I can hear you thinking..."Oh geez, more dang flowers". Actually I just needed some sort of picture for the top and taadaa, here is a photo.
Today I'm writing about the hike Joy and I did last Thursday. We didn't go to a preserve or forest or ranch or any of our usual expeditions. Nope, this hike was dedicated solely to one thing. The Contest. So this photo safari report will be called, obviously, the Contest Hike.
For those of you who do not know I will nutshell an explanation for you. The City of Venice Florida (where Tim and I live) creates a very pretty desk calendar every year with photos taken from all around our city. This year, there is a contest being held for those photographs. Joy and I intend to enter that contest. It's all very exciting. We do not honestly think any of our pictures will be chosen, but it's still fun to try and good to stretch outside of our normal routine.
There are rules to be followed of course, there are in any contest. The photographs must be taken within the city limits, they must be landscape and not profile in aspect and of a specific size. People cannot be the subject of the photo (although they can be background) and very little manipulation can be made to the pictures. Those are just some of the rules.
It seemed to Joy and I that of course the people who make the decisions about the selections made would gravitate toward photos of things that are specific (though not necessarily unique) to Venice. So a picture of yellow flowers, such as the photo at the top of the page, while an okay photo (kind of meh really) doesn't say anything about the City of Venice.
So with all of those things in mind, we set out. I've never gone on photo safari with such a specific set of rules before. Normally I just shoot what appeals to me. I don't really question the instinct. Just, I'm drawn to something, up comes the camera, I do whatever fiddle necessary to get the shot and then move on. This time it was not like that at all. And in a very short time I found myself feeling very stifled.
We first walked over to the train station. It's very "Venice" and rather picturesque. We even got some decent photos:
And then I realized that almost everyone of these pictures was taken Profile. ARGH! I make the decision on how I shoot depending on the subject and the background. How can I capture this best? In fact, it's not even a conscious decision. I just.....do it. But dang.
Ok, fall back and regroup. Take a breath and move on, try to remember all of the dang rules. We moved on to the Urban Forest which is a very pretty area that runs along the intercoastal that the City of Venice has allocated for protection of wildlife and restoring the natural eco-system. It's only in it's infancy but already it is a beautiful addition to the area.
Of course first we had to cross the Venetian Waterway Trail to get there which is a walking/biking path that follows the Intercoastal. Watch out for the bikes. Most of them are very courteous calling out, "On your left". But you know what would be helpful? If they said, "On your left" and then the number of people in their group. When a group of bicyclers are coming up from behind you and you move over to make sure they can get by (since we are all travelling in both directions!) if they said, "On your left 4" or something like that, we could mentally count all 4 passing from behind us and then safely move back without constantly turning around to see what's coming! Just a thought.
Eventually we crossed back over the bridge to the island. But there were a few things worth snapping on the way back:
Next we just walked through town a little bit. It was nearly impossible to get photos of the downtown area just because, right now, it's so very populated with visitors so we sought out quieter spots We found little pocket parks and hidden entrances, larger more established parks that, for whatever reason, at that moment were nearly empty. And somehow, ended up at the beach. Everybody does here. Perfect.
By the time we reached the beach we were hot, thirsty, tired and footsore. We had covered more than 5 miles and had barely scratched the surface. Dang. Obviously it's going to take far more than one hike to get any photos worth submitting. Frankly, I'm not sure any of these fit the bill. Ratz. Maybe next hike.
Meanwhile, we still had a good time, some good exercise - both physically and mentally (following the rules! ARGH!) and great company.
So there you have it. The first Contest Hike. Not particularly successful, but a good start. Even if it's just knowing what Not to do. heh.
It 's been awhile since we did a grey hair check in so I suppose it's time. It was about a year and a half ago now that I decided to no longer colour my hair. I said at the time (and it was absolutely true too) that I no longer had any idea what my real hair colour was. Sad, but true.
I'll back up a little bit. When I was a little girl, my hair was blonde, unmistakably sunny blonde. And it stayed some shade of blonde throughout my school years. But my hair grew darker with each child that I gave birth to. My stretch marks aren't bad all things considered but the radical hair colour change was the thing that really bothered me the most. By the time my 3rd boy made his appearance my hair had gone from no questions about it blonde to a very dark brown.
