Tiling DIY

Thursday, 31 March 2011
My mom and dad are rock stars. They know how to do DIY projects from back in the day when they bought a house and fixed it up to sell (they were newly weds). Since then, my dad has taught himself how to do plumbing, electricity, stone work, woodworking...etc. My mom has the eye for detail so she gives suggestions on how to make a project look like a professional job. I'm a work horse and know how to follow directions so we buckled down on their trip to Knoxville last week and tiled the back splash in the kitchen. We made a great team.

I don't have it caulked and shined yet so I'll post "after" pictures later but here's the "before" and during:

Mom took all of the measurements and dad set up his tile saw in the backyard. If you take on a tiling project you almost certainly need a tile saw. You can rent one from Home Depot and don't forget the water! That keeps the temperature down and the tiles don't break while sawing.

We have new kitchen cabinets and counter tops but it just didn't have the "finished" look that comes with a tile back splash. Mom and I went to Lowe's and picked out 12x12 sheets of tile that connected 2x2 squares of an almond-colored, stone-looking tile. We also purchased a trowl for the mastic, a bucket of mastic, trim pieces, grout, a tool to add the grout, gloves, spacers and a sponge for wiping the grout from the tiles. (You also need painter's tape to put along the top edge of whatever you're tiling.)

Mom started putting on the mastic (starting from the corner going out) and there's a bit of a trick to getting the thickness right. You don't want it too thick or the mastic globs through the tile cracks. You don't want it too thin because you want the tile to stick and get a bit of grip. After the mastic was up, I came behind with the sheets of tile and lined them up to the previous row using spacers. It is a simple process, really.

The difficulty in the job is fitting tile around any abnormally shaped space, such as the window trim and outlets. Dad make 5 cuts on 2 different tiles for the windows. I would not have been able to accomplish that by myself so during your first tiling adventure, you need someone that knows how to cut tile to at least oversee your cuts.

Once we installed all of the tile, we did a quick clean up and let the mastic dry overnight. The next morning we were all up early to begin the grouting process. This is also very easy but strenuous and my shoulders were feeling it the next day. You have to use a bit of force to wipe the grout on in a way that works it into all of the cracks in the tile. I took a little DIY video for fun. Please excuse the very attractive no-makeup look.

St. Patrick's Day

Wednesday, 30 March 2011
I can't believe it is almost April! St. Patrick's Day is fun for me because it signals Spring is on the way. Whitney, Jamie Lynn and I and friends met out to celebrate. Of course we all wore green and snapped a few pictures together.

The establishments in the Old City use the holiday as a chance to make money of course so we all had to buy a "pub crawl" wrist band for $7. I'm not into paying cover in this little town but instead of complaining we just paid up and went in to Barley's. We could get into Barley's, Bliss (new martini bar), Crown and Goose and Carleos.

Saint Patrick's Day is a religious holiday that celebrates the coming of Christianity to Ireland. Wikipedia says the holiday began as a feast day in the 17th century and eventually turned into a secular celebration.

We all felt the luck of the Irish and were happy to have a reason to get together with friends and consider the "green" days coming in Spring and Summer.

Cirque du Soleil Alegria

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

My good friend Suzanne invited me to go to Cirque du Soleil in Knoxville. It was the Alegria show and featured some amazing acts and athletes. My favorites included a contortionist act and the above display where acrobats bounce on narrow slats doing flips and landing back on the beam-like surface.

I watched carefully to see if anyone messed up or bobbled a stunt during the show. They didn't.

Another gymnast balanced and spun on his hands in an amazing show of strength and muscle control. Tickets were $40 to $75 dollars. Is the show worth the money? Probably not (you know how I hate to part with my hard-earned dollars) but the entertainment value is high. The clown acts in between the acrobatics are slow, forced and take away atmospheric energy but Cirque has to have some sort of break between acts so stars can rest, change costumes and get the high wire set up. Overall, a good show.


