Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Nice weather today...

As for the beach - we timed it well.  It was followed by two days of solid rain with a showery day before and a showery one after so we were well and truly water-logged.  very unusual for us here to have back to back rain.  it's the first time I've ever seen the water in the lake rise above the concrete inlet/culvert thingy.  This was accompanied by thunder and lightening and a tornado watch all day and all night.  Good stuff.

We then drifted into our presently perfect weather - high 70s in the day and 50/60 overnight.  It is just spot on for me.  We are off on a tour of the community on our bikes in a minute just at my favourite time of the day when everything turns gold.(5.30 pm)

We are sort of waiting for a tropical storm which is due here next week.  You get a couple of days with a big hoo-haa of how it might be a hurricane - late in the season like Wilma was.  We are now at the stage of well maybe not - just a tropical storm, so who knows what the weather will actually be like next week.  It's almost like being in the UK!

As we are home for Xmas I'd like a mild December over there so I can actually get outside.  Two years ago we came home for ten days and I flew in, got the taxi to the house, stayed put, followed by the taxi to the airport and flew out.  Truly that's not an exaggeration - Ken still can't believe you can stay in a house for ten days!!  I hate slippy icy roads and pavements.  So, whatever it does here it has to be better than that.

As for doing lots of things - we seem to find something most days even if it is only eating and shopping!  We use the libraries a lot for films and other stuff they put on and have just been to pick up a book I ordered.  I forswore eating out partly out of frugality and partly because I moan about everything we eat.  We agreed that last Thursday since which time we have eaten at Grand Buffet the following day - how can you not want spider crab legs - Ikea on Saturday as we were miles from home and out again yesterday because we were at the shops.  Nothing like being strong-willed.

Our second concert in the park was the freebie given by the Phil and, like the first one, we got rained off.  This time the orchestra also upped sticks and left.  Probably shouldn't call expensive violins, cellos and their like, sticks? We did get a programme though which gave us a good deal.  If we took it to the Phil booking office we could get tickets for a concert in November for $25 each.  Off we duly trotted a couple of days later.  I am trying to persuade Ken this can be my birthday outing instead of the very expensive Nutcracker which he buys me every year.  I love it but two posh outings so close together really isn't necessary; think of all that 'I can't find anything to wear' malarkey which I'll have to do twice.

We may well be economising any way as we've just been stuck for a three and a half thousand dollar repair.  It began with our water heater not heating up properly.  It is like our old electric immersion heaters we used to have in the UK, but this one has two elements as it is a very big tank, and one of them had gone.  We have a contract with a company who take care of all our  stuff like that - remember the new washing machine last year?  So, Broward came out and replaced it - bing, bang, bosh, no charge.  We got the usual dire warnings about a 12 year old tank needing replacing as they rust and leak and then you have a major problem. So Ken did his usual searching all and sundry for the best prices for a couple of days and we were going to have that done for about five hundred plus.  Meanwhile on Monday the annual inspection of our air con was done and we got the also usual dire warnings of a twelve year old system is two years past its sell by date and could implode/explode/die/leak/whatever any second and we'd hate that!!  Ken (and I) have dragged our feet on all major spending here since buying this place but he decided we really had to bite the bullet on this one.  Over here especially it makes a big difference when you sell.  It is commonplace to have stuff like that deducted from the asking price so you don't gain anything other than letting someone else have the newness instead of you.  Guess what - Monday was yesterday - today they were here and the job's done.  We do find all round that customer service here is good - if they say they are coming they arrive - they work quietly and tidily and get the job done without breaks and forgotten bits and pieces.  We've never had a problem with any work we've had done.  Ken also thinks it was a good price, especially as they also agreed to replace the water heater at the same time and only charge us for the cost of the unit ($300).  So we are much lighter in the pocket but comforted in the 'what if it goes kaput' areas.  I was doing a mental calculation of how much a year this would cost us before we die and the engineer did say they last ten or fifteen years so our kids would be OK when they inherit!!  I've only got ten or fifteen years -OMG - my life measured out in air con systems.

Couple of footnotes...   Have you ever read that you can get stung by dead bees and wasps?  You can.  I found a dead bee on the lanai (they are still visiting their old address) and picked it up with a tissue - one big achy thumb!

To go with the big thumb I thought I'd improve my hair so I cut myself, what my mom would call, a donkey fringe.  this is not a good look even on a donkey.  The result is a cross between an aunty of mine - no names, no pack drill,  (it is scary how much I look like her!) and Julie Andrew's Maria from the Sound of Music.  So now I don't know whether to just moan a lot (I do that already - told you I was like my aunty) or screech ...'' the hills are alive to the sound of music''..  which, in my case, they wouldn't be.  I'll leave you with that image.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

South Florida Dollhouse & Miniatures Show

To be precise it is
The South Florida Dollhouse & Miniatures Show and Sale
Clarion Inn
7859 Lake Worth Road

This is a 275 mile round trip for us.  That said don't try and compare it to to a 275 mile round trip in the UK; as I said to Ken when we set off across Alligator Alley with two other cars in sight - ''It's not quite the same as the drive to Birmingham and the NEC which was the last show we went to".

I'm getting fed up with Alligator Alley it doesn't live up to its name any more. I am sure when we first came here we never went along it without seeing 'gators?  The last couple of times nary a one!  The stinkers.

Any way we tootled off to the Show....mmmm... more a display really.  Twenty-four stalls as opposed to the 200 I last spent six hours with at the NEC.  (details of the show itself in my Tout Blog).  My saint of a husband sat with a his book outside by the pool in the shade.  He did nip in to the Perkins which was on site and have a coffee and key lime pie;  he claimed he was perfectly happy.  I was less than an hour on my spree so we decided we'd stop by Ikea on the way back for lunch and a mooch.

