Saturday, December 30, 2006

Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow!


Snow in Albuquerque!, originally uploaded by andi_thats_me.

Believe it or not, we're snowed in! We woke to a remarkable 15" of snow covering the fair city of Albuquerque. This is on top of the snow we got last week. I haven't seen anything like this since I moved to New Mexico in 1992 without having to drive to the peak. Thank goodness we made it to the grocery yesterday - everything is closed today!

Casey, Cassidy, and the dogs had a blast playing in the backyard - they even attempted to build snow forts until the cold got to be a little too much to bare ... then it was hot chocolate, chicken soup, and video games for the rest of the day. This is the way winter was meant to be!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Root Canals

My sinus infection bothered my one tooth enough that I had to get an emergency root canal this morning. Merry Freaking Christmas to me!

I tell you what, this past year has been wrought with aches, pains, and general misery. If you haven't turned 37 yet, take my advice: DON'T DO IT!

I'm off to take more pain medication.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Merry!

Ahhh Christmas night. The presents have been opened, the sweets devoured, and the credit card bill is through the roof! I love Christmas. We had a very nice day. Mom came over around 10:00, woke Casey up to open presents (that's right - she sleeps in even on Christmas day) and we spent two hours opening gifts at a leisurely pace. We took a few pictures of the goodies Casey got; you can check them out on my Flickr page.

Thank you to everyone who thought about us today. We wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Toothaches SUCK

I haven't seen 3am in many many years. Unfortunately, the only reason I'm awake right now is because the ibuprofin, pain medication, and antibiotics haven't taken away this damned toothache! My head hurts, I'm tired, and I can't take any more pain medication for a couple more hours. That makes me grumpy so I thought I'd share my misery with you :)

Christmas Day Update: Turns out I have a sinus infection ... I didn't sleep at all the night I wrote this. My wonderful dentist phoned in some pain meds on Christmas eve and gave me his home number to call him if I need him. Unfortunately the pain meds didn't work, but the antibiotics kicked in around 3am last night, so I actually got to sleep for almost six hours, albeit sitting up on the couch. Hopefully tonight I can lay down like a normal person without my head exploding.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

Cayman Island Rum Cake


I received a chocolate rum cake in the mail last week. I assume this was a gift, however there was no note or any indication of who sent it. If you're the mystery Santa, please let me know so I can say ...

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

I love-love-love-LOVE Tortuga's rum cakes!

Christmas Update: Turns out that my brother was the culprit! Thanks little bro! :)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Chum Chum Charlie

Casey and I are foster parents! This is our little dachsund, Chum Chum. We call him Chum Chum Charlie. Isn't he adorable?





Here are a couple short video clips even :)




Chum Chum LOVES to play with Olivia!


Friday, October 27, 2006

I heart these pictures


They are adoringly looking at a pile of dog poo in the back yard ...















Saturday, October 07, 2006

Obsession

Ok, it's never a good idea for me to plan vacations this far in advance. I get all obsessed over it, then I have to wait forever to get outta dodge.

I have spent endless hours looking at accomodations in Kauai. After making half a dozen different reservations, I believe I have made a decision!

We're cancelling the Marriott and the Sheraton and are going to stay in a condo-type room in Poipu instead.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Aloha!

(singing) We're going to Hawaii .... We're going to Hawaii ....

Reservations are made, airline tickets bought, and excitement is high ... we are going to Kauai in the spring! We have an ocean view room at the Sheraton in Poipu, and our friend Jennie from Ohio is going to meet us there!

I know it's still six months away, but I'm jazzed! I have missed Hawaii since we went to Maui in 2005 and now we finally get to go back.

Wooooooo Hooooooooooooooooo!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Tooth Fairy is going to have a field day

Casey had her oral surgery today. She had eight (that's right ... EIGHT) teeth surgically removed: 4 permanent teeth and 4 baby teeth. She apparently inherited my jaw ... believe it or not our mouths are too small to hold all of our teeth. She already had a few teeth removed a couple of years ago, so hopefully this will be the last of the surgeries.

She came through it like a champ! She didn't wince when they put the IV in, and she woke up great. The first words out of her mouth when she got in the car were: can we go to Starbucks? (She loves loves LOVES their Strawberries & Cream Frappacino). So we got that, went home, and laid around all day eating gelato and yogurt. Melissa brought her flowers and balloons from Cassidy, too, which was very nice.

So thank you to everyone who said a prayer for Casey today. She's doing great!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Homework Week 2

Well, I had hoped to spend a bit more time on homework this week. That didn't happen, but I did get most of the shots I was supposed to. I wouldn't classify them as frameable, though.

Here are two photos that show different aperatures










These next two demonstrate different shutter speeds


















This is the photo I submitted for "Perspective" - even though I took it in Indianapolis over the summer. I may try a do-over if the opportunity presents itself.


I was also supposed to take a photo during the "golden hour" and take a reflection photo, but those didn't happen either. I'll try to tack them onto this week's assignment: A series of 4-6, an open space photo, a backlit and/or silhouette photo, two photos of a person, outside, with and without flash, a night photo showing lights, and a photo of a subject illuminated by natural light. Jeesh! This is going to be a busy week!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Happy Birthday Casey!

