Introducing Flat AB Jake

Introducing Flat AB Jake our personalized, more handsome and improved version of Flat Stanley. Let me bring the uninitiated up to speed. For those of us whose kids went through elementary in the last decade, we were subjected to literary character Flat Stanley that travels the world. Each kid in class brought a paper Flat Stanley home for a weekend to take wherever they went. The kids would then take pictures or document their travels in a journal. 

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I got the idea for Flat AB Jake through the Air Force Moms BMT page on Facebook. By the way, This group has been a godsend. Instead of the character, you make your airman into a paper “Flat Stanley.” You take them where ever you go and then take pictures. When you write your airman next, you include the pictures of you and your Flat AB.

We made them up on Christmas Eve. I printed two versions a large headshot and a smaller standing pose. I printed it on card stock, so the paper would be relatively firm. My hubby, who is a rockstar, cut them out using an exacto knife. Needless to say they came out better than I expected.  Since we were going to church with Mel, Jake’s girlfriend who we adore, and her family I was able to bring her both versions. She loved them! Fortunately, I was also able to get a picture of Flat AB Jake enjoying her duet (O’ Holy night and it was awesome.)

As we move through the weeks of training, you’ll see AB Jake make numerous appearances. It’s beneficial to always have him near, but it’s more beneficial for him to see he’s always in our hearts and on our minds. We had our first Christmas without him yesterday and that was tough! As a family we did, however, get some pictures with Flat AB Jake.

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We did get the best present a parent could ask for yesterday: a call home from our airman. I was near tears as my phone started to play Teen Spirit, which is my custom ringtone for him.  It was a spiritual experience.  He sounded amazing. To hear the confidence and happiness in his voice was beyond reassuring. I felt a weight literally being lifted off my shoulders as he told us he had found “where he belongs.”  He met the PT requirements his first week out and is now working with his FLT to exceed them together. He is wearing the blue belt as described in my week one post.  Jake described with joy how close he and his fellow airman had become. It was clear in that phone call that he had made several life long friends.


Perhaps the best part of the call was that it happened while we had Christmas Company. Jake has a lot of people in his corner and a lot of them were able to speak with him and wish him well. My sister in law, who is a genius and makes the best cheesy potatoes, suggested conferencing my parent. We were able to do that successfully and my parents were able to hear first hand how well he is doing. More than anything hearing his happy voice made our Christmas wonderful. It’s still tough to imagine that he’ll miss most Christmas celebrations in years to come, but he’s a part of something bigger than himself, loving it and service his country. We couldn’t be prouder of our AB Jake!

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Blue Christmas

It will be a blue Christmas in our household as we celebrate our first holiday with Jake away from home. We’ve never been apart on a major holiday like this, so undoubtedly it will be tough on all of us.  I’ve found it hard to get into the joy of the season.   In fact, I haven’t even decorated the tree or put the tinsel on the railings.

For Jake his blue Christmas will likely include the issue of his dress blues, but also the loneliness of celebrating Christmas away from family and friends. This holiday season keep the airmen, Coasties Marines, sailors, and soldiers serving our country away from family and friends in your prayers. Being lonely during the holiday season is the worst! If you’re so inclined, please send Jake a holiday cRd at the address below.

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Thanksgiving Is Almost Here

Can you believe Thanksgiving is almost here? It seems like just yesterday we were ringing in 2019. Yet here we are ready to end the year with the fabulous holiday season. I’m especially blessed to spend it with my entire immediate family. This holiday will be poignant for us all as it marks the last holiday for which Jake will be a civilian. Who knows where he’ll be stationed this time next year. We will certainly enjoy the moment.

I started my day by sleeping through my alarm, which left me feel like I was behind all day. Graves’ disease sucks it often leaves me tried and jacks with my sleep for no good reason. Not to mention it makes me cranky, which my family can certainly attest to today.

Fortunately, my day started looking up the moment I got my coffee. We left Dunkin’ to get our groceries for baking, so we could get an early start. At which point, we got a text inviting us to the beach. How could we say no to that? Spoiler alert: we procrastinated on the baking and headed to the beach.

