15 Reasons Not to Visit the Florida Keys {humor}

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Ah, the Florida Keys… Carefree days filled with fun, sun and fancy umbrella drinks, right? Well, not exactly. I’ve learned that living in The Florida Keys isn’t quite what it seems.

So before you pack your polka dot bikini and fly south for the winter, check out the everyday reality of Life in the Florida Keys:

1. Hold onto to your floppy hat! That cool tropical breeze is actually a Category Five hurricane making its way from Africa, heading directly for Key Largo.

2. Spectacular sunsets feature massive mosquitoes, sucking enough blood from us to buzz all the way back to Miami.

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3. (Cue Jaws soundtrack) Diving excursions turn you into instant shark bait.

4. Those “authentic” Florida Keys conch shells are plastered with Made in China stickers.

5. Modern-day pirates set up souvenir shops to pillage and plunder. “Interested in buying a crappy, overpriced Key West T-shirt, matey?”

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6. Ernest Hemingway’s famous Key West cats are really stuck-up (or maybe they’re just hung over).

7. One visit to the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet blows your chances of squeezing into that teeny weeny bikini.

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8. That fishing trip won’t be so exciting once you realize you’re on the hook for $199 per hour. (Oh, and the fish that got away was not “THAT BIG!”)

9. After basking in the blazing sun all day, you’ll begin to resemble patients in hospital burn units.

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10. Our beach buddy is a twelve-foot alligator, just waiting to join us for a swim.

11. (Cue the Pina Colada song) You’d better really like piña coladas because each frozen concoction is fourteen bucks at the tiki bar!

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12. With the sweltering heat and 99-percent humidity, you’ll probably be stuck inside that “ocean-view” dump you booked online. Although the room reeks of rotten fish and stale smoke, at least it has air conditioning.

13. Coco-Loco! People actually die from falling coconuts (because they aren’t smart enough to realize that coconuts are harder than their heads!)

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14. Observing Key West’s Fantasy Fest makes Girls Gone Wild videos look like Disney flicks.

15. So, “Welcome to The Florida Keys: Come on vacation. Leave on probation.”

Photos by Seedy Lawyer.  All rights reserved.

Have you ever had a dream vacation turn into a disappointment? Please share!

The Stranger and The Snowflake

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  “Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”

Anthony J. D’Angelo

It was only 6AM and I was already miserable. My pants were uncomfortably snug from overindulging on South Florida cuisine. Dressed for the Florida heat, I knew I was going to freeze my butt off once I landed in North Carolina.

Tired and crabby, I rushed to the airport in the wee hours of the morning. The security check was backed-up. People were pushing. One jerk even PASSED ME in the security line as I was going thru the scanner. (I secretly wished he’d develop motion sickness on his flight!)

Finally boarding my flight, I prayed to be far from screaming kids. No one should dare bother The Grouch. A lady then crawled over me to the window seat. “Don’t worry I won’t bother you,” she said. Jeez, did I look that agitated?  There was just something about her aura that was so inviting. Sure enough, I instantly started up a friendly conversation with the blonde woman sitting next to me.

“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.”

Fydor Dostoevsky

By coincidence (or not?), she lives just one block from me in Miami, has rescue dogs, and vacations close to me in The Florida Keys. She was also traveling to her Carolina getaway. With great ease, we giggled, chatted up a storm and found so much in common. Close in age and looks, the mysterious stranger could have easily been the sister I’ve always wanted.

“I do desire we be better strangers.”

William Shakespeare

I couldn’t help but notice her dancing blue eyes and pure spirit. Filled with calmness and confidence, she spoke joyously. Caught up in our conversation, I was no longer drained and bothered. The splendid spirit of this passenger rubbed off on me, plastering a huge smile on my makeup-less face.

“Stranger, if you, passing, meet me, and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?”

Walt Whitman

Somewhere in between our discussions about crafting, men, and fabulous food, she serenely mentioned “her surgery.” Oh, you had surgery, for what, may I ask?”

“Brain surgery. I have brain cancer.” She so calmly replied.

What a fool I was for complaining all morning about my tight pants and Miami traffic! How dare I be bothered by other passengers trying to make their flights? Was I actually cursing at my carryon bag for being too heavy? 

I was sitting next to a living angel: a mother of two, facing the unimaginable. Filled with grace, she smiled as she spoke. What a true example. I am so thankful just to know this person. We eventually talked about everything two girls can chat about. We exchanged contact info and hugged as our flight landed.

“There are no strangers here;

only friends you haven’t yet met.”

