Friday, December 29, 2017

Good Riddance 2017

I had hardly gotten back from Panama when I got right back into the political scene - Liberal Ladies of the Lowcountry holiday cocktail party, a protest at Sanford's office and a fund raiser for his opponent - all of that happening the week I returned.  The Sanford protest was against the tax bill, which they eventually, heartlessly passed.  It was a cold, rainy day, but we had a good turnout, mostly old codgers like me.  We also got encouraging responses from some of the passers-by.  This was also the day that Chris and I were having lunch together to celebrate her birthday.  The official date was weeks back, but they were away and then I was away so this was our first chance to celebrate - and we threw in the protest for good measure.  We mentioned that this was how bazaar life has become in the "Resistance".....we can't even celebrate a birthday without throwing in a protest along the way!  We did have a delicious lunch at the Beaufort Bread Company and it felt good to sit down, warm up and catch-up!  

This handsome, young man with the dorky-looking lady is Joe Cunningham, Sanford's opponent in the upcoming election.  He is a Charleston attorney and is very personable, with democratic ideals and values.  This was taken at the fund raiser and I was pleased to get to meet him and hear him speak.  Alabama has given us hope that we might be able to finally oust Sanford (and Graham and Scott!). I and friends are going to do all we can to help him and he plans to open an office in the county soon. Keep your fingers crossed!

It was after all this that I finally decided to get serious about Christmas, though I have to confess to not being in the mood. But, once I got busy, it began to feel like Christmas - trees up, mantles dressed, stockings hung, and so on.  I do really enjoying the decorations once they're up, but the thought of actually doing it is daunting. You've seen most of this before. It's just combined slightly differently this year. I took the photos so that I could show them to my hospice ladies.  It gives us something to talk about. After that, I turned them into a slideshow, this time using Powerpoint, which is much more sophisticated than earlier versions. 

Even during the holidays, life continues as usual - feeding the feral cats, visiting hospice ladies, Drinking Liberally, gatherings with friends, etc. Yesterday Melodee and I had a nice afternoon in Savannah.  We started with a delicious lunch at Fox and Fig, a new vegan restaurant that we heard about at Vegfest some months back.  It was hopping and the food was very good, including the chocolate brownie sundae!! From there we went to the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum. Several artists were exhibited and I especially liked E Bruce Phillips, Jr and Jacob Lawrence, as well as one female artist (whose name I can't remember) whose exhibit included two political statements with which I could really identify. It was my first time there, but I will definitely visit again.  Our tickets also admitted us to the Guo Pei exhibit down the street. The larger exhibit is in Atlanta and this one only included 6-8 designs.  The outfits are far-out, but the detail and workmanship were amazing.  I thought you might like to see them.

RANT: We are experiencing the coldest winter since I've been here.  All things are relative, but this is no longer funny.  One day next week the HIGH is supposed to be 40F!!  I can't even coax Rosie out in the morning, and I don't blame her. When I get her harness and walk to the door, she runs back to the bedroom and gets under the cover!  Really!  I don't have the heart to force the issue.

GOODBYE 2017: In some ways 2017 went like a shot and, in other ways, it seemed like it would never end!!  It's fair to say that it has been a year like no other.  It has also been a year of contrasts for me - being overloaded with political activity/negativity, but also having some wonderful trips, acquiring new friends (and missing others!), and having some heartwarming experiences.  It has certainly made me appreciate my friends more than ever!  Several of us have given some thought to ways we can constructively close 2017 and release the negativity, while at the same time remaining focused and productive in 2018, without becoming overwhelmed with political issues.  I'm still giving this some thought and I think this is where friends come in: we have to support one another!  If your year hasn't been this chaotic, count your blessings.  My hope is that 2018 will be kinder to us all. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

A Wonderful Vacation in Panama

This vacation proves that the best way to deal with all that is happening in the US is to leave the country!  It's wonderful how great one can feel to be away from this chaos.  With that said, let me tell you about Panama!  First, it is exceptionally beautiful.  It is the only place I've been where the clouds take on a life of their own and become a part of your day.  I had never heard of "micro-climates" (the climate of a very small or restricted area, especially when this differs from the climate of the surrounding area) before going to Panama.  It can be misty in one area and sunny in others, and conditions change very quickly.  The good thing is that whatever is happening remains within a comfortable temperature range year around.  These strange conditions seem to provide a wonderful opportunity for many beautiful flowers and lush greenery to thrive.  Hydrangeas grow large there and in the medians of the highway! This, along with a small town feel, made it a very pleasurable week.

Unfortunately, the area of Panama we were visiting is difficult to get to.  We had four flights each way.  We could have cut out one of those but it would have been more expensive. Once we got to David, we picked up a rental car, not fully realizing there would be very few street signs......or maps!!  After wandering around a little, we stopped at a service station and the guy recommended (in sign language) that we pay a taxi to lead us out of town!  Having done that before, I don't know why I didn't think of it myself.  So, for $3 our problem was solved.  Once we got on the main road, we made it easily to the Ponderosa by the directions provided by Margie, our host.  We impressed ourselves that we made it on time (3PM) with the few directions we had.  Since it was Thanksgiving, we had made reservations for dinner at Colibri, a very nice restaurant we found online. They were doing two seating for a full Thanksgiving dinner but said they could accommodate us if we came at 7PM, between the seating.  Again, with no real directions or street signs, we made it right on time.  It was a rainy night, but still comfortable, so we dined on the covered patio.  The food was delicious and we relaxed in knowing the hard part was over. We were also appreciative of their willingness to accommodate us on such a busy night.

A word about the Ponderosa.  Margie and Willy have been in Panama a little over a year and seem well settled.  She is into horses and has a lovely farm with a caretaker who lives on site.  Their house is three levels with a one bedroom apartment below and the two bedroom we rented above.  Their level obviously was not enough room for them so they built an incredible party room with spacious kitchen, large dining room and den with fireplace, a bathroom and a large deck. They have 4 or 5 lots with plenty of space for their various animals - three large dogs, chickens, 4 horses and a crazy, attack goose.  It really is a lovely, peaceful setting and we enjoyed our time there.  One afternoon we were outside and the three dogs started running with one of the horses, separated by the fence.  They would run the length of the fence, dawdle around a little, and then Spike would agitate for another run.  They did that repeatedly and it was fun to watch.  The Ponderosa was our second choice, but we did enjoy our time there.

