Monday, November 20, 2017

A Catch Up Post

Somehow it has been over two months since I’ve posted anything.  As usual, I’m not sure where the time has gone.  I think it has mostly been spent on normal, day to day things.

We participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on September 30th.  Normally we choose a walk within about an hour of us that coincides with a weekend Nick has off, but this time we were able to join a walk close to home, which was nice.  We decided to bring the dogs since it was close to home, and in a dog friendly location.  We dressed them up with purple bandanas, and brought them along.  They seemed to have a good time, and behaved reasonably well. 

Duke always gets a lot of attention because of the missing leg.  He loves people, and is always happy to make new friends, so it works out well.  People are usually surprised by how well he gets around, and a lot of people were very impressed to see a three legged dog out walking to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s.  It was one of those days that kind of helps to restore your faith in humanity.  We live in a small town, but the turnout for the walk was good, and it exceeded the fund-raising goal.  Random strangers kept asking if Duke and Chuzoo needed water (we had water for them, but I thought it was nice that people asked), and some of the coordinators asked if Duke needed a ride back to the parking lot.  He was fine (I promise he really does get around perfectly fine), but it was very nice of them to offer that.   

I do have one very exciting (at least for us) piece of new to share, though.

Nick is finally on a normal schedule!  If you’ve been around for a while, you may remember that he works in a branch of the emergency services.  That meant that he had a pretty varied work schedule, with alternating nights and days, lots of weekends, and most holidays.  He has now moved to new position within another division, and works straight week days, with holidays and most weekends off.  It coincides almost perfectly with my work schedule.  He goes in and gets off an hour before I do, but we have the same holidays off, and we’re both off on the weekends now.  I had my doubts about it happening when his transfer date kept getting pushed back, but it finally happened at the beginning of October, and it has been wonderful. 

We’ve been together for ten years, and this is the first time we’ve ever had the same work schedule.  Mine has always been straight Monday through Friday, so that meant we really didn’t see much of each other most of the time. 

We made plans for pretty much every night for the first week or so that he was on the new schedule, but that really wasn’t sustainable.  We’ve mostly worked out our new normal.  It’s nice that it’s not such an ordeal to schedule things now, and we’ve finally knocked out a few projects that have been on the to do list for much longer than I care to admit.  Some things around the house just take both members of the household.  It’s such a simple thing, but being able to do those things, and eat dinner together has been a big deal for us.

One of the best things about Nick’s new schedule, though, is that he has the holidays off now.  I am so excited about Thanksgiving this year!  It will be the second one that Nick has had off in the ten years we’ve been together.   We talked about it, and didn’t want to stop taking Thanksgiving Dinner to the hospice house here, so we are still doing that.  We’re taking the meal there for lunch, and then are having our own Thanksgiving celebration at home that evening.  We’ve invited various friends and neighbors.  It won’t be a big crowd, but we’re excited to finally be able to host Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving. 

There are a few people who have other plans during the day, but are planning to come for dessert since ours is later in the day.  It seems like a great way to see more people, and I have an excuse to make more desserts that way. 

I spoke to the volunteer coordinator at the hospice house today, and she was incredibly nice.  They’re all set for us to show up with the food, and as usual, have been just wonderful to deal with.

One of my coworkers volunteered to make the pies for the hospice house.  Kim’s pies are much prettier than mine, so I’m sure they’ll be appreciated.  She’s making two pumpkin, an apple, and a cherry pie.  I’m making chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing and an apple cake with browned butter icing to round out the desserts. 

The dinner menu is turkey, gravy, dressing, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, ham, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, and rolls.  The hospice house didn’t offer much feedback as to anything they’d like done differently this year, so I’m sticking to mostly the same menu and portions as last year. 

The dinner menu at home will be the same.  For desserts at home there will be pumpkin pie, apple cake with browned butter icing, chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing, a fruit cobbler (I’m still trying to decide between apple and cherry) and maybe a pound cake. 

I’m excited.  I love Thanksgiving, and I love cooking for people, so I’m pretty happy with the way things have worked out. 

I had a brief moment of feeling creative, and wanted to decorate a little bit for Thanksgiving, so I decided to put together some fall wreaths for the doors.  I am normally not an arts and crafts person, at all, but it’s really hard to find fall decorations that aren’t ridiculously expensive.  So I decided to give it a try.  I think they came out reasonably well, especially considering the fact that I had no idea what I was doing.  That’s probably it for my attempts at creativity outside of the kitchen for a while, but I am choosing to call it a success. 

So how have the past couple of months been for you?  What are your plans for Thanksgiving?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Meet Caroline

We’ve added a new fur baby to our family.  Meet Caroline. She’s about 16 weeks old, weighed in at just over four pounds at today’s checkup, and is full of energy.  She’s also incredibly sweet and playful.

You may remember that I said we weren’t looking to foster or adopt for a while after losing so many pets in a relatively short time.  We didn’t have a set time frame in mind, and we weren’t actively looking.  Sometimes fate (or in this case, my sister’s elderly neighbor) just decides to drop a kitten in your life (or on your sister’s porch a few hours before you’re supposed to arrive).

