A Watermelon Martini for Jeannie

Recently I discovered that I like watermelon martinis very much.
I hadn’t wanted to want to stop; I just wanted to continue on home.  But I was wearing a little black dress, and we were returning from an early evening cocktail party, and it was only 9:00pm as  we turned onto Ocean Blvd. from Atlantic, and then he spied an open parking place right across the street from Ocean 60. Before I could talk him out of it, he’d parked the car and wasn’t going to be taking no for an answer.  We were not ending his evening out this early.
So I thought I’d humor him.  I would order a Diet Pepsi and smile while he’d sample whatever drink he’d had in mind, and then he’d be satisfied and we could go home.
So I could do… what, again?  Fold some laundry?  Sweep the kitchen floor?  Seriously, what was I thinking?
I heard him order a watermelon martini and thought a watermelon martini, are you kidding me?  We sat at the bar in the cozy Ocean 60, an intimate and elegant restaurant on Ocean Boulevard in Atlantic Beach: one side for quiet dining, the other side for quiet drinks. Sometimes there’s live music that’s appropriate for the atmosphere of a room that is small and sophisticated.  I’d actually been there before, but not in quite some time.  It occupies the corner of a short block of shops and a couple of other restaurants, each with unique offerings for various palates, price points, occasions and mood.

Ocean 60’s  Martini Bar and Wine Room was the perfect place for us on this night.  I just didn’t know it yet.  The bartender placed this pink confection of alcohol with a perfect cherry in front of my husband and I couldn’t believe he’d ordered such a drink.  Just a few minutes in the place had softened my resolve to hurry home, and besides, I needed to take a sip of this pink drink my husband had ordered.

He took a sip, and then I did and that was all it took for the drink to become mine.  Within ten minutes of arriving I was settled in to my place at the bar and in no mood to go home and do, what again? Fold laundry? Sweep the floor?  Um, no.

One watermelon martini later I was asking for another and by this time he’d ordered a proper man’s cocktail and I was having fun being out at night in a little black dress.  Remind me again why I needed to get home? On a Saturday night?
The music came on and the trio played a set during which time we talked and laughed and enjoyed our cocktails. Naturally the Little Canon Elph was along for the ride and snapped many fun shots of the dark room and glistening bar and the pretty pretty martini in its glass, so sweet and delectable, like cotton candy gently laced with alcohol. The bartender whipped up a couple more martinis
 and I’m not sure what he thought about the girl with the camera snapping photos of every other thing that caught her eye 
but, being a gentleman bartender in an elegant martini bar and wine room I can only imagine the stories he could tell.

I’d thought my husband was kidding the kids when he’d told them we’d be home by midnight – by midnight?, they’d echoed, astounded. They hadn’t believed him and neither had I – but it was, indeed a very early 12:00am when we entered our home that night and you know what?  I had no desire to fold the laundry whatsoever.

An Afternoon at Big Talbot Island

Yesterday being the Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday holiday and a mild and sunny day I was in no mood for inside fun (that would be television, Wii, and texting of friends).  I wanted to get out of here and go somewhere else.  While I am a big fan of technology, I’m also fervent about playing outdoors and with an Atlantic coastline and intracoastal waterways in our literal backyards… I was “heading for the hills” (so to speak, as there are no hills in Florida).
Oh, the groans I heard; the vision of a long and boring car ride of sightseeing; their countenances drooped so I bribed them with the lure of bringing a friend along which is how I wound up with five children in the car, and my countenance a whole lot brighter for being outside and going to a place I knew we’d all enjoy.
A mere 18 miles from our house and a short jaunt over the Mayport Ferry, it was Big Talbot Island’s “trees beach” I was aiming for.  I’ve heard it called Boneyard Beach too and the following video will illustrate how it got its name.
Okay, the video’s a bit long, but I wanted to give you a good peek at this lovely and haunting coastline.  We discovered it by accident last year, during another of my boring, let’s go exploring car rides.  But this beach always evokes fun as it’s interesting for everyone: adults and kids and probably even dogs, if I had one, which I don’t.  I’ll stop writing now because the video will inform you about the place far better than I can write about it.
The video could benefit from a minute’s worth of editing, which I’ll learn in due course, but if you like an interesting landscape, this one’s for the picture books.

