November 30th, 2021
As has become our tradition, the day after Thanksgiving is the kick off day for the Christmas Cookie Baking Marathon! The above photo is our kitchen and how it looked for the duration. Product and baking implements EVERYWHERE! It appears to be chaos but there is an organization to it that might not be apparent at first glance and there is a logic behind every decision.
If you aren't a baker or at least not an insane marathon baker such as I, then perhaps you are unaware of the prep work that goes on before this all begins. Step one is reaching out to the kiddos and asking them for the cookie requests. I always want to be absolutely certain that their personal favourites are included. You would think that I would already know what those favourites are but you know what, people's tastes sometimes change. AND every year I offer up at least one unexpected new cookie and perhaps that one was so awesome that it became a new favourite. Assume Nothing is my policy.
So that is my starting list, the cookies that all six of the kids and Tim requested. Next I cruise through the past few years worth of cookie marathon lists (yes I keep the lists) for ideas. What flavours are not already represented in the first list. I like to mix things up. The final addition to the finale is coming up with at least one and preferably two new ideas. This year I came up with one idea and another idea was suggested. Woohoo! Two new cookies.
The next step is to read through the ingredients lists of all of these cookies and painstaskingly make note of precisely how many eggs and lemons, how much butter and what sorts of sugars are needed. I have to estimate the amount of flour, bakers chocolate and shortening we will need to say nothing of making sure I have fresh leavening agents and spices.
Which naturally is followed by a trip to the grocery store that is specific to just this event. One grocery cart filled with all my baking needs. Well not all. We could not find mint chips anywhere! Thank goodness for Amazon. Tim ordered that for me and it arrived in the nick of time. Whew! Once the products are in the house, I have to find a place to stash it all out of the way until baking day begins. It's a small house and we have to get creative with putting things away. From grocery day until baking day in the pantry, which is normally so very neat and organized, there are bags of powdered sugar with the canned goods and sacks of flour resting on cases of water and blocks of butter and boxes of eggs blocking the view of everything else in the fridge.
Finally, the day after Thanksgiving arrives and I start early. I bounce out of bed and into the kitchen with my hair pinned out of the way, ready to rock and roll. Tim had already put the extra leaf in the kitchen table for me and I covered it first with a flannel backed plastic table cloth and then a layer of newspaper. The baked cookies go directly onto the newspaper. There are often cookies from 3 or more different batches cooling, being decorated or setting up on the table at one time. I need space!
As the layers get messy with icing or sprinkles, I add another layer of newspaper. Everytime the last sheet of one particular kind of cookie goes into the oven, the implements get washed and dried and I begin another kind of cookie. Ideally, all of the cookies that are baked at one temperature are done back to back before having to change the temperature. But it doens't always work out that way.
I have learned, over the years, that the more complicated cookies need to be done earlier in the day when my energy is highest and that bar cookies are perfect as they last cookie of the day. As soon as that bar cookie pan goes into the oven, I can begin cleaning because those take at least 30 minutes to cook. By the bar cookie comes out and is ready to sit and cool as long as it needs (which is always a long time), most everything is in the dishwasher which is already running, the newspapers for that day have been carefully rolled up and put into the trash, the floor swept and the counter tops wiped down. It's not a full real deal scrubadub. Nope that will wait until I am completely totally and entirely done. But for the end of the first day, a quick clean will do.
And other than eggs and milk, all the product remains out on my countertop ready to go for the next day. Where I, once again, jump out of bed raring to go and it all happens again. I no longer make 17 or 18 different kinds of cookies. It's closer to the dozen range nowadays. And I usually get it all done in two days and not three. This year it was 11 different sorts of cookies. I seriously considered doing at least one more, maybe two so it would be either a dozen or a baker's dozen. And then Tim offered up the suggestion that perhaps 11 is a skinny dozen. That kind of tickled me and as I was running out of both energy and product I called it done.
When it's all cleaned up and I am no longer feeling like Pavlov's dog jumping at the stove, pot holder in hand every time the timer bell rings and the boxes of cookies are packed and labeled and ready to go; when the kitchen floor is no longer sticky to walk on and I've dug sprinkles out of all of the little places where sprinkles like to hide; when all of the utensils and equipment are cleaned and put away and my pantry is once again tidy; when I've put my apron and pot holders into the laundry and scrubbed every inch of the kitchen within an inch of it's life I have such a feeling of accomplishment.
I will never cure a dread disease or solve an unsolvable math problem. There will be no Nobel prize with my name on it and I will never be the one to lead any sports team to victory. It is doubtful that I will ever write a best selling author or be the CEO of some global company. But I make a damned fine cookie.
I'm good with that.
November 29th, 2021
I'm back! Did you miss me? Hope you had a fabulous Thanksgiving! We did! Everything was terrific. Great food, great company, great laughter and conversation and many things and people to be thankful for.
Thanksgiving seems to be more food-centric than other holidays. Which makes sense. Originally it was a harvest celebration. As in, Thank Goodness there was a bountiful Harvest that will get us through to the next one. There having been no super markets back in Pilgrim Times. If you couldn't catch it or grow it or miraculously just stumble across it already growing wild, you didn't have anything to eat.
Nowadays of course, it's just a matter of driving to my nearest Publix to provide dinner. Although, to be fair, this year actually finding what you needed was a little trickier. There were a few gaps on the grocery store shelves. But I know how to pivot. If I had one thing in mind to make and I cannot find all of the ingredients I need, I can either come up with an entirely different plan OR find a suitable substitute for whatever the missing product was. Flexibility has never been more important.
For most people in America, I dare say that the turkey is the cornerstone of the traditional Thanksgiving Meal. In our case, the turkey was excellent. And it was surrounded by equally wonderful side dishes. But you know what? Even if you don't have turkey, it's still Thanksgiving on that Thursday. I have certainly had untraditional T-Day meals in my life. My mom did not enjoy cooking. In fact, she was not enthusiastic about anything involving food. So if it happened to be a Thanksgiving when nobody else was around other than my mom, my sister and I, we might have spaghetti for Thanksgiving. It was still Thanksgiving, we still had a good time, we still watched the Macy's Parade in TV, and we were still thankful. It's not just about the turkey after all.
