Early last week I started having a strong craving for muffins. I mean it's all I could think about. Muffins! And not grocery store bakery muffins either. I find that grocery store bakery muffins - while not horrible - are too lightweight. I want a dense, moist, substantial muffin. I do not want to taste preservatives, fake eggs or faux sugar. (and I can tell the difference!) I want a bakery muffin with all of the really bad for you stuff that makes a muffin so dang good.
I can and do make my own muffins. Often. So there is no reason or rhyme to my cravings. But this one was specific. It needed to be from a real bakery. A Dunkin' Donuts muffin, for example, wasn't going to cut it. And don't even talk to me about those nasty looking things that come wrapped in cellophane and sold in the convenience store part of gas stations. I know that they are called muffins, but they aren't. I'm not sure what they are, but I know what they are not.
For whatever reason, or for no reason at all, the specific muffin that I wanted is sold at Perkin's Restaurant and Bakery. Perkin's is a perfectly ok place to eat. It's not something I ever get excited about. It's not a restaurant that I ever suggest when we are planning to enjoy a meal out. It is not fine dining by any definition. But if it's 3 in the morning and there is nothing else open and your plane got in really late and there is no food in the house are you are starving....well then, you can get a perfectly okay meal at Perkins'. However, their bakery is pretty damned good.
We have gone there many times just for pie and never once regretted it. (I can bake a really good pie but Tim and I do not need to eat an entire pie. We can indulge in ONE slice at Perkins without glutting on an entire pie) I have enjoyed their eclairs on occasion. (Any eclair is a special treat, theirs are an extra special treat!) And had a few cookies from there once or twice. (They aren't home made but they are quite good) But the thing I like the most, the thing that they do the best, is muffins.
And once autumn arrives, traditionally, they offer the pumpkin donut muffin. I will say that again so you know that it is not a typo: Pumpkin Donut Muffin. It is glorious. If a pumpkin donut and a pumpkin muffin got together and created offspring it would be this muffin. All of the very best parts of a donut and the best parts of a muffin together in one magical concoction. I'm drooling just thinking about it.
So when we were finally awake and functional this past Saturday morning and Tim asked what I wanted for breakfast, I said, Perkins muffins. He grinned and said, "You just want that pumpkin donut muffin don't you" I nodded so hard my head was in danger of falling off. So we headed to our local Perkins.
It's not far, just off the Circus Bridge but we haven't visited in a very long time. We entered and went straight to the baked goods case. I admired the pies and eclairs first before moving over to the muffin case. There were so many to choose from: blueberry, raspberry sour cream, orange/cranberry, apple cinnamon, banana nut, pumpkin cream cheese, bran, chocolate chip and, and and.......well that's a lot but that was it? Where was my pumpkin donut muffin? I was confused.
The nice lady behind the counter asked if she could help us and Tim, because clearly he knows me well, asked about the my favourite muffin of all time. And we were told that this year, they weren't making that one because, well, reasons. I understood. Of course I did. I'm an adult and the reasons were valid: Understaffed, over worked, making do, cutting back to make up for financial losses during the virus, and on and on. But the child in me was very disappointed.
Honestly, I think I was ready to say, "well thank you but I guess we will go" and leave muffin-less. But now Tim was in the mood for muffins! The original plan was to buy two muffins, one for Tim, one for me. But then Tim spied a sign, buy 3, get 3. Wow! That's generous! So we each chose three.
We ended up bringing home one blueberry, one raspberry sour cream, two pumpkin cream cheese and two apple cinnamon.
They were wonderful. Yes past tense. They are all gone now. They were almost exactly what a perfect muffin should be. Over-sized, moist, generous with ingredients, no artificial anything, loaded with calories and fat, delicious and wonderful.
The only thing that could have made it better would have been if they also had the pumpkin donut muffin. Oh well, maybe next year.
I don't care what sort of prognostication you choose, it's all nonsense. It's fun, but it's balderdash. It is. It really is. And that sounds funny coming from me because in my family, growing up, all of the women read tea leaves.
We did. It sounds so silly to say out loud but it's the truth. My mother learned from her mother who learned from her mother and so forth. I have no idea where or when it began but we all knew how to do it. So much so that, growing up, it seemed like a perfectly normal thing to do. Some families got together in the evening and played Parcheesi, we read tea leaves. It was sort of like a parlour game.
I honestly do not know if my mother, or her mother (or further back) actually believed that what they were foretelling was really going to happen or not. I never asked how they felt about it. But I know that I always considered it just entertainment.
When my friend Sandy, back in Connecticut, had her tea room (she made the BEST food!) once in awhile, she would ask me to be a gypsy tea leaf reader. Just for fun. And it was fun. The first time I played that role for her, I even created a sort of costume to make it more festive. I made sure to tell each person that I "read" that it was solely for the purpose of entertainment and should not be confused with any real predictions. But when I looked into their eyes, I could see that far too many of them really wanted to believe every word I was saying so the next time I wore regular people clothes hoping that, by not playing a role enforced by a costume, there would be more doubt in their minds. It did not help.
Being able to tell how people were reacting to what I was saying over their teacups or "Reading people" is completely different than reading tea leaves. It is an actual psychological skill that investigative organizations such as the FBI use in their fight against crime. Of course criminals also utilize this skill to manipulate and exploit people so it's a good/bad thing. Some people are just naturally good at it. Like professional (and I use the term loosely) fortune tellers. Any 'soothsayer' who makes an actual living via their craft has exceptional skill at reading people. Generally speaking, my skills are fair to middlin'.
Actors also use this ability, particularly comedians. They call it "reading the room". It's the energy they do (or do not) get back from the room. Really good actors, public speakers and comedians can adapt their speech or their "bit" on the fly to accommodate their audience. It's part of why some are more successful than others.
The actual 'reading' of tea leaves can be taught, even self taught. There are books about it, just as their are books about palmistry, dream interpretation and divination via Tarot Cards. And, spoiler alert, just because there are books about it doesn't make it any more authentic or genuine.
But I think most of us want to believe. Especially when life feels crazy and out of control, we want something to steady us, something strong that we can lean against. And if, during those sort of times, someone who seemed plausible to us made a prediction that gave us hope, well it would be hard to not hold on to it.
Which is probably why, when I opened my fortune cookie last night and it said this:
my spirits were instantly lifted. I know it's silly. I know it's just a fortune cookie. I know for a fact that a cookie cannot predict my future. But it still made me feel good.
And not because I believe in crystal balls or ouija boards or throwing bones for that matter. But because I believe in myself, I believe in my family, I believe in humanity in general and I suppose because I am a sunnyside of the street sort of person.
It's all relative anyway. To a person with no money at all, ten bucks sounds like a fortune. I probably have that in my change jar. Which means, I suppose, that I already have a fortune.
Have you ever heard the expression, "A self-fulfilling prophesy"? That is probably the only sort of prophesy that is real. It's when we make our own luck. We create our own good (or bad I suppose) future. We are the ones in charge of how our lives turn out. We are the captains of our ships. Here's a tip: Don't steer for the rocks. And I don't need any tea leaves to know that is true.
This is my favourite cookbook, the one I go to when I'm looking for inspiration, the one that has been with me from the beginning of my cooking adventures, the one that never lets me down. And I will admit that, much like me, it's starting to show it's age.
I know that the signs have been there for quite awhile, but I didn't really notice, not really, until yesterday. I wanted to make peanut butter cookies. And not just any peanut butter cookies but the real deal, old school, O.G. , peanut butter cookies and for those I needed to get back to, if not my childhood then my own kids childhoods. And for that I needed to haul out old faithful. "The Joy of Cooking".
I've told the story before of how I had no idea how to cook when I first got married WAY back in 1975. Did not have a clue. And suddenly I was expected to produce three meals a day plus snacks and desserts and holy cow, I was a person who could burn Jell-O. That's some crazy kind of expectation. It wasn't as if, magically, once the ceremony was over I would be mystically imbued with the spirit of Julia Child after all.
Fortunately, someone (and for the life of me I do not remember who but I owe them big time) gave us, or rather me, a copy of "The Joy of Cooking" as a wedding present. Maybe not everyone would appreciate that but it saved me. And I mean that seriously.
One of the things I love about the book is that it's not just recipes. The copy that I own has just about every question a person might ever ask about anything remotely related to cooking, answered. Not just definitions of cooking terms, not just recipes, but also some menu ideas, tips about entertaining, some basic wine education, nutritional information and more. I began reading it on page one and continued to the end as if it were a novel.
