a home for akubras…

At the end of last month, I finally remembered to ask my dad about something. It had been percolating in my brain for some time, so it was high time I asked. DSC_0661

When I brought home two Akubras (and one fedora) from Australia, it hadn’t occurred to me where I would store them. You see, they’re supposed to either be on a hat rack, or sit upside down on a flat surface, so you don’t warp the brim (or something like that). Because both of them have a fair-sized width to them, I didn’t have a good shelf to set them, nor did I really want them collecting spiderwebs and dust. Or, if they did collect those, I still wanted the hats to be somewhere I could see them.DSC_0666But while putting them on the bedposts, when I was sleeping in the bunk bed, worked just fine, things changed when I came downstairs. I wanted my bed posts for the occasional bag, but not for the hats. They could get bumped or messed up, and you couldn’t display them properly. So, in my head, I began to puzzle out what I could do with them.DSC_0673

Ever seen a hat rack in a store, or a hat stand? Ever wonder how the big hats fit on them, because the hooks are often close together? No ready made hat rack seemed like what I needed, and then where would I put it? My new room has mostly cinder block walls, which are awkward to punch holes into, for any reason. So, there’s only one wall with drywall in it, where the closet is. I was debating whether my dad could build me a hat rack that would hang the hats at two different levels, just above my closet doors.DSC_0670

DSC_0667When I finally asked him, we looked at pictures online, and debated exactly what I was looking for. How far apart would the hooks be? How did I want them shaped, to protect the inside of the hat? And where, oh where, would we put it. DSC_0754

I didn’t come up with any of this design. He took what I wanted and ran with it. Of course, he has an Akubra, too, so he could play around with mine, until he’s perfected the design for his.  : )  And he was the one that realized the hat rack could be attached to my bookshelves, and hang out over my dresser. DSC_0752

Before I left for my weekend in Georgia (back around the 4th of July), He had come up with the size of the “base board”, the shape of the wood to go inside the hats, and we experimented with the angle of each one. I wanted the hats to tilt outward, so you could see them, not just look up the underside of them.DSC_0753After I returned from Georgia, he took the time to paint the rack white, and then staple brown felt onto each horseshoe, to protect the inside of the hats. And because my fedora is smaller, it fits easily inside of either Akubra. My brother was unable to figure out what the rack was for, when it was sitting upstairs, waiting to be painted. It’s true that if you didn’t already know its intended purpose, you would never guess.DSC_0758He did a great job, didn’t he? My Aussie friends will all be jealous, I know.  : )  My “The Boss” and “Riverina” hats can now rest comfortably.DSC_0756

sweet sunshine…

The hawk is hanging out in our back yard again. He seems to think that we placed our swing set and volleyball posts there, just for his benefit. And for all the “use” they’ve had in recent years, the vball posts might as well belong to him. We haven’t had a net out there in over ten years, I’m sure. And I seem to recall, many years ago, a local owl taking its turn, hanging out on the backyard perches. But if they’re like any of the people ’round here, they’re all just enjoying the sun. Now that the rain has stopped… again.

I read somewhere that Aussies talk about the weather, all the time, but I don’t remember if that’s true. The weather seems to be a normal kind of subject, no matter where you live. But now I know that we’ve never talked about the weather as much as we have, this summer. I’m not even going to go into talking details about our winter and spring. They must’ve been smoking something, for all the jumble they were in.

But the rain… the endless rain. We’ve seen the sun, in the last few weeks, but every time, we’ve been so surprised that we don’t know what to do about it. And all those that want to trim their backyard jungles, keep hoping that it’ll stay dry for a while. No such luck. The lakes are at flood levels, and they’re going to release some water from the dam spillway, in order to get the lake levels down. I’m sure the people downstream from us will enjoy that.

I talk about many things to the students that come into my workplace, and we mention the weather now and then. Well, we used to. Before the last month, I knew most of the regulars well enough to talk about all sorts of things. But the wetter it go, the more we couldn’t resist the urge… the dreadful urge to gripe about it.

In a way, we really do have reason to gripe. Our poor Western neighbors could really use the rain, but we’re unable to mail it to them. I know I’ve griped about that. If someone could tell me how to pack it up and send it away, I would be grateful.

And the trees. Every storm brings down trees and branches, all over the place. Someone finally reminded me why it’s so dangerous, after all the rain. Because we’ve been in drought for so long, the trees have grown weaker. Now, they have all the water they could want… and the excessive amount of water is loosening up their roots. Huge oak trees come down with one storm, and then another, at the next puff of wind.

Just this last weekend, we had a colossal thunder storm, in the middle of the night, and everyone in town (with the exception of some really heavy sleepers) heard it. If they slept through it, I’ll give ‘em brownie points, but I know their friends told them about it. “That storm” (yes, that’s how we all referred to it, all day today) woke me up, and it was frightening to listen to, the lightning and the thunder coming at the exact same time, the windows rattling, the ground shaking…  I am only unnerved by storms when I’m not completely awake, and then I can imagine all sorts of terrible things that might happen. I was sure that our maple tree, or our neighbor’s pine trees were going to uproot and blow through my window, at any second.

I read the weather report, incessantly, though I barely trust it anymore. I don’t think the weathermen even trust themselves, or what they read anymore. They just predict thunderstorms for every day, and don’t mention when the downpours will occur, because they don’t know. Partly, I read the weather report because my co-workers will ask me about it. I have to have an answer, because they think I’ll know.

