Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Waiting's the Hardest Part

That's a Tom Petty song, isn't it? "Waiting's the hardest part"?

I think he sings something like that. Being somewhat drained from the emotion of dealing with grandma's imminent death, the nightly drives to Sarasota, dealing with office budget cuts, additional scrutiny (it wouldn't be appropriate of me to elaborate on that, though I wish I could), and job security, I took a break tonight. It was a somewhat normal evening. Picked up my veggie box (I know - I need to post last week's box), ran to the gym, and prepared a somewhat healthy meal. Strange, I never tire of rice (with Mexican hot sauce), veggies, and shrimp. Yum! (Side note, I've lost 8 pounds since Christmas. Something's working and I know it wasn't the box of chocolate covered malt balls I consumed in two consecutive days during stress binges; but maybe it was the Starbucks Frappuccino and banana for dinner last night.)

I'll make the journey to Sarasota tomorrow after work. Just wish I could find something to pass the idle time. I wish I could write, blog, social network, edit, and upload photos. And I really wish Star Trek would become reality sooner than later, I want to teleport!

What's going through my mind right now? Wondering if Grandma's wishing someone would turn off the Big Band music which has been playing continuously for 72 hours.

PA RV Camping at its Finest: Gettysburg Battlefield Resort

Tourism Cares just sent me an email reminding me about the April 2009 project at Spangler Farm at the Gettysburg Battlefield. I enjoyed participating in the program last year and was really looking forward to attending this spring and maybe doing a little bit of Gettysburg camping along with ghost hunting (I’ve read the Gettysburg Battlefield is one of the most haunted in the U.S.).

Doesn’t look like I’ll be able to make it due to work commitments, however, Pennsylvania’s on my radar as a vacation destination and I’d like to introduce my new friends, the Gettysburg Battlefield Resort, offering premium Gettysburg camping for RVs, tents, and cabin rentals. The private PA RV camping resort has more than 215 sites with hook ups ranging from 20 to 50 amp electric along and water and some sites with sewer hook ups. Fees at this luxury resort start at $10 per night. I think it’s great for someone like me, they offer cozy cabins for those not into camping. Find the luxuries such as Olympic-size swimming pool, Internet access, cafĂ©, open year-round, and the best location to the battlefield.

Planning an RV camping Gettysburg vacation soon? This may encourage you to make plans sooner than later, PA RV camping resort is offering two nights/three days FREE (yeah, that’s right, FREE camping during this economic climate).

Close to Hershey, Pa., (the “Sweetest Place on Earth”), Lancaster’s Dutch Country, hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail, and the location where President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, the Soldier's National Monument, along with special events almost every week, and steps away from American history, this sounds like RV camping Gettysburg style at its best.

Sorry Tourism Cares, I can’t join you this year but I may be saying hello to Gettysburg camping sooner than later. Anyone else in with me? Or, we can big wheel it and do a little bit of RV camping Gettysburg style at Gettysburg Battlefield Resort.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Life or Morphine?

Tonight was another journey up to Sarasota to see Grandma. The good side of this (I'm usually the optimist so I'm looking for a good side) is all of Grandma's children were at her side and that's what she wanted. I'm also getting to meet relatives I've only heard about (met them over the weekend). She actually seemed better. Her breathing was easier and she looked more peaceful. Is she actually doing better or is it the morphine being pumped into her?

She was still primarily unconscious, as she was yesterday, but seemed to wake a little bit and be coherent as to what was around her. She didn't open her eyes but smiled a little bit and nodded her head when asked questions.

We wondered what if she wakes up tomorrow and thinks we've been conspiring against her? What if she tells the nurse to get her outta there because her family's trying to kill her? If this happens, she'll definitely be upset that we're already talking to a realtor to appraise and sell the house and we've spoken to the cremation society, which she prepaid 25 years ago (but she did check with them about 2 weeks ago to make sure all was in order, prior to her stroke). And when she finds out I've been tasked at writing her obituary, she's really going to be upset! I can just hear her now telling her friends about the family's conspiracy against her and how "they" (the family) even got me to get in on this.

