Monday, December 13, 2010


While I was gone, I was thinking about you all, as evidenced by this tutorial.  I made some of these for the teacher's Christmas gift bags, and I thought about doing a tutorial on here for you.  So I took pics while I made them and here goes...

Walnut candles
Ingredient list:   beeswax, walnut halves, wicking appropriate for small candles, double boiler or the equivalent, and patience for pouring the wax...
 When you halve walnuts, be careful and you will get some nice little "boats" that make great candles(they also make great bath-tub boats if you use a tooth pick and a paper sail with only a little bit of wax in the bottom...). 

Start by shaving/chopping off some beeswax, the smaller the pieces, the quicker it will melt.

I don't have a double boiler, nor do I have the need to purchase one when I can engineer one of my own!
Melt the wax over simmering/gently boiling water.
Using your spoon, place a drop or so of melted wax into the bottom of your walnut half.  Immediately place your wick into the wax drop and let it harden.  This will stabilize your wick so it isn't moving around when you pour the rest of the wax into the shell.  As you can see in the picture, I bent the bottom part of the wick, it gives the wax a bit more to hold onto. 

After wick stabilization, you can pour the rest of the wax in, gently!  Be careful, and go slowly because the walnuts will sometimes tip over.  When you are done filling the shells, some will look like hearts, awwwwww!
Be sure to trim your wicks to about 1/4 inch before burning.

And there you go, Walnut candles.  Nothing to read a novel by on the winter solstice, by any means, but a sweet addition to a tea party or a mug of hot cocoa by the fire before bedtime...
Keep warm yall!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gee, it's been a long time!

Hello, it's been a while since I've been in to visit. Sorry, I have just been so very busy the past couple of months! Halloween and then Thanksgiving and all that comes in between has just kept me from sitting and talking to you about what's been happening around here.

Well, the kids have a cold this weekend, they stayed home from school yesterday.  Today we completed the above winter wonderland scene in about 6 hours.  It was something fun to do while cooped up in the house(I didn't hear "I'm booooored!" once today!!! *big smile* )  I started out this morning hearing "After we make it, can we eat it?", and now I don't think they are so into the eating part.  It took too long to construct!

I think I will go backwards in the happenings around here:

            Starting with Thanksgiving, my parents came over and Zman came up and we had a grand time!  I didn't even set fire to anything this year, however the turkey didn't cook all the way through and so after carving a bit off, we had to flip it over and cook it some more.  We were NOT going to wait any longer!

Before that, we took an overnighter to St. Augustine to see the lights.  It was pretty and crowded, but we love St. Augustine, so it was ok! 
 Here is Sweetie Pie rockin' it in the tower at the Castillo...   

and here I am rockin' it on the top of the Castillo... 

Rocket Man and Sweetie Pie in front of the Castillo... 

We also took a trip in the opposite direction, to the panhandle of Florida.  Specifically Appalachicola, to the Florida Seafood festival.  Here, we were witness to an oyster eating contest: 
No-one threw up on stage, but I think they were close...  EWWWW!

Now I have to tell you, do not make a special trip for this festival as it is not anything like it's name implies.  The food is mostly vendors not from Florida(read: carnival food) and it is more like a county fair.  The gumbo I purchased from the booth of a local church was fabulous, but there were not many local or even Florida seafood food vendors like the name indicates.  Very sad and unfortunate for the area because it is such a charming town to visit! I fear the attendance will diminish in years to come if something is not done about the local representation of Florida seafood at this festival!  Cudos to the churches and local organizations for representing the area! 

The next day we had lunch at Wharf Express(EXCELLENT! I highly recommend this place!) down at Summer Camp.  We then took the liberty of walking out on the dock and the beach.  The kids had a blast with all the things they were finding, namely the horseshoe crab moltings and, of course, the dead stinky ones too.  We also watched the tide as it went out and the flora and fauna that were left behind.  Oh, we could spend hours and hours observing and exploring... 

And finally...  Here is Rocket Man on his final day of Archery class. 
He is such a fruit!

Now you are all caught up on the goings on around here, hopefully I can keep up through the rest of the holiday season.  Don't hold your breath!

