Florida in July!

 

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Me with my son at Camp Jackson Sawyer on Scout Key in the Florida Keys, July 9, 2020

I’ve been very busy with life 🙂 for the past couple of years, and haven’t made very many posts lately. However, I’d like to make this post about a trip my son and I took to Florida this summer.

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My son at Florida Sea Base, Islamorada, July 1, 2020

It was great to get away to Florida for a few days! Of course, it was very nerve-wracking to go in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but we did it.

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View of Miami from Biscayne National Park, July 8, 2020

My son spent many days at Sea Base in the Florida Keys with his Order of the Arrow honor society through Boy Scouts of America.

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My son and Florida panther statue, Everglades National Park, Homestead, Florida, June 2020

It was an experience that we planned on prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and we were still deciding whether or not to go even in the days prior to the trip.

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Key West lighthouse, July 2, 2020

Ultimately, we decided to go and be as safe as possible while wearing our masks, neck gaiters, and cotton gloves as much as possible.

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Royal Poinciana tree with beautiful orange flowers, Key Largo, Florida, July 6, 2020

In my hotels in South Florida and Key West, I also used Lysol to wipe down all of the high-touch areas, including on each occasion after housekeeping came through to clean and tidy up.

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Lizard at Florida Sea Base, July 2, 2020

I’m so thankful and relieved that we could go, have a good time, AND stay safe and healthy, avoiding COVID-19!

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Butterfly at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, July 2, 2020

I must say that I’ve never been to Florida in the incredible heat of July, so this was a first!

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Rhinoceros lizard at The Alligator Farm, Homestead, Florida, June 2020

It was so incredibly hot in South Florida, especially with the Saharan dust blanketing the atmosphere, warming it up like an oven. I knew it would be hot, and it was definitely sizzling!

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Parrot at Theater of the Sea wildlife facility in Islamorada, July 6, 2020

Unfortunately, the beaches were closed from Thursday through Monday for Independence Day weekend due to the Florida governor trying to limit the coronavirus spread, so that put a damper on beach plans.

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Palm tree with coconuts growing, Bayfront Park, Homestead, Florida, July 8, 2020

However, it was necessary. Coronavirus infections continue to rise and break records in Florida. I eventually got to the beach and got my fill of the sun – within one hour! That was plenty for me. 🙂

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Crab at Biscayne National Park, Homestead, Florida, July 8, 2020

In all, it surely was so nice to get away for awhile!

It’s the Wild West of the Coronavirus out there!

Coronavirus in Flickr Public Domain

Coronavirus (from Flickr.com in Public Domain, April 8, 2020)

It’s the Wild West of coronavirus out there, and it doesn’t seem to be letting up around here yet! In my previous blog post, immediately prior to this one, I explained that I am a counselor at a mental health facility in the Southeastern United States. Thankfully, especially in situations such as that happening right now with the coronavirus shelter-in-place orders and curfews, I have and been able to keep my part-time hours. However, the Wild West of coronavirus still puts every person at risk of getting it, particularly when people persist in not taking it seriously.

In my prior blog post, I stated that I was exposed to a colleague (who also works at another mental health hospital) who was exposed to a patient who had been hospitalized and in serious or critical condition due to the coronavirus. My exposure to this colleague occurred on March 29, 2020 when this colleague came to work, and we were in the same department office and he was using my desk in that office. I should also state that this colleague worked all day at our mutual workplace the day before that – March 28, 2020. Between those two days and his travels throughout the hospital, he exposed dozens of staff and patients to potential coronavirus. He was informed by his employer of potential exposure on March 29, and left our mutual workplace once informed.

On Monday, March 30, 2020, my colleague got tested for coronavirus, and yesterday, April 7, 2020, was informed that he tested positive for it. Thankfully and with great relief, my colleague has been asymptomatic, as per his reports. It is my understanding, however, that people who are asymptomatic can still (obviously) be carriers of coronavirus and can infect other people with it. It is also my understanding (as well as through my own observations on March 29) that my colleague who worked at our mutual workplace on the weekend of March 28-29 did not wear any protective equipment to prevent a potential spread of the coronavirus until after he stated he received a call from his employer about his potential exposure to it. Only after that call did my colleague begin wearing a surgical mask.

