Light Up Florida

This morning as I headed to the beach for an early morning walk I noticed that St. Augustine didn’t decorate with traditional Christmas symbols but instead lit A1A with Florida sea life.


Then this evening I noticed Cedar Key also decorated Florida style.


Sea stars, sea biscuits, shells, a seahorse and turtle lit the streets of Cedar Key.


Even a red-nosed dolphin.


Only the fire department decorated with a traditional Santa.


Happy holidays from Florida!

The Stockings Were Hung

We have a stocking problem. No fireplace…our traditional place not only for stockings but for holiday photos.



At last, a solution. A curtain rod supported by stocking hangers on a buffet used as a television stand. Seems everything must serve multiple purposes in our smaller house.


And after searching for the perfect Christmas stockings without luck, I settled for holiday socks.


Filled with dodads.


A tradition.

imageMaybe instead of photos in front of the fireplace, we can take pictures wearing our Christmas stockings.

TBT Lesson #82

It really wouldn’t be Christmas without pictures of the family around the Christmas tree. This one taken on Christmas Eve 1965 of John, his brother Mark and their Mom shows boys exercising great restraint as they’re posing with gifts instead ripping the wrapping off.


TBT Lesson #82: Why do parents taunt their children with picture taking on Christmas Eve?

Who Needs a Christmas Tree?

The last five days have been filled with dog fun. Since we’re no longer pet owners, we’ve become dig sitters for our daughters.


Luna’s been lucky enough to be our guest this week while we’ve been decorating for Christmas.


But who needs a tree or ornaments when you can just put a hat or headband on a boxer?


And as you can tell, she absolutely loves it!


Merry Christmas from Luna!


Can’t wait for Willis’ visit next week.

TBT Lesson #81

As we decorated our Christmas tree last week, we hung the University of Miami mascot ornament of Sebastian front and center. Our tree does not have traditional glass balls or glittery stars. Instead it’s decorated with ornaments collected during vacations or in recognition of special events. A sea turtle, an orca, a bat, the Jackson County Courthouse, bear bells and the First Presbyterian Church are a few examples of ornaments that commemorate events from the past 36 years.

Our Sebastian ornament is a throwback to the days when he donned a pipe and sailor hat. This old school Sebastian was especially appropriate since it was added the Christmas after the Hurricanes first national championship under Howard Schnelleberger, a coach also known for his pipe. Sebastian’s pipe was phased out in the 1990’s so as not to encourage the use of tobacco by young fans, but we enjoy seeing him reappear every December.


TBT Lesson #81: With or without a pipe, he’s still a symbol of loyalty. The ibis is always the last to leave and the first to return during a hurricane.

My meteorologist husband has issued a hurricane warning: a Category 5 is on the horizon.

Christmas Tunes

Last Saturday my Mom told me how disappointed she is with the holiday music channel that’s included with her Direct-TV. The Holiday and Happenings channel plays music that she doesn’t consider Christmas music. Hip hop and R&B aren’t her idea of the way to inspire Christmas spirit. Katy Perry, Carly Rae Jepsen and The Killers aren’t the artists she wants to hear during this time of year.


Then on Sunday I noticed the albums Meghan and Jon have on their stereo. Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Mahalia Jackson and Mitch Miller. Those are the musicians that my Mom longs to hear singing the music of Christmas. In fact, these are the tunes she listens to on CDs played in the car, but since she listens to music streamed through her TV for the other eleven months during the year, she mistakenly believed that with more than eighty channels, she’d have at least one playing her favorites.


I’m sure there are many of all ages who agree that these old time favorites are the sounds they prefer to listen to during this time of the year. And with services like Spotify and Pandora or Apple TV, most can listen to whatever they find meaningful. Unfortunately, without home Internet, my Mom doesn’t have access to these options. It’s time to start making a play list that she can add to her iPad so she won’t be at the mercy of Direct TV.

