Thursday, February 28, 2008

15 Bean Soup

So last night we made 15-bean soup with ham in it. After I was done, I fed two pieces of fat to my dogs. I let them eat it off the spoon.

Several minutes later, Mike and I both decided to have a bit more soup. After I was done with the second bowl, I went to feed my dogs the leftover fat.

Then I realized I had never washed my spoon after feeding them the first time.


Amanda Overmyer - Carry On Wayward Son - Top 10 Girls

This was the train-wreck performance of the evening on American Idol last night. And her hair looked so ridiculous! She looked like she was auditioning to play Cruella DeVille off Broadway.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What are you doing right now?

I'm sitting on my numb ass, which got this way from sitting in a Denny's restaurant for three hours, meeting with a potential client. It was worth my time, by the way. Now I'm seriously thinking about backing away from this computer and marching into the living room to participate in a workout DVD. Or maybe I'll just watch TV. Tough choice.

So what are you doing right now?

Imagine David Archuleta

Update: his performance finally is on You Tube this morning. Give this a listen

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My American Idol Prediction

David Archuleta may or may not win the finale this year, but I will tell you this: this kid is going to get a record deal and I am going to wait in line to buy it.

If you saw tonight's episode, you heard what is perhaps the most amazing version of John Lennon's "Imagine" ever performed. I daresay he outsang even John.

How well do you know Downtown Lakeland?

If you read this blog, I guess it's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Downtown Lakeland. I love its history. I love the fact that there remains clear signs of what Downtown Lakeland was in its prime. That is- pre-revitalization. I'm not saying it's not in its prime now. In fact, I believe it very likely is every bit as good today as it was way back when...
Above are two of my favorite shots of Downtown Lakeland nostalgia. For those of you who, like me, spend a lot of time in the area, I'm sure these are easy to identify. So this is mainly to those who don't fit that category. Any ideas as to where these photos were taken?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Volunteer for the Great American Cleanup

Wow...long time, no blog. Been mighty busy with work these days, but in the midst of all that, I've been able to carve out some time to give back to this community I love. I'm volunteering again, and it feels great to be contributing.

Recently I was invited to serve on the Keep Polk County Beautiful Board of Directors. It's not a huge stretch, really. I served as the organization's executive director for three years, so it's a no-brainer that I believe in the mission.

KPCB's signature event, The Great American Cleanup, is March 29, so that's what I am focusing on today. This is a day where thousands of volunteers band together to make this place a bit more beautiful. They pick up litter from parks, roadsides, schools and businesses. They plant flowers. They collect items for recycling.

Here's a sad fact: every year, KPCB gets more volunteers than the previous year, but they also pick up more trash. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't the work of a litter prevention organization accomplish so much that each year, less trash is picked up because there's less of it out there? I wish that were true.

You can help make that an attainable goal several ways:
  1. Do your part by volunteering to participate in the Great American Cleanup.
  2. If you have children, teach them not to litter. Your first step should be setting a good example and not being a litterbug yourself!
  3. If you are a smoker, cigarette butts are litter, too. STOP THROWING THEM OUT YOUR CAR WINDOW AND ON THE GROUND.
  4. If you live in unincorporated Polk County, the city of Lakeland, or several other cities that offer curbside recycling, participate in the program. If you don't have a recycling bin, call your Solid Waste Department and request one. They'll deliver it right to your door.
  5. Cover your load. If you're hauling something in the back of your truck, cover it or properly secure it so it won't fly out. If trash blows out the back of your truck, you are littering.
  6. Report people who you see littering. The KPCB Web site offers a way of doing so by submitting a Litter Trooper Report.

Volunteers who participate in the Great American Cleanup will receive free T-shirts and free passes to Historic Bok Sanctuary, while supplies last. For more information, call the KPCB office: 863-676-7019.

If you live in Lakeland and you can't participate in KPCB's March 29 event, sign up to participate in a Lakeland Clean & Beautiful event by calling 863-834-3306. Winter Haven residents can participate in Keep Winter Haven Beautiful's event on March 15 by calling 863-291-5662.

None of these dates are good for you? Don't worry. Great American Cleanup activities begin March 1 and run through May 31. Don't be afraid to gather your friends, family members and neighbors and do your own cleanup. KPCB and the other local Keep America Beautiful affiliates provide gloves, trash bags and litter grabbers for cleanups any time of year.

