Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Making Gifts for Christmas

Back in the 70's, my sister Cindy and I decided to make Christmas gifts for our aunts and uncles. We still do this. Every year we try to come up with something unique and different. We have made flavored sugar, padded photo frames, Lucite photo frames with colored glass gemstones and charms, ceramic painted boxes with homemade rose petal potpourri (We had rose bushes in our yard and I dried the petals for the potpourri.), stuffed ducks, aprons, crocheted place mats, candles, cookies in a jar, soup in a jar, calendars, painted tee shirts, sweatshirts with studs, painted Christmas sweatshirts, embroidered pictures, ceramic bowls (Cindy made these), quilted place mats, water color paintings, photographs I took and put into frames, hot pad mitts, wooden ducks dressed and used as doorstops, calligraphy poems, beaded jewelry, and much more. This year we decided to collaborate with the gifts we make for our three aunts and one uncle. In the past years, we have collaborated on some of the gifts and some of them we have made entirely by ourselves. I found an Internet link to some printed tea towels to make this year. Actually, we will be getting a little help from Spoonflower to make the tea towels. In my collection of cookbooks, I have both of my grandmother's cookbooks and recipes. I scanned some of the recipes to a document and sent this document to Spoonflower. They will print the recipes onto tea towel material. Since I hate to sew and Cindy loves it, she will finish off the tea towels by hemming each of them and then making sure that each aunt and uncle will receive the Christmas gifts from us.

Now, I need to start working on an idea for making Christmas gifts for the aunts and uncle for NEXT Christmas! If you have any good ideas, sent them to me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Moody Gallery of Art

Did you know that Bob and I have our own art gallery here in our apartment?  We call it the Moody Gallery of Art.  We have many artists in our family and we have collected pieces of their artwork to display where we live.  When we were in Tulsa this past weekend, we acquired another piece of artwork from another member of the family.  Above is a photo of Bob's brother John.  He recently decided to teach himself how to paint with oils.  He gave us his painting he calls "Bee and Lavender".  The painting will be framed and hung so we can show it off with the other artwork from our family.  We love having so many artists in the family!  Here is the link to the rest of the artwork we have collected from our family -- share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8EbMmLJq3aKTLA

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The only thing missing was the peanut butter.

I LOVE to bake cookies!  There were always cookies in the house when I grew up as a kid.  At the age of 10, I was baking and cooking on my own and I loved to make cookies.  I don't bake cookies as often as I used to when I had the boys at home or as often as I would even like to since there is only my husband and me at home.  Bob and I certainly don't need to eat cookies and I gave up eating sugar -- except for the honey I put in my tea in the morning and my daily piece of chocolate that I MUST eat! -- a couple of years ago.  But, I do bake cookies or muffins once in awhile when I get the urge.  Then, I take them to our church for the coffee hour and I let everyone else eat them.  It is a win-win situation.

When I travel, I buy packages of nuts or trail mix at the convenient store/gas stations when we stop.  I don't eat the nuts or trail mix when I get home, but for some reason I feel like I must munch on something when I'm riding in the car.  Maybe it is boredom.  I rarely eat the whole package of these nuts or trail mixes.  When I get home, these packages of nuts, trail mixes and such go into the pantry.  Today when I was looking for something to eat for lunch, I spied these various packages of nuts and trail mixes I had bought on my various trips we took in the past couple of months.  I decided they would be good made into some cookies.  I found a basic trail mix cookie recipe online, but then I made up my own recipe as I went along.  I rarely make a recipe like it says, but I do need a gauge of how much sugar, flour, eggs, baking soda and salt to put in them.  Then, I added the packages of nuts, trail mixes, some chocolate chips and some coconut.  The only thing missing was the peanut butter! 

