Monday, October 30, 2006

It's Confirmed, Hope Does Not Exist

I just saw a television commercial starring Carmen Electra. You know who she is - every man wants her and every woman wants to be her. I couldn't believe my ears. She's pimping the diet pill called NV. How did she get this gig? Did she tip the scales at 99 pounds? If she needs to take a diet pill, there is no hope for us true-sized women. None.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Falling In Love Again...

...with my bread machine :)

In my efforts to live on a tighter financial budget, I'm trying to make more of my meals than purchasing processed stuff. I've also discovered the cost-saving joy of shopping at Super Wal-Mart. Yes, I feel as though I've given into "the man" by frequently shopping there.

For the past two years, I've been controlling my cholesterol and blood pressure through practicing better nutrition and able to abandon medication. I can definitely feel the difference in how food makes me feel and when I put good things in, I'm at my best. Although bread isn't the best thing to control these things, I found some soy bread recipes. Pictured is today's white pizza. It ain't the prettiest thing, but tastes mighty damn good. Pretzels and maple-walnut bread were also made. I don't remember if Peter bought me the bread machine or if it was a gift from Furnace Creek, either way, it's one of the best gifts I've ever received.

Also this weekend, I stopped at the Tallahassee Greek Festival, which is held every two years. It was full of my kinda people - those who enjoy good food. Grabbed a gyro, did a quick walk around and returned home.

And contributing to my financial security, I wrote a complete trip report about Vancouver. View it here.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Addendum to the 300th Blog Post

I can't believe I left this out of my last post about my mundane week.

Wednesday after work, a couple of friends were invited to taste the yummy treats of the Culinary Institute at Keiser College. The invite stated something like, "taste," "learn," and "have fun." The event began at 6:30 p.m., so we didn't eat - we were heading to a culinary school for goodness sake.

Sadly, it was a bit of a let down. The entire hour we spent in front of a very talented baker (one of the instructors and occasional celebrity chef on the morning news) who decorated cakes and made a jelly roll for us. Now, two people were there when we arrived, then our posse of four and that's it. Not an easy thing to escape from. While sitting, Carolyn kept whispering, "I don't think this is it." I kept starring at the invite, trying to see if I missed something and replied, "yeah, I think it is."

I then tried to figure out an escape plan, do I get up like I'm going to the bathroom and not return? That wouldn't work, my car was parked out front, in plain view of the huge window of the classroom. Carolyn did the "bathroom" thing, but went to find someone from the college and returned with the bad news: yes, we were in the right place.

After one cake was completely decorated and a jelly roll was prepared, we were given a slice of the extremely sweet baked good. The cake sat uncut and that's the way we left it. After a day of swallowing about a dozen Pixi Sticks (there will be no elaboration as to why), sugar was the last thing I needed.

We were then led through the school's kitchens, where student bakers tempted us with a stack of Neiman Marcus cookies and soon-to-be chefs prepared protein-rich meats. Our tummies rumbled.

"I bet they have something set up for us at the end of the tour," Carolyn guessed.

"I don't think so." And I was right.

This evening was a push for enrollment in the Associates program - requiring a 40-hour per week commitment for a month, per class. Not ideal for the 9 - 5 (or 7:45 - 4:45) employee who travels. We are interested in something like a continuing ed class, which maybe meets once a week for a month or something on a Saturday (we were also looking for something satisfying to eat - even a cracker with a smear of Cheeze Wiz).

After leaving, we each drove like maniacs to find dinner: I chose Publix, others chose the fast food options.

Working in tourism, I should know by now to ALWAYS eat prior to attending a reception, etc., even if it is just a crack with a smear of Cheeze Wiz. On a positive note, we think we've found culinary classes to fit our schedules.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The 300th Post

Yup, kids, this is my 300th post on this blog. Yippee! Now, I have been blogging (albeit rarely) on my Tallahassee blog and my Afghanistan blog, but Quirky-Kitsch Girl's View has been my primary focus. I've been thinking of starting another blog, but haven't moved forward. Gotta keep up with what I have!

I realize I need to provide an update from the week, so here it goes:
Last Friday, the leopard ears, tail, vinyl, boots, et al were ready to party with the Pagans, but, I didn't go :( I know. The person I was to go with had a family emergency so I didn't make it. But, I did have a great time at another friend's 'Save the Breast' Birthday Bash.

