Monkey Island & Circle B Bar Reserve

monkey island

It was a beautiful April day in Homosassa, Florida. The wind whipped more than usual, while the sun shined as it only can there. At the Homosassa Riverside Resort, on the Homosassa River, there’s a dock and a few boats alongside it. Imagine a pelican flying by and a heron hunting on the edge of the dock. Silent and still, it intently gazed at the water for its next meal.

 

 

 

 

Fifty yards away sits a diminutive island dressed up with a lighthouse and tree house structure built up high from the water. This just isn’t any island, for five spider monkeys inhabit it. Sassy, Ebony, Emily, Eve and Ralph entertain visitors, the show monkeys can only give. These primates swing and climb and bask in the sun. Sometimes they will approach the edge of water but don’t proceed because they don’t like water. Supposedly they scare any approaching alligators by throwing rocks in the water and seek the higher ground, the house. ( credit to abcactionews.com from Tampa Bay)

 

 

The Resort’s owners are the monkey’s caretakers, who feed them and take care of them. When hurricanes approach they keep a close eye on the monkeys and have an evacuation plan if needed. ( credit to abcactionews.com) I had to mention this because this worrying thought came to my mind and it immediately made me feel better that they were monitored and protected.

 

 

sillyfla
Tom and I being silly, the others did this too all in fun!

Tom’s mom, his sister Pam and husband Jim,his other sister Mary and her husband Joe, and Tom and I ate a nice lunch together at the Resort’s restaurant. Many of us enjoyed the fried Grouper fish sandwich while watching the monkey theatrics across the way. Good company and food brought us together, something we all don’t do often. The only sibling missing was Tom’s sister Bev and her husband Chris.

 

 

The monkeys were amusing as I watched closely. One laid out in the sun, stretched long while another sat up in the house. Two hung out together and it looked like one was being a mother hen and was picking off something off the other. I’ve read somewhere before that they have a tendency to groom each other, so that was interesting to watch.

 

boatfla

 

 

 

We were planning on  going on a boat ride but the captain called in sick. We went to plan B and enjoyed our lunch and it all was wonderful. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and in that case, I use my co- worker Laura’s thinking, plan B. If the first plan doesn’t work out, then no big deal, switch to an alternative option and if that doesn’t work, there’s plan C. Life has disappointments all the time and it’s up to us cope with it and make special moments anyway. ❤

 

 

 

Then it was time for goodbyes and hugs to Mary and Joe. It was the second leg of our journey…over to Central Florida in Lake Wales. Jim drove us all back to the house, about a two hour ride. Along the journey we were still amazed to see palm trees and orange groves. What we didn’t find were mountains like in New Hampshire. It was refreshing to spy different scenery!

 

 

 

Upon arriving, we toured Pam, Jim and Theo’s house. It’s tucked in a community called Tower Lakes with homes weaved around the park. The park has a few ponds, a community pool and hot tub, and walking road and bridge. Theo told us that an alligator was in the pond but when he gets big, they will get someone to take him out. Yikes!

 

 

 

Their home is lovely decorated and with a Florida and seaside theme. It was homey and comfortable and so nice to see it after a few years.We slept in their guest room, opening from the living room through French doors. They have a futon serving as a sofa and a guest bed.

 

 

 

The next morning after Tom shot pool with Jim and his friends, we visited Circle B Bar Reserve  in Lakeland, in Polk County. This is a free state park open to the public. Paths lead by the lake, tropical forests and by swampy areas. Words are hard to do this place true justice, but I’ll try to describe it the best that I can. Tom’s wonderful photos may paint an accurate picture and can hopefully bring you right there and share our beautiful experience.

DSCN3272DSCN3287

Once we got down the trail a bit it all started happening! Everywhere we looked, there were alligators and many times they were a few feet from the trail, lying on the bank. Hundreds were in the lake that day, heads out of the water swimming slowly. It definitely was the most alligators that Tom and I’ve seen and the rest of the crew too probably. We went on April 25th close to alligator mating season and that may be why we saw many of them!

