Tuesday, October 16, 2018

5 Things I Love about October in the Sunshine State

Photo by Bart Everson via Flickr

Gotcha! After I posted the 10 Things I Hate about October in the Sunshine State, you didn't think I liked anything about it, did you? You didn't think I'd turn the tables. Well, here the tables are...turned!

It's true enough that I don't like hot weather and wish I could wear sweaters. But let's face it, I'm getting old...and pudgy. Scraping snow off a car windshield and waddling around looking dumpy covered in a lot of yarn is probably not a good deal for me.

So here are 5 things I love about October in Florida.

1. It's not too hot anymore. There's a slight...not hotness in the air. I don't break out in a sweat just by opening the door. Glory hallelujah, it's not so freakin' hot! (Check out the way hallelujah is spelled.)

Photo by Joe Crawford via Flickr

2. Reese's Pumpkins! The aisles of Walmart are filled with candy and the best candy is Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins. The Reese's specialty shapes have a different ratio of chocolate to peanut butter, and that makes them BETTER! This year, I have pledged not to purchase any pumpkins until after the Florida Writer's Association conference, which, as it happens, is this weekend. (This is an arbitrary date...just trying to hold off with the gorging. But it will no doubt lead to peanut butter pumpkin hoarding.)

Photo by Sam Howzit via Flickr

3. The Epcot Food & Wine Festival! That's right, every year I get to go to Epcot and stuff my face with treats from around the world (well, supposedly) and blog about it!

4. Halloween! Okay, so no trick or treaters at our house, but Halloween means Hocus Pocus!

5.  As soon as October ends, the HOLIDAYS begin! The air will cool even more and I'll start thinking about turkeys and cookie schedules. There will be holiday music in the stores. We'll put up a tree and pretend it's cold outside.

I tried to think of 10 things I love about October in the Sunshine State...but I couldn't manage it. And number 5 is really about the end of October so it technically doesn't count. Nonetheless, I have done my duty in fair and balanced blogging...

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

10 things I hate about October in The Sunshine State

Photo by Andy Hay via Flickr

1. It's currently 85° and the high is expected to be 89° and yet I'm expected to rejoice in the "cool" weather.

2. Everything is either green or dead. There is no such thing as Autumn here.

3. The knowledge that winter is not coming

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_Florida#Winter

4. My drawer full of unused sweaters

5. If I carve a pumpkin, it can't sit outside for more than one night without rotting.

Photo by Andy Hay via Flickr

6. Walmart knows if I buy the Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins now, I'll just have to buy more, even though...

7. ...I don't get trick-or-treaters anymore.

My Longaberger pumpkin basket hasn't seen any action since 2012

8. Horrifying previews of horror films on tv every night

Photo by Irene2005

9. Scary tv ads for Halloween Horror Nights and the like

10. It's not December. Not that December will be much better.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Caviar of the South! And a recipe...

This picture has nothing to do with cheese. Nonetheless...
Photo by cuatrok77 via Flickr

This afternoon, I went to Publix, only to find I'd left my shopping list at home. So, there I was, shopping rogue! In the end, I did very well. I remembered everything on the list except the pimiento cheese.

This is not the catastrophe it sounds like, as I keep my cold drawer stocked with Price's Pimiento Cheese. So I have enough to see me through to my next trip to Publix which, if history is a guide, should be in the next few days. (I like my food fresh.)

They call pimiento cheese the caviar of the South, southern paté, orange gold. Whatever it is, it's yummy. Actually, I know exactly what it is. It's cheddar cheese and mayo and pimientos.

Naturally, the best pimiento cheese to be had is the homemade variety. And I thought I had a recipe, but it turns out I only have a recipe for a fabulous cheese log (which I will give to you below). So, now I'm on a quest to come up with the best pimiento cheese recipe that I can to add to the next edition of The Narciso Family Cookbook.

But let's face it, who has the time for homemade, anymore? The next best thing is, in my opinion, Price's. I don't care for the Publix brand pimiento cheese. It's too bland, mayonnaise-y. It's creamier, I'll give them that. But one must never sacrifice flavor for texture.

I eat my pimiento cheese on toast nearly every night these days. I might get tired of it at some point and have to find a different dinner. But I'm one of those people who can eat the same thing every day for years and be perfectly happy. Let's face it, the world is a confusing, uncertain, perilous place. Why struggle to figure out what to eat? Just eat what you ate yesterday, including the ice cream. One less thing to worry about, amiright?

