Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Pot of Gold

 That Elusive Pot of Gold 

 

In August of 2022, I drove from Ohio to Lutz, Florida for my high school reunion. It was deemed Chamberlain’s Class of 71’s “Fifty+One” reunion. (We had to forgo the fifty-year gathering due to COVID.) 

 

My mom came with me. She misses her Florida friends, so a few days before the reunion, we drove to Dunnellon to visit with her lifelong friend, Mary. 


On our way back to Lutz, the weather was rainy. The traffic on US Hwy 41 was crazy. We forged ahead but when I saw a sign pointing to I-75 I decided to take that alternate route and avoid all of the traffic on US 41 and the construction we knew existed just north of the Lake House where we were staying in Lutz. 

 

I couldn’t help but take pictures. The route was beautiful with a lake on one side, near the highway and lush greenery everywhere. But what made it photo worthy was the rainbow stretching over the highway like a colorful frame.


 


I managed to capture several shots on my phone without causing a wreck. We followed the highway to the interstate and made our way south.

 

The day before the reunion, I called Mike Tyler. Mike lived on the same road as the lake house. I had offered the Lake House as a venue for a potluck picnic on Sunday, the day after the reunion. Mike had offered to help me with the picnic. I hadn’t seen the man in years. We talked and made a plan. He offered to drive me to the reunion as well. I accepted.

 

The CHS Class Reunion was filled with laughter, good food, dancing, and great conversations. Mike and I now recognize that evening as our first date. 


This Sunday was the first anniversary of that first date.
So...the clothes we wore to the reunion,
 we wore to church on Sunday!

The picnic the next day was perfect. The icing on the cake? That came Monday morning when Mike came back to the Lake House to pick up his grills before I headed back to Ohio. He loaded the grills in his truck, turned to say good-bye, and…he kissed me.

 

Ours was a long distance relationship with him making several trips to Ohio. I already had a month long stay planned for Florida in February. Mike and I texted and talked every day. We started talking about marriage. We planned a wedding for April 2023 and started looking at where we would live. 

 

We decided to keep the Ohio house and find a home of our own in Florida. We agreed to move north of the Tampa Bay area. With our realtor, Jake Yates, we toured several houses. Finally, well out of the region we had been searching, Mike’s sister found a house on-line that held promise. 

 

Mike toured it with our realtor. Jake walked through with his video camera for me. We made an offer and purchased our home, closing on the deal a few weeks after our wedding. 

 

It is perfect for us. We love the town of Inverness. We love the house. We love the location. And it’s on a lake. It fits us. 

 

Our home feels like a gift.

 

Maybe it is. You see… that picture I took on Highway 44 a year ago? That’s the road I now travel to the grocery store. It’s the route we take to go to church. And that beautiful lake I spoke of as I crossed it in 2022? That’s the lake where we now live. 

 

Our home? Like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.


If you missed links about "Our Story" I've listed a few posts here you will want to read.


The Picnic 

And He Will Direct Your Path

The Proposal



Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Tuesday is Laundry Day

 Tuesday is Laundry Day

 

Marrying a second time requires being open to change. Especially when you’ve lived alone for a period of time. When Mike and I married, Mike had been widowed over thirty years. It had been over eight years since my husband, Tom, had died. 

 

When you live alone, you get set in certain ways. New routines and the ebb and flow of life become established over time. Routines make us feel comfortable. Secure.

 

When you remarry, it means you have to learn or adapt to someone else’s likes or dislikes. It means negotiating what channel to watch on television or when to watch something. Sometimes it means deciding between wrestling and westerns. At least for him. I would choose a western over wrestling every time.

 

And…it means adjusting to “Tuesday is laundry day.” For years Mike has taken on the chore of doing the laundry each and every Tuesday. It is part of his routine.

 

Me? I always tended to do laundry on an “as needed” basis. When my three daughters were young and all living at home that was pretty much a daily operation.  As they grew I included them in the task. Still, laundry was always my job. Like it or not, I did all the laundry. 



When Mike and I married last April, he made it clear he does the laundry. On Tuesday. “Tuesday is laundry day,” he told me. Who am I to argue with someone intent on doing the task of washing, drying, folding, and putting clothes away?

 

I learned to make sure my dirty clothes were in the hamper for the main event. I didn’t need to sort or prewash. I wasn’t asked to move things from the washer to the dryer. I didn’t need to fold or hang or anything. I do pitch in with putting clothes away from time to time. He appreciates it when I do, but he doesn’t expect it.

 

It is as if I am living in a castle… like a princess in a fairy tale. 

I feel like a pampered woman.

 

It isn’t as though I sit around all day eating bonbons. If you read last week’s post on the Cuban dish picadillo, you may have gleaned from that entry I do most of the cooking. And the grocery shopping. I actually love to cook so that’s good. 

