My Sunshine

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The world lost a wonderful, furry soul today.

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Little Gus was technically a cat, but somehow he was far more. Perhaps part dog and part human, he was his own breed. He always wanted to be with people and always had love to give.

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Gus didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He was so sweet, I swear he was made of pure sugar. Such a friendly and innocent little fellow, he even made converts out of “non-cat people” and “cat haters.”

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Call me a crazy cat lady all you want, but Gus and I definitely had conversations.

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He would be looking for me, saying what surely sounded to me like “He-lloooo.” It was one short meow and then one long.

He would say, “Meow, meoooow.”

And I would say, “He-lloooo.”

And we would repeat this several times until he found me and came trotting around the corner, his little fur trousers swaying side to side.

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I was certainly as much a fool for Gus as he was for me. I would sing to him “Rock-a-bye Gussy” And “You Are My Sunshine.” As I cradled him like a baby with his paws in the air and rocking him side to side, he would look up at me with those big green eyes. I’m sure he was thinking something along the lines of “I have no idea what that sound is coming out of your mouth, but I think it comes from a good place and I love you. But please don’t quit your day job.”

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Oh how he loved shoes. He was a bit metro, I suppose. Particularly when I would return from being gone longer than usual, the moment I took off my shoes he was over snuggling up to them.

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We almost lost him three years ago to acute kidney failure when he was just four years old. The vet said his numbers were so low, she was amazed he was alive and that we would be lucky to have him through that weekend. He made it through the weekend, and the next week and the week after that, slowly but surely regaining his strength and cheerful attitude.   The past three years, he was on borrowed time, but it still seems far too soon to lose such a special little guy. He was a miracle in so many ways.

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I really believe that he stayed with us to make sure that my move south went well, that I was happy and settled. He knew I needed him and he was always there to keep me company.

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Thankfully, I took up blogging and got a new camera before I moved. That gave me the excuse to take a million pictures of my cats. I’m sure my blog readers got a little tired of the cat posts. But, hey, they were my willing (and only) subjects in my little apartment and now I have album upon album of Gus pictures. I will forever treasure the countless Gus expressions I was able to capture. He was such a character.

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Last night, he was curled up against my legs on the sofa as usual as we watched the news. He tucked me into bed, rubbing up against me and hugging my face with his tail. I pointed out to Eugene how loudly he was purring. He was so content to be there with us.

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We found him this morning laying like he always does on the kitchen floor where it’s nice and cool.   He looked so peaceful. The vet said it was likely a blood clot, sudden and unpreventable. I’m so thankful he didn’t suffer. I just can’t believe he’s gone.

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Gussy,

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,

You make me happy when skies are grey

You never know, dear, how much I love you,

Please don’t take my sunshine away.

Even though you’re not here anymore, I know your light will always be shining down on us.

Love you, little buddy.

The Sugarlump

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Crafty Cousins

Christmas Eve night, the Dyer girls got crafty.  My cousin Kristen had bought a gingerbread house kit at Sam’s club for $5 on a whim and asked us if we’d like to entertain ourselves by putting it together.  Of course we did!

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We sat around Granny and Papa’s table and giggled and cut up like old times as we took a stab at confectionery construction.  We’ve had some good times and crazy conversations at that table.  One thing is for sure: what happens at Granny and Papa’s table stays at Granny and Papa’s table.

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Though we were certainly enjoying ourselves, we took our craft very seriously, too.  We worked hard to get the walls and roof pieces to stick together.  We even enlisted the pepper and jam containers sitting on the table to hold the pieces in place as they set.  We soon discovered that our “mortar” (icing) wasn’t exactly of the highest quality.  I had the bright idea to use marshmallow creme as a binding agent because, as I recalled, it sticks to EVERYTHING.  It wasn’t exactly easy to control, unfortunately, so one side of the house looked like it had insulation bursting out between the roof and the walls.  Rookie mistake.  We kept that side concealed from our photographer.

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The kit also came with fondant (or fon-DANT! if you’re my enthusiastic cousin Kristen) to make the doors and windows.

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It was looking a little rough there for a while, but with the addition of the windows, bushes, random peppermints adornments, layer upon layer of frosting that tasted like joint compound but didn’t act like it, and dusted flour (an improvised touch) it really came together.  You could barely tell it was homemade.  Ha.

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Papa did say it was the prettiest house he’d ever seen.   It was charming in a very haphazard, out of plumb kind of way.

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This is where the $5 cost came into play.

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Not 5 minutes after we completed the house, disaster struck and it toppled to its death on the way to the dining room table from the kitchen table.  No one was sadder than Granny.  She almost cried for us.  We took it pretty well.

