March 23rd, 2023
Who dat? Well, anyone who had little ones 50 or so years ago (holy crap I'm old) would recognize this guy as Shel Silverstein, or as he was sometimes known, Uncle Shelby. He's the fellow who wrote the books, "Where the Sidewalk Ends", "The Giving Tree" and "A Giraffe and a Half" for example. One of my favourites is, "Uncle Shelby's ABZ's". Much of what he wrote was particularly beloved by children (and their parents) but he wrote adult things as well.
He was something of a renaissance man, illustrating and writing short stories, poetry and books. But are you aware that he also wrote music? (some of my favourite Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show songs were written by him. Also on his list of accomplishments were several plays: "Abandon all hope", "All Cotton" and "Blind Willie and the Talking Dog" for example. He was a singular talent with an amazing mind.
I mostly adored Shel Silverstein's stuff. And why wouldn't I? He made us think at the same time that he delighted, informed, educated and entertained people of all ages for a very long time which is an amazing legacy to leave behind. I was a huge fan. Anything he wrote, Everything he created, I was on board with. Until I read the following Shel Silverstein quote: "There are no happy endings. Endings are the saddest part." I disagree.
Well I somewhat disagree. I disagree with conditions. Yes it is true that Some ends are sad, I will admit that. Can't really argue it. I've cried often enought to prove the truth of it. But not all endings are sad. His quote makes a poor blanket statement.
Not all endings are sad. There, I've said it. And I stand behind it.
Here are two examples:
Last week, I 'graduated' from Physical Therapy. Woohoo! They have taught me well, given me the tools I need to get back to my old self which means that it's now up to me to finish the job. But my time at PT, my weekly visits and torture session have come to an end. Everyone there was absolutely wonderful, I learned so much and I was pleased with every minute of it. (well almost every minute, pain is pain, right?) BUT my time there has come to an end. And I am happy to wave good-bye to that chapter of my life. Here is the tee-shirt they gave me as a graduation present. Wasn't that a nice surprise?
Here's another example:
Over this past weekend we had a dumpster brought in so that we could finally FINALLY get rid of all of the leftover construction related crap that the builders left behind in multiple piles all over the dang yard. ARGH! We finally got to a point in the work in the project room where we do not need anything in any of those piles. Nor will we be adding any additional large crap to any of the piles. The small bits of work left in the project room are slow and time consuming but do not create big ungainly debris. (only small unattractive debris which is easily incorporated into the weekly garbage pick up).
So the dumpser was delivered late last week and Sunday was spent incorporating all of those piles of rubble and rubbish into one big pile in the dumpster! We dealt with dirt and nails and splinters and bugs and spiders and one seriously PO'd snake to say nothing of just the sweat and strain of the job. But it's done. It's over. The dumpster people hauled it all away yesterday and there is nothing left but the memory. I could not be happier about that particular ending.
And that's just two examples off the top of my head. I know that there are loads of others. And while yes, I agree, in general that endings can be sad (the end of a bag of M&M's is a very sad moment) sometimes, endings are not only not sad, but happy and very satisfying.
This one time, Mr. Silverstein, I must disagree with you. Just the one time mind you. The rest of the time you are absolutely correct.
Oh and something else to keep in mind, The end of everything is the beginning of something else. And beginnings are, quite often, very good things.
March 21st, 2023
It's the Birthday Girl! All together now, "Happy Birthday Joy!"
Actually her birthday was one week ago, and for her birthday she asked that we hike in Myakka State Park. Birthday Wish Granted! For obvious reasons, the Photo Safari is the Birthday Hike :)
It was a Perfect Hiking day, a little chilly and not crowded, at least not crowded with people! We saw lots of other crowds. The sort that we particularly enjoy:
Our favourite sorts of crowds :) None of them actually stopped to sing a chorus of "Happy Birthday to You" but we know they were thinking it.
Myakka is a stunningly beautiful place but it's a little worse for wear since the Hurricane back in September. It 's been cleaned up a lot but not all of the repairs have been done. The Canopy Walk still needs work as does the boardwalk:
Very sad to see some of the familiar and wonderful things gone, but the wildlife isn't so bothered by it. To them it was all stupid human stuff, nothing that really impacts their lives and we were delighted to see the wonderful wild life not only surviving but thriving.