Nope, as one person as our table this year remarked, and everyone else agreed, it's about the pie. I provided 3 choices. Pumpkin, as most people would agree is the quintessential Thanksgiving pie, Pecan was Tim's request and as it was also my late father's favourite feels traditional to me and then for the 3rd pie I made a Lemon Chess pie which is not traditional at all. While I was flipping through my recipes trying to decide what else to make I ran across this one particular old, stained and faded page and I paused. I wondered how long it had been since I made that one. It was so long ago, that I couldn't remember when I last put one together. It might have been when we lived in Colorado (which would be at least 5 years ago) or it might have been Connecticut which would make it at least 15 years ago. Wow! That clearly indicated to me that it was high time I made another one.
Lemon Chess is a rather old fashioned pie. You may never have even heard of it. It's very southern in origin. Rumour has it that the name came from someone asking the inventor of this pie what it was and her answer was, "just lemon pie" in her very deep southern accent. The person listening thought she said, "Chess lemon pie" and thus the name was born. It's kind of sweet and kind of tangy and sort of like a custard. There is no meringue topping. (though I generally serve it with plenty of whipped cream). It was a big hit this year at Thanksgiving so hurrah for taking a chance!
It occurs to me that nowadays I only make pie at Thanksgiving. That's one time in 356 days. That doesn't seem right. I make cookies with fair frequency. Muffins come out of my oven at least once a month and I make bread more often than that. Cakes show up for birthdays. But pie? Seems to get left out altogether. Which is odd because pies are wonderful things! There are so many different kinds!
One crust, two crust, fancy crust or crumbles. Literally any fruit can be made into a pie. Or chocolate. Or savories! Savory pies are a wonder in and of themselves. They can be big enough to serve everyone at the table or a small tart sized dessert or a hand pie. They are versatile and delightful and honestly, sometimes I just roll out pie crust, butter and cinnamon/sugar it, cut and bake and call them pie crust cookies.
And frankly, for me, Thanksgiving without pie seems pointless. The two foods I think of in relation to Thanksgiving are Turkey and Pie. Turkey and Pie day! And among so many other things (and people) last Thursday, we were thankful for both.
It was a great day!
November 22nd, 2021
It's T minus 3 days and counting people! Thanksgiving is just days away. Oh my goodness! And there is so much to do before everyone goes over the river and through the wood to Grandmother's house. Or where ever it is that each of us goes.
Consequently, this will be my one and only post for this week.
So whether you go elsewhere or stay home, eat until you groan from a table over laden with amazing food or satisfy yourself with a turkey sandwich, whether you watch the football game or the Macy Parade (or both), whether you are in a massive crowd of celebrators, a small group or are enjoying a quiet holiday home alone, Tim and I wish you all a wonderful, fun, yummy Thanksgiving Day with much to be thankful for.
Meanwhile, I have pies to make!
See you again next week!
November 19th, 2021
I'm a fairly chill person as far as beliefs. I have a very, "Live and let live" kind of attitude. I don't know how many times I said to my own kids when they were growing up, "Be who you are". And I honestly meant it too. If someone else has a completely different mindset about religion or politics or child rearing (or most anything) than I do, I am fine with agreeing to disagree. I can like and respect a person who thinks differently than I do.
However, if you want to see my lose my cool, this would be one of the few topics. Censorship.
You already know that I read the newspaper every day. I love my newspapers and usually devour every word on every page. But there are days when I'm really busy and have to pare down the parts that I have the time to read. So no matter how crazy the day is and how little time I have, the three thing I ALWAYS read are the front page, the comics and the Op-Ed pages. And yesterday that's where I found it. The column that really wound me up. Are you ready for this?
Apparently in Spotsylvania County in Virginia, a school board voted - unanimously - to remove objectional material from their library shelves. So, in two simple words. Book Banning. And that in itself is usually enough to tick me off. But that wasn't enough for the good folks of Spotsylvania. Nope, some of them had to go a little further and publicly declare that they wanted to see those offensive books burned. And now I am burning mad.
This isn't a new idea of course. Books have been banned probably since there were books. A few examples that popped immediately to mind were Lady Chatterly's Lover by DH Lawrence. It was published first in Italy in 1928 then in France in 1929. It didn't arrive in the US except covertly through European travellers until the 1960's whereupon it was immediately banned. I'm not sure the people who banned it bothered to read it. I think the title was enough. The word "lover" was titillating enough to set off their 'Morals' alarms. Note: I've read the book. It's fairly boring.
Brave New World by Alduous Huxley is another banned book. Written in 1931 in jolly old England, the book is a science fiction dystopian novel that was banned in Miller Missouri due it's acceptance of promiscuous sex in 1980. I guess Miller Missouri is a little more buttoned up than other places because it was required reading in the school I attended.
And let's not forget poor Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder a book (1932) beloved by families for years which was pulled from libraries in 2020 and considered offensive material because the author who was writing of her own personal experiences between 1810 and 1894 wasn't as politically aware as the people who make these decisions in the 21st century.
These people are breaking my heart.
You know it isn't just books that are banned, music too is often pulled from the air waves and out of stores. And it didn't have to be "gangsta rap" to offend people either.
"My Generation" by The Who, "Happiness of a Warm Gun" by the Beatles and "Physical" by Olivia New John were all banned on various radio stations. When Elvis Presley first swiveled his hips, lifted the corner of his lip and accused someone of being "Nothing but a Hound Dog" adults lost their collective minds. Not only his music but Elvis himself was banned in some areas. They burned his albums and then because they started getting carried away, other records went up in smoke too. Which did not stop his popularity one single bit.
And in fact, might have encouraged it. Nothing is quite as enticing as forbidden fruit. And the same thing goes for a lot of books. For example: The Valley of the Dolls By Jacqueline Susan which, incidentally, was an utterly crappy book is also on the list of books that were banned. As soon as it was banned it hit the stratosphere on the popularity charts. Not because it was a good book, you understand, but because it was taboo.