Casey turned 10 today!!

We had a school party for Casey's class. We brought it Dion's pizza and ate in the park across from school. Everyone seemed to have a great time and Casey enjoyed her special day.

After school we opened presents from the family (thank you cards will go out next week ;) ), then we rounded up a few close friends and went to Itz. It was our first time there and we had a great time! Mariah, Charlene, Alex, Christine, and their parents all came with us. So we ate, played, and basically exhausted ourselves... and these is the only picture we have :(

Her actual birthday party is Saturday. We've invited the entire fourth grade, girl scout troop, and soccer team and are heading to the pool. Woo hoo! I'll be sure to grab lots of pictures since my friends will be there to help me out with everything.

I can't believe we've been hanging out for a decade already. Boy does time fly!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Shadows

So I found a shadow for last week's assignment at the Coronado State Monument today ... better late than never!

Before and After "Feeling Lucky"





Friday, September 22, 2006

Adventures in Photography

I've taken up a new hobby: photography. I had the equipment; now it's time to learn how to use it. So back to school I went... this time it's continuing ed.

My first homework assignment was textures and lines. Whaddyathink? Posted by Picasa



The picture above is of my neighbor's wall.

The picture on the right is my patio ceiling ... looks rugged doesn't it? I actually received compliments on both of these, so maybe I'm learning how to use this camera after all!





This last picture was taken to demonstrate the rule of thirds.

It ain't the purtiest picture in the world, but what I lack in talent I tried to make up for with humor.

We were also supposed to take pictures of interesting shadows , but I waited too long to take it and it was an overcast day. Oh well. One of these days I'll learn that procrastination does not pay off.

Friday, July 07, 2006

We're still alive

We've been in Cincinnati a week and two days now and things have been pretty quiet. Casey is staying at Uncle Danny's house with Paige (go figure) and I'm unpacked at my dad's house which gets smaller and smaller each year as more stuff is accumulated.

The fourth of July has come and gone ... Jimmy marched in the Greenhills Parade, we all went to separate parties, and the girls and I watched fireworks from the parking lot of Northgate Mall. We never did make it to the Greenhills festival since I was too sick to brave it.

What else has happened this week ... OH! We have a new addition to the Anderson Family ... Mr. McPuggles (aka Pugsley). Teri wanted a dog she could snuggle with, so they found an adult Pug to bring home with them.

Unfortunately for her this dog is 100% fixated on Danny and wants to be by him at all times. He's a good dog, though, and he gets along with the other animals fabulously ... Henry has a particular fondness for him, Leah thinks he's another boxer, and Olivia and he tears it up with the best of them too.

Other than that, not much else has been going on. I've visited with friends and have been catching up on work while Casey has been consumed with Sims at her cousin's house. I think we're going to start getting off our arses a bit more next week, so we'll post more then.

Hope you had a wonderful fourth!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sneezy in Cincinnati

We made it to Ohio! Nothing of note to write about, except that I have a cold. Casey is at Uncle Danny's house with Paige, and Grampa went to bed at 9:00. I'm off to find some chicken soup and will post again when something exciting happens here. Don't hold your breath! :)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Fort Desoto Beach

Monday was the last day we were to see the ocean, so we chose Fort Desoto Beach. It is a #1 ranked beach and it also had a Paw Park. We drove an hour to get there (again over the bridge from hell), spent about an hour at the paw park/dog beach, then drove an hour to get back home. It was kind of overcast, and neither of us were really in the mood to swim, so it was ok that we headed back early. I think we've had our fill of sight-seeing for a while.


Good bye Florida. We're going to miss you!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Almost time to go :(

Wow, it's been over a week since I've posted. That's due to a combination of exhaustion, depression, work and play.

We got back to Sarasota last Sunday and did nothing for three days. I don't think we left the house, or even got out of our pajamas for that matter. We were worn out from all of the running we'd done this month and were very happy to veg out.

Then Wednesday rolled around and it dawned on me ... we leave in a week! So rest time is over.

It'd been a while since we'd been to a beach, so we packed lightly and headed for Longboat Key. We drove the entire island and didn't find a public beach anywhere. But right across the northern bridge was a great place to play: Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island. There were facilities there, parking, picnic benches, lifeguards, tons of shells and great surf. Casey tried to skim board, but apparently Hollie's family broke it in Tampa. Oh well, what's $50 between friends? (grrrr) Still we had a nice afternoon playing in the water (which is insanely warm here). We stopped in Armand's Circle on the way home and bought Mango Wine and Tortuga Rum Cakes (woo hoo!!!!!) from St. Armand's Winery, then had lunch at Lido Grille (which was out of Mojitos, Sangria, and Key Lime Pie, but that's another story).