While in Florida to see Casey we decided to head to Miami (South Beach) to have drinks after a lovely dinner at Sra. Martinez.  We went to Fontainebleau for drinks. This is certainly where the pretty people are and the women seem to get away with wearing almost nothing. Ah, Miami, I could never live there (seems to be an abundance of pretentious, materialistic young adults). However, this is the place to go for impressive people watching and the atmosphere is full of energy.

After a beverage at the bar in the main lobby, we were invited to go into the LIV nightclub on VIP passes (yeah, we still got it!). I'm a bit claustrophobic, so I don't always like to go into huge clubs but I'm glad I did that night. Snoop Dogg was the guest DJ! Casey nudged me and said, "Aren't you going to go take pictures?" I had no idea what she was talking about but I rushed to the front and sure enough:

Snoop was great except he was literally smoking huge joints the entire time. In the club - and no one said anything! (Why am I so naive?) 

The place was packed and the music was excellent. Although the higher Snoop got, the stranger the mixes of music became. Perhaps for those who weren't sober it was okay but after a while I wondered where the raps were coming from. When he played his music though - the place erupted and I was right there with them (if you can't tell, I'm a fan).

We had an excellent night and even got someone to snap this cute picture (below). Note the huge photo bomb in the right corner. Some men (no offense to those we love) are too silly for their own good.

Echo Bistro and Wine Bar

Sunday, 27 March 2011
My mom is a sort of foodie too so when the parents come into town, we like to try a new restaurant, especially if there is anything at all we can celebrate. Friday night we went to Echo Bistro and Wine Bar in Bearden on Kingston Pike. While I think of the place as new, it is actually a year old this month.

We were greeted by the hostess as we walked in. She held the door for all of us and escorted us to our reserved table (we made reservations for 7:30pm). Upon being seated, our server introduced himself and presented the table with glasses of water with a frozen melon ball in them. Nice touch! Our glasses were refilled constantly and everyone seemed very attentive. Our waiter was able to help us choose between two bottles of wine and even brought a taste from an opened bottle. We went with the Mark West, California Pinot Noir, vintage. It was truly amazing.

For food, we started with a 1/2 dozen fire roasted Apalachicola oysters with garlic, parsley, shallot and lemon butter. The dish was $6.95 so appetizers are reasonably priced. Even if you didn't want to have dinner, this would be a great spot for appetizers and drinks on the patio (they have a small outdoor space) this summer.

CEC and co-owner of the restaurant Scott Simmerman came out to visit with us. He gave us recommendations on the entrees and also talked about how some of the dishes are prepared. Even just a moment of his time certainly made us feel special and informed about our food choices. He sold dad on the Bison Strip Steak "Denmark" topped with sauteed shiitake mushrooms, country ham and blue cheese crumbles, topped with leaks and greens. Chef recommends ordering this dish rare or medium rare.

Mom and I ordered the chef's special to split. It consisted of surf and turf and the lump crab meat was out of this world, served with roasted beets and an impressive demi glace. Echo Bistro is one to try.

Over all, a wonderfully pleasant evening and certainly memorable.  It was very nice of my parents to drive the 5+ hours to visit me and help me with projects around the house (more to come on that).

Social Media Saturday - Facebook Me (Behind Bars)

Saturday, 26 March 2011
There is a bill introduced to the state in South Carolina by state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, a Democrat from Charleston about Facebook. He says inmates that log onto Facebook and create a page using a smuggled-in smart phone should face penalties. The proposal says inmates should face an additional 30 days behind bars and a $500 fine for using social media sites. The bill even lists penalties for family members or friends that help an inmate create a Facebook page. Why is this a big deal?
Apparently South Carolina victims of assault, violet crimes, robberies and harassment have been getting threatening messages on Facebook from inmates! Can you imagine?

