Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hesitant Max

While walking in the woods the other day looking for The Elms Plantation ruins I found some deer antlers. Robin was pretty excited about it so she brought it home.

Tonight I was looking at them and immediately thought about Max, the dog from 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas'

I decided that I needed one of our dogs to wear the antlers "Grinch-style", but I knew that it would be easier said than done. I picked Lucas for the experiment and he acted as if I was trying to kill him whenever I approached him with the antlers. After 5 minutes of trying to turn Lucas into Max I gave up, only to get this one mediocre shot.

My friend Becky said the antler looks like an avante-garde hat, which made me laugh!

Perhaps I should create a haute couture canine hat collection inspired by antlers found in the woods and lovable Max from The Grinch.

It's hard to be an entrepreneur when you don't have willing models at home to experiment on!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Lunar Eclipse

Yes, I was one of those nerdy people that was up in the wee hours of the morning just to see the total lunar eclipse that happened last night. What was I thinking?

I didn't even know that the eclipse was happening until Robin sent me a text message earlier in the day telling me about it. Following her message the eclipse was all I heard about for the rest of the day! I'm not sure how it managed to not be on my radar earlier in the week - where have I been?

Before I went to bed I wavered back and forth about whether I was going to watch it, or not. It was a "school night", after all. I finally decided to set my alarm for 1 a.m. and went to bed. When the alarm went off I laid there for a while and thought about how crazy I was for doing this. Robin had to be at work at 7 a.m. so she did the responsible thing and stayed in bed.

After hitting the snooze button a couple of times I finally dragged my butt out of bed around 1:20 a.m. I'm really glad it was dark outside and that no one was with me, because I looked like a hot mess in my blue sweat pants, blue cable knit sweater, red Croc slippers and black Magic Scarf. I looked a lot like this lady! Sexy!

After grabbing my camera and tripod I set up shop on our pool-less deck in the back yard. My initial idea was to go down to Bushy Park because it's right on the river and there are hardly any lights out there but there was no way I was going down there by myself that late at night.

I turned off all the lights in the house because I didn't want any outside lights interfering with the photos. The moon was so bright that it lit up the entire back yard. It almost looked as if the backyard light was on!

After getting situated I zoomed in on the moon and started shooting. I was actually surprised at how fast the eclipse happened. I think I was out there (off and on) for a little over an hour. Being allergic to the cold, I had to come inside every 10 minutes or so to run my hands under hot water to thaw them out. They were so red, swollen and in a lot of pain. I eventually found a pair of gloves which helped a little.

A lot of my friends up North were complaining on Facebook that they couldn't see the moon because of cloud coverage so I posted one of my photos on Facebook for them to see while on one of my breaks inside. On my next break Robin came out of the bedroom and handed my my phone and walked away. I guess since posting that photo my phone was blowing up with facebook messages and emails. Oops! Sorry Robin!!

Every time I went outside there was a dog about two houses away that barked and barked and barked. It was so annoying. Where were the owners and why was that dog outside for that long? It's freezing outside! If my dogs were barking outside like that we would most definitely be having a special "no bark zone" conversation!

When the moon finally disappeared and turned that beautiful shade of orange I couldn't take anymore so I packed it up and went inside. I was a Pamsicle! Brrr! Before going to bed I quickly posted several untouched photos that showed the progression of the eclipse for my friends that couldn't see it. They missed such a spectacular and beautiful show!

My friend Edna and I made a promise to check on each other at work to make sure the other wasn't falling asleep at the desk. About 3:30 p.m. is when the fatigue set in - luckily I only had another hour to go!

Since viewing the eclipse I keep thinking about that scene from the movie Dolores Claiborne where the town gathered to view the total solar eclipse. Out of curiosity I Googled "solar eclipse" and the last one happened on July 11, 2010. Where the hell was I? I really need to keep up with these solar system happenings.

The 12/21/10 Lunar Eclipse from my backyard!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Elms Plantation Ruins

Robin and I decided to brave the cold weather today to find The Elms Plantation Ruins. Our initial plan for the day was to go to the Folly Beach Christmas Parade but we slept in and Robin had a bit of a headache so we hung out in our pajamas for most of the morning.

Once we we were dressed we headed out to the general vicinity of the ruins. Robin had to run an errand so she met me at the location. I drove by the Elms Plantation neighborhood, which is a gated community, and noticed that the gate was open. There was no "no trespassing" sign so I decided to drive back there to see if I could find the location that I pinpointed on Google Earth. I was warned in a prior conversation by Mayor Heitzler not to park in that neighborhood because it is a private community, but you know... I know best, right?? Ha! Wait until the end of my story!

