Monday, January 28, 2013

Turning My Thoughts Toward Home....or Maybe Not!

My Back Deck - Flagler Beach, FL
January 27, 2013

Where in the world have I been for the last week?  I've been right here, but my days have been so filled with the same daily routine, I haven't been able to summons up the motivation to write about it.  My last post, A Day In The Life, told the story and nothing has changed.

Bill flew in for the MLK long weekend.   We discussed all sorts of fun things we COULD do, but in the end, did very little more than eat, sleep, walk, talk and gaze at the ocean.  He flew back out Monday afternoon dreading the quick transition from warm balmy weather to freezing cold temps, but at soon as he was back at school the next day, forgot all about being down here.   And this is a good thing!

This year has been all about the amazing weather.  It is my fifth time spending the entire month of January and it's the first time there hasn't been even one brief cold snap.  Most days are a mixture of sun and passing clouds with temps somewhere in the 70's.  Although it is badly needed, there has been zero rain since I arrived and none is predicted before I leave.  

Speaking of leaving, my time is up on Friday morning.  Exactly when I will get home to Tennessee is still a bit up in the air as Bill has come up with a plan for us to spend a few more days in Florida.  We'll see how that pans out and if it does, you'll be the first to know.  I'm all for stretching out the 70 degree days a bit longer, but only if Bill is here too.  

There was just one thing missing in today's picture, so I'll leave you with that.   I'm trying my best to stay healthy while here and that includes making certain I get my daily recommended dose of Vitamin D..................

I think I'm making quite a fashion statement right down to the pink fuzzy socks!
Thankfully, my deck is completely private.

Thanks for Reading!

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Day In The Life

Betty Steflik Memorial Preserve Boardwalk - Flagler Beach, Florida
January 4, 2013

Thought you might enjoy seeing what a special place Flagler Beach really is.   According to Trip Advisor, this is the #1 rated restaurant.............................
The Java Joint - Rated #1 by Trip Advisor

followed closely by this fine dining establishment......................

The Waffle Cone - Rated #2 by Trip Advisor

If neither of those float your boat, there's always........................

Burrito Works - Highly Rated by Trip Advisor

And my own personal favorite..............................

 Photo of Turtle Shack Cafe in Flagler Beach
The Turtle Shack - Rated #4 by Trip Advisor
(not my picture - I lifted it off the internet)

I mean seriously, people.....why would anyone want to go to New York City, Paris or London with choices like these right here in northern Florida?  The others have been around for awhile, but the Waffle Cone was new to us.  I'll have to say that I've never seen a flavor board quite as extensive and to my delight, it included at least 10 choices of frozen yogurt.  Leave your credits cards in the beach house - cash only at this fine dining establishment!  If you want fancy table cloths and fine china, you'll have to head north to St. Augustine or south to Ormond or Daytona Beach cause you'll not find them in Flagler.  And that's just the way I hope it stays!!

Moving right along...........the days since Bill left have FLOWN by.   I can't believe he'll be back late this evening for the long MLK weekend.  I hesitate to even say this given the unreal amount of rain that have fallen at home, but my weather has been the most perfect of any year that I recall.  There has been not one single drop of rain, very little wind and sunny, cloudless days with temps in the mid to upper 70's!  These are ideal weather conditions for someone who suffers from rheumatoid disease and I could not be more grateful for this period of time when I feel so good.  It has been a long time and can change in an instant, so I take nothing for granted.  

Someone asked what I do all day and do I ever get bored?  My life here is very simple, but then my life at home is very simple and I've worked quite hard to get it that way.  I am NEVER bored!  There is always something to read, something to plan, someone to call or email, something to research and then the extremely important activity of staring at the ocean and contemplating life!  

I walk A LOT!  My goal is two 50-60 minute walks each day and most days, that happens.  You all know that I LOVE where I live and would not want my permanent home to be anywhere else, but Knoxville is so behind the times in its efforts to become a pedestrian friendly community.  I am reminded of that each time we are here.  In Flagler County, sidewalks are just assumed.  If a road is built, it is built with a wide sidewalk.  The area is still growing by leaps and bounds with miles and miles of roads that have been built and are now awaiting development.  Guess what?  Every single one has a wide sidewalk! 

There is a 12-foot wide sidewalk/bike path which runs along highway A1A through Flagler County from end to end.  Since that is the road my house is on, most of my evening walks are spent walking either north or south along this pathway.  It is such a pleasure because I always end up chatting with some of the nicest folks who are walking or biking.  Earlier this week, I met the coolest couple from Switzerland who were biking from Jacksonville to Key West on A1A.  

