Accomplishment

By: Rachel Sircy

Recently, I wrote about how it’s good to shop at the farmer’s market for your food. However, I recently experienced something even better than getting your food from the farmer’s market…I grew some food for myself!

This is a picture of my tomato plant. I really wish I had taken a picture of it when I first got it, but honestly, I thought I was probably going to kill it. It was about 2 or 3 inches high when I first got this little tomato seedling. I planted it in a pot and now it’s about 3-4 feet tall. It’s so tall, that I have two separate stakes trying to hold it up and it’s pulling them both over. I didn’t bother getting a tomato cage, even though my neighbor told me that I should, because, like I said, I was pretty sure I was going to kill it.

I have a history with plants, mostly it’s a dark, sad history of dried up and forgotten impatiens and leafy ferns. But this year, in an effort to eat a bit healthier and closer to home (and also a bit cheaper) I decided I was going to try to grow my own herbs and some tomatoes. The herbs have done amazingly well. Parsley was the first plant that I bought and I’ve had it for about four months now and it’s still going strong. I have actually taken scissors and cut the plant all the way back to the dirt (a lot like cutting grass) several times now, and each time I do, the herb comes back fuller than it was before. I use fresh parsley in just about everything, and so this little plant, which cost me less than 5 dollars (it was a little over $11 for the terra cotta pot, potting soil, fertilizer spikes and plant all together) has saved me quite a bit of money. I was going to the grocery store and buying those little plastic containers of fresh herbs every time a recipe called for it. The thing is those little plastic packages are outrageously expensive, especially when compared to growing them yourself.

This little package of organic thyme cost me $2.99 pre-tax. I know I didn’t have to get organic thyme, but I prefer organic when I can get it. The terrible thing is, I won’t even need this much thyme for the recipe that I’m using, so I’m probably going to have to either throw the rest of it away or freeze it. If I paid that much for every fresh herb in every recipe I make, I would be totally broke. That is what I realized about four months ago. And so, I went to Lowe’s and picked up a little parsley plant which paid for itself in about 4 weeks’ time.

This basil plant was about two inches tall when I got it. It looks a bit rough right now, but just three weeks ago, I snipped almost every branch and every single leaf off of it for a large pasta recipe. At the time, it was standing about a foot and a half high.

Until this past weekend, the herbs were really the only plants that I had been able to use in my cooking. My tomato plant had some tiny cherry tomatoes on it, but they seemed to be taking forever to ripen.

But then, finally, I went outside and one of my tomatoes had turned red as if by a miracle.

I didn’t take a picture of it on the vine. I picked it and cooked it with eggs on Sunday morning. One cherry tomato may not seem like much, but the feeling of eating something that my own two hands had planted and helped to grow was absolutely magical!

So, if you are like me and you think that you have the hand of death when it comes to plants, you might just try something like herbs or a tomato plant and see how you do with them. Even if you don’t make it the first time, they are really not that expensive, so you won’t be out that much money. The fact that I could eventually eat these plants is what kept me really interested in them. Flowers never fascinated me the way that these plants do. I find myself checking on these plants daily and watering them regularly. I even talk to them sometimes. I think this is turning me into a gardener. And, in the end, growing your own food is a great way to save money on groceries as well as to eat healthier. When you buy organic produce from the store, you always have to take someone’s word that it really is organic. You can be 100% certain that your food is organic if you grow it yourself using organic methods!

For those interested, I found an extremely helpful app for my phone called “Gardening Know How.” It’s free and it has a gardening journal and tons of articles that are searchable. All of the articles are written in terms that are easy to understand for beginning gardeners. It’s sort of been my lifeline when I’ve run into problems or had questions about my particular plants.

Happy growing!

When Did “Customer Service” Become an Oxymoron?

By: Jeanne Reynolds

I’m trapped in my own home.

