Magical Hot Air Balloons Send Us Soaring and Set us Down Easy

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Hot Air Balloons

The last time I rode in a hot air balloon, I was in my twenties. I remember being surprised at how hot it was up there. Our pilot kept a constant watch on the fire and gas levels which filled the hollow balloon with hot air. The exhilarating feeling of gliding over the pasture land below was well worth the fee we paid for the thrill.

I’ve had a fascination with these colorful “envelopes” ever since. Every year in Missouri and many other states balloonists gather with their gondolas and designer aircraft to share their enthusiasm with other fans of the sport. When they all take off, it’s a breathtaking spectacle that is remarkable and unforgettable.

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Recently there was a horrible disaster in Texas. A balloon carrying 16 people on an overcast day failed to see the overhead power lines they were heading for. The balloon caught fire and exploded killing all 16. Because of the wind and weather, hot air balloons can be unpredictable.

According to Wikipedia, the hot air balloon is the “oldest successful human-carrying flight technology. Are they safe? Today’s balloons have an envelope that is not sealed at the bottom, the envelope is generally made from nylon fabric and the inlet of the balloon (closest to the burner flame) is made from fire resistant material.

“Beginning in the mid-1970s, balloon envelopes have been made in all kinds of shapes, such as rocket ships and the shapes of various commercial products, though the traditional shape remains popular for most non-commercial, and many commercial, applications.

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Shortly after 9/11 I attended a hot air balloon show at Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. All planes were still grounded, including these magnificent aircraft. We walked from one gondola to another greeting the owners and admiring their colorful envelopes that were inflated and ready to fly. Sadly not one balloon was able to launch that day.

In the interim, we were fortunate enough to witness a marriage ceremony of two balloonists. They had met during a balloon conclave, fell in love, and wanted to share their wedding day with the friends who enjoyed the sport as much as they did.

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Staying Power, What is it and Why does it Resonate?

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My granddaughter, Rachel and me

My granddaughter, Rachel and me

One of my favorite movies is Forrest Gump. From the moment the feather floats upward and the background music begins, I’m hooked. There’s something about the soft flutter of this delicate work of nature that intrigues us all. As the feather rides the air currents, we know this is going to be a whimsical fun tale; an imaginary flight of fancy.

The feather also mirrors each of our lives. We wander through a myriad of choices and struggle over countless obstacles that may, at any time, bulldoze us and lay us flat. The feather symbolism is real and down to earth. Birds soar overhead and use their feathered wings to escape their prey. They flutter gently to protect a nest full of hope and regeneration. Feathers signify angel’s wings and God’s protection.

"Brown Thrasher" 16x20 acrylic with overlapping paint on barn wood frame

“Brown Thrasher” 20×16 acrylic with overlapping paint on barn wood frame

Sometimes the loud obnoxious and violent things around us distract our attention from the subtle messages that play out around us every day. Yet these quiet gentle winds bring us whispers of hope, touches of love, and heartfelt warmth if we but listen and receive them.

Good things often come in small packages. Great inspiration is usually received in moments of calm. Reverie was a word used by many creative’s in the past to indicate those times when they were in solitude and sought to connect with their God or muse.

Gump made us laugh and cry, suffer and weep. We rode the tides of his emotion and felt the slap and abrasion of his pain when he hit the sand. It is surely one of the great classics of our time.

"Robin Hood" 16x20 oil on canvas

“Robin Hood” 16×20 acrylic on canvas

Staying power is a huge element in success. What are you creating or doing with your life that will have lasting staying power. I’m not speaking of a long life, but a memorable one where people remember the pleasure and the pain of your deeds, your life’s work.

Some artists call it “universal appeal.” Without this key ingredient, your work (your life) is just attractive colors and shapes pieced together on a page that will quickly be forgotten in the next wave of popularity.

Staying power is an eternal principle that doesn’t go away even after you are gone. Universal appeal reaches out to all people regardless of race, religion, or social status. There is something there, a quality if you will, that resonates with the masses and connects with another’s inner and spiritual life.

