Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ode to 2016

Another year passes by
Pretty paintings by my hand and another's
Too much sadness, it made us cry
Marked by death, a sister's and a mother's

Not all was sadness some good times were had
Yummy Greek food and Swamp Cabbage
A Hippo at Homasassa, Johnny Appleseed, Anthony Mad
And watching Spud walk across the college stage

I wished to write more day by day
About things within this year
But things got in the way
Surgeries and hospital stays, from my writing they would steer

2017 will be a year of catch up
And new things to write about
I am a gal of "half-full" cup
I choose to believe more happy than sad will be next year's route

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Darling-Sister-In-Law (June 3, 1960 - November 23, 2016)

When The Colonel and I were first dating I learned he had only one sibling, an older sister. He told me she was very short (4'10") and very smart (basically a straight A student from birth) . I was looking forward to meeting her for the first time, yet I was a bit nervous too.

I liked her the first time I met her. She had a great sense of humor and adventure. She packed a lot of living in her 56 years on Earth. In the 32 years I was blessed to have her in my life, DSIL became not only the best sister-in-law anyone could ask for but also a very good friend. I miss her terribly.

We have been getting many calls, cards, letters, emails, texts and floral arrangements from our family, friends and friends of DSIL. It is very evident that she made a positive impact on those who knew her.

Our friendship grew when The Colonel and I visited her a couple of times while she lived in Key West and Little Torch Key. I remember when she took us shark fishing. Those sharks put up a heck of a fight at the end of our lines. She also took us boating and snorkeling.

When Yam and Spud came along DSIL was the quintessential aunt. Yam and Spud loved their aunt very much. DSIL and Yam shared a love for Disney World. She took Yam there for her 18th birthday. What a great memory for Yam to have about her aunt.

DSIL was a good sister too. She and The Colonel were very close and shared a deep friendship that can be rare in siblings. They shared an interest in genealogy and for many years they would make trips back to the Midwest to pour over documents about their ancestors. Their friendship and mine with her, deepened further when she moved to our town after she retired in 2014.

Even before DSIL retired, she would come from the other coast of Florida to volunteer her help with programs that The Colonel and I were involved with such as the historical cemetery tours.

When she finally retired she became more involved with historical programs and tours. We all enjoyed dressing up in our costumes to teach adults and children about local history.

DSIL not only volunteered for the history programs, she was also a weekly volunteer at the local library (a book will soon be dedicated there in honor of DSIL). She helped out with the museum where The Colonel and I have been volunteers for 10 years now. DSIL became active in the local fossil club and was one of its board members. She also was an instructor, classroom coordinator and trips committee member on the board for the Life Long Learning Institute (the local adult continuing education program). 

The Colonel, DSIL and I have always loved Halloween. When The Colonel and I lived in Key West DSIL would come to visit during Fantasy Fest (a week-long, sometimes hedonistic Halloween celebration). We would dress up (leaving the kids with a sitter) and cruise Duvall Street. One Fantasy Fest DSIL and I went downtown together, leaving The Colonel at home with the kids. There is a tradition during Fantasy Fest to flash someone your breasts and then you receive a colorful, beaded necklace. Well, DSIL were not about to show anyone our "girls" but we did want some beads. So, we fabricated some fake boobs. We took knee-high pantyhose and cut the toes out of them and then glued a Playtex baby bottle nipple where the toe used to be. We took pink fingernail polish and painted the nipples. We stuffed the pantyhose with cotton balls and then pinned the fake boobs to our bras. When someone asked to see out breasts we flashed them with our fake ones (which were hanging just above our shirt tails). As I recall, we did get a fair amount of beads (and laughs) that Fantasy Fest.

As we were going through DSIL's things, I ran across her Fantasy Fest fake boobs. I had to laugh. I don't know if I still have mine.   

Pictured above is DSIL as "Rat Girl". Rat Girl made her first appearance at Fantasy Fest one year. DSIL resurrected Rat Girl this year for Halloween. Here are some of DSIL's other Halloween costumes.

The Colonel is very organized and a big planner and so was DSIL. This is making it much easier on The Colonel as he is handling all the things that one must go through upon a death. So much paperwork is involved. Thank God DSIL had a spreadsheet containing all the information that The Colonel needs (this has prompted me to tighten up my spreadsheet)

DSIL had pre-planned for her death (we all should, nobody gets out of here alive). She purchased a space in the Key West cemetery, pre-paid for her cremation, left directions for the disposition of her ashes, designed her grave marker and wrote her own obituary (by her own admission she had a wonderful life). Her pre-planning has prompted me to get more serious about my own.

