April 30th, 2019
Wow! That is a pretty inflamatory title there. "50 Unhealthiest Desserts on the Planet". Wow!
It's a pretty big planet. And there are a lot of different kinds of desserts. Narrowing it down to the 50 unhealthiest sounds like a lot of very yummy researched happened for this article. I was curious.
I have to say, I don't know why I read these lists. All they do is make my hungry. I think the intent is to make me rethink how I eat. It doesn't work.
A couple of years ago I read one of these lists that was, "Foods you should Never Ever eat". I read that one too. It also made me hungry.
Nothing listed was a surprise really. Pretty much all desserts are bad for us. I already knowo that. Sugar, fat, carbs...check check check. But the writers did single out a few brands in particular.
In the ice cream category, our winners for Worst Desserts on the Planet are Ben & Jerry's and Haagen Dazs! I can pretty much guarantee that there is at least one pint of one of those brands in our freezer right now. I buy them when they are on sale, (buy one, get one!) and keep them on hand for a day when ice cream is the answer to every question that I am asked. I am reasonably certain that I am not the only person who does this.
As far as pies go, Sara Lee and Marie Callender were the primary villains of the story. I do not recall ever eating a Sara Lee pie, though I have, of course, heard the name. But Marie Callendar? Absolutely. Not only have I eaten and enjoyed her pecan pies, I have also had her pot pies. Both were very good. Not as good as homemade of course, but sometimes, I either do not have the time or the inclination to make a pie myself.
For cakes, Sara Lee again makes an appearance on the NoNo List. But Sara Lee was in good company with Entemann's and Hostess. I wasn't aware that Hostess made full sized cakes. I knew they made snack cakes like Twinkies and no thank you very much please. If those are the cakes to which they refer, I don't think that should count. First of all, I'm not absolutely certain that it is actual food. I'm not dissing Hostess for health reasons, this is strictly taste. I loved Twinkies as a kid but trying them as an adult I nearly gagged. Either my taste buds have changed dramatically or their recipe has. As far as Entemann's goes, they make a mighty fine chocolate covered donut.
Oreo was the first target of this article and was called upon multiple times as the writers listed specific types of Oreo's being specific types of bad. I don't eat Oreo's often but I do enjoy the absolute heck of of them when I do. Life without Oreo's feels sad and empty. The other two cookies mentioned by name are Mrs. Field's and Pillsbury both of which I can easily live without for the rest of my life. But Oreo's? Now that is a shame.
Candy was the last category and naturally, my favourite, M&M's was at the head of the class. M&M's are just plain evil, apparently. And that is probably part of why I love them so much. There is a strong possibility that I have M&M's rather than blood running in my veins. But the writers painted all candy with the same brush. Just degrees of bad. Bad, very bad and extremely bad. Anything Reese's ranked right up there with M&M's, all things Hershey were up close to the top too and then all candy in the world followed shortly thereafter.
Very sad. Sigh.
I was curious to learn if it was just the idea of dessert in general that the writer objected to, or just yummy ones. Turns out, that dessert is fine. And in fact the writer went on to suggest perhaps yogurt with fruit might be a good dessert.
Really, dude? Yogurt with fruit is breakfast. It's not dessert. I have had yogurt for lunch before, sure, sure. And when I'm home alone and feeling particular lazy, I've even had yogurt for dinner. But dessert? No. Yogurt with fruit is not dessert.
Happy Birthday! Yay! Streamers! Confetti! Gifts! Yogurt with fruit...:(
No. Just no. First of all, candles won't stand up in it.
Second of all, no.
Should we all make an effort to eat healthier? Probably yes. Most of us most likely could make more effort to make better choices. Maybe dessert isn't an every day thing or even an every week thing, but instead a special occasions thing.
But it's a quality of life thing, not necessarily quantity. Nobody knows when my expiration date is. Despite my love of all thing M&M, it's possible that I will live to be in my 90's or even 100's. There is a history of longevity in my family on both sides. Or perhaps there is a beer truck out there with my name on it and it's just waiting for me to cross the street without looking both ways first. Either way, if this is the only life I get, I want it to be a quality life.
Part of that is making the most of every moment or every day. Helping others and giving back. Appreciating all that I have. Experiencing and enjoying. Being happy.
Desserts make me smile. I appreciate them. I enjoy the experience of them. And by buying desserts, I have helped to support the people who create them, package them, ship them, sell them.....
It may be bad for me, physiologically, but it's excellent for me emotionally. Now I think I will go eat some M&M's. Yum.
April 29th, 2019
Quite a while ago I wrote about our friends, the Minock family, from Colorado. They had come for a visit and it was a blog topic. Part of the point of that particular post was just how much fun we had visiting with them again, but the bigger part was how there are just some people who come into your life that are important. They aren't just friends, they become family.
It's kind of inexplicable. I mean, why it happens, how it happens. I refer to it as the Giant Click. It happens when you meet someone that you instantly connect with. And in this particular case, it happened all the way around. She and I became best friends almost within seconds of meeting for the very first time and Tim and the mister became good friends nearly as fast. But the coolest thing, the most unusual things is that the four of us together works. And it works as if it were designed to be that way.
We have missed them. We have met some wonderful people here too, please don't misunderstand me. We make friends everywhere we go :) And there were a lot of wonderful people that we met in Colorado that we miss. It's probably the thing about Colorado that we miss the most...the people! And we are lucky enough to have some very good friends in our lives. But you really can only have one best friend. And these were them.
Since Tim and I moved to Florida, we have gone back to Colorado a number of times. And they have flown out here. We texted and emailed regularly, sent pictures and talked on the phone. And while it wasn't a perfect world kind of thing, it wasn't bad for a long - distance friendship. It was working. And we assumed that was just how it was going to be. Taking turns flying back and forth across the country and electronic communication. It's better than nothing.
And then, one day, they surprised us! They also decided to move to Florida. In fact, they recently shared with us that the idea of Florida had long been on their radar as a maybe someday kind of thing. But it was the success of our move that inspired them to not wait. To go ahead and make the move now! Well yahoo!!!! Ok, we were officially excited.
Of course a big move like that doesn't happen instantaneously, but it did happen. They sold their house, packed up their gear and now they live in the Sunshine State! Woohoo!! Naturally we were tickled to bits. And not just because we are selfish creeps who wanted our friends closer to us. (though that part is totally true) But also because this was something they wanted to do and they did it!
They chose a town about two hours north of us. It's charming and rural and small town-y with gorgeous mature growth trees and big spaces between houses. A nice bonus - it's close to few of her relatives. It's always extra nice to have family nearby.
So they arrived nearly a month ago now. And even though we were champing at the bit to see them, we waited until they were semi-settled into their temporary digs. But yesterday, we got to see them again.
Tim and I decided that we needed to bring a Welcome to Florida basket of goodies with us. And you know, normal people would bring flowers or fruit. Or maybe something practical like swim goggles and sunscreen. But Tim and I are not normal people. And lucky for us, our friends not only get that, but they like that :)
We had the BEST time selecting items for the basket which was actually a large plastic sandpail and shovel. Things like Sam made cookies (or course) and sparkly gaudy garish insulated drink cups, and a hand-held battery powered fan, and a Mickey Mouse coloring book and a jigsaw puzzle of dogs wearing sunglasses at the beach and a kitchen towel with a flamingo on it and, and...well stuff like that.
As much fun as we had putting the basket together, I think they had an equal amount of fun discovering the goodies inside. Perfect. We sat out on their lanai under the ceiling fan by the pool and talked for hours, catching up on each other's lives.
We got to see their new property and envision the house that will ultimately be there. We drove around and saw part of their new town. We had a really amazing home cooked food. (and were sent home with goodies) And then we all talked and laughed some more.
Eventually though, we had to make the drive back home. Booooo. But we've decided that we can visited back and forth at least once a month!! So May is right around the corner and now we can look forward to that!
Old friends, best friends just two hours away. Yeah, life is good ;)
April 26th, 2019
I had a dream the other night. That sounds very ordinary. Who cares, right? We all dream. Well the thing of it is, for whatever reason, I almost never remember my dreams so the fact that I remember the dream is kind of a big deal to me. I cannot even remember that last time that I was even aware that I dreamed during the night. I don't have any idea why I don't remember my dreams. I just know that I almost never do. Yeah, I know, I'm weird.
So I'll begin again. The other night, I had a dream. It was not just a dream, it was one of those incredibly vivid dreams, where it seems so very real that upon waking, it's kind of hard to separate reality from dream for a moment. And in the dream, there was a phone very much like the one above.
In the dream, I was in this house. This very one. It looked like, felt like, sounded like, smelled like this house. Everything looked exactly the way everything looks in this house with one exception. That phone. It was on a table in the living room. And in the dream, as I was walking through the living room, the phone began to ring. Dream-me was surprised to find an old rotary phone on her living room table, but since it was ringing, answered it.
I answered it almost reluctantly. After a moment's hesitation I said, "hello?" into the receiver. The voice on the other end of the phone very cheerily said, " Hello" back. I was startled to hear that voice. The voice went on to tell me that he was only calling to tell me that I didn't have to worry about things anymore. That he had taken care of the matter and it will all be fine.
In the dream, I became very teary as I said, "Daddy?" into the phone rather softly. The voice of my dad said, "Why yes of course." And then went on to explain that the matter had been resolved by him getting together with a couple of other people, who he mentioned by name, and that between all of them, the problem was solved..
Dream-me said, " Thank you". I didn't know what else to say! Dream-me was beyond shocked, but my manners are always firmly in place, apparently even in dreams. When someone gives you a gift, you say thank you! The voice boomed back, "Glad to help out." And then he said that he had to be going and that it was nice to talk to me. I said, "I love you" and he said, "Me too" and then hung up. I heard that dial tone sound in my ear. The telephone receiver stayed in my hand. I didn't want to let go of it.
The very next second, Dream-Tim walked into the room and asked who was on the phone. I said, "My Dad!" Dream-Tim paused for a second, looked at me very intently and asked me what my dad had to say. I told him about our exchange. Tim nodded and said after a few minutes that was nice of him. We kind of starred at each other incredulously and then I woke up.
It was an interesting experience. Just remembering a dream is an interesting experience for me and to have such a wildly realistic dream too? Even more interesting. And then when we add in the fact that my father passed away several years ago it now hits the level of Fascinating, as Mr. Spock would have said. Oh and the other people who he named as co-conspirators in the problem solving situation, also long passed on. Even more fascinating. I do not know precisely what to make of it.
Every time I give it consideration, I'm left just kind of saying hmmmmmmm. I have had some things on my mind lately. There have been some worries, some concerns and that's probably where it all originated. But I have to admit I was a more than a little surprised. Surprised is the wrong word. Shaken maybe? Astounded? Stupefied? Verklempt? Dumbfounded?
I suppose it doesn't matter what the word is, but the feeling has stayed with me for days now. I know that dreams are just cranial housekeeping. I know that. I also know that there are dreams called, Problem Solving Dreams where your subconscious, which is so much smarter than your conscious brain, helps you to figure things out. That is most likely exactly what this is. Probably. Maybe. Perhaps.
But whatever it was, remarkably, I am no longer worrying about those things that have been cluttering up my mind and my heart for awhile now.
So I suppose I can resume not remembering my dreams now. I can just ZZZZ through the night and wake refreshed and renewed (on the occasions when I actually do sleep I mean) and wake without a single subconscious thought.
For the rest of you, have a lovely weekend and...oh yeah...sweet dreams.
April 25th, 2019
I'm not certain if you noticed but there are a strange looking pink or red or purpley blotches on my hands. Do you see them? That is not some wierd rash, it's beet juice. I forgot how badly beet juice stains. And no matter how much washing or scrubbing or what product I used, while it did fade, it did not go away entirely. And naturally this was just before I had to leave to work at the museum yesterday. Naturally. That is how it always works.
In my eternal search for new recipes, I ran across an interesting one recently for a what is, essentially, a vegetable stew. It had such lovely ingredients: onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets. I almost never find beets as an ingredient. I was intrigued. So Tuesday, since I had to grocery shop anyway, I also bought some beets. Lovely, earthy, fat, purple beets complete with stems and leaves. I cannot remember the last time I bought beets.