We went to spend the weekend with my sister, Gabrielle, three weeks ago.  The visit had been planned for months, for my parents to come, and for Nick and I to come.  Gabrielle calls me a lot, so I didn’t think much of it when she called me right before I left work.  Until she started in on a tirade about someone dropping off a kitten on her porch.  She’s a total cat person, but she works nights, and had just gotten up.  She also has six cats, five of whom arrived on her porch as kittens in her old neighborhood, in various states of ill heath.  Her current neighborhood doesn’t seem to have such a high population of homeless cats, so she thought her days of rescuing kittens on her way out the door were over.

I suggested that she ask her next door neighbor, a very nice elderly lady who seems to know all of the goings on of the neighborhood, if she knew anything about the kitten’s arrival.  And I started thinking about how fun it might be to have a kitten again.

It turned out that the kitten had been wandering the neighborhood for a couple of days.  Gabrielle’s next door neighbor, and a neighbor across the street had seen her and decided that she needed to be taken somewhere safe.  Neither of them are cat people, so they weren’t sure of the logistics of rescuing a kitten, but felt certain that Gabrielle would know.  They put the kitten on her porch, with the intention of calling her later in the day, after the time she usually gets up.  She just happened to get up earlier that day since we were all coming to stay that evening.

We had already made plans to go with Gabrielle to take two of her cats to the vet while we were there, so she just called and added an appointment for the kitten.  We knew at that point that one of us would be keeping the kitten.

After we arrived and met the kitten we decided that we would keep her.  Nick came up with the name Caroline, which I loved.  I had originally suggested Olivia, which Nick liked as well.  We ended up drawing for her name, since we both liked both names.  Our next girl will be Olivia.  Fortunately, we tend to agree on girl’s names.  Boy’s names are an entirely different story.  It took us two days to name Frankie, and I’m pretty sure it’s the only boy’s name we will ever agree on.

Caroline is settling in well.  It has been a while since we’ve had a kitten; Frankie was our last kitten (other than some short term fosters), and he’s nine.  We had forgotten how playful and energetic they are!  Caroline is interested in everything, and constantly wants to play and explore.  She’s very affectionate, and loves to cuddle when she’s not busy exploring.  We haven’t allowed Caroline to interact with the dogs yet, just because she’s so tiny.  Duke and Chuzoo are both great with cats, having spent their lives with cats, but Duke is over 90 pounds.  We just want Caroline to be a little bigger before she starts playing with the dogs.  The older cats are adjusting to having a kitten in the house.  It’s kind of fun to watch them act all offended when she does things that they did as kittens.

So even though we weren’t actively looking to add another kitty to the family, it only took us a few months.  It feels right, though.  Caroline seems happy with us, and she definitely makes us happy.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Helping Doesn’t Have To Be Overwhelming

First of all, let me just go ahead and say that I realize the pictures have pretty much nothing to do with this post.  I think Howard and Frankie look adorable in them, and I’m tired of almost crying every time I see pictures of wet, pitiful pets.  I thought we could all use a break from that.  Now, on to the actual post.

I think it’s safe to say that everyone has seen far more videos and photos of destruction and loss from Hurricane Harvey than any of us ever wanted to. That level of devastation is hard to fathom.   It seems to fair to say that most of us want to help, but some of us aren’t sure how, or if what we do will even make a difference.  Add reports of scams and charities that aren’t all we’d like to hope they are, and knowing how to help becomes even more difficult.

It doesn’t have to be.  I am by no means an expert, but I do seem to know a lot of really smart people who are really good at helping others.  Here are some of the ways I’ve seen people helping that seem like good ideas to me:

Start with Charity Navigator.  I love this site.  If you’re not familiar, they rate charities on their practices and how they spend their money.  It’s an excellent resource in determining who to donate to.  Most of us have a finite amount of money, and don’t want to turn it over to just anyone.  There’s a special section right now for Hurricane Harvey relief, so you can make sure your funds are put to the best use possible.

Donate supplies through your employer if they’re doing a collection.  One of the court security officers started a collection of supplies from the courthouse, detention center, and Sheriff’s Office in our county to be delivered to Hearts With Hands, as well as supplies to be delivered directly to the Houston Police Department from the Sheriff’s Office.  She handed out a list of items needed to all of the offices in the three buildings and designated a collection point in each building.

I thought this was a particularly good idea.  I’ve read that donating supplies can be tricky because of the logistics of getting them to the people who need them, but by delivering them to a charity who can coordinate delivery and distribution, that problem is solved.  Being given a long list to work with makes it easy for everyone to get involved.  It’s easy to add one or two things from the list to your weekly grocery shopping and take them into work the next day.  For those of us who coupon and sale shop, we already had some of the items requested on hand.  This gave us a way to share them.

Choose what matters most to you to help with.  Unfortunately, we can’t all give money and supplies to every worthy organization helping with relief efforts.  I think a good way to decide is to help a cause that you’re passionate about.  For us that typically means animal rescues and first responders. For Nick’s mom and step-dad, it has been animal shelters and a program to replace school books.  A coworker of mine chose to send an Amazon order of diapers to one of the diaper banks.  We’re all different, and we all have different needs, passions, and ideas.  Think about what you might want or need the most if you were in that situation.

