Thursday, May 31, 2012

"I Did It!" and other wrap up stories from the last 31 days

Woo hoo!  I did it...again!  I posted a blog here for the past 31 days straight as part of WordCount's 2012 Blogathon.  This is actually the second year I've accomplished this feat (and trust me, it has especially been a feat this year).

I first threw myself into the 2011 Blogathon a few days prior to the start of last year's Blogathon I had no blog, had no idea what I would blog about, but I was willing and able to learn.  And "learning" was an understatement from my experience in 2011.

In 2012, my busy life resulted in my lack of notice that the 2012 Blogathon was approaching.  When I received Michelle Rafter's email reminder of  the upcoming Blogathon the week before the beginning of this year's blog, I thought for a moment that I should forgo this year's Blogathon because I knew the month of May was going to be a bit busy.

I was in the middle of remodeling both upstairs bathrooms.  I had not hired a contractor to oversee the project.  I was coordinating the work of the old shower removal and prep work for new shower, tile company, shower glass installation company, electrician and drywall repair.  Then I would be cutting, painting and installing the new baseboard in each bathroom as well as painting the walls, installing new faucets and repainting the cabinets.

That was just one project on the May calendar.  I also had already planned to participate in the annual neighborhood garage sale the day after we moved our daughter back home from college.  Those two projects by themselves take an enormous amount of time and energy, but I had planned to do them back-to-back.

As if that weren't enough to deal with in May, we already had on the calendar a mid-month trip to Florida to seek and purchase a home for retirement.

So the thought of adding another daily responsibility to my already busy May plus my daily responsibilities of my part-time job writing for the local newspaper was...well...daunting.  But turning down the challenge isn't in my inner-being.  The thought to say, "I'm out this year," lasted about a whole 30 seconds and with a punch of the enter button on my keyboard, I was "in."

Now 31 days later, I'm quite proud that I actually completed the 2012 Blogathon.  There were a couple of days I wondered if I should just throw in the towel because I had so many other distractions, but I'm glad I didn't.  I admittedly haven't learned as much this year as last but that's only because I had no extra time to focus on learning.  Any energy I had available went into coming up with the blog topic and writing. But I feel that participating in this year's Blogathon reinforces something that I already knew deep down, but sometimes need reminding - and that is that I really can do "anything" that I put my mind to.  (Mom, you were right about that!)

Before I wrap up the 2012 Blogathon, I wanted to quickly update you on a few items I've blogged about here during the month.

1 - Sugar, our 12 year old Shih-Tzu, is home after a three-day hospitalization, and she is doing well!  Sugar was diagnosed with pancreatitis which I've determined generally means that she's getting older and I need to be more watchful of her diet. Those were a few scary days for my family though!
She needs a bath and a hair combing but she's well on her way to her old self!

2 - There's now light at the end of the bathroom remodeling projects - literally.  The master bath's new lighting has been installed and the drywall repaired.  The shower is now "in" which means all that's left to do  is painting the walls, painting the cabinet, installing new sink faucets and cut, paint and install baseboards.  The hall bath just needs its cabinet painted and the baseboards installed (they are already cut and painted).  We're getting close to the end.

3 - An Olivia Update.  I'll let eight year old Olivia's words fill you in on where she's at in her now 15 month battle against Ewing's Carcinoma which I blogged about last year and again this year.  Olivia wrote the following on her CaringBridge site on Memorial Day!
IT'S OVER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Written May 28, 2012 7:00pm
I can't think of a better way to put an exclamation point ending to this year's Blogathon!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A review of the ZAGG Folio iPad 2 Keyboard Case with Bluetooth

My dear husband bought me an iPad for my birthday last October. I've had a ball learning how to use it the last eight months and figuring out how it could help me be more efficient in my job covering education for the local newspaper. 

One thing I quickly realized was that using it for typing stories on site at meetings or news conferences was extremely difficult because it had no keyboard.  I've now remedied and have purchased the Zagg Folio iPad 2 Keyboard case with Bluetooh.

I've only had it about two weeks, but I thought I'd offer my thoughts on it.

Pairing the Keyboard to the iPad
It was simple to pair my iPad to the Bluetooth keyboard.  Instructions that come with the Folio tell you turn the keyboard on then go to your settings on the iPad and turn Bluetooth on. 

Press the "Connect" button on the keyboard to make it discoverable.  The status light flashes on the keyboard and the iPad recognizes the "ZAGG Keyboard" as an available device. 

You simply select ZAGG Keyboard on the iPad and it will display a unique code.

You'll then type the code using the keyboard and press enter.  The keyboard is now paired to the iPad.

ZAGG keyboard (top) desktop keyboard (bottom)
The actual keyboard feel is quite good.  There's not a lot of difference in touch and feel between my desktop and the ZAGG keyboard, but the actual size is a bit smaller than my desktop keyboard. 

At left is a look at the ZAGG keyboard perched above my actual desktop keyboard to give you an idea of the size difference. 

As you can see, there's not a lot of difference in size, but it's enough to make me miss the backspace key frequently. 

It's going to take some getting used to before I can crank up to my normal typing speed, but it's not significant enough of a difference for it to be a major complaint.

iPad Fit in Case
Top part is where the iPad slides in
This is where I must chime in with a bit of a negative.  The iPad slides into the case frame with ease, but it also doesn't feel so secure in there because of the loose fit.  It hasn't fallen out yet, but it sure makes me a little nervous. 

Maybe the more I use it, the less cautious I will be about the fit, but my first impressions are that it's a bit loose for my taste.

The Case and its Design
The case itself seems very rugged and I like that the camera, iPad on/off switch, ports and volume controls are easily accessible via cutouts in the case. 

But what I don't like about the case is the clasp.  It doesn't close and stay shut. 

While reading reviews of this case before I purchased it, the clasp not shutting seemed to be a problem for about half of the reviews I read.  I don't know if just some cases have bad clasps (mine being one of them) and others don't or what the deal is?  But I can tell you that I don't like that it won't shut and stay shut.

I also have to put significant pressure pushing the keyboard against the iPad just to get the clasp to be in a position to shut.  I don't like the idea of putting that kind of pressure on the iPad screen.  Plus the clasp won't stay shut anyway. 

I've reverted to just carrying the case around without it being completely shut.  However, the problem with that is that the iPad shut off magnet doesn't meet its contact which means the iPad then doesn't go into its normal sleep mode. 

That in itself creates a problem because then the pressure you create carrying the iPad around, selects apps on the iPad.  At one point I thought I had deleted about four apps by inadvertently selecting those apps while carrying my iPad around in this case.  After shutting the iPad down and turning it back on, the grayed out icons returned to actual icons and all was good, but it made my heart stop for a minute thinking I had just lost all of the documents I stored in "Pages."

Alas the solution to this problem I have learned is simply to use the on/off button on the top of your iPad to put it to sleep instead of relying on the case to put it to sleep.

I do have a friend who also purchased this exact product for her iPad 2.  While overall she said she likes the product, she offered the one thing that she dislikes about the design of the case.  The charging port for the keyboard does not have a cut out access in the case like the iPad's camera, charging port and  on/off switch do, so charging the keyboard requires removing the keyboard from the case each time.

Although this isn't a deal-breaker, my friend suggests that it is a nuisance. 

