Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Reporting on February Via the Hodgepodge

Thank you, Joyce, for once again supplying us with fun questions to contemplate and answer on Hodgepodge Wednesday.

1. Are  you currently operating at 100% capacity? If not, what % are you? What's keeping you there?

I've been stressed about some things, so I'm probably operating at 90%. What's keeping me there? Trying to figure out what's going on and what, if anything, my response should be.

2. Have you done your taxes? Planned/booked a summer holiday? Thought about or started your 'spring cleaning'? Besides what's listed here, tell us one task that needs doing before spring rolls around.

Beloved always does our taxes and we have already got back our returns from both Federal and Colorado. Next year the process should be easier since we don't plan a cross-country move! 

We haven't planned or booked a summer holiday because people are coming to see us this year. We have some travel planned but it's not a vacation. 

I don't generally do 'spring cleaning' as I just try to keep things in order and clean all the time. With just the two of us and no pets, it's not hard. although I could use help with the windows...

I do need to paint a couple of bathroom doors before much longer (maybe later this week).

3. What's a favorite food from your part of the country? Grits. Not our favorite, but people around here seem to be generally in favor of them.

4. This isn't a leap year, but let's run with it anyway ... look before you leap, a leap of faith, grow by leaps and bounds, leap to conclusions, leap at the opportunity ... which phrase might best be applied to your life currently (or recently)? Explain.

 'Grow by leaps and bounds' probably best applies as I am learning  the culture of living in the deep South. There are more differences than I expected as we transition from living for so long in the Rocky Mountain West.

5. As the month draws to a close list five fun and/or fabulous things (large or small) you noticed or experienced in February.

1) Lunch at Joe's Crab Shack at Jacksonville Beach with a table where we could easily see the ocean waves breaking on the beach.

2) Visiting St. Simons Island, Georgia AND getting to read the St. Simon's Trilogy by author Eugenia Price, historical fiction based on the island's citizens from the late 1700s well into the 1800s.

3) The addition of cabinets to replace wire shelving in our laundry room and a new door to the garage that opens into the garage -- giving me a 'smidge' more space in the laundry room.

4) I took a hand needle turn appliqué class at my local quilt store and am enjoying the process. 

5) Beloved and I met Terri and Joe at the half-way point between our homes for lunch! Terri and I met through blogging some 3 or 4 years ago and at the time, never did I dream one day I'd be living in Florida and we could meet like this! See Terri at her blog, Your Friend From Florida. We had a wonderful time! She's just as sweet and genuine in person as she is on her blog! And the guys got along very well, too!

6. Insert your own random thought here.

I have shared in the past that I make it a practice to always have some quiet time with the Lord (Bible reading and prayer) before I check social media in the morning. That prepares me for [whatever] and that's a good thing because sometimes [whatever] can slam a person pretty hard so I need the Lord's confirmation and strength to help me with it.

Another practice I have is to capture a Bible verse, usually just one verse, that speaks to 'where I am' on a given day. I write it down on a small piece of paper and then carry it in my pocket all day long, referring to it throughout the day, and especially when I need the encouragement. 

* * * * *
I'm linking up today at 
From This Side of the Pond

Sunday, February 25, 2018

No Obsession with Shoes Here

old friends

How beautiful are thy feet with shoes.
Song of Solomon 7:1, KJV

This morning as I dressed for church I realized I would have to force myself to say 'farewell' to some old friends. The scuffs and crinkles in one of my most comfortable pair of shoes were getting noticeable. I got one more wearing of them by using a black Sharpie marker to color in the split seam on the back of the left shoe, but clearly, it was time to replace them.

My best estimate is that I've had these shoes for twenty years, or given the price I paid for them, maybe longer. Of course, I've not worn them every Sunday due to rotating them with other shoes.  But these have been a very comfortable, dependable accessory to my wardrobe. 

In the last decade or so I have definitely moved out of shopping for cute shoes to comfortable ones that (hopefully) don't look clunky. Uncomfortable shoes make my joints and back hurt. Stylishness has lost its position of priority with me. My philosophy is to have good hair, earrings, makeup and a pleasant facial expression so maybe people won't need to look at my feet to find something appealing. 

