Thursday, December 30, 2021

Holiday fun coming and going, plus a great picnic visit with friends.

It's been a wonderful Holiday season thus far this year, we're feeling especially thankful for all our many blessings.  It's been fun doing all the typical holiday chores; the decorating, the baking (fruitcake and a few batches of specialty cookies), plus the making and eating of the Christmas meal.

A couple of photos from that process and the end result. It was dry-brined Instant Pot turkey thighs (on a trivet), cornbread dressing, rice, gravy and veggies for us, accompanied by a lovely bottle of Saraceni Blumond Blue Bubbly we first tried over in Italy and loved.

I can't believe I ate the whole thing was the theme for the day.

Can you tell what we love best?

Whew! All that fun and a food coma too, what a great day.

Next up was a fantastic visit with our friends Marlene & Benno. We've known them for years, hitting it off with them from the get-go in the Bahamas while preparing to head down to the Caribbean in '06. Here's a taste of that adventure: 

We give a shout out on the VHF radio on the offhand chance that our friends Marlene and Benno on Diesel Duck might be near enough to hear us - we heard them on the SSB radio (in the AM) saying they were headed to San Juan.  Sure enough, we made contact and they diverted to Samana, Dominican Rep, where they showed up at the park just in time for sundowners with us.

Another life and time for sure. On Tuesday, we were mulling over the idea of a try-out of Lake Alto Park as a good kayaking spot and picnic area. A phone call later, and a spur of the moment plan was hatched  with Marlene and Benno coming up from Ocala on Wednesday to meet us at the park for a long overdue gabfest and picnic lunch. Benno decided he wanted to bring his bbq grill and Marlene brought these wonderful smoked brisket burgers and all the fixings, while I brought my broccoli slaw/apples/raisin "coleslaw" and chips, plus a few beverages. I've always admired Marlene's ability to organize like a BOSS.

We had a great time talking; just ladies, just gents; all together now swapping tall tales from our cruising days. Lots of laughter and much happiness seeing old friends after 5 years. Thanks for coming up you guys! BTW, their blog is : 

Ed and Marlene having a chat.

Benno gets his grill on while Marlene takes a few photos

Bye guys, until the next time.

We made down to Lake Alto Park about an hour earlier in order for Ed to launch and get some time in on the lake before lunch. Here are a few shots of that activity. It was a gorgeous day, the park, including the boat ramp and picnic area was pristine and we were the only picnic'ers there most of the day.

For y'all's benefit, how he launches single-handedly.
First, grab the pointy end and pull, haha. Luckily, this kayak is pretty robust.

Pretty easy-peasy. (See my shadow up on the dock?)


Hat, water, long sleeves, sun gloves - check, here I go.

Well, that's a wrap. A super day was had by all, great friends, great food, pretty spot and beautiful weather. Thanks for stopping by and checking it out. Happy New Year to one and all! We wish you peace, health and prosperity during 2022.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Crafting fun, & last minute preps, and beginning on my food page upgrade

 It's been a fun but busy week of overdue housework, craft completion,  food shopping and preparation, plus jigsaw puzzling.  Also, I've been working on a re-design of the Food and Recipes page. Instead of just a link over to our old site I've set it up to feature some of my (forgotten) favorite recipes plus tips & tricks in the kitchen. Check it out if you like food-related posts.

OK- now let's do a small show 'n tell on those DIY snowflake hanger ornaments. Last blog I showed how they looked zip-tied and hot glued together. Next I'll show how they look decorated and finally how they look lighted. 

Filled the center with a handmade velvet bow
and snowflake ornament, hot-glued some of 
the sparkly bling on various spots and used wire ties to 
secure the white wire lights around the outer edges.

The cost: 16 identical hangers = $4, 1 pack small snowflake tree ornaments = Dollar store ~10/$1, ribbon for center "bow" = $0 (already had some) and a link to the sparkly rhinestone crystal ribbon  $0 (used $7.50 worth of reward points) = $0, and 2 - 50-light indoor/outdoor lights = $2.40 each, so about $10 for the 2. Not bad for some inexpensive decorating craft fun. I will store these in a closet somewhere for future use.


Shows the effect as dusk approaches.
 A nice pop of lights.

I thought this was funny - something I've never run across before. I was shucking some fresh corn and there was a little ear (with it's own husk) under the husks - Haha, so cute.

Good looking corn for mid-December

More on the cooking front, I made another 9" x 12" of the King Ranch Chicken casserole. It takes a while but is definitely worth the effort.

Bake covered for 45 mins (350°), then uncovered for another 15 mins.

When reheated from frozen, plus some salsa verde and some chips.

My latest jigsaw puzzling effort, a 500-piece Americana type puzzle.

All the presents are wrapped, and the stocking stuffers ready, and after a soaking wet day of rain yesterday the sun is out! Hope you have a great day, and thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Christmas cheer, baking and kayaking

 I've been having a blast with the Christmas cheer/chores this year. I guess it just adds a little variety and sparkle to the days.  We don't go hog wild on decorations beyond the tabletop arrangements, 2 trees (small and medium), and lights outside and in the windows.  We're lazy and leave the trees "dressed", except for the topper and icicles, and stashed, covered, in closets upstairs.

Pulsing fiber optic twinkle lights make this little tree my favorite.
It resides in a high-traffic area where it can readily be seen.
(Not a very "atmospheric" shot I'm afraid.)

This year I picked up a small, lighted ceramic church from a local charitable thrift and I just love it.  

Here's mine on a mirrored tabletop.

I will say that one of the bloggers I read (and enjoy very much) has this whole humongous Christmas village complete with a train. She is on a 140-acre hobby farm in central Pennsylvania. She put up a youtube video of their Christmas Village - here's a link for your enjoyment.

A couple of shots taken from across the lake by my neighbor Ralph shows our 5 unit building as the evening descends. Another beautiful winter sunset on display. Thank you Ralph!

I enjoyed another lunch alfresco with my good friend Nancy up in the Ortega area of Jacksonville. Snapped a few shots of the hoity-toity neighborhood nestled against the river. Anybody have an extra few million $$?

Meanwhile, Ed's been getting some kayaking in down on Black Creek.  A few years back our cruising buddies Shawn and Joe gifted us with a kayak they weren't using and we've been putting it to good use ever since. Here's how it works:

If you have read about our 2nd car, a 2008 Ford Taurus X, you'll know we modified the back to facilitate our camping needs. (See the above Tents & SUV's page). This is so perfect for loading/unloading the kayak. Easy-peasy!

I have been having an excellent time with the baking activities so far. Our fruitcake has been mellowing for 3 weeks or so and we had a piece the other evening - it came out just the way we like it; dark, moist, and  fruity with a slight bourbon finish - YUM!  Perfect with a hot tea or toddy.

I made the butterscotch, pecan and coconut cookies a couple of weeks ago as well as some delicious cinnamon-apple bars. But I wanted to made a gluten-free cookie to share, so macaroons it is. Chocolate chip, pecan and coconut. Yum.

Other than that I've been staying busy sending Christmas cards, wrapping up the odd gift or 3, plus, on the crafting front I've been making the popular DIY project 'Plastic Hanger Snowflakes'. Not finished yet, but here's the start. It's fun and I have the perfect spot for them if I can get it in gear and get them finished up. 😊  Stay tuned for the *big* reveal.

Beginning stages, now for bling & lights.

Well, that's all for now. Hope everyone is staying well and smiling.  Thanks for stopping by, and I'd love a comment if you have a minute.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Day-to-Day activities plus a delicious Thanksgiving Dinner

Our days have been rolling along like clockwork. The temp's are drifting lower and we have wonderfully crisp, clean air with blue skies most days. We have had occasion to eat out on the deck - generally it's breakfast, as it's too chilly and dark at dinnertime.

I can tell that that is egg on pizza, a familiar favorite.

But some days it's too chilly in the morning (this AM it was 49°), and we retreat to the Florida Room.

Another favorite, here's a yummy ham, tomatoes, scrambled eggs 
and french toast (a nice finishing treat).
A Florida Room breakfast, the above plates plus a bowl of fresh fruits.

Last year I was able to round up boneless, skinless turkey thighs, (our favorite part of the bird), but this year the grocery stores were complaining that they were only receiving necks and wings from the meat processors, who stated that they have been short staffed due to covid - bummer. 

As a result, I waited until Monday of Thanksgiving week to decide on Plan B. By the time I got to the grocery store all they had left were 18+ lb. frozen turkeys for wa-a-ay more $$'s than I wanted to spend. Besides which, much too big for 2 people! Instead I picked up a pair of Cornish hens and endeavored to do them proud. 

I had never done a "dry brine" before but decided to give it a shot. The day before baking, I washed and patted dry the birds, placed on a small baking sheet, then piled on the brine (including the cavity). The brine was 1/4C each kosher salt and brown sugar, with a heaping tablespoon each black pepper and garlic powder. I then covered the birds with a layer of plastic wrap and refrigerated them overnight. In the morning I rinsed them thoroughly, and again patted dry, then let them rest, covered, in the fridge for about 45 minutes.  I used some of my homemade garlic & herb compound butter under the skin of the breasts and slathered it all over the rest of the birds. Dusted with paprika, salt and pepper and baked @425° for 55 minutes. Oh wow, they really turned out great! The flesh was nicely seasoned and very moist. A definite winner.

We split one bird and paired it with cornbread dressing, rice & gravy and roasted carrots, plus cranberry sauce, the relish plate and a nice Pinot Grigio wine. AAAHH... stuffed and replete for sure.

What are we waiting for, I'm ready to dig in!

To any readers out there that get bored with food-related posts, sorry, but that's the way it goes. We're not travelling right now and not much else is going on, so "foodie-ism" is the way it is.

I caught a modest yet pretty sunrise a day or two later. It hit a cloud layer and fizzled out pretty quickly.

A promising start but it didn't last long.

And lastly, I've been playing around with my dehydrator from many, many years ago. Just checking it out and trying to reduce the carrot load from my vegetable drawer in the fridge. We'll see whether or not it's worth it.

Amazing just how much they shrink when dried!

I thought I'd round things out with a shot from this time in 2012. We had a bigger crowd than now, for sure, and as usual, my wonderful mother-in-law hosted it at her house. We sure miss her!

Thanks for checking in with us, and feel free to leave a comment!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Calendar Year-End and the Holidays are fast approaching

 I can't believe just how fast the weeks and months are zipping by, although the days seem only a little bit faster. The holidays are almost upon us and I have to say I'm getting excited by the prospect! With such a small family these days (attrition is a b**ch), it's hard to think about going to all the effort of decorating the house and cooking gorgeous, elaborate holiday feasts. Lucky for me, it's fun!

In years past we have joined our neighbors for a delicious pot-luck at the pool pavilion for Thanksgiving. Loads of wonderful sides and desserts along with the "host-provided" turkey/ham. Very enjoyable way to spent the day. However, last year Covid put the kibosh on that - rats. During the Holidays we had simple but lovely meals in our Florida Room, just the 2 of us, followed by a stroll around the neighborhood.

This is 2021 New Year's Day dinner

I imagine we will do the same this year as well and be thankful for our health and blessings.

Speaking of thankfulness, I'm so thankful for all the bloggers out there that routinely post about the "who/what/where/when and how" of their daily lives. It really makes me feel connected to them even if we haven't met yet.  And more to the point, it reassures me that regardless of the "wackos" out there, and the (awful) daily news, the world is still filled with good people, who are doing their best to share their way of life, their recipes, their pet shenanigans, their farms, gardens and projects, their travel adventures and to otherwise teach and inform their audience. It's wonderful to know that I can find "good news" out there!

In other news, I got a notion yesterday to bake cookies. I realized that it has been months since I baked anything other than savory dishes & pizza, and with the holiday baking season upon us, it was definitely time.  I had everything I needed to bake butterscotch, pecan and coconut cookies, and boy, they turned out tasty. I made up a few gift bags for some people that have been kind to me, and I'll get those delivered today.

