The Traveling Steve's

February Days at Home and around Central Florida

After so many years of traveling for work and leisure, it’s been nice being retired and home for a few weeks. Steve (DOS) and I both have enjoyed relaxing and catching up errands around the house, visiting with friends, neighbors, and even an occasional meal out, or a short and nearby stay-cation. This post is just a miscealaneous hodgepodge of our activity since the last post in January.

We finally got the two pool lights changed, which was quite a bit of effort for the Water’s Edge Pool crew as they had to run new wiring via a new trench they dug thru the yard, as well as draining the pool a couple feet to do the work. The pool looks great at night now with the new LED lights, with separate lights for the pool and fountain which change with alternating colors. We’ve been customers of Waters Edge Pools for years and they always provide outstanding work and service.

We saw our good friends Ben and Tom at their home recently before they headed out on their South America cruise. We were actually booked on the same ship (Sapphire Princess) for the sailing prior to their’s in late January, but our’s was to Antartica and their’s sailed around Cape Horn and the Falkland Islands with several other stops leaving. We had canceled our Antartica cruise way back in September when I was in the hospital in Seattle, and while feeling much better now, I’m still not up for a long trip like that right now, much less being so far away from a hospital if needed.

We did get to met their new dog “Rocko”, who we’ve heard so much about. Yes he is a BIG dog, and he seemed to get along with DOS pretty well, but he kept growling at me! I’m usually great with dogs, but Rocko seemed suspicious of me; maybe the way I looked at him? Rocko will be staying at a nice kennel while they are on their trip right now. I hope they have big bones and lots of food for him!

On the flip side, we had dinner one evening with our neighbors Mark and Jamie, and they had an adorable poodle named “Stormy”. Stormy and I really got along; I guess she reminded me of the poodle we had growing up as a kid!

And in the Welcome to Our Neighborhood, we welcome “Hunter” our next door neighbor’s puppy German Shepherd. They previously had a German Shepherd for over 15 years that we also knew since a puppy, but he (“Ranger”) sadly passed away last year. “Hunter” is about six months old, and was already service-trained prior to our neighbor Henry acquiring him. We love having the German Shepherd around, and like Ranger he loves to sit in our front yard under the shaded palm tree which is slightly elevated so he can watch over the neighborhood for all of us. He’s also great for cover (like Ranger) when we’re traveling! We loved dogs, but at least until recently traveled too much to own one for ourselves.

We met our friends Jim and Jean for lunch in Winter Garden, a charming “Hallmark movie-like” town less than an hour from our home in the Orlando area. DOS and I had stayed here a year ago in January at the Edgewater Hotel (a quaint and historic boutique hotel decorated with many quality and rare antiques) and has two nice street level restaurants, an old fashioned ice cream shop, and even a barber shop on the Main Street of town. Even in early February this year, downtown Winter Garden still had some of the Christmas decorations up around town.

Jim and Jean (from Wisconsin) were passing thru Central Florida on their way to Ft. Lauderdale for a Caribbean Cruise, and then wintering a couple months at their winter condo in the Ft. Myers area. We met them on a Caribbean cruise in January 2022, and saw them again on our ill-fated Alaska cruise in September 2022; the one that I had to be evacuated due to my heart issues. Jean said she actually saw me being stretchered off the ship to the ambulance, and emailed DOS several times while I was in the hospital. We had a nice lunch at the Tasting Room Restaurant at the Edgewater hotel, and it was great to see them and catch up with them since we last saw them in Alaska.

Speaking of food, we’ve been eating almost all of our meals at home due to my low sodium restrictions. It’s much easier to control my sodium intake at home than restaurants! DOS has made eating at home quite fun with different food nights such as Taco Tuesday! We used to go to a nearby Mexican restaurant almost every week for lunch, but not since my surgery due to the very high sodium content in the food. DOS, however, found some zero-sodium taco shells, very low sodium salsa, and no sodium Mrs. Dash taco mix. Add sliced tomatoes, lettuce, and limit the total amount of cheese to less than an ounce and it makes for a low-sodium Mexican meal! (I didn’t realize how much sodium there was in cheese, but Swiss Cheese is the lowest in terms of sodium.)

One Saturday evening we went to a fund raiser for our church, that was held in an outdoor garden market venue which caters for small events, weddings etc. The event had both a silent auction and a “live” auction, along with casual buffet food and drinks, along with entertainment by Mitch on the guitar. It was a fun night out, and all for a great cause. I didn’t eat any of the food due to the sodium levels, except for the chicken kabobs that weren’t seasoned already, but we ate later when we got home. We did use the included two drinks of course, although DOS was driving so handed me his brewski that I picked out!

I placed a couple bids on a guitar kit (shown below with DOS standing in front of it among other things), but a lady kept out-bidding me so she won. DOS said we have no more room for it anyway, although I don’t think he wanted to listen to me try and learn the guitar at home! LOL!

And to stay healthy, we’ve been going to my primary care doctor, Cardiologist, Quest Labs, etc. fairly frequently for follow-up. I go for an INR test weekly to bi-weekly at my primary care doctor’s office due to my Coumadin medication, (blood thinner) which is necessary due to the metallic aorta valve that was replaced in Seattle. Also my diuretics and other meds have been adjusted a bit by my Cardiologist, including another heart medication (Entresto), which initially lowered my blood pressure too much, so the meds have been adjusted a bit and the blood pressure is now in the good, normal range. DOS always goes with me to the doctor’s office as he understands all of the medicines and dosages much better than me. He has truly been the best caretaker and partner I could have ever asked for!

