Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sweet Country Life

I haven't written for a while, and the reason is that I started a new job.  That, and the fact that we also started construction on our house.  You can see the progress at our business blog, which I have a link for at the bottom of this blog.  It's coming along fast, but it's been a ton of work for my husband.  For me?  Well, I pretty much just pick out faucets and bathtubs and light fixtures, but it DOES require a lot of thought! :-)

My job, though, is going great.  I'm teaching K4 in a Title I school in an area that is most accurately described as.... rural.  And I actually love it.  On my drive to work, which takes about 25 minutes, I go through only one red light, and it's less than a mile from where I live. (However, they are putting in a four-way stop on the highway in September, so I will have to start stopping there!)  On the way, I pass peach orchards, tractors (lots of tractors), cows (LOTS of cows), and old farmers selling watermelons, tomatoes, and lemonade at roadside stands.  There's one house I look at every morning because the old man is either putting out his peaches on his stand in the front yard, or he's already got them ready and he, his wife, and several friends are sitting in chairs in the carport just visiting.  I'm always just a little jealous because they look like they are having a good time!  Maybe one day I'll pull over and ask if I can join them :-)

The kids in my class are just precious, and I have to admit that I kind of love the fact that they AREN'T the children of all the people I went to high school with!  It's nice sometimes when people DON'T know the teacher quite so well, because it makes those parent-teacher conferences just a little less awkward.  Everybody has been really nice and helpful to me since, even though I live in a nearby small town, I don't know this area as well. 

Last week, I had to stop at a tiny gas station just as I left school because my tank was beyond empty.  I'm a little spoiled to the pumps at the gas station near my house where you just swipe your card at the pump and never have to go in, so I wasn't too thrilled about the old pumps that looked like they came straight out of the Andy Griffith Show.  But like I said, I was beyond empty, so it really wasn't up for debate!  By the time I went in, gave the man my card, went back out and pumped gas, and went back in to get my card, the door had been held for me by no less than 4 men.  They all stepped way back, opened the door with a flourish, and grinned at me from under their ball caps.  One even said, "Come on out, gal!" which I loved because I just love to hear old men say, "Gal."  Even though I live in the South, where chivalry is alive and well and this kind of behavior is expected, it was nice to be reminded that it tends to be most vibrant in small, country communities.  My own small town is no exception, but you know, I got the feeling that they actually noticed that I wasn't from around there, and I think they went the extra mile to make me feel welcome. 

And that, my friends, is why I've never once wanted to be a city girl! 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Time Capsule

Last night, my grandma for some reason had out a huge box of pictures from the past 60 years of family history.  Apparently, every time she got ahold of a picture she just threw it in that box without rhyme or reason, so to say it was disorganized would be the understatement of the century.  If you can get past all the unfortunate fashion choices, facial expressions that convey an emotion that is best descibed as "abject misery," and the fact that everyone is quite a big larger than they were in those pictures (vertically and horizontally), you can see things about people that you never really saw before.  Because, you know, it's easy to forget that before these people were your parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents, they were just PEOPLE.  They were children once, and they played in the yard with their dog, and they graduated from high school (well, some of them did... others had to quit long before to work on the farm), and they went to school dances, and they got new cars, and they fell in love and got married, and they got unfortunate hair-dos, and they went to the beach in funny looking bathing suits, and they had birthday parties with homemade cakes that were leaning to one side. 

They probably never imagined that they would grow old, or what we, their future generations, would be like, or how different things would be in the future.  And I started thinking, wouldn't it be amazing if we could be handed a box of random photos from OUR future, and get the chance to just go through them and look at all those people who don't even exist yet?  What would it be like to see them graduate, and go on vacation, and open presents at Christmas, and smile into the camera in a hospital gown while holding a tiny baby?  Would we laugh at our clothes and hair-dos, and about how naive and hopeful we were?  Would we cry about the ones who we notice are absent in the photos? 

Isn't it amazing that we can capture these moments in time and look at them so many years later, and think about how much time has passed and how much has happened to the people in them since them?  I feel lucky that my ancestors had access to cameras, and that I know what my great-great grandparents looked like.

What will my great-great grandchildren think of me?  They will certainly have a lot more pictures to look at than I've had, because the technology has come so far since then.

And won't it lose some of it's magic when they're looking at a digital image rather than holding a faded picture with bent corners in their hands?