If I were really being good, I’d also be reading my dictionary, on the side, as well as checking the weather, because one co-worker regularly treats me like his personal dictionary. Kind of like a certain brother of mine, he expects that I’ll be able to define “incorrigible” and… something close to “asinine”, at the drop of a hat (I can’t remember the exact word. It’ll come to me, later.). Of course, I know what these mean, but sometimes explaining them is more difficult than understanding them in context. But it’s nice that someone thinks I’m brilliant, I suppose.

Now, I’m hopefully looking at this week’s weather report, hoping that it’s accurate. Sure, I’m not a fan of the 90 degree weather and oppressive humidity, but beggars can’t be choosers. The words “partly” and “mostly” are starting to be paired with that blissful word “sunshine”. Might it be true? Could they be right? One of these days, we’ll be able to go to the pool again, and other people will be able to break out the lawnmowers.

I know I’m not the only one that will be happy if the sun stays out. Some of my Indian friends have admitted (ruefully, after I comment on their own weather complaints) that their country has a rainy season. Does that mean they’re enjoying this weather any more than we are? Nope. They don’t particularly like their own rainy season, so they’re ready to be done with ours. Amen and amen. Let it be so. And let it go out West, where they truly need it.

P.S. Now that I’ve spent an entire POST talking about the weather, I really don’t want to talk about it, ever again. Well, not for a while. I’ve even made a game of it, at work, trying to not talk about the weather, nor take the bait when someone else mentions it. It is very difficult. I vote we forget the weather exists, for at least a week or two.

once upon a time…

Once upon a time, a young woman spent a wonderful year in Australia, working as a nanny and looking after five little girls. Before she went there, she considered the possibility of being able to travel for years and years, visiting several different countries, and taking care of children. She loved children, you see, and as she was still single (and therefore, childless), nannying seemed to be a wondrous idea. Unfortunately, she was past the cut-off age for work & holiday visas, in most countries, so Australia would be her only overseas gig.

Instead, when she returned home, she thought that she thought that she would soak up being with her family and friends again, and then find another nanny job in the United States. There were plenty of states that she still wanted to visit, and what better way to get to see them than moving there for a year at a time? During her first summer back in the U.S., she packed up her car and drove to Minnesota.

It wasn’t meant to be. She learned a lot from that trip, but two weeks later, she drove (the two day trip) home. Admittedly, she was a little down, after this “failure”. Why had it happened? Was she NOT supposed to go, or did the Lord want her to learn something from that short trip?

She began to apply for jobs again, but just like before she left for Australia, she wasn’t finding anything very high on the pay scale or any higher on the job “quality” ladder. Once, she had been a business owner  and house cleaner, and then a full-time manager of housekeeping for a camp. Now, she was ready to step up and work at the desk in a hotel (in business clothes, instead of scruffy t-shirts and shorts), or something that had nothing to do with cleaning. But with the problematic economy and a limited resume, she wasn’t finding anything.

Fortunately, she still had some good credit with a local company that she had worked with before, and was hired almost immediately. This took her to working as a cashier, at Clemson University. The pay wasn’t high, but the location was a definite improvement on her food service experience in the same company. Every week, she told herself that she would find something better, and this job would hold her over until then.

The weeks went by, and something strange happened. She began to find that she actually enjoyed her job. Not because of the job itself, because cashiering doesn’t call for too much skill, but because of the students and professors. Especially, the graduate students, who were closer to her age. As she also had a college professor for a father AND grandfather, and graduate students had practically lived in her home when she was growing up, she began to feel right at home with them.

But still, she knew that it wasn’t easy to make friends with people, in her position. When students only speak to you for a few minutes every day, they don’t really see you as a person, and potential friend. She wasn’t sure how to cross the line to becoming friends with them, either guys or girls. She didn’t have a lot of local friends, having lived away from Clemson for several years, so she was trying to figure out how to make some.

As she began to persist in learning the students’ names, they began to see her as a person worthy of friendship, and call her by name, in return. And as each friendship developed, she found herself less and less inclined to look for another job, though she knew she needed to. She needed to earn more, but this company was not the right place to do it. But abandoning her new acquaintances, before they really became friends… that was a hard choice to make.

Did I mention that she wrote a blog? I know, you’re stunned. At about this time, she was paying more attention to her photography skills, and began to take more pictures of flowers and buildings, instead of children (as when she was a nanny). Especially, buildings on the Clemson University campus.

This caused her to take an interest in Clemson that she had never had before, not even when her dad taught there, or when she had attended one semester there. Just like when you get a new house (or car), clean it, and place your things just so, making it your own… her wandering photography tours of Clemson were making their mark. Clemson (the city) was already home, and now the University was getting there.

She would tell you that it’s the blog’s fault, really. On some days, she would think about random topics, trying to think about what else to write about. And one day… she had a blog post idea. But she never wrote it. It would have been a fascinating post, I’m sure, but the reality was so much better. I’ll tell you about it, in a few minutes.

With the beginning of the New Year, some of her acquaintances truly became friends. And during one online conversation, she discovered that Clemson University was hiring for a job. A job that was in the same department as most of her friends. If she had never made friends at her workplace, with the students, she never would have heard about it. Because when it was finally listed online, the listing was only there for a week, and you had to be ready for it.

Her friend had thought she would be interested in this job, for herself. As thrilled as she was by this placing of confidence, she knew that she couldn’t take it. Are you wondering why? I’m still coming to that aforementioned, non-existent blog post. Instead, she told her mother about this job opening, and encouraged her to apply for it. Her mother was so much more qualified, and it was about time she worked for a place that would appreciate her that much more!

