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Saturday, October 6, 2018

Growing Up In A Magical Place: Fernandina Beach

Growing Up In A Magical Place:
Fernandina Beach 

ONCE UPON A TIME, longer ago than I like to admit, (actually, over fifty years ago), and not so very far away, there existed a magical place in which to live and grow up, called Fernandina Beach. Fernandina to the locals.

Fernandina is on Amelia Island, which is Florida's northernmost, east coast barrier island. The sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean and sets over the St. Mary's River. You can look across the river, from the docks downtown, and see GEORGIA! (This was amazing to me as a child, since Georgia was a different state and seemed far away!)
View looking down Centre Street in Fernandina
Photo by
Fifty plus years ago, Fernandina was a sleepy, small town. Doctors made house calls. Dry cleaning was delivered to your home. The Fuller Brush Man visited regularly with free samples. Doors were left unlocked. 

With drug stores, barber shops, clothing stores, a shoe store, office supplies, bakeries, hardware stores, a movie theater, jewelers, a bowling alley, grocery stores, gas stations, and a hospital, we had pretty much everything we needed without ever having to leave the island! 

Lots of children knew each other almost from birth since many of our parents also grew up together. Some families had lots of relatives in the area. New girls and boys moved to town. Over time they became "old friends," as well, through interactions in our neighborhoods, churches, scout troops, clubs, sports, and schools. 

As children, we could ramble and explore for hours, because our parents knew everyone we were with and their parents. My mother knew exactly where I'd been before I even got home to tell her!

We played in the park across from the junior high. We played tennis on the public courts. We walked or rode our bikes to buy penny candy from E-Z Pic, GW's, and Hall's Store. We rode our bikes to swimming lessons and "public swims" at the pool at the Recreation Center. When we got tired of swimming, we put peanuts in a bottle of Coke for a snack. We also had ceramics classes and "Sub-Teen" Club at the Rec Center.

We spent Saturdays, and lazy summer days, walking downtown for comic books and 5¢ Cokes, or 6¢ Cherry or Vanilla Cokes, from Gene's, or 10¢ ice cream cones from Waas' Drug Store. (Ice Cream cones were free from Waas' if you had a prescription for an ice cream cone from Dr. Stewart, our dentist, for having a good dental check up.)

We went to Becker's after school for Cokes with half-orders of french fries, or, when they had a promotion, we popped a balloon to try to get a banana split for a penny! (Prices ranged from 1-39 cents.)

We played outside till after dark, and our two favorite outdoor events were: (1) the Ice Cream Man and (2) the Mosquito Control truck's spraying so we could get lost in the fog.

Fernandina Beach
Photo by
We walked to the beach with friends, where we jumped waves, rode rented rafts, balanced on skim boards, and surfed on longboards. When we were thoroughly parched, we sought hydration from public water fountains, where the water was HOT, or at the Golden Sands, Moore's, or the Blue Seas which had a walk-up service window on the beach!

We gathered sand dollars, conchs, whelks, angel wings, fingernails, and other shells by the hundreds. We ran through the head high foam on the beach. We tumbled head over heels, not knowing up from down when rogue waves surprised us, knocked us down, and washed us to shore. We got up sputtering and coughing and ran right back into the ocean!

We harvested sea oats for dried flower arrangements. We trudged up and raced down the multiple layers of sand dunes that lined North and South Fletcher, and the Fort Clinch Road, before Hurricanes Donna and Dora took most of them out.

We played Putt-Putt, jumped on the trampolines, ate snow cones, went skating, and played pinball at Main Beach. When we got our driver's licenses, we endlessly circled town and the beach.

Starting in junior high, we had beach parties with bonfires. (Of course, that was before there were turtle patrols, condos, The Amelia Island Plantation, The Ritz Carlton, the park at Peter's Point, or the multiple public beach accesses.)

The PTA had Halloween Carnivals under the bleachers at the city football field and there were Friday night high school football games at the same location. On the 4th of July, the Kiwanis Club hosted their annual fireworks and charity auction at the football field. (My Daddy served as auctioneer!)

