Wednesday, January 27, 2016

That springtime itch!

Cro's mention of taking cuttings and growing soft fruits in his last blog post got me thinking about how much I want to have a garden of my own. His "Haddocks" is a joy to read about. I love the idea of growing most of the fruits and vegetables that the family eats.

Something most people reading here probably don't know about me is that I used to do a fair bit of gardening.  I spent a large chunk of my twenties slightly obsessed with growing heirloom tomatoes and trading seeds with other similarly obsessed people from all over the world. I grew dozens of plants in my small rental backyard and in large containers each year, and also kept fairly good notes on all the varieties that I tried. Most years I'd also grow a few pepper plants with the odd cucumber thrown in along with the tomatoes. The soil was a challenge and I spent years improving it, even going so far as having a small compost bin that I worked on faithfully. Just when the garden  soil was finally getting nice and fertile, we moved. Since then I've been reluctant to put so much effort into doing that again in a rental house. We're finally starting to make plans to find a realtor and to buy a home of our own, and it will have to have a good yard for making a garden!

Even though I'm not in a place right now to do any seed starting, this time of year always reawakens the urge in me to do just that. I find myself browsing the seed catalogs and daydreaming about what I'd pick if I could. Something about the lengthening days at the end of January calls to my soul, and I want to see tiny delicate green sprouts popping up. Normally when germinating vegetable seeds I'd start about 6 weeks before our average last frost date, which around here ends up being early to mid February. It's almost time!

Seed Catalogs from Smithsonian Institution Libraries:
To your table from your garden.  Plant Ferry's Seeds.:

YUMMY yellow tomatoes!! burpee seeds 1944:

Monday, January 25, 2016

Voodoo in South Carolina

As incredible as it may seem, Voodoo is still alive and well here in my home state. You still hear about people putting "roots" (spells) out on other people, especially in poor, rural, predominantly African American parts of SC. Here is a link to an interesting article about Voodoo and the famous Dr. Buzzard of Beaufort county.

Sunday, January 24, 2016


This morning dawned gloriously bright and sunny, although still quite cold. The little bit of ice and the brief snow flurries we got didn't amount to much. The East coast only a few miles north of here is in dire straits with the massive winter storm that passed through, but we got lucky.

I snapped a picture of Ginger yesterday with snowflakes on her fur. She looks kind of disgusted here, but that's because she hates it when I take her picture. She doesn't mind cold weather.

My sweet girl 

I'm doing my best to shake off the bad mood I've been in lately. I have a lot to be grateful for and I do try to remember that. And so many people have real worries and sorrows that I feel guilty when I'm feeling down for too long.

Remember the high school friend that I provided transportation to and from the hospital for a couple of weeks ago? Her 19 year old son passed away yesterday. That's the second child she's lost to Duchenne's muscular dystrophy. She's 42 years old and two of her three children have died (her daughter is healthy and not a carrier of the disease, thank goodness). I cannot imagine how terrible her grief must be.

So today I'm going to make sure the people I care about know how much I love them. And I'm going to enjoy the nice weather, and my cosy house, and my comfortable life. I'm going to practice gratitude instead of ruminating on the parts of my life that I want to change.

Have a happy Sunday, everyone!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Nothing much to say....

It's cold and icy here tonight at the very southern edge of the winter storm battering the East coast. I left work early today. I've been depressed and hating my job more than ever and this afternoon it all felt like just.....too much. I needed to be at home with Gregg and the furry/feathered ones, getting comfortable and feeling loved.   I stopped for Chinese takeout on the way home. Hot Egg Drop soup was just the thing for dinner on an evening like this.

I took a couple of pictures of the ice-laden trees this afternoon and I'll share them here even though they aren't anything special :

Now I'm bundled up in bed, nice and toasty, with a book. We may get some snow tonight, and more ice, but it probably won't be too bad. For all my friends further North, stay safe and warm.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Winter afternoon

It's the coldest day of the year so far. The thermometer hit a low of 20°F last night and the high today isn't above freezing. Tonight may be even colder.

I'm having the best kind of cozy winter day at home.

Vegetable beef soup has been simmering in the crockpot on low heat since yesterday afternoon. It's making the whole house smell good.

I'm reading The Once and Future King by T.H. White. It's like reading it for the first time since I was probably only 13 years old (or thereabouts) when I read it before. It's excellent so far.  I like wandering around ancient England with the Wart.

Later on today, I'm planning to resurrect my long-dead knitting project. I saw a hat on Facebook this morning made by a member of a local knitting group that was truly beautiful. The urge to begin knitting again is upon me. I'd better take advantage of it and see if any progress can be made on this cowl. I'm longing to wear it eventually.

