Friday, February 23, 2024

A Collection of Blog Fodder

good advice 

We interrupt this time out ..... I have observed over the years that whenever a blogger announces she (or he) is going to take a break from posting, often they have to soon eat their words. Such is the case with me.

As I said in my previous blog post, we have "some particularly engrossing things on our calendar," which led into saying I would not be writing as often. Well, the "particularly engrossing things" got re-arranged on our calendar (through no effort by us) and we are now in a holding pattern to see how things get re-scheduled. 

I have no intention of telling you now what those "engrossing things" are because it just works better for me to write about what has already happened instead of what I expect/hope/plan to be. As evidenced by this change in our plans, this is a good rule of thumb.

my breakfast most days

In the meantime, my propensity to snap pictures of random interest to label as "blog fodder" is still alive and well and the collection of those photos is growing. The cereal box pictured above was the subject of a text message sent to Sister during our grocery trip yesterday. She loved it and the caption says it for me.

a recent purchase

Last spring when Gary broke four ribs and could do little more than lay pitifully in his recliner while the bones knit back together, I remembered Lady Bell. She is an antique brass bell in the shape of an Edwardian-era woman, small, and makes a nice tinkle when shaken. My late husband brought her into the family. We used her the most whenever any of our three children were sick-a-bed and needed to get my attention. When I emptied my house to move in with Gary, I gave Lady Bell to one of my children, thinking they could use it with their offspring. 

sick-a-bed Snoopy
(shared from Sister)

Last summer I wished I had Lady Bell for Gary. I got to thinking recently that we should have a bell in this household, so without saying much about it to Gary, I ordered one. Actually, I ordered THREE because I just wasn't sure how loud they would be and the total cost with shipping was under $15. After placing the order, Gary told me his late wife was a collector of bells and I would find them in the dining room china cabinet.

"C'mon, ring those bells..."

He was not kidding. Today I pulled them all out of the china cabinet, added my three, and counted them up to a total of 16! We are set!

Bistro table from Rooms to Go

While I'm spending money, I'll share this cute little table that came off the delivery truck just this morning. 

this morning

From my previous residence, I already had one with two chairs, which is a wonderful set-up for outdoor dining with beverages and/or small lunch plates. 

back yard patio

We have had this table in both the front and the back of the house, but we really needed another one.

the newest table on front porch

These tables can stay outside all the time, but weighing 20-some pounds, if there is a strong storm forecasted, we can either bring them indoors or just turn them upside down on the pavement and place them close to the house. We are not inclined to do entertaining on a large scale any more, so these small tables fit our lifestyle very well.

my wonderful cast iron wedge pan

The topic of entertaining and outdoor dining is my segue into a foodie topic. I've shared before that I LOVE to make cornbread in my cast iron wedge pan. It turns out perfect every.single.time. 

While the above snapshot does not look appetizing, it's all good. I spray the indentations with Baker's Joy, the combo of oil and flour that makes pan prep and the release of the baked food so easy.

the ease of a boxed mix

I don't cook much from scratch anymore, so a box of Betty's Brownie Mix suit my style just fine. Just add 2 eggs, oil, and water. 

Wait! I think I heard that if you have to stir a recipe, that counts as "cooking from scratch"! Yes. Let's go with that.


When they were done baking, I left for Great Clips for my monthly hair cut, advising you-can-guess-who to leave them alone because they were very hot and needed to cool. 

Yeah. You guessed it. One was missing when I got back. Of course by then they were cool enough to handle, so I then served one to myself. Forgive me for patting myself on the back, but they turned out PERFECT. (Gary was profuse with his compliments, too.)


We have a rainy front moving in, so it's been much too windy to ride our bikes today. But after lunch (and the aforementioned brownies) I was able to get out for my 1.3 mile walk in the neighborhood. When the trees are bereft of their leaves (some trees do that, even here in Florida), I am fascinated to see clumps of green clinging to naked branches. New growth?

No, it's Mistletoe, which is a parasite. Did you know that? It can kill a tree, but my research says this takes a long time and other things may kill the tree faster. This is just some FYI, in case you need it for a game of Trivial Pursuit sometime. 