Forrest Gump captured the essence of these eternal vibrations and mirrored each of our lives as they meander and roll into endless time and space. Please enjoy the following clips:

(feather theme)

(preview of show)

Whet Your Palate with Foods from the Present and Memories from the Past

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My Danish grandfather had several pigs that were kept in a pen near the back garden. If it was “pig slopping” time, I was there. The snorts and squeals of the pigs as they gulped down their food made me giggle. The smell of the mash mixed with whatever leftovers were available from the house, garden or dairy barn seemed intoxicating. Those pigs really knew how to scarf down a meal.

Feral Pig

Feral Pig

When people “feed their faces” or “chow down” on foods they love, I’m always reminded of those blubbery fat hogs. One of mankind’s favorite pastimes is eating. A phrase spoken around the world in many different languages is: “What’s for dinner?” When my children were still toddlers they would crowd around my legs and ask “Time for eat?” They were not only hungry. They wanted it now!

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“The Cook” 11×14 acrylic on canvas

Sometimes I stressed out about what to feed them. I wanted to provide something nutritious that they would enjoy, and I needed to stay within my budget. I didn’t want an anxiety attack every time I had to prepare a meal.

Solution: “The menu Plan.” I literally planned out a full month of assorted meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Now I had something to work from when I went shopping. I didn’t have to worry about food because I knew exactly what we were going to eat and when. I knew the ingredients were waiting somewhere in the cupboards, the freezer or refrigerator because I’d purchased them myself.

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When there were leftovers, I’d incorporate them into the menu. Two big hits were omelets and fried rice. Both used miscellaneous meats or vegetables in small quantities that could be folded into an omelet with cheese or stir-fried into rice. Hidden veggies were eaten with added bacon bits or ham to sweeten the pot.

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Cooking became an art form. I fashioned make-ahead meals and blended together the makings for cookies, cakes, and muffins. All I needed to do was add egg, oil, and milk and the rest was already done. I look back now and I wonder how I found the time or energy. I was a volunteer, I worked as a free-lance writer, and I had a large family. I think one reason may have been “lack of fear.”

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There was a time when parents didn’t have to hover over their children and worry that they might be snatched out from under them by some pervert or kidnapper. My parents certainly never had to worry about me. I roamed the neighborhood and played outside for hours exploring the world I lived in. I rode my bicycle home when I was hungry. My mother knew my haunts and she knew whom to call. I never felt restricted or tied down. I seldom felt afraid.

Food no longer seems to call us back home. We can buy it almost anywhere. In fact, more people eat out than ever before. They either eat fast food or buy take out and eat at home watching T.V. Our society eats on the run and does far too much snacking. Nutrition sometimes gets lost in the balance.

When my kids were still in college, I’d get a phone call asking for a recipe they remembered. Today they have their own recipes and children of their own. Even holidays don’t involve the time and effort they used to. Store-bought items take the place of the time-consuming hot rolls of the past. Potatoes and gravy are now prepared for you. Even a “home-cooked” turkey can be purchased from your supermarket.

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Although the traditions of the past come in a new form, and busy working mothers don’t have the time to prepare a full spread; people still enjoy sharing food and laughter with those they love. Ordinary food will always taste better in good company. Perhaps that’s what those snorting pigs were trying to tell me so long ago” “Bon Appetite!  Let the good times roll – oink, oink!”

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It’s That Time of Year, Begorrah, for the Wearin’ of the Green

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Fuchsia Fantastic

Fuchsia Fantastic, 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas

I’ve always dreaded St. Patrick’s Day.  Every kid in school was wearing green but me. My mother fashioned a homemade clover pin out of green felt and crepe paper. But since it wasn’t legitimate clothing, I got pinched anyway. “That doesn’t count,” my peers all agreed as they chased me around the playground.

On Wednesday, We have a St. Patty’s Party at our church. I scanned my closet and discovered I still don’t own anything green. What’s with that? I love green, especially grass green. It’s nature’s color, for heaven’s sake! My clothes hangers are full of beiges, browns, whites and blacks, but not a smidgen of green.

