Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lazy Blogger

With a blog comes responsibility. Kinda like pet or plant care I guess. I have been remiss. Class is going full blast and our teacher is requiring two papers a week - one individual paper and another from our learning team. Jerry has been working alot so there is really nothing new. Massive orchid blooms going on right now and to walk in the screen porch at night is like walking in a perfumery - it's awesome.

Oh, the roofer guy came and left us with a sample board of roof materials. Who knew there was so many choices when installing a new roof! Little bit of matchmaking going on around here - don't wanna say much and ruin it. Work has been tough this week - don't wanna say much there either. Mom is planning a girl's weekend the 16th, 17th, and 18th - me, mom, and Aunt Hellen. Auntie will be leaving shortly after so this will be the big hooray. We haven't decided where yet but hopefully some place within 4 hours driving distance. Last time we went to Orlando/Disney. Any suggestions?

The photo: This is a photo of my family in front of the old house. The photo was taken Jan 11, 1911 in Lawrence Co. Arkansas. See the young couple standing on the left side? Those are my grandparents (my Dad's mom and Dad) Andrew Jackson Manning and Rose Cleo Truxler-Manning. The man in the chair in the front row with his leg crossed is Andrew's father James John Manning (known as "JJ") and his wife Sarah Marann Whittaker-Manning is the lady in the chair at the far left with a child in her lap. But it doesn't stop there....The oldest person, 3rd in from the left side, is JJ's mom Emily Elizabeth Kitchens-Manning. Emily is my great, great grandmother. All of these folks are buried in the Manning Cemetery where my Dad has generously purchased me a headstone as well :)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Fancy Dinner During Tornado Warnings

Last night we went to a fancy steak house in Tampa to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary. Funny thing, Jerry was out of town on our 10th so we celebrated big (in Hawaii) for our 11th and I was out of town on our 20th so we are celebrating big on our 21st. Anyway, we canceled our standing Saturday night dinner with the Daiseys (mom & MIL) for a special night for the two of us. With Christmas on the 25th, and my birthday on the 28th, by the time our anniversary rolls around on the 15th it's a struggle to think of thoughtful or useful gifts. Instead, we have decided to start a tradition of DOING something special - no money on gadgets, make a memory.

I made reservations at the premier steak house in Tampa (Bern's) and surprized Jerry with a hired car so that we could toast the occassion. Additonally, the Gasparilla Pirate Festival was starting in Tampa and traffic would be scary due to parades and loads of foot traffic on the narrow streets of the Hyde Park area of Tampa. When I contacted the limo service I asked for a car, not a limo. When the driver arrived sharply at 4:15, it was not only a limo but a white stretch limo! About as flashy as it gets. Oh well, apparently they weren't busy so they thought they would send the limo at no additional charge. I just smiled and said "thank you" but could see Jerry would have preferred a Town Car.

As the driver neared the restaurant we were picking up more and more people with children parking and walking. Turns out the Gasparilla Children's Parade was about to start nearby. I grabbed a photo off the internet of the lobby of this restaurant because it would be difficult to describe. Very ornate, kinda gothic, lots of brick, some velvet wallpaper, huge paintings and lighting fixtures. Apparently there is one window in the place but I didn't see it. Most of the walls were brick - Jerry described it as a bomb shelter.

Dinner was superb. They prepared the Ceasar salad at the table, steaks were perfection, and the appetizer was amazing (a Thai version of California roll with lobster and passion fruit). During dinner we heard a noise and our waiter informed us that it was storming outside and that we were under a tornado warning! We were dining in ignorant bliss while the wind and rain cancelled the Gasparilla Parade. We decided that if we were going to be trapped somewhere during a storm, this 5 star restaurant would do just fine!

On the way to the dessert floor (more on that to follow) we were given a tour of the kitchen and the wine cellar. Our tour of the kitchen was narrated by a waiter-in-training (distinguished by white shirts with bow ties, no jacket) and demonstrated a committment to quality which, ironically, is what I am studing in school right now. Everything was made there - they had a bakery for breads and desserts, a salad dressing making station, meats were being cut and trimmed to order. They were growing sprouts in the kitchen for salads, they had huge wheels of cheese aging and most of the veggies they used were grown on their own organic farm in nearby Pasco County.

