Tag Archives: Florida

A great holiday/wedding weekend

We had a great time over Memorial Day weekend. (Yes, I am a little late catching up.) Our neice, Ellen, got married in Greenville, South Carolina. She is my middle sister’s daughter, so the event attracted a large number of my side of the family. I am the oldest of five. All are married, most with grown, or nearly grown, children. We and our cousins are spread all over the eastern half of the country. It’s been this way ever since I first moved away from Pittsburgh to Florida in 1971. While we are not geographically so close that we can call and say “Come on over for Sunday dinner,” we do have a good time when we do get together.

Mrs. Poolman and I took off on Thursday to make it a five-day weekend. Our first big surprise was Greenville itself. It has a very cool downtown. There is a small river with a waterfall cutting right through the middle of town. My sister commented, “You know, we lived here for ten years before we even knew we had a waterfall in downtown.”

Greenville's waterfall

Greenville’s waterfall

Wedding 3w

Brother taking picture of his son and daughter-in-law.

Wedding 4w

(l-r) Girlfriend, Poolboy and Writer Princess

Wedding 5w

Nephew, Mrs. P and myself

The rest of downtown is nicely landscaped, pedestrian friendly, and full of shops and restaurants. We went sightseeing both Friday and Saturday afternoon.  We had a very nice time. Greenville, South Carolina! Who ‘da thought?

In between the scheduled functions and parties, our family had a fairly non-stop party going back at the hotel. We were all in a Holiday Inn Express. At almost any time you could wander through the lobby and find someone to visit with. Lots of fun and laughter, and a fair amount of ethanol.

If not in the lobby, my brother and sister-in-law's room works just fine.

If not in the lobby, my brother and sister-in-law’s room works just fine.

I guess I should show at least one picture of the couple. Here is Stan and Ellen, zoning out at the rehearsal.

We all had such a great time, we started looking around at the single children and asked “So who’s next?”

Gators finish 11-1!

My Florida Gators beat FSU to finish the season 11-1. Not too shabby for a team that went 7-6 last year and that many predicted would need a lot of luck to improve on that this year. Go Gators!

How can something that looks so bad, taste so good?

There is one additional thing I did on my MLK holiday this week. I made a pot of black bean soup. As is the case with many things in our family, black bean soup has a story behind it. (Not necessarily an interesting story, but a story all the same.)

Black Bean Soup with onions and sour cream

Having grown up in a very meat-and- potatoes family, I don’t think I had ever heard of black bean soup until I had graduated from college. The summer after I graduated, I was working a summer-replacement job for a radio station in Vero Beach, Florida. (WTTB-AM “Where The Tropics Begin”) I spent most of the weekends that summer driving to visit my then-girlfriend, either in Gainesville or at her parents’ house in Clewiston. But on one particular weekend, I was stuck in Vero without much to do. The GM of the station, Pat Hazel (a really great guy) invited me to share Sunday dinner with his family.

“My wife is going to make her fabulous black bean soup!”

I didn’t know what to expect, but it didn’t sound particularly appetizing to my rather naïve and inexperienced palate. Of course, I went to dinner anyway and had a great time. Pat and his family were warm, engaging people and they made me feel very welcome. And I loved the soup.

In the late 1980s black bean soup started to show up on restaurant menus, and I was reminded of that evening. I thought I would give it a try myself. I investigated and tried several recipes and settled on the one below. Once they overcame the initial problem that the soup doesn’t look very appetizing, even my children started to like it.

One step is to puree some of the soup in a blender and then return it to the pot to thicken the soup. One time I used a long ice-tea spoon to stir it around in the blender, but it accidentally came in contact with the blender blade. I never knew that black bean soup could be explosive.  There was puree’d black bean soup all over the white kitchen cabinets, the ceiling and me. It took hours to clean up that mess.

Today, black bean soup is “comfort food” in the Poolman household.

Here is the recipe.

BLACK BEAN SOUP

Here’s what you need.

  • A bag of dried black beans—cleaned and rinsed*
  • A ham bone with chunks of meat still attached or some cut up left over ham, about two cups.
  • A “ton” of chopped onion and celery (just like the chicken soup above.) Easily two large onions and 4-5 celery stocks.
  • A bay leaf.
  • Salt and pepper.  (Go easy on the salt to start. Ham is naturally salty. You can always add more if it’s not salty enough.)
  • A little dry mustard (powder) if you have it, but it isn’t crucial.

