Saturday, August 31, 2013

There's a Gator in the Yard! Or Neighborhood Nature Walk

Call the "Gator Boys", Eldy! There's a gator in the yard! The community yard, that is, in the pond that is in front of the condos a half a block down the street. Since our backyard is on the golf course, and we really don't have much of a backyard, just a few feet before we are on the Tara golf course, we probably won't ever see a gator in OUR backyard. But never say never...

Every day, Sparky looks for the neighborhood gator when driving to and from the Publix grocery, which is just five minutes from our house. She has seen this gator several times sunning himself on the grass right by the golf course. (Sparky has this thing about gators, can you tell? asks E.) If she sees the gator, she goes home, hops on the bike, rides like hell to get back as quickly as possible and brings the BIG camera, the one that has a 55-200 mm lens on it. She knows she can't get anywhere near the gator or he'll skedaddle into the water, lickety split.  How does she know that? Because just when she gets back to take his photo, some golfers usually come up on the course, and SWOOSH! He's gone.....And why doesn't she make it a habit to carry the big camera in the car to catch him when she sees him the first time? Because she doesn't want anybody breaking in the car and stealing the camera. There's always the iPhone, but this little gator is too shy to get a good photo with the iphone.
Sparky managed to sneak around the pond today and come up on him on the hill up high. As soon as he saw me come over the hill, SWOOSH! Gone! Boy, can they move FAST! He watched Sparky from the water....

The birds are used to Sparky...
"Here comes that woman agin. She's here almost every day."
"I know, don't look now, but she's here....Maybe she'll get the gator's photo instead of us."
"Too late..sigh...."

The gator is NOT used to people.  Shy and skittish....It's a young one, really not very big. He's more scared of people than people are of him. Floridians are used to gators. They won't bother you if you don't feed them or get too close! Hopefully, no one else has fed the gator you are looking at, or he might associate you with food and come to get some from you! Sparky had her bike to make a fast getaway just in case. Never mind that it was WAY over on the other side of the pond.

Speaking of gators, we went over to Myakka River State Park the other day to look for them on the bridge just after you come into the park. Sparky had first entertained the idea of hiking to the Deep Hole, which is a two mile hike in and a two mile hike back out, to see the hundreds of gators that gather there. After the ranger told her it was extremely muddy and that you would be walking in waist high water the last part of the way to the Deep Hole, Sparky, said, well, maybe another time. The ranger said try in the fall when things have dried up a bit. Guess it was because the Myakka River was almost at flood stage. No gators, no birds, no wildlife to be seen, just lots and lots of water. Some of the campgrounds were flooded, the land on each side of the main road was flooded right up to the edge of the road. We were going to do the Canopy Walk with the cool suspension bridge and the fantastic tower that overlooks the park, but decided we didn't have the right footgear to slosh through the mud and flood. Besides, there were probably LOTS of snakes slithering around in that muck and marsh. So we went to the bird boardwalk and observation deck, and again, no birds. The water was right up to the boardwalk...

We would NOT want to stay in the one campground we saw open with all that standing water around. Bet the mosquitoes are ferocious!

It was a beautiful, although very hot day in the 90's...We saw some beautiful purple marsh flowers, and OH! Almost forgot! We saw a BIG wild boar! Instead of catching the boar through the open car window with the long lens, Sparky decided to get out and get a little closer. The boar heard and saw her coming and ambled off into the deep mucky woods...Bye, bye, boar...

Gonna try getting some photos of dolphins in the next couple of days...No luck with baby turtles, no luck with gators in the park, no boars, no spoonbills lately, time to cycle back to the dolphins on Anna Maria Island. It's snook fishing season, maybe Sparky will have better luck catching a fish or dolphin photo...Bye for now......

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

It's a Girl!

Sparky read an article in the Sarasota paper about Gatorama, an alligator farm and roadside attraction here in Florida, not too far from us, and something called the Hatchling Festival..An alligator farm is also sometimes called an alligator ranch. They raise alligators for meat, for their leather skins, and other things. All you have to do is mention the word "gator" and Sparky is all ears--WHERE? DID YOU SEE ONE?  Actually, they are in our neighborhood...YUP! A small one in the pond about half a block down our street, in the hood. He (or she) is so scared of people that when anyone comes anywhere near him, he skedaddles back into the pond and submerges himself, waiting for them to go away. Sparky looks for him every day when she rides her bike.

