Thursday, July 29, 2010

Storm At Sunset...

It was early evening and the light in my craft room was waning. Earlier in the day I had closed the shutter louvers to help diminish the searing heat of the westerly afternoon sun. Now I went to open them to bring in more light, the spectacle that I saw outside actually caused me to utter aloud; "Oh Wow !"

Grabbing my little point and shoot camera I dashed outside and hoped upon hope that I would be able to capture the magnificence of the stormy sunset sky.
Photo above...Huge thunderheads dominate the sky, diffusing the golden glow of the setting sun.  These pictures were taken facing south, looking over the rooftop of our neighbor's house.
Photo below...Close-up of the billowing thunderheads.

Photos below...Stormy Sunset Sky facing west.  Taken in a series as the sun made its journey below the Earth's horizon.

So I have shared my evening with you and pray that you've enjoyed this glimpse of my stormy sunset as much as I enjoyed photographing it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Screaming Snakes ???

Photo...A harmless Black Racer snake.  Mouth agape probably trying to cool down from the intense summer heat.
Do snakes scream ? Can they make any noise other than the traditional hiss or the well known sound of a rattlesnake's warning rattle ? This was a thought I had never contemplated before as there was never a reason to contemplate it.

Yesterday I went outside to water my wilting orchid plant and just as I began to open the patio screen door I heard a high pitched squeal, shriek or scream from what I assumed was a small animal, most likely an angry bird. Though I looked around I saw no bird hopping about angrily protesting my invasion of its space. Then a movement caught my eye and I focused in on our resident black snake as it slithered between some bushes.  It made its way alongside our house to the small concrete patio slab that lay just outside our bedroom door and here the snake stopped.  He or she was a good 20 feet away and felt this to be a comfortable distance. I must say I was impressed by the spurt of grown the little fellow had made since I had seen him last year, he was now a good 3 feet in length and at least 2 inches in diameter at his thickest part, which was its middle (alas that seems to be the case with most of us).
Photo above...Hiding in the bushes, sort of !  Most of the Black Racer (about 2.5 feet of it) is hidden beneath the bushes.

Feeling confident that he was at a safe distance the snake clung close to the house and double up on itself as though preparing to settle down for a nap, meanwhile I went about watering my dry and thirsty orchid. A bit later I noticed he was no longer laying on our bedroom patio and must have quietly slithered off.
His disappearance did not concern me, however I couldn't get the strange squealing screams out of my mind. Had it been a bird that, having seen the snake, sent out a warning call to any and all things close by ? Perhaps. Since I would never truly know, the thoughts were dismissed as I opened the screen door to proceed back inside the patio. Then the high pitched screams began again, this time I looked down and scanned the ground to see what or where it was coming from. Just outside of our screened in patio I have a small collection of empty flower pots; one pot, a terra-cotta, orchid pot was turned upside down, I had done this thinking it would provide a nice shelter for a toad or a frog or maybe a lizard or two.
Photo above...Empty potting pots, the terra-cotta pot is an orchid pot and has several slits for drainage and allows the orchid roots to grow through.  As you can see the pot bears the remains of the last orchard plant that resided in it.  Orchard roots are very difficult to remove as they fasten themselves securely to  whatever they are growing in.

It was from the terra-cotta orchid pot that the squeals were emanating and just outside of that pot was our resident black snake, trying desperately to get its head through one of the long, narrow drainage slits carved out of the clay pot. Quickly I rattled the handle of the screen door and just as quickly the snake stopped it's attempt to gain entrance into the pot. He looked up at me with his shiny ebony eyes, his tongue darting about sensing the air and gathering all the information that it contained. Possibly the information he gathered told him it was me and so quietly and in no hurry he meandered back into the bushes that ran alongside of the house. For a moment I looked down at the orchid pot, even though I was brimming with curiosity I was sure that I really did not want to lift the pot to see what was inside of it .

Not much later I spoke to my hubby, John. "Uh, do snakes scream?"
John turned and looked at me, a look that read; "Did I just hear you say what I think you said?"
So I went on; "I've never heard a snake make any noise before. Can they make any sounds?"
"Only a hiss." John answered.
Therefore I recounted the whole story of the snake, the squeals and the terra-cotta, orchid pot. Curiosity can spread like wildfire and John wanted to see this terra-cotta pot for himself. We had scarcely stepped out onto the patio when John exclaims; "Oh there is something in that pot alright, cause I just saw the pot move!" Now here's where John goes and get a long object, like a golf club, to turn the pot over with.

