White Lace and Promises, Part 1

When she was in college in the late 60’s, early 70’s, it seemed all of her friends were getting married. Several of her high school classmates had met their future husbands while still in school, went to proms with them, graduated with them, and the next step was naturally walking down the aisle in that white dress and lace veil with a bouquet of white roses. Walking into their forever.

She thought she’d be one of those girls as well. But then the boyfriend she’d had her junior year moved away, although he’d promised they’d stay in touch, and he’d be back to see her; they’d still be together. Then the letter came explaining he’d met another girl in his new city and crushed her dreams.

And she wasn’t interested in dating for a while. 

It was different in college. Everyone was spending time with groups of new friends rather than becoming couples. For a while. Then those college friends started finding that special someone they wanted to spend their lives with. One day they were college girls hitting the books and studying hard for that degree, and the next they were wearing a shiny diamond and pouring through Bride’s Magazine.

And she met a young man as well. They didn’t have that much in common at first, but he was interested in her, and she became comfortable with him, and eventually decided she loved him. And since everyone else in their group of friends seemed to be getting engaged, eventually they did, too.

Yes, she was excited, and proudly showed off her ring to everyone. They made plans for their wedding in her hometown. She selected bridesmaids and chose their dresses. She and her mom selected a beaded satin wedding gown with a matching veil. She was excited and loved the dress, and all the other arrangements. It was going to be a beautiful wedding.

But the closer it got, the more nervous she became. She began to question her choices, and began wondering if she was doing the right thing. Was she ready? Was this guy really the right one? But all the arrangements had been made. They’d rented an apartment near the college to finish their senior year. Their new furniture was there waiting for them. 

But what if….? Was she really sure? What if she called it off? What about the invitations, the gifts, all the people they’d invited? The dresses? Her friends? And the embarrassment to her family. The wedding was a week away Surely this was normal wedding jitters.

Right?

The uneasiness continued all that week. Her fiancé arrived in town, with his parents and brother. Yeah, it would be a mess to walk away from everything now, wouldn’t it! But still…there was that nagging doubt. And a little fear.

Still, she just couldn’t get up the nerve to call it off. She knew she was just nervous and everything would be fine.

So when the wedding day came, she took a deep breath and walked down the aisle into her future with her new husband, with the song “We’ve only Just Begun” playing in her head.

And then, some three and a half tumultuous years later, that beginning ended. The white lace and promises in that song became a distant memory. 

What now?

Be sure to read White Lace and Promises, Part Two, to be published on February 7.

More Snowy Day Treats…with a twist

Last weekend we had 6-8” of snow in Virginia Beach. Yes, a bit unusual for our area. But we were sort of prepared for it. We had food, football to look forward to, and yes, we were planning to make cookie snowmen.

Until my husband announced he wanted to try to make something one of his clients had told him about.

Ben likes to cook. He fixes most of our dinners, and does a great job, by the way. But he’s not a dessert making guy. He usually buys them if we have dessert.

So when he told me he wanted to make a cake pop type treat coated in chocolate, made with his favorite Baileys Irish cream, and he was ready to actually help, well, I figured the snowman cookies could wait for another snowstorm. 

So we assembled all the ingredients, including a large bottle of Baileys, and started the process.

Actually when I think about it, this was the first time he and I had ever actually prepared something together. Meals don’t really count because we’re each making a different dish as part of the meal itself. This was a first.

And a scary one as well. After all, many years ago we’d tried working together in a business, and let’s just say that lasted about a year before he hired other people, and I went to work for a real estate company. We both want to be in charge, you see…I’m sure you understand what I’m saying.

And making a dessert together requires teamwork. Could we really do it? Without arguing?

I actually did most of the first part, which involved mixing up a yellow cake mix using package directions. After looking on-line I decided to use only half the oil called for and instead of all the water, half of that as well, along with a 1/4 cup of Baileys. Yes, I was sort of making it up as we went along.

My husband did grease the cake pans for me, and then we baked the layers, and let them cool. 

