Sunday, December 28, 2008

Escaping Buffalo in the Nick of Time

I'm back in sunny Florida following a 3-night trip to Buffalo for Christmas. Weather wasn't so bad up there, Christmas Day (arrival day) was cold, probably below freezing, and there was some snow. The next day was in the 30s with rain, which meant the snow was melting. Yesterday saw more warming trends and more rain, lots of rain, the kind that requires an umbrella (which I received a lovely one from one of my sisters but left behind since I didn't have room to carry it back).
And today, I departed Buffalo in the nick of time. A cold front moved in shortly after I departed with hurricane strength wind gusts. The airport canceled inbound and outbound flights. According to Buffalo's WIVB, the Buffalo Niagara Airport reported wind gusts of 75 mph at 8:30 this morning, 10 minutes after my flight departed. This explained the awful turbulence on the flight to Tampa, the kind that jerked around a bit and had my stomach doing flips.

"Planes don't fall out of the sky," is my mantra I chanted in my head on this journey. Eventually the air smoothed out.

I gotta tell ya, I've forgotten what a luxury it is to fly direct. I flew Southwest Airlines which offers direct service between Tampa and Buffalo.

I realize the included photo doesn't have anything to do with flying but I love it. It was taken at the Millard Fillmore House in East Aurora.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

Before heading out to Buffalo this morning, thought I'd share a little Christmas cheer. Boy, I sure do love living in Charlotte County, Fla. It's okay to say "Merry Christmas" and no one flinches. The store clerks, the restaurant staff, county employees, everyone.
As for this photo, I've been elfed! The sole man dancing with four young lasses is someone I used to work with in the Everglades, barb, whom I visited in Mexico, is in the upper left-hand corner.

You can view the video for a limited time over at JibJab. I must say, seeing myself with a skinny body gives me more motivation for the gym!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Worden Farm: Week 4, 2008 Farm Share

More lovely goodness this week in my farm share from Worden Farm in Punta Gorda, Fla. New items included carrots, swiss chard, and scallions. I cooked up a nice stir fry tonight for my Christmas Eve dinner, threw in some shrimp and topped it on jasmine rice. Made pesto with the cilantro. Maybe next week there will be an avocado and cilantro, then I could make some more guacamole, yum!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Born a Buffalo gal but now living in the Sunshine State, I have a love-hate relationship with snow. I love to see and feel it but for only a short period of time.

Below are a couple of images taken this week at my parent's house, courtesy of Mom. Looks like I'll be a having a white Christmas, and I'm not referring to the powder-white sand beaches here in Floria.
My trip home will be very quick and will tide me over until my trip to the Presidential Inauguration in January.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Blue Angels Coming to Punta Gorda in March 2009

A pair of Blue Angels were in town last week to scope out the Charlotte County Airport (PGD) digs to make sure it was sufficient for them to perform during the 2009 Florida International Air Show March 21 & 22, 2009.

I met Lt. Amy Tomlinson, the lead for this visit (not quite the Top Gun experience I was expecting but very cool a woman was in command). After talking to the Air Show folks, I got really excited about the event and can't wait, especially since they said they'd grant me access to the V.I.P. party on that Friday night - sweet! I've never been to an airshow and not sure what to expect.As for the photo, I like to brag that I was let onto the airport's tarmac without taking my shoes off (you know - going through airport security to get ON a plane one must take off their shoes). Security was tight, there was a flock of law enforcement officials watching my every move.

Check out my Flickr photos for more images from that day and stay tuned for March when the Blue Angels take flight in Punta Gorda.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Weekend in the Keys for the Ladies, Let's Go Fishing! Seminar

Earlier this month (Dec. 5 & 6) I spent some time in Islamorada participating in the Ladies, Let's Go Fishing! seminar, dubbed the no yelling school of fishing for women. Due to a conflict with work, I couldn't enjoy the full weekend (especially the day of fishing) but glad I made the trip because I learned so much during the seminar. I'll just have to find another time to head down there to fish.

Some of the Saturday sessions were very basic but for the most part, I learned something new from each presenter. The interactive sessions were fun, a chance to apply what was learned. This included boat handling, fly casting, and rigging ballyhoo. That was the gooiest task, rigging the bait fish but the task was somewhat easy for me. It involved squeezing out its poop, popping out its eyes (with a pencil), and sticking in the hooks. To the left is fly fishermen Sandy Moret. Here's some trivia, Sandy used to bring groups to Flamingo when I worked there.

Sunday was the practical, so to say, but I headed back Saturday night. Most of the participants went out on the water with fishing charter captains and had a successful day. I'm jealous.

