Monday, December 31, 2018

Last day of the year

Since today is New Year's Eve, I spent some time mentally reviewing the past year while drinking my morning coffee. 2018 has been all about big life changes around here. It will definitely go down as a most memorable year!

January kicked off with us mourning my dear mother in law, Edythe, who passed away in early December of 2017. I believe she was ready to go...she was very, very tired and had been unwell for several years. She had always been so active and bubbly and fun loving that I truly think she lost her will to go on as she became more and more disabled. Although Gregg misses his mom a great deal, nothing about his love for her has changed since her death. And now we can remember her in happier times when she was always laughing and up for any adventure. She was a dear, good woman and a fantastic mother in law. 

My grandmother also passed away this year, at the good old age of 92. She also seemed to lose her will to go on after a health scare prompted my aunt to insist that she sell her house and move in with her and her husband. I understand that my aunt was trying to look out for her, but grandma seemed depressed and sad about it. A year later, she was gone. 

There were gains this year to balance out the losses. My dear friend Marla gave birth to baby Carsen at the end of May, and that has been a wonderful thing. More so since Marla and her husband lost a newborn baby girl (their first child) a couple of years ago. Little Carsen is a healthy, happy, curious baby girl and a total joy to be around. She may not be my niece by blood, but I'm still one of her "aunties". 

I spent the middle part of this year working hard on getting in better shape and losing weight. I strictly counted calories for several months through the summer and into the first part of the fall, and then got a little less conscious of it when we started working on buying the house. I lost just over 35 pounds (and have kept it off) and intend to resume my calorie counting in January.  I still want to lose another 30 pounds. Just yesterday I saw someone I used to work with and she said, "Wow! You look like you've lost a lot of weight!" It made me feel good, especially since I haven't dared step on the scale for the last couple of weeks! I'm sure I've put back on a few pounds over the holidays, but I intend to blast that back off right away in January....and to continue the hard work.

Of course, the highlight of this year was buying the house and moving in over Thanksgiving weekend. We're so pleased with it--the house itself, and the neighborhood. It manages to be very convenient to downtown, but also nestled away adjacent to a nature/walking trail and a small creek. We see all sorts of birds here, mostly a huge flock of cardinals but also woodpeckers (this morning we saw a Yellow Flicker for the first time ever), finches, wrens, doves, blue jays, and we've heard owls at night. And one night we saw deer tracks in the sandy dirt at the edge of our front yard. It's so quiet and peaceful here, and with the one exception all of the neighbors we've met have been friendly and welcoming.

So it's been a stellar year for us, overall. I hope that 2019 continues to bring us more good than bad, and that any life changes are only pleasant ones. 

I wish all my blog friends and visitors a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year! Thank you for visiting my humble little blog, and thank you for being a big and important part of my life 365 days a year! 

Happy New Year!!!

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My amaryllis and poinsettia are both still looking good!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

A home for Fred

Now that we're almost done settling in, we're working on hanging pictures and art in the new house. We've been lucky in that we've been gifted several original art pieces by talented friends over the years. Everything we put up is deeply personal to us.

That includes this print of a fox painting done by our very own Yorkshire Pudding! He sent me the print some time ago but we had no good place to hang it at the old house. But now Fred has finally been framed and is hanging proudly in our new den!

Thank you, Neil. I think it looks great in the spot we found for it!

Saturday, December 29, 2018


Somehow I've managed to catch a cold despite the fact that for four whole days I never even left the house. At work, surrounded by nearly a thousand students and over 100 staff members (not to mention all the parents and outside people who make their way through the main office) I felt just fine. Then after a week sequestered at home I get sick. Figures.

It's certainly not a heavy cold by any means. I've had some sniffles, mild body aches, and chills. Mostly I've just felt very tired and run down. I'm glad I haven't had to do much but stay at home and vegetate on the sofa. I'm lucky to be off work. I'd hate to use sick days on a mild cold.

I'd like to take down the Christmas tree today if I can muster up the energy for it. There's a superstition in this area that the tree needs to be down before New Year's Day or it's bad luck. I'm going to miss it's sparkle and light and the living room is going to look very dull without it. When do you remove holiday decorations? I know that in lots of places it's customary to leave the tree up until Epiphany, January 6th. Most of my book club friends are from the Northeast, and grew up going to Catholic schools, and that's what they do. People down South decorate ridiculously early (often before Thanksgiving) and I guess they're tired of looking at it all by December 26.  I like to split the difference---decorating the first week of December, and then taking it all down just prior to New Years Eve as opposed to the day after Christmas. I'll probably try to get started today but I still have two days to get most of it done.

On top of my being slightly under the weather, the actual weather outside has been awful. We've had rain, rain, rain, and more rain. The sky is gray, everything is dripping, and the yard is a muddy mess. George has opted to stay inside day and night. Ginger usually refuses to come inside, preferring the screened porch, but last night it rained so hard that even she willingly came in. I wish the sun would come out, but the forecast is for yet another week of rain. Yuck.

