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! 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

And just like that...

...we've moved! We were able to close the door to our rental house for the last time and drive away Monday afternoon. We did a lot of cleaning there to leave it in as good a shape as possible for our old landlord. Even though he didn't do the kind of maintenance he should have, he gave us a safe, affordable place to live for 8 years and is a basically good and kind man. We are grateful. I cleaned the inside all afternoon on Sunday,  and on Monday we paid Stanley Steemer to come out. While they cleaned the carpets we cleaned and swept the garage and Gregg trimmed the front hedges. The next morning we sent the landlord a thank you card with a note inside explaining that we'd bought a house and moved. We included a check for December's rent with an some extra cash added on to pay for damage George did to the garage wall. We wanted to make sure we did everything the right way so we could leave with no bad feelings or regrets.

And here we are! We're not even halfway unpacked and the house is crowded with boxes and pieces of furniture we have to decide what to do with.....and the garage is full of stuff....and the aquariums, while up and running, are not aquascaped at all yet...we have a million things to do, but we're so happy to be done with the move! It's a huge relief. We're taking a day or two to rest and catch our breath before we tackle the 1001 tasks still ahead of us. We're worn out and deserve a small break.

And we keep finding things we love about the house! So far (knock on wood) all the surprises have been good ones. I think this is going to be a nice home for our family! 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Almost there...

Getting moved in to the new house has been a LOT of hard work. We're not quite done yet, but by Monday night we will be. Monday afternoon is when we have Stanley Steemer coming to clean the carpet at the old house, and while they're doing that we'll be doing our last few runs to the trash dump. That evening we'll finally be able to lock the doors and leave the rental house for the last time--what a relief that will be!

Of course, there's still going to be a lot of unpacking and cleaning at the new house. I'm glad now that I didn't have time to clean and shine the floors beforehand-- with all the foot traffic moving in entails, it would have been a totally wasted effort. There are boxes and clutter everywhere, and stuff we haven't figured out the placement for yet is just sitting in random corners. We have beautiful new area rugs still in their plastic wrappers, and a brand new tv stand in the box needing to be put together. Right now all of our time and energy at the new house has focused in on getting the two 120 gallon aquariums up and running. The fish are all in small holding tanks at the old house, and those still need to be taken down and brought over, too. I hope we never move again, and if we do, I'm going to refuse to have any part of taking aquariums with us. This makes the third time I've had to help lug buckets of substrate, and gear, and even (god help me!) boxes of rocks. It's exhausting, especially with all the other heavy lifting moving involves.

Although I have to admit, the final results are beautiful in the home. We've hit on the perfect spots in the new house to show off the tanks. They're going to look really, really good!

The dogs have been unsettled. Ginger, especially, looks at us with big reproachful eyes and it's pretty clear she wants to go back home. George has been glued to her side for the most part. They both spent a little time playing in the back yard yesterday, but when it got late in the day they both seemed ill at ease. I guess they need time to adjust.

Mad at us...

Marco is taking it all in stride. He's a bold little guy and enjoys change and novel situations. He has been talking a little more than usual since coming over here. His version of contact calls within the flock (for security) happen to be in English!

So that's where we are at the moment. Crazy busy, but getting the job done! I've been too tired each night to open the celebratory bottle of champagne sitting in the fridge, but tonight may be the night!

We're so happy to be here.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Marco speaks his mind.

Life with a parrot can be a lot of fun, but it can also be really, really irritating. One of the worst habits Marco has is occasionally letting fly an ear piercing shriek when he's not getting his way. It's terrible in both pitch and volume and will make your ears ring. Gregg sometimes loses his temper when Marco does it and gets mad enough to curse at him in response. (In fairness to Gregg, it really does hurt your ears, and Marco knows we hate it). We've always tried to keep the cursing down around him, since he talks, but we're not always successful.

For the past 2 weeks, we've been packing and moving boxes to the new house during all of our spare waking hours. Marco has been increasingly badly behaved due to less attention than normal, but it can't be helped at the moment. It's pretty obvious he doesn't think much of the moving process, which was confirmed for us last night.

Gregg and I were loading boxes from the den into the garage where my car was parked. We walked back and forth past Marco's cage with every trip outside, and he watched us with a keen eye. When we were almost loaded up and ready to leave, Gregg walked past Marco's cage with the last two boxes. As he passed by, Marco yelled out: "FUCK YOU!" in a perfectly clear voice. Oops!