I left Ken parked up at a diddy table with yet more coffee and his book and had another hour and something fettling round Ikea.  I can always find bits and bobs to buy from there.  Sadly it included a block of chocolate, most of which I demolished before I was in the car.  This is how I get fat.  I did a bit of mental arithmetic after scoffing it and realised there's something like 1000 calories in the bar - nearly a whole day's extra food being consumed.  I'd have to miss three meals this week to pull that back and we all know that's not going to happen.  Hey ho, two steps forward and one step back.

On which subject....  as of Thursday we agreed to give up on meals out two and three times a week until we have visitors; firstly because I moan about them all (!) and secondly it will save some pennies.  That was Thursday... on Friday we ate at Grand Buffet because it was crab leg night and I needed something to cheer me up and today it was Ikea because we were miles from home; so we are doing well so far.

The whole point of this prattle is because I just had to share this with the English folk -  the doors from the ladies toilet in the Clarion Inn.  I have nothing more to add!

except a broken arm.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Settling in... maybe....

We've been here a couple of weeks and  seem to have run our way rapidly through the check-list of everything that is Naples.

Minor repairs (guest bathroom tap aka faucet), major repairs (the water heater aka immersion heater) - no cost, courtesy of a contract we have with a repair company ,  meals out at every one of our usual eateries from crabs' legs at Grand Buffet to Chicken Marsala at Carrabas and everything in between.  We have done the concert in the park, been to the beach ; as for shopping, we've done that and more.  We have staggered under the weight of our usual huge food shopping to restart the empty cupboards and giant fridge/freezer and visited all of our regular large and small stores all over town, which was swiftly followed by returning stuff to all our large and small stores all over town.  This even included a bread machine (!).  We have just been to see Jane Eyre at the library.. so, now can I come home?

We hit the beach yesterday afternoon around 3pm for an hour and a half.  It was 83 degrees F and Ken tells me the Gulf is at the same temperature right now, so he was in his element  literally immersed in it.  Meanwhile I sweltered and fidgeted and counted the minutes.  Ungrateful wretch I hear you cry and you are right.  I also hear many 'Poor Ken's' - right again.

For the first couple of years when we moved to this apartment, we had a resident frog who lived on our outside lamp;  presumably munching the moths etc. which were attracted to the light.  He used to leave little mounds of frog concrete which had to be hacked off in our first grand cleaning session on arrival.  Believe me nature takes over rapidly in our six months absence in the summer in this climate.

Last year the frog decamped and we had the prettiest of green lizards who only stayed a couple of days until he caught on to the idea that the humans had retuned.  Here he is again to welcome us this year but, again, he has moved on to pastures new. Don't you just love his backward toes.
 This was another of  Mother Nature's little gems outside the bedroom window.  I thought it was a wasps nest but the chap who came to get rid of it said it was yellow-jacket bees. He also said it was a good size but had removed a larger one earlier in the week - the honey was still in his truck!  Luckily the association pays for this little task - $350!!!!  As of today we seem to have got rid of the nest but not the bees.  The nest, incidentally, is a fantastic structure made out of paper which the bees make from slivers of wood and their digestive system.  I did ask if they could be left alone but was answered by both people as if I was a complete lunatic.  I have since discovered that they nest in your eaves and loft and eat the wood and plaster, so maybe not a good idea to keep them.  As for relocating I doubt there is a bee relocating service in Naples.  Everything would be sterilised if it were possible.

This is a picture of our first (Jazz Band) concert at Cambier Park.  It was a hit and miss sort of day weather wise; the rain held off for a long time but eventually we did have a shower.  Most of the audience ran for the hills but dammit man, we're British.  High eighties and a brief shower sitting under a tree - not really a major challenge.  We stuck it out to the end.  For this we are promised a party at the leader's house at the end of the season - Oh Yes, you can see me there can't you?  You were needed, Sue, the umbrella ladies were also a bit sparse.  They said they were going for the Guinness Book of records for the least number of umbrella ladies on stage.  The most is something like 2,000 - bit too far to go for that title.

So, as I say, we are here and we dig in deeper each day.  I am not as down with it as I was last year and am I just  trying really hard not to wallow in misery and remain as positive as I can.  I'm actually pretty useless at that as I am a glass-half-empty person by nature.  Cynicism was invented for me.  

The beach was hot and itchy, the meals out are American and I crave some simple clean cooking and vegetables.  Everything seems structured on fat, sugar, salt and... oh yes.... don't forget the cheese!  I can't buy lots of food things I would buy at home and so I feel adrift when I'm planning meals.  The sunshine is wonderful and the scenery lovely but it barely changes - oh for a bit of drama!  I have nothing to wear as most of my clothes here were (UK size) 18 and 20 and I am now 14/16.  TV is even more appalling than ours....  see what I mean about being a misery. 

The major positive (weather aside) is that it is all still so very civilised over here and people are charming and kind and service in restaurants and shops is a delight.  The apartment is nice, the community is nice and I always love the generous size of all things American.  I hate the cooker though.  I thought I'd just throw that in just in case you thought I'd been body-snatched by Pollyanna.  It is like cooking over an open fire.  The elements at the top and the bottom are totally exposed so it is inclined to burn the bottom of things before the top is done.  It is huge, but because I am hugging the centre of the beast for everything I can never get more than two things in without compromising on something.  No wonder they grill and BBQ everything.  Hey ho!  Farewell from paradise for now.