Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lake Worth - Wintering with the Quebecois South of Lake Okeechobee Florida

This has been our home for the last month.  John Prince Park campground in Lake Worth Florida.  It is a very nice campground inside a huge park with lakes, a golf course, sports fields and miles and miles of walking paths.  It is an urban oasis.  The weather since we have arrived has been warm with lots of rain --- more on that later.

When we first arrived we had my daughter Maggie fly down for a visit!  I love spending time with my children and it was wonderful to have her company.  I think she enjoyed escaping winter in New Jersey for a few days.  We spent New Years Eve together, waiting for midnight by watching The Hobbit at an IMax theater in Palm Beach where they have a lively New Years celebration in their "City Center".
There aren't many places in the continental United States where the temperatures are summer warm all winter.  The best chance of escaping winter in Florida is to stay south of Lake Okeechobee which has lead Lucie's family and lots of Quebecois to escape the Canadian winter down here.  This campground has more Quebecois than English speaking people!  So what did Lucie do as soon as we got settled here?  She flew back to Vermont for a week to spend time with her grandchildren!

While she was gone I got to experience the full brunt of this Florida tropical climate.  A bit of extreme weather left Lake Worth and the campground where I was staying inundated with rain water and we were flooded for three days.
It wasn't really an inconvenience but the humidity and warmth lead to mildew on everything.  By the time Lucie returned from Vermont the waters had receded and everything was back to normal.

 We have gone several times to Del Ray FL, a little south of here, where we have enjoyed the many artists and galleries, a lively night life and a free fashion show at night on the main street.  Del Ray has become our "night out" destination, where winters past when we have visited we tended to go to Palm Beach.
 Atlantic Avenue in Del Ray at night.
 We finally got our inflatable kayak out and spent some time touring the waterways here in John Prince Park.  Because this used to be part of the everglades there is an extensive network of canals and lakes that make for a pleasant paddle.  I was keeping my eyes open for alligators, but Lucie was just as happy that the only wildlife we saw was birds.
 We've gone to the beach several times.  It is a popular destination with lots of activity and many people frolicking in the waves.  This day there was a sandcastle competition starting. 
 Here we are at the Lake Worth public beach.  Thankfully there are large sections of the beach that are open to the public.
 This is Lucie's Dad.  It has been a real joy hanging out with him and his wife Christine who winter here in Lake Worth along with several of Lucie's cousins and aunts and uncles.  We had a traditional French Canadian New Years Day celebration with all of them at Uncle John's.  Got together to watch the Football playoffs and had many wonderful meals together, including having Lucie's Dad and Christine over to the RV one evening.
 Several days before we left I finally saw an alligator (can you see it in the grass, upper left?)  I'm afraid that was the end of going out in the inflatable kayak though!
Tomorrow morning we will pack up the RV and head north to Orlando to attend the big winter Technology in Education conference, FETC.  This month in Lake Worth has been wonderful and warm.  Being surrounded by Lucie's family has added immensely to our enjoying our stay here.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

From 3D printing to Fun date night

How my 3D printing assignment turned into a fun Friday Night Date night in Delray

This semester I am enrolled in  a graduate class - Introduction to Physical Computing  from Marlboro College Gradaute and Professional studies.  Our assignment this week was to complete the cycle from design to printing of a 3D object.  

I already knew that I’m not very 3D spatial by nature, so I was not surprised to be challenged by this assignment.  I had tried Sketchup a few times and  always amazed at what I have seen 5th graders do with this professional level tool.  But then again I can’t hold a candle to a 5th grader at any video game that requires 3D movement. 

Craig suggested that a dice might be a good entry point for me.  Sounded good, but  I wanted something a little more creative, than the numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6 on a cube, so I came up with the idea of six inspiring words on each side of my cube.  (imagine, invent, innovate, create, make, learn).

Now inspired, I was ready to tackle the task. 

Since I am on a personal inquiry about  the role of mobile tools in the “maker movement” I thought I’d give this a try using some of the AutoDesk iOS Creativity apps that I had once downloaded on my iPad.  

Although these are amazing apps,  I was not inspired by the parts available on the 123D Design iOS app.  They all felt so mechanical and robotic, and there did not appear to be any way to add text to my cube, so I proceeded to the online version of 123D design using my computer and found that it had a feature called SmartText that allowed for text extrusion.   By sticking with a cloud based product I felt like I was still within the realm of mobile since inspired students could use this tool on ANY computer that had internet access and would not have to download software. 

