Nothing Else Needs to be Said

July 19th, 2016

Enough

Per KHOU, via Facebook.

~ Blonde Gator

Happy 4th of July

July 4th, 2016

My friend Kevin shared this video….which just happens to be the squadron in Germany, with which his father served, many years ago.

What a fabulous tribute to American ingenuity, and the particular joy of being an American.

Happy 4th, all.  Thanks, Kev….and cheers to your Dad, wherever he may be.

~ Blonde Gator

 

Cops’ Sense of Humor

January 24th, 2016

Well, about noon today, on this very chilly Sunday, we were snuggled in, enjoying ourselves.  And all of a sudden, we heard a cacophony from outside….and then….bagpipes!  Playing “The Minstrel Boy”.  Which, of course, we knew was a funeral dirge.

We looked out the front door, and what to our wondering eyes did appear?  Eight men in kilts, playing bagpipes, and drums, marching down the street.  They stopped in front of our neighbor’s home, Mike, the retired NYC cop.  I feared the worst.

Mikes Procession

They played another song, with many neighbors emerging from their homes to watch.  Then they turned and marched back up the street.  I heard them tell my neighbor John “his 65th birthday”….as they were discussing which bar to visit for lunch and a few little cold boat drinks.

Bag Pipes

As I said, a strange sense of humor!!!  But it was an amazing sight, and sound, for a cold Sunday.

All’s well that ends well.  Happy Birthday, Mike!

~ Blonde Gator

An Afternoon Break at the Beach

December 30th, 2015

Today we took Mason over to the beach in the late afternoon, to fly his birthday sea-turtle kite.

Mason with his Birthday Kite

Mason with his Birthday Kite

It was a beautiful afternoon, warm with a soft breeze (at the house).  The breezes at the beach were substantial, a mere quarter mile away.  And rather crowded at 4 p.m.  But we put Mason’s new kite together, and ventured out to the beach.  “Our Beach” is a local kite-surfers’ hang-out on windy days like today.  I recognized an old friend’s 1970 green & white K5 Blazer in the parking lot, alas, I never saw him.

Breezy Afternoon at the Beach

Breezy Afternoon at the Beach

The kite flew like a champ, immediately upon taking it out of the packaging.  It was, in fact, quite beautiful, and we heard many people surrounding us commenting about how lovely it was.  Its little front flippers flapped in the wind, appearing to try to swim through the sky.  As a point of reference, the kite’s tail is at least twelve feet long, the kite is approximately 40″.    Gorgeous!

The Sea Turtle Swims in the Sky

The Sea Turtle Swims in the Sky

Mason did a great job, flying his kite for the very first time.  He thinks the kite surfing looks like something fun to try when he gets older, as well.

Flying a Kite for the First Time

Flying a Kite for the First Time

After we were done kite-flying, Mason had a quick dip in the ocean.  It was rather choppy, with a swift current running south to north, so I bird-dogged him as he played in the waves.  He’s becoming a pretty good swimmer, so I was pleased.  I really didn’t want to have to dive in after him if he got in trouble, as I was wearing a dress!  As they say, all’s well that ends well, and after Mason had a quick in-and-out of the beach-side shower, we hopped in the XTerra and drove home.   Another happy day in the books.

~ Blonde Gator

Meanwhile, at Lake Alice

November 19th, 2015

All of my fellow Gators will know all about Lake Alice.

For those of you who are not UF alums, Lake Alice is a favorite spot on the University of Florida campus.

Although this is just a little guy, I can’t believe these people got so close to him while taking pictures, and I totally flipped my lid when the young lady asks the guy taking the video to “please grab my phone”.  WTH?

Anyhoo, we DO love our gators.  All of them.

~ BG

94%

August 14th, 2015

That’s my degree of agreement with Marco Rubio’s positions.

marco-rubio

Which, of course, I already knew, but it was interesting to actually answer these questions and see exactly WHICH issues, and how important each issue was as a qualifier for me.

Try it yourself.

Let me know your results.

~ Blonde Gator

Chocolate Chocolate Cake ~ Best Ever

August 5th, 2015

Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) makes the most delicious super-duper chocolate cake in the world, called Beatty’s Chocolate Cake.  It has become our “go-to” birthday cake.  Merrion made it last year for Mason’s birthday (she’d never made a “scratch cake” before), and her comment was “it’s so EASY!”.  Give it a try…..highly recommend!

It seems a little strange when you’re making it, the addition of hot fresh coffee (we use Starbucks’ Komodo Dragon, as always) makes the batter seem very loose and liquid.  You’ll think “no way” this is going to work, but the recipe for the cake is absolutely perfect!  The only thing we do differently is to use 9″ pans instead of 8″ pans.  They come out of the oven so rich, and dark, and moist, that they almost look black!