After the Quonset hut movie theater by the water tower downtown closed, our only movie options were the Reef drive-in theater at Five Points or occasional movies at church youth group events. We also had hayrides, Shrine parades, and Shrimp Boat races for additional entertainment.

When our Girl Scout troop camped at Fort Clinch, we chopped trees for firewood, with hatchets, and used our Girl Scout knives to cut palmetto fronds for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. No tree-hugging rules to worry about back then! We had great and scary adventures searching for alligators at Willow Pond.

"Gator Shining" on Egan's Creek--i.e. searching for the red reflection of alligators' eyes as we shined flashlights back and forth across the creek--was always a "must do" with out of town friends. I remember shrieks of fear and laughter as we fed the gators marshmallows from the dock, or from a boat when we were able to sidle up alongside them! Fiddlers scurrying around our feet and a myriad of waterbirds swooping out from under the boathouse unexpectedly kept our adrenaline pumping!

We went "sand surfing" and "dune buggy" riding on the huge dunes at the Fort. We could still get down into the entrance of a tunnel, and into the ovens, when we played "hide and seek" and "Sardines" at Fort Clinch! We also played Sardines at First Baptist Church, and enjoyed breathtaking views of town and the river from the third story roof!

We grew up doing a lot of things that are no longer considered safe, politically or socially correct, or environmentally sound. All those things were a LOT of fun, though! Fernandina was truly magical in "the olden days." It still is magical; just different now.

For the last 10 years, a core group of nine "girls" have gotten together at a rented beach house to enjoy the beach and reminisce about "the good old days." Other friends join us periodically at the beach and about town.

In addition to this being our tenth year at the beach, it was also our 40th Fernandina Beach High School Class Reunion weekend, and I wanted to memorialize our beach weekend with some professional photos.

My new friend, Libby Wilkes, of Elizabeth Wilkes Photography, came out to the beach to capture some memories for us. The photo below is my favorite. I was already a fan of Libby's work, after receiving one of her photo books as a gift, and seeing her studio's beautiful video of the island.

Beach Chicks--Ten Years at the Beach & 40th High School Reunion
Photo by
If you have even one good, "old friend," you are rich, indeed! My Fernandina friends and I are fortunate to have so many long-term friendships. We're finding, as time goes on, it takes a group effort to remember the details of our joint history! It takes a long time to grow "old friends!" I am blessed!

Love to all my friends, OLD and NEW! (As we used to sing in Girl Scouts:
"Make new friends, but keep the old; One is silver and the other gold!")

**UPDATED 2019 (Originally published in 2011)

Sadly, we lost "Little Lucy" Mierzejewski, far right in the above photo, in 2014. 2014 was our 13th Annual "Beach Chicks Reunion."

A number of us still gather for our annual Beach Chick's weekend! 2019 will be our 18th year!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Welcome to Your Island Paradise!

My sister and I are Selling our Family Home-Place. 

It is difficult to sell your childhood home. It is full of priceless memories and there are no provisions in MLS listings for all the intangible assets! 

(Update: We sold our home. The buyer turned out to be the daughter of our neighbor, who was also my beloved childhood babysitter! I love how everything turned out. God is good!) 

Here are our Top 10 Reasons Why This Property Is Perfect for YOUR Family!

1. Location!

First and foremost, 1840 Highland Drive is located in a wonderful town, Fernandina Beach, Florida, on Amelia Island. Historic Amelia Island is the only place in the United States that has been under the flags of 8 Different Countries!  (CLICK HERE for a prior blog post I wrote in honor of my hometown and childhood friends.) 

Marsh View from the Backyard.

2. Large 1.4+ Acre Lot On One of The Island's Highest Lots in an Established Neighborhood!

This is one of the Islands most beautiful lots! The property is filled with stately oaks and is the perfect place for you to build your dream home with marsh views and upper level glimpses of the ocean! You can put down deep roots in Fernandina! Enjoy an established neighborhood, without neighborhood association fees or restrictive covenants. People in Fernandina still know their neighbors! 

