Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Weather or Not...Here We Come!

Weather or Not...Here We Come

I generally pray for sunny days whenever company comes our way from up north. They expect it. And, we generally have great weather during the winter months here in Florida. February in Florida rarely disappoints. 

 

My youngest daughter and her two little girls planned a short trip to see us over President’s Day. Mike and I watched the weather. It was not looking good. Though February is normally a mild month with plenty of sunshine, forecasters were predicting an onslaught of rain over the holiday weekend.

 

Rain it did… and it was cold.

 

We picked up the girls from the Orlando airport late Saturday evening and made our way through the rain back to our home on the Nature Coast. (Yep, the Nature Coast was last week’s blog topic.) 

 

Our house is in total disarray as we are remodeling. No kitchen with lots of drywall work and such. The fireplace front is gone and we have new lights and outlets in or going in…you get the idea. 

 

I wasn’t worried about any of that. My daughter, Kendall, and her two little girls have lived through their own remodel recently. They are flexible on that front.

 

What did concern me was the weather. Mike and I prayed for good weather. Saturday night was obviously wet. I hoped it would change. 

 

It didn’t. Sunday morning was rainy and cold. And it lingered. We planned to take the girls to Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River. The springs are known for hosting a bevy of manatees. Crystal River isn’t far from where we live. The girls had been there one other time, but it was during warmer weather and they only saw one manatee the whole time.

 

The benefit of a chilly rain? Manatees love to stay near the Springs in cooler temperatures. The water in the Springs stays between 72 and 74 degrees. We saw dozens of the large, graceful creatures. We were bundled and warm. We had umbrellas and a rain poncho. And… we had phones with cameras. 

 


Manatees are fun to watch. They are gentle. God created them with a “do no harm” attitude. They are more of a "live and let live" mammal and their only enemy? Humans.

 

On the way home, we talked about how the chilly rain proved to be beneficial. We were able to see the beautiful creatures up close and active.

 

The other “must do” on the girls’ list was to go to The Cove. The Cove is a restaurant located on our lake. The notion that we are able to climb in our boat to go out to eat intrigued the girls. But though the chilling rain was perfect for viewing manatees swimming in the warm spring water, it wasn’t looking good for taking the boat out.

 

Then Monday dawned.  It was sunny. Warm. Calm. 

 

"Get in the Boat...We're Going Out to Eat!"

It was perfect weather for jumping in the boat and heading across the lake to The Cove. We sat outside and ordered our food. Although the girls loved the manatee excursion, I think taking a boat out to eat was the highlight of their stay with us. I should note here that The Cove’s food is amazingly good. After lunch we toured the some of the lake before docking back at our house. 

 

The visit for them? Sweet memories. Memories of rain and manatees. Memories of water and sunshine. Memories of a boat ride and lunch on the lake.  

 

The visit was short, but for me? It was a time to treasure.

 

Right: Parking at the Cove 



Below: The Youngest Granddaughter Looking Over 

the Menu Wearing Mike's Sunglasses



 Missed the Post 

    On the Nature Coast?

        Click Here to Read...

 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

The Nature Coast

 The Nature Coast

 

When I was growing up in Florida, geography was easy. Our part of Florida was defined as the West Coast (meaning on the Gulf of Mexico) with the Panhandle to the north. There was the East Coast (all along the Atlantic Ocean), and the Florida Keys to the south. Large regions in the middle were labeled North Florida, Central Florida, and South Florida. And of course, we had the Everglades, which were a separate entity altogether. 

Sunset on the Nature Coast


In the early 1970’s Florida added “Disney World,” or as my husband calls it, “The House of the Mouse” as a Central Florida landmark. 


Weather forecasters would say, “We’re expecting some rain this afternoon here on the West Coast, but folks at Disney should have clear skies all day long.“

 

I moved to Ohio in 1978. I’m now back in Florida and trying to figure out what happened to the state I knew in my youth. Yes, it has grown in population, with houses and condos seemingly sprouting up everywhere, but I’m talking about the geography of the place.

 

Now, the weather is defined by the Space Coast, the Treasure Coast, and the Gold Coast…all on the Atlantic side... while on the Gulf side, we have areas such as the Sun Coast, Emerald Coast, and Nature Coast

 

There’s even an area known as the Forgotten Coast…but don’t ask me where it is. I don’t remember.

 

Mike and I live in that area known as the Nature Coast. 

