Saturday, December 31, 2016

December Wrap-Up

I meant to do all kinds of posts in December; recipes, Christmas, etc., but the month just got away from me.  So I’m making up for it with one incredibly long post.

December was busy, and had a lot of ups and downs for us.  I’ll go ahead and start with the bad stuff first, so I can end this post with the good stuff:

On December 7th we lost a very good friend, Martha.  She was 75, an incredible person, and died suddenly of a stroke.  I’m going to write more about her at some point, because she was such a wonderful person, but I just can’t right now.  I know that I’ll cry when I do, and I have a really bad cold right now.  Breathing is hard enough right now without crying.

The next afternoon at work, two of the security officers came in to tell me my car had been hit in the parking lot, and that I needed to go outside for the report.  The person who hit my car left without notifying anyone.  Fortunately, we share a parking lot with the Sheriff’s Office, and a deputy happened to be looking out the window when it happened.  He took some great pictures of her looking around to see if anyone saw, and then driving away.  Once her insurance company saw the pictures there was no question of them paying for the repairs.

We took the car to the same place that did the repair after we were rear-ended in August.  They did such a good job then that even the most obsessive car guys we know were impressed.  They weren’t able to get it in until after Christmas, but we were okay with that since the car was okay to drive.  We dropped it off on the 27th and picked it up on the 30th, and it looks great.

Now on to some happier December happenings:

I did a lot of baking for various people. This year it was mostly pound cakes, apple cake, cherry crunch, and some banana pound cake.  I took desserts to various departments at work, including the security officers, the volunteers, and the janitorial people.  This year I added in the maintenance people as well.  We moved offices earlier in the year, and they were incredibly nice during and leading up to the move.  Our new office is also much closer to their main work area in the building, so I see them a lot.  That’s pretty much how I determine which departments to take Christmas goodies to; the people I see and interact on a daily (or near daily) basis.

We also have a water cooler now that we’re in the new office.  The deliveryman, Joe, is really nice, and we also chat for a few minutes, so I made him some Christmas goodies as well.  He seemed really surprised, but said he really liked them the next time he came.

I love it when people are pleasantly surprised to get their Christmas goodies, and when they seem to genuinely enjoy them.

I also baked for our vet’s office, acupuncturist, chiropractor’s office, reflexologist, and the lady who cuts our hair.  

We were planning to do dinner for our next door neighbors, but ended up rescheduling since we were at a funeral that weekend instead.  I think we’re going to try for sometime next week (once my cold is gone), and call it a New Year thing instead.

My aunt, uncle, and sister came for dinner the weekend before Christmas.  I made two giant trays of lasagna, Greek Salad, garlic bread, apple cake, and brownies for that.   We hadn’t seen my aunt and uncle since the summer, so it was great to see them and catch up.  I also took the opportunity to send lots of presents home with Gabrielle since Christmas was at her house this year.

I ended up not taking anything to the hospice house here for Christmas.  I feel kind of bad about that, but things just got really crazy in the days leading up to Christmas.  My parents’ 17 year old cat, Yum Yum, got really sick, and everyone was really afraid it was going to be time to ay goodbye to her, but she made an amazing recovery.

They ended up bringing her to the vet here that we take the cats to.  They live about an hour and 15 minutes away, but that’s just how it worked out.  Let’s just say that my mom thrives on drama, and my dad isn’t a decision maker.  I ended up making the appointment and helping get her back and forth to the vet.

Yum Yum had a major impaction that took three days of treatment and lots of medication to remove. She’ll most likely be on medication for the rest of her life, but is doing great now.  She’s eating, cuddling with the other cats, and even playing more than she has in a while.

It was very up and down with her for a while, so when the vet called with “wonderful news”, everyone was thrilled.  Yum Yum was the last patient they sent home before they closed for the holiday, so I think everyone was especially delighted to go into the Christmas break on a positive note.

Nick’s mom and step-dad came into town the Wednesday before Christmas.  Thursday they came over and installed one of Nick’s birthday presents.  They got him a new mailbox (it’s huge and really nice, so much better than the old one that seemed like it was going to fall over any day) with a firefighter topper.  His dad came over with tools and to help install it.  They managed to pull it off as a complete surprise to him.  He had no idea until he came home from work that night and saw it.  He absolutely loves it.

On Christmas Eve (also Nick’s birthday) Nick and I, along with his mom and step-dad headed to my sister’s house in Greensboro.  She just moved, and insisted that Christmas be at her house this year since she has enough room now, and had never done the big Christmas before.

We brought the dogs and Joey with us since he’s on daily medication.  He rode with Nick’s mom and step-dad, rather than with us and the dogs.  We also had what felt like a million presents between the two cars.

I like to use weird boxes to disguise things when I wrap presents.  Normally that’s not a problem, but it can complicate things when you have to pack them all in the car.  I was so glad we had sent so many presents back with Gabrielle the week before.  I don’t think we would have ever managed to get everything in the car otherwise.

Gabrielle cooked a ton of food, and we brought Nick’s birthday cake with us.  We celebrated Nick’s birthday that evening, and then stayed up until 2:00 in the morning to open Christmas presents.

It was the first time I had ever stayed up to open Christmas presents, and the biggest family Christmas Gabrielle and I had ever had, so it was a lot of fun.

Everyone seemed to have put a lot of thought and effort into the gifts they gave everyone.  There were a few big, wonderful surprises, and most of the gifts were something that at least one other person knew about, so there was a lot of excitement waiting for certain people to open certain things. Everyone’s reactions to their gifts was very gratifying too.  There wasn’t any fake enthusiasm.

I can finally say this, the earrings I got from Liz’s Etsy shop for Susan (Nick’s mom) were a big hit. She wore them pretty much the whole time after that.

We spent a very low key holiday, which I think was exactly what everyone wanted and needed.  No one even got out of their pajamas on Sunday.  Gabrielle made a few soups from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook that were delicious.  I think I want to get a copy for the soups alone.                            
Later that evening  we burned 2016 calendars.  It was something we had decided on earlier since it has been such an awful year for all of us.  We all took turns feeding pages of 2016 calendars into the fireplace.  It felt good to watch the pages go up in smoke.

Nick came down with a cold on Monday, and was pretty miserable Tuesday and Wednesday.  I started coming down with it Thursday, and haven’t done much since then other than read, sleep, and sip tea.  I’m really hoping it goes away soon.  I don’t want to start the new year off sick!

So how about you?  How was your December?  How were your holiday celebrations?  I hope you all had a wonderful month, and were able to spend time with the people you love.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November Wrap-Up

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is going to be December 1st.  The last few weeks of November seemed to fly by, but was actually mostly good.

I’ll start with the best news first.  We finally got rain!!!  I’ve never been so happy to see rain.  We had a tiny bit of rain in the early hours of Thanksgiving morning.  Then we had a little rain Monday night.
We’ve had lots of rain today, and it has been wonderful.

The smoke got really bad last week.  Because of the way the wind was blowing we were actually getting smoke from two different fires.  There was a haze of smoke inside at work last week, and at home it smelled like a bonfire.  I was convinced we would be evacuating.  Once again, Nick was the voice of reason, and was right, no evacuation for us.

