Ahhh…Retirement

When a man retires, his wife gets twice as much husband with half as much money—Chi Chi Rogriquez

Last month, I retired from my profession of thirty-eight years.

My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed taking care of the patients and I enjoyed the people I worked with.

I even, in some way, enjoyed the responsibility of it all…up to a point. That point was crossed a few years ago. The responsibility started to wear on me and I realized my time of working was soon coming to an end. Also I was not born with the best work ethic, I never whistled while I worked…for I can’t whistle.

This last couple of weeks of not having to answer an alarm in the morning has been blissful, except for some reason, now I wake up an hour before the alarm was usually set. Boy, life is a real practical joker.

Mrs. Big Surf and I also moved up north, in the winter…who does that??

We decided to live close to some of our grandchildren while they still think we are wonderful and gullible enough to believe it.

We live on a small lake in southeast Indiana. The above photo is our view for each sunset. Life is really good now, for me anyway. Mrs. Big Surf seems to have a little different take on my retirement (see above quote).

I hope I can cook more, travel more, and write more blogs… unless it feels like work.

Big Surf’s Breakfast Bowl

Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of the box–Deepak Chopra

Here in the Appalachians, when it comes to take out outside the box, most of us would rather eat in the box.

We eastern Kentuckians are very particular about what we eat for breakfast. If we get anything other than biscuits and gravy, eggs and bacon, or sausage, or pancakes, or waffles, or cereal…well that just puts us in a tizzy of epic proportions. In the historical context, we have just recently embraced bagels and yogurt to our start to the day.

So for me to eat a breakfast bowl that is not filled with the above mentioned ingredients was akin to dining al fresco outside the comfortable inside dining area of the box.

Saturdays are the days Big Surf goes aforagin’ through the fridge in search of ingredients to create a magical start to the day for the blue-eye darlin’. Now some of these mornings are more poof than PRESTO! However this one was quite a PRESTO! We loved it.

I sautéed some onions, Brussel sprouts (yes that’s right, so when the hairs on the back of your neck come back down hear me out), mushrooms, pork steak leftovers, and spinach. I added to the sautéed veggies salt, pepper, and Everything but the Bagel.

After the saute’, I topped with tomatoes, avocado and a fried egg. I’m sure you could add your favorite shredded cheese and I was going to add some cheddar, but honestly I forgot. I guess I was too focused on “OH MY GOSH! I’VE JUST DECIDED TO EAT BRUSSEL SPROUTS FOR BREAKFAST!”

In the end, it was tasty, healthy, and Mrs. Big Surf’s blue eyes were still sparkling.

Alone in Naples, Florida

If you’re lonely when youre alone, you’re in bad company—-JeanPaul Sartre

At the present time, I am on a week vacay in Naples, Florida. Mrs. Big Surf and I decided to use up a couple of frequent flyer tickets so we could burn a credit card and save $95.00 a year. So we came to pay a visit to our cousin and his lovely bride. It was a 1200-mile pop-in.

So it’s midweek and I am just now getting into a calm and serene state. I am retiring from work soon and today is hopefully a microcosm of what that will look like, minus the Florida surroundings. We will be considerably further north on Google Maps. Anywho, I awoke with a burst of energy akin to my grandchildren. I occasionally have these moments in the mornings of my off days when I feel I can do anything except what Mrs. Big Surf has on her honey-do thingy list.

Today is one of those days that I hope fills my retirement…relaxing in the morning with three cups of coffee, good conversation, breakfast, bike ride, swim, write a blog, nap, dinner. Repeat.

Currently I am sitting by the pool writing this blog. I just wanted to look busy and successful at one time in my life. I mean who would sit by a pool in Florida on their laptop, unless you were so important that you couldn’t take a break for a few minutes and sit by the pool or you are one of those novel writers that’s doing some research for a murder-mystery about the sudden disappearance of the head of the pickle ball organizational committee set in the confines of a pristine south Florida residential setting with a few pools for pretenders like me to look like a pretentious writer? I would be wearing a tweed jacket out here by the pool but I would hate to stand out. I am already a 60’s something white guy in a South Florida retirement area and already conspicuos. Well Hemingway lived in south Florida, right?

Ok so what does this have to do with the above photo and the quote about solitude.

I WAS LEFT ALONE FOR A WHILE!!

