I will be the first to admit that this photo is a slight exaggeration. Yes the past few days have been much cooler than normal here, but it's not snowing, there is no ice and in fact, the lowest temperature that I personally witnessed was 41 degrees.
But for Florida, especially after the long hot summer that we just had, low 40's is a little brisk. And when you add in a breeze that is come across the ocean so it's a nice cool wet kind of wind, it feels even cooler than that. Needless to say, Tim has been very happy.
And yes, even I have been pleased with the cooler temperatures because, once again, I was able to open windows and bring some much needed fresh air into this house! And before you ask, yes the windows are open, even with the thermometer bottoming out in the low 40's I had every dang window in the house open. Why? Perhaps for the novelty of being too cold for a change? I sound like every parent in the world when I say, "If you are cold, put on a sweater". I did. And long pants. And closed toe shoes. And socks. And an extra blanket on the bed. And I slept great. Nice warm me all snuggied up in my cozy bednest with the cool air all around me. It was loverly.
Right up until I stepped out of bed onto the icey cold tile floor. Now THERE is a wake up call.
Most houses down here in Florida have tile floors. It's easy to care for. Sand, dirt ,water, spilled coffee, pretty much nothing hurts it. And, during the previously mentioned long, hot, summers, it's cool. Literally, temperature cool. Cool to the touch. And when it's really hot and humid outside, that nice cool tile floor feels awesome on your bare tootsies.
And as nice as it feels in summer, it is shockingly cold on a chilly day. The first time after moving here, that I stepped out of my warm bed onto that ooh so very cold floor, the muscles in my feet contracted and went into spasm from it. It was ridiculous. Now I am more prepared for it. I KNOW it's going to be like going from the warming tray of a buffet to an ice berg. So I move a little more tentatively and gradually adapt as I ever so slowly step onto the floor. OR I tiptoe.
But in the middle of the night when I get up to pee and I'm sleepy and fuzzy-brained and not really aware of anything and frankly that is the way I want to be so that I can slip right back to dreamland when I get back, instead, I am shocked into a state of full awareness by that cold floor. I do a zero to sixty in nano-seconds from totally asleep to fully awake. And then I cannot fall back to sleep.
I'm not sure what, if any, solution there is. I suppose I could try wearing socks to bed. Maybe that would mitigate that frigid floor temperatures. Or try putting down a runner carpet that goes from the bedside to the bathroom? But only on cold nights? Because honestly on a hot temperature night that cool floor is a sweet balm.
Anything else that is cold during these unusually chilly days doesn't bother me a bit. I am prepared for it. I even relish it a bit. I maybe walk a tad bit faster to get where I'm going. I arrive everywhere with healthy looking rosy cheeks and wind swept hair. And after all those years in Colorado and Connecticut, I know how to dress in lightweight layers. As long as I don't have to shovel anything or deal with slippery surfaces, I am A-OK with cooler weather.
If for no other reason, because it keeps the tourists off the beach. HAH! As a bonus, the cooler weather provides the most beautiful light for photographs. And I kind of like the contrast of standing on the beach all bundled up on a cold day, even a gloomy grey foggy damp day. Every once in awhile, I really appreciate a good Heathcliff on the Moors kind of day.
So, in short, while everyone else here is staying home with their windows firmly closed against the chill and huddling by space heaters or fireplaces (yes some homes have them even here) cursing the cold, I am outside enjoying a different weather for a change, loving it all. Well loving most of it.
I will never be a big fan of cold tile on warm feet. Never.
You know what this is don't you? Cookie Boxes! A car full of yummmmm! Monday morning, bright and early, off those boxes and I went to the UPS store. I checked on line and found that the shop opens at 7:30am. Good! I was determined to be there right when it opened because for whatever reason, the process always takes forever.
I forgot to factor in things like school buses, drawbridges, tourists on Venice Ave and how dang long it takes to try my hair, but I did arrive early-ish. Okay, it was before 8. So it wasn't first thing, but it was at least second. It counts. There were already two people in line ahead of me. No worries. It takes multiple trips to bring everything in from the car anyway. Surely, by the time that is done, at least one of the people ahead of me will have completed a transaction. Nope.
And we waited. Not exactly certain why we were waiting f, but we absolutely waited. With smiles on our faces and expectation in our hearts. Several people came in behind me and they also began to wait. We started having conversations amongst ourselves. "How was your Thanksgiving?" and "Where are you from?" And "are you a full-timer or a part-timer?" were some of the common queries. Those last two, by the way, "where are you from" and your time-status are probably the two most common questions asked by anyone here in any situation. As it turns out there are remarkably few people who live here who are originally from here.
It took a full half hour for the entire process, which may have kick-started a few friendships and the fellow behind the counter was very nice and extremely interested in the contents of the boxes. When he found out it was cookies his eyebrow zoomed up. "Oh you shouldn't have told me that" he said with a smile. "These boxes may never reach their destination" . I smiled politely and with steely eyes responded to him that I was sure he would not deny my children the cookies that their mother made for them. Perhaps my returning smile was not quite as pleasant as I thought it was because he immediately assured me that those boxes would absolutely end up where intended, contents intact. I nodded.
The lady behind me said, "I thought I smelled cookies and I couldn't figure out why!" I don't actually think it was the cookies in the boxes she was smelling I think it was me. I think after two days of doing nothing but baking, the sugar and spices have permeated my skin, my hair my pores, my very essence!
I believe I ended up making 14 different kinds of cookies this year. I was shooting for 15 but the last batch I made, I threw out. They were terrible. An experiment gone bad. They looked so pretty too. It was a dreadful disappointment.
Overall, it was probably my least successful cookie baking marathon ever. Which is a little perplexing. I've been baking (and cooking) with tremendous success for more than forty years. Before that I couldn't boil water with any guarantee that it would work out. But once I got the hang of baking in particular, I ran with it.
When my kids were babies, I made their babyfood. Yup no store bought chemical laden artificial anything for my tots! Nosiree! I made the breads we ate, be it loaves or buns or biscuits or muffins or donuts. I grew most of the vegetables we ate. And since we lived, at that time on a working farm, we "grew" the meat we ate too. I made jams and jellies, I canned dozens upon dozens upon dozens of jars of everything. And nearly every day I made a dessert of some sort. In short, I figured out how to cook and how to bake. It was on the job training in a big sort of way.
And nine hundred ninety-nine times out of a thousand, it turned out beautifully. My Christmas cookies this time, not so pretty. And I am not quite sure why. But it's a little embarassing. Hey, I have a reputation to uphold!
Actually I do know what part of the problem was. My oven was feeling moody. It's important to have a cooperative oven since different cookies bake at different temperatures and I was constantly adjusting that up or down for each batch. If the temperature needed to lower, I would open the oven door when I turned the dial down to hurry it along. If I was turning it up, I left the door closed. But during a batch I didn't expect to have to touch the dial at all. Then when things weren't browning quite as I expected at one point, I mentioned it to Tim. He tested the temperature in the oven and at first it was under what the dial said. Ok that would explain why some batches weren't browning right. The next time it checked it was over what the dial said. And that would explain the cookies that were a bit more done than they should have been. So the remainder of bakathon I was constantly checking the oven's internal temperature and adjusting. adjusting, adjusting. Slows me down, people. And when I am mid baking marathon, I do not appreciate anything slowing me down! ARGH!
Regardless, they seem to taste fine or so says my quality control guy (Tim) they just aren't the prettiest cookies I ever shipped. But I suppose as one of the boys once told me when their cookie shipment arrived with a few damaged gingerbread men, " the cookies taste the same whole or in pieces". I hope that is true once again.
The first of the shipment should arrive at their destination today. Another tomorrow and sadly, I think one won't be at the proper door until Monday!! Everyone knows the cookies are on their way, they know the expected date of arrival and hopefully the anticipation will improve the perceived perfection. This time around anyway.
Moving on today to putting up the tree. Hopefully that goes a bit more smoothly :)
"Normally, we do not seem to create a lot of trash. There are garbage pick-up days when I have nothing at the curb, seriously. Usually, it's one kitchen sized bag or maybe two. But there is something about a Holiday that changes it all. We generated enough garbage to not only fill one can but to require a second one.
We actually do have a second garbage can but it is used rarely and only for for yard waste. Y'know, palm fronds, weeds, those wierd-o giant seed pods that fall from palm trees. And I use this second can specifically for yard waste because the second can does not have a lid.
It used to. When we first moved here it had a nice lock-down lid. And I'm not exactly certain what happened, but after a fairly significant storm when I ended up chasing my garbage can
down the road, by the time I caught up to it, it no longer owned a lid. "Oh well. It's still useable", says I ," but only for yard stuff which doesn't really fit with a lid on anyway". Thusly, problem solved, we bought a second can complete with locking lid and life went on.
Until after this Thanksgiving. The very next day , I found myself having completely stripped the carcass of the bird, now having to discard said carcass. And pie tins. And any food I knew we were not going to eat plus everything in the bathroom wastebaskets and Tim's office and the laundry room. The laundry room wastebasket seems to only ever have used dryer sheets and lint in it. It's probably the best smelling garbage in the house!
Anyway, I gathered it all up and took it outside whereupon I found one garbage can completely full. Thursday is one of our usual pickup days. And because Thanksgiving is on a Thursday clearly the garbage was going to have to wait until the next pick up day which was Monday. Limited options. So even though the second can had no lid, I put the new bag in the second lidless can. Foolish, foolish girl.
