Thursday, March 29, 2007

I Did It!!

I can't believe I did it! This isn't like me! This blog may never be the same. Heck, life as I know it may never be the same!

I bought a toy! I bought a Garmin GPS 550. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I may have to change my mind on how much technology sucks! This little gadget has already changed my life. Gone are the crying jags because I took a wrong turn and suddenly don't know where I am. Gone are the days of calling Ron in Ohio when I'm in Chicago to help me find my hotel again. Gone are probably a lot of blog entries complaining on how lost I have been.

My job entails travel. The joke around my office when I have to travel is not IF I'll get lost, but how many times and how many phone calls it will take to get me back on the right track.

Not any more. I now have Jack, the voice of my Garmin!!

The link above is the exact one I bought. Mine was a little cheaper, but not much.

Ron and I had gone into Best Buy the other night to price the GPS units. That's all I wanted to do. As we were looking at the display, an older gentleman walks up to us to tell us that he had a Garmin 550 himself and he loves it! This gentleman was just another shopper at the store, he was not a Best Buy employee. That fact was very important to me, as I wouldn't have put nearly as much weight in what he had to say if I knew he was a salesman for the store. He was just a regular joe that obviously loved his purchase and he wanted to let me know that.

We talked for quite awhile. Like me, his job takes him on the road a lot. He also used to be lost often! We even traded getting lost stories. He just couldn't say enough about the unit, and how easy it was to use, how useful it was and how happy he was with his purchase. The dang guy deserves a commission because he talked me right into it.

All during our conversation, we did have two Best Buy employees standing behind us, but they couldn't get a word in edgewise. When the decision was made, I turned and asked one of the guys to open the locked cabinet and hand me my GPS. I thanked my new friend, and Ron and I headed to the cashier.

Once outside, the Garmin was really easy to use. We let it guide us home and it was amazing! Turn by turn directions, and if by chance I take a wrong turn (yes, it's already happened!) the unit doesn't yell at me and call me a dumbass, it tells me it's "recalculating". In seconds, I have a new route to drive since I didn't follow the original route offered to me. So, maybe in GPS-ese, dumbass=recalculating. But, in Jack's voice, it sounds much nicer.

The coolest feature on this gadget is not the turn by turn instructions. It's the little extras in the device. For instance, one of the problems when traveling is finding good restaurants. No more. At the push of a button, I can pull up restaurants. From there I have a choice to search by ethnicity or an exact name. Say for example if I want a Mexican restaurant, it will pull up all Mexican restaurants in town and tell me how far they are from me. From there, I just click on one and it will calculate my directions to that establishment. Or, if perhaps I only want Chipotle's, I can type in their name and the GPS will tell me where all of Chipotle's are, and I can chose the one I want to head to. It's freakin' amazing! I can find post offices, government buildings, shopping centers, local attractions and hospitals, just to name a few.

As far as I can tell, it's also as idiot proof as it can be. Like yesterday for example. I had set a course to go home. In the middle of the trip, brother Michael called. I wanted to show him my new toy, and told him I'd meet him at his work. I have enough trouble finding his shop when I'm coming from home! Now I'm coming from a whole new direction! It was nothing to change destinations on my GPS, but the one requirement was that I had to pull over to do it. You can only push so many buttons while you're driving. In order to change something like that, you actually have to stop. Great safety feature.

Cool gadget. Cool toy. Best money I've spent in a long time. This thing is so cool, Ron had to go out and get one too! So, thank you to our new shopping friend at Best Buy. I can now see why he was so excited about it. This really is going to change a part of my life. For the better!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I Almost Behaved

Ron is away for a few days in Minnesota. While he's gone, I'm holding down the fort here at home.

I took Friday off just to enjoy a nice quiet day. Hey, I can be left alone without burning the place down! I wanted to run some errands that I just don't have time to do during the week, like getting the oil changed in my car.

One of the errands I had to do was to run to the aquarium store to return a hood for my tank that wasn't the right size. That's all I planned on doing at the aquarium store. No more fish, just a return. Ha.

