January 31st, 2017
This cute little guy was waiting for us when we left the house the other morning. Unafraid, he just sat on top of the courtyard wall, watching us. Tim chirruped at him and the squirrel wagged his tail. Curious at the reaction, Tim chirruped again, the squirrel wagged his tail again. They repeated this little song and dance several times so it was clear that there was a definite correlation. Of course I have no idea what either one of them "said" but it was still fascinating to watch. This sort of thing happens on a regular basis.
Tim also returns bird calls. Usually, the birds sing back to him after a pause, as if he was singing in a slightly different dialect or perhaps with an accent a little unfamiliar. Sort of like when a Yankee visits the deep south. It sometimes takes a minute to figure out that when people are saying, "Hah" it actually means "Hi". Regardless, the birds are definitely responding to his whistle. I'm impressed by his ability to talk to critters of all sorts. I've seen him do the same with cats and dogs.
While I am a fan of all sorts of creatures, and most of them seem to like me fine, I'm afraid that I cannot do the same. Oh I can whistle just fine, but I cannot seem to make a bird want to whistle back. I certainly can make a "meow" sound to a cat but they just give me a look that says, "Isn't that cute, pathetic but cute". The closest I ever came to having an animal respond to a sound that I make was when I was a kid practicing my violin. The dogs just howled and howled. Could give a kid a complex! Well and of course, every dog respond to the sound of a can opener, but I'm not sure that counts.
Actually when we were kids, my sister and I had a cat that would sing with us. HIs name was Posh and his favourite song was, "In the Good old Summertime". And his favourite word in that song was, "Summertime". When we sang that song, we would pause just before that word, and he would supply the "summertime". So the song was actually, "In the good old, Mmmmeeeoooowww". Very funny, and unusual, but not really a Dr. Doolittle kind of thing.
Babies respond well to Tim too. They are immediately relaxed and happy, cooing and smiling in his arms. The crankiest, most unhappy baby immediately turns into the sunshine kid once he has hold of it. What a wonderful ability. We once babysat a very unhappy little guy. I, an experienced mom who loves children, could not get him to stop crying. I tried every trick in my arsenal and finally gave up, handing him over to Tim after hours of being deafened, listening to the child howl in frustration that I did not understand what he wanted. Hand off to Tim and immediate silence. I was both relieved and a little jealous.
When we lived in Colorado, before we bought window well covers , we had a plague of fallen bunnies. The basement, being below grade, but still needing natural light means the builder dug out around the windows and placed in these very strong, metal semi-circles around said windows. They are called, window wells. Zooming bunnies hop madly along, apparently with poor directional control, and fall into the window wells unable to get back out. I had to do daily bunny checks. If I tried to rescue the bunnies, they would freak out. If Tim reached for them, they would immediately relax. He was able to gently capture them and put them back outside where, after a moment to realized that they were free, they would careen off into the open space behind us. I believe that he was a Bunny Hero and that bunnies sang Epic Songs about him and told stories of the giant who saved them.
Shortly after we moved here, we were at the jetty one day and saw a fisherman trying to help a pelican who somehow got tangled up in fishingline. The bird was straining to free itself and because it was terrified, it was literally fighting the man who was trying to help him. Without a moment's hesitation, Tim climbed down the rocks, the bird relaxed and together the two men were able to set it free. It's amazing to watch. I do not remotely understand how he does it, but I'm wowed by it all the same.
So there you have it, the tale of the superhero of the animal world. How could I not love a man who is so trusted by children and animals? Put a cape on this guy!
January 30th, 2017
This thing. I am so ambivalent about this thing. It dominates the family room. In fact the furniture is arranged so as to accommodate it. It's quite large. To me anyway. The biggest one that we have ever had in fact. The size and improved quality of the picture on it was a little disconcerting at first. Sort of like having actual people in your family room performing, live, for our entertainment. We've come a long way baby.
The first television that I remember my family having was when we lived in California. I believe I might have been in the first grade. It was small, the picture was grainy and black'n'white and as far as entertainment goes, the pickin's were slim. I don't know what time programming stopped at night, but it did and there was a very annoying, very specific sound that I associate with it. In the morning, there was an American Flag waving and someone (Kate Smith maybe?) singing. We kids had to ask to watch a program, and more often than not, the answer was, "No, go outside and play" and so we did. Kids still did that back then. We played outside. Nothing organized, just a bunch of goofy kids, thinking up things on our own, running amuck in the neighborhood.
I do remember the Mickey Mouse Club theme song, so I assume we were allowed to watch that sometimes. I vividly remember something I was not allowed to watch, "The Twilight Zone". Oh I loved that show. My Dad liked it too, which is how I knew about it. My dad's recliner sat at a slight angle so there was a small gap between the side of the chair and the wall. When I was feeling terribly brave, I would sneak down the hall and sit behind his chair, watching the show in that little gap. My mother was concerned that it would give me nightmares. My only nightmare was that I would get caught watching the show!
We were allowed to watch the Ed Sullivan show. I think it was on Sunday nights. If my dad was home, we would gather as a family to watch that one. Mostly, I recall jugglers and the little mouse puppet, Topo Gigio. Apparently I wasn't too wowed by Ed Sullivan. Otherwise in the evenings, I was either reading or forced into playing some board game.
The very first colour television show that I ever saw was the program, "Bonanza". We were supposed to be on vacation heading to visit my dad's family in Michigan but had car trouble. Long story, aluminum engine, hard highway driving on hot days, engine blew up.....yadayada. So there we were stuck in some town about halfway to our destination. We checked into the nearest cheap hotel. We didn't often stay in hotels, usually we stayed with family or friends along the way so this was kind of a big deal right off the bat. Icing on the cake, colour television! It was early in the colour TV days and was far from perfected. In fact, the screen seemed to be divided into horizontal thirds. The top part of blue, the middle part was an orangey colour and the bottom was green, regardless of what was on the screen. Watching a western like , "Bonanza", with lots of action and long shots, it worked out pretty well, but close ups, not so much. Hoss Cartwright in rainbow face. Still, we were mesmerized.
Enough so that by the time we moved in Texas, (many moves later) my dad bought one. The colour problems were hammered out better by then. The only TV show I really remember from my days in Texas was, "The Monkees" and of course that would appeal to me then. I was a teenaged girl at that time. I'm sure I watched other things, that's just all that comes to mind. The television was in the family room and even back then the furniture was arranged to accommodate it. I do recall that my Nana watched soap operas. She would knit or sew or snap beans while watching. Occasionally I would ask her something about one of the shows and she knew everything about each person. Very complicated story lines, but she knew them all, chapter and verse.
And then I went away to college and didn't see television for 4 years. Seriously. My school did not have one in the common room. A few monied students had small portables in their rooms, but I didn't know any of those people well enough to be invited to watch with them. Didn't matter, because you know what? I did not miss it one bit. I honestly didn't. There was too much other stuff going on. School, work, and school-work, socializing, partying, I was still running back then too. No time for TV. We did occasionally see a movie though. There was a second or third run theatre just down the street from our dorm. With a student ID and 99 cents we could get in on Sunday night for the 9:00 show. Sometimes I had the 99 cents, sometimes not. Sometimes I had a paper due or a test on Mondays, sometimes not. So that was merely an option and how many times can a person watch "Gone with the Wind" anyway?
I do recall being shocked when I finally saw television again after college as to how much the TV "rules" had changed. From the Dick Van Dyke show" to "All in the Family"..wow! Big Change. Norman Lear changed television forever. Maybe because I wasn't already watching the old tube back then so that the change was not incremental, but initially I was vaguely embarrassed while watching. Oh eventually I got used to it. But then, I got married and immediately produced three children, boom, boom, boom. I didn't have time to watch television. Eventually they were old enough to appreciate "Captain Kangaroo" and "Sesame Street". Then a little older and it was" Thundercats" and "G.I. Joe", both theme songs to which I still can sing, verbatim. But they honestly didn't watch a lot of television. They played outside, they had chores, school work and to be fair, I encouraged them to do other things.
And now the kids are long gone, off and living their own lives, and it's just Tim and I and we can watch whatever we wish. In the evenings, it's nice to shut off the brain and turn on the tube and just let it all wash over us. There are roughly a zillion channels and sometimes, still not much to watch. Tim has found some oldies TV channels where "Twilight Zone" is still playing and "Bonanza" too. We watch some of that, sometimes. Occasionally there is a prime time show that we enjoy, but mostly not. I have a stack of books on the table on my side of the sofa, so very often while Tim is watching the millioneth rerun of "Mythbusters", or "NCIS", or an old episode of original "MacGyver", I have my nose buried in a book or maybe I'll play games on my tablet.
