Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Arrival of a Florida Christmas

Garden department at Lowe's
Our first Christmas in Jacksonville is looming large for us. I had to snap this picture from one of our local home improvement stores. They are selling lots of flowers in pots outdoors along with evergreens and Christmas trees. At this time of year in Colorado, the garden shops are closed up tight and selling snowblowers, shovels, and ice scrapers. In conversations we've had with a few of the locals, I'm not sure they know just exactly what a snowblower is!

After we had signed the contract on our house last April, we discovered our new neighborhood makes a statement with the Christmas decorations and everybody is expected to participate in a big way. Although we've been putting out Christmas decor for many years, our display has never been what you would call a 'showstopper' so we felt intimidated about what we had got ourselves into.


But we are doing our best to be good sports and play along while at the same time not compromising our focus on the significance of the season.


There is one person who makes the yard signs and then we put on the lettering ourselves for the theme of our decorations.


The imagination goes wild around here with some pretty clever ideas.


My nighttime photography doesn't do the show much justice so I'll simply say people have done a great job of it.





Be sure to note the big red apple and the ice skater in this one representing New York City.



This one with the "marvelous" Christmas has blow-up Marvel characters that stand up in the yard at night, but during daylight hours they lay limp and lifeless on the grass.

This is our sign. I am  happy to report our yard is one of four in the neighborhood that features the Nativity.

Here are pictures of our front porch taken in the daylight and at night. Joseph casts a big shadow on our dining room windows. 

Internet photo
This illustration from the Internet is the idea we were aiming for with our Christmas theme.


This is what our house (on the right)  looks like at night, combined with the neighbors.

I really like these giant light bulbs!


On the Friday night after Thanksgiving, our neighborhood had a huge party in a cul-de-sac with food, lights, a warming fire, a hayride, music, a bounce house, and even a snow machine!

The hayride... (blurry because it was moving)

One of our neighbors let his work car be used in the display for the party.

More pictures taken during daylight hours:

Late autumn/early winter looks entirely different to us here than it did in Colorado! We decorate fully-leafed out trees here!


There are two of these hanging Santas on our street. I love them because many of us feel like we are barely "hanging on" during this season of lengthy "to do lists"!

Truth be told, Florida weather is probably more like how it was in Bethlehem when our Savior was born.


I will be wishing my readers a wonderful Christmas all through this season. I hope you are able to take the time to reflect on the true significance of the birth of this baby that affects all of us for eternity.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Scrapbook of Memories

Beloved opens his cards and gifts at breakfast
On the heels of my previous post, the chronicles of Beloved's birthday followed by Thanksgiving Day and other fun stuff continues  ... and yes, we had our usual healthy green smoothies for breakfast. (how do you think we got to this age, anyway?!!)

Beloved makes a point at the President's podium;
I stand in front of the miniature White House
For entertainment on his birthday, I took him to the Presidents Hall of Fame Museum in Clermont, Florida (a mere 3 hour-drive from our home in Thanksgiving traffic). My blogging friend Terri D from Your Friend in Florida recommended this place just a few weeks ago and I immediately thought it would be a fun adventure for this special day.

White House dining room in miniature
We thoroughly enjoyed the exhibits. My favorite was the extremely well-done miniature rooms of the White House, but the remainder of the museum proved to be very interesting as well, including some informative and entertaining videos.

Beloved in the Oval Office
As you can see, Beloved took full advantage of the opportunity to pretend he was the President!

"Mount Rushmore"
But he knows those are large shoes to fill and he would not want the job in real life.

the Florida Citrus Tower is very close by
For those who have been to Central Florida, the Presidents Hall of Fame Museum is just about a stone's throw from the famous Florida Citrus Tower. We did not investigate this attraction because we still had a 3-hour drive ahead of us to get home (again, in even heavier holiday traffic) and our goal was to be in our driveway by sunset.

Can you hear the candle playing "Happy Birthday"?
The birthday cake was delicious (gluten-free, of course) but by the second day, the leftovers were a little tough. (baked GF foods tend to be that way)

the Birthday Boy plays with his new toy

My gift to him was a virtual reality headset. I did not pay top dollar for this because I had no idea if this was something he would like. It was good for a few laughs. The roller coaster ride made me just a bit dizzy.
Thanksgiving dinner menu

Thanksgiving dinner was on the simple side, made even more easy with the help of a pre-cooked turkey breast from Honey Baked Ham. We also enjoyed southern green beans, mashed potatoes, Stovetop Cornbread Stuffing, cranberry sauce, sparkling cider, and for dessert: pecan pie (courtesy of Publix grocery store) and more [now dried-out] birthday cake.

Surfer Boy, Granddaughter #5, Beloved, Surfer Girl, and Grandson #4
Our weekend houseguests arrived in time for lunch on Friday and then the pace picked up considerably. As per a prior request, we took them to see the riverwalk on the south side of the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville. 

