Saturday, December 30, 2023

2023 Review and Wrap-Up


Wow. We are once again teetering on the edge of the old year as the New Year looms up fast before us. 

I have just finished going through pictures I've taken over the past twelve months, reviewing what we've been doing. It's sobering to realize those things have happened that "long ago" when I remember them so well (but on the other hand, what a blessing it is to be able to remember). 

My original thought was to share one photo from each of the twelve months but instead I think I'll share by "themes." The blessings have been too numerous for one blog post, but here are some of the highlights.

January was the start of updating our back yard patio and the surrounding grassy areas. Here is the back yard as it appears now, from a different perspective.

photo taken in September

More house-related work was done just this month as the roof was replaced. Grateful as we are to have had this done, we are both hopeful we won't have to listen to that kind of project over our heads ever again!

new roof applied

Anyone who reads my blog faithfully knows we love to ride our bikes just about every day, depending on the weather and any scheduling conflicts with appointments, etc. 

Santa and me on Christmas Day 2023

Only the Lord knows how late in life we will be able to keep this up, but it's been a blessing to us to get this fresh air, sunshine (i.e. Vitamin D) on our skin, and vigorous exercise. It's a shared activity that we rarely do by ourselves, so the neighbors are used to seeing both of us peddling by.

biking shirts from a gas station

Over the past three years I've changed in several ways, one of them being the colors I wear. Pegged as a "winter" in the Color Me Beautiful book from the 1980s, this chartreuse yellow/green and anything orange are not in my personal color palette. Yet, these two colors are recommended when biking or walking with traffic so we are readily seen by drivers (and that's no guarantee, by the way). 

On a one-day road trip last summer, we stopped at a gas station and I saw these shirts. Yes, they are too large for me since they were probably intended for road construction men to wear them, but otherwise they were perfect for me. I brought them home, hemmed up the sleeves and added them to my growing wardrobe of athletic wear.

Gainesville-Hawthorne bike trail

Our daily rides take us about 45 minutes at a comfortable speed covering somewhere between 4-5 miles here within our gated 55+ community. But on our recent longer rides totaling 12-15 miles in one day, I discovered that in spite of a nicely padded bicycle seat, my 'undercarriage' needed more support. Gary suggested I shop for padded bike shorts/pants.

After a trip to the sporting goods store, now I'm (how shall I say it?) "riding high in the saddle" with a most comforting gel pack that is sewn into the pants. Whoa! Just take my word for it, the extra $$ spent for comfort is well worth it!
canoeing on the Rainbow River

We have also spent more time on the water this year. Twice we have paddled upstream on the Rainbow River and then floated downriver, first time in a shared kayak and the second time in a canoe. 

us with Catboat Escapes

Another time we drove a catamaran boat for two from one lake to another via connecting canals. This was a peaceful glide except when our tour guide set us loose on one large lake where for about twenty minutes we could squirrel around at top speed forward, making circles and creating a big splash. It was exhilarating!!

lunch at a car show

I have lost count how many car shows we've been to since Gary picked up both me and his 2002 Ford Thunderbird a couple of years ago. (He says he "had to get the car to get the girl," which is a cute thought but it was his personal charm that won my heart 💕) 

an indoor car show at the
World Equestrian Center

Our car show hobby took a turn when a salesman asked if we were willing to sell our toy.  After we got home we decided that as fun as the T-Bird was, what we really needed was a truck. It didn't need to be big, and one absolute prerequisite was that it had to fit in our garage with the Toyota. Bye-bye T-Bird.

new 2023 Ford Maverick hybrid

With a crew cab and a chassis low enough for me to comfortably drive, the purchase was made. I have never thought of myself as a truck kinda gal, but practicality won me over easily. This vehicle drives just like the three Ford Escapes I've owned in the past. I really like it.

Charleston, South Carolina

We did some traveling this year, but no farther than a day's drive from home. Two nights in Charleston in the Spring was the perfect time to go, before summer's heat set in. Even the driver of our horse-drawn carriage tour told us they shut down operations in the heat of summer. 

The architecture for which Charleston is known was charming, and there was good shopping, too. I still refrain from buying much after emptying my house last year to downsize and move into Gary's house. But looking is fun.

ferry boat with the 
Arthur Ravenel Jr bridge in background

We took a paddlewheel ferry boat out to Fort Sumter where the first shots of the Civil War took place. While the island fort wasn't really all that exciting, we enjoyed the hour-long boat ride and the harbor sights.

an ocean-going cargo ship sailed past us

We had three notable in-person visits with out-of-town family members this year, plus a couple of FaceTime visits. I will not be posting pictures of family because I have not asked permission to do so and in our current culture, disclosing photos and locations can adversely threaten one's privacy. Unfortunately it's just the way life is now. 

