Forever Young, But Growing Old

A travel and lifestyle blog for Baby Boomers
Last minute book Ideas for those hard-to-please family and friends

Last minute book Ideas for those hard-to-please family and friends

Courtesy Anna Fox, Flikr

Courtesy Anna Fox, Flikr

It’s not too late to find just the right gift for that hard-to-buy-for friend or family member. Books are always a good choice and they can be had in print or downloaded online to their e-reader. Avid readers, most likely, already have the latest best-seller, but you might surprise them with some, not-so-well-known, authors who fly under the radar.

Here are some suggestions from fantastic authors, most of which I know personally, who have put out some quality tomes, available online…

The fabulous, Dave Astor

The fabulous, Dave Astor

Dave Astor – Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time: The Book Lover’s Guide to Literary Trivia – Dave has gathered tons of fun facts and trivia about authors, both famous and not so famous. It’s the kind of book you can pick up and browse at your leisure. Older family members or friends might enjoy this as some of the topics go back to forgotten classic literature they may have enjoyed long ago.

Dave also has an autobiographical book called Comic (and Column) Confessional, about his life and career rubbing elbows with famous authors and cartoonists, like Charles Schulz, of Peanuts fame, and Beetle Bailey creator, Mort Walker.

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Adele Azar-Rucquoi – The Nun and the Bum: A Journey, a Communion, a Birth – I knew her as Sister Adele, my favorite high school teacher, admittedly back in the dark ages. Adele taught us to love literature and added music to the mix. I’ll never forget her singing and dancing across the room to the strains of The Mikado, with her black habit flowing around her. Her story is amazing and I’m pleased to still be in contact with this talented woman.

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Kathy Eliscu – Not Even Dark Chocolate Can Fix This Mess – Need a laugh and a bit of escape from the chaos of the season and beyond? Kathy’s book, blog and column, My Generation provide just that. This New Englander and retired RN writes with a warm heart and wicked humor.

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Greg Dawson – Busted in Bloomington: A Tragedy in the Summer of ’68 – Greg and I have never met but I’ve enjoyed his columns, over the years, in the Orlando Sentinel and, when I heard he was publishing this book about he and his wife’s early years in Bloomington, Indiana, I had to order it. Several years ago I was introduced to Bloomington, as part of a National Society of Newspaper Columnists conference. Greg’s story is compelling and also offered an additional insight into this college town I loved.

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Jerry Zezima – Grandfather Knows Best: A Geezer’s Guide to Life, Immaturity, and Learning How to Change Diapers All Over Again – OK, Jerry is one of those guys who cannot be serious. A typical conversation with him results in groan-worthy puns that won’t stop. He’s a master at rebounding with a witty, maybe not so pithy, remark and you’ll experience this in all of his books…the most recent about his foray into grandfatherhood. Check out his blog for updates to his zany life and links to his other books.

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Gary Bond and Patty Daoust – The Great American Family Vacation: The Bond Family Travel Journal – I’m totally biased about this one as it is written by my sister and brother-in-law, who have journaled their family vacations since the kids were little. Now in their 20’s, the “boys” are still tagging along for adventurous trips involving demanding hikes in National Parks across the country. Of course, my favorite chapter is the last, describing their visit to our mountain house in North Carolina. If you want an engaging view of life on the road with kids, this online documentary is for you.

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Derrick Z. Jackson – Project Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg Rock – I got to meet Derrick at yet another NSNC conference, this one in Manchester, NH, last summer. A long-time columnist for The Boston Globe, his wife, Dr. Michelle Holmes, talked him into a camping trip which, eventually, led to his becoming instrumental in writing about the seabird Puffin and the restoration of its nesting colonies off the Maine coast. It’s a lovely story of a funky-looking bird and the people who played a hand in the journey. Derrick wrote this with author, Stephen W. Kress, and is a great gift for the conservationist in your life

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Cathy Turney – Get 10,000+ Twitter Followers – Easily, Quickly, Ethically: Step-By-Step: You Can Do It! – For my blogger friends who are trying to increase their Twitter following, Cathy Turney has the answers. She’s been a super successful humor writer, along with her fabulous career in real estate, and pulls from both to create an informative book for those who need to amp up their Twitter following. Check out Cathy’s many other publications on Amazon.