Some other books that have been banned, sadly, were the entire Harry Potter Series. In places like the Nashville School Library in 2019 where it was decided that it was too controversial and dangerous because, you know, magic is real?
The Wizard of Oz (1900) was banned in Chicago in 1928 and in Detroit in 1957 for similar reasons. Apparently there is a war on imagination and creativity that nobody told me about. And now in my head I am hearing the band, America singing "Oz never gave nothing to the Tin man, that didn't already have". Yeah, we do not want our children learning that particular lesson, right?
Even art has not escaped the heavy handed and narrow minded attitudes of the folks who make our decisions for us. "The Last Judgement" by Michelangelo way back in 1541 was banned by the very church that commissioned the painting. Michelangelo!!!! " The Mude Maja" by Francisco Goya in 1797 was banned for it's Extreme Imprudence. It was so offensive that it was seized by the authorities. Mercy! One of Picasso's early dabbles into Cubism back in 1907, "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" was banned from public display. I might possibly fall into a swoon if I see it and we cannot have people fainting in shock over art in public places.
The thing is, what they are actually banning is not art or music or books or any other art form, it's ideas. They are banning ideas. The creativity that gives life to these amazing works can only come from having no confines for our artistic expression (in whatever form),. Books and music and art require freedom to exist. New ideas, different thoughts, unique perspectives are, apparently, so frightening to some people that they lash out and want them destroyed. No new ideas! No Different Thoughts! No Unique Perspectives allowed! It is a tragedy, it really is.
I have all the respect in the world for a parent who says, "that book (or song or painting) does not align with my beliefs and therefore I do not want my child to read it (or hear it or see it). Ok. You are their parent and you have that right. Sooooo don't play the song, don't read the book, don't look at that painting. It's really that simple. Then when your child is no longer a child, they will make up their own minds about it.
But you do not have the right to force your beliefs onto anyone who doesn't feel the same way. There may be folks around who have a different - and equally valid - way of thinking. Some parents might think that opening their child's eyes and heart and mind to new thoughts and a unique way of seeing the world is a good thing not a bad, evil scary thing.
Banning books is narrow minded. Burning books is well, honestly I cannot even think of the right word for it. And honestly, it's ridiculous. If you burn a book you are only making a point. The books exist somewhere and seriously, you can find anything on the internet. Kids will find this material that you are destroying if they really want to. Book burning is symbolic, yes I understand that. But what is it a symbol of? What is your point?
I suppose that's open to interpretation. It is such a destructive and heavy handed answer to a question that just isn't that tricky to answer. The punishment doesn't really fit the "crime". Book banners and burners are saying, "My way is the only right way. You must think like me". "I don't approve and neither should you". "I will make all decisions for you". And most importantly, they are saying, "This frightens me".
I am so angry, so sad, so concerned over this banning/burning thing raising it's ugly head once again. It's such a small step from removing books from the shelves of a school or public library to literally dictating what each individual is allowed to believe, think, say, read, do or wear ...........
November 18th, 2021
In case you were wondering about the house project, here is the latest update......
We have windows! Woohoo! Very Exciting! I saw them the minute I walked in the house late yesterday afternoon! Whoa! Windows!
They are big! (love that) and double paned (woohoo!) and they open side to side rather than up and down as a traditional window does (I've never had that sort of window before so I have no idea how I feel about it yet). There are four of them and it is a wonderful step forward!
As in most construction projects, there are times of tremendous activity and times of minimal activity and time of zero activity. Last week was zero. The week before was minimal. So having a driveway full of vehicles and a yard full of busy workers again has been exciting. Yes it's noisy, and dirty and sometimes inconvenient but that's just how it works.
I rarely really know what's going on during any construction project. I mean, obviously if there is a giant cement truck in your driveway, concrete is happening but otherwise, it's just a lot of dirt and noise to me. At one point earlier this week, I could hear them up on the roof. Well I'm pretty sure it was the builder guys. There was a whole lot of clomping and hammering and banging and it's way too early for Santa and his reindeer to be up there.
Basically until something really obvious has happened like y'know: walls, roof, windows, stuff like that, I don't have a clue what's going on. In fact there have been days when, even though the guys were here working all day long, when I went out to peek at the room after they had left, it looked basically the same to me as it did before they arrived. So clearly I do not have even the vaguest of ideas of what's being done on any given day. Which, I suspect, also means that I am very easily impressed.
But I did notice the windows and it did, indeed, impress the socks off of me. AND I also couldn't help but notice:
Scaffolding! Which means something high up is going to happen. Could be pretty much anything I guess. But I am hopeful that it is an indication that wall board will be going up in the near future. It seems logical to me that first there would be floor, roof and outer walls. And then the stuff that happens inside of walls. And then the walls themselves. Well, I see a floor, a roof and exterior walls, the electrician has been in and I'm pretty sure the insulation is in. That leaves..... interior walls maybe? Like I said, I honestly do not know. As long as they know. And they keep showing up to work and moving this project forward.
Maybe it will be done in time for Christmas after all! That would be nice. If that room isn't done we won't be able to put up a tree. Right now there is barely room for us in the house, there is no way that a Christmas tree will fit. And yes, I know, Christmas can be celebrated without a tree. It wouldn't be the end of life as I know it. And I won't be a whiney cranky baby about it if the room isn't done in time for Christmas, I swear. But on the inside, I would be a little disappointed. And then I would get over it.
I also cannot help but notice that while we have 4 big beautiful new windows, we do not yet have a door and I'm not sure what that means.
Bulletins as they happen!
November 16th, 2021
Do you remember this post from a few weeks past? If you missed that one or (much like me) have long forgotten it I will nutshell the story for you.
I had - note the past tense- a tiny little English china pitcher in cream and blue that I adored. I had owned it for a very long time but never really had a use for it other than sitting it on a shelf and admiring how dang cute it was. And then, a year or so ago, I found this very cool rock that had a shallow depression on the top of it that I decided to use as a water bowl for very tiny things that live or visit our courtyard. Things like bees and butterflies and lizards. Over time and through various sorts of experimentation I found that that itty bitty 2 inch high pitcher was a perfect vehicle for getting the water into the water "bowl".
