Saturday, August 31, 2013

Observing My Senses

For today, August 31, 2013...

I am seeing...lots of sunshine, which is nice after days of clouds and rain. The weather forecast calls for a soggy Labor Day weekend, but it hasn't happened so far. 

I am feeling...excited because September is here tomorrow, and that means fall is just around the corner. I'll be decorating the house for fall and looking forward to a drop in this intense heat and humidity we've had all summer long. 

I am coming out of my son's headphones - the boy must be hard of hearing - and the ticking of the toaster oven as breakfast is prepared. 

I am tasting...nothing - it's what I'm gonna be tasting that has me dancing a jig. Pumpkin spice Eggos are back! I was so happy to see them in the store, along with Pepperidge Farms pumpkin spice swirl bread. The tastes of fall - yum!

I am smelling...sausages and hash browns. The best part about Saturday mornings is the breakfast :)

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings. Won't you join me?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Observing My Senses

For Today, August 29, 2013...

I am seeing...lots of white puffy clouds in a pretty blue sky, palm trees dancing in the breeze, a barbecue grill that hasn't gotten much use because days like these are few and far between.

I am feeling...tired.  It has been a busy, hectic week.  Took my car to the car dealership because ever since my tires got rotated it sounded like a helicopter taking off.  I figured it was probably the way the tires had worn, but I wanted to be sure, since I transport valuable cargo in my vehicle.  After 2 1/2 hours waiting I found out I was right.  :P  Last night was my son's school open house which was also exhausting.  Not to mention that I've been polishing the floors this week and doing major house cleaning so I can start decorating for fall.  I'm beat!

I am airplane in the distance, and my oldest son in his room, occasionally laughing at something he's watching.

I am tasting...meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans.  Not trying to brag or anything, but this meatloaf is so flavorful!

I am smelling...bacon.  I cover the top of the meatloaf with slices of bacon which gives it a yummy, smoky flavor, and the smell of bacon is one of my favorite smells.

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings.  Won't you join me?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Observing My Senses

For today, August 26, 2013...

I am seeing...the wet ground after a fierce thunderstorm. The lightning seems to be over but it will probably rain for awhile yet. 

I am feeling...not overly excited about having to pick up my son from school in this weather. 

I am thunder, which is a good thing. 

I am tasting...Italian dressing. I made a simple salad with Good Seasons Italian dressing which I love because I get to add my own oil and vinegar. 

I am smelling...ground beef and rice. Wait till my son sees it - it's his favorite dish. 

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings. Won't you join me?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Observing My Senses

For today, August 24, 2013...

I am pair of pants newly hemmed, one pair to go. 

I am feeling...a bit nostalgic. Today marks the 21st anniversary of Hurricane Andrew. The memory is a difficult one to look back on. Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida. 

I am son make numerous comments while doing his history homework. No wonder it takes him so long to finish. 

I am tasting...nothing. Dinner was over hours ago. 

I am smelling...nail polish. I like doing my nails on Saturday night. 

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings. Won't you join me?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Observing My Senses

For today, August 23, 2013...

I am seeing...clouds and more clouds. We've had on and off rain the past few days. It has made the humidity almost unbearable. 

I am feeling...pleased at having found some books for my youngest son. I had to pick up a book for school at Barnes and Noble, and found 3 books that I knew he'd enjoy. Now we're both happy :-). 

I am hearing...the television in the family room and the living room. Too much TV I'm thinking. 

I am tasting...yogurt covered raisins. It's my favorite snack. 

I am smelling...the chicken my daughter is making for her dinner before she goes off to work. 

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings. Won't you join me?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Observing My Senses

For today, August 22, 2013...

I am much more clearly now with my new glasses! I don't have to take them off to read like I did with my old ones. I'm still getting used to the progressive lens, though. Despite the fact that I've had progressive lenses for years, each time I get a new pair I need a couple of days for my eyes to adjust. 

I am and sticky. I walk to my son's school in the mornings and afternoons to drop him off and pick him up. It's so humid out that even in the shade the heat is intense. The breeze today is pretty warm too. I'm glad to be back in the air conditioning. 

I am son playing some zombie game he got for free on Xbox live. My two older kids have been enjoying it. I don't get all the zombie hype myself. 

I am tasting...the spice from a pork roast I made in the crock pot. I got the recipe off the Pioneer Woman's blog. I love her show on Food Network. This pork recipe is for pulled pork which my daughter loves. I have to remember not to add so much chipotle in adobo next time. It's mighty spicy!

I am smelling...roast pork of course!

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings. Won't you join me?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Observing My Senses

For today, August 20, 2013...

I am lined up to pick up children from school. Lots of grandparents eagerly awaiting their grand children's stories of the day. 