Main Street Bridge is behind us
(this is a draw bridge)
The Riverwalk is a great place to take out-of-town company. If you go on a weekend or holiday, there is free parking and the walk itself is also completely free with the benefits of fresh air, sunshine, and fantastic views of water (sometimes a dolphin jumping out of the water), skyscrapers, and watercraft of all sizes. We hear that Carnival Cruise Lines is the only cruise ship company that uses the Jacksonville harbor.

making bubbles
Of course, I know that kids' appreciation of such things is short, so I packed a little surprise in my purse. Halfway through the walk we stopped at a park with a fountain and made bubbles with a kit purchased at the dollar store.

And you do know, don't you, that a bubble wand can also be used as a light saber?

Kismet, yacht owned by Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars football team
But back to entertaining the adults among us, this view of an amazing 95-meter yacht kept us spellbound for a few minutes. Look closely at the water line on the left end of the yacht to see a "boat garage" (for want of a better term by the uninitiated). 

Our fun continued that night after a home-cooked chili supper with a Christmas kick-off block party in our neighborhood. 

I'll write more about that in a separate post, but the lighting made for a good picture of my dear family members.

Grandad shows Grandson #4 how to tie a Boy Scout neckerchief
Other memorable moments during the kids' visit included an interesting conversation between the generations of men about Boy Scouts. Beloved showed his Boy Scout neckerchief to the newest scout in the family.

railroading with Granddad
We were delighted to see Granddaughter's enjoyment of the simple toys we had bought for this occasion.

holiday gel decor on sliding glass door
Those sticky gel decorations for glass windows were a hit, too.

baking with Grammy
Over the seventeen years that I have been a grandmother, I have found that most little people who visit us enjoy getting to help in the kitchen.

Surfer Boy and Beloved with two of [our THREE] grand dogs
The last adventure we enjoyed together was a visit to a local park with a wonderful out door play ground and a boat launching area, complete with a long pier. The weather and temperature were perfect. We couldn't have asked for a better day for outdoor fun.

As I said earlier, I've been a grandmother for 17 years. Our children grow up so fast. The words to a hymn come to mind and urge me to take advantage of the time we have to spend with our family:

Time is now fleeting,
the moments are passing --
Passing from you and from me...
from "Softly and Tenderly" by 
Will Lamartine Thompson (1847-1909)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Memories Associated with Turkey and Cake

Beloved, the Pilot, the Cook on Fifth Street, and Sister
Thanksgiving 1968
Beloved and I had been dating for only twelve weeks when Thanksgiving rolled around and it didn't look like he would be having a turkey dinner.

When he was born in New Mexico, his two half brothers were already in high school. Early in his life they both left for college and the military. His parents were both hard-working career people, originally from the South where eating pork and ham was preferable to poultry. As a result of these facts, my mother-in-law was often too tired to prepare an involved Thanksgiving Day dinner, and turkey did not especially inspire her anyway.

It came out in one of our early dating conversations that while Beloved's family did not make a big deal out of the holiday, mine did. I asked my mother for permission and invited Beloved to have Thanksgiving Dinner with us. He was already pretty smitten with me (just stating the facts here, you understand), and that, combined with the thought of a hearty family meal, well, he of course accepted the invitation. That was the first of many Thanksgiving meals we have shared together.

Little did I know at the time that three years after our first Thanksgiving Day, we would be married, my parents would move out of state, and I would prepare my very first Thanksgiving turkey in our newlywed apartment for the two of us plus my recently-widowed father-in-law. 

I didn't know much about cooking a turkey other than casual observation of my mother over the years. But if one can read a recipe, this can be done. 

I've not had to do all of the cooking every year since then, by any means, but I've done my share. There was a year I remember in particular when we visited Gray Beard (before he had gray in his beard) and Blondie (who has always been blond) for Thanksgiving in Albuquerque. She prepared most of the dinner with the exception of the guest of honor, asking if I'd take care of him.

inserting herbs under the turkey skin
So, it has been well-established that this family has turkey for Thanksgiving.

Then there is the matter of dessert, which oddly enough, gets a little complicated. Beloved's birthday is in the same time frame as Thanksgiving, even falling on the same day every few years. 

We have always had cake for his birthday and then his favorite pecan pie for Thanksgiving, along with other pies, too, depending on the number of diners at our table. It's a dessert-dense time. 

No, I don't make the pies. Pie Crust Construction and I have never been able to make friends (in spite of my ability to read the recipe).

This year is like most of the others. We are having birthday cake on Wednesday and turkey with pecan pie and more servings of cake on the following day. I will need to have my low calorie green smoothies twice a day for a while to make up for this high dessert intake!

There is one more memory I want to share before I sign off for today.

Beloved in 1969

My man is a pretty smart fellow. Not much gets past him, but after we had been dating a little over a  year, I was able to pull off a surprise birthday party for him. We were both in college by then. He was to make the 45-minute drive over to my campus to take me out to dinner but his buddies asked him to stop by their apartment en route. 

He had no idea I would be waiting there and we would all shout out "SURPRISE!" when he came in the door. It made for a great memory, and yes, we had leftover [store bought] cake to share with our respective families for Thanksgiving that year.

Beloved's birthday cake 2017
Betty Crocker yellow Gluten-free cake mix
Betty Crocker Rich and Creamy chocolate frosting

I conclude today's post with Happy Birthday greetings to my dear husband and a sincere Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers.