There is always a book or a series of their youth that bibliophiles cling to fondly. Anne of Green Gables is one of them, but the other is The Babysitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin.

One Christmas, I think the year of 5th grade, 1990, I received books 1-4 and 9-12 in box sets. I was vaguely familiar with the series but quite soon they became an attachment. I devoured the series, re-reading them over and over again. My daybed was against the wall that I shared with my brothers room, but not pushed all the way down towards the east wall, creating a cozy nook. I would pile up pillows from my day bed, grab my soft Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag and make myself a reading nest.

This was the perfect place to avoid getting hit with chores, as I was tucked behind the bed.

Eventually, years later, they would become tattered on the edges. My favorite babysitters were the first five, Kristi, Claudia, Stacey, Mary Anne and Dawn. I could identify with all of them: Kristi as the tomboy, Claudia as the artist, Stacey as the blonde, Mary Anne as the book worm and Dawn as the earth loving girl.

I babysat a few times growing up, not enough to ever form a club. I don’t even know if I had enough friends who babysat. The Babysitters Club always seemed to have their own escapades, and seemed slightly older than their initial 12 and later 13 years. I felt like they were more of a mature 16, but lacking access to a car.

So, today I find out that Ann M. Martin is writing The Summer Before, a prequel of sorts with Kristi, Claudia and Mary Anne. I think I will just have to get it and make myself a cozy little nook for about the two hours it’ll take me to read it!

Florida Trail: Hickory Hammock to Hicks Slough (Avon Park Air Force Range)

This weekend, like last year, we went on a backpacking trip. This year we started off at the Hickory Hammock Florida Trail trail head on U.S. 98 between Sebring and Bassinger with the intentions of just walking north until we felt like turning around to come home.

We got a late start on Friday after sleeping in a bit and then driving the two hours north. Before we left we checked the weather and weren’t too pleased with the forecast—rain and then a cold front right behind it. It didn’t start raining until we entered Lake Placid at nearly lunch time. We took some back roads to get to the trail head and then we realized there wasn’t much in the way of food open on New Years Day out in the boondocks. Finally, after driving around for nearly an hour we drove into Sebring and found the Sebring Diner open and hoppin’! We were in luck, they had black eyed peas! We were having a minor dilemma of trying to manage to eat black eyed peas on NYD, though I know we didn’t do that last year.

With a full stomach we made it to the trail head around 1pm; the rain had mostly stopped. We ran into a small group of Florida Trail Association hikers doing a short out and back of six to eight miles and they warned us of the cold weather to come.

FT Hickory Hammock

At two miles we came across the Hickory Hammock campsite, a beautiful site underneath old live oaks. We stopped for a short snack and pee break and we were on our way. Shortly after we left we passed a hiker and his dog, said a quick hello and we mosied on down the way.

At 4 miles we came across an equestrian campground complete with decent port o potties and non-potable water (you can treat it), we then kept meandering north along the trail. About a mile north we entered the most boring part of the journey. I wouldn’t say it is entirely worthless, but it wasn’t necessarily pleasant. The Montesdeoca Ranch borders the Florida Trail and you have to walk along the fence line for about three to four miles. The area is mowed but the grass is made up of clumps of smut grass and it gets really old trying to walk over the clumps. Also, directly to the east is the Kissimmee River, which can sometimes flood the trail. Luckily, we didn’t have any flooding problems!

Kissimmee River Wetlands;

The good part about this section was the amount of wading birds we saw. Sandhill cranes can be heard a good distance away and we caught a few mating dances from afar. A bald eagle flew over us as did a a couple of caracara.

About three quarters of the way up the fence line we were noticing dark clouds in the distance, getting worried that we’d have to put our rain jackets on. Sure enough we saw the rain in the distance, grabbed our jackets just in time to have the rain come down followed by a gust of wind that knocked the temperature down about 15 degrees. Brrrr! We were afraid the front was going to take its time to blow through, but we didn’t have to wait too long for the wind to die down a bit.

Mosquito Hammock
It was nearing sunset when we made it to Mosquito Hammock, but the sky had cleared up and we had a beautiful sunset, albeit cold! We kept toasty at night we our new 15* bags—so warm I didn’t want to get out in the morning!

Avon Park Air Force Range FT
We kept heading north towards the Avon Park Air Force Range, which can be closed to hikers if they are doing maneuvers. About two miles north of Mosquito Hammock is where you run into the range, you have to climb over a stile to get across the fence and there is a board up showing a map, paperwork to fill out and a sign saying the dates of closures and openings. It was open so we kept going north!

Avon Park Air Force Range FT
The oaks in this area were gorgeous! Ancient oaks covered in Spanish moss make for some dramatic shots! Too bad we didn’t have our good cameras.

