Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sound of Silence

Wednesday evening, Michael, Angela's 15 year old son came over to the house to use my computer for his homework, staying about three hours in total. Ordinarily, I don't even notice the silence of our home, mostly because my brain is usually filled with so much noise, the silence around me seems normal. Somehow when there are two people in the house, the silence seems magnified. Because Bruce has been traveling so darn much when in Orlando, he's been working from home, most of the time with his little 13" television, mounted above his work station, going from morning to night. Rarely does he watch it, he just likes the noise. I, on the other hand, don't like the noise. I'm constantly telling him it's a distraction which is so girl-like. Always trying to tell the men what to do! Note to self: deal with it!

I told you that Bruce has big plans for our landscaping, what they are just yet, I'm not sure about, however, he's begun making a bed, bordering it with bricks.
Yesterday the guys who planted the tree were putting in a big palm one street over so while Baxter and I were on our morning walk, I asked him to come by and make sure the tree was thriving. He did and it is. The good news is that I can cut back to watering once a day which pleases me greatly, particularly after getting the water bill this week!

Have you, like me, been hearing news reports about the declining bee population? I'm not sure where they get the statistics to back up their claims but I know for sure it's not in my yard! Although I'm showing you a monarch hanging from the Chinese Tallow tree, I had to dodge hundreds of bees to get this shot:
Adjacent to my clothes line, last Friday I was sure that I'd be a victim of a bee sting being a bug magnet and all. I was once again awoken by a pesky mosquito last night; the constant threat of another bite kept me awake for far too long! The rain I wrote about yesterday never materialized so I got lots of yard work done, enough so that I was worn out by 9 last night.

Every now and again I check the statistics on my blog, seeing what people are reading and where they come from. I guess it shouldn't surprise me that people from all over the world stumble onto me, no doubt by mistake. In any case, I saw a post from near this time last year which I re-read. It was then that it hit me to see what was happening this time last year. The zebra chair is what was happening. I'm still madly in love with that chair. As well, I was being interviewed by the Lakeland Ledger for the upcoming Mayfaire.   "Dear God, please don't let it be as hot this year. "

Did I ever have fun this morning playing bridge. One of the ladies mentioned that one of her New Year's resolutions was to meet new people. Although that was not one of mine, mostly because I never make them, I'm delighted to be a part of this group. Each and every one of the ladies are special in their own way. I was driving Allison crazy this morning because I insisted that some of the things we learned were guidelines, she insists they are rules. Every week our play time gets longer and longer.

Bruce just returned finally! I've got the television tuned to BBC America until the Magic game tonight. I know absolutely nothing about Prince William and Kate Middleton; I need to get up to speed for my 5AM wake up call tomorrow. Angela is fixing a proper English breakfast, albeit without crumpets because Publix had the nerve to be out of them. Undoubtedly, tea will flow like water. Wish me luck getting up that early to watch the festivities!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Private Caller

That's what the caller id said on the kitchen phone which rang while I was fixing my dinner. There was a baked potato in the oven, with green beans roasting alongside them on my favorite baking pan. The cast iron skillet was sizzling with a small rib eye. Answering in my most cranky voice because I thought it was a telemarketer, I heard a small, sweet voice say, "Gail?" Warily I replied, yes. It was then that I realized it wasn't a telemarketer at all, but Linda, a woman who bought one of my canvases at Baldwin Park. Hoping it wasn't a request to return the piece, I said Hi!

It wasn't long after that exchange that I had a big grin on my face. No, she wasn't calling about a return, what she was calling about is that she wanted to encourage me. Say what? Turns out, she found my blog a bit ago, began reading, and, dare I say, is now hooked? Thus, she knows all about my April struggles. By now, my dinner was finished cooking; I just put the skillet in the oven, keeping the door ajar, and we chatted. It turns out we have lots of things in common, one of which is we both experienced a weird illness. She's better now, although if you can imagine, she's thinner than I am. It was such a pleasure to have a random phone call. Claiming she wouldn't know how to comment online, she decided to not keep her thoughts private at all, for which I was very, very grateful. Hurray for nice folks. :)

Bruce called while we were chatting and I returned his call just as soon as we'd finished. You'll be pleased to know that the inspection in Hanover went very well. You expected that didn't you? Me too, although you could never convince Bruce! Today it's on to the Boston area before he returns tomorrow evening. Hurray again!

Before I go any further with my ramblings, I wanted to update you on a few things. Corrine is improving, with the preliminary tests disproving my worries. As to the ladybugs, I'm not seeing any on the bushes, however, the aphids are not getting any worse, so it must be working. While I'm on the subject of plants, over the last couple of years our sago palm has suffered from a scale problem. Somewhere I read that if you put coffee grounds under the plant it will kill the scale. I did just that and it worked! Our triple-headed palm has never looked better. Again, on the plant front, I just adore trumpet flowers, don't you?
How about this hibiscus? The moment I saw it, I fell in love. The color is SO rich.
 Here's my one and only tomato.
I think the photograph makes it look larger than it is. Please, please creatures, do not eat this before we can!

This week at the Polasek the annual "Paint Out" is happening. It's a great event with free admission and painting demonstrations every morning. Yesterday there were maybe six painters on the property making art. Although I bought a piece last year, I'm trying to hold off this year because we need to save money for our trip to LONDON! I told you about the concert and play, now Matt is suggesting I might want to do this. You bet I want to do that! My customers will undoubtedly thank Matt for the idea.

On my way to the museum yesterday I saw something for the first time. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I cannot believe the audacity of some people. It may be hard to describe this, but I'll try. Orlando folks will get it. I was at the intersection of Mills and Colonial, the first car stopped for the light. Right in front of my eyes, a crummy little car rear-ended a car in the middle of the intersection. Not a bad crash, but a crash nonetheless. Something fell off the car that was hit. To my astonishment, the offending car went a few feet, did a U-turn in the middle of traffic and sped the other way. The nerve of some people! Good grief. Anymore, with people texting while driving on the interstate, hit and runs, and pedestrians jaywalking in the middle of six lane highways, it's murder on the roads. No pun intended.

