There is a house here in Venice where they have decorated for the holiday is a big sort of way. Wow! Tim and I drove over one evening recently so that I could take photos. It is a..you have to see it to believe it...kind of thing. Hundreds of pumpkins. Not exaggerating for effect. There are literally hundreds of pumpkins. Some plastic, some ceramic, some of them the real deal.
Happy faces, crazy faces, scary faces, strange faces. Big jack-o-lanterns, medium jack-o-lanterns and small ones. Mostly in orange, but a few white ones, a few of various colours, (hard to tell in the dark). Singularly, they are seasonal, festive and kind of cute. But collectively, yeah it's quite the impact.
It's a big job! Carving, lighting and setting up all those pumpkins. I wonder how many hours it took?
And then there are the skeletons. Wow! That really sold it for me. What a whacky and wonderful sense of humour these people have! Dog skeletons, flamingo skeletons, people skeletons...driving by your brain really cannot absorb it all. Especially since they are posed as if they are all at a beach party!
Oh yes, skeletons in kiddie pools, skeletons lounging on beach chairs, skeletons wearing floatation devices (safety first). Skeletons enjoying a party beverage, skeletons laughing at good jokes, skeletons dancing wearing lampshades on their heads! It's a Party!
I bet they danced to the Monster Mash. (teehee!)
It was impressive. It was clever. It was humerous (pun intended). It was very Halloweenish. And I would never in a zillion years do it myself. But I am so glad that somebody did. It was pretty awesome.
You want to know what sort of Autumn or halloween decorations I put up this year? That would be none. Well there is a bowl of apples on the kitchen table with a very cute Halloween card beside it that my friend Jan sent me . Does that count?
We never know how many trick-or-treaters we are going to get here. Sometimes it's a lot. Sometimes hardly anyone. Honestly I was going to just turn off my outside light and pretend to not be home this year. I was. Isn't that horrible? But at the last minute, while grocery shopping yesterday, I caved and bought one bag of the teensy tiny mixed chocolate bars. When I run out, I'll turn out the light. That way I will have participated at least a little bit.
And if nobody comes, well I have this recipe for a candy bar cookie bar that's pretty darned good.
Have a wonderful, SAFE Halloween !!
I am not a coffee drinker. Tim loves his morning coffee though. It's not morning with several cups of coffee for him. And different sorts of days might necessitate different amounts of the stuff! So I am familiar with the process of making a half way decent cup of the stuff. And honestly, Tim served in the Marine Corps, so half-way decent is all that truly is required. He appreciates the really good stuff, but never complains about the so-so kind. Thank goodness.
In our married life together, we had gone through numerous coffee machines for him. I think our first coffee maker, he might even have brought into the marriage. I certainly do not remember buying one back then, but perhaps I just don't recall. It was white - an unfortunate colour for something that stains - and I believe it was a Mr. Coffee. There was always bits of ground coffee on the counter top from where I dribbled it while scooping it into the paper filter. And the terror of running out of filters! NOOOOOO! I remember that it required filling the carafe with water from the sink, then pouring water from the carafe into the reservoir which, as it turns out, is a trickier process than you'd think. At least first thing in the morning. The machine itself was a bear to clean and like I said, over time it grew permanent stains from the coffee and made groaning noises when it worked. But I suppose the important part (for Tim at least) was that it worked!
When it finally gasped it's last, we moved on to a different, newer machine. Hamilton Beach maybe? It was black, I do remember that. Hurrah! If there were permanent stains I never noticed. It was quieter, still required a tricky water pouring to get it going that somehow ended up with water all over the countertop. And of course the coffee grounds that I always spilled still happened. But it worked for us for quite some time. I managed to break that carafe at least once, but it was easily replaced. Which made me feel better. Clearly I am not the only person who is a menace to a glass carafe. Tim seemed to be satisfied with the coffee that it made and that is always the most important part.
Somewhere along the line in Colorado we moved on to a Keurig coffee maker. Oh I do love those little pre-measured K-cups! Brilliant. It is far less messy and since the reservoir is easily removable, I can fill it directly from the water dispenser in the fridge! Oh my life is so much easier now! And my counter tops so much cleaner!
However, with our very first Keurig, we received a mixed box of K-cups of all sorts. Many different kinds of coffees, teas and cocoa. It was the cocoa that was the problem I think. The sugar in the mix gummed up with tubing inside the Keurig and suddenly no matter I did, no matter how hard the machine AND I tried, no coffee would come out. It took a panic stricken call to the Keurig help line, a flashlight and a paperclip to clean out the tubing. I then vowed to never use the Keurig for anything except coffee again.
The nice man on the Keurig helpline said that it would be fine as long as I ran multiple carafes of hot water through the lines after making cocoa to clean it. Humph. Easier to just never make cocoa with it frankly.
We are now on our third Keurig I think. It's a classy, stainless and black machine that has a permanent spot on the kitchen counter, always ready to deliver! I notice when we go to model homes that sometimes they have "coffee stations". That is a section of counter top that is dedicated to all things coffee, including a K-Cup carousel! Snazzy. We have a drawer. Literally a drawer in the kitchen which has nothing in it except K-Cups. It works.
Tim has flirted with other coffee delivery systems of course. We have an electric bean grinder. We even have some fancy arsed whole beans. I have to admit that even though I don't drink coffee, I do love the smell of freshly ground coffee beans. I'm not sure why we don't use it more. Lazy maybe? Or perhaps the noise so early in the morning?
We also have, somewhere in the pantry a French Press. That one took me a little longer to get the hang of. I am not an especially patient person and French Press coffee does require patience. Tim says it makes amazing coffee. I should make more of an effort to use it for him. At least on the weekends don't you think? I actually forgot that we had it until a few minutes ago while writing this. Shame on me.
I remember the coffee pot that my mom used to make my Dad's coffee. It was a percolator and it made the best sound. Kind of a popping noise. To a kid it was a riot. That coffee had a terrific fragrance too. My mom however, only drank Sanka. Freeze dried coffee crystals mixed with hot water. It smelled nasty. I cannot imagine that it tasted good.
I used to drink tea. I was a big tea drinker. I would make it by the pot. Real tea with real tea leaves where it had to steep for a bit before drinking it. But by the time I had three kids under the age of 3, there just was no time for that sort of indulgence. I moved on to teabags. There really and truly is a big difference in flavour between tea leaves and tea bags. But it's better than nothing. And in a frigid New England Winter, I would drink Cups and Cups of tea made with cheapo teabags all day long and then just before bed, sip a lovely cup of Earl Grey. Ahhhhhh, memories ;)
Now a good cup of hot cocoa, yeah, I can get behind that! Especially if it's the real deal made with hot milk and loaded with marshmallows. And if it's home made marshmallows, well then I am in heaven for sure. Oh I'll settle for Swiss Miss although it has a funny aftertaste. But if you toss enough marshmallows into it, you don't notice it any more. I use LOTS of marshmallows.
Actually most of the time, if I'm going for a hot drink, it's hot water. Yeah, I know. How Boring! But that's what I drink. If it's made with good water (some tap water is just plain nasty) and is boiled, not just heated, it's very nice. Warms me up from the inside out. And it has to be boiled water, not microwave boiled either. I don't know why it makes a difference, but it absolutely does. I used to have a real tea kettle. I've had lots of them over the years. Some whistled, some did not. Some died the ignoble death of being boiled dry. My bad. Others just got so dinged up over the years and moves that it was time to move on. Now I have an electric kettle and I love it. It's red which is reason enough, but it also works perfectly, no whistle required and shuts itself off so no chance of ruining it.
I've been hearing about the icey cold and snowy weather back on Colorado which prompted the thoughts on hot beverages. My Colorado friends are emailing me photos of their snowy yards and people bundled up in hats and coats and gloves. All of which somehow makes me think of hot toddies drunk in front of a roaring fire. Never had one of those. Toddies I mean, not fires. I've toasted myself up in front of countless fireplaces. Not sure what's even in a hot toddy. Hmmm. I have had hot apple cider though. With a cinnamon stick to stir it. Yummm.
Funny to think about cold weather/hot beverages when it's in the 80's and sunny outside. Oh well, I think I can suffer through it. Hah!
Last week's Photo Safari began at Myakka State Park. It is Enormous! It's size can best be described by borrowing a term my kids used when they were small. It's Bigly Huge. It has at least a little bit of just about everything; rivers, swamps, bogs, plains, jungley areas, foresty areas, a fire tower (!!), Loads of wildlife and lots and lots and LOTS of trails.
The water was high so we had to carefully choose where to hike to avoid majorly flooded trails, but even so, we were there for hours! It was awesome. We did not canoe, we did not take the boat tour, we even did not climb the fire tower (this time anyway) because there were too many other people wanting to do it and we didn't want to wait. No patience for climbing. All the patience in the world for photographs.
Practically the minute we entered the park we had to stop, pulled over slightly onto the side of the road to take pictures because there were so many "can't miss" things to see.
Eventually we parked the car for real...an actual parking lot... and followed a trail down to........gator country. Well that's what I call it. It's an area where a lot of alligators tend to hang out, sunning on the banks, swimming along, living there little alligator lives. There are always a lot of different sorts of birds in that area too. We saw way too many Vultures this past Thursday. Creepy birds.
