They are the keepers of the peace. I am indebted and grateful beyond explanation.

It is raining today. Somehow it seems appropriate that the heavens would weep today.
I'm finally changing out the UGLY light fixture in my bathroom - I've hated this thing since the day we bought this house, some 18 years ago. It is one of those hideous strip of huge round bulbs, the kind movie stars supposedly have around their dressing room mirrors - actually it is two of them side by side over the top of the large mirror in the master bath. Hate them soooo much.

Here is my puzzlement. The directions for the new one calls for mounting it to a metal outlet box - there is no outlet box. The builder just cut a hole in the dry wall and ran the electrical line (the big cable thing with all the wires inside) through the hole. So, should I try to figure out how to put in a metal outlet box now? Or just leave it the way the builder did it. One would presume the house passed electrical inspection, so one would presume the way it was is ok - but then again one sometimes hears of houses burning down due to faulty wiring... Also, one of the light fixtures has just one of those electric cable things coming up - but the other side has two of them. I don't know why it would have two, is there something going on there I don't know? I don't generally mess with anything electrical, fear ya know, but I am pretty sure I can manage replacing a light fixture - except for this little dilemma I now find myself in.

Now I will go try to find the answer to my question - would be good if I could get this little project done before it gets dark, so I can turn the power back on...

Update: Fixtures in - like them much better. And they even work! Didn't electrocute myself but I guess we'll have to see if I burn the house down.

Not my first choice of fixtures but these are a step up and were on sale half off so I saved there and these started off about half the price of my first choice so they'll do nicely at least 18 years. If I can stand the ugly ones that long, I can surely put up with these that long. Now to finish painting the bathroom, then repaint all the towel racks, switch covers, and such and get the painters tape off so I can stand back and admire my handy work.
Still here, still going to post again eventually... Got the house all clean top to bottom (except my sewing room, still need to bring order to chaos there) - now I'm on to small repairs, painting, and replacing a few light fixtures. Deck to be pressure washed tomorrow, then sealed (again) - then there is all the monkey grass to be dug back and pachysandra to be dug out and MAYBE mulch spread, but here mulching means two dump truck loads (seriously) and that may take more money and elbow grease than I will have left by that point.
Bah-by Mr Specter. To you I say good riddance once again. We didn't want you, they didn't want you either. Heh...
My D1 is getting ready to open an Etsy store. She has begun sewing and wants to sell some of the things she enjoys making. Basically she likes playing with fabric more than she can afford and make more tote bags than she needs so she's hoping to sell a few in order to feed her creative muse's budgetary needs.

D1 has asked D2 to make some jewelry to add to the store in order to beef up her offerings early on. D2 is pretty darned good at jewelry creation (she made the vast majority of my collection) so she has made a few pieces. Problem with this jewelry idea is, of course, the cost of materials. For whatever reason, the cost of beading supplies has sky rocketed - like so many other things these days - so I don't know how successful sales will be (there is certainly no shortage of people selling hand made jewelry on Etsy)

Here are her offerings - not selling here, just sharing her work to see what you guys think of it. Oh, and remember - I am no photographer...

This first one is actually my mother's day gift :)

I'll get back to the trip and Cartagena soon - but it takes a long time to select photos, upload them, and such and the hub keeps taking the picture card and putting "away" so when I have a min. to work on the next trip post, I have to go hunt the pictures. More time I don't have.

Right now I am deep into the annual top to bottom, every nook and cranny, drawer/closet/cabinet cleaning. I need to get it done now while I have D2 at home to help with the regular stuff that fills my days, giving me time to do this extra stuff. It feels really really good to get everything straight and clean again. I hit areas through the year, here and there, but once a year cleaning every single thing is crucial to keeping the clutter at bay and some semblance of order and organization for the reminder of the year.

Just a quick update on the goings on around here:

D2 is all graduated from UNC - Go Heels!- She now has a BA in English Lit.
This is her departmental graduation. Small, intimate, they even called the young adults' names one by one and gave them their "diplomas" - rolled up blank paper, the real thing is mailed in Aug...

And this is the big deal. All 3,500 - give or take - graduating seniors streaming into Kenan stadium. I gotta tell you, can't help but get a little choked up when those Carolan Blue clad kids start down the isles.

And here the class of 2010 in its entirety

She's a Tar Heel born and bred.

