Merry Christmas 2012

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Mom still puts up a tree and the kids (Dannen and I) just love it. I'm sure she is looking forward to the days that young toddler eyes will stare up to the glistening lights but she is polite enough to never mention it. 

On Christmas Eve my family usually goes out to a "special" place for a nice dinner. We had reservations at Mitchell's Steakhouse near Polaris but before we left, I snapped the traditional "self portrait" by holding the camera myself with the family crowded in the background to take the photo. The fifth one turned out like so:

Yes, I need to just get a tripod and then we can all pose nicely and grin but what's the fun in that? I like saying, "Dad! Why do you INSIST on putting your head directly behind mine in the photos!?" Then he sighs, moves his head and we take more pictures. 

On Christmas morning before we open gifts we have a lovely breakfast of Monkey Bread (biscuit mixture with brown sugar and cinnamon topping), bacon, scrambled eggs and Mimosas. 

As a child I remember I couldn't WAIT to open gifts and would wake up early with anticipation. This year on Christmas it was a miracle that I was up before 8am. We enjoyed opening gifts and afterwards dad and Dewey (the cat) cleaned up the wrapping paper while mom and I cooked Christmas lunch. 

Mom and I also put together a floral arrangement for holidays. She has a three-section urn that we use for a centerpiece. We put bowls inside the segments and add floral block, cover the block with moss and then just stick flowers in one by one. Roses with stronger stems go in easily. 

Please post about what your family did this year and about any traditions that you love. Happy holidays!

Tsukiji Fish Market

Tuesday, 25 December 2012
I've watched programs about the Tsukiji Fish Market for years so this was certainly a place I wanted to visit while in Tokyo. All of the huge tuna comes in to the dock (via fishermen) and restaurants bid on it during the daily morning auction. Because we were there close to the holiday season, the tuna auction was closed to tourists. Bummer! But we did get to walk through the market at 9am. 

This was certainly not a "tourist" stop. The market is very busy and locals take it very seriously. Since seafood is such an important part of the Japanese diet, the market is the place to be for restaurants, chefs and cooks. There is an unbelievable amount of places to eat in Tokyo and this is where the fish comes from.

Every type of seafood available could be found here. Eel is part of a traditional Japanese dish. I ordered it (Unagi) at the Four Seasons Tokyo and although I wasn't too fond of the smoked taste, I finished it. 

We walked through at the least busy morning hour and people were still cutting portions of fish, calculating sales and unpacking items. Chefs were still negotiating but mostly business was winding down. 

James and I really loved walking through the market taking pictures. We could have spent hours here. If I ever get to return to Tokyo, I'd like to attend the tuna auction. Amazing!

Traditional Tea Ceremony

Monday, 24 December 2012

One of the highlights of my time in Japan was attending a traditional tea ceremony. It was fashioned for educational purposes so our hostess performed the rituals and told us about her actions in English. We removed our shoes before entering the main living room and sat on the floor on small cushions.

The main tools of the preparation of tea include: a bamboo whisk, tea bowl and tea spoon. The wooden spoon is used to scoop powdered green tea into tea bowls. Then a bamboo ladle is used to pour boiling water into the bowl. Finally, you are to whisk the tea into a froth. 

When drinking, you are supposed to put the tea bowl in your left palm and support it on the side with your right hand. Before drinking the tea in three gulps, you are to turn it clockwise three times. This allows guests to admire the painting on the bowl. 

After learning about the tools and process, our hostess also explained the importance of the tea ceremony in the Japanese culture. It is a form of art and motions are slow and deliberate. Each step has special meaning. Guests are to show full respect to the hostess at all times, even admiring the tools used to make tea.

During the final part of the session, we made our own cup of tea, learning how to use the scoop and whisk. This was an incredible experience! (The woman siting next to me was in traditional Japanese dress. Many women still wear kimonos in Kyoto.)

Kyoto Morning Tour

Thursday, 13 December 2012
We took the bullet train to Kyoto from Tokyo and arrived in just two hours. Train travel is where it's at. No long security lines and quiet, calm passengers and attendants.

