Friday, February 28, 2014

How to Get Yourself a New Phone the Hard Way

Sparky has been waiting for MONTHS for her upgrade to hurry up and get here for her iPhone….Officially, it was April, but Sparky, impatient as she is, couldn't wait that long. First things first….Let's check out kayaking on the Braden River with good pickle ball friends from Sun 'n' Fun, Larry and Suzette Kurfis….

They graciously invite Sparky every Sunday to come over and play pickle ball with them…Recently, they've started asking Sparky if she wants to go kayaking on Wednesdays sometime. Sure! Sparky loves to kayak with them…Only, Sparky has noticed that now, her Sea Eagle 385 is not the fast speed demon she thought it was when she was kayaking alone. Get alongside some other kayaks that are newer in design and structure, and Sparky realizes she's paddling twice as hard to keep up. Phooey!

So we've been looking at kayaks in and out of the water….Sparky and Eldo attended a kayaking demo last weekend at Ackerman Park over by the Celery Fields near Sun 'n' Fun in Sarasota, and Sparky tried out at least five different kayaks---a Tarpon 12 sit upon, a Pungo 120 (12 footer), two different lengths of the Hurricane, and a Wilderness.

Economy Tackle in Sarasota runs kayak demos about once a month so this is a fantastic opportunity to try out a BUNCH of different kayaks. Look who tried one out! After MUCH cajoling and coaxing…ABOUT TIME!

Sparky LOVED the Pungo 120…This 12 footer sits low in the water, is very stable and streamlined and the new ones come with a little storage dashboard that fits over the front part of the cockpit and attaches with a bungee style cord so you can easily take it off or put it on.

The seat system in it has amazing adjustments for thighs and height on the back rest. And Sparky's friends, the Kurfis, have one of them….Here's Suzette with hers….
So-o-o-o-o-o….anyway, off Sparky went to paddle the Braden River today heading out from Jigg's Landing, which is about a half mile outside the back yard of her subdivision…Jiggs has a kayak launch, a boat launch, a beautiful birding boardwalk, and little fishing cabins outfitted to look like the forties fishing cabins that used to be there. You can rent them out….While Sparky was unloading her kayak and inflating it, she saw some birders casting binoculars and powerful cameras toward some big pines at the back of the parking lot at Jiggs' Landing. There was a mother great horned owl in one tree watching over her three babies in a nest in another tree! No photos today, Sparky forgot her camera and the phone just didn't quite cut it! But she did have binoculars in the car, and it was really cool to see the owlets who looked like they will be ready to fly in a couple of days…..

Down the Braden River we went….If you paddle about two and a half hours steadily, you would eventually reach the Linger Lodge, a very famous fishing lodge/campground/restaurant that has a very cool old Florida atmosphere with lots of stuffed "stuff" inside the old restaurant. There's a screen porch on the back for dining in the outdoors without all the mosquitoes, which there are plenty in those old wooded campgrounds on the river. But we decided not to go that far today, the weatherman was predicting rain later…..Instead we had our lunch in our boats in the river….Sparky got really really hungry. Remind her to pack chips, Snickers and more food next time! A half a sandwich and some water didn't quite cut it.

Sparky saw a lady on the river in an orange kayak with a "for sale" sign on it. By gosh, it was a Pungo 120! Woo-hoo! Sparky just had to stop paddling and fire away with questions…"How old is it? How much are you asking for it? How much would you take?" She found out that the woman was selling TWO of them, and her husband was up river a bit, and Sparky would have to ask HIM all those questions, so she did, again!  It turns out that Eldo had been researching Pungo kayaks on Craig's list, and had told Sparky that there were TWO Pungo 120 kayaks being sold in Punta Gorda. IT WAS THE SAME GUY WHO HAD PLACED THE AD! What are the chances of THAT happening? Geesh!
It's a SIGN! We should get these kayaks! Right, Eldy? Eldy? Honey??????  Well…we have to think about it…taxes are coming up…family reunion is coming up, we'd have to buy racks for the car, a paddle for Eldy, another vest…….sigh….a very BIG sigh….we'll see….

It was a great paddle today……But then the skies started getting dark…time to turn back…..
(Uh, Sparky….what's the phone title got to do with paddling the Braden River today????)  I'm getting to that, honey…By the way, Sparky had to use her iPhone 4S for all photos today, they're not so hot, but they will do…..This cormorant let Sparky get within a few FEET of him!
Saw a night heron, lots of turtles….
A beautiful hammock that looked very inviting….
Braden River is a pretty paddle in some spots, and in others, you see a LOT of old Florida--cabins, old cottages, cool waterfront properties, and nothing but big overhanging palms and oaks for much of the way.

