Rosy Outlook

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Mom bought roses for me and put them in my room!  They are fragrant and dark pink in color.

This year my brother, mother and father are celebrating my birthday with me.  Last year I turned 30 and this year I'm 29.  Strange how that happens.  First, let me thank you for your readership.  I've been blogging now for almost four years and it has been a wonderful outlet.  Also, thanks for your encouragment and support this year as I searched for a new job, moved cross-country, bought a house and shared my Visa woes in many posts.

Kingsley and I have good news.  A wonderful representative (Rhonda) from Senator Bob Corker's office gained permission for us to apply for a visa waiver.  This is wonderful since we were previously staring down a 3 year ban from Kingsley entering the US.  We will begin the application process next week and we are very hopeful that Kingsley will be granted a waiver for our K-1 visa.  So I'm smiling from ear to ear on the good piece of fortune.  (If you would like to help us by writing a letter in support of a waiver, please post a comment and I'll email you directly. Thank you.)

This year has been fast and furious.  I feel like I blinked and suddenly I'm another year older.  Looking back though, I must say I am the happiest I've ever been. 

My job is challenging and rewarding and I work with an amazing group of professionals.  I've covered big stories this year already including the Nashville flooding and Gulf Coast oil spill. 

I feel content and confident being married to Kingsley.  We've enjoyed wonderful trips together this year and every time we see each other we become better friends and more in love.  I'm clinging to the hope that we'll soon be together. 

My house makes me so happy.  I love my neighborhood, my neighbors and my space.  If I want to plant a garden, I can and I did.  I've used recycled materials to build raised beds.  I even painted my mailbox.  Every night I love to walk around my property and watch for birds and squirrels.  To me, it is very peaceful. 

This year, I've become even more interested in classical music, jazz and reggae.  I also love memoirs and non-fiction books on cooking, gardening and history.  I feel I waste less time being a couch potato and shopping.  Maybe being a homeowner does that to you.  I just don't have much time for those things now while working a full time job (plus I have to learn how to mow my lawn).

My goals for this year are lofty.  I want to finish my book proposal and I want to get even closer to resolving all debt.  This is also my year to get in shape.  I can do more than just curb eating.  I should be using my muscles to accomplish something (any advice on how to work out/exercise and be productive at the same time?).  

Here's to the moon and my star sign, Cancerian.  What are your goals?  Let's go after them together. 

So how bad is it?

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Regarding my trip to the Gulf coast, many people have asked, "So how bad is it?" My answer is: It is worse than I thought it would be and better than I thought it would be. What does that mean? I thought "tar balls" were big, black balls of tar that would look like black balloons floating in on the ocean. So when I noticed small, piles of what appeared to be animal waste, I was surprised. But on the beaches we visited, in Alabama and Florida, the piles littered the area. When I picked one up and smelled it, yes, it smelled like oil.

Some parents were letting their children into the surf near piles of oil.  In my opinion, that's a bad idea.  While there were parts of the beach that looked very clean, I'm still concerned with what's going on beneath the surface.  In Alabama, the Governor asked people to go into the water at their own discretion.  In Pensacola Beach, Florida, the message was much different.  The Coast Guard was making rounds to the media asking us to tell people to stay out of the water and not walk on the beach with bare feet.

While we were in Gulf Shores, a concerned woman stopped us on the beach and said 2 lifeguards had just pulled a dead shark from the water.  We found them waiting for Alabama state biologists to assess the shark.  It had a hook in it's mouth but it would undergo tests to find out if the oil spill contributed to it's death.

If the oil is reaching all the way to the shore and piling up in little oil-covered sand clumps, I can only imagine what the situation is like under the surface of the ocean. I was also shocked to see only a handful (maybe 6) seagulls during the entire trip. There were a few pelicans that would swoop over the ocean but the birds have moved on. That, to me, was a bad sign.

We started our trip in Chauvin, Louisiana near the marsh land.  The Coast Guard allowed us to go out on air boats to view the cleanup.  While the area appeared to be relatively clean, crews were putting booms into the water along the grassline to try to keep oil out of the habitats of birds, oysters, shrimp and others.

BP is in there working.  There's no doubt about it.  I think the company is genuinely trying to stop the bleeding. There were cleanup crews along the beaches every morning while we were there and in bad areas (more oily debris than others) crews worked all day. 