While waiting for Robin I put together a small cache to place near the ruins. When she arrived we walked toward the woods and into an opening. There was a trail but we had no idea where the ruins were, so we just wandered aimlessly for about an hour - mostly off trail. The woods were thankfully not very dense and we could walk openly without a constant battle with limbs and vines attacking us. It was very quiet and peaceful and some of the oaks were amazing! It was pretty cold out so we knew we didn't have to be on constant lookout for our slithery little friends.

We spread out a bit so we could cover more space and eventually lost sight of each other. I tried yelling for Robin, but it was obvious that she could not hear me. I walked to the path and stood there for a while hoping that she would eventually come my way. No luck. I sent her a text message asking where she was and didn't think I would get a response because she never brings her cell phone anywhere. I was thinking we should have brought the 2-way radio's with us!! Miraculously, my phone started ringing - it was Robin - she actually, for once, brought her phone with her! I told her where I was and waited for her. After waiting and waiting still no Robin. Hmmmm... I called her again. I was pretty irritated because I had been waiting for a while and I was really cold. Also, who knows what was lurking in those woods. Sasquatch could be lurking around the corner!

I called Robin again. She thought that I was headed over there. What?! Ugh!! No..... I told her that I didn't think that she ruins were over there. Why would the Mayor tell us to go in on the neighborhood side of the woods and not the University side? I told her that we were losing daylight and that I was going to continue walking. Luckily she found me within minutes. I didn't want to wander anymore so I used my usual "phone-a-friend" option and called Mayor Heitzler. He told me that he had been there a couple of days ago and gave me some landmarks, all of which I had seen. We chatted for a couple of minutes and I happened to look to my left and said to Robin "What is that?"

To my left were all these large mounds and bricks strewn everywhere. When I saw the fallen column of the plantation house I knew we found it! I felt kind of dumb when I told the Mayor that the whole time I was talking to him, I was standing next to it. Oopsie! He told me to have fun on our adventure and we hung up.

The first thing I did was place the cache. I chose this really cool spot under these trees that were all intertwined and twisted together.

Sadly, there wasn't really much left of the ruins. The only thing standing was a portion of a column of the house.

Most of what was left was just brick after moss covered brick.

The ground was covered with leaves so we really couldn't tell what was underneath them all. All I could think about was that I'll have to come back during the Summer when it's easier to see the ground. Hopefully the moss will have gone away by then, also.

I found this document on the Historic American Buildings Survey search on the Library of Congress website.

I really wish that there were surviving images of the plantation house and gardens, but being that the house was so old and lay in ruins after the 1886 earthquake I think we are pretty lucky that even an artists rendering survives.

This drawing is what I had in mind as I walked over all of those moss covered bricks. I always have to remind myself to take a moment to be still and imagine what stood where I was standing 100 years, even 200 years ago - the daily, bustling activity of a working plantation, the rice and corn fields, the sunken gardens, the avenue of oaks... what happened to the furniture that was in the house? Is it in some of the old, historical homes of Charleston? My mind races like crazy when I visit these historic places!

After taking many photos we decided to head out of the woods and found we were surprisingly close to the neighborhood. While walking up the street we heard someone call out to us. Robin yelled "Yes" - I then realized that the woman asked if "those cars" belonged to us. I just kept on walking because I really didn't care what the woman was saying. The woman kept yelling out to us. She asked if she could help us. Both Robin and I answered "No" and I added that we were leaving. She kept yelling out to us. She wanted to know who we were and what we were doing in her neighborhood. At that point I really wish I had listened to the Mayor when he said not to park in the The Elms!

We kept on walking and we were almost to the car and the woman was following us with her yelping little dog. I knew that she was going to be relentless so we stood and waited for her. I was incredibly irritated by her persistence. It was pretty absurd.

As she approached I said "Can we help you?" and she asked if we were visiting someone and we told her no. I told her again we were leaving and she told us that we weren't supposed to be in her neighborhood. I said there was no "no trespassing" sign at the gate and she said there was. Then she said "there is a gate!" and I said "then you should close it if you don't want people coming into your neighborhood!" She said they were going to call the police... I told her that she should have.

I really didn't care what this lady said. To me, she was just the neighborhood busy body wanting to know who we were and what we were up to. I turned around and walked to my car and Robin told her (I think) that we were visiting the ruins. I heard the lady say "Oh, well then you must understand..." Um, what? This just added fuel to my fire. I got in my car and left. When I was leaving the neighborhood I double-checked for a "no trespassing" sign and surely, there wasn't one. The only thing I saw was a sign that says the property was under police jurisdiction - the same kind you see in a grocery store parking lot.

