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!

Attitude

Once upon a time this quote was hanging in a spot where I could see it everyday. Over the years I lost track of it, but my dear husband came to the rescue and sent me a copy he had hanging in his office.  I think it is an excellent read for people of any age and felt it worthy of sharing.

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Serving Others

The summer I was 16 my friend Cathy and I were Red Cross volunteer’s at a VA hospital two mornings a week for about four weeks.  Our job was to mostly push patients here or there around in a wheel chair.  Occasionally we would deliver flowers, escort visitors to rooms, or offer to get cups of water or coffee for families waiting on a loved one having surgery.  At the end of our shift, we both felt appreciative for the chance to help and be of service to others.

As I approach retirement I have begun to research opportunities to volunteer. Living near a large city provides an abundance of choices such as assisting at a hospital (both regular and children’s), becoming a foster grandparent to a child, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels (I love to cook and would really enjoy preparing these meals), helping out at an animal shelter and the list goes on. If I decide to get more adventurous there is Global Volunteers.

A young friend told me her parents volunteer at a nearby hospice.  It takes a very special person to volunteer in this environment. What an excellent opportunity to provide emotional and spiritual support to both patients and their loved ones during this truly precious and delicate time of life.

Our school system allows people to become mentors to our students. Filling all of the slots for this volunteer position can be challenging because a lot of people don’t know this particular opportunity is available. The men or women usually come once a week during lunch time. They will sit with the child outside at one of our picnic tables or inside at a reserved section of the lunchroom. Sometimes they come during the day and they will usually go to the library to talk, read a story, or play a game. These children may lack social skills, have private issues, or their home life may not be the most stable environment. Often all these students need is an adult (or anyone) to listen to them and let them know someone cares. Both the mentor and the student look forward to this special time together.

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Becoming a volunteer can be an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others and may also change someone’s life (maybe my own) in the process.

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”  1 Peter 4:10

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”  Isaiah 6:8 

The Beauty in Differences

The dinner party was fun! There was soft music, much laughter, lively conversation, delicious food, fine wine, and a superb dessert.  When it was over ~ I was pretty worn out.  I could not understand why as I had not over indulged in anything that evening.  Then I had a very interesting discussion with my daughter.

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The beautiful table our hostess set!

My daughter and I have had several discussions about introvert and extrovert behavior. She seems to have a better grasp on this whole topic, but here is my takeaway from our discussions as well as personal observations.

As I reflect back on the couples dinner party, I began to mentally identify the introverts and extroverts.

The extroverts were good at capturing and maintaining the attention they received. They were a delight to be around and I enjoyed their lively and quick witted humor. They were masters at keeping the conversation flowing.  As they shared experiences, I marveled at how many other friends and acquaintances they have and how often they seem to stay connected with these friends.  I can see why this personality type is often viewed as a positive trait by our society.  I am truly thankful for friends like these.

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From the introvert perspective (speaking for myself) I was more comfortable when I was engaged in one on one conversations.  It was an opportunity to express myself better and got to share what I wanted to say.  Otherwise I tend to sit quietly and do what I do best…listen.  I did my fair share of listening that evening but, still had fun laughing, listening, and talking to the other guests.

This introvert enjoys the company of other people, I just need to recharge with some alone time after being with them!

Surprise is often the reaction when people who don’t know me well find out I have said or done something out of introvert character.  I tend to act differently around different people. My comfort level with the situation as well as the people involved are the main reasons. I act differently around family, very close friends, and the children in my classroom than I do in my book club and social situations where there is a large group. Is it possible to possess qualities of introversion and extroversion simultaneously?

I found the following quote and think it is a beautiful way to contrast extroverts and introverts:

Extroverts are bright and colorful rainbows, immediately capturing people’s attention with their beauty and shine.”

“Introverts are the gentle wind in the trees that touches your soul in profound, contemplative and peaceful (though less visible) ways.”

How enjoyable is it to embrace all of the beautiful rainbows and gentle winds that enter life.

 

Recipe Request

Who would have guessed that beef and blackberries would be so complimentary?

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The recipe for the beef in this photo was requested by a fellow blogger and I am so happy to share.  It is typically served with filet mignon, but since that is a rarity in this house, I serve it over a less costly steak.  I have also served it on pork chops and read where some folks serve this with chicken.  I am not a huge fan of blackberries, but they really add to this dish.

This recipe calls for the beef to be cooked on the stove top, however we usually cook the steaks on the grill as that is our preferred flavor.  We used the stove top method when we were rained out one evening and it was very good.   If you are looking for something a little different and delicious you might want to give this a try.  (Tip: I always make the compound butter ahead of time.)  Bon Appetite!

Filet Mignon with Blackberries*

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-ounce) filet mignon steaks
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine (recommended: Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 1 cup low-sodium beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons blackberry preserves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Compound butter, for garnish, recipe follows
  • Blackberries, for garnish

Compound Butter:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (I always use Kerrygold butter sticks)
  • 1/4 cup fresh blackberries

Pat the steaks dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper. In a heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Sear the steaks in the hot oil for 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a serving plate, tent with foil, and let stand.

Using the same skillet, saute the shallots for 1 minute. Add the red wine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Let wine boil until reduced by half. Add broth and blackberry preserves, return to a boil and reduce by half. (The sauce should coat the back of a spoon.) Whisk in the 2 tablespoons butter. Season sauce with additional salt and pepper, to taste.

To serve, drizzle the sauce over the steaks. Place a pat of compound butter and scatter a few blackberries on the plate.

Compound Butter:

In a bowl, combine butter and blackberries and mix well.

Place on plastic wrap to mold into a log shape. Wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

*This recipe was found on the food network website and is courtesy of the Deen Brothers.

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!