Sweetwater Organic Community Farm: Saturday Through My Lens

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm Today is a rainy, dreary Saturday, so I'm going to turn the clock back to last weekend for this week's Saturday Through My Lens at the Sweetwater Organic Community Farm in Tampa.   I learned about the farm from a flyer I got at the Cuban Sandwich Festival in Ybor City.  The olive lady gave it to me while she was convincing me to try her black olive salad, even though I detest black olives.  (She challenged me to try it, and I must admit it was delish!) The Sweetwater Organic Community Farm's Sunday Farmer's Market sounded like the perfect weekend outing for My Knight and me. They feature several area vendors with handmade crafts and yummy things like fresh baked bread and smoothies.  And of course there is lots of fresh organic produce.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm fresh organic produce

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm organic green beans

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm fresh squash

 I've been making a lot of smoothies at home, incorporating different fruits and veggies.  I really like adding kale to my smoothies, so we picked up a bunch at the market.  One of the market vendors had a smoothie with kale, celery, cucumber, pineapple, honey and ginger.  It was so refreshing!  I never thought of adding celery before, but I will now.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm fresh kale

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm Kale

In addition to the smoothies, we also tried a salt caramel popsicle (heavenly!).  We got all adventurous and tried our first nut burger, which was actually very tasty.  I've been looking for recipes to recreate one at home.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm nut burger

The farm has members who pay an annual fee in exchange for a weekly share of fresh produce and herbs.  They also agree to volunteer a minimum number of hours on the farm so that the work is shared among the community.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm fresh organic produce

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

The weather was perfect for a farmer's market day.  It was bright and cheerfully sunny with a bit of a breeze.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

It got quite warm as the day wore on, but the majestic oak trees gave us plenty of cool shade for relaxing and listening to the live music from local bands and singers.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm Oaks

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

Even the sunflowers seemed to be seeking out shade to get a little break from the spring sun.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm sunflowers

While other plants seem to be stretching with all their might to soak up as much sun as possible.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

Sweetwater Organic Community FarmI am so thankful for the farmers who put in all the hard work so we can have fresh healthy food.  Because Lord knows I do not have a green thumb on either hand!

Sweetwater Organic Community FarmBut all these goodies make me want to try my hand at it myself!  You should visit Sweetwater Organic Community Farm's Sunday Market before they're closed for the summer.  The Farmer's Market is open on Sundays from 12-4pm from November to May.  Maybe I'll see you there!

