Happy New Year!

NewYears

Well it’s that time of year again. A new year symbolizes a time for a new start and the time honored tradition of making a New Year’s resolution.

This practice of making resolutions to start the year has been around for centuries. The Babylonians started the practice but probably resolved to return borrowed farm equipment instead of getting more exercise. The Romans continued the practice looking for forgiveness from their enemies – not a bad resolution even today.

I’ve made resolutions through the years with various degrees of success. Some years I’ve made ten or twelve resolutions, which is not a good idea. Basically, I resolved to become a new person and who can be successful trying to accomplish a complete make over? Other years I’ve made no resolutions or more likely, “My resolution this year is to make no resolutions.” Isn’t that creative?

I can’t count how many years I’ve resolved to stop biting my fingernails, obviously with no success; but I have had successful ones as well. For example, I’ve resolved to use fewer paper products. This may seem lame, but it makes a small difference. I’ve also resolved to drink less soda. Notice I didn’t say, “drink NO soda”. That’s just setting myself up for failure. Other successful resolutions have been to read more, watch less television, let my hair grow, spend more time with my mom. I can still improve on most of these, but I’ve made progress.

Making resolutions don’t have to be made at the beginning of the year. In fact, my Mom’s Monday Memo resolution, a successful one, was made in May after Mother’s Day. However, a new year symbolizes a new start so it’s a good time to think about a change you’d like to make.

This year, my resolution is to lose weight. I’m sending each of you an email with my goal so you can hold me accountable – since I’ve failed to do this in the past. Next year when we get together at Christmas, I’ll weigh in and hopefully we can celebrate my success.

I hope you’ll make one resolution for 2013. There’s no reason to share it unless you feel it will motivate you. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect everyday. I know I’ll gain weight some weeks, but I’m not going to use that as an excuse to give up. It’s just a set back, not a blown resolution. I’ll start new the next day. Change doesn’t come easy, but with conscious effort, you can make your resolution a part of a new you.

Happy New Year!

143

Mom

Let’s go fishing!

It looks like your dad’s new boat is a keeper. He initiated it on Lake Rousseau on Friday and caught two large bass. One weighed in at over six pounds and the other over eight. He’s caught fish on both of his first two attempts in the boat so he’s pleased. On our way back from the lake he asked if I’d like him to take me out so I can catch a big bass in 2013, and I’ve accepted the challenge. I need to be included in the next edition of the Shutterfly fishing book since I’m sure Grandpa expects another to document the family’s newest fish tales.

John with 8 lb. bass caught on 12/28/12 on Lake Rousseau.
John with 8 1/4 lb. bass caught on 12/28/12 on Lake Rousseau.

I’m sure you’re invited as well. If you’re up for the challenge, it won’t take much coaxing for him to find time when he can take you out to catch a big one. Just give a call and say “Let’s go fishing!”

 

Remembering General Schwarzkopf

Hearing of the death of Stormin Norman Schwarzkopf reminded me of listening to his autobiography nearly twenty years ago. It Doesn’t Take a Hero: The Autobiography of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf hooked me on audiobooks. The book not only highlighted his military career during the Desert Storm campaign but also included fascinating tales from his childhood in the U.S., Europe, and Iran as well as stories from his years at West Point and Vietnam.

What made the audiobook especially captivating was the fact that Schwarzkopf read it. His gruff voice and salty language brought the stories to life. I highly recommend the audiobook version. Listening to Schwarzkopf the storyteller passed the time quickly.

Thanks to It Doesn’t Take a Hero, audiobooks frequently accompany us on lengthy car trips. I’ll think of General Schwarzkopf each time I listen to an audiobook. Hope you’ll check this one out so you can get to know this American patriot.

My introduction to audiobooks - Norman Schwarzkopf telling his story.
My introduction to audiobooks – Norman Schwarzkopf telling his story.

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 I’ve baked it for Christmas dinner several times. However, I took the easy way out this year since we had an abundance of other baked goods. I also know that while Dad and I love lemon and coconut, it’s not your favorite so I waited and baked it yesterday. We invited friends for leftovers (you know you’re a good friend if we can serve leftovers when you visit), but at least I baked a special dessert.

Make sure you read to the end of the recipe where I’ve included modifications that make this cake easier to prepare.

Lemon-Coconut Cake - Make sure you check out the short cuts at the end of the recipe!
Lemon-Coconut Cake – Make sure you check out the short cuts at the end of the recipe!

Ingredients

  • 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

Preparation:

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.

Don’t forget to say thank you!

It’s time to send those thank you notes, emails, and texts to let friends and loved ones know you appreciate their thoughtfulness. Let me begin. Thank you, thank you, thank you! What a wonderful Christmas!