A Beachlifer’s Ambivalence

Last Friday in the wan sunlight of the late afternoon, I wandered halfheartedly over to the beach walkover next to the pier.

Although warmer than recent days, I still felt strangely chilly and didn’t really want to be outside, although some part of me did, very much.   I’ve been feeling bereft of words lately and I hoped to see something that would inspire me.  This is what I saw.

The car bore Vermont plates and two messages applied with blue painter’s tape.

I snapped the first picture on my way over to the beach, and the second one a few minutes later, when the car’s occupants were bundled in and preparing to go.  They seemed to appreciate my camera pointed in their direction and paused for me to get the shot.

 After that I immediately looked up and noticed this rising above the low buildings in front of it. I smiled to myself at the congruence of it all.

Despite the warmer afternoon that it was, I was wrapped in my blanket-like coat and although part of me wanted to want to hang out at the beach a bit longer and enjoy myself like these two, I stayed but a few minutes, then gave in to the desire to hurry back to the car, and drove as if on auto-pilot over to the library.  Curled up in a dirty chair,  I thoroughly enjoyed the next hour of my life paging through the current issue of Vanity Fair, killing time until  my next obligation.  I left there warm and happy, clutching both the book and the audio version of the novel I’d requested which had been delivered to our branch.
On some days this beachlifer just seeks the comfort of the stacks, however outdated the Beaches Branch of the Jacksonville Public Library really is.
This was one of those days.

Atlantic Beachlife Tee Shirt Leaves for the U.K.

Today in the Jacksonville Beach Post Office I carefully folded a snow white ‘atlantic beachlife’ tee shirt for my first international customer, Sammi.  Sammi lives in the United Kingdom and she somehow found this blog, liked the tee shirts enough to buy one and pay shipping all the way to the U.K.!
Actually, Sammi was the one entrant in the tee shirt giveaway who I was glad (at the time) didn’t win, because then I’d have to ship it all that way, remember? Turns out Sammi liked the tee enough to actually pay for it, and the shipping, and for that I’ll never forget her.   My first international customer, and I’m terribly flattered for her interest.  I’ll always remember Sammi, just as I’ll always remember that Rosie was the first person to follow this blog.  A girl never forgets such seminal events.
Watch for more news as to where you can find ‘atlantic beachlife’ tee shirts here in town.  For anyone else who’s interested?  Write to me and I’ll get one in the mail to you, too!

It’s Monday and It’s Cold in Atlantic Beach

It’s been a freezing week here at atlantic beachlife.  And what’s more boring than writing about the weather, unless it’s some spectacular sort of weather event, like a hurricane.  Or…snow, in Florida.
My colleague, Nick Lulli of 2News Now, has been excitedly predicting, “snow in northeast Florida!”, all day, every day, for the past week.  From flurries to sleet, Nick is ready for some weather action, since we barely had a tropical storm this season (I’m not complaining). While we’ve had the temperatures for it, and I’ve seen the ice to prove it

nary a flurry has flown in my micro-climate.  It’s been  28 degrees on more than five mornings when I ventured out at 7:20am. When when I spotted this ice slick

(that would be ice on the road!)

