Saturday, May 31, 2008

Serious Kudos!

Congrats to Derek who met his sales goal!

$107,000+ for May '08
WAY TO GO!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

This & That

A few thoughts & tidbits.

  • Tonight I finally get an estimate on the damage to my car caused by the valet company (Mother's Day dinner) several weeks ago. They've actually been (surprisingly) nice through the process. Shockingly, the GM of the valet company wants to handle this himself. (Maybe the restaurant had something to do with that b/c they've called several times to see if we've resolved the issue with the valet company?? Don't know.) So we're meeting this afternoon for photos, etc. Hopefully I can get the car back in the shop {sigh} in a few weeks & Ezmerelda will once again be scratch-free.


  • Yesterday I was fiddling around on AA's website trying to find out what movies will be playing on our flight from Chicago to Dublin (I know. We're not leaving 'til July but I was curious. I can upload movies on my iPod if they're not showing anything good....). In the process, I noticed I could check out dining options too. Come to find out, passengers can request special menus while aboard. And that includes gluten-free meals. I happily passed this information along to mom. We're also checking into requests with the hotels we'll be staying in along the way. It would be nice to have these arrangements made in advance so we don't have to worry as much about what's in the food.


  • Derek is kicking butt at work this month. As I've mentioned a few times, he's above quota thus far for the year. But he has yet to break his personal goal of 100K in sales for a month. He's come very close several times. This month, he's teetering on the edge again. If the girls in the office can get everything that's outstanding entered in the system (and approved by the corporate system), he may very well meet his goal. This is very exciting. Regardless, I'm proud of him for being such a terrific salesman! (And still having plenty of time for family - striking the balance between work & home is always tough, but he's doing a great job without sacrificing happiness on either side of the fence.)


  • I got a new cell phone yesterday. Kinda silly news, I guess. But I'm movin' up in the world of cell phone technology. I got a (simple) smart phone to make texting a lot easier. I'd never sent a text message until 2 yrs ago when I was in the cast of Kiss Me, Kate. Now I'm hooked! (And with the new Premier Program with my cell phone provider, I can get a new phone every year if I want to. Pretty nifty.)


  • Did I mention that we got a new dishwasher? We've talked about replacing ours with a fancier model for years but never got around to it. We took advantage of the weekend "Go Green" sale on Energy Star appliances - no sales tax plus 10% off. So the new fancy dishwasher is scheduled to arrive next Saturday. Dad & Derek are going to install it & we hope to get a little something for the old one.


  • Derek turns the big 3-4 this weekend. We're celebrating with a neighborhood cookout. And then the boys are playing golf the next afternoon. Should be a fun weekend.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Saving Gas

So the NTTA (North Texas Toll Authority) posted this helpful list of tips on saving precious fuel. A lot of things we probably already knew but just needed to be reminded of. My commentary is free. =)

Tips to Save Gas and Money
Gas prices are reaching record levels. Since most North Texans rely on their vehicles, it’s important to our customers to conserve fuel. These tips can help motorists save gas (and money).

  • Car pooling is a time-tested way to save fuel and associated expenses.
  • Don't start and stop engine needlessly. Idling your engine for one minute consumes the gas amount equivalent to when you start the engine. (Wow - and I always thought idling was a bad thing!)
  • Accelerate slowly when starting from a dead stop. Don't push pedal down more than 1/4 of the total foot travel. This allows the carburetor to function at peak efficiency. (This DOES make a difference - I've noticed it in my own gas mileage when I gave up my peddle-to-the-metal attitude. Slow deceleration is also helpful & saves brake wear.)
  • Buy gasoline during the coolest time of day, early morning or late evening is best. During these times gasoline is densest. (Gee, dad was right on this one!)
  • Avoid “topping off” the gas tank. Overfilling results in gasoline sloshing over and out of tank. Never fill the gas tank past the first "click" of fuel nozzle, if nozzle is automatic.
  • Slow down. Exceeding 40 mph forces your auto to overcome tremendous wind resistance. Traveling at 55 mph gives you up to 21% better mileage when compared to speed limits of 65 mph and 70 mph. (Going the POSTED speed limit also gives some mileage savings.)
  • Use air conditioning only when necessary. (Yeah right!)
  • Keep windows closed when traveling at highway speeds. Open windows cause air drag, reducing your fuel efficiency by 10%. (See, Derek, told you!)
  • Drive at a steady rate of speed. Slowing down or speeding up wastes fuel. (Another "I told you so")
  • Park car so that you can later begin to travel in forward gear; avoid reverse gear maneuvers to save gas. (Who knew?)
  • Regular tune-ups ensure the best fuel economy; check the owner's manual for recommended maintenance intervals. Special attention should be given to maintaining clean air filters – diminished air flow increases gas waste.
  • Inflate all tires to the maximum limit. Check manufacturer's specifications for maximum tire pressures.
  • Remove excess weight from trunk or inside of car - extra tires, back seats, unnecessary heavy parts. Extra weight reduces fuel efficiency, especially when driving up inclines.