Once I took care of business there, I did saunter over to look at the fish. I had a nice long conversation with one of the guys that works there about tank care, and about some of the species of fish. One of the next fish I wanted to buy, I found out that they would not be compatible with the fish we were planning for our community tank. That was good to know sooner rather than later! So, we walked around and talked about a bunch of other fish that would go with what we plan.

Ok, he sucked me in. I came home with six new gold gouramis! They really are cute little buggers. The best part about it is, I put them in the tank more than 24 hours ago, and they are all still alive!

Yeah, I think I'm getting good at this fish stuff. Sort of. I think I lost points however yesterday afternoon after the new fish went into the tank, I sat there watching them while eating a tuna fish sandwich. Yeah, well, it's a learning process to be a good fish owner. I'll get there.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Technology Sucks

Ok, you have to admit, sometimes it does. Or at least it sucks for the unqualified people in my age bracket. I am an expert in the “ON/OFF” button. Anything more than that and I am easily confused.

With my job, I use my credit card a lot. All of my travel expenses are going on my personal credit card and then I am reimbursed by my company. Right now, I have over $4,000 on my personal credit card, and the bill is due in a few days and they have not sent me all of the expense checks to cover this debt yet. I play this game every month, trying to cover my expenses so that I am not accruing interest charges on my credit card. It’s an ugly game some months.

My company is finally moving to the 21st century, as we are upgrading to company credit cards and on line expense reporting. There is good and bad to everything I do!

This is good, because no more worrying about paying my personal credit card by the 26th of the month when my company takes four to five weeks to reimburse expenses. This is bad because you almost need to be a rocket scientist to figure out the on line system!

I have been through the lengthy tutorial, twice. I just called my contact at corporate for more help. After all that, I still haven’t finished one expense report! And my first week of reporting is only a few postage receipts and some mileage, tolls and parking fees. Holy crap! Can they make it any harder?

After I get this stupid thing to balance out, I still need to scotch tape all of my receipts on an 8-1/2” x 11” piece of paper, put it through the copy machine, and then fax the copy to my corporate office.

Somehow I am supposed to push some magical button (I have not found this button yet!) and the expense report is sent right to my manager for approval. Then, when he is done, he will somehow send it to corporate for processing.

Corporate will then direct deposit any expenses not on my company credit card and they will pay the company credit card directly. I like that I’m not on the hook for all this money anymore on my personal credit card.

But, I have a feeling that my company credit card will max out before I figure out how to work the on line system! I want my nice, simple hand written form back! Technology sucks!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Our Family Is Growing!

Yes, Ron and I decided it was time - we needed to expand our little family. Thanks to my brother Michael, we now have a 65 gallon fish tank!

The living room floor has been braced for the additional weight, the tank has been filled and the first brave fish were purchased. We started with 10 little fishies, of which nine made it through the first night.

Day two of fish, day four of a full tank, we took our deceased family member and a small sample of our tank water back to the fish store. We found our water still had an ammonia spike, which our poor catfish could not take. So, we are down to nine little fishies.

We have four mollys, two black and two silver, and four red wag platys. To round off our first bunch, we have one algae eater, a plecostomus named Fred. Why Fred? Because Ron can say “Fred” a lot easier than he can say “plecostomus”! So, Fred it is.

I know, it's hard to tell, but in the picture above, aside from my reflection in the glass, what you're looking at is two of the red wag platys.

Here is one of the silver mollys and a red wag platy. Fred by the way, was too shy to come out for photographs. I'll have to get my people to make an appointment with his people and see if we can work out a photo session with him.

I can’t tell you how enjoyable our living room has become with our new addition. Oh heck, I would spend an hour in the morning, just staring at a tank full of water with no fish! Now that we have the fish in there, it’s unbelievable how entertaining this thing can be.

For now, we are sticking with our nine starter fish and see how we do. The tank needs to be up and running and get through its cycle before we go adding many more fish. Don’t expect us to get too extravagant! (Insert Michael here who thinks we need to put 100 fish in the tank! I don’t think so!!) But I do expect we will add at least a few more varieties of fish before we’re done.

