Tuesday, March 31, 2015

70th Birthday Week

In our family we have a tradition of celebrating birthdays for multiple days. This usually happens because there is a "immediate family celebration" and then a "extended family gathering" and finally a "friends party". Well, this is how it happens with the grandchildren and it is modified a bit for us adults. The important thing is that we are all given permission to celebrate for about a week with special meals, sometimes gifts, fun experiences, and extraordinary gatherings.

My celebration began on Saturday, 3/21, when our first born, Carla, flew into Tampa International, rented a car, and met us for lunch at Sam's on Hudson Beach.

Below is Carla and Mary at Sam's
In the evening we drove over to Pine Island, only three miles from our rental, to watch the sunset.
 John and Carla

Sunday morning we were all treated to a boat ride on the Hommossasa River with our great friend's,  Dewey and Elizabeth. 
We then stopped along the river for lunch. 
That afternoon Carla traveled over to Orlando for three days of training for her job. This worked out great as I rented a house in Kissimmee and invited all the children and grandchildren to gather there for a birthday celebration. Two sons-in-laws and one granddaughter could not come (we sure missed Todd, Morgan, and Ted) but 16 of us were able to come together in the sunshine. The house has 7 bedrooms and 4 1/2 baths and a screened in pool with a hot tub.
The entire house is decorated in a Hollywood Rock and Roll theme.
 On Wednesday, 3/25, my actual birthday, Mary, John, and I drove to the Orlando area and checked into the house. Within the hour, Carla and her children; Kaylyn and Brendan, arrived and they took me out to supper at a Texas Roadhouse where the staff had me sit on a saddle while they wished me a happy birthday. I was so embarrassed! Later in the evening the rest of the children and grandchildren arrived and settled into their themed bedrooms.
The Hollywood Suite with huge King size bed, private en-suite and 40” internet TV
The Rat Pack Suite with Queen size bed, private en-suite and 40” internet TV 
The Superstar Suite with Queen bed, 20” TV & DVD player 
The Guitar Hero Suite with Queen bed, 20” TV & DVD player
The Divas Boudoir with two Twins, 20” TV & DVD player
The Cyber Zone with two Twins, 20” TV & DVD player
Hogwarts Hideaway (Harry Potter themed room) with 4 Bunk beds and 20” flatscreen TV
We spent three wonderful days in this house swimming, playing ping pong, eating, card playing, laughing, and talking. Having everyone together in such a neat setting was the best birthday gift ever.
 Kaylyn and Hannah giving the birthday boy a hug
 John and Joshua performing
 Elizabeth and Suzi performing a "messy" skit with the help of their husbands behind them
 Elizabeth and Dewey singing an original and witty song
 Noah, Jacob, and birthday boy
The oldest grandchildren
On Thursday evening my friends, Dewey and Elizabeth, joined us for dinner, birthday cake, and a talent show. A grandson did magic tricks, others danced and sang, two of the children and their spouses did an old camp skit that I loved. Elizabeth shared research and reflections on my name and Dewey performed a song which he also wrote. The lyrics of the song and some great pics are at http://deweysroadtoflorida.blogspot.com/2015/03/chucks-birthday-party.html

Friday was another day filled with family love and fun. A special treat was that Brendan, our oldest grandson, and I played two rounds of mini-golf and played three games of ping pong. Before leaving on Saturday many of us were able to play mini-golf and then share lunch at Chick-Fil-A. Mary, John, and I arrived back to our house in Weeki Wachee late that afternoon feeling exhausted and very happy.

On Sunday, 3/29, we concluded my "birthday week" with breakfast at "The Country Feed Store Cafe". 
That evening we found ourselves back at Pine Island for a drum circle that takes place every other week at sunset. John brought a drum that he had purchased earlier in our trip and played drums for over two hours. The drum circle is made up of talented, joyous, positive people gathered in a beautiful setting. 

It was the perfect ending to a most wonderful week. I am very thankful for all of my family and friends who wished me a happy 70th.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

CHUCK'S BIRTHDAY PARTY as reported by the magnificent Dewey!