Because I was already dressed nicely, I decided to go to Florida Mall to return a few things to Banana Republic. Upon my return, the little girl I told you about from down the street was walking with her Mother. She immediately wanted to play with Baxter and come in to look around. Having a little experience in this department, I've no doubt she's gifted. Call me a snob, but I like to be around gifted children with their insatiable curiosity. She claimed she hadn't seen the whole house on her last visit so I brought them into the office. You know what's coming don't you? Yes, let's do a little photo session why don't we?
Adorable, right? That wonderful perfect skin! Here's a funny one with her mom, Francis.
I can see that there's all kind of fun ahead taking photos of Meghan.

Francis and Meghan arrived in our neighborhood via Match.com. Increasingly I'm hearing of people hooking up online. In fact, our next door neighbor Eli married for the first time about a month ago. I'd seen his girlfriend sporadically over the last year, never really knowing what the scoop was. I talked to her last week and it turns out she lived in Ft. Lauderdale, met Eli online, and was lucky enough to get a transfer to Orlando. No wonder he spiffed up his house!

Today is lawn care day although at the moment it looks like rain. Better get out there.....

Monday, April 25, 2011

It Takes Guts

Well sort of. I bet you thought my market sales couldn't go any lower didn't you? Well, if so, you were wrong. Sunday, they were cut in half and then some. I mean half from my dismal sales total. Week after week now, I muster up my courage and head to the market, hoping someone will buy. They don't. They look, they compliment, then they walk away. Except for those cheap people who slyly pull out their camera phones, trying to photograph individual pieces on my walls so they can print them at home. Pathetic. What's even more pathetic is that I found myself saying sorry to those folks who tried yesterday. You know what they said? We're from out of town, we didn't know it was stealing. Well, they didn't say stealing, they said wrong, but really, it's out and out stealing. As well, they said, "How do we know we want to buy it?" Not my problem folks!

With that out of the way, let's get to some thrilling news shall we? Recently I told you about Bill studying for his "Series 7" exam. I am most happy to report that Mr. Bill passed with flying colors this morning. 300 questions! When he began I questioned him about getting distracted studying at home, which he claimed would be no problem. His claims were not exaggerated, he studied and studied, taking lots of practice tests before today's final. I invited him out to a celebratory lunch when he called. Five Guys sounded just right to both of us. Here's my boy:
I can hardly believe he let me photograph him in this get up, however, he agreed. To say that I'm so pleased and proud is an understatement! Meet Wells Fargo's newest private banker, Mr. William Peck.

Because Bruce had to leave again last evening, he felt he had to work most of Saturday, well, make that pretty much all of Saturday. He worked at his desk, I worked, (if you can call it that) in the kitchen. Although I only purchased these tomatoes on Thursday, they were beginning to go red on me. As you know, fried green tomatoes are one of my favorites. I like to make things while Bruce is home that he most likely won't get on the road where he's been eating far too often of late.
The prep part:
The delicious finished product:
Bar-b-que chicken, biscuits, cucumbers in vinegar and boiled new potatoes rounded out the meal. One of the best parts? There are leftovers!

Yesterday on one of my trips to the bathroom I came across this mother swan on her nest:
The weekend after next I'll be heading to Lakeland for Mayfair where I hope my fortunes will turn to the good. Anyway, while there last year I was asked if I had any swan pictures. Why you ask? Just as the peacock is the city symbol of Winter Park, the swan is for Lakeland. You would think that if I can't sell what inventory I have I would quit taking more pictures, however, sometimes it just makes me want to take more. Practice, you know? This morning, just after 7, I went back to Lake Eola before the sun got too bright to see about getting an excellent swan photograph. I might just have done what I set out to do, but as is pretty much always the case, I rarely post any photographs on my blog that I plan to sell. I do post photos that I hope you'll find interesting, although since I rarely hear from anyone, I may not be doing so good on that front. Nonetheless, mama swan was roaming, leaving her eggs uncovered long enough for me to photograph them. They are pretty darn big aren't they?
I will most definitely be watching for the cygnets soon.

There were three sets of baby water fowl, two black swan cygnets, about six ducklings, and two of this little darling:
What an adorable puff ball, which unfortunately, will grow into a kind of ugly duck, you know the kind with bumpy red beaks and black necks? I had to shoot about twenty shots to get one decent one I'll tell you that much. Never, ever think that I get it the first time! The parents were keeping them mighty close and who can blame them?  I overheard someone say they were only days old.

Here's one of the ducklings just coming up from a dunking:
It was so much fun watching the little ones swimming, splashing, and dunking under every few minutes with only their little tail feathers visible above the water line.

Some of you may already know that the New York Times just recently instituted this--Paid Subscription I got the message on Firefox that my twenty free articles for the month were up and what did I want to do about it? Nothing just yet. Fortunately, it came to me that I might be able to read this article, Bridge Class using Chrome, which is what I did. Who knew I was onto something?

That said, I don't want to steal from the Times. I think I may subscribe to the paper and then online is free, or at the very least Sunday's paper which is so great, it can keep you busy reading all week. Free content on the internet may become a thing of the past, or maybe not. Hard to imagine what the future holds about anything, don't you agree?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Time Flies, or So They Say

Do you ever have one of those days when you have your day all planned and then it gets upended? Or at the very least shuffled? That was yesterday for me. I've been doing my best to walk Baxter more regularly, either before or after I have breakfast, but not before the tree is watered. Sounds tough right? I know, I know, I've got it pretty easy don't I?

Speaking of the tree, it occurred to me the other day while walking Baxter,  that sometime in the future, when the tree is magnificent, the owners of this property will never even know the care it took to get it established. I suppose that is always the case with things that are well established; I know it's certainly so when people dine at one of the restaurants Bruce has sweat blood and tears over getting completed. Finally, he came home yesterday evening, after five days of traveling. The good news is that things came together beautifully on all his site visits which makes his absence much more tolerable. An evening of rest was in order. Eating by the pool, we lit the torches, listened to music, and may I just tell you it was a little slice of heaven? I don't need to mention he is back working this morning...

