Saturday, March 30, 2013

Before 5:00

This whole vacation I have slept later than I normally do...sometimes I am under cover until 8:00 AM which is late for me.  Perhaps it is the endless trips to the activities, back to the apartment and then on to the pool.  Perhaps it is the running after a recently turned -two-year-old that has discovered real speed on tennis shoes.  Perhaps it is the emotional ups and downs of seven people confined combined in a two-bedroom apartment.  I just know that when evening came I was more than ready to open my arms to Morpheus.

So, this morning of our departure I awaken before 5:00AM!  I know that it is my anal personality that wants to make sure everything is found, sorted and packed before the long drive back to reality.  But silly me cannot do anything noisy as everyone else is still fast asleep.

I cut a small piece of the remaining birthday cake covered in icky blue trimmed frosting and sit with my Kindle and finish "Schroeder, A Novel" which is certainly a haunting bit of work appropriate with overly sweet birthday cake.  I look around the strangely bare apartment where every board game, laptop, Thomas the Train track and wet towel has been tucked away for another year.   The only sound is that of the climate control unit...which seems to have switched between heat and air-conditioning as the weather has been all over the place.

I wait, somewhat impatiently, for the peach red sunrise to burn over the Atlantic Ocean but only see black inky darkness outside the window broken by soft landscape lighting around the paths to and from the pools. Only one other apartment light on the high rise of the far building is lit in sync with mine.  Perhaps someone else is wandering about looking for the day to start.

I must wait to make coffee so that it will be fresh for my daughter when she rises.  I had brought some of the Mexican coffee with my ground cinnamon and she has become an addict looking forward to it each morning.  We have just enough for one final pot.

I will miss this lovely stressful high energy family as we all go our different ways following spring north.  This has been a week of firsts:  the 2-year-old saying a complete sentence, the 5-year-old actually giving in for a change, and the 7-year-old completing two of the longest bicycle rides in his lifetime. It is not without some sadness that I face realistically my future of less energy and ability to keep up as they grow.  But I am realistic in knowing they will not want me at their side during that future time as well. 

Well, I have a busy spring of volunteer gardening to distract me...if it ever stops snowing up that way.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Brrrrrr! Half Full of Cold Air

Here we are at Hilton Head where the weather is supposed to be in the low 70's F traditionally, but this spring it only breaks 60 F by mid-day with the late winter front!  My neighbors just a short drive to the north got I am not complaining, even though we have to wear coats and hoodies to the pool! 

The Hilton Head experience has different enticements for some and different disenchantments for others.  It has the reputation of being a place for the upper income folks and in some places is a little hoity-toity.  Many easy golf courses and some championship courses are here.  Tiger Woods will be here in a few weeks.  The places to stay are mostly costly, but we try to come here at least once every couple of years as it is so close to home and so low key.

The beach is hard packed, huge, with lots of room for running and exercise or getting away from everyone.  No sugar sand beneath your feet, and the water is cloudy, but the beach is wide and long and the surf is safe.

The area is close to Savannah, a charming city which has great southern charm and low country cooking.  We are not driving there this time but staying on this island where there is a large and growing assortment of restaurants, both good and bad.  For instance, a bad example, we stopped to try the food at the  "Roast Fish and Cornbread" and they were "out" of about seven items including the cornbread!  This was the middle of a Tuesday...what is up with that?  The fried or grilled seafood was nothing to write home about.  The Santa Fe Mexican restaurant, on the other hand, has wonderful soups and never disappoints with everything else on the menu and is a 'good' example.  Bluffton town nearby is much more small-town and representative of the old south.  A famous TV chef, Robert Irvine, has two restaurants here and is coming down in a week or two.

The grandkids have been the driving force determining activities with egg hunts, fire pit evenings, swimming in the heated pools and bikes riding to lunch off the grounds.  Hilton Head is strict about enviromental controls and the area is full of palmetto and marshlands which I find lovely, though others do not like such rustic enviroment. 

Very close is Pinkney Island with is water birds and alligators and hidden lakes and long paths for biking or walking.  Photos to follow and bore you soon!

Please pat me on the back for writing this post while simultaneously playing pizza restaurant using play dough with my 5-year-old granddaughter !!  Her restaurant is called "Carrie Bijohn"...who would have guessed?  It is one of the 'good' places to eat down here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Lucky Me.

I lucked out this year.  My amaryillus bloomed before my departure this week to vacation with family.  Since I will be running  lying on a beach somewhere, please enjoy these while they last.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ah, Spring!