I decided to try just one cookie as I needed to make sure they are good enough to take to church for the coffee hour.  They came out pretty good!  Next time I'll add the peanut butter.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Blue Man Necklace

DeWayne, my son Cavan's organ recipient who lives in Florida, sent me a box of found objects to use in my jewelry and for making my gift bags.  He told me that he went dumpster diving for some of these pieces!  Way to go DeWayne!  Shortly before the box of found objects arrived at my apartment, I bought this blue face bead from an Etsy website called Nature Buttons.  As soon as I saw this blue ceramic face bead I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it!  I wish all of my inspirations for my jewelry were this instantaneous.  I had planned to go look for these horseshoe nails to purchase or ask my friend Laura who has horses if she would give some of the nails to me.  But, then I received the box of found objects from DeWayne and there was ONE of the horseshoe nails!  It was a bit rusty and beat up and it was exactly what I wanted!  I called DeWayne and asked him if he had any other nails like this and he told me he had ONE more.  That was all I needed for my project.  Here is the photo of my "Blue Man" necklace I made with the blue ceramic face bead, some annealed steel wire and the horseshoe nails.

Monday, July 9, 2012


I love making new friends.  I have many friends whom I have known throughout my sixty three years and I work hard at keeping these friends.  Friendships take a lot of work, but I believe that it is worth it many times over.  I take the time every day to correspond with these friends via emails, phone calls, Facebook and letters.  Once I have become friends with someone, they are a friend for life.  I cherish ALL of my wonderful friends!  Today I made a NEW friend -- Lyn Belisle.  Lyn and I met through Etsy, a website for people who want to sell their homemade and vintage items.  Lyn makes and sells her clay Spirit Faces through Etsy and a few months ago I bought some of them.  http://lifeofacrazybeader.blogspot.com/2012/05/pendant-with-earth-shards-face.html  Lyn asked for photos of the items I made with her Spirit Faces so she could put my photos on her blog.  We started corresponding via emails and through Etsy and today we met for the first time.  Lyn lives in San Antonio.  Bob goes to San Antonio periodically for meetings with his H.E.B. client so when I found out that he was going on a business trip today, I asked if I could tag along so I could meet Lyn.  Bob and I drove to San Antonio yesterday and we had a lovely evening dining and walking on the Riverwalk.  Today he went to his business meeting and Lyn came to the hotel to pick me up so we could chat, get to know each other and have lunch.  We had so much to talk about and of course, we already have another date lined up to get together in December.  My sister Cindy also bought some of Lyn's Spirit Faces for jewelry and Cindy will be visiting me in December.  Lyn and Cindy are anxious to meet each other too.  I enjoyed my day making another life long friend.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Trip to New Mexico - June 2012

Bob and I love to travel by car and see the sites of the United States.  We decided to spend a week in New Mexico for our vacation this year.  We left on Saturday, June 23rd and drove as far as Carlsbad, NM that first day.  Our first stop was for lunch in Thurber, TX at the Smokestack Restaurant.  This town has a population of FIVE!  Thurber sat out in the middle of nowhere in West TX.  After we arrived in Carlsbad and checking into our hotel, we drove to the caverns to watch the bats come out of the cave.  Sorry, no photos of that.  They didn't allow them.  Each evening in summer, Brazilian (aka Mexican) free-tail bats exit Carlsbad Cavern in search of a smorgasbord of insects for dinner.  The next day, we went back to the caverns to take a self-guided tour.  It was supposedly 56 degrees in the cave, but it felt good to me after being outside in the 100+ degree HEAT!  People say it is a DRY HEAT, but to me, DRY heat, WET heat, it is all the same to me -- HOT!!!

We left Carlsbad on the afternoon of Sunday the 24th and drove to Roswell, NM to spend the night.  We took a tour of the UFO Museum.  I was hoping to see at last one REAL spaceship and/or alien!  After dinner we took a drive to find a spot to see the night time stars.  We found a good spot to return to later in the evening and I even saw a rainbow shining through a hole in the clouds! That night about 9 p.m., we drove out to the desert and away from town to the spot we found earlier so we could see the stars.  We sure could see a lot of the stars away from the lights.

On Monday the 25th, we drove to Albuquerque. We drove straight to Sandia Peak, as the tram ride up the mountain was my first priority.  Bob and I both LOVE being high up in the air!  Once we got to the top of Sandia Peak, we walked around on a couple of the trails.  It was only 66 degrees at the top of the peak and over 100 degrees on the ground.  I was very hot and sweating even at the top of the peak.  I got dizzy and nauseous.  Bob said I had altitude sickness.  We didn't stay up there very long.  It was beautiful scenery though.  It made me miss my skiing days back in the 70's and 80's.