On that same walk with Baxter I noticed all of the peaches covering our neighbor's tree:
There are gobs and gobs of them which I do so hope won't get eaten by the squirrels as is often the case. Here's a reminder of the beautiful flowers that preceded these pretty little peaches:
Back to yesterday--I planned to get our house in order before Bruce's arrival, starting with making a lemon blueberry poundcake. While creaming the sugar and butter, Angela came over. She stayed and stayed, leaving just as a young woman working with a federal agency, sort of like the FBI, knocked on the door. With Angela standing there, she asked if I might answer a few questions about Matt (Angela's husband, in case you've forgotten), regarding National Security. He was re-applying for his National Security Clearance because he works in the defense industry. She asked me questions about his character, did I think he was a security threat to the United States?, where he lived before, had he traveled to a foreign country and on it went, enough so that she filled to pages of a legal pad. Answering them was pretty easy as there is hardly anyone I know who would be less of a threat! After chit chatting about herself a bit, I bid her farewell.

My mobile rang just as she was leaving; it was none other than Tom Quinn asking if I wanted to meet him for lunch in an hour at OLV, a local restaurant. I said yes. Mind you, because of my unexpected company, I was still unshowered (is this a word?) at this point. When I looked in the mirror before hopping into the shower,  I discovered serious mascara rings under my eyes! Wonder what that girl was thinking as we talked. Had it been me in her place, that's all I would have been thinking about!

While I was working I'd see TQ about three or four times a week, eight hours a day. Since both of our  retirements, I see him at most once a year because he is spending loads of time at their home they bought in Whitefish, Montana. Many of you will recall that it was Dr. Quinn who diagnosed our mother's cancer after I described her symptoms. Her own doctors who she saw regularly were clueless! All that to say we had some serious catching up to do! Our meet up at noon lasted until 3:00!

Returning home I got down to house business at last.

There are two contests I'm considering entering, however, my chances of winning either one are slim. Still, I suppose you never know until you enter. One is for the local Audubon Society, one is for the 2011Winter Park Autumn Art Festival poster. The theme of the former is patterns in nature with nothing man made in the picture--the later is either Autumn or Winter Park related. I have several more weeks to come up with something.

As well, I'm in serious travel planning mode for our trip which is just 68 days away.  While in England we are planning to do London, head to Stonehenge, Bath,  the Costwolds, meet Tom's family and then on to Cambridge before returning for another action packed (or so I imagine) weekend in London. To date Matt has already booked tickets for both a play and a concert . Whoo-hoo! I'm hoping time flies!

Finally there's this, apropos of nothing:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Putting Ladybugs to Work

Last Thursday after bridge Trish drove the Mercedes, with your blogger friend as passenger, to Palmer Nursery in Winter Park to buy ladybugs. Earlier in the week she purchased some to eat the aphids in her garden and suggested I might want to as well. It sounded intriguing to me so I was more than happy to agree.

The clerk went in to the back, bringing out what looked like a cottage cheese container with holes in the top, filled with shavings like you might find in a hamster cage. Plus, the aforementioned ladybugs. Hundreds of them really, or so it seemed. Receiving the very specific instructions on their release I brought them home, put them in the refrigerator to wait until dusk. Apparently, that is the ideal time to let them go. Following that part of the instruction was easy, what wasn't quite so much was how to get them out of the container. Seeing the container full of them when you first take it out of the fridge, you'd think they were dead because they, well, because they look that way. Soon thereafter, however, they begin moving. I let some out last week, last night, the rest of the gang.
Don't they look cute here?
It's funny how we think, or at least I think, that some bugs are cute, some not so much. As you know, I'm no fan of mosquitoes. In fact, they like me much more than I do them, constantly biting me whenever the opportunity presents. The other night I slept in the guest room. Why, you ask? I'll tell you why--I woke up scratching like a mad woman. My chin, my shoulder and my chest were itching and stinging like crazy due to a bedtime encounter with those maddening insects. I'm not sure how in the world there was at least one in our bedroom, but after applying my itch cream, which fortunately was on my bedside table, I huddled under the covers trying to evade another attack. I could hear the pesky bugger buzzing nearby, thus both myself and Baxter retreated to my former office, shut the door, turned on the ceiling fan and went back to sleep in peace.

But I digress.....According to the ladybug container, they love aphids, in fact, it's their favorite food. Yesterday morning, before sunrise I was in my work clothes ready to tackle the yard/garden. Did I tell you that SOMETHING ate almost all of my beautiful basil? Apparently sage, or for that matter oregano, hold little appeal to whatever creature feasted on my basil. Chives are apparently very tasty as well. Eaten down to the dirt! I'm pretty sure I told you my serano pepper plant is a goner as well. Anyway, my beautiful jatropha plants are growing like nobodies business, in one stretch almost reaching the windowsill already! Matt and Tom will remember helping to cover those very same plants during our early winter freezes. It worked my loves. It was very hard to trim them because they are covered with darling red flowers, however, I do not want plants covering the windows again. EVER. What I discovered, once lots of the new growth was trimmed, were aphids. Lots of them. Thus, the rest of the ladybugs were put to work, once the sun went down last night. Once again, according the the container, if you put them out at dusk, they eat, fly away for a bit, returning at dusk the next day to get their fix. I hope to let you know soon if this is a success story or not. The azaleas out front are another feasting ground for them.
So, there are several things to take away from this picture aside from the ladybugs crawling on my hand.
  • Gail with polished nails--a once or twice a year event. This is my new Essie polish, which by the way, is called A list. Still hanging in there from Saturday, which is pretty impressive if you ask me.
  • Blood blister on fourth finger by said nail. It seems as if I can't do a thing these days without hurting myself. If you can imagine, I shut the screen door on my fingers at the museum on Tuesday and I'm here to tell you that it hurt. Bad. Fortunately, this is all the damage I did. 
  • When the young curator at the museum saw me on Tuesday she exclaimed that she loved my new hair which she thought made me look 20 years younger. Well, I don't know about that, but what I do know is that your hands give your age away every time.  Mine included.
Saturday evening while Regina was photographing us in our fancy duds, she kept saying, don't look at the camera, you have something much more interesting to look at. She was right about that; my darling husband looked awesome in his tuxedo!
Sister Nancy, take note of the make up--Photo Ready by Revlon is awesome! I'm including this photo because over Bruce's right shoulder you see just the corner of Corrine and Herb's carport. Actually, you see Corrine's 1998 Buick, but that's getting a little technical don't you think? So where are you going with this, pray tell? I'm seriously worried about Corrine is where I'm going.

