Monday, January 31, 2011

365 Days of Personal Correspondence - 31 Day Update

It's the end of the first month of my year of personal correspondence and I wanted to share how it's going so far. The good news is I am ahead of schedule! I mailed 42 notes, cards and packages during January!

I thought the breakdown would be about half thank you notes and half other items but it hasn't played out that way thus far. In fact I only wrote 7 thank you notes this month. (Yes, my to-do list is waiting for me to catch up!)

In case you're interested, I also sent

  • 10 happy new year cards
  • 6 condolence notes
  • and the rest were a mix of just because, birthday, new home, engagement, retirement (etc.) cards
I feel a little like I'm exercising muscles I haven't used in awhile - sometimes the writing is easy and other times it is more a struggle and I have to start over fresh. But it feels good to be back in the game, and I'm looking forward to continuing to correspond!

Friday, January 28, 2011

101 in 1001 (part one)

Inspired by Mandy's 101 in 1001 project, as promised in one of my new's years posts, I am putting together my own list of 101 things to do in the next 1001 days. This is a work in progress! I am taking suggestions - please add your thoughts in the comments section below!!

Here are the first 51 of my 101 things to do between January 28, 2011 and Thursday, October 25, 2013 (here's a nifty calculator that figures dates out easily)

1.  Try yoga
2.  Work out three times a week, four weeks in a row
3.  Run a 10k
4.  Surprise someone. (with a visit, flowers, something nice)
Celebrating the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary with Jenn
5.  Purge and donate old clothes from closets at least three times (0/3)
6.  Pay for the person behind me at a toll or drive thru
7.  Write 3 letters to a company when I receive great service (0/3)
8.  Leave a very big tip for a really great server.
9.  Take a cooking class
10. Implement Meatless Mondays 8 times on nights when all 3 of us are home
 --- 1. intro and first meatless Monday
11. Get a massage.
12. Try ten new restaurants (7/10)
Tweetup Recap and Little Italy Review 3-4-11
Mocking Bird Cafe 2-14-11
Siam Sushi Review 2-22-11
Midtown Filling Station 3-11-11
Avenue Eat and Drink 3-19-11
Vintage Bar and Bistro 5-13-11
Metropolis OBX 6-15-11
13. Update will/living will
14. Update financial papers in evacuation kit
15. Use/spend/donate all gift cards
16. Make a list of everything that must be done to finish the kitchen project and complete list.
17. Organize study so it can be used as work space
18. Paint the hallway - ceilings and trim, walls, and doors
19. Meet at least two bloggers/tweeps in person (not at same event). (2/2)
Tweetup Recap and Little Italy Review 3-4-11
Lunch with Mandy 4-2-11
20. Blog daily for 30 consecutive days (0/30)
21. Host a giveaway at my blog
Tornado Warning Review and Giveaway
22. Organize my google reader into folders
23. Complete the ProBlogger 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge
24. Shop local; complete a 3/50 project
25. Buy something from etsy
26. Try 5 new apps (phone or desktop)
 - 1. Weatherbug (phone)
27. Make a photo book (like blurb)
28. Go on 3 dates a month for 12 months (0/12)
29. Plan three surprise dates for hubs
30. Have an overnight date, just the 2 of us
31. Figure out how to help T transition to and be successful in middle school
32. Research autism in teenagers
33. Make plans with a new friend
34. Send Christmas cards.
35. Have a double-date with friends once every other month (0/16)
36. Complete 365 days of personal correspondence
37. Get a custom embossed stamp made.
38. Go on a vacation outside of the US
39. Take a girls only trip
40. Plan a family cruise with my brothers and their families
Compromised and instead went to the beach as a family! Posts from beach
41. Make a list of 5 must-see places in Cleveland and visit them.
42. Make a list of 5 must-see places in Tallahassee and visit them.
43. Set up a dropbox account.
44. Transfer files from computers to dropbox - make sure you have all photos especially.
45. Organize family and friend’s birthdays in one place.
46. Organize and inventory stationery .
47. Organize cookbooks and donate or give away ones we don't use.
48. Give 5 "I saw this and thought of you" gifts.
49. Send 10 postcards with postcrossing
50. Color every picture in a coloring book.
51. Make a bulletin board for the laundry room.
photo source
Seriously, I need your help filling out the second 50 items on my list - all suggestions will be given full consideration! Thanks!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ham, Potato and Cheese Quiche

food network
I think this is our new go-to recipe for Quiche:

