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Monday, 25 July 2016

Off The Florida Keys… There’s A Place Called Kokomo

Well, actually there isn’t – although there is a place off Montego Bay, Jamaica that was formerly known as ‘Kokomo Island’, now known as Sandals Cay… but the Beach Boys’ lyrics nicely sum up the amazing atmosphere that is the tropical Florida Keys. This is really what I want to talk about!

Some say ‘bucket list’, others say ‘dream destination’… for me it’s just been a life-long ambition to visit what was once almost a mythical part of the world to me.

I’d seen the movie on the Sunday afternoon TV re-runs when I was a kid (the 1948 Humphrey Bogart / Lauren Bacall film noir classic, Key Largo); I’d listened to it sung about by Bertie Higgins in the early eighties (Key Largo, 1981) and then of course the Beach Boys ‘owned’ the atmosphere in their hit song ‘Kokomo’ from the ‘Cocktail’ soundtrack in the late eighties.

Whatever the driving motivation was, I just had to the Florida Keys one day… and this day, I did!!

Last week, we drove down the East Coast of Florida from our home here in Tampa, crossed the infamous ‘Alligator Alley’ and spent a night in Miami.

Leaving the car at the Hilton Hotel, we called our friends at Uber and managed to get around to check out some of the ‘sights’ (nudge, nudge).

Taking it as a strong recommendation from friends, we took in lunch at the Versailles Cuban Restaurant in ‘Little Havana’ before heading over to South Beach. Wow – for a beach-side Florida city, there is certainly a wide variety of fashion statements, ethnicities and individuality to be found!

Of course, summer in Florida is hot and humid and this day was no exception. However, we are obviously not unaccustomed to the weather (think tropical weather for most of our lives – Qld, Australia, Singapore and now Tampa, FL)... So we soaked up the rays and after making our way to the beach via Ocean Drive and back across to Espanola Way, we landed at Lincoln Road for some of the most well-needed ice cold milkshakes that we’ve ever had. J

There begins our tropical holiday!!

The next morning we trekked across some of the Miami shopping areas before heading south to the beautiful Keys. Through the planning stages, we had decided that we wanted to stay somewhere laid-back but at the same time, somewhere close enough to drive around and take it all in – including the world-famous Key West. This thought process kept taking us to Key Largo, where we stayed for three nights.

As usual, Sammi had done her homework well – the Hilton Key Largo resort was everything we had expected… water sports, private beaches, activities for everyone and a lovely (albeit very expensive) ‘Treetops’ Restaurant.

The location was also central enough for us to laze around the resort, head out whenever we needed and of course, a stone’s throw (less than 2 hours) from Key West. 

After terrorizing the other water vessels enough with my wave runner antics, we made the trip down to Key West on the second day. This is where things rose to a whole new level.

Although it was very ‘whirlwind’, we managed to take in some of the key ‘tourist must-do’s’ such as the Ernest Hemmingway home and the ‘Southernmost’ point of the continental USA (go figure… it’s just 90-miles from there to Cuba) to name a couple, but the highlight for me was lunch at the very original Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.

Of course, I had to have the ‘booze in a blender’ and we ‘wasted away again’ for a while, but I didn’t get any more tattoos – I’m not sure what the ‘Mexican Cutie’ would’ve translated to anyway.

So there you have it – fitting a 5-day vacation into a few paragraphs doesn’t come close to doing it justice, but I’ve hit on some of the high points.

If you’ve sometimes (or always) considered a holiday to the Florida Keys, you can take this as my unwavering strong recommendation… perhaps it’s time for me to start thinking again about investing in a holiday home   J

Ohhh... and by the way - happy anniversary to my darling wife - the sunset cruise dinner to celebrate when we arrived back in Tampa pales in comparison to your beauty!! (Brownie points earned)

Friday, 8 April 2016

RAMBO the Pet Gator Fighting a Battle to Live at Home

Mary Thorn loves her pet and will do anything to keep him... but this is not your everyday cat or dog story!

RAMBO the pet gator... ready to cruise the highways!

The resident of Lakeland in Florida, is fighting to keep her 6-foot-long pet alligator in her home.

Known simply as RAMBO, the 125-pound reptile wears clothes, rides on the back of a motorcycle and even has his own bedroom.

Although it's unusual for an alligator to be allowed to be kept indoors (and there are very strict laws on human-gator interaction here in Florida), Ms Thorn has had a license for the Rambo for the past 11 years. Unfortunately, he recently grew to 6 feet in length.

According to regulations, a 6-foot gator must  live outside on a minimum of 2.5 acres of land.

Ms Thorn said that even if she had that much land, Rambo still wouldn't be able to live outdoors because he has a sensitivity to sunlight (wow - maybe he also has a peanut allergy?)

Rambo often visits schools and charity events and he has 'apparently' been trained not to bite.

Gary Morse of the Florida wildlife commission stated that Ms Thorn and Rambo's case is under investigation.

Personally, our home here in The Eagles in Odessa, backs onto a very large pond which is choc-full of gators... and much bigger that 6-ft I can tell you. They don't worry us or bother us at all - in fact we love having them around and especially enjoy watching their antics though the mating period (April - May) and into nesting in late June - July... but living in our home? Nahhhh... let's leave the beautiful beasts alone, I say!! 

