Archive for December, 2011


Our friend Becky sent a note asking what prompted this adventure. 

Good question. Over the years, John has become more and more disinclined for winter. 

John - New Hope Winter 2011

It really cramps his style. He likes to get out and do useful things. The cold, despite his Chicago upbringing, is no longer pleasurable.  So every year we book a couple weeks trip to someplace relatively warm. 

We had a blast one year in California with the Malamuts – who live in

Malamuts w/John on Malibu Beach

Thousand Oaks.

Oak Branch at Malamuts

And saw our former neighbor and friend Harald.

Harald and Laura in San Clemente


And checked out Rodeo Drive!

Name that famous Hotel!

Mike collects antique cars and we went to the Barrett Jackson auto auction in Arizona with them – that was a fascinating experience!

Mikes Warehouse of Antique Autos

We also hop down to Sarasota Fl – to enjoy friends Laura and Don – former Glen Rock Girl, former Texas-Colorado boy who met and married later in life and relish the palm trees in their “pretty little city by the sea”

Lovebirds Laura and Don

And we also pop down to Naples to visit Dad and Maryanne.

Dad and Maryanne in Naples 2011


Last year-, we flew into Ft. Lauderdale and hitched up with HS pals Matt Lawskowski and Dyan Bernstein – boating for an afternoon –

Matt and Laura 2011

Dyan loving the ride!

and inbetween we explored . . . discovering Matlashay and Pine Island, which really suited our quest for nature and quiet – neither of which Naples nor Sarasota delivers.

Artist Gallery - Matlashay

Bokelia - Pine Island FL

So I looked around for a pine island rental but what we wanted was already booked up. Then I remembered my girlfriend Ellen


(we walk dogs together and have become good friends), had a friend who owned a home in Cedar Key.  Where in gods name was that? — Well, it was exactly along the FL coast I’ve always wanted to explore.  When you take off from Sarasota by plane, headed for Atlanta, they fly over this very territory and I’d push my cheeks against the window to see the vast, empty land. HEAVEN I thought and schemed at how I might see it.  So Ellen called Boyd who said the place was free for the season – having been rented for the past 5 years by a Maine Couple (they moved across the street to a bay front house). So Oliver Cottage was ours, at a price we could afford for three months!  Wow. We made that decision in September, giving us three months to get things together. 

Dog Walking along Delaware

Almost immediately, my other dog walking girlfriend, Liz, who’s mother had edited my book the year before, asked if her parent’s could rent my house for a month so they didn’t have to stay in her basement. Wow. That’s a thumbs up sign if I ever saw one.  So now we were in a race to not only prepare ourselves for the journey but prepare the house for renters.  Yikes.  There’s a lot to do when that’s the gig!  Cleaning drawers, closets, baseboards, refrigerators!  Stowing away papers, clothes and valuables. Having the chairs fixed.  Sorting out the shed. Big stuff, little stuff – all needing tending because we were not just locking up and going. 

Dr Bello & John before the Operation

We were supposed to leave the 11th of Dec, with renters arriving the 13th – but we were delayed  10 days due to John’s Hermia operation (what a difference that has made to his back issue as well).  But finally we were able to hang the sign on the door and skedaddle!

Thank You Dee, for the glorious Sign!

And that’s the backstory of how we got to Cedar Key

THURSDAY MORNING, DEC 29th,  I was puttering around the kitchen, prepping food for the freezer (we did a major shop on Wed – that story later) still in my pajamas with a sweatshirt and apron while John enjoyed spotting the birds along with his coffee, while we waited to hear from Captain Voyles.

We met the Captain on the 26th – he was finishing up his fishing tour and we were heading out to find clams. Thursday was his only open day but he first had to have an MRI up in Gainsville for his knee. Something had popped.  But he called around 11 to say all was well and let’s meet up at the boat launch at 1.  Yee Ha – first fishing gig.

