Menopause The Musical

It had been awhile since I had gone to see a live play and when my singles group suggested we trek up to Gainesville, Fl to see Menopause, The Musical, I jumped at the chance. Gainesville is about an hours drive from our home base in Ocala. There were 18 of us who caravanned up. It was at least going to be an evening out with the girls.

On the way we had supper at a chain, Carrabas’s, which was actually quite pleasant, and then onward to the Curtis M. Phillips Center on the grounds of the University of Florida Cultural Plaza. The theater was an endowment made in 2000 by retired surgeon Dr. Curtis M. Phillips and opened for business in 2002. Phillips Center, a 1700 seat proscenium hall, with a main floor and balcony, was surprisingly intimate. You could sit anywhere and have an unobstructed view. We were to be seated in the balcony but by some stroke of luck, that area was closed and we ended up about 5 rows back from the stage.

The evening was balmy, and the venue most inviting with the large fountain in front facing the brightly lit glass walled entrance. It was so welcoming and produced an air of excited anticipation.

We were not disappointed. The production was so fun. Set in Bloomingdales, the cast of four “menopausal” women – a professional woman, a soap star, an earth mother and a mid-west housewife had us laughing the whole evening as they told their stories through song and dance to old tunes like” What’s Love Got to do With It”, “Wishin’ and Hopin’ ” and “Good Vibrations” to name just a few. We laughed at their antics, double entendres and at ourselves with self-recognition in some of sketches.

Just one of those feel good shows that left us smiling all the way home. Oh what a night!!

Micanopy Fall Harvest Festival

 

This was my first visit to Micanopy, Florida and my first craft festival of the year. I know the word quaint is overused but that is the word I would pick to describe this little town filled with antique shops, casual dining places, bed and breakfasts and restored Victorian houses. The people were friendly and our group of 9 girlfriends just had ourselves a great girl’s day out. It was less than an hour’s drive up I 75 from Ocala, heading north – perfect for a day trip.

The main street, Cholokka Boulevard, was PACKED with over 200 artists, crafters and food vendors. It was so thick with visitors though that it was difficult to see the wares. But we had a good time people watching and soaking up the excitement. Under a big tree near town center an impromptu stage was set up where musicians, dancers, and singers performed during the day that lent an air of gaiety as we strolled along.

This year’s festival went green by asking the food vendors to choose biodegradable products – which made me a fan right away. All the proceeds from the event went to non-profit church, youth and historical organizations to help out with their operating costs.

I am looking forward to returning to Micanopy again to enjoy the town and shops.

Uncle Donald’s Farm

 

Yes, Virginia, UNCLE DONALD has a FARM!

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Uncle Donald’s Farm. It was the occasion of my little nephew’s second birthday and even at that tender age, he just loves farm animals and tractors. He actually lives on a little horse farm here in Ocala, Florida, so it was a natural fit for his party. We all, young and old alike, had a genuinely fun time.

Besides the picnic area where the party was held, we got to

go on a hay ride

and feed the cows,

and the pigs

and the sheep

and the chickens.

Then we got to milk the goat and then,

give the kid a bottle.

And don’t forget petting the bunnies!

And………. the pony rides for the little tykes.

There were other exotics there too like llamas, cougars, parrots to name just some.

Whew! What a busy day. Who would’ve guessed that we would find such a treasure right in the middle of civilization. That’s why they say”We are more than a petting farm, we are almost a zoo!”.

For direction, hours, admission and events click here.

Uncle Donald’s Farm

2713 Griffin Avenue

Lady Lake, Florida 32159

Brios Gulfstream Tuscan Grille

It isn’t often than when I go out to eat that I would choose a chain restaurant. Recently, however, when I was traveling in South Florida, my friend and I went to explore a new mall area. I really wasn’t too excited to be going to a shopping mall but agreed to go taking her word that I would really enjoy seeing this one. Turns out this was not actually a shopping mall. It was an outdoor, upscale treat for the eyes with high end designer shops, architecturally beautiful with luxurious plantings lining the streets. We just had a few hours to spend so we enjoyed just strolling a bit, soaking up the sites and then, as it was lunch time, decided to lunch at one of the spots there.

