Friday, March 28, 2008

The Red Leather Diary: This Summer's Must-Read

For her fourteenth birthday, Florence Wolfson received a red leather diary. Everyday until her she was nineteen, Wolfson journaled her feelings, life and curiosity while growing up in a 1930s New York. In 2003, the journal re-surfaced into the hands of The New York Times journalist Lily Koppel.

Koppel read the diary filled with adventures of a privileged girl and was able to track Wolfson down (her name is now Howitt) and reunite her with the now tattered red leather diary. Howitt describes living a bland life at the age of ninety but having re-read her journal, she's found the "zest" for life.

Out of this journey, Koppel has penned The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal which promises to be this summer's must-read book, if not this decade's.

The book will be released on April 8, 2008 and I really would like this for my birthday :) (Check out my wish list to the left.) I got goosebumps reading about the book over at the The Red Leather Diary Web site.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Time to Begin Again

I can count on a single hand how many times my life has been flipped upside down. I'm the type of person who needs order in life with a dash of spontaneity to enjoy it. When the universe forces things to happen in ways I don't want them to, I have a difficult time adapting to the change.

My world flipped upside down six weeks ago with Peter's (my 43-year-old, ex-husband) sudden death. I've returned to the Everglades twice since he passed and I still can't believe he's gone. It's as though he's on vacation and will return shortly.

I've been dealing with unresolved feelings and "what if" situations. I was even told, "If you were still here, Peter would still be alive."

I'm not going there because something else may have caused a change in the path of life. People can't change other people, they need to change on their own and I've come to accept that.

Over the past six weeks I've been learning about Peter's life after I left the Everglades and it makes me sad and a bit angry. But I can't turn back time. I couldn't change a person. For various reasons, things ended. Even if I stayed, life could have been directed down a different path leading at the same ending point.

The ironic, bittersweet twist in all this is I am a beneficiary. He never took my name off of one of his assets. Not sure if that was intentional or procrastination, in any case, it's protected from probate.

Things came together over the weekend. I sold the boat and the check arrived. I deposited it Monday morning and because I'm a good customer, the bank put an overnight hold on the funds. I opened up a CD and savings accounts (my emergency fund; I hope Dave Ramsey is proud).

Tuesday morning, I was up at 6 a.m. paying off debt. What an incredible feeling to be released from the burden of debt.

Now, I have minimal credit card debt, my car will be paid off this summer and I have my living expenses. So now what? I can live anywhere I want as long as living expenses are taken care of. I just need to figure out what I want to do and what I want out of life to determine my next step.

Life seems as though I'm set to live happily ever after, but Sunday morning, Equifax send me a fraud alert.

Stay tuned for the continued story...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tying Loose Ends

I was writing another post about my weekend but just didn't have the energy to finish. Instead, these photos will have to do.

The sour scent of rat piss still lingers from my Saturday visit into my old apartment down in Flamingo. Rat droppings litter the Florida Bay apartment and all that's left area a few plastic, toy coins, pieces of paper and the green light fixture I always hated. The walls had been painted different colors and the carpet had been ripped up, all for my ex's new life with his girlfriend. Although physically different, I was haunted by years of memories in that apartment, both good and bad.

Vividly, I remembered the black wall of mosquitoes in the bathroom. I recalled the "secret room," the one we put things we didn't use very often, like the Ab Roller. My cat loved it in there. She slipped in and disappeared in the chaotic sea of boxes and junk. During my seven minute return to the apartment, I also remembered the nights feeling my life was out of control and sitting on the bathroom floor bawling my eyes out, silently asking for help and guidance.

When I left Flamingo nearly eight years ago, the Lodge welcomed fishermen, birdwatchers and Europeans bold enough to brave the pesky mosquitoes. The pool was the hub of activity and the property's nicest amenity. The restaurant with the bird's-eye-view of Florida Bay served up the best coconut fried shrimp and conch chowder in the Keys. Boat tours departed from the marina beginning with early morning birdwatching excursions and ending with sunset cruises showcasing a spectacular display of pink and orange hues.

And then in 2005, two nasty women showed up changing everything.

Not only did hurricanes Katrina and Wilma changed the Flamingo landscape, it changed the lives for those living there.

I hope to elaborate tomorrow.

Top - Flamingo Lodge, as of March 22, 2008; condemned.
Middle - Eco Pond - the birdwatching platform is gone
Bottom - floats for crab traps (not related to hurricane destruction, just pretty cool)

Related posts:
Ripple Effects of Hurricane Katrina
Images of Katrina
Hurricane Katrina Meets the Everglades

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

When Will ABC Have a Bachelor Brother?

The 12th season of ABC's "The Bachelor" aired Monday and looks like the network tried to differentiate from previous seasons. This season's bachelor is a Brit with decent teeth.

Watching the season premier was pretty much like other seasons, a dashingly handsome bachelor mixing and mingling with 25 too perfectly pretty bachelorettes. Like other seasons, at least one drinks a little too much (the blond one who put her panties in the bachelor's pocket - yuck!), one has a wacky talent (the blond chick who ripped an aluminum can with her teeth) and 23 other ones trying to out do one another.

But since this is the 12th season of "The Bachelor," one has to ask, why isn't the bachelor African American? Or how about Asian? Or Latino? Isn't anyone else a bit tired of watching some handsome white bread guy handing out roses and breaking hearts? Better yet, what about a dude with a thing for real-sized women, you know, a woman who wears a dress size of 14 and not 1/2.