On March 29, I informed the charge nurse at the hospital of my colleague’s potential exposure to coronavirus, as well as my own exposure to this colleague. At that time, she informed the hospital’s nursing director about it. Yesterday, I was informed by my supervisor that staff who came into contact with this colleague do not need to be tested for coronavirus! This is per information from the Health Department, apparently! And, there was no word about informing patients at the hospital of their potential exposure to coronavirus.

So, here we are in the Wild West of the coronavirus, folks! You’re on your own. When you go to work in a healthcare facility, and if you’re a patient at a healthcare facility, you’re risking exposure to – or you’ve already been exposed to – coronavirus! You have to make your own decisions and you have to do your best to take care of yourself, as well as your own famiy. I would guess that there are those facilities such as my own workplace that are not requiring staff or patients to take extra precautions to prevent the infection or spread of coronavirus. I would estimate that there are healthcare facilities such as my own that do not require staff and/or patients to wear masks, gloves, or other personal protective equipment. Recall from my prior blog post that I purchased and have been wearing my own, and I was the first staff member at my facility that I observed to wear any PPE at all. And, to my knowledge, the department office in which I work was not cleaned or disinfected (any more than what it typically is) on the weekend that my colleague worked there, beyond what I cleaned with Lysol after he left.

That stated, I am very confident that I do not have the coronavirus, nor that I’ve passed it to my family. I do my very best to wear my own PPE at work all day, except for when I eat or drink something. When I arrive at home, I put my clothing and gloves in the laundry for washing. However, I have typically been using my N95 masks for an average of three days, which likely increases my exposure if the virus is on the outside of my masks. This is not the safest way to proceed, however I hope that it does extend the wearability of the masks that I have.

Our president is banking on social distancing to eliminate coronavirus in the United States, however so, so much more still needs to be done! Why aren’t factories churning out ventilators? Why doesn’t every person in America have masks and personal protective equipment? At least, if they don’t want to use it or wear it, it still should be made available to everyone, and in plentiful rather than limited supply. More testing for the coronavirus still needs to be done on a greater scale, and people who have coronavirus should not be prevented from being admitted to hospitals, and instead, be forced to stay in self-quarantine.

That’s all just not good enough. That’s not America. That’s not the United States that I know – doing less than the bare minimum in the hopes that our country will get through this. It’s not enough to just get through it. It’s not enough to just have faith – we need intelligent action, too. We should be putting absolutely all of our efforts into eradicating this horrific virus rather than allowing an inept federal administration to continue contributing to the deaths of so many people as a result of delays, denials, and inaction. This is a killer virus not to be taken lightly. In short, more needs to be done to stop the Wild West of the coronavirus!

American Mental Healthcare Facilities are Woefully Unprepared for Coronavirus

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My Coronavirus Gear

I work as a counselor at an acute mental healthcare facility in the Southeastern United States. I love what I do, but what I’ve observed during the past one month is that acute mental healthcare in the United States is woefully unprepared to tackle the coronavirus. Mental healthcare is something that we’re not hearing much of anything about during this crisis because of the focus on medical care, though protective precautions for patients and employees in the mental healthcare industry – particularly acute, long-term, and residential facilities – must be addressed and improved.

On Friday, March 6, 2020, I began wearing my own N95 masks – that I bought from eBay sellers – to work. I paid a high price for the masks, but it was worth it. I was the first employee (to my knowledge) to wear any type of mask at my place of employment, due to my own coronavirus precautions. Beginning on Friday, March 20, 2020, I also added cotton gloves to my arsenal of gear, also purchased from a vendor on eBay. Keep in mind that I’m not sick, and I’m doing whatever possible to stay that way with having to go to work.

Medical and healthcare policies toward protecting patients and staff from potential coronavirus exposure and infection need improvement in American mental health facilities. Only last week did my facility begin requiring employees to get temperature checks before entering any units. Each person is on their honor to now do their own temperature check and log the correct temperature. No medically-qualified staff are present when this occurs, nor to confirm the results. It may also be a good idea to have staff check their temperatures prior to leaving work, as well, though that has not yet been required.

