Wednesday, February 29, 2012

“A full-grown manatee, which can weigh more than 1,000 pounds, looks like the result of a genetic experiment involving a walrus and the Goodyear Blimp.” ~ Dave Barry

The other day, we made a trip to the Manatee Viewing Center, at Apollo Beach, here in Florida -and so our encounters with sea-life continued!  The viewing center is in such a strange visual juxtaposition!  It sits alongside the Big Bend Power Station.  
"The Manatee Viewing Center gets its name from the fact that visitors get to view manatees that gather in the clean, warm water discharge canal between the Big Bend Power Station and the center when the temperature of Tampa Bay falls below 68 degrees Fahrenheit."

The temperature of the warmed water at the site.
 A little manatee information, as provided by the Manatee Viewing Center - which also has two live web-cams for your viewing pleasure - I have put links to them on the right-hand side of my blog under "pages".

(which makes this a good time to remind folks who receive this via e-mail - that you only receive the individual post, not the whole blog, so remember to go to  in order to see other things that are happening there!)

"The Florida manatee is a large, plant-eating, warm-blooded marine mammal found in Florida's shallow coastal waters, rivers and springs. At first glance, the behavior of the manatee appears simple and unstructured, but the behavior is specifically adapted to Florida's sub-tropical climate."

Massive, yet graceful, we saw probably half a dozen manatee during our visit.  The site has had as many as 300 at one time - I can hardly imagine what that must have looked like.

Such interesting animals!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

"I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its luster, and was faded and yellow." ~ Pip, from "Great Expectations"

Whenever I look at the Spanish Moss, which adorns many of the trees that are not palm here in St. Petersburg, I always think of Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations.  Once white, now a faded yellow - very mysterious and mystical and a little eerie.  But I do find Spanish Moss to be very, very beautiful.  When the sun is shimmering through it, it almost feels like a fairy world.

          There is a legend about the origins of Spanish Moss, as told by storyteller, Mike Miller.

A Spanish soldier fell in love at first sight with an Indian chief's favorite daughter. Though the
chieftain forbade the couple to see each other, the Spaniard was too lovestruck to stop meeting the
maiden in secret. The father found them out and ordered his braves to tie the Spaniard high up in
the top of an ancient oak tree.

The Spaniard had only to disavow his love to be freed, but he steadfastly refused. Guards were
posted to keep anyone -- the chief's daughter above all --from giving food or water to the
poor Spaniard. The Spaniard grew weaker and weaker, but he still would not renounce his
love for the girl.

Near the end, the Chief tried to persuade him once more to stay away from his daughter. The Spaniard
answered that not only would he refuse to disavow his love, but that his love would continue to grow
even after death. When at last the Spaniard died the chief kept the body tied up in the tree as a
warning to any other would-be suitors.
Before long, the Indians began to notice that the Spaniard's beard continued to grow. The Indian
maiden refused ever to take a husband -- unless the Spaniard's beard died and vanished from the
tree. As the years went by, the beard only grew stronger and longer, covering trees far from the
Indian maiden's village. Legend says that when the Spanish Moss is gone, the Spaniard's love will
have finally died with it.

~ It is so beautiful ~

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"A wonderful bird is the pelican - his bill will hold more than his belican. He can take in his beak, food enough for a week, but I’m damned if I see how the helican." ~ Dixon Lanier Merritt

With family in town once again, we are hitting up the sights that are sure to please. We took another cruise to see the wildlife and were treated yet again to pelicans, dolphins; egrets; cormorants; and osprey.  There was even a bald eagle in a nest too far away to get a good shot.  A wonderful, wonderful day!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

“One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach.” ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh . . . . . . . "But one can certainly try." ~ Me

I am in the process of catching my breath.  Two grandchildren return home tomorrow and we expect another on Monday.  We have all been shell-seeking for the past few days - one of my happiest endeavors, and the grandchildren have loved every minute of it.  Fortunately, there is a beach nearby with an abundance of shells to choose from.

~ Shells from Pass-a-Grille Beach ~
While I catch my breath, I am beginning to think about our return to the north in the not too distant future.  I have begun to plug things into my Google Calendar for March (my color is pink and Bruce's is blue - go figure!).   Book Club is scheduled, Birthday Girl's outing is scheduled, knitting gatherings - and - a dentist appointment.  I have not had any pink - (save, for my parent's visit) - in January or February - quite amazing as I glance back through the previous year.

