16/12/2009/9:03 pm, Fernandina Beach, FL
What a wonderful evening we had on Tuesday.
In the afternoon, Jim washed the boat down - and got rid of some of the Charleston bird poop - while I went Christmas shopping. He then did the hunter-gatherer thing and brought home a filet of mahi mahi. I have to tell on him - he bought it at the fish market right beside the marina - but he still brought home the fish! I coated it with panko bread crumbs and pan fried it, roasted the sweet potatoes I had left from the Oriental farmers market, added a handful of cherry tomatoes and poured a nice chardonnay. Wonderful dinner from sea and garden. What a difference fresh makes. Those sweet potatoes (sprinkled with chipotle chili powder) were candy sweet and spicy. The fish was tender and moist. Oh - so simple, and oh- so good.
I missed out on going to an art class with Tina because I forgot that it was tonight, but we made up for it by wandering up Centre St to find the Christmas Jazz Jam at Indigo Alley. There is nothing quite like live music - whether it is a formal concert of beautiful work or just a gathering of folks who love to make music. We walked in, got a couple of drinks and found places - first against a wall and then on chairs - to sip and listen. There is a thriving jazz and rock community here and we were thrilled to hear some very good jazz with carol singing in the pauses between sets. I was a happy woman - a chance to sing and an opportunity to listen to fine jazz and mingle with the local folks. We chatted with several people and enjoyed their warmth and enthusiasm - although when one rock band member told me she is an expectant grandmother and she is 15 years younger than me, I felt positively old! There were young people - including children in strollers - and old folks and a bunch in between. They mostly seemed to know each other and we learned that many of them play in random groups, meeting up at Indigo Alley on alternate Thursdays. They were so warm and friendly it felt good to be there. (In my next life, I want to play an instrument and be one of those folks taking turns on drums and bass and guitars and saxophone and keyboard - playing for the joy of it. For now, I'll listen and appreciate them!)
15/12/2009/2:17 pm, Fernandina Beach, FL
After a pleasant drive back from Ocala to Fernandina Beach on Sunday, we've been doing a combination of work and play.
We managed to get new flights home for Christmas (Dec 17 to 30), from Jacksonville since we didn't quite make it to Nassau - so much for optimistic planning! I think another time, I'd make reservations from Fort Lauderdale, since it is easy to get to from the Bahamas and other Florida points. We initially booked so early to take advantage of a West Jet seat sale, but with all our delays, it became an impossible arrangement. It would cost us more to make changes than to cancel those tickets, save the credit for another flight somewhere, and book new ones on United Airlines so that's what we did. West Jet very kindly waived the cancellation fee. I like that airline!
Our condensing unit and freezer box arrived on Monday and Jim and Steve spent several hours removing the old part and installing the new ones. That turned out to be somewhat of an exercise in frustration because despite Jim's and my careful measurements and calculations, we didn't order a long enough tube to run from the unit in the cockpit lazarette to the freezer. So, now we wait for an extension to come by UPS on Wednesday. We were both just sick about it, but it was the result of not understanding just where the line had to run in the new set up (farther than in the old one) and trying hard not to order so much that it had to be all coiled up in the locker. The lesson from that - overestimate, and coil! Steve has been working upside down in our fridge (like many boat models, it is a top loader), and has crunched himself down in the locker to work sideways there. That man deserves a dozen medals. He has done this before, knows what he's doing, and keeps doing it for his friends. Pretty nice!
I've been browsing through the lovely shops along Center Street here, checking out consignment stores and department stores with Sandi. Jim and I both got haircuts - mine at the very convenient and very pleasant Aveda salon half a block from the marina; Jim's at an old fashioned barbershop where he got shorn of most of his hair and had to listen to racist jokes from a man with sharp scissors in his hand and the ability to shear him even more. We've attempted to do some cleaning and tidying of Madcap but it seems to be a losing battle till we have the tool boxes put away and the fridge contents stowed again. We are also currently tripping over purchases made on a wine buying trip to Harris Teeter with Steve. He pointed and we paid! The experience appeared to make us all happy and although our pockets were lighter, they were less so than they'd have been without his advice, and if we were shopping somewhere other than Florida where wine prices are excellent.
Jim has spent many hours trying to get our TracFone working again. After the first few days, the original phone refused to work unless we entered a password that we didn't have. Jim returned that to K-Mart, received a replacement and got our useable minutes restored. The new phone worked for another few days before it told us that it was not in service. We think we are back on "trac" with TracFone, but so far, Jim has spent far more time on service problems than talking on it!
The "Food Report" includes dockside drinks with Karin and Ed "Passages", dinner at Pablo's, a really good Mexican restaurant here where we tried to cheer ourselves up over the fridge affair, lunch with Ken and Connie at T-Ray's - the local diner at the Exxon station on 8th St. where the sign says, "Eat Here and Get Gas." My shrimp was excellent and the burgers got good reviews as well. We have continued to enjoy the comfy bed and fine dining at Steve and Sandra's on a regular basis, and on Sunday night, enjoyed a lovely stroll under spanish moss laden trees and glimpses of starry sky to the view the lights of the Amelia Island Plantation.
Despite our continuing tale of boat woes, we are so very lucky to be among friends in a warm climate, anticipating Christmas with our family.
13/12/2009/2:14 pm, Ocala, FL (boat still in Fernandina beach)
I had my first bite of Alligator. Good thing it was that way round and not the alligator having the first bite of ME!
We visited the Stumpknocker Restaurant on the banks of the Withlakoochee River (don't you just love those names?) with Christine and Art - our Florida friends who spend their summers in NS (smart people!). It was a very cool locale - all drippy with moss and water and tree roots and vines. Just the sort of place alligators and swamp creatures would live. We didn't see any though so we went into the restaurant and ordered catfish platters and gator nuggets - neither of which I'd had before. The gator was white meat, chewy and quite tasty. I don't think I'd want a whole plateful, but a few nuggets were good. The catfish (farmed) was a sweet, soft textured fish, and the batter was really light and crispy. After making our best attempts at finishing off the huge platters, some of us left with take-away containers in hand. Art didn't leave a morsel of his fried oysters!
We were interested to learn that Ocala is significant horse country. We passed great numbers of fenced fields, classy gateways (one with fountain and pond), well kept barns and paddocks. If I had a dime for every board foot in those fences, I'd be rich! Christine said the airport there is an international one, but the clientele is horses - not people!
Evening saw us at Silver Springs - a park near Ocala. We got there in time for a glass bottom boat tour over the seven springs that feed the river. We got a look at a canoe that has lain on the bottom for over 500 years, some statues left from movie shoots, a variety of fish, and a downed cypress tree that apparently would still make good lumber after being submerged for many years. Sea Hunt - that show that I remember watching as a child was filmed here, along with scenes from many other movies - like Creature from the Dark Lagoon.
As the sun went down, the place came alive with lights. It was truly magical to walk along paths with lighted archways, looking at candy canes and tin soldiers, angels and a nativity scene, flowers and birds and bows. It reminded me of the family Christmas visits to Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC, but instead of the climbing aboard the little train there, we climbed into seats on a rotating tower and were lifted high above the folks below. It was like being at a carnival - but the purpose was to get a better look at things - not a scare! The Silver Springs part of the evening finished with a parade of decorated boats, and the chez Miles part ended with frozen Margaritas and sweet fudgey brownies. Then off to bed, perchance to dream among Christine's beautiful quilts and teddy bears.