Maybe non-Caucasian bachelors just don't apply for the show. Maybe they don't need a reality show to find them love. Maybe they're just plain smarter and stay away.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Slug-O-Rama Weekend

I love lazy weekends. It's not because I'm a lazy person, there are just times when I enjoy being a slug and this weekend was one of those times. I may have a buyer for the boat, so keep your fingers crossed. I'm meeting them down in Flamingo on Friday afternoon and a friend will take him out to show him what a smooth ride it is. I'm debating whether I should still create a listing on Craigslist.

Another accomplishment was writing an article about Virginia Beach's Green Restaurants. I had a chance to taste these fab restaurants during my trip last month. Of the two I mention, I'd definitely return to Croc's. My dinner rocked! Has to be one of the top five restaurant meals I've ever eaten. The other one, Rockafeller's is good, the crab cakes were out of this world. I just prefer Croc's atmosphere.

Saturday afternoon was a Tallahassee field trip to see a prince. Read the full details here.

Today was an excellent workout at the gym followed by shopping for undergarments (in case you're wondering, I showered between the two activities). JCPenney had a buy two, get one free bra sale. Why are bras so expensive??? I bet if men had to wear them, there'd be cheap bras everywhere!

But my biggest accomplishment of the weekend was making these sinfully delicious Cinnamon Spice Muffins (pictured above). Part of my weekend routine is scanning my bookmarked list of frugal living blogs and Get Rich Slowly is one of them. I had most of the ingredients, justed needed to buy milk, luckily it was on sale at Walgreens today.

These muffins are absolutely heavenly. And although I'm bummed with the how much weight I've gained in the past month, I still enjoyed every single crumb without guilt. OK, I ate two (and still no guilt). I put the rest in the freezer, not sure how they'll be after being frozen, but I'm sure they'll be tasty.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Finding Vintage Cool Stuff on Etsy: Sunshine City Lassie

I discovered Etsy last December through Sarasota's Atomic Holiday Bazaar. I wasn't able to attend the groovy, kitsch event but all of the vendors were listed on the event Web site. I browsed each vendor and found most of them have virtual stores on Etsy.

I discovered my fave artist from the event, Amy with Sunshine City Lassie. I fell in love with a pair of earrings she crafted but since money was very tight then, I didn't make the purchase.

Not sure what prompted me last weekend, perhaps it was because I've done OK with my writing this year and had some extra dollars burning in my PayPal account. I was on the quest for something bright, cheery and vintage.

I returned to the Sunshine City Lassie Etsy page and when I read the word "kitsch" in the description for the bracelet, I knew I had to grab it!

Wow! Was I surprised when my package arrived today. Not only was the fab bracelet included but so were a pair of kitsch heart-shaped earrings, lovely note cards perfectly tied and Amy's fun business card (photo above). Her contact details are on a mailing label stuck to a playing card. And, she's stamped her blog address,, on a paint sample chip. How clever is Miss Amy?

I'm definitely going to be checking in periodically with the Sunshine City Lassie to see what's new. And if you're into vintage, kitsch jewelry, go check her out.

Sunshine City Lassie Blog
Sunshine City Lassie on Etsy

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Thanks to My Pakistan Friend! This is Soooo Cool!

I know I've said it before but I'm gonna say it again. One of the great things about working in the tourism industry is connecting with people throughout the globe.

One person I've connected with is a gentleman in Pakistan who found me via my Afghanistan blog but our common connection is the tourism industry. His company is Nanga Parbat Adventure.

In the office I've worked on a Germany-based show the company attends and that was the common bond between Nanga Parbat Adventure and me. I wasn't assigned to attend the show but my supervisor brought a gift from Tallahassee for my Pakistan friend and he was kind to bring me a gorgeous purse from Pakistan. I just love the colors, design and functionality (I love compact purses).

Nanga Parbat Adventure has to be the ultimate adventure outfitter. They offer mountaineering expeditions, trekking, tours (such as trips to ancient civilizations and archaeological based) and Jeep safaris. Someday I'll make it over there. I mean, check out the Web site and see how gorgeous it is.

While Pakistan is in the hot zone right now, Nanga Parbat is located far enough away from the unrest to have a safe visit.

Thank you, Liver!

Monday, March 10, 2008

I'm a Joffrey's Java Beta Taster!

Last week (or was it two weeks ago?) I read somewhere in the blogosphere how Joffrey's Coffee & Tea Company was looking for bloggers for their Java Beta Test. No, not the computer type of Java, the brew that fuels bloggers kind of Java. I checked out the site, filled out the form and waited to hear whether I was qualified.

Soon after, I received word my blog (THIS blog) was accepted. Yeah! So now what?

Today arrived my sample of Jamaican Me Crazy, a mix of caramel, vanilla and coffee liqueur. Yum! Can't wait to taste it.

What's even better (and pretty cool) is Joffrey's Coffee & Tea is based in Florida, Tampa to be exact. Love supporting the local economy.

So if you're fueled by Java, check out the site and see about getting your own sample.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Showing Off Tallahassee

OK, since I know not everyone gets over to my Tallahassee blog and I'm not going to repeat myself, go check out what I did this afternoon. Please?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

New Solution to Manage Gift Cards

The art of travel allows me to meet all sorts of people. Take Ken Hawkins with I met Ken while attending the American Bus Association Marketplace in Virginia Beach last month. It's a random way we met but doesn't matter how, just that we did.

A former Marriott manager, he's now helping gift card users manage their cards to maximize their value.

How is he doing this? Check out my latest article called "Manage Gift Cards Online" over at Suite101. And yes, I have registered with the site and think it's very cool.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Sleeping Companion

Made a quick trip to Jacksonville Beach last night. My parents went to visit with my aunt and uncle who live there and my aunt and uncle in Colorado had flown in before the gang headed to Sarasota for two weeks.

I took the last sleeping spot available, the buttery leather sofa and had company most of the night. Oben. Ain't he cute?