Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Variety Show

Talk about a variety show! How about some of those sporting events that you rarely see? Like rowing, or kayaking in whitewater? Have you seen any of the table tennis matches? My goodness do the opponents move fast; plus, how tiny is that table? Water Polo--it's like hockey in the water! Today Matt is seeing water polo matches and I'm most anxious to hear his reaction.

Bev rightly pointed out that I left the "Parade of Nations" out of my list of favorites. What was I thinking? It is always quite moving to see the world come together, and, I especially liked when all the flags were planted in that green part--can't remember what they called that hump. I do know, they did not call it a hump though. Help from the audience?

It seems as if the next two weeks I'll be staying mostly offline except for my blog posts because, darn it, you can't go on any site without results being posted! So, consider yourself warned.

Let's have a little bird chat, shall we? Last week, after getting no input from my readers, I posted the photo of the baby bird on the facebook page of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology page, requesting help from their fans. Although I can't be sure of it, from what readers have commented, it appears that our mystery bird is a Cowbird, known for dropping their eggs in other bird's nests so they don't have to hang around until said eggs hatch. Here's a refresher, in case you've forgotten our mystery bird:
You know, I've yet to see the little rascal again. I've just found this on the Animal Planet website, and it seems to explain things better than I can:

Do Cardinals Have Any Enemies?
Like other songbirds, cardinals have many enemies. Cats, hawks, and owls hunt adult cardinals. Blue jays, wrens, and snakes try to get at cardinal eggs or chicks in the nest.
One of a cardinal’s sneakiest enemies is the brown-headed cowbird. It waits for a time when the cardinals leave their nests. It steals an egg from the nest. The next day, the cowbird lays its own egg in the nest. The female cardinal sits on the egg until it hatches. Then she raises the baby cowbird as her own.

What's so pertinent regarding the above information is that when I called Bruce out to see the baby bird, he stepped on an egg, hidden in the grass.  We were both sad, not knowing at the time that it was our baby cardinal egg..... :-(

I wish this photograph was better! Have you ever seen a molting cardinal?
Well, now you have! Do you think he's sad over the stupid cowbird incident?

As if you haven't seen enough bird photos, indulge me on one more please:
Taking the trash out, I couldn't help noticing five doves in a row under a tiny cloud. :-)

Last week, answering the house phone, a woman asked for Jonathan. Why, no he's not here, and hasn't been for quite some time. Before I know it, I'm answering political questions like there's no tomorrow. I NEVER DO THIS! Always, once they begin their spiel, I shut them down quickly, so what made me stick with this one is anybody's guess.  Near the end of the survey the woman mentioned that they were looking for folks for a focus group which paid $100 and would I be interested in participating?

What I won't do for my few readers! Thinking it might be good material for the blog, I agreed that if they chose me, based on my answers, I'd be a focus group participant. Well, they did choose me, along with 29 other folks who were silly enough to answer the phone!

Last night, per the explicit instructions, I arrived just before 6PM. A light supper was part of the package to which I agreed. Well, I'll tell you that much, it's not very easy to eat a tiny sliver of a sub while answering six pages of questions in 30 minutes!  Part of the agreement is that I not write much about it, something I learned after the fact. As you well know,  I'm a rule follower so I'm complying.  I am allowed to tell you that, during the 3 1/2 hours we watched loads of political advertisements, reacting to them with little gadgets that we turned up or down gauging how persuasive the ads were. Half Democrats, half Republicans, it was quite interesting to hear people's ideas and comments. And that's all I'm saying for now about the process! Wait--most importantly, it went past my bedtime, not to mention that I missed way too much Olympic coverage!!!

This morning I attended another event which was pretty cool. Terry Olson, head of Orange County Arts, as well as curator of the Red Chair exhibit,  asked if the photographers would attend the meeting of the Orange County Commissioners, during which time he would present the project, as well as information on the economic impact of the arts. I was most delighted to meet Orange County Mayor, Theresa Jacobs, who is quite the little bulldog, making enemies left and right!
She is pictured in the pearls. If you can imagine, the folks talking to her are part of the Roper family. I know you're wondering what that has to do with the price of tea in China. Oh, I forgot, you weren't raised by our Mother who loved that phrase. Continuing..... WELL, the proclamation for today was "Bert Roper" day. Okay, so what Gail? Winter Garden my friends. Bert Roper and clan are so instrumental in the history of Winter Garden!
Remember I told you Winter Garden thrived due to citrus? According to his obituary, he was both a prominent citrus grower and philanthropist. Furthermore, not only was he responsible for the local YMCA, but the Winter Garden Theater and the Heritage Museum as well.
It's weird to think I only took these photos on Friday isn't it?

