north came south…

It’s been a week since we got back from Pennsylvania, in our flying trip to get my storage unit stuff. In between all the schoolwork, I find the time to rearrange my books, pick more of them out to donate, and dig up interesting things to place on my shelves. I guess I haven’t really shared how things are shaping up… in both rooms.DSC_0855

DSC_0718Now that the storage unit stuff has arrived from the north, and we’ve sold our pool table, the center of that room is full of furniture. But a big difference was made when I set up my desk, which now can hold all my Lord of the Rings and Narnia Weta statuettes. That’s one great thing about that headboard that sits on my desk, making it the best desk ever. Who needs a “real” desk, when you can build one from shelves, a door, and a queen-sized headboard?DSC_0606The white shelves in the pool room are mostly full and I have been able to get out some of my favorite knick-knacks to put on them, too. But that’s without even opening up my remaining Boyds Bears and Dollstones… hope I’ll have some more surface space, eventually.DSC_0701

DSC_0861The shelves in my bedroom can be shifted up and down, so as soon as the LOTR statues came off the top shelf, I started to rearrange them all… again. Now, I still have several piles of books, and I’m running out of shelves. I used to have several smaller ones, but I donated one, and my cousin is using another. I think the remaining “problem” is that despite donating several hundred books, once upon a time, I had triple rows of books on the bottom shelves. So, I still may come up short on room for them. Sigh. I know, life is hard.  ; )DSC_0851

Speaking of books, despite having to read quite a few of them for my schoolwork, and having a pile of them getting ready for my military paper, I still escape the college books, now and then. Just finished rereading North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell, and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a similar flavor to Jane Austen, but in more of a workers’ environment. Of course, there is the miniseries version to be watched, starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe, with Armitage giving Mr. Darcy a run for his money. For all the Tolkien fans, Armitage plays Thorin in The Hobbit movies.DSC_0847

Anyway, as much as I really do enjoy the history reading (some of it) and some of the English reading, I have to escape into my own reading, from time to time. A few weeks ago, I was reading A Patriot’s History of the United States, by Larry Schweikart and Michael Patrick Allen, as a method of escaping my Western Civ teacher’s excessively liberal views. But the busier I’ve gotten, the less time I have for extra non-fiction. The fiction helps me escape for a few minutes, when I’m eating lunch, or taking a break between subjects.DSC_0856

Tonight, I was doing some shopping (for clothes), but I continued to resist going anywhere near a bookstore. As the end of the year approaches, my craving to buy books is growing. Except for books for school, I haven’t bought myself a single book during this entire year. And though my wish list grows on Amazon, I continue to download free books, and I’m shelving all the books that I’ve had for years… the urge to have a new book that has nothing to do with school… it’s building. I believe that after this year, I’ll do much better at resisting spending money on books, especially when I need to save it. But just the relief of being able to buy the newest Naomi Novik, Robin Mckinley, or Rick Riordan… I can’t wait.DSC_0852

Looking through the pictures I’ve uploaded… you’ll see the tons of Star Wars books that I own, and just one of my movie posters. I had lots of empty walls in my last house, so I had Star Wars and Lord of the Rings posters to put up, along with my wall of calendars (the calendars are under my bed, now). Now, I have no wall space, so I store them, wondering when I’ll be able to put them up again, if ever.DSC_0858

DSC_0860And yes, I do love me some Lord of the Rings. The Argonath bookends have been in my collection ever since I bought the expanded edition sets that came with the statues. The Minas Tirith jewelry box was one of those, too. No, don’t have a panic attack. What kind of idiot would actually store jewelry under Minas Tirith? But for some reason, that’s what that figurine was made to be. The Weta artists are amazing, aren’t they?DSC_0862

DSC_0870If you have a care for the Narnia books and movies, then you’ll know full well that Oreius was a character created just for the movies, but the centaurs have always fascinated me. That was my first Weta statue, and it’s a stunning piece of work… though they never can seem to get the faces right. DSC_0868

