February 23rd, 2017
Very Excited! We are expecting visitors! The Very first to stay in our guest room! These two here...Youngest son and his beautiful wife. The photo is from their wedding, which was what, three years ago?
They live in New York City which, when we lived in Connecticut, meant that we could see them every few months, probably, and definitely around the holidays. Then we moved in Colorado. Not a quick jaunt anymore. But they always got on the various planes and came to visit us in the wild west. We always had so much fun when they came out. We introduced them to the things we learned to love in the mountains. One year they even came in January, brave and foolish souls. And now we have moved again.
They have been to Florida before. But never here. So now we get to show them to the things we are learning to love about our new home. They have a list of things they would like to do, places they would like to go and even things they would like to eat. He researches things.
They are adventurous, open to new experiences and very accepting of different ideas which makes them perfect fun guests (By the way, this is true of all of my kids, but I am speaking at this moment of the two coming out to visit on this trip)
So today, in preparation, I am cleaning, baking and doing whatever I can to make today pass by quickly so that tomorrow will be here!!! Can you tell I am excited? The point here is, that since the kids are visiting starting tomorrow, for a week it's all about them. I won't be inundating anyone with my blogthoughts and blogphotos . So enjoy your vacation from me while I'm enjoying our vacation with them.
Hope you have a wonderful week. I'll be here, writing once again, in March. Next week, I'll be hanging out with these guys:
February 22nd, 2017
"Gotta be flexible, learn to roll with it." I am reminded of this all the time. Today for instance. The originial 'Plan', and I use the term loosely, was to go hiking with my sister. While she is still in Florida, we try to hike once each week and we try to find a different trail, if not a different park, each time. This was the day we intended to go. Looking forward to it. Did some research looking for new hikes. Most importantly, had my hiking clothes all picked out. And then, woke up today to the above sights. Rain. Checked the weather report. Rain all day. Crap.
Now, me? Generally speaking, I love a rainy day. I love to bake most of the day away and then spend the balance of it curled up with a book, listening to the sound of the rain on the roof, maybe with a cup of soup. It's just a cozy feeling. I wouldn't want to do it every day, or even every week, still waking up to rain doesn't depress me. But today I had a plan, doggone it! And I was really looking forward to spending this time with my sister so, okay, Plan B it is!
Instead, I have declared today, Celebrate Joy's Birthday Early Day!! It's just a few weeks away and this way it's almost like a surprise party. She is totally on board! Today will be all things Joy. We will spend the day doing whatever it is she would like to do (I suspect the mall is in our immediate future), definitely do lunch and who knows what else. It's her birthday, it's her choice.
That's how birthdays should be celebrated. Out of the 365 days that comprise a year, there is only one that is your special day and it should be celebrated. It doesn't matter how many times the earth has moved around the sun in your lifetime, each birthday matters, each one is important and every single solitary one of them should be celebrated.
Now how you celebrate is up to you. Some people like a huge party, the big hangover-inducing blow out! Other people prefer something smaller, more intimate. Or it could be that from year to year, your preference changes. It's a day to rejoice that you have made it through one more year. It's a day to reflect on how far you've come. It's a day to look forward to how far you have yet to travel. Everything that's happened to you in your life so far, all of your experiences, your joys, your sorrows, your successes and your regrets are what, together, have built you; made you who you are. And what you are, is pretty spectacular. Celebrate that!
And when your plans tip sideways; go with Plan B! It's probably the better plan anyway. I can already tell, today is going to be awesome! Bring an umbrella.
February 21st, 2017
We are a house of books. The sanctity of the written word looms large in our mystique. I cannot stress enough how important reading is in our household. Of all the things we had to get rid of when we moved here, books was the most difficult. But honestly, we had literally thousands of them; how many were we going to read again? That was the tough question that I had to ask myself over and over again when sorting through the many shelves. I wept more than a few tears while packing up many boxes of our books.
A lot of them found good homes but some ended up going to GoodWill. Hopefully there they will be found by another reader and enjoyed again before being passed along. In a way, it is another form of recycling, I suppose and I should be pleased that I participated in the regreening of our earth. I apologize to environmentalists everywhere, but I cannot fully commit, however. While I don't mind e-readers while travelling, especially on a plane, I don't care for them the rest of the time. I need a book in my hands. I want to turn actual pages. I know it's politically not favourable to say so, but I prefer a real, actual, book.
And I'm fine with a previously read book. In fact, I kind of like knowing that someone else read it before me. I'm okay with an occasional coffee stain or an underlined passage and I love it when I find a book that comes with it's own bookmark, accidentally left behind by it's previous owner. I wonder what they thought when they read the words and what was it about that particular line that they admired enough to underline it.
My dad was a huge reader. If he wasn't out doing his best to run the world, or at least his corner of it, he was reading. I can still see him, in my mind's eye, in his recliner, kicked back, his little dog on his lap, book in his hands, rapt in concentration, lost for hours at a time. He didn't hear you, if you called his name, at least not the first time and maybe not even the second. He wasn't ignoring the caller, he was just worlds away, lost in the words of a book.
If you know me, you might be aware that I'm not only an avid reader, but also a writer. And as such, I know other writers. We seem to attract one another, like magnets. It's a supportive community for the most part. And because I take that seriously, I try to do my part. When my friend, who I've written with in the past, asked me to read his book and give him feedback, I did so. And I gave a great deal of thought to what he wrote as well as what I was about to write back before sending my ideas on each chapter. Sometimes it's not what you say, but how you say it that matters most. He has been very grateful for my input and instituted most of the changes that I suggested.
