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You're About to be Redirected to the New Home of Ground Control to Major Mom: 3/6/11 - 3/13/11

Friday, March 11, 2011

Military Spouse Friday Fill-In #33

These are kinda fun!

Here are this week's questions and my answers (pardon all the questions being numbered "1", I'm in a hurry and I'm having formatting issues):
  1. During military separations (whether short or long) how do you keep yourself positive and motivated? submitted by Married/Single Parent
I stay busy.  REALLY busy!  I did this when deployed myself, and I keep myself and the kids busy when I'm home with the kids while my spouse is away.  This means sports, Cub Scouts, music lessons, birthday parties, trips to the local parks and museums and lots of times hanging out with friends.
  1. What is your favorite concert you have ever been to? submitted by Young but Not (Completely) Dumb
Harry Connick, Jr. in Cary, NC in summer 2008.  He's amazing!  Handsome, talented, whimsical!  He was out on the stage for a solid 2 hours!  Didn't go back stage to change clothes or anything -- not once!  
  1. What do you miss most about your “hometown”?  submitted by A Florida Girl and Her Soldier
I'm from Norfolk, VA and usually I would say it's the smell of the salt air.  But I now live in Florida and I have that salt air back in my life.  And it's wonderful!
  1. If you could run in any race, which charity would you choose to support? submitted by Wookie & Co.
Susan Komen Race for the Cure.  A friend was recently diagnosed -- it's the research and support we have today and continue to need that made her diagnosis nice and early.
  1. You find out Willy Wonka is your father, what 3 course meal do you INSIST he create in that stick of gum?  submitted by A{muse}ing Mommy on a Pink Park Bench
That's going to have to be a SEAFOOD feast!  Lobster bisque, Alaskan King Crab legs, and Blackened swordfish.  Oh wait, and New York cheesecake for dessert!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Florida Discoveries 4: Springtime on the Panhandle...Part II

Part II = The fauna!

Springtime in Florida also means the bugs and animals are all coming out of the woods, the ponds, the ground, etc.  I've already seen more than my share of millipedes in the yard and on my porch, plenty of mosquito hawks, and of course the birds are all coming back.  Those that never left are brightening up, the goldfinches are becoming more gold!

I didn't get pictures of everything I've seen, but I figured a blog post was due because I captured pictures of not one, but TWO animals in my yard just today! I was assembling my new 3' x 6' raised garden bed and enjoying the lovely afternoon while the kids played outside.

First, here's a baby Southern ring-necked snake for you to enjoy.  Don't fret, he was a corpse by the time I discovered him in our driveway. And here's the Florida Cooperative Extension Service briefing about black-colored snakes in Florida. The Southern ring-necked snake is the 3rd one on the list.

I photographed this one with my hand for scale.

Just before I took off for soccer practice (I'm coaching my youngest son's team), I dumped some yard waste into my compost bin and discovered this lizard hanging out.

It took some sleuthing on this one, but I've got it narrowed down to an "anole" of some sort. The Florida green anole is native to this part of the country and they're quite nice. Sometimes in late winter, early spring they're more brown than green. I hope that's what this is, because if it's a "brown anole" or "Cuban anole", they're invasive and they EAT green anoles!

Finally, earlier this week I was rolling out the garbage can at about 7:30 in the morning and threw away some yard trash. The morning was humid and just under the lid was this cute little frog. I'm pretty sure he's an American green tree frog, but I've been reading about these invasive Cuban tree frogs* and wondering if that's what I have instead. This frog seemed to big to be "American green" but too small to be "Cuban".

I worked on coaxing him out from under the lid, but not before he started descending down the trash can...luckily he figured things out and worked his way out of the trash can. Phew!

Lid closed, mission accomplished, congratulations!

*Do you see a trend here? The native species of both of the lizards and frogs mentioned here are cute and green and are called "Florida [frog or lizard]", while the invasive version is brown, called "Cuban" and eats the Floridian? I'm just sayin'...

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Florida Discoveries 4: Springtime on the Panhandle...Part I

I know, it's only March 10th, and many of my readers (I get 50 new visitors per day now, by the way!) are still sitting underneath snowpacks. But here on the Florida Panhandle, the brief winter* we had has definitely given way to spring: complete with thunderstorms, tornadoes, allergies and weeds! Things were brown when I left for Nebraska, and were green and pollen-ey when I returned 5 days later!

*YES -- we experienced a real winter here! It even snowed a little on Christmas Day in Pensacola!

