Monthly Archives: June 2011

Seven Mile Drive

Seven Mile Drive

Seven Mile Drive...fall in love every time I drive up the hill


The golf cart rambled past wild southern magnolias and fan-like palmetto palms of deep Florida brush as the slightly feminine shirt-and-tied realtor escorted us along the fairway of the golf course pointing to the individual lot numbers painted on the white wooden posts announcing each successive property line.

“You can get a great view of the TPC Clubhouse along this fairway”, he offered as he pointed to his left toward the 70’s style cedar building with its immense roof sloping toward the ground. You could almost see foursomes seated at tables by the large windows enjoying their cool drafts and club sandwiches as they watched the golfers tee it up from the perfectly manicured driving range.

“Now, you would always to be replacing windows when golfers missed the fairway from this point “ commented Tom as we began the process of selecting the perfect lot on which to build our dream home. “Probably best to choose one on the tee box or the green.”

It was 1993 and I had agreed to transfer from Palm Harbor on the West Coast of Florida to Ponte Vedra Beach, a sleepy private beach community. We were considering lots in The Players Club at Sawgrass, just a short bike ride to the golden shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

The move would mean splitting up the family for the first time. We had been married for ten years and our children, Scott, age 23, my son from a previous marriage, adopted by Tom shortly after our marriage, and Louis age 7 and Lindsay, 6 would be splitting up for the first time. Scott had recently married Blake, his high school love and would be staying behind in our condo. The four-hour car ride seemed a perfect distance from the newlyweds. But, it would be a huge change non-the-less.

We first decided on a beautiful lot with a view of the green at the end of the tenth hole on Dye’s Valley Course of the TPC at Sawgrass. As we headed back in the golf cart toward the car that was parked in a vacant lot where the small wood and cedar-shingled turn-stand was located between the first hole and the tenth, the realtor laughed and said, “This first lot is the largest on the street, but it would be terrible to have to deal with all of the cars parking here every year during tournament. We call it the dog lot” (The Players Championship at Sawgrass) Tom asked the price of the lot. It was substantially lower than the lot we were considering. We said our goodbyes and assured him we would give him our decision soon, got back into our car to return to the Marriott where we were staying to discuss our lot selection and dream of our new life in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Back at the hotel we discussed the pros and cons of the lot. The golf course takes a turn to the east just beyond the green of ten where we were considering building. This would enable us to see the activity on the green AND the tee and fairway of hole eleven. That was indeed a plus. Then, my husband, in his wisdom threw out an idea. “The lot next to that vacant lot and the turn stand is almost half the cost. That would mean we could build a larger house.” We had been pre-approved for a mortgage of a specific amount and we were trying to stay within a budget for the project. We spent the evening in happy conversation contemplating our decision and awoke with the plan we both agreed upon.

In the morning we contacted Jerry Zyski owner of Pinnacle Homes, the custom builder Tom and I had selected to build our dream home. We told him what we were intending to do. He told us we would qualify for his builder discount if we contracted with him to build the house. We set up an appointment and were excited we were finally making concrete decisions. Meeting Jerry Zyski would prove to be a key step to unlocking our dreams for a future on the First Coast AND the builder discount reduced the cost of the lot even further. Could this really be happening?

Months before, back in Palm Harbor, when the plan began to unfold for our move to the east coast Tom had enticed me with a promise. After all, I was leaving my dream job in Tampa as the Director of Training for Ford Consumer Finance’s Tampa Division. There were only four divisions in the country, so my responsibilities were great. It would be a huge sacrifice to transfer to Jacksonville and take a lesser position. Tom’s promise was this; If you will leave your dream job, I will build you your dream house.” That certainly got my attention.

We both agreed we did not want a “cookie cutter” typical stucco Florida home. Since we both hail from the north, we tend to lean more toward traditional architecture. We shared our love of the two story clapboard homes in Southern Living Magazine and sent off for “The Hometown Collection”, a set of 20 house plans and renderings. The day the large envelope arrived, Tom immediately browsed the collection. That evening, when I arrived home he asked me to look at the collection and choose my favorite. I spread the 20 pages on the floor and carefully considered the pros and cons of each one. Once I had settled on one, I brought it to him. “That is the one I liked.” he said. We sent off for the blue prints and he got on the phone to search out a custom builder.