Saturday was spent writing and deep cleaning. I was expecting company later in the week and thought it a good idea to clean. Well, fast forward to the week and no visitor, but at least I have a sparkling clean apartment for a while. And I've realized how more productive I can be in a clean, clutter-free place (regardless of what's hiding and stuffed in the closets and under the bed).

Saturday night was the ghost walking tour in Monticello, Florida - which is suppose to be the most haunted place in the Southern U.S. I guess it would have been a spooky tour if 75 other strangers didn't show up to take the tour. Worst of all, in my cleaning, I forgot to put my camera back in my purse!! So I didn't get any shots of orbs or other eerie things looming around (yes, some people did capture these on their cameras). Just means I'll have to make another trip back one night - any volunteers to join me?

The rest of the week was pretty boring, with the exception of the brisk cold front which lingered for a few days. These are the evenings when I LOVE snuggling into my feather-lush bedding and pulling out sweaters and knee-high boots in the morning. And being a second floor apartment, the first floor's heat seems to rise so I'm not running any heat or air, which means a drop in the electricity bill! Good times.

What did I write this week? Well, this piece about blogging. Guess it's no secret I enjoy blogging. It's free form writing. After more than a year of it (well, unless you count the site I used to have) and maybe a half-dozen loyal readers (I do have that many, right?), I enjoy sharing and expressing myself. Through the ups and downs of my life, it's been therapeutic. But, there are reasons not to blog, which is the focus of that before mentioned article.

I also conducted an interview with a relatively now-famous blogger who was fired for blogging. That article should be posted in a week or so. She worked in the travel business, too. Which made me even more interested in chatting with her.

In celebration of this milestone of the 300th post (there will be another celebration when I hit 1,000 MySpace profile visits, which I should reach next month), I'm going to crack open a bottle of bubbly I purchased in Paris on my way back from my Afghanistan trip. Cheers!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

For Your Viewing Enjoyment: Vancouver

My pix are up from the Vancouver trip. Wish I had more time. Man! I hate when work gets in the way :) Sorry, but you'll have to sign in to view them here. If you need to read about my trip again, follow the links to:

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thursday Night Randomness

On one of the flights back yesterday (thankfully, I was upgraded to first-class for this 3.5 hour leg), I watched the movie "The Break-Up." You know, that movie with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. It's been advertised as a comedy, but I really didn't see much humor in it. In fact, the film left me feeling angry. The flick is filled with anger, yelling and tension while truly demonstrating how men and women communicate, or not communicate. That we women expect men to read our minds and when we say something, we really mean the opposite. And that men in their own way, really do appreciate their mate, but just can't convey that message properly. It didn't have the sugary sweet romantic ending, it had a realistic ending. Enough about that...

Thailand is a place I'd like to visit someday. A few years ago I traveled to Cuba with a group called Cross Cultural Solutions and as any good company does, they keep me on their email distribution list. Today I received one about volunteering in Thailand for two weeks. I'd LOVE to go and spend two weeks immersed in the culture, but right now, I don't think it's possible. I'm suppose to make a trip to Italy (which, I'm still trying to get excited about). But it got me wondering, through fundraising, could I raise $3,000 for that trip the end of 2007? I'll have to mull this over.

Costume crisis solved for tomorrow night. Since it's the Pagan Society with the Humane Society, I'm going as a pagan leapordess; just need to figure out the whole tail thing ;)

Oh! And if you haven't read my recent writing, be sure to check it out here.

Kodak Moments in Vancouver

If you haven't seen the first three images, check them out here.

This sculpture is called, The Raven and the Beast, carved by artist Bill Reid. This is a signature piece at the Museum of Anthropology, located on the University of British Columbia's Campus. I had to taxi it, but it was well worth the visit.

A dude taking a walk along Sunset Beach Park, which is on the English Bay and eventually opens up to the Pacific Ocean. My souvenirs? A couple of stones from the beach.

Salmon was the life blood of the Native Peoples and is still an important part of Vancouver's identity. These cold fish are at the Granville Public Market.

Vancouver Images: Take 1

I will upload images to Ofoto over the weekend, but in the mean time, enjoy these images of Vancouver. The stone sculpture, called Inukshuk, is a symbol in Inuit culture as a navigation marker. This symbol is all around Vancouver; miniature sculptures and pins are sold throughout the city as souvenirs.