I thought I was back in Michigan for a second, where temperatures, frankly, were but a few degrees colder.
I know, exciting stuff.  Well, Nick’s excited; he’s a budding meteorologist and cannot wait for an actual snow event to report on.  I admire the kid’s tenacity. He’s been a storm-chaser since he was 11 or so (some pretty accommodating parents, don’t you think?). He was out in Jacksonville Beach the other night and reporting on the cold like he was Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel.  Watch for Nick, people, for someday he probably will be on that channel, or some more technologically advanced channel that hasn’t even been developed yet.  His Facebook status reported of snow flurries! in Sanford! last Saturday morning!
For his sake, I hope it snows already because if it doesn’t he’ll be absolutely verklempt by this missed opportunity.  For all the kids in this neighborhood who are still running around in shorts with their hoodies and yes, flip flops (I’m talking to you and you)  let’s see if they can man up to the weather.  It’s now a mere 36 degrees at 4:09pm, so maybe, just maybe, tonight is The Night for Snow.
(Date palms in warmer days – also before we painted the house: another post)
The lovely blue tarp is protecting my tender pygmy date palms which I brought home in the back of my car several years ago.  These trees  could succumb if a sustained freeze occurs.  So finally an effective covering has been devised by the man of the house and now I can relax. If you drove through the neighborhood today you’d see all manner of coverings on people’s protected plants: old sheets, large towels, tarps, bags,  whatever can be scrounged up to toss over the tender tropicals that we insist on planting despite these annual winter risks. I  have a large garden of just gingers that I’d love to cover but the area is just too vast.

(ginger garden in summer)

(ginger garden an hour ago.  so far, so good.)

This fellow below doesn’t look as lucky.  For one thing, I forgot about him, so he’s spent the last week in an unprotected area of the garden when I could have easily hauled him into the garage.  His sad leaves tell the story of my neglect, and are a poor prognostic indicator of future horticultural health.
(a forgotten Croton.)

I gave him a drink of water and he’s spending some time out in the 44 degree sun; I’ll bring him in tonight and we’ll take his future day-by-day.

I have mixed feelings about this next plant.  Well, no.  I was actually planning to transplant him soon, and now his fate is still uncertain.  I hate to see him die of cold, if that’s what happens, because he started out as a couple of small (and I mean small!) plants on my sunny kitchen counter. Now he’s grown big and mighty, a tropical beauty that’s overtaking the front entrance.  Still, I didn’t want him to die, just…move to another location, which is exactly what will happen if he survives the this cold.

(He is a Gold Dust Croton; kind of rare. You have to go to a specialty nursery to find these.)

(This is his sibling.  I thought I’d transplant the first one over here.  Do you care?)

So anyway, it’s all weather talk around here because this is the longest run of frigid weather that Florida’s experienced in many years.  I realize that my friends in the plains states are scoffing at this but honestly: it is damned cold here!
Look what some beachlifers do for fun.  They rig a sprinkler up in their tree, let it run during the night and by morning, it’s a beautiful icy, sculpture for their sub tropical neighbors to behold.  Lo, it’s not Disney!  It’s Atlantic Beach!

It would have been spectacular if I’d arrived in the morning and not 1:45pm.  I was dodging hastily dripping water to get these mediocre shots.
From under my warm throw (but never a Snuggie),

It’s Saturday and There’s No Surf

When it’s too cold for surfing  there’s no surf, some of the surfers from the neighborhood play football at the park.  I showed up on their  online forum a few months ago and started posting.  I remember finding Fluidgroove back in 2000 when we first moved here. I lurked for a while back then, just to get the lay of the land; I was so excited to live in a warm climate at the beach and  the surfing culture has always intrigued me.  But I never posted anything, just read for a while and then drifted away.

Little did I know ten years ago how cold it can get here at times.  Fortunately the cold doesn’t last long and doesn’t seem to  stop the surfers – if there’s surf.  Never mind the wet suit, I can’t imagine going into the water when the air temperature is under 65 degrees, despite the fact that I’ll gladly swim in cold water, no problem, when it’s summertime.  I mean, Lake Michigan can be as cold as the ocean was yesterday, in July. An 85 degree day makes 58 degrees in the water feel bearable. But when the air temperature is 50 degrees or even less? Um, no.  But then, I’m not a surfer, and I think the psychology is different.  I wonder though: how many women surfers will suit up and get in on a cold winter’s day?  Are they as hardcore as the guys are?
So the surfers played football and I showed up to meet them in person,  and practice my photography on moving targets.  I brought my son and his friend, hoping they’d be able to join in as they both love  playing football.   But I wasn’t sure if this group of guys who didn’t know me would welcome these kids into their game.  Well, they did; they were very cool about it and let the kids be the captains and pick their teams.  And I shot, well, more than one hundred pictures and here are several of them:

These guys take surfing trips together every year to cool places like Peru and Nicaragua, where ever  the surfing is epic, I imagine.  I wish I had friends like that.

