Summing it Up...

Now, that I'm way on the wrong side of sixty, I feel that being true to self is important. "I yam, what I yam." Kindness and smiles are to be given away. Women are strong. Men are more vulnerable than we believe. Husbands may come and go...but one thing I know for sure is that I will NEVAH live without a corgi or coffee in my life if I can prevent it. Come piles of dog fur or hot water!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cold and Curious....

It's cold again in Florida, and to us at least, it feels good. We don't like humidity so these cooler days inspire us to get out and about.
Yesterday, after a couple of days of being slugbugs in the rv, we drove around, toured a 2-million dollar Prevost, just for fun... and found St. Leo's Abbey, where the church that orange juice built is. I had been to St. Meinrad before, a restful retreat for monks and those who seek it, in southern Indiana; said to be "the competition" by one of the humorous monks we met yesterday. The Benedictine Monks of Florida live, work, and teach on the lovely grounds with fantastic colorful gardens, the lake (Jovita),and there are 2 grottos across St. Rd 52, nestled in a fern floored woods. (What a sense of peace, tranquilty and awe we felt, walking through that serene setting.) The St. Leo University campus is to the right of the compound, and the Holy Name Monastery for the Benedictine Sisters is a half mile west. To learn more about St. Leo please visit this informative site:

Thursday, February 21, 2008 the beaten path

There are so many FREE things to do around here. What fun to go explore areas, and enjoy them immensely, and only make a dollar donation for the use of their facilities.
Tuesday we went with Gene and Kathy to the TECO plant off Apollo beach near Tampa. TECO is Tampa Electric Company and it has served the area since the late 1800's. They made boardwalks to walk through mangroves, and observation decks to view the manatees, and many fish that migrate towards the warm spill waters from the electrical plant. It's a place where nature and modern technology joined together and complemented each other. Manatees are slow moving gentle mammals that are endearing to watch. Loads of people were there, from every walk of life. Very interesting!
Today we met up with the Indiana RV'ers group from the entire state at Lettuce Lake; a Hillsborough county park, about 240 acres of beauty. Cypress swamps are throughout the park, making boardwalks, and elevated picnic shelters necessary. Paved paths for gliding or walking; the park is also the setting for an Audobon bird sanctuary, and home for wildlife, even gators. The squirrels were plentiful and not shy. The wide arms of the live oak drape down to the ground making a natural playground for kids and the squirrels. I just can't get over the beauty of the live oaks, covered in moss, that makes this canopied avenue in all the parks we've seen. It's such a southern look, that is so beautiful, and only seen below the Mason-Dixon line. I've really fallen in love with Florida this trip as we've explored so many smaller towns, and gotten away from the cities and beaches.
On our way back to Z-hills from Largo yesterday, where we visited family, we stopped at Phillipe Park in Safety Harbor. That park is totally draped with the live oak/moss combination that I'm so nuts about now, and is on Tampa Bay. The bird life is such a surprise, and the parks such a treat. People really use the parks here thanks to the weather. We're so thankful to be able to enjoy this time....and not be shoveling snow during the winter of 2008!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

We're never at home it seems.

Hello~ It's been a busy past few days.
Today Jim said he wanted to go check out Spook Hill at Lake Wales; something he's wanted to do for 40 years! So, we headed towards Polk county; and a community said to be "the friendliest small town in Florida". The community population is around 14,000, and has a beautiful lake in the town's center with a walking path all around its perimeter. Oaks, draped in spanish moss, shady park benches, people walking their dogs, on a sunny, blue sky, puffy white cloud day, seemed to be the perfect setting for a Sunday outing. We checked out the Spook Hill website before heading over, and after Jim spoke with a town cop, we located the area where cars are supposedly able to roll backwards "mystically". We tried it twice, and by gum, it's true.
We played tourist and checked out the architecture downtown. The old town historical district contains examples of architecture from the period of the Great Florida Land Boom of the early 20th century. There is a clock tower, and murals depicting the town's history on sides of buildings, a popular trend in many towns. The azaleas were blooming, and second level verandas of the shops, lined with wooden rockers, looked so inviting, and very southern. We always look for train depots when we go explore, and today's was bright pink, built in 1911, and was the cultural museum for Lake Wales. Oh! one of the elementary schools, right beside where Spook Hill is, is called Spook Hill Elementary, and the school mascot is CASPER the ghost!

