Saturday, November 21, 2020

Thanksgiving Thoughts and 3 Recipes


Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.  The dinner is one of the easiest to host and cook, with the menu pretty much set. You can do a lot in advance, so that makes my organized mind happy.  It’s an adaptable meal for a small group or a big crowd and I tend to cook large amounts anyway, because we love leftovers.

I do get a little annoyed when a holiday that is all about the simple pleasure of being at home with your family and that has very little commercialization involved, gets skipped over in the rush to get to Christmas.  If I had a wish in this unsettling time that we are in, I would hope that this scaled down holiday for some will give families a chance to make some new memories. I always say to my girls that different does not have to be bad.  Relax and enjoy a quiet holiday before the hustle and bustle that is Christmas begins.

I made this tray to take to a dinner party and I wanted to share the three recipes I included.  Not quite a charcuterie board, but a pretty presentation with a variety of easy delicious finger food.

1. Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus 

2.  Mini Italian Skewers 

3.  Bruschetta with Garlic Herb Spread


Friday, November 13, 2020

Windy Visit


My daughter and son in law flew in for a weekend visit on the heels of Eta swirling around our stretch  of the Florida gulf coast. We managed a couple of days of pool time, before the wind gusts arrived, but still made the best of it with a windy walk on the beach one morning and dinner at one of our favorite spots Sunday night.  We took them to St. Armands Circle where it is possible to dodge the raindrops if necessary and watched football at an outdoor bar (they are Steelers fans) with Oyster Shooters and Pineapple Upside Down Cake shots.  Then a bit of shopping and dinner at a Cuban/Spanish restaurant with the most delicious pitcher of Sangria.  Monday was a washout with swirling wind and rain, but it was airport day, so that’s ok too.  

I always feel bad when the weather doesn’t cooperate when company comes to visit, but it’s really about being together and luckily, we can be outside here at home on the covered part of our lanai or at the many outdoor dining spaces in the area, so it’s not so bad.  And yes, after they left Eta circled back and while not too bad, we had a crazy windy, rainy day on Thursday, but all is now fine after a bit of cleanup and sunny again.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 6, 2020

Life Lately

 Round two of family will be here today when my daughter (Megan) and son in law arrive.  They have not visited since last November, so it will be so fun to have them here.  It will also be their first time actually swimming in our pool, because it was not ready to use the last time they were here.  I am hoping for good weather and so far, it looks like the tropical depression south of Cuba will not really amount to much, besides some wind later in the weekend.  

I went to Aldi first thing in the morning on Wednesday and had no problem getting the 2020 Wine Advent Calendar.  If you don’t know what that is, follow along on my Instagram (lifeinmyemptynest) and starting December 1st, I will be posting a story of the single serving bottle of wine for each day leading up to Christmas.  It was really fun last year and most of the wine was surprisingly good too.

Last night was my book club and the first one I have been back to since Covid cut things short in the spring.  We discussed The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See.  As with all her novels, you learn a lot about Asian life, this time Korea.  There is much hardship in her novels, but also focus on women’s relationships.  It was not my favorite of this author, but still an interesting read, with a plot twist at the end.

Happy Friday!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Red Wine Float (Halloween Cocktail)


There is a gelato store in my cute Florida downtown that serves wine floats and it is something I have been meaning to try.  I always like to come up with a fun adult cocktail for Halloween and drawing on one of the flavors they serve, I decided to give it a try at home.  The red wine makes it sufficiently spooky and the chocolate ice cream is a good substitute for Halloween candy.

Here is how I made it.

In a stemless wine glass, place 2 small scoops of chocolate ice cream.  Fill about 3/4 full with red wine.  I used a Cabernet Sauvignon, but a Pinot Noir would be delicious as well.  Top with club soda for a bit of fizz.  As the ice cream melts, like with any good ice cream float, the flavors compliment each other and become creamy and rich.  Treat yourself tomorrow to a grown up halloween treat with this deliciousness.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 26, 2020

What’s New (Coastal Decor)


I realized that it had been quite some time since I did a house update.  We passed our third anniversary in our new Florida home at the beginning of June and it has been a process of finding just the right pieces.  Also, we have made a few changes after living with things for a bit. Anyone who has built a home knows what a whirlwind process it can be when you are picking things out and it’s really hard to get everything exactly right. Of course the biggest change was putting in a pool, but this post is about that coastal decor with pops of color that I so love.

