Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

We planned to meet the kids at the Einstein Bagel shop at 8 a.m. We got there at 7;30 and bought some coffee to drink while we waited outside. The man sitting in the background in this picture was panhandling.  I realized we were in the fancy neighborhood when I listened to him. Every time a person came out of the bagel shop or the Starbucks, he would ask the if they could give him $50.

b02 Panhandler

He moved around to the sidewalk next to the building, very close to us. Many of the customers handed the man money.  Andy noted that a good number of them were $5 bills. After half an hour, Andy figured the man had taken in $50.  That was $100 per hour. Certainly a lot better than minimum wage.

I took pictures of Owen and Cam while Mama and Papa were inside buying breakfast.

b03 Cam and Owen at Bagel Shop
Cam and Owen at Bagel Shop

There were some dark clouds passing by, some of them dumping rain on us. When the sun went away, Cam pulled down his sunglasses and folded both ears down in the process.  He didn’t seem to notice.

b04 Cam's Folded Ear
Cam With Folded Ears

We were walking to the vehicles when Owen noticed the tree growing on top of a building and asked me to take a picture of it.

b05 Tree on Roof
Tree on Roof

Before they came to Coral Gables, the kids went to the Kennedy Space Center.  Owen wore his new space clothes today and told me he is an astronaut in training.

b06 Owen Astronaut in Training
Owen – Astronaut in Training

Then I took a few pictures of him in the palm fronds.

b07 Owen in Palm Frond 1

b08 Owen in Palm Frond 2

The outing today was to the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

b09 Flowers

b01 Pink Flowers

We took the guided trolley tour through the park.  The tour guide got out to talk about the Baobob tree and invited the children to get off the trolley to feel the tree.

b10 Boabab Tree

I loved the statue/sculpture of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, author of “River of Grass” and was the force behind getting the Everglades protected rather that filled in and developed.

b11 Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Statue
Marjorie Stoneman Douglas

Cam was struggling to carry an umbrella so Andy held the tip and the strap to help him.  It was funny when Cam got distracted and walked out from under the umbrella as Andy continued carrying it.

b12 Andy, Cam, and Umbrella
Andy, Cam, and Umbrella

b13 Purple Flower

We ate lunch in the cafe overlooking the butterfly enclosure. This is Son-in-Law George’s brother JD.  Cam enjoyed sitting on Uncle JDs lap.

b14 Cam and Uncle JD
Cam and Uncle JD

This tree was in front of the cafe.  It started raining while Owen was posing in front of it and we made a dash to the building overhang to stay dry.

b15 Owen in Front of Tree

This is a Cannonball Tree from the rain forests of Central and South America.  The stem with the cannonballs came right out of the trunk.

b16 Canonball Tree
Canonball Tree

Andy and I decided that we will make another trip to Fairchild and spend a day walking around and taking pictures of the plants.  It is a beautiful place.

We headed back to Marathon from the garden and traffic was horrific heading back into the keys.  It took us almost two more hours to get home than it should have.

December 29, 2015 – Coral Gables and Key Biscayne

Andy and I got to George and Jennifer’s room at 7 am so we could watch the boys while they went to the gym.  Here is Andy reading to the boys.

b01 Andy Reading to Cam and Owen
Andy Reading to Cam and Owen

While George and Jennifer were getting ready to go to the beach at Bill Baggs State Park on Key Biscayne, we took the boys and their remote control trucks down to the rotunda. This picture should have been a video.  Cam was trying to pick up this truck, but was holding the switch on the controller and couldn’t catch it.

b02 Cam Chasing His Car
Cam Chasing His Truck

Andy was reading the newspaper while the boys played.  Owen was using the black tiles as roads for this car.

b03 Andy and Owen with Car
Andy Reading and Owen Driving His Truck

Cam could make his car go forward and backward, but didn’t get the hang of steering it.  He gave up the controller and got down on his knees to push the car in the old fashion way.

b04 Cam Pushing Car on Tile Road
Cam Pushing Truck on Tile Road

Owen, who is four and two years older than Cam learned to drive his truck very well.  After he got the hang of it, he was having a lot more fun.

b05 Owen Driving Car
Owen Driving Remote Control Truck

We spent several hours on the beach at Key Biscayne, along with thousands of other beach goers. I spent most of the time in the sand and water and did not take any pictures until we were packing up to leave. Jennifer stopped to pose for a picture for me with Cam.