Hah! I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. This is a prime example of circular evolution. The technology has improved, I've certainly gotten a lot older, we live in a different place but honestly, otherwise, everything is the same.
It's an uncertain world, my friends. It's nice to know that there are still some things that you can count upon.
January 27th, 2017
Who doesn't love a fountain? This little secret hidden fountain I noticed at the back of a shop on Venice Ave. I was admiring the clothes and followed the unmistakable sound of water. Through an open door I was surprised to see this perfect little hidden garden and was charmed. The delicate tinkling sound of water and watching the droplets dance is such a relaxing little pause in our lives.
There are some famous fountains in the world. For example, even if you haven't seen them in person, you have probably seen photos or a video of the dancing fountains in front of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Or if you are a fan of old movies, I'm sure you are familiar with the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome which was the theme of the film, " Three Coins in the Fountain" (it won the Academy Awain in 1954).
The fountains here in Venice are not quite that famous. But they are charming just the same. One of the first that we noticed before we actually moved here. We were just visiting when we saw the Dolphin Fountain sitting across from the Venice Beach in Graser Park.
The greek-inspired tile lining the water basin and the style of the sculpture itself strikes me as being very Mediterranean which is perfectly in keeping with the original plan for this town. The fountain is agreeably round and circled by benches, perfect for a little rest during a long walk or bike ride.
The second fountain that we stumbled across sits in Centennial Park. Centennial Park is bordered on one side by one of the most important streets in all of Venice Island, which is Venice Avenue. The Park is a busy place as it has the primary parking lot for most Venice Avenue shops and restaurants but it also is an actual park with a lovely gazebo, a six-sided events board and a very nice public restroom. Many outside musical events are held in this park. There was a terrific car show over the summer there. And year round there is a basin-less fountain. It is a rare day that there aren't small children (and sometimes not so small children) frolicking in that water.
I found the next fountain shortly after we moved into the house while walking around the island, determined to learn to navigate our new town. It was quite hot and humid and I had turned myself around so completely that I had no idea which way took me back home. Frustrated, hot and rather annoyed with myself, I paused for a moment, certain that I was hearing water. I followed the sound a very short way and found myself in a tiny but perfect little park with shade trees, fragrant flowers, benches and the prettiest little fountain. I rested a short while at the Ponce De Leon Park fountain before setting out again and of course eventually found my way back home. Because I have moved so much in my life, I long ago realized that the best way to find your way around a new town is to just go ahead and get lost. Works every time.
The MIchael Biehl Park is a beautiful place just before the North Bridge. It sits alongside the Venice Theatre behind stucco walls and quietly awaits visitors. Surprisingly poorly attended, it is spacious, with shaded benches, flowering shrubs, trees, a very large fountain and a beguiling mural. I'm not sure you noticed in the photo, but all along the rim of the water basin are little sculpted bronze starfish. It's those little details that just charm the socks off me. I have no idea why each time I am there, I am there alone. It's fine with my by the way. It's like having my own personal park. But it's also a shame. Something that lovely should be seen and appreciated.
I'm quite certain that as time goes on, I will discover yet more fountains here. Well actually I nearly left out two, didn't I? There are a lot of parks here on Venice Island, each with it's own unique distinctions. Some have playground equipment, some have sports arenas of one sort of another, one is specific to dogs, some have beach access, and a couple have historic signage. A few of them are just lovely, many tree-d, grassy areas, though some have sculptures and as I've noted here, some have beautiful cascading fountains. One thing I have noticed though, way too few of them have this sort of fountain.
But not one single park here on the Island has my very favourite fountain though, thankfully, Venice Avenue does, so I am saved. And if you come to visit, so you are.
Have a terrific weekend, my friends!
January 26th, 2017
I went hiking again at Oscar Scherer State Park. I cannot seem to get enough of that place. This time I went with my sister. I've briefly mentioned before that she is a Ranger at Yellowstone National Park and is, therefore, no stranger to hiking. What I didn't say is that she is also an amazing photographer. Like the kind that wins contests. She has some fancy schmancy photography equipment and this way cool backpack to carry it around in while hiking. It was a terrific opportunity for me to learn how to take better pictures, even with my little phone camera.
She originally asked to do this hike with me because she saw my pitiful little Eagle's Nest photo on the Blog here and wanted to capture that with her far superior camera. So that was our first hike. We were very fortunate. It was a perfect day, sunny but not hot, so great for exercise but also both Mama and Daddy Eagle were attending the nest. She got some fabulous shots with longer range lenses. We also met some another lady photographer who gave us some tips on other great photo-friendly hikes.
My sister is a very patient photographer with terrific instincts. She, somehow, knows a split second before something amazing happens and is right there with her finger on the trigger, so to speak. And she sees things that I don't. At one point, she stopped and was gazing off to the side of the trail. "What?" I asked. She pointed. I looked, mystified. "I don't see what you are seeing." I said. "Dragonfly" she said. I squinted and looked harder then shook my head. She traced the dragonfly path with her finger in the air. I never did see the doggone thing.
Hearing her describe what she sees, how she chooses her targets helped me to see things differently. And line up my shots better. And hopefully, frame them with more thought.
We had a terrific time and we plan to be doing more of this. And I will certainly take advantage of the chance learn more which means, I will get better at this picture taking thing.
I love learning. And I would be a fool to pass up this opportunity to both spend time with my sister and to learn stuff, especially about something I already enjoy doing. See that's the thing in life. If you are doing it right, you never stop learning. As a kid, I remember our Dad asking us at the dinner table each night that he was home, "So what did you learn today?" And woe be unto anyone who didn't have an answer! What do you suppose I will learn today?
Thanks for the lessons, Ranger Joy!
January 25th, 2017
We all have them. Gotta-do lists I mean. There are the everyday ones that you keep subconsciously while your prioritize and re-prioritize your day: "Get started on that report then return those phone calls before the meeting" or "Write your blog, wash the floors, grocery shop and paint the trim in the kitchen". And then there is the other side, the are the wink and a nod lists where you keep saying you are going to get to something in the distant future but the actual likelihood is ranked somewhere between slim and none such as: organize and repack the Christmas decorations or paint the inside of the closets. And every sort of list in between.
If you are like me, you keep a running grocery list. Whenever I realize that there is something we need because either I just used the last of it, I just noticed we were running really low on it or I want to make a specific recipe that requires something we do not usually have on hand. If you are again like me, you also keep an eye out for pertinent corresponding coupons to bring to the store with that list. If you are once more, like me, you then often leave both list and coupons on the kitchen counter in a very tidy pile when you totter off to the store.
There are the lists that are thrust upon us. The ones that well intended doctors surprise us with when we reach a certain age. If this hasn't already happened to you, you will find out. Go in for an ordinary physical either because your insurance company requires it or you are doing the smart good thing by annually just being sure. Regardless of how healthy you look and feel, you will leave with a fistful of prescriptions and orders for other tests. Sometimes these end up on the wink and a smile list pile.
Some incredibly organized people have incredibly organized lists of their finances, their tax stuff, and their important papers. Semi-organized people instead have lists of their various passwords and appointments. Totally unorganized people have all of this in their wink and a smile list pile.
An address book is a list of sorts. It is an alphabetized compliation of the names, addressed, phone numbers and sometimes email address of the people you would send Christmas cards to, if you actually were inclined to send them out. A recipe is another example of a common list. It is! All the ingredients you require and the instructions in when to do it order right there in a neat pile. Handy!
When I'm packing for a trip, I have a mental list of what I need to take. I'm sorry to say that it takes me far longer than necessary and I always overpack. But, I nearly always have exactly what I need, and a little bit more, thanks to that brain packing list. In fact, there is the before we walk out the door list every time we travel too. Lights? AC? Keys? Photo ID? Gas in the car? Cellphones? Cellphone chargers?
Then, just for the sake of whimsy, there is the only rarely known fact of how much I just love lists in general. Perhaps it's the tidiness of them. When I was younger, I had lists of favourite music, lists of favourite movies, lists of favourite books, all of which constantly were changing which means always updating the lists. There was something very satisfying to me back then about just writing it all down. When I was expecting each of my children, I made lists of names and wrote them out, first name, middle name last name. It was equally important to me how they sounded, what the names meant and how they looked on paper. Naturally.
