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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Hometown

A few pictures from the little town where I was born.



Lonely railroad tracks.

Old ramshackle tobacco barns are everywhere. 

Small farms. It's a rural area.

Main street on Saturday afternoon--a ghost town.

About to cross the great Pee Dee river on my way back home. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

There goes Saturday.

I'm off today to visit my parents. They live about a 40 minute drive from here, and since I won't see them on Thanksgiving next week (Gregg and I are going camping) they want to go out to eat. Which is fine, except we're driving another hour after I get to their house to go to a seafood restaurant that they like. Don't get me wrong, I love seafood, but I'll end up spending almost 4 hours in the car on my day off for.....a nice lunch. And I have a million things to do at home today. Sigh.

At least I'll have the parental visit for Thanksgiving over with and I won't have to feel guilty about not going to see the family next week. We're looking forward to camping with the dogs instead!

Happy Saturday, friends.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Don't talk to me

I love my new job. I know I've gone on and on about it here on the blog, but I'm just so thankful for it and how much better my life is now that I'm done with retail work. I remember how fortunate I am every single day.

With all that being said, I do have one teeny-tiny little complaint. It's the only thing about the job that bothers me at all, and it's kind of silly: I get really tired of talking to people nonstop all day long. It's draining.

The phone lines ring dozens and dozens of times a day, and I probably answer 75% of the time. Parents are constantly signing their kids out and in, and each time a student is signed out I have to check the adult's ID, then check the child's "permission card" to make sure they're an approved person to release them to, then look up which class the child is in and call in there to get him/her.

Teachers come through on their planning periods needing this or that, along with social workers, psychologists, therapists, volunteers, substitutes....it's never ending. I'm at the big desk right there in the midst of it all, the first point of contact for everyone. The school has almost 1000 students, and probably 150 total staff members, so you can imagine what that entails. I talk to people all. Day. Long. It gets to be mentally exhausting sometimes.

When I leave work in the afternoon, I don't feel like having a conversation with anyone. For any reason.






I want to sit quietly somewhere and read, or watch tv, preferably with a glass of wine or a mixed drink.  And a good brisk walk with the dogs before supper helps, too. After spending all day in an office I need the exercise as much as they do, and they don't care if I don't say much.


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Birthday Boy

It's my dear husband's birthday today, and I wanted to take a moment to mention it here on the blog. I'm not sure how I got so lucky in the love department. He's a good man and a great husband and my best friend, too.  Tonight after work there will be cake (pineapple upside down) and presents and a nice dinner.

A typical photo...the "Fish guy" setting up a new aquarium! 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Friendship

It was so nice seeing my two friends last night. Not a single one of us had read the book, even though Martina and I both read other books last week, and Marla spent her free time bingewatching Stranger Things. We were all glad that we were slackers together! It didn't matter at all. We always have plenty to talk about and plenty of good food and drinks when we see each other. I took a quick snapshot of the table mid way through the evening to try to capture the feeling of comfortable friendship we had.


I served three kinds of cheese along with crackers and grapes, and a platter of raw vegetables with sour cream dip. Marla brought jalapeño poppers and chocolate chip pecan cookies, and Martina made a beautiful blackberry custard.


We had a selection of hard ciders to drink along with non alcoholic options, like ginger ale and diet Coke and tea. The ciders were really tasty, though. The amber apple draft is my favorite.


Besides eating and drinking, we talk, talk, talk. There's nothing like regular friendly chats with other women. They're good for the soul. Gregg usually stays off in another room, messing around on the Internet and watching YouTube videos when my girlfriends come over. Of course he comes out once or twice to say hi and to grab some food, but otherwise he leaves us to it. We're planning a movie night soon, which will be a first for us, and I'm beginning to think of having a small holiday get together next month that the husbands will be invited to.