Monday, November 1, 2010

October randomness

 Now that October has flown by(did it for anyone else too? or was it just me?) Here are a few pics of some events that happened...

                                                  Sweetie Pie's Ancient Roman mosaic cake:
It was a part of her project for school.  It's a bowl of fruit, with sunshine and some grapes laying down by the right side.  Good project to do as there wasn't really anything to bring home, disassemble and clean up! Yea!

The Rocket and I went on a field trip with his class to MOSI(Museum of Science and Industry, Tampa, FL).  We got to experience the weather exhibit going on right now.  I have to say that I was a bit dissapointed.  The kid's free play area was neat, however the actual exhibits going on were dissapointing.  Also, we saw an IMAX movie about dinosaurs, and WOW, was it B-O-R-I-N-G!!!  A bit of advice for those of you going to see IMAX movies: This is the second dinosaur movie that I have seen that was WAAAAAY over my head!  Don't go see a dinosaur movie at a museum unless you are really into dinosaurs, and know the jargon that goes with them!  UGH!

                                                   I got The Rocket's head on a platter....
                                                     And he got me on a bed of nails:
Yes, those are REAL nails!  It's not as amazing as it seems though, the surface area of your body offsets the effects of the nails.  Even so, it was still kinda pokey... 

And finally some Halloween pics... 

These are the kid's pumpkins.  They usually paint their pumpkins, which actually they did and then decided when S was carving the larger ones that they wanted to carve their own out.  These are baking pumpkins, and were very hard to carve.  But I think the kids did a good job anyhow! 

Here are the pumpkins that S carved, while I did laundry and made beds and washed the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen... 
From Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire cat.  I think he did a great job on them! 

Sweetie Pie in one of her many Halloween get-ups.  She couldn't make up her mind... (yes, her hair is purple) Technically, I don't know what she is dressed as, but I guess it doesn't really matter, she was happy and had a great time trick-or-treating!

Here is The Rocket.  He is a Werewolf.  His hair is green with black stripes, and he has fangs!  He had already been to a few of the neighbor's houses and this is the photo after I had called him back. His expression reads:  "HURRY!"  Geez, they get so antsy! 

The weekend before Halloween, some neighbors and I went to a costume party. The Rocket did not attend, but we let him in the group picture anyhow. 
What a motley crew we make!
At this party they served goat.  It was interesting, gamey, stringy and smokey, totally edible, but not something I will be running out to the grocery store for any time soon!  Now, it was the first time the man had cooked this kind of meat. The first time they took it off the grill, it was not done, so they had to put it back on the grill and cook it longer.  They will be serving it again next year and I think it will be better because they have a whole year to practice cooking techniques!

Well, the month of October and the start of the fall season has whizzed past and now we are racing into the craziest two months of the year...  ONWARD HO!!!!

I just blinked, is it January 1st yet?

Monday, October 18, 2010


Spanikopita, otherwise known as spinach pie, or in my house as "Spank-your-pita", is a very yummy way of getting spinach into your diet.  I made this on a whim one day because I had some puff pastry and fresh spinach that I needed to use up.  I got the basic recipe here.  Of course, I played with the recipe and made variations of my own to make it better and easier.  Here's how I made it:
                                            First I cut up some green onions, about 1 bunch.

Next, wilt your spinach.  If you have already consulted the recipe,
I used bacon grease instead of olive oil to do this.  This adds yum factor.
The above is 1 bag of spinach. It looks like it won't all fit when you put it in your pan, but it shrinks down ALOT!
What your spinach looks like after wilting(the same entire 1 bag), you need to drain it so your filling doesn't run all over the pan. 
After spinach is wilted, saute the onions and some minced garlic, again in bacon grease. 
I had some bacon(where do you think I got all the bacon grease?) strips in the fridge I was saving for a sandwich, but I chopped them up and added them here for good measure, a worthy sacrifice! 
After everything is sauted/wilted up, throw it all in a bowl and add the eggs and feta, and your seasonings.  Mix it all up and you have something that looks like this: 
Spread it out on your puff pastry dough that has already been defrosted and rolled out a bit to smooth out the creases.  Line your pan with parchment paper, otherwise you will be scraping it off the pan and it won't look pretty!  Also try to think of the ultimate positioning of it all rolled up.  It is very hard to pick it up and move it after it is rolled.  Make sure to leave the sides and a little bit at the end free so you can seal it up good. 
Use the edge of the paper to help you roll it up.   
Seal the ends and position it on the baking sheet. 
Bake it at about 350 or so for about 40-45 minutes. Check it at 30 minutes and then determine how much longer you'll need. 
After it comes out of the oven.

