Tag Archives: Key West

The Sooty Tern

Hi Everyone!

Here is the latest picture I have completed in art class.  It is a pastel portrait of a bird called “the sooty tern”, which I learned about during our trip to Key West in March.

The sooty tern came to our attention because the only nesting colony in North America is on Bush Key, one of the islands that make up the Dry Tortugas National Park, where Fort Jefferson is located.  (It is not an endangered species; it has a lot of nesting places in tropical areas, even a few in the Pacific around Baja California in Mexico.)  However, in the course of our tour of Fort Jefferson, we learned quite a bit about the sooty tern, which really is an amazing bird.

Sooty terns can stay aloft for years at a time!  They can do this first because of their light, aerodynamic body, which means they can fly without spending much energy, but also because, for some reason, the sooty tern does not need deep sleep.  In fact, nesting may be the only time some of these birds ever land.

They are very noisy birds;  in Hawaii, the name for the sooty tern is  ‘ewa ‘ewa  which means “cacophony.”  Their normal life span is between 30 and 40 years.

I hope you enjoyed the combination nature lesson/art show!

Have a great weekend everyone!


Key West: The Little White House

Hi Everyone!

It’s been a while since I talked about our trip to Key West, but I still have a few more things to share and today is as good a day as any to talk about one of them.   

  • The Little White House

First, a clarification:  Today I am talking about THIS Little White House:

NOT this Little White House.

While the Little White House in Illinois, as you know from a previous post, has personal significance to me (The Magic of the Little White House), the Little White House in Key West has historical significance to all citizens of the United States.  It used to be the home of Commander of the Naval Base located on Key West.  However, at some point, President Taft needed to come to Key West, so the base commander offered the president his house, and ever since then, this house at Key West has been available for the use of the presidents, both current and past, of the United States. 

President Truman used the Little White House more than any of the other presidents.  I think the guide said that he stayed there about 172 days during his presidency.  He used it as a vacation home where he could still conduct business. 

As you can see from the picture above, the house is nice, but not overly grandiose.  Outside of the entrance to the house, at least on the day we were there, was a sand sculpture of President Truman reading.

I would love to have pictures of the inside of the house to show you, but photography was not allowed during the tour.  The guides at the Little White House who conduct the tours work on a volunteer basis (although tips are gratefully accepted), while the admission fee for the house goes to maintaining and preserving it.  Our guide, whose name I remember because it was Nancy, gave an informative and interesting tour.  Of all of the historical houses Mark and I have toured, this one had a unique feel to us because of the fact that some of the furnishings, which are from the 1950’s, reminded us of items we had seen in our own grandparents’ houses growing up.  It made the history of this house, at least from when the Trumans were there, seem less remote.  One particularly interesting item of furniture was the poker table in the corner of the living room used by President Truman and his aides.   (A necessary clarification:  none of our grandparents ever had a poker table; it was the sofas, outdoor furniture, chairs and bedroom furnishings that reminded us of them.)

An interesting fact that we learned while touring the house was that, through President Truman’s time in office, the President of the United States was expected to pay for all of the state dinners and White House functions out of his own personal funds.  It was an enormous strain on President Truman, since he was not from a wealthy family originally.  After President Truman, Congress included a separate entertainment budget for the President to use on top of his salary, so that no other President would suffer the kind of financial strain that Truman did in the process of fulfilling his or her obligations as head of state. 

The Little White House is still available for the use of the President, or those people whom he designates, even though it is maintained under a private budget.  I know this not only because our tour guide told us so, but also because we had tried to see the Little White House once before, years ago when we stopped at Key West for one day on a cruise, but it was closed to the public because it was being used by Colin Powell for a peace summit. 

The tour begins and ends in a little gift shop built into the porch of the house; it is fun to browse through the store and look at the souvenirs and books available for purchase.  The store manages to maintain a proper presence as a gift shop while still preserving the dignity of the house as a whole, which is not an easy feat.

Have a good day everyone!


Fort Jefferson

When we go back to Key West with Kayla some uncertain time in the future, one of the places I want to revisit is Fort Jefferson at the Dry Tortugas National Park.


