Almost like that famous painting, "American Gothic" by Grant Wood. You know the one right? The old farm couple standing in front of their home? The wife with her hair in a sensible bun and wearing her pretty brooch and best apron and the mister with a suit jacket over his Sunday overalls bearing a pitchfork and neither of them indicating any evidence of a sense of humour? Come on, I'm sure you've seen it. It looks like this:
I knew you knew it. When I saw this photo of myself that was the first thought that came to mind. American Gothic 2020. I had been outside doing some yard chores. Nothing big, a little weeding and a little pruning. I trimmed a few trees and then hauled the trimmings and fallen palm fronds around to the side of the house for the lawn guys to take away later this week.
The weather is ever so much nicer now so it's not such a hot and sweaty job. And in fact, I enjoyed just being outside for a bit. And I was just about to finish up when I realized that the palm tree in the front courtyard was not looking well.
I don't know a lot about palm trees (or any other Florida Fauna for that matter) but I'm at least smart enough to know when one isn't looking quite right.
For one thing nearly all of it's fronds were drooping and hanging straight down. Even the ones that were still green. That, even to me, seems like a bad sign. So I thought that perhaps if I trimmed all of the dead stuff and maybe even the not perfectly healthy looking stuff, then all of the trees energy could go back into healing and getting well.
That seems logical. At least it does to me.
The problem was while this isn't the biggest palm tree in the world, it's way way WAY taller than me. So I would have to either stand on a ladder to trim it (nope) or find a trimmer with a really long handle! AHA! We do have one of those. I retreated to the utility room to first find it, and then somehow get it down from the very top shelf (that did require a step ladder) and then navigate it out of the utility room and then out of the house without scratching or breaking anything along the way. Trickier than it sounds.
I felt strongly that this was the instrument of destruction that I needed to use for the job. As you may be able to tell, there is a saw of sorts at the very top and then a chopper than is employed by pulling the attached cord.
The entire thing is probably 9 feet long? Something like that. Not an exaggeration, it towers over my head. And as I am not particularly coordinated, a little tricky to use. But I'm stubborn, if nothing else, and I kept working at it.
gAnd this was the tree prior to trimming. You cam see that's it's quite tall and that there is a lot of droopy, brown not good looking stuff on it. Stuff that has Got to go to keep the tree looking and feeling it's best.
Because the tree is very tall and the tool is was using was really long, it took some time to get the hang of even balancing the saw/chopper/thingie so that it went where I wanted it to go. And then trickier still to snag the branch I wanted to cut (and only the branch I wanted to cut) before pulling the cord and CHONK! The offending frond would fall to the ground.
I kept wanted to yell, "Off with her head", but I didn't want to alarm any innocent passersby.
Eventually I started to get the hang of it. The process required stepping carefully around (and occasionally on - oops) other things in the garden as I moved around the tree from side to side finding the best way to approach each frond. The entire thing was complicated by the fact that the tree is up against the courtyard wall so one entire side of it is closed off to me as an option. Dang.
But eventually, everything that was dead or dying was trimmed. Whew! I gathered up all of the ick and added to the pile of stuff on the side of the house. I patted the tree and wished it well and gave it a little extra natural fertilizer (i.e. coffee grounds). When I was done, all that remained was the central spike (which is essential to a palm tree or so I've been told) and the young, healthy looking, bright green, baby fronds surrounding it.
It feels kind of brutal, but everything I know about keeping green things healthy says that occasionally under certain circumstances (such as this) trees and shrubs require a hard pruning. Which means cutting off everything that isn't healthy. Over and again I've been instructed to just trim hard and then later, I am rewarded when it comes back thicker and healthier and more beautiful than ever.
I felt pretty good about the job and that I had done a Good Thing, trying to help this tree stay alive, stay healthy and to grow strong and beautiful once again. A job well done, is what I thought.
Foolish foolish me.
I went out the next day expecting to see a very very happy palm tree in my courtyard only to find this:
The top spike and surrounding "healthy" fonds lay inside the courtyard and there is no sign of life remaining in this tree. Ratz. I now have a giant dead palm tree in my courtyard.
Of course we have a plan. Well we have two plans. Plan A is to take the tree down. Because it's beside a wall and near the house, it will have to be taken down carefully. Tim is thinking he will cut it down one big chunk at a time (from the top down of course). He will tie a rope around the area he wants to cut and I can guide the fall of the chunk so it doesn't hit 1) the wall, 2) the house, 3) Tim on the ladder or 4) me. So we have a plan.
Plan B is that I learn to carve with a chain saw and I turn this giant pixie stick into some sort of sculpture.
Most likely we will go with Plan A.
Meanwhile, I'm sad for the tree and I hope it's demise was not rushed along by me. But I don't think so. I'm pretty sure what I did was ok. But I also think that I won't rush to do anymore hard trimming of palm trees.
The tree is dead. Long live the tree.
Ok not a great photo but you can see evidence of an abrasion yes? Well this is on the inside of my left foot. I have a matching on on the inside of the right foot as well. The shiny bit is a coating of antibacterial ointment in an effort to heal faster.
I got these two booboo's this past Tuesday while on photo safari with Joy. And not from ill-fitting shoes either. Nope. From sand. You heard me. Sand. Ordinary beach sand. There is a lot of it here. It's what the soil starts out as and then layer upon layer of foliage, both live and dead, pile on top of it where it gradually deteriorates and over (a very long) time composts into the creation of actual soil. But the base, no matter how much time passes, is still mostly sand. Because that's what there is more of here than anything else.
And, a funny things about sand, at least the sand here, the sand itself it composed of quartz. Well yes, and broken up shells too, but mostly quartz. Quartz is a rock. Rocks are very hard. Even teensy itty bitty rocks, AKA sand, are hard. Small but mighty.
In my case, the diminutive quartz rocks infiltrated my socks. And then were trapped between my shoe and my foot. Then as I continued to hike it rubbed and rubbed against my skin. I did notice some mild discomfort while hiking but I really didn't think too much about it. Come on folks, at my age, something always hurts and while it may slow me down, I refuse to let it stop me. Mostly I just pack it up and stick it in a closet and try to not think about it. Clearly that's what I did during the last hike.
And how did the sand get in my socks in the first place? Well I'm not absolutely certain. It's not at all unusual to come back from a hike with half a sandbox in my shoes. I always empty them out before coming in the house. But my socks? That was new. Well I suppose socks are porous, so tiny itty bitty grains of sand could penetrate. But wow, this wasn't just one or two individual pieces, this was a handful of sand. Exfoliation gone bad.
I do recall at least once stepping on what I thought was solid ground that turned out to be a marshy area, so unexpectedly I was up to my calves in dirty wet yuck. So that could be when it happened. But of course I didn't stop and take off my wet shoes and socks and clean it all before going on. Nope, we just kept going. That's what we do.
Perhaps it's the kind of sock. They are shortie socks. They come up just barely over the top edge of the shoe and in all honesty they are cheap. I bought them at the grocery store. Maybe that is the culprit more than anything. Maybe cheap cotton socks allow more opportunity for infiltration?
I know I know, you are thinking, why does it even matter? Why dissect and analyze with such scrutiny?
Well because it flippin' hurts and while I do not want to go through this again, I also refuse to stop hiking. So learning the cause will lead to the solution.
Do I need higher/better socks? Or do I need to dust off my old hiking boots? Maybe I need to invest in a pair of galoshes! It may take a little trial and error to find the answer, but find it I will.
Meanwhile, as I wear only sandals so nothing is rubbing on the sore spots for the next few days, you guys have a great weekend!
Hugs all 'round
Opps! I did not mean to take this photo. It was a mistake. And this sort of thing happens a lot to me. I make LOADS of booboos when I am taking pictures. I'm sure it happens to other folks now and again too. So I thought that today I would do a post about the photos I normally delete.
And I do love a delete button. I delete with happiness, with no regret, with wild abandon. Since the advent of digital photography I have taken oodles more photographs since I know that all of my mistakes are my own dirty little secrets. In the "before" time, anyone who dared take photographs had to drop the roll off at either a photomat sort of place or the camera center of the local Walgreens to be developed. The person developing the photos was, therefore, privy to all of your pictures. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. It was kind of embarrassing sometimes to pick up my photos. There I would be, beaming with excitement and behind the counter was the smirking face of the person who already knows what I'm going to find. When I opened the envelope I would try to school my face into a non-expression so counter person didn't see my disappointment. It was a thing. Basically if you were a crappy photographer, at least one other person knew about it. Which sucked.
Now when I return home from taking pictures, the very first thing I do is load them onto my computer and sort through. Before I do any editing, I delete. I go through the enter gallery of new shots, hitting that delete button as if it were slot machine and I was about to hit the jackpot. Normally NOBODY but me sees the bad ones.
And knowing this about myself, I think that some nerve going on facebook bragging about various photography awards and blah de blah. Especially since those same people who voted for me to get an award for this photo: (for example)
Did not see the other five zillion horrible attempts to get this precise shot. And I promise you, that is only a small exaggeration. This time, instead of automatically deleting the lousy pictures, I thought I would share them with you. Lucky you. (Not)
As many photo ops as there are out there, there are as many reasons to get a poor shot. Sadly, most of it is operator error. But not always!
Sometimes the problem lays entirely with the subject matter. Wild animals for instance have zero sense of responsibility when it comes to photography. They will not just stand their obediently and pose for me. What's wrong with them? Instead I get pictures like these. I call these the "half a bird" shots
In each of these instances, the bird was perfectly in frame and then as I am pressing the button, boom, they tip their head or hop up to another branch or just move slightly out of square. Dang!
Sometimes they disappear altogether
I solemnly swear to you that when I began taking this photo, there was a bird standing right in the center of the vee of this tree. It would have been a terrific picture. But Oh well.
Birds are famous for turning their backs on me. I have way way way too many photos of bird butt. And No Thank You Very Much Please. Nobody wants to see that
Sometimes the birds don't move completely out of frame. Nope, sometimes they just move. They wiggle, they twitch, they ruffle their feathers and if I don't already have the setting on sport (which will sometimes accommodate movement) I have missed that shot. Occasionally the wind moves something in front of the subject too. Like pine sprills. And that's fun too. Here are some examples of what I'm talking about.
To be absolutely fair, sometimes it's not the bird moving. Sometimes, it's me. It can be really hard to hold completely still for what feels like a eternity, waiting for the perfect moment for a shot. And the funny part is that I think I am rock solid steady as I'm standing there getting a crick in my neck waiting for "The Shot" to present itself and I'm totally not. Yup, sometimes the blur is totally my bad. Like here:
The funniest part (to me anyway) is that it doesn't even have to be a bird photo that comes out blurry. It could be something far more stationary. Like a flower. How on earth does anyone get a blurry photo of a flower? Yup, the fault here is completely on me and I'm not absolutely certain how screwed it up.
It even happened this week with a dragonfly that was holding absolutely completely totally still on a tall blade of grass. I swear to you that there is a dragonfly in this photo
I actually know what I did wrong that time. I didn't set the focus properly on this one. And sometimes it's really tricky. When there is a lot of 'stuff' around a subject, the camera gets confused about what to zero in on. In the above case, it selected a bit of greenery behind the dragonfly. Yeah I really have to get better at that sort of thing. It happened here with these flowers too
It's not even a horrible picture, it's more a "what the heck is this supposed to be a picture of ?" Yeah. Sorry, I don't know.
It's bad photo but the lighting was pretty, I'll give it that. Lighting is absolutely essential to a good shot. And it can be tricky. There are rules of course, but sometimes the rules are wrong. I've taken plenty of shots into the sun that came out great. But then of course there are the other times when it absolutely did not. These have too much sun flare and are way too washed out! What was I thinking?