My morning walks vary from one of three places depending on what else I need to do that day and my overall mood! 

The Betty Steflik Memorial Preserve............................

Looking to the right, you can see the bridge which crosses the Intercoastal Waterway and heads west about three miles to Interstate 95.

I enjoy sitting on the benches and watching the boats go by.  This is the intercoastal waterway, so it stays quite busy.

The path shares a parking lot with the Flagler Public Library and the town park where there are tennis courts, basketball goals, a playground and picnic area.  I have walked this boardwalk at all times of the day and it never fails to surprise me with something different.  

Between my house and the town, there is a large planned community that sits on the intercoastal waterway.  It has only one way in, a guest parking lot at the entrance and grid of streets that intersect on the large circle which runs the perimeter of the property.  For a couple of reasons, it is one of my favorite places to walk.  It's safe, secure and with a mostly elderly population, you better believe these folks know when a "stranger" is walking their street.  But once they know you, you are welcomed and I've seen some sweet examples of "community" i.e. people loving, caring for and watching out for each other as I've walked these streets.  Like I said earlier, I never feel bored when I'm here in Flagler Beach, but on days when I'm really missing Bill, this is where I will go because there is ALWAYS someone to talk to.  They have "rangers" who volunteer to drive their golf carts through the streets a certain number of times each day specifically to check if anything is amiss or to knock on a door if they haven't seen someone in a couple of days.  The place just "feels" good and I always enjoy walking there.

It's a toss-up for sure, but St. Joe Walkway/Palm Coast Linear Trail may be my favorite place in the area to walk.  It's a little further from my house in the neighboring community of Palm Coast.  This is the area where commercialization has gone rampant, but the two trails are totally within the residential area.  The St. Joe Walkway runs parallel to the intercoastal waterway it's entire length and connects with the Palm Coast Linear Trail making it the longest of the paths I walk without repeating.  This is usually my option when I need to go to Walmart, the library or grocery store.

These are not my only options, but they are my favorites.  There is a new 3.1 mile greenway in Palm Coast that I'd like to check out before I leave and and the Lehigh RailTrail which Bill and I have ridden on our bicycles, but is too secluded and out of the way for me to be comfortable walking there alone.

Yesterday, I drove to Jacksonville to spend some time with a friend whom we've known since college days.  We enjoyed lunch and getting caught up. Late this evening, I'll pick Bill up at the airport and we are looking forward to the long MLK weekend for some catching up.   I am thankful to note that rain has been taken out of our forecast completely so even though cooler temps are expected, the weather should be nice.  I will be most happy to see him!

Thanks for Reading!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Weight Loss Wednesday

The path through the holidays and my December illness was a bit curvy, but I'm doing O.K!
St. Joe Walkway - Palm Coast, Florida
January 1, 2013

Yes, this post will be totally about my weight loss journey.  That's the premise on which this blog was begun and although the blog may go in many directions, I'll never leave this part of it behind. Maintaining my weight will be a struggle until I draw my last breath on this earth and this blog along with the support I've found through it have gotten me to maintenance for what I sincerely hope is the last time.

I started the New Year still carrying the few pounds I gained while sick during the first part of December.  Those pounds were not coming off easily as I'd hoped once I completed all the meds and returned to my normal way of eating.  I chose to work hard to gain no MORE weight through the holidays. On January 8 when Bill left me in Florida to return home and I was on my own for 10 days, I'd follow a strict round of the 17 Day Diet, Cycle 1.  That is exactly what I have done.

Historically, my time in Flagler Beach has been an effortless month for me to lose weight.  In 2007, the year I was originally losing my 65 pounds, I lost more weight during the month of January than any other month.  In 2008, I was able to lose the remaining few pounds and actually dipped BELOW my goal while here.   Looking back over my prized records, I am reminded that I lost weight in January of both 2009 and 2010 while here.  So my record here is a good one and I plan to keep that record intact.

So I consider this "me" time!  I miss Bill terribly and admit watching him walk through that gate at the airport last Tuesday headed home was TOUGH!  But there was a tiny part of me that was excited because I was so ready to concentrate on getting myself, my eating and my weight 100% back to the way it was for most of 2012.  

Here are the things I am doing........................

1) walking twice every day for 50 minutes to an hour each time (more about that in Friday's post).  Usually early in the morning, then late afternoon.

2) eating easy to prepare meals that adhere to Cycle 1 of the 17DD.  

3)  spending some time each day seeking out new healthy eating blogs to read (if you know of any or have any favorites, let me know)

4)  reading healthy living articles I find on the internet

5) just reading.............

