LauderBlog

May 4: Fragrant Florida

Posted on May 4, 2015 8:42AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

They are in season now - not something special to eat, but something special to sniff. If you're near that something special any time in the next few weeks, you'll know it. Locally we call this "frangipani," though the plant has more than one name. Other folks call it plumeria or even the Hawaiian Lei Flower. Yep, they do often make leis out of frangipani flowers. The trees are so pretty in bloom and so remarkably fragrant that they're worth scouting out for a look. And a good close sniff. You see, South Florida has a thing for frangipani trees. You find them in many gardens, both residential gardens and commercial gardens. Around houses, around apartment and condo buildings. Around office complexes and hotels.

The frangipani is a peculiar plant, despite its popularity. Much of the year, this smallish spindly tree looks anything but lovely. Devoid of leaves, it kind of just sits in your lawn doing nothing at all, more dead-seeming than alive. But it's not dead. It's amazing.

That's the surprising appeal of the frangipani. About this time of spring each year, it explodes to life. First, the green leaves followed soon after by the flowers, those small white and yellow blossoms tinged in a delicate pink. They're gorgeous. And as you stop to admire the blooms, you begin to notice the scent too. Sweet and powerful as a stick of incense, the trees give off a delightful aroma that draws you toward it. If I pass a nearby frangipani tree when out for a walk, I usually can't resist pausing to sniff a flower or two. I carefully pull a branch down toward my nose and inhale directly from the blossom, literally stopping to smell the flowers. I highly recommend it. Because these remarkable trees don't stay remarkable-looking and remarkable-smelling for long. I've read online information about frangipani that says the flowers last all summer but that's not my experience. They always seem to be around for a month or so in South Florida, a relatively brief moment before the leaves fall and the blossoms disappear and the bare branches sit doing nothing again. Other trees and bushes bloom at various times throughout the year in South Florida, of course, turning our landscape into a perpetual tropical garden. The name, "Florida," actually comes from the Spanish word for flowers. But somehow, the frangipani stands out for me. Every spring it's a reminder, proving how patience pays and how concealed real beauty often can be. I think the frangipani is like many things in life - something special is there, hidden within. To find it, all you really have to do is wait.

Apr 29: You, VIP

Posted on April 29, 2015 1:14PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

You deserve it. The best, the finest. The VIP treatment. Because you work hard all year long and you take care of things and you take care of people too. Because you are responsible and reliable, paying attention to small details and trying to make things the best they can be. At work, at home. And because you care about your friends and your family and because you try to give to them more often than you take. Admit it. You really do work at life pretty hard - harder than anyone knows, probably. Sounds like you, right? Yes, I'm guessing that it does. Fortunately, there's something in the way of a reward waiting for you starting this Friday.

Oh yeah ... From May 1 all the way through October 12, you can vacation like a VIP in Greater Fort Lauderdale. Which is why the annual promotion is called, "Vacation Like a VIP." And it allows you all sorts of feel-good upgrades and high-end stuff appropriate to your VIP status.

Vacation Like a VIP means you can stay at some of the top hotels in South Florida with a free room upgrade and free parking. And a $100 resort credit for things such as golf or a spa treatment or food and beverage. Even kids activities, assuming your kids qualify as VIPs of course. Heh-heh, just kidding ... As far as Vacation Like a VIP is concerned, you and your whole family qualify for the next few months. In addition to the resort niceties, you also get a $25 American Express gift card, complimentary valet parking at the upscale The Colonnade Outlets at Sawgrass Mills along with a complimentary glass of Prosecco for two at Villagio Ristorante. Besides all this, Vacation Like a VIP hands you a Summer Savings 2-for-1 card worth $200. All you have to do is stay for at least two nights at one of these 10 amazing resorts. For instance, the Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale or W Fort Lauderdale. Or maybe Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six or the Pillars Hotel. Or ... Well, you can check out the full list at this link: http://www.sunny.org/vip. Any of them would be worthy of your exalted stature. You know, being the VIP you are. Or the VIP you should be anyway. Folks like you simply don't get the appreciation you're entitled to, with all that hard working and attention paying and care taking throughout the year. Vacation Like a VIP is a chance to take matters into your own hands, finally getting some of the proper respect. The world may not give you what you deserve very often. But that doesn't mean you can't give it to yourself.

