Havana/Miami mural at Havana Spice Restaurant portrays the family’s emigration to the US. Photo by Katey.
Light and crispy fried plantains at the Havana Spice Restaurant. Photo by Ellen.
Chickee hut breakfasts,
stone crab claws, Cuban cafes,
Indian fry bread.
A rooster turns a tortoise into a taxi at Robert is Here.
Geese on parade at Robert is Here.
Goats at Robert is Here seem to be having a difference of opinion, or maybe they are competing for the affections of the cute goat watching them from above.
emus, chickens, geese, and goats
at “Robert is Here.”
We enjoyed the fruit we bought at Robert is Here. Ellen made this fruit platter to go with cheese omelets Cheryl cooked for breakfast back home in Port Charlotte. Photo by Ellen.
Cheryl likes the antique tractors at Robert is Here. Photo by Katey.
Honey, candy, fruit,
antique tractors, kiddie cars
at “Robert is Here.”
Sunset at Gulf Coast Visitor Center, near Everglades City, Florida. Photo by Ellen.
Katey, Ellen, and Cheryl… wet and windblown after an exciting cruise on Biscayne Bay. Visitor center at Biscayne National Park.
of joyous days together.
Back home to Robert.
Katey takes a selfie at Englewood Beach.
Ellen captured this view of the surf at Englewood Beach.
Lunching with Robert
at breezy Englewood Beach.
Great day for a swim!
I wonder what antics the goats are up to back at Robert is Here. Are they remembering Katey and all the romaine lettuce she fed them? Photo by Katey.
Bye, Ellen, Katey…
warm smiles, warm hugs, warm wishes…
Safe trip! Come back soon!
The majority of these photos were taken by Ellen Maher and Katey Batavia with their i-phones. I am not sure who took some of the photos. A few photos were taken by Cheryl Batavia and kind volunteers. Thank you to Katey for emailing the photos to me.
Thank you to Ellen for driving several thousand miles on this trip.
Thank you to both of my daughters for making it possible for me to take a trip I could not have taken by myself. They were wonderful company!
The visitor center has a beautiful short boardwalk among the mangroves and superb indoor and outdoor exhibits about the history and ecology of the area.
Also available: backcountry hiking and camping.
Everglades National Park
We enjoyed the Ten Thousand Islands Boat Tour at Gulf Coast Visitor Center. Our guide explained the history of the area and gave information about various plants and animals we saw.
Also available are boat tours at Flamingo Visitor Center, the only place in the park to see flamingos and saltwater crocodiles. Shark Valley Visitor Center features a tram tour and an observation tower. Anhinga Trail and Gumbo Limbo Trail are at Royal Palm Visitor Center. Kayak and canoe rentals and tours are available at several locations in the park.
Biscayne National Park
Most of this park is underwater. We enjoyed a boat tour to Boca Chita Lighthouse. We spent an hour touring the lighthouse and the island, once part of the Deering Estate. Our guide gave a very interesting history of the park and talked about the environmental challenges the park is facing due to rising sea levels. We saw Turkey Neck Nuclear Power Plant in the distance and learned that the power plant is surrounded by warmer water that sustains a population of saltwater crocodiles.
Also available are snorkeling and diving tours where you can explore shipwrecks on the bottom of Biscayne Bay.
Robert Is Here, Homestead, Florida
This is a fruit stand founded by Robert in 1959 when he was six years old. Robert still works at his fruit stand, which features locally-grown vegetables and about one hundred varieties of locally-grown exotic tropical fruits, some from Robert’s own farms. Service is friendly and helpful. They made sure that we had chosen the best fruit and packed it on ice to make sure it got home safely. There is also a huge assortment of raw Florida honey, preserves, candy, and baked goods.
You can enjoy a lunch of tropical fruit smoothies and pulled pork barbecue while you are here. The fresh coconut water is awesome!
On the premises is a large animal enclosure where you can feed giant tortoises, Brahma calves, emus, chickens, geese, turkeys, and goats. Ellen had the emu eating pellets out of her hand. This is the most beautiful animal enclosure of its kind that I have ever seen! There is also an aviary with tropical birds and parrots who like to converse with visitors. Scattered throughout the grounds is Robert’s collection of antique tractors. Tricycles and kiddie cars are provided for young visitors to ride.
Miccosukee Indian Village
Outdoor exhibits are located in several chickee huts and demonstrate traditional Miccosukee life. There is an alligator show and an observation platform overlooking the marsh. There are picnic areas and a small indoor museum of Miccosukeee history. The gift shop displays hand-crafted traditional clothing and jewelry, books, and other souvenirs.
Across the road, you can take an airboat tour of the “River of Grass.” I have taken many classes to visit the village and to take an airboat tour. The guides were always knowledgeable and informative. Here, as in the national parks we visited, you will learn about preserving the natural environment.
