Tuesday, December 30, 2014

More Christmas Fun

When last we met, we were on our way to my sister Lisa's house for Christmas dinner. For as long as I can remember, I've done Thanksgiving, while Lisa has done Christmas. Driving to her home, of all things, our nephew Rich and his family pulled up beside us on a road about 10 miles from our house--how crazy is that? Anyway we all arrived, exchanged gifts, and ate all of the goodies made by Lisa, her husband Danny, and their girls, Amanda and Emily.

In the kitchen, the blondes having a chat....
That would be Fallon, Bill's girlfriend, and Lisa. We also drank wine. But, that doesn't surprise you now does it?

My brother Pat, my sister-in-law Ruth, and her son Joey, along with Jonathan and Michelle enjoying some snacks.
Lisa and Danny have, what might be called a "compound" because there are so many different outdoor areas to both relax and work. Rich, with his youngest son, Cameron...
who turned two not so long ago. He and his brother Spencer are the only little ones in our extended family. They are opening some gifts...
and although no one is in focus, I couldn't resist posting this one with the great smiles on Bill and Fallon's faces. I'm constantly asked if I have grandchildren, and the answer is no, however, when Fallon finishes nursing school, and they get married.....perhaps I'll be answering in the affirmative one day.

Spencer received a car from Aunt Lisa and Uncle Danny, not too dissimilar from the one David drives, affectionately known as "The Silver Bullet."
He is checking the authenticity of the model Porsche.

The following day Jonathan and Alissa were heading down to Boca Raton to visit with her Mom and Step Dad. There were some difficulties, too involved to go into, with renting a car, which Bruce ended up solving. It involved driving them to the Melbourne Airport, 70 miles away. The traffic was surprisingly light, making the trip an easy one. Here they are driving away in the bright red Beetle.
I'll tell you what--that airport is as tiny as can be, making the rental process a BREEZE! I'm taking this while standing beside our car, and as you can see the terminal is extremely close. Makes a person want to move to a smaller town!

We took the country roads home, and the scenery looked like this:
Cows, and cowbirds. I'm glad the opportunity presented itself because it was very peaceful seeing the landscape, albeit a partly brown with dreary skies!

Sunday the weather turned nice and HOT--84 degrees by the afternoon. There were lots of tourists in town for the two college bowl games, and hardly a one of them could believe how warm it was. I dressed in a sleeveless dress and sandals for the occasion. So, it is the end of an era at the market--my neighbors, Jim and Kathy, did their final sales day after 7 1/2 years as my next door (!) neighbors.
No more plant advice for me! Of course they are only a phone call away, but still, I will miss them so very much. When I need to take a bathroom run, Kathy has been so good about watching over my booth for all these years. Apparently it is a secret who will be their replacement--you'll know as soon as I do. The market was mostly busy--really a good mix of reading time for me, and selling time. I like it like that. I actually almost hated to be interrupted because I was in the middle of a fantastic book which I've just finished today. The name and author?  Road Ends by Mary Lawson.
Coming around the back side of the market, on my way back from the bathroom (!), this blue heron greeted me and then, by golly, he took off and left.
While I'm being all nostalgic about Jim and Kathy, this heron reminds me of a photo I took long ago of a heron in this very water--one of the first photographs I tried selling although for the life of me, I can't remember if it ever sold.

Before Thanksgiving Bruce bought a bag of marshmallows thinking perhaps Tom and Matt might want to roast some while they were here. It did not happen for a variety of reasons, however, finally, night before last, he finally got his wish.
Using the fire pit on the patio, he was a happy camper.
Even if it was in our back yard!

The tree is down, the decorations put away, and another year is coming to a close. Another year of blogging and sharing our lives with you. I hope you have enjoyed our adventures;  I'll take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who take the time to come along for the ride via the internet!

Happy New Year to you all!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Another Year, Another Merry Christmas

I don't know about you, but I was excited to give Christmas gifts this year. Lots of years I struggle with what to give, however, this year I felt pretty darn good about things. Although, I will say, with the internet replacing so much, gift giving has become way more difficult. Or, at least that is how I see it.

The stage is set:
When the children were young we had way more traditions, however, as years have gone by, mostly we just do what feels right at the moment. One thing that has stayed pretty much the same is the watching of "Love Actually", at some point or other before Christmas. This year, that watching fell on Christmas Eve, with the usual tears of joy at the end. Although we'd planned to go down to Lake Eola for a stroll with Jonathan and Alissa following said watching, the heavens opened with a big rainstorm. Instead, we watched another movie called "Stardust." Have you seen it? A very interesting fantasy romance.

