Friday, August 26, 2011

What does your family look like?

Stuck in the parent drop off loop this morning at MiniMe's school, we're behind one of those cars that has their family represented in stickers across the back window.


 I say to MiniMe, "You'll never see stickers like that on my car. I guess I'm just not that kind of mom."

MiniMe says "Yea but if you had stickers that showed our family they wouldn't look like that. The two boys would be fighting, the dog would be scratching his fleas, you'd have a glass of wine in your hand and Dad wouldn't be in the line-up because he'd be out riding his motorcycle."

Which gave me the giggles!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Leave Me Alone?

I was riding my bike yesterday morning when I spied a man playing tennis . . . alone. It struck me as funny that he'd be out hitting tennis balls on the court by himself because tennis usually requires at least 2 players. Now I know he was probably just practicing his serve, but you can see how this would strike me as unusual. Then again, I was out exercising alone myself - but I was on a bike, which doesn't require a partner.

This reminded me of something my friend's son recently told her. He said "Mom, I'm glad I'm an only child," which made her happy since there would be no other buns springing from her oven. MiniMe was an only child until she gained step brothers and a step sister. She loved it when the "big kids," as she called them, joined the family because I think she was a little lonely.

The reason I think this is because she used to play hide and seek with her guinea pig.

When she was about 2 years old, I got her a guinea pig. She and Sugar were inseparable. She would go out to the front yard and "hide" the pig behind a tree or in her wagon. Then she'd come back to the front porch to "count" (which at that age she only knew her numbers up to about 5) and then go searching for the pig.

The good thing about this game of hide and seek was that you could put that pig someplace and come back an hour later and she'd still be there. She never moved. So I wasn't worried that Sugar would somehow escape during this game. I think secretly MiniMe hoped the pig would run and find some other hiding spot because that would have been more fun. But that was a dependably unmoving pig.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I'm Not That Kind of Mom

I write a monthly column for a local parent magazine. However, what I write is more like an Erma Bombeck column because I offer no real advice or useful information, just observation and satire (kind of like this blog only much more sanitized). I leave it up to the other writers who are parents to provide parenting tips and advice.

So my deadline is this week for the Back to School issue. I'm stumped. I've done Back to School columns several times. So I go to Facebook and ask my "friends" to give me some ideas on what I should cover in my Back to School themed column.

It was hilarious! The suggestions I got were all well-meaning and actually good suggestions. But I couldn't help thinking "Do these people know me?!?"

Since my loyal readers of the blog know that I'm a slacker mom who has a free-range parenting style, I thought I'd share some of the suggestions I got and what I thought about each.

Suggestion No. 1: Write about non-traditional school options like homeschooling 
Me: Homeschooling? My goal is to get my daughter OUT of the house. I happily pay my school taxes and then some for the saving grace that is someone else dealing with her 5 days a week.

Suggestion No. 2: Ways you can help your child's teacher like buying supplies or helping out in the classroom.
Me: I buy plenty of supplies for the classroom every year and don't mind doing so. But I've learned to stick to the supply list ever since those little child-sized straight jackets I sent were not well received. As far as helping out in the classroom, see my answer to question number 1.

Suggestion No. 3: Recommend that parents let their children ride their bikes to school this year. The kids will get exercise and the parents can save money on gas. 
Me: Now, this is an idea I can embrace! I'm an old fashion parent in that I DON'T think my child will get snatched if she plays in the front yard without me watching her every move. However, I can only imagine how much hate mail the magazine would receive if one of their writers actually suggested that parents not only let their child walk to a bus stop, but actually (GASP!!) ride their bike to school (I mean, that's actually beyond the cul de sac!). The editor just doesn't deserve to attract the ire of the helicopter moms.

By the way that last suggestion came from a friend who has no children.

I'll let you know what I come up with.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Notebook

"I found the notebook Amy wanted," my favorite middle stepson tells me yesterday, very proud of himself. Amy is a girl who is a "friend," who everyone else knows is just in love with favorite middle stepson. He chooses to ignore this fact.