In all honesty, looking back, the brown wasn't bad at all. It just wasn't what I was used to. Every time I happened to catch a glimpse of my new reflection unexpectedly my first split second reaction was, "who is that?". A bit of an identity crisis I guess. But it was what it was and I just lived with it the way it was for a long time. Then suddenly one day when the boys were a not toddlers or babies any more, I decided to buy a box of home lightener and give it a whirl. It was one of those temporary things. The results weren't bad, but neither were they very good. It was just okay enough for me to continue. Which was clearly a mistake.
In very short order my hair had that orangey/brassy home colour done wrong look that had to GO and finally I took myself to my local hair salon and left such things to the professionals (as I should have from the beginning). It took awhile for them to correct all the things I had done so very wrong for so very long but eventually we got there. And then it was time to play. Lighter hair was fun but how would I look with true red hair? So we tried that. And then darker again. Then lighter again. These were the days before the crayola box of hair colour possibilities but I think at one point or another my hair was every possible colour of the natural hair rainbow from nearly white blonde to almost black dark. Somewhere along the line, we kind of settled for the middle and that's where it stayed for a very long time.
And then one day, out of the blue, I got tired of it all. Tired of the constant appointments, the time involved, the increasingly large amount of money spent, fretting about the roots and after a great deal of thought I talked to my long suffering hair dresser about pulling the plug on hair colour altogether. It took awhile for it to all grow out and honestly I looked like a calico cat more than anything during that time. But eventually the artificial colour was completely gone and all that was left was my real true colour.
Which was a surprise. I assumed that it would be some shade of grey or silver or white. But nope, mostly it was just a kind of mousy brown. Meh. Still, it was healthy and shiny and my life isn't a beauty pageant (never was) so what the heck, I was disappointed to not have the pretty silvery/white locks of my dreams but oh well. I've been disappointed before and lived to tell the tale so life goes on.
And as it went on I found more and more sparkly bits, the shiny parts, not all in one place but here and there. Salt'n'pepper I've heard it called before and it's accurate enough. Over time I am seeing more and more sparkle and less and less mouse. And that makes me happy.
The photo at the top of the page I took of myself this very morning. You can sort of see some sparkly, glittery parts. It's even more apparent in natural light but, and you'll just have to take my word for it right now, it's mostly just that mix of dark and light still. A nice even mix. I suppose that's not terrible.
But the best part, my favourite part is yet to come. I have two white streaks that I love!
How cool is that? Over each ear is a wide, completely white, stripe. It's awesome. Nobody ever really sees it unless I do a half up kind of style. It is actually a look I like but my hair doesn't stay in a clip very well so I have to re clip it over and over and OVER all day long so I generally do not try anything that fancy. I know that it's there and that's enough.
My mother, whose hair was much much darker than mine and cut very very short, had the same white bands of hair at the temples. Hers was on display due to her shortie style and looked almost like wings. It looked classy and fancy and I loved it. I am so tickled that I inherited that from her! Thanks Mother!
I assume (though one should never) that eventually the lights will outnumber the darks in my hair until, eventually it will all be white/silver/grey and I am looking forward to it.
I am finding that the oddest part of my new hair colour is how it impacts my wardrobe. All of the dark colours that I tend to gravitate toward now make me look washed out. Dang. The brighter colours look much better. I kind of sigh when I look in my closet to select my clothes for the day. I need to slowly weed out the blacks and greys and navy's and introduce more spring and summer colours. It's a process. Eventually I'll get there.
So there you have it. The most recent grey update. I'm getting there, slowly. But slow progress is still progress. I'm good with that.
You see before you, last night's dinner. I don't really have a name for it although Mediterrean Bow Tie Pasta was suggested (Thank you Mary Ellen). It was just something I threw together. But I must confess, the dish was inspired by one of my wonderful daughters in law. She and I had a wonderful conversation recently and of course we talked about food. I talk about food a lot.
Anyway, she mentioned a new dish that she had made and it sounded wonderful. I asked loads of questions about it's preparation and it must have really started something in my head because it inspired the dish above. I didn't have all the necessary ingredients to make the dish she described but it absolutely was the inspiration for this one. It's chicken seasoned with lots of Italian cuisine related herbs, bow tie pasta obviously, onions, peppers and tomatoes. The sauce was created mostly just by cooking the meat and vegetables, but I did dash some chicken stock in there too.
Chicken is such a versatile starting point that it's a great thing to have on hand. I make several chicken dishes every week and I try to each one completely different than the others so nobody comes to the table saying, "Ugh, chicken again." So I really make the effort. Different seasonings and different cooking methods make the biggest difference probably, but what is being served with the chicken matters too. Chicken and rice is completely different than chicken and pasta or biscuits for example. Chicken that is meant to be served cold (say a chicken salad) as opposed to chicken best served hot (like chicken enchiladas) have very little in common other than the bird they started from.
