My Christmas Story ~ 2019

Xmas Angel

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. ~ Luke 2:10-11, King James Version [KJV]

The Christmas season is my favorite time of year. It’s a season that starts with Advent and ends on the 12th Day of Christmas, sometimes called Epiphany or Three Kings Day (January 6). These twelve days are symbolic of the period of time from the birth of Jesus until the Three Magi arrived in Bethlehem bearing giftsfor the baby Jesus.

.Xmas 19 JAX Chick-fil-A 12 Days   Xmas FL 19 JAX Chick-fil-A   JAX Chick-f0;-A Carolers   Xmas 19 JAX Chick-fil-A Cow

My personal Christmas celebration began twelve days before Christmas when the local Chick-fil-A in the Mandarin neighborhood of Jacksonville had their own “12 Days of Christmas” with a percentage of sales going to local charities. I was sooo excited I got my pix taken in the sleigh with the Chick-fil-A cow from the TV commercials…or a kids dressed up like him. He does exist!

Xmas Fl 19 Deb Williams   Xmas Fl 19 Deb Tree #2   Xmas FL Deb Tree #3   Xmas Fl 19 Deb Nativity

Christmas has always been important to me. I believe in the supernatural, and so believe in the Spirit of Christmas. This is how Jesus manifests Himself to me at this time of year through the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s as if He’s wrapped me up in a warm blanket of good cheer, music, glittering lights. ~~  The next stop on my Christmas journey was my good and excellent gal-pal Deborah Williams. (see above) Now she’s a real decorating diva. She invited her good friend Becky Walsh, Valery Riley, a professor at Trinity College and kittie foster mom, and moi for a Christmas luncheon featuring one of her famous chili recipes. Yum.Xmas FL 19

Then Lynn Wood Rix (writing as Dalyn Woods) and Lou Ann Atwood, my JAX reading, writing, lunch/dinner, thrifting friends celebrated Christmas the Friday before with a steak dinner at the Longhorn Steakhouse.

Xmas FL Destiny Kids

Next came the Christmas Sunday service at Destiny Church. Lou Ann Atwood and her adult son Douglas went with me. The children performed a brief skit…more like a skitlet, and then they sang a truly powerful rendition of the Christmas song, “My Gift Is Me.” There was also an amazing saxophone solo when the adult music team sang. I’d already put my phone away and couldn’t get it out and right-side-up fast enough to get a pix of the sax player. (My relationship with cell phones is another blog article.Xmas FL 19 Alaska Logs 2

Every year I do Christmas baking. I always make my mother’s recipe for Alaska Logs which is a huge hit wherever I bring them. Thanks mom!  Last Christmas I gave the recipe on this blog. Click for recipeThis year I also made Cheaters Christmas Stollen which Olivia, a sweetheart of a character in my new release ACTS OF MALICE, baked for guests. Stollen is a German Christmas sweet bread with fruit and possibly also nuts. The cheaters version is a hack that takes half-the-time. It’s the first time I’ve made it, and while it tastes good, I’ll perfect it by next year and give the recipe then. ~~ So, I finished my baking on the day of Christmas Eve. There wasn’t enough time to make a proper Eastern European Christmas Eve dinner for myself (meatless) and also get to a candlelight service. So, I threw family tradition to the wind and grabbed some dinner at Chili’s. Then I drove to the Mandarin Presbyterian Church for their candlelight service which was amazing. I didn’t take any photos of the magnificent church and choir because I was a first-time guest and as the service ended, we were instructed to light our candles and to walk out onto their piazza as a body to sing Christmas carols. At that point, I was juggling candle in one hand, handbag on my other shoulder. And then there’s that proverbial relationship (or lack of one) I have with cell phone…so, no photos.

I went to Lou Ann’s house for Christmas dinner and also didn’t take photos. Again, I was a first time guest. Besides, the good sized house was crammed with family and friends and the joint was jumpin’. And then there’s that relationship I have with cell phones. There’s no pix of it, but trust me, the prime rib was out-of-this world as were the desserts and everything in-between.

