How Different Is Preparing for Coronavirus from Hurricane Prep

Image by ds_30 from Pixabay

Time for a bit of a ramble here.  After all, this is Ramblingmoose…

I am not so sure how different preparing for a feared quarantine is from Hurricane Prep, but here we go.

I have lived in South Florida since April 2006.  While we have had some near misses, we have to prepare for every hurricane like we’re going to be directly hit by a storm that will be strong enough to take the power out for an extended period of time.

Every year, usually in June, but it extends back into May and forward as shopping trips allow as far as August, we start to shop.

Normal shopping shifts from How Can We Fill The Freezer to How Can We NOT Fill The Freezer.  Only get things you actually WANT to eat.

Just Be Reasonable About All Of This.

There’s a story of two new immigrants from Syria in the Dearborn Michigan area.  Their country was damaged by the war that is lingering there and they escaped.  They were in the supermarket not knowing each other and one asked “So how long have you been away from Syria”.  The other responded “Not long, but look at these fools buying frozen food”.  They could tell by looking in each other’s shopping carts.

Basically, when the power goes out, most of the effort of keeping things from going wrong in your life will be expended in making sure that your frozen foods don’t melt.

So, don’t buy them.  Look for temperature stable foods, canned goods, and a REASONABLE amount of toilet paper and paper towels.

If you’re buying up hundreds of rolls of toilet paper, you’re a fool.  One roll per person per week is my estimate.  Even if you double that, 100 rolls lasts a year.  My own experience is about a roll of paper towels in about two weeks or so.  More if I am clumsy.

Water is much more important but ask yourself how often has water been completely absent from your life.  I can honestly say less than four hours in the metropolitan areas that I have lived in and it was because someone named “Gator” was working on our water supply pipes.

Slow down, for you to lose water service, you’re talking a Mad Max kind of post-apocalyptic situation.  Get a case of bottled water, maybe two per person and fill your own jugs when things go bad.

Power is much more likely to go out on a given day than water.  I’ve had power pops almost every single week that I have lived in South Florida.  Power was two weeks off for Hurricane Irma.  Hurricane Dorian would have been much worse for Fort Lauderdale had it not punished the Bahamas so badly.

Your food in the fridge is now suspect when the power goes out for long.  The freezer has melted.  Prefer to eat your frozen food now before problems arise, put freezer blocks in the freezer once space appears.

Got a generator?  Enough Fuel?  I’m guessing that gasoline will be the next thing people will be chasing after.

But the Russians seem to have us taken care of with that.   After all, they’re flooding the markets and pushing prices downwards.  I wonder how long it will be before gas is below $2 a gallon again?

Just be reasonable.  If you are tripping over huge amounts of frozen and refrigerated foods, you’re not doing your best work.  On the other hand, extra canned and dry pasta is worth the effort.

Since it is Strawberry Season, I’ll be canning Strawberry Jam this week to go with the Peanut Butter I have from Last Hurricane Season.  After all, fresh fruit doesn’t stay fresh forever.

Besides you are really going to be sick of canned meat once we’re back to normal in a while.

Anyone want a Tuna Hoagie?  Mmmm!  Can I trade a roll of TP for a tomato and an onion?

Going To Publix to Cage A Thunderstorm

I have often said “Beauty happens everywhere, prepare yourself, and take a camera.”

Even when you are doing something that you might consider mundane, you might be surprised.

All it takes is to stop and smell the roses.

In my case, it was to stop and load the back of the car with the groceries.

You see we had just had a whole bunch of rainstorms.   That’s a technical term “whole bunch”.  We had a miss of a hurricane, then a couple days of storms.  All that gets followed by what passes for normal, which really is just a setting on the washer.

Since we, as a species, have decided to ignore what is happening around us, the weather got “weird”.

South Florida at this time of year Back In The Old Days of the 80s and before, or so I have been told, had very regular weather in The Wet Season.  Rain at 4:30PM.  Clear for the drive home.

Then we managed to fill up the place with condos put too close to roads and homes that were once low slung and now are beginning to look strangely familiar to anyone who grew up in a colder climate.  You know, two stories or more.  Split Levels.  Frame houses.

Yeah, all of that will get knocked down the first time we have a proper Category 3 blow through like Matthew was supposed to be here.  Those houses will all end up in my swimming pool and like places.

If you are moving down here from Up North, buy an older house.  One floor.  Concrete Block.  Impact Glass.  Non-Flat roof made of Tile.  That’s a start.  Let the other guy “take the hit”.

We moved here after everyone filled the place up and took over from someone else who wandered off to the Florida Keys to build a house on stilts.  I guess he wanted to fish for Lion Fish off his back porch.

But the storms don’t come at the same time since all those homes and all those pitched roofs and all that black asphalt warmed the air.   The sun hits it all, warms it up and creates a strong updraft.  It creates an island of heat that my own house is on the edge of.

