Friday, November 12, 2010

Who me?

I've spent the morning clicking on the button at the top of the blog screen that says "Next Blog."  It stirred something in me. I'm not quite sure what.

I do find myself wanting to take Beau for a ride seeking beautiful and mysterious sights to photograph. Then I think, no, I really want to bare my soul in my blog. Tell what I'm really thinking. Then I think, no, I really should use this space to bring attention to all those really talented people out there who actually know how to do this.

One thing is for sure, I need to post on this blog, where I feel more like the real me, more often.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A vision of comfort

I feel the water lift my body to a new form and tip my head back to wet my hair then feel the luxurious coolness soothe me. My outstretched arms float along the surface, moving gracefully like tree branches in the wind.

A dozen or so aging swimmers stand in loose formation, chest-deep in the comfortably warm water stepping in place to 1950's music.  "Splish Splash I was taking a bath..." one sings a few bars and we all begin to march in time swinging our arms until the instructor begins to call out movements that are reminiscent of Jazzercise moves.  

Swimming is the best form of exercise I can imagine. No sweating, no falling down, and best of all no one can see me jiggle. After 20 or so minutes of exertion, I welcome the slower pace as we stretch out, push in, sway and flex to loosen the tight muscles. It  is then that I realize something truly liberating: I could do this even if I was blind.

As cataracts continue to cloud the vision in my one good eye, total blindness worries me. It is hard to imagine how I would spend my days without being able to use my computer, walk my dog, cook, shop and read to my grandchildren.

Once again, the water comforts my soul, reassuring me that it will be there for me even if everything else fails.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A last look at native Florida

Our visit was coming to a close much faster than any of us expected and there were so many more places I had wanted to show my guests. They were amazed at how many plants we have in common as many of our Florida palms and even ornamentals like bottle-brush bushes are commonly seen in Australia as well.  I wanted them to see the REAL Florida sights and people. I was secretly proud that most of the people we had encountered along the way were easy-gong and friendly, willing to help and anxious to please.

Today our adventures would take us in a southerly direction and we managed to get an early start with just coffee under our belts.

We crossed Pineda Causeway turning onto South Tropical Trail for a quick view of south Merritt Island where I told them about the mango groves and pineapple fields that once filled the island. I forgot until just now that I should have looked for some of the few remaining green parrots that easily disguise themselves among the mango leaves. They enjoyed seeing the variety of homes that face the Indian River with their comfortable docks and various sizes of boats.

Crossing Mathers Bridge from Merritt Island into Indian Harbor beach, they realized that some of those homes had a view of the Banana River from the other side of their homes because the island is so narrow at that point. They were even more amazed at the opulent homes along S. Patrick Drive as we made our way to Melbourne Beach.  Just as we turned onto A1a I spotted our target breakfast place "Sand on the Beach" and we made our way past the 1960s view mural to a table with chairs set into sand at the edge of the dunes.  It was a perfect morning for dining al fresco. A soft breeze off the beach kept us cool even though the sun was almost blindingly bright reflecting off the white sand.  Again, I was pleased with the service and food we had that morning as it was delicious and served with a smile. Our server even took pictures for us.

After breakfast, we continued south on A1a, talking and enjoying the sights of beachside living and wildlife preserves of seemingly endless palmettos and palms where endangered species of birds and tortoise can thrive. While crossing the bridge over Sebastian Inlet, I explained that the state park, which includes property on both sides of the bridge, is a popular destination for surfers, fishermen, snorkelers, swimmers and campers. In fact, we have fished and camped there many times.
Just a mile or so further down A1a, we pulled into the parking lot of the McClarty Treasure Musuem. a small building rich with history. The museum features the story of recovering treasure from the 1715 sinking of a fleet of Spanish ships that were rich with silver, gold and gems I The museum is located on what was the site of the 1715 Spanish salvage camp. A beautifully constructed narrated diorama explains the disaster and recovery story. There is a 45 minute film that tells the story of the more recent recovery of treasure that littered the seabed off the east coast of Florida. Some of it is still out there we are told.

Turning off A1a at Vero Beach we stopped at the Indian River Mall in Vero Beach for a stretch, some lunch and a bit of shopping.  The day was going fast, so we hopped onto Interstate 95 hoping to get home and get a few things done before dinner time. Tonight was to be the farewell dinner and everyone who could be there wanted to join us.. 

Troy and Linda were happy to go off on their own for a bit of exploring and last minute shopping in the afternoon and I felt very confident they wouldn't get lost since they had a new GPS system they wanted to try out. 

