She was ours, for twenty minutes of our lives. Soft, cuddly, curious, playful, affectionate.

We knew before going into the ‘hugging room’ that we couldn’t take her home; I knew it would be hard to hold her, and leave without her.

I’d never thought of an Alaskan Siberian Husky before playing with her…now, I’d have one in a minute.
If I was ready for a dog in our lives. Which I’m not.

But, oh. How we loved on her for twenty minutes. We did her a favor, I told my daughter. The puppy was desperate to play with the pups in the adjoining kennel. They were tussling about together, having a good old time, and the Husky pup was barking excitedly, trying to get to them through the glass separator to join in the fun. I wondered if she’d be a barker, but when she came into the room with us it was clear that her temperament was quite perfect. Part playful and inquisitive, and also eager for a snuggle, nuzzling my daughter’s neck. It was quite touching. We returned her to her space, tuckered out. No longer straining to get to the puppies next to her, she drank some water, while lying down. She is just a baby, after all.

It was a good thing we are in California still. Had we met this precious pup at home in Florida, it’s possible I’d have thrown caution to the wind, run the Visa for $1,300, and brought this Husky home for Easter.

Someone will find this puppy as enchanting as we did. I hope that someone treats her well.

West Coastlife: Mountains and Horses

A definite must on this trip was a trail ride in the mountains where we might could see the ocean, too.  (Might could…I’d never heard anyone say that until a couple of years ago, and since then, I’ve heard it more than once.  Couldn’t resist.)

Googled ‘horseback riding’ for the area and found the perfect spot for us.  Park Place Stable in Malibu.  A short drive from home, nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains at Malibu, the website pictured exactly what I was looking for and it didn’t disappoint.  The owner, Joy, was friendly and chatted it up with me as we got settled with the signing of forms, trying on of helmets, and getting the horses ready for us.

I watched a horse being groomed; mane  had been given a snappy trim, and was getting his hooves cleaned, so I commented about him getting a pedicure.  That’s when Joy told us that this horse, Cornelius, would be filmed for a Millionaire Matchmaker (a horseback riding date for the couple) episode the following day, along with Fjona, another of their horses.  So we had a fun time talking about that for a bit. I probably knew more about this (vapid) show than she did, which made me like her even more.

Our guide, Chantal, a lovely and natural horsewoman, handled the four of us with practiced ease.  Soon we were saddled and off we went, me bringing up the rear (a kind of important position,  *ahem*) of the group. She wore black and white riding clothes, casually melding the English and Western styles, long-legged and lithe. She spoke with a charming French-sounding accent, and led us to the most lovely spots for viewing and picture-taking.

My daughter who loves horses was the impetus for the ride, and I’m glad of it.  It was a beautiful way to connect with the outdoors, being on horseback in the hills, and yes, we did see the Pacific from one vantage point.  Ah, gorgeous. The mountains were verdant and blooming, the air was breezy, and the sun was shining.  At about 68 degrees there, it was perfect.

And our horses!  Wonderful temperaments, each of them; we all petted and cuddled them afterwards. My daughter rode Cornelius and my sister, Fiona – the two horses tapped for ‘Millionaire’ program, while my nephew took Buddy and I rode Lauren.  I loved Lauren by the end of that ride, and we all posed with the horses once they’d had their water and were resting. I guess horses can sleep standing up. Fiona couldn’t keep her eyes open, darling girl.

It was great, being outside, with the horses, and exploring new places. Next time, we’ll go for the three hour ride. Goodbye, Lauren. I’ll watch for the others on TV and remember, you were ours, if only for an hour.

West Coastlife

Atlantic Beachlife is on the road this week, kicking it Pacific-style.

On the Pacific Coast Highway, watching the surfers line up in the water, wearing wetsuits and catching waves, inhaling that sweet salty air, pungent, and redolent of Atlantic beachlife, we ascended from the beach to the hills overlooking the water. You can’t do that at home. Drive up from the coast; and I do love the mountains. Every place has its charms.

The Getty Villa in Malibu was our first stop, the gorgeous educational center and museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria.  Since I took my daughter out of school for two days to visit California, we had to add some culture to itinerary!

It was worth it; a place one can visit for a day, or a couple of hours; some students we ran into later in the day said they always get extra credit from teachers when they visit The Getty, so I’ll have to make sure her teachers at St. Paul’s  know this!  (Do you think they read my blog?)