Front Yard with Stately Moss-Covered Oaks

3. Waterfront Property!

124 Feet of Deepwater Frontage on Egans Creek is just a short stroll from the back door. We have always shared a dock with wonderful neighbors, but if you prefer your own dock, we have secured a permit for you! You can drive your vehicle down to the dock! We spent many hours on the dock fishing, sunning, and boating while growing up, and later fished and boated with our own children. Alligators, manatees, otters, birds and other wildlife are frequent visitors along the creek. While growing up, walking to the dock at night with flashlights was a great adventure with friends and dates. It was romantic sitting on a dock, under the stars, close to nature. Marsh and water sounds blend with nocturnal animal calls. Capture this vision in person as you mosey down to the creek. Imagine a moonlit stroll to your new dock, while beams from the Historic Amelia Lighthouse, just a few lots down, circle overhead. You can wake up every morning to these beautiful marsh views! 
Son had a good day fishing!

4. Boater's Paradise!

You have quick access, by boat, to both the Intracoastal Waterway and the Ocean. Cumberland Island, now a National Seashore, is across the Sound. Many people enjoy paddle boards, kayaks or Jet Skis in the creek. During the late 70's and early 80's, our parents owned the "World's Largest Johnson and Yamaha Outboard Dealership." That gave our family the opportunity for lots of boats at home for picnics, water-skiing, and moonlight cruises. We often "boat caravanned" with other families to Crandall, Rose's Bluff, and Crooked River, for water-skiing and picnicking, or to Jacksonville for dinner. 
My sister, age 12 (front) and me, age 14. 

5. Great Location to Entertain Family and Friends!

My sister and I grew up in Fernandina. She has bought a home and retired there. My family and I return a couple of times a year to visit and enjoy the island with family and friends. For my sister and me, our home was the hub for all manner of school functions, meetings, and slumber parties. My parents hosted holiday gatherings, birthday parties, cookouts, pool parties, club meetings, and countless baby and bridal showers. Our pool was always available for friends to drop by and swim. After my mother became unable to care for the pool, she had it filled in. My sister and I rescued the slide, and moved it to my Georgia home! You can always build a new pool to make precious memories with your family, too!
25 years after pool photo below. 6 People from original photo with our families. 
Slide repainted and in place at our Georgia home ! 

6. Centrally Located!

The property is located off of 18th Street, just blocks from Atlantic Avenue, which is the main road connecting Historic Downtown with the Main Beach. It is close to schools, shopping, dining, the Historic District, and the beach. It’s just a short drive to the South End of the island with the world class Ritz Carlton and Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resorts and Spas. 

7. Family, Faith, and Festivals!

I once brought 13 friends home from college for the "Shrimp Boat Races" weekend. That event is now known as the "Isle of 8 Flags Shrimp Festival" and it draws over 100,000 people! Church is an important part of our family life. Fernandina has a strong and varied Faith Community. Culturally, Amelia Island boasts a Book Festival, Film Festival, Chamber Music Festival, Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance Car Show at the Ritz Carlton, and a host of other special events. There are also active community theater and choral groups.
1974: My College Friends in Town for The Shrimp Boat Races 
(My sister, far left 2nd from front, white shirt.)

8. Outdoor Recreation!

There are thirteen miles of sandy beaches on the Atlantic Ocean. The beach, Amelia River and creeks offer opportunities for boating, swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, windsurfing, jet skiing, fishing, and horseback riding. The island is also perfect for biking, hiking, tennis, golf and LOTS MORE! This is the perfect outdoor playground for families. The weather is enjoyable year round, with average highs in the 70’s. Our view across the marsh takes in the maritime forests of Fort Clinch State Park, which features a Civil War era fort and a ½ mile long fishing pier. 
Daughter with a small fish! This photo is looking South down Egans Creek toward Atlantic Avenue. 

