Impromptu Birthday Post

Thursday, 30 June 2011

This is how most of my blog posts begin: I'm lying in bed with my laptop surfing Twitter and Facebook and I think, My blog? I need to post something on it. That's what happened tonight but when I considered the topic it hit me. I am another year older tomorrow.

I like being 30+ years old. I really do. My fears about not having certain material things have subsided. I'm more mature and have more self confidence. Plus, when people ask your age and you respond, no one looks away like she's too young to know what she's talking about. A certain respect from others comes in your 30s.

My 20s were spent experimenting, traveling and burning bridges. I love that my early 30s have been about establishing roots, enjoying the simple things (such as a nice back yard with mature trees) and laughing out loud at mistakes. Also this year, a wonderful new theoretical lover entered the fray: Piano. Tonight my teacher, Ben Maney (a legend in Knoxville) listened to the piece I'm working on and said, "That is an intermediate song." Wow! Intermediate? Perhaps he was just being kind but I am thrilled with my musical adventure and slow advancement.

Also this year I traveled to the Caribbean for the first time and touched the clear water and tasted Conch. My parents, brother and husband were by my side for the week of discovery. We enjoy lovely family vacations and I have truly grown to appreciate them fully.

What does the future hold? In my mind I've always planned on having my first child at age 35 (if we do in fact decide to have babies) so that gives me three more years starting tomorrow of selfishness. I don't mean that literally but figuratively as in, this is my chance to keep up with the goal of being financially settled, intellectually primed and physically worn down enough to not want to stay out past midnight. Haha! Seriously, this is a year of calculated risks and hopefully a reunion in the United States with my one true love.

Bring on the birthday! I turn 32 tomorrow. 

Visiting the Capitol Building

Monday, 27 June 2011

While in D.C., I contacted my old friend Becca. Her husband Neil works as a policy advisor for top Republican Senator, Mitch McConnell. He was kind enough to give us a quick tour of the Capitol! Becca and Neil were my next door neighbors when I lived in Cincinnati (small world).

The afternoon was amazing. We went through the private security entrance and bypassed the general public lines. Neil has insight into the artwork and history throughout the building and he truly entertained and educated us. The design of the rotundra was impressive!

We did get to go sit in on a Senate hearing in the Senate gallery. That was my favorite part but we weren't allowed to take any pictures and had to go through yet another security check point and leave all of our bags in a locker.

In the room where the old Senate floor is, there's a cool portrait monument. It is dedicated to early women suffrage activists Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. There are four blocks of marble and one has been left unfinished. That is reserved for the likeness of the first woman president.

We got to see Senator McConnell (I froze and didn't even say hello) and Senator John Kerry (I did say hi to him and he just sort of looked at me). The visit was impressive and Megan and I took pictures on the balcony outside Senator McConnell's offices.

Silly Girl

Sunday, 26 June 2011
I realize this is TMI (too much information) but the cats always go into the bathroom with me. The other night Lily was there but Violet wasn't. Strange. I started calling for her. "Violet...Violet...Vi!! Where are you Violet?" I called and called and thought maybe she was stuck in the laundry room. A short while later I stood in the hall and listened for her.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a slight bit of movement in the living room. I could see one black cat ear and one yellow eye peeking at me from the side of the curtain. Violet was hanging out in the window (one of her favorite spots) and apparently wanted to play a trick on ole' mommy. It was hilarious though, because she was barely visible - but wanted to watch me look for her.

Silly kitty!

Brewfest 2011

My friends and I decided to attend the first annual Brewfest in Knoxville yesterday. The weather was HOT and that didn't mix too well with sampling beer after beer but we had a blast!

The event was completely sold out and you could certainly tell from the crowds. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and only one younger guy had to be escorted out by police. (He overdid it and vomited on the curb - amateur.)

There were 23 booths and each brewery had at least 2 beers to choose from. I certainly had my favorites. Highland's Gaelic Ale has a smooth taste. Marble City (Knoxville brewery!) Brewing Company came out with their Nectar Rubus which has a slight raspberry infusion - big fan of that. Sierra Nevada's Summerfest could have been in my top three for great summer beer. The Vanilla Java Porter by Atwater was probably the most unique flavoring out of the beer we tried. It isn't an easy drinking beer but perfect for dessert. I would also recommend Chattanooga Brewing's Kolsch and Bluegrass's American Pale Ale if you're in the market for something to serve at a party that will please many pallets.

