Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hurricane Gustav

Okay, Gustav, you win. We cannot travel to see my mother. Even if we could, there is the possibility that we will only get so far and have to turn back due to mandatory contraflow lane reversal. Meaning all major highways, roads, and interstates leading into Baton Rouge would be one direction only - away from the storm's path.

When Katrina hit land three years ago yesterday, she was a Category 3. Gustav has not even ventured into the warm Gulf of Mexico waters and he is a Category 4 with winds gusting to 185 mph. Less than 24 hours earlier he was a Tropical Storm. Gustav is expected to intensify to Category 5 by morning. Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans called Gustav "the storm of the century ... the mother of all storms."

My mother is braving it alone in her tiny apartment. She understands that it is not feasible for me to make this trip. We both made peace with that extremely disappointing fact this morning. As hard as it was for us to finally make the decision to delay, we knew it was really our only option. My Aunt Y and The Godather promised me they would see to her. My mother, in her gracious, southern way, has refused their assistance at the moment, thinking she will be fine by herself. She doesn't want to impose on anyone. *sigh* It's not that I expect a major impact for Baton Rouge, but after Katrina they were without power for a week. There were downed power lines and trees everywhere. The torrential rains brought serious flooding. My mother is terrified of thunder storms, so the thought of her going through all that by herself just breaks my heart.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Currently, Tropical Storm Gustav has my mother in tears. Double D and I planned to drive to Baton Rouge on Sunday to see her. We were only going to be there a short time. Monday we were going to shop for a new comforter for her bed and Tuesday was her dentist appointment. Wednesday we planned to head back to Dallas.

Looks like Gustav has other plans in store for us and my mother is sick over it. At first, I thought she was afraid of the storm, especially since Katrina, but through her sobbing she said she was upset because it might cause us to cancel our trip. I assured her as best I could that we would get there at some point soon. Thankfully, she calmed down after that.

Really, at this point, all we can do is wait and see what it will do. While hurricanes are somewhat predictable once a path is established, they can weaken depending on certain meteorological conditions that I fail to comprehend. We're still four days away, so maybe we'll get lucky.

eta: Changed Gustav's status to "tropical storm" instead of hurricane.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Some of My Favorite Things

DHC Hand Revitalizer
I don't quite remember how I discovered DHC products, but almost everything I've tried is great. This hand cream is no exception. I think it's my favorite product of theirs by far. It instantly softens and smooths my skin, making my hands look and feel younger. Works well on elbows, too. The only con is the price for such a small container. I think I paid $19.50 for this 2.8 ounce tube. It's well worth the price if you have extremely dry skin... especially in the winter months.

The thing I love about DHC skincare products is the emphasis on olive oil and the absence of additives that is so bad for your skin and the environment. From their web site:
Bursting with nutrients, olive oil is one of Mother Nature’s finest creations. With its ability to make you look and feel wonderful—not to mention its capacity for making food taste incredible—virgin olive oil is truly a gift from nature that we’ve woven into the very fabric of our product lines.

Manuka Honey Cream
This AMAZING, miraculous cream from New Zealand CURED my eczema. I know this sounds like one of those made-up claims in order to sell something, but I solemnly swear that it is TRUE! Scientists have discovered that honey has a powerful inhibitory effect on no fewer than sixty species of bacteria! Most of these bacteria are notoriously resistant to antibiotics, but they are powerless against the antibacterial properties of honey. Read more about Manuka honey with UMF here.

I had dry, itchy, peeling skin on my hands and feet which prevented me from playing tennis. I had been to my doctor and dermatologist several times and nothing they prescribed worked. My dermatologist had me on oral medication and different ointments at different times. He even told me to wrap my feet in plastic after applying the cream. No difference. No relief.

For 10 years I suffered with this problem, then one day I received a phone call from my mother telling me that some program she'd been watching on tv talked about a special honey for eczema sufferers. I pretty much hung up on her and started Googling. Not really, but I was pretty desperate for help. Since my doctors were unable to cure me, what did I have to lose with honey?