Instead of doing private tours like in Tokyo, we joined a JR group Sunrise Tour. The guide was fabulous and really knows his Japanese history. First, we visited Nijo Castle which was originally where a Shogun resided. We weren't allowed to take photos inside and had to remove shoes before going indoors. The entry halls are all made of wood and have metal springs under them so that the inhabitants could hear intruders. Very interesting.

We then went to the Golden Pavilion at the base of North Mountain in Kyoto. This is a Buddhist shrine and is made of wood and 200,000 sheets of gold leaf. The original shrine was burned by a "crazy" monk in 1950 but a new one was built as a replica. The gardens surrounding the site are original and more than 600 years old. 

After walking the path along the gardens, I stopped to have traditional powdered Japanese green tea and a "sweet" rice square in the tea garden. The sun was bright but the air was crisp this morning so the warmth from the tea was appreciated!


Sunday, 9 December 2012
I'm having a problem with iPhoto so I'm not able to upload pictures right now which is, of course, killing me but I'll survive. We had yet another wonderful day in Tokyo visiting temples and shrines       plus Tokyo-esque places like the four story Sony showroom.

The food here is to die for as well and I've never loved Green Tea as much. James and I didn't feel the earthquake on Sunday evening. We were busy doing something when it struck and didn't even know it had happened until we started getting emails from concerned family members.

Tonight we are headed to Paul Bocuse's Brasserie restaurant in Roppongi. It is located in the National Art Gallery and we're going to view a Japanese artist exhibit before hand. The weather has been sunny and 50F. Perfection.

Singapore River Cruise

Thursday, 6 December 2012
This morning the weather was absolutely gorgeous so after a nice breakfast we decided to go for a river tour of the city.

The "bumboats" are charming despite the unfortunate name (ha!) and some of the best views of the skyline can be caught from the water.

Our hotel, The Fullerton is on the water and we could buy a ticket and hop on almost just outside of the front door. There was just one other couple on the boat so we felt like we were on a private tour. The boat has an audio guide so we learned about landmarks along the way.

The ride provides a nice opportunity to check out the quays along the way. Our favorite is the Boat Quay but the below photo is of Clarke Quay. This is where goods used to be unloaded after coming into the port and up river. Now the warehouses are home to fun restaurants and bars.

Another interesting part of the tour included the Merlion Park. This is where tourists snap photos of the Merlion. It's a figure that is part lion, part fish. The significance centers on the city's history. 

The fish part of the fountain represents Singapore's beginnings as a fishing village. The lion part represents the "lion" for which Singapore was named after. Singapura means Lion City.

The ride lasts about 40 minutes and we got a little sun while putting along. It was very enjoyable.

Singapore is even lovelier at night

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

We had a nice dinner last night at The Lighthouse, the roof top restaurant at the Fullerton Hotel. The draw is the view but the food and service is also impeccable. After enjoying rich Italian cuisine, we went out onto the roof top bar to enjoy the view and snap a few photos. 

Today we went to Little India and visited an amazing Hindu temple, then visited the Gardens By the Bay and had lunch on the river at Robertson Quay (pronounced "key"). I cannot wait to upload more pictures. The sites are impressive!

Sunny Skies in Singapore

Monday, 3 December 2012
Things are better and I'm feeling 90%. There is a short break in the JMComm 2012 conference this morning so I'm taking just a moment to contemplate this gorgeous setting. I am pleasantly surprised at how gorgeous it is in Singapore. Granted, I'm spending time in likely the most gorgeous parts of the city (downtown, near the bay) but wow, it is tidy, clean and the vegetation is beyond amazing.

The Ft. Canning Hotel (conference venue) is surrounded by the Ft. Canning park and the setting is breathtaking. I can understand why everything is very green and lush because the rain fall is heavy and often. Just like other tropical locations, people just bring an umbrella and use it as needed. As quickly as the rain starts, it stops and the sun returns. This lends to a very humid climate and sad hair days but luckily academics aren't that concerned with looks. :)

I cannot wait to get outside and take photos. 

