Friday, December 28, 2012

Worst Title Ever?

Post # 1102 must rank as the worst title I've ever come up with--good grief. I'm tempted to change yesterday's title, but then again, failures help us to improve. Or, at least that's the theory.....

So, where were we? Baxter, that's where we were. Not only did Baxie have a limp, but as an afterthought I sent along the blanket he sleeps on at night because it had what appeared to be grains of rice on it which stymied the both of us. Well, good thing Bruce took it because I'm not sure we would have ever known that our poor little doggie had a TAPEWORM! No doubt you don't want to know anything more about it, and frankly, neither do I, but I will tell you that there is no threat to our health (or our guests!), and after taking the two pills yesterday evening it should pose none to Baxter anymore.

Thinking about dogs--I'm posting this as a public service announcement. These folks need your help if you live anywhere near me! Both signs have remained all over our area for nearly a week now. I imagine both owners must be frantic by now.
In other pet news, it seems as if Paul has found his land tortoise, or so I hope, because the sign is gone.

While looking through my pictures, I realized I took very few during the holidays--not a single one of Bruce, which is just fine by him. I did, however, take a few of my sons and those they love. Jonathan and Alissa are watching Bruce open one of his gifts on Christmas morning in this one:
Does anyone have more beautiful skin than Alissa? I'm typically not the jealous type, however,  I'm not ashamed to admit I'm seriously jealous of her glow!

Bill, Fallon, Dave, and Michelle came over around lunch time for their gifts. Remember how I was working on the quilt, going so far as to guesstimate the number of stitches? I was so excited for Bill to open his gift, only to have him pull it out and wonder what it was! Good thing I have a thick skin! Explaining how I anticipated him snuggling on his couch with it, he then asked if I made it. Why yes son, I did.
Calling him this afternoon, following my shopping spree at William's Sonoma courtesy of the gift card he gave me, he told me, in fact, he did just as I'd hoped during last evening's chilly weather.

The living room was packed with presents and people. Oh yeah--and food. Bruce's sister somehow remembered how much he loves a summer sausage from Hickory Farms at Christmas time, sending a gift pack on Christmas eve. Bruce prepared a plate of goodies:
Opening gifts seemed to go on forever!
My stylish daughter-in-law insisted I open both gifts, even though one is for my upcoming birthday!
There's just something about a Tiffany box isn't there? An adorable mug in what else? Tiffany blue. The dress in the LP box is a gorgeous shade of coral. Happy days!

Folks who live up North can hardly imagine we spent some of our time outdoors while at Lisa's house, but we did. Michelle and Fallon looking pretty.
It's usually a challenge to get David to allow me to take his photograph, but after some minor pleading, he consented.
Jonathan and Bill were easily convinced:
So, there you go--you've now seen all four sons within two days of posts. Who knows how long until this happens again. I'm so mad at myself for not taking their photograph together!! What, pray tell, was I thinking?  Obviously, I wasn't.

Lisa and Danny both love the outdoors; creating inviting outdoor spaces is something they work very hard on. I forgot to ask Lisa where she got this cute birdbath, but I know she loves her turtles. Then, there is the bird feeder and house...
Too cute! The steps in the middle of the photograph lead gently down to the pond behind their home. Our nephew Rich, who is quite the doting Dad, holds his first born Spencer:
Spencer is the cutest little boy I've seen in ages. And good. I never once got that lucky---all of my boys were quite the handful! Spencer knew just what to do with the puzzle we gave him:
That darling look of concentration just kills me.

Another Christmas has come and gone--where does the time go?
Let's see--only 6 months until I start the shopping and quilt making again. Dave and Michelle have been informed they are next!

Mostly it's been quiet around here today--Bruce went to check on his Lake City jobs, while Jonathan and Alissa's friend Mike came by earlier to collect them--shopping and tonight's bowl game at the Citrus Bowl are in their plans. Me, I'm getting the cold.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Londoners Have Left

All good things must come to an end and Matt and Tom's Christmas visit is naturally no exception. It was not without sadness that we saw them off at the airport yesterday afternoon, however, as I told them, I couldn't be more thrilled with the life they have made together in London. I was trying to think the other day about how old Matt was when I was his age....13 years old already. Plus, it wasn't too many more years and he flew the coop, never to return for any length of time. So, you see, I'm accustomed to it, but don't confuse that with not wanting him to live here! That said, if he'd never moved to London, he would have never met Tom, and that my friends, would have been a tragedy. They are like ying and yang together--fantastic.

