Tag Archives: Family

Wild Kingdom Off The Beaten Path

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The Circle B Bar Reserve

Just this side of Disney World, and a relatively short drive from whatever overpriced, overcrowded theme park resort you might be staying at in Orlando, is a tourist’s treasure that is so off the beaten path, so under-publicized, that it is known mostly to Central Florida residents. It’s the Circle B Bar Reserve, an environmental freshwater marsh and swampland reserve that is not only a total kick in the pants to visit, but unlike your favorite theme park with their marked up souvenirs and $50+ burger and fries lunches, admission is FREE. Special guided tours are available for a fee, but you really don’t need one to see what there is to see at the Circle B.

Walking at the Circle B, Down Alligator Alley

Obviously, the infamous American Alligator is the star attraction at Circle B, and you will be treated to plenty of them in their natural habitat in the reserve’s Lake Hancock, and also in the open swamps that line your walking trails. And no, there is no barrier between you and them—this is raw nature at its best! It’s safe, for the most part, as long as you don’t do anything stupid and make sure to keep your distance if you happen to spot one of our reptilian friends on your walk. There are even signs on the trail advising tourists to turn and go another way if a gator happens to be laying on the walking trail. Visitors are warned to not attempt to walk around the gator. The scary thing about that to me is that you know that sign is there because somebody at some point was dumb enough to try. Oh, and by the way, gators can outrun us, so don’t think for a minute that you have the upper hand because of your big ole human brain. If, despite your best efforts, one does take a shine to you, this guy seems to have some pretty good gator attack and avoidance advice: Israel Dupont; Living With Alligators. I heard a rumor somewhere that you can always try to sit on their back and clamp their mouth shut, at which point they are rendered helpless. Er…no thanks, I’ll pass…

Look Closely–On the left-ish side of the photo, you’ll spot a baby alligator, covered in green swamp muck!

Just to let you in on a little Florida Insider information—here in our state, if you see a standing body of water anywhere, including lakes, rivers, drainage ditches, swimming pools and bathtubs, it’s best to just assume there’s a gator in it, because chances are, there is. This little fella moved into the small pond just a few yards away from my house last Spring. I named him Al.

Al, The Neighborhood Gator

For serious nature enthusiasts, there is much, much more to Circle B than just alligators. The reserve’s website boasts of a “tremendous bird population, including a variety of wading birds, waterfowl, ospreys and bald eagles”. For butterfly lovers like me, there are several gorgeous fluttering specimens which may be observed in their natural habitat as well.

And they’re friendly  too…

As if all of this wasn’t enough, the reserve has a very nice, air conditioned Nature Discovery Center which is open Tuesday – Saturday 9AM -4PM and Sunday Noon-4PM. There you’ll find lots of educational information and exhibits, as well as friendly folks who can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Florida wildlife and wetlands!

I hope you’ll take the time to visit this Florida treasure! You’ll probably want to leave your mouse ears back at the hotel though. I can just hear it now…

Lounging Gator #1: Hey Fred, juicy giant rodent at 3:00!

Lounging Gator #2: You can have him George, that last one gave me heartburn…

Oh, and one more thing…PETS ARE NOT ALLOWED at the Circle B, for obvious reasons!

Remembering With Recipes

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The First Page of My Grandmother’s Homemade Cookbook

When my grandmother, who I always called “Mamaw”, died a few years ago, I realized just how many of my memories of her included/revolved around food. I think this is often true about the women in our lives, because we are usually the ones doing the cooking for family gatherings, Sunday dinners, etc. The exception is cooking that involves the outdoor grilling of some slab of meat or another, in which case the memories would be of the man of the house. Because in my lifetime I don’t think I’ve ever known a guy who would allow anyone to cook anything on his grill while there was still breath in his body.

