I don't know what the weather was like at your house this past Saturday but here it was windy. I mean WINDY! Gusty, blowing, chilly, wet,batten down the hatches windy. And for most people that means, a good day to stay inside, snuggied down in your comfiest sweats drinking hot cocoa and reading a good book or binge watching Outlander for the umpti-umpth time, For other folks it means, Time to Go To The Beach!
Mostly because big wind usually also means big waves. And Big waves means surfers and parasailing!
On one hand I think they are adrenaline laced whackadoos. On the other hand, oooooo it's so pretty! Really, it's breathtaking to watch as they loop and jump and spin and turn. Almost like a dance. Water Ballet! Only with higher danger factor.
We weren't the only folks at the jetty watching the show either. The place was PACKED! And most of the cars had out of state plates so sure, I get it. If it's a little too chilly to actually sit on the beach or swim or even just wade in the surf and look for cool shells, then here is an alternate way to enjoy the water.
I always feel bad for the tourists who come here from cold and snow hoping to enjoy a beach vacation, thinking sunny and warm thoughts only to find chilly, grey, wet and/or windy weather. But honestly, the beach and the ocean is awesome regardless of the temperature. Provided that you are dressed for the occasion. If all you brought was your flipflops and swimsuit, yeah, you are going to be chilly. Tip:L There are shops here. You can buy a sweatshirt.
But honestly, regardless of the fact that the beach was red-flagged that day, it was still a beautiful walk. I know because after we left the jetty, we went on over to the main beach entrance which we refer to as the Pavilion (because there is one) and we walked on the shore for a bit.
See what I mean? Ain't nothin' wrong with that. And yet, the beach was nearly completely empty. Silly people! Cold, wet, windy days are Perfect Beach Days! Mostly because there is almost nobody else there. You pretty much have the place to yourself!
We could still see the surfers and parasailers from the where we now were and continued to enjoy the show even as we walked along the edge of the water. The wind blew my hair around but hey, I don't care. And Tim was kind enough, chivalrous enough, to stand between me and the worst of it so that I could get at least these few photos.
It's kind of hypnotic watching the water. Maybe that's why it's so calming. Even on a wild and woolly weather sort of day just watching the ever changing patterns in the waves, the continual ebb and flow of it all, listening to that unmistakable sound of the surf.... it helps me to breath, I can feel myself settle a bit and at the same time feel energized. It's medicinal. Take one visit to the beach and call me in the morning. Hah!
Eventually we left to do the sorts of things that need doing regardless of how spectacular the ocean is every day. But we returned in the evening because we knew, we just absolutely had no doubts at all, that the wave dancers would still be out there.
And we were correct!
I can hear you thinking, "What? Isn't she done droning on and on (and on!) about Christmas yet?" Short answer, No. No I'm not. I enjoy Christmas so much that I could probably think of something to say about it every day of the year. But that would kind of be a one note blog theme and I would rather talk about whatever I want to talk about and not be held to one particular topic.
So today I will talk about.....Christmas! LOL Well belated Christmas because that's what we did yesterday. For the first time in a VERY long time we got together with some of our favourite people on the planet. Yes, my friends, it was Minock Day! YAYAYAYAY!
Back when we were neighbors in Colorado, we saw each other nearly every day. Then when Tim and I moved to Florida it was perhaps, 3 or 4 times a year when Tim had to go back to CO for business and I tagged along. And while better than nothing, it was not nearly enough Minock time. Then they also moved to Florida and we changed our get-together's to once a month! Much Better! Either we made the trek up to their place (about 2+ hours north of us) or they jumped in the car and headed south to us. While it wasn't the same as being neighbors, like the old days, it was awesome to have that get-together day to look forward to every month.
And then 2020 happened and of course it call changed again. Since March of 2020 when the lockdown in Florida happened to yesterday, Minock days have been few and far between, which makes them all the more precious when they happen. And yesterday it happened.
It was our turn to journey north to them. Well partly it was our turn but mostly it was because we SOOOO wanted to see their beautiful new home! And see it we did. We toured, we admired, we discussed and Tim helped put up some photo ledges in the living room. In no time at all, it didn't feel like a new place, it just felt like their place. It truly is a perfect expression of who our friends are. Yeah, we are fans.
And we also did Christmas. Belatedly. And I have to tell you, the only thing better than Christmas, is a belated Christmas. Especially a Minock belated Christmas because they "do" Christmas differently than anyone I've ever known. There is food, of course, good company, naturally. There might be a project involved. It could be involve art or hatchets or anything in between. And there will definitely be games. That's right, I said games.
You see, in the Minock household, they don't just open gifts. Anybody can do that. To open a gift in their house you have to win the opportunity. And it's complex. There are a lot of elements involved. It might involve saran wrap, or brain games, or physical challenges, or dice. Or all of those things. Or other things. Who knows what it might be. All I can tell you without giving it away, is that it is time consuming, hillarious and So Dang Much Fun!!!
The photo at the top of the page is two of the ornaments we came home with. Aren't they justso beautiful? I absolutely Love them!!! Also returned with other goodies, including some of Marsha's home made amazing caramel corn which is the BEST in the entire universe, peanut butter fingers and friendship bread.
It was a great lifting of our spirits. Part of it truly was celebrating a belated Christmas which at their house is a sort of a combination of summer camp and Christmas (two awesome things), part of it was the company and all of it was wonderful.
As per usual, had a great time. Looking forward to the next Minock Day, whenever that might be. Some things, like some people, are worth waiting for.
Well that's us, Joy and I, out there at it again. Photo Safari Time! It is a very rare week indeed when we don't manage a hiking with cameras day.
We left early as we usually do, but this time it was with the intent to beat a rain storm that was heading out way. It was chilly and gloomy and, before we finished, a little sprinkley, but we were prepared. I had some plastic grocery stores bags in one pocket for cameras and phones and a small zippy bag for hearing aids in the other. Joy brought her backpack for anything that needed to be protected. We were ready!
The theme of this hike ended up being woodpeckers. We have never EVER seen so many of them on one hike! Oh My Gosh they were everywhere. They are fast too. They zip by like little rockets. And even once they find a place to land, they rarely hold still. It's all ratatatat, or popping in and out of hidey holes, or hopping around to the back side of the tree only to reappear an instant later, upside-down on a branch. Oh they are tricky little devils.
And still, I have photos. Of course I do. A lot of them. So get ready to be inundated with pictures of Woodpeckers! (each of these is a different bird, I swear!)
Of course we saw other birds too. And to be fair, we did go from one preserve (Deer Prairie South) to another (The Rookery) so we didn't find all of these birds in the same place. But it counts because it was on the same adventure. Well it counts in my book and since I'm the one writing this, well, you see where I'm going.
Anyway here are some of the other birds we saw:
As always, I got carried away taking pictures of trees. Sorry, you can skip this part if you want. I just adore trees.
But then, I'm a big fan of flowers too:
And, as usual, I saved my favourites for the last. The photos that defy categorization:
If I've been remiss in telling all of you that I appreciate you willingness to indulge me in looking at all of my photo safari photos, then shame on me. Thank you! Thank you very much. I genuinely appreciate each and every one of you!
Have a GREAT weekend. Meet you here again on Monday!
My favourite Handiman :)
Today's post will be short. Apologies but I got a late start on my day. Normally I'm a very early riser. But too many nights of not sleeping caught up to me and Tim very thoughtfully just tippy toed around (although I was so totally conked out that there probably could have been a brass band in the room and I wouldn't have heard it). The point is, he let me sleep. He is such a nice man.
Anyway, because of that I am kind of running behind myself if you follow that.
So anyway. The photo above is Tim doing some of the yard work that occasionally needs doing. I'm good about keeping up with most of it. As long as I can reach it, I can deal with it. But the really high up stuff is problematic.
The long pointy thing that Tim is using to trim palm trees (I honestly don't know what it's called) is just too unwieldy for me to safely use. You just know that in my hands that thing is not a tool but a weapon. It would just be a matter of time before either a window gets broken or the tool gets broken or I get broken....... so I happily handed this chore off to Tim.
When I try to use it, I look awkward and uncomfortable and the overall image is perhaps, "cumbersome". Yeah I think that is the word. Or perhaps, "Dangerous" is a better choice. If I was going to pick two words, those would be the two.
But Tim makes it appear as if the thing is merely an extension of his hand, or maybe a pen or a wrench. It's impressive to watch really. He would walk around the trees, find whatever needs to be gotten rid of and *bing* before I had a chance for it to even register, it's done and he has moved on to the next thing. Wow!
He was done in less than a half hour leaving me to do the stuff I do well. Which would be scurrying around picking up what was chopped off and hauling it around to the side of the house for the lawn guys to take away. Teamwork baby!
The trees look better and I'm sure they feel better. Everything I've read says that it's healthier for the trees to be trimmed. So we did a good thing.
Two more photos for you: one is one of the chopped off things falling from the tree (still practicing tracking moving objects with my camera) and the resultant pile of chopped off stuff!
At any rate, it's a job well done and one more thing off the gotta do list! yay!
The top of this hill may be the highest point in Florida. Or at least Sarasota County.
For those of you unaware of the topography of Florida, it's flat. Very Flat. Not flat in the way that a desert is. I remember, as a kid, riding in the car as my dad drove across Texas toward California and seeing the mountains in the distance, literally days before we reached them. So it's not the sort of flat where you can see for hundreds of miles ahead of you. Nope.
