Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

We are going to have Thanksgiving with Jenny, Eric, and friends and our contribution is a new recipe for us. Its a sugar free apple tart. Now if I can just keep it in one piece and away from Renita.

Clear skies always and we both want to wish you and yours a happy and loving Thanksgiving!

Its a simple recipe:

Sugar Free Apple Tart

Line a tart pan with the crust of your choice, I used store made crust
Peel slice and fan apples on the crust, sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar and cinnamon, and bake at 400 degrees for forty minutes

Mean while cook the peels and cores in a sauce pan, covered with water, until done.
Then strain, add one half cup of splenda, and reduce in the pan until it thickens.
(Ok its not really sugar free as there is sugar in the apples, but it is Thanksgiving)
Brush the glaze over the tart.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sandcastles 2013 and Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes, a Week of Sand and Food

Treasure Islands 2013 Sandcastles Competition arrived and so we had to see it. Last year we also visited the sandcastles and it made for an enjoyable day. Driving to Jenny’s house and parking there made it a short walk down the beach to the exhibits.

There were fewer sandcastles this year, only ten, but the artist’s quality was exceptional and we admired their work. We both had different favorites, so I voted for the dancers and Renita choose the emerging human. As usual hers ended up being the favorite, (Jenny returned to the event that evening and sent us an image of the sand carvings lit with colored lights).

Another day saw us at Jenny’s house as she made birthday pineapple upside down cupcakes for her friend. She made a few extra and of course I had to try one, fresh from the oven. This is one of the best desserts I have ever eaten. Jenny made it using whiskey but the epicurious recipe calls for rum. Also one of the recipes is for cup cakes and the other uses a cast iron skillet as a pan. For the cupcakes she used foil cupcake liners and sprayed each lightly with oil.

Respecting copyrights I am adding the web address and not publishing them. They are well worth visiting and making the cupcakes!

Mini Pineapple Upside Down Cakes makes one dozen. Adapted from

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Another Day at Wheeden Island Preserve, Rosettes and Tarpon

Wheeden Island is getting to be a staple kayaking place for us. It’s only a short drive away and provides us with a nice place to bird and fish. So we loaded up the yaks, much easier then the canoe, and headed out on a hot and sunny day.

We knew the tide was running out which meant no paddling through the mangrove tunnels but we still had a nice main channel and plenty of places to explore. As soon as we pushed off I stopped to cast a Dead on Arrival, (DOA), tipped jig. It’s one of my favorite jigs to cast as it’s a shrimp imitation and most gulf fish love shrimp.

Having no takers I paddled on to the next spot, (I am fishing places where I have seen other boats), but still no strikes. I had a popping bobber on and was hoping for some speckled trout, but nothing stopped the retrieves and so I continued to the next spot.

Meanwhile Renita was off taking images of American white ibis. There are so many here, along with the ever present great blue herons. A pink rosette flew over head and she followed it, with me not far behind. It’s so good to see her enjoying her fast and maneuverable kayak. I felt good about her safety as most places we were at are less than a couple of feet deep.

Our kayaks both have a large opening and so if we did flip we would simply fall out and then stand up. Thank goodness we don’t have to worry about Eskimo rolls. We still wear our life jackets,(unless its really shallow) and we have the prescribed whistles so help is always as close as each other.

There were quite a few baitfish hanging along the edge of the drop off and so I continued my casting along these edges. At one place I saw a large fish slice through a school and as I neared it slashed through again providing me with a glimpse of its silver side and large scales. I cast and cast to no avail, but at least I can say I was trying to make a hookup with a tarpon, (at least that’s what I think it was).

Two couples in double kayaks caught up to us near the southern tunnel entrance but they ran aground. Renita spied a wading rosette and glided near it. The birds here are quite used to kayakers and she got some great close-ups with her small camera.

Ospreys fished above us and we watched as one flew away with a large mullet. It had the fish grasped in its claws headfirst, as they carry their prey in its most aerodynamic shape. Several pelicans flew by and I was reminded of the book Silent Spring, and how we had almost wiped out so many birds by using a pesticide called DDT.

Thank goodness the birds have recovered so well. It’s almost hard to believe how rare ospreys, eagles, and brown pelicans were when we were kids. I have even been accused of being a hippy in some comments because of some of my posts against oil spills and developments.  That’s ok and kind of funny really, (I am a geologist). There are many voices that speak of their love for wild places, the birds and fish need people to speak for them as money rarely hears their call.

So we tired and headed back to the dock. It was an easy day paddling and it wasn’t the first time I went home empty handed. Some think we eat a lot of fresh fish, but we also eat lots of cornbread. I always keep several packages on hand when the fish out think me. Clear skies

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ringling Art Museum, a Day of Glass, Style, and Art

Last year we traveled to Sarasota to spend a day at the Ringling Brothers Circus Museum and while there we were also treated to the Ringling Art Museum. Learning that the Art Museum was free on Mondays, we planned on returning to spend a full day of Art.

Renita had discovered that the museum had two special shows. One was a private collection of art glass and the other was a display called Icons of Style. So as we entered we headed to the special shows starting our tour with the Glass Exhibit.

