Saturday, January 15, 2011

lunch with larry

and dinner too.  Larry arrived right around noon and we spent a little time with the dime tour of River Cottage (it is small so it only took about five minutes to show him everything)  then we left for lunch at Mar Vista on the top of Longboat Key.  it has been enlarged over the last few years and now has a permanent cover for weather where there used to just be umbrella tables.  the food has gotten fancier as well. 

we all had the grouper sandwiches after sharing tuna fusion and tater tots for starters.  everything was very good and we were happy.  from there we headed to the farmer's market to pick up some produce.  by the time we got back it was after 4 PM.

here are some photos from Mar Vista

later we went to a fabulous place for dinner- Ortygia

we had an amazing meal of Italian inspired dishes.  the chef Gaetano is of Sicilian heritage from the eponymous town - near Siracusa and his food is French influenced so how could we go wrong.  the symbol for the restaurant is the Sicilian flag-

above - a fabulous dish called farsumagru- a sirloin steak stuffed with provolone, prosciutto, Italian sweet sausage, hard cooked eggs and pancetta.  it was superb!

below - a timballo di penne comprised of meatballs. eggs. mozzarella. provolone, roasted red peppers, and other Sicilian delights between layers of pasta and bathed in balsamela and parmagiano cheese.  (description lifted directly from the menu.)

the starters we shared were a lentil salad and a portobello mushroom stuffed with spinach and Gorgonzola cheese and a torta rustica (ricotta tart.)

we liked the place so much that we made reservations for dinner for when Sheila and Mary come to visit.

the chef and his son, Joel (our waiter) and the chef's lady friend Jill all stopped by several times during dinner to talk to us and after dinner we got to know them a bit better.  this is a wonderful place with excellent food and lovely ambiance and a super friendly staff- what's not to love???

we already are planning lunch there next week so we can try some additional dishes we missed out on tonight!

roof top visitor

when I looked out the door this morning I noticed - via a shadow cast on the deck - that we had a visitor.  I knew right away it was a either a great egret or heron because in my mother's old neighborhood there was a guy who fed them and when they would be waiting for their food they would frequently sit on the roof of his house.

sure enough this was a lovely big white bird on our roof this morning

and in the strong sunlight I was able to get a picture of a few of my turtle friends across the river.

another day in the wilds of nature - LOL

Friday, January 14, 2011

danger zone

years ago- about eight weeks before I was about to leave for a planned trip to Egypt and Jordan fresh violence broke out in the middle east.  my father was adamant that I would be crazy to even think of going.  I asked my mother what her opinion was and she told me "I would go."  and so I did- and not only did I go and have a superb trip, I met my friend Jennifer on the trip. 

small group travel is good news and bad news- if you get a good group like the one we had in Egypt - it adds to the experience- a bad (like our China group) detracts.  the Egypt group was made up three couples and ten single folks traveling either alone or with friends. 

so you might be thinking- where is this leading?  well my friend Jennifer (from the Egypt trip all those years ago and later SE Asia - just the two of us- and even later Austria and Venice for opera etc.) and I are scheduled to leave for Tunisia on March 24th.  and you might have noticed the dictator of Tunisia fled the country yesterday after extensive rioting.  I thought I would see what the State Department had to say on the matter and their alert expires well before we are scheduled to leave- phew! no dilemma. 

my mom and I - and I will bet Jennifer as well- will be heading in that direction in the not too distant future. 

meanwhile I will leave you with some photos of the first trip with Jen.

one of the highlights was a balloon adventure at dawn over the Valley of the Kings- we had two balloons and Jen and I were in the yellow and green one.

