My morning paradise

My morning paradise

This morning I visited Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel to take photographs for one of my paper’s features called Faces.

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I arrived shortly after 8 a.m. with my camera in hand ready to capture wildlife. The clouds kept the sun away for the entire hour I stayed. With clouds built as far as I could see, I still walked away with more than 130 pictures.

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Although the sun did not beat down on the beach, the wildlife still made its presence. I had so much fun watching the birds every move while capturing their hunt for food in the water and on the sand.

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Most of the birds did not pay any attention to me. I tried to give them their distance as I used my zoom to capture them.

The osprey, perched on the side of the lighthouse and in their nest were the most intriguing.

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The highlight of my trip to the beach was of course the dolphins. Spotting a dolphin will never grow old, never! There is truly something special about watching them play in the water. Today there were three or four of them swimming together.

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I swatted away many sand fleas while trying to keep the camera steady to take photographs of the dolphins.

I thought of my puppy Lucy when I spotted this little lizard. She would have gone nuts trying to chase it.

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The pictures below were taken on a sunset cruise Jason and I took last month of the Lighthouse Beach. It was a completely different perspective . . . a beautiful way to see the shoreline.

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Next month will mark two months since I started on Sanibel as the editor of the Islander. The excitement has not gone away . . .

I work in a beautiful place, a place where I get to explore on a more intimate basis.

 

 

 

‘Good food makes people happy’

‘Good food makes people happy’

Sanibel Secrets

Sanibel chef opens his home to a variety of animals

Published in the Sanibel-Captiva Islander July 8, 2015 issue

The backyard of Dave Krajnak’s home, which began as a sanctuary for many animals recovering from an injury, has become a forever home for many varieties of birds, turtles and iguanas over the years.   

He said he developed a love for animals as a young boy growing up in Wisconsin due to the proximity of farms surrounding his folks home. Krajnak said his wife Blanche’s, love of animals is partially why many of the animals were adopted, because she fell in love with each one as they took care of them.

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The couple worked with CROW for many years helping rescue animals – and on occasion provided a foster home for them. A number of their African sulcata turtle’s, the third largest tortoises in the world, came from CROW.

Krajnak said they purchased their first sulcata from a reptile fair in 2002 before additional tortoises joined the family as rescues. Two of them were found after hurricanes, and one was found walking on the island.

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The backyard has been turned into a sanctuary for the tortoises, providing ample opportunities to walk into huts Krajnak built to provide shelter. The yard, which is now sand, also gives the tortoises the opportunity to dig when they are feeling dehydrated.

He said after it rains, the tortoises flip mud onto their backs from the water that forms into puddles to stay cool. The tortoises also fling dry sand onto their backs, again to stay cool.

The tortoises eat eight or nine cases of romaine lettuce a week, which is a good water source for them. They also eat vegetables like zucchini and squash, as well as prickly pear.

Toby is the couple’s biggest sulcata tortoise, weighing in around 275 pounds.

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Others that share a smaller portion of the the backyard include the red foot and yellow-foot tortoises.

Cuban, blue rhino (otherwise known as a blue iguana), and regular iguanas can be found in large cages right off the back porch of his home, all ranging in size from small to large, and have many levels to enjoy in their habitat.

Krajnak said after you work and spend time with the iguanas, they become tame, which affords him with the opportunity to hold them when wearing gloves.

In addition to the reptiles, many songs can be heard while visiting Krajnak’s home from the cockatiel’s, a ring-neck parakeet that was found at Jerry’s Food’s, finches, and an African gray parrot. Two conure also call the Krajnak’s their home.

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He said when they took in Ricky, one of the two conures, he had no feathers and his skin was completely irritated. After drinking fresh water, the feathers started to grow back.

“When you get to know their attitude and activities it creates trust and it helps,” Krajnak said of the birds.

When Krajnak is not taking care of the animals, he is spending time at The Lighthouse Cafe, where he became the chef almost 26 years ago in 1989.

“I love playing with food,” he said. “Good food makes people happy.”

