Friday, July 31, 2020

Can you cook?

This was a fun "copy and paste and insert your own answers" thing I saw on Facebook this morning. I thought it might make for a good post to see how many of my blog friends like to cook. Share in the comments which numbers you answer "yes" to! (Obviously some of these questions are geared towards people who live in the Southern US. Sorry about that.)

I don't think people cook as much anymore because everything is boxed/premade and frozen etc. Copy/paste as your status and share if you want to see who can cook!
1. Made biscuits from scratch? Yes (doesn't mean they were good though).
2. Fried fresh okra? Yes
3.Made sourdough bread? No
4. Fried chicken? Yes
5. Made spaghetti sauce from scratch? Yes
6. Made any kind of yeast bread? Does the bread machine count?
7. Baked a cake from scratch? Yes
8. Made icing from scratch? Yes
9. Cooked a pot roast with all the veggies? Yes
10. Made chili from scratch? Yes
11. Made a meatloaf? Yes
12. Made scalloped potatoes? No
13. Made mac/cheese from scratch? Yes
14. Made a jello salad? Yes, and I love Watergate Salad when the holidays roll around!
15. Made peanut brittle? No
16. Made fudge? No
17. Made cookies from scratch? Yes
18. Cooked a pot of beans from dried beans? Yes
19. Cooked a pot of greens? Yes
20. Made cornbread from scratch? Yes
21. Make a pie dough from scratch? No, but plan to try soon.
22. Cooked a whole turkey? Yes
23. Snapped green beans and cooked them? Yes (I thought of Ms. Moon with this one!)
24. Made mashed potatoes from scratch? Yes
25. What’s the most people you have (alone) prepared a whole meal for? ?? Umm...6 maybe?
26. Poached an egg? No
27. Made pancakes from scratch? Yes
28. Roasted vegetables in the oven instead of boiling them? Yes
29. Made fresh pasta? No
30. Made croissants from scratch? No
31. Made tuna salad? Yes
32. Fried fish? No, but only because I don't like it.
33. Made baked beans? No, always open a can. :)
34. Made ice cream from scratch? No
35. Made jam or jelly? Yes
36. Zested an orange or lemon? Yes, regularly.
37. Made grits from scratch? Yes
38. Made an omelet? Yes
39. Lived in a house without a dishwasher? Yes, but not for a long time!
40. Eaten a bowl of cereal for supper? Yes

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Summer 2020

Marla and Martina came over for a masked visit Monday night. Masked, because it's far too hot to even think of sitting outside on the porch to maintain distance. Have you heard of "maskne"? Getting acne on your face underneath where a mask goes? That's happening to me. Even sitting inside in the air conditioned house, I'll sweat under a mask and yesterday morning I woke up with a painful zit on my chin. A small price to pay to get to safely socialize for a couple of hours.

It was great to see them both, but I couldn't entirely shake the despondency that I've been feeling for the last while. At times like these I'm glad that I'm taking a low maintenance dose of an antidepressant. I can feel the darkness of anxiety and depression lurking around the edges of my consciousness. A whole variety of stressors are contributing to it, I think, many of which everyone reading is likely experiencing to some degree these days. 

I made a couple of pizzas (which didn't turn out well at all....the pepperoni tasted funny and I burned the crusts a little bit) and also some cupcakes from a box mix that had been sitting in the back of the pantry since the lockdown began in March. Martina had just had a birthday, hence the cupcakes. Marla brought over a case of hard ciders to share.  It's weird sitting with friends and everyone wearing a mask. I sometimes wonder if life will ever get back to normal. 

Oh, and Marla's parents and grandma sent us a huge bag of homegrown tomatoes from their garden! I made BLTs with some of them last night, and they're the most delicious tomatoes we've had this year.

I've done some reading lately, but most of it's been re-reading favorites. The exception was a $1.99 e-book I downloaded of Shirley Jackson short stories. I really liked The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and all the stories have the same kind of creepy/unsettling vibe. Fun summer reading.