 As this 1994 map from the University of Texas Library’s web site shows, the Dry Tortugas consist of a group of seven islands, with surrounding waters, that lie about 70 miles away from Key West.  The Dry Tortugas were named by Ponce De Leon, because, when he first saw the islands, they were covered with turtles.  Tortuga is Spanish for turtle.  However, after he had his men explore the  seven keys that make up the Dry Tortugas, he also discovered that they had no groundwater, so he called them the “Dry” Tortugas.  (Actually, he probably called them Las Secas Tortugas, since “seco”, I think, is the Spanish word for dry, but in the wonderful way that happens with place names, someone decided to split the difference and make the first word English and the last Spanish.  “Dry Turtles” doesn’t exactly recommend itself as a name, does it? )

Mark and I at the entrance to Fort Jefferson

 The largest of the seven keys, Garden Key, is where the fort was built.  Construction was started in 1846.  It took over thirty years to build and ultimately, due to the composition of the land beneath, was left unfinished when the third level of battlements ended up being too heavy for the ground supporting it.  There were over 16 million bricks used in its construction!

Fort Jefferson in its heyday supported a full contingent of military personnel.  This is a picture taken of the Fort from the top of the battlements, looking across the parade grounds to the other battlements to give you some size of its scope.

Originally, there were cannons placed in many of the openings under the archways.  The field inside of the fort, now covered with grass and trees, served as the parade ground, and included barracks for the men as well. 

At the beginning of the Civil War, in 1861, the United States Government decided to use Fort Jefferson as a federal prison.  Probably the most famous inmate at the fort was Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, the doctor who set John Wilkes Booth’s leg after Booth assassinated Lincoln.


 Sentenced to life imprisonment, Dr. Mudd was pardoned in 1869 by President Johnson, for his work at the Fort during an outbreak of yellow fever which killed many inmates as well as the prison doctor. 

The Army left Fort Jefferson in 1874, and in 1908 the area became a wildlife refuge to protect the eggs of nesting birds from collectors.  Then, in 1935, Fort Jefferson was named a national monument, and finally, in 1992, Fort Jefferson, Garden Key and the six surrounding keys as well as the surrounding waters were named the Dry Tortugas National Park. 

Now, the only people living at the fort are people from the National Park Service.  You have to request duty at the Dry Tortugas, and there is a rotation schedule that allows people to rotate in and out.  They get their water from a cistern below the fort built by the army to collect rain water. 

There are only two ways to get to Fort Jefferson:  by boat or by plane.  We took the Yankee II Ferry.  The trip is an all day excursion; we left Key West promptly at 8 and returned around 5 or 5:30.  It is a four hour round trip, so you end up with roughly five hours on the island.  The Ferry provided us both breakfast and lunch.  Ferry personnel also gave guided tours of the Fort, which we enjoyed very much. 

Although I am not a great lover of heights, there was enough land at the top of the battlements that I was able to overcome my fear to take a good look out, and I was glad that I did! 

Here is a picture of Mark from the top of the wall, with the sea behind him:


Here is another picture from the top of the wall:

One of the best things about the day trip to Fort Jefferson is that not only do you tour the historic fort but also there is a small beach to the left of the entrance of the fort that leads to you an area where you can snorkel around the fort.  On our way over to the beach, we saw this pelican, which had landed on the pier:

I have an inordinate fondness for pelicans, so whenever I see one that is close enough, I pretty much have to take a picture of it. 

Mark snorkeled for a good long time, and tried out the disposable underwater camera we bought specifically for this excursion.  Here are a few of the pictures he got:

This was the first time we had every tried an underwater camera.  Next time, we might go ahead and buy a digital one that works underwater.   

I went snorkeling with Mark about the last hour of the trip.  By that time, we were out of film, but he had discovered that the more colorful and diverse sea life was up where the sea met the wall of the fort, so we explored that area for a while. 

