Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sanibel Island, Florida

Changes in Latitude = Changes in Attitude

As you may know already, we were winging it this entire trip. We hadn't really decided on a destination except that we must out-run the rain and the cold front that was crossing the eastern (and southern) US. We knew we had to go almost to the end of the earth (well, at least the end of LAND) before the rain was out of the forecast. I had been on the internet (I know you're shocked) looking for places to stay, but didn't want to book a place without seeing it first. I had almost decided we would stay at one place with all the amenities we were looking for, so the plan was to drive out here, get a room for one night, and go from there (still winging it). When we ended up there at 9 pm and the office was closed, we had to come up with plan B. 

Let me tell you, this little island is dark at night. It's like a couple of other smaller islands we've visited...I thought it was because turtles won't mate in the light so they keep it dark (I can relate to that), but I was wrong. The real reason there are restrictions on beach lighting are the baby sea turtles who have nests on the beaches. It needs to be dark when they hatch so they can follow the light of the moon toward the water (they ALWAYS hatch during a full moon). Just one light bulb can confuse the little slow pokes and then you'd have a bunch of little traumatized turtles (and turtle huggers) to deal with.

Ok, now that you've had your science lesson for the night, let me get back to the original story. At this point, I'm about to panic because it's getting late and some kid who was the concierge at a restaurant just told us "you won't find much out here at night, all the offices close at 8 or 9." So I did what any panicked and weary traveler would do...I Googled it. There it was, right in front of me, the old trusty Holiday Inn. I knew they would have someone there, and when I had checked before, they still had rooms. A very nice gentleman named Jim answered the phone, quickly gave us reservations for his "last room" with a view (they always say that, can someone tell me why)? I told him I only wanted one night until we could see the place in the daylight and then we'd let him know by morning if we wanted to stay longer.

The property is an older hotel, but it has been completely remodeled, with brick/cobblestone type driveways and of course a lot of lush vegetation and palm trees. We unloaded the car and went to the room, which is probably the smallest room we have ever gotten for this kind of price, and there was no balcony to sit on (our favorite part of a vacation and usually the one thing we definitely want). This was enough for me to say "forget it, we are going somewhere else tomorrow." But after we woke up, looked at other options online, and looked outside at the beautiful view and property, we decided that what we are paying for here is OUTSIDE the door, not inside, and we will just stay. We had breakfast here (which is not included - bummer) and it was good but the service is slow. I keep forgetting we are on Island time. 

It's now the end of day #2, which was spent mostly in a horizontal position -  hammocks, beach chairs, pool chairs, and reading a good book, The Thirteenth Tale. We had dinner at The Blue Giraffe just a mile or so away, and it was delicious. After dinner we rode out to Captiva Island with the top down and watched the sunset (sorta - it was hiding behind some clouds but peeking through, which made for some great pictures).  Before coming back to sit on the deck (oh, I forgot, our room doesn't have a deck) we stopped for ice cream and travel mugs (for the good (free) coffee in the lobby, which is too far to walk for a second tiny cup). As for the porch and deck issue, there are couches on the pool deck just outside the door, and we sat out there tonight and listened to the frogs (which Jay thinks is an alligator). I hope I'm right on this one.

I'll leave you with a few pictures from our sunset drive on Captiva Island.

If you want to see some good pics of the Holiday Inn, just Google it and then click on "Images."

Monday, April 14, 2014

Outrun the Rain

It's been a few months since we traveled to the beach, and since we want to do road trips whenever we can, we found some great reviews for Highway A1A in Florida. The 70-mile stretch that parallels the ocean and beaches from St. Augustine down the coast towards Daytona sounded like a great Spring drive. Then I checked the Weather Channel, which has a tendency to almost always cause me change my original plans. This time was no different. Not only was there a lot of rain headed towards the coast, there was a ten to twenty degree temperature drop for most of the week. 

Plan B was going to include a Cajun cuisine road trip through Louisiana, but this left me wondering how upset I would be if I gave up on the beach trip, which I desperately need. What if I'm wandering around in the swamp with gators, and Vicki posts on Facebook how pretty it turned out to be in Florida? Thus began the desperate search for sunshine. You know those people who chase tornadoes just for the heck of it, and for the rush it gives them? Yeah, that's not us. We run from the rain and chase the sun. 