Overall here's my thoughts on the ZAGG Folio iPad 2 Bluetooth Keyboard Case

The Pros
Easy to Pair
Easy to slip in iPad
Battery length doesn't appear to be short
Convenient for on the go typing
Keyboard feel and touch

The Cons
Case doesn't shut and stay shut
Tight fit against iPad - concern of damage to iPad screen over time
Access to keyboard charging port
At $99.99, it isn't cheap

The bottom line - I'd buy it again!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Calcium supplements or not? That is the question.

Did you catch on the news last week the reports of a new study that suggests taking calcium supplements may increase the risk of heart attacks.  This one caught my eye because I have family members that take calcium supplements daily.

Gynecologists have suggested for as long as I can remember that post-menopausal women should take calcium supplements to build stronger bones and ward off osteoporosis.  My own mother and mother-in-law take calcium supplements daily and my doctor has even suggested I take them and I'm no where near post-menopausal yet. 

I haven't taken calcium supplements yet because I drink a LOT of milk.  And I love all dairy products.  I'm quite confident that I consume enough calcium in a day.  But I know I'm not the norm.

As I understand it, the recent study followed about 24,000 German men and women between the ages of 35 and 64 for 11 years.  The results showed that those of them who took calcium supplements regularly were 86 percent more likely to have a heart attack.

The study also suggested that taking the chewable, tasty, gummy-like supplements were no replacement for calcium-rich natural foods.

Calcium is a very important mineral to our bodies.  According to the National Institutes of Health,
"The body needs calcium to maintain strong bones and to carry out many important functions. Almost all calcium is stored in bones and teeth, where it supports their structure and hardness.The body also needs calcium for muscles to move and for nerves to carry messages between the brain and every body part. In addition, calcium is used to help blood vessels move blood throughout the body and to help release hormones and enzymes that affect almost every function in the human body."
The recommended amount of daily calcium for adults 19-50 is 1,000 milligrams while women over 50 should get 1,200 milligrams daily.

Milk, yogurt and cheese are the main sources of calcium for most people in the U.S. but there's several other natural calcium-rich foods like kale, broccoli and Chinese cabbage.  Canned sardines and salmon are rich in calcium as well, and we get a significant amount of calcium from grains (bread, pastas and unfortified cereal) because we eat them in larger quantities. 

Our bodies obviously need an adequate dose of calcium daily, but this study raises some major concern for those taking calcium supplements.  The best description that I heard on TV news reports as to why calcium supplements can be bad for the heart was one on CBS.  The cardiologist explained that when a calcium pill is taken that calcium actually floods our arteries which can cause plaque build-up whereas when we eat calcium-rich foods like broccoli, that our body absorbs calcium much slower and plaque formation does not occur.

She suggested that "maybe we shouldn't be taking calcium supplements" that "maybe it should all come from the diet."  For me...that's my plan of attack.

Now, I'm not in any way suggesting that every woman should stop taking calcium supplements today.  Every person is different, has a different medical history, absorbs vitamins differently, but I do believe that every woman should discuss this the study in detail with her doctor. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

It's Wordle Day!

It's Wordle Day for WordCount's 2012 Blogathon!  Here's the Wordle for my blog:

Or here it is in custom colors:


Want to make your own?  It's simple.  Just go to

Sunday, May 27, 2012

How much medical treatment to you save a life- when it's your dog

The last 24 hours have not been good.  In my post yesterday, you will recall that I was about to take our 12 year old (that's 60-something in people years) Shih-Tzu for a walk. I take her out for about a 30 minute walk once a day.  Usually sometime between 3 and 5pm.  The only exception to that is when it snows or is raining.  We also don't go until later in the evening if it's a really hot day.

By 2 p.m. every day, Sugar is usually sitting right beside me, looking at me with those puppy eyes, waiting to go walking.  Yesterday she wasn't which was odd, but we have company over for the weekend so she was a bit out of her routine.

Sugar yesterday before I realized she was sick.
When I put her collar on and told her it was time to go, she wouldn't budge.  Not at all.  That's REALLY odd.  After a lot of coaxing and no movement, I picked her up and took her to the grass outside.  She did not want to go and even appeared to be walking quite gingerly.

We eventually gave up on her and put her back inside to lay down, and we went to dinner.  We thought perhaps she had strained a muscle - after running around like a wild dog after her bath Thursday night (she does that after baths) - and we thought she was just tired and maybe sore.

We came home to a dog who had vomited twice and was obviously not feeling well.

Throughout the evening the vomiting continued - about once every hour or so.  Then over night it continued - and got worse.  I stayed up with her the entire night catching her vomit on towels and cleaning up her chin after every bout.  By morning we both were exhausted having slept very little, and I was extremely worried.

Never before had she vomited this much continuously.  Concerned she was getting dehydrated, I gave her some water. She vomited that up.  I gave her some Pedialyte.  The same thing occurred.  Nothing would stay down.  I was beyond concerned now.  I called the vet around 7 a.m. and we had Sugar in to see the doctor by 7:30 a.m.

Sugar's 12 Birthday in February
After an x-ray and blood-work, the doc said that he saw no obstruction in her stomach.  That was great news because I feared she may have eaten some small construction material like caulk or a piece of plastic left behind from our recent bathroom remodeling project.  I figured this would be a long-shot since I tried hard to keep it all tidy, but Sugar is a scavenger and sniffs and eats whatever she finds.

The blood work revealed high liver and pancreas enzymes.  Apparently that can mean a multitude of things or just pancrea-itis (she ate something that didn't agree with her).  The doc was leaning toward pancrea-itis but he strongly suggested that we leave her at the vet so that they could put her on an IV for fluids (to avoid dehydration) and give her anti-biotics and pain meds until they could get her stomach settled enough to take solid food.

Leaving her there was the last thing I wanted to do, but the doc felt it was VERY important for her to stay and get onto an IV for fluids.  We ultimately decided to leave her there for a day or two with the plan that we'd check on her throughout the day and tomorrow (Monday) re-evaluate where we were at.

Sugar - Christmas 2011
It's now 6 p.m. here and we've already checked on her twice (at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.).  There wasn't much change at 2 p.m. but between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., she hadn't been sick. We'll check in again once more tonight and then re-evaluate in the morning.

I'm writing about this for several reasons.  One is that I've been very fortunate.  Since my grandmother died almost 10 years ago, I've never had a family member in a fatal health situation.  It's an area that I'm glad to have little experience in, but it's also such an emotional and stressful time.  Now, some may take exception and say that a dog is not "family" but to's just like one of our children.  And it appeared this morning that she may be in a life and death situation.

Secondly, I'm always amazed at what veterinarians can do these days.  They have x-rays, ultrasounds, surgeries like humans, and dog vet specialists.  If there's an ailment, there's a medicine, a surgery, a test for it.

Third...those tests are expensive.  Here's a look at Sugar's total bill for one day (left column) and two days (right) column.  We had to leave a deposit of $950 for her to be treated!

And finally, all this brings up the issue of when is it more humane to let her pass away?  Is there a cost that is too much to try to save her?  Is there an age that once she passes it, you look at medical treatment differently.

