A Peaceful Day

Last night I had a craving to go to the Candy Kitchen to get ice cream. The place was packed! Looks like the folks from up north have re-discovered us.

Candy Kitchen

It’,s that time of year in St. Pete when we pinch ourselves and say, “Gee, do I really live here?” It’s October 30, 2010 and life in the little city has never been better! Excuse me if I just take a moment to embrace the balmy days of fall.  It was actually hot today.  The weather was great for walking around at Circus McGurkis, the people’s fair, with my friend K (since K is a very private person, I won’t use her whole name). The Circus is where the hip and groovy stock up on the latest tie-dye fashions. Don’t look for me in tie-dye though, except for my gardening clothes. It’s an ironic fact that I’ve never been able to pull off the flower child look! Anyway the Circus is also a wonderful place to get an astrology reading, eat some Uhuru potato pie and add a new piece of jewelry to your collection.

Next, I visited the Saturday Morning Market to buy four tomatoes. That seems to be the perfect number to last a week. K and I stopped at he Habana Café tent and ordered hot pressed Cuban sandwiches for lunch: sandwich $4,  a diet Coke $1.  Great lunch and budget friendly!

I then came home and commenced to making 40-carrot soup. It took three trips to Publix to get ingredients that I didn’t have, thought I had but turns out I didn’t have, and told-my-husband-that-I-needed-but-he-didn’t-believe-me so he had to go back for. When the soup was all done, I didn’t like it.  It goes to prove the old proverb about making soup: if you don’t have the ingredients on hand, then the soup probably won’t be any good anyway.

And just to add a sigh to a very peaceful day, I watched the Jon Stewart Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in America. I thought I’d just catch a few minutes, but I ended up watching two hours worth. Loved Tony Bennett singing America the Beautiful at the end.

Enjoy real Florida at Rainbow Springs

I’m not sure if this is an End of the Summer or Beginning of College friends trip, but here are the members of the Lunch Bunch “chilling out” in the 73 degree river. Courtney, Erica, Dylan and Hilary celebrating their liberated-from-high- school status by tubing down the Rainbow River just before they all hit the college books!

The Aquifer pumps 461 million gallons of the cleanest, coolest, most refreshing water on the planet into the Rainbow River.

This trip is an affordable luxury too. It cost just $5 for the car-load of co-eds to enter the state park. Then they rented tubes for $10 a piece. A bus picks up the tubers and transports them up river, drops them off and they take their own sweet time floating down the river. If you want to see real Florida, visit Rainbow Springs State Park.

Went to the Rock n’ Roll Marathon in Seattle: be back soon

June 29 weather report: 61 degrees, 41 mph winds.

Greetings from Seattle, Ellensburg and Mt. Rainier, Washington. This is day five of our visit here. The big event and main reason for coming was to support Katie and Hilary on Saturday when they ran the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon in Seattle, all 26.2 miles!

Hilary shopping at the race Expo

Hilary shopping at the race expo

Their goal was to finish not be the fastest. Their time wasn’t impressive, but they stopped often to twitter and take pictures.

Let’s face it. The weather plays a big role on a vacation, especially if you’re visiting a city with a reputation for being one of the rainiest places in the country (Seattle).  So I’m happy to say everywhere we have traveled in Wa. the weather has been perfect: blue skies and temps in the 60’s. The one weather anomaly is the wind in Ellensburg (KittitasValley). It’s like something out of a horror movie. Gusts of 35 mph rip across the landscape and whistle through the trees as if a hurricane were approaching. At home schools would be closed and emergency evacuation plans would be underway by now. Katie can count on a constant breeze through her apartment, no need for A/C here. Today I am wearing a light jacket and shorts and thinking about changing into long pants – it’s that cool.

Sixteen miles out of Ellensburg there is a "wind farm." The power company has erected hundreds of windmills.

Sixteen miles out of Ellensburg there is a "wind farm." The power company has erected hundreds of windmills.

On Friday, the girls spent the morning at the Race Expo; a big part of the race experience is the Expo for shopping and freebies. While they did that, Dave and I took a Duck Tour of the city. A Duck is a military landing vehicle. D stands for 1942, U for Utility, K for front wheel drive, and W two rear drive axles. Ducks swim and a waterfront tour is part of the Duck experience. The other part of the experience is the overly silly guide. Ours was Justin Credible – just incredible, get it? So we were instructed to shout on cue that our guide was just incredible!