Beth, moi JAX Bch 12.18

I want to take a moment to remember and celebrate the life of my dear friend Beth Glash, Beth Ellen on Facebook, writing amazing Christian romance novels as Jenna Victoria. She waged a full assault on advanced triple negative breast cancer for eight years. This awful disease finally took her on December 5th of this year. We were friends while I lived in Brooklyn (NYC) and she lived on Long Island lunching, mall-crawling, going to movies. She visited me in Florida right before Christmas in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, it was so warm in mid-December that we hung out on Jacksonville Beach in short sleeves. She was an accomplished person in her career. As a Long Island RAW member, she organized and directed their annual luncheon at the Fox Hollow Country Club. What a gal! What a friend! I miss her.

Multi-Grain French Toast ~ a breakfast brew-ha-ha, my second attempt

Bkfst Casserole Savory (2)

Healthy Home Cooking, Cooking For One

 

My second try at a Breakfast Casserole or Baked French Toast using multi-grain bread. This one is ‘savory’ (2 beaten eggs, then beat in 2 C 2% milk, 1/4 finely chopped pecans, 1/2 pkg Hormel less fat real bacon bits, Lawry’s season salt to taste and my advice is take it easy, ground pepper, 1 rounded Tbs sugar). Spray baking dish well. Bake at 350 for 45-50 min or till done. I had to moosh the bread down and crush the crusts to get them to absorb the liquid. It rose back up in baking. I could’ve cut off the crusts but that would’ve eliminated seeds which are healthy. ~ Can serve warm with maple syrup or honey, raspberry jam, sprinkled confectioner sugar. Or eat as is. ~ 3 servings.

In my first casserole/French Toast/bread pudding attempt I used multi-gran bread, the egg and milk bath (no seasoned salt) and apples with brown sugar. Didn’t crush the bread and it didn’t look as good coming out of the oven. I called it bread pudding, which it wasn’t. It tasted good.

BTW, there will be a third attempt. This is a work in progress. And a fourth and fifth…gotta get it right someday as I eat my way thought the test trials.

Trinity Widows Group ~a much needed time

Trinity
Trinity Baptist’s large foyer, widows group meets in Next Steps room.

support, laughter, food

My “Florida sunshine” friend Deborah asked me if I’d like to meet her this afternoon at Trinity Baptist Church for it’s widows group. I immediately said, “YES.”

I’d been feeling down in the dumps. Another dear friend who I’ve known for many years (since my time in NYC) is battling cancer and she’s just moved. Packing up the old house, a cancelled flight and an overnight at an airport hotel, arranging for another flight…and when she arrived in Texas, she was hospitalized. She and I had been texting back and forth for over 24-hours and I was emotionally drained.

My husband passed away three years ago on December 8th, so the holidays are bittersweet for me. Even still, on the very year Joseph died, Christmas was a comfort to me. That year, my house had been decorated since the day after Thanksgiving. So, when I arrived back home in Florida after the memorial service in NYC, my little two-bedroom house had its halls fully decked out…and Christmas enveloped me and comforted me. I know it’s not that way for many who have lost loved ones during the holidays, but the spirit of Christmas held me in its arms that year…and it did last year, and I expect it will this year. Of course, this was Jesus expressing Himself in a gentle and tender way through the symbolism and spirit of the holiday we believers choose to celebrate His birthday.

So meanwhile, back to today…when I got to the church Deborah met me in the parking lot. Inside, the tables were decorated with Pilgrim salt and pepper shakers and there was an informal Thanksgiving buffet. The turkey had been ordered, but all of the other dishes were prepared by the women. When we got to our tables, the very first topic of conversation was how good it was to cook again. Nearly every woman at our table, including me, said she hardly cooked anymore since it was cooking only for one. The ladies had enjoyed breaking out cooking chops again and preparing a dish for a large group. I was really a good cook once, and I feel my skills in the kitchen have diminished from lack of use. I do find that disturbing but it is what it is.