And let me tell you, deciding on which fish to buy isn’t an easy task. There are so many varieties with so many different price ranges, which even staying on the cheap side there are too many to choose from. One fish store we went to even has the tanks marked as to which fish will work in a community tank, which is the kind of tank we are building. That sounded easy, as that should limit my choices, until you realize that there are still hundreds of tanks with just community fish in them! It’s unbelievable! There is just so much to know, so much to learn.

Ron and I are still fighting over feeding rights. I have a feeling we won’t be fighting so hard when it comes to the cleaning rights! But that’s ok. The cleaning will get done. As for the feeding, so we end up with fat, happy fish. Is that such a bad thing?

Happy Birthday, Bruce!

Today is Bruce Willis’ 52nd birthday.

It is beyond me why this is not a national holiday; it should be.

Bruce – call me! We'll celebrate!

(FYI - Ron and I each have one "gimme". Mine is Bruce Willis. His is Anya, # 10 from Deal or No Deal. Should one of these people ever knock on our door, the other one has to leave for awhile, no questions asked! C'mon Bruce! Really! Call me!!)

Saturday, March 17, 2007


In spite of the snow on the ground, like I said, it is spring. I know it, because I saw that red-breasted robin in the yard yesterday.

Another reason I know that it's spring is because pre-season baseball is on WGN from Chicago. WGN and the Chicago Cubs! Ok, I know I've had a hard time being a fan since Mom passed away, and last year, I totally boycotted the entire sport because of the performance enhancement drug scandal. And, when one of my personal heros, Sammy Sosa, is found to be juiced up, what's the point. What can a girl believe in anymore?

The off season trades and talks have started to make me want to believe again. I may not attach myself to a fallen hero like Sammy again, but from the mutterings I've been hearing, I'm am starting to get excited about baseball again this season, especially for my Cubs.

Ok, Dusty Baker has finally been booted out the door. That's a good thing. Kerry Wood may not be 100% but Mark Prior is showing promise again. I like seeing Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez back in the line up. Yes, it's actually getting my blood moving a little bit this year! I know, 161 games from now, I may be singing a new tune, but for today, I'm excited about the possibilities of baseball this year.

But I digress.

The whole point of this blog was to tell you about sitting down to watch my first baseball game in well over a year, even though it is just pre-season. The Cubs for pre-season are part of the Cactus League playing in Mesa Arizona. It's a hot day today in Mesa, and my boys in blue are playing baseball in the afternoon sunshine, the way the game was meant to be played. I love to see the Cubs' blue on tv again, but wait! What's that? What is that atrocity of the ugly green hats with the Cubs' logo that is paired with their awesome blue uniform? Every few years, they have been known to change their uniforms a little but c'mon. Green hats with blue uniforms?

I am staring at the tv and asking Ron what is wrong with my world here! Then he points out that the opponents, the San Diego Padres, are also in those awful green hats.

Then it hits me.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Now throw them ugly hats out and PLAY BALL!

Friday, March 16, 2007


The hell with the snow! Today I saw my first red-breasted robin in the yard!

Spring is HERE!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Not Putting My Best Foot Forward

Perhaps if I had put my best foot forward, I wouldn’t be in this predicament.

Let’s start with the beginning of the day. I was starting a new audit today. This one is over an hour away from me, and that’s in good weather. The storms aside, yesterday was a beautiful day in our neighborhood. I didn’t have a jacket on most of the day, the sun was shining, it was warm, a beautiful day.

This morning when I got up, I was shocked to see the ground covered with snow again. Dummy me; I didn’t look outside in time to leave very much earlier than I had planned since I didn’t count on bad weather. And, to put me farther behind, I forgot that on the first day of this audit, we have to pay to park in the parking ramp. We later got security badges that will let us into a free employee lot, but again, I needed cash for the ramp and I had a dollar to my name.

