Friday, December 30, 2011

Poor Man's Dinner


That's what the recipe was called.  It looked better in the magazine, but it still tasted pretty good.  It's a layered dish of ground beef, potatoes, and onions topped with mushroom soup.  I found it in one of my Taste of Home cookbooks.

Living from paycheck to paycheck is not fun.  It sucks to check your balance and discover you have $20 to last until you get paid again in 4 days.  My New Year's resolution is to save up several month's rent (at least) in readily available cash so I don't have to stress over that particular situation any more.  I'm not going to buy any more furniture or take any more non-camping trips until I've succeeded.  I'm also going to be eating at home.

I'm not talented enough to come up with my own recipes, but I can take a look in the pantry and then dig through my books to find something utilizing ingredients I already have.  The trick is to hunt for menu ideas while you're hungry and everything looks good, but go shopping when you're not hungry and nothing does.  It's much easier to stick to a list when it's not dinnertime.

I'm off to a decent start.  I already had pepper, garlic powder, and onions.  I bought ground beef ($2.98), potatoes ($3.72), 2 cans cream of mushroom soup (56 cents each), milk (98 cents), and parsley (50 cents).  I forgot to use the parsley.  Ooops.  It came to $1.55 per serving.  Yes, I can eat all six servings because I freeze the leftovers for later.  They are tastier, healthier, and far less expensive than the frozen dinners you buy at the grocery store.

What do you cut back on when you're tightening your budget?  Got any ideas for me?


     

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

For the Fashion Challenged

Hey, I just found out one of my former colleagues has started her own fashion blog and apparently a new consulting / fashion stylist business.  Maybe when I decide to start dating again I'll get her to take me shopping.  Lord knows I can use the help. 


http://blog.isanicole.com/

Monday, December 26, 2011

I'm Not Dead

I'm not dead I'm just floating
Doesn't matter where I'm going
I'll find you
I'm not scared at all
Underneath the cuts and bruises
Finally gained what no one loses
 
- Pink
 


Wow, I've been gone for months and I'm still getting pageviews!  I thought Google would have deserted me.  Just goes to show those books telling you how to get your posts to the top of the search engine results are a waste of time and money.  I've done none of what they say to do.  Not that I started this blog with that goal in mind - but I'm not mad it happened. 

I've been busy...and I guess I needed a break...but writing is an addiction that I can't shake.  I'm pretty sure I don't want the blogging monkey off my back permanently. 

I didn't make my goal of 300 posts last year.  Shall I try again?  I'll write some ahead of time and schedule them to post starting January 1. 

Counting down the days until I can say, "2011 KISS MY ASS!"   

See you next year.



Love Always,

Jen
 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hands that Built America

It's early fall, there's a cloud on the New York skyline



Innocence, dragged across a yellow line

   - U2




Irish, Chinese, German, Russian,
Black, White, Brown, Red,
Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu...

...They've all made significant contributions to our nation as we know it.  As we remember that awful day 10 years ago, let's not allow a handful of radical, evil men destroy what they created with their sweat and blood.  This is not a day to preach hatred and endorse discrimination.  This is a day to stand together.      

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

That's me, stuck on a downed tree during my last kayak camping trip.
Stay in town for the weekend, or go on the annual Sabine River kayak trip, that is.  It's a three-day kayak camping trip that takes place along the Texas / Louisianna border each Labor Day weekend. 


View Larger Map



The new tropical disturbance in the Gulf is frightening me.  I want to go, but I'm not sure my paddling skills are adequate to cope with 50 mph winds and flooding rivers if that storm develops.

Not only would it be a much-needed weekend escape, it would make a great post for my new travel blog.  I may have to sit this one out, though.  Maybe I remember enough details to post about my Village Creek trip...         

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Numero Dos

The second post for my new travel blog is up.  Click here to read.  It's another restaurant review.  You need to know where to eat when you travel, right?  I'm planning some museum visits since it's too hot to do anything outside right now (110 heat index!), and maybe Space Center Houston, the zoo, or Moody Garden's pyramids. 

Since I named it Gulf Coast Traveler, should I only post about the Gulf Coast, or include trips to the Hill Country, West Texas, or other non-coastal destinations?  I haven't decided what to do about those yet.  I do hope to earn a little money from it eventually, so maybe I should keep it focused. 

I'm also trying to decide on the photo to use behind the title and description.  Which do you guys like? 


 Those are the best I have to choose from for now.  I'll get out and take some more. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Non Grata


Found this one in the garage.
 My cats used to kill everything that moved, so I rarely found anything living in my old apartment.  Not true in my new place.  I found a bunch of baby spiders in my entryway downstairs.  I have no photos of them because I didn't think grab your camera...I thought grad the Raid... 

When I first moved in, I noticed daylight shining through the closed door and asked maintenance to add weather stripping.  One must have snuck in before they did and laid eggs.  With no cats around, they made themselves at home.  They didn't look dangerous, just creepy.  If I find only one, I usually catch it and put it outside.  Not when I find this many.  I sprayed and then I put out glue traps.  If that doesn't work, I'll be heading to the pharmacy for some boric acid. 

