Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Birds are BACK!

One of the  problems with using your garage as a storage shed is that there's nowhere to park your car.  The birds are back and our feeders are suspended over our driveway.  That causes lots of sunflower seed hulls to drop  below.  Some get tracked into the house and occasionally I shovel seeds out of my windshield wiper well but usually it's no big deal.

Last night was different because in addition to our sweet bluebirds, yellow and purple finches, tiny woodpeckers, Carolina wrens and cardinals, about fifty turkey vultures arrived.  I started wondering if they knew something about me that I didn't know yet and was relieved that they weren't circling.  Man, those birds are big!

It was shortly after the vultures were perched high above us in the trees that we realized it was raining bird poop.  (We must have been the vultures' second stop, right after some road-kill buffet.)  It was splattering everywhere and Jerry, whose newly repaired brand-new car was parked out in our driveway, ran outside and desperately started whacking two sticks together.  (Remember the stick scene in the movie  "The Parent Trap?"  It was kind of like that only louder.) 

Immediately the sky was black with birds. The jumbo avians swooped gracefully into the air and lit a few hundreds yards down into the woods where they remained undisturbed until they caught their collective breath and flew onward on their journey.

Before bed, Jerry covered his car with a couple of old sheets, just in case.
*  *  *

Even though it's going to be February tomorrow, I am still sweeping up Christmas needles in my living room every time I vacuum. The weird part is, our tree was artificial.

Friday, January 27, 2012

While Walking

Although being a "one car family" sounds good on paper, in reality it's no fun.  Jer's car is in the shop getting fixed from the Big Little Crash of 2012.  It was supposed to be finished on Wednesday so we thought if we gave it a couple of extra days, we'd be safe in picking it up this morning.  (Auto body repair men work on their own timetables and they are incomprehensible to laymen.)  Bright and early this morning we arrived.  It will be ready after noon,  they said.

Jer usually gets to work way, way before 'bright and early' and he was in a rush to get going.  I told him to drop me off past the major intersection and I'd walk home.  Truth be told, if I would have had the presence of mind to grab my cell phone on the way out the door, I might have called a friend to hitch a ride home but walking is my favorite form of exercise and it was a good day for it. I arrived at our driveway an hour and a half later.  Whew!

When I was little, our family had only one car.  When Mom wanted or needed to use it, she simply took Dad to work.  Most days the car sat in the parking lot of the company where Dad worked and we walked wherever we wanted to go.  If an emergency arose, some Mom in the neighborhood who had a car that day would drive us to the doctor's office or to the hospital, depending upon the amount of blood involved.  If Mom had the car and somebody else's kid ran the lawnmower over their foot (yes, really) Mom would return the favor.

We don't live in a village, town or city; we live in a residential community.  This means that we don't have any businesses nearby.   None. No grocery store, no post office, no library.  To get groceries, I'd have to walk almost five-and-a-half hours round trip and I wouldn't want to be carrying much.  Becoming a single-car family lost its charm roughly at the same time I realized this.

I met a lot of dogs on my walk today though.  One eleven-month-old beauty with red fur, aptly named Reba, really seemed to like me.  While she was enjoying my personal space, her owner told me that they were going to start a twelve-step program next week.

Not Reba but still a cute dog.
"Isn't that courageous," I thought, "to tell a perfect stranger about your alcohol abuse issues?"  (They do say that to admit you have a problem is the first step toward recovery.)  While I was forming a sensitive response to this admission, he clarified, "Reba will make an excellent nursing home dog."

How wonderful that the world contains people (and dogs) that are willing to share their love and their time with others.  While I'm not willing to abandon my vehicle quite yet, I enjoyed meeting Reba today and I am pretty sure the folks in the nursing home are going to feel the same way. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Simplicity vs Frugality

This freebie makes me wish I had a Kindle. But then again, that's more "stuff," right?

Free e-book

The idea of having less and enjoying it more keeps bubbling up from deep within me and, for the most part, it's one that I espouse. Yesterday I was kicking around the idea of going "discretionary spending-free" for the month of February.  When I mentioned it to Jer, he said, "But if we do that, what happens when we find a grill on sale?"

Frugality dictates that we buy "on sale" and we have been waiting to get a new grill for several seasons.  (For the last two summers we have been using a grill our neighbor threw away.  It was on its last legs when he discarded it and since then we have coaxed every bit of life out of it that was left.  That grill is seriously ready for the recycling center.)  All our neighbors are on the lookout for us and the big score is liable to hit in February.  Frugality or moratorium?  That is the dilemma!

A grocery store nearby is going out of business and tomorrow everything goes on sale for half-price.  What merchandise they have left will genuinely be bargain priced.  Do we buy enough deodorant to last four years?  An extra broom?  Toothpaste for a decade?  It's a slippery slope.  If I'm going to buy it anyway, should I buy it now?  Would that make me a smart shopper or a hoarder?

