Thursday, September 30, 2010


Photo of the Route 312 bridge taken from the Bridge of Lions on a rainy day.

Can't really get great radio stations here, but have discovered Pandora online and am listening to Glenn Gould play Bach.

The weather is finally cooling down. But I just tried to open my guest bedroom window where I am sleeping and there's no bloody screen!!! Ratz. Ah, the joys of owning an old house

Finished the landscape design class today. Now I have a better handle on what to plant, but the instructor suggested I wait a year to see what my yard does, what the sun does, before making any major plant purchases. I have planted my double apricot hibiscus and a gardenia and have a
coral vine waiting to be planted by the fence. None of them may survive the winter, at least not without some covering help, but then again they may. As part of the course, the instructor includes a free on-site home visit to give advice on what to plant. Best $30 I ever spent.
The agricultural center grounds where I took the design class has a community garden which I wandered about in today. Made me miss Edgerton very much, but at the same time it was interesting to see what people were doing with their plots. There was a beautiful circle garden, almost like a labyrinth, which quite pleased me. And someone else had constructed a bench with a bird house on a pole on one end and an umbrella at the other end. I've got to put in the ground the various bulbs I brought down from CT before they rot in the backyard. It has just been too hot to do much outside. Still trying to sift those darn rocks out of the front flower bed.

Photo of some local birds hanging around a borrow pit.

My rugs for the front screened porch arrived and I like them very much. I found some inexpensive shades I'm installing to keep the morning sun at bay, and purchased a standing fan on sale today as the porch ceiling is a bit too low to install a ceiling fan. Porch needs air circulation. Had my morning coffee sitting out there today for the first time.

Had a small fire yesterday when I put new lightbulbs into my stained glass cat-base lamp. The bulb popped when I screwed it in and then it burst into flames. All I could think to do was to pull out the cord from the socket and that did indeed stop the fire. So now have to have the darned thing rewired I guess.

Tomorrow I'm going very early to a community garage sale at Coquina Crossing, where some of my friends live. It's a suburb about ten miles out of town. You know how I love those events. Saturday there's a home and garden show at the ag center, and they'll be selling plants and hosting all types of vendors. Sunday it's over to S & J's for their weekly get-together and dinner and swim in the warm therapy pool if anyone wants. And of course Bindi will get to see her Corgi boyfriend Jasper.

Next week I'm going out to Palatka to visit Sandra Birnhak, which is interior Florida, but near the St. Johns River. She was hosting the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society table at the Florida Heritage Book Festival last weekend. What an interesting event that was, tables and tables of authors and books about the history of Florida, in all possible genres. I could have spent a lot of money, but I think I should unpack my own books first . . .

Slept thru this week's episode of "House." Would have had to have gone over to J & T's house anyway to watch it since I don't have a tv yet, but will make sure to catch it Monday night. Slept through a women's networking wine tasting event too this week, but that's ok, they do stuff all the time.

Got into a conversation at the hardware store today with a woman who said she was getting rid of the grass in her yard and letting it go back to its mostly wild state, and getting rid of the invasive plant species. She told me about the rattler and cotton mouth snakes in the area, and how they can kill small dogs with their bite. She advised me to get rid of the pile of brush that I have in the back yard of my house, as they like to hang out there, even tho the landscape design instructor advised keeping such piles for the snakes as they eat mice and other vermin. Oh the delicate balance of nature.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cherry Laurel and Algerian Ivy

Don't know if I can get myself to buy a $3500 Tempur-pedic bed. And that's just the mattress, not even a bed. Saw an Englander brand today for $900 on sale, foam and latex and an organic bamboo cover, whatever. Will go back and look at it again. Englander is a brand I had never heard of up north, but it has pretty good reviews online.

Looked at sofas again. Don't know how I will ever make a decision. Everything is so expensive new, and I get so overwhelmed by all the choices.

Had dinner with J & T, and some high spirited conflicting opinions after, but no loss. People down here are just more conservative.

Had an hour and 1/2 massage today. It was ok, but I'm so preoccupied by this furniture buying. What a drag. How can I make it more enjoyable? It should be exciting to get new things, but I can't find exactly what I want, so anything will be a compromise. I think that's the problem. Paying so much money for compromise. All the sofas are too low and the cushions not firm enough, and still we're talking $1000.