Silly tour Duck driver

Justin Credible

Hilary said she thought we were going on a tour to see ducks – mom and her crazy gardening ideas! Later we all walked around Fremont made famous in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. We took pictures of the troll under the Fremont Bridge and shopped in all the cute boutiques.

The famous Troll under the bridge in Ten Things I Hate About You.

The famous Troll under the Fremont Bridge in 10 Things I Hate About You.

There are many Ducks touring in Seattle.

There are many Ducks touring in Seattle.

View of Gas Plant Park. This is where the paint ball scene was filmed in the movie, Ten Things I Hate About You.

View of Gas Plant Park. This is where the paint ball scene was filmed in the movie, 10 Things I Hate About You.

Seattle is famous for their house boats.

Seattle is famous for their house boats.

Saturday, race day, began at 5 a.m. It was a hurry-up-and-wait day. These events are big; there were 21,673 runners and moving that many people takes a long time – it took 45 minutes for K & H to get to the start of the race.

Thousands of runners gathered at Qwest Field.

Thousands of runners gathered at Qwest Field.

Meanwhile we were standing at mile 13 (the half-way mark) ready to be their mid-point cheering squad.

Thousands of runners jog by. But, how did we miss you?

Thousands of runners jog by. But, how did we miss you?

Mile 13. We were there to show our support.

Katie and Hilary were running, tweeting and taking pictures all along the course. Even with tweeting somehow we missed seeing them as they ran past mile 13. Once we realized we missed them, we were left to kill time for the next few hours until they finished. We walked around Pioneer Square and visited several art galleries, ate brunch while watching the World Cup Soccer game between the U.S. and Ghana in the restaurant. Outside someone had set up a big screen TV and chairs in an alley so a crowd of street people and passers-by were cheering and watching the game too. At the end of the day, the US was not victorious over Ghana, but our girls were victorious finishers! And we headed back to Ellensburg for a Sunday of recovery.

Everyone was watching the World Cup game.

Everyone was watching the World Cup game.

They did it! Months of training paid off!

They did it! Months of training paid off!

Monday we went to Mt. Rainier National Park. If I had known that I could see glaciers in Washington State, I might not have traveled to Alaska three years ago. Okay, not really. James Longmire’s daughter-in-law upon seeing the vistas at Mt. Rainier said, “This is must be what Paradise is like.”  The snow-covered peaks against the clear blue sky look almost surreal in their beauty. The trick is to get out of the car and look up. You can’t really appreciate the enormity of the landscape until you make yourself part of it.

The view at the mid-point of the Nisqually Vista Loop. This must be what Paradise looks like.

The highlight, however, was the four feet of snow still on the ground. As we traveled to higher elevations, we encountered more and deeper snow.  We ate lunch and then planned to walk the Nisqually Vista Loop that promised to lead to a meadow of wildflowers. When I asked the ranger at the information desk about it, his raised eyebrows should have been a clue that I would be in for a surprise. He said there would be no wildflowers at this time of year – despite what the travel book said. What he didn’t say was the trail would be marked by ski course polls and we would be walking through snow. I have to say we considered turning back upon seeing the trail. But where’s the fun in that? Hilary, who has never played in the snow, insisted that she build a snowman.

We are so proud of our snowman!

We are so proud of our snowman!

Hilary's foot-tall snowman.

Hilary's foot-tall snowman.

After building a diminutive snowman, we decided to go for trail blazing through the snow.

We decided to walk the snow covered trail.

We decided to go into the wild.

I am so glad we did. We got an impressive view of the Niqually Glacier. We didn’t see any wildflowers but the views were as wide and high it was as if we were looking out of a plane window — only without the plane and the roaring engine noise. It was quiet and the air actually smelled like Christmas because of many conifer trees. We considered going to Mt. St. Helens after that, but by then it was 3 p.m. It was still a 3.5-hour drive away. It was too late, so we headed home. It turns out that Mt. St. Helens closes at 6 p.m. and thus, we would have made the trip for nothing. I guess we’ll have to leave that for our next visit.