However, I developed the very bad habit of leaving the little pitcher outside during the day to refill that little water bowl. I would bring it in at night and then take it back out in the morning for the first fill. Then one sunny Wednesday afternoon when I returned for a Photo Safari with Joy, I noticed that the pitcher was gone. Just no longer there which was Very Odd. I looked both high and low for it. And it was during the "low" part of the search that I found those few eensy shards of china on the ground. Someone had broken the pitcher and then spirited away most of the wreckage. But who? That was the mystery.
Well, I believe that Tim solved the mystery!!!
I know that I have revealed before that we have a lawn service to take care of our yard. Neither Tim nor I really had any interest in mowing, weed whacking, pruning, leaf blowing and all of the other stuff that need to be done on a regular basis. With Tim it's more a lack of time than interest to be fair. I don't mind doing a little bit of pruning when the mood strikes me but things grow here. They grow a lot, quickly and constantly. So to keep the yard looking nice, it needs to be maintained more often than my whims dictate. So, we did not buy a new lawn mower and instead hired a service.
They are really nice guys and they do a good job. They visit every week, usually on Wednesday afternoon and almost always when Tim is on a phone call. Murphy's Law, right? They not only take care of the mowing and shaping of shrubbery, they also haul away any deadfall that I stack up in a pile at the side of the house. They keep the strangely prolific purple flowers that grow across the back of the yard against the fence at bay (otherwise they will take over the world), they handle the weeds and spray for insects. Awesome. One of the other, random things that they do every week is use the leaf blower on, not just the driveway but also the courtyard.
The courtyard which has furniture and my potted garden and the rock which doubles as a tiny water bowl AND the tiny pitcher.
Ahhhhhh. The puzzles pieces are coming together now. Last Wednesday when the tiny pitcher went missing was a lawn service day. They are almost always here and gone by the time I return from my hike so honestly, they weren't even on my radar when I was trying to figure out, who on earth might have been here, accidentally (I'm positive) broke the pitcher and then, the weirdest part, cleaned it up!
As Tim and I were discussing the mysteriously broken and missing pitcher situation, he had the revelation! The lawn guys! Betcha betcha.
I hold no grudges. I am not angry with anyone. It honestly was more my fault than anyone's because I am the one who foolishly left a breakable pitcher outside. But I was a little sad about no longer having that cutiecute little pitcher that I had owned for so long.
But hey, I'm a grown up. I will build a bridge and get over it. That was my plan.
And then a few days later a package arrived in the mail. Not an unusual thing. We frequently get packages in the mail or via UPS or Fed Ex. Most of them stuff for Tim (I don't do a lot of online shopping). So when I brought in the package I left it for Tim to open at his leisure.
At the end of the day he handed it to me. For me? That's always exciting! I opened it up and inside I found:
Isn't that just the sweetest little thing ever? It's not the same as my old pitcher but it is beautiful and small and perfect for watering the tiny water dish and I love it! More than anything I love it because Tim thought to buy it for me. Without me saying so, he knew how much I loved that foolish little pitcher that I had, and was kind enough, thoughtful enough to replace it. An absolutely lovely thing to do. Tim really is a much nicer person than I am. I am a lucky lucky girl.
Tim Humphreys. Hero of the day!
November 15th, 2021
Barbeque! Ahhhh! Smoking and grilling. Meat! Fire! I feel as if I should be inserting "Tim the Toolman" grunts here, but in point of fact, I do most of the grilling at our house and I almost never grunt. Nevertheless, barbeque is good stuff. It gets very high marks from the people in this house.
We used to have a local Barbeque place here in Venice, just off island, that was our favourite. We visited at least once a month. Minimum. But a few years ago (pre-Covid) it closed much to the shock of it's many loyal customers. It was a very sad day in our household. So we began to search for other Barbeque restaurants to take it's place. But while none of the other ones we tried were really bad, they just weren't great, y'know?
Then a few months back we heard about a new BBQ place that was going to open in Sarasota which is just a short half hour away. We can easily drive 30 minutes for dinner! No problem! We waited eagerly for them to open and finally we headed up there yesterday. And now I have a tale to tell.
The restaurant is called Mission BBQ and because clearly I am an idiot, I was thinking Mission like the architectural style. Victorian Style, Arts and Crafts Style, Contemporary Style, Mission Style.....I'm not making it up. It's a real thing. Which doesn't matter at all because I was completely totally and entirely wrong. It's mission, as in, military mission. Oops, my bad.
It is a chain that originated in Maryland in 2011 to honour and support police, firefighters and our military services. It has now expanded to more than 200 different locations so clearly they are a successful chain. They must know what they are doing, right?
The decor is simple and I like that, especially for a BBQ place. It's not fancy, but it is very clean and very tidy. The menu hangs from the ceiling in a series of very large, very clear, easy to understand signs. Once you know what you want, you step up to the counter and place your then take a seat. We chose a booth. I liked the wooden seats and the solid tabletops. There were six different kinds of bbq sauce at the table to choose from. I like having choices too.
We didn't have to wait very long for the food to arrive. Tim ordered baby back ribs because that is one of his favourite things. He also asked for cole slaw and cornbread to go with it. And that's where the problem began. The ribs were clearly over cooked, Very Very Very dark in colour and even black around the edges with big charcoal looking air bubbles. I was dubious. Tim had a few bites and I asked him how it was, He swallowed hard and said, "Dry, very dry". That's not good. So he selected one of the sauces and slathered it with sauce. "Any better?" I queried. He shrugged and struggled to try to eat a tiny bit more. But after a few bites, he gave up then moved on to the cole slaw which he said was great and the cornbread which was also really good. But those ribs. Man, what a disappointment.
Now normally in a situation like this we just shrug and call it lesson learned then we leave and never return. But since this place was so newly opened, Tim decided to at least let the manager know that the ribs were seriously over cooked. Clearly the staff has a few bugs to work out. If he was the manager, he would want to know. So he asked one of the staff for the manager.
