Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sushi; Santos; A Modest Farm; Great Parking Job; Stilts; Pirates! Prize Patrol

Tuesday night we went out for sushi in Sumter Landing with our friends from Montreal, Canada, Henry and Catherine Cote. (Well, three of us enjoyed sushi, but Henry has an aversion to raw fish... but he did like the Kirin Ichiban beer.) It was also Oktoberfest evening, but we had missed the earlier festivities and parade. We were able to get a photo with these stilt walkers... how do they do that for hours on end, especially after a few mugs of pilsner? 

We went mountain biking on Wednesday morning at Santos Trailhead, near Ocala, Florida, in Marion County. Unknown even to many locals who are not cyclists or hikers, there are about 75 miles of trails here. In an hour of riding, we only passed one other rider and one walker. Here is My Lovely Bride making a graceful sweeping turn through sand, not the easiest surface for pedaling. This was one of the few wide spots on the trail. There are also roots, rocks, overhanging branches, and some pairs of trees that are little more than a handlebar's width apart. You have to keep alert every second, but it's a magical place to ride. 

Marion County is also horse farm country, and we passed this cozy little place named Padua (370 acres) which is for sale. It has 11 stables, 15 houses, a 22-room dormitory, and an eight bedroom, 5 ½ bath main house (read “palace”). It was listed for $35 Million, but recently went up for auction, and did not sell for the estimated $25 million minimum; for those readers with deeper pockets than ours, we’d love to tag along with you when you go to look at the property. 

Have you ever pulled into a parking lot and seen a truly horrible parking job? How about this one at a nearby post office? I had to get a picture, and when I went inside, the postal clerk asked, "Oh, you're taking a picture of the post office?" "No, I'm documenting the dreadful attempt at parking that someone made out front." There were two ladies at the desk with another clerk, and neither spoke up, but one of them must have been the culprit... she must have flunked driver's ed in high school 40 years ago. (This is neither touched up nor staged, and no one is in the car.)

While Suzanne was doing a reading for a woman from Tampa and her mother (yes, she continues to whittle down her waiting list), I took a walk down to Panera for a cup of coffee. While looking out at Lake Sumter, there was a blood-curdling "Arrrrggggghhhhh!!!!" from one of the tour boats... "Shiver me timbers!" The tour boat had been taken over by pirates, Captains Roy and Jacky! They may not look menacing, but they have a fierce reputation for cruelty.

In fact, one of the ships they plundered is resting nearby where she was scuttled. There were reports that the crew was held hostage until Roy and Jacky's bar bill (estimated in the tens of thousands of dollars) at City Fire Restaurant was paid off.  

Recently Gloria Quigley won the "Rain Drain" award for most imaginative description of that device. The Prize Patrol (Your Correspondent and His Lovely Bride) picked up Gloria and her husband Bob for what would have been PeachWave frozen yogurt, but Suzanne and Gloria agreed that a trip to the movies might be a better choice. So we drove to Brownwood, the new town center about 8 miles away, to see "Argo", which is based on the 1979 Iranian hostage episode. (Good flick!) (I think we got off easier taking Gloria to the movies; I've heard she has a serious sweet tooth, and I might have run out of money before PeachWave ran out of frozen yogurt and toppings!)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Prayers; Clouds; Incivility; Country Night; Orbs? Turbulence!

As Hurricane Sandy rolls ashore and affects the entire east coast and interior as far as the Great Lakes, our prayers are with everyone in the storm’s path. We are particularly thinking of our good friend Elizabeth Magee, who departed The Villages on Saturday to visit with her family in New Jersey.

On the way out the door the other night, I barely caught the last rays of sunlight on this band of clouds. I wish I had been out a few minutes earlier for even more color, but even these subdued colors impressed me...  

