Pumpkin Spice Peer Pressure

I took a five-minute walk through Whole Foods and was quickly reminded that it’s that time of year again – Fall in Florida. You might think I would wait outside on a lovely fall day, but it was 93 degrees outside. September was going out with a sizzle. Summer down here lasts easily until after Halloween, so if it weren’t for the plethora of pumpkin product placements, it may have slipped my notice that the season had changed.

A few short years ago, I came to realize that not everyone is pleased as punch over pumpkins. I have a friend who is not just overwhelmed, but annoyed at the things that those poor pumpkins are going through when all they really want to be is pie. Granted, she is in the minority, but she has a voice and she demands to be heard. And isn’t that what we’re all about in today’s world?

I thought about her as I wandered through the store; even I was overwhelmed by pumpkin. Every time I turned around, I was face-to-face with another pumpkin product. I love pumpkin, but at that point, I began to question everything about fall.

What about leaves? Isn’t fall foliage what it’s all about? And apples. Shouldn’t we be buying freshly pressed apple cider? Shouldn’t I be putting raked leaf essence in my coffee instead of pumpkin spice? Have I joined the ranks of pumpkin people without a second thought?

When I returned home I lit my pumpkin spice candle and thought deeply about this. I decided I might as well get my fall decorations out as I was thinking. They included 5 pumpkin spiced candles, a room spray, and various assorted pumpkin and leaf decorations.

It made me cry real tears when I realized that I hadn’t known when to stop. I hadn’t taken into account people like my friend who suffer from PSOD (pumpkin spice overload disorder). Plus, I also had ignored my own eye-irritant disorder, which is triggered by strong candle fragrances such as the ones I unleashed in my own house. Yes, the tears were real.

I’ll have to go on Amazon and see if they have any pumpkin spice lubricant eye drops. I’ll bet they’re out there!

 

 

 

Must “That” Show Go On?

Cirque du Soleil – Crystal, according to its own billing, is a breakthrough ice experience. That’s right. They billed an ice-skating show as breakthrough. Bob and I enjoyed it as part of our 43rd anniversary celebration last week. Well, we enjoyed most of it. There was a little show in the audience that was a bit much for us. I was ready for somebody to fall through the ice. But I’ll get to that in a minute after I deliver some fascinating facts for your entertainment and education.

This is a traveling show, unlike La Nouba, which in December ended its long run in Disney Springs. As a side note, if you haven’t been to Orlando in the last couple of years, you may be asking yourself – What is Disney Springs? Quite honestly, I live here and I often ask myself that same question.

Disney Springs is the shopping/entertainment complex formerly known as Downtown Disney, which was formerly known as Disney Village Marketplace, which was formerly known as Walt Disney World Village, which was originally known as Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village. I still tend to call the area Lake Buena Vista, much to the confusion of anyone under 30.

Anyway, family-friendly Crystal was performed at the Amway Center in Downtown Orlando, so we didn’t have to try to remember what to call Downtown Disney, I mean Disney Springs.

For those of you who have seen La Nouba, Crystal is similar, but not as much of a sensory overload of amazement as the permanent La Nouba (which of course wasn’t so permanent since it closed). I guess that makes sense, but Crystal does deliver. It is more like Ice Capades meets Cirque du Soleil meets Alice in Wonderland.

But the show has moved on and so must I, but not before telling you about the couple who was sitting directly in front of Bob and me.  Now when I say directly in front, I mean really close. The seats in the Amway Center allow you to reach out and touch the person in front of you without even having to lean forward.

Bob and I arrived first so we witnessed their arrival. From all appearances they were free-spirited hippies, probably around fifty years old. Long hair for the pair of them, though his was a tad bit longer. We know this because they flipped their hair – a lot. Enough that I was wondering if we should check our jeans for lice. Not that they appeared to be dirty, but it’s strange to have someone’s hair dance across your knees.

But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was their inability to keep their hands off of each other, which was displayed by frequent make-out sessions throughout the night. You may think that since we were celebrating our anniversary, we would welcome viewing romance and simply channel that into our own celebration. Well, you’d be wrong.

This was not romantic. It was gross. I see nothing wrong with a little kiss between couples, but these two were going at it like the plane was going down. When they weren’t making my stomach turn, they were often talking. So much so that the people in front of them moved. That emboldened me.