I ended up going to the doctor to get medications for smoke-related breathing issues.  I’ve had a terrible cough that just won’t go away.  It turns out that it’s due to inflammation caused from the smoke and all of the coughing.  I’m two days into the medicine, and already feel so much better.  Being able to breathe is a wonderful thing!

Our cat, Joey, has asthma, and our vet has had us increase all of his medications, and even added in a few more.  Hopefully now that we’ve had some rain, and the smoke seems to finally be clearing, we’ll be able to taper him back down to his normal dose.

We celebrated my parents’ 42nd anniversary with them the weekend before Thanksgiving.  We brought a cake, and Nick made calzones, which were incredibly delicious.  It was a little weird, because we had to check on the status of three different fires burning near us before we felt comfortable leaving to go that far from home.  Fortunately everything was fine, and we had a good time with my parents.

Thanksgiving went really well.  I got the food to the hospice house on time.  I was really worried about running behind.  I told them I’d have it there between 12:30 and 1:00, and made it about 12:50, so I’m counting that as a win.  Bonus win, I had very minimal spilling on the drive there; just a little green bean juice spilled in the trunk.  Considering the amount of food I took there, I’m counting that as success.  I’m fairly proud of myself for packing it up efficiently.  I saved shipping boxes for a while, so I’d have boxes to put the pans in.  I put everything in disposable pans so there would be no worrying about getting dishes back, and labeled everything to make it easier in dealing with leftovers.  We even remembered to buy paper plates, etc. to take.

I ended up bringing turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes (made to stand alone, so they wouldn’t necessarily need gravy, and could be a vegetarian option, per Victoria’s suggestion), sweet potato casserole, macaroni and cheese, green beans, rolls, jellied cranberry sauce, whole berry cranberry sauce, two pumpkin pies, a cherry crunch, and a chocolate cake.  I ended up scaling the menu back a little bit, just to make sure I got everything there on time, but I think there was still plenty of food.

The staff was so nice, and kept thanking me over and over again.  They made me cry (in a good way, just by being so nice).  I told them they had just been so kind when GrandMommy was there, and that we really appreciated them.  I cannot imagine doing their job.  They kept saying they’re happy to do it, especially when people appreciate it.  I didn’t stick around very long.  I didn’t want to intrude on anyone’s grief, or get in the way of people trying to work, or eat so they could get back to work.  And I wanted to get out of there before I turned into a total crying mess.  I called Nick’s mom on the way home, and cried to her instead, Like, I said, it was mostly a good cry, though.

Once I got home from hospice, I started cooking smaller batches of Thanksgiving food for us for when Nick got home from work.  I started the desserts on Wednesday afternoon.  I have pictures of the desserts, but somehow managed not to take a single picture of the food before I left with it on Thursday.  We figured out that out of about a 30 hour period I cooked or baked for all but about eight hours of it.  It was fun, but I totally crashed on Friday.

On Friday, the most ambitious thing I did was a little online Black Friday shopping.  I’ll admit, I never even got out of my pajamas.  We ate leftovers, watched a few movies, and did a little online shopping.  It was nice to have such a low-key day.

We put the tree up on Saturday, and had a friend, Cathey, over for some apple cake.  She had gone out of town for Thanksgiving, and we started talking about how everyone had spent Thanksgiving.  We told her about taking food to hospice, and she loved the idea.  Her first husband was sick off an on for years before he died, and she has ended up taking care of a lot of different people over the years.  She has spent pretty much every major holiday in a hospital or similar place at some point.  She said one Christmas when her husband was in the hospital someone had brought in some Christmas goodies, and it just made such a difference to her that someone did that.  So she came up with the idea for us to take Christmas goodies to the hospice house.  We won’t be able to go on Christmas, but we’re planning to go a few days before and leave some Christmas foods.  Cathey makes a lot of the traditional candies and fudge, so will do that.  I haven’t figured out what I’m going to make yet.  I’m open to suggestions.

The tree looks good, and so far Frankie is the only cat really messing with it much.  One of the presents is in a fairly large box, and he’s using the box to stand on to access some of the higher branches (where we put the ornaments we really don’t want the cats messing with), so I think that box is going to end up being moved away from the tree.

We’ve finished most of our Christmas shopping.  I think we have about four more things to buy, and then we’ll be completely finished.  I’ve also finished shopping for Nick’s birthday (he’s a Christmas Eve baby), and am just waiting for a few more online orders to come in.  I’m hoping to finish up all, or at least most, of the wrapping this weekend.  I enjoy wrapping presents, but it seems to take me forever.

I can’t go into details because most of the people I shop for read my blog at least occasionally, but I’m really excited about a few of the presents.  I also know what some people we’ll be celebrating with have gotten for each other, and I think everyone is really going to love their gifts.

So what about you?  How was your Thanksgiving?  How are your Christmas preparations going?  I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that you aren’t dealing with smoke!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Practically Fool-Proof Turkey

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, I thought I’d share my turkey recipe.  I’ve had a few misadventures when it comes to cooking turkeys, but this recipe is practically fool-proof.  It’s also incredibly delicious!

Thanksgiving perfection! 
It’s a little different from what you might expect, but I promise it’s delicious.  It’s cooked cavity side up, which I believe is technically “upside down”.  If you can get the past the fact that it looks a little different, it’s totally worth it to cook it this way.  It makes for an incredibly moist turkey.

There’s no basting with this recipe, which I think helps to make it fool-proof.  It’s also much more convenient.  Once you get it in the oven, it’s pretty much good to go.  I like being able to concentrate on other things once the turkey is in the oven.  And not constantly opening the oven door.  

I’ve noticed that it always seems to take much longer for the turkey to cook than what the guides on the wrappers say.  The turkey in this recipe was a 16.5 pound turkey.  Per the wrapper, it should have cooked in about 4.5 hours.  It took six.  I don’t think my oven is that far off when it comes to temperature.  Since cooking time varies so much by weight, I usually add about an hour and a half to two hours on to what the wrapper says when I’m planning what time to put it in the oven.  I check on it at the end of the longest suggested time (if the wrapper says 4 - 4.5 hours, I check it as 4.5 hours), but it has always needed the extra time.

Don’t forget to give it plenty of time to thaw if you’re using a frozen turkey.  I bought a 22 pound turkey for the big day this year, so it’s going in the fridge on Sunday to begin thawing.  The last thing you want is a partially frozen turkey in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning.

The measurements for this recipe are for a 16.5 pound turkey.  You’ll probably need some more vegetables if you’re cooking a larger turkey. Whenever I find that I’ve chopped more vegetables than I can stuff in the turkey, I just put the extras in the bottom of the roasting pan.  It just adds more flavor.  I like this combination of vegetables because I think the celery adds a lot of moisture, and the onions and carrots pack a lot of flavor.  And you can’t go wrong with butter.

The wine adds some nice flavor, and the water and wine together help keep the turkey moist.  It also makes for some amazingly delicious pan drippings.

You can use the vegetables in your dressing.  Rice is a Thanksgiving staple for us, and the vegetables are delicious in that as well.  I usually just add a few spoonfuls of the vegetables to the pot when I’m cooking the rice.  Because you’ll have a lot of pan drippings you can use them in rice (just replace part of the water with them), gravy, and dressing.  It’s all delicious!

