Magic Pumpkin

What do you do with perfectly good pumpkins left over after Halloween? I leave them outside for animals to eat, hoping for magic pumpkins to appear in odd places in the spring. Two years ago I put out a large orange one by the garden, but no one ate it. Last year I had little white ones, but the winter came so early I just dumped them in the flower beds by the garage and they sat there covered in four feet of snow for the next five months. When the snow finally melted and I saw them again they looked like they exploded from inside out. However, a couple of months later, even after we spread new mulch over the pumpkin carcases, little shoots appeared in strange places. I wasn't sure what they were, the leaves did not look like a pumpkin (they were round), but I decided to keep them and see what happens. When we got back from Florida, we were greeted by huge flowering pumpkin plants in our rose bushes. And yes, the pumpkins are white. There are no long arms stretching in all directions for this variety, there is just a short sturdy stem with pumpkins developing close to the center. I have one growing right inside the rose bush, so far the rose is winning. Looks like I picked a good spot to dump the old pumpkins, I will do the same this fall and then wait and see.

These guys don't get much sun, only in the morning, so they're way behind. But, I have hope. There are flowers, so maybe tiny pumpkins will soon follow.

Urban Idiots to the Rescue

To quote her Majesty the Queen, there was a difference of sand on the beach this year. Last summer, once you made your way through the dunes, the fine silky sand gave way to hard, almost concrete like, compacted by the waves, beach. It was always a little damp from the high tides during the night, hard on your feet, impossible to dig into, and forget about laying on it to tan – a chair was a must. This time the beach was covered in soft mounds of white sand, rougher in texture than the dunes and varying in thickness. It was obvious that the sand was brought in, they do it in Miami Beach all the time. I missed the old sand.

St. Augustine Beach is public, and you can drive on it to find the spot you want. It is a one way road marked with orange cones, one way in, one way out. You drive off the paved road onto the sand, drive for a little while and then park in a makeshift parking area next to the dunes. The beach visitors that drive in live no near the beach so they pack their car full for a whole day visit. And, since it is beach driving not a single vehicle is a car, all either trucks or SUVs. Jeep Wranglers are the best, ones with huge tires. However, none of these vehicles are all-wheel drives as I found out. It’s the South, there is no need for an all-wheel drive when you get no snow.

Last year driving on the beach was like driving on a normal road, just a little more dusty. The sand was so compacted, the tires gripped perfectly. This year, the soft fluffy sand presented a new experience to all these drivers. And for some reason, in the area between the orange cones, it was a whole foot deeper than anywhere else. So, for the entire week, we watched every day as countless cars got stuck in the sand. The interesting part was they were all domestic makes, with large pick-ups (F-150 or similar) having the toughest time. The Japanese would just sail right by, smoothly and with ease. The Germans were not participating in the beach off-roading and parked in the paved lot by the pier.

Review: Columbia, St. Augustine

A year ago, as we strolled around Old Town St. Augustine, I took a picture of a beautiful white stucco Spanish-style building with a lovely courtyard. The sign said "Columbia, Gem of Spanish Restaurants, since 1905." Little did I know at the time that we would fall head over heels in love with the treasure inside a year later.

This year, inspired by movie Chef, we were looking for a place that served Cubanos (a ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickle, and mustard sandwich on Cuban bread). We found Columbia, but in pictures the place looked fancy and we were not looking for fancy dining while on a beach vacation. Then, during a casual chat with our stylist while getting a haircut, Terry brought up that we were thinking of going to Columbia for lunch while in St. Augustine. Our stylist started screaming in excitement: "You HAVE to go there! And you can't just have Cubanos!" (turns out she spent a lot of time in Florida as a kid and ate at Columbia (they have more than one location) every chance she got). Now we were intrigued.

Road Trip Distractions

We recently got back from our Florida road trip. Besides the mandatory tailgating in Indiana, and the same exact Honda Civic being pulled over several times in Georgia, the driving was more or less uneventful. Expect for several gems – which I managed to promptly document with what ever camera I had handy at the time. I do admit, sometimes I pretended to text while taking a discreet picture.
Country music makes any road trip easier.

How to Pack for a Summer Vacation – Urban Idiots™ Style

'Tis the season for a vacation. Finally. You've been counting down days for months, even downloaded a countdown app to visually display your progress. As you slowly approach single digits toward your departure date, you start pondering the nightmare of packing everyone up.