Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Root Canal

I don’t have any exciting story for you today, but let’s face it, this whole week of posts hasn’t been that exciting. As I was driving in this morning, I was trying to think of something interesting to write about and nothing really came to mind. So, I decided in order to keep a week of uninterrupted posts going, I would tell you about my recent root canal – I’m sure you’re just dying to know all about it.

On Monday of last week, I was scheduled for my root canal at 8:00 in the morning. I knew what road the office was on, but not the exact location and ended up having to call them while looking for the office. I finally arrived a few minutes before 8:00, filled out some brief paperwork, and stopped by the restroom. As soon as I came out of the restroom, they took me back and not long after that, the doctor came in.

He examined my tooth and asked me about the pain I was having and I had to bite down on a cotton swab which was less than comfortable and then the doctor said, “Well, I think you need a root canal, did you want to go ahead and have that done today?” I’m sure I looked at the guy like he was nuts because, duh, that’s why I was laid back in a dental chair. I didn’t pop in to say hello.

So, the doctor shot some Novocain into my mouth in a couple of different places and we waited for the numbness to set in. I will take this moment to tell you that the rooms had TVs on the ceiling, which was quite nice – I enjoyed watching the morning edition of CNN even if I did have to read the closed captioning to find out what the heck they were saying.

Once my mouth was numb, the nurse came in and pulled off my temporary crown and put some kind of crazy apparatus around my lone tooth – tooth #30. It was almost like a bib for the tooth. The bib, as we’ll call it, would allow nothing to go down my mouth while the endodontist worked his root canal magic. The nurse also offered me a bite something or other that would help me keep my mouth open, but I didn’t like it so she took it out and I held my mouth open of my own accord.

The doctor was soon back in the room and got to work. He began talking about how hard it was to come back to work after a vacation – he had been on Spring Break to Mexico with his family the week before – tough life. Let me tell you all his talk about not wanting to be there made me not want to be there. I mean, this guy had the nerves of my mouth in his grasp for goodness sake!

Every so often, the doctor would ask if I was okay, I would say yes even though I really wasn’t. I was tired of holding my mouth open and was beginning to get a crick in my neck – not pleasant – not to mention the fact that my bladder was rapidly filling up and I was doing everything I could not to think about having to go to the bathroom, which means really that’s all I was thinking about.

After about 30 minutes in the chair, I started squirming like a little kid and when they asked if I was okay, I shook my head no and spoke as best as I could through the bib and said, “I really need to go to the restroom.” I was more embarrassed than anything because how many 34 year olds can’t hold it for an hour? They let me up out of the chair and I ran to the bathroom to free my bladder of its liquids – and I didn’t even drink anything that morning!

I got back in the chair and after another 15 minutes or so the doctor finished up, told me to take some Advil and sent me on my way – where I had to use the facilities once more before I left. It was a crazy day for my bladder, folks! You probably know more about me and my small bladder than you ever wanted to know, but the story wouldn’t be complete without me telling you about this. I spent most of the day napping and watching television but did manage to make it to the gym that afternoon.

This week, I went in to my regular dentist and had my permanent crown put on, which wasn’t too bad of a process. It took some time to get the crown to fit and he had to drill a little off of my upper cusped because I guess it was long like a vampire or something and if he didn’t take a little off, my crown would hit the upper tooth and it wouldn’t be pleasant.

So, now, after multiple visits to the dentists and $700 out of pocket, my mouth is somewhat back to normal and I am slowly beginning to eat on the right side of my mouth again. I may not be able to afford to sod my front yard this spring as I had planned, but by George, my mouth is pain free. Thanks for listening and have a great day!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Blast From The Past

A few weeks ago, maybe even a month, the author of one of the blogs I read mentioned she had come across the original Taco flavored Doritos during her weekly grocery store trip and she had to buy some. When she later opened the bag and ate them, the taste reminded her of eating sandwiches and Doritos at her grandmother’s house when she was a child. I, also remembered the Taco flavored Doritos, and after reading her post, decided I must buy some if they made their way over to Alabama. I would link to the post for you, but I’m having a problem finding it.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I noticed the Taco Doritos at Target. I didn’t get any at the time because it was a quick in and out trip for me and on those type trips I am always determined to just get what I need and then get the heck out of dodge. Last week during my weekly Publix trip, I noticed that Publix had the Taco Doritos and they were buy one get one – in other words, half price! So, I put a bag in my cart and also got a sandwich from the deli and was anxious to get home and eat both the sandwich and the chips.

