Monday, October 19, 2015


Central Florida is jam-packed full of spectacular little and big gems to visit.  The cities and towns in central Florida have much to offer as to how they relate to the overall history and economic well being of the State.
Historic Ferran Park on Lake Eustis
Recently, a close friend came into town and a group of us got together spontaneously and traveled to nearby Eustis, FL, about 25 miles away.  Our destination was in the middle of town, called Peddler's Wagon.  The downtown area of Eustis has been revitalized and this particular store has been in business for 28 years.  Where have I been?  This place is over 7,000 square feet of GORGEOUS! The sign on the outside doesn't do it justice.  Creative Florals....Decorative Accents....Gifts

Revitalized Magnolia Avenue - Eustis, FL
Peddler's Wagon - Magnolia Avenue - Eustis, FL

Floor to ceiling as you walk in. The feeling of utter overwhelming emotion hits us right between our eyeballs.  I didn't want to leave ... ever.  Not to worry...I'll never find my way out of here anyway!

Peddler's Wagon - Eustis, FL

Peddler's Wagon - Eustis, FL

Peddler's Wagon - Eustis, FL

Peddler's Wagon - Eustis, FL
I enjoy places where I can get inspiration for future painting classes (Attitude Adjustment Classes).  There was so much here I couldn't focus on anything.  I was completely dazzled by the colors and themes-everywhere...this place was completely over the top!

Peddler's Wagon - Eustis, FL

Peddler's Wagon - Eustis, FL

Chandelier at Peddler's Wagon - Eustis, FL
In the revitalized downtown area of Eustis the shops are on beautifully landscaped streets lined with tastefully decorated and creative signs on shops in buildings that have weathered the test of time. If buildings have been torn down they were replaced with landscaped parks with benches and beautiful tropical Florida landscaping.

Magnolia Avenue - Eustis, FL

Magnolia Avenue - Eustis, FL

Park - Magnolia and US Highway 19 - Eustis, FL

Several restaurants are within walking distance and we enjoyed one called Magnolia Cafe, known for their delicious menu selection.  We weren't disappointed.  The next time we visit we will probably go to the Mexican restaurant around the corner, also recommended by the owner of Peddler's Wagon.

Magnolia Cafe - Eustis, FL

Magnolia Cafe - Eustis, FL
The Bay Pharmacy, across the street in the original building, is the oldest largest independent pharmacy in Lake County, and had so many cute gifts we could see from the outside window we had to go inside...but it was a pharmacy and that was obvious once you entered.

The city of Eustis, on the east shore of spring fed Lake Eustis (about 7806 acres), was originally incorporated in 1883, Many scenic canals were dug off the lake which is connected to Lake Harris by means of the Dead River, and fishing and boating are as popular today as it has ever been.  Eustis, at one time, was known as the "Orange Capital Of The World".  The incredible Florida Waterman Hospital, was originated by the owner of the famous Waterman fountain pen (Frank Waterman).in the block long Fountain Inn Hotel for 65 years before a new hospital was built on U.S. Highway 441 in Eustis.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


11th Annual Smoke on the Mountain
Official Virginia State Barbecue Championship
Galax, VA 2015

Several months ago we attended an afternoon at the 11th annual 2015 Virginia State Barbecue Cookoff  called "Smoke On The Mountain" in Galax, VA,  that was not only amazing but quite delicious.
Only the best ingredients are used in competition!

So many different techniques and plans

Everyone wanted a special place to people-watch!
Barbecue cookoffs are not only serious business but big business, and to see the grilling methods, equipment and creativity was worth the price of "free" admission.   If you wished to sample the barbecue, you could make a donation (customary $5)  and taste the prepared meat and then vote for what you liked.  That would be called "People's Choice".
The Shed Barbeque and Blues Joint
Ocean Springs, MS and Gulfport, MS

The Shed produces lots of creativity and delicious barbecue in their smoker!
Some entries have no sauce, some have a little, some are swimming in it.  Every portion is a variation of smoky, spicy and sweet.  There is actually a Memphis Barbecue Network Whole Hog Competition complete with judges, on-site judging and blind box judging.  Then there is also a Kansas City Barbecue Society with 4 categories - beef brisket, chicken, pork and ribs...another set of rules and judging methods (blind box only and no on-site).  
Bubba Grills
Wilmington, NC

TarBilly's BBQ
Brenton, West VA

Big Butt BBQ
Charlotte, NC

Sweet-N-Sassy BBQ Company
Spotsylvania, VA

Wolf's Revenge BBQ
Richmond, VA

Boars Night Out Championship Grilling Team
Olive Branch, MS

Little Big John's BBQ
Midway, NC

Nervous Wreck BBQ
Galax, VA
I was unaware that to be a judge you must apply to and pay for a class that teaches you the Memphis or Kansas City standards and what to look for (Lots of hog drama everywhere).  

Past winners, like Bubba Grills, The Shed, Victory Lane BBQ display their trophies proudly, like war totems. At the Galax competition the top winners walk away with coveted custom-made fiddles from world-famous Barrs Fiddle Shop, each emblazoned with their categories.
Barrs Fiddle Shop - Galax, VA
 The reserve grand champion from the Kansas City division wins a mandolin and the grand champion gets a custom-made guitar, $1500, and a slot in the American Royale Kansas City competition.  The winner of the Memphis grand champion wins a custom-made banjo, $2000, a slot in the next MBN Memphis in May world championship contest and a slot in the World Food Championship's barbecue competition in Kissimmee, FL.
Trophies at Smoke in the Mountain
2015 Galax, VA

If you didn't win this year, there's always next year.