6)  looking for ways to improve Gains and Losses, considering some new ideas and keeping blog posts up to date (I'm almost there)

Some things I am NOT doing...........................

1) allowing myself any stress

2) spending time thinking about food - between the farmer's market and a couple of trips to the store, my fridge and pantry is well-stocked with a variety of mix and match items.  I really don't even have to look - just pick one item off each shelf and I've got my meal.

3)  COOKING!  

4)  washing dishes

5)  worrying about how I look  (I am clean, I am healthy, my clothes always match - my focus is comfort, not fashion)

Some things I enjoy.....................

1)  Since I am alone and thoroughly enjoy my house, I could easily go days with zero in person interaction with others.  That's not how we are meant to live, so I make a concentrated effort to interact with someone new each day.  I always know that I will encounter numerous people on my walks, so that isn't hard.  People are very friendly and always happy to chat.

2)  I've spent some time thinking about goals for Bill and I to consider this year.   We'll have fun discussing those when he comes down for MLK weekend.

3)  While here, we always make decisions and I get a good start on our summer trip plans.

4)  And have I mentioned reading...............................

I've already made a great dent in those pounds since last Tuesday.  I expect the rate of loss to slow, but am still hoping I can be back at goal or at least very close when I return home on January 31.  

Would you enjoy having 10 days all alone in a house by the Atlantic Ocean?  What would you do?

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's A Small World After All!

EPCOT Center - Walt Disney World
Orlando, FL - January 7, 2013

My spirit of wanderlust came directly from my parents, particularly my mother whose eyes still light up when you say the word "go!"  We didn't have much money, so we traveled about in a Starcraft Pop up Camper before moving up to a Cox Pop up camper that had a STOVE before going big time in a Shasta Travel Trailer much like THIS one.  It had a stove AND a refrigerator, but no bathroom!  It sat in my parent's backyard many years after Bill and I married - what I would give to have it NOW!  It was that original Starcraft Pop up that took us to Disney World for the first time.

Every spring, we took a trip to a different area of Florida to watch baseball teams in their spring training homes.  Times were much different then, games were open and the players interacted with the fans following the game.  I've got quite a collection of pictures and autographs of which I'm very proud!  (Can't remember how they managed to take my sister and I out of school for a week each year - need to ask my mom about that.)  We were able to see a new part of Florida and indulge my parents in their love of baseball which continues to this day!

So no surprise that the spring trip in 1972 included a visit to Disney World.  Mom had read about its much publicized opening on October 1, 1971 and wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  I distinctly remember NOT being excited about it as I was the unfortunate age of 16, almost 17 and the idea of this was totally UNCOOL!  But I so wrong! We had a great time and I could not begin to tell you how many I have returned to Disney World since then! Bill and I were first there together on choir tour with Carson-Newman College A Capella Choir in 1977 and we've been back time and time again. 


Please click HERE if interested in learning more about Walt Disney World.  It had been three years since we visited Disney and we were astounded at the growth.  Walt Disney has got to be one of the world's greatest visionaries!  And from what we understand, there is still much, much more land waiting to be developed!

Most people either love it or they hate it!   They "get it" or they don't.  Bill ALWAYS "gets it" and can never get enough.   Sometimes, I get it and sometimes, I don't!  I "got it" for many, many years and loved it, but have a pessimistic tendency to wonder why we have to keep going back when nothing new has been added and a one day admission to ONE park is so expensive.  Yet the minute we got inside, I felt the magic and was glad we had come!

We chose to visit EPCOT this year and two things played into our having such a wondeful day.   1) the weather - no it was not perfect.   In fact, though plenty warm enough, it was completely overcast, a bit windy and there was the threat of rain (that was predicted) all day, but these factors led directly to reason number 2) there was absolutely NO ONE there.  In all these years, I've never been to any Disney property when there were less people.  We never waited in line for anything - attractions or food.  January (after New Year's week), February, September and the first two weeks of December are touted as the least crowded times to visit, but this was incredible.  Note the absence of people in the pictures.  

 Just after passing through the ticket booth - note the absence of people.

Because of the uncrowded conditions, we felt no need to develop any strategy regarding the most popular attractions or which direction to go within the park.   We just moved as we wanted, enjoyed an attraction when we came to it, sat and rested whenever we wanted and ate whenever we wanted.  We were able to snag the best tables and seats that are often just looked at longingly as you wander how in the world those people got THOSE seats!!  