So those 4:30 PM storms hit south of Miami and at the airport since the airport is a big open grassy field.  We get our storms at random times, seemingly around “The Dinner Hour” which certainly varies, or over night, or all day.

You get the picture… it all changed.

This particular day was one of those random days.   We got rain most of the afternoon and that meant that we were puttering.  I went into the kitchen and got creative and realized I needed a few things from the market.  Since it was raining, we went down to The Big Publix downtown in Fort Lauderdale since there is a parking garage built over top of the market.  Convenient and you don’t have to park in another area code because you want to park in the shade.

Another Floridian trick:  You will park way “out there” so  you can put your car under a tree, then walk way back.  This is so your car doesn’t melt in the sun.  Of course you get your suntan on the walk back from the shop, or the mall, or what have you.

Tourists tan.  Locals don’t.

The building is built like a bunker.  Thick walls to support all those SUVs and Exotic Cars that people here seem to think they need to show off to their neighbors with.  Plus my qualifies-for-antique-license-plates Jeep Wrangler.

Think of a casino.  No idea of what is happening around you, outside, day or night.  You can’t tell if you are in the middle of a war in one of those bunkers of a buildings.

I was in Aisle 7, I think.  Giggling at the magazines.  Looking at the pictures and considering translating one of the Spanish Language ones just for practice.

We heard the weather then.  A Deep Rumble, and a far away wind.  Considering we were further inside that building than my entire property length, that was a surprise.

“Must be rain”.

We rarely use umbrellas here.  Locals, that is.  You see someone using an umbrella and it is a snowbird or other tourist, or it is one of those rain storms that has no wind.

This wasn’t that.  It was a gully washer out there.

We managed to finish the shopping and went up to load up the car.  I stopped dead in my tracks and looked West.  Weather almost always moves East to West here except the times it moves North to South or Up and Down.

Scratch that, you really can’t tell what way a specific cell is Supposed To Move.  Thunderstorms can come from any direction at any time in October.

And there it was.  Looking Caged.  A thunderstorm.  I guess that was what I heard when I was reading that one Spanish magazine.

They do come from any direction and sometimes they just pose for you.

Finishing the shopping, we made it home without incident.  Just a little rain starting up just as we got into the driveway and loaded the food into the house.

You see, Storms here can come at any moment…

Black Friday? I’ll Pass

Tis the season, finally?

Maybe, but today is the day of Gladiatorial Combat, the annual Running Of The Bulls in the Malls.

The websites are full to the bursting with deals promising deep discounts.

Sure, and we all spent time in the bathroom going through email accounts on our phones deleting email “bacn” promising 75% off of something we just can’t live without!

“Bacn” instead of “Spam”.   Stuff you signed up for when you bought or downloaded something.  It’s called Bacn – bacon. 

No, I don’t know why either. 

Shh, I am sure there’s a shiny object somewhere to distract you… oh well, have a picture of my puppy instead.

For no reason.

Yes, it is Black Friday.  Every store of any size is offering sales to entice you to come in and buy something else.

Why do I phrase it that way?  Am I grumpy?  Do I need yet another mug of coffee? 

Because, Nope, and not just yet.

Here’s the deal.  Businesses are not in business to lose money.  At least in the United States they aren’t.  Here the businesses are required to have some of the item on sale and state their policy if the item is sold out.  In other words, way down in the small print they will have a disclaimer.  That may be “No Rain Checks are available on Black Friday Specials.”.

What does that mean?  It’s the retailer’s gotcha.  It means that they were required to have at least one of that item on site, on sale, at that price advertised, with the printed conditions, at the opening of business today.

Complex huh?

It means that the manager put it out, and could have immediately bought it himself.   The owner of the store could have come out and bought it for herself.  If neither of them wanted it, the intern fetching coffee could have grabbed it.

If none of that happens, someone camped out since midnight the night before who was first in line grabbed it.

They tend to chase campers away from the door until the day of, although that could just be a rumor.

I ask myself “Why bother” every year.   I did the Black Friday thing once.  Swearing never again, I left that year and didn’t come back. 

I generally don’t shop in malls from now until after December 26th anyway.  If Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, the day after the holiday, December 26th is the second busiest one on average.

As for online deals?  Be careful.  You can at least grab the model number and look online for reviews and comparisons. 

I’m actually in the market for a good printer.  I came to the conclusion, at least for myself, that inkjet printers are a bad idea.  I print so little that having one means watching the ink cartridge dry out and be unusable when I actually need to print.   Add to it the price of new cartridges and that while I am heavily into photography, I don’t actually NEED to print color photos…

Why bother at all?

Coupons, Resumes, Cover Letters, and Thank You Notes are about it. Even then I print out about 50 to 100 pages a year.