During today's event,  I ran into Jae Nale, who not only finally agreed to let me into the market, after pleading from Mr. Bruce, but, she bought my very first canvas six months after I started!  Asking permission to take her photograph for this blog, she dragged me through the chambers, so as to have it taken in front of a purple wall!
I have told the story so many times, forgive me if you've heard it before. After about six weeks with my brand new digital camera, my darling husband said he thought I was pretty good, and maybe we could sell my photography. I thought he'd lost his mind. Undeterred, he insisted we should give it a try, more specifically at the Farmer's Market because it was so close to home. After church, one Sunday in late February of 2007, we walked to the market, asking our now-friend Dina, who should we talk to about possibly becoming a vendor. She gave us Jae's name and number. I won't bore you with too many details, but I will say it was not me who called Jae. At the time I was unconvinced I could make anything of my photography. Next we returned to the market to ask in person. I was not the one doing the asking because, frankly I was embarrassed at the thought. Anyway, Jae said, sorry, we can't use you. I said, that's fine by me. Bruce, on the other hand, would not take no for an answer, so, the following week we walked, once again, to the market after church. Jae relented, and Out & About Photography began doing business a few weeks later. Thanks to Jae we had our start. And that my friends, is our story in a nutshell. :-)

A few days ago Baxter had his grooming done. He gets to be so shaggy! Anyway, returning from bridge I found him with a little American flag kerchief, which at first I didn't get. Well, duh!! Of course, he was ready to watch the Olympics, sporting his countries flag!!
He's even carrying  his favorite Monkey out to cheer the athletes on! Which is what I'll be doing soon after making some dinner. Why I agreed to this stuff during the Olympics is beyond me!

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Really Big Show!

Those of us of a certain age will immediately recognize my title as one of the most anticipated moments of the week for many American families. After watching, and loving, the opening ceremony Friday night, I couldn't help but think of one of Ed Sullivan's most famous lines. He, who brought us the British Invasion, would surely have uttered those words after seeing Danny Boyle's extravaganza! Talk about a variety show!

I pretty much loved every minute! Here are a few highlights for me:
  •  Rowen Martin's hilarious skit.
  • The unsung heroes--construction workers who built the magnificent stadium--getting a nod
  • The smoke stacks rising from the ground.
  • Mary Poppins floating.
  • The Olympic rings coming together in the sky.
  • Fantastic music, loved the drummers lining the track.
  • The cauldron could not be more beautiful could it?
  • The Queen's outfit. I wonder why she doesn't smile more...
  • Being reminded just how much the British have brought to our cultural world.
  • Artic Monkeys performing "Come Together" with the cyclists wearing wings. Oh my!
Surely, you had a favorite part if you were watching.

Indeed, Ed Sullivan brought us, what was then called, "The British Invasion" because during my years growing up, so many, who have become iconic, British bands came on the scene. Once again, if you are of a certain age, you probably remember seeing The Beatles for the first time live on a Sunday night in 1964. I was 10 at the time and so darn in love with the Beatles you can't imagine. Back then, because the show had something for everyone, whole families gathered around the television, wondering what new and exciting guests would be on each week. I can still remember Herman's Hermits, The Dave Clark Five, The Kinks, Gary and The Playboys, The Supremes, The Four Tops, Barbara Streisand and the list goes on.

Young people today can hardly imagine how we lived, only seeing acts once a week, not to mention whole families watching television together on the only set in the house! It makes me a little nostalgic for those times. Currently, our cable provider is running a commercial about how every person in the household can do their own thing using all sorts of gadgets. Can this really be a good thing?

I hate commercials as much the next person, but not so the commercials aired during the Olympics. Most of them are poignant, especially one for Tide detergent which celebrates Moms. I like the one with Ryan Lochte for AT&T where he says he swims to London. And another one which brings a tear to my eye, a Nike one showing sport in all kinds of places called London. Every time I see the little boy jump off that high dive, I can't help but think of my twins doing the same all those years ago at the swim club. They were about that small, with all sorts of folks daring them to do so. I should have known then that they would grow up to become "Eagles!"

I could go on and on about the Olympics, and in other posts I probably will; for now I'll shut up on the subject.

What have I been doing besides watching the Olympics since my last post? Stuff.

Friday I spent a considerable amount of time on a project for Dana. She's taken over the annual Winter Garden Art Show, and as such, has this idea of making a collage of WG into a poster advertising the show. Knowing I come pretty cheap, she asked your favorite blogger to head out there to see what she could see with her camera. Which she did. I have much to say about the day, but for now, because this post is going on and on, I'll mostly show some photos.

Winter Garden, up until the "Rails for Trails" project happened, was mostly an agricultural town. Citrus and cattle for the most part. It won't surprise you that there is still a feed store just off the main street which I visited for the first time on Friday. My, oh my, a real step back in time. They have a few pets in the store, including a rabbit, a pig, and a Polish chicken. One thing about WG is the folks everywhere are really friendly and don't mind a minute if you take photographs. In fact, the woman working there insisted I would want to see the pet pig named "Pinky" because my visit would be incomplete without said viewing. Are you ready?
She claimed Pinky is an easy pet, much like a dog, however, unlike a dog, this pig does his business in a litter box! Yikes! Pinky would not leave her napping post for a frontal view, for which, perhaps you are glad?

