“Spring Break – 2014” – by Debbie Ambrous

springbreakshirtsSpring Break 2014!  DanielsandBeauties in bikinis and guys with rippling muscles glistened in the Florida sunshine.  Ocean breezes and a Diet Dr. Pepper kept me cool under the boardwalk at Fort Myers Beach while I only had eyes for grandson Daniel. 

jimandmeatthebeach

Just a few years away and Daniel will be chasing little girls like these.

Just a few years away and Daniel will be chasing little girls like these.

bikesonbeachparrotwithmanhorizontalFtMyersbchtrailerhousewerentedJim and I stayed in a (great value and super clean -just click to see details) rental vacation home in Cape Coral, Florida, the city we called our home from 1986 to 1998. 

Tabebuia trees were blooming all over the city.

Tabebuia trees were blooming all over the city.

Cape Coral was in a real estate development boom with homes under construction on every street when we arrived.  We contracted for our home to be built and chose tropical colors for every room plus aqua Bahama-shutters at most windows for the Florida breezes.  A lengthy screened lanai extended along the back of the house with French doors from the master bedroom and breakfast room to step casually to an in-ground Jacuzzi.  Triple-sliding glass doors opened from the living area creating a barefoot indoor-outdoor style.  Custom painted tiles with hibiscus, beach scenes and shells brightly decorated my kitchen back-splash, surrounding the kitchen counters and set the tropical vibe in the master bathroom.  Each room was a new challenge to decorate and so much fun.  Outside, we planted bougainvillea, tabebuia, hibiscus, croton, palm trees and much more. capecoralroad Then much too soon, we had to move.  Owners of companies made decisions without consulting me, and we had to move on to jobs in another city, leaving the friends and home we loved so much.  I didn’t know it when I shed tears, but wonderful adventures with beautiful surroundings and more loving friends were waiting for us ahead in Coconut Grove, Florida. 

Cape Coral has many, many waterways.  This canal is at Wally and Dianna's backdoor.

Cape Coral has many, many waterways. This canal is at Wally and Dianna’s backdoor.

Two of our dearest friends, Wally and Dianna, welcomed us back to Cape Coral with the same warm connection we’ve always enjoyed with them.  Wally seems to have knowledge about almost any subject while not seeming like a know-it-all; he can explain the workings of a vast number of things – especially anything in the nautical field! fooddisplay2 Dianna is truly in the same league, but I would say that her specialty is culinary.  Her lovely mother was a caterer – and not just any caterer!  Banquets for football teams and even the Governor of Florida were on her resume!  I will try to get some recipes from Ms. Dianna; meanwhile, just enjoy a few pictures. 

Pretty "Dianna" candlestick

Pretty “Dianna” candlestick

Wally and Dianna always have interesting friends – with the possible exception of us – and this evening was no different.  We heard stories from a nice gentleman who lived in a Swiss castle when he was a youngster.  His wife with long dark hair and beautiful eyes was lovely as a Russian princess, and she shared stories about her childhood that kept us spellbound.  I think she should write a book since her stories are much more interesting than my life under the shadow of Opp’s water tower.

If you land here on Wally and Princess Di's deck - you are at the right place!

If you land here on Wally and Princess Di’s deck – you are at the right place!

The white sands and abundant shells of Sanibel and Captiva Islands were on our agenda.  However, these pristine islands were apparently on everyone’s list. 

Sanibel beach with shells - Be early for the best!

Sanibel beaches with 250 kinds of shells – Be early for the best!

Traffic clogged the entry and exit roads, plus everywhere in between.  We did see the islands again, and they are just as beautiful, not changed much at all.  We know the relaxation of visiting without the crowds and finding a bucket of beautiful shells!  We couldn’t eat at any of the favorite restaurants since they were packed out.  There was no place to park so I could get a photo of the famous Bubble Room.  I could taste the delicious cake which is served in huge slices.  So close and yet not on my fork. 

Colorful shops are in old cottages with bright bougainvillea

Colorful shops are in old cottages with bright bougainvillea

I’m sorry to say that Subway was our eating place, on the front porch.  Nearby was a favorite shopping place of mine when we lived on the Florida West coast – Goodwill on Sanibel.  They have great merchandise donated by those much wealthier than the Ambrous family.  I found like-new Ralph Lauren capri pants for $6.99 and Jones New York shorts for the same price.  Now, you know why l liked the store.