Hosted by the Bearden Beer Market, the event was certainly a success and well organized. My only gripes would be the band (bad covers and too much country) and a lack of diversity in the crowd. Next year hopefully more people will decide to come out.

Dinner in D.C.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Not to be missed in Washington D.C. is a fabulous Mexican restaurant in Adams Morgan. There is a stop on the Metro and the place is called Lauriol Plaza. We were there on a Tuesday evening and of course there was a wait. While waiting, we conveniently found a place at the bar and ordered a half pitcher of swirl margaritas. We tried the strawberry/mango combination and it was amazing.

The night was perfect for sitting outside and we did some people watching while waiting for our table. Megan used to live in D.C. and knew about the great food and reasonable prices at Lauriol. Plus, the restaurant is in a very cool part of town. Just down the street there are more eateries, vintage boutiques and a few bars with live music.

We also posed with the Obamas cut outs after dinner (a must at Lauriol Plaza). How can you go to Washington D.C. without rubbing shoulders with the President and 1st Lady?

Demonstrating at the White House

While in Washington D.C., I mentioned to my friend Megan that I'd love to make a few protest signs and hold them up in front of the White House. While it wouldn't likely attract any government attention, it would make for some interesting pictures so she encouraged me to go for it. We found a CVS, bought a poster board, some markers and walked to the White House.

First we decided what we wanted it to say. Then Megan got to work (she is a sort of artist and can easily draw block letters). I colored in her handy work and also marked out a saying on the back of the poster.

As you can only imagine, security around the White House is pretty tight. When we walked across the street, I actually felt nervous and full of adrenaline. First of all, I am a television news reporter. I cannot embarrass myself, break any laws or make any kind of scene. Even though our "protest" was going to be passive and fueled by a sense of adventure and fun, sometimes people (read: government officials) cannot take a joke.

Luckily no one was too interested in our demonstration but a police officer did talk to us twice. First, he told us we could not lean the sign against the fence (we didn't know that). Then later he approached us to say if we wanted to video something we had to stand on the street between two poles (we didn't know that either).

A special thank you to Megan for helping me protest the problems we've had with our visa. Here's a video of my "chanting:"

P.S. A young woman came up to me and asked if she could hold my sign up and take a picture as well. Her heart also belongs to a Brit that she is trying to get into the country.

P.P.S. It was very cool to see the White House and think about some of the most powerful people in America possibly peering out the window...

If A Tree Falls in a Neighborhood...

Thursday, 23 June 2011
...will anyone hear it? Turns out, yes. This one made a large "boom" sound, according to my next door neighbors.

I was away this week visiting my parents for my upcoming birthday and during strong storms, my neighbors' tree fell. I feel so sorry for them because it is barely over the property line and man - it just isn't fair for anyone to have to deal with damage from acts of nature! However, I'm very, very thankful that no one was hurt and the thing literally fell directly between our houses (we are very lucky). My privacy fence and their garage suffered damage along with my neighbors' cars but they are repairable.

Nature is an amazing force to be reckoned with. A tornado didn't cause the enormous tree to fall but instead, straight-line winds, estimated to be between 60 and 80 miles per hour!

Other people in our area were not so lucky. Many are still without power and are dealing with trees that crashed through their roofs and made homes inhabitable. Tree cutting businesses are overwhelmed with calls and we will be patient while they get to this tree.

My neighbor enjoys building fires so he is going to use the tree for firewood. There will also be some pretty nice wood chippings and mulch so we'll all try to use that too. Recycling helps when Mother Nature gives you a "gift" like this.

Hope all is well at your house. Here's a quick video of the downed tree (can you tell I'm a bit fascinated?)...

D.C. Vibe

Sunday, 19 June 2011
Even though I love to blog about restaurants, food and activities, I wanted to take a moment to blog about the energetic and productive vibe I noticed while in Washington D.C.

Not only were people friendly and efficient, they walked with a purpose and seemed to be constantly thinking about their next move. Case in point, we met several people who worked in the Capitol building. While they seemed to love their jobs, they also alluded to actively looking for their next opportunity.

