Fountain of Pancake Heaven

One of the best kept secrets in Florida is a restaurant called the Old Spanish Sugar Mill in DeLeon Springs. Located an hour north of Orlando and a half hour west of Daytona Beach, the Sugar Mill became one of our favorite places to take guests back when we lived in Melbourne, FL. Since returning to the Sunshine State we haven’t had an opportunity to revisit the place, but we are about to rectify that, and I’m ridiculously excited.

Now, I’m no travel writer, and I’m certainly not a food critic, but I know a great destination with great food when I experience it. The restaurant, in keeping with its name, is actually an old sugar mill built in the 1830’s. What sets the eatery apart is its unique style of service.

Each table has a built-in griddle, and once customers are seated wait staff bring pitchers of different homemade pancake batters for patrons to pour and flip right at the table. They also offer goodies to help customize the pancakes: blueberries, pecans, chocolate chips, etc. In addition to pancakes the menu includes traditional breakfast items like bacon, sausage, and eggs; although, those are cooked in the kitchen by the restaurant staff. One can also order from a selection of soups and sandwiches, but honestly, the pancakes are the draw.

Normally I hate to cook, and I’m really lousy at it, but cooking at the Sugar Mill is a hoot, and my pancakes always turn out perfectly when cooked there. It might be the location that does the trick. You see, DeLeon Springs according to legend, is the place where Ponce De Leon sought, and perhaps discovered, the Fountain of Youth. Ringed by live oak trees dripping Spanish moss, the spring does look as if it might hold the secret of eternal youth.

I plan on renting a tube and testing out the legend. Paddle boats, kayaks, and canoes are available for rental as well, but I figure I need to get as close to the water as possible to reap any benefits. Heck, I’m just going to dive right in. After I have another pancake.

Peace, People!

Praying for Eyebrowz: The Band

If you read my initial blog post, “Begin the Beguine” you know that the name of my blog stems from an encounter with an esthetician. She was a 60-something earth mother type with long frizzy red hair and clothes straight out of Woodstock. I don’t remember her name, so let’s call her Ditzy.

Ditzy accompanied me back to her treatment room and had me lie down on the table. She immediately got as close to my face as humanly possible without actually kissing me. My mind was thinking, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! I didn’t sign up for this!” Then just as abruptly she tsk tsk’d and pulled away.

Tsk, tsk? No one had ever tsk tsk’d at my face. Maybe I should have let her kiss me.

“What?” I asked.

“Well, I hate to tell you this,” she began, “Your skin looks really great, but your eyebrows.” Again, she tsk’d. “You see, your eyebrows are just too sparse.”

“Oh. Um, sorry. Is there anything I can do about that?”

“Let me ask you something of a serious nature,” Ditzy said.

“Sure, Ditzy,” I nodded cautiously, certain now that my esthetician might not be operating on all six cylinders. “Ask away.”

“Do you believe in a higher power?”

“Why yes, yes I do,” I said, wondering where this was headed.

“Well, then just pray. Pray for eyebrows.”

Alrighty then.

Now, I’m a big believer in the power of prayer. I pray nightly for peace, for an end to world hunger, for the health and well-being of my family and friends, but I’d never really thought about praying for thicker eyebrows.

So as Ditzy stopped tsk-ing and began giving me a lovely, relaxing facial, I contemplated asking God to bestow this favor on me. The thought made me giggle.

“Please relax those facial muscles,” said Ditzy.

“Mmhm” I mumbled, drifting away.

I knew I couldn’t ask our Heavenly Father for something like eyebrows. I liked the thought, though. Praying for Eyebrows. Change the spelling to make it edgy. Praying for Eyebrowz. Ooh, I liked that. That sounded like the name of an alt rock indie band. “Praying for Eyebrowz” featuring Nana Noyz on lead vocals. Our first single: “Ditzy Tsk.” It’ll be a hit for sure.