This, of course, did nothing for my constant feeling of being behind all day. However, the beach was again marvelous with beautiful skies and calm seas. You simply can’t ask for a better way to spend the day before Thanksgiving. It was a bit hot, so we didn’t stay too long.
Fortunately, Goalielocks’ BFF was there and he was having a blast. Unfortunately, that made the extraction from the beach quite difficult. We ended our beach day by me starting to back out of my spot before noticing the boys neglected to close the tailgate. Consequently, I needed to make a Dunkin pit stop on the way home to try and collect my sanity.

Before heading home, we headed to Publix in search of the perfect pickles for pickle. If there’s anywhere you so don’t want to be on Thanksgiving Eve in Florida, it’s Publix. I avoided this dumpster fire by dropping my mom off at the door and parking. To be honest, I was more concerned with getting home so I could eat before heading to yoga.

Wednesday’s are my tight muscle mobility class at Open Heart Yoga studio. My teach is amazing. The class has been incredibly effective in opening up my body post Graves’ disease. In today’s class, I’m pretty sure I fell asleep 3-4 times while massaging my back with therapy balls. These balls are miracle works for tight muscles and soft tissue. You must try them.

I left my mat completely serene and ready to tackle my evening. Tonight’s beautiful sunset added to my serenity.  During class my mom has text me to let me know the Publix pickles were sub par and couldn’t be used to pickle roll ups. I got home and we headed to Earth Fare to see if they had any quality pickles, but that trip was unsuccessful. Thus, we headed back to Target where we found the perfect pickles. Plus if you haven’t gone to Target twice in a day, are you even living?

We made our way home to start are baking. I started working on my cheesecake while my mom began to prepare the pickle roll ups. My mom made quick work of the pickle roll ups while I plodded my way through baking the cheesecake. Fortunately, my mom helped me start the vegan pumpkin coconut soup that I made for my brother and I. I’m not currently vegan, but I know my body won’t tolerate too much of the traditional Thanksgiving food.

Our evening of baking, will finally be over in about an hour when the cheesecake can go in the oven. I’ll start my Thanksgiving where I start everyday: Dunkin’. We’ll then head to my brothers’ house to drop off the goodies before heading to the Mayor’s 11:00 am game.

It was just over a year ago I went through radiation to kill my thyroid. A year later, my thyroid levels are stable. I’m hopeful that the symptoms of Graves will abate in the next year (although it could be 1-3 years.) Unfortunately, my health is not where it was before I got sick, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As I end my evening enjoying Agatha Christie’s Poirot, I am filled with gratitude for my family, my friends, healing and my life’s transitions.

Let The Countdown Begin

Let the countdown begin! In sixteen days, Jake will be leaving for the Air Force. While it has been a work in progress for months, the reality is starting to set in. I can’t believe he’ll be leaving the proverbial nest in a little over two weeks time.

We started the countdown in the summer thinking he’d be leaving in early to mid fall. However, he waited until his he secured the job he wanted. Unfortunately, this moved his departure date back to December. Consequently, he’ll be away for the holidays. Since he’ll be missing Christmas and New Years with the family, we held our celebrated Christmas brunch this morning. Fortunately, my whole family is here from Minnesota to celebrate Thanksgiving. Thankfully, the delayed timing of his basic training is allowing him to spend more time with all of our family.

Before diving into the caramel rolls, cheesy potatoes and cholesterol bake, we took updated family pictures. Where we live, there are plenty of great spots to take family pictures without any inconvenience. We opted to take them at the entrance of a nearby neighborhood that has a great waterfall feature. For the camera, we used an iPhone 11max and the canon t6i.

You can imagine our surprise when all of the kids decided to cooperate with the photos. The weather held out with rain starting just as we finished. It was a bit overcast, which was nice because nobody was squinting in the pictures. It’s crazy to think that these will be the last family pics with all the kids still home. In our next group picture, Jake will be an airmen and living at a base far away. These are the moments that matter.

