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.   Okay...today 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.

October 3, 2012

Classic Posters

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I just love the classic Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey posters at the circus museum.  There are oodles, but these were two of my favorites.  The top one was created in 1920 and the bottom one, with the prowling lion, was distributed in 1927.  Can you imagine the excitement these posters generated announcing that the circus was coming to town?  I can almost see a little boy looking at that lion, eyes wide open, and asking his parents if he could, please, go see the greatest show on earth.  John Ringling was terrific at marketing, that's for sure!  Tomorrow we'll step out of the circus museum and take a stroll around the Ringling grounds.

October 2, 2012

Itty Bitty Circus

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Within the circus museum is the Tibbals Learning Center, where an extensive miniature circus is on display. It's extremely detailed and shows life on the road with the circus -- from train cars to acrobats to clowns to animal trainers.  The creator, Howard Tibbals, spent 50 years making the miniature scenes, which collectively are known as the Howard Bros. Circus model.  Occupying 3,800 sq. feet, not only is the display impressive, it really highlights how many people and how much work was involved with the circus coming to town.  Interestingly, when I first walked in the building, I immediately was told by a museum volunteer the Ringling name was not authorized to be on the model, thus the name Howard Bros. Circus.   You can learn more about the miniature model and the man behind it here.  This scene shows spectators watching  trapeze artists, clowns, and dancers along with lions and tigers. While I was taking this photo, I overheard an elderly gentleman say excitedly, 'You see the lions and tigers in the same cage?  That's how it really was!  That was the first time it was ever done!  No one ever thought that could happen.'

October 1, 2012

Clowning Around

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Smithsonian Magazine sponsored Museum Day throughout the country on Saturday with more than 1,400 museums offering free admission, including the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota.  The place was packed!  As I've mentioned before, John Ringling and his four brothers created the world famous Ringling Bros. Circus, and Sarasota was the winter home for the entire circus -- performers, animals, owners and all.  The Ringling Museum has always been known for its beautiful grounds located right on Sarasota Bay, the Ca'd'zan (the Ringlings' mansion which is now featured on the SDP banner) and Ringling's extensive classic art collection.  Within the past couple of years, though, two new buildings opened highlighting the history of the circus.   This was my first time into the circus area and it was fun.  It's well done with lots of history -- plus visitors have the opportunity to learn the secret of how clowns apply their make-up so perfectly.  Lots of interesting stuff to see. Over the next few days we'll explore the museum and grounds a little more.  See you tomorrow!