"HOLD AND HATCH A LIVE ALLIGATOR EGG IN YOUR VERY OWN HAND!" Sparky is IN!  LET'S GO! It's only 14.00 a person if you have a coupon from their website. Kids are cheaper.

So where is Gatorama? Sparky wants to know...About an hour and a half from Bradenton, in the middle of nowhere on Highway 27 in Palmdale, FL, which has nothing there but Gatorama. It's just a hair past the middle of the state on 27, just a tad closer to the east coast of Florida. (Like those directions, folks? That's Sparky's way of describing how to get there. For better directions, check out the Gatorama website, explains Eldo.) OK, more like take exit 164 off I-75, take the second stoplight, uh, after that, I can't remember....Oh, never mind...please check the website...

The website gives you plenty of notice that this is an old, Florida roadside attraction, run by Allen and Patty Register and their son, Ben. They have a LOT of different kinds of activities you can do there. So we're thinking, ok, this is going to be a little hokey, but Sparky loves gators, so we're going to check it out anyway. The website is very nicely done. It says to Sparky that they are at least keeping up with the times with their use of technology. We get there at our appointed time at 10:15 AM (you have to make appointments if you want to participate in the Hatchling Festival, which is what we went to see and participate in today) and it was very cool!

But first--there's a 1,000 foot shaded boardwalk to gator watch.....Nothing really unusual about that...

You can see plenty of gators in several ponds...If you've never been to the Everglades and the national park there, this is a great second choice and it's a little easier to get to. Well, ok, it's in the center of the state and about two hours or less from Bradenton.

A lot of the gators were underwater today, but the owner said that there were about 50 crocodiles in the ponds, and lots more alligators. We saw plenty, and as we walked along the boardwalk, they started swimming towards us, thinking maybe it was feeding time....
This was a BIG gator or croc, not sure which!

Lots of ibis around feeding.....those white birds with curved orange beaks and who look like jackhammers when they are feeding....

There are gator feeding shows, but we didn't stay for that....

We came for.... the Hatchling Festival...Sparky thinks this is about the coolest thing she has done and seen....Gatorama is a registered alligator farm and they collect several thousand eggs every year for something called the Hatchling Festival occurring in August each year. They have a special license to do this. They allow the public to come and help the alligator babies hatch. This is an EGGS-a-lent way (GROAN) to see an amazing happening.
Allen Register, the owner, gives a talk first and tells how they collect the eggs, which is part of their gator farm business. It's a dangerous job as you can imagine. In spring, when they can hear the mating bellows of the males as they rise up out of the water, they know that it's time to start collecting eggs soon. Allen has a big walking stick that the guys use to keep the mama gator from charging them as they take the eggs from the nest. They go out hunting for the eggs in pairs but never alone. His description of how they collect the eggs sounded a lot like the Gator Boys show on TV as far as how they manage to keep from being attacked by the upset mama gator. They tap the snout of the female, hold the stick on her snout and she stops and stands her ground. One guy controls her by holding the stick on her snout, while the other collects the eggs. Before they take the eggs from the nest, they mark the tops of them with a horizontal line. The embryos attach themselves to the top of the egg. They have to keep the eggs horizontal while they transport them to the incubators at the farm. If the egg were to rotate, the gator embryo would become detached from the top of the egg, roll to the bottom of the egg and die. Then they back the mama gator into the water by tapping the stick in front of her so they can leave. Allen said the most dangerous part of the job of collecting eggs is battling the fire ants which are usually found in the nest. Fire ants go to higher ground in the summer season to escape flooding waters, and the gator nests are up on higher ground. More egg collectors go to the hospital from fire ant bites than they do a gator attack (!), says the information posted at the farm.

Once they get the eggs back to the incubators, in 90 degree temperatures and 100% humidity, they have about 65 days until they hatch. The hatching time usually corresponds to the Hatchling Festival in August which they have set up so the public can view the babies hatching and actually take part in the process. Allen makes his rounds every day listening for chirping sounds in the eggs. When he hears the chirping and sees little scratch marks at the top of the eggs, he knows they are ready to come out. Gatorama collected over 3,000 eggs this year for the Hatchling Festival. For some reason, maybe because there's been more rain this summer than normal, the hatching came later. It's just getting going and there's only a few days left! Allen had over 2,000 eggs left to hatch, he said today. You call in and pick your day and time when you want to come out, and they make sure the eggs are going to be hatching before you come.