I was kind of excited to get started. I always get a little giddy when undertaking a new recipe. Clearly my threshold for excitement is pretty low.
About an hour before leaving for work, I happily began peeling and chopping vegetables into big chunks, pouring in water, administering herbs, salt and pepper liberally and a splash of cooking wine because, why the heck not. All went into the slow cooker on low for the next 6 hours. There we go. Easy peasy. And I began cleaning up. Finally the kitchen was clean again and I went to wash my hands and noticed that it looked as if I had sustained a weird burn.
I hadn't of course. It was beet juice stain. And that's when I remembered. Oh yeah. This crap stains. Drat! I scrubbed with soap and water. I rubbed my hands with lemons. I even tried hydrogen peroxide. The result being that my hands were so very clean I could have preformed surgery, but the stain remained. No one visiting the museum said anything to me about it yesterday, but their eyes widened in surprise as soon as my blotchy digits came into view.
I know it will fade. I suppose the good part is that I got NONE on my clothes. It was a miracle. Beet stains on clothes is bad. Very Bad. It's almost as bad as cranberry juice stain. Or cherry stains. I'm sure if I googled it I would find the perfect directions to remove any of those stains from any fabric. But I found nothing to remove it from my hands. Other than time.
When my boys were very young, I remember how they would have stains on their faces after eating spaghetti. They all were very independent thinkers from the very beginning and insisted upon feeding themselves at a very young age. I mean so young that most little ones would still be spoon fed by a parent. I encouraged that feeling of accomplishment and independence of course. But it came at a price! So there they would be, in their high chairs, struggling with and eventually abandoning their spoon or fork and end up using their hands. This ended with them having a great sense of confidence and the child, the highchair, the clothing AND the floor all needed a good wash afterwards. All spaghetti eating clothes worn at that age had permanent stains on the front.
I too cannot be trusted to eat tomato based pasta sauce without mishap. I try to never ever wear anything white to an Italian meal. I know it will not end well. Of course we have better cleaning products now. OxyClean is amazing. I use that stuff on a regular basis. I have not yet found any stain it will not remove. From fabric. Not my hands.
When my sister and I were little, our mother would occasionally make these frozen grape juice things for us. She had this ice tray that was in two parts, each part having compartments that were half a sphere. Once put together, it could be filled, I suppose, with any liquid. But the only thing I remember her putting in it was grape juice. Lovely dark purple, sweet grape juice. She would put a toothpick in each one, and we would be ordered to eat it outside. My sister and I would dangle, belly down on our swings, slowly swaying back and forth, toes dragging in the dirt as we ate our drippy yummy purple frozen grape juice spheres. We sucked out the juice first and then munch the leftover ice. Our fingers would be purple stained but any drips landed in the dirt beneath our swings. Clever eh?
I was going to say, who nowadays would give there child a frozen treat that they knew was highly likely to permanently stain their clothing. And then another thought occurred. Who, nowadays would give there child a frozen treat on a toothpick? Well it was a different time back then. We never choked on our toothpicks. We never stabbed each other with our toothpicks and we never put an eye out with it either. Sometimes, when I observe today's kids, I wonder how we all managed to survive our childhoods way back then.
But I digress. Foods that stain. Yeah. What you gonna do. Life is messy sometimes. The veggie stew was actually very good. Tim liked it a lot. The stains on my hands are fading. I got to try a brand new recipe and life goes on. It's all good.
April 24th, 2019
What you see here is part of the little courtyard area in front of our house. I have no idea why the previous owners did not pave the entire thing. You can see the most of it is a jigsaw puzzle of pavers that look very nice. But there is that tiny bit at the top that is just gravel. Kind of odd.
Still it's almost like having an extra room in the house. You cannot see it in the photo but there are a couple of comfy places to sit in this courtyard, my little potted garden and an umbrella for shade on a sunny day in addition to what you see here. It's a perfect place to sit and read or have a quiet conversation, or just relax outside watching the birds, the lizards and the butterflies who also like the courtyard. Occasionally there will be a bunny or a squirrel short cutting through there too. It's a lovely peaceful place.
See up on the end where the white fencing is? That helps to support a giant bougainvillea that spills bright red and purple blossoms into the courtyard. And the first big green shrub looking thing to it's left is a hibiscus that produces giant bright red blossoms. The long hedge produces fragrant white blossoms when it has a mind to. and the tall green and white things on the other side of the path have tiny lavender flowers now and again. When everything is in blossom at once it is a cacophany of colour! I absolutely love it.
And most of it kind of takes care of itself. Oh there is a little trimming needed one in awhile but for the most part, my only job is to enjoy it. With one exception. The one growing thing in there is does require a bit more care is the hibiscus. I do have to prune it more frequently and with more care and it does need some fertilizer. Now, personally I try to avoid any chemically stuff, so I did some reading and coffee grounds turn out to be excellent for Hibiscus. Hurrah! So at least once a week, I take out cooled grounds from Tim's coffees (yes plural) and sprinkle them near the roots. It's not a difficult job and it makes a difference.
So what does any of this have to do with anything? Well, today's story is about the guard at the gate. Oh wait, you cannot see it here so I'll show you a closer up photo of the issue.
Oh dear, you still cannot see it, can you? Let me get a little closer.
There she is. This self appointed guardian has decided that I shall not pass. Almost daily, she strings a web that goes completely across the walking path to reach the hibiscus. Spider webs are sometimes hard to see. The light has to be just right . If not, blam! I have walked right into the sticky web. I am too big for her to eat. She and I both know that. But still, I really really do not want to be blasting my way through someone else's house and then peeling bits of web off my person on every hibiscus pruning and/or fertilizing occasion.
Not just because it's icky, although it is. But also because, she spent a lot of time building that web and now I have just destroyed it. I feel bad.
It is my understanding that most spiders build new webs every day. So I suppose I could cavalierly just say, "well she is going to build another one tomorrow anyway". But what if she hadn't caught her dinner yet? Now she has to wait to eat until tomorrow. I would not appreciate that if it were me.
I kind of marvel at the engineering involved. How does that tiny spider manage to get her web all the way across the path. When you think about how small she is, the gap between the hibiscus and the plants on the other side (I don't know what they are called) is a giant abyss! A Canyon! That's what it's like to her, the Grand Canyon! How did she get across that thing? Did she jump? She is one heck of a jumper if she did that. Or was it more of a Tarzan Swing from one side to the other? Maybe she just climbs down, walks across the path, up a plant on the other side and begins again. I have no idea. It's a big web however she did it. I've read that they generally like to build large webs with the idea that the larger the web, the more likely they are to catch their prey. I'm pretty sure I am not their prey.
I have no objections to this spider living in my courtyard. Providing, of course, they she remains in the courtyard. I know that this little spider is gobbling up all of the nasty bugs that I do not want to deal with. But we have got to come to some sort of understanding here.
I need to fertilize and occasionally prune that hibiscus. Which means I have to get back to that shrub. Or tree. Or whatever it is that a Hibiscus actually is.
I have tried reasoning with her. She is not reasonable. I have explained the issue, at length, and suggested the perhaps she could confine her web spinning to one side of the path or the other. But every day, there is another web strung across the path. It appears that I have only three choices: I can try to belly crawl under the web. I can plow through the web, and be known forever after by spiders near and far as Sam the Web Destroyer. Or I can not fertilize or prune the hibiscus.
None of those solutions appeals to me. If anyone has any other suggestions, I am listening.
April 23rd, 2019
So, these are my feet. Well, I suppose technically these are my shoes with my feet in them. You don't want to see my feet. They are about as ugly as any feet can get and honestly most feet aren't all that pretty to begin with. As body parts go, the only thing uglier, are elbows. I've never seen a pretty elbow. Just my opinion. Yes I understand. I'm sure there are folks who rhapsodize about the gorgeousness of elbows. Not my thing.
Anyway, feet. My feet in particular. They are extremely useful. I can walk a very long way, thanks to these footsies. If I had a mountain to climb, I could do that too. As it is, occasionally circumstances require that I climb a ladder and that is as high as I'm required to climb anymore. It's ok. My feet allow it.
Luckily for me, because feet aren't extremely huge, they fit nicely in my mouth when I say something insufferably stupid. When I was in high school, I remember someone saying, upon observing someone else saying something unbelievably insensitive and ill-timed, "Open Mouth, Insert Foot, Chew Vigorously". I thought that was brilliant. Wish I could knew who originally said it because it comes to my mind often. I always try to think before speaking, but every once in awhile, words just sneak out of my mouth before my brain has fully engaged. I always regret those words.
I suppose if necessary, with these feet I could kick the butt of anyone in need of a good butt-kicking. But as it is, usually, I am the one in need. And while it is difficult to kick ones self in ones behind, it is possible. I know because I have done it. Sometimes, it's necessary.
There was a part of my life, a very long time ago now, when I was a runner. I ran every day. It turned out that I could run a good distance. That I enjoyed it. It cleared my head. It calmed me down. And when I was angry or frustrated I could just run it off. There comes a point in running where the body is sort of a perpetual motion machine. Once I set the body to "Run" mode, I could click that part off, just let go of everything else, and do anything I want in my head. I could solve problems, write music, finish a chapter in a story I was writing, or just listen to quiet. And all the while, my body would keep moving forward. And a lot of that, is thanks to my feet. Pickin' 'em up and puttin' 'em down over and over and over. It was all very Zen.
Well these days, me feet are perfectly willing to keep running but my knees disagree with the idea. Vehemently. So now, mostly, I have settled on walking. Walking is good. Occasionally, I'll get a wild hair and break into a run for a short distance and then chortle to myself with glee remembering the good old, bad old running days as I gasp for air and my knees cuss at me.
This all comes up because today, for the first time in a month, I will be going to Pilates Class again. My instructor (and friend) has been away. I'm so glad she is back. And I know that in a few weeks I will be equally glad to be doing Pilates again twice a week. But for today, I am just grateful that muscle memory is a real thing because I already know that the only reason I'll be able to walk back home is that my feet remember how to do it. The rest of my body will be quivering jello.
Why didn't I just keep doing Pilates while she was away, you ask? Well here is the very funny part. I actually did! At least three times every week, I threw my body on the floor and worked out. I did everything I could remember. But sadly, I didn't do it hard enough or long enough. I get so distracted at home.
There I am, on the floor, belly down, hands placed perfectly, ready to plank. Up and hold, down, up and hold, down, oh dang, look at those dust bunnies under the TV cabinet. Up I jump to get the necessary equipment to take care of that. I drag out the vacuum, put on the long extender thing and vacuum the dust bunnies from under the cabinet. But hey while I'm vaccuming under things, I may as well do under the sofa. And then the ottoman. And then the side tables. Oh hey, if I move the piano I can do back there. And I have the extender wand on so I should do the blinds and once the family room is done, I move into the next room and the next and the next until all of the house is dust bunny free and I have completely forgotten what I was doing before this started. Yeah. It happens.
So while I'm looking forward to getting back into the Pilates groove and I know my body will be very happy a couple of weeks from now, at this particular moment in time, I am merely grateful for my hard working feet that will not only get me to class and through class, but safely back home as well.
April 22nd, 2019
Happy Day after Easter everyone! Hope you did something fun and maybe ate some chocolate bunnies, some marshmallow chicks, maybe a few jellybeans?
Tim and I had a good day for sure. We started out sleeping late. A perfect start to the day. Any day that we don't leap out of bed at the buzz of the alarm, feet on the floor, dashing to the shower (Tim) and to the coffee pot (me) is a very good day.
But we slacked off even more than that. We didn't just wake up late. We also just lounged around watching something on TV for awhile (I don't remember what but knowing Tim it was probably an old episode of NCIS). Eventually we got up and showered and dressed, prepared for whatever the day had to offer but we were in no rush. Just being in "no rush" is a treat. We had some breakfast and read the newspaper. Ahhhhh. A beautiful start to our day! And the absolute best part of the day was that we had absolutely no plan. Zero plan. A rare event indeed.
At some point, I went out to water my little potted garden and decided that the weather was far too beautiful to be inside all day. So I invited Tim to take a walk with me.
