Symbols of the South

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The stately oaks that grace our area are truly symbols of the South.  Draped with Spanish moss, they look like elegant ladies with their evening wraps, all lacey and sheer gently swaying in the evening breeze.

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Most well known is Lovers Oak in Brunswick.  Said to be over 900 years old and the site of Indian trysts where a young warrior would meet his lady fair.  The tree still stands at the intersection of Albany and Prince Streets, its thirteen foot trunk sturdy and true.

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Just north of Gloucester Street in Brunswick stands Lanier Oak.  Another stately tree said to be the place where Sidney Lanier rested as he recovered from four years in a Union prison during the Civil War.  The tree must have had some healing power as Lanier went on to write “Hymns of the Marshes” and lecture at John’s Hopkins on English Literature.

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The Sidney Lanier Bridge that stands as gateway to the Golden Isles is named after the famous poet who found this area so worthy of his written word.

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Just north of The Village on St Simons is a park of oak trees on the south side of which are buried thirty Indian men, women and children.  They lived on the land two centuries prior to the Europeans arrival in the area.  Later known as the Timucuan Indians, the tribe and its people can still be found in the area which has served as their home for so many centuries.

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The oak tree has always symbolized strength to me.  Yet, when I see these mighty trees with Spanish moss decorating their branches I am reminded of the gentle nature of the South.  The island life we all enjoy, the touch of gentility and a bygone era of a life built on European manners and Southern grace, blended together to create this place we call home.

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Long may they stand, in all their glory, as canopies, memorials and reminders of the past yet standing for the future for all to see.

Taking The Heat

It’s hot….hot….hot outside and even though we’ve been enjoying afternoon showers, your garden may be suffering with blossoms looking frazzled and droopy.  I’m featuring three different flowering plants today that are heat hearty and perfect for our climate.  There is nothing that lifts the spirits more than a beautiful garden and these plants deliver!

Cosmos

Cosmos

Cosmos is one of my favorite summer flowers.  They grow in a variety of colors and are definitely heat tolerant.  You can easily plant them from seed and, with the rain we’ve been getting, they’ll be sprouting before you know it.  The blossoms look a bit fragile, but they aren’t.  These lovely flowers will create a “showy” garden.  Plant the seeds so they will come up in thick clumps a couple of feet apart.  They grow up to around 24″ and sometimes taller.  Cosmos says summer to me, they also grow well in containers so your options are many!

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Lantana

Lantana is another perfect summer flower.  This particular color variety is called Anne Marie.  I love the delicate pinks with the vibrant orange and yellow centers.  These are very hearty plants.  They do well whether we are having rain or not.  In fact, Lantana can get out of hand at times, calling for aggressive trimming to keep it at bay.  The many color choices available make these a great choice for summer gardens.  I’ve even seen plants placed close enough together that they form a hedge…simply lovely when blooming!

verbenaThe rich color of verbena is always a favorite.  This plant spreads and makes a great border.  It likes a mixture of shade and sun so consider that when planting.  I love the lipstick red and hot pink, but I’m always going to bend toward the violet and lavender shades in my garden.  I have to admit to loving the white verbena as well though.  It gives a lacy effect that enhances any garden setting.  This plant also does very well in containers, especially hanging baskets as it gently drapes over the top.

There you have it.  You can find these plants at our local Ace Garden Center here on St. Simons Island.  You’ll always find a wonderful variety of plants that are sure to tolerate our climate at this wonderful center.  Add some color to your late summer garden, sit back and enjoy!  Nothing feeds the soul like a beautiful garden!

 

To The Springs!

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Just west of Alachua County, in North Central Florida, you’ll find a magical place.    The place is Ichetucknee Springs in the State Park bearing the same name.

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When you pull off onto the road that leads to the springs it’s like entering another place in time.  The breeze becomes cooler, the trees provide shade and the water…..oh, the water is beyond definition.  Clear, crystalline and always around 72 degrees, the Ichetucknee River flows into the spring allowing swimming year round.