And Marco loves Marla and Martina. He goes from one to another, sitting on their shoulders, preening their hair, saying some of his best phrases ("Hey baby" and "Watcha doin'? are his favs) and laughing whenever we laugh. It's pretty cute! The dogs adore the girls, too, especially Marla--she's been around since before we even had Ginger. The whole family is happy when friends come over--even the furred and feathered members!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

November Saturday

It's a bright, beautiful Saturday in northeastern South Carolina. The autumn color peaks in early November in my part of the world, and I woke up to an intensely blue sky and a tree with golden leaves outside my bedroom window.

A block from my house. Look how blue that sky is!

I decided it would be a good weekend to start getting caught up on some housework. One of the tasks I had been putting off was cleaning out the garage where the dogs live. I had some new bedding I had bought for them at the Goodwill store. We have to (cheaply) replace the dogs' blankets and cushions regularly, because George will chew them up and destroy them. Here he is with his new soft bed--hopefully it will last until Christmas. I doubt it, though.


Handsome Devil.

I also cleaned and mopped the kitchen, put away the Halloween decorations, and cleaned the main bathroom and shower. It was all badly needed.

Tonight my friends Martina and Marla are coming over. I still have to go shopping for groceries and snacks to serve them, and I think I'll pick up some hard apple cider to drink. I'm looking forward to seeing those two and catching up with them.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone.



Monday, October 30, 2017

Cold Front




A cold front blew in last night and the temperature this morning is only a bit above freezing. I took these pictures late yesterday afternoon on my way to a friend's house. If you look closely at the bottom photo you'll see that it's a cotton field below the cold, wild sky.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Halloween in my 'hood

This is a giant display in front my neighbor's house. Every other house in this neighborhood has something Halloween-ish on display, but this is my favorite. Look how big it is! And it changes colors, too. It goes from white to purple to dark and then back to white.

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BOO!!!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Just another Sunday

The view from my front door this morning.

Weekends sure fly by now that I don't work on them. I can't complain, though. There's never a dull moment at my job, so the weekdays go by pretty quickly, too. I'm looking forward to the five days off we get at Thanksgiving (Wednesday through Sunday) which still feels far away but in actuality it's only about five weeks. Gregg's taking those days off with me, and we're planning to take the dogs and go camping.

It's finally a little cooler outside. Up until this weekend, besides two or three days when hurricanes were churning out at sea, it's been unseasonably hot and humid for October. The pumpkin you see on my front step has started to rot in the back and will have to be thrown out and replaced. It's just been too hot for pumpkins to sit in the sun!

Today has been a lazy day. I did a load of laundry, took a nap, and read the first quarter of a book for next week's book club meeting (the bigger of my two books clubs). This month our selection is Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight. So far it's....okay. It's one of those Gone Girl type thriller/mystery novels that quite honestly isn't my favorite genre. I'm hoping that In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware will be better; that's the October pick for my smaller club. I'm glad my love of books is no longer contaminated by working at a job I hate in a bookstore!

Speaking of work, for those of you who asked, I did not take on a second GAL child. It was a 16 year old boy with severe mental health problems who has been committed to a psychiatric ward for treatment. His 17 year old brother would have been part of the package but he's in prison for rape (!) and will be serving time beyond when he ages out next year. I was frankly kind of appalled that the GAL program director would even suggest such a case for me. When I said no she quickly said she understood and that they would try to find an experienced male guardian for the younger boy. I wonder why they didn't just do that to begin with! So for the time being, Kay remains my only GAL assignment.

It's about time for Gregg to get home from work, so I'd better wrap up this blog post. We have leftovers for supper tonight, but I'm going to attempt to make little baked apple hand pies for dessert. I have some apples I cooked down into chunky applesauce the other day that need using up. Gregg loves fried apple pies, but they're too messy and time consuming to make very often. We'll see how the baked version turns out instead! Wish me luck.

Have a good evening, everyone.



Saturday, October 14, 2017

Getting in the mood...

...for Halloween! I decided it was time to pull a few decorations out of the "holiday closet" to add a little seasonal cheer to the house.


I love my Edgar Allen Poe LED candle.

And just look at these cheerful guys! 