Peace, People.

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Ajax, Psycho Dog From Hell

Studly once brought home a dog from work, having offered to care for it for a co-worker. You can imagine my, ahem, delight when this large, white, furry ball of frenetic energy entered our home for the first time, jumped on my lap and began slobbering on my face. He then bounced about our living room like a demon dog on steroids, snapping at invisible enemies and licking anything that moved.

His name was Ajax and he really was a beautiful dog. His coat was a glossy white and his eyes a vivid blue. We thought perhaps he might be part Husky. According to his owner he was really smart and knew multiple commands. In Spanish. The only words Studly and I knew in Spanish were of a base nature, and they certainly weren’t words one would use to control a dog. His ears did perk up to phrases such as “por favor” and “adios amigo” but neither of those worked well either.

Fortunately we had a large fenced backyard with plenty of room for Ajax to run and play. I had no intention of having him live inside our home. He was just too big and too energetic. But we played with him every day and made sure he was well cared for.

Those days were really tough for our family, and for the country as a whole. I had gone back to college to finish my degree and Studly was working his butt off in a rather unsavory job at a hide tanning company, earning next to nothing. On top of that we had two small kids and a mountain of debt. All we needed was a bit of a break, a couple of years, and my diploma.

Unfortunately, we found ourselves in a huge financial bind and needed to sell our home before ownership reverted to the bank. So we staged the house for prospective buyers and listed it with a realtor. Every single morning before we left for our respective destinations we made sure the house was immaculate. And yet no one came to view our home. No viewers equalled no buyers. No buyers equalled no sale. No sale equalled possible foreclosure. We really were desperate.

One sunny Saturday morning Studly and I decided to take the kids on a day trip to see his folks in Hereford, Texas. We made sure the house was perfect, the dog was fed and hugged and off we went. Several hours later we returned home, tired, but happy after a much needed break from our routine.

I was the first one in the house. I stopped, backed out, shut the door, and looked at Studly in horror. “Someone has ransacked the house!” I gasped.
We had nothing worth stealing, so it was unimaginable that we’d been robbed, but that was exactly what it appeared had happened.

Studly cautiously opened the door while I stayed outside holding on to the kids for dear life. When I heard him say, “Dammit Ajax!” I knew our culprit had been found. Apparently Ajax became bored. He figured out a way to open the back door and then chewed a hole in the screen door. While we were away and blissfully unaware of his antics, he tried to pull everything from inside the house to his domain in the backyard. There was a trail of bedding, clothing, shoes, and athletic equipment all in various stages of transfer. We didn’t know whether to laugh in relief or cry in despair.

Until we noticed the realtor’s calling card on the kitchen counter. Then I cried. I cried and cried and cried as I tried to put the house back together. I was so humiliated that someone, multiple someones, had seen our home in that condition. Of all days for someone to come looking! Any hope I had that perhaps Ajax had done his deed after the realtor had left were dashed by the note she’d written on her card. It said something like, “Perhaps in the future we should call to make sure your house is in viewing condition.”

Eventually Ajax went back to live with his old family, and we never did sell the house. The bank foreclosed and it seemed like the world had come to an end. But in reality we emerged stronger, smarter, and more determined to survive together. Ajax, the psycho dog from hell was one really bad chapter, but he wasn’t the whole book. That’s still being written.

Peace, People!

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Finding Love at the Piggly Wiggly

Studly and I met on the condiments aisle of the Piggly Wiggly store my dad managed in Dumas, Texas. The year was 1974, the summer preceding my senior year of high school. Studly had recently started working for my dad, and I was new to Dumas, having just moved from the metropolis of Floydada, TX. Yep, Floydada. Look it up; it’s a place.

A provocative question began our romance: “Excuse me sir,” I said. “Could you please show me where the ketchup is?”