On Friday, we went back into town and purchased a city map from the pizza shop we had asked directions from on our way to Colibri.  Sure enough, the lady remembered us and was pleased that we had stopped by for the map. We would see her again when we stopped in for pizza one evening!  From there we drove the Jaramillo Road loop into the mountains, which was breath-taking view, but had no place to pull over for photos. On the way down, we stopped at The Rock, another restaurant, to check out the menu.  We also found another place, The Garden, with great lunch salads.  Friday evening our hosts, Margie and Willie, invited us to join them and their friends for a Thanksgiving celebration.  We got to experience their party room and meet many of their friends, whom we kept running into throughout our stay.  It really set the tone for the whole visit.

The next day, Saturday, we went house hunting with Lauretta, whom Margie had recommended.  It was a good way to get a feel for the area and a deeper understanding of the community, but we felt she really was not showing us what we were interested in and our time might have been better spent, especially since she would require a second day to show us the interiors.  We cut the second day short and found some places to view independently.

Sunday was the Cabalgata, one of two major events that we did not expect.  The calbagata is one huge horse parade.  Their passion for horses was a total surprise to me, as about 500 horses and riders showed up for this.  Keep in mind that Boquete is a small town of about 13,000 people, so the parade route was around about 4-5 blocks long and several blocks across.  I guess that's why they kept going around and around.....that and the rum!  The parade included trucks that shot confetti into the crowd, trucks that carried the musicians, and trucks that supplied free rum!  We were advised to view from Big Daddy's, which proved to be wise.  We couldn't get a seat on the balcony, but after a few hundred horses passed by, that was smelled better inside!  It was easy to run down for photos or rum.  It was a fun day and a good time was had by all.  It was great to see the pride of some of the riders and the children who participated.  We were also struck by how easy it was to meet people.  We ran into almost everyone we had met at Margie's, plus several new people.  The town is about 20% expats and everyone seemed friendly and relaxed.  We left early enough to visit one of the developments we were interested in seeing (it was closed, but we found it for future reference)....and this may have been the evening we visited our favorite pizza lady again.

Monday was another quick day with Lauretta, after which we visited the Boquete Canyon development about 15 minutes outside of town.   It's in a lovely setting, surrounded by mountains with gorgeous clouds hanging around them.  After that we joined a new acquaintance, Wanda, for dinner and jazz at The Rock, an upscale restaurant we had heard checked out earlier.  The ambiance was fine, and the music was good, but the food a bit disappointing.  In any case, it was out of the ordinary for a little town like Boquete.

Tuesday, their Independence Day from Spain (they also celebrate their independence from Columbia!), we awakened to drums and went to sleep to drums - literally!  It was all good!  There were 52 marching bands from throughout the country that participated in the parade......and the President of Panama was also to be in town!  It seemed to begin with military and police groups, then children groups, and then the bands, saving the best to last.  It was a very festive day and the families loved having their children's photos taken in their native dress.  We walked around town for a bit and then viewed again from Big Daddy's, where we ran into familiar faces and met new people.  Another good day.

Wednesday was a very full day.  We had breakfast with the coatimundi at the local coffee shop.  They were just so much fun to watch and, with the wisdom of nature, they knew when to show up for snacks. We picked up  Wanda and went back out to Boquete Canyon to see properties we were not able to see the first visit.  From there we went to lunch at a charming little in-house restaurant run by a delightful local lady.  Her hospitality was as good as her food. It was easy to see that she would become a regular on anyone's restaurant list.  We dropped off Wanda and then proceeded to the coffee plantation tour with Boquete Tree Trek.  We were driven up the mountain on a narrow road, enjoying the scenery along the way.  There was a fine mist/rain, but we persevered and learned a lot about coffee, including Geisha coffee, which is the most expensive in the world.  It is $600/pound and their entire crop goes to Japan!  Since our plans had been somewhat sidetracked by celebrations and time with Lauretta, we were happy to have been able to do the tour.  It I ever go again, I'd like to have a night or two at the Tree Trek site and do their zip-line, canopy and bird watching tours.  Our guide said they sometimes saw howler monkeys and sloths on the coffee tour; but, due to the rain, we didn't. The day was not without excitement.  On our way down the mountain, the road was blocked by a huge tree that had fallen.  The driver had to turn around a large vehicle on a narrow of those close your eyes and hope for the best situations!  It only took them about 30 minutes to clear the tree and we were off again.  We finished the day by having dinner at Retrogusto (, a restaurant that would compare well to any restaurant anywhere.  We were asking about vegetarian and vegan dishes and the waiter suggested a "tasting".  So, we had a 5 course meal, with Melodee's being vegan and mine being vegetarian, with a nice bottle of wine. The food was delicious and we were served different menu items.  Once we agreed to the tasting, the waiter went over to the chef and explained what each of us would get, which was pretty amazing to us.  It was a wonderful way to end our last full day in Boquete.

We had planned to walk the grounds of the Ponderosa on our last morning, but it was the only day we had nasty weather.  So, we spent our time packing, tidying up, etc.  We had our last lunch at the Hotel Panamonte, which is another little jewel in Boquete.  It is very beautiful and quiet/serene.  Since our morning plans were sidetracked, we wound up having more time on our hands, so we headed to the airport earlier than initially expected, once again facing the challenge of no maps or street names.  I had copied directions from Google, but having no street signs still made it a challenge.  Once in town, we stopped at a bank to ask directions (because there was easy parking), but no one spoke English.  One lady did point to the coffee shop across the street, which we went to in order to access wifi.  When that didn't work, I just started going from table to table asking if anyone spoke English.  At my first stop, a kind gentlemen with excellent English took out his cell phone and gave us clear directions, which we thought we could follow.  I think we did some wandering around, but we did make it to the airport and the car check-in. We then flew from David to Panama City, where we had the night in the Ramada  before an early wake up for our flight out the next morning.