The time flew by, filled with baking-- more bread by Matt: (I convinced him to try cutting the top of one of the loaves with kitchen shears, which as you can plainly see, was not the best idea I've ever had)
and beautiful cut out gingerbread cookies by Tom; regretfully, I have no photographic evidence, but believe me they were perfect.  In fact, the first batch came to the market to share with my customers, followed by a second batch, which is no longer with us as you can well imagine. Fantastic.

Mostly I cooked food, but I did get into the sweet act a wee bit, making an apple pie with way too many apples!
The crust was made in my brand new Kitchen Aid stand mixer, an unexpected gift from Tom and Matt.
Perhaps, unbeknownst to me, they had planned on buying a mixer while here, but I don't think so.  While they were out shopping with Bruce (yes, plenty of shopping was squeezed in), they came across, what I'm hoping, a deal they thought too good to pass up at TJ MAXX. In the foreground is a cute-as-a-button camera lens timer from Tom.

Shopping, baking, giving and receiving.
We forgot to do the Crackers! Matt, however, kept things spirited. He was not the only one wearing a bit of holiday fun on his head; somehow he managed to get Baxter to keep his Santa hat on--well, actually only about a minute or so. Unlike dogs I see at the market, Baxter has no interest in dressing up. Come to think of it, perhaps those dogs don't either?
Matt had a bird theme going on with several of my gifts, including this cool calendar from Matt Sewell, whom, those with exceedingly good memories, may recall is the illustrator/author of "Our Garden Birds", as detailed in my previous entry!
I'm not sure which is cuter, the above calendar or this charming mobile:
Cute, cute, cute! There were even more gifts, in fact this post would be crazy long if I showed them all. Plus, Tom's parents sent beautiful gifts from England. During the afternoon Matt finally got Facetime to work so we were able to wish them a Happy Christmas face-to-face, so to speak.

No holiday is complete without a family gathering. Lisa and Danny are kind enough to host the Christmas dinner, always providing a lovely space and delicious food. Matt and Tom are visiting with Aunt Maureen, with Dave closest to Tom, and Bill on his right.
After leaving Lisa's house in Longwood, we took in a few lights, beginning in her neighborhood. My gosh, I could hardly believe this yard which seems to have left no square foot without some decoration or lights. Tom was keen on being photographed in front of this house, which if nothing else is a bit of a testament to American excess, or optimism, whatever you want to call it!
I will say, they did a remarkable job of keeping their stories straight--Lord Jesus on one side, with Santa, all eight reindeer, and toys on the left! The light bill must be incredible!

Closer to home, a stop to see Santa was in order:
Sadly, Bruce was under the weather during much of their visit, going so far as to skip the gathering at Lisa's house. Nothing serious, a stubborn cold and the neck pain that refuses to completely disappear. He made the most of the quiet house to sleep and relax. Happily, he is now nearly as good as new!

Unlike Matt's Mom, his Dad is more than willing to brave the day after Christmas crowds at Milennia, taking Tom and Matt for their final shopping trip. According to them, it wasn't nearly as bad as one would think. Sadly, the weather was not nearly as sunny as I would have liked during their visit, however, once the cold front passed through after lunch, the sun finally came out, allowing us to take a little walk in the neighborhood. Baxter came along for good measure, however, once we were down by the lake, he developed a limp. :-(

Carrying him, we continued our walk over to Eric's house. Knocking on the door, I told him I'd brought my family to see his gardens; characteristically, he dropped what he was doing to give us a guided tour. Were we ever glad he did because there is so much to see and learn. His array of culinary shrubs and trees is remarkable, along with many varieties of citrus. Picking a perfectly yellow fruit ,he claimed it was a lime, which, after carrying it home, I confirmed after cutting it. Who knew a lime could look like a large lemon? Bay leaves, several types of sage, anise, curry leaves, all spice and loads more. What is so remarkable is he had no idea how interesting this would be to us, particularly Tom who loves the science behind cooking. Furthermore, he has a bergamot citrus tree. So what? The oil from the skin is used to flavor Earl Grey tea! Who knew you could grow it in Orlando?