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Connie Schultz – . . . And His Lovely Wife: A Memoir from the Woman Beside the Man – Connie doesn’t fall under the “not so well known” authors but  have to include her as she is one of my favorite writers. Married to Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, Ms. Schultz likes to remind others that’s she’s not just “his lovely wife.” A fiercely independent woman, Connie writes about the events leading up to her husband’s decision to run and her decision to leave her job as Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. It’s a great read and check out her columns on Creator.com.

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Morning in the Mountains, A Cookbook from the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association – I’ve written about this before so if you missed it, make sure you check out this cookbook full of delectable dishes created by Asheville’s B&B proprietors. Anyone who’s handy with a spatula will love this collection.

Happy Holidays to all, hope it’s a great New Year!

Stayin’ Alive in yet another home

Stayin’ Alive in yet another home

As another house move adventure begins, I realize there’s a word to describe Charlie and I…gypsies. One of my favorite columnists, Marni Jameson, beat me to it in her Orlando Sentinel column, “Moving: Lessons from the Gypsy Camp.”  As a home-stager, Marni has an excuse for her many moves…not sure what our excuse is, other than itchy feet, boredom and, sometimes, serendipity.

The first of many abodes

The first of many abodes

In our 41 married years we’ve bought nine homes, including the one we just moved into…more on that later.

The happy couple's first Christmas surrounded by '70's cedar

The happy couple’s first Christmas surrounded by ’70’s cedar

Our first place was a tiny one-bedroom condo in The Springs, Longwood. (For many of us old-timers, you’ll remember this area as Sanlando Springs, a favorite swimming hole when we were kids.) We’re talking 1976 so this place was loaded with cedar and orange shag carpeting, which we adored. As the first (of many) home improvement projects in our new marriage, Charlie added a loft, which opened my eyes to what this man could do with a hammer and saw. I learned early on to let him go with his vision and everything would be just fine.

Courtesy Julia Koefender flickr

One of my favorite memories is the two of us, along with friends, taking disco lessons from a local dance studio. We learned The Hustle to the tunes of Stayin’ Alive, by the BeeGees, even testing our skills at a local discotheque, Xanadu (more old-timer memories).

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Four years in the condo with a baby on the way meant we needed a move to a larger place, so we headed downtown. This was before Orlando was cool but houses were affordable. Soon Charlie became a fan of Florida Victorian Architectural Antiques, which was then located in Sanford (now in Deland).  We bought an entire porch taken from a razed house and Charlie transformed our boring, two-story stucco into a real beauty.

Two babies, and four years, later we realized our neighborhood wasn’t the place for our girls. Playing outside with wafts of weed floating over their heads, a funky guy walking down the street with his hand to his ear, chattering away, as if he were talking on the phone (before cell phones)…yet another passed out in our front yard one evening. We decided it was time to move to the suburbs and search out good schools and family neighborhoods.

Next stop, the burbs

Next stop, the burbs

We wound up in Tuscawilla for the next 10 years, had another baby, got entrenched in the elementary school PTA and made some great friends along the way. At some point the rental next door became a thorn in our side and we saw an opportunity to grab a much bigger property in the same neighborhood, so we put ours on the market. Real estate trends immediately started to change and it took much longer to sell than we thought. Once we had a buyer, the homes close by were no longer available, so we chose something totally out of the box, a house in the adjacent county, on a river. It would mean changing schools, so we placated the kids by promising a puppy and they were ecstatic. Of course, that one puppy quickly became 2 and, over the years we added a couple of kitties to the menagerie.

A man and his mower, even had a cup holder

A man and his mower, even had a cup holder

This neighborhood was a bit different, most houses were on acreage, so they were spread out. Dirt road, horse barns, alligators in the river, the neighbors were eclectic, lots of different personalities, great parties and interesting architecture. The house was roomy and fun to decorate in our kitschy way but I never bonded with it as there was bad mojo in terms of family medical issues shortly after we moved in…too many unfortunate memories. After ten years, out of the blue, someone approached us about selling and we jumped at the chance, as the kids were out of high school and going their own way.

Back downtown we picked up a sweet bungalow near Thornton Park, within walking distance of Lake Eola. Once again, we blended into the neighborhood, but this move was short-lived as, a year and a half later, Charlie had the opportunity to retire early and the beach was calling. This house took no time whatsoever to sell, in fact we had a bidding war going on just 3 weeks into listing.