Since my friend Margaret has children and a sister leaving in the area, she had been there on other recent trips and was able to suggest the place – Brio Tuscan Grille. I had heard about this place but from another location in the South Florida area and it had gotten enthusiastic reviews. So I thought, what the heck, it is just lunch. So we went.

Brio’s is not just another chain. I can name several other chain spaghetti houses which range from so-so to consistently pretty good. I was pleasantly surprised by this upscale Italian restaurant. It had a quiet elegance. Much attention was placed on detail, from the comfortable seating, to the lavish appointments of draperies, greenery, lighting, wood working. It was just a lovely and inviting place to come in for a meal.

I had Crispy Eggplant Pomodoro, which was lightly Romano-encrusted, then topped with their house Pomodoro sauce. On the side was a generous portion of herb spaghetti with a light toss of Parmesan and fresh Mozzarella. It was perfect. To wash it down, I ordered a berried lemonade, nicely presented with a sugar coated glass rim.

The hostess and wait staff were friendly. The only complaint I might have was that, being a newly opened restaurant, the service was not really up to the par of the establishment. I would be willing to bet that in time it would improve as they become more experienced. However, I felt, that for a place like this, attention to all the details, including the proper basic training of the wait staff, should have been beefed up prior to opening. Still, I would go back to try it again.

Brios Gulfstream Tuscan Grille
600 Silks Run Suite 1205
Hallandale Beach, Florida 33009

Bay Lake Blueberry Farm

 

Today I felt like taking a little adventure. What could be better than a morning drive in the country and then stopping to pick some blueberries!

When I went to the Organic Food and Film Festival last month, I hooked up with one of the local certified organic farms near Ocala where I learned that I could buy or pick my own berries. I am a fan of blueberries and like them by the handfuls, in smoothies, or baked into cobblers, muffins and breads. I have an especially yummy blueberry grunt recipe that I am talking myself into making for this evening. This morning, I had a cup of blueberries warmed in the microwave, then stirred into a quarter cup of organic granola and a cup of Total 0 Greek yogurt for breakfast. Okay, so it has been established that I like blueberries.

That in my mind, then, justifies my driving 40 miles each way to get organic. There are dozens of local places, but not organic. If I am making the effort to learn and talk about organic, then I need to eat organic as well.

Anyway, I had a bottle of my homemade green tea that I steeped with fresh slices of ginger and a cinnamon stick on ice and my radio tuned in to my favorite oldies station and off I went. For those local to Ocala, it was a straight shot down 40E and then a left on N-315 for 16 miles to the Bay Lake Blueberry Farm in Ft. McCoy.

When I got there, I was given a bucket and a bungee cord that wrapped around my waist to hook onto the bucket so I could pick hands free. I merrily went from bush to bush and picked my way to a bucket full of these plump, indigo gems.

At checkout, the berries were weighed and placed in a flat to keep them from crushing on the drive home. There were several other local farmers there with little tents up selling plants, honey and herbs. Blueberry bushes were also on sale. But for this trip I stuck with just the berries. By the time I checked out it was about 11:30 and already steamy hot in the Florida sun. I couldn’t help but reward myself with a cup of their homemade organic blueberry ice cream.

Since I picked more than I could eat right away, I went with the idea to freeze some for later. The instructions I got were to place them unwashed on a cookie sheet in a single layer and freeze for 45 minutes, then bag. This will keep them from getting stuck together when I am ready to use some of them.

Blueberry Grunt

I like a generous amount of berries. At least 3 cups or what will cover the bottom of your skillet several layers deep. To this I add enough water to cover and then some. Zest a lemon, add a shake or 2 of cinnamon and just a few tablespoons of organic sugar ( more if you like it sweet) and set to a boil over a medium heat.