The keys surrounding Fort Jefferson are also interesting in their own right, as the only nesting places in the Northern Hemisphere for certain types of birds, including the magnificent frigate bird – yes, “magnificent” is part of the name, and yes, it is truly deserved – and many sooty terns.  You could see the rookery of the frigate birds in the distance, but the sooty tern rookery was on Bush Key, which is less than a stone’s throw from Garden Key, and the swarm of terms surrounding the key was phenomenal. 

The Magnificent Frigate Bird


The Sooty Tern

We returned on the Ferry to Key West relaxed, refreshed and thoroughly sunburned.  (Note to self:  Sunburns happen even on cloudy days!).  I can’t wait to do it all over again with Kayla some day!

Have a great day everyone!


P.S.  I had a lot of trouble with photographs for some reason today, so I wish to note here that I found the map of the Dry Tortugas on the website of the Library of the University of Texas, the photographs of Dr. Mudd on the Famous Trials Page, Lincoln Conspiracy, from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School web site, and the photographs of the two birds on Wikipedia in the public domain.  They were taken by two employees of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Southernmost Point

Hi Everyone!

I have covered bits and pieces of our trip to Key West over the last few weeks, and considering that the trip itself was only four days, there has been an amazing amount of material, but now we are winding down to the last few topics. 

While the Hemingway House was both intriguing and inspirational, and the visit to the Key West cemetery reflective, a trip to the Southern part of the island is simply one of those cheerful touristy things that tourists do when they go to Key West.  Over towards the Atlantic ocean side of the island, the two or three blocks that lead to the Southernmost point are covered with things dubbed the “Southernmost” – the Southernmost restaurant, the Southernmost Hotel, the Southernmost Inn, the Southernmost grocery store, the Southernmost dog (well, they didn’t really have a Southernmost dog, but I am surprised that someone didn’t think to bring a dog and hang a plaque around its neck saying so!)

The Southernmost point in the continental United States is actually not quite the Southernmost point – there is an antenna off a jetty behind a fence that you can see from the point dubbed the Southernmost point that is a little more South, but a) you can’t reach it, and b) it is built on land that was created/dredged/reclaimed by filling in the water, so in a typically pragmatic fashion, Key West has continued to call the Southernmost point, the Southernmost point.

To be sure that it is recognized, someone placed a (very colorful, can’t be missed) monument there stating that it is the southernmost point. 

Mark and I at the "Southernmost" Point

There was a line to have your picture taken at the monument, and the family in front of us was kind enough to take a picture of both of us with our camera.

Although it is kind of touristy, it is not a complete gimmick, as there are some interesting historical sites surrounding the southernmost point.

The most  recognizable site  is the Southernmost House.  The history of the Southernmost house is set out in this plaque:

The Southernmost House, itself, is a Victorian mansion complete with all the trimmings.  We did not tour the house while we were there (after all, you have to save something for the next time), but we took several pictures of it, including the following.

As the posted sign by the Southernmost House noted, the mansion was built in 1897.  Technically, it is no longer the very southernmost house anymore, as someone came in and built one house right behind it on the block leading to the Southernmost Monument that is more Southerly, but, I guess, age having its privileges. this mansion was the Southernmost House originally, so the Southernmost House it shall remain!

At the very corner of the turn to reach the monument, there is a structure known as the cable house.  It didn’t look like much, but appearances, as the placard on the cable house showed, can be deceiving.

The Cable House

Its history:

The Southernmost Point/House/Inn/Hotel/Motel was simply a fun, cheerful trip, and cost almost nothing (we even were lucky enough to find a parking spot we didn’t have to pay for!) and, in its own way, was as much a highlight of our trip as the other adventures were.

Have a great day everyone!


Remembering the Maine

Good morning everyone! 

I hope the thunderstorms moving through the South/Southeast yesterday and last night left you unscathed.  We did okay, I think, except for a lack of sleep on Kayla’s part that does NOT make me envy her teachers today!

The Maine Monument, Key West Cemetery

 Time for reflection is often rare these days, but while we were in Key West, Mark and I had the chance (well, really, I forced him) to go by the Key West Cemetery.  Old cemeteries, cemeteries with lots of history in them, are usually very quiet places good for reflection, and to find such a oasis of calm amid the bustle of the Historic District in the rest of Key West was a true pleasure.