I know, my family and I have a twisted sense of humor and in all honesty, I don't think that's going to happen.

How did she get where she is? Long story short, last spring she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder which causes the muscle cells to fight against each other and deteriorate. (I'll have to get the exact name and post tomorrow.) She was misdiagnosed for months. Poor Grandma couldn't walk and her doctor told her she had a bladder infection. As the disorder progressed, she couldn't swallow because her throat muscles didn't work and her voice changed, it sounded strained. She became weak and couldn't lift her arms. All the while, she remained sharp, witty, and feisty.

She ended up in assisted living where the good people helped her get better. She participated in therapy daily so she could get home. I know she hated it but she was determined to get home so she did what she had to do.

Grandma went home in the fall and was doing somewhat well on her own. Fast forward to last week when she had a stroke which led to today. I hope the rest of her journey remains peaceful.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

That Warm Fuzzy Feeling

Today was another long day at the hospital. Goodbyes were said yesterday and Grandma has begun her journey. One of the intriguing parts of this process is how people handle dying and death. I admit to crying everyday since Wednesday.

Selfishly, I wish Grandma would live forever and when I wrote yesterday that I saw love and fear in her eyes, I think what I was seeing was my own fear and not her's. But I know she had a good, long life - she's said so many times - and I know she wouldn't want to go on living without her freedom of mobility, comfort, and peace. Grandma is my equivalent of that warm fuzzy feeling inside and she's an important part of my life. She's been my strong tie to family and to the community. The Grandma I know is gone yet, I have many happy moments and experiences to remember her.

Love and Tears

Since rolling off the plane following the Presidential Inauguration I've been spending every available minute at Sarasota Memorial Hospital to be with Grandma. Today was especially hard, understanding what a living will is, when it's implemented, and if there's turning back. Also learning about hospice (from the folks at Tidewell Hospice, Sarasota, Fla.) and learning to let go.

I held her hand doing my best to hold back tears. There were laughs, she hasn't lost her sense of humor and that's the frustrating part. She still has her mind but her body has failed. I saw love when I looked into her eyes but I also fear, which is a side of her I've never seen. It seemed as though she was disappointed in herself for not getting well from her disease. I wonder what's going through her mind and wonder if she's truly ready to let go. She said her goodbyes, telling me to look for a tablet of paper at her home with a note for the family. She asked for her last rites and we prayed with her.

I wonder which is the better way to die. Quick, without warning, like Peter did or slowly so there's time to say goodbye and put life in order. Is it better for the living to be prepared when a loved one moves on?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Not Tonight, I Need to Sleep

It's about 1 a.m. and although I'd love to blog, I really need some sleep. Here are a few more snapshots from the Inauguration weekend:

I love the concept of this photo, the guy in the green hat (taking the photo) made the sign and allowed people to hold it up and pose for photos (for free).

I think this guy's name is Marshall (I have short-term memory). Can you tell we were at the Mid-Atlantic Ball with The Dead? I joked about wearing a tie dye gown to the event or maybe tights. But this guy actually came through wore a tie dye shirt! And isn't he adorable?

Consider this an abstract photo of the Obamas dancing. That's what I saw, or at least what my camera saw. My best view of the First Couple was on the oversized screens.

Two Days, Two Q-tip Incidents. Is it Time for a Dodge Durango?

If you’ve been following me on Twitter and/or Facebook you know grandma isn’t doing well and I’ve made the journey to Sarasota the past two nights to see her in the hospital. Yesterday I was hit by some Dodge boat-thing driven by a Q-tip, you know, little old lady who can barely see over the steering wheel and all you see is a puff of white hair (i.e.: a Q-tip).

In her mind, she feels because she stopped, didn’t turn on her signal and backs up with me at least 5 feet behind her, that I’m in the wrong. She admitted to seeing me but felt I was too close so she decided to continue backing up until she hit my car. Long story short, her friend sweet talks me into not doing anything about it (only cosmetic damage) and proceeds to tell me, the Q-tip is 91 years-old.

