9 Happy Surprises in Moving to Florida!

9 Happy Surprises in Moving to Florida

One month, and it’s beginning to feel like home. We definitely kept too much stuff from both our homes in New York and still need to purge, but I have faith it will happen. We unpacked most of the 106 cardboard boxes, and found interested parties on the internet to take the empty boxes, thus keeping them from landfills. Signing up for the Next Door app has been helpful. People recommend nail salons, pet sitters, appliance repair services and post photos of random creatures like bugs and bobcats.

We knew it would be hot in Florida in August, but I have some positive revelations from our first month here as well:

1. It’s hot everywhere in August

I had braced myself for the heat. Flip flops, scrunchies for the hair, shorts and a bikini for the pool on my Lanai. Then I heard from folks back home in New York and in Minnesota and in Arizona. The USA seems to be overheating this summer and it’s not only in Florida. The humidity is high, but people here are prepared for it. The stores are all airconditioned. The homes have A/C and private pools. People use the pools more than the beach in the summer, and stay indoors during the hottest time of the day.

2. People wear masks in Florida

Even though the governor has argued that schools can’t mandate students wear masks, people are wearing them in lots of places, more so than they were in New York last month. I was surprised to see more than half the people in Walmart and Publix wearing masks. The COVID positive rates are high in Florida and hospitals are filled with unvaccinated people on ventilators and dying. Many of the schools have defied the governor and are enforcing mask rules to protect the kids and teachers anyway. It is good to see people using caution and common sense in public, even if they don’t have to.

3. Costco sells wine

I am a big fan of Costco. The warehouse store makes me happy and I have bought everything from tires and bunk beds, to steak and pistachios. In the middle of the store, a short drive from my house, is a sommelier and a humungous selection of wines of all types and prices. They even have a Kirkland brand which tastes pretty good. I’m hopeful they will start giving out free samples; maybe a wine pairing next to the morsels of Pierogis and Brie cheese.

4. People are helpful at DMV

Picture on my license plate

Seriously, this was definitely a pleasant surprise. They don’t call it DMV, you go to the “Tax Collector” here. Due to COVID, you make reservations online. I was able to reserve a time for the next day. You fill out some paperwork, and if you don’t, they give you some to fill in when you check in. I replaced my driver’s license in about 30 minutes and had a brand new colorful one with a much better picture; they let you smile here. Then, I registered my car. Behind the agent, is a shelf of beautiful plates you can choose from if you don’t want the one with a plain orange. Mine supports the coral reef and is oh so pretty.

Continue reading “9 Happy Surprises in Moving to Florida!”

New York City After COVID

After the COVID pandemic it is fun to travel again to nearby New York City. Restaurants, parks and museums are open and welcoming.

This time of year in New York is always refreshing after a long cold winter where we sometimes feel we’ve all been hibernating. This year the changes are magnified due to the relief we are beginning to feel as the world gets back to normal.

For the past 15 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered our way of life. Many people lost their jobs or began working from home. Going out in public was discouraged and wearing masks and cleaning hands and surfaces of items possibly contaminated made us fearful.

Fortunately, the vaccine to prevent COVID has become available and the numbers of cases are going down significantly here in New York. Just recently we have been given the OK to have 100 percent occupancy at some indoor museums, if people continue to wear masks. Some shops and restaurants ask that if you are not fully vaccinated, please wear a mask, which means that if you are vaccinated, you don’t have to!!

My son lived for the past 2 years in Manhattan and has noticed a big change in the last month or so. Residents had been walking the streets with masks on. Now, the streets are getting crowded again with tourists. Shops are opening, restaurants are continuing the outdoor seating and have opened indoor seating as well. Everyone is excited to get out and visit with friends and family again and New York City is a place to feel that energy.

I took the Long Island Railroad into Penn station for the first time in over a year and it was a bit different. Masks were worn on the train and I had a row to myself both traveling in and out of the city, so it was not crowded at all. I think many people still work from home. Once in Penn Station I climbed stairs and surprisingly found myself wandering around the AMTRAK station area. I have taken the train many times so I thought this was odd, but found my way to the steps on 32nd street and 7th avenue where I was meeting my son. It turns out that Penn Station is undergoing major renovations and all the restaurants and shops by the ticket booths are closed and hidden behind a makeshift wall which I noticed when I returned for the ride home.

I met my son and we walked the streets on one of the first sunny, fair weather days this spring. People were out in full force. A few individuals wore masks, but I would say that the majority did not have them on outside. I did notice more homeless people on the streets in midtown than I had seen in the past and that is always sad.