Photo above...Close up of orchid pot and my hand to show size comparison of pot and one of its typical slits.

What was inside the  pot ? No mouse, rat or vole!  No bird, toad or frog!  It was our own resident black snake! All 3 point something feet of him!
Now something had been in that pot previously; something had made a very noticeable squealing or screaming sound; what it was? ... a mystery!  
How the snake finally got into the pot? All 3 plus feet of it? ... a mystery!  
Did the snake get the critter that had been in there? ... another mystery!
Was the snake just trying to claim the pot for its own domain? ... I'll never know! But I do know this; Snakes do not scream!

Photo above...No, not screaming!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Empty Strip Malls...Space Available...A Sign of The Times

Photo above...Wally World parking lot, with green construction fence prominently in sight...sign of the times.

Wal-Mart, Wally World, what ever you wish to call it, is everywhere.  It's hard to drive very far in any direction down a busy avenue without passing one.  My own Wally World is now about 20 years old and was the first of it's kind in a good 20 mile radius.  Now we still have the old original Wally, plus 2 super-sized Wallies (called Super Wal-Mart stores) and plans for yet another, all within that same 20 mile circle...make that within a 10 mile circle! 
Photo above...Under construction. Behind the green construction fence used to be the corner and leg of the"L" in our first little strip mall.  Gone now are Radio Shack, Fashion Bug, and the Dollar Store.

The old shopping center, built in the very late 80's housed the area's first major supermarket called Publix.  The other 3 corners of the intersection were vacant, except for grazing cattle and an orange orchard.  Developers  quickly discovered the area and it became a mecca for housing developments.  In little time, perhaps 5 years or less, it was a common sight, during the holidays, to see a uniformed traffic cop directing a constant stream of vehicles into and out of the Publix parking lot.  Soon the 3 vacant corners had been cleared and new strip malls sprang up, the sweet smell of the orange orchard is now just a memory as it fell to bulldozers and made way for our gigantic class A, Publix supermarket...leaving a huge windowless, big box store sitting empty and forlorn in the old strip mall.  But the strip mall had Wally, and as long as Wally was there people came to shop and all the small shops and eateries in the center managed to survive.

Photos above and below...Store front of the old Publix supermarket, now sporting  signage that this property is available for lease.

Then Benderson Developers purchased land next to the freeway off/on ramps and began building.  That's when we got our first Home Depot, a Carrabba's, a Staples Office Supplies and our local Starbucks.
Of course the old Wally World wanted to move and get in on the action of a new and energetic shopping area that was scarcely 2 or 3 miles away.  Normally their request would have been a "done deal", however the homeowners living in the surrounding area complained and they went to great lengths to prevent Wally from abandoning the old store and building yet another, bigger better super store.  The fact that the old strip mall had one big box building setting empty was bad enough but to have 2 would have been true death for all of the small establishments that were trying to exist there.

Photo above...The old Walgreen's, now empty.  Space definitely available!

Photo below...The only thing at this end of the strip mall is a Tae Kwondo school.

Photo below...A lot of real estate sitting empty !

Amazingly Wal Mart's requests and plans were eventually denied.  Reluctantly the old store decided to expand instead.  This meant that a whole section of the "L" wing of shops would have to be vacated, the old Walgreen's Drug Store, vacated it's location and built a nice, new, stand alone building.  And now the wrecking crews have gone in and dismantled the corner of the  "L" that once housed a Radio Shack, a Veterinarian's office, Fashion Bug Clothing store, a Chinese restaurant and a Dollar Store.

Photo above...Just a small section of shops, hanging on by their fingernails and with a hope and a prayer.  There used to be a Chinese restaurant and a Dollar Store at the end of this section...then the leg of the "L" turned toward Wal-Mart .  This leg was home to a Radio Shack, a veterinarian's office, and Fashion Bug clothing shop.  All this space will become Wally's addition.  Only time will tell how this little strip mall is going to fare.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summertime Lethargy

Photo above...A tree grows at the entrance to our local Wally world store.

