Sunday, February 27, 2011

Key Lime Pie

The Florida experience would not be complete without a Key Lime Pie for dessert at least once in our winter stay.
Actually, the first year we spent the winter here we sampled that confection more like once a week.  We felt compelled to try every bakery and determine the best available.
Key limes are not something you generally see in the typical grocery store, although I have seen bottled Key lime juice.  They are very small and yellow when ripe.  A real Key Lime Pie is also a pale yellow.  It is horrible to add green food coloring to make it look like the typical green limes that we cut into wedges to drop into a gin and tonic.
I have read recipes that call for the ingredients to be mixed and then just left to thicken, letting the acid in the limes "cook" the eggs.  I guess that is the original and most authentic way.
I also guess that lemon juice "cooks" the egg in Caesar salad dressing, and fresh made is absolutely delicious.
However, when you start to think about eating raw egg, some of the fun goes out of it.  So I don't think that anything major is lost by baking a Key Lime pie for a bit...and peace of mind is gained.
Some times you see an egg white meringue on top of the Key Lime Pie.  That's almost as bad as green food coloring.  Obviously, some cooks are confused and seem to think Key Lime should resemble a Lemon Meringue Pie.  Maybe a small dab of whipped cream to cut the sweet-tart.
If you can't stand to waste egg whites, use them to make a Baked Alaska or a yummy Pavlova.

Beat together until smooth: 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 Oz.), 4 egg yolks, 1/2 cup fresh squeezed Key lime juice, 1 teaspoon grated lime zest.  Pour into prepared graham cracker pie crust.  Bake in a 350 oven for 15-17 minutes.  Cool for several hours before serving.  Garnish with whipped cream, is desired.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

About the snake...

I am not wild about snakes, but I have made my peace with the one in the yard.  She doesn't bother me and I don't bother her--except when I go out to water plants.  I no longer go screaming and running upon seeing a snake, and I no longer call them "evil."  I just made up my mind that that's how it was going to be.  I figure if I so strongly believe that Eve unfairly became the lightning rod for all the misogyny in the world, the snake probably was getting a bad rap as well.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Spring


Our friendly neighborhood snake, Agnes, was out with us today soaking up the sun.  It was a great day for it, with temperatures around 75 degrees and just enough breeze and the occassional cloud to keep us from feeling fried.
We went out for lunch at Pop's Sunset Grille after our usual morning beach walk.  Although you miss the sunset if you go for lunch, it is a very pleasant spot to sit along the Intracoastal Waterway, drink some ice tea and watch the boats go by.  Then we went down to the North Jetty and sat by the water to read and watch the dolphins cruising back and forth.

I know that it is definitely spring because the various black birds are flying around with mouthfuls of materials for nest building.  One was stealing some of that cypress mulch that was just put down. 

They (the black birds) are all twitterpated as Thumber, I believe it was, said (the movie, Bambi).  The males are swaggering around with their tails fanned out and their wings extended, doing that "ooo, baby, look at me" dance that they think is so irresistible.  The females are all hopping around pretending that they just could not care, but then you notice the furtive little glances eventually melting into those come-hither stares.

I did watch one male really up the ante on these antics--performing his mating choreography on a telephone wire.  The female object of this affection actually looked impressed out and out.  I shouted, "He's a show-off !" but they both ignored me.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A New Wave?

I urge everyone to read Ronnie Bennett's post for today.  You can find it here.
Egypt has started something.  The countries that have followed may not be so lucky as to bring about as peaceful a revolution, but revolution is definitely in the air.
Anyone who has read the grievances that the Egyptian people were expressing--unemployment, rising prices, an increasing divide between the wealthiest and the middle class, etc.--really must be struck by the similarities with the economic situation in our own country.
Honestly, does anyone have one of those cheese hats left over from football season?  I'd wear one now.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Earthquake

I have experienced a few minor earthquakes.  One time I was pulling into our driveway and my then husband came running out of the house because he thought the jolt was from me smashing into the garage.  I was not even aware of the quake that time. 
Another time I was still in bed when the cat came racing into the room, jumped up on the bed and stood on my head looking out the window.  Within seconds, the house shook and the cat was in a tailspin screaming, "I didn't do it!"
Just last December, I was watching some TV and Mike was standing nearby when I felt the chair vibrating.  "We're having an earthquake," I announced, but Mike had not felt a thing.  We did have a small quake, by the way.
I sincerely hope that is the extent of my earthquake experience.

