Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fresh Summer Veggies

I know I'm not alone here, but I love fresh vegetables. Growing up, we had them all them time. But since I don't have a garden of my own, I don't have them nearly as often as I would like. I actually even enjoy sitting down and shelling a bucket of peas, because I know how good they will be when they are cooked. So, last week, I got a hankering for some fresh vegetables and had to have some.

Betty, who works with me, has a sister-in-law named Zora Lou, and Zora Lou has a huge garden just outside of Northport on Flatwoods Road. It’s over by Flatwoods Elementary, if you know where that is located. She has a produce stand at the edge of the garden that she keeps stocked with whatever might be ready from her garden at the time.

It’s an honor system thing. She has prices posted and a scale. You bag your vegetables, weigh them, and put your money into a locked mailbox with a hole in the top of it.

Last Thursday I got some sweet corn, okra, purple hull peas, and some squash. I had plans of having a big fresh vegetable supper that night. I went straight home and started shelling peas. Now, I didn't even get started on all of this until after work, so you can imagine how late it was going to be if we were going to prepare and cook vegetables and eat that night. So I decided to get my peas done, and hope for vegetables Friday night.

Thursday night we did end up having cubed steak and squash. My grease was too hot for the squash though, and my flour started burning, and before I knew it, the whole kitchen was full of smoke and the house stunk like grease. So we opened doors and windows and turned on the fans, but it the next morning you could still smell a hint of that grease smell. So I opened the kitchen windows again, and Heather said that by noon the smell was gone. While I was at work, Heather silked the corn and cut some up for boiling and cut some off of the cob for skillet corn. She also washed and cut up the okra for me. She cooked the skillet corn, and the peas, and I fried the okra when I got home. I didn’t want to do the whole grease thing in the house again, so I took my deep-fryer and set it up outside on the deck and cooked out there. I also made a pan of cornbread and sliced us up a Vidalia onion. We had a feast fit for a king! My goodness it was so good!

Sunday I had peas and cornbread for an afternoon snack, and then I cooked the rest of the squash in a recipe that Mama had given Heather. It's a squash dressing, and we loved it! I used the rest of my pone of cornbread in it. Here's the recipe, if anybody wants to try it for themselves.


2 cups of cooked squash, drained
2 cups of crumbled cornbread
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/2 stick of butter

Mix everything but the cheese together and pour into a greased 9X13 casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with cheese & bake for 30 minutes at 350*.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Blue Angels.... NOT!

We were on our way to Orange Beach last Thursday when Heather got a text message on her phone from her brother, Heath. He and his son, Mitch, had been down earlier in the week, and had left coming home on Wednesday. Heath said that the Blue Angels were going to be practicing in Pensacola Beach on Friday, and then performing on Saturday. The Saturday activities began at 12:30pm and then the Angels were scheduled to fly at 2:00pm. Heather got up Saturday morning and decided we should drive over and see them. So we proceeded to get things ready to make a day of it. We packed our bathing suits, beach chairs, beach mats, umbrella and towels, along with a cooler of drinks and snacks. Our plan was to drive over and spend the day on Pensacola Beach and watch the Angels perform. We were set.

We called Chris, Jessica, & Libby to see if they wanted to go along with us. They declined, already having made plans to sun and shop. So Heather and I went over to Hazel's for some all-you-can-eat breakfast bar, and then headed to Florida. As we neared the water in Pensacola, the traffic turned into a bumper-to-bumper mess. We eased along and began making our way across the bay bridge. You could still see the broken remnants of the old bridge that was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in September of 2004. The new bridge is 4 lanes and 3 miles long. It took us well over 45 minutes to get across. Heather nearly wet her pants, and probably would have if we hadn't seen a port-o-potty at the very end of the bridge. (We stopped at the same place on the way home as well!)

About the time we reached the end of the bridge, the rains began. We were in a rainstorm to rival Noah's. I'm not sure I have personally ever been in so much rain. Then the radio stations began announcing that all parking near and along the beaches were filled. They were suggesting driving down to Fort Pickens and taking a shuttle back to the beach. Well, how were we supposed to take a shuttle with all our stuff? We were going to spend the rest of the day! When we arrived in Pensacola Beach, the water was up over the bottom of the car doors. It was as if we were driving through a river, and I could feel the force of the current pushing on the car. We finally found a parking spot and sat waiting on the torrential downpours to stop. After about 10 minutes of sitting there, the radio announcer delivered terrible news. The show had been canceled due to the weather! We just couldn't believe it! We sat there for a few more minutes wondering what to do, and then we did what everybody around us was doing. We headed home.

We arrived back in Orange Beach to cloudy but dry skies. I pulled into the Cotton Bayou public beach parking lot and we unloaded our things and hauled them down to the beach. After a couple of hours, the rains caught up with us again, but at least we got to the beach as originally planned. So even though things turned out much differently than we had expected, we had an interesting and good day, afterall.