3 stalks celery, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 stick of butter, kept cold until you’re ready to use it
1 Tbsp dried parsley, plus a little more for sprinkling
Salt & pepper to taste
2/3 cup white wine
2 cups water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Remember to adjust your oven wracks first if you need to.  (It’s a lot easier when they’re cold!)

Open turkey package, and remove neck, giblets, and any plastic holding the legs together (leave the pop-up timer, though).  Place turkey, cavity side up, in a large roasting pan.  

Combine all of the vegetables in a bowl.  Chop 2/3 of the stick of butter into small cubes, and add to the vegetables.  Add 1 Tbsp parsley, and a few sprinkles of salt and pepper.  Mix well.

Stuff the vegetables inside the turkey.  You want to really pack it full.  It’s okay if they’re spilling out. If you have any left, just put them in the bottom of the pan.

This is how it should look just before you cover it.
Chop the remaining 1/3 stick of butter into squares and place them on the outside of the turkey.  I usually tuck them under the wings and legs.

Lightly sprinkle the turkey with salt, pepper, and parsley.
Pour the wine and water into the bottom of the pan.

Cover the pan with foil.  You want the edges of the pan to be tightly wrapped, but allow room at the top.  Kind of tent the foil, so it’s not actually touching the turkey at the top.

Bake for 4.5 - 6 hours.  Like I said, my oven always takes a lot longer than the wrapper says.  Check on it at the end of the wrapper’s recommended time.  It’s done when the pop-up timer is out and/or when you can make a cut where the leg meets the body and the juices run clear.  If in doubt, cook it a little longer.  That’s the beauty of this recipe.  The turkey isn’t going to dry out.

Try to talk someone else into carving the turkey, and enjoy!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Holiday Spirit

Betty, at A Bench With A View, posted something that really made me think about the holidays, and how different people feel about them.  She was asking for ways to find the joy in Christmas because December is not a good time of year for her.

I love the holidays.  I didn’t grow up celebrating any holidays.  I didn’t have my first Christmas tree until 2008.  I think part of why I get so excited about the holidays is because it’s all still kind of new to me.

This year has been a little different.  2016 has just been a really bad year.  We’ve lost two grandparents and three pets.  There have been a few other things with family and work.  I haven't been as enthusiastic about the holidays this year.  Fortunately, my sister is really excited about the holidays this year.  She started planning early, and her enthusiasm has rubbed off on me.

Honestly, I’m looking forward to the new year like I never have before.  New Year normally isn’t a holiday I get really excited about, but this year I can’t wait.

It made me think about how the holidays can be hard for so many different reasons.  It also made me think about ways to add joy to the holidays.  Here are 25 ways to add a little more joy to your holidays:

1. Start early.  Unless you’re one of those people who thrive on the last minute rush, you’ll probably feel a lot better, and be less stressed, getting started early.

2. Have realistic expectations.  You’re human, and there are only 24 hours in every day.  You probably won’t be able to do everything.  Pick and choose what’s important to you, and what will bring you the most joy.

3.  Listen to “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas”.  I dare you to listen to it and not smile.  I love this song, and it makes me happy every time I hear it.

4.  Consider changing your traditions.  The first year without a loved one can be really hard.  This year was our first Mother’s Day without GrandMommy, which was hard.  We used to always go to a Greek luncheon, and then usually shopping.  Nick’s mom would come, and we’d all go eat a gigantic lunch and then browse stores, usually thrift stores.  This year no one wanted the emotional baggage that came with that, so we changed things up.  We all went out to breakfast at IHOP, then spent the day at the zoo, and then had barbeque for dinner.  It didn’t change the fact that it was the first Mother’s Day without GrandMommy, but doing something different did make the day a little easier.

5.  Acknowledge grief.  If you’re dreading getting the Christmas ornaments out because you know you’re going to find the special one a loved one you’ve lost gave you, and you can’t deal with it right now, ask a trusted friend to unpack your ornaments for you and put it away safely until you’re ready to see it.  Chances are there is someone who said something along the lines of “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”.  Take them up on it.  There’s no harm in admitting that something is just too hard right now, and that you need help.

6.  Do something nice for a stranger.  It doesn’t have to be anything major.  Let someone go ahead of you in line.  Pay for the person behind you at the drive-thru.

7.  Donate something to your local animal shelter.  They always need things like food, toys, blankets, cat litter, and cleaning supplies.  If you’ve lost a furry family member, make the donation in their honor.

8.  Watch an old fashioned, feel-good Christmas movie.  For me, it’s Miracle on 34th Street.  Pick the one that makes you happy and watch it.

9.  Don’t try to make your house look like something out of a magazine.  Unless that’s what really makes you happy, then by all means go for it. Decide which part of decorating matters to you, and just go with that.  For us, it’s the Christmas tree, and a wreath on both doors.  That’s it.  Maybe the giant inflatable Santa in the yard makes you happy, and the tree is more trouble than it’s worth.  You know yourself, your home, and your limitations.  Decorate for you and those you love, not to present an image or meet some ideal.

10.  Read a great book that’s somehow related to the season. For me, it’s Winter Solstice, by Rosamunde Pilcher.  It has some sad parts, but it’s mostly a happy story about an unlikely group of people who find themselves together at Christmas.  It’s a celebration of friendship and finding happiness in unlikely places.

11.  Ask for help.  If you’re always the person who organizes everything, or cooks an elaborate holiday meal, and it’s too much this year, ask for help.  Someone else may be dying to cook the big dinner, but doesn’t want to step on your toes.  Or maybe everyone would be happier with something simpler.  You won’t know unless you ask.

12.  Take someone shopping with you.  The first year Nick and I were married his grandfather, GrandDaddy, had shoulder surgery in the fall and wasn’t able to drive for a while, so he couldn’t go Christmas shopping for GrandMommy on his own.  I hadn’t lived here long, and didn’t know my way around very well, so he and I planned a shopping trip together.  I drove, he navigated, we shopped for Nick and GrandMommy, and then went and had dinner.  It was great!  So much more fun than shopping alone.

13.  Trade jobs with someone.  Maybe you hate shopping, but love wrapping presents.  See if you can get a friend to pick up gifts for you if you will wrap theirs for them.  Think about what parts of the holidays you do enjoy/are good at, and see what you can come up with to trade with someone.

14.  Take care of yourself.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the rush of trying to get everything done and trying to make everything perfect.  Remember to take care of yourself.  Get enough sleep.  Say no when you need to.

15.  Consider not sending Christmas cards.  I’m sort of obsessed with Julia Child, and when I read her biography a few years ago it talked about how she didn’t send Christmas cards.  She sent Valentine’s cards instead, basically because she couldn’t get everything together in time to send out cards at Christmas, so Valentine’s cards became her thing.  I love that she knew her limitations (yes, even Julia Child had limitations!) and worked with them.  We stopped sending Christmas cards a few years ago, and I haven’t missed it.  Now our thing is taking baked goods to people.

16.  Take some Christmas treats/goodies to a nursing home/hospice house/children’s home.  Call ahead to find out what the rules are as far as what you can bring and when you can bring it.  Places like that are usually thrilled when someone offers to do something for them.  And it feels good to do something for someone else.

