Be a Good Neighbor

Our “backdoor” neighbor sent a letter this week to introduce or reintroduce herself to those in the neighborhood. In her letter, Julie said that she’d made a New Years’ Resolution to be a better neighbor and this was part of her resolution. After a brief introduction Julie provided her contact information – phone number and email address – and invited neighbors to feel free to call on her for help.


I responded to her letter with an email and included our phone number, something you wouldn’t have needed to do a few years ago. Her letter made me realize that the phone book is no longer very useful for finding numbers to contact neighbors. And while we’ve exchanged cell phone numbers with several neighbors, there are others I couldn’t contact in case of an emergency. So Julie’s letter reminded me to make a better effort to be a good neighbor.

Here are some tips on how to be a better neighbor:

  • Introduce yourself. If you don’t know your neighbors, look for opportunities to introduce yourself and exchange phone numbers and email addresses so you know how to contact one another should the need arise.
  • Communicate with your neighbors. Give them a heads up if you hear any neighborhood news. Let them know you’re planning a yard sale or a party so they can be prepared for the onslaught of cars. Talk to the old-timers in the neighborhood; you can learn a lot about your community.
  • Watch out for your neighbor’s welfare – keep a watchful eye and be a caring person. Collect newspapers stacking up when your neighbor is out of town or return their trash cans that blow down the street. Let your neighbor know you’ve got their back.
  • Maintain your home. Don’t let the yard get overgrown or piles of leaves stack up. Keep your garage door closed. Make repairs. Trim shrubs and trees. Put your trash out on the right day and bring in the cans or bins at the end of the day and don’t leave toys, newspapers, flyers, or other “stuff” in your yard.
  • Control your dog. No one wants to hear your dog bark at all hours and if you walk your dog in the neighborhood, clean up the mess your pet leaves in your neighbors’ yards.
  • Buy lemonade. When you see children in your neighborhood manning a lemonade stand, buy! It doesn’t matter if you want the lemonade. Help the kids have some fun.
  • Be a good driver.
  • If someone needs help, lend a hand. Welcome those who are newcomers and support those experiencing times of change.
  • Be informed about community issues and vote. Whether the issues involve a homeowners association or city and county government, it’s important to stay informed about the issues and weigh in for the benefit of your neighborhood.
  • Keep it down. This is especially important if you live in an apartment or condo, remember you share common walls.

Smile, socialize, and contribute to the security of the community…it’s worth the effort to be a good neighbor.












Reach Out in Love

On Sunday’s I’m posting poetry written by my mother-in-law, Bettie Lou. Writing poetry was a form of therapy after losing her husband and then her youngest son in 1985.

Reach Out in Love

Perhaps we reached out in love—

            Instead of fear.

In giving love, we shared love—

No fear of hurt or rejection.

            An experience of love, joy, and hope.

I want that again.


Tervis Mania

I admit to having more than a few Tervis® Tumbler products. They are perfect for  using outside on the patio and they don’t leave rings on the furniture when drinks are carried all over the house and I appreciate their lifetime guarantee, but this week I witnessed an incredible sight as dozens of shoppers frantically attacked the shelves of the Tervis® Tumbler Outlet Store in Venice.


The obvious question…what possessed me to stop in this outlet store? The sign advertised 40% off ice buckets, and I’ve thought for years we should get an ice bucket instead of using an ice chest in the dining room when we have guests.

However, I was not prepared for the crazed shoppers or the variety of products available. Of course, the emblem of every sports team can be found on the shelves, but I didn’t realize Tervis® tumblers brought together the Harley Davidson® crowd and the Greeks found on college campuses.

Apparently, mock wine glasses are perfect for the bride and groom and doesn’t everyone need the full set of mustache glasses?

Best of all, the Tervis® Tumbler Outlet Store is a family vacation destination. Kids are invited to design their own Tervis®. Watch out Disney…you’ve got some pretty stiff competition in Venice.

The cars in the parking lot represented most of the midwest states and the cash register rang up purchases non-stop while we were in the store. So, what did we buy? I’m proud to say we left empty handed. Only a few ice buckets were marked down 40%, and we really don’t need one that says “Captain”.

I even passed on the FAU glass…great restraint for an alum.


Buttermilk Strawberry Shortcake

It’s hard to believe that my favorite food is strawberries, and yet I’d never made homemade strawberry shortcake until this week. I’ve topped store bought cakes or ice cream with delicious strawberries, but I’ve never taken the time to make shortcake for my favorite food.