Planted a volunteer cherry laurel tree in the yard today. It was in a pot with a yucca, so I divided them and since the tree was already six feet tall I thought I might as well put it in the ground. Took some leaves to the landscape design class yesterday and the instructor said it can get big, but it flowers and produces a nice berry that the birds like, so that's reasons enough to try to salvage it. Also was told that Algerian ivy is a good ground cover down here for under shady trees, so got a couple of those plants.

Have ordered most of the materials needed for my watercolor class that will begin in a couple of weeks. Been ordering a bunch of stuff online cause it's less expensive..

Just finished reading "Wench," by Dolan Perkins-Valdez. It was a page-turner for me, a novel about 19th century slavery, and the friendships of the slave women, and their relationships to their owners. It just happened to be on the return shell when I signed up for my library card. Nothing fancy in the writing, yet a worthwhile read.

The Saint Augustine Gay Pride festival is tomorrow. I signed up to do registration for a couple of hours. Thought it would be a good way to meet folks. J. will be exhibiting some of his art. Also will stop by the Florida Heritage Book Festival to visit Sandra Birnhak, whom I met when I went to the Backus murals showing. She's in charge of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society, and has produced the movie "The Yearling," from Rawlings book of the same name. Birnhak has invited me out to her farm which is a bit inland from here, but it sounds lovely. She has eight dogs. Also scheduled a haircut. And have to go back and look at that $900 mattress set. Sleeping on this futon is no good.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Potato Capital of Florida

It's a ghost town, esp. on a Sunday afternoon. Two blocks long, burned out and neglected buildings. There's a cafe, closed, an antiques store, and the ubiquitous Dollar General, which was open, along with the Kangaroo gas island.

Behind the second from the left window in the above photo, you can just about see the a/c vents, is a small room, once a waiting area for the doctor and dentist, and on those walls are spectacular murals painted by the acclaimed Florida landscape artist A.E. Backus. The building was set for demolition, and upon examination of the interior, 50 years since the building had been occupied, these treasures were found five months ago. I would never have known about them except for the excellent P.R. by Sandra Birnhak, one of the curators of the find, and a long time movie producer. ("The Yearling" was one of her productions.) Sitting in the room with her and my friend ML, I felt a bit like I did when I went to Ellis Island in NYC -- there were spirits there, the room was bathed in history and a standing-still of time. The water damage to the walls and the original torn curtain on the window emitted memories of the likely hundreds of people who had sat in those chairs waiting for medical attention, bringing their energies into a space locked shut for decades.

These murals are considered to be some of his earliest work, and my photos don't do them justice. If you google AE Backus paintings, and click images, you'll see his beautiful art, along with that of the Highwaymen, a group of African American painters who studied with Backus, and sold their paintings for next to nothing along the A1A highway in Florida.
An attempt is being made to preserve this historical find, preferable intact as an entire room, but so far the right situation has not materialized. The curator wants Flagler College to take on the project, since it is the place closest to the town of Hastings where the paintings are surviving. Flagler says no. I even wrote a letter to the President of Flagler myself, and in no uncertain terms he made it clear they had no interest in this remarkable work.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Non-Sulfite Organic Zinfandel

The first landscape design class yesterday left me with homework, and a great deal of knowledge about how to go about landscaping this property. Did you know landscaping, along with energy efficiency, are the two most important investments you can make in a home for later sale? I was warned not to just go out and buy pretty plants and try to landscape with them. Also, my soil is all sand so I will have to put tons of amendments in any place that I plant something. It was fun to find the University of Florida Agricultural Center and see what they are up to. There was a community garde on site!

Stopped at the new Publix supermarket near there on the way home, and got some things I needed. As usual, got into a conversation with the cashier and bag person about how I just moved here. The bagger offered to help me to my car with my parcels, but I declined as I didn't have much. He asked if there were bag boys in CT. I said yes but they never offer to help me to my car with the bags. He said, why not? I said, cause they're CT bag boys!!

Came home to find the AT&T guy hooking up my phone line and dsl. He was talking on his cell phone about some drama at work, and he later told me that a co-worker was threatening to do bodily harm to him but management wasn't doing anything about it. I didn't really wanna here it, but there you are. He got the connection working, left, and then I attempted to set up my modem and internet and wireless theatre. Well, of course I couldn't get it to work so called the AT&T support people, and was on the phone for 3 hours before they were able to get it to work. I was so frustrated and tired.

