Monday, March 18, 2019

Sláinte Mhaith!

My blogging may slow down a bit temporarily. Because spring! And Daylight Savings Time! Even though the trees haven't yet leafed out, spring is clearly edging in and we're going for long walks as much as possible. And yesterday we celebrated one of my favorite spring-is-nearly-here holidays, St. Patrick's Day. Yesterday, we picked up some potatoes and cabbage because I thought I'd make an Irish dish - a chicken and stout stew. Except when I actually  looked at the recipe, I saw that it didn't include potatoes OR cabbage. What sort of anti-Irish travesty is that? My husband pointed out that just because the stew had stout in it, it wasn't necessarily Irish. Oh. Well, it was if I had anything to do with it - I added both to the recipe and used a bottle of Guinness. I also made a loaf of beer bread and we had cold - you guessed it - beer. My younger son came over and had dinner with us.
Aside from walking and cooking, we also spent a lot of time working in the yard. Since my surgeries and chemo basically prevented me from doing much at all last year, the flower beds are insanely overgrown. I have started the laborious process of cutting things back and weeding. And I love it! Gardening just restores my soul. And in spite of the neglect, the daffodils are making a solid appearance. So Happy St. Patrick's Day, Happy DST, and Happy Vernal Equinox to you all!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Florida Long Weekend, Day 3 (Last Day).

Saturday, our last day, we woke up early and drove down to Islamorada to watch the sunrise on the Atlantic side.
We had a little time to wait so we walked along the shore looking at the fish.
And the yellow spotted stingrays!  Who seemed as interested in following us as we walked along as we were in them.
We walked up and down the little bit of shoreline watching the rays.
There were low lying clouds that obscured the sunrise, but no matter - it was shaping up to be another beautiful day.
We went back to Bitton's in Islamorada because as we'd left the morning before, we'd watched Michel putting out trays of freshly baked pastries and couldn't resist. I had a strawberry croissant and my husband had a blackberry, almond and cheese one, and we split a plain croissant with butter. They were all right out of the oven and amazing. This time we had café au lait, and finished breakfast with a few macarons. Yeah, okay, not health food. But perfect for vacation.
We decided to take the kayak back out after breakfast.
The water was so clear and shallow it was a little like snorkeling.
At one point, I scooped up a hermit crab with my paddle. He flipped himself upright, extended his legs, and marched right off the edge and back to his watery home.
We stayed mostly near the shore where motor boats weren't allowed, and it was peaceful.
A couple of times we ran into mangrove roots and had to maneuver backwards to get out.
Passing under a dock, roughly a bazillion seagulls started squawking in alarm.
Then back into clothes and down along the highway again back to Islamorada. We had conch and smoked wahoo chowders and a couple of cold IPAs (Sailfish Sunrise and Stone Delicious) on the screened-in porch of Herbie's Bar and Chowder House on Marathon Key..
Later in the afternoon, we went to the Florida Keys Brewing Company, where we tried two of their IPAs: Kritter (both our favorite - very hoppy) and Sun Sessional.
It was so pleasant in their beer garden that we didn't want to leave, so we ordered another (the Weedline Wheat) and stayed a while, sitting in the shade.
We had another early dinner because we wanted to be back in time for the sunset. This time it was on the big deck at the Key Largo Fisheries.
There were about a dozen or so pelicans hanging out on the pier by the boats as we ate a basket of fried grouper and a couple of Florida IPAs - the Freedive from Coppertail Brewing in Tampa and the Channel Marker IPA from the Islamorada Beer Company.
This time, we wanted to watch the sunset from the water, so we went back to our place after dinner and grabbed our favorite kayak.
Again, just a perfect day. We floated in the water, only paddling occasionally to adjust the view.
I don't ever, ever get tired of sunrises or sunsets.
When the sun finally buried itself below the horizon we headed back in to pack for the return flight the next morning and have a last glass of wine by the ocean.
And this? This is the smile of a woman who knows her odds and has decided to live NOW.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Florida Long Weekend, Day 2.

