Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mission Accomplished!

Well, I did it, thirty blog posts in thirty days! This experience brings to mind something my fifth grade teacher, Sister Jolita, told us in reference to any book we would read, but is also very appropriate now. She would always ask us, when writing book reports, to write about what we learned from the book. Sometimes this was difficult for me, since I didn't really understand how I was supposed to learn something from a work of fiction. But Sister said there was always an opportunity to learn something from any experience, and this is true of my June Blogging Challenge.

Thing 1 that I learned is that people are opinionated; actually I already knew this but this experience has hammered that down quite well. Dr. Phil always says that opinions are like butts: everyone has one and they all stink. That might not be exactly true; in my opinion, my opinions never stink. :-) I have gotten some very interesting comments, and I appreciate that you all have shared them with me. I enjoy getting feedback, and I'm glad you are actually taking the time to comment on (and sometimes criticize) my blogs. That being said, there are some opinions and comments that I don't appreciate. Thankfully the only opinion that matters on this blog is mine, so you may say what you want, but keep in mind that this is my rodeo!

Thing 2 that I learned is that I can be creative and come up with a variety of topics about which to blog. I was afraid when I started this challenge that I would run out of ideas just a few days into it. Thankfully I was able to come up with thirty different topics and write a post of reasonable length every single night. This was so much more difficult than I thought, but at least I was able to come up with them! There were some nights I didn't have my post finished until almost 11:30, but I stuck to it, thought it out, and was able to produce a topic when I needed it.

Thing 3 that I learned, and this is probably the most important, is that I will never do this again! I thoroughly enjoy blogging, but this has been so much work for me. I really don't want to go back to blogging only a couple times a year like I have since I graduated from Xavier, but blogging every single day is too much! Once or twice a week would be ideal, so hopefully I can get on a schedule where that is feasible. Unless the outcry from my readers is so intense as to change my mind, the monthly blogging challenges are over!

So, I just wanted to say to all who have read my blog this month, Thank You! This experience has brought more hits than ever to my blog, which means that so many new readers are looking every day. I'm glad that there are people out there that find my writing interesting, and I'm glad you have come back over the last thirty days. I hope I can keep everyone interested in the future, and that you will keep on coming back! So I just have to say, Mission Accomplished!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

International Eating

The list of foods that I simply won't eat is probably pretty short. And most of those foods are over-processed "American" dishes that contain lots of salt, mayonnaise, or vinegar. I wanted to bring up some different types of food on my blog today, because my day was filled with two very different flavors from two very different cultures.

For lunch at work today, we had Mexican food from 3 Amigos here in Powell, which I would highly recommend for people in this area craving Mexican food. My favorite to get from there is the chicken chimichanga with rice and beans. Most of the time chimichangas are fried to a crisp and topped with various condiments like sour cream, pico de gallo, cheese (either solid or a cheese sauce), and guacamole. I prefer to get the chimichanga un-fried (or should that be fried-less), and the combo I get comes with just a simple cheese sauce. Mmmm. The restaurant also throws in a bag of chips, a cup of salsa, and a few pieces of sopapilla for dessert. It's great stuff!

For dinner tonight, my mom decided she wanted Chinese food, and we usually get ours from a local restaurant called China Jiang. I would also highly recommend this place to my local friends and family. My "usual" is to get sweet and sour chicken with an egg roll (mmmm), but today I decided to change it up a bit, since my lunch was so heavy and filling. This time I got chicken with mixed vegetables and an egg roll, and it was delicious! The portion size was so large that I'll be able to get at least two more meals out of it, which makes it economical too. More good stuff!

Of course my all-time favorite cuisine is Italian, and you can read about my most recent Italian experience on my Olive Garden post. I think I like Italian food so much because so many dishes are tomato-based, and I love tomatoes. Obviously there are Italian dishes that aren't tomato-based, but I like those too. Pizza is always a favorite for me, since you can change it up with whatever kinds of toppings you want. So, I could probably eat Italian food every day!

Obviously I didn't cover every single type of cuisine, so there are many more than I enjoy. What kinds of food do you enjoy the most? Are there any that I didn't mention that you find delicious? And are there any "weird" food likes that you have?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Harry Potter Time!

Well, not quite.

In case you have been living in a cave or under a rock, the last Harry Potter movie is coming out July 15th. I really don't think I can impress upon you how excited I am about this! And I don't think I can impress upon a non-Harry Potter fan the magnitude of this event coming in just over three weeks. But let me try. This franchise has completely changed my life; for one thing, it actually got me interested in reading. For another, it opened me up to a world of creativity that I have never seen before, and will probably never see again. I have such a great amount of respect for J.K. Rowling (the author), and I can't thank her enough for creating this amazing story for us.

I have written a blog post in the past explaining my relationship with the Harry Potter franchise, both the books and the movies. In case you didn't read that post back then, I came across the movies before the books. Yes, I had been introduced to the books first, but never really took an interest in them back then. It wasn't until the sixth movie came out that I really wanted to get into the books. I enjoyed that movie so much, and I wanted to know what happened next so badly, that I wanted to start reading right away. So I went to our local library and checked them out, one by one, until I finished them. I had set a goal for myself to finish the books before the second-to-last movie (representing roughly the first half of the seventh book) opened in November of last year, giving me more than a year to finish them. I figured with my busy schedule and my general dislike of reading at the time, I would have just enough time to finish. Little did I know that just three months later, I would have read all seven books, which for me was a real accomplishment!

At any rate, I am on the edge of my seat waiting to see the last movie. Of course it comes out on midnight July 15th, and there's no way I can go to a midnight premier, sit through a two or three hour movie, and still get up for work in the morning. Yes, it's tempting, but it's just not feasible! But you better believe it that I will be seeing that movie that weekend! And although I'm thoroughly excited to see the end of the story portrayed on film, it's still going to be sad that the whole thing is over. The great thing is, though, that the books and the films will be around forever, much longer than I will be. I, for one, will continue to re-read the books and re-watch the movies until the pages fall out and the DVDs don't play any more!

Who else is excited for the newest Harry Potter movie? What kind of Harry Potter "collections" do you have? I have the box set of the books in hard cover, as well as all the movies on DVD, for example. Will you be seeing the midnight premier of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2?" And how will you feel once the last scene is played out and the movie-making is over?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Missing Tennis

Wimbledon is going on this week, and I am missing it! Most of the matches are televised during the day, and of course I work during the day. Of course nowadays one can watch anything online, but I don't want to sit on my computer for hours watching tennis after work. I guess there are re-cap shows on at night, so I'll have to see if any of those come on tonight.

I've been so out of the tennis loop lately that I don't even know who the players are! Nadal and Federer are still at the top of the men's sport, of course, and the Williams sisters on the women's side (though I heard they are both out of the tournament now). There are a few others that I know, but all the up-and-coming players that are new within the last two years, I have no idea who they are. That's really unfortunate, because tennis is one of those sports that has a pretty frequent turnover of players usually. Some players stick around for decades, but that is rare. For our sake, however, I hope Nadal, Federer, and the Williams sisters stick around a good long while (among others).

Is anyone keeping up with Wimbledon? I know that Kathy is an avid tennis fan, but she has yet to post a Wimbledon blog! Who's looking good this year? And could someone please inform me about who are the top players now? I'm hoping to at least see the finals, since those are at least played on the weekend. But it would really be nice to know what is going on before the very end!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weeding the Garden

I enjoy gardening. Maybe I should rephrase that though, because there are parts of gardening that I enjoy. I enjoy planting flowers, shrubs, trees, and other plants in a garden, or in the ground in general. I enjoy watering and fertilizing plants when needed. I don't mind getting my hands dirty in the process, and I don't mind the hard work involved in digging, tilling, or any other preparatory process. But there is one step of the gardening process that I hate, HATE: weeding.

