Monday, December 30, 2019

What next?

I've decided I'm over this holiday break. Over. It.

Marco is still sick, but no worse. He's eating ok and seems to be hanging in there, for now. I emailed CVETS in Columbia yesterday, asking about what resources they have for parrots, and a nice lady called me first thing this morning to let me know which vets on staff are certified to treat exotic pets, and the shifts they're working for the rest of the week. So that option is there for us.

Last night Gregg's sister, nephew, niece, and nephew-in-law came back over, and then we discovered that his brother was in town and so he came over too and brought his wife, daughter, and two small grandchildren. It was chaos with that many people and two very excited dogs milling around. They didn't leave until almost midnight and we were exhausted.

Full House

(Did I mention that Gregg and I are both still sick? Well, we are. Not the best time for loads of company).

Then this morning my mom called and was in the Emergency Room with my dad. He went to the doctor for a scheduled appointment and they discovered that his blood pressure was alarmingly high and his heart rate was way, way up. We thought for a while they were going to admit him to the hospital, but now it looks as if they're just going to have to adjust some medications, and he can go home soon. I'll be going to see him tonight to check on him.

What else is going to happen to stress me out this week? I'd rather be at work on my regular schedule than dealing with all this crap. December has always been a very unlucky month for me and I'll be glad to see the back of it.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sunday afternoon Marco update

Marco is a bit better this morning. I was alarmed when I first woke up and checked on him, because his eyes were crusted shut. But once he woke up and got his eyes opened, he showed several good signs:

1. He's eating and drinking. Birds that are dire straits don't show interest in food. He's not eating a lot, mind you, but he immediately devoured a small slice of apple first thing today.

2. He's spoken a couple of times and even let out a half hearted screech once.

3. He felt well enough to be slightly inappropriate with his favorite toy (aka his girlfriend).

So for now I'm holding off on a panicked trip to Columbia and keeping a close eye on the little guy instead. A steamy bathroom seems to perk him up some so I've been taking him in there and turning on the shower. I'm also keeping him warm and quiet, tempting him with favorite foods, and sitting with him by the windows to get him some natural light (so crucial to birds!). Unfortunately it's a cloudy, rainy day today without much UV, otherwise I'd take him out to the back porch for some sunshine (it's been warm this week). Maybe tomorrow will be sunnier. Hopefully he'll continue to improve (or at least not get any worse).

Thanks for all the encouraging words and good thoughts....keep 'em coming, please!

Sitting in a steam bath with an under-the-weather bird.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Things the heart remembers

This morning I woke up from a dream about a dog I used to have, Nicky. I wondered what on Earth made me dream about him, given that he died 13 years ago. I still miss him on occasion but the sharp grief of losing him has long since passed.

It took me until late this afternoon to realize that this was the date 13 years ago when we had to have him put to sleep. December 28th.

How weird that somehow subconsciously I remembered the date and it triggered a dream about him.

Our company is in town. We had a nice evening with Gregg's sister, nephew, niece, and the niece's new husband. I made vegetarian chili for dinner (Melissa and her husband Jay are both vegetarians) and it was a big hit. There was a store bought chocolate cake for dessert.

Despite the good visit with family, I've been worried all night. Something is wrong with Marco. It looks like he's got some kind of respiratory infection going on and he's not been his normal self all day. Speaking of pets and memories, I keep thinking about the Quaker parrot we used to have. One day he looked and acted like Marco has today, and the next morning I found him dead on the bottom of his cage. I'm so scared. If he's still sick in the morning (and not, God forbid, dead) I'll be driving him to Columbia to see an avian vet. Please send us good vibes and healing thoughts. I can't bear the thought of losing my little feathered man.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Under the weather

Our Christmas was quiet and nice, spent at home with the dogs eating good food, watching movies, taking naps (me) and drinking wine (also me). We even had a Christmas morning walk with Ginger and George on a nature trail close to our house. All this despite the fact that I woke up with the beginning of a cold on Christmas Eve that's steadily gotten worse since.

Gregg is sick now, too. We're both feeling quite under the weather today, and the worst part is that his sister, nephew, niece, and niece's new husband are coming to town tomorrow to visit for a couple of days. They're staying in a hotel which I'm thankful for. I really don't feel up to having company at all much less overnight guests. If they hadn't already booked rooms I would suggest they come some other time. Gregg is running a fever now and I can't seem to shake a headache.

I'm hoping we'll both feel at least a little better by tomorrow. We've been looking forward to seeing the family and I hate for it to be spoiled by illness. And this is no way to ring in the new year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve greetings

I'm in a huge hurry this morning but I wanted to pop in and wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannakuh, Cool Yule, or whatever else you may be celebrating tonight!

