November 14, 2016

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge at Kennedy Space Center

Hi folks! Here's a quick post to tell you about our quick birding run through Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

I took my friend Cindy with me to sort of scope out the grounds in preparation for bringing my parents on an outing there. It's an hour's drive from Melbourne so I wanted to make sure the roads were open and the birds were there. (I had heard that the birds have pretty much abandoned the Refuge.)

First we stopped at the welcome center to buy a pass (1 day car pass is $5) and get a map. There's a nice boardwalk that loops through the swampy area behind the building. Cindy and I walked it and were amazed to see a big old alligator sunning himself (it was a cloudy day but whatever) on a wooden platform in the middle of a pond. Many of the plants are marked if you're into botanical gardens and such.

We saw some uprooted trees and wind damage from Hurricane Matthew, but that's expected. They got hit a lot harder up there at the Cape.

We decided to drive on the Black Point Wildlife Drive knowing that my parents would prefer a car ride, and the graveled road was well packed and not at all pitted. And what a surprise we had! There were birds everywhere! We weren't expecting to be so entertained. Our first glorious sight was a flock of roseate spoonbills, which I had never seen before. That was worth the trip for me.

For such a quick drive through the park we managed to spot, close up, quite a few birds. And not one or two -- there were many of each species. My very amateur photos, all taken with my Samsung Android 6 phone, are below.

Great blue heron
Little blue heron
Tricolored heron
Common egret
White ibis
Glossy ibis
Roseate spoonbill
Belted kingfisher
Vultures, ospreys, brown ducks and ALLIGATORS

Speaking of alligators, Cindy witnessed an alligator leaping into the air and flipping into a turn, then splashing down and disappearing in the water. I saw the commotion out of the corner of my eye and when I turned my head towards the loud splash I had missed the sight, but he reappeared about 15 feet from where he started and he was huge. All in all we saw one little alligator, one medium one (in the pond by the welcome center, see photo below) and three really scary big alligators. We guessed that the big guy we saw and heard had caught some food. For such big, ugly motionless creatures they sure do move fast!

The alligator behind the welcome center.

This anhinga was preening and showing the pretty white on his wings.

A group of coots swimming around.

Glossy ibis (foreground) and Little blue heron. Looks like a Great blue heron flying (left).

Group of Little blue herons parading in the center, with White ibis in the foreground.

The roseate spoonbills were all together in one area.

Another shot of the roseate spoonbills.

A close look at a Tricolored heron.

Here's another Tricolored heron.These guys like to squawk.
The Refuge website has a page for road closings and alerts, so if you're planning a trip there be sure to check the park's availability first.

October 16, 2016

Game of Thrones Season 7 -- It Begins


I'm so excited!!!

Game of Thrones Season 7 Teaser

Wow! Very cool. I love that HBO is giving us what we need and want.

Anniversary Number 34

Today's our 34th wedding anniversary. We celebrated last weekend since Ormond had to come down to help with damage control in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Happy Anniversary Ormond!

Not sure what year... mid 2000s
Anniversary 2007
2012 Anniversary
2015, Huntsville

October 15, 2016

So Behind...

Dear Readers,

I owe you:

One post about my trip to Europe in August;
One post about Hurricane Matthew in October;
Many posts about what I've been up to between times these last few months!

I'm getting ready to make my Yellow Curry. I finally have all the ingredients. It took me two and a half days to gather everything and achieve the right moment. I'm so hungry now! Can't wait to start cooking!


June 10, 2016

Outstanding 60th Birthday Party

Steve displays his new flag towel.

This past Memorial Day weekend, for the first time in two years, I had all the Dotys under one roof. The point was to celebrate my birthday, which is actually June 3, and since this year's Memorial Day holiday was the weekend before June 3 it was an appropriate time to hold a party. The out-of-towners (Ormond, John and Steve) were able to take advantage of the three day weekend and find their way home. James, wife Crystal and son Oliver live nearby, as do my parents, Pat and Oliver Axtell, so we had a nice group that included close family friends Rich and Cindy Floto and their son, Patrick.

We held the party on Sunday, May 29. Chipotle did the catering and I can't praise them enough. The quality was supreme and there was more food than promised -- the entire Chipotle line in fact -- so no one went hungry. We ate all day and into the evening. My family and friends did all the set up and clean up. This was my gift to myself actually. Normally I can't stand for people to do things like that for me, especially in my own kitchen. It just doesn't seem right. Well, this time I relaxed and allowed some help and it was a blessing.

I was showered with gifts, another thing I'm usually uncomfortable with but this year, again, I relaxed and enjoyed, and was truly delighted and awed by the thought everyone put into their presents. 

Turning 60 isn't like turning 30. I remember the dreaded 30th birthday, knowing in my heart that there was no turning back from adulthood and responsibility at that point.  That was the hard beginning of some very hard, very strenuous, but also gratifying, years. In contrast, this year I really looked forward to being sixty years old! I don't feel old at all, maybe because I have such freedom now. Freedom to relax and experience some calmness in my life. Freedom to be patient and tolerant. Freedom to learn new options and choices and consider all options and choices. Freedom to love my family more than anything in the world and then forget about them from time to time because they're all grownups and have their own lives. Freedom to have my own life. Yep, 60 is definitely very cool.

Below is a pictorial summary of our days during the week from May 23, when John flew in from Washington, D.C., to June 1, when Steve and John drove back to Washington and Ormond flew home to Huntsville.

