Friday, March 30, 2012

Mixed Blessings

After a nice breakfast in downtown Key West we made our way the few blocks to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, one of the most beautiful parks I've ever had to pleasure to visit in Florida. Not to mention it is the Southernmost park in the United States. That's kind of a weird thing to think about--the very edge of our great big beautiful country. Just in case you missed it in my last post, I'm re-posting the view one has as they drive into the parking lot.
Beautiful trees, bent from years and years of strong winds, shade most of the park making your time spent sitting at a picnic table comfortable while you view the gorgeous water surrounding you on two sides. We explored the park with Bruce walking out on the jetties:
Cuba is only 90 miles from where he is standing! A fisherman offered to take our picture:
And, of course, what is a park with fort in the name without a fort? As we made our way through a little nature path we were surprised to see the fort is surrounded by a moat.
Why we were surprised I don't know--just being honest. The sandy path on the left side and in the foreground is a biking and walking path. The link I provided in the first paragraph tells you a bit about the history of the fort, built in the middle 1800's to protect the shoreline.
You roam around a bit, wondering how life was back in the days that a fort seemed like a good idea, and if you're the curious types like we are, you make your way up the winding staircase to stand on top.
Pretty darn thick those walls. I can't remember exactly when, which to long time readers is no surprise, but at some point they took down several stories of the fort. All very interesting.

Earlier Bruce used his handy tire gauge discovering that the air fill up he'd performed the night before was not the fix he needed. So...after consulting Siri we found the few tire dealers on the island. Bruce dropped me off at the butterfly conservancy while he went in search of a tire. Make that four. Because his car was equipped with run-flat tires, of which there were none within 100 miles, he had to replace all of them--this time with conventional tires. The mixed blessing is that although he had been thinking of doing just that for a while, he sure didn't plan to buy four tires while on vacation in Key West!

Meanwhile, back with the butterflies, your favorite blogger was struggling with her camera lens not focusing. Because of my sketchy battery situation I'd brought the Olympus with the Panasonic zoom which is good for some things, but not for butterflies and darling little birds which were flitting about.
Walking back to the hotel about five blocks or so I switched to the Nikon, hoping I'd have enough battery to last the visit. I did, however, most of the photos were terrible, and my mixed blessing is that I now don't have hundreds of worthless butterfly photos clogging up my photo library! How's that for looking on the bright side of life?
See what I mean? Not much but I'm including it because it is a rare butterfly from New Guinea--lovely in person. There was a lot of mating going on
and then there were birds of all colors. Wouldn't you know it--the one with the least color came out, while the bright blue with orange feet, yellow, turquoise, and I've forgotten the other color birds, but trust me, they all were terrible photographs.
How about those claws? Impressive for a small bird like this one.

Eventually Bruce was done, picking me up and the first thing I said was I'm famished!!! No lunch will do that to a thin person. An early dinner at an Irish pub on Duvall, part of the Casablanca Hotel, and it was back to the park for sunset. I know most people do the Mallory Square thing, but I'd had enough of crowds. We chose a bench and settled in, joining others who were doing the same. If you look closely in the next photo you will see a young woman who stood on the bench while her boyfriend sang and played the guitar. All the while she kept the hoola hoop going.
Just as the park was closing after sunset she threw flowers, one by one, into the ocean. From our vantage point we saw all the sunset cruise boats going out and there were a bunch:
Although I've heard many times how brilliant the sunsets are in Key West, I've yet to see one that knocked my socks off.
Although I told Bruce that oftentimes after the sun falls is when the color begins, he doubted my assertion and on this night he had every reason to!

No wild night followed for this middle aged couple--back to the hotel and not much later sleep.