The movers-and-shakers certainly thrive in the nation's capitol and I felt energized just spending time there. At Poste, a restaurant near China Town, Megan and I rubbed elbows with many political types (more on that later) and spent more time with my old friends Neil and Becca. They've lived in the city for eight years and have purchased a house, built a family and hang out with the elite that work on The Hill.

While I may not live there, I want to travel back soon and hang with the "smart and ambitious" again. Surrounding yourself with certain people can raise the bar when it comes to determination and drive.    

Art and Lunch Near "The Hill"

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Before lunch on Wednesday we walked through the Hirshhorn Museum's Sculpture Garden. It opened in 1974 and displays work from Europe and North America. The art dates from the 1880s to now.

The weather was perfect for a walk outside and we enjoyed gazing at the different sculptures and thinking, "Could we make that?" My favorite piece is pictured below. The rider looks so free.

After visiting the sculpture garden, it was time for our lunch reservation at the Old Ebbitt Grill. This is where everyone who works on "The Hill" seems to go. While we were there at least 10 people seemed to be standing near the host waiting for a table the entire time.

Megan previously lived in D.C. and knew about this hot-spot near the White House. She booked ahead of time and if you want to eat here, don't forget the reservation.

From the Old Ebbitt Grill's website: Established in 1856, it was a favorite of Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Harding and Theodore Roosevelt and is still a popular meeting spot for political insiders, journalists, celebrities and theater-goers. As a bonus, the food was really good!

Jaunt to our Nation's Capitol

Friday, 17 June 2011

I have a couple of days off during the month of June (July is sweeps so there's no taking time off then) and decided to do something with those days. You probably read about my Writing Retreat 2. I also wanted to take the Mega Bus (which has recently begun service from Knoxville to Washington DC) north and the tickets were only $30 round trip. Friend and 6 News meteorologist Megan was willing to go with so we made a couple days of it.

The weather was absolutely perfect (80F, sunny, clear skies and slight breeze) on Wednesday so we started by going to The Mall and posing in front of the Washington Monument. Then, we worked our way through the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum where I renewed my awe of Amelia Earhart (she was the 2nd pilot to fly from Hawaii to the US) and the Wright Brothers (pioneers of air travel).

Above is Earhart's "Little Red Bus." She flew the Atlantic in this very plane. It is on display at the Smithsonian.

The Wright Brothers flew this plane lying down, facing forward. The aircraft was their invention and called the Wright Flyer. It was the first successful airplane, flown in 1903.

My favorite exhibits included the outfits of the flight attendants. They were incredibly stylish and oh-so-polyester. I have an affinity for vintage clothing and could not believe the awesome Emilio Pucci design. The pink suit with hat was amazing and you cannot see it in the picture but the Pucci outfit comes with tights that match the hat!

Next stop for us was the Smithsonian sculpture garden, better know as the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden. It was beautiful and peaceful. We enjoyed walking through the neatly maintained grassy paths and remarking on the art work that was unique enough to land such a prestigious space.

The garden is worth a tourist's time and we found ourselves remarking on the techniques used by the artists. Could we create something similar with what we learned in welding class? Doubt it but it is fun to dream.

Pet Mommy

Sunday, 12 June 2011

I had a taste of what it must sort-of feel like to be a mother this morning. I'm sure it doesn't really compare to being the mother of a child but bear with me...

Friday night, I noticed Lily scratching and grooming more than usual. I Googled "fleas" and read that cats that go outdoors get fleas (duh). Lily and Violet now go outdoors with me when I'm gardening or doing yard work but since they've always been indoor cats, I don't treat them for fleas.

Apparently one of the clues that shows that fleas are in the mix are tiny black droppings at the base of the fur. I found such droppings on Lily and freaked out. Quickly, I logged on and ordered a three month supply of Frontline for both cats. Satisfied, I got ready for work the next day and went to bed.

Saturday night both cats were scratching like crazy and Violet has been pulling her fur out more than usual (she does that, I don't know why). I laid down on the living room floor with them and was close to tears. Why didn't I go to the vet on Saturday? Why didn't I get something for the girls that would fight the fleas right away? It could be that I am a horrible mother.

