Monday, January 16, 2017

A Vacancy Reply; Return to Hilton Head; Benjamin W. Latham; Back to Basics! Hearts and Love in the Forest; Dos Equus

In my last blog post, there was a photo of a street rod golf cart with a "Vacancy - Apply in Person" sign in the window. At the time I thought this was a humorous way for a guy to try to get a date, or at least to meet someone interesting. In fact, Suzanne said to me, "Isn't that interesting..." That was her way of implying that the owner of said golf cart might be a bit, well, "eccentric", perhaps. Imagine my surprise when I received this comment the other day: "Like that street rod. If the owner wants to start a conversation (re:vacancy) he may write Jennie at the following address..... I know. Unusual." Jennie (name changed for your protection), I don't know the owner of the aforementioned golf cart, but if he contacts me, I will let you know. I also don't know you, but suspect that you are a fun-loving, adventurous woman with a good sense of humor. If you aren't familiar with The Villages, it's a fun place, and a lot warmer than Pennsylvania right now. 

Speaking of Pennsylvania, Suzanne grew up in West Chester, and she went to college in Lancaster County. Our New Year's dinner was traditional Pennsylvania Dutch fare - pork and sauerkraut for good luck. Here we see Brent, Ruthie, Bev, Suzanne and Cheryl waiting patiently for our staff photographer to sit down so they could enjoy their meal...

We are recently back from another short trip to Hilton Head, this time for Suzanne to give her Living in the United States of Awareness workshop and to speak to the local chapter of Helping Parents Heal. Both events went swimmingly, as the Brits say. (That has always been one of my favourite words since being stationed in the UK back in the early '80s - crikey, that was a long time ago!).

Frequent readers of this blog may recall that kale, quinoa and vegetables in general are not exactly at the top of my food hit parade. While in Hilton Head, we had dinner at the elegant home of our dear friends Tony and Irene Vouvalides. Here we see the lovely Irene surprising Your Faithful Correspondent with a specially-prepared kale and Brussel sprout salad and a green smoothie with several "healthy" ingredients... "Tony, please pass the Cabernet!!!" I have to give Irene credit on this one.... she really pulled one on me!

Tony and Irene also took us to Palmetto Bluff Resort, an historic locale where 21 plantations existed in the 19th Century. It is now a high end resort complex with a hotel, cottages, vacation homes, shops and restaurants. Rooms in the hotel in the background go for around $700/night, but hey, you get the use of a Mercedes to drive around the grounds or to go to town for shrimp 'n grits!

Tony (a master model builder) was kind enough to present me with a special gift during our visit - a beautiful, hand crafted half-hull model that he carved himself. This 84 foot fishing schooner, the Benjamin W. Latham, was originally built by the Tarr & James shipyard in Essex, Mass, in 1902. She operated as a mackerel seiner and dory trawler from 1902 until 1943 in Noank, Connecticut, New York City, and the Caribbean, when she foundered off Puerto Rico. Tony's model now hangs in a place of honor above the commissioning pennant that was presented to me following my change of command ceremony after two years as Commanding Officer, USS John Rodgers (DD-983).

I was transferring old files and photos the other day and ran across this one - it is posted on the patio of a restaurant in Colorado. Perhaps there is a reason for parents wanting middle and high schools to delete subjects like "gender studies" and return to traditional courses like English, history, math and science...

Those familiar with Disney may have heard of the Dopey Challenge, a four day event for runners, consisting of a 5K run (3.1 miles), a 10K run (6.2 miles), a half marathon (13.1 miles), and finally a full marathon (26.2 miles). Suzanne's niece Michelle and nephew Matthew came down to run all four events (from Virginia and Montana, respectively). Here we see Matthew and daughters Olive (7) and Ruth (3) vising their great grandmother Ruthie before heading home to Whitefish. 

Suzanne and I didn't get to run the Dopey, but we did go hiking one fine day in the Cross Florida Greenway, where we found this pine cone heart on the forest floor. There was another set of cones laid out to spell "LOVE".

