Saturday, September 23, 2023


Wednesday night I hosted my book club's September meeting. There was a large turnout: eleven guests in all. I don't think we've ever had so many people in our house at one time! I was really nervous about it and worked really hard to prepare, giving the house a major cleaning over the course of a couple of weeks and then spending a lot of time planning and shopping. (I spent a fair amount of money, too). But in the end, it was all worth it. Everything went off without a hitch, I was proud of how the house looked, and most importantly, everyone seemed to have a good time. 

Preparing the food is my favorite part of any party, and I really had fun with it this time. I made my first ever charcuterie board! 

What I enjoyed most about this was how easy it was to make something that looks really fancy. The only cooking involved was toasting the pecans with butter and salt. I got lots of compliments on it.

Speaking of easy, I also served the classic grape jelly + Heinz chili sauce crockpot meatballs. All you have to do is throw frozen pre-cooked meatballs in a crock pot with a small jar of grape jelly and a couple of jars of chili sauce, then just stir them around a time or two as they heat up. It may sound weird, but they're delicious, and people always devour them. I also bought pre-boiled eggs at the grocery store and made a double batch of deviled eggs. Deviled eggs are another crowd-pleaser, and when you eliminate the step where you have to boil (and worse, peel) the eggs, they're quick and easy too.

I bought six bottles of wine for the party: three reds, two whites, and a rose. I wanted a good selection for people to choose from. Of course, I had plenty of bottled water and soda on hand, too. There's a lot of the wine left over. 

Karen (from The Internet's Best Karen) was the first to arrive. Since she works in the Chemistry department of our local university, she really enjoyed this month's book!

Check out George photobombing this next shot. He knew there was food nearby! :)

Once everyone arrived, Poppy was wide eyed and nervous and decidedly not having fun, so I gave her an early supper on the back porch and let her stay out there. George has been around long enough to know that company can be fun (and the source of treats) so he was a Very Good Boy. He went to each guest in turn to get petted and admired, then settled down on the rug in the middle of it all while we had our discussion. He was a perfect gentleman.

"What about Marco?" I hear you all wondering...well, he was THRILLED with all the noise and company. He stayed on my shoulder most of the time, to the delight of all the guests. He was a little clown, laughing and making little comments and generally hamming it up. Before leaving, a couple of people wanted to take pictures with him, and he was happy to oblige. 

I'm glad things went well, but I'm also glad that it's all over! The house is still pretty much spotless, which is a bonus. I plan to spend the weekend relaxing and enjoying some downtime after such a busy week!

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Weekend preparations

Today I woke up to an absolutely beautiful early fall morning. The temperature got down into the 50s last night and the cool air from my open bedroom window felt fantastic. It was the first time in months we've been able to sleep with the windows up. I'm looking forward to lower power bills now that summer is really over.

This weekend will be spent doing lots of cleaning. Next Wednesday I'm hosting my book club, and I want everything to be as nice as possible. I'm expecting nine people for sure, and there's another two or three who haven't RSVP'd yet. Entertaining stresses me out for months ahead of time (it's silly but I can't help it) which is why I only volunteer to host about once a year. 

Between two dogs, a parrot, and my almost nonexistent housekeeping skills, there's always a lot to do to make the house company-worthy. Hell, one of the reasons we painted the bathroom last week was to cover up the area by one end of the shower curtain rod where Marco had chewed a patch of paint off! The hardwood floors in the dining room need a good cleaning, too. George regularly stands by the table when we're eating and drools and drools onto the wood. Even when you wipe it up, it leaves smudges and smears behind. And Poppy is the worst shedder we've ever had. The whole house needs to be vacuumed almost daily to keep up with the volume of fur coming off of her. 

But I can't blame it all on the animals. I'm not a great housekeeper, and I don't mind admitting it, and I tend to be lazy and would rather do other things, like read. Then when company's coming, I lose my mind for two or three days and go on an absolute tear, even cleaning things that my guests will most likely not even see. I'm going to try to do better this time. Today and tomorrow I'm going to slowly work my way through the living room, dining room, and kitchen, cleaning, dusting, and mopping as I go. I'm going wipe down Marco's cage and change the plastic sheeting underneath it, and also give both the dogs baths. At some point I'll gird my loins and go shopping for the food and wine I plan to serve (I dread the shopping trip more than the cleaning!) and that should be it. I'll wait until the night before to clean the bathroom, of course.