Patients coming into my facility from other hospitals are generally already wearing masks that they’ve gotten from the previous facility. Only last week did my hospital begin supplying surgical masks to those patients and staff who ask for them. My understanding is that there is a low supply. More and more staff during the course of the past one month are wearing masks, including a few wearing N95 masks, and the majority wearing surgical masks. I would estimate, however, that not even one-quarter of the staff who work at my hospital during the day are wearing masks.

Yesterday, I wore an N95 mask for 14 hours. I wore it for 8.5 hours at work, and also for the rest of the day, including at home. I would ordinarily only wear the mask while at work, but yesterday, I was exposed to a staff member who was exposed to a patient at his other hospital who is in serious, if not critical, condition due to the coronavirus. I did inform two supervisors about it, and I wiped my department office down with Lysol since this colleague was also using my desk. Today, my work colleague got tested. When I checked-in with him, he stated to me that he has to wait 5-7 days for results and stay quarantined for 14 days. There was also a patient on the unit I was assigned to who was sent out to a medical hospital, yesterday, due to potential coronavirus symptoms. So, while I wasn’t exposed to that patient, I was exposed to staff who were exposed to that patient. Thankfully, I wear my mask and gloves at work for everything except eating and drinking, so I hope I’m safe from being infected.

Today, I’ve already worn the same N95 mask for 12 hours that I wore yesterday. I’m taking precautions to protect my family in case I have the coronavirus. I also washed in the laundry today three pairs of cotton gloves that I’ve been wearing – while also continuing to wear another pair. I figure that if I have coronavirus symptoms, they’ll start to appear within about three days, from what I’ve read. By Wednesday evening, I should know one way or the other.

Of course, I’m also doing social distancing, both at work and at home, while also wearing my mask and gloves. I’m also doing my laundry after work, as well as running the dishwasher to keep dishes clean. In the shower, I’m using latex gloves and I’m not keeping my soap in the soap dish, so no one else uses it. I’m also wearing latex gloves while cooking for my family. Hopefully, all of this will help prevent this ravaging virus from infecting me and my family!

I’ve been saying for weeks at work that everyone – including patients and staff – needs to wear masks. At my facility, that has not been encouraged to say the least, though I hope it will be in the near future for everyone’s protection. Everyone in facilities throughout the United States needs to wear masks, and if they’re not already wearing gloves, to wash their hands often and sanitize their areas as much as possible. We don’t know everything there is to know about this virus, though what we do know is scary and tragic. Too many people have already been lost to this horrible pandemic. People in the United States – and around the world – need to take coronavirus much more seriously, including mental healthcare professionals – for our own welfare as well as that of everyone we treat!

 

When your Mom Dies

Bruce and Anna Babcock with 1956 Black Thunderbird, Gowanda, New York, June 1998 (2)

Mom and Dad in 1998

Next month – March 2020 – will be the second anniversary of my mom’s death. Her death has been extremely difficult to put into words, and I’ve purposely waited some time before really delving deeply into its meaning to me. Mom and I were not close, and I still have mixed feelings about her death. Of course, mom is my mother and she will always be my mother, no matter what. But, we never had a close bond. There are reasons for that, of course, that I won’t explain here. It’s something that cannot be changed.

Sometimes I miss Mom and sometimes, I don’t. I miss the things about her that I love, and I don’t miss the things about her that I dislike. What I’ve come to terms with is that it’s okay. Many years ago, I came to accept our relationship as it was. There’s no changing someone who won’t change, so I made little effort to convince her to see things another way. The lack of closeness and bond are losses enough in themselves. There is always that void and emptiness there that will not be fulfilled. I know that, I understand that, I accept that. That’s how it is.

What was so difficult for Mom to endure was all of the suffering that accompanied death. Mom battled cancers for two years before she died. I remember in early summer, one year, when she had flu-like symptoms, but didn’t have the flu. This went on for a week, and I told her to call her doctor. She didn’t. It went on for another week. She still hadn’t called her doctor. By the third week, things still hadn’t improved – and had worsened, and called her doctor and made an appointment for her.

