A Total Surprise

Last week I mailed the applications for myself and my husband’s passport renewals as they had both expired.  I sent his priority mail to the State Department here in the US with a guaranteed delivery date of September 19, I sent mine to the UK Passport office express overseas with a guaranteed delivery date of September 23.  Today I arrived home and there were two DHL packages at my door, one contained my cancelled passport from the UK and the other contained my new passport from the UK.   Providing that the delivery date from the post office was correct that is a turnaround time of two, or even three days depending on how you calculate it.

That is some serious kick butt service from the UK passport office.   Still waiting for the husband’s passport from the State Department.   I have found that the bureaucracy in the UK is far more efficient than that of the US.  When my dad was diagnosed with cancer in 1996 and I was summoned home with an expired passport I had no way to get there.  I called the British Embassy here in the US and they immediately went into crisis mode and faxed every airport that I would be traveling through and smoothed my way into the UK with not a hitch.  I didn’t even get a glance from the Immigration  Officers at Manchester Airport because they had all the information they needed at their desk the moment I arrived.

When it came to going home after my dad’s death and funeral however it was an absolute nightmare.  My green card had expired, and the US  flight officials at Manchester Airport wouldn’t even let me on the plane without paying a heavy fine despite the fact that I was married to an American Citizen.  Money which I did not have.   My mother ended up having to pay it.  Then there was the taking away to a padded room once I landed in the US with another fine to pay before I was allowed back into the country.

My passport and my green card are now both current so hopefully I will have no problem going home and then returning.  With the US Immigration Officials however I am not so sure.


Hanging Out the Laundry

One of the many nice things about hanging laundry outside to dry is that you get to notice little things that perhaps you would miss otherwise.  Certainly you are not going to see anything interesting on the inside of a dryer unless it is that missing sock that you have been looking for.

Today on my way out I noticed that one of the garden spiders had caught herself a Cicada, which I thought was a pretty impressive feat, considering their size and strength.


One of the Golden Orb Weavers had also caught herself one.


It would appear that Cicada season is all-you-can-eat buffet season for the spiders.  I also noticed this small, but incredibly beautiful spider. SONY DSC

The photograph doesn’t do it justice, the yellow and orange spots were really iridescent  in the sun.  I also noticed another type of Orb Weaver, not quite as large as the other females that I have seen and with slightly different coloring.


What wonderfully hairy legs it has.  I also discovered that the web worms are at it again.  SONY DSC

This is the second time this year that they have been cloaking the trees with their tents.  While hanging up socks I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the Wandering Jew, considered somewhat of a weed around here, was blooming, and despite the flowers being tiny what a wonderful true blue, rather than a purple they are. SONY DSC

I also noticed that in the dark bottom of the yard the sun shone through the trees onto our little SONY DSCcemetery where St. Francis and all of our long gone pets reside.

It amused to me discover that the pink Morning Glory flowers remain in bloom well into the afternoon


while their blue cousins have already closed their flowers up tight for the day.


So not only is hanging laundry out to dry both economical and eco-friendly, it is also educational.  Not only that but your clothes last longer, whites are whiter, and there is nothing better in the world than sliding into bed between freshly washed sheets that have been line dried.   There isn’t a fabric softener or drier sheet out there that can replicate that smell.


I’m Going Home

It has been twelve long years but at last I am going home.  To walk the streets of my childhood and notice the changes.  To sit in a market cafe and eat my fill of meat and potato pies and chips.  To go to a pub and have a real Ploughman’s lunch or even better a Lancashire Hot Pot.  To go to Asda and fill my cart with all of the things I have been missing for the last twelve years.  To stand on the banks of the River Lune and just watch as she rolls by.  To go to my mum’s and Norman’s 80th birthday party and just dance and be silly with my family.  To meet my great niece Nancy Olivia for the first time.  To sit and have a moment of quiet reflection and a million giggles with my sister whom I miss so much.  To hug once again my best friend Lynne who I have not seen for years and yet who has been a constant at my side since I was 14.

To just be.  Just be.  In Lancaster, in Market Square, in my mum’s house, in my home town.  Just be.  Just be me.    Who knows at what time I will ever get to go back, but just this once I get to go home.  Home and all of its blanket of familiarity will envelope me, and all of its meness will enfold me, and all of its core of my very being will infuse me, and all of its building blocks of the very person I am today will click into place and be there, where they aught to be.  Lancaster is where I grew up, where my personality developed, where everything I am and everything I do was born.  Where I was born.

I’m going home and it never felt so good.  It never felt so right.  It never felt better.  I have lived in the United States for over twenty years now, and I consider my little acre of North Carolina to be home, but there is always that little part of me that longs for the Pads (a walking path in my area) that longs for the Canals, their serenity and beauty being hard to compare, that longs for the Bluebell Woods, that longs for the late night run to the Off License to grab a six pack of beer, that longs for the walk from my house to town, to the market, to the butchers, to the cheese shop.  My heart aches some times for those things, and my heart aches for the sheer closeness of my family, if only I could run around the corner and visit with my Mum, if only I could get in the car and invade my sister’s house and bug her all day, if only I could go to Amy’s and spoil my great niece all day and then hand her off, for her to deal with.  If only.