Women shared a lot about their grandchildren, trips taken to Israel, Ireland. And then we got to how even years after your husband’s death…you’re going along…and out of the blue something blindsides you and triggers the old feelings of grief. Of course you knew you weren’t over it…but you thought you’d tucked the worst of it away…and then Pow!

It wasn’t a discussion group. Just a gentle back and forth and it was good and it was healing.

‘A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.’ ~ Psalm 58:5 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

Trinity Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fl  904.596.2400

Trinity Baptist College, Jacksonville, Fl   904.596.2351

Trinity Christian Academy, Jacksonville, FL   904.596.2460

Christmas Under Wraps (Mullet Harbor Book 1) by Fay Lamb ~ a review

Christmas Under Wraps

Romance, Humor, Christmas

This is such an engaging Christmas story. The cast of quirky, sometimes baffling townsfolk living in Mullet Harbor pull you right in.

English Professor Christian Abrams and his nephew Dylan are on the run and wind up in Mullet Harbor, a unique hamlet in the Florida everglades. Chris is broke, out of gas, and has a child to feed. This is when he meets sweet and compassionate local school teacher Kaylee McFarland who talks him into staying in Mullet Harbor at least until after Christmas. That’s when it starts to get interesting…and when Chris learns the townsfolk really do take care of each other and they rely on their faith.

We meet Herb, the mayor who wears flip-flops…and Abigail, the shy town baker who flits around like a hummingbird. Then throw in a Cajun sheriff not afraid to take a chance on a good man. Stir in a delightful little girl named Sophie who’s had more than her share of sorrow in her short life. Could the icing on the top be a Christmas miracle? Perhaps more than one.

This is a fun, delightful read…a romp through the swamp. There’s also an alligator named Abercrombie.

Purchase On Amazon

The Duck War ~ and I win, barely

 

Muscovy Duck 10.19
Unaltered photo taken with my phone. He got close to me!

This is the most aggressive duck I’ve ever encountered!

We have Muscovy wild ducks living in and around the natural pond behind my condo complex (in NE Florida) and the creek that feeds into the pond. Wild ducks are aggressive creatures. The red markings on this gentleman’s face (and I use the term ‘gentleman’ as sarcasm) are meant to intimidate. Yes, ducks can be cute, or beautiful, or striking in appearance…and wild ducks are also extremely aggressive.

Mostly they are aggressive with each other and it can be hilarious when they form a circle and chase each other around and around. They rarely actually harm each other, but they threaten each other continually. In this photo, this is how close this guy was willing to get to me, a human who towers over him. Why did he do that? What did he want

Cat food! Every morning, when it’s still a little dark and the ducks are still sleeping at the pond and not roaming for food…I feed 7-8 stray cats. If I feed when the sun is up, the ducks will also be up and looking to eat, and they will boldly chase the cats away from the food I put out. I stand there every morning so I can shoo ducks away in case any get there early. However, they are cagey. Two will come from one side and when I chase them, another two will come and get the food from the other side, and the cats will go hungry. The ducks don’t need the food. They get fat eating insects and choice pieces of grass, buds, and seeds. That’s why I feed when it’s a little dark.

This morning this gentleman must have not slept at the pond but rather on the grass just beyond my condo. After I’d put the food out, he aggressively came toward me and flapped his wings effectively chasing the cats away. The felines would try to come back and he’s frighten them again. So, I went inside the house for about 45 seconds to get my broom to chase the duck. When I got out my stoop was a mess with cat food scattered all over and the cats were running in all directions.

I was so mad I started chasing this duck with the broom like a wild woman. Honestly, a few times I nearly swatted hm in the tail feathers with the broom. A good thing my neighbors were not yet leaving their houses to go to work. They would’ve had a good laugh. I must’ve looked like a lunatic. LOL

 

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.