Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Every day is an opportunity to make a new happy ending. ~Author Unknown

Pen shells are a sure sign of a recent storm.  Under the tangle of flotsam & pen shells are lots of shells treasures.

Whenever a tropical depression or storm rolls through SWFL it is inevitable that shells will follow - not your normal traverse arks and cockle shells but lightning whelks, scotch bonnets, & hopefully a junonia or two. The where & the when can be elusive. The first shells usually show up on the low tide following a storm.  Depending on which way the wind was blowing determines the probability of which beach.  TS Debby was spinning counter-clockwise and the winds were blowing SW.  On Sanibel more than likely the Lighthouse Beach on the southern-end of the island is where the storm bounty will roll in.  

But one still must attend to the daily duties of life.  When the word gets out the shells have arrived the window of opportunity is small.  In a few short hours the masses have arrived at the beach looking for shells too.  Even a great shell pile from a storm can be picked over in half a day. When I got the estactic  phone call from the shell sistah hotline that the shells were rolling in on Sanibel, I was at my first appointment of the day.  Ratz! I resigned myself to looking at the haul from afar on facebook later in the day.  Another call - my appointment cancelled.  Woo hoo! I'm outa here.

After running home, grabbing my gear, & kissing hubby good-bye I am heading south to the shell aftermath of Tropical Storm Debby.  I dawns on me I was in such a hurry I forgot to grab my bathing suit.  Oh well, shorts and a tank top it is.  I picked up my buddy Lil Shorty on the way.  She is on vacation this week and would have killed me if I went without her.  Light house Beach was packed with shell seekers.  There were tons of shells typical after a storm but they were all alive. Live shells stay on the beach so they can make more shells.  Where are the empties? After walking the sandbar toward the fishing pier I saw what I was looking for.  A huge storm pile of flotsam and pen shells to dig through.....and I had tools - my shell shovel and hand rake to help me sort through the chaos to liberate any trapped empty shell that needed a good home.  The tools came in handy again along the edge of the sand under the fishing pier.  As I knocked the edge of the sand into the waves all the big shells washed out.  Just remember, when shell opportunity knocks, answer with a shell shovel & a hand rake.  Your bare hands will thank you and you won't be sorry.

Pen shells attach themselves to sandy or grassy bottoms so when the surf gets rough they are the first shell to wash ashore.

Sadly,  there were countless numbers of sea stars that washed too.

These perfect banded tulips were alive.
  Beach goers were extremely respectful
 of the "no live shelling" law.

This woman gathered these live lightning whelks
and walked them out to the  water. 

Lil Shorty enjoying her first big shelling day on Sanibel.
 She is knocking down the edge of the sand and
 letting the waves wash all the big shells out.

All the shell seekers were digging through the piles
 so we had the edge all to ourselves.

This is what I came for - alphabet cone,
angel wing, & perfect lightning whelks.

My best find - my first ever scotch bonnet. The ridges are so cool.

Missed opportunity can be costly. A parking ticket on Sanibel is $250 .  I had 12 minutes to spare.

My goody shells.

My mom is the official shell cleaner.  She does a great job. Since her stroke she doesn't get to the beach much.  She oh's & aw's over ever shell.

Storms are only opportunities with shells following them.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Anticipation, anticipation Is makin' me late Is keepin' me waitin' " ~ Carly Simon lyrics from "Anticipation" or the ketchup commercial for those of you under 30

One of the earliest tropical storms of a summer on record, Debby has been swirling around in the Gulf of Mexico and hovering over the panhandle since Saturday June 23.

The shelling vigil had begun. Every shell fanatic from Sanibel to Englewood & north to Honeymoon Island are watching the beaches for the first shells to start rolling in. This is junonia prime time folks. With Tropical Storm Debby hanging over the panhandle, SWFL is still experiencing high surf advisories & a fair amount of flooding.  Just when the sun comes out shining and it looks like a normal weather day; the wind starts gusting, the sky darkens again and another rain squall blows through. A tropical depression or storm usually blows right through and the beaches are full of shells the next morning low tide.  TS Debby has been hovering over us for 4 days now. SWFL is in shell limbo. There are eyes & ears out there watching the beaches via facebook, webcams, & Florida coastal bloggers.  When the shell word comes down we are ready to grab our shell buckets & pounce on the first pile that forms.  Here's a video I took during a shell trip to Sanibel back in August of 2010 during a tropical depression so you can see what all the storm shelling excitement is all about.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

When in doubt - paddle out

Every SWFL surfer lives for stormy days & high surf advisories.