Apr 28: Broward 100

Posted on April 28, 2015 7:56AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

At 100 years old, some things remain youthful. Other things at that age seem ancient. And for still other things, the best days are only just getting started. If you're a redwood tree, the age of 100 is like infancy. For those people among us who live to that same ripe 100-year-old age, time presses down heavily. But as Broward County turns 100 this year, our part of Florida is really beginning to come into its prime. Yes, Broward County celebrates a centennial birthday in 2015. And the celebration will be a good one, with art projects and performances that showcase all this county has to offer - and a major party coming up in October. Oh yeah, and a contest about ice cream.

Ah-ha, that got your attention, right? Who doesn't love ice cream? I do. I most definitely love ice cream. So yep, my own attention was grabbed when I learned about this ice cream contest.

The idea is to help create a special ice cream recipe that reflects Broward County. You know, the flavors of Greater Fort Lauderdale ... The venerable Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlor and Restaurant in Dania Beach is running the competition, which you can enter on Facebook at this link: https://www.facebook.com/BrowardCounty100/app_143103275748075. All you have to do is write down the list of ingredients that would make up your own version of Broward 100 ice cream. My recipe might include things such as coconut and mango and oranges. Yours could get more creative with something like Florida avocado and tea from hibiscus flowers. Let your imagination go wild - chunks of fresh shrimp in vanilla ice cream anyone? Uhm, maybe not. Some recipes are best left untested. But you get the concept here. You can submit your own lip-licking collection of ingredients until June 5, so you've got time to give this some serious thought. Because, let's face it - ice cream is a serious subject for some of us. Speaking for myself, my personal fave flavors of mint chocolate chip ice cream and dark chocolate ice cream, scooped out side by side in a dish ... well, that seems like serious stuff indeed when I'm eating it. Aside from the ice cream contest, you'll also want to check out some of the other Broward 100 activities, which you'll find at this website: http://www.broward.org/broward100. I'll be telling you more about those activities in blogs throughout the celebration. For now, though, you might want to focus mostly on this big ice cream contest business. The prize is a whole lot of Jaxson's ice cream for you and your three best pals. See what I mean? Serious stuff indeed ...

Apr 22: Only One

Posted on April 22, 2015 7:45AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

There's a good reason President Obama is celebrating Earth Day here. Because South Florida is home to a place that's unique on Planet Earth: the Everglades. And because the long effort to preserve this remarkable environment goes on - and is showing signs of success. The Everglades quite literally is like nowhere else. It is, for instance, the only spot on our globe where both alligators and crocodiles coexist. It is a sprawling area that extends far beyond South Florida, with a wide variety of animal and plant life. And if you've never experienced the Everglades for yourself, you should. For sure. A visit to this wilderness is alone worth the trip to our region, especially when you do it by airboat. It is a World Heritage Site, very deservedly so. And it is an unforgettable sight to behold.

 

A friend of mine operates tours for Scandinavians who come to Greater Fort Lauderdale - and she always must include an Everglades excursion for her guests. I had dinner with her just the other night, in fact, and yet another Everglades airboat adventure was on her agenda for early the next morning. That's how the Everglades should be regarded by anyone who visits South Florida. It is a must-see.

 

Apparently, even President Obama agrees. The leader of the free world has at his disposal pretty much anywhere in ... well, the free world. He picked the Everglades for his 2015 Earth Day. This should tell you something. It surely tells me something. It tells me that the so-called River of Grass remains a natural wonder, despite development and foreign species that have threatened it. And it tells me also that the Everglades indeed is making a comeback as a result of federal conservation work over the years, work that will continue for many years more. That's an achievement for the government to rightly brag about. Greater Fort Lauderdale can do its own bragging about the Everglades, of course, with those airboat rides only a half hour drive from downtown Fort Lauderdale. I'm always amazed at how quickly I get there with out-of-town guests. The Everglades isn't far from any doorstep in Broward County. I recall taking a hot air balloon ride in Pompano Beach, floating high above this area for an amazing hour or so - and that's when something struck me. With lots of time to gaze at the horizon, I could see clearly that only a relatively narrow strip of land is occupied by humans ... and how much of the Everglades is left. This Earth Day is a good chance to recognize the spare beauty of that one-of-a-kind environment, just as our president is doing. And to make our own plans to see it for the first time or to see it again, soon.

