Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Frog Worship

How many frogs do you see in this photo? How many "live" frogs do you see? It seems as though the frogs in my Mom's Western New York pond have stare-downs (or maybe worshiping) with the mini-frog statues placed in the amphibian oasis.

I didn't have the patience to see how long the frog would sit there staring at the big, ceramic frog, but the little froggy sat there for a while.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pulling Off One Big Surprise...Priceless

I'm in Buffalo this weekend, primarily for a cousin's wedding, so my parents thought. It happens to be the weekend of my parent's 40th wedding anniversary and my cousin's wedding was Friday.

Since March or so, we four siblings have been scheming on what to do to mark the anniversary. Thankfully one of us inherited our Mother's entertainment-Martha Stewart gene - that would be Lizzy (who somehow managed to acquire the fashion and style gene).

Being the oldest child, I felt I should have had a bigger role in the planning but being in Florida, I didn't feel I could contribute much to the planning. Lizzy and her husband Mike were the anchors of the party and we mostly communicated via email and frequent phone calls as the date approached.

About 75 people, including children, were in on the surprise and no one slipped up in accidentally spilling the beans to them.

On the day of the surprise, the folks were to be at Lizzy's for dinner at 5 p.m. An hour prior, the guests arrived and five people/couples were designated to hold up the following signs as they pulled into the driveway (yes, we ripped off the MasterCard "Priceless" campaign):

Loads of laundry a day: 4
Trips to Florida: 40
Road trip miles: 400,000
Raising 4 kids (still): $4 million
Surprise Anniversary Party

And the rest of the guests held up signs reading: Priceless.

Were they surprised? To use one of my father's favorite phrases, "You bet!"

As for the photo in this post, it was the inspiration for the "Priceless" theme. Lizzy had snuck into the parent's attic a few months ago and took their photo album. One of my tasks on Friday was to run to FedEx Kinko's and have it enlarged. Not so easy. Notice the photographer's name in the lower right hand corner? "It's copyrighted. We can't reproduce it without permission of the photographer."

While I was figuring out what to do, another customer came in asking to have a photo copied and she was told the same thing. She turned around and walked out. I was going to find a solution.

I Googled his name (thank goodness for technology and loss of privacy) and found him associated with Henry's Candy & Gifts. I called the number hoping it was the same person and I eventually found him!

Short of it, I had to run out to the retired photographer's house to have him sign a release on the photo. Thankfully my friend Val, who was my chauffeur that day, didn't mind. Turns out he retired a little more than two years ago and he finds this whole business of signing releases silly on FedEx Kinko's part. I took a photo of his house with the sign stating who he was, in case the copy clerk didn't believe me.

I returned to the shop and a different person helped us. I told her how we got the release and she never asked to see it!!!! She made the copies and I went to hand her the release but she said I needed to keep it.

I was a bit ticked they didn't ask to see the release and I was tempted to find the little man who helped me and wave the release in his face but I walked away knowing what I had done was priceless.

Note: Images from the party to be posted later in the week.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Going on Week Four of Living Out of My Suitcase

I've been traveling for business and pleasure since the end of July, having spent the time on the road than at home. My most recent trip was to Sarasota to visit friends and say "hello" to Grandma, who I'll see this weekend at the family festivities. Regretfully, I couldn't see all my SRQ friends. There never seems to be enough time.

After this weekend, I'll be home until the end of October. *phew!*

I'm feeling really discombobulated right now. I haven't been able to unpack properly at home and my offices moved last week (while I was on a business trip) so returning to a new setting in a new part of town has been a bit unsettling. The commute home is 15 minutes longer than before, it's only three miles but Tallahassee traffic is a tad congested. I'm also totally lost within the building (which is still undergoing construction inside) and in the new neighborhood. I know it's silly to say and hard for some to understand, but it's been a bit stressful, especially for someone who needs structure.

Once again, I'm wondering where'd the summer go. I'm a bit behind in my writing so hopefully on my flights this weekend I'll make use of the idle time to pump out some articles. I have loads of email to get caught up on, blogs to read, articles to comment on and social networking sites which need some lovin'. Doing my best to prioritize.

When I dropped a rental car off at Tallahassee airport Sunday, I met this stray kitty. She wanted to talk and flirted but would scamper away when I got close. As she rolled around in the grass, I could hear her little motor purring away. Life must be good at the airport, but of course, I should already know that.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Cool Site of the Week: Online Etch a Sketch

I know you played with one when you were a kid. Heck, maybe you play with one now, you can buy 'em as groovy little key chains. But check this out, an online Etch a Sketch.

Hint: Read the "help" portion to get started.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Woodruffs: In an Instant

I'm working on a story about Bob and Lee Woodruff speaking at the conference I attended this week and hope to have it done tomorrow. As you should know, Woodruff was embedded with the U.S. troops in Iraq last year, his vehicle hit an IED, suffered severe brain trauma, was in a coma and is making tremendous progress. He and his wife Lee co-wrote In an Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing, which tells their love tale, Woodruff's accident, recovery and progress.

Seeing them in person, I could see the love shared between them. I'm about finished with the book and had to hold back tears while reading it on the plane today. Enjoy these photos.