But even so, eventually I kind of run out of gas. I sort through my cook books, I look online and I reach out to other folks for ideas. I never know where inspiration is going to come from. Sometimes it's just being in the grocery store, looking around and I spy something on sale. What is it? Hmmmm how could I use this? and voila a new chicken dish is born. Or it might be from a wander through the pantry. What do I already have on hand and how does this relate to poultry?
Sometimes inspiration comes from the amount of time I do or do not have to cook. Chicken tacos are super quick and simple as long as I have all of the ingredients already on hand. So something like that would be terrific for a crazy busy day. On the other hand, if it's a Museum day which means I will be gone until just before dinner, something in a slow cooker is a terrific choice. I can throw it all together before I leave, set it on low and come home to a meal already prepared. I do love a slow cooker.
Frying takes a lot of time, preparation and clean up. The clean up is the worst part, seriously. But fried chicken a great treat once in awhile. Roasting is also time consuming but my goodness it opens the door to a lot of other meals down the road. Grilling, steaming, sautee-ing, stir-frying, baking, this list goes on and on and on.
At any rate, I was delighted to have been inspired to making this dish. It must have been pretty good because Tim had a second helping. (always a good sign) and there are yet more leftovers for another night. Hopefully that one inspired meal will kickstart my creative brain into coming up with other new ideas because there are six other nights in this week and all of them require dinners.
Any one else out there have ideas to inspire me? Please?
Apparently Tim and I are prepared to travel farther and farther on our weekend hiking excursions just to find a new place to be. This weekend we drove about an hour to arrive at Robinson Nature Preserve. It was totally worth the drive.
As it turns out Robinson Nature Preserve is 679 acres of grasslands, saltern, marsh and mangrove and quite the variety of trails along with 5 different bodies of water. There was a great deal of kayaking going on as well as a 40 foot high observation tower to climb. And oh yes, we did!
I will start with a partial list of the things I did not manage to get a picture of just to get that out of the way. The List: Bees, butterflies, ladybugs, squirrels, woodpeckers, eagles, lots of other birds that I just wasn't quick enough to catch, dang it.
But there were things I did manage to capture. For instance, while I didn't get any woodpecker of eagle photos, I did snappitysnap a few others:
Some wildflowers. I do love them:
Let's see what else: Horseshoe crabs, lizards (lots of lizards), a snail and one very shy bunny:
The trails themselves were interesting. The variety was so much more than anticipated. They were at times, wide, flat, straight sandy thoroughfares. The sort of places that encourage a person to break into a run. Which we actually did, for a bit! Sometimes we are crazy. Other parts of the trail were paved with high bicycle traffic. Some parts of the trail were narrow, single file and primitive where even I had to duck under low tree branches or step high over even lower tree branches. There were sunny bits and shady parts, raised wooden board walks and and crushed shell. Some were fairly crowded with walkers, bicyclers and dogs and others had nobody but us. There was a little something for everyone.
We walked beside the bay, along side a marsh, over creeks and near ponds. We admired complex mangrove root systems and small natural beaches, light dappled creeks and inviting bay inlets.
And of course we climbed the tower. How could we not? We saw it from a long way off so it was calling to us for awhile before we got there. As we approached it got bigger and taller and then suddenly there it was. There were some whimsical carvings on the corners of the roof and views of well, everything from the observation deck. Absolutely worth the climb.
And now of course, it's time for my favourite part, the rando file. One of the photos I was most tickled to get is in this file. I found a tree with a bee hive, fully loaded, inside, a honey comb au naturel as it were:
All in all, it was a terrific hike, a little more than 5 miles of exercise, a beautiful day and we had a grand time. But then, we almost always do.
Hope you had some sort of adventure on your weekend too!
This is a picture of the 2021 City of Venice Florida calendar. Pretty eh? The photo is of a place called Sharky's Pier. Sharky's is a beach front restaurant in our town. (We've eaten some very nice meals there too!)
As is the usual case with calendars of this sort, the front cover, back cover and every month of the calendar year (including the following January) have a different and beautiful representational photograph taken here in our town. I look forward to the new calendar every year. Partly because I love having those nice big squares to write things in to keep my life tidy and partly for the gorgeous pictures. Quite honestly, every calendar has nice pictures but it's especially pleasing when I recognize where every photo was taken.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that for next year's calendar, the city is holding a contest! Yup yup. Any old body who wants to participate can submit as many as four photographs! Wow! Very cool. That really got me thinking........
