Wandering Winter Park

I recently spent a really lovely afternoon in Winter Park, Florida. January, 70 degrees.   How I do love winter in Florida. I far prefer hanging out in Winter Park on a mild January Sunday afternoon to jostling crowds in the Magic Kingdom.   How I do really not like  Disney World. Did you know you can hop the Amtrack in Jacksonville and two and half hours and $23 later you can get off here? You’ll debark into Central Park, a beautiful city park, spacious, with trees, a sidewalk that runs the perimeter, some sculptures, and a fountain. People step out , alone, or with friends or family, and what  a fabulous space they have, to enjoy  Winter Park life.  Even if you’re not going round the shops or dining in one of their restaurants or cafes, this town is pretty much another epitome of local, and it’s no wonder I’m drawn to it. The fabricated happiness of Disney versus a slow wander in a place like Winter Park? Do you really have to ask? I know that Disney has its charms and is pretty much amazing and delights millions of people. I’m just not drawn to it. And the planned community, adjacent to Disney…known, at least in its earlier years as Disney’s town, called Celebration? Pardon me if you live there or have loved ones who do. But I could personally never buy a home in planned development that named itself Celebration, which was a co-branding move on the part of the developers. It’s a planned urban development with a manufactured  town at its center. It’s certainly not the first planned development with town, but because it was at least initially marketed as Disney’s town, it particularly grates on me. It’s the opposite of a place like Winter Park, and so many of the neighborhoods of Jacksonville; places that have their own,  distinctive flair. A vibe that doesn’t ride the coattails of Mickey. It’s just that I’d rather spend my time in places that are authentic, rather than standing in line to go on rides and spend money on their brand of this and that. Yes, I’ve been there. Taken the kids there a couple of times. And truthfully, they’d have rather been screaming on a Disney ride than being dragged along while I rhapsodize about the charm of this central Florida town, and taking photos of train tracks and sculptures and park benches and street signs and people walking.  Yeah, I get it: boring.  But if you fancy yourself a documentarist, it’s kind of a fun way to pass the time. Particularly when it’s January, and 70 degrees, and a lazy Sunday, with no responsibilities but to return to my luxury hotel to watch the Golden Globes on the flat screen from a big bed with clean, white sheets. So, nice.

Below is a fountain, obviously; in the center was a sculpture of a woman playing the harp.

Oh dear.  Have I become my mother?  An afternoon like this would have been unbearable as a kid.  My own would have found the entire afternoon as excruciating as I find standing in line at Disney.  Fortunately for us both, they weren’t along for my ride, on this day.

With only iPhone to record the day, I happily wandered the park,  and watched Winter Park do Sunday afternoon. Some shopped and dined. Others spent some leisurely time in the park; alone, reading on the grass; or with the family, little kids skating or waddling about the grass (not complaining! still too young to think that train tracks and a fountain’s spray are not thrilling), lured by the spray of the water fountain. The sculpture, a small trailer, constructed of a transparent mesh wire, featured a compact domestic interior. It’s a curious thing for first-timers to see; a trailer? In the park? So you walk over and peer inside and see this charming rendition of a vacation trailer one would pull on the back of a car, except it’s not really meant for use – it’s art. I loved it.  I was enchanted.  Here are some pictures:

I know you can see how much I loved this park, this town.

My House

A year ago we repainted our house. We are close to the ocean so the house takes a salty beating. We survived ten years with a slapdash paint job done under the wire of a closing date, the cost split between buyer ( us ) and seller ( them ). The painter sprayed on a coat and called it good. It was fine. I chose the color and was happy with it. But ten years wears on wood and and color; it’s doubtful that any previous owners had had to deal with serious wood rot, so we gulped, got out the checkbook, and took it on.