As I left I drove to over to the University to see where the entrance was to the woods for caching purposes. When I arrived at the entrance of the woods I saw a "no trespassing" sign on the gate. Ugh. I was parked half on the street and half on the grass. I just sat there in my Jeep pondering what to do with my cache. How were people supposed to retrieve it if they can't go down the path due to the stupid "no trespassing" sign?

I was a bit overwhelmed by being accosted by The Elms neighborhood Nazi and then seeing the "no trespassing" sign that I just sat there and decided to check my email on my phone. I wasn't there for more than 5 minutes when two university security guards approached me.

I opened my window and one of them said "Yes?" and I said "Yes, what?" - Okay - yes, I had a bit of an attitude... I was having a bad day! He said "Well, you are parked on the grass back here and it looks like you are hiding and up to something" - really?? Hiding and up to something?? Wow!

I held up my phone and said "I'm checking my email and just taking a moment before moving on" and he said "Well, you are parked in the grass and you aren't allowed to park in the grass" and I (after looking around for a second) said "there are no signs" and he asked if I was a student there. I said no. He said that the "no parking on the grass policy" is printed in all the student handbooks. I, again, reminded him that I wasn't a student and said no problem... I would move. I drove down the road and decided to go back and ask them some questions regarding the property.

When I pulled up to them one of the guys came over to my passenger side, which didn't feel comfortable with at all. Luckily I have automatic locking doors. Creepy. I proceeded to ask the the one I was talking to before who owned the property where the woods are. He said he didn't know. I said "aren't you campus security?" and he said "yes" - he said they just watch the path that leads to the neighborhood and didn't know how far back the university property line is. The only thing I really found out from these two jokers is that they were security guards who patrolled the university, but had no idea where the university boundaries were. I asked them how they decided where their jurisdiction was if they didn't know what was university property and what wasn't. They couldn't answer that.

So... looks like I need to go back to pick up my cache because it will be WAY too much of a pain in the butt to get this thing approved and deal with the trespassing issues over and over again. How am I going to retrieve it if the Neighborhood Nazi and the CSU Nazi's are patrolling the area?

I swear these things only happen to me!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Winter Wind

It's 36 degrees in Charleston and do you know what? I couldn't care less. Do you know why? Because where I used to live they are having a snow storm. It rarely snows in Charleston, and for that, I'm eternally happy!

Sure, it's pretty to look out the window of a cozy log cabin in the mountains while sipping hot cocoa with marshmallows, but really... how often are you in that scenario?

Um, never!

I'll spare you my snow rant because it's no longer something I have to deal with. So, when I finally go to Ohio to pick up my belongings I'll be leaving my ergonomically correct snow shovel that dug my car out of a heap of snow that the city of Dayton plowed onto my poor little car on many a cold, cold morning. Yep. They can have my shovel.

Last night we did have a blustery blast of Winter wind, though! Around 7pm I noticed that the dining room (well, it should be a dining room but right now it has a couch and desk in it!) curtain was slightly open. The wind had been howling for a couple of hours so I peeked out the window and saw this...

What the hell?

Robin was luckily visiting with her parent's or else her little Miata would have been toast! I sent her a photo of it and just said "We have a situation..."

24-hours later the tree is still there. I'm sure the neighbors are saying bad things about us! I called my sister today who is borrowing a chainsaw from a co-worker. I'm afraid my Dad's chainsaw looks just a bit too scary to use - especially since it has been sitting there rusting away since 2003. I'm not even going to think about Robin and Traci out there cutting that limb up... oh my! These are the times when I wish I was a tenant and had a landlord who I could call to take care of these things!

So, the weather all weekend was awful. Cold, miserable and rainy. My plan was to go out and maybe do some geocaching and then go attempt to find the remains of The Elms Plantation. I've only been able to find a couple photos of the ruins in recent years and sadly, not much remains. The ruins are in the woods near Charleston Southern University and after many attempts to figure out where exactly the ruins are, I had to call Mayor Heitzler for some hints on how to find it. I figured that if anyone knows where it is, he would!

After playing phone tag we finally chatted and he gave me general directions on how to get there. He offered to personally take me out there if I couldn't find it, which I thought was nice. When we chatted on the phone he told me to say hello to my husband, which made me laugh out loud after we hung up. The last time the Mayor and I met up I was with Robin and my friend Patrick, who the Mayor thinks I'm married to. I guess one day I'll have to break it to him that this is not the case!