On Thursday we finally visited The Mote Aquarium and had a wonderful time - AND they had a similar cruise to the one we missed in Clearwater! (where they drag a net and show the kids all of the wildlife they pick up) We got to see blue crabs, seahorses, lots of different fish and sand-dollars... it was the best excursion we've done in Florida I think. I took like 200 pictures, but don't you know, my flash card is somehow corrupt and I can't get a single image off of it. But at least we have the memories. (Word of advice, that seemingly useless feature that allows you to "stop" an external device really does have a purpose - USE IT!)

Friday we went to the G Wiz Science Museum (after buying a new camera). It was an ok way to spend the afternoon, but the Children's Museum in ABQ is better. There were a few exhibits that kept our interest, though, and Casey spent a good hour building this contraption with a little boy. I sat and talked with his very nice mother who filled me in on schools, etc. in the area. She also told me the horror stories of hurricanes, tornados, red tide, etc. Florida is a sort of scary place to live :)

But my new philosophy (thanks to a video I saw on You Tube) is:
Don't be afraid of death, be afraid of a life half-lived.

So Saturday we drove around Lakewood Ranch for several hours, checking out all of the for sale / for rent signs and what was available. We liked the Summerfield subdivisions the best. Every once in a while I would pull over and ask a passerby some questions about the area. That's how I met Mark and his wife Happy (yes, Happy).

Mark was walking down the road so I stopped to ask him where the kids were. Next thing I know we're following him to his house around the corner. There were like five houses for sale on the cul-de-sac street, one rental, and kids EVERYWHERE! This is the kind of street I wish I had in ABQ. Family after family after family and incredibly nice neighbors (who aren't retired!). For the first time, Casey softened to the idea of staying in Florida longer (despite the alligators, sharks, hurricanes and jellyfish). She was in awe of all of the children riding their bikes and playing in their front yards without fear of abduction!

There was a house for rent directly across the street from the "Happy Family" (boy I'll bet that's the first time they've been called that). It is 2000 square feet, has 4 bedrooms, a screened lanai with a small in-ground pool, and a lake in the back yard. It would be perfect if I wanted to move everything I owned and commit to Sarasota, but the $2,000 a month rental agreement is a bit more than we need (although that includes furnishings and lawn/pool maintenance). I'm going to look at the inside on Monday to see if it's worth the high price tag. Who knows... if God wants us to be here maybe a miracle will happen and it will include utilities too :)

In the meantime, it is Sunday again. We were going to be ambitious and get up early enough for church but as usual, our laziness prevailed. It's looking pretty ugly outside, so I think we're going to spend today packing, cleaning, and getting ready for Ohio so we can hang on the beaches Monday and Tuesday, weather permitting.

Oh, and Casey lost another tooth this week! She was being a good little flosser when it popped right out. So Florida has been rather lucrative for her (as far as the tooth fairy is concerned anyway).

Next stop, Cincinnati.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Out of underwear in Naples

Every day I look around and I can not believe I am in such a beautiful place. Each city we've visited has been more wonderful than the last. Well, except Fort Lauderdale, which I may go back to next week for a meeting of the minds.

Now we're in Naples, probably the most beautiful city we've seen yet. I thought Sarasota was nicely manicured ... this place looks like one big post card for the rich and famous! If I could afford to live here I probably would.

We reserved one night simply because I didn't want to drive five hours straight from Miami to Sarasota (did I mention that I hate driving?) We ended up staying two because we were having a good time. We checked in on Thursday, unpacked, and ate BBQ sandwiches at the hotel's happy hour. The plan was to watch the sun set on the beach, but we had a couple of hours to kill so we went to the pool. There was an 11 year old girl there! It took about 30 minutes to get those two to speak to each other, but once they did they were inseparable. Since Casey hasn't been around kids very much since we came to Florida, I didn't want to pull her away to watch a boring old sunset with her mom. She and Kylie hung out until dark and we went on to bed.

I've been told that when you're in Naples you should get up early and go shelling. When the tide goes out I guess you can find incredible shells here. So we got up early (8:00 ... early for us) and were out the door by 8:45. By the time we stopped at the store (three times) and left two beaches that we didn't like at all, it was noon. So much for shelling, but at least we'll get some beach time in.

The "Naples" you see on all of the postcards is in Old Naples at Naples Pier. If Naples has some of the best beaches in the world it must be there, so there is where we headed. The sand was white and wide, but the water was full of sea weed like Wiggin's Pass and Clam's Pass were. What is it with this place and sea weed?

We decided to stay anyway and Casey jumped right into digging in the sand. Every so often we'd brave the sea weed and go swimming in the 85ยบ water, but it was just too gross. We made the most of it by tossing ball, playing a tennis-like game, and walking the Pier. We even picked up a few shells.

This place is a fisherman's heaven. The Pier has some umbrella license that covers everyone who wants to fish there. People were catching mackerel like there's no tomorrow (have you ever seen the teeth on one of them? OUCH!) We watched them and we watched a tv crew record them. One lady was particularly chatty and she told us about the red tide.

We saw pelicans diving for their supper. WE SAW DOLPHINS PLAYING IN THE WATER! We saw sting rays hovering the sand bar, and we ate hot dogs. All in all it was a pretty great afternoon.

