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.


  1. It's been a very quiet day for us but that will all change tomorrow when our Oklahoma family arrives. I "think" I have prepared as much as possible so that I can enjoy their visit. Love that you and Gary biked in your Santa hats. Spreading good cheer! Have a good "tween" week!

  2. Sounds like a wonderful Christmas. Love hearing about your bike rides. Merry Christmas!

  3. Grinning...Barbara, I about spat out my coffee when you mentioned baby and diaper, LOLOL. Wishing you a beautiful Happy New Year my friend. smiles

  4. I loved your Christmas recap here, Barbara. Gary and you certainly make a handsome couple! Blessings now and in the New Year!

  5. I, too, enjoyed singing the Christmas carols at Church Sunday. I'm an alto also, and seldom get to sing that way anymore. I'm glad you had a good Christmas. May you continue to be happy and enjoy each other in 2024!


Proceeding to Father's Day

  junk vehicles in New Mexico (source: FaceBook) This past week has been a reminder of how un-common common sense is and how forethought is ...