Later, the Mayor sent me an email of a plat map that he found recently. I want to say that he found it at the State archives, but I'm not positive.

I think it's so amazing that these massive plantations with their beautiful gardens existed and now there's nothing. The roads, the avenue of oaks, the sunken garden, the plantation house... it's all gone! I went to Google maps and tried to pin-point the general area that I thought the ruins would be with info gathered from my conversations with Mayor Heitzler. Now I just need for the weather to cooperate so I can go exploring!

Ahhhh, urban development!

Last weekend we ventured downtown for the Charleston Christmas Parade. I have never attended the parade so I wanted to see what it was all about.

It was, um... interesting! As my friend Devin would say:

"Nothing says Christmas like..."

Roller Derby Girls

Basset Hounds


King Tut

Bagpipe Players

and Belly Dancers!

You've Gotta Love Charleston!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Maggie's Haircut

If you recall, several days ago I posted about our mangy Maggie and her desperate need for a haircut. I knew it was a desperate situation when she was scratching her ear and got her nail caught in a knot of her hair. She just sat there in this contortionist kind of position whimpering helplessly until I rescued her.

Just to remind you, here is a "before" shot:


The other day Robin took her to the groomers. Look how pretty she cleans up! She's once again a happy girl!

This is Maggie giving her "come hither" look.

That sexy bitch!

Yeamans Hall

I love Fridays and getting off early.

At work we are allowed to work four 8.5 hour days and then work a six-hour shift on Friday. Of course, the earlier that you come in, the earlier you get to leave. I REALLY try to get there early, but again... the bed is just so damn cozy in the morning. I usually end up working from 8:30am until 1:30 on Friday. During the week I work a bit over here and there to make up the extra time. One of these days I'm going to start going in at 7am!! I hate the time change and leaving work when it's dark.

While heading home today I decided to fulfill a Find a Grave cemetery request at Yeamans Hall Plantation Cemetery, which isn't too far from my house. I had a general idea where I was headed, but to make sure I stopped home and looked at the request and to confirm the name of the person on the headstone. After getting the info I grabbed my camera and headed out.

According to the map the land was off of a main road we travel all the time. It's on a dead end and I've actually never taken that turn before so I had no idea what was down there. I drove about 1/4 of a mile and came up to a very nice, but very small guard station. I stopped the car as the guard approached. When he came up to the window I said "Hi, I'm looking for Yeamans Hall Plantation Cemetery. Do you know where it's located?" He said "No, I sure don't" I then said "It isn't on these grounds?" and he said "No" I then went on to tell him that according to the map it was located not far from where we were. I asked him what the property was and he said "It's a private club." Okay.... I then said "Are you sure there isn't a cemetery on the grounds?" and he said "Positive!" He then followed that up with "It's probably down Yeamans Hall Road!" Well, we were actually ON Yeamans Hall Road. He obviously meant the other side of the road that went into North Charleston.

I sat there at the guard station trying to get some information on my crappy Blackberry, but nothing would come up! (Imagine that!) He told me that I needed to do something and I looked up and there were a couple of cars approaching behind me so I did a turn around and left the premises.

I really wasn't satisfied, but I drove down the other half of Yeamans Hall Road anyway looking for the cemetery. When I got to Remount Road I pulled over and used my "phone a friend" option. I called the Mayor of Goose Creek, Michael Heitzler, who is my "go-to" person for all things local history in the Goose Creek area. I really need to set his number on speed dial in my phone!

When I got the Mayor on the phone he said there WAS, in fact, a cemetery on the grounds but that he had not visited it in years. He said it was just outside of the clubhouse. I drove back to the plantation and parked my car, got a pen and paper and started walking to the guard station. My plan was to get some names and numbers of people that I could call who had some authority and could get me on the grounds. As I approached the guard station I heard the guard ask a gentleman in the car waiting to go in if there was a cemetery on the grounds. I'm not sure what he said, but when I walked up I told them that I spoke with the Mayor (I know nobody likes a name dropper, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do!) and that he said there is definitely a cemetery on the grounds!

The gentleman in the car asked me if I was looking for the confederate soldier and I said no. I explained Find a Grave and that I was looking for a different grave and that it would only take me a few minutes. The gentleman in the car looked at the guard and said "I'll take her" - YEAH! I ran back to my Jeep and followed him into the plantation and down a long, winding dirt road.

This place was gorgeous (with the exception of the golf course, that is!) We finally pulled up to this magnificent club house and he motioned for me to pull beside him. He pointed to the cemetery and asked what name I was looking for. He mentioned some other surnames and said he had not heard of that person, but that I was free to go look. He pointed to where I should park, I said my thank you's and he drove off.