One of my new neighbors is a writer. When she told me of the book she wrote, I was heartbroken for her. There is no greater loss than that of your child. But knew that although it would be a difficult book to read, it was also an important book to read. I ordered the book. It arrived around Christmas time and I knew I couldn't read it then. So it sat. And then I was involved with all sorts of apres-Christmas tasks and house projects. And so it sat. But every time I passed by the stack of books waiting for me, that one, in particular, called. Finally, I could postpone reading it no longer. It was a difficult read, but I knew it would be. Incredibly well researched and very well written, it was still very hard to read. I would read as much as I could and step away over and over again. But eventually I completed it. I cannot imagine enduring what she did and then having the presence of mind to be able to write as well as she did without being destroyed. I think perhaps, instead of ruining her, writing the book put her back together again.
Later today, I will go back to Amazon and write a review for her. Partly because I know her a little bit now, I consider her a friend, partly because it was a powerful book and deserves a review, partly because I, too, am a writer and appreciate the effort but mostly because I am a reader.
I know it's an extra step for everyone in a world when nobody ever has enough time to do anything. If you can even carve out the time to read at all, who can you find even more time to take the extra step to write a review? It honestly doesn't matter if it's a book in electronic form or paper, it's the same words. And it's important. If you loved it, tell the author that you did and tell them why you loved it. By the same token, if you didn't like it, tell them that and why. It's equally important to know what, as writers, we are doing wrong, so we can do better, so that we can improve our craft.
Most people's jobs get immediate and direct thoughts on how we are performing. The boss, co-workers, employees, customers, clients and patients have little hesitation in telling a person if they are doing their jobs well or not. The customers of writers are invisible. By and large, we do not meet our readers, so we do not hear what they are thinking about our labors. And by the way, just knowing that the book sold well or not is not sufficient. Have you ever received or purchased a book you didn't read? Or just perused a few pages before realizing that this was not the book for you? Well that book that you didn't read, still sold. Did you ever borrow from a library or a friend, a book that you absolutely loved. That book that multiple people read and enjoyed, only sold once. So honestly, those numbers do not say as much as you might think.
So there is my plea for today. Please consider, when you read a book that truly resonates with you, writing a quick review. It only takes a moment or two and can be done on your computer. Amazon in particular makes it very easy to do. This time, you are the writer, you have the power to make an impression on someone else. Other people will read your words and it will make a difference.
February 20th, 2017
This is still February, right? I'm only checking because, it looks an awful lot like spring outside. This is so strange. Not only are we are a two hour time difference from Colorado, but about four months different in seasons.
I'm not certain when winter even happened. Oh wait, we did have a couple of chilly days, it must have been then. I vaguely recall wearing long pants and a sweater and making soup......
Anyone who has ever moved, and nowadays that is most Americans, knows that there are always adjustments to be made. But this is the biggest adjustment, as an adult, that I've ever made seasonsally and I'm thinking this is going to take a little more time than getting used to a new zipcode.
When I was a small child, we moved from Illinois, where I was born, which is a land of great winters, to southern California, a land of no winter at all. A place of perpetual spring and summer. It was sunny almost all of the time which was awesome for a kid. We could play outside nearly ever day! We lived in La Mesa which is outside of San Diego. I recall it as being cool in the mornings and evenings and perfect during the day. Everyday I wore a sweater on my way to school and every afternoon I returned with said sweater mashed into my lunch box for the return trip, much to the chagrin of my poor mother who had to iron out those mashed sweater wrinkles and begged me to stop doing it. At any rate, we kids adjusted rather quickly. My mother, not so much. She was born and raised on the coast of Maine. She was used to weather and lots of it. Grey, foggy days, sea raging days, drizzle, rain, hail, thunder& lightning screaming across the skies, cold, snow, frost and occasionally, the sun. She did not adjust well to California.
Here, I have been noticing the lawn greening up again. It had gone dormant so I suppose that was the "winter" indicator that was the biggest. But honestly, if we had a functional sprinkler system like lots of people do here, the lawn would have been the same amount of green year 'round. I have noticed some and wondered it if was faux lawn until I got close enough to see, nope, real lawn. Damnit.
Anyone would think that seeing the giant Eagle's Nest on that hike a couple of weeks ago would have tipped me off. Nesting season = equals spring, you idiot. But I honestly didn't make the connection. Knowing next to nothing about eagles, for all I knew, they were some weird, winter nesting bird! Or again, for what passes as winter here. It wasn't until I saw the hibiscus blooming again yesterday that I started putting it all together. Nests, greening grass, flowers blooming...holy cats..it's spring!
So please bear with me. If I refer to a timeframe of the year by the wrong official season, I may be referring to Florida seasons not calendar approved seasons. I have not lost my mind, yet. Do not call those nice fellows with the extra large butterfly nets.
I just checked today's weather and it's supposed to be 80 degrees! 80! Did we skip spring and we just moved into summer? Am I ever going to figure this out? Will we fully adjust to the seasonal calendar here? For the answers to these and others questions, stay tuned to my Blog.
Well, I don't know about you, but I will probably be wearing shorts today. And sandals. I'm sure Tim will be closing windows and turning the air conditioning back on. Still beats shoveling snow. Enjoy whatever weather your day brings to you and whatever season it is that you are experiencing. As for me, since I can't beat 'em, I guess I'll join 'em.
February 17th, 2017
Welcome to Cookie-Land! It's not the kitchen in the hollow of a tree in the forest but lately, I have been doing a lot of baking. I cannot seem to help myself. Cookies, breads, pies, cakes unending. I took some banana bread to a neighborhood gathering last night that went over well. In fact, one person even referred to it as baking magic. That's a nice compliment. So since I seem to be in that frame of mind anyway, this is where that "magic" happens.
Actually the above photo was from when the kitchen was first finished. There is almost nothing in the cabinets or on the counter tops. It looks like nobody lives there! I assure you, we not only live here, I make a big mess here!
For me, baking starts in my head. I get the urge to make something. Step two takes me to the pantry. What do I have to make something with? I usually try to avoid a last minute grocery store run just to satisfy a spontaneous baking urge.
So, scanning the shelves (Not the cleaning supplies box!) I see that I have everything I need to make chocolate chip cookies! Yum! And fortunately that is one of two recipes that I seem to be able to keep permanently stuck in my mind. I never have to look that one up. And if you care to know, the other one is for biscuits. Everything else, I gotta have the recipe right in front of me.