Suzanne was in Belk, a local department store the other day, and witnessed an appalling lack of courtesy by one of the other customers. While talking on her cell phone the entire time, this woman walked up to the checkout clerk and handed her a garment, signed the credit card receipt, and left, without saying a single word to the astounded lady behind the register. Suzanne could hardly believe her eyes, but said some kind words to the poor clerk, who said that it was the worst case of incivility she had yet suffered.

Corvette Chick decided to forgo a 90 mph car ride to the grocery for a bike ride, and while we were out, she had a nagging problem with her derailleur (okay, no wise comments... it’s the shifter on the bike’s rear wheel, not the French word for Suzanne’s “bum”). We dropped in to Village Cycles, and while we were waiting, asked Steve Agronick, one of the sales staff, about his bike. He rides a 12 lb carbon bike that costs as much as a small car. He smiled and said, “Well, I won a race this weekend.” Not just any race... Steve is the new Florida Road Race State Champion in his age group. 

It was a 40 mile race, and he hit a top speed of 50 mph (yes, fifty!) with an average speed of 23 mph. What really amazed us is that Steve was racing in the 70+ age group! The guy looks like he’s 55 or so, and has zero body fat and a resting pulse rate of 43. He is also a past National and International Champion mountain biker. (Doctors must hate to see him coming, because if there were more people like Steve, the medical profession would lose a lot of business.) The first photo shows Steve with his champion’s jersey; in the second, he is holding photos of his time trial race, complete with aero helmet and wheels. Well done, Steve!   

While Suzanne was at her weekly flute choir practice, the puppies and I went for a w-a-l-k in t-o-w-n last night, and marched to the sound of music...  For the information of those not living here, The Villages arranges live musical entertainment almost every night of the year in each of its three town centers. We had the good fortune last night to hear a country singer named Carol Ann singing in Sumter Landing’s Market Square. I really enjoyed her singing, especially Drop on By and Quarter Past One. Carol Ann sings in each of the squares once a month, and more frequently in Katie Belle’s, the most popular club in The Villages. If you have the chance, catch her at one of those locations. She is a terrific performer.  

At the risk of displaying my ignorance about the subject of “orbs”, I will provide the following photo with a few words, then ask for comments on why it may have happened... I was taking a telephoto shot of the moon with my Nikon D70s single lens reflex digital camera with a Nikkor AF 70-210mm telephoto lens on a tripod. No flash was used on the four shots I made at different lens lengths from 70 out to 210 mm. The first is a 70mm shot, and a very distinct green circle, or “orb”, can be seen. 

The second is a 210 mm photo, and shows a less distinct orb in a different position.There were no clouds anywhere near the moon. I checked my lens and there was no dust on the inside or outside lens face.  Any thoughts? 

I almost forgot one of the funniest stories from Suzanne’s trip back home on the airplane. She is very sensitive to turbulence, and was sitting next to a very prim and proper black lady reading her Bible. The plane took a heavy lurch, dropping a bit of altitude, and My Lovely Bride gasped and had to bite her lower lip to catch an escaping "sailor word". She quickly regained her composure, and said sweetly to the lady, “I’m sorry, but if we hit more turbulence, I may not be able to control what comes out of my mouth.  It just happens.” The lady laughed heartily and said she would understand... 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fall Colors; Cherry Hill; A Special Dinner; Geo-Quiz Winner!

My daughter Elisabeth lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and recently spent time in Shenandoah National Park at the height of the fall colors. Her beautiful photos reminded me that those of us who now live in Florida miss out on this spectacular transition of the seasons.

Of course, I also don't have to rake up 435 million leaves every October/November.... I guess there are some positive aspects to living in palm tree country. But having said that, I wish that we had been able to delay our return home a couple of weeks to see the spectacular scenery up in the Appalachian Mountains,  or in the Adirondacks...

Having hiked a lot in the Shenandoah, this would have been a useful stop to get rid of some of the trail dirt and sweat after a six hour day on the Appalachian Trail; regrettably, I never found such a luxury, so my hiking companions and I had to wait to shower until after the long drive home... "Phew! Hey, Ty, open the window, would ya please! You stink!" 

