6 Down; 7 To Go

One more of the items on our 13 in 13 list accomplished! For almost forty years I’ve wanted to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic and set over the Gulf of Mexico on the same day. Living in Florida, this shouldn’t be that difficult, but it’s something I haven’t gotten around to until this summer.

I admit that it didn’t turn out exactly like I pictured it. Last week we woke up at 6:00 in Miami to view the sunrise on the beach. Of course, we were awakened at about 4:30 to the sound of thunder and pouring rain. When we headed to the beach for the 6:20 sunrise, it was still sprinkling and cloudy, but at least the lightning and thunder had subsided. I hoped for a clear day and a beautiful sunrise but had to settle for watching the sun peek through the clouds.

The second half of this quest took place on the Naples pier. We arrived in Naples a little after 7:00 that evening. An angry sky met us as we approached the pier. We walked out on the pier. The wind whipped up the waves. The lightning flashed. The rain began to fall. Deja vu!

I reminded myself that regardless if we could see it or not, the sun would set and we would be there. But, just as it did in the morning, the thunder and lightning stopped and the rain ended about 15 minutes before the time of the sunset. From the Naples pier we witnessed the sunset and took pictures to document the fulfillment of another item on our 13 in 13 list. Again we saw a glimmer of the sun set behind the clouds.


Lesson learned…mission accomplished…even if it’s not exactly as pictured.

World’s Best Grouper Sandwich

IMG_0087On both Friday and Saturday night last week we ate at the same restaurant in Sanibel. That’s because Sanibel Grill serves the world’s best crunchy grouper sandwich.

More than fifteen years ago, after staying on the beach longer than planned, we searched for a restaurant where we could place a take out order. The thought of getting five people cleaned up to eat was not an option that evening. Looking through a local magazine found in the hotel room, the ad for Sanibel Grill included a phone number to call for orders to go. Just what we were looking for! The menu items satisfied those of us looking for seafood options as well as those who turn up their nose to seafood. The grouper sandwiches and pizza ordered that night hooked us.

Every subsequent trip to Sanibel has included one or more visits to Sanibel Grill. The fried crunchy grouper sandwiches can’t be beat. Hot, crunchy, fresh, delicious, large portion of grouper served with french fries or pasta salad. Can’t go wrong with either choice.

The following review of Sanibel Grill found on Trip Advisor confirms our experience:

When I go to Sanibel I’m there for 8 days. Last year I managed to go here 7 of the 8 days. I guess I should expand my horizons, but when you’re comfortable with a place and the people who work there (and remember you from the previous year), then why bother? Good specials, good food and a great atmosphere. Can’t ask for anything more. And if you have a sweet tooth late at night, be sure to order a piece of cake. Absolutely wonderful.

Sanibel Grill is a must for anyone visiting southwest Florida!


No News from Summer Camp

campI guess I grew up deprived. I’d never heard of summer camp until I was in 7th grade. I remember asking my parents about going to camp that year, and they did not even entertain the idea. No discussion.

Only a couple of years later, my younger sister did go to summer camp. One year she went to a primitive church camp and another year she went to gymnastics camp. I know she left gymnastics camp early. She couldn’t wait to leave and claimed to be starving. She was a picky eater and would not eat the meals served, instead waiting for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. That was the end to her camp experience.

When my daughters were in elementary school the summer camp discussions began. Camp Kiwanis information was distributed at school and Camp Montgomery brochures were picked up at church. Friends were going to camp so of course, they wanted to go. Meghan and Emily both attended Camp Montgomery, the Presbyterian Church camp; but not together. Sarah spent a summer at Camp Kiwanis.Welcoming_all_people_to_experience_Christ_and_creation_in_ways_that_deepen_faith_and_strengthen_relationships.1333117598

From my experience, I strongly suggest that parents forbid their children from communicating with them while they’re away at camp. Most camps don’t allow phone calls, email, or texts so electronic communication shouldn’t be a problem; but I believe no letters should be allowed as well.

Do not pack stationary, envelopes, pencils, pens, and stamps.

Let the camp counselor know that you do not want your child to write letters home.

Nothing good can come from these letters. If your child writes that he or she is having a wonderful time, you’ll wonder why you’re not missed. On the other hand, if you receive a letter detailing your child’s misery, you’ll also be miserable. The best solution…no communication whatsoever.

Here’s a letter I received from Meghan that proves this point:

Dear Yall,

I love you very much and I miss you. I’m crying right now. I just finished reading your leters. I want you to pick me up. We’re having terrible weather. Dad I’m burnt to the crisp. Holly has not rolled off the bed yet and it’s hard to keep both of them out of trouble. Sarah & Emily I’m going to try to bring you back something. I love you.