Right out of the Oven

Right out of the Oven

If you rotate your pans half way through baking, the cakes will be so nice and even that you won’t even need to trim your cake before icing it.  Speaking of icing, we always make a double batch.  Because there is no such thing as too much chocolate buttercream!

Melting the Chocolate for the Buttercream Icing

Melting Chocolate for the Buttercream Icing

After letting the cake and icing cool for a bit, it’s time to put the icing on the cake.  Then sit back, and enjoy the kudos you’ll get from the birthday boy or girl!  (The picture of our cake is from a rather low angle, the cake is much taller than it looks in the photo).  Island Girl & I made this one for our friend, Gloria….who told me it didn’t even last one whole day!

Chocolate IS Love

Chocolate IS Love

The addition of coffee in the batter is barely discernible, it just seems to enhance the flavor of the chocolate.  The instant coffee (we use Starbucks’ Via) in the buttercream icing is more apparent, and so delicious you won’t believe your taste buds!  Give this recipe a try, I promise it will become an instant hit with all of your chocolate lovers.

Bon Appetit!

~ Blonde Gator

How Spectacular is Your Summer?

July 20th, 2015

Pretty damned GREAT!

Florida Mango

Florida Mango

That, sports fans, is a MONDO mango from my friend’s next-door neighbor’s tree, which happened to fall in her yard about a week ago.  My pal brought it over….and I was thrilled, even though the mango wasn’t ripe, it was HUGE!  Such anticipation!  So, I put it in a paper sack, and checked each day for progress on ripening.  Patience pays!

(CAUTION:  If you are allergic to mangoes, which are related to poison ivy…don’t do this at home, find a pal….like me!….who isn’t in any way affected by the sap).

An unripe mango goes from solid as a rock, without any fragrance, and not much color…to a sweet-smelling, firm, and colored up (depending upon the variety) ripe fruit in a few days to a week.  On our trip to Costa Rica, we saw ripe yellow mangoes, red mangoes, orange mangoes, and even purple mangoes….so one can’t really rely upon the color.  Rather, use your nose to detect the sweet mango smell, and use your fingers to gently detect ripeness in the fruit….it should still be firm, but a little bit on the soft side…somewhat like a well ripened melon.

When your mango achieves the perfect delicious smell and texture, it’s time to carve it up.   There are many ways to do this.  I find it makes the most sense to either peel first (w/a huge fruit), and then slice/dice….or to slice first, cross hatch, and then remove from the skin, with a smaller fruit (perhaps I’ll do a mango tutorial another time).  Mangoes are extremely slimy to hold on to!  So a sharp knife is essential….but beware, you can cut your fingers off if you’re not careful!  You can learn more on how to peel a mango, and also find commercial mango seed corers online, search on “mango peelers”.

Today’s mango, as you can see, was almost 7″ long, and weighed in at 2 lbs., 2 1/2 oz!  After I’d peeled, sliced, and diced it, and threw away the seed and skin, I was left with 1 lb., 10 oz. of perfectly sliced fruit (which I promptly put into sandwich baggies, and froze).  Net loss on the pit and skin was 8 1/2 oz.

What to do w/mangoes?  Eat them cold, with a squeeze of lime.  AND, if you like, sprinkle with some salted chili powder…I prefer a bit of ancho & chipotle, with a bit of added Kosher salt.  Or just sprinkle with a bit of lime juice and salt.  Mix them with a little bit of booze (rum, Cointreau, or Triple Sec) and serve over home-made vanilla ice cream…a favorite at my house.   Mix them in a blender, with ice, a bit of OJ, for margaritas or daquiris, or a virgin smoothie.  Make a delicious fresh summer fruit salad with the other fresh fruit you adore.  Or make a salsa, with fresh hot chiles! The possibilities are endless.

My absolute favorite way to eat a mango, though, is on a boat, hanging over the bow rail….merely peel the fruit, and just eat out of hand, all the while dripping juice all over yourself, and the boat.  When you’re done, jump in to rinse off, climb back in the boat…don’t forget to grab a pail of water to rinse off the boat….and then wait for a fish to hit your trolled baits!  Fruit is supposedly bad luck on a boat….but I’ve always found the opposite to be true!  Eat a mango….Fish On!!!!!!!  (And hope you have a mango ready for salsa to go with your delicious, freshly caught fish)!

I somehow ALWAYS forget how delicious the first fresh mango of the season is.  It shocks me with a super zap of unexpected flavor, every single year.  Even if you don’t live in Florida (where mangoes are more or less free)….NOW is the time to shop for fresh mangoes, reasonably priced, because NOW is the season.  Then….slice, dice and enjoy…or cut them up for your freezer (they freeze beautifully) for use throughout the year.  Most of all, ENJOY the reason for the season.  SWEET!