One of the iconic structures on the Appalachian Trail is Wineberry  Cabin near Lydia, Virginia. There is an interesting warning posted here: 
"WARNING: Beware of wasps, ticks, and copperhead snakes in season. Please do not disturb or harm any black rat snakes you may find in the area. They keep the copperheads away and help control the rodent population. Cattle may enter the surrounding yard and should not be antagonized." 
Sounds like good advice to me!

Here is Elisabeth relaxing in front of a fixer-upper cabin she's thinking of buying.  ;-)
She's always loved the outdoors, but I think that this takes "minimalist, sustainable living" to a new level... "Hey, Liz, two questions: where are you going to park your Veloster, and how are you going to get Internet access here?"  

You are welcome to view more of Elisabeth's great photos on Flickr at

The latest private viewing of the Messages of Hope movie took place in Cherry Hill, NJ, on Friday evening, and was very well received. (Photo courtesy of Janice Clay) 

Suzanne was very happy to be able to spend three days with her sister Janice while in Wilmington and Cherry Hill.  (I'm not sure that letting these two gals loose in Cherry Hill on a Friday night was such a good idea... they look like real party animals to me!)

While Suzanne was finishing up her SOAR! Workshop in Cherry Hill, I was at dinner with her mom Ruthie, and brother and sister-in-law, Brent and Cheryl Smeltzer. It would have been Ruthie and Bill's 66th wedding anniversary, so it was a very special night. (I also learned that Brent and Cheryl are playing golf 6-10 times a week. It's no surprise, though, since Brent is a retired Air Force officer, and as every Navy officer will tell you, golf  is a required skill in the Air Force, much like marksmanship is to the Marines and seamanship to the Navy...  ;-)

Finally, announcing the latest Geo-Quiz winner; the best answer was received from Susan Price, who correctly stated that the building in question was (1) Citrus Tower, (2) located in Clermont, Florida, and (3) that hard freezes which killed the orange groves nearby caused its loss in popularity. Congratulations to Susan, and thanks to other respondents, including Chris Lavender, Bob Blythe, Laura Frucht, Marlene Moe, and Flo Tejeras.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sunrise; Pizza Soup and Cherries; A Boston Jag; Geo Quiz #2

Okay, for all you LB’s (that’s Navy slang for “Lazy Butts”) who don’t get up until 9:00 AM, here’s what you’re missing at 7:20 or so... so tomorrow, plan on an “early rev” to catch sunrise as it happens.  

The other night Suzanne’s mom Ruthie and Elizabeth Magee joined us for dinner, and I prepared Ty’s Amazing Pea Soup. Now you may scoff about soup as a main course, but my pea soup is not only delectable, but is also hearty, being filled with Southern ham (not that thin Yankee stuff). We jokingly call it “pizza soup” because Suzanne had invited her mom over for dinner last year and mentioned that we were having pea soup, but that was when our AT&T cell phone service was very spotty, and only every other word was understandable. Well, Ruthie sat down for dinner, and when I put a bowl of green pea soup in front of her, she looked at it in shock, and said, “That doesn’t look like pizza!” So from then on, it became “pizza soup”. Since Ruthie is fond of dessert (and who isn’t?), I followed the main course with Cherries Jubilee, complete with flaming brandy... the neighborhood watch happened to be driving by, and came running in with a fire extinguisher, but I managed to tackle him before he could ruin my dessert....

