Spring 2023

Have you noticed that every year spring comes faster? Well there is spring and there is spring. Quite profound I know, but some years spring in Toronto just doesn’t happen. We go from cold and chilly usually when we return from Florida, to steamy hot. This year spring is really slow to develop. Lots of cool days, rain, then a sunny warm day. However, no matter what the weather the trees bloom the exact same week every year, second in May, and it is glorious. I just love watching the buds pop and the greens go from a fragile tone to a rich one. There is also spring in Florida where we live which is central, and rural. Usually in early February the large pines and the deciduous trees take on a delicate pale green colour and I love watching the transformation. The grass goes from its hibernating beige to a lush green. Last season I took my finished orchids and replanted them in trees outside my door, and this spring they starting budding, and then produced beautiful flowers. Planting actually meant attaching them with twine to a branch in the tree where two branches meet, and then they magically grow in the air. I did this with about three orchids and they all grew, albeit reaching for the light.

As I mentioned earlier, we live in a rural setting. The town is called Howey in the Hills and is about 45 miles northwest of Orlando. The town is tiny, but there is a resort where we live called The Mission Inn. It is a well regarded golf resort, and we live on one of the holes on the old course, El Campeon. There are hills and it is very pretty and peaceful. It is not sophisticated, but we love it there. There are homes, condos, a hotel, and restaurants, but the actual downtown of Howey has only a grocery store, gas station, police, city hall, a library, a post office and a medical clinic. There is a school nearby and a special accessibilities school as well. If you drive around off the main street, you can find the charming Little Lake Harris and some very pretty homes overlooking this lake, not for swimmers unless you like alligators.

view of the Mission Inn from the terrace of Nickers restaurant

my fave sand cranes outside our condothey are monogamous, always travel in pairs, except when a little one comes

she did not get a hole in one. Heading back to her babies in the woods

our yearly potluck and get together at the pool

on the course in the evening

There is a fun restaurant called J.B.Boondocks with really good family style food and a nice view. To me the most amazing thing about Howey is the Howey Mansion concert series. This was created 5 years ago by an enterprising young woman, Arisa Kusumi Sullivan. I should explain that the Mansion was built in 1925 and had been left to decay for many years. Two young couples, brothers who were born in Florida and loved the mansion, decided to renovate and restore it. With the help of their financing and the expertise of their uncle and aunt. The transformation is incredible and there are wonderful tours of the property, but worth checking out the hyperlink I have provided to read the story.

evening fisher outside Boondocks and the view below from the porch..the best meatloaf and chicken salad

Back to Arisa, who had a vision for the newly restored mansion. She would start a Howey Mansion concert series. She hired jazz performers and classical musicians. Orlando is filled with talent, and she got many players from the Orlando Philharmonic. The first few years it was very good, but in the last seasons it has been fantastic. This proclamation coming from an arts maven, me. The small ensemble jazz concerts in the garden on the front lawn have become very popular and we have heard big band music and jazz singers. Imagine a Sunday afternoon, carrying your fold up lawn chairs, bringing wine and food and sitting listening to very professional musicians perform; or inside in the magnificent concert hall, trios, quartets playing Mozart and Brahms, and using a gorgeous grand piano donated by one of the concert goers. The concerts are not long, usually an hour and a half with an intermission where you can buy wine and bring it to your seat. And the concerts are well designed. Recently they have been sold out which tells you that many people from around the County( Lake County that is) want to hear music well performed. The best part is walking across the highway from our home, onto the grounds of the Mansion, and listening to a terrific concert, then walking home. Takes about 5 minutes. We all marvel that this is taking place in our tiny rural town.

Howey Mansion Before

and after renovation

back garden before and after

the concert hall

and during a concert

outside on the front lawn a super jazz show

tail gaters in the rear and some of us up front

donor brothers responsible for the fabulous reno of the Mansion and

their aunt and uncle who had the expertise and knowledge

When you live in a small town so many of your activities are social. We entertain a great deal as I love cooking and hosting a dinner on our lanai, however not all of our events went as planned. On Christmas morning I woke with the feelings of a cold. We were going to have a Christmas dinner at our place with others who were not with their families. Two of our guests from the Gliderport are immune compromised and I thought I had better test for Covid. We certainly brought a pile of tests with us even though Charles and I had had five shots, and I didn’t really expect my tiny sniffle to be the feared Covid. The first test was positive, so I thought, ‘This can’t be right!’ and I tested again. Hmm. Still positive. Charles was negative. So there went Christmas dinner. Not so fast. I decided to make the turkey and squash and all the other fixin’s, and my honey delivered them around to our absent friends, with wine, dessert and the delightful crackers. I wore gloves to prepare and certainly didn’t sneeze or contaminate the meal. In fact my cold was almost non-existent, no cough, sore throat or anything, except the sleepies. My friend and neighbour, Sheila, also got it. We had eaten together at Christmas Eve. She made a delicious meal. The other couple were fine. So that was our holiday. Thank heavens for Face Time calls with our grands.