Lake Eola

Lake Eola, Photo courtesy Orlando Sentinel

Reluctantly, I packed up, once again, and we headed to New Smyrna Beach, finding a cute house just a block from the beach. We loved walking along the shore every day, grew tanned, stocked up on appropriate tropical adult drinks and, 20 pounds later, realized we should have stayed out of the liquor store.  Once again, we made great friends but sometimes grew weary of the comings and goings of day trippers, bike week lost its novelty, and seasonal snow birds…just when you got to know someone, they’re gone!

Who could get tired of this view?

Who could get tired of this?

Consequently, seven years later, after too much sun, too many pina coladas and a homesickness for downtown Orlando, we sold out, and headed back down Interstate 4 to SODO, a newly coined term for the area just south of downtown. We found that highway 408 was the dividing line for affordability and returning to Thornton Park was now out of the question.

SODO Bungalow

SODO Bungalow

We located a little house that needed another bathroom but had a kitchen to die for and a beautiful view of tiny Lake Emerald. Having 903 Mills Market around the corner was another perk, so we added that bathroom and settled in for, what I thought, was a long time with no incentive to move on. Of course, in our case nothing is permanent as we decided to invest in a summer home in the NC mountains. After our first summer we realized we needed something back in Orlando with less maintenance and no worries. Once again, family and friends were rolling their eyes at yet another move as, four years later, we put the place up for sale and shopped for a condo.

Most house moves go seamlessly with both closings on the same day. This one was different. By the time we sold, we did not have another residence in place so we had to store the furniture and move in to the mountain house until something popped up. Well, something definitely popped up in an old familiar neighborhood…The Springs, our first home all those 41 years ago.

Yes, we not only moved back into The Springs, but back to Fairway Villas, just a few doors from our first place. The pine tree we bought as a live Christmas tree, is now towering over the buildings, bringing back so many memories. And, yes, it will take a bit of a learning curve to get back into a multi-family living situation, but we’re ready for an adventure, not to mention the beauty of the pristine springs in our neighborhood.

Back to Fairway!

Back to Fairway!

That Christmas tree is a monster now

That Christmas tree is a monster now

We’ve made many life-long friends along the way, in each neighborhood, and never regretted a single move. The other day I popped in to our local Publix and, while perusing the aisles, heard a familiar tune that made me feel right at home…Stayin’ Alive. I resisted the urge to dance those old Hustle moves and let the feeling of nostalgia wash over me as I realized, after all these years, I’m home!

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Home Sweet Home!

Morning in the Mountains – An Asheville Bed & Breakfast Cookbook

Morning in the Mountains – An Asheville Bed & Breakfast Cookbook

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One of the criteria we had when searching for a summer home in the mountains of North Carolina, was to live near the city of Asheville. We’ve fallen in love with this quirky town, its downtown architecture and welcoming neighborhoods. Asheville also has a thriving bed and breakfast community which recently launched a cookbook, Morning in the Mountains, showcasing the yummy breakfasts and brunches offered at the many Inns represented by the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association (ABBA).

The many Innkeepers included in Morning in the Mountains

The many Innkeepers included in Morning in the Mountains

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A thriving (although illegal) short-term vacation house rental business also exists in Asheville, however, which hurts local, official Bed & Breakfast inns. This cookbook serves as a reminder of what B&Bs have to offer, which short term rentals don’t…breakfast!  At a reception celebrating this gorgeous book filled with fantastic recipes by creative innkeepers, and photography by Erin Adams, I got to taste test the many offerings laid out on the massive dining table at The Reynolds Mansion. Exploring this historic Inn, decked out for the holidays, instantly put me in the mood for the upcoming season.

Gingerbread rendering of The Reynolds Mansion

Gingerbread rendering of The Reynolds Mansion

Every inch of the mansion is tastefully decorated.

Every inch of the mansion is tastefully decorated.

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Later we moved to Williams Sonoma at the Biltmore Village where we were treated to a cooking demonstration by Frank Salvo, Innkeeper at the 1885 WhiteGate Inn & Cottage. He masterfully concocted his signature Shrimp and Grits, along with Pimiento Cheese Deviled Eggs. You’ll find a secret ingredient in both which you might not find in basic recipes. I can tell you it works!