I got out of my car and walked up a little stone path and found the tiny little plantation cemetery. I can't imagine why the guard didn't know it was there. It was right in front of the club house and not hidden at all!

The person that requested the photo had a photo of the grave already but wanted a clear photo of the inscription. There were tons of leaves on the grave so I took off my hoodie and swept all of them off. I took several photos and then ran back to the car for a pen and paper so I could write down the wording on the grave.


To the memory of a beloved
Son and husband


Who departed this life Jan. 5th 1859.
Aged 43 years 9 months and 15 days

And now the Lord what is my hope?

Truly my hope is even in thee.

Who from my throne on high,

Heareth the hardest sigh

That issues from the contrite sinners breast

Seeth the silent tear

The anguish, the despair

And hastens with the balm of love to shed

Upon the wounded heart

And bowed repentant head

W.T. White

I need to read it about 10 times to wrap my head around its meaning! I wonder where Poyas came from. That surname doesn't sound too Charlestonian to me.

After getting my photos of the cemetery I headed back down the dirt road. I really wanted to stop and take some photos of the grounds, especially one swampy area, but decided not to. I looked and felt like I didn't belong! There were rich golfers on golf carts buzzing around since it was such a nice day. Oh well!

Upon leaving, as I approached the guardhouse, I paused for a moment and waited for Mr. Guard to come out so I could talk to him about not knowing there was a cemetery at his own place of employment. He didn't budge so I moved on. It's probably for the better since I might need to go back one day for another photo request! Perhaps he was new. I really should be nicer... it was just that he was so adamant about there being no cemetery! Did he not realize there was actually a working plantation there back in the day? Geez!

As I was finishing this blog I did a Google search on Yeamans Hall Club and found their website. This place is so secure you can barely even access that!! I also found out that Yeamans Hall golf course is one of the top 100 in the Nation. Huh?? How did I not know this when I live less than 5 miles away from it? I wonder if my father, an avid golfer, ever played there? Probably so.

When I got home I sent the 'Find a Grave' requester their photos and information. I'm glad I took the request, otherwise I would probably never have the opportunity to go to Yeamans Hall. It's not my scene, anyway. I really don't look good in white or pastels.

I love conquering private property legally!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Sunset

This past weekend we drove out to the St. Stephen area again to check on our Swamp Fox cache. Two different caching teams recently logged DNF's (did not find) notes on it. Since one of the teams had a member with 4000+ cache finds I assumed the worst... that the caching vigilante was at it again. I temporarily disabled the cache and added a note that I would check on it ASAP. I made the decision that I would replace the cache even if it were stolen a hundred times. After the rigmarole I went through to get it approved from by the land owner, there was no way I was going to archive it.

We drove out there on Sunday and when we arrived I prepared another cache to take its place. I walked over to the hiding spot and was totally shocked to find the cache... it was still there! How is it that someone with 4,000+ caches could not find a difficulty 1/terrain 1 cache? I was baffled. I pocketed the other cache for future use and we hung out for a bit and took a couple photos of the cemetery.

I didn't mind driving out there that day because there was actually something I have been meaning to check out in the area. I kept forgetting that 200-year old Pineville Chapel was just up the road from our cache! It's such a neat, little country church.

This is such a sweet and simple chapel that I wasn't surprised that the inside was stark and plain.

I wish I had known they were going to open it this past October for the 200th anniversary celebration. I love to go inside these historical places - especially old churches!

Just next door to the chapel was a cotton field. There are actually a couple of fields of cotton in the area and they all seem to be a mess. I'm not sure who harvests the crops, or what time of the year they do it, but it's definitely time to start pickin'! The pods were bursting and some of the cotton was flying loose across the field.

The fabric of our lives... :)

I had no idea that cotton has blooms!

I love driving around these old country roads. If only gas were cheaper! Way back when, in the days when I had a more cost-efficient vehicle, I would drive around for hours. I might be convinced to do that again when I have a new set of tires and finally figure out why my "check engine" light has been on for over a year. Oh, to be rich!

On one of the side roads we passed this treasure:

Look! Ladies are welcome!!

When I drove by I slowed down to about 5mph and stared in amazement. At the time there was a "gentleman" getting out of his car. He was looking at us. Robin was looking at him. I was still looking at the entire scene. He walked slowly into the social club and left the door ajar. We knew he was still watching us, but I HAD TO get a photo of that sign! I drove up the road, turned around and positioned myself on the road in order to snap my shot. When I was snapping away he came back out. Uhhhh... He approached the car and got within 20 feet, or so and stopped. He said "Can I help you?" and I said "I'm just taking a picture of your sign. I like it." He looked at us funny and said "Are you with a magazine or somethin'?" I was laughing inside, but answered with a straight face. "No, I just take photos for my own use. I just liked your sign. It's cool!" He said "okay" and I said "Thank you!" In the meantime he was slowly walking backward toward the club while we drove off. Robin said "Pam, one day you are going to get us killed!" Yeah, Yeah...