We left the next morning and headed back on US 1 the way we came. Or sort of. I'd read before we left about a place in Miami where street art is encouraged. Because I'm anxious to get back into the present I won't go into all the scary details of our search for the Wynwood Art District except to say that there was more traffic in Miami than we'd hoped, the neighborhood is not the kind you want to be in at night, and time will tell if any of the amazing pieces I saw will work:
Without the help of a local we might have gotten here even later!
The part you are seeing has had the gentrification treatment.
Oh how I wish we'd gotten here in the daylight. But we didn't. Without a hotel reservation anywhere we made our way out of Miami and headed North. Not a good plan. All the hotels were booked for miles and miles. Eventually, at 10PM, we found a place to stay. As you can imagine, we were more than tired and hungry.

A stop at Biscayne National Park on Friday for kayaking, as well as one at Jonathan Dickinson State Park on Saturday for the same, and finally we were home Saturday evening around 6. I needn't tell you our little Baxter was happy to see us.

So that was our little vacation. A lovely time was had by all.

Once home things have been going full steam ahead which I won't go into in this post. More to come!

Thanks for sharing in our road trip,

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Shades of Blue

I like all shades of blue and there are a lot of them. The main living areas in our home are painted Windy Blue, which, from now on will make me think of our trip to Key West; it was windy and it was blue.

Just the names of blue shades are nice don't you think? Aquamarine, aqua, cerulean, turquoise, cobalt, midnight, royal and baby--all very wonderful names of which most were represented on our trip. The night sky was the deepest of midnight blue while the water was so varied in shades of blue it is hard to describe using only one term. What's not to like? For my money, I can't think of a thing.

One of the highlights of the Tuesday's drive was a stop at Bahia Honda State Park. Simply wonderful. Windy too! We walked out on the bridge which the link provides details, HOWEVER, I suspect few readers will bother to check it out so I'll say this much about it--Henry Flagler built it as part of the Overseas Railway in 1912. The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 (interesting that they didn't have names back then) destroyed much of the railway, so the State of Florida converted it for vehicular use. Anyway, what you really need to know is that it is super cool. This is what people do while on top of the bridge:
If you didn't believe me about the wind before, surely you will after seeing this photo Bruce took of me!
Good grief my real hair is dark!! I'm holding on for fear of getting blown away! To stand there and ponder how it must have been in 1912 when Henry Flagler's Overseas Railway was considered one of the wonders of the world was pretty darn awesome.

We wandered around the park enjoying everything we saw. Here's a view that shows how they cut sections out for boat traffic.
Well now--look who's sitting amongst the rocks!!! Wearing blue no less.

Hopping back into the car, onward on US 1 to Key West. One final stop was on our agenda however. Bruce's buddy, Jeff, insisted we stop at MM 18 and eat lunch at Mangrove Mama's. And so we did, eating on the outdoor patio where Bruce tried his first and probably now, not his last, fish taco.
By golly, we finally made it!!!
Paradise indeed. I don't know what kind of tree that is on the right, but happily, there were gobs of them in bloom with that sunny yellow color. We made our way into town to check into our fancy digs for the night. Once there we extended our stay until Friday. The Casa Marina is quite the place, both visually and historically. We kept getting the name mixed up with the Casa Monica where we stayed in St. Augustine! It was one more dream of Henry Flaglers to build a resort for his railroad travelers, although he died before building began in 1921.
Don't go thinking we're that extravagent now because we are not. What we do have (or did) are Hilton points from Bruce's weekly travels! Lucky for us Hilton now owns the Waldorf-Astoria collection right? The grounds were gorgeous, including both hammocks swaying beneath the towering palm trees,
and sand sculptures for your viewing pleasure:
Something to watch out for if one were to venture into the water:
You might also note the rocks lining the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The long dock has steps that let you get into the water where the rocks are not so plentiful. There are actually very few real beaches in the Keys that aren't rocky. At Bahia Honda there is a gorgeous beach, while the other one of any consequence is at Fort Zachary Talyor State Park a few blocks from Duvall Street. Talk about beauty, oh my!!! But I'm getting ahead of myself...... What the heck--a sneak peak of the place:
We walked the few blocks to Duval Street through the adjacent neighborhoods all the while I was looking for photo ops.
After all our traveling we decided to head back to the hotel and hang out at the outdoor bar. Here is where big money comes into play---$12 for a drink. Yikes!!! Although before we left I told Bruce let us not be too frugal, I can't help myself. At those prices I didn't drink much!

