Wednesday, July 3, 2024

It always comes in threes

It's been quite the week in this house. Let me tell you how my time off has gone so far:

We decided to repaint the bathroom, since we both had grown to dislike the coral color we painted it last year. The weekend was spent matching color swatches to the tile, picking out the paint, gathering (and purchasing) supplies, and finally, a lot of careful prep work. We sanded walls, taped corners/edges/windowpanes, and covered everything in plastic drape cloths. Last time we didn't prepare carefully enough, and it showed. We were determined to do a better job this time! On Monday morning, all the preparation was finally done, so we started applying the first coat (primer) to the walls. An hour or so into said application, I started to drip sweat. I had an uneasy feeling....and went to check the thermostat. 

The air conditioning had quit working. Horror (mostly on my part) ensued. 

All work on the bathroom came to a screeching halt. I called around until I found an HVAC repair service that could come out in two days, on Wednesday. The office person I spoke to assured me that if a technician had an opening sooner than that, they'd call. Of course I told her we'd take what we could get, especially with the holiday coming up. 

So.....we had no air conditioning. In South Carolina. In July. Add to the fun the fact that the entire main bathroom (our only source of a bath or shower!) was draped in sheets of plastic and tape. It looked like one of Dexter's kill rooms. 

Y'all. I nearly cried.

But the fun didn't end there, oh no! After setting up fans around the house and opening windows, we sat down to watch some tv for the distraction. As soon as we turned it on, there was a weird flash, and the screen went dark. 

For no apparent reason, the tv had just up and died! We couldn't believe it. There's something else we'll end up replacing sooner or later. *

That was Monday. We were fortunate in that Monday night the low temperature was lower than it had been in weeks...67 degrees. It could have been so much worse. Then we got lucky again and early yesterday morning the HVAC place called and said they had a technician who was free to come by before lunch. Hooray! It ended up being a relatively simple repair, and our unit is still under warranty for defective parts, so for less than $200 we had a/c again. And had only been without for 24 hours. What a relief!

Well, back to business, right? We finished the coat of primer in the bathroom and were waiting for it to dry...when we noticed water seeping out around the toilet. A lot of water. It was immediately obvious that we were going to have to find a plumber. F*ck! 

At least this time I wasn't too worried. We have another half bathroom we can use, so there's that. But it was sure aggravating after everything else that had happened. 

A plumber came out this morning. It was a really, really simple fix and ended up taking the guy maybe 10 minutes. It was also very cheap, something I've never had the privilege of saying about a plumbing repair before. Again, it could have been so much worse. 

Moving on.......

Last night we stayed up until after midnight, painting. It's all done now save for a few minor touch ups, and today after the plumber left it was dry enough that I could finally take a long, hot shower. We're really pleased with how the paint job turned out, too.

Tonight I'm grateful for a working air conditioner, a non-leaking toilet, and a finished home improvement project. 





This paint color is called "River's Edge".


*We're not in any hurry to replace the tv. There's a smaller one in the spare bedroom that will do just fine for now. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Last day

Today was the last day of my yearly work contract--my first year at the elementary school is finished! I'm so pleased with the job and the environment, as you all know. I go back to start the "new" year July 8th. For the next 10 days, I'm on vacation!

Or should I say, "Staycation"? It's too damn hot to go anywhere. Today it got up to 99 degrees with a heat index of 108, thanks to the humidity. Going outside at any point, day or night, is just unbearable at the moment. The humidity hits you like a suffocating wet blanket. Check out these temps:

But looking on the bright side...


Sunday, June 23, 2024

Summer hours

This has been a nice summer so far. Since I go to work two hours later this time of year, I'm able to get up, start the coffee, and take a good walk with Gregg and the dogs. When we get back, I sit on the porch with a large mug of coffee and enjoy the birdfeeders and garden for a half hour or so before I have to hit the shower and get ready for work. It feels luxurious to have all that time in the morning! 

And work barely feels like work right now. It's only 6 hours a day, and the only other people around are the principal and the custodians. There's not much to do. I've already put in work orders for summer classroom repairs, organized and prepared to fill the teachers' supply requests for next year, and cleaned up my desk and the files from this past year. Occasionally I answer the phone or fill a records request from another school. And that's about it! I listen to podcasts or music to help pass the time. I'm going to miss this laid-back pace (and the hours!) when school starts back. And having Fridays off is another great perk to working through the summer. 

Well, not quite all the way through. Wednesday is my last day next week, and then I'm off until July 8th. Hooray! 


