Memories of my many trips to the island of Curacao

curacao hut copyIsland Dreams

I’m in a seaside paradise,
where my heart is light and free,
where palm fronds wave and whisper
in the breezes from the sea.

Days of idle frolic
on dunes of sun-bleached sand.
Evening skies ablaze with stars,
moonlit strolls, calypso bands.

Sunsets stain the turquoise sea,
liquid gold dips silent, slow.
The sky is splashed with grenadine
and garnished with an orange glow.

curacao tropical colors copyThe bustling waterfront market
is rich with handmade wares.
Tourists spar with merchants
to barter prices fair.

Where sea meets blue horizon,
distant sailboats bob and weave.
I breathe the salty, spicy air,
and I never want to leave.

I travel often in my mind,
daydreams suffice for now,
until I can return again
to the isle of Curacao.

curacao beach copy

Picture time! A day at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto

Paul and I made our yearly jaunt to the CNE last Friday and we had a blast, as usual. While there, I figured out that he and I have been going to the CNE every year for the past 39 YEARS! God, talk about feeling OLD! (Mind you, we were only five when we met :)))))))
1.food bldg
It was a perfect, sun-filled summer day. We had the best time just walking around the midway, looking through the buildings, pigging out on junk at the Food Building, and then pigging out again later at Ribfest. I seriously thought I was going to have to call a tow truck to get me off the picnic bench. The best part—we stayed for the evening concerts at the bandshell. It was a 70s rock night, all the way!

The opening band was called Pigeon Park, a group of young guns from Vancouver who were absolutely phenomenal. I found a video by them on YouTube—check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_dwoWmxmM0 Future grammy winners, wouldn’t you agree? If anyone can bring rock back into the Anno Domini era, it’s those guys!

28.foghatThe headliners were Foghat. Remember them from the 70s? If you don’t remember the name, I’m sure you’ve heard their mega-hit song, Slow Ride. It was even covered by Adam Lambert and Alison Iraheta on American Idol. Here’s a link to the song on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcCNcgoyG_0

To say that they were fantastic is an understatement. Those boys had the whole place rocking, and when they did Slow Ride for their encore, the place went wild.

Of course, most of the audience were boomers, a few of which hadn’t yet left the 70s behind. There was the odd old geezer in t-shirt/leather vest/tight jeans with dyed hair down to his (flat) butt, bandanna tied around his forehead Brett Michaels-style, a woman in stilettos draped on his arm that, aside from having a 60-year-old face, was dressed exactly like the groupies of the era. I was entertained as well as fascinated. Watching them made me wonder what led them to cling to the past like that. The band I get—it’s all part of their “costume” and their job. But the average joe? The writer in me wanted so badly to approach some of them to ask for interviews!

Anyway, by the time we got home at 11:30 that night, we were pooped and our eardrums were still ringing. But boy oh boy, what a wonderful day! I’ll share my pictures with you below.

Princess Gates at night

Waterfall garden

A curvy alpaca

10.sand sculpture

Sand sculpture of veggies

Paul with the most angelic busker

 

A competitor in the Superdogs Show

Donna wishing she could fly an old F16

27.pigeon park

Pigeon Park on stage (with Foghat banner behind them)

Foghat lead singer and drummer

Foghat base guitarist

Foghat drummer

On the midway

 

The beach is never far away when you have the Beach in a Bottle

Coastal-Living_DecJan-2012-CoverAs you will already know if you’ve read some of my past posts, I LOVE THE SEA. My lottery-win fantasies revolve around one central vision of my family living in any one of those gorgeous beach houses featured in my favourite magazine, Coastal Living. I can see myself gazing out at the sea every day through floor-to-ceiling glass walls or going for long walks in sand that’s damp from lapping waves.

Living in Toronto, the only time I’m around salt water is when a pot is boiling on the stove.

The other day, while daydreaming about past beach vacations (instead of writing the advertising copy that I was supposed to be writing) I had a great idea for a beachy craft.

I had recently bought a pack of those tiny corked bottles from the craft section of the IMG_6376dollar store, with a plan to fill each one with the beach sand that I’d collected each time we’d visited a different area over the years. Once the bottles were filled, I would use fancy script to label each one. So far, I’ve collected sand from Aruba, Curacao, St. Thomas, St. Martin, different parts of Mexico and Florida. I hope to visit many more places in the years to come (especially the Hawaiian islands!!), and what better way to keep a little piece of each place close by.