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Start at the head of the river and tube or paddle to the end for an amazing experience, communing with nature.

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The 2,241 acre state park provides campgrounds, nature trails, restrooms and changing rooms as well as grills for outdoor cooking and tube rentals.

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It’s only about  2 1/2 hours from Coastal Georgia and well worth the drive!

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On your way back up Highway 441 stop at “The Great Outdoors”  for a fantastic dinner!  See their menu here:  http://www.greatoutdoorsdining.com/welcome/

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It’s a lovely, lesser known part of Florida that I hope you’ll take the time to visit and experience!

Geechee Kunda

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What…..you say?  Geechee Kunda!  Geechee is a word that represents the rich African-American culture and history that are hallmarks of Coastal Georgia.  Kunda…a Sarakole word meaning “compound” and “home of hope”.  Some may say that Geechee is a dying culture, but when you step foot on the grounds of Geechee Kunda in Riceboro, Georgia, you instantly sense that it lives and thrives in this very special place.

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Owners, Jim and his wife, Pat, Bacote reside on this property.  They built it as a place for remembering, preserving and gathering the history of African-Americans.  All sorts of events occur on these grounds that help to inspire and promote both the heritage as well as the arts and culture of a group of slaves who helped to write the history of our state.  They toiled in rice and cotton fields, perished making the once cherished “indigo” for dying fabrics and passed their stories and lore down through generations to be honored and upheld.

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On the grounds of Geechee Kunda you’ll find a small museum that houses all sorts of artifacts from field tools to common household items used back in the day.  Handmade baskets, musical instruments and plenty of Jim Crow memorabilia.  One can sense the history, the hopelessness of slavery as well as the jubilation the Geechee infused into their spirits, the only means of hope available to them during their short lives.

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A gathering is held yearly at Geechee Kunda.  A celebration of the people and their stories combined with dance, music, instruction on herbal healing and ghost tales sure to raise the hair on the back of your neck!  And food, I learned that you never visit Geechee Kunda having just eaten.  Jim and Pat filled a plate for me with maroon chicken, fresh deviled crab, vine ripened tomatoes and “just picked” peach wedges…so delicious!  And Jim’s fried peanuts, something I had never tried, left me wanting more….please!

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This is a special place.  As the line reads at the bottom of the website:  ”This is sacred land, the spiritual center for Africans in America… a place for all to come for Empowerment, and Liberation.”  

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At Geechee Kunda culture is used for mental empowerment, spiritual healing and intellectual liberation.  Closed minds may be opened and awareness expanded during a visit to this amazing place.  To read more:  www.geecheekunda.com

Simple Sundays

I’m celebrating feeling so much better this fine Sunday morning.  My range of motion is up to 108% from 70% just after surgery.  My goal is 130%…..we’re making progress.  I’m back on a bike, the stationary kind.  I love good Bosa Nova music, so when I stumbled over this mix of well known tunes I thought it would be fun for a change!  I hope you enjoy it and that you have a blessed day with family and friends!  It’s summertime, the living is easy and it’s time to ENJOY and be thankful!

On The Radio

I had a great time talking with David Butler and Kathi Williams from “Elegant Island Living” magazine on the show this week.  Listen in as we discuss all things Golden Isles!

Finally Friday!

I’m sharing a favorite family dinner with you today.  It’s quick, easy and you’ll be in and out of the kitchen with a delicious meal to serve in no time!

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Cast Iron Skillet Chicken

Organic Baby Spinach Salad

Crusty Cornbread Muffins

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Cast Iron Skillet Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons bacon grease (you’ll have this leftover after frying bacon for the spinach salad)

1/4 cup cajun seasoning

1 tablespoon brown sugar ( you can also drizzle the breasts with local honey if you’d prefer)

barbecue sauce of choice (we like Jack Daniel’s original sauce)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Heat the grease in a medium sized cast iron skillet.  Sear the chicken breasts in the hot grease for four minutes on each side.  Spoon barbeque sauce over each piece of chicken and place the skillet in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

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Organic Baby Spinach Salad 

Note:  I have to give credit for the inspiration to make this salad to my neighbor Martha.  She made her yummy version of this for us one night when we had dinner at her home.  Her dressing makes the whole thing!

