Don't Feel Sorry For Yourself

Monday, 30 May 2011
If you do... the universe will kick back and give you something to cry about. Case in point: I had a nice morning, got to work and parked where I normally park (on the far side underneath a tree). I went to the morning meeting, got my assignments and started making calls when a massive house fire came over the scanners. Our assignment manager sent a photographer and then a little while later asked me to meet up with him because the situation was pretty bad. I immediately packed up my things, signed out a news car and headed toward the fire. Minutes later I got a call from Joe, "You need to come back to the station. Your car rolled down the hill and hit a tree."

I drove back and sure enough, my new, used Jeep Grand Cherokee was nose-first into a tree about 12 feet from where I parked it, down a steep embankment. Not that big of a deal but everyone in the newsroom and production and weather departments were outside looking at it. A few people had their cameras out snapping a picture. I groaned internally, got out my keys and went over to try to drive it in reverse back up the hill. No dice. I put it in 4 wheel drive low gear and still nothing. One of the back tires had no traction and it was not going to move.

Getting out of the car, I noticed again all of my co-workers staring at me. Wow. It gave me a moment to realize what it must feel like during a news event when all of the cameras and journalists are looking at the suspect. It is not a nice feeling. I smiled and said, "Okay, can you guys just go back inside?" They were kind enough to disperse and I calmly walked back to the news vehicle and called my insurance company. Here's where it gets interesting.

I sold my Ford Explorer on May 21st to a nice family as you may have read here. The next day I called Geico to take the vehicle off of my policy. The helpful agent recommended I keep liability insurance while I was searching for another car. I agreed to that, my policy was updated and we hung up. On May 26th when I purchased my new used car, I phoned Geico again and asked that the coverage I had on my Explorer be reinstated as the exact same coverage for my current vehicle. The agent kindly read off all of the coverage I agreed to and even told me what my payments would be (which were the same as the Explorer). Congratulating myself on a job well done, we hung up.

Today, when I called Geico (while on my way to cover a raging house fire with injury) the agent informed me I didn't have emergency roadside assistance because my coverage was only LIABILITY. I said that wasn't correct and that I added collision and comprehensive coverage back to the policy on May 27th at 10:53 a.m. with agent Amanda (I write these things down). After holding for 7 minutes and being upset about my car against a tree, the agent explained there was nothing she could do because I only had liability coverage. I asked to talk to a manager. 11 minutes later, supervisor Wanda came on the phone. I explained the situation again. She was ugly to me and so unhelpful that I realized I was wasting my time completely. State Farm has excellent customer service so then and there (while walking up the street to the house fire) I called and got a new policy. (Note: Geico has policies that are $6 lower monthly than State Farm but the customer service is obviously lacking. Consider changing from Geico now. I was horrified at how I was treated after being an excellent customer for years.)

My photog and I were now trapped on the dead-end street where the fire was going on because fire crews had to roll out 3,000 feet of hose to tap a water main on Broadway. See the video of the fire here. I was having a really bad morning. Luckily I quickly got in touch with Fountain City Towing and had a tow truck on standby. They couldn't get my car out without my keys and they were in my purse in the news car which was stuck on Curtis Lane. Shawn and I did an interview, shot a standup and a standup tease and finally decided to take one of the news cars and leave the other one because crews would be there for hours blocking us in. We went by the towing company, I gave them my keys and paid $60 and we went on to our second story of the day. This was all before 12 noon.

When we finally made it back to the station under deadline pressure, I noticed my Jeep Grand Cherokee was parked in the parking lot, looking normal. There is no damage to the front bumper, thank goodness. There is however, extensive damage to my sanity. Just another day in paradise although I will say, 11 years as a TV news journalist have given me excellent problem solving skills and I can usually stay calm under pressure. It is just you, dear reader, that takes the brunt of my whining. Thank you for reading.

Paperwork, Frustration and the US Government

Sunday, 29 May 2011
Kingsley called me last night and I could tell something was wrong by the sound of his voice. He started by saying, "I'm very frustrated right now." Come to find out the US Embassy sent him a letter from the London office saying our visa waiver application "has arrived," dated May 11, 2011 and will be adjudicated in a time frame of 180 days. That's another SIX MONTHS!

