Tag Archives: Florida

Feeling the Tern

As is often the case in late March, we B-Ks are just back from spring break in Florida.

So. Feel the terns, won’t you?

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O, Florida! No state mixes my feelings as thoroughly as you do.

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Photo of the B-Ks at Bean Point on Anna Maria Island by Connie Ger.

 

We did need a break, one involving sun and sand and surf and overly-friendly manatees. As things start to come together for this next phase of B-K life, the future becomes even less clear in every way, except for the assurance that it’ll be different than what we have now. This time as a family was crucial. We had a lovely time, even as Cody and I re-discovered that we do not paddle well together in a kayak.

But we do both like getting up early to walk and snapping photos of ibis in the bay when we do.

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It gets harder every year to say goodbye to Florida after this family vacation. During those days, I spend next to no time checking email or on social media. I’m outside, I’m with family and friends, I am relaxing into myself, and I’m just thawed out when it’s time to gather the towels and head north.

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We’re home now. The cold rain feels like punishment, but I’m just being dramatic. It was actually 67° with some sun today, and Jim and I uncovered his least favorite vegetable while weeding. Look at it. Such perfection.

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Then I went to the garage to unearth the garden’s good luck charm for display after the rain ends. Thanks, Chank.

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April is incoming. I’m looking forward to lots of time outside and in the garden, a college decision, several soccer games, and maybe a little regional travel. How about you?

Spring’s Broken

I love the smell of motorboats in canals and of chlorine pools. I love the feel of hot pavement and longleaf pine needles under my feet. I was a little kid in Florida, and it is the place every cell in my body remembers most.

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Yep, that’s me on the right, with my little brother. 1976. Orlando, FL.

I told my friend Kaya the Cake Guru that, in the 70s and early 80s, Florida was the place where my only business was that of being a kid, of learning how to be alive outside and in the world. Botany, zoology, neighborhood cartography, physical fitness (swimming, biking, tree-climbing), neighborliness, resilience, problem-solving, etiquette, curiosity, independence, troublemaking, and consequences were all taken care of by my Florida neighborhoods – the kids I played with there, plus their parents and their cigarette-smoking memaws and the old military guys with tattoos under their hairy forearms whom you always called “sir”, no matter what.

By the time we moved to the midwest, when I was almost 13, it was obvious some things were changing. It was clear that the culture was going to demand, if it hadn’t already begun demanding, different things of its young men and women than the trees we were climbing together or the forts we were building out of magnolia branches and palmetto leaves and Spanish moss in vacant lots. I know the rip tide that was Southern culture at that time was at least part of the reason my mother insisted we leave it. And she wasn’t wrong to want to leave – difficult questions and experiences regarding race, sex, religion, and class started tripping up us junior high schoolers more and more. Corporal punishment (“paddling”) was a much-discussed thing at our school. I was keen to be a cheerleader (the height of cool and acceptable/desirable female athletic accomplishment), but also wanting to play baseball like Zanboomer (still rather unacceptable for a young Southern lady in 1981). There were… interesting interactions with neighbors. Eventually, we left for Minnesota. No one got paddled at school and the coolest girls all played basketball and soccer, but my Southern accent and other quirks in 8th grade were liabilities. I lived in Minnesota for 10 years, and I loved my time there, but I’ve been moving progressively more to the south since 1991.

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We were on the road the day spring 2015 arrived in the northern hemisphere. We started off as soon we could after waking up and getting coffee in foggy & cool Tennessee, and continued south. We ended up in muggy & hot central Florida twelve hours later for a visit with my dad, who lives in a place where the orange groves of my childhood have given way to RV campgrounds and strip malls.  The next day, we were on the road again, cutting directly through west central Florida to Anna Maria Island on the Gulf Coast, where it feels like it is, or at least could be, summer forever. Those three traveling days felt like a week – in the best way – and then we had six days of staying put before having to return north.

People comment on the fact that we’ve returned each year – since 2004 – to the same coastal place in Florida each late winter. Why not try someplace new? Go with what you know is always my answer. Anna Maria Island isn’t where I was a kid – that was central FL and NW Florida – but it is a place where young me would have happily spent most days. Current me can literally unclench my stiff, tight body there because I don’t have to do anything except exist. We don’t plan much beyond eating food, drinking beer, and spending time outside. It’s pretty delicious, if you’re into that kind of thing. No one in my little family grew up there, but they’ve grown accustomed – to a week and change in March, anyway.

