Monday, June 30, 2014

A Tree Grows in Orlando

...and grows, and grows, and grows.

It must have been about two years after buying our present home, that, one Saturday afternoon the doorbell rang. It was a young man, well, maybe thirty or so, who introduced himself, and proceeded to tell me that he grew up where we were now calling home.  During our conversation he produced a photograph of said house without a tree anywhere to be found. Oh my, have the trees grown since that time. There are huge, and I mean huge pine trees, make that five, as well as a ginormous Laurel Oak tree in the front. Additionally,  there is a Live Oak which grew from an acorn, and, of course, the new oak tree. I mention the different varieties because to most people in the know, the Laurel Oak is considered to be somewhat of a liability. I can't tell you the number of tree people who question the safety of such a tree, as does Bruce. So, for a while now we've been thinking how to make it smaller. See how big it is?
Or, more accurately it WAS that big. Here's the opposite view from down the street.
As you can see, it plainly dwarfs our little home! So, while Bruce was at work!*, I heard some activity outside, and I went to check on what was happening. Across the street at Ellie's house, a tree was coming down.
I liked the size of the crew, as well as all of their equipment, not to mention their slogan which you'll see in a later photo. Speaking with the owner, he was a little kinder regarding the tree, however, he did say it was probably in our best interest to reduce the size by 25%, as well as remove the copious amounts of mistletoe. Calling Bruce, we decided to write the big check. GULP!

Included in the price was a bit of trimming dead limbs off one of the big pines. You would be surprised at how large those limbs are when they hit the ground.
Good grief he was way up there! Speaking with the workers I learned the bucket goes up 50 feet in the air. No wonder this kind of thing is expensive. Now, I'm not a great negotiator or anything, but I did manage to get them to throw in trimming the super tall Chinese Fan Palm.
He ended up driving that bucket truck on the yard up to my front bedroom window in order to reach it all.
The USA/Germany match was on while all this activity was outside my windows, but every now and again, I'd run out there to take photos, or talk to the fellows. One of them was concerned I wasn't happy BECAUSE I was taking photos, however, I assured him that I was very pleased, just an obsessive documenter!
Kevin's Tree Service--We Go Out on a Limb for You! Honestly, these were the best workers I've had in all of our years of needing tree guys. Following the clean up, I handed over the check, and then they went across the street to get paid for that job. I was still in the yard when Ellie's Mom handed over a check. Now, she did not just have one tree cut down, but all EIGHT of her trees trimmed. I joked with her Mom, asking her if she wanted to write one for my work. She told me it was Ellie's birthday gift (she's about 30), and I had to laugh at that. You know you are an adult when you are happy to receive a gift of tree trimming!

Bill gave the go-ahead on the shutters, so we made a trip to Home Depot to buy the lumbar. Only Bruce would go through every single piece to choose the best.
How may of you have seen this new fangled light bulb before?
Wonder never cease! Here's another wonder for you. For the longest time I've been meaning to share this but kept forgetting until I came across this image in my library this morning.
A wonderful young man who teaches elementary school art classes has purchased from me in the past and most recently he came to get a gift for his Mom. Rummaging through my prints, he came across one of this little figure I picked up at Goodwill for $1.00, because I thought it was super cute. Here's what he had to say about this little wooden doll: It is a Kokeshi doll, made in Japan, and widely collected. AND get this!!! Fisher-Price used this as a model for their little people--big head, no arms and legs, you get it don't you? It is remarkable what you learn from folks. We were a big Fisher-Price family for sure! One of my favorites was the bus with all the little spots for the children with the string pull in the front. Of course there was the "Corn Popper", but that didn't have any children. It saddens me to see so many children today "playing" on an iPad, but then again, my parents probably were sad to see our children playing with plastic toys! Time marches on....

In good news for our sons, Matt and Tom are official today with their new home, and Herbert, God bless his soul, began the spraying of the house trim, and garage door...we are getting there.
In case you are wondering, it won't be long before Bruce builds some sort of screening for that awful pump in front of the garage! Shutters are all made, primed, and painted, ready to go up!!!

*Bruce is doing some work for Dana on the Orchid Garden ballroom at Church Street Station. Some folks won't be surprised that he left for work at 7:15 in the morning, returning home at 6:30. He's there today, as well as most of this week. The side jobs are coming in faster than he can keep up! Or I guess they are no longer side jobs, a term we used back when the children were quite young. In those days, he worked as much as he was physically capable of to keep us all warm, and dry. :)

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Nancy called the other morning. Our conversation was both long and varied. At some point we got on the topic of health fads, and all the so-called professionals telling us what to eat and drink, or for that matter, what not to. As you may already know, I am extremely skeptical of all that sort of advice, having lived long enough to know that it all comes, and goes. The latest, gluten free, is everywhere these days, with little evidence to support the need. Celiac disease, a result of gluten intolerance is extremely rare, however, marketing is not. Make of it what you will.

