Christmas Day ~ in northeast coastal Florida

IMG_2863After my daughter Vicky made a 117 course Christmas breakfast oozing with cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar, as well as homemade sweetbread and fresh blueberries, we had to walk some of it off before dinner. Yes, we had seriously over indulged, thus we we had to intentionally burn some calories off. My body is the temple of the Living God, and I have to treat it as if it is.

We headed for the public boat slip on a cove of the St. John’s River located at our local city park. Duval County is gorgeous in December. Here I’m with Sophie the Wonder Dog.

IMG_2872We sat on the dock and watched the sailboats, deep sea fishing boats, kayaks, paddle-boats, and jet skiers go by. Those jet skiers are hearty folk. Even though it’s Florida, the water is cold. I want to encourage those over 50, as well as “seasoned citizens” to get out and do. Go for it. Live life.

IMG_2869A nearby boat-slip…just beyond the dock.

Merry Christmas to all. The Savior was born over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem and He dwells with us. Emanuel, God with us.

May you all be blessed in the new year.

 

 

Christmas Eve 2018 ~ a merry time after loss

Vicky is doing a “sleeping beauty” this Christmas morning and I’ve been watching the Nashville Christmas Parade, followed by Kathy Lee and Hoda. It’s been a gentle and quiet Christmas morning which will end when Vic wakes up…the quiet part.IMG_2851

We had a sweet and fun Christmas Eve dinner last night at Miller’s Ale House on San Jose Boulevard, JAX. I was surprised at the number of families having their Christmas Eve meal in the restaurant. Many parents came from work, so it makes sense.  They were short staffed and the hostess was rushed but she insisted on taking this photo of us. A transplant from NYC, I’ve come to love and appreciate southern hospitality and warmth. It makes life so much easier.

Last night, the atmosphere hit the right note for us. We laughed and recalled Christmases past, but this time without pain and loss. We lost Joseph Dennis Chillemi, my husband and Vicky’s dad, in December three years ago. The last two Christmases have been bitter sweet for us.

This year, we’re having a merry little Christmas. I think this is the first Christmas since Joseph passed that Vic and I have felt real happiness and delight at Christmas. I’ve had joy in the Lord and peace at Christmas since my husband passed on December 8th three years ago. This year is the first one that I’ve experienced merriment. Yes, it’s turning out to be a truly merry Christmas for me.

For those who have lost a loved one, I know it will be a different Christmas, but I pray that even in that loss, those who mourn can allow the peace of Christmas to comfort.  There is a “spirit of Christmas.” For Christians, this is a deep and profound thing. NonChristians also feel what Christmas cards and media personalities often call ‘the Christmas spirit’. We don’t understand it, but this spirit seems to bring light and cut through the gloom, depression, and darkness globally.

So, even in your loss, I pray you let the true gentle spirit of Christmas wrap you in warmth.  God is with us, even in the deepest darkest valleys. “Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death , Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.” [Psalm 23:4]

In our loss, especially at Christmas, the ‘shadow of death’ seems to envelop those who mourn. I had to tell myself for nearly three years, “It’s a shadow.” It’s not as powerful as it seems. It’s not forever. And this is a valley. It’s also not forever.” When I look at that Bible verse in times of sorrow, I think of God’s rod as His power…His power over death. Jesus conquered death. And His staff is like the staff of a shepherd. The Shepherd leads us onward in our sorrow on a journey out of the valley. It is a valley and it is a journey.

I often think, to honor the importance of the life of the loved one we lost, it should take time. It should be a journey. But God wants us to see that the valley has an end. We do come out and away from the shadow of death. And that also honors the life of the one/s we mourn. It also honors God, who wants us to reenter life fully.

And so, I wish you all a very merry Christmas filled with joy and blessings and a healthy and happy new year.

Nativity

 

A Hiding Place ~ for Christmas presents

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Beauty, what are you doing in my secret hiding place???

I don’t have to hide Christmas gifts from kids anymore, as mine are adults. However, I have to hide any present in a decorative gift bag from my cats. They love to climb inside bags and hide there, or tear them apart. So, I had a brilliant idea. They’d never find the bags inside the armoire. Would they?

 

 

 

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, ~ John 1:112 [New American Standard Bible – NASB]

Merry Christmas Everyone

 

Cream of Brocolli Soup ~ on a cold Florida day

IMG_2837 (3)

I’ve attempted posting recipes with moderate success. That’s because I don’t cook with a recipe. I’ve tried measuring a 1/2 C of such and so and typing that in the blog article next to the photo, but then as it cooks, I say to myself, “Self, that doesn’t look right,” and I throw in some more. So, how much of that ingredient did I use? I don’t know!!! Just enough to taste good. I taste as I cook, look at the colors of the ingredients, and smell the aromas to know. Do I make mistakes? YES, but all cooks make them, and you can make a mistake following a recipe to the letter. Trust me on that one.

So, It was in the low 40s last night in northeastern coastal Florida. I had to bundle Sophie the Wonder Dog up when I took her for her morning walk. Not to mention, I actually put on a pair of socks, and I never wear socks. May I digress…I was without socks yesterday at the Post Office to mail a Christmas gift. I noticed roughly half the women were in jeans, a sweat shirt and a hoodie or jeans and a heavy cable knit sweater, and over-sized clunky sandals (not the dainty, pretty kind you see all summer) with socks on. This is Florida in winter.

Sophie Winter Coat 2011

Well then, after Sophie, the cats, and I had breakfast, I realized I had a small container of half ‘n half in the refrigerator I had to use. Now, my doctor just reminded me I’d put on weight since my last visit three months ago (Thanksgiving will do that) and my blood pressure had gone up. No alarm siren, but it had gone up. So, I wanted to use the half ‘n half, but not in a super high-cal way

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Light bulb moment…cream of broccoli soup. So, I cut my broccoli florets up into soup-spoon size pieces and covered them with water in the pot and started them simmering on a medium heat? How much water? Enough to cover them. I had red onion (I always do), carrots, and two white potatoes. So, I chopped those up and threw them in. Added parsley flakes, garlic powder, a couple of bay leaves, some jarred seasoned vegetable base, and pepper. (I put some base in, tasted and put some more in…so don’t even think about asking me how much.) No salt. Remember my blood pressure had just gone up. Besides, the veggie base has salt.

I tasted it as it simmered and added more pepper and lowered the heat to low-medium. If I’m cooking only for myself, I taste with the same teaspoon. If I’m cooking for others, I go through all my teaspoons. After about twenty minutes, I tasted again and wanted to thicken it. I often have some Campbell’s turkey gravy on hand and did this time. I added some by eye, stirred and tasted, and added some more. I let it simmer again on low to have the gravy kind of amalgamate with the other flavors. Then I tasted and turned it off. When it cooled off substantially, I added the entire container of half ‘n half, stirred, and tasted. Very good, but it had to cook with the half ‘n half just a bit. Besides it had cooled too much, so I turned on the heat to low and got it to an edible temp. Then I scooped it into a bowl, sprinkled on mozzarella cheese I had on hand and some Parm/Romano… and then I sat down to eat lunch. Good, very good.

I cook by the seat of the pants, and I write by the seat of the pants.

 

Alaska Logs ~ my Mom’s Christmas cookies

Alaska Logs plate
Alaska Logs, Helen N. Navor’s recipe

My mom made these cookies every Christmas Eve while my dad whipped up homemade eggnog. We also decorated a freshly cut Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. The entire family would go out a few days before to get the tree from a Christmas tree stand. The interesting thing was, my mom was diabetic and could not eat these cookies. She made them for us to eat. Such a nice thing to do.

I also make Alaska Logs every year. I bring them to parties, serve them to my guests and they are always, always the first to go…not an exaggeration. So, I don’t want the recipe to vanish. I don’t know where my mom got the recipe, but they hail to the late 1950s or early 1960s

ALASKA LOGS

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 C flour
  • 1C sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 C chopped pitted dates*
  • 1 C chopped walnuts*
  • 3 well beaten large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil

1. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

2. Stir in chopped pitted dates, chopped walnuts, well beaten eggs, oil.

3. Pour into a well-sprayed square pan spayed with canola oil pan spray. Gently spread mixture so that it slides into the corners. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.

3. While it’s still hot cut into small bars. Quickly scoop out without breaking, squeeze into logs and roll in a more sugar. The bars resemble small logs, the sugar resembles snow on the logs. Cool before eating.

Dried Cranberries and Candied Pecans

 

**Instead of dates, I often substitute 2 packages of Walmart brand Dried Cranberries and Candied Pecans (A salad topper, usually found near produce. There are many similar brands.)

 

 

Alaska Logs container
Storing Alaska Logs. I make big batches because they go fast.

Deck the Chairs 2018 ~ Jacksonville Beach

Deck Chairs 18 Jelly Fish
Jelly Fish Par

Jacksonville Beach out did itself with this year’s DECK THE CHAIRS holiday lights display in Latham Plaza. The exhibit showcases the 40 lifeguard chairs used in the summer by The American Red Cross Life Saving Corps. In December they glitter in colorful lights. It is free and open to the public.

 

 

Deck Chairs 18 beach rubish

 

In my opinion, “Jelly Fish Park” stole the show. The largest display, this one has ak moral to it’s story. The tentacles of the jelly fish are filled with non-biodegradable refuse that washed up on the beach.

 

Deck Chairs 18 the gang

 

Here we are, the three Musketeers. In front of “Jelly Fish Park” taking a selfie, left to right: my daughter Victoria, my friend Lynn Wood Rix who writes as Dalyn Woods, and Moi. We’re bundled because Floridians think water freezes at 50 degrees.

 

Deck Chairs 18 Santa Wkshp

 

 

Santa’s Workshop, as the name implies, was whimsical and fun.

 

 

Deck Chairs 18 Service Dogs

 

 

Then we have Santa’s sleigh pulled by service dogs.

 

 

Deck Chairs 18 Fur Sisters

 

 

In keeping with the animal theme, we have a pet adoption display. The displays are sponsored by local businesses and not for profits. This one is sponsored by Fur Sisters…Fur Ever Urs Rescue.

 

 

Deck Chairs 18 Seahorse

 

 

This is Jacksonville Beach for crying out loud, so there has to be a seahorse.

 

 

Deck Chairs 18

 

 

And an anchor…

 

 

 

 

Deck Chairs 18 Lighthouse

 

 

And a lighthouse. We teased Lynn that the beautiful lady standing next to the lighthouse eerily resembled her…

 

Deck Chairs 18 Palm Trees

 

 

Let’s not forget the palm trees.

 

 

 

Deck Chairs 18 Tree

 

 

No Christmas light display would be complete without a thirty-foot high Christmas tree.

 

 

Lynn, Victoria, and I wish you all a blessed holiday season and a very merry and bright Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.