So there we were, avoiding bogginess, not getting eaten by alligators (good move on our part), not disturbing nature at all, driving from trail head to trail head, taking loads of photos and enjoying each other's company. A near perfect day wouldn't you agree?
But then we upped the ante on the days awesomeness by first, going out to lunch and then heading to Sarasota to visit her kitties.
I had not seen them, except in photographs for more than six months. My gracious! They grew! that's Charlie on the left and Winston on the right.
Charlie is mostly fur held together with adorableness with big green eyes and a bit of sass. Winston is long and solid and a regal dignity, except when he is being a total goober.
Charlie hates being picked up. You can pet him all day long and he is fine with that, but as Joy says, "he wants all four feet on the ground at all times". I gotta respect that. Winston on the other hand, loves being picked up. That is if you can lift him. Honest to goodness, it's like picking up toddler!
Initially they were both so facsinated with the camera that all I could get was EXTREME close ups. But after awhile they relaxed and went about their normal kitty lives which means a lot of being cute and being silly and playing with all of their toys. Anyone would think that they knew I was taking their pictures and that they were posing just for me.
So long story short, it was an amazing day! Hiking? Check. Photographs? Check. Lunch? Check. Time with Joy? Check. And cutiecute kitties? Double Check!
So there you have it. Today's blog was mostly photographs held together with a few words. What is it that they say? A picture is worth a thousand words.
In that case, I think I just wrote a novel here :)
Hope you enjoyed.
We heard that Mr. Thomas Alva Edison had a winter home down in Ft Myers. And more importantly, that it was an historic site, open to the public (for a fee of course). All right! Let's Go!
It was charming! And surprisingly contemporary looking. Well, yes the decor was of the period, but the exterior? If it wasn't clearly marked as Mr. and Mrs. Edison's Winter Estate, I would not have thought anything more than, "cute house".
It's right on the water (of course!) but not the ocean. It's on the Caloosahatchee River which is REALLY big, very wide and 67 miles long in fact. There used to be a pier, the pilings are still there. And the entire estate comprises 21 acres. Of course that includes multiple dwellings, generous and beautiful lawns, Mr. Edisons' various laboratories and botanic gardens. Oh, and now also a museum.
The biggest surprise, to me anyway, is that it's not actually the Edison Winter Estates, it's the Edison Ford Winter Estates! What? I knew that they were contemporaries and collaborators, but I had no idea that it went further than that! Very Cool! They were buds! I mean very close friends. They didn't just have winter homes next door to each other, they vacationed together, often taking their families off on wonderful camping adventures!
Actually it was Mr. and Mrs. Edison who first built a home on the site which was finished in 1886 . Then he had a "guest house" built (which my current home would fit in a corner of). Then a built-in pool and bath house! The pool was built in 1910 and was one of the first residential pools built in Florida actually! There was also his laboratory and gardens. And at some point he had a study built for himself that was it's own wonderful separate building. There is a caretakers house, various gardens and some of the most wonderful trees!
Mr. Edison had this idea about using bamboo for the lightbulb filament. This required a great deal of experimentation. As it turns out, bamboo grows amazingly fast so growing it right there, on his own property, made his experiments one step easier.
There were rose gardens, fruit tree lined walkways, masses of orchids from all over the world and his botanic gardens for yet more experiments. The so-called moon-garden was probably my favourite. It was a little tucked away, half-hidden garden with a water-lily dotted pond in the middle. Still the lovely peaceful place it was always intended to be.
In 1916, Henry Ford moved to the house next door and turned a nearby cottage into a garage for his many cars and his caretakers residence. Some of the cars are still on site and in gorgeous condition.
Both homes are beautifully maintained with period-decor rooms that you can peep into from the many windows and plexiglass covered doorways. All three homes (Mr. Edison's, Mr. Ford's and the Guest House) have really deep covered porches that go all the way around the house and were my favourite part. Of the houses I mean. I spent a lot of time just adoring the porches.
I loved the gardens, I loved the houses, I loved the history of it all and well, it's hard to beat the view from any direction. The laboratory was especially fascinating. It was enormous and complex and mysterious and everything a good laboratory should be. But my absolute favourite part, no surprise, was the museum. Although it is a rather small museum, it is very well done and we spent far more time in it than we expected.
Ultimately, Mr. Edison passed away in 1931 and Mr. Ford in 1947. Mrs. Edison willed the property to the city of Ft Myers to preserve her husbands memory and visitors began to arrive shortly thereafter. The beautiful compound, as it is now, grew with the purchase of Mr. Ford's winter home 1988 - a wee bit more than 100 years after Mr Edison first built his home so very long ago - and after some sprucing up was opened to the public as it now stands, in 1990. It is one of the most visited historic sites in the entire USA. And it should be.
Mr. Edison was of course famous for many inventions! But he was an inventor at a time in our history when there was so much change happening all over our country. Big changes, big ideas, big inventions from some truly amazing people And most of the countryembraced these new ideas, eagerly raced toward a future that people like, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone (also a friend of his) and Henry Ford were helping to create. I cannot begin to imagine where we would have been without them!
We had a wonderful visit and will probably go again another time. But for now, I will leave you with some famous (or perhaps not so famous) Thomas Edison quotes that I have always liked and the suggestion that if you ever get the chance, visit the Edison Ford Winter Estates in Ft Myers. It was pretty awesome.
"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
Well it's begun already.
I speak of the onslaught of Christmas catalogs. I confess that I do not understand why they keep sending them to me. I never buy anything that way anymore. And I'm not even going to go into my usual rant about how it annoys me that we are forced to deal with of the holidays at one time now instead of one at a time. AND how it's not even Halloween yet for heaven's sakes.
I have made my peace with it. I know it's going to happen. I've already been to Costco and saw fully decorated Christmas Trees in the same aisles as plastic pumpkins and Halloween costumes. It is apparent, even to me, that I lost that battle a long time ago.
Mostly as soon as the mail order Christmas catalogs come in, they go right into the recycle bin. But there is one that I thumb through, for entertainment purposes, before it gets round filed. And some the stuff in that catalog really makes me smile a lot and even giggle a little bit.
It is a catalog for people who apparently have everything else under the sun. The things for the people who are very difficult to shop for. People who either have the funds to indulge themselves whenever they wish with what ever they want and/or super picky people in general . Yup, those are the fun catalogs. Because they have stuff in there that I never knew existed!~
The catalog I've been looking through is called, "Uncommon Goods". Aptly named. These goods are most uncommon.
The first thing that made me laugh out loud is called, "Egg on a Bagel Maker". It's a little stoneware dish that looks very much like an angel food cake pan. You microwave your scrambled egg in it and it comes out with a hole in the middle so that it fits Perfectly on your bagel! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! Oh that is too funny. Tim often makes egg sandwiches for us. I had never had an issue with having my egg cover the bagel hole. Have you? Is the a monumental problem for some people?
Oh here is a good one. It's an automatic pan stirrer with a timer on it. And I'm not kidding even a little bit about it. Man, if you cannot be bothered to stir your own stuff.....why cook? It kind of crouches over the pan and looks a little like a rocket ship. No thanks.
And lest you think everything in this catalog is kitchen related..well that's a big nopenope. There is also stuff for the grill! There were also the nifty kabob baskets. I've had kabob before. I've even made kabobs before. Didn't need a "basket" to do it. Skewers,yes. Baskets, no. How often do you make kabobs? Every day? Every week? Once a month? Once a year? I'm betting, for most people it's probably somewhere between the once a month and the once a year thing. Do you really need a special tool for that? Do you?
Well come to think of it, there was something I thought was kind of awesome. There was the Thirty dollar ($30!!!) magnetic notebook. It's a blank book and instead of the pages being bound or spiraled at the spine, they have a magnetic strip on the edge. Pages in, pages out neatly. It's very cool but at the rate that I go through notebooks? Not a good expenditure of cash.
Oh here is an absolute essential. Scotch-infused toothpicks. Is there someone on your list that you cannot think of something for? There is the answer. No one should ever have to suffer scotch-less toothpicks!
And then there is the one that I completely do not understand. It's called a Gemstone Facial Roller. What the heck? I understand how it works...I mean technically works. It's made out of polished "gems' and it looks like an itty bitty asphalt roller. Only you do this to your face. But Why? No, really, someone explain to me what on earth this is all about?
Anyway, that's it. My favourite Christmas catalog has arrived and I've now read it and I suppose if Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk or Beyonce were on my list of people that I bought Christmas gifts for, perhaps I might actually consider one of those items. But since they are not, I won't. All of the rest of the catalogs come in the mail and without even being open they go right back out.
When I was a little kid however, we waited with eager anticipation for the Sears, Roebuck Christmas Catalog. And it wasn't just my sister and I who were excited about it either. It was a catalog for the entire family. There was something in there for everyone! They called it the "Wish Book". Perfect for all your Christmas Wishes. The things you already knew you wanted and the thing you never knew you wanted. Stuff for everyone on your shopping list. From Babies to Old Ladies.
Mother and Daddy (and Joy and I of course) would pour over the catalog until the pages were worn out. Decisions were made and then eventually the order would be placed (I think by telephone, but it might have been a mail order thing. I'm actually not certain). And then a series of big mysterious boxes would arrive only to be squirreled away to our parent's bedroom where they would sort things out.