And please understand, those of you who wear the fashion-forward shoes, I'm not being critical of you. I just have to make peace with the pain in my joints.

So it went like this: over lunch after church today I told Beloved that I need new black pumps. As he munched his French fries dipped in Camp Fire sauce, he listened patiently to my sad description of the shoes' appearance. He suggested that since we were practically across the street from our favorite shoe warehouse, maybe we should go there when we were done with lunch.

Then as we drove around searching for a parking place, he suggested the use of duct tape to extend the life of the current pair, reminding me that it's now available in a rainbow of colors, not just silver gray any more.

I gave him "the look" over my glasses and pointed out the available parking spaces in the next row over.

new friends?
Fortunate for me, Beloved found comfortable seating just inside the door of the shoe place so I didn't feel hurried.  I was very apprehensive that I would find anything suitable to my liking that would be appropriate, comfortable, attractive, and reasonably priced.

pumps with a slight rise at the heel and a band of suede across the toes
As it turned out, the hunt was not so discouraging. I found three pairs and narrowed them down to one. The first pair had a little more distinctive design to them, but I was going to settle for them only if nothing better could be found. They weren't all that comfy but for a few hours on a Sunday maybe a two or three times a month, I'd put up with them.

shoes by Life Stride

The third pair felt wonderful. Still, I held them close while I perused all the other aisles, just to be sure I was making a good choice for me. The price was good, especially when the gal at the register told us we had a ten dollar coupon on our account. I was so glad. There are other things I'd rather do with my money than spend too much of it on my feet.

Clearly, shoe shopping is not my favorite thing to do, but here in Florida I have enjoyed picking up a nice assortment of slappy-back sandals with their thick rubber soles in cute styles. 

The feet are taken care of. Let's move on to something more interesting.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Beyond the Fog

Pelicans in the fog of the Atlantic Ocean

My presence will go with you
and I will give you rest.
Exodus 33:14, 17

In recent weeks we've had a very dense morning fog that dissipates by nine or ten o'clock. This seems to be normal for our area and I rather like it. 

When I step outside to put a letter in the mailbox, I can feel the heavy dampness on my skin, moisturizing and cool. Since I'm wearing my hair short these days, the humidity curls my locks, making the style even better! 

If the fog lingered all day long, the deprivation of sunshine would get me down but usually by mid-morning it's all gone. 

Whenever Beloved and I have to fly on an overcast day, I marvel at the brilliant sunshine greeting us once we have climbed above the clouds. It makes me want to call my friends on the ground below to encourage them, to say that the sun is still shining, even if they can't see it. 

God, like sunshine, is always with us. Circumstances may obscure our view of Him, but He is nonetheless there. He never changes. His love for us is constant even when what's going on around us seems to say otherwise. Adversity is one of God's tools, intended to stimulate our trust in Him.

I am learning to think of unpleasantness as a  'pop quiz,' a time when I get to find out how much I'm trusting God to get me through the fog of life. It's an opportunity to be deliberate about putting into practice all that I've been taught about relying on the Lord to show me what to do.

Sometimes action needs to be taken. Other times I need to just be still and wait for it to clear on its own. But either way, the Lord has not abandoned me. He is as close as the air I breathe.

Even to your old age,
I will be the same.
I have made you and I will carry you.
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
Isaiah 46:4

* * * * * * *

Regarding the passing of evangelist Billy Graham, his ministry (as well as that of his wife and children) has helped me greatly over the years as I've sought to learn how to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.

While I am saddened that Billy Graham is no longer with us, God's ministry through this fine man continues.  As he said long before his death, he is now more alive than ever in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those of us who have accepted Christ as our personal savior will someday be in the company of this great man when we meet in the presence of God.

Comments are closed for the weekend.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Fountains, Mountains, and a Backwards Door

our  fountain at the Turtle Pond

Although this is a strikingly beautiful scene, tall water fountains are a common, year-around sight in Florida neighborhoods, shopping centers, downtown, and in corporate office settings. We love them.