I am feeling...a welcome breeze. It's still hot in South Florida, but the breezes are different. It's as if the opening of the school doors released a cooler wind into the air. 

I am hearing...the screams and laughter of children finally escaping the confines of the classroom. 

I am tasting...Goldfish crackers. I had some before I left the house. 

I am smelling...freshly cut grass. The school finally took care of it. 

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings. Won't you join me?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Observing My Senses

For today, August 19, 2013...

I am seeing...the first load if laundry separated and folded on my bed, ready to be put away. Load #2 is waiting in the dryer. 

I am feeling...sweaty after picking up my son from school. It rained this morning and again while I was at the school waiting for him. The heat is high and the humidity is higher. But I'm glad my son came home from school in a good mood and his sister is excited about her first day at her tutoring job. 

I am hearing...the ceiling fan. Between that and the air conditioner I'm able to survive this heat wave. 

I am tasting...nothing at the moment. Dinner will be in half an hour. 

I am smelling...baked ziti. I made a big pan, enough for lunch, dinner, and tomorrow's lunch for my youngest son. 

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings. Won't you join me?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Observing My Senses

For today, August 18, 2013...

I am seeing...a clear day, palm fronds waving mildly in the breeze. Our breezes haven't been pleasant lately. The weather has been sweltering. We get up into the 90's everyday, and with a high dew point it feels like we're in the 100's. I'm hoping for some relief from this humidity soon. 

I am feeling...a little sad for my youngest son. Today is his last day of vacation. School starts tomorrow, back to the old grind. I'm gonna miss having my little Monkey around. 

I am hearing...sausages sizzling in the pan, the toaster oven ticking, and silence throughout the rest of the house. 

I am tasting...nothing now. It's my turn to bring our Sunday school breakfast. Well actually, it was someone else's turn, but I traded because last time it was my turn we were in St. Augustine. I was gonna go to Costco yesterday and buy food but there was too much activity going on in the house. I'm gonna stop by Publix and pick up croissants and something sweet. 

I am youngest son's breakfast. He's a slow mover in the mornings; if I don't have his breakfast for him he'll drag his feet and we'll never get out of the house. 

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings. Won't you join me?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Observing My Senses

For Today, August 17, 2013...

I am seeing...a newly mowed and trimmed lawn.  My kid's dad decided to come over and clean out the shed, take care of some yard work that needed done, chop down the dead mango tree, etc.  It took a full 6 1/2 hours to get all of that done.

I am feeling...thankful that the work is done and he's gone.  Our relationship is very strained at this time.  Part of me appreciates all the work that got done; mostly, though, I'd have been happy to do it myself.

I am boys taking their sister's phone away to stop her from playing Candy Crush.  My oldest son insists it's an evil game, hehe.

I am tasting...nothing now.  We had burgers for lunch.

I am smelling...burgers.  I had to make them on the indoor grill because I didn't want to grill outside and have grass clippings on the food.  Not the kind of green stuff that gives burgers their flavor.

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings.  Won't you join me?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Old Jail

I've always loved watching shows like Little House On The Prairie.  I imagine the difficulties, but also the sheer simpleness of living in the 1800's, when folks were kinder, friendlier, more helpful to their neighbors and strangers.  A time when cyber crimes didn't exist, when men respected women and children, when folks lived by the Golden Rule.

What cannot be forgotten, is that evil has existed since the devil turned against God and convinced Adam and Eve to do the same.  Perhaps the crimes weren't identical, but they had their similarities:  you couldn't steal a car because they hadn't been invented, but you could certainly steal a horse.  Murders may not have been drug related but that didn't mean folks didn't kill other folks.  Bad men were around, and they had to be dealt with just as they are today.  Or, maybe not like they are today.

While in St. Augustine we visited the Old Jail Museum.  The original old jail was nearer to town.  This one was built to resemble a hotel, making it more pleasant to look at for the tourists who were coming to spend their winter holiday in St. Augustine.  I could not imagine anyone being a repeat offender (though I'm sure there were those who didn't learn their lessons the first time).  If living on a frontier or on a farm during the 1800's was hard, it was a piece of cake compared to being in prison.  There was nothing attractive about it.

We were greeted by a sign that was more warning than welcome.  "You're in my jail now" it proudly proclaims.  The Old St. Johns County Jail was built in 1891 by Mr. Henry Flagler, and was designed by the same men who built Alcatraz.  "Escape was impossible, regret was too late, and survival was not guaranteed."  Time spent here would be unforgettable, and not in a good way.

