November 29, 2012

Alabama just s**ks** and it is my fault

  OK I take that back.  The state of Alabama doesn't suck nor does the University of Alabama ~ Roll Tide Roll.  What sucks is that my daughter attends school in Mobile, Alabama which is 7 hours away.
     I encouraged my daughter to attend a school far away.  I believe that not being able to come home at the drop of a hat helps to foster a stronger sense of independence.  When I went to school I specifically searched for a college that was as far away from home as possible that allowed me to keep my state scholarship.  SUNY Geneseo was my home away from home for 5 years and the best decision I made.  Unlike my parents who never visited until Senior Year I am an involved parent who is used to supporting my children and their activities. Being 7 hours away this weekend especially sucks :(
     This weekend the University of Mobile kicks off the Christmas season with an incredible concert known as Christmas Spectacular.  For three nights, the school takes over the 3,000+ seat Dauphin Baptist Church with this incredible performance.  The free tickets are usually gone within the first week of their availability in late October.
    2012 will be the 10th anniversary of this concert and has drawn national attention.  Renowned Nashville director Steven Yakes will film Christmas Spectacular 2012 for a television special that will air later in the month on several national satellite stations and local stations according to the school's website. Many alumni are returning to perform.
     If you haven't figured it out yet I CAN'T GO.  I feel like crap.  I've attended the concert the last two years and was planning on going again this weekend.  Life of course has since intervened and I can't make the trip.  We only found this out today.  Poor hubby had to call Emily this afternoon and break the news.  To say it went over like a lead balloon would be an understatement.  Usually I would make the drive myself but after a week of migraines that's really not an option.
     I don't think there is anything worse in the parenting world than disappointing one of your kids. That feeling of failure cuts so deeply.  I'm all for kids learning life lessons and such but not at my expense.  Will she survive ~ of course.  Is this going to send her over the edge ~ not even remotely.    When you choose to attend school far away the one of the most difficult parts is the loneliness that comes from not having "anyone" near by.  Are there going to be friends and such there to cheer her on, most certainly.  But there isn't going to be anyone there JUST for her.  Oh how I wish I had a private plane on call.
You know once I find out the satellite stations that will be airing the special I'll be sharing it with you.  Well for now all I can do is assure myself that she knows she is loved and that we would be there if we could.  ~Wonder how much chocolate I'll need to survive this guilt??

Here's a favorite from the concert 2 years ago I found on YouTube


November 27, 2012

Can't get much fresher

     Gardening is something that I'd like say I'm pretty good at.  The reality is that my enthusiasm is usually met with limited success.  However this year we've taken a new approach and I must say my success rate is increasing.
     In the past I think we've set our goals a bit too high.  I believe it could best be summed up as why only do one when you can do so much more??  Instead of easing our way into gardening we attacked like a SWAT team unfortunately our results were more along the lines of the Keystone Cops.  That's not to say we didn't enjoy the fruits veggies of our labor, but our yields definitely didn't match our efforts.  Until this year!!
     We decided to go smaller, much smaller.  Instead of four 16-square. foot boxes we opted for container gardening.  Finally our thumbs were beginning to change a slight shade of green.  Our most successful endeavor was the easiest and the most cost saving.  As you know we've been trying to eat healthier.  Unfortunately eating healthier costs much more than well NOT!!  Especially when it comes to salads.  We were dropping almost $20 a week on salad greens and such.  Well not anymore:

    We hit a clearance sale at Wal-mart and got 4 of these 22" window boxes for $4 each.  We have our own compost bins so the enriched soil was free.  One packet of mixed salad green seeds (also on clearance for 25 cents) and just a few weeks later ~Salad!!  Now for once I thought about the future and planned.  Instead of planting all 4 boxes at the same time I planted one every other week.  We had steamed shrimp salad for dinner the other night. I only needed to harvest half of a planter to fill three large bowls for dinner.   By cutting the lettuce and leaving approximately one inch of the plant behind the lettuce should be large enough to harvest again in the next 4 weeks.  If I do this right I believe we'll have fresh salad for months!!