We've been waiting for almost a year to hear something from our initial application, sent in and recorded as "received" in August, 2010. I've already sent emails to the embassy and our House and Senate representatives to hopefully get more information next week but even the most mundane detail is extremely difficult to come by. I thought things were starting to seem hopeless a year ago. Now we are truly at our wits' end.

I am a US Citizen who has always done her best to uphold the noble characteristics and determination of this great nation. WHY am I being penalized for loving a British Citizen? Did Homeland Security lose our application and recently find it again? Why are we starting over from square one? The frustration is debilitating to our well-being and our marriage.

Tonight I read about former Marine Clay Hunt in Knoxville's Metro Pulse. The 28-year-old apparently became so frustrated by the lack of organization and response from the US Government that he ultimately killed himself. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Three of his best friends were killed in front of him in combat and although he continued his service, he returned home with severe PTSD that made it difficult for him to function in civilian society.

News accounts tell of his frustration with the way the Veterans Affairs Department handled his disability claim. Because he couldn't get his GI Bill payments or even afford his medical bills, he racked up thousands of dollars in debt as he waited. This wasn't cleared up in a couple of months. It took Hunt almost a year and a ridiculous amount of doctor visits to get disability payments after the VA lost his paperwork. Unbelievable.

I am a pragmatic woman. I understand that embassy workers are over-run with work and have thousands of applications to process but why won't our leaders at least grant preference to US Citizens petitioning for their loved ones to enter the country? Especially those who apply to get in that are young, educated, speak English and are willing to work hard and pay taxes? (Kingsley is the kind of man who never even takes a sick day.)

Kinglsey and I now have to contemplate where else we might want to create a life because we now know this "adjudication" process could be literally never-ending. Our visa waiver application could potentially be passed around from office to office for decades. I cannot bear to think of losing my house, my garden, my cats and my family who lives sort-of close by. What will I do?

Knoxville Expo 5k

Saturday, 28 May 2011
I used to joke that the only reason you'd see me running was if I was being chased. As a cheerleader in high school and college we were forced to run for exercise and I grew to see it as a chore. Therefore, I don't run from recreation and never have.

Despite that, I threw all caution to the wind and signed up to run in the KTC Expo 10,000 and 5K because my employer, 6 News was sponsoring the event. My plan was to train in the two weeks leading up to the event but I did not. In fact, last night as I was going to bed I was still debating whether or not I'd even participate in today's race. I was wide awake by 6:15 a.m. I looked at my clothes laid out, ready to go. I put them on without thinking and got a cup of coffee. It was on!

I made it to the race site with five minutes to spare so I stretched and made my way to the back of the line of runners where the walkers would begin. The atmosphere was great. The weather was perfect and I could feel the energy in the air. Our chief meteorologist, Matt Hinkin was the master of ceremonies and after a man sang the national anthem, he gave us a count down, "One, two..." BANG (that was the pistol)!"

After everyone started moving, I decided to begin the route jogging. And get this -- I jogged for an entire mile without stopping. Who knew that was even possible? When you run a 5K, race organizers put out helpful mile marker signs and I was surprised when I saw the number "1."

While jogging, I tried to pace myself with others. One of the groups running near me was a mom and her two children. They were literally 5 and 7 years old. It was hilarious (kind of) because one of the kids would yell, "I can't take it anymore. I need to walk!" She would say "NO! Do you want pancakes or not?" and they would keep running. Because tiny children were doing so well in the race, I made up my mind to stay near them but finish first. I snapped a shot while running. Notice the little girl and little boy ahead of me. The mom is in front and they are trying to keep up.

About half-way through the 5K there is a drink station. People hand you a cup of water or Gatorade. It was welcome hydration but I was surprised that it was only a sip. I was thirsty by then but luckily had downed a bottle of water before the race, following Kingsley's advice.

