Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

We are leaving tomorrow for Webster, FL, to the Florida Grande RV park. It's a very decent price for Florida for 650.00 a month. We've had a FABULOUS time in the Everglades, revisiting our favorite places to see alligators, anhingas, egrets, and the elusive roseate spoonbill. We've canoed, kayaked, biked and hiked our way around Naples, Florida. We've discovered just  how expensive it is to stay in Florida over the winter months. We'll be exploring some other places and alternatives to the Naples area, but none can compare to what this area has to offer, at least not in the way of landscaping, an exceptionally beautiful city, activities, nature watching and birding in the Everglades!

Our last day here, we revisited Ten Thousand Islands preserve, hoping to see some roseate spoonbills..They are still not here yet. We revisited Collier Seminole State park, walked the boardwalk to the observation platform and saw ONE spoonbill flying in the distance, with it's gorgeous pink plumage too far away to get a photo. We got eaten alive by mosquitoes this morning, neglecting to spray ourselves down before heading out on the boardwalk. The boardwalk is nice because it has some self guided placards along the way that tell you what you are looking at. We saw a gumbo limbo tree, its nickname the "tourist tree" because of its red, peeling bark. They used to make carousel horses out of it's lightweight wood.

At dusk today, we headed out for a boat ride that we got on Groupon for 24.00 for TWO for a sunset dolphin cruise. We'll be posting photos tomorrow about that...We're just going to have a quiet New Year's evening at home after we get back from our boat trip...thinking about all the wonderful things we did and have seen this year.....

I found this blessing on the internet and wanted to share it with you. BOTH Eldy and I wish this for all our readers and hope that 2012 finds you healthy, happy, and living your dreams....Happy New Year!
With love, Eldy and Jeannie
                                                                 New Year Blessing

Friday, December 30, 2011

Collier Seminole State Park Guided Canoe Trip

We had looked over Collier Seminole State Park Campground yesterday, and saw that although we could possibly fit in a couple of spaces, it was a very tight campground. The campground is small, laid out in a triangle, sort of, and the organization of it looked tight all the way around. There were tons of tent campers in there mixed in with some fifth wheels and travel trailers. No more than a couple of motorhomes in there, and nobody bigger than about 36 feet. It just didn't look very inviting....

The park itself is VERY cool...there's an interesting welcome center inside the park...small, but architecturally cool....
There was a walking dredge machine that was used to build the Tamiami Trail back in the 1920's, and a great canoe launch and boat dock with a resident gator....I guess the alligators' territories are very limited...their whole lives are spent in a very small area...Here's the resident gator keeping an eye on things....

We checked out the canoe rental yesterday, and found it was very reasonable...$5.30 an hour. What we didn't realize is, when we got information about the guided nature tour through the mangroves, there was nothing said about an ADDITIONAL fee of 25.00 a person to go on the guided trip.  So we thought the canoe rental included the guided tour. We almost backed out at the time of renting the canoes at the shock of paying 50.00 for the two of us, but we gulped and paid after a LOT of encouragement from others standing around about how great the tour was. (Yeah, and I bet they all worked for the park, says E.) We were really glad we decided to go ahead and book the guided canoe trip. It was WELL worth it! And besides, all the money goes to improvements for the park.

We had a fantastic guide, Diane, and for three hours (only about 2 1/2 hours of actual paddling), we were entertained with stories and information about the mangroves, and the native Americans who inhabited the area first....She really knew her history and nature stuff, and her love for the Everglades and mangroves really showed through her narration....I always thought paddling through the mangroves was rather boring until I learned all the stuff I learned today..

We learned so many things on this tour...That the mangroves are the best line of defense during a hurricane..They have a triangular based root system, which in nature, is the strongest formation against high winds. They have a unique filtering system to survive the salt water and thrive....When developers take out the mangroves for condos and high rises, they remove nature's best windbreak for hurricanes. Different types of mangroves (black ones and red ones) propagate differently. Some bear fruit which grows into an elongated "pod" which drops into the water and can live for up to two years (!)  floating around until it gets implanted somewhere and starts a baby mangrove tree. See that little "tail" sticking out of the fruit above? That's the pod shaped structure starting...The pod has a fancy name, but I don't remember it now....