At first it was just a, hmmm very interesting, sort of thing. And then I went back and re-read it. And then I re-re-read it. I read the article, I read the rules multiple times and then I dared to wonder, "Is this something I could do?" quickly followed by, "Is this something I should do"?
Please don't misunderstand. It's not as if I think my photographs are the be all and end all, because they are not. But it's something I enjoy doing, I do love a challenge and I believe that it's important to push myself a little bit. I tend to stay in my comfort zone and this would most definitely be a step way outside.
I discussed it with Tim and he voted yes. And then I talked to Joy about it. After all, she is my photography partner. She also voted yes! ! Wow! I think we are really going to give it a whirl! Our next photo safari will be within the city limits of Venice because the rules very clearly state that all photographs must be taken within those parameters. So hmmm, Step one was finding out exactly where those city limits are. It's not as if they are all straight lines after all!
Tim was the one who found a map online. We studied up on it and I think I have it fairly clear in my little punkin' head where we have to be. And I have read the rest of the rules enough times that I have a handle on the rest of it. If (when) my photos are rejected I want it to be because other pictures were better, not because I didn't follow the rules, y'know?
I am surprisingly excited over the prospects of this new photography goal. Even though I know that the odds are incredibly small that any photo of mine will be selected (the contest is also open to professionals after all and at best I am an enthusiastic amateur) but it still feels good to have a goal. And to try something new. And to challenge myself! Very Fun!
When I have my four entries taken, selected and ready to submit, I will share them with you guys too. When the decision is made, I promise to not be crushed when I'm not chosen because I honestly don't think I have a snowball's chance in...well.......Florida I suppose. It's more about the goal. Like an academic exercise I guess? Something like that anyway. And no matter what else happens, I will have fun.
Sooooo Wish me luck!
This past Sunday was a rainy, grey, gloomy, breezy and chilly day. And there are a lot of great ways to spend a day like that. It's a terrific day for making soup and bread. I'm not sure why that exact combo but it's true. Or baking anything for that matter. Rainy days are great baking days.
Or just curling up with a good book. Oh yeah, I can wile away a day lost in the pages of a great book, wrapped in a soft blanket in my favourite corner of the sofa with no problem. On the other hand, Tim and I have upon occasion marathoned Tv shows or movies before on an inclement day. We seem to be particularly fond of movies that come in 3's but sometimes we stumble across a television show (usually not a current one) that we've never seen before and that is our target.
But this past Sunday, instead, we took a drive. Not a perfect day for a drive of course, but do-able. Sometimes it's important to just get out of the house. That's what it was all about. Just seeing something other than our own four walls, y'know? We love our home, but sometimes, we need a change of scenery.
We drove aimlessly. Well, Tim drove, I passengered. It's what I do. And I do it very well. We chatted about this and that as we cruised along, observing things along the way. It was a very pleasant way to do an auto wander. Not even an explore, just a wander.
Ultimately we found ourselves at Lido Beach up in Sarasota. It's a gorgeous beach with very soft sugar sand, very few shells (no cutting up your feet!) and normally the parking lot is full to overflowing (especially this time of year) and the beach is packed. It's usually colourful with umbrellas and beach blankets and filled with the happy noise of laughter and chatter and music.
On this day however, it was so quiet that even I could hear the waves and the sounds of the seabirds as they soared overhead. The beach was theirs on Sunday. The lifeguard shacks were locked up tight while their flags snapped overhead.
A beach is entirely different when it's empty. I feel like Robinson Crusoe. Or perhaps one of the passengers of the Mayflower, finally reaching land once again only to find it entirely empty. It's both exhilarating and kind of lonely. Of course, civilization for me lay only steps away but standing on the sand, facing the water, listening to the waves and the birds, feeling the combination of rain and seaspray, I could sort of imagine what it was like back then. I love that feeling. Not really time travel but the imagined version of it.
I could sort of imagine standing on the deck of the ships that had been "home" for months, feeling the swell of the waves beneath my feet, starring at the sand and the dunes and beach grasses. Seeing the palm trees in the distance and wondering about my future. I could almost feel what it was like to climb down that wet rope ladder to the row boat and then hear the scraping sound of it being dragged higher on the sand. Can you imagine what it must have been like to walk up the beach, clambering in those long damp skirts up and over the dunes to find.....nothing. Just trees and shrubs and flowers and nothing. Just the future.
