Saturday, March 25, 2017

What are you going to do with all those shells?

I seem to be making a bad habit of going for weeks at a time without blogging. When we are in one place for a long while I run out of things to write about. We are still here in Orange Beach, Alabama. We enjoyed our first month so much we decided to stay for another month.

Our days have been filled with doggie walks, and mundane household chores like cooking and cleaning. Sprinkled in here and there are trips to the beach to hunt for shells and some crafting with some of the many, many shells I have collected. 

I can't tell you the number of time people (including Rob) have asked me what I'm going to do with all those shell. 

Recently my Mom asked if I might make her something with some of my shells. We talked about what she might like and I sent her to my Pinterest "Seashells" board to browse the possibilities. I felt the thing she was most excited about was the mirrors with frames covered in seashells. 

I found a really unusual mirror at Hobby Lobby at a great price. At first I was a bit intimidated by the process so I decided to do a smaller project first. It's an anchor for my daughter. It went well so I dove into the mirror project. 

It took quite a bit of time to finish. The process is kind of like doing a jigsaw puzzle but with the puzzle the end is easier. With the shells, the beginning is easier because you just slap one on and work from there. 

Once I finished gluing the shells on I decided to give them a spray of clear, gloss for a nice shine and to bring out the colors. I had also seen one on Pinterest where they added pearls and I liked the look so I added various sizes of faux pearls in key places. I'm happy with the results. 

I'm afraid to ship these two projects because they are quite fragile so I'm going to wrap them up and store them in a safe place. When we get home I'll deliver them personally.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Little RV Digs Up More Than Shells on the Beach

Yesterday I was out of the house and on the beach at dawn. Sadly, I found only one tiny sand dollar at the first beach I visited. I moved on to the main public beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Armed with my trusty blue plastic shovel and my shell bag I walked the water's edge for a while. 

The beach was pretty quiet and I found a few little shells that will be great for a project I'm working on.



Slim pickings for sure. I headed up onto the wide beach to see if a particular spot called to me, dig for treasures here. Sure enough, after about 20 minutes of perusing the terrain, I found the spot and started to dig and dig and dig. 
Me, sitting on the edge of the giant hole I dug.


As I dug, the beach became more and more busy. I noticed people would stop and point. I guess the sight of a middle aged woman, digging a huge hole in the middle of the beach is not a normal one. 
Before the crowds arrived.

Occasionally someone would stop and ask questions or just chat for a bit. One beach goer in particular, Patty, wanted to take over my dig when I was ready to leave and even gave me a bottle of water.  
Shark's Eye shells

I found quite a few Shark's Eyes also called Moon Shells yesterday. The one above on the left is particularly large but the one on the right has beautiful banding. It's so much fun to dig these up.
I also found my first Baby's Ear yesterday.



Another pair of ladies, Pat and Judy, stopped by to chat on their way down the beach with their husbands. When they came back by the ladies stopped again. They picked through some of the sand I had dug out and found some fun shells to take home with them.
Lettered Olive

Check out the size of the Olive shell I dug up. It's huge! I found a bunch of Olive shells yesterday but only brought home those that are in good shape.
Haven't even cleaned these Olives yet.

Patty, Judy, Pat, Lisa and Janet, if you're reading this I'm glad to have met you.
Common Nutmegs
As it turns out you can dig up more than just shells on the beach. You can dig up new friends, bottles of water, souvenirs for lovely people to take home and great memories. Oh, and stiff muscles and a sunburn.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Loving Alabama in the Little RV

I'm slowly adjusting to life without vast piles of seashells but oh how I miss those walks on the Sanibel Island beaches and the volume and variety of shells they brought. 
   My Banded and True Tulip Shells found on Sanibel Island
   My Lightening Whelk shells found on Sanibel Island

Orange Beach (Alabama)

Shelling here is a completely different process. Over the years there has been so much beach erosion from storms and such the beaches were slowly disappearing. In recent years the beaches in this area of the Gulf of Mexico have been renourished. 

Put simply, because I'm a simple girl, they take big machines and pump sand from way out in the ocean onto the beaches to widen them. If you want to know more about beach renourishment click here.
Photo credit, CoastalCare.org
What does that have to do with shelling? EVERYTHING!  I this area of the Gulf many people dig for their shells.  When the sand is being shot onto the beach those lovely shells are brought right along with it. Bonus!  

My first experience with digging for shells was last week. I drove over to Pensacola Beach with my trusty blue plastic toy shovel and my shelling bag. 


The drive to Pensacola Beach is about 40 miles. 