 I'm also giving Broccoli a try this year.  I got a 9 pack of seedlings for only $1.99, there were actually 11 plants as two pods each had two plants ~ freebies I'll take any time. Last time I checked fresh Broccoli was $2.49 lb so even if only half of my plants survive I'm way ahead of the game.  I transplanted them about three weeks ago; looks like it is time to put them into bigger pots soon.  By using our compost the plants are always being fed whenever we transplant them into larger pots.
 Our other container success this year was this pepper plant.  We grabbed it at Sam's Club of all places and it has been producing spicy red peppers since June.  We're going to try and figure out a way to make a "greenhouse" of sorts to put around the entire plant hoping to prolong its life.  Did you know that squirrels like spicy peppers?   We have to harvest the peppers quickly or we lose them to those furry beasts.

    I have to tell you that having the lettuce planter on the table looked really pretty.  Which gave me this idea:
   I'm thinking of planting 8 or so small pots of lettuce and using them for a luncheon.  I'd put one pot at every place with a pair of scissors.  All of the salad fixings would be on the table and everyone would make a fresh salad.  At the end of the meal each guest would leave with a pot full of growing salad to take home with them.
 ~ What do you think?

November 26, 2012

Backyard Entertainment

     It is pretty much common knowledge that I am easy to entertain.  Just this past week I have spent more time than I'd like to admit sitting out back giggling to myself or anyone nearby... OK usually to myself.  Between the dogs, birds and squirrels it has been a nature channel comedy zone.
     We love feeding birds and have quite the buffet offering for them in the backyard.  Our feeding station includes various styles of feeders so birds of all sizes can partake.  We also try to offer different seeds throughout the year.  Upon first setting up our system we put a baffle on both the top and the bottom to stop the squirrels from raiding the feeder.  We very quickly learned that the squirrels in our yard were members of the local gymnastic team and could leap and twist their bodies across amazing distances (3 feet) to out-maneuver the baffle.  In response we trimmed the trees and bushes nearby thus ending our sponsoring the local gymnastic tournament.
Sunflower after having a few visitors
The corn far away from birdfeeders
     Things were fine until this year.  I do think it is my fault because I upped the ante.  Recently I spent the weekend in Helen, Georgia and while visiting a farm-stand I bought dried sunflowers to hang for the birds AND feeder corn cobs for the squirrels.   However my generosity was short lived and the squirrels decided that they didn't want no stinking dried corn.  OH NO they wanted the sun flowers. I have since learned that squirrels not only enjoy the seeds but the entire flower head as well. One squirrel in particular was extremely determined to enjoy all that the sunflower had to offer.   I didn't really mind but just couldn't figure out how the squirrels were getting to it.  So I sat and waited for their return ~ that's right I stalked a squirrel. And I'm so glad I did.

     This squirrel, whom I nick-named Nadia, made my day.  She had me laughing so much I really didn't care that she was eating my sunflower.  The maneuvers she went through to eat that flower were nothing short of amazing.  I knew how smart these animals were but I never really gave much thought to their problem solving skills.  The suet feeder you see her straddling was her first obstacle.  It kept spinning around and flipping her off (which I wish I had a picture of b/c that was hilarious) every time she was about to get situated.  After about 4-5 times of this happening she took a different approach.  Now my crew says it just happened but I'm believing Nadia figured this out.  She landed on the top of the suet cage and kept walking on it, like a clown walking on a ball, until it locked in place.  Once she had that handled she began swinging to reach the flower.  It only took her a few failed attempts of trying to grab the flower before she switched gears and swung out for the hook that it was attached to.  While she's eating, bits and pieces are falling to the ground.  Within minutes birds are happy eating at the droppings which doesn't seem to bother Nadia until another squirrel starts joining in.  Nadia, it turns out, doesn't like sharing.  She first started barking at her unwanted dinner guest.  When that proved inefficient she jumped down then chased the other squirrel away.  Nadia returned within a few minutes and was happily eating away at the sunflower when with no notice the two of them crashed onto the ground.  It seems that Nadia had been eating away where the sunflower was connected to the hook ~ whoops.  Once the flower was on the ground she was not going to share it with anyone and even chased some hungry birds away.  I can only guess that she thought it would be better to take the flower home to explain what happened next.  Nadia started dragging the entire flower into the bushes, or as we call it ~ The Jungle of Elephant Ears.  I thought she'd just hide out and eat the flower in there.  Well if I didn't see it myself and have the pictures to prove it I'd never believe what she did next.
Nadia carried the sunflower up the tree.                                                                    
So yes I spent probably 30 minutes staring out of my dining room window watching this crazy squirrel and I'm proud of it.  Who needs cable TV when you have critters like this in the backyard?Have I told you we have crazy chickens? 