There was no big planned destination. We just stepped out onto our street, faced south and started walking. We live on the northeast end of the island so our walking options are limited to south and west. We chose south. We admired various houses and gardens along the way. We chitchatted about this and that and cabbages and kings and the price of sealing wax. In other words, nothing particularly important. But that's part of the joy of it. No stress, no pressure, no deadlines. just walkin' and talkin'.
We ended up walking nearly the full length of the island. When we reached Service Club Park we stopped and decided to return via the beach. Luckily for us, that park has beach access. It also had covered picnic areas! Awesome!
We made our way to the beach by weaving through groups of people taking advantage of the picnic areas. What a great idea! Picnic Easter! I am always so impressed by how clever some people are. I am not sure I ever would have thought of it.
They brought table clothes and Easter Centerpieces, picnic baskets and coolers! Everyone was in a great mood! There was a l lot of talking and laughing going on. There was frisbee on the beach and someone out on the water in a paddle boat. Sand castles were being built, lots of napping in the sun, one miniature easter egg hunt and of course a whole lot of eating. I wish I had thought of it.
It was a long walk back but a beautiful one. Sand, surf, sun....can't ask for a better day than that!
We were gone for hours! And arrived home just in time to start dinner!
I wanted to do something a little special for Easter Dinner. I mean it's a holiday after all even if it was just the two of us. So I made a pork loin roast, home made baked macaroni and cheese and steamed asparagus. I made a lot of noise, a big mess and a yummy dinner.
Blurry photo but you get the idea. The biggest difference about this dinner is that for the first time ever in my adult life, I did no holiday baking. NONE! I didn't know I was even capable of Not Baking. Especially for a holiday. But it appears that I am. And you know what? The sun rose, the sun set and the world continued to turn.
I didn't intentionally set out to Not Bake. It wasn't as if I planned dinner and consciously said, "And there will be no baked goods for Easter this year!". It wasn't a punishment. It wasn't a diet plan (I made mac'n'cheese so obviously not for health reasons). It wasn't a time constraint thing. It just honestly didn't even cross my mind! Wowza! That is a first!
Normally when I plan a holiday meal or any special occasional menu, it STARTS with the dessert and then grows from there. This time, it wasn't even on my radar! How very bizarre!
Well however it happened, we were so full from dinner, we didn't even miss dessert. And of course, there were the chocolate bunnies available for chocolate emergencies. I suppose they could serve as dessert emergencies as well.
But meanwhile, I had lots of leftover pork roast and mac'n'cheese. The leftovers are both the best and the worst part of amy holiday meal. Best because I can slapdash a leftovers meal together in no time at all. Worst because it's kind of the same meal, several days in a row and honestly, even a meal you like can be boring to many days running, right?
Regardless, today is the day after Easter and the next holiday on my radar, I think, is Memorial Day. Maybe a picnic is in order?
April 19th, 2019
I'd like to talk about Lying today. The reason this came to mind is because I thought I was going to have to start out today apologizing for lying. And then I realized that my lie had no intent to deceive behind it. There was none of that going on. I thought I was telling the truth.
Awhile back, I wrote about household mysteries and somewhere in that blogpost I said that I have long heard about this thing where people lose One sock in the laundry. Apparently this is a common thing but that it had never happened to me. Never say never folks. Earlier this week as I was folding the load fresh out of the dryer and still warm, I ended up with several pair of matching socks and one lone unmatched sock.
It was one of mine. The sort of sock that I wear with sneakers so, now that I think about it, it sort of looks like half-a-sock. There is no "ankle" part of the sock at all. When I'm wearing them with my sneaks, it appears that I'm wearing no socks at all. And as my feet are very porportional to my short self, my socks are no particularly large. Since we live in Florida, my socks are also not bulky with fabric. Lightweight and cotton is the key. Since they are cotton they shrink a bit in the dryer and then stretch back out when I put them on. In short, my socks are on the small side. Easily overlooked. I assumed I had just missed them in the dryer so I went back and checked. Nope. No sock. I checked the washer. Not there either. Well dang!
I went ahead and continued doing all of the wash and just guessed that perhaps it accidentally got mixed up with another load and that as I continued doing other laundry throughout the day, eventually it would turn up. I did all of the laundry. The delicates, the whites the towels, the sheets. No sock. Well I'll be danged. The mysterious missing sock in the laundry black hole DOES exist! And it did happen to me. I made a mental note to drop a little one-liner apology in a post this week and continued on with my life.
Then I did the ironing. As I was smoothing out a pair of Tim's shorts on the ironing board, there was a small bumpy part. I thought probably it was the pocket. No problem. Pants pockets often flip around inside clothes and have to be corrected. I reached inside the shorts to fix the pocket and found.,.....my sock. AHA! It wasn't gone forever, it wasn't sucked into the purported laundry black-hole (if indeed it does exist)and most importantly, I did not lie!
Being an honest person has always been important to me. I think it's part of why people tend to trust me. It speaks to character. I am a woman of my word. But being honest can be a tricky thing. And sometimes there kind of is a grey area.
I know, I know. There should be no grey area being truth and lies. None. I agree. And yet.....
When great Aunt Gertrude sweeps into the room in the most ghastly hat anyone on this or any other planet has ever seen and asks, just as giddy as a school girl, "What do you think of my new hat?" I am not going to be the one to crush her spirit. She obviously loves the hat. Her opinion really is the only important one. So I walk the line. "I've never seen anything quite like it" I say in return with a huge smile. It didn't technically lie. But I didn't really tell the truth either.
Because there are all sorts of lies. And some of them should get a pass. Christmas lies for example. Or Birthday or anniversary or whatever occasion involves a surprise. "Are you planning anything for my birthdays?" someone asks and I know very well that there is a surprise party happening. Oh lordy what do I say? I don't want to be the one to give away the surprise. But I don't want to lie either? My response, "What? Me? No, I'm too busy to plan lunch" and I can say that with a straight face too because I was not the one planning the party. Someone else was. Still while not a lie, not really the truth either. But I think that one is ok.
How about when a 9 month pregnant woman, who is crying and puffy and blotchy and miserable with her hair going all sideways and her eyes and nose red from crying and nothing fits and she can't get comfortable and she wails to you that she is go fat and ugly. Are you going to be the one to agree with her? (and if you are, shame on you!) No...go for the gold on this one. Tell her how beautiful she is, because she is. Tell her that you love her. Tell her that everything is going to be fine. And then tell her how beautiful she is one more time. And even though she has never looked less beautiful, you get a pass because that was the right thing to say.
You see what I mean? That whole truth/lie thing is sometimes tricky.
Little kids are usually the most honest people on earth. They volunteer information that really shouldn't be out there in the universe. "Hey, which one of your guys farted?" Yes, that was my oldest son at about 4 years old, calling out a group of older men who were talking next to us as I stood in the card aisle of a local Caldor (similar to Walmart). Some truths do not need to be spoken I tried to explain to him later after we beat a hasty retreat.
But little kids are also the worst liars in the world. "Which one of you guys was in the cookie jar?" I asked the lot of them one day. They were about 5,4 and 3 at the time. I got an entire chorus of "not me's" in return. Incidentally, Not me, was responsible for most of the shenanigans in our house at that time. I was pleased that they didn't rat each other out, I liked the solidarity, but still the culprit should not get off without reprimand, y'know? "Well", I continued, "Someone was in the cookie jar and ate all of them. See? Only crumbs left." I indicated the glass jar. "Soooo who did it?" "Lucy did" one of them offered. The others nodded in agreement.
Lucy by the way, was our German Shephard. While she was a very smart dog, I am doubtful that she could, not only get on the counter top to reach the cookie jar, but also remove the lid, eat all of the cookies and then...here it is...replace the lid. If she actually could, the dog would have been a genius. She was a dear sweet dog and smart, but she was not a genius.
"Oh dear," I said, "Chocolate is very dangerous for dogs. It will make her very sick! Oh no! Poor Lucy". I said very dramatically. Lucy, meanwhile, hearing her name, came into the kitchen and sat down, patiently waiting to see why we called her. The eyes of 3 little boys immediately turned to the dog waiting expectantly to see if she was going to barf.
Side story: Apparently throwing up ranks as high entertainment for little boys. One summer my sister and I took the combined 5 of our kids on a trip to Maine. We had a wonderful time. When we returned, we visited my mother who asked each of the kids what was the best part of the trip. One of the girls loved the beach, another one enjoyed being on the boat. First little boy responded with great excitement that construction guys were working on the road and Stacy threw up in the car. Woohoo!
Back to the tale. I continued to fuss over Lucy, worrying about her health, how sick she could be and told the boys the truth, that honestly, chocolate is so bad for dogs that sadly, they could be so very sick that they might have to go to the dog hospital. Now, I suppose, that technically I was sort of lying. I knew darned well that the poor innocent dog had nothing to do with the missing cookies. BUT the chocolate part being bad for dogs..that part is true.
A mother does what a mother must do! And it worked because my poor sweet boys felt bad. They didn't want Lucy to be that kind of sick! One of them broke into tears and hugging the dog around the neck confessed that he had climbed onto a chair that they dragged over to the countertop, took out the cookies and dispersed them between themselves (evenly, I might add). There was one leftover cookie that they gave to Lucy. Clearly, she was completely unharmed from eating the one cookie. Lessons learned. 1. Do not feed chocolate to the dog.2. Do not steal cookies - ask for one. The answer is probably yes. 3. Mom is pretty smart. Don't try to put one over on her.
The last category of lying today is the unintentional lie. And that mostly happens because of something that I forgot. Gettin' old here guys. Sometimes I forget things. Just too many items on the shelf now and sometimes things fall off. For example, Tim and I were talking with another couple. We were all talking about places we've been. One of them asked if we'd ever been to Alabama. "No we have not. Tell me about it" I answered. "Yes we have" Tim corrected me. "We have?" I asked, totally drawing a blank. Very patiently Tim reminded of of the time we were in New Orleans and one day took a drive to Alabama for lunch. "Oh yeah! That's right! I remember now!" I had completely forgotten. See! It was an untruth...okay a lie...but not by intent. I think the intent should count. It happens to me a lot.
So there you see. I consider myself an honest person. But clearly even I, occasionally, lie.
Diogenes wandered through the streets with a lantern, seeking an honest person. And he passed my house right by. I see no lantern out there. I guess he has to keep looking. I try! I really do try. But the truth is, sometimes, even if it's by accident, even I occasionally lie.
April 18th, 2019
I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I've seen on TV, in movies or even books a scene where, in a very public place, someone becomes hurt or injured or ill and another person, panic stricken, yells out, "Is there a doctor in the house?"
I assumed that was just a movie or TV thing honestly. I've been in a lot of crowds, a lot of public gathering places in my lifetime and while, yes, occasionally there is reason to call in paramedics it's usually done quietly. Unless you happened to be at ground zero of the event, most people do not even know that it happened at all. So I assumed it was just a silver screen dramatic device, right?
Apparently not. Tuesday night I was attending a play, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof". The set design was stunning, as it always is. The actors were all doing a very fine job. You know the play right? It's so very Tennessee Williams, all angsty passion and very southern dramadramadrama. Anyway, there we are, the audience, eyes riveted to the screen and suddenly, we hear, off stage, someone call out, "Is There a Doctor in the House?". Everything stopped. Initially, I thought it was part of the play. (Which was odd because I've seen it before and I didn't remember that part.) And then a split second later I realized that the actors were also frozen in place, looking out into the audience. Then I saw a man to my right, jump out of his seat and book it up the aisle.
After a few moments, the house lights came up and one of the actors stepped forward and said that the play would pause for a short time and to please bear with them. They left the stage. We stayed in our seats and talked amongst ourselves. It was clear that the action was in the balcony, but we heard no ambulance sirens so whatever the problem was, clearly it was, in some way, resolved and after a few more minutes, the play resumed. A bit of unplanned excitement.
But the one thing everyone was talking about during that unexpected intermission, was that none of us had ever experienced that, "Is there a doctor in the house?" moment in real life. On TV and in movies we had all seen it, but in real life we had not. Not one of us.