So that's going to be my weekend. I'm actually looking forward to seeing my book club friends and having them over, it's just the preparations that I hate. The book we read this month was Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. I'd heard good things about this book, and was looking forward to it, but it was (in my opinion) a piece of crap. I didn't like it at all. Next week, when I have more time, I'll do a brief review of it here. But not today. Today, I have a house to clean and a shopping list to complete.

Have a good one, friends!

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Tomorrow's Coral

This past Sunday Gregg and I completed our latest home improvement project: we painted our main bathroom! We had trouble picking out a color because the tile on the walls and shower as well as the tile on the floor are kind of odd colors if you look closely.

Here's a before picture. 

It's hard to see in the photo but the floor has some orange tints in after lots of samples and lots of discussion, we decided on a  paint color called "Tomorrow's Coral".

I wasn't sure about it at first, but it's starting to grow on me. It's certainly cheerful!

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 6, 2023


Gregg finally got a call back from the oncologist. Everything appears to be okay. There's an area that they're going to continue to monitor closely, but as of right now it doesn't appear to be problematic. Thank goodness. 

The delay in hearing anything was because Dr. Smith wanted to show the results to our friend Vinod. Dr. Vinod Jona is a long-time personal friend of Gregg's, and as luck would have it, he's the top pulmonary specialist in this area. There's no doubt in my mind that he saved Gregg's life back in 2012. He oversaw all of the tests and treatments, personally picked out the surgeon and oncologist he thought best, and made sure Gregg got the very best treatment available with no delays. In fact, he was already on standby to do a biopsy immediately if this latest PET scan showed anything. Dr. Smith is used to partnering with him on Gregg's care, and I'm so glad he went over everything with him first even if it did mean a delay in getting results. I'm not religious, but Vinod has been a real blessing in our lives. I'm so grateful to him.

We can finally rest a little easier tonight. I'm so thankful.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

First taste of fall

So this happened yesterday.

Hurricane Idalia was much diminished by the time it came over our area, and while we got a lot of rain (over 6 inches) there was very little harm done. What it did seem to do was blow out the hot, stagnant summer air and herald the arrival of our first taste of fall. Yesterday was absolutely gorgeous, with cool temperatures, low humidity, and bright blue skies. It seemed like a good afternoon to clean up the garden bed, which had gone to utter ruin in the last part of August. My husband was kind enough to lend a hand, so it didn't take long at all.  

One last gleaning of peppers and cherry tomatoes: goodbye to my summer 2023 garden.

Another harvest is just beginning, though. The pomegranate is loaded with ripening fruit for the first time ever right now. I'm truly excited for these.

One of the banana plants finally has a bloom! Although these won't produce any fruit, the flowers are pretty enough to make growing them worthwhile just for their sake. 

It's Labor Day weekend and the forecast is for beautiful weather. It's very welcome after the long, hot summer, and a nice way to kick off September. The extra day off on Monday is very welcome, too.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Tuesday afternoon stuff

Well, Gregg had his PET scan this morning. Thank you all for your positive thoughts and supportive comments on my last post. I appreciate every single one of them more than you know. The doctor promised to call with the results within a couple of days, so we shouldn't have to wonder much longer. I'm trying not to worry until there's a real reason to. (It's always in the back of my mind, though). 

Let me tell you about my weekend! This past Saturday morning I woke up around 3am, projectile vomiting and feeling like I might be dying! I spent the whole day in bed with nausea and stomach pain and feeling pretty terrible, bad enough that I wondered if I'd come down with the flu or something. What a great way to spend the weekend, huh? I'm pretty sure now that taking a big combination of drugs (for three separate issues) including antibiotics, prednisone, a pain reliever, and a muscle relaxer was to blame. I'm finally feeling pretty much back to normal today, and since I'm now off everything except a small and dwindling dose of prednisone, hopefully it won't happen again. It was a rough couple of days.