William Butler Yeats

I was blessed to have met my new friend. Her kind spirit filled me with joy and peace. I floated to my car, and grinned during the entire drive home.

Once home, I skipped into the yard, playing with my dogs. Still in my South Florida clothing, I had somehow forgotten how cold it was. The sun shined down and brightened my face. As I turned towards the sky, I gently closed my eyes and smiled. I paused and listened to my calm breath. This was a great moment indeed.

Suddenly, a strong breeze almost knocked me over. Icy droplets caressed my face. I opened my eyes to big, beautiful, flawless snowflakes! It was snowing! Gigantic snowflakes danced in slow-motion. White butterflies whirling in the wind. The tiny falling stars reminded me of my new friend: Beautiful. Magical. Joyful.

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I joyfully threw up my arms and arched my back. Like a little girl, I opened my mouth to catch the falling white gold.

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Life is good. Life is a flawless-magical-huge-dancing-snowflake kind of good!

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  “A snowflake is one of nature’s most fragile creations but look at what they can do when they stick together!”

– Author Unknown

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Shared with Fiesta Friday, Flashback Friday, Foodie Friday, Simple Saturdays, Natural Family Friday, Motivation Monday, Clever Chicks Blog Hop, Busy Monday, Mix It Up Monday, Simply Natural Saturdays

Photos courtesy of Seedy Lawyer and Pascal Gaudette, Julie FalkChris Dodson and Gen Thul

All rights reserved.

Payaya, “Fruit of the Angels” [recipe]

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It’s getting hot in here! The kitchen was hot! My friend and I were already overheated from harvesting tons of green beans in the afternoon sun. Now we were standing over a scalding stove while canning the beans.

To cool off, I suggested a refreshing Papaya smoothie since I had picked up a beautiful, ripe Papaya at the farmer’s market. Not being familiar with Papaya, (which is different than mango), my friend watched closely as I whipped up my creation.

“You’re not going to throw the rind in there, are you?” “What are you going to do with all those seeds?” “Do you chop it up or throw the whole thing into the blender?” My friend was very curious. I chuckled. But, I guess she may not be the only one with little knowledge about this wonderful fruit.

So, here’s a little history on one of my favorite fruits, and an easy-to-follow recipe for my Tropical Papaya Smoothie.

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Columbus called Papaya “Fruit of the Angels”

Papaya (Carica Papaya) has a high nutritive and medicinal value. This enzyme-rich fruit is full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. It is no wonder that Christopher Columbus named Papaya the “Fruit of the Angels”.


Explorers from Spain and Portugal are credited for bringing the fruit to the tropics. Soon after, Papayas grew all over the world. In Britain, papaya is known as the “pawpaw”.  In Brazil, it is the “mamoa”.  The Spanish call it papaya or “lechosa” (Venezuela). India is the world’s largest producer of papaya.

Loading papaya at the market near Manek Chowk, India.   Photo courtesy of Meena Kadri.

Loading papaya at the market near Manek Chowk, India. Photo courtesy of Meena Kadri.

 “When eating fruit, remember who planted the tree;

when drinking water, remember who dug the well.”

Vietnamese Proverb


It’s easy to grow your own papayas. Just a short time ago, my grandmother scattered some papaya seeds in her Miami Beach yard.  Look at her tree now!

 

“The entire fruit is already present in the seed.”

Tertullian, (“Founder of Western Theology”)


The Papaya tree can grow up to 20 feet!

 “Of all the wonders of nature, a tree in summer is perhaps the most remarkable; with the possible exception of a moose singing “Embraceable You” in spats.” 

Woody Allen 


Fruit grows under the leaves, on top of the tree. My friend’s tree is filled with gigantic fruit! I joked that I was coming back in the middle of the night to “harvest” the papayas! (Lucky for her, I couldn’t find a ladder high enough.)

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 “You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.” 

Will Rogers


Papayas are pear-shaped and green when raw. The fruit turns yellow when ripe.

Papayas ripening on tree. Photo courtesy of Guah.

Papayas ripening on tree. Photo courtesy of Guah.

 “There is no fruit which is not bitter before it is ripe.”

Publilius Syrus, (Roman Writer, born 85 B.C.)


With it’s beautiful sunset color, ripe Papaya is used in many mouth-watering recipesPapaya has a thick, creamy texture with a sweet, tropical hint.  Personally, I prefer mine chilled, with a little bit of fresh lime juice and a sprinkle of sea salt. Do yourself a favor and get a Papaya as soon as you can.  It’s an experience you will not soon forget.

