142. A Year Away From WordPress

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I miss you all! I’ve been away from this community for almost a year. My last post was 1/27/2016. While away, I had developed a fondness for cooking, something which I never thought possible.

Growing up, I stayed away from the kitchen. Dad was always the cook in the family. “Let “Indo” be with his studies,” my mom reminded my late Dad every time he asked me to help him in the kitchen. Mine was a life of a privileged scholar.

Out of nowhere, early last year, I observed myself starting to pay particular attention to my diet and that of my wife. We were at first concerned with losing some weight. Afterwards, it became a search for healthy foods. Unable to find many of these in restaurants, we began learning to buy and prepare them.
My fondness for cooking became a passion. Writing and photography were relegated to the background, thus the reason for my long absence from this site.

I, however, still have the urge to write. So, here I am again. In addition to the places I have visited, I will now write about foods, lots of it, and cooking. For starters, let me share with you one of my first experiments in salad preparation.

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141. Lake Helen, Fl in 2016

“I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

~Robert Frost

On the previous post, I’ve mentioned that I took a quick turn from I-4 into an unfamiliar place, i.e. Lake Helen and that move led me to Blue Spring State Park. I also said that at first sight, I found Lake Helen uninteresting, however, there is an old church in N. Euclid St. that caught my attention. Since it was a Sunday, there was a service. I found a handful of cars and SUVs parked in the lot. I parked mine on one of the two or three spots marked “For Church Visitors Only.”

What impressed me was the simplicity of it and its antiquity as it was built in the 19th century. After I took a couple or so of photos, I saw elderly church goers leaving the place. I did not see a single child or teenager. I’ve learned later that in 2014, the place had a population of 2,648, possibly the smallest town I’ve visited in the USA.

Since it is called Lake Helen, I drove around looking for the lake. I passed by many old-looking houses of varying sizes until I reached Lakeview Drive or Street, I can’t remember and after circling around the lake, I found a tiny park where I parked my car. Two men in their late 50’s were swaying metal detectors on the ground. I’ve found out later that they’re brothers and they’re doing this as a hobby. I had a long conversation with one of them who was in the army like my father-in-law. He said, “I having fun doing this. Some people go fishing, I come here to fish.” He added that one of the guys he was with in the early 90’s had found a $20 gold coin which was worth $9000! He thought the guy was bitten by a snake when he wailed after finding that lucky coin.

They urged me to come back to check the local museum. It’s the most interesting part of the town, they said. Lake Helen was where rich people once lived. The key is get the permission of these residents to scan their yards for precious metals for there are surely some to be found. A good metal detector cost around $2500, my new friend said. But one old gold ring with diamond all be enough to cover for the cost of this, he continued. I told them that I like to visit places new to me and talk to strangers and learn new stuff. I thanked them well and hopped back to I-4 which led me to Blue Spring.

The Liebster Award

That’s pretty awesome. I’ve only been writing for maybe one month. So, it’s nice to be recognized by a fellow blogger. By the way, that blogger is https://endandbeginnings.wordpress.com. I humongus THANK YOU!!!

I urge you to check K.T. out. She’s a good, thoughtful writer!! Give her a follow!!

Rules :

Make a post thanking and linking the person who nominated you and include the Liebster Award sticker in the post.
Nominate 5-10 other bloggers and notify them of this in one of their posts.
All nominated bloggers are to have less than 200 followers.
Answer the 10 questions posed by your nominator and create 10 different questions for your nominees to answer. Or, you can repeat the same questions.
Copy these rules into your post.

Questions given to me by K.T.

Which is your favorite movie? – I have a host of favorite movies. Anchorman tops that list.
What are you afraid of the most? – Fear is not of God. I can’t say I’m afraid of anything necessarily. However, I do not like large bodies of water.
Are you a religious person? Not so much religious as I believe in Jesus. He is my Lord and Savior. I’ll shout that to the roof tops for the rest of my life.
Have you ever loved someone romantically? – I most certainly have.
What do you like having for breakfast? – Eggs and cheese, Smoked Sausage, Hash Browns, Pancakes. IHOP baby!!
Would you like to have yourself as a friend? Of course! Funny, smart, caring, a host of other good qualities. Why not?
What did you want to be when you were 5 years old? – I believe I wanted to be in the NBA. When I was 13 I was going to marry T-Boz from TLC and be a professional Sports Lawyer.
One thing about yourself you’d like to change? – I’d lose 60 pounds.
If you could visit any country in the world, which would you visit and why? Italy!! All of the beauty could keep me enthralled. The culture. The food. I would visit in a heartbeat.
What is your favorite ice cream flavor and why? Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough because it is….
Have you ever tried online dating? How was the experience? – Nope. I have met two once very good friends online blackplanet.com though.
I nominate the following bloggers. Please check them out.

Vivre En Poete

That Scribbler

Riddle from the Middle

Peter Nunez

All About my God and Life

My questions to you:

What’s your favorite song?
Have you visited another country? If so, then where?
If you could live anywhere on Earth, then where would you live?
What’s your favorite food?
What’s your favorite blog that you’ve written?
What’s your favorite book?
If there was a movie about your life, then who would you want to direct it?
A follow up – What actor would you pick to play you?
Sky Diving, Cliff Jumping, Squirrel Suit – Which one would you pick and why?
What’s your favorite TV show?
Have fun guys!!