As I look back at our time there, I remember the coatimundi (and the animals we didn't get to see!), the beautiful flowers and the lush greenery, the pride and joy of the celebrations, and the ease of meeting people.  The drawbacks would be the difficulty getting to Boquete.  The road from David to Boquete is very good, but no maps and no signs tests your patience and ability.  Once you turn off the main roads, all others are extremely bumpy.  Everyone advises against getting a new car - get a junker!  Another thing I didn't realize is that most houses are sold furnished, due to the expense of shipping furnishings there.  That adds to the expense of property and you may wind up with furnishings you don't like.  Housing would be the major expense, as well as International health insurance.  Otherwise, one could live a very comfortable life at minimal expense. There seems to be many outside activities, as well as clubs to keep one as busy and involved. While no place is perfect, Boquete has a lot to offer.

I got home around 9PM to a very happy Rosie and Mama Mia.......and a neighborhood all decked out for Christmas!  I feel behind and don't think I'll get anything decorated until the weekend at easliest - if I don't talk myself out of it completely  Instead, I've enjoyed playing with my photos and remembering a wonderful vacation.  The only thing that went wrong is that I lost one of my favorite good earrings (that matches my favorite bracelet!).  I only carried one extra pair and I kept them in my purse.  I was the driver one day and I put the keys in the same compartment as the earrings, and I THOUGHT TO MYSELF, "Be careful when you remove the keys and don't lose an earring"!  So, what did I do?  Made me so mad for not listening to myself.

The day after getting home I was cooking and turned quickly to take cans to the recycle bin and got caught between an open dishwasher door and stepping on Mama Mia I leaned (hard) against the kitchen island, scraping the b-jesus out of my forearm. The moment I did it, I grabbed and squeezed the area.  I knew I would be bruised, but I didn't expect that I'd torn the skin. I guess that because I applied a lot of pressure, it didn't bleed very much.  I just tamped the skin back in place and applied an ointment and band-aids.  I've been leaving off the band-aids during the day but applying them at night to keep from moving the skin.  I guess I've officially arrived at that old lady, paper-thin-skin stage!!

Well, that was my vacation and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It is a beautiful part of the world and I'd go back again.  Just let me know when you're ready!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Busy, Busy

It's been a busy couple of weeks and I wanted to touch bases before more time passed.  It's that time of year when things begin to move fast around the holidays.

Melodee and I attended two films at the Savannah Film Festival on two consecutive Saturdays.  It was very festive and the weather was perfect on both days, so there were lots of people strolling about enjoying the event.  All of the eateries were busy and we had great lunches both days. The first movie we saw was Jane about the life of Jane Goodall (trailer here).  It was excellent.  It was composed of never before seen footage shot by a photographer for National Geographic's, who later became her husband.  I knew nothing of her personal life, so that was all very interesting, and the photography was spectacular.  Following the film was a Q & A session with one of the producers, which was also interesting and made us appreciate the film even more.

The second movie was Norman with Richard Gere.  He played a New York "fixer" and it was  kind of a character study, which seemed a different roll for him.  It, too, was good in a different kind of way.  Following the film was an interview with Richard himself.  He seemed very low key and with an easy sense of humor.  In the middle of it, one lady in the back stood up and shouted that she had flown in from Egypt just to see Mr. Gere!  He couldn't hear her, but when he learned what she had said, he called her down, shook her hand and wished her well.  At the end, after the final applause and the crowd was filing out, he called out a girl's name and asked if she was there.  Someone raised their hand and he said it was the sister of his son's best friend (who attends SCAD) and he just wanted to say hello.  So, who would ever expect to see Richard Gere in Savannah.  As we said, it was the best $3 we've ever spent!

An evening at Drinking Liberally

It also seems to have been a busy time for the Resistance.  The best news we've had is the wonderful election results early this month - a Shik was elected, several transgender people were elected, as well as lots of women and people of color.  It was a total repudiation of all Trump stands for.  We accomplished other things, or at least prevented the GOP to do some of the things they would like, but nothing as heady as the election.  Now if we can just maintain until the 2018 election!

Chris and I showed up at Mark Sanford's community Kroger, right out my back gate.  You can see that this was a much smaller group than previous town halls and it was about half democrats and republicans.  There were some heated exchanges but he commended us at the end for keeping it civil. He tends to be very slick and long winded, but at least he makes the effort and there is small satisfaction in asking questions or expressing concerns.  Chis and I also had a nice lunch in the midst of everything else (on a different day)!

After George Bush, John McCain and Jeff Flake made their scathing speeches about Trump and the GOP, Lowcountry Indivisible canvased members, asked for donations and ran this full page ad in our local paper.  I thought it was great!  I haven't heard it there has been any feedback, one way or the other.  It was definitely satisfying to see it!

An then, yesterday (Friday) Steve Bannon shows up in Charleston, invited by the cadets to speak at the Citadel Republican Society (and given some type of award)!  Only two years ago, a White Nationalist, which is one of the many vile things he claims to be, shot dead 9 members of Mother Emanuel Church while they were having Bible study!  And then, they do this!  I contacted Tippy, one of my Resister Sisters, and we put on our protest boots again.  You can see from the flyer that the rally was very inclusive and totally peaceful. In fact, we were doing our thing directly across the street from the event but our backs were basically turned to them.  The speakers were very inspirational and motivation.  It was also wonderful to see people from all the groups mentioned, all open and welcoming. It was a last minute thing, but I think we were both glad we made the effort to attend.  Rev. Dixon, the organizer, did a fantastic job and I would definitely attend anything he offers.

Another reason for trying to touch bases now, is that I'm a little over a week away from our (Melodee and myself) trip to Panama.  We're sussing it out in case this country continues to go to hell in a hand basket at warp speed and we need a Plan B.  The area we are visiting is in and around Boquete  (second link HERE), and it sounds wonderful......though we know no place is perfect.  I'm trying to remain objective and we have a lot of questions, as well as places and people to see. Our main concern is the weather.  While the temperature remains springlike all year, there is a rainy season when it rains almost every afternoon.  As I write today, the high here was about 59F.  It was 81 in Boquete!  Anyway, we shall see and I'll keep you posted.  My plan for tomorrow is to start getting my clothes together, which is never fun. In any case, I'll be in touch when I get back.  In the meantime.....

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Friends Move On

Time moves on and we're getting to the time of year, the holidays, when it goes into overdrive. Stores already have Christmas items on display and we haven't even gotten through Halloween!  It just makes me cringe!!

