Two-boat-day Weekend: Cruising, Tubing, Jellyfish, and Storms

End of season, we found a great tune on sale. I figured next summer would be great for Mac to try tubing…then my hubby surprised us with one!

Mac had a blast! We each took turns riding with him. He is a great swimmer, thanks to my hubby who had him in the water very early, having lifeguarded and taught baby swim classes when he was in college.

The rest of the weekend was amazing with our visit to The Bay and cruising around Choctawhatchee Bay. Even my horrible jelly fish sting (not my first, but the worst), and my goose egg I got on my shin from catching myself on the trailer ladder when I slipped (first time for that, ever) didn’t slow us down. (If you ever get stung by a jellyfish, while there are several solutions to remove the sting, we keep apple cider vinegar on the boat for stings. It helps!)

It was a perfect weekend on the water, despite our Saturday escape from a storm that popped up. My hubby is an expert water man – he can tell when it’s safe to stay and when to run!

I felt the shift in the wind, right about the time my hubby heard the thunder (I couldn’t over the stereo.) We packed up and made the run back to the boat launch and made it back before the rain.

I love the beauty and unpredictability of our boating life. It’s easy to love when I have an expert water man in my hubby.

Happy Boating,

J.

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The Bay – Perfect Atmosphere and Food

The Bay, coming in by boat

The Bay restaurant is fabulous! just over the 331 bridge, it’s nestled on a sweet shoreline with the casual coastal feel of white sand, fire pits, bistro lights, and most importantly, yummy food!

This past Sunday, we enjoyed our 2nd boat day of the weekend cruising Choctawhatchee Bay, and while we usually grill on our boat grill, we do like to pull up to some of our restaurants that have boat slips. While at The Bay, I was thrilled to see they also have a sushi bar. It’s st the top of my list for a date night dinner!

Porch seating offers a beautiful bay view!

I have only been here once before, and I was excited to bring my family here for the first time. Our friend, a ship captain, came with us, also. We all ordered the fried shrimp, which were huge and plump. I had a green salad and scalloped potatoes. Delish!

Seafood – my favorite!

we look forward to coming back on the Wednesday night happy hour. With plenty of indoor and outdoor (including beach) seating, it’s a great place that accommodates families with children as well as the couple looking for a romantic date night.

Our view during lunch.

Whether by boat or by car, this is a restaurant to check out when in the Destin area of North Florida!

Happy Exploring (and eating),

J.

Pizza on the Joe!

Pesto, mushroom, and chicken pizza going on the Joe!

We love to cook on our grill and smoker! We had two of our smokers go out on us, and this last one was a real problem. It was an electric smoker, and it only lasted us a year. Since we have plans of building an outdoor kitchen in the future, we decided to go ahead and get what will hopefully be our lifelong smoker: a Kamado Joe. It’s a ceramic smoker, similar to the “Green Egg,” but not as expensive. We love our Joe!

This smoker runs on charcoal and it’s also a grill. We have plans to do more baking on it, but up to now, in addition to smoking fabulous meats, we’ve only baked pizzas on the Joe.

Charcoal glow: the magical source!

The best and easiest pizza dough recipe I have found is on sugarspunrun.com, the recipe is here. It only needs a half hour to rise. I add dried basil to the dough, and when I roll it out, I brush it with melted butter or olive oil and garlic powder, otherwise the dough is bland.

The hubby spreading on the butter and garlic
Classic pepperoni
Pesto based pizza

I love how this dough cooks. It holds toppings and isn’t at all flimsy. I have not baked it in the oven, but I imagine if a pizza stone is used, the effect would be the same.

Pepperoni going on the Joe
Now that’s a pie!
Our version of Mellow Mushroom’s Magical Mystery Tour pizza.

We live in a fairly rural, coastal area. There isn’t a Mellow Mushroom anywhere around us, so we cook to recreate some of our favorite restaurants’ signature dishes. This pesto, chicken pizza is my husband’s favorite!