The second mile went really well. I felt great and enjoyed seeing Knoxville on foot. I walked quickly when I wasn't jogging and tried to always jog while going down hill. Feeling so good about things, I made sure to say "Good morning" to all of the KPD officers helping to direct traffic. Maybe they thought I was lacking oxygen to the brain but they all replied. My adrenaline was going and I was just so surprised that I was keeping a great pace and not even tired.

Then we hit the hill. Going up Hall of Fame is a substantial hill. I couldn't jog but kept a good stride going and leaned into it. Swinging my arms helped and I kept thinking encouraging thoughts and doing a bit of self-talk, "You're doing great!" Before I knew it, I had a quarter of a mile left and was approaching the finish line. I jogged down the hill to finish and wish I would have ran to shave off a few seconds. All-in-all for my first 5K, I felt like I did pretty well. 42:25 is my time. I came in 333rd out of 374. Haaa! Bottom line, I made it.

With WATE's chief meteorologist Matt Hinkin after the race

If You Build It, They Will Come

Thursday, 26 May 2011
I love using my drill and I fancy myself a very low-skill builder at this point in life. I've wanted a bird feeder for ages but they are kind of expensive (nice one $25+) and I don't really have a place to hang one. So, I checked out the random wood pile in the back of my property and pulled out a few small pieces. I cobbled together a little bird feeder and ran some screws into it for stability.

I even found an old post and dug a hole for it. I didn't have concrete to set the post so here's hoping a raccoon doesn't try to feed from the wobbly thing. It is sturdy enough for birds and squirrels. 

Don't worry, I'm not fooling myself by thinking my bird feeder is attractive. However, it is free, made from re-claimed lumber and big enough to attract different species of birds.

Today is the first day that the feeder has had seeds in it but so far, no birds. A crow flew low through the yard and eyed it once. 

Kingsley said it looks like a pulpit and maybe it does. Time to sit back and receive a sermon from nature. :)


Wednesday, 25 May 2011
So I had the best idea last week. I'll sell my Ford Explorer, pay off the small lien and buy a car with cash! Why? I'm still on the debt-free track and when Kings gets here, we'll need two cars so why not go for something dependable but older? (I really want to begin world travel again and I choose to save for that.)

My budget isn't expansive but I feel confident I can find a ride that is decent and will run for the next few years without car payments. Well, this is the most I've stressed myself out since planning my own wedding two years ago. I haven't had my own transportation for 4 days.

A wonderful family purchased my Explorer on Saturday and I was a little surprised that the whole thing moved so quickly but it did and here we are. I've driven three private party cars so far (found on Craigslist) and looked at vehicles at a dealer (they were either hail damaged or had no A/C in my price range). Nothing was even close to something I'd fork over cash for.

Today I rode my bike all the way to Broadway from my street to pick up supplies (a.k.a beer and groceries). That's more than a couple of miles with a few hills built in for interest. The only reason I don't fully commit to a life of biking is that I have to travel on Tazwell Pike which has a speed limit of 45mph (fast) and very narrow shoulders. Not ideal for biking at all.

The point of this post is to b*tch about how lame East Tennessee is when it comes to public transportation. I don't even have SIDEWALKS to travel on and I live in the city of Knoxville. The closest bus stop to where I live is at least a mile away. That is unacceptable. What do people who truly have no money do to get to work? If you live in the city, you pay more money. Citizens should at least be able to count on sidewalks and bus travel when paying more taxes to reside within city limits.

If you see me pedaling around town, perhaps avoid talk of your new BMW getting a scratch. My bicycle helmet fits only so-so since I purchased it at a yard sale but I can swing it fast and it might not feel nice upside ya' head. (Note: I do not advocate violence. I'm just making a point while trying to facilitate a laugh.)

Outdoor Room Design

I think I've blogged about my mother's design and decorating skills before. She is pretty amazing when it comes to making a space not only luxurious but comfortable. I'm the type to fill a house with second-hand furniture and lots of books and be done with it. So, whenever mom is in town and wants a "project" I always ask her to help me decorate. This time, we tackled the back deck. 

