Monday, January 30, 2006

Fort Lauderdale Storefronts

Just a couple of store fronts in Ft. Lauderdale. Can other countries get away with this stuff? God bless America!

Blazing Fun at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

I realize that my job grants me access to some pretty cool things. Tonight, the function was held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla. For those who know me, no, that's not me in the leopard leotard (although I wish I could fit into that leopard leotard). She was one of the performers of the evening. I recognized some of her belly danced moves and decided I could take my dancing to the next step and add fire into the mix.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Ft. Lauderdale Afternoon

A photo says a thousand words, so here are my words for today. Tonight is a tour of the King Tut Exhibit.

Ft. Lauderdale Morning


Good Morning! Not much to say right now, but here's the view from my hotel today at the Ft. Lauderdale Marina Marriott. (Although, I don't know for how long they will stay a Marriott, industry buzz speculates a sale in the near future).

Despite them not having my reservation and charging $9.95 a day for Internet access, it's a decent place with a room with a view.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Preparing for Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day hasn't gained the attention it deserves by the greeting card makers (exception of electronic). But, like Christmas, there's a bit of anticipation leading to the big day. A country wonders if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow and share hypotheticals whether he does or doesn't.

The Shell Factory and Nature Park in Ft. Myers, Fla. have run into a snafu in preparing for the big day. According to www.news-press.com, they ordered a groundhog to live in their new groundhog habitat and more importantly, determine whether there will be six more months of winter. Instead, they received prairie dogs.

OK, you'd have to be pretty ignorant not to know the difference between a groundhog (aka: woodchuck) and a prairie dog. And, how difficult is it to locate a groundhog? Read the complete story to see how they plan to resolve the situation.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Let Them Have Vaseline!

I received a promotion in my inbox today from Vaseline promising a free bottle of Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion to everyone in America if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow on Groundhog Day. I love groundhogs! Visit the site to get your piece of the action.

Eye Spy: A Bumper Sticker That Says It All

"At least in Vietnam Bush had an exit strategy." Spotted on my way to work today.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Walking Man

I'm amazed by people who carve the time out of their lives to accomplish a lengthy hike. My friend Jen O. in Washington has hiked the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails in two summers - one summer for each (I wish she would maintain a blog - she's an incredible and adventurous person). She's my age, thirty-something.

Passing through Tallahassee this week was Roy Dye, a 68 year old, one-legged man. He's just not walking across Florida but walking across the country - Florida to California - to motivate and inspire individuals into healthier living. Check out his website, www.IronManWalking.com. If he can get out and walk, there's no excuse NOT to visit the gym.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Cheap or Budget-Conscious?

Being a road warrior, I'm spoiled by my organization's expense account. After all, I'm in the travel and tourism business so I can travel.

But when traveling on my own dime, I'm a bit more cost-conscious when booking flights and accommodations. A few months back, I discovered travel auctions on eBay. I bid on multiple accommodation packages and was always out bid at the last minute. But finally, I won an auction and ended up purchasing a two-night B&B stay that would have cost at least $300 for just under $100. Not only did I great bargain at the perfect place, but 100% of the auction fees were donated to the American Red Cross.

I'm now bidding on travel packages at Destination Marketing Association International's auction benefiting various hurricane relief organizations.

Few other cost-cutting tactics I've used:
  • Utilized airline miles for trips. When booking a trip to NYC last fall, 50,000 miles were required for coach but 45,000 were required for first class - check your options!
  • Redeemed American Express points for event tickets bookable via Ticketmaster.
  • Stayed at a YMCA Hotel in NYC. It was clean, convenient and safe.
  • When booking international flights, used the domestic airline's code-share partner and saved at least $1,000 on one flight alone.
  • AAA Membership - gotta love it! Discounts vary from hotel, meals and attractions to shopping. (And if you're a AAA Plus member, you get free passport photos).
  • Coupons - yup, I'm a coupon clipper! I usually visit the destination's tourism website or tourism visitor center to check for coupon or "value" books.
  • Grocery Shopping Cards - most supermarkets these days offer discount cards which offer minimal to substantial savings to their members. These programs are free and take about 30 seconds to complete the registration form at the customer service desk.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Surely, You Got Pixels?