We couldn’t stay long, but we were able to see the one place in the cemetery I wanted to see, which was Key West’s monument to those soldiers who died when the U.S.S. Maine exploded in the harbor of Havana, Cuba on February 15, 1898. 

As a result of the explosion, 266 men died.  The cause of the explosion remains controversial to this day, but the purpose of this entry is NOT to answer a question that is still in dispute after over 100 years, but simply to remember 266 men who died serving their country. 

Key West was the last stop the Maine had made, for refueling and obtaining supplies, before it went on to the Havana harbor.  When the ship exploded, those bodies that could be recovered immediately, and the wounded, were sent back to Key West.  About two dozen of the sailors of the U.S.S. Maine are buried in the small enclosure, and the City, at its own expense, placed the monument to them that stands there today, a sailor holding an oar.  (Eventually, an extensive recovery operation in Havana harbor took place, and many of the other dead sailors are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.) 

When we were at the cemetery, it was a perfect day, with the breeze that comes off the Atlantic Ocean and the breeze from the Gulf taking turns twisting through the trees and over the grass.  It was peaceful.  The U.S.S. Maine area of the cemetery is enclosed with a small metal fence, and there are other markers and persons buried in it, including a monument put up by the survivors of a torpedo boat that fought in the Spanish-American war to their fellow serviceman who died the year after the Maine exploded.  

So, the next time you are somewhere and two gentle winds take a moment to swirl in the grass or trees around you, stop for just a minute to breathe a prayer for the safety of all of those men and women who choose to defend their country, and one of thanks for those who were willing to serve and in doing so, paid for their service with their lives. 

Ground Marker in the Maine section of the Key West Cemetery

Finally, to all of you for today, I can wish you nothing better than that you find, at the end of your life, that the following epitaph, also in place at the Key West cemetery but in a different section, is perfect for you:  God was good to me.

Have a great day everyone!


Morning Interrupted and A Splash of Color

Good morning (or good afternoon in the Central U.S. Time Zone and those points further east) everyone!
  • Morning Interrupted

Today’s title, “Morning Interrupted,” was far more prophetic than I ever intended it to be.  Not only was my early morning (i.e., pre 6:30 a.m.) routine left in shambles but my mid-morning schedule has been disrupted as well. 

Powerful Spark (From Print Shop 2.0 Deluxe)

 Mark was out of town last night, so of course a round of thunderstorms chose to rumble in around 4:00 a.m.  Kayla is very afraid of thunderstorms, so she came padding into our bedroom around 4, and I let her go ahead and crawl up into the bed on Mark’s side.  Those negotiations taking a little time, Mandy and Darwin viewed them as a sign that it was time to get up, so they started jumping on and off the bed in great excitement.  You really haven’t lived until all four paws of a 55 or 60 pound dog hit you squarely on the chest at 4:00 a.m. in the morning!

I threw them outside into the thunderstorm to do whatever they felt they needed to. (Tyra knew better than to wake up.  Besides, she is not going into a thunderstorm unless she is thrown out into it, so she got to stay inside and asleep at the foot of the bed.) 

Once they came back in, around 4:10 or so, my only hope of getting any more rest before 5:30 was to separate Darwin and Mandy, so I put Darwin up in his carrier (he usually sleeps there or in the den at night – he only got to sleep in the bedroom last night because Mark wasn’t home and our routine was disrupted anyhow) and kept Mandy in the bedroom with me.  Mandy settled back down, but Darwin felt it was his sworn duty to bark with his loud “intruder alert” bark every time a strong thunder clap sounded over the house.  This practice guaranteed that even if Kayla could get to sleep, she was going to wake back up once he started to bark, which further ensured that I wasn’t getting back to sleep either.

After about 45 minutes of that, Kayla got up and ran into the bathroom and started to be sick.  I got her settled back down and we finally got maybe an extra half-hour before we had to get up.  After we got up, I took her temperature, and she was in that no-man’s land between 98.6 and 100 (at 99.3), so I gave her a choice on whether to go to school or not. 

