Sunday, April 9, 2017

Bike Riding Beauties

Sparky had been riding her bike in between subbing days, averaging anywhere from 12-20 miles a couple of times a week until she was sidelined with severe tendonitis on an ankle. No idea how that happened except thru ignoring a slight twist that must have happened months ago, then dancing her booty off a couple of months ago, then wearing not enough shoe support while subbing....all of the above, probably. It got to the point where she could hardly walk at the end of the day after subbing. Can't have that, so off to the doctor. The ankle was taped for a few days, and Sparky was told no bike riding (that is one of the worst things you can do for a bad ankle, the doctor said) and no swimming for three weeks. That was tough, following the doctor's orders. Then Sparky got a Trilock ankle brace which was great, and that helped a great deal. It's a little bit of an ordeal to put on, but you get faster at it after a few uses. TONS of velcro everywhere on it, always catches in the wrong place, so you have to keep unpeeling it until you get all the straps on layer by layer. After a month, the ankle still hurts now and then, but physical therapy is about to begin, so that should strengthen it, MAYBE.

Back to bike riding...YIPPEE! And here are some of Sparky's favorite photos from recent bike rides....All the photos are with a Canon SX530, a little point and shoot camera, currently just under 200.00, and it has a nice 50X zoom. If the pictures are with an iPhone, Sparky has captioned them as such.  Red lilies....

An osprey on the nest.....She's feeding two little ones and has a bit of fish caught on her beak.

Here's the dad preening....

March was the month for many sandhill crane hatchings in the area...Sparky took LOADS of photos of the mama and the babies, and here is ONE of her favorites...That's the mama's leg on the right.

Sparky was thrilled to catch a yellow rump warbler sitting still long enough to get a photo.
Blackbirds are a dime a dozen around here, but isn't this one beautiful with the iridescent shades of blue in its feathers?

Sparky's favorite Florida bird, the roseate spoonbill. This one was chosen to be featured in a weekly newspaper in our area...

Sparky likes the bottle brush tree...There are always little busy bees on them....This photo is with the iPhone 6S.

And finally....a limpkin or glossy ibis...It has the head plumage of a limpkin, and the body of the glossy ibis...But Sparky thought it was gorgeous....

Hope you enjoyed today's nature show!  Sparky will be back soon with tales from Sarasota Jungle Gardens, a very cool place to visit if you are in the area....Bye for now....

Monday, April 3, 2017

A Trip to Quaint and Quirky Matlacha, FL

Sparky went to see her sister in Matlacha, (pronounced Mat-la-shay) recently. Her sister comes down every year in March, and has come to this delightful town for over 30 years! They always find a lovely rental to stay in...

post office mural created by Leoma Lovegrove, local artist
Matlacha is a very very small tourist town, population 735 or so. It is located on Pine Island, 17 miles long and 2 miles wide, and is one of five very small communities on the island. If you are interested in Matlacha as a vacation destination, you will not find sandy white beaches and you won't find high rises. What you will find is a quirky, quaint little town with artsy shops,  galleries, some fabulous murals, great restaurants, and a one main street through town. Don't blink or you will miss it and then you are off on a journey to the next fishing village/community.

typical colorful storefront on the main drag

Matlacha has an interesting, relatively new local history chapter. Up until 1992, it was an "old"
Florida fishing village. In 1992, voters passed a ban on net fishing to protect other fish from being caught with the popular mullet. That didn't sit well with the fishermen.  They shot holes in their boats and then set them on fire in protest.  Guess it was quite the fire and was seen from as far away as Sanibel Island. That was the end of the fishing industry in Matlacha! So Matlacha reinvented itself as an artist community, and it's very well known for its bright funky colors and cute little shops that line the one street through town....Even the telephone poles have murals on them! However, if you want to fish, there are charter boats that will take you out for a terrific day out in the gulf.
another interesting looking shop
There are a few small motels, and quite a few vacation cottage rentals. They are pricey, but that's southwest Florida for you....Here is one rental my sister and brother-in-law found while they were here this year....

And another little cottage rental....situated on the docks!

The tiny island has six galleries..In February, there is a Fine Art Festival, and art lovers and collectors come from all over the world to browse...If you love the island life, this is the place for you! Plenty of kayaking, no stoplights, no schools on the island, and it's "island time".....that means NOBODY is in a hurry to get anywhere... As an additional little known fact, Matlacha also has supposedly SEVEN Civil War shipwrecks in and around the waters of Matlacha Pass and Pine Island. Divers, anyone?
Bus stop in park bench

If you love to kayak, just keep in mind that "Matlacha" in Calusa native American means "shallow waters"...Sparky kayaked with her sister, and you could have easily walked beside your kayak in a LOT of the areas we were in. Of course, the tide was out, too.... :-) There are several kayak rentals places in the area if you don't own one. It was so shallow, we saw crab traps with decent size crabs in them. If you look hard, you can see one in this trap.

