Blueberry U-Pic Florida Style

My friend Amber invited my daughter and I to go blueberry picking with her and her two boys this past weekend. I was a little surprised because we live in Florida and I didn’t know that we could pick blueberries here. The winter strawberry capitol is near us but blueberries? Who knew!

Amber took us up to Starkey Blueberry Farm in Trinity which is only about 8 miles from where we live. The farm is located in an area that no more than 10 years ago was cattle farms but now is quickly growing with houses and outdoor shopping malls.

When we drove up I swore it would be a teeny place, possibly even hydroponic. I was wrong on both counts.  The farm has been there for 4 years and has approximately 44 acres of blueberry bushes. It turns out that Florida is one of the top 10 blueberry producing states in the US. The University of Florida (Go Gators!) helped created a special blueberry bush that would thrive in the Florida climate which has spurred the blueberry industry in the Sunshine State.

After checking in, learning where to head for the best bushes and washing our hands (to help prevent spreading disease) we grabbed our buckets. My daughter took a 2 lb one and I took a 5 lb one. At $5/lb for u-pick I thought that if we picked a total of 4 lbs we’d have more than enough for a bunch of different uses. Something got in our way though . . .

No Bees Aren’t Scary

After walking a little bit, we started going down the rows and picking. Although it was close to the end of the season there were plenty of blueberries on the bushes. The blueberries were big and sweet. But there was a glitch in the fun – my daughter’s fear of bees.

A boy in her class got stung earlier this year and of course it hurt so of course, he cried. Now my daughter has an fear of all things bees. A big fear. She was so scared of bees near the blueberry bushes that she had to stand outside of the rows so she wouldn’t completely lose it. We had many a discussion about how bees help the blueberries grow and that if it weren’t for bees we wouldn’t have hardly any food. We also talked about how bees don’t want to hurt you and get scared if you swat at them. Amber even told her that she’s held a bee in her hand to drink some water. But none of that was working. While I felt bad for her and tried to comfort her, the blueberries were calling and there were hardly any bees out that day. So I kept on picking.

In about 45 minutes I ended up collecting almost 2 lbs of blueberries to take home. Amber and her kids got 4.75 lbs! After cashing out the kids played on a large wooden area and then we walked over to the lawn swing they had on a pond. All in all it was a great day, bees and all. My daughter even forgot about her fear and talked about how much fun she had lol!

What to Make

Our first recipe with our haul was blueberry pancakes which were yummy. It was a great lesson to my daughter that picking your own food and then cooking with it can be so satisfying. I have plans to use the blueberries for the food I’ll be making for the Royal Wedding and also use in salads and yogurt. There are lots of recipes online for how to use blueberries – I’m even thinking about blueberry ice cream! Starkey Blueberry Farm said they have a couple weeks left of the season. I might need to head back for more!




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The Empowerment of Girl Scouts


It was recently announced that the Boy Scouts will begin accepting girls into their ranks. As soon as it was announced on social media and in the news, the arguments for and against began. Many parents said their daughters were excited because, they claimed, the Girl Scouts were behind the times and didn’t do extensive hiking trips or use power tools. The national Girl Scout association made their voice known that they were the premier group to empower little girls.  As an African-American woman who was a Girl Scout for 9 years (that’s one of my troops in the picture above) and whose African-American mother was a Girl Scout in the 1940’s I am a firm supporter of Girl Scouts. So much so that my daughter is now a Girl Scout and I am one of her troop’s co-leaders.

Why do I love Girl Scouts so much? Because in my own personal case, as the only African-American girl in all of my troops, I was never treated differently and don’t remember ever feeling different. We had troops with Asian girls, white girls, Christian girls, Jewish girls, girls whose parents seemed to have a lot and girls who seemed as if their parents were working class. I learned the song I Have A Little Dreidel and how to sign It’s A Small World in Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts empowers little girls by having them plan their meetings and deciding what badges they want to earn. Girl Scouts vote to decide what trips they take and what community services their cookie money will be used for.

