Tap, Tap, is this thing on?

Is there anyone out there?

I write these things from my comfy chair.   I bang them out a couple weeks early, and write away.  I guess, its one of those things you get to do, and if you like it you keep it up.   I’m finding that I do like to do it, but wonder who is reading this.

To my sister Pat in NJ, thanks!  You’re my most reliable reader.  You hit this almost every day, and hardly miss a day.  I know this because Google Analytics tells me that I get a hit from your city daily, and that it is always someone who has been here before.

Other than that, According to Google Analytics, I usually get one or two random hits.  Not always from the same folks, so I know it is due to one or two posts that I have written in the past.   Specifically the couple of posts about this Poang Chair and the Ikea shopping trips as well as the other comfy chair, the Barnet from La-z-boy.  I know that because Google Analytics tells me the string that someone uses to find this in Google.

I have been told that someone who reads this on an “RSS Feed” will not show on Google Analytics.   A good friend here, Kevin, reads it when he gets notice in the late day saying this has a new article.  I have a habit of setting these posts ahead of time by about two weeks, and always at 8AM so as not to raise questions at work.

I have a favor of you folks.. if you are reading this via a Feed, drop me a comment.   I’m curious to know how many of you are out there!

Thanks!

Jewfish Bridge leaving the Keys

I published a mate to this picture about a month back.  It was the first in the series because it was the first I took when driving South.   This is the Northbound view from just North of the crest of the bridge.   Shows you a good view of the Glades.   Flatter than New Jersey or any other “flat” state.  Green as it gets.   The land is absolutely lush, choked with sawgrass, mangrove, and other tropical foliage, stuffed with wildlife both natural and exotic.   Beautiful area.   Way off in the distance lies the Florida Mainland and Miami to the North.   My home beyond that.

This is a view that you just don’t seem to get in many places.   An almost unspoiled view of wildlife.  Untouched lands where there are no farms or buildings for about as far as you can see.  I’m glad I’m so close to something that I was only once able to dream about visiting.  I can only hope that the State is able to reclaim the wetlands that were taken away to build this metropolis that stretches about 100 miles from North to South, about 20 miles from East to West from the Agricultural Interests.  A one of a kind jewel that can not be replaced.

Iguanas really annoy me

To say it politely.   To say it otherwise, this would look like something out of an old Looney Tunes cartoon with punctuation to spell words like  “*$#|{!”.

I’ve been dueling with these creatures for the last year solid and am fed up with it.  They’re officially an invasive exotic species here in Florida which means they can be “humanely controlled”.   I know of people who go to all sorts of “humane control” measures to protect their properties.   While some people keep exotics for pets, including me with my own Orange Wing Amazon Parrot, most don’t let them escape.   With no predators, they will breed until something like the lack of food limits their numbers.

There are products like Iguana Rid that supposedly will protect your plants.  I’ve had no luck with the stuff since I have actually sprayed one in the eye and it just stayed put.   My preferred method is to chase them away with an 11 foot pole or a border collie.   My Border Collie thinks its great fun to chase things but that is problematic in itself.

I’d like to have a solution for this but I don’t think there is one other than keeping an outdoors dog and paving the yard with concrete.   I prefer my dog indoors where she can entertain me and concrete is not an ecological solution. 

The real solution is legislative.  The State of Florida, and others, should not allow the purchase or sale of exotic species in areas that they could live outdoors.   In this state, it is south of the I-4 Line – Daytona to Orlando to Tampa, roughly.   Simply ban them from pet stores.   We don’t need Ball Pythons roaming the Everglades, or Iguanas perched in my Bougainvilleas.   If you have the critters, keep them until they live out their lives but don’t allow “replacements”.   Somehow I don’t think that would pass or would work.  If you go to Miami or Dade County, you still see plenty of Pit Bull “Mixes”, and they are outright banned there.

So today (I write this stuff ahead of time), I’ll move my Hibiscus in a pot out front and hope it doesn’t get discovered.  I miss the yellow flowers it has when it’s happy and it certainly has been moping for a very long time.

Islamorada Hurricane Monument

When driving up US1 from Key West, after about 80 miles or so (I’m doing this from memory so don’t hold me to it), you hit the middle to upper keys.   The land and road changes from being East to West to bending toward the Florida Mainland to the North. 

