Thursday, April 7, 2011

Florida in 12 Pictures

Mansion at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota

Who knew that 5 sons of German immigrants could build their fortune by creating a circus empire from the 1870 - 1929?

Myakka Canopy Walkway at Myakka River State Park

I was a little scared of this walkway. Once I saw it was so sturdy, I gave it a try. It was great!

We climbed a solidly constructed stairway to the suspension bridge through the tree canopy. Walking along the bridge there was a bit of swaying, but it felt very secure and safe. It was really interesting to see plants growing on the trees, plus to see the tree tops up close.

At the end of the bridge, you can descend a stairway, or climb up more stairs to a tower above the canopy where you can see for miles.

Good practice for canopy tours in the rain of my dream trips!!

Alligator in Myakka River State Park

The water level was low in March, since it's the end of the dry season in Florida. We didn't canoe with the alligators. But we saw plenty of alligators!!

Manatee at Manatee Park in Fort Myers

Manatees congregate in warm water during the cooler winter months in Florida. The park in Fort Myers is near the outflow from a power plant, where the water is warm.

We met people who saw 20 or more manatees at one visit to this park. We visited twice and saw this single manatee.

The manatee would stay under water for about 4 minutes, then surface and breathe twice, then head back under water. I liked seeing it in the wild because it was more sluggish and docile than I imagined.....I don't think there's a good way to get that across without actually seeing one in person.

My favorite beach on Sanibel Island

I fell in love with Sanibel on this trip!!

I like how low key the development is there, how the island has 25 miles of bike paths, that various conservation agencies have preserved large parcels of land on the island.

For me, the beaches are great because they're spacious, not very crowded, dog friendly, great for walking, shelling and wildlife watching. Plus, there are tons of amazing birds on the island.

Osprey clutching a flounder over my favorite beach

Osprey were everywhere on Sanibel. At one point, I was finding great shells, spotting dolphins in the waves, and watching 4 osprey overhead. So much fun stuff to see!

One osprey caught a large mackerel. Two other osprey gave chase, dive-bombing the bird with the fish.

When they were about 10 feet over my head, the osprey dropped the fish. We moved away from the fish thinking the birds would be back to pick it up. But they continued their skirmish and vanished into the woods.

Jim went over to check out the fish, which was flopping around in the dry sand. He picked up the fish by the tail and released it in the ocean. The fish swam away. Imagine the "fish story" that mackerel has for his school!!

Mixed flock of wading birds in Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

Another great things about Sanibel is all the bird life in the wildlife refuge. We spent hours a day there watching and photographing birds. This is my kind of birding!!!

Roseate Spoonbill Landing in Ding Darling NWR

Naples City Pier

TripAdvisor ranks the municipal pier in Naples as one of the city's top attractions. That seemed weird to me, but one afternoon we were in Naples with a bit of time to spare, so we checked it out.

Within 45 minutes we'd been buzzed by a bald eagle, had several close osprey encounters, all while watching dolphins, pelicans and fishermen.

We returned after dinner for more sea life, plus a beautiful sunset.

The next morning, as we left town, we stopped by again. Mid-morning wasn't such a good time for wildlife sightings.


Hard to photograph, but always fun to watch!

Pelican Swallowing a Large Fish

Pelicans at Sunset

Sometimes, after a long winter, a trip to a warm, sunny place is a balm for the soul!!!

I totally apologize for not being caught up on your blogs or your comments before posting about Florida. Please know that I appreciate the huge swirl of creativity that all of our blogs foster, and I read and think about every comment that you leave for me!!! I hereby promise to catch up!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pottering Around

Thanks for the warm welcome back to blogging!

Over the weekend, I blogged about an outstanding 4 hour pottery class.

I was surprised that a few of you thought I should explore pottery further. Even though I loved the class, pottery doesn't call to me the way weaving does.

Maybe it's because I really, really dislike getting my hands wet or messy.....I'd rather bake than cook. I hate cleaning. Pottery is full of messy it's fun, but I'm sticking with weaving and maybe exploring other visual arts for now.

My vase

I did like Deanna's idea to use the pottery to inspire things to weave to go with it!!! Maybe by the time the pots are glazed and returned to me, I'll have one of my looms freed up for a new project and I'll be inspired by something from pottery class!!

Or maybe I'll just enjoy the four hour experience and let it enrich my life without having to do anything further with it at all....well, except for eating ice cream out of each of the three bowls at some point. How's that for a goal?!

Inspiring Work from Fire Pond Pottery

In answer to Deanna's question, we did get to choose from 3 glaze colors: brown, blue and emerald green. I think I chose 2 blues, 1 green and 1 half blue/half green glaze for my 4 pieces. At the top of the picture above, you can see our glaze possibilities on plain blue, plain emerald and plain brown samples.

Now we have to be patient, since the Fire Pond Potters said it might take up to 3 months to get the pots back!!

I promise to post pictures, and if you come by the house, I'll even serve you ice cream in one of the bowls!!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Potter for a Day

I had so much fun today!!

Jim, our friend D, and I took a "Learn to Throw in One Day" pottery class at Exeter Fine Crafts in Exeter, NH, USA, with Larry and Jessica of Fire Pond Pottery.

Even though Jim, D and I all learn in different ways, all of us loved the class and were really pleased with the whole day.

Our class had 6 students, 3 of whom had taken the class once before. I was so amazed at how much we were able to make and at HOW FUN the whole day was.

You can see my progression of 3 bowls in the center of this picture, and then my vase. The work right near mine is Jim's.

I also had a bowl attempt that collapsed, and at the end I tried to make two tiny bowls....both of which also didn't work. (One did that spectacular failure where all of a sudden it flies off the potter's wheel. Kind of fun really!)

The Fire Pond Potters will take our pieces and finish them up, including glazing and firing them. I'll show you pictures as soon as I get the pieces back. (It might not be until summer....but for once it won't be due to my blog will be waiting for their kiln to fill up.)

I cannot say enough good things about this class.

I loved how the teachers explained and demonstrated things just enough, and then turned us loose. They were right there to help if we were having trouble, or if we asked for help, but they also weren't jumping in telling people what they were doing wrong or anything like that.

They were totally great about asking if you wanted help and never touching your work or giving you advice unless you asked for it. (I love that.....I've been known to get quite annoyed in classes where a teacher is on top of my work too much!)

Also, they were very generous with information, and with setting up the day so that we all got to work on the wheels for hours.

If you're in the area and you've ever thought about trying pottery, this is a great way to give it a whirl. Low commitment, low cost, fun.

They've got another class scheduled for next Saturday, April 9. There may still be spaces left, so look for info at Exeter Fine Crafts. (I'd phone them ASAP about next Saturday.) I you want to be on Larry and Jessica's email list so they can notify you when they set up a class, you can contact them through their website.