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paint ball fun.... (not)...

Monday, December 30, 2013
I'm not sure how I convinced myself (or neglectfully allowed it to occur). But a couple of years ago, about this time - I remember wearing lots of layers in a cold, dreary day. I found myself being lead into what was meant to be fun, in the form of a paint ball challenge. I am pretty sure I wrote about it, since the idea of deliberately shooting someone was really 'way out of my comfort zone, And the place it occurred was physically located in a geographical area I would not otherwise been in down in a very gritty weedy, neglected, industrial area of south Atlanta.

F., along with a group of co-workers were going on an afternoon of paint-ball fun today, so I thought I should go along. Adult supervison? Researching? Wearing most of the clothing I own, so bundled up, I probably looked like a cartoon character. We went in several vehicles, carpooling down to the long out-of-us trucking terminal/freight-hauling logistics center where the 'business' was located. It is so drab and neglected, it looks more like 'out of business'. Surrounded by a chain link fence, and vast parking lot of cracked asphalt, overgrown weeds, there is a shabby, concrete block, graffiti covered building. I remember thinking when we went before: the guys who were running the business looked like they lived in a dark, cold, dirty room there, heated with a wood-burning stove and scrap lumber, scrounged tree limbs. The atmosphere of the place is of total abandonment. Something that would make a great movie backdrop, as the last battle for control of the ragged remains of the world rages.

So... we waited and waited and waited for the guys who were supposed to be there to meet us at 1:30. Someone called the phone number and got a recording that indicated they are normally open at 2, unless you've made reservations - which had been done. With a deposit paid. So the sorry drug-addled bums should have been there to let us in. I suggested someone call the number of the security company that was listed on the sign attached to the fence, but better judgment prevailed.  But I  predict it would have gotten a quick response: possibly not the one we would have most enjoyed - but I'm pretty sure someone would have showed up!

We went bowling instead. A great idea: indoors, warm, relatively clean (except for wearing multi-person shoes) (and poking my fingers in a thirty year old bowling ball), with a much nicer place to put recycled beer than we would have found down there, behind a building that has a floor with so many blobs of paint from pellets it is gooey, sitting neglected in the weeds on the southside. We played three times -  and adjourned to Eddie's with eight boxes of fresh, hot, flavorful pizzas. And more beer.

annual dr. appt....

Well, it looks like I did a pretty good job of putting it off as long as humanly possible, and still getting it done before the end of the year. Not actually my fault, as the insurance company will apparently only pay to have it done once a year, and not before the date it occurred in the previous year. So, even though I originally intended to get it done right around my birthday, it would get a couple of days later each year. Thinking, I guess, that I could remember it better if I could think it of as the same time as trying to get my license renewed?

The scheduling person would look at the calendar and say: 'well, can you come on the whatever?', and I'd offer a compromise, and we would end up with something just a bit later each time. So that appointment that started off as an annual occasion in September has now gotten pushed back a bit each time, inching along until it has nearly fallen off the calendar entirely. Sort of slouching along to see if I could put it off so long that it eventually got omitted entirely...

There is good news in that annual ordeal: you know, the miserable, humiliating event you start dreading as soon as you put your clothes back on - even though it will be at  least 364 days before it happens again. The dr. said that I am at the age that the medical experts say I don't have to do it anymore. This is one of the few bits of good news I've heard about getting older... the only other I can think of is that I got a COLA raise of $21 a month . Even though I have to nearly run out of month before I get that boost in funds/deposit on the fourth Wednesday, it's always a welcome surprise in my checking account.

being helpful, post script...

Saturday, December 28, 2013
I did such a great job on those bouquets, I am sorry I didn't think to take photos, so I could impress all three of my blog readers by letting you view the results. Finished the brides and bridesmaids bouquets last night, except for the ribbon wrap on the stems. And got up (too early) this morning to do the other flowers: corsages for moms, grandmothers, boutennairs for groomsmen, dads, grandfathers. Got it all delivered by 11:00. Then had to dash off to another Publix to get three white carnations to make some little frou-frou/corsages for the servers/food helpers to wear. Devoted people who are church members that can often be found helping out with the kitchen work, willing servants for never-ending KP duty.

I had enough leftover greenery and fresh flowers to make a big pretty swag to attach to the large wooden cross the bride's dad and grandfathers made to decorate on the stage. Her mom had cut down some good-sized crape myrtle trees, put them in some big, square, white wooden planters, and hung twinkle lights all over the bare branches. And lots of strands of clear crystals hanging from the ceiling. It looked fantastic.That mom did an amazing job with the stage decorating. She is so talented, clever, and a great one for 'thinking outside the box', with the things she comes up with to decorate the sanctuary.

I'd had enough of rainy day, and wet feets, so came home to work on that mess on my kitchen counter- flotsam and jetsam catch-all. I'll ask for some photos to show you what  great job I did on the bouquets.

being helpful with a bit of floral work...

Friday, December 27, 2013
I am doing the wedding flowers for a bride who will get married on Saturday. Her parents and I go to church together, and her mom is a friend. The mom is the church receptionist, I see every week when I deliver the clean towels back to the kitchen. I've listened over recent months as J. has expressed concerns about this relationship that is about to become legally binding. And the newly weds will be immediaetly moving to Alaska where the groom recently relocated at the behest of his employer: U.S. Army.

I went with J. a couple of weeks ago to the wholesale floral supply business in Opelika (about thirty min. drive) to order the fresh flowers, and back again on Thursday afternoon to pick up the 'ingredients' for the bride's bouquet. After work today, I called all the other Publix, checking for roses. Then drove all over town looking for little sweetheart sized white roses to make the corsages for the mom's, grands and serving people, plus boutonnieres for the guys (groom wearing Army uniform). I've been putting the hand held bouquets together, will wait till near delivery time to wrap the stems so they stay in water/fresh till needed. I'll get the little satin bows tied for the corsages, and get up in the morning and do the other stuff.

The photography people will be at the church at 1:00, so I will need to get all my part delivered before then. And already looking forward to an afternoon of: nothing. If I can get my kitchen floor cleaned, following the mess I've made with leaves, stems, trimming stuff, I think I will reward myself with one of the many movies I'd like to see before they leave the theaters.

requesting a re-match...

When I left home on Tuesday morning, I believed I was mostly, relatively, fairly, sort-of organized food-wise: with my ham and broccoli casserole, plus a couple of other little items. Things that have become a tradition for the holiday meal. But when we sat down for a hurry up and eat lunch, it did not all get on the table. I didn't realize things were missing for several hours, but as we were driving back to Columbus it occurred to me some of our lunch was still in the fridge.

One of the bowls we traditionally pass at Thanksgiving and Christmas is an adaptation of Waldorf Salad. I don't put raisins in it, and every time they see me cutting up nuts and apples, the questions is: can you leave out the celery? The answer is always 'No', but the celery to apple ratio will invariably weighed towards fruit and very light on the crunchy green zero-calorie vegetable part. I had already diced my celery and nuts, took two apples to cut up and had great plans for salad to go with the ham and broccoli. Thought about it halfway down the interstate.

The other thing has been around as long as I can recall, so it was on my grandmother's table as holiday fare, as well as occasionally on my mothers'. Short lengths of (the dreaded) celery stuffed with a mix of cream cheese and diced green olives. Unwrap the block of cream cheese, and let it sit out to soften. Add a bit of mayo. to make it easier to mix, chop olives and pimento, stir it all together and put in the fridge to chill, and fill the little trench with the cream cheese mixture. Put it out in a little cut glass dish (boat-shaped if possible, to uphold tradition), and it will all be gone by the time you call them to come sit down to the meal.

I'd made the cream cheese/olive combo a week or so ago, when I bought blocks of cream cheese for another project. I was fully prepared. But when we got down to the wire, it did not come together.  For any  number of semi-legitimate reasons: We ate a huge breakfast mid-morning and no one was interested in another meal. Then it got to be early afternoon, and I knew C. had to get dressed to go to his job.

It was sort of hurry up/slap-dash in getting on the table. C. was trying to get ready for work, kitchen chaos was occurring, dogs barking, cats wailing...Such a flurry of activity with ham-slicing, risotto-stirring, casserole cooking, chaotic gift-giving/unwrapping, I just didn't get it all accomplished.So I'd like to ask for a' re-do', and have another opportunity, a bit more time to get organized and have it all on the table at the same time.

peanut butter cookies...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013
This is the part where you think: 'you know you are right! What could possibly be easier than a three ingredient cookie recipe?'

And of course, as you know, tthey are not 'officially' peanut butter cookies unless they have fork marks from the tines imprinted on each cookie. And should all be nice and small, so one can easily fit in your mouth. This will allow you to give the  innocent, 'who me' look as soon as you pop it in, to avoid being caught with the evidence in your hand.

2 cups of baking mix, like Jiffy, Bisquick or the store brand
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 can condensed milk (not evaporated - the kind that is super thick, super sweet, really bad for you)

Mix the milk and peanut butter together, till smooth, add baking mix, it will be stiff, hard to stir - keep at it. When all the baking mix is stirred in, roll into one inch balls, put on baking sheet, press gently with fork tines to leave parallel mark on each cookie. Bake at 350 for ten minutes, or until lightly browned.