Not enough light is just as bad. I kind of like an occasional moody Sillouhette Shot but after awhile, it's very ho hum. Normally all of these photos would have been long gone by now to deleted photo heaven.
There are just so very many ways to go wrong. But the final one, regarding wildlife photography anyway, that I will mention here is trying to take a photo of a creature that is just camera shy. This guy simply did not want his picture taken but he was comfortable where he was and opted to not fly to another tree. His answer, obviously, was to just hide his head.
I was suppose to the wildlife we are trying to capture on film, we are the unwelcome, unwanted, rude, papparazzi. And it's funny because Joy and I always keep a respectful distance and never attempt to interact with these critters. I suppose we believed that we were doing the right thing. Walking quietly, sticking to the trails, strictly "pack in in pack it out" photographer/hikers. We never so much as pick a flower. But I imagine that to them, just being there is an intrusion. So I guess an apology is overdue. We always remember to say, "Thank you" after we've gotten the shot (honest, we actually do that). But it never, until now, dawned on me to apologize for interrupting their lives.
I'm not sure how to balance that out. I guess I could offer to allow them to whip out their little cameras and I will hold still while they take endless photos of me? Hmmmm. Maybe it requires a little more thought.
So anyway, that's it for now. The shots I normally would have deleted from our photo safari earlier this week are now here for you to giggle at. And now if you will excuse me, I have a date with a delete button.
No Hunting eh? Well that's just fine with us! The only thing Joy and I hunt is photo ops! And we found them aplenty yesterday! Get ready to hear all about it and buckle up because it was a lot of fun!
Our first stop was Curry Creek Preserve. It was loaded with birds and pretty greenery and beautiful morning light and mist. Just absolutely stunning!
And in fact there were so many photos I'm not quite sure how to present them. Maybe I'll just start with the early morning light, mist and dew type shots. That ok with you?
There were bunnies and squirrels scampering about and birds at every turn. They chirp, they chatter, they sing operas. We watched as they flew and glided and soared over head. Birds hopped around the branches, from limb to limb and tree to tree and every once in awhile they paused just long enough for me to get a photo or two.
Mercy me! Birds in such abundance that after awhile you say, nah, I've already got a good photo of a Blue Jay today. Really? Wow. But of course there were other things that I got pictures of. Of course! Here we go with my personal favourite, the miscellaneous file:
It all seems just idyllic doesn't it? This pristine, quiet, beautiful place with nothing around but us and the wonders of nature. Yeah, well, this is where the Stephen King moment came.
I have to begin by explaining that there exists a working farm that runs along one side of this preserve. We are accustomed to hearing moo-ing and crowing and occasionally the sound of farm machinery off in the distance. It's no big deal and somehow just adds to the ambiance.
Well there we were pretty farm down the trails when we heard what was absolutely positively no doubt about it the sound of a tractor. Joy and I both spent some time on our paternal Grandparents farm in Michigan and during my first marriage, I lived on a small working farm in Connecticut. Suffice it to say that to our ears, the sound of a tractor is unmistakable. But we were so far down the trails that we were surprised to hear still be able to hear it. And then we realized that not only was the sound still audible to us, but it was getting louder. And louder. And louder! And holy Cats, there it was right behind us on the trails, just about one bend behind us! Yikes!
What the John Deere was that tractor doing on the preserve trails? We didn't stick around to ask, we moved a little faster and we thought out loud to one another, ok he was probably just turning around down there, or taking a short cut to a back field. And then we'd slow down and go back to taking our photos in a more leisurely manner and then chugchugchug, like a dragon, there it would be coming up from behind us once again!
So we would scurry ahead until we felt out of potential danger once again, only to have the tractor come up behind us again. Relentlessly! Dang! Shades of Christine!
Eventually we came to a secondary trail and jumped onto that just to stay out of the way. You would think that it was would be no big deal. We could just step off the trial and let him by. It's just not that easy. There isn't really room to step off the trail without being either ankle to knee deep in water/muck or waist high in undergrowth. And sometimes along the sides was a veritable wall of trees. I suppose another option would be to climb a tree to get out of the way, but the last time I successfully climbed a tree I believe I was 7 years old. So I'm a little out of practice. We will leave it that getting out of the way would have been a tricky proposition. Thank goodness for secondary trails! Whew! It was an adrenaline moment.
I'm exaggerating about the Stephen King thing. It wasn't really a fear for our own safety. I'm quite sure that if the driver saw us ahead of him on the trail, he would have stopped and let us move out of the way (I'm not sure how we would have done that but still). It was more about how the loud tractor scared off a lot of wildlife, squished many of the things I may have wanted to take photos of and made it impossible for us to have a conversation. Our time at that preserve was clearly over.
We found our way, eventually, back to the entrance and moved on to our next stop. Which was very close by. The Pinebrook Nature and Fitness Trails.
These trails are wide and well mowed and throughout the park along the trails are "fitness stations". Under normal circumstances, Joy and I would walk right on by those and concentrate on our photo taking. But were having a silly moment and since nobody was looking, we tried some of them on for size. We weren't very good at it, but we had some laughs. And that counts too! After all Laughter is supposedly the best medicine, or so we are told. I apologize that the photos of me are teeny tiny. Joy, kindly, sent them to me and clearly I didn't do something right. Use your imagination. I'm short but not quite that short.
Anyhoo, we actually did get some real photographs too:
So there you have it. Some pretty photos, the adventure of feeling chased by a giant tractor, a solid workout at the fitness stations and another terrific morning spent together, laughing, talking, hiking and taking photos.
This man is a freakin' genius!~ Why aren't all bicycles in Florida made like this! It's got everything you might possibly need. An umbrella to protect the rider from sun OR rain, the basket on the front to carry purchases and the cooler on the back to keep water or ice tea or lemonade cold so when it's time for a break, the rider can be refreshed. A person could be out all day long on this bicycle regardless of the weather. It's awesome!
I have tremendous admiration for inventors. Those folks who see a need and instead of just complaining about it (oh that would be me) they then turn around and find a way to make it better.
And it doesn't have to be really huge enormous life-altering invention to impress me. I mean, indoor plumbing is pretty much the most amazing thing ever and yes, I have been in homes that didn't have it. Yeah, it pretty much changed my life. Everyone's life really. But there are smaller things in my life that wowed me too.
Pantyhose was a huge one for me. Yeah, I know nowadays almost nobody wears stockings at all but when I was just coming into my teens it was still all about garter belts, individual stockings and what a pain in the arse all of that was. Pantyhose were a huge step forward (at the time)
Velcro, which came into being thanks to the Space Program, was awesome for anyone with small children. Suddenly that didn't have to worry about tying their shoes and retieing their shoes and etc. Just slap that velcro closure shut and taadaa! And now you can find velcro on all sorts of things.
Another great category of invention in my lifetime were the childhood disease vaccines. No longer did any child have to suffer, be forever altered or die of "ordinary" childhood diseases like polio, measles, whooping cough or mumps. Wow. Yeah, that was a Huge one.
Less scary but also impactful in a positive way was the invention of non-stick cookware! Holy Cats that stuff is great. I will admit that the original interpretation of it had it's flaws but it had now been many times changed and improved and it's a huge time and effort saver in the kitchen.
Naturally kitchen related stuff are the ones with which I am most familiar. Modern Toasters are pretty awesome. Before any kitchen toaster was invented, people would put a piece of bread on a long handled fork and hold it over a flame until it reached the desired shade of brown, turn it over and do the same thing on the other side. Inefficient and dangerous. Current toasters and toaster ovens are awesome.
Oh! Along with vacuum cleaners! Modern vacuum cleaners rank pretty high with me. I know that my grand mother had to just sweep, constantly. Even rugs got swept most of the time. Once or twice a year all of the rugs in the house were taken outside, thrown over a tree limb and beaten too get the dust and dirt out. No thank you. When I was very young, my mother had a carpet sweeper. It was one of the most useless household items ever created on this planet. Didn't do a bit of good. At some point she got a vacuum cleaner and suddenly our house was sparklingly clean because she vacuumed every day. Sometimes several times a day. She loved that thing. It was, inexplicably, powder blue.
I have to admit that home computers are probably the biggest most impressive modern invention followed by the World Wide Web and cell phones. We would be an entirely different society without them. Completely totally entirely different. They impact every aspect of our lives. I guess that one wins in the modern invention category.
But still, I am totally digging the umbrella bicycle. Woohoo to you umbrella bicycle guy! You Totally Rock!
I know I've mentioned it before, at least in passing. Parks and playgrounds. Venice Island has a lot of them. A surprising number in fact considering what a relatively small place it is. And it's one of the things that we love about living here. Loads of parks. Green spaces with grass and trees and flowers and benches are just so inviting. And actually I love hearing the sound of children talking and laughing as they play outside. It's happy noise.
Just about a block from our house is Epiphany Catholic Church and School. On a pleasant weather day, when the windows are open in the house I can actually hear not just the church bells but sometimes also the screams of delight, the giggles and excited chatter of little ones at play during recess. I have no idea what games they are playing or what they are doing but I know they are having a good time doing it.
It occurred to me just the other day that the one thing I'm not hearing as they play are jump rope songs. Hmmmm. Are kids not playing jump rope anymore? Or are they just not singing jump rope songs while they do so. I have no idea. Probably it's just too old school, too old fashioned.
I have such strong memories of playing jump rope both in my own driveway and on the school playground at recess. It was one of the few remotely athletic endeavors that I was any good at, actually, which is probably why it stands out in my mind. Some kids knocked around a baseball, other were all about the monkey bars or the swings. Dodge ball, tether ball, basketball and 4-square (another ball game), spheres of one sort or another kind of ruled the playground back then. But there were always a few hold outs, usually girls, who took the time and effort to chalk a hop scotch and gather a few pebbles to play that game. And then there was the jump rope contingent.
I loved jump rope. I wasn't especially great at it but I could do it which was exciting to me. In fact, I could even jump double dutch! Woohoo! And even though by the end of the session we were sweaty and hot and out of breath, it was so much fun! There were a lot of jump rope songs that we sang as we jumped but the only one I remember all the way through was done as a call and response. The jump rope twirlers sang a line, then the jumper sang the next line and repeat. It went like this:
Twirlers: "Ding a ling a ling sir, may I come in sir"
Jumper: "no sir"
Twirlers: "why sir"
Jumper "Coz I have a cold sir"
Twirlers: "Where'd you get the cold sir"
Jumpers: " At the North Pole sir"
Twirlers: "What you doing there sir"
Jumper: "Catching Polar Bears Sir"
Twirlers " How many polar bears did you catch?"
And then the fast jumping would commence. The twirlers picked up the speed and the jumper would hop like mad over the rope as it slapped the ground and everyone counted. Whatever number was called out last before the jumper faulted was the number of polar bears caught and obviously the higher the number, the better the jump roper!
Yes yes I know, nowadays it's probably an insensitive song. Why is there the assumption that everyone is male (the constant repeat of "sir" through the song)? Why are they catching endangered animals? (Polar Bears) The rudeness of going to someone's house without calling ahead and asking to be allowed inside their home! (yeah that is kind of rude). I don't know what to tell you. It was a children's nonsense song and it was a different time. Sue me. At least the jumper was trying to socially distance since he was sick, right?
I know they still sell jump ropes in stores, I've seen them. Usually in sports supply stores. And they are snazzy. They have perfectly weighted handles made out of some sort of material that doesn't get too hot, is easy to hold on to and doesn't leave friction burns and the rope itself isn't actually rope, it's some polystyrene sort of thing. I have no idea what it is. But I don't think it's intended for use by children. It's fitness minded adults jumping rope now.