All in all, it was about as perfect of a day as it could have been!  Again, because of the small crowds, we were done earlier than we expected to be and were much less tired than we normally are because we did so little standing in line.  We rarely stay for the nightly fireworks show, Illuminations.  It is VERY good, but we have a two hour drive back to Flagler Beach that includes driving back through the traffic nightmare that is downtown Orlando, plus we've seen it hundreds of times.  We left just before dark and were back in Flagler Beach before we knew it!  

I would imagine just about everyone reading this has been to Disney at least once or has plans to go at some point in their lifetime!   And everyone should - at least once!
Last picture before leaving - same place we started this morning!!

 My personal favorites!!

For some reason, I just liked this shot!

Have you been to Walt Disney World?  Which parks and when?
Would you return?

Friday, January 11, 2013

More Catching Up..........

From the Boardwalk at Betty Steflik Memorial Preserve
Flagler Beach, Florida - December 29, 2012

There is a tradition in our travels to Flagler Beach that is very special to me.  It makes the trip from home complete and marks the official beginning of my time here.  The Betty Steflik Memorial Preserve is a special place about which I will write more in an upcoming planned post.  For now, just know it as the place we head as soon as possible after arriving in Flagler Beach.  Today's picture was taken somewhere along the elevated boardwalk which runs for more than a mile through an absolutely incredible marshland, mangrove forest and protected gopher tortoise habitat.  The preserve is located on the intercoastal waterway right in the village of Flagler Beach and is a place I know like the back of my hand.  I feel comfortable and safe here even when alone.  It's a place to exercise or a place to simply meander.  Once I've walked the "boardwalk," my journey is complete and I am "home!"  

Over the years, we've established a Flagler Beach "must-do" list with four things on it.  These are the four things we most love to do and want to revisit each time we are here.  Believe me, this doesn't begin to touch all the things we enjoy doing - they just seem to be the four that have become special to us and therefore, tradition!  

2) A Day in St. Augustine with lunch at Harry's Seafood Restaurant

4) Blue Springs State Park to see the manatees

Because of the way New Year's Eve and New Year's Day fell (we stay VERY close to home on those two days) and the fact that my parent's were coming by on their way to Englewood, Florida, we only got three of the four done this year.  We did not make it over to DeLand (about 60 miles away) to see the manatees.  It is possible that I'll make the trip over myself one day as according to the reports, it appears to be an excellent year for viewing these graceful creatures in this gorgeous habitat.  If you check out the manatee link above, you'll see that many of them have been named as they return to this same location year after year.  Hard to believe, but one can spend hours simply standing along the viewing area watching them play.

Our first day trip was back up the coast 30 miles to the oldest city in the US, St. Augustine.  We never tire of walking the streets looking at the wonderful buildings/homes with their Spanish influence.  I still see Flagler College as one of the most beautiful and unique college campuses anywhere.  We are usually there just as new students are arriving, so security is relatively low and we are free to roam in and out of the buildings. Originally built in 1888 by Henry Flagler and partner, John D. Rockefeller as the Ponce De Leon hotel, it was gifted to Flagler College in 1968 when the college was established.  The college has spent millions refurbishing the original building and adding new ones while maintaining the integrity of the area.  The college is right in the middle of old St. Augustine and blends in to the degree that makes the college almost indistinguishable as something different.  The college was opened as a women's college, but became co-educational in 1971.  

Cheap as I am, I refuse to pay $10 to park for a few hours when I've got two feet that love to walk, so we always find parking outside the old city district giving us even more opportunity to discover the wonderful residential areas and different architectural styles.  But all that walking leads us straight to Harry's Seafood Restaurant and its patio seating area.  Bill does not feel that he has truly arrived in Florida until he can chow down on some disgusting fried oysters.  He claims Harry's has the best, so you can imagine the disappointment written all over his face when our server announced they were out of oysters.  He very graciously changed to shrimp and declared them delicious.  My crabcakes were also delicious as they usually are.  

We try to time our trip to St. Augustine so that we are driving back to Flagler Beach as the sun sets making a perfect ending to a very full, but wonderful day.  BTW, I apologize for the lack of pictures in these posts.  There are two reasons for that.  First, we have so many pictures of these places from prior years that we are deliberately leaving the camera behind and simply enjoying what we see.  Second, my camera is still tending to have "spots" on it which I can't remove and picture quality is questionable at best.  One of my projects while on my own down here is to research and buy a new camera!

As I mentioned, we spent a very quiet New Year's Eve and New Year's Day right here in Flagler Beach only leaving the house to walk.  To reiterate what a sleepy quiet area this really is, we rang in the New Year watching movies and only after heading to bed did we realize we never even heard one single sound of a firecracker!  My kind of party!!