Again we were not disappointed as we gathered at a restaurant on the former site of an old hotel in what was once known as Eau Gallie.  The attraction here is more about location, history and Florida casual ambiance than food (which has been unpredictible through several changes of ownership). The hotel burned many, many years ago but most of the restaurant owners have been smart to keep a few photographs of the old place, walls of pecky Cyprus and other artifacts such as the original fireplace for the enjoyment of locals and history buffs. Our dinner was served in one of the enclosed dining rooms and the cool air conditioned air was a welcome relief this teamy afternoon. Usually, we would have preferred the thatch roofed open air dining room. 
After dinner, we moved to the outdoor bar area where chattering voices and laughter threatened to drown out the band. That would have been sad since there was a great Joe Cocker sound alike at the microphone.  

The sun had sunk below the horizon by the time we wandered out onto the sandy beach along the river for last minute chit-chat. 

We knew this would have to be an early turn-in night since they had a very early morning flight next day. But, it was very hard to get serious about bed time when there was so little time left. A night cap and soft conversation finally settled us down and the day was reluctantly brought to an end with a long embrace. 

After giving me a parting gift, (a much coveted fiery Australian opal pendant), we were informed of a bit of Australian law that requires US citizens to return the visit by going to Australia.  So, now we are on a crusade to add enough money to our vacation fund to visit our friends down under.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Big gator keep on floating ... away!

Another steamy day lay ahead of us, and without a long cooling off period at mid-day that can lead to a late night. We learned that after our Space Center adventure slowed us to a crawl during the afternoon hours the day before.

We had managed to extend the day by slipping out after dinner for a quick visit to the beach. There our Ozzie friends shook their heads in amazement that our Florida boys are even able to surf the wimpy waves that lap the eastern shore of Florida. (I didn't tell them about the Gulf coast!)  During a cruise surfside through Satellite Beach, I pointed out houses the early astronauts stayed in while awaiting a "go for launch" message. Then we shopped at the "World Famous" Ron Jon's Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach. Even I was impressed anew at the cool store and its seemingly unlimited supply of any and everything beach.
We decided to head straight for the action this bright morning. Unfortunately, in the headlong rush to get going, I wrapped the 3rd and 4th toes of my right foot firmly around the leg of an imposingly sturdy dining room chair.  Owie!!!

My toes firmly strapped in place we took off for a real Florida excursion: an airboat ride in the alligator infested waters of the St. John's River. Arriving at 10am hungry, we were surprised to learn that the dock-side cafe doesn't serve breakfast. Undeterred, we ordered substitutes: cheeseburger, clam chowder and catfish sandwich respectively and ate them while witnessing the first gator of the day cruise across the river straight toward us. He was huge and probably attracted to the big large mouth bass being landed on the dock outside the cafe where we were eating. 

We were told that during the summer it was important to be on the water early as the alligators (and anyone with good sense) would head for the cooler deep waters as soon as the day began to heat up. We were on the 2nd boat out at 10:15am and luck was with us.

Within minutes of putting on our sound-suppressing earphone (works surprisingly well) the boat stopped and we saw a huge gator cruising toward us. Curiosity kept him afloat until someone in the boat stood up to take a picture. That was his signal to down periscope and sink quick as a nuclear submarine. 

Next thing you know we were zipping along skimming the marsh and even scooting across the surface of bits of land bridge here and there.  What amazed me most was the abundance of birds. They roosted atop tall grass light as feathers, or stood knee-deep in water turning their heads this way and that on alert for tiny fish.

Cattle stood shoulder-deep in the water, peacefully chewing their cud until the airboat urged them to move on.

No trip to the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp would be complete with out a picture like this.

I hope you can visit sometime. I recommend the catfish sandwiches too. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

To infinity and beyond

Despite the wilting heat of the previous days, our visitors were raring to go on this bright morning. In fact, this was the one adventure they had looked forward to most. Kennedy Space Center!
After a good ole' American breakfast cooked by my better half (who had managed a day off), we picked up our two older grandsons from their home and made our way north to the Space Center. Our son-in-law and the youngest grandson completed the group. The parking lot was already an oven by the time we arrived, although we were among the first guests that day. There was almost no waiting as we got our tickets and boarded one of the first tour buses.

Between the driver and the overhead video our tour was well narrated and we had plenty of time to see the various areas along the way. The VAB (vehicle assembly building) where the fuel tanks, the rockets and the space shuttle are assembled in a vertical position for roll out to the launch pad. This building is visible for many miles along the Space Coast and our proudest landmark.

We were able to explore the three-story launch complex known as LC 39 observation gantry which was once used for Apollo program.

As a side benefit, a nice breeze cooled us off while we looked out over the Indian River's Mosquito Lagoon area toward Port Canaveral where cruise ships await their passengers.

