Friday, June 26, 2009


We have been in our home for just over two years now and we have the inside as we like it. We are working on the outside, particularly in the back yard area. We have built a retaining wall with the help of my husband's parents and sister. What an undertaking...

First we had to dig the footers, then pour the footers. This was not an easy job, as the soil and grass were a hindrance. It is not easy working in a trench.

When the footers were set, it was time to start laying block for the wall. My husband and I did the lion's share of this work, his family would come back later to help move earth and stucco the wall.

I think removing the dirt and lowering the sod in front of the wall was the most daunting task associated with our wall construction. We cut the sod off in patches, dug out some soil to a certain level and then replaced the sod at the new level. We lowered a patch of yard measuring roughly 6 feet by 44 feet. The replaced sod looked like a patchwork quilt. We watered the sod every day and now you cannot tell that it was ever cut and moved.

Once the yard was lowered it was time to stucco and then paint. The stucco job went rather quickly. It is a forgiving wall treatment.

My husband and I laid the stepping tiles down and filled in the remaining areas with river rock to form a patio outside of our guest cottage once the retaining wall was complete. We have built two lamp posts in the back yard to give light as well as delineate where the "formal" garden area will be. Most of the hardscaping is done. We still want to pour a sidewalk, build a lower patio between the house and hot tub and build a grill/smoker unit. Next will come plants to create our tropical backyard garden.

We like watching home improvement shows and sometimes I think it would be nice to get "yard crashed" and have the professionals come in and do all the work, but there is great satisfaction in knowing you did it yourself (and saved buckage in the process).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What's in a Nickname?

In the U.S. Air Force, airmen (male and female) are sometimes given call signs, or what we civilians would call, nicknames. These call signs are not chosen by the airmen but given to them by others. It is the same in the civilian world.

My first nickname was given to me by my maternal grandfather. I was born around the time of the Kennedy/Johnson administration. LBJ's wife was called "Lady Bird" so my grandfather started calling me Jillybird. My uncles would sometimes shorten it to Bird.

Before we had children, my husband and I could be a little "couch-potato-ish". My sister-in-law started calling us Taters. She still does. When my daughter was born, my sister-in-law called her Yam. She being sweet and the offspring of Taters. So when my son came along, to continue this potato theme, she called him Spud. We found a little T-shirt with "Crib Potato" on it for him. The kids get birthday cards addressed to Yam and Spud.

I go on a bug hunt when I see insects in my house. I have been given the nickname of Rico because of this. Johnny Rico was the main character in the movie, Starship Troopers. The movie is a Sci-Fi thriller about military spacemen fighting alien bugs.

I now have new nickname...Rain Man. My husband started calling me this when I began blogging. I take my camera with me wherever I go and take seemingly random pictures with it. I take many pictures because you never know which ones will become blog fodder. I love digital cameras. Instant image. I'm pretty sure the real Rain Man would have loved a digital camera too but not from K-Mart, definitely not K-Mart.

"Chinese Wisdom"

This morning my son had his third molars (wisdom teeth) extracted. The procedure lasted a little over an hour. Last year, in February, my daughter had hers taken out. She had supernumerary (extra) wisdom teeth...she had two more than the usual four. My son had the usual number removed. We used the same oral surgeon for both kids, Dr. Lee. He is a very nice doctor. His entire staff is nice. He personally walks his patients to their cars after surgery.

I hope that my son will not have the same post-op issues his sister did. She was very swollen for a few days and had a slight bruising under one of her eyes. She looked like the Chinese brother who could swallow the sea from the old children's book by Bishop and Wiese. I am not kidding here. Get the book off of your children's shelves or hit the library/bookstore and see what I mean. To preserve my daughter's dignity I will not post a picture of her.
My son is having some post-op nausea. I have given him some medication Dr. Lee prescribed to counteract the nausea. Poor baby. It is always difficult to see your loved ones in pain and discomfort. He cannot have any hot liquids for a couple of days and will have to stay away from foods that are difficult or painful to chew. Good thing I still have some mango ice cream in the freezer; he can have some when he feels up to it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pine Island Mango Ice Cream

Yesterday I went to my friend's house to give her some of the extra mangoes I got on Pine Island. She was very happy to get them. She is the friend who makes excellent mango pound cakes, so we naturally began discussing ways to prepare some of these many mangoes we both now had. I do not know how we got onto ice cream, but we did. My friend told me she had an extra ice cream machine and I could use it.

