Friday, July 31, 2015

Still on the Road

6:30, this evening, we will be attending the "celebration of life" event for Captain Matthew Stromberg at the Citrus Club downtown. Today would have been his 48th birthday, and come to think of it, the last time we were there we celebrated Bruce's 60th birthday with the twins. Not necessarily a contrast you'd like to highlight, but then again, this is life, which can be very messy indeed.

So today my thoughts are filled with remembrances of the five years they lived across the street from us. Our lives were closely intertwined in so many ways, from dog watching on their part, to house watching on ours. We commiserated on their addition, Bruce giving his expert advice, me putting in my two cents regarding the decorating. Love, life, fashion, food, decorating, family, child rearing, spirituality...all topics on our radar. Then, 18 months ago I helped them move, which come to think about it, was pretty dumb on my part. I should have said no--sorry, don't want you to move. Oh yeah, I nearly forgot, I found them a realtor who sold their home a week after listing. Then again, I guess that is what friends are for isn't it?

One way that Angela influenced me was this bike riding kick I've been on for a few years. Me--when I start something, generally I stick with it. Angela--not so much. A few years ago she mentioned riding her bike around the neighborhood, specifically Southern Oaks across the street, to get the day off to a good start. Well, gee, why didn't I think of that before? An easy and enjoyable exercise seemed like just the ticket to me. After a few weeks of riding, her bike remained in garage once again. Me, I'm still at it most days.

So, with that in mind a few images I've taken lately on my daily bike rides. Pretty much, this time of year, the magnolias are blooming no more. Except for a few rogue blooms, one of which I had the pleasure of photographing, AND breathing in their sweet fragrance. Bonus points for a bee.
Before the big owl craze I only rode in Southern Oaks once a week or so because the truth is, it is almost too beautiful. Everything is pretty much perfect, so, after a while, it all seems to blend together. Not so in a neighborhood across Fern Creek, which as you've seen before, is full of surprises. And contradictions. How would you like having this out back?
No telling how expensive that boat is? You'd think it might be illegal to have something so high?

There are so many cats in that neighborhood as well, some sit still when I ride by, some stay put and just stare, as cats are wont to do.
While Bruce was building the Seasons 52 in Santa Monica, in the nearby hotel there is an art gallery he would frequent from time to time. On one occasion he purchased a photograph printed on metal featuring the LA traffic, as well as a City of Los Angeles manhole cover. I think ours are nicer though.
Living in Orlando most of my life, I tend to meet new people who in some way are connected to folks I've known for a long time. I may have mentioned meeting a lovely young mother who teaches at Blankner, and has two adorable little boys. Yup, I was out owl watching. Anyway, she lives in the cul-de-sac across from the Hills of Hill's Happy Hour. Joining us the other evening, along with her husband, I discovered he is great friends with the husband of one of our son Matt's best friends, Liza. The new friend Jen expressed an interest in getting to know Liza, so I took it upon myself to make sure both were attending the same event last night. I rode over to Jen's house to deliver the news that Liza would indeed be there. I know, you are lost by now, and I'm almost lost, and I'm writing it! Anyway, following our conversation, I took off, and while riding home I thought I'd go down Sweetbriar where the owls once amused, and amazed me, daily. Except, for the last three weeks I'd seen nary a sign of them. Well, they must have known I was missing them because lo and behold, there were two of them high in the oaks. Now that they are pretty much grown up I suppose the lower trees have no appeal. I got a shot of one of them looking down to say, hi!
 Still just as cute as a button! While I was standing there, no less than three different men, either stopped their bicycle, their car, or came outside to see. All three had seen neither hide nor hare of them either and were all pleased as punch at the sighting. Well, me too.

Heaven is sure to be on the minds of many attending either the dinner tonight, or the funeral service tomorrow. The only line I can remember from a children's song is, "heaven is a wonderful place."
May it be so.

Preparing myself for some tears,


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It's About Time!