Why does Amy need a notebook, I ask.

"Today's her birthday so I got her the notebook. I found it at Wal-Mart."

Is this some special notebook?

"No, the MOVIE. She wanted that movie The Notebook, so I got it for her birthday. We're having a birthday party for her tonight."


Have you ever watched The Notebook, I inquire.

"No, but it's probably some sort of chick flick, right?"

You're not going to like it. There are no zombies and no aliens.

"Great," he says with a sigh. "Does anyone get punched?"

No, no one gets punched.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

One Legged Chicken - The Other White Meat

Beloved, MiniMe and I went to my mom & dad's place in St. Augustine on Sunday for a cookout. For all of you who don't know, and for those of you who do - a reminder, I'm a vegetarian and have been for about 4 years. However, I NEVER ask anyone to cook anything special for me, nor do I ever say anything if we're at someone's home for dinner and it's a Meat-A-Saurus meal.

Back to my story.

We get there and my mom says "We're having ribs and I bought chicken for you since you don't eat meat."

Here we go again. After 4 years, my mom still thinks that if she serves me chicken or turkey, that's vegetarian.

MiniMe looks at me with an expression that conveys "Am I missing something here?" Go ahead, I tell her, you explain it.


"Mimi, chicken is meat, mom doesn't eat meat."

"You don't eat chicken? Well I thought you ate chicken?"

I say to MiniMe "Give her the 2 and 4 leg explanation."

MiniMe recites my mantra "Mom doesn't eat anything with 2 or 4 legs. Chickens have 2 legs," and smiles because she's getting to "correct" an adult.

"Well!" my mom huffs, "This was a one-legged chicken so I guess you can eat it!"

Monday, June 27, 2011

Must be the Heat

Saw two things today that I thought were a little odd. I would have gotten photos to share, but I was driving. I'm already a terrible photographer, so it wasn't worth risking a traffic accident.

Strange Item No. 1 "You Go Boy!"
Man, age 30ish, riding a bicycle while simultaneously eating one of the biggest hamburgers I've ever seen. Do you think he was reasoning that as long as he was pedaling, eating a greasy 2,000 plus calorie burger was good for him?

Strange Item No. 2 "You Should Be Ashamed!"
A man and his kids in their bedraggled van at the corner of a busy intersection. On a large piece of cardboard taped to the side of his van was written "Rotie Puppies." He was standing next to it holding one of the puppies like he was hawking fake watches on the streets of New York. (Now this guy I would have run over while taking a photo, but I didn't want to hurt the innocent puppy or the children).

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Good, The Bad and the IRS

I run my own business and yesterday I got a certified letter from the IRS saying I had an outstanding balance on my tax payment from last year. I probably don't have to tell you that the letter was a little threatening in its tone.

I've decided that I'll consider the rest of this story of my interaction with the IRS to be hilarious rather than painful. So, here goes.

I knew I had paid this. I knew the check number and date it had been sent. I even checked and yes, the check had been cashed. Even so, I thought I'd better call and be sure they had corrected the error.

I call the 800 number. I spend 3 minutes punching all my info into the automated phone system. I wait patiently through 15 minutes on hold. When the IRS agent finally answered (No 'hello, this is Marcy, how I can help you today?') she had an attitude. I'll spare you the details, but it ended up with her "terminating" my call because at one point I said "Well, damn, I didn't know that was what you were asking me for!" I got cut off for using the word "Damn". If  I'd known I would be cut off, I wouldn't have wasted my offensive language with 'damn', there are much better words.

So off I go to my local IRS office. This is where it gets really bizarre!

As soon as I walk in the door, the security guard, who is sitting chatting with one of the customers, says to me in a rapid fire monotone "any weapons, cell phone, cameras or recording devices?"  Um, a cell phone, I answer. "You've got to turn it off, no cell phones allowed."  Um, ok, and hello to you, too.

I take a number from the weird machine that makes you choose a "reason" why you're there before it spits out your number. Now, there are only 2 other people in the waiting room besides me. My number, 502. I look at the "now serving" light and it says 957. WTF? I immediately think I must be in that waiting room from Beetlejuice or something.


