Friday, April 28, 2006

Couple blogs to check out

Work has been really slow lately (thus the post at 4:00 on a weekday afternoon). In the down time, I have been doing some blog reading. I discovered two great blogs I wanted to share, in case you too have a lot of spare time to kill. I've read both of the blogs in their entirety, which is a testament not only to my boredom, but to their interest level.

The first is called "M in the UK," about a girl from Canada (I think) who is in London for the summer. She recounts her explorations of the city and posts some great photos. It has some good tips, too.

The second is called "...ontherails," written by a British guy who moved to Canada and is taking a 30 day train trip across the United States. His writing is vivid and wistful. He's made it all the way to California now, and should be posting soon about his latest adventures. He talks about a really cool-sounding program called the Hospitality Club, which basically hooks up travelers with a host who has a spare bed or couch. I love that something like this exists, even if I would never be able to take advantage of it (or act as host, for that matter). Single gal, safety, and all that.

I stumbled upon both of these blogs simply by clicking on "Next Blog." Ninety percent of the time, it's gobbledy-gook, but occasionally you come across a nugget that makes wading through the muck worthwhile.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

California, here I come!

Right back where I started from. No, I'm not moving back. I'm going to a wedding. My friend Erin is getting married in July and I'm taking two days off work to make a long weekend and flying out to Los Angeles. Apparently Delta now offers non-stop service from Raleigh to LAX, which is good news. I try to avoid flying anything but non-stop (read: spoiled travel brat). The justification is that it's actually the cheapest flight. I bought my ticket today. Woo hoo! I wonder if it will be weird to be there. Probably.

I joined a gym! It is the most fancy-schmancy gym I've ever seen in my life. The cardio room must have at least two dozen treadmills, the same number of ellipticals, as well as steppers and bikes. There are six huge plasma TV's mounted on the wall, with the sound broadcast on FM frequencies. The room itself is at least three stories tall, so it feels very expansive. Upstairs there are more treadmills, ellipticals, and bikes, but each with their own individual TV that you can plug your headphones into and change the channel on. There's even a cinema room, which is dark, with ellipticals and bikes and a huge projection screen with a different movie daily playing on a constant loop (yesterday was Ghostbusters). There's the usual complement of weight equipment too, but I don't use much of it. They have a "women only" room, but I feel comfortable enough in the main gym not to need that. They offer tons of classes, including yoga and pilates. There's even an indoor pool. I don't see myself using it, but you never know. The locker rooms are very well appointed. Free shampoo, conditioner, lotion, even q-tips. Private showers. The works. It's the kind of place where you actually want to go work out. So I'm a member now and hopefully some of these pounds I've packed on since moving here will start to melt away, just in time for summer. I worked out today and discovered just how out of shape one can become in seven short months.

We had another bad thunderstorm last night, around 10 pm. I was just going to get into bed when the lightning picked up. It was ridiculous! I saw more lightning in five minutes last night than I did all my years in California. The thunder wasn't as bad as last time but it was still enough to keep me up. I didn't even bother trying to sleep through it. I sat on my screened porch in my comfy Adirondack chair listening to the rain fall, the thunder clap, and the trees blow in the wind. I got my cat carrier ready just in case. All it takes is one well-placed bolt of lightning, and the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!

Being an American Idol fan, I figured I'd give our local version a try. I've watched "Fox 50's Gimme the Mike" the past two weeks. Oh my. It looks like a glorified cable-access show. The talent would not even make it past Idol's first round, and the judges are broken records. "You need some vocal work, but good job."

Speaking of American Idol, what were the judges thinking last night dissing Katherine's performance? I thought it was awesome. It gave me goosebumps! And then Paula crying during Elliott's? Dude, that is messed up. I listened back to both his and Katherine's and his did absolutely nothing for me at all. I think he will be in the bottom three, along with Paris.

Found out at work today that we will in fact get Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day off as paid holidays. Yes, these are a given at most offices--especially ones where 95% of the customers are schools, for Pete's sake--but they are not official holidays for my company. Thankfully, though, we will get them off and we will be paid. Happy news.

I'm attempting craftiness again, with my friend Tammie's gift tag swap. It's like my postcard swap, but with gift tags (duh). I have high hopes that it will be easier for me than the postcards, though, because there is no theme and the creation does not have to go through the postal system naked.

Delayed response photos. Here are some pictures that I should have put up in my last post, but didn't. First, some Galloway cows from Fearington

and second, the Apple Chill festival.