Then there is the barn part of the store which houses yet another pig, only this one looks nothing like Pinky.
Maybe because it's a boar, what with that tusk and all? Sandy, in the background, will be quite familiar to many--we are definitely taking a nostalgia trip today aren't we?

Speaking of family togetherness, this is quite a common site in Winter Garden:
Oftentimes folks refer to Winter Garden as a Mayberry type place. You know a place where Sheriff Andy Taylor would fit right in. Although growth and progress have come, there is still such a delightful small town feel to the streets. This sign in the book store window says it all:
The thing is, I arrived around 9:30 in the morning, having waited for Bruce to arrive home from the red-eye flight before leaving. Good thing because most of the downtown shops do not open on until 11:00 in the morning! My goodness, that was a surprise.

Sunday market was super hot, but GUESS WHAT??? I had a former Olympian visit my tent!
The young lady on the left remarked upon seeing my London collage, how great the restaurant Leon is. I agreed. Of course I noticed her British accent, discovering that, although she now lives here, her Mum lives in London. So, Miss Talkative went on to rave about the opening ceremony. That's the thing about conversation I'm afraid many folks are missing these days, it meanders, oftentimes leading to amazing discoveries such as when, after noticing she and her Mum were wearing Olympic ring necklaces, I learned that she was a gymnast in Beijing and her Mum was one of the British gymnastic coaches!! How about that adding to my Olympic fever? Unfortunately, at the same time a young man came into the tent claiming he'd emailed me about the photography business and wanted to chat, cutting short my time with the charming Brits. :(  What brings her to Orlando? She is in the cast of La Nouba. You NEVER know who you are going to meet at the market.

There's more, there's always more I could say, however, most of you have long since lost interest in this lengthy post, so I will force myself to call it quits for the day. Happy Olympic viewing my friends.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Floating down the Length of My Pool

Mostly I took it easy yesterday, nursing my sore body. I'm not getting any younger, so these things take time! Well maybe not too much time as this morning I do believe I'm doing considerably better.

As Bruce was leaving for his flight yesterday morning he suggested I stay off my bike for the day, however, after giving it some thought, I decided to give it a try, staying close to home for the most part. After as many days as I've been riding, the habit has been formed, leaving me a little lost if I don't get out there.

That was pretty much the extent of my moving around, with the rest of the day spent either at my computer working on my calendar images, reading, or floating in the pool. For the most part I don't spend a lot of time floating, but yesterday I thought it might do me good. Lying (laying?) there, mostly under the shade of the overhanging palms, gazing through the fronds at the blue sky filled with puffy white clouds, I remembered something I told Matthew when I began selling photographs. By the way, Matt is an owl, and Jonathan a peacock! Who knew?

Anyway, I remember telling Matthew that I would be content to be the "Thomas Kinkaid" of photography. Not the huge popularity of course, but one who perhaps critics scoff at, but the public loves. Or in my case, liking would be enough. You see, I had a chat with Matt on Sunday evening after the market and I told him my feelings about my recent disappointment. Although he was sad for me, he convinced me that being turned down for the show was not enough to get me so discouraged. Reminding me of some successes I've been lucky enough to have, I took it to heart, so much so that I forced myself to apply to some Spring shows Monday afternoon. Furthermore, I didn't try to second guess what the judges would like; submitting the images I had already planned. That's such a problem when you can only submit three images, especially for someone like me who is so darn prolific! Only time will tell. :)
I forgot to tell you my bathing suit this year has a little floaty skirt which is very fun! I spent some of my time reading an excellent novel given to me by Bev, Stones from the River. I'm about 100 pages in, so I'll let you know later if it is worth your time. So far, so good. Monday I picked up a few more outdoor furniture pieces including the two ottomans.
And, I guess it was Monday morning that I rode up to our shopping center to check on the construction progress. I was surprised to see how nice the new Applebee's looks:
From the exterior it looks like it won't be long until it opens, however, the finished exterior can fool you. Bruce tells me that people stop by his jobs all the time wasking WHEN is the Olive Garden going to be finished?

If you want butterflies in your garden, plant PENTAS!!! You won't be disappointed! This poor little one sure does have a ragged wing, which is probably why I could get his picture.
Bruce had his annual review on Tuesday afternoon which is what kept him from traveling on Monday. After having lunch by the pool together, I started skimming the top and discovered a fat ladybug which are not nearly as plentiful as these guys:
I had Bruce hold the skimming paddle, which is really a net with a frame if you've never had the pain/pleasure of taking care of a pool. I ran in to get my camera AND something to put said ladybug on for a photo shoot. Crawling on the small dish for only so long before flying away, I got this one:
Super cute, right?

