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Sad story time, guys. But I’ll try to make it a little funny.

As you may know, I work from home, and I have two desks set up in my office because I’m greedy. Just kidding. It’s because I work on two different laptops for two different clients throughout the day, and it’s just easier to keep them both set up. I walk back and forth between the desks quite a bit, and Hobbes’ bed is next to one desk. He likes to sleep next to me while I work, and he was used to my routine.

Then a week and a half ago, I walked past him from one desk to the other while he was sleeping and must have startled him. He woke up and bit my foot VERY badly, shaking it from side to side. I screamed (because it hurt like mad and was very shocking, obviously) and fell, which was bad, since Hobbes was between me and the door to the office, and I was afraid he would continue to attack. But he let go and was immediately horrified at what he had done. We stared at each other in amazement. I called the Hubs, very shaky, and he immediately left work to come home. In the meantime, I had a bloody and very painful foot, so I hopped to the bathroom to wash it off a bit. It was already starting to swell, so then I started to hop to the freezer to get ice. And promptly passed out, smacking my face on the kitchen table. It was that kind of day. I gave up on the ice, installed myself on the couch, and pet Hobbes, who wouldn’t leave my side and kept resting his chin on my stomach and apologizing with kisses. He clearly knew he had done A Very Bad Thing.

The Hubs did a great job of first aid, and we tried to put our day back together. Of course, we were supposed to have house guests arriving in a few hours from California, because it was that kind of day. I hadn’t been able to clean as I’d intended, so the guests got to experience a pretty grungy bathroom for the four days they were here, but they were very sweet and helped a lot around the house since I couldn’t walk at all.

Later, we were in the urgent care waiting room, patiently awaiting my (long overdue anyway) tetanus shot, and the place had horrible daytime television on, as those places do. Suddenly that guy with the daytime television announcer voice (Is it the same man who does all of those shows? Is imitating that style of talking a job requirement?) transitioned to a new show and said: “Next up: when the family pet turns into a vicious attacker!” Cut to a woman tearfully describing her experience: “I could hear my bones breaking, and I thought I was going to die!” I’m sure the people in the waiting room wondered why the Hubs and I found that so funny. I did ask Ross to change the channel to some other awful daytime television show, though, because that was just a little too on the nose.

In the end, I had a messed-up ankle from Hobbes shaking it, half a dozen deep puncture wounds, some very impressive bruising, and a split lip (from that dratted table). I’ve not been able to walk for the last week and a half and will be off the foot for another week or so. We had some very serious conversations about what to do with Hobbes. Logistically, I couldn’t walk or care for Hobbes (he’s a big, high-energy dog) while on crutches, but more than that, I felt like we couldn’t trust him. Granted, he had apparently been startled, but I hadn’t made a loud noise or touched him or even come very close. What if a guest or a child startled him? If his go-to reaction when surprised is a vicious bite, we could never have him around other people again.

We hated to do it, but we took him back to the SPCA. Both Ross and I were crying and a complete mess (especially me). It’s amazing how fast you can get attached to a dog. Hobbes is in bite quarantine for ten days, and after that the SPCA’s behaviorist will evaluate him to see whether he can be adopted out to a different owner under special circumstances (perhaps as an outdoor dog).

We would love to try again and adopt another dog, but we have to wait until I heal up, and until we both feel emotionally ready to get attached all over again. In the meantime, I’m getting good at hopping on one leg and at propelling myself around the house in a wheeled computer chair, so at least there’s that.

 

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We finally have a dog! The Hubs has been wanting one for ages, but there was the master’s degree, and buying the house, and being so ridiculously busy that I wanted to scream, and all that got in the way. I still have some major reservations about bringing another source of stress into our already stressful, overbooked life, but we finally took the plunge anyway.

August 19th was Clear the Shelters day here in North Carolina, which is a really cool program in which participating shelters waive adoption fees for a day in an effort to get all of the animals adopted. We went to the Wake County Animal Shelter to see if there were any pups who were a good fit for us, but by the time we got there, there were only a couple dogs left and a long line of people. We weren’t wild about any of the available dogs, so we hit up the Wake County SPCA next. Again, a long line of people snaked outside the building, and there were only a few dogs left. We decided to chance it. After waiting outside for over an hour, we made our way inside and met a few of the available dogs.

