Monday, September 15, 2008

Florida's 3 H Factor

There is a reason that September is not considered “in season” for Florida…it’s called the 3 H Factor (actually I just made that up…but it should be called the 3 H Factor): Heat, Humidity, and Hurricanes. That pretty much sums up things here. We’re here because we have to be (working on house permitting “issues”) but assume that in the future that September will definitely be a month in which we travel to cooler climes.

However despite the 3H factor and having to deal with frustratingly insipid permit issues we still had a good time (ONLY because of Air Conditioning…frankly I think whoever developed AC should be given the Nobel Peace Prize…I’m thinking its not surprising that the parts of the world most embroiled in violence and warfare are amongst the hottest and the poorest (hence no AC).

We got to go to our favorite tortilleria/carnitas hole-in-the-wall: Clearwater's La Cabana del Tio (which is our favorite not just in Florida..which frankly wouldn’t say all that much…but in the entire US). Stuffed ourselves with tacos and gorditos…yummy…and really good orange soda made in mexico (which means real sugar not corn syrup…so it tastes like the sodas from childhood).

We had a wonderful afternoon with Geri Willingham, a stained glass artist, who is designing a series of windows and transoms for the our “soon-to-be-permitted-we-hope” house in St. Pete. I can’t tell you how excited I am about the designs. They are filled with images native or common to Florida…bird of paradise, sea grapes, gardenias, orange blossoms, egrets, herons, osprey, and turtles (you know we have to turtles for Jerry) even a roseate spoonbill. Those of you who know my love of birding can just imagine how “happy as a clam at high tide” I am.

We drove over to Orlando for the weekend to visit with Jason and Yaric. Jason and I worked in their garage, sorting, repacking, discovering stuff he forgot he had, purging, AND nearly getting heat stroke. In retrospect I’m pretty sure it was 110 inside that garage. So needless to say we didn’t last the afternoon and Jason has Phase2 of the garage cleanup planned so some other time NOT in a 3H month.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's Hot Here!

Thank god for air conditioning. We are in St. Pete in September, sweltering in the humidity left behind by the fringes of Ike. We are here to work on house plans and permitting issues not because we thought…hmmm September in Florida what a nice time of year for a visit!!! Took a walk today…it was 92…but felt hotter…I’m thinking I must be having a hot flash…well who would know because it was a “feels like” temperature of 110 according to the Weather Channel…egads…no wonder we’ve escaped to the air conditioned bedroom of the little apartment we’ve been renting.

Speaking of the little apartment…we’d like to recommend this place for long and short term rentals. It’s called the Clamshell and is run by Tom Twiemken and his wife. We found it on (here is it URL: It’s a cute little one story small apartment complex with a center courtyard and off street parking. It’s clean, quiet and everyone is very friendly. It’s in a great location if you want to be near downtown ST. Pete, on the “tampa” side of St. Pete, and/or relatively near the Tropicana Dome (baseball). It comes with linens, equipped kitchen, comfortable bed, and good water pressure in the shower. And the owner has an adorable Yorkie named Cooper that loves to come over and say hi. We’ve used this place for a spot to stay when we come down to work on the house plans…we’re giving it up for a few months since we’re having notorious “permitting issues” and nothing is really happening. But we will be back, hopefully, next year. And also given the price of hotels in this town...the Clamshell is a really good value.

And speaking of hot!!! We drove up to Clearwater (on the Tampa side) to hear Chris Isaak (and Lisa Loeb who opened for him) at the Ruth Eckerd Hall. A great place and a great evening. Chris Isaak was VERY entertaining…talented…great voice with a huge range…I loved the rockabilly numbers and the blues and the rock and the…well everything. His band is super talented and a lot of fun. Put him on your list!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sunday Morning in Orange

Jerry and I drove into downtown Orange which boasts houses and commerical buildings from the teens and '20s, a palm lined traffic circle, antique and boutique stores, and a nice variety of restaurant serving some awesome breakfasts. We met Lou, Andy, and Caitlin at The Filling Station on Glassell just 2 blocks north of the traffic circle and a stone's throw from the Chapman College Campus. Fabulous breakfast. ABSOLUTELY great pancakes (and I hear the french toast and waffles are to die for too). The Filling Station restaurant is in the historic Baker's Richfield gas station building.

AFterwards we admired Andy's 1967 Chrysler 300.