What am I planning on doing?

Laser Printer, Black and White ONLY.

Why that kind of printer?

Simple – the toner does not dry out.  Toner is a black dust that sits in a cartridge until it is needed and will last much longer than a tiny tank of ink that costs more than gold per ounce.

Why black and white?

Color laser printers may consume ink when they are idle.  Black and white printers do not.  It is why you generally do not see Color Laser printers in the “consumer” market segment. 

That and cost.  The color laser printers are quite expensive at times and you have at least four toner cartridges to replace.

So I looked.  Found a laser printer that I will watch and grab if the price comes down a bit more.  But while I was looking I found an entry level printer that cost $30. 

I got all excited.  You know, that rush you get when you think you found a good thing that nobody else knows about?  Yeah the Shopper’s Rush, that one!

Since money is always tight around here, I loaded the model number into a search engine (not the big one, but one that hides your presence from the big one so you aren’t monitored) and found the price of the toner.

Twice the price of the printer at $60 per cartridge.  At least it only needs one.

Let the sucker, er, Buyer Beware.

Always do your research.  If I can give you a helpful hint, that’s the best one.

57 Miles For A Watermelon?

I wasn’t thinking of produce that day. 

It actually was something new.  We were going to a “hamfest and flea market” down in Coral Gables.  That of course set off a chain of events because of what I call “Suburban Inertia”.

Inertia is the physics maxim that those bodies at rest tend to stay at rest, those bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, unless acted upon by external forces.

Yes, Science Content.  You expected anything less from me?

Suburban Inertia is the theory that once you move your body into the car and get going, you may as well keep going until you get all your errands done, or run out of interest.

Cash, Time, Interest, Need for a Rest Stop… all that qualifies.

We got out of the house at 7ish.  About a quarter after 7 if I misremember right.  Got into the big blue beast because my Jeep eats gas and I hardly ever drive it.

No, really.  I was asked by a neighbor if it worked since I use it so infrequently.  Yes, I do, and Yes, I still enjoy driving it.

We were heading to the University of Miami main campus in Coral Gables to hit a quarterly Hamfest and Flea Market.  I figured it would be fun, if nothing else, to go there and look for electronic fiddly bits.

Fiddly Bits is a serious technical term for small items that are necessary for life.  The little things that go together to make life itself possible.  You know, that one screw that fell out of the bottom of the case you were fixing and now the door hangs crooked?  It ticks you off to no end because you can’t find the little thing because it rolled under the refrigerator after you kneeled on it when you got on the floor to find it in the first place?  It stuck to your jeans and bounced off and rolled under there and you can’t be bothered to go after it because you’ll have to move the pantry and clean the damn thing?

Yeah that kind of fiddly bit.

I was actually hoping to find some “bell” wire to make an antenna and figured something calling itself a hamfest would be chock full of “cool stuff” as well as fiddly bits.

I was thinking of maybe the 1990s.  That sort of flea market was massive back then where you could go and buy one part and walk through hundreds of tables entertaining yourself with the question “What the heck is that thing” and getting back an idea that convinced you that you needed it to repair that old tool sitting in the shed so you really can get that chore off the honey-do list that’s been there since the turn of the millennium.

Come on, we all have one or two of those chores!

The hamfest was modest.  Fun but modest.  Only about 20 tables.  It did have a vendor with Vacuum Tubes, so I’ll go again.  After all, Dad’s Radio could use a tune up!

We were through in under 15 minutes.  Walked through again a third time and decided to go.  I didn’t exactly want to go back so I suggested that we go down to “That scruffy farmer’s market down near Homestead” and poke around.

Redland’s Farmer’s Market.  Homestead, Florida.

After getting the “Are You Nuts” look, we started heading back to the main road.  By the time we got there, I heard from the Driver’s Seat “Yeah that would be fun, lets go look around for that place”.

Mind you, we had stumbled across it once on the way to the upper keys.  It was an insane crush of people then and we thought it would be fun to wander around it just because.

When we got there it was just as much of a crush of people on a Saturday morning.  It also felt like home.

I used to entertain myself going to this exact sort of place all over South Jersey and later in Pennsylvania.  They’re all a little rough around the edges, but you can find things you can’t find anywhere else.

Apparently “real” seeded watermelons are one of those things.  I mean, really?  All season I could only find those vile tasteless un-seeded watermelons.  For years I couldn’t find a “Real Watermelon”.  The deep pink to red flesh that tasted sweet and eventually would drip down your chin or your arm with a sticky watery juice.  

The un-seeded varieties didn’t taste like that.   May as well eat the rinds.  Blah.  Can’t have seeds?  Too damn bad because you never ate the real thing.

It’s a Jersey Tradition around the Fourth of July to stand in the backyard eating a wedge of watermelon and ending up with the seeds trying to take root in the garden because one of the kids spit them there.