Naturally the first meals I attempted to make were a disaster. I threw out more meals than I served. But gradually, I got better and my confidence grew and eventually, as it turned out, I quite liked cooking and baking. I discovered that piddling around in the kitchen was absolutely my cuppa tea! And it was all thanks to this book. Which, as you can clearly see, looks kind of shabby.
But then it's 45 years old! And has been used and abused for all of those years. It makes perfect sense that there would be a few stains: (I am a good cook, but a messy one)
A few torn bits: (I don't even know how it happened, I swear!)
And of course all of those frayed and ragged edges. (like a well loved teddy bear)
My favourite peanut butter cookie recipe has a tear exactly through the part that lists how much flour the recipe requires. Dang. I could no longer determine precisely what it said. And one thing that is an absolute in baking is that it requires precision. I sighed. Perhaps it's time to replace the book?
I'm quite ambivalent about that. The book has been in circulation since 1931 and I know that Amazon still carries it. But I also know every time it is re-released, it is a different version. I know this version. I love this one. I have my own little notes jotted in the margins here and there. I know the book so well that I can nearly turn to the exact page I need at any time. And then there are the conotations and associations of so many meals. It's not just a book of recipes, it's a book of memories!
On the other hand, I had to look up the peanut butter cookie recipe on line to be sure how much flour to use yesterday. Which meant searching through dozens of recipes to find the one closest to the old fashioned cookies that I wanted to make. Kind of a pain in the butt y'know. And honestly, as the book slowly deteriorates, there will be more and more occasions when I have to go elsewhere for the recipe I need.
It's all very sad. I feel disloyal. Like I'm walking out on an old friend or abandoning a dog just because it's old and grey and walks with a limp. (something I would never, ever do)
The practical side of me says, it's just a book and an old one at that. Toss it and buy and bright shiny useful new one.
The romantic, softer, emotional side of me says, keep it for always. It has always been there for you, it's time to return the favour.
I suppose I will figure it out at some point.
And in the meantime, the cookies turned out great
This is obviously a piece of glass. I found it on the beach yesterday which, officially, makes it beach glass. I don't often find beach glass anymore so it was a very nice surprise. I have a couple of jars of beach glass collected over my many years sitting on the coffee table and I've just added this new one :) Happyhappy.
What does this have to do with yesterday's photo safari? Well I think I'm feeling a little philosophical today because it occurs to me that finding a rare piece of beach glass (which was one of the high points of the day) is a terrific illustration of the fact that things don't always end as they begin. A good life lesson. I need to be reminded of these things from time to time.
Joy and I headed out early, as we do, and since it hasn't rained in a few days, we decided to risk hiking in one of the local preserves. One of our favourites in fact, Carlton-Mabry Preserve. One of the reasons that we love it there is that there are so very many trails. And side trails off of trails and other trails off of those and well it's just huge. More then 24 thousand acres! It has 80 miles of trails! AWESOME!
So off we went. It's not far, right here in Venice (though obviously off-island) and we chatted about which trails to take and what photos we were hoping to get, as Joy drove, taking all of the necessary twists and turns to get there. And finally, there was the sign, we were almost there and, and, and.....the gate was closed. What the heck? There was no sign indicating why this happened. Hmmmm. I did a quick google check on my phone and according to my phone, the preserve was open for business. Clearly google was wrong. Very Disappointing. Now what should we do?
Well we passed another set of hiking trails on the way, Sleeping Turtle Preserve, so we decided to backtrack and see if that one was open. Sleeping Turtle is adorable but much smaller, only 174 acres with 5 miles of trails. Still, a trail is a trail and a preserve presents opportunity for photos so what the heck. Off we went. Sleeping Turtle Preserve was Open! Hurrah!
We geared up, made sure we were well doused in bug spray (this is the rainy season after all and bugs adore rainy seasons) and headed for the trails. The ground was very wet and kind of glistened in the sun. It was pretty.
Almost the instant our feet hit the trails, we saw birds. Lots and lots of birds. They chirruped and sang and flew from branch to branch above us. Hurrah! We froze in place and quietly began adjusting camera focus and snapped away. We tippy toed in absolute silence to get our shots and because we were so very quiet we could hear the noise. The humming, the buzzing the droning sound that is unmistakable.
As we stood there, silently, taking photos, the bugs arrived and began to devour us, bug spray be damned! The mosquitos particularly like Joy and in very short order she declared that she was being eaten alive. I looked over at her and watched as before my eyes, enormous red welts grew and grew! Mercy! Let's get out of here! And we headed back out. I did manage to sneak a few other photos on the way out.
Overall, it was not an auspicious beginning to our hike. Now what do we do? We decided to go back to do the Casperson Beach hike even though, this time of year, there just isn't that much to see that's photo-worthy. Late September/Early October is kind of betwixt and between seasons. Summer is mostly kind of over but Autumn really hasn't begun. "Oh well", we decided, if nothing else, we will have a nice walk. It is rare to have mosquitos at the beach.
As soon as we got out of the car and gentleman approached us and said that he noticed that we had cameras. We both held up our cameras in agreement. He was rather excited as he gestured toward the boardwalk and said that he had just seen an huge pod of dolphins right off shore. Wow! That would be exciting to see! We thanked him and practically ran to the boardwalk where we saw not one single indication of a dolphin. Not one. Dang. Another disappointment. So we turned around and headed down the trail prepared to be disapointed once again and expecting to see, well, nothing much.
And of course we were completely, totally, entirely wrong. It was a terrific hike! And we took a lot of photos! (Seriously, A Lot of photos. Get comfortable if you want to see these. It will take a few minutes to cycle through them all)
AND I found a piece of beach glass. Sprinkles on top of the frosting on top of the cake ;)
So there you have it. We thought the entire day was going to be a complete bummer since each step was a disappointment, but we kept trying anyway and were absolutely delighted by how great it ended.
It's sort of like how you "can't judge a book by it's cover". You cannot judge the ending by the beginning. Occasionally, I need to be reminded of that.
Yesterday was officially that last day of summer, 2020. Today, therefore, is the first day of autumn. And I always loved autumn. Well, I enjoy all of the seasons so it's a very close race, but fall, yes, fall is my favourite. Even now.
Just the word Autumn brings to mind so many wonderful memories of the colours of Fall. Our Connecticut house was surrounded by Maple trees and a stone wall. Once autumn hit fully and those Maple leaves began to turn all of those incredible shades of red, orange and gold, it was like being in the center of a ring of fire.
Even in Colorado there was autumn colour. Well really, it's just the one. Aspens turn from green to a vibrant gold and sometimes, when the light hit's it just right, the entire hillside would shimmer with that golden hue. It was magnificent.
At least until those beautiful leaves dropped and then the branches were bare until spring and it started all over again.
Most of the places I've lived have a distinct colour change with the autumnal equinox. And now here we are in Florida where it's green year 'round. And while most of the time I am delighted with the lush greenery, come fall I am pining for autumn colour. So, rather than be blue about it, I challenged myself to find the signs of autumn in our own yard. Maybe I thought it would be like keeping tinkerbell alive, if you believe in it enough, it will happen.
Well hang on to your pixie dust friends, because it did happen! I had to really think autumn thoughts but yes indeedy, there is autumn colours are our yard!
First of all, here is the backyard. Doesn't look very autumnish does it?
But when I paid more attention, got closer, really believed it was there, that's when I started to find it.
Okay, I would define fall colours as various shades of: red, orange, yellow and purple. Sounds fair? Here we go:
So it's September 22nd. Next week will be October! Exciting! The temperature has actually dropped a bit here thought it's still warm enough to wear shorts and the humidity has dropped significantly. That's probably our biggest sign of autumn, less humidity.
Eventually the temperature will drop enough that I will open windows instead of using AC. And then at some point I will switch to long pants instead of shorts, closed toed shoes instead of sandals and shirts with sleeves. But not for awhile.
Today I'm satisfied with having found some actual autumn colour here in my very own yard on this, the first day of Autumn. I think I will celebrate.
In an unusual move this weekend I painted both toes AND fingers. Usually I only paint my toes so this was kind of different for me. And two different colours (which I know makes some people crazy...you are supposed to wear the SAME colour fingerz&toez!!) But just look at those fun colours! I absolutely LOVE it! The last time I saw orange and pink together was in the 60's or 70's.