Again I arose looking for a great sunrise only to be disappointed. There are worse things in life! We spent the day roaming around in the center of Key West. If you've never been there you cannot imagine how tacky some of the shops are. The sayings on the t-shirts and paraphernalia are atrocious! We had to go into Hog's Breath Saloon to see what it was like and the same goes for Sloppy Joes.
Later on we visited the Hemingway House which was quite interesting. Many of the six-toed cats roamed and slept and they even have their own cat house which is a replica of Hemingway's down to the no air conditioning!
Jeff also told us we must go to Blue Heaven, a famous Key West restaurant which we did for an early dinner. The place is wildly busy with outdoor seating only; I'm terming the look rustic for lack of a better word. The empty chair at Bruce's table is adjacent to a gigantic banyan tree. Good thing I'm a bit of a tiny thing.
Another famous Key West sight are the roaming chickens and at Blue Heaven there were plenty, walking about amongst the tables and roosting overhead.
As in right over our heads!! The food was absolutely scrumptious and we discovered first hand why it is so popular. Walking back to our car we were feeling a bit weary, however, the night was not completely over just yet because we found that the tire warning light was on as we were driving away--never a welcome sight.

Bruce found a place that fixes scooters, of which there are tons and tons all over downtown, and asked if he might fill his tire. The folks were very accommodating and we hoped that would be the end of that.

Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story......

Monday, March 26, 2012

Don't Leave Home Without Them!

Perhaps you've come to Camera Crazy to see what is what and found no new posts. For nearly a week Bruce and I enjoyed each other's company while taking a driving trip down to Key West. This was not our finest trip, but it was one of the prettiest, that's for sure. Our plans were sketchy--no firm decisions made until maybe the Saturday before we were to leave on Monday. Dumb move.

As you well know, I work weekends which meant I was ill prepared to be leaving for a trip early Monday morning. Not for a lack of trying; it was a time thing. Timing will come into play today as well because I'm running a tad bit short of it right now. Between yesterday's 30 sales, and last weekend's 28, I need to order and now! Mr. Roger is so darn busy that if I don't get my order in quickly, he'll get working on someone else's and we can't have that now can we?

I didn't notice what I'd left at home until Monday night. I was very sad indeed to discover that although I'd packed all my battery chargers, I neglected to put them in my suitcase. I needn't tell you that a digital photographer without batteries is nothing. Fortunately I have two batteries for each camera, but still I had to choose my picture taking wisely. Never again will I make that mistake--or so I hope!

Very briefly I'll get you started on the journey. Driving the Florida Turnpike, is normally very nice, as well it should be for how expensive it is. Except this time. All of the rest stops are under renovation with very few food options. Because we were anxious to get going, our breakfast was going to be on the road. Crazy long lines at the few places open made for some unhappy Pecks. As an aside, the further South we drove, the higher the gasoline prices, which we all know are pretty steep these days.

On the bright side, the traffic was fairly light, and before you know it, four hours later, we were past Miami and heading onto the Florida Keys. Perhaps it's a nod to the color of the water, don't really know, but as soon as you get that far South, the rails on the side of the road are painted turquoise.
We got off before crossing the first of many, many bridges and had lunch at our first tiki hut at  Gilbert's Resort in Key Largo.
The food was fine, an 83 year old woman sitting next to me at the bar kept me entertained, and the margarita cold. Walking down to the water's edge, I saw some happy folks looking at something---dolphins playing not far from shore. If I'd know it was going to be the only dolphin sighting on the trip I sure would have gone and got the Nikon out of the car! You might be surprised at how intricate real tiki hut roofs are--I sure was. This one overlooks the Gulf of Mexico.
To break the trip up into manageable pieces, our stop for the night was Islamaroda at mile marker 88. For those of you who don't know what I mean, US 1 ends at Key West--mile marker 0. Beginning in Maine, the road runs along the Eastern shore of the United States for 2377 miles! Now that would be some trip wouldn't it?