Tropical birds were everywhere, as well as blue herons hunting their prey in the swampy water. A flock of pure white birds were spotted in the distance with a pink flamingo in the mix. An osprey busily dove into the lake for a catch and we spotted a few huge osprey nests on the trail.

DSCN3280

What amazed us all was how mesmerized Tom was. Jim was very kind to lend Tom his digital camera with a zoom and let him try it out for the day. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my husband that infatuated and inspired. As he walked, he slowed and snapped photos with a burning passion, probably the same deep feeling that I have when I write.

We were all happy for such a special  walk ( one that was almost three miles) and the natural wonders that we were treated to, but especially for Tom’s amazement and wonder. At times I didn’t talk but walked and gazed at the Florida wildlife and soaked in my husband’s happiness like a sponge. When your spouse has these moments, you feel good about it and ultimately happy for him. I enjoyed it as well for the reserve had more birds, gators and turtles than I’d ever seen. I have to admit that I ran and jumped when I felt threatened by the gators. There’s nothing holding them back from crossing the trail so I felt excited but a little scared too.

DSCN3303

DSCN3319

Towards the end of our adventure, we all decided that we would stop and rest on benches by the water. No sooner had we sat down then we spotted a big alligator in the water a few feet away! At first I wasn’t worried but suddenly the big guy slithered out onto the grassy bank next to another bench. Tom wanted to get a good picture and boy, did he! He, Jim, and his mom hung out just a few feet away with a group of spectators, while Pam and I hit the high road! I’m not embarrassed to inform you that fear made me run, I love my limbs and didn’t feel like giving any up that day! It all ended okay after a few minutes of worry and excitement. After turning down our trail a bit and shocking everyone, this monster sized gator decided to retire in the water across the way and then the show was over.

DSCN3325DSCN3326DSCN3327DSCN3328

That was the closest we’ve ever been to these amazing creatures and that’s enough for me! I’ll enjoy the pictures and remember my racing heart and cries for Tom as part of my vacation memories! Ha! We all enjoyed a lovely seafood dinner at The Port after we went to Circle B. Thank you, Theo for treating us to that! 

If you happen to be in the Lakeland area, look up the Circle B Bar Reserve, it’s an outstanding natural habitat of wildlife to see and snap photos of!

The very next day it was already time to bid our goodbyes with hugs and a few choked up tears. Airports are really sad for me for some reason. Jim took this photo of Tom, Pam, Theo and I just before we checked in at Orlando International Airport. It was a great couple of days and we want to thank all three for making us feel welcome and for such a nice visit!

leaving Fla

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤

 

Florida Vacation Part II: Silver Springs State Park

 

IMG_2475
Tom and his sister Mary

 

While visiting Florida on the west coast, Tom’s sister Mary and our brother in law Joe brought us to Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, Florida. This park was the first tourist attraction in this state, before the iconic Disney Magic Kingdom became the place to go.

 

 

 

 

IMG_2474
Joe, Tom and I

 

 

 

It’s a magical place of tropical ferns, wooded jungle like scenery with walking paths and ornamental gardens along the way. As you enter the park, a fountain sprays water, peaceful and serene. Fountains are good luck and paved the way for a really nice walk. Boardwalk paths weaved through the park overlooks lush plantlife, where the old Tarzan movie was once filmed.

 

 

 

IMG_2481IMG_2487

 

The water was from the Crystal River, sporting a bluish green hue ,resembling a lagoon. Butterflies fluttered on a bright orange flowering bush and black Comorans sat around the edges. Amid the swampy rivers edge, an alligator hump floated but never moved. Further up the river, a small gator sunned on a log for all visitors to gawk at and perhaps some to shy away from in fear.

