Lights! Family! Action!

The best things about Christmas are the same as the best things about weekends and every day. Family, friends, laughter, good food and good work. But Christmas gives me permission to make it all a little more festive with scented candles, glitter, sparkles, lights and two trees in my house that smell like heaven.

My sweet CC loves a lot of the same things I love about Christmas, but in particular she loves Christmas lights. All the lights! CC’s love for Christmas lights > my love for lights and I’ll bet yours.

Every morning when she awakes the very first thing CC does is to ask whoever is awake to turn the lights on. Not just the tree lights inside. ALL the lights. The garland over the fireplace, the garland on the bannister, the lights lining the pathway to our home, the lights on the outdoor holly trees, the wreath on the sunroom door, and the Santa in a sleigh with a reindeer in the front yard. This is such a high priority for CC that the requests, nay demands, happen before she picks up her beloved iPad, gummy vitamins or chocolate milk. You can see her looking out the front windows as she walks downstairs to see if the lights are on in the yard. She’ll fuss a great deal for you to get busy with the lights, even if you have other high priority tasks going on, such as letting the dogs out or turning on the coffee. It’s sometimes 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning and all of our lights are on, all day.

It’s a small thing and it makes me happy that it makes her happy.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season and enjoying the festivities as much as CC does.

Does a Hummingbird Sneeze?

Yesterday I was able to spend time in the sun walking and running. I had come off of a week of being sick, and there’s nothing like feeling well to make you feel grateful. It helped that Sunday was absolutely gorgeous and it helped that hummingbirds are now visiting The Quay regularly. A sunny day means great light which means there is the potential for some good shots.

Imagine my delight when I processed my many “spray and pray” shots to see a few shots I have never gotten. The pollen from the flower looks like little raindrops but doesn’t it also look like the hummingbird is sneezing? If you click the pictures you will see pollen from that Radio Red Meadow Sage in each picture but the first one-doesn’t that look like a sneeze?

A Rufous Hummingbird in The Quay and update on The Meater (thermometer)

I have heard of Rufous hummingbirds but have never seen one in the wild. Until April 19th. I noticed a copper colored hummingbird in my flowers and then at the feeder. It couldn’t believe my eyes and wasn’t fast enough to grab my camera until it was at the feeder. It came for two days straight but I haven’t seen it for the last three days. Maybe it was migrating? It’s a lovely copper color. The top of the head is green with iridescent feathers. The neck is green or red depending on the way the light is hitting it.

Grilling Update

The Meater thermometer sometimes works. Establishing a connection between the app and the charger is reliable. The connection between the charger and thermometer is not reliable. My husband thinks it’s because I’m not cleaning the thermometer well. That could not possibly be true (it’s probably true). The investigation is ongoing. Regardless a brisket will be smoked tomorrow to celebrate the graduation of a dear friend who will be a Nurse Practitioner. I could (and should) write a whole post about Madison, who babysat my girls and now we are babysitting her lovely girl.

In the meantime, welcome Rufous! I hope you stick around, bring your friends and join us for the party!

The Tool, the Fire, and me

Before I talk about brisket- the hummingbirds are here! I’ll have pictures asap! Now onto the story.
The first brisket I cook on the grill in the Spring is a little like Christmas was to me when I was a child. I’m giddy the day before and can’t wait to get started in the morning. In the year 2022 April 1st was this day. To add to the excitement we learned we’d have 8 instead of 5 coming to dinner (more people is more better in my book!). The brisket was a success but there were issues.

The Tool: The morning started off rocky and I’m still having a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Meater thermometer. In the morning, I couldn’t make the connection from the thermometer to the charger. I put the meat on the grill anyway. It took a few minutes of fiddling and I got both the app and the thermometer connected to the charger and put the thermometer into the brisket. I’m still not entirely sure what the problem was (and that’s a problem)

Not straying too far from the charger (which stays near the thermometer) takes some getting used to. You definitely do not have 165 yards as advertised, unless perhaps you are walking in a straight line away from the charger, w/no line of sight impediments. I haven’t tried that. The morning was smooth sailing because I sat inside the house working and the grill (with the charger) was right outside my window. I could glance at the app to see the temperature rising slowly – exactly what you want right? But if I took my phone to the kitchen or the mailbox I lost the connection. The good news is the minute you walk back into range it picks up where you left off. I ended up changing the battery in the charger in the afternoon, picked back up where we were, and my leash got a little longer. Note they offer some tips for extending the range which I haven’t tried.