 You can get about four dozen on a sheet, they don't spread. It makes at least seven dozen, if you don't consume too much before they get cooked. You might want to plan to give them all away, as you have eaten so many while you were making them, you don't feel so good….

lunch casserole for the Christmas dinner...

Woke up about 6 am, to get my casserole put together so we could take it to TN. A well- traveled casserole is always so much more tasty. This is  a recipe I have not made in years. Almost as easy as that peanut butter cookie recipe I made and gave away last week: what could be easier than a dish with only four ingredients? Oh, yeah, that would be the peanut butter cookies that I bagged up and put in the mail. This is not quite that simple, but not really complicated. The most difficult, time consuming part is waiting for the rice to cook before you put it all together.  All you need is the cooked rice, some chopped up broccoli, a can or two to open - that's it.

I used to make it years ago, and divide up into little square casserole dishes, freeze solid, and put in baggies in the freezer. Take out when I had no idea what we were having for dinner, and thaw, to make it look like I was organized, planning ahead, a really dutiful spouse and mom. Those were the daze…

Broccoli Casserole

2 Cups cooked rice (I used brown, that I cooked in chicken broth)
2 boxes of broccoli - chopped, thawed
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 jar of cheese whiz - I know - questionable nutrition.  I could only find wee little jars when I went to the store on Monday, so I bought a big jar of pasta sauce that was cheese, bigger than I really needed, so did not use it all. If you use the cheese whiz, it is a pretty solid substance, so I have found that it is best to add it to the rice when it is still hot, so it will soften, melts  and everything will stir together.

Added chopped onion, that was cooked first in the micro. and stirred it all up together. Bake for thirty min. at 350. It's all really done, except the broccoli, so it just needs to get thoroughly heated.

The three ingredient cookie recipe comes next.


Sunday, December 22, 2013
... well, actually: I have no idea. I just pulled that number out of thin air...I've been traveling, but I'm pretty sure 254 is an overestimation of how far I drove when I was tooling up and down the interstate yesterday (getting 47 mpg!).

But I did take a little road trip on Saturday, driving up to Decatur to spend the morning with Daughter #1. Getting some tech support as she helped me transfer photos from phone (arrggghhh) to computer, so she could then wiggle them into blog. I'm such a poor subject for all things technical: I'm continually looking at what people can do with computers and cell phones and thinking, in the manner of the joke about the Thermos: 'how do it know'?

What I really want to do here is praise the cousin who lives in Decatur. FL is the most caring, thoughtful, compassionate person in my life. I can't think of anyone who is more willing to devote their time to those in need. When my dad's health began to fail, she was the person who was willing to help me with his care. She was the one who made herself available to stand with me in that gap, when parents got to the point that they could not manage their lives without assistance.

She was such a huge blessing to parents, and to me, when she was so willing to actively participate in their care and well-being. When it was obviously far more than I could cope with, she was the person who stepped forward and offered to prop us all up. I do not know what would have happened if she had not been so supportive, open-handed, open-hearted and willing to make herself available. They would certainly have been in dire circumstances - but thanks to her, and her capable care, my dad was able to stay at home, and be comfortable in the house he built with his own hands, and had lived in for over fifty years.

More than a friend: as close to a sister as I will ever have. 

I drove up to see her in Decatur on Saturday, and say 'Happy Birthday, Solstice Baby' with lunch at Figo's. I'd written to ask if we could go out and eat some place and talk about things of little consequence. It seems like there have been so many times in the past that have had to odor of 'crisis' when we have been together. Someone having a problem. Some relative with health issues that got completely out of hand, snowballing down the hill, and she was the one called to come to the rescue. Which, as you might guess, is something she is very adept at managing.  So to have time to spend together and chat about trivial matters, inconsequential, mundane topics is a real novelty.  That's what we did. And it was a good day.

delicious, self-indulgent, immoral, addictive recipe for Toffee, with a footnote that contains important advice...

Herewith I submit the recipe for Michelle's completely, totally non-nutritious and dangerously good Toffee.
There are a couple of places in the body, where you read the 'how to' instructions that she gives suggestions for how things would work best. I assume someone at some point did it the wrong way: as you know, screwing things up is a marvelous way to get an education. Very instructive as well as occasionally self-destructive. But that's how you learn to Not Do That Again.

The thing I would warn you about could easily be something that would never even cross your mind. And would not have occurred to me, except for someone having given me a couple of bags of the choc. chips that were a  mix of chocolate and peanutbutter flavor. I substituted the choc/pb for a bag of plain choc. chips, resulting in a mess. So let me go ahead and say: Do Not use the peanut butter chips. Apparently they have a much higher melting point, and it will result in a most unsatisfactory product. It will taste good, but will not be pretty.

One of my theories of food prep., that I learned through lots of years experience in the kitchen: A dish will likely either be really attractive, or taste good. But it is pretty unusual that the same casserole will be really pretty served up on a plate and be so yummy they will want to lick your disk clean. You either get: tasty and looking like slop (ie: what happens when you serve up lasagna) or something that has the flavor of corrugated cardboard, but looks really pretty when you put it down on the table at a pot luck dinner.

Another cautionary tale: you may think the title of the blog is a joke. It is in dead earnest. It is very important that you know in advance. You must, as soon as it is cooled, put in bags, get out of the house, find people to give it to. And tell them the reason they are getting such a small amount is because they would be very angry, and blame you, after they ate too much.

saltine crackers (get the good ones, don't use generic)
1 cup butter (don't use oleo for this)
1 cup brown sugar
1 (12 oz) bag semisweet choc. chips
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts

Use a large 12x18 inch cookie sheet, with low rim. Line pan with heavy duty aluminum foil, careful to not poke a hole when you fit it in the corner. Spray foil with pam. Cover the pan with a layer of saltines, breaking as needed to fit along edges. Combine butter and brown sugar in saucepan, bring to a boil. Boil for 3 min. stirring constantly. Pour over crackers, carefully spreading to cover edges/corners. (Tip: do not lift spatula until done) Bake in preheated oven at 350 for 5 - 7 min., until bubbling all over. Remove from oven and quickly sprinkle over with the entire bag of choc. chips. Let stand a few min., until they begin to melt, then spread evenly over top of crackers with spatula (again: don't lift until you are done). Sprinkle with chopped nuts, press lightly to secure. Cool in fridge for at least an hour. Lift foil, breaking into chunks, place in plastic zip bags. Give away immediately.  (found in Morningside Presbyterian Church cookbook: "Presbyterian Pleasures", recipe contributed by Michelle Rucker.)

try as I might...

I made the decision to do the honorable thing. Thought about it a long time, but realized my ever-present, constantly alert conscience would not allow me to do otherwise. I contemplated evil for over a week, but have decided to put it to rest. Told that little sneaky thing that has been tagging around in my life for days, to just take a giant step back and Let Me Be.

I put in a load of dirty white clothes in the washer last night before bed. And got up this morning, shortly before six, to move half of it to the dryer. Took a shower and dressed. Moved the dry things and put the rest of that wet stuff in the dryer. I always put it in the basket, and dump it out of the basket on the bed to sort, fold, put away. Which I neatly accomplished.

Here's the story: When I came in the door, one afternoon, over a week ago, the washer was running. Which is very unusual, as he has not done any laundry in years. I think that rather than go through the actual process a year and a half ago, when I went to Mexico for a week, he broke out some new underwear that had been in the drawer, still in the package, for months. He simply does not do laundry. I know he knows how, and was doing his own when we met. But over the years, has apparently decided that is not in his 'job description'.

When I came in the door, the water was running in the washer, I immediately noticed something Very Unusual occurring. And asked what he was washing. He said he had agreed to do an extra shift of volunteering down at the Infantry Museum, where he usually goes on Friday and Saturday afternoons for four hours. And that he needed a clean shirt to wear, as he noticed that basket of dark things was full. Which was ok, pretty considerate and thought-y - showing some remarkable initiative. I'd have expected something along the lines of a conversation that 'implied' he was out of the 'uniform' shirts and wondering when I was planning to do more laundry, so his blue shirt would get washed, dried, hung up, ready for use.(When - in reality - there was actually another long-sleeved, royal blue volunteer shirt, just like the one he was washing, hanging in his closet, ready for use.)

The washer finished, I moved the few items into the dryer, put in a sheet, and said I was going for a walk down the street. When I returned, I noticed the dryer stopped, and looked in, to get his shirt out and hang it. But all that was in there was my work pants, pajama pants and dark socks. I got my clothes out and put them away. Completely steamed: wondering why he got his shirt out and not my things? So thoroughly aggravated, it took me two days to be able to ask him: why?

All the answer I got was that he needed that shirt to wear to his volunteer job, and knew it would wrinkle if let to settle in the dryer when it stopped. So I was thinking: I'll just get my clothes out of the dryer, and leave yours? And the next time, and the next, and etc, etc, etc....

But, as reported at the beginning here, I just washed, dried, folded, put away a big pile of his tighty-whiteys and T-shirts, along with socks and hankies. I am going to be so sparkly with stars in my crown when I get to heaven, they will be issuing newcomers sunglasses before we have our reunion.

sum total of home holiday decor...