This is very unfortunate because our garden is badly in need of weeding. I did do some weeding last week, but with all the rain we've had this past week, I'll need to keep on top of it. We put down some plastic to stop the weeds the year we bought mulch, but it can only do so much. It does prevent weeds from sprouting up through the ground. Unfortunately, grass clippings, seeds, and spores got into the mulch and sprouted in the mulch layer. Then it's only a simple step to grow a few inches into the actual ground, and have a strong root. AHHH you weeds!

I guess the reason I don't like weeding is because it's a never-ending process. Yes, watering and fertilizing are never-ending, but they can take of themselves at a certain point. A little bit of mulch can provide enough nutrients for a couple of years, and rains such that we've had lately provide more than enough water. Weeding is hard work, and sometimes the weeds grow in among the regular plants. It's frustrating to me that I might accidentally pull out part of the healthy, desired plant just to get rid of the weed! Plus, those weeds are so resilient that if you don't get the entire root out, it will grow right back! Argh!

We did have a tiny helper in the garden today, though. I was looking outside prior to writing this blog and saw a baby rabbit hopping and sniffing around. He was only about the size of my fist, and seemed to enjoy eating weeds! Now if we could only get a few more of those, the entire garden would be weed-free! I only wish that I could have gotten a picture before he hopped away. That little bugger was adorable!

What parts of gardening, if any, do you enjoy? Do you mind pulling weeds? If the answer to the second question was "no," when can you come to our house and pull our weeds?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Olive Garden

Since most of us were working on the actual day of my parents' 25th wedding anniversary, we decided to go out to dinner this weekend when we were free. Ryan did have to work, so it ended up being just my parents and myself, and we chose to go to the Olive Garden. This apparently has some historical significance, since my parents have gone out to Olive Garden to celebrate many a wedding anniversary.

The first thing we noticed and enjoyed about our dinner was our excellent seating. We were given a booth in one of the back rooms of the restaurant that sat in a cozy corner. It made for an intimate gathering for family appropriate for an anniversary dinner. The food, of course, was delicious! My mom had a chicken and pasta dish with white sauce, spinach, and tomatoes, which I tried and found excellent. My dad had a garlic Parmesan tilapia dish with Mediterranean-style veggies; again I tried it and liked it. I had stuffed chicken Marsala, which was grilled chicken stuffed with tomatoes and cheese, topped with Marsala sauce and mushrooms, and came with garlic mashed potatoes. Mmmmm... We added in a bottle of wine (which we finished), and topped it all off with a chocolate cake dessert that we split. Delicious!

One highlight of the evening came after the dinner and wine were finished. My mom had made a joke that we should get to take home the silver wine bucket, since it was indeed their 25th (silver) wedding anniversary. My dad said this jokingly to the waiter, and he very sincerely agreed to do so! He didn't give us the one we used tonight, but did have one that had been given to him by the restaurant that he very graciously gave up! What a nice gesture, don't you think? So now we have a genuine wine bucket for the future. Whether or not the bucket is actually made of silver is still up for debate, but of course, that is completely irrelevant.

All in all, it was a great dinner, and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We may have over-indulged a little bit, but you don't celebrate 25 years of marriage every day! I took a couple of pictures while there, including one of the wine bucket we took home, and one of my parents sitting together, which I have posted below. Great job, Olive Garden!



Friday, June 24, 2011

My Saturn

As I was driving to work today, thinking about what topic I would use for my blog tonight, it occurred to me that I should write about my car. Cars in-and-of themselves are not especially interesting; sports cars and convertibles might be something better to blog about. My car is by no means extraordinary. But maybe that's why I wanted to write about it.

I got this car right after I turned 18. I hadn't gotten a car on my own, since I wasn't able to do so without a co-signer; I really didn't want to bring anyone else into the picture. So I waited. And luckily for me, a used car lot not to far from us had several good deals to offer. My dad knew one of the salesmen, so he was willing to go out of his way for me. As it turned out, the car I now own was being re-possessed due to the then-owner's late or non-existent payments. However, at the time I first saw the car, it was not yet for sale, since the business was not yet in full possession of it again. The salesman said we would be the first he called when the car became available, and he kept his word! I got first dibs on this green '97 Saturn SL2, and I was so excited.

Something that made this purchase even more interesting was the fact that my friend Aaron had the exact same car, a green '97 Saturn SL2! His was slightly more up-scale than mine, since he had a sunroof, but mine was hooked up to hold a CD player in the trunk, so we were about even. My dad came to pick me up from school one day, and drove up in the Saturn! He had gotten the salesman to lend him the car for a test drive, and when we got back to the office, we would draw up paperwork! I had no idea this was going to happen, so it was a little overwhelming at first. But after the papers were signed and the deals were made, the car was mine! I got to drive it home that night, and my days of car ownership began.

I have been through so much with this car, for better and for worse. The "worse" has been all of the work I have had done on it. I have replaced a fuel filter, a radiator, several air conditioning repairs, an entire engine, several sensors, and a set of tires. In all, I have far exceeded the $3500 I paid for the car initially! I'm sure I have blogged about most of my car troubles, and they have all been frustrating. Probably the most frustrating was the story of my radiator going out as we pulled in to unload my things on my first day at Xavier. Just imagine clouds of smoke issuing from under my hood as I wait in line with the other freshmen! Luckily I have a great support system in my family, and was able to get that all fixed up and worked out.

That little car has been back and forth to Cincinnati at least 20 times (a low estimate), so it was my life line while in college. It has been on family vacations, grocery store trips, trips to the gym, drives around town, and to and from work. It gets me where I go, and for the most part is a solid transportation vehicle. Sure, I've had my frustrations, but in general I get what I want out of my car. I could have bought a brand new car after my engine went out, but who wants to have car payments? I hated payments when I had them for this car, and was determined to pay it off as soon as possible. That came in less than two years, so I was very wary of taking that on again! No, this way I could hold onto something that was already mine, and instead of getting something I couldn't afford, I would just manage with what I had. That mentality has really come in handy for me! Ahh my little Saturn...

What was your first car? Was it something you grew to cherish, or did you just want to be rid of it as soon as possible? Do you have any good stories about one of your first cars, or even your cars now?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Y

We have been members of our local YMCA for the last several years, thanks in part to the time we spent at the Y's in Florida at which my grandfather teaches. Attending his aerobics classes got us motivated enough to look into joining and starting our own exercise regimens. Of course, this wasn't the first time we had been Y members. When we were younger we had a Y membership which we used mostly for swimming. Our Y has an indoor-outdoor pool that was perfect for us kids at the time. The canopy stays up year-round, but they pull of the sides to open it up to the outside. That way lounge chairs can be placed outside so that the adults can lay in the sun.

Since we started going back a few years ago, I have developed my own work-out routine that I have pretty much stuck to ever since. First, I do a cardio work-out for 30 minutes on an elliptical machine. I set the resistance up to a setting of 8, which over the years I have determined gives me the best work-out without tiring me out too much. The machine takes my age and weight so that calories can easily be calculated, as well as measuring my heart rate and determining how well I am performing cardio-wise. The machine then adds an additional five minutes for a "cool down," in which it drops the resistance to about 4 or 5. In the course of 35 minutes, I usually stride about three miles, and burn about 350 calories.

