Extraordinary Stories

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The "Visual Wonders of the Caribbean" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just got an email from Stephane who works at Foncia Cap Caraibes in St. Martin. We rent our vacation villas from Foncia every year and Stephane and Magali always help us with the rentals. I emailed Stephane yesterday asking for help with a different problem. I needed him to help me identify a few of the plants and flowers from the island. This past month, during our vacation, I photographed all of the flowers and shrubs around our villa and a few that i found on some of the beaches we visited. With all the rain that we had during the vacation, the flowers were in full bloom, and just beautiful. A few of the varieties we have in the states, but most are found primarily in the Caribbean where the climate is hot and dry most of the year. Following are the results of my photography. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

I believe this is my favorite St. Martin flower. Known in French as the larme du christ or Christ's Army.

The pink Hibiscus flower

Another variety of the Hibiscus, the red one

The very sweet smelling Tahitian Gardenia

The red or pink West Indies Jasmine

Blossoms and leaves from the Seagrape tree

The delicate Bougainvillea flower

A beautiful Spider Lily

This is the Bactris gasipaes or Palm Blossom

The red Plumeria

This is the yellow West Indies Jasmin

The stunning Flamboyant blossom

One of my favorites, the Alamanda

The Coccoloba Seagrape blossom or the raisinier bord de mer in French

This is the Yucca flower or fleur de yucca as translated in French

Monday, May 30, 2011

The "Saint Martini is the Color of Her ......" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just got back from the beach! Seems the first few days of our vacation have been rainy and overcast, but when I opened the hurricane shutters this morning, the sun was shining. Forget that the humidity is almost 100%. Hey, we're in the tropics! We talked about which beach to head to when we got up this morning and figured the one with the yellow umbrellas and all the palm trees right down at the bottom of the hill from our villa was fine. I have entered quite a few stories about Orient Beach, sinceit is probably one of our all-time favorites. Beach bars and restaurants, watersport shacks, colored umbrellas, azure to turquoise colored water and cool, soft white sand all make the beach a fantastic spot to visit. On one end of the couple of mile long beach is the Mont Vernon, an old and tired hotel and condo resort which is being slowly restored to it's grandeur while at the other end is the world famous Club Orient which is a naturist beach. Always heavily populated. I made a quick trip to the store for some French pastries for our breakfast and packed our beach bag after eating the treats. We lathered in suntan lotion and dressed for the beach. Down the hill and in a few minutes we were on the beach, soaking up the rays. Noon arrived and we headed to "Baywatch", now called "Andy and Cheryls", for two plates of Mussels Ala Andy. Fantastic!! We each had a couple or three dozen of them in the best garlic flavored red sauce. Add to that the toasted buttered soaked baguette and you have a great meal. No room for dessert! OK, time to head back to our chairs. My dermatoligist would cringe if he saw me laying on the beach, but I have my 85 SPF sunscreen on. He would say, "You look like you have been out in the sun, Mr. LDub," to which I would reply, "But I had my 85 SPF lotion on." And his response? "Looks like it didn't work!" Well, we're reached our orange chairs and yellow umbrellas again. Coverups come off allowing the sun to warm our skin. Me with my sunglasses, hat and a book in my hand and my wife with her sunglasses, Kindle and her Saint Martini ...... nail polish. Less is always better!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Pixs from the top are: entrance to the beach from the parking lot, the yellow umbrellas and orange chairs, Cheryl making sure I eat all my mussels, Carol finishing her meal, and back again to the beach.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The "Strawberry Fields Forever - Beatles" Story

It was an ordinary day. Having a piece of the pie I just made. Started with a packet of Jello Instant Pudding and Pie Filling mix, added 2 cups of fat-free milk and as many small sized strawberries as possible before the mixtureoverflowed the metal sides of the pre-made vanilla pie crust I bought. Popped it in the fridge, and Wow! The strawberries are fantastic. Juicy and sweet! I bought a quart of "seconds" at Kreider's Strawberry Farm because they put the smaller sized ones in the "seconds" box, and that is exactly what I needed for my pie. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which is the "Garden Spot of America", has some of the most fertile farmland in the country. Dave and Renee Kreider own a few of those prime acres bordered by Buch Ave. and Weaver Road in Manheim Township. Kreider is a good Lancaster County surname with almost 500 "Kreider" listings in the phonebook. They have been farming strawberries on their property for over 28 years. And, they can sure grow a great strawberry!! As soon as the sign goes up along Rt. 501 I head to the stand along the road where they sell the berries. Small homey place that has that strawberry smell to it as soon as you get out of your car. They have boxes and boxes of red delights in green containers spread over their counter in the small stand. Besides the quart of "seconds", I bought a quart of "regulars" to eat while watching TV in the evening. Stopped by today to take a few photos and was greeted by Renee who took me to the strawberry patch to meet her husband Dave who was leading a group of workers picking the strawberrys. Sitting by the side of the field is their 1928 Ford Model "A" pick-up truck which has been in service on the farm since when it was newly purchased. Neatest vehicle, and you know, that's one of the reasons that the berries taste soooo gooood! Transportation of this type can only add to the entire experience and taste. I'll be making a few more stops during the next couple of weeks while the berries are still ripe for the pickin'. I've been using them in my pies, for my shortcake, and on ice cream for years. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - pixs from the top are: sign along Buch Ave. proclaming "Kreider's Strawberries", customer making his selection, "Strawberry Fields Forever", owners Dave and Renee Kreider, a ride to the stand in the old Model "A".