Then too, we talked about our Mother, and all the exercising she used to do. That gene is absent from me, however, my sister Lisa is a queen exerciser. She might be too young to remember a song that went along with President Kennedy's physical fitness program, and the truth is, I had to have Nancy sing it to me before I did. She told me Apple was using the Chicken Fat song in a recent advertisement. The article from Slate that I've linked to is very fascinating. Who knew that people sued others back then? Clearly, although it is now rampant, suing for damages is not the fad I thought it was. Nancy, by the way, did an excellent rendition of that song.

So, how about the World Cup frenzy? Wonder how many Americans will stay on the soccer bandwagon if the US lose today? At this time of the year I prepare for the annual Historical Preservation calendar contest run by the city. Now and again, I get lucky, which I hope will happen this year. When visiting City Hall, one must check in, get a badge, and be screened. Because we were on our way somewhere else, I had Bruce drop me off, with me only carrying the photos and my wallet. As I was doing my thing at the machine, who should be adjacent to me, but Mrs. Orlando, complete with sash, and tiara. Who knew there was a Mrs. Orlando? Certainly not I. Finishing my business I remembered that there was a soccer sculpture in front of City Hall commemorating Orlando hosting the World Cup in 1994 when most Orlandoans could not care less. Running across Orange Avenue to the parked car, I grabbed my camera to take a photo of said sculpture for my soccer mad son, Jonathan.
Just as I was getting there, Mrs. Orlando, whom I really wanted to show you, exited City Hall with a photographer to have her picture made!
For what, I don't know, but following the above pose she came right over to Mr. Soccer.
What do you suppose Mrs. Orlando does anyway? And can you imagine wearing a long sleeved dress on a hot June morning? I certainly cannot. Speaking of weather, something I am wont to do, it finally rained!!! Not much, but some. Oddly enough, both Tuesday and Wednesday night the rain came around 8 at night.
Waking up yesterday morning, I kept puzzling over this weird phenomenon.
What could it mean that three of the windows are covered with condensation while one is not? It is hard to believe that on June 23, well into our hot and rainy season, the windows look like this for the first time. What too, were these neighbors thinking when they chose the exact, or nearly so, paint colors?
While riding my bike, I am constantly amused by scenes such as above. I think there is some story to this, don't you?

During my seven years of selling photography I've learned that people love certain parts of nature. Then too, some animal love is faddish, oftentimes fueled by mass marketing. It was with some surprise that I learned there are folks who are passionate about dragonflies, affording them almost mystical qualities. This poor dragonfly met his match in our swimming pool.
Which brings me to more on the fad topic. Colors, for example, enjoy a big renaissance, only to be kicked to the curb a few years later. Probably every color used over at Bill's house will be passe practically before the paint is dry. Let's hope not because, in a house with loads and loads of woodwork, not to mention split level, paint is a big expense. Then again, it's cheaper than granite, which is having it's own heyday. There are other counter tops trying to usurp granite, however, I'm still thrilled with being able to put hot pots on mine. Furthermore, when it was installed at least ten years ago, people told me it was hard to keep up. People were wrong. Easy as can be.

If only I had a before photo of this door casing Bruce fixed last week.
It was as nasty as could be; actually, in this case, a photo would have been worth a thousand words! So, to answer some folk's question, we are still working over there. The current project Bruce is working on is decorative house shutters which he made over at our house.
He's adding spacers to keep them a smidge away from the house. After working until 2 over at Angela's yesterday, he picked me up so he could install the one completed shutter for Mr. Bill's approval. Ta-da!
At some point in the near future, Bill will be having a planter made with some sort of stone blocks to spiff up this area. He cut down most all of the plants the very first day he owned the house, but the azaleas are having no part of that, growing back nicely, although I imagine he'll be kicking them to the curb as soon as he's able. Getting off the phone with him, an hour or so ago, he was leaving the granite fabricator shop....drum roll please!! Either Saturday, or Monday, the top will be installed. I cannot imagine going six months without a kitchen, can you?