*Before you do anything with the beans, put them in a bowl, sort through them with your hands and pick out any stones.  Yeah, that’s right, stones, like the kind you find on the ground. Occasionally you will find them. Most beans were harvested in third-world countries and their processing isn’t the most sophisticated. You definitely want to catch these before cooking. Nothing will ruin a good meal faster than having someone unsuspectingly bite down on a rock. Once they are “clean,” use your colander to rinse them well under running water.

First thing you have to soften the beans. There are two ways to do that. The first is to soak them in a bowl overnight. The other is to put them in boiling water and simmer them for about 10 minutes and then let them sit for an hour. In either case, you should drain the beans through a colander before cooking. Do NOT cook them in their soaking water.  The major issue with beans is the gaseous by-product that comes several hours after eating. Draining them before cooking with reduce that significantly.

Once your beans are soft, put them, the ham, the onions, celery, spices and bay leaf all into a pot with a couple of quarts of water. You should have so much onion and celery that it should look like they are the dominant ingredients. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow it to cook for at least an hour, maybe more. The more you cook it, the more everything will meld together, which is what you want.

Note: Keep a close eye when it starts to thicken that you don’t allow it to scorch on the bottom. Stir frequently and adjust your heat as needed.

When the soup is almost done, take about a cup or two of the bean mixture and put it in your blender. Whip the beans into a thick paste and stir it back into the mix.  This should thicken the broth and give it a creamier texture.

Serve with chopped onions and a dollop of sour cream.

A hint: Most ham bones are extremely fatty. So I usually cook the ham bone by simmering it for an hour or two the day before I plan on cooking the soup. Refrigerate it overnight and much of the fat will congeal on top of the water. You can spoon it off and throw it out. It will reduce the fat-content of the soup significantly, without affecting the great taste.   

Life goes on

It wasn’t a very exciting weekend around the Poolman house, but it was busy all the same. Mrs. Poolman has been in a death-struggle with a head and chest cold. I’ve just been trying to stay out of her way. Even in marriage, some things just aren’t worth sharing.

I started off Saturday by attending a program out our church on the upcoming change in the “Roman Missal. “ Starting the first Sunday in Advent (late November), the Catholic Church in the US will begin using a new translation of the original Latin Mass. Apparently, the general consensus is that the Church didn’t do a very good job in translating the Mass from Latin to English back in the mid 1960s. This move is an effort to correct it.

It will mean some slight changes to some of the responses and to the prayers most of us can recite without even thinking about it. No longer. I like some of the changes, but not all of them. Of course, the Pope didn’t ask my opinion. In any case, since I both read at Mass and teach 5th grade CCD, I figured I’d better make an effort to get up to speed.

Writer Princess and Son-in-Law were moving out of their one-bedroom condo and into a three-bedroom house. They are still staying close to us. They are roughly a five minute drive away, and right around the corner from WP’s best friend. Mrs. Poolman went over to help them move on Saturday morning. I check in after leaving the church session early and was dispatched to Home Depot for some blinds and to Popeye’s to pick up lunch. We spent several hours helping them move their kitchen stuff.  Mrs. P donated our collection of laundry baskets and beach towels to the cause, which was fine until Sunday afternoon when I needed to do three loads of laundry. Sigh.

I took a rare Saturday afternoon nap-on-the-couch, while half-watching the Alabama-Arkansas game. The Gators came on at seven and went to 4-0, beating Kentucky for something like the 255th straight time.

On Sunday, I was back at 9 o’clock Mass. I had received a call on Friday afternoon asking me to read at that Mass. The Knights of Columbus (of which I am a sometime member) were receiving an international award, and the Knight officers wanted as much of a showing as they could muster.

The rest of the day consisted of errands, laundry and a little yard work. Our pool temperature has dropped into the low 80s, much lower than Mrs. P likes for her soaking. We put our solar blanket back on in the hopes of pulling a few more degrees of heat into the water and maybe getting one or two weeks of pool time out of the season. Much will depend on the weather. It has been cloudy and rainy for much of September. If we get some good sun this week, I might be able to get the pool back up to around 90. Mrs. P would be most happy.

A truly uncomfortable experience

My blog friend, Terri, posted a story today describing an awkward conversation with her 18-year old son about his new girlfriend. This reminded me of an incident when I was about his age that was a seriously painful experience.

The summer after my junior year in college in Florida, I returned home to Pittsburgh for my last summer at home. My only serious girlfriend in several years, “Melanie,” was left behind in Gainesville where she was taking summer classes.

About a week after getting home, I walked in the house after work. My parents were sitting in the kitchen and greeted me with:

“We’re glad you’re home. Sit down. We have something we need to discuss.”