Kids being anyone, even adults.

Everyone enjoyed them because they were good.  Not that over priced basketball sized thing that they sell now.  These would take up the entire bottom shelf of the refrigerator and promise goodness.

That was the first thing I saw – a monster watermelon.  So I mentally made a mark in my mental checklist to stop back and grab one when we went exploring.

Never really found anything else I needed.  Wanted, yes, but needed?  Nope.

Heading back to the fruit stand I grabbed the largest watermelon and immediately was warned “They have seeds!”.

Yes, that’s the point! That’s how you want them!

I also grabbed a couple oranges, apples, a large sweet potato, and a few lemons and really REALLY looked forward to that watermelon.

Getting home I checked calorie count and figured a “candy bar” ration of calories would be 24 ounces of the thing. 

Yes, A Bowl Full turned into a “Salad Bowl” full of a pound and a half of Watermelon.

Frankly, for an ex-Jersey Boy like me, that’s par for the course.

And BOY did I enjoy that.  The wall of sweet, the juice stuck in my Movember Beard, the seeds to discretely spit out into the bowl.  It all put a big smile on my face.

Then I realized.  Movember, er, November.  We’re way out of season.  Where would I get another?  How far was that again?

Checking the map… 57 miles.

Yes, we drove 57 miles for a Watermelon and some other assorted fruit and veg because I just couldn’t find it in any of the “normal” places.

Would I do it again?  Sure.  Just not every damn week.  After all, there has to be somewhere closer I can get them.

I know of this little fruit stand on Dixie Highway up in Oakland Park…

I’m already plotting a trip out for next weekend when the Suburban Inertia strikes!

Ikea, Particle Boards and Florida Don’t Mix

It was one of those things.

Having house guests meant we got to go shopping.  I had to restock the kitchen.  No problem there, I actually like going to the big Publix supermarket downtown.  If anything I try to restrain myself from getting all sorts of crazy goodies because I like the challenge of making new recipes and sharing them with friends and family.

In a small house, you learn quickly that cabinets and pantry space are at a premium.  There are many that would consider 1200 square feet large, and others that would consider it a rabbit hutch.  They’re all not paying my mortgage so I’m inclined to tell them to have a nice day.

Among other things.

But we did get creative with storage when we moved in here.   Coming from 1900 square feet on three floors in Philadelphia, I’m still throwing things out that we moved with back in 2006.  The box of random parts gets smaller since I just don’t have room to store things that can be repaired.

There is always room for food, and with the seasons being only two here, I have to store food for each.

Hurricane Season means that we store two weeks worth of food, water, and necessities for six months.
Snowbird season is easy, the weather is predictable, and we don’t really expect problems.  So this is when you eat the Hurricane food.


One of the things we did was throw up our hands and build up the laundry room.  It’s definitely not “ADA Compliant” any longer.  In fact, I have to wonder if it is even Ramblingmoose Compliant. 

There are so many cabinets in the laundry room that my shoulders brush both sides of the path to the back of the room.   Shelves above your head, on the walls, and cabinets on the entryway.

That’s where Ikea came in.

We went to the land of cheap Swedish Flat Pack Furniture a while back.  They name things by taking a phone book in Stockholm and throwing darts at a random page and saying “Billy!  I shall call a cabinet Billy!”  or “Look it’s a Boj!”.

Not that anyone out of Scandinavia knows what on Earth a Boj is, mind you.  I suspect it’s another word for a room of convenience, and most likely flat packed so you can assemble it with a happy Allen Key and a lot of swearing.

Oh, and it’s probably made with Particle Board.

Ikea doesn’t make everything out of particle board.  This is a good thing because particle board is rubbish in a humid climate like South Florida.  It’s rubbish in a dry climate too, but at least it won’t melt there.

I had some rather nice looking dressers from Ikea that were made of particle board in Philadelphia.  By the time I moved out, I didn’t have any trouble moving them out.  I simply gave it a nudge, and it collapsed. 

All the more easy to throw out.

And this was the basis of my problem.

We got back from Publix with giant bags of food.  Technicolor bottles of soda.  Cans of random condiments.  Eggs.  Lots of Eggs.

All of that food had to be stored.

I walked into the kitchen and began to fill the freezer immediately as Kevin brought in the rest of the food. 

Beginning with the frozen fish that was on a “Bogo”, I began playing Freezer Tetris. 

I think somewhere in Stockholm, six weeks ago, a Butterfly flapped its wings.  That butterfly caused my pickles from Nebraska to bounce.

The pantry simply collapsed.

We hadn’t actually added anything to the pantry.  What must have happened was that the rain that was approaching from a tropical system that was two days away at that point scared it.  Six feet worth of Canned Goods, boxed pasta, random glassware including two strange Star Trek promo glasses I have no idea what to do with, a stack of 5 ready made pie shells, three jars of spaghetti sauce and much more began a short trip.