Left photo: The Woodruffs respond when I told them I traveled to Afghanistan last year. Mrs. Woodruff's verbal response, "For the fun of it?" Her non-verbal response, "Are you crazy, woman?"

Right photo: Sneaking next to the Woodruffs as they sign books. I'm not a celebrity stalker, really.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I Crashed Antoine Walker's Birthday Bash...

...kind of. I'm in Chicago this week, staying at Hotel Sax (formerly the House of Blues). My colleagues and I returned from dinner tonight (Sunday) for a few cocktails when a couple dozen NBA players took over the hotel bar. Turns out it's Antoine Walker's birthday and his best buds came out to celebrate(including NBA players and "Last Comic Standing" finalist Lavell Crawford).

I have to admit, I didn't recognize Mr. Walker but knew of him because he was recently held at gunpoint and his home robbed.

We sat in our corner trying to figure out who the celebs were and asked for the obligatory photo ops. Everyone was soooo nice and friendly and we were even included in Mr. Walker's champagne toast in which a handful of friends made bid the Miami Heat player best wishes. The crowd later boarded a bus to go clubbing, we opted to hang out in the bar and absorb what we just saw (not that we had a choice).
Updated: Aug. 15, 2007

Top photo: Sam Cassell (a Florida State fella - Go Noles!), Me and Antoine Walker.

Bottom photo: Me, TV (my boss), Lavell Crawford and Friendly Woman.

Good times!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cool Web site of the Week: Sprint's Waitless.org

The folks over at Sprint realize how precious your time is. They recently dropped customers for complaining too much (See??? They realized some customers were wasting their time by complaining so Sprint cut them loose).

Now, they've created a Web site called waitless.org to help you maximize time in your busy life. Video tips, called "Sprintcuts," include peeling a hard boiled egg (which will help me in the morning), parking (this is my fav - but imagine it's a "do not attempt this at home" clip) and removing a t-shirt (I played this five times already). Each video clip lets you know the "time rebate" you get back when practicing the tip. And, you can submit your own time saving tip. If you need to gain some time in your busy day, and want to amaze your friends, visit waitless.org.

Do You Swiki?

Just when I was getting a hang of wikis (I still haven't grasped the concept of building one from ground up and I don't mean making a post on Wikipedia), I learn about a swiki (almost sounds like computer lingo for sealed with ye kiss, anyway...) - a cross between a search engine and Wikipedia (users can contribute, edit and delete content). It looks like a bunch of Google ads with URL listings, is it legit or a splog (spam blog)???

My Google Alerts notified me that this blog is listed as a resource in the South Georgia swiki. Hmmm, may give me an idea to find another niche but most importantly, to focus on my niche sites (yes, more niche sites are yet to come).

Thursday, August 09, 2007

S2S Days 7 & 8: Washington!

OK, remember my little trip to the West Coast I took earlier this summer? Here's a link to remind you about S2S 2007 and I'm FINALLY going to share the rest of my trip.

After I left Portland, I had to decide between heading over to the Oregon Coast (which I heard is absolutely beautiful) or drive along the Columbia River to Columbia Hills State Park in Washington to see the petroglyphs. Decisions, decisions. I didn't decide until the morning I left and headed east along I-84. Of course, I got lost getting out of Portland, that's because I went to look for the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden and found my way back to downtown Portland. I didn't find the sculpture garden, I THINK I knew where it was, on a school ground, but couldn't find a place to park.

But once I got going in the right direction, life was good...

The drive along the river was beautiful. Not much foliage so the cliffs along the river were exposed. A train track rang alongside the highway and every so often I took the Historic Columbia River Highway (US 30) for more scenic vistas over hills and through forested areas. I stopped at parks along the way, enjoying the river, waterfalls and stretch my legs.

I hadn't printed out specific directions to Columbia Hills State Park and had a map but the map didn't show it. Once I crossed the Columbia River I knew to head east on SR 14 and hoped I'd easily spot the park. Sure enough, it was easy to find.

The reason why I wanted to visit the park is because of the petroglyphs and pictographs around Horsetheif Lake. Because people have been destroying these artifacts, the park offers walks once a day on Fridays and Saturdays for up to 25 people during the summer season. I called the park a couple of weeks in advance but the walk was already full - darn! I was told some have been moved to a public area to be viewed and that's what I saw.

Video cameras monitored the area and I couldn't get close to them - unlike the time I went to Thermopolis, Wyo. and visited some petroglyphs there (this was many moons ago, maybe four years???).

I then hit the highway for Mt. Rainier National Park. While I was fine traveling by myself, the road seemed lonely. Like most of my road trip on the open road, I hardly saw any traffic. Every so often I passed a semi-truck or a car, but not much else. I drove over mountains, through valleys, through Washington's green countryside. And like the rest of my journey, it was nice to see all the undeveloped land still out there in the great U.S. of A.

Got to Mt. Rainier and this was my splurge for the trip, a stay at the National Park Inn. No TV, no bathroom in the room and no AC, but it was pleasant. Hiked a little, sat on the porch in a rocking chair and soaked up the scent of pine as the evening winded down, looking at Mt. Rainier.

