Thursday, January 28, 2016

My American Thursday list

I thought I would create a new kind of list for today. My own American list of favorites and other small quirks that you tend to notice the difference between Europe and the US.

 To me it is always interesting to notice the small differences between the European and the American cultures and ways of life.

Love the fact that most American homes have a fireplace. I so much miss a having a fire place in winter. At somepoint in my life I would like to have another home that has a fireplace and a front porch with a hanging bed. I would love to live by the ocean at some point of my life. Our friends place in AL of course had this wonderful and cozy fireplace. Sitting by the warmth of the fireplace talking to Kim with a mug of coffee in my hands. A great way to start any day when temperature is cool enough outside.

 This picture is from last year. Again I rented a bike this year. A great way to get around Anna-Maria island. Get some alone time and be able to do a little sight seeing on your own. I love the friendliness and small talk. It is so easy to just start talking to any one about almost anything. As I was out biking one day I met an older man that was a retired principal from TN. A snowbird enjoying the warmer climate and sunshine of FL. He had come every year for the past seven years to Anna-Maria island. He asked me if he could join me for my bike ride. He took me on a tour of the island and showed me some nice bike paths and good short cuts.

Outlet shopping as well as regular shopping is always a fun favorite. The Swiss Frank and the Dollar are about the same in value for the moment. Also going to a regular Mall is something I always want to do. There was a great big Mall just by the airport in Tampa. Rather than sitting at the airport all day we went there and spend some hours doing some last minute shopping. One of my new favorite stores that I discovered was Athleta. A lot of cool and comfy stuff to wear for the gym or just for a relaxing evning at home. Now it is time to put shopping on hold. I did do a lot of shopping in the US this time. It is so much more fun and easy when you know the stores and know your favorite ones.

 Something I always do in the US is to treat myself to a mani and pedi. Services like that are half the price in the US compared to Switzerland. I also made sure to get a haircut this time because prices are better and also because feel more secure when I am able to explain myself in English knowing that they will totally compehend what I say. I have lived in Switzerland for 3 year now and still haven't gotten a haircut here. I always do it in either Sweden or the US.

Oh my God, all that yummy Mexican food. You just can't find good Mexican food in Europe the way you can in the US. We went to Popo's a number of times while staying at Anna-Maria island.

We also went and had Mexican food twice in Birmingham. Besides good Mexican food I always enjoy Bagles and peanut butter while being in the US. Then there is all the great ice cream as well. For a true ice cream lover like me there is a ton of fun and yummy flavors to choose from.

What's up with the crunch factor? There is something about crunchy food that Americans seem to love much more than the Europeans. Crunchy food is good. In the US sallds come with crunchy toppings and even Sushi often has a cruchy factor (at least when you go to a Sushi place).

Everything is just sweeter in taste in the US. There are many more food products that are sweetend. I can wonder why so much has to be sweetend. Almost all bread tastes a little sweet in the US. Even whole grain bagles taste sweet compared to bread in Europe. 

Service at resturants is so much better as expected. Service in general is so much better in the US. It is so easy to get help when you are trying on clothes in a store. Service and friendliness is just outstanding in the US. 

 American beds are so high compared to beds in Europe because the mattrass is so much thicker. In the US you litterary have to climb onto the bed in order to get into bed. It always puts a smile on my face. Makes me feel like a small kid.

If the beds are much higher in the US the opposite is true for the toilett seats. They are much lower. Toiletts feel low.

Air conditioning is great. Even if we were in Florida during the coolest part of the year. We still had some warm and pretty muggy days when the AC was very much needed. Europe can lack both Air conditioning and ice cubes. I love air conditioning. However the rest of my travel company always seemed to be cold, even in FL. We had this issue about the air conditioning in the house on Anna-Maria island. My father in law would turn it down as he was cold and I would turn it up as I felt warm. Traveling together in a larger crowd certainly  has it's pros and cons. It is fun but it is also very much about compromising.