It's always a little nerve wracking to ask for the manager and we rarely do it. You just don't know how people are going to react. Sometimes managers are really defensive and will argue with you. We didn't want to argue with anyone or cause a problem. It was just a matter of pointing out the obvious, really that's all it was. " The cole slaw and cornbread was great but just in case you don't know, your guys are over cooking the ribs". End of message.
As it turns out, Tim didn't have to say a word. As the manager approached the table he pointed to Tim's plate and said, "uhoh, looks like those babybacks are seriously over cooked, I am so sorry. I will make this right. Can we try again, may I bring you more ribs?" Tim shook his head and declined politely. "Well then, something else perhaps. What else can I bring to you"? Wow!~ Tim shook his head and insisted that he was fine, he wasn't upset or angry, he just wanted to be sure that the manager knew about the overcooking that was going on. The manager thanked Tim for bringing it to his attention and said that he definitely had some more training to do with his staff. We were fine with that response and ready to go.
The manager asked again if there was something else he could bring us and he began a rather lengthy list of possibilities. Once again, Tim declined but added that he appreciated the managers response. The manager stood quietly for a moment and then asked for our receipt, which Tim handed over. "I'll be right back" the manager promised with a smile.
When he returned moments later he had taken the cost of the meal off of Tim's credit card AND he gave us a gift card for another visit and asked us to please come back another time so that they could show us what they really can do.
Wow! We accepted the gift with appreciation and promised that we would return another day.
And that my friends, is how it's done!
Every day I am hearing and seeing stories in the news about horrible customers, spitting on staff, yelling at them, pushing, shoving, hitting (!). I saw one just yesterday about a lady who was angry that her soup was too hot so her solution was the throw the soup on the manager who was just trying to help. Threw it on her! Occasionally the stories are of the clerks or managers who are being horrible to their customers but not nearly as often. And every single time, I am left absolutely baffled by this trend. Baffled!
Adults acting like toddlers and pitching hissy fits! Tantrums! Adults! Grown arsed adults screaming and yelling and hitting? That is not how adults solve problems. Why aren't they embarrassed to seen acting that way? I have no idea what is going on in their minds. I just shake my head in confusion. I do not understand it. It makes me want to ask them, "What is wrong with you?" Because clearly it's something......
Let me explain how this should be handled. Problem exists. Customer politely brings it to the attention of the manager. Customer politely and succinctly makes their complaint but also makes it a point to mention sometime positive about the experience. Then management acknowledges the problem and does everything in their power to make it right. Which is followed by customer showing their appreciation. The End. Problem solved by Adults! No tantrums necessary. Geez.
Anyway, we will indeed go back to Mission BBQ and give it another try and I'm sure it will be awesome at our next visit.
November 12th, 2021
One morning recently, on my way outside to take care of the potted garden, I found this guy (or girl) hanging from the sail shade in the courtyard. What a great way to start my day. I am a huge fan of dragonflies. Butterflies are beautiful, no argument at all, but for me, it's dragonflies as the preferred beautiful flying insect. And honestly I have no idea why. The same way people prefer one colour over another, I like dragonflies more than butterflies.
First of all there's the name. Come on. Dragonfly. Butterfly. Dragon vs Butter. Dragons are pretty badass. They can fly and they breathe fire! On the other hand, butter makes for a delicious cookie and I do like cookies. Also dragons are imaginary and butter is real. Hmmm. Nope I stand by my first claim. I prefer dragonflies over butterflies.
I have learned a few things about dragonflies. First of all, they've been around in one form or another for a very long time. Fossils 325 million years old have been found of the ancestor of dragonflies. And prehistoric dragonflies were a lot bigger too, in some cases the wing spangs were as much as 30 inches across! Whoa!
Currently there are more than 3000 different types of dragonflies and they are found on every continent except Antarctica which is amazing. Not everybody feels the same way about them. In Japanese culture a dragonfly is a symbol of Autumn and means rebirth, strength and happniess. Awwww I like that.
In Chinese Feng Shui depending on where the dragonfly art is placed, it represents new insight and positive changes. That's cool too. In Hopi, Zuni and Pueblo Native American Tribes, a dragonfly is associated with transformation. Also nice.
But in Swedish folklore it is said that the devil uses dragonflies to weight a persons soul. Kind of grim eh? The translation for the Norwegian word for dragonfly is "eye poker" and in Portugal it's "eye snatcher". Yikes! Also not true.
The dragonfly has always been an inspiration to artists and artisans too. The Art Nouveau era in particular loved to use dragonflies in everything from textiles, to jewelry, to paintings and even woodwork! Louis Comfort Tiffany who is best associtaed with his remarkable stained glass lamps, was perhaps inspired by dragonflies because it's wings already looked like stained glass.
Here are ten things I did not already know about dragonflies and perhaps you didn't either:
1. Dragonflies do not sting and they generally do not bite people (generally?)
2. Juvenile Dragonflies are called Nymphs
3. Nymphs live in water for the first year of their lives
4. In some countries (I'm talking to you Indonesia!) people eat dragonflies as snacks. (ewwww)
5. Dragonflies are NOT related to flies. (thank goodness)
6. A group of dragonflies is called a swarm and that is so disappointing. I was hoping for someting way cooler and maybe magical sounding.
7. There are groups of dragonfly watchers (much like bird watchers). Dragonfly watching is called Oding from the classification odonata which sounds to me to be way too similar to orthodontia.
8. It is considered good luck to have a dragonfly land on you (by whom?)
9. Ducks, some birds, water beetles and fish eat dragonflies.
10. They need to warm up in the early morning sun before they can take off. Which is most likely what the little guy in our courtyard was doing that morning.
Obviously you can choose whatever you prefer, dragonfly or butterfly or bee or heck, perhaps you have no favourite flying insect at all! That's fine too. But I stand firmly in the pro dragonfly camp and I cannot imagine that every changing.