Now once I'm in the pantry, I turn right and there it is, my best baking buddy, my baking station. My what? You see, my mixer is huge. It's big enough to make double batches which is wonderful. But it's also Very Heavy! And lifting and hauling that thing around, while I can do it, is not my favourite thing. Our builder guy, without ever once hearing me complain about how heavy and awkward the mixer is, or even seeing the mixer (everything at the point was still packed away) suggested the solution. And Tim, without me ever having to whine even once about it, bought the coolest thing ever! I present to you, my rolling baking station!
How it works is, the rolling cart with the mixer on top, lives in the pantry. It fits perfectly below those shelves. Then when I want to make something, which is all of the time, I roll it out to the end of the kitchen island and plug the mixer in. I never, EVER, have to lift that beast again! Plus I have all sorts of storage in the cart for baking needs. I lovelovelove this! Brilliant solution.
Anyway, next up, I gather my ingredients. I like to have everything I need already out and handy before I begin. I think I learned this watching cooking shows on television. I don't usually go as far as having everything already premeasured and in a zillion little bowls, but I like having it out on the counter. For several reasons. First, now I am positive that I have everything I need. I hate being halfway through preparing a gingerbread cake only to find that I do not have enough molasses to finish! ARGH! Also, as I use each ingredient, I put it away so if I get interrupted part way through, I know exactly where I am in the recipe.
Like most people, I am a big multi-tasker, so it's not at all unusual for me to be on the phone while I bake, or doing laundry at the same time as I'm making cookies or all three at once! Putting things away as I've used them helps to keep me on track. And believe me, I can use all the help I can get. This is what the kitchen counter looks like just before the cookies are begun.
This is the point at which things start getting messy. Once flour and sugar are involved, it is a guarantee that I'm going to have to clean thoroughly when I'm done. But that's okay. It's part and parcel of the project. I walk in knowing that is going to happen.
If I'm not on the phone while I'm baking, I'm probably singing. I never know what song is going to pop into my head, or series of songs. Sometimes I'll do the entire score of a musical. Other times it's a sonata and that would be more of a humming thing. Maybe it'll be a whistling kind of song. But there will be music involved. The day I made these cookies (it was yesterday so it's easy to remember) it was all Beatles songs. I don't know why. But I started with "Yesterday" and by the time I got to "Yellow Submarine" there was a line of cookie sheets on the counter filled with lovely little balls of chocolate chip cookies ready to be popped into the oven.
This is the point where I have to admit that I do have one very favourite, absolutely essential kitchen baking tool. And I have already used up one down here and I've put in many culinary miles on the second one. It's probably because I do multi-task that I rely so heavily on this. You can tease me all you like but I refuse to bake without it. It is my handy dandy kitchen timer!
Back in Colorado, I used the timer function on the microwave oven. It was plenty loud and simple to use, sufficient to the task. But the timer on the microwave in this kitchen is too quiet. If I'm not standing right next to it, I cannot hear it. The timer on the actual stove is a mystery to me. I have tried repeatedly to figure out how to use it and gave up. If it's that hard to figure out, it's not user-friendly, or at least not Sam -friendly and so, no thank you. I love the oven, but it's timer leaves me cold. So it's back to old school timer-ing. And in fact, this works so much better for me since it's portable. If I need to do something outside for 10 minutes while something bakes, I can take the timer with me! Handy! Sometimes the old ways, really are the best ways.
As a side-note, just because something is the latest, greatest, newest way of doing something, doesn't mean it's the only way, or necessarily the best way! Which also explains why I hand write my grocery lists and keep a paper calendar still instead of figuring out how to do it on my phone or my laptop which "some people" mentioning no names but his initials are Tim Humphreys keep insisting is easier. If it truly was easier for me, I would probably do it the new way. Clearly, for me, the old way is easier for me. So There.
But I digress. Back to the cookies. While they were baking, I was able to fold and put away a bunch of laundry, load the dishwasher, clean up the unholy mess I made of the kitchen and read the newspaper. Nice! And still the result looked like this:
And yeah sure, they look okay. But the last, but absolutely crucial step in cookie making is quality control. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it. I have volunteered myself for this mission. It's a noble sacrifice that I make on behalf of my family and friends. It's a three part process. First the bite. Then the savour. Then the resultant decision. It's pass/fail. No actual grade involved. And you need to know that I am a tough critic.
Whew! Looks like we passed. I will not be feeding this batch to the disposer today. Thanks for coming along for the ride on my cookie adventure today. As you can see, no actual magic involved. Just happy baking.
I wish you a cookie-rific weekend!
February 16th, 2017
So how does a person choose what they are going to take a photograph of? I believe that we have already established that I see heart-shapes everywhere, right? Apparently I also see photo worthy things all around me. It 's one of things about photography that I particularly enjoy. At that moment, it's just about my camera (phone) and whatever strikes my fancy. Identifying the above photos, one is an extreme close up of a lemon wedge in a glass of water, the other of the water in a drainage ditch, obvious seemed to me, that day, like things I should be preserving for posterity. Feel free to disagree.
I guess it's the beauty in the ordinary that appeals to me. Back to that form and function thing I suppose, remember the photo of the fancy doorknob? And there is some beautiful about useful and everyday objects that calls to me. The flags on a boat below are not just acting like maritime jewelry, I don't yet know the language, but I know that each of those flags says something important. Playing volley ball without a net is possible, of course, but harder to stay on your own side. The net is useful but in early morning light, also quite pretty. The last photo below is taken beneath a pier. The structure beneath anything is just as important as the object itself, just rarely noticed. I thought it was quite lovely.
