Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Antiques, Cupcakes and Santa

We left the house this morning at 10 this morning with the intention of going to one of the local museums, only to find that we had just missed the start of the morning tour and the next one wasn't until the afternoon.  So we moved our afternoon agenda ahead, which involved touring an area about two blocks long that seemed to have a high concentration of antique stores.  Museums? Who needs museums when there are antique stores to be explored??

We visited 6 or 7 antique stores (a couple of which turned out to be "antique malls", a collection of booths of various vendors), a clothing/gift store, a paper shop, a rubber stamp store and a used/rare book store (10 small rooms jammed full of books of every size and description, including the bathroom), each one containing various items of interest and delight. 

Found lots of goodies, some of which I purchased, some of which I needed to leave behind.  Here's what my haul looked like at the end of the day - several old books (my suitcase gets heavier every day!), washi tape, a pretty apron, St. Augustine souvenirs, amongst other things:

The first store had a bird cage with 3 sweet little zebra finches, which I had never seen before - look how pretty they are!  Apparently they tend to squabble but for this moment, they posed happily enough:

Four hours later, after a very late lunch, and a visit to the local cupcake store (featuring the best...lemon...cupcake...EVER!)

we made a quick visit to the St. Augustine Historical Museum

and then home for a bit of quiet time before heading out on the 6 p.m. Holly Jolly Trolley Tour.  They gave us 3D glasses that turned all the Christmas lights around town into snowflakes and we drove around for about 45 minutes seeing the sights and singing Xmas carols.  It was a lot of fun. 

I told Santa when I saw him that I didn't have my list ready just yet and he said I could email it to him whenever I'm ready. Phew!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How I Spent My 50th Birthday

I woke up early yesterday morning, like a little kid at Christmas, excited that the big day had finally arrived.  I had a quick shower, got dressed and jumped in the car to drive to the beach. The sun was just coming up as I left the house, with one of my travel mates fixing herself her first cup of coffee and the other one still in bed.  I had told them I planned to get up early and go but I'm not sure they believed me. 

I stopped at the local lighthouse first and took a few photos:

then headed to a beach we had visited the evening before (still haven't blogged about our Sunday adventures yet, stunning sunset at the beach must do that).  Something inside told me it was where I needed to be and when I got there, I wasn't disappointed.

The sun was up, the wind was blowing, the waves were crashing and it was all quite lovely.

I sat by the water and did a bit of journaling, sipped on some water and snacked on some Keebler crackers (we don't seem to have those peanut butter and cheese cracker combinations back home, I'll need to stock up before we leave town).

I noticed two white birds at the water's edge who were looking for fish and started talking to a man who was photographing them.  Jay and I had a lovely chat about photography (he uses old lenses on a new camera body).  He retired several years ago and spends his days touring the U.S. in an RV, is currently in St. Augustine to celebrate the holidays with his kids and grandkids who live here.  He told me the larger white bird was a great egret and the smaller one a snowy egret.  He has photographed them quite a bit and told me they would let us get quite close without flying away, and he was right.

I headed back to our house and my fellow travellers and I headed out to take one of the trolley tours that operate around town.

One of the stops was the Fountain of Youth (which surprisingly enough had no bearing in choosing St. Augustine for this vacation) but we didn't get off.  Someone told me it only works if your name is Ponce de Leon, so it's just as well. :)

We got off the trolley at one of the stops and had a delicious lunch seated on an outside patio.  What a treat, to be eating outside on a warm day on my late November birthday!  The pumpkin sticking out of the side of Lorraine's head is the only clue to the season.

There were several laneways of shops in that area so we had a bit of a wander about and lo and behold, we came across one of those frontier photo places.  You know the kind I mean? Where you dress up in period costumes and end up with a sepia photo? I had to convince the ladies to take part at first, played the "it's my 50th birthday, I insist!" card but they quickly got into the groove and we had SO much fun doing this.  Here's how ours turned out:

Afterwards, we hopped back on the trolley and finished the tour, then headed back to our house for a quick nap. We had dinner at a nearby restaurant after walking through the first rain we've had since we got here (and probably the last, if the forecast is to be believed), including a margarita for me and key lime pie to share for dessert.  The perfect end to a perfect day!

I also received several emails, phone calls and Facebook messages from the people I love, which really helped to make it an extra special day.  Thank you all.

I found this advice in one of the little shops we visited, which I thought was most appropriate for a milestone birthday celebration:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Zero to Fifty

The big day has finally arrived, today I am 50 years old.  Where did the time go?!