My eyes are a mixture of light brown and green. Hazel I write down on required forms. They turn chameleon whenever I wear lavender or peach, and then people say “My you have lovely green eyes.”

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I had an olive green carpet in the seventies. In fact, my favorite color back then was olive green. I not only had a suit and a dress in this color. I was designated a “Fall” by the latest home-party color technologist. Of course, my hair was still brown when I took that first test.

Incidentally my favorite foods are green. I love spinach, avocadoes, lettuce, edame, kale, endive, romaine, peas, green beans, broccoli, asparagus, okra, etc. I’m surprised my skin hasn’t turned green on me.

My kids favorite dip was made with spinach, cream cheese and mayonnaise. When finished, it looked like the Emerald City ; bright green and luminous. When friends came over, my kids told them convincingly it was “green grasshopper” dip. After that its popularity plummeted. Soon the authors of this trickery became a bit squeamish themselves, and that was the end of that.

Popeye & Olive Oyl Salt 'n Pepper Shakers

JUST SOLD ON MY ETSY SHOP: Popeye & Olive Oyl
Salt ‘n Pepper Shakers

My mother was a fabulous cook. She rarely used a recipe and had an instinctive sense of how she wanted something to taste. I tried to coax her out of a few concoctions, but she was more comfortable with her own methods of a pinch here, a taste there, a squeeze of this, a drop of that. Her potato salad was to die for.

My kids would eat no one else’s scrambled eggs; only hers. Whenever she asked “what do you want to eat?” without preamble, they always said scrambled eggs. Her curry was the hit of her pinochle club. I relished the smell of it simmering on the stove.

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Prayer Circles 24 x 18 acrylic on canvas

Mother cooked the way I paint. I like to try new mixtures for a certain look or sparkle; a dab of this, a swap of that. One of my favorite colors is made by mixing one part alizarin crimson with a little bit of orange as in the painting above. If you add a drop or two of yellow, it creates a tantalizing background especially for white.

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Cafe’ Costa Rica 20 x 20 SOLD; prints and gicle’s available

If you mix a dot of cobalt blue with yellow, you can get the exact color of varied shades of green from new bright growth to mature bluish stems.

Green up your world this St. Patrick’s Day and experiment with color!

THE LIEBSTER AWARD – DISCOVERING NEW BLOGS

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1. What made you start your blog?  For many years, I worked as a free-lance writer and also as an artist so I decided to combine these skill sets into a blog. I’m also the mother of six children and was active in my community and church; and participated in my children’s schools as they were growing up. The name of my blog is: “The Art of Living — artwork and musings from my dancing heart.”

 2. What is your greatest achievement?  Overcoming many trials and tribulations, and like Job in the Bible, I’m still standing strong. I have a solid faith in God and in the basic goodness of people. The wisdom I’ve gained in “overcoming” may help someone else hang on just a little longer!

 3. Your favorite animal?  I’m a dog lover and have owned many over the years. I’ve also had a few cats, but dogs remain my favorite animal. Coming in second would be birds. I love to hear them, watch them, and paint them.

 4. Any specific goals for the rest of this year?  I’m doing some Bodoir paintings and a few belly dancers, too. I’m trying to keep them inexpensive and fun. I’ll be adding a few jewels to enhance their costumes, and give them a sparkly flair.

 5. Your favorite quote?  I’ve forgotten the photographer, but I loved his work and his quote: “Find beauty in imperfection.” Sometimes the plain, the broken, the ordinary can become magnificent if photographed or painted with the right emphasis and lighting. You don’t have to wait for something wonderful to come along. Paint passionately what’s right in front of you.

 6. What is your favorite style of cooking?  I’m the soup maker in our household. I love a good bowl of soup and a slice of homemade bread. I could live on this. You can be very creative and it can’t go wrong. Other than that the Mediterranean style of cooking is my favorite.