The next number is called and one of the two women goes into the cubicle not 12 ft from where I'm sitting. The TV in the waiting room is on the Spike TV channel. Just about every surface of the walls are covered by posters and notices that say "No Weapons" "No Cell Phones" "No Cameras or Recording Devices" in multiple languages (even Japanese, I swear!).

The woman now leaves the cubicle and it turns out the other lady is with her, so I'm next! But before she leaves, the security guard returns her box cutter. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP!

Now I'm alone with the security guard and the one lone IRS agent in the cubicle 12 feet away. Ding, the "next served" number changes to 502 (that's me!). I decide it is completely ridiculous to post my number on the electronic sign when I'm the ONLY person in the waiting room, and he can clearly see this. So I decide to mess with him. (I know, this is what got me terminated the last time).



I sit there. "Number 502" he calls out. I look at my number slip, I look at the sign announcing my number is next, I look back at my number slip. I sit there. "Number 502! 502, is that You?!? You're next, wake up!"

Tee-hee-hee . . . .

Trying to be friendly, I ask if he's ever seen the movie Beetlejuice. "Yes" he says. "Your waiting room reminds of the waiting room in Beetlejuice," I say with a laugh. He just stares at me. So I hand over my ID and paperwork. It takes him exactly 45 seconds to pull up my record and confirm that the error has been corrected. Then he says "Oh, Beetlejuice! I know what you're talking about now" and kinda chuckles.

This one is a real Einstein, I think but do not say out loud. On my way out through the empty waiting room, I pass the seated security guard who is now playing on his cell phone.

"No Cell Phones!" I bark and am pleased to see I startle him a little.

Tee, hee, hee . . .

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bloggers in Demand

One of the best things about being a part of the blogger community is getting to see a place from the blogger's local perspective. That's why I follow so many Florida bloggers. There's nothing better than visiting a place and knowing all the "secrets" from the locals about what to do, where to eat, where to stay, etc.

As a blogger, I've been tapped a few times by online and traditional publications looking for a writer with local knowledge. My most recent piece on the outdoor offerings in Daytona Beach came out this week in the June issue of the Visit Florida e-newsletter. See here

If you're doing some guest blogging or freelance writing, I'd love to read my blogging friends' work. Please send me a link and I'd be interested in sharing them with my followers. 

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Your Baby Can't Read

Anyone else other than me tired of those "Your Baby Can Read" commercials? Not only do they play constantly on every radio station I listen to, they're ridiculous. Who's buying this product? Is it the same parents who made the Baby Einstein folks rich beyond measure? I think even the Baby Einstein consumers didn't actually believe their babies would start playing Mozart or solving equations because they got parked in front of a video.

I'm here to proclaim that NO, YOUR BABY CANNOT READ!!!!

In addition to this concept being completely asinine, why would you want your baby to read? Is this a sinister component of the Florida FCAT? Are the No Child Left Behind people a sponsor of this ridiculous product?

Every time I hear one of these commercials I feel like screaming "IF YOU READ TO YOUR BABY AND TODDLER, YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THEIR COGNITIVE ABILITIES!!!"


Whatever happened to reading to your child? Now there's a video and online game for everything. Heck, there's probably even a Your Baby Can Read App. (Gag).

I may not be a perfect mom but I know that spending quality time reading to your child can only help. So why would you spend money on a product that lets someone else do it for you?

NO, your baby cannot read. But YOU can read to your baby!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Official Sign of Summer

It is officially summer. I know this because today my dog Scout chewed all the beads off my new flip flops. Actually, he chewed the beads off only one shoe in the pair.

I look forward to getting a new pair of flip flops each summer. Scout looks forward to "breaking them in" for me. It's a good thing I don't spend much money on my flip flops. The frustrating thing is this smelly dog never chews anyone else's flip flops. Only mine!