The neighborhood is built of similar style homes but none are the same. Many are a sort of California contemporary architectural style. Every house is different, and the lots are an extension of Hanna Park, our land neighbor to the north. Lots of trees, live oaks and palms and bays; the tree canopy prized by Atlantic Beach and most of the people who live here. We used to have a real tree fanatic who rented the home across the street. When a neighbor had in the tree service to do some pruning and maybe took down a dead tree, I remember her literally blasting from her house, screeching at the homeowner that he wasn’t to remove any of those trees. She was always a bit eccentric. It’s ironic, and a little sad, that the new owner of that home just this week had every one of those trees taken off her property, making her house resemble an unfortunate tract home. I know that one or two needed to come down (they were dead) but to denude the landscape seemed harsh.  That house needed its trees to dress it up a bit.  I might not be a tree-hugger in the true sense of the word, but I’m definitely a lover of nature and trees and unspoiled beauty… and now?  Well, that plain house stands there, all by its lonesome.  Yes, I love our trees.

Back to my story.  So, the only fun part of this spendy but necessary home repair was going to be the color change of our home. I spent months looking at color on others’ homes. I yearned for a dramatic change, yet it had to be congruent with the style of the home and our surroundings. I wanted detail and contrast and a modern look overall. I found one home in our vicinity whose color scheme I admired. After weeks of driving past the house I finally went to the door and talked with the owners about it. My children were appalled that I had the audacity to make such an inquiry. Gee, I’d have been flattered to have someone stop to compliment my home, and they were. They told me their story of how they finally decided on the color combinations I so admired and gave me the name and number of the woman who helped them choose it. She does it for a living and is paid handsomely for her services. Choosing color is really the key to an overall good or ‘meh’ look so I had no problem hiring her. I’d had similar help with the color palette on the interior of my last two homes and it was money well spent.

She came over and I liked her instantly. We drove around the neighborhood so she could get a feel for it, and I pointed out homes whose colors I both liked, and detested. There was one home that was painted a sort of yellow/gold and I liked it. My husband didn’t, but I really did. It captured the ‘dramatic’ element I wanted of the change, yet when I took her past that home, her reaction was as negative as my husband’s was. I felt disappointed because I was sure that this house looked good. When she nixed it, I took the idea off the table and we went in a different direction.

She advised a darker color than we’d had and held up large swatches to illustrate. It played nicely off the brick and the roof. My husband liked it. I got paint sample of it, and another, lighter shade.

Both were nice, but I felt the darker would be the more dramatic of the two. Since this paint job was costing a fortune and it had to last several years, I wanted something different. We chose the green I longed for as the accent color on our doors, and in the railings of the deck. The deck floor we actually painted a certain, custom hue of black. That was the one point where I dithered over the color after it’d been rolled on: it wasn’t enough of a contrast from the brown of the house. See, once the house was painted, the color appeared rather…plain, rather…brown. It lacked the punch I’d been yearning for. The whole ‘deck accent’ now REALLY had to work; there had to be contrast there, and it wasn’t until the deck floor was painted black that the house came together for me: brown house, green doors and deck railings (visible on only one elevation of the house), and the black deck floor. That part I liked. That side of the house did have the punch I wanted.  

But the overall look of the house? It didn’t. It just…didn’t. I didn’t love it.

Can I tell you how disappointed I am by the outcome? It’s not that I didn’t like it, exactly, because I did. I can’t put my finger on it…but it missed my mark. It just did. I do love the black and green deck and I agree that the color of the house blends nicely with the roof, the brick accent and the neighborhood. But I wanted the house to sing, and it doesn’t sing. The colorist recommended orange/red accent colors in accessories for that *punch* of color. When I painted a large terra cotta pot in the color she advised, I hated it, and changed it to a lovely orange that I do like, but now I’m thinking I just ought to paint all the accent pieces in the green I love so much. Green and black have saved the house, to me. Our Adirondack chairs are black and they just meld into the background so that they really aren’t discernible from the street, which is fine. But perhaps using that green on the chairs would liven things up a bit.

