Two snowbirds roost in south Florida.

This is our campsite, decorated with Christmas lights and pots of chrysanthemums.  We are facing east and the morning light is lovely.

Returning to Koreshan State Park in Estero, Florida on November 2 felt like a homecoming.  There was much that has changed since we left the park in April (more on that later) but somehow time compresses itself in the familiar and it seems like merely weeks since we were last here.

First, news about where we are living.  Our new site this year in the Volunteer Village is our favorite of all three years here.  We are up against the fence which means we are closest to the very busy Tamiami Trail but the huge advantage is we have a really lovely “front yard”, a place to securely store our bicycles and no neighbors on our front door side.  Plus, we are removed from the center of the very busy Village, the bathhouse, and the Rec Hall.  The morning sun streams in the kitchen windows and the afternoon sun hits the back of T2, keeping things much cooler than last year when we faced straight into the afternoon sun.  We are next door to some friends from last year who are easy to be around.  It’s all good.

There is park ranger and his young family living in the Village this time.   The oldest two girls are curious about learning to bake and Peter is having great fun with them.

Next, our volunteer assignments are turning into what we had hoped for.  Peter was looking forward to resuming his role with the Koreshan cooking program.  The arrival of a new park manager, assistant manager, and special events manager created some initial apprehension but now that we are into the groove, all is going well.  For the pre-season (prior to January 1), he is serving Koreshan recipes (breads, bread pudding, pies) on Sundays to visitors and the reviews are great. Peter is expecting to make the necessary tweaks and get to another high quality and consistent offering.  He has one returning volunteer from last year’s cooking program already on the ground with one other veteran arriving in January.

He has recruited two new volunteers so the first challenge is getting the whole crew working together and it’s going well.  A couple of weeks ago Peter launched the season’s first “Lunch and Learn” program which consists of a private tour of the Settlement (which I got to lead) followed by a private lunch of authentic Koreshan recipes.  The menu was awesome – Portuguese fish soup, grilled kale with onions and garlic, coleslaw, cornbread, and mango and Shaker lemon pie for dessert.  It was a great day.

We snowbirds had the chance to ride around town in a convertible! The people at Coconut Point Ford gave it to us while they worked on our truck. I think this place agrees with us, don’t you?

My assignments are focused on docent activities in the Art Hall, my favorite place in the Settlement.  Due to a change in the state regulations, I am not doing as many tours as I had hoped which means the rare ones I do get to do are very special to me.

This week I submitted my proposal for year two of the Women’s History Month programmer March and am now waiting for a meeting with management and their approval.  I’m also working on a new presentation entitled “Women of Koreshan” which I will be presenting at the Life Long Learning Institute just up the road in Punta Gorda later in January.  I’m also helping pull together a display for the Lee County Library featuring the Settlement, which is also really interesting since it involves getting back into the archives which are under the careful protection of the folks at Florida Gulf Coast University.  I’m really learning a lot from the curator of the collection and the professors with whom I get to interact.

I call this “flamingo love”.  They are roosting here and cheerfully decked out in holiday bows.

On the family and friends front, we spent Thanksgiving in Tampa with my son and his two girls which was a weekend of wonderful time together, great food, a tour of a new Western art museum in St. Petersburg, and the luxury of three nights in our favorite Hilton Garden Inn, luxurious with a bathtub for soaking and unlimited big fat cotton towels, things that make such weekends extra special when living in T2.

We had a catch-up visit with my cousin who lives up in Sarasota and heard all about her incredible trip (in October) to Portugal, which makes me want to go there sooner rather than later.  There will be more family visits over the Christmas holidays as one of my sisters and her family venture to sunny, lovely Florida where we’ll have a reunion that will hopefully include my son and his daughters for joyous celebration.

Christmas white lights in our shiny bathroom create a wonderland for us. So happy!

Christmas is always nostalgic for us since we miss our New Hampshire family when we are on the road like this but I have to say it is far less painful than that first Christmas on the road back in 2015.  With the passage of time, and the broader perspective of how wonderfully blessed we are to be able to live this way, the separation feels less severe.