Talk about parasites is not exactly a segue into anything except to bring this to a more serious topic: stress. We all experience it but some handle it more effectively than others. 

Me, I'm the queen of shoulders crowding my ear tips with a tendency to get uptight about [anything] and scrunch up my neck muscles tight.  I read this poster on the wall at the doctor's office recently:

how to relax

These things are helpful and I've tried them all with varying degrees of success, depending on the situation. In the past 3+ years in particular, I am finding my best option is to just breathe the name of Jesus. 

Just breathe His name, which is an admission of my need for help and a cry for it. Then wait. Just be still as much as possible. The answer may come immediately but more often than not (for me, anyway), the answer gradually appears. It's the quiet wait with the sincere belief I've relinquished the problem to Him and that He will take care of it -- that's my best way to relax. 

cards 'n candy

As I close this out, I am remembering I have not shared our Valentine's Day with my readers. It started out well and got better with each passing hour. Gary grilled rib eye steaks to perfection, and I provided a (store-bought) Banana Cream Pie. 

us on February 18th

This last picture was taken with my computer's Photo Booth feature. We were testing to see how we would look on a Zoom meeting we were preparing to join. Yeah, we have crow's feet, bags under our eyes, and white/gray hair, but this is real and we have so much for which to be thankful.

Again, I don't know how regular my posting will be with these "particularly engrossing things on our calendar," but thank you for stopping by and for the kind comments.

Until next time, grace and peace.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Fifteen Years of Blogging


one of my blog headers from about 2013

It has been about 15 years ago this week that I created my first blog and began writing about my faith, family, hobbies, food, travel --whatever seemed to be good "blog fodder." Written primarily for women, some men read it, too, probably more out of self-defense (to see if I had besmirched their name than anything else). 

Blogging was gaining recognition and popularity 2009 as an easy (and inexpensive) form of expressing oneself, enabling writers to claim they were "published," albeit self-published. 

One of my nieces began a blog and since I have had an interest in writing since a teenager, my mother suggested I might like to try it. 

one of my first blog headers
(Internet source)

Using the Blogspot/Blogger platform, which is known for being both free and user-friendly, I liked it immediately. Coming up with a title and a header were great fun and I changed both often as I struggled to find exactly what would express ME the best.

At times I had more than one blog at the same time, each one devoted to one topic, such as quilting, food, home decor, spiritual, and so forth. 

The many titles I used included (but not limited to):

Aprons and Apples

My Journal Reflections

Grateful Grammy

Grammy's Place

Sweet Tea and Sandals

Cornerstone Cottage

Restful Retreat

The Brown Bungalow

and more that I no longer remember.

my kitchen 2013-2017

Eventually I realized that changing names and headers frequently confused many of my readers and settling down to just one blog with many topics within was the better choice for building a devoted readership.

a fresh salad with wood moose tongs

Writing about food was fun and got me into the habit of snapping pictures of dinner before taking the first bite. Lots of bloggers post recipes, some more artfully than others. 

baby quilt I made for grandchild #10

My quilts, and later cross stitched projects, occupied many of the blog posts. This quilt, above, was one of my more "artsy" designs, where I ventured from the more traditional, predictable patterns. 

For more years than not, I wrote about my imaginary staff who helped me with maintaining my home, and eventually my fictitious Bed and Breakfast -- freeing me up to "write the great American novel." 

"My Staff"

Identifying them in the photo above, from top eft to right:

Lily (in the teal scrubs): my Research Assistant

Mandy Sue (pink apron): my "gal Friday" full of mischief

Grammy (the be-speckled bear): was Me

Mrs Berniece Mertz (Kiss the Cook apron): my chef

Brown bear in yellow chair: Rent-a-Nurse, who appeared only when one of us were ill or recovering from surgery and home health care was needed

Smallest gal in the newspaper hat: Eaves Dropping was a reporter for the local newspaper.

