Saturday, December 31, 2011

Where was this

All those days I was watching for the gator?

big day

I was out photographing the birds on the river this morning when finally the alligator came into view for purposes of getting  a decent photo of him---
first the morning river

then the anhinga that caught my attention

then some gator photos- I would estimate that he was about eight feet long from nose to tail end... maybe slightly more but it is hard to tell - he got quite close but most of him was under water so I could only really estimate from his head when he was nearest to me...

so finally - after waiting for him all last season in Jan and Feb of 2011 - he shows up on December 31st 2011 to visit.... pretty darn cool!

Friday, December 30, 2011

stars are out

tonight but I can't get a good shot so I tried for one of the moon on the river...

or one upriver from us

they are both pretty dark - maybe later I can try the other camera- meanwhile--- this is what you get to help you imagine the evening- you CAN see that the area is very dark - therefore  we do see stars out here in the country by the river...

some fun in the sun

had lunch outside today at the old favorite Mar Vista... on the way home we stopped at the fish market in the fishing village of Cortez.  this small town is still an enclave of old Florida cottages and over grown lush tropical landscape.  it is also still a working fishing village. 

so we pulled in to pick up some stone crab claws and some fresh caught grouper for dinner tonight...

here are a few photos to give a feel of the place:

then headed to the car wash after all the miles the car has seen in the last week- so it came home all spiffed up... tonight some fresh fish and crab claws...


perhaps I failed to mention the family curse- LOL- in the way of curses this one may not seem so bad but to the women in my immediate family- of which we lost 66.6% in 2010- we always referred to grocery shopping as the family curse.  my husband's family has one as well- the breaking of glasses and/or dishes (by someone else) when having a restaurant meal.  but back to groceries, in our family it seemed for a long time like whenever the women were together (for holidays or such) there was a need to visit the grocery store at least once a day. 

of course now that my mother and sister have died I am somewhat freed from the curse because there is no way for the three of us (or even two of us) to be together in the same place anymore.  but this week the curse has come back with a vengeance.  so that is where I have been.  we arrived Saturday evening and on Sunday we went to the Winn-Dixie (the only place open on Christmas Day.)  on Monday we went to Costco where I was subjected to cell phone buying as well as groceries (this took no less than a full hour to get the cell phone thing accomplished.)  then on Tuesday it was not really groceries but we did go to a store with groceries that we didn't buy- and three other stores as well. 

I am not a shopper AT ALL and so this is some new record for me - Wednesday we went to the farmer's market for fruits and vegetables and then Thursday to the Publix grocery.  which brings us to today- possibly my first shopping free day in nearly a week. 

oh  and did I forget to mention that in the same few days I have also "shopped" for a new place to live next year?  stopping by six places to see the apartments available and get a feel for locations - and even though this is off the topic of shopping I feel compelled to alert everyone to the fact that the apartment complexes in mid Florida use airline pricing systems for their apartments - yield management (the bane of flyer's existence) has now come to real estate... horrifying concept.

so anyway- back to the week and the horrors of shopping- the upside is we now have plenty of food and I have a new cell phone to replace my four plus year old Blackberry and we have a new wine rack to hold the wine we bought at Costco.  and so we are settling in for our weeks away from home and so are the cats.  so here are some relevant photos of the week-

the new phone- actually pretty easy to use all things considered-

the new wine rack- it took four stores to find it!

flowers in bloom on December 29th- on the way to lunch---

the view from the deck-

we have had one grey day (below) and the rest have been beautiful and sunny like the above shot-

Penny enjoying the screened porch

I have a really lovely photo of a sunrise on the water but it is in RAW and I have yet to figure out how to get it into jpeg to post- will work on that one... meanwhile - we are thinking lunch outside today- December 30th...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

we're baaaaccckkk!

arrived at River cottage last night after hours and hours of driving and a five hour "night" at a hotel in northern GA.... but today we got settled in and had our first sunset of the season- so Merry Christmas greetings from us to all of you and here is a lovely sunset river view to celebrate- we will call this our lighting for the holidays....

Thursday, December 22, 2011

where my mother went

Jane H. Heltman
1/21/30 - 12/22/10

today is the one year anniversary of my mother's death.  many of you who read this blog regularly know that my mother was an avid traveler.  she came by it genetically from her father.  so now being a third generation traveler it made sense for me to agree to take my mother's ashes to countries she had not been to during her lifetime. 

she was well traveled for someone of her generation- had seen pretty much all of Europe (parts of it numerous times) including the Baltic countries and eastern Europe - and China (in 1987!)  lots of the western hemisphere including Panama - and a good amount of Africa (Egypt, Morocco, Kenya and Tanzania) but there were still places left on her list.  so years ago we had made an agreement that when she was gone I would scatter her ashes in the Lagoon in Venice, Italy but the idea evolved.  in the final few years of her life we hit upon the plan to take some of her ashes with me on my travels to places she had not yet gone and that way we could "share" the experience and she could "see" the new places.

so this year, her first year of traveling in a different "format" LOL - she visited the following places - in celebration of her life and of our travels together:

first stop was her old "stomping ground" as my dad would have said- Anna Maria Island in Florida- where we had a memorial service for her with her closest friends last February.