Birds and Coffee

John and Captain Voyles

We took Daisy with us, figuring she’d be a natural on a boat — but she balked at walking down the metal plank to get to the boat.  Whoop! Whoop! “Danger Will Robinson”  you could see in her eyes. I had to lead her down – then once in the boat, she positively cowered – at the motor, at the movement, at the sway.

Of course she got the hang of it – but it was fascinating to see her try to figure it out as fast as she could.

Flat Bottom Boating

Off we roared in Captain Voyles flat bottom boat, heading out to the large island called ATSENA OTIE KEY – which was the original Cedar Key – its name meaning Cedar in the native indian language Back then, the main island was called WAY KEY . After a hurricane devastation sometime back, Way Key became Cedar Key and Atsena was deserted

Sophie - er - Laura!

We were heading to the back waters – where the trout and redfish winter and the water depth is 3-4 inches at the high tide, hence, the flat bottom boat.  We stopped and fished along the way – but nothing was happening. It was clear Captain Voyles knew where to go, and as we got further away from the island, swinging south from Cedar Key, we were zooming around one small bird sanctuary island and oyster shell strewn patches of land after another.

oyster patches and island wilderness

At times it looked as if he was going to drive us into and over a patch of shell-land, when he’d swerve to the right or left and jut through a narrow passage between the small mounds. We kept marveling at the undisturbed wilderness!

He pointed out that the islands were off-limits beyond the tide level. 

Pushing off the Island -one of many many

When we were fishing, we drifted close to one sandy island and Daisy jumped out! So we had to take care with her on that – the shell mounds would rip her paws to shreds.  But the birds who gathered on the mounds made her mouth water.

We learned the other day that the birds who migrate to this area were late –  so we will have plenty more to see in the coming months.

pelicans hanging

On Thursday we saw blue and white herons, oyster catchers with a long orange bill, some kind of small bird who fly together – weaving through the sky in a patch of waving white – until they turn their grey side toward us and momentarily disappear.  Cormorants and Pelicans gather and gaggle around stationary objects. As we love birdwatching, our eyes were feasting.

Every fishing hole we tried, no luck. We did see some action in one area and Captain Voyles tried the hand cast net to get the Mullet he suspected were there — Mullet, we find out, are vegetarian and had no interest in the shrimp on my line.  — it was interesting to see the handcasting net.

Kate - AKA Fashionplate

I think my sister Katie (and her daughter Rhapsody) should fashion it into her next Ball Gown for her annual Art House Ball, with colored crinolines underneath. She’s made a previous gown out of gumdrops and another with hostess ink snowball cupcakes.

With no luck on the fish, Captain Voyles offered to show us round the island, water side.  That was great! 

Under the 29 Bridge

Winding around the island, we cut through under the bridge of rt 29. Voyles pointed out the claming incubators and boats. 

Seedingly Clam Incubator

When the GVT banned net fishing (too many people were using giant – catch everything – nets –

clamming Boat

circling passagways from island to island – and it was not good for the fish population) they then created the clamming industry – leasing out 2 acres to fishermen to seed the clams and harvest them – I think he said it takes two years to grow for harvesting – half of that time being incubated to a certain size before seeding them in the bay beds.  He said the clammers are constantly seeding and harvesting, and clam leases now cost about 5k, if you can find someone selling one – and they have to be worked of you lose your lease.

Someones dock

He also took us out to a group of pillars sticking out of the water. He told us they used to have planks on them and before we used chemical fertilizers, those planks would build up bird droppings which would be scraped off and sold for fertilizers.  Nature inspired ingenuity.

He had many more stories — about the many snakes on snake Island “That’s a nasty place”

Cormorant Hotel

And the island were a famous pirate supposedly buried treasure – “I go there after any major storm to see what I can find”

So fun and so much more to explore. He said the tides in the winter are lower – so we  plan to schedule a trip on a new or full moon, when the tides will be high enough to  get into the back waters –  needs 4 inches of water.

Glad we are here for a while to have the time to plan that.

