the manatees of homosassa springs

The Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) might be my spirit animal, if I could claim one. Manatees prefer sandy coast lines, warm waters. They eat a ton of vegetation. Like me (at least for the time being), they move pretty slowly. They also look like they know how to relax.

Manatee

It was a bucket list item to observe a manatee–multiple manatees if I was lucky–and the payoff was this past weekend in Homosassa, Florida. The freshwater springs at the wildlife state park in Homosassa attract manatees when Gulf waters start to cool–from roughly November through March.

My parents and I traversed our way over a bridge to find 40+ manatees warming themselves in the shallow waters of the Homosassa River. Pretty cool. In this photo, a pair can be observed in the lower right corner.

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These creatures are massive–weighing between 1,500 and 1,800 pounds each. They use their large, paddle-shaped back tails and front flippers for navigation. Every 10 minutes or so, they come up for air and make a fun snorting sound.

To read up about the state park in Homosassa and possibly plan a visit, click here.

an afternoon in talladega

Two months ago I was heading east on Interstate 20 through Alabama. Cartersville, Georgia, was my intended destination but I had some time to kill. And then there was an upcoming sign for the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame. I don’t know boo about motor sports but thought the hall of fame could be interesting. Not my cup of tea, as it turned out. But the town of Talladega? Pretty interesting.

The courthouse square is a historic district, and you can find the Ritz Theatre there, which was constructed in 1936. An Art Deco beauty by any standards. The opaque structural glass exterior has been meticulously restored, and the lines and colors–so crisp.

Talladega Ritz Theatre

And there’s also a Silk Stocking Historic District. The term silk stocking sounds potentially tawdry, but this type of district generally refers to a part of town where wealthier citizens are politically influential or active.

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Some of the properties in this district are lovingly maintained. Exhibit A:

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And Exhibit B:

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How lovely.

norway we go

It was late July and I experienced change. Job change. Change as in becoming a full-time job seeker. I was unemployed and had an upcoming trip to visit relatives and the farms in rural western #Norway where my great great grandparents were born and raised. I could ill afford Norway, to be honest. And my first inclination was to cancel. But then I gave myself some pause (about a day or so) and thought, heck no. No one is going to steal my joy. Certainly not me. So on a mid-September morning I boarded a plane at the Medgar Evers Airport in Jackson, Mississippi. Trondheim, Norway, would come some 28 hours later.

Bluebird

It must have been 10 p.m. by the time I arrived in Trondheim. My aunt and uncle from Los Angeles had arrived some 30 minutes earlier and, groggy as we all were, we found our car reservation and started our journey to Rindal, which is located in Møre og Romsdal and perhaps a 90-minute drive from Trondheim. The roads were dark and winding. The air was chill.

We found the property where we would be staying the next five nights–Saga Trollheimen. I made it to my room, unloaded my bags, and slept more peacefully than I had for weeks. The next morning I awoke to this–the promise of autumn.

Promise

On our first day, we met with a local historian and distant relative to learn how my great great grandparents, Ole J. and Gjertrud Romundstad, made their way from Rindal, Norway, to Strum, Wisconsin.

Ole and Gjertrud

My uncle and I meandered our way through Rindal, which is a village of some 2,000 Norwegians. The streets were unlittered, and the skies so blue.

Rindal

We quickly found Norwegians to be polite, kind to the core, and friendly. And navigating western Norway was a fun adventure. We took a ferry from Kvanne to Christiansund on the coast.

Kvanne

The highlight of the trip was visiting our Romundstad relatives. We were greeted so warmly and served the most amazing food. Amazing.

Food

We ended our trip with a day of exploring in Trondheim. Jeg elsker Norge (I love Norway).

Man hole cover

the inky blue hues of edinburgh

Edinburgh, Scotland, is a centuries-old city of walls, streets, churches, and one fantastic looking castle. I visited Edinburgh back in August 2010, but not the castle. The city, however, did not disappoint. Art and theater abound in Edinburgh–they’re everywhere. And in the capital city of Scotland, you’d never know that there is an endless variety of shades of blue. The blues are everywhere. The Scottish flag is a bright azure blue. Very pretty. I am more drawn to the inky blue hues, which I admired in jewelry, clothing, accessories, and pottery. Adam Pottery at 76 Henderson Row is a gem of a pottery studio a thousand times over. The owner, Janet Adam, is a cool lady. I bought a navy blue piece of pottery of hers that I still enjoy.

There is also the deep marine blue that Glasgow-based illustrator David Fleck uses in a print called The Skating Minister. It’s not often an illustration stops me in my tracks, but this one did. I bought a copy and had it framed when I got back to Chicago. I utterly love it. Treasured possession stuff.

Edinburgh

Fleck is one cool cat. He’s an illustrator and an architectural designer. If you like The Skating Minister, you should check out his other work here.

the blue skies of meridian

Took a quick impromptu trip yesterday to #Meridian, Mississippi, which might be one of my favorite cities to visit. I don’t know what it is about Mississippi, but this state generates some of the bluest skies ever.IMG-4789The Queen City happens to be home to the oldest restaurant in the state. And let me be the first to tell you, if you think you need to go to Katz’s in New York City for great Jewish food, you’d be missing out. The food at Weidmann’s is phenomenal. I had the best smoked salmon and then chicken salad on rye sandwich in my life there. Highly recommend.IMG-4788Meridian is also home to many relic buildings and signs, like this one. Who wouldn’t want space age shirt finishing when you take your finest to Perfection for dry cleaning?IMG-4780

il gelato

Man, time flies. In 2015 I had the good luck to travel with 7 friends to northern Italy and it was TOAL–trip of a lifetime. Everything in Italy is exceptional. The people, beautiful. The food, amazeballs. The sights, my goodness. Early in our trip was Varenna, which is a tiny town. A tiny town that has two gelato shops within a stone’s throw distance of one another. You might think it strange that a tiny town could support two gelato shops, but Varenna does.

I resisted getting gelato the first day or so because although the gelato looked incredible, I thought it would be heavy and not worth the kcal intake. I finally gave in and, to quote Chicago Cubs’ announcer Harry Caray, HOLY COW. The gelato was light, fluffy. It was a marvel, for reals.

gelato

Other parts of northern Italy were just as wonderful as Varenna even though the weather was mostly overcast for our stay. There was Verona.

Verona

And Venice.

Venice

Bella.

sometimes the detour is your destination

I’ve been busy the past couple weeks so have done a fairly lousy job of writing a post each day, my apologies. I’ve been on the road interviewing members for the summer 2018 issue of a quarterly magazine that I write for/manage.

En route to Gulfport two weeks ago I took a wrong turn and found myself headed to New Orleans. Oops. I backtracked, heading north, and then exited at Highway 13, which eventually dead ends at Route 49, and that would get me to Gulfport. Highway 13 is far from a dead end, let me tell you. It is drop dead gorgeous. Hello, #Lumberton. I had to stop and take a photo. The lush trees, quiet sky, warm sun.

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Mississippi is chock full of places like Lumberton. Sleepy quiet. Not a lot of cars. Trees and more magnificent trees. I could drive this state endlessly, honestly. It’s very contemplative. It reminds me of my long drives to Gustavus but the landscape of southern Minnesota is different. Flat fields for days. Still beautiful, but different.

Yesterday I wanted to visit the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Newton County. Newton County is located east of Jackson on Highway 20 and I exited at Newton (the city). I saw this and, as with Lumberton, I had to stop and take a photo to memorialize the detour. Sometimes it’s the destination.

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