1 box organic, baby spinach, stems removed

1 cup organic strawberries, stemmed and halved

3-4 strips of bacon cooked until crisp (reserve the grease)

1/2 Vidalia onion thinly sliced

1/4 cup toasted, sliced almonds

1/4 cup crispy rice noodles ( I use LaChoy in a can)

Dressing:

1 cup good quality vegetable oil

1/2 tablespoon poppy seed

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons dry onion flakes

1/4 cup sugar (I use the raw organic type)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dry mustard

Whisk all ingredients together and let stand for about 1/2 hour.  I use about half a recipe of the dressing for one salad.

cornbread muffins

Crusty Cornbread Muffins

It has been said, on more than one occasion, that my Mom makes THE BEST cornbread around.  This is her recipe.

1 cup organic, stone ground corn meal

1 cup organic, whole wheat flour

1 cup buttermilk

3 teaspoon baking powder (Rumford is what we always use since it has no aluminum in it.)

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup local honey

1 egg

3/4 good vegetable oil

salt and pepper as desired

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (I make these before the chicken then reduce the heat for that.)  Mix all of the ingredients and stir well to combine.  Place the batter in greased muffin tins or in a square 8×8″ baking pan if you prefer.  Bake for 25 minutes.

There you have it!  A quick and delicious meal that your family will love.  I have also used this same recipe for the large bone in pork chops that Mr. T loves and it is equally good.  Enjoy!

Excellence…

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For several months now I have been taping a special monthly segment for my radio show with Chef Tom Delaney and wine expert, Mark Gagliano.  We go back and forth talking about wine pairings, seasonal foods, culinary creations and anything that comes to mind.  We always have a great time together with a stimulating discussion that listeners look forward to each month.

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Chef Tom and Mark Gagliano

During the course of doing these recordings I have gotten to know both Mark and Tom on a personal basis.  I have written about Mark and featured wine pairing tips from him several times over the past year.  He is always full of information, wisdom and humor that I love sharing with readers.  This is the first time I have featured a post on Tom Delaney and the wonderful bistro here on St. Simons that bears his name.

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Delaney’s Bistro and Bar is a favorite here on the island.  Most recently it received Elegant Island Living’s Best of 2014 award for both “Most Elegant” as well as “Best Place For Dinner”.  Delaney’s is always a place where we choose to celebrate special occasions, an evening of casual tapas and wine or a delicious lunch any day, except Sunday and Monday when the restaurant takes a much needed break.

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Served with classic European style, Delaney’s offers one of the best wine selections available and a knowledgeable staff making this a wonderful dining experience.

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I always enjoy the crab cakes at lunch.  Delicious lump crab meat is mixed with just the right herbs and spices, then lightly sautéed to golden perfection.  No matter what the occasion, this dish makes me feel like celebrating just about anything!

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Tom is a bit of a shy guy, but as we have gotten to know each other I have come to appreciate his vast knowledge of the culinary world.  His ability to create a masterpiece that combines fresh local produce, seafood, fish or the highest quality meats to be found keeps him at the top of the list when it comes to fine dining in Coastal Georgia.  I’ve also learned that behind that shyness lies a heart of gold with a wicked sense of humor that shows itself at the least expected times.  Tom is delightful and I’m pleased to write about him and his wonderful restaurant today!

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If you’ve never experienced Delaney’s you must put it at the top of your list.  Reservations are a must as this popular place fills up with loyal customers quickly!

Delaney’s Bistro and Bar – 3415 Frederica – St. Simons Island, GA – 31522

 (912) 638-1330

 

 

Sea Georgia Adventures

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My love affair with Coastal Georgia continues!  What a joy to spend time with Captain Duane Harris and discuss the fishing charters and eco-tours he offers through “Sea Georgia Adventures”.  He moved to the area right after finishing college in Colorado.   Captain Duane worked as head of the Coastal Georgia region Department of Natural Resources for thirty-three years, he also did consulting for the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council for nine years after retirement.  Now, he follows his bliss and leads others through the world he loves, the sea,  rivers and marshes with all of the wildlife and vegetation native to the area.

