Saturday, December 30, 2006

Alas, poor Yorick!

Down home in Walton County

Dead River Road

Back away from the beach a ways, northward along the warped and cracked county roads that lead into thick woods and cypress swamps, lies the backcountry of Walton County. Today we took a little spin along the floodplain of the Choctawatchee River basin and explored parts of this diverse county that we hadn't yet seen before. It was a trip back in time, thank goodness.

To say that the traditional South is alive and well in post-modern America turns out to be the understatement of the year. I'm real glad to see that it's a kicking and a stomping here in these later days. Y'all come visit now, ya hear?

Parking lot at the deer hunting camp on the Dead River

White trash delicacies

The No Name store on Hwy. 81

Feel free to pet the snake before going into the store.

Quiet beauty of the Dead River Swamp

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Happy New Year from Florida!

Been traveling the back roads and scenic byways of the Sunshine State this past week and have just returned home to the precious joy of yowling cats and an empty fridge.

Nonetheless, I am looking forward to the upcoming new year with hope and optimism in my heart and wanted to send y'all wishes to enjoy a safe and sane New Year's holiday by staying home and watching Dick Clark on the boob tube! Better safe than sorry.

I also hope your favorite college teams win their respective bowl games. Georgia plays Virginia Tech on Saturday, so let's hear it for the Dawgs! (Yeeeee-haaaaw!) I'm also getting three and a half points from the boys in Vegas, so life is very good!

Night now y'all.

Ocala National Forest

Way down upon the Suwannee River

Diorama of turpentine production in Perry, Florida

Tarzan in the jungles of Marion County

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas light display

The Walton County seat is located in the charming Victorian era town of Defuniak Springs, Florida. Built along the shores of Lake Defuniak, this lovely little burg is full of beautiful and ornate Victorian homes, churches and a large city park that hugs the lake shore. It is one of the most perfectly round lakes in the world and is exactly a mile in circumference.

During the Christmas holidays the park is elaborately decorated with lights while music is played from loudspeakers mounted high upon the town's municipal building. It is quite a sight, even for Christmas grinches like myself, which is why I wanted to share a few shots of this spectacle with you my dear readers. Oh and by the way, have a Merry Christmas y'all!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

When Johnny comes marching home

There is an interesting article in the current edition of the Nation that reveals a rapidly growing movement within the active-duty ranks of the U.S. military to get the hell out of Iraq. This is a very encouraging sign, which I hope will ultimately lead to more desertions, defections and outright refusals to continue fighting this unjust and unholy war. Here is but one sample from the article, that quotes a 21 year-old infantryman stationed near Mosul, Iraq:

This is my second tour, and as of a few days ago it's half-over. Before I deployed with my unit for the second time I already had feelings of not wanting to go. When in late September a buddy in my platoon died from a bullet in the head, I really took a long hard look at this war, this Administration, and the reasons why.

After months of research on the Internet, I came to the conclusion that this war was based on lies and deception. I started to break free of all the propaganda that the Bush Administration and the Army puts out on a daily basis.

So far in three years we have succeeded in toppling a dictator and replacing him with puppets. Outlawing the old government and its standing army and replacing them with an unreliable and poorly trained crew of paycheck collectors. The well is so poisoned by what we have done here that nothing can fix it.

The full article:

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bike ride on 30A

After enduring the inhumanity of what passes for bitter cold here in Florida----high temperatures in the mid-50's, it is with great relief and pleasure to be back to normal with readings in the mid-70's. With that in mind Connie and I set out for a ride on the bike path which parallels Walton County Highway 30A (the main drag of Florida's Emerald Coast beach towns). We pedaled from our home in Seagrove Beach westward to the town of Grayton Beach, a distance of about 7 miles.

Many of you have inquired about the new place that I call home, so I thought I'd produce a brief picture album from my morning travels to give you a thumbnail sketch. I'll say this: "It is shore is purty here!"

Morning light along the shores of Eastern Lake

Fall colors decorate the woods of Watercolor, Florida.

A lone gull meditates on the seashore of Grayton Beach.

Preparations are being made for the pelican pot luck.