After we checked into our hotel and rested up a bit, we walked around the Albuquerque Old Town area.  Lots of fun, unique shops to poke around in.  We couldn't stay out very long though, as the heat was too much for me and zaps my energy.

On Tuesday, the 26th after checking out of the hotel, we took the Turquoise Trail to Santa Fe.  This was a beautiful, scenic trail through the mountains with lots of interesting towns to explore.  We stopped in the town of Madrid for lunch and to go through a few of the little shops.  I would have liked to have stayed longer, but it was just TOO HOT!

We arrived in Santa Fe and after checking into our hotel and cooling off a bit, we walked around the plaza.  We went to the Loretto Chapel where the "Miraculous Staircase" to the chapel's choir loft has two 360-degree turns and no visible means of support.  An anonymous carpenter is said to have fashioned the spiral steps in 1878 using only wooden pegs.  Bob wanted to see the museum at the Governor's Palace so we went through part of that in a short time.  There were many vendors that lined the plaza area with their homemade jewelry, etc.  I bought a unique pendant made with coral, turquoise, mother-of-pearl and serpentine.

On Wednesday the 27th, we stayed in Santa Fe.  We had a couples massage at Ten Thousand Waves, then we walked around the plaza looking for bead stores and rested in our COOL hotel room.

On Thursday, the 28th, we took the High Road to Taos.  This is a very scenic drive up the mountain, driving through the little towns of Nambe, Chimayo, Santa Cruz, Cordova, Truchas, Las Trampas and Picuris before we reached Taos.  In Taos, we stayed at a bed and breakfast called Casa Benavides.  The B&B was wonderful and I LOVED Taos!  I could have stayed here for at least a week!  And it was much cooler too.  Our B&B was a block away from the plaza where there were many unique restaurants and shops.  We ate lunch, walked around the plaza, went to the Kit Carson home and museum, and to see and photograph the San Francisco de Asis church.  This is the famous church seen in many of the Ansel Adams photographs and the Georgia O'Keefe paintings.  Then, we drove to the Rio Grande Gorge and bridge.  It was very windy at the gorge!  We ate dinner OUTSIDE on the patio of the Renata Cafe since it was COOL.  We heard music coming from the plaza so we walked there to listen to a local guitar player and singer named Max Gomez.  It was a wonderful evening!

On Friday the 29th, we toured the Taos Pueblo before we drove to Amarillo, TX where we stayed for the night.  The main pueblo here is thought to have been built between A.D. 1000 and 1450, making it one of the oldest continuously occupied communities in America.

Bob and I don't enjoy riding in the car for a long length of time, so we decided to stay in Amarillo, which was halfway between Taos and Tulsa, which would be our next stop. 

On Saturday, the 30th, we drove to Tulsa, OK to visit Bob's brother Nick, his wife Sandra and my son's family.  We met Corbin, Christy, Caty, Carson & Christian, along with some of Christy's family members at Joe's Crab Shack for dinner.  This was the restaurant of choice from Carson since she was celebrating her 8th birthday.  Bob and I stayed the night with Nick & Sandra, went to church and lunch with them on Sunday before we drove back home to Dallas.

I love seeing the sites of the United States, but it sure is nice to return home to my own bed!

If you want to see our photos we took of our trip, here are the Shutterfly links:

These are our photos from Carlsbad, Albuquerque and Roswell.

These are our photos from Santa Fe and Taos.

These are our photos of Sandia Peak.

These are our photos of Carson's 8th birthday celebration at Joe's Crab Shack.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What a Waste!

This is the recycling bin that sits by our mail boxes at our apartment complex.  This particular bin gets filled with junk mail and fliers mostly.  Once a week we receive sales fliers like what you get when you purchase a copy of the Sunday newspaper and most of these fliers end up in this recycling bin.  What a waste of our resources!  At least these sale fliers and junk mail are being recycled.  I wonder if all of these companies that advertise in these fliers know that their ads are going into the trash -- most of them not even looked at.  I don't look at my sales fliers.  They go directly into this recycling bin.  I think these advertisers need to figure out that this is the age of computers and websites.  If someone wants to know what is on sale at a particular store, then look it up on the website instead of wasting paper and ink that end up in the trash!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pendant with Earth Shards Face