So, here it is, from The Narciso Family Cookbook, another fabulous cheese experience:


1/2 lb NY or sharp cheddar
1/2 lb pimiento cheese slices
1/2 lb cream cheese (8 oz pkg)
1 T Worcestershire
1 T finely minced onion
1 tsp red pepper (crushed)
1/2 tsp salt
1 c finely chopped nuts

Grate cheese. Mix all ingredients with hands. Roll out on wax paper into long rolls about 1 inch in diameter. Sprinkle with paprika*. Chill and serve.

I remember loving this stuff! I should make it again soon. I don't recall what sort of nuts we used, but I'm going to go with walnuts. Make it! Seriously. Make this cheese roll. (I think it makes two rolls, actually...or logs. Isn't "logs" the correct term?)

*Be sure to check for bugs.

Now, about the asterisk and the bugs...you'll just have to read the cookbook to figure that one out.

Also in the cookbook is a description of the Party Sandwich which includes pimiento cheese. It's basically a loaf made with two, crustless pieces of bread as a base, layered with tuna salad, egg salad, and pimiento cheese with more bread in between each layer. Covered with a layer of bread and "iced" with cream cheese softened with milk (though these days you can get spreadable cream cheese, I think) and dotted with halved green olives. Refrigerate until well chilled. Slice and serve. OMG. I need some right now.

Excuse me. I have to go back to the store...

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

There's a snake in the house! A Florida Story...

Juvenile Southern Black Racer
Photo by Mike Leffler at Flickr

There was a snake in the house yesterday. I walked down the hall to my bedroom and there in the doorway: SNAKE!

But it was a tiny, cute snake. Nothing to freak out about. Unfortunately, he slithered under my dresser before I could do anything. (Like I was actually going to do anything!)

Well, I rolled towels up and put them against all the sides of my dresser except at the side near the doorway. Then I barricaded a path that would force him out of my bedroom, away from the back of the house and toward the front. Then I cracked open the front door and went to work.

First, I planned to stick my back scratcher under the dresser and, I don't know...scoot him out. But when I went to the far end of the dresser, there he was! His little head peeking out from under the towel. I went to grab him (sure, sure) and he disappeared again. So I started knocking against the dresser and sticking my back scratcher up under it, moving it gradually toward the other end.

The now infamous back scratcher of terror!
(It's retractable!)


I found the poor thing later, curled up in another towel and managed to scare him back into hiding under the guise of GRABBING HIM! (You should know that at no time did I ever really make such a brave effort.)

I am not a snake whisperer. Obviously.

Finally, I decided I would just have to let him come out on his own. I closed the front door, but I kept peeking down the hall to see if there might be a little snake slithering down it. Like, maybe he just knew the right way to go. But nothing.

My Hero (hubs), arrived home for lunch and I told him about the snake. He got the flashlight and we started removing the towels, unrolling them, fully expecting the little snake to drop out. Nothing. The snake was gone. I was so sad. He was now at the mercy of not just a house with very little to eat beyond spiders, but also...the CAT!

The cat, Squeakers
(from which the snake was never in any real danger)


As I left my bedroom, there he was! In the hallway! Going the opposite direction I meant for him to go!

"There he is!" I screamed, scaring him into Anthony's room. I went into action, pretending that I might actually grab at him, basically forcing him to take refuge behind one of the bookcases. Egad.

We removed everything from the bookcase and Hero told me to block the other side.

"But he might bite me!"
"What will upset you most--being bitten, or letting the snake die in the house?"

Point taken.

I did my best to block the far end of the bookcase with a...wait for it...BOOK! (I am so brilliant.) Then we tilted the bookcase away from the wall and Hero did the Heroic thing! He caught the little bugger.

"He is not happy," Hero said, carrying him to the door.

I got to watch as the little snake slithered into the bushes out front. I'm pretty sure it was a juvenile southern black racer. We have a lot of black racers around here.

The Hedge
Last known whereabouts of the snake

As Hero left for work again, I "joked" that he better not run over the snake on the way down the driveway. Ah, ha ha. Not funny.

So, when Hero came home from work for the day, he said, "There's a little dead snake on the driveway!"

Proof that there is no dead snake on the driveway.
Cracks and debris, yes. Dead snake, no.

Yeah. We're so funny here. It's a regular laugh riot all day.

Anyway, that's my Florida story for today.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A weekend in Decatur...