While filling out the paperwork to admit her for the two-days, they asked that if she went into cardiac arrest (which was highly unlikely), should they resuscitate?  How do you decide the right answer to that question?  If they bring her back, there's no guarantees that she'll be the same dog or be able to function.

Coincidentally, this was a question that my husband and I have discussed in detail about ourselves since one of my best friends had an aneurysm and survived.  She's been in a nursing home for nearly nine months in a state I'm not so sure she'd want to live the rest of her life in. But what's the best answer in a situation like this when it's your family member?  Your dog?

It's been a stressful day for sure.  One Memorial Day weekend I'm sure I won't soon forget....

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Random things on a busy day

I see the light at the end of the tunnel for the end of 2012 Blogathon with only five more days left to go.  Since my in-laws are visiting this weekend and I haven't much time today, I thought I'd throw out some random thoughts and photos today.

I'll start with one of my all-time favorite blogs I read (and also one of my favorite Blogathon bloggers.)  Jan Udlock's Imperfect Mom blog was one of the first blogs I read when I started the 2011 Blogathon and this particular post caught my eye.  Go check it out and see what you think.  I still haven't given it a try, but the idea still intrigues me. 

Since that first day of Blogathon 2012, I try to visit Jan's blog every chance I get.  I really enjoy it.  I think you will too.

Ok....random thought #2.  My Oak-leaf hydrangea has gone bananas this year.  I don't know if it's because we had such an early and warm spring or if it just took 15 years to finally get this kind of blooms.  But whatever it is that has happened, it sure is a beauty this year.

It's looking a little droopy from the 90 degree heat, but it's covered in blooms!
And here's random thing cute little Shih-Tzu, Sugar! She's waiting to go on a walk.  So, I must run!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sugar may be out but Quinoa is far from "in"

I posted recently about my attempt to remove excess processed sugar from my diet.  It's been a struggle as I've noted, but our 22 year old daughter, Kelsey, has been very supportive of my efforts.  Well, minus the time or two she tried her best to get me to go with her to our favorite frozen custard stand.  But I've digressed.  She really has been quite supportive.

On Thursday she sent me a couple of links to food blogs that showed some healthy food options that she wanted us to try.  I read through them both and felt the Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes with Blackberry Salsa not only sounded sort of yummy but looked terrific.  You can check out the original recipe on the "How Sweet It Is" blog here.

I told my husband about Kelsey wanting to try this recipe.  He wholeheartedly was on board to give it a shot. Telling him about new recipes is like a double-edged sword.  I'm thrilled he wants to cook, but I also know what the kitchen looks like after he puts his Emeril-esque preparation skills to work.  It usually takes me an hour after he leaves the kitchen to get it clean.  But again...I've digressed.

So, yesterday afternoon we headed to the kitchen to prepare this dish.  He cut up the sweet potatoes and onions and made the blackberry salsa while I served watch over the stove and made the quinoa while also making my homemade salsa for the weekend (which I must admit is quite yummy).

About 30 minutes into the preparation, we had assembled the cakes.  And while our Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes didn't quite look as pretty as Jessica's on her blog, well, I think we did quite well.
The mixture before molded into cakes

We fried them in a bit of olive olive and within 10 minutes we were ready to give them a try.

Ok, so I must add at this point that I've had quinoa a few times before.  We have a Crazy Bowls and Wraps restaurant in town, which if you aren't familiar with, is a fast-food restaurant that focuses on making healthier food options.  It offers quinoa as an option to their bowls or wraps in place of white or brown rice.

Since I've had quinoa before, I wasn't expecting that it would add some incredible flavor to these cakes.  I knew the sweet potatoes, basil and cilantro were going to be the "highlights" of this dish.  And the blackberry salsa was going to give it that extra ummph.  So, it's safe to say that my expectations weren't terribly high.

I took a bite, and while edible, I certainly won't be making this one too often.  Kelsey and my husband seemed to like it ok.  Kelsey didn't care for the salsa while I felt it was an absolute "must."  They both ate a whole one (I opted for about 3/4 of one) but I think it's safe to say that quinoa won't be added to our daily meals on a regular basis.  At least not through Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes.
Although not the tastiest thing I've ever made, it sure is a pretty dish.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Our posture can affect our minds

We've all heard that our non-verbal communication - our body language and posture - says a lot about ourselves.  A person with an "arms crossed at the chest" posture reflects a person who is not interested, is closed-off from a discussion and lacking in self confidence.  Our posture not only is a direct reflection of what we're thinking but when negative, can affect our performance or outcomes of an interchange.

So if our mind shapes the posture we present, can that work in reverse?  Can our body, or posture, shape our minds?  That's exactly the question that Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School professor, researched and came to the conclusion that yes, it can.

What does your body language say in a meeting?  Do you sit knees close together, arms crossed at your chest or lying in your lap - trying to make yourself as small as possible to not touch the person next to you?  That's a very typical posture, especially for women, but also a very weak and not self-confident one.

A powerful body language or posture is one where your knees are apart, your arms are back over your head or you have one arm leaning on the chair next to you.  Think of it as being more spread out instead of contracting.

Research showed that when men and women exhibited a more powerful posture, the hormone levels of testosterone (associated with power and dominance) were elevated, but when either sex was in a contracting position, the hormone cortisol, which is associated with low self-esteem, was high.  The mind was affecting the body.

Cuddy wondered if these results could work in reverse. Could the body affect the mind? 

Through a research study, she had study participants strike and hold two different high power positions (i.e. hands on waist, hands behind neck while leaning back, or knees spread apart) for two minutes - one pose per minute.  Alternatively she had participants strike two low power poses (i.e. knees together, body contracting) for two minutes.  She tested their testosterone and cortisol levels before and after the posing and found that just two minutes in a power pose makes the testosterone levels rise significantly and cortisol levels drop significantly.  The reverse is true of low power positions participants. Their cortisol levels raised and their testosterone levels decreased.

In a second study, she again split participants into two groups - one doing the high power poses two minutes before the study and the others doing two minutes of low power poses. She then subjected them to a trigger-social stress test where she told the participants that they had five minutes to write a speech.  The speech was to be about their dream job  and they were to convince two evaluators why they are best for this dream job but they couldn't lie or misrepresent themselves.  The two evaluators then evaluated them in real time while they were concurrently being filmed.  The participants were told the film would be used for others to evaluate them later.  If that weren't enough stress, the two evaluators were trained to show no feedback whatsoever during the speeches- no non-verbal communication, no head nods, nothing.  They simply sat and stared, listening, but showing no emotion or acknowledgement.  

What Cuddy found was that the evaluators wanted to hire the participants that did the power poses prior to the speech.  Conversely, the ow-power poser participants received the lowest marks and the evaluators did not want to hire them.  Body had affected mind which in turn affected performance.  In essence, Cuddy learned, we can configure our brains to become more powerful which affects performance. 

So how can we use this in everyday situations.  Well, whether you have a big presentation with your employer, a job interview, a venture capital pitch or just need to take a break from a difficult task and need to regroup, you can significantly change your performance in just two minutes of effort.

Right before you "go on," take two minutes to strike power poses.  If you're in your office, put your feet up and spread out.  If you are in a more public setting, go to the restroom and stretch out or lean back and rest your arm along an adjacent chair - just be sure to spread out.  