Last night, while Suzanne was showing our Messages of Hope movie in Cherry Hill, NJ, I treated myself to dinner out at Bonefish Grill. I hesitate to mention commercial establishments for fear of being accused of under-the-table endorsement payoffs, but who cares what critics say? I am in love with Bang-Bang Shrimp... My Lovely Bride knows that this is a lustful relationship that she can either tolerate or protest against, but it is undeniable. And it isn’t that fattening... so here I am, sitting at the bar awaiting my gastronomic ecstasy, when I hear the guy next to me talking about “cahs”... or “flaws”... I turn and say, “You must be from Boston.” He replies, “Gosh, how did you know?” “It must be the color of your shirt...” Tom is a retired Massachusetts State Trooper, so I had to be careful or I’d be on my face on the “flaw” with cable ties on my wrists before you could say “Yeah, I’m a Yankees fan, so what!”  But seriously, Tom and his wife Leslie were a delightful couple, married for forever, and returning to the frozen north on the morrow to spend time with grandkids. 

Tom and Leslie live “on the wah-tah” in Marshfield, Mass, if I understood Tom’s accent properly. I asked if Hurricane Sandy was going to affect his home, and I think he said, “No, I’ll just arrest it if it comes our way”... okay, maybe that wasn't a direct quote, but you get the idea... this is a “no BS kinda guy”! Tom and I found several common interests - fast cars for one... he had a black Jag convertible out front that he swore was both quiet and fast (how can it be both, I wondered?).  I offered to trade our Mitsubishi Eclipse for his Jag, but he just laughed... can you imagine how insulted I was? Tom told a great story about when he was dating Leslie, she showed up to pick him up in her new Dodge Charger while he was standing on the corner with his buds. They were all shocked, first that Tom had such a hot date, but almost as much that she would give him her car keys for a great muscle car like a Charger. (Maybe they knew his driving record better than Leslie did?)  We also had a bit of common history, having both been sent on vacation to Viet Nam in our youths.

Okay, here is this week’s Geo-Quiz... The winner (and his/her guest), judged solely by my absolute and arbitrary decision, will be guests of Your Correspondent (and His Lovely Bride) for coffee and pastries at Panera in The Villages. Here is the building to be identified, but you must also answer two additional questions to complete the quiz. Specifically, (1) What is the name of the building? (2) Where is it located? (3) What natural event(s) led to its loss of popularity? You may post your answers at the bottom of this blog post or email me at for manual entry. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

For Whom the Tolls Ka-ching? Panhandlers; Arden Courts Talk; Really, a Duel? A Tragedy

Okay, so we were driving The Bus with Honda CR-V in tow through downtown Tampa on Sunday, and as we departed the Hillsborough Expressway, I saw in horror the sign that read, “Toll; Violators subject to $100 fine”. But there was no toll booth, only sets of electronic toll machines and huge cameras, obviously clicking away to catch those criminals who flout the law! I worried that I’d be hauled away in handcuffs on the spot, with my Lovely Bride resigned to bringing me gruel and a cake with a file in it while I rotted in the Tampa City Jail. We snuck out of town quickly, which isn't so easy to do in a 40-foot-long bus with a car dragging behind. As soon as we returned home I started trying to figure out how to pay my toll and/or fine on-line. After several pleasant emails with a young lady named Sue in Tampa, I determined that this was a kindler and gentler traffic authority. They actually scan your plate number, and until you have two tolls to pay, they don’t bother you. At two, they send you a bill for the toll, with no fines attached. Only if you amass an undisclosed sum of tolls (like foreign diplomats in Washington, DC, do all the time) and not send any money do they send out the guys in trench-coats with pliers. (And they know how to ruin a Vietnamese nail salon’s clients!)  

Here is a new feature; the Bird of the Week (or Month, or Fortnight, depending on my mood). We are going to highlight some local feathered friends. The first was the sandhill crane, but it was a short entry a week or so ago. The White Ibis pictured here were walking around looking for handouts behind the Church on the Square in Spanish Springs. These are very hardy birds, and were selected by the University of Miami as their official mascot in 1926. According to Florida folklore, the white ibis are the last wildlife to flee before the arrival of a hurricane, and the first to reappear after the storm departs. Sebastian the Ibis leads the Miami Hurricanes football team onto the field, and wears the number 0. (He's anthropomorphized, you know, a guy in a bird suit... sort of weird, really).

