December 31, 2012

New Year's Preps

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Look!  Up in the sky!  It's a...a...pineapple?!  When you see a pineapple dangling over Main Street in downtown Sarasota, you know it's New Year's Eve.  New York City has the apple.  Sarasota has the pineapple, thanks to a developer.  Several years ago, the company behind a downtown development called 'Pineapple Square' wanted to sponsor having something dropped at midnight on New Year's Eve to signify the beginning of the new year and they selected...a pineapple. Streets have been closed since early this morning getting ready for the big night, which will include several live bands, a carnival and fireworks on Sarasota Bay.  (There might even be some libations.)  Tens of thousands of people will be here. How ever you celebrate the New Year, have fun.  So long 2012...nice to see ya 2013!

December 30, 2012

Eagle Cam

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Those who follow SDP regularly know that I love American bald eagles and I've been following a pair in Sarasota who nest in a cell tower in the city limits. Well, a friend from Pennsylvania who was visiting Sanibel recently told me about a nest in North Ft. Myers. I had great success when I checked it out yesterday. I met a local eagle nest watcher who told me this couple, Ozzie & Harriet, have been nesting here for 20 years. They're located off a busy road in a pine tree within a horse paddock. In this pic, you can see one in the upper right hand corner and you can also see a webcam just above the nest. The camera provides a live feed 24/7, which is very cool.  Click here to watch the eagle cam.  The happy couple has two eggs in the nest which are expected to hatch soon. Last night, I watched one of the parents gently rotate the eggs.  And, this morning, one was sitting on the eggs while the other landed with a fresh fish for breakfast.
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While I was on-site watching the nest, a vulture swooped down very close to the nest which evoked a loud squawk from the eagle sitting on the eggs, followed by a screech from its mate who was perched in a nearby tree.  The vulture dared to return a few minutes later and the eagle who was guarding the nest from afar took off and chased it away.  That's when I snapped this second photo.  Love the eagles!

Note about the Sarasota eagles (aka: The Eddies):  Recently, I've seen one eagle several times near last year's nest.  But, last Friday, I saw two workmen climbing down their cell tower, which was quite disconcerting to see.  I'm not sure if the eagles had nested or were going to do so.  I hope they return.

December 29, 2012


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When I came across gas for $3.15/gallon just before Christmas in neighboring Charlotte County I knew it wouldn't last. That was the lowest price I'd seen anywhere in a very long time. Here in Sarasota prices never got that low, at least not at this station. I believe regular unleaded dipped down to $3.21 last week. Anyway, since Christmas, prices have been marching upward. Believe it or not, though, this price is still 10-cents cheaper than one month ago.

December 28, 2012

No Labels?

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If you cross a donkey with an elephant, I guess you might get a giraffe...if I'm interpreting this sign correctly.  I'm not sure.  It's rare to see a political sign in someone's front yard well after the political season, so I had to take a closer look.   While the slogan sounds good, I checked out the organization the sign is promoting and left their website wondering what they really stand for.  I won't bring down the fun, light hearted mood of the CDP community by talking icky politics.  But, I will point out that we're racing toward the fiscal cliff at breakneck speed and the only thing a giraffe could do is postpone the inevitable.   Happy Friday!

December 27, 2012

Red Christmas

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How long do you leave your Christmas tree and decorations up? I'm not one of those folks who has their tree down by 7 p.m. Christmas night, that's for sure.  Usually, the cut off is New Year's Day.  That's when I box everything up with the football games on TV in the background.  But, as long as the tree is up I'm still celebrating Christmas.  This is another capture from Grace Baptist Church.  Pretty festive, huh?  Last night was the final showing of the amazing flashing and pulsating light show -- until next year.

December 26, 2012

Up on the Rooftop

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Who knows what the story is with this?!  For years, I've driven by this place which looks like a cross between a residence and an unusual business. It's located near a busy intersection in Sarasota and always has an enormous mound of firewood outside year round, which I've never understood since we're in toasty Florida.  When I noticed the upside down mannequin sporting a Santa hat, I finally had to stop.  But, it all remains a mystery.  I didn't see a soul.