We've been getting a lot of rain of late, and with that comes explosive growth in the garden. These little salvias are finally coming to life! Our niece Laura, a purple lover, will appreciate these.
Aren't they sweet? The marigolds and little yellow daisy plants aren't looking too shabby either. One flower that Floridians like to plant is the periwinkle, or vinca, because it stands up to our oppressive summer heat and humidity. Except, once you plant them, in what can be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on how much you like them, they will seed everywhere in your garden. And I mean everywhere! I can't even remember ever having them in the back yard, but a few months ago a plant sprouted up by the air compressor, and pool pump, and it is getting larger every day. In fact, I had to lop off a bunch as it was impeding the walkway! It does, however, add a little bit of prettiness to an otherwise dreary part of the yard. Planters beware! (humidity fogged camera lens)
Amazingly enough, and it could very well be because Bruce put all the sides up on the tent, which he considers a good luck charm, we had no rain on Sunday. Saturday--mega. Monday--all day, and Tuesday--most of the day. Go figure. Anyway, as I was typing about freshening my booth up, unbeknownst to me, Mr. Bruce was doing just that while hanging the canvases. Forever and ever, things have been lined up like soldiers on the walls, so imagine my surprise when I arrived and one wall looked like this.
I count myself very lucky indeed to have experienced another good day of sales. Plus, the visitors never stopped which makes the day fly by. Woo hoo!!

Last Friday, Sherry invited us over for dinner. We went and met some new folks, including Fred and Rene who were exuberant to the MAX.
Well, Rene doesn't looks so exuberant now does he? Perhaps I caught him at an importune time. Earlier in the day I'd gone over to help her with some preparations, and much to my surprise, as I was passing through her garage, I discovered she has the same shoes as I! Seriously? Years ago, when first I began taking photographs in earnest, I would venture anywhere, including forests and lakefronts, necessitating some sort of closed-toe shoes. Except I am not the athletic shoe type. I looked high and lo before finding these Clark shoes that served me well for years.
I loved, loved, loved, those shoes. Then they died. I was in mourning until one day, at the market, a woman walked into my booth wearing, what appeared to be, a new pair. Giddy, I asked her where she got them. Easy--the outlet mall. I made a beeline the next day, and wore that pair for years before recently relegating them to be my lawn mowing shoes. What are the chances that Sherry would have the same exact pair? Probably pretty small, don't you think?

Enough already Gail...what does all this have to do with the title? Nothing really.

The big reveal upcoming!!

So, for years and years, I've thought about painting the fireplace. Yup, big, big move. However, something clicked yesterday. Well, maybe that something was that Bruce was home and could remove the mantle, which is heavy indeed. He agreed, and I was off and running. I wish I'd taken a photo when it was decorated. Alas, in my rush to get going, I did not.
There you see 55 year old brick. While I know some people consider it sacrilege to paint brink, I am not one of those folks, thinking anything is fair game. Most of you know that for years I've done everything in my power to brighten up the room, with the fireplace the last man standing. No longer my friends...the primer went on.
And not very easily, I might add. Using a three inch brush I just kept going and going and well, by golly, it was done.
Because it took so long to prime, by the time I'd finished the bottom, the brick up top was all dried and ready for paint. I'd been vacillating on the color, finally deciding to use the kitchen cabinet color which is a warm white. Plus, I wanted to get done before B went out of town this morning so he could put the mantle back. A word on the mantle--he made it when we first moved in; apparently there was no mantle? Can't really remember as it was 20 years ago this October. Anyway, he has given me permission to paint it if I feel the need, but for now we're sticking with it as is. Same for the brackets which we found in an antique store.

The trouble with painting brick is that it is darn hard to get into all the cracks. I used both the three inch, and a one inch brush, to do so. By 5:00 my hand was super tired, and I decided to call it a day, but not before everything was restored.
You can see that I've yet to finish the bottom which is the first order of business when I finish writing. I wish the lighting were better in the photo, and I sure wish it had been better while I was painting! Taking the shades off some of the lamps, having all six of them on, as well as the chandelier, helped dispel some of the day's gloominess. Looks like today will be a repeat, which you well know, does not make me a happy girl.

But, at least I have a bright fireplace, for which I'm most thankful! B was ambivalent about my project, however, this morning before leaving he said, "honey, you were right, the fireplace was tired, and now it is not." Could not agree more!

