At the End of 2020

The year has been a pretty lousy one for me, and not just because of Covid. I lost a couple of important people.

First, I had to admit that my sister’s strange behavior was not going away. Living far from her meant that our conversations were over the phone, and talking with her was becoming more and more stressful. She would dwell on things and talk about them constantly as if they were the most important things – like a snowstorm. She repeated herself a lot. She told me she was paying her bills twice, or not paying them at all. She was having trouble at work and decided she needed to retire. When I spoke to her son, he knew all about her issues. He took her to see a doctor and she has a form of dementia.

I believe it began years ago, but it creeps up. I dealt with my mother who had Alzheimers and that was a challenge. When I sister began to repeat herself without realizing it, or acknowledging it when I pointed it out, I worried. It’s one of the first things I had noticed about my mother’s behavior.

My sister is younger than I am, but already she has stopped calling or picking up her phone. She does not reply to texts either. I have lost my sister. She was the only thread tying me to our distant family members and she is my only sibling. We talked on the phone nearly every day. My mother died years ago, and my father is estranged from us so my immediate family is now gone.

Another friend, who is much older, also dropped out of the picture and I have no idea why. Her phone is disconnected, and I figure either she went into the hospital and died, or went to live with one of her children. She has not contacted me, so I am left in limbo, and assume she is simply gone from my life.

There is no hope for a happy new year any longer, and I won’t kid myself, but I will be traveling to see my kids in Spring. Masks or not, I am going for an extended trip to make up for the two years I’ve been away. So there is something to look forward to.

This Christmas I will be home with one of my sons and we’ll cook food and have drinks and enjoy the day, just us two. Last Christmas I was dog-sitting and spent the holidays alone – well, with the dog – who was a sweetheart. I didn’t want to commit to that again. It was very lonely. Their neighbors knew the circumstances, that the people were traveling to be with family, and I was alone watching their dog. Yet no one dropped off a meal, or thought of me sitting alone in the house eating a frozen pizza for Christmas. They spoke to me and should certainly have thought that a plate would have been appreciated. It’s quite amazing how strangely people behave.

People have their own busyness to deal with. Family and friends and good times abound, and they all assume that everyone is doing the same types of things. I don’t believe they think too much about it. No one wants to ruin their happiness with thoughts of the poor and lonely.

For those of you who may read this and will spend the holidays alone, or in a very low key situation, know that I am thinking of you. I’ve spent plenty of lonely holidays and some have been downright miserable. This year I plan to make the best of it, which is all we can really do.

2021. It’s coming. I don’t know what to think.

A Blooming Orchid and Hydrangea Update

The other day we had a massive storm, with a tornado touchdown just west of where we live. It brought 4.5 inches of water, which filled the drainage ditches and low-lying areas. In Florida, rainwater seeps away into the ground fairly quick and we can handle that amount of rain.

As I was picking up overturned plants and inspecting my gardens, I discovered that my old orchid plant had a stem full of buds! I have two orchid plants that sit outside in the shade of a bigger shrub. Orchids appreciate the humidity, but don’t like direct sunlight. That is the extent of my orchid knowledge, and I moved them outdoors where they can get what they need.

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Finally – blooming again

This orchid was a gift from my daughter many years ago when she was a little girl. I’ve kept it, and traveled all over New Hampshire with it in all my moves. Now I (and it) are back in Florida, and the plant seems to be happier. I can’t remember when it bloomed last.

Just behind where the orchid sits in the garden is my hydrangea! It has really grown, but there are no flowers. See my first hydrangea photos here. It remained quite small for a while, but now it is taking off. Maybe the roots have taken hold, and the fertilizer has kicked in.

Florida outdoor hydrangea shrub
Florida outdoor hydrangea shrub

Did you notice my little croton starter plants in the photo above? I have four across the front of the garden (three in the photo). I rooted them from cuttings.

The wind blew the banana tree over a bit so now the bunch of bananas growing is reachable.

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Drooping bunch of bananas

My Own Turkey Chili Recipe

My son smoked the Thanksgiving turkey this year and it was delicious. With only two of us to eat, we had a lot of leftovers, which I froze.

Now it’s time to make some winter chili, and I broke out the turkey and broth from my freezer to make this recipe tasty.

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My version of chili made with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving

To begin, I got out my LeCrueset Dutch Oven, which I love.

I sautéed lots of green pepper (from my garden) and onions in oil for a few minutes. Then I added chopped garlic and cooked a bit longer. Then I added the turkey broth (thawed), can of organic diced tomatoes, and spices. I chopped the leftover turkey into bite size pieces and threw it in. The spices I used were parsley and basil from my garden. Dried spices would work too. I had bought some jalapeño peppers at the local farm stand so I chopped a small amount of one jalapeño to add some heat.

To begin with uncooked meat, brown it first then remove from the pan.  Add the pepper and onion with oil and sauté.  Add the liquid broth and scrape the bottom of the pan.  Add meat, spices and tomatoes.