We drove up to Decatur, Georgia, on Friday and settled into a Holiday Inn Express only to have our fears confirmed--they'd switched from waffles to pancakes. All along the drive we saw billboards advertising hotel breakfasts and they were all for waffles! Except Holiday Inn Express who seems to think a pancake machine is what travelers want.

My husband may never recover.

You see, the pancakes come out of the pancake machine decidedly flattened and rubbery, not fluffy and soft as they should be.

Bring back the waffle maker, Holiday Inn!

Anyway, we were up in Decatur for the fabulous Decatur Book Festival held every year on Labor Day weekend. Every morning the festival is opened with a parade (a dude drumming with kids and other festival goers following him around the streets). There's music and food and celebrity authors and booths galore.

All the usual suspects were there, including yours truly with Wayward Cat Publishing. We did brisk sales on Saturday, not so brisk but satisfying sales on Sunday, and returned home with an aching back and a bruised brain. (Introvert exhaustion.)

Next door, however, was a new booth: Dianetics. We thought it was funny that they called the booth Dianetics instead of Scientology. But, as Dianetics is a book, after a fashion, and it was a book festival, we'll cut them some slack.

And yet, the main draw to their booth, and the thing they were standing out in front of it trying to engage people with, was the infamous e-meter!

Hubs kept trying to get me to go next door and work Leah Remini's name into conversation. But I'm just not that person. In person, anyway. In writing, well, that's an entirely different story (and one might say, an entirely different Dianna).

So, here's a shout out to my weekend neighbors: LEAH REMINI!

Seriously, though, I hope I didn't get anyone into trouble. There was a dude there who was clearly in charge and he was having some "words" with one of the women tending the booth. And after we left and said good-bye to our new friends, I overheard him asking if she'd "tested" us (I think that was the word he used, but I'm not sure). She said, "No, but I..." and that was all I heard.

Religion just isn't our thing. Cults, either.

There were plenty of passersby rolling their eyes and laughing at the e-metering. But they had plenty of people in the chairs having their stress levels tested. (That's what they said they were doing--stress testing.) One woman laughed as they tested her son, leaned over to our booth and said, "What stress could he have? He's eight." Another man stood outside their booth and called them out on talking to kids without their parents present.

And one woman was at our booth trying to browse books but was so upset about what was happening next door she could barely contain herself. "I want to go rescue them!" she said of the testees.

I was handed a Quran as I passed by the Islam booth. (I swear this was not a religious festival. Just a little religion, that's all.) And I opened my shiny new Quran and read all about how people who don't believe in the god of Islam are sick in their hearts, liars, corrupt, fools, evil, completely in the dark, deaf, dumb, blind and will suffer painful punishment. (Right up front with the nonbeliever bashing!)

So now I need to find some use for this book, because it's clearly not for me. Not. For. Me.

That's the problem with handing stuff out to people whether they're interested or not. What you've given them is almost certainly going to end up in the trash. They didn't want it. They took it because they are polite.

Same thing with the hard sell. Most of the booths were like mine: people behind the table, more than happy to talk with you about their products if you're interested. Come on by and browse.

But there are those few booths where the sellers are standing out front, trying to get your attention, they might even touch you! Pull you over and try to sell you something. They might sell something. And they might sell it to someone who actually wanted it. But the hard sell can backfire. Imagine being pressured into buying a book, getting it home and finding you don't really like it!

Reading is a private thing--a personal endeavor. The hard sell just doesn't make sense. Not only is it degrading and pushy, it blocks traffic!

Still, it was a fabulous festival, as usual. Lots of happy readers and book lovers.

I ventured outside our booth as often as possible with my camera and offer you some interesting sights around downtown Decatur. It occurs to me that I didn't take any pictures of the actual festival. It's pretty clear from my photos what draws me, isn't it?

I found two small doors, for very small creatures, and suspect there are more about the downtown area. They were only about eight inches tall, so I imagine whatever lives there stayed inside to avoid being trampled during the festivities.

On Saturday evening, we had dinner at Raging Burrito. The burrito was huge! I could only eat about half of it. But it was very good. We got to visit with our oldest son and his wife. It must be awesome to live in the Atlanta area, with all its goings on all the time. DragonCon was happening that weekend as well.

At the festival, I spied a t-shirt that said, "Decatur: A Drinking Town with a Festival Problem."

Sounds like a fabulous place to live!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Scenic drives close to home...


