Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Ending the Year With Some Favorites

If ever there were a year that embodied my saying about Florida weather, this would be it. "Greater and Lesser Summer. The high tomorrow is slated to be 88 degrees. Simply incredible!

Incredible too that tomorrow is my 62nd birthday, as my computer was so helpful in reminding me!
Not only does this photo show my birthday reminder, it also shows some texts from Hilary about the flooding in Paducah. Remember how it is at the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers?
There will be no parking in this area for the foreseeable future as the river has risen some 30 feet! So high, in fact, that the gates had to be put in along the wall, filling the open space.
So, while I'm complaining about wearing the same clothes as I've pretty much worn all year, people in multiple states are suffering from the weather in far more dire ways. I can't promise you won't hear anything more from me regarding the heat again, but I will promise not to write another word about it this year!

Speaking of clothes, which sometimes is one of my favorite things, I went to the mall yesterday with the express purpose of buying some new clothes. I will not, or so I say now, be wearing anything like this anytime soon.
The dresses are pretty, but if you could see those zipped in the back socks in person...

Shop windows at the high end stores found at Millennia Mall are always entertaining,
however, don't you think this makes the handbag look as if it were the holy grail? By the way, the circles surrounding the object of desire not only light up, but change color as well. What will they think of next to market a handbag, or purse as we used to call them before they became fetishes?

So, where pray tell are these favorites my title refers to? This was the year of the owl for me wasn't it? As such, Matt gave me an adorable little owl book by Matt Sewell, a UK artist who is just the best! The subtitle is "our most enchanting birds." I could not have said it better myself. Without specifically mentioning the heat as promised, the unseasonable weather has been just that with hydrangeas blooming in Cheryle's yard,
leaving me to wonder if the birds would be off schedule with their nesting. For most of the summer and fall, whenever I've had a peek at the "owl trees", I was lucky if I saw one owl. This week I've been better about my morning rides, and thought I'd check things out regarding my owls. Riding up, the sight of a hawk low in the Cypress tree was quite the surprise. I'm seriously loving this lucky shot! To tell you the truth, I'm unclear if this is a hawk or a falcon?
In the adjacent Cypress tree, Papa owl was kind of low himself. High above, Momma Owl was peering down on the proceedings, which became very interesting as I stood there. A young woman, visiting her parents for Christmas from NYC, stopping running to see what I was seeing. The hawk squawked loudly for some time while Papa just stared. After a bit, the hawk flew up towards the owl, feathers were flying before the hawk flew into a nearby oak, still squawking like mad. Mama stared throughout.
All the while, the young lady and myself watched in amazement at the beauty and wonder of nature in front of our eyes. She said she could watch all day! After the hawk flew away, we both took our leave, wishing each other a Happy New Year.

While on the subject of bird sightings, looking out the window in our bedroom I saw something I'd never seen before....a great blue heron flying into one of the giant Oak trees across the street. Grabbing my camera, I ran out front, hoping to get a shot; wishful thinking is what that was. In any case, I watched for a bit and before long the heron flew out with a big branch in his beak, flying toward the lake. In the spirit of hidden pictures, do you see what I see in this shot?
Let me know what you see in the giant pines in another neighbor's yard, lakeside.

Another favorite is my beloved husband who is always so thoughtful in his gifts. He went to two quilting shops looking for supplies! The day after Christmas he called me into the garage where he'd set up this little display.
A sweet French pot, freshly planted, a work table lamp, and a little vase with berries.  I'd been saying I needed more light for my sewing table and he listened. I changed the set up in my office in order to make better use of the natural light for these aging eyes!
Although he could take the easy way out, buying me a piece of jewelry like his Dad always did for his Mom, or, he could buy something I'll appreciate every day. I'll take the later, every single time.

Then there is college football. Bruce's brother Cris called, wondering if we'd like to meet for lunch, followed by attending the Russell Athletic Bowl game featuring Baylor and NC State. You bet!! The folks that own these RVs had hope at this point.
Later those hopes were smashed by Baylor, whose band did this before the game. I told you Texans are super proud of their state!
I'd pretty much forgotten how different it is being in the stands at a football game; the young men look so much smaller and younger than on television. Apparently there are two ways to look at things--I was going crazy because a group of about seven preteens would not sit still, blocking my view, and in general making me almost as crazy as the heat. Bruce, on the other hand, said they were there to have fun, so, nicely he told me to get over it. :)

Sadly, I left home without thinking about bringing a second battery. Bad move.

