TBT Lesson #31

It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since we rung in the new millennium! Thanks to Michelle for setting up a photo booth and taking pictures during the block party in which we all partied like it was 1999…oh yeah, it was the final day of 1999!

What a fun night with music, sparklers, birthday celebrations, and pictures!

IMG_4391TBT Lesson: Stay up until midnight and ring in the new year!

OK, I know it’s not Thursday, but since it’s New Year’s Eve, today’s the day to post this picture and a TBT Lesson.

14 Down: Mission Accomplished

Well before sunrise on December 29th we started the day driving to Pete’s Pier in Crystal River to swim with the manatees, the final adventure on our 14 in 14 list. This was not our first attempt to swim with the manatee this year. A visit to Blue Springs in March found manatee in the spring area but swimming was prohibited. Then in July we swam in the springs in Crystal River where I hoped we’d by lucky and find a couple of manatee so I wouldn’t have to brave the cold later in the year, but they were not cooperative.


Since the only way I could possibly get in the water in December was with a wet suit, we decided to break down and pay to go with a charter company which turned out to be a great decision! Not only are wet suits included in the price, we didn’t have to trailer the boat for an hour on a foggy morning and we didn’t have to do battle to find a place to anchor the boat and then leave it unattended while we ventured back to Three Sisters Springs.

Instead, we eased into the not so cold water and spent nearly two hours enjoying the spring and the gentle giants resting in the area.


As our “captain” talked about the warmer than usual weather pushing the manatee back out to the open water away from the spring coupled with the sight of hundreds of brightly colored noodles with snorkelers from more than two dozen tour boats already in the spring, I thought the day was going to be a bust…a 5:00 wake up, cold water, a lot of people, no manatee…that sounded like  wasted time and money.

Fortunately, only about 30 minutes into our trip one of the tour companies starting rounding up their group taking well over half of the people out of the spring making for a more pleasant experience.

In fact, the six critters in the spring had stationed themselves in a manner that enabled the the humans to cluster in small groups of six to ten swimmers making it possible to get up close and enjoy the time in the water.

We only swam (actually floated) with six manatee, but a cow and calf made up one pair and there was a pregnant cow which is expected to give birth any day now according to the preserve volunteer. Now that would be a sight to see!


What a wonderful way to end 2014! (And thanks to my wonderful underwater photographer and husband for capturing these images of the manatee.)


We’ve lived only an hour from Crystal River for over 35 years. I have to ask myself what took so long?


Wear a Bike Helmet

I remember when John bought his first bike as an adult he was told by the owner of the Druid Hills bike shop that there were two kinds of bike riders. And he didn’t mean:

  • Roadie v Mountain biker – It’s not the different types of surfaces for riding to which he referred.
  • Recumbents v Triathlete – It wasn’t the type of equipment.
  • Recreational v avid – He didn’t even mean the differences in the intensity of the rider.

No, the two types of bike riders: those who have fallen and those who will fall.

I claim membership to the first group…those who have fallen, and I hope that means my membership will not need to be renewed. Falling again is not on my agenda. Fortunately my fall resulted in abrasions, bruises, and while I could only hobble around for a couple of days, not a single bones was broken and no hospital visit was required.

However, when I learned of a friend’s bike accident which resulted in a concussion despite being properly fitted with a bike helmet (which was split open in the fall), I was reminded that there may indeed be another fall in my future. It’s time to give in to the urging of my friend Barbara and get a new bike helmet.

I don’t need to make the next fall any worse than necessary. So that’s why I gave John two bike helmets for Christmas. With a puzzled expression he uttered the question, “Two?” after unwrapping the gift.

My response one for you, and a second one for me. I’m sure you want me to be protected as well.


If you’re lucky enough to still be a member of the “those who will fall” group of bike riders, congratulations! But, as long as you continue to get in the saddle, you’re inching ever closer to joining the other group.

Protect yourself. Wear a bike helmet.




Farewell, Goodbye 2014

For 41 weeks I posted poetry written by my mother-in-law, Bettie Lou, on Sunday’s. Writing poetry was a form of therapy after losing her husband and then her youngest son in 1985.

As we say farewell to 2014, I thought I’d repost her poem, Farewell, Goodbye.

Farewell, Goodbye

Farewell, goodbye

So long, see ya

‘Til we meet again.

So many ways to

Acknowledge that

One is leaving

Anxiety, emptiness

Pressure, excitement

Depression, uncertainty.

So many ways to deny

One’s inner feelings.

Bettie Lou and Johnny, early 1980s.

Holy, moly, Sarah’s getting married!

I know this is no news flash. Daniel asked Sarah to marry him in August, and we’ve been making preparations for the last four months.

However, addressing and mailing the invitations made me realize the wedding is just around the corner.

Pen and ink out and after a little hand writing practice the invitations were addressed, return addresses stamped in gold, and envelopes stuffed and ready for postage.
They’re in the mail. Sarah and Daniel are getting married on Valentine’s Day…in only seven weeks!

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!

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Completely by accident we found ourselves walking on the beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore.

What started as a trip to the coast from Milton in an effort to locate a seafood restaurant on the beach ended at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Unfortunately, we didn’t find the seafood lunch we were looking for, but the white sand beaches were a good substitute.

IMG_3875.JPG I know the annual list of the state’s best beaches always include ones in the panhandle of the state, and after spending only a short time walking in the powdery, white sand I can see why.

IMG_5414.JPGBeautiful clear deep blue water on a nearly deserted beach (at least on an October afternoon) makes me long for another trip to this part of the state. I’m looking for ways to include Gulf Islands National Seashore on my list for 15 in 15.

Pucker Up

IMG_5408.JPGDecember is my least favorite month of the year. The “to do” list is never ending. I truly don’t know how people who don’t have time off survive the month of December. Even knowing that I don’t have any work responsibilities five days before Christmas, I don’t see any possible way to get everything done.

Shopping, shopping, shopping, and more shopping…not just the gifts, but food. I feel like I live at Publix.

My two most common questions are where are my keys and where is my wallet...signs of too much December stress.
My two most common questions are where are my keys and where is my wallet…signs of too much December stress.

Planning and organizing too many events and trying to coordinate schedules. It’s exhausting and stressful.

Looks like it’s time to de-stress. Join me in trying a couple of these ways to relieve your stress:

  • Pucker up – did you know a kiss a day can keep stress away? A Northwestern University researcher claims endorphins released while kissing decrease stress. (I don’t know if this is true, but why not give it a try?)
  • Take a time out. You don’t need for a parent or teacher to order you to the time out corner. Give yourself a time out! Close your eyes, stretch, breathe deep, get away from the moment.
  • Open a window. Just looking out the window and connecting to nature can be relaxing, but letting in a little fresh air provides an even better experience.
  • Go for a walk. When you’re mentally tired, an intense workout may not be what you need. Instead, a walk or light workout can provide a boost.
  • Spend some time outside in the sunlight. How can that not make you feel better?
  • Play a video game. (I guess that means you shouldn’t look at playing these games as a slacker behavior.) According to researchers at East Carolina University, playing non-violent video games can decrease your stress and elevate your mood.
  • Meditate. This is something I’ve never been able to do, but think it may be at the top of my 2015 New Years’ Resolutions.

But maybe the best stress reliever would be learning to say that one little word..no! No, I can’t add another thing to my plate at this time.

In the meantime, pucker up.