Last year, I bought a decent set of chairs and table from Craigslist, spray-painted it and added cushions. The look was perfect for a year but over the winter, things started getting a bit worn out. Here's a "before" picture:

Since my mom was visiting during May sweeps, I couldn't get time off from work so she spent a day shopping and getting ideas on her own. Once she figured out what she liked (I told her I wanted loungers!) she drew up a few layouts. Her initial design incorporated my old furniture but we decided not to use it in the final design.

I just love how it turned out. We found many of the items at Target (excellent prices) and the best deal of the day was the date palm tree from Home Depot for only $10 (they were having a major sale on trees.) The deck also looks much better with an outdoor rug down!

We found a cute little wicker set at TJ Maxx as well and decided to add it so there is an eating area. The chairs are surprisingly comfy. Thanks to mom for a great new outdoor space!

Lily especially loves the new lounge chairs!

Peace, Safety and Hope for Joplin

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Concentrating on calm scenarios and peace for the victims of the Joplin, Missouri tornado.

Thinking about safety for those on the ground trying to rescue people who might still be hurting.

Picturing moments filled with hope when families are reunited with loved ones and pets lost in the storm.

Believing in mankind and this great nation where others will come to the aid of tornado victims all over the U.S. by offering supplies, financial help and physical strength.

Donate to the Red Cross here.  Or, you can do what I'm doing, text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10.

I feel strongly about helping this part of the country because I'm from Saint Joseph, MO and have family in Kansas City, St. Louis, Monett and Verona. You may feel better supporting teams in Kansas or Minnesota. Several states were hit hard by tornadoes. 

My Rapture Prediction

Saturday, 21 May 2011
I was raised in a conservative Christian home and was "saved" and baptized at the age of five. Shortly after I prayed with my Vacation Bible School teacher Rhoda, asking Jesus to come into my heart, I had a night at home that left me wide awake.

In my little, newly evangelized heart, I truly believed Jesus was going to come back to Earth THAT EVENING and we would all go to heaven.

My heart was pounding as I laid with eyes wide open in my bed. It was dark out and my parents were talking in the kitchen. I crept down the hallway and spied on them at the very bottom of the doorway. They seemed WAY too calm! I wondered if I should tell them: God is coming to get all "saved" people TONIGHT.

I slowly crawled back to my bedroom so my parents wouldn't know that I was awake (I was risking getting in big trouble being out of bed so late in the evening). In my bed I started to pray, "Is this the night you are coming back for us, Jesus? Give me some sort of sign. Should I go tell mom and dad you're on your way?" I remember even getting out of my bed, kneeling beside it, to make my prayer that much more serious. I must have grown tired and finally laid down to wait.

The next morning, the sun was shining and my family was there, breakfast on the table. I felt disappointed and out-of-touch with God. Did I read the signs incorrectly? That was the last time that I truly believed I knew when Christ would come to resurrect believers.

With the hubub about today being a possible Judgement Day, I just had to share my own experience with the End of Days. I smile now, thinking about my intense convictions, believing I knew what was coming.

Bell Wine Cellars Dinner

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

My mother was in town last week and generously offered to take me to a wine dinner I read about on Bistro by the Tracks' website. Anthony Bell, the owner of Bell Wine Cellars hosted the event and spoke about his amazing wine while we dined on inventive dishes prepared by executive chef Chester Miller.

As you can see from the menu, some of the dishes were quite inventive. Mom and I especially enjoyed the atmosphere of Bistro by the Tracks and were impressed by the impeccable service. 

As we arrived, a greeter showed us to our table and a waiter immediately brought around our first taste of wine (they were small but appropriate pours). It was Bell Wine Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2009. Mom and I both tasted notes of citrus. The wine was light, not sweet but not dry. Easy drinking and very tasty.

For our first course, we dined on seafood risotto made of lobster, shrimp and arugula salad. It was served with the Bell Wine Cellars Big Guy 2009. The risotto was sweet and the lobster was tender. The arugula added just the right amount of bitter flavoring for the perfect taste combination.

Anthony Bell spoke to the diners during the first course of the meal explaining that his Big Guy white wine was inspired by a trip to Knoxville. He and his wife decided to name a wine after their beloved Napa farm dog. His nick name was "Big Guy." The Big Guy red, for some reason, sells the best in the Knoxville area out of everywhere else in the nation.The Big Guy white was sweeter than the Sauvingnon Blanc but not too sweet and had an amazing aroma.