Unfortunately  my lack of experience did me in.  Although I was successful in getting one of the words etched into one side of an object by pushing it down into the object and using the void feature, I eventually became frustrated at my lack of understanding of how to join objects on different planes as I tried to work with the other sides.  There was so much more to learn to get this right and every piece of new learning was taking so long.  Thus  I decided it was better to complete the ‘cycle” from design to print with something simpler than to keep building my skills in using the design software.    So I settled for a small object that had the word “imagine” etched in.  I could always come back and build my design skills later. 

On to the next step in in the process.  After exploring 2  popular sites for getting objects printed on a a 3D printer (Sculpteo and Shapeway)  I learned that as long as I could get my design in a format called STL I could upload it to those sites and order my object in a variety of colors and textures. I was even more impressed when I noticed that 123D Design (and probably many other pieces of software)  had a “Send to 3D printer” feature what connected with one or both of these online printing services. 

Who ever thought you could print such creative objects such as this spiral "pot"  or custom designed fingernails.

However I was quite surprised at how small my object had to be to stay under the $10 cap we were trying to work with. I reduced the size of my objects to about 3 cm long. 

Unfortunately the turnaround time for delivery was a little too much for my mobile lifestyle and even with expedited shipping it would arrive the day after we hit the road again.  However this constraint led me to explore where people list their 3D printers locations and offer to 3D printing
services.  I found 2 within a 20 minute drive from our campground and started a conversation with a young man named Johnny Harris in Delray.  He quoted me $10  or $15 depending on the resolution plus a small service feel.  I opted for the higher resolution and made arrangements to pick up my 3D print in a public place (hotel lobby in Delray).

I now own a  $17 red piece of plastic (3 cm long) with the word “imagine” etched in.  But heck, the experience was totally worth the cost. 

The best part of the experience was hearing Johnny’s story. He is self taught with no formal training. He  bought the 3D printer because he had an invention he wanted to make and didn’t have a way to get  a prototype.  The invention ( a vegetable peeler that peeled from all sides) is now in the patent process and this young man is now building a new fancier 3 D printer. We were quite impressed with him. 
So much so that we commissioned him to model a part for our bus window screens and print 10 of them.  The $100 feel might seem a little more than we wanted to pay for 10 small plastic pieces, but we both liked the idea of supporting Johnny’s entrepreneurial journey - and if the material is strong enough to do the job of holding our screens in place, then perhaps Johnny will have lots of new customers from the Wanderlodge bus  owners around the country who can no longer get this part. 

It was our first time in Delray and we were quite taken by the creative economy in Delray.  We ended up walking around an Arts Garage  (seemed like an incubator building for artistic industry), a puppet theater, and a few galleries.  We ended up purchasing some fancy olive oils and vinegars and went in search of crusty breads. Lots of dessert bakeries, but no crusty bread until we hit a health food store and walked out with two different types of gluten free bread. The search for bread inspired us to stay for the evening.  We did happy hour at an Oyster bar and dinner at a Mexican place that had a large choice of tequilas , really fresh local ingredients, and wonderful service. 
Part of the street was closed off for a well attended fashion show featuring local designers and shops, which we watched for a while as we walked around town.  We finished up the evening lingering over decaf and conversation about how my 3D assignment turned into an unexpected but very fun Friday night date.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Holiday Traditions on the Road

Celebrating the Holidays on the Road

Living on the road involves redefining many parts of your life.  There are lots of decisions about what to hold onto and what to let go of.  The holiday seasons was yet another opportunity for redefinition as we sought out new holiday traditions.

Having a strong French Canadian heritage means that your holidays are filled with traditions from north of the border.   My childhood Christmas always centered around  le reveillon, (a holiday  feast and celebration that starts after midnight mass and continues throughout the night into morning - thus the name).

Although we’ve tempered the all night party somewhat through the years,  every Christmas I’ve spent in Vermont has included sharing a midnight toast and plenty of fun and munchies with family and friends.   The snow,  decorations, tree, gift exchange,  music and Christmas eve service all serve to put me into a holiday mood.   And there is nothing like kids and their anticipation of Santa to spread the Christmas spirit. 