Indeed, it was time,


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Starting Fresh

Just about every Sunday, someone asks me about setting up a booth at the market. What does it cost, where do you get a tent, do you have to come every week, how do I apply?? Those sorts of questions. One question usually left out is, "how hard is it to sell here?" Every now and again someone asks that, but it is rare. So, knowing me as you do, I tell them anyway. I tell them it is hard. Hard to sell art, hard to come every week, hard to manage the heat, and the weather in general, and hard to stay fresh. Sometimes I do a good job with all of those things, and sometimes not so much.

I will admit that lately I haven't done a very good job with the freshness part. Coming home from the market, we are mostly hot and glad it is over, so dutifully we unload the Pilot, and forget about it for the week. The heat of the day is at its most extreme at 5 when we get home, so you can't blame us, can you? Sure, I put in weekly orders, get the prints signed and ready, however, that is merely adding to what we have. With that in mind, this week I put my mind to the task of purging and refreshing my prints. Carrying everything into my office, I went through the whole shebang.
For the most part, people buy the same stuff week after week. That said, I have a lot of repeat customers always looking for something new. Going through my vast, and I kid you not, it is vast, photo library, I search for things that might be appealing to someone other than myself. It's always a crap shoot. During the purge I would look at something, and wonder why it never sold, however, I suppose that is always the way for someone in sales. Cringe here because I can't bear to think of myself as a saleswoman, but essentially that is what I am. I emptied out a lot, and we shall see how things go today. After yesterday afternoon's 3 1/2 rainstorm, we may just be crazy going but as is always the case, while I type, Bruce is setting up the booth...

In other news, looks like the baby Woodpecker is back...
Or maybe it is a new one? While talking on the phone to Angela yesterday I heard what I thought was the sound of a bird flying into the window. Yup, sure enough, this female Red Winged Blackbird found the front door.
The good news is that after a bit, she got the nerve to fly away without our aid. Speaking of woodpeckers, they seem to have been feasting on the trunk of our Chinese Fan Palm out front. I'm pretty sure it is not the squirrels, but then again, when it comes to chewing, you can never count out the squirrels.
The cardinals are beginning to look a little shabby, molting season is upon us. The wimpy stemmed sunflowers are bending under the weight of their flowers for which the birds are most grateful. No impediment to the feeder now!
Speaking of the sunflowers, most of the buds are open aside from these odd ones...
Any day now we shall see what these buds amount to. There are actually three on this stem. So odd, but isn't that what makes life interesting? Surprises everywhere you turn.

The other day, riding by the "reality" show house, this was painted on the front. Do you suppose Keith is the producer?
If these are potential colors for the house, I'm with Keith--NO!

The sky is a mix of mostly big clouds and a smattering of blue...let us hope that the blue wins out today. Nothing worse than taking down in the rain!

Fresh and ready,


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Eating and Drinking

The sunflowers continue to open, and in one instance, there are multiple buds on the same stalk! That, I presume, is not at all the normal way of growing; perhaps it must be because it is from the bird seed? Then too, the stalks are a little wimpy. How one of the stalks broke with a new bloom on it is a mystery to me, however, I did bring it inside for a little of that glory.
Well, I would be remiss if I didn't mention an extra special night of food and friendship over at Pam and Glen's lovely home. Pam made more delicious dishes than I can remember, and it was a wonderful way to end Sunday. We were welcoming our friend Pat home from her long holiday in Europe.
Pam is in the black. That is Lisa and Bunker in the foreground who are both pictured here with Catherine.
Even though the party was for her, Pat brought some picture worthy salads that were as delicious as they were beautiful.
Although I thought the white on the front salad was sliced onions, turns out it was fennel, which I now know that I like. Both really simple, both really good.