The second course was our favorite. It consisted of spiced duck carpaccio, cannellini bean puree and pickled green tomatoes. The taste was excellent and the presentation just amazing.

This dish was paired with our favorite wine of the evening, the Bell Wine Cellars Syrah 2007. The wine has a taste that lingers on the back of the palate and is very pleasant. Anthony described it as having the "yummy factor." It was light but with a strong enough taste to distinguish itself from Pinot Noir or Merlot.

Next we tasted Cumberland local cheese served with cherry pecan preserves and cumin toast. We noshed with a Bell Wine Cellars Claret 2007. The cheese was buttery and melted in our mouths. It was especially nice with the tartness (and a bit of sweet taste) from the cherries.

Our main course was seared venison with ramp smashed potatoes and venison glace. I'm not fan of venison but I ate some of it. For game meat, it was quite tender. The plate was served with Bell Wine Cellars Clone 6 2006, which is a cab blend. These bottles retail around $50 and we certainly enjoyed it. The wine was dark in color, almost black with an amazing texture and creative taste combination. Certainly one to try!

We had a nice time together and the wine inspired mom and I to talk about some of our European travels, especially Italy and France. I think the last time I ate dinner with someone pairing the wine with certain courses was with my best friend Casey in Las Vegas two years ago for my bachelorette weekend. It is so much fun to let a professional make the selections!

Social Media Bites Back

Sunday, 15 May 2011
I love to tweet observations about what goes on in airports while I'm traveling. Two reasons: I get bored and lonely and I like to turn up the humor to get someone to laugh. Recently one of my airport observations angered someone.

When I was leaving Tyson airport in April, I tweeted that "A couple in their 20s had brought the pillows from their bed for the plane ride with matching cases and all. Perhaps a bit much?" I am a seasoned traveler and I rarely see people bring their bed pillows. I observed this sitting in the gate area getting ready to board the plane. Was I being ugly? Yes. Was it in the name of fun for #airportobservations (Twitter hashtag)? Yes. True, I didn't consider that someone would find it "offensive." I also took a picture of the couple with the pillows and posted it to Twitter (I have a private account so only people who I accept can read my tweets). It is blurry and you cannot make out the identities of the people and of course I didn't know their names. However, the guy in the picture was not happy.

He emailed my work Facebook account (with his name) and wrote:

Hi, I'd like to say that your posting of the surreptitious photo you took of me (and my giirlfriend) at the airport was offensive. I'll also admit that my reaction was embarrassment... mostly due to your comment. If I cared to do so, I'm sure that I could photograph you doing something that would make you seem unsophisticated and then publish it for the world to see. However, I wouldn't intrude into your world that way, especially without knowing the circumstances. Trust me when I say, you don't have any idea why we were carrying pillows (to our destination).

It just so happens that we know some of the same folks and frankly I'm not the only one that was put off by your contemptuousness. Knoxville is a rather small town. In your line of work, I would recommend taking every opportunity to make friends, not foes! (one humble man's opinion) I must admit, with only a few minutes of research, I'm able to see that you're really not all bad... surprisingly. However, most people probably wouldn't make that effort considering the first impression you have made.

I enjoyed your point of view on some of your blogs... including your "Blond across the pond" blog where you discuss your perspective expressed in the Pundit Danger write up. ~consider what you say... because you never really know what kind of effect it may have~
Something a wise person once told me... anything negative you say about someone else is projected on to you. It is probably inevitable that sooner or later, we'll cross paths in a social setting... although I hope not. I respect your right to free speech, however, please consider the opportunity to remove my photo and your comments...

In response I wrote, "You are right, John Doe. My comments were unkind and for that, I am sorry." I found the picture and erased it. 

I'm posting this to give a reminder to those of us who use Twitter on a daily basis and share our thoughts with hundreds, maybe thousands of other people. I have an idea who passed on my tweet to the gentleman. Am I sorry for the tweet? Yes. I do not want to be the cause of distress and anxiety to someone. At the time, I didn't think the tweet would be taken so seriously. I also now understand that journalists probably have thicker skin than other folks.