Since my car’s paid off, I got thinking, should I be looking at trading up for some bigger car, like a bright red Dodge Durango, so I can win these Q-tip collisions? Check out the hybrid one in the photo. Ain't it sweet?

If yesterday wasn’t bad enough, I went up to the hospital today and while driving up the parking ramp, a dude looking about 100 (and really a Cue ball vs. a Q-tip) decides to stop and start backing up. Not again! I was at least 5 car lengths away and put the car in reverse to avoid being hit again. Good thing I did, he came within centimeters of me. At least he gave me an apologetic look when he drove by.

Okay, definitely a sign I need to look into a bigger vehicle, like a 2009 Dodge Durango. It’s nice having a car paid off, especially in this economic climate, but my friends at the Car Connection are making it easy for me to determine if this type of vehicle is for me. Over at the site I can look at Dodge Durango reviews and even get quotes for the vehicle, insurance, financing, and check the classifieds for a car near me.

While I contemplate if I need some new wheels to take on the Sarasota streets, I’ll be parking on a side street on tomorrow’s visit to the hospital.

Photo courtesy of Car Connection.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Day 4: My Trip to D.C. for the Inauguration - Photos

Okay, I skipped Day 3 and Day 4 is going to be brief because I have an inaugural ball to prepare for! But, today was incredible, filled with emotions of hope and promise. It seems as though it's a chance at a fresh start.

It was also a frustrating day with standing in line after line wedged in with others. I realize it could've gotten really ugly if people lost their tempers, thankfully that didn't happen. It was jammed packed on the Metro, then waiting to get into our seating area for the swearing in ceremony, then waiting to return back to our accommodations.

Here's a link to some photos taken yesterday and today. Below is me and Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel and below that I'm at Obama's swearing-in ceremony.
Oh, I was named as someone to follow on Twitter for Inauguration updates. I really need AT&T to be flexible and allow me to purchase an iPhone!!

Don't Forget, You Can Follow Me on Twitter

Blogging each night during the inauguration trip was the plan yet not so easy to do. I'm having an amazing time being around people excited about this presidency. Not just the insiders, but, I hate to say this, the energy from the "average Joes and Janes."

Don't forget to follow me on for updates. Or, just look off to the right. Or, if you're following on Facebook, you're getting the updates. Tomorrow it's a 6 a.m. wake up call and it's 12:30 right now so it's off to bed!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Day 2: My Trip to D.C. for the Inauguration - We Have Overcome

Yesterday was another exciting day. In the morning I headed down to the Newseum, the museum encapsulating decades of news in 6 floors, including a 9/11 exhibit and the FBI & crime (got to see the Unabomber's cabin). Very elaborate museum, emotional, intriguing, and fabulous.

I also ventured down to the Capitol where rehearsals for Tuesday's inauguration were taking place. After hearing how there going to be crowds of people this weekend, I had to ask, where was everyone? The Metro was pretty much quiet and streets empty. Granted, it was a Sunday, but a historic event anticipated to attract millions of people.After meeting up with Cordelia and heading over to the "We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial" for the amazing concert (included Bruce Springsteen, U2, Beyonce, and James Taylor, and Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden were there), we found the crowds. Hundreds of thousands of people must have been jammed packed, spilling over to the Washington Monument. The good thing about being smushed in with people was the body heat, no worries about the cold.

To and from the concert, we passed vendor after vendor selling everything from earrings to cologne (pictured) with Obama's face on it. I also saw a man holding a sign reading, "We Have Overcome." And that's when it occurred to me why this inauguration was so important and why there's such energy around it. It feels as though years, decades, maybe centuries, of oppression have finally been lifted. Bit by bit has been done over the years but with the election of Barack Obama, there's an energy of total freedom and I think that's why people are excited. I hope he can deliver on the country's expectations.

Last night was a party for the Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century at the K Street Lounge. It was one of those trying-to-be-swanky nightclubs where the bouncers made guests (who RSVP'd) wait outside and after midnight, the cover changed from free to $40 and served $9 Coronas. The music was decent, and there were loads of political insiders but difficult to talk with the music. I'm too old for loud music!

