Around Siesta Key in January 2009

Mark your calendars for some of my favorite picks for January.

New Year’s Day Bird Walk at Sleeping Turtle Preserve in Venice on January 1 from 9:30pm to noon.  www.sarasotaaudubon.org or call Mark Leggett at 925-7220. 

Free beginning Yoga class on Siesta Beach Friday, January 2 and every Monday, Wednesday and Friday following.  Bring your own mat and water.  Info: yogaonsiestabeach@yahoo.com, www.hathayogalesson.com, or call 320-6693, or just show up.  The address is 948 Beach Road.  It looks like it’s on the beach in the area of the fire department and the tennis courts at the public beach. 

I have to plug the Florida Studio Theatre because my kids are participating in a program there and I think the theatre is awesome.  Their season opener, a celebration of Irving Berlin, is Friday, January 2 at 6pm.  Check out their website for the schedule.  www.floridastudiotheatre.org or call 366-9000 for tickets to Friday’s show.

Art Center Sarasota has some pretty cool activities and events scheduled for the month.  Call 355-1023 for info.  www.artsarasota.org

January 4th is the date for the Sarasota Orchid Show and Sale at the Selby Gardens.  www.selby.org

GWIZ Titanic Exhibit: www.gwiz.org

MOTE Marine Laboratory: www.mote.org.  Please support the Dolphin and Whale Hospital with your donations.  Keep checking their site or request being added to their mailing list for updates on “Ginger”.

It’s Polo season so check out www.sarasotapolo.com for their schedule.  We went last year and had a blast tailgating.

On January 6, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall is having its backstage tour.  Call 966-9415 for more info.  Also check out their performance schedule at www.vanwezel.org.

This one’s too cool: Tribute to the Beach Boys.  The performance is January 8, from 7pm to 9pm at the Venice Community Center.  861-5000  This band will also be playing songs from some other beach music bands. You might spot me there…I was a Beach Boys fanatic (not just a fan).  I saw them in concert everytime they came to the Baltimore/DC area when I was in high school and college.  I bet you can guess my age now.

January 10 you can attend the Anna Maria Island Privateers Annual Thieves Market at Coquina Beach.  I’ve never been but passed by last year…it was packed with vendors (craft and food) and was well attended.  Its from 7am-4pm.  www.amiprivateers.org

You can’t go wrong with the Siesta Key Farmers Market every Sunday in the Davidson Parking lot in the Village. 

Sarasota has an artist’s market on Saturday’s in Historic Burns Square (@ Laurel and Pineapple).

Sarasota’s Flea Market is open this month at the Municipal Auditorium.

Check out the schedule for the Aslo Theatre: www.aslo.org.

I just found out about the Powel Crosley Theatre.  I haven’t attended anything there yet but they have an interesting schedule.  I’d have loved to have seen the Dickens show in December but had family in town and forgot.  January brings us “Edgar Allen Poe at the Crosley” to celebrate his 200th birthday.  The show runs from January 13-23 and, myself being a Baltimore native, I will be in the audience during one of the shows.  There are some matinees as well as evening shows.  My husband gave me a really cool book for Christmas on Poe.  I must read it before the show.  Check out www.powelcrosleytheatre.com for info and their March schedule.  I’ll be at the March show, too.

Southwest Florida Heritage Festival at the Crowley Museum and Nature Center on Saturday, January 10 from 9:30 am to 4pm.  This festival features living history, agriculture, nature, family activities, music entertainment, and of course, food.  Info: http://www.cmncfl.org/

 Paine Park in Sarasota is the site for the First Annual Walk for Wishes to benefit the Make A Wish Foundation.  The Walk begins at 9am sharp on Saturday, January 17.  Info:  call 941-952-9474

Circus Sarasota’s opening night is January 30 and runs through February 22.  Go to: www.circusarasota.org or call 941-355-9335

And speaking of the circus, don’t forget the Ringling Museum.  www.ringling.org   I finally got to see the whole art museum and it was incredible.  Totally worth the trip.   The mansion was fabulous.  I suggest paying for the private tour.  There are some interesting facts you’ll learn plus you’ll get to see some of the upstairs rooms.  The rose garden was in bloom (this was early December) but I enjoyed it much more in March.  Still, you can’t help to pass it by and sniff deeply.  Ahhhh.

