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27 July 2009


Today was my first day of training at CA. We covered benefits and some technology things. Since the campus was founded by a software company, they are very heavy on the technology aspect of education. Every student and every teacher has a tablet PC, and the school network is loaded with awesome software tools for us all to use. It was pretty fabulous to learn about all of them and start to get ideas as to how to use them in my classroom.

While the techy part of the day was pretty great, the best by far was the benefits presentation. Turns out, I now have freakin' AWESOME insurance. First off, the school pays all the premiums for employees. I don't need to pay anything but my copays and deductibles. Secondly, they put $1100 in my flex spending plan for me to use on additional medical expenses! Thirdly, my dental plan cost $30 a month. I'm so utterly astounded by the complete awesomeness of this. Starting August 1st, I will be fully insured with kick-ass insurance.

As for now, I am completely and totally exhausted. Eight hours of presentations and meetings has worn me out. After a cocktail, I'll be hitting the hay pretty early. I'm beat!

25 July 2009

Sadly, summer has ended

It's rather sad, but, come Monday morning, my carefree and adventurous summer will be over. I will begin my new job as English Teacher Extraordinaire. I'm pretty excited about the new gig (actually, I'm SUPER excited!), but I'm a bit sad to see my fun summer of traveling and moving and new experiences. I was able to visit The Boy in DC four (I think), and we had some fun times. We got to see all of the city and do some exploring. On my most recent trip (this past weekend), we visited the Franciscan monastery that is in the northeast section of town. (Normally, this section of town is pretty sketch, but it is just beyond the borders of the sketchy part of town. We felt safe.) The monastery is actually the Holy Land in America. This means that this monastery is an exact replica of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. It is a fully functioning church with a friary and beautiful gardens as well as replicas of the various tombs, monuments, and catacombs that would be found in the Holy Sepulcher. It was breath-takingly beautiful.

This is the interior of the (replica) chapel in which St. Francis died a looooooooong time ago (800 years or so).

The back door of the above-mentioned chapel.

The entire church yard is surrounded by the Rosary Portico.
Along the portico is the Hail Mary written in over 170 different languages.

The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Well, at least, the statue of Mary that is in the grotto.

These are a few interiors of the church. I didn't take too many because I felt awkward taking pictures inside of such a sacred place, but there were a few I couldn't resist.

The shrine of the Blessed Mother.

The amazing bronze altar in the center of the church.
The shrine of St. Francis.
(Appropriate given that it is a franciscan monastery.)
It was a beautiful and moving visit to such a holy place. It allowed The Boy and I to have some quality time to connect with each other as well as reflection on our faith. We walked through the church and around the grounds for a few hours, absorbing the beauty and discussing both personal and religious matters. Not that we were having relationship problems or anything; it's just nice to be able to reconnect and deepen your relationship in a spiritual and awe-inspiring place. And it was also a wonderful place to end what I like to call "My DC Summer."

22 July 2009

Happy (early) birthday, Jeffrey David!

Congrats, little boy! You are now one! I made you a cake!

Jeffrey waving "hello" one short year ago.
He's grown soooooo much!

And here is your birthday cake!

I hope you enjoy it, little guy!!!

21 July 2009


I finally got a bunch of my favorite NY pics printed and now will be framing them. I'd like to have them professionally done, but, alas, I'm too poor for that. So I bought a bunch of frames from Michael's and will be spending a good portion of the day sticking my pics in frames. I'll post some pics of my pics at some point.

It's official ... I'm old.

I woke up today as a 29 year old. Yes, yesterday was my birthday, but, given that I was born at 11:30 at night, today is my first day as an old woman. I know that 29 isn't all that bad, but 30 is just around the corner and THAT is a scary number for me.


But I think 29 is going to be a good year. I've got a new job in a new city with a new house and some wonderful new opportunities. For the first time in a long time, I'm excited about the future. (Not that I've been bleak about the future, but, come on now, let's be serious. Grad school is a long, dark path with only a faint light at the end of the tunnel!) So, I'm looking forward to the coming months.

So, while old-people birthdays are lackluster, new opportunities and experiences are exciting!!

19 July 2009

Searching for a home

I've had some difficulty since I moved finding a church that I can call "home." While I fully appreciate the fact that the Catholic mass is the same everywhere on any given Sunday (this is one of the reasons that I was drawn to The Church.), the make up of the mass is really different church to church. Because of this, I've been "church shopping" for the past few weeks, visiting a different church every week.

I'm liberal and modern in most aspects of my life, except my church. I prefer a very traditional church that is in a traditional building. After Vatican II, there was a movement to change the physical structure of churches. They (Rome) shifted from building churches with very traditional and ornate with a nave and transept to far more simplistic and modern theater-in-the-round churches. The idea was that no parishioner would be no more than 11 pews/rows away from the celebrant at any time in the mass. With this change, the wonder and awe was wiped out of the church building. Gone was the gold, stained glass, and deeply stained hardwood, replaced with light oak and pines and simple, neutral colors. The strong stonewalls with stone floors were replaced with beige carpeting and drywall covered walls. The art (when it actually exists) in the modern churches is often modern and abstract, far from inspiring. The statues are angular and impressionist not the realist and classic statues of the old church. I want to worship in a space that inspires me as a supplement to the inspiration that I feel from the words being spoken.