Next stop on the way to dessert was the wine cellar holding 100,000 bottles. There is a warehouse nearby used to replenish stock for a total holding of about 1 million bottles. The wines were all categorized with storage labels by the dewey decimal system. Luckily I had a shawl because it was 50 degrees and dark. One interesting component was a locked area with rare wines, many over 100 years old.

Eventually we made our way to the dessert room (small photo from web). Each table is an imtimate little island created by curved walls and individual stereos. The menu was enormous because of the dessert wines, ports, cognacs, etc. I've never seen anything quite like it. I ordered German Chocolate Cake which was served with handmade mocha icecream sprinkled with toasted coconut. Jerry ordered Cheesecake Gert which is New York style cheesecake but made with orange zest, garnished with raspberry sauce, and served with handmade raspberry ice cream topped with graham sprinkles.

Eventually we had to leave our little sanctuary and head out into the blowing rain. It was nice not to have to drive the dark, slick streets in an unfamilar area. We had the limo until 9:15 and it was only 7:30 when we left. If the weather had been better we may have gone for a drive or to an area, like ChannelSide, where we could walk off dessert but Jerry was anxious to get home; however, we needed diapers for Chloe so we asked the driver to take us to PetSmart on the way home. How wierd to go to PetSmart in a stretch limo! The driver says he's now gone full circle because his first professional job was picking up a parrot from an elderly person and driving it to a vet!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Happy Anniversary 21 Times!

Yesterday was our 21st wedding anniversary. Wow - time sure does fly. I guess it's true when you are having fun.

Twenty one years ago we arrived at the Anchorage airport amd discovered Jerry's suit was still hanging on the back of the bedroom door at home. When we arrived in Kauai we went right to shopping for a replacement wedding suite for Jer because we were getting hitched the next day. We didn't have much luck because the island is rural and it was late in the day. The cloest thing we found was a white, unstructured, Don-Johnson-looking cotton suit. Jer wasn't thrilled with it but the addition of an Aloha shirt made it all better :)

We were staying at the Coco Palms hotels - a Polynesian styled resort. The grounds were very beautiful with "picturesque lagoons and lush coconut groves" - a very nice January break for Alaskans. the Coco Palms was the oldest hotel on the island. Elvis stayed there and filmed a scene for the film, "Blue Hawaii". Sadly, Hurricane Iniki damaged it beyond repair in 1992. But, back to the good part......

We were married in a thatched roof chapel while a guitarist played traditional Hawaiian music. I wore a pair a pearl earrings laid in a gold flower petals that Jerry bought for me at the hotel as a wedding gift. We grabed two strangers off the beach to witness the ceremony - they were on their honeymoon and married one week before us. After the ceremony we went to the open air restaurant and shared a shrimp salad on croissant and fruity cocktails.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Cold Temperatures Expected? Bring Out The Christmas Lights!

Tonight could see temperatures as low as 43 but for sure under 50. Instead of bringing in the orchids, I am trying my Dad's theory. I've strung those C7 Christmas lights within the plants. These bulbs emit heat and hopefully they will add the degree or two needed to prevent damage to these tender plants. Dad bought the lights when he was here but this is the first chance to use them - past cold streak was way too cold to experiment.

Here's what we are expecting:

Rest of Tonight
Partly cloudy. Patchy frost in Pasco County. Colder. Lows in the lower 40s near the coast and in urban centers and in the mid 30s elsewhere. North winds 5 to 10 mph - weather underground.

Mon, Jan 14, 3:32 PMA Wind Chill Advisory will go into effect for the entire viewing area Tuesday morning. Cool temperatures combined with brisk north winds will make for some very chilly "feels like" temperatures. Lows will near the low 30s north of the Bay, middle 30s inland, and lower 40s for the coast - Tampa Bay Online

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Angraecum sesquipedale

I should be working on a paper on Total Quality Management style but, as you can see, I am not as focused as I should be today. Perhaps a little blog break will help me regain the momentum I had going earlier today.
Yesterday I hooked my mom up to her new DSL and I believe she will be very happy with the improved speed and reliability over dial up. Today I took the ornaments off the tree, wrapped up the "special" ones, and disassembled the tree. Need Jerry to haul in boxes and totes to finish the project but he works on Sundays.