DSC_0871Well, I think I’ve babbled enough for now. But it finally occurred to me that I’ve had these photos collecting, but haven’t done anything with them. Now, if I could just figure out where my copies of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were hiding…DSC_0865DSC_0872

P.S. For those college fans that are wondering, yes, I do know that Clemson is playing Florida State, this weekend, and I am even wearing a Clemson shirt, because today is Friday. But while my older brother has come all the way from New Hampshire to be at the game, I will be home studying and taking notes on King Leopold’s Ghost. But whether I find the time to watch the game on tv (hey, I watched the game against Georgia!), I felt like pointing out how much more awareness I have of Clemson doings, now that I’m a student there. : )

we’ll always remember…

I had a vague idea, as I walked to my German class, this morning, that I had arrived at work about that same time on 9/11/01. As I thought of it, I wondered how many of the present undergraduates knew where they had been that day. The brand-new freshmen would have been six years old, and the seniors were probably ten years old, at the time. I was twenty-one, and I’ve never forgotten where I was, that Tuesday.DSC_0541

DSC_0540As I left my German class, to walk by the reflection pond, in order to reach Hardin Hall, I stopped short as I saw the hill above the Amphitheater. A flag display had been arranged there, and as much as I wanted to go look, I didn’t have time between classes. Also, I didn’t have a snazzy camera phone to take a picture with. Even at that distance, I could see that everyone was stopping to look. DSC_0542

DSC_0543DSC_0544With the issues of parking on campus, I eventually found my solution to getting my camera, and had my brother drop me off near the end of my mom’s workday. So, walking down from the Carillon Garden, I approached the display from the top. If you walked by, above it, could you tell what it was? Oh, yes, with the 9-11 Project signs, that would attract your attention.DSC_0546

DSC_0545DSC_0547As you can see, there are no pins left under the sign, so I don’t know what they looked like. But I truly appreciate the group that took the time to put up this display. I’ve done my best, by walking to several spots nearby, to get a good look at it. It was difficult to get high enough to see it properly.DSC_0548

DSC_0549I don’t think I can ever say the right thing on this day. Don’t forget our American heroes that saved so many lives on that day, some  giving up their own lives to do it. Remember the families that lost their loved ones. Thank the men in our military, who do their best, every day, to keep our country free. DSC_0550

DSC_0553And thank God for all the blessings in your life. DSC_0557DSC_0559

one funky wedding…

My brothers and I pulled off the ultimate surprise. The weekend of my cousin’s wedding, my youngest brother arrived on leave from the Air Force. My parents didn’t know he was coming, so when he pulled into the driveway, I quietly let him in, so he could go back and bang on my parents’ door. The surprise was total.DSC_0243

DSC_0321This meant that all seven of us were going to be at my cousin’s wedding in Alabama. One brother had come from England (though he had the tickets BEFORE he knew about the wedding), one flew from New Hampshire, and one flew from Florida. We’re getting very spread out, recently. DSC_0225

DSC_0273The wedding was in the evening, so I played hermit and stayed in my hotel room for most of the day, studying and doing German homework. I had just started at Clemson, that week, if you remember. More on that another time.DSC_0254

DSC_0278When it was time to get ready, I was thrilled to wear my (ok, maybe they’re still my mom’s) “Atari” shoes, which went well with my dress. That particular dress has been waiting to be worn, ever since I bought it back around my birthday in May. I’ve worn both of the other two birthday dresses, but this one was for a dressy occasion. We all looked pretty “schnazzy”, if I do say so, myself.DSC_0289

DSC_0296Casey and Erica had a small wedding, loaded with family and friends. A significant number of the cousins managed to get there, despite most of us being grown up and living all over the world, now. DSC_0329

DSC_0306The reception, also, was beautiful, and full of good food and memories. I say memories, because the mantel shelves were loaded down with framed photos of the bride and groom, while the tables were full of the people that knew all about those memories.DSC_0345

DSC_0358If you hadn’t realized, my mom’s maiden name is Funk, so that’s why this was a “funky wedding”. Erica was thrilled to become one of the Funk granddaughters, and we were pleased to take her into our family. My Grandpa and Grandma Funk would have been very happy with their grandson’s choice of a wife, I know. DSC_0363