The shelves gave way in the middle of the pantry.

The sheer volume of the food that hit the floor was a shock, we didn’t realize that we had those 4 bottles of catsup in the extra large sized handy plastic squeeze bottle.  We also don’t know what we’ll do with them, considering that we don’t use quite that much catsup. 

We still have the catsup by the way.  It survived the trip to the floor.  Those bottles ricocheted off of the washer, onto the stack of bottled water and onto the floor in the corner cushioning more fragile things like cereal boxes on their way down.

The pickles were a gift from my cousin Bill in Nebraska.  Good ol’ Mason jars.   I never knew that a glass Mason storage jar could take the fall from chest high, bounce off of my dryer, the spaghetti jars, and some other weirdly random food and survive with only the sealing ring getting dented.  But survive they did.  Good thing because Bill has an excellent recipe for sweet and sour pickles!

Unfortunately that spaghetti sauce didn’t survive.   We had four jars of the stuff.  The two that were in the Good Ol’ Mason Jars bounced off of the pickles and settled on the floor back in the corner intact among the dirty towels that have been collecting waiting for Hot Wash Day.  The other two did not.  They were commercially prepared, and since glass isn’t designed to take impact unless it is a Good Ol’ Mason Jar, and the commercially prepared stuff is much thinner glass.  It’s Just Thick Enough to get it home, but not really thick enough to survive any shock.

How did all this happen?

The side walls of the pantry were not built with any support beams across the back.  The pantry itself was built as four sides with a piece of cardboard nailed to the “box” as a backing.  It wasn’t designed to hold it together.  Yes, a piece of particle board nailed across the back would hold it up much better but that wasn’t to be. 

The box bulged through the successive years of humid weather and jars of pickles, and that night even before I put another can of Whole Fruit Cranberry Sauce on the shelves, it collapsed.

I never saw a cabinet burst its seams like that before.  It was a giant waterfall of crap.  It simply vomited up my stored food and Star Trek glasses into my laundry room.

My laundry room now has a slightly pink floor.   Yes, the spaghetti sauce again.  The floor is unsealed concrete and while I managed to get up almost all of the sauce with a mop and a lot of hot water, it is impossible to get all that healthy lycopene back up off the floor once it has been left there in an explosive fashion.

I’ll be cleaning up spaghetti sauce for years.

So if you do get a tall and narrow Ikea Particle Board cabinet, there is a fix.  Screw your shelves in with a long drywall screw through the outside box of the cabinet.   That will give you the lateral stability you need in case your cousin Bill from Nebraska should ship you some yummy pickles again!

Pickles.  Suddenly I’m craving some pickles.   No ice cream, please, and we have quite enough spaghetti sauce that survived.

Did you know that a Mason Jar could bounce?  Neither did I!

I’m A Box

Well Played, Box, Well Played.

I found myself staring at the bottom side of a box.

Having knife in hand, it was time to slit the strapping tape holding it together.  It was going to be a box no longer.

We do recycle here.  We actually throw out less trash than we recycle, so Box, you will go out to the big green bin to the big green truck for it’s trip to the recycling plant here.   Box will join your friends, then roll down the block scaring my dog on its way.

It’s ok, you couldn’t have know that the very food you contained would sustain the same dog you would eventually scare on your last trip off the island.  He eats better than we do.

You visited me only for a short time.  Arriving crisp and clean, you sat in my dining room awaiting that Friday trip or a respite in a reuse.  We do reuse before we recycle, but that wouldn’t be your fate.  Holding a bag of dog food was one thing that meant you would be too large, Box, for that sort of treatment. 

For a while you sat on my dining room chairs, the solid maple chairs that I brought from my old home in Philadelphia.  You sat there empty looking over my dining room as if to ask what is my next step in life?  You were in effect asking me, “when do I move on?”.

My dog Rack did sniff you over from tape to tip.  After all, you smelled richly of Regional Red.  We got him the best food we could simply because he wouldn’t digest anything else.   Dogs who don’t digest don’t get strong, they don’t thrive.

But for about two months, the bag of Orijen dog food that came from the plant in Canada, then to in New York will bring life to our beloved faithful sidekick.  

Box, if that is what you wish to be called, you will have another life.  Perhaps as paper towels, perhaps as another box, perhaps as electricity.  Tomorrow the food you brought us a month ago will be opened so my dog can sniff it over, and eat slowly all day.  In another two months, Box, your great grandchild will visit us with another bag of imported dog food from the Great White North of Canada.

I am advertising averse.  I watch TV programs only with a remote and a DVR handy.  When a commercial comes on, I either skip past it, or let the delay build up so I can skip later.  But I caught myself looking at you.  Those commercials were not entertaining, but I have to admit I found myself pondering this message.