But honestly can you blame me for being surprised? So much of our entertainment has very little to do with reality. And that got me thinking about the many differences between real life and silver screen life. For example:
Never once have I, in an emergency, come screaming up to the front of whatever building I need to go to, and found a perfect parking space right in front. Happens every single time in the movies and on TV. In my real life, even if I did find one right in front (which I never have), I'd have to parallel park and we all know that ain't happenin'. What actually happens in my real life is that I have to park blocks away, I don't have proper change for the meter (because of course it's metered parking) and it's pouring rain. That's just how it works.
Speaking of rain. Every time I've been caught in the rain, and it does happen, I end up looking like a drowned rat. I have mascara all over my face, hair in my eyes and my clothes plastered to my body revealing every fat roll, I am very quickly soaked straight through to my skin and my sneakers make a squelching sound as I run, hell for leather, trying to get to an overhang of some sort, Worse, I have my hearing aides clenched in my fist which is in my pocket trying to keep them as dry as possible. My other hand is holding my sunglasses or reader glasses as I jog down the street and I fear that my phone, which is in my back pocket, is now ruined. On screen however, the female lead is still stunningly gorgeous, no mascara leaks, her hair, while wet, just makes her look like a beautiful mermaid, her clothes, though soaked still look couture and of course she needs neither hearing aids or glasses of any sort and there is no worry about the fate of a cellphone and the male lead finds this irresistible and they linger in the rain, smooching romantically. Nope.
Let's see what else? Oh, in the Hollywood version of life, whenever people turn on the television, first of all, they know right away where the clicker is. They never have to search sofa cushions or look under the coffee table to see if it fell on the floor. Then of course, the TV turns on instantly, the channel is the exact one they want and it's the news story they need to hear and it's the beginning of the news story. Not the middle, not the end. You don't have to stand there waiting for the story to come 'round again or click through to a zillion other channels looking for it. It's already there. Very Handy! A real time-saver!
On TV and in movies when people enter their restaurant or coffee shop of choice, there is always an empty table and it is always their favourite table. It is somehow always reserved for them. Can you imagine if your favourite seat in any of your most frequently visited restaurants and coffee shops was always saved for you and your buddies? That would be AWESOME! It wouldn't be realistic, but it would be very cool.
Oh! Here is another one that I always wondered about. Do any of you actually keep a spare key to your car tucked into the drivers seat visor? I know I don't. Tim doesn't. And in fact, I don't know anyone who ever did that. But it happens constantly on screen. If people really do that, no wonder their cars gets stolen!
This one, well I shouldn't even list this one because I am fairly computer-stupid and I don't know what I'm actually talking about here. But I have my suspicions so I will go ahead and put it out there. If I'm wrong, feel free to tell me so. Does it strike anyone, besides me of course, implausible, that literally any data, anywhere, can be hacked in a matter of minutes? Sometimes seconds. Need information? Call your computer guys and poof there it is. You can see what's going on, you can hear what's going on with anyone, anywhere and you can retrieve ANY data before the commercial break. I find that doubtful. Can anything be hacked? Probably. But I bet it takes longer than presented. Am I wrong?
I marvel at the marksmanship of the Good Guys on every cop show I've think I've ever seen. The Good Guys take out the bad guys one, two, three. Perfect aim every time no matter how much chaos is going on around them. Things are blowing up, stuff is on fire, the bad guys are shooting back, people are running around and yet, the bad guys are going down boomboomboom. The good guys, even if they are standing out in the open, might get winged, but bravely, they soldier on and continue to fight the good fight. And win. Of course they win. Unless it's a very dark drama, the good guys always win.
Also, nearly every car that crashes, blows up. Thank goodness that one isn't true. But if you judged real life by screen life, anytime you had a fender bender you would be running for the hills rather than getting out your license, registration and insurance information.
Here's one that always bothered me. Clark Kent and Superman were never suspected to be the same person even though his entire disguise consisted of combed hair, glasses and a change of clothes. That's it. Completely different. Nobody could tell. If that were true in real life, every time I came home from a hair appointment or wore a new outfit Tim would have to call the police to report a stranger woman in his house. I will admit that anytime Tim shaves his beard/mustache off, I do stare at him for days because he does look different. But he still looks like Tim. Just Tim with a new look. That glasses thing isn't just superman. Lots of the "disguises" that the main characters wear to fool people involves the wearing of glasses. Apparently glasses are the best disguise ever. Next Halloween send your kid out with wearing a pair of your old glasses with the lenses knocked out. Cheap costume and obviously will fool everyone.
Well you get the idea. I'm still kind of goggling over the fact that "Is there a doctor in the house" is a real thing and not just a movie thing. Huge surprise.
What are some other Movie things you have noticed that are absolutely NOT real life things?
April 17th, 2019
This morning I am wrestling with a dilemma of the laundry kind.
On the left you see my ironing pile. All neatly folded and waiting for me to get crackin' at it. And yes, that is my piano bench that they are resting on. I don't know where the ironing pile is at your house, but at my house it lives on the piano bench. It is, if nothing else a way to motivate me to iron. Otherwise I have to move the pile somewhere else to play piano. Clever eh?
The picture on the right is the source of my my ironing dilemma. Do you see that big white blotch right around the knee area? Yeah. That's a bleach stain. How did it get there? I honestly do not know.
I don't use bleach every day. But occasionally I will do a load of whites and add a little bleach to keep them from being grays instead. And when I clean the bathrooms I usually use some bleach to make sure things are superduper clean. BUT because I know from personal experience the kind of damage bleach is capable of with regard to my clothes, I am Very Very careful. I even buy so - called "splashless" bleach. Instead of being a liquid, it's more like a very loose gel. Kind of gross actually.
Well it may be "splashless" but it's clearly not Sam-proof. Evidence above. Sigh.
It's not as if these are new shorts really. They are at minimum 4 years old. Rather old in clothes-years style wise. And of course being in style has never been high on my list of priorities. But they are comfortable and cotton and easy to throw in the washer. Non-fussy. I like that in my clothes. And, other than the bleach stain, they are perfectly fine shorts.
They aren't even really shorts. I'm not sure what they are called now. Back in the day we referred to them as "Clam-diggers". They appear to be about mid-calf but not capri's because they are wider in the leg. The intent is to roll them up to just below the knee. And that's what I usually do. Unfortunately, just below the knee means, just below the bleach stain.
Oh and that little blue/green thing above the stain? That is an iron-on patch from a small tear I got about a year ago. I don't recall the circumstance of the tear but I do know that an unexpected tumble was involved. Maybe on my bike? Regardless. Now that same leg has both a patch and a bleach stain. Dang. It's like these shorts are cursed!
Back to the dilemma. Obviously these are no longer suitable for public wearage. I would not wear them to work at the museum even on a super hot day. I would not wear them to teach English at the library. And in fact, I would not wear them to the grocery store. (I am beginning to sound a little bit like a Dr. Seuss Book!)
But I would wear them to clean house, work in the yard, y'know things like that. So it really doesn't matter how they look. I can't do anything more about the patch really. Oh I suppose if it fell off I could, I don't know, iron another patch on? The point is, as long as those pants exist there will be a patch of some sort ironed on. And I absolutely have zero recourse about the bleach stain. Bleach stains are eternal.
Sooooooo here is the question: Should I bother to iron them?
On one hand, it seems kind of silly to go to the trouble of ironing a pair of shorts that nobody is ever going to see on my person because it would be a day of scrubbadubbing. I don't usually invite guests over to watch me clean grout or wash baseboards. On the other hand, if I don't iron them, if feels as if I've given up. Sort of like, if I've gained a pound or two even though I've been working REALLY hard at eating properly and exercising more , sometimes I tell myself, "Oh go ahead and eat the damned cookie. Obviously it doesn't matter!" (By the way that attitude only lasts about a hour or so. Just long enough to eat the damned cookie. ) Then too, ironing the shorts doesn't eliminate the patch or the stain, and in fact perhaps it accentuates it by contrast? But ironed clothes just look so much nicer, don't they?
It's not that I mind ironing. I really don't. Every week I have a pile of clothes which are improved by ironing. I usually watch either some wonderful old black & white movie, or something that's I've recorded earlier, or one of the HGTV shows while I work, smoothing wrinkles and creating order out of chaos. Everything looks so nice. Crisp and perfect and almost new once again.
But some things are just not worth my time. And these shorts may be one of them. I'm on the fence. I just cannot decide. Iron or no iron. I leave it up to you. Vote yes. Vote no. Or abstain. You always have that option.
Thanks for helping me out guys!
April 16th, 2019
As you can see, I'm gathering things for a GoodWill drop off. How on earth do I accumulate all of this stuff? Honestly, some of it I can't even remember where it came from!
This start out very innocently. It always does.
I received some new books at Christmas. Yay!~ Books! And when I went to put them on the bookshelf, I realized that there was no more room. Clearly some editing was in order. So I carefully went through all of the books on all of the shelves and was able to part with just enough to make room for the new books. I have to get really tough with myself when it comes to reading material. I have to ask myself the big question..."Am I honestly going to ever read this book again?" If the answer is no..out it goes. It ain't easy, let me tell ya! But finally I had a nice little stack of books in a bag. I put the bag-o-books on a shelf in the utility room out of the way for the time being. It seemed a shame to go out of my way to haul that one bag to Good Will. I decided to poke around and see if there was anything I could add to the bag.
It was about a month or so afterward that I found myself standing in the pantry looking for...something...I don't' remember what...and I noticed that up on the top shelf way over to the right were about six or seven vases. I had forgotten that I even owned them. And it occurred to me that not once in the nearly 3 years that we've lived here have I used any of them. Not because I haven't had any flowers in 3 years, but because I have other vases that I use instead. Probably I could add those unused vases to the pile. So I dragged over the step stool and carefully brought each vase down, wrapped it in newspaper and bagged all of them.
Now I had two bags of stuff. But they really weren't very big bags. Not really. I wondered if there was anything else I could add to the pile and make this trip really worthwhile. The bag of vases joined the bag of books in the utility room for a couple of weeks.
Then one very sunny day, as I grabbed a hat before heading out on a walk, I realized that in my stack of hats, there was one particular hat that I have only ever worn once. If I've only worn it one time, there must be a reason. That hat could go in the pile.
A few days ago it occurred to me that I don't use my piggy bank anymore so the pig goes too! That was a hard one. I adored my piggy bank. I've had it a long time and it is a cute as can be. But Piggy turned out to be a greedy little bank. The money inside is almost impossible to remove. And in fact, right now there is at least one quarter still in it that no matter how much I shake and tilt and finesse, refuses to leave so that the piggy bank is going to GoodWill with a twenty-five cent donation inside.
Another moment of realization in the pantry just yesterday had me adding these very cute round metal trays to the GoodWill pile. I bought them on a visit to a consignment shop with my sister one day. In my mind I saw myself using them to bring food or drinks outside. But in reality, it turns out that I cannot seem to balance anything on a tray while carrying it. Food is safer than drinks. We will just say that and leave it be. It's harder than it looks. Remember that the next time you eat at a restaurant and your servers bring everything on trays without spilling anything!!!
When I started looking aound more closely, it got easier. Dribs and drabs of this and that joined the discard group. Most items are things whose origin is an utter mystery to me. Why do we have this? Where did it come from? At the end of the day yesterday, I looked at the pile of random stuff which had grown to three bags and a full milk crate and decided that this is getting ridiculous. I need to just put it in the car. Once it's in the car I'm more likely to actually drove to GoodWill and drop it off. I need to just pick a day and do this.
So I am now committed. Friday is the day. Between now and Friday I will comb the house for anything else that I do not use, do not need, do not want. It will go first into the pile, then into the car, then off to GoodWill. Friday...Good Friday...will also be GoodWill day.
We have only lived here for three years. Well not quite three. At the end of May it will be three years. Before we ever left Colorado to move here we purged like mad. We had a gigantic yard sale, we listed things on Craig's List, we donated masses of things to GoodWill and Salvation Army and there were things that, in the end, we finally just gave away. All to live smaller and simpler.
But apparently, we did not clear out quite enough because here it is, 3 years later and I'm still getting rid of things we do not need. How did this happen? Are other people sneaking over inthe dead of night and putting the stuff they do not want in my closets and on my shelves? Or do the things we want to keep reproducing? Are we the other side of a wormhole in space and any random thing that goes through shows up in my pantry? It's a mystery.