Yesterday morning, the phone rang (imagine that!), with Corrine on the other end, saying in her slow Alabama drawl that she had several magazines for me, however, she just didn't feel up to making the trip across the street with her walker. I promised to come over as soon as I could. After running some errands, I picked up our little Baxter, and went to visit. I'd been planning to go swimming for the first time this year, however, that had to wait. You know me--I say pretty much what I'm thinking and this time was no exception. The moment I walked in the door I noticed she'd lost weight. Turns out it is 20 pounds, which is a heck of a lot of weight to lose in short order. As well, she's got some other symptoms which concern me greatly. I postponed my planned swimming for an hour or so as we visited. I made her laugh with my bridge story from last week. I also told her if it took crying at her doctor visit to get his attention, so be it. Cry my friend, tell him how worried you are that something serious is happening to your body. All the while we were chatting Baxter was roaming around their house, mostly looking for dropped crumbs I suspect. I bring him along because both Herb and Corrine get a kick out of his cute little face and demeanor. Some of you out there are thinking well, she is old, which is a fact, 85, if you're wondering, however up until this bout of weakness, she was still working several days of the week. I hope my concerns are for naught, but my instincts tell me otherwise.

I've added several new blogs to my blog list, one of which was recommended to me by my friend Karen, and I'm glad she did. Beautiful photography and fun writing. A fancy photography blog as well as a make up blog. It was time because most of the others I've listed never write a thing! I'll leave you with this fantasticl rendition of Adele's latest song, "Rolling in the Deep" by John Legend. Reposting from Matt's blog...
5500

P.S. I finished reading The Empty Family yesterday afternoon and there are hardly enough adjectives to describe it's brilliance. One caveat--several stories contain sensitively written gay sex scenes, so if this bothers you, don't read it, otherwise, prepare to be blown away by the writing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Little of This--A Little of That

I don't know about you, but I can't keep the dust out of my house. My goodness, just when I think the dresser will stay dust free for at least a few days, it's covered once again.This bothers me less than it probably should.

I already miss Bruce. He left last evening on an 8:00 flight to Washington, DC. Worse yet, he may not return until Friday. Please let this be over soon. On the other hand, imagine what it must be like to have a loved one in the military who doesn't come home for a year. That's it Gail--always look on the bright side of life.

We had a super weekend aside from more tepid sales at the market. It's getting harder and harder to keep my chin up, however I'm doing the best that I can. Bruce switched the set up around so I wouldn't be squished next to that other tent, however, she did not come. Could I have scared her away? Maybe.

Dinner on the Avenue was great fun. I've put together a little collage if you'd like to see how it looked. I'll try to describe how it felt. Good. How's that? Before we left I discovered that I couldn't find my evening bag, so I called Regina for help. Thankfully she was home and willing. I ended up carrying a scrumptious rhinestone bag with a wonderful clasp and long ropey thing to hang on my shoulder. While there I checked out her jewelry. Together we decided on one of her mothers' broaches. Now this was not like any broach I'd ever seen--it was a clip on! Art deco baby! From the '20's. I got lots of compliments on not only the broach, but having it off to the side which was really because it flopped a bit when in the center! Regina took our picture, actually lots of them which were pretty good. That said, I've included one that makes me laugh every time I see it. I got just a little carried away with trying to keep my eyes open--we all know that is a fruitless exercise. During the cocktail hour they were serving old-fashioned drinks. Bruce ordered a Tom Collins, while I ordered a Sidecar, neither of which we'd ever tried before, but it was a night of new experiences, so why not? Aren't those petit fours gorgeous? One of the things that was so wonderful about the night is that nothing was required of us aside from looking elegant and being gregarious. I think we did pretty good on both fronts.

Speaking of sweets, here is a very cool blog all about the Decorated Cookie. If you want to make something over the top, this is your go-to blog! I've heard that cookies are the new cupcake.

I also heard on the radio while driving out to the Demonstration Garden where I took this:
that there's a new term for vocal chords--vocal folds. Don't say that you never learned anything from Camera Crazy. Poppies have the most amazing structure don't they? It's no wonder that Georgia O'Keefe was wild for them. These don't grow much around these parts--Lois is involved with the group so you know she had a hand in making them grow. I kept thinking of a bow tie while looking at this amazing flower.

Before I left this morning, I was fooling around with soft focus on the camera. DO NOT ask me why I'm taking more photographs when I CAN'T sell the ones I have! If you're a regular you know that I can't stop myself.
Here's another little tid bit. This petunia had quite a trimming about 10 days ago. According to Randy, our garden curator at the Polasek, the more you trim your flowering plants, the better they will bloom. Because he knows a thing or two about plants, I took his advice, and boy howdy was he right!

After lunch I got my paints out. I know that I'm silly, but every now and again I fool around with them.
Michelle has been asking for a piece for their bedroom, so I had that in mind. Her instructions are that  she doesn't want it to look like a photograph. Well......I am a photographer of sorts, making that a tall order. There's nothing right about this one. She wants mostly beiges-- I can't bring myself to make something so dull. I'm ever so grateful when my dear family thinks of me for art, however, there are just some things I can't produce.