And now, let us discuss the Olympics! Got my schedule right here!  Because I'm so ill-informed when it comes to television I had to look up the channel numbers. Well, really, there are so darn many, maybe very few people can remember them all. Anyway, to make it easier I wrote a little cheat sheet, placing it alongside my viewing chair. Speaking of television, here's a little something about a former Olympian, actually a female, weight lifter who competed in the heavyweight division. The film airs this evening on PBS stations.

Our man in London has secured some SWIMMING tickets for Saturday!!!! He'll be seeing both Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte!!! As a former high school swimmer, this will be even more special because he will surely be able to relate more to the sacrifices needed to make a world class swimmer, over say, a world class fencer, which he'll also be seeing.

So, here's the little Olympic bus parked in front of the televison, where I'll be keeping it throughout the Games.
That said, Matt gave it to Bruce for Christmas last year, so it isn't even mine to play with, but I suspect my sweet husband will approve.

Good grief, I nearly forgot my writing intentions for the day! Sarah from Sun Dance called yesterday morning--my images are selling!! She gave me the break down and all totaled in paper prints they have sold 527!!!! Well now,  just the encouragement I needed.

As I listen to all the athlete's stories, the time and effort they have put into their sport, I'll be reminded that I've not really been at this gig for very long at all. My computer groans with effort to keep all my images, but if I want to be good, I have to practice each and every day, just like an athlete. These Games have come at just the right time.

With that, it's time to get in the saddle before the morning sun rises too high in the sky!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What Kind of Bird Are You?

I may be the only person who has never heard of DOPE, or maybe not. Every single Sunday someone tells me about something new, and in this instance, a woman told me about DOPE, a personality test that claims everyone is one of four bird types: dove, owl, peacock, or eagle. I'd forgotten all about it until I was handing my sales book over to Bruce to record, and noticed I'd written the acronym down.

Because we all know how fond I am of birds, I checked it out, linking it to my blog. Except at first I did not take it myself, then thought better of it. How could I convince you to take it if I hadn't done so myself?? While in the midst of answering the 40 questions, which really amounts to clicking your mouse 40 times, Angela called and I told her what I was up to. She knew all about it, claiming that I was a peacock. Really?
Well, guess what? She was correct, apparently I am a peacock, or at least 37.5% so. Following, it claims that I am 27.5% dove, 25% eagle, and a lowly 10% owl. Telling Bruce about it during dinner time, I suggested he take it as well. Well, can you guess what bird Mr. Bruce turned out to be? It was no surprise to me that his major bird, if you will, is an owl.
This little guy is from my Ponce Inlet trip, taken through the wire cage. Bruce's percentages were as follows: 40% owl, 35% eagle, 20% dove, and an even lowlier 5% peacock! Well now. I've always said opposites make the very best partners!

I had to click on "full of trivial conversation" if I wanted to answer truthfully!

Speaking of birds, I realized that some folks may have never seen an osprey before, so in the spirit of education, here is last weeks osprey and mockingbird.
Did you know the mockingbird is Florida's official bird? Well, now you do.

I bought some lettuce last week which was almost too perfect to be true. I'm thinking they put these heads into some machine to make them look so symmetrical.
It was such a cute little head! I got to thinking about the time I learned that baby carrots are not babies at all, rather, they are shaved down from life-sized carrots! Some of us are so easily fooled. :)

As well, while at the market on Saturday, I purchased some baby cucumbers with the intention of trying my hand at pickle-making. Around these parts, we love pickles, although, heaven only knows how these will turn out.
It will be about a week and a half before I know how they taste. Looking up some recipes online, I really wanted some mustard and dill seed, however, Bruce called me from Publix saying he could find neither, so we're giving pickling spices a go. Because I like garlic pickles, there are about four cloves in the bottom. Am I crazy or what?

Don't you just love cherry season?
Raniers are tasty all right, but expensive, so generally I buy the Bing cherries which are pricey enough! This photo was taken at the market on Sunday, which was not too bad, both heat and sales-wise. Plus, I  had early visitors--the beautiful Condon family. My great nephew Spencer has been walking for about a month now and he was pretty much loving testing out his new found freedom:
He's the cutest darn thing you've ever seen, and such a sweet spirit! I hope their luck holds out when baby boy #two comes along this fall!

Let's take a little stroll around the garden shall we? Our poor little gnome is showing the effects of our hot Florida sun, fading more each day.
He's still awfully cute though. I told you I re-planted the window boxes with red pentas and white lantana. The pentas are blooming just fine, the lantana is only days away:
And then there are my crown jewels, the dahlias! My word they are a gorgeous flower, and pretty soon I'm going to have more than you can count, as there are about 20, yes I said 20 buds on my three plants!!
Some are variegated, some are just plain deep red, or not really red--maybe pinkish red? Somehow this bloom has a little extra row of petals on the bottom. To be honest, I never dreamed they would even come back, let alone thrive like nobodies business!