My lasting impression is how the landscape changed dramatically as we came down from Mt. Rainier into Yakima. The cliffs of the mountains jut out along the roadside like columns stacked side-by-side containing massive boulders. The trickle of glacial melt we experienced at the top of the mountain transforms into a stream and then a raging river and then is dammed forming a massive lake. A comparatively tame river appears on the other side of the dam and continues following the road all the way into the Kittitas Valley. After experiencing the mountain, the valley is just as striking for its lack of trees on the miles of rolling hills. As I mentioned before, the wind rips across the landscape at an almost continuous 30 mph. In fact, the local power company has erected miles of windmills 16 miles outside of Ellensburg.

Today we decided just to hang around at Katie’s apartment. Tomorrow we’ll spend our last days in Washington seeing the sights in Seattle. That will be blog post part II.

No Tar Balls (yet) and Healthy Hut now open

Is BP oil spill our fault?

It’s hard to believe that on February 13 I joined hands on the shore of Upham Beach with fellow concerned citizens for the Hands Across the Sands demonstration. The event was a response to legislation that would allow oil drilling just 3 miles off the Pinellas Beaches and the serious threat it posed for our environment and economy. Who knew that this exact type of disaster was looming just over the horizon?

Like everyone else, I’ve been following the news on the spill. Last week I was shocked to hear a BP executive say on a radio news report that everyone who drives a car is to blame for the blowout. Really? He is apparently referring to our insatiable need for fuel. Under Lord Brown’s leadership as CEO, BP was working to position themselves as a “Beyond Petroleum” company and was investing heavily in alternative energy sources. That ended when Tony Hayward took over as CEO. He is NOT in favor of  the “Beyond Petroleum” shift the company was taking and dramatically cut back this division. Here’s an NPR story link about the shift. Now Hayward finds himself trying to down-play the amount of environmental damage this spill is likely to cause.

Here’s a humorous exchange I heard on On Wait-Wait, Don’t Tell Me: an oddly informative news quiz show (NPR) Sunday, May 16, 2010 (WUSF):.

(FYI: Roy Blount, Jr. is the author of 20 books, most recently Long Time Leaving: Dispatches From Up South, and including Feet on the Street: Rambles Around New Orleans, Robert E. Lee, If Only You Knew How Much I Smell You, Roy Blount’s Book of Southern Humor and Be Sweet: A Conditional Love Story. Modesty aside, Blount has done more different things than any other humorist- novelist- journalist- dramatist- lyricist- lecturer- reviewer- screenwriter- anthologist- columnist- philologist of sorts he can think of.)

Mr. BLOUNT: I love the fact that the thing that didn’t prevent the blowout is a thing, the technical term for which is the blowout preventer.

SAGAL: Right. That’s what it’s called.

Mr. BLOUNT: They forgot to check the blowout preventer.

SAGAL: They had a label on it.

Mr. BLOUNT: Right. It stands for BP I guess.

SAGAL: Exactly.

Here’s a serious comment from Jim Hightower in his weekly radio commentary heard on WMNF: He said that BP chose not to spend the $500,000 at the time the rig was built for an automatic well shut-off switch. This website may be the source of Hightower’s comment: “BP Oil Platform Spill Disaster is CHENEY’S Fault”

Blame aside, now I’m hoping for news that someone has come up with a way to clean up the oil before it destroys estuaries all around the Gulf states.  And, what about  those deep water coral reefs?

On a more local note. . .

I went out to St. Pete Beach to check out the new Healthy Hut food store, which is now open on Corey Ave., and inspect Upham Beach for tar balls. I’m happy to report there are no tar balls washing up on the beach. That is not to say we will be spared the sticky, slimy mess.

I traveled further up Gulf Blvd., and also dropped in on my Indian Rocks Beach friends Ivan Senia and Kay Smith. Kay walks a two-mile stretch everyday on the beach. She says she hasn’t seen tar balls on IRB so far. Ivan retired from building avionics navigation aircraft systems and now enjoys keeping an eye on the weather and atmospheric conditions just for the fun of it. He reports that a day or two after the blowout, he could smell it as traces came in on the Gulf breeze from the north, northwest at about 30 mph.

I asked Ivan and Kay to keep me posted if they find any evidence of tar balls on the beach. I’ll certainly report it if they do. So far, the beach is okay.

