Monday, July 17, 2017

Has It Really Been Three Months?

I meant to write a blog post long before now.  I knew it had been a while, but I didn’t realize it had been over three months until I looked at the date on my last post.  Obviously I dropped out of the April A to Z Challenge. And then didn’t post for three months.  Time flies, right?

Life got a little busy, between pets, work, home, and yard stuff.  I think our biggest news is that we had to say goodbye to our cat Joey in May.  We had been battling various health issues with him for a while, and we had said we would keep on as long as he had a good quality of life.

He started losing weight, and stopped responding well to the medications he was on.  Our vet did a few non-invasive tests to confirm her suspicions of an intestinal tumor, and once that was confirmed we knew it was time to let him go.  Our vet was wonderful about helping us make the decision.

Joey was always a people cat.  He loved people, and other than demanding attention was very laid back.  Almost everyone who has ever been to our house has spent hours holding Joey.  He liked (and often demanded by tripping or clawing you) to be held like a baby.  He was very popular at the vet’s office because of his personality.

Once we talked to the vet about the results of Joey’s tests and made the decision to let him go peacefully rather than putting him through anything else, all of the vet techs came in to tell him bye, and what a good, sweet boy he had always been.  Even the vet cried when it was over, and she came to take him away.  She kept apologizing for crying, and saying she wasn’t being very professional.  Honestly, it made us love her even more.  When your vet cries with you over losing your cat, you know they’re invested in their care, and have done everything possible for them.

We’re finding our new normal now that we’re down to just three cats, and the two dogs.  We’ve decided to wait a little while before we add another fur kid to our family.  We aren’t actively looking to foster or adopt at the moment.  We lost three pets last year, one this year, and have been dealing with at least one pet having extensive (and expensive!) medical issues for a few years now.  For the moment, everyone is reasonably healthy.  We’ve decided to take some time to savor that.

We don’t have a certain time frame in mind as to when we’ll start looking to add another furry family member, but I know it will happen.  Knowing us, it will happen sooner rather than later, but we both think we need the break right now.

Other than that we’ve just been keeping busy with ordinary day to day things.  The garden is doing reasonably well this year.  We’ve almost completely finished reinforcing the fence, and Duke has been staying in the yard.

So what about you?  How have the last three months been?  Anything fun or exciting going on this summer?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Grandparents

Jeanie, at The Marmelade Gypsy recently became a new grandparent, and wrote a nice post on being a grandparent.  It made me think of my grandparents, and the different types of grandparents there are. So I decided that my G post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge would be Grandparents.

I had the good fortune to start off with more than the usual number of grandparents.  My mom’s parents were divorced and both remarried.  I was also the first grandchild on both sides of the family. That’s kind of like winning the lottery when it comes to being spoiled by grandparents.  They were all different, and I had a very different relationship with each of them.

My mom’s dad and step-mom died in a car accident when I was six, so I have only early childhood memories of them.  For them, being grandparents was a calling, an occupation, and a hobby all rolled into one.  He had missed out on most of my mom’s childhood due to the divorce, and was determined to be there for everything when my sister and I came along.  She adored children, but was never able to have her own, so my mom, and then later my sister and I presented her chance.

They were the kind of grandparents who snuck us cookies after bedtime, and let us do pretty much whatever we wanted.  They played house, dolls, dress-up, pretty much anything we wanted, with us.

They did things like let me drink juice out of a coffee mug and stir it with a spoon because I loved the sound it made.  Even today, there’s something soothing to me about the sound of a spoon clinking against a mug.

They packed a lot of grandparenting into six years.  I honestly don’t know if I would have such vivid memories of them otherwise.

My mom’s mom, Granny, embraced grandparenting with equal fervor.

My mom has always hated gum, and would never allow us to have it when we were kids, so Granny kept us well supplied with gum.  She would send us huge boxes of gum, with every flavor imaginable.  Mom would make us go outside to chew it, but that was fine with us.

Granny wrote the best letters, and she wrote often.  I loved writing letters as a child, and wrote them on a near daily basis for a while.  She always wrote me back.

She loved shopping, and could always sense a good sale.  She taught me how to bargain shop, and the wisdom of stocking up on things when they’re on sale.

She made the best pumpkin pie.  I have her handwritten recipe for it, and it was her contribution to our wedding cookbook.

My dad’s parents, known as Mama Kitty and Dad Dog, lived a little further way, so we didn’t see them as much when we were kids, but they still whole-heartedly embraced being grandparents.