 

 

IMG_2490IMG_2492IMG_2493

 

 

 
I highly recommend the boat ride if you ever visit the park. We rode on a glass bottomed boat on a little tour. The tour guide was informative and talked in a true southern drawl. “ Take a good look, folks” he kept saying as the boat coasted across the river and spun in circles for good viewing. We saw many fish, small and much larger. We went over five or six Springs, one about fifty feet down below. Much fresh water bubbling up and contributing to the crystal clear river.

 

 

IMG_2509IMG_2512IMG_2514

 

It was cool to see three unique statues below. They were in the filming of the James Bond movie Moonraker starring Roger Moore in 1979. The movie takes place in space, Italy ,Venice and Rio De Janeiro. Tom and I look forward to seeing it to spot the familiar scenery and say, “ We’ve been there before!”

 

IMG_2522
To the right,amid the seaweed lies three statues filmed in Moonraker.

 

 

We saw geckos in the park and our brother in law revealed a new talent he has, he’s the gecko whisperer! Joe was making noises to get them to flap their throats forward in response. Haha, a little entertainment emerged on our trek.

 

 

The bent palm tree, the horseshoe, on a wooden dock was supposed to give you good luck for five years if you touched it. So, of course we joined the fun and the poses were great photo ops! Tom humorously said that we had to come back in five years to continue our luck! That man cracks me up!

 

IMG_2525IMG_2524

 

 

 

 

The tall statue was of Osceola, an influential leader of the Seminole tribe. It looked important and was beautiful to look at, overlooking the river. We couldn’t pass up a photo with it in the background.

 

IMG_2531

 

 

Our second day in the sunny state drew to a close. The next day we met Tom’s mom, Theo, his other sister Pam and our brother in law, Jim. My next post, part III will focus on Monkey Island and Circle B Bar Reserve.

 

 

If you’re currently on vacation, I truly hope it’s as wonderful for you as it was for us! It’s amazing how a few relaxing days can brighten your life and make you look forward to the days ahead!

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤️

 

IMG_2480

 

Florida Vacation Part I

IMG_2645
We were excited about getting off the plane and seeing Mary and Joe.

An adventure of firsts sprung upon us after a few months of planning. Suddenly  our excursion to Florida to visit family was really happening! It was our first vacation in years. The first get away since our boys left our nest and ventured on their own journeys and Tom’s first jet plane ride.

 
We arrived in Tampa,Florida on Saturday and Tom and I were greeted with warm friendly smiles. Right away I knew that we were far from home…warmth was a stark opposite of chilly New Hampshire Weather. Tom’s sister Mary and our brother in law, Joe greeted us enthusiastically with smiles and hugs to begin our stay.

 

 

 

IMG_2643
Doesn’t Tom look so happy?

 

 

 

Their adorable home is on an approximately 2.0 acre lot adorned with palm trees in the back. A beautiful lot and yard, it’s a comfortable and welcoming dwelling and we both can understand why they love it. Joe’s done much carpentry work inside and out and made a front and back deck. It’s incredible that he has remodeled all the rooms! This self sufficiency and talent reminds me of Tom, two men cut from the same cloth in many ways.
We toured their beautiful home and then visited Fort Gulf Beach in Crystal River. Just a short ride brought us to a sandy beach, many palm trees and the Gulf Of Mexico. Many families were enjoying the beach and water on such a nice day. We walked past the beach to a boardwalk immersed in tropical greenery and Spanish moss hanging from trees. Besides the glowing sunlight, the palm trees dotted here and there and the gray stringy Spanish moss introduced us to the south.

 

IMG_2448

 

 

 

IMG_2458IMG_2460IMG_2464IMG_2450

 

Standing on the dock, we looked over the never ending ocean, the Gulf of Mexico which is really part of the Atlantic Ocean. People fished from the dock as the four of us enjoyed the view and soaked up the sun. It definitely was a beautiful spot to walk, go fishing, swimming and sunning at the beach.

 

 

An afternoon of lounging in the pool ended with a lovely dinner of angel hair and breaded baked chicken. Mary’s daughter, our niece, Joanne and her family came to visit. It had been years since we had seen them…it was so wonderful to see her and her family and visit. Her boys are good kids and growing so much! God bless them as they grow.

 

 

We feel so blessed to have such a great, magical stay for a couple of days. Many thanks to Mary and Joe for their hospitality and love!

 

My next few posts will focus on our Florida stay, from visiting Silver Springs State Park to Circle B Bar Reserve and our stay with his sister, Pam and our brother in law, Jim and his mom, Theo. 💕It was an amazing few days all around and now we all have wonderful memories of it! I hope you’ll enjoy my posts and Tom’s photos! 

 

 

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💗

 

IMG_2469

The Stories You Keep

the-things-they-carried
taken from Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

“ Forty three years old and the war occurred half a lifetime ago and yet the remembering makes it now. And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it last forever. That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, where there is nothing to remember except the story.”

From The Things They Carried by Tim O’ Brien

 

 

 

 

A few years back my son Dylan had a school assignment to read the prolific and passionate work, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. He wasn’t enthusiastic about it, for he dislikes reading unless it’s about baseball or hunting. Since I’m an avid reader and lover of books, I dove right in and got myself a copy too. I figured that I could read it myself and maybe have meaningful conversations with Dylan about it.

 

 

 

 

 

I think as he read O’Brien prolific words, he started to think about war and the emotional and human cost it bears. We would talk about certain parts and I think that helped him with his assignment. As this progressed, I started writing notes from the text, fascinated with O’Brien’s words and feelings. It placed me in a soldier’s boots in Vietnam and into their fascinating but terrifying world. I loved O’Brien’s writing because it stirred up feelings inside my gut and that’s when you know it’s good.

 

 

 

 

Aside from war stories, I believe everyone has a distinct story. Every story is special , whether it’s heart breaking, life changing or remarkable, it doesn’t matter. It can reveal truths and explain why someone is the way he is. A story can trigger forgiveness and understanding. It can connect you to another time and place and that can be as exciting as being in the present. These tales need to be told to family members, friends and acquaintances for in life, a simple story can change everything.

 

 

 

 

Stories can sometimes be nightmares, told of horrors and indecencies that we would never wish upon our enemies. Yet even these stories need to be told, for they connect the past and present.If they weren’t told or recorded, then they would fade away and it would be as if they didn’t happen. When they are spoken from generation to generation, it remains real and  it can teach lessons. We can always learn from events in the past and make sure our story is enacted differently.As Tim O’Brien says, stories are sometimes all we have when we forget how we got from where we were to where we are.

 

 

 

 

If you or your family has a special story, make sure to share it with others. Write it down in a journal or publish it for others to enjoy or learn from. Embrace the art of storytelling…around a dining room table or a cozy campfire. It doesn’t matter where you tell it, as long as you do!

 

 

 

 

I highly recommend this book, From the Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. It brought me right there, in the thick of the fight and I truly felt the misery and emotion. I loved his descriptive writing and it made me think about war and dying and a soldier’s sacrifice. I’m eternally grateful for all American soldiers and all that they have sacrificed for our way of life and our freedom. 🇺🇸

 

 

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💗

 

King Arthur Flour Baking Classes

img_2188

Meet my friend, Michelle Kupiec. I first met her a few years ago through my good friend, Laurie Burridge. Ever since we get together a few times a year for lunch. We used to go Black Friday shopping together at Wal-Mart but have graduated to a shopping day.  I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter what we do, it’s always great conversation and really fun! We are just busy working moms and wives with no airs about us, just working hard and loving our families.

 

 

Michelle has a pretty cool job at King Arthur Flour Company in Norwich, Vermont. She’s a baking instructor/ purchaser, which means that she instructs cooking classes and purchases all the supplies for the class. Michelle’s one of about a dozen instructors. If you love baking, then doesn’t it sound like your dream job?