Friday, May 27, 2011

The "Self- Portraiture" Story

It was an ordinary day. On our way to the Caribbean. Doesn't really matter where, since this story is about documenting our journey, no matter where our destination. Every time we fly somewhere we always take a photo when we first get settled in our seats on the plane. Sometimes, if we fly with friends, we will have them take it, but most of the time either I take the photo or Carol will take the photo. I have a larger DSLR camera that is the better of the cameras I take on vacation, but for this shot we always use the smaller point and shoot digital. I put it on the "Scene" mode and set it to "Fill Flash" to make sure that the flash will go off. Sometimes if the camera is pointed toward a window, the flash will not go off and then allyou get is a sillouette. Hold it at arm's length, GUESS where it is pointed and shoot away. Sometimes I need to take a half dozen before I have both of us in the frame and don't have the heads cut off. Get some pretty funny shotstrying to do this. By the time the final try comes around, we are both laughing so much, we usually have a great shot. Sets the mood for the vacation! Found a great article in "Wired" magazine the other day that gives you some tipson how to take a great self-portraiture. Theygive you three different ways to take the picture. One way, looking into a mirror, certainly wouldn't work on a plane, but the other two would work. One way is to turn the camera upside down to make it easier on your arm. Also gives you softer light. Final way is to hold your camera high, about at a 45 degree angle, to help eliminate any double chins. A double chin is the last thing I need when taking a photo. It still can be a challenge, but worth every click or the camera. Most times we willrepeat the event on our departure. A real plus for a digital camera, since you can try and try again without the cost of the film and prints. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - top 3 photos are self portraitures on the plane while the last next one was taken while on a Rhino Boat (big jet ski) tour in St. Martin. We were flying over the waves and I attempted to take a photo of both of us. Almost worked! Chart on bottom came from Wired Magazine.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The "The Marquetry of Jean-Pierre Straub, Island Artist" Story

It was an ordinary day. Rainy! During our recent vacation to St. Martin we had many rainy days and since the weather didn't lend itself to sitting on a beach, we got to tour the island much more that we usual do. Just returned back to our villa after a a truly remarkable visit to one of the best artists on the island. Jean-Pierre Straub is involved with marquetry. Marquetry is the art and craft of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures. Jean-Pierre specialzies in island scenes. And, they are beautiful! We had seen his work for many years during our travels to the island and have always marveled with the detail he gets in his work. One of my forum friends sent me a map so that I could locate his shop and make a visit to see him in action. Since I had been involved in teaching wood shop for many years and working in wood myself, I was excited to make the visit. After quite a few wrong turns and many French descriptions as to how to get to his studio, we found it. A dismal shed, falling apart and with poor light. Even more amazing that he can produce some of the best work in the world in this environment. I walked in the open door and found him by his jig saw, working on another piece of art. Jean-Pierre was born in France in 1952. His father was his mentor, since he was also involved in marquetry. Jean-Pierre did his apprenticeship under his father's guidance. He has been living in the Sandy Ground area of St. Martin for the past 20 some years, producing his art. He travels the world to get his wood, but is able to find most of his veneers on his annual trips to France. Veneer refers to thin slices of wood, usually thinner than 3 mm (1/8 inch), which he finds in every possible color needed to complete his pieces of art. Many exotic species of veneer are used. He glues paper on the back of the veneer so it will not splinter as he cuts it on his jig saw. To get his pieces to fit together so perfectly, he places them on top of each other and cuts them both at one time. I learned more from him in the half hour I spent with him then I did in any course I ever took on marquetry. A true master of his art. Showing me some of his procedures was more understandable than telling me, since he spoke mostly French. I cannot understand French! After a thoroughly enoyable visit with him, he was kind enough to allow me to take some photos of a few pieces of his work as well as some of the tools and veneers he uses. One of his works of art has been on my wish list for years, but has now moved to the top of the list. His peices start at about 400 Euros and run as high as a couple of thousand Euros. Maybe next year!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Pixs from the top are: island map showing location of his shop, some of the samples he had in his shop, his jig saw and some of his tools, excess pieces of veneer after use, and Jean-Pierre holding one of his exceptional pieces of marquetry. Following are a few more samples of his remarkable work.

