Monday, February 23, 2015

Five Good Things About the Cold Weather

I really don’t like the cold weather. I can’t stand to be cold, and the cold, gray days seem to suck the life right out of me. Winter is hard for me. It has been for as long as I can remember, and it just seems to get worse as I get older. If I’m not really, really careful I can totally get sucked into a bad case of the winter blues.

We had a little bit of snow and a fair amount of ice last week. There was a brief warm up yesterday, but the temperatures have plummeted again, and we’re looking at a pretty likely chance of more snow and/or ice this week. Not the weather forecast I was hoping for.

I seem to be teetering on the edge of getting sucked into a bad case of the winter blues, so I decided to try really hard to come up with something (anything really) that can be good about the cold.

I came up with five:

1. The cats are really cuddly during the cold weather. They’re indoor cats, but they spend a lot more time sleeping, and they’re much more likely to cuddle up with each other and with us. A cuddly cat (or four) is wonderful.





2. I get to dress the dogs up in their coats, sweaters, and pajamas. I love dressing up the dogs, and the cold weather gives me a good reason to. Emma loves to be dressed up. I think she feels pretty when she wears her pink. Duke associates dressing up with food, which is his favorite thing ever, so he loves getting dressed.

3. Winter weather can provide something to blog about. Sometimes it’s a struggle to come up with something to write a blog post about. Winter weather presents some fairly obvious things.

4. Cold weather is soup weather. Cold weather is a good reason to make soup, whether it’s an old favorite, a new recipe, or a brand new experiment. Hot soup is delicious and comforting on a cold night.

5. It makes us appreciate the warm weather. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the absence of warm weather definitely makes my heart incredibly fond of it. I cannot wait to feel the hot sun on my skin, to plant the first flowers and vegetable of the season, and for daylight to last well into the evening.

So what about you? Do you enjoy the cold weather? If not, can you come up with at least one good thing about it?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Would You Want to Know?

I read an interesting blog post today about a woman and her wife deciding to have their DNA examined for their anniversary. They both had a general idea of their ancestry, but were also surprised by a few things. It’s a well-written post, definitely worth the time to read.

Some of the surprises included some pretty scary health issues, Alzheimer’s for one.

Using your DNA to learn about your ancestry seems to be becoming more and more common, or maybe I’m just more aware of people doing it. One of my co-workers did it not too long ago. He split the cost with his two sisters and provided the sample because apparently you can learn more from a male than a female. He didn’t mention learning anything about health conditions, but did mention a few ancestry surprises.

I do not claim to even begin to understand the science behind it. Science has never been my "thing". I’ve found it somewhat interesting when people have talked about it. I enjoyed the blog post, it was interesting hearing some of what my co-worker learned, and Nick and I once spent a very enjoyable evening listening to one of his aunts talk about their Native American heritage.

All of that being said, I’ve never really felt a need to discover my roots. Sure, there have been fleeting moments of thinking it might be interesting to learn about some of the less obvious parts of my heritage, but I don’t think that’s what makes me who I am. Maybe it factors in some, I’m not sure. Like I said, I don’t claim to understand the science at all. And honestly, it costs around $100.00. There are lots of other things I’m much more interested in spending $100.00 on.

Finding out about possible health issues was something I hadn’t really considered. If I’m being honest, it’s one thing that tips the scale in favor of not investigating my DNA. I understand that, to an extent, it makes a lot of sense to be aware of health issues that run in your family, and do what you can to help yourself. But to go out and look for possible issues seems a bit like asking for trouble to me.

I don’t think I want to know that my genes are somehow tainted. Take the Alzheimer’s for example. Three out of my four grandparents have or had it. The fourth died in a car accident at 56, so may well have had it too, had he lived long enough. This scares me. A lot. It scares me for my parents, and it scares me for myself. Any time my dad forgets to pass a message on to my mom there’s the icy voice of fear whispering in my ear that both of his parents more often than not don’t know where they are, what year it is, or what’s going on. Knowing that our genes are tainted, that’s it’s likely, would turn that whisper into a roar. And I’d wonder when those bad genes were going to get me. I don’t want that. Alzheimer’s currently isn’t preventable. I’d rather hope that maybe it’s not as hereditary as people think. I’d rather spend that time, energy, and yes, money, on something that isn’t going to keep me awake at night worrying.