Aside from the dramatic shift in structure, the mass itself has morphed in ways that I dislike. The mass traditionally opens with a hymn and a recitation of the Penitential Rite. The Penitential Rite, for me, is one of the most important parts and it is usually spoken aloud in unison. It is a public confession of sin and a public request for forgiveness and prayers on our behalf. It is important to speak this aloud because it is a public acknowledgement that we are sinful people in so many ways and we are in need of prayers and forgiveness. A lot of modern churches have deleted this recitation from the mass because it makes parishioners feel guilty and makes them uncomfortable. Well, they should feel that way!!!! That's the whole point!!!! Public recognition of our sinful nature should make us feel guilty and uncomfortable. But, to appease the parishioners, the priests have taken to excluding that very important part.

I also find it frustrating that many churches have stopped keeping missalettes in the pew that allow parishioners to follow along and read the Gospel and other readings. Not having the missalettes available doesn't allow me to read the daily readings in silence while I wait for mass to begin. It doesn't allow me that time for reflection and centering myself to prepare for the mass.

These may seem like little things, but they are also just a couple of big things that frustrate me. There are quite a few smaller issues with the Vatican II church that frustrate me, but that would be a rather lengthy blog that I just don't have the time to write. I want to be surrounded by the beauty and grace as I experience the Eucharist and God's most awesome sacrifice. I want to participate in traditional prayers and sing traditional hymns. I'm just not into a "touch-feely" church.

Hopefully in the coming weeks I will discover a new "home" for my spiritual self. And then I can stop "church shopping."

18 July 2009

Culinary successes!

I made these a few weeks ago for a school function and forgot to share with my loyal readers. (;-P) They were super tasty.

I toasted some baguette slices and blended some chevre with some dried apricots. After I spooned the chevre mixture onto the slices, I drizzled some honey over the top and crowned each one with a ripe blueberry.

I'm not bragging, but they were kinda the hit of the party!

Replacement plants!

Since all of my plants died while I was out of town (yes, I'm a delinquent mother!), Mom and Dad gave me some money to buy some pretty replacements. I hit the Raleigh Farmer's Market and was oh-my-gosh-overwhelmed! It was so big and there was sooooooo much to see. I made some fun selections. I potted them as soon as I got home, just as it started to rain. I LOVE FREE WATER for my plants!!!

This is arguably my favorite. It makes me think of Kiki. She needs one so she'll always have a subject to paint! Ornamental peppers. Aren't they cool? I can't wait to throw them into some salads and meals!!

Some new basil (it's greek columnar so it stands nice and tall all the time!) regular basil, oregano, and thyme. Turns out that all these can winter and then come back bigger and better in the spring! So excited about that!

I've never had aloe vera before, so I thought I would give it a try.

This is some kind of cool fern that I found. It will get huge if I put it in a big enough pot.

The peace lily is old, but this is all of the other plants and the St. Francis is new. (The St. Francis came from my NY trip.)

The view from the bottom of the stairs.
My little chives. They are garlic chives and taste GREAT!
My new rosemary and some sage.

I'm super happy with my birthday presents. Yeah!!!!

Thanks Mom and Dad.
You are the greatest!!!

16 July 2009

Surprisingly not bad!

I have been craving bone-in, thick cut pork chops all day. Earthfare has the best. When I went to the grocery store, they only had the boneless chops. They're okay, but not nearly as awesome. I bought them anyway, along with the rest of my groceries.

When I got home, I debated on what to eat (ice cream or a real dinner) and finally succumbed to my rational logic. A healthy dinner won out. So I sauteed some chopped green onions with some pulverized Marcona almonds (arguably my favorite snack EVER!) in a bit of herb-infused olive oil and salt. I coated the pork chop (which was a pretty great piece of meat) in egg and panko bread crumbs and placed it under the broiler. In the meantime, I baked some awesome Alexa potato wedges (olive oil, parmesan, and garlic). I cracked open a bottle of Broadbent and enjoyed.

I had some serious doubts about the pork. The broiler makes me nervous because there is such a thin line between done and burnt. I prefer grilling, but I haven't got a new grill yet. So, broiling it is. It looked a bit burnt, so I sprinkled some hoisin sauce on it. When it was all done, I plated it with the sauteed onions and almonds and put the potatoes on the side.

It was actually good!!! The pork was perfectly done and the sauteed mix was super tasty! And, of course, the potatoes always taste yummy!

And now I get to finish the bottle of wine!

13 July 2009

Who wants to go to Spain?

I do!! I do!!!