So, consulting Google again, I searched "home remedies for fleas." One writer suggested a spray bottle with white vinegar and water and then a mist of the mixture on the cats. I didn't have a spray bottle so I mixed the liquids and dipped a paper towel in and used it to wipe their fur. Of course they both began licking themselves like crazy, furious that I would even DARE to touch them with anything foreign. Lily seemed to stop scratching as much over the next hour but she was grooming like crazy. I also got up around that time and washed all the bedding and towels in hot water and vacuumed. This was at one o'clock in the morning but I was grossed out thinking about fleas.

This morning, I was awakened by the worst sound. Lily was wheezing/hacking, likely trying to loosen a hair ball but I froze in terror. Was she having a seizure? Was she able to breathe? Was she having a bad allergic reaction to the vinegar/water flea remedy? Violet was actually sitting next to her on the bed staring at her and sniffing in her direction, also visibly alarmed. The hacking went on for a good three minutes and she did it twice more over the next hour while I watched helplessly. She was hunched over, looking so miserable.

I have to go to work but I'd much rather stay home and keep an eye on Lily. She has been clingy today but I raced out to get flea collars and both cats seem to be much more comfortable now that they've had them on for a couple of hours. Lily has not been gagging anymore. Thank goodness.

Being a parent is hard work. Note: that statement was tongue-in-cheek because I know I have it coming 10 fold with actual children... 

Summer Shoe Dilemma

Saturday, 11 June 2011
It has been 96 degrees in Knoxville. That, to me, is very hot. Couple it with the oppressive humidity of the South and air quality alerts every day, and we have had a miserable spring. These hot temperatures have led to a wardrobe crisis of sorts.

As a television news reporter, I am required to work outside. We aren't outside all day every day but usually there's at least a couple of interviews to get outside and video of workers, a project, homeless people, etc., outdoors. (One of our biggest stories to cover has been, of course, the heat.) How is one supposed to dress in a professional way when the least amount of clothing is the most comfortable while outside? It isn't easy.

A skirt and a collared jacket or short-sleeve shirt or slacks is usually the uniform of choice but it's the shoes that trip me up - so to speak. In the winter, I'm covered. I invested in leather, tall boots of different colors (Furla black, riding, flat boots, Steve Madden tan, flat, tall boots and Michael Kors short, dark brown boots). I don't wear heels because it's the same story: we're outside in the snow and ice and I'm not falling on my rear for the sake of doing the sexy high-heel thing. I covered that in my 20s and got plantar fasciitis from wearing heels and standing on them every single day almost all day for five years.

So now, in the summer, what's a girl to wear on her feet? Boots won't work. It's too dang hot. I cannot wear flip flops and most sandals are open-toed which doesn't really work when some stories require that all people in the group have closed-toe shoes (think stories at TVA's plant, mechanic shop, building site...). I've tried to find cute flats but they are few and far between because this isn't the season for them. Yesterday I wore my Tahari patent brown heels with a bow and brought sandals for the car and office. Am I going to be stuck carrying two pair of shoes everyday for the rest of the summer? I need advice, please. 

Veggie Garden Update

Friday, 10 June 2011
I have food! Tonight I went out to water the vegetable garden after pruning the herbs in the herb garden and I was able to harvest three radishes and three green onions. Wish I could say I did something more inventive with them besides washing them, dressing them and munching down with a tiny bit of salt but wow. They had a great flavor.

So far, nothing else is ready to be picked. My tomatoes are blooming but do not have fruit yet. The green bean plants seem happy but something is chowing on the leaves. Green beans are very easy to grow. You just plant the bean and they come up in no time.

The squash plants look amazing but I don't think the blooms have been pollinated yet. Fingers crossed for a great growing season!

Writing Retreat 2

Wednesday, 8 June 2011
In December 2009, I went on my first, self-designed writing retreat. I went to Newport, Oregon and stayed in a fabulous place right on the ocean. It was 55F and sunny and I felt inspired to write while watching the waves come in. At that time I was still working on my memoir about my long distance relationship/visa battles with Kingsley. One of my goals for next year is to complete the first chapter and outline and get it sent out to agents and publishers!

It's been a year and a half since the writing retreat and I want to schedule one every year. For me, it is just one night away to focus, relax, journal, write down goals and work on writing. This year, on a much different budget, I decided to go camping. Yes, camping by myself. Powell Valley Marina is on Norris Lake and the owners allow tent camping and swimming. For $22.89 you can book a campsite for the night.