For next year, we’ve vowed to make our own superglue-infused icing and construct the house out of graham crackers instead of gingerbread so the walls and roof aren’t so heavy.  Just wait for it.  It will be epic.  And we’ll have Papa write us a State Farm homeowners’ policy just in case.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

J’adore Holiday Decor

I was glad to have a house to decorate this year for Christmas.  The only thing is that I forgot how much work is involved.  Not that I’m complaining! There is nothing that warms my heart more than a house adorned with greenery, poinsettias, candles and shiny things.  Top it off with a Frasier Fir or Holiday Bayberry candle, and I might just explode with joy!

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I took advantage of having family in town the weekend after Thanksgiving to get the tree put up.  We selected a mighty fine-looking (and smelling) Frasier Fir.  Thank goodness my dear sister Eugene has herculean strength and could lift the tree to an upright position as my dad secured it in the stand.

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The tree had a beautiful shape with impressive uniformity…

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…except for this one little branch here in the back that stuck out like a tail.  It cracked me up so I left it there.  Who wants a tree without a little bit of character?  If I had it my way (and by my way, I mean if I won the lottery and could justify spending 4 figures on live greenery), I would have one of those miniature, spindly, misshapen Charlie Brown trees in every room because I think they are hysterical and precious. Fortunately for anyone who comes to my house, my holiday decor fund has a limit.

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AFTER my dad and I had strung the lights on the tree, I realized that my transition from the LED lights purchased last year for my tree that was half the size of this one to the new incandescent lights that I purchased this year to bridge the gap was not so smooth.

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See the annoying blur of the white LED lights against the soft, warm glow of the smaller incandescent lights? I could not stand the sight of it so yours truly went out the next day to get some more of the 200 light strands of acceptable Christmas tree lights.  When I got to Walgreens, where they were running a 2 for 1 special, I noticed that this location had 300 light strands for the same price as the 200 light strands.  So instead of buying 2 more 200 lights strands, I bought 2 300 light strands, thinking I could get away with adding just 1 300 light strand to my existing 200 and then keep the “free” 300 light strand for another purpose.  Perhaps for an unsuspecting shrub.

I got home and took the wretched LEDs off the top 2/3 of the tree and began stringing the regular, lovely, perfect, warm lights from the top.  All was going swimmingly until I reached the point where I needed to connect the 300 light strand to the 200 light strand.  I would like to tell you that these are the EXACT SAME LIGHTS FROM THE EXACT SAME MANUFACTURER.  I held up the 3 prong connector of the 300 light strand ready to plug it into the receptacle of the 200 light strand only to discover that the 200 light strand’s receptacle had only 2 holes.  JOY TO THE WORLD!

After contemplating poking my eyes out with the 3 prong connector so I couldn’t see the darn lights on the tree anyway, I collected myself and began taking the 200 light strand off the BOTTOM 1/3 of the tree so that I could make unexpected use of that additional “free” 300 light strand.  I was concerned that my math wouldn’t work out and the lights would be too dense at the bottom of the tree, but the result was passable for my OCD self.

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I was pleased with the end result, even though my camera doesn’t pick up the delicate glow of the lights very well in low-lighting.

As if that wasn’t enough light-enduced drama for one year, I decided to put electric candles in the windows.  All 44 of them.  I thought I might get crafty and use the battery operated LED lights (did I learn nothing from the tree episode?) to save (cause) myself some trouble.  I put one in the window and didn’t really like the looks of it.  It was too white and kind of dull.  To see if I was imagining this, I put a plug-in incandescent candle next to it in the window and went out in the yard to compare the two from a distance.  NO COMPARISON.  I really wanted to like the LEDs for their energy savings and convenience; however, there might as well have been no candle in the window if I had opted for this route.  It was pitiful, really, next to the arc of warm light radiating from the incandescent.  More work for me, but I knew it would be worth it.  4 hours, 2 trips to the hardware store, and 16 extension cords later, it was totally worth it.  I promise.  It’s really a crime that I couldn’t get a good picture of it for you.  I haven’t mastered night photography yet.  Or day photography.

After all of that electrical excitement, I moved on to a few more basic decorating assignments: the front hall, the front door, the porch, the mantle, and the kitchen island.

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The nice man at the farmers’ market gave us a good deal on this Frasier Fur wreath.  I found some of that wide, mesh-like ribbon at Hobby Lobby and finished it off with a big ol’ bow.

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I also stumbled upon some large faux wreaths at 50% off so I got 2 of those for the large windows on the porch.  They got bows, too.  Please disregard the expired mums that I had yet to remove as of the date this photo was taken.  Please do note the snow on the roof!  Too bad this wasn’t Christmas Day.

