Friday, July 27, 2012

A (much needed) break!

Hi Everyone! Guess who's off work for an entire week?

This girl!

Today starts one full week of rest, relaxation, and fun for me. I have been hoarding vacation time at work so that I could have two full weeks off this year...this week, and the first week of October. The next 7 days are going to be filled with cooking, time outdoors, crafting and party planning with a friend on Sunday (our 2nd annual Mid Autumn Moon festival is coming up, and it's going to be a much bigger event this year), a trip to the beach one day next week with another friend, a small cookout with GB and a couple we know, birthday lunch and cake with my dad on Monday, and plenty of time in the backyard hammock with a book and cold, summery cocktails. Preferably margaritas. Which is what I'm drinking as I type this.

Let the summertime fun begin!!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Farmer's market goodies

Our local farmer's markets are just full of wonderful fresh vegetables and fruits this time of year. Yesterday, I visited a small farm outlet that sells truly good things--grass fed, organic, humanely raised milk, eggs, cheeses, beef, chicken, pork, and lamb--as well as seasonal organic vegetables and local honey. I wanted to buy everything I saw! There were baskets full of heirloom tomatoes, eggplants, summer squash, cucumbers, peppers, herbs, garlic, watermelons, figs, and I'm sure lots of things I've forgotten.

I ended up buying a large bag of tomatoes. Some were unidentified medium reds, but I also scored several Cherokee Purples and Green Zebras. I also bought garlic, green peppers, and a bag of shade grown, organic coffee that the farmers sell in cooperation with a company called Larry's Beans out of Raleigh, NC. The variety of coffee I chose is called "3 Moon Peru" and it's delicious (I'm having a cup as I type this) with a medium-bodied, smooth, mellow flavor. After I got home last night, I made a marinade/rub of crushed garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary, marjoram, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper and coated some chicken breasts and boneless pork chops with it. Then I fired up some natural mesquite hardwood on the grill, and cooked enough meat for the next several nights. To accompany the meats, I made saffron rice, grilled asparagus (with butter, lemon, and sea salt), and sliced fresh tomatoes . It was so good! I love summer foods! I was sorely tempted to buy some figs for dessert, but I have a kind neighbor with a giant tree that's full of figs, and he's promised me a bucketful. A small container (maybe a pint's worth) at the market was selling for $6, which I thought was just too expensive when I can have all I want for free. I love figs! One day, when we have a home of our own, I plan to have several trees, since they have nice foliage as well as luscious summer fruit. My maternal grandparents had several fruit trees and a large garden in their backyard, and one day I hope to have the same. They had peach, plum, pear and fig trees, and when I was very small they had a couple of pomegranate trees as well (I don't remember them past my early childhood...possibly they died, as did an apple tree by the back door).

I credit those same grandparents with my love of almost all fresh vegetables, including fall greens like collards, turnips, and mustard greens. My grandfather was born into a sharecropper's family and had grown up in a time when poor people had to grow a lot of the food they needed to survive. By the time I came along (60 years later) he lived in town and worked in a factory, but a large portion of his free time was spent maintaining a large garden, and everyone in our family had chest freezers to put away the bounty of produce he grew each year. By the time I was in grade school, he had retired, so I spent summers with him and often had to help him work in his garden. It was hot, sweaty, tiring work, but I remember how proud I was the year we planted his always-huge field of butter beans and field peas, just the two of us. I overheard him bragging to a neighbor, "Me and that youngun' there planted all them beans ourselves this year!" Of course, when "all them beans" grew and were ready to be picked, all of the family (and a neighbor or two) had to help pick, and then shell them. Everyone ended up with plenty of beans to last through the winter for their efforts--he grew bushels! That was in addition to all the other things he planted--tomatoes and squash, okra and cucumbers, corn and fiery cayenne peppers. Then, in the fall, his entire garden plot was given over to greens which could last through most of the winter. He wasn't playing around about feeding his family! And although his grand kids were like free slave labor (he was raised with that mindset, after all!) we learned to appreciate fresh vegetables and homemade meals made with quality ingredients. There was none of this modern phenomenon of kids living on chicken nuggets and other fast food travesties. People my age complain how their kids won't eat anything besides nuggets, mac and cheese, and burgers....I say it's their own fault! When I was growing up, you ate what the rest of the family ate, period. There were home cooked meals every day, and if you didn't like the food served, it was no big could just go hungry! I don't remember me or my cousins ever being "picky eaters" thanks to the fact that kids just simply didn't dictate what they got to have for meals. And of course, the adults in our family actually cooked real food almost every single day (while working full time, I might add) so we never got exposed to so much fast food as we were growing up. Going out for a burger and fries, or a sit down restaurant meal, was a special occasion, not a regular "time saving" occurrence!

I can only shake my head at people feeding their families so much junk. Even though my little family consists of only my husband and me, we eat real food, and although it takes a bit more time to shop for, cook, and clean up after homemade meals, I consider it an act of love to provide good food for us. Especially in the summer, when the local farmers are producing such a bounty of good things!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Well, crap...