Rock on Sarasota girlfriends! (No, we never met - I must have left Sarasota before it got groovy) Check this out: www.surlychicks.com. And, if you have a .PNG format graphic, you too can get your blog posted on this pixel ad Website. I'm hoping a graphics friend can do one up for me.

Art of Appreciation

I enjoy my life. It's not perfect and it's not what I had envisioned for myself, but it's an OK life. I've seen and felt pain in many of my friends' lives over the past couple of weeks, which makes me appreciate my life even more. I pray that they will be strong and somehow, they will get over their various losses - loss of loved ones, jobs, health and security.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Vanity Search: Don't Know What You'll Find

I haven't done a vanity search of myself (in other words, Google my name) in a while, a long while. Chatting with my sister tonight, she informed me she just Google'd me and found photos of me on the web! To my "surprise," the images that popped up were associated with the October 2004 trip to Japan. Ugh!!!

Gotta go and see what else I can find on myself...

Could I Have Been an American Idol?


Probably not. I have no rhythm, no jive, no tune. Think I'm tone deaf - ask my fellow team members to Japan. Each time we had to sing at the end of our presentation, I could see the eyes roll and half-smirks when I would project my off-key voice. Worse yet was karaoke!

But, when I was a teenager, I wanted to be a rock star (which was after a phase when I wanted to be a postal delivery person then a witch). Yup, I used to write songs - originals and parodies. I loved playing air band (you youngins' probably don't know what that is) and fantasized about prancing on stage, touring the world and having platinum records.

Tonight, I didn't expect the rock star in me to emerge. The sales department was invited to a reception (for a single gal trying to make it on her own, free dinners are important). Following the "heavy appetizers" and cocktails, a group called the Drum Cafe handed everyone a drum. For the next hour, we banged our drums until our hands became numb.

If only Simon, Paula and Randy could have been there...

Franchising? Nah...

OK, I'm branching out. Frustrated with myself for not having learned HTML yet (and the community college isn't offering it until June), I'm using Blogger to create other blogs. The first one is: QK Girl's Tallahassee, aimed at providing all Tallahassee happenings. Stay tuned for more...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Paradise Found in a Philly Cheese Steak


OK, so after Pennsylvania's Governor shared the mistakes people make when trying to recreate a Philly Cheese Steak at the conference last week, I found the perfect sandwich at Rick's Philly Steaks at the Reading Terminal Market.

For just under ten bucks, I had the most greasiest, creamiest heavenly delight I've had in a long while. I ordered mine "wit" Cheese Whiz and onions along with a soda ("pop" for you northeasterners) and fries. Word of note: have your order ready upon placing your order.

Yellowstone's Wolf Population: At Risk?

National Public Radio gets me updated on the day's events as I drive home from work. Today, there was a report about canine parvovirus as the most likely cause in the decline of Yellowstone National Park's wolf population. In short, it's a deadly virus with no cure and the wolves can contract the virus by sniffing the doodoo of an infected domestic dog.

I was working in Yellowstone when the wolves were reintroduced. It was a controversial time, as farmers of surrounding communities feared the "big bad wolf." Soon after the wolves were introduced, President Clinton and his family visited the park. I worked with the security detail (which has no point to this story - I just want all to know my role in the President's visit).

I remember one of the highlights of the trip was Chelsea feeding the wolves. Now, I did not see this but my imagination pictured the following: a park ranger handing over a road-kill elk thigh to Chelsea. She wraps her arms around the leg and rests the meaty part on her shoulder. Somehow, she manages to wobble to a fence and tip dinner over the fence while calling out, "here wolfie, wolfie." What happens after that, is up to anyone's imagination...

Monday, January 16, 2006

Correct Path of Life: How Do We Know?

There are multiple occasions in our lives when we meet the proverbial fork in the road. I've been wondering "what if" I followed different paths than the ones chosen. Would those paths have led me to tonight, alone in Tallahassee, Fla., clicking away on a keyboard and flipping between the "Golden Globes" (BTW: Miss Drew Barrymore - what were you THINKING wearing your green dress bra-less?) and "The Bachelor" (train wreck television; I know).

Most of my adult life was spent in the national parks (park management company). One summer, I chose the parks over returning home to work on my Master's in education. It wasn't an easy decision. At the time, I thought I was giving up on a definite future for an unknown journey.