Can I just say that this is by far the best haircut that I've ever had? Really Gail? You're 57 years old and have had lots of haircuts, how can this be true? Well, it just is. Very comfortable, the sides don't get in my food when I'm eating, the bangs aren't too heavy, nor is the back. Wonderful! Worth every penny.

Speaking of food, I suppose I will head into the kitchen for yet another meal by myself. Before I do, take a gander at this snapping turtle I saw out at the gardens this morning which are at the Fairgrounds on a lake.
Those claws are really something, as is his tail, and that zig-zaggy shell. The wonders of nature never cease to amaze me my friends. Too bad I clipped his tail off.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Up Close and Personal

I've seen him for myself now. Perfection is what baby Spencer is. I picked Maureen up in the late morning, parked on the street, and we made our way into the hospital/hotel. Seriously, the place is amazing. After getting our photo id we took the elevator up to the 7th floor, got the ok from the nurse's station, and went to the suite. Yes, you read that right, it's a suite, complete with a Murphy bed for papa and space for Spencer too. These days, the parents keep the baby in the room with them at all times, jumping into their parenting adventure right away. When we arrived, both Jenn and Rich were somewhat weary after spending a sleepless night with baby Spencer crying way more than they would have liked.

Jenn was in good spirits nonetheless with some pain, however, they are controlling that with medication. Between yawns, Rich showed us he's already an expert at wrapping Spencer, carrying him, and changing his darling little mittens designed to keep him from scratching his perfect, perfect skin.
Told you. Here's the happy family:
I love that expression on Rich's face. As well, how about the little rock star outfit on Spence? He's wearing the little hoodie because during the extended time before his actual arrival, the doctor gave him a little boo boo on his head trying to coax him out. He's a big boy already--8.6 pounds. They will be heading home today with Jenn's mom here for the next week to help out. Never again will their life be the same after bringing a new life into this world. Although my sons are grown, there isn't a day that goes by that I'm not at the ready to either console or uplift them. Yeah for parenthood!

While eating lunch after our hospital visit I read in the paper that the much anticipated Lady Gaga concert was last night. Furthermore, I read that there was to be a Lady Gaga look alike contest at a downtown bar on Church Street. What do you say Bruce? Want to go check out the "Little Monsters?"
Of course he did! I took my camera, only getting one decent shot because once we got closer we ran into Dana and took a streetside seat at her table. When these LMs went by, I jumped up and ran around the barrier to get this:
There were plenty more devotees who spent enormous energy putting their costumes together. I didn't see them in person, but today's paper shows a sister and brother in costumes she made. Hers was covered with tiny mirrors, which according to the story took her several months to sew on. My, oh my!

I told Dana we couldn't be spending Friday and Saturday nights any differently. Tonight Bruce will be donning a tuxedo which I will be sure to document! We're going to this. Debbie Komanski, the director of the Polasek, called last week, apologizing that the invitation she meant to sent earlier never left her inbox. The article I posted is an old one, but apparently the same sort of thing will be happening later today. Fortunately, the theme of their table is elegance, thus the tuxedo. I'll be pulling out of the back of the closet a long black sheath Bruce bought for me years ago while he was doing a job in California. After seeing it on a mannequin he asked the clerk for a measuring tape because he thought it looked like my size. Fortunately, it still is.

How about if I leave you with this:
Up close and personal indeed.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jubilation

There's a new member of our extended family. Spencer Kane Condon made his way into this world early in the morning on April 13 while a big crowd of loved ones waited patiently. After what seemed like forever to Rich and Jenn, with a little help from the doctors, he arrived in perfect fashion. I've yet to see him in person, but by all accounts, he's the cutest baby ever born! Jubilation indeed.

Before I went to the Polasek on Tuesday morning I dropped Maureen off at Winnie Palmer Hospital (shortened version of the name) around 9:30. As the day wore on, more and more folks joined her waiting for the big event. Lisa got there around 12:20 armed with provisions for a long wait. And wait they did. Jennifer apparently did an admirable job throughout, as did Richard. After it was all said and done, she spent nearly 16 hours in labor.

Meanwhile, after returning from the Polasek, my thoughts turned from the about to be living to the dead. I'd hoped to get the fireman to handle what by now I was convinced was both a squirrel and a rat, however, he was on his 24 hour shift. Calling Angela I asked her how she felt about rats. Not so good. It was then that I thought of Trish. You know what? When I asked her how she felt about rats and she said fine, I knew I was in luck. Turns out she was out and about not too far from the house. Arriving in only a few minutes time, I had some tongs and plastic bag ready. She was looking forward to seeing what she called a "sqrat", however, once she got a look at it, she discovered that sadly, it was a squirrel with one eye already chewed out. Ick, ick, ick! Trish is such a good sport and will try anything. Look at her smiling while holding the poor, half eaten squirrel while Baxter looks on.
Not only is she good at handling her friend's dead rodents, she's already good at bridge, does water aerobics, and has just begun the Masters swimming at the Y. Count me impressed.

Before I forget, take a look at this amazing flower which came from an arrangement at the Polasek:
This bloom is so cool, although you can see that it's past its prime. The petals are very sturdy as are the green leaves. And that top--simply amazing. The florist  told me the name is African Sunset.

So, back to while Trish was here. While I was at the Polasek, Willie, one of our bridge friends called the house twice. Because she didn't leave any messages I had no idea what she wanted. Trish and I were visiting out by the pool when Willie phoned Trish asking if she wanted to go to the evening bridge club at 6:30. Trish went with Jean earlier in the day, saying it was fun. She told Willie she was at my home and Willie said that's why she'd been calling. Between the two of them, I became convinced I could do it. Well, that was a serious mistake.

Humiliation at any age is no fun, however at my age, I should have known better. I barely know how to play, let alone compete with seasoned and SERIOUS bridge players. Let's just say it was a very, very long 3 1/2 hours. We were yelled at by the director more than once to stop holding up the entire group. Does that give you any idea how much fun I had? Will I ever do it again? Probably, but I'll need to take my fearless friend Trish with me!