I was the official present wrapper in the family, so I would gift wrap things and hand them off to my mother who would put everything to be mailed to each family group in a larger box which was then wrapped with brown paper and tied with string, addressed and taken to the post office where it would be shipped around the country. In turn, our family would received giant cardboard boxes from Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents. It was an exciting time! I vividly remember being very very small standing on a chair in the kitchen looking into a cardboard box on the table. And recall being nearly overcome with anticipation and excitement. I think it didn't even matter what was in those packages.
When I was in high school, which was in Texas, I discovered the Neiman Marcus catalog. Now there was an interesting Christmas Catalog. I understand that the catalog still exists but now you have to pay for it. I'm not paying for a catalog especially since I never intend to buy anything from it. So I haven't seen that one in years.
I really do not remember any other catalogs existing until I was grown and then it was dozens and dozens of catalogs arriving! Of course this was before the internet and on-line shopping. Back then, I actually did do quite a bit of Christmas Shopping out of those catalogs that came through the mail, unrequested (and free I might add). But that was long ago and far away.
I have to say that my all-time favourite catalog ever is the Harry & David catalog. Do you know that one? They specialize in gorgeous gift baskets of fruits and nuts and candies and, well it was a big part of my life for a very long time. My Nana received many a gift basket from the Harry & David catalog and with every gift basket they also send along a new catalog to look through. While the goodies were always exemplary and the baskets beautiful and the catalog fun to peruse, the reason I loved them so much is because, for no reason that anyone will ever understand, my Nana referred to Harry & David as Lars & Dwight. Not a clue why. But she did it every single time. And after awhile, we also called it Lars & Dwight. And eventually even our friends referred to it the same way. Nana is long gone, but every time the Harry & David catalog arrives, in my mind I think of Nana and correct it to Lars & Dwight.
Do any of you still shop from the Christmas Catalogs that come through the mail? Am I the only one who mostly just throws them away?
Have a WONDERFUL weekend!
Got a riddle for you. Sunshine plus houses equals what?
Well in a place called Babcock Ranch it equals America's First Solar-Powerred Town!
This is a real thing! I know because we visited it recently.
On the drive out, it felt as if it were in the middle of no place. The back of beyond. Lots of trees and ranches and cow and horses and nothing else. But apparently that was because we seemed to have driven in the 'back way". Oops. As it turns out, the town is only six measly miles from Ft. Myers which is a goodly sized city of around 83,000 people and everything that goes along with that. All the indicators of what we have come to consider indicators of "civilization" such as McDonalds and Walmart were just 10 minutes down the road in Ft Myers.
I must say that since we apparently came in the "wrong" way it was a relief after many miles of not much but pretty scenery, to finally arrive. I was beginning to think that it didn't really exist! But at last there it was. The sign for Babcock Ranch. And what a pleasant surprise it was. Once we made the turn, before us lay a pretty little bridge and on the other side the town of Babcock Ranch.
It was beautifully landscaped with gently winding roads which led us through neighborhoods of very pretty houses of a variety of sizes, styles and colours to the actual town center. Or at least the beginnings of it. It is just so beautifully thought out.
They have a plan and it's a really good one.
To be fair, the town is only barely begun, but already there is a school, two restaurants, a medical office, various stores, including Curry Creek Outfitters, Slater's Goods & Provisions and the all important ice cream shop, Square Scoops. But it's a great beginning and everywhere, I mean everywhere that you look, there is construction going on. We were told, that eventually, the residents will be able to do things like place an on-line order to the local grocery store (Publix) and it will arrive shortly thereafter in a driverless electric car. O.M.G. It's like the Jetsons!
The entire plan was the brainchild of Syd Kitson. He partnered with FLP (Florida Light & Power), various environmental groups and conservation and sustainability minded folks to bring his unique and interesting vision to life. His thought was to create a town where, once you arrive home from wherever you've been, you park the car and never need it again until you leave the town. The entire town is very pedestrian and bicycle friendly with specific bike lanes and bicycle repair stations. They are hopeful for electric street-legal golf cart travelers too and there are lots of parking spaces specifically for any and all electric vehicles (with chargers).
There are, of course, solar light fields (that we never actually saw), and solar panels on the roofs of the businesses. The plan is to eventually reach the point where more clean and renewable energy is produced than consumed. There were even solar trees sprinkled all around. What a genius idea!
Babcock ranch is 18,000 acres in size and is surrounded by a 73,000 acre wildlife preserve and that's pretty awesome. There are already hiking trails in place with plans for many miles more. A whopping 50% of the property is dedicated to natural greenways, parks and lakes and I love when developers add that to their plans.
There is a town green that will host all sorts of entertainments, a town newspaper (!), plans for a music and art center, community pools & recreation areas all over the place, a community garden, sports parks and, well, everything any town needs. If it isn't already there, the plan for it's existence is in place. (I am very hopeful that a library is part of the plan! Every town needs a library)
It was an intriguing and appealing concept.
We saw so many model homes. There are a lot of different builders involved and therefore a lot of different ideas and visions. There were a few houses in particular that we really liked. And the price tags were surprisingly affordable. Obviously there are higher and lower end price points, but I half expected the costs to be jacked up just for the cache of living at Babcock Ranch. They were not!
There were, in fact, so very many model homes, that we didn't get to see them all! Wow! But we saw enough to get the idea.
We have no plans to move to Babcock Ranch despite that fact that we really liked what we saw. A lot. Maybe if it were closer to the ocean? One of the sales people that we talked to mentioned that whenever she goes to the beach she comes to Venice. Interesting. We are already in Venice. Walking distance to the beach. And it's one of the reasons that we chose to live in our town.
Well in the future maybe, if Babcock Ranch becomes the runaway success that it appears to be heading toward (it's already even more successful than they anticipated) maybe another builder (or the same one?) will find some land by the ocean and do it again. Now THAT might lure us away.
This isn't really about our recent vacation, I promise. It's just the vacation that brought this to mind. There were just a couple of topics I wanted to cover briefly.
What you see in the photos above is the AMAZING travelling jewelry....ummmm..... what do I call it? A jewelry bag ? A jewelry case ? A jewelry pouch ? Well whatever it actually is called, it is amazing. I have a couple of other jewelry travel cases and they are very nice, don't get me wrong. They are perfect for bracelets, earrings, pins and rings but all of them, no matter how nice they are, all of them without fail are terrible for necklaces. I always ended up wrapping each necklace individually in a paper towel and then stuffing the mass of paper towels into a zippybag. It works but it surely isn't pretty.
This new thingie is perfect, beautiful in form AND function! My friend Marsha gave it to me, for I think, Christmas last year but our recent trip was my first opportunity to use it.
It is, obviously, a drawstring bag. When you open it, it is a lovely circle that has three rows of individual triangle shaped pockets going all the way around. I was able to put one necklace or one pair of earrings (or one pin or ring) in each pocket (actually I didn't use all of the pockets. There are so many!) but with each one in it's own little house, there were no tangles, no knots, nothing broken and nothing lost. Sweet! And then as it turns out the middle was perfect for my bracelets!!
I cannot recommend this travelling jewelry pouch thingie whatever it's called, enough! If you travel and, like me, you like to take jewelry with you, THIS is the answer to everything travel/jewelry related. I'm pretty sure it's from Brighton if you are interested.
The one thing that I find to be the biggest buggaboo about ANY sort of vacation travel is laundry. And that is ridiculous because, y'know, it's not like I'm down by the river, beating the clothes on a rock to get them clean. No. I just put them into one machine, push buttons then put them in a different machine and push buttons. Not a hardship. Still, before we leave on any trip, I do every single bit of laundry in the baskets. I wash clothes, I wash towels, I wash sheets.
I make sure the house is clean and the bed is made up with clean sheets for our return. No damp towels just sitting in the bathrooms getting musty while we are away. No no no! The house is clean, the laundry is all done and therefore we have every single choice (except what we are wearing that minute) available to us when we pack. Great idea eh? I am rarely certain of what I am going to pack until I am actually packing. And often I change my mind, take something out of the pile, put something new in the pile, substitute this for that before we walk out the door, suitcases in hand. Sooooo as you can see, the day before we leave I am facing a mountain of laundry.
And it's not such a big deal before we leave because I am excited about the trip! The novelty of travel! The endless possibilities that lay before us! The Adventure! The Discoveries! The Surprises that await! So I wash, I dry, I fold, I iron and I sing and dance while doing so.
However, once we arrive back home, we are tired, it is late. The surprises are no longer a surprise. The discoveries have been discovered. The possibilities are no longer mysterious. And no matter how tired or how late it is, I always unpack the suitcases right away.
I unpack right away partly because there are things packed that I am going to need (like my toothbrush), partly because I don't want the week old dirty clothes smell to linger in the suitcase any longer than necessary and partly because, well, I guess I am a teensy bit OCD about some things. And I know that the next day I am facing another mountain of laundry.
And I'm not nearly as excited about it as I was before we went on vacation. I am neither singing nor dancing as I separate stinky week old sweaty, dirty clothes into the appropriate piles. I am merely doing the laundry and ironing. For hours. The day after returning from our trip. It promotes the post-vacation blahs.
This past trip it was 4 loads. Not joking. One load of delicates, one load of darks, one of whites and one of regular stuff. The delicates is always a faster wash. It's a smaller load of course, but a lot of the things in that load don't go in the dryer. Nope I drape them around the house to air dry. Our house looked like my very distant memories of Chicago back alley apartments that had criss crossing lines on pulleys. Back then the women would wash the clothes and then open the (usually) kitchen window and pin the clothing to the line, piece by piece using the pulley to move the lines forward. On wash day the airspace above the alley ways were filled with lines of drying clothes as far up as you could see, if anyone bothered to look.