I should preface this by saying I was hoping for a quiet, boring, older dog who was perfectly housebroken and who would sleep peacefully beside me while I worked during the day.

Instead, we adopted a bounding, bouncing, four-year-old who leaped on people constantly and wasn’t terribly house-trained.

Hobbes

Meet Hobbes, an utterly irrepressible mix of who-knows-what breeds, the energy of a toddler, and goofy sweetness.

We weren’t actually able to pick him up until August 29th because he had repeatedly torn open his stitches from his neutering surgery and was in recovery for far longer than he should’ve been, because he’s totally the kind of dog to worm his way out of a cone and destroy himself at every opportunity.

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He wore that cone so darned long I considered naming him Pixar, but we decided instead to go with Hobbes from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, since he has the brindle coloring. (Definitely not because he’s philosophical, that’s for sure!)

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Do not be fooled by that seemingly sad face; his tail was going the whole time we were visiting him.

When we finally brought him home, he grabbed the stuffed hedgehog I had bought him and gently held it for at least fifteen minutes while he explored the house.

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This is about the only mostly non-blurry photo I had of that since he basically never stops flinging himself around excitedly.

I admit, I was tempted to throw in the towel on our first day. In spite of many, many long walks and runs, he was a maniacal wild child. This was problematic since I work from home and had a slew of urgent things that HAD to be done that day, as well as conference calls to attend, which is difficult when a big dog is hurling himself incessantly at your chair. Before 10:00am, he had rolled in an ant-covered piece of trash while on a walk and got ants in his ears, tried to destroy his bed, tried to chew a doorstop, tried to chew some books on a shelf (this is an unpardonable sin in this book-loving household), and tried to climb ON my desk while I was working.

I had grown up with dogs, cats, and horses, and my husband grew up with dogs and cats. We thought we knew how to train a dog. We asked everyone we knew who remotely was interested in dogs if they had any tips. And then, suddenly and inexplicably, Hobbes became incredibly well-behaved. I’m fairly certain that someone kidnapped the first Hobbes and replaced him with a lookalike who actually has manners. The only thing to which we can attribute this behavioral change is that we started using a shake can when he jumped on us, and it did work like a charm, but his whole demeanor changed too.

Exhibit A: peacefully resting at Ross’ feet instead of throwing himself on top of the laptop. Exhibit B: sleeping in his crate willingly (!) with the door open instead of crying piteously. (That crate is so big there’s nowhere else to put it, but I’m sad it covers up my tree decal.)

Adjusting to the lack of freedom when another being is needy and wants to be around you all the time and has to be walked (a LOT) and trained is still tough for me. The Hubs is away this weekend on a men’s retreat, and I still kind of want to murder this animal sometimes, but things are going MUCH better. I’ve even stopped making jokes about turning him into a tiger-skin wall hanging. 😛

 

 

Back home! We had a fantastic trip to Europe. The Hubs started to put together videos for each day of the trip, although as usual, commitments have eaten up video-editing time upon his return, so the project isn’t complete. But here are the first five days of our trip in video form, for those who are interested in such things:

Day 1: Arrival
Day 2: Marienplatz
Day 3: Castles
Day 4: Rest and rain
Day 5: Austria

You guys, Iceland was so tantalizing. North Carolina, when we left it, was hot and sticky and disgusting. Iceland was cold, cloudy, and rainy, and tasted so clean. We had a few minutes outside (no jetway, so we climbed down the stairs from the plane) to breathe in the cold air before hustling into the airport. We bought Icelandic snacks and herbal tea and browsed the airport, which was very quiet in spite of being full. We learned that all of Iceland’s electricity comes from natural renewable resources, and that Icelandic is one of the oldest languages in the world that’s still currently spoken. We also learned that Icelandic planes board any which way (people just crowd up by the gate and board as soon as they’re let in) and that they, apparently, never board on time. Still, we all got in our seats in roughly the same amount of time as the more typical zone-style US boarding, and our flight left on time, so I guess it works. We will definitely, definitely be back.