Saturday, December 21, 2013
The seasonal decorating that occurs here gets slimmer and slimmer by the year. I gave most of the tree trimming stuff away, and then put the tree in the Goodwill box some years ago. Pretty much all that is left is a wreath with some twinkle lights that  I hang out by the front door, plug into the bottom of the door-side light fixture and try to remember to turn on when it gets dark. A twinkly little beacon shining out into the world.

When I was at the botanical gardens doing a volunteer projects everal weeks ago, I picked up a few odd, leftover branches of balsam, tied together with a bit of wire, added a red bow and hung on a rusty nail on my mailbox post. Happy little greeting to hundreds of passers-by who whizz along the street.

That's it for us: until I had a door decoration come back home to roost that would not stay given away. So I recently went to Walmart (like I seem to do nearly every day, only getting one little odd-ball item, so having to go back again the following day for the next oddball thing I remember, as I cannot ever seem to locate the list) and got a couple of suction cups with hooks, and have the banner hanging on the inside of the laundry room door. Right there next to the permanently installed Santa face my grandmother made out of a metal hoop, read and white yard and several wooden beads.

Sum total of holiday decorating. I'm really not a 'scrooge', but the enthusiasm for decorating has long since evaporated. Before the last daughter left, we put up a tree in the kitchen a time or two, so the lights would twinkle and shine through the window and could be seen from the street. But with just us two: unless 'someone' wants to come over, put all the frou-frout out, trim the tree, then come back for the Un-do, seasonal jolliness is about over with us.

driving around in the semi-dark...

...on the southeast side of metro Atlanta. It never really gets completely dark in that area, due to all the lights around the airport, so much lighting that stays on, creating a glow on the horizon. But while I was wandering, was remarkably unconcerned about having taken a 'turn for the worse'.

I am apparently becoming more 'daresome' in my old age. Not necessarily thinking I would easily fit into the category of 'brazen', but just less fearful about some things that would've  caused massive anxiety in the past… no - not true. My daughters will readily tell about the time we were traveling to FL, and I took an unfamiliar road. Maybe not precisely a 'short-cut', but something that required me opening up the road map to full size, which apparently caused them, securely strapped down in the back seat, considerable alarm. Apparently they were still young enough to firmly believe that a parent knew everything - or at least everything necessary to keep them safe. So when I appeared doubtful enough of our route to want to stop and peruse the fully opened map- they got really concerned. Which is when I said: Just because you don't know where you are, does not mean you are lost. Which is, I guess, a corollary of: this is gonna come out someplace familiar enough to get us where we want to be.

Anyway: I was driving up to Decatur in the dark, having slept poorly, and gotten up to leave home about 5:00 a.m. I was having such a great time listening to my new Christmas music CD, I sort of missed my turn - or took the turn I mistakenly did not mean to take. And found myself on I-285, instead of sticking to I-85 to come on into merge with I-75. So I thought I'd just get onto I-75, and it would all work out. But it didn't.

I apparently got 'way off course, as I am pretty sure I accidentally, very nearly completely circled the whole dang Atlanta-Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.  Just following my headlights, reading the signs that would get me back on the right road. Before finally getting back on I-285 headed south, to get off (and make a pit stop at the corner McD.) and turn around to start over again. I find it interesting to drive up I-285, where it passes under the runway, and go through those looonnnng overpasses on the interstate, thinking that there are huge airliners rolling overhead while I am trucking along under the concrete.

If that had happened years ago, when I first found myself in the position of driving into Decatur in order to spend time with one of my favorite people: it would have been disastrous. I'd have been calling the rescue squad. Hoping someone would come and find me and get me to where I wanted to be. Anxious, fearful, hopelessly confused. But now… what the hell? Just because you don't know where you are,does not mean you are lost.

strolling through Callaway Gardens in the daylight...

Went up to Callaway Gardens yesterday to meet at the Day Butterfly Center.  I've written recently about going up to CG as a volunteer, and helping with a Monarch workshop. The guy who was the instructor is the director of the Butterfly Center - amazingly smart, and a fount of information. If I had only been taking the class, and not already enrolled in the CG program, he was so impressive, I'd have said: where do I sign up?

 We strolled through the Sibley Center. And saw lots of pretty holiday decorations. A big beautiful tree, obviously designed as a photo op, with seating for the 'family Christmas shot', and lots of really neat topiaries: as in freight train, with packages and caboose, smoke billowing from the stack (artemisia, a grey perennial that looked remarkably like actual smoke.)

Those banana trees you might notice in the background, had huge bunches of green bananas on them. I had to wonder when they get ripe, if they take them over to the Butterfly Center, and let the insects feed on them?  If you walk through, you will see over-ripe bananas  lying in the feeders, and insects patiently sucking them up with their long skinny proboscis - so it is something they apparently love to eat.

Callaway Gardens in the Dark

Poor quality photos from the night my friend and I did the 'night walk' through Callaway Gardens. It was back in mid-November, on the only night the Gardens allows pedestrians to walk through the Fantasy In Lights show. It is fund raiser for the national March Of Dimes, with a portion of the funds going to support their programs. And since the cost of doing the walk through has risen each year, from  five bucks when I started doing it with my kids, to the price we paid this year: $16 for the privilege of walking the five mile route with a gazillion other gawkers. They do not allow bikes, or skateboards, or scooters, but kids in little red wagons or strollers and grandma in her wheel chair are acceptable.

I think in an earlier missive, I mentioned that the management people at CG had opened the gardens one night early on for golf carts! and motorcycles? and bicyclists.

So here's the photos… crummy though they may be, taken with my phone camera.

...so here's the 'thing' about the thing...

I forgot I was supposed to be getting those Sunday morning supplies, until it got to be Friday afternoon. Due mostly to running up and down the road, in my usual fashion. Which they say is acting 'like my shirt-tail is on fire.' Having spent the day on Monday with a one-year old. Having worked on Tuesday. Having went to Valdosta on Wednesday and back on Thursday. Having made a trip to Harris County and Callaway Gardens on Friday. Then: poof! suddenly it's late afternoon.

But not just any old ordinary, run-of-the-mill afternoon. It's IGIFriday afternoon. It's five o'clock on Friday afternoon. The last Friday afternoon before Christmas. When, as you might expect, everyone in a fifty mile radius, suddenly decides they need to jump on the Shopping Wagon and go to Sam's to get their bidness taken care of. It was one of those 'what was I thinking?' events.

I had not actually been in Sam's, without adult supervision (meaning my friend PC, the person  usually responsible for the weekly Sam's list, who was not there to direct me), so I was completely lost from the time I walked in the door. Pushing my cart, asking workers, shoppers, complete strangers to help me find my way. All I needed was styro. cups and creamer, (plus the stuff I told KM I would pick up for Christmas Eve) but had no idea where: in all that merchandise, I was going to find what I had on my list. It worked out  ok- all's you have to do is plead ignorance, and people will take you by the hand and guide you along.

Full disclosure here: the 'thing' is: I dropped the cookies. Literally. And picked them up, put them back in the container, and will act like nothing ever happened.  When I got home, after struggling through the crazy people who were, I suspect, just starting their Holiday Shopping Experience, I was so, so, so very relieved.



After 'after':

I had to unload everything: huge carton of styro.cups, boxes of creamer, ten gallons of apple juice, and the man-handled cookies. So I could reload my little Toyo. with stuff that will be going to Decatur on Saturday morning. I confessed (so you are reading the second - and final - time) about the mishap with the cookies sliding off the bottom of the cart. He said: 'thanks, I will be careful to Not Eat any of those cookies on Christmas Eve at church. I reminded him we would not be going to CCC on Christmas Eve, but attending with family in TN. Please don't mention the cookie disaster to all those folk who will enjoy the cookies and spiced cider, even though they will wonder 'why is there an excess of crunchy sugar sprinkles on my cookie?'

another 'thing' I backed into, completely by accident...

Friday, December 20, 2013
For a couple of years I have been the 'under-cover' dishtowel washer for our church kitchen. I'd go in and gather the dirty ones up, in the large trash bag I'd line the laundry basket with, and take them home to wash and bleach, dry, fold and return in a couple of days. Some are so unbelievably astounding, amazingly nasty I generally let them all soak overnight in the washer with bleach. The look like they have been used to scrub out the coffeepots, or possibly the tile floor. And you can use your imagination for what the ones that have been sitting dirty and wet in the basket for most of a week do to your nose. But it's one of those things where you think: 'Somebody needs to do something about that'. Then suddenly have the realization: 'I'm somebody', so you just do it and be done with it.

The sweet young mother, KM, the person who runs the cafe is one of those Women Who Do Too Much. She will occasionally thank me for the fact that there are always clean dish towels available for use by the many cafe workers, and assortment of people who use our facilities on a weekly basis. I just do it because it needs to be done. Though I have not actually attended a church service since early summer, due to working on Sunday mornings.

Somehow, I recently backed into also being the person who will go to Sam's Club to purchase needed items for the Sunday morning coffee drinkers. This required that I present myself to the customer service personnel at Sam's with a letter from the church so I could get a card and 'get the goods', have stuff billed to the church. That was an ordeal.

The first time I went to try to get the card, the Sam's worker said they could not issue one on the church account, unless the primary card holder came in to approve it. I thought: Oh, well, that's not gonna happen. She asked if I wanted it issued in my name, and I said: 'Umm...Yes'. And when she said that would be $45, I said: Oh,well. No.

