Sunday, December 30, 2012

The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. ~ G.K. Chesterton

 Happy almost-New Year to all my Shell Sistahs, Brothas and beach combing friends.  After you have written down all your resolutions for the New Year make sure you determine to have some fun in 2013 and get to at least one shell show this year.  It's so much fun to be in a bustling room filled with kindred spirits where the air is filled with excited chatter about the shells we love punctuated with "Look at this", "Did you see that?" & "I could make that".  

May your New Year be filled with salt, sand, & shells.  I hope you get to dive with wild abandon into the surf with your clothes on after the treasure you've been searching for.  May you experience the bliss of the sea-sprayed wind blowing against your face and the luminous sunset blinding your eyes with it's beauty. I wish for you in 2013 that all your beachy dreams come true.

Jan. 12 - 13, 2013
, Melbourne, FL (Sponsored by the Astronaut Trail Shell Club)

Jan. 19 - 20, 2013
, Pompano Beach, FL (Sponsored by the Broward Shell Club)

Feb. 1 - 3, 2013
, Palmetto, FL (Sponsored by the Sarasota Shell Club)

Feb. 23 - 24, 2013
, Seminole, FL (Sponsored by the St. Pete Shell Club)

Mar. 7 - 9, 2013
, Sanibel, FL (Sponsored by the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club)

Mar. 14 - 16, 2013
, Marco Island, FL  (Sponsored by the Marco Island Shell Club)

 Jun. 14 - 16, 2013
, Jacksonville, FL  (Sponsored by the Jacksonville Shell Club)

Jun. 21 - 23, 2013
, Panama City Beach, FL (Sponsored by the Gulf Coast Shell Club)

Jul. 16 - 21, 2013
, Being held this year in Sarasota, FL. You do not have to be a member to attend this convention.  This is not a show but a week of shell related seminars & field trips. (Sponsored by the Sarasota Shell Club)

Jul. 20 - 21, 2013

Townsville, Queensland, Australia
(Hay, a girl can dream

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

2012 Has been an awesome beach combing year.  To follow my shelling jaunts click on any map marker > then click on marker description to see my trip to that location.  I hope you find yourself at one of these spectacular beaches yourself one day soon.

Monday, December 24, 2012


The shopping is done, the presents are wrapped, the strudel & rum cakes are baked - it's all over but the returning.  I love the holidays but Christmas is always a challenge when you are, as I am the caretaker for other people.  The parties, shopping, cooking, baking, wrapping, $$ can all come crashing in on me if I don't watch out.  I've learned to keep it simple and to pick my snowball fights carefully.  

Tonight, we'll head to church for our Christmas Eve candlelight service.  Christmas Day will start out with coffee & the Christmas Parade from Disney World.  My alma mater high school band was picked to march in it this year. Go Dunedin Highlanders!  But sometime on Christmas Day I will make my way to the beach.  Not just to have some bragging material during those Christmas calls from relatives in frosty Ohio and Pennsylvania but to breath in the salt air and walk and reflect.  Maybe I'll find a shell or two.  Most likely, I'll gather a pocketful of shark's teeth.  But I'll definitely return home with a grateful heart for all the Lord has blessed me with this last year - family, friends, and His peace no matter what life throws my way

Blessings with/on/in you & yours and have a 
wonder-filled Christmas.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

“The dew was falling fast, the stars began to blink; I heard a voice; it said `Drink, pretty creature, drink!'” - William Wordsworth

The Geminids Are Out
(Credit:  Pandadumpster @ Flickr)

This picture looks exactly like the sky we were viewing.  

It's the most wonderful time of the year - for viewing the Geminid meteor showers.  In years past the showers have coincided with a bright full moon.  This December the annual event peaks on the new moon insuring a dark background of a sky for optimum observing with the naked eye.  After a few shout-outs on social media I had myself a little Geminid party heading for the beach - the darkest place in our area to observe the cosmic fireworks show. 

 I suggested any stargazers bundle up because our Florida temperature had taken a serious dip in the mercury. Shortly after sundown we arrived on the beach armed with blankets, pillows, & thermoses of hot chocolate. We settled in on the cold damp sand with our eyes scoping out the darkening horizon for meteors.  With the help of our smart phones and various sky watching apps, we were able to watch Orion rise above the horizon first.  Our eyes were trained on the sky to the east where the constellation Gemini was to the left of Orion.  The meteors were supposed to originate from that vicinity. 

