Tag Archives: sarasota

Atomic Christmas Weekend

My big household accomplishment for the weekend was getting the tree up.

And today I got paid to go to the kookiest, funkiest, liveliest, funniest “mother truckin’ craft show” and one of my personal favorites for all those adjectives just listed: The Atomic Holiday Bazaar.  I tried my best to leave with nothing more than a lot of notes but couldn’t leave this silly T-shirt on the hanger when it suits my boy-genius brother so well (one of three brothers who don’t read my blog so no spoilers here).

Strolling Marina Jack

Luke may have been wearing the leash, but he was the one calling the shots.  As we were leaving Marina Jack, he walked Ella straight to the scent of burgers at O’Leary’s…twice.  He hit up both entrances. While strolling, we saw birds of two varieties.  Water birds:I think the bird above is a willet, and I know the bird below is a cormorant.And now for the second variety of bird: snow birds setting up camp for tonight’s Christmas Boat Parade of Lights.

Stalling at Selby Gardens

Today’s assignment led me to Selby Gardens…not a bad week.  I couldn’t help but take the long way out to snap a few extra photos.

More photos on Spotted.

Lotus Festival Leftovers

Yesterday’s assignment for the newspaper was the Lotus Festival—in one word, yay!  I spent two hours touching, looking, eating, drinking, and talking lotus and various other water plants.  The only problem was that the information in my notebook far exceeded my 15-inch article allotment.

For one, water lilies were as big of a draw for the festival as lotuses and the only flower you’ll see a picture of here on Lettuce Share or over at the Herald-Tribune.  Debby Downer strikes again; the pounding rains damaged a lot of leaves and blooms. Marilyn Eigsti, owner of Wonderful Water Lilies, holds this plus a Tropical Water Lily and Spring Festival annually in her backyard/the prettiest nursery I’ve ever seen.  And from what the crowd said, a few of which drove over from Naples, Eigsti is the only person to buy water lilies and lotuses from because of the variety and quality she offers. The number one tip I picked up on buying these particular plants: don’t buy them from Home Depot.  The national chain sells varieties that won’t grow in Florida.  You need a local, but no worries because Wonderful Water Lilies is open by appointment.  You don’t have to wait for a festival to buy.

When buying and deciphering between the two plants, the major difference is that the leaves of the water lily lie flat on the water, and the leaves of the lotus stand above the water.  There are also a few slighter differences.  Water lily stems are smooth and their leaves have a split in them.  Lotus stems have tiny bumps that make them rough to the touch, and their leaves are completely rounded without a split.

But those are basics and not the reason so many people attended the festival yesterday.  They were genuinely amped up about the lotus…maybe a strange choice of word when talking about plants–amped–but there was true excitement amongst the shoppers yesterday.  It seemed like more of a treasure hunt than a plant sale.

One shopper practically shouted, “In the rest of the world, the lotus is huge!” Another woman approached me several times, each time with a new interesting tidbit and every time ending the conversation with, “I could go on and on about the lotus.” I’d call it the Lotus Effect, but that’s already a thing.  It refers to the way lotus leaves self-clean.  A scanning electron microscope showed how the leaf structure beads water and carries away dirt.  The Lotus Effect has been integrated into products such as fabric, paint and solar panels.

In Myanmar and Cambodia, strands from the lotus stem are woven into a fabric finer than silk.  One robe requires over 200,000 plants!  To see how fine the strands are, snap a stem and pull it apart.  And if you’re hungry, eat it when you’re done.  Every part of the lotus is edible.

The leaves are used like banana leaves to wrap up meats and vegetables in a pouch to then bake, steam or grill.  The nuts can be smashed into pastry, and the stems are often pickled.  This is the recipe for the lotus salad served at the festival:

Lotus Namasu

Peel and thinly slice 1 pound lotus crosswise (cut in half lengthwise if using a large root).  Par boil 3-4 minutes.  Prepare sauce by combining 2 cups rice vinegar with 2 cups sugar, and pour over the lotus.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup diced carrot and 3×4 inches slivered konbu for color (konbu is kelp).  Mix well and serve cold.  May be made 2-3 days in advance.

Fourth of July Fireworks at Bayfront Park

Fourth of July in Sarasota is one of those times when having a car is over-rated, so John and I left the new car in the driveway and rode our bikes over to Bayfront Park.  The city closes the bayfront section of U.S. 41 from Orange Avenue all the way around to Gulfstream Avenue for the fireworks, so even with the huge crowd, it’s easy to find a spot to stop and watch.  We left our house at ten to nine and didn’t miss so much as a bottle rocket.  We stopped twice on 41 to ooh and aah and watched the finale from inside the park.  It was so loud I could feel the pounding in my chest—impressive display!