I found the one in the picture in my garage. Does he have six eyes?  I suspect he might be a recluse.  I have to go kill the bastard. 

Update:  Too big to be a recluse.  He's dead, though.  

Sunday, August 28, 2011

More New Furniture

This is where I've been eating my dinner for the last 4 months...


No more!  My real table and chairs were delivered yesterday.




I found the set on sale at Rooms to Go for $295.  The bistro table is chrome and glass, the adjustable height barstools chrome and leather.  Another shopper said they looked like Star Trek chairs.  I guess I've decided I'm going more modern than traditional with my decor.  I don't have a separate dining room, so I chose a cream color that won't clash with my recliner.  

The first thing I noticed when they took my furniture off the truck was that the table was in a box.  I was thinking, "I waited 2 weeks and paid delivery for furniture in a box?"   I said out loud, "Oh.  It's not put together..."

"Would you like us to put it together for you?"

"Does that cost extra?"

"No, we can put it together for you."

"If you have time, that would be great."

I tipped them 5 bucks apiece.  I didn't have 20 or I'd have tipped 10.  Next time I'll remember to ask if my furniture requires assembly.  If it comes in a box, I don't need to waste my money on delivery charges.       

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Kemah Boardwalk



My new apartment is just a few miles from Kemah.  After work yesterday, a colleague and I visited the Kemah Boardwalk. We ate dinner at Joe's Crab Shack (she's amazed at the amount of food someone my size can eat), and browsed some of the shops.  

We watched boats returning from a day of fun on the water, or heading out for a sunset cruise...



...and we saw some kids cooling off in the fountains...



I toyed with the idea of starting a new geocaching blog, and probably will eventually, but the search engines like my travel posts so I decided I should start a new travel blog instead.  I made our dinner at Joe's the subject of my first post.  Please visit Gulf Coast Traveler to read it.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shinedown IV

They're in the studio recording their fourth album.  Woohoo!  Can't wait to hear new stuff.  Zach has been broadcasting from the studio - no sound 'cause he's no fool...

 
Streaming live video by Ustream

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Up With the Roosters

Every night I tell myself I'm getting up at 5 so I can get an early start to the day. Every morning when the alarm goes off, my five o'clock brain involuntarily hits snooze. Every day I regret it. Once I'm up, I'm fine and not tired at all. Curse you, Morning Brain!

I'm not required to get to work before 8:30 and don't get paid overtime (I'm legally exempt), but my day is so much less stressful when I get in early and have everything organized before the phones start ringing and my email inbox starts filling up that it's very much worth it. I can't make up for it by staying late because then I'm tired and make dumb mistakes that I have to spend the next morning correcting. Besides, there are better ways I can spend my evenings.

I can't sleep with the blinds open because of the floodlights outside. Does putting your alarm clock across the room work? What about putting timers on lamps?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Reluctantly Folding

I wanna hold em like they do in Texas please
Fold em let em hit me raise it baby

- Lady Gaga




(OK, so she's not really singing about playing cards...I like this song...let's pretend it fits the post...)

I used to play online poker before the government cracked down on some of the internet gambling sites.  I could play for months at a time on $20, playing 2/4 Texas Hold 'Em at the penny table.  On a very bad night I might lose $2.  Uncle Sam decided he must protect me from myself and not allow me to waste such large amounts of cash, so he shut them down.

Well, there are some sites that still exist.  I figured I could afford to spend $20 playing Blackjack on one of the few sites still standing.  They had a coupon offer to double my deposit.  Cool.  I paid 20 US dollars and got 40 in casino cash.

I won!  I was up $100.  Woohoo!!!! Time to cash out...

WTF?  Withdrawable amount 60 cents?  I didn't read the coupon offer well enough.  You can't withdraw the money until you make bets worth over $1000.  Grrrr....

This is what happens when you shut down the reputable sites (if it's possible to be reputable and illlegal at the same time).  Why not regulate them and tax the income?  Why is it legal for me to go to a Stop 'N Rob to purchase lottery tickets for ten dollars apiece, but not legal to play at penny poker tables? 

Lesson learned.  No more internet gambling.  The sites that remain are nothing but thiefs.    

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Flood Insurance



And Ike was just a cat 2.  Keep in mind the seawall is 17 feet high and normally far from the water's edge.  The building at the beginning is the Balinese Room that Z Z Top immortalized.  It did not survive the night.


Should I buy flood insurance?  I've moved into a hurricane evacuation zone, and watching The Weather Channel's reports on Irene have made me think.  My my new chair ought to be safe since I live on the second floor, but I keep my new tents and expensive backpacking gear downstairs in the garage.  Storm surge from a cat 3 storm could swamp everything down there.

I'm waiting for a quote from the insurance company that has my car and renter's policies.  I think they had to call FEMA.  The agent said it could be as low as $150 yearly if I'm not in a flood zone.  Does being in a hurricane evacuation zone for cat 3 storms put me in a flood zone?

Do you have flood insurance?  Would you carry it if you lived in a second floor apartment?   