 

Aptly named, by the way.  We see deer on our way to church, critters like rabbits and squirrels in our yard, Great Blue Herons on our beach, and fish, turtles, and gators in the lake. There are birds in the trees, dragonflies and beautiful butterflies in the green grass and flowers. The Three Sister’s spring in nearby Crystal River is home to manatee seeking warmth in winter. We love our neck of the woods here on the Nature Coast.

 

It is filled with surprises. 

 

For example, this past week, Mike went out early one morning with the dogs before I was even out of bed. He rushed back inside, calling my name. He had something to show me. I threw a light jacket over my pajamas and followed him to the dock.

 

“Up there,” he pointed. 

 

A beautiful owl was perched in the rafters of the roof covering our boat lift. 

 

“I walked out on the dock and he was perched on that first post,” Mike said. “I walked right past him and didn’t see him! Then he flew up there.” 


 

We stood there a few minutes staring at the beautiful creature. He stared back.


We didn’t have a clue why an owl, a nocturnal animal, would take refuge on our dock. We wanted to make sure the creature was okay. We called the fish and game commission. 

 


“He’s probably exhausted,” the man on the end of the line told us. 

 

The bird wasn’t aggressive. He wasn’t hurting anyone. We told him he was welcome to stay and kept watch on him. He slept through most of the day, but would open one eye whenever we were near.

 

When night fell, I guess he had regained his strength. The next morning he was gone. 

 

I hope he marked us on his travel log as a safe and restful retreat. Time will tell.

 

See why I love the Nature Coast? It's full of more Treasure than anyone could imagine on the Atlantic side; as many interesting flights worth watching as the Space Coast could offer. No wonder my mother has always called this region her favorite part of Florida…never to be Forgotten

 

And if you read my post in August of 2023….you’ll know that right here in Citrus County is indeed the Gold at the end of the rainbow!

 

If you missed that post: Here You Go! It’s pretty amazing how a person’s life is so richly connected…when you take the time to look for the treasure.

Click here: Here is our Pot of Gold!

 

And a couple of pictures from our yard...




Gotta love the blooms in February!

Even the Magnolia is blooming! 

 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Soup Night...Spanish Style


Soup Night...Spanish Style

 If you follow my blog, you know I am once again “a new bride.” Our first anniversary is coming up in April, but until then? We are still Newlyweds! 

 

As Mike and I have both been widowed and we are both past our, uh, …let’s say “past our fifties…uh…okay…past our sixties.” I’m not exactly learning my way around the kitchen as I did as an eighteen-year-old bride to Tom Waters.  

 

Still, I am learning …or at least trying new recipes for foods Mike likes. A few have been new to me. (If you missed my blog on making picadillo, I’ll put a link at the bottom for you.) Picadillo is now one of our favorites. I don’t always make it with rice. We like it with mashed potatoes as well. It is quick and easy and remains one of Mike’s favorites.

 

Another favorite food he mentioned to me recently, now that our Florida weather has cooled a bit, is Spanish Bean Soup. (By the way, if you live in the north, don’t ask what “cooled a bit” means unless you are a glutton for punishment.) 

 

I looked up Spanish Bean Soup on the internet and realized it is what we used to call Garbanzo Bean Soup. It is warm and delicious. And easy. Life doesn’t get much better than that. 

 

So…Here You Go! Grab the ingredients and when the day looks to be a bit chilly, make a pot of Spanish Bean Soup.

The Ingredients? Easy.


 

Fair warning: Soak the beans in salted water overnight and plan your day so you can cook your soup on low for a few hours before dinnertime. I allowed 3 ½ hours cook time. That is “on the stove cook time.”

 

Ingredients:

·  Dried Garbanzo Beans (Also known as Chick Peas) My grocer had one option: a 12 ounce package of beans

·  Three packs of Spanish seasoning. (I used Sazon Goya but there are others out there. It will have garlic, cumin, and saffron in it.)

·  Minced garlic. I used one large clove. You could probably use garlic powder or even dried garlic from the spice rack.

·  Red potatoes, cubed (How many? Hmmm...)

·  Ham and/or sliced beef sausage or sliced beef kielbasa. I used both sliced beef sausage and, because I couldn’t find the ham I wanted, I found a small piece of pork at the meat counter that proved to be perfect.

·  Chicken stock and water

·  Salt and pepper

 

Pour your beans in a large kettle. I drained mine first and saved the water. Add the Spanish seasoning, minced garlic, cubed red potatoes, and ham and/or sliced beef sausage. Pour liquids over the ingredients (I used about half chicken stock and half water) until the meat, beans, and all are covered.)