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Papaya is the star in my healthy, refreshing smoothie. This exotic fruit’s soft-buttery texture mixes well with other tasty tropical fruit like coconut, lime, pineapple and ripe bananas. (“You put the lime in the coconut…” I can’t get that song out of my head!)

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Blend these delicious flavors together for a sweet Papaya Smoothie that will make you believe that you are in paradise. Relax with this tropical treat in your hand and your toes in the sand. (Don’t forget the suntan lotion!) Aloha!

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Tropical Papaya Smoothie

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 – 20 ounce can pineapple chucks in natural juice, chilled

1 – 14 ounce can coconut milk, chilled

½ of a large papaya, peeled, deseeded and diced

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon peeled fresh ginger, finely chopped

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons agave or honey

1 ½ ripe bananas, cut into pieces (preferably frozen)

1 cup ice cubes

Raw coconut, toasted, for garnish

Preparation

Add ingredients to blender in order listed. Blend for one minute or until smooth.  Pour into your favorite exotic glass and sprinkle with toasted coconut.  Garnish with lime.  Add a tropical accent with a colorful straw and a paper umbrella. Serve immediately.

Enjoy a taste of the tropics with this Tropical Papaya Smoothie. Cheers!

***

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What is your favorite papaya recipe? 

I am bringing my smoothie over to party with the folks at Fiesta Friday #28!

Photos courtesy of Guah and Meena Kadri

Original photos courtesy of Seedy Lawyer.  All rights reserved.

Mango Madness: 18 Mango Facts

Miami Mangos!

Miami Mangos!

I am just “Mad About Mangos!”  I have always been intrigued by majestic mango trees and the various colors and sizes of the exotic fruit. During summer, South Florida mango trees are decorated with colorful fruit, hanging on branches like Christmas tree ornaments.

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Keitt Mangos decorate Miami Mango trees like Christmas ornaments.

Growing up in Miami, I enjoyed fresh mangos (Mangifera indica) from friends and neighbors. Riding my bike around our block, neighbors would overflow my bike’s pink straw basket with this sweet fruit to take home and enjoy.

“Neighborhood Mangos” photo courtesy of Piper Rothan

Once, a pit from a neighbor’s mango sprouted.  I watered and loved my little tree, but no mangos ever grew. Nothing. Nada. Although it never produced any mangos, my small mango tree sparked my love for gardening and nature.

Years later, after Law School I bought a house, with (you guessed it) a big old mango tree!  My own mango tree! I waited in anticipation as tiny mangos grew. Each year, tropical storms knocked half my mangos onto the ground, like little green golf balls.

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Mangos ripening.

Little did I know that hungry squirrels were also watching the mangos that remained on the tree.  Many of my ripe mangos had bite marks reminiscent of Jaws!  To make matters worse, one day lightning struck my beautiful mango tree – and split the tree in half!  Just like my mango tree, dreams of growing my own mangos were struck down.

Then my best friend moved into the “Mango Terrace” neighborhood.  However her house turned out to be the only house without a mango tree! So, now I have to get my “mango fix” from my Dad’s clients who pay with mangos (yeah, I know), or from neighborhood mango stands, and farmer’s markets.

Sunny Goldin (R) buying Tommy Atkins Mangos from Karen Ross in Pinecrest, FL

Mango Stand: Sunny Goldin (R) buys Tommy Atkins Mangos from Karen Ross

Well, I am sure you can imagine how excited I am that it’s Mango Season in South Florida!  I am just crazy about delicious mangos, adding them to my smoothies, mango bread and other recipes. Nothing beats the taste of a cold ripe mango on a hot summer day!

Loving this delightful fruit like I do, I find the history of mangos to be very interesting. Check out these Mango Facts that will be sure to make you Mad About Mangos:

18 Mango Facts:

1. Mango Mania: The world’s biggest mango weighed over 8 pounds!

2. Walk this way: In the West Indies, the expression “to go mango walk” means to steal another person’s mango fruits.

3. The Seven-year itch: The mango is a member of the Anachardiaceae family which includes poison ivy, cashews, and pistachios. (This may explain why some have an allergic reactic to the skin and sap of mangos.)

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4. It’s a Pattern:  The paisley pattern, developed in India, is based on the shape of a mango.

5. King Mango: Named the King of Fruit, mango is the most widely consumed fresh fruit in the world.

6. Monk Fruit: It is said that Buddhist monks introduced the mango to Malaysia and Asia around the 5th Century B.C.  Legend has it that Buddha meditated under the shade of a mango tree.

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 7. In a pickle: When mangoes were first imported to the American colonies in the 17th century, because of lack refrigeration, they had to be pickled. The word “mango” became a verb meaning “to pickle”.