Our former home in Colorado is almost always in a drought situation, so fountains like this are pretty rare in neighborhoods; and even when they have them in public areas, they can't run continually through the year because of the cold. But then they do have breath-taking views of the Rocky Mountains.....

Castle Rock, Colorado with Pikes Peak on the horizon
-- Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce photo--

(sigh) Enough of that! 
Anyway, it's time to join the Wednesday Hodgepodge party. My regular readers know the drill: Joyce issues the questions and those of us with blogs answer them, then we link up at Joyce's place, From This Side of the Pond, to see each other's answers.

1. Where do you go when you need inspiration?

It depends what kind of inspiration I need. For spiritual inspiration, I go to the Bible, most often the Psalms. For sewing or other artsy stimulation, I go to Pinterest or Google Images.

2. What's under your bed?

Under my bed is the leaf to our dining room table and a large flat tote bag containing an extra cutting mat and other quilting tools for when I take a project on the road.

3. Thursday, February 22nd is National Chili Day, National Margarita Day, and National Cook a Sweet Potato Day. Of the three, which would you most like to celebrate? Is that likely?

We had chili for supper last night, so we won't be having that on Thursday. We don't drink alcohol, so drinking a Margarita is out. That leaves National Cook a Sweet Potato Day. I guess we'll have oven-baked sweet potato fries with our supper! After baking, I spray them generously with cooking spray and then sprinkle  liberally with garlic salt. They are really good.

4. What are you 'snowed under' with right now?

We recently did some remodeling in our [terribly small] laundry room which led to the decision to change the direction of how the door opens. It now opens into the garage instead of into the laundry room. That's great except now it's awkward to get to the light switch and garage door openers on the wall. 

So we ordered a new door (frame and all). Today as you are reading this, we have some workmen installing the new door. The tricky part will be getting the security system parts back in line for that door. I wouldn't say we are 'snowed under' with this, but it's definitely a new adventure for us.

5.  Tell us three to five things that make you feel balanced.

1) Reading scripture and having a time of prayer at the very beginning of every day (before breakfast and my shower)

2)  A "good hair day" 

3)  Good relationships with my family and friends

4)  Comfortable and reasonably attractive clothes

5)  Habitually healthy meals

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

"Personality can open doors, 
but only character can keep them open." 
Elmer G. Letterman

Linking up with other bloggers at From This Side of the Pond

Friday, February 16, 2018

Thursday Reprise

Geraniums on our shepherd's staff
Another week is nearly done and another time of sorrow is upon our nation. There is hardly an opportunity to breathe freely between the tragedies. My friends in Colorado tell me about three police officers who have been gunned down in three separate incidents, just since January first. Their flags are at half mast all the time. Now this, here in Florida. 

I'll just climb up on my soapbox for a moment here (or should I say my pulpit?). I don't think our nation is being punished for its sin. Rather, I think we are experiencing the consequences of sinful choices. I think there is a fine line of difference between the two. If our nation does not turn around, the punishment will come. But for now, I am of the opinion that we are seeing what naturally happens when we abandon God's way of doing things. Eventually that abandonment takes a toll. That's what we are seeing now.

Lack of church attendance, lack of Bible reading and prayer both privately and corporately, deliberate reversal of laws that were created for the well-being of people -- these things have consequences and none of them are good.

People don't understand that God is good and He desires a personal relationship with every single person. It's for our benefit. To refuse Him results in a lack of His blessings. He won't bless ungodliness.

All a person needs to do is to cry out to Him, ask Him to forgive and then live obediently. He forgives all sin. But we have to ask Him.

So now I'll move onto other things. Spring is arriving in Florida!! I've come to the conclusion that what I define as autumn coincides with winter here in my new home state. The two seasons run concurrently with each other. We have a fair number of dead tree leaves in the gutters these days but the weather is warmer this week. I'm wearing sandals and capri pants again today and Beloved and I have resumed enjoying lunch together out on the back porch!