When her mother applied for it, she was certain that her mom would get the job, though no one else was certain. And then… she did get it! Why had she been so certain? It didn’t really make sense, did it?

But then again… she (the daughter, not the mother) had gone through a long process of not finding employment, after coming home from Australia, and then developing an interest in an uninteresting job. An occupation that was made interesting because of the people. And if she had never gotten to know those students, she never would have helped her mom find her new position. She marveled at how the Lord must have had that plan in place, when she returned from Australia, but of course, she didn’t know about it!

Many people were excited for her mother, after she was hired for the new position, and encouraged her daughter that “they’d find one for her, too!”. She didn’t say anything about how she could have applied for that same opportunity, but that she knew it wasn’t the right one. The Lord had other plans for her, and she’d known it for a long time.

You see, once upon a time, she thought about how much she liked to read, and especially how she read a lot of history books. And because she was always working or taking photographs on the Clemson campus, she began to think about (for a blog post), what she would major in, if she ever decided to go back to college. She had hated college, the first time, and hadn’t had any subject that she enjoyed enough to keep her there. And she knew that you did NOT need a degree to succeed in life.

But while she was thinking about this imaginary blog post… it finally hit her. If she wanted to, she COULD go back to college. She loved to read non-fiction, everything from the subject of the Founding Fathers, the writing of the Constitution, and the forming of the United States, to the Civil War and the Cold War. She spent most of her spare time reading these subjects, for fun… why wouldn’t she enjoy getting a degree in history?

She did her research on getting a history major, and what jobs can result from that type of degree. She applied to Clemson, and was accepted. She jumped through every hoop they held out for her, and they moved those hoops around a LOT, for returning students! She wrote appeals letters for several committees, and scrambled to find out what information they had forgotten to tell her. And at the moment, she is still in the final stages of getting financial aid, and waiting to register for classes (because returning students can’t register until late July).

Think about it. Over a year ago, the Lord knew that she would NOT get a job outside of Clemson, but stay there, making friends. He knew that she would begin to like the campus and the people, and that her friendships would help her mother find new employment. He knew that her reading, blogging, and photography would eventually lead her to reconsider school.

He knew this, while she was crying over her “failure” in Minnesota. Was it a failure, though, if the Lord had His hand on the situation? He knew this while she was worn out by mono, and unable to even think about finding another job. He knew it, when she was unable to afford to travel anywhere, but slowly was becoming accustomed to staying in Clemson. He always KNEW where she would go, and what He had planned for her!

~

And now that you know, I might as well switch tenses to finish the tale. Barring any problems with financial aid, I will be starting undergraduate classes, in about six weeks. I may still be a little worried about the issue of funds, but I sincerely believe that the Lord’s been leading me this whole way, all this time. So, if that is true, then money should not be a worry. He has it under control.

I would appreciate your thoughts and prayers, as I am quite nervous about starting school. I don’t have fond memories of my lone semester at Clemson, and even if it was because I was immature and overwhelmed, the memories can spring up and swamp me, at times. Also, I was serious when I said that I had to jump through hoops, as a returning student. Every time I turn around, I’ve missed some important information, or they forgot to tell me that I need to sign another paper, or write another letter to someone.

Please pray that all the necessary paperwork will come together. That even if I’m nervous, I won’t be overly worried and/or terrified. Panic attacks are NOT welcome. And please, please pray that I’m not having a mono relapse (or that I will get over it soon), because I really want to have the energy to pay attention and even enjoy what I’m doing and learning.

~

I will be very busy, over the next four years, so my blog posts may become much more infrequent, and the subject matter of both word and photo may change (again). But please hang in there, because I truly enjoy blogging, and do not intend to give it up. Perhaps you will even come to enjoy my rambling about life as a 30-something college student. At least, I hope you will!  : )

of publix, soup, & chocolate…

We had a new Publix grocery store open, recently. Everyone in Clemson knew it was coming, of course, because they ripped up and reformed a whole section of land in a hole-in-the-wall section of Tiger Boulevard. Some were aware because of the construction traffic, others because their bank informed them they would be moving to the new plaza. And then, eventually, the ads came in the paper for the Opening Day.

The last time I was at a Grand Opening for a grocery store, I was in Australia, and took my kiddos there twice in one day, and they got balloons and were oh-so-excited about it. I tried to block out this memory enough that it wouldn’t bother me much, when I got to the new Publix. If you break down in tears, in the middle of a store, people will think you’re nuts!DSC_0475

I waited a few days, and then went to see what it looked like. Fortunately, I remembered in time that they were probably still going overboard with their “We’ve Just Opened!” friendliness, so I braced myself. Sure enough, a line of managers were greeting everyone at the door, along with someone dressed up in a dinosaur costume. If I was a little kid, I would’ve been horrified by the costumed greeter, instead of enthralled. As it was, I hurried past the greeting committee, hoping to stay unnoticed while I wandered.

Fat chance. It seemed that in every aisle I went down, someone in a dress shirt and tie would greet me and ask to help me, and I managed to smile and say “no”, when I wanted to tell them to go away. Come on, I just want to wander and think and be left alone! I’ll ask you if I need help! You may think I’m a crank, but seriously, the cheerfulness can be taken too far, and how can you ever see anything if people are constantly stopping you? No, I can’t find anything, because you won’t let me look!DSC_0483

And then, I came to a halt in the International Food section, staring at a small section of shelves, loaded with what was mostly British treats and sweets. But among other things, I found Mars bars and chocolate-covered Turkish Delight. I became excited, and even hoped to find Vegemite, but no, all they had was a small container of Marmite (British version of Vegemite).

