Memories of Delaware

One thing I am going to miss this Christmas is the chance to see snow. I used to live in Delaware and my first Christmas there after marrying brought us a little snow on Christmas Eve and it was a magical time for me as I am from South Georgia where it rarely snows one little flake. What I won’t miss is having to clear our driveway using a snow thrower so that I could drive my hour and 15 minute commute to work. Those were tough times but it didn’t lessen my love of snow.

I was looking at my picture files on my computer yesterday and stumbled across this photo of my cat Savannah, all cozy and warm, compared to the contrast of the cold winter snow that lay beyond the glass door. Now this snow didn’t happen at Christmas that year and honestly it is a bit rare to get a lot of snow at Christmas in Delaware, but as you can see by February it’s pretty much a norm for Delaware to get their share of this wondrous white substance.

My other cat Roman attempted his curious walk into the snowy yard because I think he just couldn’t help himself. He kept trying to go outside to see what this stuff was so I opened the door and let him investigate. It didn’t take long however for his paws to get tired of the cold and he let me know when he wanted back in. But he still lingered at the glass door looking at the white blanket as if he was trying to understand what happened to his beloved yard.

Sadly, Roman is no longer with us. He contracted the devastating FIP virus for which there is no prevention or cure and he left this world in June of this year. I will miss seeing him lie under our Christmas tree which he always liked to do when it was lit. I think it made him feel cozy and secure under the warm lights of the tree. So as I put up my tree this year my thoughts will be of him and all the joy he brought into my life.

Here are other photos of our snow-covered yard in Delaware. I am always impressed by the beauty of fresh fallen snow. Though I may not get to see any this winter, at least I have the wonderful memories.

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What I’m Thankful For…

Thanksgiving is fast approaching.  I can remember with fondness the old movie reels my school would play for the students that taught us the history of the first feast between the Pilgrims and Native Americans.  I know there has been controversy of how that first meal really happened or why, but I would like to think that it was a joyous and peaceful time of sharing in a meal of thanks giving. Other school films featured scenes of nature and turkeys in the wild and the footage looked like it was taken in the 1970s.  I miss those films because it was representative of a more innocent time for a young girl such as I that looked at everything with rose-colored glasses.  I wish there were more films made for Thanksgiving.  It seems that songs and films are lacking in this area.  Other than cartoons such as “Charlie Brown” and “Pocahontas”, only two movies stick out in my mind that center around this holiday: “Home for the Holidays” featuring Holly Hunter and “Planes, Trains, & Automobiles” featuring John Candy and Steve Martin.  I am sure there are others, but overall there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of well-known movies focusing on this season of gratitude.

So when I think of happy memories of Thanksgiving I think of those old reel-to-reel movies and the feeling of excitement as the movie projector clicked away with the lights turned off in the classroom. Such a simple memory… I also have fond memories of gathering together with family that we hadn’t seen in a year. We would come home for the holidays, whether it was for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  All of my grandparents are now gone from this world but I still think of them and the wonderful times we had gathering at their homes for the holidays.  I miss my grandmothers’ home-made turkey dressing and their sweet potato casseroles.  I miss the enjoyment they had from having their children and grandchildren gather together for a time of celebration.  But I am thankful for the memories.

I am also thankful for my dear husband, my family and friends, my three adorable cats who are like my children, and I am grateful to God for his mercy and love.  I would like to extend my appreciation to others who live their lives in a gracious and kind manner.  I would also like to share my gratitude to my readers and hope you and your family have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. I pray for peace, love, and understanding for the whole world.

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.

Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.

Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

St. Marys and Cumberland Island – Where Time Stands Still

Sipping a cup of hot tea while overlooking the serene, historic district of St. Marys was one of the many highlights of our romantic retreat.  Being entertained by inquisitive squirrels and scarlet red cardinals perched in the magnolia tree was another enchanting moment.  Relaxing in a rocking chair on the veranda while chatting about the day’s events with my husband was priceless.

Southern charm and a slower pace of life filled the air inside the Goodbread House Bed and Breakfast Inn and in the neighboring shops and restaurants.  Enjoying an ice cold beverage on the porch of the Riverside Café while gazing at the St. Marys river brought more delightful moments.  Sail boats and larger fishing boats gently rocked against their moorings in the water beyond.  Everything and everyone moved at a slower pace.  No thoughts of work and depressing world news.  It was truly a retreat from our daily lives and it was refreshing.  It felt as if time stood still.