Adapted from this Food Network recipe by Sandra Lee. I like that this recipe doesn't call for heavy cream or even half and half. And I love her technique of cooking the potatoes in the microwave. Next time we roast potatoes, I'm going to try to save some leftovers to use in this recipe. The original recipe had seasonings in the potatoes and in the egg mix. Fresh eggs negate the need for those and the quiche comes out with a clean taste that really highlights each individual ingredient.

2 red potatoes, cubed
1 cup cubed ham
1 (8 or 9-inch) premade pie shell in foil pan (love Publix brand)
1 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk (I used 2%)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place potatoes in a microwaveable dish. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover with a damp paper towel and microwave for 2 minutes, until almost cooked through.

Cover the bottom of the premade pie shell with potatoes, ham, and cheese. Place on a cookie sheet and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and pour into the pie shell.

Place quiche into preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until eggs have set. If the top of the quiche or the crust are getting too dark, turn down the heat to 350.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Our New Farmers' Market

Our neighborhood has a new farmer's market! On Tuesdays and Fridays from 2pm - dusk over half a dozen farmers set up shop at the Kerry Forest - Shannon Lakes roundabout (in the grassy area between the shopping plaza parking and the street). I stopped by on Friday to check things out and do some shopping. I was happy to find that all the ones I talked to grew their own stock (this is not always the case at some of the other markets I've been to in town).

I bought some spinach, 2 ruby red grapefruits picked today (who knew you could grow grapefruit in Tallahassee?), a red bell pepper, and two little baked goods (a sour cream pound cake and sweet potato bread, pictured below):

We used it all (except the baked goods) to make salads for dinner. 

I also met a woman who raises goats and lambs on her farm in Monticello. I look forward to being her customer! The goats she raises for meat are a commercial mixed breed (Mom will know that I had to ask). She said the mixed breed don't have be de-wormed as they are less susceptible. Here's a link to her farm: Golden Acres Ranch and to the shop that processes meat for her. She said she brings some pork and sausage from them to the market: Johnston's Meat Market [Ever since I read Fast Food Nation, I've had a fear of giant meat processing plants - it's wonderful to find a local small-scale production facility!]

Also available - jams, jellies and honeys. The farm that grows grapefruit also grows other semi-tropical fruits like papaya. I'm looking forward to trying some of the interesting greens grown by my spinach farmer - he had three different kinds of mustard greens alone!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Girls on the Edge - Review

Girls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls-Sexual Identity, the Cyberbubble, Obsessions, Environmental ToxinsI just finished Girls on the Edge. My opinion is that it is a MUST read for anyone who works with, parents, or advises teenage girls and young women. While I don't agree with everything the author says, his premise is solid: young women who develop a solid sense of self are best able to navigate through their teen years into adulthood.

I learned about the book after Jenn tweeted this article to me, knowing that I share her interest in the causes of high risk behavior on college campuses. This quote from the article led me to read the book:
But the best book about the current state of girls and young women in America, Girls on the Edge, by a physician and psychologist named Leonard Sax, offers astonishing and troubling new insight into the role and consequences of binge drinking in so many girls’ lives.
The book is about more than drinking. The author sees drinking, eating disorders and a host of other (some new to me) behaviors he characterizes as obsessive as hallmarks of the same thing - teenage girls lack of a true sense of self:
During my 18 years in that one community (suburban Maryland, outside DC), I saw a growing proportion of girls whose sense of self is defined only in terms of superficials. As a result, these girls are brittle, susceptible to a crack-up with even a mild jolt.
By superficials, he means essentially any trait or activity that is how a girl perceives herself. For example, it can be something obvious like her looks, her wardrobe or her weight, but it can be also the danger of defining herself by one activity or trait, such as the star student, the single-sport athlete, or the drinker. If a young woman defines herself as the best student, and then she doesn't do well in a class, or chooses the wrong college and can't excel, she may fall apart instead of regrouping.

