April 29th, 2022
I think I will kick off your happy weekend with one more Photo Safari Report. This week Joy and I tackled Deer Prairie Preserve, a place we have been quite a few times and therefore, assumed, that we knew it well. We did not bring a map and I no longer have the All Trails App on my phone (which was removed in an effort to make a little space as I seem to be running out!). As it turns out we do not know that particular Preserve quite as well as we thought.
This post will be rather short even though the hike ending up being rather long. I will call this the "We Shoulda Brought a Map" hike, coz we shoulda. I cannot honestly say that we were lost. We knew where we were. We were at the Deer Prairie Preserve........................................somewhere. It's a magnificent preserve with more than six thousand acres and 70 miles of trails! And the entire time we were somewhere inside that space. See? Not Lost! Just temporarily misplaced.
The problem is that we are curious. There we are hiking along, breathing that gorgeous early morning spring air, looking all around while traversing the, very familiar, main trail. And then we spy an interesting side trail. Ooooo, what do you suppose is down there? And that leads to a side trial off of a side trail which leads to another and........well..... you see the problem. We always start out remembering how many lefts and rights we took but after awhile, it gets a little confuzled.
At some point, we the sun gets higher in the sky and the temperature rises, suddenly we realize that it's been several hours and multiple miles and we are getting hot and tired. Which means it's time to turn back. And that's where the trouble starts. Was it three lefts and a right? Or three rights and a left? We are crazygirls. Obviously, eventually we did get back. And we were smart enough to bring water. Just not a map.
But we did see some pretty things along the way. You ready?
First of all, the water. This is one of the prettiest of all ponds. In fact, I don't think it's a pond, I think it's just a wide spot in a river. But don't quote me on that as I do not know it for fact. Whatever it is, it's beautiful:
Then of course, as always, there were birds. Because there is so much lush foliage, while we can hear the chirping little feathered fiends, we cannot always see them. But we know that they are up there in the sprills and the fronds laughing at us. Sometimes we can see the movement as they hoppity hop from branch to branch and then suddenly launch themselves like tiny rockets to another tree where they do the same dance. I got a few photos, but they are not particularly good ones. Still a bird is a bird:
There were a lot of butterflies and dragonflies all around us but I only got one photo of a butterfly, zero dragonflies and one unidentified bug. It seems that thistles are very popular with the insect crowd:
I do have a few other botanicals to show you. By now you are well aware of how much I love flowers!
Most of the trails are very long and very straight and thickly lined with trees. The largest percentage of those trees are old, noble, tall and straight But every once in awhile there are some unexpected curves in the road and some unexpected tree shapes. Of course they all catch my eye;
Other wildlife? Well there was a squirrel and a rabbit. I suppose that counts. I have no doubt that there were a LOT of other wild critters about but they are smart enough to be far away when humans are around.
The rest are just randos which are, of course, my favourites:
There you have it, the "We Shoulda Brought a Map" Photo Safari Report. Next time, we will remember to bring the dang map. We had a great (Very Long) hike, got some good exercise, decent photos and of course had the pleasure of each other's company, so it was a success in my eyes.
I wish you a Happy Weekend! Hugs all 'round.
April 28th, 2022
I've always been a big fan of history. Not how it's taught in most schools of course because that is So Boring! A litany of memorized names/dates/places is excrutiatingly dull. But people are not dull, people are endlessly fascinating and history is about people.
While I will read, literally, anything with words, when I have a choice I always reach for some bit of historic fiction, basically fiction based on fact. Also love biographies, stories of time -travel, memoirs and just plain factual books about things and people of long ago. I love old buildings, old houses, old places that still carry the echoes of time.
One of the things we adore about where we live is that it is, relatively speaking, an historic town. While it's not even 100 years old (yet, it's coming up very soon) Venice has embraced and celebrated it's history and has done a fine job of preserving as much of it as possible. Still, what we are seeing quite often now are the older homes being torn down and brand new homes built in their place. It seems as if every week another old house disappears and Poof! In a very short time a brand spanking new house appears. It's like magic.
I do not begrudge the new owners the right to build the house of their dreams. Good for them. But at the same time, we are watching the vintage charm of the island slowly vanish, one bite at a time. And its very sad. BUT our city is trying. The powers that be in Venice are always working to find a way to be respectful of both the past and the future.
Recently Tim and I were in Sarasota and because we had no other plans at that moment, we parked the car, got out and walked around the older downtown part. It was absolutely delightful. Wonderful, older, quirky, interesting buildings for blocks.