Most of my neighbors were sporting RVs but I only saw three people while I was there. The campground isn't primitive and doesn't allow for much privacy but I had fun. First thing was first. I set up camp. My two-person Coleman tent (gift from my bro) is simple to put up.

I finished an excellent book, Something to Prove: A Daughter's Journey to Fulfill a Father's Legacy by Dr. Yvonne Thornton. This was such an inspiring read! Dr. Thornton is a black gynecologist who goes to work for Cornell in the 80s teaching residents, watching over a women's clinic and dealing with her own private practice. She faced racism, sexism and trials while trying to reach her professional goals. Her father was literally a ditch-digger but wanted his daughters to be doctors. Three of them are. Dr. Thornton is not only a brilliant woman, but a wonderful writer. She actually made me think:  Is there something I can do with my career to help people?

Poetry has never been a huge draw for me because poems can be confusing and intricate. I do like a shorter form of story telling and have written poems for Kingsley (maybe 10 or so?) which I've never shared with anyone else. On the writing retreat, I wrote a few simple lines to go with the theme of my surroundings and these are my favorite:


View of the lake
Firefly the color
of the Caribbean sea

Birds race through
the last rays of sun
Stray dogs with worn
collars stop by
for crusts of bread

Peaceful swimming
Cool water with toes
pointing down
The heat of the
day wanes

The Lake

Boats come in at seven
engines roaring

Mourning doves in tall
evergreens remind the camp
dusk is coming

Birds feed and ready
for roost
chattering about the day

I also spent at least an hour or so considering my goals for the next year and for the future. My birthday is less than a month away and I tend to do some soul searching when another year is in the books. Here's some of the goals I came up with:  Become debt free, work on building our savings account, develop rich partnership with Kingsley (on the same continent) go to South Africa to visit family, go to Missouri to visit family, be committed to piano, re-open online vintage store, Black Violet Vintage.

When I'd get too hot or felt bored from reading and writing, I'd walk about 10 yards to the lake and swim. Norris lake is gorgeous. I even went swimming in the darkness. Night swimming is relaxing and peaceful. When the sun went down, I built a fire and read my second book, Denial: A Memoir of Terror by Jessica Stern using a flash light.

Back when I first became a homeowner and had a fire pit for the first time (thanks Adrian and Larsen!) I searched YouTube for a video on how to build a fire. There wasn't one. Kingsley told me what to do via Skype and I did it! Starting a fire and keeping it burning in a pit is not easy. That's why I created videos for my YouTube channel to show anyone who needs to know, how to build a fire.

Part 2:

Visa Waiver Update

Monday, 6 June 2011
Quick info: We learned today that our visa waiver application has been sent to the US Embassy in Rome. From information we have gathered, we think an agent is either reviewing our case currently or getting ready to. That means we should have an "approval" or a "denial" status soon.

We have asked for your help before providing letters to the embassy about our relationship, now we ask for your help once more. Please send prayers, good vibes, high energy (your choice) our way. Anytime I can repay the favor, I'd be happy to just post a comment on my blog.

The feeling I have right now is akin to waiting for the call after a job interview, the score on an important test, the results of a medical test, x 1000. The stress and anxiety is so intense it is literally hard to breathe. However, we believe in a positive outcome and we believe we're supposed to be together to start our lives in this great country!  

Breaking Bad

Sunday, 5 June 2011

My second TV series obsession of the year (you can read about Mad Men here) is Breaking Bad. Breaking Bad is another AMC specialty (also the network where MM airs) starring Bryan Cranston.

Cranston plays Walt, a high school chemistry teacher who has lung cancer. He is brilliant but somehow got stuck in a non-challenging teacher career and his family struggles financially. Walt's son is disabled and his wife is accidentally pregnant at the age of 40 with their second child.

To help financially, Walt secretly hooks up with former chemistry student and young street guy Jesse and together they begin cooking and distributing methamphetamine. The series chronicles their dark adventures, peppered with veiled humor. There are certainly some grisly scenes but mostly I'm impressed with the editing, the story line and Cranston's amazing acting. Get this - he has won Emmys three years in a row for Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

The series is so successful in my opinion because Walt is the kind of guy everyone can identify with. He isn't attractive, he isn't rich, he lives a normal life and slowly transforms into a "hero" of sorts for using his knowledge of chemistry to outsmart the "bad guys" and raise money for his family. You can find the series on Netflix.