DSC_0371And as you may have guessed from the cake cutting pics, life with Casey will never be dull.DSC_0377

After the dinner and dancing, our family met up at my Alabama cousins’ house, and enjoyed lots of family “catch-up” time, as well as way too many cookies and a splendid lunch. My aunt is a wonderful cook, so we ate very well. I’m afraid the brunch part of things really included eating cookies BEFORE lunch, though. Our family is big on those. My mom got multiple thumbs’ up from her brothers, over the snicker-doodles (made with homemade Tahitian vanilla), molasses-oatmeal cookies, and peanut blossoms. DSC_0387

DSC_0391The trip back was uneventful, and we didn’t dawdle, as all of us need to be at school, whether to work, teach, or attend as a student. Since I had done most of my homework on the trip down, or on Saturday, I was ahead of the game for the week.DSC_0414

DSC_0427Hope you enjoy the pictures ALMOST as much as we enjoyed seeing my cousin marry the love of his life!DSC_0428DSC_0449

pennsylvania good-times…

I know, I know, I’m behind! So sorry. I don’t really think I’ve been TOO busy since returning from PA, but between laundry loads, catching up on odds and ends, and unloading boxes… let’s say I’ve kept myself occupied.DSC_0912

DSC_0958As some of you may know, I left over a week ago for Pennsylvania, to meet up with some old friends and old stomping grounds, as well as to sort through my storage unit. The original plan had been to go rent a U-haul and get my storage unit stuff, but that’s been delayed for a few weeks, because of a better option. So, I’ll have it all soon, but not quite yet.DSC_0048

DSC_0060This visit allowed me to not be so pressured for time, while visiting people, and to leisurely do some sorting, in order to help out with the future move.DSC_0063

DSC_0107So, after my usual 9-10 hour drive to Chambersburg, I arrived at GWH. I lived there for almost five years, working as the full-time housekeeper, and occupied two different houses while there. My summers were spent chasing summer staffers and cleaning up between large groups of campers, while the off-season was spent doing all that on my own, during the weeks… but for smaller groups, usually. I knew all the camp buildings from top to bottom, and got to drive a golf cart year-round. What could be better?DSC_0924

DSC_0915Arriving right before a session of family camp allowed me get in some good local food with friends, at Benny’s Italian Restaurant, before seeing more friends. I love Benny’s, and I always have to get a calzone when I’m there. Not that there’s anything wrong with pizza or pasta… I just love all that ham, mozzarella, and ricotta cheese, packed into fresh baked bread.DSC_0963

DSC_0015Also, I tried bruschetta for the second time. I really do not like raw tomatoes, and I’m not a big fan of excessive amounts of tomato sauce, either, but I still eat that. 🙂  But in recent years, I’ve discovered a liking for fish tacos, which include raw onions and tomatoes, mixed into the fresh salsa. So, with that in mind, I chowed down on bruschetta… and liked it. Soaking those tomatoes in oil and spices really did them good.DSC_0941

DSC_0949And for the record, when we were at Olive Garden, the next day (we really weren’t intending to binge on Italian!), I ate a tomato in my salad. So there. But not the olives. I have a vivid memory of trying an olive, again, at a Greek restaurant, a few year ago. That didn’t go down well.DSC_0007

DSC_0990Enough with the food, for the moment. One of my first stops on Saturday morning was to go check out the new swings that they built during Boys Camp. The circle of swings was supposed to be a new hangout area for people, especially during family camps. Just a nice place to get cozy and catch up with old friends. I think it was a great idea, whoever came up with it.DSC_0974

DSC_0982Ok, we couldn’t really completely escape from food. I had Moose Tracks at the Chatterbox (snack shop) almost every evening, after the evening meetings. Usually while catching up with friends, or enjoying their kids’ gyrations on the table top. This particular charmer had just gotten her second wind, and I still think that photo is perfect for adding some hilarious captions.DSC_0202