I received my order of these wonderful faces from Earth Shards on Etsy.  Lyn Belisle makes these faces in her studio from press molds that she takes from weathered old statues and monuments in historical sculpture gardens and cemeteries. Aren't they cool?  I had intended to use them for pendants when I purchased them.  I'd like to use the others for pendants also, but since they have no holes to attach them to metal or for hanging them as a pendant, I'll have to think up other ways to use them.  If you have any suggestions, let me know.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Flat Stephanie Visits Dallas

My granddaughter Carson who lives in Tulsa, OK, sent me her Flat Stephanie as a school project.  I had to take Flat Stephanie around Dallas, show her the sites and take photographs of her to send back to Carson's school. 

"Flat Stanley" is a 1964 children's book written by Jeff Brown featuring Stanley Lambchop.  Stanley Lambchop and his younger brother Arthur are given a big bulletin board by their Dad for displaying pictures and posters. He hangs it on the wall over Stanley's bed. During the night the board falls from the wall, flattening Stanley in his sleep. He survives and makes the best of his altered state, and soon he is entering locked rooms by sliding under the door, and playing with his younger brother by being used as a kite. One special advantage is that Flat Stanley can now visit his friends by being mailed in an envelope. Stanley even helps catch some art museum  thieves by posing as a painting on the wall. Eventually Arthur changes Stanley back to his proper shape with a bicycle pump.

 The Flat Stanley Project was started in 1995 by Dale Hubert, a third grade school teacher in Canada. It is meant to facilitate letter-writing by schoolchildren to each other as they document where Flat Stanley has gone with them.

Bob and I took Flat Stephanie around Dallas and here is the link to the photos we took:


Thursday, March 22, 2012

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It!

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" I think this is a good moto to live by. But, apparently the Biore company doesn't think so.

I have been a very loyal customer, buying the Biore Pore Unplugging Scrub, for several years. I asked my sister to try it and she has also been a loyal customer. And, last November, I asked my husband's niece, Catherine, who makes soap to try to match the scent of this face scrub in some soap for me. http://lifeofacrazybeader.blogspot.com/2012/01/catie-beth-bath-body-soaps.html I love the scent of this Biore Pore Unplugging Scrub and I wanted some soap to match. I looked on the Biore website, but they only make face products. Catherine said she is good at determining scents, so I sent her a tube of the Biore Pore Unplugging Scrub. In the list of ingredients on the tube, it says "fragrance". Catherine did a great job of matching the clean scent of this face scrub. Using the face scrub every morning was a part of my morning ritual, such as drinking my tea, reading and writing my emails and taking a shower. I looked forward to smelling this clean, melony, minty, clean smell on my face.

Last weekend I needed to buy another tube of my Biore Pore Unplugging Scrub and I had a hard time finding it. In the past few years, if one store was out of this product, I would drive to another store just to buy it. I am very loyal to products I use if I like them! I tried several different stores looking for the green tube of the Biore Pore Unplugging Scrub, but I couldn't find it. I wrote an email to the company and they told me that in January of this year, they changed the packaging, the color of the face scrub, AND the scent!!

The Biore company has just lost this loyal customer. I will be looking for a new face scrub to take its place.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Gift Bags

I have always enjoyed all kinds of crafts. I was in 4H for several years when I was a teenager and that is when I started sewing and baking. I liked baking more than sewing and my sister enjoyed the sewing more than baking. My sister Cindy is much more artistic than I am and she loves to draw and paint. She decided to become an art teacher. Since I don't have much of a competitive bone in my body, I have stuck mostly to the baking and cooking to let out the artist in me. When we lived in Sarasota, I just happened to start making beaded jewelry. At first I only made it for myself until a couple of my friends prodded me into selling it. I got more and more creative in my jewelry making. I have never thought of myself as being creative, but after my friends started telling me how creative I am, I have started to believe it myself. I started making a few gift bags after I saw some instructions on a website I belong to called Fave Crafts. Cindy and I perfected the original instructions. I made my first gift bags from the Sunday comics, scrapbooking paper and magazine pages. One day on my exercise walk, I saw these boxes on the corners of West Village where I live. These metal boxes had big, glossy newspaper ads in them and I took some home with me. These ads in the "Paper City" newspapers were just perfect for my gift bags! I showed my gift bags to some friends and my friend Pat asked if I would make some to help sell some bracelets that the Creations of the Heart group at church had made to sell at the Global Village Market last November. After several people saw my gift bags, I had several requests to sell them. I love making the gift bags and I give one to anyone who buys a piece of the NeeNee & CheeChee's Beaded Things jewelry. I decided this week to sell my gift bags for $1.00 each (plus postage if I have to mail them to you). Here is my Shutterfly link of the gift bags that I have for sale right now --share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8EbMmLJq3aKR0Q Let me know if you want to buy any of them. Like my jewelry, I do not want to duplicate a bag. They are one of a kind, so if you see one you want, buy it NOW!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Arcadian Beauty Necklace