  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Connected

I finally have internet access in my new apartment!  Actually, it's a mobile connection that works in my apartment as well as anyplace that cricKet cell service works nationwide.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Comcast denied servicing my new address.  I suspected that was false information,but didn't really want to subscribe to their internet service anyway, so I called around to see if there was anything else available.  I had no luck.  Management confirmed Comcast and only Comcast is my internet provider.  Darn.

I called again and was transferred to three different people in my attempt to get connected.  I first spoke to someone in billing (how I ended up there I don't know) who told me to transfer my digital cable equipment from my old address to the new I would need to talk to sales.  (Even though I have an HD TV, I can't receive digital channels without Comcast boxes.  Why?  It's not the fault of my TV because I was receiving them for months before they were blocked.)  It took her 30 minutes to complete the transaction.

I then asked how much it would cost to add internet service.  She said she could mail a cable modem that would be $99 and a wireless router that I could rent for $7 a month.  "Why can't I go to Best Buy and get my own equipment?"  She thought I could but was not able to answer my questions about which modem to buy, why did I need to visit their office to pick up a CD, or if the wireless router I already own would work with Comcast service.  So I was transferred again to billing (Why?) who could not help me and sent me to tech support.

Tech support confirmed I did not need a CD to install their software, which is good because my netbook does not even have a CD drive.  He informed me that my modem was a DSL modem which would not work, but any of the major brand cable modems at Best Buy would.  Forgive me for being skeptical after 2 phone calls, 3 transfers, and 45 minutes of my life that I can never get back.

While at Best Buy, I discovered the prepaid Broadband modems offered by cricKet, T-Mobile, and Verizon.  Some are instant hot spots that can connect 3 or more devices at once, and some are like the one in the photo above (mine).  The modem cost $80.  (Damn!  I could have ordered it from Amazon for less.) I didn't have to wait 5 days for it to be delivered, I don't have to rent a wireless router, it works everywhere there is a cell phone tower, and took only 5 minutes to install.  The service plans range from $30 to $60 a month based on allotted data.  I chose the $30 plan.  After I download/upload 1GB of data within a 30 day period I still get unlimited email and basic web browsing, I just can't upload or download anything.  If I find I need more I'll change plans.  There are no contracts, no late fees, no credit checks, and no Comcast customer service folks to deal with.

I'm now surfing the internet in the air-conditioned comfort of my new recliner.  Hooray!

To see what plans are available in your area, visit cricKet's website. 



        

             

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Checking In

Where’s Jennifer???? She's hiding inside because it's so frickin' HOT!!!!  Maybe we'll get some relief when that storm blows in. 

What have I been up to?  I bought my first piece of real furniture.  This is what I was sitting on, since I didn’t bring any furniture from my old place.

This is what I’m sitting in now. I have no more pets or children (my daughter took the cats) so I can finally have something nice.


I always wondered if La-Z-Boys were really better than other chairs or if I’d just be paying for the name. Then I visited their showroom in Webster and fell in love. I had the saleswoman laughing as I ran around from chair to chair trying to find the perfect one. Was she laughing at me or with me? Hmmmm…

I decided upon a microfiber, pewter-colored, rocking recliner with extra lumbar support. By the time I paid for fabric protection and delivery, it cost almost a month’s rent but it was well worth the price. I love my new chair!

Oh, yeah. I paid cash. I’m planning on buying new furniture one piece at a time and charging none of it.

It’s too hot and humid to sit outside for long now even after dark, so I haven’t been online much. I need to get internet inside my apartment soon. Or maybe I’ll just start shopping for one of the mobile cards that allow you internet access anywhere. Does Sprint have those?

Until then I’ll be relaxing in my big, comfy, cozy, recliner…snuggling under my blanket…reading a book. I’ll check in soon. Miss you guys.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Herbed Chicken

It never looks as pretty as the photo in the book. Why does one leg look sunburned and one look raw? I cooked it to the required temperature, but it turns out I like my birds cooked well past that point. Next time I’m roasting it until the entire thing looks sunburned. Also, I need to buy some of that string to tie the legs together. I’ve been told the purpose of doing that, but I forgot what it is. I know it’s not just for looks.

I’ve started checking the sales flyers and buying meats that are on sale and then finding recipes for them. Whole fryers/roasters were 77 cents per pound, so I had chicken this week. I’m not excited about cutting it up. If I buy a whole bird, I’m cooking the whole bird and then carving it like a turkey.

The instructions were to mix up some herbs with bouillon granules and water then pour it over the chicken.  The recipe is here if anyone is interested.  It’s baked covered for almost an hour, then uncovered to brown. It turned out very moist, but I think the herbs were wasted on the skin because I didn’t eat it. When I cook chicken pieces, I remove the skin before I cook them. Can you do that when you cook it this way?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cycling in Clear Lake / Nassau Bay




BCO had a bike ride in my new neighborhood, so I joined them and got to have a look around. We rode past the lake and visited a few parks. I’m on the blue bike, wearing the blue helmet and blue backpack. No, I didn’t coordinate that on purpose.