And in fact, I just recalled that I used to own a book called, The Book of Lists: The Original Compendium of Curious Information by David Wallechinsky. I understand that he has written another one, with new information. I loved that book and read it like a novel. Actually I've had several similar type books, lists of things. There is a series of books that I adore, The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. She must also be a lover of lists because she has written her own very detailed lists, The Outlandish Companion, to assist readers in understanding all that needs to be understood about her book series. An author who gets me.
And then there is my favourite kind of list. My just before I fall asleep list. My list of blessings. All the things and all of the people I am grateful to have in my life. I am a very lucky lady because that particular list is so long, I generally fall asleep before I finish it each and every night.
January 24th, 2017
Something that always baffles me is dressing a window. I know they all need a little "something" but I never know what. I stand in the window treatment aisles at any store that has them and stare around myself in a daze. It's not that I don't like any of the choices, it's that I like all of them.
"Oh those shutters kind of say Florida don't they? Ooooo look at the pretty white ones. Those gauzy ones with the print are really cute. What would you think about a sheer?" Poor Tim has to listen to that everytime we go to the store. And there are the options, drapes or curtains? Valance or café curtains? Sheer or no sheer? Don't even get me started on fabric types.
And if you have tricky windows like this bay window, I'm completely stymied. What sort of curtain do you put on a window like this? Well neither of us could figure that out. So we ended up with a window blind instead. One thing I was positive I did not want when it came to window blinds is the old venetian blinds. We still have hanging in our bedroom the ones that came with the house. I have chosen to forever more just leave them down and closed because each time I open them or raise them I end up instead fighting another mighty battle. One of these days I will lose the war and we will lie awake with moonlight in our eyes (to say nothing of streetlights) until they are replaced.
We ended up choosing this sort of window blind because even if it's closed, some soft light comes through. So we once again have privacy, (after seven months....about time!) but on a lazy Sunday morning even with the blinds still closed, it won't feel tomb-like in the kitchen. But one of the other neat-o things about these blinds is that they can be positioned anywhere in the window. So for Tim it was a way cool gadget but for me, endless adjustment according to what we need or want without the duel to the death attitude of venetian blinds.
So far both of us are having fun playing with them.
I'm thinking, maybe we can work out a code for the different positions. It could like signal flags. Maybe up high means, all is well and fully extended top to bottom means go away. Right in the middle means, emergency, need ice cream. I'm not sure what the above photo means. Crazy as always??
Regardless, we have decided that we like these so much, we are putting them in the family room as well. I think both the windows in both rooms will need some sort of curtain or drape on the ends to act as a frame. I don't want to the house to look to "office-y" and a curtain, just a nice column would probably be enough to soften it a bit. We discussed it and Tim has agreed. So now we are back to standing in the aisles with me saying, "What do you think of that one? Ooooo that's pretty? Here is an idea?"
In Colorado, my friend Marsha, my voice of reason, my idea lady, came with me. Thank God, or those window would have been naked for ten years. By coincidence, we lived in that house for ten years. But that was Colorado, this is Florida. Although we tried, we could not force Marsha or her husband Paul into our suitcases to bring with us.
I fear this decision making process will never end. But at least we can now walk around in our underwear in our kitchen if we chose, so that's progress, right?
January 23rd, 2017
Soooo, thanks to my sister and her beau, we were gifted tickets to an RV show yesterday! Understand that we do not have one ourselves, but we have considered it a time or two. And free tickets are free tickets! Of course we went, why ever not?
I'm not certain what we were imaging, but whatever it was, it paled in comparison. This place was big, it was huge, it was enormous! I'm running out of synonyms here. Let me put it this way. We had a map and still got turned around. Every shape, size, configuration and colour of travel trailer that you can imagine was there and ready to be admired. The crowd was equal to the event too. People on foot, people with baby carriages, people with doggie carriages (true!) people in wheel chairs, people in golf carts. Suffice it to say this event was well attended.
I learned a lot of new terms: Class A, Toy Haulers Bus, Stacker Trailers Fifth Wheel, Motor Coach, and Class B and I could even possibly tell you some of the differences between them. They had everything from this adorable little teardrop shaped thing that, according to the sign, could be pulled by a motorcycle to these incredibly tricked out apartments on wheels that had two full bathrooms and a washer/dryer in them. Truly amazing.
Names like Winnebago, Coachman, American Coach and Thor began to roll trippingly off my tongue as we wandered about. I learned to ask questions about generators and storage capacity and tire safety. After awhile, it was almost overwhelming. It was a maze of machinery. No matter in what direction you looked, these massive hunks of metal and fiberglass loomed.
Still there was a festive air about the place. Probably the many concession trailers helped. Beautiful weather contributed to a great day. And the fact that everyone we saw was smiling and obviously having a great time. There was even music. Everything from Barbershop Quartets to Marching Bagpipe bands. There was also, oddly, a miniature Connestoga wagon that appeared to be driven by an armadillo. (?) Well it made me laugh anyway.
Unless you've been completely out of touch, you have probably noticed the trend toward living smaller, not just for empty nesters like Tim and I, but even younger people with families. The idea is to focus more on quality of time together as opposed to quantity of possessions. Anyone who has ever lived in a cramped quarters for any period of time knows how to live smaller and be clever about use of space, whether it's a college dorm, a NYC apartment, a boat or a travel trailer. In a way, I admire that.
Moving here, to a much smaller home, we have already down-sized. And so far, I'm comfortable with where we are, what we have and what we no longer, apparently, need. Not sure how much smaller I'm willing to go. I'd like to say that I absolutely could do it. live even smaller, I mean. But I'm not sure. I was feeling a little claustrophobic in a few of those units. On the other hand, my guess is that if you live in that limited number of square feet you A) get used to it B) learn to be even more clever about use of space and C) spend a great deal of time outside. I don't know this for a fact, it's just conjecture.
My sister and her beau are currently living in their RV in a rather nice little RV park here in Florida. They spend part of the year in Florida and part of their year as Rangers at Yellowstone Park. When they do their Ranger Jobs, they actually do live in their RV. But, as Rangers, they spend a great deal of time outside. Now, normally when they are not "Ranger-ing", they live in a real home. But this year, they are in their RV still. You see, they sold one home before the new one was ready and well, at least they had the RV, right? Part of the beauty of RV life, bring your home with you so that, quite literally, no matter where you go, you are already home. As you can see below, she is very happy with her home away from home which is already home.
I guess the most important thing here is to be happy wherever you are. Home Sweet Home is still Home.
January 20th, 2017
Just a little Zen to get you started early on your weekend.
I have to be up and out early today. So I'm sorry to day, I cannot stay and endlessly rambling on as I do. But I'll be back on Monday to blather at you once again.
Have a wonderful weekend filled with adventure. I look forward to hearing all about it!
Hugs all 'round.
January 19th, 2017
We've had an - interesting - situation here the past few months. Now that the weather is so much nicer, we tend to open the windows more . But in our bedroom, I noticed an certain fragrance that did not belong. Ok let's call it what it was, an almighty stink. Now I have to be honest, My sense of smell of much stronger than most people's, so it's not unusual for me to say, "do you smell that ?" and everyone else to say no. Tim did not smell it. At least at first. So, I tried to not-smell it. Ever try to not-smell something? Doesn't work.
I really only noticed it at night. But to be fair, that really is the only time we are in that room. I tried ignoring it. Now and again, I tried looking for the source, and finding nothing. I must be loosing my mind, I decided, starting with my nose.
Whenever you move to a new place, there so many things to get used to. Not just finding your way around a new house in the dark and where is the best dry cleaner, but new trees, new flowers, new birds. Also new sounds and aha! new smells. As an example, one of the unexpected scents that I had to adjust to here was the scent of ground water. I think that's what it's called. Many people who live here have a well that is specifically dedicated to the sprinkler system for their lawns and gardens. The water in that well is ground water. It's not potable, not drinkable water. And thank goodness, because when these people have their sprinklers on, the smell is fairly potent. (We do not use that system) Maybe it's a neighbor's sprinklers at night?
I allowed myself to believe that for awhile. But the smell just got stronger which means worse. To the point where, I couldn't sleep in the bedroom. Every night I would at some point, give up and move to the family room and snooze there. Well that's ridiculous. I have a perfectly good bedroom and I'm damned well going to sleep there, I decided. So yesterday was the day I was going to get to the bottom of it.
I started by sniffing around the room like a bloodhound. It seemed to be primarily on the wall that the headboard and bedside tables were against. So all of that got moved out then I emptied the closet. I scrubbed the closet first, floors and walls. I put new dryer sheets in the shoes and then put everything back. Nope that wasn't it, the smell is still there.