Then the true challenge began. Because Ben hadn’t gotten all the recipe details from his client, I had to improvise from recipes on line. I never do that with baking. Never.

There’s always a first.

One recipe called for 3 cups of crumbled cake, which I had him do. That wasn’t bad. But we ended up with about a cup more before we stopped crumbling. No big deal. Then it was time to add the Baileys. 

Ben said his client told him she added half a shot per cake pop, which she said were the size of golf balls. I said that was way too much. So we ended up adding almost a cup of it, and of course having to add extra cake crumbles. In between his taste testing the mixture, of course. Which he enjoyed a bit too much, I think.

Since all the recipes I found called for adding a bit of frosting to the mixture to hold it together, we did that as well. The result? A somewhat sticky mess that I made him roll into balls. Which turned out bigger than I thought they should be, but by that time, who cared?

We put them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and stuck them in the fridge to chill for an hour until it was time for the last step. 

There are several ways to melt chocolate for dipping. A lot of times I’ve used the microwave to melt candy melts for my cookies. Well, this time that was a disaster. They wouldn’t melt properly even when closely following the instructions and we ended up throwing the whole icky chunky mess in the trash can.

Fortunately Ben had bought several milk chocolate candy bars for the project, and I still had a double boiler set of pans in the cabinet. My mother had always used that for melting chocolate for fudge and frosting making, and actually it does a much better job. Of course my husband said he’d never seen one, so either he didn’t pay attention, or it’d been ages since I used one. Probably the latter!

Anyway, since the cake truffles were bigger than I’d wanted, they were a bit harder to dip properly, even with a toothpick chilled in the middle. But that was Ben’s job. The first couple of tries weren’t easy, with chocolate dripping a little too much on the wax paper. So he let them drip a few extra seconds into the double boiler top before putting them on the wax paper, where I quickly removed the toothpick and shook colored sprinkles on top. Actually, they turned out rather pretty.

But taste testing the final product had to wait until we chilled them again to make sure the chocolate hardened.

And surprisingly they weren’t bad. The texture was more truffle-like rather than cake-like because of the overpouring of the Baileys, but for a first try…fairly successful! We even shared some with friends! And they really enjoyed them as well!

And he’s already talking about how he’ll do them the NEXT TIME! 

I think we’re in trouble here….

Do you have a favorite cake pop recipe? Can you share it? I think we’re going to need it

But here’s how we did ours. I think.

  • 1 box yellow cake mix with 3 eggs and vegetable oil
  • A bottle Bailey’s Irish Cream (use to taste).
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • Chocolate bars (no nuts!)

Mix cake mix according to package directions, except use only half the oil and about half the water. We added some Baileys with the half mixture of water. Bake as directed on the box and let cool.

Crumble the cooled layers. We had about 3-4 cups of crumbs at least. Then pour in the Baileys to taste. However, don’t get the mixture too wet, unless you want to add more cake crumbs. Cream the butter and powdered sugar until fluffy and combine with the crumb mix to hold it together. I think we used more than we should, but that’s up to you.

Roll the mixture into balls. I suggest not making them as big as we did, but then again that’s your choice. Golf ball size is a bit too big, I think. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, stick a toothpick in the top of each one to make dipping easier, and chill for at least an hour so they’ll be easier to handle.

When you’re ready to finish your project, melt the chocolate bars in the top of the double boiler, stirring to make sure they’re melted well. Set up your assembly line like we did and dip each ball individually in the chocolate. Let the excess drip off and put on another cookie sheet lined with wax paper, remove the toothpick and shake the sprinkles on the wet chocolate. When you’re finished, put them back in the refrigerator to chill. Store them covered in a plastic container when you’re all done.

I have no idea how long they will last. I know we still have a few in there from last weekend but I don’t expect them to be there by the end of Sunday’s football games.

As I said earlier, how about sharing your recipes with some pictures? We can all learn about this together.

Things to Do on a Snow Day

Well they’re calling for it again this weekend. It may not be unusual for where some of you live, but where we are, it really is. Two weekends in a row? Unheard of here in Virginia Beach.