I am always looking for old jewelry that I can convert into pieces of my own. I visit the thrift shops and Goodwill stores regularly to look at the jewelry to see if I can make it into a beautiful piece to sell or keep. I love looking in antique stores for old jewelry to take apart. When we went to Florida earlier this month, Bob and I met our friends Ross and Pat in Arcadia for a day of shopping at the antique stores and for lunch. There are many wonderful antique stores there. I found an old, yellowed pearl necklace that had a nice clasp on it that I bought for $8.00. When I got home, I discovered that the "pearls" were white plastic beads covered in paint. I cleaned up the clasp and threw away the beads from that necklace. I decided to use the clasp from that old necklace as a pendant on my own creation. I added some freshwater pearls, Czech glass fire polished faceted beads and a silver toggle clasp. Much better, right?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Catie Beth Bath & Body Soaps

Bob's niece, Catherine Dreher, makes soap that she sells on her Etsy website, Catie Beth Bath & Body -- http://www.etsy.com/shop/catiebeth. Catherine donates a part of her proceeds to help orphans get adopted. She and her husband Scott adopted a little boy from Ethiopia and the sales from her soap helped with the money they needed for this adoption. I started using Catherine's soaps about a year ago and I LOVE them! I asked Catherine a few months ago if she could make me some soap to match the scent of a face scrub that I have been using and that I like. Catherine mentioned on her Facebook page that she was good at determining scents, so I decided to give her a challenge. I love the scent of the Biore face scrub and when I looked at the Biore website, I only found products for the face. There were no body soaps, body wash or anything else in that category. Catherine took me up on my offer to create a soap that matched the scent of the Biore face scrub. I told her that on the Biore website that all that was mentioned in the ingredients was "fragrance". I sent her a tube of the Biore face scrub and she ordered oils for what she thought would match the scent -- mint, melons, cucumber and apple. I told her that I would buy all of the bars of soap she made unless she wanted to try selling them on her website. Yesterday I received a box with 17 bars of my soap in it! She sent me a sliver of it a couple of weeks ago along with a bar that I wanted to give to my sister when she visited. I have been using that little sliver and it smells so wonderful! It has a very clean scent, like fresh mowed grass. I have enough soap to last me a long time now. If you would like to try a bar of it, I will send it to you if you promise to try some of Catherine's other soaps. I love her "Energy" soap. I won her drawing that she had to win a bar of soap shaped like a tractor and I think that was an oatmeal soap of some kind. It had a wonderful smell to it! Let me know if you would like to try one of my new soaps. I think we need a name for it too!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Christmas 2011

I LOVE holidays with family! I wish that ALL of my family lived close to each other so I could be with every one of them for the holidays (and any time we wanted to get together). But, since my family is so scattered across the United States, I am very glad to be close enough to some of my family to get together for holidays, birthdays and any time in between.

My son Corbin, his wife and three children live in Tulsa which is only a four hour drive from Dallas. Also, Bob has a sister, two brothers and their families there. We try to spend holidays and birthdays with them. We went to Tulsa for Christmas and we had a wonderful time with everyone there.

We arrived in Tulsa on December 24th, thankful for the very good weather this year. We met Corbin, his family and Christy's family at their church for the Christmas Eve service. After the church service, we went to Corbin & Christy's house for a wonderful, traditional Italian dinner. We ate on their Christmas plates in their formal dining room, which was beautiful decorated. Then, we exchanged gifts. Bob and I gave Christian an Imaginex helicopter and police car that made lots of noise. He loved it and was glad he got some toys to play with. We gave American Girl Doll clothes to the girls for their dolls.