It looks like there's a hurricane headed to Florida tomorrow, and in the wee hours of Thursday morning it's supposed to go over eastern South Carolina as a tropical storm. I'm keeping a close eye on the Florida forecast because my friend Mary Moon is down there. In fact, when Gregg and I first saw the storm's forecast track, he said, "Hey, doesn't your blog friend live down near that part of Florida?"  It's funny how people we've only met through blogs can become so important to us. I know Ms. Moon and her family will be perfectly fine, but it's still scary having a big storm bearing down on you. We'll be watching developments closely, of course. I won't be surprised if we don't have school on Thursday, since we're going to get a ton of rain all at once (leading to minor flooding) and strong gusty winds. When it's not safe for school buses to be on the road, schools shut down. As they should, of course. 

So, we'll see what the rest of this crazy week holds! Only best-case scenarios, I hope. 

Stay safe, everyone. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Worried, but grateful

Yesterday Gregg came home from work, sat down heavily in a chair beside me, and said, "I got a call from Jamie Smith this morning. From him, not his office."

Jamie Smith is Dr. Jamie Smith, his oncologist. My heart sank.

Gregg's been having yearly chest CT scans since 2012, when he was treated for stage 3 lung cancer. One such scan was a couple of weeks ago. Apparently there have been some small but measurable changes in his chest area since the last one, and out of an abundance of caution Dr. Smith is sending him to have a PET scan next week. For those of you lucky enough to not know, PET scans are used to detect cancer. There's a small possibility that there's been a recurrence. 

Dr. Smith said (more than once) that he thinks there's less than a 10% chance that the cancer is back, but since Gregg only has one lung (they removed his left lung to save his life), there's just no room to take a "wait and see" approach. Catching any recurrence in the very earliest stages will be crucial to treating it successfully. He told Gregg to do his best not to worry over the next few days (easier said than done, of course, which he readily admitted) because he really thinks it will prove to be nothing. 

But oh, it's scary. It's hard not to worry. 

At the same time, I'm so incredibly grateful to Dr. Smith. He's been watching out for my husband for years now, and I have faith in him. He's not only a good oncologist, but he's also kind and thoughtful. He says he'll have answers for us within a day or two of the PET scan, which is next Tuesday. You can't ask for any better than that. 

But it's going to be a long week. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

"Not again!"

My new job is still going really well. Yesterday someone left this sweet note on my desk, and it made my day. I still don't know who wrote it, though! 

I'm learning new stuff all the time, and every day gets easier. I've had zero work stress. Zero. How wonderful is that?

It has been a little strange getting used to such young students after six years with tweens and young teenagers at the middle school, though. Our students are kindergarten (5K) through fifth grade. Babies! And so of course I'm already collecting "crazy shit little kids say and do" stories. Here's one of them...

One morning last week parents started showing up at the school (and calling), returning money that their children had been given on the school bus by another child. This one little boy, a kindergartener, had somehow gotten his hands on $400 in cash and took it to school with him. On the bus ride home, he was handing out 50- and 20-dollar bills to all the other kids......for no particular reason...he was just like...

Hahaha! *

And to top off this crazy story, when they called the kid's parents to tell them that cash was being dropped off in the office for them, cash their 5-year-old had given away on the bus, the first thing the mom said was, "Oh no! Not again!!!"

Yep, apparently the same thing had happened the year before! When he was in 4K, he snuck money to school and handed it out to his preschool class. I'm not sure what the future holds for this young man, but I'll say this: he's got the principle of sharing down pat. 

* I'm pleased to report that the family got all of the money back. I was impressed at the honesty of the other parents. One woman returned $100...her twin sons had each gotten a fifty on the way home!

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Back on my feet

I ended up having two doctor's appointments this week. The first was with my family doctor on Tuesday to get refills for the SSRI I take. I'd made the appointment week before last, and it turned out to be a lucky thing that I did, because on Monday I woke up with a pulled muscle(s) in my lower back. I'm not sure how it happened, but I could hardly walk, so in addition to giving me a refill on the Zoloft the doctor also gave me two prescriptions for my back. That was good timing!