Allen demonstrated how to help the baby gator start to come out. The baby gator has been working on the inside of the shell with a little egg tooth, but Allen made it easier for him to come out by cracking the top of the shell very gently and peeling it back.
He started to peel back the shell, which is surprisingly soft and leathery feeling...It's not a hard shell. It's very rubbery. When this little guy got far enough out of his shell to start squawking...(they actually chirp, not squawk) Allen asked if we could hear the chirping. Are you kidding? These aging ears couldn't hear it until we got to hold our own gators and eggs and got really REALLY close to the little hatchling, like right up next to our ears. They chirp just like little birds.....

After demonstrating a few things about keeping the little baby gator from jumping out of your hands and plummeting to the ground, he had us put on rubber gloves and we got our own eggs and helped the babies hatch! Sparky was nervous! She was afraid she would drop one.

It's a little bloody. One little girl got a little squeamish, (and Sparky's stomach was starting to churn a bit) but not for long when she saw the head start to come out. At first, Sparky thought maybe there would be too much body fluids and blood, so she wasn't going to do it. But after seeing the baby come out of the egg Allen was holding, she swallowed her uncomfortable feelings and really got into it! (It costs 10.00 extra to hold the egg and hatch the baby gator. Well worth it!)

The babies are wrapped around themselves three times inside the shell. When they come out, they come out quietly and slowly, or they come out flipping around, chirping and excited to be here. Every one of them has a different personality, just like human babies.

When they hatch, they can swim immediately, can eat immediately, and sometimes have a little feisty attitude. They don't have any teeth yet but their one egg tooth, but they will latch onto your finger. It doesn't hurt at all. What's cool about that, is that even as a newborn, after latching onto your finger, they go into a mini "death roll" just as the adult gators do with their prey. They have that gator "death roll" thing in their genes...The death roll is where they take their prey in their mouth, and then do a circular roll by whipping the tail around and down to the bottom of the pond, river, etc. where they will feed on what they've caught. We saw the baby latch onto Allen's finger, then whip his little tail around and do the baby "death roll"! which meant a little flipover in Allen's hand. :-)

Now, Sparky's little buddy.... He took his time coming out of the egg. As a matter of fact, he didn't seem to want to come out. The other babies took a flying leap out of their eggs, and the adults and kids holding them had to gently circle their necks with their fingers so they wouldn't jump out of the egg and plummet to the ground before we could get them into the water tank. But Sparky's little gator, a little girl (you have to tell them they are ALL girls, explains E.), just waited to be helped out of her egg or just decided she was going to let Sparky do all the work, don't know which.
Oh, my gosh, she's starting to come out!

She's going to jump!
And-----IT'S A GIRL!

It turns out she was a late bloomer. She had a FULL row of tiny tiny little teeth all the way around, and she apparently should have hatched about a week before.

They are all girls because the eggs are incubated at the farm at 90 degrees, which determines that the egg will become a female. Females are easier to raise in captivity and get along better than the males, so that's why the farm controls the egg temperature in the incubation area.

We put them in the water tank and watched them swim or just float around lazily. The egg stays attached to the baby by a tiny little umbilical cord for a few hours for an extra food source. After awhile, it will get snagged on something and detach, or just detach naturally.

It was an amazing and fantastic experience! Sparky HIGHLY recommends it. Well worth the little day trip coming and going to get there and see this...AWESOME!
"Come back and see me NEXT year!"
"Are you my momma?"

Friday, August 23, 2013

Where I Stand and The Red Light District

Well, hi, there once again! We're back, briefly, and will be now and then when Sparky has something to say of interest...or she thinks she does.  :-)  Bet she caught your interest with the blog title besides showing up as published today! You have probably heard of Florida's "Stand Your Ground Law" which has been in the news lately...It's a type of self defense law that gives individuals the right to use deadly force if they feel their life is in eminent danger or bodily harm is going to come to them. Quite a few states have laws like this on their books...It's controversial and has been heard from on the George Zimmerman case down here in FL, but Sparky is not going to get into that line of discussion...But when she heard that it's also informally known as the  "Line in the Sand" law, Sparky digressed and thought about where SHE stands these days....
At the beach! Well...sometimes...We got up at the ungodly hour of 4:45 AM this morning, to go see if any turtles are making their way out of their nests by now.  Now, the prime time for seeing baby turtles make their way to the ocean is in the middle of the night. We had a full moon last night, but Sparky wasn't going to get up in the middle of the night to try and find baby turtles which is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, no sireee...And Eldy isn't either, so this was the best we could do.