We set our Kamado Joe to 450 and set the stone in 10 minutes before the pizza. Then, we cook the pizza 7-10 minutes. Then, it’s pizza perfection!

Happy Cooking,

J.

Rosemary Gone Wild!

I’m like my rosemary plant: we love the sand and the sun! They say you should plant rosemary by your front door for luck. Mine is in the ground, as close to my front door as it can be, in my front flower bed. I love the smell, but I think of it as a winter herb to be used in marinating meats and cooking in stews…mixing into potatoes. What other uses does it have besides drying it and cooking with it?

Rosemary, rosemary, and more rosemary!

A lot. Here are a few I’ve tried.

Stovetop Potpourri: Right now, my house smells amazing! I love to put water and herbs on the stovetop to simmer and fill my house with amazing fragrances. I have a rosemary and lemon concoction on now, and it’s so clean and refreshing!

I love lemon in my water and drink it throughout the day. We have a baby lemon tree in the back yard that has produced a few lemons, so while I used some lemon wedges in today’s potpourri, I like lemon in my drinks, so I took some lemon tree cuttings (minus the barbs!), and set those to simmer.

Other Uses: I plan to make a few wreathes for indoor use, and I have also set some in small jarred bouquets around the house, and I made a few sachets.

I am looking forward to trying different projects and recipes. How do you use rosemary in your cooking or in your home?

Happy Harvesting,

J.

Presto: Pesto!

Basil!

My husband loves pesto. He could eat it by the spoonful, I think. So, I recruited my Sous Chef, my son, to help me surprise his dad and make pesto so that we could make our first homemade, pesto based chicken pizza.

I had Mac help me pick pesto leaves from our basil plant, and we had fun! The best part for him may have been getting to push the button on the food processor.

Mac the chef picking basil.

Mac mixing it up!

Pesto is so simple: basil leaves, olive oil, walnuts or pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and lemon zest all blended in a food processor. Check out this recipe I found on The Suburban Soapbox here. A simple and straightforward recipe. My grandmother Lois used to say, “You do the best you can with what you have.” So, I used what I had in my house. I used walnuts, and I used processed, grated Parmesan cheese, but next time, I will buy a wedge of Parmesan and try pine nuts.

We love chicken pesto and we love it in pasta. I can’t wait to try it on our pizza, tonight, and I’ll create a pizza post, after. (We love to bake our pizzas on our Kamado Joe, and this has been a new thing for us, but the oven is great, too.)

Pesto!

I would highly recommend that if you have kids, get them in the kitchen, early! Obviously, give them “safe” jobs – pouring, measuring, etc., and keep them from stoves, ovens and sharp objects. Practice common sense and caution. However, creating those lasting memories, and teaching your child how to be clean and practice food preparation is priceless. Both my husband and I have fond memories of being in the kitchen at a young age, and it certainly has influenced our love of cooking, today.

Happy Eating,

J.

Sourdough Lessons

Second, unsalted batch. The far right is the doughy loaf.

Well, I did it! I did “me” and boy, was it a doozie. I thought I could handle overlapping my sourdough bread process. I had company coming in and wanted to bake a trial batch and the actual to iron out any problems. Timing worked out that I truly didn’t have time to do a trial batch and a real batch, but I wanted the same “trial run,” so I jumped in and thought I could do it all.

Haha.

The first batch was great save an overly crunchy/overly cooked bottom. I found a solution on a bread baking forum online: crumpled up tin foil, stretched back out and layered to make an insulator under the cast iron Dutch oven. I tried it on my second batch, and it worked like a charm!

However, I forgot the salt! Salt! The flavor of life…and bread. So, with a sprinkle of salt, and a spread (or two or three) of butter, we managed to salvage one loaf from that batch.

The other, however, was terrible. I forgot to put the lid on the Dutch oven, and the loaf didn’t pop on the top, where I had scored the dough, but it did pop on the side, and looked like it had a tumor. Or some odd side-growth. A hernia. And because of the side poof, it was dense and doughy. Not edible. Not even as French toast.