This month has been marked by the loss of friends - not due to my obnoxious behavior, but due to death and moves to other parts of the country.  The first was a memorial service for my neighborhood friend Mary.  She passed away several months ago. We bonded the day after the election when our paths crossed as we walked our dogs.  We hadn't talked politics at all before that, but we were so distraught that we both began sharing our disbelief.  It was at that point that I invited her to Drinking Liberally, which she attended faithfully and seemed to relish.  We were all stunned when she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and given only months to live. She managed it valiantly and with a certain resignation.  I never met her husband, who passed away several years earlier, with the same thing only faster, in a matter of weeks after being diagnosed.  As we learned from Mary's children at the service, they had not had a service for their father because Mary just couldn't fully let him go.  They confessed to not having fully dealt with his passing before Mary passed also.  They were both cremated and the service was for both of them, which just seemed fitting. It was a very intimate, touching service with their grandchildren reading a poem and doing a musical piece.  The eulogies by the children added more depth to the Mary we knew.  It was very touching and I felt honored to be included.  Later in the afternoon, the 3 children had hired a boat to take them out to sea where they would spread the ashes of their mom and dad, just as they had wanted.

Several days after Mary's service, I had lunch with Ana, another neighborhood friend and zentangle buddy.  She and Lou, her husband, have since moved to San Antonio. We got together as often as possible for an afternoon of lunch and zentangle.  It was always fun and a great chance for us to catch up. I'm going to miss Ana's motivation for doing zentangle.  I walk Rosie by their house every day and still expect to see them.

The day after that, I had lunch with another friend, Pilar, who has moved to California! Our connection was politics and I'm wondering if she will remain as active once she acclimates to a blue state.

That same week I had Drinking Liberally and lunch with another friend.....and this was just after I weighed myself to discover that I'd put on all the weight I'd made such an effort to lose before my UK trip!  My walking routine is still waiting to happen!!

My friend Melodee and I attended the second annual Lowcountry Vegfest at Shelter Cove Park.  As you can see from the photos, it was a lovely day and a great turnout.  I'd also say there were almost twice as many vendors and lots great food!  Pierre the pig was a huge attraction, as were rescued greyhounds.  Many animal sanctuaries were represented, as was our local Palmetto Animal League, from whom I adopted Chloe and who helped me with Mama Mia and her babies.  Gene Baur, who has been a vegan since 1985 and founded the first farm animal sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY, was the guest speaker.  While he was probably preaching to the choir, he was still very motivational. The first 300 people received a swag bag of freebies, but I did buy No Evil Foods Spicy Italian Sausage.  The next day I made a pasta recipe and used the sausage, and it was sooo good!  Their business is out of Asheville, NC but you can buy their products at Whole Foods.  I'm definitely pleased to have discovered them.  Vegfest lasted from 10AM until 5PM, but we left around 2:30 and went to Driessen Beach for about an hour.  We just sat, enjoyed the view and soaked up the sun.  It was a great way to end the afternoon.

Those are the fun things, and the remainder of my time has been filled with the usual - feeding feral cats, doing my Resistance work, hospice volunteer work, progressive ladies' lunches, and real exciting things like cleaning the garage!  It has finally gotten cool enough to be able to do that.  It seems that fall has finally arrived and it's nice to be able to get out anything of the day and be reasonably comfortably.

Rosie wishes you a Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Fall is in the Air

Yes, today is the first day it has felt like Fall and it feels very good.  As someone said, "Fall is the Southerner's reward for getting through the summer"!  It was a bit breezy when I took Rosie out for her walk and she even seemed to have an extra spring in her step.  I'm trying to get back into my walking routine and I can no longer use the weather as an excuse, so maybe I will actually get back into it.

It also feels like I haven't been home much, what with my wonderful vacation, the Irma evacuation and a weekend in NC for a family reunion. So, I'm hoping to have some treasured home time over the next week.  I wasn't ready to leave home again for the reunion, but I'm glad I went and I really enjoyed it.  As usual, there was lots of good food.  Laney, my cousin who always has a great garden, sent me home with lots of eggplants and bell peppers.  As soon as I got home I made a quick and simple eggplant stir-fry.  I shared some with friends and then made the dish here, mainly because it looked so pretty.  Well, it smelled wonderful while cooking and it tasted great......and I still have enough to make a Chickpea Eggplant Stew! If you're interested, I combined these two recipes: How to Make Perfect Ratatouille and Zucchini, Eggplant, Tomato Gratin.  Enjoy!

It's been a very busy week.  The repeal of the Affordable Care Act was prevented so we political junkies (the Resistance) are taking a break before we tackle the tax "reform".  It seems like I've eaten out almost every day this week, but the real treat came when Chris emailed to ask if I wanted to join her and Sue, a friend visiting from Milwaukee, for an evening at the beach.  It was such a fun event to look forward to that I got motivated - two packages in the mail, car washed, began scanning my mother's old photos (lots of fun to see), and more.  It was like someone lit a fire under me!  The evening was just as relaxing and fun as I'd anticipated.  Chris brought some scrumptious sandwiches and I brought the wine, disguised as apple juice!  A few minutes after we arrive, it was like the temperature just dropped a few degrees.  We sat and watched the sun set and marveled at a little one-legged sea gull that kept hanging around.  We also noticed three other ladies doing exactly the same thing!  What a great way to end the day!  I've already mentioned to Chris that we need to do this more often, along with other friends, and to make it a tradition when Sue visits - lots of good conversation, laughs, and the beauty of nature!

File this under More Than You Want to Know!  I began scanning my mother's old photos because when I went to the reunion, my cousin had scanned theirs and distributed the originals to the family's shown in the photos.  It was really fun to see them all and listen to comments and stories.  I came home determined to do the same so I could share them at the next reunion.  These are a few (of the best ones!) she gave me.  The first thing that struck me is how dark my hair was.....once I got some! I'm about 1/3 through my mother's photos and am enjoying seeing them again. I'm also noticing things I hadn't noticed before.  Maybe that's the eye of age!

