Saturday, April 8, 2017

Grandparents

Jeanie, at The Marmelade Gypsy recently became a new grandparent, and wrote a nice post on being a grandparent.  It made me think of my grandparents, and the different types of grandparents there are. So I decided that my G post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge would be Grandparents.

I had the good fortune to start off with more than the usual number of grandparents.  My mom’s parents were divorced and both remarried.  I was also the first grandchild on both sides of the family. That’s kind of like winning the lottery when it comes to being spoiled by grandparents.  They were all different, and I had a very different relationship with each of them.

My mom’s dad and step-mom died in a car accident when I was six, so I have only early childhood memories of them.  For them, being grandparents was a calling, an occupation, and a hobby all rolled into one.  He had missed out on most of my mom’s childhood due to the divorce, and was determined to be there for everything when my sister and I came along.  She adored children, but was never able to have her own, so my mom, and then later my sister and I presented her chance.

They were the kind of grandparents who snuck us cookies after bedtime, and let us do pretty much whatever we wanted.  They played house, dolls, dress-up, pretty much anything we wanted, with us.

They did things like let me drink juice out of a coffee mug and stir it with a spoon because I loved the sound it made.  Even today, there’s something soothing to me about the sound of a spoon clinking against a mug.

They packed a lot of grandparenting into six years.  I honestly don’t know if I would have such vivid memories of them otherwise.

My mom’s mom, Granny, embraced grandparenting with equal fervor.

My mom has always hated gum, and would never allow us to have it when we were kids, so Granny kept us well supplied with gum.  She would send us huge boxes of gum, with every flavor imaginable.  Mom would make us go outside to chew it, but that was fine with us.

Granny wrote the best letters, and she wrote often.  I loved writing letters as a child, and wrote them on a near daily basis for a while.  She always wrote me back.

She loved shopping, and could always sense a good sale.  She taught me how to bargain shop, and the wisdom of stocking up on things when they’re on sale.

She made the best pumpkin pie.  I have her handwritten recipe for it, and it was her contribution to our wedding cookbook.

My dad’s parents, known as Mama Kitty and Dad Dog, lived a little further way, so we didn’t see them as much when we were kids, but they still whole-heartedly embraced being grandparents.

They came to stay with my sister and me during our other grandparents’ funeral.  My parents made the decision for us not to go, and I don’t think there was anyone else we would have willingly stayed with.

He taught me how to ride my bike.  It didn’t go well at all when my parents tried, but Dad Dog’s method was successful.  He went with me for show and tell when I was in kindergarten (no one else had a Dad Dog, so he was a big hit).

He took me out driving when I had my learner’s permit and taught me not to be so terrified of getting in an accident.

Mama Kitty has always been more of a homebody, so she was largely the one who taught me how to cook, and taught me nearly everything I know about baking.  We always cooked and baked together.  Lasagna, shrimp scampi, biscuits and gravy, cake.  Whatever it was, it was always delicious.

She’s the avid reader in the family, and passed on a love of reading and books.  She’s the person who convinced me that the worn, well-read books are the best when you’re at book sales or thrift stores, because they’re clearly the ones people have read and loved.

I think all of my grandparents helped shape the person (the good and the bad parts) that I am today.  I learned different things from all of them, and was able to have a unique relationship with each of them.  I realize that I was very fortunate to have that.

So what about you?  What were/are your grandparents like?  If you’re a grandparent, what are you like?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Facebook - The Status That’s Becoming More and More Tempting to Post

Let me start off by admitting that I’m kind of addicted to Facebook.  I spend much more time on it than I should.  I post tons of pictures of the fur kids, the garden when things are blooming, and some food pictures.  It’s a great way to keep up with people I don’t see regularly.  And I’m a sucker for cat videos.

It seems like periodically, though, there’s a rash of people using Facebook as a way to sell (or harass you to buy) whatever home based or direct sales product they’ re selling at the moment.  Some of them border on stalker behavior trying to get you to try their product, buy their product, or have a “party” to sell their product to your friends.  Lately, the trend seems to be to add you to a group or an event about it.  It fills up your news feed, and you constantly get notifications about it.  It’s annoying.

I first had the idea for this a few months ago when the “Make Facebook Fun Again” photo went around in response to people’s behavior on Facebook concerning politics and other controversial topics.  I liked it.  I thought it was a fairly lighthearted way to make a very valid point.

I have no artistic abilities, so I just wrote something out with markers.  I haven’t posted it on my Facebook page, but it’s becoming more and more tempting.  Unfortunately, everything here has been something that has been an ongoing issue.

The leggings: For some reason, I took an instant and intense dislike to these.  They remind me of the stirrup pants craze of the late 80s/early 90s.  As a child, I took an instant and intense dislike to those.  As a kid I was more of a jeans and button down kind of girl.  Today I’m more of a Worthington pants and top or sweater for work, and jeans and t-shirt or sweater for time off kind of person.  Leggings just don’t do it for me.