But the other loads take longer. Cold water wash of course takes longer and then the heavier the fabric, the longer it takes to dry.
I don't like the clothes to just lie in the dryer when they are done either. It's a great way for them to wrinkle. I don't mind ironing but I see no point in ironing anything that is not absolutely necessary. And anything that just lays in the dryer will need to be ironed. So I cannot stray far from the laundry room. I have to able to hear that buzzer go off and immediately hang things or fold things or semi-fold them for the ironing pile.
And then once it's all washed and dried, there is that. The ironing. It was a Very Large Pile after this last trip. I watched two shows that I had recorded while I ironed and a little more more of another show. So that was more than 2 hours of just ironing.
I need to keep this in mind before our next trip. Perhaps I will find a way to pack more mindfully.
Oh and then there is the grocery shopping! Yes!
Last Topic today, I swear!
In the week before we left, I made it a point to use up everything perishable in the fridge. All of the eggs, milk, cheese, cold cuts, fruit and vegetables got eaten. Then we moved on to both freezer and pantry food, which is non-perishable but seriously, I saw no point in grocery shopping at all before our trip so by the day we left, our fridge and pantry looked a lot like Mother Hubbards Cupboard! (By the few days prior to departure we ate some mighty odd meals!)
So that means, there was nothing in the house to eat when we returned either. So off I went between carefully timed laundry loads, to replenish the larder. And not an ordinary, a few days worth of groceries either. We were out of nearly everything. It was a BIG shop. Which takes a lot longer and costs a dang lot more. And with me it's always spending the extra bucks that hurts the most.
I'm not certain what the answer is to this particular dilemma but I'm sure that there is one. And if I put my brain to it, I'm sure that I will come up with an answer. Maybe next time I will bother to at least do a small grocery shop so that there is at least non-perishable stuff in the pantry to tide us over until I can shop again. There. That's a good idea. Now let's see if I can remember it.
More likely, I will have completely forgotten about the nuisance of all that washing, drying, ironing, grocery shopping nonsense and I will go through the exact same thing again next time.
Some people never learn.
At least I have my awesome jewlery thingie!!!
Guess who is back from Yellowstone? Joy and Bob that's who! YAYAYAYAYAY!!!!!!!!!!
The photo safari's have resumed!!! I'm so tickled. Every singe Thursday now is dedicated to hiking...somewhere...and taking LOTS of photographs with my sister :)
For our first hike of the season we headed out to T.Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve. We've been there before, of course, but it's been at least six months since either of us have been there. Joy, because she was in Yellowstone. Me, because I only seem to hike there with Joy.
One of the things we love about it is that it's never ever crowded. That's a big Yay. They also have multiple different trails. Love that. It's a HUGE place with over 24,000 acres (!!!). It's local in that it is technically in Venice (obviously not on the island though). AND it has bathrooms. Clean ones. Big Yay!
Also there are always an endless array of wonderful things to take pictures of. Things both large and small. Doesn't matter how many times we go there, we always find new things to photograph.
And then too, it's time for us, just the sisters, to yakyakyak. We caught up on everything. Her life in particular and Yellowstone in general and then my life in particular and Venice in general. Her kids, my kids, other people's kids. Her hair, (she has already made a long over due hair appointment for a cut. My hair (which is getting so very grey). Clothes, food, cars and bears. There were a surprising number of awesome stories about bears which is funny because the entire time she was in Yellowstone, whenever she would call me I ended the conversation with, "Don't get eaten by a bear".
Especially exciting for me was that this was our first photo safari where I had the use of an actual (and awesome) camera instead of just the camera on my cellphone. So while she is still by far and away the more superior photographer (and always will be), I can now get some of the shots that were impossible for me before.
This is not a competition by the way, we fully support each other. She points out shots to me, I point out things to her. We always had a very harmonious relationship Seriously! In our entire childhood I remember only one fight. Of course I don't remember what it was about. I'm sure it was something really stupid. Whatever it was about, at some point I was in the house folding laundry and she was outside watering Mother's garden. I most likely said something snarky to her through the open window and in return she turned the hose on me. Through the window. LOL!!!!! And then we both got in trouble.
We didn't have a ton of interests in common other than music. But even that was different. She preferred popular tunes that she could sing along with as she played. I preferred Sonatas and Nocturnes. She was a dancer and an artist. I was a reader and a writer. Given the opportunity to decide, Joy would always choose to be outside climbing a tree and I would always prefer to curl up inside with a book. She was very outgoing, I was very much an introvert. She was extremely popular in school, I was nearly invisible, by choice. But we encouraged each other's interests and talents always! I applauded madly at her dance recitals and plays while she enthusiastically listened to the tapes I mailed to her of music I wrote.
So it's especially nice at this point in our lives to have this shared interest!! I always loved my sister. Now we have an interest that we can share together :) Awesome.
And here are a few of the shots I captured on our hike. An auspicious beginning to the photo safari season.
If you don't live in this general vicinity, you might not have been aware that Tropical Storm Nestor dropped in for a visit over the weekend. It formed in the gulf which means it could have made landfall anywhere from Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi to Florida. It chose Florida to come ashore. Lucky us.
We kept a half an eye on the weather maps and it seemed that the worst of it was going to be far north of us and, as always, while I feel badly for anyone in it's path, I was grateful that is wasn't going to come here. Or was it?
Friday late afternoon the clouds rolled in and it began to rain. Not just rain, torrential rain with wind and great exuberance. And while the SunFest (an annual event held here in Venice which started Friday night) was probably rained out on opening night, the only impact it really made to us was that Tim had to turn up the volume on the television because the sound of the rain was so incredibly loud.
The noise went from just the sound of rain to rain and thunder. And lightening. And wind. Even without my hearing aids on I could still detect the noise and well, I couldn't for the life of me sleep. So eventually I gave up trying and went into the family room to watch TV. I say "watch" TV because I had it on mute. For two reasons, one: so that I don't wake up Tim who was able to sleep and two: without my hearing aids in, I can't hear it anyway. TV captioning rocks.
Around 2 o'clock red bands of words started moving across the top and bottom of the screen talking about severe weather and warning of dangerous things such as flooding and wind damage. I was annoyed because it was covering the captioning. So inconsiderate.
Around three o'clock the picture on the screen went wonky, then kind of popped and then......nothin'. The TV Black Screen of death. Dang. Did we lose power? Ratz. I could still hear the rain coming down, the thunder was louder and longer and closer than ever and while I knew I still wasn't going to be able to sleep, I figured I might as well at least be lying down in my comfy bed while not sleeping.
I had just barely settled in, lying there on my back starring into the darkness trying to think myself to sleep when suddenly the house phone rang. And Tim's cell phone. And my cell phone. And then sound of text messages having arrived on those same cell phones. It was just nuts. Cacophony!
Tim can go from completely deeply asleep to totally awake in nano-seconds. At the very first ting of his cell phone, he was sitting up, awake and processing information. It was a Red Alert. Literally that's what it's called. And this is what it said;
"3:20 am 10/19 Extreme Alert. Extreme Tornado Warning.
Check your local stations for details"
Obviously, the power was back on because Tim was able to turn on the TV to the local weather channel and it seems as if there was a lot of local tornado activity. Well, that's exciting.
The weather guy kept saying, "If you see anything, let us know". I peeped out the window. "Nothing to see out there, it's pitch black!" But I suppose he meant if you are aware of any active tornado touchdowns, do let us know. Ok. We will do just that.
Long Story Short, while there were indeed 3 tornado touchdowns that we are aware of, none of them were here in Venice. We got up to yet more wind and rain on Saturday morning. (Well, eventually we got up.) But by afternoon the rain was gone, the sun came out and while the wind persisted, the SunFest went into swing for the remainder of the weekend!
There was a little bit of flooding on the south end of the island but overall, it was just a good thorough and much needed soaking of rain. The wind shook loose a lot of dead branches and and I had to sweep quite of nice pile of leaves and twigs out of the courtyard but otherwise, no big deal.
Saturday afternoon Tim and I walked the beach and braved the wind and waves. I took a lot of photos and by the time we came home, we were both salt encrusted. Easily resolved. Got some fun pictures though. And just in case you want to see them, here are a few:
Just a little bit of weekend excitement :) Hope your weekend was super!
Oh dear, the time has finally come. The Last Day Of Vacation!
As you can see we are feeling a little ambivalent; both sad and happy about it. Happy because we had a GREAT time and sad because it's nearly at it's end.
We had quite a few ideas of what we might do on this last day. Perhaps we should go back to Universal and visit that other park that we got rained out of seeing. Or maybe we could return in the sunshiney day to do the Swan Paddle Boats? Or go to the Water Park? Or Volcano Bay? Or the Chocolate Museum. Or, Or, Or....Well there are always a lot of possibilities.
What we decided to do was head toward home by way of Bok Tower Gardens.
After all of the noise and the crowds and the neon and the noise and the crazy, I think we were both yearning for calm and quiet. Gardens are the perfect balance to everything else in the Universe.