 7. Your favorite TV series?  “Downton Abby”  I was sad that Season V is over. I love Masterpiece Theater on PBS and the BBC. Excellent programming! I love to watch Shark Tank on CNBC and the new detective series on Fox 4 “Beckstrom.” He’s a pitiful character, but because of it we cheer him on. He embodies human weakness and that is why he’s a good detective.

 8. What’s in your bag (purse or briefcase)?  Make-up for quick repairs! breath enhancers, hand lotion, eye drops, pill box, pens, notebook, credit cards, little cash, sunglasses; nothing unusual, really! I have natural curly hair so I use my fingers rather than a comb.

 9. What do you prefer to use for social media? I spend time where it pays off: Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Facebook, Pinterest, Fine Art America, Red Bubble, Blog Catalog, and a few others.

10. Your favorite short joke?  I’m hooked on anything “Maxine.” I think she resonates what we all feel. I also like”Ole and Lena” jokes because my husband is Norwegian. I love to hear jokes, but I rarely tell them. I always screw-up the punch line so I won’t tell one here.

 11. What did you want to be when you were a child?  I wanted to be a ballet dancer, hence the title of my WordPress blog: “Musings from my Dancing Heart!” The movie “The Red Shoes” had a great impact on my life. I discovered early on that I had a talent for creative writing and so I pursued this as my parents couldn’t afford dance lessons.

My favorite bloggers are:
http://teagansbooks.wordpress.com/
http://abundantlifeandhealthblog.wordpress.com/
http://monique974.wordpress.com/
http://chinesefoodproblog.wordpress.com/
http://hair68.wordpress.com/
http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com/
http://doncharisma.org/
http://freeemployeenewsletter.wordpress.com/
http://www.playwithlife.org/
http://takingthemaskoff.wordpress.com/
http://kelzbelzphotography.wordpress.com/

The Questions I would like you to answer:

  1.  Where do you get ideas and inspiration for your blog?
  2.  How often do you blog? Once a week / 3 times?
  3.  What gets traffic to your blog? Is it subject matter or Tags?
  4.  What is your passion in life? What drives you?
  5.  Do you feel you have something to say to the world?
  6.  Do you blog to feel important or stroke your ego?
  7.  Do you blog to make a difference in the world?
  8.  What is your favorite subject? Does this inspire you?
  9.  Do you make time for friends and family?
  10.  Do you believe in God?  How does your faith assist you?
  11.  Will you still be blogging a year from now? Two years/ What is your long-term goal?

Tis the Season that Memories are being Made All Over the World!

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We usually repeat what’s pleasant: a beloved piece of music, an old storybook, a novel reread until the stitching comes loose on the binding. Old movies are another sweet experience we enjoy reliving over and over again.

Warm memories shared may replay in our minds especially if their associated with a holiday or vacation. Rituals we cherish with those we love are automatically recorded and later brought to mind in times of loneliness or pain.

Before bed, my children adored stories, songs and “cuddles and kisses.” When I was in a hurry, I’d rush through a rhyme my Uncle Walt taught to me: “I’ll tell you a story about Annie and Norrie; and now my story’s begun. I’ll tell you another about my brother, and now my story is done.”

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My kids were so disappointed. “No, no, not that one,” they wailed. Read Go Dog Go!” Dr. Seuss was always a favorite. As a result, a familiar chant “Go, around again, dog” was said when someone had to repeat an action or they wanted a do-over.

The Chipmunks brought us “Pardōn” with the appropriate response: “wee wee, Monsieur.” That phrase still slips out in my speech today, even though no one is around who is familiar with this practice. I respond, even though I’m alone, with an appropriate “wee wee, Monsieur.” Old habits die hard.

If one of my sons came up with a bright idea or outsmarted a brother or a sister, they would put a small finger beside their nose and say: “I be smart” thanks to old “Ben Gunn, a character from “Treasure Island” that they enjoyed imitating. The books we read together and the fun we shared found its way into our vocabulary and in our interactions with others.

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I had a friend who always lamented that she was a “terrible mother.” She wasn’t patient. She was too busy working and didn’t spend as much time with her boys as she would have liked. One day she fell and fractured a rib. In the process of dealing with it, the doctors found she had a tumor on her kidney and was near kidney failure. She immediately went into hospice.