I think I'm going to start printing more of my pictures so they can go into a box one day, so my great-grandchildren can laugh at my hair and my clothes and my funny looking car.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Zucchini bread.... yum!!!

Yesterday I was feeling domestic (ok, I was bored) and I had already done laundry, washed dishes, and dusted.  Then I remembered that my in-laws had sent over a bag of fresh vegetables from their garden, and I hadn't dealt with some of them.  My husband has this sickness where he likes to peel and eat cucumbers like they were an apple (he's so nasty!) so I knew to leave those to him.  I had a handful of little green bell peppers, so I went ahead and chopped and froze them because a) I don't want them to waste and b) when I get ready to cook something that requires chopped peppers, my life is a lot easier when they are already chopped.  Then I was left with the zucchini.  And I knew I had to get them out of my life quickly, because there are probably more to come. 

And I know this because last year I grew zucchini and it took over my life and I'm still haunted by bags of sliced frozen zucchini that I no longer have any ideas for or any desire to look at.

So I knew there was only one thing to do... make zucchini bread.  It's just as wonderful as banana bread, and maybe stays fresh longer.  Mmmmmmmm!

Here's the recipe I used: 
(It's from Paula Deen's "The Lady and Sons" cookbook)


3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg  *(Ok, I didn't use the nutmeg, because I didn't have any.  Nanny calls it "Nutmaneg."  It is unclear why she cannot pronounce this word, but now I can't look at it without thinking "nutmaneg.")

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 cups sugar  *(You don't have to use quite this much!  I didn't and it's still good.  Plus, you could always try making some of it brown sugar.  Mmmm!)

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup water

2 cups grated zucchini

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, water, zucchini and lemon juice. Mix wet ingredients into dry, add nuts and fold in. Bake in 2 standard loaf pans, sprayed with nonstick spray, for 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Alternately, bake in 5 mini loaf pans for about 45 minutes.

This is what it looked like yesterday when it came out of the oven.  If you've never made zucchini bread, it smells WONDERFUL while it's baking!

This is what's left of it now.  I took it to my parent's house last night, and a lot of it disappeared. 

Now when you lose your mind and decide to plant zucchini and it takes over your life, you know what you can do with it.  And for anyone who has never had it and is wondering, no you can't taste the zucchini at all.  It just keeps the bread super moist and fresh for longer.  When it cools somewhat, you need to wrap it well in plastic wrap.  You can then put it in the freezer if you want, because it freezes beautifully.  But you probably won't have any left for that! 


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why do I do this to myself???

Every week, for reasons I can't begin to understand, I punish myself by putting off the worst house cleaning jobs until Saturday.  And EVERY week, I tell myself, "This is dumb.  Next week, I'm going to do some of these things all along so I won't have to spend half of my Saturday doing this terrible stuff."  And every week, I watch Law and Order: SVU instead of doing extra laundry.  (Well, you can't blame me for that... don't you just love that Elliott Stabler??).  Or I paint my toenails instead of cleaning the bathroom.  Or I start reading a book that I just can't stop instead of vacuuming.  And since there is no way I can let a week end without all the current laundry being done, the bathrooms being cleaned, and the floors being vacuumed, I end up doing it all on Saturday. 

It's not that I don't want to do the cleaning.  It's just that I don't want to do it RIGHT THEN!

The washing machine is getting ready to finish a load, so I'll close with some random thoughts that I waste time on rather than doing productive things like cleaning at logical times:

1.  I just love Dolly Parton.  She's not ashamed of where she came from.  She's so flashy, and she knows it.  She can laugh at herself, and I love that in a person.  People underestimate her voice, and her songwriting is amazing.  Listen to her sing, "Little Sparrow."  It's haunting.  Oh, and I adore the fact that she started the Imagination Library to give free books to young children.  I think reading to kids from birth is vitally important.  

2.  I've been using the same jumbo container of Sun laundry detergent since approximately.... February.  It has not run out.  Every time I use it, I think, "This is it.  It has to be it." .... but it's not it.  It seems to be endless.  What is going on?

3.  It's supposed to be 100 degrees here today.  That means you will find me one of two places: 1) inside in the air conditioning or 2) in the pool.  Only 2 options.