It's summertime and....
It's hot...
I'm suffering from fried brain syndrome...
I'm lethargic and ________ (fill in the blank) 

It has been over a week since I refreshed my blog and I owe my favorite fellow bloggers my deepest apologies.  As for something new and exciting to blog about...well it's hard to come across excitement when one is cocooned inside avoiding the heat and staying where central air maintains a consistent cool temperature of 80 degrees or less (yes our A/C is set on 80).

My 9 year old granddaughter, little Miss Tomboy Dare-Devil, was out stunt driving a 3 wheel , all terrain vehicle this past weekend.  In her world of "I am invincible! See me roar!" she somehow  managed to flip it over on herself.  Fortunately the injuries weren't extremely severe, no broken bones, no concussion, decapitation nor amputations.  She did have the end of a handlebar puncture her thigh (thankfully missing her knee) which required a trip to the emergency room, X-rays and stitches.  The doctor said she was lucky as it JUST missed an artery, and had it been a few inches lower it could have mutilated her knee.   Children make life so exciting !   That's why mothers go prematurely gray !

I'll not be posting photos of the accident nor of her injury.  However on a lighter, brighter note I have some photos of a tropical, local tree that seems to be bursting forth in a riot of sunny, yellow blossoms, making it's presence known above all the tree tops.  Hope you enjoy...just don't ask me what the tree is, for I haven't a clue.


Now how about a tall, ice filled glass of lemonade or Sun-Tea?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Don't Count Your Chicks...

More Fuzzy Photos follow below...

July is a busy month for my family as, along with our Nation’s Birthday on the 4th, we have 3 other birth dates to celebrate.  John, my darling hubby, has his birthday on July 11th, our oldest daughter was born on July 2nd and our youngest daughter will be celebrating her birthday on July 20th.

Since my daughter, Kathi, was preoccupied on her July 2nd birthday, we got together on July 10th to have a family get-together-BBQ.

At this point I wish to explain that my lovely daughter seems to have a thousand and one things always going on at the same time, Kathi is mother to 4 beautiful and very active children, works a full-time and very demanding  job, plus she keeps the books for her husband’s lawn and yard maintenance business.
Currently she has 3 beagles and 5 cats to care for along with a nice size garden of corn, tomato, cucumber, watermelon, cantaloupe, okra, and soon to sprout pumpkins.
Her garden has been her pride and joy this summer but it does take time to water, weed, spray and tend.
On top of these basic responsibilities she has her son’s baseball practice and games to attend, not to mention the post game parties and barbecues; her youngest daughter has softball practice and games, her older daughter has golf lessons and horse back riding…barrel racing lessons no less!

When I close my eyes and try to picture Kathi running around  taking care of all these responsibilities, switching from one of her many "job titles" to another, all I can see is a blur, so it is hard to express the surprise I got when I heard that she now has a brood of little baby chicks … thirteen in all!

Photo above..."Wait hold that shot!  I've got a few pin-feathers out of place."

Photo above...Really, they were facing me and then suddenly turned away, guess it was time to eat.  Cute fannies though!

Photo above...No the chick is not dead !  Just dead tired.  They tend to lay down and pass out anywhere and in any position.  The first couple of  times it happened my daughter had a panic attack and thought the chick had died.  Rest assured that little Blondie is perfectly okay, just sound asleep...until one of the other chicks decides to try and walk on top of her.

Sorry that so many of my pics are a little fuzzy (no pun intended) but baby chicks do not stand still for man or camera and I didn't think to set my shutter speed on fast until the very last photos.

Photo above..."Hey! What You Lookin' At?"

Photo above..."Aw gee!  Do I have to have my picture taken...again?"

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Doubling Your Space Clutter Buster

If life had an "undo" or "go back" button, I would have worn my out ages ago!

When I chose the cabinet for my bath vanity, I thought 3 drawers would be fine; 1 shallow drawer and 2 deep drawers. Deep drawers are great for big bulky items or tall items such as bottles of shampoo, hand lotion etc., however it never dawned on me that 2 deep drawers was over kill.  Deep drawers end up becoming a cluttered mess with small things like cotton balls, combs, scrunchies and hair clips getting buried under larger items. Meanwhile cords from hair driers and curling irons became intertwined and tangled up into a rat's nest.