These ibis were not interested in football, but rather the bread that a local couple had in their hands. Their favorite diet is actually crawfish (Hey, being from New Orleans, I can appreciate their refined palates!), but they also eat small fish, crabs, aquatic insects, etc., found in ponds and bayous. Their enemies, mostly predators who eat ibis eggs, are raccoons, opossums, rat snakes, vultures, night herons, fish crows and boat-tailed grackles. “It ain’t easy living in the wild...” 

While Suzanne is in the Northeast to show the Messages of Hope movie and present her S.O.A.R! Workshop, she was invited to speak at two Arden Courts Memory Care Communities, one in Wilmington, Delaware, and the second in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Today's presentation was very well received, and many attendees bought copies of Suzanne's latest book, The Real Alzheimer's. Proceeds from book sales at these events go to the Alzheimer's Family Organization, courtesy of Arden Courts. (Photo courtesy of Janice Clay)

I love small business signs. Unlike big billboards, they often reflect the personalities, proclivities, or political passions of their proprietors. (Hey, that was very alliterative, don’t you think?) Anyway, here is one that I saw in Leesburg, FL, the other day. 

I was imagining that the owner of this shop must be either a former Olympic fencer (the swordsman type, rather than a chain link guy) or a crack shot with a black powder pistol, since pistols and swords were the only recognized gentlemen’s weapons. Pistols were fired at about ten paces, or thirty feet, very close range.

What a great offer; apparently for only $150 this businessman will arrange a duel between you and your mortal enemy while you wait for an oil change or a muffler replacement. What better way to fill up an empty hour or two? A surgeon or doctor would normally attend duels in the past, although today an EMT would probably be more cost-effective.  There are probably a couple of big oak trees out back (named, what else, “The Dueling Oaks”) where the two principles can draw sabers or epees, or use their cap and ball pistols, to settle gentlemen’s disagreements. I hope this automotive magnate has not degraded to promoting dueling with 24 inch crescent wrenches... that would be so, so, well... plebeian. This old print depicts an actual duel in New Orleans’ City Park, at The Dueling Oaks, only a few miles from where I grew up. 

Duels are not officially outlawed here in Florida, since the Florida Legislature repealed an anti-dueling law in 1832. This placard was an actual challenge for a duel in 1839, but perhaps regrettably, it was never consummated. (I say “perhaps regrettably” because both were politicians...)   

While some might consider the loss of a pol or two a tragedy, I actually experienced a tragedy yesterday. I reached into the fridge for an Oreo cookie, and what did my hand find? Naught but an empty package. I peeked into both ends, but nary a sweet treat was to be found... Sigh...  My Lovely Bride asked me to emphasize that since she no longer indulges in Oreos, she was not the culprit... "Ru-Dee!!!!!!"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sturgeon Award Winners; Airport Goodbye; A Hot Rental; Drainspout Award Winner

The First Annual Sturgeon Award was presented at 0815 this morning to Tom and Karen Leonard. (We tried to surprise them before they awoke, but they are early risers.) They won the Geo-Quiz, which will actually be a weekly event. My Beauteous Biker Babe and I rode over and presented Tom and Karen their Hostess Chocolate Covered, Cream-Filled Cupcakes, one of the great inventions of modern chemistry... er, cuisine. “Chemistry” slipped out not because snack cakes are chemically treated to last for a century, but because Tom was a university chemistry professor, and still thinks like a chemist. He even dreams chemistry, which is sort of a scary thought. 

Then off to the airport for Suzanne’s flight to the City of Brotherly Love. (No quiz there, everybody knows Philadelphia, the city whose baseball team, the Phillies, has the dubious distinction of losing the most games of any professional team in the history of American professional sports... Sorry, Allan, I tried to sweeten it up, but that’s what the record states...)