So we'll see how the day progresses. I'm sipping hot coffee and getting ready to settle in on the sofa for a while to watch a few more episodes of  "Big Dreams, Small Spaces" with England's Monty Don on Netflix. I'm trying to plan out my dream garden now that we're in our own home. I sure wish Mr. Don could come help me plot it out!

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Best Christmas

It's been a wonderful holiday season so far. In fact, this may have been the best Christmas I've ever had.

There's the new house, of course, and that's been the best part. We've gotten a lot done towards settling in and we're finally starting to feel at home. I like the house and the neighborhood more and more every day.

Friends near and far have made this holiday really special. First, there's my blog friends. I received the beautiful flower arrangement from Terra, then cards from as far away as Germany (danke, Meike!), lovely hand woven kitchen towels from Joanne that match the new kitchen perfectly, and on Christmas Eve a package arrived from Tucson for Ginger and George from Gayle! There were chicken treats for the dogs inside, and a letter from her Winston, and even a small pin of a Scottie dog and a homemade card for me (Gayle is an artist). I'm so grateful to each and every one of you for thinking of me!

My friends closer to home were wonderful, too. Marian from book club stopped by on Sunday afternoon to drop off a gift for us, a "new home" ornament for the tree that we'll cherish forever.

Sunday was a baking and cooking day. Since my parents were coming over to spend a few hours on Christmas Eve, I wanted to impress them and any other visitors we might have.

For savory foods we had brown sugar and pineapple baked ham, cocktail meatballs, hot sausage dip, deviled eggs, a cheese platter, vegetable crudites with sour cream dip, an assortment of good olives (that nobody touched but me), and rolls and crackers and chips.

For sweets I made dark chocolate rum balls (and believe me, those babies are potent), Raspberry, Blackberry, and Apricot Thumbprint cookies, and pretzel turtle candy.

I also made mulled wine in my biggest crockpot.

Was it a lot of food?  Yes, it was probably a tiny bit excessive. I worked for two straight days to get it all done (three if you count the day I spent shopping for everything) but I felt like it was worth it considering it was our first Christmas in the new house. My mom and dad really seemed to enjoy themselves, and then when they left we had an unexpected visit from Marla and her husband and baby Carsen! I was so happy--things kept coming up over the last few weeks and so this was their first visit to the new house. I was really glad then that I had gone all out on food and decorations!

I couldn't get enough of holding this sweet little elfling. She was fascinated by the Christmas tree. 

Gregg and I had bought her books for Christmas, the sturdy board books meant for babies. I read one of them aloud, a really funny one called "Toots". We all laughed really hard, including the baby. 

It was a really fun Christmas Eve, and I was able to send Marla and her husband home with lots of food and goodies. I enjoyed showing them the new house while it was sparkling with all the Christmas lights and decorations, too. After they left Gregg and I took the dogs on nice starry night walk around the neighborhood, then settled in for a cozy night. Yesterday we lounged around in our pajamas until noon, ate leftovers, watched tv, and enjoyed a quiet and simple Christmas Day together.

And when I woke up this morning, one of the amaryllis bulbs my mom gave me had burst into bloom.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Although I haven't had much time in the past few days to visit blogs, I've been thinking about you all and wishing you all a wonderful holiday week and lots of happiness!

Sunday, December 23, 2018


Today I stopped in the middle of a cooking/baking marathon to admire how pretty our Christmas cards look on the credenza. 

Well, back to work! You can tell it's almost Christmas when you find me day drinking and covered in flour. Have a good one!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Prepping for the holiday

It's hard to believe that Christmas is only 5 days away. The last couple of months simply flew by, what with buying the house and moving. We're still settling in and trying to find a few pieces of furniture that we're lacking (a small sofa for the step down den, barstools for the counter looking into the kitchen, a desk for the office) but it's difficult to shop for the house with the holiday looming. We don't go overboard with buying gifts, and we don't have a big family, so there's that. Friends generally get something small, like cookies or candles, and shopping for them isn't overly stressful. So far the only gifts I've bought are two books for baby Carsen. She's so little that there's no point in going too crazy with presents, but we will always buy books for the children in our life. Speaking of Carsen, just look at this sweet little face:

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She's 7 months old now and growing into a happy, smiling girl! Isn't she cute?

Yesterday was our last day of school and now we're on holiday until January 7th. I have almost three weeks to make Christmas happen, then finish up with the unpacking, cleaning, and shopping for the new house. I feel so fortunate. This much time off is pure luxury after so many years of working in retail. I still haven't quit thanking my lucky stars for my job.