Sit on the porch, facing the ocean in a rental cottage.

Sit on the porch, facing the ocean in a rental cottage.

  After our fine meal and shopping delights, we drove past mansions and cottages on Captiva with captivating names: Bali Hi, Livin’ on the Edge, Orange U Glad, Seas the Day, Hale Makai, Zurich by the Sea, Tenderly, Shell Seekers and Chateau Blanc. 

Voila!!  I could write here and feel perfectly at home wearing my sandals on the Rue Ambrous!

Voila!! I could write here and feel perfectly at home wearing my sandals on the Rue Ambrous!

I’ve only hit the high spots with my Spring Break story.  If I open up with too much detail, an ocean wave of emotion will carry me away with memories of our home and our life in Cape Coral.  For instance, we drove past our house that still has its soft peach paint color that I selected, and we saw the tall, spreading trees we put into the ground and nourished as small plants from the nursery.  I thought about asking the owner’s permission to take pictures, and then we drove away deciding to leave it undone.  It isn’t our house now.  Better to think about our French cottage in Alabama!

 My list of things to do was not checked in many of the boxes.  Time flew!  We did check the best box as often as possible.  SEE AND HUG DANIEL AND HANNA! Check, check, check and check again!!

Jim wants to know why Daniel isn't eating COLLARDS AND TURNIP GREENS!

Jim wants to know why Daniel isn’t eating COLLARDS AND TURNIP GREENS!

Buttered biscuits are best when you lick two fingers!

Buttered biscuits are best when you lick two fingers!

Hanna, thanks for wearing the earrings we gave to you.  Humor Nanu-Nanu and GranDeb!

Hanna, thanks for wearing the earrings we gave to you! Humor Nanu-Nanu and GranDeb!

Send messages if you are a wardrobe expert.  Please!!

Please!!! Send messages if you are a wardrobe expert.   CLICK OVER TO FRANCE-STORYTELLING AND PICTURES to find why this stack of clothes is on my bed.

“Soaring with a Cuckoo” – by Debbie Ambrous

What story lies hidden in this picture?  The lady seems a bit skeptical to me.  (This faded old tapestry hangs on the wall in my view where I sit and apply my makeup.  I wonder who looked at the tapestry in a French home.)

What story lies hidden in this picture? The lady seems a bit skeptical to me. (This faded, old tapestry hangs on the wall by my antique vanity.  I sit there and apply my makeup, and I wonder who had this tapestry in their French home long ago.)

Talented writers weave stories with metaphors, using words like an artist with beautiful, even poetic words that evoke different meanings for each reader.  Hidden in the words are clever backgrounds requiring insightful thoughts, like finding the pictures painted inside works of art and using only the keenest of eyes.   Do you enjoy connecting the dots to find poignant or stimulating stories, represented by the metaphors?  Is it easy for you to understand the writer’s meaning, or create your own?  I enjoyed literature classes and quickly waved my hand in the air to answer the teacher’s questions.  The deep, dark lake viewed in a sad walk at midnight means death,” I answered correctly.  Now, I find the mysteries of the creative wording are often tiresome, and I wish the writer would just get to the point.  Or, I simply don’t like the meaning of the deep, dark lake. 

Inspiring and uplifting messages are found in many writers’ work.  Their words may become immortal, reaching generations to come and quoted thousands of times over.  Imagine the author in years past with fountain pen in hand, writing a few words and never dreaming they will spread through Facebook and Twitter. 

Ave Crayon - Helian Magnou

Ave Crayon: by artist Helian Magnou – Enjoy the story about the artist if you have not read previously.  Just click here.

What will flow from a keyboard as inspiration from the French painter’s work of art? Silent in the sky, soaring with wide, powerful wings, I could feel its power and I knew it saw me far below.  Distance could never separate us.  Each day brings more confidence for me when I look into the future and feel deeply that there is hope as bright as a beautiful, blue sky on a cloudless day.  Climb on in majesty, keep your vision keen.  I am watching.

Do you find meaning in these words?  Who, or what is represented by the eagle?  Who is on the ground? I leave it up to you.  Is it deep and spiritual, or could it be the words of an Eagle’s rock band admirer taking it to the limit one more time?