8. You’ve Got a Friend: Giving a basket of mangos in India is considered a gesture of friendship.

9. Breakfast of Champions:  Mangos contain over 20 different vitamins and minerals, helping to make them a true superfood.

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10. Bag it: If you place an unripe mango in a paper bag in a cool location, it will ripen in 2 or 3 days.

11. Royal Fruit:  Southeast Asian Kings and nobles had their own mango groves. This began the custom of sending gifts of the choicest mangos.

12. Have a Coke and a Mango:Frooti” is an Indian mango drink. The Coca-Cola company started their own drink, called “Maaza” in order to compete with it.

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13.  The Forever Fruit:  Mangos have been cultivated for over 6,000 years.

14. Make a wish: The mango tree plays a sacred role in India. Being the symbol of love, some believe that the Mango tree can grant wishes.

15. National Pride: The mango is the national fruit of India and the Philippines.

Fairchild Tropical Gardens Mango Festival photo courtesy of Piper Rothan

Fairchild Tropical Gardens Mango Festival photo courtesy of Piper Rothan

16. Variety is the Spice of Life: With hundreds of varieties, mangos range in color from green and yellow, to red, often tinged with purple, pink, orange-yellow, or red.

17. “I Do”: In several cultures, mango fruit and leaves are ritually used as floral decorations at weddings, public celebrations and religious ceremonies.

18. You say “Mango”, I say “Mangga”: In other parts of the world, the mango is also known as manga (Portuguese), mangga, mangot, mangou, and mangue (French).

***

However you say “Mango”, I am just crazy about this tropical fruit!  Hopefully you, too, will be Mad About Mangos!

I am sharing my “Mango Madness” with the folks over at Fiesta Friday (#26)!

Where do you find your mangos? What are your favorite Mango recipes?

Original Photos courtesy of Seedy Lawyer and Piper Rothan, my mango-eating friend

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Herbal Lemonade

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Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.

– Sam Keen

Summer is definitely here.  My herb garden is growing wild. Lemonade stands are popping up everywhere.

I spotted this classic lemonade stand while driving down a mountain road in Western North Carolina. These smart girls even sold Moon Pies!

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This adorable family was serving cold lemonade on a hot day in South Florida. It reminded me of my childhood in Miami.

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Not sure she was so happy when life gave her lemons…

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You can always find frosty lemonade during the summer at the farmer’s market.

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Fortunately, you don’t need your own lemonade stand to indulge in refreshing lemonade.  Just mix lemons, water and a sweetener of your choice to create your own tasty treat.  For an extra twist, add fragrant herbs from your garden. It’s simple:

Squeeze lemons…

lemonsMix in a handful of fresh garden herbs…

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and…Pucker up!

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Experiment with your favorite herbs and fresh fruit.  Though you many not have a lemonade stand, these mouth-watering recipes are sure to have friends lining up for more.

Here’s my absolute favorite recipe. My friend Birgerbird can relate to the lemonade story, so I invited her to guest post a recipe.  She offers a refreshing, floral and aromatic lemonade enhanced with strawberry and basil that will disappear when you serve it.  The addition of a few strawberries gives it a lovely, almost amber, color. Cheers to Summer!

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Lemonade with Strawberry and Basil

Serves: about 8

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup raw sugar
1 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
about 20 medium-size basil leaves, torn into rough pieces
3½ cups fresh lemon juice (from about 24 lemons; wait to juice the lemons until after you’ve made the sugar syrup)

PREPARATION:

Make syrup:  Put the sugar in a heatproof bowl. Wash the lemons and rub the sugar over the outsides of them, which releases some of the aromatic oils into the sugar, gently flavoring it.  Scrape off sugar back into bowl to the best of your ability! Then, pour 1 cup of boiling water over the sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool.

Combine the strawberries and 15 basil leaves in a blender (use the remaining leaves to garnish in a pitcher) along with ¼ cup of the syrup. Blend for 1 minute.  Pour into a pitcher with all of the lemon juice and stir well.  Add ice cubes.  Alternatively to make a glass of lemonade, stir together approximately 3 Tbs. strawberry mixture with 3 Tbs. lemon juice and 1 or 2 Tbs. sugar syrup. Add ice cubes and top with a bit of cold water (still or sparkling water are both tasty). Stir well. Enjoy!

I am sharing this recipe with Fiesta Friday #22!

Do you have memories of your childhood lemonade stand?  Have a special summertime lemonade recipe?

Photos courtesy of  Rob Bertolf,  Nina Frazier

Original photos by BirgerBird and Seedy Lawyer. All rights reserved.