Indian villages are scattered throughout Everglades National Park along US 41. There are multiple airboat operators and some small restaurants featuring traditional Miccosukee cuisine. Alligator and Indian fry bread are likely to be included on the menus.
The beach is still lovely, but crowded and noisy. I did not enjoy the loud music, pervasive Jamaican cigar and marijuana smoke, constant racket of small planes flying up and down the beach advertising parties at local night clubs, and incessant chatter of other beachgoers. If you go to Miami Beach, you will see a lot of Brazilian bikinis and maybe some bare bosoms. Be prepared for horrendous traffic and very steep prices. We paid $20 for two hours of valet parking, $20 to rent an umbrella, and $20 to rent a chaise lounge. A large bottle of Pelligrino sparkling water was $9.
If you have a big budget and lots of time to spend, there are many great attractions in the surrounding area. I have listed a few that I enjoyed in the seven years I lived in Miami Beach and at various times in the twenty years since then:
Bayside in Miami, Miami Beach historic art deco district, Lincoln Road Mall in Miami Beach, Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami Jungle Gardens, Fairchild Tropical Gardens, Viscaya mansion and grounds, a gorgeous world-class concert hall and opera house in Miami, Miami Beach Ballet Company, Miami Beach Symphony, Miami Metro Zoo, Miami Seaquarium, and boat tours featuring celebrity homes on the islands. Miami holds an annual book fair which I attended five years ago.
There are glitzy, huge new cruise terminals. If you are a sports fan, you might enjoy Marlins baseball or Miami Dolphins football. If you like to wager, consider nearby jailai or horse racing.
This list just scratches the surface of things to discover in Miami/Miami Beach.
South Florida Restaurants We Love
Triad Seafood Market and Waterfront Cafe, Everglades City, Florida
We ate outside overlooking a lovely water view. Ellen and I split an order of very fresh stone crab claws with mustard sauce. Our hush puppies and sweet potato fries were great! We enjoyed a delicious salad composed of spring mix, walnuts, dried cranberries, red onions, tomatoes, and blue cheese dressing. Katey, not a fan of seafood, ordered a cheeseburger and salad, which she said were very good.
Roasters ‘N Toasters New York Deli, Miami Beach, Florida
Ernie and Richie’s was our neighborhood Jewish deli when we lived in Miami Beach twenty years ago. Roasters ‘N Toasters replaced it and maintains a similar vibe and menu. Katey and I split a delicious Reuben on rye sandwich. My Caesar salad came with a homemade garlic dressing. Ellen’s chopped liver sandwich was intensely flavored and good. The carrot cake with cream cheese icing that we shared had many thin layers and was suitably decadent. The flakey rugelach cookies were made with dark chocolate and flavored with cinnamon. Katey and Ellen liked the matzo ball soup. We all loved the well-prepared latkes with sour cream and apple sauce.
Havana Spice Restaurant, Homestead, Florida
This is a really wonderful Cuban family restaurant with fun, funky decor. We ate there twice. Ellen and Katey enjoyed Cuban coffee and expresso. I ordered my favorite, lechon asado (Cuban roast pork.) It is marinated with mojo (bitter orange) sauce and slow-cooked with onions. I also liked their maduros (fried ripe plantains.)
The second time we ate there, Ellen and I shared a big plate of sliced fried plantains that were unbelievably light and crispy. I tried guava cheesecake, which was very sweet. I wished I had gotten my favorite, flan (baked egg custard.) It looked great in the dessert case!
*Having gained several pounds on our vacation, I have returned to my usual low-carb diet.
My daughters, Ellen and Katey, will be visiting from Texas, March fifth through the eleventh. Our eagerly-awaited four-day road trip will take us through Everglades National Park to Miami Beach and Biscayne National Park.
We have planned two boat tours, a day at the beach, a visit to the Miccosukee Indian Village, and a walk across the saltwater marsh that I once enjoyed nearly forty years ago. We look forward to encounters with alligators, dolphins, and colorful tropical birds. Local seafood, Cuban cuisine, barbeque, and matzo ball soup are also on our itinerary.
I will share stories and photos of our trip when we return.
Ongoing Effects of Hurricane Ian & Other Disasters
I think the internet is finally fixed! Monday the technician tightened a loose wire at the central box! Our internet, TV, and house phones were off for five days, the third such outage since the hurricane shook things up. Robert is out $250 for a modem the internet provider had recommended. It didn’t solve the problem, and Robert returned it, but they said they had never received it and refused to refund the money.
I got up one morning last week and discovered that a tree had fallen from the wooded lot behind us onto the power company right-of-way behind our house… five months after the hurricane!
It cost $1, 200 to get this large oak tree cut up and removed. The new roof, wall repairs, and previous tree removal are covered by homeowner’s insurance, but not this tree!
What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world
and loses his own soul?
Bible, New International Version, Mark 8:36
No good deed goes unpunished!