For those of you who don't live in Polk County, I invite you to visit the Keep America Beautiful Web site. Here, you can find an affiliate near you so you can get involved in the Great American Cleanup.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Shuckey's Restaurant Review

I promise not to make this a habit, but I have to write about Shuckey's Oyster Bar and Seafood Company. Ever been someplace that you really wanted to love?
That was Shuckey's for me. Mike's friend from high school, Gus, recommended the place, which is a stone's throw from our house. When I forgot to thaw salmon for supper tonight, Shuckey's was the first choice for dining out.
Here's what I liked:
  • Brightly painted exterior, reminiscent of Key West.
  • Christmas lights hung throughout (made the place look cool!), along with lots of cool signs, posters and neon lights.
  • An outside eating area.
  • A menu full of reasonably priced food.
  • A server who kept a smile on her face the ENTIRE evening, even when I'm sure I appeared to be losing patience.
  • Big shrimp, great tasting grouper and crispy fries and hushpuppies.

Here's what I didn't like:

  • The speed of service. We got there at 5:15 p.m. and left a few minutes after 7 p.m.
  • The raw oysters (see photo above).
  • The cole slaw.
  • No fountain soft drinks. We were brought canned Cokes, and charged $1 each for them.
  • By the time our food finally came, 45 minutes had passed and our Cokes were watered down.
  • The speed of trying to get out of there.

When we arrived, there were two people at one table who were nearly done with their meal, and one table of four people who were ordering. After waiting 30 minutes for our food, I asked the server if Mike could at least get his raw oysters (they required no cooking, after all) and she politely told me they were filling orders in the order they were received and there was a BIG order ahead of us. Uh...that was the four people at the table behind us. I think that's a clear sign of trouble when four people constitute a "big order."

Shuckey's needs a lesson in cole slaw making. It was white cabbage and dressing. Period. No carrots. No purple cabbage. Not finely chopped. Big, hulking pieces of cabbage.

Regarding said oysters, the menu offers a "Shuckey's Dozen," which is 13 oysters. The shells above housed two of the oysters. I swear to you, I thought Mike had been short-changed two oysters when the tray came out because these two runts were hidden under bigger oysters. Note to Shuckey's: if you're gonna brag about how your dozen oysters is more than the next guy, don't include oysters in shells like the ones pictured above. You do nothing to advance your reputation by pulling a stunt like that.

If I go to a sit-down restaurant, I want my Coke from a fountain, not a can. If there was to be a next time for me at Shuckey's- which, unfortunately, there won't- I would bring my own can of Coke.

At the rate everything had gone that night, we knew better than to wait for our server (the ONLY server in the entire place, mind you) to bring us the check. We went to the bar to ask for it. She kindly asked us if we could wait a minute. That's what we had been doing all night, so why stop now? She delivered beer to a table outside, took a guy's order (after politely apologizing for his long wait) and then brought us the check. While waiting for her to run through the credit card, we chatted with some people at the bar, all of whom complained about the slow service.

So, as badly as I wanted to like Shuckey's, I have to say that sometimes it takes more than good food to make a restaurant good. I'm sure if anyone from Shuckey's reads this, they'll refer me to this info box printed on their menu: "Just about everything at Shuckey's is hand prepared in our kitchen. Some menu items may take longer than others...we appreciate your patience and your business."

This is my response. I don't care how good the food is, 45 minutes is too long to wait to get it.

Promenade and Pancakes

Friday night's Music on the Promenade was awesome. Above is an early shot of the crowd- oh, and my husband. Karasoul was an awesome band, as long as they stuck to covers. Sadly, I didn't dig the original stuff. I planned ahead this time and packed a picnic basket full of Riesling, cheese, crackers, kiwi, strawberries, veggies, dip and pretzels. Mike's oldest son and the girlfriend joined us for a while, so there were plenty of snacks to go around. The sunset was beautiful, the weather was perfect and we can't wait til next month's event.
This morning, it was off to the annual Kiwanis Pancake breakfast. Note to those who attend next year: I'm told by an insider to get there before 9 a.m. and you can zip right through. Mike and I ate a bunch of warm, buttery pancakes with some sausage and OJ on the side. Yum!
I'm ashamed to say that we missed the Lakeland Farmers Market today. After pancakes, we were so full and tired that we came home and took a nap.