When we were finally set free at 10 pm I was sure there would be a message, but no dice. It wasn't until several hours later that I heard the news. I can remember being so thrilled and excited when my first born came into this world. Circumstances changed dramatically as the boys kept coming, each one a blessed event in their own way.  Here's to much joy and happiness to them!

I'm anxiously awaiting Bruce's return for dinner tonight. I hope this cheery entrance to our home will lift his spirits after a very trying week.
Before too much longer it will be too hot for any geraniums to grow so we are enjoying this one while we can. Wouldn't you know it--my friend Kris called last evening inviting me out for tonight. Ahhh Kris, I haven't seen my baby all week.....

After bridge this morning Trish and I went into a designer resale shop. I still can't believe I did it, but I bought a Burberry all weather coat there! Seriously, it is very nice and looks to be in perfect shape. It wasn't cheap, however, it's a classic design with a button in liner that I imagine I'll keep forever. My goodness, I never dreamed I'd come out with a coat, but lately I've been doing my best to listen to my intuition and in this case it said BUY IT. It may rain in England this summer, who knows?

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to the kitchen I go...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cheerless

To tell you the truth although I had time to blog yesterday I just didn't feel like writing. Further, I didn't really feel like doing much of anything. Do I sound like a whiner? You're probably spot on about that.

Seriously, I've no reason to complain, or not any major reasons. I think when Bruce left early yesterday morning it hit me that I'm tired of his traveling four days of the week. If I'm tired of it, can you imagine how he feels? In more than eighteen years of working for Darden he's traveled most weeks, but usually his schedule included flying out on Tuesday morning, returning most times by dinner on Thursday. So far this year he's been gone Mondays as well. When he's home he's working at his desk most of the time. In other words, my boyfriend is way too busy!

Sunday, he made some time to do a few things around the house, realizing himself that he just had to get away from his computer. While sitting at his desk all those hours he can see the bird feeder I put on a garden hook where the tree once stood so proud and tall. Occasionally, he'll see both the male and female cardinal that call our yard home, which is always a delight. Not quite so delightful was watching a rat climb up the pole to eat his full of the bird seed. Being the inventer that he is, he made a plexiglass disc which he hopes will deter the rodents. Further, he bought a rat trap, placing it in this aqueduct he'd fashioned. Remember the picture a few weeks ago with the rat/mouse peeking out? That's the structure. Horror upon horrors, yesterday afternoon I saw the rat in the trap just staring at me! Dead of course. Now what? When we talked last night Bruce asked if I could pick the trap up with tongs and place it in a plastic bag. Normally he buries creatures, however, this time may be an exception. As you can imagine, I'm not too hip to the idea--I don't even like to pick up dead roaches, let alone a dead rat! On the other hand, by Thursday night, leaving the rat there might prove problematic. I'll leave it up to your imagination okay? We discussed various male neighbors willing to take on the task. I think later on I'll ask the fire chief down the street to help me out on this one! Hopefully, he'll accept.

Another reason for my cheerless mood is, you guessed it, poor sales on Sunday. When I say poor, I mean really poor, the worst of the year. I know, the weather was warm, but still. Bruce figured my time at the market yielded about $5/hr, however, he did not factor in all the time spent ordering, picking up the prints, preparing them, and actually taking the photographs! Yikes! I told him to remind me why we thought this could be fun... Plus, they put someone next to my booth which did not please me one bit. Anyone who has visited me at the market knows I have one open side where people come to visit. Two chairs are there in case a visitor wants to sit. Sunday, none of this could happen very easily. Everyone who comes regularly asked me what was going on. Grrrr.....Knowing me as you do, you've already figured out that I did not take this lightly, or keep my thoughts to myself. Complaints were made. We'll see about next week....

All weekend I kept thinking the time had come for me to seriously start cleaning out my photo library. I was successful up to a point yesterday. I deleted and deleted. Then I had the bright idea to make some discs of family events, removing them from the library in order not to have to make any decisions about what to delete. Normally making discs is pretty easy in Picasa, however, this time I ran into some problems, frustrating me further and naturally contributing to my funk. I won't bore you with details--I'm still sorting it all out.

Leaving that task I decided to finish the book I'd been slogging through for two weeks. Russian Winter took me too long to read, only really picking up speed in the last one hundred pages or so. I picked it up at the library upon the recommendation of another patron who insisted I wouldn't be disappointed. Good, however, there are better books out there. In fact, one stood on my nightstand all the time I was in Russia. This collection of short stories is authored by Colm Toibin who wrote the magnificent Brooklyn. Do not read this one if you are easily depressed! Writing that is kind of funny because although I began reading in somewhat of a funk, the sad stories actually lifted my spirits! Great writing will do that to a reader....how I wish I had the gift! Encountering the kind of writing Mr. Toibin does makes me almost cringe thinking of mine...

Allright, already, let's move on....

I took this picture at the Polasek a month or so ago and they were so pleased with it they used it for the cover of the monthly newsletter which arrived in yesterday's post.
Unfortunately, the newsletter is now in black and white, however, the online version is color which showed the beautiful tabebuia tree in all it's glory. This statue, "The Sower" is one of my favorites by Mr. Polasek. Actually there's a fascinating story connected with this piece. He made it as a fairly young man for the Art Institute of Chicago, sometime in the early 1900's. Apparently, the Decency League of Chicago objected to having a 10 foot nude male sculpture in front of the Institute, successfully having it removed. Notoriety ensued. Later on, while in his 30's, Mr. Polasek was asked to head the sculpture department there, staying until his retirement. It was then that he moved to Winter Park to be near Ruth Sherwood, whom he later made his first wife at the age of 72!

It's the most fragrant time of the year with the confederate jasmine filling the air with it's sweet perfume.
Makes getting the mail a pleasure! Speaking of which, these days it's a pretty puny lot, mostly fliers and the like.

I was pleased as punch when this wonderful begonia, which has outstanding leaves, sent up this flower:
I bought this last fall, enjoying it each time I walked in the side door, never even thinking it would flower. Silly me, everything flowers!