Third loaf – the charmer.

However, on an upward note, after about a week, I attempted my third batch. The dough texture was like silk. I didn’t forget the salt. The sour in the sourdough “popped” through, according to my husband and my tastebuds. The bottom wasn’t over cooked. It was the most perfect batch I have made, yet. I was happy to share a loaf with new neighbors who move in, two houses down, and to serve when a friend came to dinner.

Like all good things, well baked bread takes time.

Happy Eating,

J.

Roots and Wings

I am soaking up the quiet times and the squeals of excitement in these final days of summer; the Sepia afternoons of sunset and the crystal shimmer of the sea; the salty air that permeates my coastal life and the smell of succulent meats on our smoker in the backyard; the laughter that arises from play with our child and the quiet moments of our family together at the end of the day.

These late days of summer have been the sweetest of my life. Be present! Don’t miss these moments. I want to be fully aware and in the moment I am in and fully enjoy the sounds, sights, smells, and feelings all around.

The only constant in life is the inevitability of change. My son’s world is about to explode into the beauty of friends and school and learning, and I am so grateful. These summer days are drawing to a close where his realm of influencers will reach beyond the walls of our home – to teachers and friends. With that naturally comes a mother’s celebration, and a slight, momentary mourning: we will no longer be his everything. But, that is okay. We will always be his loving parents.

We have given him roots, and now we are about to give him his first real set of wings: school days. What an amazing adventure it is to be a parent! I am grateful. And I am actively working on being present.

I hope you are enjoying your summer and wherever you are in life, you are present. Whatever is happening in the ebb and flow, you’re able to know when to establish roots, or when set forth in flight.

Blessings,

J.

Sourdough Bread Success!

I did it! The test was my 4 year old son – he wanted seconds. My husband wanted seconds. And my friend who gave me the starter said the pic I sent him looks great.

So, now that I’ve baked once, I get to try again tomorrow and fine tune my dough-ball shaping skills. I wanted a “practice run” before some of my family come to visit this weekend, and circumstances sent me into overlap with the 3-day process. Trial by fire. Go big or go home. Dive in head first. That’s my nature, so here I am, baking again tomorrow.

I was able to walk my second loaf over to my neighbor’s house, and my friend, S, popped her head out the back door a little while later and said they love it and were eating it right then.

That’s why I bake. I love doing it, but I love to gift the goods to friends and neighbors. It always brings a smile to their faces.

And to see the buttery grin on my son’s face, and know my husband has a treat to enjoy after a long work day. I am looking forward to baking the next batch, today, and continuing to perfect my sourdough! Many thanks to my neighbor and friend, Shaun, who gave me the starter and recipe!

The following are pics of my “bake day” process.

Loose square formation before folding and forming the dough balls.
After folding corners of “square,” it looks like a diamond. Fold each corner once more.
After 2nd round of folds
Both dough balls
Dough balls and banneton

Happy eating!

Sourdough Bread – In the Beginning

The gear.

In the beginning – there was a girl who loved her mama’s homemade honey wheat bread. Girl grows up and begins making the bread. Then she branches out into making French bread, pizza dough, and now…that which she’d never had the guts to try because she heard it was so temperamental…sourdough bread.

I have written about quite a few topics on this blog – parenting, boating, surfing, outdoor activities and coastal living, but one of my favorite and first loves has been sadly left out: food.

Fortunately, I married not only a “foodie” but a pretty amazing chef. He isn’t a chef by trade, but he could be. My husband started cooking in restaurants when he was a teenager. He has since taught me to cook beyond my “southern style” I grew up learning. I have always been a baker, however.

So, sourdough. Yum! My knowledge of sourdough didn’t extend beyond having this doughy alien in your fridge that you had to run home and “feed” to eventually turn into a magical slice of warm, soft bread with a distinct flavor and crispy crust. My friends and I in high school all had delicious sandwiches for lunch made out of sourdough bread, for our moms all shared the starter.