A corrupt quartet
sought profit from others’ loss,
but karma stepped in!
Inflicting loss on others,
without gain, they sold their souls.
On Saturday afternoon, I was shopping at Publix supermarket when a woman, who apparently spoke little English, came up from behind me. Saying “Please,” she pointed and gestured for me to reach a product on a high shelf for her. Two times I tried, and she shook her head, but the third time I handed her the item, and she said,”Thank you.” When I went to the checkout a few minutes later, I discovered that my wallet was missing.
Suddenly, I realized the significance of my encounter with the woman and told a manager what had happened. Publix security cameras clearly showed a man acting as a lookout, a woman distracting me by asking me for help, and another woman removing my wallet from my tote bag in five seconds! The theft was recorded at 3:59. At 4:15, before I even missed my wallet, the security camera at the Walmart across a four-lane highway recorded the thieves trying to use my credit cards to pay for $504.94 worth of drinks and other groceries.There must have been a fourth person filling the cart at Walmart while the other three were robbing me.
All the cards they tried to use were declined because the credit card companies’ records show that I rarely spend more than $100 at the grocery store. All the four thieves got for their trouble was $8 in cash and incriminating videos in two stores. I hope they are caught and can never again do this to anyone else!
The wallet contained my drivers license, voter registration card, insurance and credit cards, checkbook, and my $450 car key fob. I will never again put my key fob, check book, and every card I possess in my wallet. I will never again leave my wallet in a tote bag, but will carry it in a small cross-body purse or a fanny pack. You are never too old to learn to do things differently!
A Publix Manager said that in the seven years he had been at the store, no customer had ever been robbed. Lucky me…I am the first! After I waited for two hours at Publix for the police, The manager gave me my groceries for free, and one of the Publix employees took me home and brought Robert back to pick up the car. I soon had to return to the store to fill out a police report. Finally, late that night, I got a chance to cancel my cards and order new ones.
The next three days were spent at Motor Vehicles (twice) who wanted proof of residence, the bank (twice), who needed my driver’s license, and the bureau of elections. I had to change my checking account and online banking and call Social Security and insurance companies about changes in my direct deposit. I contacted Medicare, AAA, AARP…The details are endless, but I am gaining on them. Though everyone has been unbelievably helpful, it has been an ordeal!
I don’t know how I could have managed without Robert’s help! While I was waiting at Motor Vehicles and the bank, I wrote a Valentine poem for Robert and later made it into a card.
Yesterday, we went to the car dealership to replace my key fob and reprogram Robert’s. When we returned, there were eight roofers on our roof installing new shingles. Robert and I were nervous about the shingles we had selected, but we are very happy with the finished roof! The next thing we have to do is hire someone to repair the numerous hairline cracks in our walls that appeared in the weeks after Hurricane Ian…
Robert followed up his recent pacemaker surgery with a cardiologist last week. Many tests are scheduled, some this week, some after Robert’s daughter visits in a couple of weeks. Then my daughters are coming in March, and we are planning a road trip. I will post the photos!
No need to worry. I promise you, I will not be bored anytime soon!
“Another Year Together” was written for the holiday card I put in Robert’s Christmas stocking this year. We have had a very personally challenging 2022: sickness, surgeries, extensive dental work, unexpected expenses, and family visits cancelled by weather and illness. The whole world has had a challenging year: wars, violence, storms, fires, floods, famine, supply chain issues, inflation and financial distress, a continuing Covid 19 pandemic compounded by widespread outbreaks of several other viruses…and on and on and on..
Robert and I have met the challenges of 2022, including Hurricane Ian. Although we are a little tireder and a little older, we have survived! We have also savored the pleasures of everyday life and the blessings that came our way. Our hopes are high for a better 2023, both for ourselves and for everyone worldwide.
We wish you courage for your journey, strength to meet the challenges you encounter, hope in your heart, and peace of mind. We wish you fair weather and good fortune. May you be inspired, creative, and productive. May you be surrounded by the love of family and friends.
our life and strength and gifts that nature brings.
Restoring Our Connection to Nature
On small family farms like the dairy farm where my mother grew up and in home gardens that were the pride of my grandmother and my father, there is a profound connection to nature. People work in cooperation with nature to provide for themselves and their families.
In the time of large corporate farms, most people do not live on small family farms and raise all of the food they eat. Many people may have lost the connection to the land and to the changing seasons.
Whatever our work, wherever we live, we are a part of the cycles of nature. We can help to preserve and renew the environment. We may not be able to do everything, but there are things each one of us can do to renew our connection to the natural world.
Nearly every culture has celebrations incorporating light. Bonfires, torches, lamps, candles, fireworks…all light the way to our best selves and a better world. Diwali is a beautiful and joyous festival, but what seems extraordinary to me is its universal message…nine simple words with the power to transform the individual and the world: