Friday, November 30, 2012

My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that? ~ Bob Hope

There is no holiday of higher expectations - or disappointment when those expectations are not met - than Christmas.  Starting well before Thanksgiving these days,  we are bombarded from all sides with commercials on the television selling the perfect, must-have-or-your-kids-will-need-therapy Christmas gifts.  Home decorating magazines, blogs, and now Pinterest all captivate our fantasies of having a Hallmark-perfect holiday. The perfect table scape, candle-laden-garland-festooned mantle, & hand-crafted-from-re-purposed-whatever ornaments are just a mouse click away. 

 Gone are the days of a simple Walton's Mountain Christmas where John Boy and his siblings exchanged a whittled toy out of wood or a handmade baby doll.  Now, we leave our homes on Thanksgiving evening before the second helping of pumpkin pie has had time to digest to go stand in a massive line at the mall to get $10 pajama pants at Old Navy. Oh.  Holy.  Night.

For years I blamed my unrealistic holiday expections on...well, my mother but mainly Martha Stewart and the Lifetime Channel's holiday movies.  Now that I've got a few Christmas' under my belt - 55 of them to be exact - I've learned a few things. I've learned to pick my holiday battles.  

Set a budget and stick to it. 
All year long we count our pennies, clip coupons, and look for the best bargains. Come the holidays, we spend like we just won the Powerball lottery.  Stick to a budget and you won't wake up in January with a financial hang-over.

Do things because you want to do them, not because you are expected to.
Go to the parties and get-togethers that are most important to you. Spending time with family and friends is what the holidays are all about.  Saying the "n" word - NO - might step on some toes and possibly hurt some feelings. Make sure your time is spent doing the things you want to do.  

How important is it?
Look at your holiday traditions and decide if just maybe it might be time to retire some.  How many boxes of gifts are you packing and shipping out snail mail to relatives that maybe a nice gift card might be a better way to go these days. Is it possible that some traditions could be tweaked or modified to give you a little extra time to breathe in some of that pine scent in front of the Christmas tree enjoying a nice glass of eggnog?

Think outside of your Christmas box
A lot of the stress that was felt on my Christmas Day was timing.  With all the family trying to please in-laws and out-laws it was nerve-wracking trying to work with everyone else's plans and logistics.  Several family members had jobs that their busy time was the holidays.  I made a unilateral decision that my Christmas would be moved to New Year's Day.  Whomever is at my  home on Christmas Eve is treated to a nice but simple dinner followed by candlelight communion service at our place of worship. Christmas Day is more of the same but usually includes some beach time.  New Year's Day is an open house with all the festivities of Christmas.  Presents are opened then so I have an entire extra week to shop the after-Christmas sales.  Everyone loves the tradition and it works for us.

Don't lose sight of the real meaning of the holidays.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice. Dave Barry

No Black Friday shopping for me today. I opted for a walk on the beach instead of the mall.
 I saw these black skimmers swirling in the sky off Boca Grande today.
(probably to stay warm - it was chilly for Florida).

After warming up with a thermos full of steaming hot citrus green tea, my friend and I finished off yesterday's leftovers with a turkey, stuffing & Hellman's mayo sandwich.  No good meal would be complete without dessert - pecan & pumpkin pie.  Nice to have a table with a view.

I picked up a rainbow of calico scallops.
Check out more of my beachy fotos on Instagram.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, For love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends. --Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

About a 1/2 mile walk north of the Blind Pass Beach on Manasota Key is a little place I refer to as my Chapel-by-the-Sea.  It's not fancy.  There are no padded pews or air conditioning.  Just bare bones sand, sea and salty wind blowing against my face.  There are no choirs or instruments.  Just the melody of the waves rolling in to shore with an occasional Osprey singing harmony from a nest high in an Australian Pine tree. 

 The parishioners are feathered and are not paying any attention to a sermon.  They are more concerned with the schools of white fish moving across the surface of the water.  There is no collection plate passed but my shell bucket receives many gifts from the sea. As my thoughts and words of praise & thanksgiving go up, I feel my Heavenly Poppa's love come down and invade my heart in this sacred space. 

 It was, after all, His invitation for me to join Him and I simply said Yes.

Friday, November 9, 2012


This Beach Belle

The rocks

and these shells
 have in common?

The lovely beach belle is my niece Pookie.  She is not really a shelling enthusiast but she hangs around alot of people who are.  The shells she finds are collateral damage.  She's not really looking, just along for the ride really.  But she manages to score some pretty nice finds for all her ambivalence towards the hobby of shelling.

Pookie spent the day at Honeymoon Island State Park  hanging out with her mom who is a passionate sheller.  She came home with a whole box full of olives, Sunray venus Clams, & agatized coral.  What looks like ugly rocks are actually full of geode-like crystals when you break them up with a hammer.  Enter GeeGee (my mom - Pookie's grandmother) The shells and agatized coral get cleaned up and sorted.  Of couse someone has to make something.  

Ta Da!  Check out the shell awesomeness.

GeeGee took a globe she bought at a garage sale for $1 and made this
sa-weet vignette.

The cute miniature bait house was in her junk box.  She added the little seagull on top.

Here's a closer look.  GeeGee has worked her shell magic before.

It was a good day on Honeymoon Island.  Shell Kell (Pookie's mom) found a nice horse conch . The family motto - Take a kid shelling cos some day they will take you!