.While parts of New England had near record breaking snowfalls and below zero temperatures our part of Florida saw Freeze warnings! Temps in the 20's and low 30's and high winds sweeping across the water meant that despite the bright sunshine, anyone spending time outside over the weekend bundled up. And by anyone, I mean us because Saturday was Minock Day! The Best Day! Woohoo!
We made plans to meet at John's Pass which is roughly half way between us within the confines of the greater Tampa/St Pete's area. Tim and I had never been there before but, as it turns out, Paul and Marsha visited once about twenty years ago. It was a great choice.
John's Pass, at the turn of the 1900's, was a quaint fishing village. It wasn't a "pass" until 1848 when a particularly nasty hurricane created the opening. The first person, that we know of, who sailed through was one John Levique, a pirate no less, and the pass (or passageway) was named after him. To my knowledge there are no pirates in the area anymore but the village has been turned into over one hundred shops and restaurants fronted by an old fashioned boardwalk.
There also docks the local fishing fleet (guaranteeing very fresh seafood if you are that frame of mind come lunch time), and plenty of tour boats of all sorts. Dolphin tours, shell tours, sunset tours and more. Parasailing and jet ski's are another option. There was a reptile "house" offering passersby the unique opportunity to "kiss a gator". We passed, no thank you very much on that one. But we did wander through shops of all sorts. My favourite was the store that had all sorts of spinnies and whirlygigs and flags and other kinds of yard and garden art. They also had unique puzzles, awesome looking kites and well, I could have spent a few more hours just in that shop alone.
Come lunch time, we headed toward the docks and strolled up and down, shivering in the wind admiring the boats and trying to decide where to eat. I wish I could remember the name of our restaurant because it was absolutely the right choice. We had a great view of the water and the boats, good service, a varied menu and good food. We got to peel off a layer or two of outterwear and enjoy a nice meal, terrific company, great conversation and a whole lot of laughs!
Once we were finally ready to move on, we headed across the street to Madeira beach. It was, as beaches are, beautiful and on this day, nearly empty. We strolled up and down the waters edge admiring the view, enjoying the brisk wind and the very refreshing exercise before returning to the village area, cheeks pinked and hair styles thoroughly destroyed. It was Great!
Eventually, at Marsha's suggestion, we moved on to a place less than a mile down the road called, The Candy Kitchen. It was the only thing Marsha remembered from their previous visit two decades before so we knew this was worth a stop. The Candy Kitchen is adorable, very very small inside but jam packed with mostly vintage candies and sodas but also ice cream. And the best part is the bathroom. Yes that's right, you heard me, the bathroom. The Candy Kitchen wisely decided to embrace their vintage candy theme all the way into the restroom. The walls and ceiling are completely covered in vintage candy wrappers and the floor is "tiled" in vintage soda caps! It was awesome!
They had some picnic tables outside where we sat with our Candy Kitchen goodies and chatted and giggled even more until I began shivering inside all of my layers and the sun was starting to head down. Yes I was the pooper who broke up the party. But honestly, I think everybody was starting to feel the even colder temperatures because nobody complained when I said I was turning blue with the chill. Blue is a very good colour on me, but cold is not. Heh.
I only took a few photos and all of them with my phone so the quality is not the usual. But the quality of the time we spent together was, as it always is, top notch! I hope you also had a good weekend, that you stayed warm and safe and that you had even half as good a time as we did!
A few photos:
This week Photo Safari day ended up being a Thursday and my goodness we made up for the past two hikes with few photographs! It was Awesome! Without a second's hesitation I dub this the Lotta Birds Hike because that is mostly what we found. Birds! Lots and Lots and LOTS of birds! So I hope you like pictures of birds coz that's mostly what I have for you today.
Our little feathered friends were everywhere around us. It was hard to know where to begin but we started at the gazebo. We were hiking at Celery Fields in Sarasota a place that has, not only, cleverly crated a place to attract birds but also an enormous variety of them. And with that in mind they have laid out quite a few different birdie environments. Wooded areas, fields, ponds, channels and streams and a very large garden with a gazebo.
In the area surrounding the gazebo are shrubs, trees and flowers of course but also different sorts of bird feeders and bird baths. We saw so many different kinds of birds there! We were tippy-toe quiet as we watched and took photo and the birds didn't seem to care that we were in attendance. It was a great start to the hike:
Celergy fields also boats quite a number of different sorts of bird houses. The most heavily populated that we noticed yesterday was filled with a bird called a Purple Martin which is odd because they are actually kind of blue, not purple. Very Strange. There was also a bat house that rather startlingly has a large wasp nest in it.
The gardens of course were beautiful filled with all sorts of flowers that don't seem to mind the more wintery temperatures we are currently enjoying. But there were also vegetables started and parrots yakyakyaking at us from the trees. Those guys are so loud!
From there we set out to hike the path which is really a large square filled with fields, ponds, streams and trees. So it's just a matter of asking, how do you prefer your birds? Do you want them in the trees? Coz I have birds in trees, shrubs and grasses?
Or would you prefer your birds in the air? For a change I actually caught a few birds flying by. For some reason I find it nearly impossible to "track" birds as they whizz by but this time I did. It doesn't happen very often so hurrah to me! And I will be honest, they aren't great photos of flying birds but they are birds by golly and they are in the air so it counts!
Or perhaps you are the sort of person that likes to have your birds presented in the water. Tha'ts just fine, I have that too:
And then of course, as usual, I will finish up with my favourites, the rando shots. This's and that's that don't really meet any of the previous categories but they certainly appealed to me enough to take the photos, so what the heck, I'll share them with you!
That poor little half frozen bee on the railing I felt so sorry for. I made my hands into a little fence around him to block the wind and we could tell that he was appreciative because he started moving around a little more. He came closer toward me, but not in a aggressive way at all. Just more curious I think. I waited until he was warmed up enough to fly somewhere a little more protected and hopefully, was just fine.
