Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Totally bananas!

My husband loves bananas. He eats them almost every day. When he's at work (at the pet store) he never actually takes a lunch break, and since he has his hands in fish tanks all day long a banana is a perfect snack for him. It's portable, comes in its own wrapper, and can be eaten on the fly without having to worry about hand washing first. Plus, they're healthy. What's not to love? He's been taking a banana or two to work with him for years now to munch on when he's hungry.

Almost all bundles of bananas have one or two stickers on them, and often those stickers have super heroes, cartoons, and movie promos on them along with plenty of the standard "Dole" brand ones. Years ago, on a whim, he started putting those stickers on the wall above his desk, and now he's built up quite a collection !

Kids always notice the banana stickers these days, and sometimes try to talk him into giving them one. He always refuses, and tells the kid, "You'd better ask your mom to start buying you bananas!" Once a little boy even offered him a nickel for one of the Star Wars stickers! Haha. My husband is doing his part to help kids eat more fruit, I guess.

When Gregg sent me this photo the other day, I was surprised at how many there were. It's a lot, especially when you consider that there's usually only one or two stickers per bunch. I told him I was going to blog about his Banana Sticker Collage, and he said, "Don't! Your blog friends will think I'm silly!" He's actually one of the least silly people I know, which makes his Banana Wall even more endearing to me. We can all use more quirky fun in our lives, right?

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Work tally

Yesterday I decided to try a little experiment at work. I've been wondering how many interactions with the public I have to handle in the course of an average day. I answer the school's main phone 90% of the time, and of course then I have to deal with whatever the person on the other end needs, whether that's information, to leave a message, or to be transferred to the proper person. I also answer the front door buzzer, which involves checking the camera, asking "Good morning/ can we help you?" to determine if it's safe to let them into the school, and then buzzing them in and seeing what they need once they get into the office. I put a sticky note by my computer mouse and made hash marks on it every time I answered one or the other.

Keep in mind that this doesn't count internal calls to my desk, which I get all day from the administrators, counselors, other office staff, etc. There are lots of those, but I purposely just counted the public ones. It also didn't take into account how many parents coast in to an open door after I've just buzzed someone else in ahead of them. And when I let people in, I have to deal with whatever they need since I'm the first point of contact in the office. Signing out students early is the most common reason people come, and that involves checking their ID, checking the student's "approved to pick up" list, looking up where the kid is right that minute, and calling into the class for them. And often I have to help the adults navigate the computer sign-out system to boot.

So anyway, I tallied up the number of phone calls and door buzzers I answered yesterday and here are the results:

I answered 44 (non internal) phone calls, and I answered the front door 66 times. And it wasn't even an especially busy day. No wonder my brain is fried and I don't want to talk to anyone else by the time I leave!

And all those interactions with the public must be done with a smile, a lot of patience, and a warm and friendly persona because I'm representing our school. And that's only half of my job; I have discipline reports to finish and file each day, attendance records to keep updated, and state department record corrections to do periodically. I also do all morning and afternoon announcements and maintain our school's social media accounts.

That's kind of a lot. I'm just realizing lately that my job is more demanding that I used to give myself credit for. The hours are so good, and there's so much time off, that I caught myself feeling guilty sometimes about having such an "easy" job. But now that I'm paying more attention, I realize it's really not all that easy after all!

I still love it there, though.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Long weekend

It's a three day weekend (Martin Luther King Jr. Day is tomorrow, for my friends outside of the USA) and the extra day off is very welcome. I know we've only been back in school for two weeks, but my job is a lot more demanding than I used to give myself credit for. After hundreds of interactions with people every day, all of whom need something from me, plenty of downtown feels essential for my mental health.

I did have Marla and Martina over for drinks last night. It had been a while, and Martina had texted me earlier in the week wondering if we could get together and catch up. I made whiskey sours, which were a hit, if the level of whiskey in the bottle the next morning was any indication.