Perhaps this broken Crayola smudged picture of words will suit your taste much better.  A frantic screeching of words filled the air and dropped unheeded like an unanswered phone call, but the mournful sound continued pleading intensely.  Tears fell on the ground from the red and wrinkled face that was upturned and following every movement of the bird that flapped unsteadily above.  Moving perilously close to live power lines and dipping low to flirt with extended claws of a fat cat, the foolish bird flirted with death.  Little cuckoo chattered merrily, ignoring the tired voice of warning.  The weary legs of the hopeful, watchful one on the porch continued to pace back and forth.  In desperation, arms were flung upward and smart crackers were offered to lure the cuckoo back to home ground.  Finally, the porch was empty.  Hope was still there.  However, seeing a feather cat-sandwich or a singed, bird-sparkler-on-the-wire was not the vision of dreams.

Mirror on the wall, who is the cuckoo?  Who is inside hidden behind the door?

Mirror on the wall, who is the cuckoo? Who is inside hidden behind the door?

As you can see I have my ducks in a row except all of them stuck their heads in the water - cuckoo birds!!

As you can see, I have my ducks in a row, except all of them stuck their heads in the water – cuckoo birds!!

I have nothing against cuckoos!  Some of my favorite people are cuckoo, at least a little bit. 

Looking for something

Getting all gussied up to see the grandkids!

I’ve been accused of having birdbrains, at least behind my back if not to my face.  I had no particular person in mind for the story, but if the birdcage fits??  Jim says he wants to set the record straight, “Just so everyone knows, I am not the cuckoo fluttering around up there in her daffy story.  But I could be the person running around like a chicken down below.  She left out the smelly part about the embarrassing bird poop on the head.  Good reason to hide in the house!

I don’t usually write stories with symbols and poetic language, at least not very much.  You say you understand why after reading all of this and you’re hoping I find a box of smart crackers.  Well, I do have better plans ahead.  Jim and I will be visiting family, especially our grandchildren – Daniel and Hanna! 

Grandeb and NaNu NaNu will see you soon.  To make sense of these names (or nonsense of them), click to read here.

Grandeb and NaNu NaNu will see you soon. To make sense of these names (or nonsense of them) see an earlier story, click to read here “All About Daniel”

I will not have a post on the website next week.  I hope to see you on March 30th.   Have a great week wherever you are and leave the metaphors to rock on the front porch with the Eagles.  Shop at the French Market by clicking here.  You will save money and help Daniel’s grandmother.

You may enjoy gliding over to the France – storytelling and pictures page to enjoy soaring in France with a cuckoo.

“Academy Awards” – by Debbie Ambrous

Did you watch the Academy Awards in a chair like this?  It isn't my chair!  I borrowed it just for you.

Did you watch the Academy Awards in a chair like this? It isn’t my chair! I borrowed it just for you.

According to a reader’s poll, at least half of the Academy Award audience did not readMother Knows Best” posted here for their entertainment and pleasure this past Sunday.  A big, brown-eyed cow, a precious petite blonde girl petting a goat and snow-capped Austrian Alps worthy of a yodel – all of these Hallmark moments were forgotten and overlooked!  The hordes of glazed-eyed viewers of television skedaddled to their surround sound, HDTV and cozy leather recliners to watch Ellen and the star-studded audience.

When Ellen passed around the pizza and Brad Pitt served up the plates, I knew it was a lost cause.  I say that using Brad Pitt is an unfair advantage to seduce my readers.  Some discerning and wise viewers clicked during commercials, or before the grand event, and saw the sage advice that “Mother Knows Best” left as a confidential brief near the undies in the travel suitcase.  Hmm!  I see you’re blushing and thinking maybe you should look. 

I would like to mention that I was a bit teary-eyed when Lupita Nyong’o won as best actress in a supporting role.  Now, you are asking how I know so much about the academy award show and thinking I was settled on a recliner also.  You don’t really expect me to read all of that stuff on the blog after the slaving and hard work of writing it, do you?  Seriously, it always touches my heart when you take time from your busy life to read what I’ve written.  Thank you!  I thank my mother, my second-cousin, my editor, the garbage collector and of course, Jim!  I knew I was forgetting someone.  Thanks again, Jim!

Do you know someone who deserves an academy award for starring in your life production and giving a sterling performance, or providing a supportive role?  I know that I could read a list that would fill a very long Sunday night with a box of Kleenex by the sofa.