Mom’s biggest fear about cancer was her fear. She watched her dad die from cancer long before I was born, and it was a fear that paralyzed her. But, by trying to avoid to fear and the truth, she was just making it worse. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after many tests, and began chemotherapy. She didn’t want to have chemotherapy, but I told her she had to do it – she didn’t have a choice. She had to try. Mom had an oncologist in Atlanta who was nationally-renowned. She believed in him, she trusted him. He saved so many people’s lives. He became her god, in the hopes that he would save her, too. He didn’t.

I went with Mom to only a few of her appointments. It was my dad who religiously took her to her appointments, even when he was exhausted and felt ill, himself. My dad was available, and so, he took her. I would’ve had to change my schedule, take off work, or cancel commitments, including my son’s school commitments, if I took Mom to her appointments. So, Dad did it.

For nine months, Mom had regular chemotherapy appointments. She was sick, she couldn’t eat, she was hospitalized at times, she lost weight, and she eventually completed her treatments. The cancer and the chemotherapy changed Mom. She lived in fear. She still had difficulty eating. She wanted to be happy when her oncologists told her that her cancer was in remission, but I wasn’t so sure. If the cancer was gone, why did she still have difficulty eating? Why was she still sick?

I didn’t believe that Mom’s cancer was gone. While I wanted to be happy, I was cautiously optimistic. There was something about it all that wasn’t quite right. I told Mom and Dad, together, that Mom should get a second opinion. It wouldn’t hurt to see another oncologist. Again, Mom believed in her god-like oncologist. He knew what he was doing. He had decades of experience. After all, he said she was cancer-free. She wouldn’t seek a second opinion. I couldn’t tell her anything, and she wouldn’t listen. The chemotherapy also made her mind such that she couldn’t “hear” me. It was already too much of an ordeal of suffering and fear that was overwhelming to her.

Mom was to go to get checked, monthly, with lab work for her cancer cell count. Two months after she was supposedly “cured,” her cancer cell count was up, slightly. The next month, it was up significantly more. By four months after Mom was supposedly cured, she was diagnosed with another cancer. Unfortunately – and tragically – I believe this is the cancer she shouldn’t been diagnosed with the first time – peritoneal cancer – a type of intestinal cancer.

When Mom’s oncologist did her surgery to remove her cancerous ovary, he also found and removed cancers from the outside of her intestines. These were cancers he missed on the MRI. This nationally-renowned oncologist was so sure that Mom’s cancer was ovarian cancer that he failed to consider whether it could be something else. I believe that the intestinal cancer had spread to Mom’s ovary – in the beginning – and thus, her diagnosis of ovarian cancer. I believe the primary cancer – the peritoneal cancer – was totally missed…until it was too late. The oncologist, himself, also realized this, and cried with Mom when he was unable to tell her that he could save her.

Having been diagnosed with cancer a second time, Mom was in and out of the hospital for extended stays. She couldn’t eat. She couldn’t sleep. She was sad, angry, and afraid. She just wanted to die. Mom’s intestines were blocked. Fortunately, the doctors devised a way for her stomach to eliminate what little digested food she could eat by having inserted a tube in her stomach. For the last three months or so of her life, Mom ate only crackers, chicken soup, and homemade custard. She just loved that custard. I couldn’t make it as well as she did, but I did my best.

Once Mom’s oncologist couldn’t tell her there was any hope, Mom was discharged from the hospital to home hospice. She was given three months to live. She lived only for just over two more months. Mom apologized to us for putting us through what was about to come. How sad that she would apologize for something out of her control. We just wanted to take the burden away from her.

Dad and I wanted Mom to be as comfortable as she could be. We stayed with Mom in shifts, around the clock. When I worked, Dad had a double shift. We tried to shield my son from Mom’s decline as much as we could, but he also helped us care for her. He was a great help with her, especially because she wanted to get up out of bed, and we were afraid she would fall and break a leg or hip. That would just make things worse. My son made sure Mom stayed put when Dad and I couldn’t stay with her.