 

 

Michelle started at the company working on the baking hotline and did this line of work for a year. Did you know that King Arthur Flour hosts a hotline? People call with their baking questions to converse with an employee, who can help them figure out what went wrong with their project. Michelle says that she enjoyed it because it was detective work to figure out what went wrong with peoples’ baking projects. One common mishap is using too much flour. Adding too much changes the consistency of cakes,cookies and breads.

 

 

 

We were all laughing hysterically when Michelle shared her favorite caller stories. One outrageous baker called with a bread emergency! Her loaf of bread was exploding and popping out of the oven! Laurie kept us in stitches, reminding us of the bread scene in the Lucy show. The woman told Michelle that she used a pound of yeast, when an average recipe calls for a teaspoon. Another caller asked where you can buy scalded milk for a recipe. This sounds like an entertaining job!

img_2198
I just watched this clip on YouTube and can’t stop laughing! Welcome to my world, yeast and I do not get along!

Presently Michelle teaches different classes from making pizzas ( one of her favorites) to breads. Baguette classes and Bread101 are popular choices and because of that, Michelle suggests to sign up early. She also instructs a Pizza From the Hearth class, where you can learn how to bake a pizza in a wood fired oven.

 

 

 

Classes consist of 12 to 16 people with one instructor and assistant. King Arthur hosts children classes, children and adult classes ( for instance a mom, dad or grandparent could bring a child) and adult children and parents are welcome to sign up as well. This sounds like a good Mother’s Day experience or just a special day with someone close to you.

img_2075

Michelle reminisces of her favorite classes, the ones with kids because they’re funny and cute. Many times the little ones wear their apron from home, such a great idea for fun and learning! Holiday classes are also popular and fun. My friend’s favorite aspect of the job is making people happy while finishing the class. It’s rewarding to her and I can see how this would be!

 

 

 

King Arthur Flour classes range from 3-4 hours for a day event. Some are long class workshops, some four and five days a week, 9 am to 5 pm. Classes on cookies, cakes, breads, pizzas and pastries all tempt the baker inside you. If you’re interested, you can sign up online at Kingarthurflour.com under the learn tab. A monthly calendar shows the class variety and times and if any there are any openings.

 

 

 

The classes start with all the participants in front, watching the instructor demonstrate. Then each person bakes the piece with guidance from the teacher and assistant. Not only do they learn a new baking skill or hone on one, they get to go home with your creation.

 

 

 

King Arthur Flour originated in 1790, the days of George Washington. The company started out near Boston Harbor, importing the product from England. Soon after, colonist farmers started growing wheat in the colonies and the flour was made here. Eventually the company made its home in Norwich, Vermont ( just a hop from Hanover, NH). The company is completely owned by its employees!

 

 

In the last 20 years or so, the flour has been available in all 50 states. Michelle says a new classroom facility is open in Burlington, Washington. This is a sure sign of progress and popularity.

 

 

 

King Arthur Flour’s facility hosts a store, cafe, classrooms for the classes and kitchen area. I visited the store last year with my mom. It’s fun to browse at different kitchen tools while instructors are creating goodies before your eyes. Within the facility is a cafe as well, where you can buy a coffee and danish or sandwich for lunch. From the tables in the cafe, sprawling windows invite you into the kitchen where the bakers are baking bread.

 

 

 

If you wish to call King Arthur’s baker’s hotline, call 855-371-2253. Monday-Friday: 7am-9pm Saturday & Sunday: 8am-5pm. You can also email them with questions by visiting the website, kingarthurflour.com and click on the contact us tab. For delicious recipes and baking help, see their blog at blog.kingarthurflour.com.