Next was the floor and walls of the bedroom itelf. Every inch of scrubbed within in inch of it's life. Didn't help. All righty then, curtains came down and were washed. Windows and window ledge scrubbed and polished. I fought a mighty battle with very old venetian blinds along the way. I have battle scars and still, the stench remained. What on earth was it?
Then I considered that perhaps it wasn't in the house but outside. There is a line of shrubs on the other side of that wall that come up to just over the bottom of those windows. Nice thick glossy green ones. Maybe some animal crawled into those bushes and died.
Dang. Ok I'm ready. Armed with plastic bags (for animal disposal) and rubber gloves I crawl around in the shrubbery, peering into and under it for awhile. I'm filthy now but nope. No critter dead or otherwise. I'm mystified. Until, I look a little higher. The window ledge, which is behind the hedge, is covered, inches deep in bird poop. Well this is just craptastic, I thought to myself with disgust.
I flashed back suddenly and remembered that when we were first house hunting down here, both times that we visited this house, the courtyard was filled with pigeons. I even remember telling the realtor that I hoped those birds weren't going to be a problem. He said if we bought the house, he would have someone out to take care of it. A man of his word, after we bought the house, there was not a sign of a bird, no bird droppings in the court yard and not a feather in sight. I guess nobody thought to look at the window ledge. We certainly didn't.
I don't know how long the house was unoccupied before we bought it, but clearly it was long enough for a pidgeon family to use our bedroom window ledge as an outhouse. May I just say, Ewwwww! At least I found it, the stink source mystery has been solved. Now how to get rid of it. This calls for the proper equipment: one, let's call it disposable, flathead screwdriver since afterwards I threw it away, two rolls of papertowels, a lot of windex , even more Odo-ban and a powerwash later, the window ledge was clean.
I was filthy and I was pooped, pun intended, but finally our bedroom was habitable again. I got myself cleaned up and thoroughly changed and put the bedroom back together with a smile on my face. Finally!
I felt like the worlds greatest detective! There is a certain satisfaction here. There was a problem. I found the root of the problem. I successfully resolved the problem. A good day's work done. But woe unto any pigeon stupid enough to show it's feathery little face around here again. Ever!
January 18th, 2017
So what do you say today we talk about fishing? Which is weird of me, because I don't fish. But you see it, or evidence of it, everywhere here. Every time we go down to the jetty, there are people fishing; the pier? fishing a bridge? fishing; riverside? fishing; lake? fishing and don't get me started on the fishing boats.
I have nothing against fishing or fisherpeople, I just do not see the allure. First of all, other than the odd tuna sandwich - and I do mean odd. I will only eat it if I am the one who made it - I don't eat fish. Just don't care for it. But it's also so incredibly boring. They sit or stand for hours on end with a pole, the end of which dangles in the water. Oooooo exciting (not). I'm too itchy of a person to be that still that long. I need to be moving.
And then there is the ick factor. The hooking and unhooking and handling and scaling and gutting and...no thank you very much please. I hate to admit that I am that much of a girly girl but sometimes, this time, I am. Which is strange. I lived on a farm. Not a place for the faint of heart. I had three boys. It's hard to be too dainty when you heart and life are filled to overflowing with those three wonderful, rough and tumble, ick loving boys! But there is something different about a fish.
They always seem a little alien, a little prehistoric to me. Not sure why. Which would make me, what? Ornithoscelidaphobic? or maybe Ichthyophobic? I don't hate them. I'm not afraid of them, I'd just prefer not to hunt, catch or handle them. We all have our likes and dislikes, for whatever the reason. This is one of mine in the dislike column. I think that's fair.
But some people do love it. They stand all day getting sunburned on the land or they go out in boats, bob around getting sunburned out on the water, seeking their briney prey. Then finally it happens, that little tug on the line. They perk up! Yes! There it is! Carefully carefully they turn the reel. The fish, realizing it's caught, fights. It fights for all it's worth. The fisherperson is jazzed now. It's a battle. They play the fish give it a little room and then pull in, over and over. It's never certain who is going to win right up until with a final pull and lift the fish is out of the water and in the person's hands. They unhook the fish, admire their catch and then (and this is the biggest mystery) at least half the time if not more, they throw it back. What? After all that you aren't even going to take it back home to eat it? Well, I suppose that's better than catching it and then just abandoning it which I know some hunters do. But we won't go there.
I think I understand part of it. A lot of people love to eat it. It's healthy, I'm told, and it's on almost every menu in some form in this state. Ok. Being outside in nature, I totally get that. The peace and quiet, nobody bothering you, check. Or the comaraderie of hanging with your friends just enjoying the day together, ok. But involving the fish? Oh well, to each his or her own. I don't have to understand something to accept it as true. And a great number of people love fishing. I accept this as true.
Then of course, there is the original fishermen. Prime example in the slideshow below. Him, I get.
January 17th, 2017
This is my car. Isn't she is a cutie? In case you are wondering, a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland. Yes, she has a few years on her, but mileage is still only in the low 70,000 range. Like I have said before, I don't drive a lot. But when I do, this is my automobile. It's just the right size for me. Not too big, not too small. I'm high up enough to be able to see what the heck I'm doing and more importantly what the heck other people are doing. And since I don't drive often, the miles-per-gallon issue really doesn't apply to me. In fact, most of the usual car maintenance rules don't apply. Oh I still manage to get it to a garage once a year-ish to make sure everything checks out. But usually, everything is A-OK.
So imagine my surprise one day last week when I went out, intending to go to the farm market, jumped in the car and.....nothing. Turned the key and..nothing. Dang! Called Triple A and they were at the house within a half hour, (one of the reasons we still have AAA), and learned that it wasn't the battery but the alternator. Dang again. Called AAA again, they send a tow truck to take the car to the garage.
Anytime a car of mine has to go to the garage, it's a nailbiter. I tend to keep cars long past their expiration dates which often means expensive repairs. I was surprised and pleased to hear back fairly quickly and that the Triple A guys, in this case, were mistaken and it was just the battery. Whew! They replaced the battery. Yay! Not so bad money-wise. But then also learned that the Air Conditioning, which has been sketchy for a while, is now DOA. Damn. I knew that was coming but was hoping to hold out awhile longer. (we asked them to check it out while it was there)
Worse, it's not just a matter of recharging or refilling (which is the Band-Aid I'd been using). They found that the evaporator is as holey as swiss cheee which explains the continual refills. Now usually I'd say, "roll down the windows and drive faster" as opposed to repairing it. But this is Florida people. The humidity here in July and August feels like another circle of hell. By summer, I am going to need that AC up and functional. "So what's the damage?" I ask. They gave me a number that is probably more than the current actual bluebook value of the car.
Gulp! So I have postponed that repair for a bit. Going to do a little research see if I can't find a place with a better pricetag for that little job. Right now, the temperature and humidity are perfectly fine. The weather is spectacular. No need to address this issue, yet. But eventually it's gotta be done. I'll have to bite the bullet.
See that's the thing with cars. There is a point where decisions have to be made that I might not be ready to make. Decisions like, is this car worth putting more money into it? If it's just this once, probably yes. I've had no other problems with the car and with the low mileage, it doesn't act 13 years old. But of course, I have no crystal bal. so I have no real way of knowing if the wheels are going to fall off next. And not having a car payment is pretty sweet to me. I'd like to continue to not have a car payment as long as possible.
So I'm a little bummed. And not only that, but the garage technician changed my radio station! Worse, I don't remember what the dial numbers were so I have to look for it all over again. Like adding insult to injury.
Cars are a necessary evil! Dang!
January 16th, 2017
Well, this happened last week! I had no idea that Venice Island offered this during "the season". How awesome. As soon as I read about this in the newspaper, I had to look into it further. As it turns out, this is the 3rd year of a 3-year experiment of offering the trolley to help alleviate heavy seasonal traffic and limited parking.
As is common in an older, established town, especially one with no place to grow, during "the season" traffic and parking can be an issue. For a lot of people, me included, this is kind of a non-issue. Venice Island is a very walkable town. There are also a lot of bikes here. A LOT of bikes. The other day while we were having breakfast, Tim counted at least 30 bicycles going by! Other people love the option of the golf cart. On island, we are allowed to drive street-legal carts. They are very cool. It may be my next vehicle. But some people don't bike, visitors generally do not bring their own golf cart with them, and let's face it, some folks have a little trouble getting around easily on their own two feet. So if your nearest parking option is farther away than you are comfortable walking, how wonderful of the town to offer this option. At least for now.
