Friday, 22 March 2013

March prattling

As I settle to write this, we have been home one week - here's a list of things I have 'experienced' just this week that immediately come to mind which make me so happy to be home.....

Family, friends, my (detached!) house, my garden, smell of laundry which dried outside, shops to walk to just round the corner....... a nice drive to the Ribble Valley to an old (16th century) inn/restaurant for lunch.  Also eaten (and loved) this week .....  chip shop fish and chips, English bacon (not smoked!!), shredless marmalade, new potatoes.  The food list is endless.  Then there is my dolls house stuff, spring flowers, my oven, deciduous trees, my washing machine, bread (not loaded with sugar), Tesco Finest everything, my grocery delivered, booking a Shakespeare just one week!  Those have just poured through my fingers without pause for thought and I know there is a million more.  This is the minutiae that make up my inner landscape ... is it any wonder that Ken (and others) don't understand my need to be home and be me. 

So all that and more will be in my April account; now I need to get back to March and Naples.

First of the month and we gave our chums a lift to Orlando airport then hit my clothes shop
Minnie's waiting
(Coldwater Creek) one more time on the way back to the apartment and settled down to our last night in Orlando.  Next day we sped off back to Naples and a couple of days getting ready for our next visitors.  My son, his partner and my grand-daughter, Lucy, aged two and a half (which she is pleased to announce if asked) 
would be staying for ten days .

Tuesday evening came quickly and we collected them from the airport and, on the way home, we started the visit the way we meant it to go on with a trip to Ci-Ci's for fast cheap pizza.  We then got them settled in for the night at home and ready to begin their visit with us.

Day one didn't begin well in that I was stuck in waiting for the dishwasher repair man.  This saga has been running some weeks at this point and will continue to do so.  At this point we no longer have a working dishwasher and three visitors to feed.  Repair man, came and went, still no working machine. Meanwhile Ken, Chris and Gayle went to Cambier park and for a walk up Fifth, stopping for the obligatory ice cream at Regina's.

In the evening Chris and Gayle went to the movies and we baby-sat Lucy.  Such a treat.

Nina and Pinta
Next day we went to see the two pilgrim (replica) ships, The Nina and the Pinta. They were in Naples for the first two weeks of March.  Ken and I had been lucky enough to see them in New England when we went there.  Sadly they were pretty crowded and we decided not to bother to go aboard.

Instead we did the full-on tourist thing of Tin City and a trip on the Double Sunshine.  Boy was it cold! A quick stop in Target on the way home completed a day in Naples!

On Friday we had a lovely totally American breakfast in Skillets and then Ken dropped us all off at home and went on to do his stint as a volunteer for the Conservancy.  C, G and L went to the pool and then Chris and Gayle went to the shops on the bikes while I had Lucy   It was really lovely,  she is such fun; but I had forgotten just how extra long everything takes when you have a toddler for company.  Dinner was a little late!

Saturday and we were continuing the theme of 'while you are here you must...'  this time it was see the gators and go to Everglades City and go on an air-boat ride.  All accomplished.  The fast food Subway at Everglades City was a hoot as it took ten minutes plus just to get someone to find the man to do it.  Mel's Diner made up for that later that evening.

Sunday and we succumbed to the regular cast-in-stone routine of Cambier Park and the fairly frequent Sunday chicken at Cracker Barrel.  This was actually English Mothers day - a bit confusing now I have a son who does Canadian Mothers day and a daughter who does the English one.  Chris bought me some flowers and Sally bought me a subscription to Good Housekeeping.  A few months before I had an attack of stingy and had stopped my subscription in favour of having more spends on dolls house stuff but it is a magazine I miss.  [for American readers this is a different magazine to the American one].  My biggest treat for Mothering Sunday though was to have some of my family with me, especially Lucy.

Monday was Gayle's BIG shop day so Ken took her up to Miromar and then came back for us; lunch at Panera and off to buy a notebook - the electric kind - for Christopher.  How we don't have our own special assistant at Best Buy I don't know the amount of business they get from us and our visitors.  Then to Sugden Park with Lucy and off to pick up Gayle from Miromar and back for a relaxing dinner at home.