I thought I was safe because he usually is attracted to sparkly things. These were just multi-colored beads, no sparkles. I guess he decided he'd chew up anything in a pinch - sparkles or not.

I've tried to make sure I keep my shoes in my closet and not just laying around the house. Didn't help. He just slunk into my closet for a flip flop snack.


Pictured: Bad Dog Scout on the left with Good Dog Radley on the right. No matter how hard Radley has tried to be a good influence, Scout is incorrigible.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Big events - Only in Florida

June 1 has been replete with events that for the most part only all of us in Florida experience.

Today marks the first day of Hurricane Season. Do you think it is some sort of sign that today was also the first day my home - the greater Daytona Beach area - has gotten any rain in weeks?

The space shuttle landed. Did the double sonic boom wake you around 2:30 a.m.?

We've got approximately 250 wildfires burning across the state as of today. Have I mentioned how much we love our firefighters in the Sunshine State?

By my calendar, the first official day of summer is June 21. But to me, June 1 is the official Florida day of summer.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Reading

School is out for MiniMe but my nagging her to read a few books this summer has just begun. She picked out a book this weekend, which led to an interesting exchange.

"Mom, I found a book I want to read. It's called Survival of the Fittest and it's about a bunch of girls who are competing in the Miss Teen pageant who have to survive when their plane crashes on an island."

Me: Hmm, I guess that's the prissy version of Lord of the Flies.

"What? I don't know that one."

This got me thinking about the books on the reading list for young adults these days compared to the reading list I had in middle/high school.

So, Lord of the Flies. Should it be on reading lists for contemporary youth? Is it still relevant or are there more modern books that would be just as relevant and maybe more interesting to our young adults.

I loved some of the books I was assigned to read: The Great Gatsby, The Crucible, Brave New World.

What if students were assigned to read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak instead of The Crucible? The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger instead of The Great Gatsby. How about The Road by Cormac McCarthy instead of Brave New World.

What books were you assigned to read as a young adult?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Florida Accommodations Getting More Economical for Families

All indications are that even with the economy still stuck in the dumps, people are planning a vacation this summer. Only families are looking for affordable options, which means a lot more are choosing "staycations" (don't know who came up with this term but I love it!).

This weekend, the folks at Caribe Cove and Bahama Bay Resort in Davenport hosted a group of travel bloggers, and your own Florida Native Mom got a coveted invite. The tourism industry, like many others, is starting to recognize the power of social media in promoting their accommodations (which is great news for all of us who have been toiling away in the shadows of the blogosphere for years).

Now I would not write about my experience if it wasn't a positive one, even if I received a complimentary stay. So here's why I'm sharing this with you. Both resorts are a great choice for families or groups of friends traveling together looking for a place to stay for several nights (not just a weekend). That's because their 2 and 3 bedroom suites range from $92 to $121 per night. A suite with 2 or 3 full size bedrooms, a full-size kitchen, 2  baths and plenty of room at 1,400 to 1,600 square feet. Split that nightly rate between 2 groups and you can't get a better price anywhere.


I was surprised at how big the suites were. And very nice, clean. We went to Disney's Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Weekend while we were there and I timed the drive because I kinda felt like we were in the middle of nowhere in Davenport. Only 15 minutes to the Disney gate.



It's also only 20 minutes away from the outlet malls - great for a girlfriends weekend!

Now I know what you may be thinking - and NO we did not have to take a timeshare tour. This is not a timeshare. My only suggestion is to call ahead and confirm your reservation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Summer Visitors?

If you’re like our big extended family, we often have visitors during the summer who take advantage of the fact we live in Florida to spend a week at the beach. A few years ago, I started making arrangements for our visiting families to stay at one of the local hotels on the beach since there is often “no room at the Florida Native Mom” inn for extended periods.

The first year we suggested our families stay in one of the many family-friendly resorts in Daytona Beach was a little rough. I had to assure them that I loved each and every one of them and thought it would be a “great idea” for them to actually spend their summer break on the beach instead of at my home in the mainland suburb. Now I couldn’t lure them back to my house if I tried.