Afterwards, we made way to the shops at the Third Street Promenade.  It’s a fun place to shop and stroll about; really just a mall, but it has a good vibe going, on the street.

It was my daughter’s first time, and she had a little money in her wallet for vacation shopping. We had to compensate for the “field trip” at The Getty and Third Street is always a reliable shopping venue that feels different than home.

What was even better about shopping the Third Street Promenade was realizing that I really do have all I need from my hometown, local shops.  The shops and boutiques that are situated in charming storefronts in my neighborhood, and owned by my friends and neighbors; not corporate retail conglomerates.  It was totally fun poking in and out of shops I’d only ever read about in magazines, like H & M and Kitson.  But at the end of it all, I knew: I have everything I need and want right at home.

And if I really did care to buy this book,  our local, independent bookseller could order it for me  at the same cost.

If you live in a town with locally owned and operated shops, support them.  They make your community special.  Malls have their place, but you can’t beat the hometown storefront way of life.  Ours are every bit as cutting edge as the big name stores in L.A.

Springs Season 2011 Officially Open!

The spring run at Blue Spring, in Volusia County.


The big day was Sunday, April 10!  By officially open that means when I go underwater in a spring.  As it happened, I was passing by Blue Spring State Park, and was determined not to miss my chance to see it, photograph it,  and have a full body immersion.  It was a 93 degree April scorcher, after all.

So far, my heart belongs to Blue Springs in Gilchrist County, near the town of High Springs, and so my springs-lovin’ friend refers to other springs also named Blue Springs as ‘Volusia Blue’ or ‘Lafayette Blue’ or ‘Madison Blue’ . There’s a small spring in Levy County also called Blue Springs, and I’ve actually visited that one.  Nice, but… it’s not my Blue Springs.  I’ve heard great things about the other Blues, so I’m keeping an open mind. Blue Spring State Park in Volusia County is well known for being the manatee migration site, when the winter waters of the St. John’s River become too cold for their liking.  They’ll leave the chilly river, and come into the spring, where the water temps are 72 degrees year round.  They hang out here for a couple of months, until the river warms again, and off they go.

(Photo courtesy of Florida State Park website – Blue Spring Park)

Schools send busloads of children on field trips during the winter months for manatee viewing. It’s April, so  the manatees have departed and now the humans  flock to Blue Spring.  There’s nothing like a cool spring on a 93 degree day. Last Sunday, there was already a line of cars waiting to enter the park by the time we arrived, later in the afternoon.  Note to self: avoid weekends if possible, and arrive early in the day. Still, this park can handle a crowd, without it feeling too crowded.  That’s a plus!  Because we’d arrived later, and I hadn’t brought along my usual snorkeling gear, it was a limited experience.  You don’t have to be a snorkeler to enjoy the springs.  Most people – kids and adults – are content to splash and swim about the water, perhaps renting (or bringing their own) tubes for a short float from the ‘put in’ point to the ‘exit’ point of the spring run.

(Photo courtesy of Florida State Park website – Blue Spring Park)

We rented a tube and enjoyed a nice float along the spring run; about a 15 minute ride.  After that we swam in the spring run, going with the current, to the ending point.  The spring run is shallow; adults can stop and stand up in the water.  Swimming against the current is doable but fins are definitely recommended.  Even with fins, it’s a good swim to reach the spring head.  I love swimming against the current in other spring runs, but not so, this day.  I’d come woefully unprepared; it was a spontaneous visit, but very fun. I never pass up a chance to see a new spring!  Still, I’d have wanted my mask or at least, goggles, so I could view the spectacle of the spring vent and other tiny fissures where the water bubbles forth from the aquifer. So, I didn’t make it to the spring head from the water.

Instead, I walked along the lovely, shaded boardwalk; a 1/3 mile through the shaded hammock of hardwood trees, from the  St. John’s River, along the spring run, and ending at the viewing platform of Blue Spring itself. Oh, how I’d have have loved to be in that water, where fewer people were swimming.