We had heard about Bok Tower Gardens but never visited before. And we assumed it was just a pretty garden with a big tower. No idea what the tower was about honestly. We did Zero research on this in advance because it wasn't something we planned to do until we decided that day. So we looked it up on our phones, Tim punched the address into the cars' GPS and off we went to the unknown world of Bok Gardens.
As soon as we arrived, we knew it was the right decision. It was just so lovely! Indescribable really. Stunningly beautiful gardens, whimsical decor and funny little entry ways as far as the eye could see, and then even farther than that.
Paths, walkways, ponds, dragonflies, butterflies, birds, trees, shrubs and flowers in every direction.
Some of the gardens had themes, like the kitchen gardens, which was not just vegetables and herbs but also fruit trees! The children's garden was both fun and beautiful and musical too! There was a wild flower garden, a butterfly garden, a nature preserve, hiking trails, the tower itself AND an estate to tour! We were there for hours!
I noticed that as we were walking along enjoying the peace and the beauty (and me taking endless photos) that we could feel ourselves relax...I mean that, literally...I could actually feel any stress just washing away as we followed the trails. It was wonderful!
And then we made our way slowly to the mansion. The docents were wonderfully informative. Each of them talked about only the one room to which they were assigned so they were very knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions before handing us off to the next docent.
The house was originally built in 1932 for Industrialist Charles Buck. Every single room had differently patterned and coloured, hand-made wall tiles , different and very interesting ceilings, differently designed doors and a different pattern of adobe floor tiles. There were a lot of innovative things like floor pivots for all of the doors instead of hinges, and exterior pocket doors, screened doors AND windows (rather unusual for the time) and stunning grounds and gardens surrounding it. It was a beautiful home and of course, we really loved the history of it.
Once I finally tore myself away from the mansion, we set back out upon the trails and we could hear, in the distance, bells. We followed the sound to the actual Bok Tower. Oh my! Very Impressive!
The actual tower was dedicated in 1929 by President Calvin Coolidge. It is 205 feet tall (!) and is also called the Singing Tower because of the carillon bells that play the most beautiful music every half hour. I immediately fell in love. How could I not?
The tower is situated on a hill which is referred to as a "mountain" and I suppose considering that this is Florida, any elevation at all would seem pretty high up. It is surrounded by what seems to be a moat of sorts and yet more lovely gardens and a lovely park with trees and grassy areas and plenty of places to sit and relax and take it all in. I don't know if they allow weddings there but if they do, I bet they are amazing!
It took awhile, but finally even I was done - for this time around at least - although I would love to return another time. So with carillon bells still ringing in my head, we got back in the car and finished our drive home.
It was a wonderful vacation with so much fun we could barely fit it all in. Here it is a week later and we are still talking about it! We always have such a great time, every where we go. We are funny that way.
Thanks for allowing me to relive it all one more time :)
Thursday found us driving about an hour east to Merritt Island and ultimately, The Kennedy Space Center! Woohoo! I'm such a sci-fi nerd that this is right up my alley.
We had been here before a long time ago and enjoyed our visit then so we looked forward to seeing what was new and different. The biggest difference is that it is now HUGE!!!!! So much sleeker and slicker and tourist-ready than it used to be. And that is not a criticism, it was just such a surprise. It was actually kind of wild.
Admission is pricey, rather surprisingly so, but it includes more than 60 exhibits and simulators, the Bus Tour of the entire facility which is all behind the scenes stuff like the Space X building and launch pads (!!!), Guided tours of the Rocket Garden, so very many movies, some in 3D, and character appearances (like the Robonaut). And that's just some of what is available. If you wish to pay extra (we did not) you can dine with a real astronaut, go through astronaut training (sort of) and get photos taken in a space suit!
The Rocket Garden guided tour was awesome. The tour guide didn't have that painful rote sound that most tour guides have at all. It was more like walking along with a very smart friend. The tour was personable, informative, interesting AND entertaining. Our favourite exhibit and film, hands down, was at the Hall of Hero's and Legends. That was amazing. The bus tour was pretty great too. We were both surprised at how much there was to see and learn.
Of course there were also places to eat and places to shop. No matter where you go in Orlando it seems, there is a gift shop.
Just a little side note: The grounds of the Kennedy Space Center and the surrounding area is a Wildlife conservation area. We saw a family of wild pigs calmly walking down the side of the road on the way out!
We spent quite some time there with minds and hearts amongst the stars before we left. But our day wasn't finished yet. Nope our next target was, Old Town Orlando which I had never heard of, but Tim does some serious research before we go places. And thank goodness he does!
Old Town turned out to be, well obviously, an older section of Orlando, but they've turned it into almost a permanent carnival. Way Fun!
The streets are all brick paved, pedestrian only and lined with interesting shops and restaurants, one haunted house and a magic show (!!) I could spent quite some time just wandering in and out of all of the shops! And then there is the other side, which is an old fashioned amusement park. Even more awesome! Roller coasters, bumper cars, carousels, go-karts, kiosks with funnel cake, ice cream and popcorn, loud music and special events all of the time.
Although it was fairly quiet when we were there, as it turns out, the place really comes alive on Saturday nights. It's not just the neon lights and the much larger crowds though. Every Saturday Night they have a classic car show! Dang! I only we had timed that just a little bit better that would have been so much fun to see. We did see a lot of notices for some Cat Video contest they were holding, the voting and viewing to be held on October 20th. So like I said, special events all of the time. Great Stuff!
By the time we left we were both starving and I was in the mood for Mexican food. Since we don't really know the area at all, I consulted my trusty phone and led us to a 4.5 star Mexican place which turned out to be very close to where we were staying. It was called El Potro and was a small little humble looking place in a large shopping plaza. We debating the 4.5 star rating as we sat in the car looking at the building but figured, what the heck, why not. We ate there anyway, and we were so glad that we did. All of it was excellent!
Oddly, there were wings on the appetizer menu (I've never seen that at a Mexican restaurant before, have you?) and since Tim is something of a Wing Connoisseur, he had to check them out. It turned out that they were one of the best he has ever eaten! Who knew? Good food, great day, all pooped out and ready to crash for the day.
Tomorrow is the LAST day of this part of our vacation. If you want to know how we spent it, check in again tomorrow :)
Day Three dawned with prettier skies and our mission to visit Icon Park! By this point I had become rather obsessed with that giant Ferris Wheel. I wasn't certain if I really wanted to go up in it, but I definitely wanted to see it more closely.
I had reasonable concerns. My fear of heights isn't magically going to disappear just because something looks cool y'know. And that whole 'round and 'round thing that happens with most rides just makes me so dizzy that the enjoyment factor is subterranean. So mostly I just wanted to look at it again. (and again and again)
As we poked around and checked things out we discovered that there was a combo ticket available. We could visit Sea Life (whatever that turned out to be), Madame Tussauds Wax Museum AND ride the Big Wheel at a bargain price. Hmmmm. The ladies behind the ticket counter assured me that the ride was very safe, moved EXTREMELY slowly so there wasn't much of a feeling of actual motion involved and that I would enjoy it. With great reluctance, I agreed to ride The Big Wheel.
But it had to be the last thing we did. If it make me feel oooky I didn't want it to interfere with our enjoyment of anything else! Because that sounded fair and reasonable to us both, we stopped at Sea Life first. And of course, it was an aquarium.
But not just any aquarium. It was surprisingly interactive and very unusual. The very first room was a 360 aquarium. Wowsers! The room was dark, there was weirdly cool music playing and we were totally surrounded by an aquarium full of fish that just spent their entire day, every day, swimming in an endless circle. It was the most relaxing thing. And as a bonus, we were the ONLY people in that room for the duration. Honestly, I would have been fine staying right there in that first room for the rest of the day.
Actually we chose our day and time perfectly because there were very few people everywhere we visited at Icon Park. Here are some of the awesome things that we saw:
When Tim finally pried me away from the fishies, we moved on the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Now I've been to a wax museum before, I believe it was in Canada. And it was fascinating. But it was strictly an "admire from afar" kind of place, like an art museum. Which does make sense. It is a kind of art. And that is what I expected to find again. I was wrong. I was not just wrong, I was wrongity wrong. And that is a very good thing.
Yes it was jam packed with wax replicas of famous people but it was very interactive. I mean, they had props available for anyone who wanted to avail themselves for photo shoots. Seriously?? I was reluctant to bring my camera in at all, for fear that I would be scolded and told to NOT take pictures of anything. And instead they were practically begging us to take photos. Take LOTS of photos. And so we did!
At first we were kind of stiff and uncomfortable. It's not as if either of us is especially comfortable having our photos taken at all, and never with celebrities, wax or not! But eventually we loosened up and started having a great time. We were in the wax museum for a Very Long Time.
Eventually, we made our way through the entire wax museum. So Much Fun! And since that means that the Wheel could not longer be denied.
With great trepidation we approached. Because I asked, I found out that the wheel turns so slowly that it takes twenty-three minutes for one entire revolution which is the entire ride. I could see that each.....what do you call it......basket? was enclosed. Whew! There is a relief right there. And because it wasn't a busy day, Tim and I had our "basket" to ourselves.
They don't ever stop the wheel. It moves so slowly that no matter how pokey a person is, they can get in while it's moving. Once in, they shut the door and we began to slowly, slowly, slowly make our way up. Turns out that at the top we were 400 feet up. Holy Cats! That's higher than the Statue of Liberty. Taller than Big Ben or the Taj Mahal. We were at a higher vertical point than the Great Pyramid of Egypt or the Sydney Opera House! And yet, and yet, I wasn't bothered by it at all. What a wonderful surprise!