On Sunday, I embarked on a cleaning jag and threw out old socks, holey tee-shirts, cleaning rags that had seen better days, a broken Christmas ornament (yes I started that project too) and a few other things. Enough to fill one more garbage bag. Like any ordinary person would do, I tied up the bag and walked it out the side door, approached the second lidless can, lifted the bag to drop it in and heard a sharp hissing sound. Surprised I looked into the can and found an opossum looking up at me baring it's very sharp looking little teeth and hissing for all it was worth. Well, this was unexpected!
First I did what I always do. I froze, arm still poised high in the air with the bag I was just about to drop in. After a moment or two, I stepped backwards without a word, turned and went into the house. My heart was beating a zillion miles a minute. I set the bag down in the utility room, walked into the kitchen and just stood there trying to gather my wits and remember to breathe. A few minutes later Tim walked into the room. "There is a 'possum in our garbage can" I said to him with no warning whatsoever.
Because Tim is the guy he is, he didn't question it at all. He calmly walked outside. I followed him and with a shaky finger pointed at the garbage can in question. Tim peeked inside and said, "Hey buddy". Then my hero reached behind him into the utility room, grabbed a broom and knocked over the can and began beating on the bottom of it with the broom handle. Slowly the 'possum crawled out and waddled away. Tim is my hero.
We cleaned up the mess (yuck!) and hosed out the can before refilling it and immediately taking it to the curb. My thought was that the critter would be less likely to crawl back in the can right there by the road. Mission Accomplished.
That opossum completely creeped me out in a way that even snakes don't. I had the heebie jeebies for awhile and then the shudders. It wasn't just the surprise of finding that angry little face in my garbage can, it's just possums in general.
Yes, Yes I know, they are also one of natures creatures on this planet and they probably feel about me the way I do about them, which is only fair. And they cannot help being what they are, but this is not a rational thing. It's a visceral, emotional thing. And I simply do not like them.
Part of it may be the way they look which sounds so superficial that I am a little embarrassed to admit it. The look kind of unfinished. It reminds me a little bit of when I lived on a farm. A new batch of baby chicks had just hatched and a little girl who was at our house peered over the edge of the container with great curiosity. I asked her what she was thinking. She replied, "I don't think they are ripe yet" with a look a extreme distaste on her face. She was kind of correct. Brand new baby birds of any sort do not look their absolute best when they are first hatched. But fluffy yellow chicks are adorable. So they do improve in short order.
Possums do not. They are always creepy looking to me. They look to me like a cross between a rat and a teddy bear. And above all living things on this planet, while I adore Teddy Bears, I hate rats. Just the word rats bothers me. In fact, 'Ratz' was one of my favourite substitute swear words when the boys were growing up. That's how much I despise the things.
One day, while living on that same farm that I just mentioned, I witnessed a rat swarm. Just remembering it gives me the icks. It was a chilly grey autumn day, a little windy and anyone could tell that icy rain and snow was clearly in the not too distant future. At some point during the day I peeked out the front window.
From that window I could see, among other things, the barn, the chicken coop, a pasture and a great deal of fencing. It was wooden fencing with posts both vertical and horizontal, and chicken wire on the inside. Normally I'd be able to see cows, horses and maybe some chickens. Instead, to my horror I saw rats. Hundreds or maybe thousands, I don't know, I didn't bother to count them. It was like a tide of rats, all running along the horizontals of the fences and along the ground, all running in the same direction, ThankGod NOT toward the house.
It was kind of like looking Niagara Fall and marvelling at how the water just keeps coming. In my head I keep thinking eventually it's got to run out of water, logically there just has to be an end to it, but it keeps coming. That's what was happening with those rats. They just kept coming. It was like being in a horror movie. So Creepy!!!! Eventually I just had to stop looking. I went into the kitchen and with shaky hands fixed myself a restorative cup of tea. Eventually I looked back out the window and they were gone. I didn't sleep for a long time.
So that's how I feel about rats. And opossums remind me WAY too much of rats. So great. Now I know for certain that there are opossums around here that aren't at all reluctant to climb into a garbage can and then hiss at me.
Lesson learned. Do NOT use the lidless garbage can no matter what the circumstances are!!!!! Another teachable moment.
I am honestly not exactly certain how it happened, but without realizing it, I seem to have volunteered to decorate the museum for Christmas. Perhaps I am experiencing some sort of memory glitch, but I don't remember, at any point, my boss asking me if I would like to volunteer for that task. I also do not recall just stepping up and saying, "Hey guys, I would love to decorate this museum for you". But maybe that is precisely what happened and I've blocked it out. It doesn't sound like something I would volunteer to do, but maybe I did.
Regardless of how it happened, suddenly I had a small budget, the decorating assignment and very clear instructions to deck the lobby and gift shop of the museum with good taste and with class in a Christmas fashion. Further I was instructed that it be non-religious, non-cheesy and above all else, No Glitter!
So the weekend before last Tim and I found ourselves at Hobby Lobby with really no actual plan, the measurements I had taken of walls and windows, a small budget and fairly open instructions. Now I've been to Hobby Lobby before. There was one in the Colorado town we used to live in. And although I'm not crafty or artsy at all, it was a very fun place to wander around and occasionally buy something. Usually a gift for someone else. Every once in awhile I bought some sort of Christmas Decoration there as well but then it was a specific mission. I knew exactly what I was looking for. This time, I did not.
It was actually the No Glitter rule that was the most difficult to follow. Christmas is just a very glittery holiday to me. If there is no sparkle, it's just not Christmas. But I was determined to find a way to do a really good job for them. I did not want to disappoint, y'know?
I learned a lot from this assignment. For instance, I learned that when decorating for someone else, it's a lot more difficult that when decorating for yourself. Mostly because you know yourself pretty well. And yes, I had a few parameters from my boss, but while I like her very much, I do not know her very well. I don't know her taste, her style, her expectations, decor-wise. I felt rather unsure of what to do, what direction to move in. I think perhaps I was looking for inspiration. So I wandered the aisles up and down, picking up things and putting them back down. Considering things and returning them to the shelves, over and over. Tim would make suggestions and I would say, "perhaps" and "maybe". All I can say is that he is a VERY patient man.
Finally I took a deep breath and just picked a direction. I reasoned that even if I was making bad decisions, at least I was making decisions!
There was nothing ready made that spoke to me. Okay. Gotta start with simple plain things and jazz it up myself. Naked garland, naked wreaths, etc. We walked through the entire Christmas section one more time and with determination, and more than a little doubt, I started making actual selections of items and filled the cart. Although I wasn't convinced that I had made the best choices, at least the choices had been made. AND I came in under budget. Hurrah for that at least.
My next museum day, I entered the building loaded with bags and ladders, command strips and ribbon, scissors and wire cutters and above all, No Glitter. It was an especially quiet day with almost no guests (the day before Thanksgiving, people were otherwise occupied I'm guessing). But I was grateful for the quiet and began opening bags.
Although I was worried (will they like it? did I meet expectations?) sometimes the only way out is straight through the front door, so I got right to work. When I finally finished several hours later, I called my boss and she came right downstairs to check it out. She was surprised that I was done already but seemed pleased with my work, overall. The only thing she said at all was that she wished I had gotten lighted garland. Oh well. Maybe next year.
It was disquieting as a task, I must say. Trying to interpret someone else's vision is a terrifying load to carry. Especially when spending THEIR money! I mean if I make a decorating mistake with my money, it's one thing, but someone else's? Scary. I have even more respect than I did before (and I already had a lot) for interior designers. How do they do it?????
But I'm also pleased with myself that I took this on, did at least an okay job, and now I am excited to get started decorating OUR house for Christmas. Maybe a little later this week. If nothing else, I am a lot more certain how I feel about each and every selection I make for this house:)
Here are a few photos of how it turned out. Let me know what you think?
So we meet again! It's been a few days. Hope your Thanksgiving Holiday was perfect which means, lots of good food, good people, good conversation, some great laughs and loads of tradition. We sort of stuck to tradition as well. Well, as traditional as our family gets I guess. So here it is my friends, the traditional annual Thanksgiving day photo at the beach! Obviously we were having a lot of fun :)
I was thinking about the similarities and the differences from year to year since we moved here. I mean there are some traditions that really are an every single year thing and other things that are a bit more.....fluid shall we say.
In the differences pile are things like some of the people in attendance. That changes year to year depending on people's lives. And hey! That's just life. We happily greet anyone who can join us and we wish anyone who cannot attend a lovely holiday where ever they happen to be instead. No grudges, no jealousy, no command performances.
Let's see what else was different? Well I think every single year the turkey turns out differently. The first year was a regular standard oven roasted turkey, the second year I experimented with a brined turkey (which was a whole lot of extra work and paid off big time) and this year we ordered our turkey smoked, directly from a wonderful German butcher shop. It was delightful. Flavourful, tender and moist. Exactly what all good T-day turkey's should be.
This year I substituted the 3rd pie out. Usually it's it's apple and home made. This year it was Key Lime and bakery bought and fabulous! I would Absolutely do that again.
There was a new member of the family this year. Niece Carrie's new beau, Russ. A perfectly lovely human being. He fit in to the group right away. Hard working, smart, funny, very sweet and a bit sassy. Perfecto!