I thought I'd share some pictures of the flora and fauna that have greeted us in the past couple weeks. Last year in Nebraska was especially fun, and I hope to get around the neighborhood more this weekend and capture some of the local redbuds.

First of all, upon my return from Nebraska on Feb. 27th, these shrubs in the front of the house had just started blooming:

From a distance, they look like azaleas, right? But that's not what they are. After some seemingly-random Googling of "pink flowers Florida Panhandle" and things like that, the term "Chinese Fringe Flower" appeared and I chose it. And there you go. This is the loropetalum plant, also known as "Chinese witch hazel" or "Chinese fringe flower".

I have two varieties in my front yard landscaping:

Here's one with my oldest son next to it for scale. The shrubs aren't very tall:

I went to my favorite resource for flora information, my friendly neighborhood Cooperative Extension Service! University of Florida's IFAS briefing on the loropetalum.

I was also curious about how long these plants had been used as landscaping, since I've NEVER seen them until now! Here's some historical information from Mississippi State's Cooperative Extension Service. Looks like only since the early 1990s.

If only this blog had Scratch-n-Sniff! The flowers are quite fragrant!

I'm particularly intrigued with the way the flower buds open up, reminding me of a butterfly coming out of its chrysalis, with the huge antennae uncoiling.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What Not to Do With Your Brand New "Best Picture" Oscar...

A story published in the London Telegraph online brought me a smile this morning.  The co-producer of this year's Best Picture, The King's Speech, Simon Egan, was celebrating the movie's Academy Awards success at a Hollywood party with his 15-month-old daughter Lara in attendance.  Another party guest let Lara hold the Oscar so folks could take pictures.  As expected, that statuette slipped right out of her hands!

You can view the video through this link.

Mr. Egan immediately contacted the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and was relieved to learn that the Academy has a program for repairing damaged statuettes.

Lesson learned -- unless you're Walt Disney with 26 Oscar statuettes to spare, think REAL hard before letting your 15-month-old loose on your symbol of the pinnacle of your career!

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Monday, March 7, 2011

My New Commuter Life, Part III: Food, Folks and Fun*

*Wait a second, wasn't that a major fast-food corporation jingle?

While I was in Nebraska, I did make some time to visit with my Pokeno girlfriends, have a nice dinner out with Shannon (who took me in at her house when the Offutt Inn was booked for the week), and enjoy a trip to Trader Joe's!

Several neighborhood Moms in Bellevue get together for a breakfast pot luck once a month, and a dinner potluck and game of Pokeno also once a month (on another separate day).  The girls elected to move Pokeno night around a little so I could join them!  I shipped a box of Mardi Gras decorations to the ladies, and we had a blast dressing up and enjoying Cristi's tater tot casserole.

We have pictures of the Pokeno ladies from every month!
Guess who???
Who else would appear for the world to see on the Internet in Mardi Gras deely-boppers?  If you look closely, you can see the blinky lights...

Shannon and I also had a chance to go out together for dinner. Shannon was my adventure-buddy when I was in Omaha...she braved the 3-hours-each-way drive to the Ashfall Fossil Beds last summer! We also checked out numerous out-of-the-ordinary restaurants together, and this time around we had a hankerin' for Ethiopian food!

Shannon did the research.  She found two places, both in the downtown Omaha vicinity.  One was called "Ethiopian Restaurant" and the other called "Lalibela's".  We chose "Ethiopian Restaurant" because it was closer to the highway and the weather still wasn't great.

The restaurant shares a business space with an Ethiopian grocery, and the grocery side was very full.  The store owner -- a very pretty young lady, probably in her 30s -- came out and told Shannon and me that she was out of food.  What?  On a Friday night at 6pm???  Don't even go there with the irony of it.

We're hoping it was from the weather...we got back in the truck and headed up the street to the 2nd choice (what are the chances of that???  TWO Ethiopian restaurants within about 5 minutes of each other!!!).

The restaurant was rather empty, just two other couples at tables, eating their respective dinners. We ended up talking to one of the other couples, asking about what they were eating and getting some tips of what's good and what's not. Shannon and I each chose one entree and we grazed freely on both of them. I ordered something with seasoned lamb, while Shannon chose a vegetarian combo. I wish we had ordered two of the veggie combos, I didn't care for the meat too much, but the rainbow of lentils (on the left) was awesome!  Learning how to eat the food without utensils was also fun!

There's a basket in front of Shannon filled with injera, a flatbread that you use as your plate and utensil.  Rip off a piece of injera and scoop away!