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to us all.

Sunday, December 22, 2019


The book club Christmas party I hosted on Wednesday night was a moderate success, I think. My kitchen and dining room/living room combination were the two areas where everyone congregated, and it felt really crowded to me at the time. Looking back at the photos, though, it doesn't seem too bad.

The view from the den, looking over the bar into the kitchen. Poor Gregg; he went to so much trouble to make the 120 gallon planted aquarium in this room look good for the party, and no one went in there or noticed it.

Here is some of the food I served. Not pictured are the crockpot meatballs, or hot cheese dip, or roasted nuts and assorted crackers and chips.

My friend Martina brought the Apple Pie. Aren't the cutouts on top gorgeous? The cake came from a local bakery: Cherry Pound Cake with Fudge Icing.

My homemade Dark Chocolate Rum Balls.

Of course, most of the cleaning I did was nothing anyone but me would notice. I expected that. But the amount of work I put in to the food was, in retrospect, almost a total waste. With a dozen guests all mingling and talking, the food was almost the last thing anyone focused on.

I'll admit that the whole thing flew by while I was distracted by being a hostess. Did I enjoy myself? Not really. It wasn't bad, mind you, only too crowded and too many people and things to focus on to relax and have a good time. Everyone came over almost at once, and left almost at once. I felt like a hurricane had blown through. I had to methodically clean the kitchen after everyone left just to decompress a bit, and I still had trouble getting to sleep that night. Half the number of people would have been just about right. I was overwhelmed by a dozen. This was me at the end of the night:

See the source image

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The day is here...

Tonight is my first time hosting my book club gathering, and the holiday meeting at that. I'm excited about it, but I've also been nervous about it for so long that honestly, I'll be kind of glad when it's all over.

All of these women are my friends, as Gregg keeps reminding me, and there's no need to be stressed out about it, but I've enjoyed their hospitality so many times in the past that I feel like I should do extra. And of course I want to both impress my friends and show them how much I care about them. Hence the menu is a tiny bit.....excessive, maybe? I've spent a good deal of money not to mention the effort that I'm putting in to make sure the food is varied and delicious. The oven part of my stove mysteriously quit working over the weekend, then rose from the dead (a Christmas miracle!) Monday morning, nixing any plans I had to serve homemade cake and cookies. I like to think that the oven knew I needed to go a little easier on myself, and so gave me an excuse to serve store bought sweets! I still managed to make dark chocolate rum balls on Sunday, since you only need to melt chocolate over a burner for those.

The house is clean as a pin. I've worked on that for almost two weeks, deep cleaning from top to bottom. I went out and bought new candles to add to my Christmas decorations, and we hired a guy to come and repair the front glass storm door (it  had been malfunctioning since we moved in) and to add a door to our little half bathroom which had never had one. I want the house to look and be its best tonight. If I'm honest, I'll admit that a big reason is the fact that with only one or two exceptions, these women are all much more financially well off than I am. They all have large, beautiful, beautifully decorated homes. I love our little house and am proud of it, but it's much, much more modest than any of theirs. That's why I want it to be extra clean and well kept and Christmas-sparkley. But....These are your friends my husband would insist. And he's right! It's going to be fine, and we'll have a good time. I'm sure of it. But what a relief it'll be when the last guest leaves tonight!

I took a personal day off work today to finish everything up at a leisurely pace. That being said, if I don't finish my coffee and get off the computer, I'll be in trouble. So off I go! I'll share some party photos in a few days if all goes well. Wish me luck!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

My favorite Christmas card

My 6 year old friend Little P. made me a Christmas card yesterday afternoon, and it's my favorite, hands down.

His momma laughed and laughed at the fact that he made Santa black like him. :) I think it's awesome!

I just love that kid.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

So busy....

I'd like to apologize to you, my blogger friends, for not being around much or commenting very often lately. I've been busy giving the house a thorough, top to bottom cleaning, as well as decorating and shopping for the upcoming holidays. Here are a few photos.

My book club Christmas party is only a week and a half away, so I'm also finalizing the menu for that. I'm excited to host for the first time, but I'll also be glad when it's all over. I'm nervous about having a dozen guests at once. That's a first for me.

How are your holiday plans shaping up? Are you excited, or dreading it all, or somewhere in between (like me)?

Having a nice glass of wine at the end of a busy Sunday.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Thank you, karma!