Then on to Tunisia in April:

in the Sahara under the stars

 at the Roman Ruins in Dougga 

overlooking the Mediterranean at Monastir

then on to other parts of Africa:
 on Table Mountain in Cape Town South Africa (views in two directions)

 at the Indian Ocean near Knysna, South Africa

 In Botswana in the Okavanga Delta

 In Zambia along the Lufupa and Kafue Rivers

in Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls

then later in the year- on to the Balkans (she had been to Croatia and Montenegro) but not Bosnia or Slovenia.

 at the foot of the Mostar bridge in Bosnia

along the river in Ljubljana, Slovenia

So it was an eventful year for my mother's ashes- seven new countries!  And five new ones (Bolivia, Cuba, Colombia, New Zealand & Australia) coming up in 2012 - she has already been to Turkey and Greece... well actually so have we but we are planning a return trip there in October for a Greek Islands exploration along with Ephesus and Meteora.  Some new places...  time flies- I can't believe it is a whole year but then again I kept thinking the whole time we were in the Balkan countries this fall - it was already six years since my mom, my aunt and I and were there in 2005. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Where is the sun?

I looked out the window this afternoon and it was already dark at 4:20. What is wrong with this picture? I have long lobbied for daylight savings time year round. I see no reason to waste my little December 21st daylight on early morning hours. It is too cold to get up early anyway...

this kind of weather and lack of sun really puts me in a mood- so a photo to bring some light into things- taken by a work colleague Judd Johnson- this is my favorite photo of his many many good sports related (mostly swimming) photos:

Judd's original is much sharper - I just did some artistic stuff with it to make it more like a painting... I love the compostion and the colors- the aqua and turquoise always look like summer to me...

outta here!

yuck again snow- not today but just a couple of days ago- bad photo is evidence-

so we decided to get out of town sooner rather than later-  and so I am starting to pack the car and get things ready to head south for some warmth and sunshine!  River Cottage here we come!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The General

so I mentioned that our friends Duke and Cathie were in last week for four days of fun and too much eating.  We basically did nothing but catch up with each others lives and talk travel and wine and food and real estate and retirement and well- lots and lots of talking.

when we weren't talking we actually did little beside go to fun places to eat.  we had superb meals at Anteprima and Hot Chocolate and Kiki's Bistro. but one fun thing Duke and I did was to visit the Pritzker Military Museum.  just a week or so earlier I heard about this place from my buddy Tom and I asked Duke (who in a prior life went by the title General Deegan) if he would be interested in seeing what they had.

so off we went, dropping Cathie on Michigan Avenue to do some shopping.  we arrived at the renovated Monroe Tower, the new home of the Pritzker Military Library and Museum and found a sign that said they were closing for the holiday party at noon.  we had roughly and hour and twenty minutes.  the man at reception gave us a spiel about the collections and the exhibition and as we were about to start our exploration I mentioned that I was there that day with General Deegan (I knew he would never tell them who he was...)

they fell all over themselves to thank him for his service and they gave him some kind of secret society medallion (apparently this is something the vets know about that us civilians do not) and the director came out to introduce himself.

we toured the interesting exhibit of AP photos from WWII and enjoyed the library like ambiance even in the face of holiday party preparations and then were off to the Historical Society because we were done much earlier than Cathie would be ready.

we grabbed chopped salads for lunch at the Historical Society Museum Cafe and toured the collection there and then picked up Cathie and returned home for the continuation of the champagne tasting we had been doing since the beginning of the week.

so here are some pics of stuff from the exhibit that The General and I toured

the world is a funny place, Duke and I traveled together for a decade and I know him well - I don't usually remember that he spent all that time in the Army and that he was the highest ranking officer in the Dental Corps (or some such title) because he is my friend of 20 years but this reminded me that each of us is many faceted and all of us are the sum of our individual experiences.

Friday, December 16, 2011

ten years fly by

I was filing our holiday letter for 2011 today and came across the letter from 2001 - ten years ago now- so much has happened- some amazingly good and some sad- but thought it might be fun to look back on the times we had that year (which as you know from the leopard anniversary posts was the year we got married.) It made me wonder how things might look for us in the year 2021- we can never know but one thing is sure- they will be different then than they are today and that is a perfect reminder for us to treasure what we have in the here and now!

 Holiday Greetings 2001!   