DSIL's death was unexpected. She was not feeling well after breakfast on November 13th and went to the local hospital's ER (had a CT scan) and from there was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital. The CT scan showed that she had blood clots in three branches of her descending aorta. The blood supplying her abdominal cavity was cut off and this caused her to have what the doctors called a "catastrophic abdominal event".  She had four surgeries in the ten days she was at Tampa General. The surgeons were removing necrotic tissue with each surgery in hopes of being able to save what they could. There was just too much damage to the organs and intestines.

The Colonel and I made the two-hour drive to Tampa General every day (well, I missed one day because of a bad cold) to see DSIL. She was sedated most of the time but when she was awake she was unable to speak and be understood because of the intubation. After the emotionally draining visit we headed back home with another two-hour drive ahead of us. We did this for ten days.

The day after DSIL went into the hospital, my Favorite-Father-In-Law went into our local hospital. He was having problems keeping anything down. He was in the hospital for eight days (the first time...he was hospitalized two more times within a month before they found the blockage and performed surgery). The Colonel and I had to go from one hospital to the next for a while. It is no wonder we both came down with nasty colds. We were worn out.

It is just over a month and it still does not seem real that DSIL is gone from us. Even after picking up her ashes from the post office, bringing them home and seeing them, it does not seem real. Maybe when we head down to Key West next summer and put her ashes in her final resting place it will finally become real to us.

Writing this post has been difficult. I have been putting it off for a while. It's not that I am too sad to write it, it is that I feel I cannot adequately say all I want to say about DSIL and how much of a part of my life she was especially once she retired. I don't feel like I can get all of the nuances that were DSIL across to those who did not know her. I feel as if I cannot do her justice. I am truly blessed to have had her as friend and family.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Graduate (Not Dustin Hoffman)

Spud is now a college graduate. We are proud of him and pleased that he has completed his degree. He graduated on Friday, August 5th from the University of North Florida (UNF) with a Bachelor of Business Administration Business Management (Coggin College of Business).

The Colonel and I drove the six hours up to Jacksonville on graduation day. Spud's commencement ceremony would not begin until 2 p.m. The truck was loaded with some things Spud wanted from his old room at home. The plan was to stop at Spud's apartment, drop the things off, change our clothes and then follow him to the UNF Arena. We planned to be there in plenty of time but because of terrible traffic the entire drive up, we made it with minutes to spare before we had to go to the arena. We made the drop off, toured the apartment, changed clothes and followed Spud to the arena's parking lot, and walked to the arena without being late.

We parted ways with Spud as he had to get ready inside. We waited outside for The Colonel's parents and sister to arrive. They drove up together. The only family member that would not be present was Yam. She wanted to but had recently started her new job as graphic specialist with the county and could not get the time off. She was able to watch a live feed on line.

We did not have to wait long for the in-laws. Once the doors opened we filed in and found decent seats. The arena was filling up fast. It would be a full house.

The graduates began the filing in. Spud walked in on the same side of the room as we were sitting. We got his attention and waved...he now knew where we were seated. Every once in a while he would turn to look at us and smile or wave from his seat.

I was happy that all who had a speaking part kept it short and sweet. When it came time for the graduates to line up to walk across the stage, that too went quickly.

The above picture was a screen capture that Yam was able to get as she was watching at work. Thank God she was able to get it because the picture I took was terrible. Of course they pronounced Spud's last name wrong even after he submitted a phonetically spelled out version of it to the announcer. Have people forgotten or do they no longer teach that the silent E makes the vowel long? Whenever we get a phone call and the person mispronounces our last name, we immediately know they do not know us (and usually worth hanging up on).

After the ceremonies we all met up with Spud, officially met his nice girlfriend and had her take the family photos (Sure wished Yam could have been there too).

The UNF mascot is the Osprey and there is a pretty fountain that has an Osprey statue in the middle of it. I wanted to get a photo of Spud with that fountain in the background. We had to wait for our turn...every graduate seemed to be getting their photo taken there. Again Spud's girlfriend was the photographer. I also wanted to have my photo taken with Spud. My baby was now a college graduate and I was a proud mommy.

Everyone was getting hungry and we all enjoy a good BBQ meal so Spud recommended a restaurant called 4 Rivers Smokehouse...great choice!

We all gave Spud his graduation cards and gifts once dinner was over. It was so good to see his smiling face as he opened each card.