Dock by the Boat Launch

Captain Voyles is also a school teacher on Cedar Key – and the range of subjects he has to teach is

Home Sweet Home for Someone

astounding. He then told us of a project he’d applied to get a grant for – a project we’d first learned about from Don Wood – about farming Talapia in tanks with recirculating the water  over greens growing on top of the tanks – one effluence feeds the other. Voyles wants to do this to teach the kids self sustenance and to donate the fish and greens to the food bank.  We promised to hook him up with our friend to compare notes on how to do it.What a great day and great person to spend it with! 


Quieter Boating around Cedar Key

Crabber Heading for the Dock - b/c of boat size, can't slow down

what's out there?

As we drove home, I got a taste for a Richard Hahn Bloody Mary – made with clamato. It was yummy and our evening meal of steak and grilled veggies and local sautéed greens could not have been better!     

Next Topic: The HOOD! xo Laura

On our Porch, After First Fishing




Dec 22: Leaving Virginia around 1pm, we backroaded through the Blue Ridge Mountains and 29 South – shooting down to Greensboro NC.

The roads are so beautiful and i love the quirky ways people express themselves.  The phrase kept coming into my head:

“Yes, Santa, There is a Virginia”

Rolling through its hills, glimpsing its splendor and past, I appreciate it’s allure

– despite its religion, politics and summer weather. 

Snow Hayman -VA

Buena Vista

The sign on the building  says:

“Buena Vista: 6002 Happy Citizens and 2 Grumpy Old Men.” 

I love signs like that. After a good cruise down a wide open, newly paved highway, we arrived in Greensboro at dusk  – and rush hour.

I was in Greensboro for my first year of college – decades ago – and made friends with a hallmate, Carol Short. We’ve remained friends through the years and she bestowed upon me the gift of being godmother to her only child.  She was going to be in Charlotte with family when we arrived at her home but she left us very welcomed with a stocked fridge, freezer, yummy gifts and a comfy bed for the night.  When we arrived, Jenna, her niece and recent college grad who is living with Carol, greeted us with her warm exuberance. I fell in love with the whole Short family from the first time I met them on the farm in Waxhaw NC – with mama Betty Short cooking up a storm each day (oooo those biscuits, every meal) and their stories of wearing clothes made out of flour sacks and the idyllic lifestyle i could see they had – despite the challenges of making your living farming.  The kids all peeled off to have careers in building, teaching, accounting and the like – but everyone came back to the farm for as long as MawMaw was alive….and she lived a long time after her stroke. I have a picture of my first time on their farm when I was 18.  It’s clear i feel right at home…..

Dec 23: We rose and found our way to one of our gift cards – Paneara Bread – for breakfast. Then hit the rowdy road south to  South Carolina, then south east towards Hilton Head.

NC 29 and 73/74 is a glorious, empty highway. 

Then in SC, the road becomes two lane.

South Carolina

  Until we came to Florence and the entrance for 95. 

Approaching 95

Ahhh, there’s the America I try to avoid.

Our Next Manger was to be in Hilton Head, at my sister Kate’s InLaws – Imra and Bob Kaiser.

I’d never been to Hilton Head.

John had terrifying stories of taking his kids there and having a room filled with Rats.Yikes!  I think that was a while ago, as his kids are now in their 40s.

Cruising along 95, we  felt the pang of hunger and John spotted a sign for DUKES BBQ. REAL FOOD.  And it was. Simple, Down Home, Buffet Style, Vats of Tea, Loaves of wonder-style bread on the linoleum tables. Satisfying.

Good thing, too, because when we got on 95 again,

Airstream Dreams

it wasn’t long before the entire highway came to a halt. Then it would zoom up again and grind to another halt.  IF we had also been hungry – THAT would have been super miserable. We finally got to an exit where we could hop on a side road and rolled into Hilton Head around 6 pm.

Bob and Irma Kaiser are the parents of Bob Kaiser, my sister Kate’s deceased husband and father to Rhapsody and Bucky Kaiser.  They have lived in a gated community in Hilton Head for about 15 years.  Their home is spacious and warm.  Irma still stocks her shelves as if cooking for 10.  Old habits die hard. i know. I learned to cook with my family of 10 and it’s hard to scale down, even after all these years. Oh well – good thing I love Leftovers!