My brother and sister-in-law enjoy staying at one of the beachside hotels because so many offer kid-suites, rooms with efficiency kitchens, water-park-like pool decks and most of all, they’re economical. They have two young boys and spend the morning on the beach then visit us to swim with our kids in the pool and have a cookout in the afternoons. Everyone is happy!


I encourage you to follow my lead on this. While you may feel a little bad about sending your relatives to stay at a local resort instead of sleeping on your couch for a week, consider these facts from my area in Daytona Beach:

Last year we had 7 million visitors to the Daytona Beach area that spent an estimated $3 billion in our restaurants, grocery stores, retail stores and gas stations. The tourism industry is one of the biggest and most important industries to our local economy.

By setting your relatives up in local accommodations, you’re pumping up our economy and potentially salvaging family relationships!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Moon Pies!!

Florida has been in the news a lot lately because of all the attention being paid to the last few shuttle launches. All this great NASA stuff got me thinking. About Moon Pies.

Did you know that Moon Pies now come in a variety of flavors? The newest flavor is chocolate mint. It's like a Southern version of the Girl Scout Thin Mint cookie.


I'm a longtime fan of Moon Pies (I mean who isn't a fan of the original Moon Pie?!?) I'm glad to see that a special treat from my childhood is still around, along with Tang, Juicy Fruit chewing gum and that honey that comes in a plastic bear. (Honey served in a plastic bear is always better than other packaged honeys).

Anyone else like to have a Moon Pie for breakfast or is it just me? At one time I worked in the NASCAR industry. One early morning at a track I went in search of breakfast. The press rooms were always full of free food since many of the sponsors freely distributed "samples" to the media. Cheerios. Skittles. BC Powder. So on that morning, I culled together my breakfast from the "freebies" in the media center.

A Banana flavored Moon Pie, a Slim Jim and a Pepsi. A complete Southern Racin' style breakfast.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Wanted: Mom Material

I write a monthly column that runs in a local parenting magazine. (Shhhh, don't laugh, I've got them convinced I'm a good mom). My May column is due next week and I decided to write about my mom. In particular about her personality and character. And she's a character all right.

I called my sister to get her input. She shared a story I'd never heard about Mom (see what I missed by going off to college?!?). My mom is a beautician. She has her own salon. This never benefited me because I have very little hair. In fact when I was growing up, my dad used to tell me "You have fine hair. The kind you find on rat's ass." But I digress.

My sister has a lot of hair (that's her in the photo). Thick, wavy, brunette. She was the very definition of "Big Hair" in the 80s. Sissy was also a basketball player. Her senior year, her team made it to the state playoffs. The local news got a hold of the story of this girls' basketball team whose starting line-up had been playing together since 8th grade. They were also all high achieving National Honor Society members. The media wanted an interview.

My sister finds out at school that day she and her teammates are going to be interviewed for broadcast TV news. She immediately calls my mom in tears.

"Mom, the TV news is coming to interview us after school and I've just finished PE and my hair is a mess! I can't be on TV like this!"

So what does mom do? Of course she runs down to the school, checks my sister out and takes her home to style her hair. Once the hot rollers are out and the hairspray is in place, Mom takes her back to school in time for her interview.

Cause that's just the kind of mom she is.

The View from My Office


Just one more reason to love life in Florida. It may have been rain and thunder all day yesterday, but today is beautiful. Temps in the 70s, sunshine, blue sky. Taking advantage and spending my day working (writing, grading papers) on my back porch.

TGIF - Thank God I'm in Florida!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Following Snakes . . .On Twitter

I just started following the missing Bronx Zoo cobra on Twitter ( @BronxZoosCobra ). This "snake" has more than 140,000 followers and has only been on Twitter since Monday. Which got me thinking. Perhaps to promote tourism in the Sunshine State, we could convince Disney's Animal Kingdom to "lose" a monkey, who could then start Tweeting his adventures. This would be much more believable than a snake Tweeting as far as I'm concerned. A monkey has "fingers" which would allow him to Tweet easily from his iPhone. A snake only has his tongue and tail.