Jean-Pierre Straub - A true and noble Frenchmen

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The "Cat Ladies of SXM" Story

It was an ordinary day. We just got back from "Les Exotiques" after buying two small ceramic plates which were painted by the owner and artist Marie Moine. Her gallery is in Oyster Pond which in on the east side of St. Martin, right near the border that separates French St. Martin from Dutch Sint Maarten. She has a rather unique collection of plates and glasses which she paints and fires in her shop. As we were looking around her shop "The Princess" arrived at the front door. She is a small, but beautiful cat. Marie is one of a few ladies on the island that rescue and shelter animals. She is doing her part to try to stop the huge stray dog and cat population from growing. She has cats all over her property and you can tell the way she talks about all of them, how much she loves animals. A few day ago we stopped at a shopping area called Paradise View to try to select something for our granddaughters as a gift from our trip. We met a woman who was selling flavored rum from several local rum places. Bernadine Ali is a beautiful woman who just oozes love for the cats who line the shelves of her rum shack along with the Ma DouDou, Guavaberry and Pere Labat rum. We got to meet "Summer" and "Autumn", two of her rescues. She has the cats and dogs spayed or neutered and keeps them with her ever growing collection. The animals are all gorgeous, well-behaved and fortunately, well fed. And, they are all up for adoption to the right home. We gave adonation to help with her work. Her work is endless. Dogs roam the streets and beaches looking for food and many dogs and cats walk through restaurants and bars looking for hand-outs as well. St. Martin is no different than any other country. We all have pet and animal population problems and they will never go away. But, at least there are people who care about the unwanted and homeless pets and are trying to do something to help them. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Pixs from the top are Marie Moine in her shop, Bernadine getting ready to give me samples of all her rums, cats lining the shelves in her shop, and Summer and Autumn resting on the floor.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The "Fireballs Win 7-1" Story

It was an ordinary day. It's 52 degrees and I'm freezing. Waiting for the Urbana Fireballs to start their softball game. Game time is 10:00 AM and it's 9:45. Carol and I just arrived from Lancaster to watch our grand daughters play a softball game. Courtney, who is 9 years old, and Camille, who is 6, both play for the Fireballs, a team in the Urbana youth recreation league. Their jerseys are a bright red with their numbers and names on the back: Co Mencarini #18 and Ca Mencarini #14. Courtney was upset when she got her jersey that it had a Co on it. Wanted to know why it had to have that on her jersey.
The league is for girls and allows the coach from each team to pitch to their own players. You are allowed to see 7 pitches and you cannot walk You either hit the ball, strike out, or sit down after your 7 pitches. Some innings the coaches strike out the entire side for their team. Lucky they only play 6 innings. All girls bat and all play on the field. Counted 5 outfielders for the orange team during one inning. But, doesn't matter, since only three balls were hit to the outfield all game. Three by Co Mencarini. Courtney was by far the most talented player on the field. Not because she is my grand daughter, but because she is a very good player. Swung at the first pitch every time and got a hit every time. Only allowed to take one base on any hit. The Fireball's coach had his team bat in numerical order making both Ca and Co Mencarini upset, since they had the two highest numbers on the team. Courtney played 1st base, pitcher (they stand next to the opposing coach and fieldany
balls hit that way), and catcher. Camille played 2nd base, pitcher and catcher. After watching Camille strike out a few times I suggested she "choke up" on the bat maybe 4 or 6 inches. Showed her what I meant and when she got her final chance to bat, smacked the ball down the third base line. Biggest smile on her face. It's been a long, long time since I coached softball and base ball and even longer that I coached kids as young as the girls were today. I can't remember how I managed to last through a season with kids this young, but I did. And, I'm sure I must have enjoyed it, because I coached all ages of players for over 20 years. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Pixs from the top are: Courtney taking a throw at first (notice how she is holding the base with one foot while stretcing for the throw with the other - showed her that last year), Courtney getting her first hit of the game, Camille "choking up" and hitting the ball, Camille catching, and my two favorite Fireballs, Co on the left and Ca on the right.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The "Gonna have to cut back a little" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just filled up the Merc SUV at "Giant to Go." A few years ago my daughter was visiting from Maryland with the grand kids and I was telling her about how much it cost me to fill up the tank in the Merc SUV. "I just filled my car up and I got 30 cents off per gallon," she told me. "How did you do that?" I replied to her. "For every $100 I spend at the Giant store, I get 10 cents off of each gallon when I get gas," she said. Seems that the Giant chain they have in Maryland is different than the Giant chain we have here in Lancaster. I should have have known that because every time I buy something at her Giant and try to scan my bonus card, it rejects it. And, the Giant in Maryland is the one that gave the 10 cents off per gallon. Well, as most of you know, it eventually worked it's way to our Giant Supermarkets, and none too soon. After coming back from visiting her in Maryland yesterday, I stopped and got gas. My screen in my car was telling me that I had so many miles to empty, so I was almost out of gas. Took a whole bunch!! Lucky for me I got 90 cents off of each gallon. Sizable savings, but you can figure out how much I must have spent on groceries to be able to get that 90 cents off of each gallon. Not only do I have to cut back on my driving, I have to cut back on my eating! Will be a benefit to not only the wallet, but the pouch! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.