Thursday, December 31, 2015

Celebrating Family Time at Grand Isle, Louisiana

Last year, Gary and Connie invited all of the family to a reunion on Grand Isle. They live there and so of course everyone who could jumped at the invitation and arrived before or after Christmas. We all looked forward to Connie and Gary’s hospitality and of course Connie’s cinnamon rolls.
Breakfast brunch was one of the many feasts and the one with cinnamon rolls was also highlighted by cranberry bread, and make your own breakfast burritos. On the side of the burritos my brother Mike had brought his home made salsa!
Another evening Mike made his taco soup and everyone agreed that the heat was just right! Other meals included a seafood bouillabaisse, buffalo burgers, and of course a seafood platter feast. Besides the local shrimp, flounder, and oysters, we had a special treat as one of their friends had given Connie frog legs! Things were jumping to say the least, (sorry but I couldn’t help myself), however not everyone was brave enough to try the frog legs.
Gary also took the nieces and nephews hunting for treasure and everyone came back home with a bag of sea glass and pottery shards. Ben and Louise also found a large assortment of fossil horse teeth and bones. They also went fishing but the fish didn’t cooperate.
Meanwhile I went to a new place and caught two large black drum on two successive casts. There is nothing like fishing on Grand Isle when it comes to fishing and catching large fish! We always love our time here and this is one of the places where we could easily spend a lot of time!
As any reunion lots of time was spent talking about old times, family members who are no longer with us, and all the special memories from growing up.  It is interesting to hear my family’s memories as they don’t always jive with mine and by no means are mine necessarily correct.
We would like to give a special thank you to Connie and Gary for hosting the reunion. Some have already left and we ourselves will head off to Texas on the second. Winter shows, time with friends, and time in the rock shop all await! There is so much to learn and so little time.
We would also like to wish everyone a Happy New Year! Clear skies

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Treasure Island Boat Parade, 2015

We spent thirty years in northeast Wyoming and every year we had the same Christmas traditions. In early December we would  head up the Bighorns in search of the perfect tree. Using our cross country skis we would ski the forest and snow closed roads, keeping a careful eye for mad moose, before selecting and cutting the Christmas tree.
Afterwards we would sled the one of the gentler mountain slopes and surprisingly no one was ever seriously hurt, even thought we did occasionally encounter rocks. Then on Christmas eve we would load up the truck and cruise around the town looking for the most beautiful yard decorations.
Here on the Gulf Coast is quite a bit different as the lights come to you. The temperatures are in the eighties and now we drive to Jen and Eric's place on Treasure Island. There we go out on a friends balcony and watch the Christmas flotilla pass by. This year the boat parade was the largest we have ever seen. While all were colorful and unique a new one stole the award. It was a large sea turtle design followed by a smaller one at the stern. The display really stood out as the flippers moved up and down!
The boat parade contained the patterns of sailboats, yachts covered head to stern encased in lights, and we even saw one in which the bow was crowded with dolphins. We had seen the dolphin pattern before however this year the dolphins were stationary, (Last year the dolphins were jumping).
As usual it was a fun time watching the boats pass by and making new traditions. Where ever you are and whatever your traditions we wish you a Merry Christmas, and know that you are in ours hearts. Clear skies

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Dress Day

There are special days in every one's life and one such day is the day when a mother and daughter go out to find a wedding dress. Monday was that special day for Renita and Jenny. They got together with Jens , Maid of Honor, Brandy and the first dress they saw was Renita's.
We had carefully carried the boxed dress to Florida,(stored after our wedding forty four years ago), in a forever box. It was supposed to resist all outside influences and it hadn't been open in all that time. Opening it up, there were a few small spots, but the dress still looked as beautiful as the day Renita wore it.
Examining the colors and materials they came up with some ideas to incorporate into Jen and Eric's wedding, (August. 2016). Then after taking some pictures I said goodbye and wished them luck as they went off to several dress appointments. I did hand Renita a box of Kleenex as crying was a prerequisite for the days activities.
Five hours later I got a call form Renita. They were at a beach bar resting after the days successful shopping expedition. They told me stories of all the dresses Jennifer had tried on and of course I could only nod my head as I had no clue as to what they were talking about.
It was all good however as they told of how Jen had found the dress. How she had looked great in many of the dresses she had tried on but how her eyes had shone when she found the one. No I never did see it and they hid it from Eric as he joined us for dinner.
Now I can only imagine and  I so look forward to that special moment in time when I walk my daughter down the aisle, (and I must not cry). I have been truly blessed. Clear skies

