There’s nothing like a long weekend spent in Florida with a bunch of people who you really love .. and needed some quality time with. Joe was going out of town to work, so I took this trip on my own. Mandy came down and stayed … which was pretty amazing. It took no time for us to fall back into our routine :) We managed to see a Ray’s game at Tropicana Field … Caca and George are HUGE Rays fans .. so it was interesting to sit beside them.. after two extra (stressful) innings, The Rays won!

I really wanted to bring Mandy to The Ringling Estate … so… I did.. she loved it! We got so held up in the circus part of the property that we never made it to the art museum (sadly) — but the palace, Ca d’Zan : House of John – is what we couldn’t get enough of. The gardens, the marble, the glass, the paintings, chandeliers .. the Banyan trees, so many beautiful colors and views.

The rose gardens.. my favorite. We were so happy walking through and sniffing away
(Mandy, your favorite was “Elegant Lady“)

Both Mandy and the 60 year old store clerk convinced me to buy a John Ringling hat which I probably will never wear.. but is cute. I guess.

Afterward we headed over to St. Armand’s Circle, grabbed a bite, and shopped at Fresh Produce! This was my first time in Fresh Produce store and I LOVED IT! I’ve seen their stuff down the shore in a few different shops, and have noticed a few advertisements where they are gearing more toward a woman my age (both my Mom and Joe’s Mom LOVE FP .. it can be a little older lady..) We scored though .. I got a comfy black skirt that I will probably wear all summer, a soft white teeshirt and a mauve sweatshirt that is so comfy (skirt and sweatshirt pictured below) — Mandy got the white sweater she is wearing below. All well made, in America.. good stuff. Also, they blog! and are on Facebook! and other social media ..

We chased a sunset down Lido Key and ended up on a white sand beach to watch the sun fall into the horizon. It was so very picturesque.

The next day we beached it for the afternoon (Siesta Key) then ALL ABOARD onto LeBarge Tropical Cruises for a sunset booze cruise .. we call it “The Tacky Boat” because it has palm trees growing out of it and mirrored mermaids and a guy singing Jimmy Buffet’ish music (his name is CB, we became friends) … oh yeah, mixed drinks, too.

After we went back to the house, Caca and George just got back from a Rays game (they won again!) I busted out the bindis I bought everyone for the trip (third eye problems) and we played some board games.. and laughed a lot.

It was a great trip. Are you familiar with Sarasota area? It’s so beautiful down there.

iIf you thought this was a lot of pictures, check out the full album on Facebook! I just couldn’t decide which ones where my favorites… too much fun… :)




A MEAL – Burger

Joe has become the master of burgers. I needed photographic evidence (and we got a new light kit)
WARNING: you might become ravenous for a burger after this. Sorry!





So here’s the thing about me and P.J. (I can call Percy Jackson P.J. because we’re tight like that) The first things you need to know is that there are really two different series that follow along the same story. The first: Percy Jackson & The Olympians, and the Second: Heroes of Olympus. The first is slightly less difficult reading, more silly banter/ playfulness and less violence. The second series has a more mature plot, a tad more violence and a higher page count, on average of about two-three pages, but still keeping the banter and silliness we love.

I want to start out with the first book in the second series, because honestly, you should have already read at least the entire Percy Jackson & The Olympians series by now, and if you haven’t, climb out from under your rock and jump on this bandwagon….seriously, it’s a pretty rockin place to be.


The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan is the first book in the Heroes of Olympus series (which will be complete with the release of the final installment “The Blood of Olympus” this fall – please allow for an adult fan-girl moment…

#@%_(^#%&(_^%(^@_(%^&@#$(@#_)%^#(%_&@)#$_%(@** ah hem

In this book I was all prepared to be let down when I realized that Percy, the main character/hero in all the previous 5 books, was not the main man in this one. To be honest it was a pretty big bummer, until I saw where Rick was taking me. The characters I was introduced to here became fast favorites and now seem inseparable from the Percy Jackson sphere.

Like all the books, this one revolves around the lives and problems of a bunch of half-blood kids. (Half-blood meaning half human, half Greek (or Roman (…wait WHAT? Yeah you heard me, Roman)) God, and as usual there is a God causing more trouble than the poor half-bloods are prepared for. This story though unravels into something much bigger than we’ve seen before….sure we’ve almost seen the end of the world a couple times, but never like this. Full of adventure, travel, and new and interesting characters, Riordan weaves a tale that will have you reaching for your copy of Edith Wharton’s Mythology*, and loving every second of it.


I always recommend these books to kids and parents, and people like me, with a longer than average infatuation with teen lit, because they are as fun and exciting as they are educational. Fear Not though readers, they’re not in-your-face “teachy”; something which I grew to resent as a child…like really, sometimes you just gotta let your kid read for pleasure; you never want books to become a chore, but because I KNOW that a kid has got to learn somewhere, these are perfect. Mythology, geography and some real life history are mixed in there; not to mention a boat load of smart, independent, resourceful teens. This is not a “Go Ask Alice” type of book where parents will cringe at what their children are reading, but a story where role models can actually be found! Halleluiah! HOWEVER….any super conservative overlords parents will probably have a problem with the 4th book in the series. Nothing I would prevent my students or children from reading, and actually a plot line I ADORED (along with about a million percico fansters) but hey, if you were the person that boycotted Harry Potter because of “devil worship” I would say steer clear here, no needless book burnings please!

This book is great for:
-Fans of Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Maximum Ride
-Girls sick of whiny female character
-Lovers of adventure and quest stories
-Boisterous boys
-Anyone interested in Mythology or ancient civilizations
-29 year old red-head librarians

* I always recommend this book as a great companion with this series. (Both the 1st and 2nd) It’s a classic and great because there are a lot of characters referenced in the P.J. books that are not commonly known, and this guide gives quick and concise information about almost all of them, adding to the overall effect of the book. Also, it’s always good to not have to reference the computer constantly. The internet is literally the perfect storm for anyone easily distracted, and you’d hate to be in the middle of an awesome book just to be torn away by a Facebook update. Use this book, and while other titles will filter in and out of your home library, I am sure this one will take up permanent residence.

photo source: 1 2





*~roasted roots make you poop *~




Phenomenal Woman

I have a friend who, often, when we are talking about something on our heart, intense or light hearted, she says “it reminds me of this Maya Angelou poem..” or “it’s like Maya Angelou once wrote.. let me find it..” sometimes she reads it, and I cry, and thats how we communicate…!

The first thing I read this morning was of Maya Angelou’s passing and I thought of my friend. I did some reflecting on how beautiful a life truly lived is, how she is an example that it (our mark on life) lives on and on… Ms. Angelou’s words and actions will touch generations to come… although she has left this Earth.

“Angelou once said she believed that “life loves the liver of it,” and she did live it, to the fullest.” (via NPR)

About 10 years ago, when I was going through what every 20 year old goes through… turning from a teenager into a woman and having NO idea how to deal with the multitude of issues that come with it.. Mandy sent me a letter, enclosed was this Maya Angelou poem. It still remains one of my favorites.. that I read regularly to feel inspired by the *beat* of being a Phenomenal Woman. xx ash

Phenomenal Woman
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

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