December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

I spotted this pretty stained glass lighting up the outside of Rumple Presbyterian Church in downtown Blowing Rock, North Carolina in October and figured I'd save it for the Christmas season.  Beautiful scene, isn't it?!  Merry Christmas, everyone!

December 24, 2012

Big. Really Big!

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These are the biggest candy canes I've ever seen!   Hanging from a banyan tree in Ft. Myers, these actually are metal duct fixtures with red tape wrapped around them.  Not only clever, but quite festive!  Christmas is right around the corner.  Are you ready?

December 23, 2012

Wreaths Across America

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"Isn't it beautiful!" That's what a visitor to the Sarasota National Cemetery exclaimed to me as she admired the Christmas wreaths adorning every grave. For the fourth year, the Sarasota Military Academy spearheaded this local initiative which is part of a national program called 'Wreaths Across America'.  Each wreath costs $15 and the school raised $75,000 to cover the expense of providing one wreath for each of the 5,000 tombstones. Great program! To learn more about the national program  visit

December 22, 2012

Christmas Cheer

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You know it's Christmas in Florida when you start seeing ornaments hanging from trees in front yards. Rather festive, don't you think?  I spotted this cheery scene in Ft. Myers.

December 21, 2012

Grace Nativity

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This is another scene from the awesome Christmas light display at Grace Baptist Church.  As I mentioned in previous posts, the scenes are choreographed to music.  And, at one point two angels suddenly rise up over the nativity scene and look as though they're floating.  It's a very neat aspect to this already amazing display.

December 20, 2012

Blue Christmas

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These are just some of the half a million lights on display at Grace Baptist Church.  Pretty cool, isn't it?! Depending on the music playing, the lights will change to red, green, white, and blue.  A parishioner told me the church works on the display year round, but really starts setting it up in early November. Any guesses how much the electrical bill increases in December? Anyone...anyone? increase of $1,100.  The church accepts donations but apparently someone stepped forward months ago and paid for this year's event for the community. 

December 19, 2012

Joyful & Triumphant

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Well, it's a busy time of year, isn't it?! I was in downtown last week pondering where I was going to find new Christmas lights to shoot, then I looked down and I saw a flyer advertising this display. And what a Christmas display it is at Grace Baptist Church!  300 trees and half a million lights blinking, flashing and twirling in synchronization to sounds of the season.  The display is both joyful and triumphant!  (For Sarasotans, it's located a few miles east of I-75 on Bee Ridge Road.)  This is just a taste of what's to come with future posts.  Hope everyone is doing well!

December 9, 2012

Twirling Poi

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Last Sunday, I was near Siesta Key and decided to take a nice, quiet evening stroll along the beach. What I forgot is that every Sunday night there's a drum circle on Siesta beach.  I never make a point to go, but the couple of times I've stumbled across it I've had fun.  Along with beating drums and tambourines, and shaking maracas, some folks like to twirl neon lights at the end of a long string.  It's pretty cool to watch the neon in the darkness and one guy who was especially proficient at it was kind enough to tell me that lights on a string are known as poi.  This is a shot of two people (one with green lights and the other with red and blue lights) dazzling the drum circle was their poi moves.

December 7, 2012


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This house is actually decked out with all kinds of festive colorful lights, but I wanted to focus on this  adorable little fella.  Rudolph's little red nose even flashes. Very cute!  I guess the other reindeer were off playing reindeer games because Rudolph was all alone on the front yard.

December 5, 2012

White Christmas

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White as in...all white lights. It was difficult to capture how nice this house looked decked out with all white lights. Normally, I prefer color with my Christmas lights, but I thought this place was appealing in a classic sort of way. (Believe it or not, they even had a rotating tree in their living room.)

December 2, 2012


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Now that Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, this is my first Christmas decoration post of the season.  I spotted this angel and Christmas tree last night in a neighborhood near where I live.  It's going to be difficult to find interesting decorations this year which I haven't shot and posted before, but I'm up to the challenge.  Hope everyone has a good Sunday!

