Welcome to my "Florida" blog

Being a third generation Florida native, I'm completely enamored with the diverse beauty of this gorgeous peninsula. For most of the year the weather is divine which makes exploring its unlimited nooks and crannies fun and easy.

Wherever I go I appreciate nature and the world around me. Come along with me as I share the places I visit and perhaps a few other amusements I find interesting along the way.

(FYI: Every post prior to January 1, 2009 was previously published and imported from my garden blog)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Florida Winter

Is there ever better weather in Florida than now? I have to tell you I am drinking in the beauty of the weather we have been having. Bluer than blue skies, crystal clear, sunny, and bright ... almost everyday.

In the shade of my towering oak trees the climate is nearly perfect. Or ... as goldilocks has been known to say... just right.

So... what do I spend every spare minute doing? You can find me in my garden in February. It's time for projects, digging, pruning, planting, dividing, transplanting, propagating, sowing of seeds.

Florida winter. On days (like this Monday & Tuesday- ahhh, bliss) when the temps don't rise over 65 degrees and start out in the low 50's I can work for hours on end and then Mr. Meems has to beg me to come inside. Well, he doesn't really beg. Ever. But you get the idea.

What about you? What's YOUR favorite season?
I can't imagine living anywhere other than my beloved Florida in winter?
Just try to forget about Florida's hot summer for now. It's winter and we are loving it!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Simply Fresh Seafood

With all the visits to the beach lately and all the talk of eating great seafood it is only fair to give you a little glimpse into my kitchen, too.

My mom, my sister and I ate at Star Fish Dockside while visiting the Gulf Beaches and I mentioned here before that I like to buy my fresh seafood there at the market any time I can get by there. We've enjoyed many huge family dinners outdoors at the beach courtesy the marvelous fresh catches from Star Fish. There have been just as many smaller, more intimate dinners with just Mr. Meems and I at home.

On this particular occasion we were blessed to have my sister with us.

Seafood makes the simplest of meals outstanding.

That opinion is probably because I LOVE seafood... well... ONLY if it is fresh.

All photos in this post courtesy of my sister. She actually thought to take them ... thanks, Marmee.

Stone crab legs are oh so, delish and oh so, easy to fix. They are in season until about May 15... so get somewhere and "get you some!"

Stone Crab Legs:
  • Simply boil some water in a large pot (enough to cover the crab legs)
  • After cracking the legs in a few places (this will make it much easier to dig out the meat) with a wooden mallet
  • throw the crab legs in the boiling water and let them heat through. This only takes a minute or two.
  • Walla! Serve with melted butter and/or whatever sauce you like. We like cocktail sauce with crab.

Garlic sauteed shrimp.

I always peel, clean thoroughly, and butterfly each one no matter which way I decide to cook them.

To saute':
  • Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and about a half of stick of butter in a shallow skillet. (I apologize... I rarely cook with a recipe so I am guessing on amounts here... you just need enough to cover the shrimp on one side.)
  • Sear a few cloves of garlic.
  • With heat on approximatley med/hi to hi place each shrimp flat into pan.
  • Watch for a little change of color from clear to solid.
  • As they change color turn each one over and repeat watching for the color change. This is very fast. It only takes a few minutes all together. One of the tricks with cooking shrimp is not to over cook!

The sides with our seafood included Barilla Spaghetti Rigatti noodles cooked 'al dente' tossed with olive oil and a little butter, shredded parmesan cheese mixed in and diced fresh Compari tomatoes topping. Some of us like to mix our shrimp and crab in with the pasta. Some of us eat it all separately. It's ALL GOOD however you choose to eat it.

A freshly made side salad with all your favorite ingredients and fresh bread are always a sure compliment as well.

MMMM-MMMMM Yummy-good!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island

What a difference a day can make!

The first day my sister was here we headed to Anna Maria Island to give her a good dose of the Gulf Beaches she was homesick for. Only it was foggy. It was foggy allllllllllllllllllllll day long. Something I have NEVER seen in all my years of living here. We made the best of it enjoying the stroll down the shoreline, the birds feeding happily, and of course just the sights, smells, and sounds of what signifies any beach experience.

But the NEXT DAY!!!!! Clear skies and sunshine was all ours to soak up.

If you live in Florida you know first hand how very blessed we are to have beaches on three sides of the state. I know I'm partial. I know I play favorites. I know I like my comfort zone.

But if any Floridian is being really honest they have to admit the Gulf Beaches are absolutely THE best beaches of all. With all that sugary white sand and clear green water who could argue this fact? (Please don't -- you might burst my bubble.)

My mom, my sister, and I parked our chairs close to the waters' edge in the calm of the afternoon sun at Coquina Beach after our eating "experience" at Starfish.

Even the birds were relaxed.

This beach is a little unique in that the city has brought in massive amounts of rocks and placed them all around the man-made seawalls. It helps limit erosion of the beautiful white sand and makes for textural interest along the shoreline.
It was so peaceful!

Sandcastles, synonomous with beach going, not yet washed away, were left for us to imagine the shovels and buckets and giggling children's voices who had built them before our arrival.

The golden, warm glow of the late afternoon sun changes the color of every object in its path in rapid progression as the earth moves from afternoon into its evening mode.