And so it was our time together was nearly done. Following our walk, the Pilot was packed, and off we went to the airport but not without first showing them the pine tree where I see the eagles. There I go, as if I'll be doing it daily! I wanted them to see it for themselves so if in fact I do have the opportunity to photograph them again, they'll have a reference. Bruce was riding along so naturally I had him guesstimate the tree height--80 feet in the air. No wonder my shots are slightly challenged!

Finally, the sun is out, so much so Tom has to shield his eyes to see us...And no, despite appearances, his bag is not leaking! Leaving at 6:30PM EST, they arrived at 7:30 AM GMT. Lord knows, I hope they were able to sleep. After a day of rest, they will make the train journey to visit with Tom's Mum and Dad for the weekend. I'm pretty confident those short sleeved shirts will not make another appearance until their trip to India in a month. Pray for sunshine!

The Londoners have gone, the Austinites are here until my birthday, and the Orlandoans have stayed put.  More on the latter two groups when next we meet...hope your Christmas was as wonderful as ours.

p.s. This just in--Bruce has returned from taking Baxie to the vet who thinks he has a torn ACL.... Boo hoo!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Can You Blame Me?

Seriously, what better way to start my day than a brisk bike ride to see an eagle take off, heading for parts unknown? Sort of like my days--I usually never quite know in advance where they will take me!
Do you know what the first thing Matt did once he got up Wednesday morning? Of course you don't, because most of you have no idea how great his passion is for bread baking, but, yes, that's what he did, after a quick trip to Publix for the whole wheat flour, along with yeast, and rye flour.
Can you even believe how pretty that is? Pretty yes, more importantly, delicious! His bread baking passion has taken off, so much so that Tom gave him a one day baking class as a Christmas gift. The teachers are some guys in London, who have gone from using their very advanced degrees in financing and the like, to baking bread in a shop near Matt and Tom's flat. Successfully, I might add.

Both Tom and Matt like to be in the kitchen; Matt with his baking, and Tom creating vegan dishes for dinner. Turns out, in the cupboard I had these little molds to make a tortilla bowl with which I'd never used, however they did:
Grilled, seasoned and diced tofu, black beans, fresh corn and onions were sauteed, topped with pretty little diced onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. I'd forgotten what big appetites young men have--if this were my plate I imagine I could eat only one, but they managed to scarf it all down, leaving enough room for a desert of coconut and raspberry sorbet layered in a cute little ice cream sundae dish. Should have gotten a picture of that!

Tom has been enjoying our Florida sunshine, spending most of his free time sitting by the pool, soaking it all in. I was mistaken, the winter in London thus far has been milder than usual, however, their sunshine quota is nothing like ours, no matter how warm it has been. Plus, at this time of the year they only have daylight for 7 1/2 hours! Yikes! Yesterday they drove over to Ormond Beach, and although I've not heard the tale firsthand, Matt sent a little text saying Tom SWAM in the Atlantic! More on that later...

Overnight rain came in, signaling a cold front. As I type, it is a mere 50 degrees, quite a drop from yesterday, however, the sun is shining brightly in the perfectly blue sky, which is good enough for me. My bike ride this morning, was, to put it mildly, a bit chilly. 20 mph winds are a bit much, but this time I remembered to wear my gloves for the first time. Much better!

Because it is Friday, let's take a little peak at some Christmas displays of note:

Hark the Herald Angels Sing!!! Or, blow their trumpets I suppose.
What an ingenious use of an old awning below:
The angel above was hovering over the manger, blowing this way and that in the wind.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town:
Make that two. The reindeers, however, seem to be a bit weary, or perhaps overburdened? Where's Rudolph when you need him?

Only Santa is allowed to park at this "Beach Bungalow."
While on the subject of Christmas displays, I thought you might find it interesting to learn that two out of the top ten search terms in my blog stats were--"blue octopus with santa hat." Who are these people searching for a blue octopus in santa hat?