I did what I always do when I need emergency cash until I get to the bank. I asked Ron if I could borrow money from him! Would you believe this poor guy turned his pockets inside out and only came up with thirty one cents? Hello? The guy only has thirty one cents to his name? Not good. So, I also had to stop at the bank this morning for cash.

Then, the freeway was a nightmare. The further east and south I went, the worse it got. I even had to find an alternate route since the freeway I wanted was blocked with accidents. What a nightmare. I took the long way around, got confused, but eventually found my way. Not a good start to my day.

Then, we’re on site and my team and I are with our contact at the audit. One of the first things we do is get a tour. We need to know the important things like where are the bathrooms, the coffee pots, soda machines and ok, perhaps even the files. We went into the basement to the file room and we were on our way back up the steps to the third floor where we will be working most of the time, and in front of everyone, I fell up the steps.

I know, I should be happy that I didn’t fall DOWN the steps, but at my age, up the steps isn’t much better. I have a knot on my knee which is not a pretty color of purple and my ankle hurts. I’m not sure if my ankle is having sympathy pains for my knee or if I twisted that as well on the way down. All I know is that it has not been a stellar day so far.

To be honest, I’m writing this during my lunch, so I don’t know for sure if I’ll make it home in one piece! Wish me luck!

** Update!! **

I did make it home, but not without difficulty! I took a wrong turn out of the parking lot. The next thing I know is I’m calling Ron for help. He really did a great job trying to calm me down, and asked me the silly question of what road was I on. That was a silly question especially since if I knew what road I was on, I’d probably know how to get where I was going.

Somehow Ron was able to figure out where I was and get me on the right path to where I needed to be.

There you go. My day ended with me getting lost on the way home.

On the bright side, Ron bought me dinner and now I’m watching TV with my leg up. The last obstacle is making it up my own stairs to bed! Perhaps at least I won’t get lost on my way.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Where Are You, Toto?

Wow. That was close.

We were sitting here, having a quiet evening at home. Ron was upstairs in the computer room, and I was downstairs in the livingroom.

His phone rang first. As it was ringing, he didn't even pick up yet, and my phone goes off. What's the chances? Ron's sister Susan was calling him and my brother Michael was on my phone calling me.

Our respective siblings were calling us to let us know to hang on tight. A tornado was spotted on the highway over at I-90 and Route 57. For anyone familiar with this area, that's only a couple of miles away from us.

I knew the weather was awful, as we were sitting here listening to the thunder and watching the lightening. We were both oblivious to the danger of the tornado. Because of the heads up, we went into survival mode.

We packed a laundry basket of necessities and put it in our coal room. That's a room under our mud room that we figured was the safest room in the house. Big, cinder block walls, almost all underground, and no windows. In the basket were what we thought were necessities. A two gallon jug filled with water, a six pack of water, a bottle of wine (hey, you endure your emergency your way, I'll do it my way), a flashlight, crackers and blankets. We had all the doors open between here and there for easy entry in case of emergency and I had my sneakers on ready to run. We were glued to the TV to see where the tornados were headed. I don't think I've ever been that close to personal disaster before, and I hope to never be there again.

Thanks to Susan and Michael for watching out for their baby siblings! All is still standing here on our end of the state, thank goodness. Now I'll sleep with one eye open while listening to the storm that is still blowing out there. Welcome to spring.

Here is a picture of the sky over Lorain right before the tornado hit. Ugh.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Good Times

Wednesday night we had one heck of a party at our house.

Brother Jim was nice enough to brave the weather to take a road trip with Dad and come and see us here in Ohio. Brother Mike heard there was a party and he came over too, with dessert! C'mon now, how can you turn someone away that has dessert in their hand?