I also want to mention the crazy, crazy highway 278 which leads into Hilton Head.  It is a 6 lane mosh pit of NJ drivers all going at breakneck speed.  Holy Brake Lights – it was horrible.  But inside the gates, around the manicure landscape and open marsh, it is serene, quiet, safe.  I’m not much for gated communities.  Too many Rules. Bob was telling us about some of those stories.  I’m a “Question Authority” Kind of Gal.

Bob and Irma KaiserBob Reading First Chapter

  They offered us wonderful hospitality, and supper, which Bob cooked — he cooks every friday now… Irmies made that deal after he retired when she said: “You know, you’re retired, but I’m not.” 

They were very kind and easy to talk with.

One of the topics included my manuscript.

They are both avid readers but cautious b/c my sister (their daughter in law) also writes – but she writes non fiction, about her life, and sometimes that’s a little too close for Irma and Bob.

Once I told them what my book was about – fiction, learning how to follow your heart – and showed them the book cover – which is now completed and I brought along a glicee copy of the original – they both wanted to check it out. “Just read the first chapter,” I invited.

They each did in the morning. . .  and wanted more.

Irma also told me her neighbor is Bohemian and is always talking about her Bohemian Grandmother. OKOK I told them they could keep the manuscript until Feb – if they’d mail it to Ellen in Jacksonville – as it was she I was bringing it to…. They were delighted and I was delighted to share it with them.

DEC 24: Rose Early to give Daisy a decent walk.  The marsh light was lovely.

Hilton Head Marsh

On the road again, cutting through Savannah,

we arrived in Jacksonville around 2 and had a brief lunch with an old family friend Ellen Emerson.

She and my Mom were very close.  She calls herself the piglet to my mom’s Winnie the Pooh.  That sums it up right.

She was off to her own parties that night and the next day so our visit was only 45 minutes.  Plus we had another 3 hours to Cedar Key.

Ellen Emerson and Laura

We also needed some groceries – although very few due to our lack of space in the trunk. So we popped into the Winn Dixie and collected a bare minimum of provisions.  It was time to make the final stretch! So off we roared, jammed into the cab for the final time, driving into the sunset and to our new home for the next three months.   More Soon. xoxo Laura

Initial Doldrums Turn Bright!

We had an interesting day on the 25th and a wonderful day on the 26th

Happy Holidays Island Style

After arriving the 24th evening, we went into town on the 25th for an early supper at the Island Hotel. Good Food! Nice People. So Islandy – this whole place. Then drove all the streets to get oriented.  I really can’t walk too far with my leg – which was totally stressed out by the final weeks of prep – but it’s getting better with each day of rest.
By the time we got home on the 25th John’s mood had turned sour.  What had we done? 
After touring the island he wondered  why we were in this little hut with no view, no dock and surrounded by some hovels.  His discomfort brought me down.
In the morning it was not much different.  He said he had to get it out and not to take it personally. 

Laura at ANNIES

So I brushed if off my shoulders – literally and figuratively – and hoped it was just the dark before the dawn,the contraction before the birth,the scary moments in your new dorm room before you venture forth and find it’s all good, just as you hoped.
After a few hours of organizing and webbing, we dressed and ventured forth -to a most delightful, attitude changing afternoon. With dogs in tow, we stopped for lunch at Annies, which is on the back bay side of the island, across the road and up a couple blocks from us, where the tides go out and leave you high and dry – In the picture, the tide is on its way in – to rise 3 -4 feet only.
Then we headed into town, which was much closer than we thought. 
It would be easy to bike into town.