My beachy craft idea goes a step further, incorporating some tiny shells and a flip flop charm to turn it into a miniature beach scene. I attached the eye pin and chain to make it into a memento necklace, but I think I’d rather just keep my little bottled beach vignette on my desk to keep the beach within sight all year round.

If you would like to make one, here’s how:
beach in a bottle2

Beach in a Bottle

✓ One tiny buck store corked bottlebeach in a bottle3
✓ A couple teaspoons of collected beach sand
✓ Some tiny shells
✓ A small flip flop charm
✓ One small eye pin and a chain (optional)

Fill the bottle halfway with sand, use tweezers to drop the flip flop charm into place, then place your shells in the sand and just use a long needle to nudge them into however you’d like them to be positioned.

Voila! The beach in a bottle.

A Corporate Survivor

Have you ever noticed the similarities between the reality show Survivor and day-to-day life in the corporate world?beach

In my own experience the only difference between any office and Survivor’s exotic locales is that instead of meandering barefoot along an endless expanse of powdery white sand bordered with aquamarine water, we office survivors lope around all day on ugly grey industrial carpeting festooned with hole-punch confetti and coffee splatters.dirty carpet

In most offices alliances mutate as rapidly as flu viruses. The most lucrative alliances lead to immunity—from being demoted to a level where nobody will loan you a pen, much less make an alliance with you.

crabMuch like Survivor’s wild locales, there are rats, snakes, crabs and other nasty creatures skittering around the office habitat. Their sting can be toxic and survival behooves you to bite back. Win or lose, you will return to your cube with a very bad taste in your mouth; if gargling with an abrasive disinfectant doesn’t help, a huge hunk of milk chocolate most definitely will.

The office piranhas, vermin and serpents are as venomous as the real enchiladas. As a corporate survivor, I’ve learned to tread lizardcautiously. When I see a stinger coming at me, I usually make like prey and run. Thankfully, the most lethal creatures will form alliances with their own kind and keep to themselves unless otherwise provoked.

donna at work2You’ll find clones of past Survivor celebrities in every office. You know—the ones holed up in their cubicles texting all day rather than helping the rest of the tribe…the ones who still haven’t clued in that every hello you send their way is punctuated with an invisible middle finger.

And then there’s the general population—pleasant enough, but as nonchalant as sociopaths about the sprinkles that they leave behind on the toilet seats, about taking the last cup of coffee and not refilling the pot, about “forgetting” to return the stapler (or hole punch, or markers, or ten bucks…) that they borrowed from you.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Office Bitch. Biting back isn’t enough. The Office Bitch brings out the Hannibal Lecter in you. Every nightmare you’ve ever had of this noxious creature involves torture and death.

suit-673697_640Last but not least is the Big Guy at the very top of the pyramid. (I’d like to be able to say “the Big Girl at the top,” but we all know that this is still a fallacy in most corporations.) In this new Millennium, the Big Guy pretends to be current but deep down nurtures his graduate degree from “the old school” with misty memories of his boy’s club days. Though he’d never admit it, he secretly feels bad for Bill Cosby.

Of course, just like the show, questionable relationships between employees are also apt to develop, particularly when both sexes are mashed together for five unbearably long days per week. Though thank God bitty bikinis and naked bodies are not standard office attire.

As for weekly Tribal Councils? Yeah the corporate world has those too. Only they’re called department meetings. Unfortunately, those of us in attendance are not required to cast votes against tribe members that we’d like to see ousted. Instead of people, innovative ideas not conceived by the boss are extinguished as quickly as a torch flame.

And Daily Immunity Challenges? We call them: inhumane deadlines impossible to meet. During these challenges the first team player to bail is actually the smartest. Clever enough to flee when the clock strikes five, this person gains a life. In the office challenge the last one to bail is not necessarily the winner, depending on how you define quality of life. Mind you, my past experience dictates that he or she will usually be awarded the sought-after necklace or statue that provides immunity from the need to develop a meaningful relationship with an employment agency.

I’m a corporate survivor. I’ve been playing the game for an excruciatingly long time. I’ve learned to treat alliances the same way I would approach a person with Ebola.

I’ve honed the skills I need to exist in compatible harmony with everyone from the Office Lazies to the Office Bitches. I have, through trial and error, learned to play nice in the sandbox.

I win all my immunity challenges by meeting my deadlines with a vengeance, thus gaining myself a measure of immunity from the hassle of filling out unemployment insurance forms—for now, anyway.