P.S. Dad I can’t wait to go biking.

campkSarah’s camp experience ended a day early when I got a call that she was sick and needed to be picked up. This after receiving the letter she’d written detailing how much she hated camp and wanted to come home despite the fact that her older sister was her counselor and that her aunt and uncle worked at the camp and that her cousins were fellow campers.

I remember being disappointed when I didn’t receive a letter from Emily when she was at camp, but later I realized that was a much better plan. No letter. No bad news. No worry.

I’ve always heard no news is good news, and I’d say that’s the best plan when kids go to camp.



Weigh-In Wednesday: Week 26

cheerleaderI’ve never been much of a cheerleader. I find it hard to stomach girls dressed in uniforms cheering for a bunch of lame brained athletes. I remember asking my daughters why there were no boys with big smiles and pom poms cheering for the girls basketball or volleyball teams. I always thought it best to be the athlete rather than cheering for one.

I think this mentality makes it hard for me to fulfill the cheerleader role in the weight loss arena. While I’m still stuck in a no weight loss rut, new goals are being met on a regular basis by my better half and he’s proving to be the better half at weight loss for sure. I truly am happy about his success, but I need to learn to be a better cheerleader. This isn’t the mindless cheering for a team. This is cheering on my husband. Congratulations on meeting your latest goal! Keep up the good work! Maybe if I took out some pom poms and did some crazy jumps I could burn a few extra calories and get the weight loss kicked back into gear!

Art on the Beach

IMG_0149Perched on Miami’s South Beach you’ll find lifeguard stands which house the members of the Miami Beach Ocean Rescue. Besides serving as lookout towers for lifeguards, beach goers rely on the stands as first aid stations, information centers, and the place to go to find out about the day’s surf conditions. In addition, the fun, whimsical designs infuse art into a walk on the beach.

After Hurricane Andrew leveled most of the lifeguard stands in 1992, the city seized the opportunity to enhance the beach with a project designed to be not only functional but eye-catching. Artists created over twenty designs that add a little extra pizazz to the beach. Most of the structures standing today are not the original ones from the post-Andrew project since many were badly damaged after Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Nevertheless, the artistic structures bring a smile to the face of beach goers. What a fun way to get a dose of culture!

See the USA in your Chevrolet

This expression may not be familiar to you, but in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s thisĀ  jingle was used in television commercials for Chevrolet cars. I remember Dinah Shore, a talk show host, singing this catchy phrase, and more recently it was revived during a Super Bowl ad by the cast of Glee; and while none of you drive Chevrolets, the message is a good one. See the U.S.A.! And the best way to do this is by taking a road trip – even if it’s in a Honda.

I was lucky to have parents who subscribed to this philosophy. We packed our car and drove somewhere every summer for a yearly vacation. When we lived in Indiana these trips were always to Florida. How could you let a summer go by without a trip to the beach? But, we did visit a variety of beaches in Florida – Sarasota, Daytona, Ft. Lauderdale, and Jacksonville are ones that I remember vividly. And while the destination was important, the road trip itself was always memorable – not just the karate chops exchanged in the backseat or the drawing of lines (imaginary lines) down the seat to divide our space, but the songs that were sung, the games played, and most of all the sights along the road.

I learned more about U.S. geography and history from those trips than from classes in school. We looked at maps, planned routes, found destinations to visit, explored cities, marveled at the differences in landscapes, and recognized every state’s license plate and every sign with the letter q or z from a mile away to provide the needed edge in one of the competitive games played along the route. We saw the wildlife, predicted arrival times, and figured gas mileage along the way, but most of all we really did “see the USA”.

Later when we were Florida residents the destination of these yearly vacations changed to North Carolina because of course once you live near the beach you want to relax in the mountains. Here we developed a love of camping and tubing. We visited new places, traveled different roads, and fell in love with another section of the country. In fact, without these vacations to the mountains, I may not have gone to Western Carolina University. In which case I wouldn’t have met your dad and you wouldn’t be reading this now.