Harvey at the Beach and My Butt on a Bike

SSShhhhhhh! Don’t tell My Knight, but I actually had a great time camping in Harvey this weekend! No, really, I did!
flying a kite, Jetty Park Campground, Cocoa Beach
Flying a kite with Harvey
We went over to Cocoa Beach to camp at Jetty Park for My Knight’s birthday weekend.  I am always a bit apprehensive about a Harvey weekend and the amount of work that entails.  I still (even after this weekend) maintain that camping is too much work to be called a vacation, but it is getting a bit easier the more we do it. One of my beefs with camping is that you have to pack up everything you will possibly need, load it into the camper, take it to the campground, unpack it and organize it for access, and then at the end of the trip, you get to pack it all back up again, and bring it home to unpack it. I prefer a hotel or a cruise, where I just pack my suitcase and someone else worries about all the other details. Luckily, we are getting to a point with Harvey where the packing is not as much of a hassle as before.  We have a “camper set” of towels, sheets, dishes, silverware, pots, skillets, etc., that lives in the camper so it doesn’t have to be packed every time. The meal planning and food packing stresses me to the hilt.  I mean, if I can’t stand to figure out what’s for dinner in my own kitchen with a full pantry, how am I supposed to figure it out ahead of time and bring every single thing needed to prepare it? But my incredible Knight offered for us to walk to a nearby restaurant for dinner Friday night and then bike to a pizza place for lunch on Saturday.  Can this man get any more wonderful?  So I only had to come up with breakfast (cereal anyone?) and dinner for Saturday night (how about leftover pizza?) and I was all set. Jetty Park campground was really nice--horseshoe pits, shuffleboard courts, a concession stand, and clean bathhouses (always a plus!).  My Knight had booked a site that was right by the bathhouse since he knows I am not a fan of walking over the river and through the woods to take a shower at night! Love that man!
Jetty Park Beach and Campground
Jetty Park Beach
The best part about Jetty Park is the beach.  A quick walk across the campground or a quick bike ride down a meandering path leads straight to the Atlantic Ocean.  Can I just tell you how awesome it is to head out to the beach in the morning, lounge around in the sand soaking up rays for a couple of hours, and then just leave the towels and blankie to save your spot and head back to the camper for some A/C, lunch, and a nap?  Late afternoon/early evening, it’s back out to the beach for relaxing as the sun goes down and the breeze grows cooler. The weather this weekend was incredible.  Beautiful blue skies, highs in the 70s/low 80s, and a constant tropical breeze!  It was the kind of weekend that gives you August amnesia and makes you think it’s always this nice to live in Florida. We took a long walk along the edge of the surf and saw a crowd gathered around an immobile sea turtle.  His huge black eyes looked so sad, and my heart hurt to think of how confused and scared he must be, stranded on the beach with some unknown ailment, surrounded by strange-looking humans and uncertain of their intent.  A few kind strangers kept drizzling water on him to keep him hydrated, and a sheriff’s deputy stood guard over him until an animal rescue team could get there to help.
Sea Turtle at Jetty Park Beach
Poor Sea Turtle
With the A/C and nap calling our name in the early afternoon, we made the BRILLIANT decision to have a sandwich in the camper for lunch and then take a bike ride for pizza later for dinner.  Oh Boy. I have to make an embarrassing confession here.  I hate riding a bicycle.  It’s not that I don’t know how.  It’s not that I’ve never done it.  It’s not that it’s hard to do, or particularly taxing.  I don’t know how to explain it, but I just do not feel comfortable and confident on a bike.  I’m always a little unsure of what it’s doing, or what I’m doing, or what’s going to happen next. I’m fine if we are on an open trail, or the campground loops, or one of those paved-over railroad track projects.  But to ride on city streets or on sidewalks with traffic and pedestrians and such FREAKS ME OUT.  My Knight had conveyed to me when he was selling, um, planning, the weekend that the pizza place was just a few blocks away and we could easily ride there by bicycle.  So, okay, I’m game.  After all, there’s pizza involved.
Bikes at Cocoa Beach in Jetty Park
Bikes at the Beach
But once we arrived at Jetty Park, he further explained that we would be riding DOWN THE BEACH to get to the pizza place.  Like, in the sand.  And remember that due to our itinerary alteration, we’d be riding back DOWN THE BEACH after DARK! Um, no.  I have trouble maintaining a bicycle in an upright position on hard pavement.  And this man thinks I can balance riding in the sand?  Really?  It’s not even a beach cruiser.  It’s just a plain old bike.  I protested mucheth. Surely there was a way to get there on solid ground.  And without being in heavy traffic.  Surely there were residential streets or back roads.   There had to be.  So I snagged a “tourist map” from the gift shop at the campground.  You know, the ones that show all the fun places to eat and shop and play, but aren’t really drawn to scale or physically accurate?  The ones that don’t show ALL the streets in the town?  Only the ones with businesses who paid to advertise around the edges of this silly map? Well, according to my handy-dandy tourist map, there was indeed a series of back roads that would take us to the pizza place with only a few blocks minimum on the busy main thoroughfare.  In fact, it showed this route as a path for those renting scooters, and the little cartoon scooter riders drawn on the map looked like they were really enjoying the ride.  I wasn’t thrilled with the part of the journey that would include crowded sidewalks and traffic lights, but it beat falling on my face in the sand. We set out for pizza around dusk, and I was reminded after a few blocks that I have not been on a bicycle at all since December, and that was only from the camper to the bath house and a few trips around the camping loop at Alafia State Park.  No heavy riding and no long rides. One would think that the combination of a soft bike seat and the ample padding of my derriere would be sufficient cushion for road riding, but after several city blocks, I had started noticing some pain in my rear-end-region.  