Remember the crazy old man who lives behind us and harassed us endlessly whenever one of our dogs barked? He started banging on our door and acting out the first weekend we lived in this house, and he kept up the harassment until Gregg finally had to threaten him with the police to get him to leave us alone. If we so much as got in the shower and left the dogs outside to do their business, and George barked at the back door to be let back in, the crazy man would be banging on our front door demanding we stop him barking before we had even dried off and put on our clothes! That's a true story. The man might be a bit demented, or maybe he's just an asshole. Either way, once Gregg got in his face and threatened him with legal action for trespassing and harassment, he backed off and left us alone. I'm sure he still hates it when Ginger and George go outside and bark, though.

Over Thanksgiving the new owner of the house next door moved in. Since we're eager to be on good terms with the rest of our neighbors, we made them up a little care package with a note that said, "Welcome to the neighborhood! From, the Barlows: Gregg, Jennifer, Ginger (black dog) and George (tan dog)." For the people I got two dozen assorted cookies from a local bakery. For the dogs (we knew there were dogs because I'd glimpsed a couple of small ones on leashes during the move-in) Gregg had brought home fancy treats from the pet store where he works. No one was home when I walked over to deliver the gifts, so I left them at the front door.

Today Gregg finally met our new neighbor! She's a single, middle aged woman with....wait for it......


Not only does she have five dogs, but she also fosters rescue dogs. So there should also be a steady stream of temporary dogs living there, too!

Take that, jerk!!! Hahahahahahahahahaha!

You have no idea how this information made my day!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019


My life feels awfully small sometimes, but even so, it's a comfortable, cozy kind of life.

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Sweet Ginger stayed close by while we put up the Christmas tree Sunday night.

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The Christmas tree this year. It makes me so happy.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Thanksgiving 2019

Yesterday was quiet and calm, with gorgeous fall weather and near-perfect temperatures. It's been one of the nicest Thanksgivings I can remember.

We had lots of good food.  I worked on it at a relaxed pace throughout the day, cleaning up after myself as I went. It barely felt like work. I even took a nap while the turkey roasted.

The dogs got plenty of warm roast turkey with their supper, and we all went for a good walk after eating.

There's a ton of leftovers. I had a turkey sandwich for breakfast and we'll be eating the same exact meal as last night for dinner tonight. My homemade cornbread dressing was SO GOOD. Grandma would have been proud of me.

Today should be nice. The doctors' offices where Gregg is due to go service aquariums today are closed for the holiday so he gets a second day a row, no less! That's highly unusual for him and I'm glad he has some free time to spend at home for once.

Enjoy the day, my friends!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

First day of fall break

I woke up at 6:45am this morning with pink light streaming in my bedroom window. The sky looked so pretty that I immediately got out of bed and snapped a photo from the front porch.

It's good to be on fall break, finally. Thanksgiving falls really late this year. Once we go back to school on Monday there's just three weeks left until Christmas break will be upon us.

Today has been nice. I drank several cups of coffee on the porch first thing and watched the progress next door. The house beside us that's been for sale for some months now has finally been sold and the new owners are moving in. I saw a (probably) young woman out back with two dogs on leashes, but I haven't been able to get a real sense of what these new neighbors are like yet. I went out to do some shopping today and picked up a box of assorted cookies from one of the local bakeries, and Gregg brought home a package of dog treats from the pet store. I plan to take them over tomorrow as a little "welcome to the neighborhood" gift. I do hope they're decent people; we're doing what we can to get off on the right foot with them. The jerk behind us is plenty as far as bad neighbors go! Wish us luck.

While I was out today I stopped at a garden center/gift shop to have a look at their year-round Christmas items for sale. Nothing I saw inside was of much interest to me but I enjoyed walking around the outside and looking at the plants for sale.

We still have a lot of color left in the trees around here, as you can see.

Oh! And Gregg's birthday picture is framed and hanging on our wall. I picked it up last night on my way home from work:

Tonight he's working late like he usually does on Wednesdays, but once he gets home it will offically be a holiday! I'm having wine while beginning to prep some of the food for tomorrow's meal. We'll be having roast turkey, gravy, cornbread dressing, cranberry mandarin orange walnut salad (the recipe I invented years ago), deviled eggs (I cheated and bought the pre-boiled eggs for convenience sake!) and canned corn and green beans. For dessert I'll be making some sort of apple dessert from scratch, most likely a crisp. Tonight I'll salt and season the turkey, make the cranberry salad, and bake a batch of cornbread for the dressing so that tomorrow our meal will be fairly easy to pull together. With a 16 pound bird we'll probably be eating turkey until Christmas....I'll have to be creative with leftovers!

And tonight makes 12 years that we've had our sweet girl, our Gingerbread. She showed up on our back porch the night before Thanksgiving in 2007.