I’ve discovered only one significant difference between being the last survivor on the reality show Survivor and the longest survivor in my office: Borneo, the Australian outback, Africa, Thailand, Marquesas, every donna at work1inch of the Amazon, Pearl Islands, Vanuatu, Palau, Guatemala, Panama, Cook Islands, Fiji, China, Micronesia, Gabon, Tocantins, Samoa, Nicaragua, Redemption Island, Philippines, Caramoan, Cagayan, San Juan del Sur, the entire South Pacific, and any other exotic locale that Survivor crew and contestants should decide to infest will freeze over before I ever receive a cheque for one-million dollars, now or at any other point in my career.

So until I’ve scraped together enough to finance my retirement, I wonder if management would allow me to string up a hammock between my cubicle walls? It would certainly make my daily survival a lot more comfortable.

 

I’ve whipped up a little time waster for lady travellers…It’s called fifty shades of greyport

Need a little something to stifle the boredom of sitting around at the airport while you wait and wait and wait to board your flight?

You’re welcome. 🙂

oiW6wsCA Brief Encounter

The airport. I sit hunched on a stiff plastic bench, chin on fist, wedged between strangers, listening for the boarding announcement.

Swinging one crossed leg, I peer at the sea of faces. All shapes, all sizes. Some snoring, some animated, some as bored as I. Ready to rise and stretch my limbs when…

Whoa, Nellie! Jackpot bells a-clanging! Lights a-flashing!
The faces and bodies around me dissolve faster than watercolours on a freshly painted canvas caught in the rain.

All but one.

He lounges against a vacant ticket counter, one thumb hooked through a belt loop on his well-worn blue jeans, the subtle outline of taut thigh muscles apparent beneath. Other thumb hooked at the collar of a battered brown leather aviator jacket slung loosely over one broad shoulder.

His glance catches mine and he holds my gaze as he pushes languidly away from the ticket booth. He ambles toward me like a cat stalking its prey.

I try to swallow, to breathe. The earth squeaks to a stop in mid spin as he halts before me. His stance is insolent and like steel drawn to magnet, I rise slowly until we are eye to eye.

I feel his warm breath on my cheek. No words are exchanged as he lifts a fingertip to trace the barest path along my jaw and over my lips, then brushes gently at a stray curl of hair fallen over one of my eyes. I am disappearing, disappearing into dark-fringed indigo depths.

He cups my face in his large, smooth hands and draws my lips ever so slowly toward his.

My eyelids are heavy, drowsy, and my breath is shallow as he draws me closer, closer still…until…

“Honey! C’mon! They’ve called our seat numbers!”

Poof. Adonis is gone. In his place stands my husband, squinting at me over a mound of golf clubs and carry-on luggage.

“Daydreaming again, huh? What’s that mind of yours spinning now?”

“That’s my secret.” I grin and wink at the lady beside me but she doesn’t notice.

She is lost in a daydream of her own.
woman2

Alas! All good things must come to an end

Holiday’s over.

I’m back home now and let me tell you, Toronto, Ontario is no Naples, Florida! The warm talcum powder sand that my bare feet became accustomed to has now been replaced with snow, snow and more snow. From flip flops to thermal socks and fuzzy slippers!

Ugh. Whaa whaa. Woe is me. Boo hoo. Suck it up, Donna.

No more whining. Instead, I’m going to warm up with a pictorial walk down vacay memory lane by sharing some of the photos I took in beautiful Naples.

What I love most about travel is the opportunity I get to experience an entirely different view of nature in all its glory: birds, animals, and vegetation unique to the area I’m visiting—daily portraits of a lifestyle that so contrasts with my home in northern climes.

There truly is nothing more exciting than leaving behind the everyday familiar and breaking out of the ordinary to give yourself the gift of a change of scenery. Travel is the tonic I crave. I wish I could do it more often.