Once in a very rare while, even I pay attention.

You Choose – Buy a Miracle Whisk From A Hawker or Buy Online For A Third

One of those chores we all do.  Walk through a large market picking up things you can’t do without. 

We stepped in the BJ’s in Fort Lauderdale and immediately heard someone blathering about some promotion.  I responded with telling the PA Announcer to “Shut Up”.  Really!  You just don’t need someone loud on those things, and other than a public emergency I really don’t see why they are needed at all.

No worries.  I walked past the high profit items near the doors like TVs and Stereos with a chuckle.   Ok, sometimes those high profit items aren’t all that bad a price, but stores always put the impulse items near the doors.  Just how many TVs do you need in a two bedroom house anyway?

That announcement again.  Some nonsense about a Miracle Whisk and how it is supposed to be MY! BJ’S! WHOLESALE! CLUB!

Yeah, get back to me on that one, if it really is mine, I’ll take my profits and sell the thing.

More impulse items in store, although I did take a long look at wiper blades.   Having a Jeep means that you never can find blades.   I use a 13 inch blade for the front window, and most cars start at 16 inches and up.  I noted the price and kept on moving.  I probably would have grabbed one of those had they had it but there just aren’t that many 2002 Jeep Wranglers in the area to drive demand. 

Mental note, check online.  I won’t have to use gas to buy the thing in that case.

We keep going.   I grab a bottle of “My Port Wine” and some clothing items and round the corner to the outdoor stuff.   It’s South Florida, you just need pool salt any time of the year.  We’re a different market than where BJ’s is headquartered, and for that matter, all those big department stores.   There used to be Burdines where you could get stylish clothes that made sense when you are running Air Conditioning in December.  Now it’s Macy’s who is trying to convince me that I need to dress for New York City weather.

Nope.  Just nope.  Sorry, Macy’s, you just aren’t The Florida Store!

We’re laughing at the pool equipment when all the sudden we’re stopped by the source of all of those announcements.

“Hey we’re having a raffle and it’s starting in 5 minutes, here’s a ticket-come-on-down!-you-mightwinsomethinggreat!”

He was speeding up as he got to the end to get us in there before we lost interest.  Then he left in a gust to hand out more “raffle tickets Thankyouverymuch!”.

With a laugh I was being told that under no circumstances would we do this if we had to watch a presentation. 

I overruled that.  We were here, he was starting at the end of this aisle, and who knows it might be fun.

These hawkers all have a rap, a patter.   It’s a case of showing you a product that you may or may not have a need for.  In this particular case it is a “Miracle Whisk”.  Now being a baker, and a pretty good cook, I do have a whisk.  I hate using the thing.   I can whip cream to a stiff peak, and have made meringue with it, but it really is tiresome.  Much easier to use the stand mixer and a little of FPL’s finest electricity.

I watched this guy pour some ice cold non fat milk into a flat bottom glass measuring cup and with about 10 seconds of effort make a passable whipped cream.  It may have had a little help mixed in, I don’t know, but he did make the whipped cream.  If it really does work, that would be worth it.   Whipped cream is rather nice on some of the baked goods that I make.

*shake that thought out of my head*

I’m thinking anything more than $10 it’s not worth it.

$20.  But wait there’s more!

The end of the schpiel came.  Pay $40 and you get two regular sized plus a mini whisk. 

Yeah, I’ll pass.   So did I win?   Nope.  A pre-teen kid got the ticket.  He got mom to get the prize of a 25 dollar dinner invite.  A couple people sprung for the Big Bargain Bag.  Let’s go!

It was amusing, and well worth watching someone squirm about being in a demo for a product that we just didn’t need.

I went through the rest of the store getting things we did need and pretty much forgot about the Must Have Kitchen Gadget of the Year!!!

Laughing about the experience, I managed to get home and forget entirely about the Magic Miracle Whisk!  Now with extra whipped cream until lately.

I was going through some of my regular online routine when I saw my old friend.  The Miracle Whisk.  It was on sale for $7.  I have to admit, for $7 I considered it. 

Now $7  is a lot better than the $20 for one the hawker was selling them for so I decided to search.

How is a low of $.20 in bulk?  An upgraded Silicone version for $1.20 in bulk.  In RED! Oooh, Red!

$7 is the going price online.

What did I take away from this story?   I had a lot of chuckles out of the affair.  It also shows me why “stores” are doomed.  With “traditional” malls closing due to people not showing up for many reasons, and Brick and Mortar stores having entertainment like these hawkers selling things at triple the price on line, why bother?

I make it a point to be well informed, and I shop heavily online.  It’s more convenient, better priced, and I can do it sitting in my comfy chair.  If someone wants to sell me something new and improved that I have not ever had before, I have been trained to look online while thinking of it.  Impulse shopping for things like Miracle Whisk or Wiper Blades are just not done. 