They came to stay with my sister and me during our other grandparents’ funeral.  My parents made the decision for us not to go, and I don’t think there was anyone else we would have willingly stayed with.

He taught me how to ride my bike.  It didn’t go well at all when my parents tried, but Dad Dog’s method was successful.  He went with me for show and tell when I was in kindergarten (no one else had a Dad Dog, so he was a big hit).

He took me out driving when I had my learner’s permit and taught me not to be so terrified of getting in an accident.

Mama Kitty has always been more of a homebody, so she was largely the one who taught me how to cook, and taught me nearly everything I know about baking.  We always cooked and baked together.  Lasagna, shrimp scampi, biscuits and gravy, cake.  Whatever it was, it was always delicious.

She’s the avid reader in the family, and passed on a love of reading and books.  She’s the person who convinced me that the worn, well-read books are the best when you’re at book sales or thrift stores, because they’re clearly the ones people have read and loved.

I think all of my grandparents helped shape the person (the good and the bad parts) that I am today.  I learned different things from all of them, and was able to have a unique relationship with each of them.  I realize that I was very fortunate to have that.

So what about you?  What were/are your grandparents like?  If you’re a grandparent, what are you like?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Facebook - The Status That’s Becoming More and More Tempting to Post

Let me start off by admitting that I’m kind of addicted to Facebook.  I spend much more time on it than I should.  I post tons of pictures of the fur kids, the garden when things are blooming, and some food pictures.  It’s a great way to keep up with people I don’t see regularly.  And I’m a sucker for cat videos.

It seems like periodically, though, there’s a rash of people using Facebook as a way to sell (or harass you to buy) whatever home based or direct sales product they’ re selling at the moment.  Some of them border on stalker behavior trying to get you to try their product, buy their product, or have a “party” to sell their product to your friends.  Lately, the trend seems to be to add you to a group or an event about it.  It fills up your news feed, and you constantly get notifications about it.  It’s annoying.

I first had the idea for this a few months ago when the “Make Facebook Fun Again” photo went around in response to people’s behavior on Facebook concerning politics and other controversial topics.  I liked it.  I thought it was a fairly lighthearted way to make a very valid point.

I have no artistic abilities, so I just wrote something out with markers.  I haven’t posted it on my Facebook page, but it’s becoming more and more tempting.  Unfortunately, everything here has been something that has been an ongoing issue.

The leggings: For some reason, I took an instant and intense dislike to these.  They remind me of the stirrup pants craze of the late 80s/early 90s.  As a child, I took an instant and intense dislike to those.  As a kid I was more of a jeans and button down kind of girl.  Today I’m more of a Worthington pants and top or sweater for work, and jeans and t-shirt or sweater for time off kind of person.  Leggings just don’t do it for me.

The habit with them seems to be for people to add you to groups and events for them.  You then get tons of notifications and reminders.  Sometimes there’s a blurb about why the person selling them needs your support.  I just don’t think that’s appropriate.  If you’re trying to sell me something, at least focus on why I need the product, not on why you need the money from selling me the product.

The miracle weight loss programs: This has probably been the most egregious one.  The worst person by far, is a former co-worker, who started messaging me every single time I got on Faceook about trying it.  EVERY.  SINGLE.  TIME.  Early in the morning, late at night, it didn’t matter.  Every time I logged into Facebook, she was there on Chat, telling me how her program would transform my life, make me skinny, and make me a millionaire so I could quit my day job.
I finally told her that I didn’t try weight loss products that are soy based, or that have any soy at all, so if hers did, I couldn’t try them.  Most of them do, so I thought that would get her to leave me alone.  I have to avoid soy for medical reasons.  I have benign tumors that are estrogen fed.  Because soy mimics estrogen, I have to avoid it.  It can cause the tumors to grow, which increases the chances of them rupturing and causing internal bleeding.  To put it bluntly, and dramatically, consuming large quantities of soy could actually kill me.

You might think that would be enough to make someone back off, but you would be wrong.  She went on to tell me how their soy is different.  Okay, sure.  I’ll ignore what medical professionals have told me because you (with no medical training) think I should try this program.  I don’t think so.  I turned off Chat and stopped reading her messages.  She then added me to a group detailing people’s success stories.  It took me a while to figure out why every time I logged into Facebook I was inundated with pictures of half naked strangers.   I finally figured it out, removed myself from the group, and chose the option to prevent anyone from adding me back in.

