Sunday, December 10, 2023

Another Adventure For Us Old Folks

photo credit

Currently our outside temperature is 81 degrees with a partly cloudy sky. Here in North Central Florida we've been moving from summer weather to about as wintry as it gets around here with lows in the 30s, and then back to the warmth again. Although the majority of residents around here enjoy the balmy temps, some of us are grateful for the occasional cool, cloudy days requiring sweaters.

Walmart purchase a few years ago

I'm one of those. When I left Colorado, I disposed of most of my winter wardrobe, keeping the favorites. I have family in cold country. The sweaters, socks, long jeans and coats come in handy if a trip up north or out west is necessary.

Gary unloads our bicycles

Last Friday we went on another adventure. This time the mode of travel was our bikes. The Outdoor Adventure Club made a trip to the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail a few weeks ago on a day when we could not join them. The leader of the club is one of our nearby neighbors; her descriptions of the trail appealed to us. 

a view from the handlebars

The multi-purpose trail used to be a railroad track. Paved with smooth asphalt for fifteen miles from start to finish, the road was a delight to ride although we couldn't go to the very end on that day. (we are senior citizens, after all!)

Gary said we were lost

We examined the map (no, we weren't lost!!) and decided to turn around at the 9-mile marker. By the end of this day's adventure, we had traveled 18.6 miles. We want to return another time to ride the remainder. 

The ride was beautiful with dense forests of tall pines, oaks draped generously with Spanish moss, swampy ponds alongside the trail, and we even saw a deer. Evidence of autumn with colorful orange and red leaves were occasional, but certainly not as profuse as our northern neighbors. 

gears on the handle bar

The air was quiet with an occasional car moving past along a highway that ran parallel with us much of the way. One particular stretch of the path near the start had some hills (seeming to all go UP! of course). That was when I learned how to use my gears. My default setting for all these months of riding has been on 4, but Gary taught me how to shift up or down, depending on the need and that was, indeed, a help. We don't have serious hills in our neighborhood route, so that's why I've been riding my bike for some 20 months without knowing about gears. 

We didn't talk to each other a lot while biking since we both have some hearing loss and there was some distance between us as we rode along.


One more adventure awaited us before getting back to the car and our sack lunches. Not to worry, the above snapshot was taken with the zoom feature on my iPhone camera. We were nowhere as close to him as this looks. 

About a mile into the start of our bike ride, there was a walking trail we could take to see wildlife. Only pedestrians were allowed, so we left our bikes in a rack at the entrance to this narrower trail. Walking about a mile, we eventually reached a very long boardwalk atop swamp land and sightings of gators. 

me with a reptile on my arm

Gary took several pictures of me with this gator, which was probably 8-10 feet long (nose to tail tip), really zooming in close to get the shot right. 

gators behind Gary

From that wood boardwalk across the wetland, I took this shot of Gary with gators sunning themselves on a beach. There are at least a dozen of them in this picture, hardly moving as they soaked in the sun's warmth. Our cooler weather slows them down considerably.

alligator beach

As we entered the hiking trail to get us to this point, we passed a park ranger's kiosk with a white board sign indicating how many wildlife sightings had been reported that day, thus far. It said 126 alligators were in view. I found that hard to believe until we began to see them ourselves. There was a large swath of beach on the far side of the lake from where we were allowed to stand. We zoomed in as best we could with our cameras, but this is the best we could do. You get the idea, but at the same time, you sorta have to see this in person to really believe it. 

This info-sign was along the boardwalk. I am a Creationist (believing in a young earth created by God in 6 days, not millions of years ago). I do, however, readily agree where the sign says we as humans, when in alligator habitat, are not at the top of the food chain... in other words, don't get too close and don't feed them!!!

as close as I got (with a zoom lens)

With that venture behind us, we climbed onto our bikes and completed the one-mile distance back to our car where an over-due lunch awaited us. We had been gone 2 1/2 hours. 