Our jump ropes were sometimes actual rope with electricians tape around the ends to be used as a handle. Other times it was something ropelike (not sure what it was to be honest) but the handles were wood. Mine had green painted handles. Joy's were red. Ahhh nostalgia.
The jump rope song just reminded me of other songs we sang on the playground. We didn't have a name for it but I think now it's called a rhythmic hand claps or some such thing. We just did them, we didn't name them. There were different sorts of hand claps and/or snaps and/or gestures and/or other motions. They went from very easy to relatively complex (even though the songs were still as monumentally stupid as the jump rope songs). The two participants would sit or stand facing each other and do the mirrored clap or gesture or snap or whatever of the other while singing the song. Let's see if I can recall one of those:
"Love grow under the wide oak tree
Sugar flows like candy
Top of the mountain shines like gold
And you keep your little fellow sort of handy
Sweet Dreams, Sweet Dream
Under the wide oak tree oh
Sweet Dreams, Sweet Dreams
Some for you and me oh."
Like I said, stupid lyrics. Another one just popped into my head. Not sure I know all of it: Let's see how does that one go:
"I had a little sister
Her name was Sally Sue
I put her in the bathtub
To see what she would do, do, do
She drank up all the water
She ate up all the soap
She tried to eat the bathtub
But it wouldn't go down her throat throat throat."
Let's not get into the no-no land of keeping our fellow sort of handy or the unhealthiness of eating sweets or the fantasy of golden mountaintops. And I would prefer to not talk about the child endangerment involved in the second song either. When we sang them, the songs were innocent and silly and fun. We weren't gong to actually allow any little sisters to eat soap or drink bathwater for heaven's sakes! There were no polar bears harmed in the singing of the jump rope song.
They were just silly children's songs. They were equally ridiculous but they seemed to have secured a place in my memory banks. And here I am, all these years later, kind of annoyed that I am still wasting good memory brain cells on those ditties. Sigh.
But I suppose it doesn't really mater anymore because I'm hearing none of that on playgrounds. I guess kids don't do that now. Or possibly jump ropes are no longer allowed because they could be mis-used to hurt people? We are such a litigious society. And I'm positive the songs would not be allowed anymore. At least not the songs we sang. And we sang them so innocently. There was no ill will intended.
I'm pretty sure there have been nonsense songs and silly children's songs throughout the ages.
They were never intended to be analyzed, or politicized, or scrutinized. They were just funny little songs. If anyone was offended in the reading of this blogpost, be aware that I'm just writing about my memories. I cannot (and if it was possible I would not) go back in time to change things to make them more politically correct to fit current standards. It was how it was. And not how it is.
And looking to the future, I wonder what thing we are saying or doing now will end up being offensive to generations yet to come.
Yes, that is my big fat (dirty) foot. (and I just now noticed that my shoelace is very nearly untied) You know what that means, right? It's time for another Photo Safari Report!
I'm sure you remember that I've said in the past that each of our hikes ends up having a theme. It's not intentional. We certainly do not start out choosing a theme and then trying to force the hike to fit it. No. We do not do that. The hiking theme is more organic, more natural than that. We just do our photo hike and then let the theme reveal itself to us.
This time, as it turns out there was a dual (and oddly opposing) theme. Or I suppose, themes. They were: 1) 'Holy Cats I'm an idiot' AND 2) "Holy Cats, we are so smart!" Like I said, opposing themes.
First of all we chose to hike some trails we haven't touched in months, so that was a nice change. We weren't certain about the condition of the trails but, as always, we were game to try. As always we left early, so the sun wasn't very high in the sky, the dew was still on the ground and the moon visible against the beautiful blue sky.
It was a wee bit cool out, which is a lovely change, the mosquitos were NOT chomping on us and there was not another human being anywhere around us. So, it was perfect.
Right away we saw wonderful things to capture. Birds, lizards, squirrels, dragonflies were everywhere around us. And some of them even, very thoughtfully, paused a moment for us to take our photos. But I seemed to be having a terrible time getting my camera to properly focus on these small things. I tried over and over, using every trick I knew. Was it my new reader sunglasses? I took them off, nope, still not working. I fiddled with the camera (I never really know what I'm doing when I fiddle with technical stuff). I even resorted to the turn it off and then back on thing. But hmmm. Still not working. Here is the one and only bird photo I got yesterday
I had this awful dread in the pitt of my stomach that whatever was wrong with the camera was my fault. Y'see a month of so ago, I got caught out in an unexpected downpour while I was walking back from taking photos at the beach. Immediately I tucked my camera under my shirt, hunched over it and ran like hell the rest of the way home. Once home, I took my camera as much apart as is possible, removed the battery and the card and let everything air dry overnight. The next day, tentatively, I put it all back together and it worked perfectly! YAY! BUT what if it was a delayed reaction? (yeah my brain works like that) What if I did irreparable harm to my camera? What if in fact, I had killed it? This camera, one of the most important material things I own, AND a gift from Tim was not working properly and it was ALL MY FAULT! The guilt was overwhelming.
I didn't want to be the party pooper of the hike so I said nothing about my concerns. Instead, I tried to be contented to take other kinds of photos. I could take perfectly fine, broader, wider, less detailed pictures. It was only the smaller, macro shots that were utter failures. See?
Finally, the umpti-umpth time Joy asked me, "Did you get it?" in reference to a very cool bird or bug shot that I didn't get, I confessed that I was having some difficulty with my camera. Joy offered to take a look. She has been taking photos much longer than I have and has much more sophisticated equipment. I felt confident that if there was an issue, she would find it and if it was fixable, she would fix it. But nope. There was no finding, there was no fixing. I sighed. Well I would just make the best of it. I would find a way to continue to take photos without my macro settings.
We continued on and I kept snapping away:
I felt as if I was finally getting the hang of this no macro settings thing when Joy mentioned that she had just gotten a great shot of a some bird in profile. Something about the word "Profile" made my brain move to the word, "Portrait". I suddenly remembered that I had been messing around with my camera the day before, taking multiple shots of the same exact thing with the camera on different settings. Y' know what I mean, right? The little dial on top of the camera that can be set on "sport", "auto", "night" etc. There is also a setting for "portrait" and the portrait setting was the last one I was experimenting with. I bet I left the dial set at "portrait" and of course, you cannot be in macro AND portrait all at the same time. What an utter IDIOT!
I checked my camera and sure enough, there it was. Portrait. I corrected the setting and up pops my macro option just like it's supposed to and all was right with the world once again. I showed Joy that it was now fixed. We were both embarrassed that neither of us thought to check the settings but my relief that I hadn't killed my camera was bigger than my embarrassment.
I started snapping more photos like crazy! Macro macro macro!
Happy Snappin' for the remainder of our hike.
So that was the idiot part of the hike. The smart part? It wasn't fixing the camera. No. It was something else entirely.
It was a wet hike anyway. We were on relatively dry land some of the time but practically swamping ankle deep at times in muck other times. But even we have a line we do not cross. And here was the line. Do you see the other side of the trail? And therefore the water running smack through the middle of it? Yeah. There lay the dilemma.
It wasn't a puddle that was could happily splash through and it wasn't a little stream that we could hop across, it was more like a creek. There was no way we were going to step into that water not knowing for sure how deep it was or what lay in it's murky depths. We would have had to double back a VERY long way or find a method to cross. We searched off trail in every direction and all we found was more of the same. Sometimes wider, sometimes deeper but still water. Dang.
We thought about turning back but we are not quitters. So we decided that instead we would find a way across. And of course we did. It some wandering through undergrowth off-trail for awhile but eventually we had it figured out. Unfortunately best option required crossing two of the "creeks" and creating "bridges" across them. Fortunately, out in the forests and preserves, nobody tidies up. There is deadfall and tree detritus everywhere which also means building materials. Ahhhh!
We gathered armloads of deadfall and placed it in overlapping layers across the narrowest and shallowest parts of the "creek" and quickly scurried across. Then, once safely on dryish land, we had to do it once again to cross the next creek. Ultimately, after clambering through brambles and yet more thick undergrowth, we arrived on the other side and were happily back on the trail. We congratulated each other and, flushed with our success, we carried on.
Part of our frond "bridges" below":
So there you have it, moments of stupid and moments of smart. One cancelling out the other maybe? Or just leveling the playing field. Either way, it was a great hike, we had a good time and I learned a thing or two.
I wonder what will be the theme of the next photo safari?
The above is my current collection of sunglasses. I have learned, since moving to Florida, that the most essential part of anyone's wardrobe is a pair of sunglasses. And that is year 'round.
I've lived other sunny places - California, Texas and (surprisingly) Colorado - without owning any and got by. California and Texas because I was a kid and kids are notoriously stupid and in Colorado mostly because I was too cheap to buy prescription sunglasses. But here in Florida, there is no getting away from the necessity,
There is something about the sunlight here that makes it more intense. To be fair, I have blue eyes and the lighter the eye colour (or so I'm told) the more sensitive to light. But it's also the sun reflected off the water and the sand. Yes, I said, the sand. Apparently the sand is made largely from Quartz and quartz is not only reflective, it's also refractive. And moreover, the sand is everywhere! And then there is our lovely clean, no smoggy, air. There is nothing blocking that beautiful sunlight. Put all that together and you bet I wear sunglasses now. Anytime I step outside.
Now that I had my cataract surgery (several years ago) I can buy cheap sunglasses which also means I can have more than one pair and that is awesome. The very first pair I bought for myself after cataract surgery were from the dollar store. They were pink and had tiny black polka dots on them. I adored them and wore them nearly every day. Wore them out in fact. In the way of most dollar store items they didn't last very long.
Around that time Joy bought several pair of sunglasses for herself that she ended up not using. She gave them to me! Woohoo! I still have them. In the line up on the table they are the first two pair (from the bottom up). One pair is black, the other a tortoise shell. I wear the tortoise shell ones the most. They are comfortable, the lenses are very dark and they go with virtually everything I own. I love 'em. Here they are below:
We do occasionally have gloomy days and I learned pretty quickly that the really dark lenses are sometimes too dark to see well in overcast weather, but without sunglasses there is still a glare. Which led me to buy the 3rd pair from the bottom on the table. Bought those at Publix on an overcast day when I had the choice of either squinting against the glare without sunglasses at all or feeling as if I were driving in the dark with them. These much lighter lenses are just enough to knock down the glare, but not too dark. I wear them more often than I anticipated. Glad I have them.
The 4th one up are another pair of dollar store sunglasses. And they are mirrored too so extra snazzy (HAH). I wear those every time I'm doing yard work. If something happens to a pair of dollar store sunglasses, I'm not nearly as devastated as I otherwise might be. And yard work is a messy, dangerous business (especially if I'm involved) As you can see, they are scratched all to heck and back but so far, they are still good enough for their intended purpose. If I wreck 'em.......it's back to the dollar store for me!
The next pair were an experiment that failed. After my cataract surgery I was left with perfect distance vision. I mean PERFECT! But my close up vision stinks necessitating "readers" for anything remotely like reading. These are bifocal sunglasses. Clever concept, but not great for taking pictures. If I wear them I have to tip my head to a bizarre angle to see through the bifocal part to shoot. Not great. And hurts my neck. Probably the bifocal sunglasses would be fine if I was sitting in the courtyard reading a book. If you look carefully at the photo below you can see the bifocal part.
The last pair, well, I honestly don't even know where they came from. They are too small for Tim so they are in my drawer. They would do in a pinch if I had no other sunglasses to wear. I have never worn them. I'm not sure why I have kept them except it is completely against my nature to throw out something that is perfectly fine. Maybe I'll donate them to Good Will.