Willow Bend by Stephen Fuller

After contacting the realtor, I had a list of five custom builders for the area. Tom got on the phone and we faxed our plans to several of them. After much discussion back and forth we negotiated a price per square foot, we contracted with Jerry Zyski.

Seventeen years ago last April 15th, we moved into our dream house. That day I broke out in hives having to pay our quarterly estimate to the IRS and close on this house. We had absolutely no business building a house like this. And, when I opened my eyes the first morning in my new bedroom I was stunned by the view outside my undraped window. I heard a groundskeeper for the TPC whistling as he rearranged the tee markers and readied the tee box for the day. I turned to Tom and said….”What have we done?”

After seventeen years, I still hear the same groundkeeper whistle every morning. It is quite amazing. And I still get goose bumps when I think of what we did.

God had a plan for us. He is in the house. The changes made in our lives are certain proof that His hand was in this every step of the way and still is to this day. So many blessings have come from our move here. We were able to meet Fred and Sharon Funk and eventually JT Townsend and so many more wonderful friends like Pat and Michele and Lisa and Barry and so many more. I joined Christian Women’s Club and then came the prayer coffees and bible studies right here in this house. Tom and I agree we are where we are supposed to be. We give Him all the glory every day of our lives.

Wedding in The Conch Republic

Wedding in The Conch Republic

Samantha and Matt chose this beautiful setting to exchange vows before an intimate group of family and friends.

Cindy’s SPINACH SALAD

Cindy’s SPINACH SALAD

SPINACH SALAD

Fresh Baby Spinach

Goat Cheese crumbled

Roasted Peppers

Mushrooms sliced

Pine Nuts

Dressing:

Sherry wine vinegar, Lemon juice, Dijon mustard, pancetta (Italian bacon crisp fried and crumbled) salt and pepper

Prepare dressing in a container, shake and apply just before serving

Fish in a pouch

Fish in a pouch

This recipe can be made with any good fish. I love it with Chilean Sea Bass, but it works for Tilapia or any mild fish.

Ingredients:

Fish Filets (1 per person)
Finely diced celery and sweet onion
Fresh lemon
white wine
Sea Salt
Fresh ground pepper
Heavy duty foil.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350
Prepare a sheet of foil for each filet approximately 10″ long
place the filet on the foil
cover with diced celery and sweet onion
drizzle with white wine
and a squeeze of fresh lemon
Salt and Pepper to taste
bring the long ends of the foil together sealing above the filet and fold like you would a lunch sandwich
fold the sides and seal in the same fashion
Place the packets on a baking sheet and pop them in the preheated oven.
Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve with couscous or multi grain rice and some steamed green beans for a healthy meal.

The Sunflower Dishes

The Sunflower Dishes

On April 1, 2004, the week of Palm Sunday, our family of four started out on a long awaited vacation to Italy. Although it was far it was not a difficult journey, it was exciting to be traveling together to Europe. Our first stop was Rome where we spent four days touring Vatican City and the Vatican and shopping and walking the busy streets. Next we took the Eur-rail to Florence for a two day stop where we saw the statue of David, drank a Bellini at famous Harry’s Bar and strolled the clean and narrow streets and shopped for treasures on the Ponte Vecchio. Then we railed once more to Venice where we spent two more days walking and sightseeing by gondola and sleeping in a Palace along the Grand Canal.(The Gritti Palace) It was all very exciting and quite extraordinary to travel the country of my husband’s roots, where everyone spoke Italian and appreciated it if you tried too.

In Florence we visited a leather shop at the suggestion of a friend. Hope Hanna had given us an excellent recommendation as the leather jackets, slacks and coats were the best we had ever seen. Tom ordered both he and Louis suede leather jackets and we bought shoes and other leather goods as gifts. We struck up a conversation with the owner/designer Jennifer Tattanelli who corresponds with us to this day.

During our trip I had been shopping for dinnerware. Florence is world renowned for hand painted ceramics. And they were absolutely beautiful and colorful, however priced well above my budget. The place settings alone for eight would run over $1400 Euro which converted to $1800 dollars.