Not shown was Grandad Bear, Rowdy (the bothersome neighbor kid), and Spud (Mr Potato Head who helped Grandad Bear with home maintenance and outdoor chores.)

blog header using the hot air balloon
at Disney Springs, Florida

Back in the early days of my blog, I was very concerned about personal security and privacy, so I would photoshop hats, sunglasses, and such over the faces of people to make easy identification hard. I also gave just about everyone a pseudonym, something that seemed appropriate for their personality or career, or station in  life. Some of the names used:

Surfer Girl and Surfer Boy

Web Designer and the Lil' Red-Haired Girl

Gray Beard and Blondie

The Cook on Fifth Street



There were many more names used but these appeared the most often. 

I seldom got into political issues, wanting to keep my writing clean, uplifting, and accurate. But at the same time, when COVID hit, I did acknowledge that.

Mandy Sue during the pandemic;
I sewed most of her wardrobe

It was about eight months into the pandemic when the tone and thrust of my blog writing turned from the frivolity and fantasy with my dolls' antics to real life, the hard stuff none of us could overlook or ignore. 

Challenge Hill aka "the incline"
Philip S. Miller Park
Castle Rock, Colorado

When COVID came to my house, fantasy faded and reality warped the fanciful stories I'd been composing for some nearly ten years. I found myself, as did so many of us, on a very steep incline with no handrails at an increasing altitude that took my breath away.

Literally. If you look closely at the above snapshot taken by Beloved, I am barely seen over half-way up the staircase, below the lime green shirt and close to a royal blue sweatshirt. This picture was taken years before we had heard of COVID, but when I came across it the other day, it perfectly illustrated how I felt when the pandemic grabbed and stole from me a particular peace I had enjoyed for all my life until then.

A quote from Goethe describes some of the reasons why I continued to blog in the new season of grief that was swallowing me up:

"The world is so empty 

if one thinks only of 

mountains, rivers, and cities; 

but to know someone who thinks

and feels with us, and who,

though distant, 

is close to us in spirit, 

this makes the earth for us

an inhabited garden."

As I shared my grief over losing Beloved to COVID, my readers responded with their sympathy and stories of how this evil was affecting them. The purpose for my writing transformed into more of a support group atmosphere and readership even grew. My attention and focus was (and continues to be) frequently directed to these two thoughts:

1) God has a purpose for our pain, a reason for our struggle, and a reward for our faithfulness. Don't give up!

2) Everyone is struggling with something. Be kind and give grace.

Over the years it has been my delight to meet several of my blogging friends in person (some, more than once!). Especially as we all were encouraged to limit in-person contact with the public, these blogging relationships have become very special and close.

Colorado Columbines

I have learned a lot about myself in this evolution of my writing a blog. One, to my embarrassment and regret, is that I had a lot to learn about extending grace, being kind, and giving more intentional thought to word choices and behaviors. 

kitchen chandelier decor
in Colorado
Before I close out this summation of my blogging journey over the past 15 years, I will say that along with the grief has been the advent of more new people and experiences in my life. The Lord, in His incredible mercy, has rescued me from profound grief to wonderful joy with the love of a man who has experienced similar grief in his life. Those who have been reading my blogs over the years have seen this turn come about on the heels of the hard stuff. 

Gary is not given to the fantasies that captured me in the past, although he has a sense of humor that has me laughing every single day. When I tried to give him a pseudonym in my blog at the start of our love, he asked that he be referred to as "just Gary." And so he is.

I hasten to add that Gary is very involved with this blog, not only as frequent subject matter, but also as my editor and proofreader!

We have some particularly engrossing things on our calendar over the next couple months, so even with all the benefits blogging has done for me and others, I will not be writing as often. As the calendar allows, I intend to resume posting, but for the time being blogging will be on the back burner, so to speak.

Happy Valentine's Day to all of you, and regarding the Super Bowl this weekend, this is me:

Until next time, grace and peace.


Thursday, February 1, 2024

Flowers in February and the Hodgepodge


Camelia in our front yard

It's been a quiet week here with regard to collecting blog fodder. I've not taken many pictures, but happily, here in Florida, there is usually photo-worthy flora and fauna to fill up the space, even right here in our own yard.