Friday, February 15, 2008

No Excuse to Stay Home This Weekend

If you live in Lakeland, you ought to have a full dance card this weekend! Tonight is Music on the Promenade, featuring the band Karasoul. It's free- bring a blanket or a chair and a picnic basket.

Tomorrow is the Farmers Curb Market downtown- 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. You don't want to miss out on the fresh strawberries and collard greens, people! Also, there's a new vendor there who sells the cutest little dwarf bunnies for $10. He also sells cages for them and the quality is amazing. Artist Richard Bond will be there, wondering when I'm gonna buy that painting that I've had my eye on for weeks.

Also on Saturday is the Kiwanis Club's annual Pancake Festival. Here's what appeared in The Ledger:

"North Lakeland Kiwanis Club, Citrus Kiwanis Club and Kiwanis Club of Lakeland will hold the 50th annual Pancake Festival to support Kiwanis community programs on Saturday at the hangar at Tiger Town on Massachusetts Avenue in Lakeland. All-you-can-eat pancakes, sausage and coffee will be served from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will be displays and booths by merchants and groups along with entertainment in the afternoon. Tickets are available from Kiwanis members for $4 for adults and $2 for children or at the door for $5. Call 838-9686."

Now that's more fun than you can shake a stick at! I hope to see y'all there.

What's This Guy's Beef?

I went to The Chop Shop in Downtown Lakeland with a friend today for lunch and saw this guy at the Mid-Florida Building on Kentucky Avenue. Does anyone know what the deal is with him?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Junk Mail Revenge

Ok, now in addition to my obsession with finding money, I'm becoming obsessed with exacting revenge on junk mailers.

Today's sights are set on Capital One Small Business Solutions. They fill my mailbox CONSTANTLY with credit card offers, so I've decided to send them a gift in return. Last year, I bought The Jungle Book when it came out on DVD and I got a free King Louie stuffed animal with my purchase. As much as I love King Louie, I have no use for him in my office, so I'm sending him to Capital One in a box I've been saving for such an occasion. Of course, I'm using their generous, no-postage-necessary envelope to mail this gift to them.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Scammers and Junk Mailers Beware!

I get really irked when I get the type of shady mail that came to me yesterday. I got a letter from Florida Certified Deed Services, a company that offers to provide you with a copy of your deed- for $85, plus $4.95 shipping and handling.

There were a couple of red flags in this letter. First, it explained that my deed was recorded by the Polk County Register's Office. In the bit of research I did yesterday, combined with having dealt extensively with county government agencies when I was a reporter, I don't find evidence of there being an office of that name in Polk County government.

The other red flag was this note near the bottom of the letter: "Florida Certified Deed Services is not affiliated with the 'State of Florida.' MANY GOVERNMENT RECORDS ARE AVAILABLE FREE OR AT A NOMINAL COST FROM GOVERNMENT AGENCIES." (This is a direct quote, capitalization included)

I'm sure that this company is required by law to include that disclaimer.

Out of curiousity, I called the Clerk of Courts yesterday and asked what it would cost to get a certified copy of my deed. The answer: $1 per page, and $1.50 per page to certify it. Most deeds aren't more than 3 pages.

How about if I wanted a non-certified copy? Oh, that's free. Just go to the Clerk of Courts Web site and print it off.

I called this shady company this morning and told them what I had learned. I asked them why anyone would use their service, when they can do it themselves for a fraction of the cost? This is what the lady told me:

"We’re a service company. Let’s say you don’t have the time to go down to the courthouse. We go for you. You never have to break your routine or make an annoying trip."

I think that's bull. I think this company is banking on people not being knowledgeable enough to know better than to spend 90 freaking dollars on something they can get themselves for less than $10.

Just before I tossed the letter in the recycling bin, I noticed a glorious site: a postage paid envelope. An idea was born. Recently someone left a comment on my blog about annoying junk mail and offered a BRILLIANT way to get back that those creeps.

I've been saving some boxes, just for the right opportunity to strike, and dear readers, today is the day! I've packed this box:

Full of crap like this:

And I'm mailing it to Florida Certified Deed Services today. They are getting one nice gift among all the crap- a signed copy of Southeastern University President Mark Rutland's book, Nevertheless. I already have a copy, and these people need some Jesus in their lives.