Let the digging begin!  Um, this is a big beach. Where do I start?  Look at the center of the photo.  See where the beach begins to slope downward? People seem to start digging on that slope. Also if there is an eroded shelf area or vertical wall of sand like the one in the photo below that is a great place to dig, especially if you can see shells in the wall.
Photo credit, Pensacola Beach Blogger
I set out to find a place to dig and got lucky on my first attempt.

I dug down about 18" and carefully sifted through the sand with my hands because the shells are covered with sand and they are hard to find. You can see some of the shells I dug up in my fancy red shelling bag. When you finish digging be sure to fill in the hole you made so nobody gets hurt!

I moved a couple more times and tried again but I didn't have any luck. On my way back to the car I saw a woman digging very near where I dug the first time. I walked over to talk to her and we ended up becoming friends. Her name is Janet and she digs with gusto. She tends to go down to a depth of about four feet. This woman has some energy. Check out the results. 
Go Janet!



That shell is called a murex. I also dug up a murex but it's not nearly that big. Mine is about 2.5 inches long but it's in great shape.
Cabrit's Murex - dug up on Pensacola Beach, Florida
I have to say I really enjoyed digging up shells. I plan to give it another try next week. Wish me luck! 

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Special Shelling Story

I am a part of some shelling groups on Facebook and yesterday morning the first thing I read after I got up was the story below. I laughed so hard and loved the way Barbara Maxwell wrote her story. I felt like I was there watching. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. We shellers are a peculiar bunch!
Barbara Maxwell and the luckiest little seahorse in the ocean!
Barbara's story; 


"I was walking along Delnor-Wiggins in Naples, yesterday afternoon and a seagull lands not 4 ft. in front of me. I saw it had something in it's mouth, but could not believe my eyes, as it LOOKED like a seahorse, but that's HIGHLY unlikely, right? 

But, convinced that was indeed, what I saw, I HAD to know, so I started toward the bird. He was NOT impressed with my curiosity, and flew. But not far. Just 50 yards or so. And came back to shore to consume his catch. 

Well, I hustled my 60 yr. old butt to where he landed, but again, he eluded me, heading further down the beach. Again I gave chase. 

Our daughter was out in the water hunting for trophy pieces of fossil coral, and I'm screaming at her and frantically waving my arms toward this bird. She finally sees me, and, not having a clue as to why her mother was screaming, and flailing her arms at a "sea rat", she is torn between pretending she doesn't know that crazy lady, and satisfying her morbid curiosity as to why I was harassing the local birdlife. She comes toward me and the gull, and I'm screaming, "GET HIM!" 

By this point, all eyes are on me, thinking I had been out in the sun too long, and had gone mad. So as I'm trying to run (NOT a pretty sight, I pray there is no video on Youtube), I am screaming to ANYONE who will listen, "HE'S GOT A SEAHORSE!" , which is the beach equivalent of a Johnny Depp sighting, so a few souls took pity on the lady who thinks she saw a seahorse but probably really saw a crab claw in a bird's mouth, and they try to assist. 

We would sandwich the darn bird between us, and move forward, and the little fart would TAUNT ME by DROPPING the seahorse, then as I would lunge forward, he would grab it and fly away, just out of reach! By this point, I had an entire posse of potential rescuers who had also never seen a mythic seahorse, and we had a whole PARADE of people, chasing the bird. I kept this up for what felt like 2 hours, but was really more like 15 minutes, until I couldn't do it any more. 

I have a really BAD back and I was feelin' me some PAIN. I give up, when, so help me, that stupid bird drops the seahorse RIGHT IN FRONT of a passerby. She has no IDEA what had previously transpired, and just casually bends down, picks it up and HEAVES IT into the water! 

I was HORRIFIED! I am running down the beach, screaming and waving STOP!! STOP!! But of course she can't hear me, and if she had have, she would have been TERRIFIED and ran, so....there's that... ANYWAY....she no sooner throws him in the water, when that #$!@@ bird flies out, dives in and GETS HIM AGAIN! 

Well, the chase was on, and here we all go again. (and here, I will point out, that not only did my husband NOT get up and rush to my aid, he prayed no one would know I even KNEW him, much less, was there with me. :( 

Suffering from exhaustion and frustration, the seagull drops the seahorse for the umpteenth time, and my fellow beach goers all rush at the bird at the same time, which freaks him out, and he drops his treasure. The mob descended on that seahorse like Black Friday shoppers to dollar flat screen TV's, and they get him, while I'm running to join. 