The days do not break as early as we were used to because of that archaic process called daylight savings time.  It does not save any daylight time as far as I can see, it just moves it to  later in the day.  And yet, alas, I still rise early and it is dark at the windows.  I sit with my laptop in the quiet house, thinking my thoughts and waiting for the sun or the writing muse, whichever is bravest to come first.

The sun is just now providing a candlelight glow at the edge of the ridge at the end of the river.  I sigh and return to some important sentence when I hear "chirp."

I cannot help but smile at the joy that some little bird, probably one of the perky wrens, was sharing and beginning to celebrate the season of spring.


I get up to warm my coffee and glance out in the early dawn but cannot see the tiny brown bird anywhere on the deck.  He must be near the feeders.


I wonder why he has not moved into his early morning intermezzo.   No female is going to be impressed with this tentative peep in the cold morning.

The sun lights the backyard and I still cannot see the wren.


I am beginning to get a dreadful feeling in the pit of my stomach and I head down to the basement.  The "chirp" is much louder there.  I move toward the closed door of the guest bedroom waiting for the chirps over-rhythmic return.


And then I know!  Spring with its routines and opportunities for maintenance is at last here in all its glory.  I look with resigned hatred at the white plastic disk attached to the fragile fiber tile in the hanging ceiling.  I grab a nearby chair and  painfully craning my neck try to turn the plastic disk succeeding only in shifting the ceiling tile out of its frame.  I whisper something unladylike under my breath and head back upstairs for my small stepladder.

After carefully avoiding nicking walls I once again reach the smoke alarm and begin the tedious process of figuring out how to remove it and then open the battery case.  It sounds oh so simple but it took me 5 minutes of slow and carefully applied pressures to get at the 9 volt battery hidden inside without tearing apart the ceiling and/or falling off the ladder.  I take out the battery making sure that I can memorize how it was installed.  There is no snap to this alarm's battery...just little slotted unintuitive holes!!

 I have remembered to bring a new battery which I install and then return the disc to its frame.  I wait.


Now I am beyond help and glad that I am the only one home or I might maim or kill someone.

I try to read the raised 7 point font white print on the white background  in the inside of the battery casing with no luck.  I even color over it with a crayon...sort of like a person in mental therapy would do before they are given their meds.  That does not help except for breaking the point on the crayon.

I say some more unladylike things and without the care that I should use unscrew the plastic case from its frame moving the ceiling tile cockeyed.  I remove and then reverse the battery installation and then wait.


I go upstairs and get the can of air from my computer desk and return to the scene of  waterloo and proceed to blast the hell out of it.  No bug, fleck of dust or other alien entity could possibly remain.  I wait.


I go back upstairs and talk myself out of bringing down the bourbon from the high cupboard and instead check my emails and work on some photos. 


After the chirping begins to resonate nastily between my ears, I return to the bedroom basement and pull the little  ##**%%%-^^&&@@  off the attachment to electricity. 


I have killed it.  Yes, I will have to do something about that, but right now I am thinking about a design on a voodoo doll for the inventor of this piece of %%$ and later getting ready for beach week with the kids.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Such Characters!

Travel is frequently about the people and since hubby and I are those annoying elderly talkative types that you try to avoid on the plane, we were able to meet a whole slew of interesting souls on our travels down and back.  I have given them made-up names and maybe they would work in your next novel...just give me a little credit and think about the test I give at the end.

Flight #1

Melia:  I boarded the plane behind a thin wisp of a girl in her teens weighing no more than 90 pounds.  Her dishwater blonde hair was pulled up carelessly in a pony-tail and she looked very sleep deprived on this early flight.  Hanging limply over her shoulder was a tiny vomit-yellow patent leather purse and she clutched to her chest, like a life-saver, a beige pillow larger than her as she squeezed into the seat in front of us.  (What was unique is that she was on both of our planes down to Mexico; and we also were on one of the same flights back a week later.  She had not changed her appearance, attitude, or her soft round companion.)

Juan:  My seat companion was in his mid-thirties, stocky with close-cropped spikey hair shiny from some tonic.  He had a pleasant round face with a gentle smile and Latino coloring.  He was retuning to California from the east coast where he had done some consulting as an electrical engineer.  I learned that he had been a policeman in Los Angeles but quit after eight years because of the corruption he saw in the police force such as racial profiling.  He was most proud of his 12-year-old son who was a baseball all-star in the community and even the state and Juan was hoping to make the connections smoothly so as to not miss one championship game that evening.  Juan eagerly pulled out his cell phone to share a series of photos of a this kid in a crisp baseball uniform who clearly had great form in his swing.  Juan was distracted and somewhat quiet later in the flight and it wasn't until several hours later when we arrived for our brief layover in Pheonix that I learned he was fighting the flu!