And went back the next day, to a different customer service worker, and had not the first minute's problem with getting the card issued, including mug-shot photo, and putting the card to use getting the supplies I needed to purchase.


...in miles sounds kinda wussy after some recent reports. But that's the best I can do for the past forty-eight. I left Columbus on Wed. afternoon, and drove to Valdosta to visit my auntie. I know she gets lonesome, and does not seem to have a lot to keep herself busy and time occupied. In addition to a variety of health issues that have been troubling in recent months, she is just having a hard time lately. I'd called to ask about ingredients for a fruit salad I remember my grandma making, and eating at holidays, so I could buy the makings and we could put it together together. 

I'd called a friend about meeting for dinner, so we went out and enjoyed good eats, at a new Mex. restaurant. There was some recipe confusion,  when we got ready to put the fruit salad together, but it all worked out. I left Valdosta shortly before noon on Thursday morning, to drive back to Columbus.

Uneventful trip.

Except for stopping in Quitman, going in the house just to look around, turn some lights on and other off - and finding that it was at least 80 degrees in there. Holy Cow. I called my friend who keeps an eye on stuff for me, opened the front and back doors and had to go stand outside until he could get there and resolve the problem. I bet you didn't know your thermostat has a little double AA battery in it? Me neither! So - you better check, and be prepared to replace it once a year, when you replace the ones in the smoke detector when the time changes, as you flip your mattress.

When I called him today, to say I was thinking about those cartoons you see, where the characters, usually some creature who perpetually plays the fool is driving along. And the accelerator gets stuck to the floor, so you see this silly animal, in the driver's seat, with the steering wheel tightly gripped, going faster and faster and faster. Naturally there is a curving mountainous road involved, and switchbacks, and steep downhill turns. And finally this little character with eyes big as dinner plates, and ears flapping behind him, holding on to the steering wheel with a death grip, even though it has separated from the vehicle - goes over the edge, off the cliff, into oblivion, a la "Thelma and Louise".  So I had to wonder what would have happened if I had not randomly gone into the house when I did - and found the place getting hotter and hotter and hotter: would we have had spontaneous combustion?

And do I have fire coverage?

I am incrementally finding that being a homeowner is not fun. And a huge financial drain. I've always been of the opinion that investing is better than pouring rent down a hole every month, but ....I'm not so totally convinced. There has been a great sucking sound, like a sinkhole opening, right there at 1209 for several years now...constantly draining funds from my check book: if it ain't something, it's something else.

'reliablity', part II

This goes along with that musing from several days ago about how 'you'll never hear thank you' for being dependable. I was perusing The American Cowboy magazine in a waiting room (found it so interesting, it got stuck to my hand, and came home with me so I could finish the article I was reading!) this week, and read this really good quote buried way in the back.

It's from a publication written by Baxter Black, with the title of 'Lessons from a Desperado Poet'. Makes me want to go to one of those 'Cowboy Poetry' readings I've heard about - which is, to my way of thinking, a complete oxymoron: to find a rough and weathered ranger-rider who is also a thoughtful, sensitive guy is so unusual, if he can be contained, he should be in a museum.

According to Black: success "does not requite genius, it just requires the persistence of a glacier. Remember, often it's not ability that gets you ahead, it's reliability. The world is run by those who show up." Sadly he did not mention that those same people don't seem to ever be fully appreciated for showing up on time, being the ones there to unlock the door, turn on the lights, and the last to leave when it's all over.

a day with a one year old...

Monday, December 16, 2013
I had a little person come to spend the day with me. His mom is a friend I had not seen in a while. The thought of her was so strong the end of last week, it caused me contact her at work - the only way I knew of to get in touch. I found out she was having some problems: financial/family issues. To include child-care of a one year old. So I offered to take him for a day.

It's been a loooonnnnggg time since I spent the day with someone that size. And now I know, as they say, why God gives babies and small children to parents who are young. Sadly - he cried most of the morning. I rocked him to sleep twice, but he woke up both times when I tried to put him down. He finally agreed to eat some cheerios and a couple of saltine crackers instead of that cold clammy oatmeal his mom sent. But never did take that nap she assured me he would need at mid-morning.

You know how you can often tell babies are getting tired when they start rubbing their noses? And start getting whiney? This little guy cried so much, and was so unhappy being in a strange place with a strange person, his nose got drippy, and drippier. And he would wipe it, (or I would before it ran off his chin), and then it would be on his hands and he would crawl around some more: leaving a little trail of snot across the tiles. You know how you can sometimes look at the sidewalk when the light is right and see the trails of garden snails, as they inched across the paving, leaving a glistening wandering little path that dries in the sun? I have that across my kitchen floor, as a memorial to the little guy who got foisted off onto a stranger in a parking lot.

When I concluded that nothing I could do would make him happy, with his incessant weeping for that which I could not provide, I gave up: decided to let him get it over with - thinking, if nothing else, when he is done he will definitely be ready for a nap. So I tied my kitchen cupboards together (the ones that hide the bad chemicals), since he was plundering through all that, and just let him be sad. It eventually dribbled down into a trickle, and I picked him up, we rocked a bit, and he fell asleep. But woke up as soon as I tried to lay him down... and oh boy! do I remember how that works!
I'd planned to just take him along when I had a appointment to keep, but when he was so miserable, I knew that would not be a good idea, so had to call and postpone. But did take him when I went to meet a friend for lunch, and somehow, for some unknown reason, he finally decided to just make the best of it. I had the stroller, and when I rolled him in the restaurant, he charmed everyone in the place. Ate cheerios out of my hand, drank water from a cup, enjoyed a few bits of bread crust from my sandwich, and a couple of small pieces of boiled chicken.

Just a sweet, smiling, cute little man, showing off all six of his tiny, sparkly white teeth to anybody who would look his way. People kept stopping by the table and commenting on what a happy, agreeable person he was. Wish that  I could have taken credit for all the amusement he created by suddenly getting over that stranger phobia. By the time we parted ways, when I took him back to his mom mid-afternoon, he was calling me mama. I may have to get on her list of 'regulars' in the future.

you'll never get thanked...

Sunday, December 15, 2013
No one will ever hear a Thank You for being reliable. For doing what they are trained and paid to do. Nobody ever hears: 'great job!', when they are conscientious and dependable and doing the work they have been assigned. I had  not been working in this retail job for long, before I decided that 'when I get to be the boss' I am going to go around every day and speak to every one on the job in my workplace and tell each one how much I appreciate them showing up: on time and ready to get on with business.

Some time  ago, there was a guy who was in management in the store where I work, who constantly walked around with his nose up in the air. He is now a store manager. I'm very thankful I don't have to occupy the same space he is in. He could walk past me a dozen times and never acknowledge my existence. That is so annoying. Especially in an environment that constantly stresses the importance of speaking to every customer who comes within ten feet. When we are so all about 'meet and greet'.

About four months ago, the produce manger hired this young female to work on the days the regular fruit prep person is off. The replacement is supposed to work two days a week: coming in at 5:00 am and working until 2:00 on Thursdays and Sundays. About once every two weeks she does not show up. I assume she calls, to let someone know she will not be there to do the job. And I assume the produce guys get extremely aggravated to be scrambling on a regular basis to get the work done when she does not make an appearance. Some folk use the term 'calling out' and others describe it as 'calling in', so I guess either/both are applicable to the situation.

When I went to work today, and walked toward the back of the produce dept., saw the area where fresh green salads are on display was BLANK, I knew there was a problem. So I started making the specialty salads people are accustomed to seeing/buying from the cooler/display. It took several hours, but I got the big empty spot filled. Then I make fresh fruit parfaits: yogurt with strawberries, pineapple, banana, mixed berries.  Basically that's what I've accomplished today.

All the while thinking about how frustrating it must be to find someone who you think will solve the problem, only to find that the 'solution' often creates another problem: and you are continually scrambling around trying to get the work done without the manpower  you need. I don't know if there are family problems, health problems, childcare problems... but there is a problem (fortunately, not mine!)

F. told me about a worker she had hired, who seemed to be doing fairly well, was being trained as a line cook, who got in a snit about something one day. Said she was going to take a smoke break, and has not come back yet. That was about six weeks ago. And has since applied to get unemployment pay, which is basically requesting to get paid to Not Work.

What creates a situation where someone does not understand the concept of 'reliable'?  It is apparent that is not a trait that is inborn. I guess you have to see it in action? Be exposed to it over and over and over to begin to understand what it means, how it works, and how to reproduce it in your own life?

Oddly - it has never occurred to me to Not Be. But I am seeing that it is not something that people are born with.Which makes me thankful that I am, and doubly thankful that parents and grandparents, family  and friends, Baptist church members, the people who raised me, modeled that behavior. Which means I grew up in a place and time with folk who demonstrated what it looks like. Resulting in me being that kind of person, who would then have daughters with that same mind-set. People who deliberately become conscientious and dependable.

For this I am thankful. So Thank You to all those forebears... you'd be pleased to see I turned out o.k.. And thank you to daughters for being who you have become.


Saturday, December 14, 2013
...miles is what happened as a result of the most recent road trip. I have a friend in Savannah, living in a nursing home. I'd written several weeks ago, saying I'm hoping to get over to visit before Christmas. Have you looked at the calendar recently? It's getting away from us... December is like a speeding freight train on a downhill run.

