Saturday, January 29, 2011

a trip

to Key West sort of snowballed.  first we were going to go down there- I think I mentioned that I had been a lot of times before.  I actually could remember six prior trips for sure and maybe I lost count - but for lucky seven we had decided to take the ferry boat from Marco Island and because we had to be there for a 7:30 AM departure we decided to go the day before and stay nearby.  LOL and since we were going the day before anyway and driving right past Ft. Myers we decided to go there and visit the winter homes of Ford and Edison.

now all of this planning started around a brick.  I bought a brick for one of those fund raiser things at the historical museum in Key West while Phil and Larry and I were there.  I had been back to visit the brick when Tom and I were there but for some reason cannot find any of the photos from that trip.  so I wanted to go visit my brick.  why was this important?  maybe this won't make sense but I had them put Trina Jane Sterling's name on the brick and I wanted a photo of it.  at the time it wasn't a memorial but now it is all I have of Trina physically - and with all the loss this year I had a yearning to have something to hold on to - a talisman of sorts.  so here is Trina's brick

the brick that launched a two day trip. 

but here is the cool thing - we had a super fun time and got to see a lot of interesting things at the Edison/Ford place and re-visit old haunts in Key West.

one of the first pools in Florida built by Edison and his wife Mina (you can see they now have lots of neighbors overlooking their once private pool)

the inventor's office (above) and the moonlight garden (below)

the broad porch of the guest house on the Edison estate (below)

on to Key West-

some darn good dulce de leche gelato! (above) and cheesy coconut pirates (below)

the infamous Sloppy Joe's bar a renown Hemingway hangout (above) and the window at Fast Buck Freddie - a Key West institution (below) and don't ask - LOL

and the last - a shot of the oldest restaurant in Key West - Pepe's established in - you guessed it- 1909!

hope you enjoyed the brief photo tour and a shout out to the ghost of Trina for putting us on the path.

a garbage bag?

or an alligator?  LOL - you would think it would be fairly easy to tell the difference- but I am not so sure.  here is a photo of what we saw alongside the neighbor's dock last night at sunset. 

you make the call- I originally thought garbage bag but then got the binoculars and took a closer look- then it looked more gator-like but it never moved- didn't even "blink" and Phil said "gator" - this morning I am voting garbage bag again as it hasn't moved an inch.

but at least it is an interesting shaped garbage bag.

and remember - we are city-folk...LOL

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

my mother returns

sort of- at least her ashes have arrived.  my plan is to scatter some of them on the island she called home for so many years.  I have asked several of her friends to join me for a memorial luncheon the first full week of February. 

so when I opened the box to look at her I was struck by how little the essence of our physical presence can be reduced to.  but even more I was hit by how BIG the loss is by comparison. here she was with me again and yet I was so aware of how much she isn't here- isn't here to call each night and recount our days for each other - isn't here to tell stories of our adventures on the island and off.  my mother knew we were coming down here and maybe her timing was thoughtful of the idea of her returning.

when we first decided to rent the River Cottage for two months I sent her the photos of the place and I know how much it reminded her of her place here as she also had a fabulous view of waterbirds in a mangrove area just outside her porch.  she spoke wistfully about maybe coming down for a bit, but knew that being tethered to oxygen and confined to a wheelchair made it a pipe dream. 

so just for comparison I have posted some photos of the River Cottage and of my mom's last home here that show the similarities and why she had such yearning to return.  of course she had about three times the space we do but the colors used in decorating were very similar and the "feel" of the places was very much the same

and now our River Cottage

so you can see why she was drawn to the idea of coming down here when we were here.

snake pit & killer cats

oops I mean Shake Pit!  where we had lunch today - an old timey place for burgers and shakes (opened in 1959) - food was good and atmosphere was first rate

and yesterday I failed to report on an event at our household of significant importance- our cats have become little killers.  when I awoke I found them standing over the body of a tiny lizard which they had killed and were in process of de-tailing LOL.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

spanish connections

CBGB were our hosts for an evening of Spanish wine tasting and fabulous food at their Vintner's Club last Thursday night. 