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Puppy Ginger....Thanksgiving Day 2007.
 My sweet girl!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my blog friends here in the USA! I hope you all are surrounded by good food, good company, and lots of love tomorrow.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Busy Sunday

It's Sunday night again. Today was pretty standard: household chores, laundry, shopping. I tried to do a little extra this weekend because it's almost a holiday! My upcoming work week is only two days long and I want to go into it with a (mostly) clean house.

Thanksgiving is going to be a double anniversary in this house. First, Ginger showed up on our back porch the night before Thanksgiving 12 years ago. That's the anniversary of her adopting us! Then last year we moved into the new house on Thanksgiving was the first night we spent here. So Thanksgiving is a double homecoming in this family!

I bought the smallest whole turkey I could find at Food Lion. It's just over 16 pounds, which is a lot for two people, but the dogs will get their share. Plus, I can make turkey pot pie and turkey noodle soup with leftovers. Gregg's favorite way to eat it is in sandwiches. I prefer it in slices, served over cornbread dressing with a generous pool of gravy on top and a dollop of homemade cranberry sauce on the side. I'm planning to attempt cornbread dressing the way I remember my grandma making it. If it turns out well I'll share the recipe here.

(And yes, where I come from we call it "dressing" and not "stuffing". We bake it in a pan rather than stuffing it in the bird. It's my favorite Thanksgiving recipe).

I made a list of everything I'll be serving at the Christmas book club party and, in an effort to be frugal, started shopping the Thanksgiving sales for non perishable food items. So now I have a jump start on that, too. I've been busy this weekend.

Speaking of being busy, I always think about Ms. Moon cleaning her house and it smelling like "Fabuloso and vinegar" when she's done. I've wondered what that smells like, and then yesterday at the grocery store I found this:

Yay! I was looking for something to mop the kitchen with so I bought it. So now MY house smells of Fabuloso (without the vinegar)!  :)  I didn't realize until I mixed it with water that it's lavender scented. I don't care much for the scent of lavender and I doubt that's the kind Mary uses. Oh well. It smells okay.

I'm off to start our dinner (pork chops) and dessert (apple crisp). Have a good evening or morning, my friends!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Ready for a break

Thanksgiving break can't get here fast enough. We haven't had an extra day off from school since Labor Day and everyone's nerves seem to be frazzled. Even the kids.

My friend little P. woke up on Monday morning thinking that this was the week we get out for the holiday. His mama told him no, there's a full week of school left before that. She reports that at first he got mad, and she had to pull out a calendar to show him he was wrong...…..and then when he saw it was true he was so disappointed he cried. Poor little guy.

I know just how he feels.

The days start to drag right before a break. The discipline referrals have spiked sharply since last week, and there seem to be multiple tearful trips to the guidance counselors' offices by students each day. This morning, two 12 year old girls got in such a vicious fight that it took the principal, one of the assistant principals, the security guard, and a teacher to break it  up, and even when they dragged them apart the girls were still throwing punches and cursing. The teacher got hit in the head, and the assistant principal told me later, "If I'm going to break up fights like that, I need to start going to the gym again! I nearly got kicked in the head!" Later on another two girls got in a fight at lunch. Right now I'm averaging about 15-20 discipline referrals a day which is crazy high.

I don't know if it's the colder weather, or the approaching holidays, or what, but I've noticed a lot of acting out among our poorer kids these days. A handful of them are in foster care (getting shuffled around constantly) or living in residential group homes, and a sizeable percentage of our students get regular welfare checks by DSS caseworkers, which means they've lived with abuse or neglect. It's no wonder that some of them act out so much, but it seems to always get worse as any break approaches. I imagine lots of these kids aren't looking forward to the break (if their home situations are bad) but it should cool things down some.

We'll be staying home for Thanksgiving. We talked a little about the possibility of going camping, but neither of us got too excited at the idea. Since I'll be hosting my book club's Christmas party just over two weeks later I plan to put up the Christmas tree and decorate the house that weekend. One less thing to worry about as I prepare for the party, you know? My mom invited us to eat Thanksgiving dinner with her and my dad, but my cousin and her husband will be there and I don't like them very much. I feel guilty about that, because my parents have become very close to this branch of the family in the last decade or so, but I just can't stand anything other than the very minimum of contact with them. My mom knows this. We keep up the polite fiction that I'm always "busy" when they invite us to do things that include my cousins.....which these days, means pretty much all holidays and special occasions. My parents make plans with them first and then invite us as an afterthought. Which is why I don't feel but so guilty turning them down. I'll cook something Gregg and I will enjoy and we'll simply spend the day at home together, stress free. That's something to be thankful for!

