Forida Caverns State Park

Our adventure for this past Saturday was going to the Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna on Saturday with some friends! You can click on the link for additional information, because honestly I don’t have details about it, we just had fun! It was a good study break for Greg I know, who has finals week right around the corner.

We went on a tour of the caverns which was pretty neat.  I have been in a few caves to date (my favorite being Arnold) but this was my first time being in a cave with lights! The cave literally had lights and cemented walkways throughout… and this Oregon girl is not used to that. Usually caving means you get dirty, cold, hungry, thirsty and thrilled out! The tour guide asked the group – “Now, how many of you have ever been in a cave and the lights were turned off (like in a creepy weird and crazy voice)?” I laughed out loud on accident then hid behind Greg. I wanted to say that I had never been in a cave when the lights were turned on!

We did the cave tour, then all (along with Chaco) went on a little hike around some of the park! It has been very dry, so a lot of the places that usually were full of water were dry (swampy areas), which was fine with me… less critters and bugs. But it was overall really neat to see the landscape and a totally different type of cave! I am so glad that we went!  We would like to go back again and spend more time walking around and seeing some other features the park has to offer. Enjoy the pics below… it was hard to get good pictures inside (even with lights).

Fresh Squeezed Florida Orange Juice…

Sunday was a nice stay-at-home day for me.

Seems like we have been on the go so much that home has been more of a crash pad that anything else.  If you know me, you know that I love my home time and do best with a steady amount of it.  Even if I am not doing much of anyting, it is just nice to be home.  I spent most of the day doing a lot of nothing, but managed to roughly clean the kitchen, do dishes, pick up Chaco’s toys, sort through a few piles of papers that have been stacked up here and there, do about 5 loads of laundry, enjoy coffee in the sun with Greg between his studying for tests, enjoy some doggy time, bake a big batch of very tasty cookies (which will hopefully appear on a later post), and for the punch or should I say juice project of the day… I made some fresh squeezed orange juice… from local oranges (much thanks to a friends with an orange tree)!

Now, to many peoples’ surprise, I do not own a fancy juicer, not even a unfancy one… I own no juicing equipment. Where I am from juicable items do not grow on trees, just pile up at the local grocery store. All that to say, I do have willing hands to juice… so that is just what I did – juiced them by hand. I gave them all a good massage, rolling, beating and more, then chopped them in half and squeezed as much juice as I could out of them. Seems like I completely demolished them to be exact… but the whole house smelled of orange zest as did my entire front side.

 The result: wonderful, fresh, sweet orange juice. 

Did I already mention it was so, SO yummy!  The fresh squeezed juice made such a wonderful companion to our “loaded omelet” breakfast this bright and early morning!

Folks, this juice does not need a long shelf life because it will be gone before long!

Have a wonderful week and try to make time for something you love!

My first turkey…

This Thanksgiving I got the wild idea to try a turkey… yep!

Even Greg told me this, and I agreed because I thought the same thing… It seems weird that I have never done a turkey before or at least helped with one after all the cooking done by my mom growing up… but it is true, this is my very first experience with a turkey!  Grandma usually took care of the turkey department… which now I am more thankful for!

I thought it would be fun to try one and Greg encouraged me to do so… I mean why not? … You have nothing to lose and if it does not work nobody will care! This is true, since we did not have a huge gathering or anyone to impress or disappoint. So off to the store I went with my thanksgiving list which included a big ol’ turkey.   Thanks to the advice from my mom, I got one that was already thawed because trying to thaw out a huge turkey shaped rock was not on my list of exciting things to do for thanksgiving prep. Plus, it was already Tuesday evening.   Finding a bird NOT frozen was more difficult and there was either huge turkeys or baby turkeys… so I went with the baby of the huge! We still ended up with a hefty 18 pounder.

Here are some of the thoughts that ran through my head through my turkey experience before I move on to the dramatic process:

 What on earth am I doing? What was I thinking?

What if I just got a rotisserie chicken already cooked and present it on a platter?

Why does pizza sound good at a time like this?

What day is thanksgiving again?

Who would want to work in the turkey factory (if there even is one)?