After all, you have to pay for those bricks and all that mortar.

The best way that can be combated by traditional stores is to match online prices.  If you can’t compete, you’re a dinosaur.  Just ask any mall retailer.

I haven’t gotten that Miracle Whisk.  May not.  Probably not.  My house is chock full of kitchen gadgets.  But the entertainment value was well worth standing there and watching people debate whether to stick around or not.  I certainly got a chuckle out of it.

Sticker Shock for a Key Wester

David’s gone now.  He came up from Key West for a long weekend and I dropped him off at the airport so he could catch a shuttle to go home for a while.

On the way down we were talking about the festival over the weekend.   He knows the people who ran the Key West visitor’s booth there.  He was talking about how the guy was complaining about the location of the booth and making generic comments about things.

Being someone who lived in Key West since the 80s, David may not be a Conch, but more of a Naturalized Citizen.  You don’t live in a place without it affecting you, and you affecting it. 

I’ve been in South Florida now for 7 years, I can understand.  At this point I’d say that I’m quite settled in.  Doing work in shorts and a T Shirt feels normal now even if I do look killer in my grey suit!

David did have an interesting comment about things here.   Every time he’d be out in a shop he would be in shock over the prices.  Now, South Florida isn’t exactly a cheap place to live, but in comparison it certainly is.  In fact that’s one thing that they don’t tell you at that tourist booth.  Key West is an expensive vacation and an expensive place to live.

Cost of living reflects that it is a rock in a wet place.  Stuck 120 miles out in the ocean, Key West has to have everything trucked in from the mainland.  That expense is reflected in everything from food to lodging.  Even water is pricey, having been sent down a tube from Miami.

Saying “They don’t tell you that to get a drink you need a Mortgage”, I got a chuckle while sitting at the light at Sunrise and NE 4th.  Ten Dollar beers are not unheard of, if not commonplace in Key West. 

I guess they have to send it down on the back of a Marlin.

Since you could describe Key West, like the bumper stickers say, a cute drinking town with a fishing problem, those Ten Dollar Longnecks are a pricey annoyance.

One of the first things I do is figure out what his schedule is when he arrives, then I drag him out to the shops.   This time I was lucky, he realized that I was right.  He would pick himself up and walk out to the Publix or any of the local shops and “have a poke around town”.

When he’d get back, I’d hear more about those Ten Dollar Longnecks.

Maybe he’s not the one that gets the sticker shock, so much as I am.  After a 200 mile drive, Key West could be a very expensive place to relax whether beer is involved or not… and that just isn’t the kind of thing that they will tell you at a Travel Booth at a street festival.

South Florida Needs a Proper Hoagie, Come on Down, Wawa!

Forget that Subway stuff, it’s a pale imitation.  The bread is just too Poofy and Bland.

That’s the problem, they will tell you here.  The “water is just wrong” to get a good bread.  I will say that there are some places that make some amazing artisanal breads here.  I know, I search them out.

I also make my own bread and sometimes the crust is “right” with just the right amount of crisp.  It’s fine for what I use it for, pizza crusts, dinner rolls, and the like.

The last time I had a Proper Hoagie, I was in the Wawa in Orlando.  My best guess is that Wawa has licensed the Amoroso Roll recipe and “process” because the roll in the Wawa there tasted just like I remembered them back in Philly.

A Hoagie.  Not a Sub, Grinder, Zep or what have you.  The name is from Hog Island in Philadelphia.  It came from the Italian Immigrants who worked on Hog Island at the Shipyards during and before The World War One and later.  The women would send their husbands to work with a characteristic sandwich of meats and vegetable on a torpedo roll, and the non-Italians would get jealous. 

Mind you, this same kind of sandwich was popular anywhere you had the lucky accident of Italian families, good cold cuts, the right rolls and the right recipe.  Typically in the Northeast US, Philadelphia, New York, and nearby cities would specialize in these “Italian Hoagies”.

They were so common growing up that we never really thought twice about them.   We knew where to get The Best ones, often made with home made meats and cheeses.  Talk about Artisanal food, you can’t get much better than sopressatta made by grandpa in the basement, some fresh capicola, proscuitto, extra sharp provolone or Scamorza, parmesan cheese.  Add all that with Lettuce, tomato, and onion, oregano, extra virgin olive oil, and wine vinegar.

The Wine Vinegar would be from Mom’s bottle of Chianti that she’d leave a little in the bottom for cooking.  It never went “bad” it just turned into vinegar for sandwiches.

Don’t waste that stuff, it’s good for you! I would hear.