She elected to go because the school is doing the Stanford Achievement Tests and she was going to try to finish the test (this is the second, and last, day of testing).  I let her off at school at 7:15 with a wish and a prayer, and toodled my way to work, where I hoped to have an uneventful, but fruitful, day. 

Alas, as you probably suspect, that was not to be!  About 9:45 the school called and said that she had left the test, with the principal at her side, saying that she was too sick to keep taking it.  I asked the nurse about her temperature, and she was still in that no-man’s land, although a little higher at 99.7, and hadn’t gotten sick again. Even though I wasn’t sure that she was any worse than she had been when I dropped her off, I left work and traveled back to our home town to pick her up.  It was a good thing I did; as soon as we got home, she was sick again, and then when I took her temperature, it was up around 101.6!  Fortunately, our doctor can see her at 2, and right now she is asleep on the couch, in which state I hope she stays for a couple  hours, since sleep is the best thing for her. 

I would like to go to sleep, too, but as every mother knows, your child will never get sick on a day when you are fairly caught up, so I have a project I get to work on for a while here at the house.  However, as I have said before, I am very grateful to the people I work with for their understanding about family and priorities and I am grateful that I can work on a project at the house to keep caught up.

All of which is a long way of saying nothing this morning, so far, has gone according to plan, but maybe the new improved plan will have better luck!

  • A Splash of Color

Even though a sick child is something every parent can sympathize with, I hate to end my blog on such a damp note, so instead I am finishing this entry off with a few pictures of some of the flowers around Key West that Mark and I enjoyed seeing.  This is a very small sample compared with what is avaible to see down there, but I hope it brightens your day.

Picture of a house taken from the Conch Train


Tubebuia Tree, Key West


Tabebuia Tree Flowers, Key West

Have a great day everyone!


Six-Toed Cats, a Studio and a $20,000 Swimming Pool: The Hemingway House

Good morning everyone!
One of the places we visited last week while we were at Key West was the Hemingway house.  Ernest Hemingway lived there with his wife Pauline for about 9 years in the 1930’s.  (All of the facts listed in here came from the tour guide.  I hope I am remembering them correctly.)  This is the approach to the house from the side.

Side wall of the Hemingway House Grounds

 We came to the house this way because parking is a premium in Key West, and we found a lot about four blocks away, just after the intersection of Whitehead and Southard Streets as you head towards the Atlantic ocean, where you could park all day for $20, and he would let you drive away and come back to the lot later in the day.   

Cat in the Ticket Booth

This friendly feline was helping to greet visitors in the ticket booth.  Ernest Hemingway liked cats, and was particularly fond of those cats who have a mutation that gives them six toes.  The more scientific name is a “polydactyl” cat.  He had somewhere between 40 and 60 living on the grounds at the house while he was there, and the people who take care of the house now keep the population also around 40 to 50 cats.  Interestingly, each cat’s birth is recorded, so each of the cats currently residing at the house has its own geneological record.  The cats are everywhere through the grounds and the house and the staff works hard to keep them happy, so the cats will stay there.  (This was the one spot in Key West where we didn’t see any roosters;  I wonder why?  🙂  The roosters may be ubiquitous in Key West, but apparently they are not stupid!) 

The European Chandelier

This chandelier came from Europe and includes Venetian glass.  Pauline shipped it from Europe to use as a centerpiece of the house, and apparently it was the talk of the town once it was installed.  The house was originally built by a doctor, who paid to have the limestone coral base rock excavated to provide the only full basement in the city of Key West.  It sits on a full acre of land, which also makes it one of, if not the, largest homesteads in Key West.

Frances, the Cat, Asleep in the Master Bedroom

In the master bedroom, our tour group found Frances the cat comfortably curled up on the pillows at the top of the bed.  Yes, Frances really is her name; our tour guide told us that she was the least interactive among all of the cats at the house.  Laying there asleep in the master bedroom is as close as she gets to interaction.     

Books that Belonged to Hemingway

The upstairs hallway, although a little narrow, is lined with bookshelves on one side.  These books are not necessarily the ones that were in the house when Ernest Hemingway lived there, but they are books he owned and used or books given to him as gifts.  He had an estate in Cuba after he left Key West around 1939, and he kept most of his books there.  Unfortunately, the estate was confiscated by Castro after the Bay of Pigs invasion.   

