Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lemon or Satsuma?

This Satsuma tree has been a special one to watch over the past few years.  It was a gift from dear friends when we first built the house in Georgia.  Last year we had our first crop - 5 yummy satsumas.  Imagine our surprise this year when we discovered the tree laden with fruit.  Most of it looked like lemons, but there were two definite satsumas on the bottom branch.
I can absolutely guarantee this fruit is satsuma - no seeds, juicy and delicious.
From the higher branches of the same tree - this obvious lemon.  My friend made lemonade with some of these, and said it was delicious.
Here they are all together - honestly, they came off the same tree!
As a clue - we used to have two satsumas - the older one died last summer in the drought.  Could it be a pollination thing?  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Casey Key Motorcycle Ride

It was another beautiful day in SW Florida, so we headed out on the motorcycle.  One of the many beautiful barrier islands along the Gulf of Mexico in SW Florida is Casey Key, about 20 miles north of our home in Englewood.
The road winds along the island with the Gulf on the west and the bay on the east side of the road.  In some places, there are homes on each side of the road, but some of the really amazing mansions sit on  one side but the property bridges the road.  The "gulf to bay" properties are the most expensive of all the very expensive real estate found along the keys.
While the homes themselves are very impressive, the gardens are truly spectacular.
Bougainvilla is a common landscaping feature, and it comes in an array of beautiful colors.
I love how the ivy is trimmed to fill the fence, with the color of the bougainvilla all around.
The poinsettias along the top of this wall give a touch of Christmas landscaping.
The pier park at the south end of Casey Key looks across at Venice Island to the south.  This is one of several openings from the intercoastal waterway on the bay side to the Gulf.
The vastness of the gulf and higher waves are visible most of the way from the road up the key.
Most docks are situated on the bay side of the island.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

All's Well that Ends Well

The upheaval in our lives has ended suddenly.  Last night it still felt like we would never have our world back.  However, by about 8 p.m., our carpet layers were done and we could start putting the house back together.
We were scheduled for carpets on Friday, so on Thursday, we decided to take the boat out to get away from the cubby hole we were living in in the corner of the kitchen.  We came back about noon and this is what we found.  We never lock doors, so I guess they thought that meant to go ahead and get started a day early!
After all the aggravation of the past week, I have to say it was worth it!
We love the carpet, and neither one of us pulled our back out even after painting the entire house and moving every stick of furniture many times.
I think we will take a couple of days to just sit and veg and enjoy everything being clean and new.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Remodeling isn't for the faint of heart

When we bought an investment house in Englewood, Florida, last March, we knew it was part of "Old Englewood" - built in 1976 and nicely maintained for the most part, it had seen several years of neglect when it passed from one generation to the next and became a seasonal rental.  Our motive in buying in the teeth of a depressed real estate market was twofold - 1.  Use it ourselves now in the winters and work to bring it back up to speed, and 2. Be ready when the good markets return to hopefully make a profit on our investment.  

We really forgot to factor in that we are getting older and doing all the work ourselves was going to be more of a challenge.  However, we have been holding up so far.  We went out last week to "check out" carpets, and ended up buying new carpet for most of the house.

Of course, you can't pass up an opportunity to paint when it doesn't matter if you drip paint on the floors, so we have been painting the entire house for the past week.  Then we decided to tear up the old carpets.  YIKES!
My sister, Anne, says a carpet is like a giant sponge that sucks dirt in.  We were appalled at the grime under the old carpets.  I guess after 35 years we should have expected some dirt, but omg!
The terrazo floors were actually pretty nice once we had all the glue and crud scraped up and had scrubbed them with Simple Green.
The one bedroom that isn't getting new carpet is stuffed with most of the furniture from the entire house.
I have kind of a tunnel to my computer in the dining room.  We are getting really tired of camping out in the family room with one couch, a tv and one small table, so we checked yesterday to be sure we were still on schedule for installation of the new carpets on Thursday.  That is when we discovered that there was a mix up in our order and it wouldn't be in until December 24.  Fortunately, we don't own a gun or I might be tempted to shoot someone!  We solved the problem by choosing a slightly different color, and are now on schedule for Friday.  At least all the work is done to be ready, so today, we are taking the boat out!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Motorcycle Ride to Sarasota Islands