Post pictures, we headed back to the house for brunch. The mimosas started pouring early as we waited for the food to finish cooking. There definitely was a countdown for the caramel rolls to finish. Our Christmas brunch is super heavy on the carbs, which is why we only do it once a year, and is sure to trigger a food coma if you don’t get up and moving.

Consequently, I was ready for bed by noon today. Meanwhile, Luke and the boys headed outside with their cousins and uncles to play football. As the played, the clouds began to clear and the sun came out. Suddenly, it was a bit warm. After a rousing game, the younger cousins decided they wanted to swim.

We took a quick walk to the pool and found it to be mostly deserted. The cousins had a great time playing random games on the splash pad and in the pool. While they played, we sat with your feet in the water. When the kids grew tired of the games, they decided to see if they could stack P on X’s shoulders while X sat on the Mayor’s shoulders. Their efforts here were quite a site to be seen. They ended their pool visit with a cannon ball contest.

Post pool, I enjoyed my afternoon coffee and still managed to fall asleep on the couch. As I slept, Goalielocks went to work at the rink and the Mayor prepared for a sleepover with his cousins. After he left, we worked on the packet Jake will need to bring to his recruiter’s office tomorrow. It really is starting to feel real. All in all, it was a beautiful day spent with family. Meanwhile the countdown continues….

New Years Day and Back to Work

No sooner had I left the office Monday night, then it was New Years day and back to work.  Like right back to work.  It felt more like an abbreviated weekend than a holiday, but we made the best of it.  New Years Eve we headed to my brothers for snacks, games and of course champagne.  We even snuck in some shots of Salmiakki.  My mom made some pickle rolls ups, aka Minnesota Sushi, which brought back some great memories of the holidays of my youth.  I haven’t had them since we moved south of the Mason Dixon thirteen years ago! We rushed home after midnight, so as to try to beat the traffic.

The next morning we were going to head down to Fort Lauderdale for brunch, but that ended up being moved to Boca.  This made is a lot easier for us although I love Fort Lauderdale.   My sister-in-law Brandi and her cooking partner Phil made yet again an amazing meal.  They always partner up on Thanksgiving to make a fantastic dinner, so getting to enjoy twice this year was quite nice.  Fortunately, I didn’t include anything about food in my New Year’s resolutions or I would have broken all of them at brunch!

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After brunch, we headed out to South County Park in Boca to go jet skiing.  There is a nice lake behind the amphitheater that is deceivingly large.   There’s not a ton of room by the docks, which keeps it from getting too crowded.  Fortunately, the weather was absolutely sublime lows 80s and some cloud cover to keep it cool.

Our younger two, Goalielocks and the Mayor, were hooked after their first rides.  Once they got on, they didn’t want to get off the jet skis.  Eventually, they had to get off so other people could ride, but they were keen to get back on the water.   Fortunately, both Grandma and Grandpa got a chance to ride the jet skis.   Both of the boys got to drive the jet skis, which they absolutely loved.  Goalielocks is a little more sensible, while the Mayor’s driving style can only be described as “balls to the wall.” I can already sense how much fun we’re going to have teaching him to drive.

After several hours of jet skis and Cornhole, we headed home to get ready for our inevitable return to work on Wednesday.   Shortly thereafter, the Mayor convinced my husband to make Caribbean jerk chicken with black beans and rice.   The kid ate two full plates.  Unquestionably, he has a hollow leg – or so we thought.

He left dinner to take a shower having been on the lake all day.  After about fifteen minutes, he came back out to the family room and announced “I threw up all over the bathroom and I missed both the sink and the toilet.”  Now that my friends takes talent.   Immediately, the hubby and I got up to check him out.  He insisted he was fine having thrown up only because he ate too much too fast with too much milk.

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After making sure he was fine, we headed to the bathroom.  His assessment was spot on. He had in fact thrown up all over our bathroom effectively missing both the toilet and the sink.   I’m not quite sure what happened, but I was relieved he missed the rugs and the dirty clothes he left strewn about the floor.   Thankfully, he was okay and not harboring some insidious stomach bug.   Since I wasn’t feeling well, he cleaned up the projectile mess.  He’s the real hero!