Click to read sign.
 There seem to be an awful lot of gators this far south. I see signs warning about them everywhere.  Two swam up to us during a break. People must be feeding them. It may be cute when they’re small, but when they become 12-footers – not so much. This one looks pretty large.





I think I’ll limit my swimming to the apartment pool…


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Time to Get Moving

After I take advantage of the free wifi in the clubhouse each evening (well, most evenings), I need to start using the gym. I despise working out indoors, but when the temps hit 100 degrees I have no choice. I’m paying for the amenities in my new apartment complex. I might as well use them.

I have to work this off.

Whoever invented the hot fudge sundae is my hero.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Internet Blues


I still have no internet in my new apartment. I tried to transfer AT&T, but received an email response stating that they did not service my new neighborhood. I thought I had Comcast cable, so I tried them next. The customer service rep couldn’t find my address. Next, I tried calling a company that sent me a flier in the mail. They don’t service this area, either. “Well, stop sending me mail then!”

Verizon sent me an ad, too. Should I try them next? Maybe I should just give up and utilize the free wifi available in the clubhouse next to the pool. This is not a bad place to spend an hour each day…

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Frustration


Frustration, originally uploaded by CCBImages. Image from Flickr.

I tried to respond to everyone's comments yesterday and Blogger wouldn't let me. Today it's being fickle again. I signed in three times and still can't comment on mine or anyone else's Blogger posts. Grrrrrr...



Where do I send the nastygram?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Memphis Rising




He's doing it again.  I posted awhile back about a benefit Zach Myers (of Shinedown) did for the fallen officers of Memphis...now he's raising money for the flood victims.  Just one reason he's become one of my favorite people.  It's this weekend and here's the link for more info:  http://www.memphisrising.org/

"General admission tickets will be $15 in advance and at the door. A limited number of $75 VIP packages are available, which include a premium concert seat, commemorative backstage pass and a cocktail reception at 9pm in the Hard Rock Cafe balcony with the artists and special guests. The Memphis Rising Online Auction , Concert Tickets and VIP packages will be available beginning May 21st."  (Copied from the website.)

It's a great cause so anyone near Memphis should go.  If you can, ROADTRIP!

Why am I not going?  Because I have to clean out that old apartment.  Why am I being so responsible instead of blowing it off like I'd rather and letting my old landlord deal with it?  Because one day I'll probably need to move again and I'll want a nice place instead of having to live in a hellhole...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dreaming of Kayaks



I'm in the green one.


It's a rental.  I went kayak camping with BCO and except for the rudder that I couldn't use because my legs are too short, I fell in love with this boat.  I want one.  It's got 2 hatches - one in the front and one in the back.  I packed it with all my gear and had plenty of room for more.  

Guess what?  I'm up $1300!  I won it playing blackjack.  I was tempted to play some more, but started thinking about the kayak I wanted.  I came home with the money to buy it.  Woohoo!!!!



  
Someone suggested I rig a pulley system in my garage to raise and lower the kayak so I don't have to lift it onto my car alone.  That sounds like an excellent idea, but I haven't the foggiest idea how to do it.  I'll figure something out.     



Monday, May 2, 2011

Starting with the Kitchen

My daughter is constantly cooking with too high temperatures and using metal utensils on my nonstick cookware.  Well, she can have the pots and pans she ruined.  I found a Bed Bath and Beyond near my new home and started stocking the kitchen.  I got all of this for $49.99.  Is it top of the line?  No.  Will it cook my food?  Yes.

I've been using the same knives since 1995 (at least).  The same electric can opener, too.  I think it's time to replace them.  I found 3 knives with sheaves for $9.99.  I also bought a manual can opener, plus various other kitchen gadgets.

Next paycheck - bathroom!   

     

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I'm Back

I got the keys to my new apartment today.  Hooray!  No more spending 3 to 4 hours in my car every day. 


Look!  No clutter!  There won't be any, either, because I'm not bringing all that crap over here.  My furniture isn't worth what it would cost to pay the movers, so I'm starting over with new stuff.  IKEA, here I come! 

 My daughter can have the old stuff for her new apartment.  

I love my new apartment.  It costs less than what I was paying for the old one but I have access gates, a private entry (above), an alarm system already installed, washer/dryer, microwave, gym, and that door on the right leads to my...

...attached private garage!  Now I have a place to put a kayak.  My outdoor gear will live here.  I need to get some shelving to organize it, but there's plenty of room. 
I'll be around to your blogs soon.  I've missed my blog buddies. 
  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

New Job Update


Stolt Tank Container, originally uploaded by fleandca.
Everything is going well, but I'm exhausted. I have to be at work by 8:30. If I leave at 7, I'll be 10 to 15 minutes late. If I leave at 6:30, I'll be 30 minutes to an hour early. Better early than late, so 6:30 it is...I can always stop for breakfast if there's nothing to do at work.

I have picked out a beautiful new apartment near my new job. It will cost me $1800 to buy out of my current lease, but with gas prices going up that may be a bargain.

