Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflecting on 2011

Last year I didn't make any resolutions. Just never got around to it. Part of the problem was that I’d not accomplished the goals I’d set in 2010 so I was feeling a bit apathetic towards the whole thing. What’s the point? I don’t accomplish much anyhow…blah, blah, blah. Stinkin’ thinkin’. 

I spent a little time reviewing 2011 and despite the fact that I hadn't set any new goals, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I actually accomplished quite a few new things that I would never have known to even strive for. The Lord really stretched me this year to try new things that I would not have thought possible or even probable. Here are a few things of those things:

1.      1. Taking on a new, larger convention. I’ve been working as a SonlightCurriculum Consultant since 2004 (7 years?? Wow!) and the largest convention I had ever done has been about 1200 people. This year I joined the big leagues with the Southeast Homeschool Convention which was about 2500 attendees. Felt great to take that next step as a consultant.
2.      2. Go on a mission trip. This wasn’t even remotely on my radar screen. Michael was going to take Tommy to Honduras to visit La Esperanza de Jesus, a missionary our church supports. But in the end I ended up being the one to take him. It was my first missionary trip and it was powerful.
3.     3. Run a 10K race. I have been struggling with plantar faciitis for a number of years and had just about given up hope of ever running again. But during a conversation with a friend who suffers from the same condition, he mentioned that hard orthotic inserts have helped him. I had been trying cushioned inserts but hard?? I was skeptical. But I decided to give them a try and started walking in them. No pain. In June Timothy and I began a couch-to-5K program, an app on my Iphone. As the weeks went by and the distance increased but the pain did not, I was able to run and complete a 10 K race. A new niggling pain in my ankle has arisen which I plan on tackling in the new year, but the plantar is doing well. It feels good to run again.
4.    4.  Emcee our women’s retreat. The past two years I have served on the women's retreat planning team as the “hospitality coordinator” which is an area I feel comfortable with. But this year I wasn’t feeling called to that. I didn’t really know what my role should be. You can imagine my surprise when at the first meeting when it was suggested I be the emcee. REALLY?! Me? A borderline introvert who stutters?! Despite the fears I immediately had, I also had a peace that this is what God wanted me to do. And so I did. And I got through it.
5.    5.   Learn a new hobby. I’ve wanted to learn to crochet for years now but never found anyone who would teach me. I would ask people who knew how but it just never worked out to get together. However just last week my friend Natalie taught me. She taught herself with the help of YouTube videos and made a lovely scarf for her daughter. I begged her to teach me and during a coffee date she did. I’m already halfway through my scarf and I’m really enjoying it. It’s easy to do and very portable. I look forward to making more fun projects with this newly-learned hobby!
6.     6.  Sing in the Christmas Choir. This is something I NEVER thought I’d EVER do! Way back in 4th grade I sang in a school choir called Los Cantantitos and the choir directory discreetly told my parents that I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Years later they shared that comment with me which has forever scarred me. Oh I sing in church, as long as others are singing too. So when Jessica talked me into auditioning for the special Christmas choir and then telling me I’d made it, I couldn’t believe it! I have to say that it was probably the hardest thing I’d done (harder than emceeing). I worked at it a LOT, following her instruction on how to breath and trying to sing “dark” and attempting to “raise my soft palate.” I admit that I sang timidly and lip synced the really high notes that I couldn’t hit. But again, I did it. I overcame that fear and did a hard thing (Ever read that book?)

       So there you have it. These are the things that came to mind as I thought back over the year. I wonder what the Lord has in store for me next year?

This year I’m back to setting goals. They look remarkably similar to some old ones but I'm going to keep following the old adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” I’m going to keep trying!

  • So goodbye 2011 and here's hoping for a happy new year! What about you? What do you feel good about last year?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Kib's Bay 2011

It was down to the wire but we did it! We had Kib's Bay this year! Not sure what I'm talking about? Read up on it here.

We came up with the theme "Mission Impossible!" We woke the kids up at 8:00 a.m. by blowing party horns (a Kib's Bay tradition) and informed the kids how to dress (jeans, tshirt, closed shoes, hoodie or windbreakers). They were ready in no time and off we went to grab a quick Hardees drive-through breakfast. On the drive south on I-95, we reminisced what we've done for Kib's Bay over the years. We came up with the following list:

  • IMAX Movie in 2007
  • Blizzard Beach in 2008
  • Surf Camp in 2009
  • Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in 2010
After remembering the good times we announced the new theme by playing the Mission Impossible theme song ( via YouTube app on our Iphones). We had a show-up time of 9:45 and as we were a little early we stopped for coffees in St. Augustine. The kids still didn't know what we were going to be doing. After coffee, we drove through town and across the Bridge of Lions. The kids were really curious as to where we were going and were a little worried that it had something to do with the boat!

We pulled into the Alligator Farm parking lot and they were a little confused/suspicious/skeptical. We just waited for them to see the people on the zip line course and for it to sink in. It finally dawned on them what we were doing and they began to get excited. We signed in, paid, and got outfitted with our harnesses. After a little class on how to clip in and move through the obstacles we were on our way. Tommy and Timothy went first and they were soon out of sight. Annie, Michael and I stuck together. There were eleven obstacles before we got to the first zip line. It was long and a little intimidating! But after the first one, it got easier. We did the long course and it took about an hour and a half to complete. The boys would have done it much faster had they done it on their own. At the end I thought we would be able to walk through the farm but that would have been an "additional cost" so we didn't. (really?! for the price of the zip line they could easily have let us in to walk around a bit!) 

We were not allowed to bring in any phones or cameras for fear of dropping them into the pens below. Here are the only pictures we were able to get.

 You can kinda see the course in the distance behind the brown fence.

Afterwards we went just down the road, to the entrance to Anastasia State Park, in the Surf Station Parking lot and ate at Nalu's Tropical Take Out, a converted pop-up camper.

 Then we hurried to our next destination: World Golf Village IMAX theater for the 1:00 showing of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. It was really intense to watch it on a 6-story screen! The IMAX was a throw-back to our first Kib's Bay where we went to an IMAX movie (no one can remember what it is that we saw that first time).

Ahhhh....another Kib's Bay. We had a great time and made another deposit in the memory bank! Boy, are they adding up!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Homemade Granola

I love granola but I don't care for the sugary sweet kind (and loaded with calories and fat!) so I prefer to make my own. I've tweaked the recipe over the years and now this is my standard one. The first one is the yummy, not-so-healthy for you. The variation is the one I usually make: not too sweet, scant on the fat.

Sheila’s Granola
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup coconut
1 cup almonds
1/3 cup wheat germ
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 can f/f sweetened condensed milk
½ cup oil

Spray baking pan with Pam. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix first 4 ingredients. Add next four and mix well. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

You can vary the ingredients at will. Try other nuts. Add raisins or other dried fruit (after baking.) Can be doubled and tripled as long as you have a large enough pan and can stir it.

Healthier version: I cut out the sweetened condensed milk and substitute ¼ cup of sweetener: either honey, real maple syrup or agave nectar. I reduce the oil to ¼ cup. Also oatmeal is increased to 6 cups.

Makes great trail mix when mixed with pretzels, M&Ms, etc. I've also given it as Christmas presents packaged in pretty bags or jars.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Seeds of Kindness

I read this blog post this morning and decided this was what we needed to do this year for advent! But rather than plant the seeds, we would gather them so we could have a visual reminder of the good we would collectively do. So I quickly set about to get what we needed ready. First I typed up a short description of this new activity.
Then scoured around looking for something to use as seeds. I debated using popcorn or beans but I happened to have a sizable amount of coriander seeds I had collected from my cilantro plants. I found a diminutive bowl and filled it up.
Next I found a tiny glass receptacle in which to put the round seeds. I put a pink bow on it (one of the colors of advent) because I didn't have purple. And then I arranged it all together.
We used to read the Jotham's Journey books together as a family as an advent activity but my kids have outgrown the books (memorized the stories) so we needed something else to focus on. I decided to put this little activity together with our advent wreath.
I look forward to all the seeds of kindness that will be planted in our hearts this advent season!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pasta con Carne di Maiale

Recipe for Pork Pasta


Olive Oil
Ground Pork
White wine
Chopped tomatoes
Sage (fresh is best but can used dried)
(Quantities of each vary depending on how big a crowd you are cooking for.)