Additionally, I learned a lot of interesting information, like these tidbits:
... researchers have found that girls and young women who drink coffee regularly are much more likely to drink alcohol. Among girls and young women who drink coffee regularly, 70 percent also drink alcohol; among girls and young women who don't drink coffee, only 29 percent drink alcohol. 
Girls who are injured are more likely to be reinjured, compared with boys who suffer the same injury playing the same sport. This is not because girls are more fragile than boys, but because the entire culture of sport has developed around what works for boys, not what works for girls. For example, consider how coaches usually warm up their players before a game. Generations of men have prepared boys before a game by having the boys run a few laps around the track, or doing some jumping jacks or simple stretching exercises. That may be fine for boys, but it's not particularly helpful for girls. For example, sports medicine specialists have discovered that a different warm-up routine should involve, among other things, running bacward while slapping your heels. It doesn't cost any more money or time than the boys' routine. But it's different. When girls do these girl-specific routines before practice and competition, the risk of ACL injury is reduced by 88 percent compared with girls on comparable teams doing the traditional warm-up. 
(Note that 1/4 of the book is the end notes with annotated lists of the sources of all the facts and data he shares.)

The best part about the book, and what makes it so worthwhile to read, is the way he is able to give specific examples of both the pitfalls and obstacles of adolescence today and also ways to avoid and mitigate those dangers. READ THIS BOOK - you won't regret it!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tornado Warning - Teen Dating Violence Book

Here's a new book I'm looking forward to reading when it comes out for kindle on February 1st: (It'll be available in paperback then too, or you can order autographed copies directly from the author's website now.)

Tornado Warning: A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect On A Woman's Life

From amazon: 
Tornado Warning: A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect On A Woman's LifeProduct Description
Parents, teens, and survivors are lucky that Elin Stebbins Waldal (follow her on Twitter @ElinWaldal) has the courage to share her own harrowing experience with teen dating violence. At 17 she unwittingly fell in love with an abusive man. Tornado Warning is the true, honest portrait of how he whittled her down--with words, hands, and weapons--from a confident teen to the shadow of a woman.
But Stebbins Waldal offers more. Interwoven with her real-life journal, she reflects on how this relationship has affected her since, and how she is working to protect her teenagers from succumbing to a similar experience. Provocative and healing, Tornado Warning is a must-read for parents, women, and anyone who has suffered at the hands of a loved one.

About the Author
Elin Stebbins Waldal is a writer, speaker, and founder of girls kNOw more, an organization whose mission is to help build confidence in middle-school-age girls. Elin is the Love Is Not Abuse Coalition State Action Leader for California, which advocates for legislation that will require teen dating abuse curriculum in all middle schools, high schools, and colleges. She is a frequent guest on the radio show. She is also a regular presenter for Laura's House, an Orange County resource for victims of domestic violence. She was recognized with an Honorable Mention Award in the World of Difference Category by The San Diego County Office of Education for speaking and educating high school students. Additionally, she is a California-state-certified domestic violence advocate. She has contributed to The Courage Network, Safe World for Women, and The Women on the Verge on-line periodicals and also serves as a San Diego Examiner reporter on the subject of teen dating violence. Elin lives in Southern California with her husband, three children, and their family dog.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hook, Line and Sink Him.

Hook Line and Sink Him is a really cute love story with a twist: it's told from the man's point of view! The characters were well-drawn and three-dimensional. Even though the main character, Jeff, starts out as a bit of a jerk, I found myself rooting for him, especially as he grows and develops as a friend and a person.