 

As for the salt and pepper…I just put some in. Remember, you can always add some after if you need it, but you can’t take it out! I’ve also learned through years of cooking, (See second paragraph) that it takes less salt when you put it in the cooking water than it does if you add it after cooking.

 

Bring the soup to boil then turn the heat to low or simmer and cook for at least three and a half hours.


The soup is excellent...
and as we ARE in the South,
it is especially good with
a tall glass of Sweet Tea!


By the way, I thickened my soup a bit by adding a couple of spoonfuls of mashed potatoes. 

As you can see, this is a very forgiving recipe. Play with it Make it your own. Most of all…enjoy a warm bowl of soup on a cold February evening. And…let me know how your soup turns out! Better yet, share your favorite soup recipe on my blog or on FB and tag me!


Hmmm...It turns out making soup is a bit like writing a novel. A few staple ingredients, a bit of spice, and a twist at the end! Who knew? 

 

AND…AS PROMISED…HERE’S THE LINK TO MAKING DELICIOUS PICADILLO!

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Seize the Day

 Seize the Moment

 

Last week I wrote about “brain breaks.” We all need them from time to time. You may think this post is an extension of that one. But it isn’t. 

 

This past week, when my husband and I had taken the dogs out to the back yard, we sat down on the swing. The weather was perfect. Sunny and warm. With the slightest breeze.

 

We were sitting there chatting when Mike said, “Want to do something?”

 “Yeah.” I looked around.  “Want to go for a boat ride?”

He smiled. “We could do that.”

 

I ran inside for the key to the boat while Mike headed to the dock so he could lower our sweet little bay boat from its perch on the lift into the clear lake water. A few minutes later we were heading out of our cove into Lake Henderson. 

 

We explored a part of the over 422 acre lake we hadn’t yet checked out, sped along the glistening waterway and took note of those places only an airboat could cross the tall grass near the edge. 

 

We were out in the middle of the lake, close to lunchtime, when Mike turned to me. “You hungry?”

 

I knew what he was thinking. “You have money?”

He patted his pocket. “Right here.”

Waterway to "The Cove"
“I’m in.”

 

With that, Mike pushed the throttle forward and we headed for one of our favorite restaurants, The Cove. We had wanted to go back there ever since the water levels had changed. Our chain of lakes is controlled by the Southwest Florida Water Management team. We have a series of locks leading to other lakes in the chain so the water levels can be controlled. They are in use during either particularly dry or excessively wet seasons. 

 

To get to The Cove restaurant by boat requires ample water to navigate a water passage to the establishment’s property. Earlier in the season, the water was too low for us to access the restaurant by water. 

 

Mike slowed the boat down as we entered the waterway. No problem. We saw a couple of pontoon boats parked along the bank, pulled up by a row of trees and climbed out. We arrived at the right time, after the lunch rush, and were seated immediately. Mike and I both ordered the Reuben with The Cove’s incredible homemade chips.

 

No. This is not an ad for the restaurant, though I highly recommend it.

 

This post is a challenge for my readers to seize the moment.

 

A few months ago, while I was in Ohio visiting the family, Mike called his good friend, Charlie to check in on how he was doing, was in our part of Florida. 


Charlie's house is pretty far south of us, but as it turned out, he was now on his way north to his place in Georgia, Mike invited him to spend the night at our house. He told him that way he could get up the next morning and, feeling refreshed, would make it home before lunch. 

 

So Charlie stayed. 


He and Mike went out to eat for supper that evening and enjoyed great conversation until night fell and Charlie climbed into our guestbed.

 

It was the last time Mike saw his friend.

 

This week, my sweet husband traveled to Georgia to attend Charlie’s funeral. Charlie lost his battle with illness linked to his service and training at Camp LeJeune. 


He was sixty-one. 

 

Embrace every opportunity to share life with those you love.

Don’t just look out the window at the sunshine. Get out in it.

 

And remember, you don’t have to travel to a theme park or a major venue to have a great day. 


Sometimes the most memorable experiences in life may be as close as your own backyard. Or at the kitchen table.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Go-To Brain Breaks

 Go-To Brain Breaks (That Aren’t Edible)

 

I’m in the middle of writing a new novel. I’m pretty excited about it, but sometimes in the midst of composing, I can get so into the story I lose direction. I have to look back to see if I ever revealed to the reader an important trait of one of my characters. Or what month or season I’m in for a particular scene. 

 

I know this can happen in any task. (“Did I wash those dishes in the dishwasher or just load it?”) 