Too much for one day. Slept badly and woke up feeling like I had been hit by a truck. Went to the pharmacy to get scripts refilled, then to Target to get some more things I needed. I was walking around Target in a daze, unable to remember what I went there for, and completely spaced out.

Came home, took a short nap with the critters and went to J & T's for dinner, and then nice conversation on their deck overlooking the San Sebastin river. Lovely.

One step at a time

Wrote this yesterday. Today I am exhausted.

16 Sept. 2010

8.05 am

The landscaping class I wanted to take was full when I called, but they said they would call me if there was a cancellation, and there was. I'll be doing that the next three Thursdays, and then the watercolor class.

Yesterday I went to the Women's Networking lunch at La Pavillon, which was kind of interesting and fun. There was the usual assortment of thin well-dressed blondes, real estate agents, metabolic weight loss distributors, fitness trainers, and a few normal women like myself, therapists, radio announcers, yoga teachers, dog trainers, wine shoppe owners. Everyone stood up and took one minute to introduce herself, and then we had lunch. I ordered the vegetarian option, and it was a beautiful plate of spinach, carrots, mushrooms, rice, brussels sprouts, green beans, mostly steamed. Very good. $8. Made a connection with a young woman who will be doing Thai massage, which is a combination of yoga stretches and massage. I've known about it for a long time, but think I will finally try it with her. I liked her energy.

Also stopped in Sofa Tucker's, (get it?) a furniture store, a small one, near the restaurant to begin my search for the perfect sectional sofa for my small living room. I realized that many sofa cushions are too squishy for me, and I want firmer cushions. They did have one nice piece, not a sectional, but I could get a matching love seat or chair and use a corner table although I didn't want to do that. Also in the neighborhood is the rare and used book store that JM works at, so I stopped in to see her for a bit. She seemed distracted by whatever was going on with the computer so I didn't stay.

Came back to the house and took my typical-these-days four hour nap. Two cats and a dog on the bed and being unconscious for a few hours seems to help keep me grounded during this transition. The weather has been cooler in the mornings and evenings, but still hot during the day. Tuesday night J & S called and we went to Saint Augustine Beach and I had my first dip in the 82 degree ocean water since I've been here. It was very nice. The breeze was cool after we got out and I realize I have to get myself to the beach more often when I'm hot. We didn't take the dogs, but they are allowed on the beach if on leash. You can also DRIVE and park on the beach in some places, for a fee. Weird. CT would never allow that . . .

Attended an auction at the Ponce de Leon Mall last night for a while. A lot of the stuff was crap, and it was definitely the other end of the spectrum of the Women's Networking crowd, but the auctioneers, both very young, were very very funny. And a young Asian woman was showing off her baby squirrel that she had rescued. She was just holding it in her hands, and the little thing was tiny, but lively and healthy. Quite sweet. In the office on the wall was this ginormous white moose head, not only the largest moose head I had ever seen, but white! There was as well a very large, very old long hair orange Persian cat sleeping on the counter, and I couldn't help but notice the similarity between the two. The only thing I wanted to bid on was a swing open pet gate, but it didn't come up for bidding before I got bored and tired and left.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Conservati. . .

I'm sitting in Barnes & Noble in a chair in front of the Current Affairs shelves. Just some of the books with their covers facing out are Courage and Consequence (Karl Rove) second row, Conduct Unbecoming (Robert Patterson), top row, Right Now (Michael Steele) and Liberty and Tyranny (Mark Levin), Courting Disaster (Marc Thiessen) all third row, Catastrophe (Dick Morris & Eileen McGann) and Culture of Corruption (Michelle Malkin) fourth row. Oh, Audacity of Hope (Barack Obama) is on the very bottom shelf. I suppose I do have some kind of duty to put a few more liberal titles facing out, just for the sake of equality . . .

Just did some shopping for household needs at Marshall's and KMart. Man, do I hate shopping. It would be much easier with a buddy, but I can only shop spontneously when I feel I can stand it, so I have to grab the moment with no time to find someone to go with.