Happy Fourth of July!

Five Places to Celebrate National Garden Week

Stop and smell the roses, literally, it’s National Garden Week.  Plant some seeds, visit a local garden, or simply appreciate the flowers, trees, fruits, and vegetables around you.  If you’re local to the Sarasota/Manatee area, here are a few places to visit this week:

The Manatee River Garden Club

The club is hosting an open house on Tuesday.  At 10 a.m., Mayor Wayne Poston will proclaim the week National Garden Week, and members will be offering tours of the grounds including a beach-themed garden.  At 1 p.m., there is a workshop on floral design.  It costs $20, but you get to bring home your work.

Mable Ringling’s Rose Garden

Bring a picnic and stop to smell over 1,200 roses.  Admission to the art museum is free on Mondays, but the grounds are always free.  Take five minutes or five hours to wander under the banyan trees and stare out at Sarasota Bay.Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

It’s well worth the $17 admission.  I’ve visited and blogged about the gardens on more than one occasion, but here’s something about Selby I didn’t know until today: they offer yoga classes on Monday mornings.  At $55 for members and $75 for non-members, it’s a lot pricier than on Siesta Key Beach where yoga is free four mornings a week, but it sounds positively dreamy to inhale floral scents on the upswing of a sun salute.

The Garden Room at Shoogie Boogies

Barring a rainy day, this is the cafe for all occasions.  Stare at your boyfriend under the stars, have lunch with your best friend or bring your little girl for a tea party.  Shoogie Boogies covers the gamut, and it truly is a garden room.  Outside, succulents line the entry wall; flowers bloom in an old-fashioned claw tub; and the brick patio is uneven due to the roots of a 20-30 year-old tree that shades the whole far end of the seating area.The Sarasota Garden Club

In my experience, you can stop by any day of the week, but Fridays are encouraged.  Members are on hand until noon to answer questions in the butterfly garden, identify mystery clippings and offer gardening advice.  The garden club is located by G.Wiz and the Van Wezel where the recreational trail runs along the bay.  It’s one of my favorite quiet spots to walk Luke.  I had walked through the butterfly garden outside the club several times, but the flaming red and orange tree flowering next to their building drew me inside.  The volunteer was so nice that not only did she identify the tree as a Royal Poinciana, she gave me a tour right there on the spot.  They have a pretty elaborate indoor garden with a bridge and water features.  People get married there…a bride could only look more beautiful standing in front of this tree. 

Sarasota is # 1

And that’s not just local boasting.  First Dr. Beach named Siesta Key the number one beach, and now American Style Magazine readers voted Sarasota the number one best small art city.  John Ringling would be so proud.

The Tampa Bay area as a whole dominated the magazine’s poll.  Bradenton came in second to Sarasota in the small art city category, and St. Petersburg came in first in the mid-size city category. Tampa came in third.

The Ringling Estate was the main focus of the American Style article, and rightly so, but there are so many other reasons Sarasota deserves the title.  There’s ballet, opera, and theater.  Festivals cover the gamut – blues, film dance, and chalk.

And then there’s the art that just surrounds us lucky residents in our every day lives.  Mosaics are inserted into the sidewalks under our feet.  Sculptures line the bayfront, and murals are scattered throughout the city.  This one greets visitors heading into the city from the airport; it’s on the east side of U.S. 41.These two murals can be seen from Pineapple Avenue.  The camera was painted during last year’s Chalk Festival.

This is the most talked about mural of the moment – “Dr. Robin” by artist MTO.It’s painted on the side of Sarasota Architectural Salvage on Central Avenue and is a replacement for MTO’s first mural “Fast Lane.”  The building’s owner painted over it after much local controversy.  Some interpreted the image of two hands with the words fast life written across the knuckles to have gang-related undertones.  “Dr. Robin” is MTO’s response; the doctor’s badge leaves no need for interpretation, “Dr. Robin – Specialist for leaders and haters bullshit oooops crisis – City of Sarasota” Art isn’t art without controversy, or is it?  This is an abandoned building on the corner of 10th and Central in the Rosemary District.Even the boarded up windows look good to me…life is pretty in Sarasota.

Cat Cycling

I covered an event for the newspaper this morning that had 500 adults covered in mud careening down a Slip ‘n Slide, yet that was by far not the strangest thing I saw today.  This was…

If only I could get Luke to do that and life would be back to normal with or without a car.  Although it did appear the cat was having the same reaction I would expect Luke to have…the screaming bunny comes to mind…And FMSI (for my sister’s information), I did not ask this woman’s permission to take her picture!