Our plan for Christmas this year is to have my parents over on Christmas Eve for food and presents, and then to spend a quiet Christmas Day together enjoying the new house. This weekend I'll be doing a little bit of baking and cooking to get ready, as well as lots of cleaning. Several friends of ours will be dropping by throughout the next couple of weeks, and Gregg's sister and niece are coming to visit the first week of the new year. There's also a possibility that his brother and sister-in-law will stop by on their way north from Florida to see us and especially the new house at some point next week. I want everything to look as good as possible!

Well, off to get started...there's so much to do! But even so, I'm going to take some time to catch up with all my friends' blogs and do some writing myself. I've missed spending time here with you all!

Sunday, December 16, 2018


As of this afternoon I've met two new neighbor families, and I'm happy to report they seem very nice and welcoming.

The first was a woman out walking her dog. We struck up a conversation since I was outside unloading shopping bags from my car. She's my age, married with no kids, and she and her  husband live two doors down from the jerk behind us. I didn't mention him in our conversation; and neither did she, but she did inform me that the woman who lives right next door to her is "a hippie from waaayyyyy back in the day...and she's a real hippie...if you know what I mean" accompanied by a wink. I suppose the woman she's referring to must like to get high...which is absolutely fine with me. Better an old hippie than an old asshole! This neighbor's name is Jill and her dog is named Ladybug. I liked them both. I told her to please stop by sometime over the holiday for a glass of wine...I think we're going to get along just fine!

The next neighbors I met are a couple who will be renting the house next door to us. Joe (the owner of the house) had texted me to tell me about them and that they would be moving in today. They're a nice couple from Ohio, moved here for the husband's job transfer, and they're probably just a few years older than me (closer to Gregg's age). I stepped over after meeting Jill and said hello. They were unloading a moving van so I just introduced myself and told them quickly to please let us know if they need anything. They seem really nice, and they own a black Lab....the jerk behind us is going to really love that!! Haha. 

So now we can rest assured that most of our new neighbors are going to be good ones. There were even two little girls out riding bikes around the neighborhood this afternoon. We thought at first that mostly elderly people lived here, but it appears that the neighborhood is changing. Older folks dying off, younger people moving in. And that's okay with me.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Welcome to the neighborhood (not!)

One afternoon a few weeks ago, before we started moving our stuff over,  I was at the new house cleaning, and I met the first of our new neighbors. It was a guy named Joe, and he seems really nice. He owns the house next door, which he inherited from his aunt who passed away a little while back. I said hello while he was out sweeping the porch (he's been trying to sell the house) and we struck up a conversation and immediately hit it off. I was disappointed when I found out he doesn't live there, because that would be at least one good neighbor!

Then on the day the movers were bringing our furniture in, I heard a cheery female voice call out "Yoo Hoo!" from the foyer. It was the lady who lives on the other side of us, come to introduce herself. She's a pleasant widow who's lived in her house decades now. She said we were going to love the neighborhood, that it's quiet and safe. Her (many) children grew up in her house and all of them live locally and visit regularly, and so do her grown up grandchildren. A thoroughly pleasant and decent lady--by this time I was thinking that we had hit the jackpot on good new neighbors.

I was wrong.

There's a creepy old man that lives behind us (our backyards are separated by a fence) who has come to our door three times in three weeks to complain about our dogs barking and disturbing him and his wife....during their 1pm to 3pm afternoon naps. He keeps insisting that we need to put the dogs inside for those two hours every day and refuses to hear us when we try to tell him that we work doing the day and can't be at home to accommodate him. It's really weird.

The first time he showed up at our door was two days after we'd moved in. I was in the shower mid afternoon and someone started ringing the doorbell, over and over. Of course I wasn't in a position to answer it at the time and by the time I got out he was gone. About 15 minutes later the doorbell rang again, and when I finally made it to the door I found a small old man with a big bouffant of white hair taping a letter to the front door. It said (and he said, too) "We've lived here 50 years. Your dogs' barking disturb my wife's naps, and she's been ill. We nap between 1 and 3 in the afternoon and we'd appreciate you putting your dogs inside. We're Christian people." Of course I was horrified that my dogs were disturbing a sick old woman, and I told the guy I'd be happy to do whatever I could to accommodate him on the weekends, but we work during the week and our dogs don't stay inside when we're not here. They have the porch and backyard during the day, and then they spend every night in the house, so I know they're not disturbing anyone at night. What they do during the day is something we have limited control of.

Well, it was like talking to a brick wall. He kept repeating that he wanted us to put the dogs inside and that they'd lived here "for over 50 years" and "we're good Christian people".  It was strange. Gregg and I talked about it, and I even considered baking the guy and his wife a plate of cookies and including an apology note....because, again, as weird as he acted (only two days after we moved in, remember) the last thing I want to do is disturb our neighbors. We want to fit in to the new neighborhood and be on friendly terms with everyone. We were really bothered by the whole thing.