The jail served two purposes.  The right side of the building was the sheriff's home, which he shared with his wife and two children.  The left side was where the prisoners were kept.  Notice the pretty Victorian gingerbread on the front, rocking chairs on the porch, making the building somewhat attractive.  In fact, it was so attractive that visitors disembarking the train would often mistake it for a boarding house.  What a shock it must have been to walk up to the building and notice bars on the windows, and find out it was the local jail!

Sheriff "Big Joe" Perry was an extraordinary man.  Standing a whopping 6'6" and weighing 300 pounds, he was quite an imposing figure.  As a lawman, he took his work very seriously.  He once followed an escaped con all the way to Alabama to capture him.  No one was going to get away from Sheriff Perry.  No one.

Outside the jailhouse we saw some of the items used to put the prisoners in their place when they decided to "misbehave".  They were outside so that the inmates would be humiliated into obedience.  This contraption held a prisoner for a few hours at a time.

If that didn't work, prisoners were put in the bird cage.  They'd get locked up in this tall, narrow cage, then hung in a tree.  This is where the expression "jail bird" originated.  They would stay there for 24-48 hours, depending on how long Sheriff Perry felt was needed to "rehabilitate" the inmate.  Consider that, while food and water would be given, there were no bathroom breaks.  Whatever body functions needed to be taken care of, they'd be done inside the bird cage, in plain view.  No wonder Henry Flagler built the jailhouse a mile from the town center.  Not a sight (or smell) to attract tourists.

The St. Johns County Jail was a hanging jail, with a death row section and gallows directly behind the cells. What I found creepiest about this, was that the condemned man was expected to help build his own gallows.  They had to be rebuilt each time it was used, since each man was a different height and weight, and the gallows had to accommodate him.   Yep, those gallows were custom fit.  The idea was not simply to make the death row inmate suffer, but also to show the rest of the prisoners (who could see the gallows being built from their windows) that this sheriff meant business.  The jail was in operation from 1891 to 1953, and there were 8 hangings done here in all.

While hangings could not be legally photographed, one was.  A medical experiment was conducted to see how long it would take a man to die once hanged.  This was the last hanging done at the jail, once it was established that this form of death was inhumane.

The jail portion of the building was three stories.  The first floor housed women prisoners and the kitchen.  There were 2 cells for women, with 2 beds each.  Woman were not often incarcerated, sent instead home to their husbands or fathers, or placed in sanitariums.  Those that landed in prison were tough as nails, though.  Good thing, too.  There was no plumbing in the prison, only a bucket in each cell to use as a toilet, and the contents thrown out the window if you were in the front cell.  The middle cell had no window to the outside, only a window facing the front cell.  In such an enclosed place the smell must have been awful.

Part of the duties of the prison women was to help the sheriff's wife make the meals for the prisoners.  It wasn't too complicated:  breakfast consisted of grits, lunch was beans and dinner was, again, beans.  Male prisoners were sent to work as free farm labor and were given tac, a hard flat biscuit; so hard in fact that it could break a tooth.  How did they eat it, then?

Prisoners were given lots and lots of fresh ground, fresh brewed coffee, which they dipped the tac in to make it edible.  They were encouraged to drink plenty of coffee to keep them awake for all the hard labor they'd have to do while serving time.

Death row inmates got a fantastic view of the back yard - where the gallows were being built.

Across from the death row cells was solitary confinement - this was really creepy!  An inmate would be locked in a cell with no furniture of any kind, no windows, and just a tiny opening in the door.  It was bug and rat infested and totally dark.  Prisoners would stay here for 2-3 hours as punishment for bad behavior.

To ensure that the prisoners didn't escape when taken to their work assignments, ball and chains were used.  These were actually light to carry, because they were hollow.  Once the ball and chain was on the prisoner, however, the ball would be filled with dirt or sand, making it weigh over 60 lbs.

On the third floor of the jail we were greeted by a full size animatron of Sheriff Perry himself.  At seeing this life like moving statue I could imagine how scared the prisoners must have felt - especially when we're told he always had a rifle on him!  The animatron explained the rules of the jail, and why it was fruitless to try to escape.  I'm glad we were here as tourists and not overnight guests!

Conditions in jails of the time were deplorable.  There was no plumbing, the bathroom consisted of a bucket for every 4 men, baths were given once a month and all the men took their baths in the same bathwater  (Even worse, after the men were done, it was the women's turn to bathe in that filthy water).  There was no glass in the windows, only bars.  If they weren't suffocating from the heat and humidity, they were freezing from the cold and rain.  Meals were grits and beans unless someone was able to catch a possum, in which case they got to eat some meat.  While blacks and whites were segregated, the sick were not.  Diseases spread rampantly.  If the jail was full, there would be 2-3 inmates per bed, so it's no surprise that folks got deathly ill.  This was punishment in the worst form.