I must confess, I laughed so hard I ended up leaning against a wall for support while the tears rolled down my face. Gregg was notably less amused!

Three more days.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Getting there....

I hope this is the last time we have to move. As thrilled as we are with the new house, getting all of our stuff over there and our services switched over is hard work. I hate the moving process!

The house wasn't cleaned very well by the previous owner. I'm still working on cleaning from top to bottom in every room. The kitchen and bathrooms were my first priority, but everything seems to need and baseboards and cabinets and doors, and to top it all off the seller even left half a dozen bags of trash in the garage that we had to haul off to the dump! But the house is prettier than it seemed now that layers of dust and grime have been knocked off. 

In addition to cleaning, we've been moving carloads of boxes over every afternoon. Today is the first day we can also use Gregg's truck, since it rained the first four days of the past week.  We also had to buy and arrange for delivery of a new refrigerator. It's been endless details to be attended to, but I'm happy to be racing towards our official move in day.....this coming Wednesday. We have a local moving service coming to take our furniture and large/heavy/fragile things early that morning. Our first full day in our new home will be Thursday,  which is Thanksgiving! Once we make it to that day, all that will be left to do is a final good cleaning of the house we're leaving. By the time I go back to work the Monday after Thanksgiving break, the move should be a done deal...just over one week from now!

Regular blogging should resume shortly thereafter! I can't wait to settle in and have time to catch back up with you all.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

At last!

As of Thursday afternoon, we are officially homeowners!

Our back porch (before the previous owners moved out)
We have a lot of work to do. The house is in need of painting, inside and out. The yard needs work, too, especially around the property lines where things are very overgrown. There are several small things in the house that need repair or replacing, but it's mostly cosmetic stuff that we can do ourselves. Most of all, our new home needs a thorough top to bottom cleaning--that's on my agenda for today. But it's ours!

After a good cleaning, we have to start moving our things in earnest. We have movers scheduled to come on Wednesday, Nov. 21 to take our furniture and any large, delicate items. That night will be our first time sleeping there, and we'll be officially moved in. The next day is Thanksgiving, and we have so much to be thankful for this year! Our only regret at this point is that we can't call Gregg's mom and tell her all about it. We know she'd be absolutely thrilled for us, and it was her inheritance that made it possible for us to buy it. That would have made her so happy. I want to cry when I think about how I wish she could come see it, and how much fun we'd have sitting on that back porch in the summer drinking wine and talking. Such is life, I suppose. Joy and sorrow all mixed up even on the happiest occasions.

Speaking of moms, my mom has been really supportive and happy for us! That makes me happy. She's been saying for years that she wished we could buy a house and stop "throwing away money" on rent. She was thrilled that we were able to get reasonable mortgage payments and only a 15 year loan. As soon as we finish moving in she wants to take me shopping for a housewarming gift from her and my dad. I don't care about gifts, just the fact that she's so supportive is a gift in itself.

Well, off to the house to begin my day of serious cleaning! Have a good weekend, everyone!

Monday, November 5, 2018

This week

This is going to be an eventful week. Today we have early dismissal at the school for parent-teacher conferences, and the principal already said that as soon as the students are gone the secretary and I can leave. I'm excited about that because I have to make about a dozen phone calls this afternoon, scheduling utilities to be turned on at the new house.

Tomorrow is Election Day (go vote!) and so there's no school. For my non American readers, many schools are used as polling places which is why it's a free day. I plan to get up early, vote, and then I have an appointment with the eye doctor. After that, the rest of tomorrow will be all about continuing to pack.

Thursday is our closing day, and will be the day we officially become homeowners....just in time for...

Friday, which is my beloved Gregg's birthday!

Whew! I'm going to be a busy girl!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

All Souls (part 2)

Yesterday I shared this on our school's Facebook page. I was touched that some of the students brought in photos of the two local police officers who were killed in last month's mass shooting.

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In honor of All Souls' Day, our Spanish 1 students brought photos of lost loved ones to put on the classroom ofrenda, including photos of our lost law enforcement heroes here in Florence.
What is remembered, lives.