This chicken salad is carried by our Walmart deli all the time and I buy it often. Sandwiches, potato chips, homemade chocolate chip cookies and bottled water made up our feast while we sat on a concrete bench near the parking lot. 

We change when we are challenged. There was a sign along the trail stating something to that effect. I pondered this thought as I pedaled along, concluding it is definitely true. The past three years have challenged me in a more concentrated way than any other time in my life.

Well, I take that back. Becoming a mother for the first time was also a big challenge for me as I was forced to rise to the responsibilities of keeping a tiny little person alive. 🙄😆

I'll close with my usual, but nonetheless sincere, prayer for your grace and peace as you face your individual challenges.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

A Christmas Home Tour


posted by Ida on FaceBook

Were it not for a couple of serious bone-breaking falls both Gary and I have in our respective histories, this might be us. I will not recount those episodes that have marked us for life 🙄. But no, that's not us in the above picture. We have, however, decorated for Christmas.

shutter 521469241

Oh by the way, regarding the Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays arguments that encroach on the joviality of this season, I use both. 

Christmas is without a doubt the celebration of God coming to earth as a human to bring about salvation for all who will believe. I have no desire to diminish Christ in Christmas.

But to be practical, December has several special days, Christmas being the one on the 25th. But there is also Hanukah and New Year's Eve, Boxing Day, the Feast of St. Stephen, and Kwanzaa, to name the ones that come to my mind as I type. (there are surely more) There are times to wish one a Merry Christmas but there are also times when we want to just wish everybody a "happy whatever you celebrate" that promotes good will and cheer. 

Okay. I've said my piece, which I hope does not disturb the peace of my readers. Returning to the topic of decorating in our home for this happy time of year, it began outside with the tall lantern Gary has had for years. While it looked good out in the yard, we decided a strong gust of wind would knock it over, so it's now on the front porch (and much closer to the electric outlet). 

tall electric lantern

The porch is a safer location, adding a warm welcome to whoever rings our doorbell. 

Gary and I began dating in the Christmas season. One of the things I noticed when he brought me to his home for the first time was the red poinsettia wreaths on the garage lanterns.

I was mildly impressed that a single man (widowed, actually) had gone to the effort to decorate. That was nice.

Then I saw the electric lantern and his white Christmas tree. He had not gone crazy wild but I liked his taste. By the way, that year this tree was in his office window, but for the past couple of years we've put it in the garage window where it is more easily seen from the street. Now there is a potted Poinsettia on a table in front of the office window.

Lunch on the front porch

My contributions to the outside Christmas decor are focused on costumes for the creatures. As people approach our houses, Larry the Turtle welcomes them first.


Larry sits above the stump of a Live Oak tree that was growing on top of utility lines, necessitating its removal earlier this year.


Dawg, formerly known as "Brutus" at my last house, was re-named by Gary. He sits beside the driveway, close to the garage.

two birds outside a garage window

These two birds don't have names, as far as I know. Gary put me to work spray-painting them with a fresh coat of copper sometime shortly after we began dating. The white Christmas tree is in this window, but I couldn't capture it well in the daylight.

back yard bird

This bird came with the house when Gary bought it ten years ago. He, too, does not have a name. 

new this year

This couple flew in and stayed when we updated the back yard landscape last spring. They are probably our favorites due to the art of their wing spans. When hurricanes or tornadoes threaten, we are able to easily remove the wings and they still look good. (the feet of all our birds are embedded in concrete)

Can you tell that yard ornaments are "a thing" here in Florida? We see birds like this in the yards of many of our neighbors, along with other animals. Now this next picture is not from our yard but is currently in the yard of one of our more creative neighbors .....

This gator in her front yard usually has golf balls in his mouth, but for Christmas it's the lights. This is Florida, after all, and we live in a golf community!