Sources:http://www.epa.gov/OMS/consumer/17-tips.pdf and http://www.howtoadvice.com/savinggas

Gluten Free = Pretty Tasty

Mom came over yesterday to do some stocking up on pantry staples for her new gluten free diet. Naturally, most of the stuff she needed wasn't stocked at her local grocery stores. So she ventured over & we went to Whole Foods. They have a lot more selection than I expected. And surprisingly, it wasn't as expensive to get the staples as mom & I thought it would be thanks to the store brand!

We taste-tested a few items last night. The cookies were TO DIE FOR. Mom and I both agreed that we could eat the entire box in one sitting. YUM-MEEEE! We made the boys (Derek and dad) try the rice loaf with us. The overwhelming answer was ... " {blank faces} {big pause} it's different." Yep, it was different, but it really wasn't all that bad. The texture was a little different...kinda like soda bread, but I could get used to that pretty easily.

Mom was more encouraged after her shopping trip - things aren't going to taste like cardboard as she feared. And there's a lot of good GF stuff on the market if you don't want to prepare for yourself all the time b/c that does, after all, require a little bit of planning.

It will still be an adjustment, but I think we're all learning that it won't be too bad. My friend Jana was kind enough to alert me to a neat gluten-free recipe search tool provided for all of the Cooking Light recipes. Thanks, Jana, mom will be glad to have a treasure trove of recipes that are gluten free!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day, everyone! This day is traditionally set aside to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty. Our servicemen are responsible for the freedoms we continue to enjoy - some 230 yrs after our nation gained its independence. We are certainly thankful for their unselfish service. To the families who continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones, we humbly say thanks.

We've enjoyed a nice, quiet weekend. Due to commitments that kept us close to home, we didn't do any (major) traveling over the weekend. (Tho we did visit the in-laws for dinner on Saturday (only about an hour away).) Instead, we've gotten lots accomplished around the house. The yard is tidy, fertilized, and watered. Some new plants are in the ground. A new dishwasher is on order (took advantage of the Energy Star discounts offered this weekend). The laundry is almost COMPLETELY finished - and I mean everything! (Whew. That's been a week-long project.) The floors got vacuumed/scrubbed. There are still plenty of projects to tackle - painting, cleaning/tossing, reorganizing - but we accomplished what we set out to do this weekend.

The remainder of today we'll be spending with my parents. They're coming to Dallas so mom can stock up on new items for the pantry since most of her stuff will have to go b/c it contains gluten. Dad & Derek are going to entertain themselves. I'm sure that will include a trip to Bass Pro.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lots to Share

Geez. Where do I even begin? There's lots of news this week. I'll just dive in. So I apologize in advance if this post is all over the place. I'll just try to get all the news in.

This week, my mom was diagnosed with celiac disease. In short, that means she's allergic to gluten. And in the end, it means a HUGE change in diet ... and lifestyle. When you start dissecting everything that contains gluten, ... well, it can get you down. My mom does NOT like to draw attention to herself under any circumstances. {In fact, she probably wouldn't have given me permission to write about her if I had actually asked. So, uh, mea culpa, mom.} And this diagnosis means that, in order to do things she normally does, like eat out or enjoy food at parties, she WILL have to draw attention to herself or otherwise suffer the consequences. She's finding more and more things that she has to give up. I keep trying to remind her that the silver lining is that there are lots of gluten-free substitutes for her favorite foods (thanks to SarahK for talking about these on her blog). Sure, they're a little more expensive, they do require more time, but in the end, celiacs are in no way deprived of great food, like cake & cookies & pizza & all the foods we know & love. Right now, she's overwhelmed and a little blue about the whole thing. So keep her in your prayers as she adjusts.

{Please allow this sidebar related to celiac disease. Family, you should consider being tested for it and here's why.

