Sunday, May 27, 2007

The other side of the coin

I finally found someone who doesn't like Raleigh. My coworker Jen, a 24-year-old Austin, TX native, is not happy here. But her set of criteria is quite different than mine. She's the kind of girl who likes to go to bars and clubs to drink and listen to live music. Those activities are at the rock bottom of my list of fun things to do. She says that in Austin, the downtown area is highly concentrated with over a hundred bars and clubs in just a few blocks. They always have live music, and it's super easy to just walk from one place to the next to keep the party going, so to speak. Whereas here in Raleigh, from what I've been told, while the downtown area has many bars, most don't feature live music, and they are not all clumped together for convenience. So, I guess if that's your scene, Raleigh is not the place for you.

Luckily for me, that is most definitely not my scene, and I am very happy here. I'm loving my house more each day. Except for the pesky lawn. I would be totally fine with the mowing and such if only it would grow green! But it's all brown and ugly (in the front yard, which I never sit in by my neighbors have to look at). Many yards in my neighborhood are the same, so I don't feel quite so bad, but many are lush, and I am so envious. I really need a gardener to get everything up to speed so I can just take over a well-oiled machine. But when it comes to gardening, I'm clueless, as my father can attest. I have some lovely native plants in the backyard (which pessimists call weeds) that I think are perfect.

They are green and lush, and require no watering on my part to grow. But I've been told to yank them up or I will regret it in the long run. I used a string trimmer for the first time yesterday. It really made such a difference around the edges of my lawn, up against the house and along the brick trim where you can't reach with a lawnmower. Slowly but surely I'm learning, but I hope everything doesn't die before I get the hang of it!

I do have some sources of pride in my backyard; namely, the magnolia tree and the daylilies. Granted, I had to do nothing to make these bloom, but I'm still proud to see them in my own backyard.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Crazy flight

I wanted to add a countdown widget in my sidebar so I could keep track of how far away my next trip is. Only problem was, we haven't picked an exact departure date yet. So I thought I'd check on flight prices for 07 just to get an idea. A Saturday departure with a Sunday return would be ideal, with two weeks in between. I plugged that in to Orbitz, and was I ever shocked to see the result:

A) It's nonstop! When did that happen? Score!
B) It's cheeeeeeeeeeap! (Considering the usual cost is around $1k) Holy crud!
C) Check out the taxes, man. Almost as much as the flight itself. But still much cheaper than normal.

I wonder if this is one of those fluke mistakes you hear about--you know, where for 12 minutes the airline was offering free tickets to Hawaii due to a computer glitch. I certainly hope this kind of deal comes around next year! But something tells me this is a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Oh the temptation!

My accent

I was challenged to take this quiz by an "anonymous" commenter, so I obliged. While you're taking it, you feel kind of silly, because the answers are so very obvious. (Does "father" rhyme with "bother"? Duh!) So it's funny that people from different parts of the country would have completely different answers. In the end, it pegged me correctly.

What American accent do you have?
Created by Xavier on

Western. Like Midland, Western is another accent that people consider neutral. So, you might not actually be from the Western half of the country, but you definitely sound like it.

Take this quiz now - it's easy!
We're going to start with "cot" and "caught." When you say those words do they sound the same or different?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

They didn't study

For more student creativity, go here.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Cassidy's second birthday

She turned two on May 10, and we went to the zoo in Asheboro last Saturday. Huge with exhibits very far apart from each other. Didn't get to see it all because it started raining pouring. But we did see "the monkees," which was all the kids could talk about.

And of course there was cake after dinner.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Top baby names for 2006

As released by the Social Security Administration on Friday:

I can attest to Emma--my knitting friend Tammie just gave birth to a girl on 5/8 and named her Emma! Congrats, Tammie!

I've liked the name Hannah for a while now, but would I actually want to give it to my own daughter? On one hand, she may encounter dozens of classmates over the years with the same name. On the other hand, though, in the digital age when everything is Google-able, having a common name would afford a bit of anonymity so that she'd have a semblance of privacy. Hmm. Although, if you look at the percentages, while Emily and Jacob are the most popular, they still each only claim a bit over 1% of total babies born. As compared to, say, 80 years earlier when Robert and Mary claimed over 5% each. I guess we are trying to be a tad more original these days.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Hello Elastic Waist Visitors!

I don't check my stat counter much these days, but when I noticed that it was almost at 10k, I thought I'd have a look at who's been visiting recently. Seems a lot of you are coming over from Elastic Waist to check out my pickle post. Kinda funny what gets attention these days. Welcome, everyone. I hope you enjoy my blog!


I went to Baltimore Friday for a quick training here:

Um, wow. Far cry from our typical customers, schools.

Beforehand I visited Fort McHenry,

where Francis Scott Key was inspired to write "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the War of 1812. It was patriotism overload: at the visitor center, after the de rigeur video, a recording of the national national anthem played as curtains pulled back, revealing a replica flag waving in the breeze, as if on cue. Then, on my way to find lunch, it struck 12 noon and the radio station I was listening to played the national anthem, during which--I kid you not--I drove by this:

Seriously. Talk about a motif.