Conversations that start that way go only downhill, and this was no exception.

“Karen, your friend from Florida, called a little while ago looking for you. She said that your girlfriend, Melanie, has a COMMUNICABLE DISEASE, and she thinks you ought to get a blood test.”

My mind wasn’t running in the gutter, so I was thinking of diseases like small pox, diphtheria, or some weird tropical thing that no one has ever heard of.

“Really? I wonder what that is all about?”

My mother had the answer. “Obviously she has the CLAP! Have you been SLEEPING with that girl?”

A brilliant 20-year old and a master of snappy comebacks, I responded:

Ah…ah…ah…ah…ah…”

For the next several minutes, I made a concerted effort to assert my rights under the 5th amendment to avoid incriminating myself. I’m not sure I was entirely successful. I was 100% positive that whatever “communicable disease” had Melanie in its grips, it was not venereal in nature.  However, I had no objective evidence to put before my parents. (“I don’t know any Karen or Melanie, so they must have the wrong number.”) Finally, I said I needed to call someone in Florida and get to the bottom of the story.

This was at least 10 years before the first cell phones were developed and 25 years before they became as common as wristwatches. I left messages all over Gainesville, without being able to track down Karen, Melanie or anyone else who knew what was going on.

When I returned to my parents, my mother began to tell me how much she and my father had wished they had been able to sleep together before they were married. I think she wanted to put me at ease. It didn’t work. I tried prayer.

“Dear Lord, just take me now. Put an end to my misery.”

Apparently, God was taking the night off, because I remained fully alive and conscious throughout the conversation.

Eventually, with no additional information on my end and far too much information from my parents, the encounter ran out of steam.

It was several hours later when I finally received a return call from Karen.

“I’m so glad you called me back. You really need to checked out because  Melanie has….MONO!”

I was both relieved and so angry I wanted to reach through the phone and grab Karen by the throat a thousand miles away.

Melanie recovered from the mononucleosis just fine. We stayed in touch over the summer and resumed dating in the fall. We had a good laugh over it. We dated for another year and then split up. We both ended up marrying our next serious relationship and both marriages are intact today. If she reads this, I hope she gets a laugh.

I don’t know what ever happened to Karen. Let’s hope she didn’t go into the communications business.

I’ll bet that tingled a little!

The sports world is providing all kinds of interesting videos this week.

I watched an outstanding Florida-Georgia basketball game on ESPN last night. It went to double overtime, with lots of amazing shots.

But the shot everyone will remember happened when Florida forward Chandler Parsons drained a three from the corner, right in front of the Gator bench, and fellow Gator Vernon Macklin popped him in the “jewels” with a towel.

Ouch!

I’ll bet Chandler and Vernon had a little chat about that in the locker room later.

Getting reacquainted

We are now into Christmas week, and things are looking good.

Mrs. Poolman and I had a good weekend. On Saturday night, we met up with an old friend of mine and her husband for dinner. They were passing through Savannah on their way to visit family in Florida. Ann and I dated for a few months right after I graduated from high school. We remained friends after we broke-up, but we have only seen one another once in the past 39 years. We reconnected about a year ago on Facebook. We picked Ann and Chuck up at their hotel and went to one of our favorite seafood restaurants. Sometimes “reunions” like that work, and sometimes they don’t. This was a good one. We had a very nice time. We hope they will come through again on one of their annual migrations and stay longer.

We finally put our tree up on Sunday. Mrs. P did most of the actual decorating, while I was busy taking care of other chores, but she did have a very involved helper.

Penny the Kitten thought a Christmas tree was about the best thing she has seen in her short, 14 week life. She climbed up in the middle of the tree and had a great time with the lights and ornaments.

Tree-cat helps with decorating.

After awhile she lost interest. Nothing was broken. All the same, I secured the tree to the wall with some fishing line, so hopefully, it will still be erect when we get home this evening.

Is it over yet?

There hasn’t been a whole lot to talk about this week, which explains the gap in my posts.

My Gators were pretty-much humiliated by arch-rival Florida State in the season finale last weekend. All the various Florida football Web sites are abuzz over the problems with the program. I never thought I would say it, but I’m really happy the season is over. We’ll go a bowl, which will be announced this evening. The only good thing about the bowl is it will give the coaches an additional 15 practice days to start working on next season. The off-season should be interesting.