Sick in Singapore

Sunday, 2 December 2012
Our flight from Atlanta to Tokyo was going smoothly, until it wasn't. James surprised me with business class seats that were comfortable and roomy (he's amazing). I watched a couple of movies, worked on grading and a research paper and slept. At about hour 11, I started to feel queasy. That began a cycle of vomiting and other horrid symptoms that shall not be named here for the next 14 hours. I even had to call for a wheelchair (!!) to get me from the plane, through immigration, to baggage and to the car. I was too weak to walk and stand for very long plus I had to stop at the ladies room along the way. James was a trooper and just pretended like he didn't know me (kidding).

I've never been so sick.

Day one in Singapore had me laying in bed still feeling bad but happy to be in such a nice, clean, comfortable room. I still wasn't able to keep down even water but I managed to sleep some.

This morning I felt much better, showered, dressed and went to breakfast. Sadly though, after eating only tea, water, crackers and half of the white portion of a hard boiled egg, I was throwing up again.

The conference started today and I wasn't even able to go! I'm in a city that I'll probably never visit again and I'm down for the count! I haven't cried yet but was on the brink a few times.

James had pre-booked a city tour so he went out today and (God bless him) came back with Gatorade and more crackers. I'm trying to drink it slowly and I think it is helping. I WILL go to the conference tomorrow and present as scheduled...even if I have to crutch my way there with a Delta "sick" bag tied to my face and sit at every park bench along the way to rest. :)

In other news, can you believe it's December already??

Favorite Products

Friday, 23 November 2012
Too many things on my mind tonight so why not post something mundane like a list of favorite beauty products as a distraction? I have a few that I think are go-to fabulous. Please share yours! 

1. Lollia Shea Butter Hand Cream. Mom bought this in South Port near Bald Head Island, North Carolina. She shared it with me and if you put this on your hands at night, they are still soft in the morning. The scent is lovely but not overpowering. The small tubes are $25 each so it probably isn't your daily hand cream but I find it to be luxurious.

2. I love Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion. It's yellow and the best bottles come with a pump. Clinique is now selling the jumbo size for $36. It'll last quite a while and makes your skin feel young and soft.

3. John Frieda Frizz-Ease Moisture Barrier Firm Hold Hair Spray. Have you tried it? If you have course, thick hair that must have a different foundational ethnic background than Caucasian (like me), this is the best product. My hair is not naturally curly but it IS naturally frizzy so after straightening it small section by section for hours, this is the finishing product to use! This is $7.99 at CVS and only $4.99 at Target online. AND this comes in a travel size at CVS.

4. When it comes to mascara, I've tried them all. After many disappointments, I always come crawling back to my true love: L'Oreal's Voluminous Black Noir Mascara with the curved brush. NOTE: The curved brush is very important here. This does not clump. It separates the lashes nicely and even curls during application. I do use a lash curler before putting on mascara. It works. The cost is dynamite. In fact, this product is buy one get one half off at Walgreens. $7.99 regular price.

5. MAC makeup is outrageously priced but 100% worth it. I learned about MAC makeup as a television news reporter. It has light reflecting qualities that help our faces look smoother and brighter under most types of lightening. The best current product is the MAC Prep & Prime. This comes in many shades so you'll have to test it on your skin. I have dark circles under my eyes from a childhood of taking Theophylline for Asthma. Nothing helps, nothing works except for MAC Prep & Prime. Try it. It has so many uses. $30 for a small tube.

6. Epielle Cucumber Cleaning Tissues. These are $2 at Big Lots. Best deal out there for makeup remover. You can take off your eye makeup so you don't have to rub mascara off with a washcloth and if you have a terrible day you can just take makeup off with these wet wipes and snuggle into bed without washing your face. 

7. Neutrogena MoistureShine Lip Gloss. $8.99 This stays on over lipstick nicely and comes in beautiful shades. I find the tube actually lasts for quite some time because you don't have to reapply like crazy.

**Blogger did not receive free products, discounts, correspondence or requests from any of the mentioned product makers. 

Thankful For...