Frank Salvo, Innkeeper 1885 WhiteGate Inn & Cottage

Frank Salvo, Innkeeper 1885 WhiteGate Inn & Cottage

Frank's Shrimp & Grits

Frank’s Shrimp & Grits

That night I got to stay in A Bed of Roses Bed & Breakfast, a Victorian-style Inn, in the Montford residential district, close to downtown. Emily and Bill maintain this beautiful home, which exudes charm and takes you back in time to a more quiet, slower pace, which was sorely needed. The rooms are spacious and amazingly quiet. Three other couples were there that night and I never heard a peep.

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Even a spa tub in the room!

Even a spa tub in the room!

Breakfast, of course, was amazing including Italian Egg Cups with Proscuitto de Parma, a mix of red and sweet potatoes roasted with rosemary, and tea biscuits served with apple butter from a local farm. Their herbs are home-grown. You’ll find these and other recipes in this beautiful book which would be a welcome addition under the tree at Christmas.

The breakfast table is ready

The breakfast table is ready

You'll only get this at a legitimate B&B!

You’ll only get this at a legitimate B&B!

Morning in the Mountains can be purchased through the ABBA website.

Ask for the Turret Suite

Ask for the Turret Suite

The Vietnam War – Apology for not caring

The Vietnam War – Apology for not caring

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Watching Ken Burns & Lynn Novick‎’s documentary, The Vietnam War, on PBS, brings back memories of my first Letter to the Editor, printed in the Orlando Sentinel circa 1982. Newly pregnant with my second child, full of emotions, mainly guilt, I watched the news coverage of the dedication of the new Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC. Seeing the surviving family members of those killed in the war being interviewed, their grief still raw, prompted me to write this over 30 years ago…

“This letter has been inspired by the Vietnam War memorial dedications in Orlando and Washington.

I was in college during the war. I did not join my friends in protests, but I also did not have any opinions in favor of the war. My biggest concern was whether I had a date or what my next hairstyle would be.

Instead of having compassion for the families of the war dead, I was angry at the news programs for showing the gore of the war during my dinner hour.

The years have gone by and I seem to have changed. As I watch the news coverage of the memorial dedications, I cry along with the families of those being remembered. I just hope that if, God forbid, a similar war happens during my children’s lifetimes, that they have a conviction, whether for or against, and are gutsy enough to demonstrate that conviction, instead of being apathetic.

I hope this letter is not too late to say thank you to all those who fought in Vietnam and all other wars, regardless of their popularity, and to apologize to the families of those being remembered, for being so uncaring.”

Those feelings of guilt are resurfacing with the airing of this amazing documentary. The amount of historical fact being narrated in the PBS series is awe-inspiring. Learning the details of the horrors the beautiful country of Vietnam Nam endured is made worse by the fact that I was clueless at the time. Granted I was only 18, but my lack of knowledge about something so horrific is embarrassing and humbling.

With the advantage of social media avenues to reconnect to classmates who were deployed to serve, we’re being made aware of the terror these friends had to experience, if they were lucky enough to stay alive. Some could not cope and slid into alcoholism and despair. Others somehow compartmentalized the memories and tucked them aside.

Burns’ and Novick’s documentary should be made a part of high school students’ history curriculum, especially while there are veterans of this tragic war still walking among us. Perhaps it’s not too late to let them know they are valued and appreciated for their sacrifice.

Photo courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

Photo courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

TR Fire Grill…where have you been all my life?

TR Fire Grill…where have you been all my life?

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How did I never hear of this place, the TR Fire Grill?! We assumed it was open only a couple of months but actually it’s been here a couple of years. Guess I just don’t drive down that stretch of 17-92 very often. Located on the corner of Lee Road and North Orlando Avenue in Winter Park, this gem of a neighborhood restaurant and bar is a pleasant surprise, in an area rife with cookie-cutter national brand eateries.

Happy Birthday, Mom

Happy Birthday, Mom

 

We took mom to TR for her 92nd birthday recently and it was quite a hit. Although it takes a bit of creative driving to get into the parking lot, the results are worth the mild hassle. The lunch menu boasted creative flatbreads, burgers and salads, along with a “Shareable Side” of Mac & Cheese.  I learned a new culinary word, Orecchiette…a small ear-shaped pasta, which, paired with Wisconsin cheese curds form an unusual creamy version of our favorite comfort food.

