos.

The same bird…………..

…………..closer and closer.

Eric was using live shrimp while fishing and this bird knew it!

Finally……………..he got his shrimp. Eric was done and dumped the remaining shrimp.

Taking off after he was full.

One last stop before packing up – Paddy’s Raw Bar. It used to be a real dive, a biker bar – pretty rough and not a place I would go. They’ve changed with the times.

Naturally, we had oysters. I get it. After awhile, oysters look like more oysters, which look like more oysters – unless you’re the one(s) eating them. They had different tastes and different levels of salinity, but all mighty tasty.

Sunday we had to head home, and found one more place to have more oysters, in Panacea. BTW – that’s a live palm tree they tacked the city sign on.

This is part of our regular route home, but had never found this restaurant.

Oysters and mullet fish dip – delicious.

Those that know us would not be surprised to know we brought oysters home. Adrienne and I had them in New Orleans several years ago ‘char-grilled’ and that was our request for the ones we got.

That evening we had them grilled, oysters rockefeller and raw.

This was a different SGI trip – still fun, but a different focus and laid-back vacation. Until next time………….

Ginny

Disney Christmas – lite

Why Disney Christmas – lite?  There are so many, many more bloggers that concentrate on Disney exclusively,  I didn’t want to even try to compete with that.  My Disney Christmas highlights the Park that I work inside and (great) photos my sister shared during their recent visit.  Those primarily were at the Magic Kingdom – what everyone thinks of when you say ‘I went to Disney World!’.  🙂 

I’m starting with ‘my’ Park – Epcot and our Christmas trees.  Yes, plural.  We have two:  first one encountered marks the transition between Future World and World Showcase.  At the top is a blue angel – which didn’t photograph well for me. BUT, it is a very colorful tree.

Our second tree is in the American Adventure pavilion, with a patriotic theme.

Most of the pavilions and Merchandise shops have outside and inside holiday decorations, lots of garlands, ribbon and bulbs.  We also use nature to help tell the holiday story.

This hanging basket caught me eye – yes, that is grass growing underneath the plants in the hanging basket.

One morning I couldn’t resist taking photos of these ornaments in the France pavilion when no one was around.

We also have Mickey and Minnie in their blue holiday attire.

Occasionally Kris Kringle can be seen at Epcot.

Going over to Magic Kingdom, the Mickey floral bed greets the guests in holiday colors right in front of the Train Station.

My sister got some f.a.b.u.l.o.u.s. photos at Magic Kingdom of their holiday parade. Mickey and Minnie changed their costumes while in the Kingdom

Santa paid a visit to Magic Kingdom after parading around Epcot.

Can’t forget the reindeer.

She captured a shot of Magic Kingdom’s Christmas tree………………

……….and I really loved this shot with the toy soldier and the castle in the background.

But I totally loved her night-time photos of the Magic Kingdom castle. I haven’t always been a fan of projections on the castle, but these won me over.

Our decorations at home are much more simple. A garland around the front doorway and a small display on the side.

This was Eric’s project last year and they fared well enough for this year’s display.

Our tree we’ve had to cat-proof, either with using non-breakable ornaments or clamp clips for those I dared to put on the tree.

The Grinch has always been my favorite Christmas movie and he’s recently seen a surge in popularity. This is my favorite Christmas quote

A friend shared advice he’s given to his younger leaders. Christmas isn’t about a specific date or a specific time, its those moments that are special to you.

Ginny Merry Christmas

2020 S.G.I. chapter 6

Our last days in the Panhandle had a few repeats from earlier in the week. They may be favorite spots that never fail to deliver or something new we discovered on this trip. Regardless, they deserved one more stop before leaving the panhandle.

My new favorite eating spot was Indian Pass Raw Bar. We were there before it opened at the end of the week and yes we started with the fish dip.

Followed by 2 dozen raw oysters. No fancy serving platter, just oysters on plastic food trays.

I had to ‘decorate’ my oyster with a few toppings – horseradish and cocktail sauce.

And just to prove I was eating them………..

This was also the place that had the honor system for your drinks and you checked off what you drank, then gave the ticket to the cashier when paying your bill before leaving.

I was much better this time at pouring my own beer.

This was also the place with the a.m.a.z.i.n.g key lime pie. We got 2 pieces to share between us (and I could have still licked the plate) when done.

Next up Scipio Creek Half Bar. This time we saw outside in their open-air bar – loved it. It will be my spot of choice for future visits. Doesn’t Adrienne look excited for another photo.

Naturally the meal began with two dozen raw oysters………..

Followed by seafood dinners.

Our last morning was an early stop at Hole In The Wall. Knowing it would be busy on a weekend, we were waiting outside before others arrived. It definitely got crowded before the doors were open and we were glad we arrived 15 minutes early. Yes, Eric, you were right.

Fish dish and oysters always start the meal.

More seafood selections followed.

One last visit to Oyster City Brewing Company.

We didn’t let Eric totally off the hook for meals at our rental. One night we had peel & eat shrimp and shrimp cocktail, with oysters – of course.

Another evening we had grilled grouper and shrimp. But sometime, you get a craving for meat – steak.

One fabulous meal was shrimp bisque, great for a cool evening.

My all-time favorite Eric recipe is gumbo.