Tuesday, 20 November 2012
Oh come on, it's fun. Let's list what we're thankful for, m'kay? (I'm just not going to do the name-one-thing-I'm-thankful-for-every-day-on-Facebook...)

I'm thankful yet again for another year of support from my parents. They are undoubtedly wondering when I'll grow up and finally leave school but since that may never happen (kidding) I want them to know how much I appreciate the little and big things they do to help me achieve my dreams. They set the bar for achievement and success early in life and have been there encouraging me every step of the way.

I'm thankful for the amazing mentors and professors I've been able to work with at the University of Tennessee. A few deserve specific recognition this year. Thank you to Dr. Michelle Violanti who has patiently showed interest in my research ideas, my dissertation brainstorming and overall success as a PhD student. Thank you also goes to Dr. Michael Martinez, Dr. Nick Geidner and Dr. Gregory Button. They have all spent time outside of classes helping me with research design, ideas regarding research and methodology and even personal struggles of pursuing higher ed. I will remember these amazing people when I'm in their shoes helping grad students.

Everyday I'm thankful for my home. While small, it has a great kitchen and I've enjoyed developing my cooking and baking skills this year. It has helped with my stress level but has also turned me into more of a hermit. Ha! This is good for the pursuit of a PhD. I just need to try to win back some of my friends next year... lol.

I'm thankful for good health and relative safety. That isn't really something you start to consider until you get older but I've just completed several autobiographies of journalists who were either killed, injured or kidnapped in war zones (nice, happy reading material). This happened to them when they were about my age and I've become aware of my tendency to take my healthy body and mind as well as my freedom for granted. 

I'm also extremely thankful for the opportunity to find someone special this year. When you think you may never find true love again or a partner who matches you in perfect ways, it happens. :)

Keep going. Don't be afraid to take chances. Sometimes chances lead to things to be thankful for. Come on ... share your "thankful for" list...

Thanksgiving: The Menu

Friday, 16 November 2012
Image from:
I enjoy the holidays because I loooove to eat (you wouldn't know it from looking at me... bahahahaaa). The Chew on ABC (fabulous day time cooking show) is discussing Thanksgiving menu traditions all week so I thought I'd share ours. I'm always fascinated with what people serve for special occasions, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nothing wrong with going out to eat or ordering in either. A tradition is fun either way!

We traditionally have:

A relish tray (raw veggies, pickles, olives, pickled okra and ranch dip)
Fresh green beans (cooked with red onion and bacon)
Dressing with oysters (excellent taste - use chicken stock instead of water for moisture)
Roast turkey (Easy, cooked in a roasting bag - no basting needed, my mom says the Butterball brand for the bird is essential)
Sweet potato casserole (we use brown sugar, pecans, cinnamon, butter... no marshmallows - this dish is my FAVORITE)
Mashed potatoes (never from a box, add milk and butter while hot, then mash, no lumps)
Gravy (mom makes this herself from turkey dressings - Omg so good)
Cranberries (super easy, fresh recipe that is AMAZING, can even be used as a thick jam - grandma shared the recipe years ago and we now always make it... say NO to canned cranberry sauce)
Hot rolls (we use the frozen balls that rise on the stove, then bake for 12 minutes)

For dessert:

Mom is an amazing pie maker. She always makes her crust from scratch and does gorgeous pumpkin AND pecan pies. We like one of each and might eat a slice for breakfast if no one is looking. :) We add whipped cream, of course.

Each year we do something a little differently just to have some fun and mix it up. This year, mom has a pumpkin martini recipe that we'll try over the holiday weekend and I noticed a couple of different ideas on the Rachael Ray show to try. We're going to add shallots and chicken broth to our fresh green beans and do a homemade spin on our whipped cream. To try: beat heavy whipping cream, when whipped: add cinnamon, freshly ground nutmeg, vanilla and bourbon (omit bourbon if you don't want the alcohol).

What do you have on the menu??

Appearance Isn't Everything

Tuesday, 13 November 2012
General Petraeus, Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen ... have all the fun. These are just some of the men who use their power to manipulate their personal situations and become successful at womanizing. I guess what bothers me the most is the double standard that abounds.