Hiking boots and gear in a field

A lot of the arguments this week have been about Girl Scouts still doing home-ec type activities and not letting girls who enjoy the outdoors to do those activities. Not true! Girl Scout camp is a rite of passage in the community and they hike, do archery, study marine life and build campfires. True the girls aren’t generally pitching their own tents however there are many ways to camp and some individual troops do camp that way. Some troops choose to hike the Appalachian Trail while some councils allow girls to learn gun skills so there are few limitations on what the girls can do. And when did knowing home-ec skills become taboo? Boys and girls should be learning how to cook indoors, sew and clean well!

Rock climbing child

If someone’s daughter wasn’t getting a great experience in their Girl Scout troop, that’s on the parents of those girls, not the entire Girl Scout organization. Girl Scouts are always looking for volunteers and adults, with or without children, are encouraged to volunteer. This includes men! As my own experience showed me, the Girl Scouts are an inclusive group and have welcomed people of all races, genders and sexual orientation since they were founded in 1912.

The beauty of Girl Scouts is that the girls are making their own decisions so our troop doesn’t have parents stay at meetings. What we ARE looking for is parents helping with the fundraisers, parents to teach the girls some skills they have, parents to ask questions and make suggestions. The troop leaders can’t do it alone. So I feel that the moral of this story is for parents to get involved! Whether your child is in Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, swimming, football, ballet – whatever it is, that activity needs your support. And with your support you’ll be building your child’s confidence and excitement to try something new.

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Songs I Can Sing To

Anyone who knows me well knows that I LOVE music. Insanely love music. My mom says that when I was a baby she’d come into my room and I’d be standing in the crib singing. That’s not to say I’m a good singer, because I’m really not. But I could care less (even though I dream of being a backup singer like one of the singers featured in 20 Feet from Stardom) – music makes me happy and that’s all I’m in it for. I have an long commute to work which means I listen to a lot of music so I though why not make a list of songs that make me sing?

I made a few rules for myself. I had to listen to the songs all in one setting. If I drove to work and made a partial list, I wouldn’t continue the list when I drove home. I would keep the number of songs to just 5 because it could get crazy. I had to listen to at least 75% of the song for it to make the list. The songs have to be on the radio, not one of my CDs (so no Hamilton: The Musical songs, unfortunately, on these lists).  And the song has to make me dance in my seat.

I listen to a wide variety of music; my car radio is preset to old school hip hop, classic rock, current pop and easy listening. So I get a lot of choices, which means you’ll see some lists that might be pretty mismatched. But that’s pretty much my musical style – a little mismatched, a little schizophrenic and a lot of fun! Remember these aren’t necessarily my favorite songs or something that I would pick out of the air – they’re just things that made me want to grab the mic on the day I heard them. So here’s my list for last week:

2 Legit 2 Quit – Hammer

This song came out when I was in college. MC Hammer was the king of hip hop dance music in the early ’90’s. His songs made everyone dance and want to wear harem pants. I think out of all of his songs this is my favorite because it was so different from his other ones. Every time I hear it I still do the hand moves : )

Happy – Pharrell

I love this song because it’s silly and catchy. It’s one of those weird songs like Don’t Worry Be Happy that catches your attention and never lets it go. I know some people can’t stand it – but it makes me (sorry!) happy!

Do You Believe In Love – Huey Lewis And The News

This isn’t my favorite Huey Lewis And The News song by a long shot. And after looking at the rather odd video (why are there 6 guys staring at a sleeping woman – that’s not in the song!) it’s still not. However this song, which looks like it came out when I was 10 (!!) is catchy and fun so it made me stop and sing along.

Somebody To Love – Queen

Queen. I really didn’t realize how much I loved them until about 15 years ago, quite a few years after Freddie Mercury had passed away. In fact this song was released in the mid-70’s and I have no reason to believe that I would have heard it then. There’s just something about this song that I adore. I also like to joke around and change the words to different things I would like to find to love. As sad as the lyrics make it seem, this song always makes me stop and sing along.