People who work in the parks system are generally escaping something: either literally, such as from the law or ex-spouses or figuratively, escaping a bit of reality or general fears. Yet, the system provides comfortable, family-type surroundings. Practically everything is provided: the parents are the managers; siblings are the co-workers. Meals and beds are provided for. Utility bills? Non-existent. And working in nature's playgrounds is like being at a family reunion every day.

This got me thinking about other paths I could have chosen. While in high school, a friend's mother always insisted the way to go in life was to become a nun. She told us that nuns have it made: higher education paid for, place to live, job security, uniform, meals and retirement. The celibacy thing wasn't all that appealing, but looking back, maybe being committed to Christ wouldn't be such a bad thing. Sure, maybe He wouldn't send cards for birthdays and holidays, but, one would have a guaranteed seat in eternity. And best of all, Valentine's Day wouldn't be so bad, since a single woman wouldn't have to be alone that day.

Then there is the military, another structured environment. In addition to the same benefits of the convent: education, place to live, uniform, meals and retirement, there is opportunity for world travel. Sure, this may involve serving in an unruly part of the world wearing a flak jacket and helmet while avoiding bullets and missiles, but think of the stories to tell the grandchildren. And I imagine the male to female ratio is in the ladies' odds.

But in the end, although I ponder about "what ifs," I'm glad for taking the journeys I have. Not all of it has necessarily been good but I'm grateful for the network of friends I have gathered through the various wanderings. I can't imagine my life without them.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Good Golly! A Celebrity Sighting @ ATL

Petite frame. Wild, black hair. Sunglasses. Lemon-yellow suit. I recognized the face surrounded by a posse of very large men. The little girl who exited the elevator ahead of me started screaming when she saw him. Is it James Brown? Nope. Little Richard. Spotted in one of Delta's Crown Rooms at the Atlanta International Airport today. Damn! My camera was inaccessible.

At What Age Do Guys Change?

When I was going to elementary school, I played football and hockey while my female classmates were playing with Barbi and fawning over Donny Osmond. Yet, most of the boys had crushes on me. In first grade, I remember the coolest boy in class sent me an elaborate Valentine's Day card. I was so embarrassed that I hid it.

Maybe because I wasn't like most of the girls was what the boys were attracted to. I wasn't "girly," and not into frilly things and liked outdoorsy and hands-on activities. Yup, I was a tomboy. But, whatever I was doing, boys were attracted to it.

Upon reaching junior high school, the boys turned their attention to the "girly-girls." Those wearing makeup and frilly dresses. That was during the 1980s.

Out on the dance floor tonight, I'm reminded by that confusing transition boys go through: guys who change their mind and are no longer interested in someone with similar interests to them, but attracted to selfish, high maintenance women who engage in nonsense games. Perhaps it's the pursuit and ultimate conquest men are interested in. Or maybe, I'm attracted to men who are attracted to "arm ornaments" because their intellectual needs are met through other means.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Philly Cheese Steak: The Secret

Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell spoke today during the conference I'm attending in Philadelphia. He revealed the errors people make when trying to recreate an authentic Philly Cheese Steak:

1. They use good, quality meat. The guts of a Philly Cheese Steak should be the fattiest, stringiest meat one can find.
2. They use real cheese. The goo on the cheesesteak should be Cheese Whiz - so it can flow properly into the crevices of the meat.
3. Upon grilling onions, the grease is drained off. An authentic cheese steak will have the grease and the grilled onions.

The Governor quipped that the Surgeon General advises only one of these be eaten every three days. I'll see if my body can handle it. Thanks, Gov. Rendell.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Creatures Who Warm Our Hearts

When I was a kid, I recall getting upset with one of my cousins when he told me that a man's best friend was a dog and a woman's best friend was a diamond. I wanted a woman's best friend to be at least some kind of animal - if not a dog, maybe a cat.

Perhaps it's the unconditional love they give that warms my heart. But, having pets is a lot of work. Growing up, we had dogs, cats, chickens and goats. I'm not really sure what my parents were thinking when they told us we were getting goats, but we had them. My favorite memories of "Hazel" and "Gobbles" were the backyard goat races, them aways butting my little sister and frequently coming home from school to find them wandering the yard (and the neighbor's yard) - meaning they escaped their pen in the barn.