What fads make you crazy?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dry Days

While it is not quite the Dust Bowl around here, it is dry. My word, where has the rain gone? It has been nine days since last we had rain, longer than I can remember, however, you and I know that's not saying a lot. Seriously, what are the television weather shouters doing without being able to hype afternoon rainstorms? I know what our market managers are doing--because it was "raining" in Lake Mary, about fifteen miles from downtown Orlando, they came around at 12:30 with the sun shining, to say we were to close the market down. Typically I'm fairly easy to get along with, but not so much then. I about flipped out is putting it mildly. To think that it took Bruce nearly 2/12 hours (with some help from me) to put the display up, and because there was rain FIFTEEN miles away, we were to take it all down after 2 1/2 hours of selling????? Of course, not a drop of rain fell....

Instead of being in my tent Sunday afternoon, we got on the "Game of Thrones" bandwagon. Shutting all the curtains and blinds, we watched episode after episode, marveling at it all. Seriously violent, so much so I turned away at points, it is just as addicting as everyone says. Jonathan gave Bruce season one for Christmas, so it's taken us a while to get to it, but now we are hooked. Unfortunately, unless the library has other seasons, we will be left hanging...

Saturday we took another trip to Renningers; before it was a recognizance mission, this time it was with the intent to sell silver dollars left to us from Bruce's parents. Because all four of our sons are in the midst of big things, we decided to split the proceeds amongst them. Needless to say, they were dumbfounded to learn that Christmas was arriving in June. Just kidding boys!
The dealer and his wife were very nice folks--you should have seen the wad of cash that man pulled from his pockets--never seen anything like it! While we were there we ran into the former Boone High School football coach and his wife, personal friends from way back. Bruce joked with him about being his bodyguard while we were there. :)

Instead of just heading home, we decided to drive into the town of Mount Dora because we were already there, and because it is cute. Loved these mailboxes, which I suspect are way too empty these days.
Before arriving in the little downtown area, I saw this train, stopping along a curb while Bruce was chatting with his friend Michael who recently took a job Bruce recommended him for.
This would be the "Orange Blossom Cannonball."

As you can imagine Bruce is still adjusting to not having a schedule. Yesterday morning, in spite of staying up late the night before watching GoT, I woke early, as did Bruce, and I suggested we head to the beach. Bruce is not much of a beach person for various reasons, however, he agreed to it, and off we went, hitting the road before 7:30. One thing you have probably already guessed about me is that when on the road, I will pull over for lots of things. Which is what I did along Judge Road, not far from the house, when I thought I was seeing horses.
This is but one of what I'm pretty sure were not horses, but either mules, or donkeys instead. Do you know the difference? Bruce, using his phone, did a little sleuthing, and now we know.

Cocoa is the closest beach to us, so that's where we went. Arriving by 8:30, after a stop at Starbucks for Mr. Bruce, the beach was pretty empty of folks. The sky was dull and cloudy.
I thought the water at 80 degrees was a little chilly, finally getting in just before leaving, however my constant companion did not. In fact, I think he really enjoyed himself which bodes well for more beach trips in our future.
One of the best parts of beach-going is watching the activity surrounding you, and in this case, the beach coming to life as the morning wore on. This Grandma was being such a good sport!
Or I suppose she was the Grandmother--these days, one never knows. We watched what appeared to be an old man heading out with his surfboard. We are old, he looked older!
This little game began a little too close for comfort beside me before moving onto the harder sand.
Then, just as the sky began clearing, it was time to go home, but not before a stop at a park alongside the Banana River.
Presuming there would be a place to launch the kayak, we presumed wrong. Weird park, with fencing along the river, making it a NOT recommended stop if you are over that way.

Following lunch and a swim in our pool, I did some errands, and as I was returning from Publix with groceries, the sky looked pretty menacing, with cracks of lightening and thunder in the distance. Alas, we got a few drops, but at this point we need more. The sun is already hot and bright this morning leaving me wondering how much longer this dry spell will continue. I guess I'll find out soon enough.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

We Have Blue!

Last Sunday night Bill mentioned, with trepidation of course, that the pool was getting a little green. Oh my gosh son--how much chlorine is in the floater??? He admitted not much. Pour in a jug ASAP. If only it were that simple....

After nearly a week of daily fiddling, we now have the bluest water since Bill bought the house SIX MONTHS AGO! I'll spare you all the details, however, it goes without saying that I am overjoyed, as is Fallon who left me a message exclaiming how phenomenal it looks.
Finally, it is ready for swimming and not a moment too soon as the weather ALL week long has been warm and dry. Let us hope and pray that the dry spell does not break tomorrow when I'll be at the market!

