Azalea Season in Full Bloom

Graham swamp turned out to be a bit more challenging than I had expected. Narrow paths in heavily forest with substantial elevation changes so about a mile into it, I wasn’t sure I hadn’t bitten off more than I could chew. The path was marked fairly well but there was a nagging feeling that it could be easy to get lost. I eventually found my way out and back to the car. I guess it was about a 3 mile venture. That’s about what I do on the water front park path but in that case, the path is flat and paved.

The PET scan didn’t show anything bad so I have to do another – a different kind of PET scan. This one requires no prep at all so it should be a piece of cake.

I think the Azaleas this year are the best they’ve been – ever. I didn’t trim them back at the end of last season so the bushes are much bigger and loaded with blossoms. We have several different colors and they’re happening at the same time so using the word spectacular is not out of line.


When Chris was visiting Hawaii so often he kept telling us about having Acai bowls for breakfast. We never really knew what they were but read in the local paper that a bowl place was opening in Deland, right across the street from Persimmon Hollow. So after having a blood test draw yesterday, Nancy suggested we try it. It was a really small place and a bit difficult to find but we persevered and found it. They offered 4 standard bowls, each in two sizes, small and large. We choose two different small bowls and expected to get bowls mixed fruit and berries including Acai berries. I had it in mind that they were like cranberries. So we were surprised to find the bowl was made with frozen fruits and vegetables created in a blender so it ended up almost like frozen custard. Very sweet and very filling. I really struggled to get the small one down but really loved it. The place has only been open for a couple of weeks but they said business had been good – largely with Stetson students and sports teams from there. That fit since it just seems like the kind of place you’d expect to be populated with cutie coeds chattering away.

Olivia is heading to Guatemala for a few weeks of intense Spanish language training.  She’ll live with a local family and also volunteer in a medical capacity.   I’m sure she’ll have a great time but I still wish she wasn’t out of country.

Bye, bye Crescent City Bridge

Nancy has mostly given up on her Crescent City bridge game on Wednesday’s – people issues.   Instead she’ll add another day at Palm Coast, probably Fridays.   We did that yesterday and since it looks like a long term change, I decided to change my routine.  On Monday’s I normally hit either the beach or the Water Front Park to fish or hike, then Houligans for a draft brew, to Publix to work off a shopping list and finally to the library to check my email, check the market, read the paper and maybe pick up a book or two.   On my trial  run Friday, I did the same beach/hike – in this case the hike since my fishing spot is once again under beach restoration – then, instead of Houligans’  I hit a brew pub in the European Village called Moonrise.  I’ve known it was there but it’s closed on Monday so never tried it.  They had a nice blood orange wheat beer, a pleasant surprise.  From there I went straight to the library – one day a week at Publix is all we need (in the future I might change that from Monday to Friday since the gas card deal works on Fridays, not Mondays.)  The other thing on the Friday route is that I can actually walk (and have) from the Waterfront park to the European Village pub.  It’s about 2 miles each way so it all fits together nicely – walk two miles along the intracoastal, have a cold one, then walk back to the park.   This week, with the beach messed up, I’m planning a hike into Graham Swamp.  I’ve seen it but never tried it.

Picking eggplant now.  I think this is the first time for a winter garden.  This late in the season it’s very possible/likely we’ll have a frostless season.  That’s showing up as a never ending supply of tomato sauce – we made another large pot today – and the tomato plants seem to be going strong.  This is the first year I can remember that we’re picking serious tomatoes at the same time we’re picking spinach, other greens, and snow peas.   I took a flyer and planted some summer squash seeds – much earlier than normal – they popped out in a couple of days and appear to be thriving.  I’m also starting the next round of tomato and pepper plants – taking a little risk but also taking advantage of the mild winter/spring.  

Big Scan

Nancy had a hair appointment on Friday at 5PM and it just so happens that her place is only a couple blocks from Persimmon Hollow – my favorite brewery. They occasionally have a blood orange wheat beer that just hits the spot for me and this was one of those times. There’s a taco place just across the alley from the brewery and more often than not, we take advantage of it by grabbing a couple of tacos. This time I tried one I hadn’t before – called the Rowdy Neighbor. It was a pulled pork taco with hot peppers and was the perfect mate for the blood orange wheat brewski. I’ll need to try it a few times to make sure it’s the right combo but I’m up for the project. Nancy’s favorite brew is called a “dirty blonde” and her Taco is called the Risky Neighbor – a shrimp taco.

For years Nancy and her quilter friends have provided quilts to Shands hospital for the children’s infusion lab. The contact there moved to Orlando and took a position at Arnold Palmer children hospital and started the quilt thing there. So it was neat this week when she emailed a picture of a young boy with a brain tumor wrapped up in a gator quilt. Apparently the boy was very depressed and the doctor thought maybe a quilt would give him a lift. Pam, the contact, gave him a choice of three and he took the gator quilt. She said his spirits picked up right away. Then they came to take him for tests and put him in a wheel chair where he broke down. They asked him what was wrong and he said he wanted his quilt. She said as soon as he got it, the light came back on. That’s the picture we got.