I felt a little flustered when he stood up and pointed to the neatly lined bottles of Heinz and DelMonte arrayed right in front of me, and I’m sure my face turned a bright ketchupy red. He was cute, but I was a geek, so I put him out of my mind. The variable I hadn’t considered, though, was my double whammy status as the new girl AND the boss’s daughter.

According to Studly he followed me around town all that summer. I had no idea, and that was a good thing. I was so awkward around members of the opposite sex that had I known of his interest I’d have certainly screwed up any chance of our ever dating. So, I remained happily oblivious until school started.

Call it destiny, karma, or luck, our schedules coincided to put us in the same second hour class that first semester. Studly started walking me to class. He even carried my books, something that was sweet and touching and slightly embarrassing all at the same time. He was funny and easy to talk to and pretty soon I was smitten. I’m glad he was smitten, as well.

Peace, People.

38 Reasons Why

On the eve of our 38th wedding anniversary I thought it might be interesting to challenge myself to list 38 reasons I’m happy to be married to Studly.

1. He thinks I’m smart.

2. His sense of humor. It’s corny and quick and keeps me on my toes.

3. He’s a great mechanic. That ability has been ridiculously valuable throughout our 38 years together. No matter how broke we were we always had reliable transportation.

4. He is handsome. Much better looking than I deserve.

5. He’s honest in his dealings with others. His golf buddies refer to him as the Boy Scout. He never cheats. Never.

6. He can admit when he’s wrong.

7. He isn’t afraid to show emotion.

8. He loves our kids fiercely.

9. The grand kids have compared him to a jungle gym. And he would do anything in his power to make them happy.

10. He is loyal, sometimes to a fault.

11. He treats his mother like a queen.

12. He is generous and big-hearted.

13. His laugh. Oh, wow, his laugh. Sitting through a funny movie with Studly is one of the best mood lifters in the world. I highly recommend it.

14. He is a really good kisser.

15. He is an incredible leader.

16. Have I mentioned how smart he is?

17. He will dance with me if he has had enough to drink.

18. He is a good driver.

19. He taught me to ride a motorcycle without wringing my neck.

20. He likes to hold hands.

21. He does everything in his power to make sure I’m happy.

22. Studly loves our cats as much as I do.

23. He is consistent. That might sound boring, but he’s the perfect counterpoint to my Inconsistency.

24. Punctuality is important to him.

25. He makes kick ass obstacle courses.

26. He is a decent amateur auctioneer for our family reunion fund raisers. What he lacks in speed he makes up for in witty repartee.

27. He is really good at mental math. I never need a calculator when he’s around.

28. My parents loved him.

29. He insisted that Daddy move in with us so we could care for him after Mom passed away. The two years we had with Dad before he died were some of the best of our lives.

30. He never lets me take myself too seriously.

31. He doesn’t worry.

32. He respects my opinion and listens to my points of view.

33. He sees me as an equal partner in our marriage.

34. He can cook much better than I can.

35. He can laugh at himself.

36. Studly has a stellar work ethic.

37. He knows how to enjoy life.

38. And, he loves me. He really, really loves me.

I made it! Truth is I could’ve gone on and on, but I probably lost most of my readers half way through. That’s ok. This one’s for my husband.

Peace, People.

Thirty-eight Years of Living Dangerously

On Wednesday Studly and I will celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary. Not bad considering some guests at our wedding ceremony were placing bets on our marriage not lasting more than a year. We were just kids, after all, not even out of our teens.

Like every other couple who have managed to stay together for any length of time we have experienced tremendous ups and treacherous downs, and everything in between. And yet we’ve managed to survive with relatively minor scars.

I asked Studly to tell me what he believes to be the secret to sustaining a long marriage, and after much thought (2.5 seconds) he came up with two key elements:

1. Don’t die,

2. Don’t divorce

He was serious.

I’d like to add my own thoughts, but I’m busy banging my head against a wall right now.

Peace, People!