We arrived at the Goodbread Inn (built in 1870) on Thursday afternoon and went up to our suite which was decorated and named after the famous couple, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.  When I first walked into the room, I was immediately enthralled with the light blue décor and how calming it felt.  The room was beautifully decorated and the adjoining bathroom was also impressive in size and décor.  Each of the two rooms had an original fireplace reminding us that we were staying in a historical home which added to the enjoyment of our St. Marys trip.  In the bedroom, a gorgeous bouquet of two dozen red roses was seated on a dresser in the room.  My husband had ordered these for me through the help of our lovely hostess, Mardja.  He had also arranged for sparkling wine which was chilling in our room upon our arrival.  These were lovely surprises from my sweet and thoughtful husband, Glen.

Our St. Marys trip encompassed unique experiences in different locations.  The Bed and Breakfast was its own lovely experience from the hospitality of the hostess and the friendliness of the other guests, to the delicious breakfasts Mardja prepared each morning encompassing both sweet and savory that resulted in a satisfying dining experience.  Each evening, there were complimentary wines and sodas, as well as desserts to be enjoyed in the beautifully furnished parlor or in your suite.  Coffee and hot tea stations were available in multiple locations in the home making it very convenient to enjoy your morning wake-up on the front porch or the upstairs veranda.

The St. Marys locals welcomed both of us in each place we visited.  We enjoyed a surf and turf meal at the Silver Star Steakhouse and dined at Captain Seagle’s Seafood Restaurant & Saloon where Cindy, the infamous “Queen of Mean” bartender, served us great food at great prices, along with great commentary not found in most polite societies.  She can spew a derogatory comment at anyone who walks in, and before you leave, you just want to call her a friend because of her upfront style.  I laughed often and felt like I could really be myself and just relax.  We both liked Cindy’s style so much that we went back a second time.  We also went to the “Market on the Square”, a gift shop for everyone’s tastes that includes very friendly service and chats as to our day’s activities.  Sure we were tourists, but we weren’t treated in a negative tourist-typical way.  That was refreshing!  With our straw hats, sunglasses, new walking sandals, and a backpack slung on a shoulder, “tourist” could be seen on our faces but it was alright.  We had an enjoyable time and were treated as friends the entire trip.

Another unique and memorable experience was our day trip to Cumberland Island, which is Georgia’s largest barrier island.  Our hostess arranged boxed lunches for us which we picked up from Seagle’s Restaurant on our walk to the Cumberland Island Visitors Center where we then picked up our ferry tickets.  The Goodbread Inn is located close to the waterfront so everything is in walking distance.  The only time we drove our car from arrival to departure was to go explore the nearby Crooked River State Park which is 20 miles from St. Marys.  The boxed lunches were a really great deal for $7 per person.  The restaurant was thoughtful in packing our lunches in a Coleman lunch cooler.  Their neat trick is freezing the included bottles of water which serve as ice packs.  The meal consisted of a huge sub with turkey, ham, cheese, lettuce and tomato.  They also provided plenty of packets of mayo and mustard.  The meals also included fresh apples, cheese crackers, and Oreo cookies.  The sub was so large and filling that Glen and I split one and saved the other one for our room.  The restaurant included plenty of napkins, and they placed parchment paper on top of the frozen bottles of water to keep it separated from the food items laid on top.  It was carefully packed and it’s amazing how important that becomes when you are stranded on an island of immense heat for four hours before the next ferry is scheduled to pick you up!

