waiting for the green flash on Sanibel Island

Visit enough beaches on the Gulf Coast of Florida and you are going to hear about the green flash at sunset.  It sounds like a legend, a hard to believe it’s true type of story but the truth is, that green flash is a real thing.  We spent plenty of sunsets on the beach during our recent visit to Sanibel Island but were never lucky enough to experience it ourselves.

IMG_7793Another fact, taking a live sea creature as a souvenir carries a $500 fine per creature.  That could be an expensive lesson to learn!  We found this guy on the beach in the tide line.  He, or she for that matter, was just laying there and I saw the shell first.  Thinking it would be one to add to my collection, I picked it up and when I turned it over to check, there he was-a live Florida Fighting Conch!

IMG_7795This little guy was as curious of us as we were of him.  As Darry held him up so that I could take some photos, he slowly crept further and further out of his shell.

IMG_7798Look at the love in his eyes…We returned him to the water and wandered on in search of that elusive green flash.

IMG_7800This just goes to show you that barnacles will attach to anything, including cheap sunglasses.

IMG_7811Sunset was approaching and so was a thunderstorm.  The view from one end of the beach to the other was very different.  In this direction, sunny.

IMG_7814Turn 180 degrees and not so sunny.

IMG_7817This little guy didn’t let the clouds stop him so we decided to follow his lead and keep walking on-even if there was thunder in the distance.

IMG_7818The sun was sinking fast and that meant we might just see that flash.

IMG_7820Thankfully, the storm seemed to be moving past us and no rain fell near us as we walked on the beach.

IMG_7821Those clouds, the colors; the camera did not catch it all and I hate adding color to the photos; it seems like cheating.

IMG_7826We had to wait a while, there was still at least half the sun above the horizon.

IMG_7829The clouds just kept getting better and better, so did the colors in the sky.

IMG_7830You would not have to do much to convince me to chuck it all out the window and move to the beach.  Seriously, I could very easily learn to adapt to summer weather all year long and sunset walks on the beach.

IMG_7833With about a quarter of the sun left, we waited patiently.

IMG_7835To see that green flash, you need to be there just as the sun sinks below the horizon.  We began walking back as the moment of truth approached and this was the last photo I took.  If there was a green flash when the sun finally disappeared below the horizon, we did not see it.  Thinking this means we need to go back to the beach!

how I spent my summer vacation…off season on Sanibel Island

IMG_7774If you ask me, the perfect summer evening includes a long, leisurely stroll on a beach.  Slowed pace, feet covered in sand and tickled by the surf, eyes scanning the tide line in search of seashells, breathing in the salty breeze-absolute heaven.  We may not be world travelers, or even frequent vacationers, but one thing is certain, we will more than likely visit a beach if we plan a trip.  Over the years, we have been to beaches on the East, West and Gulf coasts but this was the first time we visited Sanibel Island on the Gulf coast of Florida.

As is typical in the Gulf, the surf is a bit gentler and the waves are smaller (most of the time) and during our recent visit, we had no reason to worry about riptides.  We chose to visit in July for two reasons; it was the best time for Darry to take time off and it was off-peak season for the island.  To be honest, July really is a great time to visit the area.  The lack of a crowd meant easy access to public parking, although you can easily bicycle to just about anywhere on the island.  It also meant that we did not have to wait for much.  Restaurants always had a table available, bicycles were easy to come by, tourist attractions were sparsely populated and traffic was just about nonexistent on the island.

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If you have ever heard of Sanibel Island, you know it as a shell collectors paradise.  That was just one of the reasons I wanted to visit.  Read up on the island and you will see all types of activities and festivals connected to sea shells.  On our first evening, we walked the beach and found ourselves stunned by the amount of shells just laying on the sand.   IMG_7777The stripes formed along the tidal path are just littered with shells, mostly small but still beautiful and worthy of collecting.

IMG_7778As I took photos, I noticed Darry doing his best “Sanibel Stoop” while he scanned the surface of the sand for treasures.

IMG_7780He quickly retrieved a few shells to show me, from left to right:  a Scotch bonnet and two Florida fighting conchs.

IMG_7786It was somewhat addicting.  Finding intact shells was also pretty easy and we had a bag full in no time.

IMG_7788So many shells…

IMG_7790Horse conchs can get very large, the world record shell is just over 2 feet long, but we didn’t have much luck finding anything over an inch or so!

We did more than just stroll the beach!  The folks living on the island have a strong sense of preservation and quite a bit of the land has been designated as preserves.  We visited JN “Ding” Darling Wildlife Preserve on one afternoon while bicycling and the next morning returned to take a guided kayak excursion in Tarpon Bay. If you visit the island, I highly recommend visiting the preserve on bicycle because you can see so much more and it is easier to stop along the way.  As for the kayak trail, do it but if you are paddling with your spouse and neither of you knows what you are doing, consider going in a boat by yourself!  Two novices do not make an expert, synchronized team… For all of the information on the preserve and Tarpon Bay Explorers, visit the website.

