Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Weather or Not...Here We Come!

Weather or Not...Here We Come

I generally pray for sunny days whenever company comes our way from up north. They expect it. And, we generally have great weather during the winter months here in Florida. February in Florida rarely disappoints. 

 

My youngest daughter and her two little girls planned a short trip to see us over President’s Day. Mike and I watched the weather. It was not looking good. Though February is normally a mild month with plenty of sunshine, forecasters were predicting an onslaught of rain over the holiday weekend.

 

Rain it did… and it was cold.

 

We picked up the girls from the Orlando airport late Saturday evening and made our way through the rain back to our home on the Nature Coast. (Yep, the Nature Coast was last week’s blog topic.) 

 

Our house is in total disarray as we are remodeling. No kitchen with lots of drywall work and such. The fireplace front is gone and we have new lights and outlets in or going in…you get the idea. 

 

I wasn’t worried about any of that. My daughter, Kendall, and her two little girls have lived through their own remodel recently. They are flexible on that front.

 

What did concern me was the weather. Mike and I prayed for good weather. Saturday night was obviously wet. I hoped it would change. 

 

It didn’t. Sunday morning was rainy and cold. And it lingered. We planned to take the girls to Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River. The springs are known for hosting a bevy of manatees. Crystal River isn’t far from where we live. The girls had been there one other time, but it was during warmer weather and they only saw one manatee the whole time.

 

The benefit of a chilly rain? Manatees love to stay near the Springs in cooler temperatures. The water in the Springs stays between 72 and 74 degrees. We saw dozens of the large, graceful creatures. We were bundled and warm. We had umbrellas and a rain poncho. And… we had phones with cameras. 

 


Manatees are fun to watch. They are gentle. God created them with a “do no harm” attitude. They are more of a "live and let live" mammal and their only enemy? Humans.

 

On the way home, we talked about how the chilly rain proved to be beneficial. We were able to see the beautiful creatures up close and active.

 

The other “must do” on the girls’ list was to go to The Cove. The Cove is a restaurant located on our lake. The notion that we are able to climb in our boat to go out to eat intrigued the girls. But though the chilling rain was perfect for viewing manatees swimming in the warm spring water, it wasn’t looking good for taking the boat out.

 

Then Monday dawned.  It was sunny. Warm. Calm. 

 

"Get in the Boat...We're Going Out to Eat!"

It was perfect weather for jumping in the boat and heading across the lake to The Cove. We sat outside and ordered our food. Although the girls loved the manatee excursion, I think taking a boat out to eat was the highlight of their stay with us. I should note here that The Cove’s food is amazingly good. After lunch we toured the some of the lake before docking back at our house. 

 

The visit for them? Sweet memories. Memories of rain and manatees. Memories of water and sunshine. Memories of a boat ride and lunch on the lake.  

 

The visit was short, but for me? It was a time to treasure.

 

Right: Parking at the Cove 



Below: The Youngest Granddaughter Looking Over 

the Menu Wearing Mike's Sunglasses



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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

The Nature Coast

 The Nature Coast

 

When I was growing up in Florida, geography was easy. Our part of Florida was defined as the West Coast (meaning on the Gulf of Mexico) with the Panhandle to the north. There was the East Coast (all along the Atlantic Ocean), and the Florida Keys to the south. Large regions in the middle were labeled North Florida, Central Florida, and South Florida. And of course, we had the Everglades, which were a separate entity altogether. 

Sunset on the Nature Coast


In the early 1970’s Florida added “Disney World,” or as my husband calls it, “The House of the Mouse” as a Central Florida landmark. 


Weather forecasters would say, “We’re expecting some rain this afternoon here on the West Coast, but folks at Disney should have clear skies all day long.“

 

I moved to Ohio in 1978. I’m now back in Florida and trying to figure out what happened to the state I knew in my youth. Yes, it has grown in population, with houses and condos seemingly sprouting up everywhere, but I’m talking about the geography of the place.

 

Now, the weather is defined by the Space Coast, the Treasure Coast, and the Gold Coast…all on the Atlantic side... while on the Gulf side, we have areas such as the Sun Coast, Emerald Coast, and Nature Coast

 

There’s even an area known as the Forgotten Coast…but don’t ask me where it is. I don’t remember.

 

Mike and I live in that area known as the Nature Coast. 

 

Aptly named, by the way.  We see deer on our way to church, critters like rabbits and squirrels in our yard, Great Blue Herons on our beach, and fish, turtles, and gators in the lake. There are birds in the trees, dragonflies and beautiful butterflies in the green grass and flowers. The Three Sister’s spring in nearby Crystal River is home to manatee seeking warmth in winter. We love our neck of the woods here on the Nature Coast.

 

It is filled with surprises. 

 

For example, this past week, Mike went out early one morning with the dogs before I was even out of bed. He rushed back inside, calling my name. He had something to show me. I threw a light jacket over my pajamas and followed him to the dock.

 

“Up there,” he pointed. 