I have to share this funny thing with you...

picture taken at Whole Foods market
Look closely. This guy caught my eye while grocery shopping yesterday. With his pleading eyes he begged me to take him home with us. But Beloved told him no, because his fate would not be pleasant if we did. 

Does our Creator have a sense of humor or what? He can speak to us in the most delightful ways if we will just pay attention.

firecracker plant
After we got home and put the groceries away, I changed my to-do list. I was going to play in the yard on Saturday, but the weather was so beautiful yesterday afternoon that I decided to get out there right away.

We moved into this house on July 1st of last summer, so we are still getting acquainted with the flora and fauna of our yard. This pot held the most beautiful plant that I have learned is called a Firecracker. He had long branches with teeny tiny red flowers that are long, kind of like a dash -- the firecrackers.

I was afraid the hard frosts of our unusually cold winter (or so the locals tell me) had killed him off. I texted Martha, a friend from church who has lived here all of her life. She had one of these plants in her yard last summer so I asked her if mine was a goner. She replied that I should cut him back and watch him grow. I then looked it up on the internet and her words were verified. So he got a severe cut-back and I'm expecting only the best out of him.

a baby Spanish moss
Here in northeast Florida we have the absolutely gorgeous Live Oak trees you may associate with south Georgia. They are gigantic in size and hang over the streets like a tunnel. When we go through places like that, Beloved and I like to say, "oooh, aaahhh" because it's so amazing.

With that beauty also comes the Spanish Moss, gracefully draped and slowly killing the host trees. Yes. That's what that beauty does. It's a fact of life here.

I think it would most certainly be a losing battle to try to remove all the Spanish Moss, and it is beautiful in its own way. We have a Bottle Brush tree in the back yard that has some small tufts of the stuff on the branches. I nipped off some dead branches from the tree and took a closer look at the parasitic Spanish Moss that was at eye level. Interesting stuff. A person could make a pretty good sermon out of that, but I've already done that for this post.

Then there's this gal. I feel pretty sure she's a Bougainvillea, but not a healthy one. The internet tells me this thorn-covered bush does not tolerate freezing temperatures well, so I think this one might be a casualty from our winter. You see those thorns. They are not nice. Not at all. 

I gingerly pruned her of all but the thickest branches. In doing that, I was surprised to see some green in the center of the cuts, but that possible sign of life did not stop me. Beloved hauled her out to the curb for trash day, container and all. We want nothing more to do with her. Yes, her flowers would have been a delight, but at a price.

I told Beloved this plant reminds me of a beautiful woman with a nasty disposition. I call her Wicked. She sat out on the curb overnight and then this morning a van pulled up and the men asked Beloved about her. He told her our guess was that she's a Bougainvillea. They asked to have her. He nodded 'yes', and now she's off our hands.  

Roots. As we pulled her container onto the wagon, we saw she had grown roots through the drain hole in the bottom of the pot. I pulled up as much of that as possible without disturbing neighboring bushes and the foundation of the house. I hear Bougainvillea send out runners underground. Hmm. We may not have seen the last of Wicked. But I will be as diligent as possible to keep her offspring from surviving.

another leftover
This clay pot is another leftover from the previous owners of our house. I don't know what it is. It was just finishing its bloom when we moved here. My guess is Amaryllis?  I've just dispatched a snail mail letter to the past owners to ask them. As you can see, it is sending out hearty shoots that look promising. I threw a tarp over this one when we had the freeze warnings because I was pretty sure this would be a "keeper" in my opinion.

one of our local haunts
An afternoon spent in the yard would not be complete without a quick run over to our fav home improvement store. Happily for us, this store and my craft store are both within about a 5-minute drive of our house! Is that a confirmation that we bought the right house or what?!!!

I continue to marvel that we are playing with spring flowers so early in the year while my family and friends in Colorado are still keeping the shovels and snowblowers handy for storms that will come clear into April (and often, May).

from my chair on the back porch
In the twilight of that blessed day, we sat on the back porch watching the sunset peeking at us through the forest trees. A hot cup of de-caf coffee helped to rejuvenate me just enough to get dinner on the table.  