Something else that I noticed was that many museums and parks used volunteers to help out with work and information. Older retired people that worked as volunteers. I think that is great. Older people feel needed,  have something to do and get out of the house as well as it being something that cuts costs. That is something I would like to do when I am retired. I would love to work as a volunteer a few days a week. Older citizens seem to be integrated in a more positive way in the community compared to Europe. Older citizens get and find jobs/tasks and roles even if it is non-paid work. I think it is important to continue to feel valuable and feel you can give something back to your community even if you are old if you feel healthy enough and if you have a wish to do so of course.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Circus museum in Sarasota

Another excursion that we made when the weather was not that great and we did not want to hang out at the beach because it was cool and cloudy, was to the circus museum in Sarasota.

To be perfectly honest with you I was not super exited about going here when I first heard about it. I am not a big circus fan and I expected this museum to be kind of lame and maybe even somewhat boring. I was so wrong! Going here was my mother inlaw's idea and I am so glad we did go. This was one of the best and most impressive museums I have ever visited.

 The Ringling brothers that are famous and synonymous with anything that has to do with circus had their winter residence here in Sarasota. The circus was something that came to the US in the early 20th century and became huge during the 1920'ties up to 1950. This was the one and only kind of big entertainment that was available and came to towns of all sizes. This was all before TV and before cinemas. The circus offered a first time for people to see many exotic animals that had never before been seen.

The circus would travel around the country but only stay in one place 1 day! The logistics of packing and unpacking even impressed generals of the US army. Hundreds of animals and thousands of people belonging to the circus moved every day. Everyone had to know exactly what to do and master their tasks to perfection.

What impressed me the most was the miniature circus replica that had been made and set up. The details were truly astonishing. Everything was there and there was such incredible detail given to every little figure down to the tiniest detail such as facial expression. I have never before seen a more elaborate replica of anything before. The man behind the replica is Howard Tibbal and it took him 50 years to complete it. That is true dedication! This miniature replica captured us all very much.
Circus Model, a 44,000-piece re-creation of the Ringling Bros. Circus combined shows from 1919-1938.


 The Ringling brothers estate includes a lot more than just the circus museum. The gardens are really beautiful. Isen't this a cool tree? It is hard to get a good feeling of it's size but it was very large.

Aside from the art museum, the estate also contains the Ringling's mansion, Ca' d'Zan, Mable Ringling's rose garden, the Circus Museum and Tibbals Learning Center, the historic Asolo Theater, the Ringling Art Library, the Secret Garden, gravesite of John and Mable Ringling and the FSU Center for the Performing Arts.

 The Ringling residence was located right by the Sarasota bay. A cloudy day but nevertheless beautiful. We did the self guided tour of the Ringling mansion. A very impressive and modern house and home for the 1020'ies. The top picture shows the front of the house.

 The Ringling family made and had a lot of money.They also had an impressive art collection. Besides the circus museum there was also an art museum located on the property. This is the courtyard of the art museum which is impressive and beautiful in itself.

So if you happen to be visiting in the Sarasota area and don't feel like hanging on the beach I can highly recommend a visit to the circus museum. It is something that everyone of all ages can enjoy. A true gem when it comes to museums. It is easy to spend a full day here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Basel update

When we landed and arrived last week we came home to Basel winter. A thin layer of frosted snow coverd roofs and yards. It was just like a delicate layer of confection sugar had been sprinkeld over Basel. 

A busy week this week. Back at work after a long vacation. Just worked my first day of 2016. Felt good to be back. My first day went well.

I am taking a new German course. German modern literature. Since I have been away for the first part of January I do have some catching up to do. 

One of the biggest and most important SWEA events takes place next week - the yearly annual meeting. Things have happend among the board members and I now have a new quite important position to fill and get aquainted with. I am going to run for the position as secretary this year. It is going to be fun but since the Annual meeting is one of the most important events of the year it does take it's time to plan and organize. 

Saturday we get visitors from Sweden. Our friend H that used to live here in Basel and moved back to Sweden about a year ago is coming with her boyfriend. They are spending a night at our place and then they are going skiing.

