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Friday, May 31, 2013

A Night of Awards and Recognition!

I am sure I have told you this before, but I have the seven cutest, sweetest and smartest grand children in the world! I KNOW that but every now and then, I rejoice when others reconfirm that idea to the rest of the world. Last night was no exception. Grand daughter #3 "graduated" from the Academy at Howard Bishop Middle School. And even though the venue was "tight" and the PA system lacking a bit, we had a wonderful evening celebrating "Morgan"!

Morgs with her medals.

Here Morgan is receiving recognition as a  recipient of the President's Award for Academic Excellence, another for her exemplary citizenship and yet another as one of only 13 in her class to receive straight "As" for all three years of middle school.

And, here she is as one of only three to receive a Perfect 6.0 FCAT Writing score in her school.

This is Morgan with her Aunt Cyndi who just happened to be her 8th grade language arts teacher this year also.

It took so long to get Morgan away from her friends for family pictures that by this time her dad had gone on to coach a volleyball game and her uncle had gone to let out his dog after a long day alone at home. But the rest of us made up for it and I think by the end of the evening she knew how proud we all were of her. She is an incredible young lady and she will soar as she heads on to the IB program at Eastside H.S. where she will be a freshman and her sister will be a senior. Can't believe how quickly they are growing up and we have enjoyed every minute we have gotten to spend with these girls-and their five cousins too! Grand children are special and we could not love them more!!

And, in and amongst all of my recent travels lately, I have started! I just had to. Hope my next post finds me much further along! We shall see. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

It's That Time of Year!

Whew! We're on the countdown of parties and ceremonies for the spring season and end of school year! I love all of the fun but hate that I can't be in two places at once. Yesterday I missed a day at Uncle Donald's Farm with daughter #3 and her two youngest but got to attend a retirement party for my brother in Gainesville.

My brother interned at Glen Springs Elementary in 1978, graduated from UF and accepted a job at the same school - and he has been there for 34 years. He has grumbled about retiring for several years now as state standards kept changing and getting more and more involved leaving less and less time for teaching. But, I really never thought I would see the day. As anyone who has ever been there can tell you, leaving is hard after so many years of loving.

The party thrown by his co-workers was wonderful and the only other retiree this year was his team partner. I never thought he cared much for speaking in public, but once he got to that mic, he was "on". His remembrances of her were sweet and funny and quite emotional.

Then, his mentor from all those many years ago got up to speak about him. He really was the favorite teacher at Glen Springs for all these years. She said kids used to cry when they saw they got her and not Mr. Dunphy.

My brother was a wonderful teacher but not a push over. He expected much from his students and they tried hard to live up to his expectations. You would think they would prefer an "easier" teacher but in the end, his love for his students was the drawing card. It was always all about them!

It was an honor to be there yesterday and hear all of the things said about him that we have known all these many years because you truly can not step foot out in Gainesville without running into someone who knows and loves him.

And just when we thought it was over, my "speech reluctant" brother took the podium to speak once again and thank his family. He gave a bit of a history of his "educational highlights" - quite honestly things I had forgotten and now marvel at the thought that he ever made it out of high school (but I digress) - and family remembrances. It was quite the tear jerking moment.

I know my brother will enjoy not having the scheduling constraints of teaching but I also know that after all of these years, he will miss his classroom very much. I have no doubt that he will not miss his students because I know he will continue to always be involved with children - starting with his summer track camp in a few short weeks. He loves kids and they love him-what a wonderful legacy!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


After our recent trip to the blueberry farm, I wanted to make something with some of the berries before I froze the rest.

This is how I was taught to treat blueberries back in the day when we were dragging taking our kids in the heat of the summer to help us pick. Once you get them home, pick over them pulling off any small little stems that are still attached and discarding any that are too over/under ripe. Then, give them a good rinse and spread them out on paper towels on cookie sheets. Let them dry well. Then, you can freeze as many as you want and they will freeze individually and not stick together. I love frozen blueberries. I eat them like candy. This method keeps them the best way for future baking or cooking.