So Sparky gets all the way back to the dock, climbs awkwardly out of the Sea Eagle and PLOP! Her phone fell out of her pocket and into the water….arrrrrggggghhhhh! Did she have it in a case? Well, yes….a half shell case, no protection on the front side, not waterproof…Doesn't Sparky have dry bags for kayaking? Well, yes, but she can't find them in the new home yet….She had a plastic zip loc bag, but the camera was in her shorts pocket for faster retrieval…..and faster plopping into the water.

Does Sparky know about putting the phone in rice? Well, yeah…except you are supposed to get the cover off and take the battery out first, she thinks. And you're supposed to leave it in the rice for a couple of days. A COUPLE OF DAYS WITHOUT MY PHONE???? WA-A-A-H-H-N-NH! (That's Sparky wailing, explains E.) Well, besides not being able to do without her phone for that long, on the newer phones, only Apple has the tool for the TEENY TINY microscopic screws that hold the case cover on….or so the phone store says…She didn't have anything to get the screws off, and by the time she got home, the phone was already going wacko, turning itself off and on and the screen disappearing faster than you can say, "iPhone 5S". …..

Which Sparky is now the proud owner of, (and 320.00 later, having used what AT & T calls the crossover upgrade), with a new waterproof LifeProof case, car charger, and iPhone 5S. Eldy was eligible for an upgrade but he didn't want one, so Sparky got to use his. When Sparky is due in April, if Eldy wants to upgrade he can use Sparky's upgrade option in April. Got that?….To which Eldo says…."Are you SURE you didn't drop that phone on purpose?" No-o-o-o-o, she really didn't….It was just one of those things……Sigh…...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sparky's in the Water!

No-o-o-o-o…she didn't tip over in her kayak! Au contraire!   She paddled her Sea Eagle 385 with a group of fun friends from Sun 'n' Fun this week. After getting an invite to paddle in the Turtle Beach area, Sparky was excited to be back in the water again.  Turtle Beach is at the southern end of Siesta Key. The only way Sparky knows that is because 1) she is looking at this map after the fact, and 2) because Eldo told her. Turtle Beach has a nice little campground which is tough to get into in any way shape or form, and a nice kayak launch site where some of the commercial rental kayak companies send people off for a few hours' paddling. And of course, there's a nice little beach there which fills up fast on a beautiful day…..

Sparky was even more excited to go kayaking in a new place where there were friends to keep her from getting lost in the mangroves….
Sparky did ok with her Sea Eagle 385…although everybody else seemed to be moving along more easily than she was…when she's by herself,  Sparky doesn't notice that her inflatable is  perhaps just a tad bit bogged down, but get her with a bunch of sleek kayaks, THAT'S when she noticed a slight disadvantage….Sparky had to just work a little harder to stay up with a 16 footer touring Epic kayak, for example, haha….The convenience of folding up the boat when done and stuffing it in the back of the car makes up for a little sluggishness out on the water. It still tracks very well….

The Turtle Beach kayak run/paddle doesn't take a lot of time, maybe a couple of hours depending on how much you dilly dally around in the mangroves and out on the open water…depending on where you go of course! We took to the left coming out of the marina area, went to the right around some mangroves, and then, there's a little beach site where you can take a lunch break, and that's what the group did.

Climb the sand dunes, back down a hill, and just over the hill, is the GULF of Mexico!

We sat down for awhile, ate lunch and watched schools of rays pass by in small groups, one right after another. Too hard to get a photo, but it was fun to see! We enjoyed our lunch on the beach. Suzette had a cushion that she had gotten from Sam's Club, and it folded out into a blanket, which came in very handy as the rest of us had brought nothing to sit on.

From the picnic spot to get back to our starting point was about a 15 minute paddle, so we just dilly dallied around and saw some cool stuff! A solo ray covered itself with sand right by Sparky's kayak hoping not to be spotted. "Hey, guys--come see this ray, I think it's dead!" Then off he went just as soon as Sparky got the others' attention and they came up to check it out…

We saw this bird, which reminded Sparky of one of those cartoon birds of an eagle with a mean look…have no idea what kind of bird this was! He was quite big! Although his beak looks curved in the photo, it was straight. And he let us get very close...
Then he got tired of all the attention, and turned his back to us….