I'm probably not going to blog too much about my job. I will tell you guys that I'm working in the export industry again. I have 13 years experience with a containership company, on the carrier side. Now I'm learning about the NVOCC side of the business, working for a tankcontainer company. What is an NVOCC? This blog explains it pretty well: http://shippinginsouthafrica.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/who-is-an-nvocc-operator-and-difference-between-a-freight-forwarder-and-nvocc/.

The pic is of a tankcontainer, but it's not one of ours. (I'm not sure if I want to name my employer, in case I've got any stalkers out there. ) They are not the tanker trucks you see carrying fuel to the gas stations, but 20' seaworthy tanks boxed in a frame so they can be loaded onto containerships..

I'm loving being back in the industry, but don't have much time to do anything else right now. I wish I could visit all of your blogs. I miss you guys.  I do have a travel post to write, and more weekend trips planned. Maybe this will have to become a travel blog - updated weekly - until I move. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Back to Work

Today was my first day at my new job.  I received an offer for the full salary I was asking.  Woohoo!  I'm driving an hour and a half each way for now.  Yes, my dear readers, I am still in Houston after an hour and a half of driving.  We're roughly the size of the state of Rhode Island.  Then there's Houston's habit of annexing adjacent communities...whether they like it or not...all around NASA is Webster, Seabrook, Nassau Bay...but NASA is in Houston...it's confusing for me and I live here...I wonder what visitors think...  

(Texans measure distance in hours and minutes, by the way.  I'm 5 minutes from the grocery store, 30 minutes from downtown, an hour and a half from work, and 2 hours from the beach.  San Antonio is 3 hours away, El Paso 10 hours, and California 2 days.)  

My new job is near NASA, in the Clear Lake area.  The plan is to move to Clear Lake in a few months, after my daughter graduates.  I've already priced a few apartments, and I should be able to find something for much less than I'm paying now.  I'll miss living in The Woodlands, but it is a little on the expensive side.      

I'm so excited!  I'm also exhausted.  I feel like I'm rambling and babbling.  I'll get used to my new schedule and post something a little more coherent soon.    

Monday, February 28, 2011

Backpacking the Lone Star Hiking Trail: Winter's Bayou Section

I went backpacking along a portion of the Lone Star Trail with my outdoor group this weekend.  The trail is marked with rectangular blazes on the trees, as in the above photo.  If it is tilted right or left, that is indicative of a change in direction.  There are many jeep trails, logging roads, etc. that cross the LSHT, so it's important to watch for these blazes.


Yes, I know it's dry under the bridge...but someone spent a lot of time and effort building it...and it was fun... 
 This section of the trail can become very muddy, so there are a lot of small wooden bridges along the way.  Most are constructed over ravines.  Others are placed to assist crossing areas that become boggy after a heavy rain.  The trail was exceptionally dry this weekend, though.  Even the bayou and pond was dry, so we had to carry all of our water.

We stuck pretty close together for the first 6 miles.  After we stopped for lunch and discussed where we thought we would stop for the night, we began each hiking at our own pace.  The two fastest hikers were quickly out of my view.  I passed the third hiker and was within view of her for awhile until she stepped off the trail to find a bush.  I kept going and sort of zoned out, alone and content with my own thoughts...until I looked up and realized there were no blazes on the trees.

What would Bear Grylls do?  But I don't want to take off my pants and bite the head off of a snake.  Guess I'll turn around and go back the way I came.

I think I was off the trail for close to half a mile.  That put me far behind the others.  I was trying to increase my pace to catch up with them, but eventually gave up on that.  I wanted a break.  I wanted to stop and adjust my pack but I was getting tired and was afraid I wouldn't be able to put it back on myself.  Then I came upon a bridge that was high enough off the ground to be a convenient little ledge I could use to make it easier, so I took my break.  I adjusted my pack, had a snack, and pulled out my cell phone to check the time.  4:30.  Sunset was supposed to be around 6:15.  I decided I would keep going until 5:30 and if I still hadn't caught up, I would stop where I was for the night.

I positioned my backpack so the shoulder straps would be directly behind me, sat on the edge of the bridge in front of it, slipped my arms in, then stood up.  Hooray!  I managed to get it back on.  35 pounds is awful heavy when you're getting tired.  Fortunately, once you get your pack adjusted correctly it's not too difficult to carry.

I continued on until I found the mile marker where we had agreed to stop.  I looked around and still didn't see my friends.  It still wasn't 5:30, so I stuck to my plan and kept going.  About 10 minutes later, I heard a very happy voice calling my name.  They had tried to call my cell phone but I didn't have a signal.  They became a little concerned when the woman I passed made it to camp before I did. 

I was never scared because I had food and water, I did have my tent, and there were people who knew I wasn't where I was supposed to be.  They would have walked the trails a little and notified the authorities if they didn't locate me.  I was annoyed, though, because I really didn't want to camp alone that night.  I was very happy when I finally caught up.

Could I have made the news?  Probably not.  What a boring story that would have been.  "We found her in her tent warm, dry, and fed."  Nobody would watch a survival show about that...     