DSC_0073One afternoon, I got in an awesome game of Ultimate Frisbee, though that game also proved that I needed to completely retire my old sneakers in favor of the ones that just arrived in the mail, this week. Aren’t they fantastic? And I couldn’t resist the urge to wander around and take a look at some of the main buildings on the grounds.DSC_0090

DSC_0100When my time with the friends and kiddos was finally done, it was Wednesday morning, and I got up at the crack of early to a very cool Pennsylvania morning. Which was great, because it had been pretty hot, for most of the week. I had planned to try and get some photos of the local views, so I made a stop at Norlo Park to check out the barn and the surrounding area. As always, I wished I could get up higher in the air, in order to show off the rolling hills of PA, in a much better form.DSC_0116

DSC_0125Then, at the storage unit, I loaded my car to the brim, and made one last short stop at the Goodwill store. These scary mannequins are what greets you at the back door. Don’t let the kids see them, they might have nightmares.DSC_0187

DSC_0155I drove over a couple more hills to arrive at Windy Knoll Creamery, but well before they were open. Besides, I was still going out to breakfast with someone, so it wasn’t really time for ice cream, yet. But that area is full of rolling hills to walk up, as well as a spot for me to park my car. The trick is that for all the beautiful views, you can’t always find a shoulder of the road to park on. So, a friendly neighborhood dog followed me up the hill, while I took some pics.DSC_0157

DSC_0166Then, I got back in the car, and proceeded to drive somewhat slowly, and take pictures through the windshield or out the open window (with my camera strapped wrapped around my wrist). Don’t worry, I made sure no one was behind me, so I wouldn’t hold up traffic. Some pics came out well, and some did not. But it’s truly beautiful countryside.DSC_0167

After that, I had some coffee at Starbucks, and a great breakfast at Perkins, and then hit the road for South Carolina. It was a great way to finish out the summer, right before starting school. Which starts in several days, by the way. We’ll see what happens on the blog, after things get going. 🙂DSC_0175

the art of a selfie…

When I received my first digital camera, the idea of self-portraits had yet to cross my consciousness. But they finally came to my attention, when I moved away to Pennsylvania. How else was I supposed to let my mom know how I was looking, or let her see how long my hair was growing? This type of documentation was wasteful, when you had a film camera, because you might waste your money on a stupid looking photo. IMG_5531 But I had yet to figure out how you were supposed to look. While some people look cool when they’re expressionless, I tend to look angry… or just ridiculous. It took me a little while to discover that if you make yourself laugh, on purpose, you can get a smiling photo of yourself. I also taught this to at least one of my brothers, in order to get better smiles in family photos.IMG_5544

Recently, going through my photos, I came across some of my early self-portraits, from when I first arrived in Pennsylvania. That was the era when I wore tie-dye shirts advertising The Happy Berry, while I was doing my job (I was the housekeeping manager of a year-round camp). Also, this was back when I only wore makeup when my friends “made me over” or when I was in a wedding. Makeup was a waste of time. IMG_5532So, I’ve taken these old color photos and played around with Picasa, until I came up with something that looks much better. They still catch the expressions, but don’t show the horror of the bad lighting and the makeup-lessness. Besides, I had fun editing them.IMG_5533

Hope you enjoy my younger self. These were taken in 2007.IMG_5545

at the level of your eyes…

Every morning, when I leave the house, I find myself mentally echoing the words from The Phantom of the Opera… “keep your hand at the level of your eyes!”. Wait, you mean other normal people don’t start their day this way? If you are one of the few people on the planet who doesn’t know what I mean, then remember that the Phantom was known for garroting people, and hanging them during the middle of operatic productions. You needed that advice, in order to survive.

Well, if you knew how many times I’ve walked into a spider strand, you’ll understand how similar the situation is to the aforementioned one. Right? Because getting a spiderweb in the face is a matter of life or death? Well, it was to some of my summer staff girls, a few years ago.

I’m always finding those spider strands, with my face, strung between a car and a motorcycle. It’s a nasty feeling, getting one of them right across your nose or mouth. But usually, they come unaccompanied. The spider must be somewhere else, yelling at me for messing up their handiwork.