I believe the first time I saw pink and orange together was a polyester dress in orange that had pops of pink at the collar, the cuffs and pocket. I thought it was glorious. My Nana thought it was vulgar. Pink and orange on the same dress? Those two colours did not belong together, in her august opinion, and what's more it calls attention to the wearer, and ladies did not call attention to themselves. And that, my friends, was that.
First of all polyester. Yuck. I cannot believe we wore that crap. The upside was that it absolutely did not wrinkle. No matter what you did to it, it never ever wrinkled so it never required ironing.
From the perspective of the housewives of my childhood era, finally having an article of clothing that you could just hang up straight out of the washer and, once dry, it looks pristine was a marvel, a wonder and a blessing all in one. Back then 99% of household chores were done by the female quotient of any family. Having one thing ticked off ahead of time was a godsend.
But from a personal point of view, I cannot believe we wore that stuff. The actual texture was bizarre, it felt terrible, weird, strange and unnatural, which of course it was. Not a natural fabric I mean. Essentially made from plastic, it was squishy and it didn't breathe and it folded oddly when the wearer sat down. But it was all the rage at back then.
The only really good part (aside from the no-wrinkle thing) about polyester was the colour. Colour! It was like when we went from black & white to technicolour in movies and then TV.
It's not as if people didn't wear colour before the groovy 60's and 70's, of course they did. But they wore quiet colours. There was a lot of navy blue going on. Suit wearing men wore black, charcoal grey or navy. Their shirts were white. Ties were subdued. A flashy tie might have a stripe.
I have a photo of my dad somewhere, walking down the streets of Chicago with a smile on his face, a hat on his head and a jazzy looking tie. I think the photo might have been taken in the 1940's. Younger men who lived in bigger cities dabbled in ties with designs for awhile. Some of them were pretty wild. Lots of fun. That photo is the ONLY time I've ever seen of my father in a tie that wasn't subdued, respectful and quiet.
I know that as a kid I wore a lot of blues of one shade of another and my sister wore pink. It's like those were our designated colours. My mother wore mostly solid colours but her mother, my Nana wore printed dresses. Usually a dark solid background and a teensy flower print scattered across the frock, with a white collar - a lace collar if it was a fancy dress. Period. That is what she wore. The end.
Then the 60's happened and suddenly patterns got crazy, fabric got crazier and, well psychedelic's is how it was described. Hemlines crept up, necklines dipped down and the attitude was, "anything goes". And if you didn't want to jump into the frey full tilt, you could still participate in a more current fashion style in a more subtle manner with colour combinations.
Suddenly, the rules went right out the window with colour combos. Pink and orange? Of course they belong together. They sit side by side in a box of crayons don't they? Turquoise and Lime Green, Mustard and Avocado, Purple and Scarlet, Mercy!
It didn't happen overnight of course, it was a long slow process of change. And it has brought us through to today, some 60 years later when it's nearly impossible to shock anyone with what you are wearing anymore so people began colouring their hair wild and crazy unusual colours and colour combinations.
At first it was just the colours. Stop sign red, deep dark blue, grape jelly purple, you know, not the usual colours that hair comes in. But then it was multiple colours. A veritable rainbow on someone's head. I've seen it in pastels (which I actually quite liked) and deep dark saturated colours and everything in between.
And hair styles? Up, down, sideways, Heads shaved, or designs shaved in, and only a portion of the head shaved. Curly hair, straight hair, long hair and short. Braids, ponytails, fancy clips and hairbands for either gender.
Why not. Have fun. Be happy.
We felt like we were rebels when we wore crazy colour combinations and styles that made our grandparents (and sometimes parents) aghast. In fact, I just remembered one day when I was in high school. When I got home I saw that my mother had painted her toes alternating colours of pink and red. I was tickled to bits, loved it and told her so. Her mother was not so pleased. "Dotty, what were you thinking?" Nana said to her. It was a tiny rebellion but a rebellion nonetheless.
The first woman who wore a bikini on a public beach was arrested. Barabara Eden in "I Dream of Jeannie" had have her Genie costume altered to cover her belly button to satisfy the censors. Now nobody bats an eye. It's just fashion and most everyone gets that now. It's fun, it's an expression of how you feel. It's experimentation to finding out who you are.
But I'm starting to feel the pendulum swinging back and I'm not real happy about it. I'm reading about it with school dress codes in particular. In some schools, regardless of the time of year or the temperature, girls aren't allowed to wear sleeveless tops, tank tops or open collars. Cannot be showing upper arms or collar bones. Collar bones.
I say, " No no no!" When those sort of rules are imposed we are moving in the absolute wrong direction.
Remember the days when a woman wasn't allowed to show an ankle? She was covered from the top of her neck to her wrists to the floor. Layer upon layer upon layer of hot, stifling misery because someone decided that it was unseemly for a women to be noticed.
Well, as it so happens, women are worth being noticed. And fashion is fun. The End.
This is what my shoes look like after a hike. You cannot really tell how incredibly wet they are, or how filled with sand, nor how disgustingly filthy my socks are. The socks will require bleach to achieve anything near their pristine state. There are seeds and sand burrs stuck to the laces oh and I did mention that they were soaking wet, right? These are all clear indicators of an EXCELLENT photo safari. If I don't come home with filthy shoes I didn't really go hiking with Joy. And yesterday I came home with these shoes! We had a great hike.
As per usual, we headed out in the wee hours. We went north this time to a little unnamed (at least to us) set of trails behind a Presbyterian Church in Osprey. The trails had not been tended in awhile so the grasses were high and we were soaked to above the knee. We watched as the sun slowly rose higher and higher and gilded the outlines of the trees and the leaves.
Joy and I have seen eagles there in the past and the one huge eagle nest remained but we saw none of the birds. And in fact, there were enormous areas that seem to have been de-forested. Not sure if it was a fire, or chemical deforestation or giant bulldozers or some combination. But while there were still pretty things to see, overall, it was a bit of a disappointment :(
Still there are always pretty things to see. Always and Everywhere. Here are some of the pretty things we saw yesterday;
Although we did not rush, it wasn't a long hike and when we arrived back at the car we felt very much unfinished. So we set out once more and since we started out going north, we continued in the same direction next and ended up at Celery Fields in Sarasota. Saw a lot more pretty things there. Dragonflies for one thing. Oh my gosh they were everywhere and in every colour imaginable. It felt, at times, as if we were walking through a mist of dragonflies! I managed to capture a few butterflies and I think a wasp too. Here is a small sampling
The one thing you will find the most of at Celery Fields is birds. Lots and lots of birds. Birds of all sizes and colours and personalities. My favourites were the ducks, but really, I like them all. I'm not a "birder" and in fact, I don't know the names of most of these birds. Joy identifies them for me every time but I rarely remember. She knows not only the names of the birds, but very cool information about them like what they eat and where they nest. I am in awe of her knowledge even though whatever she tells me doesn't stick in my brain. But I still like to see them . This is how I "know" the names of birds. "Oh let's call the white one, Francis. He looks like a Francis. And the blue one? Oh that's Georgie." Like that. Yup, that's more my style.
And naturally there were beautiful flowers and other pretty things to see. These places always look so much prettier in person. No matter how hard I try to capture the reality of the beauty, my camera eye never quite gets it. All I can do is try, and Try I do! I always think of Captain Kangaroo who often said, "The best I can do, is the best I can do, and I'm doing the best that I can". I loved the Captain.
Here's some of the other pretty things:
So there you have it. Another successful photo safari adventure as evidenced by filthy, wet shoes and socks. Oh and some fairly decent photos.
Hope you have a wonderful weekend however you spend it! Ya'll come back now, hear?
I assume that all of you remember the movie, "Groundhog Day", right? In case you don't (and I cannot begin to imagine how that happened) it's a Harold Ramis comedy from 1993 staring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell.
The main character, played by Bill Murray, somehow ends up in a time loop and relives the same day over and over and over. Naturally, it changes him from kind of a jerk to a good guy and he wins over Andie McDowell's character once his transformation is complete and then the time loop ends. It used to be one of my favourite movies.
And then the year 2020 came around with the Pandemic and the Great Quarrantine and the Lockdowns and Precautionary Measures and Social Distancing. And now every day feels a lot like the Movie Groundhog Day. So now, I don't love the film quite so much.