Because Bruce has been home for a few days, I'm making meals of a little more substance then when I'm alone, thus, groceries needed to be purchased yesterday afternoon. Plus, I could not, for the life of me, find my box of "London Cuppa", which is my everyday tea; the whereabouts of my latest purchase is a mystery to me. Except most of the time they have it at Marshalls, so off I went, in spite of the threat of rain. Paying for my purchase I glanced towards the glass doors, and talk about a rainstorm! Good grief, the thunder and lightening were amazing, even setting off car alarms. Standing under the portico, I was convinced it would not last long.
Convinced and reality are two entirely different things when it comes to rain in Florida! Eventually I went back into the store to wait it out. Now, I love a good shopping trip to Marshalls, but not for nearly an hour! Finally, asking for a bag for my handbag, I took off my shoes, and made a run for it! Arriving home I found Mr. Bill visiting with his Dad, showing off some new boots purchased from eBay. Nice. The bank has him studying at home for yet another license. Have I told you he's moved over to SunTrust, joining his brother at the same bank? Well, he has, beginning last week. After Bruce took the bird test I asked him what he thought our boys would be. The twins--definitely eagles. Jonathan I'm thinking would be a dove, but it is Matthew who has me completely stymied. No clue.

In true peacock fashion, which means I'm willing to take risks unlike my owl husband, I tried parking my bike along a bit of an incline this morning. Not a good move Gail. I took a sideways tumble, landing in gravel on my left hip and ankle. The good news is that my camera, which I'd been holding in my right hand, suffered no damage. The bad news is that, in an effort to break the severity of my fall, I'm thinking I might have twisted my back. Then again, perhaps it's only temporary discomfort and it will be as good as new later today. That, my friends, is a bit of that peacock optimism at work!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Odds and Ends

It is no secret that I'm dying for the London Olympics to start. Although I told Maddie during her visit that I turn on the television once or twice a week, that is all about to change beginning July 27th. Because I "like" the London Olympics on facebook, I got to see this fantastic aerial photograph of the venues, and because I "like" you, I'm sharing:
If I were to guess I'd say that Matt lives in about the middle of the upper part of this photograph. I may have mentioned that he has tickets to nine events for the Olympics and several more for the Paralympics, which is very exciting indeed. Perhaps I've told this story before, and if so, please indulge me as I mention again that because Matt was born on July 5th, I was doing a lot of sitting, feeding, rocking, you know the whole taking care of a newborn thing. While doing so I watched as much of the Olympics as was feasibly possible. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that my beautiful little baby boy would one day be attending the Games.

So, the Olympics and I go way back. I love sport of all kind, and particularly the Olympics, because we get to hear so many stories and everyone knows I love a good story!  Furthermore, I love a good photograph and believe you me, this article with Olympic Photography Like You Can't Believe is really something. Plus, the swimmer, Ryan Lochte is from, not too far from Ponce Inlet!!

Remember I said I didn't only take eight photographs of the place, and you might have to see more from my little day trip? Well, here you go:
Clouds for Karen. :)

Jumping back to the Olympics, here's another great piece about former medal winners from the 1948 London Olympics which I found so very touching. Jane, Tom's Mum, sent me a fantastically long letter via email this week, catching me up on all the doings from her part of the world. One thing she mentioned is that both the press, and some of the Brits, are grumbling about the cost, and inconvenience of the Games, which apparently is nothing new according to the above article. That said, huge crowds have come out to watch the Olympic torch relay all over Britain. Jane and Ray lined the street in their town, and just today Matt posted a photograph of the torch in London. I LOVE THIS STUFF! Such a wonderful foil to all the terrible news from around the world. 


Thursday morning I took the new coverlet to the laundromat hoping to soften the fabric a bit in their huge laundry equipment. Of course I had my camera:
I love photography!!!!!!!!!! The softening idea--didn't really do much.


Another thing that pleased me from this week's trip was this cool tree taken in New Smyrna:
I've no clue what kind of tree it is but I "like" it.

A few weeks ago, around our new oak tree, I planted a bunch of marigolds that I purchased from the bargain table at Lowes. Originally the trays of maybe 18 small plants were $10. Small plants=small holes, just perfect for our space. I figured, for $2.00, if they don't live so be it, and if they do, all the better. Well, by golly, they have not only lived, but thrived, pretty much coming back from the almost-dead.
Woo hoo!!!

While Baxter and I were getting the morning paper Thursday morning, an osprey flew out of the tree right in front of us, landing atop the light pole at the end of our street, which is very short for those who've never visited in person. You've probably guessed I had a camera with me:
He/she is on the top of the pole, while the smaller birds hang out on the wires. I bet he sat up there, maybe twenty minutes without leaving, despite a mockingbird's attempt to get him to leave! As such, although I would have liked a photo of an osprey in flight, I don't have the patience for all the waiting that nature photography requires. 