 

Apr 20: Romantic Visitors

Posted on April 20, 2015 2:18PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Next time you see a cruise ship, look again. And for another moment, consider … Here in Fort Lauderdale, these vessels bring the world to our community. Most of us, though, never pause long enough to think about that as we pass by Port Everglades or notice a cruise ship in the distance off our coast. They are so very common in this, the city with the world’s second largest cruise port. Cruise ships seem just part of the landscape. I was reflecting on all this recently when I drove over the 17th StreetCauseway bridge in Fort Lauderdale and noticed a special ship in Port Everglades – a ship I know very well. It was the Silver Spirit, flagship of Silversea Cruises. That line is one of the top ultra-luxury cruise companies on earth, with U.S. offices here in Fort Lauderdale. 

 

I’ve sailed on the Silver Spirit all over the planet. On a three week voyage through the Middle East during the Arab Spring in 2011, from Dubai to Oman and then across the Gulf of Aden and up the Red Sea to Jordan and Egypt. I’ve savored the Spirit’s comforts out of Istanbul all around the Black Sea. And from Venice to Athens as well, making port in Croatia along the way. She’s a gorgeous ship with first-class service and amazing itineraries. 

 

Seeing the Spirit in Port Everglades, I suddenly recalled all those other ports too. Pulling up beside her in a Turkish taxi or returning by vaporetto to her dock in Venice. Or spotting the Spirit below us in Aqaba, Jordan after a full day at the extraordinary ruins of Petra. And I could imagine all the other places around the globe visited by the Silver Spirit since she was christened in Fort Lauderdale just a few years ago. The adventures this ship has gone through, the romance she brings to her passengers – and to each port wherever she stops. Of course the same could be said of most major cruise ships that come to South Florida: They are world travelers paying us a brief call on their way to somewhere else. Somewhere near perhaps, or somewhere very far away. Even their diverse crews remind us what a cruise ship really is. Look at the crew members sometime as they walk around the streets near our port on weekends, mostly young folks from Asia and Europe and South America. And from the United States and Canada and nearly any country you might name. Cruise ships aren’t just floating resorts, some mobile version of Disney World or whatever. They explore lands familiar and unfamiliar, and when aboard them we can explore these same exotic spots. And talk to crew who come from those spots. That’s the beauty of cruising. But even if we’re not traveling on a cruise ship just now, we can look and admire as they sail through South Florida. We know where they’ve each been, afterall. They’ve been everywhere.

Apr 15: Seasonings

Posted on April 15, 2015 1:00PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

This is a colorful time in South Florida. If you’re here, just look around. You’ll see what I’m talking about … and you’ll see it everywhere. For instance, I’m sitting in my home office right now typing out these words as I look out my window – well, actually it’s more like, “Typing, then looking. Typing, then looking, then typing.” Or something like that. Anyway, what I see without any special effort is a mass of pale red blossoms in the not-too-distant tree branches across from my place. They are royal poinciana trees just beginning to bloom. These are gorgeous trees with lacy green leaves and huge brown seed pods, up to two feet long. And during this season of the year, the royal poincianas come alive with spectacular red flowers that last for weeks. You’ll find these trees all over South Florida.  

And jacaranda trees too. Originally from South America, they have taken to our subtropical climate with great enthusiasm. Assuming trees can be enthusiastic. It sure looks like they are enthusiastic, with profusions of purple flowers covering their branches in the spring.  

And you thought Florida only had two seasons, huh? The old “wet season-dry season” thing … A natural counterpart to the “slow season-busy season” thing – you know, “no tourists” or “many tourists” depending on the weather. But the reality is different. Tourism may peak in the cooler months, but Greater Fort Lauderdale is popular year round now. Just take a walk down the Fort Lauderdale beach some July weekend and you’ll get my point. And as for our natural seasons, they’re much more subtle than most folks recognize. Spring is a good example. Typically we’re not into the tropical afternoon rains yet, those storms that come and go suddenly during much of the summer. But we usually do get some rain starting around this time. Temperatures slip back and forth from a.c. weather to open-window weather. You can spot birds mating and building nests. The buzzards that circle our skies all winter are pretty much gone but the mockingbirds are singing their songs night and day. Seasonal variations indeed do season our lives here in South Florida. Subtropical seasonings, if you will. Soon the fragrant frangipani trees will begin to blossom along with the royal poinciana and jacaranda … and the bougainvillea and the rest of our extraordinary foliage. Spring may start us heading toward the warmer months to come, offering hints of summery heat. But it also brings new colors, new life to our region. The mockingbirds know – spring in South Florida is something to sing about.