Whenever Jim and Dad come over, I try to make something that they don't get often. This trip, dinner consisted of Mom's soup, complete with a lot of potatoes and carrots for smashing. In case anyone doesn't know this delicacy, you put a lot of carrots in the soup. When the soup is done, you take a smaller pan, take some of the broth from the soup, and boil potatoes in it. When the potatoes are soft, you take about equal parts of potatoes and carrots in your bowl, no broth, a good pat of butter, and smash them together with a fork. Once smashed and mixed, add some of the cooked thin soup noodles and mix together with the smashed mess in the bowl. Add a little salt and I'm telling you, this is a dish we used to fight over when growing up! It seems that Mom never made enough carrots or potatoes to please us all, so even if you got a little bowl of this for dinner, it was truly a treat.

Now, I tried to make enough for everyone, even Ron! I'm turning that man into a Slovak if it kills me! He is definitely a new convert to this dish.

After those taste buds were sated, we moved on to the soup. If I do say so myself, it tasted just like Mom's. I bought extra ketchup for Dad as we all know how he likes ketchup in his soup. Yes, I think it was all a success. We laughed, we talked and Lord knows, we ate.

I just got a new digital camera for Christmas, so I should have pictures of our party to post here. Unfortunately, no one could put a spoon down long enough. Sorry, I'll try to get better at that. You're going to have to trust me, we were all fat and sassy after this meal.

Thanks to everyone for coming. And, thanks to Mike for leaving the rest of the dessert at my house! Not that my hips need more dessert, but my tummy was sure happy it was here.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Nanny Nanny Boo Boo

I may be my father's daughter, but for once, I have accomplished rebelling.

My taxes are done, signed, stamped and out in the mail. And it's only March 5, 2007.

43 days early.

Go me!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

They Did It My Way

One of my favorite local restaurants around here was a chain restaurant called Joe's Crab Shack. I'm not a fan of crabs, but this was the only place around here I could order crawfish. Their crawfish etouffee was the bomb! Who knows what else is on the menu, because that is all I would order there.

Within the last six months, Joe's closed all of its Ohio locations. This was truly a blow to my culinary life.

Just from driving by the old Joe's location, we saw that a new restaurant was taking over the building called Key West. We are all about trying new places, so this was on our list to try once the renovations were completed and the doors were open.

Last night was finally the night that we were going to try it. The menu had a Caribbean flavor, with a lot of seafood, and a lot of jerk seasoning. The first time at a restaurant is hard, as you just don't know where to begin. Ron decided to go with the Jambalaya (good choice I might add!). There was an item on the menu that I wanted to try called The Bubba. C'mon now, with a name like that, how could it be bad? The Bubba was a pork loin dish, but it had a horseradish marmalade on it. That kind of worried me since I really do not like horseradish. (The fact that someone actually makes a marmalade out of horseradish still makes me just scratch my head.)

The waitress was really helpful. I told her I was leaning towards this dish, but was unsure about that one item. She got me a sample of the marmalade so that I could decide if it was something I would eat. I tasted it. Good thing. Ugh, I was right. I didn't like it.

Now I really have a hankering for the pork loin, so the waitress suggested I just order The Bubba but without the horseradish marmalade. Now that sounded like a winner! I told her as long as ordering it like that would not piss off the chef, I was all for it. She assured me it would be ok. Hey, you gotta be careful about these things because who wants spit in their dinner?

We were enjoying looking at all of the new sights of the restaurant and trying to remember the old Joe's layout as we were waiting for our dinner. As our meals were coming out, the manager was walking around. Who knew that anyone was as observant as this guy! I barely got a piece of my pork cut into a bite sized piece when the manager showed up at or table with a side serving of that damned horseradish marmalade! He said it looked like they forgot it when they plated my food so he brought it out to us. How can you beat service like that? I did thank him, but assured him that his staff was on the ball, as I ordered it plain.

I did have to withstand a little ribbing from the manager about leaving off an important ingredient in my dinner, but I ribbed right back that I like things done MY way!

Horseradish or not, this dish was really awesome. The pork was so good, as were the grilled veggies that came with it. I gave it a valiant effort but I couldn't finish it and had to bring some of it home with me. I wonder how pork loin is for breakfast?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Does Anyone Know The Way Home?

Things just went from bad to worse today.