The View from the Upper Veranda

 There is a huge veranda that wraps around the outside of the house on the second floor.  Mark took this picture for me.  On the front side of the veranda, you get a wonderful view of the Key West lighthouse through the branches of the African Tulip Tree on the house grounds.  The African Tulip Tree, as you might tell from the name, is not native to the Keys, and in the city of Key West they are rare.  The flowers on it are striking.

Ernest Hemingway’s Writing Studio
Behind the house is what used to be a coach house and barn.  When the Hemingways moved into the house, they converted the top floor into a writer’s studio, the first one Ernest Hemingway had.  He was a very disciplined writer, and would go out there every morning to write. 
Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter in the studio
I just had to take a close-up picture of the typewriter in the studio that he used to write on.  From a writing standpoint, I felt that I was standing on hallowed ground and I admit I was hoping that somehow wafts of inspiration and writing talent would descend upon me while I was standing there.   The most important thing I learned from the tour was simply to write every day.  Period.  Of course, it helps to have something to say, too! 

Lounging in the Writer's Studio

 One of the cats had found its way into the writer’s studio (human visitors can only view the studio through a piece of clear plastic, but the estate owners left an opening large enough in the bottom of the barrier for the cats to get in.)  He or she looked quite comfortable.

One of the Cat Feeding Areas

The estate has several areas where food is put out for the cats, and this was one of them.  It is between the house, and the writer’s studio and pool.  None of the cats were around it at the time we were there, but I am sure it is a frequent haunt of theirs!

Finally, since I was there as a tourist, and not thinking about blogging at the moment, I neglected to take a picture of the pool, but it is a beautiful salt water pool put on the grounds by Pauline.  It cost $20,000 to build in the 1930’s.  The dollar equivalent today I cannot even begin to calculate.  The reason it was so expensive is the hard coral bedrock of the island.  It took an extraordinary amount of manpower to excavate the bedrock out in order to put the pool in.  According to the tour guide, Pauline put to pool in while Ernest Hemingway was off on a trip somewhere.  When he came back, he tossed a penny in the pool, telling her that she might as well have his last cent, too.  She took it with good grace, given that it was her family’s money that paid for the pool, but kept the penny.  The same penny now is covered by plexiglass on the pool deck. 

Now a confession – I really can’t remember much about Hemingway’s writing, since I haven’t read anything of his since high school.  I do remember he had a spare writing style that let a few words do a lot of work.  However, my curiosity was piqued, so after we got back from Key West I hopped onto my trusty Kindle and downloaded two of his books that I hope to get to read sometime soon.  I really, really enjoy my Kindle, but that is a topic for another day!

Have a great weekend everyone!


Spring!, Roosters and Butterfly Farm

Good morning everyone!  We have made it to Wednesday, and the weekend is in sight. 

  • Spring!

The same thing happens to me every spring – no, I don’t mean allergies.  At some point in the spring, I find myself wandering through the garden section of  the local Wal-Mart or Home Depot, looking at all of the flowers and vegetables that are available.  Even though I know any flower I plant has a less than 40% chance of survival (it’s the whole watering thing that gets me), visions of luscious gardens on a par with those at Calloway Gardens or Bellingrath gardens dance through my head, causing me to fall into some kind of a trance.  I wake up from the trance headed toward the car with a buggy full of flowers to plant that probably will die since they are not cacti and can’t live without watering.  Sigh.  I did manage to restrain myself somewhat this year; I got two big pots of peonies for the front porch (last year I managed to keep two similar pots alive through about June), some grass seed and fertilizer to use on bare spots in the back yard, and then caladium, lily and gladioli bulbs for two specific (small) areas in the front.  I envy all of you out there who are great gardeners!

  • Roosters

On to the roosters – here are two pictures Mark took for me of a rooster in Key West.