And the 5 day break from school is going to be wonderful!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The devil in the pantry

Somebody kept flying into the pantry every time I opened the door to take out an ingredient for our dinner tonight. And refused (refused!) to come back out.

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He was after the walnuts and prepared to fight me for them.
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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Just another Sunday night

It's been another lazy Sunday. Beyond a couple loads of laundry, tidying the kitchen, and taking out the garbage I haven't been very productive at all. I did finish The Gargoyle this morning. I really, really enjoyed it and hated for it to end--now I'm between books again and looking for the next good one. I also took a short nap this afternoon. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday even if I didn't accomplish as much housework as I'd like. It's not like it's going anywhere, right?

Yesterday I spent the afternoon making spaghetti sauce from scratch, and so tonight there won't be any need to cook dinner. Since we're eating leftovers I plan to make up a batch of apple walnut muffins for snacks this week. I've been baking lots of muffins lately. A boy at school saw me give one to the counselor's little son (Little P.) one time and asked for one. Now he regularly stops by my desk, in the morning or at lunchtime or in the afternoon while waiting on his bus to arrive to ask, "Mrs. Barlow, do you have any snacks?" He's so excited when I occasionally have something to give him. I was on a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin kick for a while and he loved those. He would stop by randomly almost every day and say, "Mrs. Barlow I sure love those pumpkin muffins you make!They're so good! Please make more soon, okay?" The little flatterer! He knows just what to say to ensure a steady stream of baked goodies. I always tell him, "Don't you tell any of your classmates that I gave you these" under my breath which delights him. Honestly, I think the attention means as much to him (or more) than the treats. As the school secretary pointed out, "He probably doesn't get homemade desserts at home." His dad is (I think) a single father, a working class guy that probably feeds Ethan a steady diet of microwaveable or take out food. He's a good boy, and I enjoy his little trips to see me throughout the day and the way he'll immediately scarf down whatever I bring and exclaim it's the best thing ever. So tomorrow he's getting some apple cinnamon muffins.

Season three of The Crown has dropped on Netflix! I'm really excited. I'm holding off on starting it until Gregg gets home from work tonight. I'm a little sad that new actors have replaced Matt Smith and Clare Foy, both of whom I thought were excellent as Prince Philip and the young Queen Elizabeth.

Tonight doesn't feel too bad for a Sunday night. Maybe it's the thought that this week is our last full week before Thanksgiving break. We'll have Wednesday through Sunday off and I'm beyond ready.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Cold and dark

It's cold here on the East Coast this week.

Last night the temperature dropped to 27 degrees (-2.7 for all you Celsius folk out there) after a day of rain and high winds. The wind chill was in the teens when I woke up this morning. Today the high was only about 10 degrees above freezing, and tonight is going to be just as frigid as last night. This kind of cold is highly unusual this early in the year.

I don't mind the cold; in fact, I kind of like it. I run on the warmer side naturally anyway, and with plenty of extra weight padding my body, too, freezing weather just isn't that big of a deal. I lit the fireplace this morning for the first time this year, reviving last winter's habit of drinking my morning coffee by the fire. That was kind of nice. I just hope the weather is this cold the week before Christmas, when I'm hosting my book club's holiday meeting/party. I'd like to be able to turn on the fireplace for picturesque effect, and serve pretty mulled wine to drink.

Last year's mulled wine.

What I'm not liking right now are these short days. I can't wait to pass the solstice so that the days will slowly start to lengthen again. This is the part of winter I dread each year.

Speaking of dark, I'm reading The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. The first 50 pages or so are very disturbing, but I couldn't put it down. I'm about a quarter of the way through now and it's fascinating, but still very dark.

What's the weather like where you are?  Are you reading anything good to pass the time on these long, dark, cold nights?

Sunday, November 10, 2019

A low-key birthday weekend

Yesterday was Gregg's birthday, and to my surprise he took the day off work. He almost never does that, but the manager of the pet store found out it was his birthday and told him he should--so he did. I was so glad. He never gets much time off. We spent the day at home, which is what he wanted to do. I grilled a couple of nice bacon wrapped steaks with onions and mushrooms for our dinner. Since we had leftover apple pie last night, I waited until today to bake his birthday cake. It's pineapple-upside down.

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I'm also baking some chocolate chip pumpkin muffins since the oven is hot. Those will be for snacks this week.

The painting I'm having framed for him won't be ready for almost three weeks! I didn't realize it would take so long, but he's happy to wait. We're both pretty excited about it.