But it's one that will shortly be solved when I finish gathering stuff this week and haul it all to GoodWill on Friday. Right now we are standing at 3 bags and one milk crate of stuff. I wonder how big the pile will be by then?
April 15th, 2019
Please forgive this blogpost as it is going to sound very "braggy". Generally speaking, I am not a "me, me, me" person. (Gosh! At least I hope I'm not!) And I apologize head of time if anyone thinks less of me for this post. But I am just so jazzed!!! I have to tell you!!!
As some of you know, I belong to an online photography group called, ViewBug. I joined at the urging of my sister who is an amazing photographer. At first I was reluctant because, well I only take pictures with the camera on my cellphone not a fancy real camera and because I knew that, while I love taking pictures, I am about as pre-amateur as anyone could possibly be.
But Joy persevered. She insisted that my work was better than I thought it was and suggested that ViewBug was a great place to learn to be better. Tim, who is also a brilliant photographer, took her side. It was two against one. And after a lot of thought, I took a deep breath and suddenly there I was in the midst of an enormous collection of people of all ages, all abilities and from all over the world! And of course, Joy and Tim were right.
ViewBug turns out to be an amazing community of people who are supportive and interesting and share a love of photography. Some of these contributors, like me, started out with very rudimentary skills, but others are incredible professionals whose work is just amazing.
We all bravely post our work. We comment on each other's contributions. We ask questions. And are inspired by one another. We challenge ourselves and each other constantly. What a wonderful way to learn.
There are actual tutorials on ViewBug so if there is a specific type of photography that you feel needs improvement, there is a place to go. There is a forum for photographers to 'talk' together online. And, very fun, when we start feeling a little more confident in our abilities there are contests and challenges.
The contests are set up by the administrators of ViewBug. There are real judges. The winners receive, in addition to the cachet of having won, real prizes...cameras or camera equipment for example. It's a very big deal.
There are awards that are given out regularly. Winners are notified that they were the best in whatever category and everyone else who qualified is notified when they are in the top 10% or 20%. I am pleased to say that I have gotten a good number of those notifications. I was frankly surprised that I ever ranked that high with any photo and assumed that was the best I could possibly hope for. It was very cool.
Then there are the challenges. The members of ViewBug set up the challenges. We choose a photo challenge topic and send it out to all of the other members. Anyone who wants to, submits their picture which they feel is suitable for that topic and then there are two winners. One winnner is chosen by the person who set up the challenge the other by the votes of all of the ViewBug members. For those winners, it's strictly a pat on the back kind of thing. The winners are interviewed by ViewBug and that interview is posted, kind of awesome. But mostly it's just the knowledge that...woohoo! You won!
The photo at the top of the page was my first big win. It was completely unexpected. It was called a Peer Choice Award and it had something to do with the activity my photo generated amoungst my fellow ViewBugians. I did not have to submit to the photo anywhere special, it was just a picture that I submitted as I do on the regular. So it was a surprise. And it tickled me to bits and pieces :)
I was rather agog with that first win. It was akin to winning the lottery. Only with no actual cash involved. I assumed that it would never happen again. I was delighted with my One Win. Yay Me!
This was the second picture that I won a big award with. Again I had no idea that there was an award of any sort in the offering. Just boom, it showed up in my inbox as a congratulations! You have won...The Community Choice Award! To say that I was shocked is putting it mildly.
I was already convinced that winning the first award was some sort of one-time fluke. But here was a second award! Wow! That is awesome. I probably should say that I'm above the need for compliments but apparently I'm not. I admit it freely, while I didn't seek out this award, it was very exciting! And actually, very encouraging.
So there I was with two big awards under my belt. Lightening struck twice. Not a chance in the world that it will ever happen again. Which means, no pressure. Just taking photos for the joy of it. Posting them daily to be part of the photo-community that I am now a member of and always learning learning learning. Ain't nothin' wrong with that! And I continued on my merry way.
Then earlier this year I was stunned when I received a Top Shot Award for this picture. Honestly, part of my surprise was because I honestly didn't think it was a very good photo. I was equally shocked to have gotten an award that I knew nothing about. I suspect, since it was around Christmas Time (well just after Christmas) that maybe each member received an award as a Christmas Present. Awwwww! That's downright adorable! Very Sweet and I will TAKE IT!
So there I was merrily rolling along, enjoying posting my photos each day (It's a discipline thing. I post two photos Monday through Friday which means I have to come up with two pictures that I like enough to post 5 days a week), viewing and commenting on other's work, watching the tutorials, honing my craft, entering the occasional contest or challenge, just for fun and just living my quiet little life. And then this happened last Friday:
I found out that I actually won a Challenge! Wow! The category was Chandeliers obviously. Holy Cats!
My first thought was the perhaps I was the only person who enterred that challenge. But I did my research and while there weren't hundreds of thousands of entries, there were enough other entries that I feel that my win was respectable.
Eventually I will get over myself and definitely I will continue working at this. Taking pictures, learning to take better pictures, posting, entering contests and challenges and who knows if or when I will ever win another award.
I won't lie. I am getting a real kick out of these awards. But even without the awards, without the positive feedback and occasional spotlight, I love taking photos and that part will continue.l I am delighted to have found this photo community to be a part of.
If anyone else out there enjoys taking pictures, ViewBug is pretty awesome. Check it out.
April 12th, 2019
"What's for dinner?"
Those of us who do the majority of the cooking for the household are accustomed to hearing that question. Usually we have an answer. And usually we don't mind. It's a question asked with expectation. It's actually a sort of compliment. The person asking knows that whatever comes out of that kitchen is going to be good. Their belly is already rumbling in happy anticipation. For the person asking, with honest curiosity, there is at least low level of excitement at the prospect of a yummy meal. For the person being asked, it is sometimes a dilemma.
I enjoy cooking. I honestly do, at least the vast majority of the time. And I especially like cooking for people for whom a meal is not just matter of fueling the machine but also an occasion. It's an opportunity to gather, have good conversation in addition to tasty food, reconnect, relax and be happy. And of course, I love cooking, for people who enjoy what I serve.
So I make an effort, at least most of the time, to bring something really good to the table. A meal that is a pleasure for the eyes and a delight for the palate. I try to cook with a nod toward healthy most of the time but it also has to taste good. I can cook kale all day long in twenty different ways and still nobody in this house is going to eat it. Sorry Kale. No. Just no.
But I find myself sometimes cooking the same things over and over again. And it occurs to me that if I'm bored making it, surely Tim is tired of eating it. He never complains. Not ever. He thanks me for the meal I brought to the table and eats it without a murmur of discontent because he is a gentleman. But it just seems logical to me that if I'm uninterested in what I've made, it can't be all that fun to eat.
And I want to remedy the situation. I have a bit of a reputation for putting decent food on the table for friends and family. I gotta live up to my own rep, right?
So what does the family cook do in that situation? Well this particular family cook starts by taking careful food inventory. What do we already have on hand in the fridge, freezer and pantry. That's step one. I don't want to make a zero hour trip to the grocery store.
Step two is to haul out all of my cookbooks and start looking for something ......different. Something either I've never made or haven't made in a long time. Then I start asking friends and family. Do they have any recipes for whatever it is I'm trying to build a meal around?
For instance, I have one friend back in Colorado who shares recipes with me regularly. We email each other nearly every day. And one of the things we often mention in our daily missives is what we are planning to make for dinner. Often we inspire one another with ideas and that is fun. Perhaps she mentions that she is making chicken enchiladas for dinner. When I read that I might think, Hey I haven't made that in a long time! Great idea. And I have another friend back in CO has told me before that she loves when I post a picture of a meal I made on facebook because sometimes it reminds her of a dish to make at her house. I love how we help each other out that way.
Occasionally, I resort to looking recipe ideas up on line. While I have had some successes with that, it's not a rock solid answer. For whatever reason, I have found that I do better researching multiple recipes for the same dish first, reading them all, and then kind of drawing a bit of information from each of them and creating yet another version works the best for us. That's how I learned how to make gumbo actually. I read probably a dozen different recipes for gumbo on line and then I got really smart and googled, "Best tips for making gumbo" and there it was; a short list of 5 things that were essential to good gumbo. And that list was correct. It turned out marvelously!
Every once in awhile, I get all mad-scientistish and just start creating on my own. I have had some of my best successes and likewise some of my biggest failures via this method. I have no idea what comes over me but occasionally, I just get an idea in my head and things start happening in the kitchen where only my imagination and creativity are in control. It's so much fun! But there are downsides. I can think of several off the top of my head:
First, if it turns out really horribly, dinner still needs to be provided and I have nothing else planned so it's omelets or sandwiches for dinner! Second, I just threw in the trash about umptyump dollars worth of product and I do hate waste. But the third poor outcome is that the meal was fabulous and because I was totally winging it, I can never reproduce it. Ratz!~
When I am in a wild and crazy create-a-brand-new-dish mode, somehow, Tim can always tell. Maybe there is an extra sparkle in my eye, or a madness in the air, I'm not sure. But he will approach the kitchen carefully and say, "Uhoh, she's at it again". Damned right I am and I'm having fun doing it too. Tim does not worry about it. Either it's a great idea or, in his words, "Domino's Delivers".
So here we are. It's around 9:30 am right now and I have no idea yet what I am making for dinner. If you have any suggestions, bring 'em on. What are you fixing for dinner tonight?
And oh, by the way, if you noticed that in the top photo of my pots and pans in the cabinet it appears that I have no pot lids? I do. I have plenty. I just store them separately. I don't know why, but I've always done it that way. See?
April 11th, 2019
Behold! My new potted garden! Evidence of spring.
Well it has felt very springy here for quite some time weather-wise but I, personally, have not felt springy until recently. I think perhaps living in Colorado for ten years altered the advent of my own springness. You see, in Colorado, sometimes the worst parts of winter are actually in the spring. It's true. Some of the most vicious winter weather I ever experienced when we lived in Colorado was after the actual calendar date of the spring equinox. So when we lived there, I knew better than to try to plant flowers, no matter how nice the day actually was until deep into May because the next day could be a blizzard. And even May was no guarantee.
If you go up into the mountains in Colorado, there are actual signs to notify motorists that it can actually snow any day of the year up there and to take that under advisement as you continue travelling upward. Which is darned thoughtful of whoever came up with that idea. Perhaps we should have signs here telling motorists that it could be like spring most any day of the year and to be likewise advised? (teehee)
Anyway, over the weekend I had a sudden attack of spring and so off we went to a local garden center to choose some flowers for me to stuff into pots. I have an unusual method of choosing what flowers we will purchase each year. I walk through the garden center and select whatever appeals to me in that moment that is relatively inexpensive. That's it. That's my entire plan.
It ends up being different flowers, different colours, different everything each year except the actual pots that they get stuffed into. Those remain the same. This year I seem to have been drawn to purple and white though I do note one pink bloom in there too. Last year It think it was mostly red and yellow and the year before I believe it was pink and white. I just never know what is going to catch my eye.
The big mistakes that I make every year, and I do mean every single year, is that I don't pay much attention to that little tag that tells you the kind of sun and water that each requires. It would be smart of me to do that because that way everything that requires one sort of water and/or sun could be in one pot and flowers with different sun/water requirements could be in a another one. But no, I choose them willynilly and shove them, lovingly, into pots solely based on how they look together.
Yes, I confess. I sort them and combine them strictly with an artistic eye, not necessarily a gardeners. I pot flowers the same way I arrange flowers in a vase, by what appeals to my personal aesthetic. Therefore I have some very cute little dark green leaved things with polka dots that I'm not certain even blossom in the same pot as Cosmos. And there is Alyssium potted with, well I actually don't know what it is but it's purple and tall with lots of adorable little flowers. That's part of the other thing in my minus column. I don't know much about Florida flowers. I do not know the name of more than half of what is in my yard. So even if I knew the name of the flower it wouldn't mean much to me (and odds are good I won't remember it anyway) So with regard to the entire flower thing, I'm kind of flying blind.