The only thing about needing sunglasses when I'm outside that continues to be an issue is when I am on a photo safari. I'm outside, so I really should be wearing sunglasses. Yes, I know. But I need readers to see through the camera because it's close up. And therefore I am left with a few options.
I could wear sunglasses until I am ready to take a photo, then switch to my readers, take the photo and then switch back. Which, you know, is reasonable (not). "Hey butterfly, stay right there while I switch glasses!" Nope that doesn't happen.
OR I can try to take the photo without seeing anything through the camera itself. My sunglasses are polarized of course which means I see a black screen and not whatever it is I'm attempting to photograph. That almost never works.
I could just take off the sunglasses and try to shoot with blurry vision. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn't.
Or I could do what I've been doing for a very long time now which is, not wearing sunglasses but a ballcap and hoping that the visor of the cap protects my eyes enough while wearing readers perched either on the end of my nose (so I can look over the top while walking) or popping the reading glass to the top of my hat until I need them. The only problem there is sometimes, they fall off. And when they do Joy and I end up retracing our steps until we find them again. Dang.
Tim has solved the problem for me. My Hero!
He had made for me a pair of non-polarzied reader sunglasses! Woohoo! Problem Solved! In theory I can wear them perched on the end of my nose and look over them while walking or seeking something photo-worthy and then when I'm ready to shoot, one tiny little finger push up and I'm ready to go! Yeehah!
They arrived over the weekend so I haven't had a chance to field test them yet, but this week will be their maiden voyage. I have no doubt that this is the solution I've been waiting for! And I'm excited to try it out !! I am ready to roll. I'll let you know how it works out
Happy 4th Blogiversary to us! Yes to both of us. Me, the writer and you, the reader, the commenter, the inspire-er. You guys, the people who share this space with me.
Can you believe it? For four years now, I've been blathering on about, well, very little of consequence really, almost every week, almost always 5 days a week. That's roughly 1,040 blogposts. Holy Cats! And you lovely people have been along for the ride, some of you for the entire length of the journey thus far. I cannot thank you enough.
I believe last year on the 3rd blogiversary I said that I had no idea what I was doing when I started and by year three, I wasn't a lot more clued in than on the 1st day. I suppose if nothing else, I am consistent because it's still true. There is no real plan to anything I write. Oh sometimes, throughout the week I will have ideas and I'll scrawl those ideas down in a little notebook I keep here on my desk. Some of those ideas even become blogposts, but not all of them.
Nope, nearly every weekday morning, I sit down here at my computer and I ask myself, "what shall I talk about today?" Because that's what it feels like to me. Like I'm having a conversation. Just two people (me and the representative reader) chatting over tea and cookies about this'n'that. Nothing of earth shattering importance is written about here, at least most of the time. It's just chitchat, talking about what I've done, what I'm thinking, expanding on thoughts you readers have suggested and sometimes I write about what I'm not doing. In fact, I believe that I wrote one blogpost about the fact that I had nothing to write about that day. Hah!
The actual blogiversary date was yesterday, the 4th. So what did I do to celebrate? I made some pumpkin bread! Yummy! I happened across some sugar pumpkins at the grocery store that were only 99 cents each! Wow! Had to do it. And before you roll your eyes about bothering to make pumpkin bread from the actual pumpkins, honestly it is as easy as, well, pumpkin bread :)
Sugar pumpkins generally aren't very big so I bought two, just to be sure I had enough. I cut them open, cleaned out the pumpkin guts (ewwwww), oiled them then put them in the oven to bake for about a half hour. Once they cooled sufficienty, I cut up the flesh, measured out two cups and put the oil, eggs, water and pumpkin flesh in the blender 'til it was pureed. Then I poured that onto the flour and baking soda in a bowl, stirred it up really throughly, added cinnamon and chopped walnuts, divided it into baking pans and baked it. Oh My Goodness it was so good! The entire house smelled like autumn. One of the best smells ever.
And it was cool enough outside to open windows so open window freshness plus hot out of the oven pumpkin bread. Now THAT is a celebration!
Next we went to the beach and then took a little drive afterwards with no destination, just out and about. I brought my camera, because, well, I almost always do. Here's a few photos:
Eventually we came back home, ordered take out and watched the movie, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" for the second or third (possibly fourth) time. It's my favourite Ben Stiller film and I might even be on my overall top 10 list. Hmmm. I need to give that some thought.
As far as I'm concerned it was the perfect celebration!
So once again, Happy 4th blogiversary to us all! Cheers and Congrats and Many Many Thanks!
These are the steps to the top of the Venice Island Center Bridge. (also known as the Venice Avenue Bridge). Yup that's a lotta steps for sure. Why does it matter?
Well, y'see, Florida is flat. I mean really flat. I don't always realize just how flat it is because there are so many trees that you just cannot see very far. But if you took away all of the trees (and buildings) you could probably see for miles. And miles. And miles. And, well you get the idea.
And then there is also the fact that we now live in a one story house. There are a lot of one story houses here. Probably more one stories than two come to think of it. And every building that I know about here that has more than one story, has an elevator. (or escalator like in shopping malls). So I have, I suppose, become accustomed to one story living.
Back in Colorado, we lived in a two story house that also had a basement. I went up and down those stairs every single day. Many times every day. And sometimes I ran up and down those stairs. The building I worked in however, was only one story. At work, even though I was on my feet most of the day, it was only one floor. That was just four years ago.
Before Colorado, we lived in Connecticut. Also a two story house, also with a basement. At that time I worked in a two story building and my office was on the second floor. I did those stairs many times a day.
Both Connecticut and Colorado are hilly places. So if you are going to go for a walk, odds are very good that you are going to be walking either up or down a hill, just to spend time outside. So add that in as well.
I never had trouble with ANY of those stairs. It was a perfectly normal thing. Like brushing your teeth. You don't think about it, you just do it. Stairs have never been an issue for me. I laugh in a face of stairs.
And then of course we moved here to one story, flat topography life. And it was all good. Until recently when we were somewhere (I don't even remember where) and circumstances required that I go up a rather long flight of stairs. "Nothin' to it" I thought to myself and I began climbing. Half way up my thighs started whining. 3/4 of the way up my calf muscles joined the chorus. And by the time I got to the top I was light headed and needed to stop and catch my breath. What the hell has happened to me?
I walk miles every day. Seriously, I try to do at least 3 miles each day. Some days, like hiking days, it ends up being more like 6 miles. And on a really fun weekend day of activity it might be closer to 9. Awesome! I still do my Pilates workouts as well. I thought I was in fairly good shape. Oh how very wrong I was.
So I decided I would take steps (no pun intended but hah!) too correct this problem. The only steps I could think of that I could incorporate into my exercise routine were the bridge steps. Ok I can do that.
Here was my plan. Every day I was going to walk first to the Center Bridge and I was going to do the steps for two sets (up and down is one set) gradually working my way up to more sets. And then I would continue my walk to where ever I was planning to walk that day. I sounded like a terrific idea.
Once my plan was in place, I was excited to begin. So I grabbed my camera and set out toward the Center Bridge which is a wee bit more than a half mile walk. And a pretty one too, through nice neighborhoods, past Epiphany Church (which plays the prettiest music at chime time), then behind the Theater, under the North bridge and along the Intercoastal Waterway to the base of the stairs of the Venice Avenue Bridge. It was a nice cool day and nobody was out walking there other than me. Very Nice. I took a few photos
It was a beautiful day, I had a great plan, and I had confidence that this plan was perfect. Piece of Cake. I am clearly an idiot.
I got to the bottom of the stairs and looked up. And Up. And UP. Hmmm. There are a lot more stairs involved than I realized. But no big deal, "I can do this", I sez to myself. And with a big smile on my stupid face, I began climbing. I wasn't holding the railing because even though these were unforgiving concrete stairs, I don't need no stinkin' railing. Oh I am twelve different kinds of ridiculous.
I began with sprightly pace, no running but moving with happy energy. It didn't last long. There are so many steps involved in this particular stairs case that there is a landing half way up. I paused there, ostensibly to look out at my surroundings from this higher perspective and to give my legs a chance to rest a second or two. "Get a grip" I lectured them, "This is no big deal! Keep moving". So I turned and continued up, this time with my hand on the railing, just for safety's sake at a less energetic pace.
Once I reached the top, I stopped again. This time to catch my breath. But I was facing the water, so any car passing by me on the bridge would think that I was just enjoying the view. While trying to steady my beating heart, I took a few photos. Mostly to kill time.
Once my heart rate had calmed down a bit, I took a deep breath, once again reassured myself that I could, in fact, do this, I went back down the stairs. A wee bit slower and more carefully but down I went. You'd think it would be easier going down than up, but for some reason I always have more difficulty with the descent. On ladders, Mountains, stairs, makes no difference, for me down is scarier. So I'm extra careful.
It felt like it took forever, but once I finally got to the bottom, part of my brain said, "call it a day" but the other part, the really stubborn part said, "No you said you would do two sets today and two sets you shall do!" I groaned out loud, but obediently turned and started back up, moving at the speed of smell.
When I got to the landing, my thighs and calves were no longer whining at me, they were screaming. And what they were saying was, "Why? Why are you doing this to us? You are a cruel and viscious woman!" I told them both to shut up and kept climbing. I wasn't goin to to pause on the landing this time because, frankly, I was afraid that if I stopped I would be able to get started again. I was huffing and puffing like the Big, Bad Wolf. Obviously I couldn't see myself but I'm sure my face was red, I know I was sweating, even in the cooler air.
My legs were now trembling. I found myself saying outloud but softly , "step, step, step" in a helpful instructive way. I was now pulling myself up with my arms as much as lifting with my legs. I was going to get there, come hell or high water. By the time I reached the top, my entire body was shaky and I was gasping for air. I leaned against the bridge railing while I collected myself. "What the heck is wrong with you?" I asked myself, "Why can't you just let sleeping fat lie there quietly? Why are you doing this to yourself?"
As I wiped sweat off my face with my hand and the corner of my tee-shirt, I peered back down the stairs. "you know what?" I said to myself. "1 1/2 isn't bad for the first time. Next time I will do two full sets" .
And I continued over the bridge to Venice Ave and dragged my weary arse home on blessedly flat ground from there.
The next day, my legs hurt, my butt hurt and I felt quite accomplished. If it doesn't rain this afternoon, I will go back and this time I will do two full sets, dang it! I will! If I can do 1 1/2 then I can do 2.
It may take a little longer to get back to where I want to be, but I will get there. One of these days, and soon, I will be able to do those stairs with ease, with aplomb, with style and grace, and then continue my walk all over the island. I can do this!
Yesterday was another photo safari day and Joy and I were determined to not be devoured by biting bugs this time so we pulled out the big guns. My thought was that if Deep Woods Off didn't work, then the bugs that were bugging us, were alien creatures and honestly, we have nothing in our arsenal to take care of that!
So we thoroughly sprayed ourselves down and attempted a re-do of Sleeping Turtle preserve.
It was only 69 degrees, overcast, more than a little wet on the ground and very breezy. And I know that sounds perfectly lovely to all of you people who don't live in Florida. But for those of us who have become accustomed to temps in the 90's and high humidity, 69 degrees is chilly. I was wearing a sweat jacket. And shorts of course, I'm not crazy after all.
But that's just fine. The bug spray seemed to work (Hurrah!) because for the most part we emerged unscathed. Right off the bat I got a photo of a cardinal. For reasons unknown, it came out a little like an impressionist painting, but I like it.
There were not many pretty blooming things though I did find this:
But mostly it was pictures of dewy grasses
and moody, spooky looking trees and ferns. Kinda cool. And considering that today is the first of October, I'd say, rather timely.
