Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I continue to make headway!

Hiya! Thought I would pop in and update my progress on my 101 list. The month of March is nearly over, and I have managed to make it through the whole month with no candy...not an ounce of chocolate, no Skittles, nothing. It's been hard, but I try to circumvent my cravings by either dealing with them, or having something else sweet - I've had three or four relatively small servings of ice cream over the past month, and I also went to the drugstore and had an Icee. That's about it though...I've been pretty good. I was hoping that abstaining from candy would show an increase in my energy levels, but I haven't really noticed a difference. Unfortunately, I've been working more than usual this month, so that might be why I'm so tired. 

Today, I wrote my first author fan mail, the first of five required by my list. I sent it to Stephenie Meyer - to those who don't already know (which is probably no one), I am a big fan of the Twilight series. I know a lot of people identify the fans mainly as young teen girls (and they are a big chunk of the fan base), but there are lots of older fans, most notably a large group of women who call themselves Twilight Moms. And while I do definitely have my moments of minor swooning while reading about Edward Cullen, I mostly just love the story and all the characters and the world Stephenie Meyer created. She was a young mom, living at home, who had an amazing dream one night that morphed into the first Twilight book. So, you might understand why I'm inspired by this story... I want to write novels, and she was just a regular person who happened to have a great idea. So I wrote her a letter. And I'm pretty sure I'll never hear back, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't write anyway. So it's out in the mailbox.

I've read 23 of my 101 books so far, and that includes two rereadings of the Twilight series. At first I wasn't going to include the rereadings, but then I decided that there is something to be gained from multiple readings of a book, especially from a writer's perspective. So I think it's okay to include rereadings. It's still time spent with my nose in a book.

I also thought I'd throw in to my blog post here that I've now received postcards from 45 different countries, with the latest new card arriving from Lebanon on Monday!

As for what's new in my life...nothing. Things have been especially boring lately, and I'm kind of bummed about it. I haven't been able to go anywhere because of work, the weather has been frustratingly uncooperative, and I just feel like I need a little change or spontaneity in my life. I don't know how to get it though. 

I leave you with an incredibly funny a capella tribute to Star Wars. Totally random, I know. Enjoy! :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hello friends, we are all Irish today!

Of course, I actually am of Irish descent. My Dad has red hair and I am very fair-skinned with freckles. St. Patrick's Day is a fun holiday in the US, a great day for parties, and if you think about it, a nice reminder that this country is such a mishmash of different cultures. It's really just another feast day for a saint, of which there are many, but because there are so many Irish in this country (and because the Irish throw such great parties...), everyone of every creed, color, race, and sex gets to enjoy the party today. And everyone wears green, which is my favorite color anyway. :)

At any rate, I went birdwatching on Sunday, and I have to say, I really enjoyed myself. I expected to stay out for two hours, maybe, and found that I didn't return home for about four hours. I found a quiet mountain biking trail in Frick Park that
 had very little traffic, so I was able to see some nice birds, 15 species total, including four varieties of woodpecker. I've been talking to my dad about my adventure, and he's been advising me, and generally just seems really happy that I've decided to begin birdwatching again. It was nice to be outside and really focus on the natural environment around me. I didn't see any species of bird I hadn't already seen, but I did see a few I don't find on a regular basis, and I also honed my skills. Birdwatching requires stillness...birds tend to disappear when they know you're there, but if you are quiet and still for long enough, they'll return to their business. It was fun. And then I went home and Vince and I worked in the front garden. We planted spring bulbs (Stargazer lily and freesia) around our new tree along the sidewalk, and I cleared all the debris and detritus from the big garden in front of the house. All the flowers are coming up...we already have crocuses, and soon we'll have tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, peonies, azaleas...I can't wait. 

I have found my one red wine that I can drink anytime, thanks to our great neighbor Bob, who gave it to me as a gift on my birthday after recommending it highly. It's called Wyndham Estates Bin 555 Shiraz. It's under 10 dollars, can be found at the local liquor store, and is really very smooth and yummy. I'd have no qualms about serving it to guests. Thanks Bob. :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spring is here, time to cross something new off my list.

Hi friends. Today is a sunny, blue-skied day, and even though it's only about 40 degrees (4.5 C) outside, it feels warmer and the air finally feels like spring. The high temperatures for the coming 10 days hover around 50 degrees, which is a welcome reprieve from the blustery cold winter months! I was sitting on the front porch at work today enjoying the warm sunshine and watching the birds hop around on the front lawn, when I resolved to clear another item off my list: pick up birdwatching again.