Well I can tell you that if we ever thought things would slow down we were seriously mistaken.  In our last episode, Phil was planning a trip to Andalusia in Spain with son Jeremy and I was going off to Egypt and Jordan for three weeks.  So that took up the first few weeks in January.  It was mighty exciting to spend New Year’s Eve with the pyramids of Giza as the backdrop for the beginning of the true new millennium.  Egypt was spectacular – I most enjoyed cruising the Nile and visiting the markets in the towns we stopped in along the way.  Petra was magnificent but Jordan was absolutely deserted.  Phil and Jeremy spent their New Year’s Eve at a pub in Gibraltar.  We emailed each other from Internet cafes along the way.

The end of January took us to Boston for a long weekend of food and fun with friends.  We had an absolutely amazing meal with Sig and Janice Adler at No. 9 Park in Boston.  In February, with business in Portland, OR and Tampa, I got a chance to spend time with my parents in Florida and then Phil and I headed to Hawaii for a short week… work for me-fun for him.  March brought another quick visit to my parents along with business in New York, Scottsdale, Tampa and Philadelphia. 

In April we spent some time in Arizona and took a quick trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona – where we had a memorable meal at the Auberge de Sedona.  A busy May took me to DC, Iowa, upstate New York, and Pennsylvania.  We also enjoyed a visit from Phil’s mom, Sue, for a week in May.  The end of the month landed us in San Antonio where we had an opportunity to spend time with our friends Tom and Kyle from Denver and to complain about “how hot it was.”

June was an eventful month – we traveled to Norway and Denmark for three weeks.  We started in Norway and took the Oslo-Flam-Bergen rail trip through the mountains, then by boat through the fjords.  Next we went to the top of the world… Kirkenes, Norway (five miles from the Russian border and Murmansk.)  From Kirkenes we traveled by coastal steamer (mail boat) to thirty ports along the coast of Norway, making a side trip to the Nordkapp (North Cape of Europe) at 71* north.  Because we were north of the Arctic Circle the sun NEVER set for a whole week!  It was a magnificent journey.  We reached Denmark in time for St. John’s Eve and the traditional bonfires on the beach.  In Denmark we stayed with our friend Aase who helped us make arrangements to be married there. We couldn’t have done it without her. 

Yes you read that right… we were married in Aalborg, Denmark on June 26th in the old town hall in a simple brief ceremony.  Aase was the only witness to the five-minute ceremony but we were lucky enough to have Aase’s mother and sister help celebrate our marriage by waving flags as we left the town hall.  We traveled throughout Denmark, spending a few evenings with friends Poul and Lene in Copenhagen. 

In mid-July we had an afternoon garden party for close friends and family at Thyme, a favorite restaurant of ours, to celebrate our marriage.  My mother, aunt, sister, brother, their spouses and children, as well as Phil’s children (Angela 13 and Jeremy 15) mother, uncle, brothers, sister-in-law, niece and nephew were all able to make it to the party.  Friends came from Denver (the Deegans) Maine (the Estabrooks) and Michigan (Hank Bednarz and friend Angela) to help celebrate.  We accomplished our goal of having fun at our own party.

The end of July found us back in Oregon doing our annual International Pinot Noir Celebration.  Our group was up to 14 this year and included the Bavols from Tampa, the Deegans from Denver, Dick Dennis and Ali Finnegan from Chicago and Steve and Suzanne Friedman (Phil’s brother and our sister-in-law) from Portland.   In August Phil stayed in town and worked. I went out of town and worked- but I also got to spend another weekend with my parents.  In September we both got down to see my parents the weekend before September 11th.  We had an especially nice weekend that we treasure even more now as events unfolded over the course of September. 

We were in Orlando on the day of the WTC tragedy.  Phil went to Miami to spend time with his brother Larry while I tried to keep my work in Orlando semi-productive in the face of the chaos that ensued.  We ended up driving the 19 hours back to Chicago when flights remained canceled due to weather as well as the tragedy.  More bad news awaited us before the end of the month, when my father died unexpectedly of a heart attack on September 29th.  Jeff, Janna and I, along with my Aunt, went immediately to my parent’s house to help out my mother. 

October brought us some fun.  After my business trip to London, Phil and I flew to Rome for two weeks of vacationing.  My mother got away for a week long trip with my Aunt to northern Europe- so she had some diversion in the early days following my father’s death.  Phil and I headed off for an extra long weekend in the Napa Valley where the meeting of a section I chair (for a trade organization of companies like mine) was being held.  We managed to spend some time tasting wine and eating splendid meals at restaurants like – oh – the French Laundry for instance!

In November Phil and I joined my mother, brother and his whole family and our aunt, uncle and cousins on Anna Maria Island to pay respects to my father on what would have been my parents’ 50th anniversary.  Business in Orlando and upstate New York was jammed into the week between that gathering and a trip Phil and I planned for a weekend in New York for fun.  Thanksgiving was spent at our friends Richard and Tarja’s home again this year. 