17.  Don’t obsess over something that’s not going to matter later on.  This one can be really hard for me.  I have a tendency to fixate on random things sometimes, and moderation and I aren’t always friends.  Christmas of 2009 my obsession was dipped pretzels.  That sounds relatively harmless, I know, but not when taken to the extreme that I managed to.  I only did the mini pretzels (I got the idea that they were cuter), and I dipped them all by hand in pretty much anything you could melt (chocolate chips, vanilla candy, butterscotch chips, peanut butter cups, etc).  Then I moved on to coating the dipped pretzels with sprinkles, mini candies, crushed candy, etc.  And of course packing them up in cute little bags. I was truly obsessed.  Every day on the way home from work I would stop and buy bags and bags of pretzels, things to melt and dip them in, and things to coat them with.  There were trays of pretzels with various coatings stacked all over the kitchen.  Nick was working mostly nights during the pretzel obsession, and I would stay up until 1:00 in the morning dipping and coating pretzels.  I gave everyone pretzels that year.  I think people liked them at first, then got tired of them.  It sounds so silly now, but at the time I was truly obsessed with the pretzel dipping and coating.  Think about what you’re doing.  If it sounds like it’s going to become a cautionary pretzel tale in a few years, consider taking a step back.

18.  Take some sort of Christmas treat to your local 911 Center.  The folks at the 911 Center are probably the most underappreciated people in the emergency services, probably because most people don’t see them.  Consider taking them something like cookies or candy, and letting them know you appreciate them.

19.  Watch a funny Christmas movie.  For me, it’s Fred Claus.  Vince Vaughn is hilarious, but there are still some sweet, feel-good scenes.

20.  Make a donation in honor of a loved one.  Not having someone at the holidays, and not being able to give them a gift can be incredibly painful.  Consider making a donation in their honor, possibly to a cause they supported, or to an organization dedicated to curing a disease they suffered from.

21.  Drop off some books and/or magazines in a hospital waiting room.

22.  Donate blood.  Typically donations go down around the holidays and during the bad weather, but the need is always there.  You’re potentially giving someone else the gift of life (or a loved one’s life) for the holidays.  Talk about a great gift!

23.  Include someone else in your holiday celebrations.  Maybe you have an elderly neighbor who doesn’t seem to have much company, or a friend who isn’t able to go home for the holidays this year.  Invite them to join you for some holiday festivities.

24.  Take a small Christmas gift to your neighbors.  It doesn’t have to be anything big; maybe some cookies or flowers.

25.  Give a small Christmas gift or treat to someone who doesn’t expect anything from you.  Maybe it’s the nice cashier at the grocery store or the librarian who always recommends great books; someone who has no reason to expect something from you.  Again, it doesn’t have to be anything big, but it will probably make their day.

So what about you?  Do you get excited about the holidays?  What do you do to get in the holiday spirit and make it a joyful time of year?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Smoky Weekend

Normally you can see mountains from here.
It kind of feels like most of western North Carolina and large parts of the upstate of South Carolina are burning.  The forest fires aren’t under control and are still spreading.  We’re in a major drought, and it has been really windy; so basically perfect conditions for the fires to spread.

We have a 50 percent chance of rain today, and that’s it for rain for us in the forecast.  A few people locally have said they’ve had a sprinkling of rain, but no one is reporting much rain.  It hasn’t rained at our house yet.  It’s early though, so hopefully the rain will come later in the day.

The closest fires to us are about 25 to 30 minutes away, and there’s a lot of smoke all over.  A small part of the county we live in is under a mandatory evacuation order.  I’ll admit I’ve been in a state of near panic all weekend.  Nick assures me that the fires are unlikely to reach us.  He says we’re basically in a valley below the mountains that are burning.  We’re getting a lot of smoke, but shouldn’t get fire.  He says that fires don’t burn as efficiently going downhill, and that they’re much easier to control and put out if they’re moving downhill.

It looks foggy outside, but the weather folks assure us it’s smoke, not fog. It even looked foggy in the middle of the afternoon yesterday from the smoke.  Everything smells like smoke.  The smoke smell is definitely stronger outside, but even inside it smells like smoke.

The pictures are taken from our backyard, just to give you an idea of the smoke.  It has been like that since yesterday.  You can normally see mountains in the distance.

I haven’t heard anything about when the fires are expected to be under control.  It seems that a lot depends on whether or not we get rain, and what the wind does.

Here’s hoping for lots of rain today!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Secret Ingredient of Wishes

The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell was a book I thought I was going to love. It popped up on goodreads as a recommendation, and was compared to Sarah Addison Allen.

The Secret Ingredient of Wishes features  pie, wishes, and starting over in a small town.  It also takes place in North Carolina.  It seemed like it would have a lot going for it. The comparisons to Sarah Addison Allen had me really excited to read it.  I jumped on the waiting list at the library, and eagerly waited for my copy.

It was incredibly disappointing.

I’ve loved all of Sarah Addison Allen’s books except Lost Lake (that one wasn’t horrible, just definitely nowhere near as wonderful as her other books).  I think the comparison to her writing had me starting this book with higher expectations than I would have had otherwise.  Honestly, that probably colored my opinion some.  I think I was expecting something like Garden Spells (I highly recommend reading it now if you haven’t read it yet)  Even without the comparison I still think I would have been disappointed.

The names of the characters drove me a little crazy.  The older, wiser, magic pie baking female character is named Catch.  There’s never any explanation as to whether that’s a nickname, some old family name, or just weird for the sake of being weird.  The hunky love interest next door is named Ashe, which doesn’t seem to fit at all.  For some reason, the two names sound a lot alike in my head, and it kind of drove me insane.  The other name issue I had was that, with the exception of Catch and Ashe, pretty much everyone went by some abbreviation of their name most of the time; Ray for Rachel, Ev for Everley, Mae or Maeby for Mary Beth.  It just seemed overdone.  I know, that’s a relatively small issue, but it adds up over the course of an entire book.

The dialogue wasn’t great.  The conversations just seemed a little stilted.  Catch had an annoying habit of saying things like “Miss-I-Got-All-Dolled-Up-and-Now-Everyone-Else-Looks-Like-Crap,”. There was something like that from her constantly.  It got old, and seemed like a lazy way to get a bunch of dialogue out of the way at once.

I had hoped the pies would at least be interesting, but even the baking parts of the book were disappointing.  There wasn’t much detail about the pie making, and there wasn’t anything particularly interesting about the pies.

Overall, it was an incredibly disappointing read.

So what about you?  Have you read The Secret Ingredient of Wishes?  What did you think of it?  Do you go into a book with high expectations if the author is compared to an author you really enjoy?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Three Legs, Ninety-Five Pounds, and Zero Limitations

You may remember if you’ve been around for a while that our dog, Duke, “only” has three legs (or as some like to say, is a tripaw).

You might think that a three-legged dog might have some difficulty getting around.  Or that at least you wouldn’t have to worry about a three-legged dog going over a fence.  You would be wrong, however.

You might also think that a ninety-five pound dog certainly wouldn’t be able to go under a fence.  Again, you’d be wrong.

On a side note (and if you’re looking for something to be right about) you might think that ninety-five pounds is more than Duke should weigh.  In that case, you would be absolutely right. We’re working on it.