Just another day in paradise.  Tropical Storm Debby is rolling through SWFL bringing tornado warnings & high surf advisories.  Warnings like that are Beach Boy music to the ears of every beach comber & surfer in the vicinity. It's still a little too rough for the shells to roll in.  Low tide was at 11:11am & the storm surge had pushed the tide line past the turtle nests and up to the sand dune embankment.  The south  winds were gusting to about 30 mph with the waves reaching the 6-10 foot range. One of my shell sistahs calls these tropical storms "shell showers". I'll keep you posted.

Just another day in paradise - welcome Tropical Storm Debby.

Blind Pass Beach on Manasota Key was packed
 with surfers and their entourages.

No life guard - No board - no problem.  There's always body surfing.

This turtle nest will hopefully hold on.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The feeling remains that God is on the journey, too. ~Teresa of Avila

As I was looking out the window this morning watching the rain fall and mentally scrounging for something blog-worthy to share, my mind kept traveling backwards over the last year.  Life as I knew it came to a screeching halt last July when my dear hubby had his first heart attack.  I had recently left my job of six years with the plan of pursuing a change of career.  In April  hubby had a second heart attack followed by my mom (who lives with me) having a stroke ten days later.  My new career (it seems) is home health care.  My days are now full of pill bottles, doctors appointments, & making edible food for people that can't eat salt, sugar, or red meat. Just when I think I have nothing else to give the Lord quietly reminds me - I'll be with you.

  My questions has changed from "Why" to "Who".  God, who do you want to be for me right now that you couldn't be any other time? When I have needed strength - Heavenly Father has grabbed my hands and held me up.  When I have needed calmness - He has been the Peace in the middle of the storm.  When I start worrying about the future - He reminds me that He is already there waiting for me with open arms. This last year has definitely put a dent in my beach combing but I am still picking up treasures to share.


Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. - John Lennon

 (originally posted July 2011)

Right before the storm taken on my iPhone

The plan was throw a bathing suit on, grab a bottle of water, & my camera then head to the beach for a 6pm low tide.  It's been a long month of July.  First the hubbs was looking a little peaked.  The VA emergency room decided to keep him in the hospital just because he had a little heart attack - go figure.  I put 1,800 miles on my vehicle driving back & forth to the VA hospital which is 3 counties away for 9 days. Next, was a visit from my nephews (3 & 6) so their parents could cruise to Cozumel. GeeGee had not seen her grandsons in a year so it was decided to press on and not cancel.  It was a wonderful visit full of Thomas the Train & Cars 2 videos, swimming in the pool, & trying to figure out what we could beg the kids to eat that wasn't covered in chocolate or shaped like a nugget. So, I am bolting out the door for some much needed beach time to re-calibrate myself.

  It was looking a little stormy on my drive out across the causeway but I was in total denial. As I pulled into the parking lot I could hear & feel the rumble of thunder typical for a late afternoon July day in SWFL . Checking the weather app on my phone it showed a huge storm but it appeared to be moving over Manasota Key rather quickly. I decided to give it an hour and wait it out.  The best sharks teeth are always after a storm so I grabbed a bottle of water from my cooler, reclined my seat back, & prepared to wait the storm out. I had a front row seat to view all the beach-goers (who were also in denial about the storm because they waited way too long to leave) skeedaddling off the beach dragging umbrellas, coolers, & wailing kids to the safety of their cars. A cool wind  blew  shell dust up from the parking lot in curling mini-tornadoes announcing the pounding rain that was right behind it. As I sat in my truck watching the beauty of a summer storm & listening to the deluge hammer some crazy techno-reggae beat on the roof of my truck I thought to myself  "I couldn't have planned this". 

Forty-five minutes later the parking lot is empty except for me & a few other cars.  The rain is now just drizzling & the weather app shows all clear. I cross the parking lot to the beach which is now completely empty except for it's normal occupants of pelicans & gulls having a post-rain party over a school of bait fish.  I immediately started looking for sharks teeth.  The rain pounds the sand down and reveals some of the best sharks teeth on the surface of the sand. As I look up the beach I see not sharks teeth but a line of shells as far as the eye can see.  Manasota Key gets some shells but hardly ever like this.  My sharks tooth plan has just shifted to include shells.  As I walked about a mile out & back my cargo shorts became droopy drawers under the weight of my shell-stuffed pockets.  I hadn't planned for shells so I had not brought a bucket.  My camera had been left behind  as well so it's just another story I'll have to tell hoping folks don't think I'm exaggerating about my sharks tooth venture that mutated into a shelling bonanza.