Avon Park Air Force Range FT
We stopped at Hicks Slough campground about three miles or so into the park and took a long lunch, sunning ourselves with a nice cat nap.

Avon Park Air Force Range FT
Another stile we had to cross in the range.

Avon Park Air Force Range FT
We stopped at an old orange grove on the way back to look at some rotting oak logs and to snack on some oranges…

Avon Park Air Force Range FT
I’m employing the Eliana method for eating oranges—very good, you should try it!

Avon Park Air Force Range FT

Avon Park Air Force Range FT
I forgot to mention that we saw a barred owl on our way up to Avon Park. We heard many others in the early morning and late evening, too.

FT Hickory Hammock

FT Hickory Hammock

Hickory the Dog
We were almost back to Mosquito Hammock for the evening when I spotted a dog. Up in a tree was its owner, Russell. Chris was a few yards ahead of me when I heard Russell ask Chris if he knew a geocacher friend of ours. Once I got up to the tree I recognized the guy as the one we’d seen the day before but also as someone we’d briefly met at Cacheapalooza a few weeks ago. We both had the mutual friend of another guy named Chris, who hiked with us for a day on our Ocean to Lake segment of the Florida Trail over Thanksgiving. Russell was also staying at Mosquito Hammock as was his dog Hickory. Hickory is a trail do for sure—bounding with energy! Poor pup had a ton of Caesar weed in his fur…I bet that will be a pain to get out!

We woke up this morning to temps of 35* and got on the trail to head back to the car. Russell hiked with us until Bluff Hammock parking lot which is 1.6 miles from Mosquito Hammock and we kept going the rest of the way back to our car.

I would recommend this hike for anyone who is interested in old Florida. It is peaceful, beautiful and a part of Florida you just don’t see that often.

And now I’m enjoying some good old fashioned comfort food—Rotel. mmmmmmm! Faux cheesey goodness!

This week: Cayo Costa State Park, Sanibel Sunsets, New Years Eve Sunset and failed moon rise (@%^$ clouds!), and whatever else you feel like hearing from me!

Oh yeah, my friend Meghan is working on a blog/website…check it out here!

And a second oh yeah….my dad asked me today if I took my computer camping so I could post. Nope…it’s a wonderful little object in WordPress that allows you to schedule posts! I can now take one day and write several posts up for the next few days—isn’t that awesome??? I’m all for more free time.

And for the third OH YEAH—-we saw a bobcat this morning!! A very big score!

2010 One-Little-Word and Intentions

For the past two years I’ve participated in Ali Edwards’ One Little Word theme at the beginning of each year. My first word was in 2008 and was explore which I did by going to Bolivia and doing some creative explorations. My word last year was calm, which I’m not sure I really kept to or not. Frankly, I forgot what the word was until I just looked it up in my archives. I think I’ve learned to be a bit more calm in the last half of the year, not flying off the handle as much. Chris could tell you yay or nay to that one.

I was debating whether to do a word for 2010 or not, but I think I shall. It will be adventure.

Because, my friends, I have a lot of adventures planned for this year; and you will just have to wait and read here throughout the year to find out more!

As for resolutions, I’m not great at them. I had a lot more success doing my 28 at 28 list and managed to knock off most of them. I think the biggest part of a resolution is actually intending to do it, to not be wistful and dreamy about it. It also helps to either be capable of doing them or have the means to do it.

2010 Intentions

  • I will run again. And more frequently. I have been thinking about it more lately, how I enjoyed running several years ago. I developed a mental block around it and well, my body feels and shows it. Right now I’ll start with the running and work my way up to actual events.
  • I will be more open to branching out and seeing things instead of hibernating indoors on the weekend.
  • I will do what makes me happy.
  • I will be more focused on my art work. Talking about it gets nowhere, doing it does.
  • I will take eating as a vegetarian more seriously and try it for longer periods of time.
  • I will be more conscious of my attitude and try not to let it bring me down or those around me.
  • I will talk to my friends more. I am a pathetic friend; I don’t call. I don’t write. I’m not on Facebook so that doesn’t help. Sorry, still not going back to F’book.
  • I will magically pull more patience from the air. And time. 😉

So, in 2011, we’ll see where my intentions and adventure take me.

2000-2009 In Review

Looking back, I can’t believe we’ve breezed through another decade. It seems the older you get the faster time goes by. I know this is because we grow up, get jobs and become entrenched in our daily lives that we forget the small things. Time keeps ticking and the seasons keep changing. And here we are another 10 years gone by.

I see a lot of people doing yearly reviews, but I thought I would do a decade review.

-I did my sea turtle internship which made me fall in love with sea turtles. This was between my sophomore and junior years of college.
-Went camping and tubing down the Guadalupe River with my friends and Chris.
-Moved out of the dorms and into an apartment with my friend Connie.

