Friday, May 22, 2015

Tucked Away — iPhone Images

Here are some of my Instagram images from our beach vacation at Alligator Point. 
Creating this post calmed me, remembering how peaceful the week was.

The day we arrived it was a bit overcast, 
which was a blessing as we had unpacking and grocery shopping to do.
Gideon was antsy to get down to the water where he knew
there were birds and sand crabs to be chased.

Our pile of books for the week.
I read five of my seven.

The screened-in porch overlooking the ocean was enjoyed for morning coffee, 
afternoon naps, and evening wine and cheese.
Here, after unpacking, Harleigh enjoys a beer in one of the two swinging chairs complete
with swinging foot hammocks.

The house, Tucked Away, sets right on the beach. 

Day and night the beach was, for the most part, deserted. 

The view and walking path from the porch.

The houses on both sides were vacant all week.

Decorated with shells like a Christmas tree.

The shelling was great.
One of my most favorite things to do in the whole wide world.

Friday, May 15, 2015


During the Lent season I attended several of the fish fry dinners hosted by the men’s group of a local Catholic church, Mary Our Queen, where my parents are parishoners. It’s a treat, what with all the food, and laughing and gabbing, fellowshipping at its finest — not to mention that there's nothing more attractive than a man cooking (well, maybe a man pushing a stroller or wearing a Santa hat at Christimastime, but I digress). This year Harleigh was able to make a couple of the fries, and she and I and my mom enjoyed the company of whoever was at our table, with the added bonus of watching my dad, a member of the men’s club, who multi-tasks with the best of ‘em, serving dinners to the hungry patrons while drinking red wine out of a plastic cup and nibbling food from the kitchen’s warmers. He always looks happy in this element, and so it makes us happy.

At the last of the fries that I attended, a woman walked by our table and began talking to my mom. She was there to pick up a carry-out order to take home for her and her husband. My mom introduced her to me and Harleigh. An attractive woman maybe 10 years my senior, Nannette is obviously artsy. She was wearing an oversized t-shirt with a Picasso-esque image painted over the entire front, an old denim shirt spackled in paint, sweat pants, comfy and stringless tennis shoes, and had her thick gray hair loosely piled on her head with stray strands framing her face, that effortless bun that I always strive for and never quite achieve without looking like I left the house with bed head.

I asked her about her shirt, and from there we chattered on, bound by interests and a hunger to know more about each other. When she said she had a painting studio, I didn't hold back. I'd love to see it, I piped up. And with a Southern drawl and a smile as embracing as a hug, she replied that yes, I must come to see her studio. When Nannette walked away, Harleigh looked at me and said, “You want to be her, don’t you.” My girl gets me.

A few weeks later, post my vacation to the beach (Nanette asked that I please bring her back a shell), I drove over to her place. And I was not disappointed. She's an amazing artist with captivating stories tied to her work. I had a beyond lovely visit.

She works in about every medium — oils, pottery, wood, glass, fabric — and excels at them all. And she's a master at turning trash into treasure!

Here is the sewing area of her craft studio.

Lots of vignettes and inspiration . . . in every nook and cranny.

Her painting studio, with lots of works in progress.

The infamous bun.

She made these drawings using her left hand, and the paintbrush was a twig dipped in ink.
The pottery to the left was decorated using pieces of her hair as the tool to apply the design.

She had requested I find a shell or two for her at the beach. 
That wouldn't do for someone I knew would be so artistic.
So I collected only shells with holes in them (those perfectly round holes made by certain sea creatures preying on the what's inside the shell) and strung them onto a long piece of wire.
Which, of course, she hung in her studio!

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Blue Vacation

I mentioned in the last post that when Rick Strickland shared his "blue period" paintings with me, I was  again struck by how much this vacation has been all about the color blue. Here are some pictures below of our trip. And you'll see that there was a thread of blue in just about everything.

We had two beautiful bikes to ride, one of them a teal blue with a jaunty basket on the handlebars.
We rode one day up and down the only road on Alligator Point (Alligator Drive), and we laughed and talked and picked our favorite houses. While the screened-in porch of our house overlooked the blue ocean, coming out our front door gifted us with a view of Alligator Harbor (and Harleigh's new car, which she graciously agreed to use as the vacationmobile; my Honda CRV with close to 240,000 miles on it is a bit of a wing and a prayer).

These chairs came down to the beach with us everyday. And love the BLUE ladder.