Let's say a powerful woman (in the public eye) cheats on her husband... the man who stood by her through a difficult career with a young, hot man. What would society say about her? She would be labeled as a b*tch and a wh*re. Well get THIS... some bloggers have the audacity to say: well no wonder when it comes to Petraeus' infidelity. (They are insinuating that Holly is old and ugly and that she has just let herself go.)

Are you kidding me? There is already evidence that there is more than one woman he may have had an affair with. This is a power issue. Men who repeatedly use women (as only objects for sex) have socio-psychological-narrsasstic issues. They are emotionally aloof and use every opportunity as a way to meet their own needs. This shows a lack of maturity and slow or absent emotional and mental development. If the theory that Holly "letting herself go" rings true, then why did Tiger Woods keep 50+ mistresses? These men could do the courageous thing and get a divorce if they want out. But, oh WAIT. That would almost be like an admission of respect for a woman as a person and that's not as important as their own egos.

In the words of Judge Judy, that's RIDICULOUS!

(Note: Sorry, but I cannot believe some people would place part of the blame of Petraeus' affair on his wife.)

FOL gets ready for bachelor auction 2013

Monday, 12 November 2012
I'm on the bachelor auction planning committee for Friends of Literacy again this year. It is one of our most successful fund raisers and - it's just fun! I recruited Josh Ault from WATE-TV and Nick Zacherrati who works is the film industry in Knoxville.

All of our bachelors have to fill out an application and I've really enjoyed reading their answers. Some of the ladies on the committee talked about how we would answer if we had to fill it out ourselves. Why do ladies just love filling out surveys and interviews? I don't know but the guys seem to hate it.

I've posted my answers below. Feel free to copy and paste this to your blog and have fun contemplating your answers!

Dream Job: Cooking show hostess (I loooove to cook, bake and eat. I also love talking about cooking, baking and eating)

Where are you from? St. Joseph, Missouri (home of the Pony Express)

What do you like about living in East TN? East Tennessee is still full of green space. I have a large backyard and love spending time at Norris Lake and camping in Blount County. It takes me less than an hour to get to some of my favorite outdoor sanctuaries.

Do you have any volunteer involvement? Tell us about where you volunteer, what you do, and why: I serve on the board of Friends of Literacy which is a charity that works to raise the adult literacy rate in Knox County, help adults earn their GEDs and ultimately get back into work force.

Hobbies, interests, likes? Happiness to me is being near the water (lake, stream, creek, ocean) with a great non-fiction book. I love to float in the ocean after an interesting snorkeling trip. Cooking is a way that I express creativity and relax. There's just something about seeing chopped, beautiful ingredients coming together to form a tasty dish. 

Dislikes, pet-peeves? I'm not a big fan of people with abrasive personalities. Live and let live, don't you think? My point is: no thank you to extreme views. I live my life how I think is best and you should too.

What is most likely to make you smile? James. :) The man has a unique sense of humor that seems to get me every time. Time with my family and my cats acting silly will also always spark a smile.

What is playing on your IPod/radio right now? I listen to NPR like a fiend because we can get local news on the hour every hour as well as the weather. My favorite music includes jazz (specifically brass!), reggae and blues.

If you could travel to one place, where would it be and why? I love champagne and would like to go that region in France to learn more about production. Besides that, I'm interested in going to Thailand to a resort that operates as an elephant reserve. Travelers get to help care for the animals during their stay. So cool!

If you could meet one person (living or dead) who would it be and why? I would like to talk with Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc). My family descends from her lineage. She was a woman before her time and pushed boundaries to be a leader of the French army and take her country back from English rule.

Describe your ideal first date: Ideally, I'd like to meet someone out for dinner or a drink for a first date. Conversation would be casual with lots of laughter. I get nervous before first dates, interviews, etc. so feeling comfortable even in a potentially tense situation is important for me.

How would your friends describe you? I think my friends would say I'm focused, kind, independent and funny (at least that's what I hope they'd say).