After the cardio portion of my work-out, I move on to the weight room. I am not too skilled with free-weights, so I choose to use the weight machines that target the various muscle groups. We were given a thorough tour and demonstration of all the weight machines, and since then I have been able to easily set the machines to my specifications. The number of sets and the weight used varies based on what machine I use, but I always use the same rotation in machines: chest (pectorals), triceps, biceps, calves (gastrocnemius and soleus), and abs. Lately I've been doing my sets and then starting over to do one more set on each machine. That way I'm completely maxed out on each machine and can feel it in each of the muscle groups.

One perk of my health insurance (which started in February) is that they will reimburse me for attending a fitness center. I signed up for the Healthy Track plan, which is cheaper and provides this perk, among others. The stipulations are that I have to provide proof of membership payment and a list of the dates that I attended said fitness center, which must both be obtained from the center itself. The insurance company will only pay out anything if I can prove I have attended my fitness center 100 times in a year, or 25 times in a quarter. If I have met those qualifications, I can receive quarterly payments of $25, or a yearly payment of $100, whichever I prefer. Since that averages out to about two visits per week, and since I have been going an average of three times a week, I can easily meet those requirements.

I actually went to the Y today after work. Though I don't usually like to go after work, since I have to work this Saturday, I was needing another day to go this week. I usually go on Saturday and Sunday, and pick a day I get off earlier to go as well. Since my schedule changed due to our hours being cut, most days I get off work at 6:00 or 7:00, and I'm finding it more difficult to get to the Y, though not impossible as can be seen from my trip to the Y today. I find that going to the Y helps me relax and generally makes me feel better, so I enjoy going. Obviously the health benefits are huge, since the insurance companies and physicians so highly recommend it. This lowers one's overall health expenses and helps keep us in shape.

What do you do to stay in shape? Do you have a health membership at a place like the Y, or do you have your own exercise equipment? Do you like to go running, walking, biking, or anything else outside instead of the comfortable air-conditioned room of a gym? And are you given any incentives to work out at a place like the Y, as I am?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rain, Rain, Here to Stay?

Would you be surprised if I told you I love rain storms? I think it's pretty obvious by now that I love snow, what with all the snow-related posts on my blog over the last several years. But perhaps my real love is for precipitation in general. I guess there's just something about the power of water that interests me.

I am one of the few people I know that enjoys it when it rains. This year we have seen many record storms with record rainfall in the course of a day. The amount of rain we have received has been so excessive that most people are sick of it. But not I! Obviously I want to have some sunny days too, but the rainy days can be just as enjoyable to me. This is especially true on days when I am working, because if I'm going to be stuck inside anyway, it might as well rain. Plus there are so many things that one can do stuck inside on a rainy day: play board games, watch movies, read good books, and the best thing to do during a storm is NAP! I always sleep better when it rains, and taking a nap while it's raining can be pretty refreshing.

Probably the top reason I enjoy rain is because it sustains life. Many people don't think about that when the constant precipitation "ruins" their well-laid plans. It's funny to me that the basis for all life causes so many people to cease living! I don't change my plans just because it's raining, unless of course the plans were to be outside the whole time. The way I see it, it rains somewhere every single day, so we might as well accept that today it's raining here. Not to mention that the beautiful flowers and plants that we love to see in spring and summer rely on that supply of rain to grow so beautifully.

Today has been one of those days when the rain has come down as a deluge. We've had two or three straight days of rain, and many thousands of people have lost power during the course of the latest storms. Luckily our power only flickered for a short time last night, and there has been no real damage to this property or the ones immediately surrounding it. All of the destruction, the lightning and the thunder, and the power of it all just amazes me. To witness something so much more powerful than myself, and something completely out of my control, is simply astounding. I encourage all of my readers to think this way regarding the rain, instead of a major inconvenience. The weather doesn't care about your plans, and it will do what it has to do! Just remember that we need the rain and that rain is a GOOD thing!

Do you all enjoy thunderstorms? Or are you one of those people that hides under the bed when storms come through? Can you see the beauty in the rain? Do you cancel your plans when it rains (including travel or indoor plans), or do you embrace the rain and enjoy yourselves anyway?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

25

This post is coming pretty late tonight, so hopefully it will get posted before midnight! We had some pretty strong storms blow through tonight, which included some short power outages. But all is good.

Today my parents celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, and I am so proud! They were married June 21, 1986, and what a time it has been so far. I was an early development in this marriage, coming only nine months later! (I guess that makes me a honeymoon surprise!) My brother came along three years after I did, and we remain a family of four. There have been lots of ups and downs, but obviously the ups have outweighed the downs, or we wouldn't be all together right now.

I have been so blessed to witness what it is like to have married parents for all of my life. I can count only a few of my friends whose parents are still married to each other; I guess that's just a sign of the times, but it's still kind of sad. Obviously married people are going to fight and have problems, but you don't stay together for 25 years if you don't know how to resolve conflicts. I can attest to the fact that this has been a key to my parents' marriage, built on a foundation of trust and unconditional love.

I feel doubly blessed to have a set of grandparents who have been married for close to 60 years, which is truly remarkable! Both sets of couples have shown me great examples of what good marriages are like, and as a product of those marriages, I can honestly feel the love they bestow both on each other and their families. I do paint a pretty flowery picture of marriage, which I know isn't true of all marriages. It also isn't true of the good marriages all the time, as I'm sure my married readers will agree. But what does make a good marriage is being able to overcome the odds together, to make compromises, and just stick it through together. Both my grandparents and my parents have shown that they have what it takes to make good marriages last, and for that I am so blessed.

So the main point I wanted to make with this blog post is to wish my parents a Very Happy 25th Anniversary. I am so happy to be a part of this family, and I thank God every day for each and every person who is a part of it. I hope that 25 years from now I can post about my parents' 50th anniversary, and be even more proud!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Windows Down, Radio Up

I had mentioned a few weeks ago on Facebook that I had experienced one of my favorite "life moments." My mom and I were talking one evening and for some reason she started laughing. As she tried to explain why she was laughing, I started laughing too. When all was said and done, we were both laughing hysterically and couldn't breathe, and tears were streaming down our faces. I've never really figured out why we cry when we laugh really hard, but it was a great feeling anyway.

At any rate, I bring this up because another one of my favorite life moments has to do with music, which has been a topic for a couple of blog posts lately. That moment happens when I'm driving along and a really good song comes on the radio. However, it only works out if I'm driving along really fast and there's no traffic ahead! At that moment, the windows get rolled down and the volume gets turned up high. Sometimes people may look at me and think I'm crazy or annoying, but honestly, I don't care!

The choice of song usually doesn't matter; any really good song can do. The only necessities are that it has to be a good driving song and must sound great when turned up loud. A sad love song simply will not do. That being said, though, the song doesn't have to be happy. Basically it must be something you can sing along too, meaning you know all the words, and it makes you happy to sing it. Yes, it may be embarrassing to rock out to a certain kind of song, but if it makes you happy, you should do it anyway. Music is all about tastes and preferences, and just because someone else doesn't understand your choice in music, doesn't mean it isn't great to you.

Personally I like to blast music from the 70s, 80s, and 90s the most. Those were the decades of loud rock 'n' roll, power ballads, and epic guitar solos. Sure, there have been some before and since those decades, but in my opinion, they were the best. Many of the songs I enjoy with the windows down and the radio up have particular memories associated with them that I relive every time I hear them. Maybe I heard a particular song during a fun trip or a memorable summer with family. Or maybe friends and I heard a song while we were just hanging out, and had a particularly good laugh about it. All those memories come back to me, and it brings a smile to my face, which is what music is supposed to do, after all.