And it's not flat like Kansas or Nebraska where after harvest, suddenly you can see straight across the fields to your neighbors house in the distance and before harvest all of the cornstalks are the same height. (I once described driving across Kansas as being: corn, corn, corn, corn, wheat, wheat, wheat, wheat, cow, cow, cow, cow house! repeat) So it's not like that.
Florida deforested would look very flat, but Florida has trees galore. All sorts of trees. Trees of every shape and size and colour. Some filled with fruits, others with birds. And because of the forests thick with greenery, you might not notice the relatively small changes in elevation while driving from Point A to Point B. And if you are in a city, all of the tall buildings might distract you from realizing how, mostly, level the ground beneath you remains. The fact of the matter is that the land that is Florida is, by and large, flat, level, even-steven however you prefer to describe it.
I actually just now looked it up. The highest point in the state of Florida is Britton Hill in Walton County. Britton Hill stands a whopping 345 feet high. Whoa! Having moved to Florida, as Tim and I did, from Colorado that is hilarious. The Colorado town that we lived in stood at 5,589 feet and went up from there. That's over a mile high, folks.
My point, I guess, is that when we drive past a 'hill' like in the above picture, we notice. And we've driven past this hill many times. Each time I say the exact same thing, "I really want to climb that hill". But we are always on our way somewhere and don't have the time. Sunday, we stopped the car, got out and we climbed that hill! Woohoo!
It's been awhile since we've had to climb anything higher than the stairs to the Venice Island bridge so this was a good way to find out exactly how out of shape we are. Turns out, not as bad as we feared! yay!
There were choices for tackling this climb. There was a dirt path that went straight up. No foolin' around, asking no quarter, just a get it done direct route. And then there was a 'round and 'round path that gently circled the hill slowly raising the pedestrians, gradually, to the top. We were full of sass and vinegar I guess because we chose the straight line, right to the top.
We charged that hill as if we were going on attack, Full Speed Ahead, Damn the Torpedoes! We hauled arse upward not slowing down for a second. Also not talking. We saved our breath for climbing (and panting, I confess). About 2/3 of the way up I asked Tim between big gulps of air if his legs were screaming at him because my thighs were objecting strongly. He shook his head no and said, "Butt". Ahhh the old glute muscles. Yeah they are not big fans of that sort of climb either. But HAH! We kept going, same speed as when we began and then, suddenly, we reached the Tippy Top!
We walked around admiring the view and trying to catch our breath. Wow! What a view! And to our surprise, more paths to follow! We followed one of the paths that circled the edge of the top of the hill for awhile, then eventually walked down (not on the path) the opposite side then circled back to the beginning around the base of the hill. Here are some of the things that we saw:
So that was fun! Now instead of saying, "I want to climb that hill" when we drive by I can say, "Hey remember when we climbed that hill?" Ahhh Memories
One more thing checked off the list of things I want to do. Cool.
What a mess! My desk should be declared a disaster area. I'm not sure what happened. It used to be so tidy and now...well...it's completely out of control. Which means I have a big project ahead of me! It took me awhile to figure out how to fix this. But this is what I came up with.
First let's take a closer look at the players involved:
This is my desk. Well as you can clearly see it's also the back of the kitchen peninsula. Which means it's right there where I'm cooking, baking, where we eat but also where I blog and work on my photo sites and compose emails etc. It's probably where I spend the biggest part of my day. And since it's open to the living room it's also where we might sit and talk, or read, or do puzzles or all sorts of other things. So it behooves me to keep my area tidy. I like tidy. And right now it's really really REALLY not. And that is a problem.
The reason there are stacks of books on my "desk" is because I was fortunate enough to be gifted a good many books this past Christmas. And these are the ones I haven't yet read. I keep them separate from the ones I've already read just for my own convenience. But there are also magazines I'm part way through, my camera because I never know when I might have an immediate need for one, countless notebooks for various reasons (grocery lists, blog post ideas, notes to self etc.) my calendar because everything I need to know about upcoming birthdays/anniversaries/appointments/etc is on there, and a paperweight because I like open windows which means breezes.
Most of it can be dealt with easily but those books. I absolutely must come up with a better system yes? Well some of my new books are cookbooks (squeeeee!) And I have an official place for cookbooks. It's this little two shelf bookcase right there in the photo above. As you can see, it's pretty full. No change that to Very full. My new cookbooks will not fit. Dang.
And then there is this issue:
\This huge microsoft bag that sits on the floor next to the bookshelf, right in the way of my feet is filled with the stuff that normally would do in desk drawers. Pens, pencils, paperclips, tape, note pads and staplers. All of the stuff a regular office would need, I still need but have no place to put it. So there is sits looking lumpy and dumpy and definitely in my way! But there really is no other place for it. Dang.
So as I was thinking this through it occurred to me that cookbooks are books after all. Maybe I can just dedicate a shelf to them in one of our other book cases. Yeah, no. That's not going to happen. While it's true that we do have two other books cases (and good sized ones too. They go from the floor to near the ceiling) they are full. Completely totally and entirely full. Ratz. Well the obvious solution there is to cull out the books. Go through and decide, seriously decide, which books do I absolutely HAVE to keep. Which ones will I read again. Which books need to stay and which books can go.
So I prepared myself to be merciless. I ruthlessly pulled books from the shelf and filled an entire large rubbermaid container that I will never in a million years be able to lift (so what was I thinking?) And this is what I was left with:
An entire rubbermaid box is now filled with books and it barely looks as if I've touched the bookshelves. Sigh. Clearly I have a lot more work to do.
Here is my plan. I will get tougher, meaner, crueler and get rid of a LOT more books, donate them to Good Will most likely. Then I can move the cookbooks to one (or more) of the the big shelves. Which will leave the little two shelf bookcase by my desk empty (a wonderful thing!). I will get little bins that fit on the shelves and put all of the "desk" contents on those bins. And perhaps I will even have room leftover for things like notebooks and other desk top "stuff".
It's an ambitious plan people. And Ii fully expect that tears will be shed as I do the sorting.
I can get rid of clothes with no problem. I can give away furniture without a glimmer of remorse. Almost everything we own, while I like it very much, if it disappeared I would shrug and move on. But my books? That's a completely different story. (no pun intended) My books are like my friends, like family members. When one of those is gone from your life, it leaves a hole. boohoo ;(
BUT still my tidy genes demand satisfaction! This Will Happen. But it will take awhile. Stay tuned. When the project is complete, I will share new photos.
Wish me Luck!
On My Goodness! Wednesday Photo Safari was so good! It was a complete 180 from the previous week. We headed up to Oscar Scherer State Park because we needed a change of pace. Our thought was that even if there was nothing photos worthy (again), at least our hike would be on different trails than usual.
The clear and obvious theme of this last hike was Birds. Lots and Lots of LOTS of birds. They were everywhere. They were up high, down low and hanging around the middle. The were flying, hopping and sometimes even holding still (for a change). You couldn't go but a handful of steps without seeing more birds. They squawked and chirruped and screeched and they sang. They flew around us, over us, in front of us across the path and seemed oddly happy that we were there. I say oddly because on other hikes, on other trails, the birds seemed intent on hiding from us. The little feathered stinkers.
But these birds seemed to love having they photos taken and even took to posing. Seriously, that is exactly what it looked like. And It Was Awesome! I'm not even going to make you wait. I'm going to start out with the most exciting part right off the bat. We saw eagles. Plural. As in more than one eagle. Here you go, the eagle and the eagle's nest all in one shot! Excitement!
Also saw hawks. Not as unusual to see but still a dang impressive creature with a little bit of attitude. He's gorgeous, he knows it.
And woodpeckers. This is four different woodpeckers by the way, not four photos of the same one.
I only got a photo of one jay. I'm not certain if it was a blue jay or a scrub jay and I suppose it doesn't really matter. The bird knows what it is
And a ton of other little birds that I have no idea what are but they are just so adorable. Here is a just a small sampling of the variety:
The little birds seem to have the prettiest songs. The bigger ones have louder and less pretty calls. I am beginning to recognize some of the bird songs. Very few but it's a start. The longer I do this, I suppose, the better I will get at it. Though remembering their names doesn't seem to be something that will happen. Joy tells me, patiently, over and over and I promptly forget it, over and over.
There was only one spot where the trail was overtaken by a large puddle and we were able to carefully slog around the outside.
There were a few photos of birds in flight (if you want a giggle). I keep trying to develop the skill of tracking a bird in flight and capturing it with my camera with varying amounts of success. I keep trying but you tell me if you think it's working so far:
I'll keep working on that.......
And of course there were a few other random photos which are, always among my favourites of the day:
So there you have it. The Birdie Hike. Totally worth the $5 price of admission.
"Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day!"
That was a big thing when I was growing up. We heard it in school, at the doctor's office, and, naturally, at the grocery store. It was in newspapers and magazines, especially that category of magazines referred to as 'Women's Magazines'. I speak of Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Womens' Day and the like. I'm not sure any of them even still exist, do they?
And that meant a full breakfast. Fruit, eggs, bacon, and toast or perhaps fruit, pancakes and hashbrowns. On a special occasion there might be fried ham and eggs with toast and jam. Or perhaps something more decadent like cinnamon rolls or coffee cake (with the apparently requisite fruit and eggs of course)
Anyway it was one of those things considered to be, 'common knowledge'. Like putting butter on a burn (don't do that). When I was a kid, it's what you did because everyone KNEW it was true. Except of course that it wasn't. At least not in our house.