As the chef, Krajnak takes on the task of creating five or six specials a day for the “board” at the cafe. For dinner he creates a chef menu, often including a variety of available seasonal fish.

In addition to creating menu items at the restaurant, Krajnak also spends time preparing food for catering jobs, many of which are done through the restaurant. Often Blanche, who works at the bakery at Jerry’s Foods, helps with catering by baking desserts for the party.

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One of his longest catering gigs happened in 2004 when Hurricane Charley impacted the area. He cooked and prepared food alongside his wife for 11 straight days. What started off as serving 40 people ended with more than 100 by the end of the 11 days.

The idea sprang after the restaurants on the island were having a hard time keeping the food fresh without electricity. When that food started going bad, Sysco Foods began dropping off food to use.

The couple cooked food for such entities as law enforcement, Florida Wildlife and marine patrol during the cleanup effort.

A tent was erected and a table was set up, so the food could be served buffet style.

The menu included such meals as steaks, potatoes and corn to barbecue pork, beans corn on the cob and corn bread and sloppy joe’s, coleslaw and German potato salad.

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Many times Krajnak was escorted in by Scott Ashby of the Sanibel Police Department because of the standstill traffic on the island. He said the sirens were turned on and as he drove onto the causeway everyone began clapping and boats started to come in knowing there was good food to be enjoyed.

‘It bloomed and I was hooked’

Exotic orchid blooms on Sanibel

Published in the Sanibel-Captiva Islander June 17, 2015 issue

The coryanthes cacrantha orchid, which has a nickname of the "bucket orchid."

The coryanthes cacrantha orchid, which has a nickname of the “bucket orchid.”

Joe Salatino was pleasantly surprised last Wednesday morning when he walked outside and noticed his exotic orchid in bloom for the first time since planting it more than a month ago.

The coryanthes cacrantha orchid, which has a nickname of the "bucket orchid."

The coryanthes cacrantha orchid, which has a nickname of the “bucket orchid.”

The Sanibel resident found a grower in northern California after researching the coryanthes cacrantha orchid, which has a nickname of the “bucket orchid,” online. He said he wanted to take a chance and see if he could get it to grow.

The bucket orchid is a native of South America and has a scent similar to licorice.

“This is the most complex, interesting and beautiful orchid I have ever seen, or grown,” Salatino said.

Joe Salatino holds his bucket orchid.

Joe Salatino holds his bucket orchid.

Once the flowers bloomed, an euglossini bee, which is green in color, began flying in and around the “bucket orchid.”

“It opened and the bees started showing up and pollinating,” he said.

While living in southern California in the 1960s, Salatino used to drive past an orchid greenhouse with a sign that read “exotic orchids of the world.”

One day he finally decided to stop and the owner showed him around the greenhouse that expanded more than an acre and explained every orchid to him.

Six months later he returned to the greenhouse and stumbled across the cattleya orchid.

“I was stunned of how beautiful the orchid is,” Salatino said.

He was given instructions of where to place the orchid in his apartment, as well as how to water and take care of the flower.

“It bloomed and I was hooked,” Salatino said.

Soon after purchasing his first orchid, he came across a book that read “welcome to a journey that many people begin and few finish,” on the front sleeve.

His journey continued in Dallas, Texas, with more than 1,000 plants in his greenhouse. Salatino now has 175 plants on Sanibel at his home. He designed an outdoor space that fits into the environment where the orchids either hang or sit on a table.

Salatino said a lot of the orchids have different needs, some which are specific nutritional needs. A number of his orchids are kept shaded with a fan pointing on them because they strive better in cooler environments.

Once the orchid is placed in the best climate, Salatino said you can pretty much leave them alone.

“I love to find exotic orchids that are challenging to raise and get them to bloom,” he said.

The hobby that began in 1975 has brought a tremendous amount of joy to Salatino and his family and friends.

“It’s a wonderful hobby to share,” he said.

Salatino is a member of the American Orchid Society, Sanibel-Captiva Orchid Society and Southwest Florida Orchid Society. While living in Texas, he won many awards for his orchids and provided speeches to further educate others about the flower.

