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.

Friday, March 29, 2024


Marla and I just arrived in Raleigh and our hotel is really nice! 

I'm looking forward to a fun weekend. Back on Sunday! 

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Birthday weekend


Nearby peach orchard in full bloom. 
(McLeod Farms, McBee, SC)

Yesterday was my birthday! I've been having a really nice weekend. First of all, this area is beautiful this time of year! How gorgeous are those peach trees? And here are blooming dogwoods at the end of my driveway (my neighborhood is full of dogwoods, wisteria, and jessamine at the moment):

We're still having some chilly nights, but my lettuce is coming along nicely. I planted it in a plastic kiddie pool this year to save space in the raised bed, and it seems to be working out well. I'm looking forward to fresh greens.

And of course, my tomatoes and peppers are getting big and will be ready for planting out in a couple more weeks (I hope).

On to birthday gifts! Gregg went shopping with me yesterday and I picked out three new bird feeders to hang in the back yard. We put them up this morning.

And my main gift was a really nice new grill! We bought it last week and Gregg spent hours putting it together one afternoon. Lots of cursing was involved. :)  It's the nicest grill we've ever owned and I'm excited to cook with it! We couldn't try it out yesterday because of rainy weather, but tonight we're going to break it in. I went by the butcher shop yesterday and had some thick, beautiful ribeye steaks cut (the price ended up being eye watering, but it's a special occasion, right?) and I also went to the farm stand and bought some Florida-grown corn on the cob, new potatoes, and zucchini. Tonight we'll have a small feast! :)

Of course, my birthday post wouldn't be complete without mentioning my birthday buddy Little P.! He turned 11 years old yesterday (I turned 49). I went out to eat Mexican food with him and his sweet mama earlier in the week. He's growing up so fast!

We always take a birthday selfie. It's a tradition.

His mom told me he's really into the video game called Fortnite, which I know absolutely nothing about, but it turns out you can buy gift cards for it and do.......something...with them. No clue, but I got him a Fortnite gift card and also an ice cream shop gift card for his birthday. He seemed thrilled! Video games and ice cream seem like a really good birthday gift for an 11-year-old boy. 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Fun day planned (updated)

Have I mentioned that our nephew Tyler and his wife Jessica are having a baby? They're the ones who got married last summer. They're expecting a little boy at the end of May! The whole family is pretty excited.

Two weeks from now I'm headed up to Raleigh to attend the baby shower. Since Marla is a longtime friend of the family, she's going with me. We're heading up the afternoon before and staying the night. (The hotel I've booked for us has a really cool rooftop lounge overlooking the city, so we're looking forward to checking that out!)

Anyway, I decided to get creative for a shower gift. I wanted something fun but also practical, so after much perusing of Pinterest I decided to buy them a huge box of diapers and to build a castle out of them! Here are the two main photos that inspired me:

Marla and I went shopping last night for ribbon, cardstock, and notions to use for the castle, and she's coming over today to help me build it. We're going to drink wine and make an afternoon of it! :) I bought the sweetest little (infant safe) stuffed dragon to go on top. It's baby blue and silver, and it's going to look really cute perched on top of the castle! 

Of course, I'll post pictures later on and show you how it turns out. 

So we're not quite done, but we're going to add some finishing touches next weekend. And this picture was a quick one before we disassembled the various parts for storage, and some of the turrets aren't straight, etc. But here's what we have so far!

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Some excitement over breakfast

My school had our annual "Doughnuts for Dads" breakfast this morning, where dads are invited to come have breakfast with their kids. You wouldn't think there would be much scope for excitement in that, but oh boy, what a morning it turned out to be! 

Several of the dads in attendance today are police officers. And one of them spotted a dad who was wanted for attempted murder having breakfast with his child! All of a sudden our parking lot (which I have a good view of from my office window) was swarming with undercover police officers. One or two of the plain clothes officers sat in the office with our security guard, watching all the guy's movements on our school cameras. After he finished breakfast with his little girl and walked her to the kindergarten hall, he walked out the front door, and was immediately arrested. 

