Thursday, February 15, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day 2018 - Florida Style

"Howwwww-dy" to all the dedicated followers of my blog. Yes, all seven of you.  As you know, it's been FOREVER since my last entry, which was from way back in the spring of 2017. I'll eventually finish up my draft of our "Summer Sojourn," but for now, I'm feeling creative so I'll try to generate something worth reading now.

Yesterday was Valentine's Day and George and I hosted our first official, big bash, dinner party on our pretty little piece of heaven here in Florida. We started with a small list of tried-and-true friends and little by little my list grew to allow us to fill our lot with old, new, newer and newest friends who melded together ever-so-smoothly.

I'm my own worst critic, but even I have to admit the night was totally enjoyable, made possible by the food, the friends and fun. Can't beat that combo.

Thanks to Charlie, one of the "old" (Webster Dictionary Definition: adjective - long-time) friends, a photo documentary of the evening follows. Today, I had a less-busy day than he, therefore the publishing of my blog entry will beat out his, however, it's his photos that will tell the actual story in the end. A huge thank you, Charlie, the longest-known friend of the bunch.

This first group of photos consists of the appetizers. I came to find out that, in the future, I need to instruct my friends to NOT make spectacular "main course" appetizers.

Veggie "Pizza"

Spinach Dip

Dungeness Crab Dip

Uh, just a little Italian Antipasti....

Picured left, Amanda.  Not pictured: Amanda's delicious appetizer - just simple rounds of  Polenta topped with caramelized onions, cranberry jam and goat cheese.  OMG - simple, yeah. The caramelized onions alone took 8 hours in a crock pot and the homemade cranberry jam...yummmmm  Remember folks, we're living out of RVs. There were leftovers of this app, but I ate those before composing this entry.

George, Tricia, Me, Connie, Randy and back of  Rob's head.

Randy and Alonzo

Kristin, Connie, Ray and Leona

Bob, Rob, and Randy-not a musical trio, but entertaining, nonetheless
Tricia and Leona
Dinner followed just as the sun set.  I failed to realize that it would be difficult to see the food on the black tablecloth.  A handy-dandy flashlight saved us from having to feel our way down the table of food.
Meat sizzling on the monster grill


and turf.

Healthy sides: Green and yellow squash, mushrooms and onions.

Craig, The "Great Grill Master."  I heard a comment that he resembled Mark Wahlbergh and that he smelled good.
Kristin and Connie

Leona, Bob, Kristin, Alonzo and the back of Amanda's head.
"Fair Weather" friends. Me, Tricia and Charlie.

Last, but not least, Kathy!
Tricia's Crumb Cake

Tricia's back-up cake, just in case the crumb cake was a flop - it wasn't
Recreation of the bride cutting the cake. PS:  Husband waiting for a piece - of cake!!!

Kathy's Healthy and Tasty Fruit Salad

Connie's "Cupcake Lover's Heaven."

Lucy, the only one happy to see the night come to an end.
At the end of our official "first big bash," we got the site cleaned up with "a little help from our friends." Miss Priss (AKA Lucy) was the only one happy to see the night come to a close. She was hankering pretty badly for her daddy's lap. 

Now to start planning the next.....

Deep thought for the day:  It's the friends we meet along the way that helps us appreciate the journey. ~ Unknown source. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Springtime in Paradise

Springtime in Florida is very different from those I've experienced in New York. This past winter and beginning of spring has found us with very warm temperatures (85+) and lots of pollen in the air. The lack of rain doesn't help our allergies either.

Up north, we would witness blooming flowers, such as crocus, tulips and daffodils. The forsythia and flowering pear tree would be splashing yellow and white across the deepening green lawn. There is a true sense of "re-birth" and "cleansing" after a cold and dreary winter. 

During this time, you see more people venturing outside for longer periods of time and neighborhood friendships are rekindled and renewed. Opening windows and doors to let in the fresh crisp air is a welcome relief after the always-too-long hibernation period.

In Florida, I discovered the opposite to be true. During the winter and early spring, flowers and trees bloom, people are out and about at all times. Windows and doors are flung open to accept the welcome breezes, that is, UNTIL springtime arrives in full force.