Southwest Florida beaches have the largest nesting population of Gulf of Mexico loggerhead sea turtles. Nesting season is from May 1 thru October, and gestation is about 90 days from the time the eggs are laid till hatching. Little turtles are hatching all over the place about now, we figure, so we wanted to see if maybe we could see some. Just last week, about 50-75 baby turtles got turned around by some condo lights and headed into a parking lot, and were rescued by a police officer and another bystander who happened to see the little ones crawling in the parking lot. Some quick thinking and a cardboard box saved a BUNCH of them. Over 20,000 baby turtles are disoriented by condo and housing lights each year, and never make it to the ocean. They get turned around by the artificial lighting, and then as they crawl towards the light source, are eaten by fire ants and ghost crabs, die from dehydration, or get run over by cars.

So, the turtles are protected to some degree by coastal light pollution regulations in this area. Residences and businesses have to shield their lights and use special red/amber ones during nesting season. Amber and red lights that have to pass a special spectrometer test are required for usage. They also have to face downward and away from the beach. Violators are fined 1,000.00, so this is a serious issue.

When we were out and about this morning at Lido Beach, we saw LOTS of red lights, hence the "Red Light District".  :-) Sparky really wanted to get a photo of all the red lights, but she couldn't with the camera phone. We know you are disappointed not to see the red light district. Really, it's quite beautiful, almost Christmasy.

Lighting companies in the area have websites totally devoted to using "turtle friendly", approved lighting, like this one company, Synergy Lighting:

We didn't see but one nest on Lido Beach, and it was dormant, so Eldy said, "Let's head over to Coquina Beach" on Anna Maria Island. He knew there were quite a few nests there, and off we went.

He was right...We saw at least seven nests right on the popular Coquina Beach, including one right next to the lifeguard stand.

It was very well marked. But no little guys out crawling around anywhere.
It was a quiet early early morning walk on the beach.....

It's amazing and a credit to the volunteers who walk the beaches and monitor the nests, and to the public that supports their efforts to preserve and conserve the turtles, that people leave the nests alone, at least it seems that way.

The nests on Coquina Beach are monitored by a different group of people than the Mote Marine Aquarium group who monitors the Long Boat Key nests. These nests at Coquina Beach have little cages in the center, and metal cage "legs" that splay out to the four corners that mark the nest. The cages are to prevent raccoons from making a meal of the hatchlings. The volunteers and the turtle watch groups have an amazing coordinated program to protect the turtles. We are glad they do...It's a wonderful thing if you get to see the hatchlings make their way to the sea.

We talked to a lady this week who said she and her boyfriend fish for shark (!) and when she does, it's all night long. (Hmmmmm, are you sure that's all they are doing? wonders E.) HEY! Heck if I know! retorts Sparky. AHEM! When they do fish, they wear special headlamps (red, of course) so they can see what they are doing. They were fishing one night at 2:00 AM. and she kept seeing something out of the corner of her eye. There were what seemed to be fifty of the little baby turtles making their way past her to the ocean. She says, "Now I'm not a tree hugger, or anything like that, but this was one of the most moving things I have ever experienced."   And how!...Very cool.....

We didn't see any this morning, but we'll head back again a few more times in hopes of seeing some....Maybe even EARLIER in the morning, right, Eldy?  Eldy?


Saturday, August 10, 2013

See You on the Road....When, We Don't Know....

Sparky has been thinking about this for some time...After stretching out "Where's Eldo?" to every couple of days or so, Sparky has decided to hang up her writing "shingle"....It's time to say goodbye to our travel blog.

When we first started, we thought, like so many people, a blog would be a great way to stay in touch with family and friends. We wanted our friends and family to be able to at least know where we were and what we were doing. And at first, they kept up with us. But then, they got busy and things got hectic, and after awhile, the family didn't stay with us as much. Then, a surprising thing happened. Complete strangers started reading us, and signing up to follow us. After a bit, our family and friends weren't keeping up with us as much as strangers from all around the country and even the world were! We had no idea that so many people would be interested in what we had to say and what we were doing and where we were traveling....

Readership became important because it continued to climb. The pressure was on to keep things interesting, entertaining, and informative. Sparky had a goal of not wanting to disappoint anyone by writing about mundane things. As the number of followers increased, we got excited.  Sparky felt she was on the right track. Wow, this is really cool! At one point, we had over 2,600 page views a week for a couple of weeks. Our total number of page views for the three years we blogged about our travels has reached 258,000+. There are other interesting stats as well, but not to anybody else but us. Why or how or who is reading us from Latvia, (113 page views) is anybody's guess.

