Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas in Florida

This poem was sent to us in a Christmas card  by my sister and brother in law, Kim and Jim. I love it!

Monday, December 24, 2012

DSH finally has a boat.

 This has been a dream of my hubby's for many years. To get a boat and sail away. Well it isn't exactly a sail boat, and it is small enough to fit in the garage, but it is still a boat.

He used to tell me he had a three point plan for retirement:
  1. Hike the Appalachian Trail. 
  2. Sell the house in VB and buy a sailboat to live on while exploring the coast of USA.
  3. Buy a small house way out in the woods, away from electricity, cell phones and the internet.
He retired first in 2006 and I retired in 2011. I had no real plans for retirement, except to enjoy NOT WORKING, so I was willing to give his plan a try.  The results so far:
  • DSH completed #1, in 2007. He left for 6 months, while having a great hike in the woods. I met up with him a few times during the summer and got to meet his fellow hikers.
  • We did sell the house and buy a small house, but it is in a neighborhood with palm trees, no woods...
  •  I was not sure I wanted to sail away with him until he became more experienced in boating...I am better at floating in the pool than swimming for my life.

As I wrote in a previous post, we had Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant near a marina where there were boats for sale. When we came home, DSH started looking on the Web for info about boats, found this one in the neighboring town, checked it out and bought it. It is a great little starter boat so he can learn his way around the local waters and do a little fishing as well. Lucky the guy we bought it from was willing to bring it here and put it in our garage, because our truck didn't have a tow hitch on it yet.
 While waiting for the hitch  DSH got to know the GPS and fish finder better, as well as cleaning all the exteriors.

This is how it looks with the bimini up.
Does he look happy? He is and so is my sister's hubby who loves to fish.

I am not a person who likes to fish, but after taking the boat out for the first time, DSH told me about the different wildlife he was able to see nearby, like dolphins, rays, and pelicans. That sounds neat, so stay turned for future adventures where I actually go out on the boat with him.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Town

On Sunday, Dec. 16, my sister Angie and I went to Christmas Town in Busch Gardens, Tampa. We arrived as the day guests were leaving about 5. Parking was a breeze and there were no lines getting through the ticket area.  Before the sun set we enjoyed the gardens.
After the sun set, the lights came on and the park was turned into a snowy wonderland, with snow machines mounted on poles, causing flakes to fall from above periodically. There were areas for kids to throw snowballs, make snowmen, and ride on tubes down hills of snow. Christmas Carols and songs played nonstop in the background. We rode the Sing Along Train around the park, singing as loud as we wanted. There were giraffes and gazelles(I think) still roaming around in the dark. I felt a little bad for the animals who were blinded by the flash from phone cameras.

 I was impressed in how much Christ was in Christmas Town. We listened to a presentation of songs and story from The Three Kings,who explained the meaning of the gifts brought to the Christ child. We heard concerts by a Christian praise band and ended the evening with a concert by Jars of Clay.
no baby in the manger yet

This picture is of the life size Nativity scene that was made out of flowers and greenery. The path to it was a covered bridge with candle filled lanterns hanging from the ceiling and on the walls.

This living statue angel looked like a real statue and startled people who walked by as she moved.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

That's what I get for boasting.

I was sitting in  Dunkin Donuts yesterday with my Zumba friends-my coffee club, I call them.When a couple of the ladies commented that they were feeling very stressed, I said, "Not me. I do not have any stress now that I am living the retired life here in Florida."
I think God heard me and thought maybe I was a little too smug, because the rest of the day became very stressful. 

 My #1 item on my to do list was to make cookies for a cookie exchange party  my friend Sandy was having today. I stopped baking routinely since the kids were no longer little( or even in the same state) and I have been more determined to lose weight. (My will power  for sugary baked goods is non existent.) There were even years when I was working that I relied on the generosity of friends for my Christmas cookies. So, once a year at Christmas time I bake cookies for Christmas, in general, and the past two years for Sandy's party in particular.

This time I did some actual planning ahead, searching the internet for easy cookie recipes. I found one using cake mix that sounded good. So yesterday afternoon, I went to the cupboard  and realized I did not have the exact ingredients I needed. Instead of 2 boxes of devils-food cake mix, I had 2 boxes of brownie mix. No problem I would go back to the internet and find
recipes using brownie mix instead. I started mixing the ingredients when it dawned on me that when you double a recipe that means twice as many eggs(duh) and I only had enough for one batch. And my DSH needed my help in the garage moving his boat into the garage before the rain came down(more about the boat in another post). So I left the mixing to help him, then went to borrow eggs from my neighbor. I get back to the mix and think, did I put the right amount of water in? It didn't seem the right consistency. I do a test batch with only 3 cookies, leaving the rest of the mix on the counter. DSH comes in to get a drink of water, opens the cupboard,and out come two glasses crashing together, landing on the counter and the ceramic floor in a zillion pieces. We are both bare footed. The heat of the oven is not the only thing making me sweat at this point.

We both step carefully around the glass, then DSH banishes me from the kitchen(for my own good) while he cleans up the glass shards very precisely. We both look into the bowl of batter which was on the counter where the glasses landed. The oven timer goes off, and I remove a tray of what look more like three pancakes. He says, "It doesn't look like any glass got in the batter." I answer, "I am NOT taking the chance, what with glass pieces all the way across the kitchen, that one did not go in the batter!" So I throw the whole batter, bowl and all into the trash. Minutes later I was in the car on the way to the store to get more ingredients.