On the way back to the hotel we passed another Skyline Chili! So I don't have to tell you where we ate dinner (my poor arteries). Now that Casey had a full belly I figured it'd be easier to drag her 20 miles north to the biggest outlet mall I have ever seen: The Miromar Mall (I was wrong).

Now *I* was in heaven! We bought a bunch of clothes in the Ralph Lauren Factory Store, a little bit at Harry and David (cherries, yum!), and stopped in a few other places before it was closing time. I may have to revisit Naples at Christmastime just so I can shop here again!

That pretty much wraps up our time in Naples. We'll be checking out of our hotel and heading back to Sarasota within the next couple of hours. We'd stay longer, but we're out of underwear.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I love Florida

Wednesday was our last full day in Miami, and we spent it with Bob again. (In case you can't tell, we love him and have adopted him and his family.) We met him at the Stork Avenue office and took off for South Beach, baby! First we had lunch at Gloria Estefan's restaurant, Bongo's. We had a pu pu platter (yes, Paige, a PU PU platter!), mojitos (OMG sooooooo good) and Cuban sandwiches . After eating ourselves into a gastrointestinal stupor, we decided to walk it off on famous South Beach. Word of advice, next time you eat yourself sick, don't go walking amidst the most beautiful bikini-clad people in the world unless you want to feel like Roseanne... So anyway, Bob and I sat on the beach people watching while Casey played in the ocean. You can walk out forever and only be standing in two feet of water. It was stunning ... just stunning.

Because of the aforementioned protruding stomachs, combined with heat that surprisingly did not melt us, we didn't say but maybe a half an hour. After a quick stop into Sephora we found our car, and headed to the offices of Shutterbug, Sue Hunter's baby. We got a tour of her warehouse and she showed us all of her lovely designs. We even custom made Casey's build a bear birthday cards!

Next stop, Biscayne Bay and ... drum roll please ... the opening scene from CSI Miami. That's right folks, I stood where... where ... where someone stood before me and said, hey, that's the same shot from the opening scene of CSI Miami! Yeah, I know, I'm a dork. Still, I was thrilled to have taken this picture.


After that we went to the Hunter house to meet up with the rest of the family. We probably over stayed our welcome but we were having too good of a time to care. Casey swam, played pool, and we all sat on the patio and chatted. We watched a totally cheesy Kung Fu Fighting movie and tried to figure out why the neighbor's back yard was emitting a smell very similar to horse manure (funny how many times the subject of horse manure came up this week). All in all just a nice evening with good people. heheh, I hope they feel the same way!

And that wrapped up Miami for us. I don't think we'd want to live here, although we had an absolutely fabulous time. We have one question in closing: can anyone please tell me what the hell this sign means?


We're headed back to the sandy white Gulf beaches tomorrow. Will keep you posted on our whereabouts!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Miami

So Tropical Storm Alberto put a damper on our east coast Florida trip. We were scheduled to leave Miami on Tuesday for Cocoa Beach and the Kennedy Space Center before going further north to Jacksonville, then Orlando, and back home to Sarasota. We canceled that portion of our tour due to weather and decided to spend a few extra days in Miami.

So Miami, for us, started on Monday, when we finally met Bob Hunter of Stork Avenue fame! He has a great office on the top floor of the Bank of America building in Coral Gables. Bob is so interesting! His office wall is filled with pictures of people he's met and places he's been ... what a golden life he's lead. It is good to be Bob Hunter :) And he truly loves south Florida, so it's great to see this part of the state through his eyes.

He took us to lunch at the diner next to his office where I was served the largest cobb salad on earth. After that Casey and I walked around Grand Avenue and did a little shoppin'. Later that night Bob, his wife and two kids took us to dinner at Cafe Tu Tu Tango (an artsy tapas restaurant) in our new duds. It seems like we've done nothing but eat since we got here. Really we've done lots of other stuff too, but we did eat fried alligator on this night! And more surprisingly, it was good! For the first time since we got to Florida Casey actually felt like she was in control of the gator situation :)

Tuesday rolled around and Casey and I went to the Miami Sea Aquarium on Biscayne Bay per Bob's advice. We had a spectacular time. They don't have many dolphins and Killer Whales in Albuquerque you know. So we looked at a few exhibits (including the Manatee pool - these are amazingly graceful creatures) and saw all of the afternoon shows that we could squeeze in ... my favorite was the Dolphin Show. They played a little Ozzy Ozbourne during the "let's get wet" portion of the show and took me back to my roots :) Oh Oh Oh, and we also saw the original flipper, from the 1964 tv show. A real live celebrity sighting!

After that we went home, ate dinner at the hotel's happy hour (they have free breakfast and light dinners here ... nice) and spent our evening writing post cards and relaxing on the couches (and of course updating you on our blog). We were thinking about going to the Keys tomorrow, but I think we're going to skip that. It's supposed to rain :(

So we've got two more nights in Miami, then we need to figure out where we're going to go next!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Half Over

Today is the midway point for the Florida portion of our summer vacation. It is officially half over :(

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Tropical Storm Alberto

We dropped Paige off to Danny & Teri this morning and headed south to Miami. The last time I was here I was 12 years old, so needlesstosay, I don't remember much about it. Thank God it's a Sunday! The freeway here is six lanes, with route this and state route that branching off in any direction every mile or so. I can not imagine what this place is like during rush hour! Today the traffic wasn't bad. It was the weather that almost took us out.