Germany was unexpectedly friendly and comfortable. I had learned just enough German to be useful, and we had very little trouble navigating. Our AirBnB owner airily remarked that we could leave the door unlocked “because it’s Germany,” and I was tremendously impressed with Germany as a whole. The transit system was pristine, punctual, and comfortable. Munich was the cleanest city I’ve ever been to, and there was a strong focus on recycling and looking after the city. There was very little litter, and very few (if any) homeless people, both of which were incredibly stark contrasts with NYC, DC, Chicago, etc. Germans were polite and helpful, if not chatty, and I really enjoyed the efficiency with which things were done. It wasn’t dehumanizing; on the contrary, when a woman fell in one of the subway stations, she had half a dozen people rush to her assistance, which was such a far cry from how people behave in US cities that it made me realize how terrible we can be about helping people, especially if they look like they’re homeless.

We did a walking tour of Munich on our first full day and enjoyed dinner at our first beer garden. The next day, we took the train to Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau to tour both castles. GORGEOUS.

Neuschwanstein was unbelievably beautiful. Even knowing full well that it’s nothing at all like a true medieval castle and is basically the architectural version of a renaissance fair (i.e., meticulously crafted Elizabethan costumes on one hand and cheap Halloween pirate costumes on the other), you just have to admire the grandeur and scale of the place.

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On Marienbrucke (Mary’s Bridge) across from the castle.

 

The ever-present swans on Alpsee, which was deliciously cool on our hot and weary feet. There was a LOT of walking on this trip!

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Hohenschwangau, built on the ruins of a much older (actually legitimate) medieval castle.

We took it easy the next day since it was the Sabbath, but we still found time to go for a walk and find the chapel (now a Russian Orthodox Church) where my husband’s parents were married 42 years ago, get caught in the rain a few times, and wander around a beautiful cemetery. Fortunately I married a man who finds cemeteries fascinating too.

We headed to Austria to visit some friends of my husband’s family, and they very hospitably put us up for the night, fed us tremendously, and took us on a hike along the Danube River.

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More swans on the Danube, what a surprise.

We spent the next day in Salzburg, Austria, and saw Mirabell Palace and GardensSt. Peter’s catacombs, Mozart’s house, the oldest bakery in Austria, an incredible amount of beautiful churches in old town Salzburg, and Hohensalzburg Fortress. We ate frankly astonishing quantities of pretzels and tried mozartkugel.

We also procured one of our only souvenirs at the fortress:

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You all should have seen this coming, what with all these castles.

The following day, we went to Dachau concentration camp, which was the most moving part of our trip. My husband’s grandfather was imprisoned in Dachau for three weeks in 1938, and we visited the archives to learn the exact dates he was there and which barracks he stayed in. My husband’s family is Jewish, and several extended family members were in other camps.

I don’t know how to write about Dachau. The atrocities committed there are almost unbelievable in their hideousness and scope; simultaneously, I find it all too easy to imagine people being so cruel to one another. Even though we are separated from the camp’s liberation by 72 years, so many of the camps effects are still felt. All Bavarian high school students are required to tour the camp once during their school years; there’s a very strong sense of national responsibility that this can never happen again. Our tour guide told us how it took decades for denazification to take hold enough for survivors to come forward and tell their story. So many local companies and officials were involved with the camp when it was in operation that it wasn’t until the 1980s that a camp survivor could be assured that the judge in any given legal case wasn’t a former Nazi, or that his boss wasn’t a former Nazi. Antisemitism and Holocause denial is still so unbelievably common; just in the last few years, the Auschwitz gate was stolen by Neo-Nazis. The Dachau gate (replica pictured below) was also stolen but was later recovered in Norway.

On the left is the site of barracks 14, where my husband’s grandfather was assigned. On the right is the famous sign, “Arbeit macht frei,” (Work sets you free), a cruel irony; the only freedom from the camp was death by overwork.

Visiting Dachau was supremely powerful, mainly because of my husband’s family history, but in part because of the terrifying parallels between the beginnings of Nazi persecution and current politics. One of the most shameful chapters in US history occurred when we turned away boatloads of Jewish refugees in the late 1930s; many were forced to return to Europe, and a quarter of them later died in the camps. My husband’s family has stories of how hard it was to leave Germany in 1939, even when they desperately wanted to, and how difficult it was to find a country that would take them in. I see a frightening parallel in our lack of compassion as we turn away Syrian refugees today. The isolationism and suspicion of refugees that characterized America in 1939 is mirrored in our society today; I hope it doesn’t have the same result.