My mother would head the list, and yours would likely be the Best Actress in your winners’ circle also!  One performance occurred on a Saturday night when the stores were closed in our little town of Opp, Alabama, and I was crying my little eyes out for a frilly, precious hat covered with rosebuds and taffeta ribbons that I saw earlier in the day in a glass showcase. 

I love hats!  If you are new to this website, or have not read "Belle of the Ball", you may enjoy reading about the bright blue hat.

I love hats! If you are new to this website, or have not read “Belle of the Ball“, you may enjoy reading about the bright blue hat.  Or, you might enjoy “A Tale of Two Hats“.

How could anyone refuse this little girl?  Picture the wide blue ribbon tied in a bow under her chin.

How could anyone refuse this little girl? Picture the wide blue ribbon tied in a bow under her chin.

I don’t know the words, or lines spoken, in a convincing enactment that motivated my dad to call the business owner, Mr. Finkelstein, to open the shop after-hours.  I went with my daddy to point out the hat, and Mr. Finkelstein smiled with no annoyance, like it was a genuine pleasure.  I can’t imagine this happening anywhere now, not even Opp!  I’m thankful to him for the little bonnet that tied under my chin and probably started my love of hats.  Yes, Mom deserved an academy award!

The best actor award goes to my son, Chet.  You may want to hold your applause and appraise his errant lack of homework.  High school in Florida and his wearing flip-flops to school without his homework sets the scene.  An assignment of a commercial presentation for the class was not prepared.  He traced his flip-flops on a poster board and drew in the straps.  When the teacher called his name, he showed the poster and told a weepy story of meeting a shopkeeper who was barely surviving as a flip-flop vendor.  He said he generously bought out the meager business giving the poor fellow a nice profit.  He pitched his advertisement, promoting the economic value of the flip-flops, the comfort and new styles for women with pearls, rhinestones and sequins.  As an entrepreneur, he flip-flopped his “F” grade to a successful “C”.  He still wears the flip-flops, not the executive shoes.  Maybe he is the successful one since the executive only works long hours in anticipation of the flip-flops.  The Oscar goes to Chet!

Let’s hear it from the audience by writing in the reply area.  No excuses!  Mother knows best, and she has heard them all. I don’t want to hear that your dog ate the computer mouse, so you couldn’t click in to see the comments. 

Did I hear another question?  You want to know why I didn’t have very many pictures in this story!  I didn’t think you would want to see my son’s smelly feet in his flip-flops. Wasn’t the extra-cute little girl enough, already?  You might just try the France-storytelling and pictures page for more pictures.  Ya’ll come back!  You’re always welcome ‘round here!

Would you like a free subscription notification when stories are posted? Just enter your e-mail address in the upper right-hand corner.  Merci and thank ya’ll to the many readers who have bought A French Opportunity in paperback and Kindle!

“Mother Knows Best” – by Debbie Ambrous

130380926872164920A friendly, Austrian, brown-eyed cow greeted Jim up close and personal through the car window.  Young daughter Brittany didn’t know whether to be frightened or delighted when a herd of cows surrounded us on the narrow country road.  Memories of her excitement vividly play in my mind adding much more to the experience compared to traveling without a youngster’s viewpoint.

130356749724877964I hear other Moms say: “I will go when the children are older.”  They also say they want the children to be old enough to remember the places they visit.   I say these are not good reasons, if this is the only roadblock and travel funds are available.  When the little ones are teenagers, they may not even want to be seen with you!  If they grudgingly allow you to drag them along, they may mope and grumble so much that you will want to throw them in the moat surrounding the dreamy castle you’ve longed to visit.  Or, they may laugh at you when you trip and fall spread-eagle on the cobblestones at Piazza del Duomo, as one of my own offspring (who shall remain nameless) once did to me. I waited for the crowd to part and a handsome Romeo to appear and rescue me; alas, I was humiliated in despair with a scraped knee and torn jeans.  Torn jeans were the style, so I thought I was a cool Mom, whether the snickering teenager thought so or not.  Never fear, she will have a teenager soon enough to get even for me.