We've also been watching the HBO documentary I'll Be Gone in the Dark, about the crime blogger and writer Michelle McNamara's search for the Golden State Killer. The GSK was a notorious serial killer and rapist who terrorized parts of California in the '70s and early '80s and the case had long gone cold. Thanks to the attention her work reignited, they actually caught the guy a couple of years ago. The FBI was able to track him down by searching ancestry databanks from companies like 23 and Me for distant relatives of his who shared some of his DNA. After all these decades, the monster is finally in prison where he belongs, and the story of the search for him has been fascinating. The documentary is also about McNamara, who unfortunately passed away suddenly the year before and didn't get to see the killer get caught. That's a shame. I'm not normally a person who enjoys true crime type shows or podcasts, but I've been enjoying this one and can highly recommend it.

Besides reading and watching tv, I haven't been doing anything much worth mentioning. The heat and humidity have been terrible. Going outside just isn't fun. I'm tired of being so homebound. Except for the grocery store, I rarely go anywhere unless I have to make a trip to the drugstore or to put gas in the car. When I run one of these errands I usually drive around town a little while I'm out, just to get a break from being at home. When I think of how badly I've needed and wanted time off in the past when I was working a lot and life was normal, I feel guilty about not enjoying all this free time. Still, it's just been too much. If I could do more normal things like visit friends, go to book club (it looks like we won't be resuming that at all this year), go to the library or the thrift stores to browse, then things would be different. In this city and this state, coronavirus is running rampant and doing any of those things would be risky. It's bad enough worrying about going back to school in another month. Just yesterday our local news reported that a neighboring school district (Darlington) had 6 cafeteria workers test positive for the virus. They were working at the schools' summer feeding programs for the community. Now all the school cafeterias are closed down for disinfecting and the workers are in quarantine. And that's just when they're making summer lunches for some of the kids! Who knows how bad things will get once we reopen. As much as I want to go back to work, I'm dreading what the fallout may be. Gregg wears a mask all day long at the pet store or when he's servicing aquariums, sometimes for up to 10 hours a day, and still he's worried because our numbers are so bad and so many people continue to refuse to honor the mask requirement. He's wishing now he had gone to work at first when the virus numbers were still low, and could take some time off now that things are so much riskier. If things continue to go downhill he might have to anyway. 

All in all, it hasn't exactly been a stellar summer, has it?

Sunday, July 26, 2020

These two...

When I'm feeling low, these two sweet faces are everything. They're such a comfort to me. 

I love them so much.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

An adventure gone awry

Seven years ago today my pal Marla and I decided to go spend the day at Huntington Beach State Park, in Murrells Inlet, SC. It turned out to be an unforgettable experience. And by "unforgettable" I mean "slightly traumatic".  It was definitely one of our most memorable adventures so far! When I shared pictures from the trip on my blog a couple of days later, I didn't mention the ordeal we had endured. Instead, I concentrated on sharing pictures I took that day, and I'll be sharing a few of them again as I tell the story.

The day started off beautifully.

Sea oats on the sand dunes
Huntington Beach State Park is about a 90 minute drive from our home in Florence. We started out early in the morning, with a cooler full of ice water, hats and sunscreen, and a full tank of gas. The plan was to spend a few hours hanging out on the beach and exploring the marsh, and then maybe having a nice late lunch somewhere before heading home.

Although there are lots of great things to do in and around the park, the uncrowded beaches are truly wonderful.

As soon as we arrived and parked the car, we decided to walk on the beach for a few minutes. We struck out in the direction of the jetty, after only pausing long enough to slap on some sunscreen. We left our cooler full of drinks in the car, as we only intended to walk a little way at first. That was our first mistake.

And so we walked. And walked. The ocean felt wonderful on our bare feet and legs.

We even met a few new friends along the way.

I just loved this fierce little fellow!

Stella Maris

We found a couple of souvenirs to take home, too. (We had brought a small bucket along to collect treasures, but not any water to drink or extra sunscreen. Priorities!)

So we kept walking.... and walking.... and walking. I have no explanation for that. The jetty didn't look all that far away, but after an hour or so Marla said, "Jennifer....does it look like the jetty just isn't getting any closer?" and I had to agree with her that it looked about the same as when we had started. We should have stopped right there and taken stock. It was blazing hot, the sun was beating down on us, and we were beginning to get thirsty. Maybe the sun was starting to go to our heads because we agreed that the jetty couldn't be that much further away and since we had already come so far, why not keep going? You guys.....that was our second mistake.