Our last home-cooked meal on the island was the remaining grouper filets, fresh tomatoes and broccolini – who knew you could find that in Apalachicola.

So this post was waaaaaay late, but I wanted to finish it since it was sitting in my ‘drafts’. Believe it or not, one last post from St. George Island. What better way to end, than at the beach. Coming soon – I promise.

Ginny

2020 S.G.I. chapter 5

A day on St. George Island……………………..

The beach calls most people and over the years, the beaches of St. George Island have been on several lists as a top beach to visit. Full disclosure……..this post will be lots of photos.

Thanks to Adrienne for capturing these sunrise photos. She timed her daily morning run to see these views.

The SGI lighthouse has quite a history with the (hopefully) last spot being it’s current location, easily seen driving onto the island. Google its history.

We saw the beach this week in her many moods.

Our feathered friends were more prevalent than humans.

This guy wasn’t so lucky.

Shells (and pieces) collect along the tide line (or have a little help).

You didn’t have to look very hard to see storm damage.

Or sometimes you just find ‘things’.

Stepping away from the beach.

A random chair on my daily jaunt.

One of many boats that had seen better days.

I found this sign that states “Beach to Bay Access”. I don’t think so. You would need a machete to cut your path and hopefully scare the snakes as you’re chopping the bushes back.

Ultimately, everyone ends up at the beach, even Eric.

I didn’t see the sunrise during my daily runs (I use that turn loosely) but was able to capture a few interesting beach photos.

We found a cool spot to watch the sun set and end a day on SGI.

Ginny

2020 S.G.I. chapter 4

A day in Apalachicola……………….

Approaching the city is impactful due to the bridge crossing the water, then there’s a curve in the bridge, dropping you down onto main street. Stores come and go through the years but there’s a few favorites (mine) that have hung on.

Riverlily:

This is a shop for your ‘senses’. Husbands probably say it smells. Their store scent is part of their schtick and it definitely hits you in the face once you open the door. The store has been around 20+ years and their owners are known for their unique jewelry and greeting cards. I found this photo on-line. It doesn’t begin to speak to the multitude of interesting items in their store, but it’s a start. They can pack a LOT of things in a small space.

The story goes…………..a couple moved here and she couldn’t find any greeting cards, so she opened up her own store with cards favoring her style. They carry eclectic clothing, soaps & scents. I’ve found such unique items as Christmas ornaments and a line of bags/purses handmade in CO. There’s one of those in my closet. Last year’s purchase. 🙂

Grady Market:

View facing the Apalachicola River.

This has upscale and casual clothing within a dozen+ shops located on the first floor of the building. The second floor has rooms available for visitors, called The Consulate. Maybe some day we’ll stay there.

Back-side of Grady Market with a garden and fountains.

Jewelry, decorative kitchenware and specialized food items have been past purchases. Oh yeah, they carry an interesting assortment of Life is Good merchandise and many purchases have come from that section.

Piggy Wiggly:

While not exactly downtown, it is easily walkable – for most of us. 🙂 For 30+ years it has been locally owned and operated with a Piggy Wiggly Express on SGI (a godsend – just saying). Their website says “Small town service meets big city selection.” Definitely a solid statement. You can find some amazing things in this grocery. Have you ever seen this many options for mayo or hotsauce in a small town?

Look at all of those tomatoes.

While they’ve had a good selection of cheeses, now you can have a chacuterie plate. Who would have guessed?

And as you would expect, a good selection of Oyster City beer.

There are a number of State Parks within the city. We always bring new visitors to the……….

Gorrie Museum:

Yep, a (really) bad photo.

Alas, it is closed due to Covid-19. This was posted on their entry door. Inside you can see a replica of his invention: a machine designed to convert water into ice. Yep, that’s right, the precursor to Air Conditioning! Sorry Adrienne, next trip we will get you inside.

You could walk the grounds, which are not extensive but his grave is located on the grounds (3rd and final resting spot), along with historic markers telling his story.

Which brings us to another State Park…….

The Orman House:

It is a stately antebellum home built in 1838 overlooking Apalachicola River. It was occupied for 165 years by a member of the Orman family until 1994. New owners made this into a Bed & Breakfast before the state purchased the property in 2001 and it became a state park. This is one of the few museums that have re-opened and had not seen many visitors. The ranger reminded me of the old commercials for the lonely ‘Maytag’ repairman. He was very chatty – but nice.

I was a little chagrined when I saw a holiday wreath on the front door – until I saw one of the components, oyster shells. 🙂 Hhhhmmmm, interesting idea.

No visit to Apachicola is complete without a stop at this establishment.

Oyster City Brewing Company:

It opened in 2014 and has won numerous awards. Loved their thoughts shared on their website.

Water. The town’s rich history is built upon the Apalachicola River and the nearby bay. Everyone stops at the Riverfront Park for a few photos and I was no exception.

A shrimp fleet is nearby, but a few shrimp trawlers are always parked along the riverfront.

With some wildlife wanting to take advantage of a few stray shrimp that might possibly escape.

It’s a sleepy little town in the winter which expands to a bustling summer spot when the temps are warm and the beach beckons. One day, we’ll arrive, put down roots and see all the seasons as a local.

Ginny