I couldn't figure out how to rotate the photo so you'll have to look at it sideways to get a better idea of it. I think the mat and frame I chose for it will look good....I hope so.

I was disappointed in our families yesterday. No one called or texted Gregg for his birthday. No one on either side makes much of an effort, as much as it pains me to say so. Oh well. We have each other, right? I love that man to bits, and I told him so several times.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019


Is it just me, or is the latest time change a real downer? I wish we'd just leave the time alone, one way or another, because I always have trouble adjusting when DST begins and ends. Monday I came home from work, decided to take a "quick nap" at about 6:45 (I was feeling wiped out from a stressful day and the early darkness) and ended up sleeping 11 hours! I didn't feel particularly well rested the next day, either. I'm not sure if it's the time change or the flu shot I got late last week, but I've been feeling really.....meh.....since the November began.

I've got to try to perk up before the weekend, though. Saturday is Gregg's birthday and I want things to be festive for him. I'm planning to take a piece of art that's dear to him to be matted and framed for his gift. It was painted by a sweet elderly lady he had a long friendship with before she passed away several years ago. Her name was Margaret and she gave him three or four of her paintings when he admired her work. We're slowly getting them all nicely framed and displayed in our home. It makes Gregg happy when he sees them, because they remind him of Margaret. She was a sweet, sweet lady.

This is one of her paintings hanging in our kitchen. I discovered that it's
 not possible to get a good snapshot of it thanks to the reflection of the lights. 

As per usual when Gregg's birthday rolls around, I'll cook a nice meal and special dessert, and we'll stay home. He's the kind of man who never, ever wants to go out. He's a true introvert, yet his job(s) require him to be out in the public and dealing with strangers and semi strangers every day. When he's off, he wants to be at home; and so of course on his birthday we do whatever he's happiest with.

Speaking of this weekend, it's supposed to be really cold--down to freezing--for the first time this year. I don't mind that part of winter. Maybe some of the huge flying "Palmetto Bugs" (aka, Monster Roaches) will go away. They're really bad out here because we're very close to a creek, and one of the first things we did when we bought this place was get a contract with a pest control service for quarterly preventative treatments. I can't stand a roach. Our guy keeps the fire ants at bay, too. (That's another evil that's best avoided altogether.)

How's the start of the month (and the time change) been for you? I'd love to hear about it, particularly if you're like me and the onset of winter makes you want to eat yourself into a semi-coma, eschew most humans contact, and hibernate in the house with Netflix and a warm, comfortable bed. And maybe a book, of course.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween!

It's Halloween night and we're all prepared with candy. 

Although we've only had one single trick or treater all night. And she's too little for candy....

She's so cute, though, that I don't mind that she's the only one! Mom and dad are dressed as Ghostbusters.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Me and little P.

Me and my 6 year old buddy, as drawn by him. I have inexplicably long eyelashes,
 no hair, and my favorite color shirt on. He's wearing a cape.

The real thing!
I sat with him and his mom at the school's football game last Wednesday night. 
We had to get a selfie while cheering on our team together!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Rainy Sunday afternoon

It's such a nice day here today. I say that knowing it wouldn't be to everyone's taste, as it's chilly and cloudy and damp. Rain showers come and go, the remnants of that oddly named tropical storm, Nestor. After the long hot summer with very little rain, a chilly autumnal day feels great to me. Last night I was forced to turn on the heat for a little while, something I'd sworn I wouldn't do within days of using the a/c for the last time, but the damp was making me shiver.

This weather is perfect for a stay at home kind of Sunday afternoon. I'm going to attempt a crockpot potato soup recipe I found online. Here it is if anyone is interested:

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1 30oz. bag of frozen diced hash browns
1 32 oz box of chicken broth
1 can of cream of chicken soup (10 oz)
1 pkg. cream cheese (8 oz, not fat free)
3 oz bacon bits
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Put the hash browns in the crockpot. Add in the chicken broth, cream of chicken soup and half of the bacon bits. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
Cook on low for 7-8 hours or until potatoes are tender.
An hour before serving, cut the cream cheese into small cubes. Place the cubes in the crock pot. Mix a few times throughout the hour before serving.
Once the cream cheese is completely mixed in, it's ready to serve.
Top with cheddar cheese and some additional bacon bits.

While my soup cooks Martina is coming over for a while. We've been planning to do a craft project together for Halloween/All Souls/Days of the Dead. The original idea came from this link from a long abandoned craft website: We're going to make our own ancestor altars this year, although ours won't be nearly as detailed as the one in the link. The supply list for it is as long as my arm and neither of us have that much time or money to blow! We're just using it as a starting point for inspiration. I will, of course, eventually share pictures of our completed ofrendas here on the blog. I'm looking forward to spending some time with Martina making them, too. It should be fun.