Lastly, some unique flowers. All the young girls (high school age) were walking around with these, and I thought they were cute. Only when I saw this container of them at the Planned Parenthood booth did I realize what they were made out of. Yeah, I'm a little sheltered.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Apple Chill and Flowers

Lots of things flying through my head...many of them labeled "possible blog fodder." However, I seem to run out of time every day before I get a chance to write. So, quickly.

Went to Apple Chill on Sunday, a big festival in Chapel Hill. Turns out it will be the last one. After 35 years, they are shutting it down due to violence. Three people were shot last night after the festival ended. Sad.

After Apple Chill, we swung by Fearington Village and checked out the gardens and cows. Lovely and adorable, respectively.

Spring rocks my world.

Had a murderous drive home. The bugs would be fully justified in labeling my car as a weapon of mass destruction. The windshield was a splatter-ama but it was nothing compared to my front bumper. Gross!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Oui oui

This post will probably interest only one reader (that's you, Coupy-coup!) but that's reason enough to post it if you ask me. And I like the little graphic too.

Your French Name is:

Monique Foucher

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Trader ventures southeast

I've mentioned before how one of the things I miss the most from CA is Trader Joe's. It is an awesome kinda-gourmet-but-cheap-and-not-snobby grocery store. The closest one is in D.C. After I first moved here, I wrote a letter to TJ's corporate headquarters outlining all the reasons why they should consider opening a store in the Tar Heel State. I didn't send it, though, because I didn't have my printer yet (it was still on its way, packed in the POD) and I just never got around to launching my grassroots letter-writing campaign.

So I was delightfully shocked to hear that Trader Joe's is already scouting locations for a store here in the Triangle. The rumor is that they will lease the old Winn-Dixie spot at the intersection of Kildaire Farm Rd. and Cary Parkway. If they shake a leg, it'll open in the fall. Sweet! Can't wait!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Some like it hot

I certainly don't. According to my Yahoo weather widget, it's 88 degrees outside. Hardly sweltering by many standards, especially given the relief that can be had with air conditioning. However, I seem to be having heat issues lately. Not only is my car overheating, which means no A/C for me when I drive (and often it also means I must blast the heater and choose between my face and my feet feeling like fire), but also now I've discovered that my apartment A/C is not functioning. I always seem to have bad luck with air conditioners. I haven't lived somewhere where it works reliably since the late 90's. In my last apartment, I turned it on one day to discover it was blowing uncooled air. I let it go for about an hour before I gave up and opened the windows, only to find that the ocean breeze had kicked in and I didn't need it anymore anyway. That was one awesome thing about my last apartment. Awesome airflow.

Anyway, I called the office and they sent someone over pronto (about an hour). That's one reason why I like corporate-managed apartment living. Anyway, the guy's been down there for about half an hour and he's got tubes running from the HVAC unit to a small aqua-colored tank that I can only assume is freon. He's just standing there staring at it. Maybe that's all he can do while he waits for the magic to happen. What do I know? The air coming out of the vents does not seem to be any cooler, but we'll see. Luckily the humidity is low today (32%) and there is a decent breeze.

Latest. The guy came back upstairs and disconnected some sort of copper tube and found a whole bunch of sandy stuff inside. He said it's supposed to be clean as a whistle, so who knows how that gunk got in there. I hope he's able to fix it today, because tomorrow is supposed to be another scorcher, but with thunderstorms in the afternoon. Nice and steamy.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Long time no post

Sorry for the down time. My apologies for not keeping things fresh for y'all. Last week I just didn't have anything to say. Then I went out of town for the weekend and was still recovering from the exhaustion on Monday. Tuesday night was knitting. And tonight I had to run to the store because my hair dryer decided to stop working. Plus I had to be home by 7 to sign my apartment lease renewal and meet my dad. Whew!

I was in Washington, DC on Saturday and Sunday. My dear friend Nicole, who is still a teacher back in California, was helping to chaperone her school's Spring Break field trip to our nation's capital. I was a super lucky duck in that I got to ride on the bus with them and see the sights. You can see the best of my photos in my Flickr album, but here's a little collage:

Everything worked out great logistically. Their hotel was in Springfield, VA, which happens to have a Metro station with free parking on weekends. The Metro rocks.

It rained on Saturday and was cold and gloomy, but I was so excited to be with my friend that it didn't matter that much. Sunday was glorious, which made for killer photos. The drive up there Saturday AM took about 5 hours, while the drive back Sunday night took about 4.5. My car was running hot the whole time, so luckily it was cool enough that having the heater on was acceptable, and even welcome. But this weekend it's supposed to be 90 and I need to get this problem taken care of so that I can use my A/C with peace of mind.