In addition to the lunch cooler, I carried a backpack containing extra bottles of water.  I had four in my bag and we had the two frozen ones in the lunch cooler.  We needed every bit of it.  With the extreme mid-90 degree heat and walking miles on an island, you sweat profusely and can become dehydrated.  Toward the end of our island excursion, we ended up at Sea Camp, a designated camp site for overnight island enthusiasts.  Sea Camp is quite beautiful with its untouched maritime forests.  It was here that we were able to fill up our empty bottles with treated water provided from a spout for the campers on site.  Other helpful items that we brought along with us were sunglasses, straw hats, band-aids, digital camera, video camera, tripod (so that we could be in a photo together if there was no one nearby to take our picture), hand towels which were used as “sweat rags” as we call it here in the south, trash bag (you carry out what you carry in), sunscreen, bug spray, extra batteries for the camera (we took a lot of pictures), and wet naps to clean your hands and face.  My husband and I divided and conquered all of the items using a travel bag and a backpack.  When you are walking miles in extreme heat, you do start to question if you brought along too many items.  I did a couple of times while sweat was pouring down my face but looking back we needed all of the items except for the throw blanket.  I thought we needed the blanket for our lunches or to just sit down on the ground for a break.  I didn’t realize that handy picnic tables were located throughout the island.  If we went in a milder season such as late Fall, the need for all of the water and other summer time aids would have been a little different I guess.

Cumberland Island is absolutely beautiful and has interesting sites to visit.  We first visited the Dungeness Mansion ruins.  To get there from the ferry dock, we walked along a shaded road which was a breath of fresh air from the blistering sun.  The road was lined by carefully planted trees from ages past.  Along the road, we saw wild turkeys resting under a tree.  Even they knew to go where it was cooler in the shade.  After a somewhat brief walk, we confronted the towering remains of the Dungeness Mansion.  Thomas and Lucy Carnegie began building the mansion in 1884 as a winter retreat.  Thomas did not live long enough to see its completion but Lucy and her nine children continued to live on the island.  Lucy had other elaborate homes built on the island for her children as well.  The mansion was destroyed by fire in 1959.  Apparently, a disgruntled poacher set the fire over a dispute with a caretaker.  We were not able to walk inside the ruins because of the unstable nature of the remaining mansion walls and diamondback rattlesnakes which have claimed the mansion as their home.  But even viewing it from a distance was remarkable.  I learned a new term – a construction material called “tabby”.  The Carnegies designed their home’s façade and decorative walls with a form of cement which utilized what the island offered: lime, sand, water, and oyster shells.

While at the mansion, we encountered horses freely grazing.  There are currently 140 horses that reign on the island with over 36,000 acres to explore at their will.  We were told by the park ranger that if a herd of horses were walking on a road or path we were to get out of their way.  They are wild and aren’t intimidated by visitors.  In fact, they are used to daily visits from people but that doesn’t mean you can get close to them because they will bite and kick.  I found them inspiring and majestic and they were a treat to look at from a distance.

At Sea Camp, near the end of our island adventure, we found the beach located on the south side of the island.  There was a long, winding board walk surrounded by pristine, white sand dunes on each side.  In the sand, you could see tracks made by whitetail deer that inhabit the island.  And at the end of the hot, labor some walk down the board walk, you are rewarded with a stunning view of the ocean and the endless horizon.  As you stand there looking into the sea, you are reminded that you are on a stretch of beach with only a few other souls taking in the same view.  We saw three other people relaxing under a portable canopy they had erected and then there was no one else.  An empty, quiet beach.  There were no screaming children, no drunken overly-tan beach goers.  Just quiet serenity surrounded only by the sounds of the waves and the wind blowing through your hair.  It was an amazing experience.  I read in some literature on Cumberland Island that the National Park Service restricts access to its public areas to only 300 people at any given time.  This is to allow for the ongoing preservation of the island and to secure the environments of the animals that reside there.  Even with knowing 300 people were rambling about the island, my husband and I got to explore the south side areas with only seeing an average of five other people at a time.

The north end of the island is for the true naturalist and hiker at heart.  The entire island is over 17 miles long and to get to the primitive wilderness campgrounds and other beach areas on the north end of the island you could hike between 5 and 10 miles depending on where you want to go.  The south end offers plenty for those who are less inclined to trek that far into nature and ruggedness.  Plus, if you are taking a day trip on the ferry, there is not enough time to explore that far from the ferry docks.  The south end is where you should safely stay so that you do not miss your ferry.  We were told if we were late for the ferry’s departure to expect to pay $100 per person to have a boat come pick us up. We took the ferry from St. Marys at 11:45 am and had a scheduled 4:45 pm island departure and it worked out perfectly.  The ferry ride each way takes 45 minutes but it becomes a part of the adventure as you try to spot a dolphin trailing behind the ferry’s wake.  A fellow passenger yelled out that he spotted one so I spent the trip home, camera in hand, looking for the elusive dolphin.  I never saw one but it was fun anyway looking at the water and enjoying the breeze as we made our way back to St. Marys.