I’m glad this thing does not really have a smell.

I wish mom was here.

Someone or some…thing missed a few feathers.

This is heavy and slippery, bad combo

I should move the pie to another room, it does not deserve to watch this.

Greg is really missing out on a show!

but really… OH MY GOODNESS!

So, back on track: I have my turkey… now what? For started I tucked it in the fridge and tried not to worry about it, but honestly somehow I saw a very fast-forwarded version… basically in the bag to on the plate.  I knew it would not bake itself, but I had accepted a chore it felt like.  I love to cook, don’t get me wrong, but I think most of all I like to bake, and create things… or use pretty, colorful and clean ingredients…not wrestle with raw, cold and rather icky things.  So, help I needed indeed.

I did my research at least so I was not completely in the turkey dark… I looked to my Food Network Magazine, which I love getting in the mail and milking over the month until the next one comes (thank you mom)… and there was a whole section on thanksgiving which included ideas, meals and directions and more… Let me tell you, the page that talks turkey has some stains and wrinkles on it needless to say.  There were all different options for brining the turkey, different selections of butters, glazes, gravy and seasonings but since I am a new-bee, I went with the most basic “dry brine”.  It involved rubbing the bird down thoroughly with salt (lots), pepper and some herbs and letting it chill in the fridge overnight… uncovered, there to greet me every time I opened it up.

I have to back up a little bit, my whole process started with having to remove the bird from the fridge, unwrap it and wash it off…  I wanted to be done after the first feather I saw once I peeled back the plastic.  I am such a baby, huh? I pressed on and got over it pretty quick… So here I am alone in the kitchen, just standing there with a huge ugly naked bird in my biggest bowl staring at me (although he was headless of course) just sitting there in the sink. Oh man….

What does one do? CALL MOM !!!!!

(and pray she answers immediately even though she is in a different time zone and almost 3,000 miles away)

She answered…thank goodness and gave me a little pep-talk and help, which is just what I needed.  She told me to remove the neck and giblets and laughed at my response: huh? She told me to reach into the “cavity” and there would be a packet in there. Phew, a packet of guts is better than I was expecting. What a relief that I did not have to gut the thing.   Next, she said I needed to find the neck and remove it… it is in there… just feel around. Finally finding that long nasty thing was half terrifying. At a time like this it is easy to forget turkeys even have necks for crying out loud. Sorry folks that use all that “stuff” inside the cavity because I tossed it.  Yes, wasted it without a thought. Too much to deal with at once.  After our talk and a lot of strong laughter, I was ready to tackle this thing.  I will master you turkey!  I washed it off, inside and out… dried the thing and made my “brine”.  I rubbed that turkey down like nobody ever has ever rubbed a turkey down… put it on a pan and tucked it in the fridge for the night (Wednesday night that is). It really stared at me every time I opened the fridge.  It is not everyday you open the fridge and see that!

Here is the birdy, early early Thursday after a chilly night.

A fresh new day helped, I was ready to tackle this bird again.  As the directions told me, I was supposed to rinse it off , dry it and then rub it down again, this time with butter butter and more butter galore.  I made my “butter rub” out of well, butter   and some herbs (thyme, sage and a little bit of clove I believe) and again gave that bird the rub of its life.  I rubbed the butter all over the outside and as much of  “under the skin” that I could get to and sent him to the hot place.

About half way through (~2 hours later) the house started to smell of turkey so I snapped a picture of it baking and texted it to mom… who informed me that I forgot to tie the legs together… ummmm. Well? Great! It was probably too late at this time so I stuffed him with onions! If a next time finds me, I will go further and stuff him with carrots, onions and maybe potato too! 🙂

So, I really have went off on this whole turkey business but it actually worked out pretty good and was pretty tasty too!