I've been insulted for my work, writing style, clothing, college degrees, car, hair color, soft ball playing ability... (I could go on) in public forums repeatedly as a TV reporter over the last 10 years. Instead of fighting back, I've learned to try not to let someone else's words bother me. I've also learned to once again, take Twitter a bit more seriously.

Friday Night Out

Mom and Dannen were in town this weekend and we had a fun time going to Crown and Goose. They ordered the Irish Whiskey beef sandwich and I had the Kensington Garden Salad which comes with artichoke hearts, cous cous and eggplant. Yumm!

A little later we hooked up with Whitney and her friends and went to Carleos and Barley's. Barley's had a great live band and even though we hated paying cover, it was worth it. They played eclectic 90s hits like "Baby Got Back" and George Michael's "Freedom."

Nice night and I just loved having my brother in town. Columbus may have a bit more going on but Knoxville isn't bad when it comes to an energetic vibe and a decent selection of places to hang out.

Busy Week

Saturday, 14 May 2011
So much to post about but I need to upload pictures and edit them first!

Mom and I went to a glorious wine dinner on Thursday evening at Bistro by the Tracks. Anthony Bell of Bell Wine Cellars was there to talk about his wine varieties and explain how they are made. We had such a nice evening.

Last night Dannen (my brother) rolled into town and we went to Crown and Goose then out with a few friends. Great time but I'm getting too old to be out past 10pm. ;)

This week mom designed a new "outdoor room" for me complete with a sketch! She shopped on her own on Friday while I worked and today we went to pick up the items. I have two new phat loungers on my deck and even a Pygmy Date Palm tree. Kingsley and I are going to have so much fun hanging out there this summer. I'll post pictures asap.

Hope you are having a nice weekend.

Jig Saw

Wednesday, 11 May 2011
Jig saw delivered. I love it when things happen like this: my dad reads my blog and comes through with a saw.

My parents are in town tonight and we went to dinner together at Cancun's (hole in the wall fabulous Mexican joint in Fountain City). Before dinner, dad measured, marked and cut the lattice to go under the deck and even dug small trenches so it looks like it is custom built.

I'm so happy with the outcome and I'll post a picture as soon as I buy some trim pieces and put them over the joints. Success!

P.S. I now own a jig saw!

Sunday Projects

Sunday, 8 May 2011
I need a jig saw. I really do. I bought lattice to line the underneath part of the deck and the 2'x8' is one foot too short. I went back to get the 4'x8' sheets and asked the fine folks at Home Depot to cut 12" off. No dice. They aren't allowed to cut lattice because it has staples in it and they could shoot someone's eye out. Bummer! I'm confident the lattice is going to look very nice. I just need it to be the correct size. Now. :)

I also purchased a small blueberry bush. The reason? I've wanted one for two years but seriously became committed to the idea while reading The Blueberry Years by Jim Minick. I'm on chaper 16 of the memoir and it is excellent. Jim and his wife plant 1,000 blueberry bushes and start a pick-your-own organic blueberry farm in Virginia. So brave! So homestead-ish! Hopefully I'll get enough fruit from one bush this year to make a pie.

Part of my morning was also spent planting trees. My friend Larsen gave me four (!), three foot cyprus bushes. They will grow to be six feet tall and I'm planting them on the south side of my house as a sort of privacy screen. Two are looking a little frail but now that they're in the ground, they should spruce up in no time.

Hope you had a lovely Mother's Day!

Turks and Caicos - Chef Tadd Frye

Saturday, 7 May 2011

One night my mom splurged on a private chef for my dad's birthday dinner. Chef Tadd Frye has traveled the world sharing his culinary talents and we were delighted to secure him for a night of delicious dinning. We enjoyed a cocktail hour, dinner and dessert. We had a 5 course meal plus starters and bartender Dodge was along to make blueberry Mojitos with a special light rum made on Turks and Caicos.