I definitely recommend Ladies, Let's Go Fishing! to any gal wanting to learn something new. It'd also make a great Florida girlfriend getaway. The instructors are accomplished and successful fishing charter captains and very patient with instruction and questions. Oh! Can't forget about the loads of swag given away, raffles, and great silent and live auctions. I ended with a gorgeous pair of polarized sunglasses made by Flying Fishermen and gift certificate for a canoeing trip with an outfitter in the Tampa Bay area.

The event was at Holiday Isle and I ended up staying at the Islmorada Motel (photo to the right). Nothing fancy but terrific people, clean motel room, and fab price. It's a bit 60s so a little kitsch but again, a great place to stay. Steps away is the Marker 88 Restaurant, which I mentioned in this blog post about stone crabs.

Heading back to Port Charlotte Saturday night, I stopped at the Key Largo Conch House for dinner. I was looking for fast food even though I didn't want fast food but knew I had to eat something. It was dark and thank goodness because I probably wouldn't have seen the Conch House during the day. It was the holiday lights out by the road that caught my attention.

I did a U-turn and headed to the quaint restaurant in what looks to be a house. I sat outside on the patio and felt like I was at a friend's house. Enjoyed a tasty order of conch fritters (which were served steaming hot, see a photo of them on Flickr.) and some sort of wonderful fish served with crab meat and asparagus.

This was much better than hitting up a fast food joint.

I was in the Keys for about 26 hours that weekend, definitely not enough time. But, I live a lot closer to them than I did a year ago, so maybe I'll be making another trip sooner than later.

View my Flickr stream for more photos from this weekend in the Keys.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Worden Farm: Week 3, 2008 Farm Share, Avocado as Big as a Baby's Head!

Picking up my Worden Farm (Punta Gorda, Fla.) share each week is like having Christmas every 7 days. I don't know what's inside the compact box until I get it home and dismantle the fresh, organic veggies.

This week's share included a huge bunch of radishes, bok choy (which I've included in stir fry), sage, and a HUGE avocado, almost as big as a baby's head! Okay, maybe not THAT big, but pretty darn big - look at the photo below.
I wish cilantro was included in this share so I could make some zippy guacamole, like what my friend Barb made in Mexico. But, I can easily find some tomorrow and feast on guacamole for the rest of the weekend. Yum!
Not sure what I'm going to do with next week's share. Suppose I'll sort through what will keep through Sunday, take what I can to Buffalo when I fly up for Christmas and leave the rest with ZeldaMae when I drive through Sarasota Christmas morning. Just sharing the organic love.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Got a Wish? Tell Santa, He'll Listen

I got a wish for Christmas but since I’m a bit too old to be running out to the mall to stand in line and sit in the big guy’s lap, I took advantage of the high tech communication with CEIVA and shared with Santa my Christmas wish.

CEIVA Digital Photo Frame is a groovy gadget I only thought the Jetson’s would own. Obviously it’s a digital photo frame where you can upload images “the old fashioned way,” directly from the camera or memory card, but here’s the sweet stuff, images can also be sent instantly via cell phone or Internet. (I know, how cool is that?)This frame makes a great gift for people who travel a lot and want to stay connected with a homebody. Imagine watching a spectacular orange sunset and wanting to instantly share the moment. Take the photo with your phone and send it to your loved one who has the CIEVA Digital Photo Frame. And voila! The image pops up.

Anyway, telling Santa that I got a wish was easy. I watched the first portion of the video, entered my name, my Christmas wish (a leather sofa, what else?), and uploaded my photo (just a random shot) and boom, done. My photo appears in the rest of the video in the CEIVA Digital Photo Frame and Santa refers to me by name more than once. In a nice Santa-type font, my Christmas wish is scrolled in his book and a helpful elf verifies indeed, I’ve been a good girl this season.

Got a wish? Go tell Santa and see the digital photo frame’s features. Stick around for the end, make your own video and enter the sweepstakes where someone’s wish will be granted on a daily basis:

One (1) random entry selected for each day of the contest; cash prize of $500 per winner.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stone Crabs: Is Cost Determined by Date or Region?

It's stone crab season, Oct. 15 to May 15, and as you can probably tell from my article called, "Savoring the Flavor of Your Florida Vacation," these succulent claws are one of my favorite Sunshine State treats.

Within a three-week span this year, I enjoyed claws in two parts of the state. First was at Peace River Seafood in Punta Gorda, Fla. (as referenced in my article called "Southwest Florida Seafood Shacks") and the dish is pictured below.
Look at them claws. They're as big as fists! Plus the dish came with boiled red potatoes, corn on the cob and a dinner roll. And the cost? Just wait...