But as we made our way further and further back into the preserve, we kept running into puddles and streams on the path that got bigger and more problematic as we went.
Eventually, we threw our hands up in the air, cried Uncle, and went searching for a different, hopefully less wet, place to hike. But every place we tried was either, closed, blocked by enormous macherinery parked there for purposes unknown (at least to us), or too recently travelled (again by us).
What to do, what to do?
We decided to throw caution to the wind and headed to Myakka State Park. It is on the Myakka River, which means the odds of it being flooded were pretty good, but at that point, what the heck. We were already wet to the knees. Why not check it out?
It was such a good decision! Here is some of what we saw.
First of all the birds. Usually, Myakka is a birders paradise. They are everywhere! But not this time. They were few and far between. Still, we saw a some:
There weren't a lot of flowers either. This is kind of a between-season time of year down here in Florida. On the other hand, while there aren't as many flowers, the ones that we found were still beautiful:
And the trees were particularly captivating as well. I'm not sure if it was the low light or just my frame of mind yesterday, but I think I took more pictures of trees than anything else:
I saved the best for last. Completely unexpectedly we saw deer. Lots and lots of deer. At least a dozen of them. Our best guess is that the flooding deep in the interior where few people go drove the deer forward and much closer to trails and roads. The animals were of course wary, but hungry, and Joy and I are merely admirers. We stand quietly to watch and only moveslowly and carefully to take photos. And then there were also the raccoons. First we saw a huge, robust adult lumbering across the road ahead of us and later a young one. What a sweetieface!
What a wonderful and unexpected treat!
We saw so many people just blithely zooming through the park, looking straight ahead with grim looks on their faces. If they had just slowed down a little and looked to the right or the left, they would have seen so much more. It's like anything else in life, the more you look, the more you see. And if you look for good things, well, there are a lot of good things out there just waiting to be found.
Early last week I started having a strong craving for muffins. I mean it's all I could think about. Muffins! And not grocery store bakery muffins either. I find that grocery store bakery muffins - while not horrible - are too lightweight. I want a dense, moist, substantial muffin. I do not want to taste preservatives, fake eggs or faux sugar. (and I can tell the difference!) I want a bakery muffin with all of the really bad for you stuff that makes a muffin so dang good.
I can and do make my own muffins. Often. So there is no reason or rhyme to my cravings. But this one was specific. It needed to be from a real bakery. A Dunkin' Donuts muffin, for example, wasn't going to cut it. And don't even talk to me about those nasty looking things that come wrapped in cellophane and sold in the convenience store part of gas stations. I know that they are called muffins, but they aren't. I'm not sure what they are, but I know what they are not.
For whatever reason, or for no reason at all, the specific muffin that I wanted is sold at Perkin's Restaurant and Bakery. Perkin's is a perfectly ok place to eat. It's not something I ever get excited about. It's not a restaurant that I ever suggest when we are planning to enjoy a meal out. It is not fine dining by any definition. But if it's 3 in the morning and there is nothing else open and your plane got in really late and there is no food in the house are you are starving....well then, you can get a perfectly okay meal at Perkins'. However, their bakery is pretty damned good.
We have gone there many times just for pie and never once regretted it. (I can bake a really good pie but Tim and I do not need to eat an entire pie. We can indulge in ONE slice at Perkins without glutting on an entire pie) I have enjoyed their eclairs on occasion. (Any eclair is a special treat, theirs are an extra special treat!) And had a few cookies from there once or twice. (They aren't home made but they are quite good) But the thing I like the most, the thing that they do the best, is muffins.
And once autumn arrives, traditionally, they offer the pumpkin donut muffin. I will say that again so you know that it is not a typo: Pumpkin Donut Muffin. It is glorious. If a pumpkin donut and a pumpkin muffin got together and created offspring it would be this muffin. All of the very best parts of a donut and the best parts of a muffin together in one magical concoction. I'm drooling just thinking about it.
So when we were finally awake and functional this past Saturday morning and Tim asked what I wanted for breakfast, I said, Perkins muffins. He grinned and said, "You just want that pumpkin donut muffin don't you" I nodded so hard my head was in danger of falling off. So we headed to our local Perkins.
It's not far, just off the Circus Bridge but we haven't visited in a very long time. We entered and went straight to the baked goods case. I admired the pies and eclairs first before moving over to the muffin case. There were so many to choose from: blueberry, raspberry sour cream, orange/cranberry, apple cinnamon, banana nut, pumpkin cream cheese, bran, chocolate chip and, and and.......well that's a lot but that was it? Where was my pumpkin donut muffin? I was confused.
The nice lady behind the counter asked if she could help us and Tim, because clearly he knows me well, asked about the my favourite muffin of all time. And we were told that this year, they weren't making that one because, well, reasons. I understood. Of course I did. I'm an adult and the reasons were valid: Understaffed, over worked, making do, cutting back to make up for financial losses during the virus, and on and on. But the child in me was very disappointed.
Honestly, I think I was ready to say, "well thank you but I guess we will go" and leave muffin-less. But now Tim was in the mood for muffins! The original plan was to buy two muffins, one for Tim, one for me. But then Tim spied a sign, buy 3, get 3. Wow! That's generous! So we each chose three.
We ended up bringing home one blueberry, one raspberry sour cream, two pumpkin cream cheese and two apple cinnamon.
They were wonderful. Yes past tense. They are all gone now. They were almost exactly what a perfect muffin should be. Over-sized, moist, generous with ingredients, no artificial anything, loaded with calories and fat, delicious and wonderful.
The only thing that could have made it better would have been if they also had the pumpkin donut muffin. Oh well, maybe next year.
I don't care what sort of prognostication you choose, it's all nonsense. It's fun, but it's balderdash. It is. It really is. And that sounds funny coming from me because in my family, growing up, all of the women read tea leaves.
We did. It sounds so silly to say out loud but it's the truth. My mother learned from her mother who learned from her mother and so forth. I have no idea where or when it began but we all knew how to do it. So much so that, growing up, it seemed like a perfectly normal thing to do. Some families got together in the evening and played Parcheesi, we read tea leaves. It was sort of like a parlour game.
I honestly do not know if my mother, or her mother (or further back) actually believed that what they were foretelling was really going to happen or not. I never asked how they felt about it. But I know that I always considered it just entertainment.
When my friend Sandy, back in Connecticut, had her tea room (she made the BEST food!) once in awhile, she would ask me to be a gypsy tea leaf reader. Just for fun. And it was fun. The first time I played that role for her, I even created a sort of costume to make it more festive. I made sure to tell each person that I "read" that it was solely for the purpose of entertainment and should not be confused with any real predictions. But when I looked into their eyes, I could see that far too many of them really wanted to believe every word I was saying so the next time I wore regular people clothes hoping that, by not playing a role enforced by a costume, there would be more doubt in their minds. It did not help.
Being able to tell how people were reacting to what I was saying over their teacups or "Reading people" is completely different than reading tea leaves. It is an actual psychological skill that investigative organizations such as the FBI use in their fight against crime. Of course criminals also utilize this skill to manipulate and exploit people so it's a good/bad thing. Some people are just naturally good at it. Like professional (and I use the term loosely) fortune tellers. Any 'soothsayer' who makes an actual living via their craft has exceptional skill at reading people. Generally speaking, my skills are fair to middlin'.
Actors also use this ability, particularly comedians. They call it "reading the room". It's the energy they do (or do not) get back from the room. Really good actors, public speakers and comedians can adapt their speech or their "bit" on the fly to accommodate their audience. It's part of why some are more successful than others.
The actual 'reading' of tea leaves can be taught, even self taught. There are books about it, just as their are books about palmistry, dream interpretation and divination via Tarot Cards. And, spoiler alert, just because there are books about it doesn't make it any more authentic or genuine.
But I think most of us want to believe. Especially when life feels crazy and out of control, we want something to steady us, something strong that we can lean against. And if, during those sort of times, someone who seemed plausible to us made a prediction that gave us hope, well it would be hard to not hold on to it.
Which is probably why, when I opened my fortune cookie last night and it said this:
my spirits were instantly lifted. I know it's silly. I know it's just a fortune cookie. I know for a fact that a cookie cannot predict my future. But it still made me feel good.
And not because I believe in crystal balls or ouija boards or throwing bones for that matter. But because I believe in myself, I believe in my family, I believe in humanity in general and I suppose because I am a sunnyside of the street sort of person.
It's all relative anyway. To a person with no money at all, ten bucks sounds like a fortune. I probably have that in my change jar. Which means, I suppose, that I already have a fortune.
Have you ever heard the expression, "A self-fulfilling prophesy"? That is probably the only sort of prophesy that is real. It's when we make our own luck. We create our own good (or bad I suppose) future. We are the ones in charge of how our lives turn out. We are the captains of our ships. Here's a tip: Don't steer for the rocks. And I don't need any tea leaves to know that is true.
This is my favourite cookbook, the one I go to when I'm looking for inspiration, the one that has been with me from the beginning of my cooking adventures, the one that never lets me down. And I will admit that, much like me, it's starting to show it's age.
I know that the signs have been there for quite awhile, but I didn't really notice, not really, until yesterday. I wanted to make peanut butter cookies. And not just any peanut butter cookies but the real deal, old school, O.G. , peanut butter cookies and for those I needed to get back to, if not my childhood then my own kids childhoods. And for that I needed to haul out old faithful. "The Joy of Cooking".
I've told the story before of how I had no idea how to cook when I first got married WAY back in 1975. Did not have a clue. And suddenly I was expected to produce three meals a day plus snacks and desserts and holy cow, I was a person who could burn Jell-O. That's some crazy kind of expectation. It wasn't as if, magically, once the ceremony was over I would be mystically imbued with the spirit of Julia Child after all.
Fortunately, someone (and for the life of me I do not remember who but I owe them big time) gave us, or rather me, a copy of "The Joy of Cooking" as a wedding present. Maybe not everyone would appreciate that but it saved me. And I mean that seriously.
One of the things I love about the book is that it's not just recipes. The copy that I own has just about every question a person might ever ask about anything remotely related to cooking, answered. Not just definitions of cooking terms, not just recipes, but also some menu ideas, tips about entertaining, some basic wine education, nutritional information and more. I began reading it on page one and continued to the end as if it were a novel.
Naturally the first meals I attempted to make were a disaster. I threw out more meals than I served. But gradually, I got better and my confidence grew and eventually, as it turned out, I quite liked cooking and baking. I discovered that piddling around in the kitchen was absolutely my cuppa tea! And it was all thanks to this book. Which, as you can clearly see, looks kind of shabby.
But then it's 45 years old! And has been used and abused for all of those years. It makes perfect sense that there would be a few stains: (I am a good cook, but a messy one)
A few torn bits: (I don't even know how it happened, I swear!)
And of course all of those frayed and ragged edges. (like a well loved teddy bear)
My favourite peanut butter cookie recipe has a tear exactly through the part that lists how much flour the recipe requires. Dang. I could no longer determine precisely what it said. And one thing that is an absolute in baking is that it requires precision. I sighed. Perhaps it's time to replace the book?
I'm quite ambivalent about that. The book has been in circulation since 1931 and I know that Amazon still carries it. But I also know every time it is re-released, it is a different version. I know this version. I love this one. I have my own little notes jotted in the margins here and there. I know the book so well that I can nearly turn to the exact page I need at any time. And then there are the conotations and associations of so many meals. It's not just a book of recipes, it's a book of memories!
On the other hand, I had to look up the peanut butter cookie recipe on line to be sure how much flour to use yesterday. Which meant searching through dozens of recipes to find the one closest to the old fashioned cookies that I wanted to make. Kind of a pain in the butt y'know. And honestly, as the book slowly deteriorates, there will be more and more occasions when I have to go elsewhere for the recipe I need.