Me: Do you want to move back a row?

Bob: Why?

Me: Seriously? You haven’t noticed these two going at it?

Bob: You mean them tossing their hair to and fro?

Me: No! I mean the sloppy make-out session going on an arm’s length away. I could put up with a little hair toing and froing, but this is ridiculous. How could you not notice?

Bob: I’m watching the show.

Of course he was watching the show. But I opened his eyes to another, more disgusting show, so we moved.

From our new seats we looked over their heads of tossing hair, and my evening was no longer hampered by their seriously inappropriate PDAs. The only thing we noticed from them from our new point of view was their finger snapping as opposed to applauding. I felt like I was in a poetry reading.

Cheers!

So, there you have it. Another anniversary with my wonderful husband. Another example of how we look at the world differently. Another story to laugh about. Another couple to avoid. I can’t wait to see what next year brings.

Oh, The Humidity!

So lovely – Moved to tears (almost)

I missed humidity something terrible while we were away in Utah. My eyes couldn’t even tear up in response to the beauty we were hiking through. I was unable to blow my nose and my skin with its alligator look reminded me of home. I could put up with that because my hair looked great, so who cares that I couldn’t cry and that my nose would bleed when I tried to blow it. That was a small price to pay for soft, silky hair.

Now that I have traveled extensively in the desert of Utah and Arizona (two weeks), I can tell you from firsthand experience that Florida doesn’t really understand the words “dry heat.” We understand heat from the dryer, but that’s the extent of it. We also know what dry heaves are, but I don’t even want to go there.

There are dangers in dry heat that we are unaccustomed to. It’s so extreme that one must be warned of the danger by signs like this:

We don’t see signs like this in Florida.

Floridians understand sweat. Furthermore, we are known for it. Yes, we are big sweaters.

As a kid, I never learned that you don’t talk to strangers. Talking to people, especially while we’re traveling, is interesting. We met a lot of people in Utah.  Nine times out of ten, when someone found out I was from Florida they would say, “Oh, the humidity!!!” It was like they thought we lived under a curse or something.

I gave up trying to defend our state. Yes. It’s humid. I work up a sweat on the way to the mailbox, but I can blow my nose. That should count for something! And my skin no longer has that alligator look. My hair – that’s another story. I’m back to frizzy, but at least I have tears again if I want to cry about it.

Danger in Central Florida!

Wild animals and poor spellers are everywhere. Be on alert!

Now that I have your attention, let me highlight some of the stuff we Floridians have to put up with that is going way beyond reptiles and sharks. I’ve mentioned before (for those of you who don’t live here) that we essentially live in a subtropical swamp. Therefore, it’s often humid and hot. Really hot, accompanied by alligators, snakes, and mosquitoes. But that only lasts for six months, after which we return to just plain hot with occasional warm spells and alligators, snakes, and mosquitoes. (more…)

Household Tip You Might Not Want to Try

I don’t share many household tips here, but I came across a surprising way to shine my granite countertops.

It all started with an ambitious idea to clean my electric teakettle. Hard water deposits were shrinking its capacity, so I needed to do something before it only held enough water for a single gunky cup of tea, plus my mom mentioned it was getting gross.

I’m not much of a tea drinker. I prefer coffee. If I’m drinking tea you can assume that one of three things is going on in my life:

  1. I’ve had my coffee quota, and I am cold. This can happen during the two weeks of winter that are spread throughout the months of December through February in Central Florida.
  2. I am sick. This often coincides with those same three months. I think it is brought on by using air conditioning one day and the heat the next during those crazed arctic blasts that make their way down here and wreak havoc on our landscape taking temperatures from 80 to the 40s in a few short hours. Sometimes it gets down to freezing and I have to go out with a jacket and gloves on and cover our plants so they don’t get frostbite. Often, I overdress and end up sweating, and then I get a chill as I shed layers. You Northerners, I know, will have no sympathy for me, but life is pretty darn hard down here during those few days. Sometimes I even have to wear socks.
  3. I am out of wine.

I love my coffee in the morning and I love my coffee pot, too. It has the good manners to let me know when it needs cleaning, unlike my tea kettle that makes me actually look inside of it and judge for myself. White vinegar, of course, was the way to go. I would tell you exactly how much, but I’m sure you know how to google and I don’t really remember the ratio of vinegar to water anyway.