One of the coolest things about the trip to DC was that they have Trader Joe's there and I was able to stock up on some of my favorite things. I also got some vittles for the folks, who are likewise missing TJ's. They really need to build a TJ's here. It would do a booming business.

The rest of the week is going to be busy, but hopefully this weekend I'll be able to take a breath and relax, and post some more.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Holy thunderstorms, Batman!

Today the weather decided to wake us up out of our complacent reverie. We had what I'm told was an incredibly mild winter (no snow or ice to speak of) and spring had been coming along rather nicely. Before I went to bed last night I saw the forecast for thunderstorms, but didn't think much of it, because we had occasional thunderstorms in Southern California, and they were nothing to get your panties in a twist over. And I'd even been through a couple purported thunderstorms here. Those were mere tea parties, my darling, because this morning was the real deal.

I was awakened around 5:30 am by some thunder but it wasn't terribly loud. Then I saw some lightning and started counting. One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand, etc. I got to eight. Bigger thunder. More lightning. I could see it through my eyelids (I was still lying in bed hoping to go back to sleep). The rain started. Before I knew it, the lightning and thunder were on top of each other, and the sound was phenomenal. My rational side said there was nothing to be afraid of, but part of me was a little tail-between-the-legs because it seriously sounded like we were under attack. We're talking B-I-G B-O-O-M-S here.

I made the idiotic mistake of picking up Comet to try and comfort him, and of course a big clap came at just the right moment for him to dig his claws into my flesh. Yeah, learned that lesson quick.

I'd say the peak of the storm lasted no more than 10 minutes, but what a thrilling 10 minutes it was. My heart was pounding and the adrenaline was pumping and I had this giddy grin on my face every time I saw the electricity illuminate the sky because I knew a big boom was soon to follow. I attempted to record the sound by taking a video with my camera but it of course does the roaring and cracking no justice.

When I got to work this morning, the weather was the talk of the office. Then around 9:50 it started to get dark. Not just cloud-passing-in-front-of-the-sun dark, but pitch freakin' black. Seriously, it was like night outside. Street lights came on. Freak-ee. It proceeded to rain and there was more thunder and lightning, but nothing like this morning. The darkness was the coolest part of that leg of the storm. Oh, and watching it progress on radar. I love the web! I took this screen shot so I could show you what it looked like:

Fierce, huh? (To see this map with indicators of where I live and work, click here. Mouse over the white boxes to see my notes. How cool is Flickr??!) I mean, it was no hurricane, and the rains weren't even torrential, but for a So Cal girl, this is the closest thing to real weather that I've experienced. I'm told the summer thunderstorms can be even worse, so we'll have to see. Oh, and did I mention that we're under a tornado watch tonight until midnight? Cut to evil villain cackling, "You wanted dramatic weather, you got it!"

It was warm here this weekend, and by that I mean in the low 80's. I have savored the scent of the earth thawing. The bugs seem to like it too. They were out in force (although it's probably just the scouting contingent) at my parents' house in Pittsboro. Lots of moths and beetles, as well as some other big icky things I can't identify. The cicadas have decided to start serenading us with their oh-so-pleasing constant buzz. And the birds are still chirping at all hours. The thunder shut them up for a while, but soon they were right back at it. I must admit, though, that when I go out onto my screened porch to have a gander, it's delightful to see several different species instead of the same two that we had back in CA: brown and black.

One lamentable result of the storm: the tree in front of my building, which had lavished us with its gorgeous white blooms for the past couple of weeks was stripped of all the petals during the wind and rain. What's left are the budding green leaves, which although not as glorious, are still a welcome sight.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

100 Things

I noticed that a lot of people have "100 Things" posted on their blogs. I thought I'd join in.