But by January 2, we were more than ready for a day trip and it was south to Merritt Island we headed.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is 80 miles due south of Flagler Beach.  The 140,000 acre refuge shares a common boundary with the Kennedy Space Center.  Driving from the mainland over to the island provides breaktaking views of the launch pads at the Space Center.  The refuge manages habitat for over 500 species of wildlife supporting one of the highest numbers of endangered and threatened species in the entire National Wildlife Refuge system.  There is a state-of-the-art Visitor Center with displays and a movie, plus a really cool quarter-mile accessible boardwalk that starts and ends directly from the VC.  But the highlight of the refuge is the seven-mile, one way Black Point Wildlife Drive.  There are several stops along the way corresponding with a brochure available at the VC and if you take less than two hours to do this drive, you've done it too quickly!!  Every year, we vow we are going to get up, get out and be there shortly after sunrise when (just like in our own Cades Cove) wildlife viewing is said to be at its best, but we've not managed to accomplish that yet!!  We arrived mid-morning this time, it was already quite warm and we anticipated a less than optimal wildlife sightings.  That did turn out to be the case.   We only saw two alligators which is by far, the fewest we've ever seen on the drive. 

We saw all sorts of birds, but only two Roseate Spoonbills which is the bird I most look forward to seeing.  There have been times when one of the open areas has been full of these beautiful birds with their odd shaped bills.   We saw one rather large snake that slithered across the road in front of us.  Oddly, it was the first snake we've ever seen on the drive.  And the Bald Eagle was still in the same nesting place from our previous visits.  During certain hours, a ranger is stationed in that area to help folks locate the nest and provides binoculars to enhance viewing the babies.  That's always really cool!

But the highlight on this day was something we've never seen on the drive and seems odd we would refer to it as a highlight because these have GOT to be one of ugliest creatures God saw fit to create!  Coming around a bend with no others cars in sight, we noticed a big black creature not far away, but on the other side of the canal.  Bill immediately said, "it's a bear!"  I thought the same thing as there are black bears in the refuge, but it wasn't a bear.  It was a HUGE black boar and we quickly realized there were two others close by.  We sat quietly and watched the three for probably fifteen minutes and I now fully understand why they are such a problem both in Florida and in our Tennessee mountains.  The rooting never stopped and we could readily see the damage done to the ground during the time we watched.  They are BIG and they are UGLY!  I've always been told as a hiker, not to fear the bears, but to be VERY AFRAID of the wild boars.  They are NOT afraid of you!  

There are seven hiking trails in the refuge one of which I would love to do.  It is a five-mile loop around the edge of one of the marshes.  Called the Cruickshank Trail, it starts and ends near the mid-point of the drive.  I always look longingly at the trailheads, but quickly remind myself that I know and am comfortable with what to do if you encounter a black bear while hiking, but alligators are WAY out of my comfort zone!  I keep hoping one of these days I'll find a Florida Hiking club or guided ranger hike that is doing this trail!  For now, we'll be content to enjoy the Black Point Wildlife Drive from our car!  In our opinion, this is an absolute MUST DO if ever in the area!  

Enjoy a few more pictures and again, I apologize for the spots....................

All of these pictures were taken in different spots along the Black Point Wildlife Drive.
January 2, 2013

We traditionally travel I-95 to the refuge and return by way of A1A through the towns of Edgewater, New Smyrna Beach, Port Orange, the madness that is Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach before arriving back in Flagler after another excellent day in Florida!

Next up..........more wildlife viewing!   Read about our day in the Mouse's House (aka Disney World) where we encountered interesting wildlife of the two-legged variety!

If you've been to any of these places, please tell me about it!

Thanks For Reading!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Catching Up!

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge - Merritt Island, FL
January 2, 2013

After a perfect 10 days in Flagler Beach, I reluctantly waved goodbye to Bill as he walked down the gateway at Daytona Beach International Airport.  He is back at home in Tennessee and excited to begin a new semester at school.  The weather perfection continues and it appears that I will have 10 more days of perfect Florida winter weather until he returns on January 18.  I have lots of plans for things to do which will keep me quite busy, but my highest priority right now is getting this journal up to date.  