I waffled over what to get, after wandering the whole store, and eventually came back for the chocolate candy. That was after I had ascertained that they had every imaginable thing in the frozen food section, like pot pies and pizzas, but not a meat pie to be seen. It was a sad sight. After getting the chocolate, I remembered one other thing that I had run across earlier.

My shopping expeditions do not usually have me looking closely at anything that’s labeled “organic”, but I accidentally came across the organic soups. And after staring for a moment, the butternut squash soup finally caught my attention. Once the wheels began to turn, I realized that this was probably the only “pumpkin” soup that I would ever find in an American grocery store. Because our squash is Aussie pumpkin, and I still haven’t figured out what their green pumpkin is, in the United States. But butternut “pumpkin” soup? I had to take it home and try it, even if it was organic and more expensive than it should be.DSC_0480

Once I got home, I tried out the candy, cutting up the Turkish Delight so that my brother could try it. I saved some pieces for my parents, too. It isn’t that I loved Turkish Delight, whether covered in chocolate or not, but I remembered it especially. When I first found it in Australia, I had always wondered what it was like, after reading about it in the Narnia books (and then seeing it in the movie). My first try of plain Turkish Delight was dreadful (it tasted like floral soap), but for some reason, Aussies really like Turkish Delight in their chocolate. Cadbury puts it in some of their chocolate bars.

Mostly, my family wasn’t a big fan of it, but I hadn’t really expected them to be. I just wanted them to have a chance at trying it. It’s not something I could bring home in my suitcase, because it would have melted. And the texture of “jelly” is different than many of our gummy or jelly candies. It’s a bit thicker than a gum drop but softer than a gummy bear. I wanted them to have one small experience that I had, while I was away.

The Mars bar… I’ve never been sure, but I think it’s somewhere between a 3 Musketeers bar and a Milky Way. No, I didn’t look it up online, so I’m exactly sure of the difference. But it was just something that I had pretty often, when I was overseas. A memory triggered by taste.DSC_0485

The soup was wonderful. It doesn’t really look like much in the pictures, but to someone who got to eat it regularly for an entire year in AUS, this tasted fantastic. When there was a variety of brands to choose from, in Emerald, I eventually figured out which were the best-tasting of the canned ones, though the best type was really homemade. I should probably get a recipe from my Aussie friends and make it myself. Americans don’t know what they’re missing. I think they’re just put off at the idea of eating squash, because it’s a vegetable that not everyone is a fan of.

After escaping any number of Publix employees and managers, I took my few items to the register, and the bagger ( who had to be ten years younger than me) called me “hon”, several times. I’m not a fan of being called pet names, unless you’re close to me, or you’re a waitress in a diner (then, I put up with it). But then he offered to carry my bags out to the car for me, which told me that the managers had INSISTED that they offer this service to everyone. “Don’t take no for an answer!”, is what I can just imagine them saying.DSC_0484

Now, remember, I had two bags that probably weighed less than my Nikon camera. I told him I’d be fine, I could take them out myself. And then he tried again, a little more insistently. I almost got snappish with him (almost), and practically had to snatch my grocery bags from him.

And before anyone decides to be silly and suggest he was being sexist, don’t think it. I’ve met managers like those that were probably drilling the “Don’t take no for an answer!” into their heads. He probably had it written into his contract to do that with everyone. I hope that if ANY person with a huge load of groceries came through, he would offer to help THEM, and not waste his time with my bags. My grocery bags had “heavy” things in them, like tweezers, cards, and soup. It took some muscles, but I managed.  : )

So, there you have it. The new Publix is open, everyone in there is excessively friendly and helpful, and they have some soup that I will have to go back and try again. I’ll avoid the chocolate, after this, because buying them is not good for my waistline or for my wallet.DSC_0487

the sound & taste of australia…

As my YouTube account plays the sounds of the Voice Australia artists, it occurs to me that I didn’t share a recent surprise with you! A week or so ago, my dad suddenly came up and handed me a box, informing me that it was a late birthday present. Since it’s now June, and my birthday was at the beginning of May, I had no idea what could possibly be in it.

Once the box was open, I found myself staring at a jar of Vegemite. Hooray! I had finally run out of the last container, and was considering whether to get some in Greenville, or to order it online. Turns out, my dad had noticed that I had run out, and went ahead and ordered it for me. Talk about being observant! Now, the next item on my to-do list ought to be trying a “vegemecado” sandwich, with Vegemite and avocado. That’s because we seem to have avocados in the house, all the time. But I haven’t tried that concoction yet, even it was advertised on the Vegemite container.DSC_0359

My YouTube playlist is full of Karise Eden (last year’s Voice Australia winner), Kiyomi Vella, Celia Pavey, and all the rest of this year’s artists. If you have some spare time, go search Season 2′s artists, as they’re just fabulous. And no, I don’t watch the American version, as I’m not a big fan of the judges. The judges on the Aussie version are what makes it worthwhile. They’re so likeable, and good at coaching!