We actually saw 3 different caterpillars but the only photo that came out well was the golden one. That means we aren't far from our "spring". Baby green tomatoes, squash blossoms, caterpillars and bees? Yup a sure sign that spring is on it's way.
This weekend however, we are supposed to have temps below freezing (unusual for us) and it will be grey and windy and wintery feeling in general. Iguanas will be falling out of trees again! (seriously, it happens!) So we will be well bundled. I rummaged around in the utility room and found a bag of gloves and warm scarves. Yay! We are Saved!
Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed the Lotta Birds hike! We sure did :)
Winter has arrived here in Florida. Do you know how we are certain of that fact? It has nothing to do with the calendar. I was wearing shorts last week and all of the windows in the house were open with fans running. It also has nothing to do with the number of tourists in town right now. Well okay it is true that we have more tourists in our "winter" than other seasons BUT we do have tourists year 'round. So the mere existence of tourists in and of itself is not the answer either. It's not even that I was given to understand that yesterday in the town of Brooksville Florida which is roughly two and a half hours north of us, snow flurries were reported. Come on, this is Florida we are talking about. Weird stuff happens here all the time!
The way we know that it's winter here in Florida, right now, is that yesterday Tim closed the windows and used his phone to switch the thermostat, which 'til now has been firmly set to AC, over to heat. Yup that's the real true indicator of winter here. It doesn't happen very often let me tell ya!
When we got up yesterday the thermostat said it was 41 degrees but the weather guys said that the "feels like" was only 36. 36 degrees is brisk. And on tile floors it's downright cold. We slept with the windows open as we always do when it's no longer summer. And we slept pretty well with that chilly air around us snuggied down into our nice warm nest. So throwing back the covers and emerging into that ice cold air was a surprise. Instant Awake! Hah!
My hot shower was especially welcome and I dressed in layers with one of my few leftover Colorado sweaters as the top layer along with long pants, warm socks and closed toed shoes. Even once the house warmed up from the introduction of HEAT I was still uncomfortably cool.
Tim of course was still wearing shorts and a polo shirt but when we did the noonwalk, we did bring along a lightweight sweatjacket, just in case. I was chilly and I know that sounds silly coming from a person who lives in Florida but doggone it, cold is cold! At least I wasn't bundled up like other folks were. Some people's internal thermostats are so well adapted to Florida summers that they just cannot get warm on a cooler day. We see them everywhere here on a non-hot day with their coats and hats, wearing gloves and scarves. I call them the puffy coat people. You know the coats I mean right?
Every time we are out and about on a day that's really nice, which means any day where we turn our air conditioning off and open our windows, we begin to count the puffy coat people. That doesn't necessarily mean that the thermometer is reading in the 30's or 40's. It could be 60 degrees out! That's when the puffy coats start to emerge.
And this is not a judgement, it's merely an observation. If you are cold, you are cold. I'm with you. I hate being cold. So yes I absolutely salute you, puffy coat people. But I'm also going to count you. Especially at the beach. Puffy coats the beach crack me up. I don't know why really. I guess it feels kind of anachronistic? It just seems so wrong .......
But I get it. If you came here on vacation from somewhere cold you were probably anticipating some really warm weather and a lot of beach time. That's why people vacation here. And if it's too chilly for a bathing suit, well, dress accordingly and still for heaven's sakes, get out there and enjoy the beach! It's what I would do. Heck I have done it, come to think of it!! Well I don't actually own a puffy coat, but you get what I mean.
Today it's better. It's not even 9 o'clock yet and already the temp is up to the mid-50's, but it's cloudy and grey, rain is anticipated so I don't think it'll get too warm. At least not today. The rest of the week however, the mercury will gradually crawl back back up into the very comfy zone. Windows will be open and the heat will be off.
At least until this coming Saturday when we the temps are supposed to dive once again into seriously cold levels. And then it will warm up again. That's how it works here. Like a very strange yoyo. Winter isn't really a season, it's a day here and a day there. Not a big deal, just a little reminder nip now and again of what it's like to live in other parts of the country in weather that is not summer.
And honestly, that's also why we didn't get rid of ALL of our sweaters and jackets. And it's soo tempting every August when the AC blasts 24/7 and just stepping outside in as few layers of clothing as is possible without being arrested still doesn't keep you from instantly breaking into a sweat. It's hard to remember, in September when the temperature is still in the 90's and the humidity matches it, that it's not forever. And that one day soon I will be complaining instead that I'm uncomfortably cool, that I will want Lots of layers of long sleeved, fuzzy, cozy clothing instead of cottons and linens that are so thin they are nearly transparent. Hard to recall wearing thick socks and shoes that lace up on purpose while sandals feel too constrictive.
But it happens. And it happens every year like I said, chilly days hop scotching across the calendar, sneaking in between two much warmer days or following a string of gloriously perfect days, just to keep us on our toes. Explains why Joy and I haven't seen very many birds on our hikes lately. They are snuggied down in their nests staying warm. Smart birds! Though you will never see one of them in a puffy coat.
An empty pot. It didn't used to be an empty pot. Nope. There was a flower in it at one time. It was part of the potted garden that I tend in the courtyard in front of our house. This particular potted plant was gifted to me by a friend, which makes it all the sadder. The plant was entrusted to me and I failed it. :(
I received the thing that was in this pot a little more than two years ago and actually not only kept it alive but thriving that entire time. Until now. Which makes it sound as if it keeled over unexpectedly and overnight and that isn't the case at all. I've been messing around with it for the last month trying to help it out as it, quite obviously, wasn't feeling tip top.