We hated the carpet in the bedrooms, even though we upgraded from builders grade, so recently we put tile in the master bedroom and the bedroom we use as a den/guest room.  The master has the same tile as the main areas of the house (large neutral squares and on the diagonal) and the guest bedroom/den has tile that looks like wood flooring.  We love both choices and added fun, colorful rugs as well.

The pendant lights we had in the kitchen were never a favorite, because they were too small for the space.  This was an easy change and I love the shape and the coastal look they bring.

Finally, we replaced a piece of furniture that was from our Michigan home and never looked quite right here in Florida.  Dark wood in the north fits, but not so much in a coastal home.  There is a furniture store we love in Sarasota that has custom painted pieces like sideboards and cabinets and we chose an eclectic painted cabinet for a nook area in our hallway.  I had a lot of fun filling the shelves with both purchased and found seashells.

Next up is redoing the other guest room and switching from twin beds to a queen.  

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A Visit in Photos


What a lovey time we had the past few days.  My daughter Melissa who lives in Michigan and her boyfriend, came to visit for the first time in many months.  I think if anything good has come from Covid quarantines it is that we all appreciate our time together just a little bit more.  And take nothing for granted.

We went to the beach one day, golfed one day, went to some fun Florida type places for dinner and tropical drinks, but they wanted to relax and soak up the sun, so the best place to do that was poolside.  The best decision we made yet (besides moving to Florida in the first place) was putting in our pool, just for times like this.

And, it made our hearts happy to see them enjoying our home.  Pittsburgh daughter and son in law come in a few weeks and we look forward completing the reconnections and putting these separations behind us.

Friday, October 9, 2020

My Book Club Reading List


I have written many posts about both my old book club in Michigan and my new book club here in Florida.  The groups are very different and I still miss my close knit Michigan group where we met for dinner at each other’s homes.  It’s not quite the same with a neighborhood group that meets at a clubhouse, but also, a great way to get to know new friends on another level.  Either way, I get to indulge my book worm tendencies and not only read books that I may not normally read, but discuss them as well.

I missed the first discussion, but hope to make the rest as we work our way through covid restrictions (smaller size) and the late return of our seasonal residents who are waiting a bit longer to travel.

Below are the books we are reading and discussing over the next few months and if you would like to read along, I am always up for your opinions via comments or email.   

Happy Reading!

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

Women in Sunlight by Frances Mayes

The Giver of The Stars by JoJo Moyes

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Chrissy Lefter

Wednesday, September 30, 2020



As September comes to a close, I went back and looked at my photos to see what the month brought, because for some reason, it flew by and here we are ready to begin a new month.  For us in Southwest Florida, so far so good on the hurricane season and making it through September without a major storm is a good sign.  In fact we have a cool morning (in the high 60’s) and I have my windows open for the first time since April.  

We were out and about this month, but also stuck close to home.  A good mix of both.  The highlight was renting a boat for the day and exploring the Intercoastal Waterway on our own.  We used to own a boat, so no worries there, but just figuring out a different type of boating.  We are considering a boat club, where you have access to boats, but still have some thinking to do.  

We have enjoyed sunsets on our own and with friends and went to breakfast on the scooter one sunny morning.  I took an unexpected trip to Michigan and once again my air travel experience felt very safe.  It was for a sad reason, with the sudden death of a friend, but did get to see Melissa.  In fact, we have much to look forward to this fall with visits scheduled from both girls in the upcoming weeks.

Finally, I am late to the party on this one, but am enjoying binging Ozark on Netflix.  It’s dark and twisty and the characters and actors portraying them are so good.  The story of normal people thrown into abnormal circumstances and how they react is fascinating.

Happy last day of September!

Friday, September 18, 2020

Easy Apple Dump Cake


There really are nothing like fall desserts and while I like to save the pumpkin flavors for later, September is all about apples for me.  