AKA, “Kay” to Everyone Who Knew Her, “Mamaw” to Me

Mamaw was a good cook—not a gourmet chef, but a good, memorable cook. Over the years she collected various recipes from friends and family members that she made a lot and that all of us remember her preparing. She is the reason that I have a particular fondness for the easy but unbelievably delicious dishes one can make by simply opening a bunch of cans and bags, mixing stuff together, and baking for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

A Favorite From the 80’s…I prefer these days to use an equivalent amount of fresh chopped broccoli instead of frozen.

And then there were her Christmas specialties such as her fabulous Bisquick Sausage Balls—to die for, people! For those of you who aren’t from the South, sausage balls are a common Christmas-time staple in our neck of the woods. They always have ground country sausage, mixed with cheddar cheese, and some sort of biscuit type ingredient to make them stick together and bake in the oven. Every Northerner or Californian I’ve ever made them for has fallen in love—with the sausage balls, not me. Mamaw found the easiest and also the most delicious sausage ball recipe ever, of course, and not only do I associate them with memories of her and her annual Christmas Eve buffet spread, but when I make them myself I can literally feel her presence in my home.

Mamaw’s Infamous Sausage Balls! I make them with less Bisquick, and more cheese, but try to get them just as “crumgly” 🙂

Food, especially a loved one’s trademarked recipes, is a conduit of memories, love, and comfort–even more so when they are gone from your life. Those sensory memories that familiar flavors spontaneously evoke are one way to keep your special person close to you always. Several years before she became ill and her health began to decline, Mamaw and my grandfather, who I always called Papaw, gathered up all her best recipes, typed them out (complete with some really endearing typos and misspellings), and made handmade cookbooks for all us kids and grandkids. My copy is well worn, and I have often referred to my “Kay’s Kollection” cookbook when planning a meal, or looking for something different to take to a potluck or Holiday gathering. And this book of Mamaw-related memory treasures honestly means more and more to me as the years pass on. Now I am somebody’s grandmother and I can only hope that my kids and grandkids will want to make some of my signature recipes someday. I have my own, and I have Mamaw’s originals, and my own versions of those with my special tweaks, that I can envision my kids and grandkids making years from now, and maybe remembering me when they do.

A 70’s Sunday Dinner Staple, Of Course! Who didn’t love to talk about Tricky Dick then?

I wanted to share all of this with you because I think more people should consider putting together handmade cookbooks like the one I treasure so. It’s a priceless gift for your kids and grandkids, a great way to carry on family traditions, and to remember all the precious times we’ve shared with the people in our lives, who all will inevitably leave us at some point. And my Mamaw’s simple recipes and some of the memories they hold for me are worth sharing with the world, I think. So, hats off to my special someone, and her knack for the simple and delicious! A few of my favorites are scattered throughout this piece, and have been photographed just as they appear in Kay’s Kollektion, with her typos and my kitchen spill stains. If you click each of the photos to view its actual size, the recipes should be very readable and, of course, easy to follow.

I hope you enjoy them, and they will encourage you to make your own memory filled cookbook for your family!

She Made This Concoction During the 70’s & 80’s. And she got it from her sister in law and friend, Opal “Opie” Hunt, who also happens to be Phil Hunt’s Mom.

Another Christmas Celebration Favorite From the 70’s!

My Grandparents, “Mamaw & Papaw”

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

I Became a Grandmother Today!

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“When a child is born, so are grandmothers”. ~ Judith Levy

I became a first time grandmother today! My grandson was born this morning, 2 months early, so we’re still on pins and needles but have every reason to be extremely optimistic that all will be well. Isn’t it a miracle how life continually renews itself? It’s an amazing thing to be a grandparent, I have to say…there’s just something so special about a part of me continuing on after I’m gone someday, especially since I didn’t play any active part in the whole “life goes on” thing this time…:-)

Noteworthy Grandmothers :

Granny Clampett

Sarah Palin

Grandma Moses

 

AND……..

WittyBizGal

“Grandmothers are just antique little girls.”  ~ Author Unknown