Check out that roasted bird fresh out of the oven!  Greg’s grandpa and aunt joined us for thanksgiving late-lunch and we had a good time!  I was a little nervous about making a thanksgiving meal but there is a first for everything! It all worked out pretty well and we had a good time! Everything seemed to go smooth… but I have to admit, they arrived to our home about an hour early which as many of you know is “prime time, rush, go crazy time”… ya know, just as the turkey was coming out of the oven, before the rolls were baked, before the table was all pretty, before I wiped food off my shirt and before I could get the dog out for a potty break!  Can you imagine me trying to carve a turkey alone, let alone with company present? Well it was rough, but like I said worked out pretty well. I did not get many pictures, but I managed to snap a few of my made by Beka rolls just out of the oven… and my pumpkin pie that exited the oven just before the turkey hogged it for hours.   I hope everyone had a wonderful thanksgiving and finds themselves overwhelmed with stuff to be thankful for!

Thanks for reading my blog and my dramatic turkey expereince!

It has been an entire year…

I just realized that this week is the very week (just one short year ago), that Greg and I moved to Florida from our beautiful little hide-away in Colorado.  I say Greg and I, but I mean Greg moved ME here.  He had been away from his house a few months and brought me back to our what would become our home.

We know already from my Southern Living post that it is still quite an adjustment for me to live here, but it is getting a little bit better.  Some days are better than others.

I am amazed that it has already been an entire year though.  I keep having to recalculate to make sure.  Looking back over the past year… it is easy to focus on the fact that half of that time was spent job searching and the other half (and still) was/is spent on catching up after our cash pool had evaporated.  I make it sound bad, but really it was not because this year I have come to realize more and more how truly blessed we are.

We really are truly blessed.  We never went without.  We always had what we needed.  We even had at times what we did not really need – that is right, a few extras.  Our relationship has continued to improve and we are still so excited about life.  People looking at us walking down the street may not think – wow, they are blessed, or wow, they have it all together because… in just looking at us, you would not think so! We don’t drive new cars, we don’t have the latest fashion (or probably the fashion from 5 years ago), our shoes probably look good and worn,  we don’t eat out all the time… etc.  but what they do not know, what we know and what they do not see is what makes us truly blessed.  We have our health… we are on no medications, we have no disease, illness, sickness or pains.  We have each other and our relationship is awesome! I go to bed every night excited about another day with my husband.  Our bills and our income do not match every month, yet we still have some money in the bank.  I do not balance a check-book only because I don’t like to do it but truly, it does not add up.

So this post is not to talk about all the things that I don’t like here, all the things I miss, or all the things that are “different” but reflect on and be thankful for all the things that we do have..all of our many blessings.

We have so much! I am looking forward to another year, here, there or wherever because we really do “have it… together”, even if we don’t always “have it”… we have whatever it is together. We have  health, love, family, friends and more (and not to mention an awesome puppy, Chaco to add some joy in the house).

Have a blessed day! Look at everything you have today! wow!

Happy National Watermelon Day

Happy National Watermelon Day!

I really love watermelon, there is nothing like a perfectly red, ripe tasty melon… and if it is seedless, even better!  I can’t put away a lot of this yummy item!  Since I now live in an area that things can grow stuff (as you already know by my gardening posts), watermelon was a for sure on my “to plant” list.  Well, they actually did phenomenal even with all the dry weather we had for a while.

 

 

Well,  up to a certain point… and here is why.  Just days before several were ready to pick and enjoy, something ate into every single melon out there… maybe around 50 or so total.  On day one we found most of them chewed into and so I picked 3 of the biggest that were left because by the next day the rest were ruined (even all the small ones that were hardly even 3″ in diameter)… they did not stand a chance! Of course I was big-time bummed because they were what I was looking forward to the most in the garden.  But I tried not to let it get me down too much  because hey, I tried and also we can only do so much living several miles from the garden spot.

 

 

But hey, enough on the sad news right? I can go to the store and get one  because there is much to enjoy about these red (or yellow) yummies!   You can quench your thirst and fill your belly at the same time, and enjoy watermelon knowing it is a good source of Potassium, and a very good source of Vitamins A and C.  So maybe next year I will attempt again, or maybe not… Something out there got its fill on my melons and I am not sure I want to feed the local critters any  longer! 🙂

Have a great day and go eat some watermelon!

Southern Living… am I cut out for this?