Shortly after The Colonel and I returned home I posted a graduation picture of Spud on my Facebook page. I said how proud we were of him and congratulated him. One of our friends from our Air Force days left a comment beneath Spud's picture. It said, "Congratulations, Bird and The Colonel!" When I read that I was taken aback for a split second. I had not expected a congratulations sent our way. But I guess we were to be congratulated...we had just had our second child graduate college...we as parents made it possible for our children to obtain college degrees (without any debt to them or us) and gave them an excellent start upon their road to independent adulthood. Congratulations accepted.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Dessert Disaster

The Colonel and I recently made sea grape jelly again (Yam helped us with this batch). In our freezer we had four gallon bags, stuffed to nearly bursting, with last season's bumper harvest of huge, plump sea grapes. The bags of sea grapes were taking up much of the freezer space and we were expecting some venison from our friends so we had to make room in the freezer. We had been meaning to make the jelly sooner but kept putting it off. If it weren't for the venison's impending arrival the jelly would probably still be unmade.

The jelly recipe we use calls for five cups of juice and all of those grapes gave up just over seven cups. My friend who taught me how to make this jelly said to never freeze the juice as it will have ice crystals in it, diluting it, and will not make a good jelly. What to do with the extra juice?

I decided to try making sea grape sherbet in my ice cream maker. I looked through the recipe book that came with the ice cream maker. I figured that the orange sherbet recipe would be a good fit and just substitute the orange juice with sea grape juice.

I combined 3 cups of whole milk with 1-1/4 cups of sea grape juice (the remaining juice was discarded) and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a blender until smooth.

I then poured the blended liquid into the ice cream maker and let it do its thing for 30 minutes.

Once the maker was finished with its churning I had to put the semi-frozen sea grape sherbet in a container and put it in the freezer to ripen for two hours.

When the two hours were up I scooped some of the sherbet into a dessert dish. It wasn't creamy, it had more of an ice-milk consistency.

I tasted it...The Colonel tasted it...Yam tasted it...

Three thumbs down! The sea grape sherbet was a disaster! It was not sweet enough. To be honest, I do not think adding more sugar, in any amount, to this recipe could ever make the sherbet better.

We better just stick to sea grape jelly. We know that tastes good. It has been called "Jewels on Toast" by one of my favorite foodies.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Creature Creation

It is nearing Halloween and The Colonel and I are participating in a few programs for the county's history center. I am portraying a spirit who tells of hauntings in the area. The Colonel is a Cryptozoologist (a pseudo-scientist who searches for creatures that have not been proven to exist due to lack of evidence).

The Colonel tells the program attendees about some of the creatures on his list such as the Skunk Ape (Florida's Big Foot). But his main focus is on the Moss Man.

Florida's first Moss Man sighting was in 1978 in a Boca Raton park called Red Reef Park. A couple were taking a romantic stroll on the beach near the park. They spied a skinny, ragged creature with bright colored eyes. It was covered in a grassy, leaf-like substance.

The Moss Man was seen for a couple of years, especially when slow rolling fog came in from the ocean. In 1980, the creature began appearing again. There were at least eleven sightings. The 1990s saw a few more glimpses of the Moss Man.

Tales speak of a Moss Man the 1500s Spanish Conquistadors invaded the Florida region. One of the men kidnapped a Native American princess. He was a terrible man. He raped her, decapitated her and then tied her head to a tree.

The legend continues to claim that the princess' hair took root in the tree and her spirit infected all plant life in the area. A medicine man created the Moss Man from the vegetation to wreak havoc upon the Spanish and their descendants to drive them away.

It is said that the Moss Man is around six to seven feet tall and can weigh anywhere from 200 to 450 pounds. That's a lot of Spanish Moss!

Well, if The Colonel was a Cryptozoologist focusing mainly on the Moss Man, we had to create one to unveil for the program attendees (the first program was for a group of kids...not a one was afraid of our Moss Man).

The Colonel ordered the PVC pipe kit that would become the Moss Man's skeletal system. He pieced it together and attached it to a base of wood. He then ordered some monster hands (they came all the way from China). We hit Hobby Lobby and found the perfect foam head. Once The Colonel painted the head gray I painted the facial detail.

We visited a local cemetery to gather Spanish Moss. There was plenty on the ground in the older section of the cemetery.

Now came the time to attach the moss to the Moss Man. We had a bit of chicken wire left over from our ghost manufacturing and used it to fashion a chest, back and shoulders.

Now came the time to artfully attach the Spanish Moss to our man. The Colonel let me have the lead in this. He said I have a better artist's eye.

As we were building our Moss Man we were conscious of the fact that we would have to transport him to two local libraries for our historical programming. We ended up deciding that wrapping him up in an old sheet and then tying the sheet down with rope would be the best way to go. We would then use our hand truck to wheel him to the bed of the truck and secure him in the bed with more rope. It did work as planned but we sure got some strange looks from people as we wheeled the suspiciously humanoid-form, draped in a sheet into the library...especially since it was packed with early voters.

The Colonel wants to put the Moss Man on our front porch for Halloween after the programs are over. I think the Moss Man will go nicely with our ghost and pole-dancing skeleton already in the yard.