Friday, 13 November 2015

Winter Fashion Tips: Florida Style

Florida garners quite a bit of hate from the rest of the country when the winter months start to roll around. People in Chicago, Boston and New York really just don’t understand that we, too, get a winter season. Sure, we don’t get feet upon feet of snow, and we rarely hit below-freezing temperatures. But we still have a winter season—it’s just a little warmer than winters up in, say, New England.

 So when it comes to dressing for the season, our winter wardrobes look a little different than those of our colder counterparts. Floridians love looking at all the autumn/winter trends when they debut on the runways during fashion month, but we know that each trend will take a certain bit of adjusting in order to work with our warmer climate. With that said, here are some tips for dressing for winter in Florida…

Know Your Colours

Every year, Pantone publishes a colour report based off of a host of design, fashion and cultural factors. The colour report often predicts the biggest hues of the season. Since Floridians can’t wear as many winter styles as the rest of the country, stay on-trend by finding garments in the colours of the season. This year, “Cadmium Orange” and “Biscay Bay” seem to have been inspired our sunny weather, making it simple to work these shades into your winter style. Goodbye, black!

Keep It Simple

In the Sunshine State, the sun does exactly that—it shines… a lot. One moment you may be a little chilly, but as soon as the sun pops out, you’re ready to shed the coat. Keeping it simple is key. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many items like a scarf, cardigan and a coat—you’ll regret the extra garments as soon as you decide to sit outside for lunch. Just one piece of outerwear is all you need.

One Trend Rule

Just because you can’t sport a heavy parka doesn’t mean you can’t follow any of the winter trends. It just takes a little more creativity. Less is more when it comes to Florida winters, so pick one winter trend you just have to try, but then pair it with your trusty warm weather attire. As Lyst suggests, wearing a trendy beret and matching it with a “sophisticated mini dress” is a stunning, ladylike look, and it perfectly balances the winter trend with Florida’s weather.

Be Ready For Anything

Just like folks in the northern states need to be prepared for a snowstorm to hit at any moment, sometimes the Sunshine State’s weather can be a little unpredictable, too. Though Florida’s not popularly known for freezing temperatures, every now and then, we get a little frost. Even earlier this year, News4Jax reported that Jacksonville experienced snow flurries. With that said, you should always have at least a couple cold weather items in your closet: waterproof boots, a heavier jacket and some scarves. You never know when you might need them!

Note: Pantone colors image via Second City Style, and beret image from Lyst

Thursday, 29 October 2015

How To Park Your Mustang When The Garage Is Full

Well, this is pretty novel... I often complain to my wife that even with the million dollar views and living in what is one of the nicest, safest and friendliest communities in all of Florida, having a two-car garage is tough when we need to park my 2015 Mustang GT and her 2015 Ford Explorer side-by-side. It's a tight squeeze!

Whenever we park either car in the driveway, we have the kids complaining because they want to shoot hoops with their neighborhood mates.

What I would never have thought of, is parking on the roof... it's actually a little unsightly as you can see from the mock-up above.  :)

However - this is exactly what happened recently in Shiawassee County in Michigan.

Described by the home owner, 83-year old Joyce Kingsley, there was a loud "kaboom". At first, she mistook it as thunder... that was until she moved her line of sight towards the roof of her home.

The driver of a Ford Mustang had parked their car smack-bang in the middle of her roof!

According to police reports, the errant driver had suffered from some kind of medical problem related to low blood sugar, lost control on Interstate 69 and ended up where he (or she) did. The driver was otherwise uninjured.

Ms Kingsley's home is about about 20 miles northeast of Lansing and built next to a hill... with the roof sitting almost level to the ground. In her statement, Ms Kingsley said, "I was just watching TV inside. I had it up pretty loud — but this was much louder."

State police said that the Mustang, before stopping on the roof, traveled through several trees, bushes and even a fence before stopping on the roof. Trooper Ben Rowell said, "The driver is extremely lucky... it could've been a lot worse."

The below is the actual picture - not doctored in any way...

Thursday, 2 July 2015

30 Year Old Woman Jailed For Having Sex With Her 17 Year Old Student

The sentence handed down today? - 22 YEARS!!

Jennifer Fichter, who is now 30 years of age, was a teacher at Central Florida Aerospace Academy in Lakeland (Polk County).

Jennifer Fichter, the 30-year-old Polk County Teacher convicted for 22 years for sex with her students

She had pleaded guilty to having sex with at least three former students, who had come forward to claim she had a sexual relationship with them when they were 17-years-old.

According to prosecutors, one of these relationship had resulted in an aborted pregnancy.

A total of 33 witnesses testified at Fichter's sentencing hearing. At least one of these was a parent of one of the victims.

Fichter apologized to the victims at the hearing. When she addressed her own family she broke down in tears... "I'm sorry for the dishonor, to you, to them," she said.

A total of 37 criminal charges were accorded to Fichter, with each one carrying up to 15-years-in prison.

It should be noted that before her job in Polk County, Fichter had resigned from a position in Orange County under similar suspicions... One might rightly wonder how she made it back into the education system??