Never at a loss for reading material
It's easy to get rid of stuff that doesn't matter to you.  The real trick is culling things that you value.  Since I'm the Imelda Marcos of books, maybe I should focus on our  bookshelves.  Books around here seem to multiply faster than a proud third-grader. 

The baskets full of magazines are another possible target, too.  I have no clue where they come from!  I never buy check-out counter magazines and don't subscribe either yet, somehow, the piles grow at an alarming rate.

Maybe that Kindle isn't such a bad idea after all.

Friday, January 20, 2012


You may have an image in your mind of a vegetarian as a skinny little emaciated person.  Well, I've been a vegetarian for thirty-five years now and I'm here to tell ya I haven't been able to wear my skinny jeans since early '76.  What motivated me to make this choice?  Eating meat seems icky to me so I don't do it.  End of story. 

For this - and other off-beat decisions - my family and friends may think I am a weirdo, but they tolerate me anyway so it's all good.  Over the last decade vegetarianism has become more mainstream, but its popularity hasn't made it any easier to get untainted food.

Beef broth lurks in vegetable soup
Meat lurks everywhere.  Tomato basil soup?  Chicken stock.  Cheddar broccoli soup?  Ditto. The artichoke dip has crab meat in it.  The spinach balls are made with sausage, the mushrooms are stuffed with ground beef. Get the picture?  In Spain they even put ham in their potato chips.  Meat.  Meat.  Meat.  Meat.  It's everywhere, in
everything.  Argh!!

Even after all this time, my decision remains a social challenge.  We went to dinner at the home of very close friends and our hostess proudly served us homemade beef stew. "You can just pick the meat out," she said.  I hear that a lot.   

Yesterday I went to a luncheon where I offered to "brown bag" it.  I was assured this would not be necessary because there would be a salad served.  This not being my first rodeo, I specifically asked if there would be bacon bits in it and was told not to worry.  Indeed, there was no need for concern.  There was no bacon in the salad.  It did, however, come with two inches of shredded turkey on top.
After thirty-five years, salad isn't all that thrilling anyway.  Too bad there wasn't dessert.  You can't go wrong with a good dessert!  This attitude might explain the reason why I haven't ever been able to fit back into those skinny jeans.

Anyone for rocky road ice cream or perhaps a brownie à la mode? 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


[I'd like to thank my daughter Kate and her friend Naughty, Naughty Erik for helping me to remember me what it feels like to wait on tables for a living.]

Note to those hateful diners who in any way abuse your serving staff (and you know who  you are):  Eating out could be hazardous to your health. 

Where your server would rather be...
Waiting on tables is hard work and many of those who do it are students who are also going to school full-time, especially if you live in a college town.  You might want to keep this in mind and cut them a little slack if they seem stressed or if they do not approach your table at the speed of light.  The kitchen  could be acres away from where you're sitting, there may be a long line at the bar, or that table with four adults and six kids could be requiring a little extra time. 

Before you become crabby, unkind, insulting, demanding, stiff your server, or are demeaning in any way at all, you might want to re-think your behavior and change your attitude.  If you are obnoxious enough, your server will remember you. 

In ten years, you might suffer a heart attack and that woman, your former waitress, could now be your cardiologist. 

"It's not tipping I believe in, it's over-tipping."  (~"My Blue Heaven")

Thursday, January 12, 2012


There are many reasons to use cloth napkins.  They dress up the table, they add an air of elegance, they're soft, they're washable, they're ecologically sensible, they're the green choice, they reduce landfill waste.  If you buy napkins during linen sales, you can usually get them for well under a dollar a piece.  If you sew, you can make them yourself for significantly less.  Over time, cloth napkins can be a frugal choice as well as a stylish one.

Several of my friends even have personalized napkin rings for everybody in their family so that they can use the same napkin all week long.  I don't think even I could use the same paper napkin for an entire day, let alone a week.  For me, cloth napkins are the obvious choice.

Here's my biggest reason for wanting to use them though.  Whenever I use paper napkins - even though I thoroughly check all my pockets before I take off my jeans at night and I also go through the pockets of every pair of pants I put in the washing machine - somehow one of those buggers always ends up getting laundered and then shreds to pieces in my dryer.  (I have no earthly idea why anyone would ever put a napkin in their pocket in the first place, but clearly sometimes they do.)

Catch of the Day
There are better things to do with my time than picking napkin shards off clean clothes.  (I'm not saying that I actually do better things with my time, just that I am aware that there are better ways to spend my time.  That's a small, but important distinction.)