The Four Questions Tag

Chuck at Lakeland Local tagged me with a meme. I'm to offer four answers to four questions, and he even granted permission to change the questions, if I so desired.

Four Jobs I've Had:
1) Short order cook at a bowling alley on a military post (My favorite job ever. No lie.)
2) Reporter
3) Executive director of a nonprofit organization
4) Medical records clerk

Four Careers I Wanted, but Let Life Lead me Away:
1) Stand-up comedian
2) Doing anything with farming or horticulture
3) Author (there's still time!)
4) Large animal veterinarian

Four TV Shows I watch:
1) Lost
2) American Idol
3) LA Ink
4) Any pop culture shows on VH1

Four Places I went in 2007:
1) Long Beach, CA
2) Waynesville, NC
3) Cottondale, FL
4) Ocala, FL

Four People Whose Answers I'd Like to See:
1) Darby
2) Travis
3) True Calling
4) Jess

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Do The iPod Shuffle

I'm stealing this idea from Travis, only because everyone else has stolen it today, too. Here's how it works:

Get your iPod and go to “Shuffle Songs” - then list off the first 10 songs that come up. No Skipping! Here’s mine:

1. ZZ Top- I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide
2. Def Leopard- Foolin
3. Little Big Town- Lost
4. The Brian Jonestown Massacre- Sailor
5. Sheryl Crow- Soak Up the Sun
6. Santana- Se A Cabo
7. Violent Femmes- Johnny
8. Bad Company- Rock Steady
9. Pink Floyd- Money
10. Little Big Town- Mean Streak

Now it's your turn. Be sure to leave your list in my comments

Changes Coming to Site Meter

For those of you who use Site Meter and seldom read their updates (like me), I wanted to share that they are moving to a new platform and they want everyone to be sure and update their email addresses. Read the short press release for more information.

Monday, February 4, 2008

My Chick Looks Like Amy Winehouse

Is it just me, or does my chick look eerily like Amy Winehouse?

Blogger Meeting Well Attended- Again!

Tonight's gathering of area bloggers was another success. We had our largest group to date- 17 people. As sad as it is to say, I think we might actually be outgrowing Black & Brew. Well, maybe not so much outgrowing it, as needing a place where our set-up can be different to allow everyone to be heard and to prevent four different conversations from going on simultaneously.

We had a wide range of attendees, from experienced, established bloggers to people interested in starting a blog.

I hope you will check out the blogs that were represented tonight:

Lakeland Local
Bog It Blog
Blogging This
Kristen Freaking Jane
Blue Room Worthy
Emily the Strange
Mike Monts
Polk Voice
Darby Sea
Matthew Wengerd

There were additional blogs represented, but the Web addresses weren't left on my sign-in sheet and alas, it's late and I'm not freakin' lookin' 'em up tonight. But some are linked on the side and others, well, you can look for them:

Polk County News Blog- Tampa Tribune
Empirical Polk
What's New Online- The Ledger
Polk Commission Watch- The Ledger

Going Postal Over Found Money

So I think I might be developing a problem. There were several days in early 2007 where it seemed like everywhere I went, I found money on the ground. I decided to keep track of my findings, just as a curiosity thing. When 2008 rolled around, it only made sense to start a new list of my findings.

But now I think I've developed some real issues. It seems that I've taken a simple hobby done out of curiosity to new, borderline OCD heights. I felt it coming on this weekend, but I think my friend Ginger confirmed it during our phone conversation today.

I was telling her about this weekend, when Mike said, "Look! There's a quarter" as he pointed at the ground, and I nearly gave myself whiplash trying to find it. Mike was joking. I called him a f---ing ass. Yes, I called him that over a joke. (First clue that this hobby has gotten waaay too serious)

On Sunday, I jumped out of the car at a red light (Mike was driving) because I saw two pennies in the intersection. (Second clue that this hobby has gotten way too serious.)

This morning, while on a bike ride, I decided to cruise through the Wally's parking lot. It's a pool hall that serves alcohol, and I thought, "I bet those drunk pool players drop lots of spare change on the ground." (Yes, a third clue that this hobby has gotten way too serious)

I took a methodical approach to scanning the lot. I started with the parking spaces closest to the building and worked my way out. I was so engrossed in finding spare change that I didn't notice a man watching me until I heard someone yell, "hey!"