Not only will this change your hormones but it will affect your performance.
 And best of all.. .this is something that you can do that's absolutely free!

Want to learn more about Cuddy's research?  She was featured on The Today Show this week or watch one of her YouTube videos.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What would I change if starting my blog over? Not much.

I'm now a little over a year into joining the blogging world.  I jumped in, head first, about a week before WordCount's 2011 Blogathon.  There's no doubt that I've learned a lot over that time period, but there's not much I'd change if I were starting all over again.

When I found the Blogathon last year, I literally had a couple of days to register and come up with a blog.  I had no idea where to begin so I turned to Blogger, knowing it was free.  Setting it up was very simple.  Choosing a single topic to blog about was, and still is, my major challenge.

I suppose in a perfect world, if I were starting a blog all over again, it would be nice to have defined my blogging topic before I began blogging.  It might have allowed me to generate a more creative blog name that also described my blog better.  But a year later I still haven't figured out a single blog subject to focus on so had I waited for that "aha" moment, well, I would still be waiting and would never have started blogging yet.  So there's something to say about just jumping in.

The only other possible change I MAY make if I were starting over is to consider making my blog in WordPress.  Not that I'm unhappy at all with Blogger (although it did crash last May 12 &13 which caused us Blogger users to really scramble during last year's Blogathon), but it seems as though the experienced bloggers, for the most part, use WordPress.  And they offer lots of great advice about WordPress that I can't utilize because my blog is in the Blogger platform.

That's all the thoughts I have a year-ish into my blogging experience.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Goodbye and good riddance to processed sugar

I was a sugar addict!  I don't say that flippantly or in anyway to make light of those with other addictions.  But I truly was addicted to sugar.

I grew up eating some form of sugar every day.  It wasn't uncommon for me to eat doughnuts, sugary cereal or pop-tarts for breakfast, and I always had some form of sweet (a cookie, piece of cake or pie or doughnut) for desert after every meal.

As I grew older, I continued my sugar consumption.  I'd add sugar to my morning coffee, and  I continued to eat sugary cereal.  Deserts after every meal were a necessity.

If you opened my pantry on any given day, you'd have found Entenmann's chocolate frosted doughnuts or Double Stuffed Oreos.  Those were staples in our household.

Oddly enough, I never really had a weight problem until I turned about 40.  Something happened at 40 and suddenly I was picking up a pound or two a year.  I've always been a fan of exercising so my answer was to work out even more.  I'd go to the gym a minimum of four days a week - walking the treadmill or doing the elliptical for 45 minutes or more.  I progressed to jogging on the treadmill - jogging a minimum of two miles at a time - many times 5 days a week.  And my husband and I would many nights walk at least a mile on the track at the YMCA.  But exercise alone wasn't working.

By March of this year, I felt I was at least 15 pounds over a healthy weight.

I was frustrated and at wit's end when I visited Deanna, a very good friend of mine, who lives in Florida.  She has struggled with her weight since I've known her, and over the past 14 months she's been under considerable emotional distress.  Her daughter, Olivia, was diagnosed with Ewing's Carcinoma in Jan. of 2011 and has been undergoing chemo treatments since Feb of 2011.  You can read about Olivia on a previous blog post.

When I visited Deanna in mid-March of this year, I expected her to have gained even more weight with having all this added stress in her life.  But, to the contrary, she was slim and looked fantastic.

Her secret?  She had employed a nutritionist the month before Olivia was diagnosed with cancer and Deanna had been following her nutritionist's suggestions.

While Deanna is doing several organic things like adding flax seed to her food and other organic things that I didn't quite understand, the one rule she is following that I knew was my nemesis was omitting processed sugar from her diet.

"I can't do that," I remember telling her.  "You don't understand.  I LOVE sugar."

Deanna knew my eating history and was well aware how much I enjoyed sugar, but she pointed out that her background was similar and that she did it.

I left her house thinking about what she said and when I got home, I decided I'd give it a try.  I'd eliminate processed sugar from my diet as best I could.

I honestly didn't expect I could do it, but I went to the grocery and bought food that I thought were better choices for those sugar-craving moments.

I began by eliminating sugar in my morning coffee.  And yucko.  Coffee without sugar is, well, awful.  But I eliminated it.  I now reach for applesauce, an apple or a graham cracker after lunch or dinner when those sugar cravings are at their highest.  I drink water, for the most part, occasionally tea, but I try not to have Diet Coke either, something I've drank for years.

I'm not perfect by any means.  I've cheated a few times over the past 11 weeks.  But not many times - I'd say I can count the big cheats (like a bite of cupcake, a super-small Blizzard or one Turtle candy) on one hand. I also have drank a few Mountain Dews or sweet teas over the past 11 weeks, but again, it's not an every day occurrence for sure.  Maybe twice a week.

And no I haven't eliminated ALL sugar or breads.  I realize there's some sugar in the yogurt I eat every morning and obviously those Mountain Dews have a LOT of sugar, but the goal is to eliminate the needless sugar that I've been pouring into my body over the years.  Maybe eventually I'll eliminate even more, but this is hard enough steps!

And what has it gotten me?  Well, my clothes are certainly more loose.  Scale-wise, I've lost about five pounds.  Not a huge amount for 11 weeks worth of effort, but a safe weight loss I think.

But the point is that if I can forgo sugar, anyone can.  I'm not kidding when I say I was addicted to sugar.  I literally crave it every moment of every day.  I never in a million years thought I could eliminate as much as I have, and I have no idea what finally gave me the will power to finally do it.  But something, somewhere inside me decided I could eliminate processed sugar, and it was the right thing to do for my health.  I just hope I can continue.... 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Try and try again...I'm giving Haiku writing a second chance

I admit it!  I'm not a fan of Haiku writing.  I participated last year, and I believe, if I'm not mistaken, I whined about it last year too.

I'm not sure if it is the "sitting still in meditation" (those words and my personality are in extreme conflict) or the requirement to condense my thoughts to 17 syllables (if you've read any of my posts...verbose comes to mind) part that I dislike the most about Haiku writing.

But in honor of Haiku Monday for the 2012 Blogathon, I will give it a try once again.

Giggles fill the air
There's children at play outside
Summer has begun

Hmmm...ok, maybe not award-winning, so let's try another.

Lazy days napping
Free food, belly rubs and love
Oh to be a dog

Here's the visual that led to that haiku! 
The bliss of being our dog, Sugar!

And if that visual doesn't put a smile on your face...nothing will!  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tragedy leads to reminder about smoke detectors and laptops

A tragedy occurred in our small town at the end of April.  A house fire claimed the lives of two Southern Illinois University Edwardsville students. 

The young women, ages 21 and 19, were lifelong friends who had attended high school together in a town located less than 15 miles away.  They had recently moved in to a newly remodeled older home that had been turned into apartments.

Around 3:45 a.m. the morning of the fire, a neighbor noticed a fire in the home's upstairs window and called 911.  Firefighters arrived quickly, found the girls and had them transported to the closest hospital.  They were air lifted to a St. Louis hospital later that morning, but the two died the following day.

The initial fire investigation indicated that a laptop computer had been left on the bed and plugged into a power strip that also had other electronics plugged into it.  Although no final report has been released, this area was suggested by fire officials to have been the initial origin of the fire.