Along with the back pain, I've been having a massive eczema flare on my ankles and the tops of my feet. The itching, pain, swelling, and redness was making it nearly impossible to sleep at night, and between that and the back pain, it was really difficult to walk. I was miserable. On Wednesday morning I called my allergist's office and made an appointment for Friday afternoon after work.

Have I mentioned how much I love my allergy/asthma doctor, Dr. Stone? Any time I need to see him I can get appointments quickly, there's never any waiting past my appointment time, and he's always very kind. I was almost in tears when I got to his office yesterday. My feet were in horrible shape, so bad I was almost embarrassed to show them to him. I know that's silly, since he's my doctor and, as Gregg pointed out, has surely seen worse. It was pretty bad, though.

Dr. Stone was wonderful, as always. He held my feet gently in his hands to examine them while he questioned me about what's been going on. It turns out the triple antibiotic ointment I'd been slathering on the skin (in an effort to avoid infection when I couldn't help but scratch myself bloody) is an irritant that makes eczema worse.  Oops! And I did indeed have infection setting in, which of course explained the extra pain and itch and swelling. Then after examining my skin closely for a few minutes, he decided that the pattern of eczema on the tops and sides of my feet might be a sign of something called shoe dermatitis, an allergy to materials and chemicals used in making shoes. That would explain why the regular eczema treatments haven't been working very well and why the rash is all concentrated on my feet. In a few weeks, after the current infection and inflammation have been dealt with, I'll be going back to the office for patch testing, which will determine if I have it or not. From the website I just linked to:

 "Shoe dermatitis represents approximately 10% of all persons attending for patch testing. The culprit agent can range from products found in leather, colourants, rubber, or adhesive components, and can occasionally be mimicked by an allergy to agents on socks or stockings."

In the meantime, he prescribed a course of prednisone as well as oral and topical antibiotics to clear up the current crisis. He advised me to get several pairs of all cotton socks and to change them out a couple of times a day, maintaining a dry barrier between my skin and my shoes. Going barefoot or just wearing flip flops at home would be a good idea, too.

If I do have shoe allergies, I'll have to see if any companies make allergen free shoes. And it will be expensive to replace all of my current shoes, but very much worth it if it solves the problem. At the end of my appointment, Dr. Stone said, "We're going to get to the bottom of this, and we're going to fix it." I could have hugged him! 

I'm sorry I've been mostly absent in blogland for the past week, but now you know why. I hope to catch up with reading and commenting this weekend. Hopefully I'll be feeling better soon--between my back and my feet, it's been a rough time! 

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Just another hot August afternoon

It's really hot out today. Dangerously hot, to be precise. The heat index has been up around 107 degrees every day for a week. Monday night we got a massive thunderstorm complete with high winds and torrential rains, but did it cool things down any? No, it did not. Going outside, at any time of day, is pretty miserable. It's like putting a hot, wet towel over your face when you step out the door. Not my favorite time of year by any means!

Work is still going well. It's been a real adjustment going from such a busy, stressful environment as my last school to such a different place, though. I think I must have a little PTSD from last year, because I keep finding myself waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop. Things are so placid and well-run and just...easy...that it makes me nervous sometimes.

 I know that sounds weird. It's hard to explain. It's like my nervous system is all keyed up and ready for stress to explode around me, and when it never does that anxiety/energy has nowhere to go. There are long stretches of time with nothing pressing for me to do. It's disconcerting. For six years I did the jobs of at least two people and the pace never, ever let up. Now I have a normal (one person) job. No one dumps extra tasks on me or takes advantage. (Quite the opposite, in fact. The other office people/teachers/staff go out of their way to be kind and to not impose on me or my time).  I have a great deal of freedom and a quiet, private office. There's only so much to do, even when I help answer phones and such, and it seems strange not to have to operate under a sense of urgency all the time. As to the bookkeeping part of my training (the only challenging thing) that's coming along just fine. I'm learning a lot as situations come up that require my input, and it's not nearly as complicated as I initially imagined it to be.

So, a bit weird, but all good. Since I'm off early (as usual these days) and Gregg works late tonight, I'm considering a short nap. My bedroom is cool and dark, I have a book to read*, and a quick snooze sounds like just the thing for a hot afternoon. 