 

Mike mows outside. I run the vacuum inside. We didn’t fuss over that one. He loves his John Deere. I love my Roomba. 

 

There are other areas where we’ve had to adjust. Not many. In fact, we are alike in many ways. When I started writing this post, I asked Mike, “What are some of the adjustments we’ve had to make?”

 

He thought about it and mentioned the laundry and cooking. He said, “I don’t know, Babe, I think we get along a lot better than a lot of folks do who’ve been married longer than we have.”

 

I told him, “I agree.” But I’m not sure he heard me. He was heading back into the bedroom to put the clean clothes away.

 

Like I said, “Tuesday is laundry day.”

 

 

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Country Cooking...Cuban Style

 Country Cooking… Cuban Style

 

I enjoy cooking for Mike. He is pretty receptive to me trying new recipes and kind when they don’t turn out as planned. Some of my cooking is limited because I don’t have all of the cookware I had in Ohio.

 

Use Mike’s cookware? I love the man, but Door Dash apparently never delivered colanders, measuring spoons, steamers…or…well, you get the idea. Mike is great at grilling hamburgers and I hear he is the family hero at frying turkeys for Thanksgiving, but the everyday stuff? Not so much. 

 

Still, I have to give him credit. He is not picky. And he is always open to going out to eat if that’s what I want to do. The simple truth is this: I like to cook. I like to try new things and replicate dishes we both like. Mike encourages me and doesn’t criticize my efforts at all. Even when it doesn’t turn out quite as I expected.

 

Breakfast is easy. He eats whatever I offer. Lunch is usually sandwiches and chips. Dinner? This is where there could be some issues. I’ll admit it. 

 

My biggest hits have been meatloaf, a couple of my Italian dishes and beef stroganoff. He liked the Impossible Taco Pie the second day better than the first, but then, so did I.

 

We both grew up with good Cuban food in Tampa. I’ve made chicken and yellow rice with black beans. I haven’t gathered all I need for Cuban sandwiches and I don’t know about making a few of the menu items I order at authentic Cuban restaurants, but I’m always willing to try.

 

One of Mike’s favorite Cuban dishes is Picadillo. I had never made it but a few clicks on the internet and I felt ready to give it a try. I added all I needed to my regular grocery list, which, by the way, always includes such staples as sweet tea and ice cream. I digress. Sorry about that.

 

Anyway, I picked up the large pitted green olives, the sazon sauce mixes, the garlic, bell pepper, and such. I always have ground beef on hand. And onions. I also had a fair stock of olive oil, tomato sauce, and spice cabinet go-to-s such as cumin, sugar, and salt. 

 

I wanted to surprise Mike so I chopped my onions, peppers, garlic, and olives ahead of time while he was busy outside. I put them in airtight containers and tucked them in the refrigerator. 


Grabbing ingredients!
Raisins are Optional

I had never eaten picadillo so as I cooked I wasn’t sure I was on the right track. Everything looked right and I followed the recipe exactly as it was written. I made white rice as a side and plated our meals. 


I knew Mike was pleased. 

His prayer over our meal reflected as much. But he hadn’t tasted it yet. As he prayed out loud I was silently praying it would taste good.

 

I liked it. So did Mike. When I asked him a day or two later about what I cook that he likes, picadillo topped the list. And after eating it, I think it could use a touch more garlic and Mike really would like more of the green olives. 

 

We ate most of our Cuban meal
before I remembered I should snap a picture!

I’ve been mulling over the experience. We tend to think recipes from different countries are somehow more complicated or fancier than our own leaning toward “country cooking.” 


Turns out, people all over the world pull the foods they have together the same as we do here. It is ALL Country Cooking…just different countries.

 

 

 

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

The Airboat Adventure

 The Airboat Adventure

Complete With Pictures

 

The Everglades. Lincoln Vail. Crime fighter. Protector of the Glades. Hero. 

 

But what I remember most about the television series was Lincoln Vail’s patrol vehicle: An Airboat. 


The show aired in the 1960’s. I remember thinking how much fun it would be to drive an airboat. Or at least ride in one like Ron Howard’s little brother, Clint, did a few years later in the opening shots of Gentle Ben.

 

Gliding atop the water with the wind blowing your hair looked like the best water ride ever. But I never did it. 

 

Until this past week, that is.

 


Airboats are prevalent on our lake. It’s a big lake so it isn’t like they overrun us, but often, on the weekends, we hear them buzzing by, skirting our cove and gliding over the tall grassy areas.

 

Lou, my sister-in-law, is always ready for an adventure. So when her niece came to town, they decided to put an airboat ride on the calendar and invited me to join them. We made our reservations with a man at The Cove for a Monday. 


(Yes, you may remember The Cove restaurant from my post in June I called “The Cool Kids.” If not, you can CLICK HERE to read it.)