So, I was happy as a clam this afternoon, after getting the mail, to see this baby bird sitting peacefully in the lady palms:
What is most puzzling about this is, that, although this baby was sitting about a foot from the cardinal nest, I can't imagine it is a cardinal baby. By now I've seen many cardinal hatchlings, none of whom looked like this. Because Mama Cardinal was not on her nest when I first discovered the baby, I didn't know what to think. Calling Bruce away from his desk to see it, neither of us could figure out this little avian mystery, especially now that Mama had returned to her nest while I went to get him! I just went out to check, and indeed, she is on the nest, and the cute little baby bird is nowhere in sight. The truth is, whatever kind of baby this is, it is way cuter than a tiny cardinal! Stay tuned.....

It is hot as the dickens today, however, there has been no rain for the last several days. Could this please be tomorrow's weather? PLEASE! 

Time to go make dinner folks--have a good evening and we'll meet again here soon.
Gail

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Dying Mall, and Katy Perry Too!

Meet Betty:
who is just a whisper shy of 92 years old. Betty likes saying her most-treasured 79th birthday gift is her 13 year old granddaughter, Maddie.
Maddie, who lives near Seattle (named after Madeline L'Engle), is visiting Betty for some weeks this summer, and as Betty no longer drives, Carol, Maddie's Mom asked me if I might be willing to take her daughter out and about for an afternoon.......show her some local sights, that sort of thing. Are you thoroughly confused yet?  It gets easier as we go along.

And, so I did, picking her up at the sensible hour of 1:00 yesterday afternoon. Believe me, you should be glad, because had that not been the case, my post about Ponce Inlet etc. would have been even longer! You absolutely know I didn't take only eight photographs on that trip!

I digress.....

What shall we do? The mall? The movies? The park? My house? Decisions, decisions.  The movies--that's it! What shall we see? Because Betty's home is relatively close to ours, we drove home to check out the movie schedule on my computer. I know, my phone might have been enough, but my skills using it are not. So...she'd already seen Brave, no real interest in Moonrise Kingdom, but when I mentioned Katy Perry in 3D, she was all smiles. Checking the time, we discovered we could make the  2:00 show with no problem. Driving there, we chatted, getting to know one another, having only just met for the first time. She was a brave girl to come hang out with me!

Fashion Square, oh how that used to be a hot spot. And now it is not. Arriving in plenty of time, as we walked up I saw the theater was closed with a sign on the window stating they were having plumbing problems. "Sorry for the inconvenience."

Now what? Okay, we'll do what most women would do when faced with a similar situation--we'll shop. Except there are very few stores, and the ones that are still in business? Yikes! That said, we soldiered on, and I got a serious education about what there is to buy in a dying mall.  Our first stop was in a store, which I believe was called, Home Essentials. Home essentials indeed. The array of merchandise was really something. Both Maddie and I kept picking things up wondering what in the world people do with. Now, I'm all for people of color having their own things, but that did not stop me from wondering just what anyone would do with this stuff:
Mostly there were "accessories" stores, selling stuff that I'd always wondered where people bought, such as this display:
I believe this store was called, well I don't even remember the name, but apparently it is the adult version of Claires, making crystal clear why they carry a Marilyn Monroe flask.
Are women carrying flasks these days? Perhaps, you aren't in to MM, no problemo, there are other, equally as silly designs to choose from! If you are really into yourself, you can purchase one, or maybe several, depending upon just how much you love yourself, of these products:
Be careful of the glitter girls!

Let me just say I was so very happy I had my iPhone camera to document this stuff, otherwise, I wouldn't believe that I'd seen it! Strolling past empty store, after empty store, we finally came across this horrible place, selling, of all things, neon pumps that could be used as a stand-in for the orange cones used to divert traffic! The rest of the place is stuffed with equally as hideous merchandise.
And, such bargain prices to tempt a shopper! I believe these shoes were something like $12.99? Then again, perhaps Florida football fans might want those blue leggings to go along with the pumps?

 Now, I've always thought of myself as a bright color lover, but honestly, this bright?
Eventually we ran out of stores to gawk at, so we made our way back from whence we came. Stopping at Auntie Annes, we tried to buy an original pretzel, however, none would be available for eight minutes. Seriously? No worries, I paid for said pretzel, and we agreed to wait, spending our time in JC Penney because I'd been wanting to see what the store looked like now that an Apple big-wig is in charge. If you've seen any of their ads you have probably already noticed his influence. Sadly, with no staff in the store, all the great advertisements won't be much help turning the store around. I will say, on the other hand, that finally I saw at least a few cute things, unlike what we'd been subjected to during our stroll. We took our pretzel upstairs to share by the mostly empty food court, empty of both of people and eateries. Orlandoans? How darn sad is this taken at 4:00 on a Wednesday afternoon? 
Pretty much a ghost town. Although I'd read about this in the newspaper, seeing it with my own two eyes made it sadly real. Closing The Gap store was the beginning of the end.