Tim draped me with his sweat jacket from the car (he always keeps one in there for emergencies) with the hood up to keep me dry and gave me a place to hide the camera from the rain between shots. I'm sure I looked ridiculous but I don't care. I was warm and relatively dry and in a perfect place for a rainy day.
We were shivery and wet when we got back in the car so Tim blasted the heat and turned on our seat warmers. Yummy! We are so spoiled but we warmed up in no time as we headed back home and I mentally returned to the 21st century.
It was a great way to spend a gloomy wet day!
I read a quote recently that I really liked, "Love doesn't make the world go 'round. Love makes the ride worthwhile." (Franklin P Jones).
Happy Valentine's Day ya'll! The above is a photo of the beautiful flowers Tim gave me today. They are in a pitcher today rather than a vase because all of my vases are currently still packed away carefully in boxes in the guest room closet. I improvised nicely though I think.
You already saw the Valentine's Cookies I made:
And I promise you that there are cards and chocolates still waiting to be opened. This is the long shot of the entire kitchen table full of Valentine's Day goodness:
Some of it is from me to Tim, some from Tim to me. Hint: The M&M's are mine. I know you are not remotely surprised about that :)
But it's also a Monday which is a work day so Tim is at his desk and I am at mine. I will do my usual Monday things like cleaning, laundry, cooking and possibly grocery shopping. Right now there is a plumber here taking care of a dripping outside faucet. That's romantic, right? Other than the cards, the flowers and the chocolates, this is a very ordinary weekday.
But see, that really is where the romance is. Loving each other and expressing it on an average day, seeing the extraordinariness in your life partner on an ordinary day is romantic. Here I am in tatty old jeans and a sweatjacket, no make up, messy hair and a big scrape on my nose (because I am clumsy) doing piles of laundry, stripping the bed, emptying the dishwasher and scrubbing toilets . What a picture eh? And still, Tim brought me flowers. Because he loves me and this is real life, not a movie.
I'm not Donna Reed. I don't vacuum in high heels and pearls, perfectly coifed and mascara'ed. And I'm not Julia Child turning out exquisitely perfect meals on the daily. Nor am I Angelina Jolie, tall and slim and stunningly beautiful living an exciting, international life. I'm not a brilliant woman who takes the world by storm like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, nor a house keeping genius like Marie Kondo, not even a humanitarian such a Maya Angelou. Nope. I'm just me.
But apparently just being me is enough for Tim because he loves me just as I am. (Cue the Billy Joel song here)
Real Romance having a day when the sink backs up and the gravy boiled over making one helluva mess on the stove and the dog ate your newspaper and the cat threw up on the carpet and the kids are fussing and you had a bad day at work and the car engine is making a suspicious sound but still you are happy to be home because the person you love most in the world is there. Valentine's Day is just a reminder to be sure the people that you love, know it. Never assume. And frankly, even if they are already certain, sometimes it's just nice to hear the words.
Tim and I have been married now for 28 years. This year will be 29. And I still get feel that little zing when he walks through the door. Every single time. When we are going through tough times, he reassures me that it'll be okay and that we will get through it and that's all I need to know to be certain that everything will work out. Love, trust, faith. That's romance baby.
I'm not turning down the flowers and the chocolates because, well why would I? That's crazy. But on their own, they don't mean much. It's what they represent. And in my house today, the flowers, the cards and the chocolates represent the best of the best. I am so very lucky!
Happy Valentine's Day Everybody! As Mr. Jones said, Love makes the ride worthwhile. My ride is definitely worthwhile.
Rather obviously, I'm preparing for Valentine's Day. And how cute are these cookies? (If I do say so myself) I have to admit, that a huge part of the adorableness is thanks to my sister. Joy gave me for Christmas some new toys that I couldn't wait to use!
Knowing me as you all do by now, I'm sure you are not surprised in the least that I'm always on the lookout for something new and fun by way of cookie making. This year I not only got a new idea but also a bonus round. First of all there were new cookie cutters:
Not only 4 different sizes of hearts but two different edges: one is smooth and one is scalloped. It's a small thing I know but the results are huge. For me, in life, it's all about the tiny details.
The other thing Joy gave me was a huge surprise. I had never even seen one of these before. It 's a patterned rolling pin. What?
How clever is that? It's a silicone on the outside so easily used and easily cleaned. But of course it came with no instructions so I had to really think it through before I began.