Then it was Christmas morning; before long Matt called via Face Time from Melton Mowbray where he and Tom are spending the holidays with Tom's family. Well, that was fun, and modern too--opening gifts in front of the computer while Matt and Ray, Tom's Dad, watched. Tom and his mom Jane were intermittent guests on the call as they were mostly busy in the kitchen preparing a very ambitious menu planned by Tom. Mostly we think of grocery deliveries being done in big cities, however, it happens in small towns as well, according to Matt. Tom prepared the shopping list, and Sainsbury delivered. How cool is that? The dinner bell rang, and we signed off to begin the gift giving in Orlando.

Mr. Bruce opening a biggish box with small goodies:
In an effort to keep this post manageable, I'll show you more about that in a few days. Meanwhile, Alissa opened her new LOMO camera!
I was so excited when I found it at Nordstrom back in July making the wait for her reaction a long one. There was talk about buying the film needed for this cool camera, that is up until she opened another little bag with five rolls. As well, I found a place in Austin, coincidentally very near their home, that develops film. So, a gift certificate for that as well. She takes fantastic photos with anything she gets her hands on, so I can't wait to see what she does with this.

Jon boy is hard as the dickens to buy for--his take away was not great, but he did get a few fun gifts including this neat little thing I found.
Unfortunately he's purchased a larger phone so this is mine inside. There is a little stand to hold it up--super fun.

Around two in the afternoon, the twins and their lovelies came over for round three of our gift exchange. When they came in David asked Michelle if she wanted some champagne--taking him aside, I asked that he wait just a few minutes, and he would then see why. Remember the tree flood? Well, one of the gifts requiring re-wrapping was the one to Dave and Michelle from Matt and Tom, and I knew it was champagne flutes. What I did not know was how incredibly chic they were because I only glanced at it when Bruce was wrapping it again. Well, Michelle went crazy for them....
The reason you can't really see the glass? It is because it is BLACK like her sweater! With a gold stem no less. What's most remarkable is that when they were purchased in London, Matt had no idea that she was going to a gold and black color scheme in their living area! Why I should have been surprised that they were going to be chic was just plain dumb; anyone who has ever received a gift from Matt will concur on that.

I, on the other hand did know about the scheme, and with that in mind, I made them a quilted throw for their sofa. As you can imagine, I was dying for her to open it. The main pieces are machine pieced, with the quilting and binding done by hand.
I'll tell you what--that quilting kept my hands busy while I watched some of those close FSU football games! Otherwise I would have been a nervous wreck!

Our son David has a massive wrestling card collection, so anytime I find something new to add to his wrestling obsession, I buy it. He seemed to be pleased with a new book.
They brought along Ginger who was "dressed" for the occasion.
Bill and Fallon asked me to take their photograph by the tree--one of the only posed photos I took throughout the day.
You may have noticed that all of the men are wearing short sleeves with the ladies in long. The weather was mostly dreary (what else is new this winter?), but it was much cooler than the 80 degree weather of the previous day, thus Bruce built a fire, enjoyed by all. Fires are generally few and far between.

For the most part, I'm not one to buy things for myself while shopping for others. This year I made an exception. While looking for a big blue pot at Palmer's Garden Center for Bill, I came across a super cool vase that I just had to have. It is pictured on the windowsill, along with a fantastic card from J & A purchased at MOMA this summer while they were visiting New York. Alongside that are some adorable English egg cups from Matt and Tom. Will they be used for eggs? Probably not. Will they be used to brighten my mood every time I look at them. For sure.
After that it was time to head to Lisa's house for the extended family Christmas which is a post for another day.

Happy two days after Christmas 2014,
Gail

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Making Something New

To begin with, I wonder if poinsettias are a Christmas tradition everywhere. The weather this year must have been conducive for them because in many yards, the leaves are the brilliant red that you see in the pots sold in stores and garden centers. Lovely, made even more so by the morning dew.
Just like you, we/I have been gathering with folks for the holiday season. Last Thursday I went to the home of a new friend, Lisa, who shares the same birthday as my sister Lisa!! When I was a child my Dad was a huge Ohio State fan, which makes perfect sense because he was born in Ohio, as was I. So, as it turns out are these two ladies.
Pam, waving at me, is a fan via marriage. Lisa, on the other hand, came by her fandom as a student, and what you see on the wall is something pretty darn amazing. That, my friends, is a collage with not only a Woody Hayes signature (long time coach there fyi), but the diagram and photos of the band of which Lisa was not just any old member, she was the very first woman to "dot the I" in Ohio at halftime. Band geeks will get what a big deal this is. If only we got to see those halftimes on television like we used to....

