Thursday, November 28, 2013

Some Artsy Fartsy Stuff…..

Siesta Key Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Sarasota. It was voted the #1 beach in 2011 here in Florida….It's wide, expansive, clean beautiful white sand, and soft on the feet. Lots of cool stuff happens at Siesta Key Beach…the drum circles on Sundays, the sand castle building festivals…the national sand volleyball tournaments…and sometimes just some quirky art stuff…

Sparky read about something called the "Sun Boxes" recently….So she dragged Eldo to the beach to check it out. An artist by the name of Craig Colorusso, designed some solar boxes to play music…He set up 20 speakers operating independently, each powered by the sun. The boxes sound a guitar note continuously in a loop. Together they make a Bb cord. The loops are different lengths, so once the piece begins, they keep overlapping and the music changes over a period of time. The music sounds like a spa record, or something you would hear during a yoga session. It's VERY relaxing and soothing….These sun boxes have been set up in different locations, moving around Sarasota this week and one of the last places they were set up today was Siesta Key Beach.
the artist is in the hoodie
They were so cool! The music was beautiful…Many people were stopping by and walking in and around the boxes, which changed the loop length as they interrupted  the power to the solar panels by their shadows.

That made the dynamics of the music be ever changing in the nature of the sounds. And as the sun peeked in and out of the clouds, that variable made the music change. It was great…..This little guy came up to explore one of the boxes, and when he saw Sparky with her camera, he just flashed the cutest little grin and posed for a photo by the box. Adorable!

Stay tuned for some marvelous festivals coming up. The season is heating up! The temperatures are cooling down….The snowbirds are on their way….A Renaissance festival, a blues and brews festival, and Sparky's daughter Kelly, is coming for a visit!  See you later!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cormorants vs. Anghingas

Sparky was out for another 12 mile ride today…You'd think she'd be losing weight now that she's biking instead of painting the house, but nope! Maybe that's because Eldy keeps bringing home ice cream to eat. Sparky's favorite of all times is Haagen Daz Dulce de Leche…which has something to do with caramel, sweet cream and caramel swirls in the ice cream…YUM! So she doesn't protest when Eldy brings it home….She's just gonna have to ride more miles next time!

What did she see this time? Well, the gator is still sunning himself regularly on top of the water fountain in a nearby pond. Guess they aren't running the fountain at all or he'd probably be long gone by now.

Saw some beautiful flowering plants….It seems the cooler fall weather triggers blooms in some species of plants down here..
And the turtles are out in great numbers…but they are just small pond turtles…The anhingas and cormorants are out in great numbers….They are similar dark colored birds. They both need to dry their feathers out on land, as neither one of them have oil glands in their feathers like most water birds to keep their feathers waterproof. They are diving water birds and since their feathers are not waterproof, they can stay under longer to find their prey. But then they have to come out and dry their feathers off. This is a cormorant…You can tell that by the yellowish orange part of its beak, and the fact that it's hooked downwards at the tip. 
Maybe you can see the little hooked beak a little better on this photo…
As Sparky got closer, the cormorant got ready to fly….So Sparky backed off….

When a cormorant flies, it soars for a long time…Anhingas flap their wings much more when they fly. Anhingas have longer necks and tails than the cormorant and a straight beak instead of a hooked beak. The anhingas feathers are much prettier…The female anhinga has a tannish brownish head and neck.

Anhingas spear their prey, cormorants grab their prey and hold it in their beak which has serrated edges to grip slippery fish better. When the anhinga spears a fish, it typically flips the fish off the beak and swallows the fish headfirst. We've been lucky enough to watch them eat! 

Today, it was just time for the birds to sun themselves…It was a beautiful day to be out and about on a bike ride. Is there ever a day where it's not nice to be out? Not since the rainy season ended and fall is here…..See you later!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chalk Talk Part 2

Yesterday, Sparky went to the Chalk Festival in downtown Sarasota and today Eldo and Sparky both went to see how things were coming along…..WOW! The talent of the artists is incredible!
So many talented artists rendering their feelings and memories about loved ones or relatives or just honoring soldiers in branches of the military from past to present….
Native Americans were well represented….This is Glen Douglas, a veteran of three wars, who recently passed away…born a member of the Canadian Lakes-Okanogan tribe.
The Tuskegee airmen were honored….When we were traveling, we saw an exhibit about them which really sparked Sparky's interest in watching the movie Red Tails (2012) when it came out.

The 3D chalk painting was really cool…Here's what is looks like on the pavement….The artists are still working on it...