If you can imagine, Bruce bought into my idea of painting these little panels that fit inside the garage door windows, blue. Because our door is a little low to the ground, he likes to keep them covered, and they were, however, the panels were showing their age. It looks amusing now doesn't it?
Blue eyes! Using a spray paint that we purchased for our new frames, I think it will make me smile every time I see it. I'm getting close to using that same blue on the doors, although I don't relish the idea of painting a door with so much glass after doing so on two sets of french doors at Bill's house!

Remember how I told you that Cheryl's house was uber-cool? Look at this spectacular, and blue, pool area.
Since moving here, and closing her interior design business in Chicago, she has made good use of her skills in both the house, and gardens. What's most remarkable for me is that I visited this home on numerous occasions when my gardener friend Lois lived there, and although it was nice then, it is even nicer now. Rather than the pool being in the back yard, this one is surrounded by rooms, making for a very cozy feel.

In keeping with today's theme, I about freaked when I saw Sue's latest find.
While visiting Angela to see Bruce's handy work there, we sat and looked at various magazines and catalogues. It is nice looking at things online, but really, there's nothing quite like the tactile experience of leafing through the pages of a magazine. Or, at least that's how I feel about it. Anyway, I had to photograph this one page from her HGTV magazine. I believe they wrote this article for me.
About the only one I answered correctly is Wise Owl! How about you? My motto is that if you like the name, you probably like the color. I'm not much of a fan of any of these names. While we are thinking about paint colors, I can hardly wait to see what Matt and Tom choose for their new flat which they are only days away from owning.

Jonathan and Alissa fell in love with the television show, "Friday Night Lights", and in fact, they loved it so much, they put Austin on their list of places to move to from Chicago where it was entirely too cold for Florida folks. They loved Chicago, as does most anyone who either visits, or lives there, however, after three ultra-cold winters they decided it was not for them. Anyway, just down the street from us is Pershing Elementary, which is sporting new paint colors along with their mascot saying.
Don't get it? It's an inside joke. Not really!!! The Dillon Panthers were the fictional football team. :) Just thinking of them as I rode past the other morning.

So, what exactly did Bruce do for three days at Angela's house? He did this.
Angela did all the painting, leaving the installation of the cabinets, hardware, counter top, moving plumbing, and electrical, to the expert. Plus, all new cedar behind the cabinets as well. I wish I had a before picture of what was once an outdoor kitchen on her gigantic gazebo. The prints are by yours truly.

If you can imagine, Kirklands has purchased another one of my images...

A few years ago Maureen gave me an air plant for my birthday. When not blooming, I'll admit, they don't look like much, however, when they are they are like no other in the plant world. This year it is having a hey-day.
Don't you just love it?

The other day, while at our home away from home, Bruce found a dog roaming in the street. Carrying it up to the garage, he found some rope to keep it from running away again until we found the owner. Or, make that, he found the owner after calling the vet's number on the tag.
The dog was cute as a button, and friendly too, until the owner FINALLY came to get him. We learned that he runs away with some frequency, and with the barking he did when the man arrived, it might just be because there are problems at home? We were both a little taken aback when the man did not even thank Bruce. Hmmm....

Well that was a good story to share with Regina who has a Welsh Corgi of her own.
Bruce is really enjoying getting to know our neighbors better. Between working non-stop at his job, as well as helping me with mine, he previously did not get much chance to mingle. Now he can.

In the midst of doing errands yesterday, lunch time rolled around. As you know, we are breakfast, lunch, and dinner folks, rather than grazers. Anyway, we decided to have some lunch at The Olive Garden on Sand Lake Road. To make a long story short, the manager came by asking if everything was done well. Indeed it was. He next came by to process our credit card. Okay. Well, returning, he asked Bruce if he was the "legendary Bruce Peck" from Darden? Apparently he had worked with Bruce many, many years ago during the creation of Smokey Bones. He was all but unrecognizable to Bruce because while battling a rare cancer he has lost 100 pounds. It was really nice of him to say that--we both smiled broadly. That said, I'm hoping it doesn't make Mr. Bruce a little blue himself.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Urban Nature, Part Two

Strictly speaking, this picture of a triplet sunflower doesn't really fit into today's category, however, I thought it was so cool that I'm showing it because I can. Driving over to Bill's last week, taking a different route for variety, I came across a yard with a big patch of sunflowers, which I naturally had to stop and photograph, as they were adjacent to the street. I bet you would as well...
Isn't it gorgeous??? Not something I see every day that's for certain.