 

A beautiful owl was perched in the rafters of the roof covering our boat lift. 

 

“I walked out on the dock and he was perched on that first post,” Mike said. “I walked right past him and didn’t see him! Then he flew up there.” 


 

We stood there a few minutes staring at the beautiful creature. He stared back.


We didn’t have a clue why an owl, a nocturnal animal, would take refuge on our dock. We wanted to make sure the creature was okay. We called the fish and game commission. 

 


“He’s probably exhausted,” the man on the end of the line told us. 

 

The bird wasn’t aggressive. He wasn’t hurting anyone. We told him he was welcome to stay and kept watch on him. He slept through most of the day, but would open one eye whenever we were near.

 

When night fell, I guess he had regained his strength. The next morning he was gone. 

 

I hope he marked us on his travel log as a safe and restful retreat. Time will tell.

 

See why I love the Nature Coast? It's full of more Treasure than anyone could imagine on the Atlantic side; as many interesting flights worth watching as the Space Coast could offer. No wonder my mother has always called this region her favorite part of Florida…never to be Forgotten

 

And if you read my post in August of 2023….you’ll know that right here in Citrus County is indeed the Gold at the end of the rainbow!

 

If you missed that post: Here You Go! It’s pretty amazing how a person’s life is so richly connected…when you take the time to look for the treasure.

Click here: Here is our Pot of Gold!

 

And a couple of pictures from our yard...




Gotta love the blooms in February!

Even the Magnolia is blooming! 

 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Soup Night...Spanish Style


Soup Night...Spanish Style

 If you follow my blog, you know I am once again “a new bride.” Our first anniversary is coming up in April, but until then? We are still Newlyweds! 

 

As Mike and I have both been widowed and we are both past our, uh, …let’s say “past our fifties…uh…okay…past our sixties.” I’m not exactly learning my way around the kitchen as I did as an eighteen-year-old bride to Tom Waters.  

 

Still, I am learning …or at least trying new recipes for foods Mike likes. A few have been new to me. (If you missed my blog on making picadillo, I’ll put a link at the bottom for you.) Picadillo is now one of our favorites. I don’t always make it with rice. We like it with mashed potatoes as well. It is quick and easy and remains one of Mike’s favorites.

 

Another favorite food he mentioned to me recently, now that our Florida weather has cooled a bit, is Spanish Bean Soup. (By the way, if you live in the north, don’t ask what “cooled a bit” means unless you are a glutton for punishment.) 

 

I looked up Spanish Bean Soup on the internet and realized it is what we used to call Garbanzo Bean Soup. It is warm and delicious. And easy. Life doesn’t get much better than that. 

 

So…Here You Go! Grab the ingredients and when the day looks to be a bit chilly, make a pot of Spanish Bean Soup.

The Ingredients? Easy.


 

Fair warning: Soak the beans in salted water overnight and plan your day so you can cook your soup on low for a few hours before dinnertime. I allowed 3 ½ hours cook time. That is “on the stove cook time.”

 

Ingredients:

·  Dried Garbanzo Beans (Also known as Chick Peas) My grocer had one option: a 12 ounce package of beans

·  Three packs of Spanish seasoning. (I used Sazon Goya but there are others out there. It will have garlic, cumin, and saffron in it.)

·  Minced garlic. I used one large clove. You could probably use garlic powder or even dried garlic from the spice rack.

·  Red potatoes, cubed (How many? Hmmm...)

·  Ham and/or sliced beef sausage or sliced beef kielbasa. I used both sliced beef sausage and, because I couldn’t find the ham I wanted, I found a small piece of pork at the meat counter that proved to be perfect.

·  Chicken stock and water

·  Salt and pepper

 

Pour your beans in a large kettle. I drained mine first and saved the water. Add the Spanish seasoning, minced garlic, cubed red potatoes, and ham and/or sliced beef sausage. Pour liquids over the ingredients (I used about half chicken stock and half water) until the meat, beans, and all are covered.)

 

As for the salt and pepper…I just put some in. Remember, you can always add some after if you need it, but you can’t take it out! I’ve also learned through years of cooking, (See second paragraph) that it takes less salt when you put it in the cooking water than it does if you add it after cooking.

 

Bring the soup to boil then turn the heat to low or simmer and cook for at least three and a half hours.


The soup is excellent...
and as we ARE in the South,
it is especially good with
a tall glass of Sweet Tea!


By the way, I thickened my soup a bit by adding a couple of spoonfuls of mashed potatoes. 

As you can see, this is a very forgiving recipe. Play with it Make it your own. Most of all…enjoy a warm bowl of soup on a cold February evening. And…let me know how your soup turns out! Better yet, share your favorite soup recipe on my blog or on FB and tag me!


Hmmm...It turns out making soup is a bit like writing a novel. A few staple ingredients, a bit of spice, and a twist at the end! Who knew? 

 

AND…AS PROMISED…HERE’S THE LINK TO MAKING DELICIOUS PICADILLO!