Meanwhile, mix up a batch of dumplings. The easiest is to use a biscuit mix and just follow the directions. It is about 2 and a half cups mix.  I like to add a bit of lemon zest and the juice of the lemon to this too along with 2/3 cup of milk to make a nice dough.  Then drop by spoonfuls over the berries, put the lid on the skillet and simmer about another 15 minutes till the dough is cooked. It will have soaked up a lot of the juice ( that is why I like to add a fair but of water to the berries). Eat warm with milk, whipped or ice cream.

It is equally yummy for breakfast or dessert. I don’t actually have exact measurements for this. But this is just one of those that is hard to mess up.

Pi on Broadway

 

All of a sudden Ocala is teaming with new and different eateries. And I am going to make it my personal responsibility to eat at them all. Ah, such a sacrifice.

This time I am going to sample a gourmet pizza at a cute little spot called Pi on Broadway. I like pizza so this was not too tough on me. There are so many pizza places that serve, well, pretty much the same pizza with different names – big globs of dough with big globs of cheese and sometimes double cheese with the usual add-ons. So I was sort of excited to see what they termed gourmet pizzas.

The restaurant is small and intimate with a bar right inside the entrances double doors right off where else Broadway – Ocala style that is. There are micro brews and global craft beers on tap. And for those whose tastes go beyond beer, there are wines and martinis to be had. Beyond the bar are several bar style tables in the center and a few more regular tables along the window with a sofa seating area at the end. The service was friendly and not too intrusive, which goes a long way with me because I like to chat with my dinner partners- a lot and without interruption.

But I have to say, the big star was the pizzas. There were 14 choices – one better than the next and it was hard to pick just one. The pies were priced at only $12 and would be a generous dish for one and plenty for 2 if you added a salad.

My friend had this Tuscan pizza that featured cannelloni puree, tomato, goat cheese, arugula and a balsamic reduction.

And I had the White Pi. Not as adventurous, but it was just something I had a taste for. The crust was thin and crisp and it was topped with ricotta, roasted garlic, EVOO and parsley. I loved it.

There were also tapas on the menu, which if I go back, I think I would just get a few of those to make up my meal. To my knowledge, there are not many other tapas spots in Ocala. So I thought this was cool.

Another big plus is the roof top terrace. It has a bar too and at night, awash with twinkle lights, torches and live music, it is a popular night spot. To view their special events and menu, check them here.

Pi on Broadway

110 SW Broadway

Ocala, FL

Historic Marion Theatre Reopens

 

The historic Marion Theatre reopened Wednesday, May 26 with a ribbon cutting ceremony(actually old 35 mm film was used for the ribbon), a block party served by six local restaurants, and a jazz band with the bulk of the proceeds going to charities. Following a showing of the original Sex and the City, there was a premiere showing of Sex and the City 2 at midnight. It is heralded as part of the master plan to bring more life to the growing expansion of first rate dining and entertainment experiences to downtown Ocala.

The theatre, considered an historical landmark in Ocala, originally opened in 1941 and since then has closed and opened several times being used as a discovery science center, a place to host concerts and to show classic and independent films. Now, newly renovated with digital sound and projection and 3-D capability, it is a twin theatre with a nearly wall to wall screen on the first level and another screen on the 100 seat balcony level that will be showing first run films. One other item of note is that this theatre, in addition to the regular movie foods sold in the lobby concession area ,will offer beer and wine as well. With the nostalgia of its history, the glitz of the neon signs and its location right in the heart of town, the renovated movie house is a welcomed addition to Ocala.

Organic Food and Film Festival and Some “Food” for Thought

Here are a few scenes of the vendors at the festival 

 

 

 

                                                                          Photo by Peterphoto1390

Today I went to an Organic Food and Film Festival in Ocala, Florida. It was held on the grounds of the Ocala Civic Theater off Silver Springs Boulevard. This was not one of those occasions where I knew I would be exploring a beautiful place or discovering a new fine dining restaurant. If I have to admit why I went, I would have to say it was for purely selfish reasons – to continue on my quest for truthful information for myself and then to be able to pass it on to others.