Speaking of the Polasek, it's time for me to get a move on....the reception desk awaits!

Friday, April 8, 2011

All in the Family

Is it possible for a tree to be part of the family? I'm thinking yes, especially one as lovely as our new live oak tree. Check it out:
If you click on the photo you will see Baxter doing a little morning calisthenics on the driveway. Which, by the way, I've been meaning to talk to you about. Seriously, I've learned something quite useful from our little puff of fur. Stretching. Yes, indeed, each morning when we, by we I mean Baxter and I,wake up, he stretches all his limbs in the chair where he sleeps and I begin stretching in the bed. I didn't always stretch. No, it took a dog to teach me that if I stretch, I will bound out of bed! Try it, you might just be impressed with this technique yourself. But I digress....

I also wanted to show you a view from the other side because there may be those amongst you who've been wondering what we did with our beloved stag horn fern. Ta Da!
Beloved fern?   Are you kidding Gail?    Would I kid you? 

In the first year of our marriage, which for those of you who are counting is 37+ years now, one of our neighbors began selling very small stag horn ferns mounted to a board. We bought one! We babied that fern.  Bruce even went so far as to make a special box to nest it in during our five day drive to California. It grew. And grew. And grew. During Hurricane Charley, the limb that held it, came crashing down, smashing the daylights out of the fern. Although the corner of the house was damaged, my main concern was the fern. It took Bruce and three neighbors to hoist it onto a new branch back then. Seven years later, I imagine it weighs in the neighborhood of five hundred pounds. Before they took the tree down, Jody moved the fern via his bucket truck to hang between the pines. Yes, my friends, a plant can be family.

Actually, once they began digging the hole for the tree I left to go to the store because they said it would take some time. My sister Nancy has been giving me makeup advice, which may sound a little silly to you, but this 57 year old is fairly ignorant when it comes to makeup. Nancy recommended a foundation aptly title "Photo Ready" by Revlon. After receiving my telephone consultation, I wanted to take advantage of the sale at Walgreens. Here's the loot:
Normally, unlike both my husband and my sister Maureen, I'm not much of a Walgreens shopper, however, you would never know it from my purchases; somehow I managed to spend $70 there! When I returned, the tree was in place with no one in sight. I called the nursery learning that I was to fill the berm twice a day with water for at least three weeks. Just today the awful thought of it dying occurred to me, something obviously I'm going to be doing my best to avoid! I'm more than delighted you can imagine that I can see it out of both windows and even from the kitchen. Did I mention the lovely spring green leaves? Beautiful. Now we can do something about both the bed and the grass. One thing at a time...

Yesterday morning was our bridge get together with eight ladies showing up. Fun my friends, very fun.
What I should have been doing besides playing bridge was shopping for groceries for a very special dinner for the twins. Sadly, Melanie was not able to be here because she was at the barn late, but Bill, Dave and Michelle joined us for what I hope they thought was a yummy meal. A good many of you know that cooking brings me joy, so stirring the roux for the gumbo was no problem, however, I won't lie, I kept looking at the clock wondering when twenty five minutes would have passed. Actually, Bill was playing a gig later which meant he had to leave by 8:00. With Bruce just landing at 6, arriving home by 6:30, I had a short window to work with. 
The Menu
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
White Rice
Fried Okra
French Bread 
Coconut Macroons
Because everything was made by yours truly, the cooks amongst you can imagine that the menu required some serious time management. I suppose I should note that neither Bill or Dave likes cake, thus no birthday cake on the menu. Leftovers tonight!

Oddly enough last week on Bill and Dave's actual birthday I began thinking about a specific picture of the two of them dressed identically near their one year birthday. 32 years ago having twins was a rare occurrence, especially identical twins. I will NEVER forget the time a woman ogling the twins in their stroller asked me, "Aren't you glad you didn't have Siamese twins?" I was so shocked I had no snappy comeback! Can you imagine if I'd been clever enough to say, "Why no, I was really hoping for them."
Boy did I get sidetracked! Okay, so about the picture. After our trip last weekend, Bruce dug out a fishing book that he'd not opened for years and years. Handing me the above picture he said, "Look at this." The exact picture I was thinking of! I always loved this one of them in their identical outfits which came from a Mother of Twins club I belonged to during their first couple of years. There was no shame in buying and selling worn clothing. We definitely had our financial struggles back then so it was a God send! Mostly though, I didn't dress them alike, hoping they would form their own identity. Only worked up to a point though. "You Can't Fool Mother Nature" was an old commercial tagline--so very true.

While cooking Jonathan called. Yeah! He was in the midst of registering the MINI Cooper in Texas as well as renewing his driver's license. Complicated but he got it done. While talking I learned that Wednesday was his last day in the Law Department at UT. We are all hoping another longer assignment comes up shortly. 

Saving some very exciting news for last, we now have our airline tickets to London booked for July 1!!! Using Facetime, I spoke to both Matt and Tom this afternoon, kicking around ideas for our ten day stay. So many options....I'm going the old fashioned route and buying a guide book a little later this evening. I've got one for London but we're planning on venturing out of the city this trip. Tom, of course, has done some traveling and his input will prove to be invaluable I suspect. We got into a discussion about the difference between "moors" and "dales." I believe I'll sign off just now so I can figure out what the heck those terms mean. 

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Then and Now

I'm waiting on the tree. Not like I haven't been waiting for weeks now, but at this moment, the delivery is imminent. According to Bill, it's a beauty. While waiting I wanted to post something that I've been meaning to for days.

When I came home with my new do I recalled a photograph taken of me when I believe I must have been about 1 year old. Before I was having trouble with my scanner, still am on the device, but I figured out how to make it work using the computer. So here I was then:
And here I am now, some 56 years later:
Looks like my eyes have gotten better, not worse!!! How about those eyebrows of mine? Aren't they something?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Left Behind

Because I spend quite a bit of time alone, I often don't realize how the world is leaving me a bit behind. Some of this is my own choice (texting) and some not. I can contribute nothing to a conversation on television programs for example. Last evening I turned on the set for Bruce, landing on Dancing with the Stars. My goodness, has this show been on for 12 years? The searches I did said it was the 12th season leading me to believe they possibly have several seasons a year? At any rate, I've now seen one of the top-rated shows.