Then two days ago the man showed up at our door again. This time it was Gregg who was home alone. The guy got really weird this time, repeating over and over a demand for us to put the dogs inside from 1pm 3pm every afternoon. He wouldn't acknowledge anything Gregg tried to say in response, and even got vaguely threatening..."I don't like to cause trouble for people" "I'm a Christian man and I hate to start trouble, but....." and similar things repeated multiple times. He also asked where we had lived before, and when he got a vague answer, he actually had the nerve to ask
where exactly we had lived! I'm proud of Gregg for holding his temper and his tongue. He was furious by this time and had to struggle not to go off in a way that old man wouldn't have soon forgotten. He says he doesn't know if the guy is suffering from mild dementia, or is just a nasty old crank, but he's got one more time to show up on our door and we'll be putting a stop to his harassment.

I talked to the sheriff's deputy assigned to the school were I work and asked for advice. I'm slightly scared of the crazy old man--not that I think he'll do anything to us, but what if he's nuts enough to do something to our dogs? The deputy told me that 1. Our dogs are perfectly free to bark nonstop during the day. If it were happening all night, every night, then that could be a noise complaint, but they're not even outside at night. 2. The next time Mr. Crazy shows up at our door, tell him "We're not going to resolve this. You're going to have to accept that. Now get off our property, and don't come back. You are not welcome here." and shut the door in his face. If he comes back after that we can file a report on him for trespassing, and he'll get a friendly little visit from local law enforcement. 3. If something happens to our dogs, the legal consequences will be severe. I have a copy of a letter the guy wrote us (dated) and I have the deputy's word that he advised me about this situation on x date.

I'm sure it's not going to come to all that, but this whole episode has been terribly unpleasant. Our poor dogs have had a hard enough time adjusting to a new house and yard and neighborhood, and now the neighbor behind us is a loony old geezer who hates them.

I'll keep you guys posted on the progress of our new neighborhood feud. Sigh.

Oh, and there won't be any Christmas cookies or cards going to that house!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Settling in

The settling in at the new house is well underway. Most of the clutter and boxes piled in the hallway has been dealt with, and we've gotten started on the garage, although just barely. We've brought in approximately 3/4 of the boxes of books we own and unpacked them. We decided to have the bookshelves in the hallway, across from the bedroom we're using as an office. 

Speaking of which! I finally got an ethernet cable to connect our desktop computer to the modem this past Friday! Prior to that we could only use the Wifi for Internet access, which means our phones. (We don't own a laptop computer although I hope to buy one someday soon, after we've gotten over the purchase of this house bleeding us dry). Blogging isn't easy from a tiny hand held device, and although I've been reading I haven't done much commenting or blogging of my own lately. Now that our computer is operational again I look forward to remedying that!

My mom and dad finally came to see the house yesterday. It's far from perfect, we still have plenty of unpacking and arranging to do (not to mention things we still need to buy like a small loveseat and two bar stools), but they loved it and said so many nice things! They brought gifts of a basket of fruit and nuts, two amaryllis plants sprouts for force blooming, and a pink Christmas cactus plant. Oh, and a Christmas tree scented candle. It was so sweet of them! Marla is coming over this afternoon (and hopefully bringing the baby) to see the house for the first time, and at some point between now and Christmas I hope most of my other friends can drop by, too. A house just doesn't feel like a home until it's had friends and family inside of it. They'll just have to excuse the fact that we still have plenty to do to settle in, and besides house is ever perfect anyway. 

Several of you asked to see pictures, so here are a few. After this I'll try to blog about something besides the new house, which must be getting awfully boring to at least a few visitors. As you'll see, we've done a bit of decorating for the holidays already. How are your preparations for the next few weeks going?

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sunday at home

It's been a nice weekend. I've been busy unpacking, moving furniture, cleaning floors, and putting the new rugs down. We finally got our dryer working (the cord didn't fit the outlet and we were afraid to change it out, but I ended up paying an electrician who works for the school district to come out and do it for us) and we had loads of laundry to catch up on. It's a pleasure to have a laundry room inside the house instead of outside in the garage, much more convenient.

While I worked at laundry yesterday, this was delivered:

A housewarming present from my blogging friend Terra in California! Isn't it lovely? Thank you, my friend. It looks great on the bar between the kitchen and den.

Today while I worked on unpacking the boxes cluttering up the hallway, I decided to put up the Christmas tree. The big box it's stored in was in the way, and since tonight is the first night of Advent I figured, why not?

Something about seeing a lit Christmas tree in my very own home made my heart swell. I can't wait for Gregg to get home from work and  see it. They're only about a half dozen ornaments on it so far (the rest are still packed away) but the tree still looks beautiful right now as night is falling.

I hope you all have had an equally nice, peaceful Sunday!