 

There were seven passengers and our captain/tour guide, Derek. There were very few instructions. No lifejackets. No spiel about water safety. Everyone boarded, ready for the adventure.


We donned the noise reduction earphones and were soon on our way. Derek steered the boat out of the cove on onto our lake. Well, sort of. We didn’t need to hit the deep water. We skimmed across the grassy area of the cove and darted into channels carved in the shallow shelf of the lake. Channels carved by airboats. 

 


It was a hot day, so the wind was wonderful. I was anxious to take pictures. There were numerous birds, huge stands of cypress trees, and tons of lily pads blooming.  We twisted and turned through the water and grass. I was completely turned around when Lou asked if we were still on our lake. I shrugged an “I don’t know,” but Derek confirmed it was indeed our lake. Soon we were flying by our own little cove. I recognized the houses and trees Mike and I know as our neighborhood.

 

It was exhilarating.




 

We slowed down to cross into another lake via a “no wake” zone. This lake, smaller and much more shallow than Lake Henderson was riddled with channels ideal for airboats. Eventually, we came to a stop in a space shaded by huge trees. It was an opportunity to take pictures, ask questions, and rest. 



 

After passing under the bridge once more we were soon speeding along yet another route. This route led us back to our dock at The Cove. We slowed as we pulled up to the water’s edge.


The airboat ride was over. 


Still, Mike and I wake up each morning to a cool breeze off the lake. We watch the birds and fish around the dock. The sun reflects off the surface of the water as if it were a watery field salted with diamonds.

 

The airboat adventure may be over but the lake adventure lives on.


And one last picture...what do you think might be there in the water? A correct guess gets kudos from me!




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Hiking Across Florida

Hiking Across Florida


When I was growing up in Florida, “Beach Week” was a time-honored week off to swim, ski, sunbathe, and play before that summer job began or the packing got underway for college. Of late, it’s been noted in some circles as more of a drinking party mixed with drugs and sex, but in the late sixties and early 1970’s, it was a week for seventeen and eighteen year olds to breathe in summer and be free of work or school.  

 

In June of 1970, after the high school seniors had walked the graduation corridor and the juniors were gearing up for their senior year, a group of six friends gathered for their version of “Beach Week.” All boys.

 

Three of the boys graduated that year. The other three were about to enter their senior year at George D. Chamberlain High School in Tampa, Florida. They could do as many of my friends did and drive to a West Coast beach a few times during the week, but the family of one of the boys owned a vacation cabin on a canal leading to a large lake north of Tampa. A getaway. A place where the boys could take a boat out and ski all day long. They could fish if they liked, play cards in the evening, or simply “hang out.” 

 

After a few days of “all guys” the six decided it would be fun to check out some of the girls at a beach. Not a west coast beach near them. They decided the real fun would be to drive to Daytona Beach on the other coast. That’s where the kids with money headed. It was an easy two or three hour drive. The boys were dressed in “cut-offs” and no shoes. A couple of the guys donned t-shirts. Between the six, they had enough money for gas and lunch.

 

The day started out great. 

Six guys in a ’66 four speed GTO. 

A cool car at Daytona Beach.

 

They cruised the strip along the beach looking at cute girls. They got out to swim in the ocean a couple of times, stopped for a hamburger and late in the day headed back home. At least that was the plan.

 

I-95 was a new interstate at the time. They were close to the exit for Highway 44 West when the transmission went out in the GTO. Not cool. 

 

This was long before cell phones. Not that they were terribly interested in calling home for help. That was sure to involve questions and a lecture of some sort. So they set out on foot. 

 

Once on Highway 44 they hoped to catch a ride back across the state to Floral City. Not many drivers were interested in picking up a rag tag group of boys. So they walked. Eventually, they split into pairs, figuring they might have a better chance of catching a ride that way. That strategy met with some success, but as the day waned, so did the rides. 

 

The boys kept walking. They were about 2/3 of the way along the highway leading west to Inverness and eventually to Floral City when a kind man picked up the last two hikers. The boys waved at their friends as they rode past them. Two of the six told me how at first they were miffed when those guys flew by waving. 

 

It was getting late. Darkness was on them all. The man dropped the two lucky riders off in Floral City. They trekked along the dirt road then swam across a canal at night to get to the house. 

 

The two lucky travelers grabbed the keys to one of the other cars and headed back for their friends. 

 

It was a trip to remember. 

 

Those six boys grew to be strong men. Each has told and retold the story of how they hiked across the state of Florida. I, myself, have heard that story often. I’ve heard it shared as an example of perseverance. I’ve heard it shared as a story of friendship.

 

The story is one of connection and inspiration. It is a story that helped shape two special men in life. You see, my late husband, Tom, and my husband, Mike, were friends. 

 

Tom and Mike. Friends who hiked together across Florida on a late summer night in 1970.