Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year 2010!

My New Year's Eve afternoon was spent walking the beach.  It was near 70 degrees and sunny with clear blue skies (although a few of the following photos appear gray....I was facing into the sun in those).  Click any to enlarge:

Too cool for me to swim.....I just strolled....

Someone's handiwork...

Ya gotta at least enlarge this one to see the flock of birds.

Spotting our plane friends (from previous post)

It's 11:30PM now and I can hear the bass and music down at Baytowne Wharf (the Village in Sandestin) as the bay amplifies it across to my part of the resort....even the din of people laughing, screaming, rental agent dropped off a bottle of champagne for me this afternoon, but I won't pop the cork until I'm gathered with some of my new snowbird friends down here....

I did step out onto my front porch, however, and snap these shots of the Blue Moon we are witnessing tonight:

About 10PM

And at 11:15PM, as clouds rolled in....

I hear a fireworks spectacular over the bay now, horns honking outside, and Fox is showing last hour's NY ball drop in Times Square.  So while I watch Dick Clark and New Year's Eve Around the World (hoping to see my Chicago celebrations) I'll wish you all a very Happy New Year 2010!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Silent (Nearly) Night

Too busy being with the grandkids to photograph the grandkids, except for this one time I had them for the afternoon at the park last week, while Pat and Kate finished up some Christmas shopping.   On the drive from the park to CiCi's Pizza (where we don't eat but stay happily involved plunking tokens into prize-producing machines) they fell asleep.

Those are my headlights, as I sit debating about rousing them or letting them awaken on their own.  Problem solved when I turned off the car.  They awoke by themselves, and luckily, in good moods upon seeing we had arrived.

Vegan-Bound, "Julie and Julia"-Inspired

Ok, back from my son's house and a memorable 6-day Christmas visit (thank you Pat and Kate!) and back onto the vegetarian/vegan path.  Since I've been reading my daily emails from about the 21 Day Kick Off that I wrote about in a previous post, I am gearing up for this three-week vegan program. 

And I was about to go, "Oh, hell.  I've tried to do stuff like this before and haven't stuck with it.  Do I really want to expend the effort again?"  So, I took a break and went to read my email when, lo and behold, I encountered today's horoscope (oh, just humor me....I get them daily for fun): 

Tuesday, Dec 29th, 2009 -- You are usually able to cut your losses and move on because you have such a pragmatic outlook on life. But now as you face the prospects of not reaching your goal, consider talking yourself into trying one more time. Although the odds don't seem to be in your favor yet, they could dramatically turn around in just a few short weeks. If you don't give it one more shot, you'll never know what you might have accomplished.

Hmmm, see how I can immediately apply that to the subject of this post?

So I'm going to spend the next couple of afternoons at the local library, printing out what to stock my pantry with for this venture, along with many of the recipes listed at their site. If you want to join me, or attempt any of the recipes yourself, go to  And I'm going to blog about it, just like Julie Powell did in the Julie-Julia Project, her blog which inspired the movie (hence, this post's title.) 

Except I'm not expecting anyone to offer me money for movie rights.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Winter Solstice


We are approaching the seasonal time of the solar year when the ‘sun stands still’—the Winter Solstice. Our word solstice comes from the Latin sol stetit meaning ‘sun stands still.’ For approximately six days, it appears that the sun does not move—mythologically recorded in various cultures tales and mysteries ranging from the legends of the Pacific Islander’s Maui to the enigma surrounding Machu Picchu’s Sun Stone...The Winter Solstice marks the time of the longest dark and the shortest light... At this most important and very special and sacred time of the year, it is most appropriate to consider ones past year and the year to come. The following are some questions that you can ask yourself and include in your Winter Solstice honoring and celebration:

As the light returns what issues are blocking my lights expansion?

What patterns do I need to change to transform into a more loving and powerful divine human being?

What fears can I release over the next year?

What life lessons have I learned over the past year? And what do I need to do so that I do not repeat the mistakes of the past?

How best can I bring out the light to myself, to family, to others and to the earth and all its creatures?

What do I need to release that is hindering my spiritual power?

What spiritual commitment do I need to make that will heal the past, empower the present and provide the achievement of Divinehood in the future?

At this time of the returning light, honor the silence, the darkness, and the mystery of life from which all new creation emerges. Rejoice in this time of love and cheer for the eternal renewal of all things.