It was cold and windy that day but sunny even so which allowed for some beautiful water reflection shots!
One of my favourite birdie photos from that day was a little red winged blackbird just barely hanging on to his perch in the breeze:
Everywhere we turned, one moment right after another, there was yet something else to take a picture of. It was incredible! What a perfect photography day!
The scenery, sigh, it's just such a beautiful place. I cannot fully express with words how stunningly beautiful Myakka is so, since a picture says a thousand words: here's a few:
Here are a few other photos that are a little random for you too:
The Birthday Hike was an Awesome Photo Safari !
March 17th, 2023
Happy St Patrick's Day Ya'll!
These were my only two choices for wearing something green today. Lime and Olive. Not really the colours I associate with Ireland. They are neither Shamrock Green nor green of a leprechauns hat. Of course the only Leprechaun I can think of just now is the one on the Lucky Charms cereal box and I'm pretty sure that's not historically accurate.
The actual original St Patrick's Day - not necessarily the Americanized version of it - began in Ireland (of course) over a thousand years ago! According to my, admittedly not in depth, research, it was in honour of the actual St Patrick and celebrated by taking a little break in the lenten abstention from meat. People would go to church in the morning and then celebrate with good food, drink, music and dance for the rest of the day.
The very first St Patrick's Day parade was held in America, by the way, in 1601 in St Augustine Florida! Whoa! That was new information for me! Even though St Augustine was a Spanish settlement, their vicar was Irish so the parade probably was his idea.
My assumption, which was completely wrong, was that the first St Patrick's Day parade was in New York City. I was already aware that in 1772, Irish Soldiers serving in the English military and feeling quite homesick marched down the streets of NYC to honour their patron saint. But I was off by more than a hundred years! Wow, when I'm wrong, I am wildly wrong.
The enormously popular New York City St Patrick's Day parade that most of us associate with the wearin' o' the green nowadays actually started in 1848 when the various Irish Aid Societies collaborated and gathered all the parades from all of the different boroughs of New York to hold one huge Official St Patrick's Day Parade. It is now the worlds oldest civilian parade and the largest with over 150,000 participants and more than 3 millions onlookers!
These days of course, you don't have to be Irish to participate. As the contemporary saying goes, "Everyone is Irish on St Patrick's Day". Since part of my heritage actually is Irish, I should definitely celebrate. So I am sitting here in my light green house, wearing my olive green shirt, drinking about of my bright green mug and thinking green thoughts. I think that'll do!
Have a wonderful weekend everybody and hugs all 'round.
March 14th, 2023
Time for another Photo Safari Report! This one is going to be called The One Big Surprise Hike because while most of what we saw was same old, same old, one thing was most definitely unexpected.
We went back to Carlton Reserve last Thursday for several reasons, not the least of which was that a lot of our other hiking spots are currently closed. But honestly, Carlton is never a bad choice. There are more than 25,000 acres and at least a hundred miles of trails. Since we have never (and will never) cover all of it in a day, every time we go, we get to sojourn down different paths and therefore, see different things.
That is a good thing.
Right off the bat I will say that we not only saw very few birds, we didn't even hear many. Not sure where are but perhaps they are wintering elsewhere. Snowbirding as it were. teehee. But I did get these three. I wish there were someway to describe how huge and fierce that hawk is. Let's just say that I'm glad that I'm too big to be considered "prey". They look like warrior birds! Which is so cool.
I know that, technically, it's still winter and lots of parts of the US are still digging their way out of snowbanks but here it feels a lot more like spring and, as a nod toward that, we are seeing more and more flowers on our hikes each week! That is Never a problem :) (other than the achoo factor of course)
And then there was the surprise.
Right now, during winter, this is our dry season. As a result, sometimes areas that are normally good sized ponds or even lakes are greatly reduced in size. Sometimes they, temporarily, disappear completely. This is particularly true of small creeks or the water that normally exists in the gulley that run alongside some roads.