Just steps away from the prison cells, there was a complete contrast as we entered the house portion of the jailhouse.  This is the sheriff's master bedroom, a well-furnished and comfortable room with all the amenities of the day.  It was simply yet elegantly decorated.

Across from the master bedroom was the children's room.  While sparsely furnished, it was like stepping into a different world from the one we'd stepped out of moments before, a world of filth, sickness, and hopelessness.

I wondered, as we walked through the jail and saw the conditions in which the prisoners lived, if maybe this was one of the reasons there was less crime back then.  While the purpose of this jail was to punish and not rehabilitate, I couldn't picture anyone coming out of there unchanged.  I, for one, would be a model citizen after that kind of experience.

The Old Jail Museum was part of our Trolley Tour package, so we didn't have to pay anything extra to tour it.  While not huge, it was chock full of information, highly educational and still interesting.  It might be a bit scary for the very young children, but school age kids should be able to handle it, even if the cells with the animatronic prisoners was pretty creepy.  It was like stepping back in time, into a very different environment from what we're used to today.  A definite must see experience.

Observing My Senses

For Today, August 15, 2013...

I am seeing...rain, lots and lots of rain.  Come to think of it, this is the first time it's rained this week.  Considering how much rain we've gotten this summer, I think that's a record.

I am feeling...the money crunch.  I spent $225 on school supplies for my son, mostly clothes.  The boy outgrows his pants faster than I can keep up.  I had him try on his school pants from last semester and only 2 of them fit, so I had to go out and get him 3 new pairs.  Then I had him try on his school t-shirts.  They are an adult small, but on him they almost looked childish.  His shirts are only sold once a month at his school, so I had to go this past Tuesday and get 5 t's (they are $10 each or $45 for 5).  Then yesterday I went for new glasses.  I've needed new ones for a while, since the ones I have do nothing for my reading or computer use (I usually take them off to read which is a waste), and although my current glasses are only about 1 1/2 years old they're pretty scratched up.  The kid's dad took out vision insurance and kept pestering me to use it, so I did.  Well, I will say it saved me some money.  Between the eye exam and the glasses, which I got at Costco to save even more money, the bill came out to $249.99.  After insurance coverage I ended up paying $144.99.  I'm glad I saved $105 with the insurance, but it's still more than what I had expected to pay.  Turns out the insurance covers the eye exam and frames but not the lenses.  Progressive lenses are not cheap.  Add to that the $35 in deductibles and...let's just say I'm gonna have to be cautious with my spending the rest of this month.

I am hearing...the occasional bird chirping, rain water dripping off the roof, and a very quiet house.  Rainy days are like lullabies in this house.

I am tasting...the coffee I had with my breakfast this morning.

I am smelling...chicken taco chili in the crock pot.  My daughter found a recipe on the internet which I've been tweaking.  Once I get it where I want it I'll post my version.

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings.  Won't you join me?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Observing My Senses

For today, August 14, 2013...

I am seeing...the season premiere of Duck Dynasty, my new favorite show. 

I am after worship night at our church. It was a wonderful time of praising God. 

I am hearing...Uncle Si getting his facts totally wrong. He's hilarious!

I am tasting...nothing. It's 10:30 at night. 

I am smelling...I've got no time to be smelling anything. It's Duck Dynasty time!

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings. Won't you join me?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Observing My Senses

For today, August 13, 2013...

I am seeing...darkness outside, a clean kitchen inside. 

I am feeling...tired. I was running errands a good part of the day, shopping with my daughter as she got dress pants for her new job as a tutor, and uniform shirts for my son who starts school on Monday. I didn't make it to the Awana meeting unfortunately. 

I am hearing...the television and the air conditioner. 

I am tasting...nothing now. We had barbecue pork chops today. So good!

I am smelling...not a whole lot. My nose is pretty stuffed up. 

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings. Won't you join me?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Observing My Senses

For today, August 12, 2013...

I am seeing...the sun brightening our family room as the boys watch the very first Star Wars movie (very first one filmed, anyway). 

I am feeling...somewhat frustrated with a lawn mower purchased in March that is being taken for repairs because it's leaking oil. 

I am hearing...Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. They're stuck in the garbage tank and are about to be crushed. Remember that part. 

I am tasting...pot roast which was cooked overnight in the crock pot. The meat is so tender it melts in your mouth. 

I am smelling...pot roast, as the aroma lingers in the home. 

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings. Won't you join me?

The Colonial Quarter

Years ago, at our old church, I took a class called Living Your Strengths.  Part of the class included taking the Clifton StrengthsFinder test, then looking up those strengths in the Living Your Strengths book.  The test took about 25 minutes to complete; upon completion I was given my top 5 spiritual strengths.  Two of those strengths were Context and Learner.