I’ll admit it, I really wanted Kiyomi in the final, but Danny Ross’s voice is pretty awesome, as well. From there, my choices for the positions of the top 4 were a bit off. When it came down to Luke Kennedy and Harrison Craig, I thought for sure that Luke would win. But I was wrong, and that 18 year old young man has a long career ahead of him. With his “chocolate/velvet/butter” voice (as my friend describes it), he’ll sell a million records, and being self-deprecating and kind, everyone will continue to love him. There’s an innocence about him that reminds me of Rachael Leahcar from Season 1.

While I’m on the subject of Australia (which all Americans are probably confused over, since I haven’t provided links to the singers), I missed the first State of Origin game. And since I know who won, I haven’t watched it yet. But now that I know where I can watch it online, I’ll be watching next time around. Go Maroon! Yes, I know that New South Wales hasn’t won in forever, but my adopted state of Queensland will always have my heart. Sorry.

My mention of Vegemite reminds me of a promise I made to friends, that I would send them a box of American goodies, after they sent me some Aussie tidbits. I haven’t forgotten! Being busy or paying bills at the wrong time have kept me forgetting. But I promise you, I’ll mail those boxes, eventually! I plan to have s’mores ingredients, so you can know what a real American s’more tastes like. Also, I have America’s favorite Easter candy hidden away in the freezer, which I hope will survive the trip. Sure, they’ll be a bit melted, but if you throw them in the freezer when they arrive, they’ll still be awesome!

And now, I look on FB and realize that some of my Aussie friends have had babies since I left there. One of them was expecting her FIRST child when I arrived in Australia. How about that for time passing? Craziness! The bubs just keep growing, you know!

Anyway, this post is definitely for the Aussies. I love you all, and keep things around that remind me of you. You’ll never be out of my heart.

tea time…

Ever since I was introduced to flavored coffee, at the age of eighteen, I’ve been a coffee drinker. At that time, I found both regular coffee and tea to be dull. But remembering how much I enjoyed the different FLAVORS of coffee, I would try out different flavors of tea, like Bigelow’s Raspberry or Constant Comment. Eventually, I discovered that I loved the different flavors of tea, especially the spicy teas and chai. DSC_0240

Then, I went to Australia, and found that what I termed “regular tea” could be pretty good, too. Don’t ask me what lapsong souchong and such are, but I started to learn my way around. You’ve heard some of this before, but the Aussies (like the British) are tea drinkers. I couldn’t help but learn about tea! Sure, they drink coffee (mostly instant), but that’s only a side note to all the tea that they drink at tea time (and every other time). I learned quickly to refer to that time as “smoko”, but I can’t say for certain whether that was what all Aussies called it, or just Queenslanders.

Since moving home again, I have created a tea & coffee drawer for myself, in our family’s kitchen. As the person who drinks the most variety of coffees and teas, it was necessary to have a spot for them all. The flavors of coffee come and go, but the tea types always stay the same. Not just because they last longer, but because once I’ve settled on a flavor of tea that I enjoy, I stick with it. I thought I’d take the time to share with you about it. DSC_0241

Returning to the U.S., I found out swiftly that my newest favorite tea, Russian Caravan, is not generally sold in the United States. Twinings has all sorts of flavors in the U.S., and I keep Earl Grey and Lady Grey in the drawer at all times (flavors I came to enjoy, in Australia)… but not Russian Caravan. Eventually, I ordered some from the UK, two good-sized bags of the tea leaves. Having tea leaves on hand, I had to make sure I had a way to brew it properly, too.DSC_0242

Some time ago, I bought my little blue tea pot from a specialty store in Pennsylvania. It holds about two mugs worth of tea. However, since we don’t have a tea kettle, at present, I cheat a little when I’m making it. After heating several cups of water to the boiling point, in the microwave, I pour it into the tea pot with the leaves, and leave it to steep. Some of you tea drinkers will be shocked, but I work with what I have.

At first, I would pour my tea (full of tea leaves) through a small basket sieve into my tea cup, but then I made a visit to the Charleston Tea Plantation, last May. Instead of spending money on the actual tea, knowing how much of it I already had in my drawer, I bought several accoutrements to go with the tea. DSC_0243

One is the scissors-like tea ball that you insert into the bag of leaves, scoop out however much you want, and then leave the entire thing in your cup to steep. But I always end up with more leaves in my tea cup, because it’s hard to close the “tea ball” part of it, without getting tea leaves trapped in the cracks. DSC_0245

So, I brought out my other purchase, the fancily decorated tea strainer, complete with butterflies and flowers on the handle. You pour your tea (and leaves) through the slotted ladle, into your mug, and then put the strainer into its pewter “cradle” that it came with. This one really reminded me of how we made and poured tea in Emerald, though their tea strainer wasn’t as fancy.DSC_0246

My tea drawer also includes some green tea that my brother likes to drink, so he experiments with all my tea-making gear, as well. A few days ago, we also added to the collection of tea, when a Greek friend sent us a bag of what he called “mountain tea”. I haven’t actually tried it yet, because it smells a bit like rosemary, but I’ve been meaning to.DSC_0248

Per the pictures, you’ll notice that my favorite chai tea is of the Tazo brand. I don’t know why, but the best chais always include black pepper and cardamom. If you get any general brand of cinnamon or spicy tea, it won’t have a big enough variety of spices included. I don’t understand how black pepper contributes to the flavor of a tea, seeing as I don’t particularly like pepper in my food… but it works. DSC_0250

For years, another favorite was a flavor that I bought at Barnes & Noble or Books-a-Million, called Hot Cinnamon Sunset, which tasted like you were drinking liquid fireball candy. I never liked fireballs, because they were too spicy for me, but when it’s turned into a tea, that changes the game completely.