9. Proximity to Jacksonville!

You’re 45 minutes from the Jacksonville airport, which makes it easy to travel for business or pleasure. With excellent interstate access, you are within an hour’s drive of Jacksonville’s many attractions, including The River Walk, shopping, dining, museums, professional sports, the Jacksonville Zoo, and many historical sites. There are a number of excellent private schools, as well as public and private colleges for higher education. Medical treatment options include the renowned Mayo Clinic and a division of the University of Florida’s Shands Teaching Hospital.
View of High Ground from Dock.. Lighthouse visible over trees far left. 


There is something for everyone! This one-of-a-kind property, with water frontage, sweeping marsh views, and your own driveway access directly to the creek can be all you've dreamed of and more! Great for families or as a retirement sanctuary. Our family shared life here for over 45 years. We're looking for someone who will enjoy this property as much as we have. Come see for yourself. This is THE PERFECT PLACE for YOUR FAMILY to make lifetime memories! 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sharing Some Photos

Sharing Some Photos

I'm parking a few photos I took in Rabun County, Georgia, and one from a friends wedding, on this post! I like adding verses and quotes to share with friends.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Favorite Southern Holiday Cakes

Mamie's Burnt Sugar Caramel Cake, personalized by Kaye Howard and Jane Edmunds
As we approach the holiday season, I want to share my two ABSOLUTE FAVORITE SOUTHERN CAKES with you: Burnt Sugar Caramel and Chocolate Fudge. You can't go wrong with either one. If you serve both, your guests will be in Dessert Heaven!


The recipe for ''Mamie's Burnt Sugar Caramel Icing" is from my college friend, Jane Edmund's, maternal grandmother, Mamie. (Bonus Tip: The caramel icing, embellished with pecans, makes amazing pralines!) I have been enjoying this cake, and Jane's pralines, for over 40 years, and I always look forward to opportunities for Jane to make her caramel cake!

Recently, Jane, and her sister Kaye Howard baked and embellished 9 caramel cakes, at the special request of their friend, Bride and Chef, Julia Colgrove. The cakes served as Wedding Cakes for Julia's destination wedding in the Northeast Georgia Mountains. As you can see, the cakes looked FABULOUS. They tasted even better!

To keep it simple, Jane usually uses Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Cake Mix for her cakes, then she makes the icing from scratch. She uses two boxes of mix to make three 9-inch layers. (You will have extra batter.) The recipe below will ice three 9-inch layers.

(I apologize for the weird recipe spacing and word divisions. I tried to fix them, but was unsuccessful!)


3 1/2 cups Dixie Crystals sugar
3/4 cup water
2 sticks butter, less 1 T.
1 scant cup heavy cream