It's all very sad. I feel disloyal. Like I'm walking out on an old friend or abandoning a dog just because it's old and grey and walks with a limp. (something I would never, ever do)
The practical side of me says, it's just a book and an old one at that. Toss it and buy and bright shiny useful new one.
The romantic, softer, emotional side of me says, keep it for always. It has always been there for you, it's time to return the favour.
I suppose I will figure it out at some point.
And in the meantime, the cookies turned out great
This is obviously a piece of glass. I found it on the beach yesterday which, officially, makes it beach glass. I don't often find beach glass anymore so it was a very nice surprise. I have a couple of jars of beach glass collected over my many years sitting on the coffee table and I've just added this new one :) Happyhappy.
What does this have to do with yesterday's photo safari? Well I think I'm feeling a little philosophical today because it occurs to me that finding a rare piece of beach glass (which was one of the high points of the day) is a terrific illustration of the fact that things don't always end as they begin. A good life lesson. I need to be reminded of these things from time to time.
Joy and I headed out early, as we do, and since it hasn't rained in a few days, we decided to risk hiking in one of the local preserves. One of our favourites in fact, Carlton-Mabry Preserve. One of the reasons that we love it there is that there are so very many trails. And side trails off of trails and other trails off of those and well it's just huge. More then 24 thousand acres! It has 80 miles of trails! AWESOME!
So off we went. It's not far, right here in Venice (though obviously off-island) and we chatted about which trails to take and what photos we were hoping to get, as Joy drove, taking all of the necessary twists and turns to get there. And finally, there was the sign, we were almost there and, and, and.....the gate was closed. What the heck? There was no sign indicating why this happened. Hmmmm. I did a quick google check on my phone and according to my phone, the preserve was open for business. Clearly google was wrong. Very Disappointing. Now what should we do?
Well we passed another set of hiking trails on the way, Sleeping Turtle Preserve, so we decided to backtrack and see if that one was open. Sleeping Turtle is adorable but much smaller, only 174 acres with 5 miles of trails. Still, a trail is a trail and a preserve presents opportunity for photos so what the heck. Off we went. Sleeping Turtle Preserve was Open! Hurrah!
We geared up, made sure we were well doused in bug spray (this is the rainy season after all and bugs adore rainy seasons) and headed for the trails. The ground was very wet and kind of glistened in the sun. It was pretty.
Almost the instant our feet hit the trails, we saw birds. Lots and lots of birds. They chirruped and sang and flew from branch to branch above us. Hurrah! We froze in place and quietly began adjusting camera focus and snapped away. We tippy toed in absolute silence to get our shots and because we were so very quiet we could hear the noise. The humming, the buzzing the droning sound that is unmistakable.
As we stood there, silently, taking photos, the bugs arrived and began to devour us, bug spray be damned! The mosquitos particularly like Joy and in very short order she declared that she was being eaten alive. I looked over at her and watched as before my eyes, enormous red welts grew and grew! Mercy! Let's get out of here! And we headed back out. I did manage to sneak a few other photos on the way out.
Overall, it was not an auspicious beginning to our hike. Now what do we do? We decided to go back to do the Casperson Beach hike even though, this time of year, there just isn't that much to see that's photo-worthy. Late September/Early October is kind of betwixt and between seasons. Summer is mostly kind of over but Autumn really hasn't begun. "Oh well", we decided, if nothing else, we will have a nice walk. It is rare to have mosquitos at the beach.
As soon as we got out of the car and gentleman approached us and said that he noticed that we had cameras. We both held up our cameras in agreement. He was rather excited as he gestured toward the boardwalk and said that he had just seen an huge pod of dolphins right off shore. Wow! That would be exciting to see! We thanked him and practically ran to the boardwalk where we saw not one single indication of a dolphin. Not one. Dang. Another disappointment. So we turned around and headed down the trail prepared to be disapointed once again and expecting to see, well, nothing much.
And of course we were completely, totally, entirely wrong. It was a terrific hike! And we took a lot of photos! (Seriously, A Lot of photos. Get comfortable if you want to see these. It will take a few minutes to cycle through them all)
AND I found a piece of beach glass. Sprinkles on top of the frosting on top of the cake ;)
So there you have it. We thought the entire day was going to be a complete bummer since each step was a disappointment, but we kept trying anyway and were absolutely delighted by how great it ended.
It's sort of like how you "can't judge a book by it's cover". You cannot judge the ending by the beginning. Occasionally, I need to be reminded of that.
Yesterday was officially that last day of summer, 2020. Today, therefore, is the first day of autumn. And I always loved autumn. Well, I enjoy all of the seasons so it's a very close race, but fall, yes, fall is my favourite. Even now.
Just the word Autumn brings to mind so many wonderful memories of the colours of Fall. Our Connecticut house was surrounded by Maple trees and a stone wall. Once autumn hit fully and those Maple leaves began to turn all of those incredible shades of red, orange and gold, it was like being in the center of a ring of fire.
Even in Colorado there was autumn colour. Well really, it's just the one. Aspens turn from green to a vibrant gold and sometimes, when the light hit's it just right, the entire hillside would shimmer with that golden hue. It was magnificent.
At least until those beautiful leaves dropped and then the branches were bare until spring and it started all over again.
Most of the places I've lived have a distinct colour change with the autumnal equinox. And now here we are in Florida where it's green year 'round. And while most of the time I am delighted with the lush greenery, come fall I am pining for autumn colour. So, rather than be blue about it, I challenged myself to find the signs of autumn in our own yard. Maybe I thought it would be like keeping tinkerbell alive, if you believe in it enough, it will happen.
Well hang on to your pixie dust friends, because it did happen! I had to really think autumn thoughts but yes indeedy, there is autumn colours are our yard!
First of all, here is the backyard. Doesn't look very autumnish does it?
But when I paid more attention, got closer, really believed it was there, that's when I started to find it.
Okay, I would define fall colours as various shades of: red, orange, yellow and purple. Sounds fair? Here we go:
So it's September 22nd. Next week will be October! Exciting! The temperature has actually dropped a bit here thought it's still warm enough to wear shorts and the humidity has dropped significantly. That's probably our biggest sign of autumn, less humidity.
Eventually the temperature will drop enough that I will open windows instead of using AC. And then at some point I will switch to long pants instead of shorts, closed toed shoes instead of sandals and shirts with sleeves. But not for awhile.
Today I'm satisfied with having found some actual autumn colour here in my very own yard on this, the first day of Autumn. I think I will celebrate.
In an unusual move this weekend I painted both toes AND fingers. Usually I only paint my toes so this was kind of different for me. And two different colours (which I know makes some people crazy...you are supposed to wear the SAME colour fingerz&toez!!) But just look at those fun colours! I absolutely LOVE it! The last time I saw orange and pink together was in the 60's or 70's.
I believe the first time I saw pink and orange together was a polyester dress in orange that had pops of pink at the collar, the cuffs and pocket. I thought it was glorious. My Nana thought it was vulgar. Pink and orange on the same dress? Those two colours did not belong together, in her august opinion, and what's more it calls attention to the wearer, and ladies did not call attention to themselves. And that, my friends, was that.
First of all polyester. Yuck. I cannot believe we wore that crap. The upside was that it absolutely did not wrinkle. No matter what you did to it, it never ever wrinkled so it never required ironing.
From the perspective of the housewives of my childhood era, finally having an article of clothing that you could just hang up straight out of the washer and, once dry, it looks pristine was a marvel, a wonder and a blessing all in one. Back then 99% of household chores were done by the female quotient of any family. Having one thing ticked off ahead of time was a godsend.
But from a personal point of view, I cannot believe we wore that stuff. The actual texture was bizarre, it felt terrible, weird, strange and unnatural, which of course it was. Not a natural fabric I mean. Essentially made from plastic, it was squishy and it didn't breathe and it folded oddly when the wearer sat down. But it was all the rage at back then.
The only really good part (aside from the no-wrinkle thing) about polyester was the colour. Colour! It was like when we went from black & white to technicolour in movies and then TV.
It's not as if people didn't wear colour before the groovy 60's and 70's, of course they did. But they wore quiet colours. There was a lot of navy blue going on. Suit wearing men wore black, charcoal grey or navy. Their shirts were white. Ties were subdued. A flashy tie might have a stripe.
I have a photo of my dad somewhere, walking down the streets of Chicago with a smile on his face, a hat on his head and a jazzy looking tie. I think the photo might have been taken in the 1940's. Younger men who lived in bigger cities dabbled in ties with designs for awhile. Some of them were pretty wild. Lots of fun. That photo is the ONLY time I've ever seen of my father in a tie that wasn't subdued, respectful and quiet.
I know that as a kid I wore a lot of blues of one shade of another and my sister wore pink. It's like those were our designated colours. My mother wore mostly solid colours but her mother, my Nana wore printed dresses. Usually a dark solid background and a teensy flower print scattered across the frock, with a white collar - a lace collar if it was a fancy dress. Period. That is what she wore. The end.
Then the 60's happened and suddenly patterns got crazy, fabric got crazier and, well psychedelic's is how it was described. Hemlines crept up, necklines dipped down and the attitude was, "anything goes". And if you didn't want to jump into the frey full tilt, you could still participate in a more current fashion style in a more subtle manner with colour combinations.
Suddenly, the rules went right out the window with colour combos. Pink and orange? Of course they belong together. They sit side by side in a box of crayons don't they? Turquoise and Lime Green, Mustard and Avocado, Purple and Scarlet, Mercy!
It didn't happen overnight of course, it was a long slow process of change. And it has brought us through to today, some 60 years later when it's nearly impossible to shock anyone with what you are wearing anymore so people began colouring their hair wild and crazy unusual colours and colour combinations.
At first it was just the colours. Stop sign red, deep dark blue, grape jelly purple, you know, not the usual colours that hair comes in. But then it was multiple colours. A veritable rainbow on someone's head. I've seen it in pastels (which I actually quite liked) and deep dark saturated colours and everything in between.
And hair styles? Up, down, sideways, Heads shaved, or designs shaved in, and only a portion of the head shaved. Curly hair, straight hair, long hair and short. Braids, ponytails, fancy clips and hairbands for either gender.
Why not. Have fun. Be happy.
We felt like we were rebels when we wore crazy colour combinations and styles that made our grandparents (and sometimes parents) aghast. In fact, I just remembered one day when I was in high school. When I got home I saw that my mother had painted her toes alternating colours of pink and red. I was tickled to bits, loved it and told her so. Her mother was not so pleased. "Dotty, what were you thinking?" Nana said to her. It was a tiny rebellion but a rebellion nonetheless.
The first woman who wore a bikini on a public beach was arrested. Barabara Eden in "I Dream of Jeannie" had have her Genie costume altered to cover her belly button to satisfy the censors. Now nobody bats an eye. It's just fashion and most everyone gets that now. It's fun, it's an expression of how you feel. It's experimentation to finding out who you are.
But I'm starting to feel the pendulum swinging back and I'm not real happy about it. I'm reading about it with school dress codes in particular. In some schools, regardless of the time of year or the temperature, girls aren't allowed to wear sleeveless tops, tank tops or open collars. Cannot be showing upper arms or collar bones. Collar bones.
I say, " No no no!" When those sort of rules are imposed we are moving in the absolute wrong direction.
Remember the days when a woman wasn't allowed to show an ankle? She was covered from the top of her neck to her wrists to the floor. Layer upon layer upon layer of hot, stifling misery because someone decided that it was unseemly for a women to be noticed.
Well, as it so happens, women are worth being noticed. And fashion is fun. The End.