And since almost every day feels like almost every other day, anything that breaks up the monotony is welcome! Therefore, when I got the email from the museum where, under normal circumstances I am a docent, asking if I was interested in helping them, out my answer was a very quick and enthusiastic YES!
There is a small gift shop in the Venice Museum and one of the things that always sells quite well there is books. Naturally when the request involved books, I am all over it.
My boss wanted to refresh our book supply and she had a list of roughly a dozen books. Would I like to read them and give her my opinion about whether or not they would be a good choice for the museum gift shop? Would I? Do Bears......? Well we all know what bears do in the woods so yuppers! Not only did I accept this mission, I was raring to go.
I've actually done this sort of thing for the museum before. They know that not only am I a voracious reader, I am also a very fast reader. So whenever there was a question about written material that needs to be reviewed, I am happy to comply. It's very flattering that not only do they comfortable asking me to read the books (or articles or whatever needs being read) they also trust my judgement.
I was very excited to begin so the very next day, mask in place of course, I headed off to the museum with the list, a pen and notebook for taking notes and my trusty library card. Here was my plan. I would look up each book and see if the library actually had it. If so, I would, literally, check it out. If not, I would look up the author and see if the library carried any other work by that author so I could, if nothing else, get the jist of their writing style. It seemed like a really good plan.
Right up until I (eventually) learned that the library did not carry one single book on the list. Not One. I painstakingly looked up every single book and the authors of those books and....nothin' . Well wait no, that's not quite true. The library did have on it's shelves a different book by Dave Barry but I already knew his work anyway.
But doesn't that seem strange? The odds seem against that don't you think? Ratz. So, rather than waste the trip, I looked for other books on the same topics as the ones on the list and found a lot of dreck, but there were three books that looked interesting to me. These books were NOT on the list, nor were their authors but hey, why not, take them home and give them a read. Eventually.
First I had to find a different way to review the books on the list. This is when having a computer is a very handy thing. I went to Amazon where I was able to find all but one of the books on the list. And there was information about the books like reviews, a synopsis AND that very cool "Look inside" thing where I was able to actually read a little bit of the book. It wasn't perfect, but it was enough to give me a feel for each book.
I took notes on every book then typed up my findings and sent them off. My original mission was accomplished. But there were still the 3 other books that I found and brought home!
Since I was trying to stay true to the original list of books, all of them were about the history of Florida and in fact, one of them was a photo essay book about Venice specifically (and it was wonderful). Last weekend it rained nearly all day both days so I got in a lot of reading time. In fact, I was able to read two of the three books. I wrote up reviews on them too and sent them in.
Now I have the final book that I selected yet to go. I am not in a rush. I know that I'll get to it in plenty of time before it is due back. I can already tell (just from perusing the first few pages) that it's going to be a good one. And if I am right, even though it's not on the list, I will recommend that one as well.
I think I'm not racing to finish this book because then the project really will be done and it'll be back to Groundhog Day. I'm kinda dragging my feet a bit, trying to make it last as long as possible.
I need a new project!
So Sorry, I wasn't here yesterday. I was busy. Out on Photo Safari! Yes, That's right, Joy's Back! YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!!
It was a dicey proposition because the forecast was, as the forecast has been for days now, rain. But we decided to risk it because, A) What's life without risk and B) what the heck, why not? and C) We've both really missed this!
As we do in the summer months, we left early. Joy picked me up a little before 7 am. The sun was jjjjuuuussstttt coming up and the sky was beautiful.
In discussion the day before about precisely where to hike, we decided to forego our usual haunts, i.e. the local forests and preserves mostly because of the recent heavy rains. We don't mind getting a little wet. Heck, we've even gone on swamping hikes but the water level was so high that to hike in most places would have required a submarine. Or at least Hip Boots. Instead we chose to go back and do the Casperson Beach Hike instead. So merrily we rolled along to the south end of the island and came right up against a barrier and signs that the road was closed. Dang.
Now what to do? We fished in our memory banks and came up with Ollie's Pond. We were pretty sure that the pond hadn't flooded the surrounding area, probably, maybe, hopefully. So we headed to Port Charlotte instead. Roughly a half hour drive. And hurrah, it was a gamble that paid off! While the pond water level was pretty high and the greenery had clearly been running amuck with growth, we began our slow trek, circling the pond, eyes ever on alert for something photo worthy.
At first we thought there wasn't much to see, but we were wrong. Very Very Wrong. Happily wrong. First of all, the pond is gorgeous all by itself. When I say pond, I don't mean a little puddle, it's a good sized body in water. In Colorado they would probably consider it to be a lake. All of those little "islands" of reeds and water grasses are places for wildlife to hide and nest and hunt for food. Which also makes Ollie's a perfect place for wildlife photos!
Once we arrived at the end (or perhaps the beginning) we considered just circling again to see what else we could see, but instead choose to move on to a very new park (about a year old) that we passed on the way down. I cannot for the life of me remember the full name of this park, but we call it the Senator Bob park. It's actually the Senator Bob Johnson Park and he was obviously someone like us, who loves nature. I'm not sure if Senator Bob park is in North Port or Venice, but I do know that it was on the way back home which was perfect.
Because it's a very small park and it runs right along a river which means part of it was underwater, we didn't get a lot a photos, but enough to have made the stop worthwhile. And they have lovely modern clean bathrooms. Bonus!
We were now really revved (and awake) and more importantly, despite the grey skies, it had not yet begun to rain. So we decided to keep going and make one more stop. This one in Venice (off-island) at the Rookery. A place where, absolutely for sure, without a doubt, there will be birds to snap pictures of. (and yes I know, one should never end a sentence with a preposition)
The rookery is basically another pond with a big island filled with greenery at the center and a .....let's call it a path.....that goes around the outside. The trees and shrubs in that center island are always loaded with very large birds. I did not take one single photo of the birds in the center. Didn't need to. There were so many birds and other creatures in the outside area that I was snappity snapping my little fingers off. It was marvelous!
By the time we finished circling the Rookery Pond, the rain had finally begun. It was just a light sprinkle but we felt that we had pushed our luck just hard enough and called it a day!
So that was it. The First Photo Safari in quite a while. It wasn't at all what we planned but it was still awesome. We are going to try to do two hikes a week to make up for lost time, so if you like these photo safari reports, stay tuned!
Great to have you back, Jo. I've missed you!
It's not actually officially autumn yet. I think that doesn't happen until the 22nd of this month, but in most places school has started, Halloween candy is on the shelves, the temperatures are beginning to cool off and, lord help us, the Christmas Trees are already on display at Costco. So yeah, close enough.
And that also means football has resumed. I'm talking, bigboy football here. NFL type. Really big guys that garner really big salaries for, effectively playing a game. That's ok. It's their job. It's what they are good at, it's what they do and we watch it.
When I say we, I mean other people, not me. And by other people I mean almost everyone else. Apparently. I assume this to be true because throughout my life, during this time of year, it is not at all uncommon for football to be the topic of conversation. And nothing ends a conversation quite as quickly as this following exchange:
Almost everyone else: "So who do you think is going to win the SuperBowl this year?"
Me: "Actually I don't really follow football. Sorry"
Almost every one else: "?????" blank look and then slowly walk away.
I do not actively dislike football. I experience no sense of disdain or dismay when Tim is ensconced on his sofa-throne talking to the TV. I support his interest. I'm pleased that he enjoys it. I will bring him refills and serve lunch/dinner in the family room so he doesn't have to miss his show. And if he's watching with other people who also are enjoying the game, I will cook for and serve them all.
But I have Zero interest in it. Just doesn't captivate me. I'm not drawn in and excited about what is happening. Not on the screen and not in person. And yes, I have seen a few football games live and in person. Didn't help.
I'ts not as if I hated every moment of the experience of watching a live game. I didn't. I make it a point to enjoy every experience that I have. But if I have a choice between attending a football game and reading the latest Diana Gabaldon book, I would absolutely, no question, not a single moments hesitation choose the book.
And the funny part is that of all of the professional sports out there, the only one that I actually understand, is football! Y'see, I went to high school in Texas where living and breathing football is not just a religion, it's a requirement for residency. So I learned. Maybe against my will, but I learned.