This is from within Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Garden, named after the founder of the first Chinese Republic and regular visitor to Vancouver. Calm serenity is found within the walls of the garden, yet, I find the building of the hectic 21st century around the garden ironic.

Hmm! Dried lizard. It's what's for dinner in Chinatown.

When You Gotta Go...

One of the most fascinating things about my 2004 stay in Japan were the toilets. I think it was the variety and how they changed from basic holes in the floor to high-tech machines with techniques to tickle almost all of the senses. It's taken me two years to do so, but I finally wrote a story about peeing in Japan.

My Sleepy Life

After 15 hours in airports, I made it home today. Which got me thinking, I don't enjoy "traveling," but enjoy "travel." Big difference. I now need to adjust back to Eastern Standard Time, which is the reason for this early morning post.

With Halloween around the corner, my sleepy little social calendar is very busy this weekend. I have a "save the breast" birthday party (to raise money for breast cancer awareness) then right afterwards, the local pagan society and local humane society have teamed up to host a costume ball. Yeah, I don't see the connection between the pagans and animals, but maybe that is the connection. I love Halloween, yet haven't figured out WHAT I'm going to wear. Was thinking of updating last year's Princess Pez (pictured below).

Saturday night is a ghost walk in Monticello, Fla., which is suppose to be the most spiritual/haunted place in Florida. More so than St. Augustine and Cassadaga, Fla.

What does everyone else have going on for Halloween?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Vancouver Journey Winding Down

Sadly, I head back home tomorrow. On a 6 a.m. flight - what was I thinking???

Vancouver is a fantastic city. It has west coast-attitude and is not overwhelming. I've been able to practice my minimal French and Japanese in this multi-cultural hub. Vancouver is the gateway to Asia and is a place to watch over the next few decades, as China opens up. Here are some more observations during my visit:
  • Despite cheap, good sushi restaurants being everywhere, most are not staffed by Japanese.
  • Like any major city, homeless are everywhere. Either begging on the street with their lazy dog or sleeping on the sidewalks.
  • History seems to be lost in downtown. Old, historic buildings with character don't seem to exist. Lots of glass and steel going up. The reason, I'm told, is because Vancouver is a very desirable place to live and it's running out of room to build, so it's building upwards.
  • The Canadians are more environmentally conscious. I had mentioned about the electrically charged taxis, but the trash cans on the streets have "holders" to place recyclables. The thought being, I think, is rather than toss the bottle/can in the bin, just place it in a holder wrapping the bin.
  • Temperatures are mild. I saw a banana tree, with little bananas growing on it, the other day. I'm pretty sure we couldn't grow bananas in Buffalo.
  • Well, I'm sure there are more, but I need to run.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I Saw a Seal! And Other Cool Things in Vancouver

It took about 14 hours to reach Vancouver from Tallahassee; like my past two Boston trips, weird flights: Tallahassee to Atlanta to St. Louis to Salt Lake City to Vancouver. The customs line was about an hour - which is pretty standard and good. I was nervous they'd see my Afghanistan stamp and pull me aside for questioning, but luckily, that didn't happen.

I actually saw the Canadian customs people do something I've never seen the American customs people do, be nice. A family with two very tired children was pulled out of the long line and allowed to go to the front, because the line monitor noticed they were tired. I've only seen U.S. customs people send visitors to the back of the line. Anyway...

Canadians are nice, in general. Everyone has been friendly, except on the sidewalks, people don't really want to make eye contact, except those who are lost. I'll get to them in a minute. On the bus ride to the hotel, I spotted a sign which read something like, "Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone, Welcome to Vancouver." Um, ok. Are they posting this for the benefit of the Americans? So we don't go in and invade our northern neighbor in search of weapons of mass destruction?

Sorry I don't have any visuals, for some reason, my camera isn't "talking" to my Kodak software - so, images will have to be loaded when I'm back next week.

Friday night, I was extremely tired. I had been up since 3:30 a.m. Tally time and arrived at the hotel around 6 p.m. Vancouver time (three hour difference). Tempted for room service, I cleaned up a bit and wandered the streets for sushi. Since there's a huge Japanese population, there are TONS of great, cheap sushi places. I forgot to bring a map (to find my way back to the hotel), but I found a great little sushi place around the corner, so I didn't get lost.