.In the other pile, the things that were the same, wel let's seel, Tim and I hosted, Joy and Bob came and thoughtfully brought along some cheese and crackers, as they always do, for everyone to nibble on while waiting for the food to finallllllllllly be ready! It's torture isn't it? Smelling that Thanksgiving blend of wonderful fragrances while your tummy rumbles so loud that it drowns out the conversation around you. Killer.
There was a new jigsaw puzzle in the family room being worked on. While every year it's a different puzzle, so I suppose it could have gone in the other category, still there always IS a puzzle so it goes on this side too.
There were fancy napkin folds going on that any number of people got in on while setting the table. Tim and I fought with the kitchen table to fit the doggone leaf in so that we would all fit 'round it AND ultimately won the battle, as we do every year.
As always I made way too much food. I don't seem to know how to cook without making too much food. I guess I like leftovers? It's a good thing because there were loads of leftovers that I sent home with anyone who would take them (take these leftovers...please!) and loads of dirty dishes when we were done.
All hands helped to serve and to clean up. Everyone talked and laughed a lot. There were a lot of Happy Thanksgiving emails, facebook and instragram posts, texts and phone calls flying through the air adding to the festivities and to the glorious chaos.
And as I said, somewhere at the beginning of this post, another constant was the annual post-dinner, pre-pie walk to the beach trying to make room to somehow, miraculously, be able to eat some of that yummy dessert when we got back. We lingered a bit at the beach. It was a beautiful evening, not too hot, not too cold, very few other people and, of course, being the beach, it's almost never a bad place to be. It was especially nice that evening.
And then of course, there was my list. Every Thanksgiving morning. I start mentally reviewing the things I am thankful for as soon as I wake up and I fall asleep that night still thinking of more items for that list.
You know, I have heard from people who feel a little cynical about certain holidays, and honestly with the state of the world sometimes I don't really blame them for feeling that way. One of the things they also tell me is that they take issue with a Holiday demanding or commanding them to be grateful. True. We shouldn't have to be prodded to be thankful or grateful for what we have. But sometimes, we need reminders. We get so caught up in our crazy busy lives, so stressed and depressed by the news reports, so down-hearted by the bad and sad things that go on, it's easy to forget to think about the good things in our lives.
I think of Thanksgiving as a day that the calendar reminds us that it's not all terrible, it's not all horrible, the everything in the world isn't doom and gloom and that each of us has something for which we are truly thankful. Some of us, who are very very lucky, have a mighty long list. And honestly, sometimes I can use the reminder. I suppose that is one more thing to add to my list. Being thankful for the reminder, on Thanksgiving Day, to give thanks.
Here we are already. It's the day before Thanksgiving. And even if I didn't know that by my calendar and the monster turkey and pies taking up room in my fridge, I would know it by today's newspaper.
The part on the right is the part I'm actually going to read. The part on the left is all ads. Every single solitary page of that enormous left pile is advertisements that I am not going to read. I kind of stand there shaking my head whenever I see that Day before Thanksgiving newspaper. I cannot believe that there are that many stores in this area! Really kind of a surprise when you see it all added up like that. And of course each of those shops need to let everyone know about their Post Thanksgiving, Pre-Christmas Sales!
I do not mind one single bit though. I won't just gathering it all up and heave it into the recycle bin. Nope. But I promise you that it will not go to waste. It all gets saved.
That weighty pile that hit the ground with a mighty thump this morning when it was delivered will soon be put to good use. Right now I have about two weeks worth of newspaper stashed in an old plastic bin in the utility room waiting for the upcoming holiday season.
And for what possible purpose, you ask? Jaunty paper hats perhaps? Cute little Christmas paper chains to decorate the tree (which isn't up yet anyway)? Or maybe I'm saving it as Christmas Wrapping paper to be more eco-friendly? I will not start a fire with it (of course we don't have a fireplace or a firepit either so I'm not sure why that possibility came to mind at all. A little scary). Nor am I planning to decoupage anything. Not serving traditional fish'n'chips either!
Did you run out of guesses yet? It's packing material. Newspaper makes awesome packing material for anything that I need to ship. And this is the time of year when I sent more packages then any other. Lots of boxes leaving this house. Gifts AND cookies. And it's the cookies more than anything that I use the newspaper for. I have come to find that it is just about the perfect packing material.
I can layer just flat folds of it to protect the bottom and sides of a box. I can squish it into balls and then jam those paper balls into every single crevice known to human kind. Those little paperballs can be morphed into any shape I need. And the more of them the better!
A nice lady behind the counter at a UPS store once told me that for protection, every box needs to be filled to overflowing with packing material. There should be very little "give" on any of the six sides of a cardboard box. You should have to shove a little bit to properly tape the box closed. Excellent lesson!
MOST of the cookies I ship arrive safe and sound with very little damage. In fact there have been reports of not only single gingerbread man fatality! Woohoo! Clearly, it's working! Yay! And it's not something I have to go out of my way to purchase. I already get the newspaper every single day! AND it's a little more eco-friendly than say, bubble wrap or styrofoam packing peanuts. Although I will admit that bubble wrap is a lot more fun to play with.
So there you have it. I'm a secret newspaper hoarder. But only around this time of year. Who would have thought it? Me, a secret newspaper hoarder. Wow! Ok I'm tired now. True confessions take a lot out of a person. I think maybe I need a cookie.
Everyone please have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving Holiday tomorrow. It matters not how you choose to celebrate it. I only matter that you celebrate it. I don't know about you, but I have a TON of things to be thankful for.
And then I will be taking a few days off to enjoy the lovely long holiday weekend. See you all back here on Monday!!
Like most people, I really enjoy a good sale. Well except Black Friday sales. I don't do those. I'm not standing in judgement of those who do, understand. If that's your thing, have at it! But crowds are something I avoid wherever possible. And every depiction of a Black Friday sale that I've ever read about, seen in the news or heard first hand stories of, terrify the claustrophobe in me right down to my toes. Soooo no Black Friday sales for me, not now, not ever. Moving on.
Otherwise, I do appreciate when I find the things I was planning on buying anyway, on sale. It's like being rewarded for shopping. I am a canny shopper though. I am aware that just because the sign indicates that an item is "On Sale" doesn't always mean that it actually is. I am very cautious. And I do not participate in every sale I see or read about.
For example: Buying a case of tomato paste is not a good buy for me. I don't have the room to store an entire case of tomato paste for one thing. And the only time I ever use it is making sauce or making chili. Yup that's it. Sum total tomato paste useage. I make chili perhaps twice a winter. So we see, purchasing a case of the stuff, while the price may be a steal, is still not a smart buy for me. Contrary to some folks belief, just because something is in a can and still on the shelf in your kitchen doesn't mean it's still good to eat, especially if the use-by date reads 1972. Yes, Virginia, even canned goods can go bad.
Then there are the, "is it really a sale" sales. Just because a Mercedes Benz is "on sale" doesn't mean that there is one parked in my driveway. I have a perfectly good car that runs and more importantly is paid for. Clearly I am not the person those cute car sale Christmas commercials are targeting.
What I'm saying here is that most of the time, I am disciplined enough to walk past a sale if it's either something I don't need, something I don't want or something that when you get right down to it, isn't really a "sale".
However, there is one sort of sale that is very hard for me to resist. That is the BOGO sale. Buy one, get one, the sign fairly screams at me. Well two of something is far more reasonable than a case. I probably have room for two of something (aside from cars I mean). And I will probably use more than one in a sensible amount of time. So sure, I will buy two boxes of rice, two cans of soup, two jars of gravy (don't judge me!) and so forth.
My pantry looks a lot like Noah's Ark. Side by side boxes of cereal, jars of condiments and cans of beans stare accusingly back at me whenever I step inside. "You know", they say to me, "your grocery list only said one can of black beans and you bought two". "I am well aware" I say back to them. "And how do you explain the two boxes of baking soda?" they demand of me. "I bake a lot" I respond. "Uh-huh, right and what about the two jars of fennel seeds?" "Ok that was a mistake" I admit guiltily. Nobody needs two jars of fennel seeds. And quite honestly, as it turns out, I don't much care of fennel so I didn't even need one jar. I was an experiment that failed. So I'm trying to change my ways. Trying to resist the siren call of a BOGO sale.
Monday was the ultimate test. I did my last pre-Thanksgiving grocery shop. It was a dangerous place to be. BOGO sales in every direction. Oh me oh my. I kept my eye on my grocery list and and firmly talked myself out of buying the two crudite platters that the produce section was touting. I ignored the buy one get one shrimp plates. I turned up my nose at the buy 3 get 1 bunches of fresh cut flowers even though that one nearly killed me to walk away from.
But then I passed the Enteman's table. Now most of the time I am not a fan of premade, boxed, factory produced baked goods. But there is something about the chocolate covered Enteman's donuts that calls my name. Especially if eaten directly out of the fridge. Heaven in a box. I tried to walk past the table, I really did. And then it whispered to me something about a special Thanksgiving morning breakfast. It suggested to me that we deserved a treat. And yet I walked past the table. I did. I was so proud of myself. I felt strong, I felt powerful. I am Sam watch me resist!
And then, oh dear, and then, just as I stood in the check out line waiting my turn, just to my right was another BOGO table of Enteman's chocolate covered donuts. ARGH! So I looked to my left instead. I looked so hard to my left in fact, that I nearly sprained my neck.
And yet somehow, when I got home and unpacked the groceries, I found a single box of Enteman's chocolate covered donuts in one of the bags. Sigh.