The subplots in the book make it more interesting and complex than your average romance novel. Jeff and his best friend, Dave, start a business helping women get their boyfriends to commit. Jeff's love interest, Anna, is their first client. They are successful, and her boyfriend, Chris, proposes. I liked the cognitive dissonance Jeff experiences because it feels real: Has he done the right thing? Will Anna and Chris be happy together? Are they right for each other? When Anna joins Jeff and Dave in the business, their clientele expands as does Jeff's moral dilemma. Further frustrating Jeff is his suspicion that his best friend Dave's long-time girlfriend is cheating on him.

Balancing all these serious questions and issues, the prose is upbeat and energetic. The main characters don't get bogged down in their angst and there is plenty going on to keep the story moving forward. I was really drawn in, wanting to find out how all the different strands would weave together. Would there be happy endings for everyone? You'll have to read it and find out!

Fun fact: the author, Jackie Pilossoph, is an Alpha Chi Omega from Indiana University!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Theory about the Starfish

If you read my post on Tuesday (see it here), you know we were looking for reason(s) why there were so many starfish on the beach on St. George Island. According to this article (shared by Leslie, thank you!), it was likely due to the cold weather. "Thousands of dead starfish littered the beach" in South Carolina in late December after they experienced record severe weather. The article went on to say
marine life can die off in mass kills when water temperatures hover in the mid-40s for any length of time.
We had the coldest December on record in the Tallahassee area but it wasn't until early January that the coastal water in the Gulf of Mexico dropped below 50. As you can see in this graph, late last week the water temp fell to 46 for a full day followed by several hours at 45 before rebounding.
Gulf water temps off the coast of Apalachicola
the week of Jan 9th, from
The good news (presuming the situation here is similar to the one in South Carolina): 
Bell said the starfish die-offs probably aren't frequent or widespread enough to do any serious damage to the overall population. He said nearby populations would quickly move in and that the animals reproduce rapidly.
Read more:
 What do you think? Does it sound like a reasonable theory?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Charity Tilleman-Dick: Singing after a double lung transplant

I saw this video on Lisa's blog ... Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle after she tweeted this morning how astonished she was by it. The story is amazing!

It was even more amazing to me when Charity mentioned the name of one of her doctors at the Cleveland Clinic and it was one of my CWRU Alpha Chi sisters. Marie was a year behind me in school and is now a critical care/pulmonary doc at the Clinic. So cool to know she played a part of making this miracle happen!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


The strange part about our trip to the beach was all the dead starfish on the beach. They were everywhere.

We thought all the star fish were the same kind until we saw this one on Monday morning:
Luidia alternata?

We don't know what happened but have some theories - maybe the oil spill? perhaps the unusually cold weather (December was the coldest December in our area ever)? maybe a big storm (though we have not had any lately)? Thoughts? 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Alpha Chi Fun at the Beach

I joined my fellow advisors and the new collegiate officers from the FSU Alpha Chi Omega chapter at their annual Exec Board Retreat this weekend on St. George Island. Here's a little photo recap. First the house we stayed in. It's called Beach Fever.

The view from our back deck. It was cold cold cold at night but warmed up pretty nicely during the day (to almost 60 degrees).

The collegians got a lot of work done:

but also had a lot of fun, including some time taking pictures on the beach. 

For the official report from the chapter on last week's activities, including the Retreat, visit their blog here.

All in all, it was a lovely, productive weekend!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Decorating with Books

Love the way this looks but wonder if I am too rigid to mix our books up like this. We try to keep them in subject areas now. Try being the optimum word.
Honey We're Home

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Books Recommended by Friends

I'm looking forward to reading these books recommended by friends:

The Truth about Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to KnowThe Truth About Leadership
by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner. Jenn is going to lend me this one and it looks like a real winner!