We learned about the tree snails that have beautiful patterns that grow in the hammocks of the mangrove and the Everglades....The Seminole Indians use some of the snail patterns in their garments...We learned that the Seminoles outsmarted and outfoxed the U.S. government in their attempts to push out the Seminoles to reservations. The Seminoles knew how to navigate the mangroves, to walk in them, and to hide. They ambushed the U.S. soldiers so many times that the U.S. government gave up trying to get them out. The Seminoles never surrendered, and they are the only Indian tribe to have never signed a treaty of any kind. They are a proud people and rightly so....

It was a beautiful day out on the water...We saw a wood stork flying, they are beautiful birds in the air, but they sure look sorta ugly on the ground! You wouldn't think they would be such graceful flyers judging from their appearance when standing. We saw grebes, a kind of duck, and the usual egrets and herons. And we saw the resident alligator at the boat landing--- on the other side. Lots of people were out on the canals today...Including this guy and his best friend...

We really enjoyed talking to the volunteer guides today...Eldy and Sparky are THINKING about volunteering down the road at national or state parks or campgrounds, so we are getting all the information straight hand from the volunteers out there now...It's fun to hear their the two Italian friends in their 80's from New Jersey who went out on the canoe tour last year, and argued and yelled at each other how to steer and navigate the canoe the entire trip! It was a great tour, and we highly recommend it!

The canoes were the most comfortable canoes I have ever been in...padded seats with kayak style back rests....Mad River Canoes, I believe....They looked more like kayaks than canoes...

How did Sparky and Eldo do together in the canoe? They were an AWESOME team! Except Eldy was such a strong paddler, Sparky had to work twice as hard to compensate for his strong paddling skills to keep the canoe straight! He thought he was being very helpful at paddling hard....But we both got a good workout today, at any rate.....

We'll sleep well tonight! Tomorrow is our last day here in beautiful Naples...sniff, sniff! Eldy's sad to be leaving this beautiful area, too...We've got a great last activity to do...Got a Groupon coupon at more than half off to take a sunset dolphin cruise taking off from the Port Sanibel marina...THAT should be way cool! We'll see you on the boat, New Year's Eve!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

An Old Soul Town

We're not talkin' Detroit...We're talkin' in the heart of Naples....It's called Tin City, a historical district dating back to the 1920's, when the Gordon River was the hub of Naples' fishing industry.

In the seventies, seven of the old buildings were made into a shopping area, a marketplace that mixes restaurants, gift shops and unusual boutiques in a waterfront setting overlooking the Gordon River. There are 30 gift shops and 2 restaurants there...lots and lots of gift ideas from candy to seashells.
I like seeking seashells for sale in a shop by the seashore...heh, heh, heh! It's a good way to learn about what you see on the beach! I bought a little starfish for .99 for my Christmas tree to replace the one I dropped and broke the other day.

I also bought a tee shirt for 20.00 that reminds me of the beautiful Christmas lights at night and all the wrapped palm trees....There's just about anything and everything "kitschy" in these shops....

The shops are old, but that's part of the appeal of visiting something historical...lots of dark wood, beams, tight space and surprises around the corners.

It's fun to sit in one of the restaurants and watch the yachts go in and out and under the bridge which crosses the Gordon River, overlooking the gorgeous shopping centers and urban condos across the river.

Fun, but we haven't tried either one of the restaurants at Tin City....Too busy doing everything else! (And eating elsewhere--Boston's Pizzeria and Roma's in downtown Naples, and the Jolly Cricket for "happy hour") There's a nice boardwalk along the two restaurants which makes for a great viewing point for the boat parade that they had a couple of weeks ago....
Tomorrow we head over to Collier Seminole State Park for a ranger led canoe trip!  Eldo and Sparky will be SHARING a canoe! And guess who's going to be steering? (Sparky, that's a no brainer, you're always in charge! laughs E.) Yep, thirty-four years of being a special education teacher, I admit it, I'm a control freak all the way, old habits die hard....(Sigh!)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Trip Down Alligator Alley--AGAIN!