In Florida, workers scooped oily water off the shore line and dumped that into plastic bags.  They made piles of plastic bags and forklifts would cart off the piles.  I question how long this type of tedious work can go on. 

I visited one of the BP Claims offices in Orange Beach, Alabama and people were standing in the rain waiting for an appointment.  I can't even imagine how many people are out of work and that's just in one coastal city.  The bar tenders, restaurant workers and hotel cleaners are making absolutely no money because people aren't there on vacation.  The shrimpers have nothing and cannot get another job because some can barely read and write.  Gulf Shores was a ghost town while we were there.  That was shocking.  Parking lots were empty and it was June.  The beaches should have been full.  Sadly, this disaster is much worse than people realize.  It will take years of cleanup, not months.

I found this bumper sticker on the wall of a restaurant that summed up some people's frustration:

Knoxville's Top Chef 2010

Friday, 25 June 2010

My first house guest came for a visit the weekend before I left for the Gulf coast. Melissa and I went to a charity event benefiting East Tennessee Children's Hospital called Top Chef.  Some of the food was certainly cutting edge and creative.  

Here are some of my favorites:  

Scallops with peach chutney from The Orangery

Seared yellow tail tuna with rice pilaf and mustard-miso glaze from Nama

And from Chez Liberty (my favorite!!): Simon's coffee and walnut encrusted filet with lobster celery root puree, fiddlehead ferns with a chocolate demi-glaze.  Desert was Liberty Belgian chocolate and goat cheese fondant.

The event was hosted in the University of Tennessee Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, a beautiful venue.  Most people arrived before the sunset and as we made our way through the samples, the place cleared out.  Good!  More for us!

This is the dish from Nama which came in second (in my book) to Chez Liberty but wow it was amazing and the ambiance at their downtown location can't be beat.

Some of the desert was to die for.  We even tried chocolate covered bacon which neither of us really enjoyed.  There were a lot of pork products and we're not big fans.  The pecan tassies with lemon drizzle were amazing!

Gulf Coast Oil Spill

Thursday, 24 June 2010
My station, 6 News sent me with a crew and our main anchor, Lori to the Gulf coast to do live reports on the oil spill. While there, I had no free time and sadly, no Wifi.  Please forgive my lack of posting.  I'm home now with stories to tell.  I promise to update you tomorrow when I have a full night's sleep.

We saw tar balls, a dead shark, oil seeping into marsh lands, people waiting in long lines at the BP claims office and residents who are very angry with the response.

As for me, my eyes were opened to the sorrows of disasters and how ecosystems can be destroyed in a matter of hours.  On the bright side, some folks are amazingly strong and somehow keep determination and positivity in the forefront of their minds.

While we had no time to do anything recreational, we did eat excellent seafood twice.  I'll fill you in on that as well.

Flower Power

Wednesday, 16 June 2010
I finally finished the 50 yard flower bed that runs the length of half my property.  It was absolutely flooded with weeds and poison oak.  It took 3 days of hard work but I cleaned it out, planted ground cover, Day Lillies and ferns and mulched.  I even constructed four raised beds out of free, recycled materials.  
I planted veggies for the first time ever and I'm trying my hand at gardening.  So far, I have produced one small red pepper and one very small banana pepper.  The squash and cucumber are flowering but not bearing fruit yet.  I believe they need pollination and I don't know if we have any bees nearby.  
It's exciting to check on the garden each day after work to see what surprises might be there.  I have several varieties of tomatoes but nothing is flowering yet.  The beds are in full sun and I water daily.  Any advice?  Please post a comment below.
Eggplant (left), squash (right)
Red pepper (back left), cucumber (front left), row of green beans, row of lettuce
Tomatoes, banana pepper (right)
Big Boy, Burpee Tie Die, Purple Cherokee tomatoes
My herbs also seem to like their home in containers on the back deck.  I have basil, mint, lemon thyme, oregano, garlic chive and Rosemary.

Most Embarrassing Moment

Tuesday, 15 June 2010
You know how you sit around sometimes dishing with friends and someone asks, "So what's your most embarassing moment?"  I have a new one.

Kingsley and I have been discussing him moving to Mexico so at least we'll be closer while we continue the good fight for our Visa.  Well, we're getting closer to a decision and I wanted to follow up on one of our conversations.  Since we deal with a 5 hour time difference, if I think of something to tell Kingsley, I usually slap it into an email so he gets it when he wakes up.