On the home front this year, daughter Angela became a “famous (to us) actress” when she was one of two adolescents to appear in a park district musical based the songs of Jerome Herman.  Trina (our 14 year old cat) had to deal with the temporary loss of her outdoor space when we tore up the roof deck to replace the roof to the building.  We were afraid that it would never be put back together but by early November she was able to find her catnip just where it always was.  Now she is one happy cat. 

Our plans are to visit Cincinnati for the weekend before the Christmas holiday to see all the family who had gathered in Florida again.  Then for the long Christmas weekend we are off to Paris for six days (airfares were so cheap we couldn’t pass it up.)  New Year’s Eve will be at home with friends Mark & Laura and Dick & Ali.

Coming up - my mother is joining me for a week in Hawaii in March.  Then for three weeks in April, Phil and I are going to Tibet and China.  We are especially anxious to see the Three Gorges before the Yangtze River starts to flood behind the new dam. 

As we reach the holiday season we count our blessings - an abundance for which we truly are grateful.  For us, it has been a year of tremendous joy and deep sorrow and both emotions remind us of our blessings.  Close friends, wonderful family and especially, having each other, bring richness to our lives that we have learned to cherish and hold even more dear as a result of the events of this year.  We send all of you, our loved ones, our wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy, joy-filled year of peace, prosperity and abundance in 2002.

  a photo of my family from our wedding party at Thyme

Sig Adler and wife Janice (both he and my sister died of metastatic lung cancer in the intervening decade)

   the famous Trina (1987-2004)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

away for a few

days--- our friends Duke and Cathie are visiting for a couple of days from Denver- so we are off having fun with them- back late in the week... but don't worry- there will always be more.  here's my semi free life photo - the one that started the whole blogging thing-- and you may have missed it since we are now fourteen months into the blogging thing-

winterbloom concert

we went to hear Winterbloom on Sunday night - four lovely young women with lovely voices.  there were two songs that really caught my attention.

the first was a song about a boy who always created the very best outcomes for himself and those around him- the refrain was "I love to watch you win."

the second one was a wonderful song about hitting the "sweet spot" in life where life is so good and just right- it brought me to tears- mostly because that is exactly where I feel Phil and I have come to- and also because it is what my sister missed out on exiting at 54.

here are a few photos of the lovely ladies and if they show up in your area you might want to find a way to see/hear them.

Friday, December 9, 2011

oooohhh brrrr Ljubljana!

as I mentioned in earlier posts - when we went through a long tunnel between Zadar and Zagreb we changed climatic zones and left Mediterranean and went to continental - and lost easily 40 to 45 degrees of warmth!

but we sucked it up and went out for a nice dinner with four members of our group who were not going on to Slovenia and the next day boarded a bus for the transfer to Ljubljana Slovenia our base for exploring little Slovenia (so small you can't play the accordion in the country without invading a neighboring country- LOL)

it is cold and beautiful as we take our first stroll in lovely Ljubljana.  from now on I will simply write LJU for it since it is a tough one to type- reminiscent of Salzburg- there is a fortress/castle that looms over the old town.  the old town is now mainly a pedestrian zone and there are numerous cafes along the river that runs through town.  when the weather is warm here, this place must be overrun with tourists - it is absolutely a gem of a city.

a warm cream of mushroom soup (below) at a cozy restaurant (above)

in the three full days we had - we went to the Postojna caves and Predjama castle along with a day trip to Lake Bled - a beautiful setting fogged in with seasonal fog -

 after our trip to the island in Lake Bled we headed to a nearby town where we had a hearty lunch of sausages and a cute restaurant and also got to see a famous old cookie making operation...


these cookies are a perfect fit with the new Slovenia tourism ad campaign- I FEEL sLOVEnia with the LOVE written in large font- I hope it doesn't work too well as this lovely little country is worth returning to - especially before the hordes of tourists discover it!

a last night in LJU

then we were off the next day for our return flight to the US - arriving home at 8PM on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving... needless to say - we were asleep on Thanksgiving evening by 9PM... LOL - oh well - there's always next year...

but one final photo of the beautiful and mystical Lake Bled-

a fabulous getaway to celebrate my retirement... but more to come- as we plan our 2012 year of travel- I have trips with Jennifer (danger zone- Tunisia- Egypt- SARS travel buddy) to Cuba... alone to Bolivia and Colombia - with Phil to the Greek Islands and with Tom and Phil to New Zealand and Australia--- plus we want to squeeze in a Europe trip in the late spring and of course NYC as well - time flies - who has time to work? So watch this space for more travel news and fun retirement stuff.

as a matter of fact- I read yesterday in the AARP magazine in an article called Spend Now & Retire Later (?) that you cannot plan on retiring and then maybe returning to the work force as retirement is addicting-- tell me about it!