We drove right into a big black cloud and horrendous rain storm, I assume because of Tropical Storm Alberto, while on I95. The visibility was about 10 feet it was raining so hard. I was afraid I was going to go deeper and deeper into the storm, but as it turns out we got out of it after about 10 minutes.

About ten minutes after that I95 dumped us onto Dixie Highway, and on to the Residence Inn in Coconut Grove (which is SE of Miami). Our efficiency wasn't ready when we got here, so they upgraded us to a 2 bdrm suite for $30 more. We've got a lot of room here. Good thing, too, since we'll probably be spending the majority of our two days here. Forecast: Tonight, Rain. Tomorrow, Rain. Tuesday, Rain.

So we got settled in and ordered carry-out from a local Cuban resaurant, Las Culebrinas. Casey and I split Bistec Empanizado Con Moros y Maduros (breaded steak with mixed rice/beans and fried plantains). My first Cuban food! I felt like I was back in ABQ when we went to pick it up, though - no one at the restaraunt spoke English. It was a little scary, actually, but we got our food and it was fabulous (at least I thought so, Casey might tell you differently). We topped dinner off with a slice of Rum Cake that Danny brought us from Grand Cayman. Yum!

We told Bob from Stork Avenue that we'd get together with him tomorrow (boating today was out of the question), and goofed around all night. I caught up on this blog, Casey watched tv, we walked down to the Marina, went swimming ... a whole lotta nothing. Tomorrow we'll finally meet Bob, and I don't know what else. It's supposed to rain all of this week, so I think we may cancel Jacksonville & Orlando and just go to Cocoa Beach for a couple of days (spending a day at the Kennedy Space Center) before we head "home" to Sarasota. I figure we'll have ten days after that to go to Orlando or back to Tampa if we want to. I won't die if I don't see Jacksonville this time around.

Oh and we heard from Casey's new soccer coach ... we are now The Wildcats, playing for Rush (assuming we go back to ABQ in time for soccer season). So Go Wildcats!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Fort Lauderdale with the Fam

I am so not slim, cute, or cool enough to be here. Fort Lauderdale is bustling with young people barely covered by their swim suits. You can tell this is another party town. Not like Clearwater - there were still plenty of families there. Lauderdale is like fly boy central ... I'm sure they party a LOT more here.

We left Sarasota around 9am, passing Ft. Meyers, Marco Island, the Everglades, and the Ralph Lauren outlet on the way. Too bad we're not going back the same route, I would have liked to spend a little time in all of those places. But we had a mission, and it was going to take us four hours to complete it.

We were just getting to Fort Lauderdale when my GPS started going crazy. I forgot to install the Miami maps!!! I discovered how dependant upon electronics I really am when this little fact dawned on me. Without the maps all the GPS knows is major roads. So while I saw the hotel waypoint 2 miles to my right, the GPS was telling me to go up I95 about 20 miles, then to make a uturn and come back down A1A to get there. Um, not. So we had to wing it. We got held up waiting on a draw bridge for a little while, which was actually fun. Casey had never seen one before.

The Geocaching we've done eventually paid off. We found the hotel! It just took a little longer than we had hoped. Unfortunately Danny was sitting in the parking lot expecting us to pull in at any second while we were finding our way. Ooops!

We would have liked to stay at the same hotel as the rest of the family, but the Ramada doesn't allow pets. So we hung out at their hotel for only an hour (there was a big party at the pool/beach), then we drove 4 miles down the street and checked into our room at the Sheraton.

[Danny, Teri, and Paige were returning from the Caribbean on Princess Cruise Lines (blog link to follow). They had just visited Princess Island, Grand Cayman, Jamaica (mon), and Cozumel. They're all very red and very sore, but still glowing from a great vacation. They brought me a rum cake from Cayman, and the exact same coffee mug that I had broken on our trip home from the islands last spring! Thanks, brotherman!]

When we got here it was windy, cloudy, and threatening rain, so we popped open a beer and plopped onto the beds in our room. All of us wanted to veg (nice change from the week before!) so we bought the movie Failure to Launch for $15 on PPV and stared at the boob tube for a couple of hours. (Cute chick flick, btw.)

After our movie ended we changed into our swim suits and headed down and across the road to the beach. Casey and Paige played for quite a while in the turbulent waves, while off in the distance Danny's cruise ship left for sea again ... I thought Teri was going to swim after it for a while there.

Once she realized the ship was gone forever, we headed back across "The Strip" (A1A) and let the girls swim in the pool for an hour or so. The grown ups sat at the abandoned pool bar, watched re-runs of Friends, and discussed our achievement of having quit smoking (three years for brother and wife, almost one for me!) Amazing how we all still love the smell of second-hand smoke ...