The number of visitors from many different countries that changed from week to week boggled our minds. France, Germany, Australia, China, the United Kingdom, Poland, the Ukraine, they are usually on the list....We would love to know who these readers are and are they REALLY reading or just clicking on through?

We ended up with 158 followers who were traveling with us on a fairly regular or daily basis. We know, now that we have blogged for some time, that blogging fills a wonderful need to communicate with others, to share our excitement about our travels. Those of us who blog enjoy the camaraderie of communication that exists among the blogging community, between the writers and the readers. We love how being a part of the blogging community kept us connected with our fellow travelers and those who wanted to be on the road traveling, but couldn't. It was very comforting to know that there were people out there who would check in with us regularly, email words of encouragement, and share similar experiences. It really made the world a smaller place and less lonely even though we were covering tremendous distances from one end of the country to another. We met people on the road who would come up and introduce themselves, and say, "Aren't you Sparky and Eldo, of Where's Eldo? We've been reading you for some time," or "we've been following you since you started full timing in 2010." That was really cool, too, and it happened several times!

Sparky REALLY enjoyed writing about everything we did, all the wonderful places we visited, writing about making new friends on the road, meeting fellow bloggers and travelers, blogging about mishaps and mayhem...and about having the most amazing experiences in the most amazing places all around the country.

But there comes a time, when you know it's time to quit....Now that we are home owners and have come off the road, Sparky has lost her zest for writing about the  mundane things we are doing every reading blogs in the morning, visiting Ocean Blues about once a week, attending the Farmer's Market in downtown Sarasota, repairing this, painting that....Where's Eldo? was always meant to be a travel blog so we are going to say goodbye FOR NOW, now that we are off the road, to all our wonderful readers. Thank you each and every one of you for coming along on our journey. We're sorry to leave you, truly we are, but in another way, we'll still be following you, we'll be reading about your travels and travails, making comments now and then to let you know we are still around....

If we ever get back on the road, Sparky will fire up her computer and come back on with a BANG! For now, if you REALLY want to find out how ordinary and commonplace our retired life has become, or you miss hearing from us, you can head over to Millie's Girls, Sparky's OTHER blog, where Sparky will attempt to develop and document her domestic diva skills or lack thereof at the moment. It will be a reflection of creating crafty things which Sparky LOVES to do, trying to learn how to cook better, Sparky's trials and tribulations being an ADD adult trying to get a handle on retirement and taking it easy, Sparky's trials and tribulations as a painter, (had a big OOPS! today) coupled with nature photos from the Sarasota/Bradenton area, and the latest happenings in the area--a real mix of anything and everything. Sparky has a big adjustment ahead of her, learning how to slow down, (or NOT, laughs E.) and sitting still, enjoying the sights right outside our patio lanai. Like this visit from a sandhill crane yesterday, who apparently is getting fed by some resident. Sparky went outside to take a photo, and here comes the crane, as soon as he saw Sparky round the corner.
He just kept coming......
And finally, he stopped in front of Sparky about a foot away, and waited...He was apparently used to people feeding him because he waited and waited, so Sparky sat down, and snapped a few photos, and finally said,"Sorry, elegant, beautiful bird, I don't have anything for you!" and showed him empty hands. Kerry's daughter commented, "Mom, are you going to be the bird whisperer now?"

Then he meandered off, looking for handouts and more bugs, we suppose.....

Back to reality. Sparky may be working part time as a substitute teacher come this fall, maybe signing up for senior rowing (see what I mean about not slowing down? sighs E.) and Millie's Girls will be addressing all those things.

Again, thank you so much for enriching our traveling life with your presence, your comments, your emails. We really enjoyed having you along with us for the ride. Take care, travel safe, and we hope to be back some day, on the road again......
spoonbills at Sarasota's Nathan Benderson Park

                                   Best wishes,  Jeannie a.k.a. "Sparky" and Eldy, a.k.a. "Eldo

Friday, August 9, 2013

Chore Girl

Sparky has been a busy little beaver...scrubbing the great room tile floor with hydrogen peroxide and vinegar with a TOOTHBRUSH--yep, you heard that right, folks, a toothbrush along each grout line!...For more details on how it's done and how long it takes, lol, you can check out Millie's Girls in a few days, the nitty gritty details will be there. Just know, that diligence and hard work pays off and although Sparky will be doing the great room floor in little bitty sections for some time to come, it's gonna look really really nice when she's all done. And hey, with some tunes in the background, it's actually kind of a no brain drain kind of activity, right up Sparky's alley. Sparky's strengths do not lie in using her intellectual, analytical, reasoning line of thinking skills on a regular basis, so she enjoys chores and activities that don't require a LOT of that type of thinking!
Enough of this scrubbing sitting on the floor, Sparky decided to tackle the guest room and paint it. It's white, white, white....So, Sparky decided it needed color...Can you tell she can't make up her mind which color it should be?