So we walked some more.

Finally, finally, the jetty really was closer. We had made it! Yay!

Even though we were already tired and disheartened at how long it had taken us to get there, we decided we had to walk out on the jetty before turning back. Here's a photo I took looking back towards the shore:

The more astute of my readers will guess what happened next. Yes, our dumb asses finally realized we had to walk that whole way back!

It had been hours at this point. We were hot, tired, and very thirsty. Our sunscreen had long since worn off and we were starting to burn. And the walk back seemed like a herculean undertaking.

So then we had our final bright idea of the day. We decided to head to the dunes and try to walk back to the park base via the nature trails that wind through the maritime forest. Actually, we didn't realize that they "wind through" the maritime forest. I think we assumed they mostly ran parallel to the beach, and our line of reasoning went that at least we'd have some shade and protection from the sun going that way. This was a BIG MISTAKE.

First of all, it was hotter back there even though there was shade. Most of the paths winding through the trees were open and sunny. Sand started to get into our sandals and blisters started to rise on the bottoms of our feet from the friction of the salt water and hot sand. We were dehydrated, so dehydrated at that point that we had to keep stopping from flat-out exhaustion. Then we got lost. Yes, lost! Marla finally resorted to trying to pull up GPS on her phone to try and figure out just where in the park we were, to no avail. It would have been funny at that moment if it hadn't felt so deadly serious!

At one point, and I'll never forget this as long as I live, we were sitting, dejected, beneath a tree just beside the path and wondering how in the world to get out of the fix we had put ourselves in, and Marla looked at me and deadpanned:

"Jennifer......I never thought I'd die in a State Park."

Eventually, sweaty, exhausted, sunburnt, nauseous, and limping, we burst through the back of the tent camping area of the park. Several families looked at us with alarm as we marched through their camps. We didn't give a damn at that point. We were way beyond caring. I can only imagine what we looked like....a couple of crazy women is my best guess! I can only speak for myself, but I'll tell you how I felt: utterly desperate. When a park ranger zoomed past us on a 4 wheel drive I hated him for not somehow noticing our plight and offering us a ride. (Which was of course completely irrational). We still had a good half mile to trudge back to the parking lot.

Of course, we finally made it back to the car, and got something to drink, and headed home. It was such a relief to drive out past the salt marshes on the way to highway 17.

We've laughed about our adventure for years now. We left the park that day horribly sunburned, with large blisters on our feet and sore, sore muscles everywhere else, but it's made for a good story to tell: The Day We Almost Died in a State Park!

***As we drove home that day we heard that Prince George had just been born in England. I'll never think about that boy without remembering what I was doing when he was born!***

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Summer days

The other day Meike mentioned the use of the term "high summer" in Germany  to describe this period from mid-July to mid-August, when temperatures are at their highest. I love the sound of "high summer" and think it perfectly describes this time of year.

South Carolina is currently smack in the middle of the first big heat wave for this summer. Temperatures have been reaching around 98F degrees (36.666C, and no, I didn't make up the ".666" part!) with high humidity to go along with it. We've been having weather (heat) advisories every day, and going outside is almost out of the question. It's like walking into a blast furnace when the sun is out, and at night it's like a sauna, with air so thick and hot it's like having a damp blanket over your head. After a sweltering hot afternoon yesterday, we had a brief  but heavy rain shower. When it was over, you could see steam rising off the streets for the next couple of hours. Yuck.

Getting exercise (for me and the dogs) has suffered. We take the dogs out most nights for a short walk after dark, but it's still so hot that we're lucky if we make it around the full half mile loop of the neighborhood just once. Not only is it extremely uncomfortable for me, but Ginger has a thick coat and is 13 years old. We have to be more careful with her these days, and this heat is no joke. We all need more activity, but I'm not sure how to manage it! In a normal year I'd go and walk with friends at the (air conditioned) mall sometimes if it was too hot to do it outside, but of course that's not a good idea with the coronavirus still raging. In a normal year, I might at least go downtown occasionally, to the library, to the thrift stores to browse, etc., but not this summer! Back in the spring, being at home got tedious sometimes, but at least the weather was nice and there was plenty to do outside. Now that I'm stuck literally in the house with this heat, I'm feeling kind of stir crazy. But summer in South Carolina always feels a little bit like that anyway. 