I also added some purple lights and big fuzzy spiders to our front door, but I didn't take a picture because I'm not happy with the way it looks yet. I still need to buy a couple more pumpkins because I have two carving parties to attend before the big day! One is small, just me and Marla and Martina at my house where, in addition to carving pumpkins, we'll be discussing our book club selection for October (In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware). The other is a big party thrown every year by a couple I know. For the past 3 years I've had to turn down their invitation because I always had to work the Saturday night before Halloween, but this year, thanks to my new job and my wonderful work schedule, I was free to accept. I'm looking forward to it.

Speaking of parties, there's going to be a Halloween dance at the middle school! I volunteered to help out and I think it's going to be a lot of fun. One of the halls leading to the gym (where the dance will be held) is going to be a "haunted hallway" with games and activities. One of the science teachers has snakes, geckos, and a bearded dragon that will be on display. The 8th grade math teachers are having a "throw wet sponges at your math teacher" contest, and there's going to be Halloween bingo, games of Cornhole, and a costume contest in addition to the dancing and food. I'm not sure what I'll be doing yet, probably serving as a chaperone, but no matter what I do I think it will be a good time. And even better: I'll earn "comp time" that I can use later if I need to leave work early or come in late.

I'm also happy that I'll get to be at home on Halloween night this year, instead of having to work at the mall. I hope we get a few trick or treaters. I saw some candy at Walgreens that I'm planning to buy to hand out (along with chocolate bars):


Sugar skull lollipop rings!!!! How cool is that?

Do you enjoy Halloween? Do you have any plans for celebrating it? I'd love to hear about it if you do!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Let's just change the subject.

I didn't realize I was opening a can of worms yesterday by mentioning that my husband and I own two small pistols. Even though we're staunch believers in much tighter gun control, even though I think the NRA's stranglehold on our political leaders is a national disgrace, even though I think automatic weapons should have been outlawed years ago, I'm getting all sorts of negative feedback implying that I'm some kind of paranoid, uneducated, gun-loving American. I hate feeling like I need to defend myself (over something of such minor significance in my life).

I realize I'm a bit overly sensitive right now, so rather than discuss it further, let's just change the damn subject. Okay?

The weather has been unseasonably warm for this time of year. We finally got a little bit of rain yesterday, but that just made the humidity worse. It's sticky and gross outside. Everything is damp. And how long can it stay hot in October, even in South Carolina?


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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Long week.



This past week felt terribly long. I'm so grateful the weekend is here.

First there was the shooting in Las Vegas, which I couldn't bear to follow on the news after the first day or two. I'm not normally one to get overly emotional about such things (other than being horrified and sickened by the frequency of deadly gun violence in this country) but for some reason every time I tried to watch or read about what happened I got choked up and had to fight back tears. So many lives lost, so many lives forever changed, so much heartache...for what? Nothing. Nothing but a mentally ill person with access to weapons made for mass killing, that no private citizen should be able to buy. I'm not anti-gun. My husband and I own a couple of handguns for personal protection, and although we don't hunt I certainly don't think there's anything wrong with hunting rifles used for sport. The kind of weapons I do have a problem with are military assault types that no one outside of the military have any business with. I also have a problem with how easy it is to buy guns (any kind of guns) in this country and how our culture glorifies violence.

On a related note, a student at the school where I work made a video of himself brandishing a pistol and sent it via social media to another student to threaten him. We have a school resource officer (an armed policeman) that is stationed at our school and he was involved in the conferences held with the administrators and the parents. The boy got suspended and will soon be on his way to alternative school, but that just goes to show how easily even middle school kids can get their hands on a gun. Which is why the middle schools and high schools around here have to have armed police officers on staff  these days. That would have been unthinkable when I was growing up. Also this week: in a primary school 10 miles down the road from us, a first grader (!) brought a loaded gun to school. It was all over the local news. The child was 6 years old!  Unbelievable.