Anyway, when we first moved into our house, and we adopted Duke, we didn’t have a fence.  We were finally able to get the backyard fenced in a couple of years ago.  (If you’re still keeping score, and you think that fences are expensive, you’d be right.)  We had a choice between the traditional (and slightly cheaper) four foot fence, or going with a five foot fence.
The first escape area, fixed

We opted for the five foot fence.  My parents’ yard had the traditional four foot fence, and we had all seen Duke stand up and drape his one front leg over the fence.  He never jumped my parents’ fence, but also never had any real incentive to.  Their backyard is easily four times the size of ours, and they don’t live close enough to restaurants for Duke to smell them.  We do.  We live just behind a main road.  On a windy day, it smells like Burger King is grilling in our backyard.  Duke adores food, so we thought he might jump a four foot fence in pursuit of fast food.

We never leave Duke in the backyard for very long, and we never leave him outside when we’re not at home.  He loves playing outside.  He rolls in the grass, chases (and sometimes catches) birds and rodents, steals the occasional vegetable from the garden, and generally seems to have a great time in the backyard.  There’s no real reason for him to want to leave.

During the summer he added digging to his repertoire of backyard activities.  He dug near the back porch, he dug near the raised beds, and a few weeks ago he started digging at the fence.  We weren’t thrilled about the digging, especially not the digging near the fence, but we really didn’t think he’d be able to dig a hole large enough to squeeze himself out of.  Especially not with one front leg!  We were wrong.

Duke’s first escape was a few weeks ago.  He dug, and used brute force to mangle the bottom of the fence enough to squeeze himself out of.  He just ran around to the front of the house, and met Nick on the front porch.

That night we went to Lowe’s and bought some wrought iron fencing (the kind that gets buried on the bottom).  Nick put that up over the hole, and zip-tied it to the fence to secure it.  We thought the problem was solved.  Surely a three-legged, ninety-five pound dog wouldn’t dig out of the fence twice.  We were wrong.  Again.

Duke’s second escape was scarier.  He ran off into some woods near our house.  We both walked the neighborhood looking for him.  When we came back to the house to get the car to go drive and look for him, he was just sitting in the carport waiting for us.

We found the new hole the next day.  It was in a different section of the fence, but he had done basically the same thing; dug a hole and mangled the bottom of the fence enough to squeeze himself out.  The second one had to have been a really tight squeeze, but he managed it somehow.

We fixed the second hole with the same wrought iron fencing and zip ties.  It seems to hold, but it’s not a viable solution for the entire fence.  We walked the fence and stacked bricks in any areas that looked like they might be conducive to Duke’s digging/mangling escape plan.  It’s a temporary fix at best, though.

The second escape area, fixed
We’re not letting Duke play in the backyard unsupervised until we come up with a better solution to keep him from digging out.  We haven’t decided for sure what we’re going to do.  We really thought a five foot chain length fence would be enough to keep a three-legged dog in.

We’ve thrown around the idea of some kind of electric fence on the bottom, but that’s likely to be cost prohibitive.  We’re considering planting roses along the fence line, but aren’t sure that would be enough of a deterrent.  We’re also throwing around the idea of putting concrete along the bottom of the fence, so he can’t dig out.  Doesn’t that sound like a fun project?

So what about you?  Do you have any brilliant ideas to keep a dog from digging out from under a fence?  Is there an obvious solution we’re just missing?  And, if you meet a three-legged dog, don’t pity them, as long as they seem happy and well cared for.  S/he probably gets around better than you think!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Book Lovers Day

Books!  And a Joey photobomb.
According to Holiday Insights, there are actually two different dates for Books Lovers Day.  I love books, so the idea of two separate Book Lovers Days makes me really happy, and it seems like a great day to talk about the amazing Friends of the Library Book Sale we went to recently.

The Friends of the Library have a few book sales throughout the year.  There’s a separate building (I guess they don’t want people trying to buy books off of the library shelves), and they have a great selection of books.  The sales usually run a few weeks or weekends in a row, and everything is more and more discounted as the sale goes on.  It’s well organized, and there’s a huge selection.  It’s kind of a book lover’s paradise.

This year they did something a little different.  The last Saturday in October was the Monster Book Sale, or as I like to call it, a dream come true.  It was $5.00 per adult.  Not $5.00 per bag, box, or X number of books. $5.00 for all of the books you wanted to take with you.  You walked in, paid your $5.00, got your hand stamped, and then had the privilege of taking all of the books you wanted.  If you filled a box, they wrote your name on it, stashed it behind a counter, and handed you another box.

Nick and I both love books, and we have a small house.  We have lots of books, pretty much everywhere.  But we decided that the Monster Sale was an opportunity not to be missed.  Unlimited books was more temptation than we could resist, and it supported the library.  We decided to go, and limit ourselves to one box each.

I think the one box limit lasted about 45 minutes.  Maybe.  We read completely different things; I’m pretty much all about fiction, cookbooks, and the occasional biography.  Nick is all about non-fiction.  He actually loves getting his hands on text books.  So we split up as soon as we were stamped and in the door.  Somehow, we usually mange to finish up at about the same time, and both come wandering out of our sections at about the same time, and run into each other.  I’m not sure how, but it works.

We both wandered out with our first box completely full, and we hadn’t even looked at everything, so we agreed to two boxes each.  We actually stuck to the two boxes each limit.  The boxes were packed full, and incredibly heavy, but we did leave with “only” four boxes between the two of us.

It was so much fun.  I put books I might not normally have bought in my boxes to try.  Everyone seemed to be recommending books, and there was a lot of “if you like this, you’ll love that” going on.  At one point I was part of a group of women all just putting books in each other’s boxes.  I can’t wait to try some of the newly recommended authors.

So what about you?  Are you a book lover?  Have you lost control buying books?  Have you read anything good lately?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thanksgiving Plans

Now that we’re well into the first week of November I think it’s socially acceptable to start talking about Thanksgiving plans.  I love Thanksgiving.  It is, by far, my absolute favorite holiday.  I love cooking for people, so I think a holiday that’s all about being thankful you have food to cook and people you love to cook it for is perfect.

Thanksgiving this year wasn’t looking good, though.  Nick works in a branch of the emergency services, and has to work on Thanksgiving. That’s not unusual.  I  think he’s had one Thanksgiving off in the nine years we’ve been together, so we’ve become pretty good at working around him having to work.  In years past, he has gotten a two hour lunch break, so we’ve had Thanksgiving then.  It worked.  I had everything ready, and people always showed up on time.  Other years we’ve had dinner a little later, when he gets off of work.  This year, though, he’s on-call starting the day after Thanksgiving.  The likelihood of him being called in to work early Friday morning is high.  A late celebration at our house just didn’t seem like a wise plan.  I was pretty upset by the idea of not being able to have some kind of Thanksgiving celebration at least close to Thanksgiving.

This has been a really, really bad year, and I’ve been kind of floundering lately.  Part of me wants to cry myself to sleep and hibernate until 2017 because it has to be a better year than this one has been.  Please.  Part of me also wants to try to do something to somehow try to improve the rest of 2016; maybe the last little bit of it can be a little better.  I just haven’t really been able to come up with a good plan, one that felt right, or that I could get really excited about.  That’s when we came up with our plans for Thanksgiving.

The hospice house that GrandMommy was in is very close to us.  They have a kitchen so family members can cook meals there, and they have a nice big dining room table so people can eat together.