Ana, my neighborhood buddy and zentangle partner, is moving to San Antonio.  We went out to lunch yesterday and she gave me these beautiful plants.  I don't have the green thumb that she has, but I'm going to make every effort to maintain them.  I'm planning to get one larger pot for all of the cacti and hope that I can transplant them without killing them!  I do fairly well with succulents, so I'm being positive!!  They will also be an excellent reminder to Ana and Lou.  I'm going to miss them, but I know they are excited about the move and will enjoy being near her family.

I have to confess to still viewing my vacation photos....and loving every minute of them!  This past week was the first time I had a chance to show them to the hospice ladies I visit. One of the ladies is a native of England and I knew she would enjoy them.  Every week I visited her before the trip.  I reminded her that I was going to the UK.  She always asked when.  When I said "August" she assured me that was the perfect time to go.  Anyway, when we got to this photo, she commented on how beautiful Katie looked, how lovely the flowers were, and then she said, "and Martin looks quite pleased with himself"!  That really tickled me!  I assured her that Martin was a proud father.....and he did choke up a bit during the father-of-the-bride speech.  Both ladies enjoyed the photos and it was an excuse for me to see them again.

This week, while being busy for me, has also been a busy birthday month.  I'm very behind in everything, so I want to wish Carolyn and Sandra my very best BELATED HAPPY BIRTHDAY wishes!!  I hope you both had wonderful birthdays and that it carries over into the coming year.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Hurricane Irma

I had hardly settled in from my trip to the UK before we were ousted by Hurricane Irma.  It was such a large storm and, having evacuated twice before, I knew it was better to leave earlier rather than later.  Early on I touched bases with Rhonda, whom I evacuated with last year, but she already had the week off and was heading to Franklin, NC to check on her dad.  She suggested Tippy, a mutual friend, and I touch bases.  As it turned out, Tippy had planned to evacuate to her cabin in the NC mountains, in none other than Franklin!!  So, I was fortunate enough to be invited along.  Her cabin turned out to be the perfect retreat.  It is a one bedroom cabin with two sleeper sofas.  It has everything one could possibly want or need, with no clutter to distract.  It was delightful.

A major part of the evacuation is the drive out and back, both of which take much longer than usual.  People from Florida were already evacuating so the interstates were clogged.  It took 10-11 hours each way.  Before leaving, I stopped by the vet's office to pick up something to calm Rosie so she wouldn't pant all the way there.  It worked like a charm going out, but not as well coming back, so I stopped and gave her 1/4 of the medication and that settled her for the remainder of the drive.  Once I got Mama Mia's situation right, she slept most of the way up and back!  When we were almost half-way up, Tippy got a call saying the storm had veered west, so we stopped to figure out what to do.  Being indecisive, we went to a car dealership that we were parked near and asked if we could come in and watch the weather channel!!  They were very gracious and let us sit for a minute and figure out what to do.....and we probably gave them something to talk about for the rest of the day!

I need to thank Martin W for the app (Waze) that got me home quickly (relatively speaking).  As I neared Columbia, which is always congested, it took me on and off I-26 several times, then directing me through Orangeburg.  I never got on I-95 at all and kept moving the whole time.  I kept wondering whether or not I would make better time on 95, but once I talked to Rhonda, I was glad I trusted the app.  She left an hour before us and got home at 1AM.  I got home at 9PM!!  

The day after we arrived in Franklin, we had brunch with Robyn and Mary Elizabeth, friends and neighbors of Tippy.  Robyn is a superb cook and we had creamy scrambled eggs with green onion, garlic, etc. and cheesy grits made with brie - out of this world!  We then invited Mary, Robyn, Rhonda and Mike (her dad) to join us for dinner at the local Thai restaurant.  More delicious food and great conversation. We also shared banana pancakes and cinnamon pancakes with Robyn and Mary during our stay.  What a way to start each day!

They also invited us all over for dinner one night, along with two other neighbors.  It is a very tight-knit community and I felt honored to be so welcomed.  They had ham for the carnivores, but Robyn made the best pinto beans and farro (which I'd never eaten before, but will henceforth!).  She shared her recipe and I'm going to be experimenting. You can see the spread, complete with homemade biscuits!  

As the weather was getting a bit worse, Tippy and I went back over to Robyn and Mary's the following morning to help them move furniture off their deck, before coming back and doing the same at Tippy's place.  It has to be said that they have one of the best mountain views I've seen.  It's a panoramic view and each day, or even time of day, is different from the last.....just beautiful, as you can see.

The storm itself was minimal, or as Tippy described it, "a leaf event", blowing down lots of leaves and small branches.  Through the night there were gusts of wind and rain, and I did hear branches knock against the house, but all in all, very minimal.  Poor little Rosie, didn't poop for two days because of the rain and wet leaves.  To even get her away from the door, we would carry her to the end of the drive, hoping she would decide to pee pee, poo poo on her sprint home!  It didn't happen and you can imagine her relief when she again saw dry grass!!  She was a good girl, though, not pooping in the house.

The day after the storm, we went over to Robyn and Mary's again, to put out their furniture.  We had to walk the last part of the way as they had about 4 small trees fall across the road, blocking their driveway.  We took photos and alerted them of the situation and, before we left, their neighbors came to the rescue.  It was at that point that we decided to head home, quickly packing up and securing the house.  The plan was to go to Tippy's sister in Spartanburg, at which point I would decide whether or not to stay over or carry on home.  Once I got the pets situated, I really didn't want to put them or me through it the next day, so I just dragged on home.  You really do put yourself in that "this has to get done" mode and carry on.  I was exhausted and my eyes were bleary because it's been a long time since I've driven hours at night.  But, the next morning, it was nice to be home.  There was no damage to the house and when I plugged in everything, all worked except my internet.  I called Hargray ASAP and they were out to replace the box at 1PM the same delay whatsoever!  

I'm saving the best photo for last!
Here is Tippy with her refurbished sign - "If you ain't invited, you ain't invited"!  After meeting friends and neighbors, I felt honored to be invited and so warmly welcomed.  Considering the circumstances, it was a restful, relaxing and fun way to spend an evacuation. Tippy was so laid-back and very gracious to me and to the fur-babies, which I very much appreciated.  They all turned a threatening event into wonderful time spent with new friends.  My deepest thanks to everyone!