The last day of an audit, especially a travel audit, is hectic. Everything needs to be closed up and finished up and packed up. It's not exactly convenient to go fly in for a day to do one more thing or to bring back something you forgot. As the audit manager, it all falls on me to have the entire audit packed up and get all of the paperwork back to Cleveland.

I packed some of our files in my huge suitcase. The rest of the files I packed in a box, and I had every intention of checking the box through as checked luggage at the airport. Hey, I'm allowed two bags. Bags, box, what's the difference. That was the plan.

I checked in on line for my flight that was scheduled for 4:00 p.m. You can check in up to 24 hours prior to your flight with Continental. It was probably around 11:00 a.m. that I had a chance to get on line and check in. When I check in, as long as I'm on the website, I like to check the flight details and airport status. They can sometimes tell when you check in if the flight is scheduled to be on time, or if weather will play a factor in delaying the flight.

At first, my flight was scheduled as on time, but the weather status for O'Hare airport listed average delays of 91 minutes. Geez, that didn't sound good. I left the website up in the background and continued to work. About a half hour later, I thought I'll look again and see what was up. I refreshed the page, and now the average delay at O'Hare was up to 124 minutes. That's two hours! I looked at the status of my specific flight, and the dreaded words were right there . . . FLIGHT CANCELLED. In big bold letters like that. Words cannot convey the feeling in the pit of my stomach at seeing those words. I really wanted to be sick.

As a side note, it's a long story, but my branch had hired a new auditor two weeks ago. Some idiot thought it would be a good idea to ship this new guy out to me in Chicago to train. That could be a whole other blog unto itself. I don't do well in stressful situations. Now I not only have to worry about getting me home, I have this new kid to worry about as well. Ok, I needed a plan. I called Continental. I obviously wasn't the only one trying to call them.

I waited on line for what seemed like forever, to be told by an agent that my flight was cancelled. Ok, I knew that. How do I get home? I was told that all flights to Cleveland had been cancelled for the day due to weather. The best they could do was to put us on a flight Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. out of Midway. That was not a good option. I thanked the agent for her time, but thought I would look into a plan B. Now, to come up with a plan B!

Next call was to my boss. I told him about the cancelled flight and I impressed on him just how imperative it was that I get home. It had been a long hard week, and I did not want to spend another day in Chicago. I needed to get home. Lucky for him, he agreed that I should be home, and authorized a one way rental car charge if I chose to drive home. Hey, that worked for me.

I called Enterprise to see if I could keep my rental car and drop it off in Cleveland. In one word, no. They would not play the one way rental reindeer game. They wanted their vehicle back. I called our corporate office, as I know our person there that schedules a lot of travel has an "in" with Avis. I asked for help, and she assured me if there was a car to be had, I would have it. The woman performed a miracle and in ten minutes, I had a confirmation number for a car with my name on it!

We finished packing and headed to Avis to pick up the new car. From there to Enterprise to drop off the old car. Then, on the road.

According to mapquest, we were to drive 337 miles and in 5-1/2 hours I would be home. Mapquest didn't take into account a major car accident on I-90 nor the horrible weather. It took us an hour and a half just to get to downtown Chicago because of the accident, and then we had horrible weather from the east side of Chicago, through Indiana and into the western most part of Ohio. That was the part I drove.

It was snowing like heck, and the white outs were often and intense. All the while, I have this yutz saying "want me to drive?? I can drive! I don't mind driving!" Finally, I relented and actually just before the Ohio border I let him take over. Big mistake.

Here is a young male just out of college. I swear, most men that age should not be allowed to drive. I was actually praying for police. If I was white knuckled while I was driving, I was now practically out of my mind with him driving. In a snow storm, he thought it was perfectly acceptable to drive 80 miles an hour. And if that wasn't enough, he also thought that was a good time to start text messaging his friends. I actually had to tell him to slow down, quit texting and watch the damn road. On the good side, his speeding did help us get home in only 7-1/2 hours.

It's been a long day and I am overdue on my breakdown. A day like this deserves to end with a good long cry. If you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to do just that.