We have been watching the news of the quake in New Zealand yesterday.  This, and the one in September, have been no minor hiccups, no slight adjustments of the earth's crust like the quakes I have encountered.  These earthquakes have been devastating.  It's always so hard to watch that kind of disaster, but it is really brought home when you know someone personally affected.
We have friends who had just last year moved to Christchurch from the north island.  Their house was hit hard in September.  They had to move out and were not able to even start repairs because of the aftershocks right into December.  I can't help but look for a familiar face on the news but I really am hoping that they were away from the city for the day.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Some Pictures


 This plant in the back yard has started to bloom with tiny red flowers.  I don't know much about the names of Florida plants yet and I have yet to identify this one.
I'm not sure I even want to know the name of this one-- it is one bizarre looking plant.

This is the yarn I bought the other day.  The blue is kid mohair and silk blend.  I have started a lacy scarf that is entirely purl stitch.  The green is a blend of alpaca and silk.  Both yarns are delightfully soft.  I am enjoying a bit of repetitive and somewhat mindless knitting.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Landscape Project

 The landscapers had completed this island in the front by the end of Saturday afternoon.  They built a small patio and a walkway  to it in the backyard.  They were all hustle and bustle.  It amazes me how fast things get done around here. 
These are new plantings that they put in the back.  The place really does look refreshed.  They built a small planter by the front door and will return sometime this week to plant that.

The owner of the landscape business had to leave a bit early because he needed to get to his restaurant job.  I think yard work is hard, but I am quite sure I would rather do that for a living as opposed to working in a restaurant--especially in Florida during the tourist season.  I notice, now that I am retired, how incredibly hard some people work.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Busy Saturday


It's a busy day.  Mike has gone on an outing with one of the neighbors.  I stayed home because we are expecting the cable company to show up and hook up a second television so I am hanging around for that and getting the housework and laundry done.

I the mean time, the our landlord's landscape company has shown up to do some work--reworking the garden island in front, expanding the patio in the back, building a walkway along the side of the house, and putting in several new plantings.  Big job, but it will spiff things up considerably.




I spied this in a downtown shop window and just had to go in and purchase it--another gadget to help in my quest for better hydration.  Speaking of which, some one recently mentioned coconut water as a good source of potassium and then I read an article about it in the Huffington Post.  A bottle costs about $2.50 in the health food stores.  I picked some up in the Latin section of the grocery for 99 cents a can.  For that, I will give it a try.  If nothing else, I can always throw it into a fruit smoothie. I do use quite a bit of coconut milk in cooking so I should check on the potassium level of that.




Collapsing water bottle
 
I just read an article about nutrition changes to make to avoid having more medication for high blood pressure...and it was all stuff that I do so I guess the medication changes will be inevitable when I get back to my doctor for the next check.



The start of a project



Friday, February 18, 2011

Social Security

I was glad (and proud, too) to read this essay on Social Security from one of my State Senators, Bernie Sanders.  It starts with:

Social Security is the most successful social program in American history. It shouldn't be privatized; its benefits shouldn't be cut; and the retirement age shouldn't be raised.


And it just gets better from there.  Recommended reading.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Grinding to a Halt

Uh-oh.  I was in the swing there for a while with my shawl of the floral lace pattern...til I ran out of the first skein and went to get another.  I cannot believe that I left it at home, but I must have done because it is not in my bag.  So whether I want to or not, this is a project that will go untouched for the next six weeks.

What was in my knitting bag was two skeins of sock yarn and directions for knitting toe-up, two at a time on round needles.  What was I thinking?  I've had that yarn and those directions for four years now and it hasn't happened yet.  Nor is it likely any time soon.

I'm thinking a trip to the down town yarn shop to see what Florida knitters are into is in my near future.  Perhaps an evening stroll in the moonlight.  Tonight is the once-a-month occurance of the downtown staying lit up for evening shoppers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Young Old