Then, on Friday night, we gathered with the recently unemployed at Barb and Steve's house. You might note the pile of dollar bills in front of Mr. Peck who won them in a dice game.
All but one around the table were laid off from Darden in the last year. Fortunately, most have found new jobs. Someone put a clever little tag on the bottle of wine...
Let the record stand--none of us got Blitzen!

Is this the embodiment of a Florida snowman, or what?
People are so darn clever aren't they? Below, one of my favorite Christmas light displays this season!
Which reminds me, have any amongst you been watching the Great Christmas Light Fight on ABC? I don't know how I happened to see a commercial for this show, but the fellow doing the sound bite hooked me before I'd even seen it...."If you can't see it from Space, it ain't worth doing." Indeed, the episodes we saw embodied that motto! I guess Monday night was the finale which we missed because we were out to dinner for our daughter-in-law's birthday.....well, you knew all this already. Jon and Alissa arrived safe and sound and the dinner was great fun.

The bread I made last week,
would have won no beauty contest, however, the taste was pretty darn good, although, I got such a crust on there it took some muscle to slice it! Excellent hearty toast, that is if you like a work out.

Twix Cookies---what a concept!! Click the link for details!

I did just that, deciding it was a wee bit too time consuming for this time of the year, so I decided to take it slow. Not once have I ever made shortbread even though I love it. Chocolate is good and all, but I'm a buttery cookie girl myself.  I followed the recipe to the letter--none of this saying it was pretty good, but I substituted this, and this, and this......I read those comments online, and it makes me crazy. Follow the darn recipe folks!!

It begins with a lot of butter,
and the iPad. Except the image and words on the iPad were visible for about a minute or two, then I would have to re-enter Bruce's password; when you are making something brand new, this is a real pain in the neck. I texted Matt right then and there, wondering what to do. Fortunately he got back with me, and I changed the setting allowing me to actually consult the recipe about a gazillion times. So, you make the dough, which includes some finely ground oatmeal. After the ingredients look like dough, you mash it all down in an upturned springform pan set on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
I borrowed a biscuit cutter from Corrine to put in the center as directed. Actually when she was over the other day she insisted I keep it as she has no intention of ever making biscuits again.
Here is what it looks like after the first cooking. After removing the biscuit cutter, and the pan form, I scored the dough and using a wooden skewer poked all the holes in it.
After which you return it to the shut off oven, propped barely open with a wooden spoon, to dry out for an hour.
Once it is completely cool, you cut on those lines and it all worked according to plan except for the fact that I was meant to cut it into 16 triangles instead of the 13 pictured! The end result? Delicious!!!
Next up--finding a second biscuit cutter to tackle those Twix cookies! Biscuit cutters seem to be an endangered species as I've yet to find one in the stores.

While we are on the subject of something new--here's a good one for you. In all 41 Christmases in the Peck household, never have I done this before. As you can see our tree, on sunny days, gets afternoon sunshine and heat.
Well, Mrs. Camera Crazy put her hand into what she thought was the water receptacle, and found it dry. Using a gigantic water jug, she added water. And then she added more water because she still could feel none. It was then that she noticed the red cloth, skirting the tree, had some water on it. But she did not remember spilling any of the above mentioned water. Then she noticed it spreading. Followed by more spreading. Followed by a mad scramble to remove all of those lovely packages from under the tree because.......the water receptacle was overflowing!!! And here you thought she was slightly smart. :)

Aside from a few packages that required re-wrapping, a complete disaster was averted with help from Mr. Peck. Talk about something new!!

Merry, Merry Christmas friends,

Gail

p.s. That's a Happy Christmas to those in the UK.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Here and There, Part Two

The smart thing to do, early this morning, would have been to have gone straightaway to Publix, however, had I done that instead of my bike ride, I would have missed this lovely winter sunrise.
Actually, as most anyone knows, this is taken pre-sunrise. In fact, I took off around 7 this morning, immediately noticing the show going on above me, so I rode as fast as my little feet could pedal down Ferncreek to the boat ramp on Lake Conway. If you can imagine, I even took my shoes off and waded in a bit to get a shot past the boat house! Beautiful and peaceful, although there was one truck parked there already, so apparently someone was out on the water.

Woo hoo--I also saw, for the first time in ages and ages, the eagle!!!
The light was still quite dim, and of course the pine on which he is perched is about 80 feet tall, so with my equipment I'll never get too good of a shot, so this one will have to suffice. Good photo, or bad, I was just elated when I came across him.