This was a memorable and relaxing trip mixed with different experiences, all special in their unique ways.  From a first time experience at a historic bed and breakfast, to dining on the best shrimp and grits I have ever tasted, to the adventurous ferry ride carrying us to an amazing, pristine island, I shall not forget this romantic getaway with the one I love.  I had a wonderful time in a beautiful location with wonderful people.  Thank you St. Marys and Cumberland Island for the trip of a lifetime!

Romantic Getaway – Inspiration for Another Card

My wonderful husband has surprised me with a romantic getaway to St. Marys.  He kept it a secret for a while until he realized that he was going to have to tell me something so I would know what to pack and what type of shoes to wear!  I ordered myself a pair of Skechers because I needed (and wanted) some good walking shoes that are also part sandal for the heat.  Here is what they look like: http://www.skechers.com/style/47115/compulsions-wild-life/nat but I got them from Sears for only $27.99 with a $5.00 Sears 2011 promo code, plus free shipping since I also bought my hubby a pair of Dockers shoes for the trip!

Apparently there are more surprises in store regarding arrangements at the Bed & Breakfast because strategic phone calls have been placed between my husband and our B&B hostess.  The last call received so far was late yesterday afternoon but I don’t know what they talked about and hubby ain’t talking ;).  Here is what I do know – we will be staying at the Goodbread House Bed & Breakfast Inn! I am so excited.  During our stay, we will be enjoying a ferry ride to Cumberland Island.  Our gracious B&B hostess will supply us with boxed lunches to enjoy while we explore the island.  What a nice amenity!  Cumberland Island is home to wild horses, whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and loggerhead sea turtles.  I hope we will have the chance to glimpse one of these amazing animals.  It should be a lot of fun and a nice break for us!  Here is the link to the B&B – http://www.goodbreadhouse.com/mainstreet.html.  We will be staying in the The Gable & Lombard Suite.

I plan to make a card to give to my husband on the trip to thank him for this romantic retreat.  I am thinking of making a scenery card – a card that depicts our B&B room with light blue wallpaper and have a window overlooking the ocean.  I will have to play around with the ocean part to see if I can make that happen :).  If not, I will have it overlooking something!  I will post it here when I have it completed.  Stay tuned!

Tomato Bistro ~ Casual Dining for the Discriminating Palate

Thanks to the brightly greened tobacco hornworm, destruction has befallen our tomato plants.  They are intimidating-looking creatures with their scary markings, numerous illusionary eyes, and red horned tail, but the only danger they pose to humans is the all-encompassing destruction of vegetation and the subsequent frustration imposed on the gardener.  At first glance, I thought this was a tomato hornworm, but after doing a bit of online researching, I discovered that the hornworms in our garden are actually tobacco hornworms because of the red horn and the markings not running in a V-shaped pattern.  An article on Wikipedia said a helpful way to decipher between the two is to remember the markings – “tobacco hornworms have straight white lines like cigarettes, while tomato hornworms have V-shaped markings (as in “vine-ripened” tomatoes)” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manduca_sexta.  In Delaware, my husband and I had great success growing tomato plants in oversized flower pots and Topsy Turvy planters and because of the fresh soil courtesy of Miracle-Gro, we never encountered this destructive foliage muncher.  Now we live in Georgia and with our love for tomatoes never-ceasing, we decided to plant our tomato seedlings of joy in a “flower bed” that we created last year, which once housed zinnias that I planted from seeds.  Up until a few days ago, everything seemed to be thriving.  Our plants were of good height, color, stamina and seemed to be getting the right amount of water.  We had already treated them two months ago with fertilizer and have another month before we can lay down more.  We have our water dispensed from a timer-activated drip hose or a sprinkler option depending on what we observe with the progress of the plants.  And then yesterday evening, my husband came into the house after spending some time outside with the plants, and looking quite exasperated, he told me there were huge, green caterpillars on some of the plants.  When he noticed there were leaves missing from the plant tops with an obvious stripped appearance (as you would see from cropping or stripping tobacco leaves in a field), he went searching for the culprit and found the tobacco greenhorn and two more pals dining out at our “Tomato Bistro”.

