My Summer Writing Getaway ~ with a friend

This is the second summer local Florida Christian romantic-suspense writer Dalyn Woods and I have embarked on a writer’s retreat for two. We usually don’t go far. The idea is not to spend hours in the car driving to a resort, but to get someplace relatively quickly and so we can write. We also have to find pet-friendly lodging because I travel with Sophie the Wonder Dog who is twelve and 90 percent blind with cataracts. She is dependent upon me and has to go with me. Thankfully, she’s a really good sidekick on the road.

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Dalyn Woods working on her manuscript

This year Dalyn and I spent the week in Titusville where we went to church with Florida Christian fiction writer Fay Lamb, and then went out for brunch at Dixie Crossroads with her husband Marc and her neighbor Annie. Dixie Crossroads is most often rated as the number one restaurant Titusville and it’s got fantastic seafood. Fay also directed us to the Sunrise Bread Company in downtown Titusville. This is a local bakery and coffee shop with free WiFi and comfortable sofas and chairs that are ideal for several hours of writing. We met Fay there one afternoon and spent another afternoon there with our laptops.

Our first night in town it rained, so we decided to eat close to our lodging at a place called The Irish Pub and Eatery. It’s a tiny place that was filled nearly to the max with locals who obviously knew the staff and the menu. Only two seats were left, but all we needed was two. We had the shepherd’s pie which was delish and perfect for a rainy day. They have a deck which would double the seating in good weather. Our last day there, we ate at Mainstreet Philly Cheesesteak which is owned by Annie’s son-n-law. Annie is the neighbor of Fay and Marc Lamb’s who we had brunch with on Sunday after church. Dalyn and I do recommend the sandwiches. Titusville might not be thought of as a destination, but you might rethink that. It has reasonably priced hotels and motels, a good selection of restaurants, is on the Indian River (which lets out on the Atlantic) and has beaches. Two museums to visit are the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum and the American Police Hall of Fame Museum. On it’s western border is St. John’s National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a short drive to Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach.

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Dalyn and I also took a side trip to CoCoa Beach and had lunch on the pier in Pelican’s, a restaurant that my husband Joseph and I had lunch in several years ago. The restaurant sits in the middle of a long pier, and this is the view of the end of the pier. There are several shops on the pier. I bought a coffee mug and a pair of starfish earrings in one of the shops.

I’m looking forward to next summer’s little writer’s retreat. Maybe we’ll go to the westcoast of Florida or to one of Georgia’s islands. The there’s this little place in Florida that has houseboats for the week. That catches my imagination.

A Micro-Duckling ~ fights through with a teensy bit of help

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My condo complex is built next to a natural pond with a creek running into and out of it. So, we have ducks. As you approach my building, there is a sign: Slow: Duck Crossing.

So, one of the female ducks had a brood of six, and one of them was teeny, itsy-bitsy. The mom seemed to pick on it. This seems to be so brutal, but these are wild creatures, not tame…and she is a small new mom and may have been very anxious. So, this little one would sorta hide beneath one of his siblings. He touched my heart with such an huge impact that I began seriously praying for his survival. I mean fervently throughout the day. I didn’t see the gaggle for over a week. When I saw next them, this little one had survived the 8 or 9 days or so, and had grown, but was still the micro-duckling of the group. The mom seemed not to be picking on him so much, but he was still attached to the side of his sibling. Wherever the other duckling went, he went. I began think of this little one as he, a generic kind of he. I’ll find out in another month or so what sex he is by his markings.

We also have a colony of stray cats. A vet tech lived in the condo complex before I moved in and she trapped them and had them neutered. Thus, we don’t have kittens…so far. A few of the residents feed the cats and the ducks cat food. Since I knew they were eating cat food, I’d approach the group of ducklings and toss cat food to them, making sure the itsy one got a good portion of the food, but not overly so. Didn’t want him to gorge and become ill. This goes along with my decision to live more intentionally. To do things with purpose and to stick to it. To be mindful.

