Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday Weaver

This beauty took up residence in my Confederate Jasmine hedge after the hurricane blew through last week.

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

House Lust

For years now I've dreamed of having a home of my own. Throughout my 30's, buying a house was high on my priority list, but those plans got derailed for several years when Gregg got sick. Now that we're ready again, and actively looking, the housing market in our area is really bad for buyers. It's a total seller's market; inventory of available houses is low, prices are up, and houses are under contract almost as soon as they appear on the market. Twice now we've asked to see a house, only to find someone had beat us to it a week after the listing went up! And of course, with that much demand, you can forget about negotiating on the price, which is bad news for people like us with a modest budget but high hopes for something good!

Speaking of something good, I'd like to show you an available property in a little town about 10 miles north of Florence that stole my heart. It's well above what we can afford to spend, nor could we afford to maintain it in the style it deserves, and it's in a crappy little town that I'd rather not live in anyway...but still. I have a bad case of house lust with this one! I've looked at the pictures several times, sighing, and my husband finally said, "You should stop looking. It's just making you feel bad" and he's right. It hurts my heart a little to think of the beautiful old workmanship in the house, the old garden with heirloom flowers lovingly planted and cared for over 100 years ago, the pecan and magnolia trees. If we were a little bit richer, this would be our home.

Take a look at the listing descriptions and the pictures. What do you think?

Emma Wilcox House.

2400 SF Victorian with hip roof, wrap around porches, sleeping porch and rear deck. 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. Refinished hardwood floors and tile throughout. Built in china cabinets. Very large attic which could add 1500-1000 SF if desired. Period molding and door trim. Home is in very good shape. 1 acre lot with goldfish pond, grape arbor, large trees, and specimen azaleas, camellias, and tea olives. Approx 8x16 outbuilding and fenced back yard. 1/2 acre adjacent lot has basketball pad and adds privacy. Central Heat and AC. Home was built by Wilcox family in 1900 and current owners have owned it since 1988. Quiet neighborhood yet 3 blocks from groceries and downtown Darlington. Good neighbors.

Beautiful Victorian 1 story cottage on one acre wooded lot. Wrap around front porch with private screened sleeping porch off of bedrooms. Large yard with 6 pecan trees and a large magnolia. Large deck off of kitchen/family area. Hardwood floors throughout with tiled master bath and kitchen. Fancy door and window molding throughout. Two built in china cabinets. Built in ironing board. Large master closet. Private side yard. Beautiful old camellias, azalias and other specimen plants. Backyard goldfish pond.

Look you see the orange tabby? 

Grape Arbor by the pond.

It has a small library. This makes me swoon.

One of the two bathrooms. I love the window.
Linen and coat closets galore.

Built in china cabinets and ironing board.

One of the three bedrooms. They all have nice windows and doors like this.

This bedroom has a fireplace.

There's even a sugar maple tree on one side for fall color.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Florence update

This has been the strangest hurricane we've ever had.

The worst of the winds and flooding happened well north of us, although the storm is moving so very slowly that it's still making its way across South Carolina as I type this. We never lost electricity, although plenty of people around town did, and the water is just starting to rise in this area. Late last night people in two neighboring counties had to start evacuating due to flooding. Some of my cousins had to leave home, and my parents (who were without power for two days) are anxiously watching the water rise around their house and hoping they won't have to leave, too.

Meanwhile, it's just wet and windy and dull here, and I'm getting awfully tired of being stuck inside. I did venture out to the nearest grocery store this morning to try to get something to cook today. I didn't buy any perishable foods as the storm approached, because I really and truly thought our power was going to go out and stay out, so we've been eating canned meals and junk since Wednesday despite having electricity. I suppose I should be grateful I didn't have to heat it on a Coleman camp stove! So I drove the half mile to the nearest Food Lion, but although they were open, they had lost power for so long that there was NO perishable food available. No meat, no dairy, almost no fresh produce, and no frozen no home cooking again tonight! That's such a minor inconvenience I wouldn't dare complain when it could have been so very, very much worse.