In Naples we stayed at a house that backed onto a river. From the deck, we watched all sorts of turtles, fish and birds as they swam, foraged and played. Here are my backyard bird pictures:

Anhingas: These birds are such fun to watch. They swim in the river—body submerged, long neck bobbing above the water’s surface (at first glimpse, you think you’re seeing a snake rising from the water). Then they dry off by perching in a tree or sitting on land with their wings spread open in the sun. Every evening at around 6:pm, one by one they fly in to find their perch for the night in the trees on the other side of the river. Most of them have beautiful turquoise eyes.
Anhingas

 

 

 

 

 


Great Blue Heron and Little Blue Heron
: I only saw the Great Blue a couple of times but a Little Blue could be seen foraging along the river at some point every day. I guessed he was gobbling the tiny minnows in there.
Herons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossy Ibis and White Ibises: Also seen foraging along the river were both types of Ibises. The Glossy is a rich burgundy colour and the White Ibises seem to travel mainly in pairs or groups. You’ll see them roaming around just about everywhere—in parking lots, on lawns, at the seaside. Their beaks remind me of tweezers!
ibises

 

 

 


Little Egret
: I think that’s what this bird is. Though I’m not positive.egret

 

 

 


Muscovy Ducks
: These ducks are everywhere. They’re quite tame and can even be pesky if you feed them. But they’re pretty, especially the black ones whose feathers shine like a metallic rainbow in the sunshine.

ducks & sunset on the river

 

 

 

 

 

 
Sunset on the river was always such a peaceful time, a perfect ending to every day.

Home of the Gator: The Florida Everglades is home to LOTS of alligators. We saw this handsome guy in a pond at the Big Cypress National Preserve, where we went for a hike.
alligator

 

 

 

 

Gorgeous trees and plants: I love tropical vegetation, particularly the palm tree, of which there are over 2,500 varieties, believe it or not! My absolute favourites are the Bismarck Palm with its silver fan-shaped leaves and the Royal Palm with a trunk that appears as solid as concrete and fronds that look as soft as Ostrich feathers. I discovered one called the Pandanus Palm, with round fruit that looks like small pineapples. I’m not sure if the fruit is edible but it is pretty.

vegetation1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, being in Florida we passed a number of farms with orange groves when we went for a drive inland. We also saw orange trees growing in a few neighborhood yards.

I saw an interesting tree at Big Cypress, as well as at the Naples Zoo and at Lowdermilk Park called the Strangler Fig. This tree seems to wrap itself around another tree as it grows, while still allowing the other tree to grow as well.
vegetation 2

 

 

 

 
Yards in Naples are beautifully landscaped (fortunate for them, it’s summer all year round) and there are so many gorgeous varieties of flowers and shrubs to plant. My favourite has always been the Bougainvillea but there are so many splendid blooms; if I owned a home down there, I know there would be an explosion of colour in every corner of my yard!
vegetation3

 

 

 

Beaches, beaches and more beaches: With Naples right on the Gulf of Mexico, there are endless miles of beaches to enjoy. My favourite is Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, though they’re all pretty breathtaking. The draw for me at Delnor-Wiggins is that it is a seashell-collector’s paradise. Is there such a thing as Seashells Anonymous? If so I need rehab because I have a serious addiction!!! It doesn’t matter that I have a cupboard loaded with shells I’ve collected from past beach trips, I simply could not walk past a beautiful shell without scooping it up. Of course I am back at home with yet ANOTHER carton filled with shells. Looks like I have some more shell art projects ahead to work on. 🙂
beach and birds1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aside from collecting shells there was no end of entertainment in the form of wildlife antics. I often felt as if I were watching a live documentary unfold—big pelicans and snowy egrets hanging around all day in the sand beside the fishermen, waiting patiently for a morsel of bait to fall off someone’s hook. It’s pretty funny to watch the fisherman who forgets to tighten the lid of his bait pail because the minute his back is turned, one of these birds will sneak up and attempt to steal the contents.

beach and birds2Very often between about 4:pm and sunset, we would catch sight of dolphins playing in the surf. It feels like magic, watching these amazing creatures leaping and rolling like little kids right there before your eyes. At times they were only a few yards away from shore. It was a spectacular sight to behold. I got a picture of a fin but was too mesmerized watching them to capture any more than that.

dolphin fin

At the end of every day spent at the beach listening to the waves washing up on the sand; collecting shells in the sunshine; observing the birds and sea life; watching the sun dip behind the horizon, turning the sky into a plein-air canvas awash in hot pink and fiery orange, soft violet and glowing ruby; I would return to the house with the deepest sense of calm and well-being. Who needs a spa? The seashore is the most rejuvenating place on earth.

end of day

 

 

 

 

 
My last set of pictures were taken while sitting on the backyard deck. This little lizard, which I think is called a Brown Anole, is the size of my little finger. He would pop out from under the deck every once in a while to soak up the sun.
lizard

 

 

 

 

lizard 5.so long

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So long, Naples.

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