I was there for her funeral. I wondered what these “neglected boys, now men, would say about their mother?” Had they been unhappy? Did they feel ignored and alone?

The memorial service spared nothing. A presentation of slides and photos revealed it all – the happy faces, the rough and tumble play, the picnics and the story telling. One by one each son stood and expressed his love and gratitude toward a mother who never knew, perhaps because they had failed to tell her.

Each son quoted passages from famous authors and their books. Shakespeare was a favorite. Biblical passages once memorized were used in praising her. Some had been used in helping them make difficult decisions in life. Their mother’s influence had been with them throughout their lives and had helped them to cherish great literature, to glean wisdom from its pages, and to live honorably because of it.

This faithful woman had died thinking she was a failure; that she should have done more. Yet her sons had blossomed under her care into doctors, attorneys and teachers. They had become good citizens, neighbors, husbands and fathers. Small and insignificant things do matter!

The unique touch of a mother’s hand can leave an indelible imprint on the future of the world. What if these sons had focused on her deficiencies and mistakes; would they have achieved as much recognition and success as they apparently had? Would they see their lives half-full instead of brimming with laughter and knowledge?

The perfect life doesn’t exist. We never have enough time or money to do all of the things we wish to do before our own demise. Sometimes our bucket list never gets finished. The best we can do is to let the people we care about know how much we love them so they don’t end up like my late friend, never knowing the truth.

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Some of my “Grands”

How you Roast Marshmallows says a lot about you!

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Group Fun Roasting Marshmallows!

Whoever thought that roasting and eating marshmallows was a simple proposition has missed the point. While watching my friends, I decided there definitely are styles and preferences when it comes to this almost lost art. See what it may tell others about you.

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The golden brown marshmallow.

Do you roast your marshmallow a light golden tan and then take pleasure in putting the whole mallow into your mouth and sinking down on the sweet warm center? That puts you in the sensual category. You want to cut to the chase and get down to business as soon as possible. Once you get what you want, you savor each perfect creamy bite.

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Yum — the succulent center!

Or do you fancy a crisp outer covering with a tinge of black? Do you delight in the crust and pull it carefully off the barely warm ball that still clings to the roasting stick? And while you devour that first crunchy mouthful, do you carefully turn the mini-mallow over the fire until it, too, turns dark and crispy? Then you pop its succulent remains into your mouth while grabbing a second marshmallow and repeating the same procedure all over again.

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The crunchy black outer covering.

If this describes your style, you love the process even more than the finished product. You are fun-loving and adventurous. You like being around people and are usually willing to wait for gratification and pleasure. You like to get involved and tackle life’s challenges with zest.

The third type of roaster has distaste for anything sticky or messy. Cautiously they pierce their mallow (or wiener as the case may be) with a stick and then proceed to wipe their chalky fingers on the nearest item available; usually their partner’s pants or on someone else’s shirt.

They stab at the fire a few times trying to find the perfect “hot spot;” and in the process, drop their mallow (or wiener) into the fire where they snatch it back just in time, but not before it’s partially covered in ash. Is this you?

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You’re obviously not a rugged wilderness person. When you finally get your mallow roasted, you seldom want to eat it. But give you a snack from the Ritz or hordevores on a toothpick and you’re happy as a clam. Better yet, give you a dish of crème brû∙lée and a spoon and you’re all smiles.

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But he’s sooo cute!

You’re a high flyer that disdains the lowly practice of roasting marshmallows or wieners. You’re willing to give it a half-hearted attempt and simply go along to get along.

There may be other roasting styles and personality types I’ve missed. If you have a unique story to tell, I’d love to hear it!

Creating Family Ties that Last

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An Open Book

I recently enjoyed a visit with my oldest son and his family who traveled to Florida. We crammed in as much as we could with the short time allotted to us. We took in the beach and the wonderful Gulf waters, still clean and pristine on the southwestern shores. We enjoyed the parks and wildlife as much as weather would allow. But the most memorable fun came in the evenings when we watched a movie or played games around the kitchen table.