The most unusual thing about the roosters of Key West is the fact that is it not unusual to see one – they (and the hens and chicks) wander the streets freely and are protected from any harm by a city ordinance.  I never did quite figure out why there are so many of them and why they are allowed the run of the city streets, but they don’t bother anyone  and their colors are striking.  We not only saw a lot of roosters, but a couple of hens with their chicks following them at various places.   I was trying to imagine what it would be like for our family to live in Key West, and couldn’t get much past the image of No-no (Mandy) and Bad Dog (Darwin) repeatedly escaping from our yard to chase the roosters, and being brought back by the Key West police with multiple citations for us to deal with!

  • Butterfly Farm

For those of you who were wondering where Kayla was in the middle of all of this, she was having a great time with her Grandma Dottie.  One day, for example, they went to the butterfly farm, where no less than three butterflies landed on her! 

Mom said that Kayla sat still as long as this butterfly was sitting on her foot, and that that was several minutes!  One of the attendants was kind enough to take their picture together.

You have to look really close at Kayla to see it, but there is another butterfly on the foot that is toward the front, which is why she is standing so still. 

Kayla likes a lot of insects.  About the only ones she doesn’t like, and won’t handle or come near, are stinging insects like bees and wasps, spiders and cockroaches.  I have learned how to kill spiders if called upon to do so (revolutionary though that is to those who knew me in my youth) but I still won’t do cockroaches.  Mark has to be called in for a job like that.  Fortunately, we have only had one to kill the four years plus we have been in this house, and it conveniently appeared on a night when Mark was home!

Have a great day everyone!


The End at the Beginning, Vegetarian (Not!) and The Beginning after the End

  • The End at The Beginning

For those of you who didn’t know, or couldn’t guess from the pictures on Friday, Mark and I had the chance to go to Key West and stay for a few days during Kayla’s Spring Break, since Kayla wanted to spend Spring Break with my mom in Florida.  Key West is a long way from Alabama, so we finally got down there last Monday.  The very first thing we did once we got there was to drive to the end of U.S. 1.  This is a picture of the sign marking the end of U.S. 1.   It gave me quite an unreasonable sense of accomplishment to have driven to the end of U.S. 1, but doing so,  and traveling by car down the entire length of the Keys from Miami to Key West, are two things I have always wanted to do, and I finally got to do both on Monday!  Hence, the title:  at the end of U.S. 1, our vacation began!

  • Vegetarian (Not!)

As with any good trip, the journey to the destination had its moments, also.  The funniest came on the first leg of the trip, when we met my Mom and Kayla ( who were driving back to Mom’s house in a separate car) for lunch at the Cracker Barrel in Tifton.  Because St. Patrick’s Day was approaching, Mom decided to have corn beef and cabbage, which Cracker Barrel usually only sells during the first part of March.  Kayla finished eating before the other three of us, and was looking at what Mom was eating, so Mom, deducing that Kayla would not be interested in the corned beef or the cabbage, asked her if she would like to try some of the potatoes or carrots that came with the corned beef and cabbage.  Kayla looked at her and said emphatically, “I am NOT a vegetarian!”  Mark and I had to laugh!

  • The Beginning After The End

We reached home Saturday, and so yesterday we spent just kind of catching up on things.  While we were gone, pine pollen season arrived in Alabama.  Pine pollen season is extraordinary; a fine yellow-green dust covers everything that is standing still!  For example, here are two pictures of one of our cars from Sunday.  It is a black car, and had no pollen on it when we arrived at the house on Saturday.  After only one night of sitting outside, this is what it looked like:

Pollen Close-up


The plus side of pine pollen season is that it also means that the roses in front of our house have started blooming again.  For someone like me, who has a brown, not a green, thumb, (It’s the watering part that I fail at – as well as the weeding once the temperatures around here reach the mid to upper 90’s and stay there until at least September) the roses around the front of our house are a dream come true.  They are called Knock-out Roses:  they need no work (I know this because I have done nothing with them the entire time we have been in the house, except to have the  man who works on our yard for us to trim the bushes in the fall) and they bloom profusely all but about two months out of the year!

It was nice to have the roses greet us when we got home!

I have a lot more to say about Key West, and will spend several days saying it, but for now, it is time to get ready for work.  

Have a great day everyone!