Category Archives: Freebies & Bargains

How far would I bike for International Museum Day?

15 miles.  It was either that or wimp out and visit G. Wiz, a children’s museum with a round-trip distance of only 8 miles.  Instead I opted to not wimp out and bike the 7 1/2 miles each way to the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

Although I’ve visited several times, it was still well worth the work out.  The banyan trees cooled me down immediately upon arrival, and bikers always get the best parking spots.

I packed lunch and a blanket to picnic, but the latter was entirely unnecessary thanks to some lovely chairs and umbrellas lined up along the bay next to the Ca d’Zan.  This is where I lunched.Boats passed and mullet jumped as I nibbled on my favorite sandwich – ham, brie and Dijon.  The breeze and umbrella were as effective as an air conditioner…perfect weather outside of the sun.

Mable’s roses take the heat better than most people or plants.  The garden was brimming with blooms.  I entered through a rose and statue-lined corridor, and the scent struck me immediately.  As I got further inside the garden, the numbers struck me – the amount of blooms and the height on some of them.  The Tiffany rose, in particular, was towering above me at eight-feet tall.  With exhibits coming and going there’s always something new to see in the art museum.  My favorite of today’s visit was John Ringling’s collection of Asian and Cypriot art.  Ringling made news with his purchase of 2,300 pieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1928.  The exhibitions don’t allow photography, but among the resident paintings, this one I never seem to miss – The Blue Madonna by Carlo Dolci.  Now here’s something that I’ve seen and missed every time – this room, meaning the panels, mirrors and sconces, was once in the Astor mansion in New York.  Ringling bought the interiors of two rooms before the mansion was demolished in 1926.And then there’s the courtyard, the big, grand, beautiful courtyard…always a highlight.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you,” and this bike ride was it for me today.  Beforehand my brain was on a loop of I can’t do this, but in the midst of pedaling, the loop changed to I’m doing this!  Great feeling, great day…so glad I was brave!

Roses in Bloom

Don Juan Rose

Tis the season for roses.  Mine are blooming and so are Mable’s.  My sister stopped by the Ringling Museum last week and said the rose garden is in full bloom.  We live in South Florida, so roses bloom year-round, but Spring brings them all at once.  If you’re in the Sarasota/Bradenton area, take a stroll through.  With 1,200 rose bushes planted in a circular maze, Mable’s garden is something to see and smell.  Plus the museum offers free admission on Mondays. :)

Blue Moon Rose

Grocery Groupon

I just tweeted this, but since my last post was about Groupons, I had to pass this one on too…

Suncoast Organics – Online Deal

$26 for a Custom Organic-Produce Package with Sarasota-Area Delivery Included from SunCoast Organics ($52.99 Value)


Do you know what a Groupon is?  I didn’t get the concept at first, but now that I do, I’m hooked.  They’re coupons for absolutely anything and everything, and they’re awesome.  The deals are sold in large quantities or groups: group + coupon = Groupon.  My sister got me a spa Groupon for my birthday.  I gifted an Old Navy Groupon to my niece for back-to-school.  And now there are get-away Groupons!  But the real reason I’m talking about them is that there are a few things-to-do-in-Sarasota Groupons happening right now:

This one I’ve done and highly recommend: Half Off the Sarasota Medieval Fair  It’s not held on the Ringling grounds anymore, but let’s face it, we were spoiled.  The raucous fun that comes with hurling tomatoes and gnawing on over-sized turkey legs should have never taken place in such a pristine locale.  It’s at the Sarasota Fairgrounds this year November 12-13 and 19-20.

This one I’ve never even heard of, so please leave a comment if you get in on the Groupon and do this.  51% Off Sarasota Gondola Ride from Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar.

Remember these are Groupons; the deals will expire within the next day…but there will be more.  Follow me on Twitter to get the updates – @LettuceShare.

The Shelf Life of a Spice Rack

Basil and oregano grow in my garden.  Spices and dried herbs grow in my cabinet.  Just like rain lily bulbs, the little jars multiply as time passes and I forget about them.  There are two chili powders, two nutmegs, two cloves, and three ground mustards.  The ground mustard is baffling.  I can’t think of one recipe I use it in, so why do I keep buying it?  It has to stop.  I’ve compiled a list of every spice, seed, herb, and extract in my cabinet.

The majority of my herbs are McCormick brand, which made my project much easier.  If there’s no best by date on the jar, McCormick has a website where you can find out when the spice or herb was packaged.  On that same page, they provide basic shelf life information.  The maximum shelf life for herbs and ground spices is three years.  The maximum shelf life for whole spices, seeds and extracts is four years with two exceptions – poppy and sesame seeds are only good for two years.  The overall exception is vanilla extract, which never goes bad. 

Something that never goes bad is great for my budget but bad for my brain.  It doesn’t make any sense; edibles rot.  Why doesn’t vanilla extract go bad?  My mother refuses to eat Cool Whip for this very reason.  A storm interupted her barbeque once.  The plates, pies, burgers, buns – they were all destroyed and washed away from the rain but not the Cool Whip.  It survived the storm, and as my mother would say, “That ain’t right.”   

So I went about entering the codes, and most of my spices checked out.  But to my dismay, there were three rogues that have been hiding out since the nineties!  It’s embarrassing and disgusting.  But luckily, 15 year-old spices are only flavorless; they don’t actually make you sick.  I’d know by now if they did. 

To make myself feel better…or worse…to be determined by your responses, check your cabinets and best buy dates.  Comment here and whoever is kind enough to take the Old Spice title from me gets a replacement spice, herb or extract.  I’ll check back on May 1, 2011 to crown the title.  The year to beat is 1996!  

February’s Free Gardening Classes

It can be pricey living in Sarasota.  There are galas and shows, fundraisers and festivals, but the fun isn’t only for the beautiful people.  There are a surprising number of free things to do around this ritzy city.  February’s free classes through the Sarasota County Extension are listed below.  Not only are the classes free but several are being held at Sarasota County parks, which makes for a nice morning or afternoon out.  Add to the fun and try letterboxing.  Here’s your first clue: After learning about beneficial insects, search for an antique key.  Enjoy!

Call the Sarasota County Extension at 941-861-9900 if registration is required.

  • February 2, 2011:
  • February 3, 2011:
    • Creating Wildlife Habitat In and Around Stormwater Ponds
  • February 4, 2011:
  • February 5, 2011:
  • February 8, 2011:
  • February 9, 2011:
  • February 12, 2011
    • Florida Yards & Neighborhoods: Creating Your Florida Yard
  • February 16, 2011
  • February 17, 2011
    • Chinch Bugs and White Grubs
  • February 19, 2011
  • February 22, 2011
  • February 23, 2011

Free Christmas Cards

My manic crafting led to an overage of Christmas cards.  And with only 10 days left until Christmas, I’m feeling the season!  Email your name and mailing address to by this Sunday at 12am EST to receive a free handmade Christmas card with envelope.  I’ll be mailing the cards Monday morning, so USPS willing, your card will arrive with time to spare before Christmas.  Ho ho ho!