On December 30 we will mark the 4th anniversary of our full-timing lifestyle.  It has gone beyond our wildest dreams, stretching us both individually and together in unexpected ways, and opening our eyes and our hearts to a world that neither of us knew before.  When we started this pilgrimage four years ago, there was no way of knowing how many wonderful new friends we would make along the way,  how it would enrich us spiritually, and what a blessing it was to pare down and live lighter and much more simply.  Thank you for coming along with us.

Liz and Peter are settled into Koreshan State Park in Estero, Florida for the season in their Airstream.  Wishing you a joyous holiday and a happy New Year.

 

 

 

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Amana, Nauvoo and then Paris (Tennessee)

Our lucky charm, handmade with love by a dear friend, continues to grace T2.

Life on the road is full of unexpected occurrences.  There are the happy ones, like discovering the creamiest and richest peanut butter ice cream we’ve ever had (more on that later), or the warm hospitality of strangers (we’ll cover this below), to the stamina-building mechanical breakdowns like the one we experienced upon pulling into Paris, Tennessee.  Yes, gentle readers, we had an “event” and we continue to see how blessed we are.

 

 

 

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Long gazing through Wyoming.

Cheyenne Mountain State Park was a welcoming and restful stop in Colorado Springs.

The morning of September 6 broke hard, clear, and cold as we headed north from Colorado Springs on the final leg of our trip to Wyoming.  Pikes Peak was dusted in snow from a brief encounter with winter, a prelude of things  to come.  At Fort Collins, we were at 5,000′ elevation but our ascent would continue as we headed north.  As I learned from John McPhee’s Rising from the Plains, southeast Wyoming is a tipping point of geological wonder, higher in elevation than the plains of Colorado to the immediate south and higher than the northern part of Wyoming. Continue reading

Enchanting New Mexico

We have had a love affair with New Mexico since we first came here thirty years ago, and crossing the border this time felt just as remarkable.  There were specific things we had on our itinerary and first was a trip to the town of Las Vegas, in the northeastern corner of the state where we were in search of a very special building.

The original “Big Cowgirl”oil painting  lived in our home in Keene for many years.

The story is that years ago, in our life back in New Hampshire, we had purchased a large oil painting by a Massachusetts realist painter named Randall Deihl.  For a decade, “Big Cowgirl” hung on the wall of our high-ceilinged condominium in Keene, reminding us of all things about the west that we loved.  There were lots of stories about the painting that had developed over time, but what we did know is that it was painted when the artist lived in Santa Fe in the 1990s, because he was inspired by a mural on a building in Las Vegas, New Mexico and we were on a quest to see if we could locate it. Continue reading

Adventures in paradise and various utopias. Part 1.

A visit to our friend Mark’s tiki bar which he constructed completely of repurposed materials. Wonderful!

On Sunday, we spent a glorious, lazy summer day with our friend Mark at his tiki bar, The Sunset Grill, on the shore of a lovely little lake in Brown County, Indiana.  The tiki bar is dedicated to a sense of escape from the ordinary and humdrum into a paradise that those of us of a certain age have populated with common, even if distinct, memories.  The tiki bars of our younger days often included a soundtrack of Jimmy Buffet songs, and a kitschy decor of fishnets and buoys and mermaids and drinks with paper parasols.  The paradise of the tiki bar is unrelated to anything historically accurate and more like an island nirvana straight out of the imagination. Continue reading

The end of the road.

I am an incurable romantic and quite capable of being brought to tears by the most improbable of situations.  Today was one of those days where I have been reduced to a melancholy and teary reflection based on a decision that had to be made.  Today,  I parted company with Big Red, my well traveled, reliable suitcase.  Big Red was huge and clunky compared to the standards of today’s suitcases with over 6,400 cubic inches of carrying space.  His wheels were worn out, his retractable handle long ago succumbed to the indignity of duct tape and his zipper, twice replaced, had seen better days.   His ballistic nylon fabric, once deep red, had faded and he had actually suffered a mysterious burn somewhere and his sides were deeply worn along the edges.  After one long flight, he limped off the baggage carousel with a puncture and tear caused by some errant fork lift.  It couldn’t be repaired. Continue reading

New England around the 4th of July.

