Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Everglades

We spent the day today in a place like no other, visiting Everglades National Park.
A visit to the Everglades has long been on my “bucket list” and this trip Fred and I decided to do some exploring.
We started out this morning by stopping at the Visitors center and then walked the Anhinga trail.
The Anhinga is only half a mile long, a meandering series of hard paths and board walks that lead you through saw grass and mangroves teaming with wildlife. We saw amazing birds from the scary looking Turkey Vulture to Great Blue Herons.
There were Little Green Heron lurking in the low bushes, Frigate with their lovely swooping tails flying high above, Cormorant drying their wings after a dive, Snowy Egret standing perfectly still and waiting for prey, and of course Anhinga with their beautiful white piano key markings.
Alligators were everywhere! Swimming in the water and sunning themselves on the grass. There were turtles and frogs, butterflies and orchids, air plants and dragonflies. It was an amazing introduction to the park.
We drove the “Road to Flamingo”.
Fred and I have wanted to take this route since I gave him a book for Christmas about 7 years ago of the 50 Most Scenic Drives in America.
The landscape is so flat and the grass so tall and plentiful that it looks like waves over the ocean. The sound is similar too as the breeze pushes the dry grass together. Birds float over the landscape and you can see the nests of Osprey and Heron in the tops of the bare trees. Fred saw a short little Key Deer but we think the crossing signs for panthers are like the ones for bear and moose in Vermont and new Hampshire---just a tease! I told Fred the only panther he was going to see would be wearing a hockey jersey.
Flamingo is tiny! There is a Visitors center, a Marina and a little store. Apparently there used to be a restaurant but it didn’t survive the last Hurricanes. Many people camp at this end of the park. Braver souls than I to risk close encounters with snakes and other creepy crawlies.
We rented a canoe at the Marina and went paddling for a couple of hours.
My favorite site of the day --a Manatee! It swam very close to our boat, grazing on the algae that collect on the roots of the red mangrove trees. We watched the manatee until a motored boat scared it away.
We drove back to Florida City. Tired and a little sunburned but happy with the day.
On the road out of the park we stopped at Robert is Here Fruit Stand. It is possibly the best fruit and vegetable stand I have ever shopped at. We splurged on heirloom tomatoes, strawberries, and tree ripened pink grapefruit, all of which will have to be eaten in the next couple of days.
Our guide book said that “Robert’s fruit smoothies are the best in the land”, they didn’t lie.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Key West

Key West Florida is one of our favorite vacation spots.

This was the third visit for Fred and I and it was every bit as enjoyable as we anticipated.

I don't know why Key West calls to me so strongly.
I love the ocean but there are oceans in closer places.
I love the warm weather but it is more than that.

Maybe it is just the fact that anything is acceptable in Key West.

The world feels free of judgement and critisism and I breathe more freely without that negative energy.

Where else in the world can you drink a perfect margarita while applauding the sunset, be cooled by an ocean breeze being entertained by a magician, and get hugged by a drag queen dressed like Marilyn all in the same evening?

Fred and I stayed in Old Town at La Pensione, a beautiful Classic Revival mansion from the Victorian era, that has been restored to it's former glory and now serves as a 9 room Bed and Breakfast.

The rooms are large and beautiful, the gardens lush and tropical, and no one could have taken better care of us than Freyda, Janie and Gary did.

We went to the beach almost every day. Fort Zachary Taylor and Bahia Honda State Parks are our favorites.
We walked the streets of Old Town, visited the cemetery and biked around the city.
We visited the Southernmost Point, the Butterfly Conservatory, and Blue Heaven.
We drank hog washes, listened to the roosters and smiled at the 6 toed cats sunning themselves every where.
The performers and vendors in Mallory Square were better than ever and the sunsets more spectacular than we remembered.

We had our favorite meal of ropa vieja at El Siboney and tried 2 "new to us" restaurants.
The Meteor Smokehouse has great ribs, pulled pork and brisket and Salsa Loca has great mexican cuisine.

We enjoyed our stay. It was wonderful and restful and refreshed us.

Until next time key West.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Sunsets are a beautiful experience any time but somehow when you are near the ocean they seem to fill the sky and be cause for celebration.
People stop and watch, breathe a little deeper, and let the cares of the day slide right off their shoulders.
The colors are spectacular.
Reds and oranges, golds, pinks and mauves all against a blue sky as it fades to black and the stars come out.
Sunset celebrations in the Keys vary from the raucous party in Mallory square to a lone fisherman drinking a beer as he packs up his catch.
My particular favorite is to watch the sun go down in Fort Zachary Taylor state park. but they we have to ride our bikes very quickly to get out of the park before they lock the gates. It's worth the rush!
I will have to make it a point to stop and enjoy the evening ritual when we are back home in New York. Feel free to join us for Margarita's and Corona's this summer as the sun goes down. We won't even make you ride your bike home in the dark.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Walking with Butterflies