Besides the panic buying at the grocery stores, where shoppers seem to be planning for being snowed in for at least a week, what are your ideas for the perfect snow day(s) activities? And I’m not talking about shoveling it or clearing off the cars. Or trying to figure out how you’re going to get the dog(s) to go outside and do his/her business when there’s no grass to be found. (Hint: Try covering an area with a small tarp, mark where you put it, and then take it up carefully after the snow stops falling. It works for some people.)

If you have kids, fun snow activities are easy. You bundle them up good, complete with gloves, hat, and snow boots, and let them enjoy it! And if they aren’t prepared clothing wise, there’s some more panic buying you’d better do! If your kids are small, you’re certainly going to go out there with them and help make snowmen, snow angels, maybe build a snow fort, and of course referee a snowball fight. Maybe go sledding if you have one; if not you can improvise.  Maybe you can convince them shoveling snow off sidewalks and driveways is a game, but they’ll probably not see it that way any more than you do!

Then when they come inside, it’s time for hot chocolate and getting warm either by a fireplace or wrapped up in an electric blanket. And most likely a nap.

But what about us adults without young kids at home? If you work remotely like I do, and it’s during the week, that’s easy; it’s just another workday with a prettier view from your window. But if it’s a weekend, and you don’t have to go out to work or do snow removal, and the roads aren’t great for venturing out, what do you do?

So here are some suggestions. Some are fun, some, well, they’re probably necessary, but might not be in your top five to do!

Make hot chocolate with a bit of extra “flavoring”. Amaretto, Baileys, salted caramel syrup, peppermint schnapps, etc., are always good. And don’t forget the whipped cream! Maybe shaved chocolate, too!

Scoop up a pot of fresh clean snow and make snow cream.

Curl up with a good book. Or start writing one.

If you have a Kindle, browse around on Amazon or on your actual Kindle device and download sample books that look interesting.  Careful, though, that can become really addictive!! Ask me how I know….

Schedule a few posts to your blog, or start one. Make sure to include Instagram.

Catch up on your personal email.

Start a new craft project, or work on one you’re already doing. I’m going to make some Valentine bracelets.

Sort through and organize the photos in your phone or iPad and delete ones you don’t need. I did this a few months ago and ended up deleting some 3,000 that I’d already saved from my Dropbox to my computer.

Binge watch a tv series you’ve been putting off watching or pick out movies on Netflix you’ve wanted to see. Pop some popcorn and enjoy!

Make a pot of chili or a kettle of homemade soup.

Bake cookies. Or a cake. Or brownies. How about a pie?

If you can’t get out, zoom a few of your good friends and have a zoom party. Beverages optional. But you can’t cheat and not show your face!

Clean out that closet you’ve been planning to do. Or your kitchen cabinets. On second thought, have another hot chocolate instead. That project can wait.

Plan a vacation to someplace warmer. You may even feel warmer looking at all the beach pictures on line. Have another cup of hot chocolate while you’re looking.

Brush your dog(s); with all this snowy weather they probably need it, as well as a bath! Ours certainly do.

These are just a few suggestions that come to mind. But I’m sure you have others you can think of. Why don’t you let us know what yours are?

Happy Snow Day if and when it happens! Use your time in the most fun way possible. 

And if you have a snowball fight, I hope you win! And then enjoy another hot chocolate!

Flamingos and (Pink) Chocolate

Just a few days ago the flamingos came to me with a dilemma. A very serious one, at least to them.

You see, they were trying to figure out what to do for Valentine’s Day and they were really not sure what they could do that would be extra special. And lots of fun. Because as you know, flamingos are all about fun!

But they also wanted it to be something different. Something they’d not done before.

Of course they had to have their special pink flamingo cocktails like they always do at their parties, but they wanted to add a special touch. It couldn’t be just any old Valentine’s Day party.

They needed a theme. Something pink of course, and something to fit in with the sweet theme of the day.  

I promised them I’d come up with something perfect. Fortunately, my best friend Karen is an event and party planner, so who better to talk this over with than her! Plus, she also loves flamingos!