Corbin and his family like being just the five of them together on Christmas Day. Bob and I went to church at Joy Lutheran where we had been married. After visiting with Bob's brother Nick and his wife Sandra, we had a wonderful Christmas Day dinner with his sister Suzanne, her three girls and their families.

You can see the rest of our Christmas photos at this link -- http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8EbMmLJq3aKRag

Cindy's Visit to Dallas - December 2011

My sister Cindy and I are as close as being twins. We are 18 months apart in birth and even though she lives in Elgin, IL and I live in Dallas, TX, we are still very close, keeping in touch through daily phone calls, emails, and texts. We try to get together in June at her house and in December at mine.

Cindy arrived in Dallas on December 26th and after we picked her up at the DFW airport, we found a place for lunch and did some shopping at the Grapevine Mills Mall near the airport. I don't go to that mall very often since it is not close to where we live and I wanted to shop in particular at the Ann Taylor outlet store. We both love to shop and we shopped 'til we dropped!

We had a full calendar of things to do while Cindy was visiting. She decided to try going to my yoga class with me on Tuesday the 27th. This was her very first yoga class and she liked it. After we got cleaned up, we hopped on the trolley, got off downtown and had lunch at the Neiman Marcus cafe.

Cindy and I always have lots of fun craft projects to do when we get together so we had to schedule to do them in the evenings since our days were full of other fun things we wanted to do. We made some gift bags for our jewelry one night. We used the pages from the glossy ads in the "Paper City" newspapers for our bags and decorated them with ribbons, beads and baubles I had around the house. You can see them at this link -- http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8EbMmLJq3aKRc4

One night Cindy made me some new cloth napkins to match my placemats. She loves to sew and since I find that a horrible chore instead of doing something fun, I asked her to do this for me. I always save up my mending and sewing projects for her to do when she comes to visit. Such a wonderful sister she is!

And, of course, we had to get out the beads and make some new jewelry!

On Wednesday the 28th, we drove to Waco to meet our cousin Larry and his daughter Katie for lunch. Larry & Katie live in Austin and Waco was a good half-way point to meet. We met at Buzzard Billy's for lunch. It is always fun to get together with family!

On Thursday, Cindy and I took a jewelry riveting class together at the Beading Dreams store. I had taken the class a month prior, but Cindy wanted to take it. I audited the class and got to make another riveted copper and brass pendant.

On Friday the 30th, Cindy and I drove to Arlington and met Annie and her boyfriend for lunch. Annie used to live in our garage apartment when we owned our house on Monticello from 1996 - 2001. Annie teaches pottery here in the Dallas area. Cindy also teaches pottery and she and Annie always have a lot to talk about. After lunch, we visited Annie's pottery studio and saw her new kiln.

That evening, Cindy and I went back to the Beading Dreams bead store for a metal craft studio night. I made copper and brass book lockets for my granddaughters and Cindy made name pendants for her granddaughters.

On Saturday the 31st, we ran our Saturday errands, had lunch out, went to bead stores and we were all in bed by 10 p.m. Just the usual day and evening for us.

Cindy got to experience our bilingual service at our church, Emanuel Lutheran, on Sunday. On special Sundays such as this one for the New Year, our church combined the Spanish and English services into one service so it is a little lengthy. After the service, it was a gorgeous day and we wanted to be out. We took a walk on the Katy Trail and tried to eat lunch at the Katy Trail Ice House. Everyone in Dallas decided to do the same thing! When we found out that there was to be over an hour wait for food, we walked to the Idle Rich and had lunch there instead.

Cindy's flight on Monday was at 7 a.m., so we both took her at 5 a.m. to the DFW airport. We always hate to part, but we had some good memories and knowledge that we will be together again soon.

You can see the photos we took at this link -- share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8EbMmLJq3aKRlQ

1,067 Miles Later

Bob and I took our 3rd annual trip to Florida last week. We have a lot of friends who live there since we lived there for 6 1/2 years and we have family who live there. I try to get back there to visit at least once a year. Of course, it is hard to get to see everyone, but we try to see as many of our friends and family as we can. This year we put 1,067 miles on our rental car! We drove from Tampa, to Jacksonville, Lake Placid, Vero Beach and back to Tampa.