Jonathan and Alissa arrive tomorrow afternoon! Where they are going to sleep is another matter. One thing I do know is they will need to use the room I am in now for their things, so I best be getting the table cleared of the holiday wrapping! Although I wrapped a bunch more gifts the other day, they need some sprucing up with ribbons and bows. Poor Bruce has a cold and doesn't feel much like doing it, so onward I go....

The light sure is pretty this time of the year,
There now--something pretty to close with. :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

Yesterday afternoon the London arm of our family arrived safe and sound, warm and dry. I was overjoyed at seeing them both, however, you know how it is at the airport--the hugs are short and sweet as there are other cars lined up ready to swoop in the moment you leave your spot. Mostly Matt was starving, and as it was nearly 6PM by then, I mentioned a new place that has opened on Orange Avenue nearby. Wouldn't you know it? Matt, while working for Georgia Tech, had eaten at the Atlanta locations of Taqueria del Sol multiple times. Because it is a new favorite of ours I was happy to learn it passed the vegan test, so it wasn't long before we were devouring their tasty food. Orlando friends--check it out because it is yummy!

Afterwards I wondered if perhaps they would like to visit the Florida Santa before we went home; they both were excited to see it in person. Lo and behold, as they sat in the car, I popped out with my camera and the folks who own it were outside! My curiosity about what was under the tarp has been satisfied--it's a small boat full of gifts. Then too, the man asked if I'd like to have my photo taken with Santa, and because I knew my blog readers would love to see something so silly, I hopped up on the porch and struck a pose.
Meanwhile, Matt mentioned to Tom that he'd seen Mommy kissing Santa Claus....oh the things one thinks of! The folks were really pleasant, explaining that the shack comes apart, storing easily, however, they would not reveal where they got the Santa! Good times.

Generally I've found if you ask nicely most people are happy to share their stories, and in some cases, their property. As I left the house yesterday morning, looking down the street, what should I see but my friend Sue on her new bike! We took off together down Appleton towards the eagle spot on Ferncreek. She'd only seen it in the photographs and was happy to see it in person. But, once we got there the tree was empty....

I told her some folks mentioned it oftentimes likes to hang in a back yard down the street on Lake Conway so off we went. Slowly we made our way down Waterwitch because I couldn't exactly remember which house it was. Sue spotted it first, way up high. Because my zoom won't go so far, I decided to knock on the door and see if we could go into their backyard for a closer look. Ann was only too happy to let us do so and how delightful was she? Very delightful! We chatted about the neighborhood and the habits of the eagle. Pointing the camera towards the eagle most of the time, I was thrilled that I got a few shots off takeoff and flight.
Amazing right? Not so much the picture, but the very thought of flight...hard to get one's head around.

I did my best to get all of my wrapping done,
trying to incorporate one of Bruce's techniques while mostly failing miserably.
I would pull off all these little tabs of tape, promptly use them, and then forget to redo it, only noticing when I got to the end of a package. Oh well, makes a fun picture nonetheless.

Beth, Roger's daughter-in-law, has been working for him most of the year and at the moment, because Roger's mom is in the hospital, she's on her own. Late in the afternoon she sent me a message that the gigantic canvas, ordered by a young lady from the market was ready. I scooted right over there to pick it up. For the last several years Trish and Roger have not had a Christmas tree or any decorations for that matter. This year they are making up for lost time. I LOVE what she did with her front porch:
As you can plainly tell, the fog has lifted, as have the clouds, and it was bright and sunny--perfect weather for a visit from our London boys. They did manage to stay up, in spite of the fact that it was about 2 in the morning when they finally gave in to their weariness. Today is going to be a good day. After I deliver the canvas, we're going to do something--just what I don't know yet, but it will be nice whatever it is.

Lastly, on Saturday, I might have mentioned how Winter Garden set up a big stage at the market for performances by various children's classes, dancers, and so on. The rendition I heard of a boy playing the recorder and a girl doing a solo on "Kumbaya," was sweet. What was really, really super was the local Baptist church doing the "Hallelujah" chorus under the direction of their charismatic leader! He invited the audience to sing along, and sing along we did!
Good times indeed. If hearing that song doesn't put one in the Christmas spirit, nothing will.