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Anxious to return for their “Local Hour” daily from 5-7 pm, with specials on wine and beer. You’ll see local favorites like Orlando Brewing Blonde Ale, Stump Knocker Pale Ale from Swamp Head Brewery, Gainesville or Cigar City Jai Alai IPA from Tampa. Pair your drink with a snack like Zing Zing Shrimp, Oven Baked Pizza Dip or Prime Rib Egg Rolls and it’s a meal.

The ambiance of the place is rustic industrial with plenty of seating options. We experienced attentive service and mom was treated to a complimentary birthday dessert, large enough for the three of us to share. She chose the Buttery Seared Lemon Pound Cake with Blueberry sauce and vanilla ice cream…a combo made in heaven.

 

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Brunch is also served Saturday and Sunday, offering everything from Flank Steak & Eggs to Chicken & Waffles to Red Velvet Pancakes. If you’re looking for something sweet go for the Wonuts, a combination of waffle and donut dipped in chocolate, topped with powdered sugar.

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We loved the fact that local farms are involved giving the place a “farm to table” option which is not usually found in central Florida.  You’ll find dishes served using local fresh eggs and produce from around the state. A real Ruskin tomato adds amazing flavor to salads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TR Fire Grill is located at 1035 North Orlando Avenue, Winter Park. They also have two other locations in Waikiki, Hawaii and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, of all places. I’d say we’re lucky to have them in our little corner of the world.

 

 

Losing Billy Manes – hearts are heavy in Orlando

Losing Billy Manes – hearts are heavy in Orlando

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I’ve never met him in person, but his death has made my heart heavy. Billy Manes has been a force in the city of Orlando, as an activist, journalist and, to the lucky few, a loyal friend. I always hoped he’d appear in a neighborhood café where I imagined I would brazenly introduce myself. This straight grandma in her 60’s, might share nothing in common with a young, passionate gay man, other than a love of journalism and a desire for humane equality for all, but I imagined we’d be friends if we met, not just in Facebook world.

Several years ago, I would see his name pop up online, noting that we shared many acquaintances so it was natural to connect. His posts were always entertaining and informative, with a window into his life, poles apart from the everyday existence of a grandmother and wannabe writer. To say I lived vicariously through his writing might be a stretch, but I always looked forward to his next adventure or cause, as well as worrying about his health and well-being.

Photo courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

Photo courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

He would make me laugh out loud on those occasions when he used to cover a city council meeting, blogging live with his honesty and humor. Or a photo would pop up of Doris Day and Jimmy Stewart, or two Breck Girl models with the caption, “Who we really are,” or “Who we think we are,” referring to he and his husband, Anthony.  More laugh out loud moments.

When the city was hit with the horrible tragedy of the Pulse murders, his was the face and voice of horror and pain that appeared on our TV screens, along with Commissioner Patty Sheehan, helping us deal with the unthinkable. They both represented Orlando to the rest of the country, and the world, while trying to make sense of an unspeakable act.

Over the years Billy fought passionately, not only for gay rights but against gun violence. Having been intimately affected by both issues, he spoke with the experience and fervor that is needed to get results. Through his writing, both with Orlando Weekly and Watermark, he made an impact.

It was obvious Billy had a plethora of friends who loved him unconditionally with the same passion he exuded for them, and it’s comforting to know he was surrounded by those friends and his husband, Anthony, in his last hours. We were all holding our collective breath, hoping for a different outcome, but, instead, Orlando got blindsided by the news that this sweet guy with the white-rimmed sunglasses and crazy hair was gone.

There will never be another Billy Manes, but one thing is certain, his heart, wisdom and essence will never be forgotten.

Photo courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

Photo courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

Two days, seven farms…priceless lessons from A.S.A.P. in North Carolina

Two days, seven farms…priceless lessons from A.S.A.P. in North Carolina

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North Carolina’s politics might be sketchy but a growing number of farmers, concerned with the state’s environment, is making up for it. The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (A.S.A.P.) is a nonprofit that supports local farmers by providing training and marketing support, connecting farms to local chefs for authentic farm-to-table dining, as well as “creating healthy communities and thriving local food economies.”

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Each year A.S.A.P. hosts a farm tour in the Asheville area with several clusters of family-owned farms, vineyards and creameries opening their gates to the public for educational journeys through the life of local cultivators, ranchers and agriculturalists. It’s an eye-opener to see the kind of hard work that goes into running and maintaining a successful farm, whether it’s raising cattle, pigs and hens, to growing berries or harvesting sheep’s wool.