What's cool for indecisive, impulsive, ADD people like Sparky, you can go to Lowe's and they will mix a little jar of paint for you to take home and try on your wall to see how you like it. Just three dollars will get you a pint size jar of color to try. Sparky tried three colors, painted swatches and then, picked a 4th color WITHOUT trying it on the wall. Came home, started cutting in the trim and ceiling edge, and--she's not sure she likes it just yet.
It never ceases to amaze Sparky in the limited time she's been painting, how the color seems to appear totally different in shade and tone once it gets on the wall, and this is a WHITE wall that's getting painted. The shade card in the store looked like a very light, relaxing, pale ocean greenish blue, and on the wall, with bright sunlight streaming in the window, it looks like bright blue sky! Sparky was hoping for something a little more subdued and in a grayer, blue range....Oh, well....Eldy likes it, and maybe it will grow on Sparky once it's dry and a little bit of furniture and photos and accents get in there. (There seems to be a recurring theme here. Sparky THINKS she likes something, then she's not so sure!)
"after"--actually, it's much bluer in the day light
Sparky had a BIG OOPS the second day she was cutting in the walls and edges of everything...went to move the drop cloth, that thin plastic sheeting that sticks to your feet (especially after you get paint on them), and forgot her little paint bucket was sitting on the floor on the sheet. The drop cloth stuck to the Frog tape, Sparky gave it a yank, and the drop cloth pulled away from the wall and the tape, and it was like one of those magician's who yank the table cloth from out under the dishes and the dishes stay--only Sparky's bucket didn't stay...A good portion of paint plopped out onto the carpet right in the corner..."OH, SH**! SUGAR!" And a few more choice words. ( I NEVER hear Sparky swear, except in extreme pain or when she's done something she didn't want to do that has BAD consequences, explains E.)  Like this:
According to Google and YouTube, it shouldn't be any problem getting latex paint out of the carpet with a little effort with soaking up the excess with paper towels, a little dish detergent and warm water. Yeah, right! A roll full of paper towels later, about an hour later, and lots of soaking up paint with color still coming up, it was still bad. Sparky will either cut out the offending section, about a six inch square and glue in an approximate square of approximately the same color of cream carpet, or an eventual nightstand--to be purchased, is going to sit snugly in this corner until we can afford to replace the carpet!

Eldy worked hard today on the irrigation system--little heads aren't spraying right, one has a leak, so he did his research and YouTube videos, talked to his son who is a landscaper part time, and between texting, photos, his son and YouTube, he figured out how to repair it. Why does Eldo have a soup can in one hand and a trowel in the other?
Because he needed something to tamp down the dirt after repairing the sprinkler head, so Sparky suggested a soup can! We don't have ANY garden tools except the trowel at the moment, because our lawn gets serviced by a lawn care guy, and we didn't keep any garden implements when we sold our houses and hit the road. So, we're missing a few things when doing a little yard work of our own. We'll continue to improvise unless we absolutely have to go buy something! We'd go ask the neighbors, but they are snowbirds and nobody's home till the fall. At least, that's the way it appears, or everybody is holed up inside avoiding the heat and humidity.

We've been having a lot of these kind of conversations lately....

"Honey, do we have a garden trowel?"
"Yeah, but I think it's in the storage shed." (Two exits down from Bradenton)

"Honey, do we have a pruning saw?"
", but just use that little hacksaw in the garage."
"Good idea, ok...."

"Hon, do you know where the steel wool, ________,  ________, (substitute anything and everything here) is?"  "Nope---but it's probably---"
"Which one?"
"I don't know..."

"Boy, I wish I knew where my ________, (substitute any craft supplies here) is!"
"Probably in the STORAGE SHED." Yeah, but we have TWO at the moment. Could be up north in IN, could be here in FL.   SIGH!