And she quickly came up with a perfect idea. A chocolate treat baking party. Only everything that was prepared had to be in shades of pink as well as having chocolate as the main ingredient. It IS for Valentine’s Day, you know.

So the Flamingo Pink Chocolate Recipe Party was planned and scheduled! The flamingos would select their recipe in advance, buy their ingredients, and then pair off in my kitchen to create their pink chocolate masterpieces! 

While being served pink champagne and pink Valentine martinis, of course. 

You may remember they’d taken over my kitchen once before, turning everything pink and even bringing in little pink ovens and other appliances to use for preparing their food. But they cleaned up really well after themselves, and everything was back to normal the next day! And they pinkie promised they’d do it again.

How can you resist a flamingo giving you a pinkie promise?

Now the party plans were in full swing. Karen designed a beautiful party invitation on creamy pink card stock with fancy cursive fonts and using embellishments of tiny feathers and pink crystal hearts. Definitely suitable for framing. The flamingos loved it and quickly distributed them to their friends, who immediately said they wouldn’t miss this event for anything!

They quickly got to work, searching through recipes and even borrowing a couple of my cookbooks for their very best ideas for the perfect pink chocolate treat! After all, as part of their participation in the event, they had to submit their selected recipe to Karen who was making a flamingo pink chocolate recipe booklet to be given as party favors…after the contest was over, of course!

The big day finally arrived. I walked into my kitchen that morning and it had already been transformed into a pink wonderland of pink kitchen equipment, from mixers to pot holders to small pink ovens, set up at individual baking stations. There were even pink mixing bowls and Valentine utensils set out for the participants to use. How they did it so quickly and quietly I have no idea, but they ARE flamingos, you know….

Of course on the party day, the guests arrived perfectly on time, carrying their (pink) bags of ingredients. They were greeted by my husband, wearing his best pink and white tuxedo, and he presented each of the birds with a specially designed flamingo valentine party apron, and of course a flute of pink champagne!

Let the party fun begin!

You should have seen them! Pink feathers everywhere, squawking and whistling to each other as they worked, sipping pink champagne and pink martinis, flour and sugar flying all over the kitchen!

Maybe this wasn’t the best idea??

However, it was all worth it when the flamingos presented their final creations to us for judging. They’d certainly gone all out, not only in making their desserts, but in their presentation of the finished creations, adorned with shaved chocolate, strawberries, raspberries, and even pink roses!

It was a sight to behold! There were pink cookies, pink flamingo cakes, chocolate and raspberry desserts, pink chocolate fudge, even pink macaroons!

And the winners? Well, it was definitely a difficult decision, and required quite a bit of tasting each entry, just to be sure we selected the right one.

To find out who won, and even get a copy of a few of the recipes, be sure to read “The Flamingos’ Valentine Creations” to be published on February 5,

And believe it or not, the next morning when we came downstairs, my kitchen was back to normal, except for a big plate of Valentine goodies the flamingos had left us as a gift for letting them use our kitchen. Oh, and the last bottle of pink champagne!

I guess we’ll let them do this again. As long as we still get to be the judges!

If the Grass Looks Greener

Maybe it’s because they’re doing something different. 

Maybe you’re not looking at it close enough. Things do look different from a distance, you know.

Maybe it’s a different kind of grass; a kind you haven’t tried.

Maybe you missed it when they dug it all up and started all over again with different seeds.

Maybe they’re using different fertilizer.

Or maybe, just MAYBE, they’re looking at your grass and thinking the same thing.

Matters of the Heart, Part 30

As I said in Part 29, I didn’t expect to have a Part 29 of this series, let alone a Part 30. But here we are.

Looking back, Ben and I have been dealing with his heart issues for 36 years. We’ve been married for 37 years. What does that tell you?

Deciding on having the Watchman procedure done was easier than the steps involved to actually get the procedure itself approved. And it certainly wasn’t his doctor’s fault.

There were several tests he had to have first, including a new EKG, and echocardiogram. Those were simple and of course showed he was a good candidate for the procedure. 