More photos!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

My Time in England

Well, it has to be said that I had a fantastic vacation....on every level!  The wedding was a magical weekend and it was so good to see long-time friends again.  Every day was non-stop from morning til night and somehow I kept the pace, due to a mixture of adrenaline, fun and sheer delight!!  It was the first time since the beginning of the year that I've felt that light and carefree.  I'd almost forgotten how it felt!  So, I highly recommend getting away to everyone!!

Eileen met me at St Pancras station and we took the train to Loughborough in the Midlands. That was not without calamity!  After signing up for a program that would allow me to use my cell phone in the UK, it wouldn't work!  We were to meet at the steps from the tube to the station, but it was a very small area, so I ventured into the trendy Mall that was attached.  I kept on the lookout for Eileen, but no luck (I didn't know that she also didn't have cell service on the train down!). This is when you really miss those red phone boxes!! Finally, I stopped at a service desk and asked if they could make a call for me.  They called Eileen and no answer!!  Then I asked if I could text her, which they kindly allowed me to do.  I told her I could be in front of John Lewis in the, I just parked myself there. Finally, Eileen got cell service again to find that she had missed a call and received a text.  At that point, she stopped at the same service desk to ask where John Lewis was located!!  Somewhere in the midst of all that, we had passed each other at least once!!  We sat and had coffee and a good laugh!!

We took an afternoon train to Loughborough and it began to rain.  It rained the rest of the afternoon and into the night (and I kept threatening to sleep in the conservatory as the rain sounded so good!).  By mid-morning the next day, the sun peaked through and the weather was pretty much clear for the rest of my visit!!  Our first morning was spent at the Peter La Merchant Trust boat site, where Eileen volunteers.  The Trust takes handicapped and elder people of day long boat trips, which must be a real treat for them.  I can see why Eileen enjoys it.  We were there in time to go on-board and see the boat and volunteers.  Shortly, a group arrived and we got to see them board and leave port.  The boat had to turn around in the canal and I could have sworn that the boat was longer than the canal was wide - but they did it!!  From there we went to Eileen's quilting group, a jovial group of talented ladies. Not all were quilting, some were doing stitchery or working on Christmas ornaments, etc.  Last year they made 99+1 quilts for Project Linus, which uses the small quilts for children in crisis situations.  Their quilts were exceptional and something anyone would treasure.  

The following day Eileen was kind enough to drive down to Manchester for a visit with Allan's sister Jean, Douglas, and their extended family.  We had a scrumptious lunch, and it was so sunny and warm that we sat outside for a portion of the afternoon.  The last time I saw them, they had one they have four, three boys and one girl!!  I said Audrey would either be spoiled or tough (or both), but as they all mature, I'm sure she will be well looked after.  I missed seeing Howard, but it was great to see Victoria, Abi, Paul and to meet Paul's parents.  Our time was short, but I'm so glad we were able to get together and catch up a bit.

The next day it was time to head for Bradford-on-Avon, where we were staying for the wedding.  Bradford is a lovely town, especially the stone buildings.  We soon discovered that, as lovely as it is, there was no long term parking!!  We asked everyone we met and most suggested parking in a residential area, though I could imagine someone becoming suspicious of a strange car parked outside their house.  Though a little dubious, we were considering that option, when the Bobby suggested we go to the nearby taxi stand and schedule all of our pickups.  While there, we asked the lady behind the counter about long term parking and she asked if we'd be moving the car a lot.  We told her our plan was to park it and use their, she told us to bring our car there.  When we did, she pulled her car out of the parking space and motioned us in!!  What a nice thing to do!!  We left it there all weekend without worry, but every time we got into a taxi, the driver asked if we were the ladies whose car was at the station!!  
There were two other funny instances in Bradford. 

  • As we were checking into our hotel, we told the owner that everyone, even the police, recommended their pies.  He said, "If you've only been in town a short time and already encountered the police, maybe I should be suspicious"!  
  • It may have been the same night when we were meeting Ann and Martin for dinner.  It was difficult for the taxi to pick us up at the hotel, so they asked us to meet them at the corner. There was a light mist so, fully dressed for dinner, we stood in the doorway of a shop that was closed.  A man, his wife and their dog passed by.  The man stopped and said, "You two must have a story!"  We all laughed and assured him he didn't have enough time!!  
All of that made our time in Bradford special.

Ann and Martin invited us to join the family for dinner (on the night before the wedding) at the George Inn at Norton St Philip. The George is the oldest continuous pub in England, "serving beer for 700 years"!!  The ambiance was great and everyone in good spirits.  Emily and Eileen had a good chat and Katie and I talked politics a bit......she's a girl after my own heart!  It was a great preface to the following day!

On Saturday, the day of the wedding, we had a leisurely morning and time to prepare for the wedding at 2:30.  The afternoon was sunny and clear, as was the whole weekend (as you'll see in my photos).  Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of photos of the wedding itself, but I'm hoping to get a copy of a video that Stephen put together, which I will post later.  St Thomas a Becket Church was beautiful and intimate.  The floral arrangements, as well as Katie's bouquet and head-dress, were beautiful, as was her dress.  Adrian looked handsome and stylist, as were all of their friends.  The priest was very humorous and expected it to be a joyous celebration, which it was!  It could not have gone more perfectly!  From there we went by a double-decker bus to Wick Farm for the reception - another beautiful location and setting, passing a castle along the way!  It was nice enough to mingle outside for a while before going in for speeches and dinner.  The bride's maids, Emily and Francesca, spoke first, followed by Martin, who straight away quoted from Genesis!!  There was a nervous stirring from all assembled!!  Luckily, he took a clever turn and everyone laughed!  His speech was great and he did get a little choked up at the end......he did have us going there for a while, though!  It was a lovely evening and we oldies even managed to stay up past our bedtimes!

Sunday was another perfect day!  Margaret and Phil, Adrian's parents, had invited everyone to their house for brunch.  It was an afternoon of nice weather, good conversation, delicious good and total relaxation.  The garden was absolutely beautiful and there was a white cat that vacillated between sleeping among the flowers and granting his presence to cat worshipers in the crowd.  Phil took us to see the panoramic view of Bath, which was serene and peaceful, with a little viewing deck perfect for a glass of wine and a good book!! Heavenly!  Later in the afternoon, we went to Gillingham, where Ann and Martin have settled.  They have a lovely home and Martin has a well established BBQ routine, and major BBQ skills that he's honed over the years.  I was very impressed.