Tom suggested I ask Jennifer if she knew of any ceramics shop to recommend. She was most excited to say she had only recently had one shop do her entire new home and was very pleased with their work. When I told her I was interested in purchasing dishes she pulled out her cell phone dialed the number of her connection “Giovanna” who owned the factory in Montelupo.

We learned that every trattoria (family owned restaurant) in Tuscany has their own vineyard. They produce their own vegetables and grapes for their own delicious food and wine. Well, in similar fashion, ceramics factories are not what Americans would imagine. They are small places where maybe two or three artists work hand painting and firing ceramics to be sold in the shops all over Italy and the world.

Jennifer arranged for us to meet Giovanna at her shop in Montelupo in one hour. We rushed back to The Grand Hotel where we were staying and Tom arranged for a car to take Lindsay and I to meet Giovanna. The driver whisked us off in his mini-van to what we could only describe as a scene from “Under the Tuscan Sun”. In minutes were riding along the autostrade. The rolling patchwork of hills dotted with fields of sunflowers were breathtaking. Every few miles we would see a bell tower and a farm house. Pinch me…. The driver spoke NO English and tried to sell us his own friends ceramics by shoving a brochure into my hand and repeating “cheap, cheap”. Within the hour we had arrived in front of the shop along a narrow street with cars parked on either side. A attractive well dressed Italian woman, stood blocking the parking space in front of the shop so no other car could take our spot. The driver parked and let us out. He would wait for us while we inspected the wares, hoping we would consider his recommendation.

When we entered the shop Giovanna introduced herself and explained she had asked her friend come to translate as her English was “Not so good”. She also introduced her smiling full-figured Mother who spoke no English at all. They seemed genuinely happy to see us.

The shop smelled new and was bright and cheerful. Along the walls were shelves displaying jars and bowls and pieces of every sort.

I explained that we were there to purchase dinnerware. I told her Jennifer had told me she would give me a good price and that she had highly recommended their work. I was sure that I could not afford to buy all of the pieces I would pick out, but, I would have a “wish list” that Tom could pull from for special gifts. They had a web site so that would work perfectly.

Giovanna, then her interpreter, suggested first we needed to choose the shape of the plates. I asked Lindsay for help, after all, these would be her dishes one day and I wanted her to love them too. They showed us the options and we settled on plates with some character to them. We agreed on the dinner plate and bread plate and then chose the bowls.

When we asked for coffee cups and saucers they brought out small demitasse cups and small saucers. I asked if they had any larger….”grande” I said. She laughed and ran to a shelf grabbing a large coffee mug. “We see these on TV Friends.” she said. I told her they would be perfect.

Next we began to pick out platters of all sizes and shapes then bowls, then canisters. Giovanna asked if we wanted the wording to be written in English or Italian? “Italian, I want Farina, Cafe’, Zucchero, Sale and Biscotti.”
It was all coming together. When we were finished we had thirity-eight items on our list.

” Now you must choose a pattern.” said Giovanna. I looked at Lindsay and we began to browse the shop. We turned a corner at the same time and seeing the deep cobalt blue background and bright golden sunflowers we shouted in unison….”sunflowers”.

“Please give me the cost for the entire order Giovanna.” I asked. She busily tapped on her calculator and spoke in Italian to her friend. “How about $1500 Euro?” she asked coyly. “Does that include shipping?” I asked.
She looked at her friend and they agreed it would be around $300 Euro to ship to the USA. She replied “Yes, it includes shipping.”I smiled and said, “We will take them ALL!”

Giovanna was as excited as we were and agreed to throw in a spoon rest and an olive oil and vinegar cruet. She could have the order made and shipped in just three weeks. Everyone was thrilled.

Our ride back to Florence was wonderful as we dreamed of the beautiful dishes we would use everyday for many years to come.

When the dishes arrived, they were even more beautiful than we had expected.

Tom never said a word about the price because it was the memory we created. It was wonderful to have something meaningful from our trip we could pass on to Lindsay and her family from our unbelievable trip to Italy 2004.