Unbeknownst to me, Dave and Michelle had given Bruce a gift card for his birthday to a place we'd never been--Santiago's Bodega Restaurant. Attempting to lighten his load a bit, Bruce cleaned out his briefcase on Monday morning, and found the card, asking if I wanted to go there Monday night. As you know we are never ones to rush into using gift cards as this one was two month old! Located on Virginia Drive, the menu is Spanish tapas, and the crux of the matter is this--we can't wait to return. It is hard to restrain yourself in a place like that because all of the menu items looked yummy, however, we managed to do so, and even found room for desert:
Croissant donuts with a bourbon cream topping on a berry sauce. With my cup of hot tea, it hit the spot! Then, the next morning Mr. Bruce took off for Tyson's Corner where the restaurant is coming along nicely, albeit with the usual setbacks. It is a very difficult project and everyone is feeling it about now, however, when it is completed, I know how proud they will be. Tuesday the executive chef came to visit and liked what he saw. As an example of an unexpected problem, the large carpets, made from 100% wool, are hand made in Nepal and have a European fire safety inspection included. But, does that work in the States? These are the kind of things that wake Bruce up during the night because gathering the information all takes time. His favorite saying is that he wants to get in the end zone, and I've no doubt he will!

So, while he is working super hard, his wife is lollygagging. I have read two books while he's been gone, so there's that. And, more importantly, I can recommend them both. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is short and sweet, written while the author was dying of a fatal lung disease. When I say short and sweet I mean that it is only 179 pages long and just oozing with goodness and light. I had been working on this one, Everything I Never Told You for about a week, but with all the eating and drinking, I hadn't gotten very far. Well now I have, and it is also beautifully written. The first one I stumbled across, the second one I heard about on the Diane Rehm show aired on NPR. Both are family stories, but come to think of it, aren't all stories family ones?

As I type this our friend Catherine is back in the UK, arriving at her home on the Isle of Wight this morning. To wish her bon voyage, or until we meet again, Cheryle, Catherine, and I went to Hillstones Tuesday evening to both eat, drink, and watch the sunset from the dock. Catherine is mad for sunsets!
It all started innocently enough with Cosmopolitans all around. The sunset did not disappoint, the air was cool and the laughs were plenty.
The food not so much. Because artichokes are out of season, they did not have it on the menu, the dish C and C particularly wanted to order. Maybe after the second drink we finally got some appetizers which were anything but hardy, and certainly not enough to soak up the alcohol. Then, I believe it was Catherine, ordered a THIRD round!
By now, of course, as is it's want, the alcohol had dulled our senses, and we happily drank them. This much I can say, I slightly remember that we were the last ones there, the clean up inside was occurring, and Cheryle expertly drove us home. How she did so, I don't know.

It is not my practice to drink until drunk, however, that night I did, and it will be a cold day in hell when I do so again! Somehow I took care of Baxter, falling into bed and sleeping like a dead woman. A little after seven the next morning Baxter woke me, and I stumbled out of bed. Literally! Oh my gosh, I felt so terrible, there are no words! Although I did the best I could to accomplish some things, it was an uphill battle all the way. So long to Catherine and excessive drinking!!!

Up to this point in the summer we have not had serious humidity, but it sure has come on with a bang of late. Every morning the door looks like this,
taking several hours to clear. That is exactly what happens to my camera lens when I take it from the air conditioning inside to the outdoors. I usually forget, and try to take a photo right away, which turns out like this:
A gauzy effect...

One thing I heard yesterday before leaving the house on my bike ride was the sound of tree guys. Where were said tree guys? At the end of our street removing three gigantic oak trees at the homeowners request. This should be illegal!!!
This home is one of the least well kept ones on our street, but at least it had magnificent oaks going for it. Until now. What are they thinking taking down healthy trees that took 50 years to grow so tall? Grrrrr....

Finally, they are having a celebration of Matt Stromberg's life on August 1st. Angela is doing fairly well, or so she says. Time will tell now, won't it?

Swearing off Cosmos,


Monday, July 20, 2015

A Tale of Two House Plants

My boy Jordan came close, however, as they say, golf is a game of inches, and he came up a few short. Good try though from a super classy young man. I mention this because I spent more time than you want to know, watching him play at The Open.

That said, I did find time to do some things, just later in the day. I am still crazy about those sunflowers out front, with more on the way. Remember how I mentioned they were interfering with the birds? Here's all the proof you need. One whole perch rendered useless for the moment.
Absolutely saving me a little on bird seed. Over the last week, during the opening process, it has been fun to see how each flower is a little different, and then too, how the biggest bloom changes over time.
Pretty neat, huh?