100 Things
  1. I have never had a cavity.
  2. According to Picasa, 10,102 photos reside on my hard drive.
  3. I like to take pictures.
  4. I save everything.
  5. I worked as a professional petsitter for six months in Los Angeles.
  6. When I was in fifth grade, I calculated how much I could make running a full-time babysitting business when I grew up. It was $350 a week. I showed my teacher and she commented that it was more lucrative than teaching.
  7. I taught junior high history and Spanish for five years. Despite how miserable it made me, it’s the job I’m proudest of.
  8. I have had six different addresses over the past ten years. This is not counting college.
  9. My first trip on an airplane was at age 19, when I flew to Washington, D.C.
  10. Since then, I have flown to Boston, Chicago (2x), Charlotte, Paris, and Rome, as well as a second time to D.C. I have flown out of, but not into, Venice.
  11. I was a vegetarian for about 8 years. Then I began allowing myself chicken and turkey. I swore off poultry for a year after seeing chicks hatch at the science museum in Chicago, but am now back to eating bird.
  12. I wanted to be a vegan, but could never imagine giving up cheese.
  13. I saw the movie The Lion King four times in the theater, and I saw the Broadway version three times at the Pantages.
  14. I lived without TV for a year, by choice.
  15. I graduated magna cum laude from the University of California, San Diego in three years with a B.A. in history. I almost went to Pacific University in Portland, Oregon, but decided it was too small (1500 students) and too far away from home.
  16. I often wonder where I’d be if I’d chosen a different college or a different major. Or even just taken four years.
  17. Our parents allowed my best friend and me to go to San Francisco by ourselves between our junior and senior years of high school. I am still amazed by this.
  18. I have yet to save a single penny for retirement. Many, many chide me for this.
  19. I have climbed Saddleback Butte, elevation 3651 ft., in the Antelope Valley. This is the closest to “mountain climbing” I will probably ever come. I did not have my camera with me. Or water.
  20. The only time I have ever stayed up all night was for Grad Night at Disneyland. Oh, wait. Also the night before I had to move out of my last apartment. Guess which one was more fun.
  21. I have run two 5k’s, both in 2004. At my best I could run a 12-minute mile. I don’t run anymore.
  22. The only professional sport I’ve been to a live game for is baseball.
  23. I can’t stand the taste of tea, except when I have a cold. Then I love it.
  24. I have been on the radio six times. Twice, I won concert tickets (Siouxsie and the Banshees—which I gave to a “goth” friend—and Sting). The third time, I was calling to request a song. They made me request something they were already going to play: The Bangles' “Eternal Flame.” The remaining times, I won CD’s: Alanis Morissette, Jewel, and Natalie Merchant.
  25. I deeply appreciate order; the state of my apartment often indicates otherwise.
  26. I have been to two funerals: one for my grandfather and one for a friend’s mother. Both were in high school.
  27. I have been to two weddings: one for a high school friend, one for a college friend. Both were Asian girls marrying white guys. What’s up with that?
  28. I have been to two baby showers: one for an elementary school friend, and one for a co-worker. Both had boys.
  29. My first concert was Paul McCartney at Dodger Stadium. I was 16.
  30. My childhood dog was Sparky, an Australian Shepherd.
  31. I tend to be a rule follower, and I get irritated when people get away with breaking them.
  32. Say what you will about the nutritional value of whole grains, I don’t like wheat bread and will choose white any day of the week. And occasionally rye or sourdough.
  33. I appreciate the environmental and economical value of compact fluorescent lighting, but often choose incandescent anyway, for its infinitely more pleasing aesthetic value.
  34. I was in a talent show in sixth grade. Two friends and I danced and lip-synched to Cyndi Lauper’s song “911.” Our first song choice, “Nasty,” by Janet Jackson, was rejected by the supervisor. Go figure.
  35. At the first junior high assembly I went to the following year, the dance team’s routine was performed to Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s “Push It.” Yikes!
  36. I’ve broken one bone: the fifth metatarsal in my right foot. I was carrying my dead Christmas tree down the stairs to the trash bin and I missed the last step. I have not had a Christmas tree since.
  37. I talk to myself a lot.
  38. I procrastinate like nobody’s business but I’ve never missed a deadline. Ever.
  39. I always wanted to name my car, but could never come up with something clever.
  40. I often wish I was more clever and more articulate.
  41. Generally, I don’t drink. It’s not that I’m morally opposed to responsible consumption of alcohol. I just don’t like the taste.
  42. I drink sparkling cider on New Year’s Eve.
  43. I have never tried any illegal drugs. I was never offered any. I’ve never even seen any. I’ve smelled pot at concerts though. Yuck.
  44. I have “cute” pajamas, but hardly ever wear them. I sleep in a pink long-sleeved t-shirt in the winter (with a sweatshirt on really cold nights) and in a gray tank top in the summer.
  45. One of my favorite things about living alone is that the walk from the shower to the closet is "clothing optional."
  46. I have 2705 songs (15.1 GB) on my iPod.