As I have shared before, I put up a 6 1/2 foot artificial tree for years, the last several being more an activity of love on my part for my late husband than personal preference. He helped me drag the box into the family room and assemble the thing, and together we wound around the strings of lights; but after that, he watched football from his recliner while I hung the hundreds (or so it seemed) of ornaments on the branches. 

decor from Sister

Please understand that I mean no disrespect at all when I say this. As I struggled through the first two holiday seasons after his death, I did take some satisfaction that since I had the house all to myself, I no longer needed to put up that big tree. I gave it away to a family member and bought a much smaller artificial tree to stand on a lamp table. 

When we combined our households into one, I brought my tree. This year it sits atop the kitchen counter above the sink, which puts it in full view of a large area of our home. 

"Greetings from Idaho"

When I emptied my house to list it for sale, I disposed of most of my tree ornaments. By that time I was with Gary, who hails from Idaho and grew up harvesting potatoes. I kept this ceramic ornament, a souvenir from my travels to that state some years ago. During this Christmas season, whenever he is at the kitchen sink, he can look directly into the squinty-eyed smile of this fella.

near the tree top

I tend to be a sucker for signs and pithy quotes, so that's what our visitors see when they walk through our home.

dining room embellishment

Think of the signs as stimulants to be cheerful and enjoy the season. Christmas stirs up a lot of memories, especially as we get older, and in particular if we have experienced significant losses. 

This one is perfect for Gary's desk ..... who tells me he wants to make a trip to Lowe's to buy a big green Grinch blowup for the front yard. (ah, no, please. No.)

Food is a big part of the season's fun, of course. I'm not much into decorating Christmas cookies (Publix does a much better job of it anyway), but I do enjoy cooking with the Hallmark channel on TV. 

Yesterday I baked a recipe from my mother, whose pseudonym for this blog has been "The Cook on Fifth Street." It's a cobbler made with 2 cans of apricots and 1 large can of peaches (both drained very well and the fruit chopped to smaller  pieces) and topped with a sweet dough. This was the first time I had made it for Gary and he pronounced it good. 

"Flamingle Bells" cross stitch
-- a gift from Sandy

Hand-made needlework will always be a part of what makes Christmas beautiful for me. Sandy (see her blog at Home Ec Major) stitched this flamingo for me the year Beloved died. I have her creation in the master bathroom this year. Here's a better photo:

Several of my creations are scattered about as well. 

Poinsettia made with wool scraps

Cross stitch is still a love of mine, but my days of focusing through my trifocals on the Aida cloth and linen are behind me. This one in the silver frame has been one of my very favorites. Peppermint is so cheery, don't you think?

stitched in Highlands Ranch, Colorado
in 2005

Then, of course, my love for quilting lasted the longest of my needlework hobbies. Snuggling under a quilt during a Christmas snowstorm is such a delightful thought!

Beautiful dining furniture is from Gary's first wife, along with the pewter candle holders, the pitcher and bowl (there are 3 of them!), and a china cabinet full of beauty. 

a combination of my treasures with those of Edith

The Log Cabin Star table topper is from my sewing room (sewn by machine in 2011). The Nine Patch quilt in Christmas colors (completed in 2012) used to hang from a rod on the dining room or guest room wall during the  holidays. Now it rests on Edith's rocking chair.

Per Gary and Edith's habit, we will display our Christmas cards on the dining table cloth, where we see them easily in passing by. They contrast nicely against the white table cloth. As you can see, our first card has come already (from Jersey Girl and Jersey Boy).

another view in the dining room

Here are a few more evidences of the season in our home:

a friend on our kitchen table 
(from Sister in 2020)

another snowman from Sister

Continuing with the snowman theme...

Jim Shore snowman.
Jim Shore is known for his quilt designs on figurines.

Jim Shore Santa.
Jim Shore decorates our lanai/Florida room

This is where Santa sleeps... (just sayin'!)

somewhere in my move I lost track of 
Mrs Santa's pink lace snood.