The following day on her way home, Eileen dropped me off at Dave and Jenny Cameron's.  It was great to have some time to just sit and chat.  The first night we looked at photos and told stories, remembering things I hadn't thought about in a long time......lots of fun.  Tuesday Jenny and I spent most of the day seeing the National Memorial Arboretum, which is massive.  There are over 300 memorials commemorating all branches of the armed services, as well as all support groups.  I was pleased to see that women seem to be well represented, as were animals.  We were in the Far East Prisoners of War building and I was reading about a family that was sent to Changi Prison in Singapore.  It was about six children of a mixed race family.  Five of the children had their mother's coloring, but the sixth was white like the father, which gave away the family.  The father was in the men's part of the prison, while mother and children where in another part......until the boys turned 10, at which point they were put in with the men.  As I was reading, a lady walked up and told me that she knew the girl in the story.  They had been best friends in Singapore and she, too, had gone to Changi Prison.  A small group gathered around her and she told us about her time in the prison, being moved to another prison, and eventually coming to England at the age of 14 with nothing except the clothes on her back.  Her story was amazing and I'm so glad she was able to share it with us.  It was a relaxing, informative day, nice enough to even have lunch outside.  That evening we had pies that I'd bought from Bradford!!  Everyone in town kept telling us that the place we were staying had the best pies around and, since we didn't have a chance to try them, we took some to go!  It worked out perfectly because Stacey joined us for dinner!  I'm so glad she stopped by and I had a chance to catch up with her as a young woman.  The last time I saw them was at Disney World when they were still children.  Steffi was away, touring Asia with several friends.....since February!!  She just returned a few days ago and I'd love to hear her stories! It was a great visit and I really enjoyed it.  Dave sent me away with the following cartoon, for those who want to know how the rest of the world sees what's going on here!!

The next day Ann and Martin picked me up and we all had a scrumptious lunch with the Camerons before heading back to Gillingham.  We had lots of time to catch up and natter.  One high point of my time there was an afternoon at Stourhead, part of the National Trust.  It is a large estate with absolutely beautiful grounds.  Christine and John Snell joined us and it was a delightful afternoon, followed by drinks at the local pub (The Buffalo) and a delicious Indian meal.....all within walking distance of the Wingrove's house.  The second high point was as time in Sherborne - a very picturesque town which includes the Abbey of St Mary the Virgin.  This is a perfect example of how magical the trip was......while in Sherborne, we stopped for lunch.  The minute we walked into the restaurant, it started to pour HAILED, but by the time we finished lunch the sun was trying to peak out again!!!  I also enjoyed getting to know Stephen as a nice young man rather than the chubby cheeked child I'd know long ago.  He is a delight.  The whole time was enjoyable. 

On Saturday we drove to Clifton/Bristol to meet up with Lyn and Jacqui.  We arrived a little late due to construction/detoured traffic/etc., but we had a late lunch and then walked around our area, including a park and the expansion bridge.  We stopped for a drink at a hotel with a large, outside sitting area, which was packed due to the nice weather.  We got back to our hotel in time to get changed for dinner!!  We had a nice meal at the Cote, followed by pub time at The Mall.  That was when the stories and laughs came out!!  It was so nice to see them both and have a chance to just sit and catch up.  It was also great to see Lyn looking so well after his health issues several years back AND to find that he's enjoying retirement!  We all got together for breakfast the next morning before going out separate ways.  It seemed too short and I was very appreciative of the time together.  Before leaving Bristol, we stopped to visit Emily and Olli. It was nice to see them in their own setting and to hear their plans for the future.  

The next morning it would all come to an end. Somehow we all got showered, packed and Martin barbecued again!  Ann and Martin would also be flying out about the same time as me to Holland to celebrate Martin's retirement with the office there. Later in the week they would be celebrating Martin's retirement with the London I'm not sure how they maintained the pace through it all, but they did.  From my perspective, I can only say "a good time was had by all" - at least I hope so.  It was a magical trip for me from beginning to end and I thank all who took the time and made the effort to get together.  I hope you will let me return the hospitality!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

August Is Here!

Yes, August is here and that means I'm off to the UK for two weeks!!  I  can't believe the time has arrived!  The Wingrove Event Planners International have designed a great itinerary for me, allowing me to have time with lots of longtime friends.  So, in addition to Katie and Adrian's wedding, there will be lots of reunions, to which I'm really looking forward.  

Eileen is my first stop, and while I'm with her we will travel to Manchester to visit Allan's sister and her family.  There have been three additional grandchildren since my last visit, so many little ones to meet.  On the weekend, Eileen and I will travel down to Bath for the wedding, which should be a happy, festive weekend.  She will then drop me off at the Camerons for a couple of nights.  While I saw Dave and Jenny at the 2015 reunion, their "children" are now young women!!  Ann and Martin will pick me up there and I'll have some time with them, which is really exciting as I haven't been to Dorset or seen their new house.  We also plan an overnight in Bristol in hopes of meeting up with the Thomases and possibly the Marshes.  No doubt there will be many embarrassing memories shared over a glass or two of wine!  I wish I could see everyone, but I'm a bit disoriented about where Ann and Martin are now located.  In any event, we are really maximizing my time - and we ladies do have to have some time to just sit and "chew the fat".  I'm really looking forward to it all and it's great that it"s centered around such a happy occasion.

Started packing today - at least selecting clothes and seeing that all will fit before pressing, etc.  Even that presented a problem as Mama Mia decided she might want to travel a bit, too!  She kept moving to whatever section of the bed I was working, until I finally had to give up and try again later.

Preparations were not without drama.  Several weeks ago I had to take Rosie to the vet.  She was very lethargic and two days straight she threw up clear, bubbly stuff immediately follow by a white, thick mucous that she could hardly spit out.  When I threw a squeaky toy down the hall and she didn't move from her bed, I knew something was really wrong.  The vet didn't know the source of the problem, unless she had eaten something that made her ill.  He gave her and antibiotic shot and sent me home with another antibiotic and something for the vomiting.  It took a few days, but she recovered and returned to her usual happy, perky self.  This is the first time she has been sick and I was very so glad she is better.