~ Blonde Gator

Beach Day

July 17th, 2015

Today was the last day of “Surf Camp”, so we all went over to the beach this morning.  It was an absolutely beautiful day.  Surf Camp is at “our beach”, which is kind of a local hang out.  We noticed the Summer Surfers about six years ago, and this year, we enrolled the grandson for a week of surfing, skin diving, tubing, etc.  He had a blast.

"Our Beach" spot, looking North @ Hillsboro Inlet (old photo)

“Our Beach” spot, looking North @ Hillsboro Inlet (old photo)

Hidden Entrance to "Our Beach"

Hidden Entrance to “Our Beach”

Sometimes the Yachts Make the Waves

Sometimes the Yachts Make the Waves

Paddling Practice ~ Out to the Pylon

Paddling Practice ~ Out to the Pylon

Kowabunga, Dude!

Kowabunga, Dude!

The Sea Oats are Making a Comeback

The Sea Oats are Making a Comeback

Even a Bee Was Busy at the Beach Today

Even a Bee Was Busy at the Beach Today

Our Happy Surf Camper at the End of Surf Camp

Our Happy Surf Camper at the End of Camp

We are quite pleased with the experience at Surf Camp.  There were probably 40 – 50 kids there, but lots of adult supervision, and the camp was very professionally run.  There were some really wee ones there, too…all participating and having a ball.  It’s funny, we live about 1/4 mile from the beach, and haven’t been there in almost five years.  That’s going to change, I forget how beautiful it is to just hang out, catch some rays, take a dip, and see someone walk up to your umbrella…and recognize an old friend!  We’ll be back, and soon, too.  The little guy is enamored with skin diving, and I know a couple of other good spots.

See you on the beach!

~ Blonde Gator

How to Perfectly Roast Chile Peppers

July 16th, 2015

Since meeting the Iguana Man, I’ve learned how to cook with both dried and fresh chile peppers.  But, until today, I hadn’t quite mastered the art of “roasting” of fresh peppers.  I don’t have a gas stove, so I’ve been scorching them on my grill.  And in this summer heat, suffering to the point of heat stroke every time I’ve roasted them!

I used to just turn the flames up, and let the chiles cook, standing in front of the grill and turning, and turning, and turning.  Sometimes they’d be burned, to the point that the flesh under the skin had disappeared.  Other times, the peppers weren’t cooked enough to easily peel off the skin.

Here’s the perfect method:  Start all four burners on your grill, turn down to medium, and let heat up for ten minutes or so, until the internal temperature reaches 425 degrees.  Place the chiles on the grill, putting the largest chiles on the hottest parts of your grill.

Close the cover, and set the timer for 4 minutes.  Here’s what your chiles should look like…note there’s some char, and blistered skin, but not overcooked chiles.  This photo was snapped right after the first turn.

Roasting the Chiles

Roasting the Chiles

Turn all of the chiles, and reset the timer for 3 minutes, again cooking with the cover shut.  Remove the chiles, to a big bowl, taking off the most charred chiles first, and moving any that are still not slightly scorched to a hotter heat source while removing the well charred chiles.  Cover the chiles with tight fitting plastic wrap, and let them steam for about 25 minutes.  Once they’re cool enough to handle, it’s time to peel and de-seed them.

The easiest way I’ve found to peel them is to use my lasagna pan, and put a small bowl of water in the middle of the pan to rinse off sticky skins and seeds.  Be sure to use latex gloves…or your hands will tingle from the capscasin for a day or two!

Ready to Peel

Ready to Peel

Just get comfortable (I sit on the sofa and peel & remove seeds as I watch TV).  Try to remove almost all of the skins, and most of the seeds.  Use the water to clean your gloved fingers off….don’t dip the chiles in the water if you can help it.  Some seeds are good!  Save the yummy juice in the bottom of the bowl, too!

A Whole Bowl of Chili Peppers, Ready to Bag & Freeze

A Whole Bowl of Chili Peppers, Ready to Bag & Freeze

I’m so thrilled that I finally found THE easy way to prepare the chiles, that I just roasted off 14 lbs. of Anaheims, which Walmart is conveniently carrying!  That’s about 1/4 of the cost of ordering them (and having them shipped) from New Mexico.  The final weight of the roasted/peeled chiles is 5 1/2 pounds!  I put between 7 – 7.5 ounces of roasted, peeled & seeded chiles (and 2 tbsp. juice) in each ziplock sandwich bag, removing all of the air in the bag, then froze the baggies on a flat surface for easy storage later.

A baggie or two is perfect for Green Chicken Chili (depending on the size of your chili batch, of course), or use one baggie of chiles, chopped, to make a delicious salsa for eggs, enchiladas, etc.  I also am fond of making “green cream”….about a cup of heavy cream, whipped with a 1/2 tsp. salt, and a baggie of chopped green chiles.  Be careful….that stuff is totally addictive!

Bon Appetit!

~ Blonde Gator