Well, he’s grown some and I don’t feed them any more because it’s better that they forage for food in the reeds around the pond and in the grass instead of beg for human food or cat food. Actually, the cat food is better for them than the white bread some people feed them. Commercial white bread has no food value for humans or for ducks…but that’s another blog article.

I do chase the males away from this small mom and her brood ~ yeah, intentionally and with purpose on my part. At this time of year the males tussle and it seems to frighten this new mom. We have traffic at the condo complex and it’s best if things are calm when she’s leading her ducklings to and from the pond. Once, after a rainfall, I caught mom and her younguns splashing in a puddle in the middle of the parking lot. Looked like a lot of fun. Still, I took on the role of killjoy and chased them onto the grass and kept chasing them till they were well away from the asphalt. At any rate, I’m happy to report the little guy is growing and doing well.

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Meanwhile, at my client’s house on another Florida pond (where because I’m semi-retired but too energetic not to work, I do part-time in-home care) we have another duck scenario going on.

There is a grouping for four ducks at one end of the pond. It seems to be one male and three females. A lone female from the other side of the pond is trying to bring herself and and her fairly large duckling (he’s still got the grayish brown duckling feathers, but he’s about to get his adult feathers) into the group. The adult male in the group of four doesn’t want the large duckling. That’s why I’m thinking this duckling is a male. The mother keeps swimming up to the group and without fail, the large male duck viciously (but with no physical contact) chases the duckling away.

At one point, after one of these chases, the duckling wound up on one side of the pond and his mom was on the other. The duckling frantically rushed back and forth along the bank calling for her. She’s a small, new mom with only one duckling and is no match for the male. So, she made her way slowly around the pond while the duckling cried for her. When she got to him, she led him away to the far end. This went on in duckdom for three days. And each time the male rejected the duckling.

On the fourth day, the mom stopped trying to introduce herself and her duckling into the larger group of ducks. I was so proud of her, she chose her duckling. She set up camp for the two of them at the far end of the pond where they stayed all day. They foraged for food together and they nestled together. At one point she gave me a scare. She began pushing the duckling’s head under water and I thought she was trying to drown him. No, she was showing him how to take a bath in the pond. After pushing his head under a few times, she ducked hers under and when she came up, shook her head and flapped her wings. He immediately imitated her.

Life in the wild can be brutal and scary. I guess that’s why it’s called the wild. Many days when I enter my house, I just have to hug my cats and my little doggie and tell them I love them and that I will protect them. Like that small duck mom who chose her baby over the protection for herself of the group, I choose them. It’s stewardship, yes, and love for all creatures large and small.

 

Mrs. Turtle ~ a day in a life

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Every life has value, and God pronounced them all “good.”

While walking my dog, I came upon her one morning. She sat on the sidewalk that surrounded a group of apartment buildings in my condo complex. My neighbor thought she’d walked across our wide asphalt parking lot to lay her eggs in one of the areas our landscapers had planted with all kinds of tropical foliage.IMG_2968

When I approached her, she became afraid, ducked her head in.

The problem was, in the time it had taken to lay her eggs, the sun had risen and this is Florida. We’ve been having record highs. It was very hot and she’d have to get across hot asphalt to get back to the creek…where she had no doubt come from. Not to mention, landscapers were driving their trucks in and residents were going out.IMG_2971

I was born in the wilds of rural New York State, so touching a turtle is no problem for me. I picked her up, carried her across the parking lot, and placed her on bank of the creek at the other side of our condo complex.

A simple thing really. It took no more than five minutes out of my day. An intentional and truly good moment, one that I count as joy. I hope God considers this an act of good stewardship in terms of His creation and a small creature who could not navigate modern existence.

Outdoor Work ~ a small slice of intentional living

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Workers removed the old damaged siding.

Workers have taken the water damaged siding off of a portion of the outside of my condo unit. This is Florida, you get water damage. I’m pleased with the attention my Home Owners Association (HOA) pays to detail.