We left Germany for home the following day, connecting in Boston where we had the chance to spend time with a friend (and who graciously allowed us to crash on her insanely comfortable couch so we didn’t have to sleep on the airport floor). We were glad to get home to our own house after a long day and a half of travel, but we had a wonderful time trotting the globe. We’ll have to save up for a couple years before our next big trip, but rest assured, it’ll happen!

The Hubs and I are off to Germany and Austria in three days! I am super excited! (Especially by the fact that we’ll be connecting in Iceland on our flight to Munich. I have extracted a promise from the Hubs that we’ll go back someday and spend a proper amount of time there, but I fully intend to spend the 45 minutes between flights with my nose pressed to the glass of the nearest window, drinking in as much as possible.) We’ll be cramming as much as possible into our short trip, which includes several days in Munich, one in Linz, and one in Salzburg. I fully intend to blog about it (seeing as how this is my first trip to Europe), though probably not until after we return due to the aforementioned cramming.

I’ve gotten back into editing quite a bit lately, and it feels really good to stretch my fiction-editing muscles again! Nonfiction editing is enjoyable, but definitely not in the same way as helping an author whip their manuscript into the best possible version of itself. Check out http://www.stephaniericker.com if you’ve got a writing project in the works. I’d love to help!

The Hubs and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary on June 14th! Hard to believe it’s already been two years; hard to believe it’s only been two years. It feels as though our lives have always been entwined at the same time that it feels like our wedding day was last week. I cannot imagine losing a spouse after fifty-odd years; after just two years, the very idea of that uprooting, amputation-pain is incomprehensible. Ross is the most tremendous blessing I’ve ever experienced.

On a less dramatic note, we enjoyed the annual Medieval Month festivities at the Sanders residence last week. This year’s theme was Vikings. I’m sad to say that the Hubs and I played right into the stereotypes: he was Hagar the Horrible, and my costume was inspired by the historically inaccurate Vikings tv show. But we had a blast, per usual.

2017-06-24 14.01.27I was really proud of the beard. That’s some kind of curtain trim (I think?) from Goodwill, layered and pinned to a cloth headband he was wearing.

 

I won the archery competition! (Several years running, ahem.) That darned kool-aid still hasn’t faded from my hair, after a full year. I had dyed it red for last year’s Medieval Month when I dressed as Lady Macbeth.

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The Hubs very definitely won the knife- and axe-throwing.

Ross demonstrated a hitherto-unknown, terrifying ability to throw knives and axes. Don’t mess with the Hubs, apparently.

19399711_10158811590140702_2483069792448447790_n (1)The party would not be complete without boffer sword duels. I did not fare nearly as well here! I’m missing a leg (read: hopping on one foot) in the above shot after being hit.

 

Next up: European adventures! Less weaponry, more getting lost and trying to decipher German street signs.

I’ve been trying to get to a hot air balloon festival for a couple years, and we finally had a chance to go to the WRAL Freedom Balloon Fest over Memorial Day weekend.

I wandered around open-mouthed with childlike awe, which amused the Hubs. Due to some incoming weather, the festival wasn’t able to hold the mass ascension as planned, but we did still get to enjoy the balloon glow as all of the balloons fired their burners simultaneously after the sun went down.

Balloon rides weren’t possible due to impending inclement weather, but even if the weather had permitted, we would’ve had to skip that due to cost. Rides were $300 per person, which sounded absurdly exorbitant to me until someone pointed out the astronomical cost of purchasing, maintaining, flying, and insuring a hot air balloon.

Admission to the festival was free, however, and parking ranged from free to $20 depending on how far you were willing to walk. We love a good hike, so the mile-and-a-quarter walk to ensure free parking was worth it. I highly recommend checking out the festival next year–it was such a magical experience!

PoisonedApplesWebsiteBanner

Most of you who have read my books know that my first novella was published in Five Glass Slippers, the first Rooglewood Press anthology. Winning the contest gave me my start and launched the rest of the The Cendrillon Cycle; that single event has had the greatest impact on my writing.