One last thing I plan to do today,  no matter what,  is take the dogs down to the park at the end of the street. They need a good walk (so do I) and they love our little neighborhood park.  A pair of large red bellied woodpeckers live there, and dozens of squirrels. It should be deserted otherwise on a cold weekday afternoon like this.

Have a good day, my friends.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Getting crafty!

I'm glad this week is finally over. It was a sad and depressing one for a lot of reasons, and I've been looking forward to having the weekend off.

Today was cold, but beautiful. I met up with a friend for breakfast first thing in the morning, and then spent the afternoon shopping for a craft project I had planned. After dinner tonight I sat down with a glass of wine and worked on it. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out so I wanted to show it to you!

Tomorrow I'll be attending a baby shower for my pregnant friend Marla. I found this super cute gift idea for her on Pinterest.

It's a Diaper Baby Basket!

The "babies" are made with rolled up diapers, tiny newborn socks, and multi colored bibs. I added some lotions, diaper rash cream, and baby powder to the basket, too.

I hope Marla likes her gift!

Friday, January 15, 2016


O plunge your hands in water, 
Plunge them in up to the wrist; 
Stare, stare in the basin,
And wonder what you’ve missed.

The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

~W.H. Auden

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Never lonely

With a parrot in the house, I never have any reason to feel lonely. Ever.

When Marco hears the water start running, he screams, "SHOWER! Wanna take a SHOWER!!" It's best to just go get him and let him participate, otherwise he'll scream bloody murder the whole time.

There's never a dull moment at my house!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A one-stop hillbilly food shop!

Earlier today I tried to come up with something interesting to blog about and kept drawing a blank. Then I went out in the afternoon to shop and hit upon just the thing to show you all!

There's a new shopping center downtown and I've been curious about one of the stores in it. Since I was headed that way to pick up something next door, I decided to stop in and satisfy my curiousity. I mean, how could anyone not be curious about this:

Beef Jerky outlet? How weird is that? I wondered if it was possibly just an ironic name for something else.  But no. It's exactly what it sounds like. And so much more!!

They have literally barrels-full of different types of dried meats. Hundreds, probably.

There were barbeque sauces, spice rubs, and Cajun seasoning.

Weirdo dried vegetables.....

and pickles of various kinds.

Sweet stuff.....

and oh my God, apparently this is a thing. Dried insects. For people. To eat.

Chocolate covered ants......

and tequila worm suckers. Who the hell eats this shit?!

There were also the more typical (but still kinda gross) fried pork skins.

Check out the décor of the place. You can't move anywhere in the room without eyes following you.

And last, but not least, they sell t-shirts. In case you can't read them, they say:

* Tree huggin' is long as you're climbing up to your DEER STAND!

* VEGETARIAN--Ancient tribal slang for the village idiot who can't hunt, fish, or ride.

* WARNING You are entering a RED NECK AREA. You may encounter American flags, armed citizens, the Lord's Prayer, country music, and beef jerky.

* I like cats I just can't eat a whole one by myself!


An employee who was obviously very proud of her new store followed me around, offering me samples and telling me about how this location is "the 53rd opened in the USA so far!" She was very enthusiastic. I asked her if they mostly get Doomsday Pepper types in, but she assured me that all kinds of people love jerky. Oh. Okay.

I bought one tiny can of Cajun spices since I'd spent so long walking around taking pictures and I hated to not buy something. When Miss Jerky Enthusiast rang me up she slipped a free bumper sticker in my bag.

And no, I won't be putting that on the Scion.

Friday, January 8, 2016

My big baby

George had to go to the vet for his yearly checkup and shots yesterday. He wasn't a happy boy.

He started to whine in the backseat about halfway there. This was a first. I'm not sure where he thought he was going. I hope, after all this time, he didn't think I was taking him back to the shelter.

The vet just moved into a brand new office. When we got there, George really started to whimper. He stuck by my side like glue while we waited in the lobby. Look at these sad eyes:

When we finally got called back into the examining room to wait, he paced around and seemed really worried. He also kept going to check out what was going on on the other side of the half door:

When the doc and his assistant came in and started their examination, George was still quite nervous. I'm not sure why; the whole staff is very kind and affectionate with both of our dogs. And when they gave him his shots (with tiny little needles) he cried out like a baby. Ginger never bats an eye, but George acted like we were killing him. So much for the big, tough, macho pit bull!

We made sure he got lots of love and treats after arriving home, the big baby!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


I've been thinking about kindness a lot since reading John Gray's thoughts about it on Sunday. One thing in particular that he said has stuck with me: "Kindness often never solves anything. But it softens the misery."