Our evening wound down with enough Chinese food to feed an army, another PPV movie (She's The Man) and an empty 12-pack of beer bottles. It's a full moon up there somewhere but we couldn't see it through the clouds.

I don't much like Ft. Lauderdale. The beaches are coarse and brown (not like the powdery Gulf side), and I'm over the whole party mentality. But I had a great day chilling out with the family. They vacation like I do ... so I think next year there's going to be an Anderson Family vacation.

I wonder if Danny agrees ... I guess we'll find out when he posts his blog about today! :)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Welcome to Florida

My Aunt Karen sent this to me the other day ago. I thought it was pretty funny, so here you go!

To: ex-Floridians, present Floridians, and future Floridians or those who know a Floridian.

We're about to enter the peak of the hurricane season. Any day now, you're going to turn on the TV and see a weather person pointing to some radar blob out in the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic and making two basic meteorological points:

(1) There is no need to panic.
(2) We could all be killed.

Yes, hurricane season is an exciting time to be in Florida. If you're new to the area, you're probably wondering what you need to do to prepare for the possibility that we'll get hit by "the big one.'' Based on our experiences, we recommend that you follow this simple three-step hurricane preparedness plan:

STEP 1. Buy enough food and bottled water to last your family for at least three days.
STEP 2. Put these supplies into your car.
STEP 3. Drive to Nebraska and remain there until Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, statistics show that most people will not follow this sensible plan. Most people will foolishly stay here in Florida. We'll start with one of the most important hurricane preparedness items:

HOMEOWNERS' INSURANCE: If you own a home, you must have hurricane insurance. Fortunately, this insurance is cheap and easy to get, as long as your home meets two basic requirements:

(1) It is reasonably well-built, and
(2) It is located in Nebraska.

Unfortunately, if your home is located in Florida, or any other area that might actually be hit by a hurricane, most insurance companies would prefer not to sell you hurricane insurance, because then they might be required to pay YOU money, and that is certainly not why they got into the insurance business in the first place. So you'll have to scrounge around for an insurance company, which will charge you an annual premium roughly equal to the replacement value of your house. At any moment, this company can drop you like used dental floss.

Since Hurricane Andrew, I have had an estimated 27 different home-insurance companies. This week, I'm covered by the Bob and Big Stan Insurance Company, under a policy which states that, in addition to my premium, Bob and Big Stan are entitled, on demand, to my kidneys.

SHUTTERS: Your house should have hurricane shutters on all the windows, all the doors, and -- if it's a major hurricane -- all the toilets.

There are several types of shutters, with advantages and disadvantages:

Plywood shutters: The advantage is that, because you make them yourself, they're cheap. The disadvantage is that, because you make them yourself, they will fall off.

Sheet-metal shutters: The advantage is that these work well, once you get them all up. The disadvantage is that once you get them all up, your hands will be useless bleeding stumps, and it will be December.

Roll-down shutters: The advantages are that they're very easy to use, and will definitely protect your house. The disadvantage is that you will have to sell your house to pay for them.

"Hurricane-proof'' windows: These are the newest wrinkle in hurricane protection: They look like ordinary windows, but they can withstand hurricane winds! You can be sure of this, because the salesman says so.

He lives in Nebraska.

"Hurricane Proofing Your Property: As the hurricane approaches, check your yard for movable objects like barbecue grills, planters, patio furniture, visiting relatives, etc.; you should, as a precaution, throw these items into your swimming pool (if you don't have a swimming pool, you should have one built immediately). Otherwise, the hurricane winds will turn these objects into deadly missiles.

EVACUATION ROUTE: If you live in a low-lying area, you should have an evacuation route planned out. (To determine whether you live in a low-lying area, look at your driver's license; if it says "Florida" you live in a low-lying area.) The purpose of having an evacuation route is to avoid being trapped in your home when a major storm hits. Instead, you will be trapped in a gigantic traffic jam several miles from your home, along with two hundred thousand other evacuees. So, as a bonus, you will not be lonely.

HURRICANE SUPPLIES: If you don't evacuate, you will need a mess of supplies. Do not buy them now! Florida tradition requires that you wait until the last possible minute, then go to the supermarket and get into vicious fights with strangers over who gets the last can of SPAM. In addition to food and water, you will need the following supplies:

23 flashlights. At least $167 worth of batteries that turn out, when the power goes out, to be the wrong size for the flashlights.

Bleach. (No, I don't know what the bleach is for. NOBODY knows what The bleach is for. But it's traditional, so GET some!)

A 55-gallon drum of underarm deodorant.

A big knife that you can strap to your leg. (This will be useless in a
hurricane, but it looks cool.)

A large quantity of raw chicken, to placate the alligators. (Ask anybody who went through Andrew; after the hurricane, there WILL be irate alligators.)

$35,000 in cash or diamonds so that, after the hurricane passes, you can buy a generator from a man with no discernible teeth.

Of course these are just basic precautions.