Hmmmm, what to do with all this leftover green, bacony, spinachy goodness? OHHHH! I have some ideas!  A spooky halloween punch to drink on a dare, or a much more boring, but highly palatable idea, is to use it for soup flavoring. (Shhh, don't tell my kids I put that in the soup, they'll never eat it!) 
Here is the end product.  Spinach happiness on a plate, with a hint of bacon, the twang of feta, and the healthy goodness of iron without the metallic taste! 
Do I have something in my teeth? Who cares, give me another slice please...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fort King Festival

This past weekend was the annual Fort King Festival held at the Fort King Museum.  This festival is the kick-off for the fall festival season here in these parts.  It is also a fund raiser(via a chicken dinner) for the Fort King Museum.  Usually we go as a family, however S and Sweetie pie went out of town to visit relatives so it was just The Rocket and I.  As always, the child part of the equation uttered the same old complaint to going out to a festival af any kind-"I don't wanna go!" and "Awwww do I have to?"  You know it's funny- just a day before, heck even the week before, he was saying how he wanted to dress up in his indian costume for the festival and was excited about going!

First thing we do is the candle making station.  I have a collection of candles the kids have made at various festivals over the years(I should probably get them out and burn them or they will overtake me soon...).   They always have a good time doing this activity and it's a lasting reminder of fun we have had. 

There are various booths around the festival, each demonstrating different period occupations and necessities. Alot of the same demonstrators come back year after year(alot of them also do the Ocali Cracker Days over at Silver River State Park).  It's fun to get to know these people a little bit more every year, they are starting to remember us! 
The woman below spins yarn from rabbit hair.  She sits her rabbits on her lap and then as they are shedding, she pulls the shedding hair off the rabbit and spins it into yarn.  She has spun many different types of fibers into yarn and has a collection of them for you to feel.  She also has some beautiful knitted/crocheted items for sale.  A word of caution for kids- the rabbits are working, so you can't pet them.

This is the cooper.  If you need a bucket or a dipper made, this is the man to see.  He carves the wood pieces and then fits them together with a metal ring around to hold them together.  Here he is in action:

A blacksmith hard at work, he was making a hook at the time.  This man does beautiful work!

This is a Spanish Conquistador.  His horse's name is Dixie, I forgot his name...  He was incredibly knowledgeable in the history of the different conquistadors and what kinds and numbers of horses they brought with them.  Dixie is a decendant of the Florida Cracker horses, which are believed to be decendants of the Conquistador's horses that were left here in Florida. 
He was kind enought to let The Rocket try on his hat:
It wasn't that heavy, as I tried it on too.  However after wearing it for a while, I imagine it got hot and heavy!
Inside the hat is a type of sling made of leather that fits the wearer's head(kind of like the inside of a construction hat), so the metal isn't actually resting on your head.

The next stop was the surgeon, he has an array of tools for display.  Fletcher was complaining about his tooth being loose and so the surgeon volunteered to pull it out for him!
No Problem!
Just kidding...  The Rocket had pulled it out the night before!
Hmmmm, exciting tools...

Over at the chickee huts, an indian was teaching how to throw spears with an atlatl.  An atlatl gives more leverage to the spear when thrown, so it flies faster and farther.  We had read about these in a book called The Crafts of Florida's First People by Robin C. Brown, the same book that had inspired him to make his arrow.  The Rocket caught on pretty quick and was very good at it!
This man was very patient and since it wan't busy The Rocket and two other boys had the best time trying to outdo each other!

This is one of the chickee huts at the museum, it is a permanent display and you can go inside them.  It is surprisingly cooler in there!