One of the fun parts about playing with my phone camera is the little bit of extra possibility. I can change the colour of the background with the touch of a button, I can cartoonize, I can flip the negative and positive, or give any picture a wee bit of zing. There is absolutely no special talent involved, just a decision on my part. The magic computer does the rest. (That's my late father and my sister in glowing green there by the way)
Quick which one would you rather deal with, the flock of flamingos on the left, or the flock of seabirds in the middle? One of them is real, one isn't...... and that last one is just too "Hitchcockian" to even consider. Kind of creepy.
As I prowl though the photos on my phone I see staircases, windows, bridges and chairs for heaven's sakes. Sometimes I have to stare at it for awhile to figure out why I took the photo in the first place. So whether it's a water tower, an old car, a bicycle or a baitbucket, it is not safe from me. As far as I'm concerned, it's all beautiful and all worthy of capture. And as I said before, feel free to disagree. I'm okay with that.
February 15th, 2017
How did you all celebrate Valentine's Day? Did you go out to dinner somewhere nice? Did you exchange cards? Did you send or receive candy or flowers? That's really nice! Tim and I got married again.
Yup that is exactly what we did. They had this event here in Venice yesterday called, "I Do, Again". 300 or so people, that's at least 150 couples, registered to get married all over again. It was so fun! Like attending a really great party on the beach, only you only actually know one other person.
We signed up for this dealio about a month ago. Never having done this remarrying thing, we had no idea what to expect of course, but it was easy peasy. We walked over to the beach about an hour before the ceremony, as requested and were greeted with gifts, an official photograph (that's it below - I never do well with "official" photos) cupcakes and a rose for the bride. Oh that would be me.
Then we, all 300+ of us, waited for things to get underway. We did what everyone else was doing. We sang along with the DJ'ed music, danced on the sand, people watched, talked to total strangers and took photos both silly and .....
.... Not so silly.
The people watching was great! The dress code was non-existent. There were men in tuxedos and men in bathing suits. There were women in full length evening gowns with tiaras and women in swim wear. Some people wore shorts, some ladies wore dresses (I wore a dress) and a surprising number of women wearing veils which I never thought of as beachy before, but I do now.
The couple married the longest in attendance had logged in more than 60 years. The most newly wed had just over a year to their credit. I think most of us fit in somewhere in the middle. Everyone was happy to be there. I saw no faces that were less than smiling as we all talked and laughed and sang and danced together.
Then just as the sun was beginning to set, the Judge stepped up, we all stood and spoke together:
"On our wedding day, I made a choice.
It was the most important choice of my life.
On that day, I chose you to be my souse.
Many times since then,
I have chosen you again.
The reason is simple: no other person
has ever made me this happy.
No one else brings me such joy.
I want to stay with you for the rest of my life.
Not because I feel obligated to meet your needs
but because you continue to meet mine.
On our wedding day, I made a choice.
I make it still.
I promise to live with you, to trust you and to cherish you.
I will love you when we are apart as well as when we are together.
I will love you in sickness and in health,
in good times and bad.
I pledge myself to be ever faithful to you with my body, my mind and my heart.
We have been together before.
We are together now.
We will be together always."
And considering that we shared our day with a huge groups of people we did not know, surprisingly romantic.
Then the music started up again. People danced and sang some more, took photos and somebody set off fireworks!
But we took just one more photo and then we walked back home. It was a wonderful way to celebrate Valentine's Day.
February 14th, 2017
Happy Valentine's Day!
Here is a weird thing about me. Sort of like that kid in the movie "Sixth Sense", I see things. I see hearts. I don't mean that I see hearts that aren't actually there, I guess what I mean is that I notice them. Everywhere I go. Like the above shape in that was in the sidewalk while I was taking a walk. Clearly a heart.
Well not an actual heart. I am aware that a real heart is not shaped like this. But it's what we have come to accept as a Valentine shaped heart. And honestly, if you have never noticed, that shape is everywhere. It's not that I actively seek them out, they just are obvious to me. I'm not certain what, if anything that means about me, but I'm sure it's not a bad thing.
Remember back to being a kid in school on Valentine's day? In one of the schools I attended, probably 2nd or 3rd grade judging from where I lived at the time, each kiddo brought a shoe box in to school and during art class, we decorated the absolute heck out of those shoe boxes. Red, White, Pink and sometimes purple construction paper, paper doilies, crayons and scissors flew as created out "valentine mailboxes". Remember the struggle to properly draw a heart shape without making it lopsided? Recall trying to free hand cut out a heart shape? I'm not certain why but at least half of the kids required having their tongue's sticking out to achieve this. I even remember the enormous task of buying the valentine's I would be putting in everyone else's 'mailbox'. So many to choose from. The giant cartoon Bumble Bee who said, "Bee Mine" or the Disney characters saying valentine-ish things, hmmm decisions, decisions. Hey, it was a big deal!
Ahhh memories. Maybe that was when I began to notice heart shapes everywhere. Although I have no photographic proof, I do remember seeing them. Probably back then I thought it was something everyone did. Like valentine's day baking! Sweets for the sweet right? Cookies shaped like hearts, cupcakes decorated with red or pink sprinkles, heart shaped cakes cleverly created from one square and one round cake. Almost as amateurly built as those long ago crayoned ones sadly, but just as well intended, so be nice.
You know, I was given to believe that Valentine's Day was created by greeting card companies. Honestly, I've been hearing that my entire life. Never questioned it. Until now. I kind of felt guilty for always seeing those hearts and for looking so forward to the day of hearts most of my life. I mean, after all, it's kind of juvenile to believe in things that aren't real like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, right?
So naturally, I've done some research. Hey, it's who I am, it's what I do. Yes, we all know about St. Valentine. Did you know that there was more than one? Yup. Not much is known about most of them well except to be a saint pretty much means coming to an untimely and painful end. Being a saint is a tough row to hoe. Most of the life of the St. Valentine that the day is named after, is a mystery. It was a long time ago. He died in 270 AD after all. But some of the myths surrounding him state that he was jailed for performing weddings in a time when marriages were banned by Emperor Claudius II. The emperor wanted more soldiers and less husbands fighting for him. Others say that never happened and that St. Valentine was merely jailed for being a Christian. Either way, he was jailed and marked for a painful death. The details are impossible to know with any certainty. But they agree that as his end neared he wrote letters to the people he loved. Thus beginning the tradition of sending Valentine Cards.
