Throw that Green Stuff in The Batter!

If you’ve been following the blog, you may remember that I do quite a lot of cooking and baking. Love to cook, whether I’m indoors or out; It keeps me fed and out of mischief as that saying goes.

For whatever reason, I haven’t baked much lately. Today I was in the mood to put a couple of hours of effort into kitchen stuff so I went with a combo I whip up pretty often: a yummy Tofu Chili with a pan of scratch Cornbread.

I’ve done that one about a thousand times and — like always — I was pleased with the result.

That said, I did things differently this time. Part of what was different today was not intentional at all; I couldn’t find my trusty 9×9 pan and so I opted for corn muffins this time. A “Plan B” kind of situation.

The other part of what I did differently was quite intentional: I wanted kick up the flavor a notch or two by baking my first pan of Jalapeno Cornbread. And so I did.

One of my Twitter friends who also likes to bake had tweeted a photo of a pan of Jalapeno cornbread he had whipped up on Tuesday to compliment his lunch for that day.

I realized that I had never done anything other than plain cornbread and decided to give it a try.

I didn’t bother to find a recipe or anything elaborate. I just made a batch just like I’ve done for the last five years but added 2 tsp of diced jalapenos to the batter just before pouring it into the muffin tin.

And — although I’m pleased with the result — I think I’ll go heavier with the diced jalapeno next time. I’ll kick it up a notch or two the next time around; I’m thinking about a third of a cup or so.

Like so many of us, I can get stuck in a rut pretty easily. And whether we’re talking about kitchen adventures or the way we live our lives in general, it’s a good thing to get out of that rut from time-to-time!

“Baker Ben” Basile

© 2021 Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Merry Christmas to one and all

The Day has finally arrived! It’s Christmas morning and I’m feeling the Joy of the Season now as I put together these thoughts.

Throughout the Fall months we can see the whole Holiday Tableau laid out before us; We know that the crowning jewel of the Winter Holidays for so many — Christmas — is not so far away, but are still somehow taken by surprise once it’s actually here!

And it is here. And I’m delighted and just a tiny bit surprised that it’s here. Here in all its delightful splendor!

It’s true that I don’t go to a ton of trouble over Christmas these days. I think that there are so many of us who fall into that category. Haven’t put up a tree in a good many years. And presents… Well, gift cards are a godsend! And it’s not a very long list for this guy at this stage.

But I truly do love the season: the music, the Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward Men part, the Stars and Angels adorning the downtown light poles, all of it. And when I say I love the music, I mean the whole spectrum. Doesn’t matter if it’s Burl Ives and the Ray Coniff Singers or Andrea Bocelli and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I love all of it and have sung most of it with assorted Choruses and Choirs over the many years.

I don’t know what the Christmas Season means to you. But whether it’s a highlight of each year for you or something you would like to opt out of, I hope that this auspicious Day finds you well, surrounded by family and friends and filled with Serenity and Joy!

Ben Lawrence Basile

© 2021 Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Two Mountain Lion cubs get their shot

A litter of four Mountain Lion cubs was found under a picnic table in an office park outside of Thousand Oaks, California back on November 29th.

The four — all females — were estimated to have been about six weeks old and were on their own. Two of the four didn’t survive for the two days after officials from California’s Fish and Wildlife Commission tagged them and returned them to the site where they had been found on the 29th. The hope at that time was that the Mother might return.

After the deaths of the two weakest cubs, the staff at Fish & Wildlife determined that the Mother either couldn’t or wouldn’t come back. The two surviving cubs are now being cared for at the Orange County (California) Zoo until a suitable long-term home can be found.

If you’d like to know a bit more about this compelling story, the article here from the LA Times is an excellent place to begin.

Regardless of where you might be on this still-wild Planet, keep an eye out for wildlife. Because of habitat loss, human ignorance and malice and climate change — to name only a few issues — they can certainly use your watchful and caring eye.

Millions in the US and in every corner of the Planet are pulling for those two as yet-unnamed kittens. This sentimental ole dog is certainly one of them.

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

© 2021 Ben Lawrence Basile

The Silver Springs Monkeys and Monkey Day

Many Floridians have heard the story about how the area around what is now Silver Springs State Park here in Florida is practically overrun with Monkeys. They were brought in to be bit players in a 1930’s Tarzan Movie — so the story goes — and they’ve been monkeying around the Springs and parts of the Ocala National Forest ever since.

And because today is actually International Monkey Day, Bulldog decided to revisit the story and brush up on this fascinating thing we here in the Sunshine State have been hearing about for almost a hundred years.

One of the things I learned is that the Rhesus Macaques that can still be found in the area are not the only primates who’ve been ranging freely over this part of the heart of Florida. It is a fascinating and somewhat strange tale, as you’ll know if you take a moment to visit the link above.

If you’d like to know a little more about the celebration of International Monkey Day, here’s a good place to start.