We saw a train going down the track that Jim called the Tropicana train, a common sight in Florida; refrigerated railroad cars loaded with orange juice, heading north.
We passed open pit phosphate mines as we drove through the rural, orange grove laden, farming area. Florida Natural Orange Juice has its world headquarters in Lake Wales, Florida. "From the grove to your's that fresh," is their advertising motto.
We've seen a couple open a little food wagon, only on weekends, down the corner from us, for several weeks now, and today we stopped. They smoke turkey legs, mullet, ribs, chicken, and make homemade cobblers, banana pudding, and pecan pies. Oh my. We enjoyed the huge turkey legs, and banana pudding, and had a little south in our mouth today.
On Valentine's day, 8 of us went to Brandon, and enjoyed a lively, chatty meal at Sam Seltzer's. I think they are a Florida chain, and their steaks are great. Luckily, we had reservations and were seated immediately; some people waited over an hour I imagine, and all the wait staff
was doing a fantastic job staying cheerful and helpful.
Spook Hill Info:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Memory Lane for Jim...

We took Mom back to Largo on Saturday afternoon, then Jim decided he wanted to see the changes in his old neck of the woods. He lived in Clearwater for 30 years before marrying me, and living in Indiana for the past ten and a half.
We headed towards Dunedin, then crossed the Dunedin causeway to reach heaven...really it was the Honeymoon Island State Park. Caladesi Island is there too, and it is a beautiful area. Lots of walkers, bikers, condos, and we saw two weddings having photos taken on the beach. Such a pretty area. The state park has a dog beach which is where we headed. We saw a 'beware of rattlesnakes' sign, next to the dog poop bag dispenser. As we walked towards the beach, (egad what a hike), it was obvious to us that most of the folks forgot to take advantage of that dispenser! People are lazy and stupid; not caring about the beautiful park, and the "gift" of a dog beach! When we got to the beach, tidepools were between us and the surf, and we didn't want to cross it, making corgi paws wet and sandy for the car. Their feet caught all sorts of sand burrs. Three big labs were romping free on the beach in the water, and pooped on the wet sand. I guess their owners didn't see the '6-foot leash sign'. We stared at them, until they picked up their mess. (There are some things we are a tad radical about!)Sheesh! Anyway, the views were cool, and the dogs had a good walk.
Onward towards Palm Harbor, which had a charming historical atmosphere in the heart of its tiny downtown. The buildings were little cottages, housing lawyers, eateries, and small businesses. Tarot readers and psychics had their shingles up too.
Tarpon Springs has the largest Greek-American population than in any other U.S. city. Greek immigrants went there in the 1880's to dive for sponges, a huge industry at the time. St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is a beautiful old-world building, with fantastic windows. The sponge docks and fishing piers in the heart of old downtown, seemed enhanced by the docked old ships , and statues of men in diving bells. The hustle bustle in the historical area was loaded with busy tourist-trap shops, tiny greek restaurants and people at sunset.
We kept on going, and ended up at Paul's shrimply Shrimp....for our favorite Florida fish, grouper. (Our waitress told us that her 17-year old friend, Michael, caught the grouper daily, and sold it to the proprietor). We sat outside on the deck. Jake, our male corgi, enjoyed a feast inside the car. He opened up a ziploc bag of homemade blueberry muffins, made with milled wheat kernals, which Christina, our daughter-in-law, had made for us. Believe me, corgis do not need thumbs!
All in all........Jim enjoyed seeing the area again, and I always like rubbernecking...and Jake really liked the muffins!

Friday, February 08, 2008

For the birds...

It was a little cooler today and we enjoyed it. We tried a local Italian restaurant for an earlybird supper in the historic downtown area of Zephyrhills, and found a really good place. Thanks to Janice, the curator at the train depot museum, for the tip.
The overcast skies cleared off so we headed out to the airfield to see if anybody was jumping out of planes. We sat in our lawn chairs, and waited, and more people came to do the same. We were rewarded with 22 folks lining up and climbing into the Freefall Express drop plane. It seemed to take forever for their climb, but soon we saw the multi-colored parachutes floating downward, catching drafts of air. Mom is over 90, and had never seen skydivers before so it was fun for her to see them. A second planeload of 20 or so took off, but we left to go home to feed hungry corgis who tend to watch the clock after 4:30 in the afternoon.
On the way back, still on Free Fall Lane, just off of Sky dive Lane, Jim spotted two sand hill cranes. We pulled up next to them and got an up close and personal look. On Wednesday we had seen two looking into the window of a Waffle House in Wesley Chapel. I got as close as four feet to one before chickening out and backing up. There are so many birds in Florida, all over, and so many varieties, that seem so rare in Indiana. It's been fun seeing them, and I'm even getting used to the little lizards all over down here.
Happy first birthday to our dear little Emerson Grace in North Carolina. Your Grammy loves you, and will see you sometime in March. Enjoy your chocolate cupcake!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Exploring Zephyrhills

