Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A pretty flop

Eating gluten free is getting old, and I still have at least two more weeks to go before I can say I've given it a fair shot. I've had to get creative when my resolve starts to waver. Making something new look appetizing helps a lot. This was dessert the other night, made with a gluten free graham cracker crust I found at the Food Lion down the road:

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That's cheesecake flavor Jello pudding pie with fresh strawberries on top. It looks way better than it tasted!

The berries are out of season supermarket specimens that had very little taste. The pudding was okay, but I would have preferred plain vanilla or banana crème, since it seemed weird to have a cream cheese flavor without the true richness of cream cheese. You know? And the crust was okay taste wise, like a normal graham cracker crumb, but it didn't hold together well for slicing.

All in all, a really lackluster pie. It was pretty, though!

I bought a gluten free chocolate brownie mix to try tonight. I'm hoping it turns out better than the pie!
I'll report back tomorrow. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018


Spring has arrived super early here with everything bursting into bloom almost a whole month sooner than normal. It seems strange when late February looks and feels more like April. It's been up to 85 degrees every afternoon. I've been wearing shorts for a week.

It's a lovely time of year in South Carolina, and my favorite season by far. It's so nice outside today that I'm inspired to share some photos with you. The first was taken by me in my backyard this morning. The rest are courtesy of my friend since childhood, Trey, and were taken in our hometown in Marion County, SC as well as Myrtle Beach, SC, which is only about a 45 minute drive from where we grew up. (Thanks for letting me use these, Trey. I really appreciate it!)

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Dramatic morning sky.

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Flat, flat land.

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Early flowering trees.

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Life in the country

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Sunset on the Little Pee Dee river.
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Sunrise over Myrtle Beach, SC.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Saturday Night

What's a typical Saturday night for you?

For me tonight is a standard example.

Gregg and I are at home with the pets. I'm having a gin and tonic with lime while I cook our dinner, which happens to be Mexican food. Ground beef with tomatoes and taco spices, corn tortillas, guacamole and lettuce, shredded soft white cheese and sour cream. Fresh pineapple for dessert. There's '80s music playing on my TV's Pandora station while I chop and peel, stir and sip. Gems like this:

After we eat there will be a good walk for the dogs. The weather had been gorgeous, warm and spring like, and it will be a great night for a walk around the neighborhood. 

Then I'll have another drink or two, and we'll likely watch a movie before heading to bed. Not an exciting Saturday night, maybe, but I feel wonderfully content all the same.

Have a good one, everyone! 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Luck and timing

Continuing on the topic of how lucky I feel to have my job at the school, I wanted to talk about how fortunate the timing of it has been for me.

Anyone who's been reading my blog for awhile knows how much I hated my job at the bookstore. I never named the chain that I worked for, but now that I'm safely done with the place I finally feel okay telling you it was Barnes & Noble. And just like all other brick and mortar bookstores, it's had its fair share of problems in the last few years.  In their efforts to restore lost profitability and keep the chain afloat, upper management has made some really terrible business decisions. These decisions ultimately started driving away the best people and ruining morale all the way down to the individual store level. All across the country, it's becoming known as a terrible place to work these days, which is a real shame.

Anyhow, last August we got a letter stating that the health insurance we had through B&N (which had been one of the few goods things for us about my time working there) would no longer consider the hospital we use or any of its associated physicians "in network". For my non-American friends, that means that if we chose to keep our doctors, including Gregg's oncologist and pulmonologist, we would have to bear almost all of the cost. We would have had no choice but to find new doctors at the other hospital in Florence, and that would have been very bad. The very day that I got the letter from the insurance company, I had gone down to the school district office and signed up for new, better health insurance through the state thanks to the new job I had just been offered! How lucky was that? 
And what great timing.

Then last week I read about how Barnes & Noble had announced they were getting rid of several full time positions and cutting their workforce by 15%. The next day, I went back to my old store and found out that the Receiving Manager (he's worked there for 10 years) had just lost his job, and so had two full time Head Cashiers. I feel so bad for the three of them! The company strategy is to hire part time people to replace them...and of course part time means no benefits like health insurance or paid sick time or vacation. They told the three people they let go (one of whom gave 10 years of service) that they can be part timers starting over at minimum wage without any benefits! Can you believe the f****g nerve of that?! As far as I'm concerned, Barnes & Noble can just die and go away now. Any company that treats its employees like that doesn't deserve to stay in business.