And then of course, I had three sons, two of whom are also huge sports fans. Throughout their childhoods I not only heard names and stats (and unintentionally learned those things) the boys would actually quiz me about the teams. So I knew my stuff. I didn't care any more than before, but I knew it, by god. It was important to them and therefore, by extension, it was, to some degree, important to me.
I cannot honestly say that I remember sitting through an entire televised game though. In person there isn't much choice, but in my own home I have lots of options. And any of them is preferable to me.
Autumn to me has a lot of wonderful connotations. It's brand new pencils and notebooks, colourful autumn leaves, fuzzy sweaters, home made soups and amping up my baking. But for the men in my life, it's mostly football. They won't turn away the baked goods, they aren't fools after all but for them autumn is really mostly about "the game".
To me football seems to be a very brief action followed by a lot of milling around then quick shots of various people who are hiding their mouths behind clipboards then more very brief action followed by commercial breaks and......... repeat. It just feels like the game is dragging on forever!
Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't it supposed to be 4 fifteen minutes quarters? That means the game should last, maybe 90 minutes tops if you add in time for commercials. So why oh why, please why, does it take HOURS to play one game?
There were games on our TV yesterday. I did watch a little of it. The rules have changed since I learned them so I didn't understand as much as I used to. And the players seem to wear a lot of jewelry which surprised me. Jewelry on the field? Really? But otherwise, it felt the same as it always did. Brief action followed by nothing followed by brief action followed by a commercial. The biggest difference was no cheerleaders and empty stadiums. That was definitely strange. I wonder if it feels weird to the players too?
I know that performers love the electric charge that comes from a live audience. I cannot imagine that it would be different for athletes. But things being what they are right now, it is a safer thing to have no live attendees. Just the players and coaches and (whoever else they require on site) and the folks behind the cameras. I wonder if there was an echo?
Meanwhile, in this house anyway, on Sundays there will be football playing on the TV in the family room. And I will bring drinks and food in if requested. And I might stand there and watch a play or two. But mostly I will be elsewhere doing other things during the game and not reading about it the next day in the newspaper. And that will be perfectly fine.
And when someone asks me who I like for the superbowl this year? I think I'll say, "The what?" and thoroughly confuse them.
Pelicans are such beautiful birds in flight. For a rather large creature they are amazingly graceful. They seem to float on the air as if they were mere flower blossoms. They ride the air currents as easily as we might go down a slide. Look at that beautiful form. Tens, all 'round.
But when they land, especially on water, it's not pretty. They crash into the water with a mighty Foosh! Water sprays everywhere. You can often actually hear the smack/splash sound and I wince thinking, "Man that's gotta hurt". I guess it doesn't because the pelican does his crash landing into the water over and over again. Probably hundreds of times a day and it never looks any prettier. In fact, I don't even have a really good photo of a pelican landing because mostly it kind of looks like this:
Ok that's a bit of an exaggeration. But in truth, really it's mostly splash and feathers everywhere.
I feel like I am a lot like a pelican. There are things I do pretty well. For example: I take some fairly decent photos. I make good cookies. And I can usually put together a grammatically correct sentence.
But there loads of things that no matter how hard I work at it. No matter how many times I try, I am never ever going to get any better at it:
Driving. From the day I got my drivers license, 50 years ago, I was anxious, uncomfortable and unenthusiastic about being behind the wheel. That has not gotten any better. And in fact, I think it was only gotten worse over time.
Sewing. I got kicked out of Home Ec in 7th grade for accidentally sewing my finger (along with the apron I was trying to make) and thereby accidentally breaking the sewing machine. My needle-work skill has not gotten any better. It can take me upwards of 15 minutes just to thread the dang needle and there is no guarantee that any button I sew on is going to stay put. And I will require at least one bandage before I'm done.
Any Sport. Pick one, Any of them. I suck equally at them all. I'm not coordinated. I have absolutely Zero competitive gene, very poor depth perception and more importantly, I have no interest in sports. Any of them.
Any Artistic pursuit. I actually am quite interested in art. Any sort. Sculptures, drawings, paintings of any kind. Oils, water colours, charcoals, pastels, palette knife.......it is all fascinating to me. So much so that at one time in my life I worked as a docent in an art museum. I loved it. It speaks to me, if you will. BUT I have no artistic ability myself. I cannot so much as draw a straight line with a ruler. Regardless of how many classes I took, regardless of how sincerely hard I tried, I never got any better at it. Ratz.
The difference between me and pelicans is that while they are not graceful in their landings and in fact are rather hilarious about it, they continue to do it every day over and over and over.
Most of the things I'm not good at, I just don't do. Or at least I do as little as possible.
I admire the pelicans attitude. But it's not going to change mine
Let the happy news ring forth across the land. My Dryer is Fixed, My Dryer is Fixed.
Oh yeah, I'm doing the happy dance today for sure. While, simultaneously, playing catch-up with an enormous pile of laundry of course.
As you may, or may not, recall, seventeen days ago I discovered that my dryer wasn't working. As one normally would, I contacted the repair people, described the problem and was told that A) it was still under extended warranty - hurrah and B) someone would call back within 42 hours. Well it turned out to be more like 72 hours, but still someone did call. Once again the issue was explained, the make and model number given and we were told that the part would have to be ordered. We were assured that once the part came in, we would be contacted once more to set up a day and time for the actual repair.
In the meantime, there were still dirty clothes, wet towels and regular sheet changes that needed to be dealt with. Bathmats still occasionally had to be washed and sofa blankets need freshening and well you know, just the stuff that we all do on a regular basis.
In a desperate effort to try to stay on top of things I did a mix of: a) visits to the laundromat (as few as possible; b) doing wash at home and hanging up the wet things on my rolling rack which I moved to the living room because it has better air circulation and therefore things dry faster; and, sadly, c) putting off washing some things much longer than usual. It worked. It wasn't ideal but it worked.
I know that I am spoiled rotten. I have become accustomed to all of the modern conveniences. But that is not to say that I always had these things. I vividly recall, as a child, very carefully using a wringer washer. And it wasn't until my kids were in middle school that I stopped pegging my wash on the clotheslines outside several times a week. And I've already done my time in laundromats as a weekly regular!!
Of course on the other hand I did not ever have to boil clothes outside over a fire in a big kettle or beat them on a rock or even use a washboard to do the family laundry so there is that.
Still, I was overjoyed to hear that the part had come in and the repair person would be here on Wednesday. That's all, just Wednesday. No time frame, just a day. I didn't even care. I was so happy to have the dryer repaired that fine, whatever, okay. Sometime Wednesday.
When the repairman arrived, I took him straight to the utility room and left him to his own devices. He was finished in a remarkably short time and I walked him back to the front door, thanked him profusely and he left.
It wasn't until later that I had a moment of clarity. It turned out that the problem with the dyer lay in a big of coggery that was made out of plastic and had partially melted. I find it very odd that a manufacturer would make an essential piece of a machine that is literally created with the intention of it being very hot out of a material that melts when it gets hot. Kind of strange don't you think?
And further I realized that when this whole thing started and I called and relayed the problem, the repair person did not have to come out and determine for himself exactly what part wasn't working. Which leads me to believe that I'm not the only person who had this problem. For all I know, everyone who bought this particular machine, at some point, had this melted plastic part issue.
Pretty smart from a business standpoint on the part of the manufacturer. Parts made of plastic are cheaper than parts made of metal. So they save money. And if at year four (in my case) all of these machines start having melted plastic parts, the owners have to either pay for repair (not cheap) or buy a new chaine (also not cheap) and they make more money. Insert another Hmmmm here.
Did you know that the average length of time any major appliances is expected to last is seven years? Yup, it's true. I'm sure that longer lasting machines can be made but the manufacturers aren't making any money on machines that last a long time. Perhaps I'm just jaded but I don't think so. What I do think is that it is a pretty dang smart move on their part but that it totally sucks for the consumer.
But today I'm not going to obsess over that. Today I'm going to finally, at long last, catch up on all of the household laundry and happydance the whole while. And hopefully, the plastic part will last at least another four years before I have to go through all of this again.
Yup, this is me. And Yes, I know I look kind of silly but I don't regret it one single bit. It was blisteringly hot out that day.
I needed to go to the grocery store for one thing. One lone, but absolutely essential item. I briefly considered driving, just for the AC in the car, but decided that I needed the exercise more and set out to walk. It's not unusual for me to walk an errand rather than drive, we already know that. And I've walked to the grocery store more times than I care to count. It's around a mile and a half, with no hills, not much traffic and sidewalks nearly the entire way. The streets are lined with trees for shade but the sun peeks through anyway so I lubed up with sunscreen, put my money and phone in one pocket and my mask in another and set out.