Today it's off to the Hill (Cordelia's teaching me the lingo) to find my Congressman's office (it's a holiday so I'm surprised the office told me they'd be open today and not open for inauguration day tomorrow) and later, attending the taping of the Slate Gabfest, and then some reception with the Beastie Boys, Jackson Browne, and other celebs. I'll try not to be starstruck :)

Here's a link to an article in the paper about my trip. And above is a copy of the tickets for Tuesday night's Mid-Atlantic Ball, one of the official balls. Did I mention The Dead will be performing?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Day 1: My Trip to D.C. for the Inauguration - Chili Hits the Cold Spot

It's finally here. My trip to D.C. for inauguration weekend. Arriving into D.C. was probably a smart thing to do. My plane was about two-thirds full and I had no problem getting from the airport to the Metro. Getting to my hotel was another thing, but I'm always navigationally challenged so I took the scenic route......just as I took the scenic route to Ben's Chili Bowl to pick up a chili half-smoke, Bill Cosby's favorite. Along with cheese fries and lemon cake. If I was going to be bad, decided to do it right.

The line to get in was INCREDIBLE. I probably waited an hour before ordering, 45 minutes of which were spent outside. Vendors were there hawking everything Obama, ranging from art (which was pretty good) to bottled water and scarves to calendars. Next door at the Historic Lincoln Theatre, was a salute to Barack Obama and Tom Joyner (whom I met in Sept. 2005). Did I miss Obama by not hanging around long enough??? Well, I should be seeing him at Tuesday night's ball.

Once inside, there was a groovy, positive vibe. Not just because it was warm, but the staff was upbeat. They saw the endless line and grooved to the music while preparing chili dogs (and the secret seems to be the French fry grease dumped on the dogs). Their positive vibe was contagious. It was packed in there and the crowd was paitent and everyone was friendly to one another. They even gave out cards saluting Barack Obama, who visited Ben's last weekend.

There's definitely an energy here in D.C., a positive one. It's as though the cloudy, gloomy day is starting to clear. The clouds are beginning to breakup and each day closer to inauguration day is a little brighter and on Jan. 20, look for clear, sunny, and optimistic skies.
Many storefronts, restaurants, and homes display Obama signs and posters. Loads of restaurants are offering inaugural specials all weekend. Locals and travelers to D.C. are wearing Obama apparel including buttons, hats, and scarves.

There's something in the cold, crisp D.C. air (it was 19 Fahrenheit this afternoon) and I'm pretty sure it's hope for our country.

View today's photos over at Flickr by clicking this link.

Ben's Chili Bowl
1213 U Street N.W.
Washington, D.C.
Tel: 202/667.0909

Using Web Hosting Tutorials to Find the Best Company

I’ve been surfing the Net for more than a decade. Blogging almost four years and prior to that, had another site for at least 2 years, but after all that, I’m still not educated enough to offer web hosting tutorials to anyone looking to find a host. My domains are hosted through GoDaddy, which has made life simple for me, but, it’s time to implement my online plan.

What’s the plan? Well, I’m not saying until launched, wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, but it does involve the need for web hosting. I heard it’s not smart to keep domain URLs registered and web hosting with the same provider and the gal who designed this blog does offer the service (and if her web designs are any indication, I’m sure she’s one of the best web hosting companies). I just need to get off my butt and get a quote from her.

But can I do it myself? I’ve begun to delve into the web hosting tutorials offered by my friends over at Web Hosting Rating, and their site is a wealth of information with useful web hosting articles and tutorials.

Although I’m Web savvy, I’m not THAT tech savvy (just a bit more tech savvy than your average bear) so sifting through the web hosting tutorials is a bit overwhelming for me but digested in small doses, I can make sense of what is being said.

The site’s also a great resource to locate the best web hosting companies. We seem to be obsessed with the “best of the best” and top 10 lists. Over at Web Hosting Rating, you’ll find everything from best blog hosting company to best Unix hosting company.

I’m now making a mental note to stop procrastinating and contact this blog’s designer by the end of the month. Stay tuned!