When I got home with the ice cream machine my kids immediately wanted to make some. I first looked at the recipes that came with the machine. We would make the vanilla ice cream as a base for the mango ice cream. The kids and I went to the grocery to get the ingredients (they are more expensive than just buying a gallon or two of ice cream, but the experience and memory of making your own are priceless).

I diced the mangoes and pureed them. I would need five cups of the puree. My daughter and I measured out the milk, half and half, whipping cream, sugar, salt and vanilla extract. I scalded the milk, then added the remaining ingredients and stirred until the sugar dissolved and put this in the fridge for 30 minutes.

30 minutes daughter and I put the container of milk mixture in the ice cream machine bucket, affixed the motor and plugged it in. As the container is spinning we layer rock salt and ice in the bucket around it. It runs for 40 minutes. I open the container and see the vanilla ice cream slurry. It has the consistency of mashed potatoes. I add the mango puree.

After the mango puree is mixed with the vanilla ice cream, I transfer the mix to a plastic container and put this in the freezer. We will not be able to eat the mango ice cream until the next day. My daughter and I did taste the mixture before we put it in the would become five quarts of very delicious mango ice cream.

Today I took some of the ice cream to the friend who loaned me the machine. She and her husband also proclaimed it to be very delicious. I am pleased with my first batch of homemade ice cream. I have some strawberries in my freezer...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Date with My Man and Mangoes

My husband and I took a little day trip (sans children) to Pine Island. It is the largest barrier island on the west coast of Florida. I had recently read an article in a local magazine about mangoes on Pine Island and told my husband I would like to visit the island and get some for ourselves.

I like mangoes. I had never tasted them before we moved to S.W. Florida and was introduced to them by a new friend. She has a few mango trees in her yard and shared some of the fruit with my family. I have to interject something here...where I grew up, some people would call green peppers, mangoes. I never understood that. Real mangoes are an exotic, tropical, juicy and delicious fruit.

Before mango shopping, we had lunch at Capt'n Con's. I had the fried shrimp basket ( I cast counting Weight Watcher's Points to the four winds) and my husband had the shrimp and flounder basket. I tasted the flounder...delicious! The restaurant is on the water, so we had a nice view while eating our lunch.

My husband and I saw a sign on the side of the road which read, tree-ripened mangoes for sale. We turned, followed the road and found the house of said mangoes. The lady came out of her home and took us to her backyard where she had boxes filled with all kinds of mangoes. She said on her two acre lot she had over a hundred varieties of mangoes. I bought two boxes and came home with several pieces of fruit.

After purchasing the mangoes we continued to drive around Pine Island. It is a beautiful island filled with many palm tree nurseries. I would love to have some of them in my yard. I spotted this spotted octopus. It was outside an art gallery/framing shop. I could not resist the photographic opportunity.

We headed for home. Upon arrival, I washed my many mangoes and started to cut up the ripe ones. I still have a few mangoes that are ripening so I am going to give these to a friend. She makes the best mango pound cake! I think I will start googling some mango is a good thing my family and I like mango..I have quite a lot of it in my freezer!

Saturday, June 13, 2009


I am finally reunited with my son. The week long NJROTC Leadership Academy he attended held its graduation ceremony this weekend. My husband, daughter, in-laws and I enjoyed the event.

I was the first to spot my son in the crowd of cadets. He smiled when he saw me and I knew then that he had a good experience. All my cares and worries were laid to rest.

The cadets performed some parade moves for everyone before we moved to the stands to watch the graduation ceremony and the silver cords handed out.

Once we were seated in the stands the 3 platoons of cadets performed some more parade moves for us.

After the parade moves it was time for cord presentation. Each cadet was called and given a silver cord to wear on their right shoulder which signifies that they have attended and graduated from the Leadership Academy.