The gift was an amaryllis. If you are unfamiliar with them, when they bloom they look like this:
Very Very Pretty! They only bloom once a year and generally you find the bulbs for sale in a kit of sorts around Christmas time. By following the kit directions, you put it in a pot with soil, keep the soil moist, set it in a sunny (but not too sunny) spot and then let it grow. And grow it does! That stalk just gets taller and taller and taller every day necessitating turning the pot a quarter turn every day. The plant seeks the sun y'see and will lean toward those sunbeams, so unless you want your plant to fall over entirely, you do the quarter turn thing to keep it standing upright.
It's a wonderfully bright spot of colour and a spring sort of attitude during a long gloomy winter (in many places - not here) and I'm marginally more familiar with amaryllis than most other plants because my mother used to give me one every year. And every year I would bring it to full glorious bloom and then after all too short a time, the party was over, the blooms were gone and I was left with a bulb that I had no idea what to do with.
I did my research (of course I did) and found that the bulbs could be "wintered" in a cool dark place and then restarted the next year! I followed the instructions to the absolute letter and it never once worked out. Never once! Dang! So basically every Amaryllis my mother gave me was a one year bloomer and then I may as well have tossed it.
Now that we live here, I was thinking, it's an entirely different story! According to the lore I read, these Amaryllis bulbs can carry forward for as many as 75 years! Holy Cats! The first year it bloomed beautifully and was the star of the courtyard garden for a few weeks and then I did what I was supposed to do, I trimmed it back a bit and kept it healthy. This second year it looked good, it looked really good in fact and I was sure that we would get another gorgeous bloom right up until it started to not look so good. Dang.
So I did what I always do, I experimented. Usually it's one of four things: more sun, less sun, more water, less water. Occasionally blooming things require a little boost from fertilizer. I have found that used coffee grounds make a great fertilizer (my hibiscus LOVES that) so occasionally I would sprinkle a teensy bit of that. But this time, no matter what I did, my amaryllis just looked less and less healthy and less and less happy. Awwwwww :(
Then it occurred to me (sometimes I'm a little slow) that perhaps it just needs to be repotted. And I had another much larger pot that was only holding a fern. I could do a switcheroo. I got excited and got ready to move the amaryllis from the smaller pot. BUT I could not get the damned thing out. Usually if you loosen around the edges a bit, turn it upside down and give it a good whack and it thumps out easily. But nope. There was simply no movement at all. And that should have been my first clue. Ratz.
So I started removing the soil, little by little (I didn't want to accidentally damage anything) and eventually the problem was revealed. The poor thing was so root bound that the roots were completely totally and entirely filling the pot. I mean wall to wall! I felt terrible. Poor Amaryllis. It was like Cinderella's Step Sisters trying to squeeze their feet into the little glass slippers! No Wonder it was dying! What a terrible Plant Mom I am!
Eventually, I coaxed the Amaryllis bulb out of the small pot but now the question was, should I put it in the bigger pot? Or what else could I possibly do ? I hmmmmmed about it to myself for a bit and then decided to go for it. I wanted to give my poor little plant as much room as possible to spread it's little roots, so I dug a hole on the other, unpaved, side of the courtyard under the palm tree that the woodpeckers put their nest. It's clearly a friendly tree.
In theory it should work. Or at least, in theory it has a chance of working. I, personally, have not had terrific luck putting plants into the ground and keeping them alive here. I've received numerous plants as gifts since we arrived and every dang one of them has gone belly up. Or it it roots up? Either way, it didn't work.
As it is right now, the Amaryllis was at deaths door anyway. I tried to give it the best chance possible. If it works, it works, if it doesn't, well I tried my best. Every day I check on it and debate, is there a little more green showing? Does it look better? Does it look worse? I guess time will tell.
And in the meantime, I now have an empty pot that needs something in it. I guess I need to find something else. Perhaps something more rugged, something less particular, something less apt to die. Maybe I need to plant fake flowers?
This week, like all weeks, had a Wednesday in it and you know that Wednesdays are usually Photo Safari days! And this past Wednesday was no different! Joy and I (and Bob) hit the dusty trail. Well it wasn't really dusty I suppose, but it was a trail, as clearly evidenced above. You gotta love those gorgeous big pine trees. They smell so dang good!
This most recent Photo Safari being in January and therefore not all that picturesque, will results in only just a few photos so this will be the Brief Report Hike. It was not, however, a short hike. It was exactly 5 miles from start to finish. An awesome walk in a beautiful place on a gorgeous day. In fact it was a downright chilly start to the day at 46 degrees. Yes, Yes I know to those of you who are living in much colder places 46 degrees is practically balmy but to us, here in the sunny land of Hibiscus and Beaches, it was brisk!
However, I will also admit, that before the hike was done, the temps had warmed up into the sixies and we all took our coats off and wore them instead tied around our waits. It's a great look (or perhaps not)
It is a gorgeous preserve regardless of the temperature. Big beautiful mature growth trees, miles and miles (and miles) of trails, the river of course and a big beautiful pond that on this particular hike was so still it looked like a mirror:
I did get a few birds, most of them a little blurry sadly. Some were quite far away and those little birds just move so dang fast! But anyway, here's what I got bird-wise;
Some pretty flowers and things that once were flowers.......... I honestly think they are beautiful at every stage of their lives
And the beautiful forest just on it's own is always photo worthy all on it's own.
Well that's it. The Brief Report is, indeed, Brief. Soon there will be more variation in my photo safari reports, I promise! And in the meantime, it was still a great time, a wonderful hike, a beautiful place and terrific company along the way.
Have a great weekend ya'll!
Joy gave me a surprise gift yesterday and you have three guesses as to what it was. No, not an alligator. Nope, it wasn't an elephant either. Yes! You got it! A quilt! Isn't it gorgeous?