Summer break means more time to spend in my garden! 
Here are some pictures I took in it recently.








Here's one for the Marco fans out there. Pretty flowers, pretty bird.


Monday, June 17, 2024

Pickles and jam

What do you do when your garden is producing an overwhelming number of cucumbers? Learn to make pickles!


Spicy brine!

This is a recipe I found for sweet and spicy refrigerator pickles. I hope they turn out okay! Anything is better than wasting food, right? 

After finishing these three big jars of pickles, I started looking at a big bag of fresh cherries I'd bought on sale at the grocery store the other day. Since the pickles went so well, I was inspired to try cherry preserves!

Yesterday I watched an episode of the new season of Bridgerton while I pitted the cherries, then followed a recipe I found in a canning cookbook for jam. It was just cherries, lemon juice, sugar, and powdered pectin.

Success!

 

I got six half pints of jam, and processed them in a boiling water bath so they'll be shelf stable. There was enough left over to fill a small ramiken for tasting. 


I made some toast to try it, and it's delicious!
 

As silly as it is, I'm ridiculously proud of my preserving efforts this past weekend! 

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

A special day

Today is our 18th wedding anniversary! Eighteen sounds like such a good, solid number, I think. In some ways it doesn't seem like that long ago that we got married, but when I think about everything that's happened since then, all the highs (and lows) of life that we've experienced, then it feels like almost a lifetime. I've never for one moment regretted our decision to marry. Gregg often says it was the best thing he's ever done, and I feel the same way. How many people get to be just as in love (actually, more so) after this many years? We both consider ourselves incredibly lucky!

Today being Wednesday, we both had to work. My hours were the same as always, 9-3, and Gregg services three law office aquariums on Wednesday evenings. He's on his way there right now, in fact, and should be done around 7 or 7:30. Despite that, it's still a very happy day, and we'll do some more celebrating with a nice meal and champagne when the weekend gets here. 

In lieu of going away somewhere, we decided to spend the money to buy some furniture we've been wanting for a long time instead: two comfortable armchairs for our living room. We've been looking for chair ideas online for months now, and then last weekend we visited every furniture store in Florence. On Monday we finally found two chairs that we love, at a nice local store, and they delivered them yesterday. Just in time for our anniversary!





They're really well made, and very comfortable. Those were our main two requirements. You can't really tell in this photo, but there are lots of subtle colors going on in the fabric. Creams, grays, tans, and even a little bit of pale grayish blue. The fabric feels really good to the touch. Oh, and they swivel! We plan to buy a new, larger tv and mount it on the wall across from them, and with the swivel we'll be able to watch tv, or spin around to talk to anyone sitting elsewhere in the room, or turn to face the fireplace in winter. That was an unexpected feature, but I love it. We're both so pleased with our new chairs!

So, happy anniversary to us! As I said on Facebook this morning, a good marriage makes all the difference in life.


Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Garden update

The 2024 garden is coming along, but it looks like it's going to be a disappointing year for tomatoes. So far there are only two or three tiny tomatoes out of 12 plants. For some reason they're just not setting much fruit, and several of them have yellowing bottom branches. I thought at first that the yellowing was from too much rain a couple of weeks ago, but now I'm beginning to wonder if some sort of disease has struck. After pulling off the yellowing branches, there's still lots of vigorous green growth, but not many flowers. Who knows? At least the cherry tomatoes (in a different spot in front of the porch) seem to be doing well. We'll see.


One of the (very few) small tomatoes that's finally forming. That one is a "Mortgage Lifter".

You know what's NOT disappointing, though? Cucumbers and beans! We're getting two or three cucumbers per day, and on Monday I picked the first rattlesnake beans (sent to me by Ms. Moon, thank you Mary!) and cooked them with our dinner. They were so tender and delicious! And there will be more to follow soon. As for the cucumbers, I'm eating large salads everyday for lunch (and sometimes dinner, too) and I still can hardly keep up. I guess I should either attempt pickles, or else start giving them away.


First harvest of beans!


Today's cucumber haul.


Poppy by the bean trellis this afternoon.


The cucumber vines. I'm growing them in large pots. 


We'll soon have peppers! They're planted in front of the tomatoes and doing well. At least something is! 


The borage is about to flower! This is my first time growing borage. I sowed the seed directly in the bed in front of the porch.


And finally, the volunteer zinnias have popped up all throughout the bed, around the borage and sprawling cherry tomatoes. We'll have zinnias very soon! The bees and butterflies will be happy.