So I called on Thursday to ask about coming on Friday, and also contacted a friend from BCHS days, to ask about using the couch overnight. If you know me, you are not surprised that I stuffed my sleeping bag and toothbrush in the little Toyo. and hit the road. After a dental appt. Friday morning, I got underway about 9:30 and drove straight across the state. I've done it enough to know it takes about four hours, and was tooling down Abercorn Street at 1:30. I'd been accumulating boxes of cookies I thought she would enjoy, and had a box of assorted tea bags, with the plan that we would have a little tea party in her room. We ate some good cookies: lemon straws coated with confection sugar - messy but really tasty. Spent several hours with me reading the newspaper aloud, and talking about people we had in common: most of whom she was very surprised when I reported as deceased.

I tried to leave town before everyone else, but failed, and was in the dark trying to find the street address in Statesboro. Enjoyed more reminiscing about things from years gone by, a very filling Mesican meal, and tour of the Christmas lights in the neighborhood. Slept remarkably well in a strange place, and got up to drive back to across GA at 6 this morning. Even though there is nothing to indicate I got anything accomplished - I feel like I had a very productive day.

update on burgling...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
A detective from the Columbus Police Department called the end of last week and wanted someone to come and have a look at some more items recovered from possible break-ins. TP went to the Pubic Safety building on Monday, but none of the things they had were his. I know he was hoping they would have those commemorative wristwatches he was so sad about loosing. But the stuff they had for him to look at was not something he recognized.

He reported that there was another homeowner from the east end of the county who had also been burgled, and found a number of items he could identify. Electronics like cameras and cam-corders. This other man said he already had an alarm system, but that apparently did not prevent the loss. The patrol officers apparently got to the location within five minutes of the time the alarm notification. But they did not find anyone in the  house. The homeowner now believes the intruder was hiding in the crawl space under the house! So the (alleged and unidentified) thief  would have just waited the responding officers out, and mosey'ed on home with this sack full of misappropriated goods.

We have a jam-up security system: now. That we don't have anything of any particular value... so that proves another truism. Not only is true that  'dead bolts won't keep you safe', but now we also know that 'security systems cannot keep your belongings safe in your home'.

I have to wonder: if the burgling person was under the house- did he just casually go back in to be sure he had not missed anything after the patrol cars departed? You know they come barreling up the street with lots of noise, to give the criminal element ample time to evacuate the premises. The alarm was likely not re-set - so he would have had plenty of time to inspect all the likely locations of valuables at his leisure.

And did you know that if the police consfiscate stolen merchandise from the pawn business - the shop owner is just out of luck. Does he get charged with possession of stolen items?

sub teaching job...

Monday, December 9, 2013
My phone in my pocket rang several weeks ago while I was out walking/burning calories. It was the sub-finder calling, looking for replacement teachers well in advance of actually needing warm bodies. I took the assignment, even though I had no idea at that moment if I had other plans for the day I'd been filling in. And as it worked out, when I got home, I did have other things on my calendar. Which I changed in order to go today to be in a Kindergarten class.

The K level teachers were in a workshop in the media center, so they were all actually in the building, just not in the classrooms. And all the classrooms at that level had para-pros to help with managing daily activities. I'd hoped for that, as I know some schools make the para/aide 'float', serve in more than one class during the course of the day. The person I was working with eventually told me she was certified, but could not find a teaching position. So Ms F. was more than qualified to manage anything that would happen in the class while Ms. D. was out, but apparently the school system requires that there be a 'paid teacher' in the class - crazy!

It was a pretty good day - as compared to several other sub.jobs I've endured in recent months: those where I'm wondering why the hands on the clock seem to be going backwards. And second guessing myself by ten o'clock with 'what in the world made you think this was a good idea'? when the phone rang at 6:03 a.m. I believe this teacher, a young, unmarried female, was obviously good with organizing, managing, creating plans for a (relatively) well-behaved bunch of easily distracted five year old, is more than capable. The 'atmosphere' of the school, general positivity of the staff and attitude of the principal has a lot to do with how smoothly things run, discipline in the classroom, and sense of capability the teachers exhibit. Though she seemed young, (and I am convinced it takes the energy and optimism of youth to take on this work!) she obviously had the training/experience to have a good system going, and excellent methods of handling a group of exuberant little people.

Toward the end of the day, the students were working on  a worksheet the teacher left. Simple math problems: count the number of marshmallows in the cup, either add or subtract the ones with 'x' to get an answer.  A few of them quickly caught on to what was required, some never did, so I was sitting and helping, problem by problem for them to get solutions. And talking over my shoulder to the para-pro who was doing the same with others at her desk. I lamented over how distressing it was to see some of those little people who could not count, did not know how to connect the dots by singing the alphabet song to draw a Christmas Tree. They simply could not grasp such an abstract idea of removing some of the marshmallows from the cup, and finding how many would remain. There just seems to be such a great disparity in abilities/knowledge/skills. And I think much of it is due to home situations. Ms. F. told me that the ones who are doing really well often have older siblings who are involved, as well as parents. You do remember 'playing school', right? I look back and am amazed to realize what an impact that could have on the 'readiness skills' of kids. And if parents are reading to them, with age-level appropriate books in the house - I truly believe that must provide such a huge boost to their abilities.

Most of the recent sub. jobs I have done - I'd just be very thankful when the day was over, more than ready to pick up my lunch box and wobble out the door to the safety of  my car. But this was such a good experience, I actually gave her my number and asked her to call in the future when she would need a replacment.

"Holiday Fun"...

I went to spend the day with the Girl Scouts on Saturday. There are a couple of folk I know who have been active, involved, committed (all these add up to my definition of 'devoted' to scouting) with younger girls for many years. These two women, who have no reason to be still supporting Scouts, daughters long grown and gone, still keep at it. Planning events, and doing things to interest young girls, teaching them skills, and having great fun: still participating in helping Girls Grow Strong.

The Holiday Fun event was originally planned to be at the Scout outdoor facility in Harris County. Where the Council has run a summer camp over the years. But the Council staff chose to make their property not available on Saturday, so plan B. was to have our activity in a local church fellowship hall. With the weather cold, drizzly and messy, it was probably a good decision.

I think there were nearly a hundred girls who signed up to show up for the day, plus numerous hangers-on: siblings, parents, and troop leaders. One of the most interesting things we did was practice our sewing skills. Some of the girls readily admitted to having no experience. They were sewing buttons on little felt cut-out stocking shapes, then sewing two stockings together, adding a bit of fluffy stuffing, and a loop hanger, sewing it closed to make a tree ornament.

I spent most of my time threading needles. I'd remembered to bring a number of the little gadgets that make needle-threading a breeze (so simple to operate and get the thread through the eye, you don't even need any four letter words to accomplish the task: perfect for the under ten set!).So I showed some of the older girls how to use the needle threader, and told them to pass it on, show the younger ones how it works, and know they enjoyed demonstrating that skill,  teaching friends and siblings how to thread the needle, then sew on a button, put the project together.

There was a dad there, with three daughters, who was very interested, watching the girls working, observing our project. So much so that when the girls finished their sewing, he wanted to do it himself. I gave a few pointers, and watched him work. It turns out he was making an ornament for the third daughter, who was so young she did not participate in the sewing class. I told him that I did not know his story, if he was a single parent, or why he was there, but complimented him on wanting to be there with daughters. And told him how meaningful it was to see him involved in their lives - that his presence was such a unique gift he was giving to them, to be willing to devote his time to going with them to this event, and not just standing along the edges of the activities, but getting involved, really being a dad. It is so rare to see a guy want to do crafts, especially something that is traditionally thought of as being in the female domain. I was delighted to see  him sewing, especially when the youngest daughter came over, and discovered he was making it for her.

Dear paper calendar Girl:

Sunday, December 8, 2013
I would like to be the one to take credit for your continued use of the Old School Method. But know you are doing the thing that seems to best suit your personality. Which is a good thing: as in 'Know Thyself'. I'm sad for all the important information that was gobbled up by the big creature that lives out in 'There Be Dragons Here': the vast unknown. Making me think about the part of the Star Wars movie when the Millenium Falcon was being chased by the Troopers and evaded the bag guys only to discover they were inside the digestive tract of some huge space creature. Barely escaping before being digested.

The cyber world continually baffles me - so much I don't understand there is no ground to stand on for a starting point in order to grasp at the small bits as they blow past, like catching fireflies in a Mason jar. With nothing solid underfoot to begin the process of comprehension, it's always taking a step out into the unknown, hoping that your foot does not land on bamboo spikes, quicksand or IED.

And sadly - there is always a hazard with choosing to do things like Smith-Barney: 'the old fashioned way'. You could misplace that thing that keeps you organized. There was a time when I took my calendar with me nearly everywhere I go. I have since learned to leave it at home, or in my car, and be willing to tell people I will have to call them when I check a particular square before making plans. But then the unthinkable occured: I lost it. Nearly. I left work one day, pushing a grocery cart across the lot to take my purchases to my car. And forgot to get the calendar out of the cart. Realized much later that night that I did not have the all-important pages that would direct my path for weeks to come. In the process of mentally retracing my steps, I figured out that the last time I remembered seeing the book: when I was at work.

