Monday, February 23, 2009

Sunday Visit

Ian and the kids came by yesterday, and we had a nice visit. I planned what I thought was a simple menu: homemade mac-and-cheese, Mom's spinach salad, baked ham, and apple crisp for dessert. I guess you could call my selections "simple" only when prepared individually. I got up at 8 am and chopped and boiled and baked until their arrival at 12:30. Don't get me wrong, I loved every minute of the chance to cook for an audience, even if a few innocently uttered "yuck"s and "I don't like that"s permeated what would have been the Sunday afternoon silence normal in my house. I must hand it to those kids though. They bravely tried everything I fixed and made the most of it. And no one spilled anything. Yay!

I continue to be challenged by photographing those little people when they're on the move, which seems to be pretty much all of the time. All of my digital albums from our get-togethers are filled with ghostly images of the kids in various stages of movement. They don't make the best scrapbook pages, but who cares, those blurry pics really capture the essence of what it is to be a Murdock kid. Even though the pics below are a little blurry, I still love them. So nice to see everyone smiling and laughing together doing something as simple as eating lunch.

Our afternoon was filled with various pursuits, including a rotation of Animal Crossing on the Wii. What a hit. Who would have thought that a game where you have to earn money, pay your mortgage, go to bed at the end of the day, and get along with your neighbors would be so addictive. Of course, in real life you don't have animals living next door (as homeowners, at least). Maybe that's why it's so much fun?

After the family left, I set to work trying to catch up with my scrapbooking. I am now about halfway through our New York trip (yes, I realize that was last September), and created some layouts that I love. I will post some of them soon. Right now I have more pressing things to do, like deciding what flavor of ice cream I want from the Schwann man tommorow...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Our Seaside Escape

Normally, my vacation entries require multiple posts in order to cover all of the events of our journey. This little excursion warrants only one, but not due to lack of quality. What we did can pretty much be summed up in one brief sentence: comb the beach, lounge on the beach, read, lounge on the beach, eat, lounge on the beach, sleep..... repeat.

OK, so that might be exaggerating just a tad. Well, not really.

We arrived in Sanibel on Saturday after an incredibly easy journey. The only not-easy part was getting up at 3:45 am to catch our 7 am flight, but that isn't really so hard when you're headed somewhere wonderful. Our non-stop flight arrived in Ft. Myers 30 minutes early. We picked up our rental car and drove out to the islands, which only took a matter of about 45 minutes. By 11 am, we pulled up to the Sanibel Inn, the little seaside place where we had chosen to stay. Our room overlooked the gulf and had a tiny screened lanai on which to lounge. Each night, we left the sliding door open and let the surf lull us to sleep.

The weather on our first day was warmer than Indiana, but the cloudy skies in the afternoon and the crisp ocean breeze made beach-going a chilly endeavor (the high only reached 68 degrees that day, but would be almost 80 every other one). We ate at a few local restaurants to pass the time: the Lazy Flamingo near our hotel for lunch, and the Mucky Duck on Captiva Island for dinner where we sat huddled by a kerosene torchiere on the beachside veranda while waiting for our table. The island is peppered with local eateries and small independent inns and high-rise condos and hotels are not allowed, so the landscape was very quaint and full of old-Florida charm. The only chains that we saw were a few 7/11s and one Dairy Queen, but even those blended right in. For two people that love eating out at new places it was culinary heaven, especially since local seafood was the standard fare. Not an Applebee's or Chili's in sight!

I awoke on Sunday with the rising of the sun, which glared pleasantly directly into our room. On the beach below were dozens of people combing the tide pools and low tide lines for treasures of the sea, striking the local pose called the "sanibel stoop". I had to get down there with them and join in the hunt. Who would have thought that I would want to get up at 6:30 am on vacation? Even in Florida, daylight is a premium in winter and I hated to think of wasting even one minute of sunshine. Cory graciously obliged me as we braved the chilly morning air and did some beachcombing of our own. We saw a little bit of everything: seashells galore, jellyfish, skate egg cases, sea cucumbers, crabs, corals, algae, and my personal favorite: starfish. Local laws prohibit the collecting of live shells, so we carefully inspected our finds for signs of life, returning those still among the living to the safety of the surf. I'll admit, it was tempting. I so wanted a starfish for my collection, but settled for a picture instead.

We spent the day lounging and reading in the sun on the beach chairs that the hotel provided. It took a few hours for the worries and cares of everyday life to melt away, but somehow they did. The only thing we had to do was decide where to eat dinner. No rest for the wicked.

Dinner on Sunday night was one of the highlights of our trip. We selected the Mad Hatter, a tiny restaurant on the beach on Captiva. Run by a husband-and-wife pair (chef and front-of-the-house manager, respectively), this quaint little place had all of twelve tables. We had one of our own, and enjoyed gourmet fare that was artistically presented. My favorite was the Strawberry Blue salad, a medley of bleu cheese, fresh greens, herbs, and sliced strawberries with a truffle vinagrette. Cory ordered the chef's special, a bouillabaise with fresh catch spiced up with saffron and a side of spicy horseradish sauce. He was blown away. He wouldn't touch anything like this when I first met him. Just goes to show that trying new things is the key to good living. The Mad Hatter was the best restaurant at which we have ever had the pleasure of dining.

Monday was much the same, arising early to search for shells, then lounging by the sea for hours and hours. Desperate to cling to the feelings of relaxation and peace that Sanibel Island had helped us to achieve, we even toyed with the idea or extending our stay for another day. We came pretty close, but I'm glad we didn't. The secret to enjoying travel is to always leave wanting a little more.

I probably have a longer list of things we didn't do on this trip than things we did do. We didn't visit the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, or bike on the islands many trails. We never took a boat ride or cruise to Cayo Costa or Cabbage Key, where we could've had a "cheeseburger in paradise". We didn't set foot in the Bailey-Matthews Shell museum or see the Sanibel Marina, or parasail, or canoe in Tarpon Bay.

But we did rise with the sun, look for shells, learn about beach treasures, eat a hot, filling breakfast each day, and enjoy each other's company immensely. I have no regrets about the things we didn't do, because what we did was make some priceless memories and find a retreat that I'm sure we will return to for many years to come.

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