Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fins and Feathers

Starfish Market, Cortez, FL
It was a raining and mild today, 2nd day in a row I did not walk.  Wayne the ever vigilant went to the Community Center, and I painted.  It was so dark with rolling gray clouds that I didn't see well enough to paint for long.  Around 5pm we went to Cortez to buy fish and clams for tonight's dinner. This is the coolest little town.  It is completely unaffected by the influx of affluent tourists and retirees.  The Starfish Market has very fresh catch, neat art and t-shirts.  One can also dine out back on the deck adjacent to fishing boats and a variety of large birds.   
It is the last day of the month and the Saturday that new renters arrive.  They were everywhere evident by the erratic driving, hordes of children with elderly (grandparents, I assume).  We stopped in Publix for basics and bird food (chicken).  The hordes were stocking up on all that nutritious vacation food: candy, candy, candy, chips, chips, chips, soda, soda, soda.  They were all walking around with their heads in the clouds and sauntering like life was grand, which it is.  
Pelican at Cortez Starfish Market

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Eat Here

5 Lakeview Place, Anna Maria, FL
Following a normal day of painting, computering, and exercising we went to Eat Here, the affordable version of The Beach Bistro.  Both are owned by the same proprietors and both have excellent fare.  The Beach Bistro is situated on the beach with beautiful views and lavish interior accommodations.  Eat Here is in a plaza next to a dentist's office.  It does offer a pleasant interior with great paintings and a long, raised community table.  Last year we ate several times at Eat Here and were able to make reservations.  Reservations are no longer taken.  I think it is part of the "We are great and you have to wait like everyone else to have our fabulous atmosphere and food" approach to alternative advertising. Against the advice of Martha and Oleg we went at 6pm, the height of elderly dining, and were informed it was an hour wait. During that hour we made great friends with a couple from New Hampshire who have been coming here for 15 years.  His brother was with them and knows people in Marion at Burr Brothers Boats.  There were also 2 women from Tennessee who have lived in Little Rock and Pine Bluff.  All of us were lamenting the very bad winter in New England and worry about our roofs.  It was a most interesting and uplifting hour.  Oh, and yes the food was worth the wait.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fog, Sun, Fog Again

Gulf of Mexico
The fog was thick today.  Despite this, the beach was filled with people as it was quite warm.  
Since my main objective with writing this blog is to act as an accounting for Wayne and me to remember places and events, I'm going to concentrate on our evening.  We went to Martha's and Oleg's in Bradenton Beach for sunset hors d'oeuvre, dinner at the Blue Marlin and a screening of my Costa Rica video.  The fog actually lifted around 6pm and we were hopeful for a beautiful sunset lighting some spectacular clouds.  Unfortunately, the horizon was shielded by a large, long blue cloud that we thought was sky.  We walked to Bridge St where the Blue Marlin is located.  By the name you could guess they specialize in fresh fish.  Our waitress was from Western MA and chatted with us about all things Berkshire.  We all liked our dishes.  I had black grouper Provencal and Wayne had clams and fish bouillabaisse.  All 4 of us shared 2 deserts:  key lime creme brûlée  and chocolate pate.  I would give it a 3 out of 4.  Service and atmosphere was a 4.  My dish was more like a 3.  The sides were black-eyed peas over rice that tasted like the peas were reconstituted and haricot verde that were over cooked a bit.  Also, I had asked for red snapper and got black grouper.
Back at the condo I presented my video to accolades.  It is too large to upload here.  So I will offer my beach walk video instead.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lunch with Friends

Harry, the Great Blue Heron
Janet and Jeff Hathaway come up from Fort Myers today.  We spent some time on the deck talking about life in Florida and gated community living.  Harry offered some entertainment.  We ate out on the Anna Maria City Pier, our first time there this year.  As I remembered, it's not the best dining in town.  My shrimp and rice dish had so much sweetener in it to be on the level of a dessert.  But the pier is nice to be on.  People were catching fish, a musician was playing the guitar and singing, the pelicans were preening.  After lunch we walked up and down Pine Street.  The weather was warm and delightful.  
This evening we watched the Oscars for about 5 hours.  We had seen Birdman, The Budapest Hotel and Boyhood.  Having not seen the other nominees for best picture, we were happy with the choice of Birdman. Now we have a host of unseen movies to fill our nights.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Let The Sun Shine, Let The Sun Shine