Not I-75, but highway 41 east out of Naples....Back to the Cypress Swamp Welcome Center,  where we saw a pair of manatees today, a mother and her calf....The Gulf of Mexico's temperatures have been over 70 since we've been here. Manatees start to come to inland waters when the gulf temperatures reach 68 degrees. The recent cool down at night will probably bring more of them inland to the Cypress Welcome Center soon....

Back to the H.P. Williams Wayside Park, back to see the alligators out sunning themselves along highway 41. You shouldn't stop along 41 unless there's a pullout or a safe place to park, so we didn't! (Oh, yes we did, the first year we came down here! reminds Eldo.) Uh-yes, I confess, we did...Sparky was so excited to see SO MANY ALLIGATORS, over fifty of them the first year we drove east on 41, Tamiami Trail, and big guys at that, that she had Eldy pulling over several times to get photos....But now, we know, that is NOT the safe thing to do...and now we know, that if you stop at the Oasis Center further east on highway 41, you will see LOTS of really bad-a** looking alligators! And you can see LOTS of them up close and personal at the Shark Valley Welcome Center to the Everglades National Park....If you look back at the blog a couple of weeks ago, you'll see just how close we were to them on the 17 mile bike trail at Shark Valley....But here's one we saw today (at right)...He appeared VERY awake...Last week all the gators we saw appeared comatose and not moving!

Today, at the H.P. Williams park, we saw the usual cormorants and anhingas sunning and drying their wings, a nice big alligator, and some really big turtles.

This one was the size of a humongous dinner plate at least...maybe a serving platter!

We saw this little cutie working the binoculars with great expertise at the fence, a future naturalist, perhaps?

It's fascinating to watch the anhingas swim underwater, they are such sleek, fast birds! Anhingas and cormorants are very similar, actually...Anhingas  are much handsomer birds with their silver streaked wing and feather patterns. Male anhingas have black heads, females have the furry light brownish tan heads....Cormorants have a little hook on their beaks and their beaks are wider than anhingas. OK, here comes the quiz...What's this?

Just kidding...the retired teacher in me has wanted to get that out for a long time! "Pop quiz!" It's an anhinga...Next question....What's the bird on the left in the photo below? Actually, I forget this one! Some kind of blue heron, I think?
It's amazing all the birds we saw today...we think we even saw a roseate spoonbill in the marsh as we were driving down 41....Everything looks alive and healthy, and the wood stork population looks good, too...Even if they are on the endangered list, we have seen LOTS of them all over the place. It's an AMAZING ecosystem, that's for sure!

We've got a couple of things planned in the next few days for our last "hurrah" here in Naples....Stay tuned to see what they are! Bye for now......

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Little About Nothing in Particular!

Bad weather came our way's been sunny for so long, I forgot what a rainstorm sounds like! With a cold front and rain showers coming (Sherry, from RV Dreamlife, says "NO TALKING about cold fronts in Florida!" They are coming down soon)...but hey, I have to report it like it is, and why we didn't do much today!

After knitting up a frilly scarf this morning, then watching the clouds come rolling in, Sparky convinced Eldo to head out this afternoon to the Miromar Outlet Center between Fort Myers and Estero, about 30 minutes from here. ..Sparky had to check out the Carter store for bargains 'cuz she's gonna be a GRANDMA OFFICIALLY in June....Not telling if she found anything, the expectant daughter reads the blog....All we'll say about our experience this morning is, we are gluttons for punishment going to a huge outlet mall two days after Christmas! There were ZERO parking spaces to be found in the huge mall parking lot for quite awhile. But we were persistent and patient, and finally got ourselves a space AND we found some small things for each one of us. Business appeared to be booming in the outlet mall......Miromar is not as pretty as Waterside Shops that we visited yesterday, but it's a whole lot cheaper! Everybody must have been out spending their Christmas cash! Which is good for Florida's economy.....We did our little part to help support it today.....