Friday, December 11, 2015

Fellow Escapees: A Day at Fort Desot0

If you read our blog you will probably recognize Jim and Nancy. They are fellow Escapees, who like us, who sold their house in 2007 and headed off on the road. The Escapee group then, was called the Class of 2007, and it has dwindled over the years. Some have grown tired of the road, some have grown sick, some have run out of money, and some have passed.
Jim and Nancy are still full time travelers, and Jim chronicles their adventures in their blog, Running Down Our Dream, (It’s listed on the lower right reading list). So when they contacted us and told us they were nearby we planned a day together to relive memories, talk about visits with mutual friends, and share stories.
Our favorite place here is Fort Desoto and so we loaded up and headed out for a day of walking and talking and just having a good time, (we last saw them at Betty’s Rv Park in Louisiana). Our first stop at Fort Desoto was a drive through the campground. While we would love to stay there the cost is really high, much higher than our budget permits. It’s also a campground with overhanging trees, not a place for our big rigs, (we are 13.2 feet high).
Our next stop was to Fort Desoto, the actual Fort itself, and we strolled along the top of the embankment, before walking along the batteries. The mortars are twelve inches in diameter and lobbed huge shells as far as six miles away. One sign said that the guns recoiled twenty eight inches after being fired and I can’t imagine the noise and fear such a shot would produce.
As we strolled along the top, a large number of osprey’s wheeled above us. Usually solitary birds they seemed to be performing, at least for each other, and, enjoying the strong winds, soared back and forth across the width of the island.
North Beach was another place we wanted to show them and we walked the beach to Bunces Pass. It’s always a good day when you stroll on the beach and we were joined by a pod of feeding dolphins. I showed them where we had caught the sharks and where I had caught a large flounder last year. Jim shared stories of their favorite beach, Cape Hatteras national Seashore in North Carolina.
Noticing a tire was low, we still stopped at the fishing pier. Nothing much was happening. but there was a gigantic school of greenbacks, greenies, that probably numbered in the millions, (not an exaggeration) Such a monstrous ball of bait surely must attract larger gamefish As we walked the pier common terns dove into the massed fish, but no fished slashed through the resting biomass.
After Fort Desoto we ate a nice seafood place called the Brass Monkey. We both opted for the broiled lemon pepper grouper and with such good food and pleasant waiters it’s a restaurant to which we plan to return, ( some of the seafood places here serve basa, a Vietnamese catfish. Just what I don’t want seafood from Asia in a restaurant along the Gulf Coast).

Returning home we discussed our travel plans for 2016. Every day is a blessing and we were blessed to spend time with such nice people. One of our fears about being full time rvers was that we would not meet new friends. However that has not been a problem and we now have friends scattered all over the United States! Clear skies

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Day at the Ringling Art Museum: The Chinese Exhibit of Fifteenth Century Burial Objects