Yes, that was a brand new bottle at the start of the evening. Martina only had a drink or two, since she had to drive, but Marla's husband had dropped her off and was coming back to collect her when she was ready to leave, so the two of us drank the majority of it. I'd made a nice large batch of guacamole and had two kinds of chips to go with it, plus homemade black bean chili and crackers, so there was plenty of food to soak up the alcohol! Ahem.

Gregg and I have a day off together tomorrow! Just by chance, tomorrow was supposed to be his day to service his school aquariums, and of course schools are all closed for the MLK holiday. Brace yourselves for our exciting plans!! We're going to...………….trim tree branches and shrubs around our house and do some serious yard maintenance! Exciting, eh?! Haha. But. It's hard to tackle big jobs together given how much Gregg works and so we're taking advantage of the opportunity. It should be a great time to prune: a serious cold snap is upon us and we're to have temperatures well below freezing every night this week. I'm glad to see winter making a small comeback. It's been warm and rainy and humid, very unseasonable for January. So anyway, tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and cold, perfect. We've also discovered that right around the corner from our house (seriously, less than a block from the entrance to our neighborhood) is an access point for the Florence County Rail trail. It has paths and bridges over our local creek, Jeffries Creek, and from portions of the trail you can see our chimney and our neighbors' back yards. We'll probably take the dogs for a good walk there tomorrow, too. It should be a nice day.

What are you up to this weekend? Happy MLK day to my American friends!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Rainy, dreary Sunday

The terrible thunderstorms forecast for last night never materialized, but the rain and unseasonably warm temperatures sure did. It's been gloomy, wet, and warm all day, a thoroughly yuck Sunday afternoon. I'm craving some real winter weather, not this weird pseudo-Spring that just feels off, not to mention all the budding that's started that's destined to be killed off by the next cold snap. I'm particularly worried about my neighbor's magnificent Tulip Magnolia tree. It already has swollen buds and it's much too early.


Maybe it's the weather, or post-holiday letdown, or the lack of light, but today has just been...dreary. Dull. Low energy, low mood, ennui. The only bright spots were sitting outside with Marco on the back porch (the one thing this unseasonably warm weather is good for!) and watching the bird feeders. The days are beginning to lengthen a little and our feeder activity is way, way up. I counted ten species of birds this morning, and Marco preened and chattered and watched.

Speaking of Marco, and speaking of speaking, I caught this clip of him saying "Hey sweet boy!" a little while ago. Don't be alarmed at his appearance; he had had a shower and was still wet.

It can never be but so dull with a parrot around. He was watching me chop onions and peppers for tonight's supper and started talking to get my attention. When I stirred the sauce after taking this video, he said, "MmmmMMM!!! Is it good?!?!!" Marco is the most encouraging chef's apprentice ever. :)

I'm off to finish our dinner now and to wait for Gregg to get home. Hopefully with a glass of wine, a nice meal, and some Netflix before bed I can redeem a little bit of this dreary day.

Good night, friends.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Silly pet photo Saturday!

George watching Cesar Millan on YouTube this morning:

Marco out on the porch watching the birdfeeder. When a strong, warm wind started blowing, I asked him what he thought and he said, "Good! Good!"

And finally, Ginger hard at work on her biggest foxhole in the back yard.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Back to work

It was my first day back at work after the two week winter break. Most of the teachers and staff seemed notably more relaxed and smiling than before Christmas, and the kids were relatively quiet and well behaved, too. Some time off seems to have done everybody some good!

Last night I seared two pounds of stew beef meat and started simmering it in the crockpot with beef stock, crushed tomatoes, sautéed garlic and onions, and two bay leaves. It went into the refrigerator overnight, and then I put it back on low heat before I left for work this morning. As soon as I got home I tasted it for salt and pepper (the meat was falling apart in the broth) and then added two bags of frozen soup vegetables and a generous splash of red wine. Now it's simmering on low heat, still, and will soon be ready. I'm looking forward to having soup for the next few nights! It will make my first few days back at work easier if I can come home to a tasty dinner that's already made.