Friday, November 2, 2018

All Souls

Sharing (with permission) for my American readers...

On this All Soul's Day, this came through for me -- I know I will take my rebellious grandparents with me.

 When you go to the polls on Tuesday, November 6th, don’t go alone – take your ancestors with you.

Take with you the ones chained in the bottom of a slaver’s ship, who survived the terrible journey, who suffered the lash, whose families were torn apart and yet who fought to stay alive, so that you could be here.

Take with you the ones who crossed over from the frozen Siberian wastes into North America, who came here first, who worked with the spirits of the land, and who were almost wiped out by the invaders, who struggled to keep their cultures alive, so that you could be here.

Take with you the ones who sailed the Pacific in outrigger canoes, guided by the stars and tides, who survived the coming of disease and those who would destroy their culture, so that you could be here.

Take with you the ones who escaped famine, war, pestilence, pogroms, Nazis, Communism, hatred, and tyranny, who boarded ships, who scrimped and saved to make the journey, who cried and bled and suffered and did without, so that you could be here.

Take with you the ones who struggled to have the right to vote –those who were bludgeoned and had fire hoses turned on them, those who were arrested, those who were murdered in cold blood, those who chained themselves to the White House gates and were jailed and force fed, so that you could have the right to vote.

Take them all with you – hear their whispers, their cries, their shouts in your ears to stand up and be counted, because you stand upon their shoulders and without them you could not have the freedom to cast a ballot, to make your voice heard, to stand up and be counted.

Sharon Downey

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Welcome, November!

November 1st

"November is the aging year, a woman whose Springtime children have grown and gone their way but whose hair is often spangled, whose gray eyes are often alight, and whose dress of grays and browns is neither dour nor dowdy. November is berry-bright and firelight-gay, a glittering night, a crisp-blue day, a whispering wind and a handful of determined fence row asters.

November is the lithe hemlock in a green lace party dress, and a clean-limbed gray birch laughing in the wind. November is apple cider with champagne beads of authority; it is a gray squirrel in the limber top of the hickory tree, graceful as the wind;it is a doe and her fawn munching winesap windfalls over a Berkshire hilltop, and a woodchuck sniffing the wind and retreating to his den to sleep till April.

November is a rabbit hound baying the hillside; a farm boy in a canvas coat and a red cap, the 16-gauge in the crook of his arm, on the hills of the upper pasture; a grouse bursting from underfoot with a roar of wings and rocketing into the thicket. It is hog butchering and cracklings and sage and pepper and fresh sausage. It is a fox barking in the starlight and an owl in the old dead popple asking midnight questions. It is high-heaped firewood and leaf-banked walls and buckwheat cakes for breakfast.

And November is the memory of the years. It is turkey in the oven, and plum pudding and mince pie, and pumpkin and creamed onions and mashed yellow turnip. It is a feast and celebration; but it is also the remembering and the Thank You, God, and the understanding. That's the heart of it: November's maturing and understanding."

Hal Borland

"Sundial of the Seasons"
November 1955

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

First Halloween

This was by far my favorite trick or treater tonight even if she did sleep through the whole visit!

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Baby Carsen is wearing candy corn socks, a shirt that says "Boo" and a bee hat!
 Her cover has a pattern of cartoon dogs in costumes on it. 

A blast from the (Halloween) past!

Happy Halloween! I'm pressed for time this morning but I didn't want to let the day go by without wishing you all a safe and fun holiday! Here is the result of a bottle of wine and a couple of hours of work with my friend Meg back in 2011.

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The tiki pumpkin was my very own creation and remains my favorite!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Having fun at work

I still absolutely love my job. I'm so glad I continued to apply for positions in the school district even though it took 3 long years to get a foot in the door. I feel certain I'm exactly where I'm meant to be.

I've found (much to my surprise) that I really enjoy middle school age kids. They're an unpredictable lot--sometimes they seem like little children, still, and sometimes they show flashes of maturity beyond their years. I find them incredibly endearing, even when their behavior leaves a lot to be desired. They make me laugh every single day, and when they're hurting my heart aches for them. Twice last week kids were sitting in the office crying, and even though both of them had really misbehaved and were in trouble, I couldn't stand the sight of their tears. I remember how tough those years were. Growing up is hard. I have compassion for them.