The cosmetics and skin care: This seems to be the latest trend where the people selling them send you friend requests and messages because you’re friends with a friend of theirs, and they just know you’ll love what they’re selling.  Really?  You know my skin type and cosmetics preferences just based on my being friends with someone?  Do you also happen to know the winning lottery numbers in the next drawing?

The other trick is that they add you to groups to teach you how to apply cosmetics, take care of your skin, etc, once again filling up your news feed and sending you tons of notifications.  No thanks.  I’m 35.  I’ve been wearing makeup since I was 14.  I’ve figured out how to apply it over the two decades I’ve worn it.

The accessories: In my experience these are usually the most blatant appeals for money.  The sales pitches usually come with appeals along the lines of “I just need to sell X number of dollars worth per month to be a stay at home mom”.  Again, if you’re selling a product at least focus on why the potential buyer needs it rather than why you need to sell it.

I’m sorry, but I’m just not going to part with my hard-earned money for overpriced handbags, hair clips, nail polish, whatever the product of the moment is just because you want me to.  That’s not why I get up and go to work every morning.

Like I said, I haven’t posted this on my Facebook page, but it becomes more and more tempting every day.  I’m just not sure it would actually make a difference with some people.

So what about you?  Are you inundated with people trying to sell you things on Facebook?  Have you found a good way to convince people you’re not buying?

I realize this post was a little bit of a rant, and I promise that tomorrow’s post will be much more positive.  We all need a good rant every now and then, though.  So feel free to rant away in the comments.  I’m honestly kind of hoping I’m not the only one.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Evacuations

Lots of time sitting on I-26
Evacuations have never really been something I thought much about.  Sure, we have fire drills and the occasional bomb threat at work, and everyone has to leave the building.  And I was born in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where there are sometimes mandatory evacuations for hurricanes, but we moved when I was four.  I have very vague memories of leaving once.  All I remember is that we went and stayed in a motel because of a storm.  I’m assuming we went inland because of a hurricane.

I grew up in the upstate of South Carolina, and now live in western North Carolina, so evacuations have never really been a part of my life.  Until last year.

Our vacation to Folly Beach last year coincided with Hurricane Matthew’s imminent arrival on the South Carolina coast.  We left a few hours ahead of the mandatory evacuation.  We found out on Tuesday evening that the mandatory evacuation would start late Wednesday afternoon, so made the decision to leave Wednesday morning.  We got in touch with the owner of the house, did what needed to be done to close the house up, packed up our things, and left for home.

The drive home took more than twice as long as it normally does.  Our average speed on the interstate was about 35 miles per hour.  We saw the National Guard convoys coming in, as well as the school buses from the upstate coming to bus people out.  We saw the east-bound (heading toward the coast) interstate being shut down so traffic could be reversed.

An example of how long it took to get anywhere
 It was bizarre to see all of that, but we talked about the fact that we were fortunate enough to be heading toward home. We had to end a vacation early.  We weren’t leaving behind our home and most of our possessions.  We didn’t have to wonder if our house would still be standing in a day or two. We counted ourselves fortunate that our experience with an evacuation was on vacation.

Then November came, and large parts of western North Carolina and the upstate of South Carolina burned for nearly the entire month.  We had several days of really bad smoke.  There was a mandatory evacuation for part of the county we live in.  We never had to leave our home, but it definitely put us in the frame of mind to plan, at least a little, for what we would do in the event of a mandatory evacuation.

Obviously, sometimes there’s no warning.  People simply have to leave as quickly as possible.  For the most part, with the fires near us, it seemed like people had at least a few hours, sometimes a day or two, before having to leave.  It made us wonder.  What do you take with you?  What do you choose to save when you have to leave your home, not knowing if it will be there when you get to come back?

Even Duke was ready to get home.
People and pets are obvious.  We did go out and buy another cat carrier.  We normally don’t take all of the cats anywhere at once, so have never had need for so many carriers.  When evacuation became a real possibility we thought it would be best to have as many carriers as we do cats.  Of course there’s medication for people and pets.  Clothing.  Important papers.  We decided that pictures wouldn’t make the list since all of ours are saved digitally, but both of our laptops would.  The mat that everyone signed (instead of a guest book) at our wedding.  A few Christmas ornaments that are particularly meaningful.  A few random things with a lot of sentimental value.  Beyond that, there really wouldn’t be much room in the cars.  