Apr 13: Ocean Art

Posted on April 13, 2015 12:30PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Only rarely do you need a tank of compressed air at an art exhibition. In Deerfield Beach, though, you will. A very cool artwork commissioned for a new artificial reef will be dropped into 70 feet of water just off the Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier this summer. Yes, it is art made especially for fishes. Oh, and divers too. Artist Dennis MacDonald of Zibitz Studios was asked to create a tribute to the famous stone statues on Easter Island, a far off South Pacific spot named Rapa Nui in the local language. Perhaps you know the sculptures I mean. They are giant expressionless faces that have peered into wind and wave for more than 500 years. And they are called moai - pronounced like the words "MOW eye," by the way.

These are remarkable artworks from a lost culture. But the new Deerfield Beach reef will bring 14 replicas here to Greater Fort Lauderdale, courtesy of South Florida resident and project director Margaret Blume. Divers are expected to visit our Rapa Nui Reef in large numbers. And they can plan on snapping selfies among sculptures that range from six to 22 feet tall, all situated to encourage marine life.

As I said, very cool ... South Florida's moai will be attached to a 150 foot steel barge, making the whole display more stable underwater. Organizers hope to sink everything on the morning of Sunday, June 7, though that could change. But whenever it goes below the breakers near Deerfield's pier, this should be a startlingly beautiful addition to the undersea world off our coastline. Imagine it. You strap on your tank, grab your mask and fins, then stride out into the water. In a few minutes, you're approaching a depth of 70 feet as you swim toward this unique permanent art exhibit. And suddenly, there it is: The famed moai of Easter Island appear to be staring back at you, expressionless as ever. As you come near, a barracuda slips quickly past and you notice grouper and amberjack too. You linger to explore the statues, long enough for that selfie and some shots of your dive buddy posing by the sculpture. And when you dry off, that selfie finds its way to your Facebook page even before you load your equipment back into the car. The Rapa Nui Reef will be one more big reason for divers worldwide to spend their time and money in Greater Fort Lauderdale, already among the most popular dive destinations. It will offer the dive community a small art gallery all their own. A very unstuffy kind of gallery, obviously, with your own personal supply of air.

Apr 8: Distracted Gawking

Posted on April 8, 2015 1:38PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

So this guy was driving by the Fort Lauderdale beach and ... Almost sounds like the setup for a joke, right? Except the joke was on me. I was driving by the Fort Lauderdale beach one spring day, got distracted by the very beautiful aqua sea and a very beautiful woman standing near that aqua sea - and bam! Before I knew it, I'd smacked into the bumper of a formerly nice new Infiniti. Yikes. This happened to me several years ago and I have learned an important lesson from it. The obvious lesson: Pay attention while driving. The less obvious lesson: South Florida is a very distracting place ... for all the right reasons.

How can you drive and not look around? At that very beautiful aqua sea and all those very beautiful people? At the pretty sun and the pretty moon and the pretty stars? At the palm trees and the bougainvillea? We have wild parrots flying all over the place, for Pete's sake, and canals and megayachts. And cruise ships, lots and lots of very distracting cruise ships. Wow, what's a good driver to do?

Yep, we all know the right answer: Pay attention while driving. I mention all that for a couple of reasons. First, because this is national Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Second, because I happen to be the founder of a nonprofit group with its own cool anti-distracted driving program for teens, something called "I Care: Just Let Me Drive." In my own defense, I must add that I helped create this driver safety program after my oceanside fenderbender. And I really do try to keep our program in mind when driving. But again I have to say, wow ... It's tough for me in South Florida. No kidding. Not so much on I-95 or whatever high-speed highway, but those smaller roads such as A1A offer so many gorgeous sights to see. Even Federal Highway has more than its fair share of distractions, from new restaurants to dive shops to Ferraris and Rolls-Royces. And don't get me started on the distractions that come from every direction along Las Olas or downtown Hollywood Boulevard. Great people watching places, these streets... And of course there's the 17th Street Causeway bridge in Fort Lauderdale. Every time I go over this span I glance at the cruise ships docked in Port Everglades - quickly looking once, twice, three times. Yes, my cellphone isn't the main distraction for me when driving. It's South Florida. To be honest, I'm all for these self-driving cars the techies talk about. I mean, wouldn't that be great? I could program my Mini Cooper for the Fort Lauderdale beach, then just sit back and relax and gawk all I wanted. Gawk at the very beautiful aqua sea and some very beautiful person standing near that aqua sea, all without putting any nearby Infinitis in danger. Until then, I'll simply have to be as attentive as I can be when behind the wheel. I truly do care. And this is national Distracted Driving Awareness Month, afterall. I also can hope the techies of the world hurry up with the self-driving cars. That sea and those people are very beautiful indeed - just made for serious gawking.