The feast of St. Valentine became religious day in 496 in his honour which perhaps began the tradition of creating a special meal for Valentine's Day whether dining out or eating in and to stretch it further could be the link to buying or making sweets to observe the day.
It was Chaucer who penned the first poem that we are aware of that mentions Valentine's Day and that was back in the 14th century. He wrote the poem in celebration of a King's engagement. Very Romantic! By the late 1700's Valentine Cards were being printed in England and in the United States they were mass produced by the mid-1800's.
So there you have it. Everything I've ever heard about the creation of Valentine's Day was wrong. It is not a recent commercially created fake day. It's been around for a long time and, by the way, is observed around the world in one way or another. Of course there are some places that specifically do not observe it. I also learned that in Saudi Arabia in both 2002 and 2008, celebration of Valentine's Day was banned as a Christian holiday and anything red was removed from stores. People who chose to observe anyway in defiance of the law were arrested. So in a negative way, Valentine's Day is a big deal, even there.
For me, every day will continue to be a mini-Valentine's Day as I see the hearts that are all around me. Because while love may not make THE world go around, it certainly helps to make my world a better place. Happy Valentine's Day to everyone!
February 13th, 2017
Yesterday we went to visit another island, Boca Grande. There were some similarities and some differences, as anticipated. First, it's history is quite different. Back in the 1880's or so it was strictly fishermen, their fmailies of course and a lighthouse and lighthouse keeper. Until the phosphate was discovered and then there was mining. A lot of mining! Due to the need for transporation a port was built and a rail line built and that happened around 1905. Realizing the potential in the little island with soft white sandy beaches and great fishing, the town of Boca Grande was built and people began to arrive. Wealthy people. And they built their winter homes here. People with names like Dupont.
It is still a unique place where Audrey Hepburn once had a seasonal home but also still the home to fishermen who live year 'round. Although there are a few big roads that run the length of the island, most of the streets are short and dead end at the water. As in the photo above. And because there are no gas stations, it seems that most residents get around via golf cart. They even have a parallel road which runs alongside the automobile friendly long roads specifically for the carts. Tim learned that anyone can rent one of the carts to get around for an hour, a day, a week or whatever is needed.
The "downtown" area is not very big but is very big on charm. Delightful touches of a time long ago when it was all about the little details, a time of both form and function. Why just have a means of opening a door when you can have an ornate doorknob. A ordinary door or an elaborate, wooden screen door? A street or a crushed shell natural canopy covered road? There were little things like this everywhere we looked.
The home styles ran the gamut from the traditional "Key West Style" to "Old Spanish" and everything in between though even the more modern homes still had a few old world touches that softened the harsh lines. As we walked around town we glanced at the windows of a realty office and noted the price tags on a few of the homes for sale and we laughed and laughed as we continued our way down the street. None of the stores or restaurants looked fancyschmancy, I will give them that. But then, they don't have to. The vibe is intentionally casual. This is, afterall, for most people, a place to unwind, relax, step back from their high pressure, elaborate, upscale lives.
We actually walked into The Gasparilla Inn. It's like stepping back in time. Charm upon delight upon tradition. The Gasparilla Inn has been firmly in place for more than 100 years. They have this Hotel thing down cold. They may have written the book. It reminded me a little of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park Colorado. There was also a tinge of the Castine Inn in old Castine Maine. Old School and Uptown both. Of course you pay for the privilege of staying there but it's worth every penny. In the interpretation of the Gasparilla Inn, it is an honour to welcome their guests and they mean that.
There is golf and fishing, beaches and boating, tennis and adorable little shops, a lighthouse and museum and even a state park. So with golf carts galore and dripping with charm, if you can afford the price of admission, Gasparilla Island's town of Boca Grande is certainly worth a visit. We paid our six bucks to drive over the bridge and spent a few hours wandering around and enjoyed it. Maybe some day we will go back and spend a little more time and a lot more money.
February 10th, 2017
I believe I have may have mentioned before that I am an unrepentant sky watcher. Always have been. As a small child, I vividly remember laying in the grass, starring into the blue above me amused by the shapes the clouds form. Then when I was a little older on a school trip to Mt Palomar to visit the observatory, I was seriously wowed. I think that may have been what started my love of Science Fiction.
In 1969, when I was in high school, Neil Armstrong became the first man to land on the moon. My heart was in my throat watching that enormous rocket lift up into the sky and tears came to my eyes when he took his "giant leap for mankind." In college I took an astronomy course that had us up on the roof of the school seeing up close and personal through a telescope the things that before I had only seen in photographs. It gave me chills. And not just because it was damned cold up on that roof, Connecticut Winters and all.
I know that I recently mentioned that in Colorado the back of our house faced southeast and every morning greeted us with a magnificent sunrise over the ridgeline that I never grew tired of. And now, here in Florida, it's the sunsets. Each one more stunningly beautiful that the last. Yesterday, I biked over to the jetty early in the day and took photographs of "ghost ships" in the fog and then as the sky cleared the crispness of waves crashing against the rocks. Well not to be left out, last night Tim and I both went over to watch the sun go down. That is the photograph here. The peace of watching the sun swallowed by the sea and then the wild colourization of the sky that follows.
Well if that tempts you at all into looking skyward, you have a treat in store for tonight! Tonight is the Snow Moon. The full moon of February is called the snow moon and if you have a clear sky it should be stunning. There is also a Prenumbral Lunar Eclipse on tap for tonight. It's not the huge dramatic one of legend, but it should still be easily seen shortly after moonrise which is expected at 7:43 EST. Keep a sharp eye and stay awake because in the wee hours of Saturday morning, oh say about 3:00 am, a comet will be streaking across the sky. Comet 45P will be in easy Binocular viewing range. It will be the bluegreen head with a tail following in the eastern sky. I'm so excited!!! Don't feel too bad if you miss it. You will get another chance to see it in 5 years.
