Knock Knock…

During the ice age we experienced recently, there was a woodpecker that kept trying to peck through the exterior wall of my office.  I don’t really blame him except for the fact that he made it very hard for me and Gus and Scarlett to concentrate.  Me on my work and Gus and Scarlett on their naps.

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Barney Fife and Andy Griffith had narrowed in on this situation, springing into action from their deep slumber on the sofa in a matter of seconds.

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Scarlett tried to stare a hole through the wall.  Gus got distracted by a woman walking her dog.

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Scarlett assumed the position as the suspect’s knocking intensified.

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Scarlett decided she needed a better angle.

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Although this looks like a tender moment, Gus was not pleased that Scarlett infringed on his personal space.

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Gus shared his feelings and Scarlett quickly made him regret it.

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“Are you calling me fat???!!”

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Tensions subsided as the two were quickly reminded of the task at hand.  Mr. Pecker had resumed his knocking.

All in a day’s work.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

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Apocalypse Averted

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I went outside the other day.  It was terrible.  I don’t think I’ll do it again for a while.  Not that I’m having much better luck indoors.  A delightful side effect of these frigid temperatures: reduced amperage to my cable box.  Or something like that.  Translation: my connection freezes every 45 seconds, making it extremely irritating to try to watch TV as I only get about 1/17th of every story on the news.

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So I had nothing left to do except hunker down and make food like the end of the world was imminent.  I made LOTS of tomato soup, which Eugene and I feasted on for several meals, and homemade meat sauce.  I froze most of it so now I have a very full freezer and I’m tomatoed out.

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Tomato soup with grilled cheese…

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Tomato soup with garlic bread…

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Naturally, I also had to make something sweet. I decided to make those peanut butter chocolate kiss cookies.  My recipe made 20 cookies but I only had 17 kisses (don’t ask me how that happened) so I had to improvise a little.  I adorned the 3 kiss-less cookies with a row of chocolate chips.  Eugene said she actually preferred this set-up because the chocolate was more manageable and evenly distributed.  I can see her point, but the cookies are totally not as cute without the kisses.

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Scarlett thought these drastic times called for drastic measures and the relaxation of house rules like the one about her not being allowed on my coats or the table and especially not both at the same time.

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She was wrong.  Busted.

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Gus is having a hard time coping.

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Things were getting really rough.  It was so cold that the water draining from Eugene’s car was frozen mid-air.

In fact, conditions were so bad that Eugene casually mentioned something about how she thinks ironing is “kind of therapeutic.”  I think she kind of slipped on some ice and hit her head.

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Thankfully, when the sun comes up tomorrow it will be over 50 degrees.  Back to some sense of normalcy…or as close to normal as things get around here.

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

Christmas 2013

Christmas Eve morning, my immediate family had our Christmas here in Nashville.  It was a lovely, cold, sunny day and I saw a few snow flurries float by as I made my way from my bedroom to the coffee.  Now that Santa brings my sister’s and my gifts wrapped since there is no need for assembly, the morning commences with less urgency, though it is still a very special day.  This year was particularly special because we only have 2 chairs in the living room so my sister and I sat on the floor.  I don’t think we noticed.  We were just happy to be together.

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I have a little bit too much fun sometimes when it comes to gift giving and gift wrapping.  I gave Eugene a pair of slippers with stuffed animal puppies on them for when her “dogs are barkin.'” I got a real chuckle out of that one.  I think she did, too.  She may think it was a gag gift, but I will insist she wear them at all times when she’s here.

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We recently purchased a dehumidifier for the basement and I asked the installer to save the box for me.  I had a particular gift I needed to wrap in the large box.  My mom was eager to find out what required such a large box.

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A pair of earmuffs! My dad thought it was pretty funny, too.

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The best gift reaction, however, was my dad’s.  We got tickets for the 4 of us to go to the Kentucky vs. Louisville game this past Saturday.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Kentucky basketball, this game is a very big deal.  Perhaps the biggest of deals.  And guess what? Kentucky won! Barry was one happy guy.

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Clearly, it was a successful Christmas.

We headed up the road to Cumberland County, where my grandparents live.  We started out at my dad’s parents’ house Christmas morning.  It must have been too early and I must have been under-caffeinated as I failed to document that leg of the journey.  My bad.  It was lovely, I promise.  I was wearing pajamas so it’s probably best there aren’t pictures.

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Lastly, we made the several mile trek down the road to Grandmother’s house where our wardrobes expanded.

Here, we had cleaned up a bit and were camera ready.  I love my dad’s face in this picture.  I think this is the most he’s been photographed since my sister and I were born as he is usually the one taking the pictures.