We roamed around a bit after checking into the hotel at 4, looking for a place that might be a good launching spot for the kayak.
Sadly, we did not find a spot. Furthermore, it was quite windy making a trip out on open water a wee bit hazardous. While Bruce was looking around a gigantic fishing store, I walked next door and found a cute little place to eat dinner. Originally we were thinking of going to another place recommended in our guide book, however, after we checked it out, we decided it wasn't our kind of place. Morado Bay was definitely our kind of place. Obviously another diner offered to take our photograph!
I took a photograph of other diners to show you the setting:
A magical way to spend our first night in the Keys. The next morning I rose at sunrise, hoping I might get a good one over the Atlantic:
While I'm outside Bruce does what he likes to do while traveling--turn on the television. I, on the other hand, have no interest in such, in fact, I whine about it constantly. This way we are both happy!

Off we went again, counting down the miles as we went....

Tomorrow I'll fill you in on the final 80 miles and Key West itself...that is if I get my order done!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Visit with the Whiteds

One of the kindest friends I have is Mary Whited, mother of four daughters, wife of Sam, and a cook extraordinaire. That's all well and good, but what Mary is known for equally is her giving nature--always thinking of others. Mary is also a garage sale guru. Seriously, the things she finds are remarkable; it doesn't hurt that they live in a ritzy part of town!

I had every intention of visiting my competition at the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, but that just didn't happen because once I arrived at the Whiteds, I had trouble leaving. Mary sent me a message saying she'd found something she was sure I'd like and indeed she did. Arriving there in the midst of her own garage sale, she went inside to fetch the gift. I don't know how I'd never heard of this store before, but I hadn't.
How cool is this?? This hatbox is in perfect shape with that authentic old time smell. While Mary tended to customers, I chatted with the recently retired Sam, and their lone daughter still living at home, Rachel. Well, she's sort of living at home--at least on the property anyway. Rachel is the youngest and possibly the most eclectic of all the Whited girls. Her dad built a shop in their backyard years ago with an attached unfinished room. Miss, newly engaged, Rachel turned it into the cutest space for her living quarters. Did I mention she has chickens?
They even eat out of her hand. Continuing the Peck theme, Sam explained to me that after having the chickens for a while he more fully understands how the term "pecking order" came into use. Apparently, the above pictured chicken thinks she's much better than this one pictured below.
I mentioned earlier that they live on the swanky side of town, however, their neighbors have been understanding to date. The chickens even follow Rachel and Sam around the back yard like a dog might--especially when feed is involved.
The large live oak trees make growing grass nearly impossible so the whole yard that isn't filled with vegetable gardening is covered in oak leaves which the chickens seem to like just fine. I asked where they laid their eggs and Sam pointed to a large metal tub with one of the chickens poised to lay as I asked. The chicken on the pot lays the most beautiful shade of egg; before I left they sent me home with some.My first free range eggs! They've warned me that the yolks in the blue green egg are seriously orange.
Finally, after my back yard tour, I was ready to leave. Except I couldn't at first because my car wouldn't start. Well now. Sam and Rachel pushed my car forward while I steered it into place--pretty much a first for me. You would think that "pack rats" such as Sam and Mary would have a hard time finding something in the midst of their collections, however, Sam got the charger and extension cords out in a jiffy, and before I knew it the car was once again functional. At least if I didn't turn it off...

The art show was a no-go. Auto parts store with free battery replacement took precedence....Now I just have to figure out how to re-program the radio!

I didn't really want to see what I was missing anyway....

