A Southern Jewel

I am talking about Amelia Island.

We were in search of a weekend getaway before I start back to school. After finding a nice little place to stay on short notice and considering we had never been here before it seemed like a good choice.

Yes, it was plenty hot, but we sought refuge either poolside or in the cool shade provided by the beautiful oak trees that surrounded our property.  A good beach book and a cool drink was all we needed during the hottest part of the day.

We also enjoyed exploring the island during the day and saw The Ritz Carlton and the Omni Plantation have beautiful locations on this small island.  There appears to be five golf courses as well.  Amelia Island is only 13 miles long and 4 miles wide.

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Most of the streets, on the part of the island where we stayed, were shaded and cooled by majestic oak trees.

      Morning walks on the beach along the Atlantic Ocean was a wonderful way to start our day!

We spent two of our three evenings in the charming and very walkable downtown area of Fernandina Beach. We browsed in unique upscale shops, dined on delicious seafood and was treated to live music each evening at the Green Turtle Tavern.

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On Saturday morning we wandered through a local farmer’s market.  The atmosphere was pleasant as the crowd mingled to the eclectic sounds of a guitar player. A local resident would often steal the show as he played bluesy tunes on his harmonica. Vendors proudly displayed fresh baked goods, homemade jewelry, lots of fresh vegetables, homemade jelly and marinades, gorgeous fresh flowers, and other whimsical items to highlight a few of the booths here.

We could not resist this lovely plant and carefully brought it home with us in the car! It survived the long car ride home and now our fingers are crossed it will continue to thrive in our soil.

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The lack of crowds and traffic usually found in beach destinations this time of year was a huge hit for us.  We enjoyed our time in this lovely area of the south and so glad we visited!

Savoring: Read Aloud

I never realized how much wisdom can be found in children’s literature until I became an elementary school teacher.

Every year for the past ten years or so I read one of my all time favorites Charlotte’s Web out loud to my class. If you have never read this story it is about the remarkable friendship between a spider and a pig.

I love to imitate the voices of the characters as I read this beloved tale. Glancing up from time to time, I marvel at how focused the children are and I often wonder how they are visualizing the scenes and characters in their minds.  Their laughter or giggles at the antics of some of the characters are music to my ears.

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The chapter called “Last Day” always chokes me up during the scene when Charlotte dies and I always have a hard time reading those lines aloud.  The children are taken by surprise and all sit very still and look at me unsure of how to react.  Some smile sweetly, some even walk up to give me hug as I dab the swelling of tears from my eyes.  They offer words of comfort such as “It’s only a book, it really didn’t happen.” “It’s okay to feel sad.” I smile and assure them I am ok and I can see the relief on their faces.  I think it leaves a good impression though, that it is ok and yes, even teachers cry.

Throughout the story the author, E.B. White, offers many delightful and insightful quotes that speak to me now ~ I never noticed when I was a child. I have to share a few of my favorites:

“Children almost always hang onto things tighter than their parents think they will.”

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing…after all, what’s a life anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die…By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”

“THE BARN was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell—as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world.”

“Most people believe almost anything they see in print.”

“The night seemed long. Wilbur’s stomach was empty and his mind was full. And when your stomach is empty and your mind is full, it’s always hard to sleep.”

As I read aloud the final lines of this wonderful story: ” She was in a class by herself.  It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.  Charlotte was both.”  I am usually fortunate enough to look up just in time to see the smiles emerge as the children break into the sweet sound of applause.  It thrills my heart when this happens and it gives me hope that they will always remember this sweet story and these most precious days of their lives.

Savoring Salt?

My husband and I love to grill and enjoy trying creative ways to savor the flavor of food. The Himalayan Salt Block has been an interesting addition to our outdoor cooking although it can be used inside too. We already use the Himalayan salt grinder version (Trader Joe’s) every day to flavor our meals, so we decided to purchase the large salt block for the grill. It is suppose to have health benefits, but we like it mostly for the delicious flavor it adds to food.

The photo below was the very first time we cooked on the salt block, so it is nice and pink. Over time, the heat and permeating juices darkened it and now give it a rich glow.  It is hard to see but the kabobs and the salmon with vegetables are cooking on the salt block that has been used many times. I was afraid the food would taste extra salty, but the flavor is delicious!  I bought M. the book “Salt Block Cooking” by Mark Bitterman for Father’s Day last year and it has taught us the many uses of the salt block and inspired us with a variety of recipes. Can’t wait to fire up that grill again!

I love the evenings when we grill outdoors!

Savoring Healthy Eating

M. and I eat pretty healthy, but his doctor told him he should make some changes in his dietary choices.

We took a closer look at what we were actually eating on a daily basis and decided to make a few alterations. I am happy to say we have done a good job sticking with our updated plan. Some of our changes include:

  • Buying as many organic fresh fruits and vegetables as we can find.
  • Eating grass-fed beef that has been ~ key word: grass finished as often as possible.
  • Eating chicken, eggs, and pork that have been pasture raised.
  • Limiting our sugar intake.  (From what I have read, this is the source of a lot of health issues.)
  • Very limited GMO products. (This was strongly suggested by the doctor. I am currently trying to learn more about these products. We have quite a few of those brands in our home, so we are gradually weeding them out and replacing them with the non GMO products.  Just hope the information I find is accurate.)
  • Limiting our portion sizes. We don’t want to eat as much as we use to, so smaller portions are our preferred way of eating these days.  We will often eat on our salad size plates so it mentally makes us think we are eating more since we see a fuller plate.  When we eat on our dinner plates we try to fill it up with fresh vegetables and a protein.

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I have worked very hard locating local farms that raise the type of beef, pork, poultry, and eggs we desire. I must say, everything we buy from these farms has been delicious! Grass-fed-grass finished beef cooks just a little differently, and has a delicious flavor! It cost a little more, but the health benefits, the quality, and the taste are worth it!

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We have learned to be very cautious and read labels. Not everything marked organic, natural, and cage free is the real deal.

Holleman Farms, Greenville, TX ~  An excellent choice for pork, chicken, and eggs if you live in Texas.

I have some friends who own a very successful ranch in Palo Pinto, Texas ~ the 2S Ranch. They continue to educate me to the value of “knowing your rancher” to ensure you are getting the best quality possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  If I lived in Texas, they would be my ranch of choice for beef.

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The 2S Ranch in Palo Pinto, TX

M. and I will definitely enjoy a few splurges and understand we can’t always control what we eat outside our home.  But, here is to continued success in reading labels, buying fresh, and knowing my rancher!