If you missed reading TIME GOES BY last Friday, I suggest you wonder on over there and check out the video--and I don't mean the one of the kitten.  Ronni followed up with a post today--about derrieres.  It is worth wandering on over again because she includes another picture.
It got me thinking, in the way reading blogs so often does.  No, I wasn't thinking about the fact that I have grown up to be a dirty old woman.  I was thinking about what a true adventure this stage of  life has turned out to be.  Seriously, it takes a tremendous amount of courage these days to blunder into the bathroom each morning and get that first bleary eyed look in the mirror.
Oh, I coasted for a long time on having poor eyesight.  Do all my bathroom things without putting on my glasses and it is easy to go on believing that I actually look like I think I look.  Sadly, though, at some point reality has to take hold.  It catches me off guard and I have to quote Dorothy Parker to myself..."What fresh hell is this?"
It's true.  The round tush and the flat tummy?  Well they have gotten all tossed around and somehow have managed to switch places.  The blond hair with the sun kissed streaks...a memory, gone to grey now--entirely without my permission.  Feel bad about my neck?  Oh, yes, indeed.  And why, oh, why did I frown so much in my youth?  Wrinkles etched all across my forehead make me look a whole lot less happy than I actually am.  What was I frowning about anyway?  A bed wasn't made?  Some one left a dirty glass in the TV room?  Wisdom was eluding me?
I slap on my moisturizing/sun blocking lotion and cannot avoid the fact that my legs and arms are not nearly as toned as I want to think they are.  I have to draw in and coat eye brows and lashes where I want some hair and then pluck away on the places I don't.  I spent more money on special cream for lips and eye lids in the past year than I ever spent in total on make-up any previous year.
I take a good hard look in my closet and wonder why there are still articles of clothing in there that are sleeveless.  I tell myself that I am saving these things to wear under jackets or sweaters.  Scarves are my friends now.  It's not that I long to dress immodestly, or that I was ever known for my sense of style--It's just that I never thought I would look at an ad for a free workshop on 25 ways to wear a scarf and think, "Yeah, maybe I'll sign up for that."
And then there is the health angle.  Slap on a the home blood pressure cuff and/or take a daily dose of atenenol.  How can I not be reminded on a daily basis that good health is not a guarantee and life is indeed fleeting.
These are hard truths.  And yet these things, apart from dwelling on them here, take up mere moments of any given day.  Once I have that coffee (that has dulled my teeth over the years), I am out the door and on my walk.  I hear birds singing and smell fresh air and my legs and arms are in motion, taking me where I want to go.  My mind is free and I am planning my day or my week and life is good.
Last fall, my grand daughter commented, "You're old."  When I looked at her, she continued, "You are old because you are a grandma.  But you are a pretty young old because you still pick me up."  I choose to take that as a compliment.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

Read about the history of Valentine's Day and check out an interesting video or two HERE.


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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gifts

This was a glorious morning for a walk on the beach.  It was a bit on the cool side, but the breeze was gentle and the sky was clear and blue.  The past week had been quite windy and the gulf waters had been pretty rough so the sandy portions of the beach had been carved into steep step formations with a black reef uncovered just off the shore.  The entire character of the beach changes on a daily basis, so it is never boring.
Today it seemed like the most fitting place for us to be on a Sunday morning.  I couldn't have been more inspired or renewed in any church.
As we walked along the shore we could see a dolphin swimming just along the black reef, no more than twenty feet away.  It popped its head out of the water as if to look at us, then circled around a couple of times and came up again.  We felt truly that we were given a gift at that moment.

Yesterday we took a walk at the Marby Carlton, Jr. Memorial Preserve.  We took a trail around a wet prairie area and were able to watch a nesting sandhill crane, great white herons poking around in the marsh, and a huge alligator sunning his fat old self on the bank.  Later we walked to a pond where there were wood storks, great blue and little blue herons, ducks I could not identify, and swallows buzzed over the surface like a swarm of mosquitoes.

We also happened upon a family of racoons also out for an afternoon stroll.  Florida racoons get reall, really big.  I thought I was seeing a bear at first.  Two of them ran off as we approached, but two climbed up to safety and a tree and then watched us watching them for the longest time.

It is amazing to me how rural Florida becomes as you move away from the coastline.  It only takes a few miles to be smack in the middle of cattle and farm country, and a bit deeper into the interior and it is wilderness of scrub pine and palmetto trees that is both awe inspiring and just a bit scary.  I just love it.
Resurrection fern on an oak tree
Whose more curious? Them or us?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A New Time in Egypt

Egypt's Mubarak has resigned.  Now we wait to see what will happen next.

"Egyptians have inspired us, and they've done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained by violence," Obama said. "For Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence, not terrorism, not mindless killing, but nonviolence, moral force, that bent the arc of history toward justice once more."

Let's hope that what follows this arc of justice and moral force will continue to be without violence to the world.

And what about the very powerful role technology has played in bringing about this revolution?

The seemingly unmovable president was finally toppled by an uprising that grew from small groups of young activists organizing on the Internet. Google manager Wael Ghonim, 30 -- who set up a popular protest page on Facebook and is now seen as one of the revolution's figureheads -- told CNN that he wanted to thank Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for supplying the tools that helped mobilize masses of Egyptians.