When the ceremony was over the family members were able to go on the field and meet with their cadet. The first thing I said to mine was happy birthday and then gave him a kiss. He looked a little older, was it the birthday or the leadership course? He said he had forgotten about his birthday on the day of his birthday because he was so busy and tired. He remembered it later that evening after asking another cadet what day it was. We celebrated it when we got home.

My son had many stories to share about his week long adventure... like...the cadets were introduced to a sailing course and my son, along with most of the other cadets, ended up in the "Drink" a few times and their heads were introduced to the Boom once or twice before the course ended. He also had to pull Fire Watch once from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. My son's favorite parts of the leadership course were the water survival event and the two mile motivational runs in the streets of St. Petersburg.

It is good to have my son back home. I am so proud of him. I am looking forward to hearing more of the stories he will tell me about his time at Leadership Academy.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pre Separation Anxiety

Weeks before my son was dropped off at the naval leadership course, he was given a piece of paper that listed the rules and regulations for the course and what he was to pack.

He packed; P.T. gear, socks, T-shirts, underwear, towels, washcloths, shaving kit items and uniforms. The packing list was specific to the item and number of said items, no more, no less.

My son packed, checked, unpacked, checked, repacked, checked and checked again.

One of the lines on the informational paper given to him stated that if the cadet's hair was not short enough upon arrival, the cadet would have to have a haircut and this would cost $10.

Two days before he was to leave I cut my son's hair. I have always cut my son's (and husband's) hair but this time I was a bit nervous about it. My son informed me he wanted a "High and Tight" cut. I have never done one. I did not want to mess it up and cause my son any heartache or trouble when he arrived at the leadership course and me $10. My husband said there is a trick to getting it straight and even. You take a non-permanent marker and draw a line of demarcation to where you will cut the hair shorter. I did not trust my fine motor skills when it came to drawing the line straight, so I had both my husband and daughter do the honors.

I carefully cut his hair, which took me longer than normal...I wanted it to be perfect. I was pleased with my first attempt and so was my son. He was so pleased he informed me that he wants a "High and Tight" cut all summer long. The leadership instructors liked the cut as well...I still have the $10 in my purse.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Separation Anxiety

My husband and I, with our daughter in tow, dropped off our son at a naval leadership course in St. Pete. He will be there all this week.

We parked the truck and our son grabbed his bags and before I could tell him goodbye, good luck and give him a quick kiss, a Drill Instructor yelled for him to double-time it and get in line.

My son is the second in line.

I am suffering a bit from separation anxiety, which is unlike me. My son has been away from home before. I know why this is is because my son will turn 16 while he is gone. He has never been away from home on his birthday. The fact that I was unable to kiss him goodbye also factors heavily in my separation anxiety. He will probably be too busy and tired by the end of the day to even remember his birthday. The leadership course is a very demanding one, both physically and mentally. We will celebrate his birthday when he comes home next weekend after graduating from the course. I am eager to hear all about his week and see how this experience has impacted him.

It was still early after we dropped our son off so we decided to do a little sightseeing in St. Pete. We drove to Treasure Island. In the early 1900's two property owners wanted to sell some land so they "discovered" a couple of wooden chests on the beach supposedly filled with "treasure" which generated interest in the area and the name stuck.

We also went to the Pier and had lunch in the Columbia Restaurant. Delicious. After lunch we walked around the area.

Here are some of the things we saw.

The Floating Chapel. It is available for weddings.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

An OMG! Moment

My husband and I just got back from day one of the Freshmen Orientation for the college our daughter will be attending this Fall. We left our house at 6:15 in the morning and returned home at 8:00 this evening. Our daughter had to spend the night in the Freshmen dorm; we will see her tomorrow on day two.

We sat through talks on what our children will have ahead of them, what the university has to offer and mostly how we will pay for the education. During one of these talks the speaker informed us about something called the Family Educational Rights to Privacy Act 1974 (FERPA). This states that the college student's school information (like grades) may not be released to anyone, not even the parents who are footing the bill. Once your son or daughter is an adult (18 years old) the information is theirs. They have to sign an authorization to release education records to a third party if they choose to do so. OMG! Our daughter chose to do so (she chose wisely).

What really made me think OMG was when they said, "your adult children's school information..."


OMG! I am the parent of an adult child...well daughter will not be 18 until mid-July...still...OMG!