My mom must have been way ahead of her time because she never once suggested putting butter on a burn and she absolutely didn't force us to eat breakfast. Encourage, yes, force, no. And what's more, breakfast was pretty much a do it yourself proposition. And I have no issue with that at all. It was a good step on the road to becoming self-reliant.
There was always food available. If Nana was in residence there would for sure be baked goods. If she was not, well there was always cereal. Help yourself. And so we did. In my mind, there was little difference between a jelly topped toast and cookie, sooooooo cookies for breakfast? Sure, why not? And when I explained my logic to my mother, she agreed. Leftover pie, similar to a jelly filled donut. Chocolate cake is close enough to coffee cake. Are you following me here? It was an easy transition from there to having ice cream for breakfast, animal crackers for lunch and cream cheese and jelly sandwiches for dinner. Not the most well balanced of diets, but delicious :)
It isn't that my mother didn't love us kids, because she did. She loved us to bits and pieces. But food just wasn't her thing. She wasn't interested in cooking it, shopping for it, serving it or eating it. So it was hard for her to understand anyone else's interest in it. She made sure that food was available to us if we wanted it as long as she wasn't actively involved in it's creation.
So that pattern was set for years. Eventually I was old enough and smart enough to realize that regardless of the strange food attitudes that I grew up with, I was old enough to make better choices for myself. And I did. (with the exception of my passion for M&M's which will remain with me until the day I die)
I eat so much more healthfully now. Soups and salads are a regular part of my daily bread and oddly enough, very little bread actually is (despite how much I love it). Baked potatoes and veggie pastas, stews and roasts and every once in a long while, a really good burger. When the boys were babies I made their baby food. Nothing store bought for my kidlets, no sirree!
I made my own bread, grew our fruits and vegetables and made made sure that every meal was healthy and well balanced. They had great appetites' and rarely pushed away anything I brought to the table, including vegetables.
And now the kids are gone, it's just Tim and I and I have come to learn that I am not a fan of breakfast at all. While I am up and about, fully functional and energetic very early in the morning, my tummy is still sound asleep. My appetite doesn't start to wake up until closer to noon. So I guess I'm more of a brunch girl. Oh yes, I can eat a good brunch. Omelets and fruit salads and waffles, Oh My!
Brunch doesn't really fit in to a normal regular ordinary daily workweek though. So I often skip breakfast entirely and instead thoroughly enjoy an exceptional lunch. When I do eat breakfast it's something on the smaller side. Something more like:
All things that I can eat on the run. Yogurt I can leave here at my desk with a spoon and take a little spoonful as I walk past it, Belvita crackers (one of my favourite thing) I can actually stuff in my pockets and munch as I go. Cereal I usually eat dry, so again, it's munchfood, grazing food, snackfood really. I have been known to have leftover biscuits or cornbread for breakfast which, while perhaps not the usual, it's not horrifying. Oh I also like those little cottage cheese cups? Have you seen those in the grocery store? They are adorable.
And then there is my most favourite breakfast in the world:
Leftover pizza, cold, right out of the fridge, oh yeah. And don't even try to convince me that it's not a healthy breakfast. There 's veggies and cheese and crust. Protein, vitamins and carbs. No different than an omelette with toast. I'm not certain what there is about cold leftover pizza that I love so much, but I do, I do, I do!
Whenever we get take out pizza, I always ordered a medium specifically so that I have breakfast to look forward to for at least a few more days.
So I guess the question is, was the original topic sentence true? Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? I think maybe it depends on what you have for breakfast.
The weather this past Saturday was gorgeous. No wait, what's better than gorgeous? Sublime :) Sublime. That's it. The weather was sublime. Not too hot, not too cold, not too humid, not too dry. A teensy little breeze, blue skies and a few big puffy clouds. Much too nice to be inside.
We had both slept late which is always a treat, then had a lazy breakfast. It was one of those rare days where we had no errands to run, no obligations to fulfill, no place we had to be at any specific time. There were no holidays or birthdays or anniversaries immediately ahead of us to be cognizant of so, for a change, there was no pressure of time, committment or responsibility . Honestly, it was a beautiful thing.
The only question was, what shall we do with this beautiful day? After a wee bit of discussion, it turned out that we both felt like hiking but we really wanted to find some place new to us. Some place we've never been. Tim was on it! He found a nature trail in a town a wee bit more than a half hour south of us. All right! We hopped in the car and headed out.
We've been to and through this particular town many times before. It's an adorable smallish town right on the water that has a beautiful water front park and an astounding number of murals. But we had no idea about this nature trail. Cool! The surprises didn't end there.
We followed the directions easily and pulled right in to a parking space. The first surprise is that instead of being like most preserves.......kind of off the beaten track.....this one was right in town. In fact, it's right beside a fire station! Surprise!
The next surprise, and a very nice one at that, were the beautiful gardens in front of the trail head. I have never, ever seen that before. It was a marvelous thing. They had nice little benches to sit on, animal shaped topiaries, a butterfly garden, trees, grassy areas and flowers galore!
Eventually I had my fill of the gardens and we moved on to hit the trails. There were two; the trail proper and the trail extension. We did both. I will say this. The trails were nicely cut and maintained, there weren't a lot of people out walking (always a treat) and they had a surprising number of adorable little bridges.
We could hear some birds but didn't see any of them so I have zero bird photos. And I will blame that on very clever and camera shy birds hiding in the trees and overgrowth. But I have to take complete blame myself for the missing photos of: fiddler crabs (there were quite a few), butterflies (there were several), the giant spider or the mysterious and beautifully fragrant flowering shrub that I was hoping to identify later. I tried to get all of them. No Bueno.
I did get some interesting foliage shots though so that will have to do:
Oh and Tim captured a lizard for me. This lizard was so patient. The entire time I kept trying to bring the shot into focus over and over, he just quietly waited. Finally out of frustration I handed the camera off to Tim. Clearly I should have done that earlier. Tim got the photo and then the lizard left. Very kind of them both I thought.
It turned out to not be a particularly long hike, I think I spent more time prowling through the garden before hand than on the actual hike, but still, it we were glad we checked it out.
We stopped on the way home at my new favourite pizza place Bocca Lupo for take away pizza and wings. And it wasn't much later that we were stuffing our faces with awesome pizza (veggie for me and carnivore pizza for Tim) while sitting on the sofa in the family room watching TV, and reflecting a little bit on what a great day it was.
All in all, it was a great start to a new year!
Here we are 4 days into the New Year and I've managed to put Christmas 2020 completely away. Yup, it's true. Yesterday we packed up the lights, the tree and the wreath. Every ornament, every stocking and every snowman was lovingly, carefully, wrapped and packed. And then summarily stuffed into every dank, dark, crevasse Tim and I could squeeze out of the utility room. Tim moved a few things in this direction, I wiggled a few others in that direction, we both consolidated some other things and eventually we managed to find space for it all. Not certain where it all fit last year, but it's somewhere else this year.
Actually I know exactly what happened. We bought a second fridge. I know, I know. We are super spoiled. When we lived in Colorado, we did a lot of entertaining and we came to realize fairly quickly that having a second refrigeration was very handy! So, way back then, we bought a second one and put in our garage. The garage in Colorado had 3 bays so there was plenty of room for it in that third bay. Naturally when we were getting ready to move here to a much smaller house, one of the MANY things that did not move with us was that second fridge. ( I think we left it in the Colorado house for the new owners)
And why? Well, first of all, this house, our Florida house, is much smaller so space is at a premium. And yes, of course, we knew that ahead of time. This Florida house was not about big and fancy. This house was about location. We wanted to live as close as possible to the ocean and if that meant living in a much smaller space then we would just find a way to live smaller, make better use of whatever space we had and ruthlessly delete anything unnecessary in our lives. Secondly, this house has no garage. I know that sounds crazy (no garage?) but again, not really necessary. There is no snow here, no ice here, no freezing and subfreezing weather to worry about. And, I suppose, we figured that we would just entertain as dictated by available space. And that all sounded like a terrific idea. It made perfect sense. We were determined to follow through on all of our down-sizing plans.
And it mostly worked. Most of the things that we got rid of, we don't miss. But boy oh boy did we miss having that extra fridge. Room for Costco sized food purchases. Room for cases of cold water. Room for cookies after cookie baking marathons. Space for fancy desserts, for cold-cut platters, for giant watermelons, for popsicles, for extra ice. (while we don't have to worry about snow or ice anymore, we do have to survive hot, humid summers!) The extra fridge also means fewer trips to the grocery store and I am always in favour of that!
So we cleared out a space in the utility room (as opposed to a non-existent garage) for the new refrigerator. When considering where it would go we knew that the second fridge had to be close to the outlet for the cord(of course) and it would be nice if it was fairly close to the kitchen door for speed and efficiency. Tim and I stood in the utility room debating where the new appliance would go while eagerly awaiting it's delivery. Hmmmmmm. The most logical space was the exact spot where all of the Christmas decorations were stacked up in bins and bags and boxes. Oh well, it was almost time to decorate for the holidays anyway, so we hauled everything Chritmassy into the house. The new fridge fit perfectly, I mean PERFECTLY in that space and all was well with the world.