November 30, 2012

Bird's Eye View

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I spotted this osprey enjoying a fresh sushi lunch about 30-feet up on top of a tree on Sanibel.  The ground way below was thick with trees and brush -- definitely not favorable shooting conditions.  So, how did I manage to get this shot? 
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Ta-dah!  I was staying at a house with a screened-in deck with a trap door in the roof. So, I employed the 'ol "Scale-a-Ladder-and-Poke-Your-Head-Out-the-Screen-Door" trick.  Whatever it takes to get the shot!

November 29, 2012

Dippin' Down

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Gas prices are dropping a bit again.  During the past month, the price of regular unleaded went down 8-cents.  Of course, two days before Thanksgiving when drivers were getting ready to hit the road, I saw the biggest spike this fall: 10-cents overnight.  Tomorrow we'll head back to Sanibel and explore what the island has to offer in the way of nature. Happy Thursday!

November 28, 2012

Sanibel Morning

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I spent Thanksgiving weekend on Sanibel, a tranquil island about 2 hours south of Sarasota.  I've been told the only thing better than a sunset on Sanibel is a sunrise.  And, last weekend I experienced it firsthand -- wow!  This is dawn as Mother Nature yawned a myriad of oranges, purples and blues across the sky at about 6:30 a.m.

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   A short while later, it looked like there wouldn't be much of a sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico.

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Then, the sun slowly revealed itself....

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...awakening the seabirds...

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...and rising up over the water to begin a fresh new day.  So glad I got up early for this beautiful, peaceful and memorable experience!

November 21, 2012

I See You!

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What do you see in this photo? I drove by this scene and was so surprised, I turned around and stopped to photograph it. This could be the first time I've ever seen a law enforcement officer hiding behind an American flag on private property using a radar gun to catch speeders. I spotted this on 17th Street at Beneva Road on Sunday morning.  Around the corner, several patrol cars were lined up, apparently ready to chase down lead footed drivers and issue tickets.  When no cars were passing by, the trooper would duck as close as possible to the wall to conceal himself.   While I was there, no one was pulled over and the trooper didn't seem to mind that I was documenting what was going on.  (And, no, I wasn't pulled over when I left.)

November 11, 2012

Veterans' Day

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Today is dedicated to those Americans who served and are currently serving in the military.  Thank you for your service and sacrifice to protect our freedoms and liberate so many from tyranny.  This photo is of the Iwo Jima monument at the Veterans' Memorial in Cape Coral, about 80 minutes south of Sarasota. The memorial area is rather nice and features many statues and plaques dedicated to veterans.   When I was there yesterday at sunset quite a few people were coming and going, which was really nice to see.  On the topic of Veterans' Day, I'm reading a book called 'Unbroken' about an American who was expected to be the first person to run a 4 minute mile when World War II started and he was drafted into the Army Air Corps as a bombardier and his plane crashed into the ocean.   It's a true story and was written by the same author who penned 'Seabiscuit'.  So far, it's a page turner -- very inspiring!

November 9, 2012

Holiday Madness

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I would've walked right by this florist shop last night without noticing it, except it was lit up like....a Christmas tree.  Apparently, my holiday sanity plea earlier this week wasn't heeded.  Even this display (which was by far the best Christmas display in the area last year) is already up.  I don't plan on monitoring this madness any further.  Expect to see Sarasota Christmas decorations here at SDP starting December 2nd, right after the next theme day.

November 6, 2012


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In case you've been living in a cave and haven't's Election Day!  While millions of Floridians opted to vote early (something like 4.2 million), lines at the polling precincts here in the Sunshine State are still expected to be long today.  One of the reasons is because of the sheer length of the ballot.  With 11 proposed state constitutional amendments, which are complex and lengthy, this is the longest ballot in state history.   When I heard about early voters in Miami waiting in line for up to 6 hours, I immediately presumed those voters hadn't reviewed their sample ballot and were actually trying to decipher the questions in the voting booth (which I cannot imagine!)  Of course, the item that everyone is talking about is at the very top of the ballot:  President of the United States.  As for me, I voted last Friday at 7:15 a.m. without too much of a wait.  