I ended up on Amazon's web site where I discovered Active Manuka Honey Cream. The $31.00 price tag for a tiny tube of cream made me wince, but I had already spent a ton of money at the doctor's with zero results, so I thought this was worth a try.

From the moment I applied the cream I experienced relief. Finally! After two weeks I saw dramatic improvement--my skin was healing and returning to a healthy pink color, the itching was gone, and the peeling was subsiding. After a couple of months my eczema was all but gone. This was 2009 and as of 2011 I am still eczema-free for the most part. I keep a tube on hand for small flare-ups that occur on my right thumb. The area on my thumb is so small that I am going to consider myself cured.

Manuka honey cream can also be used for cuts, burns, chapped dry skin, poison oak, insect bites, and newly diagnosed shingles.

Canon 55-250mm f/4-5.6 Lens
Purchased in 2010, this has been a great-performing lens for wildlife photography. Prior to this I had the 75-300mm f/4-5.6 and was not impressed. Even when using a tripod I felt the images were not sharp.  I purchased the 55-250 because of the Image Stabilization and the reasonable price ($229) and I have not been disappointed. I only wish it was a little longer, but that is not the fault of the lens! It does what it's supposed to do, and quite well, I might add.

The 55-250 stays on my camera 90% of the time. Check out my Wildlife set on Flickr to see the results from this awesome lens.

I am hoping to add the 400mm to my Favorites list sometime this year!

The Furminator
This wonderful grooming tool is awesome if you have a thick coated dog like I do.

Chance, my Golden Retriever/Chow mix, stood patiently for nearly 20 minutes while I de-furred his coat. After all was said and done, I filled a quarter of a trash bag with his fur. I could have kept going, but he decided he had had enough, so I stopped because I wanted him to have a good memory of getting brushed. He looked absolutely beautiful, as though he had been professionally groomed. And he felt better, too.

I don't know exactly how, but The Furminator's blades or teeth penetrate deep into the undercoat, removing more fur than any tool I've previously tried. Other tools have caused discomfort and didn't remove nearly enough fur. This product also claims to reduce shedding in between brushes. Guess what? It really does.

I purchased the one shown above which is the medium size. Chance weighs about 50 lbs. and this size is not really adequate. I'd recommend if you have a larger dog to get the larger tool. Be prepared to fork over some moolah, though. The medium comb was about $50.00 and the large was $60.00; however, the performance you get from this tool is worth every penny.

Canon 50d
The Canon 50d is my 2nd SLR and I love it! My passion is nature photography, even though I have a hard time coping with the elements. Go figure. I love animals, flowers, birds, water, etc. This camera does an excellent job of capturing wildlife.

If you're thinking of upgrading from a point and shoot or a lower level SLR, I would highly recommend this camera. The menu is easy to navigate and the results from this camera make me feel like I know what I'm doing. :)

189/365: Kindle
I bought the Kindle 2 for my daughter's 29th birthday and she loved it. At first I didn't think it was something for me, even though I usually embrace technology and used to love books. Several months later I found myself wondering if this might help reignite my love of reading. In my teens and 20s I devoured books, losing myself in them. The price had recently come down significantly on the Kindle, so I thought, 'why not?'

The Kindle did what I thought it would do for me and more. For instance, I had always wanted to read John Steinbeck, so I did. I read The Grapes of Wrath first and was so impressed that I ordered East of Eden immediately. Wow. Fell in love with John Steinbeck.

I also love that you can download samples of books for free. This way you can determine if a book is worth buying before you make the commitment. I also love that in my purse I have my entire book collection at my fingertips should I find myself in waiting room hell.

Although my reading appetite has slowed recently from voracious to barely eating, it's not because of the device. Life can sometimes get in the way so I need to make time once again for my beloved Kindle.