And then, it happened. My arachnophobic, bug-o-phobic friends and former summer staffers will appreciate this. For all the times I rescued you from anything that crawled in front of you (I didn’t enjoy it, you know!), or laughed over it… Remember, I thought of you.

I left the house, first thing in the morning, with my hands almost full. Once I was under the tree, approaching my car, I walked right into a partially built web. And right before my eyes, I saw one or two things crawling around. I admit it. I squealed like a little girl. Twice. I just stood there, unable to think what to do, without dropping my things, and made that same noise that I’d heard from all my summer staff girls (and some of the guys).

Fortunately, my mom was a few feet away, and she came over to free me. There was something mesmerizing about seeing that reddish spider, that close to your face, so I just couldn’t manage to move. I let out two wails, and froze.

After that, I left for work, feeling like I’d failed somehow. No, really, I managed to laugh, later. It reminded me of that time we went to Seabrook, and a larger spider built an entire web… while we were at dinner… across our doorway. At head level. The part I can’t remember is if I walked into it, or someone else. I wouldn’t rememeber it so vividly, if it hadn’t been me. I think I almost walked into it, felt webby strands on my forehead, and freaked. That time, I had my hands free. I did have the presence of mind to get a broom and sweep the eager builder out of the door, but I’m pretty sure I was checking my head for creepy-crawlies for some time, afterwards.

But if you ever drive by my house, first thing in the morning, and you see me holding up my hand in front of my face, as I walk, know that I’m not waving at you. I’m not shading my eyes from the sun. I’m protecting myself from spiderwebs, and their menacing inhabitants. As all reasonably sane people should do.

a fourth of rain & georgia…

Over ten years ago, a dear friend of mine got married. She was one of my first friends to get married, and of course, I was at the wedding. I think I helped with the punch table, or something of the sort. Unable to access my pictures from that time, I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember what I was wearing. In the intervening ten years, I still have that skirt and I’ve lost the jewelry. It was also right before I chopped off my waist-length hair, if I remember right. I’ve managed that length, twice in my life, and now I’m attempting to reach it again.

According to her kids, now, I not only have the honor of being considered the “Super Nanny from Australia”, but I was present when their parents met. Mind you, I only met him about five minutes before she did! But it doesn’t matter… the girls are enthralled to hear from someone else how I watched the two of them fall for each other, all in one weekend. I watched her having heart palpitations (but no, I couldn’t HEAR your heart beating!), and unable to believe that this was finally happening.DSC_0705

Over the next year or two, I think I visited two or three times. Once or twice before the baby arrived, and once afterwards. Since I always figured it would be “my turn”, sometime soon, then I was interested in learning anything I could about married life and what it’s really like when your first child arrives. She was a darling, that little E, of course. I don’t think I’d ever seen a baby born with a full head of hair, at that point, or one that seemed to be so alert! But maybe that was because I didn’t remember my brothers as babies… who knows?

Then, I moved to Pennsylvania for almost five years, followed by a year in Australia. Whenever I managed to get home for longer than a weekend, I had very little time or interest in straying very far afield. Family time was meant to be soaked up, and driving four hours anywhere (after the 10 hours it took to get home) was not in my game plan.DSC_0674

But though some people like to diss FB, whenever possible, it’s been a wonderful tool for me to keep in touch with my friends, over the years. Even when I couldn’t see a friend in person, I could see pictures of their children, as they arrived and grew up.

The Fourth of July weekend was approaching, when I realized that if I took that Friday off, I could get a long weekend to finally go visit my friend in Georgia. It had been almost 8 years since we’d seen each other, but we still longed to catch up in person. The time and money issue always seemed to get in the way, but finally, I scraped the wherewithal to decide to go, and then actually get there.DSC_0681

As you already know, it rained for most of the trip to Georgia, most of my time there, and most of the trip back. So, I waded through puddles to the house, and was immediately hugged by a 5 year old that I had never met. But they already knew who I was, because they’d read about me on my blog, when I was in Australia. I think reading about real Aussie kids was fascinating for them.