Fast forward to a neighborhood party a month ago, where our hosts served gorgeous artisan sourdough bread. It was delectable. My kind neighbor gave me the starter, and here I am, feeding the alien.

The scale I ordered from Amazon. It’s amazing!

Beginners tips:

1. Get a kitchen scale that measures dry goods and liquids. It’s more accurate. I thought I could do without and convert measurements. Now that I have my scale, I’ll never go back!

2. Name your starter! Very important. Name the alien. Ours is Little Joe. We smoke and Grill on our Kamada Joe a lot, and we refer to him as “Joe,” so, our starter is “Little Joe.”

3. Don’t give up! Follow your directions and if something goes awry, keep at it, research, read, check out YouTube. My starter first just bubbled, but it didn’t rise. How disappointing! However, I read that I could add more flour. So, I did. That’s exactly what it needed.

Day 2: my first dough batch after my first round of folds.

I will bake later today and will post pics from the day 3 process. Wish me luck!

Yoga me Yes! Independent Yoga Practice – Part II

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The reason we are called The Emerald Coast

Who are you? What defines you? Is your occupation who you are or simply what you’re good at? Teacher, Flight Attendant, Doctor, Mechanic, Server, Lawyer? Does your role in personal relationships define you? Parent, Spouse, Child? Sibling, Cousin, Friend? Is it a hobby or a faith?

We have this 24/07 newsreel society. We are plugged in, turned on, our faces reflected in the bright white flashing of scrolling screens – images everywhere – dulling our eye contact with real-life humans in front of us.

Escapeism has always existed. Screens – phones, computers, and tablets are just the new wrapping paper in which a very old, regifted concept of “checking-out” is prettily presented.

Balance. We need balance, and unplugging should be part of all our daily routines.

I love to be outside. I love yoga. A little over a week ago, I decided to consistently let myself have both of those and to time my sessions with the sunrise. The last half of my week was a challenge. We had a busy weekend schedule, and my work-load amped up. Our homeschool group had our first activity after summer break, also. Yet, I set the priority, and I kept my practice – no YouTube, no walls; rather, I had outside, self-guided yoga practice.

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Beautiful Pines in my back yard illuminated with the pink and orange light from the sunrise.

Session 5: It was tough to get to my mat. However, I worked it in. The rain from tropical storm Gordon left everything outside soaked (even our back porch). So, that was the only day I practiced inside. I snatched a 25ish minutes to practice, decompress, and continue about my day.

Session 6: Our subconscious minds fascinate me. While practicing, I reached a new level with a balance posture. The consistent practice had prepared me. I write, daily. I try to work on my novel, daily, in the are-you-crazy-for-waking-this-early-Janie? morning hours. After writing, I went to my mat. While I haven’t had writer’s block, I have had a plot-hurdle to work through, and the answer came, and it was so simple. Why hadn’t I thought of it before?

Session 7: During this last session, I rested more. I truly listened to my body. I focused on areas where I was the most stiff, and then I moved into a general flow. I allowed quiet in.

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Bumblebee in the grass

My last session during this week was filled with gratitude for what I have. I am always grateful, but in my heart, I have moments of sadness that occasionally whisper by like a ghost from the past because I miss someone who has died. So many. And, then, I look up and see my husband, our son; I see that the trees are green and the roses are red; I see a snail inching by or bees bouncing in the too-long, rain soaked grass, and I know God gives me those moments to bring me back. To heal me, a little more. To remind me of his presence and his love.

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My Mac, running and playing in our back yard. 

Yoga is a stretching of the body, the mind, and the spirit, I believe. All my life I have had morning devotional time, prayer time, and that is one time I experience God guiding me. I have discovered that, without book, bible, journal, and pen in hand, this is another time in which I hear the Lord, and it is good. We don’t allow ourselves the time to reflect. Our bodies, our minds, our souls are a gift, and we shouldn’t squander them. Yoga is a time we can move our body and in doing so, our body’s movement allows our mind and soul to move in new ways. Then, we discover a little more about who we are.

 

Namaste and all that jazz,

JG