The Fire: Keeping a charcoal grill at a low steady temperature for hours can be a challenge for a novice like me. I used the Weber Snake method. It wasn’t the first time I tried it and if I try it again, I’ll make some adjustments as I’ve never been completely successful in lighting the whole snake.

Unlit Snake Charcoal

After about 3.5 hours (brisket temperature 120 degrees) I took the brisket out to wrap it. About half the snake was ignited and the applewood chunks were smoked. But the temperature in the grill was too low to finish it, so I got more charcoal heated, lit the other end of the snake, put the brisket wrapped in foil back in, and set the app for 195 degrees. It hit 184 and stopped (was it the grill or the thermometer?). I put the brisket in the oven to hit 195.

The Human: I should have tested the Meater more before throwing the meat on the grill. I’ve been testing it everyday this week and so far so good. I sweated the process instead too much instead of focusing on finishing the meat. Next time, depending on the fire, I’ll take the brisket off the grill when the temperature starts dropping, wrap it, finish it in the oven, and not worry about adding more charcoal to the grill.

The flavor was amazing and it was pull apart moist. We fed 8 wonderful people and had the best of times.

Some of the Contenders for a 2022 Calendar (I’m going to have two this year)

I’ve got one draft of a calendar on the way and below are candidates for a second. After not being sure I’d see hummingbirds here in The Quay, to seeing my first hummingbird the day my friend Sally arrived to help my care for Dad, I ended up with lots of good shots for calendars. Scroll to the bottom to see shots with Bee Balm. It sure was beautiful for a while. Many of my plants will winter in my sun room. We’ll see how that works in terms of producing blooms earlier next Spring.

Let me know if you are going to want a calendar!

Two Dreams Ahead of Schedule

The company at which David and I are employed, offered an early retirement package for which we are both eligible. It’s a good package. Depending on how long you have been employed they are offering some months of salary and money toward a health savings account until you are eligible for medicare. We never really had an end game plan for retirement and but this made it seem feasible and we agreed that one of us should take it. I chose him.

  1. I really enjoy my job. His is fairly stressful.
  2. He is useful around the house. I am not.
  3. He will be eligible for Social Security soon. I’ve got a few years.
  4. Regardless of who is home, life is easier with one of us home and not working

To say he was giddy about the idea for a few days is not an understatement. He will retire at the end of October (he built a countdown program – 61 days). A few days later I asked him, since he was retiring, would it be okay for me to accelerate my dream of adopting a senior dog from a shelter? He knows me and asked me which one I had in mind. I showed him Cressie. She was the most senior dog at the Wake County Animal Shelter at the time, listed at 10 years, 1 month. I took Friday the 20th off to go to the shelter to visit her. She was smelly, her skin was scaly, her belly splotchy and she was pretty nervous (she didn’t get many visitors) but she sat on my lap and I knew she was my dog. I was able to bring her home at 3:30 Monday, August 23rd (I was worried about her all weekend and giddy all of Monday)

It’s Sunday, the 29th now and she’s a different dog. Her new name is Blossom (we had a Cane Corso named Bubbles who was my birthday present in 2002 named after one of the Powerpuff Girls so decided to continue the theme) She’s had 5 baths in 7 days. Her belly is less splotchy and her skin is in much better shape. She cries for a bit at night when we retire upstairs (sounds like Dory speaking Whale). But she LOVES everyone she encounters, especially our friends’ 3 year old daughter Ruby, who practically rides her. And when she’s on her feet she’s got helicopter tail. Finn is a little jealous but doing okay.