When I look at that photo I always wonder what the hell that is on the door. Is that from people's shoulders as they budge the door open? And what are the two arrows on the door for? The place needs some serious pressure washing. Also, if you look in the window on the left, there is a sign that says "Food Stamps". You might be able to see it better here. I'm not sure what to think about that. What does that mean? Is it a joke? Also, what's up with all the cords and wires? Why the big extension cord hanging on the window. Ugh. I have so many questions. I think I might have to go back. Maybe I'll bring him a copy of the photo!

It was starting to get dark so we headed home and I noticed that the sky was turning this amazing red and orange color from the sunset. Around that time we were approaching Bonneau Beach. I asked Robin if Bonneau Beach really had a beach and she said she thought so. I mean, who would put "beach" in a town name if there wasn't one... right? I thought that if there truly was a beach we might get to see a cool sunset. As I drove down the road the sunset was becoming more spectacular. We ended up on a dead end road with gigantic Lake Moultrie in front of us.

It was probably the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.

It was definitely one of those times I was glad to have taken the detour.

While we were enjoying the sunset we decided to place a cache in hopes of bringing others to the area - especially around sunset time! We called the cache "Bonneau Beach Sunset". When it was reviewed and approved I received an email from the cache reviewer that said that someone used to own a cache around the same area, but had a lot of trouble with someone stealing it. They got tired of replacing the container so they archived it.

Oh brother! Here we go again!!!

(Here is the whole set of photos from Sunday)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Last year I didn't even acknowledge Thanksgiving. We were supposed to go over Robin's parent's house, but I decided to skip and stay home. When I woke up on Thanksgiving day last year the first thing I thought of was about the flurry of activity that was normally going on in the kitchen when Mom and Dad were alive. We always woke up to the smell of Thanksgiving dinner that Mom had been preparing since the wee hours of the morning. Last year, on Thanksgiving morning, the kitchen was eerily silent and it made me so sad.

Robin was scheduled to work this Thanksgiving so we knew that we wouldn't be going to her parent's house. I wanted to at least have some sort of Thanksgiving since I really did miss it last year, so I decided to cook.

I've never cooked a Thanksgiving meal in my life! I've made some of the side dishes on occasion, but I've never cooked a turkey, or a piece of meat as large as that! I'm addicted to the websites and and I subscribe to Food Network Magazine and Rachel Ray Magazine so I went and searched for recipes that were tried and true to include in our meal.

When I cook I have a slight problem with never sticking to the exact recipe. I always add something, take something away, double it, half it... you name it. This causes a bit of cooking anxiety because I never know how anything is going to turn out, unless I've made it before. When I make something new I always tell Robin "Sorry if it's horrible. I've never made it before!" That's my mantra. So far, I don't think I've disappointed, or maybe Robin just hasn't told me!

When I finally decided on what I was making for dinner I made a folder on my computer with the recipes. I was still having dinner anxiety so I got very anal retentive with my cooking. The first thing I did was make a list of all the spices I already had in the spice cabinet and then uploaded it into my phone for future reference. I hate going to the grocery store and not being able to remember if I have a certain ingredient - I always end up with duplicate spices!

From that point I took all the ingredients for the recipes and made a spreadsheet. I consolidated everything and compared the items to what I already had in my cabinet. Yeah, yeah, I know! It sounds crazy, but I didn't want to forget anything or run out of something and have the store be closed! Robin and I went to Wal-Mart to get everything and after that fiasco I made a decision that if I ever cook Thanksgiving dinner again I will plan and shop one month prior to the holiday!!

Yesterday I was woken up around 8am by the phone. It was Robin. She said she wasn't feeling well and asked if I could come get her from work. She didn't want to drive because she felt dizzy. I threw on some shoes and went to get her. When we got home we both went back to bed. When I woke up it was REALLY late so I got up and started cooking immediately. I was hoping that she would feel better later because I didn't want all this food to go to waste. I had also invited my sister and her girlfriend over, but we weren't sure if they were coming or not.

The night before I made the Cinnamon Apple Cranberry Sauce that I saw on a Food TV Thanksgiving show - it looked soooo tasty and I've always been a fan of homemade cranberry sauce! Yesterday I conquered the dressing, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes... I feel like I'm forgetting something.