November 16, 2012

I just love Libraries

     It is no great secret how much I love books so it isn't surprising that I love Libraries. Growing up our town's library was a weekly stop.  I never realized how incredibly fortunate I was with our library.  It wasn't until I moved away that I discovered very quickly how not every library was as friendly and welcoming as the one back home.
     It is very possible that I may have been spoiled by my home library and the incredible staff there.  I realize that over the years the role a library has played in communities has changed.  No longer are students pouring over encyclopedia's for research material.  There's no need to run to the library for the next book in a series when they can be so easily purchased on-line.  With the introduction of eBay in the mid 90's we were able to buy boxes of books for pennies on the dollar and then resell them when our kids out-grew them (OK I'm really bad at the reselling part).  Now with so many people turning to e-readers and buying digital versions of books I wonder how many families will never even visit a library? That thought makes me sad for them.
         I loved walking into the library and being greeted by name.  I knew that if I couldn't find the answer to something Mr. Marve at the research desk was always able to help and if he couldn't find the answer immediately I'd hear from him as soon as he did.  Looking back I can easily see that it was in the children's department that I discovered what an important part books were in my life:  reading the Beatrix Potter books in their green covers; loving the picture books even when I was "too old"; discovering Louisa May Alcott.   They had such an impact on my life that my first nursery was decorated in Beatrix Potter's characters, Meg's name is from Little Women, and I believe the summer I spent working the Children's Reading Program was the stepping stone to teaching preschool.
     I recently discovered that I could join Alachua County's Library for free (unlike Duval which would charge for non-residential use).  I can't tell you how impressed I am with their system.  Now I love my libraries here in Clay County however they could really learn some things from their neighbor.  I've been to three different branches and each time I checked out the librarian noticed I was a new member then asked if I had any questions, would I like a tour and did I see their activity board?  Obviously someone in management believes that customer service is of the utmost importance.  More than once I saw Librarians walking around simply engaging people in the stacks.
One thing I absolutely love is their website.  On it you have the option to keep a reading history of everything you've checked out.  You can also create "lists".  For someone like me who can barely remember what I ate for lunch yesterday I love that I can go in and create lists for my favorite authors and keep track of books I read even if I didn't check them out of their library!
     Without a doubt I can tell you I'd be lost without a library.  At least once a week I'm there using the computers to kill time between appointments.  I don't think there's a library today without a video department where you can usually find the classics right next to the latest release.  For fun I thought I'd try and figure out how much I would have spent on all the books I've "heard" just this year along and let's just say it is well into 4 digits.
     I understand that with today's budget cuts that libraries everywhere are getting hit hard.  However I believe if communities would view their libraries as their heart and soul and use it to that effort not only can their usage increase but their importance would as well.  It is fun seeing kids heading to the library with their arms full of creations for the monthly Lego club meeting.  I wish that instead of cutting hours, as our county has had to do, we find clubs and organizations that can use the facility for meetings in the morning or evening so hours could be extended.  Once a community realizes the true importance of their library they'd never allow services to be cut.
    It is my desire that everyone who calls themselves a reader is an active member of their local library.  I also hope everyone is as lucky as I was to have a great library in their neighborhood.
Shout outs to the great librarians of my past:
Mr. Marve~Mrs. Johns~Mrs. Clark~Ms. Miskowski