 The inky night sky echoed with our shrieks of oh's and ahh's as a first meteor blasted over head leaving a blazing  trail behind it.  We were all meteorite-newbies so it was like seeing a first dolphin in the wild or a first double-rainbow.  The excitement-and-wonder-meter was on overload. We stopped counting after 80 or so meteors. Meteors shot across the sky about every 5 minutes or so.  The awe of seeing each one never dimmed.  The last one was just as amazing as the first one.  The sea fog rolled in like a misty curtain signaling the end to the show around 11 pm. The flashes from our camera phones and loud laughter had drawn the attention of law enforcement who walked out to our little star-gazing camp on the beach to see what all the fuss was about.  As they shined their flashlights on us they seemed amused to find only a group of friends drinking hot chocolate and watching the meteor shower. 

The Geminid meteor shower is an annual event - look for it next December.  Here's some good tips for watching.

Geminids 2012 - Winter Hexagon
(Credit:  Reonides @ Flickr)

It takes skill and expensive camera equipment to catch a shot like this - both of which I am deficient in.  The sky we were laying under looked just like this.

Laying on your back is the best position for viewing.

(L to R) Wade-ster, Gee-man, & Momma Gee are always ready for some outdoor fun. 

Oh the weather outside is frightful - but the sky is so delightful!

Terri & Dana enjoying the show.

Balancing precariously on the back chairs legs
 enabled me to view the sky without  having to  crane my neck.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

No words.....

A Prayer Tribute to the Victims of The Newtown School Shooting from sharethemessage on GodTube.

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 
  2 Corinthians 1:3-4  (NIV) 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I was so happy to see at Hobby Lobby that the need for animal print Christmas items had been filled. 

Keeping with my previous post on a low-stress Christmas - I am not freaking out over my technical challenges at home. My Internet & land line have decided to be uncooperative. My techno-geek hubby has done his best but now the big guns are coming out.

Hope everyone is enjoying the process of the holidays - shopping, watching Elf & A Christmas Story repeatedly, & totally ignoring the looming end to the Mayan calendar & the fiscal cliff. Like Buddy the Elf says "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loud for all to hear!" or my version "I'm too blessed to be stressed!".

 Sent from my iPhone.

Friday, November 30, 2012

My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that? ~ Bob Hope

There is no holiday of higher expectations - or disappointment when those expectations are not met - than Christmas.  Starting well before Thanksgiving these days,  we are bombarded from all sides with commercials on the television selling the perfect, must-have-or-your-kids-will-need-therapy Christmas gifts.  Home decorating magazines, blogs, and now Pinterest all captivate our fantasies of having a Hallmark-perfect holiday. The perfect table scape, candle-laden-garland-festooned mantle, & hand-crafted-from-re-purposed-whatever ornaments are just a mouse click away. 

 Gone are the days of a simple Walton's Mountain Christmas where John Boy and his siblings exchanged a whittled toy out of wood or a handmade baby doll.  Now, we leave our homes on Thanksgiving evening before the second helping of pumpkin pie has had time to digest to go stand in a massive line at the mall to get $10 pajama pants at Old Navy. Oh.  Holy.  Night.

For years I blamed my unrealistic holiday expections on...well, my mother but mainly Martha Stewart and the Lifetime Channel's holiday movies.  Now that I've got a few Christmas' under my belt - 55 of them to be exact - I've learned a few things. I've learned to pick my holiday battles.  

Set a budget and stick to it. 
All year long we count our pennies, clip coupons, and look for the best bargains. Come the holidays, we spend like we just won the Powerball lottery.  Stick to a budget and you won't wake up in January with a financial hang-over.

Do things because you want to do them, not because you are expected to.
Go to the parties and get-togethers that are most important to you. Spending time with family and friends is what the holidays are all about.  Saying the "n" word - NO - might step on some toes and possibly hurt some feelings. Make sure your time is spent doing the things you want to do.  

How important is it?
Look at your holiday traditions and decide if just maybe it might be time to retire some.  How many boxes of gifts are you packing and shipping out snail mail to relatives that maybe a nice gift card might be a better way to go these days. Is it possible that some traditions could be tweaked or modified to give you a little extra time to breathe in some of that pine scent in front of the Christmas tree enjoying a nice glass of eggnog?

Think outside of your Christmas box
A lot of the stress that was felt on my Christmas Day was timing.  With all the family trying to please in-laws and out-laws it was nerve-wracking trying to work with everyone else's plans and logistics.  Several family members had jobs that their busy time was the holidays.  I made a unilateral decision that my Christmas would be moved to New Year's Day.  Whomever is at my  home on Christmas Eve is treated to a nice but simple dinner followed by candlelight communion service at our place of worship. Christmas Day is more of the same but usually includes some beach time.  New Year's Day is an open house with all the festivities of Christmas.  Presents are opened then so I have an entire extra week to shop the after-Christmas sales.  Everyone loves the tradition and it works for us.