Favorite saying or quote: No worries. Worrying does't accomplish anything except keeping the cycle of anxiety rolling. Things will either happen or they won't. We control our reaction. I learned this from my mother -- as long as those we love are healthy and out of danger, we should try to be content. 

Favorite restaurant or hang out: Even though I enjoy being social and often get energy from being around people, I love my home. I recently redesigned my living room and it feels warm, cozy and inspirational. The space is great for working on papers and it's directly next to the kitchen (perfect for cooking while working).

What was the last thing you read? Theories of communication, an introduction reader (I'm trying to get my PhD and have little time for pleasure reading).

Favorite movie: I'm not a big fan of movies. I hate sitting still for hours and like to multi-task while watching TV.

First thing people usually notice about you? My eyes. They're large. O-O

Something unique most people don’t know about you? I am a published author. My work is featured in international magazines: Arrivals & Departures, and Avantoure.

Three things you can’t live without? Laughter, WiFi, friends/family.

Superpower you most desire? Flight. 

Accomplishment you are most proud of? I'm happy that I was able to buy my own house. I'm also really proud of moving to another country on my own and earning my Master's Degree.

The craziest thing I have ever done? I used to walk around in Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati at 4am as a news reporter trying to get information about shootings and crime. That was HIGHLY dangerous and I would never even dream of doing that now. It was expected and at that age, I had no fear.

Favorite article of clothing? My vintage mink coat (NOTE: I support recycling and reusing fur but not purchasing new).

Anything else we should know about you? I love my power tools.

Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains

Friday, 9 November 2012

James ventured to Tennessee for the first time last weekend so we went to Cades Cove to check out the National Park. We decided to do the somewhat touristy but interesting loop through Cades Cove that includes stop offs at historical buildings such as the John Oliver cabin. It is the oldest building in the park, built in 1820.

I was REALLY excited to try out my early Christmas present from James, a Sony NEX 5 camera. It is truly fabulous and I can use it during travels and for my dissertation work when I do ethnography like participant observation, fieldwork and interviews. 

If you're into the changing colors of leaves during the fall season, the smokies are where it's at. We were about two weeks late for the full-on amazing display but there were still some blood red and golden touches throughout the scenery. 

My favorite part of the loop besides seeing the wildlife, is checking out the old churches and cemeteries. The Primitive Baptist Church was built in 1827 and the building that is now the church was built in 1887. While we were there, a wedding was actually going on.

While we were walking through the cemetery, a guide was discussing the grounds. He said that people can still be buried there as long as they could prove they were descendants from one of the founding members of the church. The headstones date to the 1800s.

We saw deer, wild turkeys and even a bear! He was pretty far off and a national park staffer was on site to make sure no one got too close. The bear was just chilling behind a log while everyone tried to get a glimpse. If you look reaaaaaly closely, you can see a a tiny bit of black fur over the right side of the downed tree (kind of looks like a rock sticking up). 

I absolutely loved the Cable place as well. There's a house, two barns, a smokehouse, corn crib and an amazing mill from the 1800s. These people were inventive and clearly hard workers back in the day. They diverted the creek to power a wheel that ground corn and also provided power for tools. It still works!

 Cades Cove is fun and worth the drive, especially on a gorgeous fall day like we had (sunny and 65F)

An Update

Tuesday, 6 November 2012
My lack of blogging is pathetic. I admit it. This PhD thing is getting in the way of my life. Ha! Seriously, I think my friends are considering moving on with their lives without me because I stay home all of the time doing homework. I've said it before, I'll say it again - had I know this adventure would be so difficult and this time consuming, I may have thought twice but here we are half way through the pain and suffering (I kid - kind of) so I vow to keep going.

How about a little update on my mundane existence (you likely don't care but my grandmother faithfully reads my blog and she likes new information...)?

1. I've redecorated my living room in lighter colors after refinishing my fireplace. My drapes are now ivory silk panels and the entire space is brighter. This makes me happy and I do most of my studying now from the comfort of my living room rather than my bedroom. Having an office in bed is not all its cracked up to be... bed sores and all...

