Monday, December 31, 2012

Last thoughts on the Big City

Because of the condos, the area here has a population density of over three thousand people per mile. In Wyoming its less then two per mile and Alaska was even less. Suffice it to say that while its been fun visiting our daughter and meeting new people, I prefer it where the wild things are.....
The past week started with our Christmas celebration at Jenny's. She bought us new lawn chairs, just because one of ours had broke. Now I know it might not be a big deal to some but our old chairs had a unique history. One of our Texas friends had found them by a dumpster and given them to us as a token of thanks for a small favor,(we took pictures at their 60th wedding anniversary Texas party).
The basic rule of our lifestyle is that you get rid of anything you haven't used in a year, unless it treasured. The other rule is that when you buy something you discard a similar item for a net zero gain. Its a hard rule and we don't always follow it but a rule none the less and so we tossed the old chairs.
So today we are packing up and preparing to head to south Texas.We expect to run into rain but thankfully we are too far south for snow. I look forward to the birding, canoeing, and fishing in St Charles Bay, (where the population density is about one whooping crane family per mile), and of course I look forward to seeing our Texas friends. Clear skies.

ps Oh and Jenny got a new nursing job so we will be back here next year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Week before Christmas, Wrapping, Movies, a Parade, and a Tree

Merry Christmas to All!

Our blog has been kind of silent, and that happens when you get nice and comfortable. It’s not that you’re not busy in fact the week has been quite full as we did more wire wrapping, went to the Hobbit movie, cheered the park’s bicycle parade, and helped Jenny decorate her Christmas tree.

Besides doing a repair wrap on Jenny’s ring, I concentrated on bracelets. They take quite a bit of time and at last I have developed a clasp style that is consistently simple and effective. We try to make everything from scratch, that’s one of our selling points for our work. Anyway I made a blue lace agate and a Colorado Amethyst cabochon and wrapped them both in silver.

Sometimes I get lucky and when we showed the Colorado piece to Eric, Jenny’s boyfriend, he pointed out to me the large backlit eagle pattern, frozen in stone. He made me think a bit about how I don’t always give the stone the thought that I should, although the patterns aren’t always visible until you do the final polishing.

We also went to the movie, The Hobbit, and it gets our thumbs up rating! If you do go to the movie, the scene where the party is around and in Rivendale is almost exactly like parts of Alaska. Watching the waterfalls cascade is a lot like driving into Valdez, Seward, and Hyder. Now I have to find the book and read it again as it has been at least twenty years since I last reread it.

Our park association put on its bike parade and it quickly divided into two groups. The Harley group moved ahead and the golf carts and pedal bikes made up a safer rear. Regardless of the float type it was obvious that everyone enjoyed their participation. It was really funny as we collected a lot of thrown candy, which is much better than the piles of beads we get at Mardi Gras.

Saving the best for last, we helped Jenny decorate her Christmas tree. I was surprised that she actually found a good moist tree, and we all helped to cover it in bulbs. It’s kind of an international tree as the top is decorated with a fan she bought while in Thailand.

So it’s been a busy week. It doesn’t seem possible that we have been here for almost two months and that we will leave for Texas on the first. Now if we can just find some sharks teeth and figure out how to wrap them……… Clear skies

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Ringling Brothers Museum, Sarasota, Florida

We have been blessed to travel and to see so much. Often we concentrate on nature especially birds and fishing and bears. Today Jenny suggested we travel to Sarasota to see the Ringling Brothers Museum. I groused a bit, after all the entrance fee was twenty five dollars each, but it turned out to be money well spent!

From the first, we were treated to an incredible display of a miniature circus that was simply huge. The figures had all been carved in a period of over fifty years and the attention to detail was evident in each one. There was even a display of trained horses, with you might have guessed, carved horse manure

Lions and tigers filled one tent and everywhere you looked was a specialty tent covering all aspects of the Greatest Show on Earth! Even tented restrooms had not been forgotten. The Big Top was a huge tent that encompassed a three ring circus.

The next part of the building contained some of the parade vehicles that the circus drove through the town. My favorite was the steam calliope that contained thirty two whistles and its own steam boiler. In another part of the building a practice wire walking strip was laid out and while it looked easy it took us both more than several tries before we rang the bell.

Another building had the actual private rail car, that Ringling lived in and conducted business while moving from city to city. It was the largest rail car I have ever seen and the restoration was amazing with the same attention to detail.

The walkway next took us past banyan groves and Mable’s Rose garden. A little further we entered her secret guardian, after passing a banyan grove where a teacher was giving her students the what for about some inappropo comment, (that brought some memories back).

Approaching the mansion, the Moorish influence dominated the outside, and again the details were the same quality we had grown to expect. Inside the carved furniture and wall hangings, all spoke to a circus theme. Unlike the Broadmore of Rhode Island, which was a mere copy of castles rooms in Europe, the mansion here was unique and a delight to the eyes.

We rested a bit in the large patio and I suggested to Renita that we should do a similar stone pattern for our patio in Star Valley. I could see it, at least in my mind’s eye, another project for the next few years taking form. Heading back to the entrance we saw a garden filled with bronzes and it turned out to be surrounded by the art museum.

After enjoying the bronze figures and fountains we entered the museum and it was so huge that we knew another trip was in order. We did explore two of the wings, but we never did justice to what we saw. Renita and I both had the same favorite painting , the Blue Madonna. The colors were so vibrant, reminding me of the beauty of azurite, surrounding the Blessed Mary.