I planned to collect sharks teeth but found shells as far as the eye could see instead. I went back the next day to take some pictures.

The surf line is loaded with the shell gravel that contains the sharks teeth

Chicoreus dilectus - lace murex
(A. Adams, 1855) 

Top left are fossil bones of some kind.
The storms always stirs things up & bring in the bigger teeth
After the storm
One plan you can count on - the sun will rise & set every day

"For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome." Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, June 18, 2012

A nod, a bow, and a tip of the lid to the person who coulda and shoulda and did. ~Robert Brault, "A Poem Missing the Word Woulda

If you hear voices and they tell you to "go to Sanibel" - listen to them.

The best time to go shelling (if you are not concerned as to whether you find any good shells or not) is "whenever you feel the urge'.  Now, I have to watch my shelling urges as they they break out at some really inconvenient times. Many times I have left work on my lunch break only to return an hour later with soggy squeaking shoes from an impromptu trip to the local beach. More than once my hubby has awoken to a note on his beside table explaining my whereabouts (or lack of) due to a full moon and  an extra low 3am tide.

 From my home base in Englewood, Florida, I can easily get to the beaches of Manasota Key, Boca Grande, & Sarasota in 20 minutes.  Sanibel - not so much. It is an hour (depending on traffic and highway construction) south on I-75 to Exit 121 and then another 30 minutes to the toll booth that leads across the causeway to the shelling mother ship.  The shelling urge stuck me early in the day when I saw a post on my shell sistah Pam's facebook page. The picture of the huge shell pile forming at Blind Pass made my mouth drool. "No can do" I reasoned with myself.  Even as I negotiated with myself about the 6pm low tide inside my head I knew it was too much with my already busy day.

At 2pm Enter Pookie.  She showed up to do her laundry on her only day off from work.  I showed her the pictures of the shell pile and the wheels in her head started turning.  The next thing I know she has weaseled delegated her laundry to GeeGee.  At  approximately 3pm we are donning our bathing suits and skedaddling out the door.  Seventy-eight miles, one bag of Doritos and 2 sugar-free-Mango-with-a-hit-of-Pina-Colada Slurpee's later we are at Blind Pass on Sanibel Island standing in front of the monster shell pile we had viewed on facebook a mere 2 hours earlier.    As it goes with any shell pile, they have a shelf life.  After so many people dig through them and pick over it most of the goodie shells are gone or still buried under 4 feet of shells.  On the other hand we still had some success under the Blind Pass bridge.  We were thrilled to be on Sanibel under the blue skies, salty air, & warm sunshine. We watched a spectacular sunset from Lighthouse Beach on our way home. The key to giving into urges is picking the right ones to cave to.  Shell piles are always a good choice.

A very jubilant Pookie finds her first piece of a junonia at Blind Pass
with hopefully an entire junonia to come soon.

Unfortunately, my shell pile pictures didn't come out but iLove Shelling has some good shots of the fun.

This is how I roll on Sanibel.
 Ray Charles-esque polarized sunglasses and  a sugar-free Mango Slurpee.  Pookie & I left Blind Pass for the Lighthouse end of the island.

Really!  I navigate through sting rays, sharks, & critters of all kinds to pursue my shelling passion but never  a black bear.

Dusk at the Fishing pier on Lighthouse Beach.

The dimming of the day brings everything to a shadow.

Watching the sunset from the fishing pier. (It's safer from black bears up there too)

The view of the causeway from the Lighthouse Beach.

I found a few goodies.
Till next time.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

When life hands you lemons make sweet tea

Here in the south (SWFL to be exact) we have long had a secret for well being that is just now starting to leak out across the rest of the globe. With health conscious companies marketing homeopathic-this and all-natural-that all promising to improve your health and give you a sense of well-being we southerners have had the cure for hundreds of years. Are you having one of "those" days?  You know the kind of day.  It feels like you are slogging through jello.  You are just in a funk with no creative energy or forward inertia. Stuff happens and it is happening to you.  The southern elixir that puts a drawl in your speech and pep in your step is Sweet Tea or just tea as we call it.  The sugar is just a given.