The Ashuelot River runs along the border of our campsite in Swanzey, New Hampshire. The summer season is an especially glorious time to be here.

When it comes to the most beautiful places we have seen in our travels, there is little that can compare to an early July morning in verdant New Hampshire.  It was one of the things I loved most about my decades living in the Granite State and it is shear indulgence to be able to selectively return when the climate here outdoes itself feeding the soul.  We had booked a full four weeks at Ashuelot River Campground for our summer address and under the caring attention of Chuck and Laura, we are thoroughly enjoying our seasonal home. Continue reading

Eating our way through the South.

The happy epicure, here in Savannah awaiting biscuits at Back in the Day Bakery.

One of the delights of our travels is we occasionally treat ourselves to eating out and sampling the local cuisine.  We are pretty picky in our choices and since Peter is such a wonderful cook, our standards are high.  Last fall, we sampled perhaps the best of Southern fried chicken in a funky place called the Old Country Store in Lorman, Mississippi where the proprietor, Mr. D, comes by occasionally to serenade his stuffed and very happy customers.   What made it special?  The sheer lightness and crispiness of the batter, which served to lock in the tender and flavorful chicken which was fried hot in a cast iron skillet. This place does chicken right.  Our time in Abbeville, Louisiana included some étouffée that was ethereal, so rather than try to compare those highlights, we opened the horizons to new experiences of some traditional dishes with new flair. Here is an eclectic mix of some of the highlights from Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina and Wilmington, North Carolina.

At Belfords, Peter prepares to indulge in one crab cake Benedict, and. half a fried oyster po’boy. We shared!

First in Savannah, the crab cakes Benedict were amazing at a place called Belfords on Franklin Square.  The crab cakes were moist, perfectly flavored and rich with tender crab meat (very little breading).  They were topped with a perfectly poached egg and Cajun remoulade sauce with just a touch of heat.  Peter ordered a fried oyster po’ boy, just because, and loved every decadent bite.

I’ve been researching the best buttermilk biscuits, one of the traditional of Southern foods that are hard to get right and easy to mess up.  In Savannah, we headed to a beautiful little bakery called Back in the Day.  It came highly recommended and so we wandered over one Sunday morning.  One of their specialities is buttermilk biscuit breakfast sandwiches and they did not disappoint. The biscuits are perfectly made and light and flavorful.  The compact egg frittata, with cheddar cheese, was flavored with a touch of thyme.

Lemon scone, glaze, and pistachios from Back in the Day Bakery.

Later, I found out that the owner-baker was nominated for the James Beard Outstanding Baker award.  In addition to the buttermilk biscuit, the lemon scone topped with pistachios is beyond belief.  This place is worth the stop.

As New Englanders, we know a lot about ice cream and Peter will happily remind folks that we native Yankees are known to consume more of the delectable dessert than those in any other part of the country.  So when my well-traveled sister (a resident of Connecticut, one of the original thirteen colonies) recommended the ice cream at Leopold’s in Savannah, we paid attention.  The ice cream parlor is great fun with movie posters and kitschy decor, including a telephone booth, and the first time we went by on a Sunday, the line was a half a block long and we decided this is why we were staying for four days.  We returned on Monday and with no wait.

Enjoying the Lemon custard ice cream at Leopold’s.

One of their hallmark flavors is called Lemon Custard, which is rich lemon ice cream with fresh lemon zest and subtle lemon flavor.   The winning recipe is unchanged since 1919 and I can see why.

So while we are on ice cream, let me share the experience of the amazing Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream in Charleston, South Carolina.  Located in the hip neighborhood of King Street the store is filled with display cases of the fabulous and very unusual flavors of Jeni Britton Bauer who started making ice cream in Columbus, Ohio in 2002.  What distinguishes her ice cream is the unusual combination of flavors, the delectable nature of the ingredients, high in butterfat and low in air, which are creamy and rich and not filled with sugar or thickeners.  The flavors change with the seasons as fresh fruits change.