Initial reports have also indicated that smoke detectors were in the recently remodeled home, but they have not yet released why the smoke detectors did not work.

I shared this news story on my Facebook page the day after the fire and reminded my friends of the importance to check smoke detectors regularly and replace their batteries every few months as well as reminded them of the danger of leaving a laptop on a bed, blanket or any other soft surface.

A few days later I was visiting a friend of mine who is in a nursing home when her 22 year old daughter, who was also there visiting, mentioned that she had read my Facebook post about the fire.  She told me that she had never heard that a laptop shouldn't be left on a bed or soft surface and she noted that she and her dad would work on their laptops in bed all the time.  She was grateful that I had posted the information.

Since there's even one person out there in the world who didn't know not to leave a laptop on a bed, pillow, blanket, etc... I felt it might be worth repeating here.

While some sites online suggest that a laptop won't generate enough heat to start a fire on a bed and that only a faulty battery could do that, I think until there's conclusive research that says a laptop on a bed CAN'T start a fire, then we're best to take caution and not push fate.

I can tell you that I had one desktop mother board that literally fried itself baking to over 300 degrees in an upstairs room one summer.It's hard to fathom that this tiny board filled with small connectors could heat to those levels, but it does!

And if you don't want to remove the laptop from your bed because you think that it is not possible to start a fire, then remove it for the simple fact that when you place a laptop on a soft surface, the cooling fan (that keeps your processor nice an chilled) can't get air through the vents that are now covered. So when you have your laptop on a bed or soft surface you're in fact boiling your processor which if you didn't know....will burn eventually up your processor.  And new processor = Big Bucks!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Surge protectors for the whole house?

I learned yet another new thing today.  Did you know that they made surge protectors for houses?  I'm not talking about those power strip surge protectors that we plug our flat screens and computers into.  I'm talking about one that is attached to the electrical box that is designed to protect the whole house from an electrical spike or surge.

I don't know why I'm so surprised.  After all, it makes perfect sense.  If you can protect a single electronic device from an electrical surge or spike, why not the whole house?

The concept of a whole house surge protector was introduced to us last week while we were in Florida.  A representative from an HVAC company told us about it when also noting that Florida gets more lightning strikes (and ones closer to the ground) than any other area in the U.S..

At first I thought, "Oh please. Why would you need a whole house surge protector when you have them on the important electrical components like a computer and a flat screen.  And why would just the state of Florida have more lightning strikes than other states?" 

Lightning strikes
But thanks to Google, I learned that it seems absolutely true.  According to a graph by NASA, Florida does get more lightning strikes than any other state. It looks like the state of Texas gets its fair share too. A bonus learning tidbit was that Africa is the continent that gets the most every year.

I also learned that to properly protect your house, you really need both a whole house suppressor AND individual suppressors on those big ticket, vulnerable electronics.  The whole house suppressors apparently tame the huge, dangerous electrical spikes but they can't stop surges completely.  Some extra voltage leaks through and that's where the individual suppressors come into play.

As expected, whole house suppressors aren't cheap.  Protection for an average house will cost around $500 plus a couple of hours for an electrician to hard-wire it to your electrical box.

Having lived in the Midwest the majority of my life, this was news to me.  We get some severe storms every spring, but lightning strikes are never really a huge concern. I found this really interesting.

It's just another example of how I really do learn something new every day.  And I love that!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Is Facebook really free?

I read an opinion piece this morning in the USA Today that has been on my mind all day.

The piece, written by Cord Jefferson, suggested that Facebook isn't really free.  That anyone who uses it, like most of us bloggers, are really paying a price.  A price that is ourselves!  We are the product!

He brings up an interesting point. I've certainly been brought up to believe that "If something is too good to be true, then it probably is." And when I stop and really think about Facebook, it is free.  There's no registration fee, no monthly fee.  I enjoy it.  It really is "To good to be true." The company isn't worth $100 billion for no reason. Sadly, I believe Jefferson is right.  WE are the commodity here.  We are selling our likes, dislikes, personal information for the price to be a Facebook member.  That really bothers me to think of it that way.

At some level I already knew all of this, but I guess, reading it in print brought it more to the surface and has me really pondering why I ultimately use Facebook when if the situation were different, I wouldn't hesitate to pull the plug on a company that uses me like this.

For example, I am a big fan of Yoplait Yogurt.  I eat one of their yogurts everyday.  But if they told me that a representative from Yoplait was going to follow me around every day, watch my friends and watch what I like (and don't like) in an attempt to market their product to me better.  Well, I would say, "Absolutely not!"

Yet, that's exactly what I'm allowing Facebook to do by being a member. 

I think why this has been on my mind all day is because this article brings to light a conflict of sorts in my inner being.  I obviously use Facebook and enjoy keeping up with friends on it and don't really want to stop using it, yet allowing Facebook to basically use me to allow companies to market to me and my friends, well, that just goes against my to speak.

I'm sure there's another side to this coin so I'm curious what you think.

You can find Jefferson's full article here on USA Today's Website.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

This is a retirement village for living!

One of numerous entrances

Tell someone you are going to live in a retirement village and most have thoughts of condo or apartment living where older people sit around and play bingo all day.  It has a stereotype of a place where you go to die.

Well, there's a retirement community in Florida called The Villages that is a place where you go to LIVE!  This place is an amazing active adult community located just North of Orlando.

And it's absolutely huge.  The Villages occupies parts of 3 counties in Florida (Lake, Sumter & Marion).  The Villages property area covers 32 square miles.

Population of The Villages is currently over 81,000 (The population crossed 81,000 in September 2010) and the Villages grows by approximately 4,500 annually.  New home sales continue at approximately 200 per month, re-sales are currently averaging 100 per month.  In the 1st quarter of 2011, 543 new homes were sold.

There are roughly 67 Villages. Villages range in size from 100 homes to 1,550 homes.  When The Villages opened up home sales South of 466A (55 homes sold in first eight days)

So how do you travel across this expansive community?  Golf cart is the vehicle of choice.  There are approximately 90 miles of golf cart paths.

Speaking of golf, there's 9 Country Clubs (7 with pools) and 29 executive golf courses.  By final build out, which is projected in 2015, The Villages will operate 12 country-club championship courses, 35 9-hole executive golf courses for a total of 621 holes of golf.  30) By final build out The Villages will have 35 9-hole executive golf course.  There are 140,806 yards (80 miles) of golf available in The Villages (from back tees). The Villages exceeds the second largest golf facility in the world, Mission Hills in China, which as 216 holes.

Not a golfer?  Not a problem.  There's plenty of other options to spend your time.  There are over 1,800 organized clubs and 57 recreation centers (featuring daily indoor activities, a pool, tennis courts, pickleball courts, bocce ball and shuffleball).  Among these rec centers, there are 65 swimming pools and 4 fitness centers.  There are more than 100 tennis courts and over 100 pickle ball courts.

Like softball?  There's a gorgeous softball complex on the northern end of The Villages where villagers play 5,200 softball games each year.  There are three softball seasons, 213 softball teams and 17 Men’s & Women’s softball leagues.  
The new neighborhood pool at Sanibel

And there's not just sports.  Interested in woodworking?  There's a complete woodworking workshop filled with equipment.  Education?  There's a Lifelong Learning College where you can take classes. 