On the opposite end of the doctor’s visits, DOS and I returned to The Villages once again to bottle the wine we made back on my birthday last August at The Corkscrew in Spanish Springs Village (Lady Lake, FL location). We were supposed to have done this in October, but obviously couldn’t do it then as I was in the hospital in Seattle. Our wine bartender Brian told us our vino will be extra-aged by now! We made the wine as a birthday activity for my 60th, and our wine making stash ended up yielding 29 bottles – over two cases of Malbec!

My sister Jenni even designed artwork for our wine label! We didn’t have the wine labels delivered in time for the bottling, but they are adhesive labels which we will attach at home when we received them. The vino is now bottled, corked, and aging in our wine cellar at home until at least my next birthday in August. Here’s the label Jenni designed for us:

Back home in Oviedo, DOS and I had an evening out, (actually just to get my daily walking steps in) at the traveling carnival in town. The carnival included the usual carnival games, food, and a few rides and was held in a large section of the mall parking lot. No rides or food for us, and while it wasn’t the Disney World or Universal Studio caliber, kids seemed to have a good time, and it was fun to walk thru the area.

We later had dinner at Outback, another restaurant we used to frequent nearly weekly but not since my surgery. We did get a steak without seasoning, no salt baked potatoe, and a side salad with oil and vinegar dressing; again low sodium meal.

And not that this next pic fits anywhere (pun intended), I saw these raggedy Levi shorts for sale in Dillard’s at the mall prior to walking around the carnival in the mall parking lot. I guess I’m old-fashioned, but do people real think these are fashionable or cool? Much less paying $35 for these scraps of material that look like they were dug out of a dumpster? My opinion only, but when I see teenagers and even adults wearing torn up jeans like this I think it looks ridiculous and a waste of money to look sloppy. To each his own I guess? I’ll tag the jeans in the “WTF” file. ?

And finally, DOS and I took a short two night stay-cation at Daytona Beach to “test the waters” so to speak about traveling right now while I’m still on the mend. While I feel well, I can’t stress the importance of the low sodium thing enough. When we went to Jekyll Island over Christmas, I gained 7 pounds in five days, mostly from water and drink retention from the high sodium content in the restaurant food. The excess sodium caused my legs to swell and also fluid in my lungs which made breathing more difficult and caused shortness of breath (which is how the whole Alaska ordeal started for me last September). After our Jekyll Island visit at Christmas, I went to my Cardiologist as soon as I got home, and was given another diuretic which helped tremendously, and shedded the added fluid (and weight) within a couple days, which made me feel much better.

And finally for this post, we stayed at the Hyatt Place in Daytona Beach Shores recently on a Monday and Tuesday night which is always better for us than the busy weekends. The Hyatt Place in Daytona Beach Shores is oceanfront and in a quieter and less busy section of the beach, just a couple miles down from Daytona Beach proper. We’ve stayed here several times, and this time it was especially quiet as it’s prior to the busy Daytona 500 week in late February, and Bike week in early March.

We knew the hotel (and others around it) had sustained hurricane damage from the two hurricanes last October (when I was in the hospital in Seattle wondering how our home would fare out), but it was really a site to see! The hotel called us after we had made our online reservation to confirm that we knew the pool area and deck, as well as beach access from the hotel was not available at this time during our stay in case we wanted to cancel our reservation. We knew about these closures already as it was clearly stated on the Hyatt website, but it was nice of the manager to call us to confirm that those facilities would not be available for guests.

We wouldn’t have used the pool anyway, and you could still access the beach via a five minute walk further up the street. We had a nice, quiet and relaxing stay at the Hyatt Place, and are planning to go back again just prior to the Daytona 500. Looking at these next couple photos, it shows how powerful the hurricanes were that oblliviated the pool, hot tub and decking at the hotel, as well as the seawall along the beach in places. We were very fortunate that our home was not damaged, even though it’s only an hour’s drive away, and it was something we thought about while we were in Seattle, although not a priority like the heart surgery was.

On a brighter and sunnier note, the beach was uncrowded and the mild Florida weather was perfect for walking along the beach, staying clear of the taped off hotel debris along the way.

We had a couple great lunches at Crabby’s Restaurant on the beach. We enjoyed the restaurant so much on our first day in Daytona, we went back the next day for the same meal. We had the same waitress both days and not only remembered that we wanted no sodium and salt-free French fries, but she had noticed I had discarded much of the cheese from the salad on the bread plate the day prior, so she told us she brought me less cheese as a result! Talk about a good and attentive memory! We had great food with a wonderful view of the beach too. Really a fun place to visit if in Daytona Beach.

We also walked to the Jimmy Buffet themed restaurant next door, (although we didn’t;t eat there), to take a couple photos and browse in the gift shop.

We had the first night’s dinner at Red Lobster, which was right across the street from my hotel. We both had the grilled salmon with no seasoning, and salt-free baked potato. We had the same waitress there we’ve had over the years, and she’s always tops!

And finally our last night’s dinner was at Chicago Prime Steakhouse, which is located adjacent to the convention center in Daytona Beach proper. We always try to have one meal there, and it’s always has excellent food and service. In summer time we will first have drinks and/or appetizers outside at the beach bar, although in winter it’s dark by 6pm and can also be a bit cooler and windy such as this night so we ate indoors and I had a brewski at the very busy and small indoor bar.

As always, we split an appetizer, salad, 21 day dry-aged ribeye (which they sliced for us), and even a shared cheese cake dessert. Outstanding night of food and service! We will be back soon!

Cheers and Bon Appetite!

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