I am taking comfort in the fact that I did in fact resist the BOGO part of the sale. I did ultimately buy the one box BUT I did not buy two. I suppose that is progress of a sort.
Baby steps people, Baby steps.
Mmmmmmm Chocolate. One of my most favourite flavours in the world! It's not secret. It's not one of those hidden guilty pleasures that I hear people talk about. Nope. My chocolate addiction is right out in the open. Anyone who knows me, even a little bit, knows about my love of almost anything chocolate.
I'm not alone. The first known fans of chocolate were the Aztecs in roughly 1100 BC. They drank it unsweetened. No thanks. By the mid-1500's chocolate had become very popular amoungst the aristocracy and it became a delicious symbol of wealth. By the 1800's it's popularity soared around the world on all socio-economic levels. Of course until roughly 1830, every step of grinding and pressing of chocolate was done by hand, a laborious endeavor. Then as the industrial age dawned, things starting looking up. Mass production stepped into the room and suddenly, every step of the process became faster and easier and chocolate became even more accessible to everyone.
The inhabitants of Switzerland consume the most chocolate every year, just short of 20 lbs of it per person! (Maybe I need to visit Switzerland?). The US barely made the top ten, coming in at #9 with 9.5 lbs of chocolate eaten per person. Overall, more than half of the people in the world vote in favour of chocolate. I've read numbers as high as 96% of people in the world! But I think that may be a bit exaggerated. I'm happy with "more than half" as a good firm non-specific number.
Of course there are different qualities of chocolate, different forms and even different types. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, bitter chocolate, unsweetened chocolate and even white chocolate which isn't chocolate at all. And everyone has their own preferences.
On a very cold wintery day, nothing quite beats a cuppa hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows in it. I have a killer chocolate cake recipe that an old friend shared with me that is honestly the best I've ever tasted. (hey, it ain't braggin' if it's fact, right?) Chocolate chip cookies are enormously popular across the board. There are very few people who will turn one of those down. Even people who aren't crazy about chocolate enjoy a good chocolate chip cookie.
Surprisingly, I am not a big fan of chocolate chip ice cream, with the notable except of a serving of exceptionally good Rocky Road. Yeah, I'll gobble that up in the hurry. Otherwise, I like chocolate IN my ice cream, but I want the ice cream to be vanilla. I think it's about contrasting flavours. Sort of like, that awesome chocolate cake recipe I told you about? Yeah I either put whipping cream on top or white icing, not chocolate. And I know people who think that cakes should be mono-flavoured: chocolate cake with chocolate icing, vanilla cake with white icing...etc. Personally I'm big on diversity.
But when it comes to candy, I have to admit that I honestly do not have the appreciation that I should for high end, expensive, fancy chocolates.
I was recently surprise gifted with a box of Chocolates from Switzerland. What a lovely thing for someone to do. Knowing how much I adore chocolate, giving me, for no particular reason, a beautiful box of chocolates. Truffles in fact. Everything about them was exquisite, from the packaging to the chocolates themselves. It was a classy presentation. The paper insert was even beautiful AND informative.
There were 4 different rows of chocolate truffles, each rolled in cocoa powder, each a different shape, sitting pretty in it's beautiful gold fluted paper. According to the insert, the first was from Madagascar with a lovely 64% cacao. The second from Venzuela with an impressive 65%. The next hailed from Ecuador and showed off with 72% cacao. And Have Mercy the last was created in the Dominican Republic with 75%!!! I should have been in chocolate heaven right? Right?
After admiring it all at length and reading the insert and considering all of the choices, I made my selection and took a healthy little bite aaannnddd.....didn't like it. I can't even really put my finger on why. There was an almost bitter after taste that put me off for one thing and the rest, well, I just don't know. I tried to put it off to not having a very sophisticated palate but Tim disagreed. He pointed out some rather high end things that I actually do like, very much. So it's a mystery. I guess I will just say that I just didn't care for it and leave it at that.
The fancy chocolates didn't go to waste. Tim thought they were just the bees knees. He was a fan. And that makes me happy. The gift was doubly appreciated. By me, because who doesn't love receiving a surprise gift, right? And by Tim, because he thought they were yummy.
For the record, one of my favouite methods of getting chocolate from point A to point B (with B being in my Belly) for me is M&M's. Don't know why, but I do adore them. Especially if they are really cold, right out of the fridge. Not high end. Not aristocratic. Not fancy. But Sam approved. I make no excuses for liking what I like.
The Campus Lantern was my college newspaper. See the date? 1974. Forty-four years ago. Yikes! My goodness that was a long time ago. A lifetime ago. I was an entirely different person back then.
I actually didn't remember the name of this particular publication until very recently. And in fact, I don't think the existence of my old college newspaper has crossed my mind even once for at least forty-three of those subsequent years. But my sister was going through some bins of old papers and letters and the this'n'that which we all seem to accumulate and this newspaper turned up. Very kindly she brought it to me.
I looked at the title and thought, "What on earth is the Campus Lantern?" Yeah, I didn't remember it at all. OR I lost that particular brain cell. Not sure which. Regardless, below the title I next saw that it was from Eastern Connecticut State College. Yup. Before it was a University it was just a college. And before that it was a "Normal School" which is what a school that churns out teachers used to be called. Isn't that funny? Why do you suppose it was called a "Normal school?" Because learning to be a teacher is normal? Or because they want those teachers to create "normal" students? No idea. I do remember attending Eastern CT State College so 2+2 y'know. Okay that's my old college newspaper. I got that far on my own.
But the next question was, why did my sister have a copy of it? She didn't go to Eastern. So I asked her why I was now holding a crankly yellowed old copy of my old school paper that for some weird reason, she had a copy of. With a grin she opened the paper to the center section.
Lookee there. An entire page of poetry that I wrote. It's an entire page of Sam submissions. Or perhaps sam-missions? Until that particular moment, I not only didn't remember the name of my school paper, I also didn't remember that I ever submitted poetry to it with the hopes of being published. Looks like I was. Which I also didn't remember until I saw this again.
Now that my memory has been properly jogged, I definitely recall that it was a big deal to me at the time. I have been writing since I could hold a pencil in my little hand which was an extremely long time ago. I don't remember of a time in my life when I wasn't writing. And once I got to college I wrote even more. A lotta lot, as my kids used to say. Poetry, essays, short stories flew from pen to my paper and then was carefully squirrelled away. I also recall that my writing was intensely private to me. I usually tore up and/or threw out what I wrote. Eventually I started saving some of it but I rarely showed it to anyone. I was always sure that I didn't "measure up". Ever afraid of criticism at that time in my life, it felt like a very brave things to do, submitting my work so that other people could see it. And not just one or two carefully selected people who I knew to be kind but on a platform that allowed anyone at all to read it, if they chose to. Strangers. People who were not so kind. It was absolutely terrifying for me. It absolutely was heart pounding, knee shaking, sweat producing scary to offer up my puny creative thoughts.
And yet I did it. I'm kind of proud of the much younger me for doing that. I'm not saying that I wrote anything of quality. That isn't the important part. The fact that I was petrified of doing something and did it anyway, that is the big deal.
I was a cowardly child. Afraid of Everything. Seriously. What a big baby I was. And it took a long time to stop over thinking everything, to stop being certain that the world would come crashing down around me if I made even the tiniest mistake, to stop trying to hide and be invisible out of fear. This was one of my first really big steps.
Obviously the world didn't end. Even though, as I recall, some people said kind, supportive, positive things about this submissions, some people said dismissive and unkind things, and some people didn't say anything at all it was okay. I did it and whats more, I survived it. Not only survived actually but got stronger and braver as time went by.
Eleanor Roosevelt famously said that we should all, "Do one thing every day that scares you". I first read that quote when I was so very young and fragile and I remember thinking that this woman had to have either been the most courageous person on the planet or the craziest. Because there was no way that I was ever going to intentionally allow myself to be in a situation where I was going to feel vulnerable. Just not gonna happen.
I'm not sure why I felt really brave that day in college. But I did. And I am so glad that I did.
I'm still not ever going to intentionally jump out of an airplane with a parachute strapped to my back. I'm not likely to go skiing down the Matterhorn or drive a racecar in the Indy 500. But compared to the frightened-by-own-shadow child that I was a thousand or so years ago, I am now so brave it's nearly heroic.
John Wayne said, "Courage is being scared, but doing it anyway". I knew that one day, watching all those old westerns would come in handy. Thanks Duke.
The smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd! Or is that the other way 'round?
There is nothing quite like a live performance of, well, pretty much anything! No you aren't going to have any CGI special effects so the wow isn't technology based. Instead, it's the electricity that fills the room originating from those people on stage who knock the audience out performance after performance, each time as if it was the first time. Wow!
We have a live performance theatre right here on the island and in this, it's 69th season, on Tuesday night, I got to see "South Pacific" right there, on the stage, in front of me. It was awesome. The stage design was amazing, the set changes were smooth and fast, the music was live (which in and of itself impresses me) and I had a terrific seat. Smack in the center the audience with no tall person in front of me, I was so close to the action I almost felt as if I were on stage with the actors.
The singing was impressive. It's always risky setting about to produce a musical, especially using local talent. Lots of times there are great actors who aren't the best singers, or singers who are terrible dancers or any other unfortunate combination and the directors are reduced to making the best of the less than best situation. Venice must somehow be a mecca of incredibly talented people because all of the show was amazing: the acting, the singing and the dancing! 5 stars all the way across.
