Sunday, August 23, 2009

High Tea in Brandon, Florida

I'd thought I would get off the beaten path and rant and rave for this posting. Part 2 of Tennessee Trip will have to wait.

For several months now, my husband has been complaining about his web widow status. What can I say? There is just so much to do! Blogs to read, forums to comment, articles to write, videos to edit, webs to surf, the list goes on and on. Since I quit work, I spend more time on the computer than I did working as a software developer! When one of the bones in my right elbow started hurting so much it affected my hand and fingers, I decided to spend less time on the PC. There's your reason why I haven't been posting regularly (aside from my writer's block problem.) We spent more time biking, swimming, exploring the beaches in the area, gardening in the yard, reading books (the stuff that you hold in your hand), and watching TV. And it felt good.

The pain in the elbow has lessen somewhat. I am slowly getting back to my video editing. The next big project is working with home videos taken some twenty years ago, most I haven't watch since the taping! I had to borrow an old video camera since two of mine quit working.

Meantime, I did a quick edit on the High Tea video. Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet Lynn Kessel, a food blogger and columnist at Tampa Tribune, South Shore edition. She had invited a bunch of her facebook foodie friends to have lunch at the Tea Cup Room in Brandon. We all enjoyed a fun afternoon, meeting new friends, having a cuppa tea in a lovely cottage setting. The food was scrumptious - scones, cucumber sandwiches, chicken salad with cranberries on a croissant (my favorite), and a host of delectable desserts. Yum!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Favorite Destination: Chattanooga, Tennessee

The beautiful Tennessee River
This is our fourth year boating in the deep South. My family finally came to visit us in Tennessee. On a road trip. Seven adults, two cars, driving all the way from Philadelphia. In five days. Mind you, it's a twelve hours drive, not including rest stops. And of course they wanted to see everything. They cannot fathom coming to Tennessee and not visit Graceland. Oh no! Not knowing that Tennessee is a state so wide it borders seven other states, and Memphis is at the other end of the state. My sister bribed us by offering to pay for all our admission tickets to Graceland. That's when I gave in. Because Memphis is also my favorite destination in Tennessee.

First stop was Chattanooga, where Mai Thai is docked. We showed them the marina grounds, and after a fellow angler caught a largemouth Bass, they hastily looked for some fishing rods and spent two hours fishing on the docks. Next day, we went to Rembrandt's Coffeehouse for lunch. Located in the Bluff View Arts District, in a European-style setting, the cafe is surrounded by art galleries as well as a sculpture garden. Its sandwiches, coffee and delectable desserts are just fabulous. We walked off our lunch exploring the area - the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge and downtown - all the while admiring the waterfront and the scenic Tennessee River.

Point Park on Lookout Mountain
Next stop was the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, a renowned landmark of the South. The 1909 terminal station had been turned into the Holiday Inn, and you can sleep in an authentic railcar! How cool is that? In the late afternoon, we drove up to Lookout Mountain, widely known for its many unusual geological features, of which the most famous are Ruby Falls and Rock City. Unfortunately, we only had time for Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park (Point Park on Lookout Mountain), where the battle for Chattanooga was fought during the Civil War.

Did I mention that almost every boater here has a grill or a smoker? How can we not end the evening with a good ole southern barbecue? So while some were trying to catch a fish or two, the rest of us were grilling boudin (New Orleans-style sausage with rice), baby-back ribs (marinated in Lee Kum Kee's Korean BBQ sauce) and pork chops, marinated in Teriyaki sauce. We complemented our dinner with salad, sweet corn, and cool refreshing tapioca pearls with cantaloupe (recipe courtesy of food blog Steamy Kitchen. Thanks, Jaden!)

Stay tuned for part 2 - Nashville
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cruising during the dog days of summer

It's August. Florida and its neighboring coastal states are no doubt gearing up for the dreaded hurricane season. Officially the season begins June 1st and lasts until November 30th, but generally activity starts to pick up this month. According to AccuWeather, the forecast is for a "major reduction in the number of overall storms compared to last year." Three storms of tropical-force winds are expected, two of which could be hurricanes, and perhaps one major hurricane.

This will be our nineth year owning our trawler Mai Thai. We had been lucky to dodge the hurricanes all these years. We spent two hurricane seasons in the lovely cruising grounds of the Chesapeake Bay, a season each at Jekyll Island, Georgia (Jekyll Harbor Marina), and in hurricane holes in Florida - Daytona Beach (Halifax Harbor Marina), Jacksonville (Ortega River Boat Yard), and St Pete (Tierra Verde Resort and Marina). The last three seasons found Mai Thai exploring the inland waterway sytem - Fulton, Mississippi (Midway Marina), and Chattanooga, Tennessee (Hales Bar Marina).

After fuel prices skyrocketed last summer, we are now cruising less, and using the boat more like a cottage. Not a bad situation when you can avoid the hurricanes, pay one third less for insurance on the vessel, and get to explore some new places. By car, which is a LOT cheaper.
Poker Run at Oxford, Maryland
Fort DeSoto's North Beach
So we were back in Florida for a few weeks this summer. Yesterday, on the way to our favorite beach, Fort DeSoto Park, we drove past Tierra Verde Resort and Marina. Not sure what happened there as the docks were mostly empty. When we spent the summer of 2005 over there, the rumor was that the developers had bought the marina but could not convince the timeshare owners to sell out. Now, they are stuck, big time. With foreclosures and unemployment at an all time high, who has the money to buy condos and slips?

The good news is Fort DeSoto Park is still the same, and as beautiful as ever. We have never seen the northside of the beach so crowded (granted it was a Saturday, and people are doing staycations?) Crowds in Florida are nowhere near the size of crowds in, say Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where my brother and his family are vacationing. Here on the gulf side, we have warm water, calm waves, fine white sand, and amenities from showers, bathhouses, outdoor grills, pavilions and lots of parking.

What better antidote to the dog days of summer than the beach?

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