On the way to MCO, Suzanne climbed in the back seat to get some special face time with Rudy and Gretchen. Lots of loves there before she flew off for a few days. The puppies always really miss her (as do I, of course) when she is gone. Gretchen in particular looks at her out the back window with sad, sad eyes when we drop Suzanne off at check-in. 

Speaking of sadness, can you imagine how My Corvette Chick felt when she got to Philly and saw her flashy rental car? It’s not quite what she’s used to... (I wish I had some of that canned laughter to play...) 

Okay, the suspense is driving everyone insane. Who is the winner of the drain spout gizmo (actually called a "rain chain") award? Here is the picture again if you missed it....  

It was a tough decision, but the winner is... Maestro, drum rolls, please... Gloria Quigley, whose answer was "As I look at the device, I think it is most likely a "Cavalier Escape Chain" used by those knights who, upon the arrival home of the husband, swiftly make an exit out the bedroom window, with a "guttural" sound after spending a rendezvous with the wife in waiting!" "Hey, no groaning from the folks who lost out to Gloria's imaginative and naughty sense of humor!" Gloria wins the Peachwave Night Out with Your Correspondent and His Lovely Bride when she returns from Philly. Congratulations, Gloria!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Drain contest extended one day; Samurai Ty; Painting the Moon; Suzanne’s Waiting List and Travel; Word for the Day; Really Big Dogs

At least two contestants in the “Name that Drain Device” contest have been unable to post their comments on the blog, so I am officially extending the contest by one day. Please send your entry to me at if you are unable to post it in the comments section at the end of this blog entry. I will look at all entries on Thursday morning for an unbiased, arbitrary, subjective decision and will announce the winner Thursday evening/Friday morning. As My Lovely Bride is on travel until Sunday night, the award banquet (okay, the ice cream social) will be held after her return.

Back on Sunday August 19th, for those who keep track of such trivia, we were in Fort Collins, Colorado. Some readers may recall my mentioning that while serving as the Commanding Officer of the US naval base in Sasebo, Japan, I wore an actual samurai warrior’s outfit in a parade there. Well, Suzanne was looking through some old photo albums, you know, with pictures that were printed from negatives, like you see in the museum... and here is the 8th Samurai! What was really funny is that my two teenage daughters didn't even recognize me when I walked up to them and spoke a few words of Japanese to them... but were they shocked when I asked whether they had done their homework!

I had fooled Suzanne one night by pointing to a distant water tower while she had her head down, and saying, “Hey, Sweetheart, look at that moonrise!” Well, here is a painter putting the first coat on the new water tower moon on Buena Vista Blvd. near Brownwood in The Villages. The paint is actually sent up under pressure through a hose from a truck below.  I hope he doesn’t have acrophobia! 

Suzanne has been hard at work giving readings and whittling down her waiting list. She wants everyone on the list to know that she is trying her best to get to everyone waiting, and then reopen the list for new signups at some date in the future. She is off to Wilmington, Delaware, and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, to give several talks on her latest book, The Real Alzheimer’s, and to present her S.O.A.R! Workshop at the Wyndham Hotel in Cherry Hill on Saturday, October 27. If you would like to attend, see her website at

Our Word for the Day from my random dictionary selection is one that gemologists and rock hounds will recognize: sardonyx, n., a variety of onyx with alternating bands of light orange-brown sard and white chalcedony, once widely used in making cameos [14thC. Via Latin from Greek sardonux, from sardios (see SARD and onux (see ONYX).]  Note that sardonyx is not a couple of sardonic guys!