Perhaps it's the romance of it all. Maybe I'm just a science nerd. I don't know. Don't much care either. I am going to watch it and I'm going to enjoy the heck out of it. And if you happen to be looking skyward tonight, we will be watching the same sky, the same moon and the same comet, together.
February 09th, 2017
Yesterday was a terrific day for a number of reasons. We'll start with the fact that I tried a new recipe that turned out great. Balsamic chicken. I'm sorry I forgot to take a photograph because not only did it taste terrific, it was pretty too. Joy and Bob enjoyed it with us and that was fun. Joy brought cake, chocolate with a raspberry glaze. Oh yeah. That was yummy! Didn't take a photo of that either. Sorry. Too busy eating it, I guess.
Another nice surprise, we received a gift card to Overstock! Wow! Tim handed it to me and said, "Have Fun!". Oh, I will! The possibilities are just endless. The hard part will be choosing. There is nothing in particular on my wish list just now. But I love it when I find that thing that I never knew I always wanted. And when it's paid for with a gift card? Even Better! Once I make my decision, I will let you know what I chose.
Joy and I went hiking again yesterday too. This time to a place called, Jelk's Preserve. Not so much wildlife, but a beautiful spot nonetheless. Ranger Joy pointed out to me indications of wild boar. I'm kind of glad we didn't see any of them. Generally speaking, not the friendly sort. Saw a good sized turtle, or was it tortoise? And we did see any number of small birds and butterflies. It was a peaceful hike with a lot of "less trodden" paths which is exactly the sort of path I like best. We hiked and photographed about three hours worth of that spot. Nice. Always a good day when you find a new place to hike.
What does all this have to do with the first photo, that picture of a floor, you ask yourself ? Well that was a yet another really good part of the day. Finally the grout cleaner arrived!!! You see, throughout 90% of the house is this beautiful old Saltillo tile. It's in good shape for it's age. The house was built in 1961, so it's nearly as old as I. I'm not in nearly as good shape as these floors. But of course, over the years, the grout has gotten, well grotty. Especially in the kitchen and bathrooms. Oh it's clean. I'm kind of a freak about clean. But things stain. My guess is that previous dwellers of this abode were just as messy of cooks and bakers as I.
But at some point, you have to face the fact that the grout requires cleaning. I think it stands out more in my kitchen now since the floors are old but everything else is new. I've been itching to take care of this for awhile, but it grew once the painting was done. Everything we do to improve the house, just illustrates more how much the grout needs to be cleaned. I know you are thinking, "So just clean it already and shut up about it!"
Well I don't blame you one bit for that. I do sound tedious, but let me explain. Back in Colorado, when faced with a similar issue: newer house, same messy cook, tile floor, nothing I tried worked very well. After a lot of different attempts, Tim bought me this nifty little steam cleaner thing that has a very narrow nozzle. And even more importantly, he found a particular kind of grout cleaner that was incredible. That combo did the trick! Yay! So naturally I'm thinking that will be work here. Except, first you have to find the steamer. Dang. There is always a catch. I went through all of the bins. Nope. Went through boxes in the utility room marked "garage". Nope. Finally went through the boxes that got shoved into the closet of Tim's office. Eureka! There it is! Hurrah! Now I just need that particular band of grout cleaner.
Tim ordered it before Christmas. It just arrived yesterday. Quite the delay. I have no idea why it took so long. Don't care either. It's here. At long last, I will have clean grout lines. Or at least much cleaner grout lines. Tomorrow I will be grouchy about sore knees, but today I will be whistling while I work. Hurrah for Cleaner Grout Lines!!!! Yeah I know, I'm a crazy person.
Today, grout line cleaning. Tomorrow, overstock.com shopping. It's good to have a goal.
February 07th, 2017
Did you ever try to describe a particular colour to someone? Or over heard someone else describe a colour? "It was pink, but not too pinky." "It was a green but not a yellow green, but also not a blue green and it wasn't a greeny green either" "Kind of a greyish blueish purplish" I believe I've said words like that. I know that I've heard them. Usually while hearing a woman describing an article of clothing. It's hard to be absolutely perfectly descriptive about a colour. Case in point:
One day recently, Tim and I were walking along the water's edge. Sometimes talking, sometimes quiet. Then I heard myself say," What do you think of this colour for the bedroom?" and I dramatically swept my hand at the water ala Vanna White.
Being the agreeable sort, he responded, "Blue? Sure."
"No," I said patiently, "This blue. This specific blue" I pointed to the water again.
He looked at me, then he looked at the water, then at me again, then, inexplicably, he laughed. "Ok, this specific blue." and he chuckled to himself the entire walk home. To be fair I didn't actually hear the chuckling, but now, thinking back, I'm positive that he did.
So, absolutely certain that I had that exact blue firmly fixed in my mind, I took myself off to the paint store to find that specific blue. I walked with great excitement over to the blue paint chip section and after a quick scan pulled two of those little strips that have graduated colour intensities of the same shade. They were very close but clearly not the exact same colour. The salesperson came to see if I needed any assistance. "I'm looking for a particular blue' I said with great confidence.
I suspect that inwardly, he rolled his eyes but very kindly he asked, "What shade of blue?"
"It's an ocean kind of blue", I hear myself blurt out and realizing how indefinite that sounds I follow up with, "It's one of these two. I am sure of it." and I wave the two different paint strips around in the air. Positive that it was one or the other. I brought them home to admire.
Once I had them up against the walls of the room however, I was not as certain. The colour seemed, well, just wrong. It just wasn't quite right. What happened? "Well", I said to myself, "I must have made a mistake. Neither of those was THE colour. I will go back and try again." So try I did. But by now, the specific blue that I thought was permanently etched in my brain had faded a bit. I was more hesitant. My hand hovered over multiple paint strips but none of them seemed right. (I think the salesguy was hiding in the back laughing. I have no proof of that. It's just a feeling) Perhaps I needed to see that specific blue again to reset the memory. So I walked back to the beach. Only to realize, that the colour of the sea was different. Oh no!