Putting aside the crazy gun news, we had a sad event at my school this week. A little girl from the PMD (profoundly mentally disabled) class passed away Sunday night. Last Thursday she started running a high fever, no one knew why, and had to be admitted to the hospital. By Friday she was on life support, and her teacher and the principal went up to the hospital to see her and her mom. Sunday night she was gone. Monday morning the principal broke the news to the school in the morning announcements. It was a sad day. The class teacher is a sweet young woman just out of college who arrived exhausted at work Monday after being at the hospital most of the night. The kids in the other special needs classes took the news especially hard, as did their parents. My heart ached for everyone, and I was embarrassed to find myself brimming with tears more than once throughout the day.

I'm proud to say the entire school staff has rallied around this child's family. The teacher suggested that since the mom is a poor single mother barely getting by that we have a collection to buy her gift cards to a grocery store, Walmart, etc. A very generous sum of money was raised--pretty much all of the teachers, administrators, office staff, etc gave whatever they could afford. The little girl's mom called at some point and asked if it would be possible to hold the funeral service at the school. The principal got permission from the superintendent and was able to say yes. The custodians will go in early tomorrow and turn on the air conditioners, and set up chairs in the gym, and the band teacher has already set up a microphone and sound system.....it will be nice, and will also save the mom the expense of paying a funeral home to have it there. There have been sympathy cards signed, pictures of the child at school framed for presenting to the mother, and just so much care and concern for this lost student. It makes me happy and proud to work in a place where everyone, staff and students and parents alike, are treated like a big extended family.

Speaking of children and school, I met with Kay's guidance counselor Tuesday morning. She's doing well this year; I was pleasantly surprised to learn that her grades are decent (B's and C's), she's had zero behavior issues, and her attendance is good. The only complaint the counselor had was that the foster mother hasn't responded to requests to have career planning meetings for Kay. Since I'm her court-appointed guardian, I offered to step up and do it, and the counselor agreed.

Remember when I said I wasn't going to take a second GAL assignment right now? The program director emailed me yesterday to ask me to reconsider. There's a young girl living in a group home here in Florence that needs a guardian, and there's a court hearing coming up in early November for her. Suzanne, the director, said she'd totally understand if I turn it down...but my inclination is to say yes. (I told her I'd give her an answer Monday). Kay is turning out to be an easier case than I expected, and as long as she continues to do well I'm only expected to check in with her once or twice a month. There's time in my schedule, and Suzanne (who's becoming a personal friend of mine) wouldn't ask if she wasn't in real need of help. We'll see.

It's been a loooooong week, friends. I'm looking forward to spending some time today and tomorrow catching up with your blogs! It's a cool, foggy, and overcast October morning here...really nice. The heat has been slow to leave this year but today finally feels like fall. I'll wrap up this post with some photos of the full Harvest Moon I took last night while out walking the dogs.

Have a good weekend, everyone.





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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Things I bought at the market

Yesterday at the farmer's market I was careful not to spend too much money. I set myself a limit of $40 and managed to come in a little under that. These are the things I bought.


A pot of marigolds and a pumpkin for the front steps.


(I just love bright orange marigolds).

And I couldn't pass up wine and apples.



I think I showed admirable restraint. I wanted to buy everything in sight!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Fall Plant and Flower Show

This weekend is the annual Pee Dee State Farmer's Market's annual fall plant and flower show. It's a great time to plant perennials in South Carolina, so there are lots of them for sale with vendors from all around the eastern part of the state. Of course, there are also fruits and vegetables for sale, and fair food, and crafts. It's usually a nice time. The weather is gorgeous this weekend and perfect for the show, so my mom came to visit and we went and had a look around. I took a few pictures to share.

Blue sky autumn day.



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Cheerful fall wreaths!




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There were so many pumpkins. 

Remember kids: all worm castings are NOT the same!





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I ended up buying a pot of these marigolds (and a small pumpkin).



Perennials for sale.


I'm not sure what these flowers are, but they're very pretty!

Beautiful fresh beets and sweet potatoes.....

...and "country grapes" for $1.99/pd.