Us with an elephant in background

The first ones came to see us in April, flying in from the far frozen north. We took them to an elephant preserve not far from our home, Two Tails Elephant Ranch. I even got to ride atop one of the beasts with my daughter-in-law. We have been related only a short time, so bonding atop an elephant was a memory-maker!

Eight humans and two Husky dogs 

In November two families from Virginia and North Florida met us at a half-way point for lunch. Two Siberian Huskies were a part of our group, so we dined comfortably outdoors under a roof at a restaurant within easy view of the St. Johns River. With four children of varying ages and two animals, this was the perfect solution for a good visit.

Also this fall we were delighted with a visit from family living north of us in both Florida and from The Music City, Tennessee!

Christmas wreaths from Home Depot

In December family from Central Florida met us at the cemetery to decorate the graves of our loved ones. This visit included my other new in-law children. Shared grief is a comfort. After the wreath-laying, we enjoyed lunch at Cracker Barrel and then had to go our separate ways. The visit was deeply satisfying. We have been blessed by the efforts of family to visit us when it takes time, advance planning and sometimes inconvenience to do so. 

just some of my birthday cards

We celebrated our birthdays, of course. Mine was in the Spring and Gary's in the Autumn. 

Gary's birthday cake

You could say we are both in the October-November of our lives, so to speak. We are thankful (and mildly surprised) at the things we are still able to do. Memories of our grandparents at this age remind us how quality of life has greatly improved since then.

feet propped up, 
watching the hurricane forecast

We have adversity, just like everybody else, although I seldom refer to that on this blog -- who wants to read about weeping and gnashing of teeth?!!! But even with that admission, God has been merciful, even generous, in giving us so very much for which to be thankful. 

us as cowboys

Today we enjoyed one of our Christmas presents, a gift card for Longhorn Steak House. Wearing our denim jackets and jeans (mine a gift from Gary), we proclaimed ourselves 'cowboys' [cowgirl] and had the rib eye steaks. Showing up at 11am for lunch, we avoided crowds and noise and thoroughly enjoyed the meal. We've had the ribs in previous visits. It's all excellent!

Gainesville-Hawthorne trail

Christmas is behind us. As I bring this post to a close, the New Year will be here in about 30 hours. Our best mindset is to trust God as the pieces of this New Year are fit together.

jigsaw puzzle on our dining table

I wish the very best for all of you. Thanks for coming to "see" me on my blog and for your comments.

"... He who began a good work in you

will carry it on to completion

until the day of Christ Jesus."

Philippians 1:6 NIV

Until next time, grace and peace.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Christmas Day 2023


Us spreading Christmas cheer

It's Christmas afternoon as this post is being composed. My photos and relaying of our Christmas celebrations will be out of chronological order this time because I wanted to insert these bike pictures first. And please forgive me, but there will be a lot pictures of us because that's just how it goes when there are only the two of us to take the photos.


It was after breakfast this morning. I had taken my shower and got dressed for the day when Gary came strolling into the living room with a very confident air about him, wearing a shirt I didn't know he owned. Yes, Santa himself! He tells me it was an impulsive drug store purchase made years ago.


For weeks it has been my plan that on our Christmas morning bike ride we would leave our helmets at home so we could wear our Santa hats. (they would not fit well over the helmets)

I felt I was getting a certain amount of pushback from Gary on that idea, but as he came out this morning with this Santa shirt, I realized he had been "all bark and no bite." 

Christmas music on TV

As if I had not worried enough about that plan, we woke up to not a White Christmas but a rainy Christmas. After opening our gifts, enjoying breakfast and getting dressed for the day, we had to wait until about 2pm for the rain to lighten up enough for us to venture out. 

As we took our usual 4-5 mile route through our neighborhood, I was hoping to come across a friend to take our picture together but alas, everybody was indoors eating their figgy pudding. Eventually we came across a young couple that was obviously visiting family (because they were not 55+ in age) walking their dog. They looked approachable, but then we weren't scary in our Santa hats, either. We asked if they would mind taking our picture. Turns out they are visiting from Chicago, so since I've had family ties there since 1970,  we had a good conversation and yes, they took about ten pictures of us.

As we were riding home, I thanked Gary for being such a good sport about wearing the Santa hat on our bike ride. He accepted my praise but then quickly added he was drawing the line there. Lest I even try to suggest it, he let me know he will NOT be wearing a Baby New Year diaper for our ride on January 1st!! 

The thought had not even crossed my mind ... 🙄😆

our bikes loaded for adventure

Now to back up chronologically to Christmas Eve Eve (yes, December 23rd), we hung our bikes on the back of the Toyota again and drove up to Hawthorne, which is east of Gainesville. A couple of weeks ago we rode the Gainesville-Hawthorne bike trail about 18.6 miles before turning back due to weariness. If you read my blog regularly, you will remember that was the day we saw the 100+ alligators sunning themselves on a wetlands beach. (click HERE to see that if you missed it)

Gary in Hawthorne, Florida

That trail is 15 miles all total, but one has to keep in mind that if you ride all 15 in one ride, it turns out to 30 miles by the time you get back to the car. So that's why we couldn't finish it all the first time. We went to the opposite end of the trail and headed west to the area where we turned around last time and then came back again. The total mileage on this day was 12, which is proving to be plenty for this old lady. (I need to buy padded bike pants!!)

me at the picnic table

After the bike ride we enjoyed our picnic of peanut butter sandwiches, chips, and some of the Christmas goodies people have sent to us. As you can see in the two pictures here, the Oak trees are draped with Spanish Moss, looking as "old South" as it gets. And don't you know that children would just love to be climbing on the thick, low-hanging branches (while we adults do our best to avoid walking into them!).

Unfortunately, as we were having a wonderful day with the drive up north and then riding our bikes on the trail, something terrible was brewing in Ocala. A shooting was reported on national news at the mall where I shop. The result was one dead, one other injured by the gunman, and others hurt from the resulting stampede of people trying to flee the area. 

As we all know, this kind of thing is becoming commonplace even though tragic. Since "only one person" was killed, I have to admit I am mildly surprised the news made national media when so much worse happens somewhat often. This was a targeted shooting, if you want to call that a blessing, meaning only one or two people were the gunman's goal. 

As of this writing on late afternoon of Christmas Day, the gunman has not been caught, but the police know exactly who it was.

I can hardly believe I am phrasing these things as I am, almost sounding casual about it. I most certainly do not mean it that way but since we hear about these things so often, this is just being honest and realistic.

Returning now to more pleasant things, the service at my church on the morning of Christmas Eve was especially good, I thought. I'm not a big fan of some of the contemporary Christian music, but on this Sunday I knew all but one of the worship songs (all Christmas-themed) and the arrangements even allowed for me to enjoy singing alto, which has been my default way of singing since I was a teen and learned from my mother and youth choirs. 

Gary's Chocolate Torte with Sweet Cream and Berries

That afternoon we had a late lunch at the restaurant in a neighboring retirement community with our friends, Jersey Boy and Jersey Girl. They were my neighbors when Beloved died, making that chapter of my life easier with the many favors they did for me as well as listening to me as I tried to understand the changes thrust upon me as a new widow.

Fresh Mozzarella and Vine Tomatoes with a 
Balsamic Glaze and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I did not take pictures of all the food on our table, but I did bring home the menu-placemat, which is how I can relay to you the exact names of what we enjoyed.

Jersey Boy had the Blackened Red Snapper topped with Jumbo Lump Crab Meat, Citrus Butter, Saffron Rice, and Seasonal Vegetables.

Jersey Girl and Gary had the Garlic Shrimp and Beef Tips infused with a Red Wine Garlic Demi Sauce, seasonal veggies and mashed potatoes.

I had the Chicken Picatta which was a seared boneless chicken breast with White Wine Caper Sauce, Saffron Rice, and seasonal veggies. 

It's become a habit with me in these fancy places to maybe order something different from what Gary gets and we share bites from our plates with each other. (I think that's romantic; some do not. I'm glad Gary has no problem with it.)

Carrot Cake

Jersey Girl and I have have lunched at this same place several times together and we always top off the meal with the Carrot Cake. I often bring an order of it back home for Gary, or I eat just half of it and he gets my leftovers in a box.

Jersey Girl and Jersey Boy

Back at the Jersey's home, we got to see their beautiful Christmas tree. It's a Balsam Hill tree, the one advertised on TV every year at this time. It truly is a gorgeous tree, pre-lit, with a dense construction of the branches that makes it easier to decorate. My friends don't put it up every year since, as you can see, they have a lot or ornaments and why go to all that effort if they are going to be out of town on the big day? 

It's truly a wonderful asset to Christmas decorating and creates a perfect photo opportunity. 

As I close this out, I share with you our dessert on this Christmas Day, a frozen Chocolate Cream Pie from the Publix freezer case. Gary tells me this is a favorite of his and I have to admit, what's not to like about it?!!!

Per my habit with all my posts, I will proof-read what's typed here, then turn the computer over to Gary to proof-read and make any editing suggestions, and publish it for your reading.

All I have been able to experience this season has been very pleasing, but most of all, more than anything else, I thank God for sending His Son, Jesus, to earth in human form to illustrate and demonstrate to us the character and love of God for us all.