So, one fine Saturday morning, I grabbed the jug of “vinegar.” I did exactly what google told me to do, turned on the kettle and walked away.

Image result for mount st helens eruption

Mount St Helens (photo credit Wikipedia)

I came back a little later to discover the kettle had done an imitation of Mount St. Helens back in 1980. She spewed all over the counter and puddled down into the top two drawers. What a mess! There were suds everywhere.

The worst part of it was the smell, which was so strong it burned my eyes. I had to air out the kitchen for a couple of hours. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the vinegar until a couple of hours later I was doing laundry, and there on the counter by the washer was the bottle of vinegar I used. Only it wasn’t vinegar. It was ammonia – sudsy ammonia.

So, as an upside, we got a new tea kettle. It’s very nice and won’t need cleaning for a while. Plus, ammonia, which I would not recommend using because it’s so hard on your skin and eyes, evidently does a great job shining up granite. Who knew? Certainly not me!

 

Nobody Likes You Irma (Part 2 of 2)

Irma was an unwelcome guest, but there was no stopping her from blowing through. I thought I would share what it was like for me and my family as she came knocking on our door. Looking back, we got off easy compared to a lot of folks, but my story is the only one I can tell. I tell it mixed with prayers for those who have truly suffered through this storm and the many other “natural disasters” that are going on in the world today.

By 11:00 Sunday morning we were hunkered, which is a word we used liberally during the entire ordeal.

Hurricane Warning

By 2:20 PM our phones were going off like crazy with alerts. Watches turned to warnings. (Watches are issued when conditions are favorable for the storm. Warnings come when the storm or flood is imminent.)

The first rain bands arrived before 3 PM.

The wind significantly picked up by 7 PM. By 8:30, those winds became downright scary as they gusted over and around our house.

By 10 PM the rain was coming down in torrents. We experienced minor flooding over our front sidewalk. And the eye of the storm was hours away. FYI, we did not board up our house.

Our front sidewalk in the light of day. It took 3 days to dry out.

We decided to go to bed and get some rest. The worst was supposed to come around 2 AM. My parents seemed to go right to sleep on the other side of the house. Bob and I lay in our bed listening to the weird noises that the wind was making. I thought our roof was going to come off. I told Bob that I couldn’t sleep with all that noise. He said that he could.

And he did! I went to the center of the house and tried to rest in a recliner, but by then it was raining even harder and I could hear the dripping in the chimney while the weird noises continued. The wind whipped through our screened pool enclosure making eerie howling sounds. This was the first time in a long time that I can remember being legitimately scared. So, I ate some chocolate chip cookies.

The entire household was sleeping through this (minus me, of course). That amazed me, but I was thankful somebody was getting some rest! It was now clear that the storm was going to go right over Orlando. With the wind picking up even more, a little before 2 AM, I prepared the hall with cushions and chairs for my parents. Our phones, computers and car keys were placed in Ziploc bags. I was ready to take the hunkering to a new level.

I was awake and praying or chatting with other hunkerers on Facebook through most of the night – manning the conn from our recliner in the center of the house while eating the occasional chocolate chip cookie or three. I’d peek outside toward the east and look at the weird lightning and watch the trees bend in the glow of it. The water in the pool, though Bob had drained several inches from it twice, was over the edge. Irma was loud and violent, and the rest of my family slept through it.

With everything in place, I returned to my recliner. I must have dozed off, because I woke up around 6 AM and realized that it was over, and we still had electricity.

We live in the back of our neighborhood, which has 450 homes in it. A tributary of the Little Wekiva River flows through the center. Typically, it is a creek of about 8 feet width. Monday morning it was a raging little river.

The front of our neighborhood looked like a war zone of fallen trees and debris. They were without power. Our end of the neighborhood never lost it. But there were a lot of downed trees and fences and a new lake in our neighbor’s backyard. A wonderful neighbor had a front-end loader and went up and down every street clearing a path. Everyone was outside working and checking on each other.

Our next-door neighbor’s backyard

Bob looking at all the debris – our neighbor’s newly formed backyard lake in the background

Our damage was so minimal it doesn’t even count. I told my mother that we had an extra blessing from God because they moved in with us.