I got a CFP (call for papers, for those living happily outside of academia!) the other day for an international conference being held in ... MADRID!!! Unlike most CFPs recently, it's actually about something that I'm interested in! The greatest thing is that, if I get accepted to present, CA will pay for my trip. How friggin' awesome is that? Spain in November for five days? I can TOTALLY do that.

Now, I just need to keep my fingers crossed and pray REALLY hard that my proposal gets accepted!

11 July 2009

5am should be illegal

After a half (or a wee bit more) of a bottle of wine last night, I was looking forward to sleeping in on a nice Saturday morning.

Bailey had other plans. At 5am, she threw up. Ten minutes later, she threw up more. And it was pretty bloody. Her stomach is irritated again (probably due to all of the traveling in the last few days), and I don't have an oral syringe to get her medicine into her. So pouring it down her throat into her stomach was fun. Loads of fun.

So now we are camped out on the couch, playing on the computer, and watching old -- very old -- episodes of Married with Children.

Good times, good times.

10 July 2009

My makeshift candelabra

I've been wanting a candelabra for my dining room table for quite some time. I'm rather particular in my tastes (big surprise there, right?) so finding the right one has been tough. I want something classy yet versatile and something that throws a lot of candle power. When I was in CNY, I found the perfect "candelabra" at a winery. It is actually three separate candle holders that are attached to corks that fit in the neck of a wine bottle. The candle-holders are wrought iron and hold either two or three tapers. I purchased 2 2-candle holders and 1 -three candle holders. I placed them in bottles that bear significance (one is a DRAMATICALLY overpriced chardonnay that was the first American wine to wine a medal in an international competition, one one is a chateuneuf de pape, and another is a rose that we really enjoyed) and arranged them on the dining room table. Below are the results.

Without the tapers lit ...

With the tapers lit ...

And the lights off for affect ...

I'm happy with the results. Although they will look far more dramatic with the hot plate removed and a romantic table setting placed. :)

Last pics from the North (and a few from the Mid-Atlantic)

The waterfalls in Shendagin Hollow.
(Yes, there is a hollow near my parent's home. It least we don't call
it a "holler!")

There was a warren of small baby bunnies in a good friend's yard. They are soo tiny!
I want a bunny!

And now for some DC ...

The flamingos at National Zoo were hatching their babies.

Look at the little guy! He was so awkward and gangly.
But terribly, terribly cute!

"The Thinking Ape"

Meal time at the gorillas habitat.

Sleeping Panda.
(That should totally be a yoga pose. I'd do it!)
Open wide!
The hippo at the Natural History Museum.
This picture makes me laugh.
It kinda reminds me of "The Face!"
Poor awkward giraffe.
Sometimes I feel this way.
Being tall has it's ups and downs.
hahahaha ... that's funny!

Dinner in the trees.

And now I'm home!

My visit North -- a wrap up

Spending 2 1/2 weeks on vacation was a new experience for me. I usually only go away for a week at a time, but my schedule and money situation allowed for a longer visit with the family. I returned home yesterday feeling refreshed and rejuvenated (aside, of course, from the need to grocery shop and run errands and just get back to normal. I mean, seriously, I moved into my new place on June 10th and have spent five nights in my own bed!).

Upstate really is my home. My parent's home is situated on a large lot of land (something like 20 acres), and it is wide, open space. B gets to run around and never be on a leash. The air is clearer, and the sky is bluer. When it's not raining! But even after the rain stops, the sky is beautiful and the clouds make amazing formations. Spending time with Mom and Pops (as well as the rest of the family) reminds me of where I come from and how I became who I am. So much of me is embedded in the people and the hills and the valleys of CNY. It's sometimes too easy to lose sight of that when I'm so far away.

But don't get me wrong, I love my life down here. Especially with all of my new opportunities!! I like being in the city with great restaurants and fun things to do and see. I like the hustle and bustle of an urban setting. I just need to have that time to collect myself and find my center once in a while. And two weeks was wonderful! It gave me time to relax and reconnect with the people who mean the most to me.

But, sadly, now it's back to the daily grind. I've got a dissertation to work on and lessons to plan and a house to make a home ...

Home sweet home

I'm back in RTP! I got home yesterday around 1:30pm but couldn't post anything because I had no internet. Which blows. But this morning the cable man showed up!!! And hooked me up with TV and internet!!! Of course, this is not without it's drawbacks. While I now have internet for work purposes, I also now have cable which means all work purposes will be most likely be defeated. I'll have to learn some self control! Which, as most of you probably already know, isn't my strongest suit. (If you need evidence, just examine my shoe closet!)

02 July 2009

Bird Update

The clutch of eggs that was laid in the driveway has finally hatched, producing little golf-ball-sized babies! (One little egg disappeared before the hatching so there are only three babies.) They are really cute. They run around the property like little sand pipers (you know, the birds from the beach?), often getting in the way of the cars as they drive up and down the driveway. Dumb, but cute.

Momma Bird

#1 of three babies

#2 of 3

#3 of 3

See how tiny they are?!?

The bluebird babies have also "flown the coop." I managed to get a few blurry pics before they left the nest with their momma and poppa.


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