The only other thing of note is that the melons are sprawling all over the end of the raised bed, and have tons of flowers, but so far, no baby melons. I'm trying to be patient. 

Thursday, May 30, 2024

A good day for America!

 


Guilty. Guilty! Of 34 felony charges. Finally, some small degree of accountability for the criminal thug who's tarnished the office of POTUS forevermore and done so much harm to this country. 

If I prayed, I would pray for the safety of those 12 brave men and women who sat on the jury. Stormy Daniels, too. We owe them all a great debt of gratitude.


Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Summer hours, first year down

Today was the last day for teachers and most of the employees at our school. The students finished last week. Starting tomorrow, those of us who work through the summer will be on summer hours: 9am-3pm, Monday through Thursday. We'll have a 30-minute lunch break, and Fridays off. How nice is that? I don't mind working through the summer at all. I think that it's only going to be me, the principal, and the custodians there most days. I'll also have a week and a half off at the end of June, so there will be a little bit of summer vacation for me.

There won't be a whole lot to do. One thing I'm planning on is a big office clean-out; when I started last July, I was afraid to get rid of anything the previous bookkeeper left behind. She was there for 17 years so the office is packed with old and useless paperwork, training manuals, and lots of miscellaneous junk. We only have to keep financial documents for five years, and a lot of that can be boxed up and stored in the records room. I also want to rearrange everything so that it "flows" better, and I'm going to do some more decorating and add to the plants I'm growing in the sunny, east-facing window. I love my office, and after a full year on the job I'm ready to make it really mine. 

How quickly this first year has flown! I absolutely love my job, the principal, and my coworkers.  I haven't had even one stressful day (pertaining to my job) this whole year. The work has proved to be well within my capabilities, and I've gotten great feedback on my job performance, not only from my principal but also from the "higher ups" at the district office, including the CFO (chief financial officer). I'm proud of the job I've done this year, and I'm so glad I chose to pursue this position when it first opened up. 

One last piece of work-related good news: I checked my bank account this morning (we get paid on the 15th and 29th of the month) and it looks like I've gotten a raise! I don't know if it's a yearly "step" increase for number of years worked or just a flat out raise, but it's going to make about a $100 per month difference in my pay after taxes. Certainly not a fortune, but I'll take it!

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Turtle, deer, and crows

Yesterday was a good day for wildlife watching at my house. Of course there were the usual birds at the feeders, including hummingbirds, and we've even been lucky enough to get a pair of Painted Buntings again this year. The birdwatching is always good here, but the other animals we see can be pretty special, too.

The turtles that always climb up out of the nearby creek and come into the neighborhood to nest in the sandy soil have been very active this month. Yesterday when Gregg went out to get the mail, he spotted a big female laying eggs in a hole she had dug right beside our mailbox. He came in the house and told me about it, so we stood at our front door and watched her slowly retreat in the direction of the creek when she was done. Then a gang of crows who were around and also watching promptly showed up, dug off the top layer of soil, and ate the eggs. As sad as we were that mama turtle's efforts had been in vain, you can't help but admire the crows' intelligence and cunning. And as I told Gregg, "Crows have to eat, too."

Here's another thing that happened yesterday. Gregg happened to look out of the office window early in the afternoon and saw a young deer walking through our front yard. He/she continued around the house, to the south facing side, and laid down for a while beside the hedges next door. I gently raised the bathroom window and took a photo with my phone.



The deer rested there for a good 30 minutes, only leaving once it started to rain.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Fruit in my garden

This year we have our first tiny figs! The little tree is coming along.


The blueberry bushes are still small, but they have berries. 


The bananas are really starting to grow thanks to all the rain we've had this spring. Poppy likes hanging out under the leaves!


The pomegranate tree has had more flowers than ever before. This may be a good year for pomegranates. I'm looking forward to them!


Wednesday, May 8, 2024

A rough week, but a good day

The last seven days have been really rough for me. Last Wednesday I left work early running a low-grade fever and with a burning in my chest, and I ended up missing Thursday and Friday, too. I took a Covid test Wednesday night, which was negative, but I developed a really bad cough and chest congestion that was way worse than my Covid experience over Christmas. By Friday night, I was afraid I was going to have to go to the ER because my asthma was flaring so badly, but I kept putting it off because I had a doctor's appointment scheduled for Monday afternoon. (The appointment was one I made several weeks ago for a full physical with bloodwork to try to get to the bottom of some other health issues I've been having lately). 