They all felt since I started this whole thing, it only fair to turn it over to me. I held him up to check for signs of life, and sure enough, he'd been through feathered hell, but he was still alive. I had just watched (name removed)'s video of a live seahorse and knew just what to do. 

I took him out in water and gently moved him back and forth to get some water in his little gills. If he has any. I'm not sure. But I would have given him mouth to mouth if I thought it would have helped. 

He was beautiful and utterly amazing, and I felt like I was holding something akin to a water unicorn. I was in awe. Daughter snapped a pic of me beaming at my success, then back to the water. We looked for any decent size shell to tuck him in to, but there were none. 

Birds were lined up along the bank, waiting for me to drop him, but I borrowed a sandcastle bucket, and filled it with water, refreshing it every few minutes, until dusk. 

Once the sun went down, the birds wouldn't see him or go after him, and I knew it was his best chance. I braved the chilly waters one last time, as the sun dipped into the horizon, and returned him to the magical waters that pushed him up for my enjoyment in the first place. 

This was a once in a lifetime moment, one I will cherish for the rest of my days. I've looked a seahorse in the eye, I've watched him move and breathe, and feel eternally blessed for the experience."

Thank you so much Barbara for letting me share your experience.

Alabama Welcomes the Little RV in a Big Way

We moved to Orange Beach, Alabama over the last two days. It's a 470 mile trip from Orlando. That's too far for one day for these two old folks. The first day was pretty uneventful and we stopped for the night at a sad, sad park behind a Marathon gas station just west of Tallahassee, Florida. It had full hook-ups and was easy to get in and out. It was even big enough to leave the car hooked up. That makes for an easy get away in the morning. 
Google Earth Image

There were two great things about this sad little park. It was an old farm and there was a ton of room for Murphy to run and play. I was not given any rules and there were none posted. I never saw another camper outside their rigs so I just let Murphy run while I walked with him. He was so happy. The other great thing was it's a Passport America park so it was only $20 for the night. 

We were off and running rolling first thing in the morning. We had another 230 miles to go. I had heard there was a storm coming in from the west which would arrive in the evening. 

We arrived at the campground around 1:30 in the afternoon and just as I was about to go check in at the office it started to rain. 
Our site in the new park after the storm.


The rain suddenly stopped and I ran in to register. Fortunately the rain held off until I had set-up our site, dumped the tanks, and walked the dog. Within moments of going inside the wind and rain began.
Screenshot of my weather app during the storm.
I checked my phone for a weather forecast and found we were under a tornado watch. Welcome to Alabama!  

Rob was sleeping when we arrived at the campground. Disney took a lot out of him. He didn't even wake up during the storm except when the power went off for a moment. 

Unfortunately, because of the way we are positioned, the wind was blowing the rain into the rear air conditioning unit. We weren't aware of it until a lot of water came pouring out of the vent over the bed. 

The air conditioner stopped working then started again and wouldn't shut off. The thermostat was showing an error message E1 which means the thermostat and unit are not communicating. For the past two days we have been coaxing the unit along. We couldn't turn it on or off and we couldn't adjust the temperature. I had to stop and start it with the breaker. It seems to be drying out and getting back to normal.

Never a dull moment! 

The beach is calling and I must go....

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Little RV Does Walt Disney World - Disability Style

I'm writing this post to include information about enjoying Disney as a disabled person. It's doable and Disney goes out of their way to make it as easy as possible. 
Rob on his rental scooter in Germany (Epcot).
 We arrived in the Orlando area on Tuesday afternoon. We are in a Thousand Trails park convenient to the Disney campus. Rob's oldest daughter Meghan, her husband Alex and our oldest granddaughter Amelia are staying just two miles from us. When we were in Connecticut last fall we cooked up this plan to meet up down here and go to Disney World together. Amelia found out about the plans at Christmas! That's an exciting Christmas gift for a five year old.
Alex, Meghan and Amelia
Our first day in the park was Thursday when we went to Epcot. I had done some reading online about Disney's services for the disabled. All of the parks have wheelchair and scooter rentals near the front entrance. Rob has a handicapped parking placard so the parking lot attendants directed us to that area of the lot. We managed to snag a front row parking space. 

We started our slow walk into the park and discovered wheelchairs at the end of our row. Alex grabbed one and he wheeled Rob along as we made our way through the admission lines and to he stroller, wheelchair, scooter rental area so we could rent a scooter. The cost for the scooter was $70 for one day. This included a $20 refundable deposit. 