Hummingbird update:
I have many many hummingbird photos to post. 2022 is going to be a good calendar. All that want one will get one! I’m working on it now.

Darian and Firestone Blessings

I was at Firestone in Fuquay with my daughter’s car getting a headlight fixed. I checked in, looked around and saw a soda machine. It was mid morning. I’d run in the morning and was thinking, if they have Diet Dr. Pepper or Diet Mountain Dew they’ve got my money. It’s a very small facility and a middle aged African American man near the soda machine startled me when he looked right at me and said “I’m vaccinated. I’ve got both vaccinations”. He thought I was worried about sitting close to him. I truly was looking at the soda machine, but went right over to sit down. What a good decision.

Darian wanted an interaction, and much as my plans had involved listening to my book on Audible, his were different. He started out by telling me about the job he was applying for: driving new cars to people who bought them. I hope he got the job and feel sure he did. He told me about other jobs he’d had most of which were in New York City. So many jobs. He was very proud of a job he’d had as a Bellboy at The Plaza. He’d run into many famous people including Mohamed Ali. He was most excited about having met Mantute Bole (I had not heard of him). He stood up to show me how tall Mantute was. “I’m 6.5 and the man towered over me”. He asked me if I was a teacher. When I told him I worked at SAS in software he told me he wished he could have learned more about software. He talked about a few classes he was considering taking at Wake Tech. I told him that he absolutely should take some classes but not to worry if he didn’t like it. I told him you’ve got a great work ethic and I’m sure will do well whatever you do. When they called my name I paid and walked back over to him to shake his hand and thank him for the conversation.

After all the shut downs, masks and socially distancing of the last year and half, it was great to have a spontaneous genuine interaction with Darian.

Hummingbird Mint and my sweet CC’s rescue of me

Last Thursday, after working for a few hours (6:30 am-9:30 am) because that’s how I work now that I am wfh, I decided to walk outside and water my hummingbird plants on the deck. Besides watering the plants I need to change the food in my feeders frequently. After I assessed the situation, I attempted to wander in to bring one of the feeders in to change it and found the door locked. Gulp. The deadbolt was not locked but the lock in the knob was locked. I had no keys. My husband was at a doctors appointment 40 minutes away. My youngest daughter, CC, was inside but I was pretty confident I could not communicate my need to get in to her. CC is the sweetest 20 year old in the world but she has the cognitive skills of someone closer to 3. I was glad she was inside in the cool and not outside with me.

I had my phone (thank goodness for Audible which I’m always listening to when I take a break) and I called and texted my husband. No response. I decided to crawl off the deck (long story) to try to find windows that *might* be open. Much to my surprise and happiness I found one in the front yard (my husband was dismayed when I told him this part of the story–this window is in my office and he has further reason to distrust my security skills). I was thrilled but I wanted to look around to see if there was anything I could step up on to make the climb into the window less scratchy. It was going to be a bit of a climb on brick.

I wandered around the yard looking for anything to get a leg up. When I got back around to the back yard I saw that CC had opened the door and was outside on the deck but heading back inside. Would she close the door and lock it? I dropped what I was doing, ran through the gate, climbed back onto the deck (long story) to find she had wandered inside (it was hot) but sweet CC had left the door open for me. I was so happy.

Splish Splash I was Taking a Bath

When Dad was here I subscribed to a newspaper because he likes a physical paper. The paper still arrives and this morning instead of going straight to my computer I sat down and read the paper. It was nice. I read several long form articles, including one on a drug for Alzheimer’s (there are pros and cons), an article about a Starbucks manager who had to quit due to bullying over “woke” culture and an article about the complete absence of freedom of religion in China. Then I did a puzzle. Find “these words” in the letter grid.That was super fun. I love puzzles and I’m really terrible at solving them. But it was fun to circle the words. I do the NYT mini crossword (online) every morning and I’m terrible at it.