Are there certain songs you like to blast with the windows rolled down and singing at the top of your voice? Or are you a stick in the mud that doesn't like to have any fun??? And if you are the former, is it more fun to be driving along alone, or singing along with friends and family to back you up?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Car Registration

I decided to take a break from the music posts because of something else that came up recently that I wanted to post.

I renew my car tags every year in June. The state usually sends a renewal letter the month before the registration expires as a convenience. Of course, not getting a letter does not exclude one from renewing one's registration, since it all comes down to personal responsibility (hey, remember that other blog I did??). I usually take advantage of the fact that the Knox County Clerk has several offices around the county, including one at a local mall. I pick a specific weekend or a day off during the week to drive down there and pay for my registration. And while I'm there, I can walk around the stores and maybe get some lunch.

This year is a little bit different. Since I don't get week days off anymore, and my weekends are becoming increasingly busier, I don't have as much time to get across town as I used to. The mall is about fifteen miles from home, so round-trip that's about thirty miles; with gas at $3.48 this week, I would end up burning just about that $3.48 in that one trip. In years past, it was always more cost-effective to drive to the County Clerk's office to register, but this year, that $2.00 fee for mailing it in was looking good to me. Our registration is $60.00 a year, so an extra $2.00 is not a huge deal.

But then I saw on the literature that I could register online! Hot dog! That would be simpler and quicker than mailing it in, and I figured they wouldn't charge me the $2.00. Well I was wrong. Not only do they still charge $2.00 to mail the new tag, but they also charge a "convenience fee" of $2.48! So on top of the $60.00 I was going to fork out, they add $4.48 just to do it online. Thanks, but no thanks! I opted to send in my check through the mail, pay the $2.00 extra, and wait for the tags by mail. Oh, I guess I forgot to factor in the cost of a stamp, but then again, I can't remember how much I paid for the book of stamps I purchased several months ago. At any rate, I figure I saved about $1.00 registering by mail versus driving to the mall (or another equivalent County Clerk satellite office), and saved $2.00 versus registering online. I guess I can still call that "coming out ahead," right?

What are car registration costs where you live? Do you have emissions testing where you live (because we do not)? Do you have convenient ways to register your cars, or do they charge you extra like they do here?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Stevie Nicks

I'm sure I'll get a lot of clever comments from Uncle Tim about this post...

It's no secret that my favorite musical artist of all time is Stevie Nicks. There is just something about her voice that is totally unique, and it is pleasing to my ears. She is a very strong, independent woman, and pretty much every song she has written reflects that. Of course there are also songs where she shows her vulnerability and tenderness; some of those are the ones for which she is most famous.

I really "got into" Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks when I started college. Before that time, I had heard their songs on the radio, and enjoyed them. They also played on the store radio at work, though at the time I didn't know who sang those songs. Once I got to college, the songs piqued my interested even further, and I was able to access everything I wanted to read, see, or listen to regarding Stevie Nicks on the Internet. One of the first music videos was to a song called "Gypsy," which soon became my favorite Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac song. I will post the music video at the end of this post.

There is just something about Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks music that just makes me happy. Maybe it has to do with how mellow and laid-back the songs are, and how interesting the lyrics are. Or maybe it has to do with how artistic the music videos are for the songs. Or maybe it has to do with the on-stage personas of the artists themselves, especially Stevie Nicks' as a mythical witch figure. I think it's probably all of the above! Whenever I was having a particularly stressful day, I could turn on the Stevie Nicks music and it would calm me down and relax me. The "Gypsy" music video in particular cheered me up because of how artistic and happy it is. I hope you all will find it that way too.

Is there a Stevie Nicks or Fleetwood Mac song that you enjoy?



Friday, June 17, 2011

The Power of Music

My last two posts were dedicated to a rant concerning proper use of the English language. The next couple of posts will be dedicated to the art form that most inspires me: music. I don't know a single person that doesn't enjoy at least one type of music; even deaf people can enjoy the vibrations from the sounds, or the other artistic portions of a musical act.

Just this morning, I realized how eclectic my musical taste is. On my way to work, I have a very limited time to listen to music, since the trip is only about three miles, or around ten minutes. I turned on the radio and instantly found a song I liked on the soft rock station. When that song finished (it was only on for a minute or so), I turned the station to the classic rock station, and found a song I liked. Once again, I joined it about half-way through, and changed to the pop/contemporary station once it was finished, and found yet another song that I liked! When that song finished, a sort of hip-hop/pop song came on that I liked, which I got to listen to all the way through. And finally, when that song finished, I turned to one of the "mix" stations, and found a song I liked! How unusual it is that I instantly heard songs that I liked on a radio station! And even more unusual, given that all the stations play different genres of music.

The song that I wanted to share today is a very inspirational one to me. I very much enjoy music from the 70s and 80s when listening to the radio, but religious music has a very high appeal to me as well. I don't generally listen to Christian or other religious stations on the radio, since it's not exactly my cup of tea. Most of those stations reflect opinions and worship styles of certain denominations, and as a Catholic, I enjoy some of the religious music we use in our worship. There are some exceptions to this, of course, but in general, the type of Christian music played on the radio doesn't appeal to me.

I wanted to share a YouTube video with a song based on Psalm 23 today. Anyone who has been to any kind of Christian church (especially during a funeral) is familiar with this psalm. The lyrics are very comforting to those who are grieving, but is also inspirational and hopeful to those who are not. This particular rendition was the theme song for the British TV comedy called "The Vicar of Dibley," which used to be shown on our local PBS station on Saturday nights. It's a hilarious program, but the theme song is spectacular. It's a choir version of the psalm that is so beautiful, and I hope that you all will enjoy it. After you watch it, let me know what you think, and also what kinds of music you like.



Thursday, June 16, 2011

There Their They're

Last night I expressed my frustration at the way some people speak. Tonight I wanted to discuss one of my other pet peeves: the way people write.

Once again, I am an educated person, and I try to write like I am. Blogs, e-mails, letters, papers, etc. should always have excellent grammar and spelling. I even carry this over to text messages, which for all intents are purposes are supposed to be less formal. That being said, I still like to use proper grammar and spelling, just because. The English language is our tool, and like any tool, can perform most effectively when used correctly. Let me go over a few of my spelling/grammar pet peeves that really grind my gears.

There, Their, They're
This is on of the most popular offenders that I see. "There" is a pronoun referring to a place. "Their" is a possessive adjective that reflects ownership by more than one person. "They're" is a contraction of "they are," referring to a quality of more than one person. I can't stand it when people don't get it right! To me, it's pretty simple, but so many people seem to have a problem with this one.

To, Too, Two
This is a common occurrence online and in text messages. "To" is a preposition, "Too" is an adverb, and "Two" is the spelling of a number. I frequently see people leaving off an O when trying to convey "also." I don't know if it's just too difficult with the keys or what, but again I think they are pretty simple.

Your, You're
This is the one that grinds my gears the most! "Your" is a possessive adjective, and "You're" is a contraction of "you are." So often I see "your welcome," or "your so funny," or a phrase similar to that. Come on, people! I think it might frustrate me because "you're" is made from two words, and it just doesn't make sense to use the other phrase. At least in the second case I presented (to, too, two), all three words are spelled so similarly, and it is a simple mistake to make while typing. This one just gets on my nerves the most.