But when it happens while I’m writing, I have to walk away from the book, my computer, scribbled notes, and everything connected to the craft. 

 

I’m pretty sure this happens in other work environments or prolonged tasks. I’ve learned a few strategies we can all use to stay focused.  They are simply “Brain Breaks.”

 

#1 “Sweep the Floor”…. Hmm…, sounds a bit like a Karate Kid move. Maybe. But in this case I am literally talking about picking up a broom and sweeping the floor. 


We have pets. One is a beautiful Blue Heeler named Honeybee. We call her Bee. 

Her nickname is short. Her hair is not. 

 

Every day I sweep up hair from the old gal. Mike says I gather enough to make another dog. Every Day...


I have a Roomba. That’s great, but when I need a brain break, I pull out the broom. There is something very restful to be found in the rhythmic swoosh of a broom. While I am focusing on reaching that clump of hair behind the sofa, my writing brain is getting a much needed switch in focus.

 

#2 Take a walk. (Not to be confused with someone telling you to “Take a hike!”) 

I like to walk. With mild winters in Florida, I can usually walk every day. The exercise and fresh air clears my head. 

 

Sometimes I even find the answer to a problem in my story as I tour the neighborhood. 

 

For example, I wanted my protagonist to be startled by something one evening when she was home alone in the middle of a storm. I wanted something totally innocuous but startling enough to give her pause. While walking past a neighbor’s house one day, I found my answer. 

 

Not my neighbor. She’s a nice woman and about the same age as my protagonist’s mother. 

 

However, my neighbor has a large collection of yard art on her front lawn. One is a frog with big glow-in-the-dark eyes. When I opened up my computer, I had  my main character buy an owl statue with glow in the dark eyes as a Christmas gift for her mom (something mama wanted) and that stormy evening, when the electricity went out, my character forgot about the statue, saw something staring at her, tripped over a cord and landed on the carpet looking straight up at the owl. 

 

#3 Play a gameThough I may pick up a book of Suduko puzzles or complete the daily crossword in the newspaper my sister-in-law dropped off, I often turn to a game on my computer or phone. Engaging my mind in something totally apart from the dilemma my protagonist is facing is relaxing. While I’m focused on the game, I let my subconscious work on how to change my character’s perspective. I want my main character to see that what she views as a weakness may well be her strength. 

 

#4 Feed the Fish. Okay, I’ll admit I never wander out to the dock to feed the fish to get away from the computer. That said, I’ve noted that while I’m hammering words out, Mike will come in and ask if I want to “go feed the fish.” I never turn down that opportunity.  


What I find is that the fresh air, the still water, the fish swimming in to eat the food and the sheer peace of standing there with my husband gives me renewed energy. Mike will often ask how my writing is going as we walk back toward the house. Telling him a bit about where I am in the composing stage energizes me to write more. 

 

And here’s a hint: If you choose an edible brain break, make it a fruit or vegetable. Experience tells me that cookies and chocolate may calm the nerves but tend to make a person sluggish…and that leads to a nap. Then you’ll never get back to the task at hand!

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

The Order of Birth

Because of the date, I decided to resurrect this blog from a few years back. I've had a few people ask me about it and since January is the birth month of a very special person in my life, I decided to share it once more. I hope you enjoy the post and appreciate your own position in your family.


People often speak of “birth order.” When people speak of family, I often hear them grouse about their position in the family. 


“I was the oldest so I was responsible for all my brothers and sisters. It wasn’t fair.”

“I was the youngest. I never got to do the stuff my brothers and sisters got to do because I was always ‘too little’ or ‘a baby.’”

But the pain and suffering of “the middles” must be the worst. According to them. 

I can’t actually speak to any of this since I’m an “only.”

Then again, there is one person I’ve known all my life who says she always thought she was the luckiest person in her family because she was…are you ready…the middle. Yep. She was smack dab in the middle of seven, count them, seven children. She had an older sister and a younger sister. She had two older brothers and two younger brothers.

The middle. 

With My Mom 2019
Why did she view herself as lucky? She had the best of both worlds. Mature enough to be included in the activities of the older ones and playful enough to enjoy the younger ones. She enjoyed her big family so much she fully expected to have at least four or five children of her own. It didn’t happen. She had one. One that was full of energy and kept her busy. She counted herself lucky.

She’s my mom. I’m the lucky one.

But this leads me to share a position I’ve long held. I’ve been blessed with three daughters. They are strong, smart, fun, women who are also full of energy. If they run into some issue or discover some flaw, it would be easy to blame their birth order. I hear that stuff from others frequently.