There were seats in the middle but I moved from window to window admiring the view. We could see the entire city, we saw lakes, we could see the Kennedy Space Center in the distance. It was Awesome!
We were told that if you time it just right and ride the Wheel at night, you can see the fireworks show at Disney. That would be a very cool thing to do another time. We had other plans for the rest of the day.
Tim read about these Swan Boats on a lake somewhere in Orlando. Swam shaped paddle boats! That sounds very fun! So we set off to find them.
Predictably, on the way there, it began to rain. By the time we found the lake it was actually coming down pretty hard so no Swan Boats. Ratz. BUT we drove all that way so we were not inclined to just turn around an leave. No way! I grabbed my camera and Tim brought along an umbrella and we wandered around the lake. While we had to say no to the Swan Boats, we did get to say Yes to actual Swans! I know it sounds redundant but the Swan Boat lake had actual Swans! Way Cool.
Tim, my hero, patiently held the umbrella over us while I took photos:
It turned out to be a terrific way to end the day.
Wow, the time is going by too quickly. Only two days left! Wonder what sort of mischief we got up to on Thursday? Stay tuned!
Sooooo here we are. Day Two of the Great Autumn Vacation Report!
Any idea what these photos represent? No? Really? No idea at all? It's Universal!!! Yay! Actually yes, we have been there before. But we also bought Florida resident Annual Passes which, this time around, granted us not 12 months of admission but 18 months! Woohoo! It's already paid for so of course we went back! And what's more, we knew we would have a great time.
Because we have been a number of times already in the past year, it's not an unknown quantity and we figured we would just hit the highlights, do the things highest on our lists and knock out both sides of the park in one day. That was the plan.
Unlike me, Tim likes roller coasters and thrill rides. And since he boards as a single rider, he cruises right through most lines quickquick. While I wait, I people watch, take photos, prowl through the little shops and have a really good Sam-time. See how that works out? Tim gets to go on the rides he enjoys and zooms through the lines in very short order, and I don't feel obligated to go on a puke-fest ride that I won't enjoy but instead do things that I like. Win/Win.
So while Tim is doing this:
I get to take photos of things like this:
AND I get to have accidental front row viewing for things like The Blues Brothers!!!!! Squeeeee!
We spent hours roaming around and having a blast! But eventually Tim had been on all of the rides on that side of the park that he wanted to do and we were about to take the Harry Potter train to the other side of the park when we noticed that the weather had radically changed.
The sky was growing darker, the wind was picking up and the temperature was definitely cooling off. Uhoh we said as we make haste to a goodly sized overhang to wait out what we assumed would be a typical passing Florida late afternoon shower.
It was not.
Once the rain began, it started to feel as if it was never going to end. And in fact, as we waited, it rained harder and harder. Dang. We abandoned our idea of going to the other side of the park and, noting that it was nearly dinner time anyway, decided to, instead, just slowly make our way to our chosen dinner restaurant, The Chocolate Emporium!! Which, of course, is at the very front of the park. We were, at that point, at the furthest possible point. Of course!
Initially we tried running from over-hang to over-hang in a desperate attempt to limit how very wet we got. But in short order, it became an excercise in futility and we ended up just casually walking through the pouring rain, which was, at least, not cold rain but instead rather refreshing.
Which is how we eventually ended up at our selected restaurant looking as if we had been recently dunked in buckets. To their credit the folks at the Chocolate Emporium didn't bat an eye at our thoroughly disreputable appearance and instead politely showed up to our table which was on the second floor.
If you have never been there let me try to describe it to you in just two words. "Steam Punk". That is the decor and it is delightful! All dark and layered with what appears to be old copper pipes and gears and, well, suffice it to say that the people in charge know how to commit to a concept. I loved it! Oh and of course another perfectly descriptive word, "Chocolate". They excel at chocolate and have a shop downstairs that is completely packed with everything chocolate, from plain and simple to fancy and creative. The fragrance alone can make me swoon.
Well, there we are, looking over the menu when my eye catches something on the appetizer page. Warm Chocolate Almond bread with Salted Caramel Butter. Oh My God. Once I saw that there was no further need to consider any other item on the menu. It was divoon.
So Tim had normal regular people food and I had Sam food and about three pots of piping hot water because in the air conditioning, that refreshing coolness from being caught in the rain had turned into a rather cold and clammy feeling and while the napkin in my lap served as a bit of a blanket, but hot water helped far more.
It was not a quick meal and in fact, we were there for nearly two hours during which we watched the rain continue to fall out the window. Even though the dessert menu beckoned, we were both too full to eat another bite (I kind of ate my dessert for dinner didn't I?) and so we squelched back too the car instead of moving on to the other side of the park which was our hope.
Back we went to our suite where we showered to warm up, changed clothes, watched one episode of a TV show neither of us had even heard of before (Houdini and Doyle) and then headed back out. The rain, by then, was a mere drizzle.
We had seen in the distance the day before while scoping out the area what seemed to be an enormous Ferris Wheel and a Spire and we wanted to know where and what it actually was. So we drove 'round and 'round the general area, spying our prey now and again and then losing it in the miasma of enormous buildings then finding it again , over and over and then, eventually, there it was. Or rather, there they were. Two crazy rides that seemed to be in the middle of the city.
So we found a place to park the car and made our way closer to learn that they are both in an area called, Icon Park. Hmmmm interesting. We walked around in the Vegas Strip lit area filled with restaurants, these two, ok lets' call them rides, a museum of skeletons (??) a Madame Tussauds and something called SeaLife. Curiouser and curiouser as Alice said. Neither of us had ever heard of any of this!!! Surprises! Awesome!
It was rather late and obviously they were trying to close up shop almost everywhere so we planned to return the next day. And this is why our plans are always flexible. New Plan! Woohoo!
And there you go, end of Day Two! Stay tuned for another day of vacation adventure!
These two goobers went on vacation last week!~
We had such a great time! Each and every day was something new, something fun, something surprising and there is just so much to tell you that I think it may take all of this week to cover it! Hope you don't mind. This will be my blog report on, "What we did on our autumn vacation".
Here we go:
Last Monday we loaded the car and headed east. We decided on a car trip because we wanted a vacation that was a stress free a possible and friends, air travel has become a giant ball of stress these days.
Between delayed and cancelled flights which can be a problem with connecting flights, having to arrive an hour early, either paying for a weeks worth of parking or arranging (and paying) for transportation to and from the airport, standing in one doggone line after another, TSA (enough said there), waiting endlessly for your flight(s), cramming yourself into a frankly ridiculously small seats for the duration, air turbulence/screaming babies/unpleasant strangers-seatmates and then waiting waiting waiting for luggage to hopefully arrive on the other end, either dealing with securing a rental car and then navigating through unfamiliar streets to your destination or finding other transportation and finally finally finally arriving at your hotel.....well by the time we get where we are going, we are exhausted. No Thank You! We decided that, at least this time 'round, we were going to do a driving trip to a destination that was only a matter of a few hours away.
So we went to Orlando. Orlando? What? Are we crazy? (yes we are) And not only were we going merely to Orlando but we drove back roads nearly the entire way. Central Florida, once you are off the massive interstates, is actually quite beautiful. Seemingly endless miles of farms and ranches, lakes and charming little towns with unusual names like: Ona, Duette, Wimauma, Myakka City and Wauchula.
We drove through endless acres of citrus groves :
And saw barns and tractors and all sorts of other pieces of farm equipment to say nothing of the many bee gums, goats, cows, circus people, horses.....wait! Back up a second. Circus people? Yuppers. We saw quite a few entrance signs which indicated that the owners were retired circus folks. Although the trapeze setups in the yard were kind of a give-away too. Unexpected but awesome.
Most of the farms and ranches had big signs with the Name of the place: Smith Farms, River Ranch, DelMonte...yup THE Del Monte. So this is where they live eh? That was fun to see. And occasionally a really surprising sign like:
At one time, apparently, that was the entrance to the Cactus Ranch Petting Zoo. Now it's all overgrown and the dirt road is chained off. I wonder what sorts of critters were available for petting? Alligators? Armadillos?
There was also a turn-off sign for the "Cracker Trail Museum" which was so tempting to check out. What on earth? Turns out that the Florida Crackers refers to the old Florida Cowboys of the 1700's through the mid-1900's. "Crackers" refers to the cracking sound of the whips that helped to drive horses and cows forward. These Florida Crackers helped to settle and establish central Florida. There is an annual festival in Homeland Florida in their honour, 'The Cracker Storyteller Festival" which has my name written all over it! Made a mental note for the future about that.
One of the larger towns we drove through was Winter Haven. It was so swiss cheesed with Lakes that I was speechless....at least for a little while. And then I saw a sign for, "The Green Swamp - The Heart of Florida" and for some reason that totally cracked me up for the next mile or so.
I'm always surprised at how quickly we go from 'civilization' to wilderness here in Florida. One minute, it's all McDonalds and Walmarts as far as the eye can see and then the next minute it's farms and ranches and apparently Green Swamps, and then nothing but decades old Oaks and palms and greenery so thick you absolutely cannot see beyond the first layer so there is nothing but mystery beyond. And then around the next bend is the turn off for Celebration Florida.