November 5, 2012

'Tis the Season...?

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The SDP Editor-in-Chief made an executive decision to halt the North Carolina fall photos for...Christmas!  I was rather surprised to hear Christmas music playing in Best Buy yesterday.  Then, I saw this: a lit Christmas tree atop a strip mall in Sarasota -- on November 4th.  My neighbor also put up Christmas lights over the weekend and had them lit last night.  This might be the earliest Christmas ever.  I love Christmas.  But, come on...let's enjoy Thanksgiving first.

November 4, 2012

Autumnal Steps

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This could have been one of the 'fall hazards' along the Glen Burney trail in Blowing Rock, North Carolina which was alluded to in yesterday's post.  There's nothing like hiking your way through Mother Nature's beauty!  We might have one more fall vacation post tomorrow...then back to Sarasota.  Hope everyone is having a good weekend.

November 3, 2012

Autumnal Adventure

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The fall color tour of North Carolina continues.  I thought this sign was rather apropo for this time of year.  I spotted it along the Glen Burney trail, a pleasant 2-mile hike in downtown Blowing Rock, which winds through the woods en route to a couple of waterfalls.  The leaves were gorgeous and I managed to safely escape any and all 'fall hazards'.  Happy Saturday!

November 2, 2012

Biltmore Estate

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Welcome to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina!  Located on 8,000 square acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it's considered the largest privately owned residence in the United States. I could list all the mind boggling statistics such as the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, game rooms, libraries, and of course, the 70,000 gallon swimming pool....but, let me just's lavish and enormous!  When George Vanderbilt built this place in 1895, he put the 'conspicuous' in conspicuous consumption.  Biltmore has remained in the family all these years, although it opened to the public for tours during the Great Depression as an economic generator for the Asheville community.  Over the years, it has become a very successful tourism destination.  Believe it or not, the estate employees approximately 1,700 people.  Besides the mansion, there's a lot to explore on the grounds including a variety of stunning gardens.  You can learn more about the Biltmore Estate here.   Definitely a worthwhile visit!

November 1, 2012

Mother Nature's Show

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The timing for my visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains last week was perfect. Although the leaves were just past peak, they still were gorgeous -- plus, I avoided a severe winter storm which arrived courtesy of Hurricane Sandy a few days after I left.  This shot was taken along the Blue Ridge Parkway just outside of Blowing Rock.  I love the lone red tree just off center to the right.  Mother Nature was putting on quite a show!  

October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

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Hands down, without question, this is the best Halloween window display I've ever seen.  I spotted it at a shop called the Brass Exchange in downtown Blowing Rock, North Carolina last week and made a point to return in the evening with my tripod.   Every person walking by commented that it was a terrific display -- very creative.   Happy Halloween!

October 30, 2012


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Well, gas prices are dropping before the election.   It now costs 22-cents less to buy a gallon of regular unleaded than it did last month.  I was on vacation last week and the lowest price I saw driving from Florida to North Carolina was $3.34.   So, that explains my recent absence.  I was hitting the hiking trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  What a great escape!  Anyone interested in seeing a few autumn North Carolina pics on SDP?

October 18, 2012

Beautiful Bougainvillea

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One of the many reasons why I love this time of year in Florida:  the bougainvillea trees are  blooming...and they're stunning, especially against the clear blue sky.

October 17, 2012

Up a Tree

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More fun Halloween decorations.

October 15, 2012

Spooky Delivery

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Some folks are starting to get into the Halloween spirit.  (Yes, that's an occupied open casket lining the landscape in the background.)   I wonder what the mailman thinks...