I saw this recipe and since I like my baking as easy as possible, it went on my list to make.  It is a dessert, but for me, it sounded like the perfect breakfast as well.  I didn’t calculate the carbs (probably bad), but limited myself to a small serving and added a dollop of vanilla yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

So, think outside the box and have this cake for breakfast.  It has all the fall flavors you crave and with the yogurt, is a delicious treat to start any day off right.  Especially if sweet versus savory is your breakfast vibe.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Life Thoughts

Sometimes life comes at you hard.  And there are two ways to react to a sudden loss.  You might question your faith and rail against the unfairness of it all.  Or, you might choose to appreciate the good that you have and continue to rely on your faith for strength and comfort. 

My group of Michigan friends lost a great guy suddenly last week.  These are my people; the ones we have history with, the ones who know my daughters and my daughters consider them family.  My friend, the wife of the great guy, is understandably sad and broken, but we will all lift her and her four young adult children up the best we can.  It’s one of those situations where there are really no words, but just your presence can make a small difference.

I flew to Michigan for the funeral and am so glad I did.  It reminded me that there was a reason all those years ago, that we became friends and navigated the child raising years together in our close knit parish.  We will need each other even more as life’s most difficult moments come.  But, we will also find a way to celebrate the happy moments as well; weddings, grandchildren and retirements.  

I plan to get my friend to Florida as soon as she is ready.  She can sit with her face to the sun or experience the beauty of a sunset and maybe heal just a little bit.  And we will keep the faith.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Copycat Starbucks Frappuccino


I wish there was a Starbucks a bit closer to where I live, and I have high hopes there will be soon, when a new hospital a few miles away is completed.  In the mean time, a craving on a hot day for a frozen drink, led me to research and ultimately put together a copycat version that suited my tastes.  And, it’s pretty delicious.

To make:

In a blender or bullet, add 1 1/4 cup crushed ice, 3/4 cup chilled coffee (I used decaf), 1/2 cup half and half (or any milk substitute), 1 Truvia and a drizzle of chocolate syrup.  Blend until smooth.  Put in a tall glass and if you like, top with whipped cream and an additional drizzle of chocolate syrup.


Monday, August 31, 2020

No Fall Here


If I had to pick a least favorite month in Florida, September would win far and away.  Tomorrow starts the month that is the peak of the hurricane season and we can look forward to watching those ever changing cones of uncertainty.  We are ready and prepared of course, but it’s still stressful.  September will forever be that month where we got to experience Irma, our first hurricane, in just our third month living here.  We had to learn about hurricanes on the fly and I hope to never experience such a big one again.  It would take a lot to convince me to evacuate after that adventure.

Also, it always seems to get just a bit hotter the first part of September. When summer is over for most of you and all the fall things are being celebrated, we are still right in the thick of the heat and humidity.  And at this point, a bit of coolness would be welcome.  

The best thing about September is that my favorite month; October, is getting close.  That is when we do start having beautiful, low humidity days and we can finally open the door wall for outdoor living at its best. Some of the best and most beautiful beach days are in October too.

So, enjoy your pumpkin everything.  I’ll still be in the pool most days, with another tropical drink, just trying to cool off.

Happy Monday!

Monday, August 24, 2020



This is the time of year and especially as we head into prime hurricane season in September, that we ride the roller coaster of weather reports, hurricane tracking and the unknown.  I have learned to be prepared, but also go about your life, until it is pretty definite that something is coming.  And that might change too.

On Friday, when all this tropical storm/hurricane talk was starting, we had plans to drive south to Punta Gorda for lunch.  It looked threatening, but ended up being a pretty nice day for lunch on the waterfront.  The stormy weather held off until later and we had a great time exploring a new place.

On Saturday morning, it was still unclear where the storm was headed, so I stocked up a bit at the grocery store and had a relaxing day between the off and on storms.

By Sunday, it became clear we were not going to get much beyond a few storms from the outer bands.  One of my favorite things to do, when the gulf is volatile, is to head to the beach and see the waves.  They were rolling in with a bit of force and you could see something brewing way out in the gulf, but luckily, for this round, we were the fortunate ones.  On to the next.   

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Life Lately


I have been feeling the need to get back into my routine - pre covid.  That means yoga in my clubhouse on Mondays, golf at least once a week and my regular volunteer gardening job on Thursday mornings.  I recently resigned from a big volunteer commitment with my HOA and took on something with less hours.  This gives me more time for beach walks, additional yoga on the beach and exploring the area with my husband.  There is a lot that is safe to do and I’m ready to get back to the Florida lifestyle I love.