Had a PET scan today – I think the first I ever had. The prep is interesting – 48 hours with no carbohydrates. I figured that was easy enough until I found out that more things are carbohydrates than I thought. I always thought that anything that was “white” was probably a carbohydrate – potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, cake (made with flour). So with all the goodies coming out of the garden, no problem. Turns out that veggies are also carbs. It seems that anything not a protein or fat is a carb. Also no coffee, caffeine, alcohol, juice, fruit and on and on. I ended up with a big ham and cheese omelet so no starvation concerns. They also said no exercise or strenuous activity – not a real problem. The test itself was easy but time consuming. You get an injection of some kind of sugar, wait for 90 minutes in a relaxed environment then lay dead still in a scanning machine for 20 minutes. All in all not a bad experience but different than your standard X-ray.   I’ll get the results next week.

A Big “Fixit” Victory

We’re having spring for a couple of days so I took on a job I’d been thinking about for a few months – cleaning the poke boat. I have had the boat down by the lake for several years and it’s built up a layer of mold – like anything that sits around outside in Florida does. I’ve been reluctant to take any kind of bleach product to the fiberglass so went the power wash route. It cleaned up very nicely but I contacted the manufacturer anyway to find out what kind of treatment they would recommend. No response yet.

In fact, the power washer did such a great job that I decided to remove all the window screens and wash those as well. Totally unsolicited. But it’s true that no good deed goes unpunished. I turned on the power washer again and it started cycling on and off every two seconds or so – totally worthless. It does that if the AC power feed is too low or if the input water pressure is too low so I checked both of those. No go. So then I figured it was a block in the machine water path that was causing the pressure to go up quickly, activating an overpressure sensor. I took it all apart, section by section. Each piece seemed to work by itself but when they were all assembled, no go. I worked on it for an hour or so and then gave up. I was mostly suspicious of the end nozzle but couldn’t take it off to test it independently. I gave up for the day in utter frustration. The next morning I decided to try again and focused on getting the end nozzle off. There were clips and springs holding it all together and sure enough I did something that caused it to blow apart. I luckily found all the pieces, a spare nozzle head and managed to get it back together. Not sure I could ever do it again. Hooked up power and water and threw the switch. It worked. In the past George would have been in the loop quickly but somehow I managed.

With the return of great weather, I decided to jump into the late season spec fishing. I usually do that from the jon boat with the electric trolling motor. I often use the poke boat but when the fish are really biting it gets a little tricky handling the boat and the rods. One problem with the jon boat is that it is long and narrow and with just me in the back of the boat, the front end lifts up and the slightest breeze makes it tough to steer. The solutions to place a concrete block on the front of the boat to simulate another person. I’ve done it before, several years ago, so I know that works just fine. What’s a little different now is that when I did it before I was a bit younger, more spry, and without a sore back. But I did manage and took it out for an initial spec run. But the spec’s weren’t cooperating. Did have the pleasure of watching a flock (or family) of 6 eagles soaring above me. It’s not unusual to spot a pair but this is the first time I remember seeing so many at one time.

Nancy’s crochet group met so I decided to give the lake another try. This time I took my bass gear along with the spec rods. It’s early for the bass season but it’s been a strange weather year so maybe they’ll get a jump on the season. Alas, no fish. A couple of bites but nothing worthy of a report. I’ve apparently lost the razor’s edge and need to re hone my skills. This will take more lake time but I have to make that sacrifice.

End of week cooking. Another giant pot of pasta sauce and another large pot of roast cauliflower soup. Barbara next door likes the cauliflower soup so we’re making it as the cauliflower matures and faces going to seed. So it’s not the highest quality from an eating standpoint but perfect for soup.

The von Trapp Experience

Weather back to “normal” – upper 70’s during the day, low 60’s at night. It seems to me that we’ve had more cold days this year than normal but the temps have not been as low. It’s normal for us to have a frost or two in December and a solid freeze or two in January but we’re going into February with the garden still churning out summer stuff – green peppers and tomatoes.

We did the von Trapp thing I mentioned and I have to admit it wasn’t as bad as I expected – musically. The event was in a church that seated about 400 people and it was full. So there was the appropriate amount of coughing going on. The average age of the audience had to be 80 so there were plenty of walkers, people swinging canes and portable oxygen generators. I think we got out without catching anything. The singer was Elizabeth Von Trapp, the granddaughter of one of the originals in Austria. She had an awesome sound system, a good voice and was an excellent guitar player. That surprised me a bit. It lasted an hour fifteen, close to my limit. The other good thing was that I had been dreading getting out of the (over full) parking lot. Nancy doesn’t move very fast and Esther, our hostess and Nancy’s quilting buddy, is a social butterfly and a member of this church forever so I foresaw a lengthy exit process – dodging wheel chairs and barge like cars. As it turned out, we were close to an exit and Esther was in the lead to get out quickly. Her schedule is to be in bed, asleep by 7 and then up at 3AM so we were already past her bed time. We were one of the first to get in the car and had cleverly parked in a direction and location that allowed a quick exit. We were pulling out before the next wave had started their engines.