Then just past some very odd destruction/construction, we stopped to admire one particular building and one of the shop owners came out to talk to us. According to her, the absolutely lovely building that her shop was in has been sold and will soon be torn down. Shocked, we asked why it couldn't just be fixed up. Well it turns out that since it's an older building, it's far out of current building code. And therefore, no insurance company will cover it. Rather than invest the money into bringing it up to code the new owner will simply tear it down and put up something new. I'm sure it is primarily a financial decision. It is most likely simply cheaper to replace than restore.
And that's what it would be a loving restoration rather than a renovation.
We did see one building where they were trying - and points for trying - to find a compromise. They tore down MOST of the building but kept the facade and were building a brand new modern building behind it. Somewhere along the line I suppose they will tie the two together.
Most of downtown Sarasota is now Giant Buildings that look very modern, very sleek, quite similar and, forgive me please this is just my opinion, soulless and boring.
This is a photo that I found online of Bayfront Sarasota. It's impressive for sure. But more and more of the city is looking like this:
And less and less of the city looks like this: By the way the building below is the home is John and Mabel Ringling (yes that Ringling).
I understand and completely agree that we cannot and should not save every old building. But there has to be a middle ground. The architecture of a city sets the tone. Once every charming (that word again), endearing, historic, quaint, older building is gone, the city completely changed and it's history is forgotten. And worse, once the memories of it are gone, it will be as if those people, and those events never existed. It will just be a footnote in some dusty, dull, schoolroom class listlessly memorized by children for a test. And once the test is taken, it will be forgotten.
That makes me very sad.
Since I do not live in Sarasota there is little that I can say or do about historic preservation, but I wish that somebody would while there is still time. And meanwhile, I love that I live in a city that loves and cares about it's past and at the same time, is looking to the future. And even better they are trying very hard to find a way to somehow meld the two seamlessly.
April 25th, 2022
This may be the only flower that Joy and I saw on our last Photo Safari, which is unusual. It's a pretty one though :) One of the places we hike very frequently, Carlton Reserve, has this access point across the street from it's entrance, that we've eyed but never checked out until last week. Actually, come to think of it, I am not actually certain that it does belong to Carlton. But it belongs to somebody and it's across the street and there were trails soooooo we checked it out.
I will call this the Spring Fragrance Hike because that was the thing I noticed the most. I cannot really take a photo of a fragrance, which is a shame because it was delicious. I should be bottled. Even without flowers (or flowers that are readily seen) Spring smells so good.
Every season has a fragrance - even here where the temperatures are pleasant nearly every day of the year. And spring is the very best of all of the seasonal scents out there. The florals of course, but also the green, and more than that the new green. The baby leaves and the fledgling blossoms and bright green baby grasses coming up. The sun warmed soil and sea tinged air is different in spring than any other time of year and I cannot get enough of it. I find myself deep breathing as we walk instead of paying attention to my surroundings and finding things to take pictures of ;)
Oh never fear, I managed to get a few. We started out seeing a deer. They are always so pretty and delicate. And of course always remind me of Bambi.
We did see a few birds. The best was a flock of Cedar Wax Wings. Of course I had no idea what kind of bird they were but Joy did. She is a walking bird encyclopedia! They were hop hop hoping around within a tree, rarely pausing, and then all of a sudden the entire gang would raise up into the sky and, as a group doing this amazing synchronized flying, swoop around the sky. I was too busy marveling at the murmuration to get a photo of them flying but I did get one in a tree. Here are the birds:
Joy told me later that the cedar wax wings sometimes eat these certain kinds of berries and get, effectively, drunk on them which not only surprised me, but the mental image of drunken birds trying to do that synchronized flying cracked me up. Sorry. Lowbrow humour. (sill made me laugh)
We saw lots of butterflies but I only captured a few and yes, in case you are wondering, the second butterfly is indeed standing on dung. Horse poop to be specific. Sometimes nature is mysterious. Why on earth would a beautiful butterfly intentionally land on horse poo? I have no idea and the butterfly wasn't talking.
The rest of the photos could be best classified as Rando's I suppose. So here we go:
So that was it, the Spring Fragrance Hike with almost no flowers! Like I said, nature is mysterious. But awesome. Who knows what we will discover on our next photo safari!
April 22nd, 2022
As we all know, I have a complicated relationship with automobiles. I do not like driving at all and avoid it whenever possible, but I do know how to drive and at the very least, I drive once a week to the grocery store. Though truth be known, I would even walk there if it wasn't for the fact that my ice cream would melt on the way home.