Was watering orchids today and checking on the bloom spike of my angraecum and discovered that it has a double bloom spike! It's been a reliable bloomer the last two years it's had one (always in late Dec to Jan) but never two blooms so I am doubly excited to see it open. The unopened buds appear to have the same maturity level so I expect them to be open at the same time. This orchid smells so spectacular that this double bloom will be a real treat. More photos will follow :)

When Darwin saw this orchid with its long nectar spur, he predicted that there must be a pollinator with a tongue long enough to reach the nectar at the bottom of the tube (see the spur coming off the bud). Folks doubted Darwin's theory at the time and sadly it wasn't until after his death that the hawk moth, with it's long proboscis, was discovered as its specific pollinator.

I took several garden photos today when I shold have working on my paper so you will be getting a glimpse of 'winter" gardening here in central Florida.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Dog Days

Back to school this week, thus the fewer blog posts. Christmas tree is still up - trying to convince friends and family that I am Russian Orthodox (Orthodox celebrate Christmas on Jan 7th :)

Tonight, after a Red Lobster dinner with mom, I'm watching a new show on National Geographic called "Dog Town" - informative but disturbing. The kind of show where you have to concentrate on the good outcomes. Ironically, I was doing my volunteer job for Ratbone Rescues ( while watching.

Ratbone is a non-profit rescue group that rescues and rehomes abandoned Rat Terriers. Many rescue groups work locally but Ratbone is a network of rescuers, foster homes, drivers, and other volunteers all over the country (ok, not in AK or HI). While it is more economical to adopt out dogs in their foster area, Ratbone will do transports to ensure that the right dog gets to the right home.

One of my volunteer jobs with Ratbone is as a pet publicist. I update our pet information with Petfinder, an all-breed, national, internet-based pet rescue venue where different groups can advertise dogs needing homes. If you or someone you know are looking for a best friend, please check out

Remember to spay & neuter and put us out of business!

Photo is of a Ratbone dog looking for a home - how handsome is he????

Monday, January 7, 2008

Diaper Dawg

If anyone reading this knows Mary Heckerman in Kodiak, please be sure to send her to my blog. I know that she misses Chloe the chihuahua since our move from Kodiak.

You might think that you are looking at a chihuahua rigged to pull a dog sled but what you are really seeing is my desperate attempt to save my floors from an incontinent chihuahua. After months of trying to shadow the dog and keeping her in a cage when I couldn't shadow her, I came up with the idea of diapering her. I went to Walgreens and bought newborn diapers with the thought that a chihuahua might be newborn size - 7 lbs, right? They were too small plus no place for her tail.

Second try. Went to a pet superstore and bought some sort of diaper pant (the denim contraption on her backend) and these liner things that are supposed to absorb urine. Bought size XS because she is a chihuahua. Pants were too small and the pads weren't up to the job. Saw doggie diapers but they were over $1 each and I was estimating needing 5 per day. Was concerned about impact on landfill.

Third try. Went back to Walgreens and bought the next size diapers up from newborn. Better fit but still had tail issue. Cut hole for tail but sorta compromised diaper. Plus, I either had to have the closure part on the belly of the dog where it was hard to get to or have the most absorbant part on the dogs back instead of her undercarriage. Still concerned with landfill and eventually diaper slipped off anyway.

Fourth try. Went to different brand pet superstore and bought the doggie diapers. They have absorbant part in the right spot and a hole for the tail. Whoopie! So excited. Foolishly bought a size XS. Could barely close them and they wouldn't stay on.

Fifth try. Back to store and bought size small, which fit, but eventually the diaper worked it's way off - especially if it got "heavy" from use. Concern for landfill waning.

Sixth try. Bought another diaper pant thing but in size small. The pant thing over the diaper seemed to be the ticket EXCEPT it was still sliding off her bum but more slowly.

