32 years later…

It finally happened Teddy. We did it. Yes. We. Did.

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Florida! You Came Back!

I missed you soooo much! It was awful with you away. While you were gone, all the usually green things turned brown, and stayed brown. There was no greening up a few days later. While you were gone I had to wear long pants and jackets, and worst of all, closed shoes. With socks. While you were gone, we had to have the heat on during the day. All day. Every day.

On Saturday I heard a rumor that you were back, and there were signs that this was true. It was sunny and warm, and though the wind made it a bit chilly, all indications were pointing to your return. The next few days proved that it was true. Now that you’re back, I just have one favor to ask of you. I know it’s March and you’re getting ready to turn up the heat, but could you wait a little longer on the stifling humidity part? We completely missed out on the winter weather that you’re famous for. You kept us unusually hot right through December, and then you left. Now we need some of that perfect winter weather that makes Florida summers tolerable. Just a month or two isn’t too much to ask, is it? Pretty please?

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National Pancake Day

It’s National Pancake Day at IHOP. Get a free short stack. They ask that you consider a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network or other charities.

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The nurse and the fireman are married.

A year and a half ago, when my stepson and his girlfriend told us they were engaged, we were thrilled. When they said the wedding would be in January 2010, it was a bit of a let down. “That’s so far away,” we whined. “It will never get here.” But get here it did. The Big Freeze, quite possibly the worst in Florida history, ended just 3 days before the outdoor wedding was to take place. The rain, which was a concern right up until 2 hours before the ceremony, held off until late that night.

The wedding and related activities were at the Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando. I stayed at this hotel for a weekend many years ago. A friend of my roommate was the Houston Hyatt’s General Manager. When the Grand Cypress opened, she was sent here to help them get up and running. We stayed as her guests, in a fantastic suite, and everything was free. This time, nothing was free (not even wi-fi), and we stayed in a normal room. I have to say though, that I was just as awestruck this time as when I was a wide-eyed twenty-something guest of a Hyatt big-wig.

The pool is one of the resort’s big draws. It’s a half acre, lagoon style pool (2 pools really), with waterfalls, 2 jacuzzis, a bar, and a snack bar. Only the smaller pool was heated, and since it had been freezing for nearly 2 weeks, that meant the unheated pool was Really Cold. Dennis was determined to go swimming, figuring he’ll never get another chance at this pool. There was a small slide in the heated pool. He did try the big slide, just to be able to say he did, but I wasn’t there to capture the moment. He said it was freezing, and he jumped out immediately.

Because the bride had so many out of state relatives, instead of a rehearsal dinner, there was a welcome dinner to which everyone was invited. It was at the resort’s western themed outdoor area. While it was still a little chilly for us Floridians, the Ohioans (?) and Virginians didn’t mind. Food and drink was plentiful.
Here’s Bill and Jason at the Welcome Dinner
Here's Bill and Jason at the Welcome Dinner
And Jason and his almost in-laws.

The ceremony was outdoors, complete with a white canopy and white folding chairs. I didn’t get many pictures because I wanted to fully enjoy the wedding rather than be behind a camera lens. I’m looking forward to getting the professional photos.

Dennis wasn’t in the wedding. He’s too old to be a ring bearer and too young to be a groomsman. But he looked good in his tux. He managed to keep socks and closed shoes on for several hours!

This is my new daughter-in-law

This is my distinguished looking husband dancing with his new daughter-in-law

Cutting the cake

The Groom’s Cake. Yes it’s a real cake, and yes it’s a real axe. No, Ace of Cakes didn’t make it. ;o) Jason is a Firemedic. That’s his official title, which indicates he’s both a firefighter and paramedic. His groomsmen were his entire shift at his fire station. Imagine a dance floor full of firemen (in tuxes) singing “The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!”.

Congratulations Jason and Sarah! We’re so happy for you!

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This and That

Florida finally thawed out last week. So much so in fact, that we’re going to have temperatures about 10 degrees higher than normal through the weekend. January is usually a beautiful month here — highs around 72, lows around 50. The month is nearly half over, and so far we’ve been freezing and sweating.

My plants that survived the freeze: broccoli, some leaf lettuce, parsley, green onions, rosemary, and chives. My rosebush handled it well. We’ve been gradually re-landscaping with native plants, and the natives survived.

My plants that succumbed to the freeze: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green beans, snow peas, and basil. I have plenty of basil seed and it grows quickly, so I hope to have more basil before long. I haven’t checked our citrus fruits. We have a grapefruit tree, a tangerine tree, and several orange trees. Most of the oranges are late season fruits, meaning they ripen in spring (many varieties ripen from Nov. – Jan.). I’m sure the fruit on the trees froze, which makes them inedible, but we should be able to juice them.

In other news, I’m officially a MIL! Me, a mother-in-law! I have a daughter-in-law! My stepson got married on the 16th. The weather was perfect for an outdoor wedding, the bride was beautiful, the groom was handsome. Both families are thrilled with our newest family member. Pictures to follow in another post, after I get a chance to upload them.