Wednesday, May 25

John had been here a day, the weather was nice, and he was happy to help me entertain a young friend. I had invited Devin (my friend's son) over for the afternoon. School had just let out and I thought he might enjoy some lunch and a swim in the pool. We walked to the beach first so the guys could dip their toes in the ocean and toss the football a bit on the sand, then we had lunch at Sand on the Beach. We walked home and had pool time, Devin's favorite thing, until Robyn came to pick him up. Devin's a great 11 year old and it makes me happy to have a youngster around again, so that's why he's always welcome here.

Wednesday's waves were pretty strong and I was seeing some rip currents.

John looks for Devin, who disappeared under a wave.

Thursday, May 26

John accompanied me and my father on Dad's weekly grocery shopping trip to Publix. I'm not sure whether having three of us running up and down the aisles saved any time, since John doesn't know the lay of the Publix land, but we accomplished our mission and rushed home to unload Dad's groceries. Next our task was to pick up Oliver at daycare. Mission accomplished. From there we drove up to the Brevard Zoo for a nice afternoon outing.

Granddad (my father, Oliver the Elder) frames a photo of the rhinos.

The rhinoceroses and zebras come together quietly for their lunch.

This macaw stood with his right leg and claw holding on to a branch, and his right wing casually slung back over it, like a teenager trying to look nonchalant.

Oliver has been to the zoo many times, so he was directing our tour.

John bought a leaf of romaine to feed the giraffe but Oliver was a little hesitant to do the deed, so John ended up "helping."

John carried Oliver up to the top of the otter pen so he could get a better view of the silly, fun loving animals.

Pool time, playing with the boat.

Shoot torpedo!

Giggles on the sofa.

Friday, May 27

Steve had driven all night from Dumfries, VA, arriving about 6:00 a.m. When I woke up I saw his car in the driveway and turned around to find him lying on the sofa in his clothes. I gave him a blanket so he could sleep and he was out like a light.

Ormond flew in that afternoon, arriving about 1:30. We all ate supper here, then walked to the beach to watch the launch.

Supper was bratwurst cooked in onion and Dr. Pepper, then grilled.

Got everyone's attention here (except for Oliver, who was busy with eating).

You can see the SpaceX rocket, the fire from the engines, and the plume.

We arrived just in time for blast off.

There it goes!

Looking north toward Cape Canaveral.

We weren't sure if we would be able to see the rocket land on the boat. (We didn't, but it was a successful landing.)

John and Steve.

John laughing at Oliver's antics in the sand.

Steve and I are getting our feet wet.


Sand on the Beach restaurant, with the Bikini Bar up top. A great hangout for beach watching.

Others from the neighborhood came down to watch the launch.

A Laughing Gull in flight.

More Laughing Gull.

Ormond took these good pictures of the bird.

Oliver flinging sand.

Oliver eating sand.

Neighbor Cynthia's pretty flowers.

Looking down Avenue A toward the river.

James, Crystal and Steve walking home.

John and I took Oliver home earlier. He got sand in his eyes and we volunteered to get him back quickly and dunk him in the tub.

Saturday, May 28

Crystal met her friends at MegaCon in Orlando. This is a big event for her and she goes every year. The rest of us went to the Space Center, experiencing no lines (most people were on bus tours or at MegaCon). If you haven't been to Kennedy Space Center since Atlantis has moved in, you absolutely must go. The presentation of Atlantis will blow you away. I can't say any more without risking spoilers.

John and Steve had been to the National Air and Space Museum less than a week earlier, where they saw the shuttle Discovery. In an interesting side-note, back in 1993, when we were living in Melbourne and Ormond was working on the launch computers with Harris in Rockledge, NASA held an open house for employees and their families. We were so grateful to be included. We walked through the huge "door" of the Vehicle Assembly Building, took a bus out to a launch pad, and also toured the Orbiter Processing Facility, where we saw a space shuttle sitting on the concrete floor like a regular airplane. It was the Discovery! Ormond held the boys up so they could touch the tiles on the bottom, but Steve was a little guy and was terrified of being under an aircraft, so he wouldn't touch them. To see the photos from that event, please click here.

John got a kick out of carrying Oliver around, looking at "space trucks."

John and Steve in front of the sign.

The guys walking off the ramp from the Gemini capsule.

Ormond photographing me photographing him.

Better view of the fuel tank and boosters.

Sunday, May 29

My birthday celebration! Ormond picked up my parents, Pat and Oliver, and then took Steve with him to pick up the Chipotle feast. James and Crystal had done this spread two years ago for James' 30th birthday party so they knew how to arrange things. I didn't have to lift a finger. The two of them set up the entire buffet.

Crystal and Cindy conferred ahead of time and decided that Cindy would bring a birthday cake. That was a nice surprise! We will pass around the "6" and "0" candles as each of us turn 60.

It was the best birthday I've ever had. Thanks everyone!

Crystal and James taking charge in the kitchen.

Oliver saying, "What's daaaatt?

Steve and Granddad on the sofa. Steve's helping him do something with his phone.

My mom taking it easy.

Oliver napped in his stroller.

This was the sleeping area of the room.

Cindy pitched in to clean up.

Steve and John talking to Patrick.

James, Oliver the Elder and Rich.

Drinking wine and working up a second wind for eating.

Patrick took this group photo of my family. 

Blowing out the candles!

Cindy supervised me cutting the cake.

Two old friends out on the deck.

Me with my silly little grandson.

Uncle Steve helps Oliver read a book about military aircraft.