I was feeling marginally better on Monday, but still very, very weak and with a lot of lingering congestion. It turned out to be a bad case of bronchitis and the doctor prescribed prednisone and antibiotics. I had been overusing my asthma inhaler for days just to get enough breath, as well as taking over the counter decongestants and expectorants. One indication of the distress my body was in was that my blood pressure was sky high. Hopefully when I go back for a follow up in a few weeks it will be back to normal. My doctor went ahead and did all the blood panels we had planned on, too, despite the bronchitis. I felt so bad and worn down by the time she was examining me that I kept breaking into tears. I just couldn't help myself. My issues with anxiety and depression always flare up at times like this. And to be honest, those things have been getting worse for a few months now anyway. I've really been struggling. Getting bronchitis on top of it all has been kind of overwhelming.

I discussed some of this with the doctor, so we're meeting again in a few weeks to go over my test results and to try to work on my mental health problems and also any issues that turn up in my blood tests. In the meantime the prescriptions she gave me should have me fixed up in a few more days. I'm still apt to cry at the drop of a hat, but at least I can breathe somewhat better now. Today was the first day I've felt like I'm making my way back to the land of the living.

BUT! To end this depressing blog post on a happy note, I have some really good news to share!!


Our great-nephew, Joseph, was born this morning!

He weighed in at 6 pounds, 15 ounces, and he's 20 inches long. Baby and Mama are both doing great, and Daddy is over the moon with joy. 

Welcome to the world and your loving family, sweet Joseph!

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

First of May

Yesterday I told my husband the naughty rhyme that begins "First of May, first of May..." and he had never heard it before. I can't remember where I first heard it, but it may have been here in blogland. It made him laugh.

Unfortunately May didn't get off to a very good start. I started to feel bad first thing this morning after arriving at work, with a burning, raw feeling developing in my chest along with a cough. I had the nurse take my temperature, and it was slightly elevated, so I left work and came home to take a Covid test. Thankfully, it was negative, but I still feel kind of rough. Body aches, a cough, a slight headache. When I got home this morning I slept for four solid hours, and this was after a full night's sleep. I guess I've picked up some respiratory bug at the school. Fun times! I'm just thankful it's not any worse (or Covid again).

We've been seeing the annual influx of turtles from the creek walking onto our property, probably to lay eggs in the sandy soil. We saw three big ones in our yard on Sunday alone. Poppy is fascinated by them. One was right outside our front door so and I took a short video of Poppy's reaction to it.


We also saw a crow circling around a turtle on our neighbor's property later that day. The turtle kept stretching its head up to watch the crow, and the crow kept landing and creeping nearer and nearer. It was such strange behavior that we Googled it and it turns out that crows will watch for turtles to lay eggs, then come back later to dig them up and eat them! Who would have thought?! I guess this particular turtle knew what was going on, because it kept creeping away until it finally disappeared behind some shrubs. Hopefully if it was a nesting female she was able to hide her stash from predators. But as I told Gregg, "Crows have to eat, too." 


Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Appreciation

Today is Administrative Professionals Day. I was surprised this afternoon with a big basket full of gifts and a nice card from the staff at work! The receptionist and attendance/records clerk were also recognized. I don't know about them, but my gifts were obviously chosen with my tastes in mind. 


There were gardening tools, a gift card to the bookstore, a set of candles in pretty pastel colors, and hand soaps and lotions. 

In other work news, it's been a busy and productive week so far. I'm really starting to feel like I have a handle on everything that's expected of me in my new role. (I also got a really good performance review last month! Yay!) It's been almost a year now that I've been there, and I haven't had even one really stressful day yet. Not even one! 

Getting this job was a really, really lucky break. I'm grateful for it every day.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Stop and take notice

My workload has really kicked into high gear since returning from spring break. There's a big push to get final state funds spent as well as paying off all outstanding invoices by May 1st, and also lots of field trips and end of the year activities that must be arranged and paid for. I like being busy, but dislike looming deadlines (especially when I'm still in the first-year learning process). Next year will be much easier because I'll know what to expect.

My first day back last week was sad. I heard that one of the nurses I worked with at the last school had died suddenly over the break. She was only 34 years old, with a husband, a five-year-old son, and a three-year-old daughter. It's terribly tragic and was a huge shock. She collapsed out of the blue one afternoon and died several hours later at the hospital, and I don't think the cause of death has been confirmed yet. I feel so bad about this; she was a lovely young woman and a friendly, kind coworker. Her husband is devastated, and I feel so sorry for her babies. It's hard to accept that life is just like this sometimes. 

That being said, I think this meme I found the other day is worth sharing with you. This is what I've been pondering this week.