Too soon we had to leave. What I had thought would only take a few hours, really needed a few days to explore and again we plan on returning. If only we had enough time, which is a typical retirees lament that working stiffs simply don’t understand. Clear skies.


I would like to add a special prayer for the children and the families in Connecticut. May the Blessed Virgin take the children into her loving embrace and may God give comfort and solace to the grieving families. I truly believe that we will all be reunited with all our missing loved ones, when we all pass beyond the veil.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Boat Parades, Maderia Bay and Johns Pass

There are lots of good things about living in a city. Lots of cultural events, museums, and large boat parades. We were lucky to see one of the largest and it had so many more boats than we are used to seeing.
Eric invited us over to his condo and so we waited on the patio, which over looks Johns Pass. Renita and I kept stepping outside as we waited for the boats to start. Johns Pass was actually the end location for the parade as it started in waterways near Maderia Bay.
Finally the first boats appeared, two police boats with lights flashing, but thankfully no sirens blaring. The first two boats followed and then it was a steady stream as boats of all sizes motored past our viewpoint. There was even a kayak that paddled out into the foray but luckily he/she decided discretion was the better part of valor and headed back to shore before being run over. I lost track of the number of boats that passed but there were quite a few. Jenny told us that there was five thousand in prize money, which is a lot more than the free pizza given to the boat parade we saw in Wyoming.
It was all fun and all the boats safely avoided one another. It really put Renita and Jenny in the Christmas spirit and I remembered our past Christmas celebrations. Merry Christmas to all! Clear skies.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Return to Weeden Island Preserve

The canoe stuck in the sand and I knew I had to get out as surprise; it was my end that had stopped our momentum. I got out and started to push the boat when Jenny warned me of a resting stingray and so I remembered to shuffle my feet.

Soon the front stuck and Jenny waded out to the entrance of the mangrove tunnel. It was obvious the tide was too low to run the mangrove tunnels and so we waded back out into the deeper bay. We passed by night crowned herons and little blue herons, oh and lots of American ibis.

Entering the main bay we decided to head backwards down the Weeden Island markers. The first markers were easy to find but one eluded us and we couldn’t find our way into the mangrove canopy. We headed back out into the bay disappointed but hoping to return when the tide arrived.

The wind was still as we canoed to the end of Goose Island. A lone kingfisher perched on a low branch of a high dead tree and it was soon joined by an Osprey, although it alit on the highest spot. The tide had started moving and we headed back.

Jenny suggested we try the trail again and she was right as the water was now deep enough. Gliding past the previous keel marks we paddled into several hidden coves and finally found the passage into the mangroves. The trial marker post was there but the trail sign itself had disappeared.

The next numbered sign beckoned and we were able to ride the tide into small inlets. Spotting several flocks of northern shovelers I remembered how our friend Marty had lamented the lack of ducks. Perhaps they were all hiding in these places. It was the only place we spotted any.

Renita sighted the first rosette spoonbill and Jenny pointed out another pair. They were really a bright pink, spring colors really, and I wondered if the bird spring was this early in Southern Florida. Great and little blue herons waded as we silently slid past.

Entering the main tunnel maze we thankfully found the signs guiding us through the black mangrove maze. We were actually moving in waterways carved as part of an old mosquito control program. Countless black crabs covered the trees lower branches and the tide increased its speed.

It was so nice to stop paddling and simply ride the tide. Birds were everywhere in the deep foliage as the surreal passage continued. Passing the trail overlook we entered a place where we fought the tide and the rowing became difficult. As the waterway narrowed, it increased the tides velocity, almost halting us in our place.

Luckily the way broadened and so we continue on until we spied a familiar bay. We were back at the start of the trail and there were more stingrays, as well as the first one we had spotted. It had been a long paddle for us, maybe seven plus miles, instead of the trails four mile length.

It felt good to have returned to Weeden Island Preserve and to finally have finished the entire trail. Besides that, we had shared another paddle with our daughter Jenny. It had been a day of birds and water and jumping mullet, a day of riding the tides, and sometimes battling them through the mangrove canopy. It had been a day well spent.  Clear skies.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas Lights at the Botanical Garden

I had to laugh a bit as I am not sure where the Christmas lights are. The cities all run together here and I am guessing Largo or maybe Clearwater but I do know it was a Botanical Garden. Anyway we visited the Christmas lights with Jenny and Eric
It was fun to walk along the lighted ways. The light displays were quite the sight, as were the plants that they were hung on. There was even a tree called a Christmas Ornament Tree that is covered with flowers, but the blossoms hadn't yet opened.
I had to laugh as there was even a refreshment booth opened that offered funnel cake, which I passed by without purchasing one! Among the trees my favorites were the India Fish Tail Palm and the Screw Pine. Oh and there was a beautiful yellow flowered tree called a Senna, or at least that what my feeble brain remembers.
One of the walkways ended at a pond which had hundreds of little moving lights that resembled fireflies dancing across the landscape. Several palm trees were garlanded with with a light string that appeared to be dripping white light beams.
All in all it was quite well done and the organizers and helpers who set the thing up are to be commended. If we return here next year we will have to visit the garden before the lights are installed as the variety of trees were amazing. Clear skies