And just like that in the blink of an eye,  we went to bed and got up for work like nothing had changed……. Our Tuesday holiday was quickly over and it was back to reality.

 

 

Holiday Baking

Holiday baking is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season.   It’s steeped in tradition, heritage and reminds me of my childhood.  Growing up we made mint cookies and molasses cookies every year.  Christmas morning my mom would serve her Christmas tea ring.   The memories of making Christmas cookies with my family are some of my fondest.    I’ve carried on many of these traditions making the mint cookies every year.   Over the years, we’ve stopped making the molasses cookies in Florida as they take too much flour to make them manageable.  In lieu of the tea ring, I’ve made my caramel rolls to serve at brunch for over a decade.

I had an amazing time exploring Scandinavia this fall with my son, brother and sister-in-law.  It definitely strengthened the connection I feel to our family’s heritage. As a result, I wanted to infuse some traditional Norwegian and Finnish cookies into our holiday baking.  My aunt, a lefse baking pro, provided us with the recipe for lefse.  I found the recipes for the Norwegian cookies in Norwegian heritage groups on Facebook.  Finally, I was able to find Finnish recipes via google.

The baking started off by baking the mint cookie dough.  I planned to bake several dozen since these cookies were a sure bet.  Unfortunately, dough vultures (a.k.a my kids) thwarted my first attempt.  My next attempt had to be more covert.  Indeed, my mom and I ended up baking three more batches.  We had to hide the dough in one of our three refrigerators to ensure we’d have enough to bake cookies.

My holiday baking this year was more special since my mom was here.  It made our culinary adventure through Scandinavian traditions more meaningful.  Our first task was to make the dough for the kringlas (Norwegian) and juolutorttu (Finnish.) Each of these doughs was quite easy to make.  The kringla is a sour cream dough, while the juolutorttu dough is more of a pastry dough.  Normally, the doughs would need to rest for an hour or two. However, we left them rest overnight due to the climate in Florida.

Cloudberry juolutorrtu
Lingonberry juolutorrtu
Blueberry juolutorrtu

The next morning we started by making the dough for the pulla, a Finnish sweet bread.  Since the bread had to rise for 90 minutes, it was the perfect place to start.  While it raised, we were able to make the juolutorttu and the kringlas.  Traditionally, the juolutorttu is made with prunes, but I didn’t have any and I don’t really like prune.  Consequently, we made ours with lingonberry, blueberry and cloudberry jam that I had purchased on my recent travels.  Both of the cookies were a bit fussy to make, but they were much easier to make than I had to anticipated.   The pulla was relatively easy to make and smelled divine.

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Pulla

As the pulla baked, I headed to the gym for a quick workout before we undertook making lefse.  Once it was completed, we fired up the lefse griddle.  (Naturally, I had bought an entire lefse baking kit.- get it here.)  The lefse would be, by far, the most difficult thing we made that day.  While I was at work the Friday before, my mom mixed up the dough since it had to sit overnight.  Nonetheless, the lefse was still difficult to handle.  Our first attempt was an utter failure, but we improved with each lefse.  By the end of it, we were professionals.

Lefse
Our first attempt

In the end, we worse ourselves out will all of our holiday baking.  On Christmas, we had a plenty of sweet Scandinavian treats to last til next Christmas.   We had great beginner’s luck on all of our Scandinavian treats and I can’t wait to make them again next year.   Below you’ll find the links to the Scandinavian recipes we used this Christmas.

Krumkake with cloudberry and blueberry jams

 

Recipes:

Juolutorrtu (also called juolutorts or north stars)

Kringla

Pulla

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is here and almost gone.  Today was hectic and we rushed to finish our last minute shopping and preparations for Christmas day.  I think the boys will be happy with what they’re getting, but we’ll see.  Truthfully, I had hope to spend more money on experiences or even a trip than gifts.  Oh well, there’s always next year.  Its probably a shift that’s easier to make gradually than in one fell swoop.