Getting a good idea of what it would be like to fly to the moon came when the men and boys tried out the Space Shuttle Launch Experience.

Shake, rattle and roll boys!

Maybe you can't reach the stars, but you can touch a moon rock when you visit the Apollo/Saturn center.

 The tour bus also stops at the International Space Station Center where you see workers preparing experiments and equipment to be taken to the ISS. You can walk through space lab experimental modules as the astronauts do and see how they live aboard the ISS.

Or be a star in the Star Trek show here... (now through Sept. 2010)

You can look inside a mock-up of the Space Shuttle.

Tour the Rocket Garden with its awe inspiring memorial to those who sacrificed their lives in the quest to further our knowledge of what lies beyond our planet's atmosphere.

And see what you'd look like in a space suit.          

We thought we would have time to visit the Astronaut Hall of Fame, since it is included in the ticket price, but our day came to an early end in the heat of summer.

In cooler weather we might have managed a longer day but it was pool time for sure by then.

"A wonderful day!" everyone exclaimed.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

There's a man in the house!

The first morning started off nicely enough with Linda and I in our PJs quietly talking in the living room but on the way back to her room, Linda gasped in surprise when she encountered a strange MAN in her path. Her surprise was ended when my son Greg introduced himself. Later we had a laugh over it as Troy asked "where was Greg all night, sleeping under our bed?" They didn't realize he was living in a room next to theirs. I had given them a brief tour the night before, but didn't open the door to his (usually messy) room.

Their energy revived by a full night of sleep, Troy was on a mission for American sausage so off we went to the area Perkins restaurant to meet up with my daughter Ryan, her husband DJ and their son Darren.

After a filling breakfast, we headed over to the Brevard Zoo. It surprised me when they said they would like to see it as they live very near the Australia Zoo of Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin fame.  In fact they have met him and his family on several occasions.

We were promised steamy temperatures in the mid-90s that day, so we were at the ticket office at opening time. As the holder of a Grandparent Membership, I could go right in and take up to 5 of my grandchildren along at no additional charge. I have used this privilege many times knowing that I could stay a very short time without worry that I didn't get my money's worth. I often brought the older kids for an hour after school rather than take them to a park to play. 

We headed straight for the Africa pavilion to see the rhinoceros and the giraffes. We were not disappointed. Most of the animals were up and having their breakfast so they were anxious to greet visitors and see if we had treat biscuits.

We even got some of the giraffes to take the biscuits from our hands, see their long blue tongues and touch their soft muzzles.

It was amazing to see these gentle animals reaching up to us as we stood on tree-top level board walk and witnessed their difficulty in finding a way to get a drink of water.

Many African birds and deer were also there for us to see and learn about.

Of course we had to travel through "Australia" to get to the aviary (my favorite place in the zoo) but the kangaroos and wallabies were sleepyheads and still not awake. We wondered if they were still on "down-under" time. 

The brightly colored lorakeets were quick to spot our cups of nectar and swoop down for a nibble sometimes squabbling with each other and jostling for first place at the trough.

We got a quick run through of the Florida wildlife including some impressive alligators snapping at nice-sized fish, but the lazy river otters were snoozing in the shade rather than perform in their open view tank unfortunately.

By this time the sun was high in the sky and we were absolutely done-in from the heat. Linda and I had discussed our local weather many times over the years and based on that, I felt sure that their heat far exceeded ours. This may be true, but we failed to report the one thing that makes all the difference... HUMIDITY!

So, I showed them what we Floridians do when it is just too hot for anything else. We headed home, put on our swimsuits and enjoyed swimming and eating cool fruit, cold cuts, cheese and crackers washed down with plenty of cool liquid.

Ryan, DJ and Darren headed home for Darren's nap while my visitors and I loaded ourselves into an air conditioned car for some lunch and a drive.  We toured the beautiful shopping area near our home dubbed "The Avenues" circling the round-about parking lot that accesses the many stores and restaurants. It is a wonderful alternative to the old-fashioned "Mall" if you are thinking "green" but the heat makes it a very lonely place at mid-day in summer.

We actually were headed to another adventure when I realized that I had lost about 2 hours and the hubster was due home from work any minute. We made a mad dash through Target to pick up some essentials and it was time to assemble the masses for another meal. Oops!

Oldest son Tom was able to break out of a very busy week to get together with us for dinner too. Since it has been his dream to visit Australia since any of us can remember,he especially wanted to meet Linda and Troy and plague them with questions. By the time Ryan, DJ and Darren arrived, we were somewhat ready to eat again, and the huge margaritas served as a great appetizer.