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I’m not sure how they’d feel about July. And Southern culture, especially politics, remain a serious conundrum.

We’re back now. We came home yesterday to a busted furnace, cat barf on the bed, and cold windy rain (or windy cold rain, or rainy cold wind – whatever, it sucked). Please send sunny days and 75° (more degrees welcome). Thanks.

Road Trip Needed

Florida, Austin, Asheville, Athens G-A, Little Rock, wherever. I feel a need to hit the road and find an outside environment that doesn’t look like Hoth. This landscape is preferable:

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We must road trip this summer – Madison, MPLS-STP, even a couple quick jaunts up to CHGO would count – to fill two purposes: To scratch this nagging travel itch I seem to have going on, and to get Lilly to visit a few schools. Schools as in, colleges and universities. Yes, we’ve arrived at that point. I can’t believe it either, but some very good friends of ours (and they’re our age) have one offspring finishing college and another offspring who, with his partner, just made them grandparents, so clearly that sands through the hourglass thing applies universally. Lesson here is positively BuellerianLife moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. He’s right.

Speaking of stopping and looking around, here’s something I witnessed this past Monday as I was walking the two blocks from where I park my car to my office.

[Sidebar: I enjoy this walk very much, even on the coldest/hottest of days; it’s a buffer between worlds. For those two blocks, I’m preparing to enter a different headspace, and even though it’s just two average residential/campus blocks, it’s still outside, still the natural world. There are lots of trees and squirrels and birds on this block – late last spring, a pair of house finches sang me to work most mornings. There they were, pretty much every day without fail, perched in the same tree, just chirping away. I’m sure they annoyed the living shit out of anyone on the block trying to sleep in, but I was delighted.]

Anyway. I was walking those two blocks to my office. It was cold, but not unreasonably so. It had snowed quite a bit over the weekend, but the sun was out and the sky was cloudless. I lifted my head to take in as much as I could before crossing the street and heading into my office, and when I did, I noticed… bits of snow? Bark? Leaves? Ash? Gray things, with a touch of red, floating down and resting on top of the new snow… down feathers, I suddenly realized, and there were lots of them.

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I looked up. A mid-sized hawk was on the branch just above, poor dead male cardinal in its talons. He/she regarded me, pulled out one last, long, bright red feather, and then decided to eat is meal in peace elsewhere. I probably stood there for 10 seconds before I stooped down, took that last feather, and walked the rest of the block to work.

I love birds. Hawks fascinate me. Cardinals are so gorgeous, especially against new snow – but the snow that throws them into such brilliant, beautiful relief is also what makes them more visible to hawks and other predators. That cardinal’s luck had run out… because the hawk was hungry. I’ve watched (hawk-like) the hawk that lives in our neighborhood and have marveled at its patience. I don’t enjoy seeing it rip a smaller bird apart, but I reckon it’s entitled to enjoy its food after waiting so long, strategizing the entire time.

Hmmmm.

Idle Hands Make Pie

As February lurches on – it doesn’t march, it lurches – the days lengthen and the desire to DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING increases. I start trolling the web looking for stuff to do, not unlike a bored toddler, fresh Sharpie in hand, eyeing a blank wall. Building, baking, seed-starting, whatever, but it has to be EXACTLY what I want to be doing and it CANNOT be drudgery and NO ONE can make any suggestions. So this weekend I baked a key lime pie the way Deb at Smitten Kitchen does it because a) I’d been craving limes and b) it’s a sentimental favorite (more on that in a sec).

Production was colorful – the butter (Kerrygold) was a cheerful, robust yellow as it melted, the lime zest an otherworldly green. The entire house reeked of citrus.