-We got engaged!
-Went to D.C. with Chris’ mom and step-dad, in May.
-Bought my wedding dress.
-Got a job at Moody Gardens—one I’d wanted for a long time!
-Turned 21. Subsequently got drunk for the first time. Ick. If you don’t drink, don’t let people who do tell you to mix your drinks (ie: hard liquors with wine etc…).
-Drove to Indiana for Connie’s wedding with three friends. Whirlwind weekend that was a total blast!
-Chris graduated college in May, we moved him to Florida at the end of December for grad school.
-I slept in the Atlanta airport on my way back from Florida because of a snowstorm in Atlanta. I was not pleased.
-Got my wisdom teeth out.

-Our friend Wes developed a brain tumor. Chris came home to visit with him for a weekend.
-I graduated college!
-Learned to scuba dive.
-Moved my stuff to Florida shortly after with my dad. We came back to Texas after.
-Chris and I went on a pre-wedding campout to Possum Kingdom State Park.
-We got married in June.
-I got my first real job in late July working for a major orange juice company in a lab. Loved that job! Loved the people! I was really lucky.
-Lost all of my college weight.
-Adopted Samson late in the year after we got back from Christmas vacation.

-We lost Wes early in the year to his tumor. Very sucky.
-I think my brother came to visit me.
-Volunteered with the Sea Turtle Preservation Society in the summer doing sea turtle nesting tours on the beach. Awesome!
-We discovered geocaching thanks to Chris’ dad. It became a serious addiction.
-Chris graduated from grad school.
-I lost more weight.
-Learned to crochet

-Visited my friend Stephanie in Jax.
-Went on a job search that took me to Miami. Got my second ‘real’ job doing what I do now.
-Chris got a job.
-Chris’ car was broken into in the Keys. His wallet and phone were stolen. My dad and I rescued him and his friend. Found the girl, got our money back.
-Leo showed up on our porch.
-Our apartment was broken into and my purse and keys stolen. (both incidences were within a few weeks of each other, so needless to say I wasn’t fond of Miami at that time).
-My friend Erika got married.
-My friend Michelle got married. (again). But to a much more awesome guy. 😉
-I ran my first 5K.
-We got teased by a round of hurricanes that went to the north of us. It was a premonition of what was to come.
-First trip to Colorado.

-Uber hurricane season. Katrina. Wilma. We had both. Wilma left us without power for six days. Katrina was mild when she came through here.
-Went to Colorado again! WOO!
-Started getting into gardening more.

-My brother married my sister in law.
-Started getting into art again; began by taking a drawing class
-Ran another 5K

-Met Marc and Eliana.
-We did our first backpacking trip, 30 miles through Big Cypress National Preserve on the Florida Trail.
-Chris found Little Slough…lots of ghost orchids!
-I went to Montana for the first time.
-Started gaining weight again. grr.

-Went to Bolivia.
-Fell in love with a dog named Baloo.
-10 year high school reunion.
-Zoe was born!!! (my niece)
-Saw my first panther

-Hiked the Ocean to Lake segment of the Florida Trail
-Went to Montana again
-Began taking photography more seriously
-Saw my first Florida bear

I know there is more, I could pilfer through my archives for a lot of it.

Au revoir decade of my 20’s. 30’s—-bring it on!

Heaven is a Place on Earth

Ok, so the title is slightly kitchy, but it came to me as Belinda Carlisle was singing to me on the way home from work today. Sanibel is heaven on Earth. It is one of the places that furthered my interest in marine biology growing up. We went to Sanibel and Fort Myers beach for vacation a few years when I was growing up and we loved it. I always thought when I moved to Florida that I would be living over there, but we never have. I hardly ever get to go, maybe once a year; it’s a good two hour drive from the house and we are often doing other things.

But, Sanibel is what beaches should be like—full of sea detritus waiting to be explored and poked through. I know I am one of the few, and I do know of others, but I love the smell of things rotting on the beach. Sargassum washed up—-yep, love it. Poking through dead sea urchins…oh yeah! I know, I’m weird, but it is such a good smell. It’s the ocean. The ocean doesn’t smell all floral and pretty, it’s raw and untamed.

sea star
Sea star—not star fish.

A live shell—gastropods (snails) build their own shells. When they die, hermit crabs use their shells for a home.

mystery blob
Not the first time I’ve seen something similar to this washed up on the beach. We saw a few pieces of it…I’m wondering if it is blubber of some sort?

moon snail
A moon snail—not sure on the species. I need to brush up on my shells

Really, I’m pitiful with the identification

A bone we found near the unidentifiable blob…actually several bones. My thought was that they were flipper bones from a whale or dolphin.

sea urchin

macro algae
Macro algae

sanibel lighthouse


sea squirt
I’m thinking this is a sea squirt of some sort or maybe a really odd looking sea cucumber.