Context.  A person who looks to the past to understand the present.  Someone who learns best when placing what is learned into the context of other important dynamics and the history of what is being learned.

Learner.  Simply that.  A person who loves to learn.  Who wants to continue searching and learning.  Someone who is energized by the very process of learning, and gets a thrill out of learning new facts.

Put these two together, and you get a history buff like me.  I love history.  I love learning about the past.  I enjoy looking at the past in the perspective of those living during that time so that I can understand how we got to where we are today.  American history is especially fascinating to me.  The way our nation developed and grew into the powerhouse it is today is a subject I can't get enough of.

Imagine my thrill, then, to step into the past at St. Augustine's Colonial Quarter.  Similar to Colonial Williamsburg (though much smaller in size), the Colonial Quarter invites you to see St. Augustine as it was in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.  There are tours and demonstrations to watch and learn about common life when St. Augustine was a new settlement and how it evolved through the centuries.  I could not have been happier.  Even my kids, who are not big history buffs like I am, found the Colonial Quarter to be extremely interesting and fun.

We walked in and under a canopy of flags.  These are the Flags Over St. Augustine.  St. Augustine began as a Spanish settlement, fell under British power, returned to the Spanish, and ultimately joined the United States.  These are all the flags depicting the reigning power from the 16th century on.  It's quite an interesting walk.

This is another view of the flags, and anchors from the ships that brought the Spanish into St. Augustine.

There are short guided tours and demonstrations, but it's just as easy to do a self tour, reading the information and chatting with the folks who are in period dress and who explain in detail the life in the times they're representing.  One thing we learned was that St. Augustine was not just a port intended to protect the Spanish territory from invaders.  It was the headquarters for Catholic missions.  These missionaries came to teach the Catholic faith to the natives and to teach them to read and write.  Theirs was a mission for good.

This young man is the blacksmith.  We saw the tools used by tradesmen at the time.  I had real compassion for the blacksmith; it was hot and muggy that day in St. Augustine, as it typically is at the end of July, and here he was flaming an intense fire.  It may not have been so bad in the winter, but considering how mild Florida winters are, and how little time they last, working as a blacksmith must have been exhausting work.

Furniture in colonial times was simple, though the detailing to it was lovely.  This is a typical bed for the colonials. The mattress would be stuffed with Spanish moss, a type of plant that grows on other trees and is found abundantly in the South where the weather is warm and humid.  From the bedroom you'd turn and find...

the rest of their living quarters.  A kitchen area and dining area completed the home.  These were the days before McMansions, when folks worked hard, had little, but were content with what the good Lord provided.  Of course, they didn't have much time to complain about their living conditions.  They were too busy living life, not watching it on television.  But that's just my opinion.

This was the leatherworker's shop, which doubled as his family's home.  Any and all goods made of leather were purchased here.  The leather worker would bring in rolls of leather from cattle farmers; making the actual leather was done by slaves, as the work was hard and smell atrocious.  The leather worker made shoes, belts, bags, hats, anything you wanted.  What was most amazing was the fact that the home was in no way separate from the shop.  Items could be hidden in trunks or banquettes, but basically it was one large room where everything was done.

This is what the structure looked like on the outside.  It's important to note that these buildings were either restored structures or built on the exact location where a similar structure had been located.  It's like stepping back in time and seeing it as the settlers were living it 300 years ago!

We then toured the De Mesa-Sanchez house.  Construction of this home began in 1740 by Antonio de Mesa, the Royal Treasury shore guard.  It began as a one room house but was added on to during the Spanish and British regimes.  This was a much more modern home and would have been owned by a high ranking official of the army.

This was the beginning structure of the de Mesa-Sanchez home: a one room colonial residence, much like all the other homes of the time.

Just as with all other colonial homes, the de Mesa-Sanchez home had the principal room where all the living and sleeping was done.  It was simply furnished with just the necessities.

In 1764 the British took possession of Florida from the Spanish, including St. Augustine.  This room was added on as a type of living room, a social room to entertain guests or gather as a family in the evenings for card games and such.  Did You Know?:  That there were more than 13 British colonies?  The original 13 colonies rebelled against the British, but East and West Florida, which were the 14th and 15th colonies, remained loyal to Britain and were used by the British to launch attacks against the southern half of the colonies.  After the war, Britain chose to give Florida back to the Spanish rather than turn it over to the newly established United States (sour grapes, I guess).  Florida's role in the Revolutionary War is rarely mentioned nowadays, but it is what it is.  Even the not-so-pleasant history is still history.

The home continued to be added onto, creating a warm and inviting house, still sparsely and simply furnished, but larger and with many of the newer comforts of the time.

Mattresses were still made of Spanish moss at the time, but I found the intricate detail of the spindles and finials of this bed to be extraordinary.