Have a happy Sunday, everyone!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Happy Surprises

I've received some wonderful gifts and happy surprises in the past week. I'm so very fortunate in life to have many, many wonderful friends! First up, from Parsnip in Tucson:

A care package for Ginger and George! They love the chicken crisps (she's sent them to our lucky canines before) and George loooooooooves new toys. He's been hoarding both of these in the dog bed and he barks like mad when Ginger grabs one of them. Which she does strictly to annoy him; she's never been big on toys but she delights in anything that bothers George. (As you've probably surmised, she's feeling much better!) Thank you so much, Parsnip. You're a thoughtful and dear friend.

Next: I won a book giveaway for the first week of October from the delightful Rue! Her Great October Book Giveaway is an event to look forward to each year. Pop over to her blog if you're interested and leave her a comment for a chance to win a magical/Halloween/Samhain themed book! This is what the package that arrived looked like:

And here's the book I got, which is very serendipitous considering a craft project that I'll be starting next week (more about that later!!)….

What fun!

On Sunday morning I texted Marla just to say hello, since what with one thing and another we hadn't seen each other in a couple of months. We decided to have a little impromptu visit that afternoon and she showed up about 4pm with this little cutie-pie:

Isn't she precious? I love those pink cheeks and big brown eyes. It was so good to see little Carsen, who's already walking and talking. Man, that happened fast!

She's been fascinated with our aquariums since she was a tiny thing. Speaking of Carsen and tiny things...…….we had a small house sparrow that lived with us for over a decade named Chip. After Chip died a while back Marco stopped saying his name....until Carsen came along. He's always (and consistently) called her "Chip". Every time he sees her, he says, "Hey Chip! Heeeeyyyy Chip Chip!"  I guess in his mind Tiny Bird = Tiny Human. How cool is that?

After Carsen spent about 30 minutes here, her daddy came and picked her up and took her home so that Marla and I could have some baby free time to hang out. It was so much fun! We got caught up and we even had wine together for the first time in two years! Marla didn't drink while pregnant, of course, and after that she was too cautious to even have a small glass of wine while breastfeeding. I totally respect her for that, but I'm glad we can finally have drinks together again! My new back porch was just made for wine and conversation. It was so very good to see her. :)

All of these happy surprises really helped lift my spirits after several weeks of stress and unhappiness. Things are feeling much lighter around here!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A few more...

I had to stop and take more pictures when I was leaving school today. Those zinnias out front are still blooming like mad and butterflies were everywhere. Granted, the bottoms of some of the longest flower stalks are looking brown and dried up, but there are still lots of fresh new blossoms around. These flowers grew from seed and started blooming in May and here it is, October. They looked great all through the heatwaves and drought of the summer when lesser flowers would have given up the ghost. I must grow zinnias next summer!

Image may contain: plant, flower, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: sky, cloud, plant, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: plant, flower, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: plant, flower, outdoor and nature

There were about 10 butterflies enjoying the flowers and the sun when I took these photos. It's a nice way to end the workday, walking past these beauties....

Autumn leftovers

The zinnias in front of our school just keep going and going. I snapped this photo yesterday afternoon as I was leaving work.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Good things

Things are getting better around here. The cloud is slowly (slowly) lifting a little. For once I have some good things to comment on!

Good thing the first:

Ginger has improved quite a bit. Except for a slight residual head tilt, to look at her you wouldn't know anything had ever happened. And you'd have to be looking for the tilt to notice that. Martina came over yesterday and told me that if she hadn't known what had happened with her, she wouldn't have any idea something so dramatic had gone down. Martina works as a veterinary technician so she's used to looking for health issues in dogs. We've also noticed Ginger get slightly off balance a time or two while out for short walks, usually when she's walking up onto the shoulder of the road. We're hopeful that these two minor things will resolve given a little more time. Today we're trying her without the motion sickness pill for the first time to see how she handles it. Of course, I'll be here all day to give her one if she gets dizzy or sick. Cross your fingers for us that she'll be able to discontinue it!

Good thing the second:

Martina came over yesterday to see Ginger, but also to take me out to the movies, her treat. She had gifted tickets left over from her birthday in July. We went to see Downton Abbey (something neither of our husbands cared to see) and we had such a good time! It was a lovely little escape from reality and very much needed. We're both fans of the original show.

Good thing the third:

Later this afternoon I'm going for Mexican food and margaritas with a few women from my book club group. We're celebrating the fact that one of the Karens finally landed a new job. It will be nice to have some time to catch up with them and I'll be back home early enough that Gregg and I can spend some time together doing the classic "Netflix and chill" thing! A night spent at home when (hopefully) nobody is sick or depressed sounds really good to me.