So what about you?  Have you ever had to leave your home as part of an evacuation?  What did/would you take with you in the event of an evacuation?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Duke-Proofing The Fence

Duke is our three legged dog.  He came to us as a foster dog; heart worm positive, and with a bum leg.  I think everyone knew we would be adopting him, but we did foster him for a while before officially adopting him.

Today Duke is heart worm negative, and gets around quite well on his three legs.  Sometimes he gets around almost too well.

Duke has learned how to bust out of the fence in the back yard. (For those of you who are new, Duke isn’t an outside dog.  We have a fenced in backyard, and he goes out to potty, play, and steal vegetables from the garden every chance he gets.  We take him on walks.  He goes to work with me sometimes.  We take him on car rides, to the park, to the pet store for treats, etc.) We’ve discovered that he doesn’t go over the fence, but instead destroys the bottom of it, and goes under the fence.

We’ve been working on ways to Duke-proof the fence, and finally found some decorative fencing at Lowe’s that isn’t as expensive as the first kind we tried, and seems to be strong enough to keep Duke in the fence.

Basically, we just have to create some kind of barrier between Duke and the bottom of the fence. The decorative fencing seems to do that.  We’ve also relocated one of our raised beds for the garden to help reinforce the back corner of the fence.

We still have a long way to go (the yard always seems so much bigger whenever there’s a project going on), but we at least seem to have found a way to Duke-proof the fence.

So what about you?  Have you ever had to reinforce a fence to keep your dog in?  Does your yard always seem bigger when you have a project going on?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Chicken & Black Bean Tacos

Tacos are one of the go to foods in our house.  We both love them, they’re relatively inexpensive, we can each customize them to our liking (I’m all about the toppings, while Nick is more of a purist), and they’re kind of a no-brainer to make most of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I like trying new recipes, and I definitely enjoy challenging myself in the kitchen.  Sometimes, though, between work schedules that are sometimes opposite, pets who seem to go to the vet a lot, and all of the random things that come up in life, I just want something easy.  Or better yet, something that’s easy, and pretty much ready to eat when we get home.  These chicken and black bean tacos fit the bill.

You’ll need two separate slow cookers for this recipe.  It may seem a bit odd to own two, but I promise it’s worth it.  You just can’t beat the convenience of having dinner cooked when you come home.  If you’re busy, or deal with conflicting schedules, it can make the difference between a home cooked meal and fast food.  We bought our second small Crock Pot about seven years ago, and it has been well worth the cabinet space.

Any color bell pepper is great in this.  I like to use one color in the beans, and a different color in the chicken.

The chicken and black beans freeze and re-heat well, so depending on how many people you’re cooking for, you can easily freeze part of this and have a night of not having to cook later on. They’re also great as nachos.  


Chicken & Black Bean Tacos:

Black Beans:
1 bag (16 oz.) black beans, rinsed
1 onion, very finely diced
1 bell pepper, very finely diced
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1/3 to ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
4 ½ cups water

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker; stir; cover, and cook on Low for 6 – 7 hours.


Chicken:
2 - 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 package taco seasoning
1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp pepper
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 ½ cups water

Place chicken breasts in slow cooker; place onion and pepper over chicken. Add taco seasoning and spices; add water, and stir together. Cover and cook on Low for 5 – 6 hours. Shred with fork and stir together in sauce.

Spoon chicken and beans into taco shells; top as desired with lettuce, cheese, onion, avocado, etc.

Enjoy!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Banana Pound Cake

I first made this banana pound cake with my paternal grandmother.  I don’t remember the first time we made it, but we made it together for years.  I always assumed it was her recipe.  I made it a few years ago when my aunt and uncle came for dinner, and learned from my aunt that it’s actually her grandmother’s, my great grandmother’s (she of the sweet tea fame, so you know it’s good) recipe.  Apparently she was quite the baker.  I don’t remember any baked goods from her.  Her arthritis was pretty bad by the time I was a small child, so she didn’t do much cooking or baking.  If this cake is anything to go by, I really missed out!

This cake is incredibly delicious!  It has become a favorite among the security officers at work, and is one of the most requested cakes when I bake for people at Christmas.  My dad’s “subtle” way of asking for it is to inform me of how many sticks of butter they have when I visit them, or to count the sticks of butter we have when he visits us.