Maybe I’m unreasonable, maybe I’m taking too narrow of a view on it, but I just don’t see the point in setting out to find out something that might really upset you, especially if it’s something you can’t really do anything about.

So of course I’m curious. Have you had your DNA examined? Would you consider it? Would you want to know about a scary disease?

Friday, January 16, 2015

State of Food

I stumbled across this article about popular cuisine by state today and had to check it out.  I’m a South Carolina girl, and Nick is a North Carolina guy.  We banter back and forth about who has the better home state.  (I know, I know, it’s clearly South Carolina, but some people just will not accept defeat.) 
Fried Green Tomatoes
 
It turns out that our home states are pretty similar when it comes to food.  Surprise, surprise, Southern food came in as the most popular by far in both states.  Southern states like southern food.  It makes sense; it’s readily available, it’s what locals grow up eating, and we’re not about to give it up. 
I love Southern food.  Honestly, I love food.  I love trying new foods, creating new recipes, and sometimes ordering things I can’t even pronounce.  But Southern food holds a special place for me.  It’s comforting and familiar, and it represents home.  After visiting any non-southern state, I am always very glad to come home to Southern food and sweet tea.
Here’s the top five for both Carolinas:
North Carolina:
1.       Southern (229% higher than the national average)
2.       Cheesesteaks
3.       Hot Dogs
4.       Chicken Wings
5.       Soul Food
South Carolina:
1.       Southern (327% higher than the national average)
2.       Seafood
3.       Soul Food
4.       Chicken Wings
5.       Barbeque
See?  They are fairly similar.  It looks like North Carolina loves cheesesteaks and hot dogs, and South Carolina loves seafood and barbeque instead.  I like how the list works out.  There’s a great hotdog place in Nick’s hometown (they might actually be responsible for getting hotdogs on North Carolina’s list) and I always have to get mustard based barbeque when we travel to the lower half of South Carolina. 
So what about you? What’s the most popular cuisine in your state?  Do you have certain foods that represent home?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sharing Pictures

Does it sometimes seem like the internet can be a really bad place? Some days it seems like all you see are news articles about really bad things happening, your email doesn’t bring good news, and your Facebook feed is a steady diet of negativity. But sometimes there are days when the internet is a tool that reminds us that, yes, there are good people out there. People who maybe want to make the world just a tiny little bit better if they can.

Today was one of those days for me. One of my rescue friends posted a really cute picture of her dog and little boy on a Facebook page, Photo Doggies for Anthony. Apparently the page was started on behalf of a boy named Anthony who’s going through cancer treatment at a children’s hospital in Arizona. They have therapy dog visits some days, but not every day. Evidently those visits are a very big deal to Anthony (because who doesn’t feel better with a dog around?), so someone decided to start a Facebook page asking people to share photos of their dogs. The idea was that he’d at least get to see dog pictures every day. 

The page seems to have gone viral, with people all over the world posting dog pictures, and encouraging their friends to post dog pictures as well. It’s a really small thing. It really doesn’t take long at all to post a picture on Facebook, but maybe it’s something that makes it a little easier for a kid to deal with something that no one wants to face. It has to feel good that so many people who will never meet him care enough to try to brighten his day just a little.

If you’re on Facebook, I encourage you to check it out. There are a lot of cute pictures, and the comments all seem to be positive, coming from a place of kindness and hope. If you’re so inclined, take a minute to share a dog picture. (Cat people, take heart, there are a few cat pictures as well.) If there’s anything to the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s a page with millions of good words, and that’s something we can probably all use a little more of.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Blank Pages of 2015

I’m not really a New Year’s Resolution kind of person. I’m not really sure why, but I’ve never entirely bought into the whole "New Year, New Me" thing. A date on the calendar isn’t going to suddenly take me from being a temperamental caffeine addict with a frighteningly disorganized purse to being a calm, only drinks water girl with a perfectly organized purse. It would be nice, but it’s just not realistic. In my opinion and experiences with attempting New Year’s Resolutions.