Image may contain: food

Have a good week, everybody.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Tough guy

I'm amazed, year after year, at my parrot Marco's resilience. For a tiny little version of an Eclectus parrot, he's a tough guy. 

Did I ever tell you the story of Marco's beginnings? A parrot breeder friend of mine named Ben used to have a couple of breeding pairs of Eclectus. He went to clean nest boxes one day and found a (surprise) newly hatched chick that hadn't been taken care of by its parents. It looked dead. Ben went to find a receptacle to put the tiny body in, but lo and behold, when he picked it up, it squirmed in his hand. It was alive! Barely. The mother and father showed zero interest in it (who knows why) so he had to hand feed it from day 1. For those of you (probably most of you) unfamiliar with baby parrot handfeeding practice, let me just say that it's an intense, unrelenting, round-the-clock endeavor with a newly hatched baby. It was a tiny miracle it survived. Ben's wife Frankie, a devout Catholic, started calling him "Jude" after the patron saint of lost causes. The bird grew up to have a stunted size (just over half the size of a "normal" male Eclectus) and a chronically runny nose that no vets were able to diagnose.

That was, obviously, Marco. I renamed him a strong sounding name when Ben gave him to me. "Jude" sounded just too sad! Ben knew I was an experienced bird handler (from my aviary manager days) and would give the bird a good home. Plus, he was eager to get rid of a bird who looked sick, as he didn't want potential buyers seeing a bird with a runny nose. Since then, Marco has grown into an almost 13 year old bird with all the personality of a full size Eclectus, as my regular readers well know!

When Marco got sick last week, I was scared to death. As prey animals, they've evolved to  hide signs of illness until they just can't anymore. A sick or weak bird is a target for predators. By the time bird owners realize how sick their birds are, it's often too late. When I saw Marco acting quiet, listless, with little appetite and runny eyes, I remembered how a Quaker parrot we used to own (pre blog days) named Cheeko looked like that one day, and was dead on the bottom of his cage the next morning.

I'm happy to report, however, that once again Marco has beaten the odds and resisted getting sick! After a few days of giving him warmer house temperatures, steam baths, tempting foods, UV light via the back porch, he's back to his old rowdy self again. Bright eyed and bushy-tailed!

We were watching the suet feeder outside that window together. We added a cayenne-laced suet cake to deter the squirrels who had been raiding it, and it was hilarious to watch them take bites and almost fall off the branch when they got a taste of the pepper!!

In his cage tonight after a long day of hell-raising.

Thanks for all the good thoughts and well wishes for my little tough guy!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Thoughts on a new year

Happy New Year! 

Things have finally settled down here at Casa de Sparrow. Illnesses seem to be on the wane (ours and Marco's), guests have cleared out and gone home, the Christmas decorations are packed away for another year, and everything is getting back to some semblance of normalcy. What a relief! The holidays are exhausting for me, and this one was particularly stressful.

I still have until Monday to rest, relax, and recover from it all. I'm so grateful for that. 

What are your plans/hopes/goals for this new year and decade? I don't care about making resolutions but the beginning of January seems to be a good time to take stock and to think about where you'd like to be 12 months from now. Yesterday I was giving this all some thought as I cooked our lucky New Year's Day meal:

Fried pork chops: good luck, looking forward (pork).

Hoppin' John: abundance, prosperity, coins (rice and black eyed peas).

Greens: money (leafy winter greens). I had the traditional collards, but I had to do green beans for my greens-hating husband, which is what you see in this photo. It's the intention that counts!

Vinegar (on the greens): good health, life, weathering changes.

Cornbread: Gold and riches. The rich color and round shape makes the reason pretty obvious.

As I approach my 45th birthday in March, I've decided that this year needs to be about making myself (my happiness and well-being) more of a priority. I tend to defer to others, to worry about their comfort and happiness more than my own, to be a people-pleaser. I want to treat myself more like....a friend. To take it easier on myself and not be so quick to give, give, give to others. To speak up more about what I need, even if it's uncomfortable. Those are my goals for 2020.

How about you?