Should we start a quiet campaign to get Animal Kingdom on board with this?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Florida Roadside Retail

Traveling the back roads through small towns in Florida provides shop-a-holics with a whole new category of retail to enjoy. I call it Roadside Retail.

Whether I'm traveling on long trips or short trips, I find it greatly amusing to keep track of all the different "items" you'll find advertised for sale along the roadway. You might expect to see signs offering the traditional boiled p-nuts, fruit and produce, but here are some of the other great deals I've personally cataloged in recent years.

Goats, piglets, pot belly pigs, and emu.
Eggs
Jerky - including alligator jerky
Hammocks, hand carved wood furniture and porch swings
Farm equipment, boats, RVs, cars and motorcycles
Worms and other bait for fishing
Silk floral arrangements
Firewood and mulch
Sculpture made from driftwood
Hot sauce and homemade relish
Fried fish and bbq
Pre-made Easter baskets
A variety of large stuffed animals
Go-karts
Above ground pools
Handmade turquoise jewelry

Surely you've purchased a few unique items in your Florida travels from independent entrepreneurs. What did you buy?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'll get you my pretty!!!

Dear Scout the Stinky Corgi:

You thought you were very clever when you managed to scrub off your cone outside someplace where I cannot find it no matter how far and wide I search. See, the problem is, you need to wear that cone to let the sore on your back heal. My intentions are pure I assure you. I'm sorry to say your "hide the cone" plan did not work. I have found a replacement for it. A pink tutu.


And you thought the cone was embarrassing. Bet you wish you had it back now.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday at Marineland

I spent a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at Marineland. Did you know that Marineland (now called Marineland Dolphin Adventure) is the oldest marine attraction in the U.S.? In addition, one of the park's residents - Nellie - is the oldest dolphin in the world born in human care. She celebrated her 58th birthday in February.

video

I spent about 2 hours at the park and really enjoyed talking to the volunteers. There were 3 volunteers "on deck" while I was there. Two retirees and a college student. Their job was to answer questions about the dolphins and work with the visitors who were there for one of the "dolphin experiences," including a swim with the dolphins program and a touch and feed program. These folks loved their "job" and they agreed with me that Marineland is one of Florida's best kept secrets. And that's a shame.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Marineland since I visited so many times as a kid. It was the only "theme park" for miles back then, and even if it hadn't been, it would have been my favorite. This Florida girl was raised right - brought up to love and appreciate the dolphin (and seaturtle, too).

What makes Marineland a good alternative to the big Sea World park, in my opinion, is that it is an intimate, quiet park right on the ocean. You can stand on the deck under the shade of an umbrella and watch the dolphins swim, then turn around and watch the waves wash onto the beach. You can't do that at Seaworld. And if you want a chance to see (and touch) a dolphin up close, this is the place. Their classes are very small - no more than 12 people - and you get a lot of one-on-one time with the trainers and the 12 dolphins in residence. Plus, when it comes to education, conservation and research, Marineland leads the way. They've been the home of the University of Florida Whitney Lab for Marine Bioscience since the mid 1970s and were recently purchased by the Georgia Aquarium, which should ensure their viability for decades.

I'm hoping you will help me share this secret. Marineland, located on AIA between St. Augustine and Flagler Beach, is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. You can register for several of the different dolphin encounter programs, however, you can also just visit and see the dolphins and enjoy the afternoon (like I did) for only $8.50 adults and $4 children.

Visit them online at Marineland.net.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Summer Camp Shuffle

Tennis. Ballet. Art. Swimming. Photography. Horseback riding. We’ve tried them all.
Since it will soon be time to pick a summer camp for the kids, I thought I’d share - or commiserate, depending on how you look at it - my experiences with summer camp for MiniMe.