Well of course it was different. Silly girl. It's a different colour every day. In fact, the colour changes constantly throughout the day. I laughed out loud at myself. Sometimes I am absolutely ridiculous. All of the colours of the ocean are perfect. All of them are beautiful. I just don't want all of them on my bedroom walls.
Someday soon, I will see that exact colour in the ocean again and this time I will take a photograph of it. And hopefully it will end up looking exactly right. And even more hopefully, I will be able to find a paint chip that specific colour. Otherwise, the bedroom will remain unpainted. Some day, I will find that colour. Now it is a mission!
February 06th, 2017
The majority of the time, I can take a fairly decent photo of most things; a bird, a sunset, a bicycle. But for whatever reason, I cannot seem to properly photograph a person. See above. Taken at the same time, in the same direction, a blue glass on our table and my sister. The glass is crystal (excuse the pun) clear and perfectly li. My poor sister is washed out, poorly lighted and blurry. She posed very nicely, what a pretty smile and still...not so good. It's baffling to me.
It's not that I don't try, I do. To be totally honest, I take a lot more photographs of things rather than people and perhaps that does factor in. But anyone would think that two entirely different people took those two photos above. Or at least used two different cameras. Nope. I can't even blame the venue because about one minute after I snapped the picture of her with my phone, she asked for phone and took this picture of me (below). Same phone. Same day. Same place for heaven's sakes. Then she returned the phone to me and I took a photo of our dessert which came out perfectly. Definitely not the phone (i.e. camera)
I have noticed that when I try to snap a picture of a person, I am not as patient with myself. Always concerned about wasted someone else's time, I think. Whereas, when I'm taking any other pictures I will sometimes check it from different points of view, look at it through the lens, change the perspective several times before I ever click that button. But with a person, sometimes I'm not even waiting to be certain that they have their photo-face on! And to be kind to the person or persons involved, I will not feature those pictures here today.
Maybe I get more nervous when taking pictures of people. I mean, a tree or a bridge doesn't ask to see the photo afterward, but people almost always do. They are tickled to see a picture of themselves even if they say that they "always look terrible in pictures". Actually especially if they say that I'm afraid for them to see any photo of them that I've taken because I am so bad at it, it seems to confirm their fears. And it's just not so. They photo I'm framing in my mind is perfect. The person looks absolutely beautiful. And then I click that button and....not so much.
Taking photos of Tim do not count because he finds it nearly impossible to just play it straight in a photograph. In most of my photos of him he is making a face. So no, that photo is not going to look good. But he knows it and I knows it. And that's just fine. He is silly so it's a silly photo. Sometimes I will even "silly-photo" with him. It's fun. (that's us on the left silly-photoing it up) But Joy and Bob (on the right) are posing perfectly. It should have been a terrific picture. And it's not and I'm sorry.
I will be fair to myself now and say that some people simply do not photograph well. Not the case with Joy and Bob, so that is NOT a valid excuse for me there. But for instance usually me. I'm perfectly fine until a camera is aimed at me and then something happens. I'm not sure what, but I transform into something demented. It is only for that split second that the shutter is depressed and my image is captured. But it happens almost every single time. As much as I'm trying to play nice, cooperate and relax, instead I get gargoyle-ed. A good picture of me is an aberrant phenomenon.
So if you are some innocent stranger who asks me to please take a photo of you in front of the fountain or posed in from of the surf at the beach, this is your notice. I will hand the camera off to Tim if he is with me. This is in your best interest! If he is not with me, I am a good sport. I will TRY to take the requested photo. It will not turn out good. Just saying. Meanwhile, I will continue to practice on any sole willing to have a bad picture of them taken, despite my intentions. But mostly I think I will concentrate on taking pictures of things that don't have to worry about posing. Those pictures almost always turn out. Probably in spite of me.
February 03rd, 2017
I went hiking with my sister again yesterday. We had a great time, she got some amazing photographs, and I still didn't see the dragonfly when she pointed it out. Also couldn't see the little grey bird standing on the little sandspit that was covered in rocks and shells. I'm not totally blind, I'm quite sure of that. So I just have to say, "Hat's off to Mother Nature for her camouflage skills"! See how good she is? In the pictures above the way the pine cones and pine needles are the same colour and the sand crab in nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding sand is amazing.
Nature really is the best at it. In fact, I'm reasonably certain that is where the military got the idea in the first place. If I remember correctly, the idea of using camouflage in the military began in World War One. In France I believe. Although it seems to me that the idea should have popped up in somebody's mind during the American Revolutionary War when the British Army was wearing bright Red and the American Rebels were in homespun beige's and grey's. Regardless, it finally did occur to somebody and it works. Around the world you see military units in the camouflage uniforms that work for whatever terrain that are fighting upon.
Hunters use it too. And for the same reason. Animals are already provided with terrific camouflage. Baby birds are effectively the same colour as their nests. And if they were quieter (they are NOT!) you would not notice them at all. Fawns blend in perfectly with a forest floor, some water birds, when standing still, are nearly invisible against the water, chameleon lizards are the masters of cammo with the ability to change colour. Hunters hope that wearing foresty colours will help them have the upper hand against their prey by blending into their surroundings. Sometimes that works against them when a fellow hunter also doesn't see them.
