"" Writer's Wanderings: February 2024

Friday, February 16, 2024

What's Up With The Snowbirds?

 My blog has been a bit neglected but I have a good excuse. I am finally nearing the finish of my next novel, Hidden In Harper Valley. I'll give you a hint with a question: What would you do if you suddenly had millions of dollars but your life was in danger?

My other excuses have to do with continuing to explore with our Florida grandkids. Life has been busy. 

Have you ever been on a chocolate walk? Thanks to our daughter-in-law who messaged me the information, we were able to have a great evening in historical downtown Venice. We went early and had dinner at the Crow's Nest which had a beautiful view of an inlet from the gulf. Afterward we walked down to the jetty and joined the crowd watching a beautiful sunset. Then it was on to the chocolate walk.

The chocolate walk took place between five and eight and by the time we got there around 6:30, many of the shops were out of chocolate. Still we managed to score some delicious chunks including a couple of Godiva chocolates as well as a taste of rich hot chocolate from an ice cream shop where we also got our dessert, creamy ice cream. 

There have been some lovely sunset evenings at Maxine Barritt Park about twenty minutes or so from where we are staying. It is amazing how many people flock to the Sharkey's Restaurant pier to see the sunset but the park right next to it is mostly empty with a whole beach in front of it to watch the sunset. We find a little spot where there is a bench and a break in the sea grape trees and brush and relax as we watch the colors in the sky turn from bight yellows to pinks to purples and sometimes come ablaze with oranges as well.

After a lunch with friends from home who actually have become residents of Florida, we met our son and his family for a walk through the MOTE Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota. It's one of their favorite places to visit and they were eager to show us around. We got quite a tour.

The aquarium was a pleasant drive from where we had lunch and took us over a huge bridge that spanned the narrow part of Sarasota Bay. It was a nice sunny day and while some are complaining about the cool weather here, I'm happy with sun and days that start in the upper 50s and climb to the 70s.

While we waited for our kids to arrive, we took a little time to explore the bird sanctuary that is right next to the aquarium. It is free--donations encouraged--and a very pleasant walk around to see the birds they are caring for, some who will return to the wild and others whose injuries will make them permanent residents. We found spoonbills which are always a delight to see.

Once the rest of the family arrived, we entered the aquarium and began our visit. There was quite a variety of marine life both large and small. Lots of research going on here. Some is visible, like the jelly fish reproductive area. Much goes on behind the scenes. 

The aquarium is expanding and building another facility near I-75. With all the spreading development in Florida there is a concerned effort to protect the natural beauty and environment of the state. Hopefully they will succeed because the rich abundant wildlife and marine life are absolutely worth preserving.

Part of the aquarium is located across the street in a separate building where there is a manatee and a huge shark tank. The only alligator we saw was the sculpture we passed in a hallway on the way out. Of course there always has to be one clown in the group. Neither she nor the sculpture were harmed. 

And between all this activity, pickleball, card games, writing and discovering new restaurants to sample, we managed to finish the jigsaw puzzle we purchased at Biltmore and start another.

Saturday, February 03, 2024

Marine Lab and County Fair

 The weather is not the only thing that draws us to Florida each winter. It is an opportunity to be close to grandkids and to be a small part of their lives. Our oldest who are in high school have the unique experience of taking marine biology courses and becoming part of a marine biology group at school.

The school is amazing in all of that they do. There is also a performing arts group and lovely theater where we've been able to see a production already. The granddaughter who will be in high school next year is already part of that group and loves costume designing.

Getting back to the marine lab. We were able to attend an open house at the school lab. It is a huge lab (and classroom) with several large tanks and many individual smaller ones which are assigned one to each student to maintain. The school is licensed to collect from the bay area near them and they have a nice variety of fishes and other marine life on hand to study.

The large tanks include a "touch tank" with animals such as a starfish that you can actually touch--much like a touch tank in aquariums or at marine parks. Another large tank is home to several sting rays. 

The lab and its instructor who is a marine biologist (naturally) is a great opportunity for learning to appreciate the marine environment that is a big part of Florida. Whether it produces more marine scientists or not, it will certainly produce adults who care about their surrounding ecology. So grateful that our kids can be a part of it.

Our other venture into Florida culture was to visit the county fair. We haven't been to a fair in quite a while and with the cool temperatures, it was a perfect day for it--or evening as the case was. The fair was only open during the day on weekends and then from five to ten on the weekdays. 

It was not as big as some of ours are in Ohio but it had all the components that make up a fair--animals, agricultural and craft displays, rides and of course, fair food. 

We walked past cages of chickens and roosters, some fancier than others. I was surprised to find a couple of pheasants. I've never seen a pheasant at a fair before. There was a row of bunnies. There were plenty of ooos and ahhhs as people walked that row. Bunnies will do that to you.

In a large barn were rows of pigs. No ooos and ahhs but plenty of comments of how much they weighed. Most were just under 300 pounds. Lots of bacon!

The steers were outside in a covered coral probably to be sure they didn't get overheated in the Florida sun although heat hasn't been much of a problem since we've been here.

Well, after seeing the bacon and steaks, we were getting hungry so we perused the fair food offerings. There were a lot of repeats of the same food but we settled on a place that had some tables set up where we could sit and eat. Bob ordered a well done cheeseburger and I got a Polish sausage with onions and peppers. The fries only came in one size and one order was more than the two of us could eat. Add a bottle of water and our total cost for dinner at the fair was $40! Dessert was two caramel apples that we carried home to eat.

The rides area was the busiest of the whole fairgrounds. We watched a few and reminisced about the days when we could ride and enjoy. Now, we'd be afraid we wouldn't be able to stand up after them. The ferris wheel was tempting though but we passed.

Pickleball, the hand and foot card game, Bible study, church, a jigsaw puzzle, long walks and the occasional race after dinner to the beach which is about 25 minutes away to catch the sunset fill our days. We've only had a couple of days that were pool worthy but for me, I've enjoyed the temps in the upper 60s and middle 70s along with low humidity. Kind of like spring in the north.

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