Just For Gaffes (edited)

I owe my life to “I Love Lucy.” Not in any literal sense, but certainly in some sort of metaphysical way. Lucy’s propensity for doing the wrong thing at the right time set a disturbingly cool precedent for me back in the days when the television was actually a pretty decent babysitter. Lucy’s grape stomping, ledge climbing, chocolate wrapping legacy, if nothing else, gave me permission to be my goofy self with no, ok, a few apologies.

But Lucy wasn’t my only influence. My mom, Freida, and her younger sister, Nedra, lent their wackiness to my formative years, as well. Once while waiting to pick up a relative at the small airport in Amarillo, the pair scurried off to answer the call of nature inside the ladies’ room of the nearly empty terminal. It was late at night and they might have been a bit tipsy. Mom was in one stall. Nedra in another. Gas was passed. Loud and long and clear. Nedra, always quick with a witticism sternly admonished, “Freida!” A deep silence ensued. The kind of silence that indicates something is very wrong. A toilet flushed, a stall opened and closed, followed by the sound of footsteps leaving the room. Only then did Mom explode in laughter as Nedra realized she’d scolded a complete stranger for farting. The pair hid in the bathroom for awhile hoping the gas passer wouldn’t associate them with their bathroom behavior.

Once my Aunt Nedra and her husband Uncle Richard, along with my mom and dad were spending the night at my grandparents’ home. As was their habit at such gatherings, the men went to bed ahead of the women who liked to tell stories and laugh well into the night. After much silliness my Aunt said goodnight to Mom and my grandmother and went to bed. Soon after, my mom followed, but found her spot next to my dad, occupied. She started laughing and soon her mother joined her in fits of uncontrollable giggles. Groggily, Nedra asked, “Richard, why are they laughing?” My dad, who until then was sound asleep responded, “Maybe because I’m not Richard and you’re in bed with your sister’s husband.” Everyone but my grandfather thought the story was hilarious. It just pissed him off.

I’ve turned doing embarrassing things into an art form. Too many to list here, but one of my favorites(?) was the time I was having some sort of sonogram done. As I lay on the exam table the tech was instructing me to take deeper breaths, hold, release, etc. The doctor to whom I’d been referred had an odd name, something like Bozdagerian or Bodgazerian or Bogzaderian.

I asked the tech, “Just how do you say this doctor’s name anyway ? Boz-da-ger-ian?”

“Deeper” said the tech.

So I lowered my voice an octave and tried again. “Boz-da-ger-ian?” I intoned.

The tech started laughing. “That was impressive,” he said. “Now please take a deeper breath.”

I’m most apt to commit verbal faux pas, like the time I told a crowd of people that upon Turning 50 I had “embraced my AARP-ness.” Read that aloud and you will know why I was the butt of more than a few jokes that afternoon.

Then there was the time a drunken me asked a lady on the dance floor where the deejay was located. Coincidentally, she asked me the very same question. At the very same time. She even kind of looked like me, only drunker. I noticed dancers giving me odd looks. That’s when I realized I’d been carrying on a conversation with my reflection in a mirror. I told myself thanks and returned to my table. I never did find the deejay.

My mom always said I was just like my Aunt Nedra, but at least I’ve never slept with my sister’s husband.

Peace, People.

Fifty Shades of Hey!

As the movie trailers for Fifty Shades of Grey began appearing on Facebook this week I stopped to reflect on my own interaction with the novel.

I tried reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Honestly. The hype was bubbling around the book like fizzy soda, and avid reader that I am, I inhaled those bubbles and dove right in. For all of maybe 50 pages of 50 shades. Then, I called a friend.

“Hey, you’re reading Fifty Shades of Grey, right?

“Ummm, yes,” she moaned.

“Does it get better?” I asked.

“Yes, yes, yes!” she cried.

I hung up.