This December, our bus was parked in a delightful, funky town called Cedar Key, Florida, but  there was no snow, no holiday concerts, no family tree decoration event,  and no kids around us counting down the days til Christmas.  I was finding myself lacking the usual Christmas spirit.   That’s when I decided to kick it in gear and do what I could to find that holiday spirit in our new lifestyle.

First we needed some decorations, so on our walk back from town, we picked up a red Poinsettia.  I used some colored markers to turn some packaging material remnants into a a makeshift tree, and set up the Hue wireless lights with red and green hues.

We took a trip to Chiefland and picked up the last package of ground pork available,  some baking supplies,  and rum for the eggnog.  Craig found a radio station that played Christmas music and I started to cook and bake.   When I was done I had chocolate covered caramel corn packaged in red cups and ribbon for all our new friends,  two tourtieres (Quebecois pork pies)  and a Buche de Noel.

I learned that the humidity in Florida is not optimal for keeping popcorn crunchy,  that a wine bottle can serve as a rolling pin, and that leaving the mixer behind was probably a mistake.   After 45 minutes of 'trying' to whisk egg whites into stiff peaks, Craig decided that he could find room for a mixer. 

Craig and I invited our new friends over for Christmas breakfast.  I made traditional French crepes and Craig made his amazing French toast.  Friends brought over fruit salad, Canadian bacon,  coffee, and eggs and veggie casserole.  It was a bit nippy so we ended up huddled around the communal fire pit which was conveniently located right next to our site.


Later in the day, I brought my tourtiere and Buche de Noel to the campground community potluck.  They were a big hit and it turned out to be a good day.   I can’t pretend that it was all  ‘okay' since  a phone call to  the kids didn’t fill the void I felt by their absence during the holiday season — but bringing in some of my French Canadian traditions to Cedar Key did make a difference in my getting some holiday spirit.

Craig and I were scheduled to leave Cedar Key the day after Christmas, but were able to extend our stay a few extra days to surround ourselves with our new friends for the rest of the holiday week.  In those last few evenings, we got to hear Patt and her guitar entertain a local crowd at the Pelican Rail,  watch Josh and Natalie kick ass at karaoke, see Eric  apologize to Jeannette for leaving her stranded without wifi the day he unpacked his Google Glass, and enjoy some amazing clam chowder and seafood at Tony’s with Lynn & Clark and Robin & Jeremy.  Cheng worked a knot out of my neck, Jason and Kristin introduced us to Snowtinis   Chris gave Craig a private lithium battery workshop and Cherie and Chris gave us a sneak preview of a promising new project they are getting ready to launch.  Those extra three days turned out to be a great decision.

As we were getting ready to leave,  Craig suggested that we check with the office to see if they had any spots open for a quick stop back on our way to Texas.  Lucky for us,  we’ll be able to stop back in at Sunset Isle for February 1 -5.  This made leaving a lot easier! 

After saying so long for now to new friends, we drove across the state to the east coast of Florida and set up camp at Prince John County Park for the month.   The second half of the holiday week provided some of what we were missing — Time With Family.  We picked up Craig’s daughter,  Maggie at Miami airport and headed to City Place Center, in West Palm Beach for some great food, people watching, and “The Hobitt”  at the iMax.   On New Year’s day Craig, Maggie, and I enjoyed more French Canadian traditions  and a wonderful feast that included turkey, more tortieres, and tarte au sucre with my Dad, Christine, Uncle Jean, Ma Tante Helena,  MaTante Helen, Cousin Jocelyn, and other family friends.

And in less than a week… I’m flying home to hug my grandchildren!

Saying Goodbye to Cedar Key

Being "Mobile" means seeing new sights, it also means saying goodbye.  Today is our last day at Cedar Key.  The time to move on has arrived. 

We have spent many delightful hours with the community of people who have congregated here, people who we have gotten know on line before we became their neighbors here at Cedar Key.

Every evening we gather on the dock to watch the sun go down.

Sometimes we move to the dock of the Tiki Bar that is a short walk down the road.

Christmas morning we had people over to our campsite for breakfast.

Then everyone at the campground shared a potluck Christmas Dinner.

This is the community that we have said good bye to.  It was a wonderful experience that has left us with friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.