 


I have the cookbook as well, that’s jam packed with delicious and unique recipes.
Thank you ever so much for your time and great ideas, Michelle!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

A Movie to Remember

 

 

img_1899

 

 

 

 

 

It was 1984 and I was 15 years old. I remember the PBS station was holding their annual fundraising campaign and the nightly feature was their gold star breadwinner, It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s a show that opens up purses and hearts. I watched the famous movie for the first time, half expecting to not finish it. In the late hours of that cold December night, I got sucked in, despite my dislike of old black and white movies.

 

 

 
This 1945 classic appealed to me…maybe  it was Jimmy Stewart’s character and amazing acting and the drizzly snow scenes set in a small town that impressed me. This beloved story of a family man down and out and a goofy angel coming to his rescue all were staunch reasons why I kept watching. All these elements added up to a once in a lifetime movie, a show stopper that has stood the test of time.

 

 

 
I’ve watched it every year since and sometimes twice at Christmas with that eager fluttering in my heart. I still hold my breath during the bridge scene. George prays for his life back and it’s answered, for snow starts to fall and his lip is bleeding once again. He runs home to find the bank examiners at his house, and I still get choked up when all the people he’s crossed paths with and positively affected in his life show up and help. He made a staunch difference in their lives and never realized that until that moment. He had so many friends that he was a rich man indeed, not with monetary value but with love from family and friends with goodness and loyalty.

 

 
George Bailey’s famous plight continues to inspire  me today, a reminder that wrapped up presents and piles of material goods just don’t measure up to the connection of family members, their love and legacy and their undying loyalty. Being together, laughing, spending time together means much more to me than what you can buy at a department store. Love, goodness and friendship can’t be bought but shared, valued and treasured. These are the precious gifts of life to be cherished everyday and at Christmas too.

 

 

If you’ve never watched this classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, you must treat yourself and watch! If you’ve seen it before, as you watch this year, notice the scenes that mean something to you. Let those moments remind you of what is important at Christmas and most importantly, share that love with others and show them how much they mean to you. Here’s your chance….to act and live as George Bailey did.

All My Best,
Heart and Soul❤️

Christmas Movie Marathon

 

img_2118

 

 

 

The minute Thanksgiving passes, I get out my Christmas movie collection to watch. These movies are special and can be seen again and again and we don’t get bored with them. My husband’s favorite movies are action and adventure and he sports a small sigh when we start. I think he wants me to be happy so he tolerates it for the month of December, but ends up laughing and enjoying our marathon. We don’t have the Hallmark channel but if you do, check out the family oriented movies. Also ABC Family channel has 25 days of Christmas programming.

Here is a list of good Christmas flicks:

Home Alone and Home Alone two
Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation
Christmas With the Kranks
The Family Stone
The Family Man
Four Christmases
Fred Claus, funny
A Christmas Story, a classic with a funny pink bunny suit, ” you’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”
The Spirit of Christmas ( Netflix)
It’s a Wonderful Life, my favorite
I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Trapped in Paradise with Nicholas Cage
Miracle on 34th Street

Love Actually, Netflix

 

img_2113

 

I’m trying to slow down and take care of myself. I’ve been nursing a lower back injury for close to two months. Finally I went to the doctors and without an x- ray she’s pretty positive that it’s a herniated disc or deteriorated disc problem. This time of year is hard to slow down with everything that moms do but I must attempt to. I’m on Naproxen for two weeks to shrink the swelling and no lifting over five pounds. Physical therapy starts in January. I can’t help think that it’s another test of strength…of course I WILL pass! In the meantime I plan to go to work for four days but take it easy as best as I can. Christmas will come and with help, I’ll make our dinner.

 

Because of taking it easy, I watched a wacky movie on a Netflix disc, Mixed Nuts. The title is fitting for it’s about a counseling center around the holidays. Anything that could happen does, it has the romance, accidental murder, crazy happenings that are quite comical. Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn and Rita Wilson star, to name a few. Check it out!

Happy movie watching!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💗