Happy Winter Solstice

Copyright ©2001 Spiritual Growth - Morning Star Institute. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Lights in Sandestin

The resort is decked out with little white lights the gated entrances, at the neighborhood entrances, on individual houses and in Baytowne Wharf, the village within the resort.  Not "over the top" glam, but bright, cheery, holiday-spirit lights.  Here are some examples you can click to enlarge:

Main Gate

Around the Neighborhoods

Ok, I've just spent the entire evening (like four hours) searching for dozens of pictures of beautiful houses in Sandestin and their Christmas decorations (not just these simple neighborhood signs) that I took and downloaded somewhere on this computer.  I browsed through them all just the other day and now for the life of me, I cannot find them.  If anyone knows anything I don't about finding them, please holler!  Dang, this is a MYSTERY!

So unfortunately, I have to end here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mending Wall

One of my favorite poems is "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost.  In addition to loving the beauty of its natural rhythm, I can relate to the speaker's frustration at not being able to get his message through to his neighbor.  (There where it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines, I tell him....He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'....I wonder If I could put a notion in his head: 'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it where there are cows? But here there are no cows. Before I built a wall I'd ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offence. Something there is that doesn't love a wall that wants it down.') 

His neighbor, living life on a more perfunctory and surface level than the speaker, cannot even begin to understand the futility of his actions (He moves in darkness as it seems to me~ Not of woods only and the shade of trees).  It is saddening to know what won't exist, because of the neighbor's inability, fear, disbelief or mindless, comfortable routine (He will not go behind his father's saying, and he likes having thought of it so well, he says again, "Good fences make good neighbors.")

It has been argued that people like him go through life just fine, not needing or wanting true intimacy, not creating much depth in their relationships, preferring to swim in the safe and calm, but shallow waters (We keep the wall between us as we go.)  Maybe so.

But I am not one of them.

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

(Click to enlarge)

Talk, talk, talk

You didn't meant to say it.  It just slipped out.  Everybody knows how it feels when the gossip engine is in full swing, when the camaraderie of shared complaints and put-downs makes you say things you promised yourself not to --- little tidbits you'd been told in confidence, jokes and jabs you toss out for public enjoyment [or to vent frustration] though you'd never speak them right to someone's face.  We all understand.

But knowing that we all understand doesn't make it [good for relationships or our own well-being.]  And working harder to bite your lip next time only provides temporary relief.  "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12:34) --- so that if we want our words (or our silence) to be [caring, uplifting, positive], we must change our attitudes to match.

So...want to withstand the urge to sling the next insult?  Then try [understanding the unmet needs, hurting places of] the person who irritates you.  Want to never make another idle remark at another's expense?  [Pray for a loving heart, patience, and compassion.  Pray for guidance in seeing what unresolved issues might be behind another's words or actions.  Pray for tolerance.  Pray for the wisdom to identify what are others' issues and what are your own.....and pray for help with your own, for those are the only ones you can change.  Pray for the loving attitude and words to approach people when problems or hurts arise, so that understanding, peace and forgiveness might take root.  Don't bury issues, as that only causes resentment, passive-aggressive behavior and emotional wall-building.  And pray for an open heart and attitude so that others' may approach you, in kind.]

[And after praying for those things has become a constant in your life, pray for the strength not to let others' hurtful words or actions diminish your self-esteem.  Pray for the wisdom of discerning who is growing by personal insight and/or prayer and resolve to keep company with those people, instead of surrounding yourself with people who are negative, defensive, or closed to real intimacy.  Be accepting of and kind to the latter, but inspired and supported by the former.]

(from The One Minute Bible, edited with my words in brackets)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Scariest Train Rides

The other week I saw an article online about the scariest train rides in the world.  These particular ones struck me as most precarious, as they might my fellow adventurers/travelers (I capitulate to spelling that with one "l", although I confess I don't know when the rule was changed....sigh....and I taught English!  Oh well, language is always in flux....)

(Click to enlarge photos)

The Yukon, Alaska

Georgetown Loop

Kuranda scenic railway, Australia


White Pass, Yukon, Alaska

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tofu Attempt #1

Bit the bullet and dove into a vegan dinner tonight.  (After signing up at PCRM's website for the 21 Day Vegan Kick Off, starting Jan. 1, 2010....if interested, it's free:  You will be sent via email daily recipes, info about veganism, tips, online interviews, etc.  PCRM is Physicians For Responsible Medicine, if you aren't aware...)