The cuz had to take his dog for a visit to his canine doctor (remember we are in south Florida where everyone has their doctor). The two missuses (or is it missi?) went to call on the shop proprietors . I was left alone at the important part of the day when it is time to eat lunch.

I realized no one was coming back soon to feed me, so I fantasized on surviving this lone period with my kitchen smarts and fine-cooking experience. Of course if I wrote a book about these two aspects of my life, you could read it between bladder eventualities after the aforementioned three cups of joe.

However I still had to survive.

So I thought of vegetarian street tacos. I was in a house so I guess we can drop the “street“.

I foraged through the fridge for ingredients then sautéed some small sweet peppers, carrots, onion, and jalapeños with salt and pepper and smoked paprika. I heated up left-over black beans and rice then assembled. I topped with some small cucumbers for crunch, added some scallions and cheese and guacamole, then drizzled some lime juice.

It was very good. Sometimes I am impressed by my survival skills.

I bet Hemingway never had to deal with that level of stress.

Just so you believe me, here is photo of my surroundings today.

Mokka and the Sunset Bar and Grill in Newport, KY

Goetta is somewhat of a mystery—Paul Tenkotee

Somedays turn into wonderful days when you aren’t expecting it, when the Almighty Creator gives us a glimpse of His Mercy in the midst of chaos and angst.

Today was one of those days and it came as a revelation to me at Mokka in Newport, KY on a revitalized Monmouth Street across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, over a delicious goetta frittata.

Let’s go back a few days. Cue the harp glissando…

Mrs. Big Surf and I have been in the midst of selling a house in one state and remodeling a house in another state. I am counting down to retirement, she will begin a new job. We have just been through losing parents, cleaning out houses of memories, trying to get someone to take over my business, and just recently dealing with a beloved family member going through a medical crisis, which brought us unexpectedly to Cincinnati.

My lovely missus spent a sleepless night to be with this loved one in a busy hospital room. We were both exhausted from the previous weeks, she much more than I.

We left the hospital late in the morning to eat breakfast before heading out on the two and a half hour drive home. We settled in a booth in the above mentioned Mokka in Newport.

We started with a spicy Newport Bloody Mary for me and a raspberry Mimosa for the sleep-deprived darlin’. Now I don’t advocate any alcoholic beverage before noon but we were celebrating the incredible answered prayers on behalf of our loved one and her improved condition overnight.

Our meal was so good.

The goetta frittata was just what I needed. She had a platter of French toast topped with creme brûlée cream, a biscuit and gravy, and cheesy scrambled eggs, and to my surprise she consumed it all…who’s the big girl?!

Now I realize most folks who aren’t from the Cincinnati/Northern KY area haven’t a clue about goetta.

Goetta came from peasant German immigrants who settled in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. It was a way to make meat, usually pork sausage, last longer by mixing it with oats, onion, and spices. It is cooked and dried and formed into a loaf for slicing. It has the consistency of sausage and is usually fried crispy.

This morning as I sat in that charming cafe, across from my lovely wife of 36 years, both of us in the same clothes we put on yesterday, neither one of us had showered, me unshaven, and her without makeup, I knew what Sheldon Cooper meant when he said,”The Germans are such a comforting people.”

This spicy Newport Bloody Mary is one of the best I have ever had.

This plate of a Goetta Frittata with breakfast potatoes reminded me of the comforting pleasures God allows on this earth.

Mrs. Big Surf in a rare eating frenzy consumed this plate of delicious breakfasness.

Rainy Day in Athens

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down—The Carpenters

Today it is raining. Sigh.

Some rainy days are met with relief, if you are a farmer and in the middle of a drought, or someone like me who is tired of doing yard work and are forced inside to take a nap.

Some rainy days are met with dread, if you are suffering angst from seeing flood waters creeping closer, or at your wit’s end because the kids are refusing to watch TV and play video games so you can get a few minutes peace and can’t send them outside, or like me who has put off the mowing for another day and the rain is causing the grass to grow exponentially.

Some rainy days are met with melancholy, like today. I don’t know why. Maybe because there are many changes taking place in your life, like retirement, like moving to another state, like getting older, like being the last one of your family left in a community that has lived there for about 240 years, like seeing so many painful changes in lives of people you care about, like thinking about people in places such as Afghanistan and Haiti who are going through so much suffering.