Time to take a break after all this hard work, so off to Main Street Trattoria in Lakewood Ranch for some GREAT pizza, caprese salad, and some cheesy garlic bread....After Sparky's major paint spill, it was a great way to end our day and to soothe Sparky's paint snafu. Nothing soothes better than CARBS and FAT! Gotta keep that energy going for these household projects, dontcha know! (And it made Sparky feel better, says Eldo. Gotta keep that little woman happy, it's a full time job!)  :-)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Painting is Really Hard Work!

Especially when you haven't done it in 30+ years!  We're not counting the "man cave", the den, as that was a first time trial that needed a lot of fixin'. Time to paint the kitchen nook area...After paying someone to do the great room which had 17 foot ceilings and architectural ledges, we figured, aw, heck, we can certainly do this small kitchen nook space even if there is a popcorn ceiling! Sparky had a lot of trouble when she painted the walls in the den with the popcorn ceiling, but this time, she discovered that if you get a ladder tall enough and you get close enough to the ceiling, you can carefully, oh, so carefully cut in the edge of the ceiling.....And there aren't any high flat ledges way up in the kitchen nook, so this painting job was a little easier.

Sparky spent a LONG time carefully taping everything, the windows, the baseboard, the door frames. After the last attempt at do-it-yourself painting the den, and having the paint leak through the blue painter's tape, this time Sparky tried Frog Tape. A little pricier, but this tape is supposed to have better adhesive and paint blocking qualities.

About two hours later, after doing just about all the cutting in work and trim, she had neck problems, back problems and her feet hurt from standing on the ladder for so long...W-A-A-A-A-N-H!  "ELDY, I'M QUITTING FOR TODAY!"


"'Cuz I'm TIRED!"

"Ok, I'll paint now...."  So he did...It's starting to look pretty!
So here's the "before".....
And the after, with the rusty kitchenette set replaced and the walls painted a sea ocean greenish blue. It's not really this dark a color, it's just clouding up outside...It's a much prettier lighter shade in the teal/ocean blue family and in bright daylight, it looks lighter.
And it looks pretty darn good! And the Frog Tape did the job! No leaks! (Sounds like a diaper commercial). Sparky is ready to paint something else! Hm-m-m-mmmm...Maybe the guest bathroom, but that's got really old wallpaper to come off....But hey, Sparky is up for the challenge!
We'll see what she tackles next.....Eldo still has more sprinkler heads to fix and a light kit to install in the guest bedroom....And a new hall light to replace the rusty old one....and.....(The honey do list is getting longer by the minute! worries E.) But we have all the time in the world to do it since we're retired...Sparky just wants to get ready in case any company comes! Bye for now......

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Retired Life--We Could Get Used to This! Or NOT This!

Eldo was off and running errands today...So Sparky got into the pool. She hasn't done that but a couple of times since we've moved in, because she was sick for awhile. Now that she's back to normal, it's time to get those foam barbells and weight belt in hand and hop in the pool for some exercise! Being that Eldy was running errands, no embarrassing photos of Sparky in her swimsuit, just the equipment.

Sparky had to hurry up and get in the pool because just about every afternoon from mid-afternoon on, the clouds roll in, the alarm for possible thunderstorms with lightning goes off on the golf course, and it's no time to be in a body of water! Cloudbursts roll in faster than you can say, "Is it raining yet?" 'cuz it probably is....It rains hard but briefly, usually. Wonder when the rainy season is over in Bradenton/Sarasota? However, we don't mind it at all. Eldy likes to sit out on the deck and watch it roll in. Today's storm was a lot of noise and light, but very little rain.....

But HOLD ON A SECOND! There's an uninvited guest on the patio!

Sparky is not going OUT until this little visitor is GONE! So she went and did a couple other things, came back, and he was gone. Whew! Sparky just does NOT like anything slimy with webby, sticky little feet. And this was a TINY little dude. He just looks big in the camera lens. But, darned if there wasn't something else to worrry about-- a lizard, a little gecko, anole or something like that INSIDE the caged lanai when she went out to the pool...The little critters are getting inside the lanai somehow. Sparky is going to have to go on critter watch every day. It's only a matter of time till something gets in the house. We do have palmetto bugs that show up inside the house. Palmetto bugs are just a nice name for Florida cockroaches, BIG cockroaches. UGH!  AL, of Travels with Karen and Al, HELP!  :-)  Just kidding, Al, we'll have to call some kind of pest control, though. Insects and bugs definitely thrive in the Florida sunshine and warm weather, all year round. Oh, the joys of home ownership!