One of our favorite things to do, while here in south Florida, is to make the short drive from Pinellas Park to Sarasota. There we always visit the Ringling Art Museum and always on Monday. Monday is a free day and all you have to do is state your zip code and you can enter the grounds allowing you to walk the beautiful grounds and visit the museum.
We were especially excited this year as the Searling Gallery, a small part of the Museum was exhibiting Chinese fifteenth burial objects. No photography is allowed in this special wing and so we can’t show you any of the displays but they did not disappoint us.
Right away the first display case contained gold artwork containing cabochons of precious and semiprecious gems. The gold work was exquisite and the cabochons, polished stones, had been finished in their natural shape. This was the preferred method then, unlike the domed and faceted shapes we make today.
Case after case contained more bracelets, hairpins, and hair crowns set in gold. Most of the work contined rubies, emeralds, beryl, topaz, and even agate. Many of the objects had some empty settings where the stones had been plucked,(perhaps by grave robbers?), the story might have added to the exhibit.
Several cases contained nephrite jade carvings, and that was particularly interesting to us as we work Wyoming nephrite jade. The objects themselves were beautifully shaped, however the shine done on the jade was less than that which we can do today.
Also the jade was a lesser quality than our Wyoming jade and then the British Columbian jade we have collected during our travels. There were numerous surface flaws almost as if the jade pieces had been made from what we call heel pieces, perhaps a lesser jade was used for burial pieces?
The Chinese carvers ran out of the nephrite jade in the seventeenth century and started using imported jadeite, (nephrite is a member of the pyroxene mineral group and jadeite an amphibole). Maybe the reason for this was the shortage of nephrite, another untold story. Regardless the carvings were beautiful and something we have only played with. Again I wish we had started working stone many years ago. Where would our art be now?
Finishing the exhibit we stopped for a snack at the enclosed courtyard and anyone who has been there will remember the bronze and marble works that highlight the space. A copy of Michelangelo’s David dominates the wall and peers down at all the statues and castings below.
In other areas we stopped and saw Rueben’s Paintings, German silverwork, and Italian rings in a style close to ours. One room contained glasswork by a modern American artist and it amazed us how such work could be made without fracturing such a delicate media.
Such visits always leaves us inspired to return to our own work and returning home, to our fifth wheel, we lined up some of our own jades pieces. There is so much to do and so little time. If you are in the area we strongly recommend the John and Mable Ringling Art Museum. Clear skies

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ten Days Since My last Entry, It's Time for a Massive Catchup

It' not like we haven't been doing anything the last ten days, its just that I have kept putting off any blog entries, and here it has now been ten days. The reason I write this blog is to keep a record or journal. Its a way for us to remember what we have done and so by not writing any entries I have been short changing ourselves.
We have been busy, although not all has been pleasurable. As soon as we arrived here we got our flu shots and last week we both came down with a mild cause of the flu. At least the shots made it possible for us to have a quick recovery and hopefully we are good for the rest of the winter.
While recovering from the flu we were able to make some new jewelry and to update our Etsy Store.
Now we have another unusual thing for sale. This piece is a piece of Argentinian fossil dinosaur egg shell wrapped in fourteen carat gold filled wire, There's something you don't see every day, and yes we do have unique interests, (we also got two cabochons of Louisiana Opal and I will put those on the blog when they are finished).
last week we did go fishing with Jen, at John's Pass, and although we didn't catch any flounder we did catch some really unusual fish. Jen hooked up with a large lady fish, they look like a small tarpon. It jumped three times before the hook pulled out and are even known as poor man's tarpon.
I also had the chance to go out with Allan. His new boat is a 21 foot Key Largo. Again we didn't catch anything big enough to eat but his boat worked fine and we went out ten miles in search of grouper. On the way back in schools of bait fish appeared but we didn't have the right lures and so we couldn't get the Spanish and King mackerels to hit.
Thanksgiving we headed over to Jen and Eric's house and ate way to much, which of course was to be expected. This week should be interesting as we are going to the Ringling Art Museum to see an exhibit of Chinese 17th Century Art. Hopefully there will be some jade!
The winds have died down here and so we also hope to go kayaking and hopefully hook up with some friends. It should be a great week and if my computer will just keep working, ( it has crashed twice since I downloaded windows ten), I can keep track of our adventures. Clear skies

