Welcome to my "Florida" blog

Being a third generation Florida native, I'm completely enamored with the diverse beauty of this gorgeous peninsula. For most of the year the weather is divine which makes exploring its unlimited nooks and crannies fun and easy.

Wherever I go I appreciate nature and the world around me. Come along with me as I share the places I visit and perhaps a few other amusements I find interesting along the way.

(FYI: Every post prior to January 1, 2009 was previously published and imported from my garden blog)

Monday, December 31, 2007

tarpon springs

Central Florida weather has been so mild and rather spring-like this December. This is the time of year when we Florida natives can actually enjoy being outdoors taking advantage of our great parks and attractions.
Hubby and I made our way toward the gulf into the next county Saturday afternoon. The Anclote River Park in Tarpon Springs was to be our first destination before heading to an early dinner in Tarpon. Positioned at the opening of the Anclote River and the Gulf of Mexico makes the park's location unique. It provides waterfront (shaded by pines & palms) picnic areas, boat ramps and a beach swimming area.

Black mangrove, Avicennia germinans; growing at the water's edge. The black mangrove can be identified by numerous finger-like projections, called pneumatophores, that protrude from the soil around the tree's trunk.

I did my usual photo overload while hubby found a comfy place to sit and read.

With the sun setting so early-- the afternoon was quickly turning into evening. We moved on to make our way back to the main thoroughfare in Tarpon where visitors come to walk Dodecanese Boulevard and visit its unique Greek shops, buy sponges and feast at restaurants serving traditional Greek fare and delectable pastries. Many of the shops are owned and operated by the descendants of the City’s first immigrants from Greece.

Tarpon Springs is a predominantly Greek community famous for its sponge docks and great food. Rusty Bellies is a fabulous seafood restaurant we had been to on other occasions. We are fastly calling it a favorite. They actually send their own boats out daily for fresh caught seafood. Yummy stuff and a surprising rarity around here- fresh caught that is.

We sat outside overlooking (literally- I was sitting in my seat taking this photo) this ginormous fishing boat at sunset with a perfect breeze blowing off the water. Our meal was spectacular including one of the best crab bisque soups we've ever had.

Hanging fishing nets at the back of the ginormous fishing boat at sunset.

After dinner we strolled along the street to the sponge docks where so many fishing boats are lined up with nets full of sponges.

Variety of sponges for sale at the sidewalk markets that open onto a shopping square.

Crowds of people waited to be seated at one of the many Greek restaurants on the main street.

We picked up some freshly made Baklava at one of the many Greek bakeries along the way. So much good food and good times.
The weather predictions for the next couple of days is by Wednesday morning to turn very cold . Of course cold here is in the 40's but there is a possibility of a freeze by Thursday morning. We will watch and see. I will be busily covering plants if so... I really hope not.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

florida december beach

the very next day after i went to cedar key with hubby i headed south to anna maria island with a dear long-time friend to spend a girl-day at a few of our favorite haunts.

we started out at "ginny's" antique shop and tea room for shopping and lunch. inside this unique and quaint gift shop --among all the wares for sale (new and old things)- tables and chairs have been placed throughout with seating for 2 or 4 or 6 with no two tables of like-kind. the food fare includes homemade quiche, sandwiches, soups, desserts and coffees. the creamy aspargus soup we chose to begin with was out of this world good.

across the street lies one of florida's quiet beaches. we walked over the wooden ramp to sugary white sand and clear blue waters.
december weather in florida is most often ideal, tourista perfect. this day it was warm in the sun and cool in the shade. we parked our chairs as close to the shoreline as we could and commenced to chat for hours.

of course we walked up and down the beach for a long time too... but always keeping pace with our ability to talk.

as long as i've lived in florida- all my life actually since i'm a native- the sights, sounds and smells of any beach quickens my soul and enlivens every fiber of my being. it is peaceful and restful there and yet everything about it is so alive and active.