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140) Blue Spring State Park, Fl in 2016

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My preoccupation with cooking, a new hobby, has kept me away from blogging and photography. I knew I needed a break yesterday, so after taking the dog out, I decided to drive to the nearest beach in New Smyrna. While on I-4, a small sign which says “Lake Helen, Historic District” caught my attention and without a second thought, exited the highway. This small town of a little over 2000 people did not interest me so much, so I went back to I-4 only to be tantalized by another sign: “Orange City, Historic District.” As I drove through it, I noticed the lines of car becoming longer and slower. I likewise noticed the plate numbers of these cars – many of them are from out of state. “There must be something special somewhere here,” I thought to myself. The I was following turned left and a big street sign says, “Blue Spring State Park.”

I always love nature, so I stayed in the long procession of crawling cars. On many occasions, I noticed the ramblings of my car engine due to long idling. Some cars behind me took a turn and left. I persisted. That persistence paid off because for the first time, I saw the endangered manatees, over 350 of them in their natural habitat. The Blue Spring State Park is the winter home to them.  They love the park’s crystal clear and shallow river which reflect whatever color is around it.  It looks green when surrounded by trees and blue when the sky is sunny and clear.

When I arrived in the park, there were already a lot of people around, some even brought their dogs. Had I known, I would have brought Jack with me. A lot of them were with their families, including little children.

Manatees belong to an endangered species. I’ve read there are only 2500 left in Florida. They are also known as sea cows and are said to be related to the elephants with whom they share their kind of skin. They live up to 50 – 60 years old and they’re mammals like us. I only brought my 50mm lens, so I wasn’t able to get close up photos of them. I have however, taken some photos, a lot of photos actually. Please check my gallery on this amazing place. The best thing to do of course is for you to visit the place yourself if you haven’t done yet. It’s only about an hour by car from Orlando. I only paid $4 for the entrance fee to the park.

139) My Queen At Lake Tahoe in 2014

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This is undoubtedly my favorite photo of my wife which I took. We were on a boat in the lovely Lake Tahoe.  The afternoon sun shone on her and my old Pentax K-r captured my queen as she is mesmerized by the wondrous sight of the lake.  The lake is so beautiful that I told my wife we should move there.  She reminded me how much we dislike snow as we get older and older.

The day before this boat tour of the lake, we drove around the whole lake with our “adopted” Joni and her family and their friends Dodong and Rachille who became our instant tour guides.  They’ve been to the place so many times, they knew where to stop for the best views.

I like this photo so much, I have ordered an enlarged copy of it on a canvas which adorns  our entertainment room.

138) Alone In Galveston, Tx in 2012

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In 2012, I drove my tiny Tiburon from Florida to Galveston, Texas, stayed there for a week by myself and drove back to Florida. Why I did that was a long story.  It was possibly the longest time I’ve spent all alone by myself here in America or elsewhere.  I’ve spent over 36 hours on the road back and forth.  Midway in both ways, I had to spend the night in a hotel.

The two-bedroom condominium unit I had was facing the Gulf of Mexico; one of the photos above showed that.  It was a beautiful view, mostly a sad one for me without no one to share it with.  I saw the sun rose and set almost everyday of the week.  I took photos of the birds which flew up in the sky and below, some so close to the waters.

At dusk, the waters looked steely cold and did not fail to remind me of the devastation it did to that island in 1900, when  6,000 – 8,000 people lost their lives to the Galveston Hurricane. It is the deadliest natural disaster in the U.S. history. I have a photo above of some of the renovated Victorian houses that survived that tragic event.

After that hurricane, a group of engineers built a “10-mile long, 17 foot high seawall to protect the city from floods and hurricane storm surge.  Mr. Robert of the “Robert’s Rules of Order” fame, was one of the engineers.  (Source:  Wikipedia.)

On my last night, I went to a club and listened to a live music while enjoying a mug of beer.

When I came home, my wife and kids must have missed me so much.  I got the tightest hug from my wife who had teary eyes.  As for me, I was happy to be back home.

137) – Our Nipa Hut In The Philippines

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For the most part, while in the Philippines, I’ve lived the longest in Buntog, a small barrio in the Province of Capiz.  While I was there, Buntog was on its peak as a wet market.  Every Sunday, people from neighboring barrios and towns would flock to Buntog to buy their food.  It has this draw because of its accessibility either by train or jeepneys or buses, or even by  small boats.

Now Buntog doesn’t enjoy this popularity anymore.  The discontinuance of the railway was the beginning of the end of the place as the center of commerce in that small part of the province.  When the main highway was relocated from Buntog to Dangula, Buntog as a marketplace was brought down to its knees.

It was however the Typhoon Undang (aka Agnes internationally) that drove us away from the place of my childhood. It destroyed our house along with 201,013 homes in the Philippines in 1984.  In addition 163,506 more homes were damaged for an estimated losses of US$96.6 million. (Source: Wikipedia.)

The photo above is that of a playhouse of the Philippines’ national hero, Jose Rizal.  It reminds me of the kind of house we used to have; although ours was a little bigger.  It was made mostly of bamboo and nipa leaves.  Devoid of air-conditioners, we survived years of summer there.