So you like to tap dance?  Sing?  Play an instrument?  There's groups for all of these plus almost two thousand other groups.  Whatever hobby or past time you enjoy, I can pretty much guarantee there's a group there for you to join.

A weekly publication (about the size of a National Enquirer magazine) is printed each week to keep the community informed of all the various activities and group meetings that take place that week.

Currently there are 2 town squares (Lake Sumter Landing & Spanish Springs) with a third town square about to be constructed (Brownwood).  Every evening at both squares, live entertainment or a DJ takes the stage at the town square.  Residents drive by golf cart to the squares and line the streets for blocks... two carts deep.... to listen to the music and dance the night away. 
The original Square - Spanish Springs
I could go on forever really about this place, but I'll end this with a few more fun facts. The Villages has its own Polo stadium and Polo leagues, its own radio station, and its own television station. The Daily Sun is The Villages newspaper.
Over 12,000 people work in The Villages, or for businesses in the thriving community.  The Villages has its own Charter School for employees that allows a student to attend from Pre-k through High School.  The Villages Charter School has over 2100 students per year and it’s growing fast with a new Early Childhood Center that was constructed in 2011.  And The Villages is the safest single site development in the country with the lowest crime rate.

The Villages is clearly a place you retire to LIVE!  If you aren't staying active in this place you simply aren't trying! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Planning my second act!

YIKES!  I'm approaching the big 5-0!  At the same time I am planning a midlife reinvention.  What am I reinventing to?  That's the million dollar question.

I'm probably like a lot of other women who graduated from college, began a career, started a family, and then gave up the career to stay at home and raise the children (or in my case, the child).

I worked building my career for about 7 years until my husband was promoted with his company and we moved to another state.  Feeling the need to stay home and raise our daughter I stayed home but ended up working part time jobs for the next 18 years.

Having the flexibility to work part time over the last nearly two decades, I've been able to try my hand at a few different jobs.  I've been a school fundraising sales rep, a real estate assistant, and currently I cover education for the local newspaper. 

That leads us to today when our daughter is one semester away from graduating college.  While she is at a major crossroad in her life, I feel like I'm at one too.

I'd like to return full-time to the workforce in the field of communications, but at the same time I recognize that I've been out of the field for such a long time that my technological skills are somewhat lacking.  I don't know Photoshop, I'm not well-versed in In Design and I don't know the ins and outs of HTML.

At the same time, I feel it's ironic that I'm at a point in my life where my self-confidence is likely at its peak.  Never before have I felt so comfortable in my skin as I do now.

I feel quite confident that I can do almost anything, and I feel that I have such a vast amount of "life" and "volunteer" experiences that I could handle the most challenging situations and people.  I'm a multi-tasker beyond words and I have been told that I get more done in 24 hours than most do in an 8 hour work-day.  I was simply blessed with parents who taught me a solid work-ethic, and I have an entrepreneurial drive that propels me take control and get things done.

As I reinvent my life past 50, I'm searching for a way to utilize my experience in a home-based business where I can work from wherever in the U.S. we decide to re-plant ourselves.  I also believe I'd enjoy teaching communications courses at the college level (junior college would be great) but that means going back for a master's degree.  At nearly 50, I'm not so sure that's the best use of my time?

So what's the game plan for life after 50?  Well, I haven't quite figured it out yet, but I can tell you that I'm working on it and writing this blog is helping me to hone in on the final plan. It's funny how just writing my thoughts down helps to analyze the situation.

Stay tuned...when I figure it all'll be one of the first to know.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What is the rule when posting videos on a blog?

Last Saturday evening we went to a Cardinal's Game.  It was a beautiful night for a game. The weather was simply perfect and we had awesome seats about 25 rows behind home plate.

We settled in for the game against the Atlanta Braves.  While the Cardinals were certainly having a bad night, that would be the least of the night's problems.  A 20-something Braves fan, a man (a term that I'll use quite loosely), who sat three rows directly behind us, spent the entire game heckling the Cardinal's fans. 

At first it seemed like he would just be a very vocal fan who commented on every pitch, every swing of the bat, every minute of the game.  But after just the first inning, it was clear that he was trying to antagonize the Cardinals fans that amassed around him to get them to engage in a battle of words. 

After the second inning, a young 20-something Cardinals fan apparently couldn't take it anymore and a verbal battle ensued between the two.  At one point "F-Bombs" were dropped and a father-figure behind us immediately stepped in and told the kids to "cool it."

Well, they didn't. And after a couple more "F-Bombs" were said, the father figure in his best stern voice said, "I'm not telling you again.  Cool it!"

Things were peaceful for about an inning when the Braves fan began the heckling again.  He went on and on trying to get another Cardinal's fans to engage into battle.

The three of us on a more enjoyable day at the ballpark!
At one point, the Brave's fan leaned forward to a couple sitting in front of him and tried to get the woman, who was easily in her 40s, to engage in a battle.  She, quite wisely, told the young man that she wasn't one to get into a battle of words, that that obviously was "his gig."

When he tried to again engage her in a battle by saying, "I'm just a fan" and "Gee, it's only baseball," she simply said, "No, you're just trying to heckle the Cardinal's fans."

He sadly kept up with his heckling throughout the entire game.  Towards about the seventh inning, I considered videotaping him with my cell phone and posting it on my blog.  I knew at some point I'd write about this because it was really annoying and ruined our whole evening.

I didn't end up videotaping him because I was honestly a bit afraid of how he might react.  Plus, he wasn't worth it   But it brings up a valid blogging question, and I wonder now.  Had I taken video, it is completely legal to post it online on my blog, right?  I know it's illegal to videotape someone in bathrooms or private situations and post it online, but wouldn't a public display like this be perfectly legal?  Just thought I'd get your input for next time! :)

Monday, May 14, 2012

One man's trash?

If you read my post from Saturday, you know I just spent the weekend having a garage sale. I had a lot"stuff" that I needed to get rid of including this:

I know, I know...who on Earth would want some used toilets.  We didn't even get a nibble with a "FREE" sign posted on them during the garage sale.

I must admit, they provided some good laughs though when two different toddlers recognized them right away and yelling "POTTY" ran over to the horror of their parents I might add.

As the garage sale was coming to a close, a woman stopped by, saw the toilets and said, "You know.  You can post those on Craig's List for free and someone will snatch them up."  Seeing the doubtful expression on my face she added, "I posted mine on Craig's List after we replaced ours and within two hours someone had picked them up."

Interesting... I thought.  So, as we were boxing up the remaining garage sale items for Goodwill, I posted this photo on Craig's List under the "FREE" heading.

To my surprise, I had two requests for them in under two hours and by the next morning, I had a whopping SIX people who wanted them.

I emailed "Tia" first since she had requested them first by email..leaving her phone number.  I dialed the number and "Stella" answered.  Stella sounded like an 80ish year-old woman who seemed thrilled that I had called.  She said she indeed wanted my toilets and said she'd send her "baby" down to pick them up. 