Our Crepe Myrtle trees have been blooming their hearts out for us over the last few weeks! Last winter's careful pruning of the lower branches may have had something to do with it, or maybe it's the plentiful rain we've had this year, but in any case they sure have been pretty.

These photos were taken last week. Now that the temps have soared, we noticed yesterday that the flowers are beginning to look a little past their prime already. Everything that's green outside is starting to get that late summer slightly tired look. I doubt we'll see any real lessening of the heat for some weeks to come, though. Summer still has us in its grip!

Speaking of high summer, tomorrow happens to be the anniversary of the day I took a trip to the ocean with my friend Marla a few years back. I know I shared pictures from the trip, but I don't think I ever told the story of how we almost died in a state park that day. I think I'll use that for a post tomorrow! It was a memorable experience, that's for sure.

 In the meantime, stay cool my friends.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Checking in with the Brat

Someone (maybe Anne Marie) asked about Marco in the comments on yesterday's post. I realized I haven't mentioned him recently. Rest assured, he's as full of spit and vinegar as ever. This bird thinks he rules the house!

Here are some recent photos.

Just staring out the window.

Evening at the front door.


Catching a ride to the laundry room in the basket of clothes. He loves to "help" with the laundry.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020


It's good to have a sense of purpose. After all these weeks of staying at home, feeling aimless and disconnected from the life we had pre-pandemic, it's nice to have a reason to get up in the morning and something to work towards. Even small things make a difference.

I've been up to the school several times in the last week. First of all, the principal called and asked me to come down to the school and if I'd do him a favor. Our phone system got updated and now there's a menu when you call, one of those "press 1 for so-and-so, press 2 for....." recordings. Since I do most of the morning and afternoon announcements, and everyone claims I have a great voice for it, the principal wanted me to be "the voice of the school" and record the menu options for the phones. I was happy to! I ended up having to drive down to the district office and meet with the head of technology to make the recordings, but it only took a few minutes. Later that afternoon, the principal called me up and gushed about what a great job he thought I'd done! This will actually benefit me more than anybody; I answer 90% of the calls to the school (maybe more) so this will divert a lot of those calls to the person they're meant for instead of going through the main office. Hooray! It's something we should've done years ago.

Then I spent all day at the school on Monday, helping Gregg set up the new aquarium in the lobby!  For those of you keeping up with this project, here are two photos I took after everything was up and running. Since the fish aren't in there yet, and two powerful filters are running, the water is so glossy clear that one of the passing custodians asked me if there was water in it yet!

I love the stark rocks and the spare aquascape that Gregg came up with! It mirrors the design of the tank, stand, and hood really well. It's going to look great once the Shubunkin goldfish arrive.

Even wholesale pet suppliers are experiencing disruptions in supply chains due to the pandemic, but Gregg was able to get a bundle of the goldfish into the pet store after calling a long time wholesaler contact in Atlanta and asking for a favor. He picked out the best dozen for our school. They're in a small tank at the store right now, but as soon as he's sure they're healthy they'll be coming to their new home! Eventually a 72 gallon tank (that's what this is) will be far too small for a dozen goldfish, but it'll be a while before they get that big. They're only 3-4 inches right now. The long term plan is to have either 3 or 5 large, wiggly, pet-like fish living in this tank, whichever ones grow out to be the prettiest. They should end up between 8-10 inches long in a few years if all goes well. Of course, Gregg will re-home any extras from the original dozen.