Saltwater Fishing Fun!

The last time that we were in Orange Beach, the trip went by way too fast. On the way home, Heather and I decided that in July, we would try to make it down for a longer trip. After consulting our crazy schedules, we decided on this past weekend, and decided to go from Thursday, 7/10 through Monday, 7/14. That way we could spend a little more time. I also wanted to wait until after the 4th, so that the crowds wouldn't be as heavy. As the time of the trip approached us, the dates were to change back and forth around the weekend, and we actually ended up going down on Thursday and coming back on Monday.

Chris and Jessica also picked the same weekend to take a beach trip. This worked out well, since we all enjoy doing things together. Chris suggested that we take an inshore fishing trip Friday morning. He spoke with some friends of ours and was referred to Kathy Broughton, a Birmingham native who has run her own fishing boat for the last 16 years.

So on Friday morning, Chris, Jessica, Heather & I were ready to take to the water and bring back supper. Chris and I checked in at Zeke's and were directed to the Kittywake, Kathy's boat. Kathy is a certified U.S. Coast Guard Captain. She's also a frequent fishing tournament winner and she enjoys teaching others what she's learned from a lifetime on the water. We could tell from first meeting her that she truly loves what she does. She seemed pleased that we had our wives with us, as she said that females always bring good luck on her boat.

Our trip began about 7am with the incoming tide. Kathy told us that if the tide's not moving, the big fish aren't feeding, and that we should plan trips with the incoming or outgoing tides. The fish we were trying to catch feed best during tidal movement.

Heading out of Zeke's marina on smooth water, we passed magnificent boats and bayside homes. Just outside of the marina, we stopped for a lesson in catching bait. At this point, Chris and I got our new names for the day. Chris became the "Captain", and I became "Bait Boy." Kathy gathered the bait net in her arms and grasped the weighted edge in her teeth. With assured movement she then threw it gracefully onto the water. It landed, and captured a school of lively bait fish which she called Elvis's, or LV's. They looked like little minnows to me. As Bait Boy, I got the job of getting all those little suckers out of the net and into the live well. Kathy told me right away that I had to move quickly or they would die within seconds of being out of the water.
We then headed to one of Kathy's favorite spots for red snapper. She spoke with other guides along the way, finding out how things were biting. Finally, she decided to position our boat along the docks at the Caribe condos. She gave us a quick lesson in casting with the lines and showed us how to set the hook when the fish struck. We cast off opposite sides of the boat, and within minutes I was reeling in what felt like an extremely large fish. Kathy cheered me on, giving pointers, and stood ready with the net when my fish was close enough to come aboard. It was a black snapper, and we then had our first of many fish for our supper. We continued to fish in that general area for a while, with Jessica, Heather, and myself catching several a piece.

One thing that was interesting, was the number of jellyfish that were in the water. At times, the masses of jellies were all we could see. When I pulled in the anchor for Kathy to move the boat, my hands stung from the jellyfish residue on the anchor rope. There were literally thousands of them.

Lured by the thoughts of larger fish, we headed through the pass out into deeper waters. The water was rough, and I had a little trouble here and there keeping my balance. Kathy put out the lines to troll, and we watched her fish finder for the big ones. She pointed out several points of interest deep under the water.... a sunken sailboat, for instance, that broke one of our lines. At one point, Chris had a fish on his line, but while he was bringing it in, it got off. We stayed out in the Gulf for a bit, and then the weather looked like it was going to storm, so we headed back closer to the marina. Kathy took us to her favorite spot for white trout, and put us slap in the middle of a bed of them. We started catching them as soon as the shrimp would hit the water. It was lots of fun, and we all ended up catching several each.

We could have stayed out there all day, but our trip had to come to an end. We headed back to the marina, where Kathy backed her boat into her slip with the precision that comes from years of experience. We gathered our things, and our fish and proceeded up to the cleaning area. We ended up with several snapper fillets and a bag full of trout. We then made plans to gather together that evening at Chris and Jessica's for a delicious "catch of the day" supper.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Food, Fireworks, & the 4th of July

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July! We slept kind of late, and then I did some work around the house Friday morning. The majority of the time was spent pressure washing the front sidewalk. I had no idea how dirty it really was. It took up the most of my morning, but I'm very pleased with how much better it looks.

Heather went up to Publix and picked up a few things to cook. I cooked some burgers and sausage, and she fixed some mighty fine beans and a pasta salad. We ate the tomatoes from our very own plants, and they were soooo good!

Our afternoon was a lazy one...naps and a movie. Then Friday night, I went over to Sokol Park for the fireworks. We were right beside the lauch site, and the fireworks were right over our heads. We ended up laying down in the parking lot to watch them. The show lasted about 30 minutes, with a tremendous finale. It was truly one of the best shows I have seen in Tuscaloosa in years!