*My book club decided to read a classic this month: East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I'm enjoying it so far.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Morning brew

Nothing like a good hot cup of coffee first thing in the morning...and a friend to share it with. 

Happy Sunday, Friends!

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Last of the summer garden


This picture is about half of the tomatoes I picked week before last. Although it looks like a lot, I've been seriously underwhelmed at their performance this year. The garden is way past its prime, now, and I doubt many more tomatoes will be forthcoming this season. The awful heat of late July/early August really does a number on everything. Well, except for the cherry tomatoes. Those keep powering on no matter what! Everything else is almost done.

My cucumbers have been a real disappointment. I got a few, but they were mostly misshapen and several of them turned yellowish on the vine. I have no idea what the problem was. So much for the pickle making I'd planned to do!

 I do have lots of jalapenos ready to be picked. I've been waiting for most of them to turn red, and this weekend I plan to harvest them. Jalapenos never let me down! The sheepnose pimentos that I so looked forward to trying have been mediocre at best. We've had a few, and they're kind of bland, like bell peppers. There's still a few of them left to harvest but that's not very exciting. And the hot datil peppers I planted? They haven't produced a single pepper yet even though the plants still look healthy. Unless a miracle happens and they suddenly surprise me, I won't bother growing them again next year. Space in my raised bed is too limited for all that.

 All in all, it hasn't been the banner year for the garden I was hoping for. We have eaten plenty of fresh tomatoes, which was the top priority, but there weren't nearly enough for making sauce or salsa for canning. 

That's just the way it goes sometimes, I guess. At least there's still a fall garden and winter veggies to look forward to. And next year, of course.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Wednesday meme roundup: indictment edition!

Wasn't yesterday a great day in America?! These indictments are just SO MUCH FUN! I've picked some of the best memes I saw about it all to share with you. Most of them made me laugh right out loud.


Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Back to school week

I love my new work schedule! My official hours are 7am-2:30pm, but on days when I have to make a bank deposit (which is most days) I'm allowed to leave at 2:00. The bank is less than a quarter mile down the road from the school, and my house is a ten-minute drive from there. Today I made it home by 2:20 in the afternoon! How nice is that? I don't mind getting up early, either. It's totally worth it to me to have most of the afternoon free. 

My actual job is still going really well, too. I couldn't ask for a better environment or coworkers, and I seem to be catching on quickly. What a relief!

Yesterday was the first day back for students. When I mentioned that on my last blog post, several people expressed surprise that our summer break is so short. The reason why is because our district is on a "modified year-round" schedule. Basically, it means that summer break is two weeks shorter than it used to be (eight weeks as opposed to ten) but we get those two weeks back as an extra week off in October and again in February. Summer break is still a full two months, and now we have breaks spread out more evenly through the year. It's kind of nice, actually.

Speaking of the first day back:

Marla's little girl, Carsen, started kindergarten yesterday!

I can't believe she's already starting school. You know what this sassy little woman said to her mother the night before starting kindergarten? "I don't want you and Daddy to walk me in tomorrow. I can go in by myself!" Haha! She's going to do great. :) I wish she was attending the elementary school where I work (we have kindergarten, too) but she was already registered elsewhere at the beginning of the summer. Too bad! I'd dearly love to get to see her every day at work for the next five years.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Thursday afternoon

Holy cow, it's been almost two weeks since I posted here! How are you all? How's your summer going?

It's hot here. Really, really hot. And humid.

My new job is still going well. I was off campus today for a meeting/training session with all the district bookkeepers and people from the finance department. We finished earlier than expected, so I got to come home and take a break for a couple of hours. Tonight is our school's open house/orientation event for parents and students, and I'll be going up there for a while to help out. The kiddos come back to school on Monday. 

What have you been up to lately?

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Just a quick update

My first week at the new job is done! It's going fine, but boy, the principal wasn't kidding when she said there was going to be a "steep learning curve"! The bookkeeping aspect of it is far more complicated than I expected, but I'm learning a lot and taking it a day at a time. And unlike last year, I get to learn in a pleasant, supportive environment where I don't have to fear making a mistake because a volatile, mentally disturbed bully is in charge. My new principal and assistant principal are both great--friendly and calm and professional--and I can tell I'm really going to love working with both of them. What a difference! 