My cautious nature had me a bit concerned who her "baby" was since they'd be coming to my house to pick them up.  And having someone come to my house was breaking my "Craig's List" rule #1 - you only meet any connection made on Craig's List at a BIG retail parking lot, like a Walmart or a McDonald's, to make a transaction.  But we were NOT putting used toilets in either of our new cars.  No way.  So, rule #1 had to be broken. Someone would need to come to my house.

Rule #2 - is you don't meet a Craig's List connection alone...EVER!  So, at least all three of us would be here at the house when Stella's "baby" stopped by.

I found out the next day that Stella's baby was actually "Tia" her, I'd say...30ish year-old, daughter.  Tia and some other fellow, who looked like her son, came by Sunday and picked one of the toilets up.

I received another email from Tia this morning.  It simply said, "My Mom wants to say thanks for the toilet, she cant see it until she gets out of the hospital. She says it is a great help to her."

I felt so great and so bad all at one time.  Great that I was able to help someone out who sounds very grateful for the help, and awful because I made fun of those toilets and thought who want want my trash?

It's a great reminder to me that one man's trash IS another man's treasure and I shouldn't be so judgmental.  I'm also very blessed and have a lot to be thankful for in life.  Others have much, much less!

Now that I've had my learning moment, I still have one toilet left since Tia only needed the one for her mom.   But I'm a bit leery about the next person on the toilet request email list.  His name is Steve, but his email address is FreeTotalBodyMassage@....

I'm trying VERY hard not to be judgmental on this one too while at the same time remember that I should always be cautious when dealing with connections on Craig's List.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Some things I never seem to learn from

Two years ago I distinctly remember flopping on the couch exhausted and saying, "I will never do this again."
Almost two years to the exact date, here I am again exhausted after a two-day garage sale.  And once again, I've said, "I'm never doing this again!"

It's funny how I somehow forget how much work it is to prepare for a garage sale and then clean up afterwards.  I spent probably four evenings in the basement dragging out "stuff" for it.  I had nothing large to really sell so it was boxes and boxes of small stuff. 

Up and down the basement steps I went to drag box after box out to the garage.  My husband helped me price a lot of it which was very helpful, but it was still a BIG job.

I did sell a lot of it which was nice, but I've also spent the last three hours cleaning up.  Tables taken down, folded and put away...borrowed tables placed by the garage so that I can deliver them back to their owners.  Only four small boxes went back downstairs which is pretty good.  And about six boxes are being taken to Goodwill.  It's just a lot of work no matter how you look at it.

I think what I detest the most about garage sales...well, aside from the amount of work that goes into them, are the customers who who want to haggle over a $2 item that is obviously worth a lot more than $2.

The best one today was a woman who pulled a t-shirt and pair of shorts from a table among my 22 year old daughter's clothes.  These were NOT kid's clothes but adult clothes.  So, I had each piece priced at $1 which I felt was a bargain for a hardly worn shirt, jeans, sweatshirts, shorts...all of which were on the table. 

Well, the woman pulls out the t-shirt and matching shorts and because they match, she wants them both for $1.  Really?  After an eye roll, I sell them together for a buck.  I told myself that, although she is dressed to the nines, maybe she really can't afford more than that.  But honestly, it's people like that or the woman that wanted a 50 cent hardly worn leather belt for a dime that really make me detest having garage sales.  If I wanted to just give my stuff away, I would have taken it ALL to the Goodwill.
Maddie and Kelsey

Trying to find the positive in the week-long event, I'd say those positives are:
  • My girlfriend's sixth grade daughter, Maddie, wanted to sell her clothes to make some money so she came over and sat with me both days.  That was fun!
  • My own daughter, Kelsey, sat outside with us for most of the time too which was fun!
  • I also saw some wonderful acts of kindness in kids.  One boy about six years old bought his mother one of my candles for her for Mother's Day.  When he told us he'd be giving the candle to his mom, he also showed us a necklace and earrings he had purchased at another garage sale down the street.  He couldn't have been more proud of his dime store necklace.  His reaction was priceless!
  • Another shopper, a neighbor girl in the second grade, was out shopping for her cousin.  It wasn't the cousin's birthday, the neighbor girl was just wanting to buy her cousin a present.  Too cute and very considerate.
So, with a whopping profit of $162....another garage sale is behind us.  I'm thinking if I divide that profit by just the hours it took me to prepare for the sale and sit outside for two days, I made about $6 an hour. 

Somebody please remind me next year about this post and talk me out of EVER doing a garage sale again!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Help! My email keeps getting hacked!

Email hackers are ruining my life!  Ok, so that's a bit over-dramatic, but I'm so frustrated with hackers hijacking my email account that I could scream!

Over the past three weeks, I have had to change my email password for both my primary email and my "junk" email twice now.

While you would think that changing a simple email password wouldn't be a big deal, well, as I see it, it's a three step process which creates unnecssary stress and a great deal of time that I just don't have.

Both times I had to:
  1. Access my internet provider account and go through a series of security verifications and changes to make the new email password - I'm sorry but I don't remember what my first concert was or who my favorite elementary teacher was back then.  That WAS a few years ago.  And... I don't have a favorite SINGLE restaurant.  I like a lot of them.  So, not only do I have to come up with my I have to remember that it IS my favorite.
  2. Come up with a new password  - Now you wouldn't think that THIS would be a big deal.  But it is.  I not only need to come up with a creative password that meets the requirement of "strength of password" but I also need to remember this "creative" password to be able to access my email...which I do daily..if not hourly.  So something like K39Dd7H3jP is NOT very practical, but hey, it meets the strength requirement.
  3. Change my cell phone settings - UGH!  The stress just mounts.  Since I access my email accounts on my cell phone, now I get to reset all those settings on my phone too
The bottom line is I need to figure out what I'm doing (or my lovely husband) to allow hackers to have access to my email account.  Until I figure that out, I see no end to this stress!  Other than one of us clicking on a link in a bogus email, does anyone know how else a hacker can access my account and how I can avoid this craziness? 

Technical info: My computer is behind a password protected router and I have AVG anti-virus protection software that I update once a day and run whole scans on my computer once a week.  I also run Search and Destroy about once a month.  Am I missing something??

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A bittersweet day

Today was a bittersweet day.  We moved our daughter, Kelsey, out of her house at college and back home for what will likely be the last time. 

She will graduate in December and at that time, she hopefully will have a full time job.  If that all plays out as planned, the next time we move her from school, we'll be moving her into an apartment and not home. So, kind of a bittersweet day.

And while I'm certainly glad she'll be spending this last summer with us, moving her things back home always wears me out.  It's amazing how much stuff one small person can have.  Although we do contribute a sofa, loveseat, kitchen table and six chairs as well as two coffee tables to the house so I guess there are some significant pieces of furniture we do move. 

We even inherited another couch and two more coffee tables from Kelsey's boyfriend's grandma so let's just say that 14 foot Uhaul was bursting at the seams.  If I can move tomorrow, it will be a miracle!

I never really realized how very fortunate I was to have movers come pack our house and load the semi for both of our moves.  THAT is the only way to move!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Can cabinet refinishing be this easy?

As I mentioned in previous blog posts, I'm remodeling two of our bathrooms in preparation for selling our house in the next year or two.  These aren't my dream bathrooms.  I'm just neutralizing and updating them to 2012 standards - not 1997 when we built it.