Saute' onion in olive oil. Add ground pork and let brown. Add white wine and let evaporate a few minutes. Add canned tomatoes. When almost done cooking, add sage and salt to taste. Serve over pasta cooked al dente.

Want to see a picture? It looks sort of like Bolognese sauce but with chunky tomatoes rather than puree'. It also has a different hue since the pork is "the other white meat." The sage lends such a distinctive yummy flavor.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Make your own baking powder

I was baking something and noticed that I was running out of baking powder and I had read that you can make your own. A quick internet search led me to a recipe. I increased the quantity by using ratios (math lesson!) and came up with the following recipe:

·         1 T baking soda
·         2 T cream of tartar
·         1 T cornstarch

Mix all ingredients together using a mini whisk until well combined. Store in a plastic container.

I think it's much cheaper and it contains no aluminum! Happy baking!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bucket List

In December of '98, Michael and I sat down with a scrap piece of paper and came up with a list, 5 each, of things we wanted to do. Following the adage "A failure to plan is a plan to fail" we set it in writing so we could start crossing things off our list. Our combined list comes to 10 things but I can easily add 5 more things for Just Ask's Bucket List Getaway.

This is my entry in the Just Ask Bucket List Getaway Giveaway. Just Ask offers a breast and ovarian cancer screening and is encouraging people to share 15 things that I want to enjoy in my lifetime as a reminder to be aware of my health. Want to enter? Head over to TodaysMama.com to get the details. 

So ready for my (our) list? (We do these together so what is his is mine too.)

1. Grand Canyon Double. Being a marathoner and Ironman, it's been Michael's dream to run the Grand Canyon rim to rim. We would combine that with a family trip to the Grand Canyon, of course.

2. Go for a gondola ride in Venice with my husband. I'd been to Venice before and had even been on a gondola ride before but I wanted to go with Michael. We checked this one off our list in May of '99 with two little kids in tow. Not exactly as romantic as I'd pictured it (15 month old threw his sippy cup in the dirty canal water...) but hey, it was a gondola ride in Venice with my HUSBAND! How unromantic can that be, right?

3. Go to the top of the Eiffel tower. This is actually on Michael's list even though it was my dream. I went backpacking through Europe the summer of '90 and had gone to the 2nd level of the Eiffel tower for lack of time and funds (I actually had the funds; we were just scrimping). It was a regret of mine that I had not gone all the way to the top when I had had the opportunity. My husband, being the knight in shining armor that he is, wanted to reverse that for me. We got to check this one off our list on September 7, 2011, in celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary. Now THAT was romantic! Here's a picture to prove it:
I love this man!!

4. Three month trip across the US. This is on my list but kind of because of something that Michael did as a teen. His family took the RV across the US for a month. I'm the one who upped it to 3 months. Too much to see and do in 1 month! I had taken a "Physical Landscapes" class in college (to satisfy a science credit for my liberal arts degree) which gave me such a taste to visit the country. We haven't done this one yet and time is running out. Our first born is 16...

5. Fly fish the Snake River in WY. This is on Michael's list. I'm not a fly fisherman by any means but I love the outdoors and I like to keep him company while he fishes. I sit on the river bank and read, knit, whatever. Of course it's been YEARS since he's been fly fishing but it's still on his list. 