Birdwatching is sort of a family hobby. For my brother I think it could truly be called a hobby; for my dad, I think it might be more appropriate to call it an "epic quest." He's been interviewed for magazines (Forbes, for one), written books, published articles, and traveled to all seven continents (yes folks, that includes Antarctica, in a truly harrowing tale that involves lots of seasickness and massive head injuries) in the name of ornithology...the study of birds. But it's still a hobby. He's a banker. I am sort of surprised and kind of impressed to see that the Cape Romain Bird Conservatory describes my dad as "one of the 'founding fathers' of North American birding." Wonders never cease.

So, as you can imagine, I sort of feel like I should carry the torch. It's an interesting, unique hobby that involves travel and time in nature. I began my own birdwatching career around the age of 7 or 8, and my very first bird was the American Kestrel, which is a small bird of prey (shown above). I had a few very fortunate sightings shortly thereafter, including a snowy owl sitting on a fencepost along a major highway, so maybe it's my destiny to be a birdwatcher. My brother suggested that I devote one afternoon a month at first, possibly trekking down to Frick Park and maybe expanding my radius as I get better at it. I like the idea, and now I have my handy iPhone to help me out. There's an application for the iPhone called iBird Explorer Plus that is a full field guide to North American birds, with Audobon illustrations, photos, range maps, loads of information, and - get this - bird calls. Totally rad. I'm considering buying it, especially after reading the loads of great reviews (one person says, "Some people might say that if you have an iPhone, you have a good reason to get iBird Explorer. I might say that iBird is a good reason to get an iPhone." Talk about a glowing review. Jeez.)

So, here I go, birdwatching! Wish me luck!

PS - I've been really sick (tummy troubles...ughhh) but I am better now. That being said, I've had to take a break from my jogging. BUT I'm still committed, and I plan to take it back up again ASAP!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Flamingos of Bascom Hill

In 1979, the student government at University of Wisconsin decided that the best use of student government funds was to purchase 1,008 plastic flamingos and display them in the center of the beautiful, green campus on historic Bascom Hill. Please read the short and very interesting article about the event at the Wisconsin Historical Society website. The governing body was also responsible for a partial replica of the Statue of Liberty peeking out from the frozen Lake Mendota in the middle of Madison.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Spoiler alert: there's going to be a lot of whining in this post.

I'm feeling sorry for myself today. It's gray and damp outside. I'm very tired and stuffed up - I suspect that I'm getting sick. I scratched my eye and it hurts. I'm at work, have both kids all day, and both of them are miserably sick. The only thing that sounds good to me right now is crawling into my own, warm bed and going to sleep.

Alright, so now that I've got that out of my system, hopefully I can begin to cheer up. So, do you know about Couch Surfing? You can go to to learn more about it. Basically, you offer your house as a place for people to stay while they're traveling, and other people will do it for you. So, if I traveled to, say, Paris, I could contact a couch surfer there a few weeks ahead of time and stay with them, if they're willing to host me. The benefits are manifold, but the two biggest benefits are: 1. You get to travel without paying for lodging. Bonus. 2. You often get an insider's perspective on your vacation spot. You find out about local hangouts, places off the beaten track. To me, that's the most exciting part. The reason I'm telling you about this is because we have our first couch surfer staying at our house right now. It's been going really well, and I'm pretty stoked about the opportunities this system might provide. A lot of people worry that it's dangerous...and there are definitely some safety concerns, but has an elaborate reference system in place so you can be sure that others have stayed with these people without any problems. 

I am still candy-free. I've been doing well with my jogging, although I was supposed to jog today, and now I can't because the kids are home. ( case you don't know this already, they aren't MY kids. I'm a nanny from 8 AM to 7 PM Monday through Friday.) 

So..I need to cheer up. Course of action: take Tylenol Allergy Sinus, have a big cup of coffee, wrap a blanket around my shoulders, and try to think of the good things in my life. I just feel pretty awful. I will appreciate any offers to help make me smile. :)

Monday, March 2, 2009

It's March...where's spring?

So, in my world, March usually means spring is coming. Which is great, except that it's not true. It's 19 degrees F here, or -7 degrees C to all my world friends. Not very springlike at all. 

So, the main purpose for my post here is to let you all know that I imported all my posts from my other blog, Postcard Voyager, to this blog. I get a lot more traffic here, and I think a lot of you would be interested in the postcards. And technically it's related, since one of the items on my list is related to Postcrossing. :) Anyhow, I haven't been updating the Postcard blog very often, so there won't be too many postcard posts here. 

I started on my skirt again, the purple crocheted one, and I am very near to completing it. AND, I've decided that the month of March will be my month with no candy. I think it's going to be pretty tough for me, so any support is appreciated...I love candy, and I have a hard time staying away. But I am nearing the completion of my Couch to 5K Running Program, and in the spirit of getting fit and healthy for spring, I think getting rid of candy will be a good idea.