Apr 6: Ready to Rock

Posted on April 6, 2015 12:11PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

The stage already is going up. And Rock the Ocean's Tortuga Music Festival is coming back. You might remember that the 2014 edition was a big deal - with some very big names in music. In 2015, it's a big deal again. With some very big names in music, again. Like, how about folks such as Kenny Chesney and the Zac Brown Band? How about other folks such as Jake Owen, the Band Perry, Little Big Town, Trace Adkins? The Doobie Brothers will be there too for those of us into some great oldies rock-n-roll. Remember their song, "Long Train Running"? A classic ... Anyway, you can find the complete list of performers along with the other details you'll need at this link: http://www.tortugamusicfestival.com. Even their home page is kinda cool, a drawing of a tropical beach scene with puffy white clouds and orange blimps floating by.

I drove past the real Fort Lauderdale beach on Sunday, a very busy Easter by the ocean for sure. When I came to Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, there it all was: A partially erected stage and white tents and a grandstand and heavy equipment like earth movers and such. Preparations are underway, as they say.

Actually the Tortuga Music Festival will have three stages cranking out the tunes, with country and rock and roots music starting at 11:30 in the morning on Saturday and ending at around 10:15 on Sunday night. Very cool. But do you want to know one of the coolest things about this event? The festival again will raise awareness about marine conservation. The organizers have partnered with the Rock The Ocean Foundation to get us thinking about problems facing our seas around the world. The foundation also supports scientific research, ocean conservation and education efforts. The 2014 Tortuga Fest raised more than $100,000 toward that work. This year, more money will go to help save our oceans. All in all, then, not a bad way to spend your weekend. The forecast is for continued lovely weather, meaning the Tortuga Music Festival offers a chance to hear some of the top names in popular music ... on the Blue Wave beach in Fort Lauderdale ... under a bright sun or crystalline stars. Wow. Talk about a music experience, huh? For now, the construction goes on to get things ready in time. But, trust me, things definitely will be ready in time. Like I said, one stage already is going up. Preparations are underway. And Rock the Ocean's Tortuga Music Festival is coming back.

Apr 1: Hopeful Song

Posted on April 1, 2015 12:52PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

As we approach Easter and Passover, even South Florida birds are hopeful. If that sounds like something I'm saying just to be cute, it's not. Quite literally, it is true as I'll explain in a moment. But first let me wish our loyal blog readers the best in a season of hope. Whatever your beliefs, whatever traditions you follow, this is a moment to savor each year. In the north country, snow disappears. (Fingers crossed on that one in 2015...) Crocuses bloom and temperatures begin to warm. Here in the subtropical south, we enjoy blooms of our own as mango trees and bottlebrush trees and trees of all sorts blossom under our sunshine. The weather is about as perfect right now as weather can get. And no matter where you live, spring clothes and spring colors come out of the closet to raise our spirits. Whether you worship or whether you only eat Peeps from a grassy basket, this holiday weekend is a joyful time.

Mockingbirds find their own brand of hope during this period every year. You can hear the endearing sound of their feeling late at night ... if you listen for it.

Male mockingbirds without mating attachments go singing for a significant other in South Florida, night after night after night. Start listening at, say, 11 pm or so and check for birdsongs every now and then until you go to bed. There's a good chance that you'll hear the lonely but eager mockingbirds if any of them live in your neighborhood. And in the Fort Lauderdale area, most neighborhoods seem to attract these birds. The official state bird of Florida, the mockingbird is as common as it is lovely. Shhh, just listen ... At a time of night when birds almost never sing, you will hear a mockingbird working through its vast repertoire to impress any single females. I noticed another male last night, starting around 11:30 and going until early in the morning. As usual for these remarkable creatures, this mockingbird would warble his tune a few times and then begin a new song. Typically, they repeat one bird-melody three or four or five, sometimes six times before starting all over again. Each mockingbird can belt out as many as 200 songs and other sounds, even learning to imitate mechanical noises sometimes. But on pleasant early spring nights you will hear them singing beautiful tunes, melodies that somehow feel inspiring in their hopefulness. These are songs, not of love, but of confidence in finding love. At least love in the way that mockingbirds experience it. And for the rest of us the late-night mockingbird songs are reminders each spring, urging us to keep hoping too - something better may be waiting nearby if we'll try to find it.