I'm pretty sure that I already mentioned before that Joy makes quilts. And she makes them beautifully. Each one is a work of art and every single one of them is different. She carefully chooses (and sometimes creates) her quilt design specifically for the recipient and with just as much care, selects the fabrics that go into the quilt.
My quilt (above) is made up out of the scrips and scraps of all of the other quilts that she has made over the years. And since I got to help select many of those fabrics, my quilt is sort of like a collection of the memories of those outings! Even the fabrics I didn't actively help choose I saw because Joy has sent me photographs of (I think) every quilt she has ever made so I there is a connection to them all.
I adore the design of this quilt. It's kind of higgle dee piggle dee, much like me. I have always favoured crazyquilts, Don't get me wrong. I greatly admire the specific and careful designs of other quilts, but this one is just kind of wild and crazy and free in it's form and that just suits me right down to my toes.
Let me show you a closer up photo:
Isn't it marvelous? Nothing goes together which, in my world, means that everything goes together. Every time I look at it I see something that I didn't notice before. And can you imagine the labour that goes into making this? While Joy is younger than me, her hands are starting to behave similarly to mine in that arthritis is beginning to rear it's ugly head so her hands hurt. And doing fine work like this, especially when you've been at it for hours, is painful. To say nothing of what being curled over a quilting table and sewing machine for hours on end! It can do a real nasty job to your neck and back! Yikes! You know it's a labour of love when someone works through the pain to create the art for you, right?
And art it is, make no mistake about that! I would be entirely correct if I had this framed and hung it on the wall. People do use quilts as wall hangings. It could be draped over an occasional table or used to cover an unfortunate looking chair. I would work as a blanket for the beach or a picnic. I could even just carefully fold it and leave it on one of the book shelves to be admired (but not touched). But probably I will snuggle under it while reading or watching movies late at night.
Oh I nearly forgot to tell you that this quilt has a secret. As it turns out, there are secret hidden kitties on this quilt. Every time I think I have found them all, I find another one. They look like this. Is this not the most adorable quilting you've ever seen? :
This was the first one I found, obviously the easiest since it's white stitching on blue but the rest are sneakier and trickier and funner. Funner? More Fun.
Oh so yes, that's the other thing she selects with the specific recipient in mind, the quilting pattern. Yeah, we call the entire thing a quilt, but the actual "quilt" part of it is the stitching that holds the top piece and the bottom piece together and that in turn holds the interior batting in place. Or did you already know that? The quilting designs just on their own are incredible. And it just takes the entire thing to another level.
Ok so let's tally this up. I have this beautiful gift which is: a) a quilt b) a piece of art c) beautiful c) functional d) cozy and warm e) colourful f) fun g) a game (not Where's Waldo but where's Catto?) h) a collection of memories i) made by my sister and j) something I will cherish forever.
Whoever it was that said the best gifts are those you create wasn't wrong.
The same storm that left feet of snow and inches of ice in it's wake in a huge part of the east coast of the U.S. was only wind, rain and much cooler temperatures than normal for us. While I worried about friends and family in the snowy/icey places, we kept a close eye to the sky and ear to local weather alerts here. There were tornado reports both north and south of us! Wow!
But of course Tim and I being who we are, we didn't just sit in the house and hunker down waiting to see if trees would fall down or shingles would fly off. Nope, we headed for the beach. Of course we did. Storms by the sea are both exciting and beautiful!
Because where we live is, technically an island (i.e. a body of land surrounded by water) there is a lot of water and a lot of different places to view it. And by that I mean different access points. It's all the same beach and the same ocean.
We started at the jetty because, well, that's where we almost always start. The jetty is at the northest point of the island. There were quite a few other cars and occasionally there were people walking around close to the rocks. Those people were fairly quickly disabused of that choice as soon as a huge wave smacked into them. That water was cold. Little kids didn't care very much, they would just scream and run and giggle and end up drenched. But the adults weren't crazy about it.
It was already high tide when we parked right by the rocks, a front row seat as it were. The few birds that attempted flight appeared to be suspended in the air in front of us. Regardless of how hard they tried, their wings were just not up to the task and eventually they would ride the current to a safer spot to wait out the storm.
Eventually we headed farther south to the beach front park known as Service Club beach which has a boardwalk out to the sand. Without the rocks to smash up against, we saw the curling rolling waves. It's almost hypnotic watching them. I could have stood in place, buffeted by the wind, my hair a wild thing, watching for hours. We were the only fools standing there listening to the crashing waves and witnessing the power of the storm through the gloom.
We could see the pier off to the left and decided that would be our final stop. I am so glad that we went. There were other folks people out there braving the elements at the pier (most of them bundled up in puffy coats, teehee) but that was okay too. It was mighty fine.
We could hear the waves hitting the underside of the pier with a mighty slap and feel the tiny tremble under our feet. There were giant pelicans hunkered down, ignoring the humans as much as possible. And the sun was beginning to break through the clouds a bit to the south leaving silver tips on the water. And there I was essentially hanging over the railing trying to get the best possible shot.
Two young women were giggling while watching my calisthenics as I attempted to keep my footing, get the hair out of my face AND lean over the railing to get my shots while not getting swept out to sea. When I turned back around they offered to take a picture of Tim and I. Neither of us were looking our best (FOR SURE!) but it was such a kindly intended offer that we said yes.
I have to say that Tim was absolutely in his element. I think he might have been a sea captain in a former life. He stood, immoveable and solid on that pier no matter how hard the wind blew with a huge smile on his face. As crazy as the weather was, he was absolutely at peace and loving every minute of it.
So yeah, that's what we do on a stormy day here.
Last Wednesday, Joy and I got back to our weekly hiking...yay! There wasn't much to be seen as far as wildlife or any of the other things we usually take photos of, but it was still a great walk in a beautiful place and there ain't nothin' wrong with that! I am calling this Photo Safari the Motto Hike because this is the place where I finally have a personal motto. Always wanted one. And it's all thanks to Joy.