Case in point - my niece Pookie.  After a crappy day at work facing all the drama that a typical 25 yo woman has to face in an 8 hour time span she heads for some solace at my house where the washer and dryer are free and the sympathy regarding life challenges is even cheaper. The first thing she asks upon arriving is "Did grandma make sweet tea?".  Grandma uses 2 cups of sugar as opposed to Ant Karen who only uses 1 cup so obviously grandma's is the preferred recipe.  After downing a large glass of tea her scowly face brightens and her mood miraculously changes from negative, hopeless, & life sux to I'm the queen of the world!! (FYI - a Dunkin Donuts coffee coolotta has the same effect on her but sweet tea is cheaper & more readily available)

I wish I could give you my mother's sweet tea recipe but she never measures and uses a different amount of tea bags every time.  The magic recipe is actually the one that tastes good to you.  I like less sugar & more lemon.  Pookie likes the sugar content to make her teeth tingle when she drinks it.  IMHO the greatest invention of this decade thus far would be the  McDonald's .99 cent Sweet Tea.  Served in a big foam cup your tea will stay cold on the hottest of beach days.  (I know foam - I'll just have to reduce my carbon footprint somewhere else right)  Chik-fil-A tea is right up there too but at Chik-fil-A I get 2/3 tea & 1/3 lemonade aka Arnold Palmer.  (I know.....I just haven't put any thought into this at all)  So the next time you are having a crappy day or just find yourself pole vaulting over mouse poo put your Valerian & peppermint oil away and  give sweet tea a try.  It's good fer what ails ya.

My favorite tea.  I use the recipe on the side of the box which calls for 2 family size tea bags per quart of water.  They also have green tea & decaf.
Fruit Tea.  I first drank fruit tea at a Cracker Barrel.  It was so tasty but they wouldn't give out the recipe.  This  recipe tastes almost exactly like it.  Make 1 gallon of iced tea using 8 family size tea bags.  Add 1 1/2 cups sugar & 1 can of Welch's Orange Pineapple Apple frozen concentrate.  I made 30 gallons of this fruit tea for a friend's wedding and people still talk about it.

Hay tea always tastes better in a Tervis Tumbler.

Friday, June 1, 2012

For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three. ~Alice Kahn

I just have to chuckle when I hear people commiserating  about "the good ole days" before computers took over the world.  These poor disillusioned folks  lament how people these days can not do anything without a computer, cell phone, or some device attached to our bodies.  At TEB household we  have tossed our cassette tapes & land line and embraced the 21st Century with a huge cyber bear hug.  The best thing about the world wide web is having a bottomless pit of information at my fingertip (the one I'm typing on my iPhone with).  No longer do I have to call 3 or 4 friends to find out who the missing  Spice Girl is or try to remember obscure song lyrics on my own.  I can google anything, anybody, anywhere, anytime.  My mom even uses me to goggle crossword clues when she is stuck.

 Because of Facebook I can keep up with an entire global neighborhood of friends and family.  In almost real time I can view what they are up to, see pictures of their kids, & keep up with their farms, cafes, and Zynga poker scores.  I can get poked & tagged.  All this virtual contact and nary an audible word exchanged. The iLove Shelling facebook page keeps me up to date on where the shell action is.  When the shelling community posts their finds I can see instantly which beaches are having some shell-worthy activity.  Whether or not  I can get there is another issue.  That's the down-side of TMI.  Too much information  on shells or sharks teeth can be frustrating when you are limited by time or distance constraints. All I can do is view the pictures from afar on my computer screen.  

iLove Shelling facebook page member Holly and her family came to Englewood Beach for some sharks teeth but hit the jackpot with these megalodons.  The recent rip tides caused by winds from Tropical Storm Beryl must have stirred things up for the good.

(Credit:  Holly Richardson Smith)
I posted a question and asked Holly where the heck on Englewood Beach did they find all these goodies?  (Manasota Key is my home court beach after all) Holly replied they were right off the main beach (where I never go due to a volleyball net & crowds) so I skeedaddled out there hoping there were a few megs left for me.

I went to Chadwick Park on Englewood Beach and walked straight out from the pavilion.  It looked promising with shell grit covering the beaches but Holly had found her big teeth in waist-deep water using a shell shovel. The waves were only fit for boogie boarders not middle-aged women holding a shell shovel. (meaning me)

After finding nothing of consequence at Chadwick Park, I drove north a few miles to Blind Pass Beach (not Sanibel's) to see if maybe the surf was more shell shovel-friendly.  Nope, but the kids were having a blast jumping the waves.

No iPods, cell phones, or game boys out here.  Just fun and frolic in the churning surf.
So in the end no big megalodon teeth but salty spray in my face and sand between my toes is the big payoff today.