Tuesday, and we were due for another visit from Mr Dishwasher Repair so Chris and Gayle had the car and took Lucy out to the park and some shopping on 5th while Ken and I stayed home.  Chris, Ken and I then took Lucy out for a while to our little local park and the slides while Gayle had a Skype interview for a job in Newfoundland.  This was the day that Ken and I decided our guests might like an evening to themselves - eat what they like and watch TV, whatever, so we took off for a movie at the library.  Actually it was one I wasn't fussed about as it was a biog of  Carol Channing who has never particularly appealed to me.  Nice to be taken out of your comfort zone - I came out full of admiration for the woman.  We then went on to try a restaurant we have been passing for ages and saying, "Must give it a try".  It is a very clever conversion of a garage (as in Petrol station) so gets ten points for that BUT that's about as far as it goes.  Called a A Taste of Chicago and was dire.  Poor old Chicago deserves better.

spot the gopher
Back to having a less cut up day on Wednesday.  We went to Barefoot Beach in hopes of pleasing Lucy by being knee deep in Gopher tortoises.  Needless to say, like the rest of the population of Naples they had decided it was too cold to appear.  We glimpsed a couple but that was it and not an armadillo in sight.  At least, being a bit nippy, we actually managed to 'get in' this time unlike last year when we joined a queue of cars which were being sent away because the beach was full!

We had a Panera Bread lunch on our way home .... on our second attempt.  The first time we stopped at a place where Panera used to be - courtesy of our GPS.  

snuggle and story
Chris and Gayle went out early for a meal on the beach at The Ritz to watch the sunset   Now that's the way to spend a vacation.  This was lovely for me as we got to have Lucy all evening.  We had dinner with her and an evenings entertainment and tucked her up in bed, following the obligatory three stories, all easy peasy.  Other than she is getting canny now and chooses War and Peace as one of her three books - well the toddler equivalent.

go see the birds and fishes

Our last day so we all stopped by Publix for a sub lunch and then went on to the Conservancy with Ken for the official tour and boat ride. We let the other three do the boat trip as it is old hat for us and there were just three seats left.

Chris and Gayle took us out to dinner at a very quirky place - Buca di Beppo.  this translates roughly as Joe's Hole (basement).  it looks like a one-off and I was surprised to learn it is a chain of 92 in the USA and UK.  It is crammed with photos and nicknacks.  It
also features a table in the kitchen you which you can book.  Everyone gets to walk in through the kitchen any way, so you already feel you are in a Godfather movie.  Even more bizarrely there is a Pope table.  Kind of what it says it is - a round table with a bust of the pontiff in the middle.  Funnily enough a new pope had been appointed the previous day so they were awaiting the new stuff.

The food is served 'family style' so is meant to be ordered as a single dish serving four. Slight problem if four can't agree.  They do offer two's but that's it.  I had what Ken wanted being a noble and humble wife.

Lucy's meatball was the size of her head.

Sadly Friday 15th came around and we were all up early(ish) for the trip to Fort Myers airport.  It was a very poor and speedy farewell as I just couldn't manage it.  I howled most of the way home.

The next day (16th) was our 17th wedding anniversary which couldn't have been odder if it had tried.  Firstly I was pretty whacked out from a long run of visitors and the sadness of seeing a chunk of my family disappear back to Canada.  So far it gets the prize for the least celebrated anniversary. Ken did a half day at the Conservancy. I cleaned the house. This is always a pretty massive job after folk have been as we have to put furniture back in place - our 'office' moves from the guest room to our bedroom, which in turn has a knock on effect on chairs and side tables etc etc etc, so that all has to go back. This is followed by a BIG clean because that doesn't get done properly (if at all) when we have folk staying. So that's the fridge and cooker as well as the normal room cleaning. Then the laundry is huge as I wash all the bedding including the quilt and shams and mattress and pillow case protectors. By the time I came out from under I was truly cream-crackered. Most of that had also been accomplished only ten days before in the couple of days we had between visitors.  

We were also waiting for someone to come and collect the dolls house I was selling and their times were a bit vague as they were travelling a goodish distance from Bradenton. It had actually sold four times but no-one managed to complete on it. The arrangement was she would be with us well before six and ring us when they were half an hour away. We thought we might go out for a meal after they had been. By 7 pm and no phone call I had had enough and decided to get something to eat at home. As I went into the kitchen I spotted a likely candidate in front of our building and went out to see if she was looking for us. She had brought the address but not the apartment number and was about to ring bells until she found us. There was no mention of why they were an hour later than their latest estimate and no phone call? Ah well, just glad it is done and dusted even if I lost half of what I spent on it.  