GOING, STAYING, LEAVING: HOMOSASSA: CHUCK'S BIRTHDAY PARTY: Chuck's kids and grandkids met in Orlando at a great house with lots of bedrooms and a pool and Jacuzzi.  There they celebrated Chuck t...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring Time Baseball

One of the wonderful signs of the season is Spring Training Baseball.

We have three teams doing Spring Training within about an hour-hour and a half drive from here. They are the Yankees, Phillies, and Toronto Blue Jays. In addition to those teams, the city of St. Petersburg hosts International Baseball where teams from around the world can play against prospects from the Major Leagues. A couple of years ago Dewey and I had the opportunity to see the team from the Netherlands which had won the tournament that year.

Last week Dewey and I drove down to St. Pete to watch the Canadian National Team take on major league prospects from the NY Yankees. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and temperatures in the low 80's. On the way to the game we wanted to stop for lunch and (much to Dewey's surprise) we stumbled upon a "Sweet Tomatoes" where we had a delicious and healthy meal. The games this year were not at the downtown stadium where we had gone in the past but at a baseball complex where many games could be happening at the same time. http://www.stpeteinternationalbaseball.com/index.php

We arrived at the complex, paid our five dollar admission fee, and began to look for the Canada-Yankee game. We saw parts of four other games before finally locating the one we wanted to see and not arriving until the third inning. The scoreboard indicated that the score was 3 to 0 with the visiting team on top but we did not know which team was designated the visitors. The P.A. announcer was no help as he would announce every half inning that it was still a 3 to 0 game. Finally, in the 6th inning the Yankees scored making it a 4 to 0 game and we started rooting for the underdog Canadian team. In the eighth the Canadians scored a run and according to the announcer "it is now a 3 point  game. I suddenly realized that the guy on the P.A. had never announced a baseball game before as he persisted in referring to runs as points. Canada gave the Yanks a scare in the ninth when a fella hit a home run (when the batter connected with the ball Dewey immediately said "that ball is going a long ways") with one on making it a one point game. But, alas, the Yankees went on to win.

On the way home we stopped for ice cream at http://hudsonbeachicecream.com/

Monday, March 16, 2015

Hooked on Baseball and Movies

Over the past 10 days I have read two non-fiction books about individuals with an addiction. Silver Screen Fiend: learning about life from an addiction to film is a memoir by Patton Oswald. Mr. Oswald is an author, actor, and stand up comedian.
Between 1995 and 1999, the author spent most of his nights in a dark theater watching classic films and the occasional new release. He watched every genre; horror, romance, comedy, suspense, and adventure. When he wasn't absorbing film, convinced it would help him to become a great director some day, he was honing his stand up comedy in comedy clubs, coffee houses, bookstores and wherever else they would let him onstage. 

"It took me a few years, though-and a lot of nights at the Largo (a comedy club) and a lot more nights in movie theater seats-before I learned that just because something was "indie" and "underground" didn't automatically give it value. I also had to learn to look for the moments of substance and impact in the everyday."

Finally, after four years of spending half of his life in the dark watching others live on film he experiences two things which "pull the needle out of my cinephilia, for good. They peel me forever from the projector sprockets." In recovery his "love of watching movies has turned into a love of savoring them. And the flirtation with becoming a filmmaker abides, and has stayed fun." His advice to others who share his fascination with film is to "take what you need from them and get out of the dark once in awhile."

The second work of non-fiction is I Don't Care If We Never Get Back: 30 games in 30 days on the best worst baseball road trip ever. The authors and masochists who subject themselves to this ordeal are Ben Blatt, a sports analytic genius and lover of baseball, and his friend, Eric Brewster. Their friendship, health, and sanity are all under siege as they race across the country in an effort to see every pitch of 30 games in all 30 baseball parks. The adventure begins in Yankee Stadium and "exactly 29 days, 20 hours and 22 minutes" they witness the final pitch in the 30th game. It was the 8,913th pitch they had seen. They drove more than 22,000 miles, received five speeding tickets, suffered sleep deprivation, Ben ate 30 ballpark hot dogs, and Eric collected 30 foam "We're #1 Foam Fingers". Every day they sit in a ballpark, sometimes two in a day, for 3 plus hours and then sit side by side in the car as they drive 7, 12, 15, even 20 hours to the next park. 

