Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fixin’ ‘Er Upper


With a tip of the hat to Chip and Jo-jo, one of my most favorite things is home improvement.  The last two years of my full time teaching was spent with my former spouse remodeling the inside of our home.  It was basically gutted, and I came home from school many an evening to find the clothes washer and the refrigerator parked in the living room.

Each year since I moved into my tiny house here in the piedmont of North Carolina, I have scrimped and saved to improve some part of my home.  I’ve replaced the deck out back, had two corner built-ins added to the living room, installed top-down/bottom-up blinds, my ownself, in all the windows, and more.

Now…full disclosure…I am turning 70 (gasp) this year, and I have intended to turn the tiny, tiny building out back into a Craft Studio since 2011.  This is the year, and it is happening, even as we speak.  But more about that in another blog, later.

This winter, as Lenten penance, it turns out, I decided to paint all the walls inside…again, by my ownself.  I finished just last Sunday, doing a room a week, and wouldn’t you know, just one week after completion, yesterday, I spent the day tearing up the living room all over again, because this morning, I had the long-desired crown moulding put in the living room!  I am including the Before and After shots, a photo of the paint project, and the Tiny, Tiny’s initial demo.

I’m in my happy place, and this all makes turning a (cough) certain age very much worth it.


COLD vs Cold…


This pre-dawn morning, I was the first to step  through fresh falling snow.  It was a God moment.


I returned home last week from my three winter weeks in Wisconsin.  While there, we had light snow and a cold snap that surpassed normal, even for that latitude.  There were mornings when the actual temperatures were in the first-decade-and-more below zero Fahrenheit.  The wind chill temps reached negative 22, at times.  For a few days, the highs were still below zero.  It is COLD there.

People who live there full time know how to deal with cold like that.  They wear long underwear, coveralls, fleece-lined boots and gloves, Fargo hats.  They start their cars to warm them up ten to fifteen minutes before departure.  They cover their faces when they go out, and they only go out if it is necessary.  Farmers have no choice.  People who work day or night jobs have no choice.  Thankfully, I did have a choice.

Back home in North Carolina, the low temperatures have been record breaking, as well.  There were two days when I was gone, that NC temps were lower than the ones in WI.  This past weekend, in the south, we had seventeen degrees until after 10 AM.  And this morning, we people of the piedmont woke up to falling snow.

The snow wasn’t a surprise.  It was predicted, and last night before 8 PM, before one flake had fallen, schools announced closures.  Still, it doesn’t really snow here that much or that often, and after nearly thirty years of living in Arizona, it’s a novelty of which I do not tire.

Taking first steps in the quiet snow of the dark early morning to the glow of flashlight is  a feeling, as much as anything else.  So, it doesn’t matter if it is COLD or Cold, we each have our ways of capturing it, enduring it, or savoring it.

There is Cold, and then there is COLD.   Though the numbers can be similar, they are very different from each other.  Hmmmm…wonder how that can be?


An ice luminaria, which lasted at least five days in Wisconsin.


Where’s the beef?


If you find a beef shortage in your neck of the woods, I know where it is.  The Remleys have whatever is missing.   And also more.


(Four boxes of beef…hamburger, roasts, etc.)

This morning, on the last day of 2017, we are having Beef Stroganoff for breakfast, for heaven’s sake.  It seems in order to fit all the new beeves into the family freezers, we had to cook the old beef, among other things.  So this weekend has been a big cookfest for me and my sister.

It began by cooking two whole chickens, deboning them, straining the stock, and then bagging the meat and freezing the stock in baggies.  Baggies pack in the freezer more efficiently than whole chickens, which seem to roll off and over each other in confined arctic spaces.

Then we (the royal “we”) thawed frozen mincemeat and made a couple of pies.   That took care of the frozen pie crusts and two boxes of Nonesuch Mincement.  Different sized boxes store awkwardly in the freezer.

And now comes the Beef Stroganoff…an arm roast and a round steak took up a lot of room in the freezer, and conveniently, they shred easily.  Those two hunks of meat cooked all night in the Crock Pot.  So, first thing this morning, I found myself perusing cookbooks for Stroganoff recipes, chopping onions, stirring gravy and making the sauce.


Soup is a frequent breakfast of mine.  Beef, not so often.  It’s not the actual food that makes a meal, but the ones who make it with love, and the companionship that goes into the prep.  My sister and I developed a pretty smooth routine as we cooked together.  We even thumbs-upped at the end.

Cooking for one sucks.  Cooking for farmers sings.


Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger…


It was just after the sun rose on New Year’s Adam (Adam came before Eve), that my sister and I struck out for Hosely’s Meats in the small town of New Glarus, Wisconsin, about 20 miles from the farm.

We were rug-ed up pretty good, both wearing long down coats, neck scarves, hats, and gloves.  My sister probably had on long underwear pants, but I can’t get my jeans on over mine, so I roughed it without the Cudl Duds.   (TMI, probably.)  The actual temperature was negative 3, but it dropped to negative 5 on the trip.  The “feels-like” temp was reported at negative 23.  Just sayin’.

We, or actually she, drove over the snow covered country roads, past picturesque family farms with red barns, multiple outbuildings, and the sun glared at us across the snow covered fields.  Pretty dramatic, I know, but I had the drive to compose parts of this entry in my head, and well, I sort of liked some of the turns of phrases.