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sawgrass Nature Park, 2015

Whenever we are here in St Petersburg, we always try to spend at least one day birding at Sawgrass Nature Park. Surrounded by highways, buildings, and the city. It’s a small isolated haven of what this area once was.
It’s only a few steps from the parking spot to the first bayou. Right away we spotted a feeding little blue heron. Wading amid the green water plants it craned its neck as it looked for the small fish and invertebrates that make up its diet. Stabbing into the water it gave its prey a quick shake and then swallowed its lunch.
A few more steps and we were standing on the bridge, peering down on several common moor hens. Several painted turtles rose for a breath of air before diving down into the weed choked water. A gar stayed motionless below the water’s surface waiting for a fish or frog to venture to close to its sharp teeth filled jaw.
A little further we stopped at an overlook and the marsh hens swam to our new location, hoping for a handout. There are usually alligators at this spot and Renita spotted one across the bayou. It was laying on the raised levee warming itself in the morning sun.
She also spotted a pair of American Ibis partially hidden by the thick underbrush. They were also feeding by moving their long narrow curved beaks back and forth through the shallow water. They would occasionally stop to swallow prey they had found in the mud.
Another person told us of a mother alligator guarding it young in a small opening along the raised
boardwalk. We missed it at first but later saw people watching the gators and so we were able to stand above them and watch as the young gators swam looking for the best piece of sunlight.
A little further a green heron hunted minnows directly below the walk and so we got some great images of the small wader. Another birder suggested it was a young bird, because it was at the bottom of their normal size range. Still it had its adult plumage and color.
At the viewing tower an anhinga perched in the branches of a small bush. It was preening its feathers but didn’t spread it wings as they often do after fishing. Several lgbs flitted in the trees. (Little grey birds). Still we were able to finally capture an image allowing us to identify the bird.
Returning back down the boardwalk a loose domestic rooster walked across the grounds. Somehow it had taken refuge in the park and I was surprised someone hadn’t removed it for a pot of chicken gumbo, (it was nearing lunch time after all).
Renita again spotted several people taking images with their cameras and nearing them we saw the reason why. Two gopher tortoises were performing the tortoises tango. I.e. their mating ritual. The head bobbing, was followed by a nip on the front leg by the male as soon the female turned and allowed the male to climb upon her back.
It had been another good day at the small park. The gophers had provided us with a unique view of something rarely seen and the green heron had been another bonus of the short walk. Hopefully we will return another day and walk along the forest floor. That’s a place we usually see a pileated woodpecker. Thanks to the people that preserved the unique microcosm. Clear skies

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Red Grouper, Spanish Mackerel, and Kings, a Days fishing with a New Friend

The forecast was for a choppy sea with waves of one to three feet, so we took off feeling pretty good. However as we traveled further and further the waves grew and by the time we reached the rock pile we were being bounced around, like steel marbles in a pinball machine. The waves were now from three to five feet high.
After positioning ourselves Mike dropped and set the anchor and Jenny quickly dropped her shrimp to the bottom. Before I could even bait my hook she was fighting a red grouper. The federal season was closed for red grouper and so we released the beautiful spotted fish and as soon a she dropped her rig again she had another fish.
It took a while before I finally connected and then I made a mistake while netting a shrimp. I hit the drain plug with the net and before Mike noticed it most of the bait was swimming away. Checking my rig I discovered my own bait was missing and baiting with one of the few remaining shrimp I immediately hooked a nice red grouper, (about twenty five inches). Still feeling really stupid from the bait well fiasco. I admitted my mistake and then cut a piece of blue runner, baiting it on my circle hook.
I set my pole in the holder and helped Jenny to unhook her large red grouper. About that time both Mike and Jenny yelled at me that I had a big fish on! Grabbing my pole I watched as the fish made a long run. It wasn’t a grouper and after several more runs it came to the surface, a legal king mackerel. Jenny keep saying that we now had dinner and I kept reminding her that the fish was not yet in the boat.
I finally landed it and then dinner was assured. We fished a little longer but the waves were growing in size and so we decided to head back to shore. Of course the seas diminished as we headed in and that was okay as we were all feeling a little under the weather.
Mike mentioned that we could go out later in the day and fish close to shore for Spanish mackerel. Cleaning the fish and the boat we took a lunch break, and a nap, before meeting Mike for a return to John’s pass. Only running a mile out, Mike and Jen spotted diving terns. Mike had us put on silver spoons and heading towards the birds, my pole doubled over! I fought the fish in and it didn’t behave like a Spanish mackerel as it again fought hard with long runs. It was a bigger king and now I had caught my limit.
Jenny’s pole went off next and she soon had our first Spanish mackerel! I was really excited as I had heard that Spanish mackerel were good eating and I really wanted to try one on the grill. Another pass through more bait fish and we hooked a double, both nice Spanish macs.
Bait fish were everywhere and after throwing back out we caught another before  a large fish broke my forty pound leader/ Two more Spanish fell to our rigs and I had another fish that broke another leader. The sun was nearing the horizon and so we talked it over before heading in.
It had been a great day with lots of fish, lots of learning about new fishing techniques, and most important a day on the water with Jenny, Renita, and Mike, (we all felt bad for Eric who had to work and so missed the great day of groupers, Spanish, and kings.Thank you Captain Mike for the great day! Clear skies

ps I grilled the Spanish mackerel and it was great!