It has been a motorcycle riding weekend for us here in Florida.  On Saturday we went on the ride sponsored by the Methodist Church of Englewood to benefit the Helping Hands charity.  The ride was a roaring success, collecting over $11,000 and 4,000 pounds of food.
Click on the link to see us riding out (Ron and I appear at 1 minute and 30 seconds into the YouTube video)  Our friends Patti and Fran are on the beautiful yellow trike in the first part of the video.
Helping Hands Motorcycle Rally - December 3, 2011

Today we tagged along on a ride that Patti and Fran had planned to go to Anna Maria island with their Canadian friends (who are fast becoming our friends too!)
The day couldn't have been more perfect for a ride up Sarasota Key, then Longboat Key, then Bird Key, and finally, Anna Maria Island.
There are some amazing statues along Sarasota Harbor, but this by far the most impressive.
We still have a hard time feeling Christmassy when it is 80+ degrees outside, but this was a pretty impressive manger scene.
Lots of stuff going on, but we breezed past a truck pulling contest on one of the beaches, several flea markets, and lots of shopping opportunities and continued on to Bradenton Beach.
Where we stopped for lunch.  
Always nice to eat outside in the sea air.
Last stop, Anna Maria Island Pier where we watched the fishermen for awhile before stopping for an ice cream cone.
A nice lady on the beach volunteered to take a picture of all of us.
Unfortunately we had already eaten lunch because there is a restaurant on the end of the pier.
Another beautiful day and another great ride!

Boca Grande, Gasparilla Island, Florida

On another beautiful SW Florida day, Ron and I set off once again on the motorcycle.  We decided to head down to Boca Grande, which is about 30 miles south.
Just before we took the bridge onto the island, we spotted this flock of birds - mostly Wood Storks, but with a few white Ibis and some Anhingas.
At the end of Gasparilla Island a park and lighthouse overlook the channel from the bay into the Gulf of Mexico.
This picture in no way illustrates the fury of the current and the waves as they come through the pass.  We watched a small trawler going through with bated breath, worrying it might capsize.
In spite of the gorgeous sandy beach, definitely not a place for a swim.
Several beaches grace the island - this one at the lighthouse.
In places, there is the road, a golf cart track, AND a bike path.  I am pretty sure there are more golf carts than cars on the island.
It is a lovely island with lots to do - shopping, eating, beachcombing, swimming, swimming, and birdwatching to name a few things.
Ospreys build the tackiest nests of any bird I have observed.  This one is actually trying to make a nest on a solar panel that is set at a 45 degree angle.  
There is a toll to cross the bridge onto the island, which is probably what keeps it from being hopelessly overcrowded.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Inside Solomon's Castle

We headed out early this morning for our planned ride to Solomon's Castle with our new motorcycle friends, Patty and Fran.  Even at 9 a.m. on another beautiful SW Florida day, we could ride without coats.  When we stopped to pick up some other friends of Patty and Fran, Ron and I also ditched our helmets.  We are so accustomed to riding with helmets in Georgia and Washington, that we rarely ride without them.  However, it could be addictive!  There is nothing like the feeling of wind in your hair even when it leaves it in a hopeless tangle.
Jerry and Monique had just taken delivery of their new bike, and it is a beauty!  They are from Quebec, the bike is made in Quebec, but it is much less expensive to buy it in Florida.
Our caravan included four bikes and one car.  Nine adults and two children all headed out for the castle.
Fran is an excellent guide as he knows every road and how they interconnect, so we were able to take mostly rural back roads and still go in a pretty straight line to Ona, where the castle is located.
Howard Solomon, the owner and artist responsible for all the amazing art both inside the castle and out, mingles with the guests.
Waiting for our tour to start.
 Every piece of art is made of some recycled material.  Many are put together from tiny pieces of discarded wood, like the large piece in the middle, and the one to the left on this wall.
 These animals are all made from old wire coat hangers.
 The chair in the corner is made entirely from beer cans.
 Lots of famous paintings have been reproduced using metal, wood, and assorted other materials.
 The painting in the middle is a Norman Rockwell cover for The Saturday Evening Post.  If you enlarge the picture, you will see the original cover to the right of the art piece.

 This dragon is made from oil barrels.

 Notice the toenails of the elephant - clam shells.  Tusks are manatee ribs.

 The artist and his wife's living quarters.  They have two rooms that they rent out - we didn't see those.
 Back door.

This is the only "Plane Wall" in the house.  The tour is really interesting and worthwhile, but every single piece of art comes with a punny name, which is almost painful at times.