The family had brought a game called “Apples to Apples;” a vocabulary builder that makes you think. We spent two hours playing this fun game and laughed so hard we cried at the comments from the kids and their wonderful imaginations.

I often worry about today’s families and wonder if they have enough memory building activities in their lives? They are so absorbed with work and separated by technology, phones and computers. Playing games with my children and grandchildren gave me hope, and it brought back a whole lot of memories.

My grandfather, a school teacher, loved entertaining his grandchildren. When my cousins and I got out of hand, he’d set us to work in his garden or distract us with games. Not any old games; homemade games that were totally unfamiliar to us. My favorite used a classic Coke bottle and a box of toothpicks. Each person received twenty picks to start.

The objective was to lay a toothpick across the lip of the bottle, in turns. The first person to topple the stack kept them. Anytime you caused a pick or picks to drop, you added them to your pile. The first person to get rid of all their picks was the winner. We played the game until the loser, usually the youngest child, got tired of being “the fall guy.”

When the floor game “Pickup Sticks” came out, it was never as much fun as grandpa’s toothpick game.

"Beach Buddies"

“Beach Buddies”

My sons liked to play “uncle” when they were young. They wrestled on the floor until one of them had the other in a painful twist. Relief came only by yelling “uncle.” Enduring pain and refusing to say the magic word somehow enhanced their manhood. Horsing around took the pressure off, and gave them an excuse for male bonding. The rough and tumble helped them avoid that personal hug or embarrassing show of affection.

Horsing around or playing games is good for coordination, skill building, and brain power. It provides a means for fellowship and promotes conversation. The laughter and talk that takes place during the game is a natural outcome.

When my children were all still at home, our TV went out. We waited to get a replacement just to see what would happen without our hypnotizing, addicting companion. Here are some of the things we did that my kids still talk about today.

We read several classic books together. Sprawled on the floor or with legs dangling over chair arms, the children’s imaginations soared as we read Rudyard Kipling’s jungle stories; their favorite “The Elephant Child.” Other books on our list: “Mary Poppins,” “Treasure Island,” “Tom Sawyer,” and short stories by Charles Dickens.

"With These Hands Wonder" available by clicking image.

“With These Hands Wonder” available by clicking image.

This was before Harry Potter and Shrek. Trips to the library replaced other after school activities. We broadened our reading to include children’s plays. Each child took a part; the older children helping the younger. Simple costumes helped us stay in character. Giggles were the order of the day, but we did manage to put on several plays, including “The Nativity” and the reading of Luke on Christmas Eve.

Once a week, we had a cooking session in the kitchen. The children learned how to make simple things like no-bake cookies, candies, Jello, fancy sandwiches and French toast. One evening the older children learned how to sew on a button. I introduced them to skills I thought they should know before they left home.

Adding more ingredients.

Adding more ingredients.

It was a fun time while it lasted. Besides making memories and learning new things, we learned a lot about each other. When we finally purchased a new TV, it engulfed our lives once again. We went back to our old routines, but the change of pace had made a difference.

During a power outage when my seventeen year old daughter was left in charge of her younger brothers and sisters, they survived. She didn’t want us to worry, so she didn’t tell us. They slept in their sleeping bags and ate cold food for three days until we returned. They had a great time telling stories, putting on plays, and singing songs just as we had done before on our nights-without-TV.

I sometimes feel sad for the young people of today who miss out on good old-fashioned fun, or do they? My husband and I visited with our older children in Minnesota. We were invited to be part of an interactive musical game called: “Guitar Hero.” I was given the drum sticks and waited for the signal lights that told me when to play. The rhythm increased in increments, and soon I was giggling and missing a beat here and there.

Next I played a guitar and had to strum to the tune of a green beeping light. My husband and his grandson played other instruments; his granddaughter sang solo, and everyone else clapped and sang along. By the time we were done, everyone was laughing. The whole family joined in and had a great time singing, clapping and laughing at the players onstage.