I’m going home.


Where have all the butterflies gone?

In normal circumstance at this time in my garden with the Lantana blooming, and various other nectar rich flowers around, my patio would look like the butterfly house at Kew Gardens but without the glass roof.  I would have swallowtails, skippers, fritilliaries, you name it.  This year nothing.  I have seen perhaps one Tiger Swallowtail, and one Black Swallowtail.  Today there were a couple of Silver Spotted Skippers out there feeding on the Milk Vine and the Pentas.

SONY DSC  It is Sulfer season so a couple of Sulfers were out on the Mexican Sunflower


But other than that?  Nothing.  I am beginning to think that while I plant specifically to attract butterflies the fact that because I do not use any type of pesticide my garden contains a lot of butterfly predators that they are avoiding my yard as a matter of survival.

To begin with I have a large population of dragonflies thanks to my small working pond where the adults can lay eggs and the naiads can thrive.  Also as I have said before I have a healthy population of Garden Spiders and more recently Golden Orb Weavers, as well as a healthy population of Preying Mantids.  The spiders tend to build their webs where there is a constant supply of prey, in that case it tends to be in and around my flower beds where the butterflies are more likely to fly into their webs.  But the question remains, does that account for the lack of butterflies in my garden or is there something else afoot?

To be sure, my predators take advantage of the all you can eat buffet aspect of my landscape, case in point, this young lady munching on a moth that was visiting the milk vine and obviously didn’t see the heavily camouflaged hunter waiting for her.


Even one of the dragonflies fell pray to a garden spider web.


Although I am happy to report that after taking that photo I noticed that the dragonfly was not dead, but was simply trapped in the web and I managed to unstick him and he flew away unscathed.  At what point though do we intervene?  At what point do I make the decision that there are simply too many predators in my garden to enable my butterflies to survive?

This is the first year that I have not had a single Black Swallowtail caterpillar in my garden.  I purposely plant Bronze Fennel as well as copious amounts of parsley and dill in order to feed them, and yet this year the parsley, dill and fennel have gone uneaten.  Unheard of in my garden.

Has anyone else noticed a severe butterfly shortage this year or is it just me?  I know that there is a crisis when it comes to bees but is there perhaps another crisis which involves our prettier pollinators that is not being so extensively reported?

Pet Food Savings Alert

We all know how expensive it is to feed our pets (especially multiple pet households like mine), so I wanted to let you know of a great deal going on right now.  Food Lion is having a super sale on their in-store brands.  Basically for every item that you buy you receive a catalina coupon at check out for 25cents off your next shopping order.  This means, for example, that a can of Food Lion brand wet food for cats, normally priced at 40 cents per can takes your final cost down to 15 cents per can.  That is a huge savings!  On their wet food for dogs the price goes from 59 cents per can to a brilliant 34 cents per can.  The sale is going on right now and lasts until October so you will have plenty of time to stock up.  I got my first $4.00 coupon yesterday, which today I put towards buying more cans of cat food and received a coupon for $8.50 on my next shopping order.

Remember the 25 cents applies to each item.  Normally I would buy the multi-packs of the cat and dog wet food as the price per can goes down slightly, however in this scenario you would be crazy to do that as you would only get the 25 cents per multi-pack, not per can.

Of course the deal doesn’t only apply to pet food, but everything in the store, so make sure to look for close out deals that can actually make you money.  Last year during the same type of sale Food Lion had all of their small cans of “gourmet” cat food (Fancy Feast size) on close out for 24 cents per can, so they were paying me 1 cent per can to take the cans out of the store.   You can bet your life that I hit every Food Lion in my county (there are eight of them) in order to take advantage of that deal!

So to conclude, anyone who wants to save a boatload of money on their pet food bills this month, and if you are in the Food Lion area, run don’t walk to stock up on stuff, you’ll be glad you did.

Puppy Update

Flossie is improving daily, although you can now actually see where the snake bit her due to some tissue damage (which the vet is monitoring).  However, with the amount of medications she is on I am sure that there will be no permanent damage. SONY DSC

Skeeter was fixed on Friday and he seems to be recovering nicely and doesn’t appear at all bothered that “something” appears to be missing.  Here he is rocking his blue inflatable collar.