Then too, when was the last time I saw an owl except at the zoo? Now I have for two days in a row!! While watching the World Cup match Saturday night at David and Cheryl's home, she, or maybe the other guests, mentioned a home in Southern Oaks with more than one owl in their tree. Because we live just across the street from there, and I knew just the house because their gardens are so lovely, I rode over the other morning to see what I could see. I scanned and scanned the trees until suddenly I saw one way up there.
Having already told you, it is not so hard to see is it? Knocking on the door for permission to trespass, no one was home, so I did it anyway. Keep in mind I don't have super fancy equipment, like most folks who photograph birds and such, but I do have better than some, and my zoom is pretty good.
Woo hoo--look at those talons!! I was happy, but not completely satisfied, as I'd only seen the one. As you well know, when I get an obsession, sort of like my past eagle obsession, I'll keep looking. Hold that thought.....

That same Saturday night, taking something out to the recycling bin, (probably a wine bottle!), I heard something in the pool. of course I went in to get my camera. It was not Saturday night after all, duh, which I could retract my previous sentence but I won't, it was Friday the 13th because I took this one as well that night.
At any rate, turning on the pool light, I watched the action of these two frogs, one of which was such a bright chartreuse!
So, it has the big bug eyes of the hated Cuban tree frog, but typically they have no markings, or none to speak of, and they are certainly not this shade of green. Well, it turns out there was more than one...
Now you see what I'm talking about. On the left is the typical coloring. What happened next is still a mystery because it was really only for a moment, but I was pretty darn glad I had a camera in hand when it did.
The mysteries of nature never cease to amaze! Nor does the fact that there is life happening all around us, and if we keep our eyes and ears open there is much to see. Such as, while standing at the kitchen sink, I saw the black racer on the walkway, not an unusual sight, but one that makes me glad I'm inside rather than out.
This is a harmless snake, despite it's creepiness. Calling Bruce to the window, I asked him how long he thought the snake was because it seemed much longer than the one I'm accustomed to seeing. 30 inches or so!! What happened next also surprised me....
Yup, a little drink from the bird bath!! Opening the door to take a closer look, just as Bruce was going to step outside, off the snake slithered away. Is it any wonder I don't like going in those front bushes to turn on the hose?????

Just prior to heading off on my bike ride, I did a little garden surveying and came across this slug on my salvia I planted after digging them up roadside.
What an odd looking creature, don't you think? The name doesn't help much.

When Sue came over on her bike after I'd already ridden, I told her about the owls, which she promptly went looking for. Texting me, she told me she'd seen them two doors down in a big palm tree. Obviously, on our way to Bill's house, we had to check it out for ourselves! Sure enough, as we pulled up, we saw a man in his driveway, with phone in hand, trying to take a photograph. Asking if we could join him, he said sure.
Not only were there the above two, there was yet another one doing his thing.
Sorry for that!!! The man, of course I've forgotten his name, turned out to be one of the major builders of Southern Oaks, claiming he and his wife were the first to move into the newly planned subdivision back in 1969. His was an interesting story, which he shared freely, which included a love of collecting, including plants. Our tour of the back garden was really something, as was this water feature he built.
Apparently there were once loads of koi in this pond, however, the egrets found them quite tasty. Speaking of fish, remember how I told you that the lake water was clear as can be? Checking it out in the daytime, I was amazed at the size of this fish which was happily swimming near the shoreline.
Naturally I had no idea what kind it was. You might be surprised to learn it is a tilapia according to Bruce. On the shore there were these prints of most likely a raccoon looking to eat a fish like the one above!
Isn't this fun? And aren't you super impressed I managed to post without a cardinal photograph? I'm trying to show some restraint! Because it is getting hot as the dickens, there are loads of butterflies.
Is there anyone who is not impressed with butterflies? I should think not.

Never one to pass up an opportunity to photograph something I find amusing, these geese certainly qualify.
Wearing their rain gear, they needed it last week, but in a little bit of freakish weather, we have had not one drop of rain since Saturday night. Clear, sunny skies have prevailed. It is a good thing I'm not the betting kind because after the monsoons of last week, I decided on Saturday night not to do the market on Sunday. I could not have been more off. Mostly I'm okay with a bit of rain because Mr. Bruce prepares out tent for that eventuality; during a Florida summer, it is pretty much a given there will be afternoon rain, however, it is the market managers who are not prepared, closing the market so early it is hardly worth all the trouble. Instead Bill and Dave brought lunch for Father's Day and the four of us spent a beautiful afternoon poolside making memories. :) There were no nature sightings to report.

You Just Never Know