With the shift in weather and the approaching holidays, most of the residents at our resort begin to head north around April, north towards their summer homes in Canada, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, Connecticut or New York.  Most will return in the fall once the putrid heat begins to wane. Until then, windows and doors are closed against the oppressive heat and neighbors hibernate when not in the 88 degree swimming pool. Let's just say it's a different world down south in springtime. 

Good thing we had the Jeep.
With a beautiful day in store today, George and I decided to experience a "first." We went blueberry picking at Southern Hill Farms, about 15 minutes north of us. Due to major construction in the area, we needed to take a detour down a long, dusty, unpaved road to reach the farm. We spent about two hours walking up and down about a dozen perfectly straight rows of blueberry bushes, pulling off the sweet fruit and placing them into our buckets (when not in our mouths). I never knew there were so many different types of blueberries! The berry picking became an obsession and I wanted to fill my bucket to the tippity-top.

We picked over five pounds worth of four, out of the 10, varieties offered at the farm:

Flicker - large, firm and excellent flavor
Meadowlark - large, crisp, firm berry with excellent blush
Scintilla - very sweet, tastes like candy 
Chickadee - medium sized, semi-sweet flavor

The mixed berries.
When all the berries are mixed up, the combination of flavors is amazing. My dinner this evening was blueberry pancakes topped  with blueberries and tomorrow's breakfast will be oatmeal with blueberries and local raw honey.  Three pounds have been packaged for the freezer and the remainder will be shared with friends and/or eaten right away.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. We will be spending it quietly. Perhaps a swim in the pool for me, sleeping late for George, and a can of Fancy Feast Turkey and Giblets for Lucy. A stop at friends' for dessert (I'll bring blueberries) will end our Sunday. 

Speaking of Miss Lucy, she is hanging in. We're hoping to celebrate her 15th birthday here on June 15th. She constantly amazes us with frequent bouts of "kitten-like" behavior and continues to make us smile. My sweet little girl...her new "habit" is actually an old one. When I first got her, she used to get in the shower and lick the water. She just started doing that again after over 10 years.

Days are warm, sun is bright, breezes is good. 

Deep thought for the day:  No two people walk exactly the same path. One may look up, while one looks down. Each observes a different view and feeling. Life is unique. Enjoy each moment and don't forget to stop briefly to look, smell, listen and perhaps, pop a blueberry in your mouth. ~vc

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rainy Day Rambling

Well, well, well....It's been quite a span of time since I sat down to compose a blog entry, which was mainly caused by my biggest obstacle - tortuously slow wi-fi here at Elite.  After complaining and whining to George for over six weeks while watching my screen attempt to open up my browser, open an email, download or upload, I bit the bullet and ordered Internet from the local service provider, Spectrum. Now, I'm once more spoiled with dedicated, high-speed Internet connectivity! One of my tag lines reads, "Life is Beautiful," and now, it's beautifully FAST. Ahhh. The little things that make me smile.

We have spent the majority of our time here in Florida enjoying the bright sunshine, warm weather, listening to the mocking birds' endless impressions, continuing the upgrades to our lot and enjoying the company of friends - mostly New Yorkers! 

Today finds us enjoying a much-welcomed rainy day. The grass is sucking it up faster than it can reach the ground due to continued drought conditions in Central Florida. All of the retention ponds are either dried up or look like small puddles, so you shouldn't hear too many complaints about the clouds and drizzle. 

Since the conditions are so dry, the fire departments conduct regular "controlled burns" to eliminate, what they categorize as, "potential fuel," which is actually multiple acres of dead trees, branches and over-growth. While there is controversy about the practice, it does make sense to eliminate it prior to a lightening strike or human induced fire, but the smell can be disturbing when it's close to our vicinity.

To change to a prettier subject, the Mocking Birds are an interesting absurdity and distraction. Most people here complain about their constant daytime and nocturnal singing, but it is the only bird I ever hear in this area, so if I had to pick one bird, it might as well be one that can mimic dozens of birds.  

Mocking Birds are about 7" long, mate for life and live about eight years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity. They are the State bird of Florida and males do most of the singing. Amazingly, a male bird was once observed to have a repertoire of over 200 different bird songs.  
  Click below to hear the Florida State Bird in action.