Below are the claws I enjoyed while in Islamorada for the Ladies Let's Go Fishing Seminar. I grabbed a light dinner at Marker 88 Restaurant. with a spicy bowl of conch chowder (loved the spices in the dish) and stone crab claws. And the price?
The top dish was $35 for four claws plus accompaniments (from Peace River Seafood). The lower dish was $30 for two claws and, well, just two claws. Okay, there was a waterfront view. Can't say I paid more for the atmosphere at Marker 88 because Peace River Seafood has it's own atmosphere - authentic, Old Florida, while Marker 88 is waterfront and more sophisticated. It's all relative.

I wonder if the price had anything to do with the time of year - would three weeks make a difference? Or did I pay more for the location - the Keys vs. Charlotte County?

In either case, both dishes were tasty and I can't wait for my next meal of stone crab claws. Yum!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Quirky Kitsch Girl's Favorite Things from Sarasota's Atomic Holiday Bazaar

Oprah shares her annual list of favorite things and I'm sharing mine from a visit to the Atomic Holiday Bazaar in Sarasota yesterday. I've been trying to attend for three years. This year, the moon and stars were aligned and my schedule was free to attend (that and the fact I'm now back living in Southwest Florida).

I dragged ZeldaMae with and although it was a little out of her traditional classic box, she ended up purchasing more unique crafts and goods than I did! There were kitsch crafts and quirky sock monkey monsters. Bold jewelry and slinky scarves. Here's a list of my favorite things from the Atomic Holiday Bazaar:

Square and Rectangle Pendants on Chains. I picked up two made by Flying Heart Jewelry. One is a replica of an old Florida postcard in vibrant colors and on the back it reads, "Florida Girl." I've lived in the Sunshine State more than 10 years, I'm officially declaring myself a Florida Girl. Which probably means big changes ahead - things like that happen. Anyway, I digress...the other has a bird on either side, which reminds me of the Twitter bird.
Hair Sweetness. I picked up this sweet, pink felt barrette in the shape of a flower with a yellow button as the center. Totally out of my box but adorable. It's from Sara Leigh Handbags (check out her handbags, too).
Skin Sin. And finally, I purchased an awesome sugar scrub by Lolablue. I don't like the taste of coffee (usually) but enjoy the scent and this Whipped Latte scrub is wonderful! I've used it three times since purchasing it yesterday and it's not greasy, leaves skin soft, and the scent is subtly sweet and not over the top. The scent and silkiness lasts at least 8 hours. Best of all, it's made from organic ingredients and is parabe and colorant free. Bare Beans is another coffee-scrub but is not as sweetly scented.

Lolablue also makes soy candles (which are better for the environment than non-soy) and other natural sugar scrubs. The company is small, woman-owned company based in North Port, Fla., and they do home parties, too!If I had a little girl to buy for on my Christmas list, I would have picked up an adorable pocket fairy from becca-mari.

And, while I didn't purchase one of the kitsch, handmade bracelets by Dark Carnivale Creations (I loved the one featuring the horror movies like "Creature from the Black Lagoon"), she does commission work and I've contacted her to see if she can create a pendant for a necklace to wear to Obama's Inauguration - because I've mentioned that I'm attending, right (you would've read it here)?

If you couldn't make the Atomic Holiday Bazaar, don't despair. Chances are good it'll be around next December but if you can't wait, check out the event's Web site for a bit of cyber shopping: www.AtomicHolidayBazaar.com.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ridge Harbor Christmas: Amazing Holiday Light Display in Punta Gorda, Florida


Friday night was girls' night out. A few of my gal pals and I hopped aboard Good Times II with King Fisher Fleet for a Christmas Light Canal Cruise out of Fishermen's Village in Punta Gorda, Fla. (Great time - $12 for an hour-ish cruise, departs at 6, 7:30 and 9 p.m. - reservations strongly encouraged.)

We then headed out to the Ridge Harbor Christmas display (which is where the photo above was taken). Click here for the video (best viewed in high quality) from the trip, which really doesn't do the display justice. If you're in Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands during the holidays, be sure to visit Ridge Harbor Christmas in Punta Gorda. I absolutely LOVED the display.

Here's a listing of other holiday light displays in the Charlotte County area, courtesy of the Charlotte Sun. These are guaranteed to knock your socks off, click here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Local.com: Your Local Yellowpages on Steroids

I’m amazed at some of the questions I receive at work and in my personal life from people wanting information, as if they think I’m the local yellowpages. In a sense, I am. I’m great at doing research in finding the answer and the more difficult it is to find the answer, the greater the game in finding it.