This lady and her husband are regulars at this festival, they also do alot of other festivals around Florida, (including the Old Florida festival in Naples).  They are knowledgeable and fun to converse with.  She has been working on this pouch for a couple years now and maybe by next year it will be finished.  She has hand beaded all the detailing on it!

Here is a group just shooting the breeze. 
All of the exhibitors here at the Fort King Festival are very informative and willing to tell you all you care to know about their occupation in history.  I learn something new every time I go and that's part of the fun!  The Rocket saw his Indian buddy from last year(the inspiration for his Halloween costume) and they got to play for a while on a swing while I was learning. 
It was a fun couple of hours, and the weather was perfect for it.  I enjoyed mostly just being with The Rocket by myself, special times together!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Ok, So here's the amazing(well, to us anyhow!) story of Houdini the Hermit Crab.

Indian Key is home to a bunch of hermit crabs.  My cousin has brought some home as pets over the years,  they are really neat and they haven't died.  Now, she has brought some home from the pet store and those have died, but not the natural ones from Indian Key.  So after a few times of watching her and the kids take a couple home, I decided we need to have one for a pet, at least for a year.  An exchange student, if you will, for in exchange of Houdini's shell(a large bleeding tooth, that I covet!)and some entertainment, I will provide her with good food, water, a safe place to live and hide, a new shell and then return her to her original home in a year's time.  Isn't that a fair exchange?  How do I know it's a her, you ask?  Well, there are two holes on the underside of her veeeeeery back legs that means she's a girl.  If she was a boy, she wouldn't have them.  How did I happen to see those?  Ohhhhh, well, she was really stretching to reach something one day and I happened to be able to see underneath her legs and saw the holes, they look like little spots.  They have to come out of their shell quite a ways for you to see them.
Back to the story....
Zman and I picked Houdini up on Indian Key and put her in a cup to contain her and gave her some tamarinds to eat and a sponge to hang out on.  It filled up the cup alot, but since we were leaving that day I figured she would keep till I got her a larger cup.  When we got back to the car and loaded up, I checked the cup holder in which I had placed Houdini's cup and she was gone(we hadn't named her or known it was a her yet)!  My cousin can think like a hermit crab 'cause she has had a few, and we found her under the passenger side doormat.  OK.  Back into the cup.  We said our goodbyes then Zman and I headed down the road.  We stopped briefly for another goodbye and lo and behold, when we got back to the car she had escaped again!   At this point we named her Houdini, after the great escape artist.  We searched and searched the car and could NOT find her!  Every time we stopped, we looked for her.  When we got back to Granny's house, I tore the car apart, took everything out, and still couldn't find her!  "Well", I thought, "Maybe she fell out when we were shaking mats or towels or something...?"  I braced myself for the smell of rotting in the weeks to come, just in case.  I also didn't tell Sweetie Pie or The Rocket about her as they would be sad they almost had a hermit crab for a pet.
Three weeks go by.  Yes, you read that right! THREE WEEKS!  We were getting into the car one day and Sweetie Pie screams "MOM! THERE"S A HERMIT CRAB IN OUR CAR!!!!!!"  "Holey Moley!" I replied, "I can't believe Houdini survived!"  She looked at me incredulously and said "You know this crab????"  She and The Rocket were so excited!  I told them the story of the crab and about the original Houdini, then they understood the name.  That crab survived three weeks of no water, not really any food to speak of(except the crumbs and left over french fries and candy under the seats) and more importantly, the sweltering heat inside of a car left in the sun!  Resilient creatures hermit crabs are....
So now Houdini has her own beach condo that sits outside on our porch, complete with a pineapple, it's just not under the sea. However it does overlook the pool, if she can see that far... She eats all manner of things, and makes the neatest tracks in the sand.  She loves to climb and sleep in her pineapple.  She is incredibly strong, she rearranges the coral and digs little bunkers in the sand.  I put the exchange shell in her condo, she's not interested in it.  She may be holding out on me.....