Her plans for the coming year are in complete turmoil. She applied for the English Lit masters program at Carolina (they graduated less than 10 Masters of EL this year) - when she was turned down we were a bit surprised and a little irritated (I'm a mom, it's my job). She went to her faculty mentor in the program to ask him what she could do this coming year to increase her chance of being accepted next year. Guess what he said ---- Carolina had decided to eliminate the program starting now, everyone who applied was rejected and if they had not eliminated the program she would have been accepted. Makes her (and me) feel better a little, it is not that they rejected her after all... but sure would have been nice if they had let the kids know they were considering ditching the program - she could have applied for the masters in education program. Now it is too late until next year. Erg. With the new regulations for keeping kids her age on parents' health insurance in flux - no one seems to know what has to be done - she doesn't know how best to use this year. She will have to take some classes to remain a dependent, but we don't know how many hours. Making the wrong choice could cost $10,000 - so tensions run high. She wants to live in the Raleigh area because employment opportunity is better there than here - getting a job in Asheville is famously difficult - and because she would have access to classes both at UNC and NC State. She is leaning toward extra classes in Lit, Business, and Education - plus subbing in the public schools there and/or tutoring high school kids, volunteering at D1's school (working on their school paper, D2 has a good bit of background with award winning high school papers, working on the UNC paper, and attending summer journalism schools) - AND probably waiting tables or some other part time job to bring in money to help cover expenses for a non schooling (sort of) year. It will work out, but she is going to have to bust her butt.

As if all the changes in the life of D2 were not enough, D3 is in Ireland studying at the University College Cork (UCC) - music of course - for a few weeks this summer. She is in her element and seems to be having a great time. As soon as she gets back from Ireland she begins a summer session at App State. Plus she has a gig or two this summer and will teach harp and fiddle at an Irish Arts Weekend in Columbia, SC.

Rosalie seems to be doing well, finally. She is spending 10 hours a day outside and within a week we expect to be able to swap her back for her normal night turn out. We are riding her 5-6 days a week and she is even getting in some canter - again, finally. I'm holding my breath - it has been two steps forward, one step back so many times that I can't relax yet. But hope springs eternal.

Good thing all this activity is in the kids lives, I don't have the energy for it all - barely have the energy to be the mom involved in their lives.

BTW - a lot of the violence and turmoil in Bangkok these days is happening a block or so from the hotel where we stayed back in November. So glad we got our trip in before this mess started. Hate what this is doing to the country. They REALLY need their tourism industry.
These are the tiles we purchased.

And this is the little statue - wood carving - that we purchased.

I would love to have bought more items, there were certainly more I was interested in, but being the first stop we had a limited amount of American dollars (we did end up spending all of it by the end of the trip). Obviously in Haiti, craftsmen are not set up to take VISA. In fact, on the whole trip we only had the opportunity to use the card once. Of course, if I were the type to buy designer bags, emeralds, and other "duty free" type items I could have used the card plenty. But those are not the things I'm looking for when traveling. Or quite frankly any other time...
So, when we choose our trips - most of the time - the deciding factor will be educational value. At least so long as we are hauling kidlets with us, I suppose in a few more years when it is just himself and I we might choose places we've already been and just want to return to, or maybe strictly for rest and re-coop purposes - but for now education value plays a large role. This particular cruise was chosen primarily for the middle three stops. In Panama we chose an excursion which took us through the canal, in Caragena we chose an excursion that focused on the history of Columbia (particularly their Spanish colonial history), and in Costa Rica it was a nature exploration. Haiti, obviously, was limited in opportunity.

Let me address the expected reaction to visiting Haiti in a cruise ship at this particular time. When booking the trip, himself actually called the cruise line to ask questions about this stop. Here are the answers he got:

1) The area we visited was not affected by the earthquake - I can confirm this as all the buildings, including the mud and stick huts we visited, were completely undamaged.

2) The resort employs 300 Haitians, if the ships stop coming in, in addition to the other problems facing these people, 300 more would loose their jobs.

3) The ship not only unloaded masses of people intent on buying goods from the locals (and we did), it also unloaded pallet upon pallet of supplies. They have been delivering supplies regularly ever since the earthquake.

4) Haiti wants the ships to continue coming.

I felt very good about helping the artists from whom we purchased items directly. And I am tickled with our purchases of folk art. I love it you know... Direct aid, every dime directly to the parties involved, no corruption - no graft - it was a good thing.

A picturesque point as we made our way into the bay

Unloading our little group - guess who in the foreground.

Our own private (there were maybe 30 of us) beach for the morning.

A little Haitian flora - these sweet-peas where enormous!

Food crop - Haiti does not produce nearly enough food to feed themselves - but the pineapple is lovely n'est pas?

Our host - cultural and naturalist educator. He was gracious - and humorous - to a fault and seemed very proud to share with us. Our excursion, in addition to our lovely private cove, included some cultural display - home construction - artists at work - music - a little (very little) explanation of voodoo (I know, I know) - food preparation...

The boy and I bring up the rear as we enter the "home" meant to demonstrate traditional construction techniques.

These men are preparing cassava bread - from the root of the plant. The man in the foreground is pounding the flour and singing non-stop as he worked. He had a smile to light the day.

This man is actually baking the bread in an obviously large round form - we got to taste it. It was slightly sweet and, having been cooked in the open like this, very good - hearty, honest bread. I'd eat it any time. Don't you love his face?

Traditional Haitian hand drums. The whole time we are in this area there is a group playing.

She is grinding coffee beans, the aroma was heavenly.

This lady was making peanut butter - no additives. We got to sample - still prefer my sugar laden Jif

Now time for music, dance, and shopping!

We purchased a statue from this carver - I'll post a picture later.

We picked up a painted tile and several small fridge magnet sized paintings from him as well. Will try to get a picture of our purchases, but these may prove difficult to photograph - glare and all.

Poor boy pressed into service as a dancer - the young are always picked on - at least he is traveling incognito... The group who played and sang for us was called Pink Floyd (he was wearing a bright pink shirt) and the Yellow Submarines (they wore yellow t-shirts). They were fun - I bought a CD from them, self recorded and copied on their computers - very "un-produced", but I love it.

These final three shots are just beautiful spots - I must say, the small area we visited was stunningly beautiful. The people here struggle mightily, but I don't have to tell you that. Haiti is a mountainous country and much of their land has been denuded of trees - they have no other fuel. As a result there is much erosion and what little of their land is agriculturally appropriate is being spoiled - their ability to produce food shrinking all the time. I don't know how you begin to solve their problems.

Ok, fishing trip pictures as requested :)

The hub, being the master of finding travel bargains, booked us on a 10 day Royal Caribbean cruise. Our ports of call in order of itinerary: Labadee, Haiti; Cartagena, Columbia; Colon, Panama; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; George Town, Grand Cayman. But I will have to admit, the high light for me was the fact that this cruise included four "at sea" days. Four days of quietly sitting on our balcony and reading as the blue sky (well, there were plenty of clouds) and ocean went by. Bliss, much needed quiet, much needed rest.

As an aside, the night before we were to board, himself, the boy and I enjoyed a lovely Italian dinner at a charming, if unique in atmosphere and ambiance, Italian find - Casa Bella - the food was delicious, and I must say, it is the first restaurant conducive to conversation it has been my distinct pleasure to enjoy in years. The best part? We shared this meal with my blog mom Pamibe and her honey - the indomitable red neck flyboy:) It was wonderful to meet her in real life and put a face with the conversation we've had running for more than a year now.

So, on with the cruise...

Here we see the boy, not in the cabin more than a few minutes and he already has the new game system out and is stretched on the couch giving zelda a run for her money - or whatever it is boys do with those things. He slept in the pulldown located above his head in this picture. There is a curtain at the foot of the couch he is on and just to the other side of that curtain was the King Sized! bed (we have a queen here) and just on the other side of that bed was our balcony. I could usually be found on that balcony...

The obligatory exploration of the ship... here the boy and I are walking through the miniature golf course, you can see the top of the water slide and climbing wall here. These were located at the back of the ship - same level, front of the ship was the fitness center (Huge! I made use of the elliptical many times and kept the inevitable weight gain to an acceptable level) and jogging track.

The beautiful skyline of Miami taken from our balcony while we are still docked at the terminal

The skyline as we begin the trip - notice the low rent district in the central part of the picture. Most had yachts parked out front. Wonder what the tax value of those places might be...

Our escort out of the port of Miami. There were two of these Coast Guard boats - both with guns manned in the rear. They started off to either side of us then criss-crossed our path all the way out to the ocean. They stopped all boats and jet skies before any could get close to us. It was cool - and comforting - to watch. These guys meant business and got a yell and applause as they pealed off after we were well on our way.

Gray on gray - it was a dreary sort of day, but I thought it made for an interesting picture...

And so the sun sets on our first day aboard.

Day two was at sea and there are no pictures - as I said, quietness, blessed quietness. Day three was Haiti. Those pics tomorrow, lord willing.
This link takes you to a DIY network page. Following the obligatory short ad a video comes up. The sound for this video is a recording of my daughter's university orchestra - she is assistant principle cellist, not too shabby for a sophomore who didn't learn to read music until she had been playing multiple instruments for 10 yrs. The conductor featured in the little story is her conductor, Dr James Anderson. Thought you might get a kick out of a little bit of music and fun.