Sunset Lakeview Place
Today was the reason we love this place, perfect weather with temps in the 70's. After we lolled around the house until noon, we both exercised.  I walked the beach which was packed with February vacationers.  The town has really picked up in the last week with visitors.  We walked to the Sandbar for lunch.  There was a 30 minute wait in which we had a beer while sitting out on the beach benches.    A game of pool (Wayne is killing me nightly) finished off the afternoon.  We are watching the Oscar nominees nightly in anticipation of Sunday's award ceremony.  Tonight's performance is Whiplash.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Wherein We Toast the Sunset with Friends

Gulf of Mexico, Bradenton Beach, FL
Today was unusually cold. only reaching the 50's.  Last evening there was a frost warning.  We persevered through the cold and after a typical Anna Maria day of Community Center workouts, feeding the birds, and painting, we went to Martha's and Oleg's in Bradenton Beach to have hors d'oeuvre and toast the sunset.  Their second floor condo faces the gulf and is so close that at times it appears one is on a ship.  It was a short walk to French Table where we had dinner.  Three of us had the moules et frites, and Oleg had roasted chicken.  No one found their dishes to be extraordinary as we always expect French cuisine to be; Martha said their previous dining experience was better.  The owners are from Provence having been here only since October.  Their kids roam around helping and being cute French children.  Back at O&M's we had dessert and solved a lot of the world's problems.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Wherein Figaro Gets Married

Female Cardinals, Oil on Board, 8"x8"
I have been able to paint on this trip.  Rather than trying to adapt my abilities to watercolor, I simply packed my oils and prepared boards.  I have 8 boards and am currently working on 5 of them.  I'm set up next to the large sliding doors.  The light is good, but I miss the accommodations of my studio.  
Tonight we went to the Sarasota Opera with Oleg and Martha.  We picked them up at 5pm during a deluge and drove over an hour due to heavy traffic.  Reservations at Selva Grill in Sarasota were for 6:15; we arrived on the dot. The Selva Grill is a Peruvian restaurant.  They served the most delicious sauces with small plates and ceviches.  Unfortunately, our waitress was less than attentive, and we arrived late for the opera. The overture to Mozart's Marriage of Figaro was playing, thus we were seated in the back row waiting for Act III to take our seats. The performance was so delightful, playful in the way Mozart can be.  The sets, 4 of them, were magnificent. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

St Petersburg and the Dali Museum

Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL
We took off around noon for St Petersburg and the Dali Museum.  It was a bright and warm day.  To get to St Pete from Anna Maria, one drives over the skyline bridge.  This is one of the most beautiful bridges I've been on.  Also, it is an engineering marvel.  From the top one can see St. Pete, Tampa and also Anna Maria Island.  The beginning sections of the old bridge have been left for fishing.  
Skyline Bridge viewed from our car.
The Dali Museum is located on Old Tampa Bay and adjacent to the Mahaffay Theater on beautiful grounds.  The garden is designed in a Surrealistic manner with melting benches, a giant mustache and little surprising sculptures.  As soon as we arrived we realized it would be crowded; there was no parking remaining in the Museum garage.  We found parking near enough, though, and walked to the Museum to be greeted by a line that stretched around the side.  Wayne reminded me of my NMWA pass with reciprocity.  Sure enough the Dali was on the list and we were able to skip the line, the outside line.  Inside proved to have its own line that took about 20 minutes.  The place was packed everywhere:  shop, cafe, bathrooms and most of all the Picasso/Dali exhibit.  It was so difficult we decided to come back another day.  We stopped at the cafe for a delicious Cuba sandwich in the delightful garden.  By then it was 4:30 and the place seemed to have emptied.  So we went back to the exhibit and were able to enjoy it.  
The Picasso works were few and not all that intriguing.  One nice work was the Portrait of Olga, Picasso's first wife.  I was unfamiliar with the work. It's always nice to be surprised by something unknown.  Dali was a Fascist, which makes for a nasty taste when viewing his work.  But as George Orwell said, "One ought to be able to hold in one's head simultaneously the two facts that Dali is a good draftsman and a disgusting human being.  The one does not invalidate or, in a sense, affect the other."
Olga by Pablo Picasso
Tropicana Field
Wayne outside the Dali Museum
The Dali Museum and Garden

St. Petersburg from the Dali Museum

Friday, February 13, 2015

Birds, Art and Piers

Great White Egret, Lakeview Place, Anna Maria, Florida
Generally our days begin with the illegal activity of feeding the birds.  That task takes on a whole new meaning in here.  We don't need to fill a feeder with seed.  No, indeed, we only need to have some sardines on hand.  Wayne has been buying frozen sardine bait (he doesn't have the heart to feed them living beings) and offering one fish per day.  Our visitors include Harry, the juvenile great blue heron, Leroy, the alpha male great blue, Harriet, the great egret, and a small to be named snowy egret.  It's sometimes a battle when they appear all at once.  