We found several small trails on the island as well and one afternoon, we parked the bikes and explored the Periwinkle Preserve.  This small 17 acre preserve has gone extensive renovations to remove invasive plants.  We walked the short trail that can be accessed from the bike and walking path on Periwinkle Way, the main road on the island.  The slide show is just some of the plants we saw there and elsewhere on the island.

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Rather than bore you with a weeks worth of photos, check back here, I will post more on the trip soon!

Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand-100% Goodness

img_7079On my most recent trip to Atlanta, I had the chance to visit Delia’s Chicken and Sausage Stand.  Like any other place that calls itself a “stand,” Delia’s is a little building with outdoor seating along the side of a very busy street.  Don’t let the lack of indoor accommodations scare you away; this place is worth the trip!

img_7078Having placed our orders, we went outside to grab a table.  The seating area is covered which means that you will not bake in the sun and if it is raining, you can still sit down at a table and eat-personally, I hate eating a meal in the car!img_7088The staff is friendly and were a pleasure to deal with-they even let me take photos!

img_7090Judging by the location of these seats, they must get pretty busy.  These seats are near the parking area and in full sun during lunch.

img_7083By now you must be wondering what chicken sausage is.  The short answer; ground chicken with spices and herbs which is cooked up and tastes a lot like an Italian sausage but isn’t nearly as greasy.  We both chose to order The Chickie Philly Classic which is chicken sausage with onions and peppers with classic sauce (cheese sauce) and chipotle mayo on a hoagie roll.

img_7085However, I had mine without the cheese sauce-I just do not like cheese on my Philly sandwiches!img_7086The sandwiches are large and filling but those fries…my weakness for seasoned fries well documented.  These were too good to pass up.

img_7087When I said the sandwiches were large, I wasn’t kidding!  We were glad to have spent a couple hours walking on the Dolls Head Trail because it made eating a lunch this big seem less decadent!

img_2373After lunch, we headed over to Highland Row in search of a piece of furniture.  While we were not successful in that search, we did find quite a few creepy doll heads and dolls that would have been a perfect fit for the Doll’s Head Trail if they allowed you to bring in new stuff.  The rule is that you cannot bring in stuff, you can only use things found in the park to make displays for the trail.

img_2374She looks so innocent…

img_2376These were just so weird.  The way they sat upside down…

img_2377These were just creepy.  The one on the right almost looks like a real baby while the one in the middle looks like an alien in need of new eyes!

Since we are knee deep in the move, the house is on the market, everything I own is packed up and the garden has been tilled over and seeded with grass, I do not have much in the way of baking to share here-or gardening for that matter!  There are still a few things about that trip to Atlanta that I will try to share with you.  In the mean time, please keep your fingers crossed that this move goes quickly and smoothly!

Doll’s Head Trail in Atlanta

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Over the last 5 years, I have made many trips to Atlanta to visit our daughter.  Each time, we have explored a new place and on my most recent visit, Alix took me to the Doll’s Head Trail.  The trail is located within the city perimeter, tucked away in Constitution Lakes Park and while it is not exactly easy to find-so signs are posted for it, it is well worth the effort needed to find it.  That is provided you have an open mind, a fondness for “found object” art and a dark sense of humor.  The area itself is full of history and at one time, was the site of a brick manufacturer but what it is really known for is that it frequently gets flooded and that is key to the art installations on the trail.  Unlike most art parks/trails, where adding to the displays or even building new displays is not allowed, on the Doll’s Head Trail, you are encouraged to use objects found within the park to create work.  Actually, the only rule is that it must me made from garbage and junk already present in the park and if you carry in new things to use, they will be removed.

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img_7058The dolls heads are everywhere, so is graffiti.

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img_7048We wandered slowly along the trail, continually finding little treasures

img_7049and graffiti, lots and lots of graffiti

img_7050some of the work was clever and imaginitive

img_7051other things were humorous

img_7053quite a bit of it was creepy

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img_7055img_7059img_7060img_7061img_7065This collection of shoes was amazing-look at the moss on the boots.  Love the Shoeless Joe Jackson reference, had to explain that one.

img_7066And of course, a common sense public announcement.  This will be a place I must return to on occasion, especially after a big rain event.  It will be very interesting to see what washes up and how it is used in the artwork on the trail.

img_7069The park is also a nature center and we happened to catch this little guy out shopping for lunch.

img_7070He was a little reminder to look at everything because you just do not know what you will find out there.

img_7068Like this tree which was easily 20 feet from the trail in some very tall and thick brush.

img_7072Of course, we had to leave our mark as well.

img_7075we did so in honor of our cats! Chicken Wing and The Captain are now part of the trail.