It was not my smartest move. Although I am, by now, accustomed to the heat, the end of summer is a special kind of miserable. It's not just the heat, it's not even just the humidity, it's the September in Florida phenomenon called, the "feels like". And that sunny day, mid afternoon, the "feels like" was 110 degrees. And that is just stupid.
The thing that was bothering me most was my hair. I had just gotten it cut so I couldn't really put it up until it grew out a bit more and that day it lay against my sweaty neck, adding an extra special layer of hot. Yuck.
By the time I got to the grocery store and began to bask in the glory of air conditioning, I thought to check out the hair notions section of the cosmetics aisle to see if there was something, anything, I could do about my hair.
There were hair bands and scrunchies and hair clips by the dozens. There were barrettes, large, small and painted with unicorns but I didn't really see anything that would help until, just before I was about to give up, I noticed a card of six tiny elastics that looked as if they were made out of ribbon but stretchy. My hair was certainly not long enough for a single ponytail but I was pretty sure that I could do two of them. I bought both the thing I originally went to the store to buy AND the card of tiny ponytail holders. (what are those actually called anyway?)
The instant I left the store I tore into the package. It turned out that the plastic covered cardboard holding the ponytail holders was harder to break into than expected. I had to pretty much destroy it. Only to then learn that the ponytail holders were also threaded onto a plastic circlet. Good Grief.
I tried pulling it apart. Nope. I tried standing on it while pulling to break it with zero results. I even tried biting it realllllly hard but nada. Dang! Then it dawned on me that the pillars in front of the building are covered in stucco which is a great rough surface! Aha! I rubbed the plastic against it over and over and over and finally Success! I had liberated the pontail holders!
Using my reflection in an empty store window as a guide, I haphazardly whipped my hair into two ridiculous looking little pony tails and continued my walk home feeling every so much cooler.
Part way home it occurred to me that I was breaking a rule. I was not "dressing my age". I'm not sure why that rule was such a big deal in my house growing up since most of rules were pooh-poohed, but it was. At various times there was a serious attempt to coerce me to cut my hair, lower my hemline, properly sew a hemline, not wear certain fabrics or shoe styles because I was not "dressing my age".
It wasn't just family who felt this way, it was teachers, occasional co-workers, a few friends and society as a whole. Even now I see articles about how women of a certain age should not wear certain hair styles, articles of clothing (like jeans! seriously), or they should either tone down (one article) or ramp up (a different article) their make-up solely based on which birthday had just been celebrated.
I say Balderdash!
Here is how I feel about it. This is my age. This is how I dress. Obviously, therefore, I am dressing my age. If you don't like it, don't look at me. It's very simple.
I think back to the days when Queen Victoria was the woman who dictated women's fashions. Women were covered from neck to wrist to feet in layer upon layer upon layer of clothing and those damned corsets that prevented proper breathing and misaligned internal organs. I am truly amazed that in those days with no electricity and therefore no fans or AC, any women survived summer.
Thank goodness I live in these times when I can wear shorts if I want to with my hair in two ponytails in public without fear of being arrested for public indecency. And while a few people may look askance at me, I will not be hauled before the magistrate. Not even by the fashion police.
Happy Day After Labour Day!
There are two things you can be absolutely assured of on Labor Day at our house. One is that the streets will be lined with Flags. The other is that there will be yummy things to eat. Yeah, we are pretty food-centric (as if you didn't already know)
But this labor day we had one added bonus special unexpected treat! It turned out to be MINOCK DAY! The best day of any month :)
It was a perfect way to enjoy the day, good food (chicken on the grill and potato salad for example), good company, a lot of talking and a ton of laughter. Hard to improve upon that!
This country has been celebrating Labour Day since 1894. The original intent of course was to celebrate and pay tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. An honourable intention at the very least. Although when I was a kid, the actual intent of labour day was lost on us.
I know it's changed now but way back when dinosaurs walked the earth and I was a kid, every single school that I heard about or attended (and I attended many) that Tuesday following Labor Day was when the new school year began. That was the only real meaning of labor day to us kids.
Nowadays of course, the date of the start of school is all over the place. Some kids have year 'round school for instance. Others started in August and a few have not yet begun. And then of course, this year being what it is and the pandemic throwing it's monkey wrench into things, more kids are being schooled alternatively. That is to say, home schooled or doing on-line classes. I have no idea what their school years look like. Kind of a shame. I enjoyed the consistency of KNOWING (or at least thinking I knew) exactly what Labor Day meant.
It meant that last blissful day of freedom before school commenced. Which made that final day extra important. I vividly recall the deliciousness of enjoying to the absolute maximum that final day before the new school year. In a way it was the best day of the entire summer because we were so focused on making the most of it.
I remember waking up extra early and being very aware of the different feel and smell of the early hour. I absolutely remember sitting on the porch steps in my pajamas watching the sun slowly creep up over the trees and seeing the light overtake the darkness in the shadowy garden. (No matter where we lived, my mother always had a garden) I could suddenly hear the birds begin their early morning song as I hugged myself in the early chill. The chill would burn off soon but my little barefeet on the concrete would be almost achey cold at that hour. And I remember that I didn't mind one bit too. It was just the tiniest of beginnings to one of the most important days of the year.
I don't think it was a conscious decision on our parts. I mean we were kids and not especially sophisticated ones at that, but there was something about that day that even we knew was important.
The sun felt warmer, the air felt fresher, food tasted better, laughter rang louder, and whatever goofy-arsed way we chose to spend the day was perfectly perfect. We probably spent the entire day outside getting sweaty and dirty and only went inside if our mother's insisted that we break for a meal and even then, we pleaded and begged to be allowed to have our sandwiches outside please! We stayed out after dinner playing games in the yard, chasing the fireflies, enjoying our last day of freedom and trying to make the joy last as long as possible.
That's kind of how it is enjoying a Minock Day. No matter what we do, it's extra special and we try to make it last as long as possible.
Hope your labour day was even half as good as ours!
This is a real house here on the island. It's kind of adorable. Like a little doll house, a cottage, a bungalow, I suppose. It was built in 1926 which means it was constructed in the original hey day of our little city of Venice. And currently it is sitting right in the plumb center of a controversy.
From what I gather, and since I don't actually personally know any of the people involved I am getting all of my information from the local newspaper and online so I cannot guarantee anything I say here is 100% fact ok? Let's start there.
I have to tell you a wee bit about the beginning of our town for this to make sense. In the 1880's there were a few people living here, but not many. It wasn't really a town, it was more just an area which was referred to as Horse and Chaise. As I understand it, it's because the shore line as seen from boats in the water, resembled a horse driven conveyance. Ok. Enter the force of nature otherwise known as Bertha Potter Palmer.
Mrs. Palmer was rather taken with the mostly undeveloped West Coast of Florida and was something of a visionary. A visionary with a LOT of money. She bought land here. Lots and lots of land. She then convinced the railroad to extend their rail service to what became our fair city. She decided that the name of this city would be Venice. All of that happened began in 1911 Shortly thereafter the US went land speculation crazy. It was a boom like no other.
Among the folks who bought land here was Dr. Fred Albee who bought just shy of 3,000 acres with the intent to build a town. He even hired his friend, the famous Mr. John Nolen to draw up plans for the town with a very specific idea. Even the style of the homes and buildings were dictated by Mr. Nolen's ultra comprehensive plan.
However, very shortly after the good Dr. Albee purchased the land, he was approached by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers who also liked the idea of creating a town and subsequently Dr. Albee sold the land to the BLE.
Up until October of 1929 the town grew in leaps and bounds, following the Nolen Plan. The population grew and grew and it seemed as if the good times would never end. Until the depression showed it's ugly face and everything changed forever.
Since then Venice has had it's ups and downs but once recovered from the Great depression, it's mostly been up. And that's a wonderful thing. There are still quite a few of the original wonderfully historic homes from the 1920's and often they exist side by side with newer more modern homes which creates it's own unique sort of charm.
Ok now back to The Situation.