We were picking up a half beef that had been processed for the family.  Do you remember that rogue steer that jumped the fence?  The one I wrote about in the last post?  It was his brother.  I sang “Hunka, Hunk ‘a Burning Love,” also in my head, to keep warm.   Never underestimate private silent thought processes.


Anyway, Hoesly’s is an amazing full service business, and I imagine there are ones like it all over the country, even in the south, but I’ve had no previous personal experience.  The place consisted of many very large buildings, and we went into the store part, where I chatted it up with a guy I presumed was Mr. Hoesly, but who knows?  Payment made, car loaded, we made a reverse trip, where we safely arrived home to unpack four cardboard boxes of hamburger, roasts, and steaks into the freezers.


Then we had a yummy breakfast of homemade hot vegetable beef (yep) soup.  Ooo.  I should have splashed some red wine into it.

There are many ways to fight the cold.


Love Me Tender


For several years, now, my oldest sister and youngest brother have operated a small cattle-raising business.  They’ve raised from four to six Scottish Highlanders, which are known to be a docile, compact breed which produce a lean meat.  They are known for their long horns and wavy coats.  My siblings buy babies, feed ’em out for a couple of years, and then sell the beef.  The family freezers are full about every other November.

This cattle thing has sparked a variety of adventures, which include small steers sliding under the fence and ending up by the road, to a “finished” steer avoiding the pick up by leaping the fence, and escaping into the neighborhood.  That guy caused fence line searches and farmers-turned-cowboys to comb the woods and cornfields.  The runaway steer still lives, by the way.  Elsewhere, I might add.

The last batch, which included the renegade escapee, evidently had a crazy daddy.   His babies did not have the docile personality credited to their breed, and so the bull “disappeared” because of bad behavior on all counts.  He is no longer around to produce psycho babies.

Now the new batch (fold) of steers is ensconced in their new digs at my sister’s  place.  There are six…two reds, two browns, and two blacks.  They have a calmer daddy, a bull by the name of Elvis, who is black.  Black is apparently an uncommon color for a Scottish Highlander.  Learning from past experience, my brother also had the fold de-horned.


Elvis was first introduced to the family a couple of years ago, when my brother was making arrangements for a buy.  He must’ve been impressed, because two of the new babies are Elvis look-alikes.

Not to jinx the current situation, but so far the Elvis’ steers are doing pretty well.  No drama, as of this morning, at least.  I wonder how they’ll turn out when my sister starts singing to them.  I’m going to suggest Love Me Tender as the theme song.


Deb’s 2017, by the numbers…



Another trip around the sun, and seven trips since I moved to North Carolina.  It seems impossible, and the years have flown.

So, by the numbers, this is my story for 2017, and not in chronological order:

Number of weeks spent in Wisconsin with my Remley family…. six.

Number of visits to long-time, dear friends, here in North Carolina…three.

Number of talks with all sisters…too many to count.

Number of pizza nights at my NC brother’s…also too many to count.

Number of overseas trips made by me…one.

Number of countries visited on above trip…four.

Number of blessings gained from above trip…still counting.

Number of visitors to my Winston-Salem home, including parents, Atlanta brother and family, former principal and friend, Australian “nephew,” Lake Sister and two mutual friends, my two WI  sisters, niece, grand-nephew, Arizona BFF and her spouse…a bunch.

Number of meaningful connections with Arizona family, former students and their parents, teaching friends, and more…lots.

Number of Flat Stanleys to travel across country and hang out…one.

Number of books read and discussed with Book Club and others…not sure.

Number of dinners with neighbors…same.Number of Canasta games played…probably eight.

Number of GOOD Canasta hands played…one.

Number of opportunities to serve others…numerous times daily.

Number of prayers requested, prayers answered, thanks given…countless. 

I wish all of you the infinite blessings of this Christmas season and the same in the New Year to come.  And so, Amen.


Hello Darkness, Not my Friend…


I used to like night.  It was stimulating to be out, driving, the lights, the glow.  I loved the quiet.

I’m not sure when driving at night became more drudgery than delightful, but I find myself in that place now. 

I don’t really go out that much at night.  Mostly when I do, I walk.  Not too long ago, I had to drive to Charlotte, 90 minutes away, for an airport pick-up at 7:30 PM, and recently, with the holiday season and all, I’ve been going to a few evening gatherings.  These recent night-driving experiences really reinforced the discomfort I have these days with the dark.  Or, at least dark driving.

So, what’s the problem?  Seeing, mostly.  The darkness and the lights are distracting.  Things look different,…the pavement lines are dimmed, the street signs are blurred, and the landmarks are vague.  Hoo-boy.  Whatcha gonna do?

The night is still quiet.  Not that it’s comforting.  When driving, I appreciate the guidance of my GPS, whom I have named “Carmen-the-Garmin.”  Her nasal voice guides me, especially when I don’t have a clue, well…maybe a vague idea…where I am going.

Technology may keep me driving at night for a year or two longer,  but darknss in not my friend when I am driving.  As Bette Davis said, “Old age isn’t for sissies.”  Am I in old age?  I think not.  I just can’t see that well to drive at night.  Right?