But I contend God places you in a family exactly where you need to be. The experiences you have and the qualities you develop because of your family position are what you need to be the person He intends you to be.

Responsible because you were the oldest? Good. We need responsible people.

Felt left out because you were the youngest? Okay. We need people who can empathize with the disenfranchised.

Always having to work to make things happen because you were a middle? Caring negotiators are scarce. We need you.

I used to think being an only was the worst. But the “only child” brings a different viewpoint and skill set to the table. Independent thinking. And we need that, too.

How did "birth order" make you the person you are today?

Also...this week, is my mom’s birthday. So to all the middles out there…Celebrate!




Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Marmie

 Marmie

 

I met Marmalade, also known as “Marmie” in 2023 after Mike and I were engaged. He picked me up at the lake house and took me to his family home up the road where he and his sister continued the tradition of sharing a continental breakfast. Marmie, the sweet little mixed breed dog, belonged Mike’s mother who had died a couple of months earlier. Marmalade had been a rescue dog from a Louisiana puppy mill. 

 

Marmie and I hit it off immediately. After breakfast, I held her on my lap and fed her bits of human food as well as her dog food. You might say we bonded. 

 

Marmalade in her
Protective Pink Sweater



Then, on the evening of this past New Year’s Day, with some people still setting off fireworks, Mike’s sister called. Marmie was missing. 


Frightened by the noise, Marmie had slipped out the doggie door unnoticed. The backyard is enclosed, but somehow she made it beyond the privacy fence. We were all worried.

 

A little dog out in the big world by herself.

A hand-fed indoor dog foraging for herself in the wild outdoors.


Unimaginable.

 

Mike’s sister, Karen walked the neighborhood calling her name. She put posters out. When someone spotted the little dog behind a local store, Mike and I drove that direction, parked and called out to her. It was dark. And getting chilly. There was no response. We drove around the area. 


Looking. Calling. Praying.

 

We whispered a final prayer and headed home.  There were no calls. No sightings. And for some, no hope. 

 

Then on Thursday, Karen received that long awaited call at work. Mike and I headed to a local store to pick up Marmie. The young man and his little boy stood in front of Winn-Dixie holding the bundle of fur still clad in her pink sweater. She was covered with stickers and sandspurs. I held her close and whispered words of comfort over her as Mike drove us home.

 

We fed her proper dog food and water. I began the long process of combing the stickers and debris from her hair, carefully getting the burrs out along the way. Mike washed her sweater. 

 

The poor baby was covered with stickers.
But...her sweater protected her from it being a lot worse
!


As soon as Karen finished her workday she headed our way. Marmie wagged her whole body with utter joy. 


Home. The little dog had endured cold, wet nights in the woods. She had crossed the well traveled highway US 41. At home, in the arms of humans who love her had to feel a bit like heaven.

Marmie Resting

 

I never intended to share this story as a parable. Yet, now as I reach the end, I clearly see it as just that. I understand Marmie. The evil one tries to lure us to him and sometimes uses scare tactics to frighten us to the core. But anywhere apart from the safety of God’s presence is scary, dark, and dangerous.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

2024 Word of the Year

 2024 Word of the Year

If you follow my blog, you know I try to choose a word for the year. I post the word on my wall or phone and watch how it plays out in my life. I’ve chosen everything from “be” to “yield.” 

I struggled finding my word for the year this year. I played with several options, rejecting them one by one. 


I looked at my past word choices and how they played out for me. I prayed about it. I wanted to find just the right word for 2024. 

 

Then, late in December, a word came to me. With Christmas celebrations, travel, and the busyness of life, I had given up on finding a word. It was the middle of the night. I woke up with the word “intentional” on my mind. 

 

It was a scary word that late in the darkness. It sounded too much like “intense” and that meant hard work. 


Hey, I’m both a retiree and a newlywed. Hard work isn’t all that appealing. I wanted to immediately reject “intentional” as my word for the year but even as I drifted back to sleep, the word crept through my dreamless thoughts. 

 

I woke up with a differing view. (Actually, the fact that I woke up and remembered the word at all is a major step!) Anyway, as the word rolled around in my mind, I considered it in these ways:

 

Intentional means to be focused.

Intentional means to be present.

Intentional means to be deliberate in both action and service.

It means to think before acting. Or speaking.

It means to assess my goals and take steps to achieve them.

 

Wow, even as I type these words, I am surprised by the potential of claiming this word as my word for the year. 


How about you? Have you claimed a word for the year?