Probably the best road trip of my youth was when we took six weeks to follow Ethan Allen’s advice, “Go west young man!” With a motor home loaded down, we went to the Rocky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Mesa Verde. Grandpa, Jeff, and Carol Jean rafted down the Colorado River while Grandma and I rented a jeep and explored the desert near Arches National Park. We played in snow, hiked in the woods, rode horses and donkeys, camped just off the highway one night when we couldn’t find a place to stop, and spent an afternoon with Hell’s Angels (hundreds of motorcycle riders) in the middle of nowhere. We saw wild animals and grandma insists that she encountered a panther outside the camper one night when she took a ham off the grill. But we also really saw the country when we bought crafts from a Navaho woman who came to our camper, when we climbed the rock formations in Monument Valley, when we drove for hours through Kansas and saw nothing but wheat. We marveled that there could possibly be too many people on earth, or at least in the U.S. when we could go days and only see a handful of people.

I hope you have fond memories of our road trips – sometimes by car, other times in a motorhome. Regardless of whether we stayed in the state or flew somewhere and then began our adventure, we tried to see the U.S.A.; and sometimes we were even in a Chevrolet!

Florida trips to the state parks, the Keys, or beaches were ways to get to know our state better whether that was paddling a canoe, searching for tacky tourist traps, hunting for delicious food, biking the trails, or doing the Sanibel stoop looking for shells. We’ve done our share of exploring north Georgia and western North Carolina enjoying nature. And if course National Parks have been popular spots for our family road trips – the Everglades, Gettysburg, the Smoky Mountains, Acadia, Glacier, Yellowstone, Redwoods, and the San Juan Islands are just a few of these adventures. We’ve hunted black bears and grizzlies, moose, sea turtles, eagles, pronghorn, elk, killer whales, and always deer. I hope these experiences have helped you develop an appreciation for the land, people, and resources in the good ole U. S. of A.

You don’t have to have a lot of time or money to have fun on a road trip. Sure it would be great to go to California or Minnesota or Alaska, but there are many places waiting to be explored much closer to home. A long weekend, even a single day can turn in to an amazing adventure. There are numerous scenic drives of less than 100 miles throughout Florida. Maybe you should visit the Bok Tower which Dad’s grandfather helped construct or you may want to go to Amelia Island or Fort DeSoto. Plan a canoe trip, biking trip, or camp – little money and lots of fun.

Head to Savannah, Calloway Gardens, or Charleston. Visit Janice in Hilton Head or Nancy in Nashville. Staying with friends or relatives is a great way to cut expenses. Turn a sporting event into a road trip and don’t forget to find out about local restaurants! Southern Living and The Food Network have terrific websites with great recommendations.

Don’t get discouraged if longer trips aren’t realistic at this time. There were many years that we stayed close to home and still had a wonderful time. There will be plenty of time for longer adventures and that just builds up the anticipation. I know Dad looked forward to visiting the Grand Canyon for nearly 20 years. This is a big, wonderful country. I don’t think you’ll run out of destinations.

So let me know if you need to borrow a tent, sleeping bags, or other camping equipment. Give me a call if you need help using Priceline to find a hotel. Take plenty of pictures and share. We’re always looking for a road trip idea.

Happy trails!


By the way, cities can be great destinations as well, but they are typically more expensive. However, if you’re looking for a city adventure, try Washington, D.C. While hotels aren’t cheap and you’ll have to buy food, EVERYTHING else is free! You can even save a little by staying outside the city and using the Metro. What a deal!

Catchin’ Snook

No record-breaker, but my first snook!
No record-breaker, but my first snook!

As we crossed Tamiami Trial from Miami heading to the west coast of the state, I announced that I wanted to catch a snook while in Sanibel. Although a little skeptical, John let me know he’d get me set up when I was ready to fish off the shore, something I’ve never done before.

Friday I read on the beach, went for a long walk, swam in the warm waters, but didn’t throw in a line. Meanwhile, John caught five snook in front of our hotel and then caught two more at Blind Pass at sunset.

It looked like I may have missed my opportunity to catch my first snook when we woke to find it windy with rougher, cloudy water on Saturday morning. Nevertheless, John caught a couple before breakfast so when he returned to the beach I decided it was time to give it a try. John provided a few tips and told me to cast out my line and feel for a hit while reeling and to be prepared to set the hook quickly.

It must be beginner’s luck (or a very good fishing instructor) because ten minutes later I reeled in my first snook. John caught six and although I only brought in one…I brought in one! Another way to enjoy time at the beach…snook fishing.

Two snook in two days!
Two snook in two days!

Skunk Ape Taking a Bath!

"Is that Big Foot taking a bath?"
“Is that Big Foot taking a bath?”

“Have you ever seen this before?” I texted this message to the girls along with this picture. Sarah’s response, “Is that Big Foot taking a bath?” Well, since this is Florida, that would be Skunk Ape, not Big Foot; but the answer is still no. That’s not Skunk Ape or Big Foot. It’s a manatee.