We have just a few days left here in Naples...We're going to visit a few of our favorite places in the last couple of days before heading to Webster, FL for the month of January.... Eldy just reported the temps for tomorrow...high of 67, low of 47 tomorrow night! Chilly! That cold front came in after all.....The alligators probably won't be out tomorrow......But we'll see what we can find......Bye for now.....

Monday, December 26, 2011

IPhone Catastrophe!

Eldy dropped his phone on the pavement in the parking lot yesterday...uh-oh! Even though it had a case on it, it hit the pavement just so, and something jutting up from the pavement hit the phone's front glass and shattered it. I should have taken a photo of it, but he was so upset, I didn't. There are sometimes where you just shouldn't document your ENTIRE life every day with photos, ya know? The bad thing about an iphone 4S is that the glass is integrated into the phone, you shatter the glass and you breakdaphone! A new iphone 4S outside of your plan renewal costs about 600.00! Yikes! No way was he going to purchase a new phone...He was just sick about it. BUT---

After doing his thorough investigative work online, he decided to go to the Apple Store in Naples today, the DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, THE most crowded day of the year other than Black Friday, to see what could be done. The phone still worked, you just couldn't see the buttons very well, nor could you see photos very well, etc. The finger swipe functions still worked, too. Of course, we didn't have Apple Care program, because at the time of the purchase of the phone, Apple Care doesn't protect you in case of dropping it, it only protected the user from internal malfunctioning of the phone parts. He figured the phone warranty that came with the phone ought to take care of any problems that might crop up. Eldy was BRAVE to venture out to the stores the day after Christmas. Sparky encouraged him to go because SHE HAD A PLAN. She was going to help cover the cost of the new phone as a belated Christmas present! HA! Told you I would get him back for buying me something for Christmas and it isn't even January yet!

We-l-l-l-l, unfortunately, a new phone was the only way they would be able to help him....200.00, normally about 600.00 for an iphone 4S outside your plan....arrrrrgggghhhh! The old phone was only 3 months old! BUT--he decided to go ahead and replace the phone, AND get the new, IMPROVED Apple Care program which now covers dropping and breakage, up to TWO times during the warranty coverage. You drop into the ocean, it quits working, you're covered! And you only have to pay 49.00 for a replacement iphone. (I'm going to remember that when my phone plan is up and I switch to an iphone! In two years....says Sparky). He got a price break on the replacement warranty policy and now is covered should Sparky Butterfingers accidentally drop his phone taking photos with it...Which she does all the time now, take photos that is, because it's got such a great camera in the phone, much better than her Motorola Atrix phone.

The mall where the Apple store is located is a beautiful mall called Waterside Shops. There are all kinds of classy stores there besides the Apple store, and it's a great place to sit and people watch, there are lots of benches. There were all kinds of people there today---like this gal who I guess was a runner. She was an older gal who had absolutely no qualms about showing up at the extremely crowded mall dressed like this and having everyone look at her--It was funny to see the guys' eyes pop out of their heads as they came out the store and went by her. I say if you've got it, flaunt it! And she did!

Here's the Apple Store today...It was CRAZY!!!!!!!!! But we only had to wait an hour past our appointment time (!) and now Eldy has a brand new iphone 4S once again...and he can talk to Siri again, and do all kinds of cool things with his phone. He's a happy camper!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sparky's 3rd Annual Kayak Trek Christmas Day

Eldy was a stinker! Not only did he go out and buy me a new point and shoot camera so I could take it to the beach and not have to worry quite so much about sand and salt, but he wanted me to be able to take the camera and go kayaking Christmas Day for the third straight year in a row! What a sweetie! Except I didn't buy him anything, BECAUSE WE WEREN'T SUPPOSED TO EXCHANGE PRESENTS! I'll get him back. There will be an influx of mail for him the next coming month. (You better not! he weakly protests.)