For the turkey I decided that was going to make Good Eats Roast Turkey - Alton Brown's recipe. I don't think I have ever had a turkey that went through the brining process. My Mom certainly had never done it - she was of the "low and slow" turkey cooking school. I always read recipe comments from the people who have tried it and there were so many people that said that they used this for the first turkey they cooked and how easy it was. How could I go wrong? Also, I saw the Good Eats episode where Alton cooked the roast turkey and it looked pretty simple.

The night before I made the brine and dumped it in a square cooler that I lined with a heavy duty outdoor lawn and leaf bag. I didn't want all that salt water and the spices to penetrate the cooler. That would be gross. I dumped the turkey in there (I wish I had a video of me wrestling the bird!) and then dumped some ice in it. When Robin got up in the morning I had her turn it over - she cheerily told me that she "Flipped the bird"! LOL! That afternoon I shoved it in the oven, set the thermometer and left it alone until it was done.

I was wondering how in the heck someone cooks an entire meal and puts it on the table and everything is still warm. How does that happen? You can only cook one thing at a time and then by the time the next casserole is done that one cooked before it is cold. I figured since we weren't sitting at a table or anything we could just serve ourselves buffet style.

When I took the turkey out of the oven I put the other casseroles in there until Traci and Tanya came over - when they arrived the food was sufficiently warm enough to have dinner - problem solved! I thought it might have been too ghetto for all of us to make a plate and take turns using the microwave to warm it! Haha!

I was going to take a photo of my first turkey - it was quite pretty, but we were a bit challenged with taking it out of the pan. It wasn't really cooperating so when we finally got it out it was... well, not very pretty anymore. Robin did take a photo of her plate that she posted in Facebook.

I must say that I am pretty proud of my first Thanksgiving dinner - especially the turkey. I'm convinced that brining is the way to go. That turkey was the most moist, delicious turkey that I've had (if I do say so, myself!)

We had a late dinner, around 8pm. I ate one plate and was toast. Both Robin and I were in bed by 10pm with our bellies full! We couldn't even think of dessert!

My goal of enjoying turkey leftovers all weekend is well under way!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


When my Mother passed away one of the "things" I inherited was Maggie. My Mom had two dogs. Maggie and Uno. Maggie is almost 12 years old and we have had her since she was a puppy. I barely knew Uno (named so because of having only one eye) so I re-homed her with the insurance lady at State Farm whom she is still happily living with.

I didn't think I could care for a dog at the time so I also re-homed Maggie. The lady took her home and ended up bringing her back the next day because her husband had a terrible allergic reaction. How did he not know he was allergic to dogs? Anyhow, I'm glad things turned out the way they did because I think Maggie is really happy living here with the other 3 crazy dogs, Jake (the most handsome cat on the planet!) and us. Sometimes I still feel bad about even thinking of re-homing her. She's my shadow and follows me everywhere. I think she would be really sad living elsewhere.

One thing about Maggie is that she has a tendency to get what I like to call mangy. She's a Lhasa Apso/Shih Tzu mix so her fur can get really long. My Mom used to get her groomed every other month, or so because she also has skin allergies. We're talking special, expensive medicated shampoo and a fancy haircut. My Mom would tell the groomers to keep the hair on her face and tail long and I never really cared for that. I thought it looked weird. Over the Summer Robin decided that Maggie needed a military-style cut so one day I came home and looked at her I was in shock. She was practically naked!! I think she liked it though because she pranced around like she was super-hot! I could tell that she was also much cooler without all that crazy hair in the way.

Over the past couple of months Maggie has gone without the grooming because of financial reasons. She's starting to look like her crazy old, mangy self and I told Robin that we need to break down and take her to the groomers, which we agreed to do this weekend. Well, today I get a call at work from Robin who proceeded to tell me that she attempted to give Maggie a haircut on the back porch with the electric trimmer. Robin decided that I was right and said that it was harder than a person would think it would be... Maggie's hair is really thick! Robin said "Well, at least she can see now!" A good thing since Maggie's hair hangs in front of her eyes!

When I came home I had to laugh because I really wasn't prepared for what I saw...


What in the hell happened to the top of her head? You know, I didn't even ask, but I think Robin and I came to a silent agreement to leave the dog grooming to the professionals.

I love that Robin tried <3 !

Saturday, November 20, 2010

42 Years

Today would have been my parents 42nd anniversary!

It's been almost 8 years that Dad passed away and almost 2 years for Mom. They were so young! I think that's the hardest thing for me.