Hospice is an incredible organization, and they’re very welcoming to people who want to do something to volunteer.  We thought about it, and decided to ask the hospice house here if I could cook them Thanksgiving dinner and bring it for whoever might want it.  Losing a loved one is never easy, but I can’t imagine how painful it must be to face that during the holidays.  From a practical standpoint, restaurant choices are somewhat limited on a holiday.

I called the hospice house the day we came up with the idea to ask if I could do it.  I wasn’t sure if they might want references or some kind of background check or something, so I wanted to allow plenty of time for that.  The lady who answered the phone was incredibly nice.  It took a few minutes to explain that, yes, I wanted to bring an entire Thanksgiving meal.  She told me that would be fine, wonderful in fact, but suggested that I talk to the volunteer coordinator just to make sure, and to make things official.

The volunteer coordinator wasn’t going to be in for a few days, so I left my contact information and waited to hear back from her.  Meanwhile, I panicked a little bit.  Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the hospice house seemed like the perfect plan.  I was very worried that there would be some issue, and I started making lists of people I could ask for references if I needed to plead my case.  Nick promised me he would find me someone to cook Thanksgiving dinner for if the hospice house said no for any reason.

I finally talked to the volunteer coordinator, Elaine, about a week later.  She and I ended up playing phone tag for a couple of days, but it was worth the wait.  She was incredibly nice!  She confirmed, again, that I did mean the whole meal, and we came up with a good time for me to bring it.  The plan is for me to call a few days ahead of time to get a rough idea of how many people might be there.  Elaine reminded me that some families may have other plans, and that some people don’t eat very much when they’re upset.  She also said that the staff will definitely appreciate it, and that surely some family members will too.

So now I’m cooking Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd, and getting to pay it forward a little bit too.  Honestly, I’m hoping there aren’t very many people in hospice care on Thanksgiving.  I’m more than happy to cook for a crowd, but I hope it’s a happier Thanksgiving than that for most people.

Now, it’s time for the fun part of this post!  The food!  I’m trying to go ahead and plan the menu; partly so I can buy things ahead of time on sale, and partly because that’s just how I am with Thanksgiving.  We close at work at noon the Wednesday before, so my plan is to come home from work that day and start cooking and baking.

Obviously, the turkey is the main part of the meal.  Depending on what they tell me as far as the number of people, I may also cook a turkey breast along with the turkey.  Dressing is a must, as are mashed potatoes, and sweet potato casserole.  I’m a good southerner, so gravy (lots and lots of gravy) goes almost without saying.  And more gravy.  Definitely macaroni and cheese.  Cranberry sauce is another must.  Definitely some green bean casserole.  I can’t stand it, but the rest of the world seems to love it.  I always make rice (with pan drippings in place of some of the water, and a package of vegetable soup mix, it’s delicious!) with our Thanksgiving dinner, so I’ll do that too.  I also usually make some sort of greens with Thanksgiving dinner.  Partly because I really like them, and partly because I can feel better about gorging on Thanksgiving food because, hey, I’m eating leafy green vegetables too.  And of course dinner rolls, because you need something else to mop up the gravy with.

For desserts, pumpkin pie is a must.  Depending on the number of people they tell me, maybe more than one.  I’m also planning to make chocolate cupcakes.  Maybe a pound cake.

Now here’s the part where I ask for your ideas and suggestions:

Is there something else I should make?  I didn’t grow up celebrating Thanksgiving.  I’ve embraced it wholeheartedly, but sometimes I still feel like a novice.  I make the foods that Nick and I like, and that the people we’re celebrating with that particular year like.  Is there some traditional/must have Thanksgiving item that I’m missing?  What makes it special for you?  When it comes to greens, do you prefer collard greens, turnip greens, or mustard greens?  I like them all, but I know some people have strong preferences.  I’m open to menu suggestions and ideas.

Now here’s the part where it gets really complicated.  I cannot properly carve a turkey.  Not even close!  Any tips on that?  I’m hoping I can get a friend to stop by and do it for me.  I’m willing to bribe someone with a pie or something.  Any ideas on what a good bribe might be to get someone to come over and carve the turkey for me?

I’ve even considered taking it whole, but I’m afraid that might be inconvenient for the hospice house.  What are your thoughts on that?  Any compelling reasons why you think I should take it whole?

So what about you?  Do you love Thanksgiving?  What are your plans?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Sandwich Day

It’s Sandwich Day.  You can read more about it here, but it’s basically a day to celebrate sandwiches, by eating your favorite sandwich, or trying a new one.

Here are a couple of my favorite sandwiches:

A Different Kind of BLT
This one is probably my favorite sandwich right now!  Slightly different flavors, amazingly delicious.

Chicken Salad Sandwich

So what about you?  Are sandwiches on the menu today?  What’s your favorite kind of sandwich?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Pumpkin Pie

It’s November 1st, so I can finally talk about pumpkin pie!  I love pretty much anything pumpkin, and I especially love pumpkin pie.  I happily eat it all year long, but I know most people consider pumpkin pie to be more of a Fall or holiday dessert.

I’ve never met a pumpkin pie I didn’t like, but my maternal grandmother, Granny, made the best pumpkin pie.  I have her handwritten recipe for it, and we included the recipe in our wedding cookbook.  It’s delicious, and for me, it’s total comfort food.

Try it.  I’m pretty sure you’ll love it!

Granny’s Pumpkin Pie:

3/4 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling the crust and pie
½ tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 eggs
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1 un-baked 9 inch deep dish pie shell

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix sugar, salt, 1 tsp. cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in a small bowl.

Beat eggs in a large bowl.  Stir in pumpkin.  Stir in sugar/spice mixture.  Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

Spread the pie shell in a pie dish and generously sprinkle the pie shell with cinnamon.  This isn’t the time to be stingy with the cinnamon.  Pour the pie mixture into the pie shell, and generously sprinkle the top with cinnamon.

Bake 40 - 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool/set before slicing.  (Honestly, you might want to leave the house, or at least find something really good to occupy yourself with for this part.  It smells so good, it’s fairly torturous waiting to dig in!)


So what about you?  Are you a fan of pumpkin pie, or pumpkin things in general?

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Very Belated Introduction to Chuzoo

First, please don’t blame me for the name.  “Chuzoo” is something my parents came up with.  They like cutesy/weird names.  I was very nearly the victim of one of my mom’s cutesy name ideas.  Fortunately for me, my dad changed his mind about going along with it.

They were told that Chuzoo was half Chihuahua, and half Shih Tzu, so they decided that “Chuzoo” (pronounced like “chew zoo”, with no space, say it really fast) was a cute play on those breeds.

He wrapped himself up like this.
Fortunately, in spite of having a ridiculous name, Chuzoo is a very sweet and happy little guy.  He absolutely adored Emma, and he loves Duke, which works out well since he came to live with us in August.

My parents were getting ready to move into an apartment, and decided that Chuzoo would be happier living with us, since we have a fenced in back yard, and he would have Duke to play with.  He had stayed with us before, whenever my parents went out of town, and always seemed perfectly happy at our house.

Chuzoo quite happily moved in with us at the end of August.  He seems to love living here, and Duke is thrilled to have a dog buddy again.  The more the merrier, right?