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My dad had to trim a low-hanging branch off the tree to fit it into the tree stand, so I used that to fill out the mantle.  My gold pears from Pier 1 a few years back gave the mantle a nice, rhythmic touch.  First, I prepped the mantle with some saran wrap to keep the sap from creating a hot mess on the woodwork.

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The final step was the stockings, which took a little bit of time and imagination.  You see, I had found the most perfect faux fur tree skirt and pair of stockings at Homegoods.  The only problem is that there are 4 people in my family, not 2.  I called all of the surrounding TJ Maxx/Homegoods locations and non of them had more of these treasures.  I had to get creative and settle on an eclectic look with the addition of another type of fur stocking and a fabulous sequined one, which I made my dad’s.  He was confused and probably a little disturbed by this.  It made me laugh.

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On the topic of confused and disturbed, for my holiday arrangements in the kitchen and foyer, I spray-painted some branches gold.  But not just any branches.  Branches that came from 12 foot tree limbs that fell during an intense wind storm we had here in Nashville on Halloween. I drug these branches out of the yard and into my garage.  I’m sure my neighbors thought I was crazy.  You’d be amazed by what a little metallic gold spray paint and a small hand saw can do.

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When it comes to holiday decorations, I think simple and natural is best…

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…until I have to take it all down.

Covered in pine needles,

Sugarlump

It’s kind of not so great…

I recently purchased Gwyneth Paltrow’s new book, “It’s All Good,” intrigued by the idea of healthier and cleaner eating.  The book offers a lot of great information and recipes about eating diary-free and gluten-free.  It also discusses healthier choices for fats and non-meat proteins.  As someone with a sensitive stomach, I thought I might try out some of these ideas with my meals.  Don’t get me wrong though, you won’t catch me eating tofu lettuce wraps any time soon/ever.  Except that one time I made them for dinner at my parents’ house.  I tried hard to sell them to my dad as a delightfully healthy alternative to beef tacos and he just wasn’t buying it.  And neither was I.  So I decided to apply my new way of thinking about eating to a fairly familiar food: pizza.

I headed to Dominos one evening a few weeks back.  I went in and ordered a medium gluten-free pizza thinking that was the smallest size.

Dominos guy: “Oh we only have the gluten-free in a small.”

Me: “Ok perfect.  How much will that be?”

Dominos guy: “11.99?”

Me: “Wow that seems expensive for a small…”

Dominos guy: “Well you can get a medium for 7.99!”

Me: “I thought you said the gluten-free crust only came in a small.”

Dominos guy: “Well it’s not really gluten free.”

Me: “What do you mean? Your gluten-free crust isn’t really gluten-free?”

Dominos guy: “Well if you ordered a medium it wouldn’t be.  The medium is a better deal unless you need the gluten-free for health reasons.”

(DUH?  Why else would I order gluten-free?)

Me: “I’ll take the small gluten-free, please.”

Verdict: The pizza was pretty terrible and expensive.  I think I’ll stick to the real stuff and just eat it infrequently.

My next venture was speckled lima beans.  I must admit that I usually make these with bacon grease and on this occasion I fully intended to make them that way; however, there was no bacon or bacon grease to be found in my refrigerator.  Having carefully studied all of the critical pantry items for a dairy-free and gluten-free household, I had thought it was worthwhile to purchase a TUB of coconut oil at the wholesale club.  Never mind that I only cook a few nights per week, I hate coconut, and I am the only one in the household that will be using the coconut oil.  The 54oz tub was just the ticket.

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Seeing the tub of coconut oil sitting on the counter, I decided to throw a few healthy spoonfuls in as my fat for the beans.

Boy was that a misstep.

I thought it would be a subtle taste, but no.

I threw in a halved onion and 2 cloves of garlic to try to mitigate the undesirable coconut flavor.  It helped, but the coconut was still there in a big bad way.  Bacon grease and coconut oil are not similar flavor profiles in case you were wondering.

Verdict:  Good thing you can use this stuff as moisturizer.  I’ll be smelling pretty tropical for the next 23.4 years or however long it takes me to saturate my skin with that tub of coconut oil.

Having failed miserably with savory options, I thought I might have better luck with something sweet.

Nope.

I found this recipe that sounded great for a gluten-free fudgy chocolate cake.  How bad could that be?

BAD.

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It looked so pretty, but underneath that icing lay a very strange tangy, cleaning solution-like aftertaste and a chewy texture much like an actual dish sponge (not to be confused with the lovely texture of sponge-cake).