In 1935, on Labor Day, an extremely strong hurricane hit this spot.   What it did was inundate the land and wash everything that was not strong enough to manage the storm surge out to sea.

That hurricane is why US1 goes to Key West and doesn’t stop further North in Dade County.   What happened was that the Railroad that was built from Miami to Key West, Flagler’s Folly, the Florida East Coast Extension was basically erased.   The storm surge washed out the tracks in the Middle Keys, but left the bridges intact since they were built to last through some rather durable concrete.   To this day you can find remnants of the tracks and a Caboose or two here and there from Islamorada on South, and the bridges were left in place.

The entire railroad right of way was sold to the state of Florida for a dollar, and the road was paved over the tops of those bridges.   In places you can tell that the road was built on a right of way since it is slightly elevated, and absolutely flat.   Others, you get on the more modern replacement bridges and can look down on the old Flagler FEC bridges and see the road bed.  They’re used for Fishing platforms for the most part and are quite popular.

This monument stands for all those who lost their lives on those days in 1935 in that horrific storm.   It ruined a railroad but made the lower keys what they are today, Accessable… after a LOT of work.

Thanksgiving Day

No turkey in my house.   Won’t happen.  I’m having some folks over that the idea of serving Turkey means “I’m calling out for Pizza”.   So what’s going to happen?   Instead of my favorite stuffing with walnuts, orange slices and raisins, I’m getting Mashed Potatos.   Instead of the turkey itself, we’re making a Pot Roast with Port Wine Gravy.

Yep, Port Wine.  The Drink of Choice of all Pirates.   Arrrrr!   Well that or a bottle of rum but rum gravy wouldn’t be quite as good.   The trick is to slow roast the pot roast in a broiling bag with all the vegetables and a cup or two of Port Wine.   It doesn’t have to be good wine, merely average will do.

When it comes out, the pot roast will fall apart, the carrots are literally like candy, the potatoes are smooth as silk and sweet.   Mash them all down with some sweet butter, unsalted, and preferably Home Churned, and you have an excellent meal.  

I may not get my Turkey Dinner, but I will be eating amazing sandwiches all month of December and I will make Cornish Pasties out of the bits and pieces left over.   I’ll also have one very jealous Network Admin looking at that sandwich.  Home Made Bread, a slab of beef, and a bit of extra sharp Vermont Cheddar.

Yum!

Or like the Officer said the other day when he had a cookie “It looks like we’ll all need some extra road work now!”.

Blue Skies meet the Florida Straits

By this time I had left Key West.   Beautiful day for a drive.   When you get out on the bridges on that thin ribbon of concrete you see blue and palm trees.   That’s about it, but boy was it a lot of beautiful blue and palm trees.  
You just don’t get these kind of views up North.   The water is clear and blue because it is too warm for the Algae to live in it.   Green seas are what you get when you cool down the water as anyone in SC or NJ or MA could tell you.  It doesn’t necessarily mean the waters are any cleaner in FL although they are for the most part, it means they’re just warmer.  The rare days it would get to 72 in the ocean at the Jersey Shore, everyone would be sweltering in the heat and running to the “warm” waters.   When it is 72 in the ocean off of the Florida Keys, it is winter.  
But as I said, there are only a few Keys Trip Pictures left, so enjoy!   I’ve been back in Ft Lauderdale at the time of writing for more than a month and just putting these up so family can enjoy them.

Cookie Dough Therapy – The Return of Cookies

Yes, Cookies Start With C as Cookie Monster used to sing.

The cookies all got baked.   64 Chocolate Chip Pecan cookies, out of Four Pounds of dough.   You can estimate the calories for me, its kind of scary.  About an ounce per, so that’s about 100 calories on average.

I took about 1/2 of them to work the next day.   6 went to my Network Admin, 24 found their way to the kitchen.  They were put on the counter with care, and a note saying enjoy.   They also didn’t last too long and were mostly gone by lunch.   We have an office of under 20 people so that meant everyone could have one and some could have two.   Since there are a few who are on a more holistic or healthy diet than Full Butter cookies would allow, there’s going to be a few with two or even more. 

The best scene was watching this big hulking BSO K9 Officer munching on a cookie with a wild look in his eyes of total enjoyment.   Think of the LOL Cats and caption the scene “Nom nomnomnomnomnom!”.  After that saying “Now I’m going to need extra road work!”.  Yep, we all need a few miles running after all that.