So no meal out and not even a glass raised to seventeen years - incredible - where do they go????

Our last ten days don't stand out in any particular way just the usual wind down ready to leave the place for six months - food to eat up, stuff to sort out as to what to bring home this time and what to leave for another time, general tidying away of things, always with the notion you are on a countdown. I managed to fill one and a half 28" (50lb) suitcases with dolls house stuff. I had brought a load over at Christmas to work on Hillside which I then abandoned (the one that I sold) so all that had to go back and then there was the stuff I had bought on EBay and from two shows while we were in Florida. Much of the stuff from the California trip had already gone home at Christmas.

The evening before we left (26th) we went to pick up our hire car and were given a lift there by our best of neighbours C & T. We decided we might as well have a meal with them. We never seem to get round to it any other time. We went to Olive Garden as I remembered it was somewhere they liked. Good to spend a sit-down time with them before we decamped.

Our flight home the next day from Orlando courtesy of Virgin was as near to delightful as flying can be. This was the return part of our Premium Economy upgrade flight. I was even more grateful for it as it is an overnighter. At least the seats are comfortable and there are endless (47) movies to choose from. I watched Hitchcock and Life of Pi both of which I wanted to see and never got round to. Food was good and service terrific. I did my usual wide awake all night and arrived in Manchester with eyes like burning coals and an overwhelming desire for bed.

Crikey Moses, how did it know I was on the way - talk about cold. Coldest April since??? Kind of did me a favour though in the next week as it was too cold to get out in the garden in any real way and crack on with the huge amount of work that needs doing.

Day one, quick nap, Tesco delivers the grocery, unpacked and we are good to go.

A couple of days later and we were into the swing of things to come - always pretty much centered around food. P and S picked us up for lunch at the Ainsworth Arms - a newlyish refurbed local pub. Place is great and food is good enough for a £4.95 carvery and it is on the doorstep.

About twenty minutes before we are due there I got a phone call from my daughter to say she and her chap are on their way from Edinburgh as my Easter surprise. Wonderful - beats any egg that's for sure. Though Ken and I got one of those too. Eventually we all ended up having lunch before Sally and Stuart carried on with their journey to Wales to visit friends. It was absolutely lovely to be able to give my daughter a hug after months away from home.

Sunday 31st. Easter Day and my little friend was coming to visit and have a spot of lunch with us. It wasn't an Easter Day special just our usual roast chicken dinner. Very relaxed about it - maybe too relaxed - I managed to actually burn it. In all honesty I can't remember ever actually burning a dinner. Stuff has gone wrong in fifty years of cooking dinners but actually burning a pan of roast spuds and parsnips and dehydrating a chicken to the point of 'just about still edible' is not something I remember doing. My explanation being I hadn't transferred mentally from my American (rubbish) oven to my English (over-efficient) one. Luckily Denise is a good chum and saw the funny side and we all sat down to mash and dried chicken an hour later than planned.

Still on my favourite topic of food here's another whole new experience for me this month.... bought in Publix just before we left......

Dinosaur Egg Pluot - looks like a nectarine - cross between plum and apricot, hence silly name!  I was delicious but plum-like. I am not a huge fan of plums because they always have that bitter, sharp tasting skin however good the plum is. This was a big improvement on that. 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

February yacking

Here comes that not unusual apology for being disgracefully late with this post.  This time I really do have a good excuse - no the dog didn't eat my first draft - we have just had an eight week block of visitors staying with us.  My personal 'playtime' gets severely curtailed.  

There is a belief that oldies revert to a second childhood - we sort of do.... now I no longer have to go to school or work each day, which we get stuck with from age five, I am at last free to do what I like.  I choose playing over chores any time.  My playing over here in Naples consists mainly of writing and researching stuff I am interested in.  I live on the computer.  Clearly this isn't conducive to being sociable.

Well, here I am at last, quietly returned to my machine for a few days before we fly home to the UK and I have a couple of hours before lunch to crack on with recording my life in February.

Smack bang on the 1st our good friends P & S arrived from a week in Orlando and a week in Fort Lauderdale (also taking in Key West).  It seemed odd having them as distant neighbours in Florida before arriving at our place.  