If I had chickens, I would have fed the hornworms to them without much thought.  But since I don’t have chickens, I had to research online how to get rid of this pesky pest.  The only option I could live with (barely) was the warm, soapy water method and so I proceeded last evening with just an ounce of sunlight left to locate and destroy the life of this interesting creature.  Because of my aversion to all things crawly, I put on a pair of work gloves that I borrowed from my husband because my flimsy garden gloves were just to thin to separate my skin to my liking from the suckers of this green creature.  And with eyes squinting from the lack of light to differentiate between a tomato leaf, stalk, or hornworm I managed to find the three caterpillars my husband had discovered.  One by one I pried the fat caterpillars from their feeding ground, but not without them clinging in protest until they lost their grasp.  I found it easier to start with the head first and then slowly pry more of its body from the stem.  I also noticed that it would lift its head and curve it to make it appear larger in a display of aggression, which undoubtedly is a defense mechanism.  I actually felt a pang of regret at having to end its meal or its life when I saw the creature’s actions of survival.  But into the soapy water solution each fell and to shield myself from watching their final moments, I snapped on the lid.  I am usually not that squeamish when it comes to pests such as flies, ants, and wasps.  But there was something Alice in Wonderland-ish about these hornworms (I am remembering the personification of the infamous caterpillar) that made me ashamed to hurt this oddly beautiful creature just because he was following his life cycle.

So that I do not have to experience these events during our next planting, I researched ways to effectively combat the hornworm life cycle to prevent future generations from emerging.  The best way is through normal garden tilling, and a roto-tiller is the most effective tool to use.  My husband and I don’t own a roto-tiller so we turned over the soil with a shovel prior to planting our tomato seedlings.  This means that any hornworm pupae in the soil was most likely spared its life and through its undisturbed life cycle emerged from the soil to feast on the foliage and the green fruit which is still trying to form into the edible delight we call a tomato.  I have a feeling a roto-tiller is in our future purchases since this has been an unpleasant experience for us.  Besides, this hornworm adventure isn’t over yet.  I found another one today and took pictures of him before I wished him farewell.  As a lament for the departed creatures, please see the below poem written by Stanley Kunitz.

Hornworm: Summer Reverie

Here in caterpillar country
I learned how to survive
by pretending to be a dragon.
See me put on that look
of slow and fierce surprise
when I lift my bulbous head
and glare at an intruder.
Nobody seems to guess
how gentle I really am,
content most of the time
simply to disappear
by melting into the scenery.
Smooth and fatty and long,
with seven white stripes
painted on either side
and a sharp little horn for a tail,
I lie stretched out on a leaf,
pale green on my bed of green,
munching, munching.

~Stanley Kunitz (29 July 1905 – 14 May 2006)

Fishing and Boating in the Deep South

My husband and I had a wonderful time last weekend taking our jon boat out for a spin at our local state park.  Granted, it was a hot day with temperatures around 96 degrees but we still enjoyed our little nature excursion.  While on the water, we got our first glimpse of an alligator swimming around and yes, this is a Georgia lake!  When I think of alligators, I think of Florida and Louisiana, but we have them here too.  There are signs posted that say ‘No Swimming – Alligators Present’ but it was an exciting moment for us to witness proof of their existence at the park first hand.  Unfortunately, as our boat glided closer to the area where the alligator lurched, he went under before my camera was ready.  We went back to the same area a couple of hours later, casting our fishing line along the way, in the hopes of having another glimpse of the elusive reptile.  But with other boats disturbing the tranquility of the water, we didn’t get to see him rise from the murky waters for one last goodbye.

After spending three hours fishing and only managing to catch one 2 lb. bass, we headed back in.  On the way, I spotted what appeared to be an oak snake hunting for a meal by slithering his way in and out of a bird house provided by the park rangers.  If you look closely at the picture, you can see what appears to be an egg lodged in its belly.  The pictures show him retreating from the house after he acquired his meal and making his way back into the protection of a cypress tree.

I love these pictures of cattails swaying in the breeze and of the bald cypress trees and the Spanish moss clinging to its limbs.  In the humid heat, with sweat beading on our foreheads and rolling down to sting our eyes, the breeze was welcoming.  The moss blowing in the wind is indicative of those brief moments of relief we experienced as we made the most of our fishing trip in the hot heat of southern Georgia.