My Road to the White House (Okay, Just the Presidential Inauguration)

Just as Obama is beginning his journey to D.C. this weekend, I'm beginning my journey, too. Of course, soon-to-be President Obama is making his historic journey via train, beginning in Philadelphia and stopping along the way in Wilmington, Del., and Baltimore. I'm just flying on a jet plane (but if I had the option of hopping aboard Amtrak, I'd done it in a heartbeat).

Flight's boarding, gotta!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Worden Farm: Week 7, 2009 Farm Share, I've Got the Beet(s)

This week's share from Worden Farms in Punta Gorda, Fla., was overflowing, thanks to a luscious head of cabbage. I was extremely happy to see more citrus and the addition of beets. I quickly roasted them up with some of the cauliflower from last week. Mmm, mmm! Loads of leafy greens along with radishes, tomatoes, eggplant, and thyme, too.

Want some of your own organic veggies? Visit Worden Farms at Fishermen's Village on Wednesdays 'til 1 p.m. Or, head up to Sarasota and check out their Downtown Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Okay, Guess Again: Look at All the Pretty Colors

I'm having fun with Sunday's post asking you what it is and I'm really surprised no one has guessed. So here it is again with two clues.

Here's the photo:Here are the clues:
Clue #1: Think 1970s disco song.
Clue #2: Katherine Helmond and Billy Crystal starred in this 1970s sitcom.

Happy guessing!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Have I Told You I'm Attending Obama's Inauguration?

Saturday I fly out to D.C. on a pretty cheap flight (under $200, direct from Sarasota to D.C.) to be part of history when Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States (and can't forget Joe Biden!).

Thanks to my friend Cordelia, whom I met during the trip to Afghanistan three years ago (was it that long ago?), I have a ticket for the swearing-in ceremony.

So what will I be doing other than attending Obama's swearing-in ceremony? Checkout my recent article, "My Plans for Barack Obama's Inauguration." And be sure to read ALL the way through to see the groovy jewelery I commissioned from Carnivale Creations. Miss Becky can create any themed jewelry that you need. Check her out!

Anyway, be sure to follow my blog and Twitter feed to read what I'm up to. So much is going on to celebrate the inauguration and I'm excited to be part of this historic event.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Play or Practical, Checkout Blomus Stainless Steel Home Accessories

Owning stainless steel kitchen accessories is reaching the culinary summit. I’m not sure what it is about stainless steel but I just love it. Maybe because it’s chic, elegant, yet cold, stern and confident. Okay, I realize “cold” isn’t usually a desired attribute but when it comes to stainless steel, I think you’ll agree with me it is sexy.

My stainless steel friends offer quite an impressive array of home accessories ranging from fun play items like blomus stainless steel pinwheels (pictured) to practical ones, such as blomus stainless steel mailboxes.

Which reminds me, while walking to the gym today, I noticed the pictured mailbox had been knocked over. I wondered, would blomus stainless steel mailboxes fall so easily as this one (pictured) did?

When I’m ready to buy my own place, be it a home on land or on wheels, there’s a good chance I’ll be outfitting my culinary nook with stainless steel kitchen accessories, like a pepper mill or cheese slicer, to inspire gourmet excellence. As for you, my home-owning readers, checkout the blomus stainless steel kitchen accessories for your cooking needs.

Worden Farm: Week 6, 2009 Farm Share, Cauliflower

More good stuff in this week's Worden Farm (in Punta Gorda, Fla.) veggie share, cauliflower is the new item. And, I'm very excited the fixings (sans tomatoes, but I have some left over from last week) for guacamole were included in this week's box(avocado, cilantro, and chives). Yum! I can make it like my friend barb showed me while in Mexico.I've been truly enjoying eating the fresh vegetables and can really tell a difference with my body and how I feel. I also dared to step on the scale today at the gym and have lost 5 pounds since New Year's. At this rate, I'll meet my goal weight in no time! The easiest way to prepare the veggies is to make stir fry, which is what I usually do on nights I pick up my farm share.Pictured is last week's stir fry, which I put atop jasmine rice and add a few grilled shrimp (grilled on my George Foreman. Notice the yellow pot clip on the stir fry pan? Got that gadget for Christmas and it's handy for placing my spoon on the edge without worrying about it falling in or off and catching on fire - which I accidentally left a burner on and scorched my wooden spoon a couple of months back. Oops! I was wondering where that campfire scent was coming from...