While thinking about the subject of kindness and looking for opportunities to be kind to others, I opened Facebook the other night and saw my chance. A woman I went to high school with was posting an update about her son who's in the hospital. She was one of my best friends during our teenage years, but then we drifted apart after graduation and only recently reconnected via Facebook. Her life has been terribly sad. She had three children, two of which were boys born with a genetic disease that is fatal ( Her older son passed away a few years ago. The younger is deteriorating rapidly and will almost certainly not live much longer. He's currently in the hospital with pneumonia and has been put on a ventilator. I cannot even imagine the pain and sorrow this woman has had to endure in her life, losing one child and the prospect of losing another looming. Her husband was injured in the Middle East (he was in the army) and can't work, and of course with two terminally ill kids she's never been able to have a job, either. I know they receive government aid and benefits, but it's obvious that they're quite poor despite that.

Here's where a pet peeve of mine comes in, and I hope I don't offend anyone. There was a giant chorus of  "I'll pray for you!" "You're in our prayers!" "Prayers going up!!" etc etc on her Facebook page when she posted the update on her son's condition. I hate that. Because to my ears, what that really sounds like is "we can't be bothered to actually do something to help you so we'll just say we're praying and then we don't have to feel guilty about not getting off our asses and taking some responsibility to help". Now, I realize some people truly believe that their prayers are helpful or else that's the automatic response they've been raised to give when someone is in trouble. When Gregg was fighting cancer I always thanked people for their prayers, but I can tell you from first hand experience that a prayer doesn't do shit to help when you're scared, or hurting, or in trouble. The people who stand out in my memory are the ones who stopped by, called, dropped off food, offered to run errands, or came over to simply sit and watch TV with Gregg while he was undergoing chemotherapy and had a lot of long, lonely hours at home to fill when I was at work. The people who actually DID something.

So back to this woman, I sent her a private message on Facebook and asked her what I could do for her. I learned that the family doesn't own a car and what she really needed was a ride home for her and her daughter. The hospital where her son is currently in ICU is right down the road from my house, but the family lives an hour away. She and her husband have been depending on rides from family and friends to take turns staying at the hospital.  She asked if I'd be willing to drive her and her daughter home to shower and get some rest, and bring her husband back with me and drop him off at the hospital on my way home. So that's what I did. I also brought some graphic novels for the sick boy (his mom had told me he likes them) and a bunch of free ARC (advance reader copy ) teen books for her daughter. Hours spent at the hospital are long hours and I hope the girl enjoys the books. The sick boy won't be able to read his until later--for now while he's on a ventilator they're keeping him sedated.

So that's how I spent my afternoon today. Did I particularly want to do it? To be honest, no. I'm no saint, and this woman and I aren't going to be rekindling the friendship we had in high school. Saying we're very different people now would be a huge understatement. And did the rides I gave them make a big difference in their lives? Again, no. It was just a single day that was a tiny bit easier for them in the midst of many, many hard days. But I do hope that for a little while their misery was softened because someone cared a little bit.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

How the year began

Welcome to a brand new year! I hope everyone reading had a nice time ringing in 2016.

 I spent the day traveling with Gregg up to Raleigh to visit his sister in the hospital. I'm happy to report that she's in a positive frame of mind, and is beginning physical therapy determined to overcome her multiple injuries as quickly and completely as possible. And she was so glad to see her big brother! She got emotional when we arrived, and then again when we were leaving. I stepped out of the room to give them a few quiet moments alone together before we left for home.

It must be such a comfort in life to have siblings. I was touched by how much they love each other. I always really wanted a brother, or even a sister, but it was not to be. Gregg is lucky to have one of both, although he's closer to Karen than to their brother Gary. All three of them love and support each other, though.

One of the best parts about visiting Raleigh was seeing how well Edythe (my mother-in-law ) is doing. She has early stage dementia and had been going downhill some over the past 6 months, but on Friday we saw the most wonderful improvement in her! Gregg thinks it's because she has a purpose in life again, taking care of her daughter. She was like her old self; her mind was clear, there was a spring in her step, and she's happily spending hours at the hospital taking on the role of mother hen. I wonder how many old people with diminishing facilities simply need to feel needed again to stop the downhill slide? All in all, a good day even if we spent a lot of it driving there and back.

Since we didn't arrive home until late on the first, I cooked the traditional New Year's Day meal yesterday. Eating black-eyed peas and greens is supposed to bring good luck and money in the year ahead. I
 wonder if it still counts a day late? Either way, it was nice to have a simple home-cooked meal after all the rich food we've been consuming lately.

Black-eyed peas slowly simmered with the leftover Christmas hambone, and onions, celery, a bay leaf, and vegetable broth. These are always served over white rice (Hoppin' John) and sprinkled liberally with hot sauce.

Collards would have been more traditional, but I opted for cabbage because it's easier ( and Gregg won't eat greens either way).  Hot pepper vinegar MUST be served slongside greens. Also skillet cornbread, which I made but didn't get a picture of.
Once again, Happy New Year everyone. I hope it's filled with family love, good food, luck, and money for us all!