We’re no strangers to manatee. We’ve seen them at Blue Springs, Homossasa Springs, on the St. John’s River, and on Crystal River. We’ve seen manatee in the shallow water just off the beach in Sanibel, and we’ve even had a manatee chew on the anchor rope of our boat. But, this was a first. Several manatee rolling, playing, and raising out of the water under the bridge at Blind Pass between Sanibel and Captiva. For about fifteen minutes we watched the unusual behavior.

It seems we witnessed manatee mating. According to Save the Manatee Club, this is manatee mating season and it’s not unusual for people to report herds of manatee in very shallow water “playing rough”. Some even try to rescue the animals by pushing them back out in to deeper water.

Instead, the best plan:

  • Watch from at least 100 feet to avoid interfering with the mating process.
  • Don’t push animals back into deeper water. You risk injury to yourself or the manatee.
  • Don’t feed or harass the animals…mating or not. They are a protected species under federal and state laws.

So not only will this be the summer of the red fox, but the summer of manatee mating as well.




Eating Italian at Mom & Dad’s

We lived in Ocklawaha the first three years of marriage. Quite a culture shock since I spent my middle school, high school, and much of my college years living in South Florida. Ocklawaha required planning. One small grocery carried the basics. One gas station. A post office and churches. Not like living in Lighthouse Point where we could pick up something to cook for dinner on the way home or run out for a forgotten item at the drop of a hat.

Mom & Dad’s in Lady Lake, a family favorite

Maybe the biggest difference was the lack of restaurants. No McDonald’s. No Burger King. No Pizza Hut. No KFC. No Taco Viva. Eating at home was the norm. We usually ate out on Wednesday when we drove in to Ocala to bowl in the teacher’s bowling league, but that was about it. Driving to Ocala or even to Belleview just to eat didn’t make sense.

When we did splurge on dinner out (or more likely treated to dinner out by family), our favorite spot was Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant in Lady Lake. Still ten miles and about fifteen minutes away, Mom & Dad’s was worth the effort. This place had been a favorite of John’s family for years; and although an Italian restaurant, John and his dad frequently ordered shrimp and french fries. We always ordered a pizza as an appetizer so they did partake in Italian. Chicken Parmesan, manicotti, baked spaghetti, steak, and my favorite, lasagna were most often ordered by the other diners in our party.

Thirty-five years after my first Mom & Dad’s dining experience we’re still returning. Just last week we made a return visit. Lasagna for me and pizza for John. The warm homemade bread alone makes the trip worthwhile. And while Ocklawaha is now home to Big Bob’s and Gator Joe’s and with Alfie’s only five minutes away, I prefer hopping in the car for a fifteen minute drive to Lady Lake when I want dinner to be a treat.

Pink and Blue Aisles?

In the 1980s I left Service Merchandise in a huff and swore I’d never enter the store again after finding the aisles in the toy section labeled “Girl’s Toys” and “Boy’s Toys”. Who did they think they were limiting my options for toy buying based on the sex of my child? I bought dolls, stuffed animals, and a play kitchen for my girls; but I also bought Legos, trucks, and tool kits. I’d like to think that the demise of Service Merchandise was directly related to their sexist labeling of the toy aisles.

I guess I haven’t paid much attention to the toy aisles in stores in recent years. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I bought a toy; but last week we stopped in Walmart looking for a fishing lure and I noticed the aisles labeled “Girl’s Toys” and “Boy’s Toys”. Just like the ones that infuriated me nearly twenty years ago. I thought it was just one more reason to avoid Walmart. Who needs to shop in a store that’s reinforcing stereotypes from the 1950s?

But then, I found an even more disturbing scene at Target this week. I entered the toy department in search of the game Blokus, and I was stunned to see that the aisles were actually colored coded. Pink aisles with Barbies, dolls, stuffed animals, housekeeping toys. Blue aisles with cars, trucks, action figures, and building toys. Thankfully the games were on the green aisle so I guess that means I can play the game with male and female competitors. Why do we accept this in 2013? I certainly wouldn’t take my child to a pink and blue/girl and boy toy department.

Apparently, Walmart and Target are not the only offenders. Toys R Us is guilty of employing the pink and blue toy categories and many of the toy companies are now packaging their merchandise using the offensive color coding as well. I stumbled across a petition a group of girls started in attempt to get Target to change their policy. Sounds like a good idea. It’s too bad we’ve moved so far backward.