As far as dining, Bert's Bar is a required stop for ANYONE visiting Matlacha...fantastic views of the water, great beach bread, (sort of a garlic cheese bread with mayo and garlic and other stuff) and terrific seafood. That one just happens to be Sparky's favorite. Bert's Bar will be remembered this year because Sparky leaned over the dock to check for fish, and her sunglasses fell off her head and  into the water, down, down, down they went. Oh, well...not expensive ones, just about the tenth pair of "fit over" sunglasses from Walmart....She should get prescription sunglasses! Maybe....
At Bert's Bar
In surrounding communities, there are many more restaurants with good food. The Lazy Flamingo in Bokeelia, a nearby community, is another great restaurant where we had a wonderful lunch. On the way back, we stopped at a little art shop in Bokeelia...and saw this mailbox in front of the shop. Oh, my! Told you it was a quirky place! :-)

The only drawbacks to this destination, Matlacha, is the constant flow of traffic thru the one street town surrounded by water on both sides. The traffic is TERRIBLE during season. You just crawl at about ten miles an hour or less to get through town. Parking is at a premium, there is not enough on the island! and involves backing out of tight spaces onto the one main street and hoping somebody will be on "island time" and let you out, stopping and holding up the rest of the traffic while you exit your parking place. Despite the lack of parking and the jockeying to find a place, my sister plans to come back again next year. They already have their rental picked out! Sparky is happy because sis lives so far away in Michigan that this is a great time to see her and get together.....It's a little over an hour's drive from Sarasota. Wonderful! See you again next year, Sis!
Lyle and Sparky

Friday, March 17, 2017

Is it Boring in Bradenton? Let's See What You Think!

So after the VA trip, things settled down into somewhat of a routine...Sparky is subbing a LOT and really loving it. Kids say the darnedest things. She had a 5 week job in second grade and it was with a  high functioning class, a class full of very smart, great thinkers, and it was a ball! So that kept her busy all of January and into February. Eldy is playing golf at least two to three times a week, so he's keeping busy, too....

When Sparky isn't subbing, she's riding her bike....15-20 miles two to three times a week. Now, that might seem impressive, but Sparky stops a lot to take photos. When she IS riding, however, she boogies....A pair of sandhill cranes sat on a nest for most of February, and the first week of March, they hatched two little ones. March is prime time for sandhill crane hatching, especially early in the month....Sparky knew they had hatched after missing a couple of days at the marsh due to work, because of the small crowd of amateur photographers that descended on the marsh with their whopper lenses...Sparky used to have a Canon Rebel SLR with two lenses, but the darn thing was SO bulky, and every time she saw a cool shot, she had the wrong lens screwed on, so after trying and trying to like the camera for about a year, she decided to go with a Canon point and shoot, the SX530 with 50X zoom. She can just throw it over her shoulder and go. She hears there is a Nikon P900 with 85X zoom or something like that, but she's pretty happy with the one she has. And here's the kind of photos she gets with it....She's VERY happy with it.....Here the parents are changing nest guarding goes one to eat, and the other one comes on duty....

And here are the little cuties. They are about four days old in these photos...Sparky apologizes for the watermark, she has decided to start marking her photos after getting a bunch of them chosen over the past year for the local weekly newspaper, Your Observer. Time to get serious about submitting some photos in some contests, maybe....

Chicks and mama's legs.....

And here is Sparky's favorite.....

Cranes are not all that Sparky sees on her rides...Always fascinated with bees among the beautiful blossoms here in Bradenton, Sparky likes to try and capture them in the flowers and buds. Her favorite bee shot is this one....This was taken with an iPhone 6S. Sparky uses her phone for 99% of the close up nature shots.

Sparky likes to try and capture the big shore and wading birds close up, too....Love this anhinga eye....This one is back to the Canon point and shoot.

And that's just one bike ride on a good day.....See you soon...More photos and blog coming about the Venice Rookery this week...stay tuned....We told you we've been busy! :-)

"Are you my mama?"

                                                            Sparky and Eldo

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Yes, We are Still Here, Alive and Kicking!'s been awhile....and it's been a whirlwind of lots going and friends visiting, Sparky subbing a LOT, a side trip to Virginia for Sparky to see her daughter, Eldy's family visiting, Sparky biking a LOT and taking a ton of nature photos, AND....Sparky has been crafting for Etsy...Sparky is developing yet another craft interest (die cutting cards) and so on and so on...So-o-o-o-o....first things first...a trip to Virginia.
Sparky and Sparky, Jr.

Artwork in the brewery
Sparky has volunteered to be the Family Readiness Group Leader for her daughter's unit...this means someone needs to be available for soldiers' families when troops are deployed, to provide assistance of all sorts to wade through problems that arise when the soldier is on active duty...Sort of a friendly face for the unit that can help solve problems when things get complicated, provide resources and coordinate solutions for the family unit. Sending emails, helping coordinate family activities for the unit and sending out newsletters is all part of the job. So off to Virginia to attend some training, and have some wonderful mother/daughter time...Much needed!  After training, we went to a couple of great breweries....Strangeways Brewery in Richmond, was one...just the coolest brewery ever! It had the coolest stuff on the wall and in the brewery, and Kelly, the beer afficicionado in our family, after trying a couple of flights, pronounced this was an excellent craft brewery! (Sparky does not drink beer, she is starting to think she is missing out on something. But after trying a very weird beer that was salted caramel, she still says, "No thanks!" Salted caramel ice cream, YES PLEASE!)
On the Appomattox Trail
We hiked on small trails nearby and visited the Edgar Allen Poe Museum as well...It was VERY interesting and we highly recommend it. Lots of interesting theories about how he died...What a tragic life he led! It was a gray, cold day, but the grounds were beautiful and the museum was a tight connection of little rooms and stairwells with exhibits and displays of artifacts about his life. Here is a link for more information about it....

Richmond is a beautiful city...It has very old parts that have deteriorated, and new, vibrant businesses going up along with new downtown living spaces....Sparky would love to go back and revisit some day....Very cool murals throughout the city....

Because so much is going on....Sparky will be blogging more this week...she is off school for spring break and has a little time (HA!) to catch up. We are sure you've been wondering what the heck happened to us? Yes?  Maybe?.....Well...Sparky needs to catch up anyway and to preserve some memories...blogging seems to be more like a modern day diary these days. We're happy if you are still reading, and certainly understand if you are not. We are still enjoying everybody's travels through blogs and reading about where all of you are....Thanks for stopping by!

                                                               Sparky and Eldo