We had workers at the house for several weeks, making repairs, fixing the wood rot, enlarging a side deck and creating a nicer outdoor shower enclosure, and finally, painting. And in a year’s time, only one single person has commented on the house. (She said she liked it a lot, and I believe her, as it was unsolicited;  initiated by her when I ran into her at Publix.) But not another word from anyone! I shared carpool duties with two other families: not a word. Nothing. The neighbors were mum on the topic. But more than that, I am underwhelmed. Disappointed that my one chance to create something really pleasing to me fell short of my dream.  The train has left the station and with it, my only opportunity for an eye-catching house.  I don’t care what other people think…heck, I liked (and still do) that yellow/gold house one street over and partially regret not throwing caution to the wind and going with my first instinct.  But then I’d have been copying them and that’s not cool, either.

I guess I could have written this post in an entirely different voice, using far fewer words, and increasing the chances that anyone, including my husband, would even read it.  It would go like this:

Last year I painted my house after many years of dreaming about it.  I searched for an inspiration color, and found it.  I found a color consultant I hired to help me choose the colors.  I was dissuaded from my gut instinct by the husband and the color consultant and now have a house in a color I don’t love.  I have to live with this choice for a very long time.  I like two things about the colors of my house: the accent colors, which can really only be used sparingly due to the architecture of the home.  So I will find accessories to paint to create the color contrast and *punch* I was longing for from this project. Color me disappointed and lesson learned (again.  Why so many lessons learned, I wonder?): I know what looks good.  Collaborate with others but don’t be so quick to toss away your instincts even if the odds are against you.

I went with ‘safe’ because it was a big investment.  It’s okay.  I still love my house, even if no one else does.  Frankly, aside from the yellow/gold house, and my Beach Avenue inspiration house, there isn’t a single house around here whose color choices I admire.  So perhaps my friends and neighbors muteness on the subject speaks more to their lack of taste than it does to mine.  Hmm?

(The fact that I don’t have a single photo of my home exterior in its entirety is telling.  But rest assured, I do love my home overall, for a variety of reasons and design styles.  It’s not beachy; it’s eclectic.  In a good way.)

Macro Monday

Queen Palm frond’s droplet.

Music to my ears for twenty years.

Liquid crystal.

Texture and lines.

Vertical and diagonal lines…in my favorite hues as reflected in my interior.  I love to bring the outside, in.

It grows where it grows.

Reflections in water.

She follows me.  What am I supposed to do but take her picture?

Water sticks.

Bud and bokeh.

Goodbye to Discovery

On Thursday, February 24 Space Shuttle Discovery launched for the last time. This hardly comes as news to anyone but since we’ve enjoyed watching many launches – day and night – from our neighborhood beach, I couldn’t let this occasion pass without mention.

About ten minutes before launch time, which I monitor from NASA’s Twitter feed, people flock to the beach, young and old. So these forays into space are still magical to most people.

I regret not being more aware of that final nighttime launch last year, and not having set up the photo gear to try to capture it. Many did, as it was a dark, clear night, and have heart-stoppingly beautiful pictures to show for it.

Discovery was visible to us for maybe a minute before it vanished into the bluish sky above the horizon.

Then we all went home.

Macro Monday In The Park

My meager offerings for this week’s Macro Monday segment were from a trip to two parks in Atlantic Beach.

I was looking for inspiration without feeling inspired. It was the end of long week, filled with activity and emotion; highs and lows. So I went to my favorite little hideaway park in Atlantic Beach:

I wandered about but didn’t see anything of interest for macro photography but look! There were two owls together on the branch, high in the tree. A telephoto lens would have been useful but it was so fun to watch these birds interact with each other. One groomed the other and was generally more active than his counterpart, who occupied that limb so regally. I kept waiting for one of them to fly off so I could possibly capture the owl in flight but of course, neither did, not until I’d given up and moved away. So, while taken with a macro lens, I give you two owls, in Howell Park.

And finally, the lonely swing.  In Jack Russell Park it waits, expectantly, for someone to come along and put it to good use.

Lastly, a Pampas plume, with bokeh.

Not every Macro Monday means magnificence. But I shall persevere because practice makes magnificence.