(His cute four-year-old son was just dying to get into the game with the big boys. He’ll be in there before his dad knows it.  I know.  I watched my “little boy” playing with the big boys and I swear, it was just last week that my boy was his boy’s age.)

(His wife owns the awesome boutique Rosie True, and they have an adorable daughter who was playing around the sidelines during their game, all blond and cute and four years old.)

It was great – meeting most of the guys, two of their cute kids, and chatting with some of them on the sidelines.  I was FREEZING by the end of the day,  but I had a great time practicing shooting action photography.  My son and his friend had a blast playing football with adults, and were impressed that the guys, “didn’t use any bad language.”  I think they were prepared for some rough talk from men, since my son’s heard a bit of it from his mom. But these guys?  They impressed the 13 year olds totally all the way around.  And me.  Thanks for being nice to ‘atlantic beachlife’.

Gator Bowl 2010

I’m no football fan, so when today arrived all rainy and cold I was ready to bail and spend the day on the couch with my book.

Instead we bundled ourselves into the car (I stashed my book into my backpack though) and we drove downtown where the real fans of Florida State and University of West Virginia were headed to see this bowl game.  I enjoy football for the people-watching, the overspending on concession items and the side stepping  of vomit on the ladies’ room floor in the 4th quarter.

The free enterprise system was flourishing as people in the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium were turning their front, or vacant yards into car parks. A few were offering home cooked food a la tailgating, which of course, we hadn’t planned out for ourselves.  A sliced apple, a diet Pepsi and granola bars weren’t going to take five people through the day (we don’t like to plan ahead, I guess).  We chose the bargain car park at $20/car (bypassing those in the $30-35 range) and found ourselves killing time in our parked car, hoping the rain would  stop.  For a while we watched people come and go from the house across the street: obviously something was going on inside.  We figured they had food by the looks of things, so we went over and sure enough they were running a “tailgate” party.  We were invited inside for some brisket, pasta salad, baked beans and grilled hot dogs.  No real charge, just pay whatever, they told us, so we did.  The house belonged to their friend, we were told; no one seemed to actually live there but it was a nice set-up for game day – running the car park and “tailgate” party along with a lively card game and music, everyone was upbeat on a chilly and drizzly New Year’s Day.  Still it was fun and by the time we  finished eating the rain had stopped and we were fortified enough to trudge the several blocks over to the stadium.

(Note: the layout of the rest of this post is not how it appeared in compose mode, and I’m done trying to figure it out.  The pictures are not where I placed them, the text format is wonky – I have no idea.)

We were bundled up in all manner of parkas and hoodies and windbreakers and scarves. Wimpy Floridians now, 50 

degrees and overcast is winter for us, end of story. But by the third 
quarter, it was sunshine and blue sky so I felt uplifted 
and even stripped off one of my many layers for a bit.

Still, there was one FSU fan who was undaunted by the
weather and stood, buck naked from the waist up both in the damp and gloomy first quarter, and the more seasonal 
Florida-like second half.

The gentleman in the red sweatshirt and cap (shown seated for this moment) managed to stand up in front of us practically the entire game. He appears pretty relaxed in this picture but don’t let that fool you.  He had no compunction about standing up even though there was no one in front of him on their feet.  I looked at the back of him a lot.

(weather still cold)

(staying warm in the ladies’ room when it was still a vomit-free zone)
Finally, I uploaded a photo to Facebook during the game and mistakenly referred to Mr. No Shirt as a Gator fan.  A Gator fan. (The Seminoles were playing.)  That’s like calling a Spartan a Wolverine.  Hey, I’m from Michigan and besides, I don’t know from football (nor do I care).  I was only there for something to do that didn’t require a couch and a reading light, or involve the beach in some way.  A girl needs a little diversion every now and then.
(Someone’s little guy who clearly knew I was taking his picture.  This was snapped during the warmest five minutes of the day.)