I’m a prisoner of our internet provider. “Provider” is a bit of a misnomer, however, because no service is being provided, and hasn’t for a month or so. For the second time in as many weeks, I’ve waited four hours for a technician who never arrived. (Now, almost three hours past the promised appointment window, he’s allegedly on his way. I’ll let you know how that works out.)

Numerous calls, emails and online chats with the customer service department have only increased our frustration. I’m talking service reps for whom English is obviously a skill still in the works and who are apparently reading from a script (“How to Deal with Irate Customers 101,” perhaps), conflicting information and even “alternate facts” (Them: “Our records show the work was completed and technician signed the paperwork.” Us: “That’s funny because I sat here for four hours and no one came.”). I’d like to rip the whole thing out and set it afire on the company’s front doorstep — except there is no other provider where we live. So we grumble and gnash our teeth and battle on.

But why should we have to do that? Why is it so hard to get good customer service these days?

And it’s not just these guys. We all have horror stories of clothes returned from the dry cleaners with missing buttons (or missing completely), hopelessly confusing cable bills, surly store clerks and contractors who won’t return calls. I don’t think it’s asking too much for a company to do what it says it’ll do, when it says it’ll do it, or call and explain what’s going on. Give me a smile and a “thanks” and I’m over the moon. It’s why I shop at Publix and Lands End, and would rather pay more at Chick-fil-A than patronize the McCompetition.

And don’t get me started on companies that only seem to value new customers. Case in point: I’ve paid my newspaper subscription bill on time without fail for the past 20 years. My loyalty is now being rewarded by refusing me the deep discount offered to new subscribers. Is it any wonder fewer people are subscribing to the paper these days?

I really think the problem starts as the top. If excellent service isn’t a priority for a company, part of its culture and emphasized to every employee repeatedly, it’s not going to happen. If a company has a monopoly, like my internet company, it might get away with haphazard service for a while. But it’s a pretty risky business strategy in the era of Twitter and Facebook. Not to mention eager entrepreneurs looking for an edge.

It’s not my style to take to social media to vent. I’d much rather talk to a human being and try to resolve the problem. But hey, I’m getting desperate here. If the internet company isn’t listening to me, at least I can make sure plenty of other people know about it with a few clicks … that is, assuming I ever get internet service.

Wedding Season

By:Ashley Whisonant

Sure enough, once the spring and summer roll around, wedding invitations begin to arrive. The older I get the less wedding invitations and more children’s birthday party invitations arrive. I do usually get the chance to witness at least one or two friends or family members get married each year. I love a good wedding. Weddings are the essence of love, giving of oneself, and sharing with loved ones. I can’t help but think back on my own wedding in 2009.

Our engagement was short lived before the wedding planning, appointments, parties, and tastings began. Everything seems so important and life altering. Each decision kept me up wondering if I made the right choice. It all seems silly now. The show of a wedding is not important. If I could marry my husband, Matt, all over again, I would do it differently. No fuss, no expensive cake, fancy decorations, and oodles of people we rarely speak with now. It would be just him and I-sharing that special moment.

Today I am thankful for my forever wedding date. He is the man who makes me stronger, confident, and never lets me accept less than I deserve. Looking back on our honeymoon pictures, we were babies. If we could just go back to these two and set them straight. Knowing us, the old Matt and Ashley would never listen in the first place!

Penny Candy, Souse Meat, Liver Pudding & Bologna

By: Chaunte McClure

Last week I took a trip down memory lane, making a stop at the cinder block pale yellow or beige building on the corner of Highway 908 and what is now Paul Richardson Road. It was one of the mom and pop stores in Britton’s Neck where residents could conveniently buy general grocery items locally, since the nearest grocery store was almost 30 minutes away.