Kayak rental place in Isle of Capri
We headed out to the Isle of Capri...a small, out of the way beachy town surrounded by water and some great places to kayak. The rental place is from the Isle of Capri Fish Restaurant. Rental was 30.00 for three hours, plenty of time for me to get some exercise. I always worry just a tad about getting lost, especially when there are lots of inlet and mangrove tunnels. (And you know who ELSE is nervous about her getting lost! She can't even find her way around town with a road map and a GPS!) True, true...sad, but true....Apparently, my questions were numerous enough that the owner of the rentals gave me his very own copy of the islands map so I wouldn't get lost and he pointed out where to go on a much bigger map. I didn't want to tell anybody that even with a map of the islands, I could still get lost! (You don't have to tell ME! E. exclaims.) Heck, I didn't even know what direction I was paddling let alone where I was on the map, but I could have figured it out with the position of the sun I'm sure. I just kept the big tall buildings in sight for most of the time I was out on the water and still managed to get into trouble! But I didn't get lost!

So off I went...looking for dolphins, manatees, alligators, snakes (not really) and birds.

What he DIDN'T tell me what who has the right of way in channels, what side of the marker I'm supposed to stay on, little stuff like that...That figures importantly in the chain of events that are about to follow......I started out in the little inlets of mangroves that circled around and came out in the gulf, but after seeing the mangrove tunneled waterways closing in rapidly and envisioning snakes wrapped around mangrove branches, I headed back out to the shoreline where I could see the high rises and landmarks better. I saw the usual egrets and herons and osprey nests...

I was following the shoreline when I saw FINS! As in MULTIPLE FINS!   DOLPHINS! And I made a beeline for the center of the channel focused only on the fins and nothing else. I was going to GET SOME DOLPHIN PHOTOS COME HELL OR HIGH WATER! I get to the middle of the channel and my phone rings. It's my oldest daughter calling to wish me a Merry Christmas! I answer, because 1) I'm excited to tell her about the dolphins, a pair that just dove in front of my bow (no photo, my hands are full!)  2) I'm talking to her in the middle of the channel in the kayak and isn't technology wonderful to be able to do that! and I answer because 3) we have a hard time getting a hold of each I'm prattling on about the dolphins, she's expressing the appropriate amount of amazement that I'm talking to her out in the water in the channel in my boat and that I saw dolphins up close and personal when I happen to look up and all of a sudden, THERE ARE TWO BIG YACHTS SIDE BY SIDE BARRELING DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE CHANNEL WHERE I AM SITTING LIKE A DEAD DUCK IN THE WATER! They appeared NOT to see me...They were coming FAST, DIRECTLY AT ME!!!!!!!  They didn't slow down one bit!!!!  SH**T!!!!!!

I yelled and the sentences expressed in the rapid style of those commercials where they cram a bazillion words into just a few seconds, "GOTTA GO, TWO BIG BOATS HEADED STRAIGHT FOR ME!!" I dropped the phone in the bottom of the boat, and paddled like HELL to get to the left of both of them, whipped the nose of the kayak around to face the humongous waves that were being generated by their wake. THEY WAVED "HI!"You gotta be kidding me! So I waved back--with my middle index finger!!!!! (YOU DIDN'T!!!!????) No, I didn't...BUT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT!  Geez, there's a 30 m.p.h. speed limit zone through there...I swear they must have been going about 50. Although Eldy says 30 m.p.h. in a boat IS fast.....I swear my heart stopped and I honestly thought I was going to be sliced in half by one yacht or the other! I hightailed it over across the channel to a small beach right across the way as fast as my puny arms could muster a paddle to safety....Made it to the beach and called my daughter right back to let her know I was ok.....Whew!!!! I have to admit, THAT was SCARY! And I just got done talking to my best friend, Jeannie W. today, and she asked me was it dangerous to go out by myself, and I just laughed...."Heck no, I'm fine out there."  HA!

The beach I stopped at to catch my breath and relax after my harrowing experience was a small shelling beach---lovely!