If you are convinced that cloth napkins are superior, please mention it to Jerry next time you see him.  He prefers paper. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dirty Dishes

I love my dishwasher!
What I washed:

A skillet, a saute pan, a sauce pan, a stock pot, two spatulas, three serving bowls, a food processor, a mini-food processor, a blender, a can opener, a garlic press, two cutting boards, three Pyrex bowls with lids, two coffee mugs, four cups, six saucers, a dinner plate, six salad plates, six luncheon plates, six dessert plates, a measuring cup, a set of measuring spoons, a chef's knife, three serrated knives, six dessert bowls, six water glasses, four wine glasses, two iced-tea glasses, a cocktail glass, a pair of scissors, a ladle, all the silverware we own.

What I made:  Soup for six. 

Yes, really. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Big Little Crash of 2012

Have you ever noticed when you see a fender bender that usually one of the cars is brand new? When there's that new-car smell inside, there's danger lurking outside your door.

December 13th, Jer got a new Dodge Journey.  (The salesman, Julio Olivera, is Cuban and told a lot of highly entertaining stories which made the purchase way more fun than normal for me.  If you are a local and in the market for a new vehicle, you owe it to yourself to go see him at Stateline Dodge.  And remember to tell him "hi" from me, please.)  The car has a smooth, quiet ride which makes it a favorite from the get-go, in my book.  It was born in Mexico,
but since it's a Chrysler, we can call it American made, right?

Typical Charleston house
For the first few work days of the new year, Jer had business in Charleston.   What's not to love about Charleston?  It's on the ocean, every nook and cranny is packed with history, there is a huge shopping district, flowers are blossoming in January and we've never had a bad meal here.  So, of course, I have gone with him.  I'm not one to turn down a good time.
The Evil Column
Charleston only has one problem in my view.  There are too many cars and not enough parking spaces.  To remedy this, we always stay at the lovely Ashley Inn which has its own (miniature) parking lot, not to mention a friendly, friendly staff. (This means YOU Susan and Jan!)  We think of it as our "home away from home" and feel quite comfortable there.
When Jerry pulled in yesterday to drop me off, a panel van pulled in behind him.  As he was backing out, he saw the van in the right side of his rear-view mirror and a large palmetto tree on the left.  What he didn't see as he was maneuvering his way out of the tight space, was the brick column next to the tree. That was in his blind-spot.

Although he didn't see the column, he certainly heard the crunching sound that the bumper made when it came in contact with it.  What a way to start the new year!

The Damage
Jerry heard me mention his accident to Kate and he said that cracking a fender in a parking lot can't be considered an accident.  My  mom would agree with him.  She always told me, "That's what bumpers are for, Christine." Then she would add, "Don't bother to tell your Dad, dear."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

T.V. Wars

When we were first married, I got a wild idea that watching television was a horrible waste of time.  (I believe this epiphany occurred during some episode of one of the soap operas I was hooked on.)  That day I unplugged the t.v., took a pair of wire cutters and clipped the cord in half.  It was a symbolic gesture, but the symbolism was lost on my husband who came home shortly thereafter with a larger, nicer television.  "Josh needs it to watch Sesame Street," he said.

Time goes by and eventually, I tried again.  I reasoned that if we had a smaller t.v. maybe we'd watch it less, so I traded the large color set with a friend who gave me a ten-inch black-and-white in return.   We were both thrilled with the exchange.  Jerry wasn't quite so excited about it when he got home that night.

Each time I've done something stupid like this, my husband has seen it as an opportunity to upgrade.  "Pee Wee's Play House doesn't look like as much fun in black-and-white." he said.  And, "You can't tell the Muppets apart without color. You know how much Jessica loves the Muppets."  Soon a new, improved t.v. would appear.

Eventually, we ended up with one of those monster consoles that were popular just before LED screens arrived on the scene.  It was the focal point of our living room.  By that time in our lives, even I rationalized that if our youngest had a good t.v., maybe she'd hang around our house watching it with her friends instead of going who-knows-where and doing who-knows-what.

Wrong!  We never broke down and got cable and so all Kate had to do to get a free pass out of our living room was fall in love with some series on HBO, which she did every season.  On the up side, if we had saved the money we didn't spend on cable, we could have bought our new car cash.  If.

When Kate's giant television went off with her to her first apartment, some friends gave us an old t.v. from their basement. We bought the $40 thingie for it when the government changed the signals, but we never took it out of its box.  By then we were watching mostly DVDs anyway. 

<em>Nintendo 64</em> Game consoleAround this time we also grew to love ("became addicted to" is probably more accurate) playing Tetris on our daughters' old Nintendo 64 which we rescued from the attic.  We played it a lot in the evenings until slowly it dawned upon us that you can't win Tetris.  All you can do is lose more slowly, if that makes sense.  Again, it would seem, I'd stumbled upon a giant time-waster. 

Now we watch movies and the occasional sporting event at our neighbor's house and that seems like enough.  A couple months ago, Jerry was cleaning out the basement and he donated our only television to Goodwill. 

It would appear that after thirty-five years, we are on the same team.  Yet every night when he comes home from work, I'm frightened by what I might find in his back seat.