Further I acknowledge how very small my world would be if I didn't have the means to get from Place A to Place B quickly and efficiently. (with someone else driving obviously) For example, we find ourselves going up to Sarasota with an unexpected frequency. It is the closest, "big" city to us so naturally it has more variety to offer by way of shopping, restaurants, entertainment and even medical needs. It's less than twenty miles away, which translates to roughly a half hour of driving given stop lights, bridges, speed limits and traffic. Thirty measly minutes. In a car. If I had to walk twenty miles it would take me, I don't know, three years or something? Actually it's more like 7 hours. So, there you go. I admit that driving in some cases just makes more sense.
But cars are expensive to purchase, expensive to maintain and are bureaucratically expensive (taxes, registration and so forth). AND they are complicated and moody. If one tiny thing is not quite to their satisfaction they get all snotty and refuse to perform. Which leads to yet another expense - taking them to the repair place to be worked on. And it's never small money, it's always Big Buckerooties.
In the olden days, before computers, cars were a lot easier to work on. It was a normal thing for people to change their own oil, adjust spark plugs and replace various belts and filters. Even I knew how to do a few things. But back then not only were the issues pretty straight forward, but there was room to work on the car. Some of them had engine compartments so big you could just about climb inside to fix it!
But now? Nope, it's small inside, very compact I think is the word. And it's all computerized and the tools are specialized and well, it's unusual now for most people to be able to work on their own cars. The first car I had that I couldn't fix was my Fiat. I bought it when I started college. The first thing that needed to be done on it was very small. A tiny thing. Something that anyone (including me) could do. Except, as it turned out, suddenly the tools I needed for the job, I did not have. Why? Because it required Metric Tools. I didn't have any metric tools. Nobody I knew had them. Nope. It had to go to the garage to be fixed. And that was the beginning of the end of me doing anything to any car I owned.
Which just makes the whole car-thing more mysterious, and complicated and the pain-in-the-assedness of it grew exponentially. As did the expense. So I'm sure you will understand when I explain that when I experienced a little car trouble recently, my first thought was a money panic.
I was on my way to the grocery store. It's not really very far away, maybe a mile? But again, multiple heavy bags of groceries, one of which most likely has ice cream in it, means driving and not walking. So there I am tooling merrily along the road. It's a pretty drive actually with lots of trees and flowers and pretty houses, and a meridian that has even more trees. As I approached the first big intersection the car began lugging.
I honestly do not know if that is the actual word for it or not, but that's what I call it. It was lurching forward and hesitating over and over again. Dang! The intersection was busy and I was rather hemmed in with parked cars on my right, another full lane of traffic to my left, cars ahead of and behind me. All I could think of to do was have one foot on the brake and one on the gas at the same time, nursing the car through the red light. (Of course it was a red light, isn't it always in that situation?)
Finally the light turned green and we moved ahead, the engine smoothed out and I'm thinking, "What the heck was that all about?" And that's when it quit. I mean it just stopped. Dang. I managed to guide it to the side of the road and there I sat, in the bicycle lane and the intersection of Harbour and Venetia. Dang. Immediately I went into money panic mode. I had no idea what was wrong but I was positive that whatever it was, it was going to cost a lot.
I tried to start the car again, if for no other reason than to put the windows down. It gets hot very quickly in a closed up car y'know. It would start for a split second and then quit again. Ratz. I waited 5 minutes and tried again. Over and over with no results. Finally I called Tim. It was his car before it was my car so maybe there was some sort of trick that he knew about that would snap it back to normal. But nope. It was time to call Triple A. That is why we have it after all, right?
So I called and we did the dance and the fellow on the other end of the line was very very nice. But ultimately the answer was that yes they would send a tow truck to take the car to the shop but that the wait time was about two hours. Two hours?? Dang! Well if that's what it is, then that's what it is. But I'm absolutely going to be waiting OUTSIDE of the car. I was pouring sweat and flushed bright red by that time. As I was stepping out of the car though, Tim pulled up behind me. Yay! I am saved!
He did some sort of magic and, eventually, managed to get the car started again. The engine sounded just fine, as if none of that other foolishness had happend. Therefore the decision was made to cancel the tow truck and Tim would follow me back home. The grocery shopping could wait. OK. I am on board with that. So I called Triple A back and I was put on hold. We waited (In Tim's nice cool car) for about fifteen minutes. Well it's is kind of crazy to just sit and wait on the side of the road, we decided, so instead we would stay on hold but go home because we were mere minutes away.
Tim had custody of my phone on hold (as he is capable of driving AND talking on the phone at the same time whereas I am barely capable of driving while I'm driving. We arrived home safely and with no other issues, still on hold buy the way and went back into the house. Tim handed me the phone, still on hold, and he went back into his office to get back to work.