Because this is January and therefore winter - even for us here in Florida - this is our dry season. The river that runs through this particular preserve which is usually quite deep and in storms floods impressively was, instead, at the lowest level that either Joy or I had ever seen. So naturally we had to explore down there a bit. We clambered over fallen trees and slid a bit down the slope and eventually found ourselves on the sandy shores of the Myakka River. I immediately set in to photographing everything in sight but I noticed that Joy was instead surveying our vicinity.
I stopped snapping long enough to ask her what she was doing. Continuing to carefully scrutinize the area she said, "You always have to know where your alligators are". I stopped dead in my tracks. That one simple sentence really struck a chord with me. She was absolutely correct. You DO always need to know where your alligators are Both Literally and Figuratively. Oh My Gosh! There is my life motto right there! Thanks Jo!!
Well there were no alligators and it was a little chilly (you can see that we are wearing more layers than usual) so we continued. Most of my photos are just of the pretty scenery as we walked by the river:
But once we got to the forested part, well that was just as lovely too:
There were even a few flowers here and there, popping up unexpectedly like a very nice surprise
The closest to "wildlife" photos that I got was one spider, one squirrel and one beehive:
So there you have it, The Motto Hike. A little short on photos but really Big on personal Motto's. Now ask yourself, Do you know where your alligators are?
You gotta admit, that looks really cool. It's a map of all (or at least many) of the neural pathways that exist in our brains. Side view obviously. There are about one hundred million of these neural pathways which make 100 trillion neural connections. Wow! And all of this goes on all of the time every day in our brains. It's impressive and a little overwhelming to consider.
The only reason I know this is because I was curious about the way my crazybrain works. And believe you me, mine is a crazy kind of brain. Tim says that it's a scary place. heehee. So ok, after doing some reading this is apparently what happens in my head.
All of those wild flashing neurons and that are clicking all the time? Evidently, my brain wants to utilize them all. No pathways will go unused is the theme. I guess it's like how I feel about the piano. There are 88 keys and I will, by golly, use all 88 of them. No point in having them if you aren't going to use them. But, and I think we can all agree on this, we do not need to use all of them at the same time! Have you ever heard some body just mash down as many keys on the piano as they possible can at once? Like maybe sit on the keyboard of something? It sounds horrible! Cacophonous!
That is kind of what happens in my grey matter. I've learned to pull it back, somewhat. But, ok, let me try to draw you a picture. If an idea is introduced (intentionally or not) immediately my thoughts go to at least a couple of dozen different places and then there are 42 different side paths off of those and another dozen or so off each of those trails and etc. Then there are the images that pop into my head that go along with each of those and naturally the accompanying music. It gets loud in there.
As a kid, of course, I assumed that everybody's brains worked like that. What a surprise to find out that most people can give all of their attention and focus to just one thing at a time. Dang! That's really cool! And I desired to be able to do that. What I kind of taught myself to do was to shove most of it into a closet (most - not all) when I need to concentrate. It works, after a fashion. The connections to the connections to the connections has actually come in very handy when writing essays, reports and papers throughout my school career. And when making a plan for a project, I am immediately aware of steps A through Z which is helpful.
Along the way I realized that a neat and orderly environment is useful for me. I find it hard to operate in chaos, probably because the inside of my head is so chaotic that I need tidiness somewhere in my life! Which means I am very good at bringing order to a space. I know where everything is in this house. If you needed a pair of scissors for example, first I would ask what you needed them for so that I would know what sort of scissors you required. Then I could direct you to exactly, precisely, step by step where those specific scissors are. A place for everything and everything in it's place. Yup. And Not because I am obsessed with cleanliness for cleanliness sake, but to counterbalance the kookoo-land that is my cerebrum and cerebellum.
My brain makes connections between everything, every place, every person I've ever known, visited or read about. Oranges and asphalt; Phoenix and Persia; Abraham Lincoln and Patti Rynkeiwicz; in my brain they are all connected. Turn left at the 2nd neural pathway parallel to the 467th spark.
I have heard and read so many times the phrase, "I don't know what goes on in that person's head" and every time I kind of laugh to myself because I'm pretty sure nobody knows (until now) what goes on in mine.
Of course to be fair, I don't know what's going on in your brain either! Maybe it works just like mine :)
There have been a lot of great explorers throughout history. Brave, Courageous and sometimes fool hardy folks with a thirst for adventure! Without them, the world would have been very different. If everyone on the planet had been content to remain within their own familiar borders and never step out into the unknown, what a different world this would have been.
Fortunately there were people like Leif Erickson, Lewis and Clark, Vasco DeGama and Amerigo Vespuci who challenged the status quo and thereby changed the world forever. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, Jacques Cousteau explored the world under the seas and Mike Horn has travelled from Pole to Pole. The stories about these intrepid souls have fascinated, inspired and delighted millions and will continue to do so forever.
Tim and I do something we refer to as "going on an explore" now and again. We are well aware that we not in the same league as Dr Livingston or Mr. Stanley. Heck we aren't Josh Gates or Indiana Jones either. But now and again, when we feel a little itchy from complacency, we get in the car with absolutely no destination in mind and set out. When we come to a road where we would normally turn right, instead this time we turn left. If it's a completely unknown area, we take turns deciding which way we should go. All decisions made arbitrarily. Sometimes we select roads simply because of their names which is how we found Sesame Street, Burnt Store Rd and I Dream of Jeanie Lane all here in Florida.
We are never seeking anything in particular, we are just looking. What's around the next corner, over the hill, around the bend? We want to learn new things. The results were sometimes really surprising. For example, when we lived in New England sometimes our explores would have us ending up in entirely different states!! But of course that was back in the days before GPS and Nav systems. If you want to truly have an adventure on a car drive now, you have to make it a point to turn those things off and then see where you end up. And of course see what you see along the way. It really is more about the journey than the destination.