Thank you card from Emily.
Thank you card from Emily.

Thanks for the gifts!

While I couldn’t name a single thing I wanted for Christmas, you proved you really know me. You obviously picked up on things I said throughout the year because as I opened each gift I remembered making comments about needing or liking or wanting each item…often months ago.

Thanks for running errands!

What a pleasure to not step foot in a store once you arrived! I appreciate you picking up forgotten items at the grocery and even last minute gifts.

Thanks for cleaning the kitchen after Christmas dinner!

Clearing the table, loading the dishwasher, and cleaning the kitchen…what a wonderful gift.

Thanks for making sweet treats!

Cookies, cookies, and more cookies. Brownies, fudges, and Rice Krispy treats. So many delicious treats for the weekend.

Meghan's sugar cookies
Meghan’s sugar cookies

Thanks for playing games!

I love the competition and even won one game…may the odds be ever in your favor.

Thanks for technology help!

Your help saved time and frustration. I’m glad I have tech gurus in the family.

Most of all…thanks for being here!

Spending time with you is the best gift of all! Thank you for coming home for Christmas. I love our time together.

 

Sarah's favorite graham cracker cookies
Sarah’s favorite graham cracker cookies

Christmas Dinner Seating Plan

The same cast of characters will be attending this year’s Christmas dinner…Santa, Mrs. Claus, Rudolph and the other reindeer, as well as Cindy Lou Who, Buddy the Elf, the Nutcracker, and Frosty. After hearing complaints about who sat at which table for years I finally devised a plan to eliminate the need for a “kid’s table” a couple of years ago.

Names of characters from Christmas songs, movies, and poems replace guests names on place cards.
Names of characters from Christmas songs, movies, and poems replace guests names on place cards.

Place cards indicate the seating plan for guests, but instead of the names of the guests the cards are printed with the names of characters from Christmas songs, books, and movies. Guests draw names out of a bag to determine which seat they are assigned. We no longer sit with all of the “adults” (grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles) in the dining room and the “kids” (none of whom are under eighteen) in the kitchen or living room. Instead, we mix it up. It’s been a great plan even if couples are separated; they’ll survive for the course of a meal.

I bet Grandpa ends up at the dining room table again this year. Does he pay you to change seats with him?

Three candy canes tied with ribbon serve as decorative place card holders.
Three candy canes tied with ribbon serve as decorative place card holders.

 

 

Get your beauty rest – sleep!

The excitement of Santa’s visit always made getting to sleep on Christmas Eve especially difficult when you were a child. I remember the panic in your voices when you would call me in your room and claim that you were unable to sleep. You asked if Santa would still come if you weren’t asleep. I tried to assure you that, yes, Santa would come; but I also assured you that you would fall asleep. Relax. Everything’s fine. Close your eyes. Sleep will come.

I wish it were so easy! While these words always worked when you were young, getting to sleep, staying asleep, and finding time to sleep aren’t as easy when you’re an adult.

I’m certainly no expert on sleep. In fact, I think I’ve done just about everything wrong when it comes to sleep, but I hope if you start now, you’ll develop good habits and improve your health as well.

So here’s my attempt to convince you that while it’s not always easy, you need to make time to sleep.

Did you know that driving when tired is just as dangerous as driving under the influence?

Did you know that getting only 5 hours of sleep per night increases your risk of developing diabetes by 50%?

Did you know that skin cells hydrate and renew themselves while you’re sleeping? (Thus, beauty sleep!)

Did you know that appetite hormones subside when you sleep?

Did you know that sleep deprivation increases your risk for heart disease and mood disorders?

Did you know that your body naturally craves sleep, food, and water; but lack of sleep causes your body to crave food, especially carbohydrates? (This is why getting the proper amount of sleep helps reduce weight gain.)

So here are a few tips to help you sleep better:

Don’t use electronics or watch TV in bed.

Sleep in a cool room, ideally about 65 degrees.

If you don’t fall asleep in 15 minutes, get up and do something else. You’ll stress yourself out just lying in bed trying to go to sleep. (Sounds like the problem you had on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa.)

Take a hot bath before going to bed, but don’t exercise close to bedtime – too much stimulation.

Keep your cell phone at least 3 feet from your bed and make sure you cannot see the light it emits or hear any sounds from your phone.

Go to bed seven and a half hours before you need to get up. This should enable you to get the 7 hours of sleep you need to be at your best in the morning.

And if a full night’s sleep isn’t possible, consider learning how to nap. A 20 minute power nap can provide a real brain boost.

Hope these tips help, and don’t worry…Santa will come…relax…close your eyes…you’ll fall asleep.