Dyson Vacuum
With 3 dogs we have pet hair in our house like you wouldn't believe. For years I convinced myself that the Dyson vacuum was probably overpriced and underperforming. After going through many mid-priced vacuums that were obviously no match for our hair problem, I decided to give the Dyson DC24 ball vacuum a whirl. I figured if it didn't perform as it should, I would return it to Amazon, and be proven right!

Surprisingly, it was a breeze to put together, so I put it to use immediately. It maneuvers easily, adjusting from carpeting to bare floors effortlessly. It's also extremely lightweight which means I can vacuum without feeling like I'm going through a Biggest Loser Last Chance workout. The hair fills up the bin quickly, letting me know that it is doing its job.

We've only had it since December, 2010, so I can't speak to its longevity, but I will update with any issues as they arise. Overall, I really do love this vacuum. Well, as much as a vacuum can be loved.

Philips Sonicare Toothbrush
After my last dental cleaning, I decided that I would splurge on this product because I wanted to prolong that tingling, clean feeling. I purchased one for me and one for Double D. We both love it. The two minute timer is great and the feeling afterwards from the vibrating bristle action is amazing. The hardest part for me is keeping my big mouth shut so I don't splatter toothpaste everywhere.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dear Me

I am shamelessly copying this from Shamelessly Sassy's blog. In an issue of Marie Claire, a contest was held for people to write letters to their 18 year old selves from today. I found the concept fascinating.

Dear Gail at age 18,

The used Ford Galaxy your dad is going to give you has bad brakes and it will cause you to t-bone a car that darts in front of you. Don't worry though, no one will be hurt. The lady you hit will try to blame you for the accident, even though she’s the one who took a chance, going across three lanes of traffic during rush hour in the pouring rain. Fortunately, insurance sides with you since the roads were slick and the other lady was making a dangerous maneuver.

Better enjoy your freedom now because 10 months after your 18th birthday you will be impregnated by someone who isn’t in love with you, although he does the "right thing" and marries you. This pregnancy will take you into the hottest summer on record with no air conditioning in the car. That same sorry car will leave you stranded numerous times, with you and your big belly sitting on the side of the road feeling frustrated and scared.

You will get your first office job at an insurance firm, but will stupidly pay a monthly fee to the agency that placed you there. The job doesn't pay enough to warrant this. Fortunately, your mother goes to bat for you and somehow gets the contract voided. Way to go mom!

Your aunt will soon recommend you for a job at the plastic plant she works for. It will be your first introduction to a computer so big it is housed in a chilly room all by itself. Watch out though because your lecherous new boss will French kiss you through your car window as you try to leave the parking lot late one evening. You speed away shaking and worrying how this affects your future with the company. Karma is faithful though, and shortly thereafter he is fired for something unrelated. You will get another boss who is the size of Godzilla with a personality to match. He expects you to work on weekends and when your new husband tells him to shove it, you are fired the following Monday morning. Not to worry - this will allow you to stay home with the new baby, collecting unemployment.

If you would only take higher education seriously, you could enjoy a nice career, more pay, and complete autonomy. An air conditioned car could be a reality, not just a dream. At least the man you married obtained his degree so it looks as though some of life's luxuries are within reach, although the marriage is destined for failure. It does, however, produce two more beautiful children. In that regard, it will all be worth it.

Well, it is your journey after all, to take the paths that seem exciting, or to follow a crooked, dark path that seems scarily alluring. If you must make life-altering choices, at least learn from them. Figure out ways to improve your life and help those around you. As long as you're learning and growing, you're getting wiser which is always a good thing. That's all I have to say to myself.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Archer Farms, how I love thee

I have always been the type of person to turn my nose up at store brands. Even when I was poor, I refused to buy the generic version of my favorite foods. I tried to buy them a few times and was always disappointed in the quality. Target's "Archer Farms" brand, however, has become the exception to my snobbery.