Jerry and Andy

Jerry and Lou
Caitlin...she and I went shopping at the Heavenly Hostess...a great store!.


We ate at Wahoo's 3 times while in So Cal...that was even more than we ate at In and Out Burgers (of course that is probably due to our desire to at least give lip service to staying somewhere in our healthy eating habits). We used to eat the original Wahoo's when we still lived in So Cal and everytime we return for a visit there are even more Wahoo's. We love the carnitas, shrimp tacos, tortilla soup, and of course, the fish tacos. Here is their story....

The Wahoo's story begins in 1988, when the three Wahoo's brothers, Wing, Ed and Mingo, combined their love of surf and food to create a restaurant with an eclectic Mexican/Brazilian/Asian menu and a Hawaiian north-shore vibe. Wing, Ed and Mingo were born with the love of restaurants in their blood. Growing up in San Paolo, Brazil, they actually spent their early years above their parents' Chinese restaurant. After school, you could find the brothers in the restaurant peeling shrimp or washing dishes. In 1975, the family moved to Orange County, California, where their dad opened the famous Shanghai Pine Garden Chinese restaurant on Balboa Island. The brothers grew up both in the restaurant and on the beaches. Addicted to surfing, they would travel south to Mexico to surf and there got introduced to the fish taco. In 1988, the brothers decided to import the fish taco to Orange County, California, and give it a unique twist. They combined the fish taco with their Brazilian favorites and Asian inspired items. The brothers decorated the original restaurant with the donations of near-by surf companies and that's how Wahoo's Fish Taco was born. In 1990, Steve Karfaridis, joined as a partner and the one location in Costa Mesa rapidly developed into multi-locations in Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach. Today you will find over 50 locations of Wahoo's all throughout California , Colorado, Texas and Hawaii. Wahoo's future plans include expanding in the Southwest region and eventually watch for one to open up near you...and do not walk...but run to their front counter!

Only in California

Jerry and I also spent some time wondering around a number of the high end shopping malls of Orange county: South Coast Plaza. Irvine Spectrum, and Fashion Island. The 3 have had several (if not more) incarnations and we marvel at just how many shoppers there appear to be in So Cal...we're told some of it now are Japanese/Asian tourist that arrive in buses! I liked the festive atmosphere of the Irvine Spectrum and the Center Court of South Coast Plaza...kid magnets.

Scenes from Upper Newport Back Bay, Newport Beach, CA

Not everything is the OC is expensive cars, overpriced housing, endless shopping malls, and bikinis on the beach. There in the heart of Newport Beach is the Upper Newport Back Bay Ecological Reserve where I first learned to bird and to love birding. In the mid 70s, I was introduced to birds and birding by a college friend, Doug. I've birded ever since and have wonderful memories of the years I spent walking, biking, and driving along the road that lines the eastern shore of the bay. On a recent visit to So Cal, Jerry and I spent a lovely morning walking along the shore and exploring a short nature trail that has been built since the last time I visited. Here are some of the photos of shorebirds, egrets, and ducks from this lovely spot.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Alexandria, VA

After my August trip to So California I flew to meet Jerry in Alexandria, VA where he was doing some work with The Motley Fool. I had a great time, slow paced and relaxing. We stayed at the Westin in the Carlyle area just outside of Old Towne Alexandria. It's a new hotel and quite lovely and luxurious. It was gray and/or raining for most of my visit but it was also warm so enjoyed the out of doors anyway.

I love to take photographs, I love to bird, I love old cemetaries, I love to take photos of birds in old cemetaries. So one day I hit the Trifecta (or is that a quadfecta?) in Alexandria, VA. I went for a walk in search of the Alexandria National Cemetary founded by Abraham Lincoln as one of several created for the remains and in the memory of Civil War Veterans (eventually expanding to veterans of other wars). What I found was a warren of cemetaries sited side by side, fence to fence. Episcopal, Methodist, Jewish, Quaker (I think), presbyterian and then finally the National cemetary. Gravestones date from the late 1700s to 2008, the interwoven history of the peoples who lived or ended up in Alexandria.

It was a gray, muted day. Only a few dogs and their owners were out. Oh dogs and robins and squirrels. Hundreds of Robins! So in watching for the "ideal" robin on a gravestone shot, I hear the chatterburr of a belted kingfisher. What? I say. That means water somewhere. Yep, adjacent to the National Cemetary runs Hooff's Run...a small creek with a historic stone bridge. And next to the bridge on a bush almost under the bridge was a noisy, fluffy adolescent mockingbird nagging its hard working parent for more food! Quite could almost see it stamping its little foot!