Then he needed a second opinion from another cardiologist in his group. Time was ticking until the end of the year, and we were getting a bit antsy. 

But that appointment was finally scheduled and the doctor confirmed that with his history he was definitely a good candidate for the procedure 

Now to get it approved and scheduled before the end of the year. With Thanksgiving and Christmas affecting schedules as well.

But our doctor assured us we’d get it done by the end of the year, and we’d get a call from the office as soon as it could be scheduled.

We just didn’t realize we’d get the call just five days before the surgery date, with two of those days being a weekend. It was scheduled for TWO DAYS before Thanksgiving! And we found out on Thursday which was the Thursday before Thanksgiving Day!

He’d be the first surgery of the day, which meant we had to be at the hospital at 5:30. In the morning! And I am NOT a morning person, which meant we’d have to get up at 4 am to get ready and be there that early. Ugh.

Well, we’d take what was available. Which meant frantically rearranging both his and my work schedules, as well as finishing putting up all the Christmas decorations! Fortunately we’d started early, and if you followed the stories about our 8+ Christmas trees, plus the Christmas ledge in our two story foyer, well you can imagine how much we needed to get done since we were having Thanksgiving dinner at our house.

I finished all the big trees, and he finished the ledge. Boxes for the decorations were still sitting around which needed to be put away, but I figured our daughter and son-in-law could do that since Ben wouldn’t be able to lift anything for several days after the procedure. Talk about rushing around…!

But plans don’t always go as planned, shall we say. The night before his surgery he got a call from his doctor around 6:30 PM. From his doctor’s personal cell phone. (Yes, we have that number.) That’s a call you don’t ignore.

And you guessed it. Surgery was postponed. The insurance company still hadn’t approved it. We weren’t happy at all. However, as Ben told the doctor, “my wife will be happy she doesn’t have to get up at 4:00 in the morning.” He said the doctor laughed himself silly over that comment! After apologizing profusely, the docotr promised they would reschedule as soon as they got the word from the insurance company, and it would definitely be before the end of the year.

Things did work out for the best, though, because not only did I not have to get up before the crack of dawn, we were able to put all the decoration boxes away, and I didn’t have to beg for extra help from our daughter to get Thanksgiving dinner ready. And Ben was able to play with the grandkids on Thanksgiving without being concerned about his incisions. 

But how was this going to affect our Christmas plans? Would we have to scramble to change other things?

Fortunately, the next week we got a call rescheduling the procedure, for the following week. Our doctor must’ve remembered Ben’s comment about early mornings, though, because the new surgery time was 1:00 in the afternoon and we didn’t have to be at the hospital until 11:00 am. That worked really well, at least for me.

Then we found out the insurance company had actually approved the procedure at 4:30 pm the day before the original surgery date. They just didn’t notify the doctors in time.

Go figure. But it did all work out for the best, since Ben had a week’s vacation already scheduled for the following week after the surgery to make recuperation easier.

Surgery went perfectly. In fact our doctor told him he’d done hundreds of these procedures and usually he had to do a little maneuvering to get the device precisely where it needed to be, but this one went in perfectly the first time! Thank goodness!

Ben will now be on blood thinners for 45 days after the surgery while the tissue grows over the device to seal it in. He will then have a CT scan to be sure everything is going well, which we’re sure it will. Then he will be on a different blood thinner plus baby aspirin until 180 days after the procedure and then no more blood thinners; just a daily baby aspirin.

Naturally we’re all pleased with the results, and so glad he made the decision to do it.

What’s ahead in this saga now? Hopefully only 6 month follow up visits that will show everything is still doing well.

After three heart valve replacements, two pacemakers, and now the Watchman, I think he’s had enough.

We are so thankful for all the great doctors and nurses he’s been fortunate enough to have over the years, and I do have to say that the last two cardiologists that have been caring for him have been the absolute best!

If any of you reading this have any heart issues, or have loved ones with these issues, please be encouraged. It’s not always as bad as it seems. Yes, it’s scary, but look what we’ve been though over the years. And if you have questions please feel free to message me with questions.

And Ben is still going strong after all of this!