I leave you with wishes for a wonderful weekend and a few dragonfly photos:
November 11th, 2021
Welcome to this week's Photo Safari Report! I am calling this one the "Once A Year Whether We Need It or Not Hike". Joy and I are very fortunate because we live a county that has a lot of different hiking spots. We like to mix things up and hike different trails every week. This time, we hiked a local preserve that we only visit once a year. And because it's roughly 365+ days between visits, Joy and I always completely forget why we never go there. And then we wonder why that is the case, so we go and check it out again. And then we remember.
It's called Jelks Preserve and we were happy when we arrived to see only two other cars. No crowds! That is a good thing! And it was a beeyootiful day! Cool but not cold, a breeze, but a gentle one, sunny but not hot, it was a perfect hiking day! The trails were wide, well marked and nicely maintained.
Unfortunately, there were also a lot of wet spots. Some were small enough to either hop over, wade through or go around and there was a rudimentary little bridge over one larger faster moving creek. That was nice. But other wet spots were big. And not just wet, they were Boggy. Yuck. Dragging ourselves through ankle deep muck and mud is no bueno! So we have a rule, if there is no hopping across, no quick little frond bridge to be made. no easy wading across, and no relatively simple way around, we find a different trail. Oh and also no swimming. We absolutely have no desire to swim with alligators. I think that is a prudent decision, don't you?
There were a few flowers, mostly yellow. I wonder why there are always so many yellow flowers? Is that an easier colour for Mother Nature to create? Or perhaps the yellow flowers are more attractive to bees and butterflies? Are they more disease resistant? Hardier against unpleasant weather? Clearly I will need to do some research! I'll get back to you on that another time.
There were only a few butterflies and handful of dragonflies. We saw some birds but not the huge number and variety of other recent hikes.
Aaaaannnnndddd that was it. It was a lovely walk though not a particularly long one. And I like the photos I got, but there were not very many of them. By the end of the hike, we remembered why we don't usually go there. But it was a nice change of pace and we got our annual dose of Jelk's Perserve on the "Once A Year Whether We Need It or Not Hike".
Thanks for coming along ;) Stayed tuned for next week's Photo Safari. It will not be at Jelk's.
November 09th, 2021
Sorry I wasn't here yesterday. I had an appointment with my audiologist. That's hearing doctor to those of you are aren't fluent in "ologys". There are so many different kinds of "ologists" how could anyone be expected to know them all? I certainly don't. And in any case, I was wrong. Yeah. And it's a terrific bit of irony too.
The last time I had an appointment with my Audiologist, Dr. Lundstrom, it was at my request. I could tell there was a difference in my hearing. We did, well not a full on test, but a quickie hearing test just to check and yup, I was correct. There was another dip. Dang. So she made a few adjustments, everything sounded better and I went on my merry way.
As I was leaving she reminded me to make an appointment for my hearing test. Or at least that's what I thought she said. Turns out she said I needed to make an appointment for a hearing aid check. Check. Test. Sounded exactly the same to me. And the word "aid" vanished completely. It is a short word and a soft one at that. And to be absolutely honest, I think I was paying more attention to grabbing my purse, finding my keys and sunglasses, my wallet to pay, all of the, getting ready to leave stuff. I probably was not looking at her when she was talking. It is a quiet office, she has a very clear voice, this is all on me.
But it was a surprise when I arrived yesterday fully prepared to have my hearing tested and only needed to have my hearing aids checked. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the check. My devices were thoroughly and professionally cleaned and tested to make sure all of the working parts, worked. And it cost me nothing but time. It's a good thing. But haha on me. I heard that sentence so very wrong. Get it? I HEARD things wrong in an audiology office! HAHAHAHAHAHA! Sometimes I just crack me up.
So I thought this might be a good time to take the opportunity to do a little PSA about communicating with people who have hearing loss. And before you say, ho hum how very boring, please know that more people than ever are losing their hearing and at younger and younger ages. It's a noisy old world out their folks. 1 in 8 people over the age of 12 in the US have hearing loss currently. And that number just goes up as time goes by. So in due time, this could apply to you too.
I would say that the one biggest thing that most people with good hearing do not understand about those of us with poor hearing is that it's not about volume. It's about clarity. I could tell that Dr. Lundstrom was talking. I even believed that I understood what she was saying. And I was completely totally entirely wrong. Jokes on me, right?
Generally speaking when a person begins to lose their hearing it's not everything at once and it doesn't sound like somebody turned the volume down on the entire world. It's gaps. Bits and pieces of sound begin to diminish and eventually perhaps even disappear entirely. Sound isn't one level straight line. There are highs and lows, peaks and valleys, speed bumps and potholes. Even in one single multisyllabic word there are a lot of different highs and lows of sound. Someone with hearing loss might capture a few of those sounds and miss others. Our brains are hard wired to "fix" things, to solve puzzles, so our brains go to what it believes is the most logical (or what seems to be the most logical) solution. And in this case, my brain didn't quite hear "check" and therefore turned it into "test". It made sense to me at the time.
My hearing loss is primarily high frequency sounds. Things like water running, zippers zipping, the wind in the trees and consonants. Yup dang it, consonants. Vowels I generally can hear, consonants, not so much. And think of the trouble you can get into with that! Hat Cat Bat Fat Mat Rat.....unaided all of those words sound the same to me. If I look at you while you are talking, I probably can figure out the correct word either by reading lips or from conversational context, but otherwise? Nope.
And yelling at a person with hearing loss? Nope again. That doesn't help at all. First of all it's rude. It's nearly impossible to yell at people kindly. Secondly, when a person yells the words are distorted which isn't helpful to anyone. Lastly, if I cannot understand what you are saying at a normal conversational level, I absolutely cannot understand you if you are yelling. The only difference is that now I cannot understand you really loud. What works best is talking at a perfectly normal conversational level, face to face. That way I can augment my hearing aids (which are dang good but not as good as 'normal' hearing) by reading lips, facial expression, body language and my best friend, context.