Amazon review:

"A fresh look at what it means to lead from two of the biggest names in leadership

In these turbulent times, when the very foundations of organizations and societies are shaken, leaders need to move beyond pessimistic predictions, trendy fads, and simplistic solutions. They need to turn to what's real and what's proven. In their engaging, personal, and bold new book, Kouzes and Posner reveal ten time-tested truths that show what every leader must know, the questions they must be prepared to answer, and the real-world issues they will likely face.

  • Based on thirty years of research, more than one million responses to Kouzes and Posner's leadership assessment, and the questions people most want leaders to answer.
  • Explores the fundamental, enduring truths of leadership that hold constant regardless of context or circumstance-leaders make a difference, credibility, values, trust, leading by example, heart, and more
  • Shows emerging leaders what they need to know to be effective; fans of The Leadership Challenge will find a dynamic new look at the real challenges leaders face today.
Drawing from cases spanning three generations of leaders from around the world, this is a book leaders can use to do their real and necessary work-bringing about the essential changes that will renew organizations and communities."

Life, AfterLife, After by Sarah Darer Littman was recommended by Aurora.

From School Library Journal (via amazon):
"Gr 7 Up–In 2002 in Argentina, Dani Bensimon weathers the political and economic crisis that is dragging her middle-class Jewish family into poverty and her formerly loving father into depression. They are all still grieving over the death of her pregnant aunt and her unborn child in the 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA building, the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Many of the teen's friends have left the country, including her novio, Roberto. Eventually, the Bensimons relocate to the New York suburbs and Dani must work hard to remain the dutiful, perfect, helpful daughter. While the plot is predictable, supporting characters are direct from after-school-special casting, and the narrator is at times a bit too wholesome, this affecting book works in its entirety. It shows a place and part of recent history left mostly unexamined in YA literature, highlighting an act of terrorism in Argentina and a Latin American immigrant. Dani's experiences give her insight and empathy into a community suffering the aftermath of 9/11. Littman's sprinkling of Spanish words and phrases throughout gives a genuine feel to her dialogue, and her references to Jewish customs also fit smoothly into the context."

Of Tapestry, Time and TearsCarol Morgan is an Alpha Chi I met through Twitter. Her novel Of Tapestry, Time and Tears was recently published and it looks fascinating.

"'Those who do not learn from the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.' George Santayana’s law of repetitive consequences is applicable not only in the context of history, but also in people’s lives. It is the underlying theme of the novel Of Tapestry, Time and Tears. Of Tapestry, Time and Tears is an epic story of a woman’s journey of painful self-discovery and her participation in the historical events of the twentieth century—the Depression, World War II, India’s Partition, and ultimately, 9/11. Edwina Kleberg is defined by her German and Irish immigrant parents and her life in the Texas Hill Country during the Depression and pre-war years of the 1930’s. As a female writer in the predominately male world of journalism, she is a unique observer to the myriad of hateful global changes through her work as a war correspondent in Italy, but meets an Indian soldier who not only saves her life at the battle of Monte Cassino, but piques her interest about India’s impending break from British rule. Her ultimate assignment takes her to 1946 India. Against the dramatic backdrop of India’s Independence and the violent cruelties of Partition, Edwina commits a series of poor choices, including a tragically poignant romance, all of which transforms her from a na├»ve egotistical young writer into a mature woman committed to saving the orphans of Delhi. Upon her return to Texas, she is faced with personal demons of loneliness, purposelessness, and alcoholism which miraculously results in her greatest blessing—just as Baba, her beloved sadhu predicted. Each of the characters woven through the story mirrors the complexities of life and how we are permanently affected by the historical era into which we are born."

Friday, January 14, 2011

365 Days of Personal Correspondence

Empress Stationery
Instead of trying a 365 Days of Thank Yous (which you can read about here and here), I am going to attempt 365 Days of Personal Correspondence in 2011. I'm hoping this will turn out to be about half thank you notes and half cards and notes for other reasons (birthdays, condolences, new babies, etc.).