It was probably a good 30 minutes or more of being on hold before I got somebody who, it turns out, was in Colorado. So they have to transfer me to Florida. GEEZ! Long story slightly shorter, eventually, I was able to talk to the right person and cancel the tow truck. Which also means cancelling the expense of a car repair. Whew! Dodged a bullet there.
The car seems to be fine now although every time I slide into the drivers seat I admit I have a little anxiety about whether or not we are going to arrive at our destination without any drama or not. We still have no idea what the problem was but whatever it was seems to have self-corrected. And that alone is kind of wierd. But self-correct is free and I'm all in favour of that.
Meanwhile, my relationship with automobiles remains...................................complicated.
April 20th, 2022
The forest is full of muppets! No, no, no, that's just me being silly. But Joy and I were out on Photo Safari last Friday. It was a gorgeous day that, of course, started a wee bit darker and overcast than we preferred, but still a gloomy day in the forest is still better than a sunny day a lot of other places, right? We will call this report, the One Bluebird Report because that is my best photo from Friday.
That one really turned out well. Bluebirds are so pretty anyway that it's hard to take a bad photo of one but I am especially pleased with this one. We did see a few other birds but not many which was a surprise. Just wasn't a very "birdie" day I suppose. It happens.
It was early enough and overcast enough to make for some spooky tree and sky shots though. I like those. They are kind of moody and emo and well sometimes, it suits me. I'm not always sunshine and roses, y'know, just mostly. And it was fascinating to watch the forest around us change as the day went from dark and dreary to so very bright and happy :)
Most of my shots from that day ended up being botanicals. And the vast marjority of those are wildflowers and therefore I have no idea what their names are. Some of them are so teeny tiny that they are barely noticeable. Others are big and bold in in your face. But I love each and every one of them:
A few bugs:
And no rando's today!
As always it was a wonderful hike and a great time! Hope you enjoyed coming along on the One Bluebird Hike!
April 18th, 2022
Behold, the Easter Cake! I know it's not traditional. But I don't care. It 's a damned fine cake and the decorations, while not fancy, are tasty and Easter coloured, so it counts!
Our Easter dinner was not traditional either. Ham or Lamb would be the more standard Easter Table fair, but I made a roast chicken. Untraditional, but excellent. We enjoyed it :) With green beans, mashed potatoes and biscuits, it was delightful.
Clearly in our family, we are not overly concerned with piddly little things like cultural traditions. We are our own family with our own traditions and mostly that means doing whatever we please. It might be the same thing year to year, or it might be completely different one holiday to the next. We might absolutely ignore a holiday or on the other hand we could play it up to the max.
Some holidays we are alone, just the two of us. Some holidays we have been travelling and yet other holdays we have spent with family and/or friends. There are no set rules with us. We could just as easily have had pizza or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as the roast chicken and it would still have been Easter. See that's the thing, regardless of what you do or what you eat or who you are with, it's still the Holiday. That part does not change.
We enjoyed the heck out of the day. We slept late, had a nice breakfast, relaxed and watched a little TV. Tim took a jaunt over to the Jetty for a bit after doing a few house projects and I vacuumed and washed the floors (something I have been intending to do all week and FINALLY got around to it). We put together our Easter Meal and and enjoyed our dessert afterwards.
We coloured no eggs, there was no hunt, no "Easter" decorations and while at one time there was Easter candy in the house, we both bought and ate that weeks ago. It was a perfectly lovely Easter Sunday for us. Maybe not your cuppa peeps, but it was perfect for us.
Hope yours was exactly what you wished it to be :)
April 13th, 2022
I am starting to feel the need for a little more elbow room. It is getting a wee bit crowded around here. I took the above photo last month while looking across the channel from Venice to Nokomis (the next town north of us). And I remember thinking when I took the shot, "Yup that pretty much sums it all up".
Initially I thought it was just my own post pandemic adjustment. You know what I mean? During lock down and the subsequent however many months (years!) there were no crowds anywhere. If, for some reason, there were more than 3 or 4 people in any one spot, they all stood the mandated six feet apart which means, no crowds. In fact, the businesses that remained open set things up in such a way that there were limited numbers of people allowed in and never a hint of congestion in the aisles of the shops. Any gatherings were frowned upon so it was just the occasional glimpse of a one person walking their dog through a park all alone. I suppose I just got used to it. Which means that now that the restrictions have been lifted, we are , once again, seeing sights like this on a beach, and quite honestly, it is taking some getting used to.
I kept telling myself that I had just forgotten what it's like here, especially during season, which is effectively the winter months. And then of course I assumed that I was just going through the growing pains of re-adapting to being around larger groups of people again. Perhaps it was always like this and I had just forgotten.
