Monday, 28 September 2015

Stuff and sentiment

As Clavering (now) purports to be an occasional diary piece rather than a monthly blog I suppose I should start to record our leaving of the colonies. 

We are about three weeks (plus) into our seven week (plus) stay here and we are well into the throes of making all the arrangements we need to leave.

So far we have seen two realtors and we signed with one at the weekend.  Two days before they came we spotted a leak in our lanai ceiling, suggesting a leak in the roof!!  We have also seen a roofer who says he will submit his quote to our Master Association (so no cost to us as the insurance for buildings is in our fees) and, once approved, he will get to the job as soon as he can.  This may well be after we depart!

quite a bit of water damage around it covering a good part of the ceiling

At that point we decided we had no choice but to change our flights home (at huge cost and to what date?) so we could follow through the roofer's work and then the subsequent repair and repaint of the ceiling (also huge cost to us).  Oh happy day!

As it turned out the realtor will oversee it all at no extra charge.  We still have to pay the 'decorator' part of course.  Try that in the UK.  So our leaving date remains at 25th October.

Ray the Mover came this morning and suggested we use a 'pack and ship' company instead as that would be cheaper.  that was a kind thing to do after spending time here working up a quote.  He said he was a 'Rotarian' and that was their mantra.  

Ken rang  two pack-and-ships and both arranged to come out and quote today (!).  Boy, will I miss the service over here.  One packer has been and is talking about $1,000 (probably more as it goes by weight) for about 400 cubic feet of 'stuff'.  We are selling turnkey so all we are thinking of taking it is the cherry pickings of the contents of cupboards and drawers.

This is where sentiment v. hard cash comes in.  Absolutely nothing we are shipping is of any value and I doubt very much that their total value is anything like $1,000.  Right now I think the more sensible option is to pack four cases with as much as we can and abandon the rest.  Indeed if we bought two more cases ($100) and paid for those on the flight ($100) plus cab home ($100) for us and six large cases we are still quids in!

chair from mom,mom's plate, card from family, bottle opener from France, flowers from my son

To do this means leaving things like a tea set that I will probably never use but love, gifts from various people over the years including a miniature chair from my mom - all of which have no display area in the UK.  I also have endless 'favourite' pots, dishes, gadgets.  I have a ton of bedlinen and towels that I am 'attached' to but don't need and don't really have storage space for in the UK and, again, I could buy something very like if I wanted to for less than shipping them home.

Another argument from me is that we have lived half our lives without them for ten years so they can hardly be vital to our existence. They are a bit like stuff you keep in the loft and never use but it is comforting to know its there.  No I don't do that - hard-hearted Hannah!

A huge part of my soul is so against 'stuff' so I can genuinely walk away from most of it, but I can't quite squish that little sentimental me who finds excuses to keep this and that.

One way or another, ship or take, it is all systems go.  The realtors will be showing the place after we leave so we don't have the inconvenience of clearing off when they bring people round.  We don't have to come back for the closing as all that can all be done from the UK by email.

As yet it is still hard to believe that the 25th October will be the last time we are in 257 Robin Hood Circle.  Ten years is a very long time to be in one place for me!  We got this apartment and our current UK house around the same time, so will this mean a move at home too?

Meanwhile I am taking sentimental photos just in case we leave the stuff.: Leaving 257  ...  loads more to come

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Weekend in Atlanta

 We have just had a great couple of days in Atlanta (Georgia).  The Atlanta Miniature Society were holding their 36th Annual Show and Sale and I thought it might be different to see a 'club' show rather than the usual 'commercial' one.

Originally we decided to do a road trip there and back as we don't get to see anywhere much, other than Florida when we come here.  We did a lot of map studying and decided it was a pretty uninteresting journey; especially if we hared up the I-75 and it would take us two days with no real stops on the way.  Our next inspiration was flying.

With the benefit of Air Miles and $11.20 we could fly there easily from Fort Myers.  Indeed Fort Myers is the usual transit airport for us on our trips here.  We have flown Manchester/Atlanta/Fort Myers more times than I can count.  So off we toddled on Friday 18th for the 12.12pm flight; arriving an hour and a half later in Atlanta.

I spent many words recently bemoaning our Thompson flight here from the UK - let me say how vastly different our Delta experience was.  I had a middle seat in three as we booked just a couple of days before flying and the flight was full.  I asked if I could be changed to an aisle seat at check-in and luckily there was just one (now) remaining and for the princely sum of $15 I was switched.  This is the second time Delta in the States has done this for me without an ounce of fuss. Indeed in the UK, on more than one occasion, we have booked seats months ahead to get the ones we want and then found at check-in that we have been moved to allow a 'family group to sit together'.  Infuriating.