b06 Jennifer and Cam on Beach
Jennifer and Cam on Beach


December 27 – 28 – Coral Gables, Florida

I’m in Grandma Heaven with my Exceptional Grandsons Owen and Cam. This is a rotunda in the hotel where the kids are staying.  The pink marble floors of the hotel are stunning. The boys love to race around the upper level while an adult times them.

b Rotunda
Hotel Rotunda

Here, they paused on the far side for a picture.

b Owen and Cam in Rotunda
Owen and Cam in Rotunda

There is a Mellow Mushroom in Coral Gables so we went there for dinner.  The waiting area is in a modified Volkswagen bus. We could hardly keep Cam at the table; he only wanted to sit in the bus.

b Volkswagen Bus Waiting Area
VW Bus at Mellow Mushroom

Today we went to the Miami Children’s Museum. Grandma is exhausted, even with an afternoon nap.

Andy and I gave Christmas presents to the boys this morning while George and Jennifer worked out in the gym.

b01 Cam and Owen Opening Presents
Cam and Owen Opening Presents

We stopped in a bagel shop for breakfast and sat outside to eat.  Here are the Bartons watching the world go by.

b02 Bartons Eating Bagels
Bartons Eating Bagels

Cam loves cream cheese.

b03 Cam with Bagel
Cam with Bagel

A loud truck was passing by so Owen held his ears.

b04 Owen with Choc Milk

This is the Miami Children’s Museum

b05 Miami Children's Museum
Miami Children’s Museum

The Wicked Witch of the West went south here.

b06 Wicked Witch of the West
Wicked Witch of the West

I think this was everyone’s favorite exhibit.  This aquarium is an extra large computer touch screen.  The fish are swimming around and if you gently touch the screen near them, they will turn around and swim the other way.

b07 Aquarium Screen
Aquarium Screen

The coolest part is that we got to “make” the fish.  They had little cartoon drawings on a table for the kids to color and write their names on them.  Then they put the picture on a scanner.  In a moment or two, the fish would drop down into the aquarium screen. This is Jennifer’s  jellyfish.

b08 Jennifer's Jellyfish
Jennifer’s Jellyfish

I wrote “Baba” on a fish and scanned it, but when my fish dropped into the tank, my name was upside down.  I re-scanned the picture, but my fish was still upside down.  This was interesting.  Then I realized that the scanner could tell which edge was the top of the paper.  I had drawn my fish upside down, so it didn’t matter how I put it on the scanner. I drew one right-side up and it turned out fine. Owen posed in front of the aquarium with his fish picture.

b09 Owen with Fish Picture
Owen with Fish Picture

The next room had a fishing boat with plastic fish to catch.  Owen like catching fish.

b10 Owen Catching Fish
Owen with Fish

Cam liked to drive the boat.

b11 Cam Driving the Boat
Cam Driving the Boat

They were most enthusiastic over the firetruck where they donned their fireman outfits, complete with boots.  Here they are waiting their turn.

b12 Firemen Owen and Cam
Firemen Waiting to Drive the Truck

There is a large screen in front of the steering wheel, showing street scenes as the firetruck drives along.

b13 Driving Firetruck
Owen Driving the Firetruck

The cruise ship was also a big hit.

b14 Cruise Ship
Cruise Ship

Again, Cam was most interested in steering. He was sounding the horn with the large button.

b15 Cam Driving Ship
Cam Steering Ship

Own liked ringing the ship’s bell on the fore deck.

b16 Owen Ringing Ship's Bell
Owen Ringing Ship’s Bell

The adult children were doing the limbo.

b17 George Doing Limbo
Limbo George
b18 JD Doing Limbo
Limbo JD Barton
b19 Jennifer Doing Limbo
Limbo Jennifer

Fun Day!


December 24, 2015 – Christmas Firetruck

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays

Whichever you prefer.

My town, Marathon, Florida, USA has an interesting Christmas tradition that I will share with you. It started in 1970s. Every Christmas Eve the fire department folks and families ride all over town in a ladder truck covered with lights. They play loud Christmas music and toss candy canes to the children.  I don’t know if they have a specific route, but it seems they cover most streets. You can hear them coming before they are in sight.  Everyone comes out to wave to the people on the firetruck as they pass by. I always have.

Our RV park has a Christmas Eve party in the clubhouse and when the firetruck pulls up outside, we all run out to wave to the people riding it.  This year Santa climbed down from his chair at the base of the ladder and went into the clubhouse.  I think he was posing for pictures with people, but I was outside taking pictures of the truck.  It is so big that I had to take three pictures to get it all.