Later on, after watching FSU play and win (by a thread) in the NCAA tournament, Jeff called and asked about meeting up downtown. Why not? Well, I'll tell you why not. Bruce came home with some computer problems related to the installation of a new "air" card and he could think of nothing else until it was fixed. While he was messing with his computer a friend called, actually the second in as many days, wondering if I'd photographed the gorgeous yellow tabebuia tree on Lake Gem Mary. Not yet I haven't. Well now I have and it's probably a good thing because it won't be too many days before all the blooms have fallen, joining the already huge mass below the tree.
There is just something about the shocking yellow that mesmerizes--from a distance it looks like this:
Not just a yellow carpet of blooms, but their reflection and floaters in the lake to boot! We live just around the corner from here. Returning home after taking these shots, I found Bruce talking to Jeff about how he was so frustrated we would have to cancel. No problem. Except there was. Tech support called back and he and Bruce spent, not one, not two, but three full hours on the phone trying to sort it out. He can use everything but the internet at this point. In fact, I went to bed while he was still on the phone because of today's market which was pretty good if you're wondering.

You know that pecking order business from above? It turns out that red-winged blackbirds get to eat their full before Mama Cardinal--the nerve of him.
After waiting her turn in line, she jumped down to the ground eating all the droppings. For the most part she's sitting on those eggs which I'm thinking will hatch in about a week or so.

The Etsy shop has been re-named, OutandAboutwithGail, with the help of Bruce and Matt. Every image I upload has so many steps that I've spent more time than I could have imagined setting it up. If you are curious it cost .20 for each listing and 3.5% of sale. The listings expire after four months and I'm afraid that will be the case with mine, but if I've learned anything about this business over the last five years it is this: YOU NEVER KNOW!
With over 300,000 photos listed for sale it's highly unlikely any of mine will catch on, but again....repeat with me....YOU NEVER KNOW!

A little stem of parsley leftover from when I cut some from my patch. We are meeting Jane and Michael within the hour for dinner and I suspect the chef will use a little of this on whatever we have to eat. Green for St. Patrick's Day you know.

happy weekend dear readers,

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Setting Up on Etsy

Oh my goodness I have spent so much time with setting up a shop on Etsy. I have no idea what I'm doing!!! I spent all of yesterday figuring it out and photographing work around the house the best I could. We'll go into this in more detail very soon. Suffice it to say that it is harder than you can imagine.
In lieu of my words, I'm posting two links to entertain you....

A short video of Gerhard Richter painting which is so interesting: A Master at work.

And then there is this way cool London street artist working in Paris: Nick Walter.

If you can think of a better name for my Etsy shop, please don't hesitate to shout it out! I picked this name months ago, probably because Out & About Photography was taken. Bruce doesn't like it and I don't so much, but unfortunately, Camera Crazy is taken as well.
I'll be back very soon my friends,

p.s. Sorry for the staccato post!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Almost Perfect

That my friends is how I would describe yesterday-- Monday, March 12, 2012. The kind of day where everything goes according to plan including the gorgeous weather. Why, oh why it couldn't have been like this on Sunday???
That there is Mr. Bruce heading out to the vehicle with a basket of prints under his poncho. I won't dwell on it except to say it was not much fun setting up the entire booth only to take it down about 45 minutes later. Enough already.

Instead, I lollygagged all afternoon in my pajamas, watching first FSU beat North Carolina for the ACC championship, followed by golf. Popcorn and FaceTime chat with Matt thrown in for good measure. I know you'll be happy to learn that he and Tom are thriving. Although Bruce did not change into pajamas he lollygagged right along with me if you can imagine. Even more shocking is that he did absolutely no job related work all weekend long!!! Saturday, while I was at Winter Garden, he met up with Bill and Dave at the gym, showing off his improvement, followed by lunch. Nice to get together with your boys.

Which brings us to yesterday, the already described almost perfect day. One teeny thing kept it from being perfect. I don't mind admitting that I've held out a wee bit of hope that somehow I would get to exhibit at the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival this coming weekend. I know it is silly of me, however, as an optimist, I can't help myself. Anyway, after blogging early yesterday I checked my status on the web site. For months now I've been #3 on the wait list. Imagine my surprise when there was no numeral attached. Could it be that my number was almost up??? The short answer is no, it could not be. Throughout the day I kept wondering if I would hear back from the email I sent asking for an explanation. Finally, around 7 in the evening, the call came through letting me know that there was an error and I in fact am still #3. Maybe next year?