I feel the Holy Spirit guided me to chose this particular condo. My move here was very intentional. I took my time looking before purchasing.

Prepare your work outside
And make it ready for yourself in the field;
Afterwards, then, build your house. ~ Proverbs 24: 27 New American Standard Bible [NASB]

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flowering bushes in front of and on the sides of my unit

 

The Lord doesn’t “speak” to me in earth shattering ways. I don’t have visitations and visions. I find the Lord’s voice in the peace I have inside with a particular situation. Of course I do have to pray about it and ask the Lord what His will is. Then after that, I seek inner peace about it.

 

The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish tears it down with her own hands. ~ Proverbs 14: 1; New American Standard Bible [NASB]

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a bloom of the type behind my unit

To me, yes, this Scripture is talking about the physical house, housekeeping. A wise woman knows how to keep her house. So many young women don’t know a thing about housekeeping today and that’s a shame. Housekeeping isn’t only about dusting the furniture and floors, though it starts with that. It’s about keeping the house, holding onto it…not being foreclosed. It’s an intentional way of living.

At one time, I lived a much more haphazard lifestyle. And let me tell you, there are many more ‘hazards’ in a haphazard life than in an intentional one. At some point, metaphorical skinned knees lost a lot of their appeal to me.

Yes, bad things can happen to good people, to planners, to intentional livers. What I wanted to do was cut down on the self-inflicted wounds.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. ~ James 1:5; New American Standard Bible [NASB]

I would say, this next verse is most closely the way I hear from God…that is as long as I’m also hearing the Word of God (Bible) and praying. For me, it only works in that order.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. ~ Isaiah 30:21; English Standard Version [ESV]

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Elephant Ear behind my unit

 

 

 

No Florida Fare During a Polar Vortex ~ beet soup (Winter Borscht)

Winter Borscht

With temps in Jacksonville dipping to 32 degrees at night (not good for the orange groves), I wanted something warm and comforting to eat. Shrimp ceviche, chicken salad with white grapes,  or Caesar salad with roasted chicken pieces  wasn’t as appealing as it was a week ago.

So, I fell back on the Slavic food of my heritage and a couple of days ago whipped up a pot of vegetarian winter borscht. I didn’t eat it vegetarian. I sprinkled a healthy dose of uncured real bacon bits on top and added the dollop of light sour cream you see in the photo. I never use fat-free sour cream. It’s got imitation everything. But I often has as a staple in my fridg uncured bacon or light (reduced fat) sour cream.

I don’t give recipes any more because I don’t use them. I chopped up two stalks of organic celery and threw it in because I had it on hand, wanted to use it, and celery is healthy eating. My mother and grandmother didn’t use celery in their borscht, but I’ve found it in some recipes. Of course, to me, these are simply guidelines. I like cooking without a net.

Speaking of cooking without a net…as it hadn’t gotten any warmer, yesterday I made a pot of brats with cabbage, canned tomatoes and tomato paste, carrots, onion, celery…totally without a net. I use little to no oil and the Johnsonville beef brats were lean. So, I threw in some organic apple cider vinegar to add flavor. It was only partially successful. During the next Polar Vortex, when I make it again, I’ll also add cubed Granny Smith apples. I think that would make it absolutely yummy.

I cook without a net, however, I don’t recommend living without one. If my recipe is only semi-successful, I can improve on it the next time. In life, sometimes there is no next time. When we make a mistake, we might have to live with the consequences for years. Jesus is my net. I believe in intentional living based on biblical principals without being legalistic, and it works for me.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29: 11 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

There are many excellent winter borscht recipes. Here’s a simple one from Eating Well Recipes that looked really good to me and doesn’t have exotic ingredients my Ukrainian grandmother never heard of and doesn’t require a culinary degree to prepare it.

Eating Well Borscht

 

 

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.

 

 

Deck the Chairs 2018 ~ Jacksonville Beach

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.