The smell of popcorn led me to believe the theater had re-opened after solving their plumbing problems which proved to be true. Katy Perry, A Part of Me, here we come!

Believe it or not--I liked the movie. The SCREAMING FANS during the concert series brought back very fond memories of when, I too, was a SCREAMING FAN, only our screams were for the Beatles. I'll never forget watching the movie, A Hard Day's Night, screaming throughout! I think I was maybe 12 years old, and to this day, I still can't imagine a whole theater full of screaming girls. 

I kept wondering what in the world made her think to wear blue hair, or even pink hair. The onstage costumes? Amazing craftsmanship! She even has her grandmother in the film, who reminded both Maddie and I of Betty--very feisty in spite of her advanced age! There were a few brief moments when I even felt tears well up, which sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn't it? Unlike the U2 concert we saw in 3-D, this one was pretty tame as far as feeling like the onstage folks were jumping into your lap. So, I learned about the phenom known as Katy Perry, and despite my cynical nature, I quite liked what I saw.

There was more learning to come. Once we got home I began fixing some dinner for the two of us while Maddie watched a bit of television. Although I'd set the table in the kitchen, I quickly decided that the only place for us was in front of Toddlers and Tiaras, a show I'd only heretofore read about. If you thought I was going crazy at the mall, you should have heard what I had to say about that nauseating show. My gosh! The world is going to hell in a handbasket! J' Adore Myself indeed. What sort of FATHER drives 800 miles to pick up a gown for his 10 year old daughter to compete? The MOTHERS were insane, putting ridiculous amounts of makeup on four year old girls. Spray tans? Hair Pieces? Coaches? The Judges!!! The list of atrocities went on, and on, and on. It's safe to say that will be the last time I subject myself to that show! 

Maddie is the antithesis of all that I saw yesterday; a sweet, bright companion for the day. Not to mention she pushed me into the 21st century from which I've been mostly hiding. Will I become a "Katy Kat" anytime soon? Probably not, but you never know--stranger things have happened.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The More Things Change...

...the more they stay the same. In some respects anyway.

Although much has changed physically since my last visit to Ponce Inlet, what attracts my photo taking has remained pretty much the same. Unlike my first visit I am completely healthy and strong. Well, strong is a relative word, but you get my drift. Furthermore, this time I have an arsenal of cameras, a Honda Pilot instead of an adorable blue Mini Cooper, and years of practice. That said, I'm not sure any of the photographs I took yesterday are one iota better than what I took with my handy Panasonic FZ8. Let's see what you think....

Leaving the house with what I thought was adequate time to make it to Ponce Inlet for the sunrise, the skies were that gorgeous shade of inky blue with clouds just becoming visible as I drove along I-4. Around 6AM I began to see the streaks of light amongst the blue meaning sunrise wouldn't be too far behind. Hmmm.....I know, I'll take SR44 to New Smyrna Beach,  which I'm pretty sure I can make in the 39 minutes until the official sunrise. With light traffic the drive was smooth as silk. Those familiar with the area will recognize how the road curves to the right just as you are nearly beach side. It was there that I took the turn to the left, hoping I could find a parking place pronto, so as not to have driven for an hour for nothing! Was I ever lucky, pulling into the grass alongside the Holiday Inn!

Mostly Florida beaches are flat, with very few landmarks to improve on the composition of a landscape photograph. Of course, the sand, sea, and sky are all gorgeous, but to have a successful landscape photograph, you really need something in the foreground to draw the eye forward. Plus, if at all possible the horizon should not be in the center which sometimes is easier said than done. Don't say I never taught you anything about photography!

So, I grab my new Nikon with the zoom lens, (probably a mistake in hindsight), and my Olympus with the 20mm lens attached. By now I'm in a hurry. Look what I found?
Wonderful crisscross of dunes with vegetation! Perfect, right? Guess what? The photo above was not taken using the big money stuff, instead my iPhone. Indeed, after taking some with the other cameras, I remembered the phone, running back to the car and snatching it out of my handbag. I told you I had an arsenal with me!

Actually, it was so cloudy I was wondering what kind of shots I would get, but as it turns out, clouds were good, otherwise, shooting into the bright sun is very tricky indeed. Soon thereafter, the beach started coming to life with walkers, joggers, and bike riders.
Notice that color of the sky as it will come in to play a little later in the day. From there I drove onward towards the actual town of New Smryna, parking my car at the town marina, which is in front of what appeared to be the site of an old fort.
Indeed, it was a fort, but for the life of me I couldn't find the actual name! However, I eventually found a plaque stating that the original settlers from the Old World lived nearby, in 1768, the largest single attempt at colonization by the British Crown. Apparently, things didn't go so well, but eventually the town stabilized, particularly after Mr. Henry Flagler built the railroad. Now you know.