Dinner was probably the most humiliating part of my whole S2S journey.

"Just one?" The hostess asked.
"Yes, just one." My reply.
"Follow me." Hostess.

We walk into the small dining room and she plops me at a round, five-top table in the MIDDLE of the room! I looked around and there were plenty of square, four-tops available, especially those nestled against the walls with picturesque views.

"Just one? That's odd," said my waiter.
"Yes, just one. I can see you're busy tonight and glad you could fit me in," I sarcastically replied to my waiter.

Although feeling weird about my solo status, I bucked it up, ordered my margarita and had a lovely dinner. Chatted with the waiter and other staff (it was SLOW) and one of them worked in the Everglades recently. Small world.

Next morning was off to find the snow at Paradise. I felt a bit out of place, loads of buffed hikers had skis strapped on and were hiking up Rainier to ski down. I continued to play tourist, visited the round visitors center, found my snow and headed to Olympia, Wa. to see my friend Jen.

I stopped in some small town because I saw a flea market sign. I didn't buy many souvenirs on my trip but here I bought a small leaf made from concrete, called Locady Leaves. The artist, Joyce Moore, takes a leaf imprint and creates a piece of art. I love it because I can see and feel the textures of the leaf. She even wrapped it up beautifully, too.

Continued through Mossyrock on Hwy. 12 and stopped at the DeGoede Bulb Farm & Gardens. Apparently this area used to be one of the top producers of daffodils. Fields of blooming flowers grabbed my attention so I had to stop and explore. Pretty cool.

Made my way to Olympia and driving through the neighborhood, I immediately spotted Jen's house: orange with purple trim. Jen is living in the hippie house I'd love to have. Barrels collect rain water to water the yard, which has been converted to a garden: hops, hazelnut trees, strawberries and other fruits and veggies.

The garage has been converted into a pottery studio. She and friends are brewing beer and bottling wine. She recently sent me an email telling me a brewer in Seattle may be interested in selling the beer. Fingers are crossed for her! Jen and I met in 1990 during my first summer in Yellowstone. Since then, we've kept in touch and have seen each other off and on throughout the years. She's one incredible gal!
We caught up, visited the farmer's market, grabbed a cup of iced coffee and sipped it while sitting on the grass in a city park. She showed me a community garden she's started in the neighborhood and visited a hostel the next street over which belongs to a friend.

And then it was time to head home. I never actually made it to Seattle, just the airport. Just gives me reason to go back. So much I'd love to see, like the Oregon coast, more of Oregon's wine country, the eastern, rugged part of the state and a return trip to Seattle. Someday...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Call Me Grace

Among my many talents is clumsiness. Last September I fell down a friend's stairs and broke one of my toes. I don't think he cared much but I was embarrassed at my tumbling act.

Last night while heading to bed, I turned off the lights in the living room and forgot my unpacked luggage and milk crate (from my week in a college dorm) were still in the middle of the room. I rammed my foot into the crate and tripped, with my hands breaking my fall. Although no one was there, I was embarrassed at my stupidity.

I have a few bruises but think I pulled something in my neck. The thought then passed my mind this is the way people fall and break their necks, left for dead. Lifecall ("Help, I've fallen...can't get up") would have been handy at that point but I don't think I meet the age requirements for one.

Either that or my neck is feeling the effects of the new Pilates workout I started yesterday. It involved defying the laws of physics and angling my body in positions I had no idea were possible.

Edited: Aug. 6, 2007

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Worth the Visit: Macon, Georgia

Driving back from the north Georgia mountains yesterday, I had to decide between heading into Atlanta for the CNN tour to see news in action about the tragic bridge collapse in Minnesota or stop in Macon. The journalist in me wanted to head into Atlanta but the wimp driver in me chose to avoid the crazy driving and continue southward.

I spent about three hours in Macon, the "Song & Soul of the South." Downtown's cute and is going through a revitalization. First stop was the piano-shaped visitors center to get orientated, then the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and the Tuban African American Museum. Lunch was downtown at Jeneane's Cafe (524 Mulberry Street, open Monday - Friday 5:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) for some of the best soul food I've ever had. Heading back towards Tallahassee, I stopped at Rose Hill Cemetery, touted as one of the most scenic cemeteries in the world.

There's so much more to see and do, I'd definitely plan a return visit.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

I'm Free! I'm Free!

I've been in the Georgia mountains since Sunday attending the Southeast Tourism Society's Marketing College. It's taken me four years to complete the three year program (it's not because I failed a year, it's because I changed jobs, really...) and I'm two steps closer to receiving an accreditation in tourism (which means I can throw some letters at the end of my name).

Today was the last class and I get to go home tomorrow - yippee! I've been sick all week, picked up a cold, sleeping in a dorm where I shiver at night (and this is July mind you, 90 something outside) and the fresh mountain air (aka: allergens) have made my head feel as though it's about to explode. It's a different kind of humidity up here, too. I have quite the Afro going on my head now.

I'll probably be stopping in Macon tomorrow to see the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and was told about a cool cafe to have fried green tomatoes. Guess there are a few things I like about the South.