6. Sea kayak the Baja Peninsula. This was on my list but I'm ready to switch it out with Canal Cruise of a river in France. Didn't know about that when we created this list. Now that I'm getting older and have a bum arm, not sure I'd enjoy the kayaking anymore.

7. Run the Boston Marathon. This was one of Michael's dreams and he fulfilled it in 1994. And again in 1995. The first time we made it into a family trip, and because we homeschool and were studying US history that year, it made a perfect field trip. The following year we made it into a romantic getaway. And it was.

8. Bike tour of California vineyards. I love wine (perhaps because I'm Italian?) and thought this would be so fun! We got to check this one off in May of '02 when Michael ran the Big Sur Marathon. It was such a fun trip because we went with two other running couples, friends from church. We toured San Francisco, Malibu and then Sonoma and Napa Valleys. The biking part was actually quite short (driving is so much more efficient!). Those vineyards are spread out a good distance! But the whole trip was a blast!

9. Sail the Polynesian Islands (Vanuatu in particular). This is on Michael's list. I used to want to sail, but long story short, after owning a sailboat and having our dream shattered, I'm not so keen on the idea anymore. I'm still willing to bareboat charter though, so this may actually happen....ONE day...

10. Cruise the Panama Canal. Going through all those locks would be so cool. Again, I used to want to do it on our boat, but now I'm thinking a cruise ship. Maybe we'll knock out 9 and 10 out with one stone.

That's the end of our list that we created in '98. Out of 10 items we've crossed off 4 things. Not too bad! Now for my extra 5...

11. Visit our Compassion International child in Honduras. I went to Honduras this past summer with my first born for a mission trip. We had a great trip, but logistics didn't allow for us to visit A. I'd like to go back sometime and do that.

12. Own a Bernina sewing machine. I bought myself a Sonata sewing machine as a graduation (B.A.) present to myself oh so many years ago. It's not fancy at all but it works and I've made lots of things with it. But it's my DREAM to own a really *really* nice sewing machine.

13. Take my kids to Spain. We've been to Italy several times to visit my family. But in 20 years of marriage we've not been to Spain to visit Michael's family. My kids know they are part Italian but it doesn't sink in that they are part Spanish. I want to take them to visit that side of the family.

14. Take my family on a surfing vacation. I'm not a surfer (although I did have lessons two years ago and stood up on a surfboard!) but my whole family surfs. I'm thinking Costa Rica so then we can also go zip lining. That sounds fun!

15. Fix up the house. All those little (and big!) things that need doing. The bathrooms, the kitchen, put in a pool....

What about you? Do you have a list?

Friday, November 4, 2011


I did it. I gave in.

I had first heard about this website one morning about a month ago from some friends as we were having coffee together. It sounded interesting, however I didn't want to get involved in ONE. MORE. THING! It's all I can do to keep up with teens and tweens, homeschooling, working, housework, email, facebook and blogging (not to mention any hobbies I might want to pursue, oh and exercise! and relationships! and ministry!)

But I was chatting with some friends this morning about following blogs and how to "bookmark" something I see that I'm interested in, or want to try to find again and they all said "PINTEREST!"

So reluctantly, fearfully, I logged in and got started...oh dear! What have I gotten myself into!? Another "opportunity" to practice self-discipline?

Monday, October 31, 2011


I love surprises, when they are good ones!

Yesterday we hosted a surprise party for our good friend John Holmquist who turned 50. He is a crime scene investigator and very keen on picking up things so his wife and I weren't sure if we'd be able to pull it off. It helped that we were one week removed from his actual birthday and that we had had a small gathering on his actual birthday. So to have them over for dinner the following week was just business as usual.

However, it was NOT a usual gathering at all. His parents and sister's family came as well as quite a few friends. We had people park at my parents' house so that he wouldn't see all the cars parked out front (and you can be sure he knows who drives what car). His wife, Denise, called to ask if there was anything she could bring. That was our clue that they were on the way so we could hide. Annie had decorated the kitchen and dining room but the living area wasn't decorated so he couldn't see anything suspicious from the door. We got a little silly as we waited for the birthday boy to arrive.