However, it seems that my first instincts were correct. The numbers are in. There actually are more people here. A lot more. To be fair, yes, during the winter season, of course, there will always be a lot more people here. This is a seaside town and a damned adorable one too. Of course people want to vacation here, or even buy a second home and winter here. So the extra population during the cooler months, sure, I get that. But this is extra extra. According to an article I recently read, the seasonal population alone for Florida is up 20%.
And there then there is the upswing in year 'round people. Not just tourists and seasonals, but full timers like us. Apparently Florida is still attracting more new residents than any other state. Wow! These numbers are from the 2021 census figures. Records show that 220,890 new families moved to Florida from other states in the year ending July 1, 2021 which is an average of 605 people a day. Holy Cats! Everybody, shove over and make room!
I get it. I completely understand why so many people are moving to Florida. I mean, after all, six years ago (well one month shy of 6 years) we did the same thing. No state income taxes is kind of a big draw as is the weather. We only shovel sunshine here. Living near the ocean calls to a lot of people too. And Florida is a good sized state, it seems that there ought to be enough room for everybody, right? And it's a well known fact that the cost of living is cheaper here. Or at least it used to be.
Things change. Probably because so many people are moving to Florida housing costs are soaring and while we don't have heating bills to contend with as other parts of the country do, you better have a good hard working air condtioner because you are absolutely going to use the heck out of it. Supply Chain issues affected us just like every other state along with the rising cost of fuel and everything other dang thing that is raising the price of pretty much everything. What I'm saying is that that low cost of living that Floridians used to brag about, isn't so low anymore.
And you know how there is a need for employees in just about every business where ever you live? Yeah, we have that down here too. Not enough office staff, not enough clerical staff, not enough retail staff and absolutely not anywhere near enough restaurant staff. So let's combine that with way way way more people here. And what you now have is a serious need for more patience and understanding.
I heard somebody grumbling about how "You'd think that they would accomodate us better. Do they not want our business?" Geez folks. Of course they want your business. Everybody is just doing the best that they can. The roads are more crowded, the parking lots are more full, the shops are bursting at the seams and the wait lines at restaurants are longer than they are ever been.
It's the price of living in, or at least visiting Paradise. It seems that the word is out. Everybody wants their own piece of this Utopia and I certainly do not begrudge anyone their dream. Just try to remember that it's not just Your dream. That fantasy is shared by a LOT of other folks, I mean a LOT! No one person is any more important than another. Be patient, calm down, wait your turn. There is enough Florida to go around if you just take a breath and wait a beat.
As for me and the rest of the locals, we are waiting to see how small our small town gets once summer rolls around. Traditionally, we were always patient and willing to share our beautiful Venice with all of the visitors and winter dwellers and equally willing to wave goodbye in the spring when they went back home. Then we would be so happy to have our peaceful, quiet, charming little town back with no crowds on the beaches and no lines at the restaurants. '
Perhaps those days are gone forever. I guess we will find out soon enough.
April 12th, 2022
Groovy! These pictures take me back quite about four decades! (Dang I'm old!)
The peace symbol, in whatever colour or design, was a big part of my teenaged years. We wore it on our shirts, in our jewelry and on our barrettes. You could see them inked on sneakers, embroidered on denim and painted on our faces and on buildings. We flashed those peace signs with our fingers in the air with the same ease that other might wave hello or goodbye. And we meant it too.
I think that as symbols go, the peace symbol is an esthetically pleasing one and I love what it stands for. Peace. What a great idea, a terrific goal, and a lovely wish to bestow on others.
But I never noticed, until just the other day that the hand sign for peace gas, the Vee points up:
but the other peace sign from my era has the vee pointing down:
Do you see it? Isn't that odd? They are opposite one another. I don't' know of any other symbols that mean the same thing but appear as the converse. Wierd! So of course I had to look it up.
Naturally! Was that even a question?
Soooo as it so happens, the hand sign for Peace actually began in World War II as a sign for Victory. It's a V. I get that. During the Anti-Vietnam War protests in the 1960's this sign was appropriated by an entire generation to instead indicate Peace. Kind of flipping it's meaning around. It was a crazy time.
On the other hand, the bisected circle with the upsidedown V in it, always stood for peace in a way. It was introduced by one Gerald Holtom in Britain as a symbol for those marching for Nuclear Disarmament. It's created from the flag semaphores representing the letters N and D (nuclear disarmament obviously). Mr. Holtom also reportedly said he was inspired by artist Francisco Goya's piece: "The third of May 1808" wherein a peasant stands distraught, arms at his side slightly out from his body and pointing downward in front of a firing squad (suggesting the upside down Vee shape). Yikes!