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Spring at the Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay

A visit to the Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay is a fabulous place to see all the Spring colors in full bloom!

Up early on a Saturday morning we set off to see spring flowers in full bloom at a nearby state park. Since our Empire Pass expired we paid $8 for parking and spent 2 hours exploring the 409 acre estate. We walked the rolling lawns with labeled trees, formal gardens, fountains and a pool area. An original Gold Coast estate from the Coe family consisting of 65 rooms in a Tudor Revival mansion stands tall and is open for hourly tours at an additional fee.

We enjoyed our walk and I had fun practicing my photography skills.

Well worth the $8 parking fee but poor Harry had to stay home. Need to find a park where we can bring dogs. Any suggestions?

The Unexpected Joy of Doing Nothing

The joy of doing nothing is part of healing and moving forward.

It’s Saturday morning and I’ve spent the week skiing in the snow covered Rockies with 3 “kids” in their 20s. I’m rockin it.

I get up and make us eggs and coffee. We catch the shuttle and spend hours riding lifts and making S turns down the blue runs. The sun comes out for 20 minutes and then snow flurries begin. We stop for lunch. Then back to it.

After a few hours we catch the shuttle back to condo. Shins, knees and everything aching we hop into hot showers and find a local dining spot, then back to the house for a game of Apples to Apples and binging “Alone” on Netflix.

It’s been awesome. And it is day 4 and the kids are off to catch the early shuttle and guess who is writing a blog on the couch with her second cup of coffee? That would be me!

Some days we just need to catch our breath.

According to research there are limits to how much stress the body can tolerate before it breaks down and suffers injury. Doing too much unfamiliar exercise too quickly can result in muscle damage. Recovery allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. https://www.verywellfit.com/the-benefits-of-rest-and-recovery-after-exercise-3120575

During grief, taking time to be gentle with yourself is often one of the harder things to learn. Knowing there is so much that needs to be done is overwhelming. Days come and you can’t do a thing. I resorted to making limited lists: 3 things to accomplish each day. Shower, walk dog and mail that bill could often be enough for one day.

Teachers who have been so inundated with new technologies and challenges this year face the first day of “vacation” this morning. Instead of feeling pressure to finally get the house in order or make quality time memories with your own young children at home, take this precious moment to just do nothing.

Feeling overwhelmed or guilty isn’t a helpful emotion. Understand that some days it’s time to recharge your batteries.

It’s like how the flight attendant tells us be sure to put on your own oxygen mask before trying to help others. You won’t be good to anyone if you are unconscious.

My mom was good at this. She knew when she needed a break, and as she got older learned to say no and take time to recharge. When she was with us she was 100% present and engaged. That is a good thing to be!

I must admit I still have a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out). If there is some fun adventure or gathering I have an opportunity to participate in, I don’t want to miss out.

In many ways this helped me move forward after the death of my husband. I was invited to visit friends, I did. I was invited to learn how to play Bridge, I did. I signed up for yoga classes and Meet ups and even on line dating. I was not going to miss out on anything!

But today I think I’ll skip the morning of skiing and take some alone time to reflect, rest and recharge. It actually feels amazing to be quiet this morning with no agenda. I guess that is what a vacation can be as well.

Time to get back to doing nothing. Have a great weekend friends.

How to cope with the loss of a spouse – Year One

Healing from the loss of a spouse is difficult. Learning which strategies help you is important. Yoga, acupuncture, therapy, exercise and even a puppy may be what is needed.

 My mom passed away 2 weeks ago and now all the grief from the death of my husband are coming back.  Lots of familiar anxieties and feelings of regret and sadness are resurfacing.  It’s been 4 years since my husband passed, but getting through year one is filled with many challenges.  It helps to know we are not doing this alone and that one day, it will be better.

My bereavement group provided us with handouts on ways to deal with our grief.  We met one evening each week for an hour and a half.  The group was made up of 12 women who have lost their husbands in the past year.  We are all similar in age which is helpful and there is one facilitator.  The first week everyone tells their story and there are lots of tears.  Some deaths were sudden and some were long sicknesses.  However, we are all similar in so many ways dealing with coping after this loss.

Successful ways that I deal with anxiety and grief are listed below. 

  1. Yoga – that’s been helpful at times for centering my thoughts and feeling good. The stretching and movement is important. Doing an online class or joining a studio are great options.  Of course the time I was the only one in the class, and the male teacher had me close my eyes, and then sang to me while playing the guitar was a bit weird, but most of the time I like yoga. Healing with weekenders and yoga ladies.