We got pre-check boarding cards which fast tracked us through security and gave us a green card allowing us to keep our shoes on (!).  We were only needed at the gate half an hour before the flight, indeed fifteen minutes will do.  Polite queues making for easy  boarding, a reasonable plane with free wi-fi.  the trip itself is like a bus ride with drinks - off the plane and into an airport we already like.

Atlanta is a very well arranged airport, easy to negotiate.  It is generally busy as it is a main hub but it is doable and there is an every-three-minute shuttle between concourses.  This time we were actually leaving the airport rather than being in transit.  That seemed very strange.  We caught a different kind of shuttle.

To pick up the rental car you get the Sky Train.  It is almost literally that, being elevated, it strides its way across road after road and building and trees.  It is really impressive and in five minutes you are at the rental car centre.  Here, because Ken had booked on line,  we just walked through and picked up a car - no check-in, no queues, nothing.

From there to a lovely hotel - Wyndham Galleria - and in plenty of time for the Preview at 6.15pm - with desserts!

The show itself was a delight starting with a huge room filled with people's work, presumably from the club itself.   I toured that and was able to get in the rooms when the show was being set up, so I managed to take a lot of photos before the opening.  This meant I could have a very 'deep south' dinner with Ken in the hotel before going off to do more schmoozing and photographing and a little purchasing.

Ken's slow-cooked beef ribs, southern mac and cheese and collard greens

My creole shrimp with bacon (!) over cheddar grits - not a veg in sight

Saturday began with breakfast in the hotel following which I went off to do a quick flit round the show.  The quick flit lasted about two hours.

We decided our tourist trip in Atlanta would be the Botanical Gardens.  this took us through a small section of what looks like a very nice city.

small part of the Atlanta skyline

It was an absolutely glorious visit,  beginning with a delicious meal in the 'Cafe at Lintons' - not a cafe as we would know it Jim.  It was very chic and the food and staff matched it perfectly but the prices were just fine.

Gorgeous plate of smoked trout on a cornmeal blini with horseradish etc

My smoked trout was just beautiful and from the starter section of the menu.  I added in a side of fruit which was described as Fuji apple with muscadine and scuppernong.  You know me - if there is a creature I have never heard of on offer I have to eat it.  Turns out that muscadine  is a black grape (already guessed) and a scuppernong is its almost bronze sister.  They are both indigenous Southern grapes and can withstand high temperatures.

They were decidedly different in texture and in taste.  Not unpleasant but (I thought) not entirely grape-like.

Scuppernongs and all under our belts and we were off to tackle the botanical gardens.

It is just the most magical place.  Beautiful landscaping and wonderful and fascinating plants.  When do we see Okra and Millet in our veggie gardens?

Right now there is a 'Light in the Garden' show and I so wish we had the energy to have gone back for that in the evening: it must be overwhelmingly beautiful.

A British artist called Bruce Munro has set up all kinds of fibre optic pieces but I think his simplest is maybe his best..... his Forest of Light.  He has dotted lights through acres of woodland which apparently are all different colours of light.

We saw this and other things from a forty-feet high walkway in the trees

Having said that was good - how about twenty (!) luminous water towers and then this little gem.

a different coloured light in every bottle!

This is made up of empty plastic soda (pop) bottles.

There are masses of seats in every nook and cranny and each one more interesting than the next.  How wonderful to be able to rest and enjoy the surroundings every few yards.

There is a Chihuly glass piece in the entrance hall and a spectacular fountain (see my album) using one of his pieces.

As if all this wasn't enough we then visited the just spectacular orchid house.  Please look at my album - the flowers were glorious but the photos can't capture the experience.  Simply magical.

Saving the best 'til last..........if you ever change planes in Atlanta and have hours to kill - escape the airport and go and see this if you see nothing else.

she is just astonishing, completely covered in plants, even her skin

The serenity by that pool it is palpable.


The link for the photo album for the trip:  Atlanta, 18-20 Sep 2015

If you want to read about the miniature show: Dollshouse Trips and Shows

If you want to see what I bought:  Dalton House

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Sharing a couple of photos

I recently compiled a list of favourite things amongst which was geckos.......

This little chap sat outside on the window sill of Cracker Barrel on Sunday and watched me eat my Homestyle chicken.

sunday lunch!

I also mentioned rain that everyone said thank you for rather than complained about.  they need a ton of it in the summer to get them through the long dry winter.  It also prevents fire.  Pine trees (very combustible) are indigenous to this area and drop a ton of needles making a wonderful vehicle for fires when it is dry.  At this time of year you can almost set your watch by the rain.  Around three to four pretty much every afternoon this moves in:

yesterday at Publix grocery store

We keep forgetting this and keep going out in the afternoon - yup, got caught twice so far and tropical rain is something to behold.  I love it; we often get the full works of thunder and lightening and biblical downpours - so dramatic to watch and to feel.