Friday, October 28, 2016

“Service To Others Is The Rent You Pay For Your Room Here On Earth”

Do you ever find that there’s something or someone you want to write about, but you just can’t find the right words?  Or the right tone?  Then, when you’re not looking for it all, you find something that’s perfect?

That’s what happened to me when it came to writing about Nick’s grandmother, a.k.a. GrandMommy.  She died on January 11th of this year.  I know, it took me a while to write about her.  She was an intensely private person in some ways, and her illness I think is best described as cruel.

I was perusing quotes on the internet (just something I do sometimes) when I found this one from Muhammad Ali, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”  I think it’s perfect for GrandMommy, and anyone who knew her can say her rent was paid in full.

Nick was incredibly close to GrandMommy.  She helped raise him and shape the person he became.  Please don’t think I’m dismissing Nick’s mom by saying that.  She would agree with me.  She was pretty young when Nick was born, so he spent a lot of time with his grandparents.  I totally lucked out in the Mother-In-Law department.  It just happens that one of the things we agree on is that Nick gets a lot of good from his grandmother.  I don’t know whether that’s Nature, Nurture, or a combination.

I hesitate to use the word “activist” to describe her because I think she was quieter and less obtrusive than that.  “Involved” might be a better word.  She always knew what was going on in the community, and was constantly working to improve things.  She was never the type of person to sit back and say “someone should do something about that”.  When she saw a need, she did she what she could to fill it.

GrandMommy was involved in various causes, but never as the loud, in your face, attention grabbing person.  She often worked behind the scenes.  Quietly.  She was very respectful of everyone’s right to an opinion, even if it happened to be different from her own.

She also had an independent streak.  She lectured me numerous times on the importance of maintaining my own identity outside of being Nick’s wife, of having my own money (separate bank account), and not being too dependent on another person.

Because Nick was so close to GrandMommy, and because we lived in the same town, I was fortunate enough to develop a close relationship with her too.  She’s the one who taught me how to have a vegetable garden, and more importantly, showed me that I actually love growing things.  I will always think of her when I plant things.

GrandMommy was the type of person who never wanted a lot of fanfare for herself.  Being the center of attention was not her thing.  In accordance with that, there was no traditional service.  Instead, we opted for Jane’s Day of Service.  Nick’s mom chose the date, Fat Tuesday (because GrandMommy loved Mardi Gras), and everyone did the service project of their choice.

I think it was the perfect tribute for her, and I hope it’s something that becomes an annual tradition. Not dictating a specific project honored her beliefs of everyone doing something, and it allowed people to participate in ways that were meaningful to them.  Nick and I chose to take food and drinks to the hospice house GrandMommy had been in, and to the hospice house my Granny had been in. Other people did things like take food and toys to children’s homes, donate money to various charities, give blood, and volunteer their time with various organizations.  It was all about service to others.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Some Fall Flowers & A Big Thank You

First, I wanted to thank all of you for your kind comments on my post about Milo dying.  It still hurts.  Like hell, if I’m being totally honest, but y’all were so nice about it.  I really appreciate it.

Now, moving on to happier things.  We’ve been enjoying mostly warm temperatures lately.  It has been unseasonably warm for October for us; with a few exceptions, most days have been in the mid 70s, and it has only dropped down to the 40s at night.  I love the warmer weather, so no complaints here!

I decided to plant some Fall flowers this year.  It’s not something I normally do, but I thought a little splash of color outside might be nice.  And the warmer temperatures made it pleasant to be outside planting things.

I went with a few different colored mums, pansies, and snapdragons.  I’m hoping the warmer temperatures stick around so the flowers last a while.

What about you?  Is it still warm where you are?  Do you have any Fall planting going on?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

I Think You Should Know

If you’ve read my blog much before, you know that I generally try to follow a sad post with a happier one. It seems more balanced that way, and honestly, it usually makes me feel a little better.

That was my plan after my post about grandfather dying. I was going to write a post about how we had become a foster home for a boxer rescue. First, I was too busy with everything that being a foster home involves, then we were in a car accident. We’re fine, and now the car is too. Finally.

We fostered one dog briefly, who turned out to be less than friendly toward cats. Then we fostered another dog. She seemed great with cats, and she got along well with Duke. We were planning to adopt her, but we didn’t want to stop fostering. There are so many animals out there who need a safe place to go. We decided we’d keep fostering, with the knowledge that we absolutely couldn’t adopt another dog.

A few people said we must be crazy for doing that, but I have a habit of not listening. Because I’m just that stupid sometimes. 

So we fostered a mom and two puppies. We were told we wouldn’t have the puppies long. They were pure bread boxers, and those tend to be adopted fast. The mom we knew might take longer, but we were okay with that. We’re not really puppy people, and were more excited about the mom than the puppies. Puppies are cute, but they’re a lot of work.

We picked up the mom and the two puppies on a Friday evening. We stayed home pretty much all weekend taking care of puppies and getting everyone settled in. Everyone got along; there were no issues between the dogs, and the mom seemed good with the cats. Everything seemed to be going well. A smarter person might have taken a step back and realized that things rarely work out so well so fast. But not me.

Nick was off that Monday, and spent the day at home with the pets. He noticed that one of the puppies wasn’t eating. She also had diarrhea that seemed to get worse throughout the day. Nick offered her food, and kept trying to get her to eat. By the time I got home from work, we realized that she needed to go to the vet. We got in touch with the rescue, and they sent us to the emergency vet.

We took both puppies to the vet. We left the other pets, including the mom, at home. I didn’t crate or separate anyone. I took it for granted that things had been good, and would stay good.

We were at the vet for a long time. They were busy. There were lots of emergencies coming in. They were also afraid of Parvo in the sick puppy, so they kept us basically quarantined. Fortunately, it wasn’t Parvo, just a raging case of worms. They put both puppies on two different de-wormers, checked the sick puppy’s blood sugar, gave her fluids, and determined that as long as we could get her to eat when we got home, everything should be fine.

We arrived home feeling pretty good about everything. It seemed like both puppies were going to be fine. We were probably in for a long night, but that wasn’t the end of the world.

When we walked in the door, we found Milo laying next to the back door. He was bloody, and stiff. Any rational person would have realized he was dead, but I’m just really stupid sometimes, and couldn’t/wouldn’t admit it. We picked him up and rushed back to the vet.

The vet confirmed what Nick knew and I didn’t want to acknowledge. Milo was dead. He asked us if Milo was an outdoor cat; thinking that he might have been hit by a car. He wasn’t. He was strictly indoor. We asked about the possibility that it was the dogs. The vet was very kind, but confirmed that it was very likely the dogs. He said there was the possibility that it was some kind of freak accident, or medical issue, but the dogs were a very real possibility. He suggested a necropsy to determine what happened. We decided to do it.

We really needed to know what had happened, especially since we have the four other cats. Nick grabbed the possibility of a freak accident or medical issue like a lifeline. I wanted him to be right, but I knew he wasn’t. Sometimes you just know when you’ve done something unforgivably stupid.

The next day we took Milo to the state lab. They called later that evening, and said that the full report wouldn’t be ready for a while, but that Milo had been killed by dogs.