Because of the hunger pangs which are now wracking my somewhat corpulent body at this moment, I’ve got to stop monkeying around on the internet, get into the kitchen and make lunch!

Hope it’s a fine day for you and all the other primates who may pass their eyes over this humble post.

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

© 2021 Ben Lawrence Basile

Photo credit Duke Today, Fair Use in effect

Of Love, Grief and Death–and of Constant Change

Here’s a post about changes. About changes, the passing of a friend in particular, and the way changes and endings come at you as long as your heart is beating.

Pebbles Bundy crossed over the Rainbow Bridge this afternoon. She was a few weeks short of her 12th birthday and had been suffering from a digestive condition for several months.

She was as sweet a cat as you could ever hope to meet. Gentle, sweet with a wonderful, mellow feline disposition. Food in her dish twice a day and some petting and stroking in the evening was all she ever asked of life.

When we went on our two day camping adventures she would watch us pack and go with an unruffled, mellow manner and greet us at the door when we came back home.

I helped Joan get her ready for her final trip to the vet as I was getting ready for work. Joan is a wonderful Cat Mom and it was her sad duty to take her to the good docs and staff at St Charles and be with her as she made that final journey.

I was relieved in a way that I had to get myself in to work while Joan made final arrangements. Being a part of that scenario would have added another layer of deep sadness to what has already been a challenging time for me.

I have been grieving the loss of another cherished relationship: Joan and I had come to a parting about three weeks before Pebble’s time with us came to its own end. I’m moving back to Orlando next week.

As I reflected on the last three or four weeks, and what happened today, it occurred to me that Pebble’s passing was — among other things — the last event where Joan and I would focus together on a matter of great and enduring significance to both of us; The final time we would be fully engaged in something that had the power to move us deeply and to touch a place in our hearts. The final time we would share deeply-felt emotions that no one else shared or could fully understand.

Changes and endings. They’re a huge part of life. They keep coming. It’s not going to stop. In fact, when we get to a certain stage of life, the changes accelerate, they fly by so quickly that we sometimes are hard-pressed to take in fully their true significance.

Some of those changes involve a death. A death of a friend, a family member. The death of a dream, of a cherished relationship.

It’s not going to stop.

Hold on tightly to your friends, your loved ones. The friends who walk on their hind legs and the fur-bearing ones who love you unconditionally, with great ardour and whose love has the power to touch us in the deepest places in our hearts.

Hold tightly to them when the fire of love burns brightest. Love them, return their love and release them to the love, care and wisdom of the Universe when a time of ending comes.

And trust that your love — mingled with theirs — and the memories of shared experiences, of your time together will sustain you.

Sustain you and offer a sweet note of consolation. Especially if you must walk life’s path alone for a time.

Healing Love to all of you. And all whom you love.

A loving, grieving and hopeful man, I am,

“Bulldog Ben” Basile 

© 2021 Ben Lawrence Basile
Photo credit Joanie Bundy

Happy Labor Day 2021

I do want to wish a most happy Labor Day 2021 to all of you who work for a paycheck.

I’m happy to say that I’m in that proud group of people and I always look forward to this day as it comes around each year. I’m a proud member of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and have been a Teamster as well.

The UFCW represents workers in retail, breweries and restaurants. Folks in the budding cannabis industry, too. The UFCW also rep’s many of the workers in the meat packing plants that were on the front lines when COVID-19 was devastating that industry back in the Spring.

It’s a very good thing, indeed, to be represented by a union and bargain collectively.

If you’d like to brush up on your Labor Day history, just follow this link.

Working folks, thanks for all you do. I wish all of you a happy — and relaxed — Labor Day.

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

© 2021 Ben Lawrence Basile

August 30th is here, and…

…and it’s National Beach Day! Happy to say that I’m heading out in a few hours to get in on the party!

If you’re anywhere near the coast–any coast–I hope you’ll get some sand in your shoes today.

That’s my plan exactly! Just threw the cooler and that over-sized beach umbrella in the back of the car!

The banner photo is of a recent trip to Canaveral National Seashore near Titusville here in the Sunshine State. That’s the closest National Park to me; we never miss a chance to take in its unspoiled beauty.

The photo below was taken at Cocoa Beach, just a bit to the south of Canaveral. I took it about ten months ago. When I view this one, I can almost hear the waves lapping at my feet and smell the sea air.

Enjoy your day whether or not you make it to the shore! If you’re only just now hearing about how special this day is, and can’t get in on the fun, I’ll give you an excused absence. Just this once!

And if you don’t make it, remember this: you certainly don’t have to wait ’til National Beach Day 2022!

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

© 2020 Ben Lawrence Basile

Photo credits Ben Lawrence Basile

Two Nights at Jetty Park

Because of work commitments, our vacations are generally of the weekend variety. Which may or may not actually fall on a weekend, by the way.