Without going into a huge amount of detail, I will say that my friends and I have both changed, over the years, but that doesn’t pull us apart, it just makes life more interesting when we get together. When I last saw them, they had a newborn daughter, and were facing life as almost-newlyweds and as new parents. I was single then, as I am now, but I still didn’t know what to do with my life. I was probably running my own cleaning business, at the time, and trying to figure out how to make a profit.DSC_0715

Since then, they’ve been married over ten years, have three beautiful children, and their house is a little bigger than last time. The baby E is now the eldest, with a flair for style and matching clothes. She was my mainstay, when I helped make barbecue sauce for a chicken dinner, or put together a pavlova for dessert, because I didn’t know where to find anything, in the kitchen. I’m still single, as I said, but instead of being a nanny, housekeeping manager, or business owner, I’m about to go back to college. What will be in store for me, next time I visit them?DSC_0676

While I’m including some photos from my visit, I should tell you that it took me about 2-3 days for me to even get my camera out. Some of you think that I travel with it attached to my arm, but that really isn’t true. I really have to be “in the mode” to get started, and even with several kids running around, I was just enjoying the ability to relax and not do anything important. I had started a book on the morning of July 4th, got hooked, and HAD to finish it while I was in Georgia, so that’s what I spent my spare time doing.DSC_0688

DSC_0678I found myself talking about Australia more than I have anywhere, since arriving home. They had read my blog, some, but not all of it, and had plenty of questions to ask me. It was very strange, after a year of spending time with people that never asked me about it, aside from “So, how was Australia?”. That general of a question will shut me down, completely. If all you want to hear is “Great!”, then I’ll give you what you want. You have to try harder, if you want to get more out of me.DSC_0692

Of course, the girls had to show off their crafting skills, and before two days were out, I had two door hangers to take home with me. Luckily, my new bedroom has two doors in it, so I can hang one on each side of the room, to enjoy my memories of E and the middle M.DSC_0746

DSC_0747After quite a few discussions about Aussie food and favorite things about Australia (that is a very hard thing to answer, find a favorite thing or experience from there), M decided to make an Aussie-style meal on Saturday. We went to the grocery store, and searched for patty pans to make meat pies, and eventually found them in the freezer section, with the dough already in the pans. For some reason, Publix didn’t have aluminum patty pans to buy, by themselves. M figured she would just make the top crusts, herself.DSC_0748

As we prepared for dinner, E helped me work on dessert. We had to start first, because we needed the pavlova to be out of the oven before the meat pies could go in. It was interesting to work off of the laptop, one page set to MY blog page with my pav recipe, and another page set to a recipe for Aussie meat pies. I now know that I can make them at home, too, so my Aussie friends will have to send me their favorite meat pie recipes.  : )DSC_0694

I still haven’t achieved that crispy outer crust on the pavlova, but the marshmallow-y inside is still perfect. Don’t worry, I’ll get it eventually. After the whipped topping was done, the little A got into the fun, licking the beater. He’s a charmer, that’s for sure. I unashamedly licked the spatula, after scraping the bowl to put some of it in my friend’s coffee. She had a Keurig, so I admit to drinking LOTS of coffee while I was there, experimenting with all the Kahlua, Macadamia Nut, and other delicious flavors.DSC_0696

The meat pies came out, smelling wonderful, and to my surprise, the asparagus was delicious, as well. I’ve always thought it was rather bland. The whole meal tasted amazing, and the dessert was a hit, except for the middle M, because she wasn’t a fan of the texture. There were enough meat pies left over that they could have them for lunch, or even breakfast, if they wanted.DSC_0700

On Sunday morning, I got up and went to church with my friends, and before we went out to lunch, we had a photo shoot in the front yard. The girls really enjoyed making faces for the camera, and then we brought the little guy out to join in. What child doesn’t enjoy making faces, even if they can only stick their tongue out at you? He’d figured out how to do “fishy lips”, so he wasn’t being totally left behind.DSC_0721