Now Renita and I sometimes work with glass, and while we love its beauty it’s a frustrating material that flaws and fractures easily, like amethyst, so as we walked into the gallery we both stopped in amazement as we saw the massive glass works.

Knowing something of glass castings, at least for telescope lenses, I had no idea that such large glass pieces could be made without shearing off and cracking. I never saw a single flaw or fracture. The colors were amazing and the flowing glass had allowed the glass makers a freedom that we who work in rock can only stand in awe. The glass free forms made me realize that we both could and should explore more shapes with our rock and now I regret leaving our grinding wheels back in Wyoming, (I am possessed with the need to work rock).

Next we entered the Icons of Style, an exhibit of designer sketches and dresses, all worn by famous women. Again I was captivated at the artist ability shown by the designers. I laughed at a ruffled outfit worn by Joan Rivers and wondered what she would say of it today as she bullies so many with her fashion television show.

One room was composed mostly by the theme of Jackie Kennedy’s impact on the fashion world of the sixties. In another we were treated to a Dior Dress covered figurines of crystals and gold wire. The most surprising dress was a gown covered with dyed chicken feathers.

We spent so much time on the two special exhibits that the time flew by and so we were again rushed through the rest of the Museum. Still we had time to pause and be moved by The Blue Madonna, attributed to Carlo Dolci. It’s an oil painting and the color brings out the sadness in Madonna’s down cast face. It speaks of all the sorrow we all have in our lives and brings humanity to Mary that I had never appreciated before.

Too soon it was time to leave, but not before we purchased a print of Dolci’s work. It’s obvious that one day at the museum is simply not enough and so we hope to return another time. If not this year perhaps next and again I am sure will  not have enough time to do justice to the art.  Clear skies

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Dunedin Arts and Crafts Fair

It was amazing really, watching a master potter form the clay into a beautiful bowl. Its always a pleasure seeing any artist in any medium transform crude materials into an individual work of art. While thanking the Rock and Roll Potter for his demonstration, I was reminded of the Mad potter who works his craft in the ghost town of Jeffery City, Wyoming.

We had driven north to the Dunedin Arts and Craft Show, of course in Dunedin, Florida. There I carefully parked and we strolled past the many booths. Unlike many, this show is a juried show and so the quality of the work was outstanding.

One booth was filled with wire wrapping and the couple not only does their own lapidary but also matches each piece with one of their custom made kumihimo necklace cords. Which is pretty much what we do now, along with chain mail.

The lady was making a necklace using small crystal  beads and she said the finished project would contain about 1100  three millimeter beads, (I am pretty sure we will be buying lots of small crystal beads). In another booth a master glassmaker worked the glowing molten glass while carefully watching the hot flame. As he was doing this he would state that he would carefully wrap all purchases in lots of tissue paper. Talk about multi tasking!

Stopping at the booth in charge we asked about the show, as its one that we would fit into, but the lady said they already had filled their allotment of jewelry makers. That was fine as we aren’t interested in showing this year in Florida, ( no Florida sales tax license).

As we walked past the last few booths it started to rain and Renita opened her umbrella. I had to laugh as being from the far west its considered a sign of weakness to use an umbrella, besides the wind would destroy it!  In case your wondering I had my own along with me.

It was a nice fair and I wouldn’t be surprised if we would go back next year. However like most of our fellow Escapees, next year’s plans are written in sand, or as our friends Joe and Marcia like to put it, written on an etch a sketch. Clear skies

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Yaking Around Wheeden Island Nature Preserve

This year we headed south without the trusty red canoe. Its provided us with six years of use and  we have never tipped it over, (We have been lucky a few times especially on the Gunnison). Still we wanted to try kayaks ever since we yaked with Alan and Sharon on Convict Lake in California.
So reaching St Petersburg we started to look for  kayaks, specifically single sit inside ones, with pole holders. We also were looking for kayaks that were stable and easy to get into and out from. Furthermore we didn't want them too long as we needed to use them on Wyoming streams with lots of turns.
Surprisingly there are no major outdoor stores in this area, but we did find one that had  a kayak I was interested in, an Old Town Vapor. The store also decked it with pole holders and an anchor system. So now we needed to find the right one for Renita.
She spent some time on Google and found several ones including a Perception ten footer at a Sports Authority. When we stopped at the store we lucked out and the yak was on sale for two hundred and forty nine bucks, three hundred off the list price!
Now we had planned to go to the art museum in Sarasota but as it was Veterans Day, instead we loaded the kayaks and headed to Wheeden Island Nature Preserve. Renita was pretty nervous as I pushed her away, (she can't swim), but her nerves quickly changed to smiles as her new yak is way more stable then the canoe.
We paddled to a shallow area and practiced turning. Both the kayaks turned on a dime, compared to the canoe, and sped across the shallow water. Soon we were exploring shallow coves and taking images of the numerous herons.
Stopping for lunch in a shaded spot we were able to easily tie up in a raft. the rest of the day was simple paddling and it was even easy when the tide shifted and ran out. Two dolphins jumped right in front of us, it seems the yaks allow us to approach nearer to the wildlife/
So we are both quite happy with the change. Now if you see a white chevy truck with two bright yaks, its probably us. Of course the Wyoming plates are another clue! Next we hope to drive up to the Crystal River and yak with the manatees. Clear skies

Thursday, November 7, 2013

An Afternoon Birding in Sawgrass Park

A line of American white ibis marched by us.  They were engrossed in their relentless search for grubs, uninterrupted by the presence of two lesser beings. We had never been so close and we could see their rear black underside, something I for one had never noticed. The end of their beaks was darkened by the black muddy soil and one pulled a worm out of the ground and then proceeded to slurp in kind of like watching someone eat a piece of spaghetti.