What a week! And I don't mean that in a good way!

First, I went online to make my car payment. I submitted it, then checked the next day to make sure it had gone through. It wasn't there. What was there was a big red notice that my payment was past due. So I panicked, and made a payment again, only to discover (as I hit "confirm") that there was a disclaimer that said "payments may take up to three days to show on your online statement". Of course it was the weekend, and I just had to wait and see if I had paid twice. And guess what? I had. When I called the customer service number yesterday to see what we could do about it, the nice guy on the phone was apologetic, but the only thing they can do about it is to issue me a paper check refund....which would take minimum 10 days to get here. It wouldn't help my bank account now. So I am holding my breath that we don't end up overdrawn because of this nonsense. On the bright side, we won't have a car payment in August...not that that's helping our poor bank account now.

Another reason I'm worried about overdrawing my account also has to do with my car. At the end of April we traded in a 2007 Toyota Corolla for a 2012 model. We got our tax bill at the end of May, and the property taxes were due at the end of June. I went up to the tax office and paid, and they said my 2013 decal would arrive in the mail; I just needed to have my receipt with me in case I got pulled over. So I waited. And waited. Eventually (this past weekend) I got a notice from the DMV that I had paid taxes on the wrong Corolla. Which meant leaving work early, going to the tax office to straighten out the mess, and discovering we owed another $200 above what we had already paid. After I (reluctantly) paid the difference, I had to go to the third circle of hell  DMV office and get my decal. What a hassle!

So now I've paid out over $500 unexpectedly this week, and I'm hoping our bank account stays afloat until we get paid on Friday. If it doesn't, then we're going to  get hit with service charges, which will really piss me off.  What a bunch of crap!

Mercury is retrograde...and although I don't put a whole lot of faith in astrology....this is just fitting! So I'm blaming Mercury!!!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Fun weekend

This morning I woke up to the sound of cicadas humming outside.  It's a sign that summer is in it's late stages when we hear these little creatures in the morning. Early in the season, it seems they mostly sing in the evening. We finally had another week of rainy weather, which broke the incredible heatwave we were experiencing. It's still hot, but a normal level of hot, not 100F+ each day. That gets old quick! Especially when the power bill comes in.  The latest bill is a scorcher, too!

It's been a sociable summer for me. Old friends have been calling and visiting much more frequently (since GB is continuing to recover) and we've been invited out several times now. I have actually made some new friends, too, which is exciting. And last night we went to a dinner party given by my brother-in-law's family.  There was good food, good wine, and good conversation, and we got to catch up with family members and friends we hadn't seen in awhile. A good time was had by all...almost too much of a good time, as I woke up today with a pounding headache from all the wine and champagne! We were celebrating a milestone birthday, and my brother-in-law's wife doesn't believe in a guest seeing the bottom of their glass....but it was totally worth it!

Today an old friend is coming over to have lunch with me. We haven't had a chance to get together for awhile so we will be catching up and possibly knitting, too. (We love to stitch-n-bitch!) I was able to get rid of my headache so hopefully I won't be too hung over to enjoy more company.

It's been a fun weekend. I hope you all are having a good one too!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Catching up

All kinds of crazy things have been happening around here lately!

One of the worst troublemakers at my job got fired this week.....and is likely facing criminal prosecution to boot!

Lest I seem cruel in sounding excited, this is a coworker that has helped make the last few months at work very unpleasant for me. She had aligned herself with my arch nemesis and together they were out to get me. So all I can say is...HA!!! (As petty as that probably makes me).  It's just soooo very satisfying when a passive aggressive, lying, manipulative thief  (ahem) coworker finally has their true colors revealed!  And karma will get you every time. I firmly believe that.

We are in the thick of summer here. I've made some trips to the farmer's market and we're feasting on fresh veggies and fruits every day. We've been eating sweet corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, blueberries, tomatoes, okra, peaches, and string beans. Our neighbor's fig tree is loaded with almost-ripe fruit and he has promised me a bucket full as soon as they're ready.

I've received two very special gifts (both unexpected) in the last week as well. One from my mother, and one from my grandmother. I plan to blog about them later this week, when I can do both justice with a post all their own. For now, suffice it to say that I have been the grateful recipient of lots of love from my family lately. I am a lucky girl.

Sometimes good  karma comes back to you, too!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sultry, sweltering

It's too darn hot.

Today the temperature has reached 106F for the third day in a row. The heat index is up around 115F, and it's downright dangerous to do anything outdoors without taking proper precautions. Keeping hydrated, wearing loose breathable clothing, and taking cool showers are almost necessary when the heat and humidity go this high.

My car thermometer registered 118F after sitting in a sunny parking lot for an hour. Need I even say how hellish it is to get into your car on a day like this?

  It has turned cloudy and thunder is rumbling in the distance. We might get a big booming thunderstorm to finish off the afternoon--I sure hope so! Maybe this heat will break, and I do love a strong summer storm. With temps this high, if a storm comes, it's sure to be a good one!

Welcome to July in South Carolina.