the restaurant where we ate dinner is a walk-off-the-beach experience. our table sat in the sand facing the sunset.

i must remember not to wait too long for my next visit. i guess this is why so many people from the north come here this time of year... the beauty and perfect temps are delightfully alluring.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

the nature coast of florida

we've driven by the highway signs on many trips to the panhandle but it's been years since we stopped in for a visit. yesterday hubby and i ventured north about 2 hours to the sleepy little nature coast town of cedar key.

we drove around the few streets that make up the tourista district. with several choices of restaurants we randomly asked a couple of the locals where they would eat for lunch.

after a few varied suggestions, tony's seafood was our pick. we both had a very decent grouper sandwich.

walking off that yummy lunch we sauntered through the few short blocks of art dealers, gift stores, consignments, the city museum ...

and down to the public park/beach area. it was interesting to learn that the Florida Railroad connected the Atlantic Coast to the Gulf of Mexico by way of Cedar Key with the first coast to coast train in 1861. that railroad service ended and the track removed in 1932.

we then ventured out to look at property/houses along the coast and drove to the "airport". i spotted a kingfisher perched on a power line and frantically made hubby slam on the brakes and back-up- then said, "no, wait. i'll just hop out here." oh well... it flew away at first sight of me.

at that moment the flitting about of several teeny butterflies caught my eye on these low lying weeds. they appear purple when in flight... i don't know the exact ID but they are some variety of the blues...

what a thrill to capture two in one shot!

i just love the look and feel of the open marshes...

while exploring the outskirts we spotted this newly built walkway without any signs or information as to what it lead to or why it was there. we parked the car and walked the length of it as it wound us around the perimeter of a cemetery on one side and the edge of this marsh on the other ...

eventually it ended at a point where we were completely alone with only the sound of shore birds flying overhead and water gently lapping at the edge of the shore.

we spent a fair amount of time wandering around here seeing what we could see. of course i snapped loads of photos but it was getting late and time to turn back towards home.

thanks, hubby, for a beautiful and memorable special day!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

touring historic lake wales, florida

mom and i spent a day together last week in lake wales. our first stop was chalet suzanne for a 7 course, leisurely, talk-all-we-want lunch. thanks, mom. it had been many years since we had visited this part of florida.

"A favorite of celebrities, Chalet Suzanne has a proud heritage and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On the property are five dining rooms, 30 guest rooms, a landing strip for airplanes, a gift shop, Spa, the Ceramic Salon, a Cannery for soups and sauces, citrus groves and a small experimental vineyard."

this was the view taken through the window from the dining room... with an anhinga in one snag and a little blue heron in the other.

flowers, fountains, statues, and an abundance of butterflies surround the structures on the acreage.

white peacock

zebra longwing
after our ample meal (my fav - carrot cake for dessert) it was on to bok sanctuary and gardens a few miles away. in 1922, Edward Bok decided to create a sanctuary for birds and people in Florida because he was so awed by the beauty of Iron Mountain. (until this tour i never knew we had mountains in florida. hmmm.. more like a hill ... but even a hill in florida is something to be pondered.) mr. bok acquired a large tract of sandy soil covered with pines and palmettos and hired a landscape architect to transform the area into a sanctuary that would "touch the soul with its beauty and quiet."

Mr. Bok decided to add a 205' carillon tower to be a visual and aural centerpiece for the garden. It is a majestic marble and coquina belltower housing 60 bronze bells ranging in weight from 16 pounds to nearly 12 tons. it is one of 4 carillons in florida. the carillon delights visitors with 30 minute concerts every day.

mr. bok claims to have been inspired by the words of his grandmother, "make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it."

the view from "iron mountain"

it was a beautifully quiet day in the gardens with perfect temps. we stayed to watch the sunset which didn't disappoint in its painting the sky a glorious pink and orange.

i'll share the flowers and wildlife of bok gardens in another post.