Don’t hesitate to step up and organize something if you see a way to fill a need.  Someone had to get the collections started at work, and I think we’re all grateful to the officer who did.  It’s surprisingly easy to coordinate a group effort.  I saw a post on Chewy.com’s Facebook wall from a volunteer at the San Antonio Humane Society asking if they could donate kitten milk replacer, puppy milk replacer, canned kitten food, and canned puppy food.  That seemed like something I  could coordinate, being no stranger to ordering pet supplies online.  I posted on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to contribute to sending them a box.  Nick’s mom got involved as well, and within 24 hours we raised over $220.00 for the supplies they had asked for.  There’s now a box with needed items on the way to them.  It’s a small thing in the grand scheme of what’s needed, but I’m telling you about it just to show you that it’s not difficult to pick something you care about, and coordinate an effort to help.

Consider donating closer to home to help with relief efforts.  Is your state, county, or city sending a swift water rescue team, or other volunteers to help?  Consider making a donation to them to help with those costs, or to use as they see fit in the affected areas.  Contact some of your local emergency response agencies to see if they’re collecting supplies to send to similar agencies in affected areas.

Don’t underestimate the value of doing one relatively small thing.  It’s so easy to feel like what we’re able to do won’t be enough to make a difference in such a huge disaster.  Everything counts, though.  I think that’s the beauty of so many people helping one another.  Don’t feel like your monetary donation doesn’t matter because it’s not a huge amount, or your supplies aren’t enough to bother with.  If you what you’re able to give is one dollar, or one package to a bin for supplies, then do it.  None of us can do everything, but most of us can do something.

So what about you?  Have you discovered any ways to help that are especially meaningful to you? Are you aware of a particular need of a particular organization?  Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments for any of us still looking for a way to help.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Lime Basil Water

Basil is the one herb that consistently thrives in our yard.  It doesn’t matter where we plant it, or how much we neglect it.  We always end up with lots of basil.  I’m not complaining.  I love basil, and I love finding new ways to use it.  My latest way of using basil is incredibly simple, and incredibly delicious.

We all know we need to drink plenty of water, especially during the warmer weather, but sometimes it’s hard.  Plain water can be a little boring.  Adding lime and basil brightens it up a little bit, but the flavors are still fairly subtle.  

Lime Basil Water:
1 gallon of water
½ cup basil leaves, rinsed
1 Tbsp lime juice.

Combine all three ingredients in a pitcher, stir, and refrigerate.

Enjoy!

Recipe Notes:
I like to use this style pitcher because the ice guard keeps the basil leaves in the pitcher, and out of my glass.  The basil flavor gets stronger over time, so if you don’t drink all of the water within about 24 hours, spoon the basil leaves out, otherwise the flavor becomes a little too strong.  I use plain tap water.  I know it’s not the case everywhere, but the water here tastes good and doesn’t have any strange odors.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Morris Island Lighthouse

Yesterday was National Lighthouse Day.  I had plans to do this post then, but it was a typical Monday, so that didn’t happen.  I think it’s interesting, though, so I decided just to do the post a day late.

Last year our beach vacation was very different than usual.  We ended up leaving a few days early because of a hurricane evacuation, but we were able to see the Morris Island lighthouse lit up.  It’s just off of Folly Beach, South Carolina, and October 1, 2016 marked the 140th anniversary of the current lighthouse being lit.  It’s no longer in use, but Save The Light was able to arrange a lighting for the first time in over 50 years.

October 1st just happened to be the first day of our vacation, so we made sure to walk out to the end of the island so we could see the lighthouse all lit up.  We chose to skip the ceremony, partly to spend more time on the beach, and largely in an effort to avoid the worst of the crowds.  Traffic was pretty intense on that end of the island, but it was worth it.

We’ve never spent much time on that end of the island.  There are some bird sanctuary areas where dogs aren’t allowed.  The dogs always vacation to Folly Beach with us, so we typically spend most of our time on the other end of the island.  It was nice to finally go to the other end of the island, and seeing the lighthouse lit up may well be a once in a lifetime experience.  We were both really happy that our trip happened to coincide with the lighting.

I took a lot of pictures, but most of them didn’t come out.  Obviously, it was really dark at that end of the island.  There were also signs warning of rocks and currents, so Nick was super paranoid about me getting too close to the water for the sake of pictures.

Even though my pictures are nothing amazing, the experience definitely was.  There are records dating back to 1673 showing some sort of light there, and the current (third) lighthouse has been there for 140 years.  It was like a little piece of history coming to life.  There are some better pictures on the Save The Light website, as well as some more history about the lighthouse.  I encourage you to check it out.  It’s a quick read, and I think it’s fascinating.

Happy National Lighthouse Day!  A day late, but we’ve made it almost halfway through the workweek.  The weekend is shining like a beacon of hope.  Kind of like a lighthouse.