Well to be fair, there was one actor whose singing was less than stellar, but it was kind of in character for that character to not necessarily be the best singer in the world. AND that character's acting was top notch, easily one of the top three in the show so I will give that person a pass ;) (as if it were up to me to make these sorts of decisions - hah!)
I had a great time and I'm so glad I went. I hadn't been to a live performance of anything since our first Christmas here when Tim and I went to see "A Christmas Carol" which was also a marvelous production. I'm not sure why we haven't been back, just, somehow, we didn't which makes no sense at all considering all of the amazing shows they do every single year! So when some ladies from my Pilates class got together and decided to go to this play and invited me to join them, I said, "Heck yeah!" No hesitation at all.
Of course, now I have the score of South Pacific lodged firmly in my head and I cannot get it out. I "Washed That Man Outta My Hair" while taking a shower this morning and I crooned, "Bali Hai" to myself last night when I was trying to fall asleep. (sigh) Actually I was both pleased and surprised to discover that I still knew all of the words to all of the songs in the show. I kind of sang along quietly to myself during the show. It's been a Very Long Time since I saw this show the first time so I am particularly impressed with my memory.
The film, South Pacific, with Mitzi Gaynor and Rossano Grazzi, came out in 1958. I was only 5 years old at that time so I'm pretty sure I didn't see it in a movie theatre. At least not a first run theatre. Maybe it was on television that I first saw it on one of those AMC type channels where they show old black & white movies all of the time. I love those channels and often watch it while ironing. So needless to say, it was quite some time. So long in fact, that I had forgotten most of the details of the storyline. But there is something about the music that sticks with me. I almost always remember the music.
So, earworm aside, it was a delightful experience and I am now reminding myself to go to more live performances. And if they happen to be musicals, I know that I will sing along quietly to myself during the show and also that I will have the music stuck in my head for a long time afterward. Not a terrible price to pay for a wonderful experience!
Gather 'round children, and I will tell you the tale of the Great Pantry Flood of 2018 It is a story of great mystery and marginal courage, of failures and successes. It is a my story.
I begin this story by going backwards more than two years now. I begin at the beginning. (of the story, not the beginning of time, that would be ridiculous)
Before we bought our current house, we looked at a lot of homes for sale here on the island. Some we were able to eliminate from possibility immediately, others took a wee bit longer but in the end, the choice was narrowed down to two. The house I preferred and the house Tim preferred. Ultimately, we ended up choosing the house that Tim liked best. My biggest concern about his choice was the kitchen. It was disaster! The first time we toured the house, as I walked through the kitchen with a sour look on my face (I could never play poker) Tim walked behind me promising that the very first thing we would do was to reno the kitchen. That was right after I attempted to open a kitchen drawer and the front of the drawer came off in my hand. I nodded reasonably. Then I opened the slatted bi-fold door in the kitchen and found, to my surprise, squished into a surprisingly small space, a full sized side by side front loading washer and dryer with one wobbly shelf above it that I couldn't reach on one side and an entire HVAC system on the other side. The was the very narrowest of spaces between the two. Even I couldn't completely fit and would have had to snake my hand through a partially opened dryer door to put clothes in or take them out. I attempted to demonstrate the many failings of that area by wedging my own little self in and then giving Tim a very telling look. He understood it immediately and said,"This can be fixed".
Well I trust my husband and I believe in him. So when we bought the house, before the ink was even dry on the closing paperwork, the reno had begun. The washer, dryer and HVAC system were all moved to the utility room and now there was this unexpected space in my kitchen. What to do, what to do? Tim suggested a walk-in pantry and I cheered! What a wonderful idea! I adore my pantry. It may be my favourite room in the house! There are shelves before me, shelves to the left of me, shelves to the right of me AND room for my rolling baking cart upon which lives my massive mixer but also has a cabinet, opening shelving and drawer to hold all of my many baking implements of destruction (Thank you Arlo Guthrie)
Back to the present day.
Sunday we did the majority of the shopping for my upcoming baking marathon. Bag after bag of baking requirements were unloaded from the car, brought into the house and set on the kitchen counter. Tim drifted off to his next Big Thing, his job now being done, and I set about putting things away. I didn't bother to turn the pantry light on because well it's day light, the kitchen light was on and also I know my pantry so well that I could, right now, tell you exactly where anything is that you might want from there.
I stepped into the pantry with an armload of goodies and heard a very tiny "splash". I was taken aback because in my experience, walk in pantry's almost never make a splashing noise. I stepped back out, set down my various items and turned the pantry light on. The floor was covered with a very thin layer of wet. Dang!
My heart started pounding and I think I mumbled something like, "Well this is unexpected' because I'm clever like that. Now, the room to the left of the pantry is the utility room. And in that utility room, on the wall shared with the pantry is the hot water heater. That was my first panic stricken thought. Honestly. First I thought Hot Water Heater and then the next thing that danced through my head was a string of dollar signs. I dashed into said utility room expecting to see pools of water in there as well only to find things humming along perfectly normally and a bone dry floor. Hmmm. Well if the source of the water isn't the hot water heater than where could it possibly have come from?
Next panic riddled thought was the guest bathroom. Yup, directly behind the pantry would be the guest bathroom. I groaned allowed as I raced to the guest room. Now my head is filled with not just rows and rows of dollar signs but also a lot of noises like Yuck and Ick and Ewwwww! Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. Guest bathroom was perfectly fine. Exactly as it always is.
I returned to the pantry now with a head full of questions marks. Where on earth is this water coming from. I began moving things out of the pantry. First my giant pastry board which has absorbed some of the water dang it! Next was the baking cart which I rolled to the far end of the kitchen and noted the nice wet trail the wheels left. (sigh) then the bin of cleaning supplies then the bottles of gatorade (One of Tim's favourite summer time drinks for after any exertion in the heat and humidity) then finally the many different containers of water which we use all of the time and then immediately replace all of the time.
I have never been a fan of bottled water until we moved here. We learned very early on that living on an island, you must have bottled water in the house at all times. Occasionally, for one reason or another, we experience water line interruptus. And, Hurricanes happen. So we keep bottled water in the pantry. Both individual bottles AND gallon jugs. I moved the case of bottles first then the gallon jugs. The first two gallons were perfectly normal and as I expected them to be. The last jug was empty. What the heck?
Oh yeah. There was the culprit. But the question is why? Why would the jug leak? I still don't know. I suspect that it was the most recently purchased replacement gallon jug and what I mistook to be condensation was actually a leak. And was that tiny pinhole leak in the seam up at the top up the bottle where it wouldn't be much of a problem? No, of course not. It was way down at the bottom of the bottle so that the water could spread allllll over the place. Naturally. Because that's how these things work.
We are so fortunate that it was just good old H2O that I was cleaning up. The floor of the pantry is now exceptionally clean, everything has been dried off and returned. I will sand down the wet edge of my giant pastry board once it finishes drying out and re-cure it so that will be all good too.
AND whats more, lesson learned, I will now carefully inspect any gallon water jugs that I buy instead of just grabbing them willy nilly.
Some people learn from the mistakes of others. Other people must be beaten with sticks to learn anything. I seem to be of the second type. Please, please be the first sort of person and learn from my mistakes. I don't remember where I ever read it, but I think of it often,"If I cannot be a good example, I should at least be a horrible warning". That's me. The cautionary tale.
Below you will find a photo of the perpetrator. The Hideous Fiend! The CAUSE of the great pantry flood of 2018
Well gosh, that's fun to say! I'll say it again, Forsooth!
We have time traveled back to the year 878. The vikings are poised and ready to not only attack and raid Great Britain, but this time to eventually settle on the island. So it's the Saxons versus the Vikings. Sounds like a strange football game. Oddly, our car (the apparent time machine..... Hey if you can time travel in a DeLorean, you can time travel in a Ford Explorer) only has to drive a half hour North to Sarastoa FL to accomplish this.
This was the 15th annual Medieval Faire in Sarasota and honestly, it was just so much fun! From the very first moment that you walk through the "castle entrance" you have entered another world. It is a fanciful world that blends days of yore with days of never were and dotted with a soupcon of anachronisms, this piney wooded area behind the Robards Arena was perfect. And there is just so much going on from the very instance that you cross into their realm that it's hard to know where to look first.
I adored how many attendees dressed in costume to attend the Faire. I would say at minimum a third of the guests were in costume to some degree. Sometimes just the right hat or parasol will transform an ordinary regular person into a Medival Faire attendee/attraction. Other times the entire regalia is required. Secretly, I wished I was in costume too. I was so impressed by all of the costumes and forgot to take photos of most of them. The ones that cracked me up the most were the people in full costume,carrying around cell phones. HAH! But here is a sampling of some of my favourites:
There was plenty to do there. With nine different stages of entertainment, sometimes it was hard to decide what to do! One of our immediate favourites was the fellow Harmless Danger who juggled first balls, then those bowling in looking things, then knives (!) and then firey lit torches (!!!) all the while laughing and teasing and joking with the audience. He was very quick witted especially with hecklers, regardless of their ages or gender. (talk about equality!)
Another favourite of ours was the gentlemen who thrilled the audience with his many different Birds of Prey and Falconry and, I suppose, Owlry, assuming that's a thing. You see, our hand down favourite was this gorgeous Barn Owl. From the minute the creature his assistant brought his owl out we were mesmerized. She swooped and dove and circled around us in absolute silence but always returned to her trainer. Okay, I'll be honest, we were amazed all of his incredible creatures but that owl stole the show for me.