Along the home improvement lines, I painted my front door red and replaced the welcome mat. I also scrubbed down the awning and repainted that white. I was up and down on a ladder and got pretty scared of falling. Me, scared!? This does not happen... aging has annoying psychological effects.

2. My learning curve this semester is through the roof. I'm working on four different research studies (only one is for class) and my confidence level is climbing. Successful academic writing is still something I'm striving for (currently still out of reach) but I'm getting closer.

3. I've been seeing an amazing guy from Ohio (Yes, the long distance relationships seem to be my thing. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that no man can stand to be around me 24/7... Lol.) and we are traveling to Singapore and Japan together at the end of the month. I'm presenting at the JMComm 2012 conference in Singapore and I cannot wait to go to Tokyo and Kyoto for fun.

4. The cats are still alive. Lily has become a fierce hunter. Even though she is only 8 pounds she manages to bring squirrels, chipmunks, moles and mice to the back door after being out for just an hour or so. One night when it was quite warm I left the back door open. I heard her meowing (that's what she does when she carries her toy mice in her mouth) and she walked into the living room with a REAL mouse. That was bad enough but when she put it down... it was still ALIVE. 

After calling my brother for moral support, I went on an indoor safari to see if I could find the mouse. It was hiding in the corner under my dresser. The poor thing was tiny (must have been a baby). I put on long leather gloves and counted to three about five times. I finally grabbed for it but of course it ran and Violet corned it in the hall way. Lily was banished outside at the time and Violet just sniffed the poor thing not knowing what to do. Counting to three again... I grabbed for it. It ran up the wall and I caught it. Bravely I took the little beast outside and let it go. My status as bad a$$ truly increased that evening. :)

5. I'm looking forward to the holiday season. This is my second year in academia around Thanksgiving and Christmas and I'll be able to head to Ohio and spend time with my mom, dad and brother. I didn't realize it then but as a reporter who had to work holidays for a decade or more, this time of year was depressing. We all dealt with the lack of celebration and family with a "We don't care" attitude but we really did care. Now, I can enjoy thoughts of waking up in my parents' home, cooking, eating good food and celebrating love, peace and hope together.

6. I've been using my Kitchen Aid mixer more (for the reason refer to #3) and more. I've tried three new dessert recipes this month: Nutella peanut butter cookies, classic chocolate chip cookies and cupcake brownies with peanut butter filling. Baking is fun and relaxing. There's also such a sense of pride when I pull out my BMW of mixers... if you have a Kitchen Aid you feel me on this one.

That's what's new with me... your turn!

Former Journalist Interviewing Journalists

Thursday, 25 October 2012
Data collection for my study on journalist preparation and training is going even better than expected. I cannot believe how lucky I am to talk with some big name folks who are experienced, wise and super friendly. Isn't it funny how we think "famous" people aren't approachable when really, they have to have some people skills to become so successful. A sharp professional is usually well-liked by their peers.

Since I'm a highly private person (yeah, right), I just hate sharing my business (collective laugh here) but I REALLLY wish I could blog about what I'm learning from the journalists that are interviewing with me. Eventually their experiences will be recorded in a (hopefully published) academic report but I won't be using their names. Bummer. I'd like for you to support their work as I do.

My absolute love of the long-interview method is contrasted with a hate for transcription. It takes hours and hours and hours of listening to recordings and typing out words and nuances to get the data down. This is a super busy time for me but at least I can look out the window at bright, beautiful trees in fall colors here in lovely East Tennessee while I work. Our local meteorologist Matt Hinkin says the leaves will only last for another week so please enjoy!

New York, New York

Friday, 19 October 2012
Me? I've been pretty happy this week. Sadly though, I haven't had a chance to blog about things because I've been super busy with research, classes and teaching class. I also have to take care of things around the house. Please forgive me for my laziness in posting.

New York City was beyond fabulous. I was able to conduct the journalist combat training research I was hoping to capture (wish I could blog about it but that's against research ethics) and will be following up with experienced, award-winning, powerful journalists in the next few weeks. Their insight is invaluable to my studies.