And here's what it looks like through the viewer….
The ambitiousness of some of the projects was amazing….Several artists chose Norman Rockwell paintings to recreate as a symbol of patriotism…..Here's an illustration of one of Rockwell's illustrations…

And here's how it's looking on day 2…..It's Sparky's favorite of the festival….
In addition to service men and women, animals were represented….
Past presidents….It's the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's death this month….The artist did an awesome job on this portrait don't you think?

Here's another portrait of an army (?) doctor that was incredible!
Artists come from all over the world to participate in this chalk festival….This jeep looks like it's coming right out of the pavement!
Sparky thought this was going to be Rosie the Riveteer, but it's not….
One last favorite chalk drawing….painting….
Thank you for coming along today….Bye for now…...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chalk Talk of the Town Part I

When we were traveling full time in the motorhome, we always hit every festival we could in the area we were staying in. Now that we are living in Bradenton, we look for the festivals that are in our area. There is NO LACK of festivals here, that's for sure! They are every weekend and they have been just about all summer long. Now the festival offerings are even more varied in type and number since the snowbirds have started coming back…

This weekend alone there was a Medieval Festival which is running for three weekends in a row, the Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master Sandcastle building competition at Siesta Key Beach and a Blues and Brews Festival in Venice. Hard to decide, but Sparky decided to go check out the Chalk Festival in historic Burns Square in downtown Sarasota first. Wowee! It was fantastic! The theme of this year's Chalk Festival is Legacy of Valor, honoring veterans, patriotism and freedom….Very cool subject matter for this year's festival….

It's a six day festival running in November every year….totally run by volunteers and donations from sponsors and the public to bring the artists to Sarasota, and the event is a benefit for the Avenida de Colores Cultural Arts. The public's donations help pay for the artists' airfare, lodging, fees and art supplies.

The artwork covers six blocks! On average, it takes the artists 36 hours to complete their designs. They have a veterans' artist section, two age grouped kid sections, two dimensional street painting, an interactive exhibit, street painting workshops, a chalk artist awards ceremony, and a Swing Canteen dance/USO style show.

Day I--The artists were painting their background blocks with various media--paints, watered chalk, etc. Some were well under way chalking their artwork, some were just starting to map out a grid on the pavement…
a sample illustration

They all have photographs of their artwork that they are working from square by square, and they are constantly referring to their illustrations in hand to transpose the artwork and color to the larger squares.

Some of the artwork is three dimensional, so when painted on the pavement, it's stretched out and elongated, so that when viewed through a special lens, the artwork appears to "pop up" off the pavement! AWESOME! Except today, the artists weren't very far along just yet…..But here's an example of what you look through to see the 3D chalk art along with a painting that's just beginning…..
These guys are from South America, we think….and they were getting a lot of attention from the public with their design centered under a Statue of Liberty made of styrofoam painted to look like the real thing! We'll show that tomorrow….
Everywhere you looked were beautiful chalks just begging to be used….

There were many ambitious projects starting out today….Washington crossing the Delaware….

We can't wait to go back tomorrow to see how things are coming along…Come on back and check it out with us for Day 2 of the Chalk Festival!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Florida Weird News and Other Frothy Stuff

It's time for more weird and wacky "Florida Man" stories….Somewhere Sparky read that Florida seems to have more than its share of "weird and wacky" news. We see this mentioned on TV and in the newspaper on a regular basis almost as if the local news media is bragging about this dubious honor of having some of the weirdest stuff to report. It seems to happen more often here than most other places in the country. All that sunshine is affecting our brains down here, we guess. There are plenty of websites and blogs are devoted totally to the topic of the strange, bizarre, funny, and wacko…Like for example…."Real news, real funny"...silly stuff but true! At any rate, "Florida Man" is a Twitter feed that gathers news headline descriptions of true stories of what Florida males are doing to attract attention in the news. The tweets are meant to be as if a single Florida guy were doing all this crazy stuff….Here are some examples from recent events that really happened….

"Pepper spray wielding Florida Man robs bank dressed as Albert Einstein…"

"Police find erectile dysfunction pill in Florida Man's crack pipe…"

"Mall evacuated after Florida Man sprinkles ashes of recently deceased wife in her favorite store, Lens Crafters…." This was at a Sarasota mall and made big news here locally….

"Florida Man shot while jogging home naked…."

"Florida Man arrested for throwing concrete at St. Petersburg Hilton, blames zombies."