Tofu's marinating in an Asian marinade, corn waiting to nuke, wasabi-garlic mashed potatoes are made (cooked faster than I thought...first time making mashed potatoes, you know any other almost-60-year-old women who have never made them?  Sheese.)

[Watching the Susan Boyle story on television.  Isn't that a dream come true, real fairy tale?  The refrain of the song she is singing that was written for her is "I can finally say I'm free.....I am who I was born to be."  You can't help tearing up and feeling so happy for her.]

Well, while I wait for the tofu to get ready to grill on my new cast iron skillet, here's what it looks like soaking up the flavors (mirin, tamiri, rice vinegar, Asian chili sauce, sesame oil, fresh chopped ginger, garlic):

And here are my first-time wasabi-garlic mashed potatoes....

And voila, dinner....

Ok, now the truth....this was the first time I used the cast iron grill pan.  They said to heat it over a high flame for 3 minutes (after having applied vegetable oil).  Oh my God.  Can you say s-m-o-k-e?  And after only a minute?!  I had to open all of the windows, get the whole-house fan going and the vent over the stove and still the fire alarm sounded.  Eeeek.  (Isn't Canola oil vegetable oil?  Or was the 3 minutes over high heat too much?)  The air is finally clearing now, two hours after I polluted it.

Plus those beautiful grill marks?  Uh, burnt.

But after I scraped the tofu from the pan and finished cooking it, I added some water and cornstarch to the marinade and it made a wonderful Asian sauce. (Not pictured.)  Sweetened up the charcoal taste of the grill marks just fine. However, live and learn.  I'm not going to cook the thick slices the recipe called for from now on....I'm going to slice it much thinner so it soaks up more marinade and cooks more quickly (on a lower heat.)  And now I have half of it left to cube and warm up in a stirfry this week.

Corn was great;  potatoes were good.

And all in all, I did it!  I am a tofu cook. 

Kind of.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

One Small Step for Vegans, One Giant Leap for Me

This morning I finally wiggled my big toe in the vegan waters.  Admittedly, I doubt I'll ever convert to fully vegan, maybe not even fully vegetarian, but I think I'm headed toward "ovo-half&half-retain the seafood-vegetarian".....with maybe a once-a-month juicy burger.  I'm sorry cows.  :(  (Haven't eaten red meat other than ground beef in decades, except a handful of times as a polite guest.)

Now that might not sound like a big deal to you, but I've virtually given up cheese (wow, was that hard) and drink soymilk, not cow's milk, and never liked yogurt anyway.  The "half&half" in that title above stands for the Half and Half without which I just cannot drink my coffee.  But I don't drink more than a cup or so a day anyway, so the few tablespoons of Half and Half daily I figure isn't a huge deal.   

Ok, you're smirking at my description of the kind of vegetarian I'm labeling myself.  Then let's just say I'm going to learn more vegan and vegetarian dishes (and I do have tofu and tempeh in my fridge as we speak!) but still believe in the nutrition of egg whites (I don't eat the yolks) and the calcium and good stuff in salmon (wild, not farm-raised...yes, I try to be cognizant of mercury levels) tuna, grouper, with a little shrimp thrown in for more good protein.  (I've read in studies -- oh no, not more studies -- that even though shrimp is relatively high in cholesterol, shrimp produces significantly lower ratios of total to HDL ("good") cholesterol and lower ratios of LDL ("bad" cholesterol) to HDL cholesterol than eggs. In addition, in people who ate shrimp, levels of triglycerides -- a form in which fat is carried in the blood -- decreased 13%.)

Enough with my explanations and on to my first venture:  "Fronch" Toast.  (With the stale French bread I brought home from a dinner out a few nights ago....well, it wasn't stale at the dinner....oh, you know what I mean....anyway, stale French bread works best.)

Stop laughing.  I told you I only dipped my toe in.....we're not going for BBQ Pomegranate Tofu or Seitan-Portobello Stroganoff right out of the gates.

And it does use soymilk and chickpea flour (no eggs) in the recipe. Oh, and I bought pure maple syrup from the local Cracker Barrel, no preservatives.

Tofu to come................................

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ten Degrees of Reckoning: A True Story of Survival

(Just read this on AOL and wanted to share the comment at the end, especially, with you.)