Saturday, being on EST, I rose with the sun - beautiful pinkish-orange. Wandered down to catch a water taxi to Granville Island, but along the way, a man asked me to help him find some place. I assume he was Indian, had a turban and long, white beard tied up appropriately. He wore a security guard coat - he was late for his job.

Each time I'm stopped on the streets of some strange city and asked for directions, guess I should see it as a complement. Must mean I look like a local.

Well, after a couple of phone calls, I gave the security guard man an extra map I had and sent him on his way. Funny, because I'm so navigationally challenged.

At the dock, tall sail boats bobbed in the water. Black mussels lined the wood legs and out in the water, a black, shiny head poked up and swam for a bit. It was a SEAL!!! How cool! Yup, I feel like a tourist. I mean, in Florida, we have water, but we don't have seals.

For $2.50 CAD (which is about equal to $2.40 USD), it took about 7 minutes to reach Granville Island. It's known for a great market - seafood, baked goods, fresh fruits and veggies and just about anything else. Breakfast was a salmon roll. Mmmmm. In addition to sushi, I LOVE salmon - which I guess the salmon roll could be considered "cooked" sushi - it was salmon prepared with dill and lemon in a light, flaky pastry. Also picked up a couple of apples and some cooking spices. It was tempting to grab a couple of packs of no-refrigeration-needed-salmon, but wasn't sure how U.S. Agriculture would like it.

I wandered around the island, walking through a neighborhood and headed back to the mainland. I walked down to Sunset Beach Park which is on English Bay, opens up to the Pacific Ocean. Forgot to mention it was a beautiful day, little overcast and the temperature about 55 F. People were out running, biking and rollerblading. It was funny to see people wearing sweatshirt and shorts - not just those running, but people just ambling around. See, in Florida, we'd be bundled up with hats, scarves and gloves at 55 degrees.

Headed to Chinatown next, for lunch. Unlike NYC's Chinatown, where people whisper sweet nothings like, "Louis," "Kate" and "Gucci," in your ears, they aren't pushing ANYTHING here. It definitely has more of a community feel. After passing through the Vancouver Chinatown Millennium Gate on West Pender Street, the Chinese Cultural Center is about a block ahead on the right. Behind that is the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Wish I could upload photos, because in the relatively small area, there is so much happening. A beautiful coi-filled pond with lily pads, a weeping willow with yellowish leaves dripping over it. Rocks and bamboo fill in other parts of the garden, along with a little pagoda. Very soothing. Some people were taking advantage of the serenity while others, like me, whisked through.

The shops in Chinatown ranged from the ticky-tacky stuff to high-end teas and spices. Picked up some more green tea for my collection (the fresh stuff that Kathy brought back to me from Japan is just about gone) along with some plastic pouches - which are great for stuffing the brochures I collect on my journeys. The food markets sold all sort of dried seafood and other oddities, like dried lizard on a stick, dried sea cucumber (not on a stick), dried scallops, dried seahorses, well, you get the idea.

Found a place for lunch - it wasn't that great. I was so hungry at this point, I plopped down at the first spot - an American-Chinese cafe - think of it as a step above Mel's Diner (the TV show) and a Chinese Flow. It was reasonably-priced food.

Headed back to the hotel through the area called Gastown. Some guy nicknamed "Gassy" founded the area and remnants of the wild west still exist. Which reminds me to mention the buildings in Vancouver, everything seems so new. Not much character. While wandering around, I found what are probably the last two houses in the downtown area - everything around these wood houses were torn down and slick, glass buildings were being built.

Gastown was pretty cool, kinda on the verge of Goth, but not really. Browsed through a sustainable furniture shop (made by recycling all sorts of odd things) and a beautiful gallery with Inuit art, carved wooden masks, totem poles and paintings. Very tempting to buy something, but remembering that I have so much art I've collected over the years that hasn't been framed, I refrained. The highlight of Gastown is the steam-powered clock. At least, there was a bus-load of Japanese tourists taking photos around it, so it must be one of the highlights of the area.

Headed back to the hotel and saw a NYC & Company flag and yellow New York taxi cabs lined down a street. A cop had the street blocked off. Turns out that the sequel to the "Fantastic Four," (I think that's the name, I'm really not sure because I don't know of these "Fantastic Four" everyone speaks of) is being filmed in Vancouver. Just stunts were being filmed and got to watch a row of cars being crunched and flipped over. Pretty cool. But again, strange to see a NYC setting in Canada.