Fortunately, they took the guy in without incident, and most of the staff (and all of the students) were blissfully unaware of what was going on. But the office staff and administration were quite nervous, waiting to see how it was going to go down. Thank goodness nothing bad happened!

And can you believe the nerve of that dad, on the lam for attempted murder, coming up to his kid's school to have breakfast?! 

You can't make this shit up!!

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Last day (with cake!)

Yesterday was Gregg's last day at the pet store. He really didn't want a lot of attention for retiring, but several of his coworkers gave him cards and small gifts. One young woman presented him with this plate she had hand painted. Wasn't that sweet?

Lots of regular customers and friends stopped by throughout the day to say a kind word to him and to wish him well. After more than 25 years of managing that store's aquarium section, he's something of a local fixture. One rival large chain pet store here in town even offered him a job last week! (Of course, he took that as a compliment, but politely declined).

Anyway, when he finally got home last night, I'd bought a cake to mark the occasion.

It's a hummingbird cake, one of his favorites. I bought a separate chocolate cupcake to get that Dr. Suess fish topper for it. :) 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024


This past Saturday Marla came over and spent the afternoon with me. I hadn't seen her since the week after my dad died back in early January. I've been really busy with all the changes happening around here, and then she got sick (pneumonia) and was out of commission for a couple of weeks. 

We spent hours talking, snacking, and drinking wine, and it was just exactly what I needed!

One of the snacks I served: a round of Brie topped with jalapeno jam, wrapped in puff pastry, and baked. Served with crackers and apple slices (and wine, of course). It was delicious!

Talking over all the stressful stuff that's been happening with a trusted friend made me feel so much lighter.  She's always so supportive and encouraging, plus we laugh a lot when we get together. I'm so grateful for her and her friendship! I hope I'm a good friend to her in return--I certainly try to be. 

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Thursday morning this & that

Did I mention that I'm off work this week?

It's February intercession and the schools in our district are closed. It's nice to have these extra breaks in February and October, not connected to any holiday. This will be the last time I have a whole week off to myself, because after next week my husband will be retired.

He's looking forward to it and I'm really happy for him. The dogs and Marco are going to love it! Nothing makes them happier than to have one or both of us at home with them. Poppy has followed me everywhere this week, even to the bathroom. She sleeps curled up tight against me every night. George isn't nearly so clingy, but he likes it when we're around, too. 

Poppy has this thing she does when we get home from work: she takes a running leap across the threshold of the back door, and lands on the sofa six feet or so away. It's her way of expressing joy and excitement at seeing us again! Pretty soon she'll only be doing it for me!

Some of my tomato seeds have sprouted! Before Gregg left for work this morning, he pulled out an 3ft aquarium light fixture that I'll set up somewhere in the house for the tiny sprouts. The peppers still haven't made their debut, but they usually take longer anyway. And if all goes well, I plan to do some work in the garden this afternoon and also sow some lettuce seed. In addition to my standard lettuce Merveille des Quatre Saisons I got a free pack of lettuce seed with my Baker Creek order this year that looks really interesting: Yedikule. I'm really looking forward to fresh greens.

Here's a photo I wanted to share before I sign off. Miss Luella's tree next door is in full, magnificent bloom, and I got a close up of some of the flowers. They're so beautiful.

I spoke to one of Luella's daughters the other day, and the family is selling the house to one of her grandsons! His name is Evan and he's a lovely young man. We're so pleased that the house (and the glorious tree) will stay in the same great family! Evan and his girlfriend Stacy plan to move in next week. They're going to be wonderful neighbors!