 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Seminole Canyon State Historical Park

I'm the one in shorts.
I headed to the desert this past weekend.  We camped in Seminole Canyon State Historical Park on Friday night and headed for the park's overnight tour of Pressa Canyon early Saturday morning.  Yes, we were very close to the border, so a police officer accompanied us on our hike.  I think the media greatly exaggerates the risk for ratings, but it probably wasn't a bad idea to have him along.  We only had to carry a daypack with our lunch and water.  Our tents, sleeping bags, stoves, and other gear was transported on a trailor to our campsite.  It's my understanding that firewood would have been provided if there wasn't a burn ban in effect.  They even had a portable toilet set up.  It was a system that utilizes bags which you dispose of after use, so there was not the normal odor associated with port-a-potties. 


We didn't find the chupacabra, but did we find one of his victims?

It was 6 miles each way, scrambling over rocks, walking across the 45-degree slope of the lower canyon wall, and dodging branches full of sharp thorns.  It wasn't an extremely difficult walk, but not for those who only want to walk well-maintained, groomed trails.  You must be reasonably fit.



Click to enlarge for a closer look at the art.
We climbed up to several shelters where the ancients once lived.  There was some amazing art on those canyon walls.  It was difficult to choose which photos to post here.  There are many more pictures on Starting Over's public FB fanpage.  The link is in the sidebar if you'd like to view them.


We stopped here for lunch on the hike out.
 The Pressa Canyon Camp Overnight is just one of the tours offered at the park.  The Fate Bell Tour (included in the Pressa Canyon trip) has the best pictographs.  If you only have time to see one thing - choose the Fate Bell.  View the list of park events here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Finally Emerging from Hibernation

I joined a challenge to walk 400 miles this year and did nothing to reach that goal for weeks.  I wonder if they've given up on me.

The weather has improved drastically, and I finally got outside.  I went for a walk along the Woodlands Waterway last night with a local fitness walkers Meetup group.  We saw some art I hadn't noticed before.


There were a bunch of these beautiful tile mosaics under one of the bridges.  

 

I'll stop and rest on this log with the turtle...he won't mind... (we were trying to make it look like I was hitching a ride)...



"Hey, that's not yours!"
"I was going to turn it into lost and found...I swear..."

  

Hehe...it's actually art.  Looks very real.  I was so entertained by the purse sculpture that I didn't even notice the cute frog until I uploaded the pics.  Click to enlarge the image so you can see the critters. 

I've volunteered to lead weekday evening walks for the group.  If I'm the event leader, I have to show up.  I'm going to set the meeting place as the park behind my apartment complex so I don't even have to drive - I just have to step outside.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Zach Myers of Shinedown Tour Dates 2011



I feel another road trip coming on...

Zach Myers (guitarist for Shinedown) put on a benefit for the fallen police officers of Memphis this summer, and I drove from Colorado to attend.  I was so close that I could be the head that keeps popping up in the lower left corner of this video.  I don't want to claim the voice I keep hearing trying to sing along, so I'm going to say it's not me.  I'm probably standing next to her.  After the show he told everyone to stick around and he'd drink / talk with us.  I tried to stay awake but I was exhausted from being on the road for three weeks.  I stumbled back to my hotel room and went to sleep. 

He's doing it again!  He's doing a “SouLLow Acoustic 2011” Tour with Chris Allen.  I had so much fun last time, I think I'll make another drive.  And if he's taking photos and signing autographs, I'm staying awake for it!  I may have to find someplace to camp so I can keep the expense to a minimum.

I'm not posting exactly which show I'll attend, but the dates are listed on his Tumblr blog:  Zach Myers is not here.  The Shinedown concerts in the big venues are great, but the smaller shows he does at the clubs are even better. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Expand Search to the Big D?


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I blew it.  I should have just said ok, gotten up at 5 a.m., and driven to Dallas.

I've been filling out job applications and posting resumes online.  I got a phone call today!  They wanted to know if I could stop by tomorrow and take a typing test.  Of course!  Then she gave me the address and I discovered the job is in Coppell, TX by DFW airport.  "Oh," I said.  "I'm in Houston." 

It wouldn't be so bad in Dallas.  It's not that far.  Why did I even bring it up?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine

And if by chance, that special place
That you've been dreaming of
Leads you to a lonely place
Find your strength in love

      - Whitney Houston





Valentine's Day...I have no Valentine.  I haven't even accepted a date since I returned from Hawaii.  I've been asked, but I wasn't able to get excited about starting something new.  Dating for the sake of dating doesn't seem fun right now, either.  I'm just not in the right frame of mind.

Maybe I'll do something special for myself...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Reference Roundup



Calling numbers from your Rolodex to find out who remembers you is mentally exhausting.  A couple of the people I thought I got along with very well and would surely remember me - didn't.  One says he remembers doing an awful lot of business with us and promised to give a good reference since he remembers the company well, but he doesn't specifically remember me.  I really want to use him since I listed as an accomplishment that I grew an account (his) that was originally supposed to have 1 or 2 shipments a month to $6 million annually.  That reminds me...the salesrep for that account is my FB friend.  I need to send her a message. 