The ocean has some beautiful treasures.

Morning at Corkscrew

When we left Marc and Eliana’s house on Friday night we decided we’d meet them at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary at 7am on Saturday morning. From our house it is about an hour and a half drive and from theirs, add at least another forty-five minutes.

We weren’t exactly bright eyed and bushy-tailed when we got there. It was early.

Chris and I arrived first and hit the boardwalk after I downed the majority of my coffee since disposable materials aren’t allowed on the boardwalk. He set out for the cypress dome and I wanted to see what I could come up with in the fog that had rolled in across the open prairie. I wasn’t too successful with the fog but I did get some shots that I enjoyed.

corkscrew 10-2

corkscrew 7-2

corkscrew 9-2

corkscrew 8-2
Marc and Eliana are birders, something which Chris and I aren’t very good at. Well, we aren’t good at the little birds like finches, warblers and the like. They are pretty good at noticing the calls and it helps that their iphone has a spiffy app for bird calls so they can double check to see what bird it is. I think we racked up a bit of knowledge that day!

corkscrew 6-2
We saw a minute amount of wildlife, mostly at the first half of the trail. Eliana and I spotted two Big Cypress fox squirrels in some cypress trees, chewing on the cypress balls. I haven’t seen very many of these squirrels—they’ve been replaced by the more common grey squirrel. They were fun to watch for awhile and I know Chris got a few good photos. As we were going up to tell Marc and Chris about the squirrels they told us about a very docile red shouldered hawk that was being kind enough to sit still for photos. We switched places and started taking photos of the hawk.

corkscrew 5-2
This is the area where the super ghost orchid is located. Since it is out of the blooming season we had a bit of a time trying to point out just where it was off in the distance.

corkscrew 4-2

corkscrew 3-2

corkscrew 11-3

I think this is where Marc was looking for the yellow crowned night heron. A volunteer had set up a scope at the pond to let visitors check out the birds. This time of year is peak birding season here in Florida, when all of the migratory birds head south to stay cozy for the winter.

corkscrew 2-2
Reflection in the duckweed…

Stay tuned for the rest of the trip….

Does anyone have any good podcast recommendations? I’m looking for some podcasts that are free but of a high caliber. It can be gardening, outdoors, crafts, photography, well, just about anything that you can tell that is of interest to me. Send it my way!


Christmas day started off a little bit on the wrong foot. A door was left open or didn’t get closed entirely when Chris left to do an early morning photographic expedition down at Everglades National Park, and three of the cats at Marc and Eliana’s escaped. We only knew about it when one of the cats, Desi, ended up in a fight with a neighborhood stray. I thought he was fighting with another cat in the living room until Eliana knocked on the bedroom door and got me out of bed to look for the third cat, Timber, that they couldn’t find.

It was a long day of walking the neighborhood, putting up some fliers, talking to neighbors and calling the cat. We took a long break after lunch, knowing the cat would lay low in the middle of the day. Around 4:30 Eliana and I were several blocks over when Chris comes zooming up in the car and letting us know that they found the cat in the front yard of the house directly behind them—probably where she’d been all day. *phew*. A huge weight was lifted. I had a feeling she hadn’t gone far, but still, knowing she was out there made for a long day.

Christmas Eve was nice, a quiet evening of pizza, drinking wine and sangria, playing Cranium and listening to Eliana repeatedly sing George Michael’s Last Christmas. Seriously, that song and not something like Carol of the Bells or Oh Holy Night or even Rudolph. Needless to say it ended up in our heads!

Not long after I’d been there Eliana ushered me into their computer room to give me a present. I didn’t have any idea what it was since she said it was for both of us until she started getting all giddy and I saw the size of the box—then I guessed. Glo Bars!. From Oh She Glows.


We tried the Chocolate PeppyMint and they were good! mmmmm!

Then somehow Eliana conned Chris into running out to find a Chia Pet. You see chia seeds are all the rage in the health food world right now and I’d never put two and two together to realize that they are the same plant…duh! Apparently Eliana had been wanting one and had been looking but never found it. So, at 6pm on Christmas Eve we went to Walgreens for a Chia Pet.

We brought her back a dinosaur chia! Oh, and we stopped at a gas station to fill up and Chris came back out and said that
George Michael had been playing over the intercom!

Our Christmas meal was quite non-traditional, a butternut squash pesto pizza. One vegan (vegan cheese—which actually wasn’t bad) and a regular one. Honestly, one of the best pizza’s I’ve had! Really good recipe to try.


After dinner and some relaxing we ended up playing with light painting and photography again and then some crazy jumping in the front yard, but all of those photos are on Chris’ camera and he doesn’t feel like processing them right now. I think there are some very cool shots in there!

Stay warm my cold, snowy friends!

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