Of the nativity sets I had before selling my house, this one is my favorite. It's a combination of small figures from a Christian bookstore and Walmart. I intertwine tiny lights to sparkle like the stars above the shepherds.

Celebrating the advent of Christmas

As I close out this post, it is a cloudy afternoon with an outdoor temp in the 60s and a breeze is gently stirring the palm branches just outside the windows. My Christmas play list is on. This is my seventh Christmas in Florida after leaving Colorado. 

Georgetown, Colorado

With each year I am acclimating more to a sub-tropical Christmas here in Florida. Friends Terry and Sandy posted the above photo on FaceBook -- a favorite Colorado mountain town sitting beside I-70, en route to the ski resorts. John Denver made a movie there in 1986, The Christmas Gift. Wonderful memories of times gone by.

Gary and me

My life has met big changes since then. While sometimes during this nostalgia-prone season I am tempted to dwell in what was or what could have been had not this or that happened ..... 

Well, I have learned the better choice of my thoughts is to be profoundly thankful for God's blessings on me in and through it all. He has been thoroughly faithful to fulfill his promises. 

Do not fear for I am with you;
don't be dismayed
for I am your God.
I will strengthen you
and help you;
I will uphold you 
with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Until next time, may your days be full of peace.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Fish Friday


purchased at Belk in 2021

Today's post will be just you and me, sipping [virtual] hot tea and talking about wherever conversation takes us (well, I'll do the talking, since this is written and you are not actually right here). 

I always ask the Lord as I begin a blog post to lead me where He wants this to go. Some of you may be shaking your head and thinking, "No, surely not," given the topics I wander into at times. That's okay. God knows my heart and sees that I mean well even if my scribbles writings go into odd places at times.

It's cool and rainy outside this afternoon. We're sitting in the lanai (also referred to by some as our "Florida room"). Gary has rolled out the space heater. It's making a very low hum; the gentle heat feels cozy. (Most of us in Florida don't have a fireplace.)

Pecan pie from Publix adorned 
generously with Cool Whip

Forgive me for not offering you something to eat with our tea. But again, since this is a virtual dialog, you can get your own nibbles. 

Macy's parade on Thanksgiving morning

I ventured into the topic of food, so I may as well pursue that line of thought. Our Thanksgiving feast was just the two of us here at home during the last half hour or so of the Macy's parade. We enjoyed the usual holiday menu with the exception that our plates were plastic trays from Hungry Man and there was no opportunity to go back for seconds. 🤔

our Thanksgiving dinner 2023

Now before I lose some of you who embrace tradition tightly, let's look at this: easy prep, easy clean-up, only 380 calories per "plate," and that left plenty of room for pecan pie. While the saying, "Gobble till you wobble" is cute, that did not apply to us and we enjoyed the fare guilt-free. 

I did add a can of cranberry sauce to the grocery cart the day Gary chose the TV dinners. We had no dinner rolls. I simply forgot to buy any. You see in the picture that we had Thanksgiving napkins...

purchased at Hobby Lobby in 2021,
back when my grief was very fresh

Anyway, on the subject of tradition, that has been rearranged for me a lot over the past three years out of necessity, practicality, and plain ol' lack of other options. That's okay. A fresh start is sometimes a really good idea.

the feet of  my family
(including 2 Siberian Huskies)

We did gather with extended family this week, on Wednesday, for a hearty meal and a very good visit. None of us live close together geographically, so a mutually-agreed-upon location was chosen, reservations were made, and we had a great time with each other over burgers, chicken wings, salads, and a view of the St. Johns River just a few yards away. My family got to meet Gary and he met with their cheerful approval. I enjoyed watching him interact with them.

us, Gary and me

To respect everybody's privacy, I am not sharing a photo of our crowd here on the blog or FaceBook. You've seen Gary and me plenty of times. Gary found out early on in our relationship that I consider him good "blog fodder," so here we are. The dampness and wind of the day did my hair no favors in this picture, but I don't get as bothered about that stuff as I used to.

fading Zinnias in my neighborhood

The traffic that day, Wednesday, was unpleasant at times but we saw no collisions. A British acquaintance of mine, Mr. Victor S E Moubarak,  put the following on his blog regarding thankfulness from dangers:

"... all the saving miracles He has performed for us throughout our lives; whether we know of them or not. Saving graces from so many dangers and evils that we know little or nothing about."
My response to that is a hearty, "Amen!!" As we list those things for which we are grateful during this holiday of Thanksgiving, we should remember we have been spared much that we know nothing about. 