143

Mom

 

 

 

Gotta Just Love a Good War!

Gas war that is! Recently, several gas stations in Silver Springs Shores have been engaged in a gas war with the price of gas as low as $3.01 per gallon, about a quarter cheaper than stations about ten miles away in Ocala. Drivers certainly appreciate this competition for business, but it also reminds me of a similar competition when I was much younger.

I remember being very confused hearing my parents discussing a gas war while driving in our karmann ghia (a model of Volkswagen no longer in production). The tone of the conversation was one of excitement and anticipation instead of fear that I associated with the word. In fact, I remember seeing hand printed signs posted along the road with the words, “Gas War”. Fortunately, I hadn’t seen the movie Zoolander because I’m sure the scene of the models squirting one another with gas…with disastrous consequences would have come to mind.

I finally realized that a gas war meant gas was being sold an lower than usual prices…less than 30 cents! And to think last week I was excited to see it hovering around $3.00.

We filled the Suburban last Sunday saving nearly $10, but I was disappointed to see that while the prices today are still about ten cents lower than those in town; the war seems to have subsided. Prices were back up to $3.12. I’ll keep my eyes open as I drive through the Shores. I’d love to see another war!

Hoping this is the sign during the next gas war.
Hoping this is the sign during the next gas war.

Enjoy Florida’s First Coast

Faver Dykes State Park’s location makes it ideal for exploring the northeast coast of Florida. Only thirty minutes from St. Augustine visiting Castillo De San Marcos in the oldest continuously occupied city in the U.S. is a must. Even if you don’t enter the fort, you can enjoy watching the boats cruising in Matanzas Bay and marvel at the structure. You can also observe the Bridge of Lions and the St. Augustine Lighthouse from the fort. The streets are lined with interesting shops and you should certainly eat lunch at the Columbia, Florida’s oldest restaurant. Enjoy the Spanish cuisine and a pitcher of sangria before strolling through the shops and sampling sweets, and during this time of year make sure you stay until dark so you can see the beautiful Christmas lights lining the city.

St. Augustine Columbia

However, St. Augustine isn’t the only nearby place to visit. Head south down A1A and you’ll find another national park at Fort Matanzas. This park does not charge admission, and you can see it all in only an hour or two. Walk the short trail and then take the pontoon boat across the river to the reconstructed fort. Visitors learn a little about the history of the fort from the ranger and then have the opportunity to explore the tiny fort on their own. Make sure you climb the ladder to the roof for a spectacular view and some pictures.

Fort Matanzas

Continuing south on A1A, public access to the beach is available at a number of locations including Crescent Beach. We found a great little BBQ place located at Bing’s Landing, a Flagler County park with boat ramps, natural trails, picnic tables, and a fishing pier. We ate on the porch at Captain’s BBQ overlooking the water, but you could easily take your food to the park and eat on one of the picnic tables.

What could be better? BBQ and bait in the same location!
What could be better? BBQ and bait in the same location!

Continuing down the Flagler County coast you’ll find several boardwalks to the beach including Gamble Rogers State Park…another campground, this time right on the beach. Perfect for motor homes and campers, but not for tent campers like us. It’s also an access point for sunbathers and surfers. Boaters and canoeists can launch boats on the west side of the highway in the Intracoastal Waterway or just get out of the sun for a picnic under the protection of a pavilion.

flaglerEnjoy Florida’s First Coast!

Faver Dykes State Park – the real Florida!

We spent the past couple days camping at Faver Dykes State Park, and I wanted to share with you since I think it’s a place you’ll enjoy. While this park is only a couple of miles from exit 298 off I-95, it seems like you’re far away from civilization. The park borders Pellicer Creek, and it is a quiet, relaxing place.
The park includes a small campground with about thirty large, wooded sites with plenty of room for our tent, boat, and Suburban. Three nature trails wind through the park, a popular birding site. A boat ramp located in the park allows small boats and canoes access to the river. In fact, they even rent canoes and kayaks for a bargain rate of $5.00 an hour.
The only wildlife we observed were a few deer, but they also claim to have wild turkey, otters, woodpeckers, and bald eagles. Although we didn’t have luck fishing this time, it looks like it should be a terrific place for trout and redfish so I’m sure we’ll try again. Don’t forget to check the date on your fishing license if you decide to cast a line.
Faver Dykes is a great inexpensive place to get away for a day or an overnight camping trip. Park admission is only $5.00 and camping only $19.80 but it’s essential that you take cash since both may be self serve – no debit cards and no change. You can pitch two tents and have two cars on a site so if you camp with friends it’s less than ten dollars a couple.
Hope you check it out.