As Bruce was leaving for work yesterday morning he asked about my day plans. I answered that laundry was on my agenda. I couldn't wait to try out this little sample that came in the mail:
That's quite a tag line they have there--"Give the Revolution a Spin." All very clever. Because I've been using this kind of thing for the dishwasher for a couple of years now I'm surprised this is the first I've seen the pod being used for washing clothes. I've been using liquid for years now and try as I might I always have some dripping going on. Revolution indeed. The weather was perfect for drying clothes on the line. I give you "His and Hers."
I got to find out first hand how great my new little Jelly Bean rug washes as well.

Baxter, as you may already know, is pretty much a perfect dog. Easy to get along with, cute as a button, and marginally well trained. There's one little thing about Baxter that isn't quite so great and that is his penchant for pooping on the patio by the clothes line. Before you get all grossed out, remember the mantra--small dog, small poop.

The doorbell rang at 8AM. The technician arrived to do the semi-annual air conditioner check. Nice young man. Everything went smooth as silk. Except for the small patch he left on my new rug as he re-entered the house after checking the outdoor compressor. I tossed the rug in the wash, came out perfect and the BEST part is that it dried outdoors in about 30 minutes--I kid you not. No more proof is needed to validate their claims of excellence.

I got all kinds of things done including: mowing most of the yard, planting more grass plugs, watering my flowers and making banana bread. I also ran up to the bank with Jonathan's car payment and took the pool water to be checked. I was delighted when he said it was perfect as I've largely ignored any maintenance for months now.  Finally the tree guy came. Tree guy Gail?

As I was driving home from getting my fresh orange juice last week  I saw a crew and truck in front of a house. Let's just say this was a very good find. He agreed to come and clean up the palms.
These Chinese Fan palms have gotten just plain too tall for us to manage them ourselves. So lots of brown, empty seed pods, and general all around mess. Furthermore they have been suffering from some sort of disease which, in the words of Gabriel from Arbor Vision, skeletonizes the fronds.
In fact, he used all sorts of terms we'd never heard of, talking like crazy about trees. An Arborist will do that you know. Along with the clean up, he applied liberally a fertilizer which includes something that will help the tree fight off the disease. Wait--palms aren't trees we learned--they are grasses. Now you know.

He climbed up a huge ladder and sawed away.
Surprising how much had to go. I was kind of mesmerized by the new seed pod thing he removed.
A neat spring green color and so intricate. Problem is they end up full of fruits that rats like to eat. To date we've avoided any rats in the house and I'd like to keep it that way. While he was sawing away I was folding the clothes as I took them down from the line. I said something to him about the rat problem and seconds later a rat ran along the fence right in front of my eyes! Please go away!

He carefully cleaned the one out front as well, promising not to disturb Mama Cardinal nesting in the lady palms below (see bottom right.)
Lots of big trees around these parts that's for sure. I'm thinking he's up there about 40' in the air. So, it all looks very good now:
The big Queen Palm also got a tidying up. I am most pleased at my roadside find and the $280 was money well spent!

Mr. Bruce left this morning for a couple day trip to check on projects. Because he's been home so much he was not terribly excited as you can imagine. Not long after he left I made my fourth trip out to Valencia in the last few weeks. You'll recall I agreed to participate in the Red Chair project which I'm doing for free. No problem with that except I had no idea it was going to take me so many tries to complete the assignment! First time I went to scope it out the campus was closed for a teacher work day. Next visit I shot the interior of the gallery with the red chair, and an outside shot, but they wanted another one inside the main building. Okay, I can do that. Drove out there last week and it was Spring Break. Darn!!! Surely it would work today.....yeah right. The gallery was closed to hang another exhibit!! I got what I could and re-shot the outside because the flowering tabebuia tree adds so much life.
So, that's that. As I was driving to my next destination I noticed some purple. Park car, get camera, and here is one of the first irises of the season:
I am becoming more and more enamored of purple flowers including these deep purple salvia I planted around the new tree:
 Are they ever going to be gorgeous once they grow up!!

Birds, flowers, caladium bulbs coming up......Spring has sprung my friends.

You Just Never Know