This is what my shoes look like after a hike. You cannot really tell how incredibly wet they are, or how filled with sand, nor how disgustingly filthy my socks are. The socks will require bleach to achieve anything near their pristine state. There are seeds and sand burrs stuck to the laces oh and I did mention that they were soaking wet, right? These are all clear indicators of an EXCELLENT photo safari. If I don't come home with filthy shoes I didn't really go hiking with Joy. And yesterday I came home with these shoes! We had a great hike.
As per usual, we headed out in the wee hours. We went north this time to a little unnamed (at least to us) set of trails behind a Presbyterian Church in Osprey. The trails had not been tended in awhile so the grasses were high and we were soaked to above the knee. We watched as the sun slowly rose higher and higher and gilded the outlines of the trees and the leaves.
Joy and I have seen eagles there in the past and the one huge eagle nest remained but we saw none of the birds. And in fact, there were enormous areas that seem to have been de-forested. Not sure if it was a fire, or chemical deforestation or giant bulldozers or some combination. But while there were still pretty things to see, overall, it was a bit of a disappointment :(
Still there are always pretty things to see. Always and Everywhere. Here are some of the pretty things we saw yesterday;
Although we did not rush, it wasn't a long hike and when we arrived back at the car we felt very much unfinished. So we set out once more and since we started out going north, we continued in the same direction next and ended up at Celery Fields in Sarasota. Saw a lot more pretty things there. Dragonflies for one thing. Oh my gosh they were everywhere and in every colour imaginable. It felt, at times, as if we were walking through a mist of dragonflies! I managed to capture a few butterflies and I think a wasp too. Here is a small sampling
The one thing you will find the most of at Celery Fields is birds. Lots and lots of birds. Birds of all sizes and colours and personalities. My favourites were the ducks, but really, I like them all. I'm not a "birder" and in fact, I don't know the names of most of these birds. Joy identifies them for me every time but I rarely remember. She knows not only the names of the birds, but very cool information about them like what they eat and where they nest. I am in awe of her knowledge even though whatever she tells me doesn't stick in my brain. But I still like to see them . This is how I "know" the names of birds. "Oh let's call the white one, Francis. He looks like a Francis. And the blue one? Oh that's Georgie." Like that. Yup, that's more my style.
And naturally there were beautiful flowers and other pretty things to see. These places always look so much prettier in person. No matter how hard I try to capture the reality of the beauty, my camera eye never quite gets it. All I can do is try, and Try I do! I always think of Captain Kangaroo who often said, "The best I can do, is the best I can do, and I'm doing the best that I can". I loved the Captain.
Here's some of the other pretty things:
So there you have it. Another successful photo safari adventure as evidenced by filthy, wet shoes and socks. Oh and some fairly decent photos.
Hope you have a wonderful weekend however you spend it! Ya'll come back now, hear?
I assume that all of you remember the movie, "Groundhog Day", right? In case you don't (and I cannot begin to imagine how that happened) it's a Harold Ramis comedy from 1993 staring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell.
The main character, played by Bill Murray, somehow ends up in a time loop and relives the same day over and over and over. Naturally, it changes him from kind of a jerk to a good guy and he wins over Andie McDowell's character once his transformation is complete and then the time loop ends. It used to be one of my favourite movies.
And then the year 2020 came around with the Pandemic and the Great Quarrantine and the Lockdowns and Precautionary Measures and Social Distancing. And now every day feels a lot like the Movie Groundhog Day. So now, I don't love the film quite so much.
And since almost every day feels like almost every other day, anything that breaks up the monotony is welcome! Therefore, when I got the email from the museum where, under normal circumstances I am a docent, asking if I was interested in helping them, out my answer was a very quick and enthusiastic YES!
There is a small gift shop in the Venice Museum and one of the things that always sells quite well there is books. Naturally when the request involved books, I am all over it.
My boss wanted to refresh our book supply and she had a list of roughly a dozen books. Would I like to read them and give her my opinion about whether or not they would be a good choice for the museum gift shop? Would I? Do Bears......? Well we all know what bears do in the woods so yuppers! Not only did I accept this mission, I was raring to go.
I've actually done this sort of thing for the museum before. They know that not only am I a voracious reader, I am also a very fast reader. So whenever there was a question about written material that needs to be reviewed, I am happy to comply. It's very flattering that not only do they comfortable asking me to read the books (or articles or whatever needs being read) they also trust my judgement.
I was very excited to begin so the very next day, mask in place of course, I headed off to the museum with the list, a pen and notebook for taking notes and my trusty library card. Here was my plan. I would look up each book and see if the library actually had it. If so, I would, literally, check it out. If not, I would look up the author and see if the library carried any other work by that author so I could, if nothing else, get the jist of their writing style. It seemed like a really good plan.
Right up until I (eventually) learned that the library did not carry one single book on the list. Not One. I painstakingly looked up every single book and the authors of those books and....nothin' . Well wait no, that's not quite true. The library did have on it's shelves a different book by Dave Barry but I already knew his work anyway.
But doesn't that seem strange? The odds seem against that don't you think? Ratz. So, rather than waste the trip, I looked for other books on the same topics as the ones on the list and found a lot of dreck, but there were three books that looked interesting to me. These books were NOT on the list, nor were their authors but hey, why not, take them home and give them a read. Eventually.
First I had to find a different way to review the books on the list. This is when having a computer is a very handy thing. I went to Amazon where I was able to find all but one of the books on the list. And there was information about the books like reviews, a synopsis AND that very cool "Look inside" thing where I was able to actually read a little bit of the book. It wasn't perfect, but it was enough to give me a feel for each book.
I took notes on every book then typed up my findings and sent them off. My original mission was accomplished. But there were still the 3 other books that I found and brought home!
Since I was trying to stay true to the original list of books, all of them were about the history of Florida and in fact, one of them was a photo essay book about Venice specifically (and it was wonderful). Last weekend it rained nearly all day both days so I got in a lot of reading time. In fact, I was able to read two of the three books. I wrote up reviews on them too and sent them in.
Now I have the final book that I selected yet to go. I am not in a rush. I know that I'll get to it in plenty of time before it is due back. I can already tell (just from perusing the first few pages) that it's going to be a good one. And if I am right, even though it's not on the list, I will recommend that one as well.
I think I'm not racing to finish this book because then the project really will be done and it'll be back to Groundhog Day. I'm kinda dragging my feet a bit, trying to make it last as long as possible.
I need a new project!
So Sorry, I wasn't here yesterday. I was busy. Out on Photo Safari! Yes, That's right, Joy's Back! YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!!
It was a dicey proposition because the forecast was, as the forecast has been for days now, rain. But we decided to risk it because, A) What's life without risk and B) what the heck, why not? and C) We've both really missed this!
As we do in the summer months, we left early. Joy picked me up a little before 7 am. The sun was jjjjuuuussstttt coming up and the sky was beautiful.
In discussion the day before about precisely where to hike, we decided to forego our usual haunts, i.e. the local forests and preserves mostly because of the recent heavy rains. We don't mind getting a little wet. Heck, we've even gone on swamping hikes but the water level was so high that to hike in most places would have required a submarine. Or at least Hip Boots. Instead we chose to go back and do the Casperson Beach Hike instead. So merrily we rolled along to the south end of the island and came right up against a barrier and signs that the road was closed. Dang.
Now what to do? We fished in our memory banks and came up with Ollie's Pond. We were pretty sure that the pond hadn't flooded the surrounding area, probably, maybe, hopefully. So we headed to Port Charlotte instead. Roughly a half hour drive. And hurrah, it was a gamble that paid off! While the pond water level was pretty high and the greenery had clearly been running amuck with growth, we began our slow trek, circling the pond, eyes ever on alert for something photo worthy.
At first we thought there wasn't much to see, but we were wrong. Very Very Wrong. Happily wrong. First of all, the pond is gorgeous all by itself. When I say pond, I don't mean a little puddle, it's a good sized body in water. In Colorado they would probably consider it to be a lake. All of those little "islands" of reeds and water grasses are places for wildlife to hide and nest and hunt for food. Which also makes Ollie's a perfect place for wildlife photos!
Once we arrived at the end (or perhaps the beginning) we considered just circling again to see what else we could see, but instead choose to move on to a very new park (about a year old) that we passed on the way down. I cannot for the life of me remember the full name of this park, but we call it the Senator Bob park. It's actually the Senator Bob Johnson Park and he was obviously someone like us, who loves nature. I'm not sure if Senator Bob park is in North Port or Venice, but I do know that it was on the way back home which was perfect.
Because it's a very small park and it runs right along a river which means part of it was underwater, we didn't get a lot a photos, but enough to have made the stop worthwhile. And they have lovely modern clean bathrooms. Bonus!
We were now really revved (and awake) and more importantly, despite the grey skies, it had not yet begun to rain. So we decided to keep going and make one more stop. This one in Venice (off-island) at the Rookery. A place where, absolutely for sure, without a doubt, there will be birds to snap pictures of. (and yes I know, one should never end a sentence with a preposition)
The rookery is basically another pond with a big island filled with greenery at the center and a .....let's call it a path.....that goes around the outside. The trees and shrubs in that center island are always loaded with very large birds. I did not take one single photo of the birds in the center. Didn't need to. There were so many birds and other creatures in the outside area that I was snappity snapping my little fingers off. It was marvelous!
By the time we finished circling the Rookery Pond, the rain had finally begun. It was just a light sprinkle but we felt that we had pushed our luck just hard enough and called it a day!
So that was it. The First Photo Safari in quite a while. It wasn't at all what we planned but it was still awesome. We are going to try to do two hikes a week to make up for lost time, so if you like these photo safari reports, stay tuned!
Great to have you back, Jo. I've missed you!
It's not actually officially autumn yet. I think that doesn't happen until the 22nd of this month, but in most places school has started, Halloween candy is on the shelves, the temperatures are beginning to cool off and, lord help us, the Christmas Trees are already on display at Costco. So yeah, close enough.
And that also means football has resumed. I'm talking, bigboy football here. NFL type. Really big guys that garner really big salaries for, effectively playing a game. That's ok. It's their job. It's what they are good at, it's what they do and we watch it.
When I say we, I mean other people, not me. And by other people I mean almost everyone else. Apparently. I assume this to be true because throughout my life, during this time of year, it is not at all uncommon for football to be the topic of conversation. And nothing ends a conversation quite as quickly as this following exchange:
Almost everyone else: "So who do you think is going to win the SuperBowl this year?"
Me: "Actually I don't really follow football. Sorry"
Almost every one else: "?????" blank look and then slowly walk away.
I do not actively dislike football. I experience no sense of disdain or dismay when Tim is ensconced on his sofa-throne talking to the TV. I support his interest. I'm pleased that he enjoys it. I will bring him refills and serve lunch/dinner in the family room so he doesn't have to miss his show. And if he's watching with other people who also are enjoying the game, I will cook for and serve them all.
But I have Zero interest in it. Just doesn't captivate me. I'm not drawn in and excited about what is happening. Not on the screen and not in person. And yes, I have seen a few football games live and in person. Didn't help.
I'ts not as if I hated every moment of the experience of watching a live game. I didn't. I make it a point to enjoy every experience that I have. But if I have a choice between attending a football game and reading the latest Diana Gabaldon book, I would absolutely, no question, not a single moments hesitation choose the book.
And the funny part is that of all of the professional sports out there, the only one that I actually understand, is football! Y'see, I went to high school in Texas where living and breathing football is not just a religion, it's a requirement for residency. So I learned. Maybe against my will, but I learned.