My jet lag is finally over. Feels good. 

 It looked pretty. However, the weather has turned milder over the weekend. At the moment we have around +10 C. That winter feeling is gone. But there seems to be a nice amount of snow in the Alps. C went skiing Sunday ( I had too much German to catch up with and still felt a bit jet laged so I did not go). We are hoping for even more snow to fall in the Alps. I kind of like that Basel usually has mild winters and where the street usually don't get coverd with more snow than this. I can still bike to work without any kind of problem. Now there is none of that snow left at all of course since we almost have spring like temperatures again.

Something else that can be noticed now is that days are longer. There is daylight until almost 6 pm now. The sun starts to come up around 7:30 in the morning. Days are getting longer and lighter and the diffrerence is noticable compared to December. Going away at the beginning if the year has become a favorite of mine. It makes January so much shorter and gives a highlight to look forward to at the very beginning of the year. Getting some sunshine at the darkest point of the year makes such a difference. February and march gives us lots of skiing to look forward to and hey then you got spring arriving.

Tulips! One of my favorite flowers. They are everywhere now and C bought me these pretty ones last week. My first tulips for 2016. Love them!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sarasota Bay boat tour and Aquarium

 We made a couple of excursions and one of them being to the Mote marine laboratory in Sarasota. They have an aquarium known for being part of the world's leading organizations of shark study. They also organize boat cruises that we decided to go on. Under the supervision of marine biologists the boat cruises point out interesting flora and fauna of the bay. This eco-tour takes 1 hour and 45 minutes and they have two depatures daily. It is a nice way to get to know more about the local nature and sea life.

 Sarasota bay. Behind the sailing boats you see Sarasota which is one of the larger town a long the coast. 

 It is always nice to get out on the water. The weather had been kind of gray and windy this day not being a good beach day so it was prefect for something like this. As we were out on the boat cruise the sky cleared up and we had a really enjoyable boat tour. 
 By taking the boat cruise we also got to come close up to some of the big luxury mansions out on Long Boat Key. Enormous houses with private boat docks and great views over the bay. The ones that can afford these homes have a pretty good life here.

 We got to get a good view of the white pelikans that come down to Florida each winter to spend the winter in a warmer and sunnier climate.
 Besides the white pelikans you also have the regular brown pelikans nesting on these small bushy islands. We made a stop on an uninhabited island for a short nature walk getting to know more about the local trees and bushes.

The evening turned out really beatiful. A grey day ended with a pretty sunset over the bay.

Under the supervision of the marine biologists the boat cruises also trawl a net and then depending on the cath we got to examine sponges, sea horses and various fish from the catch. The guy in the yellow jacket was our captain. He was really nice and very knowledgeable. One of the biologists was holding up a puffer fish that was really cute.

 The catch also contained various fishes, sponges and these super cute sea stars. They were placed in various plastic containers and passed around so that we all could take a closer look. This was a fun and great way to get to know more about the local life of the bay.

There are plenty of aquariums to choose from to visit around this part of Florida. Almost every city and town has it's own. We also made a visit to the Tampa aquarium which is one of the larger aquariums in the area. There is something about aquariums that I love. It is something that holds a great interest both for kids and adults. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Back in Basel

We are back home in Basel now. Just arrived, still very much jet laged. Jet lag is the only part of traveling that I really dislike. Hopefully we will adjust back in time shortly. To me jet lag hits me differntly every time, sometimes I hardly notice it and sometimes it lingers around longer. I did not mind having a bit of jet lag when we arrived to Florida. Early morning runs on the beach were easy. That is something that I kept up with even when the jet lag had worn off. I just find the beach really special at sunrise and sunset. I love the light and the sound of the crashing waves. Early morning between 7 am and 8 am when I did my runs I had almost the entire beach to myself as well. A few other people walking a long the beach, someone fishing, a fishing boat passing by, people looking for pretty shells washed up with the morning tide, someone else out for an early jogg. Few enough people out so that you can greet them with a hand wave or a smile and a good morning reply. 