Snowy Day Treats

Here in Virginia Beach we never know what snow predictions will or won’t come true. One day we hear it’s going to snow but not stick. The next it’s going to snow and then turn to rain. Then it’s maybe going to snow and have up to 6”. Or more. Or not any.

Who knows? Certainly not the meteorologists. Weather forecasting is not always an exact science. At least in our area. We didn’t know what would happen until we woke up in the morning and looked out the window. And…surprise! We got about 6″ of snow; at least that’s what my husband measured. Heavy, wet snow, Perfect for making snowmen.

I have a good friend who loves snow. Whenever the forecast mentions that particular four letter word she pulls out her “let it snow” pin and does her snow dance. She’s even posted it on her Facebook page once in a while.

Does it help? Well, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s all in fun. This time it certainly worked, and she went out walking in it at 5 am this morning! And I will admit I wore my snowflake sweater and snowflake earrings yesterday, so maybe the combination of both of us….

Snowstorms were all around us last weekend. But no snow for us. Now as I was writing this it was forecast again for this weekend. And this time in our area. Between 2-7”, or up to 10″. I really didn’t expect to see a lot of it this morning, but it really is pretty. Since it’s Saturday most of us don’t have to go anywhere so that’s good.

Now for the snowman situation. I can certainly make a snowman or two. At least I plan on trying. And I thought I’d share two of the recipes I’m considering. Because they look like fun. And a little bit of a creative challenge. I’ going to let the grandchildren and their parents make the snow ones, and they’ll send us pictures. While we stay warm and dry inside.

And we can send them the pictures of these!

Melted Snowman Sugar Cookies from Betty Crockertm

  • 1 pouch Betty Crockertm sugar cookie mix
  • Butter and egg as called for on package
  • 1 pouch each cookie icing in white, red, blue, and green
  • 12 large marshmallows
  • 1 tube black decorating gel
  • Chocolate sprinkles
  • Rainbow sprinkles or decorating chips

Follow preparation and baking directions on sugar cookie pouch for making 12 large cookies.

On cooled cookies, draw a “snow puddle” with while cookie icing as shown on the picture below. Draw the outline of the puddle first then go out and fill in the shape. While icing is still wet, place a marshmallow on the side of the cookie.

Once the icing and marshmallows have set, pipe two branches onto each cookie with the black gel. Add fingers with chocolate sprinkles.

For the face, use a small dot of white cookie icing and stick two “coal” eyes and a nose into the marshmallow with rainbow ships or sprinkles, Use black gel to create the mouth. (Aren’t you glad we have a picture to go by?)

Using the other colored cookie icing draw scarves around the base of the marshmallo. Use the white cookie icing to stick three “coal” buttons beneath the scarf.

Let cookies set for a least an hour before serving. And let’s hope that they turn out looking at least somewhat like the picture! Depending on what they look like, I may or may not post my finished cookies in another blog. Something tells me it’s going to be an interesting project.

Powdered Sugar Snowmen Cookies

  • 3/4 c Land O’Lakestm butter (NOT margarine), softened
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • For decorations: 1/2 c powdered sugar, decorator black sugar pearls, orange jimmies, 20 small gumdrops, fruit snack roll, if desired

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine sugar and butter in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add egg; continue beating until well mixed, Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat at low speed until well mixed.

Shape dough into 30 cookies. Ten 1 1/4″ balls (about 2 tbl of dough). Ten 1″ balls (about 1 tbl of dough). Ten 3/4″ balls (about 1 tsp of dough) Place same size balls, 2″ apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. NOTE: this means three different cookie sheets.

Bake the 1 1/4″ balls 9-11 minutes. Bake the 1″ balls 8-9 minutes. And bake the 3/4″ balls 5-7 minutes or until edges are slightly browned. Cool one minute on cookie sheet and remove to cooling rack. Cool ten minutes. Timing is going to be tricky here, so pay close attention to what you’re doing..

After cookies have cooled, sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar. Press black sugar pearls into large cookies (base and body) for buttons and into smallest cookie to create the face. Use a toothpick to create a hole for the nose and press orange jimmies into the hole for the nose.