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Too Cold

Here in Florida, when the temperature dips below 40, it’s news. When it reaches freezing, it’s headline news, and when it reaches freezing 5 nights in a row, it’s all anyone here talks about. We Floridians tend to name our freezes. Oh, not officially, but if you mention certain freezes by name, those who were here when it happened know what you’re talking about.

There are a few that stand out in my memory. There was The Year It Snowed In Miami. Really. That’s what we call it. It was 1977, and flurries fell in Homestead, near Miami. It was the area’s first and only ever recorded snowfall. There was actual accumulation in Central and North Florida. Then there’s the Back-to-Back Freezes of ’84 & ’85. One freeze was in December 1984; the other in January 1985. They weren’t among our worst ever freezes, but two freezes in one winter always makes news.

Probably the most famous recent freeze is what’s known to locals as The Christmas Freeze (1989). The utility companies couldn’t handle the increased demand for heating, and there were rolling blackouts. Roads iced over and forced holiday travelers to stop. Motels were full, and there were stories of hotel and motel managers letting stranded travelers crash in their lobbies. The rolling power outages caused many a Christmas dinner to be ruined. Some people pulled their hams or turkeys out of the oven and put them on the grill. Others found restaurants that had power. Delivery pizza or takeout Chinese food were not uncommon Christmas dinners that year. We were lucky in that we didn’t lose power, but my cousin in another city did. My uncle, her father, was one of the stranded travelers. He was coming to Florida to visit her family for Christmas, but had to stop and stay in a hotel lobby. He finally made it to her house late Christmas day, and they sent out for a Christmas pizza. Her turkey was ruined.

I don’t know what this current freeze will be called, but I suspect the length will figure in the name. Maybe The Long Freeze. Or The New Year Freeze. We’ve had 5 nights in a row with temperatures below freezing, and 6 days in which we didn’t reach 60.

Now I know some people will laugh at that, but it’s no laughing matter really. We don’t have what it takes for temperatures this low. We don’t have the right winter clothes, coats, gloves, hats, socks, or blankets. We aren’t equipped for cold that lasts more than a day or two. Our power companies can’t handle the demand. Our home heating units can’t work hard enough to warm up the house, so we’re cold even inside our homes. Our houses are built to keep heat out, not in. Very few of us have fireplaces. Many people have space heaters, but those who don’t are out of luck. Every store that carries them is sold out. Our cold is a bone chilling cold. It looks dry outside, but right now the temperature is 31 degrees, with 60% humidity. That same humidity that suffocates us in the summer, makes cold feel colder in winter.

As much as 70% of the domestically grown produce this time of year comes from Florida. If you buy produce that says “Product of USA” in winter, chances are it came from Florida. The verdict isn’t in on how the crops fared in this freeze, but don’t be surprised if fresh produce prices skyrocket soon. Expect orange juice prices to go up. And if you will get or give roses for Valentine’s Day, this freeze will affect the price. The ferns that come with roses are delicate, and can’t handle these temperatures. The supply of ferns that haven’t been damaged in the freeze is going to be limited.

So how is our family handling this cold weather? Mostly by staying indoors. Dennis has gone outside each morning to check for ice. He found some in a water pan that filled up with rain on New Year’s Day. The ice has been about 1/2 inch thick — highly unusual. When ice is formed, it’s usually just a thin sheet. Each morning he goes out to get the ice, then drops it so he can watch it break like a sheet of glass.

In the background you can see my vegetable garden covered with sheets. I haven’t checked it in the last 3 days because I’m pretty sure all is lost. I don’t want to see all my wilted plants. Maybe the broccoli survived, but that’s probably all that did. Sheets. That’s what we do when it gets cold. We cover our plants with sheets. Drive around any neighborhood and you’ll see sheets in nearly every yard, covering plants and bushes. Everyone has old sheets that have become their “plant sheets”. Here’s my rosebush. I think it’s doing okay.

And finally, we get to have a lot of soup and hot chocolate. This week I’ve made beef stew, vegetable beef barley soup, chili, hamburger soup, white bean chicken chili, and potato soup. That’s probably as much soup as I normally make the entire winter. It’s usually not cold enough to have soup or chili more than a few times each year. We’ve been enjoying hot chocolate. Dennis has always liked the packaged stuff, while I’ve always preferred the kind made with cocoa powder (Bill could care less, and would rather have coffee). This year, after tasting the good stuff, Dennis decided he likes it better. I’ve been making it every day. It’s probably the only thing I’ll miss when the weather warms up.

I’m so ready for this cold snap to end. I live in Florida in part because I hate cold weather. Really hate it. Really, really hate it. You know how some people get cranky when it’s hot outside? I’m just the opposite. Cold makes me cranky. I don’t want to cuddle or snuggle. I just want to complain about the cold and curl up into a ball until it’s over. If I’m not warm, I’m not happy. I expect to be happy again by Thursday, when this crazy cold weather will finally come to an end. Next Thursday’s high is predicted to be 72, and the low only 51. Now that’s more like it.

