What Would YOU Do?

This sign was posted on a large tree in front of an oceanfront property that happened to be having an estate sale in progress last week.

It appeared on day two of the sale. It wasn’t there the first morning, when everyone was gathering outside, some experienced estate-salers, and others like me, who happened to be driving past and stopped, intrigued because a) I just happened to be there nice and early (a must if you want the good stuff, I’m sure) and b) because it was being held inside a lovely, oceanfront home, with grounds, a guest house, that sort of thing.

I parked, not at all ready to face anyone for the day, having just dropped the kids at school but thanks to my Ocean Waves sunglasses and MAC’s Oh Baby lipgloss I felt enough of a disguise to emerge and interact with the others who were gathering.

Clearly the people were divided into two groups: seasoned estate sale shoppers, and the casually curious. I was in the latter group. I learned that we were to sign up for a number, that the first 30 people would be admitted at 9:00 am (it was just 8:00 when I arrived) and if you were not there when your number was called, you were out of luck. On to the next.

I signed in at number 30 and settled into a white Adirondack chair to enjoy the conversation amongst us and was mostly curious just to see the house. It was truly a superb location – directly oceanfront with a guest house and lovely, spacious, treed back yard. People mingled about, I saw many familiar faces, and we had a few laughs.

The estate sale manager was a curmudgeonly fellow who opened the door a few times to snap directions, then sort of shutting it hard (just shy of a true slam) on us, making us giggle at his surly demeanor and wonder… why? Well, I’ve been known to be a bit surly myself at times so perhaps he wasn’t having a happy day.

Anyway, I was permitted in at last – turns out he only let the first 27 people in – and roamed the spacious old home and wondering about the supposedly 90-something woman who’d lived, and died there. I didn’t find any treasures although I nearly bought a set of Royal Worcester egg coddlers: darling china cups with screw-on tops with a ring for lifting them from the boiling water but I stopped myself. I hate eggs! While my daughters love them, I just knew that had I bought them, surely neither girl would like hers coddled anyway.

So I decided on the sturdy, white Adirondack chair I’d sat on while waiting for admittance to the sale! It’s heavy, and even folds up. It looks nice on my black deck at home.

When driving past the following morning, I saw that sign taped to a tree and it gave me pause. I wondered, “really, would someone take a chance on loan like that?” So while writing this post I decided to find out.

I called Michael’s number and had a nice chat with him and unfortunately the only call he’d had, besides mine, was from a reporter who’d been tipped off by someone who saw the sign, like me, and wanted to do a story on him.

That kind of broke my heart, as Michael told me he declined the story (which could’ve actually helped his situation) as he did not want to embarrass his 15 year old. It’s Michael who has gone back to school after a year of unemployment and is now caught in a sort of bureaucratic tangle of reinstated unemployment benefits and school enrollment and financial aid deadlines … and so now he’s just hoping he can stave things off a few more days, hoping the benefits will come through by June 2 or 4, which will still allow him to enroll (and pay). Otherwise he’ll be pleading with the faculty to allow him to stay in the classes until the unemployment does come; there’s the added complication of his needing to use the financial aid grant by a certain date.

Honestly, he sounded quite genuine – he’s appears to be a man in a jam who is trying to equip himself with new skills in a different career so he can take care of himself and his family in this dreadful economy. He didn’t complain, or try to talk me into giving him the money. He just told me his story, while I felt so badly that the two calls he’d received were from persons merely interested in writing about his predicament.

So many are frankly unaffected by these economic times. The popular restaurants in town are full every night; you can’t find a place to park in our Beaches Town Center or the other mega-shopping centers in Jacksonville. But there are plenty who feel the anxiety of an uncertain future and are driven to posting signs pleading for a loan for school tuition. He’s also out selling bottles of water and whatnot just to earn the money it truly sounds like he needs.

I don’t know; the whole thing seemed sadly ironic. People with cash to spend at an estate sale while another person’s desperate for the reinstatement of unemployment benefits and needs to use student loan money to buy books for classes he’s not sure he’ll be able to take because he cannot pay his tuition at the moment.