We had decided to make a quick trip to the boardwalk at Sawgrass Park and do a little birding. This year we actually have a list of things to do and parks to see, (it’s too easy to just sit and read and before you know it’s time to move). Sawgrass was the first thing on the list, along with buying kayaks, and of course Wheedon Island and Crystal River to name a few.

As we stepped onto the boardwalk a helicopter flew over head, and plane after plane roared by as they approached the Tampa airport, but the birds didn’t even raise their heads. There were lots of small alligators and marsh hens and we quickly learned the distinctive call of the red beaked birds.

A startled blue jay flew into the thick swampy brush, where it was quickly hidden by the dense foliage. We both know so little of south Florida’ wild plant’s, there is so much to learn and so little time. It always takes me a while each winter to reorient myself to the coastal birds, beak and leg color is so important. Renita knows the shore birds better than I do.

So when we saw a white wading bird with a yellow beak and black legs it was easy to identify it as a great egret and not a snowy,(black beak and legs). Renita spied a pileated woodpecker; we had already seen the numerous large oval holes. She also noticed a red belied woodpecker, feeding high in a dying tree. Its mate was not as colorful but it did pose and allow us to see the distinctive markings on its belly.

The walk along the boardwalk turned into a really nice birding stroll. When we reached the tower two anhinguas rested in nearby trees and preened themselves after successful feeding on the numerous fish. Spotted gar where everywhere and it looked like tilapia had invaded the large pond. A tricolor, (Louisiana), heron walked on top of the vegetation and all ignored the ever present gators.

The park itself is boarded on one side by Interstate 275, and yet it was an oasis of life that we both enjoyed. The birding had been surprisingly good and it’s a place we will return to, a nice break from the many beaches. Clear skies

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sumter Oaks

The long leaf pines towered over our heads as we walked along the nature trail. The undergrowth consisted mainly of saw palmettos, one of the forest plants that colonize the ground here after a fire. I ran my fingers along the small saw tooth edge from which the plant got its name, but it really wasn’t much of a saw. We heard the distinctive hammering of a pileated woodpecker and saw the oval holes it left as it drilled dead standing timber but we never spied the bird. Still a bird heard is a bird counted.

It was almost noon and we really didn’t see many birds at the Dade Battlefield State Park, but we both noticed a soaring bird with pointed wing tips and a narrow square tail. It looked to be some type of falcon but it wasn’t going to let us see it close up and so we couldn’t id the species.

Leaving Tallahassee, we had drove to Sumter Oaks Rv, (an Escapee Rainbow Park), and had decided to spend a week. It turned out that the birding in the park was surprisingly good and of course we were greeted with the usual warmth and hugs that one always receives when in a SKP,(short for Escapee and pronounced skip) park.

We heard of the craft group, called the stitch and b#^@  and so we went to the daily gathering to see what everyone was making. There Betty and Barbara and Dave and Terry, (and of course I forget a bunch on names), made us feel welcome to their daily session.

Terry wanted to learn to wire wrap and we ended up teaching her a mini class on wrapping a pendant, and of course she did a great job with her very first piece, she wrapped the brown variegated jasper in copper wire and you could tell by the finished product that she is an experienced crafter.

Perhaps the most unusually Skp’s in the park are the four sand hill cranes who wander in and out, completely unconcerned by all the activity. The park is edged by a swamp and alligators, snakes and herons all wander in and out so one does have to keep a vigilent eye. We never did see any gators or snakes but during our stay a pygmy rattler did crawl onto one of the roads where it was persuaded to leave,(ok the image is of the little blue heron in the swamp and not a sandhill).

We made the short trip to the Dade Battlefield State Park and learned of the battle in which the Seminole killed all but three of the troops dispatched to aide another outpost. It was one of the many battles in the long and costly Seminole war. It was another of the Manifest Destiny wars fought because the US wanted to send all the Seminole Indians to Oklahoma. The Indians never did surrender and some stayed in the swamps although most were eventually defeated and forced west.

So we had a really nice week in a beautiful oak filled forest setting. Spanish moss hung from the towering oaks and swayed in the steady breeze. Elephant ears resembled giant rhubarb, bordering one edge of the swamp. All in all it was just the kind of week we needed after our long pull from Wyoming to Indiana and then to southern Florida. Sumter Oaks was just the peaceful setting we needed and of course a good time with new friends.

Clear skies