On the domestic front, I've learned something useful, and I hope you will find it useful as well. As I've written in the past, putting the bottom sheet on the bed always stymied me. Now, however, I've learned the secret. Put the corner with the tag on the right bottom corner of the bed, do the opposite corner next, and so on, and it will be right every time. Wisdom gained after a lifetime.

Recently I cleaned off the bulletin board in my office, coming across a card Matt gave me for my 60th birthday. He wrote something sweet about how vibrant my 50's were, and hoped my 60's would be the same. Two years in, I can't determine if I'm heading in that direction, but I hope so.

Happy New Year my friends,

Gail

Monday, December 28, 2015

And Then There Were Two

Things have been pretty busy around the Peck household, as I suspect they have been at your homes as well. The party is over now though,  following the departure, yesterday afternoon, of our beloved Matt and Tom. Dropping them at the airport around 4, they are dressed and ready to return to a much colder climate in London.
It is both good and bad when family visit during the holidays--good because it just feels good to be surrounded by the people you love; bad, because sometimes things are so hectic that you spend all of your time getting ready. In the end I hope, despite few touristy outings, our lads from London will remember this visit with fondness.

Actually on Christmas Eve we did do something touristy, a visit to the Morse Museum in Winter Park, made even more interesting by using Sunrail to get there. Matt took this photo of his parents while we were waiting at the station.
It is a wonder either of us can see out of our squinty eyes! If you've not used Sunrail before it is worth a trip, if only to see our area from another vantage point. The stations are nice with handy "helpers."
As you can see there were plenty of seats available! The museum was super, however, there is so much to see you almost suffer from beautiful overload! Following our visit we ate lunch at a Thai restaurant on Park Avenue, followed by a little shopping, cut short for both the train schedule, and the fact that most of the shops were closing at 4 PM. Can you blame them?
The remainder of the day is a bit of a blur, however, I do remember the tree looked nice with mounds of presents underneath.
Bruce, Matt, and I, went to the lessons and carols candlelight service at the church which was just lovely, scoring bonus points for beginning at 9 PM. And then it was Christmas day which was super packed with activity. We began the day with Jonathan and Alissa opening their gifts via FaceTime in Austin. That was made even more fun because they were "cat sitting" two kittens who made their presence known by jumping not only on top of the boxes, but in them as well!
Before you go thinking it is Jonathan on the screen, let me set the record straight...he is holding up a book we gave him about Star Wars fans during the last 40 years which I hope will be highly entertaining. The follow up FaceTime chat was with Tom's family in Melton Mowbray where it was gray, chilly, and rainy. You may recall me mentioning my first successful machine quilting project and now that the Fludes have opened their gift, I can show you what I meant.
It seems as if they liked it! And then it was time for some morning champagne,
and Christmas crackers,
and finally opening gifts! Bruce is famous around these parts for his fantastic ribbon work.
Generally they are so nice no one wants to actually cut them! The rest of the family arrived for even more gift opening. Bill is inspecting some beef jerky from his brother Jonathan.
Fallon is inspecting a dress from us..
while Dave and Michelle are just looking cool.
Snacks, drinks, and laughter ensued. Soon thereafter we made our way to the north end of town and my sister Lisa's home where she does the Christmas hosting. Well, actually, Danny does most of the cooking, so props to him! Bill brought along the new banjo Fallon gave him, treating us to a little picking.
That's my brother Pat, looking very tropical, and our niece Amanda's husband Matt, an economics professor at Duke, a simplification on my part because I can't recall the specifics! Amanda and Emily were looking beautiful in the kitchen,
my sister Maureen and her adoring son Rich,
and Rich's wife Jen with their two darling boys having fun down by the pond in Lisa and Danny's back yard.
The blondes, Lisa and Fallon posing in the kitchen,
and Danny, on the couch next to Bruce, is finally getting a much needed rest, along with my sister-in-law, Ruth.
Tired by now? I was, except, son David put the guilt trip on me, and so we went over there, back on our side of town. One of their neighbors allowed him to drive their pontoon boat while they were out of town, and Dave begged me not to wuss out before going out on the boat. Good call Dave!
Decked out by both Christmas lights, and pretty ladies, our niece Katie!
More champagne, music, lights, good company, and finally cool breezes which were most welcome! Captain David at the helm.
Just tremendous really, and now Tom and Matt can amaze friends with their Florida Christmas story!

Bedtime? You bet!