Food here in South Florida is excellent, but it is not the same.  There are a few Italian Markets, but I’m not seeing what I was used to in those claustrophobic little places near THE Italian Market on 9th and Catherine in South Philly.  Here we have amazing seafood, wonderful Cuban food, and more Thai than I could shake a Bangkok Lady Boy at.  They’re all wonderful in their own rights.

But sometimes, you just want that oddball bit of strange food that mom would slap on the table with “Try it, it’s from The Market” and you knew you were in for a treat.  Four ingredients and you would have a salad, take the tail end of the salad and add a little meat to a roll and you’ve got your basic hoagie.

Again, Don’t waste that stuff or mom would throw a wooden spoon at you.

I guess that’s how I got to be 6’4″, finishing off all that food.

But I still haven’t stumbled across a Hoagie here in South Florida that would be as good as the “common” Wawa Hoagie.  Wawas were everywhere and what you grew to love when you needed a quick hoagie fix.

When I traveled through Orlando to get to Deltona to get the dog from the rescue, we detoured an hour just to hit that “Southernmost Wawa” on South Semoran Blvd.  It was a flashback for me.  The hoagie was just as good as the little Wawa that used to be five houses down from my home in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. 

I sunk my teeth in and realized “They Got The Roll Right”.   In Florida, they got the roll RIGHT!

They weren’t shipped in either.  These rolls were made on the premises and I could not taste a difference from the Amoroso’s Rolls from my youth.  Heaven on a Foot-long roll in a cabinet coming out dozens at a time.

Getting That Roll Right has been a challenge for me.  It’s gotten me started baking again.  I don’t have the recipe down, which is fine.  It’s right for other uses, and head and shoulders better than the usual “Bakery” rolls down from the supermarket.

But it just doesn’t beat a Wawa Hoagie.

You Know Florida is Changing When it Gets Tough To Find Bulk Fruit – Picture

Last weekend, we went up to Deltona to get our new dog.  He’s adapting fine, and showing his personality each day more than the last.

But one thing surprised me about the trip.

I’ve been coming to Florida since I was a wee brat.  One of the things I would look forward to was to stop into one of those big fruit stands by the side of the road. 

They would almost always give you a sample of some Orange Juice.   After all, oranges are on the license plate on the back of the Jeep!   You could get different varieties of oranges that you just can’t readily find anywhere else – I’m addicted to Honeybell oranges, and will buy those by the full bushel when they’re in season!

When I moved here, my favorite place to get oranges was closed.  Federal Highway south of Downtown, right by the Port entry.  

That was fine, I could take my choice of two more stands in Davie.

One of those closed.

The Cushman stand on Forest Hill in West Palm Beach got bought up by Harry and David.  The land may be sold for some soul-less Mc Mansions on the site.   Sad.

Old Florida was disappearing, and this was one more symptom.

Mind you, it’s April.  It’s past the citrus season.   My orange tree in the yard, a Honeybell, is coming back from shock and had a bunch of flowers.   My yard smells wonderful, a floral and fruity scent greets me.   I never get more than a few oranges, but I did The Florida Thing one day by picking an orange from that tree, and eating it in my driveway.   I had a tourist laugh and ask if that’s what we all do here.

Some of us are lucky enough to have fruit trees, yes, and I do have lemons in the back yard for fresh Lemon Curd.

But the trip North to Deltona through the heart of the Agricultural area showed that many of those places were closing for the season, never to open again.

I guess we’re turning into Corporate-Ville.  I have more rude names for that, but you get the idea.   When you can’t find fruit near where it is grown, it is a sad thing.  The farms were retreating from the interstates and freeways, and large homes built in their place.   The groves were vanishing as well as the fruit stands I remember.

Sure, it’s Off Season for local fruit, but the buildings should still be there!

At least I was able to stop in Harvey’s in Rockledge.  They have a massive fruit processing plant where you can actually get the fruit “fresh off the truck” in the bag with their name on it.  Wonderful women there who are really happy to give you that little glass of OJ and want to tell you about what they have to sell, and are sorry the season is ending but you’re lucky because you’re here with US!

Rockledge is way too far to go for an orange, but you get the idea.   That’s why you go to the grove, it’s simply fresher that way.  I will say that it’s also simply BETTER that way!

Sometimes the old ways are the best.   I’ll have fresh squeezed orange juice for a while, that quarter bushel had a lot of Valencias for just that reason.   It’s “B” Fruit.  Blemished?  Sure, but tastes just as good.

Oh and there were two grapefruit that were the size of a kid’s soccer ball that are sitting in my fridge as a result.

These are the places where you can find Mango Butter, and produce in season, and weird little tourist trappy packages of overly sugared coconut patties.   They’re all wonderful, both the foods and the stores.

I just hope they’ll be there next year and not turned into some corporate drone’s idea of a sterilized experience where you can pay an extra 25 percent for the privilege.

Some things are best left alone.