I walked over to town hall and picked up a copy of the trolley schedule only to learn that it is about to change. Oh well, when it changes, I'll pick up another one. I also learned that one of the biggest problems with the trolley experiment is the cost. Currently over $60,000 for the 4 months that it runs. Pricey. Especially since the town offers this option for free. A second issue is that people aren't just using the trolley to get from parking lot to destination, some people are riding the trolley for fun. I totally get that. It is fun! And I know this because yesterday, we hoped aboard.
We walked to Venice Beach, the pavilion area right at the end of Venice Avenue, wandered around there a bit and then decided to catch the trolley and see where it goes. Currently, it primarily goes up and down some of the main roads which makes perfect sense, and down to the jetty, which is awesome. The jetty is a very popular place to be. One side is virtually lined with benches to sit and watch the boats come in and go out, sometimes with dolphins frolicking in their wake, seabirds of varying sorts and people watching of course. Yesterday we saw the fisherpeople of course, they are almost always there, kids were climbing around on the rocks, a guy playing with a drone and all of us listening to somebody's music. And the bonus is all the people at the North jetty just across the water from us. We've seen wind-surfers and regular surfers, amazing sunsets, fabulous storms and a star-filled sky out there too.
Unfortunately, the jetty stop is one of the ones that will probably come off the route. But that's ok. We sat on the last bench of the trolley so we could see not only out both sides but all of the people enjoying the trolley ride too, and they were. We loved the fact that it's an open-air ride too. We could smell the ocean and as we drove up Venice Avenue all those yummy restaurant fragrances that make a person hungry even if they just ate. We loved how pretty the town looked as we rode along, not having to worry about negotiating tourist heavy car and people traffic. We loved the kitschiness of the trolley, the convenience of it, the fact that it was red and that one of the stops is about a block from our house!
I hope when all is said and done, the town finds a way to keep the trolley. I will continue to follow the story in our local paper and see what they decide at the end of the season. If we had never had it, it wouldn't matter. But now that we have, I think we would all miss it if it were gone.
Isn't that always the way.
January 13th, 2017
That dark upside-down triangle in the funky Suessian looking tree is an American Bald Eagle's nest. How cool is that? Last Sunday, my feet were wanting to move! I was in the mood to hike. So Tim, tolerant man that he is, took us to Oscar Scherer State Park. It's close by and has over 15 miles of hiking trails. Awesome. The first trail I chose, a little 3-mile jaunt, actually had a portion of it closed off when we were there as a buffer for these nests. This was as close as we could get. But still, Very Cool. I understand why they do it, though it was disappointing to not be able to be closer. The birds deserve their safety and privacy and you know if left to our own behavior, there would be some moron with a slingshot. We actually saw one eagle, soaring high above us, wings spread out catching one wind wave after another. Probably waiting for us to leave to he could go home.
This was our first trip to Oscar Scherer but it won't be our last. It's not a huge park, but it's very nice. There are 10 different hiking trails, places to canoe and kayak and there is a campground too. There is a very cute little Interpretive Exhibit at the visitors center and nice clean bathrooms. They even have Geo-Seeking tours! A small beach with a beware of alligator sign (?) that was a little alarming, a butterfly garden and loads of wildlife viewing are all part and parcel of the goodies that await visitors. The Legacy Trail, runs right through the middle of it. It's a goal of mine to bike to and then through this park on the Legacy Trail. Haven't managed it yet. When I get close, I kind of poop out. The thing about biking is, yes it's only about 12 miles to bike there, but then, I still have to bike back. But, by golly, some day I'll do it.
Naturally, I chose a poor wildlife viewing day to go. Other than that one loan eagle, we saw nothing, not even many other people. It was very cold and windy with grey skies and any self-respecting amadillo or deer was hunkered down someplace relatively warm waiting it out. So I'm sorry we missed that. There are some endangered species, such as scrub jays and gopher tortoises that live there too. We will definitely have to go back. Heck we only did 2 of the trails before we had to go home and warm up with hot cocoa! There are loads of things left for us to do there on other visits.
It was different hiking on level ground, I will say that. I have been more accustomed to hiking in the mountains of Colorado. Hiking in an area where you aren't out of breath and your butt doesn't ache from climbing almost feels like cheating. On the other hand, it felt really good to stretch different muscles from the biking ones that I usually do. And I will just say that is was so very nice to walk in such a pretty place. Just a completely different kind of pretty.
I have no idea what we will be doing this weekend, but I'm sure I'll be writing about next week. Don't worry about today being a Friday the 13th. My sister was born on a Friday the 13th, and she is one of the best things ever to happen to me. It's all good. Go forth and have a great weekend!
January 12th, 2017
Last Saturday, we woke up to 42 degrees. Brisk! The palm trees were shivering. By the time we were showered, dressed and breakfasted that number had moved to 46. It didn't move much after that. It had rained heavily the day and night before and the sky appeared to be promising more but there was a little clear spot at that moment . So in the manner that has become the Humphreys way, we went to the beach.
Actually we went to the jetty first, fully expecting it to be empty of all but die-hard fishermen. We were truly surprised to see a full parking lot. By the time Tim craftily found what we will refer to as a parking spot, we realized it was all surfers! Dozens of men and women in black wetsuits, with bare feet, carrying big boards and heading to the water. Hearty souls, they must have espcially warm blood is all I can say. Between the temperature, the wind and the dampness, it was dang cold!
We watched them for a bit. It's something I know I will never do. I can barely traverse a hallway without banging into a door frame or tripping over a lumpy bit of air. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to do well balancing on a moving board. But I admire those who can. Still watching them, something occurred to me. Why are wet suits black?
At the short distance that we were standing, and yes we are those idiots standing out in the cold and wind on the wet rocks getting pictures, the surfers looked, more than anything like a bunch of frolicking seals. Or in shark-speak, lunch. I've seen Jaws, I've watched shark-week and so I know that swimmers (i.e. surfers before getting back on their boards) are amoung the most frequent victims of shark attacks. I actually did do some reading and if I'm not mistaken, sharks do not have great eyesight. So, observing what we did on Saturday, I think I get it. Yes, they do look startlingly like sealife. Shiny, blurry, black things wiggling around in the water. What do you call a group of seals anyway? A school? A litter? A flock?
Sharks do see colour. That I did check. So why aren't wet suits made in colours? Yellow, Orange, Pink!! Less likely to be mistaken, and easier to find if they wander off and get lost. Just seems an obvious solution to me. Common sense even!
Ah, there is the problem. I believe it was Will Rogers who said, "The trouble with common sense is that it's not all that common". Bites us in the butt, every time. Shark bites this time. Ah well, now I need to quote someone else. Paul Newman as Butch Casidy, "I got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals".
Avoid sharks and have a great day!
January 11th, 2017
Small rant for today, with my apologies. Just the more I think about it, the more annoyed I get. I don't have a picture of it, so here is a picture of my attitude about it. I'm speaking of the kiosks in shopping malls. It seems that there are more and more of them all the time, right down the center of those huge corridors, each one manned by a spider just waiting to pounce on it's unsuspecting prey.
Ok I confess, part of the problem is mine. I have a terrible time saying "no" to people. I know these kiosk pilots are just doing their jobs and they have to make a living too. I get that. The same way I understand that telemarketers are not bad people, they are just trying to make a buck like anyone else. But I don't have to l like it. And it's worse in the mall because it's not anonymously over the phone, it's live and in person.
I don't go to the mall often but recently Tim and I went to one while we were wandering around Tampa, just to see what there was to see. We had lunch nearby and rather than go straight home, decided to walk off lunch. It was a cold and rainy day or we would have walked outside before you remind me that was an option. We wandered for a bit and then Tim excused himself to the restroom. Not knowing that particular mall, I thought it best to remain nearby. It was, unfortunately, a kiosk heavy area. I walked slowly through around window shopping, carefully not making eye contact and got nabbed anyway.
A pretty young girl with a heavy accent drew me over, despite my prostestations to her cart. I didn't want to make too much of a fuss over not wanting to be there, afterall, I was still going to have to wait in that area and I don't want to be THAT person. Since I didn't have the option of just walking away and disappearing from sight, I sighed and decided that the best course of action would be to just smile and nod and then say no thank you.
It was some sort of face cream as it turned out that would make me look 20 again. There is a mighty task, I thought to myself. Good Luck with that!. She applied some sort of cream under the eye and around my smile on one side only so I could "see the difference". She talked the entire time and the part that I could understand was so rediculous. "You are so beautiful" she said, "This is a secret recipe" she wispered. I rolled my eyes inwardly. At last she was done and produced a mirror. "Look" she said proudly, "See how amazing you look". I looked. Well, she didn't lie about that part. There were fewer laugh lines, no question about it. I looked a little lopsided.