For me, it started in September 2001 when I was diagnosed with cancer. I was one of the lucky ones and am grateful to be a survivor. But at the time, when I asked my doctor, why me, his answer was he didn’t know, just dumb luck. Then, shortly after, I spent some time with another doctor, who with homeopathic remedies, helped me rid my body of residual bone pain. But while with him he found that my body was toxic with high levels of petroleum. Now how did all of that petroleum get there? Was this all just a coincidence or was something else going on? I really don’t know. But those two incidents made me start to wonder.

I had a healthy lifestyle, ate good, nutritious foods or so I thought, until along comes my daughter, Jennifer, who has been a student of clean, healthy living and is on her own journey to building a sustainable,organic food source of her own.  She and hubby Roberto have talked the talk and now are putting it into action at their new farm, Thistlemooon Meadows, in Vermont.  In addition, she also had worked for years with the doctor who helped me with homeopathic treatments. She began making little adjustments to my food, supplements and all things related. Everything that she ever told to do has been spot on, and way before it was brought to general public awareness. Now she is teaching me about what is in the foods that I have been eating and showing me that there is a better way.

How long has it been since you have been able to just pick up an apple, without even washing it, and know with absolute certainty that it wasn’t pumped full of pesticides, which can be oil based, poisonous or genetically modified? If I had known what I was eating, do you think I would have eaten it? The fact is that I was actually polluting my own body without my knowledge or my consent.

The Department of Agriculture has set up standards to which food that is labeled Certified Organic must adhere.  You can know that if it is labeled as such that there is no irradiation, no sewage sludge, no hormones, no genetic modification, no antibiotics and no pesticides.  (By the way as a side note, less than 1% of insects are harmful.  The rest have a job to do and when any of them are killed off with a pesticide, the eco balance is disrupted.)

Now, that I know better, not only did I want to go to review this festival, I felt it my moral obligation to go.

                                                                           Photo by Dave G. Kelly

The first time I went was to the one that was held there in January. Since then, it has grown from just having a hand full of vendors to so many that they had to open the grounds and move it outdoors. I learned where I can join a CSA and where I can pick certified organic berries and fruit. I was able to get a list of resources so that I can continue my learning and I will pass them on to you at the end.

The highlight for me was the films. If you do nothing more than watch these three films, you will never look at food the same way again.

“Food, Inc” exposes what’s behind large scale industrial farming. A real wake up call. I was terrified and horrified!!!

“The Future of Food” graphically shows how our food is being genetically modified and how supermarkets are being led to stock these fake foods. It also tells how just a few huge food corporations are trying to control the world’s foods and farms.

“What’s Organic About Organic” is the light at the end of the tunnel by striving to show the greener side of chemical-free pastures. Marty Mesh, co-producer, was on hand to educate and to answer all of our questions at the end, which were many.

 

Here I am with Marty Mesh after screening of “What’s Organic about Organic”.

Now, I make no claims at being any kind of expert. I am not a scientist or a doctor. And I don’t know all the answers. I am just like everyone else, just trying to sort it all out. But I am convinced that now is the time to let everyone know what is really going on. There is power in knowledge and I feel like I owe it to myself and to future generations to get this figured out now.

Start asking yourself the tough questions? Why is food being genetically modified and why can’t we know which ones are? Why do only 4 companies hold monopolies on seeds and how are they controlling their (not our) interests in putting the farmers out of business with their lawsuits. Why does the government support the interests of these monopolies? Why, since the advent of the Nitrogen bomb, nerve gas and DDT among others, have these poisons found there way in diluted forms into pesticides – then into our food, animals, air and water and finally us? Why are 97% of the vegetables that were grown up until the 20th century, now extinct? Why are big companies even allowed to patent seeds and then sue anyone who doesn’t use them or who uses them without paying them – even if the farmer never planted the seed to start with and only got some by wind contaminating their crops? Why are cows given human antibiotics or hormones? Why is the government subsidizing farmers ( really a GMO rebate) with tax payer money? Why is the US selling GM corn to Mexico cheaper than they can grow their own? Why has Japan decided to not use chemicals and to just watch the children in the US for ten years to see if they get sick? What were the loopholes that big dairy farms tried to use to get around being called grass fed and what has been done about it? Is it really true that organic farmers could never keep up with the food demand over the farms that are forced to use what I will call tainted seeds? Who in the government is watching out for US? The FDA, The Department of Agriculture and the EPA are tasked with this job. Who is watching to see that they are really protecting our interests over those they shake hands with?