View from ANNIES

Stopping in at our realtors, we asked some questions about the area – and she was terrific.
Turns out, one of the locals who fishes for mullet and makes the best smoked mullet – by everyone’s opinion – lives two doors over from us. MO and Libby- and he’s our realtors cousin. Knock Knock – Hello Mo- got fish?
And the cool sculptures and mosaics around town were done by Chick and Marsha Schwartz – our other neighbors.
And there is a dock around the corner we can go out on.  And where the nice little beaches and fishing areas you can access – besides the town beach – which was quite lovely – and we are free to picnic, watch the sunset and fish and thow the ball for Daisy.  Apparently there is not a leash law or busy body policing. Or maybe they don’t say anything because our dog is very clearly under our control – and the spell of the ball!.  Very Lovely

Love this building

We also found out about  another highly recommended restaurant – the Island House – first floor of the yacht club.

Saw Grass Club Mosaic Door

Locals rave about their chef – quality home cooking (like we had at the Island Hotel)
So we’ll be going there for New Year’s Eve.


Stopping by the Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center was an equal delight – with info and maps and fishing guides galore.
Also found out a published author lives on the island, writing about a niece and her Aunt — so much like mine, I think, and will find out, and she is a NYT best seller.  WILL be reading her book and then contacting her.
After a lovely afternoon of all this, we were driving back to our now cozy home, in cool funkyville, and stopped to ask a man getting into his truck with a boat attached for recommendations for fresh local clams.  He turns out to be a fishing guide and a school teacher so we are going to try to book him on Thursday – for John’s Birthday.
Then I asked John how much he budgeted for fishing trips and he said: about 10 trips.  Yee Hah! I’m so looking forward to learning the ropes from the locals

Chick Schwartz Sculpture

Then we drove a block past our street to find the produce lady — who also sells clams and oysters  – and just over the bridge is the clam hatchery and marina who sells clams, grouper, shrimp, stone crab claws — all just a couple blocks away from home.

Marsha Schwartz Mosaic

What a turn around in our attitude – and what a delicious meals of clams, stone crab, salad and pasta (from a mix – and quite good)
We then hung out on the front porch of “Oliver Cottage” very happy indeed.
By later evening the wind had turned and rain was heading our way.
As I sit writing this morning, the rain had stopped and the wind-swaying trees were making a lovely melody.
Now it’s pouring and I do feel I’m on an island – Caribbean and laid back.

We may go to the big shops an hour away on this rainy day – although I’d be just as happy hanging about, reading and walking inbetween the raindrops. xoxoxo

Dinner is Served



Our departure was delayed on the 21st of Dec.  As I was packing our 1994 F150, and running out of space, 

John came home with an alternate vehicle – a super big Dodge Ram – with more space than we could fill.

But it didn’t check out so we passed, reconfigured our stuff and loaded up the dogs,

Arriving in Staunton VA that night 11:30, home of John’s daughter & family.

A good nights sleep on a comfy new bed in their new apartment over the barn – with a glorious moose head mounted on the wall. – the head bleached white. A work of art in its own right.

The family – Laura, Scott, Zach and Sarah, along with their dogs – Tack, Kona, Sally and cats Tommy and Timmy – seemed well and were very busy, as usual, regardless of the holiday . .

Duck Hunting in the Morning – got 5 — defeathered and breasted and ready to cook – they had made a duck stew for us (which we missed due to our delay) and we mixed the leftovers into the morning eggs.

Going to Work – hi ho hi ho – an ever-growing farm and looming college fees keep one going.

Popping off to see the Dr, – Scott had a skin tag on his tongue

Preparing to go north for the holiday – shopping, laundry, packing, oh yes, and band practice for Zack. They gave us a bunch of gift cards to aid us on our journey (NICE and VERY USEFUL GIFT!).

Zach and John - displaying their morning catch

Sarah - all grown up!

Bucks took full advantage of the morning delay – Sleeping in a good long while!

We took off around 1 – heading south to Lexington, then east across the Blue Ridge Mountains – switchbacks that reminded us of Costa Rica – and Italy – without the guard rails

We were headed for Greensboro NC, where my friend Carol lives, but she was away to see family.

As a general rule, we try to travel back roads rather than highways.

So much to see.  Here’s a few snaps. (I felt like LISA in MY COUSIN VINNY – taking my snaps as we rolled on through).

Our bikes became the frame of our road shots.

More Later – xo Laura & John

Headed toward Lexington from Staunton

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