Amazingly - that calendar was still sitting in that shopping card, that was still sitting in the parking lot the following morning. Something that the 'carry out' guys never allow - they are instructed to always, always round up all the abandoned buggies left to meander across the asphalt and bring them back in the store for re-use. But somehow this one cart was left out at the far end of the lot, and had my damp calendar still. Squeezed down between the seat and the metal grid on the side of the cart. But still right where I left it. Amazing.

So - yeash. I am all for 'old school' methods. And praise you for having a back up plan. Especially when I see so many folk who completely depend on their hand-held devices to do all their remebering for them: names, numbers, dates, appointments, connections. What's going to happen when it gets lost, dropped, washed, run over, stolen, ceases to function? The same thing that will happen to the modern world when the grid goes, and all the info. stored in all the computers evaporates, instantly being consumed by that huge, open-mouthed space creature still awaiting feeding time in Star Wars...


Friday, December 6, 2013
That's mileage. When I left town on Wednesday afternoon, to drive to Decatur. Where I spent the night, so I could get up early on Thursday, on the road and out of town before everyone else. Driving to South Carolina. To visit  my pen pal. I had not been up to Greenville since back in October (you 'member? to the state botanical gardens on the Clemson campus, after everything had bloomed out and there was nearly nothing colorful to see/enjoy as we had a little stroll along the path.)

It was a wet, dismal day. Not really raining, but not not either - just wet enough that  you'd have to continually remind yourself about the dangers associated with using the cruise control when traveling at 72 mph on wet pavement. We had a pleasant visit, and I started back towards Atlanta about 3:30, hoping to get back home before the part where '...you're getting verrrrry sleepy'....

As soon as I crossed the state line- right there on the bridge in the middle of Lake Hartwell, the traffic came to a complete halt. I asked the truck driver in the next lane if he knew why we were stopped, and he 'guessed' it might be due to an accident. The sheriff's department was making all the traffic- cars, trucks, work vehicles, big semi-trailers get off the interstate, cross over the bridge and trek out on a little two lane highway. We went places I've never been before. For most of an hour, before getting back to the interstate. At one intersection, I did ask a deputy what was going on, and he said there was a wreck on the four-lane.

So I was around ten o'clock getting to the house, where I did not have any trouble at all going to sleep. The mileage I started this with: driving to Decatur on Wed., and to SC and back to Col. on Friday. I don't think I have fully recovered.

unbelieve-able - even for the person who actually saw it!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013
'I am not kidding' (as verified by Dave Barry, who always said that, whether it is true or not). This really happened. And I sincerely, honestly tried to take a photo with my phone. Which was, of course, a bad mistake, since my Tech Support Team seems to be unable to transfer photos from the phone to the computer… sad: I actually took a picture of the: wild pheasant in my yard!

It was sincerely amazing. I still can't believe I actually saw that at my house - and also completely baffled as to how/why it turned up there. Not at all native to middle Georgia. I have to wonder if there might be someone out in the panhandle area of Muscogee County who is buying as chicks or adults to put out on hunting preserves for profit. I cannot imagine how and/or why something so unlikely would show up in the area. I have to guess they are being stocked/imported to provide targets for a hunting club. It was amazing. These game birds are not native to any place east of the Mississippi. Most commonly found in the upper Midwest, and I cannot fathom why there would be one trotting around loose in my yard on eastern Muscogee County on a Sunday afternoon.

I left my car, with the motor running, and the door standing open, sitting in the driveway, just off the very busy street - when I followed the unbelief-able pheasant across the yard, through the woods, down the hill, until I could not see it any longer… and guess it might still be there, out in the woods -looking for it's family???

It looked just like a dang pheasant - which is why I immediately recognized it - though I have never actually seen a live pheasant before. With the complete outfit on: black and white tail feathers, brown camo. colored body, with occasional black markings to make them hard to find, and the bright green on the head, along with red and the white ring around the neck. Everything that makes a pheasant look just like the illustrations you see in the Audubon books.  I am sad that the photo is not available for your perusal, and also that the shot was not better, as the stoopid bird kept stopping behind trees, making a good photo extremely difficult, even though I should have known better than to try to capture with this highly annoying cell phone...

fluffy pumpkin pie...

I should be taking orders. It's so easy and so good, I would gladly make one just for the part where I get to lick the bowl before putting it in the sink to wash. I made five in recent weeks and gave four and a half away. I think I might have had one slice - which is more than plenty. You can even, with a bit of planning, make it so it is nearly sugar free and suitable for the diabetics amongst us to consume. But be forewarned: sugar free is not necessarily an equivalent of 'good for you', and things that are not swimming in sugar are often loaded with fat.

This is the pie that I continually tell people you can make without ever actually using the main-est ingredient: meaning you could actually serve it as pumpkin pie but not include pumpkin. I've never done it (that would be cheating, and you know I don't approve of deliberate deception) but I do believe that you could combine all the ingredients in the recipe except the pumpkin, maybe add a bit extra of the spices that make it taste like Thanksgiving, spoon it into the graham cracker crust, and no one would be the wiser (except you and me, of course!)

No bake Pumpkin Pie

1 cup Pumpkin
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (it comes already mixed together with cinnamon, allspice, cloves)
1 box instant vanilla pudding (be sure you get the instant/no cook)
1/2 cup milk
1 bowl thawed whipped topping
1 graham cracker crust

I generally buy the pumpkin that is pie filling, meaning it already has spices in it, as opposed to plain, with nothing but pumpkin in the can. If you want to make it nearly sugar free: you will need sugar free pudding and sugar free whipped topping. Nothing you can do about that graham cracker crust, but in the overall scheme of things - negligible.
Put the pumpkin in a bowl, add the spices, stir well, stir in the milk, stir in the pudding, fold in the whole bowl of whipped topping, spoon into pie shell. I put in the freezer to make it solid, firm easier to slice. And you know that if you leave something with whipped topping in the fridge too long, it will kill your loved ones - but not likely this will last that long.

Since it is mostly air, you can eat yourself miserable on Thanksgiving, and still have room for a slice of pie.  Which is why I made so many to give away - oh - and the fact that I found the graham cracker crust at the dollar store….

the recipe for a big nasty mess...

I had marked it on my calendar weeks ago, so I wouldn't  let other stuff encroach on an interesting morning at the Botanical Gardens. You might think it sort of lame/cheezy, but it sounded like it would be mildly amusing, and nicely social-able event, as well as helpful (plus getting in those all important volunteer hours for credit with the County Agent for Master Gardening program). It was an opportunity to make the decorations to put on a tree for the local wildlife - that I am sure consists almost exclusively of birds and squirrels.

The 'recipe' part is where I got there early to help with whatever prep./set up I could always wanting to be useful.  And was given the assignment of stirring the birdseed up with (theoretically) suet, that was actually a three pound container of Publix-brand shortening. I don't know if 'lard' would have been the preferred ingredient,  but it was quite a big mess (or as PSI would say 'hot mess'!). I put on some latex gloves, and dipped about half the can of shortening/lard in the bowl, and poured several pounds of bird seed in, proceeded to squeeze it all together, to thoroughly mix. Similar to the process of making meat loaf - but with a nasty factor of x5 due to the greasy part. Before the contingent of volunteers arrived, a couple of us cut navel oranges in half, remove the good part, leaving a little cup that would be filled with that combo of bird seed and fat. Then  as volunteers arrived, we began to put some wires through the 'cup' that is the orange shell to hang from the tree branches, for the birds and squirrels to enjoy. And filled the orange cups with the 'hot mess'.

Others in the group spread peanut butter over pine cones - an exercise in futility if ever there was one. Let me tell you this: it's just not possible.  There were several people putting wire around the top of the cone, to be used to loop over a branch and attach it to the Christmas Tree for the Birds. But applying peanut butter to something as uncooperative as a pine cone:  just not possible. Won't work with a knife, or a spoon or spatula, or gloved hands. You just can't do it. But not for lack of trying … so we did our best, then passed them across the table to be rolled in bird seed and cornmeal, also going on the tree for the birds.

I deliberately slipped out before the actual tree trimming. So can only imagine, envision what it was like putting all those things on the tree… I'll report on the outcome when I go for the Open House on Sunday afternoon.

this is what the Officer said:

Monday, December 2, 2013
When we went to Public Safety, the nice young man reported that the ring ahd been found in a box/bin full of stuff that was obviously not the property of the homeowner. I didn't get the part about why the detectives were searching this person's home, but there was a bin full of cameras and camcorders, jewelry, a sack full of collectible coins from other nations, as well as miscellaneous items the homeowner could not explain. Sort of like that line in the Oh Brother movie, where the paper money is blowing out the window.....

And that smart young officer also said that the alleged individual had reportedly ratted out the alleged owner, who had given the detectives the names of several pawn shops that might have property that had been taken as a result of other doors being kicked in. And the detectives would be checking the pawn shops for items that could be readily identified, like those commerative watches that can not be replaced. Maybe, possibly, perhaps: some of the other things that were burgled away from us will come back home....which will cause him to repay the funds (competely inadequate for replacment) that he received from the insurance claim on the homeowners policy.