Shubunkin goldfish, stock photos:

See the source image

See the source image

The principal and the few staff members still working right now seem to love the new tank!
It's prominent in the lobby and should get a lot of attention when school reopens. Gregg was able to get us a good deal on everything, and he decided not to charge the school for the labor to set the aquarium up. That and the tank itself is his gift to the school. I'm so proud of him! Of course, he'll be making a little extra money each month for maintaining a second tank, but even that he's cutting them a break on. My husband is a really good guy. :)

Helping him set up the new tank, recording the messages for the phone system, running by the school today to drop off an invoice for the bookkeeper....all this has kept me just busy enough in the last several days to make me feel better. I've still been struggling to find purpose in my days. If ever I thought a lot of time off work and time to stay at home sounded appealing, I've been disabused of that notion in the last four months. I hate sitting at home day after day. Maybe if there wasn't a pandemic and I had all this time off it would be okay, who knows. For instance, I'd love to resume my Guardian ad Litem duties, but with South Carolina a hotspot of infection, now is definitely not the time for that. I've had to (regretfully) let that go by the wayside. Although I love and believe in the work, a 9-5 office job doesn't lend itself to regular family court appearances. Nor did it give me a good time to meet with childrens' school teachers and counselors, which is an essential part of serving as a GAL. I think I may have to put off that kind of volunteer work until I'm retired, not merely staying home because of a virus. It's too bad, though. I could do a lot of good with all the time I have to spare these days.

It definitely looks like I'll be going back to work soon, though. Governor McMaster gave a press conference today where he basically said he wants the schools to reopen for in-person instruction after Labor Day no matter what. Teachers and parents are frightened and angry, which I understand. As for me, I'll do whatever I'm asked to do. Maybe by then our city's new mask requirement will help to tamp down the infection rate. In any event, I'll be sitting behind a counter and behind a desk (several feet away from others) in the office, wearing a mask, and being vigilant about hand washing. I'd be lying if I said I was upset about the prospect of going back, though. I need that sense of  purpose in my days.

How do you retain a sense of purpose and balance in these strange times? Does your work/contribution to society have an effect on your feelings of self worth? I'm finding that a sense of purpose in life is important to me (I never knew this about myself). Is this true for you, too?

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The pandemic: a rant

South Carolina is finally excelling at something!!!

Per capita we're in third place in the entire world for the rate of new Covid-19 infections. Yay, us!

Can you hear the sarcasm dripping from this post so far? Read on if you feel like reading a rant...otherwise, don't say you weren't warned.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

From the camera roll this week...

The zinnias in front of our school are blooming again this year. They reseeded themselves!

George and Ginger playing with one of the toys Parsnip sent! They play like wild beasts every single night after supper. 

Did anyone else see the beautiful July full moon last weekend? It was almost as bright as the sun when it first appeared in the East.
Heirloom and Hybrid tomatoes at the farm stand.

More vegetables from the farm stand being transformed into dinner.
Banana Pudding: a delicious, cool dessert in the summertime.

A friend sent me small banana tree shoots he dug up from around his pond. They're growing like crazy in the large pots I put them in. They're bound for the sheltered South-facing wall in the back yard, next to our Pomegranate tree. You can also see the large leaves on the fig cuttings I'm growing out in this photo. By next spring I'll have a good size Brown Turkey fig tree to plant in the back yard, too.

My orchids are still happy on the back porch.

The ficus tree is also growing well on the porch. It's going to be difficult fitting it back in the house this winter!

Our five Crepe Myrtle trees are finally blooming!

Monday, July 6, 2020

The holiday weekend

It was a nice weekend here despite the pandemic and everything else going on. I went swimming Saturday afternoon and it felt wonderful. Is there anything more refreshing than spending a few hours in a pool on a hot summer afternoon? I felt cooled-off and relaxed for the rest of the night. I got a slight sunburn on the tops of my shoulders, no big deal, and my face ended up a little pink too.

My friend's pretty pool!

Pink face.
Once I headed home, I fired up the grill and we had a nice supper. Afterwards there were gin and tonics with lots of ice and lime on the back porch. Although we heard lots and lots of fireworks, we didn't actually see very many like we did the night before. A family who lives behind us did set off a few, though. And did you see the full moon rising Saturday night? It was crazy big and bright.

Yesterday was another fun day. Gregg was off and we were pretty lazy. As the sun went down we finally got around to burning a bunch of tree limbs and branches that have been sitting in our back yard for months. We built a temporary fire pit to keep it all contained.

My husband playing with fire.