Convicted murderer, Justin Walker was caught uploading pictures to Facebook of himself licking a large knife in his cell and smoking marijuana. These photos are clearly meant to intimidate and show Walker in a "tough guy" role. To me, and to prison officials apparently, the photos are disturbing.

Picture taken by Walker using his Blackberry, posted to Facebook

The use of cell phones in prison is already illegal and the ACLU has already raised a red flag regarding the bill. The argument pertains to the prohibition of Freedom of Speech. Members point out the bill isn't legal because it infringes on the First Amendment and prison guards should spend more time monitoring contraband behind bars.

Who is right in this debate? I'm willing to listen to both sides of this argument and my regular readers know how passionate I am about Freedom of Speech. However, convicted criminals already forfeit some rights while serving time for crimes. Should a criminal have the right to use Facebook behind bars when the right to vote is taken away? I don't think so.

Facebook is fun. It is entertainment. It's a way for us to stay in touch with friends and family. Some inmates can interact with their loved ones through vistation rights and that should be it. They can also write letters and communicate through phone calls. Facebook is a perk. Killers make life inconvenient for victims' families (Justin Walker killed Pawnee County Sheriff Dwight Woodrell). They use violence to solve problems and rather than experience the rewards of social media, they should lose privaledges that an advanced society enjoys.

What do you think?

Girls Night In

A couple of weeks ago it hit me, I need to have the girls over for champagne cocktails and appetizers. Sometimes you just need to get through the end of a dreary winter with a little laughter and estrogen.

Adrian (standing), Maureen, Hillary, Angie, Melissa and Melissa (not pictured) stopped by for a couple of hours. We talked about horses, teaching, the news industry, lobbying in Nashville and of course boys occasionally. The night was fun and full of food. Melissa, Melissa and I even watched The Kids are All Right with Annette Bening (Oscar nomination) later in the evening. Great movie!

The menu included crudites (served Martha Stewart style - cut long and presented in little glasses), turkey cheese meatballs, bread bowls with Shiitake mushroom filling, olives, cheddar slices topped with a walnut/honey mixture, chocolate bite size cupcakes and another set of bite size cupcakes which Maureen brought from Magpies (amazing assortment of flavors!).

We sipped on Strawpayne (strawberry puree topped with champagne) and Champango (mango nectar with champagne). I really enjoyed the evening and hope my guests did too.

Rah Rah Ree, Kick 'Em in the Knee!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011
If you haven't heard, Knoxville has been the news maker in the arena of college sports this week. Long-time head basketball coach for the University of Tennessee, Bruce Pearl, was fired on Monday. The news slowly leaked out from anonymous sources and some of us were convinced by a (possibly fake) Pearl Facebook page that he was indeed finished at UT. Later that night, after the Lady Vols secured another amazing victory in the NCAA tournament, UT staff issued an official statement. Pearl is out as head coach.

Earlier in the evening, I was reporting live on the incident on the University of Tennessee campus near Neyland Stadium. I was struck by the organizational skills of a student, Kaci Wheeler. She put together a rally in the commons area by creating a Facebook page to advertise the gathering. Close to 75 students arrived to show their support for Coach Pearl. While interviewing Wheeler, she made it clear that she did this out of a passion for Vols basketball and was extremely well-spoken when it came to her mission to let Pearl know fans loved him. Another student, Robert Brace calmly and intelligently explained his stance that the athletic department had let him down by promising Pearl would be coach for a long time.

Covering the news yesterday made me proud of our right to freedom of speech. It sounds cliche but I was encouraged by the forward thinking students who unabashedly used this right to laugh, gather peacefully, make creative signs and shout chants. No one was violent, no one was wrong for having a certain opinion about the situation and students were polite with a mission. Police officers were not there to tell them what they could and could not say. University officials did not stand by to silence journalists covering the event. It was an honest display of the freedoms we have in the West.