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For the first time ever, I was sitting in the other Wingback back like this one Grandfather is sitting in.  In 25 years, I had never sat in one of these chairs as we exchanged gifts.  I don’t know why, but it seemed like a big milestone for me. I had a whole new perspective from which to appreciate my Grandmother’s living room and our holiday tradition.

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I love these sofas.  They are so fabulous.  I can’t say no to velvet…

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…or animal print.  Eugene and I had a good laugh when we each pulled out leopard dresses to wear Christmas Day.  This was not planned.  Happy accident?

Hope y’all had a Merry Christmas,

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

Here to Stay

Somehow, I have lived in Tennessee for a year.  How did that happen?

This past Saturday marked the anniversary of completely uncharacteristic move 1100 miles south.  In a way, it seems this year flew by, and yet living in Boston seems a long way back.  I didn’t know a soul when I moved here, but of course I received a warm welcome.  It is the south after all.

I’ve made many wonderful friends in the last 12 months.  I’ve gotten to see my grandparents and extended family more than ever.  I’ve discovered I like bluegrass.  I’ve put 17,000 miles on my car. I’ve experienced a tornado warning.  I’ve taken thousands of pictures of the sky.  I haven’t done yoga once.

Words like “you’re fine” and “y’all” have become fixtures in my vocabulary.  My style has become more eclectic and less preppy.   Though it would be a serious stretch to call me an extrovert, I’m more outgoing and chatty than I used to be.  I like to get out more.

I don’t have a TV in my room and I don’t miss it. I still haven’t bought bar stools so I don’t have a proper place to eat a meal.  I cook maybe once or twice a week.

I’ve decided I’m not over the city living as much as I thought. I’ve stopped drinking soda. I like dogs more than I used to.  I’ve been to the movie theater 3 times.  I’ve canned jam.

I’ve learned more about what’s important to me and what’s not.

It feels like home here.

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I think it’s time to take down this wreath.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

One Year Sweeter

Today is the one year anniversary of the Sugarlump, which means I have lived in Nashville for almost one year.  Man, does time fly.  I have a few reflections to share on this momentous day:

While I started this blog mainly to capture moments of my life that I never want to forget, it has proven to be so much more.  It eased me through the transition to my new home.  It has kept me connected to my family and friends who regularly read the Sugarlump and comment.  In turn, it assures them that I am alive and well.  Some of my extended family members and family friends have probably learned more about me through reading my blog this past year than they had learned about me in all the years they’ve known me combined.  Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know.  I’m just putting it all out there.

Most surprisingly, The Sugarlump has connected me to new friends who I know only because they have found my blog or I have found theirs.  Who knew complete strangers would take the time to leave a kind note or helpful tips?  This blog regularly reassures me that this world is indeed full of good people.

This blog has given me the motivation to learn more about photography as it provides a great outlet through which to share the thousands of photographs I have taken since moving to Nashville.  I apologize to my readers who don’t care for cats or weather reporting.   I hope to get out more this summer.

Though I am generally journaling-averse, writing posts has been a kind of therapy for me.   It helps me to find joy in the little things as I reflect on my day.  It puts things into perspective.  It keeps me connected in a more meaningful way.  I never would have thought I’d call myself a blogger, but a blogger I have become.

And even though I have slacked off on the blogging as my life has become busier in Nashville, I hope to continue celebrating blog anniversaries.

Thanks to my faithful readers for all of your “likes” and comments.  You make my day.

Love y’all,

Sugarlump

Tax Avoidance (Not Evasion)

It’s funny how, when faced with doing your taxes, vacuuming the sofa and ironing your socks become wildly appealing activities.  Suddenly, tackling that oil painting for my living room that I’ve been putting off since I moved in 11 months ago seems very urgent.  Brushing the cats’ teeth and cleaning out that “catch-all” basket of receipts, screw-drivers, lotion samples, paperclips and nail polish is just too hard to resist.

Doing my taxes really isn’t all that bad.  Because I own a business, I have an accountant who sends me a really nice tax organizer that makes the experience as painless and straight-forward as possible.  Every year, after I complete the document to return to her, I remark on how surprisingly simple it was.  And every year, I put off doing my taxes because something about it makes me want to do just about anything else.  I can’t explain it.

Today, instead of doing my taxes, I’ve done 4 loads of laundry and 1 load of dishes.  I’ve vacuumed, changed the sheets on my bed, rearranged the furniture and cleaned out the refrigerator.  Then I happened to find myself at Homegoods where I purchased 2 mirrors that were not the size I needed, but I had to have them.  Consequently, I have spent the last hour re-hanging everything on the walls in my apartment to accommodate said purchases.

At least I will have a fresh environment in which to do my taxes…whenever that may be.