Once the berries have been frozen, they do lose their firmness if they are ever defrosted so use them frozen. The rest of the clean berries I put in a pretty crystal bowl and keep up front in the refrigerator. Funny how when they are presented in that way, both my husband and I find ourselves grabbing a handful each time we pull open that door.

Since I picked so many berries, I got the urge to bake something-thought one for us and one for my daughter's family as a thank you for taking me along would be nice. But, I was in no mood to head to the store so I had to search Pinterest for a recipe that I could make with what I had on hand-and that is usually not much exciting these days!

For some reason, I had 3 oranges in the frig-don't even remember where they came from-so that probably wasn't a good thing-but orange and blueberry sounded good so I got started.

I found a recipe for orange-blueberry breakfast bread. It was fun to make as it went together a little differently than a normal quick bread and it looked nice when it was done. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations. It was a bit bitter-probably from bitter orange zest. I might actually try this one again with oranges that I actually remember buying. If it turns out better I will share the recipe. For now, imagine how good it MIGHT taste-next time!

I actually wrapped up the loaves after a little taste and put them in the freezer for a few days. I guess the flavors had a chance to meld a bit because it tastes a bit better than before and it is extremely moist. I have high hopes for next time-and I think I know where I can find some blueberries...stay tuned.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Are We Having Fun Yet?

O.K. So I think I've told you before that there must be something wrong with me. I love to tackle HUGE gardening projects. I love to get dirty! I love to get knocked over with falling trees and caught in inch thick vines. I don't know why, I just do! And, quite honestly, the only thing that really keeps me from doing more of it is the thought of happening upon a snake or two. I have lived with snakes around me for most of my life and I still DON'T LIKE THEM!

So yesterday, while most people were at the beach or a bar-b-que, I decided to get out the ladder and tackle the vines and branches that were once again creeping up and over our fence from the 17 acres behind our house. If I go up high enough on the ladder and lean over a bit, I can do a fair job of getting the stuff down. Yesterday, I asked my hubby to pull on some of the branches to allow me to chop them even further down. As we were doing this he said "why don't we go behind the fence"? He hasn't offered to do that for awhile, so I was down that ladder and heading off in a flash. He used loppers and I went in with a pruning saw and clippers. I tell you, in an hour or so, we were bumped and bleeding from all of the stickery vines, but we had a 4-5' path along the fence all the way to the end. We were so darn proud of ourselves.

But, when we looked at the fence from the inside, there were still a number of branches hanging over our pool and they were coming from some trees too large to fell with any of the tools we own. So, we got cleaned up and "crashed" a bar-b-que at my daughter's house. We had a nice visit with everyone and by the time we left, our son-in-law had offered to bring his chain saw over and help us finish the job today.

And true to his word, he was on our front porch bright and early and the fun began. We got a number of other trees down and now our fence is empty of vines and branches. It is amazing what a difference it makes. The pictures don't really show you how much came down. Everything you see here is piles of cut trees and branches-and this continues the entire length of the fence.  Soon everything that still looks green and growing will die off and we will really be able to admire our hard work.

Doesn't the fence look wonderful now? Not a vine in sight! And those trees that look like they are looming right over our yard are really quite a ways back!  I have a few more chores to get done out here today and then I think I will put my feet up and call it a weekend! Hope everyone had as much fun as I did. Oh, and yes, we happened upon 3 of my not-so-little slithery friends. Maybe they are as afraid of me as I am of them-but I doubt it! Stay tuned. We have a busy week with retirement parties and graduation and award ceremonies, but if I can find any free time, I think I will start putting out 4th of July. Stay tuned. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Welcome Old Friends!

I love this time of year! Our skies have been crisp and brilliant blue. Our mornings have been cool with our days still not getting unbearable. And, we have had enough rain to make everything green and lush. This is also when some of my old friends make their appearance again:

Each day when I walk through the gardens, I see something else beginning to come back. They are like old friends that I am so happy to see. I try to buy perennials when I am adding plants for just this reason. When I walk through the gardens in the winter and see some of the plants, I am sure I will never see them again. But ultimately most of them return and my faith in Mother Nature is once again restored! Can't wait to see what visits next! Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Red Is the New Pink...