Across campus, another group of students painted the "UT Rock" with a message to the athletic director, Mike Hamilton. They were not afraid to express themselves and had no fears of repercussion from authority figures. Even though the message was not kind, "We R Bruce, Fire Hamilton. Love, the Vols," it did not spew hate or violence.

We all notice countries such as Libya, Yemen and Egypt in the very baby steps toward democracy. Citizens are earning the right to protest actions or concepts they disagree with. It is obtainable but foreign and people may lose their lives in the fight. This week's news reminded me not to take for granted my liberty to share opinion and when necessary, celebrate those who stand up for what they believe.

Tolerance for Islam?

Sunday, 20 March 2011

My social mojo centers around a tolerant life style. I like to surround myself with people who are balanced in their beliefs, have an open mind for other perspectives and appreciate equal opportunities and rights for different economic statuses, religions, races and sexual preferences. While I am idealistic, I remain pragmatic because life isn't perfect and there will always be extremes that inch into the cracks of a fair social foundation.

Currently I'm reading a book that is challenging my thoughts on tolerance and acceptance when it comes to certain religions. Nomad, From Islam to America, A Personal Journey is an excellent read by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She is specific in her views on Islam and they aren't favorable. Ayaan was raised in a traditional Muslim family in Somali and Saudi Arabia. She was regularly beaten by her mother, grandmother and brother (which she explains is the norm in the culture because the Quran encourages the beating of women as discipline - "As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them." 4:34) and when she got her period, she was taken out of school so she would not "shame" her family by being a sexual distraction to men.

While none of this is shocking to me, she went on to discuss the sexual mutilation of women (so sex is too painful for them and there is no temptation to sin) which I was also aware of. She says this happens in the United States and that all Muslims believe the Quran is the direct word of the Prophet Muhammad and must be followed to the letter. She claims that in most cases, women are not allowed to choose who to marry, who to have sex with, what to wear, whether to work or to walk down the street.

Ayaan presents a different perspective of the "peaceful" religion. She says there is no such thing as a "moderate" Muslim because there is constantly a inner struggle to follow the word to the letter and the doctrine that is taught to all in the religion is the same and very powerful.

I was surprised (forgive my ignorance) to hear about the teaching she received from religious leaders, professors and family members about the "evils" of Judaism. Page 198 of "Nomad," "I listened to one teacher after another talk about how the Jews had declared war on Islam. I learned that the Prophet Muhammad, the holiest of all holy men, in whose footsteps we Muslims all aspired to follow, had warned of the treacherous and evil ways of the Jews. They had betrayed him and tried to kill him, for wherever there is a Jew he plots and plans to destroy Islam. He smiles at the Muslim, but deep inside he hates him. He extends his hand to the Muslim in pretended peace, all the while enticing him toward a trap of debt, debauchery and sin. I swallowed all this propaganda as the whole truth and nothing but the truth." That sheds light on the crisis in Palestine. It will likely never change as radical Islam grows and more Jews return to their "home" land.

What changed for Ayaan? How did she get out of the Muslim culture? Her father arranged a marriage for her to a distant cousin she had never met. Before the wedding, Ayaan fled Saadi Arabia where her family was living and received asylum in Holland.

From that point onward, Ayaan has risked her life to educate others on what she calls the grave injustices to women in the Muslim culture. She has spoken at colleges and received so many death threats from Muslims in the US and the world that she now has to have 24 hour bodyguards and carefully plan all public appearances. She has contact with her mother again but it is a strained relationship. Her mother begs her to turn back to Islam and constantly berates Ayaan and explains the hell she will burn in if she does not.

Christianity and Islam are similar in the presentation of doctrine. I also remember spending hours and hours listening to teachers talk about the infallible word of God, the Bible. We were to believe every word was spoken from God's mouth to the men he chose to write it down. Women are to be submissive to their husbands and never leaders in the church. The Bible studies I attended centered on how to be a good wife and a good mother, always remaining sexually pure until marriage. Purity was a concept drummed into our heads at church from a young age throughout even college. Even as a young journalist, while volunteering as a children's helper at my Southern Baptist Church, a pastor told me I would "make an excellent pastor's wife." What else was there to aspire to for a good Christian woman?