Joy and I were observing this fact as we were strolling down one particular part of a trail. Normally there would have been a wetlands area on the left side, marshy bits at the very least which means there would also be the creatures that such areas attract like turtles and egrets and ducks. So at one point, instead of continuing down the middle of the trail, like a normal person, I canted a little to the left so that I was walking along the outer edge of the trail. As I was scouting to my left Joy asked what I was doing. I responded that there was a wet area up ahead and I wanted to see if there were any turtles.
Well who doesn't like a turtle? I stood there alongside the Very Shallow bit of water scanning for wildlife when I caught a sudden motion just in front of me. I looked closer. What on earth?
"Hey Jo" I called out, "I think we've got a couple of baby alligators here". She came stepped closer to where I was just in time to see them slip into the water. She was suitably impressed and we took a few photos of the little baby alligators. From the tips of their snouts to the tips of the tails they were, maybe 8-10 inches long. Definitely very young.
Then Joy says, "that must be Mama over there". She pointed to our left though not nearly far enough to our left to suit me frankly as I turned my head to the left and saw this:
I couldn't even see all of her and I could still tell that she was a big girl. I believe I said something like, "Ok I'm good" and I was seriously ready to step away when I caught a flurry of motion out of the corner of my eye which brought me to look directly in front of where I was standing once again. And that's when I saw what had to be at least a dozen, probably more, baby alligators all swarming toward the water at the same time. Yikes!
I froze for a second, then stepped back, and started walking because there was something about that slithering mass of dinosaur looking baby alligators that creeped me out so much! I didn't want to feel that way. I mean it's nature and nature is beautiful. But this wasn't pretty. It was icky and a little scary and I was ready to go.
So there you have it, the big surprise. I've never seen anything like it before. Glad I saw it, but I never really need to see it again.
I think there are a couple of other pictures but not many:
Hope you enjoyed the One Big Surprise Hike! I certainly was surprised! You?
March 10th, 2023
If you are a fairly regular reader of my blog, you may recall that for a few years in a row, Tim and I had the pleasure of a woodpecker family choosing the palm tree in our courtyard in which to build their nest. We enjoyed having them as "neighbors". They were endlessly entertaining. They must have liked us just as much, because each year, faithfully, they would return and build a new nest. It was a terrific arrangement. The woodpeckers looked a great deal like this guy in the picture above. (I didn't take this particular photo in our courtyard but rather, out in the forest, still same sort of woodpecker)
And then during the big hurricane last year, the tree came down. Not to worry, neither woodpeckers or the house were damaged in the fall, but the tree was gone forever and with them, our woodpecker neighbors. We were kind of sad to see them go. Glad we had the experience but, clearly, it's time was done. awww. ;(
Or so we thought!
We don't have woodpeckers anymore but we do have a new couple in our courtyard! These two:
Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal! The first time we noticed them, the mister was in the birdbath. Tim was the one who noticed and quietly called me over to the window to see. I grabbed my camera but they are wily birds and even though we were both absolutely silent and moved slowly, it was enough to scare them away. Still we saw him and I was tickled that there had been a cardinal in our birdbath. I assumed (though one should never) that he was just passing through, that it was a one and done experience.
Then as the days went by, more and more one or the other of us would catch the flash of brilliant red zooming through the courtyard and we changed our minds and decided that they must live somewhere near by. Nearby, heh. I'm giggling about that now.
Since we saw him more and more often, usually around the birdbath area I was determined to get a photo so I put the camera on the kitchen table so it was closer at hand. (the kitchen table is basically in the bay window in question). But no matter how hard I tried, regardless of how quick or quiet I was, I missed shot after shot. DANG!
My guess is that because these birds are so easily seen with their scarlet plumage, they are extra cautious which is very smart on their part. But makes it tough for me to capture a photo. So my new plan was to get them used to seeing me. I spent a little more time, lingering in the general window area, looking out, just seeing what there is to be seen.
And it worked. I began to observe how they spent their days. And it appears that they live in one of the bougainvillea that technically grow on the outside of the courtyard walls but are so full and tall now that they tower over the courtyard. The cardinals zip from bougainvillea to bougainvillea like a flash of red, only occasionally pausing long enough for me to, once in a while, snap a quick shot.
One day the missus kept flitting back and forth from the hedge under our bedroom window to the courtyard wall, just back and forth, back and forth. The bird version of pacing maybe? That was harder to catch but I sort of got a couple of photos
They are so fast that most of the pictures I took ended up looking a lot like this:
Just the tail feathers....