We went to a local Mexican place to eat, and I wished a certain cousin of mine could be there to enjoy the queso cheese, as she loves it so much. But meanwhile, it was fun to watch the kids eat it, and get it all over their faces. And we finished out with a dessert that I’ve forgotten the name of, but which is mostly whipped cream. Just think, if you have the right “chips” at home, some whipped cream and sprinkles could turn this into an easy, but fun dessert for the kids! I suppose you could do it with graham crackers, or something of the sort?DSC_0728

I had driven my car to the restaurant, so after hugs all around, I hit the road. It was wonderful to get to know the children, in person, and see how they were like and yet not like their parents. What fun to discover their personalities, and wonder what genes they inherited, and how many generations back?DSC_0732

You’ve already heard about my trip back from Georgia, so I won’t go into it. I can happily say that my car has been completely bug-free for well over a week, and I hope none of you ever experience what I did. But I hope that I will be able to visit my friends more often, now that I’m permanently in the South. Perhaps next summer, as I’ll be very busy during the school year.DSC_0739

I hope you had a wonderful Independence Day weekend, too, wherever you happened to spend it, and whether the sun shone or not!DSC_0742

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.

echoes from my childhood…

Unintentionally, my timing was excellent. Once I had moved all of my things downstairs, into my new bedroom, I went up and took some photos of the empty room. There’s a strange sound and feel to an almost empty room, especially when it has a wooden floor. It echoes your footsteps, even when they aren’t loud. I think it has something to do with there being no furniture to weigh it down further.DSC_0252

The ivy wallpaper had been there since I was in my early teens, when I got to pick it out for myself. Green has been one of my favorite colors, ever since I made the change from my early favorites (pink & purple, of course). I still remember choosing it out of the wallpaper book, and even then, I was unable to picture what the end result would be. Thankfully, the book had pictures of a room with window borders, which is how my parents eventually papered it to look. They knew how it would look, but I just feasted my eyes on the catalog, certain that my parents could make it look just that wonderful… and better, probably.DSC_0253

DSC_0255Of course, my childhood bedroom had a tan carpet, and white furniture, unlike in these pictures. But my white bed is still in storage, my old white dresser was retired for a new set from Pier 1, and the white lace curtains are… I don’t know where they are. The full-length mirror on the closet door is still there, though. I don’t know how many times the screws, which hold it to the door, worked themselves loose, and I would set them in a different spot. Hence, the silver star stickers that cover several sets of holes.DSC_0256

DSC_0257Once upon a time, I think a friend gave me those glow-in-the-dark stars for a birthday present. They’ve been on the closet door, ever since, though I’ve had to re-tape some of them, at least once. I had never needed a night light, and that wasn’t my purpose for putting them there, but even now that I’m in my 30’s, my room was never pitch dark with those stars there.DSC_0258

The reason I had excellent timing is that the day after I took those pictures, more furniture was moved into that room. And then, within two days, the work on removing the wallpaper began. I know I have other pictures of my room, somewhere, in all of it’s glorious green-and-white-and-carpeted state, but still have to transfer them to the computer.DSC_0259

I would have participated in the wallpaper stripping, but as you know, I’ve been working day in and day out (when not at work) on a baby blanket, with the intention of helping as soon as I completed it. Well, I can now say that the walls have been completely stripped, because the other workers had plenty of spare time. The shelf was removed in order to do this, and the holes in the walls have been spackled.DSC_0260

It looks very white in there, and altogether different than when I was younger.In a way, that makes it less my room than when I first moved out of it, to move to Pennsylvania. I spent almost six years away, but even when I came home to find my older brother living in “my room”, it was still MY room. Even all that computer equipment couldn’t make it a guy’s room, with that wallpaper.DSC_0262

I have no idea what the plan is for painting and such, for that room, but maybe I’ll let you know, when they’ve finished it. I’m just glad to be able to remember what it used to look like, back when I was still bringing friends and cousins over for sleepovers, and keeping my parents awake, as we talked until midnight.  : )DSC_0263