After the training I met up with James in Midtown. We had so much fun going to the Met, walking through Central Park and touring the Morgan Library. I can't wait to return to the Morgan Library and secure an appointment in the reading room. There are hundreds of original texts and books on topics important to the academic types. I don't know if there are volumes that will be useful to my paradigmatic perspective but I hope so!

Three floors of books in the Morgan Library. The tapestry is from the 1600s. 

I have always had a culturally inspired dream to walk through Central Park in New York City holding hands with someone special. Movies, television shows and commercials promote this idea of romanticism but alas - it works. This weekend I scored! James and I walked from the Met through Central Park to 59th and occasionally held hands (don't tell him I mentioned it). The sun was shining. The crazy people of the city were running up in the park with their dogs and tourists were paying too much money to sit with family members in a carriage being pulled by horses. People were happy!

We spent time in Grand Central Station and shopped at Levi's and an upscale endeavor by J. Crew called the Liquor Store, J.Crew. It was super cool but hey(!) no women's clothing...

I haven't even begun to discuss the fabulous food we ran into in the city (I researched restaurants for weeks) but that will come later. Hoping you have a wonderful weekend! Much love to you and yours.

Start Spreading the News....

Tuesday, 9 October 2012
I haven't been to NYC in quite some time and I'm excited to head that way this week. After many emails to organizers and supervisors of a journalist combat training program, I was accepted as a researcher to observe the training and talk with trainers and journalists. This new program hasn't been the subject of research before and I'm interested in studying journalists' experiences.

I've been working with the brilliant Dr. Michelle Violanti, Dr. Gregory Button and Dr. Eric Haley (some of my professors at UTK, all of them are brilliant) in order to prepare for this assignment and correctly conduct observation. The findings will be used for a class project and lead to a larger project (dissertation). I'm actually pretty nervous which I know you'll think is silly but I've never done this kind of thing before! Wish me luck - and of course I'll post on my experiences, although I can't share details of the training or participants.

To sweeten the deal, James is meeting me there for the weekend (after the three day training is complete) and we already have reservations for brunch at Balthazar, dinner at The National and at Megu. NYC cuisine is so exciting!

Sing it if you know it...

Keep Moving

Saturday, 6 October 2012

This week I had one of those days.

When I got home I flipped the lights on in the kitchen. I flinched briefly as an overhead bulb sparked and faded out. My only thought at the time was: No worries. I have replacements. A little while later, sort of in the dark, I turned on the stove to sweat onions for Texas chili. I had thrown half of the hamburger into the pot. Three minutes later, after realizing nada was happening on the stove, I ventured over for a look. No heat. I tested the oven. Nothing. Woe. Woe is me!

While sitting in my living room later, getting ready to watch the presidential debate, I stopped feeling sorry for myself. Not sure of the trigger...but I flashed back for a moment to when I lived in London in Putney and would take the National Rail to get to Waterloo during the week.

If you commute to a job or class around the same time every day, you naturally see the same people on the train. Because you live in London you never actually acknowledge or speak to anyone but there's a comfort in seeing familiar faces day after day.

During the 8am hustle and bustle of the commute I noticed one person that always seemed to be there. This man had long, light hair that was curly but lacked the styling products that some might use. He was balding on top but didn’t seem to be very old. He was as thin as a rail and his glasses hung on the tip of his nose. He wore tidy, long shorts and a polo shirt with a sweatshirt depending on the weather and was always alone. The dude was noticeable because he moved excruciatingly slowly. He progressed to the train platform moving inch by inch on crutches that were made for people who could barely move their legs.

I noticed him day after day moving down the sidewalk to the train platform. He was probably mid-30s and could have flung himself to the tracks with a “forget it” attitude. Seeing his state and all of the rude commuters rudely pushing past him, I don’t know how he didn’t. 

Point is, even when it was raining, the guy was there. In my opinion, he was courageous. He had a goal to get from A to B. Perhaps he was going to his job or doctor appointments. I hated when it was raining during my commute but at least I had a hand free to hold an umbrella. This guy didn't but he was there making the journey. I wish I knew his name. He taught me and perhaps others that the way to deal with unwanted circumstances is to just keep moving - no matter the speed.