Plural nouns used as singular, and vice versa
One of the first things I learned as a science student was how to write a scientific paper. Proper grammar and spelling were essential to conveying one's point, and care should be taken to do so carefully. "Data" is a plural noun, and therefore the subject/verb agreement must be as such. I have heard so many people say "the data is..." as if "data" were a singular noun. Grrr! As one of my professors used to say, "The data are the data."

The converse of that is a word like "none," which is singular. A common phrase begins "None of us..." and usually ends with the person using a plural verb. A correct phrase would be, "None of us has had lunch yet." These are a little less obvious, so I'm a little more forgiving when I hear people use this one incorrectly. Now, however, everyone who has read this blog should know how to use these words and phrases correctly!


Are there any words or phrases that you see misspelled frequently? What are some errors that frustrate you, either at work or in everyday practice? Do you think that proper spelling and grammar are important even in everyday uses like e-mails, text messages, and social media?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Speaking English

In the course of my life, a lot of money has been spent on my education. My parents sent me to private Catholic schools from K-12, and I went to a private Catholic college for four years. That's a whole lotta money! Why do I bring this up? Because as a person who has been well-educated in great places of learning, I should speak as such. To not do so would be a complete waste of those education dollars.

I live in the South, and just like in any region, people speak in a specific manner. Accents are one thing, and colloquialisms are funny and sometimes endearing. I have no problem with these things. What I don't like is when the phrases or ways of speaking go against the normal rules of the English language. One of my favorite words to use is "y'all," which is a contraction of "you all," and therefore follows the rules of English. Most phrases and sayings are the same way.

Let me give you a specific example of something that drives me insane. One person I talked to on the phone recently said something that sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. When referring to her husband's medication, she said "his'n." AHHHH! The last time I checked, his'n isn't a word; it makes no sense! I also believe I have heard the same woman use the word "ain't," which is a pretty common occurrence around here. It drives me mad when people say it! She could just as easily have said "his" instead of "his'n," and could have said "isn't" instead of "ain't." I honestly believe that some people don't think before they open their mouths.

In my opinion, you don't have to be well-educated to speak the English language correctly. You just have to surround yourself with people who do, and you will, too. Obviously I am not perfect, and I'm sure there are things that I say that are not grammatically correct. The point is that I always try to speak (and write) in a way that reflects the quality education I have received. I do hope that my blog posts reflect that also!

Are there any specific phrases that drive you mad? Are there any specific people you want to rat out that say things you can't stand? Or are you guilty of saying certain phrases you aren't proud of?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ummm...Weiner

I don't profess to be a current events expert by any means. In fact, other than what I can find on our local news or what I hear from my peers at work or on social media, I don't pay much attention to it. I am so busy most of the time that I don't get around to checking the news. Obviously being ignorant is not an option, but I try to be as informed as I need to be without being overwhelmed but all the bad stuff out there.

That being said, I have been discussing "Weinergate" a lot lately, mostly at work. I can't open a webpage, or turn on the TV, or check Facebook without seeing a status, a story, or a video showing something about Anthony Weiner's weiner. It has been a topic of discussion at work lately with one of our pharmacists, especially since he was just in Washington, D.C., when the story broke. I have to plead ignorant to some of the details of the whole thing, but I know enough to form an opinion and to share it with you.

The man is obviously a slime ball, which is only part of why I have a problem with him. The fact that he was attempting to send that picture to one or more women to whom he is not married is pretty despicable. And how embarrassing to put his wife through such a mess! She obviously doesn't deserve that, and he should be ashamed. Sexting is just as bad as cheating; actually I would say sexting is cheating. I'm sure we'll find out soon enough whether that was all that was going on with said women, but for now that is despicable enough. Then to make matters worse, he mistakenly sent the picture to Twitter, where it was sent around the world instantly. And once you post something online, it never goes away! (I admit though, that's a pretty good thing for my blogs!)

What I really wish is that this would quit making the rounds on the news. Do I think he should resign? I honestly don't know the answer to that question. If he were my representative, I would probably say yes, but I think that's up to the people of New York. I have heard that the top Dems have said he should step down, so obviously he has become a laughing stock of the party. I wouldn't want such an embarrassing figure as one of my representatives to Congress.

But now, what's the deal with him checking into a rehab program??? Is that really going to make a big difference in the greater scheme of his career, or are people going to see right through that? I don't know the answers to those questions either. Does every person in the limelight go to rehab whenever there's a problem? That's something that has always puzzled me, because when normal people get into trouble, they face the consequences and admit they messed up. What are your opinions on the Weiner matter? And do you, like me, wish that Weiner would go away?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Peanut Butter M&Ms


I love peanut butter. There's really no simpler way to say that! So you can imagine how much I must like any kind of candy that has peanut butter in it too. Chocolate and peanut butter are a match made in heaven, and it's great that so many companies have capitalized on that concept! My favorite candy is Reese's peanut butter cups, but a very, very close second is peanut butter M&Ms.

Despite the fact that these candies are so popular and delicious, they haven't been around for all that long. Reese's pieces have been around for quite a while, and I can remember enjoying those as a kid (not that I don't now, just saying). But peanut butter M&Ms are a little bit different than Reese's pieces. The M&Ms are larger than the Reese's pieces, but as far as I can tell that's the only difference, apart from the obvious marketing. You can't miss all the clever M&Ms commercials that appear day and night on television, and why would you want to?! These tiny, delicious spheres of chocolaty-and-peanut-buttery goodness are what it's all about.

During my days at Xavier, peanut butter M&Ms were mainly a treat I reserved for laundry nights. When I lived in the dorms, the laundry rooms were in the basement, and were usually adjacent to a recreation room. They also contained snack and drink machines, and right on the top row were the peanut butter M&Ms. I would start my laundry, buy some candy, take them back up to my room, and relax in front of the TV while the laundry finished. I couldn't stand doing laundry, and couldn't bear to sit in that room and wait. The M&Ms were a small comfort that helped me relax after a long week of class and studying, and I probably ate way to many of them during that time! But hey, they are delicious after all.

At the top of the page you can see a picture of the unopened bag of peanut butter M&Ms that I obtained today. Obviously it doesn't stay unopened for long (see below). I try not to over-indulge nowadays though, since I know candy like this must be enjoyed only occasionally and not all the time. Now that I've gotten my lab results back from the doctor, and my cholesterol was a bit higher than we would like, it might be time to put these (and other desserts) off to the side for a while...but hopefully not for too long! Moderation is key, after all.

What's your favorite candy? Are you a peanut butter fan as much as I am?


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pasta Carrabba-ish

My all-time favorite sit-down restaurant has to be Carrabba's. We first ate there in Florida when visiting my grandparents, and I have loved it ever since. I could literally eat Italian every day!

One of the dishes that I used to get on every occasion we ate there was Pasta Carrabba, which is basically fettuccine alfredo with chicken, mushrooms, carrots, and peas. The veggies are tossed in with the pasta and sauce, and the chicken is grilled and served on top. Mmmmm! What makes it even better is some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Since that was one of our favorite dishes to get when we went out to eat, we liked being able to eat it at home too. It's not a difficult dish to make, though it never quite turns out like the restaurant version. That was on the agenda for dinner tonight, and yours truly was in charge of the cooking! I wanted to go over how I made it, just as a way to get all of my readers a little bit hungry...