Times have changed, and the methods may be different, but families still know how to have fun together. The age-old problem is making the time. Is it worth it? You’d better believe it. The adage: “the family who prays together stays together” also works well with this phrase: “the family who plays together stays together.” So pray and play your hearts out. Make memories that last!

Sometimes Amazing Things are Right Under our Nose

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Randy Wayne White, author of the Doc Ford Mystery Novels

Randy Wayne White, author of the Doc Ford Mystery Novels

When I was in rehab after having rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder, I learned that my physical therapist worked as a Chef evenings and weekends at a restaurant called Doc Ford’s. Through my therapist, I discovered who Doc Ford was (a character in a novel), and why the author was so important to this establishment.

http://www.randywaynewhite.com/Site2/About_Randy.html

Today there are three Doc Ford restaurants: the first on Sanibel Island, the 2nd on Fort Myers Beach, and the third on Captiva Island; all three within a short distance from my home.

On the Doc Ford’s web site, Randy gives an informal bio on his life and works: “Before I started writing novels, I used to sell fish right here where you’re sitting -well, in this building, anyway.

“For more than 12 years, I was a light-tackle fishing guide just down the road at Tarpon Bay Marina. I did more than 3,000 charters; spent 300 days a year boating these waters. When my clients chose not to keep what they’d caught, I’d load the fish in my pickup, tap on the back door of this place, and ask the chef if he was in a buying mood.

“I love the symmetry of that; I helped provide seafood here way back in the 1970’s, and now, because I’ve joined this excellent team of restaurateurs and staff, I have the opportunity to play a small role in providing fresh fish here once again.

“So welcome to Doc Ford’s. Just as my novels are inspired by these islands, my days on the water, and the people I came to know, the spirit of this fine sports bar was inspired by the marine biologist who is the main character of those novels.

“Doc Ford is the baseball-loving, tropical adventurer who – not so surprisingly – has spent a lot of time in the same far flung places that I wrote about when I was monthly columnist for places such as Cuba, Cambodia, South Africa, Australia, Vietnam, Borneo, and all over South and Central America. It was while traveling for that I came to know and love the superb cuisine of the rural tropics.

“I loved the sauces, the spices, and the passion that went into the food preparation. We hope that spirit is part of Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar and Grille, too. But the real hearts, heads and souls behind this establishment, though, aren’t fictional. They are real people; people savvy enough to envision a whole new concept in bars. “A rum bar? What’s a rum bar?” We were asked.

“They are people creative enough to design an entirely different kind of sports bar concept. ‘You’re gonna have gourmet finger foods? Sports bars don’t serve great food,’ we were told. Well, this one does.

“So credit Marty and Brenda Harrity, and Mark Marinello, along with Chef Greg Nelson for having the vision, and then finding the energy, taste and chutzpah to make that vision reality.

“Being with them reminds me of my old marina family, back when I was a fishing guide at Tarpon Bay. They’re quirky and fun and gifted. They’ve made it work, and I’m proud to have played a small part.

–Randy Wayne White

"Hey, Coconut, Mon" mixed media on canvas

“Hey, Coconut, Mon” mixed media on canvas

Randy’s novels feature marine biologist Dr. Marion Ford, quirky pal Tomlinson, and his friends at Dinkin’s Bay. The Doc Ford novels have enjoyed a growing cult following since the first book appeared in 1990.

Randy’s eighteenth novel, NIGHT VISION, was published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in the Spring of 2011 to reviews that continue to cement his position as “one of the hottest writers in America” (Booklist). His previous novels, BLACK WIDOW, HUNTER’S MOON, DARK LIGHT, EVERGLADES, TWELVE MILE LIMIT, SHARK RIVER, TEN THOUSAND ISLANDS, THE MANGROVE COAST, NORTH OF HAVANA, CAPTIVA, and others have accumulated devoted fans worldwide. About Randy, the Denver Post wrote “He is a major new talent who has produced a virtually perfect piece of work.” The Tampa Tribune called Randy, “the rightful heir to John D. MacDonald.”