The habit with them seems to be for people to add you to groups and events for them.  You then get tons of notifications and reminders.  Sometimes there’s a blurb about why the person selling them needs your support.  I just don’t think that’s appropriate.  If you’re trying to sell me something, at least focus on why I need the product, not on why you need the money from selling me the product.

The miracle weight loss programs: This has probably been the most egregious one.  The worst person by far, is a former co-worker, who started messaging me every single time I got on Faceook about trying it.  EVERY.  SINGLE.  TIME.  Early in the morning, late at night, it didn’t matter.  Every time I logged into Facebook, she was there on Chat, telling me how her program would transform my life, make me skinny, and make me a millionaire so I could quit my day job.
I finally told her that I didn’t try weight loss products that are soy based, or that have any soy at all, so if hers did, I couldn’t try them.  Most of them do, so I thought that would get her to leave me alone.  I have to avoid soy for medical reasons.  I have benign tumors that are estrogen fed.  Because soy mimics estrogen, I have to avoid it.  It can cause the tumors to grow, which increases the chances of them rupturing and causing internal bleeding.  To put it bluntly, and dramatically, consuming large quantities of soy could actually kill me.

You might think that would be enough to make someone back off, but you would be wrong.  She went on to tell me how their soy is different.  Okay, sure.  I’ll ignore what medical professionals have told me because you (with no medical training) think I should try this program.  I don’t think so.  I turned off Chat and stopped reading her messages.  She then added me to a group detailing people’s success stories.  It took me a while to figure out why every time I logged into Facebook I was inundated with pictures of half naked strangers.   I finally figured it out, removed myself from the group, and chose the option to prevent anyone from adding me back in.

The cosmetics and skin care: This seems to be the latest trend where the people selling them send you friend requests and messages because you’re friends with a friend of theirs, and they just know you’ll love what they’re selling.  Really?  You know my skin type and cosmetics preferences just based on my being friends with someone?  Do you also happen to know the winning lottery numbers in the next drawing?

The other trick is that they add you to groups to teach you how to apply cosmetics, take care of your skin, etc, once again filling up your news feed and sending you tons of notifications.  No thanks.  I’m 35.  I’ve been wearing makeup since I was 14.  I’ve figured out how to apply it over the two decades I’ve worn it.

The accessories: In my experience these are usually the most blatant appeals for money.  The sales pitches usually come with appeals along the lines of “I just need to sell X number of dollars worth per month to be a stay at home mom”.  Again, if you’re selling a product at least focus on why the potential buyer needs it rather than why you need to sell it.

I’m sorry, but I’m just not going to part with my hard-earned money for overpriced handbags, hair clips, nail polish, whatever the product of the moment is just because you want me to.  That’s not why I get up and go to work every morning.

Like I said, I haven’t posted this on my Facebook page, but it becomes more and more tempting every day.  I’m just not sure it would actually make a difference with some people.

So what about you?  Are you inundated with people trying to sell you things on Facebook?  Have you found a good way to convince people you’re not buying?

I realize this post was a little bit of a rant, and I promise that tomorrow’s post will be much more positive.  We all need a good rant every now and then, though.  So feel free to rant away in the comments.  I’m honestly kind of hoping I’m not the only one.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Evacuations

Lots of time sitting on I-26
Evacuations have never really been something I thought much about.  Sure, we have fire drills and the occasional bomb threat at work, and everyone has to leave the building.  And I was born in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where there are sometimes mandatory evacuations for hurricanes, but we moved when I was four.  I have very vague memories of leaving once.  All I remember is that we went and stayed in a motel because of a storm.  I’m assuming we went inland because of a hurricane.

I grew up in the upstate of South Carolina, and now live in western North Carolina, so evacuations have never really been a part of my life.  Until last year.

Our vacation to Folly Beach last year coincided with Hurricane Matthew’s imminent arrival on the South Carolina coast.  We left a few hours ahead of the mandatory evacuation.  We found out on Tuesday evening that the mandatory evacuation would start late Wednesday afternoon, so made the decision to leave Wednesday morning.  We got in touch with the owner of the house, did what needed to be done to close the house up, packed up our things, and left for home.

The drive home took more than twice as long as it normally does.  Our average speed on the interstate was about 35 miles per hour.  We saw the National Guard convoys coming in, as well as the school buses from the upstate coming to bus people out.  We saw the east-bound (heading toward the coast) interstate being shut down so traffic could be reversed.

An example of how long it took to get anywhere
 It was bizarre to see all of that, but we talked about the fact that we were fortunate enough to be heading toward home. We had to end a vacation early.  We weren’t leaving behind our home and most of our possessions.  We didn’t have to wonder if our house would still be standing in a day or two. We counted ourselves fortunate that our experience with an evacuation was on vacation.