He has managed to get out of it a couple of times, with an able assist from Flossie of course but he seems to like it, and he uses it almost as a portable cushion.  I much prefer these to the e-collars (the cone of shame) as the dog can be much more mobile, in our case it would be impossible for Skeeter to get out of the doggie door with the e-collar on, and he would have a problem eating the dry food from the endless feeder so I am happy to invest the extra couple of bucks for the blow up.  Of course there is no telling how long it will survive.  They both go back to the vets for a follow up in a couple of weeks so we shall see if the vet is happy with the way they are progressing.   In the mean time I will again heartily endorse chunks of stinky brie cheese as a method to get dogs to scarf down multiple pills.  Both Flossie and Skeeter are happily taking their meds every day just so long as they are accompanied by said stinky brie.  I even got them to take their heart worm meds this morning in addition to the others, so I cannot sing its praises more.

Finally I again want to praise Banfield Pet Hospital.  I was always a little concerned that perhaps because they are attached to a “big box” store (Petsmart), that I would receive inferior service from the staff.  I am happy to report that I was completely and utterly wrong.  Both the vets and the vet techs at my local Banfield are utterly charming, efficient and are all obviously animal lovers.  Despite the amount of pet owners that they must see in a single day when I walked in to drop Skeeter off for his surgery on Friday morning the first thing the vet tech asked me was how Flossie was.  She hadn’t even pulled up my records and she knew me and knew my dog.   When I went to pick him up later that day another vet tech told me that “the girls all reported that he had been a total sweetheart all day and had behaved himself wonderfully”.   This was actually was an issue that I was concerned about because on a previous visit he had growled at the vet tech when she had attempted to get a stool sample.

While I truly loved my old vet, when Banfield opened I had pretty much no choice but to try them out because of their incredibly convenient weekend hours.  I simply cannot afford to take time off from work when one of my animals needed to visit the vets, and I am sure there are many more people like me.  Also, with the Flossie emergency I was truly grateful that they were open on a Sunday afternoon and able to see her immediately.  In normal circumstances that trip to the dog version of the ER would have cost me a fortune, thanks to their hours and my wellness plan all it cost me was for her meds.

At what point…..

Did it become acceptable for people to go out in their pajama bottoms?  I can fathom that you think it is okay to run to the convenience store for a gallon of milk cause you are out but at what point is it okay to go out to the grocery store, to the post office, to court when you are appearing before a judge for a traffic ticket?  I remember a time when ladies didn’t leave the house without a hat, a pair of gloves, and a matching hand bag.  Now it is okay to go to court in your jammies?

Did “slow down and prepare to stop” when you see an amber light suddenly become “speed the hell up and try to beat it”?  This is an issue for me, I am a firm “slow down and prepare to stop” kind of gal, which means that if I am in front of a “speed the  hell up and try to beat it” person behind me I am in serious trouble of being rear ended.  When did this behaviour begin exactly?

Did grocery manufacturers in the US suddenly realize that a) many people have electric can openers in the US b) the electric grid in the US is so pathetic that it goes down when a Squirrel farts c) Hurricanes are the norm, not an anomaly d) hey!  perhaps we should make our cans flip top instead of needing a can opener.  This would appear to me to have been a no brainer but who am I.

Did banks in the US suddenly realize that people perhaps, maybe, you know on occasion would actually like to withdraw money from an ATM in perhaps another State, or great Flying Spaghetti Monster perhaps another country, yee gods, could people actually need such a service?  Actually yes, I was withdrawing my money from my bank account in England at an ATM in 1986 in Hong Kong.  When I arrived here in the US in 1991 and wanted to withdraw money from my bank account at an ATM from my bank account in England I was told that I could not do such a thing because my bank in England could not talk to the Pig Farmers and Car Mechanics Bank of North Carolina and I therefore could not access my money.  Indeed when my husband and I traveled to Missouri to pick up his children we had to take cash with us because the banks in North Carolina could not talk to the banks in Missouri because they did not have the technology.  At some point in the last 20 years the banks here in the US caught on, it has been a long slow haul however and the whole transfer between banks overseas is still a bit of a pain.

Did it become acceptable for a paralegal to write a snitty letter to an attorney and speak to him on the same level?  I have been a paralegal for 20 odd years, I speak to attorneys with the respect they deserve due to their education and training.  I recently received a letter addressed to my boss signed by a paralegal of a really very junior attorney which was so disrespectful in its tone that I was personally offended by it.  The first chance I got (today) I told the attorney in charge of said paralegal that not only was her letter to my boss in bad form, but it was personally offensive to me as a fellow paralegal.  I told him that she can write snitty letters to me all she wants but when she starts writing snitty letters to my boss with some inflated sense of self importance she is going to get my back up, and trust me, as as paralegal with 20 years behind me you really don’t want to get my back up.

Did it become acceptable for you to have a conversation with a tin of peas in the grocery store causing me to look at you as if you are mad until I realize that you have a blue tooth and are actually speaking to a friend instead of said tin of peas.  What conversation is so important that you must have it with a tin of peas?  “Hey what cha doin?”  “Nuthin what choo doin?” “Oh I’m at the grocery store what choo doin?”  “Nuthin” I give up.