This rainy day, I am thinking about all of these things.

I took the above photo while Mrs. Big Surf and I were waiting out a rainy morning in the Acropolis Museum in Athens and looking up at this magnificent structure of antiquity. I think about all of the changes that have taken place in the lives of the Athenians since this structure was erected thousands of years ago. This helps me not to dwell so much on me.

I was thinking about the above song, about rainy days making me melancholy. Then I became more melancholy because Karen Carpenter isn’t with us anymore. I loved her voice, so rich and complex and pure.

It is ok to feel sad and melancholy, especially on rainy days. It is ok to think about those who are now gone and were a huge part of your life and miss them.

Maybe I have just been thinking too much and not living enough.

I will quote Job, who incidentally could have had the worst day in the history of mankind, while in the midst of his suffering and sadness said, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand on earth.” This gives me peace and hope in a troubled world and on a melancholy rainy day.

Cheer up world, Jesus our Redeemer lives. This Son will shine again.

Garden Tomato Pasta Sauce

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.—Miles Kington

It was a perfect storm, a garden tomato deluge…

I was experiencing a minor horticultural miracle of some sort as my tomato plants were actually producing this year. I had just picked some beautiful tomatoes when my cousin brought me a bucket of their beautiful tomatoes that I had requested and then I saw my neighbor bringing me some of his beautiful tomatoes. This took place in a span of about fifteen minutes.

It was a lycopene squall !!!

The dilemma now at hand was how to use all of these “love apples” and not waste any of them. I gave some to a friend of mine who I am always indebted to for his many acts of kindness because free garden tomatoes covers a myriad of paybacks.

Next I used one whole tomato in a blender with hot sauce, Worchester sauce, salt, pepper, and lime juice to create a mix for a Bloody Mary so I could ponder what to do with the rest of these lovely things.

I decided to make a tomato pasta sauce so I could use up four of the tomatoes and searched online for a good sauce. I settled on Chef Ray McVinnie’s sauce I found on YouTube, https://youtu.be/ctRo3pmFaKQ.

I was shocked at how much olive oil was used. But it was delicious. As I said I used four medium to large tomatoes and followed his recipe pretty close.

Since this sauce was made, I have also eaten about two tomatoes a day. Now I am ready for more. So if anyone has fresh tomatoes, my acidic levels have neutralized in my body, so I can introduce more acid into my innards. VIVA IL POMODORO!!!

St. Paul Tavern

The only time to eat diet food is while you are waiting for the steak to cook—Julia Child

Sometimes life gives you a little treat, my little treat came to me in the St. Paul Tavern.

This was not a Mediterranean Diet win for me, this was pure Americana pub food. Four guys having lunch after doing real man’s work. Well, two of the four did real man’s work, the other two watched real men work. However, I had a real man’s appetite.

This establishment evidently has been in the heart of this charming, small, southeast Indiana town since 1944. The place was busy for a late lunch with folks who enjoyed each other’s company.

The menu was large and honestly, I could have ordered anything. We had a hard time making a decision, for it all looked and sounded delicious, especially after a hard morning of watching hard work. We ordered an appetizer of fried mozzarella cheese balls with a cocktail sauce. There would have been a small utensil sword fight for the last remaining morsel if we weren’t so tired.

I ordered a pulled pork sandwich with a bourbon and sriracha sauce, fries, and slaw. Everything was good on this plate. My friend next to me ordered Val’s Chicken and an order of onion rings. Now the onion rings were the size of a small tractor tire and sitting right next to me. It was so hard not to grab one of those because they looked incredible. However since my friend hauled about 3000 lbs of rock on a four-hour trip up to a new house for me, I let him have them all, all the while hoping one would be left. Alas, there was no food left on any plate.

This was a really good pulled pork sandwich, especially with the bourbon and sriracha sauce.

If Rembrandt would have had these onion rings there would have been no portraits hanging in the hallowed museum halls of Europe because this would be his subject in paint.

If you find yourself in St. Paul, Indiana a good place to stop and eat would be the St. Paul Tavern for a really good taste of America and not the Mediterranean.

Port St. Joe, Florida

And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop.’ —God to Job .

I am always humbled by the ocean. I love standing or sitting in the sand and just looking into the seemingly eternity of the endless sea. It gives me peace and I know that comes from the Eternal Creator.