Anyway, you can pick a pink pot clip here on Amazon.

Hello, Australia! Come On Over to the U.S. in 2009

Employed by the tourism industry, I sometimes feel as though I should be a travel ambassador and encourage visitation to the great U.S. of A. Despite the global economic climate, 2009 is going to be the year for travel. Have you seen the cheap international airfares out there? To that extent, I extend an invitation to our friends in Australia to take advantage of the cheap flights on the Web and come explore our purple mountains majesty and fields of amber grain.

I know, I know, you’ve been staying away because of the reputation of “Fortress America” but that will be changing very soon. The U.S. customs folks are learning how to smile and making our friends deplaning from international flights feel more welcomed. Grab one of those cheap flights from down under and come visit our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., the new home of Obama. Or, hop on one of the cheap United Airlines flights and head to Los Angeles to find Nicole Kidman’s $7.6 million dollar home. Better yet, come to sunny Florida to paddle a kayak alongside alligators in the Everglades, get your groove on next to the beautiful people in Miami, or just be lazy on our incredible beaches. There's always the flavor of New Orleans (street performers pictured).

Or, if you feel obligated to spend time with family, visit your Canadian cousins on a cheap Qantas flight into Vancouver, one of my FAVORITE North American cities. It’s part Bohemian, part sophisticated, a bit metropolitan, and accented with loads of international flair (bike from Granville Island in Vancouver pictured).

Loads of international flights are out there for you Australians to get yourselves over here, just do it! And when doing so, be sure to visit my friends over at, they’ll hook you up with the best international airfares.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Giddy Up! Horse Surfing with Great World Nature Tours

Yesterday was the great horse surfing adventure out on Bradenton Beach with Great World Nature Tours. "How do you find these strange things?" my grandma asked.

Not sure, they just seem to find me. But remember, I'm all about bragging rights and yesterday's Horse Surfing 101 was definitely that.

I convinced my college pal Val to join in the adventure, none of my Sarasota friends were interested. The day began with a tasty lunch at the BeachHouse Restaurant before our aquatic equestrian adventure.

Sans Saddle, Giddy Up
There were four of us in our group, an adventurous mother and daughter, Val, and me. I think the other two were more experienced in horseback riding. I don't think I've been on one since my Yellowstone years. We rode the horses bareback which meant no saddle, no blankets, just a bridle. I used the step stool to mount my horse and at first, didn't think I was going to make it. Do you know how wide a horse is?

After managing to swing my right leg over the horse's back (who was named Batman), my body kept sliding over to the right. No stirrups to slip my feet into meant I had to quickly find a way to balance myself otherwise I was going to end of on the beach. Somehow, I managed to do so. Once perched, my body was engaged in a juggling act with my thighs doing most of the work. (I've decided riding a horse bareback is probably better for my thighs than that thigh reduction/abduction machine at the gym.)

Now what? I was instructed to grab Batman's mane for better balance and away we went along the beach. I'm sure I had a look of fear on my face. If it didn't show, I was definitely feeling it inside. Val asked me to smile for a photo and I think I managed a grimace between concentrating on hanging on for dear life. But once we got moving, I became more comfortable. Our little jaunt was about a mile long before entering the water and the fun continued.

Balancing on a Horse's Back
The horses were frisky in the cool water but once settled, Val and I took turns "horse surfing." It reminded me a bit like high school when having to perform on the balance beam during gym class. Except, this balance beam was a bit furrier, rounder, and bumpier.

I leaned forward, scooted my body towards the horse's back end and swung my feet up. Once gaining a grip with my toes, I stood up on my knees then slowly rose to a standing position. Standing tall I felt like Kate Winslet's character Rose in Titanic (sans a prince charming). I felt powerful. I felt like one of those circus bareback horse riders who showed off while prancing around the ring. I felt...the zing of the cold water and its salty taste as I lost my footing and plunged back first into the bay.