Now Rooglewood Press is inviting YOU to join in their final creative writing contest for the Five Poisoned Apples anthology. If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of submitting an entry for the previous contests but did not, don’t hesitate this time: do it. This contest is an amazing opportunity for writers, whether brand new or established. Click here for the contest details!

And just check out this gorgeous cover, folks.

FivePoisonedApples

Learn more about the photographer, Wynter Clark, here at her website. Julia Popova has done all of the covers for the Rooglewood Press anthologies (Five Glass Slippers, Five Enchanted Roses, and Five Magic Spindles), and more of her beautiful work is here on her website.

Now go get busy writing your very own retelling of Snow White…

As you may recall, last June I dyed my hair with Kool Aid for a Lady Macbeth costume.

Unfortunately, the darned stuff never did come out, contrary to expectations. The red did fade over the first few months, but after that it just…stayed. I tried everything I could think of to get my original color back, short of dying it over again. After 10 months, I figured it was permanent. Once my hair reaches knee-length, I usually chop a foot off and sell it anyway since it becomes difficult to manage. This seemed as good of a time as any. The Hubs reluctantly cut 14 inches at my request so I would be able to grow the red out a bit faster. Don’t worry; as you can see from the “after” picture below on the left, the hair is still long enough to have its own zip code.

Still a few years of red to grow out, as you can see even with the hair being wet. Alas, I was not able to get much money for this sad little amputated limb of hair this time around due to the Kool Aid (grr), but I’m enjoying my new haircut.

We’ve been taking full advantage of strawberry season in spite of a lot of rain in this area. This time we headed out to Vollmer Farm in Bunn for our fruit marauding.

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He was the one who wanted to go, I promise.

We also took ridiculous advantage of Teacher Appreciation Day last week. My husband’s haul included the following:

  • Free chicken sandwich at Chik-fil-A
  • Buy one, get one free burritos at Chipotle
  • Free chicken meal at Zaxby’s
  • Free chicken sandwich at a different Chik-fil-A

Look, North Carolina consistently scores as one of the worst states and sometimes THE worst state in which to be a teacher; you gotta take the perks where you can. It’s a good thing for the kids that the Hubs is a saint with unlimited patience and the ability to work 60 hours per week on very little sleep. And he can really pack away those chicken sandwiches.

This past winter was abysmally warm, but we did have one all-too-brief snow day, so the Hubs and I made the most of it.

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We still lived near Lake Johnson at the time, so a hike around the snowy park was just the ticket.

But then spring descended, which always makes me a little sad because spring means summer is coming, and I hate North Carolina summers. But hey, crocuses are nice.

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In March we took off for San Francisco to visit my sister-in-law and others in the area. The Hubs lived in California for quite a few years and has a slew of friends out there, so we raced through a whirlwind of visits, seeing as many people as possible.

We walked around Pier 39 and checked out the sea lions, walked through Ghirardelli Square, and had a famous hot fudge sundae at the original Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop. Most overpriced but also best sundae I’ve had.

Good grief, he’s cute.

We hung out a lot with my super cool sister-in-law, who has the best Doctor Who bathroom I’ve ever seen. (Maybe it’s weird to post pictures of other people’s bathrooms…sorry, Marty.)

We explored Japantown, walked around insanely steep streets, and enjoyed a reduced-cost stay at a hotel that went to a lot of money and trouble to make the rooms look like rustic fishing boats. Cost of living in San Francisco is insane, so we spent a lot of time grousing about the ridiculous prices like a pair of crotchety old men.

My husband spent a few years as a kid living on Hamilton Airfield Base, which is now mostly deactivated. Large parts of the base are abandoned, and we got to see the theater (now disintegrating) where my husband used to go see movies. We picked lemons at some abandoned officer housing near where he used to live. Eerie atmosphere, but a fascinating trip.

We finished up trip with a few days in Petaluma, home of the beautiful Hotel Petaluma, my very favorite hotel ever. It was built in 1923, still has the original pull-door elevator, and has been exquisitely renovated while still preserving its history. The rooms have everything you need but nothing you don’t and have crank-open windows overlooking historic Petaluma. For lunch, we went to the Petaluma Pie Company, which makes the best handpies I’ve ever eaten.  I also had my first chocolate earl grey tea, which was worth the trip in itself.

I cannot recommend this little town highly enough. If you’re ever remotely close, make sure you check it out!