First I cut up some boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cooked it in a pan with some olive oil until well done. While that was going, I boiled some water to get the fettuccine pasta cooking, since that is the rate-determining step of the whole process (about 11-12 minutes). I also added some salt and pepper to the chicken and set it to the side for later. The alfredo sauce was made using a seasoning packet from Knorr, and we used two of them to have enough sauce to cover a box of fettuccine pasta. The sauce is really easy to make, and only requires some milk, margarine, heat, and constant stirring. To the sauce I added one can each of mushrooms, peas, and carrots, and heated them through. I drained the pasta, added the chicken to it, poured the sauce with veggies over it, and mixed it all together. Et voila!

It was delicious, if I do say so myself. All the colors together really made it an attractive dish. I served garlic toast with it, and though the Parmesan cheese wasn't fresh, it was still the perfect addition to the pasta. Like I said, it wasn't exactly the same as the authentic Carrabba's version, but it was a close match. If we had taken the time to grill the chicken, it would have been even closer to the restaurant's, but this way it's simple and takes less time. So, it's a great idea when you want something that is quick, cost-effective, and tasty without going out! Here's a picture to help get all your mouths watering; let me know if you try it and what your results are!


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Working on Saturday

I don't work a lot of weekends now that I work full time, which I consider a perk! This Saturday was a different story, but for good reason. I had my doctor's appointment set for Thursday, so I switched off with one of our other technicians. I just have to say though, I hate working Saturdays!

The weekends are usually our least busy days, due to the fact that most doctors' offices are closed. There are no prescriptions sent in, which cuts down on our volume. Most of what we do on the weekends is fill refills and ring people up as they pick up their ready prescriptions. But what about all the "free time" we have??? Trying to find something to do can be frustrating, since we like to keep everything in check at all times. So when we do have a spare moment, there's not much to choose...

Saturday is usually project day, the day when we work on things we didn't have time to do during the week. This usually entails a thorough cleaning of the entire pharmacy, and any other projects that need to be done. Today's project for me was re-setting the shelves, which we usually do every few months. It's boring, tedious work, but at least it's something to do! Did I mention that I don't like working Saturdays?

Even though on busy days I might not admit it, I prefer working on busy days. Of course, we'll be having a lot more busy days now that corporate cut ten hours from our weekly labor budget. Luckily, my hours won't be affected, but that does mean less help when we are busiest. Summer is usually less busy that fall and winter historically, mostly due to the fact that people aren't getting sick as often. Also, patient compliance goes down due to vacations, nice weather, and kids being out of school. But still, there are times when we need that one extra person so that we don't go crazy running around with four or five things to do! Oh well; hopefully by the time flu season rolls around again, we'll get our hours back. I just hope I don't have to work a bunch of Saturdays between now and then...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pizza

I'm actually finding it difficult to stay awake tonight, so forgive me if this post isn't as lengthy as the other ones!

I think pizza is something that all people can agree they like. Of course, each person will say that he or she enjoys certain toppings, and detests other toppings. Personally, I have never had anchovies or pineapple on a pizza, but I know people who like them. I also know people who like no toppings at all, that is to say, they like "cheese pizza." In my opinion, and to paraphrase something I saw someone else post to Facebook one day, cheese is not a type of pizza, but an essential ingredient in all pizza. There's nothing wrong with eating a pizza with no toppings, but at least admit that cheese is not a topping!

We have a special deal with Papa John's in our area in which we can get a discount on lunch when we order at work on Fridays. So, obviously, it's always a good idea to get pizza for lunch on Fridays, which we did today. Our favorite to get is the Garden Fresh, which includes onions, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, and black olives. Since I detest black olives, and since we like to have some extra protein on there, we take off the olives and add pepperoni. Yum! Papa John's has some of the freshest-tasting pizza that I've had from a large chain, so I enjoy getting pizza from there. The veggies are fresh, the crust is perfect, and they put just the right amount of sauce. Excellent!

As it so happens, we also had pizza for dinner (I had forgotten that we had already discussed what was for dinner tonight). Since Papa John's is a bit farther from us than it is from work, we usually get ours from Pizza Hut or Domino's when ordering from home. Tonight we got Domino's, much to the chagrin of my father, I'm sure, since he prefers Pizza Hut. On my pizza, I got chicken, tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions. It was delicious! For me, the toppings are very important, but the most important parts of a pizza are the crust and the sauce. If there's not enough sauce, I'm unhappy. If the crust is too thin or underdone, I'm unhappy. Luckily, neither occurred tonight! I also enjoy how Domino's seasons their crust with garlic and herbs, since it adds that extra flavor that makes it great.

One very successful pizza place in the Knoxville area that isn't a chain is called Big Ed's. It's probably my favorite pizza of all, but since it's a bit of a drive from us, we don't go there that often. It is always loud and busy, and you usually have a pretty long wait to get in if you don't get there early enough. The sauce is excellent, the crust is excellent, and the atmosphere is definitely something else. Big Ed's is an heirloom of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and has been around for many, many years. The pictures that line the walls include some famous people that have dined there (if I were better-prepared, I could have mentioned some of those names here, but alas, I am not), as well as pictures of the larger-than-life founder, the real Ed. It's a great place to go with friends or family for dinner, and I would definitely recommend it for anyone interested in it.

What kinds of pizza do you all like? And what is your favorite chain, if you have one? Or even better, what's your favorite all-time pizza, whether it be hole-in-the-wall, or upscale? And do you have guilty pleasures or unusual toppings that you crave?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Waiting

It's amazing how much time we spend waiting in the course of our lives. As I wrote this, I was waiting in the doctor's office to have my yearly physical. Personally, I don't like waiting very much; I can get impatient if I have to wait longer than, say, ten minutes for something. Obviously waiting in the doctor's office is a norm that everyone has to endure for the good of their health.

But there are some places that I absolutely hate HATE waiting! One of those is waiting at traffic lights, but really it only bothers me on my way to work. There are a total of five stop lights on my way to work, and if you hit them just right, I can get to work in less than ten minutes. However, if you hit it just wrong, each light can add 2-3 minutes to my drive time, and it's amazing how often that does happen!

Another place that requires waiting that drives me insane is any kind of fast food restaurant. I should be happy that I can get cooked food so quickly, right? Well for someone that only gets a 30 minute lunch, waiting in line can eat a great chunk of time. Obviously I should be glad to even get a lunch break (as was pointed out by Aunt Debbie, who spends her lunchtime playing referee in the grade school lunchroom), but it still makes me mad!

Our patients at work are always playing the wait game, and I hate that for them! Most of the time it takes us about 10 to 15 minutes to complete each prescription, if there are no problems. We give ourselves enough time to fill the prescription and also handle patients picking up at the counter or drive-thru, and also answer the phone. Sometimes the wait times can get long, if there are several patients waiting or picking up, especially on days when we do not have enough help. I hate telling people they will have to wait longer than a few minutes, since I hate doing it myself! So I try my best to work quickly, efficiently, and precisely to make sure our patients get the best care we can give as quickly as possible.

What are some pet peeves you have when it comes to waiting? And how do you deal with the time spent waiting?

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Ice Cream

In general, I don't eat a lot of ice cream. Don't get me wrong, it is delicious, but most of the time it's too rich and heavy for me. There are, of course, exceptions to that rule. Case and point: tonight!

As I already mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, it has been unseasonably hot here in East Tennessee lately. Our normal highs are in the mid-to-upper-80s for this time of year; I would kill for those kinds of temperatures right now! (Well, not necessarily kill, but you know what I mean.) Our highs have been in the mid-to-upper-90s over the past two weeks or so, and several days have had their temperature records broken. Those kinds of temperatures make it much more appealing to me to eat ice cream!