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Off to French-braid Scarlett’s fur.  Doesn’t she look excited.

Y’all be responsible,

Sugarlump

No Mo’ Nemo

Cabin fever has set in.  We have watched far more of the weather news that I would recommend, cooked and baked (and consequently overindulged), played multiple games of scrabble, blogged, edited pictures, watched several basketball games and a movie in the past 24 hours. The travel ban is lifting in 4 minutes as I write this and I couldn’t be more excited about dining out this evening.

Since I was confined to the house, I thought I might as well track the progress of the storm.  Here is my coverage of the storm (on a 24-48 hour delay):

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Backyard around noon Friday.

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Front yard around noon Friday.

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Backyard about 2 hours later.

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Front yard about 2 hours later.

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The deck around 2PM Friday.  Keep this image of the overturned table handy.

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A backyard-deck combo around 2PM Friday.  I was getting a little carried away.  There was nothing else to do.

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Front yard around 4PM Friday, just as the travel ban took effect.  I don’t remember ever being under a travel ban before.  It makes you really want to travel.

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Backyard around 4PM Friday.  The snow was beginning to bury things.

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The kitchen island around 4PM Friday. Time for some wine and cheese.

I also made some German chocolate bourbon pecan pie bars.  I’ll post about those later.

Back to the snow coverage (day 2):

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Approximately 9AM Saturday morning.  We had officially been snowed in.  Travel ban still in effect as snow removal teams tried to clear roadways.

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Front yard Saturday morning.  There is an Adirondack chair under all of that snow somewhere.  Anyone feel like a cup of coffee on the front patio?

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Winter wonderland.

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The deck was almost completely filled in.

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The front walk/tunnel midday on Saturday as the snow tapered off.

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No amount of snow will keep my family from grilling.  The first thing my dad did outside was shovel a path on the deck in case we needed some steaks for dinner.  Those are the table legs sticking out of the snow.

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As I mentioned, the travel ban was lifted at 4PM on Saturday, so we ended up going out to dinner. The highways had been salted and were almost completely clear of snow.  Some of the back roads and smaller roads in the city were still quite snowy, but that didn’t stop us.  Here we are exiting the restaurant.  The snow was up to the top of the parking meters.  Karma for the cranky meter maids if you ask me.

Y’all be careful,

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

Cause for Alarm

This week has been full of surprises.  Tuesday evening, I went to ladies’ night at a shooting range and got second place in our bullseye competition.  Everybody watch out.

Early the next morning, at approximately 3:00AM, I awoke to tornado sirens.  This was the first time I had heard them in person since moving to Tennessee so it took me a minute to figure out what was going on.  My weather channel alerts on my phone confirmed that we were under a tornado warning and needed to take cover immediately.  I grabbed my phone, the cats, two cushions from the sofa, and my laptop and closed us in the bathroom as I set up a little fort with my cushions in the bathtub.  I then decided I needed a flashlight and a bottle of water.  Maybe I should have thought through my tornado plan a little bit more.  In my defense, it was JANUARY(!) and tornado season doesn’t usually start until spring.

Anyway, as we waited out the very strong winds and tracked the radar on my laptop, the cats could not have been more confused/annoyed.  They kept looking at me like I was crazy and tried to dig a hole under the door to get out of the bathroom.  Apparently tornado safety does not apply to them.

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Thankfully, other than some seriously violent winds, we were alright.  There were, however, a few tornadoes within 50 miles of us that damaged several buildings and pulled roofs off of homes.

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Less than 48 hours later, the temperature had dropped nearly sixty degrees from the low seventies into the teens and it was snowing.

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It’s a beautiful, sunny day here as long as you’re indoors.  It’s a whopping 17 degrees at the moment and with the wind chill, it feels like single digits.

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There is still snow on most roofs and school was canceled, which I thought this was pretty silly, given that we got about 2 inches of snow.  New Englanders wouldn’t bat an eye at that kind of snowfall.  But then I discovered that there was still some dangerous ice lurking around as I tried to speed out of the gate at my apartment complex earlier this morning.  I spun in place for about 10 seconds until my Jeep finally slid forward, narrowly avoiding the gates as they began to close.

Like the weather, my garbage disposal has been acting backwards this week.  The other day, as I ran the water and turned on the disposal, instead of the water easing the food down the drain as the disposal ground it up, all of the food and water spun violently up and out of the drain and onto me and the counter.  The maintenance man just found a metal spear approximately the size of a chopstick jammed in the pipes, courtesy of the previous tenant.

It’s been a strange couple of days.

In other (likely related) news, I’m back to drinking coffee, but just a small cup.  Hopefully, things will now return to normal.

Y’all be careful,

Sugarlump