We had heard of Celebration before and were intrigued to of course, we checked it out. That's one of the things about a car trip. There is no real schedule. You arrive when you arrive and side trips are, if not a necessity, certainly a lovely bonus. Celebration Florida was a bonus for sure.
It was, without a moments hesitation, the prettiest town I've ever seen. It was perfect. And I mean that sincerely. The people were very nice, the homes were lovely, charming and beautifully, perfectly kept up. There were picturesque parks and adorable shops and sweet little surprises around every turn. And it absolutely felt as if I were inside Disney Land.
If you've never heard of it, the Disney-esque feeling of it shouldn't come as a surprise because it was founded by Disney. It is a master-planned community right next to Disney World that is just shy of creepy in it's perfection. Naturally, we parked the car and got out to walk around for a bit.
The homes, even the condos, were gorgeous and of all different styles, colours and sizes, the shops were adorable and the cookie I had from the bakery was, naturally, perfect. There was, I swear, not a blade of grass was out of place. Beautiful, but just not natural. Charming but it didn't feel quite real. I kept expecting Mickey to step around the next corner.
That said, as we walked past the beautiful Celebration Hotel, Tim said that he was temped to book a room there the next time we decide to brave any Disney parks.
So anyway, cookie eaten, town perused, we motored on to Orlando (or is it Kissimee? I can never remember) checked into our lovely comfy wonderful suite and, since it was past dinner time, found ourselves at Tony Roma's for dinner. The big surprise there was the appetizer. Tim ordered Jalapenos Poppers. It turned out to be jalapeno's stuffed with spicy chicken! Totally unlike any poppers I've ever seen but Tim said that they were Excellent!
Totally stuffed, we wandered around the area a little bit to get our bearings and made a broad and very changeable plan for rest of our week.
Thus endeth Day One of our Autumn Vacation!
Stay tuned for the rest of our adventure!
Happy Blogiversery !!!!!!!
It's been three years today since I started this blog. Wow, did those three years fly by! I wish I could say that I am an expert as this Blogging thing now, but I'm just as clueless today as I was when I began this thing!
My very first blogpost was about our kitchen reno. We had lived in Florida for a wee bit more than 4 months at the time and, at the suggestion of a surprisingly lot of people, I parked my ample behind on a chair in front of my computer and typed my first blogpost. It was very brief. There were a few photos of the new kitchen and when it was done, I felt very accomplished. But I had no idea what I would write about the next day.
In fact, I didn't know if I would have enough ideas to write once a week? Once a month? Once in a lifetime? Or ever again. But the next day, I found myself sitting in the same spot at roughly the same time of day and I wrote something more. And the next day and the next day until well, here we are, three years later and I still seem to have a lot to say! Frankly, I'm shocked.
I had no idea back then that I would still, not only be doing this three years later but that I would still be enjoying doing this. In fact, I think I like writing the blog more and more as time goes by. I still don't know what the heck I'm doing, but I'm a lot more relaxed about it. I used to be so nervous about it. Was I offending people? Boring people? Saying too much? Saying too little? There are so VERY many ways to go wrong. But it seems that it has gone rather right.
I have been dumbfounded by the response this blog has gotten! I mean absolutely pole-axed, gob-smacked, stunned!!! And I am pleased beyond words. And it's all thanks to all of you!
I have gotten so many little comments and notes and and most of it was positive. It's impossible to please everyone and so yes, every once in awhile, I hear from someone out there in the world that doesn't like what I've written. And that's fine too. If you like it, read it. If you don't like it, don't read it. It's pretty simple.
How long will I keep doing this? As long as I'm having fun with it. If it stops being fun, I will stop. If it's not longer enjoyable, I will stop. Otherwise, I reckon I will just keep on keepin' on because I am still having a blast. My hope is that you, my dear readers, will continue to enjoy it at least once in awhile too.
And on that note: I'm taking next week off so 'til we meet again, everyone be safe, have fun and I will see you here a week from Monday and hopefully we will BOTH have lots of adventures to share!
Sooooo, another thing we did over the weekend (it was a very fun weekend) was go to an RV show!! Remember how yesterday I said that we did things like look at boats and houses and cars just for fun? Yeah, well we do that with RV's too.
Ok I'll be absolutely honest. There used to be a saying in our house. "Sam don't camp". I know the grammar is incorrect but I stand by it. It was just a given. I had ABSOLUTELY no interest in camping. None. Zero. But of course, when the boys were young, they wanted adventure. They wanted to pitch a tent in the wilderness, by a campfire with wild animals roaming around and, with any luck at all, an alien attack (or something, who knows what little boys are thinking).
All I know is that to me, that sounded awful. I did buy the middle boy a tent for one Christmas. It took an act of God and a lot of other people helping but we finally got it set up in the backyard. The dog loved it. At the time we lived on 20 acres so I thought, perhaps, if we took the tent way out to the back of the property, out past the pond, past the fields and pastures and into the wooded area, maybe that would be "camping" enough to make them happy.
So one night that's what we did. The boys and I schlepped tents, sleeping bags and whatever else they felt necessary down the path and into the woods on our own land. They all slept in the tent like puppies, I laid on the rocky ground outside the tent, slapping bugs and trying to find a spot with no rocks, mentally calculating how far it was to the bathroom in the house, jumping at every strange sound and seriously Not Sleeping all night long. The was the end of Sam Camping.
When Tim and I got married, he was still in the Marine Corps Reserve which means that one weekend a month and two weeks every summer, he had to join his unit to (and this is my version of what he did, not his), "Play GI Joe in the woods with his friends). He left wearing his cammo uniform and returned bringing the boys MRE's and they were envious. If the subject came up, I said, "No thank you very much please".
At the time, my Dad had an RV. A really old monster of bus RV and he offered it to us many times. I politely thanked him and turned it down each time. The idea of all of us being crammed into that thing for, let's call it "vacation" just didn't appeal. My head kept saying things like, "Wait a minute, I'm still having to cook and clean, just in a much smaller area...how is this my vacation?" Yeah, I know, that sounds horribly selfish. But it just had zero appeal for me. If Tim and the boys wanted to go camping, that would be fine with me, but no, that wanted us all to vacation together.
I do want to make one thing crystal clear here. I am not a fancyschmancy kind of girl. Oh, I like nice things and I like pretty things, but I also don't mind getting dirty and working hard. And I love being in the woods. I absolutely adore it. But at the end of the day, I want plumbing and electricity and a hot shower. So our vacation always included a hotel and restaurants. Sometimes even room service. Ahhhhhhh.
So I was shocked when we lived in Colorado and were visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park for the very first time and while hiking, we came across what was obviously an RV campground and I heard myself say, "We should rent an RV and stay here for maybe a long weekend". Tim may have fainted.
I was thinking rent rather than buy, just to try it out and see how we like it and long weekend just to experiment for a brief period of time. If it works, great then we could consider doing it more often and possibly buying. If it doesn't work on the other hand, it's just for a few days. And I was moved specifically by Rocky Mountain National Park because well, it's just an amazing place. One of the most beautiful places I've ever been. The campground is literally in the park and situated so that there were trees between the parking spots. So in the morning, we could get up, grab our cameras, walk out the door and boom we are already there. I found that VERY appealing.
I have seen lots of RV parks over the years. The ones that look like giant parking lots are of NO interest to me at all. If I am going to RV it's going to be in a beautiful setting. Just sayin'.
So it was something we were always going to get around to doing the entire time we lived in Colorado and some how we never did it. But we did look at RV's now and again. My one and only requirement is that it have a bathroom. That's it. Tim can drive literally anything so the choices were many and varied.
Ultimately Tim was having a hard time deciding which he liked better, the big old bus kind (I think that's a Class A type) and the Fifth Wheel type. There are positives and negatives to both. So when we visited RV places (just to visit because we weren't actually ready to buy anything at that moment you understand) we would go back and forth, back and forth between the two kinds.
Then here in Florida, just for fun we went to a small RV show and saw a "Sprinter Van". It was the Tommy Bahama sprinter van actually built on a Mercedes chassis. And suddenly an entirely new option was in the pile.
It was just freakin' adorable to start with. Not boring, basic, neutral at all. It had STYLE. It was small, but it didn't feel like a sardine can. It had very comfortable seats. It had a teensy little kitchenette. In a desperate emergency the possibility exists that I could drive it (only in dire circumstances you understand) because it was closer to an actual car in size and shape. It had a surprising amount of storage, a place to lay down and...most importantly...a bathroom. Small but functional.
Kind of the middle ground. We could sleep in it of course. But we could also drive it to a hotel and sleep there without feeling stupid about it. I would feel really ridiculous driving a big old Class A to a hotel to sleep and shower.
It could also be used for long day trips. We wouldn't have to stop for lunch or drinks or pee breaks for that matter. BUT the vehicle nips through traffic with no problems at all and again, we could park anywhere.
By George, I think we have it. The perfect compromise. When and if the day finally comes that we decide to get an RVish sort of thing. This is most likely the direction we will go. The complete opposite of what we thought we were going to do. Go Small! Small Rocks!
We are so strange ;)
Oh My Gosh, Oh My Gosh, Oh My Gosh! Do you know what this is? Yes, of course, Yes, It's a camera. But more importantly It's MY Camera! Squeeeee!