I have no idea what, if anything, will live and what will gasp it's last in a few weeks. It's all a crap shoot. And that is one of the reasons that I choose inexpensive flowers. If it's going to keel over and die within a month, I will be sad but I won't also feel guilty for having essentially flushed big bucks down the old WC.
The trip to the garden center that we made this past weekend was even trickier than most because I forgot my reading glasses. Even when I made the attempt to read that little sticker about the sort of plant and it's needs, it was just a blur to me. And I couldn't keep asking Tim to read the stickers to me. That's not fair or thoughtful. So like I said, just flying by the seat of my britches. There was a lot of 'Oh..pretty. Ooooo another pretty one. Oh this smalls nice" on my part. And then the price tag. That was my selection method.
And it will either work or it won't. Last year, and by the way last year I actually did read the little stickers, about half of the flowers made it all the way through the summer and one I even transplanted into the backyard in the fall (and it's still alive! shocker!). The other half gasped their last in July. Gardening is always a gamble.
I read somewhere once that farmers (and by extension gardeners) were the most optimistic people on earth. Audrey Hepburn famously said, "To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow". It actually makes perfect sense to me. To plant a seed (or seedling) and then love and nurture and care for it, fully believing (not just hoping) that it will not only live but thrive and eventually produce gorgeous tomatoes or cilantro or blossoms in spite of weather, insects, accidents out of our control, tells me that this person absolutely looks on the sunny side of life. Especially if this person has previously planted things that..did not grow, or grew and died, or grew and were infested with some evil insect, or grew and was beaten to death by a rogue hail storm or...insert tragedy here.
Anyone who is that kind of familiar with the possibilities AND STILL PLANTS ANOTHER GARDEN, well that's my kind of people.
Of course, mine is just a very tiny potted garden in my front courtyard. But it's adorable and I love it and the butterflies love it and that's just fine with me.
April 10th, 2019
You know, I've been on this planet for quite some time now and I have learned a few things. One of the really important things I have come to know is that Love, I mean real true love, is nothing like they write in (most) books or show on the silver screen.
I have no idea what men think about the reality of the various media interpretations of Love, and I do mean big L love, but from a very young age most girls believe that some version of Prince Charming and Cinderella is true. And that is what we grow up wanting, expecting, hoping for. And when we finally do fall in Love, at least in the beginning, that's what we feel. The heart swelling, brain muddling, knee shaking, finger trembling, L.O.V.E. just like in the movies. And of course, we expect it to be that way forever.
But over time, even though we still really do love this person that we chose to spend the rest of our lives with, the trembling and shaking seems to have fallen away and is replaced with annoyance over laundry and stress from financial discussions and the sheer repetition of our days. In other words, real life. And sometimes, maybe we either take our life partner a little bit for granted or just lose sight of how important that other person really is to us. And perhaps, way in the back of our brains there is a wee tiny corner that is wistful for the early days when everything was new and exciting and we felt that we had to constantly prove our feelings of love to each other. Way back in the cobwebby corner, we still yearn for the fairy tale.
This is a story of what true love really is.
Some of you already know how I feel about jelly beans. For those who do not, mostly I am not a big fan. With the notable exception of yellow jelly beans. I adore the yellow ones. Tim, however, rather likes jelly beans, but only jellybird jelly beans. The old fashioned kind which used to be the only ones in the store but nowadays, they are harder and harder to find. He likes them all, even the nasty black licorice ones. And he eats them all mixed up. So there's green and white and purple all in a single mouthful. He likes it that way. I don't understand it, but I accept it as true.
So when Easter rolls around every year, I make sure that I buy Tim a bag of jelly beans. This being the Easter Season, I set out to find some. They weren't in the first store I checked, Nor the second, but I did find them in the third. Oh they had other kinds of jelly beans...spiced jelly beans, unusually flavoured jelly beans, jolly rancher jelly beans, etc. etc. but not the old fashioned kind. As I said, those are slowly becoming a rarity. So there you see, I went out of my way to go to three different stores to find Tim the jelly beans that he likes. But that isn't the true love story.
I brought the bag of jelly beans home and stashed it on a shelf in the pantry behind other things. I wanted to surprise him. And then I realized that I am being ridiculous. This is not a surprise! It's Easter. I buy jelly beans every year at this time. Having some in the house isn't unusual at all. So to really surprise him, this year, I will not eat the yellow jelly beans. This year, I will save them for Tim.
You see, normally, the first thing I do when I put the jelly beans out is pick out all of the yellow ones for myself and gobble them right up. I am a terrible person. This poor man has not had a yellow jelly bean since we started dating many many years ago because I eat them all before he has a chance. This year however, at long last, I was going to resist the siren call of the yellow jelly bean. This year, I decided, he finally gets to have the yellow ones too. A real sacrifice on my part, seriously. I do adore those yellow jelly beans. But nope, that isn't the true love story either. Not yet.
I swear that once upon a time we used to have a real covered candy dish, but for the life of me, I couldn't find it this year. (I know I used it last year so it is a mystery) But necessity being what it is, I made do and decided to set the jelly beans out in a sugar bowl. It's not as strange an idea as you think. What are jelly beans made of? Well mostly sugar and gelatin. Sugar bowl, sugar candy......close enough. So there the jelly beans were. All of them. Every single one, including the yellow ones. See?
Oh it was hard to resist but I did. I marveled a little bit really over how very many yellow jelly beans there were in this particular bag, actually. I didn't plan it that way. It isn't as if I examined all of the bags before selecting one. I just grabbed the one on the top of the pile. But as it turned out, this year I hit the mother lode of yellow jellybeans. Dang. Just my luck. The one year that we are swimming in yellow jelly beans is the year I decide to be noble and sacrificing. I'm sure he wouldn't notice if I took just one, right? But no! I will be strong. I will be disciplined. I am fully committed to my mission. I will NOT take one single yellow jelly bean. And I didn't. I put the lid back on and walked away. But that isn't the true love part either!
So after dinner that day, after me walking past that sugar bowl/candy dish multi-times throughout the day but still not taking ANY jelly beans (so proud of myself) finally we sat down in the family room for a few minutes and talked about our day. Somewhere during the conversation, I mentioned to Tim that, you know, just by the way, I bought you some jelly beans. And he smiled and said thank you and that he had noticed. I waited a few minutes and then said, kind of just FYI, "You might notice that it's a little different this year". He looked at me in a questioning sort of way so I continued, "Well this year, all of the yellow jelly beans are still in the bowl. Even the yellow ones. That's right, I ate none of them!" He laughed and thanked me and told me to go ahead and eat them if I want to because he doesn't mind. It has kind of become tradition at this point. But I shook my head and was very firm. Nope, This year will be different. This year, finally, you get to find out what yellow jelly beans taste like. This year, I am not eating any of the them. He said, "Wow! thank you!" and that was kind of the end of that.
Several days went by and while I noticed that the level of jelly beans in the dish was slowly dropping, I didn't investigate any further until I was dusting a couple of days ago. When I took the sugar bowl off the table I kind of bobbled the lid. I carefully set it down (I tend to drop things) so as to reset the lid and saw this:
I walked into his office with the sugar bowl carefully held in my hands and kind of thrust it at him. He looked up at me. "You didn't eat any of the yellow ones." I said accusingly, "I wanted you to have them this year." He smiled back at me and said, "And I appreciate the gesture but I know how much you love them so I left the yellow ones for you".
THAT my friends is true love. During our twenty-five years of marriage and three years of dating before that this man hasn't had a single yellow jelly bean. Something he REALLLLLY likes and only eats once a year (coz that's the only time they are in most stores). And when, at long last, he finally had the opportunity to have them, instead, he passed up the chance and left them for me. I nearly cried I was so touched.
Prince Charming does exist but it's not silver slippers and magical pumpkins and royal balls, it's yellow jelly beans. True Love, right there in real life. And that's a fact.
April 09th, 2019
Today's blog post should probably be entitled: the story of the City Mouse and the Country Mouse because I think pretty much everyone knows that story, right?
Anyway, Tim and I decided to explore north of us for a change over the weekend so we headed toward Tampa. Other than the airport, we don't know much about Tampa really. The airport we are very familiar with. But the only other times we've been up in that direction were for a Tran Siberian Orchestra concert, one visit to St. Pete's Beach and a few times, passing through on our way elsewhere. Otherwise, we didn't know much. Well now that I think about it, we did an official tour of Ybor once nearly three years ago. So we decided to start in Ybor once again. When you take an official tour, you only see what the guide shows you. This time, we would see whatever we chose to see!
What's that you say? There is a problem with the photograph? You can't read backwards? Silly me! I'm not sure why I took the photo from the back. Just to be weird maybe? It's Ybor Square. Ybor City is area of Tampa. Tim and I were there on Saturday!
In case you are wondering, Ybor is pronounced eee-bore. Sort of like Eeyore from Winnie-the-pooh. And much like the famous Eeyore, Ybor is a little battered around the edges. Once upon a time it was the cigar capital of the world! Wow! That's really something eh? Now one of the wonderful old brick cigar factories is instead an Scientology center. There are some restaurants, some bars, some empty buildings, some shops and a ton of feral chickens.
Mostly what we saw was a lot of historic charm and old Cuban influence. I love that part. I adore the signage, the brick streets, the fancy metal work and big porches in front of the houses (most of which had been turned into businesses). There was a market going on that, apparently, is a weekly thing. Farm goods of course but also hand-crafted items, food trucks, live music and dancing in the streets. It was awesome!
It's a small area, about a mile square, so it didn't take long to walk around. But we felt as if we started off on the right foot for this explore and jumped back into the car to see a wee bit more of what Tampa has to offer.
I have to interrupt myself here. Tampa is a city. A big City. One of the biggest in Florida. The Greater Tampa area, at last census, was over 4 million people! Holy Cats! And I've never been a city person. Ever. And now, living in the small city of Venice which is even smaller than the small Colorado city of Parker (where we lived before moving here) I am finding that big cities intimidate the heck out of me. There is a lot of traffic, a lot of signage, a lot of people and buildings, and well, lots of everything, and if you don't know where you are going, it's overwhelming. It's important to start out knowing that about me because it influences everything else I am going to say here today.
Back to the story. Tim got us back onto the highway with no problem and we just kind of wandered. We drove through part of the Hyde Park area which was so much bigger than I anticipated, but very nice. We went over the bridge to Davis Island which seemed to be the land of condominiums. Very nice ones, but still. Seriously, condos as far as the eye could see which wasn't very far because, y'know, condos. And then after wending our way through traffic and streets south of Tampa proper, we headed west, toward the water.
Somehow, we always end up heading toward the water. I'm not positive what the name of the area of St. Pete's we visited, but I think it was Pass-A-Grille Way. It was very cute. Lots of beach rentals and small hotels, a few larger ones, but mostly not. In addition to restaurants and cute little shops, there were houses of every shape, size and design imaginable. And with water on three sides, we were never more than a few streets from The View. One side was all beach with lovely wooden bridge access points all the way down and decent enough parking. Then coming around the point it was just a nice side walk along the water which was filled with boats and boats and boats! We just sat for awhile and watched them all. Lovely. It looked like a GREAT place to vacation if you don't already live by the water (which we do).
But so far, it just didn't speak to me. It didn't say, this could be your home. And some places do. Old town Santa Fe did. The Quarter of New Orleans did. Parker Colorado did. And Venice Island FL did. And I felt that draw with all of those places from the very first time we were there. That feeling of "home" was instantaneous in those towns. But so far, nothing in the Tampa area has said that to us. Which is fine. We are happy in Venice!
When we finally pointed the car toward home I felt relieved. Odd I suppose. But driving away from the big city just felt so good to me.
I'm not saying that we will never go there again. Not at all. In fact, I'm quite sure that we will go again, many many times. There is a lot in Tampa to see and do! In fact, like most big cities, if you can't find something to do there, you aren't trying! I anticipate that we will visit Tampa enough times that eventually I won't feel quite so uncomfortable by it's size, the noise, the highways, the toomuchness of it. I'm positive that eventually it will be a comfortable and happy destination.
But it will never feel like home. Which works out very well, because it's not. I'm not suggesting that it's a bad place to live. Clearly it's not. 4 million people all believe that it's the perfect place to live! And that is wonderful!