I never assume anyone is yelling "hey!" at me, so I continued my search. He yelled it twice more.

"He might be talking to me," I thought. But then I spotted a penny, and instantly the man was no longer a concern.

He yelled again. I looked up. He motioned for me to come here. I nodded my head no. I had recently re-established my no-talking-to-strangers rule. I found a nickel and another penny, then, just to prove I wasn't scared of him, I scanned the lot for 15 seconds more and left.

Ginger said that this obsession of mine has given her an idea for my birthday. Instead of buying me a present, she's going to suggest we go for a bike ride on a pre-determined route where she has planted about $13 in loose change. It'll be my best birthday ever.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

SPCA Foster Parenting Ups and Downs

It was just a matter of time before it happened, and Saturday was the day. My two foster puppies, Bindi and Moe, had been with us since Wednesday. In the four days they were here, Bindi continually acted less animated than Moe. She was smaller, so I thought maybe she was just a bit weaker and it would take a little longer for her to come around.

Saturday morning I woke up shortly before 6 a.m. to feed them and Bindi wouldn't eat. That's never a good sign in a three-week-old puppy. She wasn't interested in anything but finding a towel on the floor and going to sleep. I was worried, because she'd had diarrea for a couple of days. I had chalked that up to having worms, which I treated her for on Friday. I pinched her skin and when it didn't snap back into place, I knew she was dehydrated. Not good.
Immediately I feared the worst- parvo. I raised a parvo puppy when I was a teenager and I knew what a miracle it was that he survived.

I took Bindi to the Lakeland SPCA Saturday morning after calling and sharing my concerns. Her parvo test came back positive. I asked if she would be put on IV fluids and treated, and then came the worst news- the SPCA doesn't have the resources to treat parvo because the treatment can cost as much as $1,500 and requires round the clock care for the puppy.

My heart sank.

Then, as if the situation needed to get any worse, I was instructed to bring Moe in, because he likely would test positive also. Did I mention that Bindi and Moe were part of a litter of seven puppies? All of them must be tested and the odds of them not having parvo are not in their favor.

I'm sharing this story because although my SPCA foster parenting experiences have been good up to this point, it's important to understand that if you foster enough animals, you're bound to have sadness come your way eventually. It's life. Not all puppies and kittens are strong enough to survive. And sometimes, even though there are treatment options available, they aren't financially feasible for a non-profit organization to offer.

So, being a foster parent requires some thick skin. With that said, I still highly recommend it to pet lovers. It's such an amazing feeling to give an animal a good shot at a forever home. And even though Bindi and Moe didn't make it, I know that they were loved and well cared for while I had them.

If you live in Lakeland and are interested in learning more about the foster parenting program, fill out this form. If you don't live here, please call your local Humane Society, SPCA or other animal rescue organization and ask how you can help. They need your money, but they also could use your time and talents.

This is my favorite pic of Bindi, when she fell asleep in the yard:

This is a pic of Mike holding Moe:

Giants Win the Super Bowl

WOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! What a good game that was. Mike and I would have bet money this game was rigged when the Giants opted to punt in the third quarter when it was fourth down and one yard. We thought they were giving away the game. Thank goodness the Giants pulled this one off.

I've spent the post season referring to the Patriots' head coach as "that cheatin'-ass cheater," and now I feel vindicated.

I'm so happy for the Mannings, having two sons win back-to-back Super Bowls. That surely must be one for the recordbooks. Eli Manning was completely deserving of the MVP award, too!

In the commercial department, my favorite was the Tide pen with the talking stain. You can watch it on MySpace. Click on the second quarter ads. Hilarious.

Go Giants!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Diamond Class Action Suit

Diamonds are a girl's best friend, and who doesn't love a best friend who can lead you to getting some money?

Anyone who purchased diamonds between Jan. 1, 1994 and March 13, 2006 could be eligible to receive money in a class action settlement. ABC Action News broadcast the story this morning, and you can read more about it here. What's really awesome about this, is your purchases didn't have to be just big diamonds, like engagements rings, but any jewelry with diamonds in it.

For more information, go to, or simply click here to file a claim online.

Good luck!