Little Mermaid and her dad at the glacier

We took a cable car to the top of the mountains which was great fun for Little Mermaid and her dad.   Stubai Glacier

I will return to my opinion of traveling while you can with little ones.  Don’t put it off if it is a reasonable possibility.  I’ve followed my own advice.  Our two oldest didn’t see Europe when they were young travelers, but with our very modest travel budget we did see the Smoky Mountains, Disney World, Six Flags over Georgia,  Destin, Jamaica and many small destinations.  Travel with these two stretched nerves and endurance to epic proportions.  After hearing the brother and sister duo exchange “Don’t touch me!” and “It’s my turn!” like dueling banjos around every curve in the road, I screamed “STOP THE CAR!” When I wearily trudged away from the car on a quiet forest pathway, I heard the worrisome two ask, “Daddy, what’s wrong with Mama?  Jim replied, “You’ve driven her crazy!  That’s what’s wrong with Mama!

We planned vacations hoping for delicious meals in nice restaurants.  Let’s see, which dinner of catastrophe shall we reminisce upon?  Mama Mia, there was the Italian restaurant with the roving accordionist striking notes of discord for our dining displeasure.  He chatted with Jim and learned that we were from Alabama.  Why didn’t we plead some witness protection act and use an anonymous state, say maybe Alaska?!!  The accordionist proposed playing “Stars Fell on Alabama” until he saw our cute kid in the highchair smeared with tomato sauce and spaghetti dangling among her curls and probably from her ears.  He gulped and ran to the next table. Wish I could have followed him!  Honestly, I’m so very happy that we went on all of the vacations and took them with us.  We hear our children now as adults with children of their own laughing about those trips, and we feel the reward for our efforts.

130356747720007426The youngest daughter came at a time when we traveled longer distances.  Jim and I took one trip without her for a week; I worried the whole time, although she was fine and not scarred for life.  From then on, she went with us.  Admittedly, she was a great traveler.  I’m sure there are many more children out there who will be happy companions, given the opportunity.  Children open adults’ eyes to fun activities that would not happen otherwise.  There’s a whole other world of things to enjoy with a child in tow.  People react differently when you have a cute kid in your arms, or skipping along beside you.  Conversations begin, and you are invited to see more than you would without the calling card of a little one.  Even with language differences, we saw cookies and little extras appear from people with smiling faces when a petite girl entered the scene with us.  They wouldn’t have bothered without our goodwill ambassador with the long blonde hair.

130380928815545700However, if you are convinced that your brood will bounce off the walls like a can of Mexican jumping beans and behave like a pack of heathens, maybe you should stay home and protect the home country’s image!  Mother knows best!

As a Mother, I will tuck a note of advice in your suitcase between your clean undies and the warm sweater, that I am suggesting also.  My note written hastily says, “Don’t max out your credit cards!  It isn’t worth it despite the advertisements luring you in that direction.  Be careful and try to be patient with each other.  Remember that you are making memories for the future.  Along the way, please teach your children to appreciate this beautiful earth, our home.austriawaterfall

Our adventure was just underway after the circle of cows escorted us into Austria.  I hope you enjoy the picture journey and plan your own, wherever your dreams may lead you with Mom’s approval. 

We stayed in pensions, bed and breakfast homes and inns, plus a special stay in a castle!  Prices were reasonable then.  Bargains are still out there, but not easy to find anymore.

We stayed in pensions, bed and breakfast homes and inns, plus a special stay in a castle! Prices were reasonable then. Bargains are still out there, but not easy to find anymore.  You could start here at the Frommers website.

We slept in a romantic hotel

We checked into one of the Romantik Hotels – Hotel Forstinger – The rooms are now updated to the current modern trend.

Romantic bedroom

I prefer the old romantic bedroom!

Princess hat, courtesy of Disney - We stayed in a castle which no longer accepts guests.

Princess hat, courtesy of Disney – We stayed in a castle which no longer accepts guests.  We were the only guests at the time and felt like we were friends of the family in this ancient, magnificent building.

View of Innsbruch, Austria - All photos are scanned - I didn't have a digital camera then

View of Innsbruck, Austria – All photos are scanned – I didn’t have a digital camera then.

Inside the castle, we were allowed to make ourselves at home - "Guards, find my hair stylist and take him to the dungeon!"

Inside the castle, we were allowed to make ourselves at home – “Guards, find my hair stylist and take him to the dungeon!”

This sign was much funnier with little girl giggles from the back seat.  Gute Fahrte to everyone!

Gute Fahrt (Good Ride)  This sign was much funnier with little girl giggles from the back seat. Gute Fahrt to everyone!

I tried something new on the (click to see) France – storytelling and pictures page.  Let me know what you think.  Do you like the collage or the single pictures?  I enjoy reading your comments.  Thank you for dropping by to visit.  Come again!