We also learned that Christianity is the only way to be close to God and go to heaven. Other religions were horribly wrong and there was an implication that Christians, of course, are better than unbelievers. That is still taught in churches today. I mention Christianity in this context because religions (to me) all seem to follow a certain pattern: A book is written by man that is inspired by God/Allah/Higher Power. It contains lists of things to do and not do and then social groups form around them. Usually the religion holds men to be in power above women.

The point of the book, "Nomad" is to ask Westerners to stop tolerating Islam as a peaceful religion. The author claims it is based on violence. Page 201, "Islam is not just a belief; it is a way of life, a violet way of life. Islam is imbued with violence, and it encourages violence. Muslim children all over the world are taught the way I was; taught with violence, taught to perpetrate violence, taught to wish for violence against the infidel, the Jew, the American Satan."

The chapter of the book that spoke to me the most was "School and Sexuality" which pertains to Muslim women. Page 164 has an interesting conclusion. "When well-meaning Westerners, eager to promote respect for minority religions and cultures, ignore practices like forced marriage and confinement (women are expected to stay home, hidden) ...they deny countless Muslim girls their right to wrest their freedom from their parents' culture. They fail to live up to the ideals and values of our democratic society, and they harm the very same vulnerable minority whom they seek to protect."

So what should we do? Ayaan says she is lucky to be a part of a group of people who have opened their minds to education and have learned to drop prejudices that were ingrained in them. She said, "In school and in university it was hard sometimes when I learned things that were contrary to the teachings of Islam. I was always aware of a nagging sense of guilt and sin." (I also experienced that when I graduated from my Southern Baptist college and got out in the real world.)

The book has given me another look at Islam and rather than have a negative view of it, my take-away is this:  I choose to live a life that does not support social norms, cultures or religions which prohibit people from having equal rights. There are extreme people in politics, gangs, clubs and sports. There always will be. Perhaps we shouldn't tolerate violence and as a society let's encourage education and a safe place for different perspectives and ideas.

Social Media Saturday - Twitter Trouble

Saturday, 19 March 2011

While Twitter is one of my favorite social media sites, it can get you into trouble if you are not careful. Just ask rockstar Courtney Love. She was sued for defamation after tweeting something in March 2009 about clothing designer Dawn Simorangkir.

We don't know exactly what was said about Simorangkir because links to Love's Twitter account from that time have been erased. What we do know is that flippant comments online are no longer strictly protected through freedom of speech. In a settlement, Love will pay the designer $43k plus interest for her comments.

Simorangkir said her reputation was destroyed because of Love's tweets and she also claims she lost millions of dollars in revenue. The lawsuit rolled out in January 2011 even though Love's online comments were made via Twitter in March 2009. Simorangkir's lawyer said the case was groundbreaking and showed that defamation is defamation no matter the platform.

What do you think? Should people be held responsible for what they say through social media? Should a status update hold the same weight as a published news article?

Sra. Martinez, Design District, Miami

Thursday, 17 March 2011
All great vacations come with excellent food. My trip to South Florida to see Casey did not disappoint in that department. On Thursday evening, Casey, Tracy and I went to Sra. Martinzez in the Design District of Miami. We made reservations on a tip from one of Casey's friends and showed up around 8pm. Even the outside of the venue was gorgeous.

Chef Michelle Bernstein has created an exciting Spanish space where an eclectic but beautiful mix of people sample a menu of creative tapas. The cocktails are inventive and sophisticated. Tracy ordered a Pico Sour (Gran Sierpe Pisco, lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white, Angostura Bitters), I tried the Ginger Daisy (which had a bit of tequila and a spicy ginger flavoring) and I believe Casey got a Buenavista (Hendrick's Gin, Sobieski Vodka, St. Germain Liquor, cucumber, mint, lime juice). Needless to say, our "starters" did not disappoint.