Back in 2014 or 2015 (depending on your news source) a nice couple bought the house in question (at the top of the page) with the intent of fixing it up. Fast Forward to 2020 and they seem to have thrown their hands up in the air and said, "That's it, we quit. This house is a money pit. We would be better off tearing it down and starting over"
So far so good, right? It actually happens a lot here. It's not just that it's costly to reno an older home or that the layouts aren't up to modern esthetic standards, it's also that the electricity and plumbing are no longer to code. Odds are extremely good that the HVAC needs to be replaced as does the roof and the windows which need to be as hurricane proof as possible. The list goes on ad nauseum. So you see, it's not just cosmetics that need to be addressed in an older home. And the nice people who had such good intentions initially aren't wrong. It probably is cheaper to tear it down and rebuild.
HOWEVER, this house is in a specifically designated historic district. Part of the original John Nolen plan. Which means that to do something as dramatic as tearing it down, they had to petition the town first. When they petitioned the town for permission to tear the house down, they ran smack up against the historic preservation people who absolutely do not want the house torn down. They feel that, as one of the first of the BLE homes (not THE first but one of them) the house has enough historical significance that it needs to remain.
So there's been a lot of back and forth. The couple who own the house have construction folks on their side explaining the money dilemma. The historic preservation people, who have the fact that the house is within the Historic District on their side, naturally want to preserve as much of the town original history as possible.
It feels a lot like a stalemate and I do not envy the person or persons who have to make the decision.
That said, I have lived in a lot of older homes. One of those older homes was built in the 1700's. When we bought it, it had no central heat, substandard plumbing (the pipes froze every winter), substandard electricity (you couldn't plug in two things at the same time in the kitchen). It was so cold in the house in winter that there was ice on the inside of the walls, not just the windows, the actual walls. All winter long everyone spent all waking hours in the kitchen because that was where the woodstove was. So I do have some familiarity with the inconveniences of trying to live in an older home.
Fast forward a few years and we have the first house that Tim and I bought together which was in Connecticut. That house was built in 1940. Not ancient but old enough that the first 5 years that we lived there, every spare penny we had went toward updating things that you couldn't see, like a new pump for the well, a new septic system, a new roof, etc.etc.etc. But, we were aware that we were taking on a BIG job when we bought it and knew that it would probably take a lifetime to make it what we envisioned. We were patient and we were willing to sacrifice to make it happen. We only lived there 10 years but made terrific headway in those years.
It is not insignificant that when we moved from Connecticut to Colorado, we did not buy an existing older home but had a brand new home built for us. This was Not a coincidence.
Regardless of how good your intentions, sometimes, reno-ing a house is more of a job than you anticipate. Our current house here in Florida was built in 1962. Yes, we jumped into the miasma once again. So there it was. As we knew would happen, in these four years that we've lived here we have had to update the HVAC, the electricity and had the entire house replumbed and that is the short list of things we've had to do here. The list of things that still need to be addressed is sometimes a little daunting. We occasionally day dream about, as Tim says, "blowing it all up and starting over". Just like this other couple.
The difference is that our house, while still on the island, is not in an historic district. If we actually wanted to tear it down and start over, nobody cares. Nope. In the original John Nolen plan, our house was designated as an Orange Grove. Nothing historic about that.
So here is my thought. I love history. I adore this town. Part of what I love about it is the historic charm. BUT the people who own the house are the ones who are paying the mortgage and the insurance and the taxes. The people who are living within it's walls and dealing with the rotting floors and the collapsing roof and whatever else is wrong with it (according to the news article the cost quote for bringing the house up to speed is upwards of $300,000 which is more than they originally paid for the house), these folks are the ones who should get to decide.
The historic preservation people are rightly concerned that if everyone who lives in the historic district is allowed to tear down their homes and build new, then Venice will no longer be Venice. Well technically it will still BE Venice, it's just won't look the same. But I get what they are saying. What bothered me the most was the spokesperson who said (and I quote) "Owners for such properties should be considered custodians and if they no longer wish to maintain them, they should be forced to sell"
Forced to sell? Oh me oh my! That's, ummm, an aggressive stance I'll say.
I rather liked the response given by the director of the local Museum where I am a docent. A year or so ago, someone else who was upset about the possibility of a different historic home being sold and further they feared that it would be sold to a developer who would of course tear it down and put multiple homes on the site, came in to talk to Harry, (our director) about it, looking for an ally I assume. When the person said to Harry, "What will you do about this!" He answered, "I will be sad". And that was the end of that. He went on to explain that you simply cannot save them all.
And perhaps this is one that cannot be saved. I don't know. If the town doesn't allow them to tear down and rebuild, I wonder if they will keep tinktinktinking away at repairs little by little, or will they just sell it as is. If they do, I wonder who will want to buy it.
It's quite the dilemma and I have no answers. But it's an interesting problem for sure.
Before I leave for the long holiday weekend (and I wish you a good one) I want to Thank my friends, Randy & Mary, who suggested this news story to me as a Blog Post idea. Thanks guys!
See y'all on Tuesday. Have fun and Be safe this Labor Day weekend. Hugs all 'round
I finished up yesterday's blog saying that today I would write about the rest of the walk I took on the day of the Nolen Green's discovery. And since I am a woman of my word, here we go:
This will be just kind of a random collection of photos and thoughts from my walk that day. I did spend time at the beach. Of course I did. Being walking distance to the beach was one of the the big reasons that we chose this particular town. I was not a particularly sunny day (which worked in my favour) and there was a bit of a breeze. As always it was even windier at the beach. Doesn't matter, it's still one of my most favourite places to be.
And even though I certainly could have, I didn't spend my entire day at the beach. I also spent time admiring the flowers that are, as I keep saying, Everywhere! Did you know the the name Florida means Flowers? Well it means Feast of Flowers and it was bestowed upon this particular hunk of land way back in 1513 by Juan Ponce de Leon. Yup that fountain of youth guy.
Because there were flowers, there were also bees, butterflies and dragonflies galore. Unfortunately I did not get a photo of a single one. And that's ridiculous because they were everywhere!
On the other hand I did capture some interesting yard art. Loads of Yard Art. Buckets of it. Piles of it! Hold on to your socks:
And a little bit of wildlife.
Then there were the park lions. I love the park lions
There was a lot of construction in town. Either a house coming down, a house going up, a lot prepared for a house or remodeling. Busy Busy Busy
And speaking of construction, I noticed quite a few folks who were clever enough to add roof top decks to them homes. All the better to have an ocean view, my dear.
As always there is my favourite section, the rando photos:
So I guess that's it. Thanks for coming along with me on my walk. Always glad for the company :) Hope you enjoyed
What on earth?
You see that post, right? It's hard to miss being orange and all. They are dotted here and there all over the island, sometimes at the entrance to what, at least appears to be a driveway, other times the post is just kind of stuck, seemingly randomly, between houses.
I've been walking around this island for more than four years now and, of course, I have noticed them. But I had no idea what they were all about. I googled it with no result. I even tried looking it up on the city's website but zilch. I asked a few people who shrugged their shoulders in return and eventually, while the curiosity remained, I stopped trying to figure it out.
Well I sort of stopped. I stopped trying to actively solve the mystery, but quietly in the back of my brain, the work continued. And really, it shouldn't be as difficult as I made it. Here's the thing. It says, right on the sign, 'Nolen Green'. Nolen, I believe to be a reference to Mr. John Nolen who was the man, way back in the 1920's, who laid out the plan for the City of Venice Florida before it was built. He was a forward thinking individual who believed in green spaces so we have loads of parks here. He drew up plots of land for all different sizes of houses, for schools and retail spaces. There was entertainment areas, natural areas and of course he took good advantage of the beautiful beaches.
Now here it is nearly 100 years later and our town is still surprisingly laid out very similarly to Mr. John Nolen's plan. The town is rather proud of that. His name is not only not forgotten, it is lauded here in Venice. So my assumption that those sign posts in some way have to do with Mr. Nolen is very logical.
So when I went off on one of my no particular destination walks last week and I passed by one of these John Nolen sign posts, instead of just walking on by, I stopped. I really looked at both the sign and the area around the sign.
Initially yes, it does seem to be right there on someone's property, but when I peeped further down the "driveway" or what I thought was a driveway, I saw a pretty little greenspace with trees, flowers, a picnic table and another sign. hmmm Interesting.