I have lived in Florida for almost 9 months now and I am still asking myself this question, am I really cut out for this?    It would have never crossed my mind to move to Florida, not because it is a terrible place to live or because I hate it, but I just would not have picked it on the map as a place to live.  This however is where my wonderful husband and his family is (who are great by the way)!   It is still quite an adjustment for me…  all the way across the country from my family, what I am used to and what I liked to do – “hobbies”.  That whole “home sick” thing is true. Now, I don’t literally get “sick” – nothing like that,  just miss it.  I don’t know many people who would be able move away from their families like I did.  I mean, I am capable of functioning without my family at my side but it does not mean I don’t really miss them! The reason that I can be away and the reason that I am is because I know how much I am loved… by both my family and my husband.  I am also confident that the two of us are our best together, a great team – wherever that may be.  This is what gave me the strength to go wherever we needed to go and be wherever is best for us.  Home with my family will always be there, it will always feel like home to me, but my husband and I have created our own home and it is where I truly belong… no matter what our address is – true home is where we are together.

So, back on track, this “southern living” stuff… I still don’t have a definite answer to that question… yet I am here – living!  I knew there would be a lot of new things… but never thought that there would be so many and as a matter of fact, I come up with more often!  To be honest, most everything is new.  There are things that I have gotten used to, things I have not, things I do not want to get used to and  things I just refuse to. You just don’t really realize how different areas around the country are from each other until you are actually in the midst of somewhere totally different from what you are used to.  It is probably good to get out and experience new places because it forces you to grow, suck it up and be challenged… ya know, stretch a little bit because after all… you really cannot “break”!

So… I kind of came up with a list of the things that are different or new to me about living in this very spot!  I have to emphasize that this list is not created to bash/make fun of or single people out but it may be quite enlightening for everyone… here and there and in between!