So what have I been asked? This week your personal local yellowpages was asked about locating a $25,000 Christmas light display in a Port Charlotte house. That was a challenge as I found the house which was featured in an HGTV show in 2006 however when I drove past it, there was a for sale sign on the house. Bummer, but I found a substitute in Punta Gorda and you’ll have to check back to this blog to see the video. The other question I was asked was a place to find beer making supplies in the area.

Hmm. After sifting through pages after searching on Google and not finding anything, I remembered my friends at Local.com. In this economic climate it’s important to shop locally.

Think of the site as your local yellowpages on steroids. It’s a melding of Citysearch, Superpages, Yellowpages, and Yelp so when users search for service, a healthy listing is the result. It includes user reviews, business contact information, and driving directions. I used it later in the day to find a video store – I’m the last adult in the U.S. who didn’t have a Blockbuster account (up until tonight). The site also provides driving directions so I didn’t have to rely on my GPS.

Back to the beer making kit – I couldn’t find any on a Google search but when searching Local.com, it pulled up a wine shop that sells wine making supplies and chances are, they’ll sell beer making suppliers. Hurray!

Bookmark Local.com the next time you need a local yellowpages to search for something in your ‘hood. It’s easy, quick, and thorough.

Worden Farm: Week 2, 2008, Farm Share

I've been enjoying this week's farm share from Worden Farm in Punta Gorda, Fla. This week's harvest included baby butternut squash, daikon root, summer squash and tatsoi (Asian spinach). The citrus is a lovely treat - sweet, juicy oranges and grapefruit, I suspect pink, I haven't peeled one yet.

I noticed the other people picking up their shares and they are mighty skinny so I'm hoping if I keep eliminating fat out of my diet including dairy and hit the gym (which I haven't done since right after I returned from Mexico), perhaps I'll be as skinny as them in no time!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Public Service Announcement for the Holiday Season

If you're going to get pulled over by the cops this holiday season at a DUI checkpoint or for some other reason, be sure to wear your prettiest tights, most fashionable shoes, and pointiest cap.

Happy holidays and don't drink and drive!
[Note: this photo was snapped at Holiday Isle in Islamorada last weekend.]

Monday, December 08, 2008

Dining at 157 Feet Above the Earth

I must say, the Dining in the Sky experience at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek was something else and an experience I'll never forget. Here's a brief synopsis of what it was like:
I arrived to the casino around 11 a.m. just when the 10 a.m. lift was descending. I didn't get a decent photo of it up in the air, I realize that would round out my photo album but how many other people can take photos from a dinner table 157 feet in the air? (Note: it has the ability to ascend to 180 feet; it so happens the lift I was on leveled off at 157 feet.)

I was one of the first to get buckled in. We were told to line up in pairs. Grrr. "Single rider here!"

I was seated then locked in with three clicks in a cushy leather seat. The guy, whom I was putting my life into his young hands, showed me how to recline the seat. Yeah, right. Like I was going to recline. Once up there, even though my seat had the capability of turning 180 degrees, I pretty much stayed in place, being slightly scared to death. One hundred fifty seven feet is high!

It looks as though the center of the table was seated first then others were seated on either side of me with the ends of the table filled last. Maybe that has something to do with balance.
All this time, the culinary crew were filling the "galley" in the the middle of the table. Just enough room for five people - three chefs and the two owners, Mike and Taj. Once we were ready to go, the crew secured themselves to what I thought was thin line. They all wore harnesses.

Lots of media were around. Bill Geist from CBS was there (I assume his story ran on Sunday but haven't looked yet) interviewing folks but he didn't dine with us. Maybe he was going on the next lift, which was to have a five-course meal.

We had a gal from a Miami-area talk show on. Not sure who she was but she seemed nervous at first, too.

Once lift-off began, we ascended slowly and relatively smoothly. There was a slight jerkiness. Which is when I began thinking horrible thoughts, like the crane's cable was going to snap and we'd crash to a horribly painful death. Or that my seat would break off. While these terrible thoughts flashed by, I also thought how my Mother would tell the media, "I knew she shouldn't have done that."But alas, I lived to tell the tale. The fear eventually passed and I enjoyed sitting at the sky-high table, eating a lovely brunch (bagel, cream cheese, lox; fresh berries; oatmeal with caramelized topping - like creme brulee; fresh squeezed orange juice; fresh pastries), and was even a little bold and swiveled my chair 3 degrees. Yes, I admit I was scared about swiveling my chair the full 180 degrees, afraid it would spin off and drop, plunging me to my death.

