Friday, December 20, 2013

Exploring SW Florida

Our grandson, Jesse, is visiting so we have been showing him all the fun places we have found here in SW Florida. 
Blind Pass on Manasota Key is a great place to look for prehistoric shark's teeth.
We always find some - even after thousands of people for many years have been collecting them.
Lover's Key, just south of Ft Myers Beach is a wonderful State Park, where we can beachcomb on the Gulf,
or take a walk through the woods.
The variety of native plants seems endless.
He thought he was hiding in his burrow.  We saw many turtles.  Often we see Manatee in the water, sometimes alligators, always squirrels and raccoons.  The real Florida!
Flamingo Florida is kind of fun too.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Ringling

The Ringling Bros. Circus found a home in Sarasota Florida in 1928.  When the show wasn't on the road, it settled on the 100 acres here where John and Mable Ringling built first a winter home, and then a permanent home.
Now, the site houses a museum of their extensive art collection, their home, and several buildings of circus memorabilia.
Since they died without heirs, they willed the entire complex with all the contents to the State of Florida.   Their home has been lovingly restored and is open to the public.
We were informed that all of the gold (and there is a lot of it) is real!  Mabel died before the great depression, but John was caught in it and ended up with only $311 in his bank account. The art collection and the assets of property were saved by being in trust to the State when John died in 1936.

After several hours at the Ringling, we stopped in Venice at Sharky's for a late lunch.

We shared the last of our French fries with the locals.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Venice Boat Parade

Our friends, Patti and Fran, always figure out the coolest things to do!  They went up to Venice, FL, on Wednesday and staked out an area along the canal to watch the boat parade on Saturday evening. We joined them and a dozen or so other people to watch the boats.  They thought of everything - tables, tablecloths, coolers, beach umbrellas, chairs, and even mats for the ground. 
It was a balmy 85 degrees and we needed the umbrellas as we were looking right into the sun as it went down over the canal.  We had time to eat and visit before dark, when the crowds began to gather in earnest.
People lined the banks of the canal for about a mile on both sides of the canal.
Finally, night fell, and the bridges opened up so the parade could begin.  While we had thought fleetingly that maybe we should have decorated the boat and joined the parade, it didn't take many boats before we realized just how high the decorating bar would be.
This giant Christmas ornament constantly changed colors, lighting up the area in blue, red, green, red, and then white again.
Part of the fun was trying to figure out just what kind of boat was beneath all those lights.
Frosty on top, more figures on the back, and tons of lights all around.
Most had enthusiastic dancers on board singing and dancing to the music.

One of my favorites!
The reflections in the water were nearly as beautiful as the boats!
Would you believe an entry from Seattle?
Of the 50 boats, I think this was my favorite!  Definitely a pleasant way to spend a warm evening.  It was still 75 degrees when we got in the car to head home around 8 p.m.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Blue Ridge Georgia

As we continued our Thanksgiving weekend trip to North Carolina and North Georgia, we visited the town of Blue Ridge, Georgia on Saturday.
We started out early to visit Mercier Orchards - Even at 10 a.m., the crowds were starting to fill this gigantic store. 
Many varieties of apples cover the hundreds of acres of orchards.  All the apple processing is done at the farm, and the whole assembly line is behind windows for viewing.
Helpful signs explain every stage of the apple sorting, cleaning, and packing operation.
Apples, apples, apples - all sizes and varieties "on the hoof" available - or you can go to the attached bakery and select fried fritters, apple pies, apple bread, etc. etc.  We collected a variety!
Spices? Sauces? Kitchen gadgets? Wine glasses? Cookbooks? Appalachian Trail Maps and guide books?  We got some of all!
I loved this store!
Downtown Blue Ridge had a "Light Up Blue Ridge" celebration going on, complete with parade,
Ice skating rink,
Street fair and vendors,
trendy coffee shops,
Interesting buildings
and shops featuring old fashioned penny candy.
We spent most of the day wandering around the shops and checking out the crowds.  We got home in time to watch "the game" (Alabama vs. Auburn) which really didn't disappoint!

Visiting the Appalacian Mountains

We had the most amazing weekend in the mountains of North Carolina and North Georgia with our friends, Jesse and Peggy.  They have a home in Murphy, N.C., which is the center of an incredible variety of things to do and places to see.
Thanksgiving morning, we headed out to "The Cookie Jar" restaurant for a sumptuous feast before exploring antique shops and craft stores from Murphy, NC to Blairsville, GA.

Every road is scenic.  We can see why this area is famous for the motorcycle experience it offers.  This road wound around  following the Nantahala River.
The day started out very cold with snow in patches at the higher elevations, but none on the roads.

However, some of the ice formations were pretty spectacular!
By noon, the bright sun had warmed things up and we started shedding coats when the temperature rose to about 55 degrees.
You know you're in hunting area when you spot something like this in the back of the truck parked next to you. 
"Alexander's" is a very interesting store - They sell everything!
Jewelry, clothing, furniture, sporting goods - and they have a famous sale on black Friday, so lots of customers find it out in the middle of nowhere.
Yonah Mountain Treasures is the home of many local potters and craftsmen.

The patriarch of the Meadow's clan of famous potters, Nub, is known for his blue chickens.  They even have a place in the Smithsonian Institute.  Peggy collects the blue chickens, so we were looking for a bargain on consignment. 
The store offers many other unique treasures. Sometimes I wish I was a better shopper!  I'm sure I passed by many things that people I care about would love, but I don't collect anything, so I was able to look in awe without taking anything home.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Trip to North Carolina

Over ten years ago now, Ron and I made a trip to North Carolina with our friends, Jesse and Peggy for Thanksgiving.  They were looking for a cabin in the mountains and we spent much of the weekend looking at cute log cabins in the area around Murphy.  They found a really great place on nearly an acre and actually moved there for a few years.  Now it's a getaway place for them, and we came back to enjoy it with them this weekend.  The weather forecast looked horrible, and we all wondered if we should even make the trip, but we gamely set out on Wednesday morning.  It had been raining for a whole day so our road was a muddy mess and the wind was blowing and waves crashing across our dock at Lake Eufaula when we left.
 The temperature dropped steadily as we headed north.  By Atlanta, it was down to 39 degrees, and we could see tiny flakes of snow in the air occasionally.

Our GPS took us on the scenic route, and we were helplessly just following it, not recognizing much of anything from our past trips to Murphy.  When we came to a small picturesque town, we thought we must be near the Georgia/North Carolina border.
The GPS said we were only about 30 miles from our destination, so we knew we had to be close, and finally caught the name of the town - Copper Hill. Although we had never heard that name before,
it seemed like a place we might want to visit again.  It was the terminus of the train ride through the blue mountains, and had a bunch of interesting looking shops, bars, and churches.
Copper seemed to be a big part of the town's history, and big copper colored hills surrounded the town.
When we finally passed the post office in town, we saw that we were in Copper Hill, Tennessee.  Ron asked at that point if I was sure I had the proper address programmed into the GPS.

Sure enough a few miles later, we crossed the border into North Carolina just a few miles outside Murphy, our destination.  Jesse told us that the town of Copper Hill sits halfway into Tennessee and halfway into Georgia, and one bar has a red line down the middle of it.  The Georgia side is "dry" (no alcohol) so if you need to use the rest room, you have to leave your drink on the Tennessee side to go the rest room on the Georgia side.  Definitely a cute little town that we may go back and take pictures with a real stop there.
We had a lovely evening sitting around a crackling fire and talking while we polished off a couple of bottles of wine.  This morning, we woke up to 20 degrees, but sparkling sunshine and the promise of a high of 55 degrees later.