Last night we had our annual Halloween Dance and Carnival. I volunteered to do face painting with the help of an older high school girl (the daughter of one of our math teachers). I had so much fun! One of the assistant principals along with the choir/piano teacher set up a sound system in the gym and played lots of current hits as well as old Halloween favorites like "Thriller" and "Monster Mash". (Earlier in the day, during afternoon announcements, Principal Oates had said, "DJ O'Neil and DJ Leroy are going to be spinning tunes for you tonight..." which really cracked me up). There were games to play for prizes, a "Haunted Science Lab" that was a darkened classroom where you put your hand in a series of boxes to "guess the body part" (things like slimy wet noodles and peeled grapes)...a "Creepy Critters" room with snakes and spiders from the school's science labs...and concessions for sale like candy and popcorn and soda. The kids had a blast! Watching them have so much fun, dancing, running through the halls with groups of their friends, laughing and playing games and being silly and carefree and young....was a total joy. Definitely good for the spirits!

I have to share photos of my three favorite costumes of the night. First up, for fans of the US version of The Office, I present to you Prison Mike and Dwight Schrute!

And of course, Bob Ross! This kid hammed it up all night long, running around and pretending to paint on any available surface and posing for the camera.

Wonder Woman was a very popular costume for the girls this year (yeah!!) and I probably saw at least a dozen of them, but this was my favorite--a real little Wonder Woman:

I'm so glad I have a job where I get to have so much fun!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Autumn sunshine

Marco loves to be out on his perch, basking in the warm sunshine streaming in the windows.

Have a good day, everyone.

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Saturday, October 20, 2018

October Daybook--Finally Fall

After the last hurricane hit Florida and moved north through South Carolina it seemed to bring in fall. We had such an unusually warm and wet September and first half of October that trees that normally bloom in spring were confused and pushing out blooms we normally don't see until March. After the storm, it cooled down to seasonal temperatures and we went from wearing shorts to long sleeves practically overnight.

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Outside my window...

The fall colors are starting to pop! I love seeing the leaves changing against the backdrop of a bright blue autumn sky. A week or two ago we were out walking the dogs one night and saw four shooting stars in rapid succession. We had just started negotiations on the house we're buying and I took that to be a very auspicious sign! :) When I checked the almanac I discovered that we were in the middle of the annual Draconid meteor shower, which explained seeing that many almost all at once. And speaking of the wonders of the night sky, we had a flyover of the International Space Station last weekend. A local meteorologist I follow on Facebook gave advance notice, so we were able to be outside looking up at the right time!

I am thinking...

...about a million and one things that need to happen between now and our closing date, and then all the steps involved to get us, two dogs, a parrot, and a combined total of at least 240 gallons worth of aquariums with living plants and fish moved to the new house.

I am hoping...

that the closing process continues to go as smoothly as everything else so far. I've been very happy with the mortgage loan guy my realtor recommended. He's friendly and accessible and he really seems to know his stuff. Even better, he's great at explaining all the fine details of the application process in a way that even I can readily understand. So far, (knock on wood) the whole process has been shockingly smooth and simple. The inspection is Monday morning, and I hope our luck holds and they don't find any major issues to be dealt with.

I am reading...

...nothing much at the moment.The days are too packed with other things to do right now. But I'm looking forward to winter days in front of the fireplace with my knitting and a pile of books at the new house!

Celebrating the season...

It's almost Halloween and I've barely given it a thought. I did pull out two plastic light up Jack o Lanterns and stick them on the front steps, but only because I was beginning to pack up the closet where they were stored with the other holiday junk. Marla, Martina and I were originally planning to read something scary this month and have a book club party, but now with the new house it's just not possible. There will be other Halloweens....and I'm really, really looking forward to Christmas this year!

All that being said, I do love October for lots of reasons that have nothing to do with Halloween. I like the weather and the changing leaves, the heavier foods and spiced drinks, pulling out sweaters and jackets for the first time of the year....!