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In addition to last minute errands, I had (and still have) a lot of baking today.  I made another round of mint cookies today in addition to krumkakes and toffee candies.  Fortunately, all three of the items turned out really good.  As I write this, I’m starting to make the main star of tomorrow’s brunch — the caramel rolls.  Ah yes, no less than 1,000,000 grams of carbs and sugar in these beauties, but they’re completely worth it.   Honestly, all calories on Christmas should be free, I think Santa would totally agree.

Krumkakes are a traditional Norwegian cookie that I was excited to try making this year.  After all, I have both cloud berry and blueberry jam from Norway to pair with the cookie, so now is the perfect time.  In order to bake said cookies, however, I had to order a krumkake iron.  I opted for a new school plug and play model versus the old school iron you heat up over a burner.  I think we can all agree that nothing good would come from me using an old school iron.

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The dough is quite simple to make.  You can use either vanilla or almond extract to flavor the cookie  Today I used vanilla as that is what I had on hand.  Once the dough has been mixed up, you bake one cookie at a time on the iron.  These cookies cook quite quickly albeit individually.  Moreover, once they come of the iron, you need to shape them around the cone to get their famed conical shape.

My first attempt at shaping a krumkake was lackluster, but I had also overcooked the cookie.  After the first couple of cookies, I got the process down pat.  You can definitely bake these cookies by yourself.  However, it would be easier to an assistant help shape the cookies once they come off the iron.

After all the baking, we headed to my brother’s house for some games, movies and appetizers.  Before though I had to make a pit stop at Walgreen’s for some whipped cream and dollar bills.  I had no cash on me and we needed singles, so we could play Left Right Center at Jon’s.  You can only imagine the look the clerk gave me when I asked for my change ($20) is singles, but I digress.

We quickly ate our appetizers once we got to Jon’s, so we could start playing Left Right Center.  Goalielocks didn’t want to spend any money (even though I was funding), so he manned the music tonight.  Per usual, the game was not mild.  Both the Mayor and Jake ended up winning two games, while both Brandi and I won a game.  Throughout the games, the Mayor was full of witty one-liners.

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Once the money dried up, it was time for krumkakes.  I served them with whipped cream and either blueberry or cloud berry jam.  They were absolutely heavenly.  Moreover, I forgotten how much I loved the Norwegian jam.  I have yet to find either cloud berry jam or a good blueberry jam stateside.  When my family goes in January, I hope they bring some more back for us. Hint, hint…..

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Now it’s off to finish wrapping presents and baking caramel rolls.  Tonight’s song performed by Mariah Carey  is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

Come Fly With Me

Come Fly With Me

Come fly with me, no seriously, you’ve gotta try aerial yoga at least once.  Now that I’ve have several classes under my belt, I’m starting to feel much more comfortable in the silk.  After an rousing hockey game last night and kick arse circuit burn class this morning, aerial yoga with Monica was the perfect way to decompress mentally and physically.   Additionally, the communal atmosphere of the class is awesome.  Everyone is supportive, eager to try new things and happy to cheer others on.

I know you’re wondering, what’s so awesome about aerial yoga. So let me tell you.  First, aerial yoga is great for your back.  While you’re in the inversions, your spine is able to decompress and there’s minimal strain on your back.  If you’ve got back problems, an aerial yoga practice may provide relief.

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Since the silk supports you in the inversions, you’re able to get into inversions, like handstands, and hold them much longer.  Consequently, you build not only strength, but also muscle memory for the poses.  This will translate into your mat practice.   Moreover, there are parts of the aerial practice that are nearly identical to TRX.  You’re able to use your own weight as resistance to build strength and flexibility.

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Thankfully, I was able to decompress both my mind and my spine this morning otherwise I would have lost my mine at the mall.   The Hubby and I are way behind the eight ball when it comes to Christmas shopping.  Although to be fair, the boys just posted their Christmas wishlists on the fridge yesterday.  Consequently, I headed to Kohl’s to find a present, but left empty handed.  I could not believe how picked over the shelves were. Since Kohl’s didn’t have what I needed, we headed to Macy’s and Dick’s.