January 30 is as the Sarasota Indian Festival at Oscar Sherer State Park.   It runs for the weekend.  Info: www.myspace.com/sarasotaindianfestival or call 941-924-2784

And, getting into February, I have to let you know about the pet walk-a-thon sponsored by the Junior League.  I’m a former Jr Leaguer (and pet owner) and like plugging the organization’s events.  It  takes place February 7, 10am at Twin Lakes Park and the walk is 1 mile but it sounds like there are a lot of other activities going on to promote pet safety.  Early registration ends January 10, then the price goes up so register early.

Now…if you need food recommendations you can go to my husband’s website: www.dixiedining.com and his blog (with up-to-the-minute eating reviews around town) www.dixiedining.wordpress.com.

I’m sure there is a lot more going on that I’ve forgotten or hadn’t yet heard about but this should keep you busy for a while.  Meanwhile, though, the beach is FREE, as is window shopping St Armand’s Circle on our beautiful winter days, bird watching, fishing (if you already have the supplies), reading a good book while sitting in the sun (don’t forget sunscreen), viewing  the art galleries of downtown Sarasota.  Disclaimer: I suggested that these activities are free so if you buy something, I will not be held responsible. 

Sundays  I welcome you to visit the Siesta Key Chapel for worship (Presbyterian).  It’s “God’s Treehouse” and we enjoy going there.  Service times are 8:45 and 11am.   www.siestakeychapel.org

Enjoy your stay on Siesta Key.

PAL Sailor Circus

I have a renewed appreciation for the circus.  We took the boys to the PAL Sailor Circus Holiday Spectacular.

When my husband told me he had tickets for us, I silently rolled my eyes and thought, “ugh! Clowns.”

I went to the circus as a child, like most people, and remember sitting in a huge arena, sometimes a tent, watching elephants in tu-tus, lions sitting still on little stools, clowns throwing buckets of water at each other, the high wire act and some generally goofy stuff.  The building stunk with manure, and everyone said “oooo, ahhhh” at the arial act.  We ate cotton candy (yes my parents allowed it), popcorn from little bags with clown pictures on them and drank Coke. 

I hated it.

I never believed you could tame a lion.  No matter what you taught them they’re still wild animals and I feared a large, ravenous lion would break from the floor and run into the crowd.  Elephants are cool, but they weigh a whole lot and could crush someone.  The gymnastic stuff was great, though, because I was an aspiring gymnast.  Clowns…how scarey.  Not only were they not funny to me (how many times can you laugh at a water-squirting flower trick?) but they just looked creepy with all that makeup, red ball on the nose, and big clothes and big shoes.  I wouldn’t want to get stepped on with those things even if it was an accident.

BUT, last night at the PAL Sailor Circus, I saw something spectacular (as the name implied).  These children are so well trained and dedicated to acrobatics, gynmastics, juggling, dance; I was amazed. 

The show was a circus version of the Nutcracker.  Who doesn’t like the Nutcracker?  They had unicycles, high wire, aerial acts, tumbling, hoops, trapeze, juggling, and flying trapeze.  It was well done, the music was great and the work the children did was synchronized exactly. (I’m a perfectionist).  Every so often, while changing scenes, lowering rings, ropes and other props, the clowns would come out for some comic mischief.  Amazingly this was well done, too.  I’m guessing those were children of professional clowns and had been doing the act since birth.  They had the act and motions perfect.

I really enjoyed the show, as did the rest of the family. 

I understand they are having a capital campaign right now to build a new facility.  That would be a great idea.  The show was sold out, the seats were tight and uncomfortable (although most of the time you wanted to sit on the edge of your seat, but there was little leg room) and they need an A/C system.  I hope they can raise the necessary money for the new building.  They certainly deserve it. 

In 2009, the PAL Sailor Circus is celebrating its 60th anniversary with an “Extravaganza” on Friday April 3.    Check out their website for more information and I certainly do recommend you see it.  www.sailorcircus.org

New Year Resolutions

I don’t do resolutions.  Why not try new things, self controll (dieting), exercise etc any time of the year?

Well, this year is going to be different.  You know those extra 5 or 10 pounds that you gain unexpectedly and can’t shake?  I finally have them and have to do something about it.  I could have worked at it since September, when I realized it was an issue, but stuff came up like birthdays, cookouts, gatherings, holidays, travel, visitors.  Those are some great excuses but I can’t use them anymore.  So, now that the visitors are gone and we don’t have to eat out or sit for hours on the beach or poolside, I can get active once again. 

