Saturday, November 29, 2008

Plano, TX - The Central Market

Julie, Colette, Madelyn & Alayna

A day after Thanksgiving Day tradition, a trip to The Central Market is a must! Here are all my girls, in the dining room enjoying lunch. Next, a trip through the aisles for some serious shopping!

Fireplace in dining area

Casual dining only - this is a grocery store!

Julie introduced me to the Central Market years ago. It is very BIG, can be very expensive, and has many surprises. First of all, you may need the valet parking they offer. Second, do expect live entertainment on the mezzanine level, at least on weekends.

The produce section is as big as most California grocery stores. One year I inquired about some cheese and couldn't think of the its name. The clerk said I was welcome to sample all 728 varieties offered!

What flavor gelato do you want?

A peek at the flower market

A look down the aisle towards the olive bar

Portion of the deli

I planned on a nice picture essay of this store, but apparently the store didn't appreciate my efforts. This was the last picture before being nicely told to lose the camera. I really wanted a picture of the produce section (yeah, the bakery, meats, etc. are fabulous too), but decided to respect their wishes.

Bob wants to be included with all these pretty girls!

Where or where do I put all these goodies from The Central Market?

For further information: The Central Market

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Grandpa Bob with Alayna & Madelyn

Our campground approximately 15 miles east of Plano TX is at Lake Lavon, an Army Corp of Engineering campground with wonderful space, 50 amps and water. No sewer, but for $9 per night, whose complaining? The only mystery is what happened to the pictures. I know Bob took a few, but they are nowhere in sight.

Soon Thanksgiving Day arrives. Fortunately, daughter Julie is a wonderful cook, and her turkey dinner is fabulous! We all enjoyed the freshly made cinnamon ice cream for dessert.

Celebrating a late but BIG 70

The month before our arrival, Bob celebrated a big birthday while in St. Augustine. Since the girls had no way of sending him a card, they each made one for him. Bob was beaming, and impressed!

Brett, Julie, Alayna, Bob, Maddie & Colette

Finally, after dinner I insisted everyone get lined up for a family photo. Since we get to see each other but once each year, I was determined to get it right this time. Happy Turkey Day everyone.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Driving through the South

Kitties waiting to "help" dad record expenses

Our trip to Alabama was literally nothing to write home about, as the saying goes. We spent 3 days in a lovely new ownership park, Bella Terra, but the vast majority of the park was still under construction. We toured the Gulf Shores area and drove to the end of the island. We saw nothing that attracted us.

Our lunch at a local highly acclaimed restaurant everyone raved about was so bad, I sent my entree back for the second time in my life. It was totally uneatable. Oh well. We enjoyed the drive up Mobile Bay though Fairhope and Daphne, and stopped at Starbucks where at least I could get some dependable scones.

After 3 days and not one picture, we left driving on I-10 through Mississippi stopping only for fuel at Gulfport.

We crossed the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge, and drove north on MS 26 towards the town of Kinder. Here they have an Indian Casino with hookups. It's a good place to spend the night.

The following pictures were taken through the windshield. Bob was driving and I did my best to get a couple of shots since we have taken no pictures for the last several days. Now it's on to Texas and a visit with my daughter Julie and family.

Heading back to the West!

A sneak peek at Baton Rouge

The Mighty Mississippi

Friday, November 21, 2008

Saying "Goodbye" to Florida

Saying "goodbye"

Today we leave for Alabama. Our week here is over all too soon. The walks on the beach were amazing. The above picture is of Lake Morris, in Top Sail State Park Preserve in Santa Rosa Beach.

Ripples in the sand

Honey's hand showing off her "booty"

The above two pictures were taken on our Wednesday morning walk. The sand is white as powdered sugar, but turned out poorly in this photo. I wanted to show you how lovely the patterns in the sand are in this beach.