Another doesn't remember me at all but also told me to use him as a reference and he'll say something good.  Really?  This guy has a reputation for being difficult to work with, but for some reason he used to like me.  If I could score a good reference from him, that would be fantastic.  I think I need to follow the video's advice and have someone pose as a recruiter to verify what he'll say.

The book I'm using, Knock 'Em Dead 2005 (I've ordered the 2011 version from Amazon) says:  "Keep an open mind when developing those lists.  You never know who your friends are.  You will be surprised at how someone you always regarded as a real pal won't give you the time of day, and how someone you never thought of as a friend will go above and beyond the call of duty for you."  That has proved very true.  Someone I thought didn't much care for me sent a whole list of job search sites, and a couple of people I thought would be great references are ignoring me.  Oh, well.  That's life.  I'll keep calling because you never know where the next lead will come from.    

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Silly Cat

Best Friends Again

Faith has stopped hissing at Jay, and Jay is feeling much better.  He is now eating his new prescription diet without my having to mix it in with the old food, and is using the litter box normally.  Hooray!  He did have to go back to the vet when I noticed blood in his urine.  It was diagosed as a UTI and he was sent home with antibiotics.  After all my bragging about how easy it was to medicate him, he suddenly decided to spit his pills back out at me.  No hissing and scratching, just refused to swallow until I dropped it on the floor next to his treat and then he gobbled it up like candy.  Silly cat.  

You can really tell how fat Faith is when she's next to Jay.  She has stopped begging me for food all day since we switched her to canned food, though, so hopefully she will lose some weight.  The vet says they eat less of the good stuff because they're getting what they need and no longer have the cravings caused by poor nutrition.  She's on Fancy Feast, since he told me that was the best of the cheaper brands.             

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gathering Evidence



I had to pull out some of my old performace reviews and letters from customers to help come up with some accomplishments to add to my resume.  It occurred to me that I should be taking these things with me to job interviews.  I've got a copy of an email that one of my supervisors sent to her superiors about how we went to lunch with a client and all the good things they had to say about me.  Into my folder it goes. 

Another is a fax from a customer that says, "Please convey to your upper management at [previous employer] my appreciation for the effort and diligence Jennifer [last name] has given to this account over the past year in consummating our export shipments to Matadi and Lumbumbashi in the Republic du Congo.  She has followed up on every occasion on direct requests from us, and other times on her own initiative on potential problems.  She is a very professional and dedicated employee."  It's handwritten on a fax cover sheet, but I'm using it.  It's going into the folder as well.

The manager's statement on one of my performance reviews:  "Jennifer worked diligently to get a credit issue for one of her top customers resolved to everyone's satisfaction.  This continues to be an issue for this customer, but with her follow-up with the other departments involved, she has it under control. 

Jennifer also maintains an excellent relationship with her accounts and with the sales team that supports these accounts.  This is evidenced by feedback received from customer surveys.

Jennifer also assisted in training co-workers with [company computer software] and continues to be a resource for her teammates."

I don't have any letters of recommendation.  I'm pretty sure my previous employer does not allow them.  These should be almost as good...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sunshine for Sanity


All he knows
If he can't relieve it, it grows...

      - The Used




24 degrees outside...again...solar-powered...need sun...need warmth...

It's supposed to warm up this weekend.  Hooray!

Just out of curiosity...do you open all the blinds and let the sun in, or do you try to make everything as dark as possible?  I need sunlight.  I'll go absolutely insane without it.  I open everything and keep it open.  Two of my worst mistakes wanted it dark.  Maybe I should make that a first date question...  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Job Interview Questions


Maybe I should shop for a newer version...

It's time to kick my job search into high gear.  I've thought of two accomplishments to add to my resume and I'm writing a first draft of a general cover letter for freight forwarding company's today.  I need to also practice my interview answers.  I learned in school to think of questions you don't want to be asked in a job interview and prepare answers ahead of time. You guys can help me out.  Ask a question you would/have asked a prospective employee.  Ever been asked a really tough question during an interview?  Give it to me. 

Examples:
1)  Why have you not worked in the last 2 years?  What have you done with the time?
2)  Why should I hire you?
3)  What is your greatest strength?
4)  What is an example of one of your weaknesses?

I'll come up with answers and post them in the comments.  Honest, tactful critiques are welcome.   

Sunday, February 6, 2011

PageRank and SEO


Search Engine Optimization, originally uploaded by KRISHNA SALVI.
Image from Flickr.


Am I the only one who does a happy dance when Google sends traffic my way? I've noticed there are more and more searches that return my posts near the top of the first page. If I Google "Galveston Lost Oaks", "Mokulua Island Seabird Sanctuary", "Lake Livingston State Park Shelter", or "Horatio's Restaurant Hawaii" my blog comes up high in the results, and people do search those keywords. Seeing them in my reports prompted me to check. Google likes my pictures, too! I've been getting a lot of traffic to my Lake Livingston State Park story from people searching images.