But hey, I DID see dolphins! Besides the the two that dove in front of my boat, I saw about five or six more of them within a half hour time period right before the ships almost ran me over, then the dolphins disappeared for the rest of the time I was paddling around in the channel--BY THE SHORELINE. They're not stupid!  I did ask when I got back if I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and they told me no, the big boat owners are supposed to watch out for the little guys, and that I had the right to be in the channel...TELL THEM THAT!....It was an interesting day! And the start of a GREAT Christmas Day tradition!  Thank you, Eldy, for giving me such a wonderful gift!

I think it's gonna be a quiet last week for us here in Naples....That was enough excitement to last awhile.....

Saturday, December 24, 2011

If You Are Reading Our Blog Today....Merry Christmas! 12/25/2011

First, a little silliness--my first attempt at putting a Youtube video in the will be better next time, promise! Had to do a little learning curve with Eldy's phone first. HD video on the iphone 4S...not bad! You might recognize this hat at ELDY'S hat in our blog photo. He wouldn't wear it downtown tonight, Christmas Eve, so I said I would! It got some grins and smiles, especially when I pushed the button and Burl Ives starts singing, "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas!"  It's the best time of the year!

My sister sent me this link, and I think it's wonderful...wonderful because with all of today's technology, this is one of the latest, "hippest" things to do, wonderful because of the Christmas spirit it embodies, and wonderful because of the beautiful harmonies and joyous sounds..I know everybody is busy getting ready for family, getting gifts ready, and things are getting a little crazy for holiday preparations....We hope you get a moment to relax, kick back, and enjoy this....Enjoy your families and time together, and the snow if you have it! (Sorry, Eldy! :-)   .....Enjoy along with a few more photos of the Christmas lights in Naples....
                                   A gift from Carlson School School of Management in Minnesota

View on Third Avenue in Naples
Santa up a tree on Third Avenue in Naples

                               Merry Christmas!  Love to all our friends and family.... Jeannie and Eldy

Friday, December 23, 2011

You Never Know What You Might Catch!

Hey! I'm not talking infectious diseases! Although there is some flu going around and some colds with our blogging friends...But we're not sick...although we are being BUGGED by no-see-ums! At least that's what we think they are. Eldy's got a slight allergic reaction to them it appears...(SLIGHT????? These are the biggest bites and itch the most of anything I have ever seen and experienced!!!!) They seem to like him a LOT. He's got really big bites all over the backs of his legs and they itch like crazy! He's downing Benadryl and applying cortizone cream and After-Bite (rub on stick), but to no avail. And today, they got ME a few times. We don't even feel them biting, but boy, do we have the big red welts to prove it! I wasn't feeling too sorry for Eldy until I got bit. Now I know why he's complaining! (YEAH! See what I mean? he says, vindicated.) He's been miserable for the last few days, the bites and itching last more than just a couple of days....

Down to the Naples Pier I went today to see what I could find....HOPING to find dolphins, but not even a pelican today...just lots of people! The beach was FULL of them, imagine that! Everybody has come in for the holiday and what a difference a couple of days make! The beaches were relatively empty last week when we set out for awhile in our cabana. Today---wow! Too bad Eldy wasn't here, he was off running errands. His eyeballs probably would have popped out of their sockets, tee hee! Mine were bugging out at the latest bikini apparel and old guys wearing Speedos....and that's all I'm going to say about THAT!

At any rate, LOTS of people were fishing off the pier today...the usual old farts with all their gear...I stayed for a little while, chatting at the railing with a lady from the Netherlands. She had excellent English as most of the foreign tourists do. They put us to shame with all their language training they get in school. Her English was flawless. It turns out they come over to the U.S. to winter in Naples and have bought a house here to do that every year. I had no idea that people from EUROPE did that. I know there are lots of people from the U.S. that are snowbirds that have two or more living arrangements for the seasons, I just didn't realize people from Europe choose to winter over here in Florida...I guess I was born yesterday. As my dad always said..."Well, I wasn't born yesterday, you know!"