In summary we had a really great vacation. Weatherwise a little bit of everything. This time a little cooler temperatures compared to last time when we travelled all together. A few overcast days, one or two days with some rain but most of the time sunny skies. Getting sunshine at this time of year just means so much. I have a ton of beautiful pictures that I want to share with you so it's going to be several posts on the blogg from Florida. I ended up not posting so much while being there. Took a break from the blogg world which is both needed and nice sometimes.

At the moment I still feel a little confused about where I am and where I want to be. I walk around feeling tired but if I lay down I probably could not fall a sleep. The trick is to stay awake during the day, setting the alarm clock at morning. Taking a melatonin pill at night helps the first few nights. Going out and getting some daylight and possibly some sunshine also is important. 

Beaches on Anna-Maria island are so beautiful. The sand is soft and white like sugar. The beach just stretches on and on. You have beach access almost everywhere. No high-rise hotels or condos, no private or closed off beaches. That is what I love about this island. It is cozy and friendly. It has a laid back relaxing atmosphere and it is mostly private homes or rental homes. A few hotels and motels but they are still small.

The girls loved the pool of course but also liked the ocean and playing in the waves.

 Starting and ending my day at the beach was something I tried to do as much as possible. Sunrise was between 7 and 8 am and sunset between 5 and 6 pm.

Looking for pretty shells is also a favorite thing of mine to do at the beach.
 As I was enjoying my beach walk at sunset I came across this group that were doing yoga on the beach. I almost wished that I could have joined in. There were here a few days doing a yoga retreat. Just shortly after I snapped this picture of them, they asked me if I could take their picture with one of the girls phone. Shortly I ended up having 5 or 6 phones in my lap as they all wanted a group photo to keep. I did not mind at all.

 The light, the colors, the sounds something I wish I could take in and carry with me always. Keep it vivid and fresh in mind. I love the ocean. There is something so peaceful and relaxing about it. Sunset at the beach is like a visit to the spa for your soul. I wanted to take it in and save it in my very core and heart. At that very moment I wanted to stay forever.

I saw these guys out on paddle boards, looks fun but is probably trickier and harder than it looks. You got to have good balance in order to manage your board over the waves.

Least but not last some of my favorite sunset pictures.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Beach House

 This is the beach house we are renting on Anna-Maria island. The island itself is located about a 45 minute drive south from Tampa. This is the house that me and C found last year already. It is actually larger than it looks. We have a total of 6 bedrooms so there is space for everyone which is needed when you are 8 people (6 adults and 2 kids). The house is located within a short walk to the beach. There is a roof top deck from which one has a beach view. The house has enough space for everyone to be able to spread and stretch out.

A large kitchen makes things easy and practical. We do a mix of going out to eat and cooking at home. I find it very nice not to have to go out every day for every meal. There is a grill in the back yard so that we can also do BBQ which we have. My favorite eats here are of course fish and sea food. There are so many deliscious fishes here that you can't get in Europe such as Grouper, Mahi and Snapper.

There is a pool in the back yard which the girls love of course. A pool was one of the things on our list when we were checking out houses last year. It is nice to have all the amenities like these ones that make a vacation relaxing and fun for everyone. It is a heated pool so it has worked well even for the cooler days that we have had.

The back yard offers a cozy space with the bar, the grill and the pool. A perfect place to hang out and relax.

I have rented a bike for a week. Since the island is not so large it is perfect for bike excursions. A great way to get some time to my self. Even if we all have gotten a long it is still quite nice to be able to escape a little and do some sightseeing on my own. There is also a free trolly service on the island that runs every 30 minutes. Crusing a long on a bike is my preferance. I met this older retired principal today as I was about to start the south side of the island. It is so easy to start chatting with people. He comes every year and has been here for the past 7 years he told me. He showed me some good short cuts and pointed out some good places to eat. You always learn something when you start talking to someone. People on the island are so friendly and nice. It is easy to start talking to people around here.