.There were demonstrations of such things as how to properly sword fight and fire off a fair shot with a bow & arrow But they also had folks to teach how to weave make any number of other amazing things such as pottery, soap and jewelry.
Naturally there were shops to buy almost anything milord or milady could possible require such as a fur collars or fairy wings to say nothing of full outfits including proper shoes. You never know when this might come up. Gotta be prepared. Oh my Goodness there were Sooo Many Shops!!!!!
Naturally there were all sorts of musical and dancing acts going on too. Bagpipes, drums, flutes, various Celtic musicans and Irish dancers all were there for our pleasure. There were fortune tellers, looking appropriately sketchy and jesters that were silly enough to even make the worst sourpuss crack a smile.
They even had "rides' of sorts. All brightly painted and powered by brawny lads and gravity but still a ride is a ride and the kids on board loved every minute of it.
And you cannot go to the Medieval Faire without attending a joust. It matters not which knight you favour, they are all bold, brave and encased in tin. The heraldry is everywhere, including on their enormous horses which were so huge that even the knights had to have steps to get on board. I would have needed an elevator. It was fascinating to see that they do actually strike each other hard enough to splinter their lances. Listening to those horses thunder down the arena as they bear down upon each other, wooden long faux lances aimed for the other's hearts was both exhilarating and terrifying! (they were all well protected by metal plates, never fear) Oh me oh my!
Food and drinks abounded and after that exciting jousting match, we needed to quench our thirst. In addition to mead and beer there were turkey legs and slightly out of step with everything else, pizza and tacos'. Oh well. As there were an untold number of places to eat I'm certain that there were a zillion or so different kinds of fare, but we just got cold bottles of water. Medieval Faire's are a thirsty business.
We saw chess matches with live actors as the chess pieces, saw a daredevil climb and dance upon the Wheel of Death, observed a blacksmith hard at his trade and heard that next week, St. Nicklaus would be visiting.
It was so much fun. The last time we had seen anything like it was a Renaissance Faire in Larkspur Colorado that we went to when we first moved out there. It was a blast! But that was more than 12 years ago now. We were overdue a visit. I'm so glad that we went.
I hope we don't wait another 12 years to go again. And Maybe, who knows, Maybe next time, I'll make a little more effort with what I wear. I don't know. It just looked like so much fun to be a part of the show.
If you have never been to a Renaissance Faire or a Medieval Faire, find one. Take a deep breath, relax, stop being literal and of the here and now. Prepare to step back in time, sort of, and enjoy the show. It really is just so fun!
Part of the fun of living in a new place is all of the discovery. It seems that we are still finding new shops and new restaurants and new things to see and do!
Yesterday we stopped at a place we had seen many times from the road as we have driven past and always meant to check out. Finally we stopped. It was a German market and butcher shop, Geir's Sausage Kitchen. It turned out to be an immaculately clean, very friendly place filled to the rafters with jars and cans and boxes of things I've never heard of. Every single shelf was crammed past capacity with mysterious and wonderful things. And then behind the glass cases of the butcher shop were some of the loveliest examples of why carnivores eat meat. There were boards listing specials and boards listing all of the many and various sorts of sandwiches you can have made. They had Christmas decorations galore and those advent calendars where behind every numbers is a chocolate treat. It was Glorious! It was impressive! And in fact, it was so impressive that we ordered our Thanksgiving turkey from them. Check one more thing off of my ever-growing list of Holiday related things to do!
What does Geir's Sausage Kitchen have to do with the photo of a white paper bag with Floribbean's Flo's stamped on it in red you ask? Well it was in conversation with those aforementioned lovely people at Geir's Sausage Kitchen that we heard of Floribbean Flo's. We had at least seen the sign for Geir's before. Nearly every time we drive to Sarasota we pass it and remember that we keep meaning to stop there. But Floribbeans Flo? Nope. Never heard of it. Not a whisper. Not a hint. Not a glimmer of a hint. But the nice lady behind the butcher counter at Geir's said that they were amazing and we should check them out. Ok. We will! And so we did.
We were told that it was right across the street, the street being a very busy 4-lane highway. Or is it six? Regardless it's a noisy busy road the sides of which are crammed with businesses and offices and side streets and plaza's which are in turn loaded with tiny shops of one sort or another. So Tim bravely managed to get us to the other side and we began prowling in and out of plaza's, peering down alleyways and side streets looking for this "amazing" bakery.
Finally, just as we were about to give up, we pulled into a little plaza that had seen better days and Tim spied it, kind of beside and behind the end. Quickly we parked the car and entered a Caribbean coloured, bright, happy shop filled with the most delightful smells. There were decorations and interesting little this's and that's up front but we bee-lined for the back where the goodies were.
There were home made cookies and cakes and candies on display and a very nice lady behind the counter to help us. We began chatting and admiring and she kindly offered us samples tastes. Sample Tastes? Seriously! Okay I am already in love with any bakery that offers sample tastes. Wow! That is a first time I've ever experienced a bakery giving away samples and considering how many bakeries I've been in lifetime total, that is saying something. We decided to taste the key lime and the pumpkin pies. Oh me oh my!
The pumpkin was perfect. It was flavourful and homey and the spices were perfectly balanced. No one flavour outshone the other. The texture of the filling was creamy and the crust was flaky, precisely as it should be. We were wowed. Next up was the Key Lime. Now we have tasted a lot of key lime since we moved to Florida and most of it was good (some of it was very bad). But this was the absolute best I have ever had. It was sweet but not cloying, tangy but not bitter, the filling was some magical combination of velvet and satin and holy cats I think I am in love. We rolled our eyes and then our tummies and then she asked if we wanted to try any of the candies. Well of course we do! But since we already knew what the quality was going to be for everything in that shop, we just went ahead and bought a few to take home with us.
We waited until we got home to eat the candies and in fact, waited until the next day. The joy of anticipation is a real thing, my friends. Just knowing that two sea salt caramel truffles and two chocolate covered pretzels were waiting for us was enough at first. And postponing the actual tasting of it was part of the pleasure. We were not disappointed in the slightest. Candy Perfection! I ate my truffle first and then waited a few hours before eating the pretzel. Not sure which was better. The best sort of salt/sweet combos.
So there you have it. Because we are adventurous and try new things and because we are friendly and strike up conversations with random strangers, we learned about two of the best new to us discoveries in awhile. Bravery is rewarded once again!
'Twas the day after the elections and I toodled out to the mailbox thinking all the while, "Thank goodness no more political ads in our mailbox!". I may have been whistling as I strolled across the courtyard and down the driveway to our mailbox. I do remember waving to a neighbor who was walking her dog on the other side of the street, big old smiling howdy do on my face. Then I opened my mailbox and found......this. Nine Christmas catalogs. Nine. Wow.
Now it's early days in the big holiday season that stretches from Halloween to New Years and Christmas ads, Christmas greetings, Christmas sales and yes, Christmas catalogs are to be expected, but to get nine of them in one day? That's a lot. AND these are the first in my mailbox this season. I am secretly harboring a suspicion that the post office was hoarding these catalogs during the political ad onslaught and didn't deliver any until after the election. I have no proof at all, but deep down in the recesses of my curmudgeonly heart, that's what I am thinking.
The funniest part (to me anyway) is that I haven't bought anything from one of these sorts of catalogs in years! Way back in the day before everyone shopped online, I actually did a decent amount of shopping via mail order catalog. These kind of specialty ones that only come during the Christmas season were a wonderful way to find something unusual, something different, that thing that the gift recipient never knew they always wanted. Often it's a gift that I didn't even know existed until I saw it in the pages of one of these catalogs. It was a perfect solution for those things I couldn't find in actual local shops, which is still always my first choice. (Shop Local!)
So way back then, in the olden days, I would read carefully through all of them, folding down the corners of pages that had something appealing on it, often making notations of different people's names/size/colour preference in the margins. Shortly after Thanksgiving I'd force myself to make some serious decisions. I'd drag all the dog-eared catalogs back out, look at everything I'd considered the first time 'round, make my decisions and start making phone calls. That's how it was done. You would call, be put on hold for quite some time, eventually singing along with the Christmas Carol Musak blasting in your ear, then eventually get one of the real live human beings who were varying degrees of jolly to be honest, tell them what you wanted, the page number, the product number, the size/colour/whatever and verbally give them your credit card number which they would always repeat back to you to be sure it was correct. Within a week or two, the mysterious boxes would begin to arrive. Yay! It was all so exciting. Long and drawn out but exciting.
But I think that is where the impersonalizing of Holiday shopping began. With catalogs.
Now of course, we all shop online. We do not interact with actual humans at any point. Just one computer to another. Often the packages arrive the very next day. I can even have the gifts sent directly to the recipients. And if I wasn't so dang cheap, I'd pony up to have the gifts even wrapped! (I don't). It's convenient for sure. But honestly I'm not a fan. I do it. But sometimes I wish I didn't.
It's so clean and sleek. It's almost a clinical transaction. I can shop in my PJ's in the middle of the night without touching anything more intimate than my keyboard. I haven't smelled anything different. I haven't tasted anything new. I haven't stumbled across something unexpected. I didn't wiggle my way through a throng of other shoppers. I didn't have to put on a coat and constantly be too hot, too cold, too hot, too cold going in and out of stores. And at the end of the day I didn't walk back in the house with armloads of bags of goodies that I stash in the back of the closet until I can wrap things. Nope. I curl up on the sofa at 3:00am with a cuppa cocoa at my side, the TV on, muted, in the background with my laptop, shopping. It's certainly convenient. Easy Peasy.