Well, Hello Sunglasses. I’ve Missed You.

It’s a gorgeous day at the beach.  After several days of gloomy but mild weather, today is like SPRING with people outside, soaking it up.  Guys without shirts in the front yard (well, not a look I’m exactly fond of unless a guy is at the beach) and girls in bikinis getting their tan on. Convertibles.  Surfing. (They surf all winter, anyway.) But still.  There’s a lightness of being about today and my spirit likes it, very much, thank you.

(This is an interesting house in Neptune Beach, oceanfront.)

So today, a video snippet of beachlife for a February afternoon:

And, part deux:

(photo and video compliments of iPhone 4)

Macro Monday: This is Not A Cat Food Commercial

When I was in college, I took a photography class.  A pedestrian student, I loved my camera but lacked inspiration.

The thing I loved to photograph was my cat.  Maybe that’s because he was always nearby, and I didn’t want to work that hard.  Whatever it was, I did take many photos of Frye, processing them in black and white, and happily mounting them for class exhibition.  That cat had the best disposition of any cat I’ve ever had (and I loved him the most, but don’t tell Angel or Pumpkin, because I really, really love them too).

My takeaway from that photography class -

Where Jeannie Made Boring Prints in Photography Class

where I toiled in the Kresge Art Center at Michigan State University on my cat masterpieces – was the professor’s critique of my work.

One day in class he said, “Miss Shmina, this is not a cat food commercial.”

Ouch.

I’ve never forgotten that comment.  I have always associated it with that photography class.

I still have one photo of Frye, gazing serenely through my lens, lying calmly in the grass, mounted on art board, somewhere.  It was pedestrian, but I loved it, because I loved Frye.

Today, I give you my cats, in macro. Perhaps the images are still ordinary, but since they are always around when I’m in the yard with my camera, I snapped a few of them during my ‘seeds and nuts’ shoot.  They are happy to dine on Purina, Meow Mix, and lizards, with the occasional baby bird if they get lucky.

Perhaps my work has not improved much.  That’s up to the viewer to decide.

At least I have a better lens, now.  But I must say, I did have a 50mm 1.4 on that beauty of a film camera.  They don’t make them like they used to; that’s for certain.

Pumpkin, the Calico, has the best fur, so soft.  She likes to jump onto my back, nuzzle my hair, and then she starts biting it.  Odd.

Angel, the black-and-white part Tiger, likes to drink water from the hose.

They are my yard pals, following me as I roam, looking for better subjects to shoot.  For today, though, this is all I have to offer for Macro Monday.

If I showed a partially eaten lizard stiff with rigor mortis, its eyes open and front legs extended as though the possibility of escape still existed,  its bottom half having been thoroughly enjoyed by one of my pals here, now that would have been a cat food commercial.

“Tastes like chicken, and high in protein.  Fresh, locally-sourced,  and no cost to you.  Serve lizard daily, with a clean bowl of water, and your cat will be happy for years to come.”

Have a Seat

What’s better about this beach town  is that we have beach accesses that everyone can share. In Atlantic Beach,  at every block from 1st Street to 20th, there’s a public beach access. There you can cross over to the most beautiful beach on the eastern seaboard. It’s possible I’m biased, but it’s awfully nice, we all agree.   Ours is a residential beachfront. A neighborhood beach.  Locally loved, but visitors are welcomed.

Not all the beach accesses have public parking. But you can find a dozen to fifteen public parking spaces at 18th St. and 19th Sts.; at random other accesses,  you can find a spot or two to park in.  Many are also designated for handicapped parking.  These spots are all tucked in so nicely to the surrounding area that  any parking sort of melds into the landscaping along the walk to the beach.  At about 16th Street, there’s a little shaded cove that allows for six or so cars to park.  You’ll have to be on the lookout for that one.  Up at 20th St. there is parallel street parking on Beach Ave., just south of 20th, for about three cars.  You have to know where to look but you can certainly get onto our beaches at every block. The accesses are publicly marked.