Another beautiful day in Z-hills; it's hard to remember that it's early February! Today we went to the Train Depot Musuem which ended up really being one for the entire town. Very interesting, and the curator was great. They have a large covered deck in the rear of the building that was being used today by water color artists. The art club meets there twice a month. Free creative crafting classes are offered the second Wednesday of the month for anyone who wants to go. I plan to go on the 13th. Once a month they have a community wide yard sale too. Someone is very clever in utilizing the facility for public programs. Jim was enthralled with the model train layout of the town, run by local retired railroad men. We actually recognized several areas of the town. We really like this area. It has a small town feel, but everything is here or near. The curator told us that the population goes up by 70,000 during the winter months! We also stopped by the library, crowded and busy, and bought a city map and several paperbacks at their book sale. We were shocked how small it was. I hope they get some tax or grant money because they need to expand. They did have loads of new titles though, audiobooks, and 4 or 5 computers.

We hit Wal-mart for groceries, and Whataburger for lunch.We stopped by Neukom's fruit stand for our fresh orange juice, squeezed today. The young couple running it now, is the 7th generation of orange growers here. The senior citizen that waited on me today agreed that it was really good juice when I commented on it, but said, "it's tiresome to make everyday too." She did look beat. We called up Gene and Kathy to see if they wanted to run over to Plant City, 15 minutes away, to the Parksdale Farms Market. We loaded up on fresh produce there, and their famous strawberry shortcake. It's always packed there. Word travels far and wide when produce is that good!

Tomorrow we go to Largo, to pick up my Mom for a few days visit here with us. We plan to take her back on Saturday when we go visit the kids.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Army Airborne is here.

Blue skies, and over 85 today in central Florida, our current corner of the world.
We took the dogs to an animal clinic this morning because they've been digging and scratching since we crossed the Florida state line a month ago. The doc said it's very common for snowbird doggies, and local ones too, to itch in this state. Dermatitis, allergies,and sand, are all mean to their skin. They both got an allergy shot, capsules with rich oils to moisten their skin, and allergy pills to take next week when the shot wears off, if they're still at it. They're better already. The doc's yellow page ad advertised that he was an expert at treating itchy skin allergies. Let your fingers do the walking...........but...the fee for all this was $242 bucks. I must say, that vet's are considerably cheaper back home in Indiana.

Jim did laundry today, so that's all done. This afternoon, we found a local seafood diner called Maine-ly New England. The staff were all from Maine; had the accent, and sure knew how to make good down east fare. I felt as if we were eating in Wiscasset, or Camden, having a cup of chowda'! My daughter April and I made a trip there in May of '95; rented a car, and explored the coast. The perfect trip. We ended up in Bangor, on a whim, and parked in front of Stephen King's house, and took pics of April standing at his spider web, gargoyle, scary wrought iron gate. My Mom and I took a windjammer cruise out of Camden for a week on Penobscot Bay in 1973, and revisited the area again in '88 together. Those all were lovely trips, and I "adore" the rocky coast of Maine. Maybe someday Jim and I will see it in the corgidoghouse on wheels.

We noticed the skydivers on Sunday and sort of followed the source to the local airfield. Today we drove down Skydive Lane,and were fortunate enough to park in a field, where numerous other folks were watching jumpers make their way down from 13,500 feet. A Marine mom, her elderly father and her son; just out of advanced training and headed for Iraq, watched with us for awhile. The young Marine, was very young, but his Mom was supportive, and kept her chin up. When they left, we wished him good luck over there...his Mom looked over her shoulder, and asked that we pray for him.
The cool thing about today was that the Army Airborne Exhibition Team from Ft. Bragg, and Ft. Benning were jumping. Cool beans....they would land on a huge X on the ground, and jumped out the tail of an Army plane. Ten jumpers; 3 women, and 7 men went up several times while we were there. Jim spoke with one of the gals, and she had done it 380 times! They represent the 82nd and 101st Airborne group. They were friendly, and sometimes we applauded their efforts. The Freefall Express, was the local plane taking local or out of towners up to dive, and they were fun to watch as well....sometimes we thought they would skim the rooftops and get banged up, but they did ok, and would make it look so effortless. CRAZY PEOPLE! When we got back to the motorhome we added two lawn chairs to the trunk of the car, so we'll be able to sit and watch at our leisure next time. I told Jim maybe I'd end up with brown arms and legs yet while in Florida if we sit out in the sun for awhile as we watch the airfield follies.

On a sad note, my dear friend, Melody, lost her husband, Pat,. to a massive heart attack in their home Saturday morning. He was just 40 years old in December. We wish the family, and dear Melody, our deepest sympathy. God bless.

Y'all come back now...

Y'all come back now...

Everyone is special, and counts!