To be able to click "go back" and restart the decision making process would have been a blessing, definitely I would  have picked a 4 drawer unit having 3 shallow drawers and only 1 deep drawer...but life doesn't have any of my PC's lovely reset features.

Photo above...shows the new shallow drawer that John added to my vanity cabinet.  Shallow drawer is closed and when the modified deep drawer is shut the unit looks unchanged from its original format.

Certainly there are plastic drawer doublers designed to house small items, that simply set on the top edge of the existing cabinet drawer and slide forward and back, though none are made to fit my particular drawer dimensions. In the end there were only 2 choices; either replace the whole drawer cabinet (no way was this about to happen) or somehow replace 1 deep drawer with 2 shallow drawers...big question was; how? Fortunately Kraftmaid had the answer. Within Kaftmaid's tome of "Framed Cabinet Specifications",  a book containing a plethora of cabinet options, components and accessories, was just the creature I had been looking for...a shallow drawer unit that would fit inside and above an existing drawer.

Photos above and below show the inside of the modified drawer allowing easier access to all those "little" things that have a way of getting lost or buried under the clutter.

All I can say is; "Hurray ! Now things are organized and I can find my clips and scrunchies without digging through 6 inches of clutter." This makes me happy, very, very happy. :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Hope You All Had A Happy And Safe 4th of JULY

For some reason unknown to me, John and I have avoided 4th of July celebrations for a number of years now. When our children were young we always took them to oh and ah over those dazzling spectacles that lit up the Fourth's night skies. Of course there was always a crowd and then afterwards the hassle of waiting in traffic that moved at a snail's pace but that really isn't reason enough to become paranoid about attending this once a year celebration. Perhaps it was that our children were now grown and had their own celebrations to attend and their own children to impress. Whatever the reason we had missed many years of seeing the birthday celebration of our nation up close and personal. This year we decided to be different and we made reservations at a riverside restaurant called Mattison's Riverside. Mattison's has always been a favorite dinning place for John and I, the food is beautifully prepared and most enjoyable, the service is good, the atmosphere relaxing and the riverside views are amazing.

Mattison's promotes a special 4th of July dinner buffet with live music and afterwards there was reserved seating outside to view the fireworks display that are launched from the end of the Palmetto Fishing Pier, which is practically in Mattison's backyard.

I have witnessed a lot of firework displays in my lifetime, some small, some large but in truthfulness I have never witnessed a display such as the one John and I watched from Mattison's Riverside. I've never seen fireworks so huge and so close and so many launched at the same time. If you can imagine 12 o'clock being directly above your head, we were watching these canisters launching to the 1 or 2 o'clock position where they would explode into gigantic chrysanthemums of sparkling splendor. Some of the truly large burst seemed so close we felt they would engulf us and for a full half-hour I felt the awe and amazement of a child.

Before the firework display began, a couple seated next to us said that they had been coming to Mattison's for several years to view this display and in the their opinion it was the best fireworks presentation, bar none. They were a well traveled couple and had seen fireworks in many locations from Europe to Asia to both the east and west coasts of the USA. After the 3 Part Grand Finale I had to admit...I was impressed...very impressed, after all it isn't everyday that one feels as though they might be devoured by an immense shower of sizzling embers that look as big or bigger than a football field. And it was 30 full minutes of one or many magnificent bursts after another ... the Grand Finale sounded like the biggest popcorn popper in the universe going crazy.

This indescribable fireworks presentation was put on by our little city of Palmetto, a lovely and quaint city nestled on the north side of the river. Palmetto's Fourth Celebration was an event one had to see and be a part of to appreciate it fully. They had cordoned off two or three blocks of the Downtown Riverside area for pedestrian traffic only. This area was strictly for foot traffic and was filled with vendors selling kettle corn, hot dogs, Italian sausage, cold drinks and sweet eats. Though the temps had been lowered significantly by a cloudy sky and early morning showers the atmosphere was hot with live music and fun entertainment. Bands included Soul Purpose, Big Daddy, KoKo Ray, Tony Tyler and The Shaman Band.

Oh yes, this Fourth has been a National Birthday Bash that I will long remember.
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