Our lot is coming along quite nicely thanks to the fact that George got a job at a local Lowe's store. We purchased a bunch of stuff utilizing his Employee Discount Card and ended up spending his first four paychecks even before receiving the first! Here are a few before and after shots...

Better photo of "After"
Dim-able lights.

Not pictured on the lot, but our new Griddle Grill.....So far, loving it. Made some wicked bacon and eggs on it.

The new job at Lowe's is going well. George likes the fact of "having a reason to get up and get going," which he was beginning to actually miss since retiring. I've made it a point of setting an alarm and getting up earlier also. Today, the extra time and rain afforded me the opportunity to share this update.

Besides by beautiful metal crane depicted above, here are a couple of  other "new additions" to the lot.

New Red Hibiscus and two wooden & metal birds.
George's choice: Yellow Hibiscus with red center along with a fern and Croton Plant.
That's it from beautiful, rainy, cloudy Florida. Hope all is well with whoever reads this entry and whatever you need is being provided to you this day.

Deep thought for the day:  Credit goes to the talented David Ruffin of The Temptations, "You may find it hard to understand, how I wish it would rain."

Click the link below to be awed and impressed...and for some, reminisce about days long gone.
The Temptations - I Wish It Would Rain

PS:  R.I.P:  Kathy Merz's mom (whom I unfortunately never had the chance to meet) and Alfredo Tresgallo, a hard-working immigrant from Spain who should be the role model for all who enter this country seeking "The American Dream."

Monday, November 14, 2016


We pulled up our jacks and drove out of chilly New York on Thursday morning, November 10th. Our "mini-caravan" consisted of me, driving my Sentra, following close behind George and Lucy in "Little Miss." This was our first time going separately and we both had mixed feelings about the pros and cons of solitary travel.

As the main conversationalist of our trio, I caught myself commenting about road signs, talking to myself about the drivers and the scenery and I BLASTED my Sirius XM radio turned to a Pop station. I sang along so loud that I never heard my navigation system's audio directions. I sang along to Ariana Grande, Alesia Cara, Maroon 5 and Sia, to name just a few. My new favorite song is the one by Alisia Cara, "Scars to Your Beautiful." What a powerful song.

George would never admit that he missed me, my singing, my talking or my navigational assistance, but I know he did. We called each other often and kept up with the plans for pit stops or for one of those,  "stretch the legs" breaks. 

I must pat myself on the back, because I managed to drive the over 1,100 miles, most of which was on I-95, without panicking too much. In my defense, no one likes driving through the cities of Trenton, Baltimore, DC, Jacksonville or Orlando either.

During my ride, I took the time to notice the little things and smile often because that's just the way my mind wanders. 

Below is a great imagery of a "woman's mind" and exactly how my mind is usually churning with thoughts of people, places, seasons and feelings.

A Woman's Mind

While driving through New Jersey, there is a Service Plaza called "Thomas Edison Service Area." My thoughts, similar to the little balls in the gif above were as follows:
  • Humm, Thomas Edison.
  • His name is actually, Thomas Alva Edison.
  • I know that because my father went to Edison High School in Mt. Vernon and always said Thomas Alva......
  • I lived in Mt. Vernon.
  • I'm in New Jersey.
  • I remember driving in the car with my parents to visit my mom's family in Linden, NJ.
  •  I wish the tractor-trailer behind me would either pass me or back off.
  • We spent summers in Seaside Heights, NJ.
  • My step-mother is moving from New Jersey to New York.
  • Gee, I just left New York and I'm already in New Jersey.
  • My grandmother was born in Boonton, NJ.
  • I've got a lot more miles to go.
  • Bruce Springstein was born in New Jersey.
  • Humm. I'm still in Jersey.

Clara Barton, Founder of the Red Cross
I could have gone on and on, but then I came to the Clara Barton Rest Area and remembered that she was a nurse.

This is no lie. This is how my mind works.

We were able to utilize the parking lots of three Walmarts on our trip south. The first was in Maryland, the second was in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina and the last night was spent in Georgia. Besides the cost for food, gas and tolls, the trip only cost us $10, which was the fee to dump our grey tank. We even got a free fill up of potable water at a North Carolina Pilot Service Station.  Life is good.