I have worked in a grocery store for 8 years, and I can speak with authority that ice cream is a major seller, no matter what season it is. There is always a brand of ice cream on sale during any given week, and people will stock up when it is! There are also several ice cream businesses that make great money, mostly in the summer. Some of those are Dairy Queen, Marble Slab, Brusters, Cold Stone Creamery, etc. (Which is your favorite?) But for me, I like to keep it simple.

Lately a lot of brands in the grocery store have rolled out single-use or single-serve containers. They package all your favorite flavors in single serving cups and sell them separately. In our house, it works out great, since none of us likes the same flavor all the time. For example, my dad likes plain chocolate, my mom's favorite is Turtle Tracks, and my brother and I like cookie dough and peanut butter cup (or Moose Tracks) flavors. This way, we can each get a flavor we like without having to buy three or four quarts of ice cream. Each one costs about a dollar, which would be equivalent to buying a quart of ice cream and splitting it between the four of us. My mom likes that it portions it out for you, so that you don't over-eat. That may be true, since I've never eaten more than one at a time, but the convenience of it is even better.

Tonight, I enjoyed peanut butter cup ice cream, and it was delicious. I try not to make a habit of it, but there's nothing wrong with enjoying it every once in a while. And if the weather is going to stay in the 90s for yet another week, I'll need some more ice cream. Bring it on!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Personal Responsibility

A recurring theme at work for as long as I have worked in the Pharmacy has been a lack of personal responsibility on the part of some of our patients. We had a patient today (and she is one of many) who will pretty much take whatever drugs her doctor prescribes without question, but who also has no earthly idea what it is she is taking. I guess it's nice that she trusts her health care providers (her doctor and her Pharmacy), but ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your health.

Personally, I always want to know what kind of chemicals I am putting into my body. If I am prescribed a drug (and I have thought this since before I started working in a Pharmacy), I want to know everything about it that I can. I want to know its name, its purpose, possible adverse effects/interactions, etc. But maybe I'm alone in wanting that...

It's understandable (to an extent) to be unable to spell or pronounce the names of your drugs. The names are difficult and sometimes convoluted, and they can be difficult even to those of us in health care. Also, for someone taking multiple medications for the same purpose (for example, sometimes people can take multiple blood pressure medications if just one does not do the job), it may be difficult to keep up with them. However, as I said before, it's important to know what is going into one's body.

A person's health care is ultimately his or her own responsibility, with the obvious exceptions of minor children and seniors who can't take care of themselves. It is frustrating to think that some people give so little thought to their own health care, and expect that someone else will figure out what is best. Yes, we in the health care professions are charged with doing what is best for our patients. Yes, we will do just about anything in our power to make sure our patients get what they need. But without that underlying understanding and sense of responsibility, our work is for nothing! We can't force you to take your medications, we can't control every aspect of your care, we can't help you if you can't at least try to help yourself.

One of the most common requests we get on a day-to-day basis is to contact a physician to authorize refills on medications. Most doctors' offices have a process for authorizing refills, and in general get back to us with an answer in 48-72 hours. Blood pressure, cholesterol, and other "maintenance meds" are usually approved without question. Others require that the doctor check blood work or obtain an office visit, which we in turn convey to the patient. Sometimes, however, the office takes longer to respond, which frustrates the patient. Several times, we have been scolded by our patients because we haven't gotten a response. First of all, the fact that we contact the doctor's office in the first place is a convenience that we offer our patients. We don't have to make that call, but we do to expedite the process and provide good customer service. Second, we can't control what the doctors do or don't do, and to suggest that we have any say in the matter is ridiculous. Third, and most importantly, the relationship in play here is not that of the pharmacy/doctor, but that of doctor/patient. If you aren't happy with how your doctor is responding, make the call yourself; most of the time, the offices want to hear from the patient anyway to see how they are doing and if they are being compliant. It all comes down to personal responsibility.

One last thing I should say is that by no means am I saying we won't provide excellent care and service to our patients. Obviously that is our job and we want our patients to be healthy and happy. That being said, take some responsibility for your health, and it will make everyone's jobs easier, and we'll be able to give more time and attention to you and your needs. We enjoy what we do, and it can be fulfilling work; we are in a caring profession and intend to stay that way. As they say (whoever they are), an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this can be a vital part of taking responsibility for one's health care.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Hummingbirds...Or Lack Thereof



That is a picture of our completely full hummingbird feeder that I took yesterday. We've kept it out for at least a month now, and have yet to see the fluid level drop significantly. Hummingbirds, where are you???

Yet another of the perks of summertime is the opportunity to watch the hummingbirds feed outside our window. They have to be the most interesting birds in creation, at least in my opinion. They are so tiny and cute, you just can't help but watch. The fluttering of the wings always amazes me; I don't have a factoid about how fast the wings beat, but you can always Google that. I like watching them take a drink at the feeder; sometimes they land with their tiny feet on the perches, and sometimes they just hover and feed at the same time. There have even been times I've been outside when one or more of the birds have been hovering, looking to get a drink. The noises that those tiny wings make sound like an approaching car up close!

Needless to say, it's been disappointing that the hummingbirds haven't made a habit of visiting our feeder yet. As of today, I have seen a total of ONE hummingbird, and he didn't stick around for very long. However, he did happen to be the most vividly colored hummingbird I have ever seen! (I know he was a male because the males are more brightly colored.) He had a dark green body with a white underside, and a bright red belly that matched the color of the feeder. Beautiful! Hopefully he will make a return visit, and tell his friends too.

Am I the only one missing out on the hummingbirds this year, or has anyone else noticed their absence? I know several of my family members have feeders in their yards or on their porches, so let me know what the hummingbird activity has been like lately. I'm hoping that it's just been a little too early to see them in full form, and that the best of this summer is yet to come.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Easter Lilies in Bloom

Lilies are my all-time favorite flowers. I don't really know why it is, they just are. They smell great, come in many vibrant colors, have a unique shape, and are just all-around beautiful. Easter lilies are the ones that I see the most, but of course they are only sold commercially around Easter. I have seen some bright red ones and some yellow ones in person, but I have seen pictures of many other colored lilies. Awesome to behold!

A year ago, I bought some Easter lilies from the store to bring home for Easter. Usually at the end of their blooming cycles, the leaves start to die and eventually the whole plant collapses into a pile of nothing...or at least that's what usually happens at our house. Last year, however, we decided to plant them before they died off completely. They lasted for a few extra weeks, but soon succumbed to the hot summer and lack of rain.

Fortunately though, lilies are bulb plants, and the bulbs survived the hot summer, the lack of water, and the cold, icy winter! What a surprise it was to see those unique leaves poking out of the ground this spring! We only planted two plants, but from those bulbs came four new plants this spring. And what was an even bigger surprise was that they bloomed! I had read that it might take several years to bloom again, but apparently ours are super lilies! Not only did they bloom after only one season in the ground, but each plant has 5 or 6 blooms!

I took some pictures today, since the flowers have started to open to full capacity over the last several days. They are attracting bees, butterflies, and other insects, so they must smell great! I haven't gotten close enough to smell them due to said bees, but they do look great! Hopefully these blooms can stick around for a while, since they really do add to our garden right now. Most of our other flowering plants have already bloomed once, and are now in the losing-their-color stage. It really can be rewarding to get your hands dirty in the garden every once in a while!