But maybe it's not supposed to be that easy all of the time. Maybe there really is something special about inconveniencing ourselves a little bit now and again for the sake of someone else. Or maybe I'm Christmas Sam Quixote, fighting the windmills of days gone by.
Sorry, I must be feeling nostalgic today.
I have the catalogs stacked on a table in the family room. And I'm quite sure that at some point I will even flip through them. Probably in the bathtub. But I know for a fact that I will not be buying anything from any catalogs again this year. And I'm equally sure that while I will do a lot of local shopping, I will also succumb to the siren call of convenient online shopping. How 'bout you?
Two nature lovers.
Took us a few weeks but Joy and I finally got back into our old routine and had our first photo safari of the season this week! We enjoy spending time together, we enjoy hiking and we enjoy photography. What could be better? Both of us really are nature lovers.
Of course because we are totally different people, we sometimes love it differently.
Oh there is some cross-over of course. I think we both took photos of the pretty yellow flowers we saw in the field. And I know we both admired the reflections on the water. And I'm pretty sure we each commented on how many pretty dragon flies were buzzing around, although I'm equally certain that she is the only one who managed to get good photos of those.
But while I greatly admire all of nature, the entire circle of it, top to bottom , inside and out, beginning to end, I don't want to witness the icky bits. So for me I suppose it's a rather carefully edited version of nature whereas Joy embraces it all. I honestly admire her for that. But still, sometimes, ewww, just ewww.
Perhaps it comes from all her years of being a Ranger at Yellowstone where she is, of necessity, far more up close and personal with some of the ickier bits of nature. Or maybe she is just a more pragmatic person than I and sees things from a more scientific point of view. I don't know for sure the why of it. I just know that it's true.
For example, during this recent outing, Joy spied a particularly interesting spider web and she was delighted to see that there were a few insects snared in the web that were literally, still kicking. Seriously ick. She took quite a number of photos of the trapped victims while I walked to the other side of the trail and snapped some interesting grasses. I am well aware that nature isn't always pretty. I just don't want to take photos of it.
I'm not saying that one of us it right and the other wrong but that's not the case at all. It's just one of the ways that we are different from each other. I have seen some truly amazing photographs that she has taken of things like an eagle flying with a fish in it's talons or a large bird in the process of swallowing a frog. Remarkable and beautiful photos!!! But while I understand that this is just nature, just creatures doing what they do, and I certainly have no intention of trying to change it. I don't want to be witness to that part.
I was never one of those kids who enjoyed those really graphic nature shows. You remember the ones where the lion attacking, killing and devouring a zebra. Nope. I was the kid leaving the room in tears. I totally get it. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly and lions gotta eat. I completely totally entirely understand it. I just don't want to watch it. What a big baby I am.
Funny childhood story. When Joy and I were little, maybe 7 and 4 years old, a big treat was for each of us to have one of those little boxes of animal crackers that looked like circus wagons. And even though that stupid white string would break almost immediately we would still carry those boxes around all day, ever so slowly eating our way through the circus. One time, toward the end of the day, we were sitting on the front porch finishing off our treats. Y'know, the way kids do, playing with it a little, eating a little. And I noticed that Joy ate her cookies differently than I did. Hmmm. So I said to her, "I always bite the heads off first so that they don't feel any more pain". Joy nibbled at the feet of her animal and said, "Not me. I eat 'em from the feet up so that they suffer". I guess we haven't changed all that much.
And thus paved the path for our futures. Joy embraces all of life, both the beautiful and the not so pretty. I seem to turn a blind eye to anything less than appealing. Quite frankly, her outlook is smarter, healthier and absolutely braver than mine. And yet, much like Popeye, I yam who I yam. I guess what they used to say back in the day is true, 'Different strokes for different folks'. What a boring world it would be if we were all the same ;)
I seem to be a little ladybug of a person don't I. Practically a girl scout. Butter wouldn't melt in my mouth as they used to say in the South. A little bunny rabbit. Wouldn't harm a fly.
Well, just so's you know's, appearances can be deceiving. According to a list I recently read, I belong on the naughty list.
I don't remember the name of the list but it was something about being a good citizen during the Holidays. And I honestly thought that I was. I recycle. I don't litter. I open doors for people. I let little old ladies go ahead of me in line when they only have a couple of items. I walk instead of drive most of the time. I bring my carrybags to the grocery store to avoid using anymore plastic than absolutely necessary. I say, please and thank you and excuse me. And if I'm on public transportation, I always stand to allow someone else to sit.
Apparently that is not anywhere near enough.
Now I am being told that I must also stop using gift wrap paper and ribbon. What? All of the beautiful memories of a Christmas tree piled high with mysterious and beautifulyl wrapped gifts in bright colours and patterns beguilingly trailing bows and ribbon.....gone. The article suggested instead wrapping gifts in plain brown paper. Plain brown paper is fine I suppose. Not very festive but fine. Still, what ever happened to saving the trees! Plain brown paper is still paper which is made from trees, right? OH wait. Maybe it's all recycled paper. Ahhh. Well, as I said, i's fine. It's just boring. And guess what. I'm not doing it. See! Straight to the naughty list.
Also on the list was no Christmas goodies. No Christmas cookies, no Christmas candy. Wow'! Whoever wrote this list is a real grinch! Half the fun of Christmas is eating things that are bad for us! The other half is making things that are bad for us. The idea was that once a person steps outside of their healthy eating habits it's hard to get back in. To say nothing about weight gain and the EVIL of sugar in general. Sigh. Well I'm gonna make goodies and what's more I'm gonna eat them! So There!
Ix-nay on the ights-lay as it is an unnecessary energy suck. No electric lights. What? What? It's not Christmas without lights. And I'm not even going to apologize for saying that. Christmas is the one time of year when things are supposed to be over the top. There is no such thing as too opulent, too gaudy or too bright at Christmas time.
No Christmas Cards other than e-cards was on the list.. Back to saving trees I suppose. Personally I love getting mail that is not a bill or an advertisement. I assume other people do too. So I am damn well sending real Christmas Cards through the mail. I am not requiring anyone to send any to me. I'm just saying what I do.
Other stuff on the list was no live Christmas trees. Which is sad. We do not have a live tree anymore but I do miss them. We have a fakeyfake tree for convenience sake and it breaks my heart that I've resorted to that On the other hand: Don't have to water it. Don't have to tramp through the forest finding the "right" tree and chop it down and haul it back and strap it to the roof of the car, then drag it into the house and make the !#^%#@* thing stand up straight in the tree stand without it falling over and turn the previously unnoticed bare spot to the wall, all before decorating it to say nothing of the ridiculous cost.
But there was a time when we did that. For years we did that. And I miss the smell of a real pine tree in the house. The imperfections of it honestly are part of the charm. Now our tree is absofreakinlutely perfect. And pre-lit. And it's very convenient and currently in three separate pieces in a box in the utility room waiting. But the very fact that someone is telling me that I CANNOT have a real tree makes me want one again.
See, you cannot tell this about me because I'm not lounging up against a lampost in a leather jacket and a micro-mini skirt with my hair in my face and a cigarette hanging out of my mouth but I really am a rebel at heart.
I am so doggone contrary that as soon as I'm told that I can't do something, I immediately want to do it.
"Stay off the Grass" the sign says. Sam reaches one foot off the sidewalk and touches the grass.
"Private Road. Do Not Enter" Sam walks about three feet down the road, turns around and comes back.
"Absolutely No Photographs" Sam very sneakily snaps a photo of her feet
That is the real me.
AND THEREFORE I will be wrapping all of my gifts in lovely festive Christmas wrapping paper and any gifts I receive wrapped in pretty paper will be so carefully opened that I can save the paper and use it again (that's sort of recycling right?) Same with the ribbon.
I will both make and eat as many Christmas goodies as I possibly can and then after the holidays get back on track with my usual good eating habits.
And now I'm seriously considering a small live tree. Something I can put on a table top just for the joy of breathing in that Christmas Pine Tree scent.
I will have lights on my tree(s) and on my house AND I will be sending actual real Christmas cards.
Naughty list be damned. Nobody will taking my Christmas away from me! And in all honestly, it's mostly because they told me I couldn't.
I am such a rebel ;)
You see before you a veritable nest of hangers. Looks like some strange puzzle or a bizzaro land game of pick-up-stix (remember that one?)
This is the result of Tim deciding to go through his closet this weekend and getting rid of anything he doesn't wear. It's something he has mentioned he wanted to do for quite awhile now and I'm sure he feels very accomplished now that it is done. I know that's how I felt when I did my side of the closet last year. There is just so much more room in the closet!
The difference is that when I did it, I had to try things on first. Sometimes I tried a skirt, for example, with several different tops (hey..sometimes it makes a difference!) or various shoes (again can make or break an outfit). If was an article of clothing that I was on the fence about, "keep or save, keep or save, hmmmm", sometimes I would walk around the house in it for a bit. Sit, stand, walk. I asked questions of myself. How comfortable is it? Does it still serve a useful purpose in my life? What else do I have that goes with it or in other words, how multi-functional is this garment? Does it require dry cleaning? All to help make the final determination. It took me most of a day to sort through.