Still picking and eating from the garden big time. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, snow peas, carrots, and of course loads of salad greens – lettuce, swiss chard, and kale. We make lots of soup and freeze it. Today we made a batch of roast cauliflower soup, tomato/pasta sauce and the kale/cabbage/bean Tuscan bread soup. This time I let Nancy decide what was meant by a “generous” pinch of chili pepper flakes. This batch will be slightly different than the last one since I picked a head of Chinese cabbage in place of a conventional savoy variety.

Tom and Tina are hosting their annual super bowl soiree but we opted out this year. They have a full house and we’re the only oldie ( but goodie) attendees. Tom has a few games running during the game with payoffs for various game milestones and Nancy always participates and more often than not, wins a few bucks. Tom will buy her tickets and call as events unfold so we’re there in spirit.

Winter doldrums

The weather continues to be yucky – cold, wet, and windy. Cold means highs in the 50’s, lows in the low 40’s; windy means 12-15 mph right out of the north; wet means an inch or so every couple of days. It’s the kind of weather that doesn’t lend itself to fishing, working in the garden, or anything else that occupies my time normally. Lot’s of catching up on reading and working sudoko puzzles. AKA Boring.  I heard on the news that a polar vortex or two are on the horizon.  Why isn’t that a bigger concern than warming?  Warm is good, cold is bad.  easy

I made dinner the other night and screwed up on the red pepper flakes again. It was even hot for me. I guess a tablespoon goes a long way with hot pepper. I make a pasta – swiss chard dish that nominally gets a few sprinkles of pepper flakes but I got carried away. That’s twice in a row so I’m on thin ice in the kitchen.

Tommy came over this morning to take his mother to a movie. That’s their regular Sunday routine now. After they leave, I turn my buddy Robbie (Roomba) on and let him work his little heart out. Last time out he got underneath Nancy’s sewing area and ate up a couple little cloth squares. That stops him dead in his tracks and I clean him out. Along with the normal dust and sand, in this case there were several pins, needles, and pieces of thread. I understand the sand but am always amazed at the amount of dust it finds. The whole idea behind this guy was to reduce the amount of vacuuming Nancy has to do and it really does seem to be accomplishing that. I was afraid she would just follow behind the robot with the sweeper to make sure it was done right but she seems quite happy with the job it does and will initiate it several times a week.

Picking lots of stuff out of the garden now. Along with the load of kale, swiss chard, and lettuce we’re now getting snow peas, cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli. The cool, damp weather is perfect for these crops which suffer with too much heat. We’ve got so much cauliflower that we made a large batch of roast cauliflower soup for Wilma. That goes right along with (my favorite) the Tuscan bread soup with kale, cabbage, and beans.

And speaking of the garden, please remind me to avoid growing sweet potatoes ever again. I picked the last of them a few weeks ago and they’re just not that good. My logic is always that they’re one of the few things that grow well in the heat so why not. Also, even if you don’t eat the potatoes, the vines are so long and strong that it’ll make a load of compost. The problem with that argument is that the vines don’t die. I cut them up and toss them in the compost pile only to find them self rooting and overtaking the compost pile. I tried to turn the pile yesterday only to find it was like coils of rope under the surface and nearly impossible to turn.

Waterfront Park, Palm Coast

Nancy’s friend came up with tickets to hear the Von Trapps (sing) at a local church. I don’t watch “Sound of Music” reruns and you can’t imagine how much I wasn’t interested. But I’m thinking if Nancy really wants to go, it’s a Wednesday night at the Deland Presbyterian church, which is only a stone’s throw from Persimmon Hollow, and I could sacrifice and wait it out there while Nancy represents us at the event. At this point in time, we’re not really together on the whole plan.

The weather and tides have been wrong for my normal fishing excursions on Mondays, when Nancy plays bridge in Palm Coast so I had to come up with another way to kill a couple of hours. On the way to the beach I passed a sign that pointed to Waterfront Park and decided to check it out. The park is on the intracoastal and consists of literally miles of paved pathways through the woodsy shoreline. So for the past couple of weeks I’ve been exploring the park – walking a couple of miles on each excursion. There is a very nice fishing pier right at the park entrance but it’s loaded with fisherman – including lots of noisy kids. I was hoping for spots to walk down to the shoreline and fish in privacy but it’s a steep, rocky shoreline designed to prevent erosion which means no shore fishing. There are lots of upscale condo’s just off the paths and I’m looking forward to exploring much more of it – until the fishing conditions improve.

Nothing spectacular going on in the garden, just pickin’ and Eatin’. It looks like a heavy duty storm is barreling down on us that will bring us an arctic blast by this weekend. That means a coverup job in my future. Generally if we can make it thru mid Feb, we’re home free. This is the same storm that’s drowning California and threatening to bury Chicago and New York in snow later this week so I’m not going to get much sympathy for our 32 degree plunge.

Robbie the Roomba made two successful runs this week – successful means Nancy started it up, it ran around for a couple of hours doing robot kinds of things, and it parked itself and went to sleep when it was all done. It seems to be quelling Nancy’s inner urge to run the vacuum so right now it’s enjoying a thumbs up rating.