Sign in front of a Grayton Beach home (Springdale take note)

Western Lake

Connie can't figure out why I always need to bring my snake along.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Christmas in Florida

It's Christmas time here in Seaside, Florida.

Lights in the main square.

I just finished mailing all of my presents off.

The town Christmas tree. Is this even legal?

December sunset from the porch deck of Bud & Alley's Restaurant.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Minature hoodoos in Florida

A couple of weeks back Connie and I were hiking along a lonely hunting road deep in the woods of Washington County, Florida. As we were making our way back to the vehicle I noticed out of the corner of my eye some pieces of broken glass that were scattered by the side of the road. What grabbed my attention, as I looked more closely at these colorful shards, was the fact that they capped little minature hoodoo spires about 5 to 6 inches tall.

Florida beer glass hoodoos

Now those of you who are familiar with hoodoos from Zion and Bryce Canyon know that they are columns of stone that form when a hard piece of rock protects and preserves the softer underlying layers it sits on. Acting as a sort of hardhat or umbrella, these more resistant layers form what geologists call a hoodoo.

The name is apparently derived from the word voodoo and is related to the fact that many of these rock columns resemble human forms in an eerie sort of way. They can be found in many places around the world and composed of a variety of materials. Keep your eyes peeled because you never know when you might bump into one.

A lone hoodoo on Zion's east side

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pecan pie

After making several pumpkin pies around Halloween and then 18 sweet potato pies for Thanksgiving, even going so far as to give one to the valet parking attendant at our New Orleans hotel, I felt it was time for me to branch out in a new direction. It had recently been hinted to me, by my family, that they were especially fond of pecan pies. I had never made one before so I was sort of hesitant to plunge in haphazardly.

As fate would have it I recently unpacked a collection of 1950's Gourmet magazines that were purchased at a Cedar City library sale some years ago. As I was flipping through the November 1956 issue (exactly 50 years ago), looking for some holiday cooking ideas, I inadvertently stumbled upon a recipe for Southern Pecan Pie on page 34. This was my cue to plunge in with wild abandon. It turned out to be such a delicious pie that none of it is left to photograph for this blog post. I'll be making another in a week or so.

I think that this traditional treat of the Deep South is a wonderfully sweet and tasty alternative to the standard mince, canned pumpkin and frozen apple pies that most folks endure during holiday gatherings.

So here is the recipe that I hope will bring a big smile to all those you love cooking for at Christmas time. It's really not so hard to prepare, especially if you buy a pre-made crust from the frozen food section of your friendly neighborhood grocer.

Southern Pecan Pie

Boil 1.5 cups of cane syrup with 1 cup of sugar for about 2 minutes, or until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Slowly add the hot syrup to 4 beaten eggs, stirring constantly. Add 1/4 cup butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1.5 cups of coarsely broken pecans, and stir well. Turn the mixture into an unbaked pie shell and bake pie in a moderate oven (350 F) for about 45 minutes, until the shell is browned, the filling is set, and a knife inserted near the center comes out dry.

Also----make sure you use a brand of cane syrup that actually contains cane syrup. I think it makes a big difference in the overall taste. I found some at a local independent grocery store in Panama City Beach, that wasn't unavailable in the larger chain stores.

Contains real cane syrup

Monday, December 04, 2006

Calm as a lake

Just a few weeks ago I sent out a post on that whopper of a storm that was roiling the waters of the Gulf in a big way. Well today, with a steady north wind, there was nary a ripple on the placidly smooth surface of that exact same body of water. It looked like a bright blue lake instead of the ocean I know it to be. In fact, it is never the same, with each new day presenting a different mood and texture to greet my senses. It is never boring and always beautiful.

No waves today!

Prey is easy to find over clear calm water.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Florida stocking stuffers

I have discovered a great store in Panama City Beach from which I plan to do all of my holiday Christmas shopping. It is a dollar store of Florida tourist merchandise, which features all kinds of wonderful items. Why heck there's everything from cheesy shot glasses and clam shell ashtrays to rubber snakes and whoopee cushions. My kind of place, as many of you have might guessed.

I bought the pictured items below as stocking stuffers and wondered how many of you out there might want me to send y'all one this holiday season? Let me know soon 'cause there's only 23 days left to shop till I drop!!!

Baby alligator paw key chains