We rode around a bit more in the water, at least one swam with its rider atop. I had a little visitor, Bandit, a Jack Russel Terrier with an adorable underbite. (You'll see him in the Flickr photo stream.) He also belongs to the outfitter's owner and horse surfing originator, Timothy Mattox. He swam out in his little personal flotation device and sat on my lap then on the back of the horse.

I suppose to fully experience the "surfing" part of it, one would need to be standing on the horse as it swims or walks. Just standing on a relatively sedentary horse was difficult enough and learning to actually stand while balancing on an oversized, furry surfboard takes true coordination. Perhaps I'll register for Horse Surfing 201 to hone the skill.

Great World Nature Tours
The outfitter offers horseback riding on the beach in Bradenton along with trail rides in Venice, Fla. The hour-long horse surfing adventure costs $60 per person, the duration and cost of other horseback riding trips vary. Visit their Web site for a calendar of events, prices, and to see horse surfing videos. Or contact them at 941/650.1820.

If visiting the Tampa Bay area, Bradenton, Sarasota, Port Charlotte, or Punta Gorda, this is a fun way to spend an afternoon.

View my Flickr photo stream for images of the experience.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Worden Farm: Week 5, 2009 Farm Share, Corn!

Corn was included in this week's farm share from Worden Farm in Punta Gorda. I made corn pancakes with a recipe included in the box. Also new this week were red heart radishes, not as spicy as the smaller, red ones. Rosemary and fennel were new, too.

Lots of greens which are loaded with tons of vitamins along with squash and tomatoes were in the box, too. I feel so healthy and with kicking it up at the gym (twice daily on the weekends), I hope to be seeing some results soon.

Can't wait to see what's in next week's, although I'm having a tough time consuming everything. After all, the box is for 2 people. I'm freezing what I can for future use.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Oh! The Places I've Been in 2008 and What's Ahead for 2009

The New Year’s begun yet I’m already looking ahead to travel in 2010. The first half of 2008 and a little bit beyond was challenging for me and each passing day is less of a struggle as I learn to let go and move forward. I won’t dwell on the negative in this post but recap my 2008 travels.

January – Grapevine, Texas; tied a business trip (and stayed at the Gaylord Texan) with a personal visit to see my friend Madge in New Braunfels. I gave an informal presentation about my March 2006 Afghanistan trip to about 20 of Madge’s friends. The evening was topped with yoga class.

February – Spent five days in Virginia Beach, Va., and I actually enjoyed the place. Since it was February, it wasn’t overcrowded with visitors. I attended a conference and in between sessions, I was able to explore, took a hike and bike, and ate at some groovy “green” restaurants.

This is the month I made the painful trip back to Flamingo in the Everglades to attend Peter’s memorial and close a significant chapter in my life. To this day, I still can’t believe he’s gone, it doesn’t seem real. During this time, many emotions were at play. As a result, I had to take care of paying for and selling a boat, reclaimed my cat, become virtually debt free (by the end of 2009 I should be 100% debt free), and was almost arrested. You’ll have to wait for my book to learn all the details, of course, I need to be more diligent in penning it.

March – Found myself in the East Coast version of Portland, Ore., Asheville, N.C. I absolutely love that bohemian, mountain town. It wasn’t what I expected, it was better. I know a lot of Sarasota folks spend their summers up there and have heard how artistic it is. I was expecting refined, stuffy arts and culture with snooty people but what I found was almost the opposite. There was a bohemian vibe and look to the young folks and individuality is celebrated. There’s fine art along with modern and folk art. And the food was incredible!

Did I tell you how much I love Asheville? If you go, head to the city’s main visitor’s center and take a trolley tour. And if the budget can afford it, stay at the Grove Park Inn. It reminded me of the Old Faithful Inn, sans a view of Old Faithful. Instead, the hotel has a fantastic view of the sunset over the mountains and fabulous lobby to cozy around the grand fireplace.

