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

 

 

A Hiding Place ~ for Christmas presents

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Beauty, what are you doing in my secret hiding place???

I don’t have to hide Christmas gifts from kids anymore, as mine are adults. However, I have to hide any present in a decorative gift bag from my cats. They love to climb inside bags and hide there, or tear them apart. So, I had a brilliant idea. They’d never find the bags inside the armoire. Would they?

 

 

 

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, ~ John 1:112 [New American Standard Bible – NASB]

Merry Christmas Everyone

 

Dream a Little Christmas Dream ~ celebrate

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My late husband Joseph and I picked this up in Key Largo and It’s hung on the tree since.

I start to dream just a tad more during the Christmas holiday season. For me it starts the day after Thanksgiving. To me, that day has never been Black Friday. It’s always been more of a Christmas Fantasy Friday. Although I love all the lights and tinsel (especially the lights), I don’t want to get caught up in it. I have to always remember the One who is the divine dream giver. He has a purpose and a plan for me and for you.

 

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My daughter Vicky’s Christmas cookie to go.

So, while I’m firmly aware of Who is the author of my dreams, I find myself leafing through pages of ladies magazines, looking for holiday food and Christmas decorating ideas. Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Journal is terrific for gathering ideas. I also surf the web for delish Christmas recipes. I started on my own low cal/carb style of eating (not a diet) and lost a substantial amount of weight over the last five years. And I’ve kept it off. So, I will indulge (somewhat) in holiday desserts and other high cal treats, but won’t overdo it. It takes some intentionality, but that’s my new buzz word: intentionality! That’s why I’m so thrilled at how easy it is to find truly healthy Christmas recipes that look and taste marvelous.

I also love Christmas decorating shows on the various cable networks. I love to watch instructions on how to make Christmas crafts. Love the old classical and the new innovative ways to deck the halls. I’m afraid I’ve become an HGTV and a DIY Network addict. I’ll have to go to 12-Step meetings in January. “Hello, my name is Nike, and I’m addicted to home improvement cable channels.”

It seems this year there is much less of a war against Christmas. Oh, there are still Scrooges and Grinches out there, and they take great pleasure at bringing all Christmas celebrants down a notch or two. Don’t let them. Pity them and pray for them. And then get on with Christmas cheer. Celebrate ground retaken.

I’m happy to revel in the Christmas spirit, you see because over two thousand years ago in the city of Bethlehem an angel burst forth with great joy announcing the Good News, “Peace on earth. Good will toward men.” [Luke 2:14] Jesus was born. He has decked the halls of my heart ever since the day I first invited Him in.

 

Palm Sunday ~ begins Holy Week

Palm Sunday, Triumphal Entry

 

 

Commemorating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem with palms is entirely a Christian thing. Our forefathers and mothers in the church, even children lauded King Jesus in this way. Ordinary people. Though they most likely didn’t know what kind of King He was.

Then they hurried and each man took his garment and placed it under him on the bare steps, and blew the trumpet, saying, “Jehu is king!” ~ 2 Kings 9:13 [New American Standard Bible]

This is a very important day in human history. It is the day that Jesus began his last journey…His journey to the cross. This is not the event that would change everything, but it’s the event that points to the cross and resurrection.

Palm Sunday is a day of great hope. We are reminded that hope sometimes must endure a dark night, dark season. But God is glorious. His grace is perfect and He loves us. He will bring us through.

The story of Palm Sunday and the events of the last Passover are told in the Gospel of Matthew, starting in Chapter 21, and in the Gospel of Mark, starting in Chapter 11.

Palm Sunday, palms

Lenten Season ~ clean it up

House Cleaning

Traditionally, people in the Main Line, Catholic, and Orthodox churches thoroughly clean their houses during Lent. Deep Cleaning. Spring Cleaning. They’re preparing for Holy Week, the remembrance of the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus. The celebration of His resurrection.

My Christian spiritual practice isn’t traditional or Orthodox, yet, I find comfort in tying my spring cleaning to the church Lenten season. There’s something renewing about cleaning the house in preparation for remembrance of the passion and resurrection of Jesus. I can’t help but think about cleaning my mind and my soul as well.

As I’m cleaning, I’m thinking of what I don’t need anymore that’s in good to excellent condition that I can take to Goodwill. My church is collecting food for Easter dinners for families in need and Easter baskets for their children. The church has provided a list of food items to contribute. I already brought to the church canned corn and green beans for a family of six, as well as collard greens (this is the south), boxed instant potatoes and boxed mac ‘n cheese. As far as food stuff, I still have to bring…a boxed pie crust mix, canned pie filling, canned yams, and a $20 supermarket gift certificate for a ham. Then I’ll hit the dollar store and pick up an Easter basket, plastic eggs and individually wrapped candy to go inside the eggs for the kiddies.