That being said, I love the chance (and encouragement) to look back on the previous year that a new year brings. It’s a great time to reflect on what you did, didn’t do, wanted to do, etc. 

The beginning of a new year does also bring a blank slate of sorts. Literally, if you’re like me and don’t have the best relationship with technology. I’ve been using this calendar for about seven years now, (it works really well for keeping up with Nick’s rotating schedule), and getting the new one for the year always makes me really happy. It has that new book smell, and I love all of the blank pages. It’s a whole year waiting to be filled up.

This, of course, begs the question of what’s going to be written on the blank pages of 2015. Work, obviously, represents a huge chunk of time for most of us. But what about the rest of the time? The beginning of the year seems to be a great time to think about how you want to fill the pages of the year ahead.

For me, a few things come to mind. I haven’t given up on writing. I’m still working on a cookbook and a novel (my inability to commit to one project at a time could be part of my problem). I still need to work on exercising, losing weight, and making better food choices. And there are a few house and yard projects we’re hoping to tackle this year.

Then there are the more intangible things like spending more time with family and friends, being more mindful of how time is filled, and doing something good. Those are the things that are a little harder to measure, but that certainly doesn’t make them any less important.

The pages fill up really, really fast. It never fails to amaze me how quickly a week can go from being a blank slate to being a constant rush to get everything done. I think that just makes it even more important to work on filling the pages, as much as possible, with the things that really matter to us.

So what about you? How are you planning to fill the blank pages of 2015?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!!!

2015. It sounds a little weird doesn’t it? I’ve been writing and typing it for a while now at work, but it still just doesn’t sound quite right. In a few weeks, though, 2014 will sound a little weird. Time flies.

I hope everyone had a fun and safe New Year’s Eve celebration. We had a quiet, relaxing evening at home, which is our favorite way to welcome the new year. We’re both still recovering from the flu, so quiet and low-key is about all we’re interested in right now. We grilled burgers and hot dogs, and spent the evening on the couch watching Frasier on Netflix, going to bed well before midnight. 

The end of 2014 got away from me, even more than the end of the year usually does. I had lots of ideas and plans for posts during and about the holidays, but time got away from me. We did our usual Christmas baking for neighbors, vets, co-workers, etc. It’s something we enjoy doing, and people seem to enjoy the goodies.

Nick had to work on Thanksgiving, and we left the day after to go visit my sister, so for the first time in years I didn’t cook at all on Thanksgiving. I did, finally, manage to do something I’ve been talking about for years, though. I volunteered on Thanksgiving. Nick has had to work on almost every holiday since we’ve been together, and I’ve always said that I’d like to spend one of those days volunteering somewhere.

Well, I finally did it! The no-kill shelter sent out a plea on Facebook for help with the laundry. The shelter was at maximum capacity, and we had a cold snap right around the week of Thanksgiving, so they had laundry piling up faster than anyone could keep up with it. I went and spent a few hours helping out with the laundry on Thanksgiving.

It was an incredible experience! I actually kind of like doing laundry, and the commercial washers and dryers there sort of intrigued me. There were actually quite a few people there doing various chores and working with the dogs, so I also met a lot of really nice people. It was a really feel-good kind of day.

On a side note; if you ever find yourself faced with spending a holiday alone, or you just don’t like the plans available to you, I highly recommend going and volunteering somewhere, even just for an hour or two, to help with something you really care about. You’ll feel amazing!

Nick is a Christmas Eve baby, so we also have a birthday celebration for him as close to Christmas Eve as scheduling will allow. Last year (it still sounds weird to say that) we had it on Saturday, December 20th. The usual chili dinner - that’s a tradition that I’m a little afraid to mess with - people expect to eat chili at his birthday! It was a fun time. We had a good turn out, and people got to see people they hadn’t seen in a while.

Unfortunately, that was pretty much the end of the festivities for us. We both came down with the flu shortly afterward. So much for getting flu shots! Christmas feels like it flew by in a blur, and also like it didn’t really happen. Nick had to work on Christmas Day, and I spent the day in a cough-syrup fog.