Key West has a Butterfly Conservatory!
Who new? Fred and I saw it on a map when we went to the Southernmost Point this week and decided to go in.
I suppose that makes it the southernmost butterfly conservatory since everything on that end of the island is the southernmost something.
It was a magical experience.
The butterflies were vibrant and active, fluttering around our heads and faces, even landing on us occasionally.
Whoever dubbed them flying flowers had it right. I felt like I was in a Disney movie come to life.
They were amazing in their size and color. My favorites had to be the iridescent blue ones that wouldn't hold still long enough to have their pictures taken.
The conservatory environment was beautiful. Full of tropical plantings, fountains and waterfalls, and birds of unusual color(I am sure that they are the kind that don't eat butterflies).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lighthouse Adventure-Jupiter Inlet

Today Fred and I found ourselves at the top of the Jupiter Inlet lighthouse in Jupiter Florida.
Fred loves lighthouses and we have searched out many for him over the years. When we decided to make this trip to South Florida, we tried to include a few more.
The Jupiter lighthouse is a beautiful dark red brick tower that sits at the Jupiter inlet to mark dangerous shoals that were once hazards to Gulf Stream boat traffic. It's beautiful coloring and easy access made it a must see for our trip.
It is located in Lighthouse Park located just off A1A and is clearly visible from the road.
The lighthouse is operated by the Loxahatchee River Historical Society which maintains a museum at the site and offers guided tours of the Lighthouse itself.
We had the good fortune to meet Red at the top of the lighthouse. He has been a volunteer docent for
many years and he shares Fred's love of lighthouses and Civil War history. We were lucky enough to be in a small group so had a lot of time to talk with him.
The lighthouse was lit in 1860 but was made dark shortly thereafter when Confederate sympathizers stole the working portions of it and buried them until the end of the Civil War.
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse also played an important role during WWII when a secret operation was set up there to intercept the radio transmissions of German U-boats. During the Summer of 1943 67 German submarines were destroyed due to their efforts.
Today the lighthouse remains an active aid to navigation and while owned by the Coast Guard it is maintained by the Historical Society.
Tomorrow morning we plan to take a closer look at the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse .
We will then head south to Key West.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Bubba the photographer's assistant

Yesterday was the first sunshiny day in a while when I had the day off. Taking good quality photographs of jewelry is not easy. The best light is found on a sunny day out of direct sunlight.
My favorite winter place to shoot pictures of jewelry is on the bed in my studio room in front of the window.

Unfortunately this is also the favorite late morning napping spot of my rather large black cat Bear, who we affectionately refer to as Bubba..
I tried to push him off the bed but 20 pounds of cat turned into a lump of jello that would not be moved.
I picked him up and put him on the floor repeatedly but he insisted on being on the bed.
I put him in the hall and closed the door.
He body slammed it until it opened.
We compromised.
I used an over bed tray for my set up and he laid underneath it.
This worked until he decided that the dangling strap of the camera was a great plaything.
The Bubba shots are less than appealing for jewelry advertisements.
Bubba loves stuff. Especially my stuff.
He is always trying to steal shiny bits from my jewelry supplies. He particularly likes things that jingle while he carries them. I have caught him at various times with a coil of sterling silver wire, a string of pearls, an ankle bracelet with bells and my car keys.
This time I prevailed. The lens cleaner attached to the camera strap is still mine.
Stealthy theft is not a talent he possesses.

Amethyst is February's Birthstone

Amethyst, the most beautiful of all crystal quartz's is an extravagance in violet.
It occurs in primary hues from a slightly pinkish violet, called "Rose De France" to an intense violet with red flashes, called "Siberian" which is the most sought after variety.
Amethyst may exhibit flashes in one or both of the secondary hues red or blue. The most valuable stones are transparent and pure violet in medium to dark tones with no shading toward red or blue.
Amethyst was used as a gemstone by the ancient Egyptians and was largely employed in antiquity for intaglios, a type of carved gemstone in which the figure is engraved on the surface of the stone rather than left in relief by cutting away the background, as in a cameo.
Ancient Greeks and Romans wore Amethyst and made drinking vessels of it in the belief that it would prevent intoxication.
Medieval European soldiers wore amethyst amulets as protection in battle.
Beads of amethyst were found in Anglo-Saxon graves in England.
Ranking members of the Roman Catholic Church traditionally wear rings set with a large amethyst as part of their office.
Amethyst is produced in abundance from Brazil where it occurs in large geodes called almonds that are found within volcanic rocks. It is also found and mined in Austria, Brazil, Uruguay, Russia, India and Zambia. Amethyst occurs in areas of the United States and Canada but these specimens are not considered jewelry quality.
Amethyst is the birthstone associated with February.
It is one of the most common crystals found in the earths crust.
Amethyst is sensitive to light and heat. These stones should not be worn while sunbathing or tanning and should be protected from extreme heat as they can lose their color or yellow when exposed to either. they can be cleaned with a soft cloth and gentle soap and water.
Amethyst stones are beautiful when set in either silver or gold.
They are particularly attractive when paired with diamonds and moonstone.
The FamiLee Jewels uses amethyst in many of our pieces. The rich purple color appeals to jewelry collectors of all ages. We have used it in focal beads for pendants and chainmaille. We have used it as accent beads with moonstone and peridot. We have used it in stand alone pieces that feature only amethyst.