Note that the firetruck is a convertible. Santa’s chair was mounted on the base of the ladder. There was a large lighted “Merry Christmas” sign on the front flashing on and off, but it was off when I got this picture.

b Firetruck 1
Christmas Fire Truck

Most of the people were riding on both side of the second section of the firetruck. I hope they had seat belts or were somehow tied down.

b Firetruck 2
Christmas Revelers on Firetruck

There was another driver at the back end.   The RV park roads are so narrow so it was a good thing that huge truck can bend around corners.

b Firetruck 3
Back End of Christmas Firetruck

Our neighbor and musician, Dave Scott, entertained us with his guitar.  Many people got up to sing with him, including myself. You may remember our 98-year old trumpet player, Micky Belin, who got up and played a few tunes.

b Dave and Mickey
Dave Scott and Micky Belin


It was a beautiful night with a full moon. The scattered clouds were lit up by the moon and it was magical. It was so nice that, after we left the party, we walked to the waterfront. The moon was so bright that the horizon was very clear on the ocean.

  Happy, Healthy, Safe, and Peaceful New Year

December 22, 2015 – Cookies and Spaghetti Sauce

It is Andy’s 79-4/12 birthday.  I was going to make him a pan of brownies for a cake, but I didn’t have the baking chocolate.  I changed to Pecan Praline Cookies.

Pecan Praline Cookies


  • 8 ounces butter (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chopped pecans, toasted
  • sifted confectioners’ sugar, optional

Cream butter and brown sugar; stir in vanilla.  Gradually work in flour.  Mixture may be crumbly.  Add chopped pecans and work into dough.  Pinch off dough and roll in hands to form balls about 1 inch in diameter.  I use a teaspoon (not a measuring spoon) to scoop it up and keep the balls uniform.

Bake pecan cookies at 325° for 15 to 20 minutes, until firm and browned on bottoms.

Roll pecan cookies in confectioners’ sugar while still warm, but give them a few minutes to cool down a bit so they wont’ fall apart when handled.
Makes about 4 dozen pecan praline cookies.

Here they are laid out on my rolling cart that give me a little extra counter space in the motorhome.  As you can see behind them, the table is our den with our computers back to back.  We eat outside.

b01 Cookies
Pecan Praline Cookies

A few of the four dozen are missing in this picture. We bagged up most of the cookies to hand out to the neighbors.

As soon as I got the some space cleared, I started making a big pot of spaghetti sauce, Andy’s favorite meal. We took a walk to the waterfront while the sauce was simmering. This Little Blue Heron was standing on a rope on that floating barrier at the entrance to our canal.

b02 Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
b03 Bougainvilla

Around sunset, we walked back to the water again so I could take some pictures of the lighthouse with Christmas lights on it.  On the way, I got a pretty nice moon picture. It would be better if I had a tripod, bit I was happy enough.

b04 Moon

I probably took a hundred pictures of the lighthouse.  It was too early in some and the lights didn’t show up.  Then, after it got darker, the pictures were not in sharp focus.

b05 Key RV Lighthouse
Lighthouse Dressed for Christmas

So I didn’t get too much done on Big Creek.  I finished fixing the mistakes Andy found and that was it. But, it is probably good for me to take some time away from it. I am ready for a Christmas vacation.

December 21, 2015 – Millie Thom

I recently finished reading two books, of a three-book series.  It occurred to me yesterday, that I should write a book review, as I’ve seen other bloggers do. Actually, maybe not a book review really.  That doesn’t suit my personality.  But I still feel compelled to share them with you.

They are historical novels set in England in the 800s, when the Danes began invading, or flooding in as most unwelcome immigrants. Of the two main characters, King Alfred of Wessex is a real historical figure and Eadwulf of Mercia is fictional. According to her Amazon page, the author is a former geography and history teacher with a degree in geology and a particular passion for the Anglo-Saxon and Viking period.

I love a good story, and if I’m learning some history in the process, all the better.  As soon as I finished the first book, I downloaded the second so I could continue. You may as well buy both right up front or you will have to download the second book to continue after the last page of the first book.

I borrowed the covers from Amazon.

Now I am waiting for the third in the series to find out if England survives the onslaught.

Share this with your reading friends.

December 21, 2015 – Andy Reads

I worked through Big Creek for the umpteenth time and sent it to husband Andy to read over, and maybe find some typos.  He read all day and did not fall asleep once!

Of course, that is no commendation for the book.  He was there and lived it with me.  He loved the experience as much as I did. Not an unbiased critic by any means.

But, I am still impressed that the professional napper stayed awake.