Bella Rum

Life on the Pasture

Category: Family

Closing Day, Spinach Dip Recipe, Cell Phone Cleaning Solution Recipe

Yesterday was a good day. My niece Crystal closed on her house (3 minutes from my house, YAY!!!), which, YES, calls for three exclamation points. I’m so happy about this.

The house is in a quiet, well-maintained community. It’s as cute as can be. Everything went smoothly with this sale. No big surprises. The sellers were reasonable and so was Crystal. Win/Win

She has a rent-back agreement with the sellers. They are building a house, and will rent Crystal’s house for the next month, but her realtor made arrangements for us to go to the house after closing. We had a small, short celebration: photos of Crystal holding a SOLD sign on the front steps, more photos of her putting the key in the door, a toast to happiness in her new house, and another look-see at the house. It was fun.

Do you remember that ubiquitous Knorr vegetable soup spinach dip that was at every party during the 80s? Or was it 90s? I made that and took some fruit and cheese and some sparkling wine. They liked the spinach dip, but neither of them had ever tried it. I guess it’s gone out of style?

The recipe is still on the soup packet, but I tend to print copies of back-of-the-box or packet recipes that I like. They stop them sometimes. I follow the recipe, but I cut the sliced water chestnuts into little strips. I’m big on texture, and I love the texture when they’re cut into strips. Warning: You can’t stop eating this once you start.

Knorr Spinach Dip

Yields 4 cups


1 10-oz Box Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 16-oz Container Sour Cream
1 cup Hellman’s Mayonaise
1 Package Knorr Vegetable Recipe Mix (dry in packet)
1 8-oz Can Sliced Water Chestnuts, cut into strips
2 Green Onions, chopped


Thaw spinach in microwave. When cooled, squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the spinach. Add all remaining ingredients to spinach, and combine thoroughly. Chill at least 2 hours to allow the soup to reconstitute before serving. Serve with crackers.

Following: Info that will make you feel better about public toilets, but worse about your cell phone.

How often do you clean your cell phone? That thing is loaded with nasty bacteria, but you already know that. I’m curious. Do you have a UV phone sanitizer or do you wipe it off with a solution of water and 70% isopropyl alcohol once a week, or some other method? Or are you like me and don’t think about it much?  Inquiring minds want to know.Recipe for Cell Phone Cleaning Solution

* Bottled water
* 70% isopropyl alcohol
* 1 mini spray bottle
* 1 microfiber or lint-free cloth

Fill a spray bottle halfway with distilled water. Fill the other half of the bottle with 70% isopropyl alcohol. Screw the cap back on, and shake the bottle to mix the solution. Once a week (not every day), LIGHTLY spray the solution on a microfiber or lint-free cloth, and clean your phone. Source: BuzzFeed

So, how do you clean your phone and how often? Fess up.

Oh, I forgot to mention that H has a horrible black eye from his MOHS surgery, but he says it doesn’t hurt.

The Kids and Update on H’s Mohs Surgery

Let me take care of some leftover business first. I forgot that I’d even taken a photo of the Mediterranean Baked Chicken recipe that I wrote about in the last post. This is what it looks like. I also forgot to mention that I substituted halved chicken breasts for chicken thighs. I don’t think I could make it as a food blogger. 😦 It’s a good thing I don’t mind sharing my business. I wouldn’t have anything to write about.


My “adult” kids are in New Orleans, my son and his wife. The grands are at their other grandmother’s house. My DIL texted me a photo of my son standing on a bus. She said that he gave up his seat. I guess this has become a family thing. His father never sits when a lady is standing, so neither does my son. He ran into a bit of a problem when he was working in NYC. When on the subway, he would always offer his seat to any lady who got on after all the seats were taken, but he said they sometimes looked a little skeptical. 🙂 I guess it’s a Southern thing, or maybe an old-school thing, or maybe it’s just a NYC thing.

We’re reading Lisa Gardner. Have your read her? We’re on the Tessa Leoni series. Really good.

H had his Mohs surgery on Thursday. The doctor got everything on the first try, and made a nice and clean closure. He has to get another basal cell removed on Wednesday. His doctor is fantastic.  His face has been carved up so much, but you can’t tell. Impressive. It takes about three hours because after the doctor removes the offending tissue but before she closes, you wait while she checks the removed tissue to make sure it’s clean around the edges. If it’s clean on the first try, she closes and you go home. If it’s not, she takes some more tissue, and you wait some more while she checks it again. It’s a long process.

It’s hot and humid today. You feel sticky as soon as you step out the door. It’s as if someone gave the Weather Gods a calendar, and said, “Look, it’s July.”

June was beautiful. I miss you, June.

Mental Illness

It was a quiet but tough weekend around here. Crystal’s granddaughter (13) started manifesting signs of mental illness a couple of years ago, yet there is still no diagnosis, but doctors have medicated her, which I don’t really understand. The medication is not helping. The family has been through hell. She’s been on suicide watch a couple of times, but they only keep her for a week or so and release her.

Crystal’s son called her at work on Friday, and told her that things had spiraled out of control again. It was bad. She left work and went to them. When she was alone with her granddaughter, her granddaughter revealed self-inflicted bite marks and scratches up and down her arms and legs. She hates herself, and how she makes her family suffer, and this makes her want to hurt herself. She knows she is ill. It is the saddest thing I’ve ever known.

I don’t know all the ins and outs of their journey for a diagnosis, but I know results have been less than satisfactory. This weekend, after much hullabaloo, they convinced someone to transport and admit her to a psychiatric facility that I think will diagnose her, and give her appropriate care, and not just keep her on suicide watch and send her home. This is the hope.

A few years ago, a member of the Senate of VA, Creigh Deeds, attempted to admit his mentally ill son to a facility one night, but was told there were no available beds. Come back tomorrow. Before the night was over, his son stabbed Deeds multiple times in the head and torso, and killed himself in an attempted murder-suicide. I fear we only heard the details of this tragedy because Creigh Deeds was who he was. Deeds later filed a $6 million law suit against the state and its regional mental health agency for improperly denying treatment.

As for the weekend in our house, it was quiet. H found all kinds of stuff to do around the house, mostly outside. I did a little cleaning, a little cooking and a little laundry, and in between, I talked to Crystal. The mood around here was one of helplessness, but not hopelessness. I think she is in the right place.

Pigs and Houses

We made a day trip to Smithfield whose claim to fame is the Smithfield ham. It’s very salty, and an acquired taste, but we grew up with it so we love it. If you’ve read here for long, you know I’ve mentioned Smithfield before. It’s a small town – a hamlet. Ha! It has a few shops and a couple of restaurants and a bunch of pretty, older homes.  The only thing I bought to bring home was bacon. We ate at the Taste of Smithfield that has – what else – pork in every selection on the menu. My friend took the photos. 

My niece found a house that she loves. We went to see it on Friday. It’s a small ranch house. She made an offer. She hasn’t heard anything yet, but it’s a holiday weekend. People have plans. The sellers may be out of town. Who knows? But it’s a nice house in a nice neighborhood. It’s 10 to 15 minutes from her office, and more importantly…. wait for it…. it’s three minutes from my house. I hope they accept her offer.

We aren’t doing much this weekend. H is always busy doing something, but I plan to read/listen to my new book. I finished the Patterson book. I liked the ending. I figured out who-done-it a little while before the end, but there was a twist at the very end that I only figured out a few minutes before it was revealed.

Have a fun and safe holiday weekend.

Ancestering, People Watching, Organizing

I’ve been ancertering lately. Yes, ancestering is a verb. It’s fascinating stuff, and I’ve made a lot of headway, but I’m beginning to see that it’s endless. Every path leads to another. There were ministers in my family, but most of us were farmers, carpenters, boat builders and homemakers. Working people. I don’t think I’m going to find royalty, philosophers, musicians, or artists, but you never know. The quest goes on.

I had to get a chest x-ray yesterday and some labs. Since a bit of waiting is the norm, it gives me a chance to engage in one of my favorite pastimes, people watching. There were two older women sitting across from me. The larger one wore bright yellow pants and a striped shirt of yellow, green and blue, and she had a PhD in bossing. Clearly. She also had a horrid case of RBF. She was knitting away, but it did not interfere with her bossing job. She kept leaning over and giving the smaller lady her opinion about what she should do and how she should do it. I could only hear the tone, not the words, but the facial expressions and body language of both women were something to behold. The smaller woman looked like she was used to it, but did not subscribe to the larger woman’s philosophy… despite her PhD. I bet they were sisters, and had been at it since they were toddlers.

I plan to organize my closet today. I don’t think I’ll toss much because I did that a few months ago, but I need to get my summer clothes in one section and my winter things to the back so I can find what I need when I need it. We’re going on vacation soon, and I have to decide what I’m taking and maybe even… wait for it… iron a few things. Ha! I’m looking forward to wearing some of my new things. It’s so nice to have clothes that fit again. I still need pants. My niece has implored me to get new pants. She says a commune of hippies could live in there. I still need to lose weight, and I’m still losing very slowly, but it feels more like maintaining to me. When I get back from vacation, I plan to get serious, but I have to enjoy myself. It is vacation!

The certified letter was from the bio-daughter. More of the same. Sigh.

A Family Affair

It’s been a busy time. I haven’t written posts or visited blogs this week. We’re in spring planting mode around here, and H put down mulch Saturday. It always looks so nice, but that isn’t what’s on my mind today.

My niece took us to dinner on Saturday night, and I busted my diet. I’m getting good at breaking the daily routine and getting right back on the horse the next morning. It’s becoming the norm, but I must say that it took my system until mid-day the next day to feel just right again. It’s gotten used to eating clean and lean, but it was so much fun being with her. She has the kindest heart.

We talked about my sister (her mother). The daughter she put up for adoption in 1960 is still trying to find her. Well, I should say, she’s trying to get my sister to meet with her. A few months ago, she sent my brother and me letters and photos (she looks like my other niece) asking for information. Neither of us contacted her. We both feel that it’s our sister’s decision, and at this point, my sister knows about her so there’s no business in this for us.

Months ago, when she first contacted me, I searched for her online. I found her thread on a forum for adopted children looking for bio-parents. She wrote about her search for my sister. I didn’t look at it again until a couple of days ago. She had written much more about my sister and our family. That’s where I learned that since sending the letters to my brother and me, she also sent a certified letter to my sister months ago, and my sister signed for it. So my sister knows, but is not talking to any of the family about it.

On the thread, Bio-daughter said she found two cousins – one on our side of the family and one on her bio-father’s side – who agreed to meet with her. She already visited one, and will visit the other soon. She also found her bio-father who lives down the street from my brother. He called my brother and asked for information on my sister, but “he refused to talk about his sister’s pregnancy.” She wrote that he would now try to contact her mother’s younger sister (me!). Her bio-father felt I would help because “she’s more talkative.” Really? Why didn’t they just say that I’m a snitch? Ha! I’m sure he meant more cooperative or social or something flattering like that.

Even though my brother and I believe we would choose differently in this situation, if my sister does not want to meet with her bio-daughter, we cannot be the ones to give her information. Though I do sympathize with her bio-daughter, I find that even though my sister and I are not close and barely see each other, I cannot help her make contact with my sister (I think she wants a cell # and general information). It doesn’t feel right, but at this point, it doesn’t matter anyway. The bio-daughter isn’t stopping, and will make contact with every relative my sister knows until she agrees to see her. Even though one of my other nieces asked her to stop, she is as persistent as my sister, and will not take no for an answer. I don’t know what I think of that either. Shouldn’t either side have the right to say yay or nay. My sister must feel that her life is being picked apart… molecule by molecule as bio-daughter visits, contacts, talks and writes to every relative she can find. In the letter she sent to me, she wrote, “I don’t want to cause trouble.” Why then does it feel like I’m watching a trouble train coming down the tracks… closer and closer?

When we returned home from dinner with my niece on Saturday, a card  from the postoffice was waiting for me in the mailbox. It was a notification for a certified letter. It’s at the postoffice and I have to sign for it. Two guesses who it’s from? I will know today. What a sticky situation. I’m thinking that my sister never told her present husband, and to say that his entire family will be surprised by this is an understatement, especially his children. I think they already have a few issues with my sister.

I’m pretty sure that my sister feels shame and embarrassment. I’m not saying that she should, but how awkward this must be for her. Over fifty years ago, in a different time, she found a good family for her child. She wanted the best for her, and by that child’s own words, she had a good life with loving parents. Her adoptive mother died two years ago, and that’s when she started looking, which says a lot about what’s going on here. She is successful, degreed, smart and incontestably determined. She is definitely my sister’s daughter.


Names have been changed to protect the not so innocent.

Because rain was expected on Saturday, and because old retirees are flexible, my niece’s moving day was changed to Friday. It’s a good thing because it rained buckets on Saturday. When we arrived, she was drying one last load of clothes.

Her next-door neighbor Mike popped in unexpectedly and helped H move the washer and dryer. He seemed like such a nice guy, and he was a lot of help. He and his wife are expecting their first baby. Crystal said they’ve been great neighbors for six years, always helping her with things around the house that would be difficult for a single woman. She repaid them with pots of soup and spaghetti sauce. They both begged her not to move.

When they started to move the washer and dryer, Mike called to her, “Crystal, what do you want to do with these?” She’d left a few panties in the utility room. She was so embarrassed. After a few exclamations of “Oh, my God!” she apologized. Good-naturedly, he said they weren’t the first panties he’d seen. We all laughed and moved on.

Crystal called last night and said, “Auntie, Mike texted me, saying he’d like to see me, that he’d like to take me to lunch” (he works from home, and his wife works during the day). She texted him back, told him no, and reminded him that he was married and about to have a baby. He texted her again, reiterating that he’d like to see her and hoped she’d reconsider. She ignored him.

One other thing: she’s a lovely and fit 52, and he’s in his early 30s. She said she lived there for six years, and he was never anything but polite and gentlemanly. She never felt any weird vibes from him. Nothing. I would never have pegged him for a hound either, but a hound he is.

I told her that her life is exciting, but exhausting. The only drama around here is what’s for dinner, what will we plant in the yard?

Dinner tonight: Chicken Under Brick

Plantings: impatient plants, hostas, coral bells, ferns, bleeding heart, zinnia seeds…

Fact: Bella Rum wears 100% cotton grandma panties.


My Niece’s Move, My Brother’s Knee Surgery, H’s Niece, My Cousin, Doctor Visit

I’m at home today, so I thought I’d jog the blog muscle a little. Our life has picked up the pace recently.

As they come on the market, we’ve done a few drive-bys on houses in my niece’s price range, and we’re helping her move the last of her things to her storage unit on Saturday. It’s amazing how much easier it is to move if you have the time to do it. She started early since she isn’t waiting for a close date on another house. We helped her last Saturday and the Saturday before that. We finished before noon both times. A few big things remain: a wardrobe, sofa, washer and dryer. They will be a little awkward, but shouldn’t take long. A friend of her’s will help H, and H has ramps and a dolly and a hand truck, and straps. He is very good at this. My niece is so much fun to be around. I will be glad when she finds a house. She’s as picky as I am. So…

My brother has severe arthritis. One of his hips was replaced 17 years ago at age 53 (he needed it long before he did it). The other was replaced 14 years ago. They both need to be replaced again. Both of his knees are shot, so his doctor asked him where he wanted to begin. He chose his left knee. That was three weeks ago. He and H are the same age. My brother seems so much older.

I went to Marshall’s a few days ago, and hit the jackpot on tops. That never happens. I’ve complained that I don’t look like I’ve lost any weight. My DIL and niece both told me that my clothes were too big. I hate to buy clothes while I’m still losing, but I have nothing that fits and we’re going on vacation soon. I think I went a little crazy because when I tried things on in the dressing room, I could see a big difference. Not there yet, but progress. It felt good. I found white and black linen pants in my closet that I didn’t take to Goodwill, and that was helpful.

H is making noises again about climbing to the top of the huge tree in the front yard, and getting rid of a bad limb. I over heard him telling my son. It’s too high for him to reach with his pole trimmer.

We ran into H’s niece in Marshall’s. That was a delightful experience. I haven’t seen her in years. She’s as beautiful as ever, inside and out. H’s sister-in-law is turning 80 soon, and she invited us to a dinner for her. She told us that H’s 82-year-old brother (her father) injured himself while on a ladder replacing a window on the second floor. The window was resting in the frame but not attached when it fell, shattered and cut him badly in several places. There was an ER visit. It must run in the family.

A cousin I haven’t heard from in years called me yesterday. We caught up on family that I haven’t seen in ages. She told me that one of my cousins, while working on the roof of his barn, fell and broke his pelvis, one arm, and a few other things. His cell phone was at the top of the ladder. He had to climb back up the ladder to call for help. His recovery was lengthy and laborious. Can you imagine?

I went to my doctor Tuesday. She was pleased because I’d lost another 10 pounds since my last visit. A new nurse was shadowing the other nurse to learn the routine. She was showing her my info in the computer. She quickly went down a list of things, and all I caught was “fall risk assessment.” It made me feel old for a minute, but I know how much better I feel. I think it’s my cousin’s, H’s brother’s and H’s fall risks that need assessing, thank you very much.

Looking at Houses

After three practically sleepless nights in a row, I slept eight straight hours last night. Oh, my! What a difference that makes. Life is so much easier when you sleep.

Boy, did I ever have fun yesterday. I love spending time with my niece. We helped her move some of her things. When we finished unloading and moving it all into the storage unit, she showed us the stats on a house that was in her price range. She had more “moving” things to do so H and I did a ride-by for her. It was a charming little house: good roof, good neighborhood (which isn’t always true in her price range), large deck in the back, and lovingly maintained.

The photos of the inside were even better.

I called her and told her to drop everything and get her realtor to book a showing for her. She called her realtor, but it had gone under contract that day. It was only on the market two days. Things are flying off the market especially well-maintained and updated homes.

In the afternoon, we looked at two other houses with her. One was very much like the one we rode by, but it had not been lovingly maintained or updated, and the lot was a difficult one – especially for a single woman – with a steep bank in the backyard. It would be difficult for even a young man.

I love looking at houses. It’s even more fun when I don’t have to buy one. I will compulsively look online at everything that hits the market in her price range until she finds something.

Lunch, Refrigerators, Washers and HVAC

Patsy will be here around noon for lunch. The refrigerator repair guy is here now. H is in there talking to him. The guy is telling him all about it. H loves this stuff. He wants a play-by-play if possible. I just want an ice maker that makes ice and doesn’t leak. This is the fourth time we’ve had him out here. Instead of repairing the old one, he is replacing it with a new one this time. Let’s hope this one works for more than 18 months.

Oh, and the washer wouldn’t do its cycle this morning. It kept making funny noises. I cancelled the load and started all over, and it worked the second time. Fingers crossed.

Lunch is as simple as it gets. Grilled ham and cheese sandwich, potato chips for Patsy (not us), and lemon thins and coffee for dessert. The only time I eat bread anymore is when I’m with someone else for lunch. I splurge.

My DIL just texted that the HVAC guys are at her house to install a new heating/ac unit, AND it’s the kids’ first day of spring break. So she’ll have those guys and three kids all day. That right there puts my mean-reds’ post into perspective. What’s a little itchy eye and a headache? Absolutely nuthin’.

Honestly? Do you know anyone whose junk breaks down more often than ours?