Half-scoop samples of coffee chocolate chip, lavender berry, and Savannah buttercream mint at Jeni’s.

On our first trip (yes, we made two distinct visits!), it was brambleberry crisp which is made with brambleberry jam laced with tasted oat streusel in rich vanilla ice cream.  Then it was a smooth lemony, rich cream laced with what I remember as after dinner mints. Oh my.  Jeni’s has begun packaging these dreams from heaven in pints which are now available through the country, but I’m not sure if that is good news, or not!

Peter’s quest around the South was for fried oysters and after the po’ boy, it was lunch at Amen Street Fish and Raw Bar in downtown Charleston.  These fried oysters were light and tender and there was nothing left over. On a gorgeous, spring day, we walked from the restaurant to the lovely Waterfront Park and its iconic Pineapple Fountain which apparently doubles as a wading pool for residents during the heat of summer.

Grilled shrimp in butter and garlic on fried grouper at Seewee’s Restaurant.

The fried oyster sampling culminated (at least to date!) at a funky roadhouse called SeeWee Restaurant north the city in Awendaw.  The decor alone in this restaurant that’s been serving southern home cooking for decades is worth the trip.  The food was up to the locals’ recommendation.  The fried oysters were great and my grilled local shrimp on top of fried local grouper was equally tops.  So much food was served that we took it home and re-heated for lunch the next day and it was just as tasty.

We headed up next to Wilmington, North Carolina and decided to tour the riverfront downtown along the Peace River.  In the process we tripped upon a place called The Peppered Cupcake, which apparently is known for its remarkable tiny cakes.  We have a world class pastry chef in the family (one of my sisters) so we are accustomed to some of the best in buttercreams, ganache, and light cakes.

Rose water buttercream raspberry cupcake from The Peppered Cupcake.

Let me say that this place is amazing.  First of all, the little restaurant is comfortably air-conditioned and that is a first clue as to the attention of the owner-baker.  Climate control makes for superb buttercream chemistry and texture. Second, the little cakes are gorgeous to look at, each one a tiny masterpiece that one hesitates (but only briefly) to destroy.  And third, the taste which is often an unusual combination of ingredients. It’s called The Peppered Cupcake because of the addition of peppers and chilis that are used in some of the recipes.  In addition to that, the offerings include coconut buttercreams, and brownie chocolate ganache and the devine rose water raspberry.  We fully intended to eat one in the sweet little Victorian shop and take the other two home but the poor dears never had a chance to make the trip after we tasted the first morsels.  Besides, it was too warm a day and the buttercream would have been stressed out.  Really.

Ending this Mother’s Day post with a variety of chocolate offerings including mocha, peppered mango, and coffee buttercream from The Peppered Cupcake.

 

Peter and Liz continue their gastronomic sampling through North Carolina and Virginia as they work their way around the South in their Airstream.

 

 

 

(Savannah) Georgia on my mind.

Our home in Savannah was the spectacular Skidaway Island State Park with long leaf pine and towering oaks.

We both needed the four days of delectable sleep and complete rest that we experienced outside of Gainesville, Florida at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. As when waking from a long night’s deep sleep we moved slowly and intentionally, first sitting symbolically upright and then consciously putting our feet firmly on the ground, exhilarated to find all our parts still in working order. Continue reading

Spring cleaning before heading north.

The tools from the spring cleaning tool belt. All that is missing is the baking soda, already in the frig.

Each year, in springtime, I commit to a comprehensive T2 cleaning.  It’s usually spread over a few days with Day 1 always starting with the triannual refrigerator defrosting.  Perhaps it’s because it is my least favorite cleaning task and I know that once starting it, I have committed to  the no-turning-back process.  The best part is the ritual that ends with putting the fresh new box of  baking soda in place and writing the date on the duct tape patch on the inside the refrigerator door.

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