I was searching for a particular restaurant, Gertrude's. Rachael Ray went there in her Tasty Travels episode on Baltimore. I haven't actually seen that episode, but I read the summary on her website. Perhaps if I'd seen it, I would have known that the restaurant is actually located inside the Baltimore Museum of Art. So, needless to say, I kept driving past the same address trying to spy an eatery, and all I kept seeing was this:

(Remarkably similar to the first building, huh?)

I gave up and went to the training on an empty stomach, but not before calling the restaurant to inquire about its location. Turned out for the best because, unbeknownst to me, this place requires reservations for peak times anyway.

When I finally got there around 2:30 the place was still hopping, but it cleared out while I was eating. I decided on a turkey ciabatta sandwich, but the waiter informed me they were out of ciabatta bread. Okay then, I'll take the turkey burger. Nope, not available either. He said in a very helpful tone, "We do have a bison burger, which is actually leaner than turkey." How to explain that I wasn't ordering turkey for its health benefits? The quickest way: "I don't eat mammals." As expected, he gave me an odd look. Not many folks put it quite like that, I suppose.

Anyway, I ended up with the special, a crab cake. I had contemplated that originally, but demurred because it was twice as much as the turkey options, and I'm iffy on crab cake. But it ended up being a fantastic choice.

The crab cake was indeed tasty, but I think I was more impressed with the grilled vegetables. They were so flavorful, but so simply spiced (just salt and pepper, I think).

After lunch, I attempted to visit the Inner Harbor to check out the shops, but the traffic was horrendous, and parking was worse, and I didn't have loads of time. So I just went back to the airport. For this trip I didn't bring my iPod, just a book: Lovely Bones. Not my typical read, but it was a bestseller, and now they're making a movie out of it, so I thought I'd give it a try when I saw it at the Flea Market last week for a buck. It is intriguing. Wistful and morbid at the same time. Different to say the least.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ewwww.....I wanna try!

I present to you, "Dill Pickle Marinated in Kool Aid," 2007
image courtesy of the NY Times

Looks kinda like a marachino cherry, but you'd have one heckuva surprise if you bit into this expecting that. Apparently Kool Aid pickles are all the rage down in the delta (Mississippi, that is), and might soon gain a national distributor. I'm gonna have to make me up a batch just to see what all the fuss is about. Betcha it's nasty. Certainly sounds like it would be.
"You pull the pickles from the jar, cut them in halves, make double-strength Kool-Aid, add a pound of sugar, shake and let it sit — best in the refrigerator — for about a week."
Article here. (Free reg required, but everyone needs a New York Times account.)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Meme time

Heather of Blog, Blah, Blah did a cool interview meme the other day, and invited her readers to participate. Basically, she asks me three questions, and I respond in my own blog, then invite my readers to participate. The rules say that if you want to be interviewed by me, just leave a comment saying so (with your email address), and I'll send you questions.

Without further ado, here goes!

1. I know you have recently taken up residence in North Carolina. What's your favorite part of living in NC? What do you miss most about your old home?

My favorite part of living in NC is the natural beauty of it. Don't get me wrong--CA has remarkably beautiful places to visit--Yosemite, the northern coast, Napa Valley, etc. But NC's beauty is where you live. Forests line the freeway I commute on. Flowers bloom everywhere. There are rivers and lakes and ponds all over the place. What I miss most about CA is my friends, and the state's comprehensive recycling programs. That, and living next to a major airport where you can get a direct flight to Europe. Which leads me to...

2. I saw on your blog that you are going to England next year. What do you most want to see and what would you be okay not seeing if you ran out of time and had to scratch something off the list?

The top of my list is the Tower Bridge Key Ceremony. Apparently you have to write in advance for tickets, so relatively few people get to see it. From what I've read, it's steeped in tradition centuries old, and quite the spectacle. If I run out of time, the first thing to be scratched off would be a museum. I know that the British National Museum is a must-see according to all the guide books, but while I find art somewhat interesting, it would definitely take a back seat to something like the flea market on Portobello Road, or a day trip to Stonehenge.

3. I liked the question that was posed to me and so I am also going to ask it of you: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 19-year-old self?

That's a tricky question. A few years ago, I would have said without a doubt that I'd tell my 19-year-old self to not take the easy road majoring in history, and instead hunker down and major in math, because it would have given me more, better paying career options. But I might not have become a teacher, which means I would have never met my best friend, and that would be awful. Although, I might have met a husband instead, but really you can never know. And frankly, I am very satisfied with my career right now, so there are no regrets.

So since the math major advice is not something I would give myself any longer, instead I would tell myself to live life more fully, to experience more things. I lived in San Diego for three years in college and never went to Sea World. I lived in New Hampshire for three months and barely explored beyond my dorm room. I lived a mile from the beach in LA for a year and only went once. Lately I've tried to be more adventurous and I think that having a blog has really helped me try new things, if for no other reason than to report back on how they went.