All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor

Another of those songs that some people love to hate. Not me! I’m not someone who the song is aimed at but love the musical references (“no treble”) and the sassy-ness of it. Plus I really enjoy Meghan’s voice.

Which songs make you want to sing out loud?

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Lessons After The Storm

Florida was hit hard by Hurricane Irma. While we were extremely lucky (some islands in the Caribbean were hit with a category 5 storm while, by the time it hit where I live in central Florida it had diminished to a category 2 storm), there were still wide spread power outages, destroyed billboards and sadly some deaths.  I was out of power for 3 days while I know some people who lived in the Orlando area were without power for over a week. I hadn’t been through a hurricane in over 20 years and while it was scary and I picked up some tips on how to prepare, there were a few lessons I learned after the storm too:

Expect to have a full range of emotions 

This will happen even if your electricity never went off and you had no property damage. Everyone is allowed to have their feelings towards what happened, even if it “wasn’t as bad as someone else”. It’s not a contest and don’t let others feel like you’re doing wrong by being slightly depressed or mad about what happened to you.

Remember to Shop Local

Rusty Bellies Food Truck

After Hurricane Irma came through my town, the next day it was the local mom and pop convenience stores and restaurants that were open. Not the chains , except Publix – they opened pretty quickly but they’re considered local by Florida folks.  While they might not have been full service or even had lights on, they opened so people could grab a warm soda or even get a burger to get out of the house. We went to Rusty Bellies and KC Que, both in Tarpon Springs, when we wanted to avoid cabin fever. It was wonderful seeing these owners and employees putting their own troubles behind to help the community. I plan on rewarding these shops by frequenting them more even in the good times.

You’ll Get To Know Your Neighbors 

People really do come together in times of trouble. Which is a good thing to remember in the political times that we’re going through. We don’t see our next door neighbor very often but we chatted with her a couple of times after the storm.  It turns out she works really far away, which is why she’s gone in the morning when I leave for work! We also met a nice couple at one of our local restaurants. We sat at a table with them as seating was only limited and only outdoors – the wife was an artist and she chatted the entire time with our 9 year old who had her watercolor pens and sketch pad with her. This event helped us meet people we wouldn’t have had the weather been good.

You Aren’t Missing Anything On TV  

Well I did miss the Miss America competition, which I’ve always enjoyed. But honestly if I had had television I’m not sure if I would have watched the entire thing.  So no harm, no foul. When I turned the tv on once we got electricity again there was really nothing interesting on so I read a book.

Speaking of reading – Make Sure You Have a Hobby 

Having a hobby is key to making sure you pass the time. I love to read so I downloaded magazines on the Texture app and got some e-books from my local library. I also had some physical books in case my electronics died. Even my 9 year old wanted to read!  She also played Monopoly with my husband. I kinda wished we owned Risk, which I haven’t played since college, because it’s such an intricate game and would have ate up a lot of time. Whatever you do, make sure you have something Hurricane readingentertaining to keep you occupied or you’ll go stir crazy (or drive your family crazy!)


Call To Have Your Bills Deferred  

It costs money to get ready for and to recover from a storm. Gas, food, cash on hand – there’s a lot of things that might eat into your savings. When the storm has passed make sure you call your mortgage company, student loan, car loan and credit card companies and ask them if they are deferring paying with no interest and no fees or penalties. That’s key – if they’re going to charge you a fee or additional interest don’t take it. You need the break to build your savings up a little bit or pay other bills that may come up (word is that our electric bills will be higher next month to make up for the additional help that was called in to help us). A few people told me that they don’t want to extend their loans and if you can afford not to do this, that’s great! However it’s better to ask for it and continue to make your payments than to not ask and 30 days later find it’s too late to ask and you’re in a pinch.

What suggestions do you have to someone who has been through a hurricane or other natural disaster?

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