Ginger loves to go camping. Maybe she thought that's what we were doing, building a fire in the backyard. She stayed close to see what we were up to.
So that was my holiday weekend. Nothing too exciting, but pretty nice all the same. As I'm typing this (just before noon on Monday) a thunderstorm seems to be approaching. I'm going outside to watch it from the porch.

I hope that everyone who celebrates it had a nice Fourth, and I hope you all have a good week!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

It's the 4th of July!

Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays of the entire year. Not that I'm all that patriotic, mind you. I do love my country, despite our many problems and faults, but I'll never be a flag waving, "love it or leave it" faux patriot. I say "faux" because denying our many big and troubling issues and our sins of the past doesn't do a damn thing to move our country forward. Real patriots, in my opinion, want to make the USA better even if that takes facing hard truths and a lot of hard work. Still.....

"America the Beautiful" gets me every time. Right in the feels.

If you're in the USA, what are your plans on this 4th of July? With the pandemic going on and lots of people staying home I imagine it will be a little different for some this year.

I went to the farm stand yesterday to pick up tomatoes, sweet corn, and various other vegetables. While I shopped I heard plenty of people talking about how they were "headed to the lake" or "headed to the beach" with their families for the next week. One man bought 6 cantaloupes, 3 watermelons, and a giant bag of green peanuts for boiling and I heard him telling someone that his whole extended family was already down at the lake at Santee and he was picking up last minute supplies before joining them. So obviously some people aren't too worried about the pandemic! I understand that big family vacations this time of year are part of the local culture, but damn. You'd think people could skip one year in the interest of keeping everyone safe!

Full disclose, though: I'm a little envious. When I was a kid, my mom's family rented a beach cottage at Cherry Grove beach for a week every July 4th. My grandma and granddaddy, mom and dad, aunt and uncle, and me and my two first cousins on that side would all be there. My granddad would bring sacks of produce from his garden, and would spend most of his time sitting in the shade just outside the cottage. He didn't much care for the actual beach (it was half a block away, within sight of the house) and he refused to ever get in the ocean. When asked why he wouldn't dip his toes in the water, at least, you know what he'd say? "With all these drunks sitting on the beach drinking beer the water is probably half piss!" Hahahaha!  Actually, he probably wasn't too far wrong. In those days, adults could sit on the beach with a cooler full of beer and no one bothered them about it. The adults in my family certainly did, and when we were at the beach even grandma might be caught sipping a little something in the evening when the sun went down. Playing in the ocean was my very favorite thing to do when we were there, piss be damned. My second favorite part of vacation was playing video games in the arcade that was right on the beach in those days. Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and my personal favorite, Centipede! This would have been in the 80s. You could buy footlong hot dogs and ice cream in the arcade if you got hungry, and there was a wooden walkway leading out the back straight onto the beach. My cousins and I spent hours there while the adults did whatever it was they did. I remember how sweet it was to fall asleep at night on cool cotton sheets with a sea breeze coming in the open windows after a long day of sun and sand and salt water. Those beach vacations around the 4th of July are some of the best memories I have of growing up. Days gone by. I thought of all that yesterday when I overheard the man talking about his family's lake house vacation.

Getting back to 2020, I'll be firing up the grill tonight after Gregg gets off work. Grilling out is essential for a proper July 4th in our house. Last night someone at a small business just down the road from our neighborhood fired off a solid 20 minutes of fireworks just after sunset. They were beautiful--we had a decent view from our back porch--and we're hoping they'll have even more tonight since today's the actual holiday. Years ago we'd sometimes buy fireworks to set off (they're legal and very available here), but they're too expensive to even be thought of these days. Plus, they scare Ginger which is almost enough to put us off them altogether. Last night I turned on the tv kind of loud for her to drown out the sound of them, and combined with her recent hearing loss, she didn't seem to notice them much. So that's good! Maybe tonight we'll get another free firework show!

So I'm off to mix up marinades for the meat and veggies I'll be grilling later, and then I'm debating about taking a friend up on her offer of going to her house to swim. She has a nice pool and we can easily keep a safe distance from each other. Gregg is working until 7 tonight so it's going to be a long, hot afternoon at home by myself if I don't go. And I haven't seen this friend in months and I miss her. So that should be a fun way to kill a couple of hours.

Happy Independence Day! Be safe, be well, and have fun.