You wouldn't believe the hours I've gone over the possibilities of where we could go, what will the weather be like when we drive, and where will we stop along the way? I've learned not to plan ahead because we always regret it when we see something we like better. So, on Monday morning when I got home from working a week of twelve hour night shifts, I must have asked ten times, like a child from the back seat, "Where are we going?" Six hours later, on our way out of town, we decided to hit the gulf coast and just drive until it was warm enough, even if there's a little rain. 

We started our day in Morristown at The Cutting Board, with the best quiche (for me) and chuck wagon sandwich (for him) we've ever had. We made a couple of rest area stops and then a stop at the Georgia Winery for a few tastes of wine. I'm always amazed at wine tastings. I really can't tell from a few drops if I like it or not, I really need to have at least a half gallon, I mean glass. We ended up with a sweet red (I'll get the name for you later) , which is their best seller, and a bottle of piƱa colada wine. That one really surprised me when I tasted it, but it's like a sweet red with just a hint of coconut. Maybe it's not even "real wine," but it sure is "real good" as we say in the South.  From there, we just drove (well, Jay did after I told him my reflexes weren't exactly up to par in the Atlanta rush hour traffic) until we were tuckered out (one hour nap in 24 hours is catching up with me). We ended our day with one of my favorite foods on the planet, Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits. Don't judge me, but I ate the whole basket (minus a half). I think I'll make it a point to find the best biscuits in the South while on this trip. What better way to start and end a day?

Which brings me to the first and only real complaint of the day. I made sure to check TrIpAdvisor for a good hotel in Macon. I based my criteria on how close it was to the interstate, and if they had a pool. After missing the access road twice, we finally found it, checked in, and thought about going to the pool/hot tub (remember it was the reason we chose this one). I went down to get us some coffee (to warm up for morning, still better than using the in-room coffee maker that some drunk guy could have pee'd in), and thought I'd check out the pool area while I was there. Guess what! You got it. The sign said "Pool Closed For Maintenance." I went back to the desk to ask the girl if there was some sort of compensation since that's the reason I chose this property. With a puzzled look on her face (like why in the world would I care about a pool), she said "Well, nooooo (insert sweet southern sounds here) but our other property across the street will let you use theirs; of course you'd have to wear a robe across the parking lot I guess."

This is where I say to myself "it's a good thing she's cute, and I'm tired...bless her heart."


Vineyard at Georgia Winery (and I assume a wedding gazebo).

Georgia Winery - Try the Concord Sweet Red 

Beautiful Entrance at the Georgia Winery

Sunday, September 29, 2013

25th Wedding Anniversary

We are celebrating 25 years together by taking a road trip with no definite plans. As I finish up my last day at work this week, I'm thinking a day at the spa would be a great place to start. The actual day of our anniversary we had dinner at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Knoxville. Definitely more than we have ever paid for a meal, but worth it once every 25 years:). 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Your Prostate...Now That I Have Your Attention:

“Risk” is the chance that something bad will happen—like catching a cold or getting viciously attacked by a Yorkie while walking down the street. Risk does not mean that something bad will definitely happen.

Maybe you've heard the news that fish oil (omega 3s) have now been shown to increase risk of prostate cancer by 43%. Does this mean you will have a 43% (43 out of 100 people) chance of getting it? No. I personally have zero chance of getting that one, but we women have other issues. I'll spare you the details.

Although there are many statistics out there, the general thought is that 1 of every 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, or 15 of every 100 men, or 150 of every 1000 men. Now add to that a 43 % increased risk and you come up with 214 in every 1000, or 21 in every 100, or 1 in 5 (instead of one in 7).

Now, how do you decide if you should take fish oil or not? Let's look at some of my notes from the studies. (All of my data comes from a very respected source, UpToDate):

  • In summary, the evidence indicates that fish oil consumption lowers blood pressure by approximately 2to 5 points and lowers the heart rate by 1.5 beats per minute.
  • In patients with heart failure, studies show some improvements in the pumping action of the heart. Otherwise, I could find no compelling evidence for it from a cardiac standpoint.
  • In diabetes, there were no overall benefits of fish oil.
  • No change in stroke risk.
  • The use of fish oil supplements to lower triglyceride levels should not be a first line treatment. The studies I read state the dose was at least 3000 mg daily to lower trigs by 50 percent (there they go with statistics again). Other medications and lifestyle changes (sigh) should be tried first.
  • In 2012, an analysis of studies totaling over 60,000 subjects indicates there was no significant reduction in mortality by taking fish oil supplements, but other studies say "maybe some benefit" but mostly in those with known heart disease.