It’s really your choice about how hot and spicy you want your chili to be. I like a little heat, but not overwhelming. If you don’t have flavored broth, use broth granules in water. About a cup or 2 is needed depending on the amount of meat, tomatoes and veggies you use. I basically wing it!

Once those ingredients simmer for about an hour, I add the black beans (or kidney beans can be used) with the liquid (I use organic beans only). Then I simmer for at least another half hour.  Don’t add the beans too soon or they will get mushy.

Because our turkey was smoked, this chili has a slight smoky flavor. Between the jalapeño pepper and spices and melding of the flavors while it slow-cooks, it turned out super yummy!

When I make chili or soup I fly by the seat of my pants and add whatever I have on hand or seems to work.

I had made a batch of cornbread (recipe on the cornmeal box) and froze it.  That way I had ready-made cornbread to add to my chili.

Use your freezer.  It’s your best friend.  BTW I froze a serving of this chili to enjoy later.

My Favorite Black Cat Photos of Skittle and Fontana

I take a lot of photos of my two black cats, Skittle and Fontana. Fontana has been living with me since 2010 when she and Richie (a crazy male cat who is now deceased) were adopted from a shelter in New Hampshire. Richie met an untimely end when he was killed by a fisher cat one early morning. Fisher cats are stocky, muscular beasts that hunt mostly at night so I kept my cats inside overnight.  Richie always wanted to go out very early in the morning to hunt and unfortunately a fisher cat was out hunting too.

You can see photos of Richie at my New England blog.  He had unique blotches of white on his face.

Fontana the Beauty

Whereas Richie was a hunter extraordinaire, Fontana was always one to sit and watch wildlife with big eyes and not try to kill everything that moves. She spent one night in my old house playing with a mouse in the kitchen, which she let get away to bother us another day.

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Fontana’s black coat

Fontana was, and is, a beautiful, medium long hair cat. Her fur was jet black, but now that she has spent lots of time outside in the Florida sun, she has turned chocolate brown.  Yup, she’s fading.

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Fontana’s fur has faded to brown in the Florida sun

Then, Along Came Skittle

Skittle became part of the family shortly after Richie had gone. My son and I went to the local shelter where a room held some free roaming kitties. The shelter manager told me to go in and visit with those cats and as I opened the door a little black cat bolted out into the main part of the shelter. We had to round her up and put her back.   My son decided that was the cat he wanted.  Of course, the troublemaker!

Her shelter name was “Love Bug” but before we left the parking lot my son said, “Lets call her Skittle”.   The name is perfect and she still does the “skittle out the door” maneuver very well.

Skittle is the kind of cat that makes her needs known one way or another. She drinks out of cups, knocks things off counters and tables, and races through the house to get attention. As soon as I go into the bathroom she is up on the counter wanting to drink from the faucet. She stays outside almost all day long, even in the terrible Florida heat. I am home and can let her in, but she prefers outdoors. She seems to be happier in this climate away from the snowy New England winters.

Cats are known to choose to sleep in some strange places.  Usually they choose a place that will bother the owner the most.  Right on a book that one is attempting to read, or on the desktop when one is trying to work.   The fact that Skittle thought the indoor woodpile would be a comfy place for a nap really confused me.  But she saw that I was using that wood to stoke the wood stove and probably decided she would be in the way.  It’s how her little mind works.

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I have some great photos of skittle, but none as funny as when she plopped her head down onto the fruit in my fruit bowl and made herself comfortable.  Did she think I would want some fruit and having her head in the way would annoy me?  Probably.


In my New Hampshire home, Skittle had perfected the art of letting me know she was ready to come inside. She stood on the deck railing and pawed at the window in the kitchen making as much noise as possible.  If the railing had snow or ice she would simply climb to the top of the screen on the sliding glass door and hang there hoping to annoy me enough to open the door.

When winter ended in NH and I began to go outside to do my gardening, Skittle was always somewhere close by.  She loved to have my company in the yard.  The photo below is one of my very favorites and was taken on one of those gardening days.  It captures her typical look which seems to be saying, “Come on, what’s next?  Lets get to it.”  Skittle is always ready for an adventure.

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If I didn’t get around to mowing the grass as much as I should, the cats didn’t mind. They both like to “hide” in the greenery.

One of their favorite things to do was to walk with me in the woods behind the house.  I had a big backyard forest area with rocks, water and downed trees to climb.  I miss being outside with them.  In Florida, I don’t go out much and there are no fun places to explore in my yard.

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Fontana in the grass

Just like siblings, cats can have radically different personalities. Anyone who doesn’t like cats probably hasn’t met a cat with the “right” personality match for them. Fontana and Skittle are very different from each other.

Skittle will sleep on my bed at night, but Fontana doesn’t.

Fontana will jump into my lap, but not Skittle.

Skittle comes when I call her, like a dog. Fontana usually ignores my calls.

Skittle catches lizards and then meows, while the poor thing dangles from her mouth, until I come see. Fontana ignores the lizards.

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Fontana is a beauty

The cats are weird, funny, sweet or annoying and they’ve wormed their way into our hearts, as all pets do.

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Window with a view