What kind of good things are going on with you this weekend?

Wednesday, October 2, 2019


Back in 2016 I entered John Gray's novelty vegetable competition that he always hosted on his blog during the Trelawnyd Flower Show. I had some overripe peaches on the counter and their vivid orange color reminded me of a certain insane Republican candidate for president. Little did I know when I created what I called "Impeachable Trump" that the man I still considered a joke at that point would go on to become the most horrendous president in U.S. history. And now, lo and behold, he's in office and about to get impeached!

 Did my creation call this situation into being?!?! And if so, my next one will be a rotting peach in a prison cell!

Here's the post and picture that John shared on his blog that day:

It's 1.30 and I've just got home. The results are comming in and it's looking like "leave" winning at the moment....
I will leave you with a cracking novelty fruit entry from jennifer
Donald Trump out of peaches!


Monday, September 30, 2019


One of the guidance counselors at the school where I work has the sweetest little boy. He's in the first grade, and rides the bus over to our school every afternoon to meet his momma and ride home with her. He's forever asking me if he can "help" me, and I've taught him how to do a few simple tasks--dialing the extension for me when a call needs to be transferred, clicking on my "inbox" icon to check emails, operating the big copier in the mail room. He loves it.

The other day, I brought him a little bag of treats as a thank-you for being "my little office helper". He was so pleased with it, and immediately asked me what my favorite color was. I told him it was green.

The next afternoon, he ran to me when he arrived and gave me a big hug, and then he presented me with this:

I just love that little sweetheart!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Progress: an update

Thank you all for the wonderful comments on my last post. I know that many people might think it strange, but you all (my friends in blogland) and your friendship and support mean the world to me. I love you guys.

Ginger is improving a little each day. She still has a pronounced head tilt and some very minor balance issues, but every day she's a little more back to normal. She's eating well, drinking well, peeing and pooping well.... :)  Yesterday she started going back to her normal spot to sleep (on the rug beside my side of the bed) instead of staying in the den where she's been all week. This morning she made the first sounds we've heard from her since this all started--George ran to the porch door and started barking at the neighbor's Lab, and Ginger hurried over and joined in! She hasn't made a peep during all this ordeal, not even a yelp or a cry. That's one tough girl! She's even managed to give us a doggy grin or two when we've had to scold George for being too rough near her. She's always enjoyed watching George get in trouble! And she wags her tail at us sometimes in the circular motion she uses when she's happy. We're hoping she'll continue to improve and beat this thing altogether.

I had a great talk with Dr. Causey yesterday. First he gave Ginger a thorough exam and went over all her bloodwork with me. Then he closed the doors in the examining room and talked with me for over an hour about the situation the other day with Dr. Harper. He swore to me that it would be addressed and that something like that would never, ever happen at his office again. He hugged me three times and got teary eyed with me when I cried. He remembers Gregg having cancer 8 years ago and how much Ginger meant to us during that time. Then last year, Dr. Causey had cancer himself and had to undergo serious surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy. So now those shared experiences are an extra bond between us and he's not just our vet, he's our friend. I feel so much better now that we've had that heart-to-heart! He made some good suggestions regarding Ginger's recovery, like feeding her lots of fish packed in oil to support her brain while she recovers from this (primarily neurological, we think) event. He then talked to me seriously about finding ways to ease the stress Gregg and I have right now and taking care of ourselves. He said that dogs are so naturally empathetic to their people that our stress and fear will easily rub off on them and that might impede Ginger's recovery. He advised cultivating a sense of calm, peace, and as much as possible, normalcy in our home to help her keep her stress hormones down as she recovers. Isn't that wonderful advice? I just love Dr. C. He's going to see us again in two weeks to check on Ginger's progress. We're hopeful she'll be almost totally back to normal by then.

As for me, the congestion in my chest is about 75% gone and I'm feeling better. I'm still tiring easily, and sometimes at work this week I'd break out in a sweat and feel kind of weird for a while, but all in all there's been a lot of improvement. It felt good to go back to work. Two days back to a normal routine were enough to banish the last of that awful, anxious, "end of the world" dark cloud that had been dogging me for days. Keeping busy is good medicine, and it's hard to be sad when you're surrounded by lively young teenagers all day. :)

Thanks again for all the kind comments and concern for us. I'll update again soon. In the meantime, please send our girl plenty of good vibes as she recovers!

Ginger relaxing on the porch this morning after breakfast. She was smiling at me. ❤