That said, on our explore on this past Sunday, Tim and I ended up, somehow, in Bradenton Florida, a town somewhat north of us at Coquina Beach. We had actually driven past it before but this was the first time we stopped. The beach lays on both sides of the road, one side is more about fishing and launching boats and the other side seems to be geared toward sun bathers and frolicking in the surf. It's not a spectacularly wide beach but it is very very long. Plenty of room there for everyone and whatever beach activity they have in mind.
There were people throwing footballs, kids building sand castles and reading books. Their were boats and the remains of a dilapidated pier dotted with signs warning everyone off that the birds utterly ignored and families laughing and talking over their picnics. The sun was shining, the breeze was soft and cool and there were a surprising number of nice tall trees creating shade for when the temperature gets too high.
Further down the beach there was some sort of event that, according to the sign is a regular thing every Wednesday and Sunday. It involves a Very Long Row of white tents and lots of people. I think is was a market of some sort and a popular one at that.
As destinations go, it was not a bad one at all.
Here are a few photos:
It was a terrific way to spend part of a day and I'm glad we went. We will go on another explore another time and discover something else that we never knew before. And that is always the perfect indicator of a truly great explore.
This was one of my gifts this year from Tim. SQUEEEEE!! Clearly it did not fit in my stocking.
Which does not matter in the slightest because I am so happyhappy about it! And for so many reasons!
First of all because it's a book. You know how I feel about books. It's also a book I have not read before. Then too there is the fact that it is a Big Book, a really big book. Around 900 pages big. I love that in a book. Plus it's written by one of my favourite authors. And it is the 9th book in the Outlander series which, according to the author, will ultimately be 10 book in it's entirety. Of course I have already read the first 8 books in the series so I can't wait to walk with these characters a little further down the road.
Wow, that's a lot of good reasons.
If you are unfamiliar (and how could you possibly be?) with these books let me start with this statement, "This is not a "Chick Flick" kind of book". I keep hearing that and it's absolutely not true. There are as many men as women who love this series. It's history and adventure, a little sci-fi and yes, romance too. So as you can see, a little something for everybody.
The first book was published in 1991 and here it is more than 20 years later and the 9th book was just released. 21 years for 9 books? Well, for one thing, look at the size of the thing! The research alone took a few years! And then there is the writing. This is quality writing, not Danielle Steel level drek. If you want quality you have to be patient. Personally, I want the same high level of quality as the rest of the series.
The first book of the series called, appropriately, "Outlander" and it was also the first book that Diana Gabaldon ever wrote. She felt that the best way to learn to write a book was by actually writing a book. Makes sense to me, Learn By Doing. To her surprise it was an immediate triumph hitting the NYT best sellers list like surprise fireworks out of nowhere and it has never let up. By 2014 more than 25 million copies of the books had been sold and the series had been translated into 34 different languages. Here we are now in 2022 and I have no idea how big the numbers are. It. Is. Impressive.
And then came the TV adaptation. According to the author, a lot of different people over the years had approached her with the idea of turning the books into a movie. Each idea that was presented horrified her more than the last until Ron Moore (of Battlestar Galactica fame) came along in 2012. His idea of not one single film but a mini-series, sounded far more appealing. His experience with successfully Big Epic shows certainly worked in his favour as did offering the author involvement in the project.
There is a lot that goes in to turning a book into a movie or a television series. It takes, literally, years. Especially if you do it right. And clearly it was done correctly because the first episode hit the airwaves in 2015 and was met with excitement, acclaim and applause around the world. And it has not let up since.
The primary actors have been playing their roles for nearly 9 years now and Season Six won't be aired until March of this year. Season Seven has already been ordered and it is my understanding that the writing for it has begun.
So here we are, Outlander-wise. The 9th book hit the bookstores in November of 2021. But the TV series is still only on season 6. You may ask, "Isn't it confusing to be starting book 9 while preparing to watch book 6? Isn't that sort of like reading the last page first? Doesn't it get confusing?" Oddly, no it does not. I can keep them separate in my mind. The only hard part is not revealing future things to folks that haven't read the books when we are discussing the TV show. They might say something along the lines of, "I think THIS is what's going to happen and here's why" and I cannot say a word, not a dang thing. I bite my tongue and try to keep my face neutral, hum and little hum and change the subject. Sometimes it's so hard! But I, for one, refuse to be one of those people who spoil the show for someone else!
I have only just barely started reading this most recent book. Usually I am a very fast reader but with this series I find myself reading far more slowly than usual. It's a book filled with detail for one thing and I don't want to miss anything. Then too, it's so beautifully written that I am admiring as I read. And it's a complicated, many layered story with loads of characters and places and story lines and well, you have to pay attention. This is not a book you can read while doing anything else. It 's not a multi-tasking read. So I have to carve out time specifically for reading with this one. I do not read it while I'm fixing dinner or folding towels or waiting for water to come to a boil. When I read these books, I am dong one thing and one thing only, I am reading.
That's not entirely true. I am reading it, but I am also right there in the story with the characters. So that's two things I guess. Sometimes it's exhausting! It's a heavy book too, especially in hardback! Getting my arm exercise as I read this one.
But it's totally worth it all. It was worth the long wait. It seems like forever between book releases but quality takes time! Same thing happens between the TV season releases. And, once again, it is always ALWAYS worth the wait.
I have no idea if the TV series is going to picked up for the last three books which would of course be three more seasons. As I said, the network already okay'd season 7 which would be book 7. And then too, the actors would have to be willing to play those same characters for three more books worth. I have no crystal ball. It will be whatever it will be. I have no control over any of it. So instead I will just, Very Slowly, read book 9 and in March I will watch Season 6 and I will enjoy every single moment of both.