For more than two hours I talked to Matt on Saturday, while Bruce was building a vanity cabinet for Bill out in the garage. For lunch I fixed the two of them a root beer float with this delicious, and I mean delicious, soda I found on sale at Home Goods. Have you ever heard of Brownie Caramel Cream Root Beer before? Like candy.

Back to the conversation with Matt, well actually a Face Time visit, which is always a good thing. During our visit he showed me around their garden, and is it ever spectacular, with flowers I cannot grow, and all manner of fruit trees, herbs, and some tomato plants groaning with fruit. Having lived in the city for so long, it is proving to be such a joy for the both of them having space to once again grow plants. Which brings me to today's title. Once upon a time, as in nearly twenty years ago, Matthew had a hanging basket in his dorm room at FSU of the easy to grow, golden pathos plant. So easy in fact, that once he graduated, and came home, he placed it in our back yard while he went to live in London for six months. It was not long before it began spreading, and truth be told, it is still doing just that! So, that's one house plant, the other is a palm that once stood in a pot somewhere in the house, can't remember much about it because it has been a while. Anyway, apparently I took it out back, and did it ever take off, or should I say up? Oh my goodness it is so huge, and a mess besides. I spent some time Saturday trimming it, however, there's no way I can really do much with it because of the height which is not clearly shown because I was too lazy to go inside to get a camera without a fixed lens.
So, while trimming, I went over to our neighbor's side to trim away any that hung into their space. While there, lo and behold, I found the pathos growing up the fence like mad. Ripping it off, I'm hoping to stem the time!
Those leaves were getting mighty big; am I ever glad I found it before it took over the whole fence, which is it's nature! The moral of the careful with your houseplants, they can, and probably will, become more than you bargained for.

I also went to visit Monica for a much needed hair cut. Apparently in the summer sun it is growing just like everything outside--more than I might want! While she was cutting, I was talking--no surprise there, right? Anyway, after telling her that we went to the Parliament House, she told me a story which I think you will get a kick out of. She said that years ago she was in the dressing room helping the guys with their wigs. The mirror was coated with old hair spray which she proceeded to begin cleaning. The response from the drag queens? "Honey, no need to do that, we are men and look so much better in a dirty mirror!"
Perhaps I should try that! Monica is getting married in November a week, after Nadav and Crystal who are also marrying in St. Augustine! I'm so happy that she has now found true love. I met her at the market when she bought a few things from me, and Bruce and I have been going to her ever since. Darling girl. Something else that might bring a smile--she used to be the hairstylist for the NKOTB--styling Justin Timberlake, back in the day. :)

The market was both hot and busy. Go figure on the crowd portion. Well, probably my good sales part as well. Generally the summer is when my sales sink, but so far that has not happened, for which I am grateful. Last week a sweet woman stopped while doing her daily walk, and had some very complimentary things to say. In addition, she said she would return soon, which is a line I've heard a gazillion times, and then some. Well, lo and behold, she did return with her husband this week who is pictured below after their stop.
So funny that both cops, one of whom is 6'8" tall (!) stood adjacent to my booth, taking advantage of my fan. Then too, the singers who were performing at the market for the first time, spent their entire break in my booth, standing over the fan.  Look who came to the market with me...
Well, I got some news at the market that is slightly unsettling. Yup, I did. Bruce called me because he heard it first, while I was still home having breakfast. I am to be moved from the spot I've had for seven years. Not far, but still. As you can imagine I was not exactly thrilled, but the move won't be far. Actually it is all being worked out as to how far away from my current spot I will be moving. The gist of it is this--the City has voted our current beer and wine folks out, instead the libations will be sold by The World of Beer folks who opened their restaurant about 100 yards behind my booth in the Post Parkside building. That is a whole 'nother story.

Anyway, time will tell. I am trying to stay upbeat about it, but I will say, I'm not much one for change.