However, at the Strawberry Festival in Ocala on March 1st, the First United Methodist Church of Ocala made and sold homemade Buttermilk Strawberry Shortcake for the Habitat for Humanity fundraiser. A recipe card was given with each purchase so after nearly a month, I finally got around to making a shortcake worthy of the sweet, delicious fruit topping.


While not difficult, purchasing ingredients like buttermilk, heavy cream, and turbinado sugar (something I’d never heard of before) make the recipe rather pricy, but one I’d highly recommend. And since you’ll need to buy a cup of heavy whipping cream, you may as well make some homemade whipped cream as well.

Buttermilk Strawberry Shortcake


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 8 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice


  1. Preheat oven to 425º.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1/3 cup white sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl.
  4. Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture with a knife or pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  5. Stir in buttermilk until the flour mixture is moistened.
  6. Drop 1/3 cup scoops of the dough 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
  7. Brush biscuits with heavy cream and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar.
  8. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Mix together the sliced strawberries, 1/4 cup white sugar, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Allow berries to rest until a juicy substance develops (about 30 minutes).
  10. Serve the strawberries and juice over biscuits.

Whipped Cream


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. Confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Click here for the recipe from


Eating strawberry shortcake while watching the NCAA basketball tournament…what could be better?




99 in ’99: A Look Back

A recent comment regarding the post 3 Down; 11 To Go got me thinking.

The comment: What did you do in 1999? referring to our development of a list of 13 things to accomplish in ’13 and then a repeat this year of 14 to accomplish in ’14.


So what did we do in ’99? With three daughters, ages 15, 12, and 9, I know exactly what we did. We attended, watched, drove, coached, kept score, and worked in the concession stand for 99 athletic events.

Soccer x 2 athletes

Softball x 3 athletes

Track and Cross Country x 1 athlete

Add in numerous 5K races including the Reindeer Run, Catfish 5K, and Turkey Trot (where Sarah brought home the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner) and the number certainly exceeds 99 events.


Travel to such exotic destinations as Shocker Park, the Big Sun Youth Soccer League fields, Jervey Gant, and Lake Weir High School, with occasional trips to Port Orange, Sanford High School, and Lecanto filled much of our time. Hot dogs, hamburgers, sausage, and chicken sandwiches served in foil wrappers sufficed as dinner. The life of a busy family.

Weigh-in Wednesday: March

Fortunately there’s more to weighing in than stepping on the scale because I’ve been stuck on the same weight for three months now.  However, this month the MRMC Wellness bus enabled me to check on progress of a variety of health measures, not only weight.
After starting my year long weight loss efforts in 2013, I realized I hadn’t kept any data regarding health or fitness other than my weight. If I were to start today, I would also measure inches to get another picture of progress.

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Wellness Bus every year since 2000 so this year’s health screening provided data that enabled me to compare more than my weight this year compared with my weight a year ago. And while I knew carrying extra weight affected other health measures, this year’s results proved the importance of lifestyle changes.
For those not convinced, the proof is in the numbers.

  • Weight: 25 pounds lighter than 2012 and 10 pounds lighter than in 2000
  • Blood pressure: No change…I’ve always been the picture of health where blood pressure is concerned.
  • Cholesterol: In 2008, my doctor’s office called when my total cholesterol exceeded 200 warning me that I needed to exercise and lose weight or I’d need to take medication. Guess what? They were right. A year of weight loss and increased exercise and my total cholesterol dropped over 30 points – back to where it was in 2001. And better yet, both the HDL and LDL levels improved as well.

Even my grip strength improved after declining for several years.
In fact, my health stats are back to what they were at age 40…not bad.

Of course, the nursing student conducting the screening couldn’t let me escape without admonishing me about my body fat percentage (the one stat that remains less than desirable) telling me I need to drink more water and participate in a weight training regimen.

Oh well, a good reminder that this health thing is a constant work in progress.

Blue Springs

Instead of entering Blue Springs State Park the traditional way, by car, we entered by boat traveling upstream from Hontoon Island on the St. John’s River.

IMG_3417After mooring the boat we walked the popular boardwalk which serves as a manatee observation deck. The run to the spring was crowded with a variety of fish – too bad fishing isn’t permitted in the Blue Spring Run.

And despite the fact it was not a cold day, over a dozen manatee congregated in the warm water designated as a manatee refuge. For the first time I saw a manatee tagged with a tracking device. I can only imagine the embarrassment the belt-like contraption attached to the manatee’s tail must cause as the creature drags a small buoy as it swims.