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Asheville; the beer and barbecue version

img_7001After hiking up Black Balsam and climbing the equivalent of 75 floors (yes, we are fitbit geeks), we were thirsty and hungry.  Luckily, Asheville has an abundance of breweries and barbeque restaurants.  We left the car at the guest house where we were staying and walked a few blocks over to Catawba Brewing Company and Buxton Hall Barbeque.  Honestly though, I have not developed much of a taste for beer and did not indulge in any of the brews on tap.  Catawba Brewing Company is located in a large open space with plenty of seating options to match the number of brews available on tap.

img_7002Beer Kegs are all over the space.  These were located near the entrance and under the chalkboard that announces upcoming events and releases.

img_7006The back wall of the building is lined with windows, the seating area is bright and open racks of kegs line the walls.

img_7007When I mentioned the large amounts of brews available on tap, I really wasn’t exaggerating.

img_7010Located right next door to Catawba Brewing is Buxton Hall Barbeque.  They had me at pie…This pie case immediately caught my eye, and those are real pies, not just for show!

img_7011Like the brewery, the space is large and open and so is the kitchen.

img_7021We were seated near the bar.  The restaurant was packed and it was a Wednesday evening, after Labor Day.  Like many of the restaurants around town, the sources for the ingredients used in the kitchen are on the menu.  Since we were starving, we ordered full plates!  Fried chicken is a weakness of mine and I will order it on occasion but when I read that this version was made with smoked chicken, I had to order the quarter dark plate.  Alix decided to indulge in barbeque and neither of us was disappointed!  It is easy to see why Bon Appetit and Southern Living magazines called Buxton Hall Barbeque one of the best new restaurants for 2016.  Be sure to save room for pie, we had a slice of the Banana Pudding Pie and it was worth every calorie; creamy custard, homemade cookies and caramelized marshmallow topping, the perfect end to a wonderful day.

img_7024An open kitchen means that everyone can watch you work.  Seeing this cook prepping away brought back many memories of long evenings spent working the line and prepping for the next day.  Back then I worked in the pantry and spent many hours picking stems off spinach leaves and peeling shrimp 10-50 pounds at a time; I do not miss that at all!

img_7025Looking forward to going back to Asheville so that I can try some more of the restaurants.

Gan Shan Station; hungry hikers paradise

img_6986One of my favorite things about traveling to new places is the chance to try new restaurants.  Trust me folks, Asheville did not disappoint!  Every meal we had was well worth the visit.  After our big hike up to Black Balsam Knob, we followed another recommendation from the wonderful folks at Local Provisions (the first being the hike up to Black Balsam Knob) and went to Gan Shan Station for a late lunch.

This small indoor space makes great use of the natural light and we were seated at a table that was next to the large wall of windows in the front of the restaurant.

img_6988Having hiked at least 6 miles (did 9 miles of walking for the day), we quickly drained the water bottles placed on the table.

img_6990This old building was perfect for camera play-I loved the light fixtures hanging above the tables.

img_6991Sorry, couldn’t resist…

img_6992My choice for lunch was a spinach and tofu salad.  Trust me when I say that this is not what I expected.  It was also as delicious as it was different, those crunchy bits on the top…Seriously though, this dish was only offered as a special and for those of you who visit the restaurant, I hope they offer it again!  It had a little bit of a bite to it but the crumbled tofu and cooked spinach were well flavored and served cold-perfect and refreshing for the hot day and the hike we had just completed.

img_6994The rest of our meal included pork dumplings and fried tofu.  Be sure to check the special board to see what fillings are available for the dumplings because they change them frequently.  We devoured them!  The filling was a typical Asian style pork recipe with ginger and garlic and all of the other ingredients you would expect to find but it was the sauce that made them.  It was a creamy peanut sauce with what I think was a touch of red curry and if we had been there alone, we might have fought over who was going to have it all.

The fried tofu was light and crispy, fried to perfection in a well seasoned starch mixture and again, the sauce was a big part of the success of the dish.  It was not your typical salty-soy sauce and we used it freely as we ate the crispy sticks.

img_6996Between us, we also shared a grilled vegetable salad that included squash, peppers and avocados.  This was the first time I ate a grilled avocado and honestly, I don’t think it made any difference to the flavor; ripe avocados are the food of the gods and nothing can improve that!  Again, be sure to check the special board, that is where the good stuff is.  At least it was on our visit because most of what we ate, was ordered off the board and not the menu.

img_6999And if you need any proof, we joined the clean plate club and walked away feeling full but not stuffed!  It was the perfect way to refresh ourselves after our hiking adventure.

img_7000The verdict, if you are in Asheville, take the trip over for lunch, it isn’t in the downtown area but it is worth the time you will need to get there.  My plan is to go back sometime and try the dinner menu.

img_2344Remember that mention of Local Provisions?  We were staying nearby and walked over for cocktails before heading out to dinner.  When I read the description for the Midnight Voyage, I had to have one.  It was the first time I have ever tasted Honeysuckle Vodka and I probably could have consumed a quart of this mixture!  The cocktail is a blend of honeysuckle vodka, Creme de Violette, St. Germain and lime juice.  It was a little sweet, very citrusy and just a bit floral; it was also like a glass of grown-up limeade that did not remind me of really bad margaritas, which is something lime juice generally does for me.  They knocked it out of the park with the addition of a stem of begonia flowers.  How is it that this gardener did not know that begonias are edible???  They have a tart flavor that will get you at the back of your jaw but in this drink, they were the perfect addition!