We thank our Lord for comforts amidst heartache and tragedy. 

Lo, I am with you always,
Even to the end of the world.
Matthew 28:20

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day 2018

Beloved with the wreath on our front door

To pick up where I left off on my last post, where our plans for Monday had to change due to Terri's Emergency Room visit (read her blog post about that hereYour Friend from Florida), Beloved and I thought of several things to do but we had to temper our choices with the weather forecast of rain all day.  Plus, how could we really enjoy ourselves when we knew Terri and Joe were at the hospital?? She texted me the news she was being admitted.  It was shaping up to be an odd morning.

beach rules

We decided to go to the beach and have lunch at our favorite place. The venture would cost us about half an hour travel each way, free parking (on weekdays), and whatever we ordered from the menu. If the rain kept us from walking the beach, it would be okay.

cactus on the beach sand dunes
Coming from a high, dry, semi-arid climate, we are surprised to see big clumps of cactus at a humid ocean beach.

the pier at Jacksonville Beach

Both Hurricane Matthew (2016) and Hurricane Irma (2017) brought damage to the city pier. It has been closed since 2016 but we have heard on local TV that it will open this April. On this trip to the beach, we wanted to see the progress that's been made. I don't think the entire pier will be open in April, but at least half of it looks to be restored.

looking north
We were blessed with pockets of sunshine on that day, more than what we had expected. Look closely in the center of this picture to see the coastal fog hugging the shore and the white waves as they crash in.

me, under the pier

As I have done in the past, I asked Beloved to take a picture of me beside something so we can illustrate the size of structures.

a fisherman
This was of interest to Beloved, since he is a seasoned fly fisherman. This man was decked out in his waders and casting a line. Beloved has been too busy with other ventures to try fishing since we got to Florida.

another view of the pier

We could see how far the reconstruction has gone. In the past on other piers, we have been able to see fish in the water, including sharks, which is why I no longer go any deeper than my big toe!

my sandaled foot, to show the size of the sea life

Do you know what this is? It's a jellyfish that washed ashore. Very interesting. I made a little joke that I "could see right through him." I think he was dead. We just left him alone, to let nature do what it does.

sea gulls

I carefully walked as close to these guys as I could without disturbing them, and then used the zoom feature on my camera to take the picture. We wondered why they were all clumped together like this, facing the same direction. Upon closer inspection we saw that they were napping with their chests facing the sunlight! See how their heads are tucked to their back? Most of them were standing on two feet, but a few were on just one leg -- a good balancing act!

"The Old Man and the Sea"
He isn't really that old, but the title is kinda cute for this picture. He's taking in all the contrasts between the vast ocean and his favorite fishing spot in all the world, Eleven Mile Canyon in Colorado. It's very, very different.

clam diggers and sandals
We were dressed appropriately for the wind and intermittent rain showers. The temperature was in the upper 60s, which was comfortable. The wind was blowing, so a windbreaker jacket and hat felt good.

But can I just say, it's also very relaxing to be able to walk the beach without wearing more 'self-conscious' clothing.

sea shells

The tide had washed up just a whole lot of shells. We always carry plastic grocery sacks in the car so we're prepared to collect shells at the beach. We harvested a lot on this day!

Joe's Crab Shack, Jacksonville Beach

The beach walk gave us  a healthy appetite for lunch. Joe's Crab Shack is my favorite place when we visit this beach. I'm losing count how many times Beloved and I have enjoyed a meal here.

