Friday, March 17, 2023

A Year Older


sailboat on King's Bay, Crystal River, Florida

Yesterday the age gap between Gary and me narrowed. If you missed it, don't sigh and smack your head -- it was a wonderful day and I definitely "felt the love" of family and friends on my birthday. 

the very first of the cards

The cards began showing up in our mailbox early in the week and have kept coming with each passing day.

drying the T-Bird

Not to be out-done by my readers, Gary made preparations for my birthday by washing the Thunderbird the day before. The weather forecast was looking "T-Bird friendly" so the plan was to drive it to our celebratory destinations.

lamp table on my side

The next day when my coffee was brought to me, I was presented with a lovely card and gift bag. Inside was Shannon Bream's book, The Women of the Bible Speak and also a note saying another of her books was on order, The Love Stories of the Bible Speak: Biblical Lessons on Romance, Friendship, and Faith. I was delighted that Gary had noted I appreciate this woman of faith. Before the day was over, I began reading.

birthday e-card by Jacquie Lawson

We had our usual cereal for breakfast and I checked both email and FaceBook. Friends sent me an e-card created by Jacquie Lawson. Have you seen her work? It is always exceptionally beautiful and tasteful. If you would like to see more of her work, click here

Waterfront view of Crackers Bar and Grill

Our first destination was Crackers on the Crystal River, about an hour's drive west of here. It's advertised in local magazines and I had heard the food is good.

There is ample seating both indoors and out but one of the reasons I wanted to lunch there was to sit near the water, so we had a picnic table with a large umbrella. The temperature was on the cool side, so sitting out in the sunshine was comfortable.

my date waits for his order

Florida definitely has plenty of chain restaurants, but in the nearly six years since moving south, I've come to appreciate the places with a "Florida vibe" and Crackers is one of them. 

my lunch

We both ordered hamburgers, medium-well, please. Gary had the French fries and I had potato salad, and we both shared from our plates, as we always do. My burger was a patty melt on rye bread, which sort of goes with the St. Patrick's Day theme this week, I think.  I had my signature sweet tea (per the name of this blog), which I never have at home but frequently enjoy when dining out. 

the wind whipped up my hair but I didn't care

Leaving completely satisfied from the table, we walked a little along the water's edge and found a bench where we could watch all the activities in the water: snorkeling, kayaking, boating, and looking for manatees.

Plantation, a resort, on Crystal River 

We had about 90 minutes until our reservations for a tour boat. About seven miles south of Crackers we found this resort, parked the car and then knocked about, discovering delightful new places with an "old Florida" feel. Towering oak trees with the Spanish moss draped from the branches, older but well-preserved southern architecture, and a real "lazy river" -- it looked like something out of a movie.

Crystal River behind the Plantation resort

And speaking of movies, Hollywood found this area long ago both for films and investments by the stars. I won't go into the whole story, but this house was built by actor John Travolta and his late wife, Kelly Preston. He also has an impressive home in the town where we live, along with his own air strip.

built by the Travoltas for their son,
who unexpectedly died shortly after

They sold this house after the passing of their son but I occasionally hear of a "Travolta sighting" in Ocala.

one of the tour boats

While we waited to board our pontoon tour boat on the Crystal River, we sat in the shade to watch people and boats coming and going. Our tour was to be an hour-long ride on the Crystal River and Kings Bay area but most of the other boats were for those who wanted to swim with the manatees.

wet suits

That last sentence is my segue into the above picture. I don't know that wearing a wet suit was a requirement for the swim-with-manatees adventure, but it was a good idea since we are not in the high heat of summer here yet. More than 70 natural springs feed the Crystal River/Kings Bay waters, all of them maintaining a year 'round temperature of 72 degrees. But with that said, a wet suit is still a good idea at this time of year.

just call me "Captain"!

We were among the first to board our tour boat, and Gary insisted I stand at the helm. But when the captain disagreed and a fist fight ensued ... well, suffice it to say Gary was told to sit down and be quiet and I had to join him..... 

Okay, okay. I have exaggerated a little. There were close to 30 passengers on the boat when we pushed off from the dock to begin the hunt for manatees. One man steered the boat and the other narrated with good humor we all enjoyed.

communing with the manatees

The Crystal River/Kings Bay is the largest natural water refuge for manatees on the Florida Gulf Coast. In winter they congregate here in great numbers (the hundreds) to be close to the warm water natural springs. But as our weather heats up they venture farther away. 