Stack cookies to make the snowmen as shown in the picture. I’d use a little bit of icing to make them stay stacked,

Now, for each hat cut 1 gumdrop in half; flatten bottom half into 3/4″ disk (discard or eat the top half). Cut base off another gumdrop; attach, sticky side down to disk. Place on top of snowmen. If you’re not tired of doing all this by this time, use the fruit roll to create a scarf, if desired. Use the picture below as a guide.

Now, if you and I survive all of this cookie creating, I think we deserve a cup of delicious hot chocolate with whipped cream, and a touch of Bailey’s tm (to go with the cookies, of course!)

Happy Snow Day, wherever you are! And if you do get some of that cold white stuff like we did, be safe and enjoy it!

The Magic of Snowflakes

Days like today I’m reminded of the uniqueness of snowflakes 

No two are exactly alike. No two have ever been exactly alike.

No two ever will be exactly alike.

Think about the billions and trillions of snowflakes that have fallen over the years. None ever exactly alike. 

And that, my friends, is another miracle of the Almighty.

Matters of the Heart, Part 29

I really didn’t expect to be writing another installment of this series. After all there’ve been 28 installments so far, the last one being in September of 2019. A little more than two years ago.

Certainly enough stories, right?

Well, you would think so.

But after the last heart valve procedure, which is still doing very well, thank goodness, both of Ben’s doctors determined that he was a very good candidate for a device called the Watchman. This device is implanted in an area of the heart called the left atrial appendage. It permanently closes off that area of the heart in which blood clots can form for patients like Ben who have a history of atrial fibrillation or AFib (which can lead to a stroke).

AFib patients, even those with pacemakers, like Ben, are on blood thinners daily to prevent blood clots from forming. This particular device prevents such clots from forming, thus eliminating the need for patients to take blood thinners daily, which in Ben’s case have also caused a number of blood vessel ruptures in his left eye, which has had numerous recurrences of iritis, which is another story altogher.

Naturally we had a lot of discussions on this procedure, as it’s only been around a little over ten years, and we’d never heard of it. But we did a lot of reading about it, and after several talks with his doctor, we decided that it was the right thing for him to do. Particularly since it was a non-invasive procedure in which the device was inserted into his heart through an artery in the groin, much like his last heart valve replacement. An overnight stay would be required, which was no big deal.

There were several tests that had to be done prior to getting final approval by the cardiology team (not to mention his health insurance, but that’s another matter entirely).

But before we could start the process, Covid hit, and although we’ve been extremely fortunate and neither of us or his medical professionals have contracted it, all elective surgeries were put on hold until further notice.

Of course the Watchman is an elective procedure. So we were on hold. For quite awhile. About 18 months or more.

We kept checking with the hospital and his doctors and finally the restrictions on elective surgeries were lifted. We made an appointment as soon as we could with his doctor to discuss the next steps.

When we were finally able to get the appointment  with his doctor we all quickly decided this was the best way for him to go, and proceeded to schedule the testing involved to be able to apply for approval not only within the cardiology group, but also with his insurance company for their approval.

Nothing is ever simple, though. And we also needed to do the surgery by the end of 2021 to avoid a huge out of pocket expense, since he’d already met his deductible for that year. And it was already early in October 2021.

So the process began…but not without a few complications along the way. Of course.

Read the next installment of “Matters of the Heart, Part 30″, to be published on January 24.

Do You Have the Courage?

The courage to do what needs to be done? The courage to make a change in your life?

Sometimes courage means holding on.

Sometimes courage means letting go.

Courage comes in other forms. The courage to try something you’ve always wanted to do. Or the courage to stop doing something you know isn’t right for you.

To have courage you must step out of your comfort zone, which is a courageous act in itself.

So do you have the courage?

De-Ornamenting the Trees 2022

I had originally posted this a few years ago, but decided to update it for this year,

I think I just invented a new word in 2018. Maybe. But it sure says what I’m feeling right now!