  • fried food is  the most common cooking method here…. fried anything and everything… frequently
  • fresh oysters – yes, I tried one and that is all I needed (or did not need actually). Needless to say, I did not like it!
  • “greens” – by this I mean turnip greens, “collards” etc.  I have never had these before.
  • coffee – as it is now, we have to drive at least 40+ miles to get a good cup of coffee… which is quite the commute to Starbucks. —> I will go ahead and say it – I am a Starbucks brat, true to the core. I jump for joy over a freshly brewed cup of coffee when we can get it.  What I consider good coffee is not the norm… I have heard people say “If it aint cheap, it aint good”… but I could not disagree more!
  • church is way way way different from what I am used to, believe it or not!
  • “the bed”…. this one was one I noticed from day one!  “I stayed in the bed all day”, rather than… I stayed in bed all day!
  • here the meals are called breakfast, dinner, supper rather than breakfast, lunch and dinner!
  • Sweet tea, sweet tea, sweet tea –> If you order sweet tea where I am from you will get unsweetened tea with some sugar packets on the side which can be very irritating because it is really  not the same!
  • People actually BUY pine-needles (or “pine-straw” as they say here) to put around their flower beds etc… I could not believe it!
  • It is hard to find spinach and/or spring mix at a “local” store but I got really excited last week when I went and happened to pass by the salad section and saw some of BOTH!
  • sentences often do not make sence to me…mainly because the wording is different like in this example… “You might could get a job at…”  (I understand this statement of course, it is just worded different)… but that is only the beginning! Sometimes I get asked questions and I have NO idea what I am being asked!
  •  words that end in “ing” are not completed… “Dumplins”, “Thanks-givin”, “nothin”, “workin”,  you wanna put this in your “savins or checkin’ account?” etc.
  • words that end in “ow” or “ows”  are pronounced with “er” or “ers”… shut them “winders”, can you play the “pianer” too?  How on earth do kids learn how to spell?  What they hear cannot help their ability to sound out words to spell them correctly!
  • “y’all”, “all y’all”
  • There are also many different “sayins” I have never ever heard and often need a translation:  “I’m hangin’ in there like a hair-n-a-biscuit” – that one  always makes me laugh.  Where I am from people do not use a lot of sayings, I guess they just say whatever it is
  • food like: boiled peanuts, creamed corn, field peas, potted meat, oysters, alligator, catfish and different kinds of stuff I have never eaten! What is so crazy though is that food I have eaten in abundance many people have either never heard of or never tasted!
  • people driving lawn mowers in town for transportation and even carrying passengers
  •  kids and adults barefoot in the local grocery store… or kids in just their underwear without evidence of baiting for a while
  • referring to a mans wife as “old lady” –> I have never heard this reference before I lived here!
  • I frequently get asked “Where did he get you from?”, “You are not from around here are you?”, “Where did he find you?”…. etc.  So it is obvious I am not from here and people can tell pretty quick and I am not even sure they like it.  This seems like a born here or raised here only kind of town, but that does not go for everyone! Most people are actually pretty nice, but maybe even too nice as I will get into in a little bit.
  • no mountains in view anywhere and therefore, no snow! I really miss definite seasons although I admit, I remember always feeling like winter lasted too long, and summer too short – now I feel like “summer” is too long!
  • Food does not last as long… it goes stale super quick if it is not sealed really tight and items spoil much much faster!
  • Cookies stay extra moist which is great for some kinds but it is hard to make some items dry or crumbly if desired
  • bread dough takes a lot longer to rise and will not gain as much volume
  • my hair is extra frizzy because of the humidity and if I take the time to straighten it, as soon as I walk out of the house it starts to wave and frizz!
  • no hiking, no mountain biking, no snowboarding
  • bugs, bugs bugs and more bugs in abundance, including cockroaches and fire ants which I hate!
  • snakes, need I say more
  • Lots of overgrowth and luscious weeds, vines, poison etc.  I now would  not mind a yard that has the problem of sage bushes, manzanita bushes and pine needles because at least you can see through them and they don’t overtake you in a few weeks!
  • swampy areas
  • alligators
  • ditches in everyone’s yard
  • clay roads
  • I miss the fresh mountain air and leaving the windows open all night to cool off the house.
  • poor cell reception
  • Thunderstorms are better here!
  • door to door sales-people, solicitors, people knocking on your door for about any reason – religion, something to sell or services to sell you or wondering if you have anything THEY could sell for money, or “we noticed a tree in your yard that we can cut down for you (for a large fee)” etc.  Needless to say I don’t answer the door ever unless it is our friends/family.
  • There is not much regular flour stocked in the stores, self-rising flour is more common, but further, no pastry flour, whole wheat flour or any other kind of flour I like to use…. nothing!
  • buttermilk is abundant in the stores –> this is stocked in stores pretty much all the time, but it is never seen in gallons, half would be the largest if even that size.
  • different cuts of meat, or should I say different “parts” of the animal are for sale at the store and seems to sell!
  • regular good ol’ butter is not a big seller and is much higher in price – more margarine and lard sold
  • There were no dates on the chicken the last time I went to the store (emphasis on the last time) and the guy working in the meat responded to me this way after I told him they were not dated: “ma’am, the meat was frozen before so it is all fine”,  So I asked when it was taken out of the freezer and when it was put on the shelf…he responed, “I don’t know, but maybe like 4 or 5 days ago we put it out, but it was in the freezer before so it is fine”…. then I said nothing because I had no words for him.  I know I sound stuck-up but I am serious about food safety and don’t understand a grocery store being anything BUT that.
  • The beach is awesome!!  It is fun to actually swim in it too – I am used to the ocean being only something you look at and maybe get your legs in… just maybe since it is bone chilling cold!
  • no lean beef sold locally, 80/20 is the highest meat to fat ratio
  • The produce section at the stores is pretty small and unclean in my opinion, as a matter of fact the whole store is dirty but there is always people shopping!
  • At church people refer to each other as “brother” or “sister”… brother Steve, Sister Sally.
  • people are generally polite as I have never heard as many, “yes ma’am “, “excuse me ma’am”, “after you ma’am” etc in my whole life as I have in the last few months, but on the other hand, I have also not had as many head nods and whistles either, which kind of makes me want to recant my last statement.
  • I miss being close to a big grocery store, nice department store, home decor/ supply store, national bank chain, garden center, pet store etc.
  • I have found it exceedingly common for people to ask you anything and everything they want here. Privacy is not respected or reserved for the individual to share (if they choose).  People freely give out their information (and others) to just about anyone and expect your information to be given in return. “Who is your momma and daddy?”  “How much money do you make?”, “What is your address?”, “Didn’t you do this or that…?”… that is only the start.  “How did you end up here?”  I am used to building relationships with people and slowly getting to know someone as you choose and they have not already heard everything about you before you actually meet them! There are so many people who come up to my husband and tell him all kinds of things about him (that has obviously been morphed through the vine) and he does not even know who they are! I am starting to get it too, aren’t you married to so and so and isn’t his daddy so and so who works at such and such and then the usual questions that follow… to be honest I really don’t like it and it makes me uncomfortable.
  • hot outside and freezing inside – I am not used to A/C all the time… we had to use it about as much as people need heat in the winter here… not much.    People think I am so weird when I bring my jacket along for inside 🙂
  • cockroaches INSIDE!! –> No we did not have these and I had never seen one in my life until I moved here and they are absolutely disgusting!
  • the bug man… he drives around the neighborhood and sprays, so crazy!
  • and more… these were just what came out off the top of my head!