It was nothing unbearable, but it was a bit foreboding considering we were not even to the “residential” portion of our trip, and we still had the whole ride back to sit through. So I kept adjusting my rumpus on the seat, putting the left cheek more on, then the right cheek.  Leaning forward, leaning back.  Standing a little when we came off and on the ramps for side streets so the bumps on the pavement didn’t jar too much. I had started to question my love of pizza and my need for dinner in general when we finally reached “Ridgewood”, the side street that was to lead us out of city traffic and into residential bliss.  After a brief discussion between me and My Knight regarding the proper observation of traffic intersection laws for bicycles on sidewalks (I’d just like to point out that the cop agreed with me!), we turned out of the nerve-wracking main street and off into beautifully manicured lawns and gorgeous pastel houses of the beach-livers. The pizza place was clearly marked on my tourist map between Harding Street and McKinley Street.  So once we passed McKinley, we would simply go to Harding and take it back to the main thoroughfare and come back along the right side of the road ready to dine! It seemed to be only a couple of blocks away based on the cheerful scooter riders on my tourist map, but we were already nearing twenty minutes of biking and McKinley  wasn’t anywhere in sight.  My butt was burning, and there seemed to be bones in my butt that I never knew I had now protruding through the skin at the bottom and rubbing against the bike seat in an incredibly uncomfortable dance. Where was Harding? Where was McKinley?  Maybe one of the beach residents would just let us come in their house and eat to get me off this damned bike? It was then that it dawned on me that we had passed Washington Street, Adams Street, Jefferson and then Madison.  I realized with great disappointment that the street names were our country’s leaders in chronological order.  My tourist map only showed a couple of names before Harding and McKinley.  It definitely was not accurate and to scale, and it mentioned nothing about a full-on Tour of Presidents. I scrambled to remember how many presidents I had before McKinley, but the pain in my butt must have overridden the US History files in my brain.  Where was Patti Frier when I needed her?  I began to say the full names of each president out loud as we crossed their street, trying to jar my memory…Jackson Street---Andrew Jackson, Old Hickory.  Oh, Martin Van Buren.  Harrison--William Henry Harrison. My Knight in the WaterMy Knight seemed without a care. He of the triathlons and daily/weekly cycling jaunts of miles upon miles cruised along effortlessly behind me, unaware of my aching buns and building annoyance.  Well, not exactly UNAWARE, since I was pretty vocal in my complaining, but still. By the time Lincoln was shot, I had become convinced that maybe we would be in Jacksonville before we found Harding or McKinley. But then, on the horizon, in the dim light of the setting sun, I thought I saw a capital M with a little c on the street sign.  I got so excited that I forgot to stand up over the raised bumps to cross his street. Ow. The tourist map showed Harding as the next street!  Pizza was close and I could get off this torturous method of transportation! My excitement faded when Cocoa Beach’s city planners reminded me that Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson all served after McKinley.  Isn’t there some stupid little song you can learn to remember the names of the presidents?   Or is that just state names? Finally, out of the darkness, in the pale orange glow of a street light, I saw the name of what will now be my favorite president for all time.  Warren G. Harding. We turned and pedaled with feverish efforts back toward the main road. Only to find that the pizza place had been back at the intersection of McKinley, three presidents ago.  I will definitely buy an accurate street map the next time we are at Jetty Park. I wish I could tell you the pizza was worth every rotation of the tires and every term served by the leaders of our country on the grid of Cocoa Beach’s map.  It wasn’t.  It was really crappy pizza. It poured rain for a bit while we ate, but it had cleared by the time we left, leaving behind a beautiful moon. My Knight tried to convince me to try the beach.  It will be much quicker, he said.  It’s a straight shot down the beachCocoa Beach to Jetty, he said.  It won’t be crowded at night, he said. And who can resist the siren call of a handsome man asking you to cruise along a moonlit beach in the mist of the crashing surf? Evidently, I can when my butt cheeks have bones protruding through them and I can barely walk.  Okay, so maybe barely walk is a bit dramatic, but it did hurt.  And as much as I dreaded traveling back through history in the dark with no light on my bike, I was a little more apprehensive of trying to balance in the sand in the dark with unknown critters crawling into our path (either from the sea, the sand, or the two-legged upright variety).  I protested again.  Mucheth. But he’s a pretty persuasive guy, and it was his birthday weekend, and I hate saying no to a challenge.  So we walked our bikes through the sand and out to the surf to reach the wet, hard-packed sand.  (Let me interrupt my bitching and complaining long enough to say that the moon on the water was absolutely breathtaking, and the eerie calm of the beach deserted at night was entrancing.) I have to admit that being able to see the lights of Jetty Park on the horizon at the end of the beach was a powerful motivator, and it did seem for a moment that this would be much quicker and easier.  However, not even my well-seasoned cyclist Knight could pedal in the wet sand at high tide, so he admitted we needed to go back to the Presidents. It was a long, hard, dark ride back.  I have never been so glad to see Harvey as I was that night.  My butt ached, and I laughed in pain as I tried to lift it in all its glory off the bike seat and up into the camper as My Knight laughed with (at) me. Needless to say, we didn’t bike anywhere Sunday.  But we had a splendid day.  We played shuffleboard, flew a kite in the breeze, and reclined in our camping chairs underneath Harvey’s awning, relishing in the wonder of a gorgeous spring day.  It was very relaxing, and I enjoyed having our little camper and our own little spot in paradise. We took the dogs for a walk, and then we took a stroll to the campground office to book another weekend at Jetty Park in June.  And I am actually looking forward to it! But does anyone know of any butt-cheek exercises I could do to toughen up before then?