It’s not usually an issue because everyone loves this cake so much, but it doesn’t keep very well.  It only lasts for two or three days.  I live in the south, with a lot of humidity, so you may be able to store it for a day or two more if you live in a dryer climate. It’s a really moist cake, so it tends to get moldy really fast, especially if you slice it and store it in a plastic container.  Like I said, it usually gets eaten long before it has a chance to go bad, but it does limit the ability to make it ahead of time for an event.

Banana Pound Cake:

3 sticks (1.5 cups) butter (Not margarine, real butter!)
Additional butter for greasing the pan
2 cups sugar
Additional sugar for coating the pan
4 large eggs
2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (usually somewhere between 3 and 6 bananas, depending on the size)
1/4 cup & 2 Tbsp buttermilk
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
½ cup chopped pecans

Generously butter and sugar a bundt pan. You want every little crevice well coated in butter, or the cake isn’t going to come out of the pan nicely.

Beat butter at medium speed w/ electric mixer, or in a standing mixer, 2 minutes, or until creamy.
Gradually add sugar, beating 5 - 7 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until yellow disappears.

Combine mashed banana, buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl.  Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Add alternately to butter mixture; starting with flour mixture, and ending with buttermilk mixture. Mix at low speed after each addition, just until blended.

Stir in pecans.

Spoon batter into buttered and sugared bundt pan.  Bake at 325° for 1.5 hours, or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool pan on wire rack for 15 minutes, remove cake from pan, and cool completely on wire wrack.

Enjoy!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Azaleas

The azaleas are blooming!  Now that the azaleas are in bloom it’s stating to look like Spring is really here.  Spring is my favorite season, so it makes me especially happy when things start blooming.

Azaleas thrive in the southeast, so we have a lot of them in our yard, and are considering adding more.  I’d like to find a yellow azalea bush.  We have white, and various shades of pink - pale pink all the way to hot pink, but no yellow.  Yet.

I just love azaleas.  I think they’re so pretty, and they’re some of the first really colorful bushes to bloom here.  I love that there are so many different varieties of azaleas, and that the flowers are different sizes and colors.

According to Wikipedia, azaleas were first cultivated outside of greenhouses in Charleston, South Carolina.  Since South Carolina is my home state it makes me especially happy to have so many azalea bushes in bloom.

So what about you?  Do you like azaleas?  Are they in bloom where you are?

Friday, March 31, 2017

March Wrap-Up

Once a month blogging seems to be my theme for this year.  It’s a little hard to believe that tomorrow is April 1st, but time flies, right?

March was pretty busy for us.  Howard and Joey both had some health issues, and several vet appointments.  Howard had an anal gland abscess.  Without going into too many gory details, it involved a trip to the emergency vet clinic, a minor surgery, and about a month of wound care twice a day.  He also had to be separated from the other cats, and use a special cat litter while he healed.  There were numerous vet appointments to check his progress, and for antibiotic shots.  Howard handled all of it really well.  He’s a fairly easygoing cat, so he tolerated everything nicely.  We moved him into our bedroom while he was separated from the other cats, and he seemed to enjoy the one on one time with us.  His vet is incredibly pleased with how well he healed, so we’re very happy about that.  He has an appointment tomorrow for us to talk with the vet about making sure this doesn’t happen again.

Joey’s health issues are a little more complicated.  He’s fourteen now, so he’s a little older.  He has fairly severe asthma, but it’s mostly well controlled with his current medications.  He also has some intestinal issues, and seems to possibly be on his way to developing a heart condition.  The vet made some changes to his medications, and he seems to be responding well to that.  Our vet has said that there are some more medications we can try, but we have to make sure we strike a good balance as far as what the medications treat and the side effects they cause.  For the moment, what we’re doing seems to be working.  Joey seems happy.  He’s eating well and behaving normally.  He also has an appointment with the vet tomorrow.

The weather has been all over the place this month.  We had some snow earlier in the month, and lately we’ve been enjoying temperatures in the 70s.  I’m hoping the warmer weather is here to stay.

We cut the grass for the first time this season on Wednesday, just ahead of the torrential rain that started on Thursday.  Nick did most of the grass cutting, and I started weeding the flower beds.  It’s always exciting to see what made it through the winter, and I love seeing the first blooms.  The little white flowers are from GrandMommy’s yard. She helped me transplant them to our yard in 2013.  I’ve always liked them, but it’s especially nice to see them now.  She’s gone, but her flower legacy lives on.