The appetizers were amazing. Chef Tadd served fresh conch salad which he prepared with lime juice, peppers and fresh herbs. Certainly the best we had on the island. That was served with grilled white asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, drizzled in palm oil and swept with fresh herbs.

For dinner, the first course was an absolutely amazing pumpkin soup with coconut milk. It was touched up with palm oil and a bit of scallions and cracked pepper. The texture was creamy and the taste was intense in a close-your-eyes-and-slowly-inhale kind of way.

The second course was a sinfully delicious salad (how can a salad be sinfully delicious?) made with hydroponic spinach, set on top of beet root with rich goat cheese and balsamic vinegar, aged 25 years. The taste combination was explosive in all the right ways. The woodsy taste of the spinach hit your mouth at the same time the beets gave a hint of sweet and sour. Yummy.

Our main course was a dish of grilled Mahi Mahi cooked to the perfect temperature. It was presented on a bed of cous cous with asparagus and a cherry tomato chutney with fresh basil on top. I loved every bite of the meaty goodness. It wasn't fishy and gave such a nice finish to the soup and salad. Chef Tadd searched that day for all of the freshest ingredients and used what was ready in the local markets.

For dessert, Chef Tadd surprised us all with a 25 year old Guatemalan rum after dinner drink served with coconut water and a gorgeous vanilla bean ice cream with ginger crisps.

A complete bonus of the evening? Our bartender, Dodge could play the guitar and sing. We even had live music! This was my most memorable evening of the trip and wish I could order such divine cuisine every evening.

Spring Cleaning Outdoors

Friday, 6 May 2011

I finally got a few things done outside after vacation. The cushions are out, the plants are potted and happy and I even have a new "umbrella" tablecloth (it zips to fit around the table umbrella). Lily helped me clean up the deck.

My garden is ready with 13 plants (Better Boy tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, squash, zucchini, green bell pepper, banana peppers) in the ground, a 1/2 row of red onions, a row of green beans and a 1/2 row of green onions and a 1/2 row of radishes. I also started a strawberry patch with two medium-sized plants.

My herbs from last year have exploded! Check out the oregano and the chives. This is apparently a great place for an herb garden because of the sunshine. The little birdhouse you see was built for me by my grandfather (my mom's dad). He is a skilled woodworker.

I also finally shook my fist at winter and planted marigolds in the window boxes. Why marigolds? I'm hoping they block the bugs a bit. The slugs seemed to love my house last year. I also bought a small hosta and look at my little tree! I planted it last year and it lived. My concrete front step needs to be re-finished and I'm not sure of the technique. Any advice?

Turks and Caicos - Pink Flamingos

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Pink Flamingos have a habitat on the Provo Golf Course on Turks and Caicos. I've never seen them in the wild so it was such a treat to take a golf cart ride out to watch them and snap some photos.

There were dozens of them! I did a bit of research since I don't know much about the birds. They are "waders" and often stomp one of their webbed feet to stir up mud and food. Their beaks are shaped in a way that allows them to sift through water and eat brine shrimp and blue-green algae.

Seeing the amazing birds was one of my highlights of vacation.

Sittin' by the Dock of the Bay

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

One night before dinner Kingsley and I had mom and dad drive us to the other side of the island near the resorts. Kings wanted to take some pictures of the sunset and I wanted to put my toes in the sand and explore a bit.

I love walking along the shoreline. Something about hearing the waves, watching the gulls and scanning the never-ending blue horizon is peaceful to me. It was also nice to watch Kings at work. He has taken up the hobby of photography enthusiastically and is animated and happy when discussing new techniques.

The funny part of it is - he loves taking shots of horizons and still life. I want him to get into taking pictures of people (namely he and I). After being along the beach for a couple of hours, I convinced him to take a few shots of us with the self timer and they are gorgeous (with the sun setting in the background). Too bad they are on his memory disk but I'll get a few copies to share here.

I also had some fun with photography and set up this shot with my camera. I found this gnarly old tree and used my self-timer for the picture. I was so happy this night in paradise with Kingsley. We were looking forward to dinner with my family on the beach later at an outdoor Caribbean "jerk" grill with a bonfire on the sand.