The photo of my hand shows the impossible. Due to the reefs near the beach, seashells are crushed before being washed ashore. These little guys, somehow made the trip. The shell on the left is an incredibly tiny Sand Dollar. Bob says it's a Sand Dime. I agree. The middle shell is a tiny scallop, and finally the last shell on the right is an Olive.

Bob sitting at shore of Lake Morris

Tiny moss growing along the pathway to Lake Morris

Edge of Lake Morris

Yesterday after our morning walk, we went into town for our 4th and final trip to PF Chang. We hadn't been to a PF Chang since Minneapolis. All the shopping malls, strip malls, and restaurant chains are here. Unlike many places attracting tourists, the Destin area features the higher end shops. Being a summer resort, most places are fairly empty.

After lunch, we drove to Lakes Campbell and Morris, about 5 miles from our parking place, also part of the state preserve. These are very pristine lakes and have alligators to boot, although we didn't see any.

Fountain in Moore RV Resort

This last picture is located just around the corner from our parking place here in the resort. Unlike almost any other state park, the resort was here long before the state purchased the property. It is the only state park in Florida with full hooks ups. You can be certain we will return on our next trip to Florida. For now, it's off to Alabama!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Santa Rosa Beach and Seaside, Florida

From Santa Rosa Beach & Seaside, Florida

Driving down US 98 we spot a sign advertising PF Chang just two miles after our turn off to Top Sail State Park. The last time we went to PF Chang was in Cincinnati. Making a mental note, we make our turn, get registered and find our parking place.

From Santa Rosa Beach & Seaside, Florida

Soon we are off to PF Chang for a wonderful dinner. It was almost dark when we returned, so we were unable to go for a walk on my favorite beach in all of Florida. Soon you will know why.

The next morning, I get to work and Bob gets to walk on the beach. Oh well, we did come here for a week to get caught up. Two fiscal-year clients need their year end financial statements and corporate tax returns. Here is what I am busy doing:

From Santa Rosa Beach & Seaside, Florida

And here is where Bob gets to go:

From Santa Rosa Beach & Seaside, Florida

After working all day on Saturday, I decide on Sunday morning that I too, am hitting this beach. How often do you get to walk on beaches like this?

From Santa Rosa Beach & Seaside, Florida

From Santa Rosa Beach & Seaside, Florida

From Santa Rosa Beach & Seaside, Florida

It's cold and with no recent storms, the water is crystal clear. Have a look:

From Santa Rosa Beach & Seaside, Florida

On Monday, after work in the morning, we head to Seaside. The remarkable thing about Seaside is it was designed back in the 1960s. At the time, it was a big architectural concept, to have an entire community set in one style. Today, your original investment of about $40,000 would be worth more than $1,000,000.

From Santa Rosa Beach & Seaside, Florida

From Santa Rosa Beach & Seaside, Florida

From Santa Rosa Beach & Seaside, Florida

From Santa Rosa Beach & Seaside, Florida

These houses are all vacation homes. There is no economy here other than tourism, and of course, summer is the high season. How nice to be here in late fall! This next picture is of some yard art we came across:

From Santa Rosa Beach & Seaside, Florida

If there is one comment we can make regarding Seaside, it is more like being in Disney World than in the "real world." The strict controls make for a very artificial like setting. Although charming and unique, there is a sameness that permeates the entire town. The old adage applies: It's a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live here!

From Santa Rosa Beach & Seaside, Florida

Finally, some originality. I loved this old Airstream trailer conversion. Finding this is like a breath of fresh air. Time to head back home and find a deli for a sandwich.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Apalachicola, Florida

It's Friday, time for us to leave for Top Sail State Park in Santa Rosa Beach, and for the Forino's, time to move closer to Fort Lauderdale and their cruise. But yesterday, we got to spend the day enjoying the beaches of St. George Island and that afternoon, Apalachicola.

From St. George Island & Apalachicola

We departed on what turned out to be a rather long hike. Sand dunes, the state of Florida insists, are Florida's mountains; thus they provide pathways to the beach. Here we are waiting for Bob to come back from scouting the territory ahead.