the menu began with two exceptional starters, which were accompanied with a very nice Cava.  they served walk around hors d'oeuvres of seared jumbo scallops with orange and lime zest.  these were perfectly cooked - not overdone - and very tasty.  but the other starter was even more fabulous- a shredded pork and sweet pea crostini with spiced onions and ricotta.  they were so amazing I would have been happy to have just eaten a dozen of those and called it an evening. 

but it got better.

the appetizer course was a fennel and peppercorn seared tuna over crispy polenta and drizzled sriracha cream.  the wine for that course was a Albarino which was lovely. 

next - a pasta course of putanesca smothered angel hair with a basil pesto which was paired with a Rioja which was too heavily oaked for my taste. but the pasta was wonderful.

the main course, served with a Abadia Retuerta Rivola, Sardon del Duero, was a wonderful paella with giant - and I mean giant - spicy roasted shrimp and lobter chunks as well as chorizo on the classic saffron rice. 

so as not to let us down for the dessert course, we were served a wonderful dark chocolate bomb cake with nutmeg and balsamic caramel sauce and a side of grapes rolled in sugar on clove scented cream.  it was absolutely fabulous and the wine pairing suited it to a "T" - a Roda I from the Rioja.  the meal was excellent!

but wait, there was more to the evening - upon returning to CBGB's lovely home we all made ourselves cozy in their new outdoor living room, relaxing around the fireplace.  it was a really wonderful evening as we recounted good times while gazing into the hypnotic crackling fire. 

the next day after we left CBGB's place, we headed over to St Pete to visit our friends Lew and Ellie.  I say friends but it is kind of a strange relationship because we are always hosted by them - it isn't for the want of inviting them.  they just always have plans with other Board member friends when they come to Chicago so only once have we been able to host them both, although occassionally we have been able to have Lew over for some committee related function.

we really like them both but haven't ever been able to break through some unseen barrier - maybe once Lew and I no longer work together it could change- only time will tell.

anyway - we had never seen their home in St. Pete and found it just perfect- everything was exactly to my taste.  it was so warm and welcoming and cozy.  it is an older spanish style home in the historic part of the city.  after catching up a bit, we went to visit the waterfront in St. Pete and had gelato at a place there.  it was the best gelato we have ever had in the US- bar none!  I tried three flavors but LOVED the salted caramel the best.

we all went to the Chihuly collection and were astounded by the beauty of his works and the skill required to create the installations - or even to envision them.  a very enjoyable afternoon. 

we headed back to their home and were joined by Laurie (their daughter, who lives nearby.)   then we enjoyed a wonderful meal prepared by Chef Lew.  starters of superb italian salami on cucumber slices and shrimp cocktail.  then dinner was steak perfectly timed with a blue cheese sauce, potatoes roasted with olive oil and broccoli with - and yes, he saved the best for last as well- a fabulous poached pear for dessert with a sauce of butter and brown sugar.  it doesn't get any better than that. 

we headed home after dinner - the drive was pretty quick - about forty minutes or so and found the girls waiting up for us LOL.

so I don't have photos of any of the food or the beautiful homes of our friends - but I do have some photos from Spain that I can show you- and that is a theme from both the visits as Lew and Ellie's home has the Spanish influence common in the homes built in the 1920s in Florida.

the trip to Spain that my mother and I took in 1999 was her last trip in good health.  we had a wonderful three weeks exploring Madrid and the south (Andalusia) - Toledo - Granada - Cordoba - Seville - Ronda - Ubeda - and a number of other stops along the way.  we stayed for two nights IN the Alhambra at a converted convent.  I fell in love with the moorish architecture and that was why our trip for the following year was going to be to Morocco. 

here are some of my favorite photos (all predigital so fogive the resolution)

all of the above were from the Alhambra in Granda

above - Ubeda at night, from our room  
and  below - in the Mesquite in Cordoba

above the view from the bridge in Ronda
and below- the view of Toledo, from our balcony

the bull ring in Ronda

wares for sale in Seville- fans and dresses for the little ones

above the main square in Madrid

of course I have lots more photos but I tried to choose a few that showed some of the great things we saw.