The first storm we ever experienced we watched neck high in an outdoor pool beside the sea!  Wonderful watching multiple lightening strikes dance across the waves.  How we survived that one I have no idea but it does explain why we were the only people in the pool.  They joy of being English - phlegmatic (aka stupid?).

 Daily summertime showers are a fact of life in Florida but should not be taken for granted.  Florida ranks number one in the number of deaths due to lightning, 94% of which occur between late May and end of September.  An average of 100 people are killed in the U.S. each year (10-13 in Florida) and almost 600 injured (30 in Florida).  Lightning kills more people in the U.S. than hurricanes and tornados combined.

It seems most deaths occur in the home and most of those are people on the phone:  "Hi, It's me, we have a huge thunderstooooorr....."

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Bored already

Hi, this is bored-person blogging as it is half past two and my chores are done for the day and I don't go to bed for a while!

Here's what we had for lunch today - I think it is a jolly good idea and we are having a different one each week to try six of the twenty on offer.

Publix is our Tescos - if you see what I mean - and they are offering a fish in a bag service.  Choose the fish you want and one of four sauces.  Go and shop for a while and come back and pick it up.  Indeed, yesterday a nice Publix lady found me while I was shopping and gave it to me!

They haven't really got the hang of it yet so the pricing system is a bit potty.  The poor fishmonger has a list of 20 selections with prices which, by our reckoning, means only five fish times four sauces.  You can, in fact, choose any of their fresh fish/shellfish so the mixes are many more than that.  This meant that me, being me, managed to go off piste both times so, last week, we had two large wild Atlantic salmon fillets and 'sauce' for $11.99 for both (works out at £3.89each!).  The fish costs way more than that.  Yesterday Ken had Tilapia and sweet chilli with rice (above) in one bag and I had 15 large fresh prawns with the same sauce and rice in another.  They didn't have a price for my prawns so I got it at the Tilapia price of $8.99 which was another bargain.

It is a complete meal with no prep or clearing up of any sort.  Cut the bottom of the bag open and slide onto the plate.  Eat!

badly served up by me

Thursday, 10 September 2015

List of things I will miss in (out of season) Naples

Even I get sick of hearing myself moaning about this and that when I have such a wonderful life.  Why do some of us live in glass half-full land instead of the overflowing pint we really have?  So, besides a recorded thank you for my relative good health at nearly seventy, two kids that turned out just fine, two grandchildren that are an ongoing amusement, husband that puts up with me, a best friend who is like a sister to me.... not to mention a sister, and, and, and.... here's a simple record of the things I will miss when we leave 'paradise'.

  • twenty-seven miles of pristine near empty beaches
  • back to back sunshine
  • Mels Diner's ribs
  • the all round 'customer is king' attitude
  • shopping bargains galore
  • polite drivers
  • US eBay for miniatures
  • the notion of being neighbourly (difficult fit for an English person but a good thing)
  • Bone Fish Grill's Bang Bang shrimp
  • good manners from strangers - saying good morning, calling you ma'am or sir
  • views from our windows
  • pedestrians having right of way at all times in car parks (and elsewhere to some extent)
  • huge washing machine and dryer
  • quiet
  • long straight wide traffic-free roads
  • lights not roundabouts
  • Cracker Barrel's Homestyle Sunday Chicken
  • our lovely Lincoln car
  • a postal system that keeps a parcel for you from June and delivers it on day one of your return in September
  • free mail (letters) forwarding to the UK
  • free movies and lectures and performances at the most beautiful library I have ever used
  • Publix fish in a bag
  • limitless number of books
  • self checkout at the library
  • 24 hours automated postal service for outgoing mail
  • the Apple store
  • gorgeous Silverspot cinema (with restaurant)
  • free concerts in the park
  • celebrating rain instead of hating it
  • heated outdoor pool (even if I can't be bothered to use it!)
  • geckos skittering across your path at all times
  • the sound of tree frogs at night
  • huge washing machine and dryer

the car at the beach

a Sunday concert

post anything any time

part of our lovely library

check out your own books

view from our lanai in the rain

south of the pier


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Letter from America 3. - 'Home' and good neighbours

Saturday 5th and we checked out a day early from the resort and drove our usual cross-country route to Naples.  Ken actually declined a stop at Smokey Joe's for ice cream (unheard of).  We had a late lunch at a Cracker Barrel about half an hour from home, did some grocery shopping and got into the condo by late afternoon. After a flurry of unpacking a ton of cases we were ready to fall down in a heap and decided to tackle the rest the following day.