So I'm not wrong. One peace sign vee's upward and the other downward. Very Very unusual.
There are other peace signs of course. There is the traditional olive branch which dates way way back to something like 5th Century Greece. And then of course the dove is also a sign of peace which I suppose is even older since it's based on the Bible story of Noah's Ark. And speaking of the bible, some early Christians adopted the dove with an olive branch in it's beak as one of their signs. That's kind of sweet don't you think?
Sometimes the olive branch and/or dove are seen combined with a dagger or arrows as a peace and war kind of theme. Of course, that one is nearly always in someway governmental. No surprise there. Nor is the broken rifle as a sign of peace a shock. Even if you didn't speak the same language, offering someone a broken rifle clearly indicates that you have no ill intent. Or in other words, you offer peace. Nice.
I suppose waving a white flag is sort of a sign of peace. Generally it means surrender or indicates a desire for, at the very least, a truce. Which while it may not strictly mean Peace exactly, at the very least does not mean war.
There is also the lion and the lamb symbolism. It's a very old peace symbol and in fact is represented on one of the oldest coins ever minted, from around 800 BC, in Greece. It is another one taken from the bible, about predator and prey laying down together in peace. It's a lovely story on paper but in real life, I doubt that the outcome would be as nice. Still it is a legitimate symbol of peace.
There are other Peace symbols in other countries and cultures of course, such as the beautiful paper cranes from Japan and the white poppies from the UK. I think it's a beautiful thing that every country has a symbol for Peace, not just the words but a representational symbol. That says to me that most of us share that desire. We have dozens of different ways to express peace.
Now if we could only achieve it.
April 11th, 2022
I have always said that am not into sports and further, that I have no competitive spirit. As it so happens, those were both bald faced lies. It turns out that it all depended upon the "sport".
Once I found cooking and baking competitions, I was all in. I mean, it's all there. It's a competition after all: a good sized group of people with the same basic knowledge, talent and training and in the end only one winner. They wear a "uniform" of sorts - usually an apron but still, they are all wearing it. The game is tough, it's tricky and any one teensy mistake can mean the end. People are eliminated from the game. AND it's physical. Oh yeah, don't' let anybody tell you any differently. These players get sweaty and out of breath, they are racing around top speed, crashing into each other and obstacles, they injure themselves and there are burns, blood and sometimes medics on the field. It gets exciting.
Just like any sport.
I am always impressed by the extensive knowledge of the cooks and bakers. I mean, I have a fair knowledge of cuisines. Even if I have never made something, I usually have an idea of what the dish is and how it is made But sometimes it's out there. When the moderator calls out what they have to make, occasionally I have to look it up. I remember one of the first ones I had no previous knowledge of was a Baltimore cake. Ok now you are making stuff up. Baltimore cake? Turns out it's a white cake with a fruit and nut filling. That was new to me. I love learning new stuff.
I heard one the other day that was also an addition to my knowledge pool. The challenge was a "Cookie Salad". A what now? Have you ever heard of it? I certainly had not. I like both cookies and salads but I just didn't see how they went together. As it so happens, it's more of a deconstructed trifle. I'm not sure where the name originated. The traditional one looks like this:
It seems to have originated in Minnesota and North Dakota and is very populated with children and at potlucks according to Wikipedia. Hmmmm.
At any rate, the competition involving "cookie salad" had two European bakers in the group, one from Italy and one from France. When they heard the name of what they were supposed to make, they both just stopped and starred at the host with blank looks on their faces. First time I've ever seen that happen and I cannot begin to tell you how much better it made me feel. Ok, good, it's not just me. The host had to explain to them what a cookie salad was. The gentleman from Italy smiled, shook his head and said softly, "Only in America". I laughed out loud.
And here is where the big tension comes in. The host throws out the name of the dish they are supposed to create and then tells them to put their own spin on it, sooooo make the dish but make it differently, gotcha. And then assigns each of them something specific that they have t include like perhaps a specific fruit and/or type of cookie and/or number of varieties of cookies that have to be included. Sometimes the assignment seems absolutely contrary to the dish. Like a dessert, baked dessert made with root vegetables. That was a thinker. The competitors are then given a ridiculously brief period of time to produce this dish. Naturally, since this particular game was the Spring Baking Competition, the dish also had to be decorated to represent spring. And above all, it must look and taste PERFECT!
As soon as the host says,"Begin" there is an explosion of activity. Everyone is racing around, flinging flour and sugar in every direction imaginable. The bakers are totally focused, they slam pans in and out of the oven, the giant mixing bowls are all going at the same time and it sounds like a freight yard.