A collection of essays, Batfishing in the Rainforest also received excellent reviews. Paul Theroux (author of The Mosquito Coast) wrote: “Batfishing in the Rainforest contains equal parts of comedy and courage. Randy White is not simply a wonderful writer; he is a fishing guide of genius.”

Non-fiction books include, BATFISHING IN THE RAINFOREST, THE SHARKS OF LAKE NICARAGUA, LAST FLIGHT OUT, AN AMERICAN TRAVELER.

Randy was a monthly columnist for Outside Magazine, and traveled the world, writing about natural history, archaeology, anthropology, travel and politics. He covered the America’s Cup in Australia, and has written about Africa, Sumatra, Singapore, Central America, Vietnam, Borneo, Malaysia, the Caribbean, and South America. He has dog sledded in Alaska and brought back refugees from Cuba.

http://youtu.be/9XJG_AaBQFg

What is it about those Peeps?

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Yes, I admit it; I’m a Peep freak. I slink around the Easter displays and casually drop a few boxes into my cart hoping no one will notice. I’m embarrassed at the checkout. I hope the clerk will think it’s for my grandchildren. I go through this anxiety every year, but that doesn’t stop me from buying them.

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“First Daffodil” acrylic on canvas

You either love Peeps or you hate them. There’s no in between. It’s an acquired taste. Not everyone likes the soft melt-in-your mouth sweetness of marshmallow, especially if it’s doused in colored sugar. Plus you have to lick the sticky residue on your fingers afterward. Of course, some people dry them out so their chewy and semi-soft, but I can’t wait that long.

After the holiday, prices are slashed on all Easter treats; a sad assortment of chocolate bunnies with broken ears and hard jelly beans gathering dust. I search the display, but don’t see any peeps (and you thought no one liked them!).

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“He Lives” oil on wrapped canvas

I was a young mother before I discovered that Easter was a celebration of Jesus’ atonement and resurrection and not all about chicks and rabbits. Even as a child, my parents only focused on the fun parts of the holiday. I was told that the Easter Bunny went around to all the children and filled their baskets with candy and treats. My mother, playing Easter Bunny, hid the eggs we had colored in the house, and we excitedly combed the cushions in the sofas and under the furniture to find them.

One year, we stayed overnight at my aunt’s farm. The eggs were going to be hidden outside, and my sister and I would compete with our cousins to find them. That night I dreamed that a giant rabbit hopped to my bedside with goodies in his paws. I was terrified! Perhaps the strange bed and the new surroundings had triggered an anxiety attack. I awoke screaming. After that, I was never big on the Easter Bunny. When I had children of my own, I never told them about him for fear they would have nightmares, too.

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“Americana” 16 x 20 acrylic on canvas

My children loved coloring eggs, but they knew that their parents were the hiders and that we provided the goodies, too. The kids seemed fine with that; much better to pretend than to be terrorized by a furry five foot rabbit that hovers over your bed while you’re asleep.

One year we colored two dozen eggs with our six children. Their father and I hid them after they’d gone to bed. I made the mistake of relying on my memory instead of writing down their hiding places. After the hunt, the eggs were dispersed to each basket and some of them were gobbled down for breakfast. I never gave the count a second thought.

Fast forward, eight months later. The faint smell of sulfur still greets my nose each time I enter our family room; but once I’m there, I can no longer pinpoint where the smell is coming from. Christmas is right around the corner, and I want everything to be clean and fresh.

On impulse, I take down two woven baskets that are hanging on the wall filled with greenery. I plan to wash the greenery of dust and put them back. Lo and behold, in the bottom of one basket is a boiled egg which has split open and essentially dried out; so dry that there is barely any sulfur smell remaining. The riddle was solved!

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“Lady in Waiting” 11 x 14 oil on canvas

I will tell you that after that experience, I not only counted the eggs that were hidden, but accounted for them when they were found. I even drew a quick sketch of their hiding places instead of relying on my memory. I chuckle each Easter when I remember that missing rotten egg. The embarrassment of that horrid stink and not being able to locate its source will haunt my Easters forever.