The story becomes a nail biting suspense thriller as flat tires, rain delays, extra inning games, faulty alarm clocks, traffic jams, street parades, side trips to the home of the Little League World Series (twice) and Canada Day all threaten to keep them from arriving at games for the first pitch. At its core this is a story about friendship and fanship and the limits and strength of both. "Eric hated every day of it, the 15 hour drives past the Grand Canyon......the mad dashes to witness a first pitch while not caring in the least who was pitching and who it was being pitched at. Eric hated the trip's fundamental premise, the quantity over any semblance of quality, the snapshot we-were-here mentality that left no time to read the inscriptions on the monuments with which we posed. But he was here. Every day he was here."

Both of these books took me deep into worlds that I had only dipped my toes in before. Sure, I've sat in darkened movie houses and attended baseball games but I would not want to follow any of the authors into their obsession-addictions but in a way, I guess I did.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lovely Florida Weekend

This was one of those lovely Florida weekends that we cherish. On Saturday we attended the "Will McLean Music Festival". This is an annual event held at a youth ranch about a 30 minute drive from Weeki Wachee. It is a three day gathering of folk musicians, many who camp on the property during the festival. We always try to go on Saturday. The festival has three stages and there is continuous music on all the stages with featured performers changing every 30 minutes.

We arrived shortly after noon on a day filled with sunshine and temps in the 80's. The first group we heard was "Mindy Simmons and Hot Pockets". They sang a beautiful song titled "Love in the Water" and one called "Ain't Florida Neat". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P247AnYOWeQ

For the next seven hours we enjoyed  talented musicians of every age. 
We were very impressed with a brother and sister duo called "Promenade Action". 
We also enjoyed "The Anderson Brothers". 

On Sunday we enjoyed "Art in the Park" in Brooksville. It is a juried show with over 130 artists displaying there work in a beautiful outdoor setting. There were also crafts like these beer bottle night lights.
We had a light lunch at "Coney Island".

After lunch we drove to Inverness to attend a huge book sale that they hold each spring in an auditorium. Here's a pic of some of the books that we purchased at bargain prices. 
This evening we had planned to drive over to Pine Island Beach and have John participate in the twice a month drum circle that takes place as the sun sets. Unfortunately, when we arrived there we discovered there were no available parking places remaining. So this evening I built a campfire and John played his drum, harmonica, and spoons. After awhile Mary and John went back inside the house and I remained by the fire listening to Marianne McPartland's Piano Jazz on npr. http://www.npr.org/series/15773266/marian-mcpartland-s-piano-jazz

Just a beautiful and relaxing weekend in Florida.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Flowers, and Birds, and Rhinos, Oh My!

OK, it is time to catch up on the adventures and photos from the last couple of weeks. March came in like a warm hug with temps in the 80's following a very cool, for Florida, February. We have attempted to spend as much time as possible outside enjoying the Spring Sunshine.

The following pics are from another trip to the Wildlife Park and a morning walk at our local park.

On a Sunday afternoon we visited the Airport Flea Market where John had the opportunity to sing some "karaoke".
One morning, last week, John and I visited our favorite barbers and then walked in the local botanical gardens in Spring Hill. Flowers are just beginning to bloom.

One of our favorite annual events is the Weeki Wachee Swamp Festival held at Weeki Wachee State Park. Below are some of those competing to be named "Swamp Monster".

For our anniversary we traveled down to Tampa to visit the Zoo in the afternoon.

We were tired zoo visitors as we got in the car and drove to St. Petersburg to visit this huge book store. http://www.haslams.com/ 
We had dinner in downtown St. Pete at an Irish Pub where we were able to sit outside enjoying the weather and delicious food. http://crowleysdowntown.com/ Mary and I had a German Beer from a brewery that has been in business since 1040! Following dinner we made our way to the beautiful Mahaffey Theatre.  http://www.themahaffey.com/ to see "The Sing Off Live" concert. http://www.singofftour.com/  Four accapella groups performed in a very lively show.
Mary, John, and I were very tired "campers" as we arrived home shortly before midnight. It was a great day of celebration for our 48th wedding anniversary.