Selecting Valentine's Day as my test run was a no brainer. Hearts? Come on! And sugar cookies obviously. Perfect for showing off those cutiecute details! So yesterday morning I knocked out the sugar cookie dough (which I got from Joy a very long time ago and honestly it is the best) then put in the fridge to chill. By early afternoon I was ready to roll. Literally.
After a very brief amount of experimentation I came to realize that essentially the dough is rolled out twice. Once to the proper thickness with the smooth regular rolling pin that I already had. Then over it once again with the patterned roller. The only tricky part was matching up the pattern in spots that got missed. But eventually I even got the hang of that.
They came out of the oven so stinkin' cute that I could hardly stand it! And I was excited to get started on decorating. What's a sugar cookie without a decoration?
I decided that a frosting would be too thick and would obscure the pattern. The pattern was at least half of the point of making them so I didn't want to hide it! It seemed obvious that a glaze would be a far better choice. Makes sense, right? Turns out, nope. I made two thin glazes, one pink and one white. And as it turns out, no matter how small a portion I put on the cookies, it covered the pattern. Drat! I would even put the glaze on and then, basically wipe it back off, but nope, still too much. And by the time the sprinkles went on, it was game over. Dang.
After experimenting in any number of different ways, I briefly considered no glaze at all, but really, that's no fun. So then it occurred to me that I could ice half the cookie and the pattern would still show. It was a moment of genius! And exactly the right idea. Too bad I had already glazed and decorated so many other cookies! Still, there were several dozen still left to play with and so I did. Sometimes I surprise myself ;)
I had a wonderful time playing with the glazes and various sprinkles and finishing it up. I can't wait to share them (and eat a few myself).
And now I know for the next time how to have my glaze and my pattern too! The Best of Both Worlds.
Thank you once again, Joy!
Oh and if anybody wants the cookie recipe, (which I got from Joy actually) I am always happy to share.
If I don't happen to talk to you guys before Valentine's Day, I hope yours is wonderful :) Hugs all 'round.
Tim and I had a fun adventure this past Sunday. We did an Auto Audio Tour! It was fun and interesting and honestly, we look forward to doing more of them.
If you are unfamiliar with the term - Auto Audio Tour - it is a tour that you do in the comfort of your own vehicle that is guided by a disembodied voice. Sounds spooky? Nah, not at all. It was awesome!
Tim and I had done one auto audio tour before a very long time ago in Maui, Hawaii. We decided that we wanted to drive the Hana Road which is a 64.4 mile long scenic, gorgeous, amazingly beautiful, twisty winding, narrow road that passes over 59 different bridges, 46 of which are one lane only. Yikes! Obviously it is slow going, which it should be to appreciate the 360 view of majesty, history and nature. We were going to do the drive anyway, but when we heard about the audio tour, thought it would be a good idea to know more about what we were seeing. So we stopped and picked it up. Back then of course, it was a CD. And the voice would talktalktalk and then say press pause here and resume at mile marker ......whatever... I honestly think we got so much more out of the drive than we would have otherwise.
Back to this particular Auto Audio Tour, I don't remember where I stumbled across this information, but somewhere fairly recently, I came to understand that Sarasota County released nine different Auto Audio Tours as part of their Centennial Celebration. We had to purchase the auto audio tour in Maui, but this one in Sarasota is free, which is my favourite price. I excitedly passed this information along to Tim and he agreed that this was absolutely something that we should check out on a lazy weekend day when we have no other plans. And that day was Sunday.
Sarasota is a city here in Florida about a half hour north of us. We have spent a great deal of time there taking advantage of it's restaurants, shops and entertainment. It's also the name of the county that we live in, so you would think that we already knew everything that there was to know about it. Nope. Not even close.
We randomly selected which tour to start with and Tim downloaded the App to his phone. Then we buckled up and started out. The Voice tells you where the tour begins so that's where we went. This first tour was called, "Fruitville to Myakka". Fruitville is a VERY long road in Sarasota whose name came from the fact that many of the earliest settlers to the area (1870's) came to work in some capacity in the burgeoning Orange Industry. Orange is a fruit......makes sense, right?
Of course now, much of Fruitville is concrete, asphalt, glass and steel. There are countless businesses, restaurants, shops and housing of all sorts. What was once a quiet, narrow, dirt country lane is now very busy multi-lane road. It's hard to imagine what it used to be. At least when we started the tour it was difficult to picture. Myakka, on the other hand, is a river, a huge state park and yes, an area of Sarasota that is still very rural. That's where you begin to be able to envision the past with greater clarity.