Sparky saw an osprey eating a fish on top of a dead tree…
A conch(?) shell with the animal still inside…Back in the water he went…..
And on the way home, a paddling company's truck with all kinds of cool stuff on it which Sparky is going to have to check out….Hard to see the references in this photo, but it was a beautiful truck and it looked interesting. Unfortunately, Sparky didn't see the name of the paddling company….She just thought this was a cool company to be citing all these biblical references…here are a few of the ones that were on it--John 11:35, Timothy 4:1-5, Jude 1:20, Phillipians 4:18 and a few more in case anybody is interested….

A beautiful day spent with friends out on the water….fantastic! Looking forward to doing more of the same….See you later!

Monday, February 17, 2014

What's the Perfect Day in Florida?

For Sparky, visiting with family, laughing and sharing memories and experiences is probably at the top of her perfect day list. But her perfect day list is a BIG list! The perfect day for Sparky could be any number of additional things…kayaking out on in the gulf, making and creating something with her hands, riding her bike, seeing gators, seeing dolphins, visiting a farmer's market, tickling her toes in the sand, eating at a favorite restaurant,  gator watching at Myakka River State Park with Eldy, and let's not forget eating at the Gulf Gate Tiki Grill on Anna Maria Island.

But here's today's perfect day….For starters, not a cloud in the sky and zero percent chance of rain, and temps in the low sixties…PERFECT for a festival!

Off to Coquina Beach to park the car and ride the trolley to the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival 2014 this past weekend in the historic fishing village of Cortez, right there at Anna Maria Island. Check out the flea market/farmer's market along the shady sidewalk/boardwalk at Coquina Beach first. It was CHILLY at the beachfront! Coquina Beach is Eldo and Sparky's favorite beach, even more so than Siesta Key Beach because of the beautiful shaded boardwalk that runs for several miles along the beach. The sand is clean and white at Coquina, too...
Some cool stuff for sale…..Vintage signs….Some not so vintage, kinda cheeky….
Next, hop on the trolley bus to get to the JAM PACKED 32nd annual Cortez Fishing Festival, 2014. Cortez is a sleepy little village on Anna Maria Island where fishing is done on the water from sun up to sun down, and where generations of fishermen and women have been raised on the water. The town opens up to thousands of visitors for a weekend each February to celebrate it's fishing heritage. It costs 3.00 to get in, and you buy tickets for food and drink once you get inside. Seafood lover? It's all here--smoked mullet, crab, shrimp, alligator, grouper, everything you can think of….And, there are crafts, too. Most people in the village make their living from fishing or art, so both are well represented at the festival. About 25,000 people are expected to tour the village and it sure looked to us like half of them were there already when we visited this weekend. The money made at the festival benefits the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, a non profit  organization that promotes all things maritime--fishing, preservation, skills and marine resources.
With not a cloud in the sky and the cool temps, LOTS of people were there sampling all the fantastic seafood, pricey, but delicious! Not sure how much of the seafood is local, but there were plenty of options! Hard to find a seat to sit and eat, many people plunk down at the tables and then sit and people watch, making it hard to find a place to sit down and eat your food.

The smoked mullet was served in the skeleton of the fish!

Even the trash bins have an artsy vibe to them…
With Sparky's belly full from a great taco (Yep, she ate a TACO, folks, at a SEAFOOD FESTIVAL) But it was GOOD! And if you aren't a big seafood lover, there were plenty of other great offerings, like a huge dessert tent….

Time to head back to the trolley for the ride back to Coquina Beach to head for home….Taking a back way out of the traffic jam from the festival through Longboat Key, Sparky saw something out of the corner of her eye…."ELDY! STORKS AND SPOONBILLS!" And of course, Eldy, being the accommodating driver he always is, always stops the car if he can safely when Sparky gets excited about birds, gators or snakes or other wildlife, because he knows he'd BETTER STOP THE CAR or Sparky is going to be one unhappy woman if she can't get some photos….When Sparky thought the sun angle was wrong, Eldy even drove a ways and turned back around so Sparky could get out of the car and get a little closer for some better shots. Awwww….what a guy…..(Accumulating my brownie points any and every way I can, explains E.) He's got a LOT right now, but that could change, haha….