As the hurricane draws near, it is vitally important that you keep abreast of the situation by turning on your television and watching TV reporters in rain slickers stand right next to the ocean and tell you over and over how vitally important it is for everybody to stay away from the ocean. Good luck and remember: it's great living in paradise! Those of you who aren't here yet you should come. Really!

And besides the alligators we also have sharks!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Another one bites the dust...

My mother once told me that all being married is, is having to do something you don't want to do 50% of the time. This past week I feel like I was married to a family of six.

I was supposed to spend one more day in Indian Rocks. The plan was that we were going to go on a cruise with the kids that was put on by the Marine Aquarium (back at Clearwater, again). It takes you on a dolphin watch, and it drags a net through the intercoastal to catch wildlife to show the kids. It also tours the little aquarium/animal rescue they have there, then finally you get to go shelling and snorkeling (if you so desire). Casey hadn't been able to do kidstuff with Alex and Christine since the first day, so we were very excited to go on this kid-friendly tour that didn't go 1,000 mph. . So we packed our things and moved them to Hollie's room (they don't check out until tomorrow) and got ready to go. It was a fairly slow morning, until out of the blue Hollie decided that we must go NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW so we started heading for the cars like good little tourists. As I reached for my keys I was informed that we are not doing the boat thing, but we are going to go to a bird sanctuary instead. Um, I don't remember discussing this...

Now, if you know me at all you know that I am hot headed, bossy, and want to do what I want to do. I spent my last four days trying to keep nine other people happy, and I was trying desperately to do it with a smile. But this was too much. I really thought my head was going to explode while I tried to process this latest development.

You should be proud of me. I didn't throw anything. I didn't hit anyone.

I didn't even go off on the people who just pissed me off. I just packed my stuff into the car, vented to Stacy for a minute or two, then drove back to Sarasota. (I admit to a little more venting by phone, but by the half way mark I was far enough away from Indian Rocks to start feeling calm again).

So there goes one of the last (unmarried) friend I had in Albuquerque. The last three have been picked off over the past couple of years ... The first one to go got written off for stealing from me. The second one dissed me for a relationship, and the third ... well, you read my rant :) ... my reasons for staying in Albuquerque are becoming fewer as I write this blog.

It is so good to be home now. I mean it's good to be home away from home again. I started this vacation to lower my level of stress ... the past few days were pretty intense, rushed, and even painful at times. I'm really looking forward to getting back to the slower-paced lifestyle I had been enjoying. Besides, I'm sure you're tired of listening to me complain by now :)

We spent the rest of our evening unpacking, swimming at the community pool, and relaxing.

Next stop, Fort Lauderdale.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Clearwater, again

Hollie wanted to spend another day at Busch Gardens. Since Casey and I had no desire to be dragged from attraction to attraction again, we decided to do our own thing. We'll still have Thursday to spend with Alex and Christine. So we enjoyed a lazy morning, listening to the sound of the backhoes pushing sand in the distance.

Around 2:00 we took Olivia back to the groomer and headed north to Clearwater Beach. (I told you we'd go back!) We bought our tickets on the Thriller (Yes, the Sea Thriller. They convinced me to give it a shot), then walked around for an hour waiting for our departure time. 4:00 rolled around, we took our seats on this boat, and we were off. The first thing our driver said was: This is not a dolphin tour - this is a speed tour. LOVELY. As we cruised through the no-wake zone we listened to a prerecorded safety precautions tape about how we should keep our hands inside the boat and remain seated if we want to survive the next hour. Then came Michael Jackson singing Thriller and we were off, driving 50mph on the Gulf of Mexico. It felt like our chairs were going to rip out from under us and send us hurling to our fate as fish food. An hour later he slowed down. I actually saw one dolphin for about 1/2 a second. When the driver noticed that it was playing in our wake he stopped the boat. (huh? Is he related to the Ericksons or something?) So the dolphin went away and we got to see homes owned by Derek Jeeters, Hulk Hogan, and a bunch of Scientologists. $50 later we were happy to back on land.

We stopped at Crabby Bill's for dinner and split a steamer bucket (had our pictures taken too). Then it was off to Clearwater Beach to walk off the excessive amount of calories we had just consumed. As we were walking toward the beach we found one of those pedal taxis, and hopped on for a "free" tour of the area (the pedalers work for tips only). Our pedaler's name was Andy. He is an aspiring chef from Littleton, CO and he reminded us of Robert, Cassidy's dad, a whole lot. He drove us past Captain Bligh's Landing (Miniature Golf) so we jumped off there for a quick 19 holes.

We took a cab back to Pier 60 and walked through the sand, watched the sunset, chatted with street vendors, listened to music, and Casey did the bungee jump trampoline thing since the rock climbing wall was closed. All in all it was a very relaxing evening and a nice time for Casey and me.