A Knight, A Wench, and a Medieval Fair

Just write. Freewriting exercise and link-up. Photo courtesy of Moulin Rouge, Twentieth Century Fox DVD.My Knight and I celebrated our 7th anniversary in November, and as we do every year, we renewed our vows.  Shortly before we got married, we learned that friends of ours renew their vows every year and have done so for more than 50 years!  The lovely wife described it so romantically and with such deep meaning.  She said that when you read those vows each year, you are reminded of what you promised.  You are held accountable for your commitment, and it makes it easier to remember why you do what you do the other 364 days.  You renew that commitment and that promise each year, and it keeps your vows fresh in your mind and in your heart. Her husband’s explanation was much more humorous, but no less true.  He said if someone had told him he had to spend the rest of his life with her, he would have probably gone mad or given up.  But each year, he figures he can do it for one more year.  So each year on their anniversary, he signs up for just one more year.  And he’s done that one year at a time for over 50 years! We loved that.  And we decided to incorporate their tradition into our marriage.  We take turns planning a special surprise for the vow renewal each year.  So each year one person is in the hot seat to plan, and the other gets to relax and be surprised.  Well, maybe I shouldn’t say “relax” and be surprised.  Because although I personally love to plan AND receive surprises, My Knight finds nothing at all relaxing about having no clue what he is doing.  He is great at planning the surprises on his years, but he is a bear to deal with when he is being surprised.  (The year I planned a hot air balloon ride that required a pre-dawn arrival, I thought I was going to kill him in the process of getting him awake, out of the house, and to the designated location without him knowing what was happening.)  Sarasota Medieval FaireThis was my planning year, and I arranged for us to attend a Medeival Fair and have our vows renewed by a Scottish monk (actor).  And I figured we should wear costumes to really experience the moment.  Oh boy. His questions, guesses, and attempts to trick me into giving away the surprise were incessant. My Knight:  “Will I have access to our car?” Me:  “Yes.” My Knight:  “So it’s not a cruise?” Or My Knight:  “Should I pack sneakers or flip-flops?” Me:  “Pack both.” My Knight:  “So I’ll need a swimsuit and flip-flops?” Once we got all checked into the hotel the night before the renewal, he admitted with a grin that he had figured out what we were doing.  My Knight:  “You act like I don’t know you at all.  We’re on the coast.  You’ve been checking the weather all week.  I needed to pack a swimsuit.  Obviously, we’re renewing our vows on the beach.” He looked so smug and confident that I just opened my mouth in shock dismay and disappointment and let him think he was right. The morning of the vow renewal, he announced he was going to shower and go to McDonald’s for coffee.  I told him I had something special for him to wear. Tavern Wench costume, Sarasota Medieval FaireWhen he stepped out of the shower, I was attired in my costume, and I announced I would be his “tavern wench” for the day.  He looked more than a bit confused, as he was convinced we were headed for the beach. Then I led him to the bed, where I had laid out a costume befitting My Knight.  To say he was speechless really does not convey the poor man’s shock. Knight Costume, Sarasota Medieval Faire He covered his face with both hands, laughing hysterically in such a manner that I was not sure if it was a “Wow, this is hilarious but great” kind of laugh, or a “She has lost her freakin’ mind if she thinks I’m wearing that” kind of laugh.  A couple of times he would open his fingers, look at the costume again, and then laugh harder.  There were even a few tears, and I don’t think they were sentimental.  I think they were more desperation and fear! Knight costume, Sarasota Medieval FaireBut he is such a wonderful sport and such a gallant knight that he suited up with a smile.  I offered to eliminate the hood, the sleeves, the gloves and the cape.  But My Knight was determined to look the part.  God, I love that man!!! (He did, however, decide not to go to McDonald’s for coffee……) I had never been to a Medieval Fair, and I have to say that we had a blast!  There was jousting, and fencing, and a human chess tournament.  We marveled at the dude on the wheel of death, and we were mesmerized by the traveling carillon.  We saw fairies, and trolls, and acrobats and bagpipes.  And of course, we ate lots of yummy, greasy fair food. And I admit I did not research our costumes to make sure they were historically accurate.  I was more concerned that they were economical and available at our local Halloween store.  That being said, and at the risk of being hypocritical, I was amazed at the number of pirates, and specifically the swashbuckling red-coated Captain Hook style pirates, roaming around the Medieval Faire.  M-E-D-I-E-V-A-L.  Not a time period known for its buccaneers. Wheel of Death, Sarasota Medieval Faire DSC_0604 DSC_0564 Sarasota Medieval Faire, human chess, acrobats The other favorite attire was corsets.  I have to say that I am so glad we no longer wear corsets on a daily basis.  I never knew the female breast could be pushed, pinched, smashed, lifted, spread, shoved, and displayed in such a visual array.  There was even one woman who I swear had FOLDED her breasts into the tight corset.  There were literally lines running at a 45 degree angle from her armpit towards her nipples where the flesh was folded to the side and smashed into the tight constraints.  Sarasota Medieval Faire Fairies   Fairy; Sarasota Medieval FaireBut I digress. We ended up renewing our vows under a huge oak tree with a gentle breeze and a kind “bishop” who spoke with a heavy Scottish accent and nearly cracked us both up with his unexpected a capella rendition of “One Hand, One Heart”. 