We've been beyond fortunate with this storm. Last week when it looked like it was going to be absolutely devastating to this area people were really scared. I've never seen such a major evacuation and advance preparation by the state in response to a hurricane threat while the threat was still so far out in the Atlantic. Some of my most level headed, not-prone-to-drama friends were almost having panic attacks in the days leading up to Florence making landfall. Even my friend Marla, which surprised me. She's normally the last person to panic over a weather event, but I suppose having the baby to be responsible for now (not to mention new mama hormones) has made a big difference. Speaking of the baby...

Check out the look she's giving me while I snapped her picture! This was taken earlier this week when Marla brought her over for short visit ahead of the storm. Carsen is growing into such a serious baby. She looks at everything intently with the slightly knit brow that you see here. 

Thanks to everyone who left kind comments and good wishes for our safety during this storm on my last post! It meant a lot to me to see that so many people cared. You all are the best!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A ghost story

We're still awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Florence. The storm slowed down and is now expected to come ashore late tonight and then sit on top of South Carolina for two or three days. We're well prepared and I think we'll be fine, but it's been a long week of dread and I'll be glad when this is all over.

Whenever a hurricane blows through South Carolina, a legendary ghost story always comes up in conversation. It's been retold for generations now, the story of the Grey Man of Pawley's Island. My dad spent about 10 years of his childhood living near Pawley's and he grew up hearing it, and of course I grew up hearing it, too.

The Grey Man is a ghost that appears on the beach before a hurricane as a warning of what's to come. According to legend, anyone that sees the Grey Man will return to the area after the storm to find their home and possessions untouched, no matter how much damage and destruction surrounds them. Sightings have been reported for decades now, even down to this morning on the local weather Facebook page where someone claimed to have seen him yesterday afternoon. It just goes to show, the idea of the Grey Man is a solid part of South Carolina folklore.

Here is a great version of the story that I found on the Internet this morning if anyone is interested:

The Grey Man of Pawley's Island, SC

I'll check in as I'm able over the next few days and let you all know how we're faring through the storm. Too bad we're not close enough to the beach to go out for a walk (and hopefully a sighting!) of the Grey Man!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Batten down the hatches...

We have a real doozy of a storm headed our way. Hurricane Florence, with the same name as the city in Northeast South Carolina where I live, is headed our way with all the fury of legendary storms of the past. Our governor has already warned that Florence has the potential for "stronger winds than Hugo and more rain than Matthew". Hugo was the catastrophic hurricane of 1989 that people still shiver a little to mention, and Matthew caused historic devastating floods two years ago. People are panicking, and rightly so. The governor closed schools yesterday afternoon until further notice, ordered the mandatory evacuation of all coastal counties, and major highways that run to those coastal counties have been reversed as of noon today---all lines only go one way, out. All coastal counties are also in the process of a mandatory evacuation of all hospitals and nursing homes. It's serious business. I don't usually think much of Governor McMaster, but his response to this situation has been solid. He said in yesterday's press conference that it's better to be inconvenienced than to risk losing lives unnecessarily. I feel pretty good about the emergency preparations taking place in the state right now.

Here's the latest weather update from one of our local weather guys:

Ed Piotrowski WPDE
Hurricane and Storm Surge Watches have been issued for much of the South Carolina coast and all of the North Carolina coast.
Florence is going through an eye replacement cycle and has weakened a bit, but is expected to strengthen when that's done. It's possible it could become a category 5 hurricane over the next day or so. All indications point to Florence being a major hurricane on final approach to the Carolina coast. Conditions will go downhill Thursday with landfall Thursday night or early Friday.
Overall, the track has changed very little over the past 24 hours. The official forecast from the National Hurricane Center still shows Florence coming ashore in southeastern NC. IF that track didn't change, we would be on the weaker side of Florence with less wind and storm surge. Right now the odds of this scenario are 50%. This morning's model runs basically support the current track, but PLEASE do not let your guard down. The average error of the forecast track 2-3 days out is over 100 miles. IF Florence's track were to trend southward by 100 miles, we would bear the brunt of a category 4 hurricane. I still think the odds of that are 40%. There is no reason to take any chances. Prepare for the absolute worst and hope for the best. To sum it up, odds still favor a landfall in southeast NC, but a direct here is still on the table. See the two graphics I posted for what kind of wind would be possible with each scenario.
Lots of people asking about the European model showing a closer track to us. Of course, that is possible, but for what it's worth, so far with this hurricane, it has had one of the worst track records. With that said, the euro thinks the disturbance in the Caribbean sea will help to pump up the ridge off the coast forcing Florence closer to us. That cannot be discounted.
Phase 1 of Florence s the storm surge and wind potential. Phase 2 will be the potential for life-threatening flooding. The steering currents directing Florence are well established for now, but as Florence approaches the coast the steering currents will collapse, That means Florence will meander and drop extremely heavy rain...somewhere. Right now, its impossible to be specific, but eastern NC is most favored with 15-20" of rain possible. Keep in mind that slow-moving systems are often erratic in their movement and very difficult to forecast. IF Florence were to drift west after landfall in southeast NC, it would weaken but introduce the threat of extremely heavy rain in our area. I've talked about this possibility for days so PLEASE no it is possible.
It’s a very complicated forecast so things are going to change. I’ll keep you posted.
I will be LIVE ON FACEBOOK at 7:30pm. Note the change from my normal time of 8pm.