From St. George Island & Apalachicola

Bob returns with a report that's it's a very long hike, (our feet were already killing us from walking on soft sand) so we walk back on the beach & get ready for a trip into Apalachicola and lunch.

From St. George Island & Apalachicola

Although it looks like we're dressed for freezing weather, I'm trying to keep mosquitos at bay, Bob is trying to keep the wind out of his eyes, and Karen is just her normal cute self.

From St. George Island & Apalachicola

Mike drives us in their mini SUV over the causeway and the bridge over the Apalachicola River to the town bearing the same name. I will have to say that we've seen many, many tourists' traps and attractions, and for a town this size, Apalachicola has the nicest shops with the most interesting merchandise of almost any place we've visited.

After our yummy lunch at The Owl Cafe, we walk the town to take in the shops. Here are a few pictures of Apalachicola:

From St. George Island & Apalachicola

From St. George Island & Apalachicola

From St. George Island & Apalachicola

From St. George Island & Apalachicola

Our last stop is the local coffee shop for a shot of whatever we need to perk us up. After arriving back on St. George Island, I head over to the Forino's coach to take a picture of their new kitty Magic. Check Magic out, he's a follower!

From St. George Island & Apalachicola

Coming up next: Top Sail State Park in Santa Rosa Beach

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

St. George Island, Florida

St. George Island, in the Gulf of Mexico, is about 3 miles due south of Apalachicola. One of the barrier islands off the coast; it is one of our favorite state parks. We drive 3 miles across a causeway and go to the east end of the island. Here you come to the park entrance, then drive another 5 miles to the campground. The spaces are long and wide, and the park has hiking trails, and miles and miles of private beaches. St. George Island even has a resident aligator!

From St. George Island, Florida

The aligator pond is right near the corner when you turn into the campground. Dogs and cats beware!

From St. George Island, Florida

From St. George Island, Florida

Since it is late afternoon on Monday when we arrive, we spend a little time cleaning up, have our dinner, then call it an early day.

The next morning, more cleaning, and then find the moment of truth: no air card signal = no surprise! At least our cell phones work with only a couple of bars.

Early in the afternoon, we take about a 5 mile hike on the nature trail over to Apalachicola Bay.

From St. George Island, Florida

From St. George Island, Florida

From St. George Island, Florida

When we get back to the coach, dear friends from Arizona, Mike and Karen Forino have parked right next to us in their coach. These lucky people are enroute to southern Florida to catch a cruise ship for a 33 day tour beginning on or around November 20th.

Mike is a computer techie, and has a wireless network in their coach. He allows us to connect to their network which allows me to get our email, faxes, and publish this post. I hate getting so far behind on the blog.

We also get to meet their new kitty Magic. Magic Forino is a follower on our blog. Hey, where is it written that you have to only have 2 legs to be a follower? I think followers with whiskers and tails are just fine, thank you! Now I'm hoping a dog will sign up. Fair is fair, no?

Next big decision: dinner. We remembered a place where all the locals go on the island. So we climb into the Forino's car and take off for Eddy Teach's Raw Bar. With the economy in a nose dive, the nightly special has the right price!

From St. George Island, Florida

From St. George Island, Florida

Of course the dark beer on tap was a different matter, but hey, we're on vacation!

From St. George Island, Florida

The above picture taken last year on our visit was in better economic times. But I thought you'd enjoy the signage about the virtues of beer.

Having no shame, the bar tender takes a picture of the four of us.

From St. George Island, Florida

Mind you, we were at the best part of the bar. A family institution, many people eat at the picnic tables out in front, where the kids are allowed.

From St. George Island, Florida

Some of the decorations inside might be a tad embarrassing to explain to the kids. It's all in good fun, however, and the bar tender proudly shows off her t-shirt.

From St. George Island, Florida

Hey, in a down economy, you do what you have to do!

Tomorrow we promise ourselves a walk on the beach. Tonight, it's off to bed early. Old people!