I got out of there just in the nick of time. All the more reason to thank my lucky stars every day for my new job.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

School Days

I'm finding that I really like working in a school. Of course, I was thrilled when I first got the job because I had been looking to make a change for a long time, and I found that I had landed in a mostly positive environment where I'm treated well. But aside from that, I've discovered that I enjoy the kids far more than I expected to, given that they're in the dreaded middle school age group.

Working in the front office, I get to know the students far more intimately than I expected; not only am I the one in charge of entering all of the discipline referrals into the district website, but I'm the first point of contact for parents, coaches, DSS caseworkers, and anyone else who visits or calls the school. You learn quickly which kids have bad home situations, or highly involved "helicopter" parents, or medical conditions that must be closely monitored by the school nurses, and on and on. There's never a dull moment, and there's always something interesting going on.

And while kids in the throes of puberty can be real pains in the ass sometimes, they can be incredibly endearing, too. They are so funny; I laugh hard every single day over something they say or do. Just yesterday, a silly, talkative, always-in-trouble 13 year old girl said to me (of a young teacher from Jamaica who abruptly decided to resign and go back home) "I'm so sad Ms. Cooper left! I was the very first kid she ever wrote up!" She was just beaming with pride over that fact! How can you not laugh at that? As for endearing......on Wednesday a dad came to the office and signed in as a visitor. He asked if he could go sit in on his son's class, so I called the 7th grade counselor to come walk him down to the room where the boy was. When she came back, there were tears in her eyes. She told me she had knocked on the door and said, "Davez's dad is here to visit" to the teacher. The boy's head popped up and he said, "My dad? My dad's here?!" and ran to the front to hug his father in front of his whole class. Of 13 year olds. It turned out dad was a long-distance trucker who had been gone a couple of months and his homecoming was a surprise. How sweet is that? I teared up a little bit, too!

Even the troubled kids that aren't always easy to like don't bother me. I have empathy for them and try to show them nothing but kindness and respect. Most of them, even those with the worst behavior problems, respond well to calm, friendly attention from an adult. Exasperated teachers who treat them with thinly veiled contempt only make the problems worse, in my opinion. Of course, I realize that's easy for me to see and to say, since I just work in the office. Thank goodness the burned out, don't-really-like-kids type of teachers (we've all had them) are rare where I work, although there are a couple. We're lucky to have really good administrators (the principal and three assistant principals) and superior guidance counselors.

Also, have I mentioned lately that I love following a school schedule? It's a three day weekend for President's Day, and we'll be off the first week of April for spring break, which will be here in a flash. And summer is drawing ever closer--my first summer entirely free since I was a school kid myself!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sweet surprise

When I returned to my desk after lunch today, I had a sweet surprise had been delivered for me! This was the first time I've ever had flowers delivered to me at work. They brightened up my desk and the reception area all afternoon...aren't they pretty?

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My husband is so good to me. I just love that man!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mid February

Last week felt more like March than February. It's been warm, wet, and windy outside, and according to the weather forecast, we're in for another week of the same. I hope that everything won't rush to start budding too soon; we're almost guaranteed to have more freezing weather before it's all said and done. 

The birds and squirrels seem to love the break in the cold. The birds are much more active all of a sudden and they've become very vocal, especially first thing in the morning. Young squirrels (probably born last autumn) are scampering heedlessly all over the yard--just yesterday I startled two of them by walking around a corner while they were at play and not paying attention. They're so funny to watch.

Tomorrow is the beginning of Lent, and a lot of my Catholic friends will be giving up something that they enjoy from now until Easter. It occurred to me today that I've got a head start on them, since I've given up gluten since the beginning of the month. Tomorrow will be two weeks! Soon I should have some idea if gluten contributes to my skin condition. So far, I haven't had any big eczema flares, just a couple of  short episodes of mild itching. I can't decide yet if it's making a difference or not.

Tomorrow is also Valentine's Day! Not that it's a very big deal in this house. I usually cook a nice dinner and maybe buy some chocolate for dessert, but Wednesday is Gregg's night to work late. I'm not sure it will be worth it to go to extra trouble with a meal that we won't be able to eat until 8pm or later (on a work night). The special meal may have to wait until the weekend...or better yet, once I finish my gluten free trial. I miss bread so bad!!

Are any of you giving up something for Lent? Or have big plans for Valentine's Day? If so I'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

A little bit of paradise...

.........beneath my bedroom window. The orchids and violets are doing well there.

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Week one, done.