"What do you think?" she asked, "I know you love it". I didn't want to hurt her feelings (that's my bad, I guess) "It was an interesting experiment" I nod, "But..." "Let me show you, you won't believe the price" she pulls me over to her register and hands me a box which, I automatically received. She points to the read-out, "See normally it's $600, but for you, today, because I like you so much, today, this is only $150! It's a special price, just for you. Don't tell anyone" She was done.
Seriously, do I look that stupid?
"No thank you" I try to hand the box back to her. Because she is better at this than I, she managed to not take it. We went back and forth a few times. Finally, I set the box on the narrow ledge and started backing away. She narrowed her eyes and looked very angry. Tim had returned by this time so I walked toward him quickly and I heard myself say to her, "Thank you for your time" . What the heck is that matter with me?
For everyones sake, but especially for weenies like me, I am speaking out. I should be allowed to go to the mall without the anxiety of being accosted by kiosk people. There I said it. Anytime I walk through those doors, I see where I need to be, put my head down and charge. I feel like I'm running a gauntlet. It honestly makes me think twice about ever shopping there.
Obviously, I am in the minority because I see mall parking lots filled to capacity all of the time. I guess everyone else learned how to say no without guilt, how to say no and look firmly enough in that decision that the kiosk people believe it, say no sternly enough that the kiosk folk just back off entirely. But should we have to do that at all? I don't know. I'm not a mean person, I'm a nice person. I want to go have a nice guilt-free, no-free, wander through the mall, window shopping and maybe have some lunch. I don't think that's too much to ask, is it?
Not only that, but that magic cream itched like crazy, felt like sand paper and I couldn't wait to wash it off. I will just have to embrace my laugh lines and my life lines and not look like I'm twenty again. Yeah, I can live with that.
January 10th, 2017
If someone were to casually rifle through my photographs, they would see one clear theme. Lines. I seem to be drawn to linear spaces. I am innately tidy, so perhaps that's it. Or maybe it's the desire to find order in chaos. Psychologically, I"m not certain what this deeply seated need is, but I cannot deny it.
Arlene Alda is both writer and photographer. One of her books, which I used to own and cherished, was an alphabet book. (another passion of mine...alphabet books, again linear). She found with her camera, every letter of the alphabet each existing naturally. I don't recall exactly, but for example, the "A" was perhaps the support for a table. The "O" a whorl in a tree. It was a delightful book and I was sorry to see it go but in the clear out before we moved I donated all of my alphabet books to a children's reading program.
The point here is, that you find what you seek. I read everyday in the newspaper such awful things. I am not talking about the factual happening but the opinion pages, the op-ed pieces. Everyone slamming everyone else and the horse they rode in on. I wonder how much of that is seeking the bad. My Nana, a very wise woman, used to say that if you look for the bad, you will find it. There is plenty of it out there, but if you look for the good, you will find that too. It may be a little harder at first, but it's there.
I'm a "look for the good" person most of the time. The glass half full lady. When I meet new people for the first time, the vast majority of the time, I start out intending to like them. If, over time, they prove to be less than stellar individuals, it's disappointing but it doesn't change my approach. Or maybe they are perfectly lovely people, just not someone I have enough in common with. Most people are nice. The only question really is do you "click" or not. That's how people become friends, it's chemistry really. You fit together, or you don't. You cannot hammer that piece of the puzzle into place and declare it a perfect fit, becaue it's not. There are usually loads of very nice people around you that just aren't your cup of tea. Doesn't make them bad people. Just not your people. That's respectful. Declaring them awful people because you don't especially like them, is not respectful.
I get a little testy when someone says to me, "Don't you just hate X". X could be an ethnic group, a religious group, an entire gender or any other collection of people that have something in common. My standard answer is, "I haven't met every single X on the planet. Have you?" And of course they haven't. I do not like being referred to collectively. I can't imagine anyone else would either. We are individuals who share things in common with other people.
I'm a woman, like these people. I'm short like those people. I have blue eyes like that group. I wear glasses like these folks. I have some German ancestors, but also some English. I live in Florida but I was born in Illinois. I'm a writer but I'm also a baker. By the time you group and re-group people they have been shuffled around more times than a deck of cards in Vegas.
So the fact that I like taking pictures of lines is only a teensy part of who I am.
Look for the good, it's there, I promise.
The Reality of Recipes
Doesn't that look yummy? I can only assure you that it was. This is not an original recipe, nor was it out of a cookbook. This recipe was a gift. The things I make, and I cook and bake a lot, mostly do not originate with me. Oh occasionally I have an idea that works out, but my best stuff, the things I tend to make over and again come from elsewhere.
A lot of my recipes are from relatives long since past. And unfortunately I cannot ask them any quesitons about it anymore. So those are trial and error. Back in the olden times, before computers, recipes were written down on paper and any change that I make, I write down on their recipe. Actually back before that, they weren't written down and just repeated so many times that it was memorized. Mine, thankfully, are written down. There is something about seeing the handwriting, that faded blue ink on paper now stained with molasses or butter (I am a messy cook) that gives me a wonderful feeling of connectedness to the person who gave it to me.
I have recipes from my paternal grandmother and great grandmother written in their exquisite pensmanship with their own curious abbreviations. I also have a lot of recipes from my maternal grandmother. Her handwritting was not pretty but the results are amazing. My daugthers-in-law have provided me with some incredible recipes too. An old friend from college has shared with me as well as my best friend, back in Colorado. I cherish these not only because they are terrific recipes, but because they were gifts from people I care about. When I am making their particular brand of concoction, I am thinking of them.
I love old cookbooks. have a very old copy of the "Philadelphia Cook Book" which has wonderful things in it like Charlotte Russe and specific directions for making your own sausage. The book itself is somewhat the worse for wear so I'm reluctant to use it much anyore. The front cover has fallen off and the pages are becoming tattered. But I can't throw it away. I have another very old cookbook. This one is in better shape even though it was published in 1885. "The Farm and Household Cyclopaedia" is a treasure. It's not just a cookbookthough there is a section on "Cooking Recipes". The ingredients are by pound, by quart and often describes the amount of butter you require by comparing it to a particular type of fowl's egg. "Butter the size of a ducks egg". Seriously. It's awesome. And also has a section on keeping bees, making your own fertilizer, building your own home and making your own Bay Rum (which if you do not know is a man's cologne, not something to drink.) In short, this book has every bit of information you might require to survive in rural 1885.
When I first married, I couldn't cook at all. Sad, but true. Thank goodness, one of my wedding presents was a copy of "The Joy of Cooking". I started reading on the first page of the preface and read the entire way through, as if it were a novel. I was panicked, I will confess. It seemed overwhelming and impossible. And for awhile, I threw away more meals that we ate. But eventually, something inside me clicked and I understood the differernce between braising and sautee-ing. "The Joy of Cooking" is a terrific cookbook for a beginning amateur. It's very detailed, it has definitions, and hints. It still wasn't enough. No matter how much information you think you are giving to a non-cooker, you need to give more. Ideally, the teacher should be right there beside you in the kitchen explaining as you go.
Number 3 son and his wife used to have a food blog. He wrote restaurant reviews and she had her recipes. It was a very time consuming project for her because she had photographs for each step of the process. While I appreciate how arduous the task for her, as a loyal fan and cook, I even more appreciated the literal step by step text and photos. It helps immeasurably to look at that photo and then look into your bowl or pan and say "Hmmm that doesn't look right" or " exactly perfect!" or sometimes, "close enough".
At one time Tim gave me a subscription to the Food and Wine cookbooks. The photographs are so beautiful. But when I read the recipes, I was dismayed. By that time, I considered myself a seasoned cook, but it wasn't so much the preparation as the ingredients. Usually it was because it was product that I knew we didn't care for or in a combination that did not sound at all appetizing. Occasionaly though, there was something listed that I had no idea what was. Anytime I have to do a google-search to understand what a particular ingredient is, odds are good I am not going to prepare that recipe. Or maybe the photograph looked appetizing and the ingredients list sounded good, but I couldn't find some of them. When you live in a small town, you can't get too fancyschmancy with your recipes.
I am a simple girl. I don't care much for pretentious food. I have a peasant's palate. I like my food simple, recognizable and yummy. I do not want to have to develope a taste for something. I either like it or I don't. And I do not want to have to buy a special tool or machine to make it either because I'm cheap. Ok I'm frugal. (Tim hates it when I say I'm cheap). I have all the basic cookware and I'm fairly creative when it comes to making do. How often am I going to use a fish poacher?