How is it that so many people have parent's that live into their 70's, 80's and 90's? Sometimes I get mad when people are so sad when a loved one (especially a parent!) passes away late in life. I know I shouldn't get upset, but I do... They have no idea that they should be happy they had so long with them and that they lived so long. 56 and 62 is just way too young to die.

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Boxes of Slides

While growing up my Mother was the photo taker. She took pictures of everything... holidays, family trips and just every day life. I guess this is where I get my love of photography. Oddly, I never saw my father hold a camera. The only time I know of where Dad took photos is when he was stationed in Seoul, Korea in 1970 when I was a year old.

My Mom has a photo album that Dad brought home from Korea and I would look at these once in a while, so much that I think I have actually memorized all of the photos in them. I was always intrigued by the photos of the Korean wedding that my Father took (that I now can't seem to locate!) In all the photos the bride wasn't smiling. I remember asking my Father why she wasn't smiling and from what I remember he said it was bad luck. If the bride smiled then it would mean she would have a greater chance of having a daughter. I've read somewhere that if a Korean bride smiles during the ceremony it will also mean a lifetime of hardship. I'm sure there are many truths to the tradition.

While going through Mom and Dad's things I found several boxes of photo slides. Over the weekend I broke out my little scanner and ran some of them through it and found one photo of myself and my sister that I had never seen.

It's a weird feeling when you find a photo from your childhood that you have never seen before. I absolutely remember that outfit - it was one of my favorites! And look at my little sister - some things never change! This was taken in 1975 or 1976 - We lived in Lake Bluff Mobile Home Park in Oakwood, Illinois. My Father was a U.S. Navy recruiter in Danville, Illinois. I'm not sure what's happening with my hair in this photo. My Mom always kept it short, but I think I'm sporting a ponytail here.

We just moved to Oakwood about this time and ended up staying there until 1979 - just after that awful blizzard of '78 that made us prisoners of the trailer park. Complete torture! I remember one of our neighbors went into labor and they had to take her to the hospital on a snow mobile and then some kind person came door to door on their snowmobile and took grocery orders - staples only! They had to dig us out of the house because the snow was so deep that it blocked the door. When they finally plowed the roads I remember the snow was so incredibly high - higher than most of the houses - er, mobile homes! It was great for a child, but I can't imagine what it was like to deal with that as an adult. Yeah, I'm not a fan of snow.

There were only a couple of slides that were taken in the U.S. There was one of my Mom and Dad from 1979 when we went to visit Mom's Uncle Henry and Aunt Edna. When I looked at the photo I had to do a double take. Later I pointed out to Robin that I definitely take after my Mother since we both have a smaller left eye - this photo was evidence! I've always hated this trait and now I know where I get it from! Ugh!

My Mom's Uncle Henry and Aunt Edna lived in Hyde Park, Massachusetts. They weren't really her Aunt and Uncle. Her Aunt Edna was actually her God Mother. They were distant cousins - I've forgotten over the years how, exactly, they were related and there's no one left to ask so I'd have to look it up. We rarely visited our family in Massachusetts, but I remember this visit like it was yesterday.

Edna and Henry were great! I loved spending time with them, although it was a rare occasion. During this visit I remember sitting with my Mom and Edna in the kitchen and Edna was showing my Mom a photo album. I really didn't understand what we were looking at, but I knew that the photos were not from a fun time since Edna was crying. Later I learned that Edna was Polish (and also knew Pope John Paul II!) and had lost everyone in her family in Auschwitz with the exception of her brother. She just returned from a pilgrimage back to Auschwitz and was showing my Mother the photos. I guess I asked a lot of questions because soon after my Mother bought me 'The Diary of Anne Frank' to help me understand. To this day it's one of my favorite books. I've never gotten away from my obsession of learning about the Holocaust. Again, it's my Mom's fault. I only wish I had the opportunity, as an adult, to talk to Aunt Edna about her experience in Auschwitz.

Most of the other slides that I scanned were from my Dad's days in Korea. After going through them I was amazed that my Father actually had an amazing eye for photography. I really wish he had picked up the camera after he came home!

One from the wedding that I had not seen before

My Dad - He's the one on the right :)

Aren't these great? Who knew that my Dad was such the photographer! I put the whole set on my Flickr page.

I never realized I would learn more about my parent's after they passed away than I would when they were alive. I wish I could have 15 minutes with each and every friend so I could tell them to make sure they don't make the same mistakes that I did. Talk to your parents. They are not just your Mom and Dad - they are people who had lives long before you came along! Don't pass up the opportunity to get to know them! Some day it will be too late.