Saturday, June 04, 2011

White Beans and Bow Tie Pasta

Here's the first food blog of my June Blogging Challenge!

We were wanting to do something light and "summery" the other night, and I thought of this recipe. It was something we first tried many years ago at my grandmother's house, and we've been enjoying it ever since. It's actually very simple, and yields great results with very little effort. The great blends of colors and flavors gives it a summer feel, and since we've had summer weather lately, it seemed appropriate.

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups cooked Navy/Great Northern/Canellini beans
1 large tomato, chopped (~1 and 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup fresh parsley or basil, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (2 oz.)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 box bow tie pasta

Directions:
In a 12" skillet, heat olive oil over low heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes or until lightly colored and fragrant. Stir in beans, tomatoes, and minced herbs and cook for 7 minutes, or until heated through and tomato has released its juices. Sir in the Parmesan cheese and lemon juice. Serve over cooked bow tie pasta. Serve hot or at room temperature. Will keep for 2 days. Garnish with basil leaves, if desired. Serves 4 as a main dish, or 8 as a side dish.


See, simple! And it tastes great, too. I will have to admit though, this time we used fresh basil (we usually use a combination of dried parsley and basil) and it wasn't as flavorful. I would say use a combination of the two as opposed to just one or the other. And if you use fresh instead of dried, you'll need a little extra. Just my opinions, but judge for yourself! And check out this picture of the final result of our meal, which included a salad and garlic bread as side dishes.


Friday, June 03, 2011

Blackberry

My new favorite possession is the Blackberry I bought right before my birthday this year. I had been unhappy for some time with my then-current phone, so I decided it was time for a change. Sure, a Blackberry is pretty expensive, but I knew that many people had them and loved them. After looking at several different phones, I had pretty much made up my mind that the Blackberry was for me. I have Virgin Mobile phone service, and since they had a Blackberry for what I deemed an affordable price and an affordable plan, I got it.

The one issue for me with buying a phone plan is that I'm not particularly talkative when it comes to phones. I feel that texting can be much more efficient at times, since most things that I need to talk to people about only require a short answer. Plus, I can't always engage in a full-on conversation at work; that would be inappropriate. But for a question that doesn't require an immediate answer, and can be posted in a certain amount of characters, texting is perfect. So I was able to find a plan with unlimited texting and a fair amount of anytime minutes. I may not be talking for hours a day, but I at least need some to make all the calls I have to make in the course of the day.

The other major perk for me was the many applications that Blackberry offers to its users. Facebook and Twitter were a must for me, since I like to keep in touch with what's going on in social media. If someone posts to my Facebook profile, or else comments on the same feed I did, I can find out instantly on my phone. An icon appears on the desktop to let me know how many notifications I have, so I can check them at my convenience. And with a full keyboard, it's simple to post statuses and Tweets without having to sit down at a computer. (And since our Internet access at work is heavily blocked, if I want to post something online from work, I can easily do so from my Blackberry.)

One final perk that I have enjoyed so far is the camera feature. The camera on my old phone was good, but took small, fuzzy photos. This camera takes full-size photos with great resolution, and can store hundreds of them. Plus I now have a video feature that was not available on my old phone. These photos and videos are easily accessible, and easily shared via e-mail, text, or uploaded to Facebook/Twitter.

All in all, I'm glad I made that investment to get the Blackberry. There are still many, many things that I have yet to learn, but I try to figure these things out as I go along! The features I would like to better utilize would be the calendar (right now I only have people's birthdays and my mostly constant work schedule), Twitter (I post to and check Facebook almost exclusively right now; it's the one I'm more familiar with and used to), and the Internet browser. Until such time as I can completely master all the features, which I don't expect to be any time soon, I will just muddle through with what I know. For now, that's plenty, and I'm enjoying the new conveniences of having a "smart phone."

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Fuzzies

There are some days when I prefer the company of animals to the company of humans! Ok, actually that would be most days. People are rude, obnoxious, and selfish. Now, don't get me wrong, I still have a great deal of faith in humanity; there are so many more good people in the world than those to whom I just referred. But on busy days at the Pharmacy when every little thing takes a great deal of time and energy, I appreciate animals so much more.

Over the course of my life, we have had four dogs, two of which are still with us. Ever since the age of three when we got our first dog, I have been a dog lover. I couldn't say for sure whether or not I am a cat lover, since we never have had any, but I have always enjoyed being around other people's cats. My love of these cute little fuzzies has spread to other animals, both wild and domestic, so that now I am just an all-around animal lover.

Obviously it's easier to love cute, fuzzy, small things because hello, they're adorable! It's harder to love something that's scaly, feathery, or slimy. Now to be honest, I don't particularly like snakes, spiders, and many other "bugs," but I still value their place in the animal kingdom, of which we are part! Each animal has a unique role in our world, whether they are pollinators like birds, bees, or bats, or as food for larger animals. I'm not as extreme about animals as someone in PETA, but I will always stand up for fair treatment for those that have no voice.

At any rate, I wanted to devote this blog post to our two current dogs, Halo and Skye. We got Halo right after I started the eighth grade, from the local shelter. She was only a few months old, and had been a stray on the streets of Knoxville. She was a very shy puppy, and we believe that at one point she was abused due to how she behaved around humans at first. Any time we would go to pet her, she would cower as if we were going to hit her. But after we spent some time with her and saw how sad she looked in that cage, we had to have her. Her personality came out soon after that, and she began to trust us and behave naturally around us.

At first, and I hate to admit this, I didn't want another dog. One of our dogs at the time had died, and I wasn't prepared to replace her. But now I couldn't imagine my life without Halo. She sleeps with me, I take care of her, and she gives me the unconditional love only an animal can give. She is always happy when any of us comes home, even if it has only been a few minutes since we left. She is now eleven years old, but she still acts just like a puppy! Sometimes caring for a pet can be a challenge, but oh now rewarding having Halo has been!

The other dog we currently have is named Skye, and she is a full-bred border collie. She came to us after our neighbor bred her border collie and gave away/sold the puppies. We were lucky enough to get the chance to get Skye when she was only a few weeks old, and she was still able to visit with her mother and the remaining brothers and sisters. Of course, having a brand new puppy has it's many challenges: chewing, whining, and most especially leaving messes all over the place. We were spoiled by the fact that Halo came to us house-trained, and had to figure out how to get Skye to be a good girl. We knew from the get-go that having a border collie would be interesting, given that those dogs are so smart and extremely energetic! We soon found that there was no way she could stay inside.


Although Skye isn't as lovey dovey as Halo is, she still has her ways of being affectionate. We now keep her in an outdoor pen, and give her the chance to run around and play whenever we can. On those opportunities, or whenever we go out to feed her, she affectionately lays her head on us and looks up with her big brown eyes. She is very playful and spunky, and acts like the stereotypical border collie. We call her the "border baby," and even though she is an outdoor dog, we still try to include her whenever we can. She's a little wild, but I guess that's what happens when you live outside all the time! Plus, she is the perfect watch dog, and she barks to let us know whenever anyone comes near the house. Even though she can get noisy at times, I still enjoy having her around; watching her fetch a toy or a ball is just a fun experience.


In short, I love our fuzzies! I couldn't imagine my life without them, and I'm so glad we have these canine companions. It's such a rewarding experience to own pets, even though it can be difficult and tiring at times. It's especially rewarding to come home after a long, frustrating day and see those happy faces and wagging tails. How can you be mad at that cute little face???