Last Tuesday was by birthday. Mrs. Poolman cooked a wonderful dinner of beef tenderloin, twice baked potatoes, etc. Both the kids, Poolboy, Writer Princess and Poolboy’s GF joined us. Son-in-law had to work. Too bad. No birthday cake. Instead, we had fudge brownie sundaes with Kahlua and chocolate sauce. That’s about as close to heaven as you can get without having to die first.

I did finish the updated version of my beginner cookbook. I went to Staples and had 15 copies printed. It’s around 34 pages. I had one big surprise. Nearly half the cost of the printing was for the spiral binding. Who ‘da thought?

It is actually stretching the truth to call it a “cookbook.” Actually, what it is intended to be is a “starter manual” for a young adult just learning to fend for his- or herself in the kitchen. It does have a few more-elaborate dishes, but nothing very difficult. I think the next step is to take it to the Web. I’ll probably start something under the blog format and see how it goes.

Mrs. P and I are about to go over to some friends and play with their new twin babies. They also want us to bring Sammy with us so their dog can have a doggie play-date.  Should be fun.

It’s a holiday week!

I have been totally uninspired to write for the past couple of weeks. We certainly have been busy, but it’s been all the normal, not-all-that-interesting stuff.

It’s been a disappointing college football season. Our Florida Gators have flip-flopped back and forth from looking like world-beaters (not very often) to impersonating Sister Mary’s School for the Deaf and Blind.  There is one game left, against rival Florida State. We’ll see who come to play.

The newest addition to the Poolman family, Penny the Kitten, is doing very well. It took her about a week to figure out the other members of our animal sub-culture were pretty harmless. (You can get stomped by a large dog, but it won’t be intentional.)  She and Sid the Tailless have become tight.

Penny & Sid taking a "cat nap."

Sid gets in on a little grooming of his little sister.

She and Sammy, the younger, smaller dog, have hit it off big-time. They actively tease and play with each other, and Penny is holding her own just fine. Penny has actually gone up to a resting Sammy and curled up with her. I have tried to get a picture, but every time I start to point a camera at them, Sammy gets up and walks away. It’s like she is ashamed to be caught snuggling with a cat. Very weird.

Planning Thanksgiving has been a challenge this year. Mrs. Poolman is working Thanksgiving day, which means we won’t be eating the holiday meal until after 8 in the evening. You would think that would make it very easy to plan around our children, their in-laws, potential in-laws, etc., but you would be wrong. As of this afternoon, we got word that Writer Princess’s in-laws would not be coming. Her MIL is undergoing radiation treatment and doesn’t want to even leave the house. Quite understandable. WP and SIL will be heading out to their place early in the day and preparing a Thanksgiving meal there.

There are still a bunch of “maybes”. Poolboy’s girl friend’s parents are thinking about going to Disney World for the weekend. Maybe they will; maybe they won’t. Maybe GF will go along; maybe she won’t. As of this morning, we still weren’t sure whether to set places for five or 14.  Oh well. We’ll either have the right amount of food, or a ton of leftovers. Either way is OK.

These odd holiday schedules are nothing new for us. Mrs. P works either Thanksgiving or Christmas every year and alternates. I pretty much have the holiday meal preparation down to a science. I also get lots of help from others who prepare side dishes.

No CCD this week because of Thanksgiving. The break comes at a very good time.

Lots of great football this weekend — might as well enjoy it because the end is in sight.

A busy month behind me

My month of fairly intensive activity is over and life looks to be getting more-or-less back to normal.

Over the past month, Mrs. Poolman and I had two weekend trips and I had an overnight work related trip. Except for when I was out of town for our Pennsylvania trip, I have been tied up with our evening lecture series two nights per week. Plus, I was also out Wednesday evenings with my CCD class. We finished up on Saturday with our campus-wide annual open house event.The open house was a pretty big deal. We had roughly 1,900 visitors on an incredibly beautiful Saturday afternoon. (Clear skies, mid-70s with a light breeze.) They enjoyed the aquarium, science displays, programs, tours of our research vessels and more.Organizing this event is my responsibility. It has become increasingly difficult and stressful in recent years. More and more “volunteers” have opted out of the project, thus increasing the burden on those of us who are left. I frankly admitted that I did not perform as well in marketing the event as I might have because I was distracted by other issues that someone else had handled in previous years. We definitely need to make some structural changes before next year’s event.

*    *    *    *

The Gators dropped their third in a row Saturday night. It will be interesting to see just how good our coaching staff can do their job. With an off week this weekend, they have two weeks to regroup the team and get them on the right path. Do they continue in a death spiral, or can they pull them out and salvage the season? The second half of the season will be interesting.