And then of course, I had three sons, two of whom are also huge sports fans. Throughout their childhoods I not only heard names and stats (and unintentionally learned those things) the boys would actually quiz me about the teams. So I knew my stuff. I didn't care any more than before, but I knew it, by god. It was important to them and therefore, by extension, it was, to some degree, important to me.
I cannot honestly say that I remember sitting through an entire televised game though. In person there isn't much choice, but in my own home I have lots of options. And any of them is preferable to me.
Autumn to me has a lot of wonderful connotations. It's brand new pencils and notebooks, colourful autumn leaves, fuzzy sweaters, home made soups and amping up my baking. But for the men in my life, it's mostly football. They won't turn away the baked goods, they aren't fools after all but for them autumn is really mostly about "the game".
To me football seems to be a very brief action followed by a lot of milling around then quick shots of various people who are hiding their mouths behind clipboards then more very brief action followed by commercial breaks and......... repeat. It just feels like the game is dragging on forever!
Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't it supposed to be 4 fifteen minutes quarters? That means the game should last, maybe 90 minutes tops if you add in time for commercials. So why oh why, please why, does it take HOURS to play one game?
There were games on our TV yesterday. I did watch a little of it. The rules have changed since I learned them so I didn't understand as much as I used to. And the players seem to wear a lot of jewelry which surprised me. Jewelry on the field? Really? But otherwise, it felt the same as it always did. Brief action followed by nothing followed by brief action followed by a commercial. The biggest difference was no cheerleaders and empty stadiums. That was definitely strange. I wonder if it feels weird to the players too?
I know that performers love the electric charge that comes from a live audience. I cannot imagine that it would be different for athletes. But things being what they are right now, it is a safer thing to have no live attendees. Just the players and coaches and (whoever else they require on site) and the folks behind the cameras. I wonder if there was an echo?
Meanwhile, in this house anyway, on Sundays there will be football playing on the TV in the family room. And I will bring drinks and food in if requested. And I might stand there and watch a play or two. But mostly I will be elsewhere doing other things during the game and not reading about it the next day in the newspaper. And that will be perfectly fine.
And when someone asks me who I like for the superbowl this year? I think I'll say, "The what?" and thoroughly confuse them.
Pelicans are such beautiful birds in flight. For a rather large creature they are amazingly graceful. They seem to float on the air as if they were mere flower blossoms. They ride the air currents as easily as we might go down a slide. Look at that beautiful form. Tens, all 'round.
But when they land, especially on water, it's not pretty. They crash into the water with a mighty Foosh! Water sprays everywhere. You can often actually hear the smack/splash sound and I wince thinking, "Man that's gotta hurt". I guess it doesn't because the pelican does his crash landing into the water over and over again. Probably hundreds of times a day and it never looks any prettier. In fact, I don't even have a really good photo of a pelican landing because mostly it kind of looks like this:
Ok that's a bit of an exaggeration. But in truth, really it's mostly splash and feathers everywhere.
I feel like I am a lot like a pelican. There are things I do pretty well. For example: I take some fairly decent photos. I make good cookies. And I can usually put together a grammatically correct sentence.
But there loads of things that no matter how hard I work at it. No matter how many times I try, I am never ever going to get any better at it:
Driving. From the day I got my drivers license, 50 years ago, I was anxious, uncomfortable and unenthusiastic about being behind the wheel. That has not gotten any better. And in fact, I think it was only gotten worse over time.
Sewing. I got kicked out of Home Ec in 7th grade for accidentally sewing my finger (along with the apron I was trying to make) and thereby accidentally breaking the sewing machine. My needle-work skill has not gotten any better. It can take me upwards of 15 minutes just to thread the dang needle and there is no guarantee that any button I sew on is going to stay put. And I will require at least one bandage before I'm done.
Any Sport. Pick one, Any of them. I suck equally at them all. I'm not coordinated. I have absolutely Zero competitive gene, very poor depth perception and more importantly, I have no interest in sports. Any of them.
Any Artistic pursuit. I actually am quite interested in art. Any sort. Sculptures, drawings, paintings of any kind. Oils, water colours, charcoals, pastels, palette knife.......it is all fascinating to me. So much so that at one time in my life I worked as a docent in an art museum. I loved it. It speaks to me, if you will. BUT I have no artistic ability myself. I cannot so much as draw a straight line with a ruler. Regardless of how many classes I took, regardless of how sincerely hard I tried, I never got any better at it. Ratz.
The difference between me and pelicans is that while they are not graceful in their landings and in fact are rather hilarious about it, they continue to do it every day over and over and over.
Most of the things I'm not good at, I just don't do. Or at least I do as little as possible.
I admire the pelicans attitude. But it's not going to change mine
Let the happy news ring forth across the land. My Dryer is Fixed, My Dryer is Fixed.
Oh yeah, I'm doing the happy dance today for sure. While, simultaneously, playing catch-up with an enormous pile of laundry of course.
As you may, or may not, recall, seventeen days ago I discovered that my dryer wasn't working. As one normally would, I contacted the repair people, described the problem and was told that A) it was still under extended warranty - hurrah and B) someone would call back within 42 hours. Well it turned out to be more like 72 hours, but still someone did call. Once again the issue was explained, the make and model number given and we were told that the part would have to be ordered. We were assured that once the part came in, we would be contacted once more to set up a day and time for the actual repair.
In the meantime, there were still dirty clothes, wet towels and regular sheet changes that needed to be dealt with. Bathmats still occasionally had to be washed and sofa blankets need freshening and well you know, just the stuff that we all do on a regular basis.
In a desperate effort to try to stay on top of things I did a mix of: a) visits to the laundromat (as few as possible; b) doing wash at home and hanging up the wet things on my rolling rack which I moved to the living room because it has better air circulation and therefore things dry faster; and, sadly, c) putting off washing some things much longer than usual. It worked. It wasn't ideal but it worked.
I know that I am spoiled rotten. I have become accustomed to all of the modern conveniences. But that is not to say that I always had these things. I vividly recall, as a child, very carefully using a wringer washer. And it wasn't until my kids were in middle school that I stopped pegging my wash on the clotheslines outside several times a week. And I've already done my time in laundromats as a weekly regular!!
Of course on the other hand I did not ever have to boil clothes outside over a fire in a big kettle or beat them on a rock or even use a washboard to do the family laundry so there is that.
Still, I was overjoyed to hear that the part had come in and the repair person would be here on Wednesday. That's all, just Wednesday. No time frame, just a day. I didn't even care. I was so happy to have the dryer repaired that fine, whatever, okay. Sometime Wednesday.
When the repairman arrived, I took him straight to the utility room and left him to his own devices. He was finished in a remarkably short time and I walked him back to the front door, thanked him profusely and he left.
It wasn't until later that I had a moment of clarity. It turned out that the problem with the dyer lay in a big of coggery that was made out of plastic and had partially melted. I find it very odd that a manufacturer would make an essential piece of a machine that is literally created with the intention of it being very hot out of a material that melts when it gets hot. Kind of strange don't you think?
And further I realized that when this whole thing started and I called and relayed the problem, the repair person did not have to come out and determine for himself exactly what part wasn't working. Which leads me to believe that I'm not the only person who had this problem. For all I know, everyone who bought this particular machine, at some point, had this melted plastic part issue.
Pretty smart from a business standpoint on the part of the manufacturer. Parts made of plastic are cheaper than parts made of metal. So they save money. And if at year four (in my case) all of these machines start having melted plastic parts, the owners have to either pay for repair (not cheap) or buy a new chaine (also not cheap) and they make more money. Insert another Hmmmm here.
Did you know that the average length of time any major appliances is expected to last is seven years? Yup, it's true. I'm sure that longer lasting machines can be made but the manufacturers aren't making any money on machines that last a long time. Perhaps I'm just jaded but I don't think so. What I do think is that it is a pretty dang smart move on their part but that it totally sucks for the consumer.
But today I'm not going to obsess over that. Today I'm going to finally, at long last, catch up on all of the household laundry and happydance the whole while. And hopefully, the plastic part will last at least another four years before I have to go through all of this again.
Yup, this is me. And Yes, I know I look kind of silly but I don't regret it one single bit. It was blisteringly hot out that day.
I needed to go to the grocery store for one thing. One lone, but absolutely essential item. I briefly considered driving, just for the AC in the car, but decided that I needed the exercise more and set out to walk. It's not unusual for me to walk an errand rather than drive, we already know that. And I've walked to the grocery store more times than I care to count. It's around a mile and a half, with no hills, not much traffic and sidewalks nearly the entire way. The streets are lined with trees for shade but the sun peeks through anyway so I lubed up with sunscreen, put my money and phone in one pocket and my mask in another and set out.
It was not my smartest move. Although I am, by now, accustomed to the heat, the end of summer is a special kind of miserable. It's not just the heat, it's not even just the humidity, it's the September in Florida phenomenon called, the "feels like". And that sunny day, mid afternoon, the "feels like" was 110 degrees. And that is just stupid.
The thing that was bothering me most was my hair. I had just gotten it cut so I couldn't really put it up until it grew out a bit more and that day it lay against my sweaty neck, adding an extra special layer of hot. Yuck.
By the time I got to the grocery store and began to bask in the glory of air conditioning, I thought to check out the hair notions section of the cosmetics aisle to see if there was something, anything, I could do about my hair.
There were hair bands and scrunchies and hair clips by the dozens. There were barrettes, large, small and painted with unicorns but I didn't really see anything that would help until, just before I was about to give up, I noticed a card of six tiny elastics that looked as if they were made out of ribbon but stretchy. My hair was certainly not long enough for a single ponytail but I was pretty sure that I could do two of them. I bought both the thing I originally went to the store to buy AND the card of tiny ponytail holders. (what are those actually called anyway?)
The instant I left the store I tore into the package. It turned out that the plastic covered cardboard holding the ponytail holders was harder to break into than expected. I had to pretty much destroy it. Only to then learn that the ponytail holders were also threaded onto a plastic circlet. Good Grief.
I tried pulling it apart. Nope. I tried standing on it while pulling to break it with zero results. I even tried biting it realllllly hard but nada. Dang! Then it dawned on me that the pillars in front of the building are covered in stucco which is a great rough surface! Aha! I rubbed the plastic against it over and over and over and finally Success! I had liberated the pontail holders!
Using my reflection in an empty store window as a guide, I haphazardly whipped my hair into two ridiculous looking little pony tails and continued my walk home feeling every so much cooler.
Part way home it occurred to me that I was breaking a rule. I was not "dressing my age". I'm not sure why that rule was such a big deal in my house growing up since most of rules were pooh-poohed, but it was. At various times there was a serious attempt to coerce me to cut my hair, lower my hemline, properly sew a hemline, not wear certain fabrics or shoe styles because I was not "dressing my age".
It wasn't just family who felt this way, it was teachers, occasional co-workers, a few friends and society as a whole. Even now I see articles about how women of a certain age should not wear certain hair styles, articles of clothing (like jeans! seriously), or they should either tone down (one article) or ramp up (a different article) their make-up solely based on which birthday had just been celebrated.
I say Balderdash!
Here is how I feel about it. This is my age. This is how I dress. Obviously, therefore, I am dressing my age. If you don't like it, don't look at me. It's very simple.
I think back to the days when Queen Victoria was the woman who dictated women's fashions. Women were covered from neck to wrist to feet in layer upon layer upon layer of clothing and those damned corsets that prevented proper breathing and misaligned internal organs. I am truly amazed that in those days with no electricity and therefore no fans or AC, any women survived summer.
Thank goodness I live in these times when I can wear shorts if I want to with my hair in two ponytails in public without fear of being arrested for public indecency. And while a few people may look askance at me, I will not be hauled before the magistrate. Not even by the fashion police.
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.