Gregg and I aren't too worried. We have plenty of non perishable food, water, batteries, flashlights, candles, camp stove fuel, and dog food put aside. I've bought extra snacks, ice (which will keep for days in our big chest freezer) and liquor to pass the time if we're stranded without electricity for a few days. Speaking of liquor, this popped up on my Facebook feed a little while ago from a local spirits, wine, and party supply store...

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May not be bread, milk or water...but we have you covered for Hurricane Florence.
-Mickey Finn's

And in the true spirit of South Carolinians facing a hurricane, here are a few funny memes that I've enjoyed this morning.
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Sunday, September 9, 2018

House hunting

I never knew that looking for a house would be as stressful as it's been so far. My assumption has always been that getting the financing figured out would be the hard part, but that ended up being a total piece of cake. It's the finding of the house that's the problem.

The inventory of available homes in this area is at an all time low, especially decent homes within our price range. We've set ourselves a limit of what we're willing to spend and it's a good bit below what we can actually afford to do. The plan is to put down a large enough down payment (somewhere between 30-40%) that we'll immediately have equity in the house, we won't have to pay private mortgage insurance, and we'll be able to afford the payments on a short (15 year) loan. We'll also be getting a better interest rate with a 15 year mortgage.

All that comes with a downside, though. We'll be saving money, especially over the long term, but it's hard to find something good when your cap is modest. Everything we see that manages to check off all of our wants and needs is anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 above what we've decided to spend. We've visited three houses so far that are right at our limit, price wise, and all three made my heart sink a little when I saw them. One was in a great neighborhood, but it was as bland as could be, just a little brick box with small rooms, few windows, and new but cheap updates done to the bathrooms and kitchens with everything (tiles, paint, cabinets) all neutral ugly shades of gray and beige. It did have a big nice backyard, though, and a wired workshop with heat and air conditioning that would make a great dog house. So it wasn't all bad. But it wasn't right, either.

Then there was the house that looked so promising! It was tucked away in a nice older neighborhood with a live oak in the front yard, a porch and deck out back, nice hardwood floors, a big backyard for the dogs, and on and on.....but the pictures were better than the reality. The floors really were nice, but the appliances and cabinets in the kitchen were worn out, and the screened porch was actually kind of shabby, and the deck out back was all but falling down and would have to be dealt with. And this house was a tiny bit above our budget, anyway. Had it been as awesome in person as it looked in pictures, it might be worth a trifling extra $5000 or so to have it, but it was shabby and needed a lot of repairs.

The third house we've seen was the biggest disappointment. It showed up on the realty sites Friday afternoon and looked perfect for us. It was in a small community less than 10 miles outside downtown Florence, and was beautifully updated. It's a roomy 2400 sq. feet but with only two big bedrooms and two bathrooms. It has a long, wide front porch with a carport underneath one side, a large lot with a privacy fence around it, new roof, new gleaming floors and appliances, new windows...and altogether very nice. It was exactly what we're looking to spend, and we hoped that the only thing wrong with it was being a little bit out of town (as well as having only 2 bedrooms). Well, we drove out there yesterday, and we were so let down to see what the problem was....the location. The property is surrounded by tiny little falling down trailer houses. It looks like a really low income country trailer park on two sides. Hence the privacy fence, I suppose. Please don't think I'm being a snob, our concern is more for our personal safety (and the safety of our property when we're away all day at work) than the appearance of the area. The house that's for sale looked even better than in the pictures, by the way. It seemed well kept and gleaming in the sunlight, the yard was neatly maintained, and the road beside it leads to a small creek which would be a great place to walk our dogs. It's obvious, though, that the location is the only reason we can afford the house in the first place. I'm still not totally sure what to think about this one, but I don't think it's the one, either.