Things I'm stopping to notice and enjoy today:

  • A pair of bluebirds have a bunch of nestlings in the box out back and watching them feeding and caring for the babies is a joy.
  • Hummingbirds have returned and are taking advantage of the new nectar feeder.
  • My tomatoes are planted and the pole beans Mary Moon gave me are growing like mad. Soon the peppers will be big enough to plant out, and the melons should sprout any day now. The pomegranate tree is covered with flower buds and the blueberry bushes, while still small, are loaded with berries.

  • Today makes two years since Poppy came home! Happy Gotcha Day to the sweetest little girl ever. She makes us (and George!) so happy.


  • Fresh local strawberries, the first I've bought this spring. So sweet and delicious.


  • I've made some little friends at work. They're two groups of siblings who stop by the office every morning now to say hello and give me hugs when they get to school. They make me laugh regularly and seeing them always gets my day off to a nice start. I call them "the little wildlings"!


Anson, Emogene, Lucas, and Ethan. The Wildling Crew.

So, dear reader, what are you stopping to notice and appreciate about your life right now? What will you look back on and miss 20 years from now?  Time is short, my friends.


Friday, April 5, 2024

Spring garden update



The baby crabapple tree has doubled in size this year, and for the first time, it has a few flowers! Aren't they pretty? Unfortunately, the deer came back night before last and ate a bunch of the tender new leaves. I was so mad when I walked outside yesterday morning and saw the damage! Apparently, apple trees of all types are irresistible to deer. 

The tree will never amount to much without protection while it's young and just starting to grow. With that in mind I went to Lowe's in the afternoon and bought four seven-foot-tall garden stakes. Along with a big roll of fine mesh bird netting that we had stashed in the garage, they make a decent protective "cage" to keep hungry wildlife out. It's not the greatest looking thing in the world, but it should do the job. 


In other garden news, I've been hardening off my tomato and pepper plants and preparing the bed for planting. I started some herb seeds (basil, parsley, and oregano) in pots, sowed borage seeds in the bed in front of the porch, and planted marigold seeds in the raised bed between the spaces where the tomatoes will go. And I planted rattlesnake beans! (Thank you again, Mary, for sharing those with me!) I've been at home on spring break this week and the weather has been wonderful for working outside. Going back to the office next week is going to be hard!

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Quick trip and baby shower

This past weekend was fun. Going out of town (even for a day or two) makes a nice change. The hotel I booked in Raleigh was a bit pricey, but since we only stayed one night it wasn't too bad. We drove up early Friday afternoon, and after checking in and putting our bags down in the room we went out to explore. The hotel sat in the middle of a few blocks of restaurants and businesses in North Hills. It's very walker friendly and safe, everything we needed was easily reachable on foot. It was only about 4pm, and since we weren't planning to have dinner until around 8:00 (when my sister-in-law got off work) we decided to stop for appetizers and drinks at a Chuy's.


I love the bright, funky decor! We ordered margaritas, along with chips, guacamole, and cheese dip. The waitress asked if we wanted a floater shot on top of our drinks (it was happy hour and floaters were $1) so we thought, "Why not?". It's not like we had to drive back to the hotel! Sipping margaritas topped with extra shots of tequila is how we ended up slightly tipsy in the afternoon, walking around downtown Raleigh. Haha.

Later, when Karen got off from her hospital shift, she met us at another restaurant that was an easy walk from our hotel, Cowfish Sushi and Burger Bar. They have an amazing saltwater aquarium, which I filmed for about 30 seconds to show you! We really enjoyed the buzzing atmosphere, and the food was good, too. 


The next morning, after a breakfast of Eggs Benedict at Another Broken Egg Cafe, we checked out of the hotel and drove 30 minutes north to attend the baby shower. Here's the finished Diaper Castle we built for our gift, which everyone seemed to love!



Sister-in-law Karen with her son (and father-to-be) Tyler. I still can't believe he's going to be a dad. He was just a little kid five minutes ago! :)
 

Tyler and Jessica. One person who attended bought them matching "Mom" and "Dad" 2024 mugs. They're getting really excited about the arrival of their baby boy. Little Joseph is due in May.





Late Saturday afternoon, Marla and I drove home. It would have been nice to stay an extra day or two, but she needed to get home ahead of Easter morning. (The Easter Bunny had a basket to leave for her little girl).

It was a quick trip, but a fun one! I'm glad I got to spend some time with the family. Gregg and I will probably visit early in the summer so we can meet the new baby.