The host calls out how much time they have left periodically and, unimaginably, the bakers kick into a yet higher gear. They stir so hard and so fast that I half expect the bowls to rise in the air. Somewhere in the last 15-30 minutes, the host calls a halt to instruct them on the "Twist"; one extra thing, that they totally did not know about or prepare for (how could you possibly?) that must be included in the dish. Some bakers are delighted, other are furious, but once again, they call upon their last bit of energy and creativity and as they near the finish line, panting, sweating, red faced, still they are proud of the amazing dish that they have miraculously created.
Now it's up to the judges. And that's when I hear at least one judge say in every dang game, "Your decorations look a little rushed..." Which is when I start yelling at the television, "Of course it's rushed you moron. You just asked them create something that takes at least 3 hours in 90 minutes!" Oh yeah, it gets interactive.
One by one, the competitors are eliminated and each level of the "battle" because let's face it, that's what this is, gets more and more difficult, the time constraints get more unrealistic, the twist gets twistier, the dish more obscure, the requirements more ridiculous. The expectation is higher and competition becomes more fierce and the tension in our living room is knife edged.
The funny part is, I honestly don't care who wins. I usually root for the underdog, just coz that's what I do, but as people get eliminated, the underdog continually changes so clearly I have no real allegiance.
Then at the end, once the winner has been announced, in the same way that ball players shake hands at the end of the game, the baking competitors usually give each other a hug. I love that.
So you see, there is my sport, my competitive fervor lives. It just resides in the kitchen. And at the end of this competition, this sport, you can sit down and eat the results. Yum.
April 07th, 2022
For the first time in just shy of a month, Joy and I went out on a photo safari yesterday! YAYAYAYAY! So today, this is the It's Nice To Be Back Hike! Obviously, therefore, this is a photo safari report. And thank you to Joy for the photo at the top of the page :)
We did a relatively short local hike to kind of ease back into it. Which turned out to be a great plan because Curry Creek - the preserve we were hiking - was gorgeous. It was a beautiful morning, a little cloudy at first, a little breezy perhaps, but still a lovely springy sort of day.
We learned something yesterday. Well I suppose it's something that we always knewbut yesterday during our hike, we actually officially discussed it. Instinctively, whenever we stop to observe or take a photo of one thing, we also make it a point to really look around the place where we are stopped. Yes we got the photo we were after, but now what else is in the area? In this way, we often discover other things, photo worthy, that we probably would not have noticed if we weren't already stopped. (What is she talking about?)
Well for instance. We saw a dragonfly and stopped to see where it would land. Got that shot (yay)
And because we were already at a dead halt looking around, we saw the cutest little lady bug:
We probably would never have seen that itty bitty bug if we weren't already at a dead halt. And it kept happening over and over throughout the hike.
We might see a bird for instance (we saw many)
Which, in turn, helps us to notice some flowers, tiny delicate little blossoms that are easily over looked:
Of course there was also the caterpillar mine field to traverse. It's the time of year. Spring means caterpillars. And they practically carpetted the ground. I'm not joking. We took turns looking down on the trail. If one of us was close to treading on one, the other would yell out freeze: (That's Joy in state of Freeze to allow a caterpillar the right of way on the trail)
They caterpillars are adorable little critters, all furry and hungry and moving surprisingly fast:
Turns out that these particular caterpillars are of the echo moth. Which eventually will look like this:
Funny how such a brightly coloured caterpillar will turn into a relatively neutral coloured moth eh? Mother Nature is a funny girl.
What else did we see? Well, my goodness, the perserve itself of course with all the trees and trails and beautiful sky
Some seriously goofy squirrels:
The birds playing hide and seek:
Almost everything is now green green green. Well, almost everything. There's always those rebels;
I guess that kind of sums up most everything, except perhaps the rando file. You know how I feel about that one:
It's nice to be back :)
April 04th, 2022
The above is a (poor quality) photo of my favourite spot on the sofa. And that is important because I am speaking out in favour of naps today. Yes I have recently discovered that I am strongly Pro Nap. And that is kind of a surprise for me because I was not raised in a nap-taking family. The only naps that were approved were if you were under the age of 5 or had a high fever which effectively rendered you unconscious. Otherwise, if the sun was up, you were expected to be up too. "Only lazy people sleep during the day, and this family is not lazy" was what I was raised to believe.