When I’ve tried the mountain tea, I’ll have to let my tea-drinking readers know what it’s like. Our friend has warned us that it’s very strong. DSC_0251

summer fears & laziness…

I’m not really afraid of the swimming pool, but last summer, I couldn’t talk myself into going there for a swim. All summer long. At the time, I was still six months out from my Christmas-time illness, in Australia. I went swimming in a pool, got an earache, didn’t deal with it fast enough, went to see the doctor, and then took antibiotics. The antibiotics made me so sick that it almost ruined my vacation, and I was starting to think that hospitalization sounded good.

You can see why I was a little wary of going into the water, afterwards. Oh, I did, several times, but only when invited to do so. It was never my idea. I’m pretty sure I went tubing on Lake Maraboon, once, and I was in a pool with all my Aussie kids. But despite the Aussie heat, I didn’t seek out any swimming opportunities. And when I arrived home, summer was on the doorstep, and I couldn’t talk myself into going to the Clemson Pool.

Today, it was in the 90′s, and even being inside, in the air-conditioning wasn’t keeping me from being too warm. Of course, when I’m doing any kind of physical work, I overheat quickly, so by the time I left after cleaning up, I was roasting. And then stepped out into the heat and humidity, still in my work clothes. Ugh.

Once I was home in the air-conditioning, though, laziness set in. It’s no longer fear of the water and what it might do to me, but it’s been so long since I’ve been in it, I needed to vault out of my rut. So, after doing a few necessary things at home, I forced myself to go find my swimsuit and towel, and drive up Old Stone Church Rd.

When I arrived, I was surprised at so many of the changes, until I saw the showers and bathroom looks exactly the same, a bit dilapidated. But in the years since I’ve been in Australia and PA, they’ve redone the pool, the eating area, and even the outside of the buildings. Also, the gate on the fence, that stays closed, and I almost couldn’t figure out how to open it. The edges of the pool now have fancy stonework, and the bottom of the pool no longer has any lanes. But it’s still the rough bottom to the pool, that will eventually wear the skin off your feet, if you spend as many hours in there as the kids always do.

I managed ten minutes in the sun before adult swim, and then got in the water. Immediately, the clouds came out. And after fifteen minutes of adult swim, the sun wasn’t coming back. In fact, the clouds were rolling in. So, I headed home in time to beat the storm, though it had yet to thunder.

It’s a start, though. I no longer fear ear aches, as a result of swimming (besides, we have tons of hydrogen peroxide, if needed). But no reason to keep wearing that rut down. Time to go swimming, while summer is still here!

origin is coming…

State of Origin, that is. I’ve been reliably informed that Queensland is now going for its 8th win! I say reliably, because I don’t trust my reckoning, even if I google it. I lost track of what number they were at, shortly after leaving Australia. I suppose it would help if I just read my own posts about the serious-as-all-get-out rugby competition between Queensland and New South Wales? It’s probably a good idea, but I doubt I will. When I reread what I’ve written a LONG time ago, it messes with what I might write NOW, off the top of my head.

A couple of days ago, a co-worker was bored, so they demanded to know what my favorite basketball team was. Um, I don’t watch basketball, so no favorite. He tried again… football team! Nope, sorry. I don’t watch football, either (gridiron, that is). I would much rather play a sport than watch it. So, at a momentary stand-still, a few minute later, he asked, “Favorite My Little Pony?!”state_of_origin

After a bit, I told him that I watched rugby sometimes, but apparently rugby doesn’t agree with him. I neglected to tell him that I love to watch the haka at the beginning of games with the New Zealand All-Blacks. I don’t know what he would have thought of that.

Since coming back to the U.S., I actually haven’t looked for a rugby team to follow, because cheering on teams has never been my style. If you don’t really watch sports on tv, then you don’t really have a reason to cheer a team on. I’m more likely to root for (Aussies, don’t be snarky, you know what I mean) a local team. I’ll cheer for Clemson, because that’s where I’m from. I’ll hope the Carolina Panthers defeat the New England Patriots, in the Super Bowl… but I’ll still mostly watch the commercials.

And so, I’ll cheer on the Queensland Maroons, if I can just find somewhere to watch them! Of course, I will also cheer for them because they’re just the best team in State of Origin, anyway. But I know some will disagree with me there. I have an American friend who works in Canberra and has lots of friends in NSW, so of course he’s on their side.

I remember my first Origin game. I was sitting on the arm of the couch, trying to figure out what was going. These amazingly strong AND fast guys were running constantly, making me never want to take my eyes off the television. If I did, I might miss something. That’s another reason I like it, the constant movement, the ongoing game, that only stops for a short break in the middle of the game. I hate games that stop and start, allowing your mind to wander to more interesting things.

When I missed the second Origin game of 2011, I made sure I was in a house full of friends for Game 3. It was a riotous group, with mostly Maroon fans, and a few Blues in the room. I’ve never been one for actually clapping, cheering, and shouting during a game, unless I really understand what’s going on. So, I just sat with my eyes glued to the screen, and my eyes were probably as big as dinner plates, trying to take it all in. It was so exciting! The Maroons were so awesome!

As I write, if I have the dates correct, then my Queenslander friends are just a few hours away from cheering on their team. The drinks will be out, the snacks will disappear, and they’ll be shouting their heads off. And even if I can’t watch with them, I’m cheering for the right side, in my head, from South Carolina. Go Maroon!