I never meant to remove television from my life, it's just that I cannot tolerate commercials. Yes, there are some clever ones, however, the sheer number of mind numbing ones outweighs the handful of amusing ones. Of course, I suppose if I really was interested, I could learn how to eliminate them from the viewing experience. Again, I can barely operate a remote, let alone, skip commercials. Back to the show--Kirstie Alley needs a haircut big time! I also think she could benefit from a long gown instead of the silly costume she wore last night. Next up for me--watching my first episode of American Idol. When is that on anyway?

Rambling on....

Last week when I took this picture I had high hopes that within a month or so Bruce would have his very own Serrano peppers to eat:
Yesterday morning I discovered that the entire plant on the left was AWOL. Seriously, only a tiny bit of the stem was popping out of the soil! I'm totally puzzled. Squirrels perhaps? We've got them in the yard by droves. Apparently, whatever ate my entire plant is not impressed with thyme.

The first Monday of every month Leu Gardens has a free day. But you knew that didn't you? Anyway, I vacillated yesterday about going, finally heading over there after 3 in the afternoon. Very poor timing I know, but I went anyway. Almost all of the glory of last month was gone. No azaleas, camelias, or tabebuia blossoms. This little guy lugging the backpack almost as large as he is amused me on my way in:
I could not imagine why the smallest member of the group was carrying the pack! I will say that, last month, there was color everywhere except for the famous rose garden which was recovering from  winter pruning. This visit the color is beginning to return:
I've no idea what kind of plant it was, but the gorgeous shade of red in these leaves was one of the more interesting sights:
Speaking of tabebuia trees, I'd been dying to photograph this vintage chair belonging to one of our neighbors, finally getting the chance while walking Baxter yesterday morning. The fallen blooms are the result of those ferocious wind storms of last week.
Once again, we are having unseasonable storms today. Just as I was to be leaving for the museum, high winds and severe rain began. As such, I was about 15 minutes late which was absolutely no problem--two visitors during my entire shift! Can't say as I blame anyone for not wanting to head out for leisure in the crazy weather.

I titled one of my photographs, "Thoroughly Modern." Perhaps, I should take that to heart....

Post Script: I was so puzzled by the costumes on DWTS until I came across Outlandish Costumes.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fun in the Sun

It was around 7 pm when we arrived on Paradise, otherwise known as Siesta Key. Steve and Barb were involved in setting up a gigantic new television, which, because we're all over 50 presents somewhat of a challenge. After a phone call to his cable company, success was achieved! Before we left for pizza, we watched the sunset from the balcony:
What a great pleasure it is seeing Steve and Barb so happy together. We've known Steve for almost twenty years now and this is the first girlfriend that I can remember that seems like the "one."
The thing about Steve is that he's a loyal man to both his friends and his favorite places, one of which is the aforementioned modern and cool pizza place. He knows everyone, which makes things even more fun.

We were all pretty tired by the time we got back to the condo, so off to bed. Bruce woke me quite early Saturday morning to go kayaking just down the way on the bay side of the key.
Although he didn't catch any fish he did see a large manatee about 10 feet from his boat. It goes without saying that he was thrilled it did not flip him! Meanwhile, I roamed around on the beach side of the park:
As the sun rose higher in the sky you'll see how the water color changes from blue to the most beautiful shade of aquamarine. While at the park, from afar I noticed some birds on one of the power lines. Thinking they were green, I got closer and closer to discover that indeed they were green, some kind of parrot I'm unfamiliar with. As if I'm some bird expert!
All of Saturday the sky stayed this shade of blue with not one cloud in the sky with temperatures in the low 80's. Did I mention the sea breeze? I should have. Seriously, it could not have been one bit better. I'm thinking it might just be the most perfect weather day of the year. Once we got back to the condo we headed down to the beach with snacks.
Here's our hosts sunning themselves with Bruce wearing his t-shirt to NOT get any sun!
After a while Bruce brought the kayak down for his first jaunt into waves. Last year, while in Naples, he took the kayak into the Gulf, however, it was as smooth as glass that time. After a shaky start, he got the hang of it, paddling out quite a ways, landing in style once he tired.
Not one page of the book I'd brought down to the beach was read because there was so much to enjoy around me. Fisherman just a little way down from us were giving this great blue heron their small catches. It was amazing watching the fish go down the hatch! This time, the heron decided to carry his treat around for a bit:
The dolphins were out in packs! I didn't have my zoom lens with me, but I think if you look closely, or click on the photo for a larger version, you'll see a couple out to sea:
Can you believe that water color? Gorgeous doesn't begin to describe it! We followed our beach day with dinner on St. Armands Circle , a place that is a must see while visiting the area. One thing that really impressed me once we returned to the condo were the stars over the ocean, so many and so bright. Living in town, you rarely get to experience that part of our beautiful world. One of these days I'm making a special effort to spend the night at the beach when there's a full moon. I love to see the water sparkle in the sun, however, moonlight might just be even more thrilling.

Sunday was once again a lazy day at the beach. Bruce brought his fishing pole down and got some tips from one of Steve's neighbors. The heron is just waiting....

Because the weather was a bit warmer on Sunday I got my never up and plunged into the sea. Mostly I avoid water that is less than 80 degrees, however, once I dunked myself, the water was quite refreshing.  Here's your truly with one of the condo buildings in the background:
I kept my hat on a good bit of the time to protect both my new hair and my face from the sun. Remnants of the historic cold sore linger...

All in all, it was a perfect weekend getaway, with Bruce spending not one minute on work, something that hasn't happened in so long I can't remember. As we left around 3 on Sunday, Steve made Bruce promise that we'd make a return visit soon. Can not wait!

You Just Never Know