Since I obviously don't want to pour a ton of money into these bathrooms, I'm not planning to replace the cabinets or  their cultured marble beige tops.  But both cabinets are that 1980's standard oak finish.  Albeit popular in it's time, but not so anymore.

Instead of replacing them, I'm climbing out of my comfort zone and using a product I first found over a year ago at Home Depot (Lowe's carries it too).  It's a product by Rust-oleum called Cabinet Transformations.  It's a paint product that you can use to basically refinish your cabinets without stripping, sanding or priming. 

It uses a four step process where you apply a deglosser that prepares the surface to accept the new paint.  From what I've read online, this process replaces typical stripping and sanding. 

Step two is an application of a bond coat.  Step three (which is optional) is applying a decorative glaze.  And step four is applying a protective coat (think polyurethane).

The product comes in 24 colors to choose from using the "Dark Color Kit" and there's another 11 color options in the "Light Color Kit."
I'll be going with either the "Chocolate" or "Espresso" color.  Haven't nailed that down quite yet, but I figure I won't start this project for another week or there's still time to ponder. 

The company's website offers testimonial photos of several hundred people who have used this product and think their cabinets or countertops (there's a countertop product too) look fabulous.  

However, I don't want to make this project sound like it's going to be a simple 1, 2, 3, 4 and looking cabinets. Quite the contrary.  Almost everyone who comments online agrees that while the results look fabulous, it takes some hard work and a lot of time! 

I'm honestly quite a bit nervous about beginning this project because if it should go awry, well, I'm going to have a huge expense removing the cabinets (the floor is now tiled right up to them) and replacing them. 

So wish me luck!  And if anyone has ever used this product and has tips... I'm all ears!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An update on Olivia

I thought I'd provide an update on Olivia today.  For those who don't know the back story, Olivia is the eight year old daughter of one of my very good friends, Deanna.  Olivia's parents took her to the doctor around Jan of 2011 to investigate a bump on her forearm.  Olivia was subsequently diagnosed with Ewing Carcinoma, a form of cancer, and has been undergoing weekly chemotherapy treatments since March of 2011.

I told the story of Olivia in one of my posts during last year's Blogathon because in an effort to bring Olivia a little joy, I reached out to my Facebook friends in search of anyone who could help me get Olivia a Skype call from Disney's Belle, her favorite Disney princess.
Deanna and Olivia during our 2010 visit
You can read about how friends of Facebook friends offered to help me... on my post here.

A year later, Olivia seems to be doing great!  She still hasn't been able to attend school.  She's now missed every day of school for over a year...something that's very hard on a first and now second grader. 

I traveled to Olivia's home in March and was fortunate to get to visit her at home that day.  Her counts were low and her parents weren't allowing any visitors (a common occurrence to avoid Olivia picking up germs), but they allowed me to visit if I took a shower immediately as I entered their home.  I happily obliged.

We spent most of a Sunday playing UNO and chatting.  I also got a chance to catch up with her mom which was a different kind of medicine - for us both!

I left their home thinking what an amazing family.  From Olivia's14 year old brother who has had his life turned upside down as well, to Deanna's husband, to Deanna and little Olivia, they ALL are so positive and cheerful.  You would never know that they are living through a major family crisis.  They are a testament to the power of positive thinking and having faith in God.

Olivia finished her last round of chemo about two weeks ago.  A glorious moment for them all!  But currently Olivia's counts are low and she's fighting a bug which has given her some bad days.  Once her counts are up, Olivia will return for a final check-up.  They are hopeful that the doctors will give her a clean bill of health.

Besides loving Disney's princesses (Olivia's room is all pink by the way...girly girl all the way), Olivia also loves Build-A-Bear.  For special occasions, her parents would take her to Build-A-Bear.

About a month or so ago, Olivia came up with the idea to save her money to make a Build-A-Bears, take them to the hospital where she's been treated and give the bears to other children who are undergoing chemo as well.  Olivia then reached out on her Caring Bridge page to ask friends and family to donate to her "foundation."

For those unfamiliar, Caring Bridge provides free websites that connect people, experiencing significant health challenges, to family and friends.  It offers a personal and private space for others to communicate and show support and it provides a convenient way for the family involved to keep friends/family updated on the person's progress.

Olivia wrote on her Caring Bridge page:
Hi this is Olivia sooooooooooooo sorry I haven't wrote I want to tell you about something I want to make foundation I love build a bears so I want to give BAB to the kids if you would like to make any donation please do so does this sound good to you guys your friend Olivia 

Olivia has since delivered several bears to children at the hospital.  Her dad has stepped in many times and made the bears for Olivia when her counts were too low to leave the house. He's quite the trooper! :)

Olivia's generosity was featured yesterday on the Joe DiMaggio's Children's Hospitals Facebook page yesterday!  What an inspiration she is!!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Oddly...Julie & Julia inspired me!

It's Blogathon theme day today!  Today's theme is "5 Movies that have inspired my blog or writing." 

I'm at a bit of a disadvantage with this theme because I just don't recall many movies after I've seen them.  Ask me to recite a phone number, our bank account numbers, a family member's birth date, where our daughter's purple shirt is located, where the scotch tape was last misplaced, or even a comment my husband made 15 years ago that I disliked, well, I can recall any of that in a hot second.  But ask me about a movie I saw just last week, and I probably can't even tell you the title, let alone the storyline. Strange, but very true.

So while I can't say that any movie inspired the content of my blog or how I write, I can say that one particular movie gave me the idea that I should try blogging.  That movie was Sony Picture's "Julie & Julia." (Buy it on Amazon)
Julie & Julia
I'm sure most will recall this 2009 box office hit that featured Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Amy Adams as Julie Powell, a young writer who works in a job that is unfulfilling.  At the same time, Julie's friends' careers seem to be in full swing - even one has had her blog picked up for a movie production. 

Feeling her life has no meaning, Julie decides to challenge herself by cooking every recipe in Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and blog about her year-long project.

Julie's blog creates some attention and as she increases followers, you can see her entire self-worth blossom.

Paralleling Julie's storyline is Julia Child's life story about the cookbook she writes  that is rejected by one publisher but is finally accepted, in the end, by another.

Julie finally gets her acclaim too when her blog is eventually featured in a story by The New York Times, and she begins to receive attention from the publishing world.

When I first saw this movie, I couldn't help but at first think, "That's funny, that's my name."  Yes, my first name is Julia so it was an odd coincidence. 

My second thought was, "Gee, I should write a blog."  I mean, why not?  I write all day anyway, I have a plethora of topics I could talk about and it sounds like fun.  Can't say that I honestly thought The New York Times would ever write a story about it, but hey, a person can dream, right? :)

Seriously, that movie is what gave me the idea to eventually start blogging a little over a year ago when I ran across Michelle Rafter's blog announcing the 2011 Blogathon.  I didn't even have a blog when I signed up to join the Blogathon last year, but I quickly got onto Blogger and threw a blog together in a few days, just in time for the Blogathon kick-off.  And I'm proud to say that last year I blogged every day for the entire month.

Sadly, my blog hasn't developed quite as Julie Powell's did, but it's still been great fun, and the best part is that I've met some really great people through blogging.  That was an unexpected bonus!  So, I tip my hat to the film industry for producing movies that inspire us all in different ways!