I can't let this lovely month go by without sharing a few seasonal quotes with you all. Here's one from a kindred spirit to start us off:

October was a beautiful month at Green Gables, when the birches in the hollow turned as golden as sunshine and the maples behind the orchard were royal crimson and the wild cherry trees along the lane put on the loveliest shades of dark red and bronzy green, while the fields sunned themselves in the aftermaths. Anne reveled in the world of color about her.... "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn't it?..." ~Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874–1942), Anne of Green Gables, 1908

It was October again... a glorious October, all red and gold, with mellow mornings when the valleys were filled with delicate mists as if the spirit of autumn had poured them in for the sun to drain — amethyst, pearl, silver, rose, and smoke-blue. The dews were so heavy that the fields glistened like cloth of silver and there were such heaps of rustling leaves in the hollows of many-stemmed woods to run crisply through. ~Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874–1942), Anne of Green Gables, 1908

And yet another kindred spirit:

October is the fallen leaf, but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen. It is the distant hills once more in sight, and the enduring constellations above them once again. ~Hal Borland (1900–1978)

Fresh October brings the pheasant,
Then to gather nuts is pleasant.
~Sara Coleridge, "The Months," Pretty Lessons In Verse, For Good Children; With Some Lessons in Latin, In Easy Rhyme, 1834

"The leaves fall patiently
Nothing remembers or grieves
The river takes to the sea
The yellow drift of leaves."
-   Sara Teasdale

Well, it's a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
'Neath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow
And I'm trying to please to the calling
Of your heartstrings that play soft and low...
~Van Morrison, "Moondance," recorded 1969

"Lord, it is time.  The summer was very big.  Lay thy shadow on the sundials, and on the meadows let the winds go loose.
Command the last fruits that they shall be full; give them another two more southerly days, press them on to fulfillment and drive the last sweetiness into the heavenly wine."
-  Rainer Maria Rilke

I hope you all are finding ways to enjoy this lovely month and season!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


We're buying the house!

My realtor kept telling me to wait on accepting the last offer, and it turns out that was great advice. The seller got antsy and eventually dropped the price back down to what we originally offered! The only concession we had to make was to pay our own closing costs, which isn't a big deal.

We're beyond excited!

Our closing date is November 8th, so everything is happening very fast. The inspection is Monday, and I'm hoping that goes smoothly and there are no delays. At this rate, with a closing date so early in the month, we should be finishing the move by Thanksgiving. Once Christmas gets here, we should be settling in nicely.

Thanks, everyone, for all the positive messages and good thoughts. Please keep them coming over the next three weeks or so as we navigate the purchase and the move!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Thursday at home

We're out of school again today. Hurricane Michael has turned into Tropical Storm Michael and is passing through South Carolina as I type this. This makes six days we've missed in this district thanks to the weather and it's only early October, but what can you do? Not control the weather, that's for sure.

I'm thankful we're spared the worst of this storm. There are still a whole lot of people devastated by flooding and the last thing they need is more rain, but at least Michael has been downgraded and is moving through quickly. I feel so bad for the people in Florida who have had to endure a true monster of a hurricane. I was relieved and grateful to read last night that Ms. Moon and her family are safe and sound, after seeing how strong the storm had become early yesterday morning.

I'll admit I was kind of glad for the chance to sleep in this morning. I haven't slept well in a week. The people selling the house we're interested in have been negotiating with us (we thought at first they were going to hold firm on the too-high price--turns out they're a little more motivated than they originally seemed) and I'm finding the whole process incredibly stressful.  It looks as though it may work out after all, though. I'm excited and nervous and, at this point, ready to get through this whole process and have it over with. If all goes according to plan we may be in our new home by Thanksgiving! Please keep sending good vibes our way for smooth inspections and no last minute unpleasant obstacles.

Today I should be catching up on chores, but aside from a couple of loads of laundry (provided we don't lose power) I'm going to try to rest and relax instead. Since we intend to call our realtor tonight and accept the last offer we got, I'm fully aware that the next few weeks will be busy and probably exhausting.

Yesterday I went by the bookstore where I used to work and picked up a load of good sturdy boxes, and this weekend we're going to start packing in earnest. But not today. Today I'm going to do my best to enjoy the last few hours before I'm fully committed. While the wind blows and the rain falls, I'm going to work on my current knitting project, watch some Netflix (again, that's dependent on the power staying on) and spend some quality time with the dogs and Marco. We're all in for an exciting few weeks!

The outside is very plain, but the inside has been nicely renovated and 
the neighborhood is exactly what we've been looking for.