We made sure that Mom had an IV drip in her last weeks. A truly inhumane way for someone to die is for them not to have any liquid or nutrients, and we didn’t want for Mom to suffer any more, unnecessarily. We employed a home hospice company that was really good, for the most part. Mom had the meds she needed, and the CNA care was excellent. All but one of the nurses was great. The one that wasn’t great was no longer welcome in our home – as I informed the nursing manager. That nurse should never even be a nurse at all – she was horrific.

The last five days of Mom’s life were the worst. She no longer knew who she was. She no longer knew me and didn’t remember that she had a grandson. She wouldn’t listen to anything and couldn’t understand anything. She wasn’t herself and she was out of her head. I had to tell Mom that I was her sister, in order to comfort her. I later joked with my aunt that I impersonated her to Mom in order to help her feel better.

In Mom’s final two days of her life, the smell of death surrounded her. The hospice CNA told me it was only a matter of time before Mom died. I asked her how long – a day, two days, a week? I wanted to plan and prepare myself. What you discover with death is that you can’t plan anything. Death has its own timetable.

I called people and made appointments. I called and arranged for the hospice social worker to come by in a couple of days with the hospice pastor. I didn’t want for that to scare Mom because she had been terrified when I had earlier asked our church priest to visit her while she was in the hospital. At that time, he was only there to do a healing prayer, and she thought he was giving her last rites. She was unable to understand, and I didn’t want to scare her again.

I also called our church priest and asked him to come by. It was late on a Monday when I spoke with him. He said Tuesday is his day off. Couldn’t he ask another priest to come and visit? The other priest was already overwhelmed by his own responsibilities, I know. The soonest our priest could come was Wednesday. By then, Mom had already died. Father – people still die on your day off.

The day before Mom died, she was very stiff and catatonic. It appeared that she could no longer see. Her eyes were bloodshot and her vision was impaired. She wanted more pain medicine. Dad and I did our best to keep Mom on a regimented schedule with strict dosages, so she was getting enough, but not too much. On the morning of the day that Mom died, I couldn’t awaken her for her medicine. She was comatose. She was breathing, but she was no longer with us. I hadn’t realized it yet at the time.

Dad was sitting with Mom when she took her last breath. He and I had just changed shifts about a half an hour prior to that at lunchtime. Unbeknownst to me, Mom had died, and he sat with her for about a half an hour before coming to get me. She was gone. I couldn’t believe she was gone. For several weeks, Mom had already been using oxygen tubes for her breathing. I believe those helped her body not have to work as hard to breath; they were good for her. Her oxygen tubes were still circulating the oxygen to her nostrils; they seemed so awkward now that she had died.

Mom died at home, surrounded by family. Mom’s immediate death was felt most strongly by my dad – her husband of almost 55 years. Dad grieved very severely for about nine months before I noticed that he seemed to be feeling better. I believe it will always be somewhat lonely for him without his life partner. No one else can fulfill for him what my mom did. I love and miss you, Mom. I know you’re in a much better place, and I will see you again. Please save a place for me at The Table.

February Snow in Georgia

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Snow on the cherry tree, Snellville, Georgia, February 8, 2020

We haven’t seen snow here in Georgia for the past few years. For me, as a Yankee, it’s always a treat to get snow in the South! I definitely miss it, especially the skiing. Both the North and South have their advantages and disadvantages, though I don’t miss the brutal cold of those Buffalo winters.

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Snow in Snellville, Georgia, February 8, 2020

Last weekend, though it was 39 degrees Fahrenheit, it was snowing here in Snellville on Saturday morning, February 8, 2020. It snowed for most of the morning – a heavy, wet snow with huge snowflakes. It was so pretty – and was more like what winter should be – rather than the 65 degree Fahrenheit temperatures we have today, less than one week later.