Sunday night, I was getting ready for bed and typing away on my Blackberry (with my thumbs) writing an email to Kingsley.  I pressed "send" and smiled to myself.  Things were looking up.  A few seconds later my phone buzzed and I had an email from a co-worker.  Thinking "That's strange this late..." I read it.  And. Almost. Passed. Out.

I had sent the private message meant for my husband to the ENTIRE NEWSROOM.  One of our kind editiors, Phil, sent me an email back reminding me to double check the "to" field before sending.  How embarrassing.  The message ended with "Love u so much!" 

Several people said "Love you too" to me the next day at work and many are also calling me "pook."  Arg!!!

Twilight and New Moon

Sunday, 13 June 2010

You may remember my post on the Twilight series when it came out earlier this year.  In the article, I admitted that I hadn't read the books but posted a few comments from criticts who thought the main character, Bella, was portrayed as a weak girl who can't survive without her man. Feminists went wild with this and I bought into the hype. The books are actually pretty good and it is fiction, just meant to entertain.

I'm to the end of New Moon, the second book in the series.

Here's my thoughts:  Unless you are looking for entertainment only, the books are a waste of time.  Readers do not learn anything or grow in character through the series.  The writing is poor:  Bella got up.  Bella called Edward.  Bella giggled after calling Edward.  But I must admit, the story line is fascinating! 

The author, Stephanie Meyers is writing for an audience who is not too developed (which is smart because she can sell a lot of books to a wide range of fans).  Her shallow sentences work because she has the talent to write descriptively and paint a picture in the mind of the reader.  Creatures transform into monsters from human forms and one can truly picture it happening through Meyers' words. 

Bella is the weak character and the story is built around her inadequacies and need to be taken care of.  The men (Edward and Jacob) are both powerful beings who are more talented than humans, can fight harder, go without sleep and food and even read minds.  The books appeal to a younger audience so there's no sex, no alcohol, no drugs and life seems very unrealistic.  No kidding.  It's a story about vampires and werewolves.

Bottom line?  If you like to completely zone out (maybe summer vacation reading), pick up the series.  The books are hard to put down.  If you'd rather spend your time reading something that gives you a flash of knowledge or encouragement, look elsewhere.

I'm going to buy Breaking Dawn (the 3rd book) tonight.

P.S. How about the movies?  Worth the time?  I think the casting agents could've found someone even more gorgeous than Edward to play the main part.  He's cast as a beautiful god in the mind of readers.

Beat the Heat

Saturday, 12 June 2010
I'm going to HAVE to figure out a way to beat the heat this summer.  Bob is already predicting 90s all next week and with my job at 6 News, I have to hit the streets to report.  Man it is hot.  On Friday, my standup report looked like I had just played a few rounds of tennis.  I was "melty" as I like to call it. 

So what to do?

I don't really like public pools, I LOVE the lake but I don't have a boat, and the air conditioner needs to stay at a reasonable level all summer.  No thanks to paying hundreds to the utility company each month.  Perhaps I'll find a swimming beach on Norris Lake and camp out a few times.

My little flagstone patio in the back yard is under some lovely shade trees but even in the 90s, shade doesn't offer much relief.  And just think... it's not even summer yet!

How do you beat the heat?

Anniversary Dinner

Monday, 7 June 2010
Kingsley and I are not a traditional couple.  We do things a little differently because we have to.  We live on two different continents for the time being.  So, in order to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary, we met on the Mexican island of Isla Mujeres.  We decided to have our anniversary dinner at our favorite beach side seafood restaurant on the island, Cockteleria.  Tables are set up in the white sand and the view is of the main port with ferry boats coming in and out and scuba lessons taking place in the shallow turquoise waters. I highly recommend it.

Fishermen go out in the mornings and drop off the fresh catch by noon time to be prepared for early dinners and the chefs take great pride in serving fresh lobster, squid, octopus and fish.

Isla restaurants serve a wonderful mild salsa and I'd love to get the recipe.  Kingsley and I decided it contains fresh tomatoes, sweet white onion, jalapeno peppers and loads of Cilantro.  We're not sure what else, possibly lime juice as well.  Yummy!  I even ate it on omelets for breakfast.