Then November came, and large parts of western North Carolina and the upstate of South Carolina burned for nearly the entire month.  We had several days of really bad smoke.  There was a mandatory evacuation for part of the county we live in.  We never had to leave our home, but it definitely put us in the frame of mind to plan, at least a little, for what we would do in the event of a mandatory evacuation.

Obviously, sometimes there’s no warning.  People simply have to leave as quickly as possible.  For the most part, with the fires near us, it seemed like people had at least a few hours, sometimes a day or two, before having to leave.  It made us wonder.  What do you take with you?  What do you choose to save when you have to leave your home, not knowing if it will be there when you get to come back?

Even Duke was ready to get home.
People and pets are obvious.  We did go out and buy another cat carrier.  We normally don’t take all of the cats anywhere at once, so have never had need for so many carriers.  When evacuation became a real possibility we thought it would be best to have as many carriers as we do cats.  Of course there’s medication for people and pets.  Clothing.  Important papers.  We decided that pictures wouldn’t make the list since all of ours are saved digitally, but both of our laptops would.  The mat that everyone signed (instead of a guest book) at our wedding.  A few Christmas ornaments that are particularly meaningful.  A few random things with a lot of sentimental value.  Beyond that, there really wouldn’t be much room in the cars.  

So what about you?  Have you ever had to leave your home as part of an evacuation?  What did/would you take with you in the event of an evacuation?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Duke-Proofing The Fence

Duke is our three legged dog.  He came to us as a foster dog; heart worm positive, and with a bum leg.  I think everyone knew we would be adopting him, but we did foster him for a while before officially adopting him.

Today Duke is heart worm negative, and gets around quite well on his three legs.  Sometimes he gets around almost too well.

Duke has learned how to bust out of the fence in the back yard. (For those of you who are new, Duke isn’t an outside dog.  We have a fenced in backyard, and he goes out to potty, play, and steal vegetables from the garden every chance he gets.  We take him on walks.  He goes to work with me sometimes.  We take him on car rides, to the park, to the pet store for treats, etc.) We’ve discovered that he doesn’t go over the fence, but instead destroys the bottom of it, and goes under the fence.

We’ve been working on ways to Duke-proof the fence, and finally found some decorative fencing at Lowe’s that isn’t as expensive as the first kind we tried, and seems to be strong enough to keep Duke in the fence.

Basically, we just have to create some kind of barrier between Duke and the bottom of the fence. The decorative fencing seems to do that.  We’ve also relocated one of our raised beds for the garden to help reinforce the back corner of the fence.

We still have a long way to go (the yard always seems so much bigger whenever there’s a project going on), but we at least seem to have found a way to Duke-proof the fence.

So what about you?  Have you ever had to reinforce a fence to keep your dog in?  Does your yard always seem bigger when you have a project going on?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Chicken & Black Bean Tacos

Tacos are one of the go to foods in our house.  We both love them, they’re relatively inexpensive, we can each customize them to our liking (I’m all about the toppings, while Nick is more of a purist), and they’re kind of a no-brainer to make most of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I like trying new recipes, and I definitely enjoy challenging myself in the kitchen.  Sometimes, though, between work schedules that are sometimes opposite, pets who seem to go to the vet a lot, and all of the random things that come up in life, I just want something easy.  Or better yet, something that’s easy, and pretty much ready to eat when we get home.  These chicken and black bean tacos fit the bill.

You’ll need two separate slow cookers for this recipe.  It may seem a bit odd to own two, but I promise it’s worth it.  You just can’t beat the convenience of having dinner cooked when you come home.  If you’re busy, or deal with conflicting schedules, it can make the difference between a home cooked meal and fast food.  We bought our second small Crock Pot about seven years ago, and it has been well worth the cabinet space.

Any color bell pepper is great in this.  I like to use one color in the beans, and a different color in the chicken.

The chicken and black beans freeze and re-heat well, so depending on how many people you’re cooking for, you can easily freeze part of this and have a night of not having to cook later on. They’re also great as nachos.  


Chicken & Black Bean Tacos:

Black Beans:
1 bag (16 oz.) black beans, rinsed
1 onion, very finely diced
1 bell pepper, very finely diced
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1/3 to ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
4 ½ cups water

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker; stir; cover, and cook on Low for 6 – 7 hours.


Chicken:
2 - 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 package taco seasoning
1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp pepper
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 ½ cups water

Place chicken breasts in slow cooker; place onion and pepper over chicken. Add taco seasoning and spices; add water, and stir together. Cover and cook on Low for 5 – 6 hours. Shred with fork and stir together in sauce.

Spoon chicken and beans into taco shells; top as desired with lettuce, cheese, onion, avocado, etc.

Enjoy!