It can be so easy to consider the computer a toy, a recreational tool.  I say this non-facetiously--Maybe Mark Zuckerberg will get the Nobel Peace Prize.




Thursday, February 10, 2011

Humidity

I was talking to a woman from Canada the other day.  She was surprised that the Florida weather was not having a beneficial effect on her arthritis.  Gee, I wouldn't think so with the humidity.  It seems to me that the "aches and pain" guide on the weather site always warns about sore joints when the humidity is high. 

It has been humid.  I have fuzzy hair and I cannot finish addressing an envelope before it is stuck shut and badly wrinkled.  I guess that this warm wet air meeting cold fronts as it moves north is what is leading to the great snow storms of this winter.  I'm not complaining because I like the warmth here, but I do sympathize with folks back home.  I just wish I had manageable hair and that I could send off a card without it looking like a bear mauled it first.

I tried to find some beneficial effects of high humidity on the internet.  Apparently there are none.  It aggravates all kinds of conditions, causes fatigue because the body has to work harder to try to cool itlself when sweat does not evporate off the skin, and provides perfect conditions for mold and cockroaches.  And have I mentioned the scary hair?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bits and Pieces

Overheard:  I wanted to know what was really the story with this Egypt thing so I tuned in Fox News    Fox is the only one that doesn't give you spin.  Believe me, I've watched them all over the years.  If you want just the truth, go to Fox.
Oh, my.  We all have our own perspective and each of us is entitled to his or her own opinion.  So, mister, exactly what color do you believe the sky to be?
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My shawl is moving along nicely right now, but it is going to be a long time until completion.  I started with 84 stitches and increase every other row by eight.  I am now up to 388 and will have to keep going until I reach 1196 and then I will have to do the border around it.  Seems kind of daunting.  It takes a pretty long time to get across a row when up to several hundred stitches.
I happened to see a shawl in a store window downtown the other day.  It was a large-knit stockinette stitch rectangle that wraps  around the  shoulders and  is secured with two over sized buttons.  A weekend project.  I didn't go into the store to check the price.  I didn't want to know.
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Mike has continued to do a bit of yard work each week.  This week he pulled out some dead vines.  I promptly rescued them from the yard waste barrel and fashioned them into a wreath that I then decorated with shells.  We make a good team, and the front door needed a little perking up.
The actual owners of the house are planning to do some landscaping--rather have it done--sometime soon.  The man who bought the property just to the back of us has been doing a major project in that yard--clearing out brush and some trees.  It has made a big difference in the light reaching our back yard as well.  It's a nice quiet neighborhood when all the work is done for the day!
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I have just started reading The Problem with Murmer Lee by Connie May Fowler who is a Florida writer.  I am drawn right in.  I will definitely look into some of her other books when I finish this one.  I understand that Oprah made a movie from one of her books, but I had never heard of her before.  I saw an article about her in Southern Living Magazine at the library.
I see, also, that Alice Hoffman has a new book out.  I will look for that as well.   Her Turtle Moon is in a three way tie with The Hundred Secret Senses (Amy Tan) and Beloved (Toni Morrison) for my all time favorite book.
So...off to read for a bit.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, Grandson

Oh, you were such a cutie pie baby.
I can't believe you are FOUR years old!
AND still a cutie pie.
Love and kisses from Grandma

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Sunday

Can it be?  Here again?  The Super Bowl -- the Steelers, the Packers -- makes no difference to me.  I have my knitting project and I have plenty to read.  Mike will have the television on, but not tuned to football at all.  He will just be interested to watch the commercials on line tomorrow. 
We didn't even go to the grocery store for beer and lots of salty, orange snack foods.  We have not called for a pizza delivery.  Gee, we sound totally un-American. 
Maybe we should turn out all the lights and go to bed early.  Let the neighbors think we are out at a Super Bowl party rather than letting them get a glimpse of PBS flashing through the front window.
Well, if forced to pick a team, I'd go with the Steelers since I was born in Pennsylvania and I am trying for that vegetarian-inclined lifestyle.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dessert