Daylight has come to our part of the world which means I'm outta here...let the good times roll.

Monday, December 17, 2012

All Over Town....

or so it seemed. Firs,t I drove out to get the first oil change for my Pilot this morning on South Orange Blossom Trail, followed by a trip to Longwood which is in the COMPLETE opposite direction.

Is it just me, or do some of you mind the incessant noise everywhere you go? Seeking some semblance of quiet, I went outside at the Honda dealership to read my book, sitting at a picnic table already occupied by "Dee." Asking if she minded if I joined her, she said "no, of course sit here, the weather is beautiful." And so I did. After introducing herself, she proceeded to tell me all of her family details which is pretty normal for folks I'm talking to. What most surprised me though was the fact that she was there to think about MAYBE replacing her Honda Pilot, although it is still running just fine with 250,000 miles!!! I've put close to 5,000 miles on mine since I purchased it in early April, so I'm thinking I may very well have this car until I die! Not only do I have fresh oil, but I have a sparkling clean vehicle so that my darling eldest son, along with his charming boyfriend, can ride around in style when they arrive from London tomorrow evening. Well, maybe not style, but at least in a clean vehicle. Bruce, after unloading following yesterday's market, vacuumed it like nobodies business, however, there was no time to wash the monster as it was already getting dark. Having a silver car is the best--I'm pretty sure this is maybe only the third washing?

Following the oil change, and a stop by the house to not only eat, but to check on the laundry, I got on I-4, heading to Longwood, more specifically--Petty's Meats. Although they've been in business for 33 years, this is my first visit to the family-owned store. Think before Whole Foods, Fresh Market, and the like. They were here before the big boys. All of my sons are difficult to find neat Christmas gifts for, meaning every year I struggle trying to think of things that might delight them. Anyway, Mr. Grill Guy, who has pretty much everything, and makes more money than we do, is one of the hardest to shop for. Then, the other day I thought of Petty's--thus my trip for a gift certificate. The place is jam-packed with delicious foods, not just meat. I saw a jar of Biscoff spread there! If you've ever flown Delta you'll know Biscoff as the deliciously addictive cookies served onboard. The bakery case was pretty darn yummy looking.
Rudolph's Nose indeed. See that lonely eclair in the case? It's found a home. :)

I'll tell you what--the traffic on a few roads was pretty darn heavy. On my way home from the oil change, instead of taking Taft-Vineland Road, like I should have, I drove down the Trail, and got stuck in this mess around noon time.
Just so you don't get all worried about me driving and taking photos, I was sitting, patiently waiting.The photo is one taken with Snapseed, a phone app that links to Google +. I wish more folks used Google+ because it is very good looking, as are all things Google in my book. I tapped the drama editing button to make it more intense. In the foreground is my shiny, clean car!

So, anyway, while I was in Longwood, I delivered my sister Lisa's birthday gift, although I had to leave it on the porch because she was not home to receive it. Lisa is quite the project girl--even more than I am. This must be a reclaimed high chair:
Super cute isn't it? And then there is her beloved fountain in the front yard which I'm quite envious of, if I do say so myself.
I quit writing to fix my dinner of polenta, sliced tomatoes, and carrots and radishes, and while finishing up the preparations, Lisa called saying she was delighted with her little turtle box.

Speaking of presents, I received my first Christmas gift from Bev last week, a set, and I mean a huge set, of notecards, she purchased from a favorite Michigan artist, Gwen Frostic. To say that I was delighted is putting it mildly.
Aren't they adorable? Lisa likes turtles--I like birds, as if I needed to tell you. The best part is that I've already had an occasion to use one. Late last week, I stopped at the Russell Home to buy Corrine a Winter Rose Poinsettia for her 87th birthday. As well, I carried over some Lemon Delight Pound Cake, one of Jonathan's favorites. This time I made it using some Lemon oil I purchased at Marshalls which was super fantastic.