Like I said, this post is sort of like the old tale of the Country Mouse and the City Mouse. Well I guess it's more the tale of the City Mouse and the Small Town Mouse. Vive la difference!
April 08th, 2019
Well it finally came. The last hike of the season. Some of you may be breathing a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness I don't have to hear about THAT anymore", you may secretly be thinking. And I promise to not hold that against you. But for Joy and I, it's kind of a dagnabbit situation. I mean, she is, of course, excited to be heading back to Yellowstone to do her ranger-thing. And by summer it will just be too hot&humid (yes I say it like it's one word) to do a lot of hiking here anyway but still, we really enjoy our photo safari's and will miss it. Until the fall when we start again! Fair Warning! We Will Start Again!
Meanwhile, this last hike. I know I mentioned once before that somewhere along the line, we found this wonderful list and map of all of the hiking opportunities in our county. And we kind of thought it would be fun to try them all. Friday (last hike day) we checked out another one.
Joy GPS'd the address into the Nav system of her car and, after at least one turn around, we did find it. It was a little confusing because the address was actually of a very elaborate YMCA compound. I said compound because it was more than one building, a very large parking lot and then many different outside areas. There was an enormous lap pool, a basketball court, tennis courts, a soccer field, a very nice playground, outside climbing wall and something that looked like ships rigging and, oh yeah, way over there, and rather poorly marked considering how nicely everything else was maintained, there was a hint of a trail. Ok. We're game.
It was a dirt trail and we do prefer those, but it was extremely narrow. No biggie, we walked single file. It was shady and cool and that was nice but more than a little overgrown. We could hear birds, but not see them and more alarming, we could hear rustling in the foliage but not see any creatures. Is it a lizard, a mouse, a SNAKE? No idea. We never saw any of them.
But we did, at some point, spot some poison ivy. Yikes! We walked slowly and carefully and tried to not brush up against anything. Here and there would be a stray beam of sunlight illuminating some little thing that caught our eyes and at one point we found a creek that had a small waterfall but overall, it was a bit over a mile of just cautious walking and not a lot of photography going on. At the stream we could hear a bullfrog. Never once saw him though and that drove us mad for short awhile and those few moments were the most exciting of that hike. We were glad we checked it out, but there is no need to go back.
So, in an effort to salvage the hike, we went to one of our old favourites back here in Venice, The Carlton Preserve. First of all, it has bathrooms. Second of all, lots of well-marked and nicely maintained trails. And normally LOADS of photo ops.
We chose a trail we had not walked before and it was lovely. Nice wide trails, loads of sunshine (though shady areas as well here and there) and it was quiet and beautiful as it always is. But oddly, we saw evidence of very little wildlife. Almost no birds, not even a lot of butterflies or dragonflies, few flowers, no real new discoveries of the sort that get someone with a camera excited.
But still it was a nice walk and we enjoyed it. All five plus miles of it. Yup it was a longer than usual one and by the time it was over we were sweaty, dirty, tired and very very thirsty. So we called it quits and revived ourselves with about 32 glasses of iced water and some veggie pizza. It was a good day. Not a great photography day, but a good day nonetheless.
Oh well, look at that. I guess I did get a few photos after all :)
And we spent another day together, talking, laughing and sharing one of our favourite hobbies! (in fact, I had Joy laughing so hard at one point the we probably shouldn't have been driving! I need to work on my comedic timing obviously)
We do plan to spend tomorrow together but since there is something like a 90% chance of rain, hiking is O.U.T. of the question. I'm not sure what we'll do instead, but whatever it is, we will enjoy the heck out of it.
I feel another blogpost coming on.
April 05th, 2019
One of the many things that appeals to us about this town of Venice that we've chosen is how quirky it is. In fact, I would go so far to say that the quirkiness of it all is part of the reason that we decided to live here.
You see evidence above of just some of the murals I've seen around town. Murals! How awesome is that! I mean for a fairly small town, we have an unusual preponderance of them here. The population of the city of Venice (not just the island where we live but off island too) according to the 2010 census was only 20,746 people. According to Wikipedia, Venice is known for it's large snowbird population and it's designation as Happiest Seaside Town. Although Wikipedia says nothing about it, there are a LOT of murals too. (oddly Wikipedia also does not mention that we are the shark tooth capital of the world either!)
Murals pop up unexpectedly as you are driving through town in places where you might not expect it, like say on the backside of a shopping plaza. Or one exterior wall of a building the borders a sidewalk cut-through. I love each and every one of them.
I've noticed them here and there on people's private homes as well. There is a rather startling turquoise house that has a very detailed undersea mural covering the wall between the front door and the garage. There is a another very tastefully painted one of what appears to be a Wisteria vine in full bloom twining up and over garage doors of a different house. And still another that appears to be potted plants, one on each side of a front door. Plants that never need to be watered but always look good! Nice!
When we were house hunting before we moved here I was surprised at the number of houses that had murals inside the house. I mean HUGE murals. The sort that cover an entire wall. Sometimes in an entry way. Sometimes in a bedroom. Occasionally on a lanai (that's a screen porch to everyone else). But it was just the sheer volume of them. I remember being so surprised. I mean if we saw one or maybe two in the dozens of homes we looked at, we might just think..personal taste right? But when you see it happen over and again, you start to think that there may be something else going on here.
As it turns out, murals are actually very in keeping with the flavour of the town. The original city of Venice was just the island. And it was a planned community. Yes! Way back then the concept of planned communities existed. It was brilliantly laid out by a famous city planner named, John Nolan. He made sure it was all perfect with lots of parks and areas for shopping and schools and restaurants and hotels as well as residences. And there was a theme to it all too. The original concept for the town was that every building was to have a Mediterranean feel to it. Think arched doorways, fancy metalwork balconies, terracotta arched roof tiles and lovely warm colours. There are a lot of houses here that were indeed built in that style. Most of the shops and businesses have stayed in keeping with it too. And somehow, to me, murals fit right in with that. How very Michelangelo of us.
While the earliest murals that I know of were found in caves that date back to paleolithic times, one of the peaks of popularity of the art form was during the Renaissance era, particularly in Italy which is in the Mediterranean. And there you go. Now it makes sense right?
Personally, Tim and I have no murals. We are mural-less. We also do not have a particularly Mediterranean style house. Well sort of, we have a cute little pavered court yard in the front, that's rather in keeping with the style. And I would be lying if I said that it never crossed my mind that a cute little mural would look really smashing on the wall around our courtyard. Alas, I have ZERO artistic ability. And of course we have no arched terracotta tiles, no balcony or fancy metalwork. And that's okay.
There are enough others to keep the quirky adorableness of Venice Florida still feeling a tiny bit like Venice Italy. To say nothing of the sheer number of Italian restaurants here! Me oh my! But that too will have to be the topic of a different blog on a another day.
Have a great weekend y'all.
April 04th, 2019
These are some of my teacher-y faces. Seriously, that is how I show up to teach. Denim jacket or sweater (the library is chilly!), hair mussed because, somehow, my hair is always a mess, glasses half way down my nose and excited to be there with all sorts of new ideas dancing in my head! As it turns out, I really love teaching!
This comes up because The Season is coming to a close and all of my students are returning from whence they came and I won't see them again 'til autumn. Boohoo!
I guess when I really think about it, I was always a teacher of sorts. I "taught" my younger sister things like how to tie her shoes and don't polish rocks by licking them coz you might accidentally swallow them (which actually happened to her once) and don't pet the tarantulas that are hiking up the driveway...practical stuff.
I taught a little piano when I was in high school and did a lot of tutoring in college. And of course, like all mothers, I was forever teaching my own children things. Just normal stuff like the alphabet and how to make their beds, how to properly iron a button-down shirt and how to make cookies, things of that nature. But I'd like to think that I also taught them to believe in themselves and how to be just good people. I recall throwing out a few words of...ok let's call it wisdom...now and again. I remember saying things like, "Put your brain in gear before your mouth in motion" and "You don't look any taller standing on someone else". Pithy eh? I had dozen's of 'em.
But I think my first real official taste of teaching was back in Connecticut. I had taken a year off working after my 11 year turn at Hospice work. Tim very generously backed my play when I said that I needed a little time off before getting another job. I needed to do something positive and nurturing for awhile after being surrounding by death, dying and grief for so long.
I found not one but two wonderful ways to heal my soul. First as a docent in an art museum. Although I have absolutely ZERO artistic ability, I adore art and museums. Seemed like a good combo. There was a permanent exhibit that of course we had to learn about, but there were also visiting exhibits that were just temporary. Those were the most exciting. The "tour" verbiage wasn't scripted. We were given some pertinent information about each new exhibit and a private tour by it's curator. The rest of what we docents said to our visitors came from our own research. Yes we did our own research for each exhibit and therefore each of us gave a slightly different tour. My favourite groups to tour were children. Making art interesting and fun for a school group was a challenge and I adored those bright and shiny little faces just soaking up their new experiences! If I did my job right, they would take away perhaps an interest in art and hopefully a love of museums that would be lifelong.
The second thing I found was volunteering at a local elementary school. Initially they gave me the advanced Math (which sounds laughable until you realize that we were talking 2nd graders here. I can do advanced 2nd grade math thank you very much) and advanced English (far more my comfort zone). I was given the necessary materials and directions and it was fine. Not exciting but fine.
Then they asked me if I would be interested in tackling a different group. Because we lived in a university town, there were a lot of visiting professors from other countries. They often brought their families with them and those other family members did not speak English. These poor kiddos just sat in school every day completely lost. They couldn't follow anything being said or done. They were learning nothing and bored out of their little minds. That sounded like an interesting challenge! I asked if there were materials or directions on how to teach this group and the answer was no. They had no ESL (English as a Second Language) program. Gotcha.
So I created one. I figured it out as we went along. There were children from many different countries. They didn't speak my language, I didn't speak theirs. They didn't speak each other's languages either! Interesting situation. I started out with stacks of magazines. I had them cut out pictures of anything they liked and then paste it into notebooks. We communicated through mime. Every day was like a game of charades. Once they each had a few pictures in their books, I gave them one word. I would point to the picture and say what it was, "Car" for example. Then I printed the word in their books. They repeated it back to me and practiced writing the word. Then we expanded, "Big car", the "Big Red Car" and so forth.
I also brought in a children's version of the game Concentration. Each little cardboard card had a picture of something. A truck, a doll, a kitten, a banana and they would have to find the matching card. But the key was saying the correct word (which was also written on the card with the picture). They were starting to put it all together. Kids are so darned smart.
Then I came in one day wearing all sorts of crazy clothes. Coats, Sweaters, Hats, Mittens, Crazy socks, etc. And I had the word of the garment written on a piece of paper and pined to the article. We took turns wearing these silly things and making sentences, "Kim is wearing the red hat" "Rolf gave the blue coat to Rajesh" , things like that. We had so much fun!! By the end of the year, they were absolutely speaking and writing and understanding so much more English that they had before. I loved every single day that I worked with them.
And then when we moved to Colorado, I found another ESL program through the library but for adults. Ok, that will be different but I was still excited about it. Sign me up! I was given a group of lovely ladies from Russia. A mother and her two teenaged daughters. We all crowded into one of the small tutoring rooms and we had great fun and they really learned a lot. And then I got into trouble. You see, I wasn't using the materials they told me to use. Shame on me! It was because their materials were terrible. They were mimeos of mimeos. I couldn't read the directions on half of them and the rest of them were, in a word, stupid. Not helpful. Not useful. So I made the executive decision to NOT use them. Shockingly, my students learned anyway. But the powers that be found out and I got fired. Oops. I felt bad. But not badly enough to use their "teaching" (and I use the term loosely) materials.
And now we are here. I was a little doubtful at first. Was this experience going to be like the last one? Was I going to have to be restricted to just their copies of copies of really poor materials? Not at all! I was given carte blanche. As long as my students were learning, they didn't really care what materials I used. Huzzah! There I was, all excited about teaching once again.
I love seeing that light in a persons' eyes when they finally "get it". I adore finding the way to reach each individual, because everyone learns differently. I love what I learn with each student that I take on. There is a very, dare I say it, honourable, sense of purpose in teaching that speaks to me.