 

Related posts:

rugby league…

State of Origin ’11, game 3…

go maroon!

a seabrook sunday…

For the first time ever, on a Seabrook weekend, I didn’t wear my Sunday clothes to breakfast. I know, you’re stunned. Since I don’t like being rushed after I eat, I usually dress up first, and then go to the dining hall. But this year, I had a brand-new dress, bought as part of my birthday present, and I was terrified that I would spill something on it. Yes, pessimism came to the fore, and I went to breakfast in shorts and a t-shirt. But hey, I was in good company.DSC_0483

But the dress survived the trip to chapel, and the sun was out, making for some beautiful photo sessions, afterwards. Last conference, I happened to bring my tripod along for the group picture, but this year, I forgot. So, we made do, like we did a year ago, when it rained, and we took the group pic INSIDE the chapel. One of the guys carried the recycling bin outside, we set several hymn books on top, and I used that to prop my camera on, while setting the timer.DSC_0490

DSC_0493If you see me standing awkwardly in that picture, it’s because I ran to my spot and found myself with a part of a step to stand on, for one foot, and some soft mulch for the other. I was trying to keep my balance, not wanting a colossal fall captured on camera, when the timer went off.5-19 Sunday

DSC_0511After the group shot is over, lots of people run back to their cabins change, but some of us meander back slowly, taking other smaller group pictures, on the way. Halfway to my cabin, we stopped for some, with Court and I goofing off a bit, as she took advantage of the height difference. Then we dragged some of the guys into the fun.DSC_0521

DSC_0524At lunch, Tom passed off his hat to Skip (our fearless leader), who never passes up an opportunity for a good pose. Especially when the goofy pictures always make it into the Sunday evening slideshow. Then the hat got passed around for more photo opportunities. Speaking of the slideshow, I still remember when Bob brought the first digital camera to Seabrook, and we began to make a regular thing of it. Sunday afternoon is the time to hand off the photos to Tom, and we girls make sure that the worst photos on our OWN cameras don’t make it onto his computer. But we have no control over the crazy pictures that come off the other cameras.DSC_0527

Lunch was taco soup, which some of us thought was ALL, and then realized they had the turkey sandwich fixings back in the kitchen, and not on the buffet line. After we ate, I think Dave’s presence was really missed, because not only is he our resident “pyro”, he also usually leads a hike on Sunday afternoon, for those who like walking the Seabrook trails. Instead, and even better, we had a baptism, in the ocean, for one of our dear girls.DSC_0534

DSC_0536Afterwards, I watched some of my friends pick up a dead jellyfish, to look at it closely, and then take it back into the water TWICE, to wash more sand out of it. I think they couldn’t see the guts very well, or something. It was funny to listen to them cheerfully point out “there’s its nose, eyes, and mouth…”. Sillies.DSC_0549

DSC_0551On the way to uploading pictures to Tom’s computer, in the dining hall, I had to show him how to turn the water on, to wash off his sandy feet and shoes. I think they keep adjusting how they use those beach “showers”. But at least it made me feel smart.  : )DSC_0557

DSC_0559When we reached the dining hall for dinner, one of the chefs came out to tell us all about the roast beef, gravy, mixed vegetables, and mashed potatoes we would be having for dinner. Those potatoes are amazing, I’m not sure I want to know what they add to make them taste so good. There are probably lots of calories in the ingredients. We did miss having the famous camp mac’n’cheese, though. They make a triple cheese macaroni and cheese dish that’s to die for, and you’ve never had anything like it, anywhere. Too bad, maybe in November.DSC_0561

DSC_0564The camp provides an assortment of coffee mugs, and when I took notice of Harold’s, I had to get a picture of him with it. Besides, he’s a born model.DSC_0563

DSC_0565Before the evening meeting, Courtney had some fun with Rachel’s (different Rachel, not me) hair. That’s what happens when  you room with a hairdresser, eventually, she will do something with your hair. It’s good fun.DSC_0567

The final meeting of the weekend was excellent, and before it started, we tried to bring the roof down, with the singing. Harold put in our usual ending numbers, with a few extras, so the girls able to hit the high notes were really having to work. I’m always grateful that “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” gives us a momentary breather, in the chorus.DSC_0569

Sunday ended with a hilarious slideshow, complete with random quotes from the weekend. We’re always good for a few of those. After a few snacks (because you know, we’ve barely eaten anything, all weekend), we had a rousing game of Signs, which I think I won. That’s what happens when you play for an hour or more, and you never get called into the middle, right? I was the only one to manage it, this time. Of course, we have almost as many spectators as players, because it’s a hoot to watch the game.DSC_0572

Finally, with the clouds beginning to clear off, we hit the beach and walked down to the point. Several people had their phones out, loading their constellation and star apps, in order to see what constellations we were looking at. Once I spotted Orion, I commented on the fact that it was the only constellation I could see in Australia, that I recognized. Even though he always looked like he was upside down (or something), it was comforting to see something familiar. One of the guys shot down this remark, insisting that no constellations from the Northern Hemisphere were visible in the Southern Hemisphere. He said I must have seen Cygnus.

Well, I insisted that I ought to know what Orion looks like, and his belt is distinctive, but I had no proof. But I have remembered to look it up, at last, and guess what? I was right! Orion is located on the celestial equator and is visible in BOTH hemispheres! So there! Sorry, when you’re in a totally different place, far from all you know, you will latch onto the few things that are familiar. And I didn’t want that taken away from me, even a year after the fact.