We love our pizza nights!

Cookies in one of my many cookie tins, plus gift bags.

One day after doing a grocery shop, I came home to find my husband had rearranged my kitchen countertop appliances - I think my comments were "WHA?!, then NO!" Of course he can testify that I always say NO to start with; "Can I help you with that? - no", "Do you want to take trip into outer space? - no". After a few minutes/days to ponder, I usually find he's had a great idea and the real answer is - YES! We are funny creatures, oh yeah. (And I have a very patient husband!)

Anyway, he had grown tired of seeing me have to pickup the 14# Ninja Foodie and move it, so he made a sliding, swivel base and repositioned it to the corner of the countertop. How smart, how perfect, "Thanks Honey!"  💖

Former position under my wonderful analog
Amana Radarange that came with the house 😊

Tucked up in the corner with the rarely used
Toaster Oven now under the microwave cabinet.

Pulled forward on the slides for use.

This  shows the slides and swivel feature.
While we're in the kitchen I just wanted to take a moment to talk about grits, the under-rated by many breakfast side. When making grits, use stock in place of water, at least 50% stock and take your time cooking it. Mine might hangout on the stove for an hour or two, just slow simmering, with me adding more water/butter as necessary. And use plenty of salt, (btw - Ed calls me the salt monster). After mine have cooked and slightly cooled I pour them into rectangle shaped plastic containers and stick them in the fridge. The next day they have congealed nicely, so I pop them out onto the cutting board and divide in half. For us, each half will do for 2 breakfasts. Next, into baggies and into the freezer. They reheat just great in the microwave. I'll generally make enough for 2 plastic containers with 1 set of servings set aside - look-out bacon, here we come!

Lovely grits - ready for the freezer.

Finally, time to get this post wrapped-up and I'll close with a shot of one of my silk flower outdoor baskets that dresses up the dockside wall.  Pretty soon I'll have to change them over to Christmas arrangements.

I love the "set 'em and forget 'em" aspect or silk arrangements.

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to check us out, we appreciate it.  Take care, God bless and stay healthy.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Temps are cooling off, neighborhood clean-up & puzzle action

We have finally started having some pleasantly cool days which means open windows (and doors) all around.  The Boss has been spending his days tinkering around in the garage doing clean-up, and organizing all the many bit's and bob's we seem to have accumulated, lol. After living onboard in the Eastern Caribbean for all those years it's tough to throw anything out, you're bound to need it the very next day or week! 

One of our neighbors is moving and some loose shelving ended up out front, fair game for the DIY'er in the house and now installed, we've added a few more square ft of storage space in the garage closets.

A lovely evening shot of our lake, brought to you by Ralph Bonna,
one of our excellent neighborhood photographers.

On the neighborhood front, one of our neighborhood "movers & shakers" organized a clean-up day aimed at picking up any yard debris, sticks, palm tree "boots" and general trash that might be keeping our little neighborhood from looking it's best as we head into holiday season. Several people showed up and within a couple of hours we had a couple of pickup truck loads of yard debris headed to the landfill for composting. It was a great day for it, overcast and high 60's at the start.

The focus was on the main entry drive, where the trash
(from pedestrians) tends to accumulate.

The boss, in the ball cap, and another stalwart neighbor.

Here's another sunset shot to amaze you, taken by an across-the-lake neighbor. We are so fortunate to have water in our views.

Sunset shot by Susan Merrill

As I mentioned in the previous posts cooking and good food make the world go around and in the spirit of that sentiment, I baked up the sausage, cabbage and veggie quiche-like casserole. It is covered in detail on the Recipe page on but here is a shot of the ingredients ready to be assembled.

On the left, smoked sausage & mushrooms, right is shredded cabbage,
carrots, and celery, and in front onion, tomatoes, parsley and cilantro.

An egg, milk, flour and spice mixture is poured over the combined
ingredients and topped with cheese. Makes a great side dish.

And finally, to finish things off a shot of the last 2 puzzles I worked on. They were both fun and colorful.

Thanks a bunch for visiting, leave a comment if you feel like it. Bye for now.