Over the weekend I did both the Winter Garden and Lake Eola markets; surprisingly, I made more money at Winter Garden--go figure.  A charming booth at WG for Christmas:
As is always the case, I take a lot of market photos, but this is one of my favorites from Sunday:
I know I'm kind of partial to boys, but I bet every one of you is thinking the same thing--he is the cutest! Santa came to the market to visit with the boys and girls:
Dana thinks of everything doesn't she? 

Mr. Bruce is in Sacramento tonight, so I'm on my own, which means getting some reading done. A few weeks ago, Bev loaned me a book which I began today at the Honda place, Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Story of an Owl and His Girl. To tell you the truth, I was a little sad when they called my name because I was just getting into it. I'll tell you more as I go along...

Oh, before I forget, after Longwood it was College Park, for another gift idea. Indeed, I was all over town.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday Fun!

Let's have some fun at others expense today, shall we?

I spent about two hours on the telephone the other afternoon catching up with my old friend Karen. The good news she had to share was, without the aid of an attorney, she is now on disability. According to her, there were about 500 pages of documentation necessary. Well, after all, she's had some serious health issues, including but not limited to a gigantic brain aneurysm, open heart surgery, and seizures, which despite three medications, refuse to go away. So, there is  that good news.

Because we've been friends for so long, I can still remember when her brother Vinnie was in a tae kwon do movie back in the 80's. During our conversation, she told me that this weekend the Enzian was showing the movie at midnight. Furthermore, she related how it has become a cult classic. Imagine my surprise when I opened today's paper and saw it on the front page! You, my friends, get an added bonus with this link. DO NOT MISS THIS! In the trailer, you will see Vinnie say: "I want you to know, you're the only family I've ever had." This, my friends is a lie. He, in fact, has five siblings. What's really something is that the film was purchased from Ebay by the Alamo Cinema folks in Austin, where the first showing was held in 2010. The very same place that Jonathan and Alissa frequently visit, sometimes on our dime, as a gift certificate to there was one of their Christmas gifts last year. The world is indeed a small place isn't it?

I've been scouting out some particularly silly Christmas displays so you don't have to. Ready? Here we go!

I'm wondering if the folks who built this had it done by the contractor who has been remodeling their home for what seems like ages? A life-sized fake Florida Santa? Where, pray tell, does one get something like this??
I am absolutely dying to know just what is under that blue tarp! The sign for a free photo with Santa intrigued me, so much so, that last night, when Mr. Bruce surprised me by coming home early, I convinced him to drive over there to see it for himself. This, by the way, is in Southern Oaks, a pretty genteel neighborhood, so that's got me wondering what the neighbors are saying. Anyway, the photographer was nowhere to be found when we saw it at night. Bruce is convinced someone has stolen Santa's guitar.
When I saw this display, I kept thinking to myself, first of all, who uses blue for Christmas decorations? and secondly, what place does an octopus have in the Christmas story?
Apparently, they are not the only folks who bought into the whole "blue octopus with Santa hat" idea because I saw one again this morning!
Number two octopus at least has some company in the way of inanimate objects including what I'm thinking is perhaps the Abominable Snowman? And then there is the recumbent penguin...

Speaking of snowmen, this one gives new meaning to the term block head:
For good measure a round headed version rests atop a gardening pot.

One of my favorite Christmas songs begins with the lines, "gathered around the Christmas tree", which is just what I thought about when I saw this:
If one tree is good, three are better. And then there is the curious display of baby Jesus actually resting in the tree...

These folks surely know about Santa, but are they mixing up their holidays, or maybe misinterpreting the Christmas story?
Then again, maybe that's not a stork after all, but a pelican?

Curious George, never one to want to be left out of things, makes an appearance as well:
Quite a large appearance don't you agree?

Do you suppose these folks are concerned about their privacy? On the other hand, they may have purchased this at a garage sale:
Who knew Santa played golf with a Polar bear as his caddy?

Rounding out today's displays is a glam version of Santa. Not only is he all sparkly, the presents in the yard are as well. Very 2012.
Well, that's what we've seen so far, but with 11 days left before Christmas, along with many unridden streets remaining, I suspect there will be more to have a little Friday fun with.

You Just Never Know