The tour is all GPS driven so it knows when you are in the right place. There you are following the directions previously given and then there is a "ding" and the voice tells you a little something about what you see out the window, or directs you to stop for a few minutes while you hear a more detailed history. Sometimes it suggests getting out for a bit and walking around to more fully appreciate what is before you.
It was so cool. In this way we learned about the large Mennonite community in that area that was established along the banks of Phillippi Creek in 1920 and remains active today. We walked on hiking trails that we did not know existed and learned about the original Fruitville School. The school opened in 1887 in a converted corncrib and had Miss Josie Clower as it's first teacher.
We walked around the Friendship Baptist Church cemetery grounds and read aloud the names and dates on the headstones discovering, among other things, a gentleman who was born in 1812, far too many babies, some really great names and a few Civil War Soldiers there. Friendship Baptist is still there but it's original structure was a log cabin back in 1887.
At Celery Fields, which is now a preserve and a great place to hike, we learned that the people who came to work the original celery fields, which was one of the primary agricultural centers, earned one dollar a day and that it cost three dollars a day to feed a family of seven at that time. Along with the strong agricultural base of course were the cattle ranches. The Cracker Cowboys, so named because of the sound of the crack of their whips as they drove cattle, were another huge part of the creation of Sarasota county.
We heard about a museum that was new to us that we are excited to visit another time and found an entirely different entrance to Myakka State Park with zero cost to get in and a 4 mile hiking loop, that was also a surprise. We learned about country general stores, one of which, the Crowley General Store, still existed into the 1960's (!) and other beautiful old churches. Back in the day, Churches weren't just places of worship but also social centers for the entire community.
While things have changed a LOT since then, I was more impressed, I think, by the things that have not changed. Some of the old buildings are still around, there are still working cattle ranches (as evidenced by the enormous herds of cows that we drove past), the active Mennonite community and beautiful preserves and parks.
I'm so glad that we have started doing this and I look forward to doing the remaining 8 tours. If there is such a thing in your area, I recommend them highly! Free Entertainment AND Education! It's hard to beat.
Here's a few photos of some of the things that we saw along the way:
For our Photo Safari this week, Joy and I decided to head out to a place we generally only hike once a year. It 's a working ranch that also has about 19 miles of hiking trails. We only did 7, but it was still a great day.
I am not going to try to come up with a fanciful name this time around. I'm going to call it what is was, The Walton Ranch Hike because that's where we were. It was such a gorgeous place to hike that even if we hadn't taken one single solitary photograph it would still have been a good day. But no worries. I have photos :)
As I said, it was a gorgeous place to be, although we did have to be careful to dodge cow pies and horse pucky the entire time. Small price to pay. You want to see some beautiful scenery? Here you go:
Most of the ponds were just lovely empty oasis's, but a few were occupied. One of these was downright scary:
Because it is, as I said, a working ranch there were a lot of fences, and I found them to be very photogenic! Took a crazy number of photos of fences. I'm so weird. Here's a few:
Took some bird photos but honestly, none of them are very good. I'll post a few anyway. The best of the worst:
Not many flowers but we were shocked to find some blooming orange trees! Not maintained, just either growing wild, or the remnant of an old orchard. Either way, Oranges! Wow!
Let's see what else, we saw roughly a zillion dragonflies but I only got a photo of two. And then one gorgeous spider web:
And I suppose the rest can just be tucked into the Rando Files. Here we go:
I guess that's about it for the Walton Ranch Hike. It was a good 'un for sure! Joy and I had a Great Time (as we always do). Hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride.
I read something recently that really struck a chord with me and I kind of can't stop thinking about it. I don't mean it's my every waking thought, but it pops into my head now and again and the trail that it leads me to expands (the way thoughts do) and takes me places I didn't think I'd go. It's about grief. Which means this isn't the sort of blog post that I usually do. Feel free to move along if it's not your cuppa tea. Reading what I write it not a requirement, it's an option. Always.
So, to those of you who are still here, The line I read was, "Grief is kind of like a chronic illness". Whoa! A completely new thought. I've probably read more than the average person about grief because at one time, it was part of my job to understand it. I worked at a Hospice for nearly twelve years which means dealing with dying, death and grief on a daily basis, up close and personal, became very familiar ground for me. I read everything I could find (which was surprisingly little) and spoke to everyone who I assumed would have great insight (in general they did not). I listened, I observed and I drew my own conclusions which served me well. Not just during that job, but in real life. Still, I had never heard of the experience of grief explained quite that way. The concept was very interesting to me in an academic sort of way.