 Finally he arrived...
He was pretty surprised! (See how red he is here?!)
Quite a food spread. Everyone brought something and it was all yummy!
My brother, David, was the grill master. He did a great job grilling chicken and brats.
Tracy, whose birthday was the previous day, and Michael were the wing fryers. They, too, did a wonderful job!

As you can see, everyone had a wonderful time!
We had an extra little surprise when it was time for cake...Tracy had one too! Louise Glennon, baker extraordinaire, made John's cake. Tracy, who loves ice cream, didn't have a cake per se. I made him John's recipe of oreos layered with chocolate syrup and vanilla ice cream. It was a hit.
We finished off the night by sitting by the fire pit. The weather was PERFECT for it! I was too busy sitting and enjoying to take pictures. You'll just have to imagine it. All in all, it was a perfect surprise party.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkin Scones!

I was browsing some blogs last night and found a recipe at Bakeaholic Mama who had adapted the recipe from Brown Eyed Baker (who apparently adapted from another blogger but I stopped the hopping with BEB).

I had already defrosted some homemade pumpkin mash that I usually use to make these delicious muffins. But we had some leftover mash so when I saw this recipe I knew I had to make them! (I really really love scones!)

I had gone for a five mile run this morning so I thought I was entitled to them (big grin!) but after reading through the recipe I thought I could lighten the recipe a bit (thank you Cooking Light for teaching me a few things!) So I decreased the 6 T of butter to 4T and increased the pumpkin to 3/4 cup (to make up for the lost moisture the butter decrease and increase the "good for you" part of the scone). They came out beautifully! I wish I had a picture to show you but we devoured them hot out of the oven. 

The other adaptation I made was to use my large pampared chef scoop to drop them by scoopful instead of shaping, cutting, etc.

Here is my adaptation of the recipe in case you want to give them a try. They were quick to mix and bake. Dangerously quick. I haven't calculated the calories on them yet. Kind of afraid to...

Pumpkin Scones with Spiced Glaze
Yield: 12 scones (actually only yielded 11 for me using the scoop)
For the Scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
7 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
4 Tablespoons cold butter
¾ cup canned pumpkin
3 Tablespoons half-and-half
1 large egg

For the Powdered Sugar Glaze:
1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
2 Tabelspoons milk

I made it with the Powdered Sugar Glaze. But these sound yummy too:

For the Spiced Glaze:
1 cup plus 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pinch ground ginger
1 pinch ground cloves

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with Silpat mat or parchment paper; set aside.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until mixture is crumbly and no chunks of butter are obvious; set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, half-and-half and egg. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients. When sufficiently combined, drop by scoopful onto prepared pan. 
Or if you prefer the traditional way, form the dough into a ball. Pat out dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 1-inch thick rectangle about 3 times as long as wide. Use a large knife or a pizza cutter to slice the dough twice through the width, making three equal portions. Cut each of the portions in an X pattern (four pieces) so you end up with 12 triangular slices of dough. Place on prepared baking sheet. 
Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until light brown. Place on wire rack to cool.
4. To make the powdered sugar glaze, mix the powdered sugar and milk together until smooth. When scones are cool, use a brush to spread plain glaze over the top of each scone. I just used a spoon and put the glaze on when it was still warm. I placed the scone on the plate first so that it would melt onto the plate and we could lick it up all that delicious sweetness.
5. To make the spiced glaze, while the powdered sugar glaze is firming, combine all of the ingredients for the spiced glaze. Drizzle over each scone and allow the icing to dry before serving (about an hour). I did not try this but it sounds good for another time.
This went tremendously well with a cappuccino using Lavazza Blu. Che delizia! 
Be sure you let me know if you make them! Post in the comment section.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Years ago, when we were still in youth ministry, Michael and I attended a Youth Specialties convention where we heard a speaker whose message has stayed with me all these years. He encouraged us to have "a Paul, a Barnabas and a Timothy." In other words, to have someone that you are under (that is mentoring you), someone who is a peer (who is encouraging you) and someone you are mentoring. I have tried to live that way.