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A Stitch in Time

sewing-machine

About 4 or 5 years ago, I don’t remember how many, I decided I must have a new sewing machine. I was tired of the 1970′s hand-me-down machine my mother gave me when I graduated college. It served its purpose way back when it was actually cheaper to make your own clothes than to buy them. But I was tired of the tension never being right, no matter how many times I adjusted it. I was tired of the bobbin winder only working intermittently. And I was tired of the strong odor of sewing machine oil that got on everything the needle touched. So I convinced myself and my husband that I needed a new sewing machine. Why, if I had a new machine, I’d use it all the time.

“All the time” turned out to be once or twice a year. I made some tee shirt bags. Last year I made Dennis’ Halloween costume when he decided he wanted to be his Runescape character. Other than that, it was used to sew on some scout patches, and mend a few seams.

I’m not one for making major life changing New Year’s Resolutions. If it’s that important, you can resolve to make the change at any time of the year. But I do like to make minor resolutions. And for 2010, I’ve decided that I will use my sewing machine at least once a month. My hope is that by using it more, I’ll use it more. I have a few ideas of what to make, and will schedule them based on what’s going on in a particular month. My stepson is getting married in January, so it will be one of the quick and easy projects that month. So far, the list includes:
-make cloth napkins out of old tablecloths
-sew patches on Dennis’ Camp Fire USA uniform
-a tote bag
-a smock apron
-re-cover a side chair
-make sleep pants for Dennis (he’s picky and has trouble finding comfortable ones)

One of the first two will be the January project. Recovering the chair is a stretch, because the only thing I’ll use the machine for is the welting, but I say it counts. There are so many ideas on the web, so I’ll be looking for some. And I plan to keep myself accountable by posting about each project here.

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Menu Plan Monday

December is flying by much too quickly. We still haven’t made any cookies, and probably won’t until next week. Dennis says it isn’t the holiday season if we don’t make snickerdoodles. I finally finished decorating though. Shopping isn’t a big deal, since there are very few people we buy for. All of the adults agreed a few years ago that we should stop giving gifts to one another, and most of the children are grown now too.

Since it’s Monday, it’s time for menu planning again. This week is easy. I get to recycle a few meals from last week, since things changed and I didn’t follow my whole menu plan . There are 3 days this week I won’t need to cook, since a few activities have us eating out.

Monday – sandwiches and fresh fruit (We’ll be at a Hanukkah party until 4, with lots of yummy food. I don’t expect we’ll be very hungry for dinner)
Tuesday – eat out (book club meeting at a restaurant)
Wednesday – French toast, fresh strawberries (recycled from last week’s plan)
Thursday – black beans and rice, tossed salad
Friday – minestrone soup, homemade rolls (also recycled from last week)
Saturday – pumpkin soup, grilled cheese sandwiches
Sunday – Christmas party at a friend’s – we’ll pick at leftovers if we’re hungry later

I haven’t tried the pumpkin soup recipe, but was looking for one that will let me use my new immersion blender. This one looked easy enough. If we don’t like it, I can always add a salad with our sandwiches.

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Hidden Calories


When you’re trying to lose weight, calories show up in the darndest places. I wanted to drop 12-15 pounds before my stepson’s wedding January 16th (I lost 6 so far – woo hoo!), so I’m watching calories more carefully than I usually do. I’m trying to go with a simple calories in-vs.-calories out plan, and that’s when those hidden calories take a toll.

A little background first. I have joint pain. Whoever said you’re as old as you feel didn’t have to deal with joint pain. I got tired of taking NSAIDS, so my doctor recommended glucosamine supplements. He also suggested calcium supplements. In addition, I’ve been taking fish oil for the omega 3′s. I try to get most of what I need from food, but I don’t always succeed. I’m not a supplement nut, but I do take a few different ones.

Today I found a glucosamine supplement that also has fish oil. I checked the back of the bottle to compare it with a plain fish oil supplement and what did I find? This supplement has 30 calories per pill! And you’re supposed to take 3 a day. So I came home and started looking at supplement and vitamin bottles in my medicine cabinet. The calcium has 10, so if I take the glucosamine with fish oil, and the calcium, I add an extra 100 calories to my day. To work off that extra 100, I’d need to add 15-20 minutes of circuit training, run a mile, go for a 20 minute bike ride, or jump rope 10 minutes. None of those would be difficult to do except for the running — I hate to run — but why should I have to work off vitamins and supplements? Gah!

This appears to be a problem with only the soft gel types, but still. Who would think that supplements are adding an extra hundred or more calories a day? Not me, but I know I’m not that calorie wise. At least now I know to stay away from soft gels in any form, or to check for their calorie content. As for the fish oil, if I’m going to have the calories, I’d rather enjoy them with a good piece of fish.

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Communication Problem

What I said: “Go brush your teeth.”

What he heard: “Go take a shower.”

I couldn’t figure out why it was taking him so long to brush his teeth, and went to check on him. Someday his wife might ask him to take out the trash. I wonder what he’ll think she said.

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