 2. Meditation – I’m not that “good” at it so I find guided meditations on the you tube app of my phone and listen to them. The benefits of spending even two minutes a day sitting quietly and focusing on the present, following your breath, include less stress, better sleep, and can even lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  I especially like listening to Jason Stevenson’s guided imagery available on YouTube.

3. Acupuncture – This has really helped me with relaxing and relieving stress. Health reports state acupuncture can help alleviate physical pain as well as anxiety. Read more here:  Acupuncture – Healing for physical pain to depression to infertility. Worth a try?

Continue reading “How to cope with the loss of a spouse – Year One”

19 Awesome Things to do near Sarasota

Amazing things to do in the Bradenton – Sarasota – Tampa area. Outdoor fun for the whole family

My sister moved to Bradenton 15 years ago and after many visits, and a new home on the horizon, I can’t wait to share some of my travel highlights from this area. So much to see and experience in Florida, but within one hour from Bradenton, between Tampa and Sarasota, here is just a sampling of some of my favorite things to do.

1. Dine outside

Because you can. So many dining establishments are located outdoors on the water. Pelicans soar as dolphins pop up between jet skiers and fishing boats as if cued for posing.  Fish is fresh and tasty so indulging in fish tacos, grouper sandwiches and conch fritters are some of my favorites.  Drinking a margarita with fresh squeezed lime juice is also highly recommended.

Some outdoor dining restaurants we love are:

Woodys River Roo in Ellenton, dining outside on the Manatee river with live music and sandy outdoor dining with thatched roof coverings. Very tropical and tasty Old Florida Style food.

PIER 22 Restaurant in downtown Bradenton on the Manatee river.  Upscale delicious food yet still casual dining indoor and outside.

Daquiri Deck on Anna Maria Island – although they have 5 locations nearby. Casual dining, frozen drinks, happy hour specials and beautiful views from the top floor on busy Bridge Street.

Whiskey Joe’s on the Manatee River

2. Rent a bicycle on Anna Maria Island

Bike rentals are $12/day and well worth it for a fun time exploring the streets of Anna Maria. Sidewalks are plentiful as are bike lanes. People rent small cars (they look like bumper cars), golf carts and bikes. We even had fun taking Harry, the spoiled pup, in a back pack for ride around town.

Biking with dog back pack – Harry loved it!

3. Wash Elephants at the Myakka Elephant Ranch

Encounter 3 elephants up close and personal. My sister and I spent a few hours washing 2 elephants followed by a photo shoot. We were encouraged to interact by talking to and petting these beauties. After visiting with us, the elephants head out to their grassy fenced in field to dig and toss dirt onto their freshly scrubbed backs. Recently open to the public by reservation only, definitely a great experience if you love elephants like I do.

Continue reading “19 Awesome Things to do near Sarasota”

Long Island’s Beautiful North Fork

As the temperature begins to drop, the urge to embrace the season with farm stands, pumpkins, apples and vineyards set in.

This post was originally written in 2017, remember those pre-COVID days?  Well, happy to report all is not over on the North Fork of Long Island.  The vineyards are welcoming visitors, just not huge bus loads of party animals which may be more enjoyable in fact.  The sunflower fields in Riverhead, pumpkin patches, and farm stands are open for business, just requiring that you wear a mask when indoors.

I recently had the exciting experience of celebrating birthdays with some friends on the “Wine Wagon”.

With a limit of 10 people we met up at Osprey Dominion winery for snacks and some live outdoor music.  Soon Gary pulled up with the wagon and we lovely ladies boarded a seat at the wagon counter and placed our feet upon the pedals.  We were off down the road to our first adventure.  Of course, we were in for a bit of a surprise when Gary alerted us that by law he had to turn off the engine on the road, and it was up to our pedaling efforts to get us to the next location.  

At our first stop, we remained on our wagon and were served a choice of 4 different vintages.  After one hour, we headed on back to the main road this time with someone’s iphone blasting country music.  As we passed the local animal shelter, we met a man walking down the street with a puppy.  We invited him to join us and sang to the puppy until our new friend had had enough of us.  

At the next vineyard, we went inside with our masks, ordered small glasses of wine to taste and sat outside to enjoy the beautiful sun on this fall afternoon.  As the sun went lower in the sky we took some final photos and boarded the wine wagon with Gary to head back to our starting point.   Indeed, a good time was had by all and maybe we even burned a few calories with exercise?