I know you've always wanted to see us in a giant clam shell!!
Once we had our transportation handled we made our way to Guest Services to sign up our group for the disability program. They linked the five of us together as a group. When we wanted to get into an event or ride our group would go to the line attendant and they would either send us through the bypass line or give us a time to come back so we could avoid waiting in the endless lines. It's a great system. Once we made it to the front of the line Rob could park his scooter and Alex helped him get settled into the ride and away we went. After the ride the scooter was magically moved to a convenient location for us to move on to the next adventure.
Meghan in Norway
We had a great day but finally petered out around 4:00. We left the rest of the family to continue the fun while we headed for the exit. Alex tried to come along and help us get back to the car but I was stubborn and didn't let him. I shouldn't have been so stubborn.
 
Morocco at Epcot

Getting out and back to the car took some work. We had a bit of trouble finding the scooter rental kiosk but were finally able to return the scooter, get a wheelchair and make the long, slow walk back to the car.  

There is a Disney app for Apple and Android smart phones that directs you around the parks, gives wait time for the rides and locates other attractions but I didn't realize it would have been helpful to me until after we left the park. I had it installed and ready for our second Disney day at the Magic Kingdom on Saturday. 

Entering The Magic Kingdom is a completely different experience. The parking lots are endless but because of Rob's disabled parking tag we were able to snag a spot very near the front of the parking lot. This time we knew to look for a wheelchair to get Rob from the car into the park so we could rent a scooter. We later found out we could only take that specific wheelchair so far and we were told we had to switch it for a different one. Then we waded our way through admission and onto the ferry for the ride across the lake and into The Magic Kingdom. It took us more than an hour to get from our car into the actual park. 
 
Rob with Alex

Once inside the fun began!  It was Saturday so things were pretty crowded in the park but we managed to wade through. I can't tell you how many times Rob had to stop suddenly in order to avoid mowing down a stray child or a checked-out adult with a cell phone in hand.

Cinderella's Castle is still gorgeous! 
We rode several rides including the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, Splash Mountain and It's a Small World. 
And just like that it was time for our little princess to have a late lunch with the Disney Princesses. 

We said our goodbyes to the kids because they had a very early flight home the next morning. Rob and I left the park and made our way back to the car. We got home about 4:20 PM. It was a long day but we had a great time. Let the recovery begin. 

As I am writing this we are a little more than half way to our home for the next month. Orange Beach, Alabama.  We'll be leaving in a couple of hours and should arrive early this afternoon. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bonita Springs, Collecting Sea Shells and Making More Travel Plans

Boy have I been falling down on the blogging job! 

We are currently in Bonita Springs on the West coast of Florida. We moved on New Year's Day. The move was only about 150 miles so it was an easy drive. Most of the drive is across Alligator Alley which runs through the Florida Everglades. I love this part of Florida because of the beaches and shelling. 
Sanibel Island, Florida
Those are seashells you see in the photo above. They are several feet deep in some places and if you look carefully you'll find some amazing treasures. 
       Some of my favorites from just one trip to the beach.
Rob keeps asking me what I'm going to do with my shells. Um... I have no idea but I refuse to part with them. I know I'd like to make some home decor items with some of them eventually.
My first Alphabet Cone
Shelling is an art form. Who knew? There are specific places on the beach where you can expect to find shells and they are not only found right in the surf.
Nutmegs

Two years ago when we were here I was a novice sheller and had no idea what I was doing but found some spectacular shells. This year I'm still learning but I know more about the proper conditions for great shelling like wind direction, tides, etc. Right now we are having a pretty good storm with high winds and I can't wait to get to the beach and see what might be there.
Lightening Whelks
The other day Rob, Murphy and I drove down to the Everglades and did a little looking around. We were so disappointed to only see two birds, two deer and NO alligators. We do have photos but they are currently trapped in Rob's camera. 

When we leave here on the 31st of January we are headed to Disney World where we'll be meeting on of Rob's daughters for some Magic Kingdom fun. Until yesterday we had no idea where we were going after Disney but I found a newly opened park in Orange Beach, Alabama where they have plenty of space for us to spend a few weeks. The park is close to the beaches and close to Pensacola, FL so I can shell those beaches too. 

After Alabama we'll start making our way toward Elkhart, Indiana where the Forest River factory is located. They have agreed to do some repair work on The Little RV at no cost to us. These are ongoing issues and we'd like them fixed once and for all so to the factory we go. Along the way we will be able to fill in our last two of the lower 48 states, Tennessee and Kentucky. 
Some spaces left to fill in here.