potluck dinner at one of our golf events

Every year a few weeks before Christmas, there is a fun golf event hosted by the Grays, Suzanne and Fred. The pro shop puts together the teams, we all bring dishes to share, the Grays offer a roast and we bring our own drinks. It is fun, and convivial and very social. We also have a Christmas golf party at one of our homes. I made a chicken pad Thai dish, others, brought meatballs, shrimp, cheeses, masses of desserts. No one went hungry. It was a beautiful warm day and we ate at Mary Ellen’s home that was exquisitly decorated. When you are in Florida at Christmas there may not be snow, but there are many lights, decorations, trees adorned, and really the spirit pervades. One special moment occurred when our new GM, Cindy Staley, arrived bearing two bottles of wine. Our resort had just been sold, I invited her to pop in, and she did and everyone got to meet her.

Of course I also host a Hunukah dinner with potato pancakes( latkes) and I make tiny ones with smoked salmon on top and a dollop of creme fraiche. Surprisingly Publix had that yummy cream. I made osso buco which is not traditional to say the least, but I had a craving for it, and it was eaten heartily by everyone, with the mashed potatoes soaking up the savory sauce. I make mine with red wine, bay leaf is a key spice, lots of carrots, celery, and canned tomatoes, and simmer it for hours in a slow oven.Pam, our dear friend and neighbour, and her daughter Murphy, came to their first Hunukah celebration and Murphy’s puppy, Lily, got acquainted with Oscar. It was a jolly time.

I had a delightful visit from a fellow golfer in Canada. Cathie and I played a few times, we enjoyed the superb oysters at Tiki West, a fun dive kind of place, with a busy bar and outdoor seating, that specializes in oysters.One day we took the Dora Canal cruise from Mt. Dora, and ate lunch there afterward at Pisces Rising on the patio. The best part of the cruise aside from the splendid day was a siting of a bald eagle flying over our heads, and of course, the alligators and turtles. Lunch was good too, and sitting outside on the patio with a view of Lake Dora is always charming.

girlfriend Sheila and her sister eating oysters at Tiki West, one dollar a pop

Dora canal cruise

and a great visit with dear friends

Hunukah table

Cathie’s visit was fun for all until I got what I thought was a Menieres attack, and I couldn’t move from my bedroom to play golf or do anything at all. Well I thought that was it, but it turned out to be the Noro Virus. I will not go into the gory details, but the good thing was it only lasted two days. I wasn’t much of a host, but Charles took over. Then he got sick ( Cathie was fine). Charles was much sicker and had major pains in his stomach. We finally went to an Emergency Urgent Care near us and he was put on intravenous and looked after very well. He was also transferred to the Orlando hospital in Clermont where he had a super doctor( she loved my silk shirt) and he made a quick recovery after two days there. The care was excellent, and we are grateful for our out-of-country travel insurance with Manulife.

pretty nice hospital room with Netflix offered

Nothing health wise thankfully disturbed our remaining time in Florida. I started taking golf lessons and totally screwed up my brain, and changed my swing, but now think I have got it sorted out. We had other house guests, gave many dinner parties and continued to enjoy our lives. Before we knew it, it was Passover and I did a Seder for 10 people which was lots of fun. And we started our preparations for our migration north. The drive was uneventful and we watched as summer changed to spring. When we arrived at our home my daffodils were in full bloom and greeted us. Our dear friends, Liz and Wouter, left some food in the fridge and a beautiful orchid to welcome us back. As I was checking the mail, the front doorbell rang and it was our neighbours, the Cohen’s darling little boy Asher, with a large spring bouquet in his hands. A very nice welcome from everyone.

and Passover table..fun evening

on the road again

and daffodils await

our northern home

We are indeed Blessed,

Till the next time,