We arrived in Tampa on Jan. 3rd. Bob's son Zach lives there and he was working when we arrived, so Bob and I found a nice restaurant where we had lunch. We checked into the Hampton Inn, met Zach for dinner and chatted for awhile at a nearby coffee house.

After breakfast with Zach on Wednesday the 4th, Bob and I drove to Jacksonville. DeWayne, who is one of the recipients of my son's organs, lives there. Michael is another organ recipient and he lives in Gainesville. Michael drove to Jacksonville and we all met at the hotel where Bob and I were staying. I met DeWayne and Michael for the first time in January 2009 and we all stay in touch through phone calls, emails and texts. We went to dinner at Ragtime, near the Jacksonville Beach. We took a very short walk on the beach, as it was cold -- in the 40's.

On Thursday the 5th, DeWayne, Michael, Bob and I met at DeWayne's house. DeWayne had told me a lot about all of the antiques he collects and I wanted to see them. His room is like an antique museum! So many wonderful things to see! We went to lunch, told them good-bye, then Bob and I drove to Lake Placid to visit my dad and Susan.

Bob and I stayed with Daddy & Susan through Sunday morning. DeWayne had given me two new cookbooks, so we picked a Chicken Parmesan recipe that I made for dinner the day we arrived. I love to cook and try new recipes and the others love to eat the foods I make. It is a win-win situation!

Bob and I have a new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 that we wanted to use at Daddy & Susan's, but they didn't have wireless, so Bob got them fixed up with a wireless router so we could use our new toy. We also got them a camera for their computer so we could use Skype. We chatted with Ken, my brother, and Cindy, my sister. Daddy & Susan thought that was wonderful! We also noticed that Daddy was using the closed caption on the TV so we bought him some wireless headphones. He is in the Techno Age now!

My friend Junie, whom I met through the Florida Navy Moms group, lives in Lake Placid with her husband Jeff, so we met them for lunch on Friday the 6th.

On Saturday, Bob and I drove to Arcadia and met my friend Pat and her husband Ross for lunch at the Mary Margaret Tea Room. Such a cute, girly place! Thank you Bob & Ross for going along with us and letting us eat there. We walked around the town and into several antique stores. I bought an old necklace that I plan to remake into a piece of my own.

On Sunday the 8th, Bob and I drove to Vero Beach to visit my sister-in-law Chris, her son Paul and daughters, Chelsea and Tarah. What fun to get together with more family! Chris loves to cook and entertain like I do. She made yummy quiches, homemade bread and a salad for lunch. Later in the day, Chris, Bob and I went to Treasure Cove Beach, where we walked and found many shells and pieces of sea glass. Chris collects the sea glass. The weather had warmed up to the upper 70's. We took Chris and Paul to a restaurant on the water for dinner. Too bad it was so dark and we couldn't see the water. Bob and I stayed overnight with Chris. After a big breakfast of cheese grits, eggs, toast from the homemade bread and Florida oranges, Bob and I drove back to Tampa.

The weather in Tampa was sunny and in the upper 70's when we arrived. So different from the cold couple of days from the weekend before when we first arrived. We met Zach for lunch and then, he returned to work. Since it was such a beautiful day, I wanted to be out in it instead of sitting in a hotel room. So, we walked along the Riverwalk and we took a trolley ride through Y'bor City. That night we returned to Y'bor City for dinner at the Columbia. Their famous 1905 salad is THE BEST! After our dinner, we went to Zach's apartment and watched a strange movie, "Momento".

Bob and I met Zach for breakfast on Tuesday the 10th. We went to a wonderful French bakery and cafe. It was a beautiful day and we sat outside to eat and chat. Zach took a little time off work to spend it with us, so we went to the International Mall. They know I love to shop!

Our vacation had come to an end and we arrived back in Dallas around 7 p.m. It was 76 degrees when we left Tampa and 46 degrees when we arrived back in Dallas. It was still nice to be back home.

You can see my photos from our Florida trip at this link -- http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8EbMmLJq3aKRjI