(photo courtesy of Florida State Parks website – Blue Spring State Park)

It’s a large spring surrounded by trees, naturally maintained.  I’m not so fond of retaining walls built by  state or county parks that create a pool-like effect around a spring, but I can appreciate its purpose.  This enables visitors to perch along the edge and dangle their feet in the cooling waters. (Not everyone wants the full immersion experience!)  Or, they may sit, partially in the water,  on the shelf that’s built below the rim. Just like a nice swimming pool.  They’re lovely,  but it’s the rustic springs I’m drawn to…where the aquatic life flourishes and fish are plentiful. Retaining walls tend to restrict the growth of flora, and therefore, there’s fewer fish swimming about.  I’d prefer to look at fish and plant life underwater, rather than people jostling about!  Still,  there are springs for everyone’s preferences here in Florida.

So, no, I did not have the camera on hand to photograph this place.  Due to time constraints I had to make a choice, so  I left it in the car, and dove into the water.  Later, I took a few macro shots while my daughter waited in the car for me to finish, so that curtailed my photography fun. I snapped a few macro shots of the Spanish moss, and continued on the long drive home.  It had been a busy weekend already.

Macro Monday, Spanish Moss on Sunday

Yesterday I was in Volusia County where I finally visited the famed Blue Spring State Park. More about the spring itself in my next post.  Today, it’s all about the Spanish moss.

When you read such phrases as, “The trees were dripping with Spanish moss,”  well, today, that was all I could think of when I first saw the grand, old live oak that stood with the three-story home of Louis Thursby behind it, in this picture.  The home was constructed, truly, back in the day, and that day was in 1872.  Now it’s open to park visitors who may tromp through its wooden plank floors and imagine what it might’ve been like to live in such a beautiful location in what was surely a beautiful home…even if it didn’t have air conditioning.

On the bank where the St. John's River meets the Blue Spring run.

A 93 degree day in April 2011 kind of makes me think I probably wouldn’t be loving Florida quite so much, before God created air conditioning.

This tree is so mighty and I love how it contrasts with the house from this angle.

Moving underneath the grand live oak looking up…it’s raining Spanish moss!

Walk a few yards over the lawn and you’re on the 1/3 mile boardwalk that follows the St. John’s River into the spring run and ends at Blue Spring itself.  It takes you through a shady hammock of hardwood trees, the Spanish moss like textured veils, framing the view of the river and spring.

Come along with me as I get closer to this moss, so evocative of Southern trees; a delight to this transplant from the North for the first several years.  I still appreciate its character even while I’m accustomed to the landscape now.

Framed by Spanish moss

Spiders and other bugs work their delicate magic amidst the fluff of the moss.

Somewhere I read that back in the day, mattresses were stuffed with Spanish moss. Which sounds nice, until the historian said that bedbugs were a problem, too.  I guess it’s to be expected, after all; it’s obvious there’s plenty of insect activity going on here!

Delicate strands of Spanish moss wrap themselves around thin branches.

Spanish moss dancing in the breeze (above) and in the sunlight (below).

Beachlife Springtime

The weather’s been fantastic these past several weeks, and my beach season 2011 opened officially the day I put on my black bathing suit a couple of weeks ago,   and spent a glorious afternoon on the white sands of my beach.

Yes, it still fits.

No, I won’t be posting any pictures of me in it.  Well, all right.  Here’s me, waving goodbye to the weekend last Sunday.

It was a perfect day; a bit on the cool side, but we know that summer’s heat and humidity is on its way.  That’s when we give thanks for Florida’s springs;  many are located within ‘day tripping’ distance and we’re already talking about our first trip there.  I say we go in May.  Last year, we went to my favorite, Blue Springs Park, to kick off my birthday weekend and had a heck of a great time. I recall that I captured my experience here, and that it was a sort of ‘life list’ moment for me.  When I first discovered the tiny  Naked Spring on grounds at Blue Springs, I was enchanted.

There is so much to do and discover in this region.  The kids in the carpool were discussing our summer day-trippin’ plans just this afternoon.  We have a sort of  travel posse: a gaggle of kids and various hangers-on,  together with three or four other cars full of moms, their kids, friends, coolers, fins, masks,  towels, sandwiches, sunscreen, snacks, a watermelon, cash, and whatever else we need to make our longish journey there and back in a day. We leave early and come home late.  There are about four of us adults, and we’ve all touched base recently and signed on for another summer of exploring and fun!  I can’t wait.

Stay tuned for reports of our adventures.

And I may have some special destination reports here soon.  Plans are afoot to take Atlantic Beachlife on the road…