"Florida Man rams car with airboat…"

and Sparky's personal favorite…."Florida Man slashes love rivals electric wheelchair tires, flees on pink bicycle…."

Other frothy stuff…we spent some time at the beach lately, but not for very long, with a storm coming in…Don't you just love the way these shorebirds, some kind of terns, all line up facing the same way? Wonder if they are forecasting the direction of the storm coming in? :-)
There were other shorebirds at the shore…Sparky is not sure what kind these are, she looked everywhere to try and identify them…But they are beautiful with their striped coloring. Their beaks curve UPWARDS which is different from the usual downwards or straight beak.

There was a sand castle contest with some big sponsors there….Keep Manatee Beautiful and Anna Maria Island Privateers had the biggest and baddest sand sculpture there…..They were sponsoring the Sandblast/Pirate Invasion at Coquina Beach this past weekend….There's another sand castle contest coming up soon at Siesta Key Beach. We'll love to check that out!

Kids would have had a TON of fun here at this sand pile….But the storm coming in kept them away for awhile….We had to leave before we could see them dig in….The rain was coming.

Off to find some other things to do today. There's no shortage of things to do here in the Sarasota/Bradenton area. There's a symphony concert back here at Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island coming up soon. It's hard to decide which activity to do, there are so many wonderful things going on here to choose from!  See you later…..

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fall Foliage and Fauna in Florida

Sparky has been bike riding in Bradenton lately....It's nice to go on the Legacy Trail, Sparky starts on the rails to trails route from McIntosh Road trailhead in Sarasota, to the trailhead in Venice, about 10 miles one way, but that's a straight shot, semi shaded, and you don't see much wildlife...There's a payoff near the end when you start getting near the water near Venice, but it's still a straight shot through the palms, dry areas and past Oscar Scherer State Park until you get closer to the water at Venice.

So Sparky decided to venture out into the neighborhoods...What a treat! She bike 12 miles one day and ten miles the next day through neighborhood after neighborhood in the Tara area of Bradenton--There is Tara Preserve and many many other subdivisions on golf courses along the way with lots of water in the ponds and lots of birds…And gators…This one was sunning himself on top of a water fountain jet. Another couple came riding by, they were from Scotland. Sparky had a wonderful conversation with them, thoroughly enjoying their accent while we discussed how fun it would be to see the water fountain turn on with the gator on top of it!

The ride is beautiful...It's shady, and it's a lot prettier than the Legacy Trail...And, you can ride on wide sidewalks instead of the street.

On another ride on another day, Sparky spotted a baby gator at the side of a neighborhood pond.....

A snowy egret with its black legs and the distinctive yellow feet….They use to kill these birds for their plumage to use for hats back in the early part of the century….
This guy got a little annoyed as Sparky crept a little closer for another photo…..You can certainly understand some of these expressions we've gathered from birds…"ruffle somebody's feathers"….

Some beautiful ornamental grasses with rose pink plumes....They line the parkway winding throughout the home subdivisions...

Some royal palms....They are so majestic!

The seed pods on these things are HUGE!
Sparky loves Bismarck palms....They are silvery and spikey....Kinda like Sparky's hair... :-)

A BUNCH of turtles.....They were clear across the bank, many yards away, and they still skeddaddled once they saw Sparky ride by on the bike. But she still caught them before they all submerged..."DIVE, DIVE, DIVE!"

We have fall foliage here in Florida, too...sniff, sniff.  (Sparky is missing the fall foliage north of here, explains E.)...Crotons are turning orangish...
Here's some red….Sparky thinks these are hibiscus hiding their blooms at the moment because it's a cool morning.

And whatever the name of this tropical plant is, it's GORGEOUS right now....It's always pink, but now it's DEEP pink....
Plenty of plants and trees are in full bloom...Wonder when they "rest"?
The bark on Florida trees is very interesting! This one is a tree philodendron like the kind that used to grow in a pot in our sunroom of Sparky's childhood home many a moon ago. The tree's branches have been trimmed leaving an interesting pattern...It's definitely a TREE and leaves are still sprouting!
Love the herons..…You can tell this is a tri colored heron because of his white underbelly.
Here's another heron, a little blue heron, spotted in another marsh along today's ride…..
It was a wonderful bike ride today. It's a wonderful ride EVERY day! The temperatures are so nice now! Right around eighty today, and sixties at night for this week. It doesn't start to get hot now until afternoon and even then, it's very tolerable, very low humidity...Yay! says Sparky!

See you later...On the bike trail, maybe on the water in Sparky's kayak soon!