“Orchid people are pleasant and we have a mutual love for these plants,” Salatino said. “It’s a very peaceful hobby.”

Flood of memories

Flood of memories

A flood of memories took hold this morning after Lucy and I went to Bays Mountain. The first adventure Jason, Lisa and I had after we arrived in Kingsport almost two years ago.

This morning I needed more than just a run. I needed to get lost in the woods for a little while. So around 11, we started getting ready to go for a hike.

As soon as we arrived I spotted a chipmunk, which I haven’t seen since one of the first times we went hiking at Bays Mountain. The best part was Lucy had no idea what I was looking at, so I was able to capture a shot. A picture with food in his mouth.

I knew it was going to be a great hike after that.

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We first headed to the spot where that adventure took place. That adventure almost two years ago. An adventure that led us to a waterfall.

waterfall 3As soon as I heard the noise I became emotional. As soon as I stepped out near the top of the waterfall memories came flooding back.

I felt Jason with me . . . wishing he was beside me instead of hundreds of miles away.

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waterfall 1All of my memories from that day in May 2013 consumed me as I found a rock to sit on and take in the scenery. We had so much fun that afternoon exploring the outdoors of our new home.

IMG_3141 editWe created so many of our own little adventures that day. So many adventures that made me begin to beat my fear of heights, all with the help of Jason by my side.

The laughter filled my veins as I looked around, really looked around, and remembered the fun we had that afternoon.

IMG_3144 editI sat there on that rock for as long as Lucy let me.

IMG_3145 editFor as long as she allowed me to listen to the rushing water while sorting through my thoughts.

IMG_3146 editOf course those thoughts began tugging at the tears I somehow managed to prevent from falling. Happy tears. Happy tears of how far Jason and I have come since that day. Since that first adventure.

IMG_3151 editLucy finally had enough, so with a heavy heart we kept on hiking.

There was a smile on my face from that moment on, especially when the flood of memories continued of everything Jason and I have seen since we moved to Kingsport in May 2013. The smile was because a relationship that was already strong when me made that move together, has only grown leaps and bounds since then. That smile was because I have the heart of a man who will do anything to make me happy. This time a part has proven that on so many levels.

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IMG_3171 editThe further we hiked the Lakeside Trail the deeper in thought I became. There is just something about the outdoors that fully allows your mind to wander. Although I was deep in thought, the noises of the outdoors still captured me, as well as the beauty that lined the trails.

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IMG_3176 editI’m so glad I had Lucy with me. She brought me back into the moment as she too enjoyed the outdoors.

As always, here’s our hike through Lucy’s eyes.

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One of my hopes before leaving the house this morning was spotting signs of spring. I was so excited when I saw a tree along the water that was showing life again. The only tree along the path we decided to hike.

My trip was complete. I’ve been excited about spring all winter. It is one of my favorite seasons. There’s something special about watching nature come back to life.

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spring 2It’s hard to believe that tomorrow marks two weeks since Jason packed his car and headed to Florida to get us ready for our move. A move that would bring us closer to family and friends.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss Jason. There is not a day that goes by that I wish he was here with me, or I was there with him.

This transition period, however has shown me what I am capable of . . . what kind of strength I have. I have become independent on a level that has made me proud. A level of independence that has shown me I am much stronger than I have ever thought or gave myself credit for.

Today was a great day. A day that made me think of all the beautiful moments Jason and I have shared since moving to NE Tennessee.

“It’s a destination”

“It’s a destination”

Historic Arcade Theatre

Shining a spotlight on the Florida Rep

Published in Community Lifestyles South Fort Myers February/March 2015 issue

All photos courtesy of Bryelle Dafeldecker

A Fort Myers theatre, once a Vaudeville house in the 1920s, has attracted local and national attention over the course of its 17 seasons.