What a delight to be with family and friends, chattering away at the end of a lovely day, planning tomorrow's adventures.
I felt like the luckiest woman alive!

Friday, July 2, 2010

First taste of Florida

Troy and Linda were determined to stay awake that first day until our bedtime and not take a nap. My hubster Lon had gotten home by the time we finished tea so we took off on an adventure.

One of our favorite drives is along the Indian River north through Rockledge and into Cocoa Village. They were properly engaged but fighting sleep, so we decided to stop for coffee at a place we knew.

Unfortunately, this late in the afternoon, only the bartender was on duty at Murdock's and he assured us that while he could make us an iced coffee, it would be disappointing. He recommended we try one of the hundreds of flavored vodkas that soared above the back bar. Since the boys were having a beer, it didn't seem too crazy a suggestion and before we knew it, Linda had ordered a cappuccino martini and I had a huge B-52 in front of me. We all had to taste these two drinks and agreed that while Linda's was well blended and tasty. Mine had layers of liquor (Kahlua on the bottom, then Irish Cream, then coffee flavored vodka) and over powering. It was a beautiful drink, but I finally had to stir it to make it palatable.

We girls were flying high before the drinks were finished and our chuckles had turned into peals of laughter as we imagined what would be next if we stayed around this eclectic place. We had a great time looking at the details of this crazy place while getting to know each other.

After a dinner of baked shells and meat sauce and a bedtime cup of tea, the two toddled off to what I hoped was a night of sleep after their long sleepless journey.

As for me, I slept like a well-loved baby, happy that my friend and I had 4 more wonderful days to spend together.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Almost arrested at the airport

I was almost hauled off by Homeland Security guards when I saw my friend and her husband walking towards me on the airport ramp. I said "I've been waiting 15 years for this hug..." excitedly as I passed them by a few feet   They seemed to relax then as we enjoyed a long-awaited embrace and long-overdue introductions.

Strange as it may seem, Linda and I first met on a CompuServe forum back in the days when a 5200 BAUD rate modem was considered screaming fast. We were both cancer survivors,  giving others moral support as they waged their battles with the dragon. It was a joyous task because we were enjoying every minute of our survival and encouraging others to count every second of life as a triumph.

Linda and husband Troy had traveled for over 36 hours from their home in Australia and they were tired so I took them straight home where Linda and I indulged in Earl Grey tea as we had promised by email so many times. She had brought some very special chocolate biscuits called Tim Tams that were more like a delicious candy bar than a cookie.

We enjoyed the tea in ancient China cups that were prized by my mother and reserved for the most special of occasions.

Over the years we exchanged many stories and pictures of family and friends, adventures and mis-haps. Linda finished her education and opened her practice, I downsized my career step by step and "retired" to work at home as I please. Our children finished college, married and gave birth to the miraculous children we dote on these days.

A few years ago we connected by phone for a brief chat and were thrilled to be able to hear each others' voices. Last New Years Eve we managed to connect via Skype for our first "live" conversation face-to-face. Then in January, Linda announced she was coming to America to visit her husband's family, their friends and would like to visit me in Florida for a week before heading to the Northwest part of the USA.

It was a long six months and I counted every day, thinking of our meeting for the first time. Let me tell you straight out, there were no surprises. She and her husband were as I had pictured them over the years except amplified. Her beauty and grace, style and sensitivity were so much more than I realized. Our conversations went on without background information as if we had seen each other only the week before. It was glorious to finally be with my dear friend.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Getting better every day

Just look how my hubby has slimmed his belly down. We have been pretty good at staying with our program the past few weeks and it is paying off.

I haven't actually gotten on the scales, but my clothes fit better and I feel better. Family visits are throwing us a curve sometimes though. We love to have our family together and the main activity when we are together revolves around food.

Now that summer is almost here, we can add swimming and canoeing to the activities and I am hoping we can find new activities we all enjoy together. 

Our refrigerator is stuffed with so much fruit and veggies I can't keep up with it. We go to the Produce Place in Melbourne where we can get mostly locally raised fruit and veggies. I can't believe it, but I am like a kid in a candy store when we get there. I put in an order for one of the all fruit smoothies and run off to collect the bounty while they peel the frozen fruit and whip up my tasty treat... usually mango. Ummmm good.

Staying with the work out plan isn't easy only due to being torn between meeting up with family members or doing our workout routine. Still, we are getting better all the time.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Springtime traditions

Connie's Brain Foggles  blog today asks the question: Do you have a family tradition for Spring Break? Be sure to click on the link above to visit her blog and get started visiting blogs from there (after reading mine of course).