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Making the crust and the filling were absurdly easy, though juicing the limes was a bit hard on my hands (we no longer have a citrus juicer, alas). And while I’m always nervous that pies of this type will never set properly and leave me with a pie plate full of graham cracker and goo – I speak from experience – such was not the case. Most of the total time involves the cooling of the pie (twice – once for the filling, another for the whipped cream on top). Here’s an arty shot, before the whipped cream was applied:

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Why key lime pie, you might ask? Great question. When I was in Florida, growing up, limes were the weird citrus tree. I loved every other citrus fruit, but limes were weird and how could you even tell they were ripe and they seemed to spend more time in beverages than anywhere else, which was suspicious. Of course, we eventually left Florida for Minnesota and, over time, I basically forgot all about limes as anything other than something to put in a gin and tonic or to accompany Mexican food. When we started heading to Florida every winter in the early 2000s, we would also visit my Oma (RIP) for a day and basically steep in fresh-squeezed citrus juice. She didn’t have lime trees, but she juiced the, um, juice out of each and every orange and tangerine on her property. Her neighbors thought she was insane, but she knew better – they’re buying their orange juice at the store, she scoffed. I liked the way she thought. Juicing oranges and tangerines with her, in her kitchen in Titusville, reignited my love for citrus, limes included. We now have a custom of buying the surprisingly-good key lime pie from Publix every time we’re on vacation, but this year, I couldn’t wait. And while Publix makes a decent KLP… well, so do I, as it turns out.

Today’s LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

Transforming a junk drawer

Creating a buyer persona

Podcast editing tips

Wall Street wants to know where the Twitter users are

Chipotle: The Definitive Oral History

Eddie Huang Against the World

Radio peeps moving to podcasting?

My friend Ken Stringfellow’s blog

All about a button museum in CHGO

Remiss

I love blogging so much – it is, for me, my original social media, really, after the various message boards from the days of yore – but it’s been really difficult to find time to get in here and write. I hate excuses, so I’ll just leave it at that. I’m here. I’m back. Hi.

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We went on vacation, too.

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I’m always looking for interesting food when we visit our beloved little FL island hangout. Poppo’s Tacos was thriving; Anna Maria Donuts (see above) was always busy; we discovered (well, we didn’t really discover it as much as we finally went in after years of going past it) a cafe/high-end 2nd hand store located in an old IGA grocery store called Ginny’s and Jane E’s that made the best americanos, had killer biscuit sandwiches and waffles, and offered cinnamon rolls the size of your head (seriously). The Grouper Reuben at the Rod and Reel was spectacular, as it usually is, and the mullet and the grits at the Starfish blew my mind. We found some Jamaican food at Jamaican Breeze, which was good, but my dish was way too salty for my taste. And we pretty much bought all the Jai Alai IPA (made by Cigar City Brewing in Tampa) on AMI to bring home.

I know. I make it sound like paradise. And when you’re basically on a beach and eating out a lot and you know where the good stuff is, it’s pretty paradise-y. But a few things are missing (or aren’t easy to find). There’s a farmers market, but it’s small and we’re never there when it’s open. It’s impossible to find interesting/unusual citrus fruit, something I thought would be everywhere. No visible food co-ops, and if there’s a lot of support for local food/local endeavors, it’s pretty under the radar. I think things are changing, though. I’d love to have more time down there to actually talk to some of the people running the new businesses, in particular Poppo’s Tacos. They seem to be very tapped in to whatever’s going on food-wise there. Next year.

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“Ramen Shaman” was released while I was away, which we knew would probably happen. None of us were sure what to expect in terms of a response. We sent it to our pals at PBS Digital Services, did some promotion on our end, and waited. I’m happy to say the video was very well-received, picking up social media promotion from PBS and PBS Food (!) in addition to the folks at PBSDS. We’re closing in on 2000 views and could not be more stoked about the response. If you’ve watched it, thank you! I hope it was edifying and entertaining and got you thinking about finding some upgraded ramen somewhere… or making your own.

What’s next: “Shorn Off, Pt. 2”, how 100# of worms doesn’t really look like much when you actually get them together, How My Garlic Survived the Winter (I’m actually not really sure), etc…

Alternative Landscape

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As yet another snowstorm begins to take shape over the midwest, I’m dreaming of my young childhood topography.

There’s a power even in this photo, which I took about two years ago, that I can’t really describe; I know people feel this way when they see prairies and wide open skies, and forest with bits of mountain poking up, and rivers cutting through rolling hills.My love for the beach – and for Florida’s very rare undeveloped beaches in particular – has nothing to do with beach culture or vacation livin’ or Margaritaville – it’s about Nature and elements, and I confess I feel much closer to those things on the beach than I do anywhere else. It’s where I spent my young childhood, and its pull is powerful.