The Christmas tree and decorations are still up, which I’m glad about. Nick likes to leave them up until after January 6th; it’s part of what he grew up with. Not having grown up with any Christmas traditions of my own, I’m very happy to go along with that one.

Overall, 2014 was an okay year, even if it was the year of the appliances. We officially adopted Duke, I had three interviews on my blog (here, here, and here ), which was a new blogging experience for me, and we did a little more gardening than the year before. There was probably more, but that’s what comes to mind when I mentally review 2014.

On the health front, the last MRI showed that the liver tumors are stable. They’re all below five centimeters, and nothing has really changed in the past year. I now only have to go once a year for an MRI to have them checked. That makes me really happy! It may sound strange, but I feel less fragile somehow; every six months seems to indicate cause for concern, once a year feels more normal somehow, that’s just like a check-up. It probably doesn’t make any sense, but it’s really good for my mental health, which has to count for something, right?

I hope 2014 was good for all of you, and I hope 2015 is a great year for everyone. Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

My Husband Traded Me for a Christmas Tree

No, I’m not married to some brute from the Dark Ages who views women as property to be traded.  My husband, Nick, is a really, really nice guy; he just happens to be fond of very small cars and is not your typical guy when it comes to keeping the car clean.  He actually drives a two-door Honda Civic, which I (not so affectionately) refer to as the half car.  It’s also always full of various odds and ends related to the fire department, more papers than any office I’ve ever worked in, and what else I don’t really want to know.

We bought our first Christmas tree together on the first Thanksgiving after we were married.  I’d never had a Christmas tree, and I was determined to get as big a one as possible and join the folks who put them up the day after Thanksgiving.  Michael’s had a sale on artificial trees that year; the store opened at 6:00 Thanksgiving evening and the pre-lit trees were 50 percent off, and we even had a coupon to take more off.  We had to go!

We spent Thanksgiving Day with some very dear friends and left straight from their house for Michael’s.  I HAD to have my tree.  The store was about 45 minutes from the house we were renting at the time.  Nick had driven to our friends’ house, since I was balancing several desserts on my lap, so we were in the half-car, which neither of us thought much about.

We arrived at Michael’s and found the perfect tree for us.  It was 7.5 feet and pre-lit with white lights.  It was beautiful and I fell in love with it.  We decided it was probably a little big for our living room, but then decided that Christmas only comes once a year, so why not get the tree we loved.

We paid for the tree and headed out to the car, with a sales associate wheeling the (exceptionally heavy) tree on a cart.  As we approached the car I began to have serious doubts about getting the tree into the car.  My husband, optimistic person that he is, was sure we could get the tree, and the two of us, into the car, along with all of the other stuff that was already in the car.

The sales associate very quickly left us to our own devices.  I can’t say that I blame him.  We spent nearly an hour trying to get the tree into the car from different angles.  The only way to get the tree into the car was to move everything else to the trunk and shove the tree in through the passenger door and kind of tip it into the backseat.  I tried scrunching down in the backseat; I was perfectly willing to have a cramped ride home for the sake of the tree, but I couldn’t scrunch up small enough to get the tree far enough in to get the door closed.

We finally came to the realization that only one person would fit in the car with the tree. Nick actually wanted to return the tree!  I quickly talked him out of that and into the idea of one of us staying behind while one of us took the tree home and then came back for the other person.

In addition to the fact that I couldn’t lift the tree on my own, we were in an area I wasn’t very familiar with.  I also have the ability to get lost in a revolving door, so driving home by myself from a place I wasn’t familiar with, with a giant Christmas tree in the car, and then trying to get back to the shopping center didn’t seem like a good idea at all.  We finally decided that Nick would take the tree home and then come back for me. 

I spent that hour and half wandering around Michael’s, which is not a bad place to be stranded, and calling to wish friends and family a happy Thanksgiving.   Nick made it home in record time, shoved the tree in the house, and then came rushing back to get me.


It made for a pretty funny story when people asked how our first Thanksgiving was.  I don’t think anyone expected the answer to begin with “Oh, Nick left me at Michaels’” or “Nick traded me in for a Christmas tree”.  It’s still fun to tell the story whenever someone comes over during the holidays and comments on our tree.  It may have gotten me left behind at the store, but we have a great tree.