More sushi for dinner and good night! Not sure what I'll be doing today. The conference begins tonight so I have the afternoon. I'm considering taking the bus to the Museum of Anthropology - but with all my travels, I've never taken a public bus!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I Should Be...

...writing. Not blogging, but writing. I've found venues which actually PAY me to write now, but I find ways not to. I get too distracted, my head still feels "fuzzy" - that's a good excuse! But am I giving up? Do I purposely want to fail? Or, am I afraid of success and the good that may come?
Sometimes I feel I have to fight to write - that it's in there, and when I pull it out, it's mighty good. But too often, I let content take control of my writing and life. I don't fight for things very often, only when I know (think?) it's worthwhile, but there are some things I've recently given up fighting for. Yup, this makes me sad for now, but I know (think?) in the long run it all will be good. The Magic 8-Ball confirmed this. (I'm kidding! I haven't consulted the Magic 8-Ball in a long while.)

Oh, and if you're wondering about the 7-day eHarmony trial, I'm just not feeling the love. Two out of three friends polled think I should cancel the membership and what will be, will be. I've learned my friends are usually right; this time I'll listen.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

My Lucky World

Do you consider yourself to be a lucky or unlucky person? Although I don't think I've had a perfect life (does anyone, really?), I think I'm lucky. Ok, I KNOW I'm lucky. I'm not making this statement to be arrogant, it's just the way I see things and accept what happens to me. Despite my low points, I know I have what's important and will end up on my feet.

I also know that I haven't been handed "luck," it's a state of mind and attitude. It's realizing I make my own luck and depend on me rather than sitting around waiting for the world to hand over opportunities. The world has given me the keys and tools, but that's because I earned it and asked.

I used to be overly concerned with jobs I was given. Obsessed that I was given those jobs solely because of who I was engaged/married to. Maybe they were given to me for that reason, but I proved myself; not only to those who doubted me but to me.

It's time for me to think how I can step things up and create a challenge to take me to my next level. One of the challenges in my life was spending the month in Japan. Two years ago this week I began that life-altering journey. One of the cities we stayed in was Hamamatsu. Learn more about Japan's "City of Music," here.

I'd love to have the freedom to live abroad. Unfortunately, debt ties me to the U.S. Does anyone know what the lottery's up to tonight?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Travel Keeps Me Going...

I don't know when the travel bug bit me, but it's become part of who I am. My desire to travel probably evolved with my active childhood imagination and dreaming of exploring exotic, and not-so-exotic lands. Travel is my escapism. I know I'm fortunate to work in the tourism industry, which allows me to travel.

My next trip is to Vancouver, British Columbia, which will probably be the closest thing I'll get to international travel in a long while. I've scheduled a day off to explore this part of Canada. I'm not looking forward to the travel itself - about 12 hours to get from point A through B, C, D and E to get to point F, but it will be well worth it.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pursuing a Dream is Not Far-Fetched

It's amazing how people surprise us with their hidden talents later in life. In high school, I admired friend Julie Pecenco for being incredibly intelligent and quick-witted. We played field hockey together and one of my favorite things she would say, when I would try to be positive was:"we are not cheerleaders!"

She went off to earn her master's degree in engineering and became a hobbyist photographer. I don't know her full story, but she's found her soul mate and photography is now her full-time profession. Her work is incredible. I had no idea she was interested in photography until much later in life. Guess it's ironic, I was the photo junkie in high school and thought that was going to be my profession.

Enjoy her talents and if you need a photographer in Oneonta or pretty much anywhere (I'm sure she'd travel for the right price), think of her.

It's All About Me! Boston's Still On My Mind

Enjoy more images from last month's trip to Boston. Eventually I'll write something up about it.

Since I wrote my article about International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I've had a bit of a salty obsession. Found this bloke in Salem, definitely the strong, silent type.

I'd like to introduce you to the next President of the United States...taken at the JFK Library. Wonderful exhibits - made me cry (but then again, everything seems to make me cry lately!).

And the spices? [Taken from the West India Goods Store in Salem.] Well, I'm just in a spicy, zesty mood :)