Friday, June 26, 2009

Sanibel's Chico's Holds An Appealing Secret

I love the Chico's on Sanibel and I guess I am not alone as the tiny island has been able to support not just one but two shops, though I must confess to only shopping in the original Chico's on Palm Ridge. There, the store manager entices me with tales of the founding of Chico's and resolved my confusion with the name. Since chico in Spanish means boy, I was initially surprised that the store is solely women's apparel.

But the manager showed me who the real Chico was, and that not only dismissed my confusion, but added to the charm of shopping in the original store.Chico, the store's namesake, was a gorgeous parrot, and no doubt, like the rest of us, he must have been enamored with life on the Island. In the large picture of him found in the back of the store, he appears to be smiling and quite pleased with his domain.

And who could blame him? What 2 legged, 4 legged or finned or winged creature would not fine a life of bliss on this island paradise?But despite the great merchandising of Chico's, I am concerned that an island the size of Sanibel could continue to sustain two shops with the same name and both selling only women's clothing.

And so I tell our rental guests when they are looking for a place to shop that they should go to Chico's. Not only is the merchandise different (and better!) than in other stores around the country, but there they will have the fun and good fortune of discovering Chico's secret.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sanibel Offers a Great Home Schooling Model

The world has changed.

We telecommute to work.

We shop on line.

And we home school.

Now, if you did not know how significant a trend home schooling is, consider that in the state of Florida alone there were 56,000 children learning at home in 2007, up from 10,039 in the 1991-92 school year.

There are controversial aspects to home schooling. Many towns and cities in Florida and across the country complain about the loss of per pupil funding. Educators point to the "brain drain" with some of the most affluent and articulate parents no longer involved in public education. Others challenge whether parents as a whole have the skills to teach. And social scientists question whether the home school environment sufficiently prepares children for the diversity of democratic living or adequately socializes them for main stream USA.

But according to a study done at the University of Florida for the home schooled child there is much to gain.

The study found home schoolers were generally more patient and less competitive. They tended to introduce themselves to one another more; they didn't fight as much. And the home schoolers were much more prone to exchange addresses and phone numbers.For now, home schooling is still growing, and it's no longer confined to a fringe that may never have believed in the idea of public education. People from all political and social strata are discovering the benefits of home schooling.Of course, home schooling is not for every family.

The necessity of at least one parent being home for the concept to work would eliminate the opportunity for many moms and dads who work out of the home. And no doubt there are an enormous amount of resources required for home schooling to function well.

But the benefits are numerous, including the opportunity for the family not to be tied to summer months or winter holidays to vacation. And off season vacations are generally less expensive, so there is cost savings as well as flexibility built into the holiday.

We have had several home school families stay at our vacation rental properties on Sanibel for anywhere from a week to several months. Those who stayed for extended periods were able to do so as the parents worked from home. But both groups wrote back to say how wonderful the experience was. In a few instances the experience was so good that the families decided to make Sanibel their home, and bought their own properties.

Sanibel is a small community and for the home schooling family, it is easy to meet other home schoolers who can become part of a play group or study group.In addition, there are many organizations on the Island that have classes, projects and courses that are available all year round during the week as well as week-ends. The learning that takes place in these venues become a study unit of great interest to both the student and parent.

And, of course, for home schoolers or any one visiting the island, the environment provides for spontaneous and natural learning. Children and adults exploring Sanibel are guaranteed to find a wealth of discovery on a daily basis.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Try A Different Kind of Way This Summer

Thinking of hitting your local beach but are daunted by the thoughts of fighting all the other "staycationers" on the roads?

I don't blame you. Sitting in traffic is never fun. So let your thoughts drift.

Instead of cars and traffic, picture this: You are on a different kind of "thoroughfare", no traffic, blue skies, birds above your head, manatees swimming next to you, warm sunshine on your face and arms. No horns blaring, different scenery along the way, no tolls, no watching the gas tank needle drop. Where are you? You are on the Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail. You are in a
kayak. You are alone with your thoughts, or perhaps accompanied by loved ones in nearby kayaks. You are at peace.

According to Lee County's Parks and Recreation Department, the Calusa Blueway is truly unique. It's a 190-mile marked canoe and kayak trail that meanders through Lee County's coastal waters and inland tributaries.Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast is dotted with sugar-sand beaches – slivers of paradise on barrier islands. What’s harbored behind the islands, though, is a maze of mysterious mangroves – leggy, saltwater tolerant trees – and wildlife that rivals destinations North Americans need passports to visit. The trail’s trek through shallow water keeps paddlers safely away from places powerboats travel, and it puts them closer to nature, where blush-colored roseate spoonbills feed at dawn, schools of silver-hued fish dart beneath their boats and lumbering manatees feed on sea grasses.The trail provides recreational opportunities,
cultural and environmental awareness, and boosted safety with a low environmental impact for Lee County’s 2 million annual tourists as well as its 600,000 residents.

It effectively unveils the mystery of the mangroves and estuaries but does so with ease so any newcomer to paddling can explore the waterways once plied by the Calusas, the natives who thrived for centuries in Southwest Florida before the Spaniards’ arrival. Many Calusa landmarks, such as shell mounds, remain and are noted on the trail.Unlike most U.S. and Canadian paddling trails, the Great Calusa Blueway is marked with signs.

Think of them as Hänsel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs. Further safety is provided with Global Positioning System coordinates on Lee County Park's Web site. Free
maps are printed with grant money and are available at various locations — outfitters, marinas, retail sites, parks, boat ramps, office buildings, chambers of commerce, airports, visitor centers, etc.The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail was created to help people experience the natural magic of Lee County.

Forget The Discovery Channel or National Geographic. Come paddle yourself, one-on-one with nature.It's a great way to spend your summer (or spring, fall or winter) vacation, and there's more.Picture this: At the end of of a day of wondrous paddling, you head back to your
condo or house on Sanibel Island. No roughing it there.

You are surrounded by luxurious air conditioning. You can make your own late afternoon snack or prepare a sumptuous dinner. Or just take a hot shower and head out to one of the many great restaurants. Life is good when you trade the highway for the Blueway!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fourth of July Lights Up the Skies on and around Sanibel

Spring has sprung in most of America and summer is closing in fast.

And is there any holiday that literally shouts "summer" more than Independence Day? No other can compete if not just for that traditional barbecue and those spectacular fireworks.

And on Sanibel, you get to see the skies catch fire right from the beach.

Romantic for some, exciting for others, an icon of summer time for all.

For those of us who seek eternal summer, it comes and goes much too quickly.

One barely has time to get out the sandals before the leaves are turning colors. So the Fourth is the day to say summer is HERE and experience the moment.

For those who want to visit the Island at that time, there is usually a great fireworks celebration to be found. Scanning TripAdvisor forums, I found this post with some good suggestions on how to see the sparks fly on and near Sanibel:

Captiva is not having any fireworks this year. South Seas Resort decided against them.

There will a parade on Periwinkle starting around 9:30 and fireworks on Sanibel, try for a spot on one of the causeway islands for a great view.

Ft Myers Beach will be doing them as well.

Fort Myers Beach Fireworks
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Fort Myers Beach Fishing Pier & Times Square, Ft. Myers Beach
Community Holiday Celebration
Independence Day Celebration on Sanibel

Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Periwinkle Way and Sanibel Causeway, Sanibel Island
Island Fourth of July Celebration
Red, White and Boom Celebration

Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Cape Coral Pkwy., Cape Coral
Independence Day Street Party

Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Centennial Park, Ft. Myers
Fourth of July Celebration

Need a reason to plan a visit to Sanibel? The Fourth of July is sufficient!