The Historic Arcade Theatre, at 2267 1st St., downtown Fort Myers, now home to the Florida Repertory Theatre, was built in 1908 and attracted such first time viewers as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

front coverOver the years, as movies became more and more popular, the building transformed into a movie house throughout the 1920s, remaining successful until the 1970s.

Unfortunately in 1989, the theatre plummeted into severe disrepair.

Bryelle Dafeldecker, Florida Repertory Theatre marking manager, said artistic director Robert Cacioppo, and his wife, Carrie Lund, founded the Florida Repertory Theatre in 1998.

“The City of Fort Myers offered him a theatre in Fort Myers because nothing was going on downtown,” Dafeldecker explained.

Robert Cacioppo

Robert Cacioppo

Now the theatre attracts about 80,000 people annually into the downtown district.

“It’s a destination,” Dafeldecker said.

For the past six years, the Wall Street Journal has reviewed the shows at the Florida Repertory Theatre, making it one of the top repertory companies in the nation.

“After that happened, it brought a lot more attention nationally – and locally,” she said. “We have a really loyal base, which is great.”

She said they offer nine full professional productions per season, from the end of October through May.

“We pay all of our actors and designers and fly them in from various locations from all over the country,” she explained.

A Packed House for August: Osage CountyThere are six productions held on the main stage of the 393- seat Arcade Theatre and three in the smaller studio theater, which comfortably seats 115 guests.

“Fascinatin’ Gershwin” is currently performing, and will do so through Sunday, March 15. Previews are held on Wednesday, Jan. 28, and Thursday, Jan. 29.

Dafeldecker said the review will feature all of Gershwin’s music.

“Around the World in 80 Days” will be held through Wednesday, March 4.

Dafeldecker said that performance is a family-friendly comedy that depicts five actors playing an array of different characters traveling the world.

“Dividing the Estate” will be held from Friday, March 20, through Wednesday, April 8, with previews Tuesday, March 17 through Thursday, March 19.

“Split in Three” will conclude the season with showings from Friday, April 24, through Sunday, May 10. Previews will be held from April 21, through April 23.

In addition to the productions, the theatre also has a thriving education department that sees 17,000 students every year. Programs include Children’s Theatre, Camp Florida Rep, Theatre Conservatory, Classes for Youth & Adults and “ACT UP!” for Children on the Autism Spectrum.

The Children’s Theatre includes Lunch Box Performances for $12 if booked in advance. She said acting interns put on children’s theatre pieces.

"Journey to Oz."

“Journey to Oz.”

“Journey to Oz,” an interactive piece about the “Wizard of Oz” will be held Sunday, Feb. 22, at 11 a.m., and the “True Story of the Three Little Pigs,” a rock musical for younger kids, will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28.

The Camp Florida Rep, open to kindergarten through 12th grade students, includes a two-week summer camp program and one-week winter and spring break program.

Dafeldecker said the camp which sells out every year, and puts on a full produced musical in two weeks.

The Theatre Conservatory is an audition-only program held February through May, designed for young actors with moderate to advanced level experience who are interested in theatre.

The classes held for youth and adults cover a vast array of areas that will help beginning artists, serious young artists, professionals and adults seeking something to do.

ACT UP provides youngsters ages 11 to 16 with an opportunity to learn basic acting skills through verbal and nonverbal communication, collaboration, creative movements and improvisation, while interacting with others and making new friends.

“We have fall, winter and spring classes and then in the summer we do summer camps,” Dafeldecker said.

For more information on the Florida Repertory Theatre, its many performances and upcoming camps, call 239-332-4488 or visit FloridaRep.org.

A beautiful life

A beautiful life

My heart is singing. I have the love of a man who would move mountains to make me smile. A man who would do absolutely anything to make my life even more beautiful.

That feeling has consumed me since I returned home from my trip to Fort Myers. A trip that left us apart for almost a week, the longest time spent a part in more than five years.

They say it’s good to spend time apart . . .