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The knowledge Captain Duane possesses of Coastal Georgia is vast and he loves sharing it.  History, information about the eco-system, his involvement with establishing the artificial deep sea coral area off the coast all play into what you can learn on an eco-tour.  Tours can be customized to fit the interests of the customer.  Six people can participate in one of these two-three hour tours which begin at Village Creek Landing and venture out past Hampton toward open sea, around Little St. Simons Island and back to the landing.

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If you are interested in birding you will be in for a treat!  Captain Duane’s knowledge of the many species that inhabit this area will delight any birding enthusiast.  He guides tours through local marshes and rivers, discovering all of the various birds to be found making their homes in the most unusual places.  You may even see a curious dolphin or two.  And, something I did not know, there are manatees to be found here at certain times of the year.

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Fishing charters begin in early morning and return by mid-day.  Sea Bass, Flounder, River Trout, Black Drum and at times Tripletail are just a few of the fish to be caught on one of these excursions.  Captain Duane knows just where to go to provide fisherman with the best catch.  But, he admits there are days when the fish just aren’t biting.

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Being involved in a business that allows him to share his wealth of knowledge and love of Coastal Georgia is a dream come true for Captain Duane.  This will be a trip you will never forget whether you are a resident of the area or a visitor.  I can’t wait to experience my first eco-tour!  Call the Captain and arrange for your tour or fishing charter.

Sea Georgia Adventures – 105 Demere Retreat Lane – St. Simons Island, Ga 31522 – 912-638-9430

The Lady Cooks!

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The minute I laid eyes on Libbie Summers, chef, author and food stylist, among many other talents, I knew she cut her path in her own way.  At last fall’s Food and Spirits Festival Libby presented her fabulous Salvation Cinnamon Rolls, promising the recipe in an upcoming cookbook.  And deliver she did in her newest cookbook, “Sweet and Vicious”.  Ms. Summers is passionate about all that she does which translates into pure deliciousness for her many fans!  Her sense of style both in food as well as fashion will spark your quest for a bit of fantasy and creativity like nothing else!

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“The Whole Hog Cookbook”, sold me on both the recipes created by Libbie and the photography of her associate Chia Chong that make dishes pop off the printed page, longing to be put together by the reader.

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photo by Chia Chong

Whether you’re craving Hot Pickled Pork Sandwiches, Pork Belly Gyros or a simple repast of Country Ham and Buttermilk Biscuits, you’ll find instructions on the pages of this whimsical work of culinary genius!  There are plenty of “how to’s” as well to guide any budding culinary aspirant on their way.

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Just the photo on the cover of “Sweet and Vicious” makes one have to pick up a copy and peruse the pages.  Ms. Summers stands near a gorgeous layer cake with a chef’s knife in hand, slathered with hot pink icing fresh from cutting a slice.  Her wicked sense of humor shines through even before opening the cover.

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photos by Chia Chong

In the section on cookies you’ll find such fun things as Primal Cut Cookies, Retired Gingerbread Working Girls Cookies (both with stencils)  and quite unexpectedly, Tattoo Cookies, colorful and yummy!

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photo by Chia Chong

Ms. Summer’s story of Southern Sartorialist’s Cookies whetted my appetite to try this salty, smoky bourbon-laced oatmeal cookie to offer to the special men in my life.

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Both of these books deliver pure culinary creations that will tempt and inspire even the beginning cook.  I love the doors Libbie Summers continuously opens to challenge our cooking skills and laugh all the way through even a complicated production.  These recipes are sure to please and, most likely, become family favorites to share the goodness so generously shared on every page! To read more visit Libbie’s blog site here:  http://www.saltedandstyled.com/  or her website here:  http://www.libbiesummers.com/