We’ve also been working on trying to Duke proof the fence.  We fixed all of the places he escaped from in the fall, and there were no more unauthorized outings during the winter, so we thought the problem had been solved.  Nope.  Apparently even Duke has enough sense not to go frolicking around the neighborhood during the cold weather.  Once the weather warmed up, Duke went right back to organizing his own outings.  We think we’ve found a better way to reinforce the fence, so hopefully I’ll be sharing a success story soon.

I’ve decided to participate in the A to Z Challenge this year.  I’ve been going back and forth about whether or not to participate.  I’ve barely blogged at all this year, so A to Z seems like a good way to get back in the habit of more regular blogging.  For those of you not familiar, during the month of April you blog every day except Sunday, starting with A and ending with Z.  The posts just have to have something to do with the letter of the day.  It’s a good way to get into the habit of writing posts regularly, and a fun way to connect with other bloggers.

So what about you?  How did March treat you?  Are you participating in the A to Z Challenge in April?  Any other big plans for April?

Friday, February 24, 2017

How Do You Stay Healthy?

I had grand plans for getting on a much more regular blogging schedule for this year, but obviously that hasn’t happened.

I have managed to catch pretty much every illness that has gone around work.  It seems particularly bad in my building this year, and we seem to be passing a lot of things around.

I started the year off with an upper respiratory infection.  A few weeks ago I had the stomach virus that was making the rounds.  I ended up in the emergency room for IV fluids and medication with that one.  If anyone around you has it, run!  For the past week it has been the flu.  One of my co-workers came down with it last Thursday, and I started coming down with it last Friday.  Nick started coming down with it on Tuesday.

I can’t help wondering what I’m doing wrong.  It kind of feels like my immune system has packed up and gone on vacation.  It certainly doesn’t seem to be doing its job.

I realize I get exposed to a lot of stuff at work.  Nick does, too, and it definitely seems like we bring a lot of illness home to each other.

I wash my hands constantly.  I periodically clean my desk and keyboard at work with alcohol wipes. I wash my hands as soon as I come home from work.  I go for acupuncture and reflexology regularly. We’ve also started using some essential oils.  There’s a blend that’s supposed to promote a healthy immune system, and Nick and I both use it daily.  We don’t have the healthiest diet in the world, but we definitely don’t live off of fast food or junk food.

I can’t help wondering what I’m missing.  Is there some magic potion that everyone else knows about?

So what do you do to stay healthy?  Do you manage to avoid catching every single thing the people around you come down with?  If, so how?!?  I’m hoping you’ll have lots of great suggestions.  I’d love to hear them!

Or, if you seem to get sick all of the time, too, and want to commiserate in the comments, that’s fine too.  Misery loves company, right?

And, to keep this post from becoming a total whine fest, I’m sharing a picture of Howard doing his meerkat pose.  He started doing this back in December, and we’re not sure why.  He just sits like this fairly often now.  He looks adorable doing it.

He reminds me of a meerkat when he does it. His vet says he looks a Buddha statue.  Nick’s mom says he looks like a weeble wobble.  What do you think?

I hope you’re all staying healthy, and I’m looking forward to catching up on everyone’s blogs.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Icy Roads, Books, and Movies

We still haven’t gotten above freezing, and our neighborhood hasn’t been scraped yet, so I’m home again today.  It’s supposed to warm up to the 40s tomorrow, so hopefully everything will be back to normal by then.

Between the cold, snow/ice, and being sick between Christmas and New Year, I’ve watched a lot of movies and TV and done a lot of reading lately.  So I thought I might share some reviews, and ask for recommendations.

Movies:

The Secret Life of Pets - This one was hugely disappointing.  We wanted to see it in the theater, but things kept coming up, so we didn’t get to.  I’m honestly glad we didn’t waste the money to see it in the theater.

From the previews we first saw it looked like it was going to be largely about all of the things the pets do when the people are away.  It looked like it was going to be funny, and really resonate with pet parents.

It turned out to be more of an “epic adventure” that didn’t really make any sense.  I realize cartoons aren’t based in reality (that’s what makes them fun), but it was just too over the top, and really not what the previews we saw lead us to expect.

Zootopia - This one was a wonderful surprise.  I’d seen a preview or two, and thought it looked like it might be good, but I wasn’t super excited about it.  It turned out to be great.  It was hilarious, and the music was excellent.

I think it’s the best cartoon I’ve seen since Inside Out.  I highly recommend both of them if you haven’t already seen them.