The service was impeccable. If you took a sip of your water, a waiter refilled it. Went to the ladies room? Someone neatly folded your napkin and our waiter was patient and very knowledgeable concerning the menu. The dishes again are tapas (small plates) so we ordered 10 to share. Some were cold, some were hot and we also tried a salad. The catch of the day was salmon prepared with a Greek yogurt and mint sauce, presented on a bed of lentils. Divine!

We agreed one of our favorite dishes was the Butifarra. Such an interesting flavor and texture combination:  Large white fava beans, foie-gras duck sausage with a port wine reduction.

Even the side dishes were inventive. We ordered a corn plato that was grilled and then dressed with an array of spices and herbs. A bit of cheese broiled on top added richness and it was still crisp and not overcooked.

Too bad we were too full from dinner for dessert. This is a restaurant I would certainly recommend in the Miami area. I hope to go back one day and eat in the upstairs area. The view of the restaurant is beautiful (and also a bit out of focus).

Triumph and Defeat

Wednesday, 16 March 2011
I cracked the passenger side mirror on my car a couple of weeks ago. It certainly was not a pleasant experience but I hopped on Amazon and was able to purchase another one for $40. No problem. It arrived and I priced installation in town. It was going to be approximately $100 (the same amount of money it would cost to have my piano tuned). Since I'd rather use that cash on something else and I'm not made of money, I decided to look up directions for installation and do it myself. It didn't seem that hard so on my dinner break this weekend, I went to the parking lot, found the tools I brought to work and started.

First, I removed the two visible screws on the door panel near door handle. Then, I removed the plastic cover that fits over the door handle. So far so good. The hard part was actually taking off the large door panel. The directions said to wedge a large screw driver between the panel and the door to pop the pins out. Since I couldn't see behind the panel, I wasn't sure what type of pins I was working with. After much trial and error I learned you simply have to pull as hard as you can to disengage the pins. Finally the panel was off!

Next, I had to peel back the protective waterproof barrier. That works sort of like a large sticker and was easy. I took the screws out of the speaker casing and behind the speaker I found the wires that go to the electric mirror. Score! Now for removing the mirror. Instead of waiting to use a nut driver (didn't have one with me) and take the mirror off the easy way, I pulled it from the front, breaking the plastic and then used pliers to slowly break the plastic away from the screws and nuts that were holding it in place (hard work). Finally, the mirror was off. I packed everything up to finish the next day.

On Monday, I drove home on my dinner break to pick up some food and put the mirror on. After purchasing a set of nut drivers and messing with it for about 30 minutes, I installed the mirror! I replaced the water barrier and stereo casing. Next, I popped the door panel back on and added the visible screws, putting the plastic cover on the handle compartment last. Yay! Feeling very proud of myself, I thought, I'll shut the door and see if the mirror wiggles. I shut the door and it seemed sturdy. I didn't realize while putting the door panel back on, I'd accidentally engaged the automatic door look. My keys, phone and tape for the 11 o'clock story were LOCKED IN THE CAR!

Wanting to cry, I didn't and went into the house. Thank goodness it was unlocked. It was 7:15pm. I got onto my computer and quickly emailed the evening producer at WATE. I explained the problem and included the numbers of two locksmiths, adding my address. "Please make them aware of our news deadline. Hopefully that will speed them up. If he can get here by 9pm, we'll be okay." Beth emailed me back within 10 minutes (the longest of my life) to say PopALock was on the way!

An hour and $60 later, I was on my way back to the station with a new passenger mirror. The story made the air on time and my heart rate finally slowed down around 10:30pm. What a night!

Writing Challenge - 10 Questions

Sunday, 13 March 2011
Thanks to (Florida) Girl for the writing challenge. If you try this as well, please post a comment here and link us up so we can all share answers!