It’s okay to park on the street a block or two away, and walk to the beach too. Just don’t park on someone’s lawn or block their driveway. That would be rude.

See, we’re friendlier here, I think, than some of our neighbors further south. People here ride bikes, push jogging strollers, whoosh past on scooters or skateboards; sometimes with a surfboard tucked under their arm.

Yesterday I was having my hair cut  and the stylist asked which beach club I belonged to. See, if you live  in that town, and if you don’t live oceanfront (I’m not married to a golf pro or Jacksonville Jaguar; and I’m only the CEO of Atlantic Beachlife, LLC), you practically have to join one of the beach clubs to get beach access.  Unless you want to go the the public beach, which is nice, but… why hassle with all that?  Sure the beach clubs are lovely, but I when I moved to Florida I was set on living in a real town; a place that had history and a town center, and the opportunity to walk to the beach from our own house.  I didn’t want to get into the car and drive to the beach.

So we settled for here, instead of there.  Here is Atlantic Beach.  My like-minded neighbors are Neptune Beach, and Jacksonville Beach.

Many of the beach accesses in Atlantic Beach have been personalized by the neighbors who live nearby.  Some have lobbied the city for some basic rinsing showers: nice!

This is the 19th Street beach access in Atlantic Beach. Here, you can park your car on the street.  Here, you can lock up your bike, and rinse off when the day is done, which saves you from bringing all that sand straight into your car.  Atlantic beachlifers, we’re thoughtful like that.

At the 19th Street beach access, you can just pause for a few, and look out over the water, without even having to walk down the path to the beach. I’ve done it myself a few times, passing by on my bike.  I’m thinking how nice this bench is for older people, or anyone who can’t make the walk down the path to the beach and back again, but who crave the salt air, the sea breeze, and euphoric feeling that being here evokes in so many of us who love it.

Be a fine way to spend few minutes on a winter afternoon,  here on this bench, don’t you think?

Macro Monday Texting

Or, how to be with two people at the same time. The one in front of you, and the one in your hand.

Macro Monday Seeds and Nuts

This is a seed from one of the many common palms in the yard.  It will sprout anywhere it’s buried, and its appearance will resemble a blade of grass. As a Florida newbie ten years ago, I didn’t recognize this. I thought those blades were grass, but Northern turf and Southern turf is a whole other blog post (and who really cares except Master gardeners and golf course turf managers – or weed-pullers like me?)   That’s the time to yank it though,  before it’s had a chance to develop its ‘tree’ root system.    These weeds are everywhere in my gardens, and are easy to extract when nascent blades,  but dullsville for people who eschew weeding.  Like children. Like my children. Even when I offer to pay them (I naively thought they’d be glad for the chance to earn some cash.  I’m blogging, and taking pictures of weeds,  I’m a bit busy, you understand …)   But  honestly? I actually love weeding.  It’s quiet time, and really satisfying to work in the dirt, removing weeds, and turning the mulch;  prettying the gardens. I used to have more time for gardening and I miss it.   These palm seeds also pepper our decks, and squash when stepped on. Since we painted the decks black, these seeds are barely discernable. Until you step on one.

A tiny acorn, with its friend, the dimpled seednut.  I don’t know what it is, but it has an interesting texture next to the acorn, don’t you think?  Since I focussed on the acorn as the primary subject, the dimpled seednut plays second fiddle in this image. The blurred green in the background is Spanish moss, which you’ll see more clearly when you keep scrolling down.

I have no idea what this … pointy sphere-on-a-stem is, but they are everywhere about my yard.  I love its texture also and doesn’t it just pop when placed in front of my green deck railings?

A composition of the palm seed, tiny acorn, dimpled seednut or whatever-it-is, against a backdrop of Spanish moss.

Three of my favorite colors: black, green, and gold. Do I need to mention that’s a leaf, on the right? It was just there when I set the seed in front of the Spanish moss, and I liked how it looked in the picture.

Red berries. Obviously.  Probably not good for you if you ate one.

The end.

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