Like I said, you really MUST see these films.

And with all of that, what can you do? Is it as hopeless as it seems? Is it true there is no point is even trying to go up against all of that? The answer is NO. There is plenty we can do. Isn’t this the time of the “Yes, we can” campaign? It is a moral and ethical issue and we should be able to have a say in what we eat. Change is actually coming. Do we want real farming or “Pharming”?

How about you? Here is what you can do right now:

  • Join a CSA
  • Go to you local Farmer’s Market
  • Read labels
  • Cook seasonally
  • Compost your food scraps
  • Plant a garden
  • Vote with every bite
  • Buy what is Certified Organic (hint: all natural is NOT organic) People say they don’t buy organic because it costs too much. My answer is eat less and maybe obesity will go away – and so will so many doctor bills!!
  • Be a student and empower yourself with knowledge
  • Pass this on to those you care about

Here are a few resources for your information:

Trade Show on all things organic

How to go organic

The Future of Food free viewing of film

Organic Buying Club Ocala-Lady Lake, Fl area

Workshops or farm tours by Florida Organic Growers

I would love to hear what your opinions are. Please share some of your knowledge and experiences so we can all be healthy together.

Travel Tip of the Week: Good Eats – Follow the Locals

Going for the fancy isn’t always the best way to go. There are a lot of little hidden gems out there where one can get the authentic flavor of a locale without falling into the tourist trap. We like to veer off the path now and then and follow the locals to see where they like to eat.

In a little town called Dunnellon, Florida, right along SR 41, we found a spot called The Front Porch. It was about as down home as you could get but I am telling you, finding a parking spot was hard to come by. Hand painted scenes on the walls and colorful rocking chairs gave it character. Even the walls in the restrooms were painted to resemble on old fashioned out house. Kind of a hoot, really.

As crowded as it was, we only had about a five minute wait to be seated. The folks who worked there were about as laid back as you could get. But friendly and courteous and downright neighborly. It was quite a diverse gang of patrons there too from a guy with a mullet and tats to two little old ladies in their Sunday going to the meeting fancy dresses with matching hats.

They had a nice little selection of menu items that I don’t often see these days- like okra and beets. But we’d had heard about the pies, and that was what we had come for. We decided to have the Cubans, not that original- I know. But then came the pies.

Roberto chose the Key Lime. It has been one of his favorites and as they were soon leaving the South, he had his last piece. He liked it.

Jenn went for the coconut cream. It was just full of fresh grated toasted coconut in the filling and the meringue and she dug right in.

Me, I went for the Lemon Meringue. Not as tart as I would have liked but very lemony and the meringue was a mile high.

It was fun exploring and we were glad we took the time out to have lunch there.

Travel Tip of the Week – “Free Trip”

 

I am always looking for a way to travel and keep to a budget. Have you ever received in the mail that you have won a free trip? We all know that that is usually never the case and there are strings attached. Right. Well, I got one for a free 3 day, 2 night cruise to the Bahamas for two, which in my case is with my ever ready travel buddy, Margaret.

Turns out, the “string attached” to this freebie is that you have to take a look at a time share in south Florida. Since I already live in Florida, there is no way I need that. But what the heck.

While this is not a way I would generally like to do it, we decided that we would do it anyway. We have to get there, but for us that is a drive in the car sharing gas, and we have to pay the port tax in the Bahamas. So if this is halfway decent, we had a few days on a cruise ship and a day of shopping at the Straw Market in Nassau. Whether this turns out to be a good idea or not we shall see. When I get back next week, I will let you know. Meanwhile, if you don’t mind the annoyance of looking, it is a free trip.

 
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