Now when I was asking around about these posts, one of the people who didn't shrug said that they thought the posts marked tiny pocket parks throughout Venice, but they weren't certain. Well if the sign marks a park, that would be a public space, right? And the post clearly has an arrow and an invitation. It says, "To Nolen Green". Sounds come hither to me.
But here's the thing about me. I am a rule follower. Well I am mostly a rule follower. If it's a stupid horrible insulting rule then no. But otherwise, yes. If there is a sign that says "Keep off the grass" I will (mostly) keep off. I might reach over the touch it once, very gently, just to feel rebellious, but that's about it. Because the rule is, "Thou Shall Not Steal", I do not steal. Since the general consensus is that it's rude to trespass on other's people's property, I absolutely do not trespass. Those rules make sense and I am okay with them. Wait, I'm not just okay with the, I rabidly adhere to them.
In the grocery store during the pandemic there are those arrows you are supposed to follow in the aisles, right? I follow them. Even when I just need that one thing that is an arms reach into the aisle, if it's the wrong way to enter, I go all the way around. If I'm doing something wrong, I automatically assume that if I'm not going to be arrested, then at the very least, someone is going to come out and yell at me. Since I do not enjoy being yelled at, I just do what I'm supposed to do.
Unless of course, as I said before, it's a stupid, horrible, insulting rule. Then not just no, but hell no. The rule to "Not wear white after labor day" is stupid. The rule to treat a person differently based solely on their religion, politics, gender or ethnicity is horrible. The rule to not read certain books or listen to certain music because the powers that be have deemed it inappropriate and have made that decision for me to protect me is insulting. So those sorts of rules will be summarily disregarded. Otherwise, I go along just fine.
So there I was. Standing by the To Nolen Green sign, starring at the arrow and trying to feel brave. I kept looking at the houses on either side of the sign. Nobody was peering out at me from behind the curtains and there were no vicious dogs roaming the perimeter so I took a deep breath, tried to still the pounding of my heart and walked down the shell and gravel driveway to what I believed was a pocket park.
I walked slowly, trying to look casual and I kept anticipating someone hollering, "Hey you, get out of my yard" but it never happened. Instead, I found myself in a pretty little tree lined green area that seemed to be tucked in behind other houses. I watched butterflies dance and dragonflies hover, I breathed in the fragrance of so many different kinds of flowers, I sat on the picnic bench in the shade of an enormous tree and eventually, I relaxed a little bit.
I felt as if I had gotten away with something very sneaky and I kind of liked the feeling. So as I was leaving, instead of going out the way I came in, I followed the shell and gravel driveway down behind other houses that, up until that moment, I had only ever seen the front of. It was an entirely different world back there. Lots of tiny gardens, interesting yard art and a very cool old car.
I followed the path to the very end where there was another To Nolen Green sign pointing back the way I had just come from. And that's when I realized that it was a shortcut of sorts as I was now across the street from the arboretum. I had NO idea that alternative route existed before.
Encouraged, I continued my walk, seeking out Nolen Green signs and following them into tiny hidden gardens, itty bitty parks and some times just a green short cut from one street to another. Every single time I found one, I was both joyous at my discovery and trepidatious, still unable to cast off that feeling that I was walking in someone's yard. Always expecting that cranky threat to call the cops or someone siccing their dog on me. Even though it never happened. Not once. But I didn't let my irrational fears dissaude me. Instead every single time, I took that deep breath, told myself to be brave and stepped onto the path.
I'm not sure I've expressed what a big deal this was for me. Even though it's clearly not against any rule to go into those little pathways and gardens, it feels as if it is. And going against that feeling is so unlike me. Nice to know that at the ridiculous age of 67 I can still grow as a person ;)
I was gone for hours. I don't think I found all of the Nolen Greens, but I definitely put a dent in the list. I will continue to look for them and follow them into those mysterious, almost secret places and hopefully, maybe someday soon, I will be able to just relax and enjoy myself while doing so.
Who knows what other amazing discoveries I will come across!
I took photos through the entire walk. So perhaps tomorrow I'll do another photo pictorial of the rest of my walk that day. Sound like a plan?
The English language is complicated but it's also wonderful. There are so many different ways to say everything. I can say that something I like is wonderful. Or I can also say that it is marvelous, fabulous, terrific, super, magnificent, glorious, superb, delightful, spectacular, first-rate, gold star, award-winning, all-time-favourite or great. (And those just the first synonyms that came to my mind.
I know that folks who are learning English get very confused by our inconsistencies. One house, two houses, one mouse, two mice. The comedian Gallagher does a wonderful bit on the messed up grammar and ridiculous "rules" involved in our language. For example, he felt that it makes no sense that "The word "big" is very small and the word "little" is big." The comedic master George Carlin observed that "we drive in the parkway and park in the driveway". More English language insanity.
But I feel that most of the quirks and whims of our language just makes it more interesting, more colourful, more fun. The part I have a real issue with is spelling. I think that way we choose to spell words is bizarre. Even our alphabet is crazy.
Some of the letters are fine just as they are. L is an L is an L. Same with a D and a B. but C, K and S, on the other hand, the standards around them are very loosey goosey. And that is just wrong.
Sometimes a C is pronounced as an S. Like in the word "Dance" Other times a C is pronounced as a K. As in "Crash". And then if you pair it with an H you can that hard "Ch" sound: "Church, Change, Chaps". A K is almost always a K such as " Kind" except when it's silent like the word "knife". S is pretty much always an S, "Silent, Sad, Silly" But it becomes an entirely different sound when there is an H next to it, "Shade, Shelf, Sherrif".
Personally I think the C ought to just be a "Ch". We already have a K and an S that work just fine. So the alphabet would be A, B, CH, D ...like that. And the silent K in knife? Retire it. It's not doing the work of the other letters, not holding up it's end of the job. It's time to let it go.
This popped into my head the other day when I was not sleeping and doing that name game that I do to try to bore myself to sleep. In case you are unfamiliar, the game goes like this. I have to think of 5 boys names and 5 girls names for every letter of the alphabet. And there are actual rules to this game. For instance, whatever names I list have to be real. At least one person had to have had this name. It can be a fictional character but I cannot make it up, I had to have read or heard of it at least once.
So I thought merrily along through A, B and C. But shen I got to the letter C for girls I listed, 'Caroline, Claire, Charlotte"....and then I stopped. I realized something and my brain wandered off on that thought. This is the direction that it took:
The girls name 'Charlotte' is a derivation of the boys name 'Charles'. This is actually a true thing. So, I ask you, why is Charles a hard "CH" sounds but Charlotte as soft "SH" sound? It makes no sense.
I actually like the name' Charlotte'. I always have. When I was expecting my children (and back then we didn't know the gender ahead of time), the name 'Charlotte' was actually on my short list of possible girl names. I've known a few Charlotte's in my life and they were all very nice people. One went by 'Charlie' and that's kind of cute. Another one went by 'Lotte', a little more European sounding but adorable just like her. So you see, this isn't me picking on the name itself. It's a great name. Just...why is the CH pronounced SH?
Here's another one, Why is 'Peggy' a nickname for 'Margaret'? Anybody know the answer to that one? And for that matter, why is 'Jack' a nickname for 'John'? It's the same number of letters! It's not any shorter or easier!! How is 'Harry' a shortened version of 'Henry'? Both are great names on their own, but I don't get how they replace one another? And 'Chloe'? What the actual heck? It is pronounced 'Kl oh ee' but, but, but..there is that dang CH again mucking it all up once again.
Another name that confuses me...how do you pronounce 'Leroy'? Is the accent on the first syllable or the second? 'Tad' is short for 'Thaddeus'? Didn't you lose an 'H' somewhere along the line? And what is the deal with the name 'Stephen' and 'Steven'? They are spelled differently but they sound exactly the same...what's up with that? And hey, it just now dawned on me, why do 'Jack' and 'Rick' have both a 'C' and a 'K'? They serve the exact same purpose. It's redundant!
Oh and the one that everyone wants to know...How on earth is 'Dick' the shortened version of 'Richard'? Please someone explain that to me. 'Rick'? Sure. 'Richie'? Okay. But 'Dick'? Nope nope nope and nope.
Oh I could go on and on. That night my brain sure did. I had questions about the whole 'Phoebe' thing, the 'Sean' thing, the' Jean', 'Gene' and' Jeanne' thing, and well, it's a long list.
Anyway, as usual, I have no answers at all, but lots of questions. If you have any of the answers, I'm right here listening.
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.