We floated past many boats like the one above where the wet-suited passengers slipped into the water with their goggles, foam pool noodles, and snorkel gear. 

there are maybe a dozen manatees in this photo

As a result of this adventure, I am convinced the best way to see a manatee is if you are in the water with them. We saw many of them from our boat, but as you can see in the above picture, you have to know what to look for to be satisfied you saw any. They are close to the water's surface in my snapshot, those long whitish blobs swimming close together. We did see a mama and her baby very briefly as they surfaced for air and then sunk back down again. They come up about every 6 minutes for air. Even from the perspective of the boat, this was an amazing sight.

All boat traffic is required to move slowly. On this day, in addition to the number of manatees, there were a lot of boats like ours, kayakers, and sailboats requiring sharp attention to navigation.

boats on Kings Bay

Even with all the traffic, the scene was relatively quiet, serene even. Very restful. I loved it.


We saw one gator resting in the water near a boat dock, and a lot of birds. The many Pelicans interested me the most as they approached the water surface much like an airplane coming in for a landing. 

birthday dessert

Our adventure in the town of Crystal River was really delightful but we were tired as we headed to the T-bird to head for home. Before reaching our house, we stopped for ice cream cones at Twistee Freeze -- a dessert that never disappoints.There was no cake for my birthday, just ice cream and that was plenty!

As I considered how I would write this blog post for my birthday, I thought about reviewing all that has happened over the last twelve months, but my faithful readers know all that. 

I'll just sum it up by saying I never dreamed the wonderful adventures and developments of the past year would be a part of my life, and especially after entering the seventh decade.  When my grandmothers were this age, they were wearing cotton house dresses with stockings rolled up to just below their knees, sensible shoes, and tightly-permed graying hair (with hair nets!). Their aerobic exercise was housekeeping done mostly by hand.

I close with the words to a song I've shared before, Goodness of God. If you want to listen to the song instead of reading the words, click here.

I love You, Lord

For Your mercy never fails me

All my days, I've been held in Your hands

From the moment that I wake up

Until I lay my head

Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

And all my life You have been faithful

And all my life You have been so, so good

With every breath that I am able

Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

I love Your voice

You have led me through the fire

In the darkest night

You are close like no other

I've known You as a Father

I've known You as a Friend

And I have lived in the goodness of God 

Until next time, grace and peace.

P.S. Are you wearing green today?


  1. What a fun, fun day and one you would have never dreamed a few years ago. Wow! life can sure change quickly. I continue to share you new found joy! May the Lord continue to bless you in the year ahead.

  2. I am, indeed, wearing green today! Barb, your birthday celebration was amazing!! How fun!! Your handsome guy did good!! Sending love and hugs and wishing you many blessings in the year ahead!! xo

  3. Happy Birthday sweet lady! Looks like you had a really fun day. We have so many neat places for day trips around here. It's such a treat to get to see the Manatees too. Love the books you got. I want to put some on my wish list. Enjoy the weekend! Diane

  4. Happy Birthday! It sounds like you had a wonderful day and were shown lots of love!
    I've not heard of that writer and will have to look her up. I think I would like her books.
    That song - The goodness of God is one of my favorites. He is so good!

  5. Wishing you a very happy birthday, Barbara! Your adventure to Crystal River looked and sounded delightful. What a wonderful way to celebrate you! Hmm, ice cream works for me as a birthday treat. Enjoy your weekend!

  6. What a lovely way to spend your birthday! I am so happy you are happy, smiles...and I pass by Twistee Freeze everyday--we prefer Freddys as its custard and since I am lactose intolerant (tmi, grin) that is ok (Freddys). Have a great Saturday my friend.

  7. Happy birthday you young thing, you! You were celebrated well and that is sweet. Looks like a beautiful day out and about. God bless you dearly in this new decade of life!

  8. I so enjoyed reading about your birthday celebration day, Barbara! And the Crystal River photos are lovely... I am only familiar with the coasts of Florida having had family in Daytona Beach and Naples so it's always surprising to me just how pretty central FL can be. Anyway--I wish you a belated Happy Birthday and a new year ahead filled with everything that brings a smile :)

  9. What a beautiful, beautiful celebration; happy birthday! I love that song too...when it gets to the line, "I love Your voice," oh, how I love His voice, He HAS led me through the fire, In the darkest night He has been close like no other. I know you have lived that firsthand too.

  10. Happy happy birthday! It looks like the perfect birthday celebration!

  11. What a fantastic birthday adventure you had, Barbara! I would have sent you a card if I had your address (you can email that to me at We are both March babies. :)
    And I absolutely love Shannon Bream's writing, too. I've yet to order and read the latest one, but thoroughly enjoyed the other two. Happy Birthday and happy reading!