I read another hundred pages. I still didn’t get it. Who was this inner goddess, and why didn’t I have one? Did the inner goddess perhaps serve as a replacement for a personality? Was there supposed to be sexual tension between Mr. Grey and Miss Steele? Did I need to reassess my definition of sexual tension?

I called another friend.

Hey, I’m reading that book you recommended, Fifty Shades of Gray.

All I heard was buzzing in the background.

“Hey!” I said, a little more forcefully. “Does the couple in the book ever actually do anything?”

Our connection must have been bad; the buzzing continued, only more loudly.

I hung up.

“Perhaps I should skip to a sex scene,” I thought.

It was a little difficult to determine exactly where in the book that sex scene took place, though. There were so many rules, regulations, and tools involved. It read more like an orientation for shop class than a sex romp.

I called my husband.

“Hey, Studly,” I said. “Do you think we need a contract for sex?”

“Huh?”

“You know, a contract so you can’t be found legally responsible if I get hurt during intimate relations.”

He guffawed. “Intimate relations! That’s a good one!”

I hung up. What a sadist.

Peace, People.

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Looking for Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions

What type of wine pairs best with a ham and cheese sandwich?

Is it ever permissible to lie about one’s middle name?

What is worth more than a bird in the hand?

Whose dogs were let out and where did they go?

Did King George need his spectacles to read everyone else’s signature on the Declaration of Independence?

Was the song, “What Does the Fox Say” merely a way to get uptight middle class white folks to sing dirty sounding lyrics?

Can you let it go without singing about it?

Where have all the flowers gone?

Shouldn’t the show “Two and a Half Men” now just be “Three Men?”

Did Salt-n-Pepa ever talk about sex, baby?

How many hours of CSI does one need to watch before actually qualifying to become a crime scene investigator?

Is anything faster than the speed of light?

Is Yoda the only one of his species?

Did Prince Charming have a foot fetish?

If a dog’s bark is worse than his bite why don’t we have to get stitches if we get a dog bark?

Does this qualify as my fourteenth post?

Peace, People!

Snake Eyes

I never met a snake I couldn’t hate. Venomous, non-venomous, short, long, infant, adult, it doesn’t matter. They give me the willies. If I can see one well in advance of initial contact I can handle a snake’s presence, but the thing about snakes is they tend to lurk, hidden among the leaves and undergrowth, offering apples to unsuspecting naked people.

Tallahassee, Florida, is basically a hilly jungle. We have oak trees, magnolias, mimosas, pines, sweet gums, palms, and a host of other trees all, apparently, on steroids. In addition we have millions of shrubs and bushes and flowers. A profusion of plant life populates this part of the Florida panhandle. It’s beautiful. And it’s home to five different kinds of venomous snakes: the Pygmy Rattler, the Cottonmouth or Water Moccasin, the Timber Rattlesnake, the Coral Snake, and the Copperhead. These snakes love to hide under fallen leaves. Guess what? Lots of trees mean lots of leaves.

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Above: water moccasin

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Coral snake

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Pygmy rattler

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Copperhead

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Timber rattlesnake

Recently due to an increase in snake bites among the local populace, the “Tallahassee Democrat” ran an informative piece on the venomous snakes in our area. How kind of them. Since then I have barely stepped foot into our forested backyard. Every single snake named in the article enjoys hanging out in fallen leaves. I look out my back door and all I see are trees surrounded by fallen leaves. When I do go out I have this ritual dance. It’s part flamenco, part ninja, part karate. Think John Belushi in “Animal House.”

They tell me cats are good snake repellant. I have two, but they don’t want to go outside either and I’m not sure how much good they are doing as mere spectators.

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A while back I wrote about super powers I’d like to have. I need to add one: Super Snake Dominance and Avoidance. This power would instantly cause all venomous snakes within 5 miles of me to be rendered inanimate and harmless. Indefinitely. I’ll give the non-venomous ones a break as long as they do their living outside of my direct line of sight. They just need to heed my ritual dance.

Peace, People!