Friday morning we slept in a bit and then went to a little bistro I'd read about. The owner, Michel, specializes in crepes and a lovely French accent. We had an egg and gruyère cheese crêpe and a strawberry crêpe, and cappucinos. There's a regular group of local guys who apparently hang out there in ball caps and flannel shirts, eating crêpes and croissants, talking about hot rods, and catching up with Michel. I wouldn't have expected that, but it was great to see.
We drove on down to the lower Keys to be able to see both coasts along the A1A highway. The Keys don't have much in the way of traditional sandy beaches, but we did find a few places to get out and walk. Our farthest point was Bahia Honda State Park.
It was another glorious day - so sunny the sea looked like cut glass.
We encountered ibises everywhere, both on the beaches and in parking lots.
We walked a couple of paths in the hiked National Key Deer Refuge but never saw the diminutive, endangered Key deer except crossing the road as we drove on Big Pine Key. It was an interesting place to walk, but unshaded and pretty hot.
So back up along the coast to the Middle Keys. We stopped at Sombrero Beach on Marathon Key.
The water isn't warm enough yet for swimming (for me, anyway - I like my oceans bathwater warm),  but I did wade in.
The friends we met up with in South Beach had gone to the Postcard Inn's open air Tiki Bar known for signed dollar bills tacked up on the rafters. I was given a bill with their message ("You lose, breast cancer.") and was told we needed to go back for a drink and have their bill posted with ours. Done.
After we'd ordered rum cocktails, we told the bartender our plan and asked if curse words were acceptable. She had been a little distant prior to that question but when we asked she said, "Yes, and I agree - fuck cancer!" And took our picture with the dollars before taking them to staple up. I can't predict when it will hit me, but as I raised my glass to toast the end of active treatment, I found myself choked up. It's been quite a ride.
As we left the bar, someone was cleaning fish and throwing the leftover bits to the pelicans, who had flown in, eager for lunch.
Swimming under the pelicans, enormous fish (tarpon?) also snapped up what they could get to first.
Our airbnb provided kayaks, so we decided to try them out that afternoon. We opted for the tandem kayak so we could go together. And let's face it, I'm still rebuilding upper body strength.
We just paddled in either direction for a while, watching the fish under us and enjoying the breeze.
Friday night my husband had his heart set on lobster, so we headed to Hobo's Café, a restaurant we'd read about that had outdoor seating. We had shrimp bruschetta to start and a bottle of chardonnay.
And then lobster tails and mixed vegetables. All delicious and I realized I was missing veggies while on the trip! My tastes have really changed.
We had dinner early so we could be back in time for sunset. The airbnb owner had told us the sunsets were really beautiful on their dock and she was right.
We sat for a long time, watching the sun slowly sink over the bay.
Our waitress that night had asked what brought us to Florida so we told her it was to celebrate the end of chemo. As we left, she brought us this key lime pie in a jar and congratulated me.
After sunset, we had a glass of wine out by the water as the skies darkened.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Florida Long Weekend, Day 1.

Last Thursday we were up before dawn to catch a flight to Fort Lauderdale. It always makes me uneasy to be in that airport ever since there was a shooting in the baggage claim area an hour after we'd passed through it on our way to Cuba. But there are now cheap, direct flights to that airport and we are willing to travel with what we can carry in small backpacks.
After picking up our rental car, we headed straight to Miami. I had been corresponding with a woman on a breast cancer site who had the same chemo regimen I did, but several months ahead of me. She and her husband just happened to be vacationing in South Beach, so we couldn't pass up the chance to meet them there. After brunch and prosecco, we went for a walk to the beach. We laughed about how we could now go braless even in a tank top even though we are both in our mid-fifties.
These adorable curly tailed lizards were everywhere we went.
Then on to Key Largo, to the airbnb where we had booked three nights.
Our room was absurdly large. The cement floors felt wonderfully cool under our feet and it was pleasant under the fan at night.
The house was on a family property, and we had the master suite in the original house.
The place was a little on the whimsical side, including this wire carriage and more gazing balls than you could shake a stick at.
The property ended on the Florida Bay, in the Gulf of Mexico. We spent a fair amount of time while we were there reading and gazing at the water in those cushioned sears on the right under the tree.
That evening we went to the Lorelei, a restaurant on the bay in Islamorada.
Sadly, we did not get there by Nautilimo.
The restaurant had live music, mostly of the 70's singer-songwriter variety.
While we ate, we watched the fishing boats.
I've had fried conch and conch soups, but we decided to try the conch fritters. They were okay, but not much different than hushpuppies.
And stone crabs legs. As we were waiting to see the sunset over the water, a group of folks joined us because there weren't any tables available. They bought us a drink and we stayed and talked with them for a bit.
But it was getting late and we had been up since before daylight, so we headed back to our place.
It was still warm out and we decided to walk back down to the water.
We wrapped up that day with a glass of wine out on their dock. The day had been clear and in the low 80's, and fortunately, that weather held for us the whole time we were there.