We also saw two riders and their trusty steeds approaching on a cross-trail. I turned to My Lovely Bride with a clever smile and said, "Sweetheart, it's Dos Equus". (Classics scholars and biologists will recall that Equus is Latin for horse, and in fact is the genus name for horses, asses and zebras. Beer drinkers know Dos Equis as an excellent Mexican brew.) I explained my witty remark to the two riders from upstate New Yawk and Ontario and was initially met with blank stares until my humor (or lack thereof?) sank in...   

Monday, January 2, 2017

December 2016 Finale; Mavis Pittilla; Hilton Head Guests; A 6.9 Mile What? Trains! Kayaking;

Our last post had us back in The Villages, Florida, our "home port" for the winter. We are not "snow birds," since we keep our house year round and Suzanne travels back several times during the summer to visit her mom Ruthie, AKA "The Bridge Shark". Winters are also very busy with Suzanne's work as an evidential medium. December found her hosting one of her mentors, Mavis Pittilla, a British medium who is one of the "rock stars" of that select group of people. All of Mavis' events were very well-attended, and Suzanne is pleased that Mavis will be returning to The Villages the last week in March. 

This was Mavis' group of enthusiastic students for her mediumship class held right here in The Villages. 

We had the pleasure of a visit from two of our favorite people, Irene and Tony Vouvalides, from Hilton Head, SC. They came down to celebrate Tony's and Ty's birthdays, which are just two days apart. We gave them a golf cart tour of The Villages, and they were impressed by our home town, if not by Ty's skills in driving a golf cart (which we had to rent -  we are one of only four families in TV that doesn't own a golf cart.

Speaking of birthdays, this was almost my last one... seems that My Lovely Bride told me that I had to start following her birthday tradition of running one minute for each year - that gave me a 69 minute run to complete, but we added a couple of minutes to make it a 6.9 mile run. She even ran with me to make sure I didn't take a 45 minute nap along the route. Darn that girl...

We have had some great weather down here in Central Florida, and some spectacular sunsets, but no snow! I think on this particular day, it was -8F in Coon Rapids, and 81F in The Villages... sorry to rub it in, Terri of the Frozen North!

One of the highlights of the Christmas season here is the annual Model Train Show - the club of the same name takes over a huge recreation center and fills eight large rooms with model trains, a hobbyist's dream. This was one of the larger displays...  

Suzanne is the daughter of a train engineer. Bill Smeltzer started on the Pennsylvania Railroad shoveling coal in the '30s, and became an engineer for Penn Central and Amtrak, driving the Broadway Limited and the Main Line west of Philly. In fact, this was a model of one of his engines. My Lovely Bride can still do an awesome train whistle... woo-wooooo!!!!!

This is the season to get together with friends, and another dinner out was enjoyed with Michele and John Uss, from Connecticut, but now living in America's Friendliest Hometown. We had a great meal at the Arnold Palmer Country Club. Michele and John also were extraordinarily helpful in helping Suzanne with Mavis Pittilla's event at Temple Shalom. There was one funny moment when we walked up to them and Suzanne said, "Michele, I have an outfit just like that!" (Seems that they both shop at the same boutique, Patchington - in fact, Michele even models their clothes! Good thing they didn't wear the same outfit, eh?)

Winter also gives us mild, sunny weather for kayaking on the rivers and spring-fed streams of Central Florida. Here we are enjoying the Withlacoochee River near Inverness with Bob and Jan Blythe. Water levels were down about four feet because of the drought affecting the southeast US. Surprisingly, we didn't see any alligators - and no, I didn't put Suzanne in the lead just in case there were 'gators lurking!

Another kayak outing took us to Lake Panasoffkee. Here is My Lovely Bride looking pretty dapper in her 15 ft NC kayak. 

It's always amazing that five minutes from the put-in, it seems like you could be in the wilds of Africa - there is rarely anyone else in sight, except for birds, turtles and splashing fish.

Finally, lots of people "from away" make fun of the wild reputation that our town has. Okay, maybe there is some drinking and sex going on here; retired folks know how to have fun just like their grandkids, right? This photo captures a bit of the unique lifestyle here in The Villages. The owner of this fancy "street rod" is advertising for a mate (full- or part-time?) with a sign in the window... "Vacancy - Apply in Person".