So Tim took pity on me and dug out his old tripod and set it up in the bay window for me. So much better! My camera was set up and ready to go at all times. Awesome! I had a great time observing and occasionally catching a particularly good shot.
Then Mrs. C discovered the side view mirror of Tim's car and fell in absolute love with her reflection. It is hilarious. There is really no good place to perch in front of that particular mirror, but she is determined!
She spends so much time there that occasionally, Mr. C gets tired of waiting for her to come home, and joins her there.
This new found birdie passion for the car's mirror means that I am out there frequently cleaning both the mirror and that side of the car, you understand. Where ever birdies hang out, they tend to leave their calling cards as well. messy messy messy.
The mirror thing, and by the way, I have not seen the male cardinal look into the mirror even once, but she is obsessed, reminds me of parakeets. At least when I was a kid, everyone that I knew who had a parakeet (must have been a fad then for there were lots of them) had a mirror in the birds cage. Those parakeets would dance and preen in front of the mirror and talk to it a lot. That's exactly what the female cardinal is doing. Do you suppose that parakeets and cardinals are related on some level? Hmmmm. Interesting.
ANYWAY, out with the woodpeckers, in with the cardinals and we are having a great time living in a bird retreat which was never our intention.
You know when we first moved here we saw lizards and bunnies and frogs, butterflies and dragonflies in the courtyard and that was just fine. We loved that these wild creatures felt safe and at home here and we were happy to share it with them. We heard birds in the trees all around us and saw them flying by, sometimes the larger birds would land in the yard or the driveway but it was just a pitstop. Having birds actually living right here has been an unexpected pleasure.
I wonder who will be moving in next?
March 07th, 2023
When life gives you lemons, as the saying goes, make lemon coffee cake!
Oh wait, that's not how the saying goes at all. It's actually, make lemonade! That's right. Now I have nothing against lemonade and in fact I quite like it! I am a particular fan of pink lemonade. Especially when the 'pink' comes from Strawberries. Yummm! Just as an aside, I recently had a pink lemonade popsicle from a place in Sarasota called, "Siesta Pops" and holy cats! It was so good! I want another one right this minute and then I'll probably wish I had another one tomorrow. Or would I want to try a different flavour next time instead? Hmmmm.
But I disgress. I didn't want to make lemonade. And rarely do. We usually buy our lemonade. Rather than having cases of soda in the house, we have cases of lemonade :) I don't know if it's actually any better for us health- wise than soda, but it's certainly more refreshing. At least in our opinion. Oops off track again. Where was I ?
I was talking about lemons. Yes, I remember now. Back to the story.
I don't often have spare lemons in the house. Usually I buy one lemon at each grocery shop and I use it to help clean and refresh the garbage disposal. It's not that we don't like lemon things, we do. In fact, we like them a lot! But it's not exactly a pantry staple since it is a perishable sort of thing. So I don't usually buy extra lemons for baking unless I'm planning specifically to use them. I think the last time might have been not this past Thanksgiving but the year before that when I bought lemons to make a lemon chess pie. Or perhaps it was the Christmas before last when I made cute little lemon mini bundt cakes. The point being, it's been awhile.
And then this thing happened. Two of my lovely neighbors invited me to go out to lunch with them. We went, we have a great time and then they insisted upon paying despite my protests. So to thank them, I made both a batch of banana nut muffins and chocolate chip cookie bars. FYI: This was my first attempt at baking post broken arm so for me, success was iffy, not guaranteed. Which means I was particularly pleased with the results.
I shared the muffins and the cookies with my neighbor/friends and they were surprised and pleased. Then a few days later, one of them, Joan, thanked me the cutest little potted plant. The other one, Debbie, thanked me with some lemons from her lemon tree. So naturally I had to, once again, return that favour, with yet another baked good mostly because that's all I know how to do. I am a woman of limited talents. (you see the crazy but lovely reciprocation circle we have ourselves in! )
I let the lemons inspire me and started going through my various and sundry cookbooks for a new and different lemon related recipe. I was in the mood for something interesting and excited, something I've never attempted before. It's not that my other recipes aren't good, it's that sometimes its just more fun to try something new. Especially if it's a little complicated. That's when it gets REALLY fun!