Stay with me! I’m including a picture of Monday’s delicious breakfast, because I have so many things to talk about and show from our time spent in Charleston. We’re getting there, slowly but surely!DSC_0574

looking on the funny side…

I like to look for the funny side of everything. Part of it comes from loving to share a good story, and who doesn’t love a funny story? The other comes from having worked alone for a significant portion of five years (except for during the summer), and you have to find your amusement somewhere. To switch up the saying on trees falling in the forest, “If Rachel falls down with a crash, when she’s in a building by herself (and survives), does she still laugh?”. Why, yes, she does.

Some people think I’m overly serious, which means they’re obviously not around me enough to know better. Some people may think I take everything too lightly, which isn’t true at all. I take many things very seriously, but in the right situation, I still want to lighten the atmosphere, and keep everyone from diving too far into the dumps. But I certainly know which situations are too serious for even that, don’t worry.

You’ve all heard it said that, “I know this is terrible, now, but later, we’ll laugh about it”. I will often laugh about it, at the time, but if I don’t, you can guarantee that I will later. If you could hear my friend Imogen and I related our adventure on Magnetic Island, and how everything that could go wrong DID go wrong, you will know that we didn’t enjoy it at the time. Not one bit. However, after we arrived at that restaurant, starving to death, and begged them to feed us… I think we were laughing hysterically, at that point. While we continued to shovel food into our faces. Hey, it happens.

But who could not start to find that story funny, knowing that while we were attempting to snorkel, there was a goanna (type of monitor lizard) or possum or some other critter stealing food out of our backpacks? Knowing that when we were kayaking at sunset, I was wailing about how she could always see the turtles, but I swear to you, the turtles dived under the water when I looked in their direction. Stupid turtles. Or our kayaking instructor offering us a glass of sparkling grape juice, but when I asked what it was, he said it was wine. I was so tired, I thought he was being serious, unable to recognize the sarcasm. So, I told him I didn’t want any, of course.

More recently, I had a cold, and even when I was blowing half my body weight out of my nose (or least, that’s what it felt like), I was able to notice the hilarious parts of it. Mainly, I had almost lost my voice, which made me sound like a high-pitched frog. Of course, historically (or hysterically), I don’t usually stop talking when I lose my voice. Because my croaking always makes people laugh… or their reactions to it makes ME laugh. Once upon a time, I lost my voice after yelling my head off on some roller coasters, at Cedar Point. I kept our van-load of kids in stitches, for the rest of the trip. I’ll admit, I did sound like some boys do when their voices are changing.

Not everyone else agrees with this idea, of finding the side-effects of my illness to be entertaining. One grad student had a cold at the same time as I did, and when I commented on the hilarity of it, his reaction was “being sick is ENTERTAINING?!?”. I’m afraid he thought I was nuts, or that my sense of humor is, well… sick. Oh, well.

I have mentioned before that I am not a klutz, and it’s true! But I have a bad habit of sharing stories about clumsy incidents, and sharing them all at once, so it gives the impression that I really AM a klutz. I tend to fall, occasionally, not because I’m clumsy, but because my ankles like to “turn”. I try very hard to be careful on stairs… and then, I’ll turn my ankle (painfully, I might add), and take a big spill.

The last time I did that, I did some some serious damage to my knees, falling down my front steps. But what I thought was funny was that while everyone in my neighborhood usually knew what I was up to (fishbowl living, you know), nobody saw me fall. Amazing.

And when I got in a fender-bender with a large truck, there was nothing funny about being rammed from behind, while at a complete stop. There was nothing entertaining about worrying that my summer staff girls might have been injured, seriously, if the spare tire on the back of my CRV hadn’t prevented it. Most of us were in complete shock, in tears, and suffered from stiff muscles (from jerking against our seat belts, in the collision) for a few days, afterwards.

It was only some time later that I realized that having bumped my boss’s car, in the process, it meant that I would never live it down. Oh, don’t worry, our insurance paid for everything, and now, you’d barely know anything ever happened to my car. But having everyone come out of it unscathed meant that we could joke, with impunity, about how I was the one that dared dent his car. The nerve of me.  : )

But remember, while I will laugh at myself, I will make certain that everyone is alright, before I laugh at someone else almost injuring themselves. One time, my 2nd-in-command housekeeper, a good friend of mine, accidentally zapped herself with a power outlet. I don’t know how it happened, because she wasn’t being careless. But the shock of it really did set her back for a while, and I would never think that such a thing was funny. Especially knowing that her boyfriend might be really upset with me for allowing her to get hurt. Now, she laughed about it later, but I would still make sure my girls were cautious with pulling plugs from outlets, for some time afterwards.

Again, please don’t think I’m unfeeling or incapable of seeing someone else’s pain. That’s why if I’m laughing, usually it means something happened to me, and it struck me as hilarious. If something happens to someone else, I will be much more concerned about the other’s well-being. If you fall, or do something where you COULD have hurt yourself, I will be worried for you, and never a laugh will you hear. I mean that. I’m not a “laugh first, check-to-see-if-you’re-ok second” type of person.

When I started this post, I think I had some more funny tales to tell… but now I’ve forgotten them. Remember, there’s almost always a funny side, to every situation, you just have to look for it.  And maybe having a good laugh will make your day just a little bit brighter.