Until next time (next year? maybe. maybe not), grace and peace.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Out On The Roof Arose Such a Clatter ....

a gift of cookies

 ..... but it definitely was not Santa Claus. Actually, it was a week too soon for his arrival. Checking the calendar, we knew it was the day for our old roof to be replaced. 

And such a clatter it was!!! No less than six fellas (maybe 10?) were tromping around up there. When stuff is being dug and scraped off the roof, one takes their life in their hands to step outside lest debris hit them on the head. The sounds of their work were loud, thumping, hard dropping, and sometimes I checked the front door because I thought a visitor was knocking. 

new roof in progress

Having been through this before some eleven years ago in another house, I knew the noise would be bothersome and go on forever. But I think time must have diluted my memories of it because by mid-day I decided doing anything requiring mental clarity was useless. I could hardly remember my name for the relentless pounding, scraping, and such. 

So the 'sounds of the season' have not been all Christmas carols around here. The project took two full days and then late on Day 3, the huge dumpster blocking our garage entry was hauled off. 

goodbye to the dumpster

This has been shared to illustrate how the less glamorous aspects of life must go on even in the most delightful of holiday seasons. Of course we are thankful for the new roof, which had to be rescheduled due to heavy rain last month. We are also thankful we can cross that project off our To Do List.

a gift by Bonnie & Pop

Cards and gifts have been arriving. Again this year I have thoroughly enjoyed giving foodie gifts through the internet. WOWOWOW! Is that easy or what?!!!! I should have caught onto that years ago. My go-to has been Harry and David, but there are oodles of similar websites from which to choose. 

Gary in the frozen food section of Publix

We do the grocery shopping together. Gary pushes the cart and has a sharp eye out for the BOGO sales (buy one, get one free). Have any of you noticed, as I have, how walking down the frozen food aisle is so (how shall I say it), so rewarding, satisfying.... uh, not unlike Miss America on the runway. (You don't get it, do you?) 

Well, in Publix the frozen food cases are dark but as  you progress down the aisle, sensors pick up the activity of the shopper and the lights pop on. The farther you walk, the more lights turn on. It's so rewarding! People who are depressed during the holiday season (or any time of year, for that matter) should go to Publix's frozen food aisles.

Let's see, what are some other observations I've made since the last blog post? 

palm tree delivery

Those who don't live in Florida may never have seen this before. I was exiting my car in the Walmart parking lot when I spied this nursery truck. Large palm trees are transported this way; it's not an uncommon sight around here. It sort of fascinates me.

Grinch in a tree

While I'm on the subject of trees, Gary spotted the Grinch on one of our bike rides the other day. We swerved out into the middle of the street to avoid getting grabbed by that green hand!

music makers

Also on our bike rides through the neighborhood, I am pleased to say we've seen a good number of Nativity displays and the large letters spelling out JOY but this is the only set of carolers I've seen. 

Christmas music station on Direct TV

We listen to Christmas music every morning with our first cup of coffee. Probably my favorite aspect of Christmas is music, but with that said, I prefer the older carols and tunes with lyrics I can understand and even hum along with. And Mannheim Steamroller's Deck the Halls. (click on the song title to listen)

afternoon tea

While composing this post I've brewed some black tea for Gary and me. Reflecting on Christmas, I see that as our children have aged and the circumstances for all of us have morphed into alternate ways of doing things, Christmas isn't quite like it used to be. But I am adjusting. My desire and energy levels for the chaos of it all have modified into something quieter and definitely less busy. Surely many of my older readers are agreeing with me.

one of our trees this year

We will be in town for Christmas this year. We have plans to dine with friends and just keep a low profile. I'm okay with that. We both have got all the shots, vaccinations, etc that are out there, but with that, we've found the pandemic-standard of less association with groups of people seems to reduce the possibility of catching germs.... something that people who are 70-something need to consider.

Wise Men water color

In closing, I want to give my readers gifts -- links to some resources that have been incredibly helpful to me this past year. Some I have mentioned before but they are worth repeating. These are faith-based resources that have aided my thoughts on baffling circumstances. Perhaps they will be of encouragement to some of you as well.

Susie Larson

God Is Glad to See You

Joyce Meyer Ministries

Pastor Rick’s Daily Hope

When It’s Not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

With that said, I want for my readers what one of my former pastors has said recently:

- peace where you need it most

- joy where you're least expecting it

- hope that renews Christ's purpose for your life

(Pastor Larry Yarbrough of Deermeadows Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida)

Until next time, grace and peace.

Anniversary Celebration on Jekyll Island

Our two-year anniversary celebration took us to Jekyll Island this week. Here is my album of memories. cover of free visitor guide If you do...