On Sunday afternoon, we arrived safe and sound at 233. The long drive was over and the work to get all settled began first thing Monday morning. Five loads of laundry (poor Lucy had "the sick" on our bed), food shopping, cooking, weeding, unpacking, re-packing and sitting in my rocking chair filled the long, damp day.

Tonight, I'm waiting for the last load to dry while watching "The Voice." I'm enjoying the music and trying hard not to sing along - for George's sake.

Deep thought for the day:   I have an almost complete disregard of precedent and a faith in the possibility of something better. It irritates me to be told how things always have been done .... I defy the tyranny of precedent. I cannot afford the luxury of a closed mind. I go for anything new that might improve the past. ~ Clara Barton (1821-1912)
I may sometimes be willing to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man's work for less than a man's pay. Clara Barton
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Monday, November 7, 2016

A soft spot to land for a little while...

The Merry Traveler. What a great cat!
Although it's been some time since my last blog entry, I figured I should formally end "The 3rd Great Big Adventure" with all the memories that helped to bring it to a bittersweet close.

Our last stop found us nestled along the shore of Lake Wallenpaupack, in Hawley, PA for the night. When I saw that our route was going to take us almost directly though Hawley,, we decided to stop to visit my very good friend, Berni and her husband Ron, who reside in the sleepy little town.  I just couldn't be that close without checking to see if she would be home and available for a visit. It was so last minute, but we were able to pull it off and spent a very enjoyable, impromptu evening together drinking wine and catching up. It was just what the doctor ordered - for us both. I needed to see a friendly face, and she had spent the day with her 90-year old mom who was rapidly approaching her last days. Besides sharing a couple of glasses of wine, we shared a few tears and laughs...only as friends can.

Here are a few statistics of our long, 3rd Great Big Adventure:

1 overnighter at a Bass Pro Shop
1 visit to an Animal Hospital
1 toll booth navigated by me
2 elementary school fairs in 2 different states
3 Walmart over nights
6 grandchildren were visited
6 new blood relations were met for the first time
7 National Parks and Monuments were visited
8 State Stickers were placed on our USA map
14 states were traveled through (not including NY)
16 blog entries were written
20 campgrounds supplied us with services for either one or multiple nights.
30 miles were driven by me
7,018 miles were driven by George
400 + photos were snapped

It turned out to be a magically, wild and wonderful journey full of beautiful sights, sounds, laughter and even some tears, that are forever burned in our memories. If I were to pick a favorite National Park, I believe I would choose The Great Smokey Mountains and a few of my favorite States are South Dakota, Tennessee and Idaho.

So, with our 3rd Great Big Adventure freshly behind us, we landed at Croton Point Park amidst rules, regulations, restrictions, controversy and frustration, but we did get to enjoy time with family and friends. Many meals, lots of wine, dinners out, dinners in, hearty laughs and happy times offered us an enjoyable, albeit short time in NY. Life was indeed good.

Our original plan was to spend the months of October and November at Croton Park, but we were only "allowed" a 4-1/2 week stay in a 30 amp electrical site. With overnight temperatures rapidly dropping after Halloween, and the lack of being given an extended stay, we decided to end our time here prior to Thanksgiving and head south.

The beginning of color
We did get to witness the beauty of of a New York fall which is one of the most colorful of seasons in the Northeast. Situated in a County Park provided us with scurrying squirrels, soaring eagles and hawks, brilliant colors and falling leaves.
Carpet of leaves

A Sugar Maple in full fall regalia

Heading south this time will be quite a challenge for me since I will be following George, the over 1,100 mile trip, in my new Sentra. This will be my first extended road trip. My max to date is 5-1/2 hours - from DC to NY.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I can add a sticker to my US map of Emergency Room visits. After only 2 days at Croton Park, I took a bad tumble out of the RV with the worst damage being caused to my right knee. Ten stitches a bruised tendon and lots of pain followed and the pain is still present.

Lucy getting in some sleep before her next gig on the road.

The next blog entry will generate from sunny Florida. Yippie-ki-yay.

Deep thought for the day: When I'm told "no," I usually rebel and do the opposite. So when the doubt entered my mind that I couldn't drive to Florida, I decided that I'll be damned if I don't. Florida here I come.