New Years Eve dinner this year was chili and cornbread. Yum! It's a personal favourite of mine. There is something about that hot and spicy chili and the slightly sweet cornbread that is a perfect combination. I do not make chili very often so even though it is a very simple meal, it has become a real treat. At least it is for me. It could be a wee bit problematic for anyone living in my household who doesn't feel the same way about it however because I don't seem to know how to make a small amount of chili. Nope, it is only produced by the vat.
I guess if you like chili as much as I do, it's not an issue. But if you only feel so so about it, or flat out dislike it, well then you are going to be hungry for awhile because if I make a vat of chili, then we by god eat a vat of chili! Fortunately chili is so very versatile.
No, seriously, it is! I know that when it comes to versatile foods, chicken is probably up at the top of the list. And that is only fair because it's true. There are probably more chicken recipes in existence than any other kinds. But for a one-pot wonder, chili has to be at least in the top five. Any time I make chili, which is never more than once or twice a year, it probably feeds us for a week!
The first night it's just chili in all it's glory, usually with cornbread on the side, maybe shredded cheese on top and if you are very lucky a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of scallions. Yummy in the tummy. The next night's dinner might be chili dogs. A very fun (and easy) meal that harkens back to childhood. Subsequent meals could be baked potato topped with chili (trust me, it is amazing, wonderful and very very filling), chili presenting itself as a "taco" salad with tostitos on the bottom and green salad on the top (I suppose technically that would be chili salad but nobody would know what you are talking about) and eventually it would be finished as chili mac which is probably it's absolute finest presentation. And if after all that there is still chili left, it absolutely can be frozen and used another time.
I'm hungry again just thinking about it. Now I know that there are at least as many ways of making chili as there are fish in the sea. But of course, I prefer mine. And I also know that, strictly speaking, what I make isn't really Chili because real chili doesn't have beans in it. As I am NOT Sheldon Cooper, I don't care about the actual chili definition. I like beans and therefore there are beans in my chili and I'm still calling it chili.
In fact, I usually put a minimum of three different kinds of beans in it! Wow! Protein overload! Usually a pinto bean, a black bean and then one of the kidney beans. But I've been known to use garbanzo beans and/or white beans in it other times just because that's what was in my pantry. I am a fan of beans. Yes yes, of course, it all starts with ground beef that is seasoned and browned in a pan with finely diced onions and garlic. I use lots of different kinds of seasonings too. I don't make my chili super spicy hot because then I wouldn't be able to eat it but anyone at my table is certainly invited to add as much hot sauce to their individual dishes as they like. Still, I do want a lot of flavour. Loads of flavour. Layers of flavour which comes from seasonings. There are a few basic seasonings that absolutely must be in there like, pepper and garlic and chili powder and then I wander through the pantry and the spice cabinet opening things and taking a whiff to decide if it would be a good addition or not. Quite often the answer is a hearty Yes!
I also like vegetables in my chili. You may be outraged at that. I don't care. We like it that way. If you don't want veggies in your chili, then you probably shouldn't put them in your chili. I, however, will continue to put them in mine. I'm not talking about anything totally weird like brussel sprouts here. That would be truly odd. I mean vegetables such as various sorts and colours of peppers and onions and then also corn. Corn is great in chili. Unexpected maybe, but excellent. I have experimented with the addition of other vegetables and while they were fine, they weren't fabulous and there is no point in adding anything that isn't.
I start my chili earlier in the day, at the very latest toward the middle of the afternoon. Chili needs that extra time to simmer, to percolate it's flavours so to speak. It bubbles merrily away on the stove top until dinner and by then we've been smelling it for hours. By the time dinner rolls around we are more than ready to chow down!
Look at that. The last time I made chili was one week ago today and I'm already nostalgic about it. BUT I won't make it again for at least a few months, maybe longer. To be truly appreciated it has to be eaten on a cooler temperature day so it's absolutely not a summer meal and we have more summer or summerish days here than anything else. As with most things, timing is key.
So enough rhapsodizing about Chili :) We have now experienced 2022 for one entire week. How's it looking so far?
Have a good weekend! Hugs all 'round
We had a pretty impressive windstorm here in the week between Christmas and New Years. Mostly it was just very blustery and a little rainy with a few tornado warnings around. We were not even remotely concerned. It was just a good day to stay indoors.
But as it turns out, it was a strong enough wind that one tree lost a limb. I say limb as if it was nothing, a mere twig. But it was so much more than that. This one branch was as big as a good sized tree. Yeah they grow 'em big down here.
The tree in question, in the photo above is very tall. I am terrible with guessing things so I will not even pretend to know how tall this tree is. We will just leave it at "very". And the point where the limb came down was toward the top. You can see the raw wound in this photo. I'll circle it.
I suppose it doesn't look like much at that distance. We will try a close up instead. I really want you to have a grasp of the size of this thing. It helps to tell the story properly.
Poor tree. That looks like it must have hurt!
Anyway, soo the giant branch broke off from the even more giant tree (as I already said) and it was left, caught up in other trees, shrubs, cable and a fence so that while parts of it were touching the ground, it was not resting on the ground. If you follow that?
I will be honest. I'm so foolish that when I first noticed this, out the bathroom window the day after the storm, I thought it was no big deal. I just mentally added it to my list of gotta do's for the day. I believed that I would go out and drag the branch out of where ever it was hung up and haul it up to the spot where I leave other things for the lawn guys to take away. To be fair, the tree is in the far corner of the back of the yard so it was easy to mistake the enormity of the task at hand from that distance. At least until I got closer and saw the that limb itself was nearly as big around as me. Mercy!
Tentatively I grabbed a few likely looking branches and attempted to wiggle it a bit. It did not move one iota. Dang. I wrapped my arms around the larger part of the branch and attempted once more to heave. I got my knees under me, bent a bit and tried....to..... lift....... Nope. Nothin'. Ok clearly this was beyond my ability.