This one wanted attention by screeching at us

This one wanted attention by screeching at us

Learning to milk a goat

Learning to milk a goat at Spinning Spider Creamery

With the help of A.S.A.P., organic farming is becoming a mission for young people striving to give back to the environment by cultivating their crops in an agriculturally responsible manner, thereby guaranteeing fertile land for generations to come. We were encouraged to meet millennials starting their own farms or continuing the family tradiiton. The young couple at Big Ivy Little Farm are a testament to the concept of giving back to the environment and community. Nick and Hitomi’s belief in “Big taste from a little space,” through regenerative and permaculture models of farming, prove what can be accomplished on just 2 acres of land.

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Shitake mushrooms

Shitake mushrooms

Big Ivy Little Farm

Big Ivy Little Farm

Farm or Barn weddings are a big deal in North Carolina, providing extra income on the weekends. Several, like Franny’s Farm, offer cabins for family members, providing a total immersion into country-themed nuptials.

A lot of farms receive extra income from hosting weddings

A lot of farms receive extra income from hosting weddings, Franny’s Farm

We were impressed with Paul’s solution to the berries being raided by bears at Long Branch Environmental Education Center. No guns needed, just raise a ruckus with pots and pans to scare them off. Sustainability is their mantra and the blueberries date back decades to the mother plant by taking cuttings and creating daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter plants, providing fruit for generations to come.

Paul educating us at the Long Branch Environmental Education Center

Paul educating us at the Long Branch Environmental Education Center

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Either use the compost toilet or pee in a bush

Either use the compost toilet or pee in a bush

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Renewable energy - a no-brainer

Renewable energy – a no-brainer

We'll be back in a few weeks to pic when ripe

We’ll be back in a few weeks to pick when ripe

This year the grandkids got to sample cheeses, cuddle bunnies, milk a goat and enjoy a hayride to the top of a hill overlooking a cattle farm. Two days and seven farms later, their heads were full of useful knowledge about what it takes to get a carton of eggs, beef for burgers or lettuce and tomatoes to market for their consumption. Learning about sustainability, living off the grid and taking personal responsibility for the preservation of the environment, are good lessons to take home to Florida.

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Love interrupted…for seventy years!

Love interrupted…for seventy years!

Beth and Rowland. Photo courtesy Cynthia Ballard Borris cynthiaborris@blogspot.com

Beth and Rowland. Photo courtesy Cynthia Ballard Borris cynthiaborris@blogspot.com

Having recently traveled to Manchester, NH, to attend the annual National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) conference, I looked forward to the usual writing inspiration and comradery, but never expected to meet two nonagenarians with a love story to write home about. At the age of 90 and 91, Beth and Rowland were lucky to reconnect after a seventy-year separation and marry, with their story documented in the New York Times a few years back.

The sweet couple flew all the way east from California to attend, which is an accomplishment in itself at their age. I’ll not be complaining again about jet lag, as I do even without traveling outside our time zone! These two might have moved a bit more slowly than the rest of us, but their genuine enthusiasm for life, and each other, was contagious.

The love birds first met when they were just 12 and 13 during summer trips with their respective families to New England. Beth was smitten but Rowland wasn’t ready for a serious relationship at such a tender age, and treated her as a tomboy. When their families moved on and those summer meetups ended, Beth was devastated and never forgot her first love.

Decades later, still writing for the Marin Independent Journal, Beth wrote a reminiscent piece about her time, as a child, in New England and mentioned Rowland’s name. Lo and behold, a friend of Rowland’s saw it and passed along the pertinent info about Beth. Long, but rich, story short, the two reconnected and were married. Beth admitted, however, that when she found out he had become a Republican, she had second thoughts. She did reassure me, though, that she convinced him to vote the right (left) way and they are now on the same political page.

Beth has a bit more difficulty getting around these days but the ever-attentive Rowland makes sure she’s comfortable. At a couple of points during our conference sessions Beth would doze off and Rowland would nudge her gently. Once, when he couldn’t get her attention, his hand moved to her thigh causing her to pop up, slap his hand and giggle. She stayed awake for the rest of the session!

Rowland rockin' the pony tail at 91...such affection for each other

Rowland rockin’ the pony tail at 91…such affection for each other

To witness such affection and love at their age is a wonderful thing and gives us hope that love is, indeed, eternal.