The homeowners have a kiddie pool at the base of the deck and encourage renters to wash off their feet before coming into the house. This little blue pool was in constant use. Not just for washing off sandy feet, but for washing shells, and boy did I have a field day shelling.

In a little shop right outside of Alligator Point I found this metal Beach sign. Harleigh encouraged me to get it as she knew that this trip was far too important and treasured not to have a memento come home with us (this was, of course, before I acquired my Richard Strickland original, the best keepsake of all).

We went to a thrift store one day, and I found these two floral tins (I collect them!!) for 50 cents a piece. This was when the whole blue thing was really starting to get a little freaky deaky.

The outdoor shower. Adorbs.
I never used it, but when I'd go outside and downstairs to do laundry, 
I'd pop in and just stand there soaking in all the beachy cuteness sans water.
'Cause I am a character.

The outdoor light fixtures oozed charm.

You can see our blue chairs down at the beach. Heaven.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Richard Strickland and the Florida Highwaymen

Before I post a ton of pictures from our vacation to Alligator Point, FL, where we stayed in a house called Tucked Away ON THE BEACH (VRBO listing #556188), I want to share a story from our trip. The painting below hangs in Tucked Away, and I fell in love with it. The colors. The scene. The mood. And that it mirrored our view of the ocean from the house . . . I was smitten. Here is the painting —

I contemplated calling the owners and asking if I could buy it from them. I googled the artist, Richard Strickland, and didn't come up with much I could go on. In a last ditch effort, I took the painting off the wall to see if there was anything on the back, and lo and behold, adhered with tape were a typed blurb about the artist and one of his business cards. I emailed him and heard back that same day! He replied that he was flattered I'd contacted him and that he mainly sells his work at art shows. He and his wife live close to the house we were renting, and he offered-up me coming over to his house/studio to see his work, some of it for sale. His wife and I texted back and forth, and I opted to drive over there on the morning of our last day in Florida.

They live nestled in the pines in a secluded area near Lake Ellen in Medart. In fact, Connie, Rick's wife, met me at the library on the main highway leading to their home, explaining that the drive to their place was a bit of a windy trek. Given that we were strangers, she punctuated the conversation by saying that even though they live off the beaten path, there ARE people around. We laughed about this later. I had given her my blog address earlier to check me out; I could have been a serial killer for all they knew! (Obviously we were both excited about the idea of getting together but all too aware of the fact that strangers meeting could lead to an episode on TV's 60 Minutes.)

When we drove up, Rick came out on the front porch to greet me, beaming. He and Connie gave me a tour of their home, including his sunny studio on the second floor. He told me his story. Here is an excerpt from his public Facebook page —

Artist Rick Strickland began collecting paintings by The Florida Highwaymen several years ago. 
He loved the way The Highwaymen captured the look and feel of old Florida.

Rick was inspired by their story and began to paint. 
Soon painting became a very important part of his life. 
He learned style and techniques by studying the art that he loved, 
and soon developed them into a style of his own. 

The aim of his art is to capture and evoke a feeling of nostalgia for the "Old Florida."

Rick collects Florida Highwaymen paintings. Their home is colorful and happy, with stunning artwork in every room (I wish I had taken pictures). He shared some of his own work from what he calls his "blue period." While I loved that work (and you'll see in posts coming up that it was uncanny that the whole vacation was all about "blue"), it was the one below (now hanging in my living room), that I instantly felt a connection with similar to how I felt about the one hanging in Tucked Away.

I had such a wonderful visit, not just because his artwork is spectacular, but in large part because Rick and Connie are two of the nicest people I've ever met. Hugs were shared, a Rick Strickland original was carefully packed in my trunk for the long ride home, dear Connie convoyed me back to the main highway, and a vacation memory was catalogued for future reminiscing and sharing. I love that my painting has such a story behind it. These are my favorite possessions in life.

I've texted Connie since my return home, and here's a new twist to what is already a pretty doggone epic story. I signed the guest book at Tucked Away and included this story for future guests. The narrative didn't include my visit and purchase, since I penned it before going to see Rick and Connie. The people who rented the house after us read my entry and contacted Rick and purchased two of his paintings!! 

Thank you, Rick and Connie, for your hospitality, and not getting creeped out by a stranger calling and accepting an invitation to your home. And Rick, the Florida beach scene you lovingly and beautifully painted in that sunny studio of yours is now sunshine in my home. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for a reminder every day of the most relaxing week of my life and connecting to you, my own Florida Highwayman.

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