Dream Job

I’m now working weekends at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.  I’ve been freelancing for them for a few years now, and although it is still freelance work, it’s steady writing.  And instead of writing about parking garages and mall expansions during the week, and of course barring the occasional psycho who buries someone in his yard, I’m paid to visit local attractions and attend festivals and parties.

It’s a dream job and the anecdote to my recent handwriting discovery.  A couple weeks ago, I came across an article from Real Simple magazine, “What Does Your Handwriting Say About You?”  It was shockingly accurate for both my and John’s handwriting and personalities.  Here’s what it said about my S’s:

Open at the bottom: You might not be following your heart. For example, you always wanted to be an artist a writer, but you have a career in finance insurance.

There are no plans to leave insurance, just plans for some fun on the side to close my S’s.  The editor handled the the terrible real-life news of murder for my first weekend while I stayed in dream land floating from one beautiful place to the next.  It was Five Points Park on Saturday for the Harvey Milk Festival and Selby Gardens on Sunday for Mother’s Day.  I had about ten minutes to waste in between brunch seatings at Selby, so I couldn’t resist wandering with my camera.



Green Staghorn Fern

I may be wrong, but I think that staghorn fern is a new addition since my last visit, not to Selby because the sign reads 2008 but to that particular spot.  The enormity of it is amazing.  It hangs like a grand chandelier in the archway, and those archways I never miss.  The tree limbs have twisted and turned into these gorgeous open door frames over the walking path.

Under the trees were clusters of bright pink bromeliads dotted with purple buds that had me wishing for a lot more shade in our yard.  Between the shade from the banyans and the breeze off Sarasota Bay, it must be ten degrees cooler at Selby Gardens than in the rest of Sarasota.

Moms, here’s your garden freebie for next year: Selby gardens offers free admission to moms on Mother’s Day – no proof of children required, so don’t feel obligated to bring them along. :)   Happy Mother’s Day!

Shade Avenue Letterbox

My bike route to the office is a straight shot down Shade Avenue, so at this point I pretty much know every house, tree, dog, mailbox, and pebble along the way.  But there’s one thing in particular that kept catching my eye and peaking my curiosity – an old train parked just North of Novus Street by the Alta Vista neighborhood sign.     A dash of fear only intensified my curiosity.  I kept wanting to stop but was worried it may be a homeless camp.  After finally getting up the nerve, I was back on my bike the second I spotted an open door.

It was too creepy to be there alone even in daylight…although I do partially blame the Investigation Discovery channel for my immediately thinking I could be murdered in one of those boxcars.  Tune in; you’ll see what I mean.  But paranoia aside, I wasn’t completely off-base to bug John for two weeks to ride over there with me.

The signs were there, but we didn’t see anyone…just an old train covered in rust and graffiti.

The train has been stored in this spot for over a year now, and even though the Seminole Gulf Railway has assured residents they have security patrolling the area, the surrounding neighbors don’t seem as inspired or pleased by the old boxcars as I’ve been these past few weeks.

Thoughts of the old train combined with HBO playing Water for Elephants over the weekend led to a letterbox.  Looking for a play on the movie’s title, I googled Sarasota elephant and came up with an image of a water skiing elephant from the movie, Honky Tonk Freeway.  Parts of the film were shot in Sarasota in 1980, but it wasn’t anything this town hadn’t seen before.

Sunny, a 1,300-pound Ringling Brothers elephant, was the first elephant to water ski in 1956.  The 200-pound skis were made in Sarasota, and the shows were also performed here at a long-closed tourist attraction, Sunshine Springs and Gardens.       I found Quick Point Preserve through letterboxing, and that’s exactly why I love it so much: it takes you places you may not have gone or even known about otherwise.  And carving stamps is fun too; it’s a very easy craft project – no artistic talent necessary.

For this stamp, I traced a smaller version of the photo off my laptop.  The laptop acted like a light box under the paper making it easy to trace.  I made a few small adjustments to simplify the carving like changing the shape of the boat, and when the pencil tracing was finished, I transferred it onto the rubber by placing it face-down and rubbing the back of the paper with a penny.  Once the drawing was transferred to the rubber, I carved in and around the pencil lines to create the stamp.

Now, clearly this letterbox comes with a disclaimer – be aware of your surroundings; don’t visit at night; and use the buddy system when searching – but it’s a fun hunt; I haven’t planted the letterbox far from Shade Avenue; and Payne Park is right around the corner if you want to extend your outing.  So go for it; here is your final clue:

And there’s a hitchhiker waiting for the first visitor.  Happy letterboxing!

UPDATE: The train left the station! No more letterbox…sorry.

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