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Home improvement

The past few days have been exciting, because we hired a guy to partially remodel our screened porch! The bottom third of it is now enclosed and painted, and there's waterproof plastic "wood" on the bottom all the way around, to solve the problem of lots of moisture and pooling water at ground level rotting the old boards. He also installed a new, sturdier door with a doggy door already built in for George and Poppy. He just finished this afternoon and is currently cleaning up and getting ready to leave. He's done a good job, and we love it! It's so much better than before! We got a really good deal on the work, too, because Gregg's known the guy for a long time. There's several more projects that need doing around this old house, so we'll definitely be calling on him again!

The dogs will have to get used to a new doggie door in a new spot. They're not too sure about these changes (and have been less than thrilled with the building sounds going on outside over the last few days).

Of course, treats held on the other side helped convince them to give it a try! :)

Saturday, February 17, 2024


It was seed starting day here at Casa de Sparrow!

I'm off work next week (yay!) for February intercession, so I'll be planting lettuce (and maybe radishes) outside. Those can handle the cold weather we still have coming. Hopefully the tomato and pepper seeds I started today will be ready to plant out in mid April or shortly thereafter, which is our usual last frost date. 

Seed starting day is when I truly feel like spring is on the way. It's so exciting, waiting for the first tiny green sprouts to appear. The joy of planning and planting a garden never seems to get old for me.

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, no culture comparable to that of the garden...But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.”

― Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

End of an era (more changes!)

Today my husband had a phone appointment with our local social security office. He's decided to go ahead and claim his social security retirement, effective immediately! He went off to work today prepared to give two weeks' notice, and by the end of this month he will be (mostly) retired!

He's been managing the aquarium section of the pet store for 26 years, so this is a big moment in his life. He's not quite at full retirement age yet, but his social security check will be almost exactly the same amount he makes at the store. The plan is for him to continue to service aquariums, which is his own small business. From those jobs he earns just below the maximum he's allowed to earn while receiving retirement benefits, so his income will remain exactly the same, but he'll only be working a few hours each week (and on his own schedule). Once he reaches full retirement age there won't be a limit on how much "side" income he's allowed to earn.

I'm so happy for him! He's always been such an incredibly hard worker, and he deserves to have time off while he's still young enough and healthy enough to enjoy it. And he's grown increasingly unhappy with the pet business. He worries so much about the animals that get sold, and of course they're sold to anyone who has the money to pay for them regardless of whether they can or will take care of them. That's just part of the job. Even selling "feeder" goldfish bothers him. So now that's not going to be part of his life anymore! And he's really looking forward to learning how to do some home improvement projects he's been thinking about and having time for fun.

So the big changes in our house continue! What a year it's turning out to be, and it's only February!

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Green, growing, blooming..

I went on a bit of a "potting up" spree last Sunday. We had several bits of houseplants I'd clipped and put in vases of water to grow roots, as well as some older potted plants that needed more room. Then a friend of Gregg's (a bit of a plant collector) sent me the start of a new-to-me plant on Saturday, so on Sunday morning I went to Lowe's and bought potting soil and new pots. I also bought a bag of orchid mix because several of my orchids needed their medium refreshed. 

Here are some of my houseplants, as well as a big bouquet of flowers I bought myself last week to celebrate the day when I paid off our mortgage. I love having cut flowers in the house.

These last pictures are from my office at work. I have a pretty blooming orchid and the peace lily my coworkers gave me when dad died. My office window faces due east and plants really love the bright morning sun.

I love surrounding myself with green, growing, blooming things. Especially in the winter.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Dulce Domum

Happy February! 

Last month seemed so long and dark and dreary that I was happy to switch over the calendar page this morning. I took a personal day off work today. It's going to be a date to remember...

...because I went to the bank and paid off our mortgage this morning!!

Gregg and I are beyond thrilled. We love our modest home so much, and knowing that it now belongs to us completely is like a dream come true. Earlier Gregg texted me from work and said, "This is one of the most exciting times in my life!" and "I don't want us to ever leave there. Home." 

We're both so happy and very, very grateful. Yes, this will be a day to remember.