This past Thursday, we entertained at home for the first time in a long time and it felt so good to cook some fun recipes and bring out my favorite platters and martini glasses.  Just two other neighborhood couples and we did appetizers and cocktails here and then walked a couple houses away for dinner and dessert.  I made Raspberry Lemon Drop Martinis and they were so good. (1 ounce each raspberry vodka, citrus vodka and triple sec, 2 ounces lemonade and 1/2 of a freshly squeezed lemon)

Also close to home, my neighborhood has been having Food Truck Tuesdays and so far, we have tried pizza and barbecue, with tacos and lobster rolls on the schedule.  Last night, there was a doggie treat truck and needless to say, my pup loved her banana, peanut butter frozen yogurt in a “woofle” bowl.

Finally, we are having our usual summer thunderstorms most days and Monday morning there was a beautiful rainbow.  Always the sign of a good week to come. 

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

This is a great recipe.  I am a diabetic with somewhat of a sweet tooth.  My trick is to not deprive myself, but practice portion control.  So, one cookie; not 3.  

Finding a cookie recipe that cuts the carbs, but still has authentic peanut butter cookie taste and texture is a game changer for me.  It was so quick and easy to put these together with just four ingredients and all four are pantry staples.  I used regular sugar this first time making the recipe, but want to try the Splenda for baking that I normally use to cut the carbs even more.  Hopefully the texture will remain the same.  About 5 grams of carbs per cookie with regular sugar.

I followed the recipe exactly, except in my oven the cookies were done in 10-11 minutes.  Make these today and you won’t be sorry.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 31, 2020

Saying Goodbye to July

We are in the thick of our hot, hot summer weather and we are still thinking our pool was the best decision ever.  I try to a avoid the prime ultraviolet sun hours and have been enjoying the pool around five o’clock with a happy hour cocktail.  I have a squishy, noodle type chair that I float around on and it is perfection.  Also, the sunsets lately have been spectacular.

A tropical storm or weak hurricane is headed our way, but will most likely stay east and we will only get the outer rain bands.  It’s always a stressful time here in Florida as we enter the prime hurricane season.  I have found a weatherman that I trust and I only panic when he says to.  We did invest in a generator, so we are good to ride out anything, but a direct hit, category 5.  In fact, now that this is our 4th hurricane season, I am getting quite blasĂ© about the whole thing.  I guess I am becoming a true Floridian.

My husband recently purchased a new toy, perfect for Florida exploring.  We have a scooter now and last week, went in the morning one day for beach walking and breakfast at one of my favorite spots in downtown Venice.  Lots of fun times ahead with the scooter and don’t worry - we stick to the less traveled routes and wear our helmets.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, July 24, 2020

My Favorite Breakfast Smoothie

When you are a diabetic, you start every morning with the best intentions and for the most part I succeed.  My routine calls for testing my blood sugar first thing and since the downfall with my control is my morning fasting numbers, (too high because of how my pancreas processes glucose when I wake up) I try to wait a bit before I eat to let things even out with my meds.

This smoothie is just the thing after I have a cup of coffee and want something to get me through the morning.  It has limited carb servings (3-4), protein to balance the carbs, is adaptable for flavor variety and most important, quick and delicious.

I always have the ingredients in my pantry and fridge and keep a variety of frozen fruit on hand.  When I have a too ripe banana, I slice it into 2 servings, place in a baggie and freeze.  I use a Magic Bullet and all the parts can go in the dishwasher.  Today a Mango Smoothie - tomorrow I might change to to blueberry.  Sometimes I add spinach for added health benefits.

 Endless flavor possibilities.

Breakfast Smoothie

Place in this order in your bullet or blender

1/2 cup crushed ice
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
Splash of lowfat milk
Handful of frozen fruit
1/2 frozen banana
1 T peanut butter
1/4 cup oatmeal
Splash of lowfat milk

Blend until smooth and enjoy!

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Michigan ➡️ Florida
family, books, gardening, palm trees, the beach, golf, up north, msu football, detroit tigers, walking with my dog, trying new recipes, musicals, BBC, martinis, yoga, lilly

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