A few other things that do not help? Becoming impatient with me doesn't help. I cannot force my ears to work better (I have actually been told that I needed to try harder to hear before). And talking to me from another room will never Ever work. I might be able to tell that you are saying something, but I have not one single clue what it is. Honestly it's not ideal for even a person with normal hearing and definitely terrible for folks like me.
So I guess that's enough of that for today. Thanks for listening or reading I suppose. As for me, I made it a point on the way out to stop at the desk to make an appointment for a clearly enunciated hearing TEST in the spring.
November 05th, 2021
Woke up to a much cooler, very grey, rainy day today. And all of the various weather reporters are in agreement that this is how it will be for the entire day. Sometimes heavier rain, sometimes lighter, sometimes more wind, other times less, but wet and gloomy throughout. Finally, it feels like autumn in New England :) Well without the brilliant colours of leaves of course. I even have a bowl of apples on my kitchen counter ! Happy Autumn Friday I guess.
And as far as I'm concerned rainy days mean one of three things: napping, reading or baking. Today I'm shooting for all three. I will start with baking and when I'm done move to reading which inevitably will end up with napping. Perhaps not the most productive day I've ever had, but I absolutely love baking on a rainy day.
Not sure why. Perhaps it's the contrast between the cool, quiet, earthy fragrant, darkness outside and the bright, bustling, warm and wonderfully scented inside. Or maybe it that like a rainy outside day kind of means a forced inside day so I have the perfect excuse to spend the day elbow deep in a big bowl of dough. Which is my happy place!
So with my mission before me, I think I will leave you with a wish for a terrific weekend and a few photos of a recent sunset since it's very obvious that there will be no spectacular sunset tonight. At least not here. Hugs all 'round.
November 04th, 2021
These two birds are called, "Painted Buntings". The female is on the left, the male on the right. Aren't they gorgeous? They don't look quite real, almost as if they were entirely made up by Disney. But, I assure you, they are absolutely real and I Got To See Them! Honestly, the only reason I got to see these birds lie and in person is that I am lucky enough to have the best sister in the entire world. Not joking.
Joy lives up in Sarasota, about a half hour away from me and several times a week, in addition to hiking with me on Wednesdays, she goes to one of her favourite hiking spots up in her neck of the woods. It's a place called, Celery Fields. I have mentioned it to you guys briefly before as I have had the good fortune to visit it occasionally as well. As the name suggests, Celery Fields used to be fields of celery back when Sarasota was largely agricultural. Visitors to Sarasota now would never imagine that they bustling, thriving vibrant city was very "farmy" way back in the olden days. Thank goodness someone had the foresight to preserve some of the area!!
This week Joy told me that she had seen this specific pair of birds and she was so excited to share the experience with me that she offered to drive the half hour down to pick me up, the half hour back to Celery fields, another half hour to get me back home and yet another 30 minutes to get home herself! That's two extra hours to her day, just so that I could see and photograph these two birds! Like I said, Best Sister Ever.
And they did not disappoint. Apparently Painted Bunting birds are very punctual and have a busy schedule because they seemed to arrive at Celery Fields at exactly 8:05 every day, stay for just a few moments and then leave. Doesn't that sound crazy?
We arrived just minutes ahead of them, zoomed over to the gazebo where they hang out (near the feeders - they aren't stupid after all) and grabbed a seat. So glad we got there a little early because seconds behind us were a long line of folks also wanting to view these birdies. Exactly on schedule (do they have teeny tiny watches with alarms on them?) they fluttered into view, snacked a little bit and then hopped back into a nearby bush.
It was WOW! And totally, entirely, completely amazing. I had no idea this sort of bird even existed to be honest. The male in particular, looks like something one of my kids might have produced in a colouring book when they were little. (My boys were never the sort to do the expected thing). That vibrant wild colouring was just spectacular and honestly doesn't seem quite real. And yet, there they were!
After we got our few quick photos we left so that others could enjoy. We aren't selfish after all. But what a wonderful start to our hike. And it definitely kicked off the theme. This photos safari shall forever after be known as, The Birdie Hike. Because that's exactly what it was. Hope you like birds because that is mostly what we saw. And therefore, most of what you will be seeing here today.
Part of Celery Fields borders the Big Cat Habitat so it was more than a little disconcerting to be walking along taking picture of adorable little birdies while listening to lions roaring. Gave me the shivers! This first batch of photos is birds on a wire. There are posts with heavy telephone or electrical or internet or some combination of the three running down one side of the road and of course birds love to perch there. Throughout this post I will identify the ones that I remember the names of. (which isn't that many honestly) but here goes:
There were also birds in trees and bushes everywhere around us. Occasionally one of them paused long enough for me to get a picture. Joy is a whiz at tracking birds in flight and getting action shots. Me, not so much. Oh well, here are stationary birds:
Feeling that we had exhausted the bird supply on that side of of Celery Fields, we crossed the street to the other side. This other side has a trail that goes alllllllll the way around the perimeter (about 3 miles) and several boardwalks that go out to covered areas on ponds where different kinds of birds can be viewed. And so we did. The first boardwalk being fairly near the parking lot always has the largest numbers of spectators but we were lucky to hit it just as a good sized group was leaving. There was quite a nice variety of birds to be seen there:
We then moved on to the perimeter trail. Not too many people bother to walk the entirety so it was fairly quiet and we do love a peaceful walk. One of my favourite parts of this walk was the duck family:
There was a second board walk and covered area where we found a pair of eagles amoung other things. Eagles! Wow!
Birds weren't the only things we saw of course but it was biggest theme. So I will put everything else together here in the Rando Files which means this will be a little bit bigger set than usual, sorry:
So there you have it. The Birdie Hike which was one of the best hikes we have ever done. I was so excited to see those birds that were completely new to me. What a wonderful way to start our hiking day. I have no idea how on earth we will ever top this one. But we will keep trying.
November 02nd, 2021
This past Saturday was Minock Day! Always the best day! We decided to meet at the Sunken Gardens in St Petersburg. Tim and I had been there once before in the summer. The thing about preserves and nature walks and Botanical Gardens is that even though it's the same place the view is different every time. Nature is awesome that way. It was beautiful the first time we went, beautiful, Hot and Very Very Humid. It was beautiful again this time 'round and much much cooler and dryer. Ahhhhhh.