One of the food channel stars, Alton Brown, of (amoung other things) "Good Eats", advocates for no uni-tasker tools in his kitchen. I'm with you, Alton. My kitchen is not huge, though I am lucky to have a lovely big pantry, but I have no need or desire for any tool, any pot or pan, that does not do double duty.
Tonight I'm roasting a chicken. The weather is a tad cool for Florida and I'm thinking a nice fat roasted birdie is a terrific idea. Since I'm heating up the oven anyway, maybe I will bake some potatoes too. Already I"m thinking ahead to what else I can make with the leftover chicken. I'm considering one night, chicken fajita's and another night, chicken pot pie. See that's how cooks see the world. What's in my pantry dictates what I'm fixing for dinner. It's not what do I need to make a special trip to the store for, but what can I make with what I have. Cooks and bakers are creative and resourceful souls. It's a lot of work and a lot of mess but it's worthwhile because what we make, we prepare with love for the people we love.
What are you having for dinner tonight?
Leaning against the walls in our house, and as you can see, even spread out on the rug, are framed works of art. It is all patiently waiting for us to figure out where best to hang it. Right now, it's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box to go by, but slowly, slowly it's coming together.
Much like the work of art itself, the composition of displaying it is quite important. The colours, the natural light in the room, the height are all equal factors. I do not claim to be an expert by any means. But that's one of the best things about art, it's about how it makes you feel. Which makes us all experts.
As I've stated before, I am no artist. I cannot draw a straight line with a ruler. But I have tremendous appreciation for art. Once upon a time I was a docent in an art museum. It was a thrill be to able to not only walk those halls whenever I wished, but to speak knowledgeably about those incredible works and to share that information with others. It was canvas heaven.
I've always been a fan, even as a kid. I recall visiting an art museum in, I believe, California and being wowed. Some of the other kiddos were also interested, but more were bored and doing what bored kids do in art museums so we didn't linger. But I remember being surprised by that feeling. And that's what all of the arts are about, really, feeling.
I have favourite artists of course. They same way people have favourite authors, sports starts, actors and musicians. The biggest difference is, all of my most favourite artists are long gone and there will be no new great hit from my fave.
I believe the artist at the top of my chart is Johannes Vermeer. He was a flemish artist who lived in the 1600's. You've no doubt seen some of his work even if you cannot immediately place him. One of his most famous pieces is, " Girl with a Pearl Earring". That canvas is such a big deal that it was made into a movie. Scarlet Johansson starred. It was a good flick. I am drawn to all of his work. It's about the light. He mastered the light; he herded it, roped it and lit up his oils with it. Whenever I have the opportunity to view a Vermeer in person, I am mesmerized. In fact, I seek them out. When we visit the National Gallery in DC, that's the first exhibit I visit, every time.
My second favourite is one of the impressionists, Camille Pisarro. There are many famous impressionsts, but his work speaks to me. I've read that he was a very wise man, a kind and generous soul and I believe those qualities come through in his work. I was lucky enough to witness this in person, not just in books or online. When some of his works came to Denver in an impressionist show at the Denver Art Museum Tim surprised me with a visit. Once again, I was literally rooms behind the other people in our group as I stood before his work, marvelling, hypnotized and listening to how it made me feel.
What a wonderful and amazing gift to be able to speak to people. Hundreds of years after death, artists are still relating to us, reaching out and touching our hearts and souls, connecting to us with their works. Pretty amazing.
If you haven't been in a long time, maybe it's time again to try. Find an art museum and stroll through it's halls. It won't all be of interest to you probably. Some might be just "okay", but don't give up. Somewhere there is the stuff that reaches out and touches you. It finds a place inside you that you didn't even know existed. The stuff that makes you feel. And that is absolutely worth the time and the price of admission.
And so it continues
As you may have noticed, I didn't blog for the week between Christmas and New Years. Tim kindly took that week off work to help me get a big chunk of the painting done. What a nice man. Sacrificing vacation time to help me. Probably there was a little self preservation in that. The paint fumes alone could curl nose hairs.
Well you all know how I feel about painting. Sort of like intentionally slamming my hand in a door. It feels so good when its over. And now more of it is done. Hurrah! And it looks so good too. The front hall, bedroom hall, kitchen and living room are finished!
Well that's a lie. I still need to paint the trim and I will get to it. Eventually. I got a little sidetracked. There was a small problem with the pantry doors. They were special ordered during the kitchen reno. . Tim found them online. We both loved them. They arrived and at the right time, our awesome builder-guy installed them and they looked almost exactly perfect. The colour wasn't quite right. "Oh", build-guy says, "that because they need to be painted" "I see," I said, although I didn't see at all. The door to the utility room came already painted, why wouldn't the pantry doors? "No big deal" said I, " I have to paint the kitchen anyway, I'll paint the pantry doors too" . Thus assured, and probably relieved that it wasn't something else on his list, builder-guy went on to his next job.
Once he was gone I rolled up my proverbial sleeves and got to work. Carefully, I taped off all the glass and surrounding walls, bought a narrow brush and began the pain in the butt job of painting the pantry doors. There is frosted glass in the center of each door so it's actually more glass than wood. Well I believed it to be wood. As it turns out, not so much. But of course, I did not know that at the time. The paint was not going on very smoothly. I stopped and thoroughly stirred the paint again and again. Odd. Maybe it will smooth out with the second coat. The next day, painting again, nope, still not looking as smooth as I'd like. Dang. I bought a different kind of brush and by the (@#$%$%^) third coat, it looked darned good. Taa freakin' dah, it was done. It looked beautiful, almost enameled it was so perfect.
Right up until someone actually opened the doors. The slightest touch, scratch or rub and the paint started to come back off. ARGH! Turns out, it was the wrong kind of paint and the surround was "not wood'. Not certain what it is but I'm positive of what it's not. So my distraction from painting the trim in both halls, kitchen and living room was removing the paint from the pantry doors. A lot of it just peeled away in huge strips. I made a little scratch with my finger nail, tucked the edges of my finger underneath the scratch area, lifted that section and peeled. There was a certain degree of satisfacation involved, I won't lie. Unfortunately not all of it came up so easily. It took the better part of an afternoon, a kitchen scrubbie and all of my fingers nails but it's finally removed. At some point in the future, I will find the correct sort of paint and try again. I'm in no rush. The doors work painted or not.
So now I've moved on to preparing the family room for paint. There are 13 windows in the family room. Some of them quite large. All of them had drapes when we bought the house. One of the first things I did when we moved in, even before we had furniture, was to take the drapes down. They were filthy. I mean, disgusting. It appeared that they had never been cleaned. When I say dirty, I mean, not just the visible dirt, but there were bug carcases inside EWWWW! But I left the hardware to be removed at a later time. That later time was yesterday. Carefully, I moved furniture to the middle of the room, hauled in my ladder and a flathead screwdriver. First error. Upon closer examination, I also needed a philips screwdriver. Ok. Upon even closer examination, a second smaller flathead screwdriver was needed because there were three, yes three different types/sizes of screws involved. Naturally.
It was a long and frustrating project. Some previous owner painted over the screws so removing them was not a quick and easy thing to do. But after several hours, much cussing and several breaks to walk away and calm down, the hardware was removed. Or was it? Nope, Once I got up on the ladder I realized that there was an older set of brackets underneath. (sigh) Ok once more through the room and all the hardware was down. Then of course it's time to fill those holes! Spackle R Us! When I finished the spackle I was ready to throw in my trowel. I walked away, washed my hands and started dinner. I didn't even push the furniture back into place. I just left everything right there.
I'll press on today. At the very least I will get it sanded and cleaned up, furniture back where it belongs. We will see if any painters tape goes up today or not.
I'm sure, that when it's all done, it will look great and I will consider my battle scars more as badges of honour received in the home improvement wars. I have a deadline. We are expecting company in the not too distant future. Our first houseguests! Exciting! All of the rooms will look pretty darned good.
My bet says that the pantry doors will remain unpainted though.
All Things Ringling
If I say the word, Ringling, what do you think of ? Most likely, the circus. Well, part of my crazybrain immediately said, "Ringadingding", but we will disregard that. Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, right? The greatest show on earth!
You maybe didn't know that John Ringling, that's his winter home pictured here, is in Sarasota Florida a mere half hour from us. We visited it on New Year's Eve day. The gorgeous waterfront compound is not just their regency home, but also an art museum, a circus museum, a rose garden, magnificent park-like grounds and more. We were there all afternoon and did not have time to see it all.