As you may (or may not) recall, 99% of the photos that I post here are pictures that I have taken with my trusty cellphone camera. Some of those pictures aren't too bad. In fact, a couple of them have gotten awards. Mercy! But still, a cell phone camera is a little limiting. There are things that it just cannot do.
I did not ask for a real camera. I did not even secretly wish for a real camera. Though I confess I have admired not only other people's real cameras but, more importantly, the resulting photographs. Still, I was perfectly content to just take cell phone pictures for the rest of my life. Partly because, well, the cost (you know how cheap I am) and partly because it's not like a better camera is an investment that will bring me any sort of return (other than the pleasure - which, now that I think about it, does have some sort of value). It's not like I'm getting paid for my photos, y'know?
Tim has offered, many times, to buy me a real camera. I always said no thank you. My sister has suggested that I buy a real camera on multiple occasions and I always just laughed it off. Several friends and a few fellow photographers have questioned my reluctance as well but nope, I was immovable on the subject. I was perfectly happy with the camera on my little cell phone. At least I thought I was.
Until this past weekend. I don't really know why my opinion on this matter suddenly changed. Well maybe part of it was the approach. We were already out and about, doing this'n'that. Tim is driving and we were deep in a discussion about.......something.....I don't even remember what it was now. We frequently solve all of the problems of the universe while travel here and there. Suddenly Tim turned into a shopping plaza. I didn't really question it. Clearly, he must have had a reason. We got out of the car, still continuing our conversation and walked into a store and suddenly we stopped talking.
I followed Tim silently. He stopped, looked at the display, picked up a camera and put it in my hands. "How does this feel?" he asked. "It's a little heavy" I answered. He picked up another one, "This one?" "Oh that's better" I said. And we played with it a little bit. Then we looked at a third one and a fourth. I was having fun "playing" with cameras.
Now I must interject here that it's the sort of thing that Tim and I do. Not necessarily look at cameras, but look at all sorts of things. It is not at all unusual for us to look at model homes, or cars or boats with delight and make our imaginary choices. We cruise through Home Improvement Stores and garden centers on a fairly regular basis choosing our favourite things. We give it real consideration too. We discuss the positives and negatives of each item and we have such fun doing it. If we ever win the lottery, we are good to go. We know exactly what we like :)
I assumed that we were doing the same thing. Playing "Let's Pretend". Why not? Costs nothing. When we left the store, our conversation was about the cameras. And it ended with Tim asking me if there was one that I preferred. I told him which one was my favourite and he suggested that I read about it when we got back home. Which I did. And afterward I told him that my opinion had not changed. That I still liked that one particular camera.
He said, "Then that is the one that you need". I blinked. I asked him a thousand times (at least) if he was absolutely certain that this was a good idea. He assured me, a thousand times (at least) that it was a very good idea. And then, and I still can't believe I did this, I said, "Then thank you, yes. I would like to have that camera!" And that's all that I said. No argument, no further discussion, just 'thank you'. That's kind of crazy! And totally out of character for me.
The camera arrived late on Monday. I opened the boxes, took everything out and rather reverently, spread it out all over the kitchen table and began to read the instruction book. I read it several times (it's not very big) and slowly slowly slowly began putting it all together. I played with it a little bit, mumbling to myself a lot as I went. I asked Tim a ton of questions and referred back to the instruction book frequently. I ended the day plugging the battery in to charge because I was By God taking pictures the next day. Come rain or shine, photos were happening!
Tuesday, when we went out for the noonwalk, I brought my new camera with me. Here is the very first photo I took:
I cannot, I may not ever, get over the difference between this newest dragon fly photo (just above) taken with my new camera and
this roughly a month old dragonfly photo which was taken with my new cellphone camera. And, I laugh now, I was wowed by the photo above at the time because it was so much better than my old cellphone camera. Now it looks more like a cave drawing by comparison.
I'm just totally wowed by the difference.
So that's it. That's the story. Christmas came early for me this year and I must have been an especially good girl. Or I have Santa completely bamboozled.
I'll leave that to you to decide which is more likely.
Whatever the case. I. Am. So Excited!!!!!!!
While I was nonchalantly sweeping the house the other day, it dawned on me I was doing a chore now that I live here in Florida, that I've never had to do anywhere else that I ever lived. Hmmm.
When I say that I was sweeping the house, I actually do not mean that I was sweeping the inside of the house (although that happens too). No I mean I was sweeping the outside. Oh no, not the courtyard. No. I mean I was literally sweeping the exterior of the house. Yup that's a thing.
Cobwebs, spider webs, collections of outside ick tends to accumulate anywhere it can get a grip. And then when a breeze blows by, and bear in mind here that we live by the ocean and therefore we have a lovely sea breeze most every day, the breeze brings with it, dust, sand, leaves and so forth. Together it makes icky little corners in every window, every doorway, every nook and cranny of the outside of the house. And therefore, I find myself, now and again, sweeping the entire exterior of the house.
This particular time, I was especially careful to not disturb the wasp nests that I also found. Not because I want wasp nests around my house but because I did not want to get stung. So I was super careful with my broom to sweep gently around the nests. As it tuns out, just being in the vicinity of a wasp nest is enough to piss them off. I was reminded of every single episode of Star Wars when the bad guys release a swarm of their tie fighters to kill the good guys. You know how they looked as they buzzed out of the death star? It was kind of like that. Only Wasps. Good news, I did not get stung. Bad news, they know who I am now. As Astro would say, Ruh-Roh.
So that is one of the Florida chores. Which made me wonder if there were any others. And yes, yes there are.
For example, pruning palm trees. I suppose when I lived other places, I probably pruned trees. But it was never as necessary or as often as it is here. For example: There is this one particular palm tree where I park my car. Let me back up a little bit (hah! ..car...back up...unintentional pun) Our driveway is a half-circle. It's very handy. Neither of us every has to back out into the street. Very nice. Tim parks on one side of the half-circle way over to the side and I park on the other part of the circle, again, way over to one side so that we can literally pass one another in the driveway. Coolio! My car ends up parked under a tree which in one way is good because the shade keeps the car a little cooler. But on the other hand....palm fronds. I'm not at all certain what sort of palm tree it is, but I refer to it as the Muppet Palm because that's what it looks like to me.
When it's properly trimmed, I park underneath with no problem. But as the tree grows, the fronds hang lower and lower until the tips gently sweep the top of my car as I drive underneath. After awhile, it's more of a combing than a sweeping and then I know it's time to trim it again. This necessitates several things: me moving my car, hauling out a ladder, gloves and the giant chompers and then bravely climbing the ladder, chomping off as many fronds as I can reach, moving the ladder and climbing back up over and over. And that would be fine. I am not a delicate little flower. I can haul ladders and chomp fronds, but I'm not a huge fan of climbing ladders. And I particuarly do not climbing up high on a ladder (good thing I'm short eh?). Add to that the fact that the grounds is NOT level. Not ever. So the ladder wobblies the entire time. Cue heart palpatations!
Another Florida specific chore is bleaching any white exterior doors. It's entirely possible that people with other colours of doors have to do this too. I honestly have no idea. I do know that our doors are white. And the reason they are white is because I clean them all of the time. I speak not just of normal dirt but of mildew. The scourge of Florida. The outside doors to our utility room are not just white, they are blindingly white. Super duper clean. And the reason that they are is because I HATE mildew. This means that on a regular basis, especially in the summer when it's hot and humid and rainy, I find myself, armed with a roll of paper towels and a spray bottle of bleach & water spraying and scrubbing over and over until the doors are white again. So there's that.
Another chore. It's not horrible. It's not even something that happens often. But it does happen. Somehow sneaky little lizards creep into the house and then they must be captured and put back outside. Or scooted out. Or swept out. Or encouraged out. Or by whatever means necessary removed from inside to outside. We do not dislike the lizards. We do not want to hurt the lizards. But we also do not want them in the house. And so when one sneaks in we find ourselves doing Abbott and Costello routines in an effort to remove them.
The last one that comes to mind (although I've probably missed a few) is emptying the de-humidifier. During the humid season, I find myself emptying it several times a day. It's not a difficult thing to do, but it's something that must be done. If for no other reason, than to keep that musty, gymsocky, decomp smell out of the house. I absolutely hate that smell and therefore, I go to whatever lengths necessary to not have it.
But we also have the dehumidifer because, as two people with allergies are well aware, humidity breeds the dreaded mildew and that is ALWAYS a bad thing. A dehumidifier takes care of the problem. It's not like if I forget to empty it there is a giant puddle on the floor. No. There is an automatic shut off. When the reservoir is full, it beeps a couple of times and then shuts itself off. Eventually I notice, empty it and then it resumes it's job. Not hard.
We have also lived places where we had the opposite problem - dry air which required humidifiers. Again, as two people with allergies, we also are aware of the problems inherent : nose bleeds, sinusitis, asthma, bronchitis and even dehydration are some of the fun filled problems associated with dry air. Wow! So in those places we had a different machine...a humidifier where I was constantly filling the reservoir so it could introduce moisture into the air. Of the two, I find it easier to empty than fill.
On the other hand, a chore I never ever have here is shoveling snow. We've lived here more than 3 years now, haven't had to shovel snow once. Also don't have to salt icy walk ways. Or load up the wood box for the fireplace (don't have one). Or deal with wet mittens, galoshes, scarves or hats drying on the radiator.
Seems like a fair trade to me.
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.