In a deep pot, brown 1/2 cup sugar over medium to high heat, stirring constantly. 
(It will look like melted Kraft Caramels™)
Add water in several additions, because it will explode on you. 
Boil and cook it down till until it is syrupy and reduced to less than half. It will appear less transparent.  
Add other ingredients. Boil until there is a boil you can't stir down, then boil 1 minute.  
Cool.  Beat until creamy.
To make the grapes, acorns, and leaves, Kaye rolled out Kraft Caramels™ with a little corn starch. (Cheaper caramels did not work.) She hand-shaped and embellished the acorns and grapes and used cookie cutters to cut out the leaves. Half the cakes were decorated with grapes and grape leaves, the other half with acorns and oak leaves. The Bride's and Groom's Cake featured both grapes and acorns.
Wedding Cakes
Details of Caramel Oak Leaves and Acorns
I am not sure where my mother got the recipe for "Bonnie Butter Cake with Mama's Chocolate Fudge Icing"  but it has been our family's "go-to favorite" for over 60 years! This cake is served for family birthdays, holidays, special occasions, and for Jesus' Birthday Cake at Christmas. Upon first taste of this fudge icing, Southern friends often nostalgically recall similar fudge cakes from their pasts.
The sides of this one got a little too sugary, and not so smooth! Still tasted good
The icing hardens and becomes sugary like old fashioned firm fudge--not creamy fudge. 
⅔ cup of soft butter
1 ¾ cups of sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla
3 cups of sifted SOFTASILK or other cake flour
2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 ¼ cups of milk
Heat oven to 350 degrees. 
Grease well, and flour, 3-8x1½" cake pans, or 2-9x 1½" square pan. 
Beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla for 5 minutes at high speed on mixer or by hand till fluffy. 
Sift flour, baking powder and salt. Add in 4 additions alternately with milk. Start and end with dry ingredients.
Blend on low speed just until smooth. Bake layers 30-35 minutes. 
*Use with Mama’s Fudge Icing.
2- 1 oz. squares of unsweetened baking chocolate (some brands have downsized their squares)
½ cup of milk
2 cups of sugar
½ cup of butter (1 stick)
Melt butter and chocolate; stir in sugar and milk. (Use a 3-4 quart pot, preferably with heavy bottom)
Heat until sugar melts and let it boil without stirring to "soft ball" on a candy thermometer, 5-6 minutes. 
Remove from heat. 
Add 1/2 t. vanilla. 
Stir until icing is cool enough to put on cake without it running off. (Be careful! It hardens fast!)
TIP: If you make 1 ½ recipes, you will have a little more icing with which to cover your cake. 
*Traditionally served with Bonnie Butter Cake. 
These cakes take lots of practice. Don't plan to serve these cakes to company the first time you make them unless you have a really good sense of humor! It may end up looking pretty funny--but looks aren't everything! The icing can set up and harden very quickly. Sometimes you may be able to re-melt it a little over low heat.
Jane does not use a candy thermometer for the caramel. I use a candy thermometer for the fudge. It's critical that the fudge gets to the "soft ball" stage.
You need to frost between the layers just before it starts to harden so you will have time to get the icing on the top and sides before it gets too sugary. Not all batches turn out the same, due to distractions, humidity, or simply from unknown reasons! Even though some efforts are prettier than others, they ALL taste good! Keep trying. You'll be glad you did!

Please let me know in the comments if you try the cakes! 

Thursday, January 2, 2014



On January first, I started toward my goal of Reading through the Bible again, in a Year! If you've never read all the way through the Bible, now is a good time to start! With the Daily Walk Bible, every 7 days, you  have a day to catch up on readings you may have missed. I've previously led Bible Study discussion groups as we read through the Bible together, and have gathered supplemental information I will share.

Even if you get behind, I want to encourage you to keep reading! If you're trying to read all the way through the Bible in a year, you can "start over" any day, and keep reading till you're back where you started! Eventually, you'll read the complete Bible whether you start in Genesis or John, if you just keep reading! Or, you can note the days you missed, and make them up. It is ok if you miss days, whether due to circumstances, or simply forgetting! You may either catch up when you can, start your "year clock" over, or skip to where you need to be! You don't have to read every single word of the Bible, or even be "up-to-date" on your readings, to reap the benefits from a group discussion! Just keep reading--whenever you can!

This will not a legalistic group. Comment if you want to, don't comment if you don't want to! You're welcome to read along whether your goal is simply to make a habit of reading your Bible more regularly, you just want to check in occasionally, or you want to finish the Bible in a year!

I find that each time I read through the Bible is a new experience. I learn seemingly "new" things, even though I've read them before, and I have different insights on passages. I love comparing thoughts with others reading the same passages.

Below is a sponsored Amazon Link to the Daily Walk Bible I'm using via Kindle Reader on my iPhone. This year I am using the New Living Translation, but you are welcome to use any version you prefer. I will also post the weekly readings schedule online for those of you who would like to use your own Bibles.

The Daily Walk Bible, New Living Translation, as well as other translations, have an excellent introductory section, as well as daily insights, historical information, and context help.
Looking forward to Our Journey!

*Feel free to join other online readers in this "Read Through The Bible In A Year" sub-group of my online "Vicarious Virtual Book Club", or V.V.B.C.  

We also read the same selections as my "real life" book club. You   

may read as many, or as few, of the books as you wish. Feel free to 

enjoy the commentary, make comments, and start discussions! No 

commitment required! 

Hope you'll decide to join the fun! Participating in a book club, 

albeit a virtual club, is a great way to read and discuss books that 

you might not otherwise select! Plus, you can wear your pajamas 

to the "meetings," if you want!