It seems a lifetime ago, but back on December 27th and 28th, we had a delightful journey from home to here.  Up until about two hours before we actually left, we honestly had no idea WHEN we would leave.  We have the packing thing down to a science and can be ready to leave for a weekend, a month or six weeks in just a few hours.  The problem holding us back was a UPS delivery of medication that I was expecting and that had been delayed thanks to the winter snowstorm blanketing much of the country.  I won't go into all the details, but after much haggling with our prescription company, they finally agreed to ship the medication to me in Florida.  Normally, a different shipping address is not a problem, but the med was already in transit, so getting all that taken care of was quite the undertaking.  However, for all the complaining we all do about that sort of thing, I'm happy to report that the med arrived at my doorstep here in Flagler Beach right when it was supposed to, so kudos to Caremark for working with me to make that happen!! We pulled out of our driveway approximately one hour after I was given the O.K. that the shipping address in Florida was verified.

Our destination for the first evening was Atlanta.  Those who have read the blog for awhile know my love for the DeKalb County Farmers Market.  I was in need of a coffee resupply (they have a wide variety of blends, flavors, etc and I buy LOTS when I go) along with some other things I love to purchase there.  It's always an adventure to wander around looking at their amazing selection of fresh produce and vegetables.  I can easily spend a whole morning just taking in the sights and smells.  We spent the first evening at the Residence Inn by Marriott Kennesaw/Town Center and made certain we were at the market when it opened Friday morning.

After a very enjoyable hour or so at the market, we headed on south knowing we had approximately 360 miles to cover and as usual, wanted nothing to do with interstate travel.  I-75 south was a nightmare of holiday traffic.  We exited at Macon and meandered our way southeast through wonderful little central Georgia towns still sporting their Christmas decorations in quaint town squares on roads that had virtually zero traffic.  It was pleasant driving and by late afternoon we'd crossed into Florida and soon were at the Residence Inn by Marriott Amelia Island where we were staying Friday night.  This left us with an easy drive of less than 100 miles to Flagler Beach on Saturday.

We've had some wonderful times on Amelia Island with friends and on our own, but it had been several years so we were excited to see what had changed.  We made our way to the village of Fernandina Beach and found it had not changed at all - still the same quaint little town it always was.  Same sleepy boat marina - same ice cream shop!

We did enjoy the Shrimp Expressions exhibit throughout the community.  We've seen these exhibits all over the US and love finding new ones.  Our own community held it's Bearfoot In the City exhibit in 2001 and I've sought out these unique community treasures ever since.  Having no idea Fernandina Beach had one, it was the best of all surprises!!  I'm always motivated to find when the exhibit actually ocurred, how the community has supported its preservation and what local charity was the beneficiary of the funds once the painted items were auctioned.  I'm still searching for a website telling me where ALL these whimsical fiberglass animals might be found throughout the US!

"Shrimp Expressions" Exhibit

Saturday morning found us heading south along highway A1A after a leisurely stroll along the beach which was two blocks from our hotel on Amelia Island.  It took about five minutes for the warmth to sink in and the muscles to relax!  We knew this leisurely (for the most part) drive would take us through the Mayport Naval Base area, we'd get to cross the St. John's river on the ferry and we'd head through the highly commercialized Ponte Vedra Beach area, where one of the most familiar stops on the PGA Golf tour is held each year.  Skirting the metro Jacksonville area then finds you on a quiet stretch with the Atlantic on your left and the Intercoastal Waterway on your right.  Soon passing through St. Augustine and the newly reopened Marineland, we excitedly pulled into our Beach House and home for the month.

Stay tuned for more.............................

Has your community sponsored an animal fiberglass exhibits?
Have you seen one in your own travels?
Tell me about it.
I'm keeping a list.  I want to see them all!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 4, 2013

My New Year's Update

A Happy, Healthy "ME" in Acadia National Park
June, 2012

Sometimes I begin a post by simply sitting and staring at the screen.  Do you ever do that?  It isn't that I have nothing to say, it's that I don't know where to begin!  I suppose a resounding HAPPY NEW YEAR is in order.  We rang out 2012 staring at the ocean from our current "home" in Flagler Beach, Florida.   This was after an equally quiet Christmas Day and a two day journey to arrive here on Saturday, the 28th.  

But those details will come in a separate post....I want this one to be about a healthy, happy 2013 and how I plan to make that happen.  I've loved reading all your 2012 year-end recaps and your New Year's goals.   They encourage me and each of you inspires me to strive higher.  That's why I write and that's why I continue Gains and Losses.  I'm looking forward to another year of maintaining, writing, learning FROM you, providing encouragement TO you and hopefully, meeting some more of you face to face.  

I haven't posted New Year's thoughts/goals because, quite frankly, I was so happy with last year's, no matter how much I meditated on it, I couldn't come up with anything as meaningful.  After expressing that through a comment on my friend, Cammy's, post, she helped me by saying, "don't try!"  If something has worked, why change it?  Either expand on it or simply leave it alone. And that is exactly what I'm going to do. 