Ten Degrees of Reckoning: A True Story of Survival

The Sleavin Family

By Michelle Burford

In 1993, the Sleavin family set out on a dream voyage. Santa Clarita, California, residents Michael and Judith Sleavin, along with their two children, Ben and Annie, loaded up their 47-foot sailboat with plans to circumnavigate the globe in five years. Three years into their journey -- around 2 a.m. on November 24, 1995 -- a South Korean cargo ship altered its course by a mere 10 degrees and barreled into the Sleavins' boat just off the coast of New Zealand.

Ben, then age nine, went down with the sailboat; Michael, Judith and Annie scrambled onto a rubber dinghy. They waved and screamed for help from the colliding ship's crew, but instead of throwing them a lifeline, they left the family to perish in the icy, tumultuous seas of the South Pacific. When Annie, then age seven, was swept away in a wave, Michael attempted to swim out and save her. Both Michael and Annie drowned as Judith -- the lone survivor who'd broken her back and fractured her skull -- watched in horror.

Judith Sleavin has never spoken publicly about the horrendous events of that day -- until now. In "Ten Degrees of Reckoning," she describes the joyful moments she shared with her family on their sailboat; what happened in the 44 hours after she witnessed her family's death; and how she eventually found her way to shore, clinging only to a deflated dinghy and the hope that she'd survive long enough to recount the calamity. Sleavin chose her longtime friend and fellow sailor, Hester Rumberg -- the godmother of Judith's daughter, Annie -- to put her story into writing. AOL Health asked Rumberg to reveal how Judith Sleavin has turned an unthinkable loss into a reason to live her life even more fully and deliberately.

[What follows this is a written interview with Rumberg about Judith Sleavin.  But the lesson for us all, I think, is contained in her final paragraph below -- my bolded parts]

I'm a sailor myself, so I've been out at sea, 30,000 or 40,000 miles, and I know that it can be treacherous. I also know that the day-to-day challenges can be just as treacherous. Our little moments, those little celebrations -- they're not so little. When you have a conversation with someone, and the connection fills you with glee, that's not a small thing. I don't know why we're so infatuated with the thought that we have to wait to live well -- wait until we have more time, more money or even a partner. Every day, we can love whoever is in our lives. We can tell people how we feel about them. We can learn to be as hopeful as Judy is. She's one of the most optimistic people I know, even in the face of injustice and tragedy. She has decided that if she doesn't live joyfully, it would be a betrayal to the way she asked her family to live. That's why I think she's a hero for our times.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Inching Forward

Question:  Remembering my post of a few days ago, you may be wondering where is all that vegan/vegetarian cooking I was going to embark upon?

Answer:  Still in the cookbooks.

But this morning I went out to find some of the ingredients I will need to make marinated, grilled tofu; wasabi mashed potatoes; chipotle, corn and black bean stew; "Fronch" toast;  olive, tomato and millet-stuffed zucchini; tofu dill salad sammiches; baked cajun french fries; roasted brussels sprouts with toasted garlic;  horseradish and coriander-crusted tofu and more...  (I think those sound don't?)

I was steeled for a frustrating experience (as I've endured in the past, searching for not-the-usual ingredients) but today's trip turned out to be a breeze!  Most of what I needed I easily located in the Asian section of aisle two in Publix:  tamari, mirin, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, Asian chili sauce, wasabi powder.

For the first time ever I also bought fresh ginger, and promptly came home to research online how best to store it (zip lock bag in crisper).

So, I've got the cast iron skillet, sauce pan and baster, the recipes, and now some of the ingredients.  Tonight (or maybe tomorrow) I cook!

(Stay tuned..................)

Sunday, December 6, 2009


We've had a cold snap here that, I've been told, is rather unusual for the Panhandle, especially at this time of year.  It has been in the high 40's and cold!  Normally, back in Chicagoland, this wouldn't be very cold to me, but either I'm acclimating to Florida winters or it was just a very "wet" cold (or maybe because I think "Hey, this is Florida" so I don't wear a coat?  Think that could be why?!)

Today, after snuggling under the clouds for a few days, the sun came out and I drove to the beach.

Imagine swimming in the ocean in 50 degree weather!  Not me, but them.....(click photos to enlarge)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Surprised Kitty

By now, surely you have seen this, as it is rampaging the internet....but on the chance you haven't, be prepared to see 17 seconds of the cutest "surprised kitty" you've ever seen!

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Walk Through Sandestin

As I've walked through the different neighborhoods and areas of Sandestin, I've snapped some photos, but not nearly enough to paint an accurate picture of the entire grounds.  Be that as it may, here is a "flavor" of the resort in November (click any photo to enlarge):

Starting off from my neighborhood