Q: Why do my family members need to be screened for celiac disease?
When the diagnosis is established in one family member, their first- degree relatives (parents, siblings, and children) should have blood tests for celiac disease. This is because at least 10% of family members will have the disease, even if they are asymptomatic. Screening is also recommended for second-degree relatives (grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and cousins) as they are also at an increased risk for celiac disease. Family members who already have an autoimmune disease are at a greatly increased risk to have celiac disease (25%). The reasons to diagnose family members prior to the development of symptoms include the prevention of autoimmune diseases and malignancy.

Source}

In other health-related news, poor Dori had to go to the vet this week. I know I've mentioned before that she suffers from nasal allergies. And for you fellow allergy-sufferers, you know how bad it's been lately. She's had a runny, itchy nose & sneezing for quite a while. But recently her ears have begun to itch too. And pretty soon, they started to get scaly. And then she started shaking her head all the time. In the end, I think I waited a bit too long to go to the vet for relief of those allergy-related ear symptoms. So now, shame on me, she has a rip-roaring ear infection. Poor baby! We came home with a medicine cabinet yesterday - two new pills & two things to be dropped in her ear. I don't know if I've talked about Dori's aversion to anyone getting near her ears before, but let's just say that the drops are going to be a challenge. {Sigh} And on top of that, a side effect of one of the new meds is increased thirst & urination. Ultimately it means a weaker bladder so she tinkles a little bit when she's laying down. And this makes her lick, which makes her tinkle all the more, and ultimately she just sinks her poor little head in shame. {Sigh} Poor puppy!

In other news, I heard this morning that the youngest daughter of Dove-award winning Christian singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman was killed last night - tragically & accidentally run over by her brother in the family's driveway in rural Tennessee. Please keep the Chapman family in your prayers as they mourn this loss and comfort their son.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Now For That Rest

Whew. That crazy weekend is over & done with.

Friday's concert went alright. I have to admit my lack of enthusiasm for the whole thing. You know, sometimes you just know your time with something has come to a close. And that's how I've been feeling about Chorale - I've had a good run, I've grown as a singer & soloist, I've had terrific opportunities to do some really stellar works, and now it's time for me to move on. I'll close my tenure with them on the summer tour of Ireland and then I will bid them farewell - and the closure will be bittersweet.

Sunday's recital went splendidly. Every single singer did their absolute best. I know my voice teacher was very proud of each of us. I couldn't have put it better than her husband when he said, "you guys made J look like the best voice teacher in town!" And you know what, in my humble opinion, J IS the best voice teacher in town!

Aside from lots of singing, I also got cards made, got a fair portion of the laundry done, got stuff to finish up the yardwork, and rested. All in all, it was good ... and now ... I rest! Ahhhhhh.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

BAH!

Have I mentioned how much I really don't like weeks where I get NO QUIET EVENINGS AT HOME?! Umm. Yeah. Well. Sorry. I'm a little cranky about it. Here's looking forward to Monday...and the beginning of a very quiet week.

As I said, this week is crammed. Rehearsals. Rehearsals. Rehearsals. A/C check-ups. Concerts. Rehearsals. Insurance adjustors. Church. Church. Recitals. That about sums it up. [Sigh] Not enough sleep. That's for sure.

Speaking of adjustors, we have heard from the valet company about my car. They're supposed to come Saturday to take photos of the damage. I really hope this means they intend to pay for the repairs! It'll only put 'em back about 400 smackers if it's anything like my bumped-on-the-bumper incident. I'll keep ya posted.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Note to Self

Dear Self,

As much as you love jalepenos, you really must stop overdoing it. You know that your poor little stomach can only take so much. When you mound up the peppers on your dinner, your sensitive digestive tract revolts. And then you and the ladies room become terrific friends for most of a day, which is soooo not cool when that most of a day involves going to work. So on behalf of your tummy, lay off the jalepenos for pete's sake!

Thanks,
Self

X Marks the Spot?

We had a really nice, albeit busy, weekend. As expected, we spent a vast majority of the weekend preparing for Mother's Day. But it was worth it b/c we pulled it off splendidly. The weather was gorgeous on Sunday for our picnic at the lake. And the evening dinner downtown went off without a hitch despite a little hiccup on Friday.

My poor Ezmerelda will be going back to the shop again soon. The stupid valet at the (really nice!) restaurant we had dinner at Sunday managed to scrape her on a curb or something. There's a lovely scratch down the driver's side near the rear tire. Grrrrr! We called the restaurant as soon as we found the scratch & the valet company has already contacted us to take photographs for their adjustor. So theoretically, they may be (better be!) paying for the repairs. Do you ever feel like you're a magnet? Yeah, well, I feel like my poor car is a magnet for scrapes & scratches & dings!