I’m glad my church is doing this. This effort on my part makes my Easter a bit brighter. God has blessed me and it feels good passing it along during the Lenten Season. And my house will be a bit cleaner. Which reminds me, I have to get out my vacuum.

 

Olde Faux Trees the Best? ~ transitions

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I ‘drug’ my old and once quite expensive fake Christmas tree from Brooklyn to northeastern coastal Florida. Nearly twenty years ago, my husband and I went to one of those upscale Christmas stores AFTER the season and bought one of their larger and fuller display trees. At that time and with the end of season sale it was still over $200.

Joseph is gone, and though I’m still 39 (yeah, right), I’m no spring chicken. Last year, when I hauled the tree out of my shed and put it up in my tiny two-bedroom house in Florida, I swore I’d never do that again! It was too heavy for me to drag in and then at the end of the season drage out. Putting it up and taking it down was too much work. It’s one of those that must be assemebled branch-by-branch. Yet, this year I got it out again and managed to get it up with a ton of whining and murmuring. As some of you might know, I’ve had a rep for having perfected whining to an art form. However, totally through the grace of God, I’ve been able to knock a lot of that nonsense off.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing ~ Philippians 2:14 [NSB]

 

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A good start.

When I say it’s work to put the tree up, that’s what I mean. The trunk has to be assembled. long the trunk letters Have been printed (A, B, C, D, E, F, G) and they are color coded. The branches also have those letters printed on them in the corresponding color. Twenty years ago, those letters were easy to read, not so much now.

 

In Brooklyn, we’d assembled a layer of boughs, then layer lights in a cirsle around the tree at that level. We’d continue…a layer of boughs topped by a layer of lights until we reached the top. By the time we were done, we might have three hundred lights on the tree. Of course, there were two or more of us decorating. Now there’s just me. I love decorating. I love everything about Christmas. Decorations are a symbolic tribute to the babe who was born in a manger over 2000 years ago. The many lights abounding in every home, business, and thoroughfare mere representation of the Light that entered the world.

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Coming along. A long way to go yet.

 

I hope to make another transition in 2018 and enter a new season in my life. I plan to move to an apartment where yard work will be handled by management. I’d like to have a swimming pool for exercise and to keep limber. And so I have caught myself muttering, I’m not going to take that tree. It’s going to Goodwill. Sounds a lot like what I was saying last year. Will the tree go with me? Only time will tell.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. ~ Isaiah 9: 6-7 [KJV]

 

Nativity

 

 

 

Gingerbread House Extravaganza, JAX ~ out with the girls

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Moi kissing the Gingerbread Man

I roll with a group of gals calling ourselves Christian Gals Dining & Doing-JAX. Six of us went to see the amazing gingerbread houses displayed at the Jacksonville Historical Society in Old St. Andrews. Tis the season…

The gingerbread houses had already been judged and blue ribbons were given out in several categories. The structures were made of gingerbread and held together with a strong icing. In many cases fonant covered them. Many other candies and foods were used in ingenious ways: candy canes, pretzels, twizlers, marshmallows, life savers, jellied candies, Swiss rolls, bread, cereal, and much more.

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Visitors voted for a “people’s choice type” award. I voted for this one: The Mandarin Garden Club. The work one on it was incredible. If you look through the door, a woman is sitting.

 

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That woman is Harriet Beecher Stowe author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” She lived in Mandarin, a community in Jacksonville.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This 1950s Florida ranch home came close to being my “people’s choice.” The house is lit up from withing and people are inside

 

 

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Theater Jacksonville, or the Little Theatre ~ live stage productions

 

 

 

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San Marco Theatre & Grill ~ showing first run movies and offering up eats, beer and wine
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Jacksonville Central Fire Station No 1
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Jacksonville Beach Red Cross Volunteer Life Saving Corps.
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The life story of Jesus. Holding onto the silver knob the exhibit can be rotated from the birth of the Christ Child to the cross.
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The life story of Jesus. Holding onto the silver knob the exhibit can be rotated from the birth of the Christ Child to the cross.

 

 

 

There were so many more to see: the Jaguar den at the zoo, a cabin made by a nine-year-old, the historical Myers and Halstead Farm, a rendition of the North Pole, a scape of little huts by a second grade class, a salute of Jules Verne, and so much more.

 

 

The Hurrican Irma tree with bark from trees and varieouspieces of wood found in the aftermath used as its ornamentation, as well as photos of the destruction.