Perhaps the packaging caught my attention or the word Organic; whatever it was, I took a chance and it certainly paid off. I think. My waist and hips might tell a different story. The first thing I remember trying was a huge container of Asian mix. Crunchy, salty things are my weakness and this doesn't disappoint. Filled with peas, rice crackers, sesame sticks, walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts, this is one of my favorite snacks. If I could customize it, I would remove everything but the peas and rice crackers, as they are my favorites, but having the other crunchy companions does give it variety.

After that delightful experience I wanted to try more crunchy, salty offerings by Archer Farms. Wasabi has been on my radar for a while, so when a bright green bag of Archer Farms' Wasabi Mustard potato chips caught my eye, I had to try it. Oh. My. Can I just say mouth orgasm? Well, I did, so there. The problem is, when I open the bag, I can hardly control myself. From the crunch to the perfect blend of mustard and wasabi flavor, I am a goner every time. Recently, I refrained from buying them due to my lack of self-control, but caved and bought a bag on Sunday. When I finally allowed myself to open the bag yesterday I was all "Oh, Wasabi Mustard chips, where have you been? I've missed you so", and proceeded to commit one of the seven deadly sins, demolishing half a bag in one sitting. I could have easily eaten the entire bag, but I do still have a smidgeon of self-respect left.

Double D has also caught onto Archer Farms' delectable delights. His favorite is the Party Mix which contains pretzels, honey roasted peanuts, and sesame sticks. He would like to do away with the pretzels, though. He eats them reluctantly, and/or gives some to the dogs. The dogs are very grateful to partake in Archer Farms' snackage. Izzy has even started to drool when Archer Farms is in her presence.

Getting brave in my quest of all things Archer Farms, I branched out and discovered Pineapple-Peach salsa. YUM! I am very picky about salsa in a jar, so the fact that I buy this every week is a testament to its goodness. The heat is mild with the fruit taming it down even more, adding a unique combination of flavors. I adore sweet and hot together and this is a marriage made in heaven. I first bought the small jar, still not quite trusting the "store brand", and now the large jar is a staple on my weekly grocery list.

My waist line is proud to show off all this snacking, but right now, I just don't care. I am freaking, fracking smitten with Archer Farms.

Still Sizzling

This is timely! I can complain in two languages now. The high today is supposed to be 98. Hey, at least it's under 100! Some relief.

Monday, August 4, 2008


The Dallas Morning News has the following posted on their web site: EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING continues through this evening, and an Air Pollution Watch Level Orange is in effect for today. Dangerously hot weather will continue today. And only slightly lower temperatures are expected on Tuesday. Rain chance are slim to none. But we are keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Edouard in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mercy! Please help us, Edouard!

Saturday night we went out to eat with my daughter and her friend. We managed to enjoy a lovely dinner and drinks, briefly forgetting that hell was brazenly flaunting itself outside, flames licking at the restaurant doors. After an hour or so, we ventured to our cars which could seriously double as moving ovens and trekked over to their house. After playing Rockband for a couple of hours we attempted to go outside on the patio to play darts. We all assumed that by 10:30PM it would be cooler. WRONG! A few rounds of darts and we scurried back inside, cursing the scorching, relentless Texas weather. Brutal.

Our dogs are allowed no more than 15 minutes to do their thing in the backyard. Izzy is so fair-skinned we worry about her getting a sunburn. I picked her up yesterday after she had been outside for just a few minutes and she felt hot, like I had just scooped her from a baking dish. I actually said, "Izzy, I almost need a set of potholders to handle you, girl!" I began to wonder if she could literally cook out there if left for any length of time. I won't elaborate on the horrible thought processes I allowed to run rampant for several minutes. My brain gets a little carried away sometimes with tragic thoughts :/

This morning on the way to work I passed an electronic bank sign displaying a temperature of 86 degrees. That's never a good sign at 8:15 AM, and definitely doesn't help motivate me on a Monday morning.

Ugh, I'm not sure how many more summers I can endure here.

ETA: Oh, the irony. My Italian word of the day: