Thanksgiving Travels……

The house sitter is all set, as many loose ends as I can are tied up, the new car battery is installed, oil changed in the car, and we’ll get an early start. That of course means that we’ll hit the bottleneck around Fort Lauderdale rather than Miami, but you can’t miss them all unless you’re traveling around midnight. The gathering in Georgia this year will be the larger, although not largest crowd of around twenty; four generations worth. There will be some great photos naturally and plenty of catching up to do. What with the car situation and other requirements yesterday, I didn’t make it over to Robert Is Here (famous fruit stand we have) to get the oranges that I always take up so it will be grabbing those and the required chocolate covered coconut patties at one of the rest stops on the turnpike. The only real issue with getting oranges there is that frequently the smallest quantity you can buy is a five pound bag. Ah well, I’ve had to do that before.

And as always in traveling over a major holiday, especially for those who must be on the roads and in the airways tomorrow, remember that we are all in this together and when there are delays and frustrations, take deep breaths and try to share the holiday spirit. If you know someone who is alone for the holidays, inviting he or she over might not be practical, but an email or phone call to say hello could be. Give that one some thought.

What You Want and What You Need…..

I don’t know if “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is truly the Rolling Stones greatest song, but it is definitely on up there. How on earth they are still performing at this stage is the subject for another post. Today was a great example of the concept though. I dashed out this morning to run an errand that is associated with doing three good deeds. I say, “Well, let me pop in and gas up the car first – it won’t take but a few minutes and then I don’t have to do that tomorrow.” When I go to pull away from the pump though the car won’t start.

Okay, first wave of frustration is, “I cannot believe this!”, accompanied by language that I won’t put in the post. After I call hubby, I realize that a) by me going so early, he wasn’t out of the house on his run because he doesn’t carry his cell phone for that; b) rather than being parked nose-in at the store, the front of the car was easily accessible to use the jumper cables, assuming that the battery was the issue. Better yet, I was closer to the house than I would have been on any of the tasks that I had scheduled for tomorrow. Jumping the battery did the trick and we swapped vehicles for hubby to drive mine back to the house and we can do the same tomorrow for him to deal with this while I run errands. Not that I ever enjoy having a battery go out, but the simple truth is that they do and the way in which it happened today wasn’t nearly as inconvenient as it could have been.

Live Versus Artificial Tree…….

Unlike a number of people we know, we do not put Christmas decorations up until December; the exact date fluctuates depending on several factors. We do have the cute tabletop Cajun Christmas tree that I’ve posted about before that has survived an amazing number of moves. Last year we actually didn’t put a regular tree up because of the timing of the Australia trip. What that meant was we essentially delayed our decision about do we buy another artificial tree or do we go with a live tree this year?

Notwithstanding the year we were given a live tree that was so large, a section had to be cut off, we generally stick with the 6-7 foot height and we do green rather than frosted or silver. I think those are fine for a situation where you have multiple trees, but I do hold to a certain amount of tradition for our personal use. We have a place to store the tree, so that isn’t an issue. Cleaning up fallen needles has never bothered me – I mean unless you have an unhealthy specimen, you aren’t going to lose that many needles at any one time. The advantage of a live one is that when you’re ready to take it down, you do, and out it goes for bulk pick-up. There’s no repacking it into a box. On the other hand, getting the box off the shelf can be a lot quicker than going to the “lot” to find the right tree, buy it, then haul it home. Yes, you have to do that the first time with an artificial, but then it’s good for several years. Okay, readers – does anyone have strong feelings on this topic?

Sometimes You Do Need a God Cry……

Serious Content Alert. Actually, this is more like a “have a box of tissues handy” alert. If you have ever seen the movie, “We Are Marshall”, you can guess what might be coming. There are times when you are struggling with an intense emotional loss, whether that is for a person, a beloved pet, a change in your life, that you do need to just sit down and cry – I mean bawling, sloppy, don’t want anyone to see you cry. It is often cathartic, and tiring, perhaps to the point of exhaustion, but it can also be a release of unarticulated emotion that is best drained from you. The reason that I say to watch this movie for effect is that it deals superbly with the range of grief that people experience and with the conflict of trying to move on without seeming to forget. Finding that balance after a profound loss is difficult and can wear on you at a subconscious level.

“We Are Marshall” is about the tragic airplane crash in November 1970 where 75 people were lost. Among the losses were nearly the entire Marshall University football team, coaches, flight crew, numerous fans, and supporters. There were opposing views as to whether or not the football team could be rebuilt and if the university should do so. I don’t have any idea of how accurate the movie is as to how individuals reacted, but what I do know is the half dozen or so means of coping with the tragedy that they showed is accurate. It is a movie that speaks to the pain, to the struggle of what to do with the pain, and how to get past it. I have posted before about how grief for loss certainly has common elements, yet it is also individualized. The timeline in which life can return to “normal” is highly variable as is the very definition of “normal”. When you have suffered whatever the trauma is, you will be dealing with a “new normal”, a new part of your life, perhaps dramatically so. And sometimes in coming to grips with that, a good cry will help.


A Cleaner Look and More…..

New Look to Our Front Yard

New Look to Our Front Yard

Okay, an immediate apology to followers who have been posting photos of snow in their yards. We are now 98% finished with the new look in the front yard with the intent to do two things. The first was to completely clear out the weeds that were truly out of control. The second was to have a cleaner look that also requires less maintenance. For those that live either here or in another climate where tropical plants thrive, you know that we have super weeds. The same environment that allows orchids to bloom lets weeds shoot up quickly and take hold. If you are the least bit inattentive, you have a mess on your hands pretty quickly. Then, fs as we had done, you have other plantings close together, it becomes that much more difficult to get at the weeds. Our new plan takes those factors into account and hopefully, we will now be able to snatch (or spray) those pesky weeds soon after they poke their heads through the mulch. As for our palms, it’s hard to say. Three palms in each front yard was what the developers put in as part of the initial landscaping and a lot of the neighbors have lost their palms over the past few years. We’ll see what happens with ours.

When I wanted one more plant for the front, I was going to maybe get a ground orchid or a bromeliad, and then this different type of succulent caught my eye. I accidentally threw away the tag, so I don’t know what the variety is, but I thought it would work nicely with the aloe vera we had planted. The leaves have a pinkish hue to them.

New Plant - Don't Know the Variety

New Plant – Don’t Know the Variety

Dancing With Passion……

Dustin Kimball and Alison Crosby, Bowen-McCauley Dance Company, Phot by John McCauley

Dustin Kimball and Alison Crosby, Bowen-McCauley Dance Company, Photo by John McCauley

Okay, there are moments that can’t help but give me a smile. As those who follow the blog regularly know, son is a dancer in Northern Virginia and dances with the Bowen-McCauley Dance Company and is one of the senior instructors at the Fairfax Center for Ballet Arts. We try to go up once a year for a performance and missed last year due to scheduling conflicts. We were in DC a couple of weeks ago and I did a series of posts about that visit and the Fall Show of the Fairfax Center for Ballet Arts that we enjoyed.

The new season for Bowen McCauley sounds like a great line-up ( and we hope to make the Victory Road show. The thing that made me smile is that the company also does some collaborative work where they appear for only one or two numbers as a part of a particular event. That apparently was something they did the week before we went up. Even though it wasn’t a major performance, the event was covered in one of the sections of the Washington Post to include a really nice shot of our son. Now, he’s been in the Post before, although it doesn’t usually give his name. It is one of those “proud mom moments” that make us understand how deeply committed our son is to dance whether cameras are present or not.

Saying Hi From The Reviewing Stand…….

Crowd Waiting for Veterans Day Parade

Crowd Waiting for Veterans Day Parade

 I probably posted about this last year, but it doesn’t hurt to sometimes emphasize a point. Despite it’s growth and the “bedroom community” aspect – definitely the subject for another type of post – Homestead is a small town and there is always the concern with maintaining that feeling and the characteristics while balancing growth. The Veteran’s Day Ceremony and Parade is a wonderful example. The ceremony takes place in Losner Park, which is the small park in the Historic Downtown District. There is a memorial stone in one corner of the park that salutes all veterans from WW I to today’s conflicts. In keeping with the 11th day of the 11th month, the ceremony begins at 11:00 a.m. with speeches (all short) by the Commander of the VFW Post, the American Legion, one or two representatives from the military community, perhaps, as was this year, the District Commissioner Elect, and one of the City Council Members. The ceremony is usually over within 30-45 minutes and the parade begins at noon.

The parade doesn’t normally have floats, but decorated vehicles, some of which are antique, and all the Junior ROTCs march, the Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops, the Shriners, and other organizations. Krome Avenue is not very wide and so the reviewing stand is within easy speaking distance of the parade participants. For many who passed by in the parade, there were friendly exchanges of, “Oh hi, Bob,” or “Happy Veteran’s Day, Cory,” etc., because those on the reviewing stand and those in the parade know each other as friends, neighbors, or working together in the community. When you watch the crowd wave flags and clap, it is exactly what you are looking for when you say, “Small Town Spirit”.

The VFW and the VFW Ladies Auxiliary do a great job each year in bringing this together and this year the weather was beautiful. Warm, of course, but a breeze and enough cloud cover to not have it beating down relentlessly on people.

Sometimes Something Small Is Exactly Right….