Sunflower Dishes from Fantasie D'Arte, Montelupo Firenza.

The ceremony

The ceremony

The white stretch limo pulled up under the portico of our Catholic church, Our Lady Star of the Sea. We have attended this church since we moved to Ponte Vedra in 1993. Lindsay and Louis had taken their CCD classes here, and now our grandchildren. We have celebrated every holiday and feast at this church. One Christmas in particular I recall the alter servers wore their brand new red robes. Louis held the cross and Lindsay followed behind as they both served on that Christmas Eve. That year we had family from Cleveland, so we had a complete pew filled with Zitiello’s. It is our church home. I cannot imagine spending holidays anywhere else.

When Matthew and Lindsay decided to marry we were hopeful they would want the ceremony to be held at OLSS. The Garrity family also belongs to the parish family. So we were all very pleased when the decision was positive. Fr. Remek Blaszkowski would be the officiant, a young priest with a thick Czech accent, whom we had all fallen in love with. Tom called him the “rock star”. He always kept us enthralled with his up to the moment homilies. We knew they would also love this no nonsense guy with a passion for his faith. Both families couldn’t be happier.

The bridesmaids, the bride and myself sat anxiously in the limo as we watched thru the tinted black windows as guests passed by arriving at the church a little late and rushing in to find their seats. In just a few moments we would enter the church. The bride is always the last to enter, so Lindsay and I stayed behind after the maids made their way inside. I told Lindsay how much her Dad and I love her and how happy we are for her. We were thrilled with her choice in Matt. I held her hand and asked her if she was nervous. She said she wasn’t but was excited and couldn’t wait to walk down the aisle. Suddenly the door opened. Fr. Remek stuck his head into the limo and looked Lindsay straight in the eye as he asked, “What is your final answer Lindsay? Are you ready to marry Matthew?” “Yes” she said “I am ready to marry Matt.” “Let’s go then” he said as he held out his hand to help us, bouquets in hand, exit the limo. He rushed us into the small dressing room where the priests don their vestments for mass and quickly closed the door.

The church was filled with family and friends waiting in anticipation as they sat listening to family friend Chuck Kessler, accompanied by his son Michael, strum his guitar and sing beautiful songs hand picked by Lindsay and Matthew.

The tiny room held a triple mirror, a closet where the priests vestments were stored and a small bathroom. Lindsay twirled and took one last look at herself in the mirror when there was a knock at the door. I knew it had to be her Father. I opened the door a crack as he pushed the door open and slipped into the room with us. “Honey, you are not supposed to be in here.” I said. “Dad” Lindsay said, “I don’t want to ruin my makeup.” “I know” he said, “but I needed to get this ……over…..before….we walk down the aisle.” He stuttered as he took in his daughter-bride in the gown he had not seen until this moment. He turned around fully as he gasped for air. “I want to tell you both how much I love you. Judi… for giving me Lindsay. You are the most important women in my life.” He wiped his tears as there was another knock at the door.

“The Mother of the Bride” needs to get in line now”, the church lady was pleading. I left the room and took my place at the front of the processional with my handsome son Louis who would escort me up the aisle. It was beginning. I had been reminded, the Mother-of-the-Bride controls the ceremony. The music changed to my favorite song,”I Give You My Heart”. Chucks’ voice was sweet and folkish. We were the first to make the slow long walk toward the altar. He walked me to the second pew. Next came the Mother-of-the Groom, Phyllis Garrity on the arm of her Husband-Best Man, Jack. She was seated across the aisle from me. She glanced a smile my way and we stood and approached the altar where we lit the unity candles, two candles representing the two families with one large candle in the center. When the candles had been lit we squeezed each others hand and descended the few steps back to our seats.

Judi and Phyllis light their unity candles

Now it was time for the processional hymn “This is the Day”. Matthew, the Bridegroom and his Father-Best Man were next. Matthew looked so handsome, his tall stature and his tight black curls. On his black lapel was an orchid boutineer, a small dove feather tucked in. They slowly approached the altar and took their places turning to watch the processional and then the Bride and her Father. The moment he had waited for was fast approaching.