Finally, even though I was quite tired from my 4-days in a row of work (wow, what happened to me?), I took a trip out to the recently-opened Omaha Trader Joe's and stocked up on the family favorites!

This will last us till my next trip to Omaha!  I hand-carried this home in a single TJ's reusable shopping bag.  I got crap from Jacob for not picking up some Dorothy Lynch salad dressing...sorry!

Thanks to Shannon, Cristi and Laura for helping make my weekend back in Nebraska so great!

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

My New Commuter Life, Part II: Just Because I Now Live in Florida....

....doesn't mean I never have to see snow again, right?

Or drive in the snow again?

(As promised in my previous post, here's the story of why I'll never buy a Ford Mustang north of the Mason/Dixon line!)

On last weekend's trip to Omaha, I was fortunate to travel in between major winter weather systems.  Temperatures were in the 50s on my first day there, quite nice!

We were forecasting 1-2" of snow on Thursday, February 24th.  We told EVERYONE 1-2", and not just us: the National Weather Service, the television stations, everyone!

What happened was pretty freakish, didn't last that long, and happened right on top of the afternoon/evening commute home.  I only caught one iPhone screen capture of the event's Doppler radar.  I wish I had taken more:

You know how folks talk about great things (or not-so-great things) that happen when "all the stars are aligned?"  Well, in this case, several things "aligned" in the atmosphere to make this nearly-horizontal dark green line form across central Nebraska.  I'm not going to get into the wintertime "convective symmetric instability" here.  That line is HEAVY SNOW, and it dumped about 5" of snow in 3 hours in Bellevue and in areas just south of Offutt AFB.  And the line barely moved for those 3 hours.  It was NUTS!

And I got to drive home in it.  Whee!

I had reported for duty very early that morning, so I figured I'd be heading home around 1:00-1:30pm, but at the last minute I had a meeting that took me to about 3:00pm.  The movement of this line was very slow, and I was itching to leave for the day, so after a few minutes of monitoring a non-moving line, I bit the bullet and left.  If I had left when I thought I'd be leaving, I'd have made it back to where I was staying without incident.  Instead, I fishtailed and skidded all the way back, with heavy snow making things all the worse.

I ending up coming back into my old neighborhood right as my boys' former elementary school was letting out.  The neighborhood is hilly, and there were cars slipping and sliding everywhere.  Since only 1-2" of snow was originally forecast, the salt/silt trucks didn't even come out to prepare the roads.  What a horrific mess!

I couldn't get that #$%  Mustang up the last hill before getting to the house.  I tried several times, but it just wasn't happening.  If there wasn't so much after-school traffic, I might have had the room to roll backwards down the hill, and get enough speed to do it.  But I simply had to abandon the car about a block from where I was staying, and walk in the heavy snowfall, and on unshoveled sidewalks, to the house.  I had my full winter-weather gear, and nice warm boots, at least.  It wasn't a long walk.  Uphill, of course.

About 1/2 hour later, my hostess loaded a few supplies into her Suburban and drove me back over to the car.  With less traffic, I was able to roll backwards back down the hill and tear with full power up the hill to the house.  And here it is right after I got it parked -- POINTING DOWNHILL on the legal side of the street.

How incredibly frustrating -- I'm not a bad winter-weather driver.  I could hold my own in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and South Korea.  Even our 2 1/2 years in Nebraska, we were fine even driving our Toyota Prius.  But with this Mustang, I was dealing with a very lightweight, rear-wheel drive vehicle.  Ugh!

The local National Weather Service office had put out this map of snowfall totals from that one event, note how there was 5+" of snow in a narrow ribbon across south-central eastern Nebraska, but NONE in northern Sarpy and Douglas Counties.  Downtown Omaha saw no snow, but 10 miles to the south was buried in 5-6" of snow that fell in just 3-4 hours.
Image created by the National Weather Service office, Omaha/Valley, Nebraska

There were cold temperatures and snow showers for the next couple days of my stay in the Omaha area, and the snowy weather turned into a freezing rain risk that lasted right up until just a couple hours before my flight out on the 27th.  Since I was heading into work each day at about 4:45am, luckily I could slip and slide around without other cars in the way.  It was nerve-wracking, but I survived.

I'm so glad the next time I head to Nebraska will be well after the winter-weather is done.  I'll only have to worry about tornadoes next time...

Next up, Part III: a happier post about my fun times on this trip: trying out Ethiopian food, enjoying Pokeno with the girls, and shopping at my favorite store, Trader Joe's!

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