And so the search began. First I had to find a recipe that required only ingredients I already had on hand so that eliminated anything that listed "sour cream" or "buttermilk" as an ingredient. Which was a surprisingly large percentage! I continued my quest.
I had nearly given up and was about to fall back on an old favourite when I found it! Huzzah! It was perfect! It was a little different than usual, I had everything I needed already, it was new to me and it sounded like a lot of fun to put together.
I carefully read through the instructions several times and began gathering ingredients and implements. I like to have everything already assembled and ready to roll. The oven was preheated, pot holders were on standby, the pan was prepped and my apron strings were tied.
There were four parts to this recipe: The Cake, The Filling, The Streusel topping and The Glaze. But here's the unusual part - I mean if you are a baker you will understand the out of the ordinary element here - First I was supposed to make the cake batter and pour it into the springform pan but don't bake it yet. Nope, next order of business was to make the filling and pour that in on top of the cake batter. Still do not bake it. This was followed by preparing the streusel and sprinkling that on the very top of it all. THEN it goes into the oven to bake. The glaze doesn't go on top until after it's been baked, cooked, released from the springform pan and chilled for 3 hours!
Goody! A project! I rubbed my hands together with glee and got to work. I spent the next half hour or so squeezing and zesting lemons, softening butter and cream cheese and melting other butter. I measured and creamed, blended and whisked, sifted and stirred until my little arms about fell off! It was so much fun! As i put it in the oven, I had high hopes of success. It looked really good.
Here's the thing about an untested recipe though. Until you've gone through it, actually created the dish from the recipe, you really have no idea how it's going to turn out. No matter that, logically, in reading the list of ingredients and the instructions, it sounds like a good idea and regardless of the fact that I followed the instructions to the letter, in truth, sometimes, in the end, the dish is merely, okay. Sometimes even straight up, not good at all. So there is some trepidation involved.
And it's not just the amount of time spent or the cost of the ingredients, it's also the excitement and joy of being able to present a beautiful and tasty culinary delight. I imagine that it's much like a potter having an idea for making a new sort of pitcher and then lifting it from the kiln afterwards and having it come out exactly as envisioned. Very Satisfying!
Let us just say that after all that, I was quite pleased with the result.
Naturally I did have to taste test it. Quality Control is a very important part of any endeavor!
I shared it with the lovely lady who gave me the lemons in the first place. She (and especially her husband) were quite complimentary :)
Of course now I have a half a coffee cake left and honestly, Tim and I do not need to eat a half a coffee cake no matter how good it is, so probably I will end up wrapping it up and freezing the rest. And that will be the next test. Let's see how well this recipe freezes!
Life, or rather my neighbor, gave me lemons. I gave her lemon coffee cake :) It's not what you are given in life, it's what you do with it.
March 02nd, 2023
Ice pack and ice cream! What a great après Physical Therapy Combo!
Thought I'd give you a little update on how things are going PT-wise. I am happy to report, that things are going pretty well actually. Yesterday I progressed to Range of Motion exercises which is the part of PT that changes the letters from meaning Physical Therapy to instead standing for Pain and Torture.
Not to malign my physical therapist, Emily. She is awesome! But the only path to getting strength and mobility back involves a lot of "ouch". Not her fault at all. Just this is the only way. So I spent the entire session yesterday learning the new exercises and having her watch me do them to be sure I was doing them correctly because now will be I doing them on my own and home. And there is no point in doing them if I'm not doing it right!
So I paid close attention and I grit my teeth rather than do any cussing (though there were times when certain words were right on the tip of my tongue.) Now that I am doing the exercises at home with no audience (other than Tim who, to be fair, is in his office most of the day and can't hear me) I feel free to let the odd cuss word fly now and again. Somehow it helps.