Kathie's house was on the way to our motel (she lives in an apartment on the intercoastal), so we stopped by to pick up Olivia. We got home around 10:30 and the construction was going full blast. We contemplated getting a room at the Holiday Inn for the night, but I couldn't bring myself to pay for 2 hotel rooms, so we roughed it out. The AC served as white noise for us, so that combined with the fact that we were very tired allowed us to sleep right through the night.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

6.6.06

Today started like any other day that carries the number of the beast ... we woke up, had coffee, and sat out on the gazebo discussing what we were going to do with our day. The general consensus was that we would hang on the beach here in Indian Shores, then drive to Clearwater Beach (about 30 minutes north on Gulf View Drive) to do the Sea Screamer dolphin tour at 6:00pm; we are to leave the motel at 4:00 to give ourselves time to sight-see first.

So I helped set up the beach umbrellas and sun tent (amazingly it works much better when there isn't any wind), woke princess Casey from her slumber, then went inside to work for an hour or so.

That hour of work turned into three, so Casey played with the kids in the ocean until Hollie announced that since her sun screen doesn't work, her children will only be in the sun for two hours today. I'm really trying to destress, so I didn't spend any energy questioning that line of thinking. When those two hours were up she rustled the kids out of the water and sent them to shower, get dressed and eat lunch, after which she promised they could go with her to Walgreens to pick up her prescription. Why that excited our children I don't know, but it did. Unfortunately just minutes after Casey left for the Walgreens tour she returned to tell me that she couldn't go because Alex cut his finger.

The person who made this decision is the same one generating all of the 's today, so whatever, "Casey, watch TV while I finish working. [knock knock] Come in!" [Hollie] "Alex sliced his finger to the bone on a coke can, we are taking him to the hospital and I'm going to faint. "

So I guess I should stop working now.

She didn't faint; instead she lit a cigarette and hyperventilated on my patio for a while. After that she and Gabe took Alex to the Urgent Care. He didn't get stitches despite needing them. The doctor felt that the stitches would hurt too much so he's going to let the finger heal on its own. Doctor's instructions: Don't get the finger wet. There goes Adventure Island tomorrow.

They stopped at Walgreens on the way home to pick up Hollie's Rx. Pharmacist's instructions: Stay out of the sun while taking this medicine.

The rest of this vacation is going to be fun.

When they got back to the motel at 5:15 to tell us all of this, Hollie also informed us that we still had time to make the Sea Screamer so we should get ready; we're leaving in five minutes.

So we ran around like maniacs, jumped in the car, wrote the phone number on our hands in case we got lost, and we were off. I lead, Hollie and company followed. We got there in time, but the Sea Screamer didn't have enough passengers to do the tour. It was canceled. The excursion next door, The Sea Thriller, was soliciting passengers, so they decided to go on that instead. Casey and I didn't like the name or the fact that they boast 40 mph cruising speeds, so we chose not to do the adrenaline tour with the rest of the junkies. Instead we thought we'd try the restaraunt we drove passed on the way to the Marina: SKYLINE!

We didn't believe it at first, but sure enough, we had just discovered Cincinnati Chili in Clearwater, Florida!

Casey ordered her typical coney and a three way, but half way through she spit a huge mouthful of food back onto her plate. What was she doing you ask? She was trying to find the molar that had just fallen out. That's right - not only had we struck gold, but we lost a tooth in it! We dug it out of the chili and put it in a to-go cup to give to the coveted Tooth Fairy later that night.

An hour later the Sea Thriller was scheduled to return, so we paid our bill and headed back to the Marina. Hollie's mom enjoyed rubbing our noses in the fact that the boat ride was fabulous. That's what we get for being wimps I guess :(

We walked across the road to Clearwater Beach ... this might have been Sand Key, I don't know. (It wasn't - it was Clearwater.) I do know that the beach is like the one at Siesta Key ... white, soft, and seemingly never ending. The big difference is that this place has some hustle to it. Big buildings, thousands of people, street vendors, jungle gyms for the kids. If you want to party, this is where you'd want to go.

They have a Sunset Festival there every night from 7:30 to 10:30 and it was a lot of fun! For us it started off with this guy doing a fire show. He was very funny and we took a bazillion pictures of his various acts.

After that the kids saw the playground equipment and ran squealing across the beach. Hollie had to shop, though, so Alex and Christine had to go after they went down the slide. Casey and I didn't have a lot of desire to wade through the masses on the pier, so we walked down to the beach to watch the sunset. And what a beautiful sunset it was. This is the first one we've seen without a sand-sifting barge blocking the view!

The deal was if Casey let me enjoy the sunset, I would let her do the rock climbing attraction that was set up on the beach. So she did, and she made it all the way to the top! She looked like Spiderman up there. By the time she was done with both trips up the climbing wall, Hollie and family were done shopping and ready to go out to eat. So they went in search of a restaurant and Casey and I drove home with our ever-faithful GPS. We have two more days in this part of the state, so I think we'll be coming back to Clearwater very soon.

When we got home we noticed that the construction had made significant progress. Now they were directly in front of the resort, and the barricade has moved farther south. Our beach access is now 1/4 of a mile away. I wonder if they give inconvenience discounts here?

In closing, 6.6.6 was an interesting day. Not entirely catastrophic (Did I mention that Chris almost choked to death at lunch?); even enjoyable at times (see sunset photos). I am glad it's over though, and I hope I'll be able to sleep with the heavy machinery outside my bedroom window.