...or something like that!

I have seven grand children so sooner or later, things get passed down. That used to happen a lot with the first four-especially clothes- as they were all girls and pretty close in age. Then the next two to come along are boys so clothes passing is pretty much out of the picture-not to mention that even if they were girls, clothes are pretty much worn out after that many "pass downs". But, the four older girls did have lots of electronic stuff. Some of them liked theirs in pink but others preferred simple black. When it came time for these things to pass down, of course the older brother chose the black items and the younger got them in pink. For awhile, this was not an issue. But when Hudson turned 5, he began to question whether he wanted his things in pink-perhaps some of his brothers friends "got to him"-I don't know- so when a big, pink jeep got delivered from one of his mom's friends, he began to show a bit of resistance. Of course, not enough to say no to the jeep if it came to that but he chose the other path-he came to Nana because as he and all of his cousins somehow believe, "Nana can fix ANYTHING". And, somehow, if it is anywhere in Nana's capabilities, she WILL!

So when Hudson asked me about the jeep, I told him there was a plastic paint that might serve our needs. I have used it a few times and I must admit that I was not thrilled with the results but I couldn't come up with a better idea so he and I booked a date to Lowes to pick out the color and buy the supplies. There were not many colors to choose from but he wanted red so that worked out fine!

Truthfully, the hardest part of the project-and as you know the hardest part of ANY project for me-was the prep work. There were many, many parts of that jeep that had to be taped off or it would have looked pretty sad. Both Hudson and Presley helped me and I DO mean helped. I thought I would be re-doing their parts but these kids really got it! They were meticulous and we had so much fun talking as we went. It was a beautiful spring afternoon and I can't think of anywhere in the world I would rather have been.

Here is the jeep all taped and ready for its first coat:

Nana put on the first coat and then Hudson really wanted to try. When he said,"please may I have a chance?", I couldn't say no. He did a great job but realized how hard it is to push that nozzle and move the can in an even fashion. He quit after doing the back and Nana went "up a notch" in his eyes.

We really should have left the car alone at this point to let the paint cure but Mom and Nana were as anxious as Hudson was so we pulled off the tape and plastic and admired our results:

So what do you think? But wait, there's more. We are going to take a trip back to Lowes to pick out some colored Duck Brand Duct Tape. Then we are going to add racing stripes, lightening bolts or anything else this fabulous little one can conjure up. He is the most appreciative child I have ever met. He kept telling me all afternoon long how much he loved it and didn't stop saying thank you. It just does an old Nana's heart good! End results to come. Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Perfect Ending.... a perfect day. When last posting, I told you about our morning of blueberry picking. There were more fun things in the afternoon that I will post soon and then the evening ended back at the kids' pre-school where this time Presley had her "moving up" ceremony and "concert".

This is the three year old class. They began the night with MANY songs-haha-and most of the songs were accompanied with movement or sign language. Presley loved this and really "got into" the movements-sorry Nana wasn't fast enough to catch them but you can take my word for it.

I don't know what it was about this dress, but Presley was adamant about holding it out in most of the pictures-maybe it was the pleats? She even proceeded into the church with her class holding it out. In any case, one last picture satisfied her.

I have had a very busy, fun filled number of days. Things have begun to pile up around here so I guess that will be my lot today-sigh. I would so much rather be out having fun but there is time for all of that yet to come-stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

We'll Be Eating Blueberries for a Long Time!

Today was a wonderful day. I spent it with daughter #3 and her two youngest children. We headed off to find a blueberry farm that was new to us. We used to go blueberry picking when my girls were young but that farm is no longer open so my daughter had heard a lot about this place. It was a beautifully run farm and all of the rows and rows of bushes were so well maintained! They will only be open through Memorial Day so we thought pickings may be slim by now but oh were we wrong!

We tied buckets around our waists and off we went.

And, as you can see, we didn't have to work very hard to find them. Can't wait to get started on muffins, and cakes and breads, oh my! Stay tuned.