St. Augustine Nights of Lights Christmas

Celebrating 450 years of awesome!

My daughter and her family made Christmas plans to travel to different states. That gave Tom and me an opportunity to plan a last-minute trip to St. Augustine Florida.

This is one of my favorite places. I just love the historical downtown area and how quaint it is. I am thrilled by the myriad of trendy, cool bazar style stores and all of the wonderful art.  Goodness the eateries just drive me crazy.

Old Town St. Augustine is a small walkable community. Lucky for us our favorite Bed and Breakfast was able to accommodate our last-minute reservation. In fact we got a prime dual occupancy room and booked only two weeks ahead. That is absolutely never possible but as luck would have it, helped of course by my strong mental power of intention, someone cancelled! Yay!  The name of our guest house is The Southern Wind Inn.

It is located on Cordova Street just about 3 blocks from Hypolita Street. You turn left on Hypolita St. and a few blocks up on the corner of Hypolita and St. George Street is the Columbia Restaurant.

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St. George street is dotted with eye catching shops, ice cream parlors and chocolatiers, clothing boutiques and small art galleries.  Here are few cool finds I discovered at the Earthbound store:

The smells coming from the Columbia Restaurant and the chocolate shops are beyond wonderful. I just do not even try to resist them. I merely submit myself and indulge my appetite and senses. Add to this the aroma of coffee brewing from the coffee houses scattered about the streets. Oh my! The Nights of Lights festivities were delightful … everywhere the city was lit up!

This is not all that is great about St. Augustine. There is the Lightner Museum, Flagler College (which is undergoing a huge renovation and expansion) the Fort of San Marcos and the memorial Presbyterian church that Henry Flagler had built to memorialize his beloved daughter. It became the  family mausoleum.  We didn’t do these on this trip. We’re saving those for our next visit.

Arrghhhh Captain Anderson

There is also all the outlandish touristy stuff like the “Pirate museum”, and “Ripley’s believe it or not” and the usual tour trolley and horse and carriage rides. For the religiosity there are several churches and at least one shrine to explore. For the non religious there are many naturalist shops selling oils and other items that appeal to pagan minded folks.


I just dream of buying a second house, maybe a guest house, here in the historic district and having my grand daughters study art and filmmaking at Flagler College.

DSC_9869 Anastasia Island is across the bridge of lions. On each visit I make it my personal physical challenge to walk up the 219 steps to the top of the tower, take pictures, then, walk down the 219 steps back to the ground.

I can go on and on about this little town. It has a certain sweet charm  that appeals to me. I adore the vintage urban feel of the city.  Visitors come from everywhere and multiple languages can be heard from the abundance of conversations streaming on the streets, in restaurants and local shops.  Everywhere a feeling of excitement seems to fill the air as people engage in exploring and connecting with local merchants. Walkable communities seem to bring that out in people. Perhaps it is the act of walking that engages the mind  with possibility as well as the recognition that we are more alike than different.  Everyone was out enjoying the Nights of Lights.

Christmas Day ended with me reminding my grand daughters that it is good etiquette to call their old grand parents on special holidays to let them know they were thinking of them.  As usual, they texted me but did not call, although, Ella texted me to say she was calling me but my phone was not ringing. I guess it is the thought that counts.


From my iPhone on the upstairs front porch of our guest house.

Anyway, Christmas Day ended nicely, presently I am typing this blog to the sound of fabulous music coming from one of the hot night spots across the parking lot. Occasionally the tour trolley drives past our guest house on the street below and all the celebrants yell out “Merry Christmas” and break out into caroling. I must say I love all the festivities! I feel alive!!  I love that I can enjoy celebrating the holiday without getting involved in the religious mythologies associated with it.

Just before turning in for the night, I was out on the upstairs porch, shooting the Long Nights Moon. It’s called that because it falls closest to the winter solstice which is the longest night of the year.


That’s one of the names for this Christmas Day full moon, but it’s also known as the “Cold Moon” because it falls in December and other than places like Florida, it’s typically quite cold in December!

The Cold Moon
The Cold Moon

This is yet another opportune time to purge old negative habits, people and things, and prepare for new adventures in the coming new year. Full moons seem to bring out the most interesting characters and this full moon was no exception.

Shot with my Nikon DF 24-300 mm lens with extender. From the upstairs porch the guest house I was staying at. Shot on Christmas Night Dec. 25, 2015

In Native American cultures which tracked the calendar by the Moons, December’s Full Moon was known as the Full Cold Moon. It is the month when the winter cold fastens its grip and the nights become long and dark. This full Moon is also called the Long Nights Moon by some Native American tribes because it’s near the winter solstice—the night with the least amount of daylight.