Don't lose sight of the real meaning of the holidays.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice. Dave Barry

No Black Friday shopping for me today. I opted for a walk on the beach instead of the mall.
 I saw these black skimmers swirling in the sky off Boca Grande today.
(probably to stay warm - it was chilly for Florida).

After warming up with a thermos full of steaming hot citrus green tea, my friend and I finished off yesterday's leftovers with a turkey, stuffing & Hellman's mayo sandwich.  No good meal would be complete without dessert - pecan & pumpkin pie.  Nice to have a table with a view.

I picked up a rainbow of calico scallops.
Check out more of my beachy fotos on Instagram.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, For love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends. --Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

About a 1/2 mile walk north of the Blind Pass Beach on Manasota Key is a little place I refer to as my Chapel-by-the-Sea.  It's not fancy.  There are no padded pews or air conditioning.  Just bare bones sand, sea and salty wind blowing against my face.  There are no choirs or instruments.  Just the melody of the waves rolling in to shore with an occasional Osprey singing harmony from a nest high in an Australian Pine tree. 

 The parishioners are feathered and are not paying any attention to a sermon.  They are more concerned with the schools of white fish moving across the surface of the water.  There is no collection plate passed but my shell bucket receives many gifts from the sea. As my thoughts and words of praise & thanksgiving go up, I feel my Heavenly Poppa's love come down and invade my heart in this sacred space. 

 It was, after all, His invitation for me to join Him and I simply said Yes.

Friday, November 9, 2012


This Beach Belle

The rocks

and these shells
 have in common?

The lovely beach belle is my niece Pookie.  She is not really a shelling enthusiast but she hangs around alot of people who are.  The shells she finds are collateral damage.  She's not really looking, just along for the ride really.  But she manages to score some pretty nice finds for all her ambivalence towards the hobby of shelling.

Pookie spent the day at Honeymoon Island State Park  hanging out with her mom who is a passionate sheller.  She came home with a whole box full of olives, Sunray venus Clams, & agatized coral.  What looks like ugly rocks are actually full of geode-like crystals when you break them up with a hammer.  Enter GeeGee (my mom - Pookie's grandmother) The shells and agatized coral get cleaned up and sorted.  Of couse someone has to make something.  

Ta Da!  Check out the shell awesomeness.

GeeGee took a globe she bought at a garage sale for $1 and made this
sa-weet vignette.

The cute miniature bait house was in her junk box.  She added the little seagull on top.

Here's a closer look.  GeeGee has worked her shell magic before.

It was a good day on Honeymoon Island.  Shell Kell (Pookie's mom) found a nice horse conch . The family motto - Take a kid shelling cos some day they will take you!   

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Our hearts are with you.
Take a moment to pray for peace, comfort,
healing & restoration for the 46 families that
lost loved ones &  the millions affected
by Hurricane Sandy.

Early morning full moon over Blind Pass on 10.29.12

Jackets - check.

Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches - check.

230 lumen's LED flashlight - check.

My alarm went off (well cathedral bells went bong - bong - bong - bong from my iPhone) at 3am crazy early Monday morning.  The truck had been packed the night before so it was just a matter of brushing my teeth, grabbing a coffee for the road and pointing the truck south for the 1 1/2 hour drive to Sanibel.  Winds from the storm, a full moon  & a 6 am low tide were too much to resist.  The Weather Channel had forecast the winds to die down overnight from 25-30 mph to 10-15 mph.  That weatherman was a tad too optimistic. As Pookie & I drove across the Sanibel Causeway we were awestruck at the sight of the magnificent full moon reflecting across Pine Island Sound.  We both pretended not to hear the howl of the wind as it whipped it's way across the bridge and bounced off the side of our vehicle.  

Pulling into the dark parking lot on Turner Beach is always a surreal experience.  It is eerily quiet except for the sound of waves hitting the jetty rocks.   Every shape is weird and distorted.  Parking closest to the jetty, we took a few minutes to get our eyes accustomed to the dark beach under the brilliant glow of the full moon.  There was a smattering of shells next to the rocks of the jetty.  The winds had blown the sand perfectly flat and totally void of the huge shell piles we had come to expect at Blind Pass especially after a storm. The waves were pounding the beach with all the energy 8-12 foot waves could muster.  As the sun began it's pink ascent into the eastern Sanibel sky, I poured myself a cup of steaming hot green tea & drank that and the sunrise in.  Oh how I love to find the shell goodies but the sights of the full moon, rising pink sun, pelicans soaring, sounds of the wind and the waves all make the trip worth while too.