In our most recent getaway, we had occasion to camp for two nights at Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral. It was a wonderful time in many ways. That happy camping excursion took place a couple of weeks ago.

If you’re familiar with the Spacecoast region of Florida, you probably know that Cape Canaveral is a stone’s throw away from Cocoa Beach. They’re adjacent, running together along a busy stretch of A1A in Brevard County.

We know our way around the area and were sure that camping in the middle of some of our favorite spots would make for an unusually good trip. We were 100% correct on that.

We enjoyed lunch at Rock the Guac, a well-known Mexican-themed eatery a block north of the uber-famous Ron Jon’s Surf Shop. (The original location.) That one-off is always a treat. I generally opt for one of their belly-busting burritos. I did again and I assure you it will not be the last time.

We enjoy shopping at Coastal Produce in the downtown Cocoa Beach area. It’s our go-to on our frequent visits to the area for freshly-baked cookies, sandwiches, croissants and, well, produce. Their very good salad bar was a COVID casualty and I’m happy to say that it’s back.

We made a quick visit to the Cocoa Beach Pier as well. It was way too close the closing time to really get the full flavor of the pier. It is — as you may know — an attraction all its own but it shuts down hard at 8 PM. I’ve enjoyed it in previous visits and we’ll head back to the pier on our next beach trip.

It would, of course, be silly to not say more about the actual camping at Jetty Park! It was very enjoyable and we’ll be pitching our tent there again before year’s end, without a doubt.

If you’re an RV’er, I’ll warn you that many of the spaces there have little-to-no shade. But that’s not an important consideration for many who go the RV route and the many amenities and proximity to the beach more than make up for the semi-barren landscape you’ll find in some parts of the park.

Those amenities include the fishing, especially from the famous jetty at Jetty Park, a beautiful stretch of beach on the jetty’s south side and a perfect view of Port Canaveral’s Cruise Ships as they come and go. The only ship making way during our stay headed out at exactly 1:45 AM on our first morning. It was quite a sight as most of us never see one so close that you could identify a friend standing on the deck as the vessel heads out of the port.

It was a very impressive — and unexpected — sight and was totally eye-popping even though our camp site is on the far end of the camping area. There were no passengers on board, of course, as full cruising has not resumed yet. But it’s not uncommon to see ships coming and going as there are reasons to keep those impressive vessels on the water even when there are no passengers aboard.

We are the real campers and are proud of it! Meaning tent campers, of course. And most of the tent sites are the kind I like and search for: completely sheltered by Mother Nature’s lovely trees and foliage.

There are no hook-ups for the tent sites but if you enjoy the primitive style of camping, I’m quite sure you’d like the ones at Jetty Park. And they threw in those lovely and ubiquitous Beauty Berries that grow wild in many corners of the Sunshine State at absolutely no additional charge! Yeah, we don’t actually nosh on them, they’re a bit on the tart side; But we love to find them at the wilder parks we visit.

Jetty Park has other amenities, too. There are laundry facilities on site, though you must get your tokens from the office. There is a store for campers and day visitors; it’s in operation from 10am to 3pm seven days a week.

If you enjoy camping in Florida, give Jetty Park a try. It’s one of the few parks in Florida where you’re mere steps from the shore. It’s definitely a Top 3 park for me and I don’t have the slightest doubt that you’d enjoy it as well.

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

© 2021 Ben Lawrence Basile

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

It’s All About the Moon

It was exactly 52 years ago that Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Lunar soil.

It is, indeed, a monumental occasion. For so many reasons.

One of the many things that has happened as a result of this historic mission is that today, July 20th, has become National Moon Day.

So today we look back over that amazing achievement. It is, in my estimation, the Crown Jewel for NASA and quite possibly for the US.

I will never, never forget what I was doing at the moment Mr Armstrong thrilled our Nation and the world with this stellar feat of human achievement.

And it’s a very good time to just reflect on how awesome it is to have our luminous, singular moon.

And to think about space exploration and new vistas in general.

It’s ever onward and upward!

“Moondog Ben” Basile

© 2019 Ben Lawrence Basile

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

It’s Only Three Weeks

It’s only three weeks until we set out on another camping adventure. This time it will be Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The park that’s well-known for — among other things — being very, very close to where the Cruise Ships launch in our part of the Sunshine State.

And speaking of sunshine, we haven’t seen a whole lot of that in the last few weeks. So I’ve got my fingers crossed that Mother Nature will smile on us when it’s time to head out.

We love the whole area around the park. It’s a hop, skip and a jump from Cocoa Beach and a thousand places we love and try to get to regularly. Camping very, very close to the shore is lots of fun. We do that when we can, at Jetty Park — in the Cape Canaveral City Parks system — or at Sebastian Inlet State Park near Vero Beach.

Get outdoors, friends! You’ll have lots of fun, I’m sure and move the needle on your stress meter out of the red zone!

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

© 2021 Ben Lawrence Basile