 Jen - in the beige knit cap - looking out (facing away from the camera)
views from the balloon over excavations and planted fields through the morning mists

on another morning we went early to the tomb of Nefertiti - there are a limited number of tickets available for the entrance to the tomb, which was incredibly well preserved - these were low light un-retouched photos from the inside

and one further memory.  we stopped one day for lunch at a place where this young lady was making flat breads - we consumed "mass quantities" of these breads with various mezzes- I still remember how good they were (and I bet Jen does too.)
and here is a photo of part of the group- Jen on the left and me third from left- we were visiting a temple along the Nile and our guide suggested we dress in local garb that day- we certainly got stares from pretty much everyone.
I apologize for the pre-digital photos- they certainly lack the resolution we have today. but I think the sense of the trip comes through. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011


was described by Einstein in terms of pretty girls and passing time.  here at the River Cottage we describe it in terms of weather.  we have been here nine days and already are complaining about "how cold it is"- LOL.  it is only 52 degrees for a high today and with a fairly brisk wind we need jackets when outside.  and boy isn't that the essence of relativity- if we were home we would be shivering in the cold and snow. 

we have been busy-busy working so far this week and so we took a bit of time off for lunch today to try a sushi place not too far from the cottage.  it was quite good and they had lunch specials that helped keep the price reasonable.  we tried the Tampa roll- crispy fried grouper in a spicy sauced roll.  it was very good- a worthy repeat order item. 

our gator has gone into hiding - or hibernation due to the cool weather - as we haven't seen him since the first sighting.  however, we have seen about a dozen sizable turtles several times - when they sun themselves in the afternoon right across the river from where we are.  we spotted them through binoculars so a photo is not possible- you will just have to take my word for it.

here are a couple of photos from warmer weather- maybe they will help us feel a bit warmer vicariously -

swimming in the beautiful blue Adriatic - I can assure you the water was a perfect temperature.

and  some outdoor cafe time in Corfu Town on Corfu - where it was so warm everyone went for the shaded tables!

also - some kids playing in the Angkor Wat complex in Cambodia.  as you can tell from the clothing they wear, it was warm that November day when Jennifer and I ran into the little trouble makers - LOL.

Saturday is scheduled to get warmer and we are looking forward to being able to sit outside on the deck and watch our river wildlife up close and personal.  even better, Phil's brother Larry is coming for a visit and will be here Saturday morning. 

we have scheduled a new place (Ortygia) to try for Saturday night and an old favorite on the island (the Sign of the Mermaid) for Sunday night.  we used to go there to celebrate my mom's birthday virtually every year (2002 through 2008) after my dad died but when she still lived on the island.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

gator sighting!

today we have been at the River Cottage one week and this morning I saw my first alligator swimming in the river.  I saw him as he was headed away and then had to go grab my camera.  I was kind of bummed I didn't have my SLR with the telephoto lens but - well - I didn't really think I would need more than a pocket point and shoot camera for the time we were here. 

I outlined the gator in a yellow circle but I couldn't figure out how to make the line heavier on the make-shift photo editing software on the work computer. he is pretty much in the center of the shot.

when I came in from getting the NYT at the end of the driveway I saw a Gallinule or Moorhen (a duck like bird with a red shield on its forehead) and it was shortly thereafter that the gator showed up- maybe the bird was breakfast...  yesterday we saw an Anhinga on our dock - during a brief rain shower.  I know the photo is kind of blurry but I had to take it through glass so I didn't disturb the bird and lose the shot altogether.

it might sound a bit geek-like that I am so impressed by the wildlife but remember we are city folk.  our idea of wildlife amounts to a few squirrels and an occasional feral cat.  this is real nature for us- LOL and thank god the owners of River Cottage have kindly provided a guide to the waterbirds of Florida so we actually know what we are looking at instead of saying things like "look at that big black bird with white feathers" or "over there, see the little duck with a red bill."  keep in mind that we are the kind of people who can't tell farm crops from the expressway - not that stops us from discussing and endlessly speculating on what they might be.  and this to round out the post is our own version of wildlife (camouflaged by the ottoman she thought she was hiding under)

yes- it's Penny (or rather the tail end of her...LOL)

Monday, January 10, 2011

linger lodge

is the name of an "old Florida" place up the river from the River Cottage.  it is an "old time-y" fishing camp where they have a restaurant that specializes in gator-   today we went for lunch to sample the fare and make an evaluation of it as a possible place to take our friends when they come to visit us.

here are a few of the photos- this is a real DART (disappearing America road trip) style place and TB and I would be thrilled to have discovered such on any of our trips to "the past" on the various DARTs we have done over the years.

note the lodge script is spelled in stuffed snakes - LOL

gator head above and gator bites below (they were excellent as was the gator chowder!)