***And I have to add a postscript…our fellow writer, Christine McDonald, of My Little Shangri-La adds this…”And I saw them boarding their rental curbside. It was a snazzy little white convertible, ragtop down. He was loading up while she sat by observing. He then went and assisted her into the car. He was grinning from ear to ear the whole time, buzzin around like first date excitement. What a beautiful story.” When I grow up I want to be just like them!

Beth with NYT Columnist Maureen Dowd at the NSNC17 conference. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Ballard Borris cynthiaborris@blogspot.com

Beth with NYT Columnist Maureen Dowd at the NSNC17 conference. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Ballard Borris cynthiaborris@blogspot.com

Orlando’s Secret Gardens

Orlando’s Secret Gardens

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Last weekend we were finally able to tour “The Private Gardens of Historic Orlando” – this time featuring the beautiful landscapes of the Lake Eola Heights neighborhoods. It was the 8th bi-annual tour, so it took us long enough to finally join the party.

Plant sale at the Handy Pantry

Plant sale at the Handy Pantry

We toured ten homes throughout Lake Eola Heights, starting at the Handy Pantry, where we picked up our map and ID bracelet. Tents were set up for a plant sale and the Pantry was open for treats. Gardens were located at homes along Amelia, Hillcrest, Concord, Summerlin and Livingston Streets…old, established neighborhoods, some still paved in brick, with trees and foliage dating back centuries.

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Gives new meaning to the term "lawn bowling"

Gives new meaning to the term “lawn bowling”

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Lots of potted plants at this one

What a great way to display a magnolia blossom!

What a great way to display a magnolia blossom!

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We’ve driven past these bungalows and craftsman homes, never giving them a second look, but they hide floral secrets in their backyards full of lush beauty. One of the homes boasts tons of cacti – lovely even when they’re not blooming…

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Peace in the middle of a cactus garden

Peace in the middle of a cactus garden

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Weird, wooly things

Weird, wooly things

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This tour is a great way to get to know the neighborhood and discover new ways to display and create works of art. The hosts were gracious and happy to answer questions.

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The architecture of nature

The architecture of nature

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One of the homes, Piney Green, was built in 1934, by designer Sam Stoltz for a mere $4,500. The cedar siding and stone chimney is called Florida Vernacular and includes some of the oldest foliage in town.

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This is what a podocarpus becomes when left to grow for decades

This is what a podocarpus becomes when left to grow for decades

Tickets were $15 in advance, benefitting the Lake Eola Heights Historic District and the Orange Preservation Trust, working to preserve those areas in Orange County and Orlando which are so rich in history. The next one will be in the Lake Lawsona/Fern Creek neighborhood. Keep an eye out for info as this tour is worth your time providing a peaceful respite from the crazy world around us.

Loved these birdhouses

Loved these birdhouses

Such serenity

Such serenity

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National Columnists’ Day April 18 – Buy a writer a drink day!

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National Columnists’ Day

In honor of the anniversary of Columnist Ernie Pyle’s death, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists created National Columnists’ Day, April 18. In case you don’t know who Ernie Pyle is, he’s become the unofficial patron saint of newspaper columnists. This brave reporter covered World War II from the front-lines, killed by a Japanese sniper on April 18, 1945.

With the onset of so many newspapers’ demise and writers being laid off, blogging has become a major influence in reporting and opinion writing. The journalistic standards Ernie Pyle followed are needed more now than ever in the face of alternative facts and outright lies being propagated by anyone who knows how to boot up a computer. Thankfully, newspapers, like the Orlando Sentinel, are still viable and a go-to source for the truth and responsible opinion pieces.

I’m inspired by people like Rick Brunson, educating prospective journalists at the University of Central Florida, and Christal Hayes, a former student of Rick’s, who, early in her newspaper career, was faced with the monumental task of covering the country’s worst massacre at the Pulse Nightclub. She can add being part of a team which was a finalist for the recent Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Reporting to her resume. (Check out Poynter’s article about how the Orlando Sentinel handled reporting the event with one third of the staff it once had.)

So, send your favorite columnist, whether in print or online, a fan email and let them know how much they are appreciated on this day of recognition. In a world of internet trolls, a few positive words will go a long way to show appreciation for truth in journalism.