The Bridesmaids and Groomsmen were next in their beautiful Vera Wang yellow-gold flowing gowns and classic black tuxes, everyone smiling as the excitement was building. I had honestly never seen such a beautiful collection of friends. They approached the altar, lowered their heads as they reached the first step, the maids lined up to the left the groomsmen to the right. The witnesses were in place.

Next came the priest in his beautiful cream colored robe with an embellished green vestment draped over his shoulders. He took his place at the center of the altar near Matthew.

Matthew’s niece, darling 3 1/2 year old MaryBeth was chosen as the flower girl with Tommy and Mitchell as ring bearers. The children made their way down the aisle. MaryBeth was coaxed down by adult cousin, beautiful Kelly Sherrod. They took their places in the front pews next to their families curious about what was going to happen next.

The altar was complete with the exception of one.

The music changed to “Canon in D” as Fr. Remek motioned for everyone to stand. And suddenly she appeared on the arm of her proud Father, more beautiful then ever and smiling. Tom held her hand on his arm as he guided his only precious daughter to her love waiting at the altar. She was a picture perfect bride in her Augusta Jones creamy lace dress with a long satin bow at her waist and the long lace train trailing behind. She wore no veil on her low soft bun just a beautiful creamy flower to one side. On her wrist was her “something borrowed”, my pearl bracelet. She was stunning.

Words cannot express the emotion of this moment in time.

Matthew did not take his eyes away off of her from the moment she entered the church. He later told me he couldn’t believe she was really his.

The guests were seated and a full Catholic mass began. The Brides oldest brother Scott and the Grooms sisters, Jacqueline and Amy read the scriptures specially selected by Lindsay and Matthew. Both families were well represented in the sacred sacrament of holy matrimony.

When Fr. Remek began his homily he held everyones attention. Lindsay and Matthew had met with Fr. Remek to prepare for their marriage for eight months. So, with personal knowledge he spoke from his heart. He told Lindsay that she showed her trust in Matthew when he blindfolded her and took her for a car ride last November. And, when he placed her in the stunt plane and sent her up in the air with only a pilot and her parachute. He asked her thru her headphones if she wanted to take another wild ride with him, when he asked her to marry him.
Fr. Remek told the Bride and Groom and the assembled guests that they were embarking on a true adventure and that trust in each other and trust in God would be the foundation they should build their family on. It was a wonderful homily enjoyed by everyone.

The vows were spoken and the rings blessed and exchanged. Matthew and Lindsay lit the large candle with the two side candles lit by their Mothers and they became one in God’s eyes. The mass continued with the sacred solemnity it always holds. The couple turned from the priest toward the assembly and were introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Garrity. We all cheered and clapped our hands. Chuck began to loudly strum and sing Third Days’ “I’ve Always Loved You”. Then, Matthew, with his hand at his brides back, led his Wife-Bride down the steps and down the aisle, past family and friends both of them bursting with happiness.

They were officially married.

Let the party begin.

Dad

Dad

The hospital room was chilly and I felt uncomfortable and a little frightened about being left alone with Dad in this condition. He was struggling for air but they had not put him on a ventilator at his request. I guessed this was a brave and wise decision. Or was it really? I held his hand tightly. I didn’t really know what to say to him. Could he hear me?

Dad had suffered a paralyzing stroke ten years before at his desk at work. Of course this would be the way it would happen.When you looked up workaholic, his picture appeared. But, the stroke left him paralyzed on his entire left side and in a wheelchair.

He had always been an intelligent man. He was a successful businessman. Even after the stroke he would carry on great conversations with me about politics and the economy.

He was proud of my accomplishments at the mortgage company and enjoyed hearing the latest details of what I was doing and where I was heading, as he watched me climb the ladder. It must have reminded him of himself somehow.

The nurse came in to check his vitals. His blood pressure was very low. She didn’t offer much information.

Dad’s doctor had told me that day I should contact the family and if anyone had anything they needed to clear up with Dad, they should do it in the next few weeks. Of course I called my sister and brother and told them what the Doctor had said. They were both thousands of miles away. Should they come?

Surely, he wouldn’t pass now. This could go on for weeks. Couldn’t it?