Our Spring break plans seemed to change each year as the children, then the grandchildren have grown but it always involved the traditional Easter egg coloring and hunt as well as a big ham, grandpa’s shrimp salad and his potato salad. Our house is family central, at least for a few more years. I imagine as my daughter and son-in-law find their dream house and settle in, the festivities will move to that location. I will be happy to bring the rolls, dessert and wine!

Our two year old grandson starts the cycle again this year as he is just old enough to really share my appreciation for fine CHOCOLATE! This means I can buy him a chocolate Easter bunny and eat the ears off. Well, maybe a tiny one!

One of the favorite traditions from years past was taking flowers to church to add to the 8 foot high Easter flower cross.

However you celebrate Spring, I hope you will enjoy fair weather and sunshine and be able to hear the birds sing.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Looks can be deceiving

This may not look like the usual lunch. No hamburger, no fries, not even a sandwich and chips.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the doctor's waiting room watching one of those special programs they have on doctor's waiting room TVs. There was a series of brief programs about health-related issues. One of the programs was about a new website called SparkPeople . (click on title for more)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The price of fashion might be surprising

I needed retail therapy today. After looking at the prices of current fashion pieces, I needed latte therapy. I was half way through the foam when I realized how smart these tattooed kids today really are. If they keep it up, they won't need clothes at all. Well, at least not for keeping up their fashionista reps.

After giving up on the clothes and shoes shopping, I began to concentrate on more practical needs. Several stores yielded nothing on my list, but the third was looking hopeful. I found great towels in the colors I had been unable to find for the past few months, a new shower curtain to match and a nice set of placemats to replace the chintz ones I've grown to despise.

Now, on to the coasters... you know, those little squares or rounds you put under your drinks? My search was in vain. I couldn't find any that weren't either a) breakable  b) delicious looking to a toddler c) unbelievably ugly. 

"Maybe I can find one on-line!" I thought. Guess what? There are thousands to choose from. This is going to take a while.  

Monday, March 1, 2010

The watering hole

I could not resist getting a shap-shot of this. My two-year-old grandson had a moment of inspiration when he saw this island with "trees." He brought some of his tiny animals to enjoy the water and the tropical island (a turnip top being encouraged to grow). "They were thirsty and hungry," he said.

I think it was lunchtime for him as well.

Isn't it cool that children can see powerful stories in the simplest of scenes?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Speaking of music

Speaking of music, records, etc. I have to share a great discovery with you.  I found a wonderful little shop on Bonanzle where you may be able to find "your song" from back in the day. Jeterdaman1's Booth is loaded with GOLD.

I guess the first song I ever danced to in public was Chuck Berry's Rock Around the Clock. I didn't see it there, but another golden oldie of Chucks, School Day  was there or, how about Paul Anka? The 45 record "You are my Destiny" its sultry melody is humming in my brain now.

There are LP records in the shop too. Best of the Beachboys looks good, or how about Paul Revere and the Raiders . Don't you buy that Elvis: recorded at Madison Square Garden LP though. I've got my eye on it.

Rock on!
This is NOT a paid ad, just a community service. I really like this booth. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Not a 45 record but...

It seems appropriate after yesterday's post about my first 45 rpm record, to note my activities today. I was about 14, maybe even 16 at the time that took place and I was thrilled beyond belief to have that music available to play almost anytime I wanted. Well, that is, when my mother was able to tolerate another repetition or it.

Today, I was searching for a gift for my soon-to-be 16 year-old granddaughter. She loves her iPod as much as I loved my Hi Fi so it seemed perfect to buy her a gift card so she can download music from iTunes. 

I hope she enjoys searching through the list of songs as much as I enjoyed thumbing through the records at the record store when I bought that Elvis Presley record. Too bad she won't be able to put the artist's picture up on the wall the way I tacked up all my favorite record album sleeves on my bedroom wall. 

One advantage she has though: she can play her iPod most anywhere without someone complaining... "if I have to listen to that one more time...!"

photo: kovik / Sxc.Hu

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sixties_Chick's Groovin' On Shop is open for business

If you know what the meaning of groovy is... you might be a sixties chick.

I was remembering my first 45 speed record (was it the Sun label Elvis "Don't be Cruel"?) and how anxious I was to get home and play it on the new Hi Fi I had gotten for my birthday.  I briefly wondered if I could use one of the scatter pins on my sweater to play the music. Hmmmm, no.

Wish I could tell you that record is for sale in the Sixties_Chick shop, but sadly it was last seen being used for a Frisbee in the  summer of 1972.

However, there are a few vintage items in the shop and a wide variety of things you might enjoy. Let me know if you want to make an offer on any of these items. I am rarely insulted by an offer and usually say yes.

Have a groovy day!