November 8, 2012

Curiosity vs Concern

     Well thank heavens I am not a cat because with my curiosity I would have been dead a long time ago.  This last week I really struggled with feelings of curiosity and concern.  Can you be curious without feeling that you should be concerned?
     It is no great secret that I am estranged from my mother and sister (who are also estranged from each other ~ gotta love dysfunctional families).  The last time we talked was shortly after the passing of my dad so it has been approximately 9 - 10 years.  We have no interaction whatsoever.  I have no clue if she keeps tabs on me and my family, I don't think so.  I keep no tabs on her.  So with all of that being said I'll be honest that this last week my curiosity as to her welfare has been peaked.
     I grew up on Long Island and my mother still lives in our family home in Bay Shore.  We've checked in on family and friends who still reside there and are glad that everyone is safe.  Like most other Long Islanders they were struggling with power outages and a few had major damage to their homes. Seeing pictures of the disaster was heartbreaking knowing many favorite childhood places were destroyed.  So is it really all that surprising that I would be curious about how my family home fared?
     This was a great struggle for me.  My mother is over 80 and as far as I know lives on her own. Like many houses of its age there is only one bathroom and that is upstairs with the bedrooms.  My father installed a wood-burning stove so I wasn't horribly concerned about heat. The house has a basement (what I wouldn't give to have a basement again) and while I remember it flooding a few times while growing up I am sure what Sandy may have done wouldn't even compare.
     So there lies the struggle.... am I curious or concerned?  I know that I am not going to inherit anything in the house so my questions aren't fueled by greed over having lost anything of value.  I know that my sister  lives close enough that if a dire emergency arose she could intervene, if she chose to.  I have always said that despite our relationship or lack there of I genuinely hope that she is happy and healthy.  So is it OK to be curious about someone you used to be concerned about?
     Very often people tend to reach out after times of crisis.  Whether you are the person surviving the crisis or someone aware of what you are going through.  We live in this world where just about everything that goes on in our lives is instantly shared so when you can't find something out it is very frustrating.  I have learned that very often the relationships that are either reconnected or formed during a crisis tend to fizzle out once that crisis is resolved.
   Here we are one week later.  While I am still curious as to how she and the house weathered Sandy and the snowstorm I am comfortable feeling that way.  Curiosity while harmful to the proverbial cat isn't going to kill me.  In fact I think it would be weird if I wasn't curious.  I know that I have absolutely no desire to open any type of relationship with my mother so that means no communication whatsoever.  I do sincerely hope that she is safe and the house remains a safe haven for her.
   With all that being said I would not pass up any first hand information
Sorry couldn't resist

November 7, 2012

Losing Fat Loving Food Friday (whoops) Wednesday

     So I just couldn't seem to get this written until today~ we'll blame it on the beautiful fall weather we are currently enjoying here in Florida,. and mind you we don't get to enjoy fall weather very often.
     Last week I maintained my weight which I'll admit was a bit disappointing but  these things happen.  However I did want to share with my my newly discovered "hobby" of sorts.  for the last 4 weekends I have risen early on Saturday mornings, which in of itself is pretty incredibly in itself.  The reason behind my no longer sleeping in has been so that we can get up and out and head to a state park for a hike.  You read that right I've been hiking.
     My family has enjoyed going to the The Ravine Gardens for a number of years.  There is a 1.8  mile paved loop off of which there are numerous trails which take you down into the ravine as well as along the spring-fed stream and  2 suspension bridges that Treasure needed much coaxing to walk over.  When the kids were younger one of their favorite activities during our visit was stopping at each of the fitness stations along the trail that offered different stretching and cardiovascular conditioning exercises.

     After passing it for years we finally visited Gold Head Branch State Park for the first time.  Unlike The Ravines at Gold Head Branch the trails are not paved.  We enjoyed two of the hikes featured and look forward to going back and doing more.
     While I do not drive on I-75 into Georgia often whenever I do I am always tempted to pull off and visit the State Farmers Market that's advertised.  DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME  We decided to make a day trip of it envisioning bringing home apples as the case I brought home from Georgia is near gone.  The Florida State Farmers Market was not at all what we thought it would be.  It actually is for Farmers' to bring in their crops to sell to major distributors.  There was one gentlemen there with a stand selling some very sad looking produce.  However I was determined not to let the trip be a waste so we ventured one more exit north and discovered Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park.  The weekend we visited there were no events going on so the park was pretty empty.  We spent over two hours walking different trails enjoying all that nature had to offer.  A fun surprise was stumbling onto the small farm that housed goats and an emu.  After a few minutes Treasure was pretty convinced she could take her on~ thank heavens the emu wasn't interested in us at all.
     It really is amazing all that there is do once you start looking.  This weekend we are hoping to get over to Camp Milton Historic Preserve here in Jacksonville.  Who knew we had this amazing Civil War Fort right in our back yard?