I hope I did your interview questions justice, Heather. If anyone wants to be "interviewed" by me, just leave a comment and I'll ask you some questions. It's fun!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Raleigh Railhawks

Correction: It has come to my attention that they're actually called the Carolina Railhawks. Doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but accuracy trumps euphony.

Last night I went to my first professional soccer game. My coworker got free tickets from one of the players (apparently most of them live in her apartment complex) and she asked me to join her. I'm not all that familiar with the rules, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. It was cold and dreary all day, and rainy in the late afternoon, but it stopped just in time for the game. Of course, the grass was still wet so the players were slippin' and slidin' all night. We scored a goal in the first half, and I was so proud that I actually saw it, but they ended up calling off sides so it didn't count. The final score was 0-0, which is so bizarre. Here are a few shots. More at Flickr.

At the south end of the field, there was some sort of pep squad cheering section.
They were ridiculously spirited. Several people had flags, the poles of which
they banged rhythmically on the bleacher floor nonstop. I don't know how they
had the energy to keep it up for the entire game.

Nice camera, dude.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Super DVR, other stuff

I totally love my TV and my HD DVR. I love them so much, in fact, that the DVR is frequently maxed out, and things don't stay on the hard drive for more than a day or two before they are automatically erased to make room for new recordings. You would think 160 GB would be plenty of space, but it's actually only enough for 20 hours of HD programming. So after reading some online forums, I recently bought a 500 GB external hard drive, one that would meet all the specs other people recommended. I hooked it up last night and voila! Oodles of room. Then this morning, I wanted to rewind live TV to hear something again (Matt Lauer was in South Africa) and I noticed I could not do it. I tried a ton of different things (powering off, etc.) but nothing made a difference. I hopped on the web at work today and discovered a different forum where lots of people reported the same phenomenon. The solution? Don't watch live TV! It's kind of an absurd notion at first, but then I realized I don't watch that much live TV anyway. For instance, last night, I waited until 9:20 to start watching Grey's Anatomy, so that I would always stay ahead of the commercials. It works fabulously. And on the occasions when I do watch live TV, I can just hit the record button so that in the event I want to rewind, I will be able to. It seems like a small price to pay to be able to record lots of HD movies and stuff. I guess it's just one of those quirks that might get fixed in a future patch. (From what I've read, my HD DVR unit was plagued with problems when it first came out, and slowly they've released patches--downloaded automatically while you sleep--that have remedied almost all of the complaints.)

Not much else to write about. Life is pretty quiet these days. The office is slow, but I'm still enjoying my coworkers. Now that I think about it, this is the first job where I haven't had some major complaint within the first year of working there. Wow, that's amazing. For a while, it appeared as if I'd never find the ideal situation, and I started to wonder if I was crazy for job-hopping in my quest for perfection, but now I seem to have found it, and I'm so happy I did not settle! Good lesson for other parts of my life.....

If you ever check out some of the blogs I read, you should head on over to Blueberry Pie and Head Full of Pixies. They've had some big posts recently.

In local news, a Wake County judge recently ruled that it is illegal to require a student to attend a year-round school. This is ludicrous! He cited the state law that says school must not start sooner than August 25 and must not end later than June 10 as his support. I think that law needs to be struck down, because with the kind of growth our county is experiencing, there is no other way to manage the huge enrollment numbers. Unless you want split schedules, where some kids go to school at 7 am and get out at 1, while others go at 1 and get out at 7. Like that wouldn't mess up parents' schedules! Ha!

So I'm having a little bit of a conscience crisis regarding watering my yard. The lawn, especially in front, has lots of brown spots, but I feel bad just dumping water on it because water is such a precious resource. What makes my lawn deserve this water, when so many billions of people don't even have reliable access to water for their daily needs? Of course, me choosing not to water my lawn will not give them access to water, but there's still an irrepressible twinge of guilt involved. Add to that the fact that I have a serious case of "keeping up with the Joneses" when it comes to my lawn. I am constantly inspecting other people's yards to see if theirs is better or worse than mine. Next door, theirs is Ugly with a capital U, while across the street, theirs is lush. I'm somewhere in the middle. I'd love to have a gorgeous lawn, but I don't want to be a water guzzler.

And then there's the fact that I live by myself in a dwelling that is over 1900 square feet. Talk about wasteful! I should be living in something that's 400 square feet, with solar energy and zero carbon footprint. But I know that is totally unrealistic. So what, I'm just supposed to say oh well, I guess I'll just be a guzzler? I saw an article this week about how the polar ice caps are melting much faster than they originally predicted. This global warming thing is dire, people, and we really have to start doing something. I don't know what I can do to make a difference, though. I try my best and do what I can, in terms of turning out lights and turning off the shower when I'm soaping up, using canvas shopping bags, and recycling everything (I'll even bring home empty plastic bottles from a business trip just so I can recycle them at home). I suppose I do more than a lot of people, but I know I could do much more, and I just have to figure out what. I feel compelled to pressure others into greener ways, but I am no proselytizer. So here's my suggestion for today: Please subscribe to Ideal Bite's daily tip. It is so awesome. They give you easy little ways you can make a difference. Not every day's tip will apply to your life, but most will, and it is very well written and user friendly.