It's the history of it all that fascinates me, of course. John Ringling was the fifth of seven sons. His family were farmers back in 1866 when John was born. The brothers were all very close and in 1870 the family circus started It was then called "The Ringling Brothers United Monster Shows, Great Double Circus, Royal European Menagerie Museum, Caravan and Congress of Trained Animals" (whew long name). By 1882 they had shortened the name to, "The Ringling Brosther Classic and Comic Concert Company". By 1889, it was large enough to travel by railroad.
In 1905, John married his beloved, Mabel and the brothers bought the Barnum and Bailey circus. Although John was a younger brother, he had a big personality and a whole lotta smarts. He became the front man very quickly. By 1907 they were known as the circus kings. The circus king established winter quarters in Sarasota Florida after 1919 and that's whenthe idea for this amazing house came into being.
Now as I said before John was a smart guy. He invested their circus profits in real estate, ranching, oil, railroads, art, and also invested heavily and successfully in the stock market. They had money to burn. In this era, the truly amazingly wealthy, the Kardashian wealthy, people believed strongly in conspicuous wealth. Private railroad cars, fancy cars, huge yachts and of course elaborate over the top homes. It wasn't just the Ringlings of course. People made money in oil, coal, gold, railroads and more. The gilded age homes of Newport Rhode Island had a similar high society that, for "the season" saw grand balls and other entertainment for the right people during the summer at the homes of the Vanderbilts and the Astors and other toney folks with whom the Ringlings dearly wished to rub elbows.
The Ringlings money, as society viewed it, circus money, was somehow tainted. The circus wasn't seen as being quite good enough and John Ringling was determined to change his status with the "right" people. So when he and Mabel set out to build this summer home, they hired architect, Dwight James Baum and took him on a trip to Venice Italy. They wanted their new residence to reflect the things that impressed them on their many trips to Italy.
While far too elaborate for my taste, I have to admit that the home is incredible. I did loved the stained glass, but the gold leaf on the door and window trims, the crown molding and a dozen other places is a little much. Still, the ceiling murals and marble floors cannot be denied. The amazing water views and chandeliers still delight. John Ringling was a man of vision and he made sure his new home had all of the latest gadgets and gizmos. They had seven devoted servants to take care of them and their guests. The Ringlings named their 30 room mansion, with the yacht moored out back, Ca d'Zan or House of John.
It took two years to build this summer home and cost them $1.5 million dollars. (More than $20 million in today's money) but at the time, John Ringling was one of the wealthiest men in the world. Upon completion in 1926, John and Mabel moved in and began rounds of lavish entertaining for their many friends, their families and of course, business associates. Finally, they had achieved their goal. They were accepted into "society".
Sadly, in June of 1929, Mabel Ringling passed away which marked the beginning of the end of a golden era. In October of 1929, John lost big in the stock market crash as did so many of his peers. He managed to hold onto his home, the museum and his beloved art collection but his health was failing and he died in December of 1936.
Ca d'Zan and the art museum was willed to the people of Florida. The people of Florida have been excellent caretakers of this property and have not only kept all things beautiful but have even continued to add to the collections and maintain the gardens in spite of the millions of visitors that pass through it's gates every year.
As I said originally, we only saw a small portion of what the Ringlings left for us to see when were visited this past weekend and plan to return. Hopefully soon. Hopefully often.
If you've never had the opportunity, I recommend it. It's an incredible glimpse into another time and really, another world.
I confess. I like pretty things. Luckily for me, there are pretty things everywhere I look, everywhere I go. And amoung the prettiest of things, are the outside things, trees, grasses, flowers. I just can't resist them. I am particularly fortunate that Tim enjoys bringing me flowers, but I don't mind buying flowers for myself either. Friends, knowing how much I love them, have given me flowers as well, which endears them to me even more. Flowers cheer a room, brings an ordinary room to another level. It says to me that this room is a special place.
But outside, in nature, that is where growing things are in charge. Have you ever seen an abandoned parking lot that has cracks in the pavement? Often you will find something growing in those cracks. I can't find it now, but once upon a time I took a photograph I was particurly fond of that had a bright yellow flower growing in a crack of sidewalk. Perserverance! Think about it, we stand inside where it's warm and dry and safe and look out at the rain and snow and heat and cold. The plants and trees are out there through it all. They have no place to hide. And still they continue and thrive.
Right now I have a potted amaryllis growing on the window sill of the family room. Every day I turn it one quarter of the way around so that it will grow straight. You see, it leans toward the sun. If I didn't turn it, it would keep leaning until it fell over. That doesn't happen when it grows outside. Out there, where the plant really belongs, it follows the sun all day, it turns itself as the sun moves across the sky. I suppose it's unfair of me to confine a plant to the inside of the house, it's probably an unnatural environment. But I couldn't resist having that beauty inside. The joy of watching it go from a naked bulb to a gorgeous flowering plant was too enticing to pass by. Undoubtedly selfish of me.
I used to enjoy gardening, whether flowers or vegetables, trees or berry bushes, I gloried in that environment, what Tim called Sam outside playing in the dirt. When we moved to Colorado I seemed to have fallen out of that pleasure. It was such a struggle to keep things alive, from digging the holes in the hardened clay, to amending that "soil" to combating the unrelenting heat of the summer and the equally viscious cold of the winter and never ever having enough water. I think I threw in the towel after just a few years and only planted what I knew would grow regardless of it's harsh environment.
Now we live in a growing place again. And I'm surprised that I haven't planted anything. We are lucky that our new home was already very nicely landscaped. Still there are changes that I will make, somewhere along the line. Perhaps I've been so focused on the inside that I haven't given much thought to the outside. I'm not certain what is stopping me. Lately maybe it's memories.
Gardening reminds me of my late Mother. She could grow anything. Plants and flowers that had no business thriving grew with such ferocity for her. I was never that good. She had a special touch with growing things. But I can't help but think of her and smile whenever I see pretty growing things. Over the weekend, we went to the Ringling compound and amoung other things, walked through the rose garden. I had forgotten but that last time I was there, we were visiting my parents here in Florida. We took my Mother to that very rose garden. She could have spent days there. So this weekend, while Tim and I walked amoung the rows of fragrant, beautiful roses in that garden, I could almost feel my Mother walking beside me.
She also loved pretty things.
Happy New Year!
Wishes to Everyone for a Very Happy New Year and all that goes with that thought. Health, Prosperity, Happiness, Purpose....
Wow that's a lot to expect from a brand new year. 2017 is still in its infancy. This is just the second day, and yet here I am, making such demands. I guess it's more hope than anything.
Hope is such a positive thing. There is a quote, "Where there is life, there is hope". Way, way back in the BC dates, the Roman Statesman, Marcus Tullius Cicero said that. And never have we needed to embrace the comfort of it more than now, more than two thousand years later.
We live in very uncertain times, my friends and it's easy to be discouraged, negative or apethetic. And that is when you should cling most to hope. Resist the tendency toward anything remotely cynnical and instead be hopeful.
We saw signs of hope on New Years Eve. Around 11 pm, we could hear fireworks but not see them so we drove around looking for those "flowers in the sky". We started at the jetty. It was a chilly night, the sky was crystal clear and yes, we could see fireworks both north and south of us on the beaches and it was beautiful. But even better, for the first time in a long time, I noticed that could see stars. Millions of stars. The fireworks were forgotten, the smell in the air and the banging all faded to the background as we looked above us. I could easily pick out constellations, Orion, Gemini, Ursa MInor and on and on. Like sequins on black velvet was another world sparkling in the night. It was breathtaking. It was uplifting. I was filled with something beyond awe. I can't even think of a word for it. But I was filled with hope.
Eventually we drove on. All over the island were little pockets of gatherings. The largest by far was Sharkey's on the Pier. It's a restaurant on the South end of the island, sitting on the beach and it's quite good. Very popular. We have enjoyed several meals there. The parking lot was filled beyond capacity, cars were lining the road in both directions. I'm not quite sure how that many people fit in the restaurant but by some magical alchemy, they did. And they continued to arrive. Car after car arrived and dispelled happy people, dressed in their best, excited at the prospect of ringing in the New Year with good food and good music, knowing that if they needed a quiet moment, the ocean waiting, just outside. More positivity and hope.
We drove back home just in time to wish each other a Happy New Year. And that's another thing. I love that people still do that, wishing each other a happy new year. They aren't saying, I'm wishing ME good stuff. They are wishing it to someone else. Sometimes total strangers! Each person, passing along the hope of good things to someone else. I love that.
Hope. Let's keep that going. And by the way, I have great hope that a Happy New Year waits ahead for each and every one of you!
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.