4.  Here's what I do to get through my Saturday morning cleaning frenzy that I sentence myself to:  I put every tv on the channel where they are showing "Property Ladder," (where people buy run down shacks and try to flip them) and I watch people stress out and make stupid decisions and demolish the wrong wall and pull up tile and find out termites ate the whole foundation... and it makes me feel better about the fact that my biggest problem right now is that I need to vacuum up the cat hair. 

5.  Did you listen to "Little Sparrow?"  It makes me imagine I'm in the mountains somewhere, and Dolly is sitting out on the front porch of an old cabin just playing her guitar and singing. 

6.  The washer is done.  Time to get back to work!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Dog in a Cooler

That's right, the title is "Dog in a Cooler."  What in the world would a dog be doing in a cooler?  I asked myself the same thing.... before I went on a family beach vacation.  Now, I only WISH I didn't know of any reasons why a dog could be in a cooler. 

My cousins have several Yorkies that they have had for many years and are incredibly attached to.  I don't know if this is something that is common for the breed, or if it was just their dogs, but they have always been sickly little dogs.  Apparently, it came to pass that after half of the family already arrived at the beach, one of the Yorkies took a turn for the worse and the vet informed my cousin that the dog was in kidney failure and wouldn't make it.  Obviously, there was only one thing to do......

pack up the dying dog and bring it to the beach to die.


ANYWAY..... so the dog comes to the beach, and they put it on some towels in the closet and it just lays there.  It can't move, it can't eat, it is just a pitiful sight.  I truly felt sorry for the dog, but I just wasn't sure what the appropriate response is when your relatives have a dog dying in the closet on your family beach trip.  It was just weird.  What was weirder was that everyone wanted to act like it was NORMAL.  Nobody knew what to do.  Every night the dog owners would huddle up in the room with the dying dog and cry.  I felt sympathy, but again... what do you do in that situation??  My husband and I usually tried to stay out somewhere, or at least out on the porch.  It was just easier to avoid the situation rather than show how uncomfortable we were. 

It goes without saying that a dog dying of kidney failure will eventually... die.  And she did.  With two days left of the beach trip.  So again, they did the ONLY logical thing to do....

they bought some bags of ice and put the dead dog in a cooler. 

Let me repeat that:  They bought some bags of ice and put the dead dog in a cooler.

I spent the rest of the trip trying to pretend that there was NOT a dead dog in a cooler under the house. 

I don't want to sound unsympathetic.  I know they really loved that dog, and I hate it that she died.  In fact, I love my cat, and my parents love their cat, and I know I would be sad it my cat died.  But I can pretty much guarantee you that it would have never occurred to me to take my pet to the beach to die and be put in a cooler.  But hey.... to each his own, I guess, right?  


If you don't hear from me for a while, it's because I'll be in therapy.  Thanks for understanding. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Surfside Beach, SC

I've been on a family vacation. A long family vacation that seemed longer due to the fact that there were just WAY too many people crammed into one little beach house. With two bathrooms. But hey, it was the beach, and my husband and I tried to escape and go off on our own as often as possible.

We stayed at Surfside Beach, which is just a few miles down from Myrtle Beach, SC. If you're not familiar with Myrtle Beach, it's fun but very tourist-y with lots of restaurants, attractions, and outlet malls. Also, it's full of adorable little retro motels that have been in operation on the strip (aka Ocean Blvd.) since the 50's or 60's. But Surfside is different. It's just houses, mostly. Beach houses of all sizes, with a few little restaurants and beach stores thrown in between.

This is the view of Surfside Pier from the bridge that takes you from the street to the beach.

Here's the view across the street of some of the beach houses.  I just love the ones done in bright colors!  We were on the second row from the beach, but we had a clear view of the ocean between some of the houses.

This is what we saw when we looked off our front porch. 

And here was our little house!  It's called Misty Suft, and it was cute.  We spent a lot of time on the rocking chairs on the front porch, and a lot of time drying out bathing suits on the back porch :-)

Like almost all the houses, it was a stilt house, which means it's built up off the ground on stilts to protect it from flooding in the case of a storm surge in a hurricane.  (Pretty self explanatory!)  The hanging blue thing is called an AirChair, and it was extremely comfortable and fun.  I'm dying to have one!

We went out on the pier one day.  Lots of people fish off of it, and they were catching a lot of little sharks.  In case you were wondering, that is precisely the reason why I do NOT swim in the ocean!  Or any body of water.  Because I have a deep rooted phobia of living creatures in the water of any kind, and nobody can convince me that they aren't there. 