Tim went through his closet in under ten minutes. It might have been closer to five minutes. He started on one side of the closet, scooting hangers along the rod, instantaneously pulling the items off when it didn't meet whatever inner criteria he was using to make this decision and threw it on the bed, hanger and all. Once he finished both hanger rods (we have two, one up high and one lower) he was done. Taadaa! Finished. As far as he was concerned it was Mission Accomplished.
It was my turn now to remove the hangers, fold the clothes, bag them and haul them off to GoodWill if they were good enough to move on down the line. Some were not and were very garbage can ready. A few things I saved for myself. Seriously. Tim's old tee-shirts make great pajamas tops or even nightgowns for me. One of the advantages of being short! I even saved one of his old Hawaiian shirts. I'm not certain what I will ever do with it. But it's just so soft and yummy that I think I need to hang on to it for awhile. I'm thinking, bathing suit coverup. I have the clothes are handled one way or the other.
But now what do I do with all these doggone hangers?
The wire hangers are easy. Out they go! Straight to the garbage. Not to be too Joan Crawford about it, but I really dislike wire hangers. Sill the rest of these nice sturdy plastic hangers surely could suit some purpose, right?
If only I knew what that was. Perhaps if I was a really creative person, I would look at that pile of hangers and be inspired. I would immediately think.....I don't know...something creative and wonderful. (I think I was hopeful for a second there that just writing the sentence would bring something to mind and I would have a terrific finish for this. I was wrong).
There are probably a few older kind of beat-up hangers in the laundry room that I could replace with a few of these. And it wouldn't hurt to have some hangers in the guest room closet in case a guest wishes to hang up their clothes instead of leaving them in the suitcase. But the rest? I just do not know. Open to suggestions though.....
Meanwhile, Hurrah to Tim for getting a chore checked off his mental list of things he wanted to get done!
Now it's time for me to go hanger wrangling.
It's November! And you know what that means, right? Time to start cookie planning! Squeee! I get so excited. This is one of my most favourite times of the year.
And this (above) is where it starts. I haul out every single cookbook and collection of recipes that I own. And I peruse. Perusing is step one of inspiration. What I'm looking for here is not the old favourites that I will make every year. I'm looking for that little glint of an idea for something new. Something I've never made before. Sometimes it's even a cookie that, to my knowledge, nobody has ever made before! Sweet!
And I never know where the inspiration will come from either. For example, one of the biggest hits last year came from a conversation. I was talking with Child 3's wife and she was raving about a confetti cake that she tasted. I asked exactly what confetti cake was. She told me. And I said Hmmmm. She asked if I thought it could be made into a cookie. I said that I was certain that it could and Hmmmmmmed again. Voila. My confetti cookie was born and reports are that they were awesome (insert much patting of myself on the back)
But usually it starts in a cookie book, or recipe magazine or one of the hundreds of recipes I collected from other people over the years. I do, occasionally, follow a recipe exactly. If someone else has gone to the trouble of creating the most absolute perfect Molasses Cookie (thank you Nana) why would I bother to try to improve on perfection? But sometimes, someone else's recipe is just a jumping off point for me to get creative in a new way. And that is a whole other level of fun for me.
Although, truly, the entire process is a blast!
When I embark upon the cookie baking marathon I am in my happy place. I hum along like a well oiled machine. My sous chef (or would that be sous baker?) Tim and I chug out batch after batch of cookies while listening to Christmas music and/or having Christmas movies play in the background. We talk, we laugh, we might even break into a little happydance now and again. We make a huge mess, clean it up and then make another. And I love every moment of it.
But it starts here. Reading cookbooks like novels. Looking for that thing catches my eye, something that gets me thinking, the one that triggers the little bubble of creative excitement. So far, I've written three things down in my notebook: Triple Treasures, Angel Crisps and Red velvet thumbprints. Intrigued yet? I am.
I am not yet certain exactly where those ideas are going to land. They are just the inspiration recipes. But once I get it all sorted out and the new ideas finalized and written down, then we move on to step two. Making the shopping list of ingredients.
Doesn't sound as if it should be too difficult. Just read your recipes and add up how many eggs, how much butter, flour, sugar and etc are required, right? Well it's a wee bit more complicated in that I cannot buy everything I need in one place. Nope. It will require at least one trip to Publix, one to Walmart and one trip to Costco with a possible side trip to a specialty shop to find everything required. So that's at least 3 separate lists.
And of course some of it can be purchased early. Chocolate chips for example. They have a really long shelf life. Similar to that of gravel I believe. Oh okay. That's an exaggeration. But I honestly believe that I could buy chocolate chips today and use them several weeks from now with no problem. The same, however, is not true of, say, eggs. Molasses will last quite some time. But fresh spices, not so much. The Fresher the better. So now we've broken those lists down into even more lists. The long shelf life stuff, which I can start picking up now and the shorter shelf life stuff which I have to wait to buy until the last minute plus all the various stores necessary.
Luckily, I'm a crazy organized person and all this list making is like catnip to me. Oh yes, I do love me a good list or two or three. Once I have everything I need to do all the creating necessary, on the day after Thanksgiving it begins. And for the next three days, it's all about slinging flour around and making a big mess and the house will be filled with the most delicious scents while boxes and bags of many different sorts of cookies stack up around us. Until they are boxed and shipped off to the kiddos and the remainder dispersed amoungst friends and neighbors (and a few tucked into our freezer for us!)
Then once the house is all put back to rights (all that frenetic baking and sorting an packing is messy business!) that is the moment I know that the Christmas Season has truly begun. YAYAYAY!
We are all susceptible to the allure of being fashionable. Even when a person isn't a hard-core fashionista, when shopping, we can only choose from those items in the store for sale, right? And to one degree or another, most of what is available is what is currently on trend.
If you walk past the television and spy on the screen a man wearing a light blue leisure suit ( in a non-ironic way), you know immediately that movie was made in the 70's right? It's not even a question. Saddle shoes and poodle skirts? 1950's, daddy-o. Love beads and nehru jackets? Well, that was the Age of Aquarius.
Fashion is fun! And it's possible to just participate in a trend without emptying the piggy bank. Sure there are some folks who completely overhaul the contents of their closets with each changing trend. But most of us real people, just dabble a bit. We stick mostly to the classics which never really go out of style and only replace or add to our existing collection once in a while. The newer items of course, are more on point current fashion wise. But it's a gradual transition from narrow ties to wide ties to no ties at all (except for formal occasions of course)
And I don't know about you, but when I look back at old photos and what I'm wearing sometimes the question, "What on earth was I thinking?" is running through my head. I'm sure that at the time, that gawdawful hawaiian muumuu looking thing was all the rage. But it wasn't particularly flattering. I'm sure, at the time, I thought that when I wore it, I was all that and a bag of chips. I was wrong.
The same thing happens with decor. Fashion trends come and go. And while some things are just classics and always look good, other things look dated very fast. I see it on those house-hunting shows on HGTV all the time. People walk into a 20 year old home that was never updated and while it is clean, kept well maintained and serviceable the first words out of the potential buyers mouths are, 'It's dated". Yup. It is. Very.
So because the house is "dated", the price is much lower so the people buy the house and the very first thing they do is make it look current. And for a long time current seems to have meant, sleek and grey. So they fix it all up so that it looks very modern and new and very grey and the new owners are happyhappy. Which is a good thing because all that renovating and redecorating cost a fortune and they won't be able to afford doing it again for a very long time. Much like the previous owner. I guess it doesn't occur to the new people that what is super fashionable now in decor will be super out of fashion in 10 - 20 years when they are ready to move on.
I have always maintained that people should just be who they are. If you like neutrals, if that is what makes you happy in your home, that is what you should do. If you prefer colour, then you should do colour. Wallpaper makes your heart dance? Wallpaper the bejeebers out of the place. It's your home. Decorate it to please yourselves regardless of what the current style is. Feather your nest, your way. Unless you are planning to sell your home, apparently. Then it could be an issue. Oh dear.
I actually do kind of understand, at least intellectually, the whole idea behind using neutrals to decorate. If the walls, floors, ceiling and furniture are very neutral, the smallest pop of colour really stands out. Everything kind of goes with a neutral. And neutrals have always been very popular. I remember a time when white was THE neutral. Then it was beige. Then grey. Nearly every model home we have visited in the past few years has been a study in greys.
So imagine my surprise when I got my weekly email from Houzz talking about the Next Big Colour Trend. They call it Colour Maximalism. I call it Yikes! (the photos at the top of the page are examples)
Now in our house, we are not afraid of colour. There is not one single room in this house that is white, beige or grey. We have a red leather sofa in the living room. The backsplash in the kitchen is seagreen glass tile. Our family room walls are robin's egg blue. We like colour. But this maximalism idea feels a little much even for us.
Maybe it's because this new idea is the polar opposite of what has been the fashion. It's almost shocking. There was no gradual transition into this world of So. Much. Colour. And so much.....stuff! Very busy. My eye doesn't know where to go in the room. I think I would feel crowded in one of those rooms even if I was completely by myself.
So this is a decorating trend that I will obviously not be participating in. Although, now that I think about it. We did use colour on our walls. I suppose we could consider our house to be a watered down version of this Colour Maximalism thing. How 'bout that. For a change, just doing what we do, we may actually be currently almost in style. What a surprise! Unintentional I assure you.
But seriously follks, I dunno. I'm not sure how I feel about this whole maximalism thing. How about you? How do you feel about it?
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.