1. If you have pets, do you see them merely as animals or are they members of the family? I regard the cats as animals but they are certainly part of the family. I can't imagine what life would be like without pets.

2. If you can have a dream come true, what would it be? My current dream is to be living with my husband in our house in Knoxville, Tennessee. We will hold hands on the back deck while the cats lie in the sun and bask in peace and love.

3. What is one thing most hated by you? Bigotry

4. What would you do with a billion dollars? I would make sure my family and extended family are taken care of financially. I would donate to Friends of Literacy and Young Williams Animal Center then travel the world!

5. What helps to pull you out of a bad mood? Sun, surf and sand. Being a Cancerian and a water sign, I feel free near the ocean.

6. Which is more blessed, loving someone or being loved by someone? Being loved by someone is the greatest blessing. Love is relative and when someone makes a decision to love you, it should never be taken for granted.

7. What is your bedtime routine? I make sure my laptop and books are nearby, arrange the covers and then sometimes put lotion on hands, face and feet before reading.

8. If you are currently in a relationship, how did you meet your partner? Kingsley was the manager of a high-end salon in London. I went in to book a hair appointment and immediately hoped to get to know him better.

9. If you could watch a creative person in the act of the creative process, who would it be? I would like to watch Dale Chihuly's team install one of his magnificant glass exhibits.

10. What kind of books do you read? I prefer memoirs. Reading about people's triumphs and trials always seems to teach me more about myself.

Social Media Saturday - Breaking News

Saturday, 12 March 2011
Used to be, when an international event happened, I'd learn about it IF I turned to CNN when the story was cycling through. Or, I'd catch the news on Yahoo.com when I signed on to check my email. Now, I seem to learn about everything from social media.

We were out in South Beach, Miami at Fountaine Blue on Thursday night and upon getting into the cab, I of course, checked my email and Twitter. News was just breaking about the 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan. I knew about it instantly from reading tweets and for the next hour got live updates from news agencies and even people living in Japan.

Twitter routinely scoops television news and get this - the USA Today on Friday morning didn't even have a picture or report about the disaster. Hard copy newspapers fail when it comes to breaking news now days.

During the day on Friday, I stayed logged on to Twitter and checked Facebook often to read real-time updates from people reporting from the West Coast and in Japan. While flying back to Knoxville, I also watched CNN in the airport. I will say that television certainly wins when it comes to visual reporting. Twitter doesn't atomatically show pictures or video and the user has to click on links to actively engage visually.

How did you hear about the earthquake and how did you follow updates through-out the day on Friday? Your feedback is appreciated.

Le Tub and Hamburgers

It certainly is a "Special Place by the Sea." Le Tub is a restaurant in Hollywood, Florida that was a former gas station on the inter-coastal waterway. Casey's father Steve suggested we go there for hamburgers and let me tell you... it was an excellent suggestion.

You don't really know what you're getting into as you approach the entrance filled with colorful signs and majestic greenery. We also noticed several bathtubs as landscaping deocration which work perfectly at a place called Le Tub, established 1975.

The joint is rustic but offers fresh food. In the above photo of Casey and Tracy, you'll notice the guy to the right in the makeshift preparation area for the kitchen, putting together hamburger patties and cutting the catch of the day Mahi-Mahi.

Casey and I split the 13 ounce cheese burger which is touted to be one the "best in America." I believe it. While not normally a meat eater, I devoured my half and was almost sad when it was gone.

The place is quirky, with a relaxing and fun atmosphere. Yes, there are painted toilets on a deck on the way out but we expected it after doing a little research. Too bad I couldn't get the girls to pose on them for a photo!

The Ocean

Friday, 11 March 2011

Yesterday morning I took a long walk on the beach and soaked in a little bit of Vitamin D along with calming effects of listening to waves crash. Not many people were out so I did a few yoga poses, stretches and deep breathing. I concentrated on the fact that the Universe is constant. Waves will continue to come in and recede. The moon will always pull the tide. Life goes on. It is up to us to make the best of it.