For more information on Hermit Crabs, you can visit this site,  It's where I got most of my information from. I am looking forward(kind-of) to the release date, mostly because I feel bad taking her from her home and putting her in a confined area for our enjoyment, and she is alone.  I hope she is enjoying the solitude, when I see my cousin next, I'll ask her for one of her crabs to keep Houdini company.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Edison/Ford Home

The last thing we did in Naples was to visit the Edison/Ford home in Ft. Myers.  The kids have touched on  Edison in school and I thought it would bring home the history lesson a bit more if they could see where he did some inventing.  
It was a very hot day!  Granny and Grandad went with us and we all learned alot! 

Edison first visited Ft Myers in 1885, and he loved it so much that he purchased 13 acres on the Caloosahatchee River.  There he built his winter estate(called Seminole Lodge in honor of the local Indian tribe) that included his home and an impressive guest house.  Originally his laboratory was located adjacent to the house, but it was moved across the road and this office was built here in place of it. 
Edison's Little Office:
Looks cozy doesn't it?  I wish my office looked like this!

Below is the Moonlight Garden(behind the Little Office), can you imagine a party here? 

Now for my favorite part of the grounds, the pool area.  In times past when I have visited this area, the pool itself was a green algae mess.  I often have wondered what it looked like when Edison and his kids swam in it.  Well, here is the modern version of the pool today!  Certainly it didn't look this good when Edison was here, as it was filled with water from an artesian well on the property (I am so very glad they cleaned it up, it looks so inviting now!). 

This is the pier where Edison had his boat, and from which guests would arrive and all the building materials and contents(right down to the linens!) for his houses were brought in from ships.  There were no roads or railroads when he built his estate.  At the end of the pier there used to be an open "summerhouse"(kind-of like a covered porch) for visiting with guests and friends.  My guess is 'cause it was cooler out on the water, with a breeze!  

These "Electrolier" lighting fixtures were manufactured specifically for his house and I believe these are the original bulbs in them.  Why can't they make light bulbs to last like that anymore????

This is the family room.  Surrounding all sides of these rooms are wide covered porches, the kind that I long for if I ever build a house! 

This is Thomas and Mina's bedroom, doesn't it look cool and inviting?

Part of the kitchen:
I so totally want a such a functional and eye-pleasing kitchen as this in my fictional house I would build!  Ok, so I would copy Edison's floor plan... I LOVE this architecture!

The fruit of this tree is growing right on the bark of the tree, isn't that wierd?  I can't remember the name of the tree dissapointing.(I think it may have been a type of fig tree?)

The rock fountain used to be the water feature in the garden where the Edisons and their guests would cool off before the pool complex was built. It used to be smooth concrete and then someone got creative and covered it with the rocks by 1928. 

This is the Ford home called "The Mangoes":
Ford was good friends with Edison and in 1916 Ford bought this house and property right next door to Edison's home.  Again, I'm loving this architecture!!!

While you are waiting for a guided tour, there is a museum that contains alot of history about Edison. His childhood, and the years leading up to his life in Ft. Myers and his inventions and patents. 
"Thomas Edison, Life magazine's "Number One Man of the Millennium," died October 18, 1931. He was 84 years old. Edison is credited with holding 1,093 patents and is the only person in our country ever to have a patent granted every year for sixty-five consecutive years, 1868 to 1933."
(That was taken from the website of the Estate.)

Below are some of the displays that are in the museum:

The above photo contains a replica of Edison's electric boat, Reliance.

This is the Banyan tree.  It was a gift from Harvey Firestone, and in 1925(when it was planted) the tree was 4ft high and 2 inches in diameter.  Now, it covers an acre and has some 350 roots!
The kids are standing with Thomas, Sweetie Pie is holding his hand, how sweet!
"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."
-Thomas Edison

We didn't get to the lab part of the tour, Granny was hot, tired and ready to go home.  We will go back another time and do the tour again, starting with the lab!  The gardens there are the most varied I have seen.  It is all because of the experimental nature of the caretaker!  He always encouraged questions and exploring in his kids.  This is such a wonderful place, and worth a visit for a day!

"There is only on Fort Myers, and 90 million people are going to find it out."
-Thomas Edison
If only he knew...