But now, as I said at the beginning of this post, they have all gone home and I have nobody to teach :( I find myself correcting grammar in the newspapers out loud, remarking on spelling errors that I find online, and sometimes I have to reallllllly hold myself back when I'm having a conversation with someone who says "Mute point" instead of "Moot Point".
I have found my self idly considering whether or not lizards can be trained whenever I'm in the courtyard watching them dash around. One day at the jetty a visitor, all excited at the birds, pointed at a large osprey soaring overhead began screaming to her family, "Look there's a pelican! A Pelican! A Pelican!" and I couldn't stop myself from correcting her, "Well that particular Pelican is actually an Osprey". Tim smiled and kind of shook his head. He knows I just cannot help myself.
You learn new things all of the time. Every single day, you should learn at least one new thing. Whether it's about other people, the world around us or ourselves. It seems that I learned something about myself that I should have recognized a long time ago. Apparently, I am a teacher! Cool!
April 03rd, 2019
Can you stand to hear about yet another photo safari? We just can't get enough of 'em.
We are trying to cram in as many as possible before Joy and Bob leave for Yellowstone so I'm reasonably certain that there will be at least one more and then none for about six long months. A safari drought!
There were two different things on this particular safari. One is that we started out in a brand new park. I mean, the trees were probably always there, as was the river, the bugs, the birds etc. etc. But the official Park-ness of it all is new. In fact the dedication isn't until tomorrow. We jumped the gun a little bit.
I read an article about it in our local newspaper and kind of did a mental blink. How on earth did I not know about this park? Especially since it's just down the street from another preserve that we often hike! I mapped it online so that I had an idea of where it was and as soon as Joy walked through the door yesterday, I told her about it. She said, "Let's go!" She's always up for a new adventure! It's part of her charm :)
The other new thing, you might have noticed in that photo of me (where upon reflection, I kind of look like a street urchin don't I? With my baggy shirt and nifty rain jacket tied 'round my waist? I really ought to step up my hiking attire) Anyway, please note, in the picture I am using an ACTUAL camera and not just the camera on my phone! That's certainly different for me!
It's actually not my camera, it's Joys but she, very kindly, is loaning it to me to allow me to try to get the hang of using a real camera again. Tim has offered on many occasions to buy me a real camera but I am spoiled and lazy with my phone camera. I say lazy because I already know how to use my phone camera y'see, if I only use that, I don't have to learn anything new. That is the absolute definition of lazy!
But, in all truth, part of my concern with a new camera was, could my crookedy, wierd, arthritic hands use a nice camera ...and here is the important part...without dropping and therefore breaking it. It's a real concern. Joy wasn't worried about me using this cute little yellow one because she claims that it is Sam-proof! She bought it years ago specifically for a trip that she and Bob took to Fiji and that area. It's water proof and shock proof and supposedly, also, Sam proof. I was very hesitant to even hold it in my clumsy hands, but Joy appeared to have no concerns about it at all. So let the experiment begin!
Back to the new park. It's a gorgeous place with nice wide trails and excercise stations. (??) It's not just a hiking trail, it's also a fitness park! There are at least 20 fitness stations, a couple of them we even tried out (what the heck, there were only birds and lizards around to laugh at us). We were warned by one fellow hiker that rattlesnakes have been seen in the area so we were far more cautious than usual about venturing off-trail.
But we did get some great photos anyway. One of our favourite discoveries were caterpillars. Lots of them! Fuzzywuzzy adorable caterpillars with voracious appetites! They were absolutely oblivious to our presence and just munchmunchmunching their way through every leaf they could find, getting ready for chrysalis time! They were so stinkin' cute!
We also saw, for the first time, I think, ladybugs! So many lady bugs. Also adorable. It was cute stuff day, I guess. Pretty flowers and interesting vines and dragonflies (that I still haven't managed to photograph) and well, it was a great hiking and picture taking day. Despite the sporadic rain sprinkles and the cloudy weather and potential of rattlesnakes (ick) we had a wonderful time. As we always do :)
I didn't drop the little yellow camera once, I'm proud to say, but then I also used the attached loop to hang it 'round my wrist like a giant charm bracelet! Hey, it worked! About half of the above pictures were taken with the the loaner camera and half with my phone camera. It will take some time to really get the hang of using a different picture taking device, but I'm up to the challenge!
I will keep working with it and see how good I do (or don't) get with it and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to try before I buy!
Meanwhile, I'm pretty sure that we will get at least one more photography hike in before she leaves, so be prepared for one more session of this kind of stuff!
And meanwhile, everyone, please have a spectacular day today!
April 02nd, 2019
Generally speaking, I do not eat fried foods. Not because it's bad for me, which it is. And not because I'm trying to eat healthier, which I wish I could say was true but I'd be lying if I claimed it and certainly not because I don't like it, because I do.
On a regular basis, ordinary day, normal circumstances, I do not eat fried foods because afterwards I regret it. I feel yucky. And I don't care to feel that way. I suppose my body is just smarter than me and rejects fried food on my behalf because I'm too stupid, too undisciplined and/or too self-indulgent to do what's best for me. That's ok. As long as one of us is in charge, it's all good.
The two exceptions are really good french fries and donuts. I eat them knowing that I will regret it later and still enjoy every bite.
I don't do it often. But I do it. And over the weekend I totally did it. Donuts. I feel like Homer Simpson.
It was Joy and Bob who told us about this place. It's in Sarasota and it's called, ofKors Donuts. That wasn't a typo. ofKors Donuts. I just took it into my head Saturday morning that rather than eat something normal and healthy, donuts would be a good idea. Donuts turned out to be a great idea.
It's a relatively small place in a plaza that is loaded with all sorts of shops. They didn't have a LOT of donuts. But they had enough. There was regular donuts (like glazed and chocolate frosted), they had fancy regular donuts (like the one with crushed up peanut butter cups on top or the one with chopped up oreo's on it). And then there were Brioche donuts (lemon or key lime). Next up was the Cronut (the combo of donut and croissant) and they even had several flavours of gluten free donuts.
The nice lady behind the counter explained to us what each donuts type was. Oh my gracious. How on earth does anyone decide? After much deliberation we chose, two glazed (good old standbys) the fancy one with peanut butter cups on top, a chocolate frosted cronut, a fancy caramel frosted one with chopped nuts on it and the lemon brioche. Colour me happy!
Shockingly, we managed to wait until we got home to eat any of them. But I think we were breathing deeply and maybe even drooling a little bit the entire drive back. Tim dived in to a glazed donuts immediately. He loved how big it was. Definitely oversized with a nice glaze and tender layers. Then he moved on to the peanut butter cup one, which was pronounced tasty. Next was the Chocolate Frosted Cronut. It was much lighter and flakier and tastier than expected. And in fact, Tim said that he would have perferred it unfrosted. Just the plain donut! Wow!
I went for the lemon brioche to begin. Love brioche anything. Everything. And this was not a disappointment. Then the lemon curd...not too sweet, not too tangy and not too much of it either. Just a tiny bit in every bite. To make it even better was the meringue on top. Holy Cats! It was just perfect! I was absolutely satisfied with that one donut and should have stopped there but no, I had to push the envelope and moved on to the caramel frosted one.
It wasn't even really frosting. It was more a caramel glaze. And it was tasty and the nuts were a nice crunchy addition and the donut was good. But compared to the first one, it was just meh. If I had only had one donut and it was the caramel one I'm sure I would have been wild for it. But that Lemon Brioche one was So Incredibly Amazing that nothing would compare. At least nothing that day.
That left one donut. The last glazed donut. But neither of us could eat another donut. Just couldn't do it. So I carefully put it in a container and then put the container in a plastic zippy. I wasn't taking a chance on that donut getting stale. I didn't eat it later on Saturday. And in fact, I didn't even eat it on Sunday (although it crossed my mind more than once). I did, however, eat it Monday morning.
With great ceremony, I removed that last remaining beautiful donut from the bag. Then from the container and put it on a plate. Then I got out my napkin and eating utensils. Yes I eat my donuts with knife and fork. Because it is such a long time between visit to donut shops, I want to savor the experience. I want it to last. And by using a fork and knife, I can cut tiny little slivers of donut at a time. I can spend a half hour or more eating that one lovely little sweet morsel of wonderfulness. And yesterday morning I did just that.
And probably just because I knew it was going to be the last one for a long while, I enjoyed the absolute heck out of that donut. Mercy!
And then, about an hour later, I ate quite a few antacids to balance it all out. Because that is how THAT works. Totally worth it.
April 01st, 2019
Finally! A dragonfly I can actually get a photo of!~
Friday it was Joy's turn to surprise me with a (very) early Birthday Celebration! Yayayayayayay!!! Not only did I get this beautiful necklace but also one of the funniest birthday cards I've even received: (that's a picture of Joy & I by the way. Joy obviously is the one driving)
I also got two gorgeous home made cupcakes and if I wasn't such a absolute pig, I would have a photo of those to show you too but I scarfed mine down so fast that there weren't even crumbs left! Trust me when I tell you that it was realllllllly good :)
AND then, we spent the majority of the day at Marie Selby Gardens. Heaven! I know I've written about Selby Gardens before so I won't bother with the story behind the story. Suffice it to say that it's one of my favourite places in Sarasota.
Like many formal gardens, there are different areas. There is the hothouse area which is stunningly gorgeous and chokoblok with the most stunning orchids and other exotics:
We probably spent as much time in there as the entire rest of the garden put together. It's kind of otherwordly. It's compelling. No matter how much time I spend in that space, there is always something more to see that I didn't notice the first (or second or third!) time through.
There are so many other areas, they have a "great lawn" which is a lovely grassy area dotted with wonderful trees and bordered by beautiful and interesting shrubs and then suddenly there is this Japanese pavilion.....
What else, let's see, there is the actual Selby House of course which currently is housing a Gauguin exhibit. There is the most adorable butterfly garden behind it. It's one of my favourite places at the Garden. There are trellis' and archways covered with flowering vines and all sorts of flowers that I actually recognize, which is kind of a relief always. " Finally something I recognize!" It has charming little bricked walkways and small tables and chairs to sit and admire the view and of course butterflies. Lots and lots of butterflies!
Joy also got some incredibly photos of the many different kinds of bees that were also attracted to that area. They didn't give two hoots about us. We were able to get very close (as you can see) to the flowers, the butterflies and in Joy's case, also the bees, without risking getting stung because they just didn't care at all about us. They were all about the flowers. I don't blame them at all.
There is the Mangrove Walkway which runs right along the water through the mangroves, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone at all. You can see out into the Bay and admire the boats, some birds, lots of lizards and if you position yourself just right, you can also see Joy & Bob's Condo. It's right over there..... well you can't see where I am pointing can you? I should have taken a photo of it. Ratz.
There is an area called, Native Florida which, obviously, is loaded with plants that are native to Florida including a small pond which is inhabited by a number of ducks, several turtles and I'm not certain I want to know what else.
Palm Trees? Yes there are many. An enormous variety! Naturally there are. But also Bromeliads, an edible garden, a fragrance garden (another favourite of mine), a Rainforest Area complete with koi pond and fern garden and even a kids area that of course, we've played in too. Here is just a random selection of other photos taken :
Eventually we were just too hungry to continue so we left and had a birthday lunch! What a perfect Day!
On Saturday the celebration continued! Joy and Bob invited Tim and I to join them for birthday dinner (Tim's birthday is ALSO in July) at a very fun little restaurant across the street from their condo in Sarasota. . The restaurant is called Marina Jacks and for a very good reason, it's in a Marina! We had good conversation with great people, watched the water and the boats and a silly dolphin doing acrobatics for us! Dinner and a Show! We also got to have kitty time with their two cats, Charlie and Winston. It's a treat for us because we currently do not have any pets of our own. And it is very generous of them to share :) So we have cat nephews.
It was a perfect Early Birthday and it isn't over yet because Joy said something about a trip to Dairy Queen this week. What's a birthday without ice cream? YAYAYAY! The celebration continues!
Thank you Joy!!!! Fabulous Early Birthday Celebration!!
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.