The temperature and dew point were so different this time, in fact, that I wasn't quite sure how to dress. I guess I had forgotten. When we lived in Colorado, that in between season weather was just a matter of layers. You know what I mean: A tee shirt under a long sleeved shirt, under a sweat jacket or quilted vest. And as the they goes by, if it warms up, you can start peeling off layers and still be suitably covered. Because of the dry air, it's your core you need to keep warm, arms and legs not so much. Here, it's not quite the same thing. Even when the air is dryer, there is still humidity and that's the kind of thing that creeps into your bones, all of 'em. That includes arms and legs. It's a lot harder to do leg layers.
So I settled on long shorts and a short sleeved shirt (in case it warmed up while we walked) but I brought along my denim jacket. Within the first half hour of the drive I had put on Tim's emergency fleece jacket that he keeps in the back seat. Oh, not his emergency, no, he keeps it there for me. I snuggled right into that yummy warm jacket and life was good. And once we arrived, I assumed that I would still be wearing it so I tucked my phone into one pocket and my reading glasses (necessary for taking photographs) into the other. BUT as soon as we got out of the car I quickly realized that the fleece was going to be too warm. I put my denim jacket on instead, put my phone in my back pocket and...........completely forgot to get my reading glasses.
Which means that I ended up trying to take photographs without being able to actually see properly. Sigh. So while I do have a few photos for you, I ended up deleting most of them. Oh well. I will show you what I have. I'll start with the flowers. Isn't that what first comes to mind when you think of a Botanic Garden? There were so very many!
It's such a peaceful place. We walked the winding paths and admired what we saw and caught up with each other's lives. Some of the trees are towering. If you want to see the top of the trees, you have to look Very Very up. I looked so far up a few times that I almost fell over backwards :) The trees and shrubs of course come in all sizes, shapes and colours. Here are a few of those:
There were birds of course, there are always birds here, no matter where you go. Oh and a squirrel too:
When we finally saw most everything there was to see at the Sunken Garden we were getting tummy rumblies and decided that lunch was in order. We found a nearby place to sit and talk and relax and talk and eat and talk and laugh and talk and talk and talk. Hey, we had a lot of catching up to do! We used to see these people almost daily and now, between our various schedules and crazy lives we only manage to get together once every few months. We had a lot to talk about!
So much so that after we ate we pointed ourselves to a cute little lake, a mere block away, for a nice little apres meal walk. And of course we walked and talked and admired the lake, the neighborhood that surrounds it and the beautiful day. And we still weren't done talking! Marsha and I did a quick Google Search and she found a place called Boyd Hill Nature Preserve only 13 minutes away. And off we went.
It was a terrific hiking spot with a great nature center that we fully explored. To be honest, we only walked a few short trails even though there were some longer ones, but as they day was wearing on, our feet were wearing out! Got a few photos there:
Once again, Minock Day lived up to it's reputation. And as always, we look forward to the next time :)
November 01st, 2021
Happy Halloween! Well yesterday was All Hallow's Eve. So Happy Halloween Yesterday.
Did you get any Trick-or-Treaters at your house? We had Zero. None. So disappointing. I knew we probably wouldn't get the masses of kids we used to get (even here!) but none at all? Awwwww ;(
I think it's especially disappointing after last year when nobody had nothin' ever! Bummer.
But of course Halloween isn't what it was when I was a kid. Heck, it's not what it is when my kids were kids! (that's how freakin' hold I am! - Geez) But things change. That's just life. And for the newest generation, it's no big deal. They've never known anything else. So every time I think, "what a shame" I have to remember that it's not a loss for them, only for me. And I already got to experience it. So truly, it's not a loss at all. It's a memory. My memory. And since I'm pretty old and out of style, I guess my childhood memories are too. Maybe kids today wouldn't get to excited about the things we used to do? Ah well. They will make their own way with new fashioned ideas. And that's fine too.
The picture at the top of the page here, is something I found in someone's yard when I was taking a walk! I have never seen such a clever Halloween Decoration before. It was in this massive shrub in the center of their front yard. Somehow they laced firmly into place within that shrub first the giant fake sunflowers. Then they attached the plastic skulls to the sunflowers. Wow! Creative and creepy both.
I think part of what makes it extra creepy is that sunflowers are such happy things. They are so bright and sunshiney with their faces turned toward the light :) And then to put an icky spooky skull in the middle of it? Yeah, extra creepy. But that's the fun of halloween. It's the occasion when gross and scary are twisted in a way that's fun and at least a little scary.
I know little kids were still celebrating Halloween somewhere, perhaps at parties instead of going door to door? And they still dressed up like ghosts and goblins and witches and monsters..... Well also princesses and unicorns and clowns (which are dang creepy all on their own) and bunny rabbits most of which aren't scary at all. I know of one little kid who wanted to dress up like the guys on his favourite TV show, S.W.A.T. Scary! But fun :)
Somewhere in town, I think it was church affiliated, they did a Trunk or Treat for the kiddos. Loads of people drove their cars to an empty lot and parked with their car trunks facing each other with a large aisle in between. Then they decorated the open trunks. I mean Decorated with a Capital D!!! It was really impressive. And once it was all set up and ready, the costumed kiddos went from car trunk to car trunk, where the parents were also costumed, and collected their sugary loot. They still sort of had the trick-or-treat experience. It was a creative solution. I have to applaud that.
There were a few places here and there that had Old Time Halloween Related festivities. Things like hay rides and corn mazes (both regular and haunted), hot cocoa and donuts and cider and jack-o-lantern making stations, petting zoo's and bouncy houses. Actually the bounce house idea wasn't around when I was a kid. Dang, I missed out on that one!
You know what? Now that I think about it, the "Pumpkin Patches" where those events take place are pretty darned popular. So maybe my old Halloween memories aren't as out of style as I thought. Old New Style Halloween!
Hope yours was a good one :)
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.