Our lovely neighbour G brought us freshly made-from-scratch corn muffins around 8.30 pm to welcome us home.  How kind is that.  Plus they were just perfection.

I wanted to record this day because I need to make sure I get in all the positives among the moaning.  We have the nicest of neighbours in this building.  G and his wife had already done me a huge favour by taking in a stack of parcels for me in our absence.

seven boxes - a bit of a huge favour
These were delivered early on Sunday by J so I could have fun unwrapping them.  

We had taken them some 'tablet' from Aberfeldy as a token thank you.  This commodity took a little explanation but was extra appreciated as J's ancestors hailed from Edinburgh.

OK, now I am about to list the niggles because I want to record how I have this cumulative effect of tiny things which make me not want to do this any more.

Sunday lunch of roast chicken - bought everything except the cornflour - Ken out to Publix for that.  Didn't take stock cubes from home - never have found any I like here so we spent six bucks on something organic that sounded good - it seemed to consist of onions and huge amount of salt..... weird chicken gravy.  

Also I spend days wondering where this or that is - not only because kitchens can't be the same, of course, but also I can't always remember what I own on one side of the pond or the other.  Spent ages today looking for a small enamel casserole only to finally remember I don't have one here.

The oddest thing was I drove myself potty because we don't seem to have a trivet for hot dishes to go on when they come out of the oven!!!!  How have I lived ten years here without?  Total mystery.  

Every time we return to each place (especially this one) there are things which don't work, aren't reconnected, need fixing.  So far Ken has bought and replaced a toilet valve flap.  He is currently out sorting out sim cards so we have phones we can use here. I can't use the washing machine as the cold water valve is leaking.

Also each time we arrive we have to clean the whole of the outside area.  This means sweeping thoroughly and then washing every inch.  Unlike the UK, during the warm, humid and stormy summer here the place is hanging in webs and bugs and most of all various bugs poo!!  Not to mention the resident frog who makes a real mess. Over and under all that is just plain dirt being blown in with the rain and winds of the storms, plus plant debris.

we have to start at the ceiling and 

work our way down

To be really honest it just gets harder as we get older.  I was so happy this might be our last time doing it.

So, all in all, settling in runs over a few days before we have it cracked.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Letter from America 2. - One long eat

First thing, first morning in Orlando we went to iHop for breakfast.  We didn't want to attack the resort's 'food court' restaurant again - it was heaving. Ken is something of a pancake fan and if international House of pancakes serves me bacon I am good with that.  I do love that it is generally easier over here to get precisely what you want by ordering 'sides' rather than one of their meals.  Having ordered four rashers of bacon...they are small strips honestly...scrambled egg and some toast, my three little plates duly arrived.  I forgot to order a plate.  It is fine I am happy to eat off three plates as long as I get just what a want.   It's a deal.  Ken's pancake stack of raspberries and cream cheese looked lovely.  Two happy bunnies went on to get their hair done!

I had Sweeny Todd do mine.  She was positively viscous.  I had my head and face clawed during that lovely relaxing shampoo time.  She then burned my scalp several times with the hairdryer but she did a great job.  So, being a very grateful woman to have escaped alive and with good looking hair, I gave her a huge tip.  What I hadn't factored in was Florida's late summer climate.  It may well have been 91 but the humidity was intense and the hair do disappeared inch by inch with every step.  Clinging on to its remnants we went out to a late lunch and managed to get caught in the traditional fifteen minute thunderstorm in the afternoon which the summer brings.  Hey ho I looked human for a small while.   I want my tip back!

we got wet!

Six o'clock came round and I was off to the show.  The convention centre is vast so I wasn't even sure if I could find my way there.  Did OK but confess to getting lost going 'home' later.

might give you an idea of one of the three corridors I had to negotiate.

Food again.

part of one of the four tables set up

There was a lovely selection of hors d'oeuvres.  Indeed there were several choices to constitute a three-course meal.  I hear you saying you didn't have to eat it... but.... shrimp and grit cakes and the most delicious crab cakes all crying 'eat me'.  There were a zillion lovely looking things in the entrees plus a delicious selection of cheeses and deserts.  I confess I completely missed the desserts as I was diving into the minis as soon as I decently could.

This was a brand new show by a lady who's Philly show I had been to so I expected similar.  It seems new babies in this arena need time to grow.  There were just 33 vendors so it was possibly the smallest show I had been to and therefore quickly done.  I only bought two items and left an hour before it closed.  Unheard of.

The show is of course much more than just the vendors.  There is a week of classes and all sorts of functions.  If you have the slightest interest you'll need to trail over to my Show Blog.

Weary, food stuffed and happy, so endeth Friday.