Once again: my story/warning is to let everyone who will listen/read know that: deadbolts do not insure safety. The deadbolt will/might hold, but the door frame will most definitely Not. Maybe if you had half-a-dozen dead bolts spaced along the length of the door from top to bottom, like you see in the movies when people are living in tiny one room apartments in The City with multiple locks/defenses. But otherwise: I'm encouraging some type 'plan B' to insure safety.

With us: crazily we have a reinforced metal door, and a  reinforced door frame. But a window adjacent to the door - which sort of makes all that effort and expense moot. Plus the other two doors that a person would use to gain entry into our house: glass in both!  I geuss you could say: asking for trouble? Except that now that we do not have anything of value, we have a most excellent security/alarm system - and it's not four-legged.

the midnight call...

I am often awakened by my phone ringing, or more likely vibrating - startling me from a sound sleep. It's usually the school district computer system looking for replacement teachers at 6:03 a.m. When my brain is rarely alert enough to know whether I'm actually 'avaliable' for a substitute teaching job or not.

It startled me awake this morning around 12:15 a.m.this morning. Due to the craziness of waking up at 3:30 on saturday night/Sunday morning (when I tried to sneak out the door in TN to drive back to Columbus to go to work), I went bed 'way to early, and was asleep by 9:00 p.m.

And since, as you know: either from experience or being told that 'old people don't sleep good', if I have three hours of blissful uninterrupted sleep, I think that's a Good Night. I could have been ready to get up and start my day at shortly after midnight. (I'm becoming my Mother....)

The phone call was from the police. The guy who called, said he was office something-or-other and he wanted to come by the house to confirm ownership of an item that he thought was on the list of the missing contents when we were burgled in November. I guess they keep calling my phone because it was the one that initally called 911, so therefore I am the contact person.

I shrewedly went to wake up the homeowner, to tell him the police guy was coming to talk to him. And turned on the outside lights, then went back to bed. I missed that whole thing. But was awakened this morning to hear that I needed to go along to Public Safety and meet the person who had come by in the wee hours. So we could regain posession of one of the missing items: the irreplaceable championship ring from the best year ever for the local hockey team.


Is close to what my mileage was when I got back to Columbus from a flying-low trip to Chattanooga. Drove up on Friday afternoon, after being at work most of the day. Then when I walked out of the store, and saw a beautiful, bright, cloudless sky, I decided I would rather get in the road and go up in the afternoon, to enjoy that crystal clear blue and bright sunshine - as opposed to getting up around 4 a.m. on Saturday to make the drive.

I went to spend the day just hanging out, running around in the city (where everything you want/need is on the opposite side of town from where-ever you are at any given time). AND: to go to the Vince Gill benefit concert on Saturday night. He donates his time to anually for a fundraiser for the Children's Advocacy Center. A support program that serves youth that have been abused/neglected. I've wondered if the sponsors listed in the program provide the rental costs for the venue, or funds to pay the other musicians and stage hands. It's hard to believe that the musicians all donate their time and talents - though I am sure the star attraction has the resources to pay all the expenses involved, including a tour bus to bring in his crew from Nashville.

I commented as we were leaving that it understandably takes many years of being in the music business to be able to stand on the stage for ninety minutes and play the 'best of', and still not have time for all the tunes we'd like to hear. Plus he shared some tales about his life, travels, backstories about inspiration of some of the songs they performed. The venue was not a huge building with poor acoustics, but designed as a concert hal., Not a facility that required pounding volume blasted through monstrous speakers - something that makes me decide I'd rather miss the music I like, rather than endure the blasting sound. Excellent acoustics, and great music that added up to a really enjoyable evening.

everybody has a funny story to tell...

Thursday, November 28, 2013
I am pretty sure nearly everyone has an amusing tale of some turkey-related mishap. And most have gotten enough distance from their personal, horribly embarrassing, dramatically mortifying story to be willing to let others laugh at a sad, unfortunate, accident prone Traumatized Turkey. You have likely heard mine in the past. But since this is my legacy, the blog that lives on in perpetuity, I might as well tell it one more time to swirl around in the cosmos.

It was my first Thanksgiving as a married person (I suspect most of the stories start out this way?). I knew there were 'parts' that had been stowed away inside the body cavity. Even though this was before the era of all the naked, eviscerated birds having the cooking instructions printed on the wrapper. I'd seen enough parts simmering in a pot on the stove to know that you are supposed to remove the innards before you put the bird in the oven. So I removed  the outer wrapping, put the bird in the pan, and proceeded to peer down in that hole to get the extras out before baking. There was nothing in there. I looked in the other end: nothing. I even got out the flashlight to get a better view: nothing. No package of anything that looked extraneous. I greased her up, salted and peppered, and put her in to bake.Assuming that this was the one that slipped through on the production line and did not get the little surprise packet inserted back inside.

Needless to say, when we ate enough to get down to the point that we could actually see through into the cavity: there was that well toasted little paper sack with those missing body parts. All dried out and crispy. Ready for the trash.

The one I just put in the oven about an hour ago: I had to soak in the sink, and let the water run through a while to get those things out. I'd bought when I worked on Sunday, and put in the fridge to thaw. But when I got her out, and opened the package, there were still ice crystals, so she got a good soaking. Needless to say: I am Not putting my hand down in there, so I got the tongs to extricate the paper bag with the spare parts. That were frozen in place, which explains why she needed a bath after sitting in the fridge for three days. She's in the oven now.

Happy Thanksgiving to all the people who will be elsewhere, enjoying Turkey Day with family and friends.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013
That's how many miles I put on  my trusty little Toyo. today when I drove to Tally and back. You will be amazed, surprised and confounded to discover that I did not get up before daylight to get on the road. Of course, I could have, as I was awake and lying in bed pondering... But I did not get up and into action until nearly 6.

I went to visit friends who live in Ocala, and were up to spend the holiday with family members in west FL. Due to making several stops, it took a bit longer than anticipated to get there, plus I did not precisely know where I was going. (I will be needing some remediation with the GPS, please.) I did Mapquest it, and wrote that down, and did not have any problem finding my destination.

We had a good visit, 'interesting' lunch at a Greek restaurant near the university (fried pita bread strips?), and a stroll through Tallahassee Nurseries. Though it was windy and chilly, the plant nursery still lots of things blooming, as well as a bustling Christmas tree/greenery/wreath business going on. Then stop to get a box of tasty cupcakes for dessert. The kid and the dogs took a nap, and we inspected the cupcakes at close range, sat and talked more, before I had to get up to head north.

Arriving in the dark. And going out to drag in a few plants I know would not survive overnight. I've done some prep. for lunch for tomorrow: a casserole, some dicing.Sadly,  knowing me - I will be awake verrrry early, and making the cornbread for the dressing, then putting the bird in the oven.

speaking of 'fortunately'....

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Or better said: 'fortuitious'. Did you see me? When I was doing the happy dance this morning early, before I went to work? After I got myself showered, clothed, and face properly applied, I decided to put some different ear-rings in. And when I looked in that little plastic box that has been sitting on the shelf in the bathroom, innocuous, in plain view, for months: I found those rings I thought had been part of the heist.

I definitely did the happy dance. P. was apparently not nearly as pleased as I was - but he's pretty well past doing any dancing for any reason, so we should not have expected him to be twirling around with delight.When I got  home after work, he said that he had looked at the list of things we wrote, items we believed were missing, to see if he might need to repay the insurance company. Of Course Not. The total of what was burgled is still much more than the coverage we had for 'jewelry and furs', so the idea of refunding part of what we got never occurred to me!

I had actually already gotten over it - the loss of 'stuff', but I am now happy that the prodigal jewelry has returned. Do not plan to have a party to celebrate, and do plan to give it away, so the people who are the recipients will have to hide it or do the worrying, increase their premiums to cover potential B&E guys. The only thing I was even considering being sad about was my mom's engagement and wedding rings - which would be the only thing that was taken of mine I could possibly identify, had it turned up at the pawn shop.  But I am pleased to report - the things I thought were completely gone never actually left home!


Monday, November 25, 2013
It was completely unintentional that I find a day on my calendar that has nothing written on it. A rarity indeed. I had tried to keep the first of this week open, expecting/hoping to be on the schedule at Publix, due to upcoming grocery buying/eating holiday. I had a recent week when I was on the schedule to work four hours... and ended up with a great big whopping seven due to Halloween falling the middle of that week. And my going to the store in my clown costume for trick or treat in'.

I know Publix at a corporate level has taken great pride in the fact that over the years, in a crisis economy, they have never had to have what they term 'a reduction in force'. Meaning company has not let people go due to lack of work, no 'layoffs'. You may remember when I was reduced to working four hours a month? That kind of scheduling would be discouraging to anyone who had to be self-supporting, to say nothing of providing for a family. So -yes- they can say they have never let anyone go. But it is obvious that managers can quit putting people on the work schedule, and associates soon realize they are hungry, with no income. That's when reality kicks in...

Fortunately, I can sit here and count my blessings: a warm, dry house to live in, comfy beds and a refrigerator that keeps food edible - due to paying the utility bill. And a pantry full of things to eat. I don't have work today that will bring in income, but I am sure I can keep myself busy puttering around in my warm, dry house, the one with lots of good things to eat. I'm not yet to the point that I can say with any certainty that this house is 'safe', and will likely not ever be 100% on that again, no matter where I live. But I am continually thankful that no one was at home when the door was kicked in, and the damage has been repaired as well as paid for. (Though we did not have enough insurance coverage for the stolen items... which was a big surprise - after all this time with a guy who was in the insurance business for forty years, which strikes me as odd, unlikely, and somewhat disconcerting.)

mom's majik mox...