Not to sound obnoxious to my snowbound friends and family, but I took a walk to the Farmer's Market and bought some fresh strawberries.  This is their season here.  I used them for a dessert that consisted of a puff pastry shell filled with vanilla pudding and topped with the sliced berries splashed with a touch of orange liqueur.  I used instant pudding mix but used lite coconut milk instead of dairy.  Yummy.
The first time we came to Florida in the winter, I was mildly surprised to see fresh strawberries even though I'd expected to see fresh tomatoes and citrus fruits.  But, I was most surprised to see winter squashes and pumpkins freshly harvested in March.  I guess in my experience acorn squash and pumpkin season was even further away than strawberry season (June, in Vermont).
There will be stacks of fresh corn at all the produce markets pretty soon.  That is one thing we never buy in Florida.  It just does not compare to the corn we buy in August in Vermont.  Corn and, of course, maple syrup--that draws us back home.
Well, and family, too.  But, hey, family members...you are always welcome to come visit us here!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Do I Wanna Know?

According to a recent post in Time Goes By, a test for the plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease is likely to be available within the year.
A rock drops to the pit of my stomach just thinking about that.  My mother suffered from senile dementia--it was never definitively diagnosed as AD--for at least the last dozen years of her life.  Every time I have the slightest brain fart, I get that sense of impending doom.  Never mind that forgetfulness has been a part of my personality since I was able to spell my own name--or not.   hey, it was an easy spelling to forget.
So I can maybe find out if I am likely to get Alzheimer's.  Do I want to know?  NO!  Do I think it would be the responsible thing to do to find out and plan?  Yes.  Will I line up for an evaluation as part of a study or as a potential patient soon as it is available?  I really don't know.  I REALLY DON"T KNOW!
I mean screening for something there is treatment and even cure for--that is one thing.  Just knowing what your eventual fate might be--I just don't don't necessarily see the upside to that.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Some thoughts on education today...

This is for all the educators--retired or still in the business--a referral to this letter to a superintendent.

I really felt the need to retire (special education teacher at a middle school) when I realized that after 33 years the job was just not getting any easier with the help of experience.  It just kept getting harder and more demanding--like any other job at the time--do more with less.

I don't know if all states have a wellness program for teachers.  We do in Vermont and retirees are eligible to join in as well.  It is a good program that provides information and incentives for healthier lifestyles.  The thing is, it has only been since I retired that I could fully participate.

For one thing participation involves a bit of paperwork--just not something I could add to my plate while I was working.  There is also a lot of emphasis on good nutrition--all stuff I knew anyway--but honestly, when I was dragging myself home in the dead dark of evening, the last thing I could possibly imagine was cooking.
Even the thought of deciding what to cook was sometimes beyond me.

Exercise?  I left for work twenty minutes and a cup of coffee after getting up--around 6:15 A.M. if I was lucky, so I could beat the school bus traffic on my 15 mile drive.  It was dark and I was too tired on the way home.  I usually just drove right past the gym that gave us teachers a deal on a membership in cooperation with the wellness program.  I felt better if I did stop and exercise but that didn't lead me to stop on a regular basis.

A walk at lunch time?  Um, on a twelve minute lunch break the choice stuff down a sandwich OR take advantage of the one bathroom opportunity.  Hunger or a urinary tract infection.  With one possible bathroom break in the course of six hours, guess which option usually won out.

This year, the program emphasis is on getting adequate sleep.  Stress reduction is always a feature of the program.  Had I been able to fall asleep when my head hit the pillow and sleep through an entire night--even just one or two nights a week the last five or six years I was teaching--I might have made it to full retirement age.  I have always needed my sleep so being sleep deprived hits me like a ton of bricks.  My sleep was so out of whack, I ended up having to do the whole sleep study in the hospital and then going for "sleep therapy" for a couple of months a whole year after I retired.

I am not a particularly stupid person. I knew that exercise and adequate sleep are important to health and wellness.  I knew all about healthy food choices and that processed foods and fast foods were not the way to go.  I knew stress could be a killer.  And, I knew that "not having the time" is a major cop out excuse.
Knowing all that, I still did not muster the psychic energy to fully deal with the stress and so it just kept mounting. 

Fortunately for me, I was in a position to choose an early retirement.  I at least had enough awareness to realize I could live with less money, but I could not live with any more stress.

Don't get me wrong.  I applaud Vermont's efforts to support and promote wellness.  The benefits are not just for individuals either.  School systems would benefit from decreased insurance payouts and fewer sick day costs.  I'm just saying school systems and their communities have to support a culture of wellness across the board.  And that includes appreciating and nurturing individual talents and learning/teaching styles.  That includes opportunities for physical activity and creative activity and plain old down time.  From my reading of the letter to a superintendent, I wonder.   How much does it happen?