A quilt rack

Spinning wheels

Our tour guide was also the gun shop owner.  He showed us how the old muskets were loaded and then gave a demonstration that was quite interesting!

 Tomen las armas! (Take up your weapons!)

Preparen las armas! (Prepare your weapons!)  

Apunten las armas! (Literally, point your weapons, or Aim!) 

Disparen las armas! (Fire your weapons!)

There were approximately 500 households when the British took over possession of Florida, and all heads of household were part of the Spanish militia, trained to protect their territory.  It was a great honor to go daily and train.

The Colonial Quarter was an incredible, full morning of learning and reliving life in the past.  I purchased the tickets online and got a package deal, the Colonial Quarter and the Pirate and Treasure Museum next door, for $21.99 per person.  While the pirate museum had some interesting artifacts, we all agreed it was pretty small and we were able to see it all in about 45 minutes.  The Colonial Quarter had way more to see and explore and was worth the time spent there.  We would definitely visit the Colonial Quarter again and recommend it to anyone visiting St. Augustine.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Observing My Senses

For today, August 11, 2013...

I am seeing...another dry day. It's humid out but it doesn't look like we'll get any rain today. Could it be the rainy season is winding down?

I am feeling...filled after a wonderful church service. The worship was rich, the teaching convicting, and the reminder that God is faithful was reassuring. 

I am hearing...Say Yes To The Dress. We're planning on getting rid of our satellite next month when the contract is up. I'll get as much out of it this month before it disappears. 

I am tasting...buttered egg noodles, shrimp, avocado, and prunes. 

I am smelling...the lingering smell of shrimp. I love seafood; I wish the smell wouldn't last though. 

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings. Won't you join me?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Observing My Senses

For today, August 10, 2013...

I am seeing...a clear day with puffy white clouds shining bright sunlight into my home. It's nice to have a day with no rain. 

I am feeling...lonely. My older kids are out with friends, and my youngest is out with his dad. Of course Molly is still here, but she's sleeping. Come to think of it, I'm liking the quiet. 

I am hearing...Love It Or List It. I was watching Duck Dynasty on DVD for a while. I decided to take a break. 

I am tasting...applesauce. I found one that has no high fructose corn syrup. It's disappointing that what is supposed to be a healthy snack is full of unhealthy stuff that's been added to it. 

I am smelling...Little Caesars pizza. Once in a while we treat ourselves. 

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings. Won't you join me?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Ripley's Believe It...Or Not

Remember back in the "olden" days, before cable or satellite TV, before Netflix or Hulu or DVD's or any form of television viewing other than the 8-10 local channels available to everyone?  When the whole family had to watch whatever the parental units wanted to watch because they had control of the one and only TV in the house?  Yeah, we're going back in time....

There were programs that my mom or dad would watch that didn't interest us kids.  At.All.  News programs, for instance.  My mom watched the evening news every night, right after the cartoon shows were over, and we'd skedaddle.  Our toys had much better stuff to offer.

If dad was home it was sports.  Specifically baseball.  My dad was a baseball enthusiast.  None of us kids were.  He also watched Spanish channel programming, comedy shows, variety shows, some we'd watch, most we didn't care for.  Now that I look back, us kids didn't watch anywhere near as much television as kids today, mostly because there wasn't much to watch after the cartoons were done, and they were only on from 3pm to 5pm.

There were a few shows that we did enjoy watching as a family.  The Wonderful World of Disney.  Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.  And a freaky sort of show called Ripley's Believe It Or Not.

Ripley's showed the world that, no matter how weird you think you are, there is always something much weirder out there.  We were mesmerized by the strange discoveries of Mr. Ripley.  It was a sad day when the show went off the air.

What I never expected was to one day take a trip to one of Ripley's Museums.  And not just any Ripley's Museum.  The very first one ever.

Ripley's St. Augustine was originally Warden Castle, the home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of The Yearling.  Mr. Ripley was invited to her home once and fell in love with it; so much so that he tried to purchase it.  Mrs. Rawling said no.  He asked again several times, and the answer was always no.  After Mr. Ripley's passing, his heirs were able to purchase this mansion he loved so much, and convert it into a museum to show off the oddities he'd collected during his lifetime.

We visited the Ripley Museum on Saturday because it had started to rain.  I'd already purchased the tickets online before leaving home, and we'd decided we'd go when it wasn't possible to be outdoors.  We didn't think it would be the first full day we were there!

Walking in the door we were greeted by a statue of Captain Jack Sparrow made of car parts.  I was so excited to see that not everything in the Ripley's museum would be old items found by Mr. Ripley.  There are old items, but there are also newer and fun finds.  This was a great way to start our tour of Ripley's.