I am following a format similar to the one John Kralik used in 365 Days of Thank Yous:

  • I've sent up an Excel spreadsheet to track the cards I'm sending. It has columns for the date, reason, name and address. I'm even drafting the thank you notes, and I have to say I enjoy revising - finding a new turn of phrase or extra bit to add makes the process even more enjoyable. I did not expect that to be the case.
  • I am not pressuring myself to write a card every single day; it's ok to do several at one time.
  • It's ok to write to the same person more than once.
  • I'm going to try to be as green as possible. That means using the cards I have before I buy more, and when I buy cards, looking for ones made from recycled paper or recycled materials.
If you're hoping for a card from me, please comment below! I don't want anyone to feel left out!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Recapping My Birthday Gifts

Thought you might like to see my birthday presents (since they are super fun).

From hubs (I asked for cookbooks - these all look excellent and right up my alley!)

And my surprise gift was a new toaster, which was fabulous because a. our old one didn't work all that well - took forever to make toast 9 times out of ten, but on the tenth time would burn it - and b. isn't it pretty? love the stainless steel to match the new kitchen!

From Mom, a real treat from a cute little boutique in Cleveland neighborhood Ohio City (that I blogged about here here and here)

From Jenn, the cutest shirt ever:

and it's for a great cause that we all care about! 

Love this coffee/cocoa stencil from Tara. Can't wait to try it out. Had to show off some of the nice cards too:

Love this begonia from Karen!

We also had delicious cupcakes from Cake Shop at dinner on Monday, thanks to Jenn! And my Aunt Lillian sent cookies (nut horns, yum), the cutest little snowman that lights up and a cupcake that plays happy birthday!

Thank you all for making my birthday special!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Recapping My Birthday Wish
As you may have read Monday in My Birthday Wish, my goal for my birthday was to perform random acts of kindness (RAOK) and of Alpha Chindness, and to encourage others to do the same. "A random act of kindness is a selfless act performed by a person or persons wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual." A random act of Alpha Chindness is the same idea, just done for an AXO sister.

I planned out my first RAOK Sunday evening so I would be ready to go on Monday. [Hey they are random acts, not spontaneous acts (though that is a good idea too as well).]

I decided to go to Starbucks and buy coffee for the people behind me in line. Monday turned out to be an ideal day for this as it was not only Monday but a cold, damp, dreary Monday. I had an old gift card with a little over $11 on it, so after I paid for my coffee (decaf mocha for those of you interested in details), I gave the card to the cashier and asked him to wait until I left and then use the balance to pay for other customers' orders until it was used up. To be honest it made me a little nervous to actually have this conversation! But the cashier was excited about the idea and thought it would make some people's days. He also said he would pass it on, which made me really happy. I think the more you practice, this easier it probably gets.

For my acts of Alpha Chindness, that afternoon I wrote 5 cards to sisters, which will hopefully brighten their days when their mail carriers deliver them.

Planning to be kind made me notice others being kind. For example, a nice man held the door for me at Starbucks when I arrived. I might not have noticed that if I wasn't intent on being nice. In fact, I was showered with kindness all day - from facebook notes to tweets to dinner with friends - it was all-nice-all-day!

I shared my plans on facebook and twitter and got such nice responses from everyone. The best part was the enthusiasm with which friends greeted the idea - they didn't just want to participate, they were excited about it. Thank you all for your enthusiasm and kindness, and for helping me celebrate my birthday in a meaningful way. It means the world to me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Amaryllis (Holiday) Fun

Every year, Mom gives us an amaryllis bulb kit. It's a little box with a pot, a disk that turns into "soil" when you add water, and an amaryllis bulb. It's really fun to watch it grow. Literally the plant gains an inch or two a day!
Planted on December 14th
December 22nd
January 1st - it's getting crazy tall!
January 4th - starting to open!
January 8th - one bloom!
4 blooms for my birthday with maybe one more on the way!
Beautiful, yes? And so fun to watch it grow. Thanks, Mom!
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