After a little bit, I saw a cormorant swimming close around the pier, looking for something to eat. I was just thinking about whether they ever steal the fisherman's bait like the dolphin did the other day when all of a sudden, he snatched the bait hook in the water from a fisherman standing a couple of feet away from me...An expletive came out briefly as the guy realized the hook had been completely swallowed by the cormorant and the bird was totally caught by his hook, line and sinker! (groan!) It looked like the line was completely around his bill as well. A commotion ensued, and as soon as I saw the fisherman reel the bird up with the hook totally down his throat, I felt sick to my stomach....The guy grabbed the bird by the neck and said, "What am I gonna do, guys? He's swallowed the whole damn hook!" Everybody was offering advice and none of it was going to work because the hook was too far down. I heard the guy say, "I'm going to have to kill it." And at that point, I left, it was too upsetting to hang around and find out what was going to ensue....I'm hoping for a happy ending, but I doubt it....I felt badly for the bird AND the guy whose hook was swallowed! He was very upset as well.....

I'm the kind of person that when my second husband took me rabbit hunting and shot a rabbit and asked me to put it in his game bag, I took one look at the rabbit with its big brown eyes and started bawling. That was the last time I ever accompanied him hunting! And the last time he ever asked if I wanted to go. I can't even look at fresh rabbit in a grocery store meat case without remembering that bunny rabbit from years ago....

Modern art at the parking garage in Naples
The rest of the day was uneventful.....Not sure what we'll do tomorrow....maybe hang around home as the traffic is really heavy now in town. Lots of accidents happening everywhere...the radio station says that you know it's "high season" because of the uptick in traffic accidents as all the snowbirds arrive.  On TV today, the feature story was interviewing tow truck services and body shops. They are having to hire extra help to handle all the extra calls and accidents!  That's a little unnerving!  Well, it's almost Christmas and a great time to hang around home in the lush palm trees of Neapolitan Cove, our RV park. We might see you there tomorrow....Or, we might find something else we need to do, who knows? I've yet to look at all the shops....(And you don't need to, right? worries E.) No worries, mate! Just thought I'd see what unusual things they are selling in all these cool shops if I can work up the nerve to step inside and see. It might be interesting to see what things are selling for in downtown Naples that I can't afford, lol! Then again, not being a shopper, I might check out something else instead!...See you tomorrow......

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Celebrating Christmas in an RV

It can be done! We have our tree....

We have our outside decorations....

Sparky will try and get Eldy to watch A Christmas Story again. Watching it every year is a family tradition in her family, but Eldo watched it last year and didn't care for it too much. She'll watch it anyway. Sparky's second favorite is It's a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart, or for another more modern one, The Grinch, starring Jim Carrey.

We've baked some cookies....but not the kind Grandma and my mom used to make...(Sigh! says E.) I think he is having Christmas cookie withdrawals about now...Sparky is sighing, too, because she used to make roll out ginger spice molasses cookies from a recipe that HER mom and her grandma made, with homemade buttercream icing, those were in the good old days.....We could still do that, but there's just not much counter space and it's so messy, and guess who would consume all the cookies with no family around!? US! (Glad you said both of us! says E.) Yep, I'm worse than he is about devouring freshly made cookies......I went looking for the recipe and here it is, in case anybody wants to bake up a storm! By printing it, I'm saving it for posterity. (Oh, and I thought you were saving it to make me some, fusses E.) Sigh!   I know, I'll make the dough and you can roll them out, sweetie! THAT'S the hard, messy part!

Grandma B.'s Molasses Cookies:
1 cup of white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 cup of unsalted butter
1 egg       Cream sugars, butter and egg together...Add 6 TBS. molasses
Blend in 1 tsp. ground cloves, 3/4 tsp. ground ginger, 1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together 2 1/4 cups of flour, 1 t. baking powder, 1 1/2 t. baking soda....add  to creamed sugar/butter mixture until well blended. Divide dough into thirds. Refridgerate 2/3 dough until ready to use. Roll out 1/3 dough mix on a floured countertop or table top to 1/4" thickness. Cut out with your favorite cookie cutter shapes. Place on greased baking sheet. Bake 350 degrees for about 8-10 min. for soft cookies. 