Pollyanna - This is one of my absolute most favorite movies.  Ever. My obsession with Pollyanna has been going strong for 30 years, and isn’t going away.  It’s a happy, feel-good movie about looking for the good things in life and the power of friendship.

I watched it as 2017 rang in because I wanted something positive and happy to start the new year off with, and Pollyanna absolutely fit the bill.

TV (Technically Netflix, but TV shows, so I’m counting it as TV):

Criminal Minds - I realize this one has been around for a long time, but I didn’t watch it when it first aired.  I started watching it on Netflix a couple of years ago, and finally finished all of the seasons that are on Netflix.

I like the characters, and I enjoy crime/mystery shows, so I really like this one.  Honestly, I’ve scared the daylights out of myself with it a few times when I’ve binge watched while Nick has been working nights.  It seems like that’s always when the episodes feature women home alone getting murdered.

Even though it creeps me out sometimes I still enjoy it, and am looking forward to whenever the next season is available on Netflix.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries - This series is excellent.  It features Phryne Fisher, a lady detective in 1920's Australia.  The mysteries are intriguing, the characters are great, the dresses she wears are gorgeous, and don’t even get me started on the shoes.  It also has some really great music.

There’s an ongoing mystery through most of the first season, as well as the smaller mysteries that are typically resolved within an episode.  There’s also a little romance.  There are enough storylines to keep it interesting, but not so many that it just feels like they couldn’t decide what kind of series they wanted to make.  I highly recommend this one!

Books:

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley - This is the eighth book in Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series.  Flavia is a young amateur sleuth with a passion for chemistry in a small village in post World War II England.  She comes from a once wealthy family and lives on a declining estate with her two older sisters, father who’s dealing with PTSD from the war, and a couple of household servants.  She spends her days conducting chemical experiments and solving crimes.

I love this series!  Quite honestly, I had no interest in reading it when I first heard about it.  I thought it wasn’t something I’d enjoy.  I’m not a kid person (Flavia is 11 years old in the first book), and I have zero interest in chemistry.  It didn’t seem like my kind of book.

One of my co-workers basically forced me to borrow the first book, The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie, and I had every intention of giving it back without reading it.  She kept bugging me about it, though, so I started reading it on a Sunday night. I had the plan of forcing myself though the first two or three chapters and then returning it on Monday morning, telling her I’d tried, but just couldn’t get into it.  I ended up staying up until 2:00 in the morning reading half of the book.  I’ve been hooked ever since then.

I’ve given all of the books five stars, and the most recent one has lived up to the standard set in the rest of the series.  I do recommend reading them in order.  There are a lot of what would be spoilers in Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d if you haven’t read the rest of the series.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard - I first discovered Nancy Pickard in a bargain bin at a used bookstore when I stumbled across The Whole Truth.  It was excellent, and I’m currently reading the third book in that series, The Truth Hurts.

She has also written a few stand alone books, which is what The Scent of Rain and Lightning is.  It’s a mystery that takes place partly in modern day and partly in the 80s.  

It is extremely well written, there are some great plot twists, and she does a great job jumping between times.  It’s smooth, but doesn’t leave you going back a few pages to figure out which time frame you’re currently in.

I highly recommend this one, and I’m planning to read all of her books now.  I’ve loved all three of the ones I’ve read, and am really enjoying the one I’m currently reading.

So what about you?  Have you read or watched anything good lately?  Anything you’d recommend as a must?  Or anything you’d recommend not wasting time on?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Snowy Weekend

It snowed here Friday.  It started Friday afternoon, stopped for a little while, started again on Friday night, and continued into the early hours of Saturday morning.  We ended up with about seven inches in our area.

We’ve been dropping down into the single digits at night, and haven’t gotten above freezing during the day, so nothing has really melted, and there’s a layer of ice under a lot of the snow.

If you’ve been around for a while, you know that I am not a fan of snow, or of cold weather in general.  I’ve been inside all weekend.  I did venture out onto the screened in back porch to take some pictures of Duke playing in the snow.  He absolutely loves it.

Duke seems to be the only one who enjoys the snow.  Chuzoo runs outside just long enough to answer the call of nature, and then immediately wants back inside.  I can’t blame him.  The cats don’t go outside anyway, but they’ve pretty much spent the weekend hunkered down in their beds, cuddled up together.  I think they have the right idea.

So what about you?  Do you have any snow?  Are you enjoying warmer temperatures than we are?