I'm beginning to be afraid that nothing that fits our budget is going to work out, and I hate the thought of going over what we decided upon. And already I've found myself getting irritable with my husband over minor disagreements in what we're hoping for and what compromises we're going to be willing to make. We rarely argue and so I know when I get irritable enough to burst at him (and the feeling is mutual, I'm sure) I know it has more to do with our stress levels than anything else. That's when it's time to take a break from talking about the house hunt, even though we're both thinking about it all the time.

I'm trying to have faith that the right home is out there for us, and when we find it it will be something we can afford. It's hard to be patient, though.

Saturday, September 8, 2018


I swear I think the elements are out to get me. Remember how, at the end of the summer, I had a series of appliance breakdowns that shared a common theme of the four elements? Our washing machine died (water) followed shortly by the dryer (air) and then our lawnmower caught on fire (earth and fire). Well, the same thing seems to be happening again, but at the school where I work!

The first Friday after the kids came back a main city water line in front of the school broke, and we had no water for four hours. This meant that the cafeteria had no water, the fountains didn't work, and worst of all, we couldn't flush the toilets! You can imagine what a mess that quickly became. One kid misunderstood when the teacher said they could only go if it was an absolute emergency, and he thought he couldn't go to the restroom at all, and he ended up wetting his pants. (I'm surprised his parents didn't show up at the school the next day, raising hell). One kid got sick and vomited all over his desk and the floor of his classroom, and the nurses had to clean him up with bottled water. The adults were embarrassed to have to "go" in toilets they couldn't flush, and the whole school was in a bit of an uproar. The only reason the superintendent didn't just let us dismiss early and go home was the fact that the city was out working on the break immediately, and the logistics of getting the word out to parents and then rearranging the bus routes (over half the kids ride buses) is no small task. Our school alone has almost 1000 students out of the 16,000 total in the district. It threw the whole day off, and by the time the water was fixed we only had about an hour and half left. Everyone was relieved when it was finally time to just go home!

The next Friday, all of a sudden the fire alarms went off during second lunch. We hadn't planned a fire drill (we would never have a drill during lunch anyway, that's a recipe (ha!) for utter chaos) so the whole school had to be immediately evacuated. It was crazy...the kids were laughing, shouting, and running while their harried teachers herded them out of the building while trying to maintain some control. The administrators (principal and three assistant principals) were running around the building with bullhorns and walkies trying to confirm that all classes were together and everyone was accounted for. Then the fire engines arrived, all blaring horns and flashing lights. The kids were overexcited and having a field day (literally). And when the firefighters finally determined that it was a faulty wire in one of the smoke alarms had triggered the whole incident, and nothing was actually on fire, well, the fun didn't end there! Because by that time half the parents were frantically calling the school, thanks to their little darlings texting them during all the excitement. The story had grown and grown until parents were telling me that they had heard that not only was the school on fire, but that there were ambulances lined up out front and several fire engines battling the blaze. I got to spend the next hour answering the phone and explaining that it was merely a defective smoke alarm, and yes, we were all fine, and no, they didn't need to come pick up their child. It was a hell of a day!

You see where I'm going with this? One week, we had a water incident. The next, we had a fire fiasco. So what's going on this week? What might be the next elemental occurrence that will disrupt our school? Hmmmm......

It's even got our city's name on it. Florence.

As the storm moves over the warm Atlantic, it's almost certain to strengthen and become a hurricane. If a hurricane comes this way, we're going to have to look out for strong winds (air). I can't help but believe that we're probably in for it.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The other man

My husband has had to accept the fact that there's another man in my life. And isn't he handsome?!

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My sweet Georgie. :)