I spent another walk exploring King Street (the main street in Old Towne Alexandria). Visited Christ Church cemetary just off King Street which was in use even before the Wilkes Ave Complex. Had a lovely salad at a little French bakery. Ate dinner with Jerry one night at Bistro Lafayette (also on King Street) which was good.

Several other nights I had the good fortune to have dinner with Jerry and some of the fellows he was meeting/working with at The Motley Fool. Very interesting and entertaining dinner conversation and good food. On Friday, I got a tour of The Motley Fool headquarters and attended Jerry's "sage talk" (not where we burned the herb and did hippie chants but where he shared the wisdom of his years).

Took the train home from the Alexandria Amtrak station (where the train was over 90 minutes Jerry would say "characteristically...isn't transit great???).

Scenes from Old Alexandria

Sitting on King Street

Christ Church and Graveyard

Hooff's Run Bridge

Mockingbird youngster and patient parent

Other photos are found in my Alexandria, VA set on my flickr site:

Friday, September 5, 2008

Deja Vu

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a fabulous weekend with girlfriends of mine from high school. The 10 of us met for a long weekend in Ventura and had such a great time. It’s been a long time since I laughed so hard so often (and I typically get a chance to laugh a lot). Kitty said we could think of it as doing abdominal exercises we laughed so much! Some of these women I have known since elementary school. Although we’ve tried to keep in touch I hadn’t seen Sid since Judy’s wedding almost 20 years ago and Roxanne since 1983. So it was a great time. Even with the passage of so much time and life events, we all seemed to pick up where we left off (albeit with a few more pounds, a few more gray hairs (whether we could see them or not), and a few more marriages and divorces between us).

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on the Marina which was in our price range and in a lovely spot. The rooms were large with balconies and views of the Marina. Breakfast was very good (the cinnamon rolls were scrumptious perhaps TOO scrumptious for my hips). And they accommodated us nicely by letting us use a glassed-in patio one evening for a potluck of sorts…with no charge.

Judy and I drove out a day early to avoid Friday traffic. We took the 126 from Interstate 5 over to the 101 which was surprisingly and delightfully a very pleasant drive through orange groves, strawberry fields, and nurseries. Very little has changed through that the area over the years since I left So Cal except the road is now 4 lanes divided and hence a pleasure to drive. It was wonderful to see a bit of southern California that reminded me of the California I grew up in…like south orange county when I first started at UC Irvine in 1973. The fields also made for a great Saturday morning Farmer’s Market in downtown Ventura. Great heirloom tomatoes, perfect globes of artichokes, eggplants worthy of an old master painting, and perfect, sweet, ripe strawberries.

The market also had a great tamale stand where, we enjoyed great tamales of all types, pork, chicken, beef, pineapple????, and green chili (my favorite). We bought them for our potluck but we got a few extra and stood right there and devoured them in a shared frenzy!
Check out this site for more info on VEntura farmer's markets (there are several depending on what day of the week it is):

The first evening it was just Judy and me for dinner since we got there a day early. We ate at the Spinnaker Seafood Broiler in Ventura Harbor Village at the Marina. Fish was very good. And the rum drinks were perfect....ahoy matey!
Downtown Ventura is quite charming, much to my surprise. The last time I remember it was probably 30 years ago when it was a small tired beach town of no exceptional merit…but then again maybe I didn’t pay close attention as we were probably just driving through to Santa Barbara. But today it’s enjoying a renaissance with restaurants, a restored mission, nice stores, antique shops, and a good crowd (at least on the weekends). 5 of us spent the afternoon there (while the other half of the group went to the beach). We had a lot of fun at the antique stores each buying a little something.

On Sunday some of us stayed until it was time to take Terry to the train station. We strolled through a small art and craft fair at the Crown Plaza Hotel which sits right on the beach in Ventura and then down to the Aloha Beach Festival. All the dogs were out with their masters…big and little. The beach ground squirrels were scurrying along the beach edge near the boardwalk. Surfers were catching the waves just off shore and one lone sailboat raced with the wind under a mostly gray sky.

A great weekend. We plan to meet again in 3 years in Santa Cruz…where Roxanne lives. Hopefully we’ll round up the other 4 of our Coed Capers Group.