Here is an excerpt from my 2012 New Years post.................

From me, you were probably expecting January is for Joy and that would be o.k. - it would fit.  But I didn't like it!  You might also have been expecting a post about New Year's Resolutions, but if you've read Gains and Losses for any length of time, you'd know that although I'm a huge fan of goal-setting, I'd never in a million years, do it on a day when everyone else is or when it's "expected."  

But the one thing I can't ignore is how often the word "surprise" has popped up in my vocabulary and life since yesterday morning.  You know that my day always begins with a period of Bible reading and devotion.  A book which means the world to me with its ever appropriate words and application is Bread For The Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith written by Henri Nouwen.  The daily meditations are short, but powerful and applicable to ANY life no matter what your belief system.  Every year, I try to convince myself to utilize something new as a companion to my morning Bible reading, but every year, I revert back to this.  And EVERY day, there is something new.  

So imagine my SURPRISE, when early yesterday morning, I open my book to January 1 and read these words: 

"Each day holds a surprise.  But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us.  Let's not be afraid to receive each day's surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy.  It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity."

Read it friends!  Read it again and again.  Because within those words lies the only "resolution" I need to make.  By fully embracing every word of that mantra and living it to the very core, I truly believe that all other "issues" will slowly "resolve" themselves.  

In 2012, I will:

Look for a SURPRISE in every day.
EXPECT steady results from a healthy eating plan and efforts to have a normal relationship with food.
RECEIVE love, friendship, gifts and kindness without question from those who choose to give it to me.
Embrace JOY with every thread of my being.
CELEBRATE my own successes as jubilantly as I celebrate those of others.
SHARE my life, my time, my money and my possessions in creative ways that are new and extravagant.
Expecting a "surprise" each day and teaching myself to be open minded enough to receive it, has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself.  I had to often be reminded that not every surprise was going to be a good surprise!  Believe me, there were days I didn't WANT the surprise I got, but it came anyway and I learned to accept those surprises because more often than not, they made the terrific surprises that much more special!  During the times I strayed away from an intense focus on these six words, let's just say something was missing.  

I am excited about 2013 and looking forward to a year filled with surprises, expectations, receiving, embracing joy, celebrating and most of all, sharing.   I intend to take each of these "goals" to a higher level.   Would love for you to join me!!

Simply because I am able to share statistics of which I am very proud, here are my numbers from 2012:

I am beginning 2013 eleven pounds lighter than I was on January 1, 2012.
I am currently maintaining a 50 pound weight loss from my highest weight in 2006.
In 2012, I hiked 381.8 miles.  This surpassed my goal of 350 miles by 31.8 miles.
I recorded my steps every day as shown by my pedometer.  The total number of steps I walked in 2012 was 4,539,238.  My weekly average was 12,470 steps (Total steps Sunday-Saturday divided by 7).  There were only three weeks in 2012 that I failed to average at least 10,000 steps for the week.

What do I hope to achieve in 2013?
I will lose the remaining five pounds of the eight I gained during the two weeks in December that I was sick.  Still scratching my head over that one as eating was the LAST thing I wanted to do.  It also is being stubborn about coming back off, but thankfully I maintained throughout the holidays and didn't add any additional pounds.
Once those pounds have disappeared, I will maintain at goal weight assuring that January of 2014 will find me exactly at the same place.

I will continue to live virtually white flour/white sugar free and follow the principles of the 17 Day Diet which has worked so beautifully for me.  

Walking and hiking goals will remain the same - why trying fixing or changing something that works so well and continues to challenge me?  

And there will be more.........................

I cannot thank you enough for your continue support and encouragement.  I look forward to the comments I know will come and I still get all excited when a new follower pops up.  I have not given up on my goal of finding a blog to follow written by someone in every state and am looking for new ways to make that happen!
One more thing..........I will be in Florida during the month of January and will be posting more often with both travel journal updates as well as health/fitness posts.  So if you don't read via a reader or get posts automatically via email, please check back often!  In case you missed it, check out this post from yesterday.

Keep writing, my friends!  Let's make it a happy and healthy 2013 filled with surprises!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

"My" Beach House Story

Happy New Year from Flagler Beach, Florida
January 1, 2013

Greetings from "my" home for the month of January.   We arrived here on Saturday afternoon after a three-year absence to find a brand new kitchen, new living room furniture, but the same incredible view from any point in the house and a sleepy, slightly bohemic community that I totally love and pray NEVER changes.  It is now Thursday and thanks to perfect weather (sunny, mid-70s), we've been on the go since arrival leaving little time for writing journal updates.  I'll get caught up on our travels for those arriving from Facebook and somewhere along the way, will add New Year's Goals for those who read the blog all the time.  But since several have expressed an interest in how I've managed to snag such an incredible place for an entire month especially after a three year hiatus which I thought would result in losing the opportunity permanently, here's the story.................