Then this week it was Mama Mia, who had a severe case of constipation.  This has been an ongoing problem for her, but this was an extreme case, to the tune of about $500!!  Because she was (and pretty much remains) a feral cat, they had to handle her with gloves and anesthetize her in order to do the examination.  They gave her an enema and kept her overnight to be sure she was pooping.  Then the vet sent me home with some chew-able tabs to put in her food - that was very iffy!  Plan B was to add coconut oil or mineral oil to her food, which she stopped eating!  After two days without pooping (partially because she wasn't eating) one of the people who will be caring for my pets while I'm away stopped by and asked if I'd tried Miralax.  So I researched it online and most people added it to moist food, which Mama doesn't eat.  Finally, I found people whose cats only eat dry food and they added Miralax to the dry food.  So, I tried that and it seemed to adhere to the dry food and is tasteless and odorless.  I put it on her food one night and the next morning she had eaten it all.  Twenty-four hours later - poop!!  Who would ever expected one would be so happy about poop!  I'm hoping things will be normalize by the time I leave........never a dull moment!

Otherwise, I devote much of my time to The Resistance!!  We actually prevented the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) from being repealed even though the Repugs hold all branches of government.......and it's mostly women doing this!!  In fact, when they determined who was active in this process, the answer was "your mother"......not the vulgar term, but women old enough to be your mother or grandmother.  Also, it appears that many more women are running for office, which I think is a wonderful thing.  My feeling is that the world will be a better place when women claim their power and use it for good!! HOWEVER, I have to confess that it has all been exhausting and depressing!  I really can't imagine having to do this for 4 (or God forbid, 8!!) years......but if we don't, the USA will be a 3rd world autocracy of some sort that you will not recognize.  I think much of this was inspired by the Women's March in DC the day after the Inauguration, which makes me even more proud that I participated.....on the day after my 70th birthday!!  WOMEN ROCK!!

This is a sweet thing that happened today. The lady who cleans my house every couple of weeks in from Mexico.  She originally worked for a cleaning service that abruptly shut down, but she contacted me about continuing to clean my house.  Eventually, her niece joined her.  Well, Anna, her niece, was away for awhile, visiting her family in Mexico.  Today was her first day back and she brought me this cute little basket and some sweets - dried sweet potato and fig.  That was just so sweet!!  It made my day!

Will close now but wanted to touch bases before I head out.  I hope this finds everyone doing well and enjoying the season.  No doubt I will have lots to share when I get back!  In the meantime, take care and enjoy every minute!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

July 4, 2017

Well, July is upon us, much too quickly. It appears I missed the whole month of June! This year the 4th. seems a bit somber as so much is changing in our country, at headlong pace.  I was invited to a few things tonight, but just decided to stay in, not wanting to be dealing with traffic after fireworks, etc.  Someone recommenced a Netflix movie - Thurgood, about Thurgood Marshall, I assume - which seemed a good, patriotic substitute for fireworks (and I can be in my PJs!)!

I and many of my friends continue our work in the Resistance, which is wearing after 6 months. It is amazing how much destruction can be done in such a short time.  A shoe drops almost every day, each one more terrible than the last. In my case, I make calls or send faxes almost every day, but you do get to a point where you just have to take some down time!  We are all beginning to wonder if we can maintain 4, or God forbid 8, years of this!!  It really is depressing and totally disappointing!

I have maintained my usual groups and activities, all of which are great diversions.  June included a very nice Liberal Ladies cocktail party and the Democratic Picnic.  On the 17th, my friend Melodee and I went to the Juneteenth celebration at Mitchelville Beach.  We especially enjoyed the McIntosh County, GA. Ring Shouters (seen HERE in Library of Congress video) and the Praise Singers.  It was a pleasant afternoon and something a little different to do.

The photos of me in the video prove that I have become my mother!  I never really thought I looked like her, but actually gasped when I saw the photos!  Looking like her is not a bad thing, just a surprise!  Oh, the joys of aging!

For years, I've wanted to go to the Port Royal Street Music concerts....but it seemed like too much of a drive.  They're held every other week through the summer (except, hot, hot!).  Since Melodee lived there for a while, she was familiar with the area and the concerts, so we headed over one Saturday afternoon/evening.  It really was a delight.  I was dreading the heat, but the area was shaded and people just brought their chairs, or wheeled up in golf carts, with wine and snacks, and listened to the music.  There were people of all shapes, sizes, colors, ages....socializing, dancing, just enjoying the music.  It really was fun and I will definitely be going back again.

This past Friday, Chris and I had a day in Savannah, another place I don't go often enough.  We started with a great lunch at Kayak, an excellent little restaurant, and then did a little walk around the area.  There are lots of interesting shops, which we enjoyed.  Then we went to the Jepson Museum to see the Kahlil Gibran art exhibit.  It happens that he had a long, enduring friendship with Mary Haskill, who eventually settled in Savannah and donated many of his art pieces to the Jepson Museum.  I was totally unaware that he was also an artist and his work was very impressive.  To counter that, in another area of the museum, was an exhibit by three Arab women which showed the stark reality of what is happening in parts of the Middle East today.....very thought provoking!  We made our way home just before the afternoon thunderstorm began.  It was a great escape and I really enjoyed it. Chris does her share in the Resistance and I think we're going to have to come up with more distractions like this!

I've also started walking again - about 2.5 - 3.5 miles a day, about 5 days a week.  Katie Wingrove's wedding is the major motivation, but it also gets me away from MSNBC for a while.  in addition, rather than watching MSNBC all the time, I've started listening to NPR on my computer.  Even though they, too, talk politics, it is not the same thing over and over - and they do cover other topics.  So, I am trying to find ways to keep current without the constant barrage.  Walking does make me feel better, both physically and mentally.....though not sure its helping with the weight at all! 

July seems to be a sparse month, but things usually crop up.  I do need some time to prepare for my trip to the UK, to which I'm looking forward!  In addition to the wedding, it will be great to see friends...and the country itself!  It may be the "get-away" I really need!!

That's about it for me.  I hope this finds everyone doing well and Happy 4th to all Stateside!