On a societal level, I believe most of us, do the same thing. We dress appropriately for the occasion thus allowing us to "blend" with our environment. I wear heels and a dress to a fancy high end restaurant, shorts and sandals to McDonalds. If you wear a top hat and tails to a dental appointment, you will be noticed. Likewise, wearing a bathing suit to a formal ball will certain make you stand out. We even joke about the "mom" uniform of high waisted jeans and sensible shoes and any mom who wears something else to a "mom" heavy function is noticed (and gossiped about). During a work day, if you are wearing a suit, people will peg you as an executive of some sort, or perhaps a lawyer. White coat? Doctor. Jeans, sunglasses and earplugs? Bus driver. If you are wearing shorts at the airport, it is assumed that you are going someplace sunny. Carrying a puffy coat at the same airport? I'm guessing ski vacation. Any Walmart after 11 pm? Apparently anything goes. If you are ever bored and awake really late at night, go to a Walmart and just observe. The Best People Watching Ever!
In fact, if you are a keen observer of human kind, you will see which couples are not getting along even if they aren't speaking to each other at that moment. It's the way they stand, rigid and tight. They don't make eye contact. Their eyes are narrowed and if they are standing next to each other, they lean away the tiniest bit. You can tell which teenagers are feeling insecure by the hesitation in their movements, the way they look at the ground, the shoulders forward as opposed to the kids who stand straight, look up and out, take big strong strides when they walk. The shy kid blends, the confident kid stands out! The shy kid is torn, they both want to blend and want to be noticed at the same time.
There are people who aren't much noticed. Housekeepers, gardeners, waitstaff, clerks, valet's. Unfortunately, too many folks notice the uniform, but not the person. That's sad. These are individual people who are unique and should be treated with respect. Really annoys me. Some people don't notice children either. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a small child in a store or a mall smiling and waving at everyone who walks by and almost nobody takes the fraction of a second it would take to smile and wave back or say hello. When a person does take that tiny bit of time to acknowledge that small one, that little face just lights up. But no, people get so insular to their own tiny environment that they are unaware of the real actual world around them. Just looking at their electronic device while walking, eating or lord help us, driving along. The other day I saw someone texting while bicycling! Seriously?
Probably because we are so much bigger than the little leaf walker bugs that look exactly like the branch they are standing on or the grey owls that blend in with the tree they are perched on, nature did not give us the ability to perfectly blend with our environment. We have a choice. We can stand out or we can become just another face in the crowd. I have to grocery shop today. Shall I blend with the other shoppers? Or shall I stand apart from the crowd? Hmmmm. Big Decision! If you see in the news a crazy person dressed in formal attire and a tiara or perhaps a wetsuit and flippers at a grocery store in Florida it was probably me. Or someone at Walmart after 11 pm.
February 02nd, 2017
I was standing at the sink the other night, cleaning up after dinner, looking out the window and it struck me to wonder how many times I've done the same thing. Either preparing a meal or tidying up after a meal, looking out the window over the sink and admiring the view. Regardless of where we are, the kitchen has always been my domain, my "office" so to speak. I spend a lot of time there. I do enjoy cooking and baking, but I do other things in the kitchen as well. I fold clothes, read the newspaper, make endless lists, chat with friends either in the phone or in person, The kitchen has just always been my comfortable place. And to any ultra feminists who are ready to rage at me over that statement, don't bother. The entire point of equal rights is to give women more choices. This is my choice.
The above photo, as usual, does not do justice to what I saw that evening. The entire scene appeared to have been painted in neutrals; black, white, grey, except that one tree. All of the colours of the sunset were in that one tree. How could I not admire it? The current kitchen is on the front of the house and faces west, so all of my best views are in the evenings. But looking out, first onto the cute little courtyard, then the trees beyond, then the neighborhood past that, I always have something pretty to see. Even on a rainy day, there is the hypnotic sight and sound of falling water. Of course, the scene actually change tremendously here. Rain or sun, sunsets are different every day of course, lizards and/or squirrels or no, hibiscus blooms or no hibiscus blooms, those are probably the biggest differences each day.
In Colorado, the kitchen was on the back of the house and faced southeast, so the view was more about the sunrises. And they were magnificent. Like sunsets, no two are the same and each worthy of note. During the day the thing that struck me the most was how far I could see. From our yard, to the open space behind us, past the equestrian neighborhood behind that to the ridgeline in the distance. Each view was breathtaking. We saw the smoke and flames of fires on the ridgeline, the power of a tornado weaving it's destructive way toward us once, winters filled with snowfall and every July 4th except one when the fire danger was too high, we saw a sky filled with fireworks.
In Connecticut before that, the window over the sink showed the side yard with stone walls and some serious seasons. Crazy big snowfalls, ice storms and the deep red of brave little cardinal birds in winter; lush green and wildly varied colours of flowers and flowering shrubs in summer; the brilliantly flamed trees of autumn in colours ranging from bright golds to screaming oranges to deep purples; and my favourite the baby yellows of forsythias against the last snowfall indicating a fledgling spring.
I watched my children grow up through kitchen windows. First pushing trucks and matchbox cars through my garden, then playing tag and all sorts of different kinds of adventurers through the yard. A little older and they were throwing a ball around and sitting in the hammock with a girl. Nowadays, we watch people bicycle, walk and drive by. Sometimes it's people we have come to know, but more often not. Oftentimes, they have a dog or two with them, but very rarely children.
I still have my Christmas lights up and at night, sometimes, I still turn them on. I love seeing the twinkle in the courtyard from the window after dark. I love the little rainbows on the courtyard walls at a certain time of day from the sunlight streaming through the prism in my kitchen. (the pull for the overhead fan). Oh wait, I actually do have a photo of that. Here:
I can see a sunrise from the windows at the back of the house, but while it's lovely, it's just not as striking as the sunset to me. That said, one of my neighbors recently posted a stunningly beautiful sunrise photo that she took. She rows crew and was out on the water when she took the picture which leads me to believe it's not the fault of the sunrise but rather the view of it from my window that is a wee bit lackluster.
So here it is the start of another beautiful day and I am watching the beautiful morning light making me smile while looking out the window over my kitchen sink. And I will love that view all day long I will see the world pass by my windows. But the really big deal comes later. The sunset is the real showstopper.
Of course, I have no idea what the view is from the window over your kitchen sink, but whatever it is, enjoy it!
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.