the screened porch of the restaurant

instructions on the toilets (located in the combined shower/ laundry room)

wall art (gator nose just peeking in the photo)

entrance- with the lodge spelled out in rope script (somewhat in need of repair)

the wall of FISH trophies

a million years ago- when I was around ten years old, our family took an ill-fated trip with neighbor families to a similar facility called Lake Riley.  Lake Riley was located somewhere in West Virginia.  the first night we stayed, there was a sizeable rain storm and the cabins leaked.  one family turned hide and left immediately the next day.  we stuck it out with the other one of the three families who started the journey, moving into a large cabin shared by both.  and the vacation became legendary in our family.  it turned out - of course I didn't get this as a kid- that this was a place guys usually came to toss back the brews and booze and get in a little bit of fishing- and could hardly be considered a family vacation spot.  

we all lived to tell the stories and this visit to the Linger Lodge brought back the memory of Lake Riley all those years ago... so how cool is that?

continuing on

with the Asia temples I found some of my Myanmar and India photos to include in the group I started yesterday:

Notice the people in the upper right hand- it gives some perspective on this combination well and temple complex in central India.  known as a step well because in contained access to the very lower reaches of the well via steps- it also housed a temple dedicated to Ganesha (the Hindu god who manifests as an elephant.)

below is the Jamid Mosque in Delhi India- said to be one of the largest in the world

next in Myanmar-  temples on the Bagan plains  and then a buddha from inside one of the 4400 temples on the plains of Bagan (an area the size of Manhattan - per Lonely Planet)

and another from Myanmar- this from the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon.

and since I accessed the India photos I found some great ones that bring back special memories- and will probably post some of those stories later.

wild life

not ours- LOL- but here are two photos that show the range of the fauna here at the River Cottage.

first a water bird (a heron I think) feeding in the shallows across the river from our deck

and second- the exotic Chicago domestic short hair cat lounging on the dining room table- LOL

Sunday, January 9, 2011

social network

LOL- OK so ours isn't exactly of the tweet type but we firmed up some plans yesterday for our social calendar and things are looking pretty darn busy over the next seven weeks. 

one friend asked us what on earth were we going to do in Florida for two months.  I did actually bring the AAA guide in case we got some extra time to be tourists but between working and our social engagements I don't think that will happen. 

starting this coming weekend we have company three times over the next seven weeks and starting later next week we see friends - five different couples/singles over the seven weeks and then we also are taking a trip to Key West for my birthday (not on my birthday but "for" my birthday) - haven't been there in a few years

the first time I went to Key West was way back when I was married to my first husband (1973-1983) - it was close to the end so probably 1982 or 1983.  the next time I came with my friend Brad and my then boy friend Darren in 84 or 85.  then I came with my then boyfriend Kevin for friend Jon's 40th birthday party at La-ti-da in 90 or 91, I think.   at some point in the early 90s I came with my friend Chris - before I met Phil and she met her now husband Jim.  and then I went with Phil and my brother-in-law Larry in the late 90s or early 2000s.  and the last time I was there, was with my buddy TB a few years back now - when we worked together on risk management stuff. 

but since it has been probably six or seven years I asked to return for my birthday this year. Key West is the only place of 100% island mentality in the continental US.  it stands alone - like N.O. LA in being in the US but not OF the US.  so you can look forward to photos from our trip before the end of the month. 

meanwhile let's go back to some of the ones I have been working with in the past few weeks. a selection of temple photos from "my favorites"

a worshipper spins the prayer wheels in Thimpu, Bhutan

tourists make a circuit of the temple of the Jade Buddha in the Grand Palace complex Bangkok, Thailand

Ta Prohm temple ruins in Siem Reap Cambodia

My Son temple complex in central Vietnam not far from Hoi An

 a temple in Luang Prabang. Laos

the Man Mo temple in Hong Kong, China

the Cao Dai sect "Holy See" north of Saigon, Vietnam

so that is my Sunday report- a lazy day- read - hung out on the deck outside, along the river and relaxed.  I am thinking to transfer a few more photos since I know I have some fab Myanmar and India temple photos to round out these Asia temple photos I included above-