 Latest installment of Mom's Majik Mox, sent to Chattanooga to help out at the house where people work crazy hours, but like to sit down to an occasional (rare) meal together. I've sent a couple already, and making plans for the next one soon. (It's really not a 'mox', but that just sounded more alliterative than 'box'.)

I was at a friend's house and noticing a cookbook that seemed to be the answer to the working woman's  multi-tasking dilemma: too much to do in too little time. I borrowed the book 'indefinitely', and brought it home, to pick it up and page through it several times. I've found several things that look: a) easy and b) tasty. So I copied several recipes, and made a list to shop for ingredients - the 'dry goods' part that store/ship well.

The latest installment of 'mom's majik mox' was a sort of casserole, what my sister in law would call a 'group dish'. I sent the canned goods, and the box of cornbread, with instructions for assembly. I also included an actual 8 x 8 pan that was a layer cake pan of my mom's. I'd read a really sweet story in a magazine recently written by someone who had come to treasure her mom's pan, how the history of the container meant as much as all the good things she had eaten out of it over the years. So along with the ingredients, there was also a pan in the box, if she wants to get sentimental about i. It's the one that held the batter for dozens of layer cakes for dozens of birthdays over many years, when Choppy was baking cakes for family celebrations.

Chili-Cornbread Pie

Cooking spray
1 Medium onion, diced
1 (15 oz) can low fat chili beef soup
1 (11 oz) can Mexican style corn, drained
1 cup (4 oz) shredded reduced fat Mexican- blend cheeze
1 (6 oz) package butter milk cornbread mix
2/3 cup water or milk

Preheat oven to 450.
Cook onion in a skillet until tender.Add soupt and corn, stirring well just until heated thoroughly. Spoon into coated 8 inch square baking dish. Sprinkle cheese over mixture. Combine cornbread mix with liquid, stirring until smooth. Pour batter over hot mixture. Bake at 450 for 18 t0 20 min, until golden. Serves 6.
No reason you could not use good tasty, fat free homemade chili if you've made a pot and have leftovers, that would be 'way better than that which comes out of a can. I think the only canned I could find on the soup aisle was 18 or 19 oz, so I'd just guess at two cups, then add the other stuff.

while we are in this mode...

Friday, November 22, 2013
...of being thankful, I've thought of something else we should all be grateful about. It occurs in all our lives, and we never give it a thought. You use it many times every day, and the idea of not having it at your fingertips (literally) rarely crosses anyone's mind.

I recently read - in several hours, as it is a very small book- Bill Bryson's "Africa Diary". He has a marvelous sense of humor, can find amusement in things that are not even remotely funny, and writes about things that happen in his life. Stuff we can all relate to - mishaps and incidents of every day living that happen, when you might as well laugh as cry. I've read a couple of other books of his, and recently requested the  newest one from the library.

The "African Diary" is several years old, but new to me. He was invited to go on a trip by the CARE organization, that provides resources for struggling economies. I suspect that anyone who actually sees the poverty in third world countries is changed forever, always aware of the bounty that is part and parcel of our American lifestyle. The story that struck me was one about putting a water pump in a remote village. The women would, before the pump, have to walk miles each day to a river, that was their only source of water for drinking and cooking. Not always safe to drink, but their only option. Getting up before dawn to go for the day's supply before they would start their chores. Such a distance they had to walk, that they could only carry one five gallon jerry can per trip. (A gallon weighs about eight pounds - so that's at least thirty-five pounds to haul for miles.)

When the pumps were installed in wells that were dug in other places, the villagers were thankful, but when it broke down, they just went back to trekking to the water source every day. Did not have a sense of ownership, and were not interested in trying to repair a piece of equipment that they did not 'own'. So CARE decided they had to develop some plan that would have the people in the village feel a vested interest in the well/pump. If the community was to be the 'owner' of the pump, the people who lived there would be willing to do the maintenance, and repair when needed. You guessed it: they formed a committee! And charge a small fee (probably pennies in an economy that is so far below the US 'poverty level' it is invisible), and use the funds to pay for parts when needed. The community feels a sense of power over their circumstances, as well as a sense of ownership and therefore a desire to keep the pump in good working order. Even so, I imagine a bit of bickering over who was there first...

So: thankful for fresh water, thankful for electricity, thankful for detergent, thankful for washers and dryers. And more clothes than I really need, but thankful for the ability to put them in the washer, dryer, and hang them up in the closet, clean and ready to wear. Plus, even though, when the reporter called about the burglarizing, I knew it was all just 'stuff', and could be immediately thankful no one was hurt.

not necessairily....

Thursday, November 21, 2013
...an advance/early pre-Thanksgiving bout of thankfulness, but something I'd never had reason to consider before. I had a friend on my mind in recent days, someone I had not seen or talked with in several  months. We would occasionally meet for lunch, and she is one of those people I occasionally send a 'thinking of you' card when to, or travel and buy postcards to send to people back on the 'homefront'. So I called her this afternoon.

She was so sad, apparently depressed for some time, she could hardly talk. An adult daughter with lots of problems, the stuff we now pile into the catchall phrase of 'issues'. I know that this daughter, who is older than my two, has been teaching in the public schools (enough crazy-making for anyone!) and struggling with some personal/relationship problems. But from what I could gather through the sobs, my friend has been trying to help the daughter through some emotional crisis. Which has apparently caused the friend, a bit older than me, to fall into the pit along with her adult child.

So: thanks to and for daughters. Thanks for being so adult. So capable. So all-round able. So responsible (probably more so than I was at your age!) Such functioning adults. So not into drugs or other methods of altering your awareness/mood. Thanks for becoming remarkably sweet, caring, compassionate, honest, good people. I am so thankful for who you have become. Amazing people.

After I got off the phone with the heartbroken friend, I went straight to my little Book of Blessings. I think I have mentioned previously, a little pocket sized book, wherein I try to remember to make a note every day of something that I am thankful for. After this morning's entry, where I had written:
                      Home - warm, dry, hopefully safe,
and added:     Sensible, level-headed, healthy, drug-free daughters.

3 shoe boxes...

My history of filling and donating shoe boxes goes back twenty years or more. When daughters were small and still of the age to be enamored with trinkets that were 'made in Japan', it was a delight to purchase enough surprises to fill a box. We saved the biggest shoe boxes we could find, and would wrap them with colorful Christmas print paper. Make carefully considered purchases at the Just-a-Buck store, and pack the boxes full of goodies. Then take them to the pick up point for the Samaritan's Purse Christmas Child Shoebox program.

At one point, in talking to my brother several years ago, I heard that he and a group from his church would go to Charlotte, NC and spend a day in a (very cold) warehouse near the airport. Where they would stand next to a conveyor belt: checking in boxes, looking for contraband like toy guns or liquids that were not approved, adding pertinent reading material. Then, like piecing together a jig-saw puzzle, packing all those different sized boxes in cargo containers. Recently one of the daughters said that the year she was in India in late January, she saw kids receiving gifts in the form of Samaritan's Purse boxes, so I guess 'Christmas Child' knows no season, as long as there in an opportunity to spread the Word.

I continue to shop for little girl-y stuff, and fill three boxes every year. Someone suggested using plastic shoe boxes, with lids, that the recipient can keep and use to store treasures in. I took my boxes to the drop off last night.  Packed  to the gills with: crayons, coloring book, word-search book, educational card games, hard candy, sox, hairbrush, things that would amuse/entertain little pre-school girls. But not to benefit the Franklin Graham ministry.

This year the boxes will go to native American children through a ministry that is based in Donalsonville GA. A friend from church has a friend in southwest GA who operates a program that serves the Navajo nation.  I understand that the central collection point is Albany, GA. A man who is a retired long-haul truck drive will take a semi-truck load of boxes to Shiprock, AZ in early December, for the mission there to distribute to children in the Four Corners area.

To the three cute little dark haired, bright-eyed Native American girls, who get my boxes: Merry Christmas!

funny balloon story...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013
A customer came in the store this morning, and asked if I could fill fifty latex balloons for him to pick up later in the day. Iwas afraid the tank would run out of helium before I could get to 50, but fortunately there was enough 'lighter than air' in the tank to complete the order.I bagged them up in trash bags, 7 in each one, and had seven bags, plus one extra clipped onto one of the bags. I did not hang around to see the likely disaster when he tried to get the balloons in his vehicle.

But I did tell him about the time daughters had a sixteenth birthday. By that time, their dad had given them a car to 'share' (you can imagine how well that didn't work! Teenaged sisters sharing? Ha!) When they turned sixteen, I went out to the parking lot of the school with a spare key. And dozens of inflated balloons I'd blown up earlier, tied off, and put in trash bags to smuggle out to the car. And filled the car with at least fifty - maybe a hundred- balloons. As  many as I had air/energy to inflate. And left a long pin taped onto the window of the car.

It was hilarious, when the birthday girl walked out of the school building at three o'clock and could not get in the vehicle for all the dozens and dozens of colored balloons. So naturally when the door was opened, balloons came cascading out. How amusing!