We have enjoyed a week or so in Florida during Bill's Christmas break for many years.  Winter has always been an extremely difficult time for me both physically and mentally.  Becoming a savvy, properly dressed, physically fit and well-equipped hiker has changed my entire winter outlook, HOWEVER, I still relish the days spent in Florida as a reminder that spring will come!

Quite by chance, we rented a house in Flagler Beach for 10 days in December/January of 2006.   Flagler Beach was an area of Florida we hadn't really discovered and was a random pick of somewhere new to explore.  Other than its location directly on the Atlantic, that house was nothing special, however, the couple that managed its rental program lived next door on the upper floor of a duplex.  The bottom unit in the duplex, they rent weekly in the summer and seasonally in the winter.  We became good friends and before we left that year, I casually made the remark that when Bill retired, we hoped to winter in Florida and would they keep us in mind.  

Imagine my surprise when a few months later, the Conways called asking if we would be interested in renting for the entire month of January.  I won't take time to share details of why the rental was to be available ONLY for January rather than the required winter seasonal winter, except to say we considered it a lucky break for us since we only knew about the unit by pure coincidence.  We considered the pros and cons and decided to try it.  This was the same year Allegiant Air initiated direct flights from Sanford (Orlando area) to Knoxville and we were able to book Bill TWO round trip tickets for less than $100.  Because of his school schedule, he is able to stay through January 8th or so and then he returns for the long MLK weekend.  Or as we prefer to think of it, his birthday weekend!!  

Here's where the story gets tricky!!   Bill turned 50 in January of 2006.   The plan was that he would retire in five years (already five years past the retirement plans we made at age 30) and we would already have our January "nest" secured.   Although I am safe, secure and content here and we became quite accustomed to being separated during the final years of my career, it was something we hadn't planned on doing again.  But it was only for five years and since the MLK weekend fell in the middle of the month, we were never separated for more than 10-11 days.  Always in the back of our minds, we knew that the Conways maintained a waiting list for winter and if we gave it up, we would lose it.  And that is how the story went for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.

By January, 2010, it was evident that Bill needed a refresher course in math because when asked when he planned to retire, his answer was still five years!   Funny how he'd always neglected to let me in on the fact that the five-year plan was a "rolling" five years!!  My sweet father-in-law was ill, we knew he was not likely to make it another year, 2010 had been a HORRIBLE weather year in Florida, Allegiant Air was now flying into Orlando International (1 1/2 hours away) instead of Sanford (40 minutes away) all leading us to believe it was time to let it go.  So we did!  And it was the right thing to do!

I truly believed I would never hear from the Conways again as my arrangement with them had been so specialized.  Remember it's a "seasonal" rental meaning I was splitting it with a couple from Michigan who only wanted Feb/Mar.  I assumed if it was ever available again, our only option would be for the entire season.   

Last summer, I was delighted to get a call from Mrs. Conway asking if we'd be interested in January again.  I think I asked her to repeat it five times - ONLY January and the answer was yes.  I was more than ready to return and it happened to be the year that Bill's academic calendar fell perfectly giving him the maximum amount of time here before reporting back to school.  I'm still not sure exactly what transpired to make January and ONLY January available again, but right now, am so thankful that it did.  

We were able to negotiate a couple of extra days, so have been here since Saturday, the 28th.  The weather has been Florida postcard perfect and we've been on the go since the day we arrived.  Today dawned cloudy, but still quite warm with calm winds.  We've declared it a "rest" day.  Later this afternoon, we'll go for a long walk (gotta get those 10,000 steps), Chef Bill will prepare a delicious dinner and we'll watch the Lady Vols play basketball tonight.  Tomorrow, we'll visit the absolutely amazing Flagler Beach farmers market and after that, who know??

I hadn't planned to go into this much detail, but like I said, several have asked, so there you have it.  Much more to come, but in the meantime, here's the link to the house.  These pics are better than mine!  It's off the market for the winter months, but available by the week during the summer.  The only negative I can mention is that it is small.  Perfect for a couple or family of three, maybe four.  If you want peace, quiet, nothing but the sound of the surf, away from anything touristy or commercial, it's perfect. 

 Thanks for reading!!