The boardwalk leads to the largest spring on the St. John’s River and while it’s a popular destination for swimming, snorkeling, and diving, it’s closed to those activities from mid-November until March 15 during Manatee season. In addition, St. Johns River and Cruises and Tours offer two-hour narrated tours from the park and both canoes and kayaks are available for rent.


The park is so popular during the spring and summer that it frequently closes when it reaches capacity so better to plan to be there early.

Image 2On our way back to Hontoon Island, we encountered a paddle boat and a couple of eight-man sculling boats. The sculling boats actually moved down the river more quickly than our boat  since our speed was limited by the no wake requirements designed to protect the manatee.

Blue Springs State Park…another of Florida’s treasures.

It’s Spring Break…Use Protection

You know as well as I that you need to use sun protection year round, but Spring Break signals beach time and sunbathing so it’s a good time to remind you to protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun.


  1. Use sunscreen EVERY day. It’s easy to protect your face with moisturizer and makeup since most include sunscreen, but don’t forget other parts of your body exposed to the sun.
  2. Apply 1 ounce of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours. This is especially important for days at the beach, boating, fishing, or any other all day outdoor activity.
  3. Wear a broad brimmed hat to protect your face and head from the sun (and encourage the men you care about to do the same!)
  4. Wear UV blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes and eyelids.
  5. Clothing serves as a great protector from the sun. Long-sleeve shirts and pants work wonders. The more skin you cover, the better.
  6. Whatever you do, DO NOT BURN! According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, your risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, doubles if you burn 5 times in your life.


And don’t forget to examine your skin from head to toe regularly. I’ve had basal cell skin cancer in my scalp which is hard to explain since my scalp has always been covered with a head full of hair, and both Dad and I have had a variety of treatments to take care of skin cancer on our faces, arms, and backs.

My cousin recently celebrated her 40th birthday at UNC meeting with doctors and a medical team regarding participation in a clinical trial to treat her  re-occurrence of melanoma, so it’s obvious that you’re not too young to start thinking about protecting your skin.


Living in Florida, you live in paradise. The perfect place to enjoy swimming, boating, fishing, bicycling, and theme parks in the famous Florida sunshine; however, you’re also exposed to more UV radiation than those living farther from the equator so you need to take more precautions. Exposure to UV radiation increases the risk of cataracts, suppresses the immune system, and prematurely ages your skin, and of course it causes skin cancer. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s “only skin cancer”…because it’s still cancer. Be smart. Enjoy paradise, but use precaution when in the sun.

Yes, it’s Spring Break, time to remind you to use protection…protection from the harmful rays of the sun!



Birthdays are Sad Days

On Sunday’s I’m posting poetry written by my mother-in-law, Bettie Lou. Writing poetry was a form of therapy after losing her husband and then her youngest son in 1985.

Birthdays are Sad Days

Birthdays are sad days after death days.

Why can’t the energy required to grieve be used to remember the happy moments:

            the birthday cake with the proper number of candles—

            the “Happy Birthday to You” song—

            the silent special wish before the candles are blown out—

            a request for a trip rather than a “store bought” gift—

reminder from a son that “Mother gave birth to us because she wanted children. She didn’t need them.”

a quarter horse that was the most special horse in the whole world—

boats – motor boats, sail boats, and more boats.

So many happy days.

So few sad days.

Why do the sad days possess me?

Image 14

Early Christmas Shopping

IMG_3576For over thirty years I’ve driven past the corner of SR 40 and Railroad Avenue in Barberville gawking at the metal works at the Handmade Pottery stand, but last weekend we stopped and shortly after entering under the legs of a 30 foot tall giraffe, I realized this may be the perfect place to purchase Christmas gifts.

The fist item to catch my eye as a potential Christmas gift was a knight for Meghan and Jon, UCF alum.

IMG_3549Then the Jeep sign jumped out…perfect for Sarah and Daniel, since they’ve been Jeep shopping.

IMG_3554As I turned the corner, I  found great furniture for Emily and Brian for their back porch.

IMG_3556And since John’s been asking for a goat, I’ve found just what he needs.

IMG_3568A lighthouse for Carol and Dan since they got married at Ponce Inlet, a dragon for Dad, the Silver Creek Dragon, a heron for mom, the bird watcher, a giant chicken for Jeff and Carole…just because it would be such a statement piece in their front yard. And if anyone’s looking for a gift for me, there’s a nice turtle!

My only problem…these items are pretty pricey! But, I’ve got another eight months to save up.