Until I undecorated. Hmmmm. Now we needed to find a new spot for all of this stuff! Yikes! Ok this was the time for me to finally fulfill my long-standing promise to myself to sort through all of the decorations and get rid of anything I wasn't using. I narrowed my eyes, hardened my heart, cracked my knuckles and began. It took a very long time. I had to stop and consider every single Christmas related item we have collected for the 27 years we've been married plus all of the crap I already owned and couldn't bear to part with before that.
In the end, I found that I was able to throw away the broken, ratty looking, falling apart things without mercy or hesitation. A little harder was setting aside for donation other perfectly fine things that had absolutely nothing wrong with them but somehow I just have never used. Naturally there were a lot of things that I simply could not get rid of. Too many memories, guys, too many memories. Still there was a fair amount of success. .And in fact, I was successful enough in my heartless decision making, that we were able to get rid of two bins. TWO! Ok I just impressed myself.
It's hard sometimes to let things go. It's a chore and not an easy one. But in the end, I'm really happy that I finally just got down to it and made it happen. Garbage pick up was this morning so the throw away pile is safely gone. I only need to stop by Good Will one day soon and all of the rest of it will be forever part of someone else's Christmas memories.
And you know what? I feels pretty darned good. Next up will be sorting through books. And getting rid of them will be even harder!
Wednesday was Photo Safari Day! And I must say that while it was a beautiful day and a nice walk in wonderful company, it was not an especially good photo day. Nothing interesting or exciting happened. There were no feral hogs to run from, no olympic leaps over unexpected bodies of water or home made bridges built over the same. We saw no deer or raccoons or rare birds. We did not stumble across brand new surprising trails or even rescue bicyclers with bike issues or lost hikers. We were not surprised by finding giant log frames or old shacks or a congregation of alligators. It wasn't freezing cold, we did not have to fight off hordes of killer mosquitos, there were no waterfalls or horses or cows. We did not get lost or dehydrated, I did not break my glasses and nobody was attacked by a mean spirited vine and fall down. (All of those things have happened to us though!)
Instead it was a nice but a rather uneventful and even ordinary walk. Ho Hum.
I did get a lot of tree photos. Sometimes I am just so wowed by how beautiful trees are that I snappyity snap them and miss other things. (this time though there really weren't any other things to miss) The thing about taking tree photos is that they always look so much better to my eye than to my camera eye. I'll share the some of the photos but I promise you that they looked ever so much better in person:
For the majority of this hike we saw no birds and heard very few. We were wondering if they all were on vacation. And then suddenly we came upon this one curve that was birdie central. So Many Birds! They were chattering and hopping and flying back and forth and hiding in the branches and in general making it very difficult to get their pictures. I got a few though ;)
Ok that part was really cool. We could have just stood there and taken shot after shot after shot of birds. But our necks were getting sore from shooting UP and I was getting a little dizzy from tracking them as they flitted from thither to yon and back again. So eventually, we moved on.
There were no more bird photos but I did get a few wild flowers. Just a few.
We decided a couple of things. First that we need to hike some other preserves and parks for a little while. We know the ones here in Venice too well and need a change of pace. Also we think we need to start the hike a little bit later. Apparently in the winter months, the birds sleep in. And one of the things that helps to make a good photo an even better photo is light. Winter light doesn't really warm up as early as we've been heading out.
So that's kind of it. Still had a great time because we always do. But next week we will have an even better time because we will be hiking a different preserve! I'm exciting at the prospect of finding something NEW and possibly even exciting!
Don't worry. You know I will share. Whether you want me to or not! teehee
Have a great weekend!
Tonight is the night folks. On the stroke of Midnight we can bid 2020 an enthusiastic "Good Riddance" and embrace 2021 with great hope and optimism.
2020 has been a singular year. Kind of a pooper all the way around. If I want to understate things I could say that it was unusual in a thousand different ways. What is that old curse, "May you live in interesting times". Oh yeah, it was an interesting year for sure. Still here we are are, poised on the brink of a brand new beginning. And I believe that it's more important than ever learn from this past year.
I will admit that I learned a few things in this past year. I learned, for example, how relatively unaffected I was by the kibosh on social gatherings. Turns out that while I am capable of socializing, it's not my natural state. I think perhaps, "hermit" is more normal for me. And that is not a good thing. In a more "normal" year, I would be forced by life, by circustance and by social convention to interact with groups of people. And I would do a good job of it too. But I adapted far too easily to the social restrictions that the pandemic thrust upon us. And once the bans are all lifted and we edge back toward the way things used to be, I will have to relearn how to be social all over again.
I also re-learned how to 'make do'. The shortages forced me to spark a few memories in my old brain. For example, I got more creative in the kitchen when the stores didn't have something that I needed. I dusted off the old memory banks and remembered alternate ideas. The same thing applied to cleaning. It took a few beats, but eventually I remembered how to clean without being able to immediately lay my hands on whatever wonder-product I have come to rely upon. Those were good things.
I was absolutely reminded once again of the priority list of Truly Important Things. Good Health being one of the top things. People I love being the other. Everything else just kind of falls to the side.
I learned how to be more patient and understanding when the stress of the pandemic (and everything else - like I said, it was a singular year!) started getting to people. I learned to put the needs of others ahead of my own wishes, by wearing a mask, social distancing and washywashywashy even when I didn't really want to. I learned how to be happy and in a positive frame of mind even when the news every day was more and more doomy and gloomy.
I was impressed by how many people stepped up and did the right things, over and over. Yeah that was a big one. I have always lived by the saying, "It's not what happens to you in life that defines you, it's how you deal with it". I think most people dealt with the Year of Covid, pretty dang well.
I will admit however, that I was gravely disappointed by one thing. I honestly, and probably naively, believed that all of the division, the strife, the petty potshots and political posturing on the planet would fade away in the face of a common enemy. I actually thought that this was it. The was the opportunity for the entire world, not just a state or a country, to come together globally to face a common enemy together. Yeah, I'm an idiot because that absolutely did not happen. We are all just as divided as we always were, if not more so. Sigh.
Meanwhile, everywhere on this planet, everyone is looking toward 2021 with great hope. And I think it' s true. 2021 will be better. But it's not going to be immediate, boys and girls. It's not as if, as the second hand ticks toward midnight that suddenly, magically, all of the problems of 2020 disappear and everything is rainbows and roses. It's a process. It's not instantaneous. It will get better, but hang on to your socks and be patient because it's going to take a little while longer until we are looking at all of the problems of this past year in the rearview mirror.
Nothing left to do now except wish each and every one of you a Healthy, Happy Prosperous New Year.
What you see here is part of my potted garden. Only instead of being in the actual garden - or rather the courtyard where it normally lives, it was in my kitchen. It was an emergency and a temporary thing, I assure you. Soon enough they were back outside in the elements where they belong.
Over Christmas Day (and a few days following) we had a bit of a cold snap. Depending on where you live, you might have experienced it yourself. Or course, again depending on where hang your hat, in December freezing cold temperatures might be a perfectly normal thing. But in other places, like here, not so ordinary. And it requires a bit of thought to manage.
When I saw that the temps were bound to dip into the thirties over night, my first thought was, I need to close the windows. I am a bit of a fresh air enthusiast and as soon as the heat and humidity of summer are over and done, I have windows open. Even when it's really chilly, yes, I am wearing a hoodie but our windows are open. I love the smell and feel of fresh air. But even I have my limits. When the thermometer is flirting with literal freezing numbers, the windows close. Or at least most of them. We left one open just a wee bit.
My second thought was, "Oh dear" what about my potted garden? I wouldn't want any harm to come to those plants. I know it's silly but I am very fond of them. And in all honesty, a good freeze will do a nasty bit of work on a potted garden. I wasn't certain that they would come to harm. I wasn't even positive that the numbers would be in the frost zone. But I also decided that I didn't want to risk it.
Tim and I talked about it a little bit. Of course, as he also assured me, it's my garden and therefore my choice, but he really doubted that the plants would come to harm. His feeling was that the courtyard is a relatively protected area, up against the nice warm house and cozied in by the courtyard wall. And I'm 99% sure that he was correct. Still that 1% of doubt had me carrying the plants inside late in the evening and tucking them behind the kitchen chairs under the front windows. Just in case.
This is the view from the window over the sink. And by the way, there are more plants than you see here. This was mid-plant transfer.
.There was some mild concern that some bugs or lizards or other outside creatures tucked into the plants that might have come into the house with them. But I decided I would deal with that if and when it becomes a problem. First order of business was save the plants.
I chose that particular spot in the kitchen for them because first of all, it's out of the way and nobody will trip over them, and then also because it's directly below an wonderful old fashioned bay window. Lots of light. They may not be outside, but they still get to bask in the sunshine. Without the fear of frost.
Yes I suppose it does prevent us from using two of the 4 kitchen chairs. But seriously, Tim and I are two people, there are two other chairs still available for use. It is only a temporary inconvenience. Like a Christmas tree which also takes up space that is normally otherwise used.
I know a lot of people who keep plants in their houses all of the time. I love how lush it looks. And I keep hearing how much better their quality of air is with all of those plants converting Carbon Dioxide to Oxygen. And I am a plant fan. I truly am. Flowers and plants and anything green and growing. And yet, and yet, I have no plants in my house, normally. Odd eh?