This past weekend, we decided to drive out into the wilds. No more walking outside until September! So, on Saturday, we went to Titusville and drove the road out toward Playalinda Beach. I grew up in Titusville and have fond memories of Playalinda. Of course, back then, it was just a little road out to the coast, then another little road north along the dunes. No restrooms, no lifeguards, no amenities beyond the horizon and the sand. We walked over the dunes on trails that are now boardwalks. And back in the day, rumor was if you went far enough north on that road, you'd come to...the NUDE BEACH! 

I never went to the nude beach. Frankly, I never saw the appeal.

Playalinda means beautiful beach. And it certainly is. Recently, there was a post on a Titusville Facebook page asking us if we called it Playa or Play back in the day. My family called it Play-linda.

Anyway, on the way out toward the beach, there are roads that meander through the scrub. One of them is Black Point Wildlife Drive. It's part of the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge, which is really sad, because that means that Titusville's beach is really on Merritt Island.

You have to pay ten bucks to drive on it, but we've seen people stop at the payment board, hesitate, and drive on without putting any money in an envelope. We finally went to the Visitor Center and purchased an annual pass. (We're so proud.)

Little Blue Heron

Black Point Wildlife Drive will make you feel like you are in the real Florida. Water that is sometimes black, sometimes brown--with what looks like brown pine forests growing beneath the surface. Scrub and palm.

Huge spiders. Birds, alligators. Bugs will fly into your open windows as you ride along, sometimes they'll smack into your face. Dragonflies buzz along with the car as if they see you as a rhino and they're considering a landing. [Hubs: Those dragonflies have never seen a rhino! They don't even know what that is.] And we often see wild boar!

So completely unfazed by my presence they wouldn't even look up.

There's some really weird stuff growing in Florida.

On Sunday, we drove along the canal in St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park. This park is huge and has various entry points. We typically enter the northern section at the southern Brevard County line.

Loggerhead Shrike with a grasshopper

The canal here is hidden by a huge levee until you get to the end of the road where there's a dam, and a really dirty portable toilet. But there's a lot to see on this drive. Lots of birds, even wild turkeys. Raccoons, armadillos, deer. There are trails you can walk, but as I said, it's just too hot right now to get out of the car. (And, yeah, we run the AC even with the windows open!)

There wasn't much to see that day, though. It's just too hot, even for the wildlife. Soon the temperatures will dip just enough for us to regain some sense of sanity and we can, once again, leave the car...

What's that?
Right there...
The weeds?
Is that weeds?
I think it's weeds...
Pretty though.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Florida: why does anyone live here?

I was born in Florida and have lived here forever, unless you count that year we lived in Denver, but I don't count it because if you count that, then you'd count the summer we lived in Baltimore. We still had a house in Florida during those field assignments. Our address was still "Florida."

I'm not bragging here. I'd love to not live in Florida. Have I ever really liked it here? No. No, I haven't.

My childhood memories are all dusted in bright, white light. In pictures I'm squinting against it. As a child, I was forced to go to the beach regularly, where sand got everywhere and the salt water only left me sticky. I didn't tan then, and I don't tan now. I burn. Burn, burn, burn. I'm hitting my mid fifties now, so we'll see what cancers I got from all that Florida sun.

I love sweaters! How can a person who loves sweaters so much tolerate this heat? I remember in the 60s and 70s we had cold snaps and I had the best sweaters then! In high school, the local Catholic church put on a fair every fall and I wore those sweaters! I'd come home from walking around and around and around, take off my sweater and jeans and find my ankles, neck, face, and hands grayed with the dirt from the fairgrounds. Even dirt up my nose. Those were the days.

I crochet. Do you know what I love to crochet? Afghans. I have a rack of them. Beautiful afghans! Can I use afghans in Florida? No. No one needs an afghan in Florida.

I can't step outside my house, into the garage!, in the summer without sweat instantly soaking me, my upper lip beading. Talcum powder is my friend.

I cannot fathom how people lived in this mosquito infested swampland without air conditioning when they colonized this place. Why did they colonize this place?  Why would anyone want to do such a thing?

My northern friends are preparing for fall and Halloween, getting ready to pull out that winter wardrobe, and I'm sitting here in the crotch of the United States like an old fart railing against the unfairness of it all.

I want my nose to freeze when I go outside! I want to wear sweaters and coats! I want green trails in mountains, misty and crisp! I don't ever want to sweat under my boobs again!

Alas. Alack. It feels like 100° at 9:00 a.m. mid-August and all I can think of is hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Woe is me.