October 14, 2012

Caloosahatchee Sunset

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This is the sun going down Friday night over the Caloosahatchee River in Ft. Myers, about 80 minutes south of Sarasota.  Believe it or not, just seconds before I snapped this pic (when I was racing with my camera bag to the river bank), the sun was a large flaming reddish-orange sphere just above the bridge.  Amazing how quickly it dropped!  That bridge, by the way, is the Midpoint Memorial Bridge.  It connects Ft. Myers to Cape Coral and supposedly is midway between two other bridges on the river.  I ran a 5K over this bridge one Memorial Day.  At the time,  I questioned my sanity as I struggled to survive the heat and the bridge's incline.   The view from the top was great, though, and ultimately the run turned into a nice memory of an accomplishment.  Happy Sunday!

October 13, 2012

Festive Fall

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What a great way to get into the fall season!  This is what you see nowadays when you walk inside Whole Foods in downtown Sarasota.   In past years, the pumpkins, corn stalks and bales of hay have always been on display outside.  This year, they were moved inside, where the grocery carts are usually stored.  It's funny how to see how people are creatures of habit.  While I was taking this pic, more than one customer seemed a bit bewildered as to where the carts disappeared.  (They're temporarily stored outside the entrance.) The weather is starting to cool off just a bit. In another week or so, the humidity should disappear and that perfect Florida fall weather pattern will be here.  Hope everyone's having a nice weekend!

October 10, 2012

Sunset Splendor

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Aaah...I needed that!  Taken at Whitaker Gateway Park in Sarasota last night.

October 8, 2012

Rubens at Ringling

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We'll end the tour of the Ringling Museum of Art with one of the highlights in the museum itself: a room dedicated to several large scale canvases created by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640).  John Ringling was an avid Rubens collector, but his advisors apparently were quite perplexed as to why he wanted to build one room just for Rubens.   All five pieces are permanently housed here and they're related to Rubens' tapestry series 'Triumph of the Eucharist'. The vivid detail, color and sheer size are amazing.   And, that does it for the museum!   I'll have to see what I scare up for my next post.

October 7, 2012

Ringling Courtyard

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The lush Ringling courtyard, filled with oversized flowering pots and large statues (including one of David), separates the classic art gallery from the visiting exhibitions gallery.  It's a popular venue for special events including galas, wedding receptions and even the occasional political rally, where the Republican presidential nominee was spotted just a couple of weeks ago..
Mitt Romney
Of course, Governor Romney's visit at the courtyard attracted some protesters and sparked this scene outside the museum: 
Mitt Romney Rally
Yep...there's always something interesting going on at the Ringling estate!  (Usually it's pretty sedate.)  Hope everyone is having a good weekend.

October 6, 2012

Ringling Mansion

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John and Mable Ringling lived here on Sarasota Bay in their winter home called the Ca'd'Zan, which means 'House of John'.  It's five stories tall with 36,000 square feet including 41 rooms and 15 bathrooms.  Built in one year, from 1924-25, it cost the Ringlings $1.5 million.  From the far right side of this photo, if you looked up, you would see the view that's now the SDP banner.  And, if you pivoted 180 degrees you would see this: 
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What a view!  Whenever I'm out here, I can almost hearing the tinkling of wine glasses during a Gatsby-style party with music wafting over the bay during a warm winter evening.  This must have been quite the place to see and be seen back in the day.  Check out more about the Ca'd'Zan here.

October 5, 2012

Rose Garden Suitor

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I can't believe I missed yesterday's post.  I got so caught up in the presidential debate and the post-debate dissection, it was just too late to get it done. we're at a very special place -- the grounds of the Ringling Museum of Art.  Most people don't realize it, but the grounds are open and free to the public.  You can walk through the musuem lobby without paying admission to the galleries and stroll the grounds to your heart's content.  Gotta like that!  One of the highlights is Mable Ringling's rose garden, where dozens and dozens of statues are placed amid the flowers.  I especially like this statue depicting a suitor back in the day.  Unfortunately, the roses weren't in bloom when I visited, so I guess I'll have to return and share that with you.  There's a total of 1,200 rose plants here, according to the museum's website.  By all accounts, this is a wonderful public rose garden and it's been recognized nationally by those who know about such things.