In the absence of anything else of general interest to talk about at the moment (because bookkeeping is a lot of things, but entertaining isn't one of them) I'll share a couple of pictures from my garden this past week. It's a happy place at the moment. :)

Saturday, July 8, 2023

The wedding gift

Our nephew, Tyler, got married this week. I'd been trying to come up with an idea for a wedding gift to send for several weeks now and not having much luck. They registered for a few household basics at Target, but the last time I checked, everything they had selected had been purchased. Plus, I wanted to give them something a bit more meaningful than towels or Tupperware. I finally hit on an idea last week after seeing a Facebook post Jessica made in which she asked friends and family to share recipes with her.

My dear late mother-in-law and Tyler's grandmother, Edythe, used to make the most wonderful little fried cornbread fritters for family meals. She used a simple recipe passed down from her mother and grandmother, and she always fried them in a cast iron skillet. (She had two or three cast iron pans and loved cooking with them, and her cornbread wouldn't have been the same without them!) 

So today I ordered a good quality, 12-inch cast iron skillet with a lid (along with some accessories) to be shipped directly to the newlyweds' home. Separately, I'm sending a nice card with a letter tucked inside, and in the letter is the recipe for Tyler's family cornbread. 

The skillet will be wonderful for all kinds of cooking and baking beyond just cornbread, and as long as it's cared for properly it should last forever.  And even better, the recipe will remind Tyler of his "Grami" and will (hopefully) make Jessica feel welcomed into the family!

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

July already

Welcome to July!

 Yesterday was a quiet 4th for us. Gregg had to work until 4pm (although he said the store was dead slow) and I spent the day at home hiding inside from the heat. The last few days have been blazing hot with dangerous heat indexes, and it's just not a good time of year to be outdoors. I made chili cheese dogs for our supper (the chili was from scratch; I've grown to hate all canned hot dog chili) with potato chips on the side and ice cream for dessert. That seemed festive enough for us! The dogs looked a bit sloppy, and had to be eaten with a fork, but they were delicious if I do say so myself.

Also yesterday I finally picked the first few tomatoes from my garden along with a couple of cucumbers. We have loads of green tomatoes and I hope they'll start to ripen before the stink bugs get to them. I've been checking the plants every day and picking off the annoying little buggers. They're lucky I don't like to use pesticides because they make me furious! I picked these three tomatoes while they're still a bit green to save them. Finishing ripening on the counter won't hurt anything.

Just a little while ago it started to thunder and then to pour rain. We certainly need it! Keeping the garden alive in heat indexes of 107 degrees requires a lot of watering. Of course, nothing is setting fruit in that kind of heat, but as I said, there are lots of tomatoes (peppers, too) that only need a little more time to ripen. 

My vacation is rapidly winding down. Monday morning will be here in a flash! I'm excited, and a little nervous, too. For the first couple of weeks the office staff will be on a summer schedule, which means 9am-3pm, Monday through Thursday. That should be a gentle re-entry into work! The teachers won't return until two weeks after me, and the students, three weeks. There should be ample time to get settled in before the "real" school year starts. 

After the children return, I'll be on my regular schedule of 7am-2:30pm, Monday through Friday. I'll be waking up super early, but it's going to be nice to be off so early in the afternoon. On days when I'll have to stop by the bank on my way home with a deposit (which will be most days during the school year) I'll be allowed to leave at 2:00pm. You can't ask for any better than that! 

Yesterday I ordered some new clothes for work. Two dresses and a pair of slacks. I'm going to need some more things once the weather cools down, too. I've been on a diet (off and on) since the beginning of the year, and I've lost 25 pounds. I'm hoping to drop another 10 by the time September rolls around, and most of my pants are already loose as it is. I'll never complain about having to shop when weight loss is the cause! :) Of course, I'm losing very, very, slowly, but I'm pleased because for once in my life, I'm sticking with new habits. Slow progress is still progress, right?