Sunday concert in Cambier
We soon settled down into the normal living routines of four snow birds in Naples.  I am ashamed to say none of us even suggested a trip to the beach during their whole stay.  They, like us, now regard Naples as a winter home, not a holiday place.

Most of our time was filled with the normal stuff of shops, movies, concerts, library events, meals out.  Nothing especially remarkable or noteworthy.

The biggest saga which ran throughout their stay was the recurring visit of the dishwasher repair man who solved nothing.  We were eventually left with a machine that didn't work at all for the whole of our next set of visitors stay.  Washing up is an anathema to us after all these years, never mind washing up for five people!

In the middle of their stay Ken and I went off up to Orlando for the weekend to visit the Orlando Miniatures Festival.  This is the second Molly Cromwell show we get to do while we are here.  Go read about it in Bentleys if you want to know how that weekend went. 

As always we managed to stop at Smokin' Joes for the ritual ice cream.  This time we decided to have a go at the food as well.  Not the best decision we ever made.  Each of our meals would have served four and would probably be loved by the folk it is aimed at - an English palette was certainly struggling with hunks of (undercooked???) pork, tinned (!) potatoes and 'slaw, all served in a huge polystyrene box accompanied by plastic cutlery.  Mmmmmm!

Monday arrived and we were back into the usual swing of things.  This was our third week and we decided to go for the meal and movie treat at Silverspot.  It is a really good deal - lovely leather-seated movie house and a 'fine dining' meal experience all for $36 each.  The movies themselves cost (old folk rate!) $12.50.  You get to save more if you are young!

Sebring Diner on our way up to Orlando
On the 23rd we went up to Orlando for the week, courtesy of P & S.  We stayed in a terrific resort - Hilton Grand Vacation at Sea World.

First thing I did was my last Coldwater Creek clothes shopping.  It covers me for most of the year on both sides of the pond.  I don't like clothes shopping any more so it is nice to get it done and dusted in one place a couple of times a year.  Obviously you get stuck now and then for something but that is less of a chore than endlessly trawling for stuff if clothes trawling isn't something you enjoy.  Between M & S and Coldwater Creek I manage most things.

Our third movie of the month, which we saw while we were in Orlando, was a stand-out one for me - a rom-com but with an edge - 'Silver Lining Playlist'.  Check it out if you haven't seen it.  I think our others for the month were Argo (interesting) Quartet (predictable) and Skyfall (made for the real James Bond geeks)

Our meals out got to be quite funny as we ended up going back to the same place every day.  P & S had found a place called the Wood Grill Buffet.  The name is totally misleading - nothing to do with a wood grill as far as I could see, but 'buffet' most certainly!  It had just about every meal you could think of... far, far too many for me to list.  My favourites were sweet and sour chicken, swiss steak and the very best was a slow cooked beef with carrots and potatoes and onions all in the jus - no messing around with it - just basic meat and veg.  The chocolate (with nice chocolate!!) dipped strawberries and pineapple and marshmallows weren't too shabby either.

On our way back from the shops in Naples
So the month came to an end in Orlando , in the sunshine,  with us all stuffed to the gills daily and shopped out.  Not a bad life really!

As a post script I have to share this month's best signs.  Firstly, we have an incredible amount of churches in Naples.  I was told that there are forty-one of them on just one road that we use each day - Davis Blvd.  You can imagine that they must struggle to come up with original names - clearly 'St Mary's' times twenty is not going to hack it.

So, here's a sample.....

The Hispanic Church of God -  church of who else? and can you only go if you are Hispanic?
Peaceful Believers Church - so I should hope on both those counts.  I am now looking out for the Vengeful Atheist Church (probably more to my liking?)

Whilst on the topic of notices - I loved this one in a parking lot of a strip mall.  Imagine a shop with a wide pavement (side-walk for US  readers - pavement for them means road) and a (parking) road outside it - enough to park a row of vehicles with a huge backing out gap in between them and the side-walk.  When you get in your car ready to reverse, in front of your windscreen, is a sign which reads:

Caution when backing up building behind you

You would have to put the car in reverse and give it everything you'd got to hit the building.  Maybe it was a warning that the building might get you.  There is much to be feared in the New World!