I have many many beautiful pictures of hummingbirds –I will post them. My garden is gorgeous and I’ve got at least 5 or more hummingbirds coming regularly. But I labeled all of these pictures (below) as “not a hummingbird” and it was an absolute blast to watch. I think it’s a sparrow who decided the ant moat on the top of one of my hummingbird feeders was a bird bath and boy was I glad I had my camera. You can see this bird chilling, splishing and splashing and taking a bath. These are too many photos but you can scroll through them quickly to see the action and the splashes.

A Gentleman and a Scholar to the end

My dad, my hero, a psychology professor and prolific reader, took his last breath on Friday July 9th, 2021 at 1:47.

Back story: Dad had been living in Texas but was not doing well in assisted living. My husband and I bought a house in February w/a bedroom and full bath on the first floor. My best friend and I began to plot to get him here in March. We had flights booked. I was going to Dallas then fly home with Dad and Sally was going to meet us here in NC. But then, his credentials were stolen so he couldn’t fly commercial. Then we booked tickets to fly to Dallas, rent a car and drive him here to NC. The Friday before we were going to fly out he fell and broke his hip. He got a pin in his hip and went to “rehab”. We ended up flying him here via Angel Med Flight May 22nd, which is basically an ambulance in the sky.

After the broken hip we wondered whether we could adequately care for him. And we certainly needed the help we recruited. But while he lived with us he was surrounded by friends and family, who spent time with him, cooked for him, helped him to eat, held his hand, and made him smile. After he’d passed she commented that it really wasn’t that hard to care for him and that she was incredibly glad we had. Though it started out in our minds as an effort for us to take care of him, in the end we all realized we were the ones who were blessed.

We had our version of a wake last night. I love these people who surrounded us with love, food, and laughter. Below are some of the conversations we had while he was here. Thanks to Sally, my partner in crime, for starting to write them down when he first arrived, May 22nd.

Me: Dad are you comfortable? We want to make sure you are comfortable.
Dad: That’s a sure sweet thing to say. It was a good thing I ran into you this morning. (For sure he was confused a lot about time especially, but always sweet)

After talking to Steven on the phone
Me: Dad do you want to say goodby to Steve?
Dad: Why would I ever want to say goodby to Steve? (he says with a sweet smile)

Me: Dad you remember Sally?
Dad: Ms. Patton? Forever.

Me: Dad I’m going to bring you some food and maybe you’ll be hungry when you smell it
Dad to Sally: If you can’t trust your daughter who can you trust?

After eating Laura’s flan
Me: Dad it’s really good for you. It’s got a ton of eggs in it.
Dad: Those are best eggs I’ve ever eaten
Laura: I’ll make him flan forever

Me: Dad, Carolyn and I will be right be back with dinner (after having served him some appetizers)
Dad: Just like the old days.

Dad: We’ll get this done
Me: We always do
Dad: And I suspect we always will
Me: Truer words have never been spoken

Walking Sticks, Bees, Butterflies (roses and Japanese Beetles)

When you’ve got the right plants if you’re lucky you’ll have hummingbirds but you’re also going to have other creatures. Here are a few that I’ve seen. I saw the Walking Stick (pictured below) for days in the same Salvia until I watered yesterday and it fled (they hop – who knew?) I’ve seen a hummingbird moth (pictured below), a green lizard and clouds of bees.

Roses – sheesh. They are so fiddly. Our new home had 13 rose bushes all in the front yard. Pretty much from the beginning of Spring they looked rough. When my friend Sally came to help us get set up w/Dad in May she went to a local nursery and got some spray to treat them. It helped somewhat and promoted new growth. Yesterday I put on gloves and went after them. We’ve got a PARTY today and I didn’t want dead rose buds and Japanese Beetles greeting our guests. Eventually I will look into tearing them out and replacing them with Hot Lips Salvia, Agastache Mint and Butterfly Bushes.

Party at 4:00. Family, family friends, ribs, poppers, and corn on the cob and little kids running through the sprinkler in the back! America! Dad is having a bit of a rough day. A little agitated but we will make it work.