Well my friends, this is a small house. It's adorable and I love it, but it's small. There is not a lot of room for people let alone plants. Especially live growing plants which take up continually more space as they grow, which would - to me - close the space in. I love visiting a greenhouse but I do not wish to live in one. It gives me a kind of claustrophobic feel. Any open, empty space in this house is open and empty for a reason. It's not just waiting until we find another thing to fill it up.
Needless to say, as soon as the weather changed, the plants went back outside. I don't know if I actually saved their little plant lives or not. I will never know. It doesn't matter. If the weather gets crazy again and the mercury drops around the freezing mark again, they will come back inside again. Just for the duration.
It was a crazy weather pattern. We had the 30's here, my friend in Tennessee had her first "White Christmas" in many years, and middle son and his wife in Massachusetts had a basement full of water from torrential rain. All on the same night. Like I said, Kind of Crazy. Me? Well I hauled out some of the few sweaters I have saved and tried to remember how to properly layer clothing to stay warm and still not look like I was smuggling blankets under my clothes. I wore long pants, socks, closed toed shoes. Any time we were in the car, I had the seat warmers on in the car cranked all the way up and drank endless cups of hot water (to warm me up from the inside y'see). Tim, on the other hand, wore a long sleeved shirt with his shorts. Yeah that was his concession to colder weather. We are definitely two very different people :)
So there you have it. Outside plants inside. Florida with freezing temperatures. It's like the world has turned upside down. And still we carry on.
'Twas the Monday after Christmas and I hope everybody had a really great one! Ours was fun for sure :)
Since we have lived in Florida, we do our bigger Christmas Celebrating on Christmas Eve. We get together every December 24th with Joy and Bob and this year was no exception.
Normally, as a part of our Christmas get together, we attend an event. Some fancy light show or a bit of theatre maybe. This year, of course, was a little different in that there was no event. Or rather, I suppose, we were our own event?
We always alternate who hosts. Last year we got together at our house so this year we drove up to Sarasota and celebrated at Joy and Bob's place. It was a dessert extravaganza! Joy supplied gorgeous cupcakes and two beautiful pies: pumpkin and apple! Wow! I brought cookies. Of course I brought cookies. That's who I am, it's what I do.
After we stuffed ourselves silly with goodies, we admired their beautiful tree, their gorgeous and enormous cats (sorry somehow I missed taking photos of any of that for you) and chitchatted a little bit. Then we got down to the really important business at hand. The opening of gifts.
We exchange stockings. Why? I'm not absolutely certain how that came about. I do know that Christmas stockings were always the best part of Christmas to Joy and I as kids and even now it's at the top of my list. Stocking gifts are the most challenging thing to find and therefore the most fun. And we do not limit ourselves to practical things. How boring is that!
No, we fill stockings with pretty things, edible things, useful things, unexpected things and lots of silly things. We laughed a lot. Bob read corny jokes to us between gift openings, we tasted everything edible and the kitties checked out each gift to give the kitty seal of approval. Instructions were occasionally read out loud as things were figured out, jewelry was modeled, and magazines thumbed through.
One of the my favourite funny moments was learning that Joy and I gave each other the exact shade of nail polish (though different brands) What are the odds of that happening? It's that sister-brain thing I guess. One of the most unique things in my stocking was a chapstick holder. Seriously that's a thing! It's terribly clever. A little printed neoprene pouch with an opening just the right size for a tube of lip balm and at the top is a ring so it can go on a key ring or my camera bag or belt loop! Never again will I be out in the back of beyond, semi-lost, hours from civilization with chapped lips! I am not being facetious about that. Chapped lips is a real issue! But my nifty Chapstick holder is freakin' awesome :)
The extremely modest amount of money that we spend on these gifts isn't the point. The reason we do this is because it's fun. It's as much fun to shop for these gifts and wrap them as it is to watch the other person open them. And for us to open ours! It's always a surprise, it's always a treat, it's always fun and it's always memorable. All the necessary elements for a perfect Christmas Eve.
Christmas Day was quieter. We slept a little later than usual, had a relaxing breakfast, read the newspaper and opened the gifts under our tree. We talked to all of the kids, texted and emailed back and forth with dear friends and ended the day watching Christmas movies on television.
It was chilly here. Well Florida Chilly. I was wearing a sweater and snuggled under the sofa blanket while watching the aforementioned Christmas movies. We ate some of our Christmas gifted candies while we watched without once concerning ourselves with calories or other food-badness because EVERYONE knows that Christmas calories do not count.
All things COVID considered, it was a pretty damned good Christmas. Hope yours was too.
It's nearly here ya'll. Christmas day is just a few days away and I can barely stand the excitement!
I don't know about you guys, but I still have some Christmassy things to do and not much time left to do them so this will be my last post until after Christmas.
I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas! I hope that Santa brings you everything you wished for and at least one surprise.
See you again next week
Hugs all 'round
Friday was Tim's and My 27th Wedding Anniversary! Woohoo!
We generally don't make a big fuss over our annivesary. It's almost always a small subdued sort of celebration. For lots of reasons. Not the least of which is, that's what we like to do. But also our anniversary is exactly one week before Christmas so it's kind of a busy time of year already. And whose stupid idea was the selection of that date? (probably mine, I don't honestly remember. Hey, it was 27 years ago! I have trouble remembering what I had for breakfast!)
And this year is especially challenging for celebrations of any sort. Covid y'know? Still we celebrated because there are some things worth making note of. Our annivesary is one of them.
We started the day with Flowers for me! Beautiful! Awwwwwww.
Then, since it was a weekday, Tim had to get to work and I had things to do as well. Exciting things like cleaning bathrooms and doing laundry! HAHAHAH! I know how to celebrate!
But eventually Tim's day was done (a little early too!) and I called mine done (it's never really done) and we did what we always do and exchanged cards (and the one Tim gives me always makes me cry just a little bit) and exchanged small gifts. This year, we each bought the other some of their favourite candies! Nice! I guess we needed some extra sweetness ;)
Then we headed out the door. No destination, no plan, just out. Very spontaneous. I am generally only spontaneous if I plan it properly ahead of time so this was a huge deal for me. I felt like a little kid ditching school.
We headed over to the jetty first just because that is one of our happy places. As if in celebration with us, the view from the jetty was exceptionally beautiful. There was a wee bit of a chill in the air despite the sunshine and a little breeze just to keep the air moving.
It just so happened that earlier in the day I took myself on a walk to the beach, with my camera and got some different shots. There were only a couple of hours difference between my first photos and the second set but it looks so very different to me. One of the best parts about living by the water is that it's never boring because it is never ever the same.
Eventually we got hungry and set out in search of food. Since we had no plans, no thoughts, no goal in mind other than filling hungry bellies, we knew it would be simple food. Simple is good. I like simple. We ended up driving to Sarasota because that's where the nearest Jimmie John's is and for some reason, that just sounded like a good idea.
By then it was starting to get dark so we just brought the food home and ate in front of the TV while we snuggled together and watched Christmas movies and indulged in some of our Anniversary Candies for dessert.
It was a perfect anniversary celebration for us. Simple, uncomplicated, peaceful and perfectly perfect for us.
Here's to the next 27 years! If they are even half as good as the first 27, then we are very lucky people indeed. But then, we kind of already knew that. 27 years together and we not only still love each other, we like each other too.
Maybe we don't feel the need to make a big deal out of an anniversary celebration because just being together and happy is already kind of a big deal.
Hope your weekend was a great one!
Holiday Lights! One of the many things about the Christmas Season that I adore! And here we are, exactly one week before the big day, Christmas Day, what could be a better thing to post.
I will keep it short and sweet for you though, because most probably, you, like me, are still busybusy wrapped up in holiday related things to do (to say nothing of the everything else going on in your real life, right?)
Last Sunday we went over to the arboretum to check out the lights. Every year, local people and businesses "adopt" a tree to decorate in Blalock Park and this year there were more than 100 different displays. (Which is an impressive number here on Venice Island. )Blalock Park is a beautiful place to walk on a regular ordinary day. So gussied up with decorations and lights, it's a magical place!
There is something about Christmas lights that just transports me back in time. Once again I'm a little kid again, sitting in the backseat of the family car with my sister and my mother, snuggled down into our warm jackets. My dad and Nana would be in the front- dad driving of course. And we would be looking out the car windows as we slowly drove through neighborhood after neighborhood, singing Christmas carols and marveling at the decorations.
Every time we walk through the Christmas displays in Blalock Park, I am so impressed by people's creativity. And the fact that no two displays were the same. It wows me every year.
I'll give you a little sample. Each display seemed to have it's own central theme:
There were the animal themed displays of course:
The Traditional Christmas themes were well represented:
A few Florida specific displays:
And a few that just defy categorization:
And all of them were perfect.
Without a single solitary doubt, Tim and I will walk over and enjoy it several more times before the holiday is over again this year.
I wish you a happy weekend! Make it a point to get out there and enjoy the Christmas Lights in your area at some point this weekend. See if it doesn't feel at least a little magical to you too.
As evidenced by the photos above, you can se that Joy and I are getting pretty darned good at playing jump the puddle. (that's Joy doing her Olympic level leap on the left and me trying to defy gravity on the right)
Our photo safari yesterday was, as you can plainly see, a rather wet one. It did not stop us, clearly, but it did slow us down and added an extra mile or two. Normally we learn at the end of our hikes that we've done 3 or 4 miles. This one turned out to be nearly 6. That's right. We rocked it!