Speaking of country grapes...!

  1. Apples from the mountains of North Carolina.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Responsibilites

I'm feeling a bit weighted down with responsibilities at the moment. There's been very little time to read and comment on my favorite blogs lately, and for that I apologize. My work as a Guardian ad Litem has been especially heavy.

I've visited Kay a couple of times now. I've been checking in with her on the phone on the weeks that I don't see her, and there was a court hearing last week.  Now that she's over 16 years old she's required to be there. Kids in foster care have to have their cases reviewed at least once every 90 days as a part of their "permanency planning". There will almost certainly be no permanent solution for Kay--she's been up for adoption since she was 13 or so and not one single family has ever shown interest in her. Very few people want to adopt teenagers, which I guess is understandable, but it's still heartbreaking. Kay still hopes to be adopted, and she told the judge so in court last week. That makes me really sad, but I think looking to the future is what's best for her now. This weekend we're having lunch together, and next week I have an appointment for a conference with her school guidance counselor. I want to look over her grades, attendance, behavior, class schedule, etc. and see how we can work together to help her have the best school year possible. I hope, more than anything, to be able to attend her high school graduation next year.

So my work with Kay is keeping me busy, not only visiting her and meeting with her foster family, caseworkers, and counselors, but writing monthly monitoring reports, going to court, and required continuing education classes. There was a two hour workshop just last night. Right before we left, the volunteer coordinator put out a plea for GALs willing to take on a second case--there has been a surge in new cases since school started and they're overwhelmed. I almost put my hand up but thank goodness common sense kicked in and I refrained. I still have my "real" job as well as a family life that I need to consider.

Speaking of which, I still love my new job! The people are nice, the schedule is wonderful, and I'm already beginning to feel comfortable and settled there. My life has changed for the better and I'm profoundly grateful.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Art of the Biscuit

John Gray over at Going Gently asked me about a recipe for biscuits when I posted this picture of my breakfast on Facebook.

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For my friends across the pond, our biscuits are nothing like yours. What you call a biscuit, we call a cookie. What we call is a biscuit is a soft, savory bread that's a staple food in the southern states of the USA.

Not many people can make a good homemade biscuit. It's a dying art. The ones pictured here were bought as frozen dough and baked, and they're pretty good, but nothing like a real honest-to-goodness homemade biscuit.

My maternal grandmother made the best homemade biscuits ever. There was never any recipe involved. She would pour a bunch of flour in a bowl, scoop a handful of lard (yes, lard) on top, and with one hand would start kneading the dough while slowly pouring in buttermilk with the other. When the dough was smooth and elastic, she would deftly pinch off the perfect amount, roll it between both hands, and put it onto a greased baking sheet. She would keep on doing that until the sheet was full, and then pop it into a hot oven. A few minutes later, you'd have a dozen or so perfect biscuits. They were heavenly.

No one could cook like my grandma. And no one makes biscuits as good as hers. I'm terrible at it, and my mom isn't much better. I must have watched my her make biscuits hundreds of times as a child, but I've never been able to master it.

John asked me for a recipe. I don't really have one beyond what I just described seeing my grandmother do. I'm sure that a Google search will bring up many different recipes and techniques for making a biscuit, but take it from me, it's more difficult than it looks. That's why I stick with the frozen and ready to bake kind!




Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Afternoon mischief

As soon as we get home in the afternoon, we try to let Marco out of his cage for some free time. Unfortunately, he immediately looks for trouble. Usually it starts with him flying over to the computer and walking across the keyboard. He did that just now and I shooed him away. So he pranced over to where we keep some fish food and started trying to bust into the bag. Brat!


When I shooed him away from that, he flew into one of the bedrooms and spent some time hanging out on the bed. He refused to step up on my hand when I tried to make him come to me. You can't leave him unattended (unless you want to return to a disaster scene) so I finally had to grab him and make him go back to his cage. I took another picture first.

He doesn't care what you think.
Life with a parrot can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a real pain in the a** sometimes!