We had been keeping the two new dogs (the mom and the one we had been planning to adopt) separated from the cats. We had found scratches all over one of them and fur the color of Milo’s in the other one’s mouth. The results from the lab were just confirmation of what we already knew.

We made the decision not to go through with adopting the one dog, and not to continue fostering. I had been in touch with the rescue since right after it happened, and told them if the lab confirmed our suspicions, they would need to make other arrangements for the dogs. I don’t think they were very happy about it, but I really don’t care. Neither one of us wanted much to do with either of those dogs, and we had the other cats to think about. Both dogs and the puppies went to other foster homes.

Our other cats are pretty much back to normal. It took them a while. Milo was the dominant cat, and they just seemed lost without him to lead the way and boss them around. Our vet recommended a few things; new toys, treats, Feliway diffusers, etc. that seemed to help them cope.

We’re taking a break from fostering. I honestly don’t know if we’ll ever bring a new dog into our home again. We have our two dogs, and for now that’s enough. We also have the four cats. I feel like I need to somehow make it up to them, but I don’t know how to do that. Most people seem to think we’ll go back to fostering after some time for grieving and healing, but I don’t know. I don’t trust my judgment anymore. And how do you forgive yourself for getting your cat killed? I don’t know what the right penance is for that. Any ideas?

I’m sorry for two sad posts in a row, but I thought you should know. Our families obviously know. As do our vets’ offices. Fortunately, we can keep going to our usual vets. I wasn’t sure if they’d let us after what I did, but they seem to believe it was just a tragic accident, and said we’ll always be allowed to go there. I’ve tried to tell everyone who has a choice in being around me, so they can decide whether they want to or not. So now I’m telling all of you, in case you want to unfollow me, or don’t want me commenting on your blogs anymore. Just let me know, and I will respect that choice.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Valentine’s Day & The 4th of July

So those are two holidays that don’t seem to have much in common, but they happen to be my grandfather’s birthday, and the day he died. He was born on Valentine’s Day, and died on July 4th (one of the things going on during my blogging break).

I called him Dad Dog. There were a lot of grandparents when I was born. Three sets of grandparents (my mom’s parents had divorced and both remarried) and one set of great grandparents still living. The decision was made to come up with different names for all of them so as not to confuse me. (You’re kind of spoiled by the grandparents if you happen to be the first grandchild.)

Dad Dog always had some sort of menagerie of animals he was caring for. It was puppies when I was little, and still puppies when my sister was little. By the time my cousin came along it was ducks. She called him Daddy Duck.

Dad Dog was 87, and they were 87 mostly packed years. He joined the Merchant Marines at 16, and later joined the Air Force, where he served for over 25 years.

After his military service he became a state park ranger, and later worked in a campground. I think the change was for something happier, because he saw some pretty terrible and gruesome things during his service.

Dad Dog was no saint. He had a bit of a temper, was stubborn to a fault, and had a very, let’s say colorful, vocabulary. My sister, my cousin, and I all learned some very inappropriate phrases very young.

It’s hard to sum up 87 years in one blog post. He taught me how to ride a bike. He was the first animal rescuer I knew. He ate Reese’s Pieces like they were going out of style. He and my grandmother were married for over 66 years.

He loved having only granddaughters. He’d had a series of mini strokes shortly before Nick and I got married, and there was a very real chance that I was going to be the only granddaughter whose wedding he made it to, so we came up with the idea for a special dance with all of us. We chose Dean Martin’s I Wish You Love, and he started with me, then my sister "cut in", then my cousin "cut in" and it finished with my aunt "cutting in". Dad Dog loved it. He was very emotional, and crying by the time it was over, but was so happy. I’m glad we did it. Mine was the only granddaughter’s wedding he made it to. And I think the song was appropriate.

My aunt summed up his life well when she said his birthday and last day showed a man with a big heart who served our country well.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Different Kind of BLT

I’m not usually one to leave well enough alone when it comes to food. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things that are perfect just the way they are, and should never be messed with. (Here’s looking at you vanilla ice cream.) But most of the time, it’s nice (and incredibly delicious!) to mix things up a little and experiment with new flavor combinations.

I thought a BLT might be better if I made it with fried green tomatoes and arugula instead of the traditional ripe tomatoes and iceberg or romaine lettuce. It’s not just better, it’s amazingly delicious! The fried green tomatoes are a little tangy and the arugula is a little peppery. Combined with nice crispy bacon, it’s a match made in heaven. 

The fried green tomatoes reheat fairly well, so it works well to make a lot so you can have leftovers. Trust me, you’re going to want another one of these sandwiches the next day.

Fried Green Tomatoes (click here for the recipe)

Crispy cooked bacon


Sliced bread (I used multi-grain bread. I think it’s best with whatever kind of bread you prefer for sandwiches.)

Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip

I toasted my bread because, honestly, I can’t stand soft/soggy bread. I think a sandwich on untoasted bread is positively disgusting. In this case, I think toasting the bread is definitely the better course even if you’re not obsessed with toasted bread. The sandwich is pretty thick and hearty, and I think the toasted bread helps keep it together.

Spread two slice of toasted bread with mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, and pile on the bacon, fried green tomatoes, and arugula. That’s it! Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tyson’s Transport

Nick and I got to be part of getting this cute little guy to his forever home last weekend. Tyson is a bull terrier, and the first one we’d ever met, so it was a lot of fun to be part of his transport.

Tyson was traveling from his foster home near Columbia, SC to his forever home in Minnesota. He was rescued through Recycla-Bull Terrier Rescue. He was a fun little guy, and very well behaved during our trip to Morristown, TN.

It was a good transport day. The weather was beautiful, and everything went smoothly. There were also at least two other transports going through our area, so it was a good day for rescue animals.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Watermelon Lime Tea

Today is National Iced Tea Day, so of course I have to share a tea recipe with you.

Being a southerner, I only drink sweet tea. Flavored teas are fine. They’re a nice change sometimes, but they have to be sweet. For me, it’s all about the sweet tea, regardless of the flavor.

I just love tea, and I love trying new flavors of tea. I also have a tendency to buy way too many packages of flavored tea bags, so sometimes I try different combinations to help use up what I have. This recipe came about from trying to use up packages of small tea bags and putting off going to the grocery store to buy a package of large tea bags. It’s absolutely delicious!

Watermelon Lime Tea

3 Watermelon Lime tea bags (I used Celestial Seasonings, but I’m pretty sure any brand would be fine)

4 small black tea bags (I used the brand from Aldi for this batch, but I’ve used Lipton before as well. I think any brand will work)

1 gallon of water, divided

1 ½ cups sugar

Place the tea bags (with any tags or strings removed) and six cups of water in a medium sauce pan over high heat, and bring to a full boil. Boil for about 45 seconds. Cover, and remove from heat.

Steep for 6 - 12 hours. Allowing enough time for steeping is the key to perfect sweet tea. Good things usually take time. It’s worth the wait!

Pour the sugar into a one gallon pitcher.

Remove the tea bags, and pour the tea into the pitcher.

Fill the pitcher the rest of the way with hot water, stirring constantly. Continue stirring for one minute.

Cover, and leave the pitcher out on the counter for 2 - 6 hours, until the tea has cooled back down to room temperature. Refrigerate, and serve over ice.


So what about you? Will you be enjoying a nice glass of tea today?