It wasn't intentional. It just turned out that way. Mostly due to the amount of wet. Obviously some of it, like the above, is easy to just hop over. No big deal. But there was some seriously mucky nasty stuff that we also tried to pick our way through. The sort of muck that tries too suck the shoes right off your feet.
Why don't we just avoid these sorts of trails, I hear you wondering? Well it isn't like there are warnings. There we are walking along a perfectly lovely dry dry tra la la la, observing the beautiful forest around us, talking quietly and taking photos, when we 'round another curve and there it is, laying before us, yuckytrail.
And then we careful pick our way through. Sometimes the driest part is on the right side of the trail, and then abruptly that totally changes and the driest part is on the left. So we somehow make our way to the left side, walking on the grassiest bits through the middle to get there. Once in a while the best walking is straight down the middle. So you see, we stagger like drunks from side to side until we reach the next curve and 'round that one, suddenly the path is dry and grassy and perfect once again.
Mostly we move forward. Even if it means, once again, engineering little bridges across the wider, deeper streams, finding alternate routes off-trail (which is always a little dangerous because it is so very easy to get completely lost just two trees away from the trail) or just slogging through. But toward the end, we came across a big of water that qualified as a pond.
It just stretched out forever. Dang. That time we double back. And it way Way back too. We think that we were very nearly at the end of the trail when we got there. Turning back added at least a mile onto the hike. Oh well. It's part of the adventure!
Our feeling is if you are dirty, wet and tired at the end, it wasn't really a hike.
In spite of the wet trails and mucky stuff, we got some good photos. It's been awhile since I had a lot of good bird photos so I hope you like those. Here are some of them:
As you well know, I don't know the names of most of these birds but I like them just the same. At first glance some of them might seem to be the same but I assure you that each of these guys was a completely different creature. The only thing they have in common are feathers and flight.
Also came across some pretty greenery and a few flowers, some interesting vines and striking trees:
The day started out a little chilly so we were surprised to find a few butterflies. Here they are with some other odds and ends:
So there you have it, a very mucky, very wet hike with loads of birds of all sorts, most of whom I do not know the name of. If you want to know, I suppose you will have to ask Joy. It was awesome, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Might need to work on my leaping skills a bit though before the next time.
OH! And bonus shot. I will leave you today with this one. My favourite picture (so far) from the hike wasn't mine. Joy kindly shared this one with me. It's my hand, my camera, but Joy took the shot. Here you go:
Hey! It's Santa Sam here writing today about Christmas Accessorizing.
By now y'all know that I love Christmas. I love every part of it. The music, the stories, and the Salvation Army Santa ringing his or her bell in front of the grocery store. I adore how people call out, "Merry Christmas" to total strangers on the street. And it goes without saying how I feel about the cookies. But one of my favourite parts is Christmas decorating.
Decorating the tree inside is definitely a highlight but I also love little pops of Christmas all over the house. An elf here, a little snowman there, just makes the smiles in my heart get bigger. Therefore, to me accessorizing myself in a Christmassy sort of way just seems like a natural extension, right?
Of course I'm talking about jewelry. (And the Santa Hat. And yes I do wear it. In public. On purpose.)
About two weeks before Christmas Day it begins.
I usually wear jewelry on a daily basis. My wedding band is always on. Always Always Always. And I wear earrings every day. But lately that's kind of been it. I'm not working. I'm not even volunteering right now due to Covid's unwelcome existence. We certainly aren't attending any gatherings or parties. So I've kind of been slacking off in the jewelry department. There just didn't seem to be any point.
Until a few days ago.
I looked at my calendar, something I do every morning, and realized that we were exactly two weeks out from Christmas Day! The day I usually begin dressing up ME for Christmas. So that day, I put on my Christmas charm bracelet even though we weren't necessarily going anywhere or doing anything special. Obviously I was having a what the heck kind of moment and decided to just do what I normally do anyway. And I felt Christmassy and Special all day long ;)
Perhaps I should have felt silly, a little over dressed, wearing such an overtly Christmas themed and jingly piece of jewelry, but instead, it felt just absolutely perfect. And I realized that I don't have to wait until life gets back to "normal" to follow my personal traditions. I can do it just for me!
I generally start out in a rather subtle way. Jewelry that could be Christmas or it could just be a day.
Sometimes I wear just one little piece at a time; just the red drop earrings perhaps. Looks kind of sharp with jeans and a white blouse. Just a little nod to Christmas with the red.
But as Christmas draws closer, I start wanting to make a bigger statement like maybe the white and crystal necklace with the snowflake earrings. The first few days observers might wonder, are those snowflake earrings"? Or are they just flower earrings? Once I start adding pieces, it become more unmistakably, Christmas Accessories.
And as Christmas draws closer, it becomes more and more obvious to anyone who happens to see me. It's stop being a question and becomes more of an exclamation. Christmas!
Wearing Christmas jewelry pops everything I choose to wear on those days. I might wear red or green clothing but honestly even if I was wearing grey, black or white , the pop of very obvious Christmas ornamentation still brings a smile to my face. And coincidentally, also the face of the cashier at the grocery store. Or the people walking their dog on the other side of the street when Tim and I are out taking a stroll.
And by the 18th, this coming Friday, I will be wearing full on combos of Christmas jewelry, Christmas coloured clothes and combinations of jewelry. Maybe the Santa pin with the Christmas Ball earrings and the red bangle bracelet. Or the Christmas tree necklace with the snowflake earrings and the charm bracelet. But it will be every day of that last week until Christmas Eve Day.
By Christmas Eve day, however, all good taste and common sense will have gone completely out the window. On December the 24th, I will do my best to go over the top because it's absolutely necessary. Don't ask me why because I do not know the answer, I just know that's it's true.
The day before Christmas, when we get together with Joy and Bob to exchange stockings, I will be sporting this:
It all lights up and blinks. Of course it does. And I will wear it with my Christmas Charm bracelet and my Santa Hat. If I owned an ugly Christmas Sweater, I would be wearing that too. And ugly Christmas socks (if I had them) Because Christmas Eve celebration is one of those times when too much is just enough.
So if the question is ever asked of me, "Sam do you dress up for the holidays?" The answer is "Yes, Yes I do!" With a Christmas song in my heart and a Christmas smile on my face.
Over the weekend, we went to visit my dad at the National Cemetery in Sarasota. We always try to make it a point to visit on important days like his birthday and holidays or at least in the neighborhood of those holidays.
I wanted to take flowers. In years past I have found beautiful holiday themed bouquets to bring. Not special order things, nothing fancy like from a real flower store, but purchased from the local Grocery store or even a Walmart...something like that. Ordinarily they would have really a tremendous variety of lovely themed bouquets with little doodads stuck in, perhaps a bit of glitter, themed colours, pretty wrappings, things like that. They would be ready made and sitting out just waiting for someone like me to come by, be delighted by them, and of course purchase. This year however? Nope.
Oh there were flowers. But just ordinary regular run of the mill flowers. And for me, a visit to my dad, especially on Christmas, requires something more special.
Our first stop was Costco because we needed to be there anyway. And they have a flower section that we remembered as having a lot of variety. And choices there were indeed. We could have any goldor white or orange or purple flowers that we wanted.. Pretty, but more Autumnish and not so much Christmas. And oddly, each bouquet was one solid colour and that one colour only. I was disappointed and surprised. Where was the glitz and the glitter that Christmas requires? Dang. So we moved on to another store.
Which also had nothing special. They had more than one colour in each bouquet which is an improvement but none of them looked, specifically, like Christmas. I love a multi-colour grouping of flowers, I do, but when I think of Christmas I don't think of, pink, lavendar, white and yellow. That says more Easter to me. Or just an ordinary no particular reason bouquet. Or maybe a Birthday offering. But not Christmas. So we moved on.
Last stop was even worse. The pre-made bouquets were very small, for one thing, and not very healthy looking. A bit droopy, a lot of broken stems and I noticed that the bouquets were largely filler, ferns and "Babies Breath" and other greenery. Seriously the ratio of flower to filler was definitely lop-sided. Not good. Terribly disappointing. But then we remembered that on our way in to the store we walked past racks upon racks of potted poinsettias. Now there is a flower that speaks of Christmas. There was no sparkle, no sequins, no fancy froufrous but at least it was a Christmassy flowering plant.
So we went back outside, picked the best looking poinsettia plant, purchased it and headed back out to the cemetery.
We were disappointed once again to see that there weren't the usual wreaths on the headstones that we've come to expect. It's always so striking to see that rows upon row of stark white markers hung with beautiful green wreaths. It is so beautiful and striking and stark and sad and touching and then beautiful again. But there was not a single wreath to be seen. Perhaps it's yet to come this year. I hope so.
The National Cemetery is thoughtful enough to not only provide shears to trim flowers and ground vases to put them in, but they also have a spigot to water your flowers or plants. So we made good use of that and gave the potted poinsettia a thorough soaking. Hopefully that will help it to last through Christmas Day.
We left the poinsettia, visited a bit, caught my dad up on things, and toured the grounds for a short while. It is a truly beautiful place and I know that sounds strange. But it is. It's lovely and peaceful.
So that's the story of the, apparent, glitzy, christmassy flower bouquet shortage this year. The shortage of toilet paper didn't surprise me one bit. The pretty Christmas bouquet shortage definitely caught me by surprise.
Behold! The mighty crockpot. Saver of time, provider of yummy foods and hogger of counter space!