There are a lot of variations on this recipe, this just happens to be the one my family used every year.

Another tradition I had with my girls was to take them to see the Christmas lights every Christmas Eve..We'd drive to a subdivision in Mishawaka, IN, called Winding Brook. They had terrific light displays with luminaries winding the streets, street after street...fully animated light displays, houses completely decorated from the ground to the rooftops. It was terrific! We'd play Christmas music in the car and "ooooh" and "ahhhhhhh" while driving all around the neighborhood.  Eldy and I thought about taking the Naples trolley tour Christmas Eve to see the lights of some really swanky neighborhoods in Naples, but they wanted TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS A PERSON to see the lights! I don't think so! FIFTY bucks a couple???? That's ridiculous! I know something we could do!...We could find out what time the trolley lights tour leaves and then tail them! (E. admonishes, "Sparky, you've been watching too many CSI shows!")  Ok, we won't tail them...Instead, we'll show you some beautiful lights from all around the country, courtesy of MSN. I made a collage of my favorites......I'm sure there are many more elaborate ones, than these, but these sure have the spirit!

There are as many ways to celebrate Christmas as there are when you were "back home". Some RVers donate their time and money that would have been spent on gifts to donating time and money to charitable organizations in their current location. One of my girls' favorite memories was the time we decided to buy presents for a needy family from my school and then we wrapped and delivered them to them. The girls still remember that. Some RVers fly back home to spend time with family. Some participate in local parks' celebrations of dinners and get togethers. Christmas is whatever you would like it to be--a time to reflect and be thankful for your blessings, a time to share your gifts and talents with others, a time to be with your significant other, a time to be with family if you can.....

We'll call our families on Christmas Day, maybe Skype with our kids, in Eldy's case, use FaceTalk on his iphone with his children and grandchildren. Eldy and I don't exchange Christmas presents, (Eldo keeps saying he has to got Christmas shopping--BUT IT BETTER NOT BE FOR ME!) our present to each other is the motorhome for the next ten years! :-) It will be a quiet day, which got us to wondering...

If you are full timing in a motorhome, do you have traditions you've started if you are in your RV? How do you spend your Christmas Day and make it meaningful for you? We'd love to know.....Thanks for sharing......

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Just Ducky!

Wanna see some ducks today? That's all Sparky did, take a bike ride--12 miles total, trying to find something interesting to photograph... Back to Eagle Lakes Community Park to see what birds were out and about today....the ibis on the way to the park...not sure what this dark one is, might he be an ibis also?
And how about these ibis? They look like they are admiring themselves in their reflections!
"How do we look?"
Then I got to the park....and there were LOTS more ibis....with lots more reflections to look at and grub to eat!
REAL coots
Back to Sugden Park on the way home....and more birds waiting for two elderly gentlemen to feed them...tch! tch! Guess the ranger has warned the old coots (haha...Sparky took REAL coot pictures...keep reading!) NOT to feed the ducks, but are they listening! NOPE ! They are still feeding the ducks almost daily, despite the threat that if they get caught one more time, they will be banned from the park! And you thought teenagers don't respect authority! Hm-m-m-m, bet they are familiar with the expression "crazy as a coot"!

Here's a muscovy duck...Native to Mexico and Central and South America, they've made it here to the states along with lots of other "foreigners"....They are here in Sugden Park....Look at those beautiful feathers!

The old farts made it easy to get some more bird wonder the ibis were sitting on the dock the other day, they were waiting for their buddies to show up and feed 'em!
"What's HE doing here?"

And these guys were wondering.....

                                                    "What's SHE doing here?"
And my LAST ducky photo for the day....Not sure what kind this one is, but it's pretty!

It was just a "ducky" day here in Naples, Florida!