While walking on the town square the other day, our little scrapper Gretchen (also known by her ring name, “Ten Pounds of Fighting Fury”) was stopped in her tracks by this pair of Irish Wolfhounds. The larger of the two weighed 180 lbs, larger than his owner, while the smaller was a svelte 140. Our little dachshunds were so stunned by the size of these gentle beasts that they hardly barked at all. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

MacDill AFB; Into Leather; Imagination Quiz; Dame Desu Sushi; A Beach Babe

I’m not sure of the species of these two trees, located behind the second green at the MacDill AFB golf course, but they are beautiful. We didn't bring golf clubs with us, and felt bad because there weren't many people playing, even on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. (Many of the Central Command and Special Operations Command service men and women stationed here are still serving in Afghanistan.) Rudy and Gretchen wanted to get out of the car and chase squirrels here, but the ambassador was nearby, and he might not have believed my explanation that our puppies were actually caddies...  

While riding around MacDill AFB, we came upon the Navy Operational Support Center and this monument out front, "dedicated to all the brave men and women who proudly served in the United States Navy, protecting freedom around the world." The inscription might seem generic, but the second plaque recognizes Steelworker Third Class Ronnie Ginther, USN, who was killed in action in Iraq on May 2, 2004. It was another reminder that freedom is not free.

We also met up with Tom, an Air Force aviation fireman, at the airfield fire house at MacDill. We were out for a bike ride and detoured when we saw the cab of this ladder truck tilted rakishly forward.  Tom was working on the electrical system.  He hails from Ohio. When I mentioned that he must like the warmer weather here in Tampa, he stated that he really preferred Elmendorf AFB outside Anchorage, Alaska. It must be nice to be young... I just can't imagine 40 below zero and 12 feet of of snow...

Speaking of past shipmates I have known and proudly served with, I was pleased to find a small package at our door with two leather key fobs, handcrafted with Navy officers' insignia, from my great friend Master Chief Petty Officer Dale Hilliard, USN (Ret), who kept me out of trouble for two years aboard Battleship IOWA. Dale and his wife Becky hosted us at their campground in Indiana this past summer, and Dale tried to teach me how to shoot straighter with every weapon known to man, including a crossbow. Thank you, Dale! 

Imagination Quiz: We saw this gizmo hanging from a gutter downspout of a house on Bayshore Drive in Tampa. I’m not sure of its real name, but I thought that it would be fun to ask you all to think up a good name for it... use your creativity, and we will make a purely subjective decision on the entries. Please use the comment window at the bottom of this blog entry; that way, your entries will be seen by everyone, and hopefully will stimulate creative juices across the country.  ;-)  I will wait until Wednesday morning to review entries, and will announce the winner Wednesday evening/Thursday morning. Suzanne and I will take the winner and a guest out for ice cream at Peachwave (if you live in The Villages) or forward a gift certificate for Dairy Queen, Friendly’s, or an ice cream parlor in your area (within reason... Emack and Bolio’s in NYC may not be on our list).

We recently received a photo from our good friend Gail Grossman. She had just won six medals at a swim meet in Kissimmee-St Cloud, Florida. She doesn’t look very tired for just having whooped the competition. Well Done, Gail!

Our last dinner in Tampa was at a local sushi bar. We thought it was going to be good because the d├ęcor was very nice and the prices were higher than average. Suzanne's smile was not long-lasting, unfortunately. This was the second-worst sushi we have ever eaten, beaten only by a cowboy sushi bar in Austin, Texas. This place, which shall go unnamed but which is located on Gandy Street not far from Tampa Bay, had poor quality (read "cheap, tasteless, and very disappointing") fish, rice, and soy sauce (not a good combination). (Dame desu means “bad” in Japanese.) At least the service was timely and the Kirin Japanese beer was good (it’s hard to screw up imported bottled beer), but these positives did not offset the mediocre food. We are looking forward to returning to The Villages and our favorite sushi bar in North America, VKI Japanese Restaurant in Sumter Landing.

Finally, a stop at the beach near our campground with My Lovely Date for a sunset "photo op". I call this the "Suzy Cool" look... the down side of this stop was that some gnats or sand fleas gave Suzanne a few nasty bites on her feet; ouch!