Healthy Hut organic supermarket now open

I reported about six months ago that The Healthy Hut would be opening soon. So I decided to check it out now that it is open. It is a full-size grocery story carrying mostly organic products. Signs proclaim that St. Pete Beach residents are the owners — nice to know if you support the “shop local” movement.  Customers can order prepared carryout food or they can sit in the restaurant-like seating area sectioned-off near the deli in the rear of the store. I was surprised that the store was so large and carried so much, including health and beauty aids.  Having an alternative to the chain grocery stores is a good thing. Nature’s Finest Foods,  is located at 6651 Central Ave. St. Petersburg (However, that store is part of the NRG Organic Supermarkets chin). It’s about 10 minutes away.

Cheers to Healthy Living

Sunflowers

Last Saturday was a good day for healthy living.  I started the day looking for good food for my insides at the Saturday Morning Market (Al Lang Field in St. Pete). It’s been awhile since I made it down to the market. The weather was perfect and the parking was easy. We bought fresh asparagus and tomatoes. The vegetables are so vibrant with purple, orange, red and green, it was as if the color radiated from the baskets. And, what’s a fresh market without sunflowers? They were there for the picking.

On a muscular skeletal note, I imposed on a yoga buddy who knows ergonomics come to my house to assess my workspace. I’ve been having shoulder strain for a couple of months and decided to track down the source of my discomfort. It turns out my entire workspace was a bad fit. My chair back was too high, my keyboard was too low, my monitor was too far away, and my mouse ran away requiring a long stretch to catch it.  I had no idea it could be so wrong. Since my workspace makeover, I no longer fear my right arm will be permanently frozen in the extended position. All I have to say is, thanks Debbie! I owe you a bottle of wine!

More good stuff

Kayak Trip Cures Cabin Fever!

The put-in at the end of Weedon Island Park Drive

Here is a 2 minute video of the trip!

I’ve felt like a northerner all month as most days have been gray and cold. For a Floridian, that can cause a serious case of cabin fever.  A sure cure is to get out on the water. That’s what I did this past Saturday, January 23. I joined a group of 11 who booked a trip with professional guide Mike Siebel of Canoe Country Outfitters on a tour of the Weedon Island mangroves. The day started out a little foggy and cold, but blue skies soon opened up a clear view all the way to Howard Frankland Bridge. Experienced kayakers warned me to stay away from the mangroves in low tide.  But Mike made sure we didn’t get out there just to get stuck in the mud and clam beds. At this time of year, the shallow water is pristine. The sky was a cloudless winter blue not often seen in Florida. Herons watched from a safe perch as we paddled by.

Even though trail markers direct kayakers where to go, it’s a confusing route through narrow tunnels that open up to a series estuaries.

Navigating through the mangroves

So it is nice to have an experienced guide leading the way. There is nothing like paddling among these sturdy roots to appreciate how important they are to Tampa Bay.  I’ve sea kayaked in the saltwater marshes off the coast of South Carolina, but I am ashamed to say this was my first trip in my own St. Petersburg backyard.

Towards the end of our three-hour adventure, we broke into a clearing just in time to see the mullet jumping like crazy. I wonder what got them all stirred up? Never did see what was happening, but the mullet were busy! Overhead a flock of white pelicans circled. The area is so rich with fish and wildlife, the Weedon Island Culture thrived here for over 800 years.

If you have a bit of cabin fever, call Mike at Canoe Country Outfitters and book a trip. By the way, he brings all the gear you need.

I went to Cicely, Alaska on my summer vacation

Wow, it has been three weeks since I made an entry to iblogtampabay! I could have written about Seattle and Ellensburg, WA.  I went to WA on August 31 and spent a week out there. My daughter, Kate is moving to WA to go to graduate school at Central Washington University. She had lots of business to take care of and I went along for the 5 – hour plane ride and subsequent 2- hour drive (it is a long way from Florida!).

I was delighted to discover that the town of Roslyn, the setting for Cicely, Alaska in the 1990’s TV series Northern Exposure, was only about 30 minutes outside of Ellensburg. I had to go! I was a big fan of the show, so it was cool to actually walk into Dr. Joel Fleishman’s office. They will be having a big 20th Anniversary Celebration next year in Roslyn. Maybe I’ll make it!