Yesterday I went to the Jacksonville branch of the Mayo Clinic where J. had an appointment. Figure I may be seeing doctors there one of these days, so going with her gave me a chance to see where it was. I sat in the cafe while she went to her appt. and on the way back we stopped at Fresh Market, a kind of sort of natural foods market about 1/2 hour from Saint Augustine. It's hard to get good produce in the local supermarkets here, unlike CT. The farmer's markets have good greens, but no fruit. It's a little early for the citrus crop, and past peaches and strawberries. I will surely miss the variety of fresh apples available up north. Fresh Market was decent, but they didn't carry soy cheese or non sulfite wine. We stopped at Villano Beach for a bit, and I got my feet wet in the 84 degree ocean water for the first time. J. and I talked about trying to set up some kind of exercise schedule together. I hope that works out.

My plumbing problem turns out to be just an uncapped vent pipe under the house releasing foul smells. The guy will order the part and come back next week to install it. Should be about $150. Glad it wasn't anything worse.

Saw a notice in the paper that the school district needs volunteers to read to kindergartner's (sp)so will follow up on that. I think I would find that most enjoyable. There's also a three week landscaping class which starts this Thusday at the ag center, and if you attend all three classes they apparently will come out to your house and give you a free landscape assessment.

Sunday JG came over and fixed by back door screen so it would shut. Said he didn't want the job of renovating my studio out back, so will get the nice carport moving guy to do it. Later went to S & J's for dinner, seafood gumbo and salad, and we watched "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," with Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman. It was entertaining, but not well acted, although I think kids would like it a lot.

Been sleeping a lot still. About ready to go home for my afternoon nap.
Photos from around town: a pink vine I must have but don't know what it is; a very good example of xeroscape; a sign in a window at night; guess?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Not likin' the heat. Can barely be outside for more than ten minutes. No fall gardening for me this year, I'm afraid.

My carport has been moved back on the property and I have a new screen door in the front. This guy moved the carport by himself with a brilliant application of engineering and wheels. Amazing to watch. He did discover I have a leak in my sewage drain under the house. Now on to the plumber. I'm glad I've got a network of good referrals, tho.

Today I met S. at the Toastmaster's event she was part of. This is a speaker's enhancement and advancement group, and today's theme was humor, so I went for the laughs. People tell stories from their own experience and get judged. Lots of good will and appreciation. S. was one of the judges. She says being a part of it has increased her self esteem.

Stopped by a used furniture store I had passed many times since arriving here and had this kind of stunning conversation with the owner, a man from Scotland. I asked him how he got to Florida. He said he and his wife lived in Atlanta, and although they were still very much in love, they divorced. Of course I asked why, if they were so in love. He said she is the heiress to the Ingersoll Rand fortune, and is extremely rich. She wanted a companion more than an independent husband, and she would give him an allowance, but did not want him to hold down a job, as she preferred that he follow her around on her shopping and other trips. He told her he was going to open a restaurant, and she said "if you do I'll divorce you." He opened the place, and sure enough, she filed. He had already realized he was more her "girlfriend" than her husband, even before the split, amicably apparently. He said she ended up moving to Miami, and occasionally they get together, but that he is not doing anymore "booty" calls, even tho she sends a private plane to pick him up. He said he will have dinner with her from time to time, but nothing else. When he told her he had opened a used furniture store, she was aghast, and hoped that he was making his own furniture still, which he is. In the divorce he was awarded 10k per year alimony, plus she has to pay his health insurance for life, and a couple of other things. He says he could have gotten a great deal more in alimony because the judge said he should continue in the lifestyle to which he had become accustomed, but it was clear he was anxious to make his own way, and he said he was never happier than he is now.

This place is so funky and diverse; even the carpenter, with a fine arts degree, and his own woodworking business, is best friends with his ex-girlfriend and they work on projects together. He wears the dog tags of his brother and sister in law, who are both in the military and in Afghanistan. He has tatoos on his body from images evoked from Steven King's "The Dark Tower."

Am going over to S and J's tomorrow as usual. S. constantly reminds me to bring Bindi, as she says Jasper is "moping" more for lack of seeing her. Ha!

Wednesday I'm going to a women's networking lunch to which I have been invited. Hope to meet some new and engaging people.