Sarasota Medieval Faire; Vow Renewal

I am so thankful for the blessing of a happy, healthy marriage and a gallant and romantic Knight who will dress up in costume and publicly declare his love for me. 

Sarasota Medieval Faire; Vow Renewal

So yeah…..I signed up for another year.

Sarasota Medieval Faire, Vow Renewal


La Madeleine, Paris: Saturday Through My Lens

This week's Saturday Through My Lens features L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, or as she is more commonly known, La Madeleine.

L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine; La Madeleine, Paris

This incredible cathedral was originally consecrated as a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene in 1182, but it didn't look anything like this then.  In the 831 years since the original synagogue site was seized from the Jews of Paris, there have been many designers, architects, kings, emperors, and government with a hand in the history of La Madeleine.  The building as it is today was consecrated in 1842.

La Madeleine, Paris; L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine

Throughout the years between, construction began, stopped, was razed, restarted, restopped, rerazed, over and over and over again, each time with a different design and many different purposes: church, temple, library, train station, ballroom.  In 1806, Napoleon decided to honor himself by building "A Temple to the Glory of the Great Army", and that is pretty much the building we see today.  The building that existed when Napoleon started construction was destroyed and rebuilt with his new design, but its massive columns were left standing.

La Madeleine, Paris; L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine

La Madeleine has 52 columns surrounding her body, each approximately 65 feet high.  The columns were part of the 1777 design, which was based on the Roman Pantheon.  (which, of course, Rome borrowed from the original Corinthian temples!)

La Madeleine, Paris; L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine

The main altar features the church's namesake, Mary Magdalene, being lifted to the heavens by angels.  The fresco on the half-dome above the altar is entitled The History of Christianity, and if you look closely, you might recognize the key figures of Christianity in the painting.  Along with Napoleon, front and center, of course!

La Madeleine's Domes; L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine

In addition to the altar's half-dome, there are three Renaissance-style domes in the roof.  The gilded ceilings are quite a contrast to the stone simplicity of the Paris's more well-known cathedral, Notre Dame.

L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine; La Madeleine

The bronze doors of La Madeleine are huge.  Like, really big.  Like, look at My Knight standing in front of them to give you an idea of how big.  That's huge.  And above the gi-normous doors is the pipe organ, which was built in 1845 and is still used for masses and concerts today.  L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine; La Madeleine's pipe organ

As with most temples and cathedrals, the sculptures and statues are breathtaking, and I find I can stand in front of them and get lost in the expressions and the lifelike qualities.  Not to mention the amount of talent and work that went into making them.

L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine

L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine

I don't think I'd like to be left alone here in the dark though.  My imagination might get the best of me.

L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine

L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine

There have been several famous funerals witnessed by the statues, including King Louis XVI's.  He was brought to La Madeleine after his beheading and buried beneath her unceremoniously with just a few words spoken.  (He has since been exhumed and laid to rest more formally beside Marie Antoinette.)

La Madeleine; L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine

Chopin's funeral was also held here, with quite the scandal it seems.  Chopin's requested Mozart's Requiem for his final (after-death) concert.  The piece required female voices, but female voices were not allowed in the church.  (Ironic, considering it was a church dedicated, built for, and named for a female figure in Christian history.)  Happy ending though.  Church leaders finally relented and hid the female singers behind a black velvet curtain.

L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine

L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine is located in the 8th Arrondissement of Paris in the Opera Quarter.  She is offiically a parish of the Archdiocese of Paris, and there are still masses, funerals, and weddings held at La Madeleine today.  I highly recommend you visit her next time you're in the City of Lights!  And if you'd like to meet some interesting people, practice your French, and help the homeless, stop by Monday-Friday during lunch hours for a simple meal served by volunteers.