I love my crockpot. It's a little battered by now but it still works just fine. It was a wedding present. In one week Tim and I will be celebrating our 27th anniversary and that means so will our crockpot. It occurs to me that not many things are built with that sort of longevity anymore. I speak of the crockpot but also our marriage :)
Back to just speaking of the crockpot now. When we first got it I didn't use it. I never had before and didn't really understand how awesome it was. But then too, when we first got married we lived in an itty bitty apartment that had almost no counter space at all. Just a wee bit of room between the sink and the stove. It was just enough space to make a sandwich, as long as you only needed to set one ingredient at a time out. So if the crockpot was on the "counter', and I use the term loosely, there was no sandwich making for the duration.
But shortly after the wedding (thank goodness) we moved into an actual house that had actual real countertops. Once we got settled in, I re-opened the box that held the crockpot and was relieved to see that it had an instruction manual AND a few sample recipes. Thank Goodness! I read them through several times and commenced crock potting with a bit of trepidation. I think the first time I do anything I am always dubious. Is the food I make in this thing going to be any good? Is it really a time saver? Is a Crockpot really all that it's cracked up to be?
Then answers, in no particular order, were yes, yes and YES!
I loved how I could throw a bunch of ingredients in the pot before work and come home to a yummy hot meal ready to go. I will confess however to being a little nervous about having an appliance on in the house all day long with no one around but the cats. And I was pretty sure that the kitties could not only not dial 911 in an emergency, I was equally doubtful of there ability to use a fire extinguisher.
But there was never an issue and it always worked and I was delighted with my new toy.
I didn't really use it as much as a lot of people do though. Pretty much it's beef stew, chilli, short ribs and gumbo. Anything that benefits from a long slow cook. And those are the sorts of things that I only make now and again. It's not an everyday appliance. And that's probably unfortunate. I am well aware that I am under-utilizing a really terrific tool.
I keep saying to myself that, 'one of these days, I'm going to do some research and find more crockpot recipes'. And then I don't. Shame on me. At one time my sister generously gave me several of her recipes. I even made a few of them a several times. But in the move to Colorado from Connecticut (one move ago) one of my recipe boxes got lost. Naturally it was in that particular recipe box. Dang.
But that's ok. While I didn't use it every day, when the occasion or the menu called for it, I was so very happy to have my trust crockpot ready to go. But then Colorado is a place with Snow, and cold and icey winter days. So was Connecticut. Brrrrr. Brisk weather, frigid temperatures and long winters require hearty, hot meals. Things at which a crockpot excels.
Here in Florida, long-slow cooking things are mostly heavier than we want to eat most of the time. I do not use the crock pot at all from July to October. But now, in December with night temps dipping into the 40's and 50's, with the windows wide open all over the house and a little chill in the air, on a day when I'm wearing a cardigan sweater and drinking hot water to keep shivers at bay, yeah, today I'm using the crockpot.
There is a lovely beef stew simmering away on the countertop today. And it will go about it's work with no interference from me, getting more and more tender and savory and the flavours will become deeper and richer as the hours pass by. Meanwhile I will go about all of the other things that I need to do without giving it even a passing thought. Then just before dinner is served, I'll knock out a batch of biscuits so go with and it will be a good meal. The leftovers tomorrow will be even better.
Tim has offered to buy me a new crockpot multiple times. Newer, schmancier, bigger but I am perfectly content with the one I have. What's that old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. Well, this ain't broke.
I do need to come up with more recipes though so if anyone has a favourite, please share!
It's time, once again, for my weekly Photo Safari Report! Woohoo!
As you can clearly see from the photos above (Joy on the let and me on the right) it's still kind of chilly out here. People always think of Florida as a place that is perpetual summer. Hate to be the one to break it to you, but nope. We have brisk weather days too. Not a lot of them, to be fair. But we have them. And perhaps because we are more accustomed to hot than cold, even a little cooler feels frigid by comparison.
It was a pretty day, 42 degrees but sunny when we set out. As you can see, I finally gave in and hauled out my vacuum sealed Colorado clothes for this hike. And before you ask, the clothes Tim and I rarely wear are vacuum sealed because this is a small house and vacuum sealing is a terrific answer when you have THIS much stuff but only this much space.
Anyway, we decided to drive south a couple of towns to hit up a few preserves we haven't visited in a long time. About 9 months as a matter of fact. First stop was Ollie's Pond. We did not see the alligator predicted on the signs in the photo but we did see a number of beautiful birds.
I took a lot more photos of flowers, water and trees than birds. It is such a pretty place to walk and the light was beautiful. Makes it hard to resist, so I didn't ;) I hope the folks who live nearby know just how lucky they are!!
Once we circled the entire pond, we moved on to the Audubon-Pennington Preserve. It was about 15 minutes away and every time we have visited we have been the ONLY people visiting. Always nice. There were very few folks at Ollie's, and we all were very respectful of each other's space, but having NO other humans around was even better.
Audubon- Pennington is a such a beautiful and unusual place. It gives that feeling of being out of time. As if we had stepped into the past, a forest primeval kind of thing. It's pretty awesome. Surprisingly we saw no birds. Not a single one. A few lizards and a couple of sassy squirrels but no birds at all. A little odd. Which doesn't take away from the beautiful environment at all.
One of the things that really tickled me was discovering that some recent visitor had written a hello and goodbye note in the sand of the trail. Not sure why it struck such a chord with me, but it surely did.
I didn't get a lot of photos there, it's quite shady. But still there were a few. And somehow, black & white photography seemed to serve those photos best:
And just a couple of regular colour photos.
Afteward we headed back toward Venice and once in town, we decided to stop at the Rookery to see what's happening there. The answer was a whole lot of construction. But a few birds were still around. Oh and one alligator. !!!!!!!!
So there you have it. A very Birdie sort of hike that day. I love how they are all different. We never know what we will find. And every week, I'm excited to find out , what we will see on the next hike ;)
Hope you enjoyed coming along ;)
The Christmas Cards have begun to arrive. I'm always so impressed with people that are so on top of the holiday that their cards arrive early in the month. Wow! Clearly I'm not one of those people. I always mean to be, but then somehow, I'm not. At least I'm consistent.
I do love getting Christmas Cards! They are so colourful and glittery and jolly and fun. Every day in December I'm smiling as I walk to the mailbox, excited to see what awaits me when I open that box. How many cards have arrived? Who are they from? I love seeing them, reading them, hanging them up as decorations in the house.
I even enjoy sending Christmas Cards. Every year I take forever deciding which cards to buy, then as I sit down to sign the cards and address the envelopes (and put stickers on the back of each one) I am thinking about the person or people that I am writing to. Nice memories of our times together and hoping that when I hear back from them, they are happy and healthy and having a great life.
The thing that slows me down on the Sending End of it, is writing the Christmas Letter. I know, I know, people are very divided on the concept. We are very Pro Christmas Letter. We truly love to receive other people's letters, to read them and find out what's happening in their lives. It's the next best thing to sitting down over a cuppa tea and some cookies and catching up. Especially with loved ones who live far away.
And if I'm want to receive Christmas letters, then I kind of feel like it behooves me to send Christmas letters. Turn about, after all, is fair play.
Even though for the first time in a long time we do live near at least some family, we have even more family far away. And we have friends that we've made throughout our lives that we want to stay in touch with even though we haven't seen them live and in person for a long time.
While not everyone has the time or feels the need or wants to try to squeeze in that One More Thing to bother to send out an annual Christmas letter in their card, (and I totally get why some folks do not!) I am always surprised at the large number of folks who do. Tip of the hat to them! Some folks even send photos which is something I really love. Occasionally Tim and I have included a photo in our cards but not often.
I usually sit down with my calendar in front of me to compose our letter. Y'see, I always have one of those freebie calendars that our town hands out every year. It has pretty photos taken from around the area, one for each month, and nice big squares to write things in. So if, for instance, Tim and I took a trip somewhere, it would be on the calendar. Or if we had work done on the house, or guests visiting, or anything else worth mentioning, it would be right there. Just enough to jog my memory so I would have an idea of what to write about.
Then after reviewing the year, I would sit at the computer and knock out a review of our year, email it to Tim who would then make changes or additions as he sees fit. He then prints out however many copies we need. Then we could write our cards, address our envelopes here and there over the following few days and put them all in the mail. Taadaa, one more thing checked off the list.
This year was a little different.
I sat down in with the calendar before me and I already knew what I would find. Not much. It 's been such a strange year. Obviously we didn't take a vacation. Most people didn't. There were no big projects. There was, well, not much. Hmmm. This letter was going to take a little more thought than usual. I toyed with the idea of not bothering to write a letter this year at all, but tradition is tradition and I like a challenge.
So I've been turning the idea this way and that, trying to create something that represents Tim and I and our life and this past bizarre year but is still a upbeat and positive while balancing sensitivity to everyone we are in touch with. Wow. That's a big order.
I've given myself until the end of today to compose this letter. Sometimes I do better with a deadline. I am curious to see what it ends up being. But I'm even more interested to see what other folks write in their Christmas letters to us this year.
Guess what we did yesterday? Yup that's right. Gingerbread Houses!!!! Woohoo!!! It Was So Much Fun!
