Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Good Times in Stuart with Friends

On Friday, January 31st we returned home to Stuart. On Sunday our friend Georgie flew in from WashPA for a week of sunshine and warm weather. We had a few things we wanted to share with her in our part of Florida, the Treasure Coast. 
Georgie and Nanc at Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Ft. Pierce. We had been there for the evening Christmas display with Richard and Valerie in 2018 and wanted to return to see the bonsai gallery during the day. Notice Nanc is wearing glasses as she is getting ready for cataract surgery on the 20th. 
The James J. Smith Bonsai Gallery at Heathcote was a gift from Jim in 2009. It is the largest collection of bonsai in the country. The day we were there the volunteer caretakers were working on the trees and they were very happy to stop and answer any questions and explain the whole process.
The bonsai come in many different shapes and sizes. This one, a dwarf jade, is called the logo tree as it is the symbol of the garden. 
A flowering bougainvillea is a great example of a cascading tree. Each plant has a watering system. On the right is a smaller tree with a big trunk. The features of each tree are made by wrapping the branches with wire to guide how it grows. 
This is a forest tree with multiple trunks from one plant making it look like a small forest. You can see the small cabin in the woods.
Another forest tree, but this one is in a shallow bowl tree. There is very little soil to hold the tree in place.
All the plants are displayed on pedestals for easy viewing. They are left outdoors year round and the only precaution they take is to put them on the ground if a hurricane is heading their way.
This tree had broken out of its pot,  which rarely happens. Usually every five years the tree is removed from the pot and most of the roots are cut off and then it goes back into the same pot.
The slanted trunk is another common way they are developed. This one also had a very unique pot. Another unique feature of this gallery is that many of the plants are native to the area. This is a wonderful collection of beautiful bonsai and well worth a visit to Ft. Pierce.
For me the bonsai gallery was the main reason to visit the botanical garden but the grounds do have a great collection of regular sized native plants. Several were blooming as it is already spring here on the Treasure Coast.
A bit of whimsical garden art made out of old rakes, hoes and shovels.
This is a different looking sable palm with its triple crown. Heathcote is well worth a visit and the drive north along the Indian River is beautiful.
Another day we went to the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge on the north end of Jupiter Island. Georgie and Nanc walking on the beach looking for shells. I did find a couple more small sharks teeth.
One reason I did not venture in to the water. I sure would not want to get stung by one of these. It is also shark season in Florida with many right near the shore. I read that a local fisherman caught 12 in one day surf fishing and a 20 foot Great White was seen by divers just off shore in Palm Beach. 
While walking on the beach we witnessed one of the most phenomenal things we have ever seen, a fish feeding frenzy right on the shore. There were thousands of croakers being chased and eaten by hundreds of blue fish with a couple sharks in very shallow water just beyond the first breaker.
Surprisingly, there were very few birds picking at the remains even though there were many croakers with one bite taken out of them in the water.
We watched for a half hour and the frenzy was still going on when we got tired and left. A local guy who was standing with us said he had never seen anything like it and asked me to send him a picture. He later contacted me for more pictures to give to the local bait shop.
Here are a few more pictures and a link to a short You Tube video 
Look closely and you can see a blue fish on the left side of this picture. In all the years of being on the beach we have never seen anything like this. 
Another day we drove to Hutchinson Island to check out the beach there. It was a bit windy so there were very few people on the beach, but the water was beautiful.
Look who showed up in Stuart, John and Patrice. They were escaping the cold up north with a visit to South Florida and came by to see our new place. We all went to Shucker's for lunch overlooking the Atlantic. It was a fun afternoon showing them around our new hometown and getting caught up with what we have all been doing.
On Saturday, Georgie, Nanc and I went to ArtsFest in Memorial Park near downtown Stuart. It was a very good show with nearly 100 artisans selling many different kinds of work. See, you can have a rainbow without any rain.(-:
A local group had several raptures on display. I felt like this owl was staring right through me.
On Georgie's last evening she picked the Fresh Catch for dinner. We had a great meal and the music with Dave Goodman was wonderful. It sure was a fun week showing our friends around the area. It seems like people up north like coming south in the winter and we are already looking forward to more visitors.
On our way back home after dropping Georgie at the airport we got stopped on the draw bridge in Jupiter. At least we had a great view of the Jupiter Lighthouse.
Sunday evening was a full moon party at the Pelican Cafe downtown on the St. Lucie River. We met George and Nan for dinner to watch the moon rise and listen to some music. Hate to complain but it was way to windy and chilly to sit outdoors, but it was great seeing them for the first time in 2020.  