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Let it Snow! Snellville, Georgia, February 8, 2020

On February 8, my son was training fellow Boy Scouts at his troop’s bi-annual leadership training event. They also took some time out from their instruction to step outside and have a friendly snowball fight. That’s another good memory to include in my Eagle Scout son’s wonderful experience in scouting! Oh – and by the way – the daffodils are blooming in full force now and the maples are budding out, too…

Early Daffodils & Azaleas in January

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Daffodils, Snellville, Georgia, January 13, 2020

Last Monday, January 13, 2020, the first daffodils blossomed here in Snellville, Georgia. Their blooming is about three weeks earlier than usual. There was a warm spell here for about five days prior to their blooming. Temperatures got up to around 65 degrees Fahrenheit as a high.

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Small pink azalea bush blooming, Snellville, Georgia, January 13, 2020

Coincidentally, nearly all of the dozens of azaleas on our property were starting to bloom. In the pictures I took of a couple of them, they don’t appear very full of blossoms, but many were just starting to come out.

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Small white azalea bush blooming, Snellville, Georgia, January 13, 2020

By this week, we were back to the cold again. The cold snap that got down to about 25 degrees Fahrenheit two days ago took all of those azalea blossoms away. There are none now. Surprisingly, however, the daffodils are still in bloom. They survived the cold, for now.

Global warming is real. This weather is definitely not normal. There were even two Japanese maples that were trying to bud out last week. Now, they’ve been frozen back into hibernation again. This is definitely not good. Thankfully, Greta can put a voice to the concerns that so many of us have!

Visiting Ruby Falls in Chattanooga

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Ruby Falls, Chattanooga, TN, November 26, 2019

I can’t believe that almost one year has passed since I’ve made my last post on WordPress!

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A ceiling view inside Ruby Falls Cave, November 26, 2019

My family and I have been extremely busy this year, and the time has really flown by at an incredible speed – much faster than usual, I’d say.

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Formations that resemble tobacco leaves. Ruby Falls Cave, November 26, 2019

It has been a great year, however, and my son and I took a couple of days to enjoy the sites in Chattanooga during Thanksgiving vacation.

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Another ceiling view inside Ruby Falls Cave. Notice that some of the formations have been broken off in the past. Tourists were told that people did that in the 1930s during the Great Depression to sell them for money. November 26, 2019

Posted here are some pictures I took while inside the Ruby Falls Cave on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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A formation resembling a leaning tower. Ruby Falls Cave. November 26, 2019

I had never been there before, so I was pleasantly surprised and awed by its beauty.

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Formation that looks like an elephant’s foot inside Ruby Falls Cave. November 26, 2019

I’ve toured a few caves in the past, but this is one of the best I’ve seen!

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A famous formation in Ruby Falls Cave that people are allowed to touch. November 26, 2019

Please enjoy the pictures, although they don’t do it justice.

Making Another Holiday Cake

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A better Christmas cake than last week! December 31, 2018

I’m getting better at decorating these holiday cakes, now. Instead of trying to frost half green and half red, I just decided to frost all red, and make a green Christmas tree, outlined with cinnamon drops.

Happy Holidays Lights

It really looks much better than my previous one!

Making Frosted Christmas Sugar Cookies

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Some of my Frosted Christmas Sugar Cookies, December 27, 2018

I’m at it again – baking for most of the day today! It’s the holiday season, and I really would like my family and friends to enjoy some of my goodies.

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Some more Christmas Cookies, December 27, 2018

Today, I baked two batches of sugar cookies – from my great grandmother’s recipe. They are absolutely delicious, and even better when they’re frosted!

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Cookies cooling after taking them out of the oven, December 27, 2018

Only two of the larger gingerbread man-style cut-outs broke in half, so I did really well keeping everything whole. And, I definitely worked up a sweat more than once today, but the end product is all worth it!

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A tray of cookies after being baked, December 27, 2018

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Making Apricot-Nut Roll Pastries

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Today, I baked some apricot-nut roll pastries to continue celebrating the Christmas spirit! The recipe is one that my Mom had since the late 1960s or early 1970s from the magazine, Better Homes and Gardens. My first tray turned out a little gooey (see above), but I improved by adding more flour after that (see below).

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If you don’t really like apricots, the pastries are still really great! You just use apricot jelly to make them, and it causes them to taste quite sweet. They are really yummy, and my family and I love them!