We had to get a plumber out to fix our hot water line to the washer. It was leaking badly. Eldy felt that we needed an expert to handle this job as we weren't quite sure what was causing the leak, nor do we have the tools necessary to do the job. (And that's why I need to start stocking my tool supplies and get a workbench set up in the garage, says E.) Sigh.....We consulted Angie's List, now that we are homeowners, for a reputable business. Angie's List is a paid for service that has thousands of ratings for  local businesses in your area zip code that offer repair services. If you need an electrician, plumber, roofer, etc. this is a great referral service. You can sign up for one main list or several ones, depending on your choice of what you need, whether it be just house/repair services or health or pet or all of them. We just wanted the basic house service list for who to call when we have problems with appliances and stuff like that. It normally costs 35.00 a year, but Sparky found a promotional code and got the service for around 11.00 a year. It's a consumer driven rating service--companies are rated A-F, (Sparky likes that). The ratings are checked for legitimacy, in case companies try to rate themselves, so you can be sure you are getting legitimate reviews from people who have tried the service provider--no fake or anonymous reviews. In addition to a grade rating, people tell what service was performed and how much they were charged for it. Businesses can't pay to be on the list, which is another good thing! It's a great place to find local businesses and reviews, from what we can tell. Sort of like a digital Better Business Bureau, only better.

There's a lot more to Angie's List, and a lot more options and helpful information on their website. They also have a friendly help desk. We found a plumber with good ratings, and will report back on our experience soon...

OK, here's the report...good company, ridiculous price for replacing two faucet handles and stems. Anybody want to guess how much the plumbing company (which had a B rating overall) charged to replace two handle supply stem/faucets? Not having had to have a plumber in for ANYTHING in YEARS, we were shocked at the charges...We're just going to leave it at it was ridiculous. And we understand plumbers are highly trained, have one of the dirtiest and least appreciated jobs in the service/repair home field, but a job that takes about 15 minutes shouldn't cost an arm and a leg. Next time, we go with a smaller, family owned company for plumbing!

So what's so nice about retired life? Living here in Bradenton, having no schedule, having no timetable, swimming in your own pool, having the most beautiful home we've ever lived in, and just enjoying the area permanently! Sparky has even started cooking more!  (GASP!) I'm sure that was a collective gasp from Eldy and everybody else reading, too.  Here's a little recipe for ya! Courtesy of Publix Grocery Stores....Title is my own....

Sorta Salsa Corn Salad
1/4 c.  chopped green onions
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
4 ears fresh sweet corn--cooked--I like to do mine in the microwave wrapped in damp paper towel for about 2 min. per ear, but not if you do them all at once
juice of 1 lime
1 (4.5 oz. can) chopped green chilies
1/2 c. Hidden Ranch Spicy ranch dressing
crispy corn taco shells broken into pieces or your favorite brand taco corn chips

Combine green onions and cilantro
Warm the taco chips in the oven or microwave for a few seconds
Cut corn off the cob and place in medium bowl.
Squeeze lime, add spicy ranch dressing, chilis, green onions and cilantro, mix...Spoon mix over warm taco chips or taco shells. Yum!


Monday, August 5, 2013

2010 Tiffin Phaeton 40 QTH for Sale

One of our readers suggested that we put the sale of our rig on the blog with a little more detail other than saying, "HEY! OUR RIG IS FOR SALE!"  So here goes, in the hopes that a friend of a friend, a blogging friend of a friend, or SOMEBODY out there will know SOMEONE who wants to buy a beautiful Tiffin 2010 Phaeton, with 30,071 miles on it and about 110 hours on the generator.

The specs:  Tiffin Phaeton Model 4 QTH with lots of features:


Add 4 Panasonic Viera TV's  to the list which are multimedia friendly, in motion satellite dish, MCD shades, Dolby surround sound,  subwoofer, etc. This 2010 model does NOT have the DEF system, the chassis was completed before the federal regulations went into effect, so that is a nice bonus. The DEF system is an extra "fuel" tank  on diesel engines that holds urea. This system is supposed to help your fuel system burn fuel more efficiently. More thorough explanations can be found on the internet about the DEF system.

Here are some photos:

Contact us via Sparky's email address which should be in the blog sidebar....or make a comment and we'll get right back to you. We haven't listed the price, that's a sensitive issue, and Eldy would like to handle that privately, but know we are SERIOUS about negotiating SERIOUS OFFERS. We've done our homework about what it's worth, and and what retail vs. wholesale should be. Thanks for looking and reading...

Please pass the word, thank you for bearing with this photo intensive post today, and now, back to our regularly scheduled programming, er, blog postings.....Bye!