Here's hubby looking in the high powered telescope on the pier.  He didn't know I took this picture :-)

Here's the view of the beach from the pier.  You can barely see the rows of oceanfront beach houses, and the tiny little specks of people!

and this is Nibil's Oceanfront Dining, where you can get a delicious breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  We ate breakfast there one morning.  It was in walking distance from our beach house.  The servers are friendly and although it's always a full house, we've never had a really long wait when we've gone there.  There are huge windows all around so you can look out over the ocean while you eat, and the inside it kind of like an Irish pub atmosphere.

Here are some of the bigger, nicer, (read: more expensive!) beach houses you'll find at Surfside.  Basically, you can spend anywhere from $1000 per week to $9000 per week at Surfside.  It's all up to you, and while you probably do get what you pay for to some extent, there really aren't too many "run-down" looking places that would be bad to stay in.  Personally, $9000 per week for a vacation rental sounds a little crazy to me, but to each his own!  You can find plenty of nice rentals from $1800 to $4000 or so, and if you are insane like we are and decide that it sounds like a GREAT idea to pile up in a beach house with lots of relatives.... then it's really a very reasonable way to travel.

If you can handle that kind of togetherness.

And it probably helps if you can bring some tranquilizers, just in case.

But seriously, Surfside Beach is beautiful and it's my favorite place to stay in the Grand Strand (which, for those of you how don't know, is the strand of beaches running down the coast of SC).  I highly recommend it... although you'll have to make your own decision about the family part!!  (More to come on that.... when I get enough sedatives in my system to be able to discuss it.  Just kidding.  ..... I think.)  :-)

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I went to see Mac, my great-grandma, at the nursing home tonight. She was sitting on the porch with my uncle and aunt, which are her son and daughter. Mac has Alzheimer's, but when I went she was having a pretty good day. She seemed to sort of know who we were, and she kept saying that it was getting cloudy and she thought it might rain. She was calm, and she took her medicine without a fuss.

Suddenly, without warning, she had one of her little wild episodes. She got an angry look in her eyes, and she started yanking on her belt that helps keep her from trying to get up out of her wheelchair. (Her balance is not good, and she can only walk when she has someone to stabalize her.) She got very agitated, and was getting louder and louder in demanding that somebody cut that belt off of her. When she does that, we've found that, at this stage, the best thing to do is to try to change the situation quickly! It tends to distract her long enough for her episode of agitation to pass. We usually either move her to another spot, or a different room, or take her to her room and let her get in her recliner or bed. If it's really bad, we have to call a nurse and slip out, because sometimes the presence of family can prolong it. This time, my uncle Bud just got her wheelchair and said, "Let's go inside, so you can take off your belt and get in the bed." That satisfied her, so we headed in.

When we got inside, he slipped out and my aunt and I helped her get out of her clothes and into her gown. She was still a little agitated, so she fought us a little bit and fussed that she wanted her shirt back on. But once she got her gown on, and we helped her get into her bed, a calm came over her and she returned to a state that more closely resembles the "real" Mac. She smiled at me, and I got her water, and she asked for a Kleenex to wipe her face, and we talked about my upcoming trip to the beach. Her eyes were getting heavy, and we turned out the lights. She said, "But I need to get home before it starts raining." I told her she was already in her own bed, and that it probably won't rain anyway. She seemed okay with that answer. I told her I needed to head home to get ready for the beach. She said, "Well, you go ahead and do what you need to do." I kissed her head, and she smelled like the powder she has always put on for as long as I can remember.

"Don't stay out in the sun too long and have a heat stroke," she said.

"I won't," I told her.

"Don't let any snakes get you," she said.

"I won't!" I said again. "I'll see you when I get back. I love you, Mac."

"I love you, too," she said, and I think she means it, even though she probably doesn't remember my name.

And I tucked her blankets under her chin, like she likes them, and I went out.

And I realized, once again, how life is a circle. How one day you take care of people who took care of you. How we cycle from dependence, to independence, and often back to dependence again. How much better it is for people who have loved ones to take care of them, and how sad for those who don't. How one day she probably won't know us at all, not even on a good day, if she even has good days at all. How blessed I've been to have had her in my life all these years.