I come from a long line of very hard workers and there ain't nothin' wrong with that. In fact, a good work ethic should be applauded. And since that is the culture in which I was raised, it was a perfectly normal thing to always be productive, always be busy, always movin' and groovin', getting stuff done. Which isn't hard to do because there is always so much that needs to be done!
I remember when my boys were babies and then toddlers, which means constantly being sleep deprived, and hearing people tell me that I should sleep when they were sleeping. I thought that was hilarious. The only time I was really getting anything done was when they were sleeping. If I slept too, nothing would ever be accomplished. Besides, remember, in my family, if the sun is up, we are up and working. Crazy people and their crazy advice :) hah!
You know how it is when you have children and you work full time, it feels as if you are always racing around top speed. Weekdays were about basic survival, getting the kids off to school and yourselves out the door to work, running errands on lunch hours and on the way home and between chauffering kids from point A to point B. The weekends were crammed top to bottom with housework and yard work and kids stuff, Always rushing and running from one thing to another. There are never enough hours in the day to get it all done. Frankly, it's exhausting. Now add in being a chronic insomniac. Yeah. That's me. I have spent most of my life being tired. And honestly, after awhile, you just get used to it and it's a normal state of being. But even if there were the occasional quiet moment when I suppose I could have just laid down for a few moments to catch a few winks it would never have dawned on me to do so. In fact, if you had suggested it, I would have thought you were crazy. In our family, we work, remember? And if you are tired, well that's just how it is.
Fast Forward to now. The kids are long since grown and gone and out in the world with their own families. It's just Tim and I now. We don't even have any pets to be furry "children". Tim is still working full time but I am retired. My time is my own. Our house is small and doesn't require nearly as much time to take care of. Both Tim and I are fairly neat and clean people so nothing gets too dirty, or too messy, not really. I still don't sleep well, but taking nap never dawned on me as a solution. In my family we are workers, not sleepers! Even though I am no longer working with a house full of kids, I still manage to fill every moment of every day and feel useful and productive.
But about a year ago, maybe a little less, I noticed that every once in awhile, usually late afternoon, I would have maybe a half hour before it was time to start dinner and everything else on my gotta-do list was done. So I would sit down for a few minutes to read. I would grab a book, sit down on my favourite corner of the sofa and, with every intention of reading, promptly fall fast asleep, book in hand, still unopened.
The first time it happened, it really rattled me. I woke up disoriented. Dang! What the heck? My little snooze was brief. Not more than 15 or 20 minutes, plenty of time to still get dinner underway, but I still felt so incredibly guilty. Oh My Gracious! Red-faced, I leapt to my feet and hustled my bustle into the kitchen to get back to work. That's what we do in the daytime, we work!
I assumed it was an anomaly, a one-off. Was I getting sick perhaps? Did I have a fever? Nope. I was perfectly fine. Although I was mystified by why it happened, after awhile, I stopped berating myself over it and moved on. Until it happened again. And again.
Well as it turns out, nothing was going on. I was just tired. And my body was tired of being tired. So the instant I stopped, as soon as I stopped go go going all day, zooming around like a crazy person, the second I relaxed, my body said, "Enough! It's time to sleep." And so I did. I was guilt racked for the longest time. "Anyone who sleeps in the daytime is lazy" was what I heard in my head. My stupid head.
I'm over it now. Now, I adore naps. I embrace them. I invite them. My body is so much smarter than I am. It's so logical. If you are tired, you should sleep. It's a normal thing to sleep and if you aren't going to sleep at night (that part hasn't changed) then grab a few ZZ's whenever you can. It's sensible, it's logical, it's reasonable, it's rational, it's lovely.
I don't go to bed to sleep, I haven't gotten that far in my evolution. But I will lay down on the sofa, in my favourite spot, close my eyes and then as if someone flipped a switch, I am out like a light. It doesn't happen every day. It doesn't even happen every week. But every now and again, usually late afternoon, if there is nothing immediately needed of me for a little bit, I take advantage of a quiet moment and have a nap. And what's more, I no longer feel one smidgeon of guilt about it.
In our family we are hard workers. That's still true. I still work hard. But occasionally, when we are very tired, we also take naps. It's not a new family motto, just an amendment.
April 01st, 2022
I made the mistake of reading the newspaper first thing this morning. Depressing is the first word that comes to mind. And I do not want to start a new month with depressing thoughts. I bet you don't want to do that either. So how about instead, I wish you a Great Weekend and a Happy April with some pictures of pretty things instead.
Here you go:
Ahhhh, I feel better now. Hope you do too.
Don't read the newspaper tomorrow, don't listen to the news, don't watch the news, don't discuss the news. Just have a one day moratorium on all media. You will feel much better, I promise.
Have a great weekend!
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.