For our main course, we ordered a whole fresh fish (selected from the catch of the day), fried the traditional Isla way.  It was huge and cooked down to this golden beauty:

We kept eating until there wasn't much left.  The meat was tender, juicy and light.  The batter was slightly crispy, with just enough salt and seasoning.  We like to add fresh lime juice on top for a kick. The meal was washed down with cold Mexican beer.  Sol for Kingsley, Negra Modelo for me.

There was even a coconut stand outside the restaurant for dessert.  Note the handmade tip jar with the sombrero.  Haaa!

BP Apology

Sunday, 6 June 2010
What do you think?  Does the televised apology from BP's CEO make you feel better about the oil spill?  If you haven't seen it, I've included it for your viewing pleasure.

In my opinion, the apology is too late.  This happened on April 20th it took this long for the CEO to respond publically with an "I'm sorry?" 

I actually tear up when I see the video of pelicans sitting motionless on the beaches because they are too covered in oil to move or fly.  They'll slowly starve to death because the rescue crews can't get to all of them in time.  You can only imagine what is happening to wildlife that is in the water and has no escape. 

It is noteworthy that the CEO apologized since this was an accident.  However, one way to be a responsible, successful corporation is to prepare for disaster.  The company still doesn't have the spill stopped and it will continue to gush until at least August.  Please don't apologize, just spend all of your time, money and efforts into stopping the oil and cleaning it up. 


Where's My Piece?

Saturday, 5 June 2010
I have health insurance through my place of employment.  Most people who work there would admit, it isn't that great.  We have a whopping $2000 deductible.  That means, unless I am dying, I will NOT go to the doctor or fill a prescription.  Wow.  A great way to care for oneself and remain on the upswing of health, I'm sure.

Unfortunately yesterday, I did think I was dying.  Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit but I had a problem that I could not treat with a home remedy.  I have small, red bug bites up and down both forearms and wrists.  Just counting one arm, I have at least 20 bites on the 5 inch section of my arm beneath my wrist to my elbow.

They are painfully itchy and I've started a gorgeous rash by scratching the bites to death.  I can handle pain quite well with deep breathing.  Endless itching?  I would rather drown myself than suffer through it.  So, after two days of a copious application of Neosporin and Hydrocortisone cream, I stopped by the Wellness Clinic at Walgreens to ask an expert opinion.

The practitioner while very nice, spent more time asking me about my profession and personal life than the lesions on my arms.  When I interrupted her to say, "Look, they are on my legs too." she responded with, "So when do you think your husband will be able to come to the U-S?"  In the end, she prescribed a topical creme and 60 mg of Prednisone for three days.  She didn't know what the bites were and when I asked she said, "Well, you said you were working in the yard??"

I spent $75 on the appointment and $30 for the prescriptions.  Am I feeling better?  Sort of.  Are the bites going down?  No, they are multiplying.  The practitioner asked me if I'd tried Benadryl and I almost hit myself.  That would have treated the reaction to the bites without wasting extra cash.  Health care is a burden to people who are not financially secure and knowing my situation, I'm likely better off than many.

Dear President Obama, may I respectively ask, when do I get to have a piece of the health care reform pie?  I'm not seeing any benefits and scoff to think your administration only passed something that will start to help people in two more years!  I must pay $2000 before getting any health care.  Creative thinkers like myself who dream of writing books all the day long, have not a chance without some type of insurance for entrepreneurs.   Since the public option was shot out of the sky like a duck, I do not have much hope.

Excuse me while I go scratch...

Library Rat

Thursday, 3 June 2010
"You're a nerd."

Excuse me?  Kingsley just made this announcement as we are laying by the ocean on white sands in Mexico.  The look on my face made him back pedal a bit.  "You know, you're smart.  You love to be on your computer, you read constantly and you always have a pen."  ??

In my 30 years on this earth no one has ever called me a nerd.  I pressed him to clarify his observation.

"Well, there's nothing wrong with it.  People are going for nerds more now than ever because they're more successful in life."

What was this man saying?  I'm fashionable, trim and consider myself to be somewhat attractive.  Women do not want to be known by their husbands as "nerds" especially in the first year of marriage.  We want to be pretty, beautiful, smart and even sexy.

I amped up the sexiness for the rest of vacation but he was right.  I couldn't leave our condo without a pen and paper at the ready.  What if I wanted to jot down a great story idea or notes about a cool restaurant?

In Spanish, there is not a direct translation for nerd.  But this is one option, Raton de Biblioteca, literally library rat.