I spent many childhood summer days riding my bicycle to the Richardson Store, as my family affectionately called it. Grandma rarely sent me to buy anything, but I wanted to go sometimes to rack up on penny candy. I shamefully admit that I used to rob my aunt’s Maxwell House jar of the old pennies and other coins she collected in it. (I confessed my theft to her years ago, but it’s not like she hadn’t already figured out why her penny jar was dwindling.) I would take the time to count and wrap those pennies to present them to Ms. Mary or her husband, owners of the Richardson Store, to pay for my penny candy, Now & Laters and other cheap sweets that, over time, contributed to my cavities. I’d buy as much candy as I could for a dollar and share with the other grands at Grandma’s house.

I miss stores like the Richardson’s where you could go to the counter and ask for $2 dollars worth of souse meat, liver pudding or bologna. Let me tell ya, the pan fried bologna cut in the center would make for a good bologna sandwich. I remember for supper some nights we’d have just grits and bologna. It was filling and something quick and easy for Grandma to prepare.

Curious of whether my Facebook friends remember the mom and pop stores, I invited them to share in my nostalgia, posting a related question one night and surprisingly, many of them replied with places in the Columbia area where one can find fresh cut souse meat, liver pudding and bologna. Places like Conwell’s, Caughman’s and Mr. Bunky’s made the list. One day I’ll make a stop at one of those community staples and share my experience with you.

What were some of the mom and pop stores in your community?

Kids and Celiac Disease

 By: Rachel Sircy

Disclaimer: Our bloggers are not health experts. Contact your physician if you have questions about celiac disease or if you are thinking about starting a new dietary program.

Those affected by celiac disease may wonder what the risk is for our children. Here are a few things to consider:

1) According to the Center for Celiac Disease at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, children with a first degree relative (mom, dad, sibling) who have celiac disease should be tested. They recommend that a blood test for celiac disease be done after the age of three and after the child has been exposed to gluten for at least one year. Remember that if you don’t have gluten in your system, you can’t have a reaction to it. The tests for celiac disease are trying to measure an immune response to gluten. If you’ve already put your child on a gluten-free diet, your child’s test will be negative even if they have celiac disease.

2) Even if you have celiac disease, or your child has another first degree relative with CD, it does not necessarily mean that your child will have celiac disease, though they are more at risk to have the disease.  Some people (myself included) have wondered if it’s worth it to introduce gluten into the diet of an at-risk child. It’s really your call, but consider this: your child may one day want to get off of the gluten free bandwagon. It might be good to find out sooner rather than later if that is an option for them.

Also, there are other health issues that are associated with celiac disease. If your child goes undiagnosed for CD, they may still develop some of these other issues such as diabetes, lactose intolerance, or even coronary artery disease. If you choose to put your child on a gluten free diet without having them diagnosed, just keep in mind that doctors will not be looking out for any medical problems that are related to celiac disease.

3) In young children with celiac disease, you may have to watch for contamination from gluten-containing play things like play dough or chalk, etc. Normally, celiacs don’t have to worry about anything that merely touches the skin (gluten can only affect celiacs if they eat it).  However, since young children are prone to eating things they shouldn’t (like play dough, chalk, etc.), it might be a good idea to stock GF art supplies

4) Signs and symptoms of celiac disease in children (and adults) include the following: chronic diarrhea or chronic constipation; abdominal pain; vomiting; bloating/gas; fatigue; damaged or discolored tooth enamel; blistery, itchy skin rashes; iron deficiency anemia; short stature. According to everything I’ve read, irritability is the first sign that appears in young children. Consistently cranky children are often sick children. Asymptomatic children with genetic risk factors should also be tested because many celiacs do not show any signs of the disease in its early stages.

**All of the above information info was taken from the “Kid Central” page of BeyondCeliac.org, which is a pretty good resource. Also helpful is the Mayo Clinic website.

Recipe: Easiest. Cookies. Ever. (Flourless Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peanut butter (smooth works best, but crunchy will do)
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 bag Hershey’s Kisses (dark chocolate are our favorites on this, but milk chocolate is also good)

Directions:

  1. Unwrap Kisses and place in fridge, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream peanut butter and sugar into a bowl.
  3. Beat in baking powder.
  4. Add egg and mix until well combined.
  5. Roll into balls (smaller is better), roll balls in white sugar, and place on cookie sheets covered with parchment paper. Press/flatten balls with fork.
  6. Bake 10 minutes, let rest 5 minutes on baking sheet, then cool on a plate.
  7. While cookies are still warm, press a kiss in the middle of each cookie.
  8. Try not to eat them all in one sitting.

Counselors of Law

By: Stacy Thompson

I have been asked many times what drew me to the practice of law. Back in high school and college, I didn’t have any friends or family members who were lawyers, other than a distant cousin and my great-grandfather, who I was never fortunate enough to meet. I had never needed a lawyer (fortunately) for any civil or criminal matters and I wasn’t really a fan of LA Law or Ally McBeal – Judge Wapner seemed like a decent guy, but I had no real excitement for the show. I was an international studies major, Latin American studies minor, in college and as graduation approached, I was really uncertain about what I wanted to do or be in life. I knew what I liked, which was analyzing problems, writing, history and anything with people – but how to make a career and a life out of that?!? I was somewhat lost.

My last year of college I found a part-time job as a runner at a local law firm. Not good at being idle, I would make the rounds within the office asking the paralegals for any menial task that would keep me busy and teach me a little more about what a law office was about. In talking with one of the paralegals, I mentioned that I was thinking about law school, but wasn’t sure whether I wanted to take that leap. She suggested that I look into paralegal school and possibly work for some time before investing financially and emotionally in the rigors of law school. So off I went to Atlanta, and four months later I got my first paralegal job in Anderson, SC.

Other than the challenge of living that close to that school in the Upstate (for those that don’t know or haven’t followed this blog up until now, I am a huuuuge Gamecock fan), I learned a lot the year and a half I was there – first and foremost, I learned that I really needed to go on to law school, where I could eventually control the types of cases I took in, the clients I represented and the case development itself.

Next came law school itself – where, let’s be clear, you are NOT taught the practice of law, but how to best read voluminous case law, breaking down the issues and then articulating an argument on either side of the fence. It was both torture (especially the first year), a total blast (delving into the background of every Article within our Constitution is truly awesome, trust me), while giving me the base I needed to pursue a career and what I realized was a ‘vocation.’

So, seventeen years into the practice of law, I can truly say that I am doing what I was meant to do – I can make a living not only helping others, but making sure the rules are followed and applied to everyone equally. No two cases are identical and every day brings different challenges – some making the blood pressure rise and others bringing a tear to the eye. As attorneys, we are often called “counselors” of law, which I believe more accurately describes my profession – we counsel and guide people through somewhat difficult times and provide an ear, shoulder and helping hand. I can’t imagine any other true calling in life.

Are You Experiencing One Wild and Precious Summer?

By: Shannon Boatwright

Oprah has inspired me. There, I said it. And I know I’m not special with this ‘being inspired’ moment, as millions – probably more – are inspired by the woman on a daily basis. But I have to admit, I’ve been aching to write. I even told my husband the other day, “I want to write a book.” He responded with, “What about?”

My response, “I’m not sure.” I know I have something to share. In fact, I have a lot I could/can share. But where to start?

The other week, my Mama dropped off some magazines for me, which she occasionally will do. When she’s done scouring the pages, she’ll hand them over for me to enjoy. In this case, she left the June 2017 issue of Oprah’s O Magazine. After sitting on my kitchen island for almost two weeks, I finally had a day in which I felt relaxed enough to truly sit down and enjoy flipping through a magazine. This particular day was July 4th. My children were out of town with their father, and my husband and I had the day to enjoy together. No work, no commitments. At first we felt the pressure to go do something, go to the lake, party with friends, do something spectacular and cool on this holiday. But, we gleefully discovered we were on the same page and wanted nothing more than to just relax, do nothing, and enjoy being together. We avoided the South Carolina heat, did nothing spectacular, and loved every minute of it. As we basked in our uneventful day, I read through the pages of the magazine, consistently being pulled in by article after article. By the end of the day, I was in awe at the realization that I could not put the magazine down and had been inspired by not just one article, but so many that I had folded down more page corners than I think I ever have in any magazine. Each writer inspired me to think of things that I want to write about and share with the world in hopes that I could in turn inspire someone, fill their heart maybe, bring a smile to their face. It’s a wonderful, sometimes indescribable thing when that happens. It’s something us writers live for and absolutely love when these unexpected moments of inspiration capture our time and attention.

So what do I share now? Well, the cover of this particular O Magazine issue is all about summer and it wasn’t just the glorious beach picture with Oprah that caught my attention, but the headline that says, “Your One Wild and Precious Summer”. Something about this wording caught my eye and peeked my interest. It wasn’t until nighttime that I got to the article that belonged to this headline. Page 87 – the title page – contained a short paragraph that got me thinking. Then I noticed the asterisk – it’s an explanation, or tease if you will, about that intriguing headline…it said:

“*If you’ve never read Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day,” please do. It inspired this headline, and it will surely inspire you.”

Oprah and your fabulous peeps – Mission Accomplished!

I immediately picked up my phone, Googled Oliver’s poem, and voila! Next thing you know I’m searching for an image of the poem and posting it on my Instagram.

Yep.  I was indeed inspired.

“The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

As I was letting the words, phrases and meaning of the poem sink in, I started falling into that typical human trap of thinking negatively…blah, blah, blah, wah, wah, wah, …

Then, I realize, oh my gosh…Mary, Oprah, I HAVE been living a fabulous summer. What!?

Like possibly one of the first summers in which it actually does feel wild and precious.  

Yes! Quite honestly, I don’t want it to end. I worked so incredibly hard this past school year. Always on the go, always exhausted, always looking forward to better things, better times.

But this summer has been different for me. Not just a regular teacher’s break from the insanely busy school year, but I was actually blessed with the chance of a lifetime.

I’m gonna admit here that I honestly don’t know the words to describe what I hope and pray will not end up being a once in MY lifetime experience… At this point, I still feel like it was all a dream. And I promise you I am not over-exaggerating.

I was graced with an all-expense paid trip to Europe. I traveled through the South of France, all along the French Riviera – shopping in Cannes, Hollywood dream-like dining in Saint Tropez, even a dreamlike visit to Monaco, staying in Sainte-Maxime, France in one of the most gorgeous homes I’ve ever set eyes on, much less visited. I consistently pinched myself in an attempt to remind myself that the whole experience was actually real. Closing out my 9-day journey was a visit to Switzerland – a magical place that totally captured my heart, so much so that I think I will forever fantasize about retiring there. And, the bonus was that I had the privilege of enjoying this adventure with my amazing, sweet Mama – my rock, my truly forever BFF – as we were hosted by most precious, dear friends of hers.

Whew…. deep breathes and overwhelming, heart-warming joy fills me at just the thought of these amazing friends of my mother’s…

Needless to say, I could write novels, even movie screenplays, based on the beautiful things, places and people that I saw and the incredible stories that were shared with me. My heart and mind get overwhelmed just thinking about the fabulousness and preciousness of it all and the true blessing of meeting these truly incredible people.

I’ll possibly, hopefully, eventually share more about this-out of-MY-world start to my “wild and precious summer”. But for now, I thank Oprah and Mary Oliver for reminding me that it’s solely up to me how I live out my all too-short-summer. I have the power to make it fabulous. And though my summer of 2017 certainly got off to an insanely fantastic start, I plan to do my best to “squeeze every last drop of bliss and awe, out of this, my untamed summer.”

As Mary Oliver hints in her lovely poem, life is short! The way I see it, we get one chance to rock it, be our best and truly live it up!  I have a feeling she and Oprah would agree with me.

So how do YOU plan to make the best of it? Let’s start with this season currently in our midst. Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious summer? 😉