Here’s 20 songs that need to be included:

  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Judy Garland
  • O Holy Night – Celine Dion
  • Christmas Time is Here – Vince Guaraldi
  • It Came Upon a Midnight Clear – Josh Groban
  • Blue Christmas – Elvis Presley
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain – James Taylor
  • Breath of Heaven – Amy Grant
  • I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day – Harry Belafonte
  • It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams
  • Do You Hear What I Hear – Carrie Underwood
  • I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Michael Buble
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Frank Sinatra
  • Home for the Holidays – Perry Como
  • Christmas Canon – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  • Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives
  • It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – Perry Como
  • All I Want for Christmas is You – Michael Buble
  • Grown Up Christmas List – Amy Grant
  • White Christmas – Bing Crosby
  • The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole


Christmas Over the Rainbow

Lights seem to be mandatory at Christmas, but since we’ve strung lights for three weddings this year, we decided viewing others hard work would be the best way to satisfy the need for a festive light display.


In addition to lighted trees, reindeer and toy soldiers, for the first time I saw a rainbow featured prominently in a Christmas display, but I guess a rainbow isn’t any stranger than a toy soldier. Especially since we were at Rainbow Springs State Park.


This was much better than driving through neighborhoods. Mainly because we walked with my parents through the park instead of sitting in a car, but I am glad we were able to avoid the long line of children waiting to see Santa.


Thanks to all of the volunteers who lit up the park and provided a night of holiday spirit.

Lemon-Coconut Cake

This recipe combines two favorites: lemon and coconut! I found this recipe in the December issue of Southern Living in 2006, and it’s become a regular addition to holiday meals.


The original recipe listed below from Southern Living makes a delicious cake, but it’s pretty labor intensive so make sure you read to the end of the recipe where I’ve included modifications that make this cake easier to prepare.


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Lemon Filling (see ingredients below)
  • Cream cheese frosting (see ingredients below)
  • 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut


1. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.

2. Combine flour and baking powder; add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

3. Beat egg whites at high speed with electric mixer until stiff peaks form; fold one-third of egg whites into batter. Gently fold in remaining beaten egg whites just until blended. Spoon batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.

4. Bake at 350° for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

5. Spread Lemon filling between layers. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting on top and sides of cake. Sprinkle top and sides with coconut. Garnish, if desired.

Lemon Filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter

1. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan; whisk in 1 cup boiling water. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until sugar and cornstarch dissolve (about 2 minutes). Gradually whisk about one-fourth of hot sugar mixture into egg yolks; add to remaining hot sugar mixture in pan, whisking constantly. Whisk in lemon rind and juice.

2. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened (about 2 to 3 minutes). Remove from heat. Whisk in butter; let cool completely, stirring occasionally.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended; stir in vanilla.

Now for a little secret – the first time I made this cake I followed all directions exactly as written and the cake was delicious, but it was also a lot of work. I’ve made some modifications that enable me to make this cake with much less work without giving up anything on taste.

1st – Instead of baking the cake from scratch I use Duncan Hines cake mix. We prefer yellow cake to white, but either work fine.

2nd – Robertson’s lemon curd, found in the baking section at Publix, can be substituted for the lemon filling. The filling itself is not difficult to make but it must be completely cool before spreading on the cake. I’ve rushed this step with disastrous results – the top layer slides off. Not a problem with the premade filling.

Under no circumstance would I change the frosting! This is the key to incredible cakes. Invest time and effort into the frosting, and a box cake is transformed into something special.

Modified and reposted from December 2012.



Merry Christmas

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”~ Bob Hope

photo 1

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.” ~ Steve Maraboli

“Yet as I read the birth stories about Jesus I cannot help but conclude that though the world may be tilted toward the rich and powerful, God is tilted toward the underdog.” ~ Philip Yancey


“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Peace on earth will come to stay, When we live Christmas every day.” ~ Helen Steiner Rice


Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.” ~ Peg Bracken

“I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to this world.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” ~ Hamilton Wright Mabie



Christmas Photo Fun

The Christmas of 2011, the first after Meghan and Jon married, we set up our a crazy holiday photo booth and took our first family photo with our new son-in-law.

ChristmasFamily photoThe photo booth turned out to be a great way to get everyone in the picture taking mood. Great couples photos…

Glasses, hats, headbands, mustaches, and toy weapons…

Even a couple of serious family photos…

xmas115Grandma and Grandpa with their Ocala grandchildren…

xmas112It’s almost time for some more family photo fun!