While feeling a little more peaceful and full of life, I didn't forget to be in awe of the ocean. I even remember a flash of fear thinking about the power of the sea. Premonitions sometimes hit us but I didn't know at the time why I was overwhelmed with the thought: Don't take the power of nature for granted.

The news about the earthquake in Japan came into my Twitter feed early this morning. The scenes of destruction are heart breaking. While I do not believe God causes natural disasters, I certainly respect the power of nature and am thinking tonight of those who have lost everything.

May we all remember to count the blessings in our life and be happy. Waves come in too quickly sometimes. 

Southern Comforts

Wednesday, 9 March 2011
I'm in Florida joining my best friend Casey for a couple of days. I do love Southern Florida for so many reasons: the sunshine, warmth, diversity and a laid-back life style. Will I return to Tennessee? I'll think about that over the next few days. ;) Hope you are having a lovely day.

PS - Creepy stalkers, I have someone watching my house and kitties. K bye.

Flooding Cleanup

Sunday, 6 March 2011

There is a small creek that runs through my property. It isn't really a creek but a sort of culvert that is supposed to help with flooding. The city of Knoxville owns it and it really needs to be dug out a bit more.

When we had about four inches of rain in a matter of hours on Monday, it flooded and was almost up to my house. My next door neighbor had to pump water out of his basement and there is mud everywhere.

My raised garden washed away (such a bummer because I'd been composting for months) and a huge amount of debris slammed against my privacy fence and caused it to lean. Check out this large log that somehow ended up in the yard:

It doesn't look that big in the picture but it is about five feet long and 12 inches around. I can't move it so for now, it is part of the "landscaping." Also in the yard, beyond a few plastic children's toys and some old beer cans, were two pieces of a tree that are also large and became hung up on the fence.

I cleaned up all the old leaves, raked them and moved them to a new compost pile. We have brush pick-up from the city so I moved a huge pile of limbs to the curb and got to work on the fence. I used materials I had at home to prop it back up then began to dig around the posts. The wet ground loosened the concrete somewhat but I was able to break up some of it with a hammer and mix new quick set. It feels sturdy but I'm letting it set for a few days before I remove the supports.

Ah, the trials of homeownership! Flooding had never once crossed my mind. It is interesting to go through the seasons as a homeowner. I learned that my back yard will be almost six inches deep in acorns in the fall, the road in front of the house can be extremely slick in the winter and in the spring, there's a danger of flooding.

My basement was fairly dry but water had seeped in through the entrance. At least we had some sunny and 60s days which made the cleanup a lot more pleasant. 

Social Media Saturday - Revolution

Saturday, 5 March 2011

I first read about people in Egypt using a dating website to communicate about liberty and democracy from ABC. The story is truly amazing. When the protests against dictator Hosni Mubarak began, social media was closely monitored by government agents and people weren't able to communicate about political issues through Facebook and Twitter. A creative guy found away around the censorship and used a dating website as a social media outlet to stay in touch about political developments.

The Libyan business man created a profile on the dating website Mawada (similar to the US version of Match.com) and pretended to be searching for his wife. On the site, members of the revolution began trading messages with one another and used a sort of poetry as a code for calls to action.

For instance, the ABC story reported, "The five Ls in the phrase 'I LLLLLove you,' for example, meant they had five people with them. If a supporter wrote, 'My lady, how I want to climb this wall of silence. I want to tell the story of a million hurts. ... But I am lost in a labyrinth. … Maybe we can meet on Yahoo messenger,' it told the writer to migrate the chat to Yahoo Messenger so as not to raise the suspicion of the monitors."

Social media is playing a major part in the revolution in many Mid-Eastern countries. Protestors have a quick way to communication and an easy platform on which to spread messages of hope, liberty and democracy.