Here's what fifty looks like - I took this picture of myself on the beach about 7:30 this morning:

People ask me how it feels to be fifty and I just tell them:


Sunday, November 27, 2011

The St. Augustine Adventure Begins

77 delicious degrees.  That was the temperature yesterday here in St. Augustine, much to my delight.  Slightly humid, but not uncomfortably so.  The perfect weather for breakfast at an outdoor cafe

while watching the horse drawn carriages and trolley trains go by (both of which we will be riding before the week is out):

A quick look through the antique shop across the street from the restaurant:

followed by a visit to the local flea market.  An online reviewer described it as follows: "St. Augustine's St. John's Flea & Farmer's Market leans much more towards the "flea" than the "farmer" side of things. It's located in the boondocks and the vendors and other patrons make you feel like you're, well, in the boondocks. You can get lots and lots of... stuff... here. I'm not saying it's nice stuff, or useful stuff, or functioning stuff, or safe stuff, or clean stuff, but you can definitely get your fair share of stuff at this place."  Of course, that type of review just made me all the more keen to go.  It was exactly as she described and I didn't buy much but I did find some treasures that made the hour and a half we spent there well worth the trip, like these Xmas ornaments I picked up (one for me and each of my travelling companions) that someone had made out of vintage ribbon, fringe and Lady Liberty images:

Plus it was worth the price of admission (free) for this photo alone:

After that, we had coupons to put to use at Hobby Lobby (so many more craft supplies available than at home, at much more reasonable prices) and Barnes & Noble, followed by a trip to the grocery store for provisions.

We had dinner at a Cuban restaurant a few blocks over from where we are staying.  Our waitress recommended we try the mojitos and the roast pork dinner (complete with saffron rice, black beans, fried plantains and fried yukka).  We did and enjoyed them both immensely.

Lorraine had never tried key lime pie before, so we ordered a piece to share:

We strolled along the main street after dinner, which was crowded with holiday revelers enjoying the light displays, open shops and galleries and artisans displays in the pavilions before heading home for an early night.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


We arrived in St. Augustine last night under cover of darkness, only to discover it is a wonderland of lights:

While some might have felt like a fish out of water:

we decided to dive right in to the local atmosphere.

Feeling much like this little pig we spotted in a shop window!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Florida Bound

I'm off to Florida today with two of my art journaling buddies, Lorraine and Diane.  This photo was taken a few weeks ago when we met for dinner for a final in-person discussion about our trip.  We've been planning this trip for a few months now, ever since they very kindly offered to go travelling with me for my birthday.

We fly into Jacksonville, via Charlotte, North Carolina.  Then we are renting a car and driving to St. Augustine, where we've rented a house for the week.  I'm taking my laptop so I'll be able to update my blog with live reports on a regular basis.

I am all packed and ready to go. Of course, it wasn't easy.  First I had to convince Maggie to let me put things into my suitcase.

(Isn't she cute? She is so smart, she knows the flash is going to be bright so she always closes her eyes whenever I point the camera in her direction.)

Once I had access to my suitcase, I had to decide what to pack.  That wasn't easy either, the forecast is supposed to range a full twenty degrees in temperature while we're there - whaaat????  Oh well, even 55 degrees F is still warmer than it will be in Toronto.  Maybe.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Early Bird

Photo courtesy of
Normally, as you will have heard, the early bird catches the worm.  In my case, being up early today meant that I got a shower, although it was a lukewarm one with very little water pressure.  It seems the pipe that brings the water in from the street burst overnight, causing flooding in certain parts.  I woke up about 5 a.m., got out of bed around 5:30 and was in the shower sometime before 6.  By 8 a.m. when I went to brush my teeth, there was no water at all and the building management made an announcement of our intercom system advising us of the situation.  I quickly headed off to work, not because I was anxious to get to the office but because I needed to use the bathroom!

When I got home from work today, there were several trucks parked in front of the building and various large scale spotlights set up.  A bulldozer was sitting idle in the midst of several mounds of dirt - good thing it's November, as our lovely front gardens have been completely dug up!

Twelve hours later, they have just advised us that the water is about to be turned back on and we'll have hot water in about an hour's time.  Then it will be shut off again tomorrow at 9 a.m. so they can continue working on the pipe replacement.

So I'll need to plan my morning accordingly. Which shouldn't be too much of a problem, since I will be headed off to the airport around 10 to catch my plane to Florida - home of the early bird dinner special, don't ya know. ;) 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

And So It Begins

Five days to 50 and today was my first birthday celebration. I arrived at the office to find decorations waiting for me.  In the doorway:

and on my desk:

My co-workers took me out to lunch at Jack Astor's and of course we had to eat in the Elvis booth.

Who wouldn't want to celebrate their birthday with Elvis?