Oh I did reserve two for myself.   They’ll be eaten with some rather good Ethiopian blend coffee from the company coffee pot.   I’ll need the Caffeine since I’ve been sugar-crashing lately.  Eat too many of those things and one or two hours later you’re looking to get out of the office for a walk!  Luckily I have an excuse to get out and survey the building as the IT Manager and make sure that there are no obvious problems.   I’ve got four departmental Laser printers, two on each side of the building about 1/4 mile apart.

So, where’s my second mug of coffee!  🙂

Tropical Paradise or just another Weird Cemetery?

When you have an island that is made out of solid Coral stone, and practically no real soil to speak of you make allowances.

This is the Old Town Cemetery in Key West.   They made allowances for all of this by building little crypts on the surface of the ground like they did in New Orleans.  Having a gravedigger with a shovel is normal elsewhere, but in this situation you end up with a very frustrated person with a bent up shovel. 

The other thing to keep in mind is that they don’t really have a lot of real estate there.   This place is literally crammed solid with crypts and graves.   I’m not one for claustrophobia, but walking past the place I found myself looking for open spaces.   This was the most open view I could find, the rest of it was literally packed like sardines with old tombstones from the 1800s and beyond. 

Probably an appropriate place for me to end my travelogue, in a cemetery.  I’ve finished with the pictures of the island, and have only a few more on the trip back.

Cookie Dough Therapy

Anyone who knows me knows that I bake.   I think it is fair to say that I am better than average and I bake quite a lot.   For the last few years I baked Cakes, Cookies, Candies, Brittles and so forth for gifts for friends and family.  Money was tight and I did so much of it that I was able to enjoy it and get my favorite recipes down perfect.

Florida has some wonderful things about it but one thing that I am missing is good bread.  The locals sigh and say “I know, there’s something missing in the water”.   Not much more you can say about that.   My tried and true bread recipe is a recipe that my sister Pat gave me for Pizza Dough.   Toss the ingredients into the bread machine, remove the dough and allow it to rise and it made for a wonderful loaf or two.  But it just doesn’t taste right.   Kind of “flat” and not as crusty as it did with that Schuylkill Punch we got out of the tap in Philadelphia.

So I was feeling muddle headed from reading about technology at work all day on Monday and when I got home I thought that since I had been promising the ladies at work a chance at my cookies, I’d make the dough.   I made up four pounds of Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookie Dough from the internet recipe for Mrs Fields, and they’re chilling in the refrigerator.   There’s a trick to this stuff.   When it comes out of the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer that I swear by – Roll it out like a sausage in some Plastic Wrap or Parchment Paper and chill it until it firms up.  A half an hour should do it in the freezer, or just wait until tomorrow.   If you don’t, cookie dough gets awfully sticky and hard to manage.

Since a good cook rarely gives away their recipes, I’ll keep my Top Secret Recipes to myself, and suggest you search for one of your own.   Other than that feel free to ask for hints.  One I do like to do is double the vanilla in any recipe.   More Bang for the Buck! 

Yes, there’s an obvious hit in the last two paragraphs where to find the specific recipe if you look for it.

Transportation in the Tropics

This picture ties together a couple things about Key West.   The place is a little 3 by 5 mile island in the tropics.   Well, technically speaking it is 70 miles North of the Tropics, or 2/3 the way to Havana Cuba, but we’ll allow that. 

When you live in a warm climate, you have to make allowances.  If you read the post I made the other day about Raining Iguanas and Cold being anything under 70F/21C then you’ll understand where I’m coming from.   Houses here have big porches and awnings so direct sunlight do not come in and heat up the home.  They’re built to allow the breezes to flow through and cool without Air Conditioning.   It never really gets as hot as it did in Philadelphia in August although it stays hot much longer.

When you are on a small island that is for the most part self contained, you end up walking everywhere.   If you want to use Mass Transit, it comes in smaller forms.   This Pedicab in front of the Conch House Style home says it well.   Its only about a half mile or a KM or so from the central business district so normally you walk.   Even Americans who have a reputation of not liking to walk will do so in Key West.   Or they’ll hop on the back of this contraption.

After all it is Mad Dogs and Englishmen who go out in the Noonday Sun.   The rest of us have a shade over us on a pedicab.