I would love to have some sort of pet now, perhaps not a goat, don't think the landlord would appreciate that, but something that is low maintenace. In reality, my lifestyle of traveling doesn't really permit it - it wouldn't be fair to whatever creature I adopted.

For now, I'll have to make nice with the dust bunnies, roaches and occasional cricket that make their way into my home.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Jealousy: Not Just for Humans


I haven't seen "March of the Penguins" yet, but from what I've heard, the penguins act very much like humans and seem to have human emotional qualities. Do they ever get jealous? Does a boy penguin's feathers get ruffled when the girl penguin he has a crush on goes after another tuxedo-clad bird?

Pictured here is Buggy, a friend's kitty. I'm his Aunt Jenn who's cat-sat for him, fed him, taken him on walks and given him love until he purrs. Last night, he turned into Cujo Kitty within seconds.

Now, it's not his fault. I did do something to upset him and was forewarned. A little black kitty came meowing to my friend's window. We went to take a look at her and she kept crying and wanted some love. My friends suggested maybe it was a sign to take this little kitty home with me. On the patio, I sat with her a bit and was cautioned, "don't let Buggy see you." My friend fed the stray and he told me that Buggy had once attacked him for feeding another stray cat, so much so that he had to miss a day of work from his arm being so swollen.

I returned inside the house and Bug sniffed me over and accepted me back into his home. Things were quiet until the little black cat came back to the windows crying. This time, Buggy ran to the window screaming and attacked the screen. He was pulled away with claws extended and fur puffed out.

He then sat next to the sofa and as I walked past on my way to the bathroom, he howled and lunged at him, gripping his claws into my leg, biting and scratching! There was commotion - yelling, screaming (me and the cat) and I shook him off. I stood in the entryway of the bathroom to look back at him - he was a big puff ball getting ready to charge at me when my friend stepped in.

Laughing, I locked myself in the bathroom, changed cloths, washed away any scent of the nighttime visitor and tended to my wounds. We later made up and this morning, he curled up next time and purred his content.

The only explanation we came up with for Buggy's actions was that he was jealous of the other kitty. There's no rational for jealously, whether you're a penguin, cat or human...

New Year's 2006


2006! It's finally 2006! Like all the dates in the 2000's, when I was a girl, I never envisioned 2006. It seemed so far away. And with each year I get older, the years go back more quickly.

I spent the weekend with friends (and Grandma). Being around them reminded me what's important in life. It was terrific seeing everyone, especially Eiko (pictured second from the right), since she traveled from Japan for a long weekend! Kathy (second from the left) hosted Eiko during her very brief visit. Ms. Stephanie (first on the left - I'm the one with the big hair to the far right - humidity doesn't sit well with me!) played the "hostess with the mostess" ensuring that the first day of the new year was very proper.

It's a new year, time for new beginnings...

Culturally Sarasota, Fla.



I consider Sarasota, Fla. my second home (Buffalo, NY, my first). Only living there for about four years, I spent many spring breaks visiting my grandparents while growing up. This past weekend was spent celebrating the New Year with friends. As I said goodbye to Grandma this morning, she told me about the huge sculpture on display on Sarasota's waterfront, as part of the Sarasota Season of Sculpture. She said there has been "discussion" whether this sculpture, depicting that famous image which we now associate with the end of World War II, should be purchased by the City and remain in town.

I quickly grabbed her and we went down to the waterfront to see artist J. Seward Johnson's creation, titled, "Unconditional Surrender" (image on the left). The work is finely detailed, showing the seams in the nurse's stockings and wrinkles in the sailor's coat. Being of Grandma's era, she thought it was wonderful and told me how Grandpa's jacket looked like that, although he was in the Coast Guard and had a different emblem. I thought it was terrific for the playfulness and simple beauty.

We drove past the other sculptures, primarily all abstracts, and none evoked the emotion as this one. Visitors will be able to enjoy this and other sculptures through May 31, 2006.

The other image is from a fountain I finally had the chance to examine downtown. I had previously seen the fountain while driving Pineapple, or Lemon or Orange Avenues (one of those tropical fruits) but never got out to look at. I wandered down Lemon Ave. Monday during the Downtown Farmer's Market, which led to the fountain. Whimiscal fish, mermaids and other magical critters adorn the sidewalk surrounding the fountain and fountain itself.

Going home with eyes open I always see something new.