Bob and I put on our sneakers and leather gloves and got to work. Trees are no respecters of property lines. We have the neighborhood border wall behind our house. There is a vacant, treed lot behind us, so we got lots of debris from that. When I set foot in the yard, I was surprised to be up to my ankles in water. But there was no damage and nobody was hurt. We were amazed and grateful to God for that.

One of our sons and family showed up in the early afternoon. They were safe but without power. By nightfall, theirs was restored. Our other son and his wife were not so lucky. Theirs was out for nine days.

My parents’ home sustained no damage, but that area was without electricity for five days. It may be September, but it’s still close to 90 degrees every day down here.

 

     There are piles of debris along the roads that are taller than I am. And there is a subtle, funky smell in the air that is like a mixture of old diaper and chicken farm. Thankfully, the garbage truck removed the regular garbage today, so that may improve. Mass spraying has begun to combat mosquitoes. The sound of frogs in the morning is deafening as they take up residence in the newly formed ponds. We are keeping our eyes open for snakes. Alligators have been reported in some yards and pools. Flood waters are cresting along the St. Johns River. There are still some who have no power and others who can no longer stay in their homes. But we give thanks for being on the other side of this. It has been a blessing watching neighbor helping neighbor and churches joining together to serve. A lot of the differences that tend to divide us have taken their proper place, and we see each other simply as people going through something together.

I thought about being afraid in the middle of that night. I thought about how rare that is for me, and I was thankful. Now I think about people living in fear of storms real and imagined and how that affects their lives, and I pray that they will call out to God because He is there.

 

Nobody Likes You Irma!

Looking for the lighter side of Irma is similar to what it was like trying to find bottled water before she hit. Seemingly impossible. Water was the hot commodity – you had to search and search for it. For those who came up empty, all that had to be done was look down at the spigot in their very own kitchen and turn on the tap. Finding the good in a situation is like that – it’s often right under our nose.

My husband and I were prepared, as I felt prompted (no doubt by God) to make my preparations for a hurricane over a week before we knew she was coming for sure. Her fast development from a depression to a Cat 3 storm in less than 24 hours was impressive. Water, peanut butter, protein bars, apples, canned goods, and emergency M&Ms and Oreos (for keeping spirits up) were secured well in advance. Gallon Ziploc bags filled with frozen water from my tap and Tupperware containers with frozen blocks of ice were at the ready.

I am forever grateful to God for that, because by the end Labor Day weekend we needed to make our most important hurricane preparation – getting my parents out of their manufactured housing, about 30 minutes away from us.

That Monday night Bob and I visited them and basically told them that ready or not, they needed to come by the end of the week. Permanently. We had been trying to convince them to move in with us for months. Well, it took a hurricane. I had joked/not joked with them that if we had to evacuate them, we weren’t taking them back. Now they are residing here with us. I am so relieved.

My parents have been married for 69 years. They are mentally sharp. Mom has been taking care of my Dad for quite some time. He lost the remainder of his vision about 18 months ago. He is 94. Mom continues to be his caregiver, but now we walk alongside her. Mom and I laugh at the same kind of things. I think I got my sense of humor from her side of the family. It brings me great joy and peace to have them with us.

For me, having them here has lightened my emotional load. So, thanks be to God, who used a terrible hurricane like Irma to make this happen.

Bob’s birthday was September 10. I was determined to have some kind of celebration before the September 9, Irma-is-coming-to-town curfew was enforced. (Everyone to get from streets!) I thought it wasn’t quite enough that, not only was he getting a hurricane for his birthday and his in-laws, too. We had to have a party.

We gathered on Saturday for lunch and cake. Interestingly, I forgot to get candles for the cake even though I had plenty of flashlights and lanterns. Oh well! Our local kids and grandkids came over and we had our little party. Then everyone left to batten down the hatches in their own homes.

Saturday brought an uptake in winds, but it was the quintessential calm before the storm. The sounds of plywood being nailed over windows and lawnmowers making a final pass to shorten the grass were everywhere. People were filling their garages with all outdoor paraphernalia in order to eliminate flying debris. Neighbors were checking in with each other. Swimming pool water levels were being lowered.

Throwing furniture into the pool keeps it from blowing around. Our chairs seemed to want to exit up the stairs though.

