Ruskin, FL Tuesday March 10
A headline in the Tampa Tribune recently stated that the Florida Strawberry Festival ran out of shortcake for their strawberry shortcake desserts late in the afternoon of the last day of the festival. The 500,000 or so people were able, for the first time, to eat up all of the shortcake. We almost had the same problem here.
Sarah, Sarah, Deb and Rebecca joined us in Ruskin late Thursday evening and we have been enjoying being together. They returned to their northern homes today. One of their requests when we did meal planning was for strawberry shortcake. It made sense, besides a family favorite, we are at the peak of the winter strawberry season in Florida. We had no idea how popular it would be. When Chris and I were at the Florida Strawberry Festival on March 3, we bought fresh strawberries. We could have purchased a flat of strawberries for $12, a half flat for $7, or two quarts for $5. We said to ourselves, well a half flat is way too much even if it is a better buy. We bought two quarts. Well, from Thursday night through Monday night, we went through 4 dozen Bisquick shortcake biscuits ( a box and a half of Bisquick), 11 or 12 quarts of strawberries, and 3 large containers of instant whip cream. The price of really fresh strawberries was only $1.67 at the grocery store and all of the strawberries came from Plant City, just an hour away.
Friday and Saturday, while warm, were mainly cloudy with temperatures in the 70s (F). Sunday and Monday the sun was shining most of the time with the temperatures in the 80s. We combined relaxation with activities. Probably our most notable group outing was a three-hour boat ride on Tampa Bay Sunday. We chartered a small boat whose captain was a woman recently retired. She and her partner have set up a retirement business of boating charters. This area has a good number of fishing charters but few aimed at people who just want to enjoy the scenery. They are filling this niche.
We were able to see mangrove swamps and the bay. We stopped at an island in the bay. Officially the island is called Pine Key but it also has a nickname of Beer Can Island. It can become a party location on a nice afternoon but our venture there showed everyone pretty subdued and just enjoying the great weather on a Sunday afternoon. Some of us waded in the water, looked for shells, walked around the island or just laid on the sand. It was a relaxing ride and enjoyable time together.
Our resort is only minutes from the Manatee Viewing Center that we reported on in an earlier post. We made sure each of our visitors was able to make a trip to the waters and see manatees up close.
Saturday we visited Myakka River State Park. We had read about a tram ride through the park in which wildlife can normally be seen and it offers a tree top board walk. While we did see alligators, turtles and egrets, the adventure was less dramatic than I expected. The tree top board walk was the first one in the U.S. but it was short and anticlimactic. The view from the top of the observation tower we climbed was impressive though. The tram ride provided a narration about the landscape but was pretty slow-paced.
Florida is home to the Grapefruit League; spring training camp for 15 baseball teams in locations across central Florida from the Atlantic Coast to the Gulf of Mexico. Our people have differing allegiances so we chose a game relatively close to attend. The Orioles home base is in Sarasota, about 45 minutes away. They played the Philadelphia Phillies Monday afternoon. Rebecca is not a baseball fan so we dropped her off at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota which includes art, gardens, the Ringling mansion and a circus museum. She was not able to visit everything.
The Orioles spring training stadium holds 8500 people and appeared to be almost sold out. The Orange shirts of the Orioles fans might have slightly outnumbered the red jerseys of the Phillies fans. Every seat is close to the action; you need to keep an eye out for foul balls headed your way. The Phillies won 1-0 on a solo home run. None of us came away with sunburn, all of us came away full of ball park “delicacies”.
Evenings were for conversation and hot tubbing. The crock pot we purchased came in handy to have meals ready whenever we chose to eat. Chris and I recounted how we had relished our March get-aways in Miami Beach when we were working. That week get-away always refreshed us and sent us home knowing that snow would be melting and temperatures warming up in MN. Hopefully the four of them will return home and find spring just around the corner.
Ed and Chris 3/10/15 9 pm