The bottom line, again not my personal opinion or advice, but in summary from UptoDate is to take no more than 250 mg daily of fish oil, because above that there is no known benefit. There have been some retrospective (looking back) studies showing benefit, but I'm not convinced yet based on these published results. Let me add, if you have known coronary heart disease (stents/blockages) they say you may benefit by taking more. Talk to your cardiologist.

There is another option: eating two servings of fatty fish (not Long John Silvers fat) a week is just as beneficial, maybe more so. I don't know about you, but I can remember to eat a lot easier than I can remember to take a pill.

A serving of fish would be about 3.5 oz. In the list, the number of servings per week you'd need to equal 250mg is posted after each type of fish.

  • Anchovy 1
  • Herring, Atlantic 1
  • Salmon -wild, not farm raised 1
  • Bluefin tuna 2
  • Atlantic mackerel 2
  • Rainbow trout 2
  • Striped bass 2
  • Albacore tuna 3
  • Sockeye salmon 4
  • Carp 4
  • Smoked salmon (lox) 4
  • King mackerel 4
Rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids also come from plant sources such as flaxseed and flaxseed oil, canola oil, and soybeans.

If you are considering whether to stop or start fish oil supplements, I hope this post helps rather than adding to the confusion.



Sunday, June 30, 2013

Another Sunday Hop...Scavenger Hunt

Something Sweet
Almost ready for picking.


Stripes - and pale-chick-from-the-hills legs.

Dots...AKA soon to be blackberries free for the picking.

Tools...found on my camera.
Evidence that someone else in my house likes photography.

Click the link to see others and link up with your own blog. 

Photography Challenge

Today, I am linking up with a fellow East Tennessee photographer/blogger (not that I can call myself either one). I came across his blog while searching for a blog hop that would challenge and inspire me to get out there and take some pictures. Each week, he puts up an assignment and allows others to send him a link, which he puts on his blog. Since I had already been out shooting photos of random subjects and just playing around with different settings on the camera, I picked a couple of the photos that were taken without zoom, which was this week's assignment.

Please go HERE to view his blog, "Thoughts From The Road."

 My better half walking the dogs and ducks.
 The small lake in our neighborhood. 

I'd like to give an honorable mention to Jason Cox for the great deal on my Nikon D200 and accessories. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Gullah Gourmet Shrimp 'n Grits

Once upon a trip to Charleston,
this bag caught my eye. Besides, one just can't go to South Carolina and not have some Shrimp 'n Grits. Did you notice it's capitalized? It's THAT important.
I thought this little bag of southern bliss with the directions printed right on the bag would be something easy enough
for the boys to make at home. By boys, I mean adults who are children at heart, but definitely old enough to cook for themselves.

 Well, we've had this bag for about 12 days now, and everyone wants to know 
"What's for dinner?"

I think this is the first time I've made yellow stone ground grits.
Apparently, it's what they are famous for in Charleston, because they are everywhere you turn. Baked grits, fried grits, cheesy grits, kissmygrits.
The instructions say to cook them until they are creamy. Once they were boiling, I turned them down to simmer with a lid for about 30 minutes. They tend to stick, so stir them often.

You can't have Shrimp 'n Grits without gravy. There was a mix of powdery goodness included in the bag with the grits. Just add water. I can handle this so far!

Time to add the shrimp. Make sure it's not the frozen pre-cooked kind because you'll want the shrimp to absorb the taste of the butter while they cook. The easiest way is the Jay Setser way...go to Food City and tell the cute girl at the seafood counter that you'd like a pound of veins-pulled-out-tail-chopped-off shrimp(s). We have this conversation about pleurals without s's. Like bricks and brick houses. Blocks and block walls. Maybe it should be called Grit 'n Shrimps.

 Call it whatever you like, I call it buttery goodness.

Add the shrimp to the gravy...

Assemble the best dish you've ever made in 30 minutes:
Grits topped with gravy and shrimp, with a side of toaster oven frozen garlic bread. I guarantee you, if you're a fan of S&G's, this is the best meal you'll ever eat that starts as a bag mix. 