An especially good (and accurate) photo of him

This is my segue into a big part of my week that I cannot overlook. On Wednesday my family and I made note of my late husband's birthday, and tomorrow (November 25th) will mark three years since an angel whisked him out of an ambulance en route to hospice to Heaven. Our wedding anniversary will pop up in a few weeks, followed by Christmas. The holiday season is not what it used to be.

another Hobby Lobby purchase from 2021

Does it get any easier? In my case, yes, it has, but the scars of loss remain. When someone makes as positive of an imprint on lives as Tom did, it's impossible to just shrug that off and go on. So I honor him and the memories he left behind.

jigsaw puzzle currently on our dining room table

The first year was very hard as none of us anticipated his passing. I struggled a lot to get my footing, even with my life-long Christian faith. Some people (including myself) question choices I made but when a person is in the depths of grief, EVERYTHING looks very different and pretty much not in a good way. The pain is severe and desperation sets in with the intention of erasing the hurt. 

I will just say this: those who have not experienced this cannot possibly understand to the full extent what this feels like. We must not judge the hurting. The struggle is real. Loving compassion, patience, and sometimes just a silent companionship are about the best we can do for them as they weather the worst of times.

Jesus goes after His own
(Internet photo)

While time, in itself, does not heal, I am learning God uses the passage of time as a balm to soothe and gradually distance the hurt so we can once again see clearly and find equilibrium again.

Our Lord also brings new people, places, and circumstances that serve to transform the grieving into someone new. 

Gary and me at
Catboat Escapes

Those who knew me before and continue to follow me now have seen the transformation from a rather sedate needle-working woman often sequestered in her sewing room or on the computer into a sportswoman of sorts who bicycles, kayaks, canoes, zip-lines, plays bocce and has an occasional [small] glass of wine, seldom cooks (except to bake and make salads), and has loosened up on some very strict thinking. (I have given up Tofu and never make my famous green smoothies for breakfast. I continue to be blessed with wonderful health.)

I have seen the faithfulness of God to an extent perhaps not so necessary before grief landed in my lap. While my life before had its ups and downs like everyone else, I now see I was actually sheltered from a lot. 

One of the most enduring legacies my late husband left with us is his love and appreciation for Proverbs 3, verses 5-6. I had this reference put on his grave headstone:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; 
lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him
and He will direct your paths.

Recently I saw this verse in a different translation that shed fresh light on its meaning. "Trust in the Lord" means, "Expect God to act."

In progressing through the valley of grief, I have looked for God to act on my behalf and He has done exactly that. During this season of thanksgiving, I am grateful He has, for sure, acted on my behalf. Many times. Oh so many times.

To close on a lighter note, you may wonder why I titled this post, "Fish Friday." 🤭 We are not Catholics here (both Gary and I were raised as Baptists), but we do often have fish (sea food) in some form on this day. Gary knows I especially enjoy shrimp, so because he likes to please me, our lunch today was shrimp with cocktail sauce and a vegetable salad. It was great!

We both have grief over our late spouses, but the Lord has given us to each other and we are sooo blessed! Laughter rings out often in our house.

Gary 'n me at an Elephant Preserve

Until next time, grace and peace.  And let's do tea sometime again, in person! 😋

Another Adventure For Us Old Folks

photo credit Currently our outside temperature is 81 degrees with a partly cloudy sky. Here in North Central Florida we've been moving f...