Flight #2 out of Pheonix

Bethany:  A lovely 15-year-old girl of mixed ancestry bubbled into the window seat next to me.  She had this seat while her mother who appeared white sat with her younger brother who appeared to be black across the aisle.  Bethany was full of energy and unlike the other teenage girl so eager to get to Puerto Vallarta.  I asked her if she was on vacation and she grinned and said that she was on a work trip for Eagle.  Hubby thought that she meant a small airline, but I guessed it was the clothing company.  I still could not understand why she was flying all that way for retail work when she explained that she had entered a modeling contest and while 20 others had won, she was selected anyway as an extra because of her 'niche' look.  She had a lovely face with big brown eyes and a head full of shiny curls flying every which way.  Hubby thought it was a luxury trip for her but I knew, as a photographer, it meant long days of work in early and late hours outside the window of the mid-day flat sun.  I was glad to see that as a minor she was being accompanied by a parent!

Our plane had a late start due to some delayed passengers on a connecting flight and thus the stewardess did some switching so that the girl could sit next to her mother and the window seat became empty once again for a brief time.

Manuel:  This handsome 23-year-old flew into the plane crashing and pushing his carry-on into the overhead bin with high energy and required both hubby and I to move once again into the aisle so that he could take the seat left open by Bethany.  I learned, before he fell into that abandoned sleep that only single college males can conjure, that he was a student at the University of Pennsylvania and on spring break.  He had decided only the night before to join some friends in Puerto Vallarta and booked this flight.  I could not help but be a little jealous over how nice it must be to be rich enough to head to another country on spring break while still a student in college.  (I was waiting tables on spring break.) He said he was a finance major, so I also squeezed in some digs about hoping he was planning to give the wall street profession a better name.  He smiled and said he was planning to make money.  I also learned he was fluent in Spanish as his father was from Columbia and his mother was from Costa Rica whch he shared as the plane took off.   Soon he had lowered the tray and fallen into a deep sleep to prepare himself for a week of drinking and beaching and bikini watching.

Flight #1 heading home

Mark:  Another good-looking male sat beside hubby on this flight, this time in the aisle seat, while I took the window and forced hubby to sit in the middle.  I am guessing he was in his mid-thirties wearing a nice white polo shirt that complimented the tan he had acquired in Mexico.  I talked little since hubby was doing the interrogation this flight.  Mark was not married, had no children and was glad of it as he seemed to be in a place (perhaps permanent) in his life where he could remain footloose and carefree.  He just shook his head as he watched the various families settle in with babies and toddlers for the flight.  Mark was a biochemist and worked for a company that made mulch.  The biochemist part seemed to have something  to do with the various colors that mulch comes in these days.  When interrogated further about the addition of tannins he made it clear that if he leaked even the smallest information on the formulas he would have to kill us.  He was good at getting hubby to talk about himself the rest of the flight...although in reality this is not difficult.

Flight #2 heading home

Veronica:  Our last victim companion on our last flight was an attractive woman in her late forties or early fifties with shoulder length blonde hair and upper middle class make-up.  She was over-weight, but not obese, and dressed in jeans and a casual top accessorized with fashionable chunky jewelry.  Her smile was warm and friendly and her eyes were bright and intelligent.  She got the aisle seat next to us, lucky girl, while her husband had been assigned a seat several rows toward the front.  She had just spent a long weekend in Palm Springs "holding down a chaise lounge" while her husband had attended a bankers conference there.  As we talked we learned she had been a lawyer who had worked in the juvenile justice system before leaving that stressful venue and changed to the professional contracting business.  She took foreclosed properties and remodeled them and then sold them.  With the inside track provided by her banker husband I am guessing she made big bucks which she was putting toward a vacation/retirement home on a lake somewhere in North Carolina.  At one point during our extensive conversation she asked my husband if he believed in global warming.  We are always surprised by those who think it is a hoax by scientists (all 10,000 in ca-hoots across the globe) to raise more research money.  We tried to provide some facts, although it is complicated, to moderate the effects of the kool-aid she was being fed by her conservative colleagues.  She was enjoying this time in her life with her kids off to colleges or soon on their way, and she now had the freedom to travel with her husband and also plan for their future time together.

OK.  Now, if you want a writing exercise, be brave and take one or more of these and make a tapestry of words for a brief story that I can read and enjoy and let me know of the link-back in the comments below. 