Even the visitor, who wasn't going to eat any, because he was headed for Cracker Barrel with his lady, tried "just a bite" then went back for "just another bite or two." 

This was day one with my new camera, and I realize I have a lot of work to do on presentation. Mostly, though, I have to get the right lens for the close up work (or figure out how to use the one I have). 

You can order Gullah Gourmet here while you compare my amateur photos with the beautiful one that the company paid someone big bucks to put on the website. I will say, the website used different prep directions than the back of the bag, but it's all good. I wouldn't want to make them look bad by having better food photos than they do.

p.s. pass the gravy!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Clearwater Beach Trip 2013


March 2013

It was a long cold winter here in East Tennessee, so we headed off on an adventure in March, looking for some sunshine and hot weather. We found the sun, but the weather was a bit on the chilly side around sixty degrees most of the week. Sorry, peeps, no bikini shots from this trip (or ever).

The cheap flight to Clearwater from Knoxville was fine, although we left during a heavy rain just after a storm had passed. Our Mustang GT convertible rental car was waiting for us when we arrived. I had reserved a convertible with visions of driving down the freeway with my hair blowing in the wind and the hot sun beaming down upon us. This wasn't exactly the way it worked out, but he was a good sport as usual and pulled over to put the top down for those last few cloudy miles. That was the only time it was down all week.

In hind sight, we didnt even need a car, but since we had it we did venture away from our immediate area a couple of times.

Apparently the Mustang GT Convertible is the official car of southern Florida. The parking lots were full of these.

We stayed at the Wyndham Garden Resort at the southern end of "the strip." If you see the small bridge in the bottom of the photo above, we were just to the left of it where you see the small patch of white sand. That was the hotel's private beach. It was an older hotel (with new hotel prices) that has been redone and we were impressed with how nice they have been able to make the rooms. It was bay-front but not exactly ocean front. If you look to the right in some of our photos from the balcony you will see where the ocean joins the bay.

Don't get too excited about the Starbucks located inside this hotel. A small cup of coffee was five bucks. Of course they had the mini coffee pots in the room that always make me wonder what bodily fluid has been poured in the top of them. Yes, I've watched too many 20/20's and 60 Minutes episodes.

This was our view. Not half bad, and a little more interesting that straight on ocean front. But I missed the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. That little strip of land you see across the way is a public beach which looks really nice.

This was the first night when we walked to the pier area to eat and watch the sunset. As you can see, the streets and sidewalks are super clean, lined with lights and felt pretty safe. The ocean is just behind the cute guy in the photo.

Again, nice sidewalks, and the turtle on the pole is actually a shower to wash the sand off as you leave. Kids were loving this of course. And again, that hot dude keeps showing up in the pics.

Thank goodness for hats at the beach!

Suggestions for future travel:

Stay at the Sandpearl or the Hilton, or any of the hotels at the central beach area. This puts you at easy walking distance to all the shopping and restaurants.

Use YELP to pick restaurants. We didn't have a bad meal all week (and we had a lot of meals)!

If you near the middle of the beach/strip, you won't need a car.

Flights from Knoxville are cheap!


Sunday, February 24, 2013


Thanks to a friend of a friend on Facebook, I've been introduced to Postcrossing

So far, I have gone to the website, filled out a profile and now have an account. 
I have learned that people who live in the country in Finland have to go a couple miles to their mailbox, because door to door postal service is not provided. We are pretty spoiled, huh? I'm sure there are a few places in the U.S. where this happens, too. My friend who lives in Wyoming on a cattle ranch may be one of them.

My first project, before I commit to sending a postcard, is to find a cute postcard from somewhere local. 

This should be fun, maybe I'll share them here with you, since I don't have much going on to blog about these days.

What's going on with you?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Winter Escape to Orlando

Winter break and Mom's birthday seemed like a good excuse to escape to Florida.

This was taken on the "beach" at the Swan and Dolphin Resort near Epcot. It was almost like a deserted island. With a bar...and nice bathrooms.

It was still too cool to swim, but this pool area was beautiful. Behind those rocks is a little trail with a few hot tubs along the way.

Never too old for Mickey pancakes!

Fireworks view from our room.


Walkway to the Boardwalk shopping area.


This gives you an idea how massive this place is. That's us in front.