I was thrilled to discover that MiniMe was great at tennis. But her enthusiasm for the sport was in opposition to her ability. She made a precious ballerina but outgrew the tutus after age 6. While she’s very creative, art classes just didn’t seem to resonate. She’s been swimming like a fish since she was 2 (big shout out to the YMCA’s swim instructors), but only enjoyed "playing" in the pool and couldn’t stay in her lane. Photography was a successful endeavor, if you consider finding 42 pictures of the dog on your digital camera a triumph. Horseback riding? I won’t even go there.


All of these were excellent summer camp programs; it’s just that no matter how hard I’ve tried, I’ve been unsuccessful in finding an activity that MiniMe will stick with. Until this year.

Turns out I have a "Drama Queen" (as if I didn’t already know that). MiniMe participated in the Children’s Musical Theatre summer camp last summer and finally found her passion. She’s continued to take part in this outstanding program and I’ve been proud of her effort and dedication. It’s rewarding to see her experience the enjoyment that comes from working hard to perform on stage.

It’s always difficult if not frustrating to find just the right activity for your child. Or maybe that’s just me. How about all of you?  What was your kid’s favorite summer camp?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Attracted to the Florida Roadside

Quirky roadside attractions are what the Florida tourism industry was built on. Even though that industry has become dominated by a mouse, there are still plenty of Old Florida attractions to see throughout the state. On a recent ride through Crescent City, I came across one of my favorite Florida drive-thrus. The "honor system citrus stand."

Not only is the produce fresh and locally grown, the fruit stand is self-serve. I can't be sure, but I'm thinking that you wouldn't find a self-serve, honor-system drive thru in New York City. But, thankfully, you can still find a few of these locally-owned roadside businesses throughout the Sunshine State. One of my other favorites is the Biggers Apiaries honey stand near San Mateo on SR 100, which has been operating on the honor system for over 60 years in that location.

There under the shade of a giant old oak, you can pull off the road and purchase orange blossom honey, wildflower honey or tupelo honey. Drop your money in the box and continue on your way.

Another curious off-the-beaten-path sight worth seeing is the Indian River Fruit Stand at the stoplight intersection of SR17 and SR40 in Barberville. You may know it for its 8ft tall roosters.


This Barberville market has been attracting customers locally, nationally and internationally looking for the unusual for more than 20 years. There are 451 different items, totaling 1,000 pieces to choose from on the 4-acre property shaded by towering moss-covered oaks. Looking for a sculpted metal flying pig? How about a 24 ft giraffe statue? Oversized hand-carved teak furniture from Indonesia on your list? The startling sculptures large and small include farm animals, dinosaurs, jungle creatures and the fantastic. Oh, and you can also pick up locally produced honey and citrus.

The current owners Carlos Pendola and Sandra Tedder say their most expensive item is a 12 ft figure of Atlas priced at $5,500. The “giant roosters” go for $2,300. But there’s something at every price point. The art and fruit business accepts cash, credit or check and can even arrange shipment and delivery.

Ok, it's not operating on the honor system, but can you honestly say you can purchase a giant chicken in your hometown?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Daytona Beach Bike Week and Me

When I first landed in Daytona Beach in 1995, I really did not like Bike Week. It was loud, our streets were crowded and the bikers made me a little nervous (especially so many of them at one time - like a gang!). Now I've embraced it. Especially since I realize that "loud noise" is actually the sound of money coming to our area.

I guess you could say I've not only embraced Bike Week, I've become one of them. Check out the photo of me on my new motorcycle with a serious case of helmet hair.

I've even had the opportunity to become an official Bike Week blogger. This job allows me to write every day, meet and talk to a lot of interesting people and increase my social media presence. In fact, I was invited last week by a local hotel to a Blogger/Tweetup media event. While I had fun and got to "meet" a lot of the people I "follow" in person, what was even better was to see a business in the travel industry fully embrace social media and look at us bloggers and tweeters with newfound respect. Turns out we matter. Who'd of thunk it?

I recommended a few of my blogger friends to the organizer in case they are looking to work with other social media experts - so don't be surprised if you get a call or email.