Today I met with my "Paul." She may not even know she is my Paul but she is someone who, over the years, I have been able to ask all sorts of questions..."How did you handle _____?" "What did you do about _____?" "I'm about to lose my mind over __________!! Help!" She has patiently listened to me, offering advice and prayer. Typically, every 4 to 8 months or so, I would shoot her an email asking for a coffee date. We would pick a day/time/location and I would come, pen and paper in hand with my list of questions, ready to take notes.

Today was a little different. We met for coffee but this time I didn't have "a problem". It was refreshing to just catch up and check in with each other. I updated her on all the goings on in my life, and she told me about new challenges in her life. Two hours rushed quickly by and I've been ruminating and smiling to myself all day thinking of our time together.

How about you? Do you have a Paul, a Barnabas and a Timothy? If not, then I encourage you to look around. Who do you admire that you would like to spend time with or learn from? Ask her out on a date! Who is your peer that shares your same woes and delights? Meet with her and share prayer requests. Bear one another's burdens. Laugh and cry together. And finally, who are you mentoring? Titus 2 tells older women to teach the younger women. There is always someone younger than you! Even high school gals can teach a middle schooler or 4th/5th grader.

I encourage you to find partners in accountability. It's all part of living in community!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Celebrating 20 Years!

We recently passed a milestone...our 20th wedding anniversary! I have heard from several friends who passed that same milestone and they did nothing special to celebrate. That made me sad. I really like to celebrate important dates/achievements/completions/milestones!

We decided 10 months ago that we would celebrate by going to Paris! We had both been to Paris before, just never together. Plus I had this wish of going to the very TOP of the Eiffel tower. Twenty-one years ago I had gone to the second level, but never to the top. So Michael and I had decided years ago to go to the top together.

As a special treat we also decided we would eat at the Jules Verne which is a one Michelin star restaurant located on the second level.

The trip proved to be as magical as we had imagined it would be. We visited Ile-de-la-Cite' and Notre Dame, Sainte Chappelle and le Musee du Louvre. 

We walked all over, rented bikes and biked around, took a cruise on the Seine and a tour on Les Cars Rouges.

We rode the metro up to Montmartre and visited Sacre Coeur and saw le Moulin Rouge. We feasted on pain au chocolat, cafe', croissants, steak frittes, fromages, baguettes, vin.... and more!

But perhaps the most memorable experience was the time spent on the Eiffel tower since it WAS the whole point of the trip!

 Taxi ride to the tour to make our 1:00 lunch reservations.

 20 years and counting....!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Life saving

Today I attended my brother's (second) life saving award. It was moving to listen to the Sheriff recount the story of how David's intervention saved a baby's life.

He was called to the scene of a car crash where he found a baby in the car (unrestrained) who had suffered injuries. The baby wasn't breathing so he performed artificial resuscitation and then, using his nursing skills, he was able to stabilize the baby and begin an IV (which he is so good at doing, even starting a line on himself when he gets sick!). When Jacksonville Fire Rescue showed up at the scene a short while later they were able to quickly transport the baby to a hospital, saving the baby's life.

I attended another award ceremony a few months ago given by the Rotary club and when they told the story, the officer sitting at our table was amazed. She knew the baby. The family went to her church and they had prayed for the mother and child after the accident.
Isn't it cool how God answered their prayer by sending my brother who is also a registered nurse?
God is in the business of saving lives! It's cool when he uses people to help him. David, you're my hero!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Oh my poor poor blog! It's been languishing for over a year now. I've had some guilty thoughts about it but not enough to stop what I was doing and go visit. I've decided mid-year, actually late in the year, to go BACK! To start again! It's not a new year, a new school year, a new month or even a new DAY. Nothing new about it except that I want to get back into it. Beginning NOW.