The Hubs attempted to chronicle our experiences on video but ran out of time to do the editing for the last half of the trip. If you’re curious, though, you can see the first four days of our journey immortalized in digital format, mainly consisting of me complaining about him filming incessantly.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4, part 1

Judging by the Hubs’ schedule, I have serious doubts as to whether he’ll ever have time to do the rest, but if you enjoy touristy, rambling videos with us making eyes at each other, these are for you!

I failed to tell you about our adventures at the tea room! *wavery back-in-time music*

The Olde English Tea Room, alas, closed its doors for good on December 23, 2016. My friends and I had the intense pleasure of being able to visit (for the first time, for most of us) on its final day of business. I was both elated that we managed to check it out before it closed and devastated that we could never go back again.

Isn’t it adorable?? And the tea was exceptional.

We all dressed up because that’s what you do at an old English tea room. Each afternoon tea came with its own tiny tea pot, which you could get refilled with hot water as much as you wanted. We basically sloshed our way out of the place.

They even had sugar cubes!! I had never actually seen sugar cubes before. And, as you can see, there were tea sandwiches, scones, and petite desserts. The food was incredible.

And such good tea. Not pictured in the group picture: my amazing sister-in-law, who took the photo for us. We all had a glorious day, topped off by a visit to some antique shops and a book shop.

I recently discovered the Oak Park Tea Room, so a reunion may be required to explore that new location and see how it measures up.

Here are some bookish internet discoveries for you:

Next up, all the other adventures I didn’t have time to write about when they were happening!

This will be another post about the new house, to give you fair warning in case you want to skip it and come back when I’m talking about books again. The house is after all what is keeping me from the book talk, so posting pictures seems like justification for my absence. “Look, this is what I’ve been doing instead of blogging!” It was a wild week involving surprise mold under the sink (NOT the fun kind of surprise, I can tell you), some buckling laminate flooring, and other exciting times, but here’s the stuff that has actually worked out. Click the pics for bigger versions.

This is our living room, which is to say the first part of the library. There are two more bookshelves that didn’t fit in the picture. The second picture is just our scifi/fantasy books when it came time to organize the books (by FAR the most fun part of moving). I spent a delightful day doing nothing but dividing books into genres and then alphabetizing by author within each genre. Don’t judge me.

The Hubs really wanted a fireplace, and even though this one is gas, it’s still better than no fireplace. The tree is a decal I had on the wall in my office for years and managed to scrape off the wall with my fingernails when I quit my old job. The tree was coming with me, dangit. We don’t have a television, but we have a really cool projector, so we project movies and such on the wall above the tree. It’s like having a giant tv without having, you know, a giant ugly tv taking up one whole wall.

We also really wanted an open floorplan since the Hubs loves to cook and bake (lucky me!) and hates having the kitchen isolated from whatever else is happening in the dining room and living room. Plus, we can fit in the odd bookshelf in the dining room.

The first photo is my cool work-from-home office (also known as the second part of the library–there are four bookshelves that didn’t make it in the picture). The guest room/exercise room is the third part of the library, wherein the Hubs keeps his massive comic book collection. The last photo, dark and poor as it may be, is to illustrate that yes, we do have matching swords, and yes, we do use them for window decoration in the master bedroom.

When we moved in, there was a rotten ramp and porch left behind by the previous resident. It was pretty dangerous, so we dismantled it (messy middle photo), and the photo on the right is the end result. I’m starting seedlings in the cups, and so far both the basil and the tomatoes have sprouted, so I’m already set for bruschetta, basically. The green peppers have refused to sprout so far, but I’m hopeful I can talk them into surviving.

2017-04-29 19.10.33 We also put in this teensy little garden and started a compost bin, so it’s getting all Little House on the Prairie up in here.

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We did not grow these lovely strawberries, alas, but we did have a grand time picking them. And drying them. And freezing them. And making them into pies. Well, the Hubs made them into pies. I ate the pies.

I promise proper adventures and book talk next time, not lame house stuff!

You seem to have stumbled upon a storytelling of ravens. Watch for falling collective nouns; you may find a wing of dragons or a charm of hummingbirds caught in your hair. Hardhats are recommended.

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Stephanie Ricker's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

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