Azaleas in our front yard

When I lived in Northern Virginia in the mid-1980s, we had to wait until spring to see the flowering Azaleas (and in Colorado they were nearly non-existent), but here in North Central Florida, we enjoy them for Christmas and still even now as we progress toward Valentine's Day. Our yard provides delightful eye candy year 'round.

Blue Daze surrounds our front patio

We are doing well, having thus far avoided the current threats of COVID, FLU, and RSV that seem to be making the rounds in our town. We have got all the shots/vaccinations and take precautions within reason. As we remember the pandemic and how deeply personal its effects were on the two of us, no, I don't think we can be too careful.

Worshiping at home via on-line church has become the norm for us. A congregation of two seated in front of the computer monitor is less hazardous to our health right now. Gary adds to the specialness of that by serving a caramel-flavored coffee that he saves to brew just on Sunday mornings (sometimes with marshmallows!).

Yes, we miss out on the face-to-face interactions with people, but that's where social media (in spite of its negatives) can serve us well. My ladies' Bible group is studying Peter by Mindy Ferguson. We can share our thoughts on that via emails. That's a form of the "small group" studies that are emphasized so much these days. We have participated in Zoom groups that are a help when face-to-face meetings are problematic.

With not a lot of new stuff to share with you today, I'm using Joyce's Hodgepodge meme as my writing prompt. Her title this week is, "Puzzling Over the Hodgepodge."

1. January 29th is National Puzzle Day. Do you enjoy puzzles? What kind (crossword, jigsaw, sudoku, etc)? How often do you work a puzzle?

Now that I no longer quilt and cross stitch, I enjoy Sudoku and work on several puzzles of them every day. Every day. I really like it. I get irritated with crossword puzzles, and jigsaw puzzles take up space since it takes days (weeks?) to complete them. Sudoku is very portable and can easily be set aside and then picked up later.

2. Something you currently find puzzling?

I could mount a soap box to answer this one because the biggest puzzle I see these days regards the political scene. But I don't want to get into a fuss with people over it, and I'm really not interested in what others have to say. I know what I think and over recent years nothing has been said or done to convince me otherwise. 

3. What's your go-to dish to take to someone who needs a meal (new baby, bereavement, etc)?

As I've said many times since marrying Gary, I don't cook like I used to, so taking a home-cooked meal is pretty much out of the question for me. I like to get take-out for the recipients. Deli sandwiches, BBQ pulled pork, or lasagna from the grocer's freezer case are my favs for sharing with others. (with appropriate side dishes and a pre-made dessert)

4. Do you watch any HGTV and/or The Food Network? If so, what's your favorite program there? 

In earlier years I watched both a lot and learned so much. One drawback to that was my propensity to run out to purchase the clever gadgets used on the foodie shows. My favs back in the day were Barefoot Contessa, Paula Deen, and others. The home remodel shows were great, too. The House Hunter series fascinated me to see what priorities were important to people as they shopped for a home.

5. Wrap up your January in five words, with a five word phrase, or with a five word sentence.

Important decision made and confirmed.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

my husband sealing the concrete patio behind our house

Those who follow my blog regularly know I refer often to life with the advent of widowhood and re-marriage. People tell me the experiences have helped them. This season of my life has become a platform of sorts because what has happened shook me up more than anything else I had experienced before. So please forgive me as I again make a reference to grief here. 

One of the many obstacles I had to face when Tom died was the upkeep of our home, both inside and out. While I had, up until that time, done the majority of the housework, he maintained the outdoor areas and oversaw the infrequent repairs of whatever would break down. Facing that by myself reduced me to tears many times. I was so glad to be done with that when my house sold and Gary's home became mine. 

To be sure, I have learned from that and most of the time when Gary is working outside, I am out there with him. I observe, help when an extra pair of hands is needed, and in general I am learning more about  [everything]. I tease him that I'm "supervising him" when in reality, I'm out there to learn. I can do things I didn't before and have a better idea of when to call for help and who to call.

Until next time, grace and peace.

Those who know the name of the Lord
will put their trust in Him.
Psalm 9:10 (bjm paraphrase)

back yard Hibiscus
December 2023

To see the blogs of others who are participating in Joyce's Wednesday Hodgepodge, go to

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...