Orlandoan's are divided in their beach loyalties. Some, like myself, opt for Cocoa Beach, mostly because of proximity, but there is definitely a case to be made for those who prefer New Smryna Beach. Any beach town in Florida counts tourism as one of their main industries, with high rises all along the coast, both hotels and condominiums. There was a time though when highway US 1 was the main thoroughfare, carrying passengers from Maine to Miami. As such, while driving the last 25 miles to Ponce Inlet I saw loads and loads of old motels which dot the highway from, as I mentioned, Maine to Miami. I pulled into a Dairy Queen parking, which sported a great old fashioned neon sign atop the building, to take this shot of what once must have been quite the place.
Believe me, currently, there is little charm to save! The drive was pleasant and speedy, with river views on my right.

Long before you actually get to Ponce Inlet you can see the lighthouse in the distance because it is taller than everything else.
Depending on how you look at it, the 10 AM opening time of the lighthouse is either good or bad when you've arrived in town at 8:30 AM. I used the time to roam around a bit, driving down some of the tiny little sand roads shaded with beautiful tree canopies.
Because of my previous visit I had an inkling about what to visit, including their little marina where I took this photograph of a pelican, all the while thinking of my brother Pat who has an affinity for them.
This visit there were only two, unlike before when loads of them gathered around the docks--must not have been any fish around yesterday to cause a congregation. :) While on the subject of birds, I saw a few of them yesterday at the Marine Science Center, located around the corner from the lighthouse. As I was walking up from the parking area I heard a bird call with which I was unfamiliar. Who knew there would be two bald eagles in rehab at the Seabird Rehabilitation Center? Pretty sure this is my first time hearing the call of an eagle, which as any birder knows, is the first step in finding birds.
Remembering how exactly to focus on something in a cage was the tricky part, some attempts were more successful than others! Several beautiful owls, woodstorks, hawks, and various shorebirds were all in wonderfully clean and spacious cages. One of the little owls was missing an eye!! How sad is that?

Finally, the lighthouse opened and your favorite blogger went up to the very top, all 175 feet, in a long-sleeved linen blouse. Say what? What was she thinking? Well, while drinking hot tea from my travel mug, I was a bit of a slob, allowing tea to dribble down my chin and onto my white top. Lots of dribbles in fact, leaving me with light brown trails against a sea of white. Not a pretty sight. I'm getting lazier and lazier about my appearance, but even I draw the line somewhere! I'd packed the clean shirt as a bathing suit coverup, however, I put it into service for my trip into the lighthouse. After paying the $5.00 admission fee, I took the photo posted earlier to give you an idea of the scale.

During my last visit I was still recovering my strength after a long illness, so the 203 steps were a bit of a problem. Not so yesterday, I am most happy to report! Cooling breezes and a lovely vista are the gifts that await those who do make the climb.
By golly, there is the marina facing the Halifax River! The history of Ponce Inlet is quite fascinating if you are interested. The views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean are just as spectacular. Going down is a piece of cake, although one does feel the need to hang onto the railing.
Although I was a little sweaty going up, there were Dads who carried their children both up, and down, who were sweatier!

From there I entered the beachfront park which was absolutely gorgeous. I've never been on such a long boardwalk over high and plentiful dunes.
I somehow missed this area during my last visit, but oh my, no visit to Ponce Inlet is complete without a stop! According to the link above, a few years ago it was the 9th most beautiful beach in the country and I can see why.
Super wide, super beautiful! Those folks with their cars on the beach? Smart move because as I said the boardwalk was long, not to mention a tad hot on bare feet! Because there is a jetty, there are quite a few surfers,
along with fisherman, and families. I couldn't help but notice this little red-haired fellow crawling to his Momma. Brought back some fond memories of days spent at the beach with our little ones!
Across the dunes, across the wide-wide beach, and onto the jetty for me. Oftentimes when I see a scene I think to myself, "now this will make a great shot." Sometimes I'm right, sometimes I'm not.
Dramatic for sure, but I'm not confident I captured it as well as someone else might have. Hmmm.....

One feature to love about the new camera is the ability to take shots rapid fire, which is just what you need when you're trying to catch the sea crashing on the rocks, which by the way, I'm wondering where they get such gigantic rocks to form jetties. Anyone know?
A man and his adult son from Kentucky asked me if I was getting any good shots to which I replied, "I sure hope so!" When you travel, albeit fairly close to home, you always hope something will come of it, but in reality, most of the time that is not the case at all. We shall see what the customer has to say about my efforts which are not posted on my blog because of obvious reasons. Similar yes, but I'm no dummy, I'm not giving the good stuff away for free!

Hot dog if after wading through the surf, I didn't head about halfway back on the wrong boardwalk, which if you're thinking, that is a pretty dumb thing to do, let it be known that they are not numbered and look pretty much the same!  Getting in my car for the journey home I was very glad indeed that I'd gotten up at 5 for a beautiful trip to the coast.

Remember that reddish sky in the morning? Let me refresh your memory:
 We all know what that means don't we?  Indeed, it poured on my drive home!

You Just Never Know