This weekend kicks off 10 days of Bike Week. I actually get paid to go out and enjoy it - something I'd do anyway, for free. Shhh. Don't tell anybody.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Had a Blast at ERAU

I've been teaching a class at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Yesterday I was pleased to be able to watch Space Shuttle Discovery launch from campus. Why? Because two ERAU alumni were on board. The excitement around campus was palpable. Except for one young man I met.

Waiting for my class to start, I struck up a conversation with an engineering major from California. He was about 20 years old.

"Are you going out to see the shuttle launch?" I asked him.

"No I don't like being around crowds" he said.

Hmmm. I was a little confused by this. Then I realized he thought I meant going to the Cape.

"You know you can see the shuttle go up from here, right?"

Not only did he not know the shuttle was going up (in less than 2 hours), he had never seen a launch and yet he didn't seem real interested.

What self respecting ERAU engineering student doesn't want to see the shuttle go up. That's OK, my students and I - and the rest of the school's faculty and students - were excited enough to make up for him. Especially since I let my classroom of students out early to see it. Any excuse to cut class . .  .

*Photo credit to The Orlando Sentinel

Friday, February 18, 2011

Remembering Dale Earnhardt

This Sunday is the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. I can hear the cars on the track from my house. Which I don't mind cause it's the sound of money coming into our area.


10 years ago, Dale Earnhardt died in a crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500. I was the Senior Manager of Publicity for Daytona International Speedway and ran all the press rooms at that time. Although I'd worked at the Speedway for 4 years, I had not had much interaction with Earnhardt before that year. Getting an audience with him was akin to getting an audience with the King of NASCAR. But that particular year I had spent quite a bit of time with him because the track had named a grandstand after him and he was running in the Rolex 24 at Daytona for the first time that year (that's me with my back to the camera with Dale and a TV crew in the photo above.)  I won't say he "knew" me because of this. Basically he just recognized me and because he couldn't remember my name he just called me "girly."

I enjoyed working with him that year because he tried to make me feel comfortable when he knew I was obviously nervous being around him. They didn't call him The Intimidator for nothing. It was a privilege working with him and I can honestly say it was one of the most rewarding (and enjoyable) moments in my career.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hey, who stole my material?!?

You may have noticed there hasn't been a whole lotta posting going on here at Florida Native Mom. That's because somebody has been stealing my best material! It's MiniMe. Now that she's a big "middle schooler" she has forbidden me from writing about her on the blog, in my monthly magazine column, etc. I would just ignore her request, but it turns out she knows how to get on the computer and find my blog. And she reads it.

This situation is kind of like having your parents "friend" you on Facebook. Totally sucks the fun out of posting messages.

But I've decided to do it anyway. So if you're MiniMe, stop reading now! And don't forget to brush your teeth!

Turns out the middle school has scheduled a field trip to Epcot for next month. The money for the trip was due today. Now MiniMe mentioned this field trip and its accompanying expense ($103.00) before the holiday break. She was determined to "earn" most of the money herself.  I was totally on board with this but wondered how I'd find a job for an 11 year old girl when baby slave labor has been all but wiped out in my part of the state (at least as far as I know).

Her idea - she was going to earn the money babysitting.

Now she's never babysat before. So I suggested I had some friends that might let her come over and spend some time while they were there with the kids to let her try it out. However, my real goal was to get her to do some work around this house to earn her money!

Every day she'd ask me, "Did you call your friend about having me babysit?"

"Um, no I'll do it later. But you know there's plenty of things you can do around here to earn some extra money."

She dismisses this idea and walks away.

Next day, "Did you call your friend yet about the babysitting?"

"Um no but how about if you clean and sort my kitchen cabinets. I'd pay you for that!"

Day after day she asked about babysitting. Day after day I gave her chores to do here for money.

So today when the money was due and she had not earned any, she told me that she didn't really want to go to Epcot. She would just stay at school that day with "alternate" assignments. I wrote out the check, signed all the forms and sent her off to school with a twinkle in my eye . . ..

"You're going to Epcot AND you'll be working that money off in the meantime, and not by playing with other people's babies!"

Just call me the new and improved Baby Slave!