The day after, I did the bare minimum, spending all afternoon reading two photo books given to me by Matt, and Jon, which I'll write more about later as this post is going on and on and on! Pam, anxious to try her hand at preparing vegan food, invited us for dinner on Boxing Day. Having lived in New Zealand, those British terms roll right off her tongue. Can you say amazing food for both the vegans and the carnivores? She's documenting them for the friend who gave her the cookbook for Christmas.
Those would be poached pears on the other counter! In a first, according to Glen, she even allowed Tom to help a little! The artful presentation of the chicken with tangerines would be his work.
Sunday, Liza, Matt's childhood friend, came over with little Maisie, who is a living doll!
Spending the remaining time looking at some old pictures I inherited from our parents, Matt was able to see some faces to go along with all the people he's researched for our genealogy.

You know the perfect anecdote to loved ones leaving? A party! This time it was the annual after Christmas party hosted by Kirsten, her sister Bea, along with her husband Steve. Still super warm as you see Kirsten is wearing a sleeveless dress!
This post has included a lot of folks to keep track of hasn't it? I suspect that you are either bored or fascinated by now, and I can't blame you for either reaction. :) Lots for me to keep track of too!

It should be noted that, although I am thrilled when people read my blog, it's purpose is both entertainment, and documentation. How else are we to know that the weather was perfect in Orlando on Christmas day in 2010?

It takes two,

Gail

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Very Warm Christmas Eve

Getting sick of me writing about the heat? We are sick of living it! The AC went back on a few days ago as the temperature rose to 84 degrees, and the humidity, well, who knows how high it was, but when you can hardly get your cookies off the counter, it is way too high!

I've only baked one batch this year, which is unlike me, but with few folks in the house to eat them, they will go to waste. I almost managed to bake a perfect batch that is if you don't count the ones that were slightly overcooked. :)
In order to put the photos in my blog posts, I have to upload them into an album that I label with each month. I see that this month began with another baking shot, however, it was with my thin rolling pin that I was so pleased with. Not so fast....didn't work worth a damn on the cookies, rolling them way too thin, adding to my difficulties. The moral of the story is, that it is good to have both a thick one, and a thin one if you like to bake!

No doubt you will be sad, as are we, that Corrine's daughter came to take her home to Alabama. She seems to be a lovely woman, whom I only just met two days ago, as she has visited her Mom but twice in the fourteen years she has lived here with Herb. That made me a little nervous before meeting her, but my fears were allayed during the two days she was here. Bruce and I took some cookies over for their long drive home, and while we were there, Corrine got a call from her house cleaner to say goodbye.
On the other hand, you will be happy to learn that she broke not a thing during her fall, and in her Southern drawl, she is doing "pretty good." It is with great sadness that this chapter in our lives is over. :(

I got out on my bicycle the other morning, and as always there are Christmas displays worth sharing, including this one that I'm thinking is a Florida thing.
It was junk city in front of the house where I took this, but I thought the little Santas were pretty cute.
A second sighting of one of these old fashioned trees was nice.
And then there is the pirate ship I saw yesterday morning...had to go back in the evening to see how it looked lit up.
And just when you think you've seen it all as to Christmas tie-ins, here is a dinosaur with a moving head no less!
What, pray tell, will they think of next?

Buying gifts for folks is always a challenge...what to get, what to get? Well, it sure helps when folks know you have a penchant for something, and in my case I needn't tell you that would be birds because you guessed it already didn't you? Matt brought me home a darling little red and white felt bird for the tree...
while Pat gave me an amazing owl ornament...
Aren't they super? By the way, my tiny tree has been deemed a success, in spite of its stature. Plus, the presents surrounding them look even more ample.
In spite of mailing quite a few, there seems to be more presents than normal, spilling over onto the fireplace which surely will see no action this Christmas.

So what have we been doing while not eating or sleeping? Shopping, but not for Christmas gifts. Tom and Matt love to visit food stores and we've done our fair share of that, including a Costco run.
But not before we looked high and low for some freeze dried coffee. Ever since we visited the UK a couple of years ago, and learned of such a miracle product, we've found some at our local Publix and the neighborhood Walmart store. Except they both quit carrying it, and the jar was completely empty. After four different stores we finally found some in the Spanish grocery store, well it is from Miami, Sedona, housed in a former Albertsons. They had some serious can displays.
More importantly they had the product we were searching for and at a bargain price I might add. Two jars should last for a while, or so we hope!

I hear Bruce coming in from doing the unthinkable...mowing the lawn on Christmas Eve! It just will not quit growing in this heat. Of course, it is like that everywhere isn't it? Our London lads tell me the daffodils are coming up in the city parks. Remarkable! I read in today's paper that heat records will be broken in Florida this year but you knew that already if you've been reading Camera Crazy this year. And thank you for doing so I humbly add.

Finally, the paper has also joked about it being a white Christmas here and that would be the sand kind...taken last week at Ponce Inlet.

Merry Christmas my friends,

Gail



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