I've been gluten free for exactly a week now. So far, it hasn't been too difficult. I've been eating pretty ordinary things, like meals with rice or potatoes for sides instead of bread. For breakfast I've either had cheese grits (yummy, especially on cold mornings), kefir yogurt smoothies (not my favorite, but I drink them for the probiotics and calcium), or gluten free cold cereals with milk. Lunch is usually dinner leftovers from the night before or fruit, cheeses, and nuts. Last night I tried out some gluten free pasta (made from rice, corn, and quinoa flour) along with some ground beef and tomato sauce. I was slightly weirded out by the thought of noodles made with alternative flour, and so even though they tasted ok, and were pretty tasteless after being smothered in sauce, I didn't really like that meal and probably won't repeat it. I'm not a huge pasta fan to begin with, though.

So aside from being kind of bored, it hasn't been too bad. I was disappointed by a sudden flare of itchiness on my right ankle and foot this afternoon, though. It's only been a week, so I shouldn't expect anything yet, but I so hope to have found an answer to my skin condition!

I had my first and only temptation with gluten this afternoon. There was a mistaken pizza delivery of 6 large pizzas to the school where I work right before I left. None of the after school activity leaders had ordered them, and we didn't know which Pizza Hut they had come from (our town has several) so we couldn't call and tell them of the mistake. Before the last of us left for the day the principal was trying to get us to each take a couple of pizzas home so they wouldn't go to waste. And boy, did they smell good! My stomach was growling, but I stayed strong and refused. Sigh.....The worst part is that all there is for dinner tonight is the leftover weirdo pasta from last night! Lucky me! 

Glorious pizza!

Monday, February 5, 2018


When I saw these two beauties for sale at my neighborhood grocery store for a very low price, I decided to give orchids another try. Aren't they pretty? 

I love the color. Right before taking this photo I noticed that my shirt matches the flowers.

So far the sunny window in my bedroom seems like a good place for them. I hope I can keep them alive! 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

On February

"Here comes February, a little girl with her first valentine, a red bow for her wind-blown hair, a kiss waiting on her lips, a tantrum just back of her laughter. She is young as a kitten, changeable as the wind, and into everything. She can sulk, she can beam, she changes from one minute to the next. February is a phase, a short phase at that, and she has to be lived with.
February can't be taken seriously too long at a time. It starts with Groundhog Day, which is neither omen nor portent, but only superstition, and it ends, often as not, in a flurry of snow. It is sleet and snow and ice and cold, and now and then it is waxing sunshine and tantalizing thaw and promise. February is soup and mittens, and it is a shirt-sleeve day that demands an overcoat before sundown. It is forsythia buds opening in the house and skid chains clanking on the highway. February is sunrise at 6:30 for the first time since November.
February is a gardener pruning his grape vines today and shoveling a two-foot drift off the front walk tomorrow morning. It is a farmer wondering this week if his hay will last the Winter, and next week wondering if he should start plowing. It is tiny, tight catkins on the alder in the swamp and skunk cabbage thrusting a green sheath up through the ice. February is the tag-end of Winter - we hope. But in our hearts we know it isn't Spring, not by several weeks and at least a dozen degrees.
There's no evidence to support it in the dictionaries, but some say that February's name comes from and ancient and forgotten word meaning "a time that tries the patience."
Hal Borland
"Sundial of the Seasons"
February 1956

Every year, I'm glad to see the beginning of February. The days are finally growing noticeably longer, even if it's still cold. This winter has been much colder than usual, for longer stretches of time than usual. I don't mind having what feels like a "real" winter for once, but I'm ready for spring.

Today is chilly and rainy, a good one for staying indoors. I've been fighting off what I hope is just a cold and/or a sinus infection, given how devastating the flu has been at school. The situation has gotten much worse since I blogged about it last week. Almost 20% of the students enrolled have now been stricken with it, not to mention a good number of teachers and staff members. So far I've had headaches, a sore throat first thing in the morning, sneezing, and a runny nose....but no fever, at least so far. I'll be spending most of this wet, cold day under a blanket with a book and a mug of tea--which would be an ideal February afternoon for me if I felt just a little bit better!

I plan to roast a small chicken for our supper tonight, maybe with some potatoes, carrots, sprigs of rosemary, and cloves of garlic cooked alongside the bird in the pan juices. I imagine bedtime will be early, to try to feel better for work tomorrow...although if I still feel bad I may just stay home. We have enough germs spreading around the place without me adding to them!

How's your Sunday going?