De-ornamenting. Better known as taking down the Christmas trees and other holiday decorations. Returning to whatever state of normalcy we live in the rest of the year.

We actually have 8 Christmas trees every year. Well, if you want to be technical there’s actually now 12, but the skinny white flamingo tree in the Florida room stays up all year with its clear mini lights and huge assortment of the various flamingo decorations we’ve collected over the years. And there are now three 2 foot little trees which are in the kitchen, our granddaughters’ guest bedroom, and my craft studio, but they only take a few minutes to take down. There’s also a lighted palm tree in the far corner of our family room, with its clear lights and eclectic collection of beach and a few extra flamingo ornaments that wouldn’t fit on the other tree, but we don’t count that one. (If you missed my blog series “Each Tree Has a Story” check it out to see all these trees in their full grlory!)

And yes, putting up all those trees is a lot of work, along with hanging the stockings, putting out the silk poinsettias, and decorating the foyer ledge in a holiday theme. It takes several days. But it was worth it. And it’s worth it every year.

Because there’s just something special about the beauty of Christmas decorations. The sparkling lights, the candles, the shiny ornaments on the trees, and the magnificent sight of so many homes lit up with colorful and imaginative lighted displays in front yards. It just gives each home a touch of brand new elegance, and when the only light in your living room or family room comes from that Christmas tree, it just feels different. Almost magical, with an air of expectancy. The perfect room for enjoying time with family and friends.

And then in all too short a time, it’s all over. It’s time to take everything down, pack it carefully away, and wait another year to bring it back and create those feelings all over again. Even thought taking it down is a bit quicker, it’s still an awful lot of work.

Many people say they’re done with it all the day after Christmas Day, and can’t wait to pull everything down and put things back the way they were. Before the decorating…before the transformation began…before the magical beauty entered their home and took over, just for an all too brief time. Maybe they just don’t feel that special sense of magic that some of us do.

I’m just the opposite. I dread taking down all the decorations. Not because of all the work involved, because my husband and I do it together as a team. But because I just don’t like giving up the sparkle…the glow…and the special feelings that all the decorations bring, not only to our home, but to our lives. There’s a special feeling in our home when all those trees are decorated and lighted that just appears for that one all-too-short time. I really can’t describe the feeling. But I know there are more of you out there that feel the same way.

A few of our friends have actually left their trees up and just changed the theme. One friend re-did hers as a winter tree with icicles, silver ornaments, and snowmen. Another friend re-did hers in a Mardi Gras theme. Well, I do keep our flamingo tree up year round, so i guess I’m right there with them.

Spending the weekend removing and carefully packing up ornaments was not fun. And we’re still not quite done. It wasn’t just all the tedious work involved in doing it. It was thinking about all the memories so many of those ornaments evoked. My grandmother’s glass birds that have survived over 100 Christmases still intact. The ornaments that graced my mother’s tree when she still put one up. The special ornaments memorializing my husband’s and my first Christmas together…our daughter’s first Christmas. And now our two granddaughters’ first Christmas ornaments, along with framed picture ornaments of our daughter’s wedding the grandchildren growing up, and their trips to see Santa Claus.

Now there are empty spots in our rooms where the trees were. Not literally, because the furniture we moved to make room for our Christmas trees is slowly going back into place. But it still takes while to have it feel “right” again. But it will. In a few weeks or so. And we’ll forget about all the beauty and “specialness” of those Christmas decorations until about ten months later until it’s time to start thinking about it again.

But then the cycle starts again as the next Christmas season approaches and we once again get to experience that special excitement, that magical feeling as the trees once again are dressed in their familiar splendor with, of course, a few new ornaments that we traditionally add every year.

Am I looking ahead already? Of course! Because I’m already looking forward to that special magic that starts to happen when we start putting it all back together again. And we don’t wait til after Thanksgiving any more to start decorating.

Or maybe we could even do Christmas in July? Maybe a beach themed masterpiece. Decorated shells and starfish…clear ornaments with sea glass and sand inside of them…some kind of beachy garland…maybe on a blue Christmas tree? What do you think? Who wants to help join in the fun?