The sun was shining through the large window casting a warm yellow light on his white blanket. He didn’t move under it. He lay still just barely breathing. I listened for each breath. The machines beeped every few seconds, but the room was still.

Suddenly I sensed he was trying to tell me something. I stood up from my chair and squeezed his hand and told him I was there. He was struggling to say something. I could not make it out. I squeezed his hand maybe even too hard as if I was holding him here. Keeping him from leaving me again.

And he was gone.

Just like he was there the day I was born, in that hospital, holding my tiny infant hand. I held his hand till his breath was gone.

Tilapia Mediterranean

Tilapia Mediterranean

Tilapia Mediterranean

This will become your “go to” seafood dish. It is tasty, impressive on a platter and best of all quite easy. At our local supermarkets you can usually find Tilapia filets for around $6 or $7 per lb. This fish has a very mild taste and seldom will you find any bones. One filet per person usually works. So, here you have a great recipe that is easy on the cook and the pocketbook! What could be better?

INGREDIENTS

4 Tilapia Filets
Italian Bread crumbs or Panko crumbs whichever you prefer
1 egg
3 Peppers, diced. (Green, yellow and red)
1 Sweet Onion diced
3 lemons quartered
Olive Oil, Sea Salt, Fresh Ground Pepper
Fresh parsley for garnish

Dice all of your vegetables and place in bowls so they can be added quickly to your grill pan when required.
Place a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a grill pan. Turn the heat to Medium High just before you begin coating the fish with the breading. Dip a filet into a lightly beaten egg and coat with seasoned bread crumbs or panko. Place the filet into the heated grill pan and allow to fry for approximately 3 to 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the filet. Squeeze some lemon on each side of the fish as it is cooking. Turn with a fish turner or spatula and fry for another 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the fried filet to a warmed platter and fry the remaining filets. I can normally fry two filets in my grill pan at a time. Leaving the bits in the grill pan, add another tablespoon of olive oil and allow to heat. Pour in the diced peppers and onions and allow to soften about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the cooked peppers and onions over the top of the fish and place the wedges of lemons around the side and garnish with parsley.

For a lighter version omit the breading.

Seriously…this is delicious! Enjoy!

Honoring Dad

Honoring Dad

Me, Dad and Sherie at the lake.

This Sunday is Father’s Day. If you are fortunate enough to have your Dad still, be sure you take time to let him know how much you love him.

Some Beth Moore words

Some Beth Moore words

One of my very dear friends, Debbie had a close friend pass away a couple of years ago from a long painful illness. Near the end of this strong Christian’s fight her friends gathered at her bedside. They put on the praise music and passed the hours by reading passages from books about heaven and eternal life. Debbie shared that her friend handled her illness in such a strong way. I could only hope to be able to do the same. But, the thought of your dearest Sisters in Christ gathered around you in your final hours sharing in the excitement of the journey you are about to take comforts me. It is as if it were a vacation and the books were travelogs describing the beautiful sights you would see.
Thanks to Debbie for sharing this tender memory with me. I have decided to gather phases and descriptions of heaven. Our Wednesday morning Bible study group just completed a seven week Beth Moore study on the Psalms of the Ascent called “STEPPING UP”

Beth Moore, Lifeway

This will be the first in my journal. It is a paragraph from one of the final days lessons written by Beth Moore. I hope it comforts you and if you read this and know anyone who is afraid of death, that you will share it with them.

“The destination of any trip sets the tone of travel. You and I are not on our way to a funeral like many of those who surround us. We who are in Christ are on our way to a wedding of such glorious and expensive proportions that we’ll have to change our clothes from mortal to immortal just to survive the thrill. Yes, as the psalmist said, joy cometh in the morning (Ps. 30:5 KJV) but the very anticipation invites it into our night.”

Her final blessing upon others at the end of her study is this:

“When life is excruciating, may you find the strength in Christ to crawl on your hands and knees, sowing the Word of God and watering it with your tears. May you never forget you are inconceivably loved and that God will prove infinitely faithful. And, on your way to the great feast in the heavenly Jerusalem, may you glance often to your tight and to your left and offer a fellow pilgrim a helping hand. May the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.”

Thank you Beth Moore. You are truly anointed.