So the next few paragraphs may seem like a living oxymoron…

In the paraphrased words of Clark W. Griswald, we packed up and headed out for a good, old-fashioned, family-fun vacation…six adults and five children, the oldest being five yrs old. Yeah, that’s right. Big Surf has guts, courage, lunacy, or a death wish.

It’s amazing how the synergistic effect of the energy of five children can overpower the synergistic effect of the tranquility of six adults. To make matters worse, the winds on the beach were above a soothing breeze and we adults were not allowed to go into the water due to the risks of riptides.

By midweek, I was ready to run up a white flag and replace the double red flags that blew as a constant reminder this beach trip was going to be different from all the others.

The locals kept telling us “This is so unusual for this area to have winds like this for this many days in a row.” As if somehow that was supposed to give me comfort. But nonetheless, Big Surf Daddy is still a beach animal and on the beach he must be.

We were able to spend two full days in the water out of six. One of those being at a lovely small beach called Windmark Beach near Mexico Beach. It was much calmer and we could swim.

Now don’t misunderstand me here, we all had a grand time, exhausting but grand. After all, we were on a beach in Florida for a week. Yes it was “breezeful” (to quote a former teacher), but we powered through and built castles and the kids played. We read books and talked and even built a few fires and roasted wieners and marshmallows and Big Surf wouldn’t have changed it for all the humid in Kentucky.

Port St. Joe is a beautiful small beach town just southeast of Appalachicola on the coast of the eastern Florida panhandle. There are wonderful seafood restaurants and markets. With the small children, we cooked a lot and ate out only a few times.

I will report of these food delicacies we sampled…

Our first night out, we had to go to plan B. Our first choice was, as always seafood, but there was a long wait. We went instead for some Mexican food at Pepper’s. We still had seafood, most of us had the Mahi tacos which were very good. So definitely no disappointments here.

These Mahi tacos were delicious and so fresh at Pepper’s.

Our go-to seafood market for the week was St Joe Shrimp Co. on Cape San Blas. This market had great service and selection. The tuna and shrimp were excellent. The frozen scallops were very good. The frozen crab cakes were good (but could have used a little more crab) and easy to fry up. The frozen hush puppies were great. They even serve lunch there daily of fried foods and sandwiches.

While our crew was eating lunch there one day, I bought some seafood for our dinner that night. I took a grouper sandwich basket and a bowl of seafood gumbo for lunch back to our house for Mrs. Big Surf and me.

There are two locations of the St.Joe Shrimp Co. One is on Cape San Blas and the other is in Port St. Joe.

One of our traditions on a beach trip is a Big Surf Low Country Boil. It is so easy. However in our rental house there wasn’t a pot to accommodate the size of the dish, so I had to divide it into three different pots. So not as easy as usual. This makes for a nice and relaxed atmosphere to enjoy with our family.

And if you have some left-over shrimp, just throw them in with some scrambled eggs and salsa for a great breakfast dish.

We cooked scallops, crab cakes, and hushpuppies with sides. Of course there are an abundant amount of PB&J’s for the younger diners. The seafood and delicious hush puppies came from St. Joe Shrimp Co.

Mrs. Big Surf and I took a little sanity break and headed over to see Apalachicola and found this nice little restaurant that was so good, The Hole in the Wall Seafood and Raw Bar. If you make it to this restaurant, try to get a seat at the bar, you will have a good experience.

These butter and Parmesan oysters were very good at The Hole in the Wall.

The Fried Grouper Basket may have been the best ever at The Hole in the Wall.

Our final meal out was a wonderful meal at Provisions in Port St. Joe. We ate outside and the staff was very accommodating for our group with children.

Big Surf started the meal with the Sesame-Seared Tuna. This was incredibly good.

My entree at Provisions was the St. Joe Sauteé. I highly recommend this dish also.

Our final meal was a take-out from Uptown Raw Bar & Grill. This was a spur of the moment decision, a good one, after spending the day at Windmark Beach. This restaurant is owned by a nice young couple.

I know food doesn’t photograph very well in styrofoam take-out containers, however these oysters were so good. This is the Uptown Special. Big Surf was well pleased with his selection here.

There are many opportunities to eat good seafood in Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas, and Apalachicola.