Here’s my plan, which doesn’t include a trip to the YMCA.  Everyone else will be there and I’ll be lucky to get a machine.  I’ll wait until the summer when its really hot out.  So I will walk the dog 2x daily for at least 1 mile per trip; ride my bike 5 miles per day, which includes a mile here and there with the dog beside me; walk or bike, instead of drive, to the market, providing I’m not in a rush; practice tennis with the kids rather than watch them practice; take more walks on the beach instead of lounging on chairs while chatting with friends. 

Last month I bought (for $1 at a yard sale) 2 sets of  weights: a 3lb set and a 5lb set.  I plan to use them to get my upper arms in shape.  That and eliminating the junk food (oh, we had a lot during the holidays) should put me back into each of my 3 new swim suits I bought last summer and quickly grew out of.  

What are you planning to do for yourself this new year?

A Woodpecker Wonderland on Siesta Key

While riding my bike with my husband and dog through our neighborhood I stopped in astonishment.  So close to me, on the sides of two palm trees, were 2 Pileated Woodpeckers.  They seemed so big since I’ve only seen them at a distance.  What beauty!

And, to my delight, there, among those two were 2 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and a little Downy Woodpecker. 

Then, would you believe, I heard a tap-tap-tap (of course much faster) coming from a tree farther from the street and I spotted one woodpecker which I believe to be a Northern Flicker?  True.  I’ve spotted him recently on my other bike runs with my dog.

Wow, I haven’t seen so many different types of woodpeckers since I lived in Mississippi.  We had at any given time at our feeder or several yards away in our wooded yard: Downy, Pileated, Red-headed and Hairy Woodpeckers.  This is one of my favorite types of birds.

The Great Backyard Bird Count 2009

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Hey all you birders…mark the date on your calendar: February 13-16, 2009.

I’ve had a lot of fun with The Great Backyard Bird Count.  In Mississippi, I competed from my backyard with my neighbor (she lived a few streets over) to see who, what, and how many were visiting our yards at the same time on each day.  Sometimes she’d win, sometimes I’d win.  We had all the colorful birds that stayed in the upper mid-South.  That was great fun.  Then, last year living here in Sarasota, I counted sea birds with a friend who lives beachfront on Lido Key each day and I also counted in my back yard here in the canal area of Siesta Key.  I had a mix of  sea birds, and migrants.  What a difference between the two habitats. 

Hope you join in and help count this year.   Go to www.http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/ for info on The Great Backyard Bird Count.  Other birding info sites to check out include http://www.birds.cornell.edu/, and http://www.audubon.org/

More to do around Siesta Key in December 2008

Get ready to celebrate the New Year Sarasota style.  The outdoor festivities will take place along Main Street.  For more info: www.srqnewyears.com.

December 27th, make plans to attend the PAL Sailor Circus Holiday Show.  For more info: www.sailorcircus.org.  We’ll see you there!

Don’t forget to ride down Midnight pass for a spectacular light display.  Then head out to Grace Baptist Church on Bee Ridge Road (east of I75) for another incredible display.

Hope you made your dinner reservations for Christmas.  We’re eating at Columbia Restaurant on St Armand’s Circle.  A Cuban Christmas…yum. 

Have you seen this month’s issue of Coastal Living Magazine?  Toward the back is a story on St Armand’s Circle during the Christmas season.  Great article, but you really need to see the tree lit up in person.

It’s cloudy right now…hopefully our day will brighten up with sunshine soon.  Our relatives on my husband’s side have invaded Siesta Key from the north and they need to warm up, and I don’t mean with a cup of hot cocoa.

Yeah, just as I wrote the sun came out.  See ya.

I finally found shark teeth on Siesta Key

Friday I took the boys to the beach with some friends from 4H.  The other mom, Martha, and I were beachcombing (surprise, surprise) while the kids built a castle and moat.  I was telling her about the day a man walked up to me on that same part of the beach (it was after one of the hurricanes) and showed me a handful of shark teeth he had collected on his walk that day. 

She and I were laughing and joking about finding some teeth.  Would you believe that same man came up to us moments later with shark teeth in his hand: I think I counted 7 large and really awesome shaped black teeth.  He found them at the north end of the beach near the wall. 

Martha and I put my oldest in charge and ran north.  We got to around parking lot #5 and started looking  along the water line.  We found 3.  Oh how amazing!  One was fairly brown; we guessed it hadn’t been floating around as long as the others.  They fall out white and end up black with age.  Not wanting to leave the kids too long, we ran back with our find.  The kids were pretty impressed.