I was feeling stressed now. I chose to pass the Publix and head to Sam's Club, just to give myself more time to cool down. After browsing the Christmas gift section, I buy a big box of brownie mix and plenty of eggs. I also buy 3 dozen oatmeal raisin cookies from the bakery as back up in case anything else goes wrong.

After getting DSH his dinner, I find a different brownie mix cookie recipe that uses less oil and water. I used the mints idea from the original cake mix recipe I had found. Then I mixed and baked for a couple hours and the result (8 hours from when I started getting out the first batch of ingredients) was 4 dozen really good cookies. Here's the recipe:

Touch of Mint Chocolate Cookies 
1 pkg ultimate brownies 
2 eggs 
2 tablespoons water 
1 tablespoon oil 
12 Andes mints, cut in half 
 Stir together eggs, water, and oil. Stir into brownie mix. Drop by rounded tsp 
onto parchment paper, 2 inches apart. Bake in preheated 350* oven 10 minutes. 
Remove from oven, but keep on pan 2 minutes and during this time press one mint 
piece onto middle of coookie. Remove to cooling rack. Use back of spoon to 
spread melted mint around. Let cool completely. One batch makes 24 cookies.
And here's a picture of the tray of cookies I brought home for DSH from the party. 
My cookies are the ones on the far right. It was a great party, by the way, with lots of laughter. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ducks like Rain

Today was rainy, actually the rain didn't start until after dinner, but there were gray clouds hanging low and high humidity all day. Friends way up north are getting lots of snow, so I am happy to not have to deal with that. And we have not had rain for a long time, so the plants like days like today.

I was with a friend tonight in a nearby Kohls when my phone told me there was a tornado warning in the area and to take cover. Then the voice on the PA system in Kohls told everyone to leave the areas of the store near the windows and seek shelter in the middle of the store until the tornado warning passed. The rain was coming down pretty hard by then with  thunder and lightning happening outside. What were to do? My friend Darlene and I checked out the Christmas ornaments and home goods section, which was well away from the windows.

I have never been in a situation like that before...a little disarming to say the least. On the plus side, there were some great sales going on in the store, so I think I will make my way back there later this week.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Enjoying the weather

I have a friend who is making a scrapbook of the days leading up to Christmas. It is called the December Daily album (and you can read about someone who has done one for years here). I have always been interested in scrapbooking, but have not really actually completed many... ok, I have only completed  2 mini albums. So I was thinking maybe I could do that, put my thoughts down daily or weekly about my life, with an occasional picture included. Then it dawned on me that the purpose of this blog was to do just that, with the focus on the fact that every day is a gift and I should be looking for those parts that make me say, "Thank you, God." As a bonus, the blog is stored on the Internet instead of on my shelf, gathering dust and  taking up precious space.

So here is what made me happy today. (sounds like Pop Culture Happy Hour, one of my favorite NPR shows.) I needed to get a few items at the store and I was able to take my golf cart there. It was a beautiful warm day and I did not need a jacket or to put my sides down on the cart. I was glad that I did not need to use gas or add exhaust to the atmosphere.

Another thing that made me smile was the fact that I have a Dollar Tree and a Dollar General right next to each other. How cool is that? So I was able to shop for some stocking stuffers and craft items as well as ingredients for the cookies I need to make this week without spending very much money.

Our little golf cart.
This picture was taken last year when we were new to Florida and kept the sides down most of the time.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Finally, I got to go to the Magic Kingdom!

 I had the greatest time at Walt Disney World last week. These are my treasures that Tim bought for me in one of the gift shops. The mug is big, holds 12 oz of coffee, I think, and has relief seagulls on the outside and inside. That scene from "Finding Nemo" is one of my favorites. The hat is one I admired on another park attendee so I was happy to find it in the last shop we looked in before leaving on our last night. I secretly wanted a Minnie hat with red polka dots, red bow, and ears sticking out, but DSH convinced me that I would never wear it outside. Truthfully, everyone I saw wearing the Minnie hat was younger than my own children, but being a kid again is what Disney World is all about, right? Thanks to my friends Toni and Shep who visited here for a few days and then invited us to come to DW at the same time they were going and to the fact that Florida residents get great deals on tickets, I was able to do something I have wanted to do since 1964: see the attraction "It's a Small World"! We also visited Hollywood Studios(loved a city of dancing lights), Epcot(amazing Christmas Concert with Andy Garcia as narrator,trip to mars, and star wars flight with C3PO) and Animal Kingdom(festival of The Lion King), but the Magic Kingdom was my favorite. Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lightyear shooting spinning ride, the Monsters Inc. comedy show, Cinderella's Castle shimmering in lights, and the Electrical Parade...well it was magical! And just like a little kid, I did not want to leave! But we did not see it all, so I get to go back again and again.

The concert with full orchestra and  hundreds of singers from guest choruses.

Cinderella's Castle with Christmas lights-changed from white to blue to green.

Toni and me on the People Mover 

This is where we stayed, the Pop Century Resort.
We found our room by turning at the giant Play-do can sculpture in the 60s section.