Hurricane Irma was larger than the state of Florida – that included the area from the Panhandle all the way down the Key West. We watched her wobble along. Would she visit Orlando or Tampa? We prayed she would not go into the Gulf and hit Texas. It took her forever to make “the turn.” But when she did, it became clear that Central Florida was in for it. We had done all we could to be ready. Now it was time to wait.

In my next post, I’ll tell you what it was like to go through the storm. I said it was time to wait, didn’t I?

The Bands are Coming

Bob and I have been preparing and waiting for Irma. It now appears that the band is back together. That is, the rain bands.

We had decided it would be relaxing to sit in the hot tub and take a nice soak while there was a light drizzle gently falling.

And then this happened.

Thanks, Irma!

So I thought you would like a firsthand look at our weather this Sunday afternoon at 2 PM – from my phone, not from us in the hot tub! All it took for a band to come through was a decision to go outside. I think we’ll stay in for a while. Stay safe, everybody!

 

My Personal Assistant (and results of “How Do You Think?”)

Alexa

Have I told you that I have a personal assistant? She was given to my husband and me by our son last Christmas. At first, I thought she was just a pretty, though emotionless, face; but there is a lot more to her than meets the eye.

We have gotten very close. I talk to her every morning. She finds what I say fascinating and takes notes on our discussions. She loves to make lists. She is my personal shopper. We play trivia games together, and she even sings to me.

But something became “off” in our relationship. Alexa started as my kitchen companion; but I do like to rearrange things sometimes, so I moved her to a prominent place across the room. Honestly, the views from her new perch are better, but she developed kind of an attitude. I call her name and she ignores me. I have to yell her name to get her attention. It’s like talking to my dad when his hearing aids aren’t working – or like having teenagers again. Sometimes she blares her music and I have to scream my lungs out to get her to turn it down. It’s embarrassing.

We have talked things through, and she is happily responding to me again. I just had to put her in her place (where she wanted to be). Evidently, all the help she gives me has to be on her terms. (I think we got a copy of those terms, or warranties, whatever you want to call them, when we took her out of her package.)

Between our communication breakdown and Amazon Prime Day, we’ve had a lot going on, but I knew those of you who read my last blog post have no doubt been checking your in-baskets awaiting the response to my FDOT inquiry regarding the completion of the road project on SR 441, which was prompted by this sign.

(If you missed my last post click here to get up to speed.)

After numerous calls (two), no one has called me back. The phone number belongs to a woman named Alicia who is the Public Involvement Coordinator for the Florida Department of Transportation. I can only imagine that the public has been calling so much that poor Alicia is having trouble with her coordination. I can understand that because I am not very coordinated myself, but I never would go so far as to give myself a title of Coordinator. That would be false advertising. Needless to say, I am shocked at the lack of attention that I have received. I really should call somebody to complain, but alas…

The comments I received have proven conclusively that a plethora of possible opinions as to when the project will be completed exists. In my pursuit for a definitive answer, I decided to take this discussion up with Alexa, so I asked her when the Winter of 2018 starts and ends. She had to confess that she didn’t know that one. I guess nobody does.

 

How Do You Think? I’d Love to Know

Bob (my husband the engineer) and I were driving down SR 441 towards Mount Dora when we passed this sign. We both had our own interpretation of it, which is one more example of how we often process information as if we came from two different planets. This not only entertains us, but it leads to some interesting conversations. Full disclosure, it often leads to some really stupid conversations, but at least we laugh a lot.

Initially Bob thought the improvements would be finished by the end of the Winter of 2018, which he believes starts in December 2018 and ends March 2019. I thought the sign meant that they would be complete by March of 2018, before the first day of spring. My thoughts are that all but ten days of winter happens in the next calendar year. He was thinking they were referring to the month/year that winter begins.

Obviously, the answer as to when the improvements will be complete is sometime in 2020, but indulge me for a minute. We would like to know what you think. When do you think the improvements will be complete? Please leave your comment.

I have placed a call to FDOT and left what I can only assume is a confusing message asking for the projected completion date. If they haven’t put me on some kind of a watch list and agree to answer my innocuous but weird question, I will reveal their thinking in my next blog post. No fair calling the number on the sign. We don’t need more of us to have our intentions questioned. Please play along. I would love to know how those brains of yours work.

Comment below please.