So, after riding toward the eagle house, I turned around, heading back to the boat ramp. The streaky sky and golden light were spectacular.
Fantastic, right? It pays to get a move on early!! The truth is that I have barely any time to write today as we are taking Michelle out for her birthday dinner in about an hour or so, followed by picking up Jon and Alissa at the airport tonight.

With that in mind I'm going to show just a few of my favorites from the last few days. We pulled up at a garden center and were greeted by this wonderful scene:
And, who amongst you has ever had the pleasure of a Christmas cactus that you never thought would bloom turn into a MASS of blooms one year? This was on the front porch where I rarely saw it so for now it is out on the table by the pool.
Corrine, who turned 89 just two weeks ago brought over magazines for me a few minutes ago. She walked across the street with her cane which disturbed me. I cut her some of the fudge I'd just made and gave her two pieces of the SHORTBREAD I made the other day. The shortbread is going to be a post in itself when I have time. All of this reminded me of the hibiscus bloom I filched from her plant the other day because the color was outstanding!
Here's a little fellow all ready for the upcoming Rose Bowl between FSU and Oregon! No, for those of you who don't know my dog, it is not mine. For some reason he was roaming a neighborhood I was riding through.
For the record, Publix was a mad house, as you knew it would be only a few days until Christmas......

We'll talk soon,
Gail

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Here and There

Look who is snuggled up with his blanket during our cold snap!
This last week has been chilly most days, and the windows have been semi-opened, much to the chagrin of my husband, and dog. So why, pray tell are the windows not shut? Truth be told, I was so sick of being hot I decided to enjoy what little cold weather we have!! Bruce, on the other hand, wants to dress like it is summer, thus he thinks I'm crazy. He may have a point.

You might be wondering how Bruce stays busy each and every day--what exactly is he doing? Well, here he is at his desk, actually dressed for winter for a change...
One of the things he is doing is marking up the plans for the security system, and other stuff I've forgotten.
He spends an awful lot of time on the telephone, talking to the contractor, the office, and various sub contractors, working out all of the details, or as much as he's able, before the job actually starts. Construction, or so we think, will begin in mid-January; all dependent on the building permit.

I have a retraction to make from a previous post! When I drove up following the market on Sunday, my little honey had put up some lights!
Not a whole lot, but enough to make me happy!

This morning, while trying to find a spot for the photo album which contained those old photos of me, I found a notebook in a basket on the shelf in the guest room. Aw shucks--it was my sales and other stuff from....
yep--my first time at the market on 3-18-2007. Apparently I dreamed up my company name on the 7th, or so it would appear. The notebook was filled with not only my market days, but Valencia classes because it was my final two semesters there. Hard to believe it has been seven years since I graduated--time flies when you are having fun.

My girly bike has been getting quite the workout this week in spite of the chilly weather. You may, or may not, have noticed one of the accessories:
and, although I thought the new seat would be more comfortable,
sadly, it is not. Bruce has done some adjusting to the seat which helped some--I am trying to get used to it because I would hate to have to replace it with something not nearly as cute.

So, we have some folks living around the corner who have a big property on Lake Jennie Jewell that they have filled with all manner of statuary. Somewhat like my photography baskets, there seems to be no theme whatsoever. The latest is absolutely the kookiest thing yet.
A week or two ago, this appeared in the yard. The mannequins are sporting t-shirts that say, "Reinstate Dr. Coble. Being he has an inquiring mind, Bruce did a little Google search, finding out that it is a dentist in Tennessee who had a patient die during a procedure. What it has to do with the folks living in this house is not something we are privy to as they are not the sociable kind. Anyway, never one to leave something alone when more can be done, the display now looks like this:
Please note the pirate with spy glass, as well as cannon, lion, and pointing finger surrounding the nearby oak tree. What will they think of next?

Finally, the squirrels have been at it again. Not content to just chew on the kayak, they apparently did a number on the cable line to our home. While Matt and Tom were visiting, Matt complained about the general slowness, and unreliability of our internet service, something we've been putting up with for ages. Every time I called Bright House, which was a considerable number of times, they did something over the phone. This time, however, the fellow came out, and changed everything, including a new modem, the pole connector, and the wire, which the squirrels had been feasting on. To say the changes have been remarkable is putting it mildly.

Today is my youngest sister Lisa's 55th birthday, marking the one week until Christmas mark. My poor parents--two children with birthdays in December, one a week before and one a week after. Must have been quite the challenge for them. Anyway--who can believe it is only ONE WEEK AWAY??

Long Beach, CA