Looking  east across Blind Pass to the sun rising over Sanibel

The recently dredged pass would usually have a wide path of beach exposed at low tide but the storm surge foiled our shelling plans today.

I got a text tip from a Shell Sistah that Gulfside City Park had some live action.  The beach was lined with pen shells from the stormy surf but if you looked close enough there was a treasure here and there.
We ran into a Shell Brotha on Blind Pass who took us to the very north end of Captiva.  We walked down  a dirt road to a secret shelling location but alas the flats were under water from the storm surge but I did see a white pelican.  We then made it to the private beach at the very northern tip of Captiva Island.  No seashells but Pookie found this old 45 caliber ammo shell in the sand. Good times I say!

The water by the Sanibel Lighthouse fishing pier was a grungy brown. This photo has not been tweaked.  That is the color of the  usually aqua blue water.  Lake Okeechobee in the middle of the state of Florida dumped it's overflow into the Caloosahatchee River which flows into Pine Island Sound.

We started before sunrise and made our way from the most northern tip of Captiva to the most southern end of Sanibel. Pookie enjoying a walk on Lighthouse Beach before we head home. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Go With the Flow

Warm Mineral Springs in North Port, Florida

Swimming holes and "mudding" are not just a redneck endeavor in the city of North Port.   At the spa of Warm Mineral Springs those two things have nothing to do with rope swings or four-wheel drive monster trucks and more to do with mud baths and water yoga. You are already forgiven if you don't recognize the name "North Port". Located in the southern most part of Sarasota County, North Port is ranked #7 for the fastest growing city in Florida.  Warm Mineral Springs is an annexed portion of the city that is home to an ancient artisan spring that boasts of healing properties akin to the fountain of youth. 

The spring has long been a popular tourist attraction especially with Eastern Europeans who have made the area surrounding Warm Mineral Springs and North Port their new home. This ain't no Wet & Wild attraction. There is a gift store, organic cafe, & Spa in the complex but the spring is for the most part in it's natural state.  The slight smell of sulfur in the air lets you know that this is a mineral spring - no chlorine here. The big bowl of a spring is surrounded by towering palm trees and ancient oaks.  

Put your towel and beach bag on one of the purple Adirondack chairs that ring the spring to claim your spot.  The official bathing uniform seems to be some sort of hat, comfortable bathing suit (no fashion show here), and a water noodle for flotation assistance. Entering the water takes the finesse of an I-75 on-ramp because there is an official traffic flow.  The spring flows clock-wise therefore the outer ring of people floating and water-walking are going with the current.  The inner circle where the depth reaches 225 feet is for free floating. The spring is one big unsinkable community bobbing along, laughing, and chatting in their Eastern European mother tongues as the current carries them round and round. 

The spring is open seven days a week from 9-5.  The admission for a day pass  is $20/adults & $15/students.  Sarasota County residents get a $5 discount.  The spring is clearest early in the day before the bottom gets stirred up by the water walkers and aqua Zumba classes. 

The spring is 1.4 acres of flowing spring water - 9 million gallons a day.

Better Homes & Gardens Magazine (2009) says; "The perfect swimming, wading, and soaking temperature." All the, yesterday, tomorrow, always 87 degrees.

The spring offers free water exercise classes 3 times a day with a paid admission.

All that power noodling can wear one out.

A sun hat is a must have.

No one really swims, they just float.  Just go with the flow.

Check out Warm Mineral Springs on Trip Advisor for more info.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Update on the Red Tide Algae Bloom

The shell trees are doing just fine on Stump Pass.

On Friday afternoon I walked the mile out to the end of Stump Pass to see about the red tide.  It was a beautiful beach day but looks can be deceiving.  I was coughing the red tide hacking cough that tickles the back of your throat. Although there were no new fish washed up on the shore, the wrack line is filled with sun-dried fish of all sorts and sizes.  I also saw a few dead seagulls on the sand.  The highest onshore concentrations of the red tide are at Blind Pass Beach (not Sanibel) on Manasota Key. That's about 3 miles north up the coast from Stump Pass. The clean-up looks good but it ain't over yet.

 For the most current info go to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission website.

Manasota Key is at the southern most boundry of Sarasota County.

In between coughing, I did manage to pick up a few goodies.  Lots of sharks teeth out there.

Oh how I love surprises!! A new friend of mine read the post on Dr. Gary Greenberg & his amazing photography of magnified beach sand.  She found a copy online for me.  Shell Sistahs are the best friends evah!  Thank you Jenny!