Over Easter I ended up in the Everglades again and not sure when I’ll return again, if ever. Flamingo wasn’t the same. Not only because Peter’s gone but because Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma destroyed Flamingo in 2005. Flamingo’s cabins have been torn down and at the time, the Lodge had been condemned, scheduled to be torn down. The restaurant and gift shop were abandoned, too. What a shame. It’s a beautiful setting right there on Florida Bay. I hope the National Park Service and some management company come to terms and build something magnificent there.

April – Spent a weekend in Atlanta for business and was able to meet up with my friend Mary Etta. I also spent a weekend in New Orleans as part of the Tourism Cares project at Louis Armstrong Park. I’d love to join TC in 2009 as they head to Gettysburg but don’t think my work schedule will allow it. *sigh*

May– I said goodbye to Tallahassee (it was time) and hello to Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands. I’m enjoying living back on Florida’s Southwest Gulf coast, maybe I’ll buy a house later this year, especially if it continues to be a buyer’s market.

June – Vegas, baby! Less than a month in my new position (I think maybe 3 weeks after) I was in Las Vegas for a very quick trip (2 nights) for a conference. The best part about the trip was spending time with my friend Shep and meeting Ambrose.

Another business trip took me to Gainesville where I enjoyed the night scene. Yes, I was on the dance floor ‘til 2 a.m. dancing with the college kids and was up ‘til 4 or so after enjoying the best pizza ever.

For pleasure it was Savannah and since it’s a trip I’d like to forget, I’ll say no more about it.

July – I almost died this month from drowning while attempting to cross the Peace River during the Freedom Swim. My sister Liz from Buffalo came to visit later that month and we spent a girl weekend in Key West, which happened to be the same weekend as Hemingway Days. Good times had by all.

August – Up to Buffalo for my 20 year high school reunion. I know, I can’t be THAT old but I am. It was a quick trip and glad I attended.

September – It was off to Gatlinburg for an almost week-long business trip. As usual, I did manage to work in some play time and found the Dukes of Hazzard Museum and Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum.

BlogOrlando 3 Unconference
was one of my favorite trips this year and certainly hope another one will be held in 2009. As the name implies, it was a gathering of geeks and was in my element.

October – Business trips were made to Jennings, Fla., and St. Augustine. For my pleasure it was Lafayette, La., to explore and eat my way through Cajun Country. Also, since Florida was a swing state for the presidential election, the candidates made several appearances here in the Sunshine State. I caught Gov. Sarah Palin in Tampa and Hillary Clinton campaigning for Obama near Orlando.

November – The work road led me to Ponte Vedra Beach and less than a week later I was in Mexico visiting barb over Thanksgiving week. We packed a lot in that short week and the trip left me wanting more to explore.

December - While I write this it seems like it was years ago, but this is when I had the Dinner in the Sky experience at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek on Florida’s East Coast. That night I was in Islamorada for a Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing! seminar. Christmas was spent in Buffalo with the family and New Year’s was rung in quietly.

2009 - The Road Ahead
Which leads me to 2009. What’s in store? I don’t have a crystal ball to predict what will happen. I hope to still be employed and at the same time, hope to expand my writing, blogging, and learn more about social media.

In January, I’ll be attending Obama’s Inauguration in Washington, D.C., (purchased Uggs today to keep my toes warm); February it’s off to Miami for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, I have a ticket for the Barilla Interactive Cooking Lunch with Guy Fieri and have a business trip planned for Ohio. The folks will also be visiting sometime that month, too. July I’m planning to attend the BlogHer Conference in Chicago.

As for the rest of the year, my travel will have to be planned around what’s happening in the office and since a lot of it has been last minute, it’s difficult for me to plan. Not sure if any international travel will be scheduled.

I’m looking ahead to 2010 and thinking of something to celebrate my 40th birthday. Perhaps a long February or March weekend in Anchorage, Alaska, to see the Aurora Borealis or a week-long trip to Wyoming to spend some time at a guest ranch, like Wyoming High Country.

I can only wish the travel path ahead leads to the best year yet.