Seventh solution. Rigged up velcros tabs to come off harness and attach to pant thing and then close the pant thing over the bottom of the velcro tabs.

SUCCESS! Sorry landfill.


Sunday, January 6, 2008

911 Emergency

Yesterday I was forced to purchase a new cell phone. I dreaded it because of having to learn how to operate a new one but the newness and upgraded features have me forgetting how the old one worked now.
Anyway, Erica and 2 yo Sarah were over yesterday and she was playing with my old cell phone. The battery was still charged in the device but there was no SIMS card so the phone had no information to call anyone - or at least that is what I thought. Sarah had a "look" on her face and handed me the phone. I thought I heard someone speaking when she handed it over but it was silent when I got the old phone to my ear. I asked "hello, is someone here?" The response I heard was "I am a 911 operator, what is your emergency?" I quickly apologised and said a 2yo had dialed the phone. The operator seemed Ok with that. Whew... For the next 10 minutes, I kinda listened for sirens with one ear.

After the incident Erica looked at the phone and saw that "SOS" showed on the screen and that Sarah must have pushed the only button under the SOS prompt. Apparently you can still dial for emergencies even if your phone is unprogrammed - good to know.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Back Online!

We've had some phone lines problems and I was without telephone or internet connection for a few days. Plus, my cell phone is dying (going to pick out a new one today) so I was really out of the communication loop; however, it was an eye-opening experience as to how dependant I have become on modern devices. I still have an Alaska bank so everything is done online, my school is online, my telephone book was in my malfunctioning cell, etc. Plus, I was stuck by Verizon saying nothing was wrong with their lines and it must be in my house. Turns out some switch was flipped at their central office. (I can assure you my switch was flipped as well!)

Had a great "girls night out" at Tijuana Flats with mom, Aunt Hellen, Erica, and Sarah. While we were eating and enjoying watching 2 year old Sarah, I thought about the fact that here sat 4 generations of our family: mom and her sister Hellen are one generation, I am the next generation, Erica is my first cousin once removed, and Sarah is my first cousin twice removed. Because my grandparents had such a big family, sometimes your cousins are closer in age than your siblings. For example, Mom & Hellen's sister Frances, who is Erica's grandmother, was 24 years older than Hellen. The photo is of Grandma & Grandpa Barnes the ancestors of all of us at the table last night.

Wow - my Florida family is growing. Cousin Erica & Sarah live closest in Largo, mohter-in-law Marge in Clearwater proper, my Mom about 10 miles away in Dunedin, Erica's sister Sonya in Lakeland, my Aunt Mary in Beverly Hills, and my Aunt Flossie & cousin Bill (Dad's side) and his family in Arcadia. Soon Erica's mom will be retiring and living at least part of her time here in Florida as well!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

And Away Goes 2007!

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2008!

Last night we attended the annual neighborhood New Year's Eve party at Tim & Jan's. They are the hostessess with the mostesses to quote Jerry. It's so nice to be able to have a glas of champaigne at midnight and not have to worry about driving home. Our neighborhood has well maintained sidewalks and althought it is somewhat of a small "hood", seems you are never alone if you are outside - joggers, dog walkers, midnight gardners.

But back to the party....Aunt Hellen & Les returned from visiting Aunt Mary & Uncle Larry and went with us to the party. Hellen prepared a fabulous potato salad (I am picky about potato salad) and Tim fixed his traditional "big ass ham" (phrased coined by his wife Jan) and it was excellent, again. Lots of socializing until the count down (where was Dick Clark?) and then after much hugging and kissing at midnight, the dancing started. It was a great time. Met some new neighbors and caught up with old ones.

Not a lot of fire works this year - possibly due to enforcement of some laws from a couple years ago or possibly due to the balmy weather last night. If was warm (most people wearing shorts & short sleeves) plus there was a humid haze.
The photo includes Jer, Les & Hellen in their party hats. Les couldn't seem to keep his "man" hat on so we crowned him with a tiarra! LOL

Neighborhood Muscovy

Broke Wing So, back in March a mama Muscovy showed up with 14 ducklings in the pond across the street. These ponds are retention pond...