I didn't drop my napkin, nor fork (but if I did, extras were brought on board) and no, there isn't a bathroom on board. Just raise your hand and within a minute (according to Taj) the contraption can be down in a minute.

Here are a few pieces of content I've put together about the trip:
On Suite101, Dinner in the Sky Launches in the U.S.
YouTube, Dinner in the Sky in the U.S.: Seminole Casino Coconut Creek: Preparing for the Lift
YouTube, Dinner in the Sky in the U.S. at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek - Lift Off!
Blog post, Brunch in the Sky with Dinner in the Sky Events at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek

Thank you Dinner in the Sky Events for the wonderful opportunity!

View from the Top: The Wyvern Hotel


Am meeting a client atop the Wyvern Hotel in downtown Punta Gorda, Fla., tonight and passing the time, since there wasn't enough time to head home after work. Wish you were here!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Brunch in the Sky with Dinner in the Sky Events at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek

I need to run to a reception but wanted to post a couple of photos from this afternoon's brunch in the sky with Dinner in the Sky Events at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. What a phenomenal experience! I admit to being a little "scared" once up there and looking down. It was one of those, "what was I thinking" moments, but after overcoming my fear, life was good at 157 feet above the ground.

Videos and more coming soon, stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

No Bananas But Loads of Leafy Greens and Other Veggies from Worden Farm

Aren't these vegetables gorgeous? They're even more delicious knowing they are organic and my first farm share pick up of the year. Worden Farm in Punta Gorda is an organic farm that offered the share opportunity for 2008/2009. For several weeks, each week, I'll receive a fresh box of seasonal veggies (I have to go pick it up at one of the pick up locations in Port Charlotte). This week's share included bok choy (I have no idea what to do with this), green beans, cilantro (I LOVE cilantro), tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce, and Swiss chard. Yum!

The farm share is sold out for the year but organic vegetables can be purchased at the Fishermen's Village Greenmarket on Wednesdays between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and the Downtown Sarasota Farmers Market on Saturdays between 7 a.m and 1 p.m.

I had a veggie feast for dinner tonight, much needed after the two days of junk I've been eating this week. Unfortunately, I'm heading out of town Friday and won't be able to enjoy much of this week's harvest so I'll share with the office tomorrow.

Learning About Lung Cancer and Other Diseases that Come with the Job

Having a quasi-desk job has its risks, at least that's what the safety videos say. Lung cancer, heat stroke, and straining my back are some of them. Yes, I'm being sarcastic and honestly, I don't know why I need to watch videos about working in a factory when my job doesn't entail that but alas, safety training is mandatory.

But while on the topic of lung cancer, anyone is susceptible to it and not just smokers. Granted, those chronic smokers are more of a risk but inhaling second-hand smoke or exposure to asbestos increase the risk.

Growing up I remember Aunt Sue having lung cancer and she eventually died. I didn't know her well, she my Dad's aunt, a nurse, and chronic smoker. I remember she continued to smoke during the lung cancer treatment and up until her final days. Her logic (as I recall) being stopping wouldn't end the cancer, but I still wonder, would it have given her more time?

Times have changed since then and my friends at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center are one of the leaders when it comes to lung cancer diagnosis, surgery and treatment. While browsing their site, I found a list of lung cancer symptoms and find it hard to believe some people don't know they have the disease. But apparently, some people don't have the obvious symptom and don't know they have it.

Cancer is scary and doing a search of the Internet, the Greenebaum Cancer Center seems like one of the best thoracic oncology programs in the U.S., a center where many patients have trusted their lives and have gone for lung cancer surgery.

Of course, I'm not a doctor nor expert in the field so run a Google search and other necessary research to find a thoracic oncology center right for you when fighting lung cancer.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Mexico Photos Trickling In

I have no idea how long it's going to take me to upload photos from last week's trip to Mexico but click here for a sneak peek of some of the photos. Stay tuned for more!

Starry, Starry Night or Oh, So Pretty?

Did you go out and enjoy Sky Pretty tonight? Today was the optimum evening to view the moon, Venus and Jupiter. I know, my picture sucks (it was taken with my phone on the walk to the gym) but you can almost see the planets. and can definitely see the moon. You get the drift.

If you want a crash course on what exactly is in the sky right now, visit Barefoot's blog and his article titled, "Naked Eye Astronomy: Sky Pretty Late November 2008."