We all experience grief and from a very young age. You think not? Grief isn't just about death, it's about loss. And there are all different kinds of loss. For example: A small child losing the beloved stuffed animal that they cuddle with every night is a genuine loss. When they are sobbing themselves to sleep, it's not just the absence of a favourite toy that they are grieving, it's the comfort and constancy that toy brings them which is now missing.
A loss could be the end of a relationship, or a job. The grief could stem from a cross country move that - while the move itself is it good thing - familiarity and history are left behind. We grieve unmet wishes and goals, opportunities lost, broken objects that represent memories and the end of nearly anything.
But the grief attached to a person's death is another level. It is over whelming and all encompassing and very personal. Unfortunately for those who like things to be very rigidly defined, grief is not just one thing. There is no timetable, there is no one correct way to grieve and there is no hard stop. Much like a chronic illness, there are times when the patient is doing very well, seemingly "normal", and everyone assumes, "hurrah" the worst is behind us now we can move on and everything is back the way it used to be. We don't have to deal with this anymore. Not necessarily so. Sometimes people with a chronic illness have a setback and the illness once again flares up and is real again, has to be dealt with again. Grief sneaks up on us in that same way. Unexpectedly out of the blue, there will be a moment, a word, a fragrance - something - that brings to mind the loss of the person you are grieving and you grieve all over again.
This is absolutely totally entirely normal. It's just part of the process. And we, the people are those who are friends and family of those experiencing loss, need to be better about how we provide support. There should be no recriminations: "You should be over this by now" ( you never get "over" a loss. Eventually you find a way to move past it) There should be no blame: "You are bringing me down, making me sad" (newsflash this isn't about you. it's about the person who is grieving) There should be no forced hiding or disguising the way you feel: "You need to smile more." (faking a smile to please someone else does not make the pain go away. and in fact makes it worse). There should be no shame: "You are always in a mood", (grief is not a mood, it is a state of being) There should be no impatience, "I'm so tired of your sadness. You need to get over this" (again, no timetable to grief)
The first person that I knew that died was when I was in elementary school. There was a girl in my class named Eloise. She was very sweet, very quiet, small and fairy-like with fly-away hair so blonde it was nearly white and big blue eyes. Every day at recess she crouched on the ground leaning up against the side of the big brick school house watching other kids play. I was the new kid who didn't have a gang with which to hang and was therefore also on the fringes; out looking in. I asked if I could sit beside her, she shyly smiled and allowed it. And it became our daily routine. In the very candid and upfront way that children have, Eloise told me of the problem she had with her heart. She was always cold, always tired, very weak and her lips were often tinged with blue. She wore multiple layers of clothes every day and on very cold days, her teeth would be chattering despite being so well bundled. I often positioned the way I sat so that I blocked (or tried to block) the worst of the wind from her.
We talked about so many things: books, music, dreams, imaginary creatures and our pets. We discussed school our families and our neighbors. Eloise was both much more sophisticated than I was and much more naïve than I, at the same time. One day, she wasn't at school. Not so unusual, as she was sick far more than the average kiddo. Then it was a week. Then a month. Nobody ever said a word about her absence. Finally, one day I got very brave and after class went up to our teacher and asked. I could tell that she did not want to answer me but when I pressed, eventually told me the truth. That Eloise had died. I felt tears come to my eyes and my teacher ordered me to "Not be sad because there's nothing I can do about it anyway. " Do not be sad. What a moronic order. Emotions do not come with an on/off switch. We feel what we feel!
Well, of course now I'm much older, much wiser and far more experienced. Not only with the knowledge I gained in my time at Hospice but also my own life experiences. With each loss, I have garnered more knowledge and the confidence that comes through age, information and personal tragedies. One of the best things I learned from my time at Hospice was "The end of everything is the beginning of something else". I take great comfort from that. Believing that to be true has gotten me through a lot of dark days.
And every once in awhile, I hear or read of something else that I tuck away that could help me or perhaps someone else through a time of grief. Grief is a part of the life experience. It's not all sunshine and rainbows. And when a time to grieve happens, it's nice to have a few truisms and some people who truly understand to lean on a little bit.
I think of myself as having started out in life as a lumpy big of stone. Every time I pass through a rough, tough, difficult part of my life, a few of those lumps are smoothed off a bit and took off a couple of sharp edges. By this point, the stone that is me should be fairly smooth. My hope is that eventually the gem that might be hidden inside will eventually begin to shine through.
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.