Since that week we did an overnight road trip and have more visitors to write about in the next post. We are getting more comfortable and loving our new home.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Florida Keys

Our month long stay at the Florida Keys Elks in Tavernier was a roller coaster of ups and downs with many fun things happening and some low points with friends becoming ill and the passing of Nanc's sister Michelle. It was great that we had so may friends there to support us during the down times. As usual the hardest decision we had to make all month was which restaurant we were going to for dinner.
We love to watch the sunsets here as they are so different every day depending on the wind and clouds. Here is the RV park from the pier during sunset.
Unless it is really windy Dennis and Sue go out in their kayaks to see the sunset from different spots.
As I posted on Facebook, we had a couple of days where it was so chilly that the iguanas were falling out of the trees. We saw quite a few that did not survive the cold. These two did and recovered by soaking up the warm sun on the rock.
A sure sign of chilly weather here in the Keys is a manatee wearing a babushka. Even with the cold this local motel had the no vacancy sign out.
Joe and Kathy were here until the middle of January. On their last day we went to Pierre's, a fancier place where we had a wonderful dinner. After a great meal we checked out the Third Thursday Art Walk in Islamorada.
Another great sunset.
The flag is a new addition to the sunsets at the Elks.
Every Wednesday is the Queen of Hearts drawing at the lodge. Someone new is running the drawing this year and by giving away a few additional prizes more people come so the pot gets much bigger. While we were there it had grown to over $16,000. Not a bad amount for a one dollar ticket. Here are Nanc and Linda hoping to win one of the extra prizes. 
Another favorite restaurant is Snappers. It is right on the Atlantic Ocean so it has taken them a while to recover for the storm two years ago. They are finally up and running and have added a big chair, something Nanc can never pass up.
The RVers often gather at the lodge's Tiki hut to have food, drinks and fun while watching the sunset. Here are Jeannie, Nanc, Linda, Sharon and Goerge waiting for the sun to go down.
John and John chatting in the foreground and Gary and Brian in the background.
We were rewarded with the spectacular rays of the setting sun. 
It was an interesting reflection on Nanc.
Laurie and Ray with a couple of their friends who were down south to escape the Wisconsin winter.
Judy, Sue, Pat, Sharon and George with Gary and Betty in the back all watching the beautiful sunset.
Sunday is bingo day at the lodge. Here are Phyllis, Betty, Nanc, Patty, Linda and Sharon with dabbers in hand all ready to play. Betty and Sharon were the only RVers to win, sharing one winning pot. 
Another wonderful sunset with a new waxing moon in the sky.
Love the picture of the sunset and Tiki hut.
We have been to the Keys several times and always like to add at least one new event or site to our list. This year it was a group of traveling Tibetan monks who did a program for Keys to Peace at the Islander Resort in Islamorada.
The monks were part of a group that escaped torture and suppression in Tibet by the Chinese army. With their families they fled on foot over the Himalayas to India and now live in Kentucky. The destruction of Tibetan culture that began 70 years ago continues today with only about one percent of the monasteries surviving.
To celebrate their message of peace the monks made a World Peace Mandala. Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning world in harmony. It is made by placing one grain of sand at a time while contemplating world peace, compassion, wisdom, wellness and long life. In the middle the dove symbolizes world peace surrounded by the symbols of 12 world religions. Each religion is given equal space showing that all are beautiful and equal, with none being more right than others. Wow, that sure is a fantastic concept in these decisive times. After it is completed they hold an elaborate closing ceremony where all the sand is swept into the middle. Sand is given to those who attend (we left too soon) and the rest is poured into a body of water so the blessings and healing flow to all. It was a very interesting and informative day.  
One evening we saw a couple dolphins swimming into a cove were the manatees like to stay. A short time later this manatee came out of the cove and hung around the Elks pier. As you can see by the marks on its back this poor fellow has been hit by a motorboat. Last year 129 were killed by boat strikes in Florida.
Why we love spending January in the Keys. This is our view.
Sam the resident heron at the Elks takes off to get a better look at the sunset.
Our last day in the Keys we drove to Marathon for lunch. George and Linda drove us down and we met up with Randy who we got to know at Betty's RV Park last spring. She is staying at her sister's place on Sugarloaf Key closer to Key West.
We had a wonderful lunch and the Florida Keys Steak and Fish House where happy hour prices are available from 11 AM to 6 PM everyday. Great food and great friends make for a fun time.
Our last sunset for January 2020 was fantastic with the wispy clouds.  
Just so you know, staying at the Elks is not all great food, friends and sunsets. The one down side is we only have water and electric hook-ups so we need to have our waste tanks pumped out when we are here. A small price to pay for a great place to stay right on the water.

We are now back home in Stuart until after Memorial Day. Our first winter guest, Georgie, has arrived and we are looking forward to having more friends and family join us this year. 

At this point I'm not sure what is going to happen with the blog. I don't plan to write about the routine things we do all the time when we are in Stuart, so I will not be posting as often as I did in the past. If you are in the area give us a shout so I will have something new to write about.