I knew that week was going to be hard, but did not know to what extent. There were a couple of things I truly missed while we were apart. Jason kissing me goodbye in the morning before leaving while telling me to have a great day. Surprise visits during the day. Most of all, us not sleeping in the same bed at night, was by far the hardest thing. I sleep so much better knowing he is peacefully laying beside me, or even knowing he is in the same house.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved every second of my trip because I was surrounded by family and friends. It was a trip I needed to take, a trip that was long overdue. A trip that was filled with nonstop laughter as every single one of my siblings gathered together with their loved ones and children.

My parents watching a sunset on Fort Myers Beach. The love these two share is inspirational.

My parents watching a sunset on Fort Myers Beach. The love these two share is inspirational.

The Monday after Christmas, my family had its family Christmas. Mom had 19 people under one roof. All of her kids together for the first time in five years for Christmas. Sometimes it was so hard to hear someone talk because of the booming of laughter that filled a room. New memories were definitely made that day.

Towards the end of the day, we all gathered outside, so my Mom could have pictures with her family. This was specially hard on me. Mom and Dad stood waiting for each one of their children and significant others to surround them, as I snapped a shot. I, of course, took that picture without Jason that day. Although he was not standing beside me, I could still feel the love we share with the hundreds of miles that separated us. I could hear him saying, “I’m glad you are spending time with your family.”

Throughout the week, Jason and I would talk through text messages. Yes, I still received my good morning. Often times we had the opportunity to catch up at night before we both went to bed. I loved those moments because I had the chance to hear his voice.

Our week apart was definitely confirmation that I have truly found my soul mate. I found the love of my life.

Jason was a part of many conversations and in my thoughts as every day unfolded.

The night I met a great friend at the beach to watch a sunset, he was with me. Charlene and I watched the sunset in almost the exact spot that Jason and I have shared many times while enjoying dinner on the beach. I sent him a picture of the sunset. His reply, “Very nice. I can feel it.”

Fort Myers Beach sunset

Fort Myers Beach sunset

Those seven days a part showed me yet again that I have true love from a man who loves me to pieces. Although I know he missed me, he was always sending me messages sharing how happy he was that I was with family and friends.

My favorite text was sent the night before I returned home. He had a countdown going of when I was going to be “stuck” with him again. 12 hours and counting . . . that warmed my heart in ways I cannot explain. Jason missed having me home.

When I came around the bend at the airport and saw him standing there, a smile swept across my face in a speed I could not control. I was home. I was in the presence of my man once again. I could tell he was just as equally as excited to see me.

I feel a new kind of closeness to Jason. A new kind of appreciation for one another. The laughter I felt at my parents house, is the same kind of laughter that has filled our home the last couple of nights.

It’s an unexplainable feeling to have that kind of love. A feeling that is sometimes overwhelming. A love that has opened my eyes to all kinds of beautiful moments that were once clouded before.

Jason continues to show me how to appreciate every moment for what it is worth.

This man has helped in creating a beautiful life for the both of us. A beautiful life that continues to excite me as new days unfold.

I am beyond grateful I met this man 19 years ago. It was a true blessing to be reunited with him again more than five years ago. Jason has helped me become a better person. The support he shares often times leaves me speechless.

It’s truly a powerful thing . . . how much someone can impact your life. A positive impact on every aspect of my well-being.

This year has started off with a bang, as I continue to share my life with a man I know I will grow old with.

Fort Myers Beach sunset

Fort Myers Beach sunset

 

Time out for play

An afternoon trip to the store ended with the purchase of a rake for our yard . . . which of course turned into time out for play with Lucy.

Lucy kept busy finding acorns while I raked leaves into a huge pile under an oak tree in the backyard. The tree is absolutely beautiful!

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This little pup had so much fun jumping into the middle of the pile of leaves before scooting out and running crazy eights around the yard. As soon as I slapped my  hand in the middle of the pile, Lucy came flying back into the leaves. This then turned into a game of digging in the leaves to find her prize . . . rather large acorns.

I have learned to always carry my camera when Lucy and I are outside now . . . which yesterday turned into a lot of really cute pictures.

Here is a glimpse of the life I have with this crazy, playful, funny, puppy that completely brightens up my day.

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