We were there to breathe in the moments. Every single evolution with shades of yellows, pinks, lavenders, blues was noticed and shared with each other.

Reluctantly ...

when the sun had long ago dipped beyond the horizon and was even still faithfully continuing its display of glorious and ever changing panoramic views...
we packed up and walked away from all the beauty. We will remember this as one more exhilerating beach experience we've been blessed to drink in and we will savor it ....

until next time.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

To The Gulf Beaches We Go

My sister, Marmee, is here visiting from Tennessee. She purposely came this time of year to get away from the frigid cold weather they've been experiencing this winter. Tennessee has had its share of snow and record breaking cold so her outdoor days there are surrounded by all things grey and brown.

So what does a Florida girl who moved to Tennessee and comes back for a visit want to do on her first day here? Why, she goes to breathe in the sunshine and salt at the Gulf of Mexico of course! We headed out to the north end of Anna Maria Island the first day. You can read about it here at my other blog or here at her blog if you are interested.

The second day our destination was the south end of the same island to Coquina Beach. But before we went to the beautiful green waters and sugary white sand that defines our Gulf Coast Beaches we absolutely HAD TO STOP FOR LUNCH in Cortez. It is a sleepy little fishing town situated just before the bridge over to the island.
Mr. Meems and I have been buying our fresh seafood at this little shop for many years. And whenever we get anywhere close to the area we make certain we buy some, put it in a cooler and bring it home for supper.

This fishing community is unique in so many ways. The buildings bordering the intercoastal waterway cannot be seen until one travels through narrow streets several blocks off from the main highway. The small "old Florida" style cottage homes along the streets are built close together and the lawns are dotted with boats and fishing equipment.

There are maps and legends painted on the sides of the buildings in this little village making it even more quaint... at least to me... than its very essence already is.

Walk around to the back of the fresh seafood market to dine outside on wooden decks with picnic tables built over the waters' edge. Pelicans and egrets and gulls all standing close by in case the fishermen drop some fish in the water and they won't have to work for their dinner.

The cafe is small. The kitchen is small. So if you want to eat there during tourist season -- which is now --- one must be prepared to wait. Wait in line to order and then wait at a community table -- if you can find a seat -- until your name is called. When your food comes it will be in a thin cardboard folded box. But... it is fresh and it is worth the wait!

Beyond the open decks where the yummy eating is going on the fishing boats are strewn around up next to the docks and buildings in no particular order or arrangement. Not at all like sailboats and power boats you see all lined up in a straight row at the marinas.

It's the kind of place where the traps are left stacked up next to the boats and on the decks. Truly a casual and Florida style atmosphere that is kind of hard to find anymore. I'm very grateful it is still around when you know where to find it.
The pelicans really seem to like it and they seem to be quite used to people milling about and taking photos of them.

AND... the white pelicans are here for the winter. I'm always happy to see them floating along resembling a swan more than they do the typical brown pelicans.

There's an annual festival next weekend at Cortez Village where thousands of people will cram the streets of this tiny village. The crowds are not my thing but, hey, some people just can't resist a festival.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Back Roads

You'd hardly know it living in a largely populated bay area like we do but Florida still has plenty of wide open spaces to explore. And it is our habit to drive the back roads to find them as often as possible when we travel ... especially on our "quest to see Florida" adventures.

Seems I'm constantly shouting out, "stop the car... I need to take a picture". Poor Mr. Meems. He's getting used to it now and doesn't think something awful has happened. Bless his understanding soul, he is always having to slam on brakes or turn around or pull off the side of the road and just let me have my moments with my camera these days.
Traveling up 301 in Hawthorne, FL it was the rows and rows of cows at the hay troughs that intrigued me. We had to make a u-turn after passing them by too fast the first time. Thinking it was best not to get shot trespassing on someone's dairy farm, I didn't get quite as close as I was first inclined to.
Oh, still close enough to have to get some attention from one staring cow and couple more giving me side glances. What a sweet face.
I'm definitely fascinated by cows. These in Myakka City. It must have something to do with their habit of roaming about in very large, carefree pastures I think. It could very well have something to do with memories so fondly etched in my mind of my grandparents' home.
They raised some cattle on their land in Brandon, FL. As a child, my siblings and I played in every inch of those fields with such abandon. It was important to try to dodge the cow patties but other than that the cows were completely harmless.
There were several cow pastures flanking the side roads where we live until the last ten years. They've mostly been sold out for housing projects and retail stores now. It still makes me sad when I think of wide open spaces turning into cement structures.

Wide open spaces.
Fields of brown grasses. Lakes and rivers. Pine trees, palm trees, and palmettos. Orange groves and horse farms. I love them all.
Landmarked by detail so subtle, yet so telling.

Peaceful and calming vistas. Supplying habitats for wildlife of every kind.

Places that calm the soul when we connect with land that doesn't stop as far as one can see. Away from the ordinary. This is the extraordinary. Breathing in the moments. Reminding us to be grateful for the beauty around us.

Shutting out the noise of everyday life. Here, only the sounds of birds, and frogs, and water, and the gentle rustle of the grass can be heard.
Fresh air and sunshine on a briskly cool Florida winter day is the perfect time for an outdoor excursion. There is so much to see and appreciate.
And if you go, be sure to take the back roads.