One of the many exercises that I am doing twice a day now involves an over the door pulley system:
How this works is, I sit in the chair, back to the door (obviously) and grasp the handles of the pulley, one in each hand. As I lower my left hand (the good arm) it automatically raises the right (the bad arm). Going slowly, this s t r e t c h e s that right arm up, up, up to the hurty spot and then a little higher than that. Over and Over again. Effectively I am the instrument of my own torture. Can't blame anybody else for that can I now? heh
I have goals of course, I suppose everybody does who is doing PT. The end goal of course is feeling like my old self again. But the smaller goals along the way are things like: being able to put my hair in the ponytail. As it turns out I cannot put an elastic band on my hair with one hand! Who knew? Kneading bread and other general cookery and bakery! Getting dressed without discomfort or assistance! Well I guess that part goes for everything I do. Being able to do things, any things, without discomfort or assistance. That would be nice.
Other smaller milestones that I've already met (yay me!) are being able to type with both hands (woohoo!), putting lotion on my left arm with my right hand (yay to properly moisturized skin!), and the biggie, being able to tie my own dang shoes! Yahoo! So see, there is progress and that is always a good thing.
Next week, directly after my PT sessions, I will go for the 3rd set of xrays to see how well the bones are healing (very well, I'm sure) and then I will be half way through my physical therapy and that is very exciting to me!
At the end of the PT appointment yesterday, Emily instructed me to be sure to ice my arm when I got home. I said that I had already planned on it and that I had an ice pack and an ice cream both waiting for me. That my plan was to chill inside and out. She smiled and said, "That sounds just about perfect". Clearly I had her blessings.
But then, ice cream has both calcium and vitamin D in it both of which are important for Bone Health, right? Just what the situation called for. It was another goal, and I met it! Yay me!
March 01st, 2023
Hi there, it's us again. The intrepid hikers! Joy took this photo with her cellphone and kindly shared it with me. Good lookin' group eh?
Yesterday we headed out on Photo Safari and I believe this will be called the, "Little Bit of Everything Hike" because it kind of was. First of all, this photo was taken at our 3rd stop. Third! The first two preserve choices were closed. Of course we did not know that they were closed until we arrived but oh well, three's the charm I suppose :)
Clearly, we had a little bit of bad luck and a little bit of good luck. That works. We don't much care where we hike as long as we get to be out there, y'know? You may notice as we stroll through the photos that some of the pictures are bright and other's rather gloomy. That's because there were moments of very bright beautiful sunlight and other times when the sun was covered by a thick layer of clouds and suddenly it was much cooler and darker. Little bit of this and a little bit of that.
Initially we thought the hike was going to be a bust. We didn't even hear any birds! We were honestly kind of disappointed. Still, we always try to make the best of every situation so we kept our eyes and ears peeled for photo opportunities.
At the beginning, I mostly took tree pictures. I tend to take a lot of tree pictures for many reason. The first of being that trees tend to not move around which makes it ever so much easier to capture them. But in general I just like trees. The spooky creepy arms, their solid massive presence, the colours, the shady parts of the trail on a hot day, the homes they provide for woodland creatures..... So sue me, I like trees!
This particular preserve is so thickly forested and the trees are soo huge that it's hard to imagine. Here's a picture of Joy in front of a section of trees. Note how tiny she is in comparison. I mean you cannot even see the tree tops and she's still in the lower quarter of the photo:
It's a good thing the rangers maintain the trails. Otherwise we would need machete's to get through! As it was, there was a bit of an obstacle course feel to it. Some parts of the trail were perfectly clear but other parts, not so much. We didn't have to deal with mucky, muddy, flooded trails, so we will not complain about having to climb over a few trees:
Oh, and remember how I said we didn't hear any birds? Well that was true for awhile, and then, suddenly, it was like somebody flipped the bird switch and suddenly they were everywhere! Even I could capture a few of them! Whoa!
But those were not the only creatures we saw! Much like the rest of this hike, there were areas with absolutely nothin' worth even trying to capture and then suddenly, there was Everything! We were snapsnapsnapping in every direction!
Part of the hikes we were deep in the forest, other times we were along the river. And it's so pretty all on it's own, that it deserves it's own category. Since this is the dry season, the water is especially low right now. Still beautiful.
Found some pretty flowers too: (flowers don't move much either, so they are another great photography subject for me!)
Here is the last of it, the rando's, just a few this time 'round:
I guess that's it for today! The Little Bit of Everything Hike was a great success to us. Hope you enjoyed it too.
I promise, no more photo safari reports this week. ;)
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.