One of my goals upon our return is to open my Etsy shop - actually, it has been a goal for a bit, but it kept getting put off as the holidays approached - and then we left.  So - I have been visiting Esty in my spare time (very spare of late) in order to reacquaint myself with its structure and policies.

Since I love anything and everything to do with the sea, I chose that as the key word for my Etsy search.  Just a peruse actually - not looking for anything in particular - just "aquatic inspiration", and I did not fall short!  Below is just a sampling of the wonderful things that I came across - enjoy!

If you have not looked into Etsy for your shopping needs - give it a whirl - you won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can." ~ Terry Pratchett

Yes - We are where dreams do come true!  We have been at Disney World for the last several days with family.  The first two days were freezing - literally.  One night we even had to dodge a small patch of ice as we worked our way around The Magic Kingdom.  No one in our group - all seasoned northerners - was properly attired.  We ended up seeking refuge in inside attractions where, in previous years, we had sought refuge from the heat. It has warmed up however - to 80 today and a predicted 82 tomorrow.  We have managed to hit everything on our list, and not encountered any terribly long lines (in part due to the fast pass policy).  

In some ways, Disney is very much like visiting New York City - languages and clothing from all over the world, and not just in Epcot.  It is also a mecca for people watching - one of my all-time favorite pastimes. I love New York City, but Disney certainly beats it on the happiness scale.  For the most part, people are really having a good time.  It is a lovely escape from reality.

We head back to St. Petersburg tomorrow with two grandchildren in tow.  I'm not entirely sure how we will spend the remaining five days that they will be with us - topping Disney will be hard to do.  I do know that one of the first things on my list is sleep!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

“Man has always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much...the wheel, New York, wars and so on...while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man...for precisely the same reason.” ~ Douglas Adams

On a somewhat overcast day recently, Bruce and I decided to headed into downtown St. Petersburg - he for walking - yours truly for shop-browsing.  While in a store, my cell rang and Bruce began to tell me excitedly that just past the marina there were nearly ten dolphins hugging the seawall and frolicking about. I took off at a pretty quick clip (for me) - swung by the car to pick up my camera, and headed to the seawall.  The dolphins had begun to move further out by the time I arrived, though  I did manage to get off some shots. We stayed for quite some time just enjoying their play as they moved about hunting for fish.

I managed to get this shot right when I got there - the dolphin was literally at my feet!  Then they began to move further out, but still kept us entertained.  It was a wonderful experience!

Just wonderful!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"Buying a Nikon doesn't make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner." ~Author Unknown

Two years ago, my husband gave me a beautiful Nikon D90 for  ~ my birthday, anniversary,  Christmas, Valentine's Day, birthday, anniversary and ultimately retirement this past June - it covered a lot of gift-giving!  It is a beautiful camera - absolutely beautiful, and in retirement I have really begun to use it in earnest.  Those of you with whom I've been in close contact since we arrived in Florida know the saga of my broken camera lens.  For everyone else, we had been in Florida for approximately 4 days when my beautiful lens jammed up and would not zoom.  I will tell you that I am beyond careful with my camera - I really am, so for this to happen made me absolutely nuts.  To make a very long story short, we took it to a camera shop in Florida, then sent it back to our camera shop in NY, who sent it on to the lens manufacturer, who sent it back (repaired) to our camera shop in NY, who sent it back to us via UPS, who lost it in their warehouse in Clearwater, who finally found it.  Whew - it is now safely back on my camera and in my hands nearly a month later.

When it first jammed up - it was not a pretty sight - I had a bit of a meltdown - it is the combination of that lens - and my camera - and the fact that I take like a gazillion pictures, that I end up with some photos that I really love.  I really was beside myself - especially since I have taken to including so many photos on my blog. Bruce immediately set about getting me a replacement lens so that I would at least have something to use while my other one was being repaired - I suspect that he knew that he was going to be listening to a lot of wailing otherwise!  The lens that we got, while not as capable as my original one, helped to tide me over, and I know now that I have a backup in the event (perish the thought!) that I find myself in the same boat again!  I am so happy to have my camera back to its original state!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"I hold this truth to be self-evident: knitters are really nice people!" ~ Me

Yes, I don't think that I've ever met a knitter that I didn't like - and my recent visit to Sarasota to visit Susan Gibbs of Juniper Moon Farm and Susan Post, shop owner of A Good Yarn,  simply proved me right.