The first floor contained a few older finds, then we went upstairs and gasped.  A two story ferris wheel made from an erector set greeted us - a WORKING erector set!  We knew there would be extraordinary stuff to see, but this really caught us off guard!

"Strange Heads of the Primitive World."  Need I say more?

Isn't this a lovely castle?  Would you believe it's made out of matchsticks?!

So is this pagoda!

Can you imagine dating a guy that's 9 feet tall?  My poor little girl felt even shorter than usual.

It's Florida's golden boy, Tim Tebow!  This portrait is made out of air soft balls.

The Pirate Room.  There was all sorts of information on pirates, plus a laser shooting range.  My kids liked that!

After going through three floors of exhibits we still had much to see outside.  This horse statue, for instance, that is made out of old car bumpers.  Hi ho Silver, away!

This anchor was pulled out of Matanzas Bay in St. Augustine.  Many French soldiers were slaughtered in this bay.

This is just a small sampling of all the great things we saw at Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum.  Tickets were $14.99 per person but well worth it.  We spent over 2 hours seeing what they had to offer and learning about some of the crazy things that can be found on Planet Earth.  This was my youngest son's favorite place to visit...after the chocolate factory, of course.  We didn't see everything; there was lots to see and we were exhausted!  But what we did see was incredible, and we are glad we decided on Ripley's as part of our vacation.

Observing My Senses

For Today, August 9, 2013...

I am empty family room.  My youngest son saw a spider in the family room last night and now refuses to come in here.

I am feeling...a great sense of accomplishment!  I'd bought a recipe book several years ago that I've been slowly adding my recipes to.  Problem is, it brought its own lined paper, and I wanted to print the pages on my computer.  Some came out okay, others looked terrible.  I'd finally gotten the configuration to kinda work, when my computer crashed, and I couldn't get it right on the computer I have now.  My oldest son took a look at it and said he could figure out a way to get it to work, and boy did he ever!  Now the pages look professionally done!  I got a lot of recipes typed up and printed, and still have plenty to go.  Feeling real good about it right now!

I am hearing...wait, was that thunder in the distance?  Aw, c'mon!  Not more rain again!

I am morning coffee, along with a piece of oatmeal bread. It was BOGO time for Pepperidge Farm breads, and this one doesn't disappoint.

I am smelling...breakfast.  I can't imagine living in a home that doesn't smell like breakfast every morning.

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings.  Won't you join me?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Observing My Senses

For Today, August 8, 2013...

I am clean house; well, mostly clean.  I need to vacuum up some dog hair :P.  The sun is shining brightly and we're not supposed to get rain today.  Of course that's what they said yesterday and we got quite the rain showers and it was cloudy all day.

I am feeling...the need to get new glasses.  I can't read with the ones I have, nor can I always see properly when watching television.  These are pretty scratched up too.  I'm gonna go somewhere other than Walmart for glasses this time.  We have vision insurance so hopefully I can get something of better quality.

I am son's phone as he watches videos in the bathroom.  Was that too much information?

I am tasting...nothing but my morning coffee.  I'm hungry but I don't know what I want to eat.  Does that ever happen to you?  Isn't it annoying?

I am son's least part of it.  He likes some variation, like pancakes instead of eggs, but he always wants his sausages.  I get those made before he gets up.

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings.  Won't you join me?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Observing My Senses

For today, August 7, 2013...

I am seeing...oh look, rain! There's a surprise. :P

I am feeling...heavy because my hair is wet. I need to get it dry. 

I am daughter telling me about going back to school for theology. 

I am tasting...chocolate. From St. Augustine. So good!

I am smelling...fried chicken I made for lunch/dinner. It's the Alton Brown recipe for southern fried chicken. We'll be eating this again. 

It just takes a moment to observe your surroundings. Won't you join me?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Observing My Senses

For today, August 6, 2013...

I am seeing...clouds. Dark rain clouds. Again. Who was the genius that decided to call Florida "The Sunshine State"?

I am feeling...hopeful for my daughter. She is taking a couple of tests for a tutoring position at a local private school. It would be a huge blessing if she got the job!

I am hearing...occasional bouts of thunder. It's gonna be a storm. 

I am tasting...a tall cool glass of water. 

I am smelling...meatloaf baking in the oven. 

It just takes moment to observe your surroundings. Won't you join me?

The Best Idea Yet - Trolley Tours

Continuing my posts on our trip to St. Augustine...

We'd never visited St. Augustine, but one thing we knew: this was no theme/amusement park that we could grab a map of and walk around everywhere.  This is a city, with streets and traffic and homes and sites, and if we wanted to see all of it we would need transportation.  Of course we could drive around the city that we were completely unfamiliar with; or we could find someone more knowledgeable that could take us everywhere and explain what it was we were seeing.  This is one of those times when the Internet actually comes in handy!