Tonight we were to meet Martha and Oleg at our place to have a beer at The Sandbar and watch the sunset prior to attending the art opening at The Gallery on Pine.  We decided it was too cold for the sunset and headed straight for the gallery.  The show was a grouping of Cuban artists' works, all of which had a surrealistic overtone.  Oleg bought a collagraph by??  The works were very interesting and very narrative.  
We had dinner at the Rod and Reel Pier Restaurant.  The waitress was a hoot, a take off on Seinfeld's soup nazi, the small space crowded with tables.  But the food was fantastic, the wine delicious.  We came back to the house for key lime pie.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Exhaust and Exhaustion

Hernando de Soto National Memorial
When we left for Florida our car's check engine light was on.  This has happened before with the manual indicating we left the gas level fall too low.  We expected the light to go off after a week as it did before.  This did not happen.  Thus, we made an appointment in Sarasota with the Infiniti dealer.  At this point I need to explain that although Sarasota is a mear 26 miles from Anna Maria, the drive is over an hour.  So, we got a loaner and came home.  Infiniti called around 4pm. We barely made it before the 5pm closing only to have the engine light come back on as we left the lot.  Back in the loaner we spent about 5 hours today traveling and still don't have a car.   What we did do though was stop at the Hernando de Soto National Memorial Park.  It's a pretty little park on the Tampa Bay.  There are at least 3 guides continuously offering insight.  We only got a feel for the place and will return for a more through visit.  
P.S. I know that Hernando was a son-of-a-bitch.  Why there are so many local venues named for him is a mystery.  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

You've Got Friends in Fort Myers

Jeff, Janet, Christy and Wayne in Fort Myers, FL
We spent the better part of today with our friends Janet and Jeff Hathaway.  They moved to Fort Myers last July from Onset.  A big life change for them that they are delighted with.  Their home is in a large gated community with a town center that includes a theater, outdoor performance area, gymnasium and soon to arrive grocery store.  Wayne is now thinking of the gated community life for our future.  
Janet served us lunch on the lanai next to the pool.  After lunch we went downtown to the Arts Festival.  We remembered attending last year, too.  It is very large and stretches all along the marina and into the side streets.  We had an early dinner at Pinchers.  The drive is over 2 hours to Fort Myers and is always a few degrees warmer than the Sarasota area.  But, I like the Sarasota area better.  The Sarasota historic district is more charming, offers more diversity in restaurants and shops, has a beautiful library and the opera house.  Fort Myers seems to have a zillion law offices in the historic district and only a few restaurants.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bradenton Art Walk

Pigs Do Fly! Christy at the Bradenton Art Walk
Bradenton is 8 miles east of Anna Maria, just over the bridge.  It is a vibrant community with a Riverwalk, the Pittsburgh Pirates winter home and the Village of the Arts.  Oleg, Martha, Wayne and I went to the First Friday Artwalk today in the Village.  The walkable neighborhood is comprised of art galleries, studios, restaurants and speciality shops housed in colorfully restored 1920's bungalows.  I felt like I was transported to 1967 Haight Asbury.  Touted as Florida's largest artist community I question the validity.  Most of the art was pathetic and appeared to be made by quacks that took up art while in detention somewhere.  There was the occasional professional gallery.   We ate at Ortygia Restaurant, Sicilian style cooking.  It was so noisy that we were literally screaming to be heard over our very loud waitress and an adjacent table full of chatty women.  The food was okay but I would never return.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Back in the AM, Back in the AM, Back in the AMI Life

Sunset, Gulf of Mexico
We are back in the land of glorious sunsets.  Upon our return from Costa Rica, we spent the night in Miami and ate again at the Cuban restaurant.  Next day we drove across the Everglades and stopped at Clyde Butcher's Gallery.  We spent the next night in Fort Myers and explored historic downtown.  Thinking we would eat at a Greek Restaurant and reminisce about our time there, we drove to Opa, which was closed.  Our next best option was a local BBQ place.  It was nothing to rival previous bbq joints.  There are more attorney's offices in that area than I have ever seen in once place.  Our speculation is there are few regulations in Florida and much litigation to counter that.  Today we stopped in Naples for lunch at our usual place, Vergina.  The day was lovely and encouraged us to walk main street.  As we came into Bradenton, we remembered all our shopping spots and stopped at Fresh Market to stock our pantry and ABC to buy our wine.  We arrived for our 3pm check-in and waiting with the rush of people for our keys.  The house has changed little (our charcoal grill is still here!).  We spent the afternoon unpacking and are happily settled in.