What should have been a five minute ride took nearly 20 in the snowbird laden mall traffic. Ugh, Christmas shopping is bad enough, but throw in winter traffic and it is insufferable.  We ran in to Dick’s first, but again came out empty handed.  Afterwards we made our way to Macy’s, were we finally found what we needed to buy.  Unfortunately, we spent more time trying to exit the mall parking lot than we spent in Kohl’s.  Road rules and traffic regulations are not strong suits of Florida drivers.

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Later the Mayor and I went to Target, so he could by his brothers some presents.  Fortunately, Target was better stocked and well staffed.  We were able to get our groceries, the presents and check out in less than an hour. This was amazing especially considering we made a detour to Starbucks as we shopped.

Tomorrow we’ll finish out last minute shopping after aerial yoga and then head to my brother’s tomorrow evening.  Of course, we’ll have to wrap all the presents and start preparing the dishes for Christmas brunch.  My family looks forward to Christmas brunch as its usually the only time I make caramel rolls.  You may recall that for hurricane Irma I made an exception.  Unfortunately, we were house bound so we couldn’t work off the calories.  Consequently, Jake and I are already planning a long run Christmas Day to counteract the thousands of calories and carbs we’ll consume at brunch.

Tonight’s song performed by the Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra is “Come Fly With Me.” This song is one of my absolute favorites.  Enjoy!

Foggy Friday

It was a foggy Friday as I drove to work this morning.  It was nothing short of miraculous that I saw no accidents during my drive.  Fortunately, by the time I made it to Boca the sun had burnt off most of the fog.  The remainder of my drive was fog free and relatively painless.

Fog forms when there is less than 4 degrees Fahrenheit between the dew point and air temperature.  Given that the temperature was 68 when I left my house this morning, I’d say it was a fairly humid morning.    According this is due to an injection of humidity comes courtesy of winds coming off the Gulf.

Admittedly, I’m not a super fan of humidity, but it does keep your skin moist.  I used to hate how dry and cracked my hands and feet would get during the Minnesota winter.  Here in Florida that’s just not a problem we have!

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

It’s the winter solstice today, well at least it was at 11:28 am this morning.  The shortest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere is also the harbinger of longer days to come.  Unequivocally, I hated the short days of a Minnesota winter.  There’s nothing more depressing than a sunset at 4:30 pm.

Here in Florida, the sunset was around 5:30 pm tonight and was gorgeous.   If it weren’t for the horribly short days, you would hardly know it is winter here. Piggie and I were out on our run enjoying the beautiful weather.  As we pushed to mile 3, Piggie recoiled with fright into my left knee.   My left leg is a veritable disaster with hip flexors and a IT band so tight if it snapped, it would poke your eye out.  What was the monster that frightened her so?  Perhaps another animal or a loud car?  Oh no, my Piggie was afraid of the orange cone.  If I wasn’t so out of breath, I would have ended up on the ground in a laughing fit.

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As you’ve probably gathered from reading my recent blog posts, things have been a bit stressful in our household.  It’s not always amazing to own your own business, but that’s the price you pay for autonomy.  In addition, we had a health scare with one of our boys, so we ended up at a specialists office this afternoon. Fortunately, his bladder and kidney looked good on the ultrasounds.  This gave him quick relief as he was worried they’d find something in his organs.

Nevertheless, he will have to undergo an outpatient surgery in early 2018.  This should be quite simple and result in minimal downtime.  However, if anything is discovered during the procedure it could result in a more protracted and complicated recovery.  Here’s hoping for an uneventful procedure and a miraculous (quick and uncomplicated) recovery.

Speaking of miracles, I’ll need to start and finish my Christmas shopping (food included) in the span of 72 hours.  Unfortunately, this means online shopping isn’t going to work.  Well, unless I want to spend $250 for Saturday shipping, which I don’t as that’s ridiculous.  Wish me luck as I hit the stores with the snow birds and all the glorious people South Florida has to offer.

Tonight’s song, performed by one of our hockey sister’s Julia and her classmate, is “The Prayer.”