Tomorrow we return home and say good-bye to St. Augustine until Spring. Tonight we’re off to celebrate another Night of Lights Festivities and hunt for dinner. From my iPhone:









Here are images from Tom’s Camera. Quite Dramatc!

Finally we were ready to head home but not before we stopped for breakfast at the Maple Street restaurant, which is just up the street from our guest house.

Maple Street Breakfast!
Maple Street Breakfast!


Yes! It was that good!


Campfire Coffee and Beignets in a TEEPEE – Why not!

ERC Photography by 9-Year-Old Ella Ryann

Campfire coffee and beignets in a teepee – why not! Nikon DF 28 to 200 zoom nikon lens, manual mode, auto wb.

As I stated in my previous post, this afternoon my 9 year-old granddaughter Ella and I spent the afternoon hanging out, running errands, and browsing new shops and eateries in downtown Lakeland. We’d read about the Poor Porker in the December 2015 issue of the Lakelander Magazine and decided to have our lunch there. It was awesome. I had a great time snapping my camera shutters.

Ella cooperated for a while and eventually turned the tables on me. She took the camera, and with my direction, took some darn good shots. I am show casing them here.


Almost all of these are as shot. One or two I reset the white balance because in the teepee the light was too orange, and a couple I did crop for symmetry. All in all she impressed me. She balanced sunlight with flash, and checked her results after each shot. She focused well and her exposure was pretty spot on. Great job Ella! I know aunt Rachel gave her some lightroom lessons so maybe we can work on post processing tomorrow.

Below are Ella’s images after my edits. These included, slight crops for symmetry, exposure adjustments to bring in the rich dynamic range of colors, and elevated levels of clarity to bring out the rich textures of the textiles. Considering that these were all taken in manual mode which requires setting adjustments to compensate as lighting situations change, and that she was using my Nikon df, which is similar to the old film cameras, Ella did a stellar job. The different ambient lighting situations required Ella to adjust shutter speed and aperture settings, which I helped her with. She is still trying to understand these adjustments. Ella pretty much mastered focus and basic exposure and composition. She has a good eye!

Poor Porker

My granddaughter, Ella and I spent the afternoon running errands and then decided to explore a new place for lunch that was written up in the Lakelander Magazine. The Poor Porker is new to the downtown area but it got our attention when we read they sell beignets and campfire coffee.


What? Let’s go said Ella. It’s a little hard to find and if not careful you will drive past it. It is directly across the street from the Texas Cattle Company. In fact we parked in their lot and walked across the street. We ran into a couple that was just leaving and asked if they knew were the Poor Porker was and they pointed us to it. They said “you must try the beignets, they are to die for”! They were right!


Wowzer! I love this place. It was like someones really cool backyard! Man oh Man!



It’s second generation hippy. Love Love Love!

Beignet Food Truck!

I spent a few minutes speaking with the person who took our order at the beignet food trucks, whose name escapes me, but he is a Lakeland native returning from a hiatus in Oregon. He was as excited as I was about the cool changes taking place in DownTown Lakeland. I hope some of this spills over by me in Polk City since the College is closer to me. Plant City could benefit as well, one of their local businesses has a kiosk at the Poor Porker.


There is definitely a new vibe. The new guard has arrived and they are full of really artistic and unexpected ways of setting up shop. The young man I was speaking with was telling me about some ambitious plans the City of Lakeland has. They are hoping to form an alliance with the Florida Poly Tech Campus. The hope is that they can attract new tech start ups to the area who will stay awhile. The City and Poly Tech are offering these new tech start ups space to launch from through the campus. The College and the City hope this will generate interest and other businesses to downtown Lakeland.


So far there seems to be a new wave of young, innovative, thinkers who are full of ideas and seem to have no fear in bringing them to life.


By the way, these young, innovative thinkers can be any age folks!  As long as they are able to think young and move forward they will fit in just fine here.


Anyway, if the Poor Porker is an indication of things to come, well then YAY!


Our Day Trip to Casadaga!  I was so happy to see the hotel has experienced a makeover. Big improvement. We had lunch at Sinatra’s it was yummy! I had Fried Eggplant, with mozzarella cheese, pesto, and vine-ripe tomatoes. Topped with a sun-dried tomato pesto drizzled with sweet balsamic vinegar. A little Pino Grigio to help me relax. _MOF8521



I Picked up a smudging stick of white sage, incense, and my old lady fans! Yay! These were the kind my grandmother and her friends used. I always loved them. I thought they were so fancy! Now I have my own.

It was raining and we didn’t get to go out and explore the grounds and surrounding neighborhood. We spent our visit photographing the hotel, eating and drinking wine, well I did anyway, Tom was the DD.