The last time we did this was four years ago and at that time I said that it was going to be an annual event. Clearly I lied. Well I didn't lie. At the time I absolutely meant it. And I don't even know why we did not do it every single year afterwards because we loved doing it. But the fact of the matter is that we did not. So maybe it'll be like the Presidential Elections, once every 4 years.
The previous Gingerbread House Decorating Day, our kits were such that first we had to built the houses. All the pieces necessary were in the boxes, but that had to be put together first. Yeah, that was a real stumbling block for me. I do not have a knack for construction at all. No matter how hard I tried, my house still came out a little wonky. Tim's was perfectly square and went together both quickly and neatly. Mine, not so much. I had royal icing everywhere before I put one single bit of decoration on the house.
So this time, we learned from that experience and bought houses ALREADY constructed. It was a Great step forward. I highly recommend it. All we had to do was the fun part, the decorating! Yeah! We augmented the little bits of candy that came in the kit with other stuff. Random things that mostly, Tim bought although I did add a few things myself (like M&M's of course). As Tim stood in the candy aisle, he was thinking, "Oh this could be used for...whatever...and that could be used for...whatever else". When I stand in the candy aisle I think..."I could eat that" which is why I bought the M&M's. It's the same policy I have for selecting Halloween candy. If something edible is going to be leftover in the house, I prefer that it be something I am willing to eat.
So in this endeavor, step one is to protect my tabletop with my awful looking but very useful (and cheap - dollar store, thank you) plastic table cloth, covered with layers of newspaper. Then the product becomes unboxed and the extra candies added to the center of the table. It's within easy reach of everyone, but still gives us room to work. I cut part of one of the boxes off and glued it to the bottom of my house so I had some "yard" to play with too.
See the cute little dormer above the front door of the house on the box? Yeah, I couldn't figure out how to do that. All the pieces were included in the kit but nope, didn't happen. I wasted at least fifteen minutes trying to figure it out before discarding that idea.
We worked, we talked, we hummed little hums. Occasionally I broke into song and/or dance. I ate a lot of M&M's and made a huge mess. It turns out that the lovely big bags of royal icing that they include with the kit (It says "over 1 lb of icing and candy" on the box - well nearly a pound of it is just icing which is awesome!) is in a squeezy tube thingie. And if you squeeze too hard well, the icing just pours out around the spout. Dang. I ended up using a table knife and sometimes my fingers to put on the icing so that it didn't go to waste. Extra Messy but effective!
But that also meant a super yucky work area on my end of the table. Honest to god, whenever I get up from the table all around my plate and my chair looks as if a 2 year old was eating there instead of a house-broken adult. I'm like Pigpen in the comic "Charlie Brown". Just a natural born slob. But I'm a clean slob. I always police my area. I'm permanently on KP.
Anyway, we took our time and had great fun and when we were done I had to sweep, vacuum and wash the floor. BUT it was totally worth it and now we have Christmassy Centerpieces for the table.
Tim's gingerbread house is, once again, the best looking. He takes his time, starts off with a plan and is incredibly neat and tidy while doing it. I had no plan at all, did it on the fly, made a huge mess and finished well before he did. But! While his is a work of art, mine of one of great enthusiasm and that counts too.
I'll show you the finished products. Tim's first;
And now my house:
So here is my recommendation, if you don't mind a bit of a mess, go for it. This was probably the most fun thing we've done this Christmas Season yet. It was such a fun and creative and an oddly relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon. And bonus, we got to eat our weight in leftover candy. Big Yay! This time we will make more of an effort to repeat it next year. And the next. And the one after that too.
Long Live the GingerBread House Project!! May this please become a real annual event!
When Joy and I were out hiking on Wednesday, we came across this on one of the trails. Awwwww. What a nice thing. It's a wish, a prayer and a state of being all wrapped up in one word. It was unexpected. From the shine on the lettering, I'm pretty sure it's a new addition. Whenever I see what I think is a new addition I always wonder, "Was it always here and I just didn't see it before? Am I just that oblivious?" Short answer, yeah, sometimes. But this time, I honestly think it is new. I doubt that someone is running through the forest on a regular basis polishing up lettering.
Wednesday's hike was a good one. It was a long one too. We were gone for about five hours, in that time we walked just shy of six miles, which, if you take out time our for stopping for photographs, the drive to and from, a potty stop and having lunch in the Arby's parking lot on the way home it equals a fairly decent amount of exercise.
It was not, however, a great photography hike. And that is most likely primarily because of the temperature. I know that people who live in snowy places will be laughing at me now but we woke up to temps in the 30's. When Joy and I arrived at the preserve it was 42. In Florida that is not just cold, it's freakin' cold.
In Colorado 42 degrees on a sunny day meant you could shovel snow in your tee-shirt. It's the dry air y'see. Our air isn't dry. It's the opposite of dry. It's wet, very wet. And there was a breeze. And the breeze comes over the water and brings an extra special bit of chill to the air. It's crisp, it's bright and it's so dang cold. Which would probably be fine if a person was intelligent enough to dress for it. Joy was. I was not. I plead exhaustion as my excuse.
My arch nemesis insomnia has been in overdrive lately and the night before the hike was the pinnacle. Not one iota of sleep all night long. And that followed too many nights of not enough sleep. Sigh. It is what it is. I don't fret about it. Honestly I don't. I know that eventually I will sleep. And in the meantime, I am still functional and pleasant. Unfortunately, I am just not (at that point) very clever. The old brain wasn't working very well.
So when I got dressed in the early darkness before the hike, I put on what I always wear when we hike. Which is to say, my beat up denim shorts (which are rather long actually), Tim's Marine Corp tee-shirt which I purloined long ago, two pair of thick socks and my hiking boots. I vaguely remembered something about cooler temperatures anticipated and out of deference to that, I put on a old blue sweatshirt over top. The sweatshirt is about twenty years old. Maybe more. And It has been washed so many times that it has gotten thinner and less useful over the years. But my dad gave it to me so I absolutely cannot get rid of it.
Somehow in my mind that was a sufficient amount of clothing to wear.
I was wrong.
Here was Joy:
See, that's how you dress for a cold weather hike. Oh well.
Once we arrived at the preserve and I stepped out of my nice warm car, suddenly I was hit with that teeth chattering chill and I was immediately wide awake. Mercy! Joy said that she had a lightweight zip front jacket that I could put on if I wanted. First I declined. And then quickly changed my mind. Yes, Please, Yes! So I took off the sweatshirt and put on the zip jacket then popped the sweatshirt back on over top. Surely that was be enough, right? (Big No)
Here is a photo of me wearing the cobbled together "winter" outfit. It's not a flattering photo of me at all AT ALL, but in the spirit of truth and honesty, yup, this is me:
(I am not making a mental note to strike an agreement with Joy that from this moment forward we will never again take photos of each other from the back)
But anyway, I decided that once we started hiking and the day warmed up a bit I would be fine. And off we went. It was early, the ground was still wet and the greenery heavy with dew, and our feet became soaked very quickly. Cold, wet little tootsies. But we took good advantage of that beautiful early morning light:
In short order, not only were our feet cold but our hands were too. Icey cold fingers. When my fingers started to be numb I had to actually watch myself push the button on the camera to be sure I really had taken the intended photo because I couldn't feel myself do it. Crazy! So I began trading off, one hand in the pocket and one hand holding the camera. That helped.
We saw only one set of birds. Water birds across the river in the water. All I could think of was how cold their little feet must be.
We did see birdie foot prints in the sand along the river and that was kind of cool. In other areas we saw other critter prints but I didn't think to take photos of any of those. Ratz.
The water level was lower than usual so we saw that, apparently, the river has a sort of beach some times. Never saw that before. It was quite pretty. But I wouldn't advise sunbathing there. While we did not actually see an alligator, that river is a known gator hangout.
When we finished up both sides of that preserve (there is an east and a west side - two completely different sort of preserves) we moved on to another one great hiking spot that is nearby. And as we neared the entrance we saw this:
One deer, all by herself, braving the chill to have some breakfast. I took the photo quietly from the car and then we moved on equally silently so as not to disturb her. What a beauty. And honestly, this was the only critter we saw other than one rogue squirrel.
When we arrived at the second preserve, Joy gave me the other jacket she had hanging around in the back of her car. It was a winter coat and it was Bob's. She said, "wear this before you freeze to death". The "you idiot' was only implied because she is very kind. I didn't even argue. I immediately put it on. Now bear in mind here that I am 5'2". Bob is more like 6'4" or more. Hah! I didn't care one bit. As soon as the jacket went on I could feel my core begin to warm up. Ahhhhhh. Let's not worry about how ridiculous I looked. Judge for yourself
So on the one hand, it was great exercise with good company and it's always nice to be out in the fresh air. I'm sure the cold was good for me too. If nothing else, I was WIDE awake. Heh.
And while we didn't get a lot of photographs (most creatures were smarter than us and stayed snuggied down in the little homes where it was toasty warm), we got a few. Mostly botanicals.
Oh! And one other really cool thing! This was one of the preserves where, about a month ago, we found ourselves in a predicament which required us to get creative. We ended up having to build ourselves a frond bridge to get across a flooded area. Well on this hike, somehow we ended up on the same trail and sonuvagun, the frond bridge was still there AND still worked! Woohoo! We did good.
Thus ends the tale of the Frigid Hike. I will be much smarter next time and dress more appropriately to the weather. I might even have to dig out a pair of gloves. I know I have an old pair leftover from Colorado.........somewhere......
Have a great weekend!
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.