We’ll have to go back this week and look for more.  Better yet, we’ll just go to Nokomis or Venice Beach where there are a ton of them.  But, I can finally say I found shark teeth on Siesta Key.

Titanic Exhibit at GWIZ

We went to GWIZ last week to see the Titanic exhibit.  It was better than I had expected.  As you enter you recieve a boarding pass.  On the back of the pass is the name of a passenger and some information about that person.  I had Miss Dagmar Jenny Ingeborg Brylh, age 20 from Skara Sweden.  She was accompanied on the Titanic by her brother, Kurt, and her fiance, Ingvar Enander.   They were going to Rockford, Illinois to visit family.  Kurt was immigrating to America while Dagmar and Ingvar were only planning a visit.  They travelled 2nd class.

ttrials11The exhibits featured a chronology of time; when the passengers left port, when the iceberg was spotted, who spoke to whom, how long it took the vessel to sink, and who survived.  It also had a reproduction of the cabins for 1st and 2nd class. 

 The next large exhibit contained a wall listing who survived and who perished and in which class they travelled.  Dagmar survived.   Both Kurt and Ingvar died.

The exhibit continued with recovered artifacts from a woman’s glove, perfume bottles, a chandelier, dishes, and several other items.  They were all under glass with humidifier control.

The last room explained the expeditions for both research and artifact recovery. 

The exhibition was first class.  I met the lady who had put together the “Expedition Logbook”, an informative booklet with a scavenger hunt, trivia, word search and more.  If you have the opportunity to track her down, she just adds so much more the experience that looking and reading. 

Oh, and there is one really cool part which I’ll keep a secret.  My kids loved it.

The exhibit is at GWIZ until February 8, 2009.   There is an extra charge above the GWIZ entry fee to see the Titantic but it is so worth it. 

There are some cool websites recommended in the Logbook which would be fun to see ahead of time.  They are: www.webtitanic.net, www2.sptimes.com/titanic (sinking animation).  The exhibit’s website is www.titanic-online.com.

GWIZ is located in Sarasota at 1001 Blvd of the Arts.  www.gwiz.org

It’s not a bird after all

I love to birdwatch. I try to hone in on all the sounds around me to learn to identify birds by their call and song, as well as by sight. I have a good memory for what I’ve heard so if I’m close to home or the internet I log on to the Cornell University site and work my way through bird sounds. (I know there’s an easier way to do this…I just haven’t looked into it.)

One sound I kept hearing near my house since we moved in a year ago stumped me. I even emailed a friend, who email another friend with my sound description to figure out what is was.

My first email: “The last few nights we have heard up in the trees a series of “klack” sounds followed by what sounds like “hap-py” or “help me” or “hu hu” with the accent on the first sound. We know a lot of birds songs and calls can sound like words or phrases so we’re thinking it might be some noctural bird call or simply a lost noctural parrot that’s asking for help to get home ;). Any idea what this could be?”

The only reasonable response was a nightjar. This person suggested some other bird sound websites as well to check out.

It was not the nightjar…although I did hear one all that week late at night. Its so fun to just listen to nature late at night. I’m thankful we don’t live near noise pollution.

I gave up as I was starting to realize the noise was nearly each night around dusk. It would be hard to see what it was at dusk, hidden in dark foliage. In the summer dusk is somewhere around 8:30. So for a few nights I would walk the dog past the same spot, sometimes hearing it, sometimes not. As it did occur around the same time, I started wondering in the lady that lived in the house where the tree stood had some kind of crazy timer/alarm or whatever. I dropped the issue.

Last week I met some friends who live back around Oxford and Edgemere. Somehow in the conversation we were talking about iguanas on the Key and one person started laughing, and talked about how fairly often at night this brightly colored creature hangs out by her kitchen window and, as if to say goodnight, makes this crazy noise … then she imitated it.

Oh my heavens, my jaw must have dropped and rolled down the street. That was the exact noise I’d been hearing coming from a tree, two houses over from mine.

So I got back in touch with one friend (she’s with Fish and Wildlife so I thought this would interest her) who sent my note on to the Coastal Resources people with Sarasota County. The response I got was comforting (as I was sure it could be a monitor lizard instead). She said: “We have received multiple sightings reports of iguanas on Siesta Key. No monitor lizards yet, thank goodness. A large brightly colored lizard in the trees is likely a green iguana – vegetarians, but very prolific and can quickly become a nuisance.”

Case closed…it’s not a bird after all.