Again, I am not trying to be negative, just stating the differences for me – it is so easy to list all the things that are different but they are not all bad!  People always ask me about where I am from and it is fun to talk about it and the differences Although many times I feel like an alien.  Do “your people” do this or that…  I don’t really know, but I sure do miss them all… “my people” or “my country” and some people even say!

I still don’t know if I can answer my question, but on first glance, the answer is probably no because it is just not the most ideal place for me, my interests etc. and judging by my list above it is just so different, but for now, it is where we are and therefore I am cut out for it because I can be!  I would be lying though if I said that I wanted to live here forever, because I don’t and that is very hard for people to understand and also for me to say/admit because I know that many people really do love it here and cannot imagine ever leaving and I am afraid of hurting feelings, but I can’t help but be honest about it.

Yes I can do it because this is home.

The best year of my life!

Well folks, It is so hard to believe but it has been one year today

since I said… yes

I am married to the best man any woman could hope or ask for… even dream of… I mean it!  I could not be more happy.  Being married is so much fun and I go to bed every night looking forward to another day, but not just any day… a very special day with the one I love. 

We have had quite a few adventures over the course of this past year I would say…  Our journey took is from Oregon, to Colorado and to Florida where we are now.  Our move to Florida met us with nearly 6 months of unemployment and when I say unemployment I do not mean collecting from the government, I mean no money, but we always focused on what we had and not on what we did not have… and you know what? There is always so much to be thankful for.  We never went without.  We are so blessed! 

We hear frequently that the whole enjoying marriage thing will get old… “you just wait”… “you will want a break”…etc…  no thanks!  I don’t want any part of that or any part of those conversations!  We have many dreams and goals and we are truly excited about life… together. We have realized that life is just better together and that we can accomplish so much more together than apart.  I am so thankful to have such a great husband to share life with.

It is probably safe to say however that we are no longer newly weds, but only because of the time passed, not in the way we act or feel about each other.

Here are a few pictures from the last year…

On our wedding day at Crater Lake, Oregon.  After the wedding, we drove here to stay a few nights before we hit the road for Colorado.

This is at Arches National Park in Moab, UT taken at “Delicate Arch”… a great time!

This was in “The Window”, one of our bigger adventures this summer in Colorado.  A (who knows how many miles) hike into the wilderness!

This was at the end of the season in Colorado during the beautiful fall color change! Everything was absolutely breathtaking!

This is at the beach in St. Augustine, FL… over on the East Coast when my parents came to visit us in February of this year…

Enjoying a day at Panama City Beach, FL where we try to get to once a week or so to chill out.

 

Here is to the conclusion of the best year of my life with the hope of many many more to follow!  Next year will be another best!  Hopefully this finds you well and enjoying life!

a great day at the garden!

Yay for the harvest of 2 yellow squash today! They were planted on, May 3!

Also, the basil is doing wonderful and we have some good sized cucumbers as well! In a couple of days we may have some cucumbers to harvest!

All for now, busy busy today! Have a wonderful day!