Susan Gibbs, of Juniper Moon Farm with her wool and books, and Susan Post, co-owner of A Good Yarn.

Following her vocation as a stay-at-home mother, Susan and her husband Murray opened A Good Yarn two and a half years ago.  Their store is wonderfully bright and spacious.  It is also hopping - there was not a lull in the 5+ hours that I was there - right up till closing.

Susan’s shop is filled with every possible kind of fiber and with tons of knitting paraphernalia – for which I have a particular fondness!  Her staff and patrons were as welcoming as could be.

When I first walked in the door, I was greeted with a table of knitters - I knew I was going to love it!

Another Sue, and a recently published designer!
A young woman grabbed to model one of                   Etta, sister and sister-in-law of the shop
Juniper Moon Farm's patterns:                                     owners and the first person to greet me when 
                                                                                     I arrived!

Pictured on the left is Murray Post, husband of Susan and co-owner of A Good Yarn. On the right, and photographer of this shot, is Katie, one of the shop’s staff and a talented knitter and blogger in her own right! Murray is a skilled under-water photographer, and his photos are the inspiration behind a line of yarn offered only at A Good Yarn.  As Susan Says:

“The Purl Diver Collection by Three Irish Girls is made of yarns dyed exclusively for A Good Yarn.  They are based on colors taken from the sands of Siesta Beach, and the beautiful water around it.  The inspiration also comes from the beautiful underwater photography of my husband, Murray Post. We hope you’ll enjoy reading about them and love knitting with them.”
Murray was also my on-the-spot photography instructor.  Unfortunately, it became readily apparent just how much I have to learn!

On the left is another colorway carried exclusively by the shop. It is titled “Midnight Pass” from Madeline Tosh. The name comes from a geographic area near Sarasota that has literally shifted sands over the decades.  It is also an area whose future is in debate locally.  On the right are some of the Purl Diver collection and in the underlying picture is the Florida “Team” collection.  I took home a skein of “Midnight Pass” and of “The Gulf of Mexico” from the Purl Diver collection.

As for Susie Gibbs, as I read the synopsis of her upcoming visit to A Good Yarn, I knew that her tale was ringing a bell.  After some investigation, I proved myself right when I came across an article about Susie and her journey in a copy of Country Living Magazine, that I had read awhile back.

Her story reminded me of a show that aired a number of years ago on HGTV called The Good Life.  My husband and I loved that show and were so sorry when it was discontinued.  Each episode highlighted an individual or couple, or family who ditched it all - Wall Street, medicine, teaching, and decided to do something that brought them true joy - though it admittedly was a bit like jumping off the edge of a cliff.  I think that most of us have dreamed the same dream at one time or another.  Well, Susie didn't just dream it - she took that leap and moved from being a producer of the CBS News and living in Manhattan, to buying a farm in Upstate New York and raising sheep.  She did not make this move on a whim however. She had been feeling stressed by the life she was living when she chanced upon the book Storeys Guide to Raising Sheep and came to the realization that she was born to be shepherd!  Susie researched and visited sheep farms and then hit the ground running.  Since then, she and her farm have moved to Martha's Vineyard and then to its current location in Palmyra, Virginia, outside of Charlottesville.

Not just a sheep farm, Juniper Moon Farm offers a vast array of products and opportunities.  The very first of its kind in the US, they provide people the opportunity to invest in, and then share in the bounty of their wool harvest through their Yarn CSA.  Operating very much like the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA's), which have become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer, Susie's shareholders receive wool rather than produce from the twice yearly sheep shearings.

While at A Good Yarn, Susan shared her lovely new patterns and her new line of yarns - Findley, Willa and Chadwick.  I came home with the book of patterns using the Chadwick Collection.  Please visit Susan's site to see all of the wonderful things that are offered there!

Um - yes
Many thanks to both Susan's and to the staff and patrons of A Good Yarn.  I thoroughly enjoyed my day in your company and am eager to come back for another visit!