Banner for Gratitude Bags

Banner for Gratitude Bags

When you attend an expo, you never know what vendors you will meet. This is especially true when there are arts and crafts involved because people’s creativity is incredibly varied. Take Vismaya Rubin who has created Gratitude Bags. It is a simple concept that might be exactly the pick-me-up that someone you know needs. The pretty drawstring bags are about the size of the palm of your hand so they don’t take up much space. The banner is difficult to read in the photo and I’ll put the text here to make it easier.

What is a GRATITUDE bag?

A GRATITUDE bag  is a personalized,  portable,  inspirational mood shifter. Each bag is equipped with 36 GRATITUDE cards, instructions, an example card and a pen, measuring approximately 4″ x 6″, It contains a snapshot of your life experiences, both large and small, that you are most GRATEFUL for.  Each bag is as different as the person creating it!

How do I use my GRATITUDE bag?

Each time you achieve a goal, turn a dream into a reality, or experience  something that warms your heart , write it down on a GRATITUDE card. You can also jot down your favorite affirmation or inspirational quote. Place your GRATITUDE cards in your  GRATITUDE bag and keep your bag nearby.

When should I use my GRATITUDE bag?

Anytime you need to be reminded of life’s gifts, bring a smile to your face, affirm a commitment, or shift your mood, pull out your GRATITUDE bag. Read its contents.
Be inspired. Be proud.  Be GRATEFUL!  


If you’re looking for something unique, check out her website at


Getting Ready for the Front Yard Piece….

Purple Flowers in Front Yard

Purple Flowers in Front Yard

During the process of the remodel, we had decided to actually do phases with the back yard sprucing and replanting as Phase 1. Phase 2 was the major piece of course with all the construction. The sequencing of Phases 3 and 4 depended on a couple of factors and as it turns out we will be doing the remaining part of the front yard as Phase 3 and the garage workshop later as Phase 4.

Our front yard, somewhat like the back, although on a smaller scale, has become a bit cluttered and it really is difficult to keep the weeds under control. I want to simplify while still maintaining a lot of what we have. We both really like the pretty purple (I don’t know the name) and even though we intend to have the entire bed cleared out, we will replant new ones of those. There is also a shrub against the wall that I would get rid of, but hubby really likes it so it has been given a reprieve, albeit with the clear understanding that it stays more neatly trimmed than it has been in the past.

We have aloe vera plants to put in for a cleaner look than whatever that is we currently have and of course we’ll have new mulch laid down. With more space between the plants than we have now the idea is that we will be able to get to the weeds more effectively as they come up. And yes, I do know there are readers in those climates where the last thing you are considering is planting at the moment.

Guest Blog To Warm Your Heart…..

I enjoy being able to share pieces that you might not otherwise run across and Marie Wagner sent me one that falls into this category. I met Marie last year during the Homestead Book Fair and even though they didn’t stay in the Florida area for long, we had some good experiences together. They had lived in Alaska for many years and Marie’s photographs are lovely. In this case though, she became involved with a project that is truly heartwarming. I will now let Marie “tell” you about it.

From Marie: Participation in art can fling open the windows of the spirit and allow the nurturing rays of imagination to flow into the minds of children with disabilities and people recovering from trauma. Anyone stuck in the doldrums can be lifted and inspired by art.

Birds, butterflies, turtles, the majesty of nature; all are inspiring subjects that start the creative juices flowing. Chugach Arts Council just completed a collaborative project with Pinecrest Gardens and VSA FL to create a beautiful book of children’s art featuring the beautiful flora and fauna at Pinecrest.

The mission of VSA FL is to ensure that people with disabilities can learn, participate in and enjoy the arts. The mission of Pinecrest Gardens is to enrich the lives of the community through cultural arts, education and the sustainable management of its public garden. Together, VSA FL and Pinecrest Gardens are working to incorporate nature and the arts in a safe and accepting environment for all children.

VSA FL’s Teaching Artist, Yvette Cotera, and the Pinecrest Gardens Educational Coordinator, Lisa Toy, teamed up in 2014 to create an all-inclusive educational arts program open to kids of all abilities. This was the first collaboration between VSA FL and Pinecrest Gardens. The tangible result was a collection of wonderful art work by the children as a result of their time and study of plants, animals, and insects in and around Pinecrest Gardens in South Florida.

Chugach Arts Council connected with the two groups and compiled a collection that features art from 4 projects, Florida Butterflies, Migrating Monarchs, Hummingbirds and Pollinators and Turtle Island. Artist and author, Marie Wagner composed an original poem to accompany the art. This charming book of art is available through Pinecrest Gardens or online at:

TIP for viewing online: Click on the GRAY / Preview tab at the base of the cover image to view ALL pages online

May you be inspired and uplifted by the experience.

Marie Wagner, Chugach Arts Council, Executive Director