I pointed it out to Tim and he promised that we would address it, together, on New Years Eve day as he had that day off. Excellent we had a plan.
On Thursday, I found a hand saw and began cutting some of the smaller branches off. My thought being that if more branches were gone, we would be able to better see where the tree was hung up and untangle it and then move forward from there. Sounds like a good plan.
Turns out, sawing is hard work. Actually I already knew that as I have sawed many a, Much Smaller, tree down since we moved here already. But there is something almost hypnotic about the rhythm of sawing and once I got into it, it was almost kind of zen. I worked on the tree for about an hour on Thursday, made significant headway and then remembered that we have a Sawzall. Wouldn't that be easier?
Knowing myself as I do, and how prone to accidents as I am, I decided that I should absolutely positively not be the person driving the Sawzall. Nope. That could wait until the next day.
On Friday we began. I continued to cut off branches with the handsaw while Tim tackled the limb itself and the thicker branches. We worked well as a team and got sweaty and dirty together. In short order we were covered in sawdust, leaves, dirt and other things that I do not wish to examine too closely because I really do not want to know what they were. Ick.
It took quite awhile but eventually we got it untangled, cut into bite sized pieces and piled up patiently waiting for the lawn guys to take it away. We felt very much like frontiers people! It was honestly almost fun. It bears mentioning that the beautiful hardwood limbs, that smelled soo good, could probably be carved into something beautiful and/or functional if either of us had that talent. (we seriously don't)
I am reasonably certain that the tree will heal and survive, as will the smaller trees and shrubs below it that got smashed into and required a little surgery themselves. But we did manage to not destroy the fence or the cable, (thought it was a near thing as few times). We got the job done ourselves rather than call someone else to do it for us. And there is absolutely a bit of pride involved in that.
So ends the tale of the giant broken tree limb~
Oh this is me sitting on one of those giant branches with the pile of smaller branches behind me. Job well done!
Ready for the second hike? Hurrah! Let's go!
On Sunday, Tim and I once again headed north. This time to Felt's Audubon Preserve in, I think Bradenton. It was an absolutely lovely place with very few other visitors which always means bonus points for me. It's on the smallish side at a measly 28 acres but they managed to squeeze a lot of variety into that space. There were ponds, open fields, wooded areas, hammock and swampy bits all with the intention of attracting a wide variety of birds. And clearly it worked because even though we visited in the afternoon which is not usually a big bird activity time of day, we still saw a number of different sorts of birds.
One of the coolest things there, and something I'd never seen before, was a bird blind. That is a building, painted green, with only one door but multiple windows all on the back wall. Outside of those windows is an open area surrounded by trees and filled with various sorts of bird feeders (to attract various sorts of birds, y'see) and bird baths and so forth. It was wonderful! I could have spent the entire visit just in that one building.
They had something else I'd never seen before too. A bee hotel. A what?
Apparently there are bees that do not live in hives, do not make honey and are rather solitary. I'm told that these sorts of bees are also less likely to sting. Anyway, this is a place for them to live, lay their eggs and then a place for the baby bees to grow up. Wow! The things I learn!
We wandered the many paths that looped and crossed and saw other a few other birds:
There were quite a number of bird houses as one might expect. Here are just a couple:
There were lovely flowers of course and things that used to be flowers. I always find the flowers:
Other creatures were around too including a lot more turtles than usual once again:
And then of course, the gorgeous preserve itself!
What a wonderful place to spend part of the day. I would definitely like to return to this preserve another time, perhaps earlier in the day and/or a different time of year so see what else there is to see.
Anyway, so that's the tale of our New Year's hikes. Hope you enjoyed. Thanks for coming along ;)
Welcome to a Brand New Year! 2022! Wow! That sounds so Sci-Fi. "Stardate twenty twenty two". A new year and a new hope. I start every new year the same way :)
We also ended the old year the way we always do. Meaning that we stayed home. We were awake at the change over from one year to the next but that was because of the fireworks. And it was super foggy too so I have no idea if the people setting off the fireworks could actually see any of the show? Not my issue anyway.
Tim had a three day weekend and hurrah for that! We spent part of New Year's Eve Day working on a yard project - but that will be a post for another day.
On both Saturday and Sunday, we hiked! One of my most favourite things! Tim found two hikes we've never done (one for each day) and they were both great. Also both were not local so there was the joy of discovery. There is something extra especially fun about hiking in a place you've never been before. Finding out what's over the next rise or around the next corner... I'm like the bear that went over the mountain to see what he could see.
Today I will just tell you about the first hike, on New Years Day. It was at a place in Sarasota called Red Bug Slough. We spent part of the drive up debating how to pronounce "slough". I kept trying to make it rhyme with rough and tough. But I looked it up and in truth it is pronounced "Sloo". So Red Bug Sloo. We saw zero red bugs there by the way. According to my phone, a Slough is a swamp. Hmmm. There was definitely water but it was absolutely not a swamp. Perhaps it was at one time?
Turns out that Red Bug Slough is in a very residential area and is hemmed in completely by roads and houses and yet still is of a decent size with lots of trees, paths and ponds! Loads of ponds! It was so very pretty there.
It was odd that we didn't see a lot of birds but there were a lot of butterflies and dragonflies. I didn't get one single dragonfly but managed to sneak up on a couple of butterflies and a few birds. That must count for something:
Managed to make up for my lack of wildlife with some wildflowers:
The things we saw the most of, however, were turtles! So Many Turtles! Get ready for turtles!
And one tortoise:
It was an absolutely gorgeous day, sunny but not hot with a nice cool breeze and it just seemed to be the perfect way to usher in a brand new year! I have great hope for 2022. So far it feels pretty good :)
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.