Friday, March 15, 2013


Gotcha!  I changed my header out of boredom today.  It has taken me the entire week to get back on a normal waking/sleeping schedule.  I slept 10 hours last night, which is something I have not done in a long, long time.  I have forced myself to get out of the house to do various (backbreaking) volunteer work projects and that has (maybe) got me adapted to the sunset/sunrise timing.  I think this header photo on my blog is too working on that as soon as I can count pixels once again.  This photo is from a statue on the beach at Puerto Vallarta.  I want to feel like her!  (Also looking like her might be a plus.)

I feel like my blood is made with molasses and yet at the end of next week I am going off again to spend time with my daughter and her family to a beach place about a 9 hour drive south of where I live.  I am looking forward to this...I keep telling my self that as I see my house needs major spring cleaning, my garden and yard need major spring cleaning and my brain needs major spring cleaning!

Even the Mexican coffee I brought back does not seem to burn out the webs.

Grannie Annie asked if current events in Mexico made me concerned to go.  No because Mexico is a huge country and the crime that is reported is very localized.  Statistically Puerto Vallarta gets 1.5 MILLION tourists a year and that is just ONE resort city.  I honestly was a little more concerned about my trip to Jamaica a while back.  The crime and human trafficking that is reported on such a small island were of more concern.  But I had to admit that I found the Jamaicans lovely, polite, friendly and only on occasion asking for money and we pretty much avoided Kingston entirely.  I mean it is even somewhat dangerous these days to take a cruise so I will not hide out in a cave until I die!

Going to make some coffee now....

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Yes, You are Correct

Yes, in answer to my readers, (I actually missed you all and have been having fun catching up on your blogs...never guessed I would feel that way.) I spent a week in Mexico. Regarding the prior post the man in the photo is alive and is covered in some medium that allows the sand being thrown at him to stick to him. He kept his eyes tightly closed.  We did not stay long enough to see him perform.

Our point system offered a kitchenette in an "all-inclusive" time share facility in Puerto Vallarta which is on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. This small city is very much a tourist spot for Canadians and Americans tired of their cold weather. Most of the people I met were from British Columbia or Northern California, and while there were a number of students on spring break, most were old farts like me. The city does not have the hard, flat, festival feel of Cancun, but is hanging on to its softness and culture although it is growing larger in size each day. The buses are easy to manage and get the tourists downtown cheaply, if with questionable safety in terms of traffic, where there are lots of good restaurants and all kinds of shopping. There are plenty of canned tours that get tourists out of the city as well. Tucked at the end of the city are several small, sterile, but lovely Stepford communities of ex-patriots homes where life is good. Everything is cheaper in Mexico and the people are very polite and friendly and that is the biggest attraction for most tourists and those that live there half the year.

Lovely young couple dressed up to welcome us to their restaurant.
The greatest danger is getting waylaid by time-share sales staff who number in the dozens and wait like sharks at the airport in an interior corridor and pretend to be your contact for your shuttle to your hotel. (They get paid $200 if they can get you to the sales site.)  Ignore all those men and women dressed in crisp white uniforms with name tags and head straight out to the waiting cars.

I wish I had researched better to find more eco-tours as that is my preference. There are three million tours to swim with dolphins (for first timers, children, pregnant women) and those I do not consider eco-tours, so we passed. There are lots of bungee-jumping, sky riding, zip-lining activities for thrill seekers as well. Instead we took a boat out to the Marrietas Islands which is a protected wildlife sanctuary and marine preserve made famous by Jacques Cousteau and home to a rare species of bird: the Blue-Footed Booby. We did some snorkeling, but since it was after December water was cold and visibility was about three feet! A bit of a disappointment although we saw close-ups of boobies (the bird kind) and whales, dolphins and sting rays. A few posts/photos about these on my other blog.

We toured a tortilla factory or two, small family sized operations. We toured a tequila factory or two and got to taste a variety of tequila's which fortunately I like...not the sweet ones...but at 80 proof that is a pleasure that has its limits. We toured a botanical garden that was not near the tropical example it could have been. We looked at a few small village towns with traditional churches off the center square, and we stopped at one Catholic cemetery where the Catholic church allows the rich to build large monuments to their dead and the poor to have small raised graves and where everyone visits relatives on the Day of the Dead.

The white truck is a police escort that the government felt necessary on our trip to the petroglyphs in the remote country.
Actually this was my first real vacation to Mexico as I cannot count the trip I took to Cancun 20 years ago as anything different than hitting Miami on spring break!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Back From Visiting the Sun

Must be getting old because the 3 time changes and the lost hour from daylight savings were far harder on my metabolism than the tequila shots that I did in the back of an open sided Mercedes Benz Unimog on the day before I left.  (But that is another story.)  Below some lovely folk art and sand art as a tease.  Can you guess where I went?