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NORTH FORK

Drive east on the Long Island Expressway until the end, then take route 25 east through Riverhead.  On my last visit, we had the app WAZE turned on and took some back roads to avoid traffic in Riverhead.  It did not save much time, as it still took almost 45 minutes to drive the 12 miles to the first vineyard.

We stopped at a delightfully colorful farm stand with painted antique tractors, gigantic pumpkins, pies, bread, local honey, roasted corn and ripe tomatoes like my dad used to grow.  After filling some bags with tasty treats we got back on the road and headed towards the vineyards.

Considering the traffic was so slow, we stopped at the first one.  Paumanok Vineyards is conveniently located just off the main road and has a wide variety of wines available in the tasting room ranging from $8 to $20 per person to taste 4 samples.  The tasting fee is credited toward a purchase of a bottle so that is an incentive.

What I loved about Paumanok was that they were offering oysters outside on the deck.  It is a very pretty location but they do not allow you to bring your own picnic foods.

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Next on our self guided tour, we stopped at a small vineyard called Sherwood House Vineyards. This was different as it was a small and cozy farmhouse with a quaint fireplace and bar and the size alone did not welcome larger tours.    Again outside food is not permitted, so we took our picnic basket and continued onward.

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Macari Vineyards has opened another location on Main Road in Cutchogue as well as the original location in Mattituck.  The Macari family started growing grapes on a 500 acre former potato farm in 1995.  The family boasts an ecological and holistic approach to the soil which includes a complex composting program and a herd of Long Horn cattle.

By this time we had eaten our picnic lunch in the car and no longer asked if we could eat inside.

Next stop was the Pellegrini Vineyards in Cutchogue.  We had been heading here initially because they had posted on the website liwines.com to have live music.  Not only did they have live music, but we did bring out some cheese and crackers and had decent size small cups for our 4 tastings at $12.  The wine was good and the sunshine was terrific.  We even saw one of the common sightings out east – a bachelorette party!

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Since we were close to the end, of the North Fork, we kept driving to visit Orient Point.  The ferry to Connecticut had just arrived and several cars were exiting onto the only road east. We took pictures and speculated about the mysteries of Plum Island that we could see from the beach.  Did you know that Plum Island was originally established by the Army to protect livestock from diseases, such as the study of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle.  Apparently there has been some controversy over the safety of the facility and the author Michael C. Carroll wrote a book called Lab 257  alleging a connection between Plum Island Animal Disease Center and the outbreaks of West Nile virus, Lyme disease  and duck plague.   Makes you wonder…

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But not for too long, we started heading back home but ended up on the north road, County Road 48, so we stopped at Sparkling Pointe Vineyards and Winery in Southold.  This vineyard plants only the classic Champagne grape varieties, so if you like Champagne, this is the place to go.  The tasting house is large with high ceilings and light.  In the gift shop are Brazilian costumes that the owners have worn in Brazil during Carnaval so a unique experience is enjoyed at this location.

After a fun afternoon, we were once again hungry and found the best place nearby to purchase fresh seafood: Southold Fish Market on Main Road in Southold.  You can eat inside or out and there is a bar that serves drinks as well as oysters! We took some fresh striped bass home to cook later and it was amazing.

Not to be missed on a trip to the North Fork would also be a visit to the quaint village of Greenport.  Although important for the fishing and whaling industry in the past, it now entices tourists with adorable shops, good restaurants and a carousel from the 1920s.

If shopping for name brand items is your thing, you are in luck as Tanger Outlets is located at the end of the Long Island Expressway and features so many great retail stores.

Being a local Long Islander I have had many visits out east over the years.  I must also include a favorite vineyard I visited with my book club several years ago in Baiting Hollow.  Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard is special and if you only have one place to visit I would highly recommend seeing this vineyard.

The tasting house is large, there is plenty of outdoor seating and you can bring your own food. In addition I have been there 3 times and always enjoyed live music.  The best part is that the vineyard has a rescue farm for horses.  Horses whose lives were at risk are brought here for a peaceful sanctuary and a second chance.  You can support their horses and learn more by logging onto their website bhfhorserescue.org and view the beautiful animals.

Don’t we all deserve a second chance?  Thanks for reading.

tour eastern Long Island New York wineries

Ang Thong National Park, Thailand

Unforgettable Day trip to Ang Thong National park in Thailand

Due to limited travel plans, I am revisiting my blog of runaway widow travel posts this month highlighting some of my favorite photos and places I was fortunate to see. Thailand…

Ang Thong National Park, Thailand
LINK: https://runawaywidow.blog/2016/08/24/ko-samui-ang-thong-national-park/
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