Not one, not two, but FIVE roseate spoonbills trying to keep warm next to some wood storks….JACKPOT! Here are some shots of a couple of them at a time...

Sparky was in seventh heaven at seeing these spoonbills, her favorite Florida bird….
Wow!….Another one flew in, but Sparky missed the landing…Unbelievably gorgeous when you see the fuschia underneath side of their beautiful, really BIG wingspans….The one that flew in chased a couple other spoonbills around for a few seconds, letting them know he had arrived and to make room.

A perfect ending to a perfect day……Sigh…….

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

We're Still Here!

Sparky's been subbing quite a bit lately…and having fun…She subbed FIVE straight days last week in third grade. Whew! (And we had to eat out every night because she was too tired to cook! explains E. Thank goodness for .99 cent tacos at Poblano's Mexican Grill and 5.00 burgers at Gecko's-- both in Bradenton-- among other things….)

One day last week was Career Day at Sparky's favorite school in Sarasota…They had a stand up paddle board guy who owned his own company and who had some marvelous things to say about stand up paddle boarding in the Sarasota area…Sparky is going to look him up! They had a veterinarian, Dr. Nina. She had the kids enthralled with her talk until about 1/2 way through her spiel, when she started passing around her little specimen jars of ringworms, round worms, dog teeth and an eyeball that she had to remove from a doggie client awhile back. Well, that was the end of that…The kids lost it on the eyeball and she had a hard time getting them back to paying attention. Sparky was so grossed out, she wouldn't even look at the eyeball and told the kids to keep on passing everything by her. She's a wimp when it comes to stuff like that. Heck, she couldn't even pull out her kids' baby teeth when they were loose, the babysitter had to do that!

Later, Sparky was eating lunch with the kids outside on the "Oak Deck" as it's officially called, a treat for classes now and then, and talking to the kids, asked, "What was your favorite career today that you learned about?" One little girl enthusiastically answered, "Oh, I liked the vegetarian the best!" :-)

Sparky had company for a couple of days, her best friend, Jeannie, came to town to visit. Jeannie has been Sparky's friend for over 35 years…She even likes blue cheese as much as Sparky does! We have tons in common and have been fast friends all these years. Even though we don't get to see each other much, we chat on the phone and stay in touch often, so it was wonderful that she was able to come down for a visit. Especially since she had a heart attack last year. Time together in person is a special treat! Jeannie is doing very well, Sparky is happy to report….The weather was VERY cool, cloudy and the threat of rain constant. Phooey! We went to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, one of Sparky's favorite local spots to visit….

We also went to the Ringling Museum and the Ringling's mansion, the Ca de Zhan, the "House of John"….the museum and the mansion being on the top ten "Must See and Do" lists to experience in Sarasota..It was so ornate and so over the top with its architectural details!

We had breakfast on the beach at the Gulf Cafe Bar and Tiki Grill on Anna Maria Island…

It was a wonderful visit and all too short! Sparky went to post some photos of Jeannie, but can't find them, darn it!

Other than that, it's been fabulous weather…sixties and low seventies…Sparky FINALLY got out in her kayak over near Anna Maria Island…no dolphins spotted today, but LOTS of ospreys. One flew with a fish in it's beak right over Sparky's bow just a few yards in front of the boat before she could get a photo. Here's a selfie of Sparky enjoying the beautiful but windy day…She got a good workout!

Eldo is working on his golf skills with lessons and trying to figure out how to get on the course with all the snowbirds here! We bike ride, Sparky plays pickle ball, attend concerts in the park, try out new restaurants (Wasabi Steakhouse in Bradenton)……Sparky is happy to report that this new restaurant, open just three weeks, is very very good, but the chef needs to improve his table side comments…"OH, MY GOD!" every time he serves each course, is NOT a good thing to say to customers. He said that at least three times as he served the rice, the meat, and the vegetables. And-- "Look at all this food!" does not make you feel like you should finish your meal, which is perhaps not such a bad thing. We COULD have taken some home, but we didn't. :-)
bar area of Wasabi Steakhouse
We've been going to craft fairs and concerts, of which there are an abundance right now…nothing nicer than listening to jazz on a Sunday afternoon in Venice….It was PERFECT weather!

And other than that, life is going great here in Bradenton/Sarasota…We don't want to bore anybody, so we'll be reporting in a little less often than we have been. Sparky wants to have SOMETHING to report before posting again….Thanks for checking back in with us!