My daughter was doing research on St. Augustine, and I asked if there were tours we could take that would give us an overview of the city.  She found several, and it took us about a week to read up on them before making a decision.  After looking over reviews, content, and convenience, we settled on Old Town Trolley Tours.  There were other similar tours, but we liked what this tour had to offer, and we were not disappointed.

The Old Town Trolley Tour of St. Augustine is, in our opinion, the BEST way to see St. Augustine.  We couldn't believe what a bargain it is, and how it would add to our enjoyment of our visit.

There are several different tours to choose from, including the Ghosts and Gravestones tour, which we didn't take.

There are lots of stories of ghost sightings in St. Augustine, not unusual when you consider how old the city is and all its history.  Not my cup of tea, but apparently everyone elses: the tours got booked solid every night.  We chose instead the Maximo package.  This included the narrated trolley tour good for 3 days - that's 3 days we could hop on and off the trolley at 22 different stops without having to drive anywhere.  Even nicer is the fact that the first stop of the tour was only a 10 - 15 minute drive from our hotel, and the parking there was free.  We were able to leave the car and see all of St. Augustine, saving on gas and no getting lost!  The Maximo package also included a tour of the old jail, the Oldest Store Museum, St. Augustine History Museum, and the Alligator Farm.  All this for $57.41 per person (tax included)!  My son's ticket would have been $30.90 had he been just a year younger, but really it was such a great deal, and all the folks working there were helpful, friendly, knowledgeable, and a joy to be around.

Here is where the tour started.  The white building is the Oldest Store Museum.  Three of the museums are right there at the first stop of the tour, making it convenient.

One of the first places we passed was the fort, Castillo de San Marcos.  It would be my favorite site to visit (more on that later).

When the settlement was first established, it was attacked by the French, by pirates, by natives, and eventually was burned down by Sir Francis Drake (British pirate).  After that, St. Augustine became a presidio, or walled city.  This is what the wall around the city looked like.

The Huguenot Cemetery is one of the haunted areas of St. Augustine.  Since the city was occupied by the Spanish, making the majority of the population Catholic, there was nowhere to bury the Protestant deceased.  In 1821 this burial ground, which is across from the city gate, was chosen just in time for a yellow fever epidemic to break out.  It's difficult to say exactly how many are buried here; for each headstone there are about 20 - 30 bodies buried underneath.

Matanzas Bay.  The word Matanzas is Spanish for killings or slaughter.  When the French came and began to occupy Florida, Pedro Menendez de Aviles was sent to rid the land of them.  The French were captured and asked one simple question:  Are you Catholic?  The French were not; they were Huguenots, a Protestant religion.  For this reason they were taken out to the bay and beheaded.  This is the reason for the name of this bay.

Villa Zorayda, the winter home of millionaire Franklin W. Smith.  It was the first building in St. Augustine made of poured concrete.  Its architecture inspired Mr. Henry Flagler to build similar buildings.  Today it is a museum.

Flagler College, named one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation, was originally the Ponce de Leon Hotel, built by Mr. Henry Flagler when he came to St. Augustine to begin building a winter retreat for the rich.  The architecture is amazingly beautiful.

It's debated whether the Gonzalez-Alvarez House is the oldest house in the nation.  It is most definitely the oldest house in Florida.  The house is made of coquina, a limestone made of seashells and native to this part of the Florida coast.  Many structures are made of or contain coquina, though it was a tedious material to mine since it is very soft and takes a year before it hardens.  It is excellent for forts, though; cannon balls would sink into the soft walls rather than smash them, making the walls impenetrable.  We didn't have time to see the Gonzalez-Alvarez Museum home unfortunately.

Another claim to fame for St. Augustine.  It houses the headquarters for the Florida National Guard.

Here was something extraordinarily interesting.  The Old Senator is a live oak tree that was already in St. Augustine when Ponce de Leon landed here in 1513.  Students from the University of Florida (or Florida State, I forget which) did a study on the tree and determined it is over 600 years old.  It is a beauty and marvel of God's creation.

I wasn't able to get a picture of the entire tree, but just take a look at the trunk and limbs - incredible!  This tree is steps away from the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.  Wonder if the roots reach the Fountain and that's what has kept this tree going for so long?

The tour also took us to the Fountain of Youth and to the original Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum, which I'll be posting about next.  We took the entire trolley tour on our first day, which lasted about 75 minutes, then were on and off the trolley for 3 days enjoying the many wonderful sites to see in St. Augustine.  I would highly recommend to anyone visiting St. Augustine, do the Old Town Trolley Tour.  It is indeed the best way to see St. Augustine.