To end this episode, I will show some of Big Surf’s beach scenes. I love beach photography and beachscapes. I apologize for the many photos.

Port St. Joe Lighthouse

Port St. Joe is part of the Florida Panhandle lovingly referred to as “The Forgotten Coast”. I think this moniker is by design. After spending a week in this serene part of the Sunshine State, I don’t think I will forget it anytime soon.

Character’s Famous BBQ

Barbecue sauce is like a beautiful woman. If it’s too sweet, it’s bound to be hiding something.—Lyle Lovett

So we tested fate on our recent vacation to Port St. Joe, Florida…

We decided to drive through Georgia, north to south, not a short haul. Now normally, I wouldn’t hesitate to drive through Georgia, but at that time there was a gas shortage…or so we heard. But MapQuest said it would be a lot less time on the road than going through Alabama. And when my kidneys and bladder have to filter four cups of coffee and some sweet tea before 8:00 AM, the stopping time adds up. So Mrs. Big Surf said, “With all of your pee breaks, the odds are one of those gas stations will have gas.”

I was perplexed as we entered Georgia on I-75. For a state that seemingly had no gas, the folks were driving as if gas was in abundance. It does take more fuel to drive 90mph than 65mph, right? Someone seemed delusional here. Surely it wasn’t the media??

My worries would be calmed when we found Character’s Famous BBQ in Adairsville, GA.

From the time we pulled into the gravel parking lot, I knew this would be good. With BBQ joints, the less pretentious the better. It was obvious that the emphasis was on the food here. The ambiance was simple and clean but the aroma was so intoxicating.

OK so going back to the quote from above, there was nothing being hidden here, just good flavor from the sauce with a good balance of sweet and tang and a little heat. The helpings of the pork were more than enough. The sides were delicious. I had potato salad and slaw. They even served a piece of delicious pound cake with the meal.

Part of the wall art at Character’s Famous BBQ was a poster of Muhammed Ali. Of course being from Kentucky, I approved.

But alas, the stop in Georgia that gave us the most angst was in Rome, Georgia, but nothing to do with gas, of which we found plenty (however the Missus did not allow me to drive 90).

We pulled into a Krispy Kreme. From here the next few minutes are a little fuzzy. I heard the voice through the speaker say, “We are out of glazed.” I didn’t know how to respond. I had never actually heard that sentence at a Krispy Kreme in all my born days. Surely the speaker had a short, or we had driven into an alternate universe through the black hole of the unlit HOT DONUTS NOW light. Mrs BS had to throw the last cup of coffee from my half-gallon Contigo in my face to bring me out of my stupor. We ordered a dozen chocolate for the grandkids, and their parents, and Mrs. BS, then headed south, all the while Big Surf was in a state of denial over the glaze.

If you happen to find yourself driving through or past Adairsville, GA. on I-75 slow down and stop in for a wonderful meal at Character’s Famous BBQ. They got nothin’ to hide.

It Was a Mediterranean Kind of Day

I’ve been on a diet for two weeks and all I’ve lost is fourteen days.—Totie Fields

So yesterday was kind of a Mediterranean day.

No I wasn’t on a Greek Island, or on the Italian Coast, or the south of France, or dining in a Tunisian cafe, or on beach in Turkey…I was home in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. My wife and I had just returned from the closest thing we have to the Mediterranean, the Gulf Coast of Florida.

So, yesterday I decided to reinstitute a new dedication to the Mediterranean Diet. I don’t know if it was the sea, the salty air, the breeze, or the fact that I ate everything in sight for a week and it hurt to bend over and tie my shoes.

Beginning with breakfast, a Greek yogurt with honey, walnuts, and berries.

For lunch (pictured above), a salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, olives, mozzarella, and topped with tuna. It was dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and oregano.

For supper (pictured below), Big Surf’s stuffed peppers. The peppers were roasted and stuffed with a vegetarian chili of crushed tomatoes, quinoa, cannelloni beans, and topped with cheese.

All of these dishes were very good and I loved them all. And the bonus, I felt so good about myself.

Until…

For lunch today, I made myself a bologna sandwich and chips. Hard to get away from that Eastern Kentucky DNA.

Hey!! Wait a minute, Bologna is in Italy, right? So Italy is on the Mediterranean…

So come on self esteem, get back over here. You can’t go anywhere yet.