I tend to be a creature of habit when it comes to restaurants. The Southern Stuffed Shrimp is my favorite while Beloved always gets the clam strips. We share our food with each other. (I think that's romantic)

my plate
Nine succulent pieces of stuffed shrimp with broccoli steamed to perfection and to drink, Sweet Tea, of course!

view from our booth
When the weather is drier and not so windy, we like to eat outside on the deck, but on this day we got the perfect inside table beside a window. I love to just stare at the water and look for ships on the horizon while waiting for the food to arrive.

crossing the intracoastal waterway on the way home
After lunch we walked the beach for a long distance and then decided it was time to head for home. 

my love note to my husband

Happy Valentine's Day

Monday, February 12, 2018

Time Well-Spent

Birthday curly ribbon in the kitchen of Surfer Girl
It's time to catch up from the weekend. We've had a lot of things going on of late, not the least of which was the third birthday of Granddaughter #5. 

Her big day came on Friday, which was not convenient for getting together, so after breakfast on Saturday, Beloved and I drove the couple of hours to the home of the little miss. She had opened her gifts the day before, of course (you can put off some things, but not the presents!!) and had much to show us. There was a delightful Cinderella coach, a mermaid costume (and a shark costume for her big brother), play dough with accessories, and some kind of amazing Fisher-Price amusement park toy that was great fun.  Lots of fun spread out on the living room floor. (Ah yes, I remember how it used to be at my house, back in the day!)

one of the pups helped with the gift wrap

We went to one of the wonderful shopping malls in the area for lunch. The original plan was to eat at an Italian family-dining place, but the decorating style was kinda dark and a little spooky for one of us to the point of tears, so we opted for the food court that was very light, open, airy, and everybody could choose from whichever vendor they wanted. No problem. We aim to please.

Beloved and me with Granddaughter #5 and Grandson #4
This mall has guests from all over the world all the time, so it's big with a lot of interesting things to see and do. We enjoyed some of that with the family and when it was time to say farewell, Beloved and I checked out a few more of the stores. We each bought some Croc sandals on sale. The weather here in Florida is warming up so ''tis the season" to ensure we have all the necessary footwear for heat, sun, and surf.

But now I need to back up to Friday. Contrary to what I had expected when we moved here from Colorado, Floridians DO have nice quilt shops, in spite of our [nearly] year-long summer weather. We have a very nice one just up the road from us that occupies an older home. The former two-car garage is a classroom. I am taking a course in Hand Needleturn Appliqué and this past Friday was our first lesson. 

the instructor's sample of what we are learning
The teacher is Janice Vaine of Graham Cracker Collection. My homework for the next class (a month from now) is to complete all the stems and do the advance prep work for the leaves. It's fun if you like fine, detailed hand-stitching, which I do!

a happy welcome to cast iron cookware

On Friday night I did another fun thing. I've not found the time to write a lengthy post about my new-found love for cooking with cast iron. I've had some pieces of it for years. An unplanned stop at the Lodge factory store in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee this past November re-kindled the fire and I've had fun with the heavy black pieces ever since.

making scones for Surfer Boy
My most fun piece is this cast iron wedge pan, which we found a few weeks ago on sale at the St. Augustine Outlet Shops. Admittedly, with my gluten, dairy, and egg intolerances, I can't freely eat everything I prepare in my cast iron, but making scones is the adult version of play dough for me! I made a batch of them for our son-in-law and took them with us for our Saturday visit.

Sunday was church (always a most welcome time in our week), and lunch out at Newk's Eatery (much like a Panera Bread). We've watched some of the Olympics but we're not glued to the TV with it.

Today we were greatly looking forward to meeting in person one of my long-time blogging friends, now that we live in the same state. A location had been agreed  upon that is about half-way for both of us from our respective homes. But alas, when I turned on my phone this morning there was a text from her that something pretty serious had come up, so we've had to postpone our first face-to-face meeting. Many of my readers also read her blog, so I'll let her tell the story of what's happening. We have every intention of re-scheduling this fun meeting when the time is right.

In the meantime, Beloved and I have a free day on our hands. Over breakfast we bandied about several ideas of what we might do until the local weather forecast came on the television. Rain all day. Bummer.

Well, we may just defy the odds and still venture out to the beach for lunch at one of our favorite haunts, and if the conditions are right, hunt for some sea shells on the sand. There is also a pier that was badly damaged in the past two hurricanes that is expected to open up in April. We may go check on the progress of that.