May the Lord have mercy on him and make way his future.

Macro Monday

Just a few images from my first macro photo shoot. Lens is Canon’s 100mm L series f/2.8 used on Canon Rebel XSi body.

The End.

Flash Mob, Part Duex

This is the official video of the Flash Mob performance on May 15,

during the Beaches Town Center’s 24th Annual Dancing in the Street 

I thought you’d like to see what a high definition, authentic professional filmmaker would produce! Be sure to watch the closing credits for all
those responsible for pulling this off.

If you like this kind of dancing, find a Dance Trance studio near you or
to take a Zumba class at your local gym. It’s really fun! If you live here,
check out Dance Trance or go to a class at Sportsplex in Neptune 
Beach and look for the awesome Anne Saggau on the schedule, and 
shake it with her. Marcy Taylor’s not half bad herself 🙂

Have a great weekend, everyone, and do watch the video. It’s much 
better than the one I shot!


Flash Mob at Dancing in the Street!

Ever heard of a Flash Mob? I hadn’t, not until one broke out at Atlantic and Neptune Beach’s 24th Annual Dancing in the Street street bash held Saturday.

A large group of women (and maybe a few guys, I couldn’t tell!) practiced – together at times, at Dance Trance, and also at home, on their own and probably with others in groups – – regardless, they broke into one huge, group dance at 5:00pm at the street festival. The place was literally a sea of human bodies, and there was live music being played on various stages around the festival, but at 5:00pm the stereos blasted music – three popular songs, choreographed for the dances that Flash Mob suddenly performed.

I’d been given the heads’ up on this just moments before it happened: it was meant to be a surprise for Dancing in the Street. I dashed like a crazy woman to the second floor of a local restaurant with open-air windows, kicked my flip flops off and stood on a stool, leaned on the window sill and let the Little Canon Elph do her thing. A better camera with a wider angle lens would have shown how truly awesome this Flash Moblooked, from above, all moving in euphoric abandon, in unison, on a glorious Spring day at the beach. A mob surrounded this large group that suddenly broke into dance and everyone loved it. Heck, I wish I’d have been in it myself.
This was the 24th Annual Dancing in the Street festival, and has something for everyone: a kid zone with bouncy things, face painting and cotton candy, shaved icy treats, and beer for the grown-ups, an art show, area restaurant vendors and several bands performing live at various show times throughout the festival with adults and kids alike grooving to the music. The whole community comes together for this totally fun street party.

Just another great reason why life’s better by da beach!

Gettin’ Naked at Naked Spring, Part Deux

It was my birthday weekend – what girl doesn’t deserve a whole weekend to celebrate a birthday anyway? The weather’s migrating towards more seasonal temps and the kids (well, er, two of them) had Friday off from school so we made a last minute decision to dash out to our favorite springs in Florida, Blue Springs Park in Gilchrist County.
A couple of friends were called in so that the trip wouldn’t be a disaster of boredom with just the ‘rents (god, we’ve become The Parents; no longer the bringers of good times; now, friends are needed to save the day, but no matter, the more the merrier.) Snacks haphazardly thrown together, along with a mess of beach towels, swim fins and masks and snorkels and oh! the camera and film gear, too, as my colleague Nick Lulli and I had a bit of an agenda. We’re making a video of Blue Springs. More on that later.
I’d actually forgotten about my desire to swim free in Naked Spring until we pulled into the park. I remembered, then gasped so loudly that everyone thought something bad had just happened. It was just that I realized that that this was going to be my moment if there ever was one. It was a Friday afternoon in May; park guests were few and my husband was along. Remember, he’s not much for the springs but today I’d insisted, in spite of a last minute offer of some Players Championship tickets (with him, there’ll always be a reason not to go to the springs). It was my birthday weekend after all.
You have to know that I’m a modest girl by nature. But when I saw Naked Spring and swam it last fall, it was obvious that it was made for skinny dipping. A little, secluded gift from God set back far enough into the woods, with an approach long enough to give a girl enough time to pull on her swimsuit if she’s got a proper lookout. And the the only proper lookout for me is the husband.
When our kid-crammed vehicle pulled into the park and I saw how quiet it was, with divine weather I suddenly I knew that today was the day. I startled them all with my spontaneous outburst and I had to whisper to the husband lest they all find out but in the end, they did. My kids, their friends, they all seemed to know what I’d done despite the fact they were occupied in Big Blue a ways away from Naked.
When I heard the rumor was that I’d gone over to Naked Spring to swim with other people naked I decided to just tell them all the truth and be done with it. The last thing I need is someone’s mom getting the wrong idea, you know. If anyone can’t see the beauty and exhilaration of a free swim in a secluded spring surrounded by trees and perfectly private, well, then they’re missing an absolutely fun and wonderful opportunity to do something a just a little unconventional (for me, it was). I am proud to say I did it and I’d do it again if I could.
I told the kids straight up, to halt the misinformation, and after that they all carried on with their own big fun: jumping off the platform,
snorkeling, and watching that incredible water move in a current along the spring run to the Sante Fe River.
Blue Springs, Naked Springs? It’s going to be a great summer. I’ll see you next time.

What you WILL See on the Food Network…

…sometime in June, is our very own Culhane’s Irish Pub right here in Atlantic Beach. That’s right, Culhane’s was one of the spots selected by Guy Fieri for his Diners, Drive-ins and Dives program on the Food Network!
I was in the Pub the other night shooting photos for their website. It’s a wonderful neighborhood pub and restaurant, an excellent gathering place with a long bar,
television, a few tables and live music some nights on one side,
with the other side dedicated to a quieter dining experience.
Still, the ambiance is always casual and comfortable; come as you are and all are welcome. I’m here to testify that the food is fantastic. Culhane’s is the kind of place where you can kick back for a pint with friends after work, and stay on into the evening when the music starts.
Stop in for dinner with friends – if you can’t get a sitter stash the kids at the table next to yours (if you get there early enough) and you’ve got a win/win: evening out with other adults, the kids happily occupied with crayons or their DS before noshing on some excellent bangers and mash or fish and chips (what’s not to love?) while you sip a beer or a glass of wine while waiting for that delicious blackened salmon salad?
Culhane’s is owned by four sisters from Ireland who came here, pooled their life savings and took a chance on their dream of working together, running an authentic Irish pub and restaurant.
Six years later, they’ve established a terrific reputation in the community, created a true neighborhood gathering spot and have hosted many a party, event, fundraiser, and just plain good times.

Their Irish roots are everywhere, from the sisters’ distinctive Irish accents, to many items from their delectable menu, the decor about the place, – their always-fun special events (bagpipers gather in the parking lot some Friday nights…

…guess I’ll need to check that out!) Their motto “Irish Sass with Five Star Class” about sums it up!

They’re planning a big bash the night their Food Network program airs and I’ll be sure to let you know when to watch. Let’s show my hometown Irish girls some love, friends, and if you can’t be here in person that night, I’ll direct you to their Facebook Fan Page so you can leave your comments. I’ll be the photographer that night, so if you are a local, keep your eyes on Facebook, follow them (and me) on Twitter, and check back here for a heads’ up. You don’t want to miss this party!

Beachlife Design: Stuff with Story

I love visiting ordinary design blogs. I so enjoy the everyday blogger who posts photos of the design elements she’s created in her home. Nor can I resist the highly styled, glossy design mags but in the end they leave me feeling more frustrated than inspired. I’ll never have the budget of the people whose homes are featured in Florida Design, whereas the lovely Sarah from a beach cottage is more my muse. Our design styles couldn’t be more different but that’s not the point. She makes do with what she’s got, and her vignettes and tablescapes and whatnot always have story, and that’s what’s important to me in my design. Story.

I once had a color consultant over, and she really didn’t want to stay on the task of helping me choose some colors. She wanted to rearrange my furniture and accessories and even go out and buy accessories for me. As if I’d want someone else’s idea of what I should put in my home! No. Most of my pieces have story, and I love the process of adding something here and there. Why, a new piece just joining the household triggers a whole chain of editing and rearranging!

Last week I read on Sarah’s blog a single line that resonated with me because it’s been my own design point of view, too. (I paraphrase) “I like creating little vignettes in the home that please me when when I’m walking past carrying an armful of laundry.” Yes! That’s it! I don’t care about a show home; when I glance this way or that, I want my items, old, new, inherited and found – to be meaningful to someone in this house. And that someone would be me, because let’s face it: no one else around here really cares about things like this.

I love to read and talk about design so I’m going to do it here from time to time. Beachlife housewife is happy to talk to herself, and take pictures of the little things that make her smile.

An absolute bibliophile who loves to garden, I needed to learn about the Florida climate and plant life when we moved here. Atop the books sits a lidded, marble container that I grew up looking at in my parents’ house. Now, it has a new home, with me. Those stack of books wouldn’t be finished without that container; it completes them.

I created the dish gardens nearly a year and a half ago (and they’ve survived!) and they are lovely tabletop gardens for a living room. They are desert plants so they don’t need much water and I love them so much that I’ve even given them as gifts. The yellow shell came from a favorite local shop-not a chain store-that carries cool things with an eye for design and that yellow color really spoke to me. I love beachy, but not all over the house. So this is a compromise piece: urban beachy. Without it, the two dish gardens just seemed…lonely.

An idea I borrowed from something I saw in a store. My shellscape is a combination of ‘bought’ shells (you can’t find that kind of lovely on these shores) and my found treasures. The sand? Well, it’s from the beach at my beloved Lake Michigan! I’ve carried it in a ziploc and used it in various projects around the house for the past ten years. So for now, I gaze at it in its glass container of lovely shells – bought and found – with a bit of deco grass thrown in for color and texture. I love it.

Three design books the favorite being the architect William Morgan, a world-renown master who lives right here in Atlantic Beach. I’ve met him, visited with him in his home, and this book is a signed edition. Atop these books is another of my mother’s accessories – a simple floral box that I grew up with. I love that it’s with me now because every time I see it (and the marble round container) I think of my mom. She would have liked what I’ve done with them, I know it.

Wider view of the same stuff.

All about China, here. The art was purchased in Beijing and the wood bowls resemble the bowls my daughter holds when she slurps her favorite noodles adeptly with her chopsticks.

The story here is the green bottle. When I was in MOS once, I watched Lourdes wrapping a bottle with yarn and immediately I knew what I could do with bits of my mother’s beautiful yarn that I have to remember her by. My mother collected yarn, couldn’t resist beautiful yarns or yarn shops – if you’re a knitter, which I am not, you’ll understand. So when she died, she left so much yarn that I couldn’t bear to pass all of it on…I chose a few pretties for myself and tossed them into a basket. Not so creative, but then, my mom understood my limitations as well where my creativity did reside. Anyway, I offered to buy the green bottle and Lourdes scoffed, and gave it to me! I then chose many strands of my mom’s most beautiful yarn, and made my very own ‘yarn bottle’. Every time I look at it, walking to and fro, yes, I think of mom.
Oh, I’ve loved the grassy pot for about twelve years now, since I first bought it when we lived in Grand Haven, Michigan. When I found the bird at here, MOS, made from that same, distressed texture, I knew it had to live in the beachlife house. For now the bird sits underneath a grassy canopy in the corner of my shelf.

More vignettes from my own beachlife beach house to come another day. I do have some beach-style art elements in certain parts of my house. This particular house, though, doesn’t have beach style architecture, so that informs my interior tendencies, I suppose. Still, it’s hard to resist good art in any form, so next time, beach stuff.

Meantime, I’d love to know what are some of your favorite design blogs, beach-related, or not?!