The higher your PR (page rank), the more likely your website will show up near the top of a search engine keyword search and/or your pictures in an image search. I'm learning as much as I can and trying to see how high I can get my PR. Right now it's a three. If you've installed the Google Toolbar, click on the blue wrench icon, click the general tab, and check the PageRank box to see how Google "views the importance of" any page you visit.

Why do I care? Besides the fact that I'm competitive that way, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a marketable skill.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Amended Posting Goal



I'm amending my goal from 365 to 300 posts.  It's much more reasonable.  There will be times, like last night, when I won't feel well.  I've also got some overnight trips planned.  I may or may not have internet access at my campsites and am not going to ditch my real world friends to write something that could just as well wait until I get home, anyway.  I will buy a journal so I can take notes the old-fashioned way.

Plus, I like the number 300.  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area


We heard a rumor there were beautiful flower gardens and ponds on top... 


...so we hiked the summit trail, gaining 425 feet in elevation in just over half a mile...it was one steep trail...


...and we were not disappointed.


Click to enlarge the photos. 

Enchanted rock is a batholith, a mass of molten material that rose to the surface and solidified.  The pools of water and mini gardens are vernal ponds.  There are tadpoles swimming around in them that we saw, and tiny shrimp that are said to be in them that we didn't see.  It is a very strenuous hike, but well worth the effort.  There is not much shade on the summit trail so wear a hat and carry plenty of water.  Pack a lunch to eat at the top while enjoying the view.

There is an easier, 4-mile loop trail which circles the rock.  We hiked 2 miles of it, and I even found a geocache while most of the others were taking a break.   

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It's been a long time since I did a Travel Tip Thursday.  I still have lots of travel stories from this summer and I thought I'd link up.  I looked, and Pseudo hasn't posted since 2010?  Has she left the blogosphere?

I'm posting more pics to the Starting Over Facebook page.  The link is in the sidebar.  You should not have to "like" the page to view them.  Feel free, if you are so inclined, as it is not a profile page so liking it does not give me access to any of your profile information that is not public.  It simply prompts FB to post updates to your home page and allows you to comment.    

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hush Hush

He wants me
But only part of the time
He wants me
If he can keep me in line

    - 'Til Tuesday



I love the end, when she stands on her chair and humiliates him...

My blog is no longer a secret.  Wyoming's contempt when he saw that I had brought my netbook to Hawaii ticked me off.  "I see you brought your life," he commented.   (As if the hour or two a day I spend on my blog are more wasted time than the texting he does all day on his phone, or the hours he spends playing his guitar.)  Men are going to know right from the start I'm a blogger and if they have a problem with that they can date someone else!  

I posted a few links on Facebook, and more people visited than I expected.  Now my blog even has it's own Facebook page.  I had thought about setting up a second profile for my blog friends, but decided this way was better.  I can post updates and pics without giving access to all the more personal information.  If you are so inclined, you can "like" it from the link in the sidebar, without even leaving this site.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

You Are What You Eat


Jay is getting healthier and feistier by the day.  I tried again to give him his subQ fluids and he would have none of it.  My daughter was upset that I attempted it alone this time.  "You wasted a needle."  I was instructed to return them to the vet's office (I'm pretty sure it's illegal to throw them in the trash) and they can give me more if they want me to keep trying.  They've been calling daily for progress reports and seem more concerned with his diet than my success with giving him fluids.  

They sent him home with a prescription food, but warned me that you can't starve a cat into eating.  They'll go into liver failure and die.  He gave the reasons why but the only part I remember is "liver failure and die".  I tried to add water like the vet wanted.  Jay took a look, turned up his nose, and walked away.  I gave it to him without additional water and he took two bites then looked at me as if to say, "You must be joking."  If I mix it with some Friskie's canned cat food he'll eat some of it, but not happily.  The goal is to add more and more of the new food until he's only eating his new diet.

Ironically Faith, who is usually the picky one, is happy to gobble down whatever Jay doesn't eat.  I let her since I was also told that if I try to make her lose weight too fast, that will also cause liver problems and she'll die.  We're hoping that switching her to wet food instead of dry will help her reach a healthier weight.  According to the good doctor, dry food makes cats fat. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

3rd Time Not a Charm


Faith, curled as close to me as she can get.

Tonight when I tried to give Jay his subcutaneous fluids, he jumped as soon as I tried to stick him with the needle.  I didn't manage to get any into him.  My daughter thinks he doesn't need them if he's feeling feisty enough to fight us.  I'm not so sure.  The vet wouldn't have prescribed them just for fun. 

Faith, the other cat, has been hissing at him since he came home.  I've kept her locked in my bedroom, and made her sleep in their cage at night because she acted like she didn't even know him.  She followed him around hissing and spitting, making sure he knew he was not welcome.  I've had to keep them separated, just like when you get a new pet and have to introduce them.  Finally, today, she stopped trying to run him off.  She still hisses occasionally, but only if they happen to cross paths.  She no longer hunts him down.

I didn't think to lock her up before we tried to give him his fluids and she was lurking behind him, watching.  Did that little brat make him nervous?