Other than that, it'll be a busy week this week. I have a concert & recital this weekend. So it's a week of rehearsals for me. And somewhere in there, I have to pick up a costume I'm borrowing from a friend & find something to wear for the recital. Eek!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

To our moms,
how could we ever say thank you
in a way that really expresses our gratitude
for the late nights, the laundry, the dinners,
the encouragement, the loving reprimands,
the gentle guidance when we were lost,
your undying love, and now, most importantly of all,
your friendship -
Quite simply, Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Twill Be Busy

We'll be busy this weekend. We have a lot to do before Sunday. There are weeds to kill, shrubs to trim, the backyard to be mowed, cleaning to be done, groceries to be bought.... Well, there's just a lot to do. Sunday will be busy with day-long festivities in honor of Mother's Day. We're having a picnic with my mom, grandmother, & sil's mom. We're grilling burgers & veggies & enjoying what should be beautiful weather. Then we'll dash home, get ready, & head to Morton's to meet Derek's parents. Hopefully we can get everything done before Sunday b/c there'll be no time for housework!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Busy Tuesday

Who thinks putting almost all of your yearly check-ups and/or follow-ups on one day is a good idea? {Ooo - ooo. I do! I do!} Yeah, well, it was an efficient use of sick time, not to mention gasoline! But it does make for a long day. On the upside, I got to sleep in a little & spend some time with Derek before I left for the day.

I finished the day at the dentist's office. But funny thing about that. I thought I was going to finish the day at a voice lesson. Duh! It's kinda hard to sing (and talk) when half of your mouth is numb! So I had to call & cancel that on my way home. (A big shout-out to my dentist, Dr. Morel, for a terrific job - I didn't feel a thing while she was changing out fillings & filling in a (newer) cavity! If you're looking for a dentist, she's terrific & her office staff is the best - so nice & friendly. Kudos to you!)

I think the funniest thing, though, was when I got home. I thought I was going to eat something. I was starving. I thought, huh, chips would be good. Well, they would have been if everything would have cooperated. It apparently was quite funny to watch me try. =) So ... we scrapped our original dinner plans (lamb chops), and Derek went to the store & got me mashed potatoes & ice cream. No major chewing or coordination required. And who doesn't love a throw-back to your kiddie days?! Healthy too. LOL

Monday, May 05, 2008

Bummer

I just realized that I'll be picking Ezmerelda up today. One of the perks of having maintenance done at the dealership is that my car always comes home nice & clean. Unfortunately, that won't last long since it's supposed to rain all day. She'll be clean until I drive out from under the portico at Park Place. =( Silly, I know. But there's just something about a clean car - how they sparkle & shine. Anyone else know what I'm talkin' about?!

Another Monday

What a nice weekend we had! Friday, we enjoyed a quiet evening at home. It was such a beautiful evening that we opted to grill & sit outside. Dori was especially pleased by this because she got to spend extra time outside. Aside from winter, which is her absolute most favorite time of year, she enjoys spring b/c it's cool & breezy...and the flowers are blooming. Believe it or not, she really does like to stop & smell the rosebush.

But I digress. Saturday I got up early & took Ezmerelda to the dealership for her first maintenance visit & to get the bumper fixed. (As expected, they didn't finish Saturday so I still have the loaner. For the record, I don't like big sedans - I'm driving an LS350. I guess that's why I've never had one. And I likely never will. They feel like yachts on the road!) I ran a few errands on my way home (gas conservation & all) & then went home to clean. But instead of cleaning, I spent the remainder of the afternoon in the craft room. I didn't really intend to but what's the difference between Saturday & Sunday?! =)

Yesterday we cleaned. Scratch that. I cleaned. But whatever. We ran up to Target b/c Derek needed a few more things to complete his work-out ensemble. Get this. He's decided he's going to start running. If your mouth is agape, I know, I was the same way when he informed me. He now has everything he needs, so we'll see. I picked up some new gear too, so we'll hopefully be hitting the pavement (in some form) together. I'll keep ya posted.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Wish I Could Do That

Wobble, wobble. Shaky, shaky. Yep, that's exactly how I feel when I do this pose! And my cats are always quick to help me too. This comic just made me giggle about it.