  47. I was one of the first babies born at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia, CA. My dad worked there for at least a decade as an X-ray tech. It was less than a mile from my elementary school.
  48. My eyesight is awful. I started wearing glasses in fifth grade. I switched to contacts in ninth. I switched back to glasses after I quit teaching.
  49. I wear contacts daily, however, when I am getting ready in the morning. You try shaving your legs or putting on mascara blind!
  50. One winter I let my leg and underarm hair grow out. I felt very rebellious (even though nobody knew).
  51. I have a very acute sense of smell.
  52. I love the smell of new electronics.
  53. The closest I’ve lived to work was 1.4 miles.
  54. The farthest I’ve lived from work was 39 miles.
  55. I have baby-fine, stick-straight dark blonde hair.
  56. I got a perm in eighth grade. Big mistake.
  57. I have always voted Democratic in presidential elections. There have only been three presidential elections since I reached voting age.
  58. As a child I was a huge bookworm. Then suddenly I hated reading. I hardly ever read what was assigned in high school and college. Only in the past few years have I started liking to read books again.
  59. One of my biggest pet peeves is littering. When I see someone do it, I think to myself, “Who do you think you are, that you are too good to find a trash can?” (see #31)
  60. I have a need to explain myself exhaustively. That’s why most of these are more than a single line.
  61. I strive to be earth-friendly. I am committed to recycling. I want a hybrid. I wish solar and wind power were more popular.
  62. Although I’ve been known to swear like a sailor while driving, and occasionally use some four-letter words, I bristle when people use foul language in front of me. I’m particularly sensitive to it in the workplace. I realize this makes me kind of hypocritical.
  63. I loathe hypocrisy.
  64. I collect postcards and magnets.
  65. I have no food allergies.
  66. I won an Easter coloring contest when I was young. The prize was 25 silver dollars.
  67. I kind of want a tattoo, because most people wouldn’t expect it from me. But I don’t know what I’d get or where.
  68. I took six weeks of accordion lessons. I also learned to play the recorder in school.
  69. I have experienced lots of earthquakes, but only one scary one: Northridge 1994.
  70. I am a perfectionist and a control freak.
  71. I’ve seen 28 of the AFI’s 100 Greatest Films of All Time.
  72. I watched Grease 2 over and over again when I was little. I wanted to change my name to Stephanie.
  73. I don’t snore or sleepwalk. That I’m aware of.
  74. I am envious of individuals with naturally high metabolism.
  75. Someday I want someone to throw a surprise party for me.
  76. I think about getting married and having kids a lot, but seriously wonder if either will ever happen.
  77. I recently discovered that I really like ketchup. I’d stopped eating it in eleventh grade when my U.S. history teacher told us that there were worms in it.
  78. I grew up on margarine, skim milk, and Jif. I’ve switched to butter, 1%, and all-natural peanut butter in adulthood.
  79. I have something like 20 euros that I did not convert back into dollars when I returned from Paris and Italy because I like saving currency as a souvenir.
  80. I went to Paris right after they switched to the euro and no one knew what the heck they were doing when they counted out change. In Montmartre, one guy gave me like 5 euros back when I was supposed to get 15. I went back 10 minutes later and the owner of the shop refunded my money and apologized.
  81. I have thin and peely fingernails. I had acrylics for a few months once but found the upkeep annoying.
  82. My handwriting used to be incredibly neat, but as I progressed through college, it got sloppier and sloppier. I wish I had pretty writing.
  83. I love and adore my parents and feel so fortunate to have a close relationship with them. I appreciate them more every year.
  84. My mom made me a strawberry pillow when I was little and I slept with it always. I still have it.
  85. I love dogs but I love cats more.
  86. I prefer romantic comedies but enjoy an occasional drama or action flick. I avoid any movie that can be described as “gritty.”
  87. I own Legally Blonde, Jerry Maguire, etc. on DVD, but for some reason only watch these movies when they’re on TV—commercials, bleeps, and all.
  88. My all-time favorite sitcom is Friends.
  89. For years (and years) I believed that there was such a thing as roast beast, thanks to Dr. Seuss and my mom.
  90. I subscribe to magazines that I don’t really read anymore. I accumulate stacks and stacks. When I move they get recycled.
  91. Once I fasted for 24 hours. I slept through most of it.
  92. I often have very bizarre dreams.
  93. I prefer silver over gold.
  94. I learned to knit five months ago. I’ve knitted 11 scarves and one blanket. Three other scarves are currently on needles.
  95. I think cooked carrots are gross.
  96. I would give up chocolate if I could get a daily massage.
  97. I don’t enjoy getting haircuts because I am not good at making idle conversation with most hairstylists.
  98. I wanted to be an architect but then I went to an architect career day and was told it’s a slavish, thankless job for 99% of them.
  99. I love almost everything Google does. Gmail, Picasa, Google Earth, SMS search, maps, their special holiday logo art, etc. And of course Blogger!
  100. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I hoard Post-It pads. I currently have 34 of them. I use them sparingly, as if this is my allotment for life and I couldn’t just drive to Staples and buy more.