Blessed, nonetheless,


Thursday, July 16, 2015

And So, Life Goes On

Just what I've been waiting for!!! More to come!!!
When David Beatty called, late Friday afternoon, asking if we wanted to join he and Catherine (Cheryle is out of town) for dinner, I agreed, asking what I could bring. Actually, what I should have said is, "I'll bring what I can." Peering into the fridge, I decided I'd fry some okra because I assumed Catherine had never tried that delicious Southern dish. So far, so good.

And it was good. If you've never tried it before, I suggest that you do. Like eating popcorn, hard to stop. For some unknown reason, upon our return home, Dumping the oil, I filled the pan with hot water and turned on the stove to soak it a bit. Except, and here's the scary part, I neglected to turn the burner off!! Waking early Saturday morning, thank God, I discovered my error. Well, my friends, we were darn lucky it was a cast iron skillet, or who knows what could have happened. We are talking about around eight hours of heat!! Once Bruce got up, I confessed to my mistake. Because the pan was now cool, he began scrubbing the life out of it, well not really, as you shall soon see. Using Comet he scrubbed and scrubbed all the years of black off the skillet. Once that was done, I oiled it and baked it to season it once again, and by golly, it looks amazing!
If this weren't one of my Mom's old pans I'd have probably chucked it, but, with a tenacious husband in the house, that was unnecessary, much to my delight.

Meanwhile, outdoors the clouds were something else Saturday morning. All points toward heaven!
A sign of things to come later on? Speaking of that, after writing my last post, I went outside to water the flowers and one of the first things I saw was a lovely Monarch butterfly on my out of control Lantana. Getting wild and free, I hesitate to cut it back as it is a butterfly magnet.
So what is the significance you ask? The very first photo of mine in the Stromberg "Gaillery" was a Monarch butterfly. Then too, moving around the yard I found a single pure white feather on the ground....

Anyway, back to Saturday. The weather was kind of iffy, and Jordan Spieth was playing in a golf tournament, so before going to the Parliament House, I finally, after almost three months, finished my latest throw. What does the tournament have to do with anything, you ask? Helps me to sit still!
There are hundreds and hundreds of stitches involved in the quilting which I did freehand. About halfway through I regretted my decision to make the rows so close to one another.

We'd been invited to go with Sherry and her girlfriend Diana to see a play and have dinner.
There are those amongst you who are probably unfamiliar with the Parliament House, so here's the is the largest gay resort in our area, and I use the term resort loosely, because it is showing it's 40 years! It has been a long time, more likely never, have I've been somewhere so overtly sexual. This, my gentle readers, is from the ladies room.
Following the dinner, we rushed back into the theater to watch the show. How I wish this had come out better....
It does, or so I think, give you a notion of what it was like. Highly entertaining is what it was like. Boy did we laugh, and pretty much, watch in amazement!

I guess I must have packed a lot into Saturday because earlier, after the pan debacle, Tommy Toot and I took a little trip over to Park Avenue in Winter Park.
For the record, I received a few looks as I set up this shot! Anyway, my mission was a book signing as well as seeing my artist friend Leah who did the illustrations.
Leah is pictured on the right beside the author with whom she has collaborated before. I met her in that artists group I attended several years ago, and I'm a big admirer of her work. When she's not illustrating, she's doing this kind of painting. I was hoping to buy our great niece Annabelle a signed copy of the book for her birthday this week, however, once I saw the book, I realized it was not age appropriate. Instead, I bought one of Leah's original illustrations. Never to early to begin an art collection, even at age six!

Well, the last laugh is on me...Hobby Lobby was running a special on McCall's patterns for $1.99, so I went in search of the pattern I threw away. Except, it was no longer in the book!! Now that was disappointing. That is what I get I suppose. In any case, I found another pattern to make a house dress, and did so on Tuesday with some of my estate sale fabric. Sunday night Bruce and I ate dinner with our friend Pat, who very recently returned from six weeks in Europe. She was so sweet to present me with a packet of various hand made buttons, which I promptly put to use.
Adorable, aren't they?

If you can imagine, while talking to Jonathan and Alissa Tuesday night, they described me as "prolific" in my blog posting. And to think that I could actually write more...

thanks for reading,


p.s. Angela is holding up surprisingly well.

Long Beach, CA