It nearly ruined chocolate cake for me.

In an effort to stay positive and salvage the situation, I have been scraping off the naturally gluten-free chocolate icing and eating it by the spoonful.  I now have a scalped cake in my refrigerator.

Verdict:  There’s a reason people bake with wheat flour.

I’m hungry.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

I found Nemo

I made a somewhat last-minute decision to fly back to Boston for a long weekend.  It figures that I picked the weekend an “epic” blizzard is due to hit New England.  I think it’s karma for me calling Nashville silly for canceling school due to the threat of 3 snowflakes.

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I’ll have you know that I left unseasonably nice weather in Nashville.  I felt kind of ridiculous heading to the airport yesterday in my fur vest given that it was about 65 degrees.

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I was supposed to fly out from Nashville this morning, but, given the rumblings of the impending storm, on Wednesday we scrambled to change my flight and I ended up flying into Providence last evening.  Good thing, considering almost 4000 flights have been canceled because of this storm, including the one I was originally booked on, which would have been arriving about now in Boston.  That would have been a dicey landing.

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Thankfully, I was able to reschedule my plans for tomorrow to this morning.  I headed out at 8:45 before the snow began and found it very challenging to obey the 55 mph speed limit coming from 70 mph speed limits in Nashville.  All I’m going to say is that I kept it under 75 and I made it back in one piece.

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Now I can enjoy a lazy couple of days by the fire. I don’t have a fireplace at my place in Nashville so I feel like I’m at a ski resort at the moment.  Maybe I can talk my mom into making me some hot chocolate…this will be a good test of how diligent she is about reading my blog…

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Although I love the weather in Nashville (minus the tornadoes at night), I hadn’t realized how much I missed a good snow.  It’s really beautiful.

Hopefully there won’t be any major issues with this storm.  Not only was school canceled, but many offices and businesses as well.  Travel ban in effect as of 4PM.  This is serious.  Think positive thoughts.

Y’all be careful,

Sugarlump

Christmases Past

I stumbled across a few gems from Christmases in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s.

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Evidently, I used to be a Christmas angel.

(My mother just informed me that this was not a good day.

Apparently, I did not want to have my picture taken.

Can you blame me?

Two words, Mom: white tights.)

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While sitting to have my picture made was not high on my list, I certainly got my money’s worth out of my toys.  Never was a child more content to play with her dollhouse for hours on end.

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I enjoyed commanding the attention of many a den full of family members.

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I was happy to pitch in and help document the family Christmas.

(Thankfully, Fashion Police hasn’t gotten wind of these pants.  I was a very skinny toddler and all I can say about these pants is that my mother must have had high hopes that I would expand drastically and require pant legs large enough to store my toys in.  No such luck.  I bet even now I wouldn’t have an issue getting those things over my thighs.)

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Christmases were going swimmingly.

(Aside from the fashion.)

And then suddenly I wasn’t the only grandchild anymore….

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By 1993, there were four.

Oh how Christmases have changed over the last couple of decades…

Merry Christmas, y’all,

Sugarlump

Oh Christmas Tree

It’s been so long since a fresh post.  Too long really.

It’s so annoying how life gets in the way of blogging about my life.

I’ve been up to a lot of things as the holiday season picks up speed, namely getting my apartment ready to host my immediate family Christmas.

The first order of business was a tree.  I wrangled a live 8 foot Frasier fir into my jeep and then up 2 flights of stairs to my apartment.

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All by myself, thank you very much.

I just flung that puppy over my shoulder and never looked back.

I was very impressed by my achievement as I went to put the stand on the tree and realized I had no tree stand.  What a buzz kill.

What happened was that I saw a tree stand at Lowe’s where they didn’t have any garland so I decided I would just get the tree stand wherever I found garland and save myself a holiday madness check out experience.  I found garland at Home Depot and plumb forgot about that there tree stand thing.

It’s a miracle that I can make it to work with matching shoes on a regular basis.

So glad that my efforts toward time efficiency had paid off, I trudged out to my car and drove to Home Depot.  I parked my car and grabbed for my wallet in my purse.  No wallet.  Man, that day was really shaping up to be a good one.

Thoroughly frustrated by myself, I drove back to my apartment, went and grabbed my wallet and set off for my FOURTH journey for that dang tree stand.

Even though I never got out of the car at Home Depot, my pride would not allow me to drive back there for the third time in 2 hours.  So I found myself at Lowe’s, purchasing the tree stand that I had opted out of purchasing just hours earlier so I could save myself some time.

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BAH, HUMBUG, y’all,

Sugarlump

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Stormy Drive Home

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