And my lovely co-workers as well - thanks everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November Rain

Last year, I wrote a post about summer rain in which I mentioned those cold, damp rains of November.  Tonight is exactly one of those nights - brr!  Was very glad to get home and into the dry after running errands, getting in and out of the car, running through the wet, wipes going at top speed.  Forecast is freezing rain overnight, luckily I've got nowhere I need to go before morning. 

Can't really complain, we've had a pretty dry and remarkably warm November this year overall.  Not even any snow yet, which is unusual.

At the moment, I'm downloading some music onto my iPod (April Wine's Greatest Hits, to be specific).  It's been a while since I've logged onto my desktop, it's sooooo sloooow compared to my laptop.  Trying to remember how to connect album artwork with the songs so a picture will be displayed when one of the songs is playing. Oh wait, it seems the CD or iTunes did it for me.  Not the same picture as the CD cover but it will do.

Next I shall attempt to download some apps, something I have never done before.  Using iTunes always feel a bit like being a magician - "for my next trick, I will add songs to my existing playlist", because things never seem to go quite as smoothly as I'd like with their software.  Already tonight I was unable to download the latest version of the iTunes software, which sometimes is a good thing.  And - oops - my screen now appears to be frozen, wtf??  (Send Microsoft an error report - puhleese! Like that would help.).

I did discover that the freezing rain forecast is a rather cool picture on the iTouch weather application. Check this out:

Okay, gotta go try a manual update of the iTunes software.  I'm thinking my iTouch might be too old to have apps loaded onto it, is that possible?

Maggie is playing with a binder clip, seems like she's having more fun!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Making Lists

Photo courtesy of
I'm a list maker.  When things are busy at work, I make a list to keep track of what needs to be done.  I make a shopping list when I'm headed to the grocery store. When I'm going away, I write "to do" lists of things to pack, things to do before I leave, that sort of thing.  It's not a foolproof system though.  Today I made a list while I was at work and forgot to bring it home with me tonight, so now I'm trying to remember what was on the list.  I know I've done two of the things (called my mom, picked up cat food), I'm choosing not to do one of the things (vacuum) and the other three or four things, I just can't remember!  I guess that means I can take the rest of the night off, and take care of the list if I remember to bring it home tomorrow night!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Quiet Sunday

It seems especially quiet today with Gus and Beans gone.  Katrina and Maggie both seem to be enjoying the extra attention I am giving them, I wonder what they think about the other 2 being gone.  Maggie seems more relaxed and has come by to say hello more often than before, Katrina just seems glad to have the sink all to herself.

I've been puttering around today, doing this and that.  I finished my altered book yesterday and I'm quite happy with how it turned out.  I decided to add some paint to the back cover, which was a little damaged.  I painted on some pink acrylic paint (the colour coordinates with the print on the endpapers on the inside) and then scrubbed a lot of the paint off so the brown leather shows through.  I really like the distressed look that resulted.  So far, I'm undecided as to whether I should also add some paint to the front cover. I'd like to keep the design and title on the front and I'm concerned the paint might obscure that. Anybody got any advice on that?

I sewed in three signatures and spaced the holes so you can still see the picture on the spine.  I also left a fair bit of extra thread on the spine, in case I should want to add some embellishments at a later date.

One of my classmates warned that it is hard to photograph an open book and I certainly agree!  Here's my attempt to show you what the book looks like inside:

I incorporated both plain and decorated paper of various types - magazine pages, watercolour paper, scrapbook paper, graph paper, sheet music and wallpaper.  I wanted to have as much blank paper to journal on as possible as well as add some colour and interest here and there with the other pages.  Of course, as I start to use the journal, I will be adding photos, drawings, tickets stubs, etc. as time goes by.  The book measures about 5 inches wide by 7.5 inches high, so it's small enough to be easily portable, it should fit nicely in my purse.  I like the idea of journalling in a book I made myself, it seems much more personal.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Fond Farewell

It seems the time has finally come for me to say goodbye to Gus and Beans. A lovely lady came by today to adopt them after seeing their pictures online. 

I must admit, after having them here for six months, I wasn't sure if anyone would ever pick them.  It seems there are always several adorable little bundles of cute kittenness on the Abbey Cats website but I did hope it was just a matter of time before they found their furever home.  It's been a lot of fun having them here, they are both very friendly and gentle cats and also extremely energetic.  I always looked forward to coming home from work every day, to find four little furries waiting at the door, happy to see me.  I will admit that all five of us crowded into my two piece bathroom was a bit much some days but that's what families are all about, right?  Togetherness. :)

Even though I've already got about 200 pictures of them, I had to take a few more today before they left.

One more picture of Gus in the sink:

One more shot of Beans looking soft and cuddly:

One more photo of them napping together:

I will certainly miss these little darlings but I'm glad they have found a permanent home with someone who will take care of them and love them, as I'm sure they will.