When I got home and put away the cold grocery items, I grabbed the sandwich and the Doritos, turned on some basketball, sat down on the couch and began to eat. OH MY WORD! You know how a taste, a smell, a song, or a sound will take you back to some place in your past? Well, that was certainly the case with the Taco Doritos. I took one bite and I was swept away to some time in the mid-1980s when my parents had a mauve bedroom with a TV in the corner where we kept our Atari hooked up.

My mom used to make a salad for dinner occasionally and sometimes for church gatherings that had lettuce, and green onions and she tossed in the salad dressing (I think ranch) and mixed it all together before crunching up Doritos and then mixing them in. The Doritos in that salad where the original taco flavor and as soon as that first taste hit my tongue I could taste that salad as if it were sitting right in front of me and I remembered how much I loved it. (Do you remember it mother? You need to get some of these Doritos and make that salad!!! With real lettuce – not the bagged kind. OK? Thanks!)

I don’t know if you remember Taco flavored Doritos or not, but if you do, then go out and get some and maybe you will remember a great story from your childhood or adulthood too. The bag I got was the retro looking bag which says “limited time”; but they are also available in a modern looking bag that says, “They’re Back!”. So, I don’t know if the Taco flavored Doritos are here to stay or if it’s a limited edition or if only the bag is a limited edition; but either way, I’m going to be buying some more of these and hoping my mom will mix up that salad!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chase Park Ministry Expo

This past Sunday at church (Chase Park Church of Christ), we had our ministry expo after a brief class period. The ministry expo allows the members to see what all kinds of ministries we offer and gives them an opportunity to sign up to participate. It is especially good for new members who may not know all of the great service opportunities available to them. Since we’ve moved into our new building, we’ve had a lot of people place membership so this year’s ministry expo was much needed.

There was a large group of people walking around the expo area taking a look at everything. Hopefully lots of people will sign up to get involved. Here is a look at some of the tables:

World Bible School – With WBS, members of the church correspond with people in other parts of the world who want to know about the Bible. Members answer questions that the people have and also (I think) check “homework” submitted. This ministry also sends copies of the New Testament to the people who want to know more about the Bible. I've never worked with this ministry before, but my Aunt Linda has.

This table was set up by our involvement minister and it concentrate on Super Seniors, which is when the older members get together for a Bible study on Wednesday mornings and also eat lunch. This table also had Bible correspondence information.

Transportation Ministry - Well, we have a couple of church buses which are used to transport folks here, there and yonder. I think this table was encouraging folks to sign up to learn how to drive the bus. With my driving record, I think I’ll take a pass.

The Nursery - This table was set up by my friend Deborah. She had lots of baby pictures and was taking volunteers to work in the nursery.

The Lord's Supper Table was set up to recruit ment to serve communion on Sundays. My dad used to be over this ministry and I wonder if this is the board he originally put together?

TALENTS - Is a visitation team which consists of people who visit shut-ins, visitors and people that need encouragement or may be sick. I used to do this with my Aunt Linda.

The Library - We have a nice sized library at our church and there are many books that can be checked out for review. I actually have one checked out right now. Hope I don't forget to return it!

We Care - or  "Care Group" as some people call it. The congregation has been divided intp smaller groups so that we can see to it that folks who are sick or have recently lost a loved one, or had a baby, etc. will be provided with food and support. We also meet once a month and have a meal together, which is the best part of all!

This area was for our missionaries. Whoever put this together did a great job. There were different objects from places all over the world where we support missionaries. We have missionaries in Peru, Africa, India, Mexico and The Ukraine.

A closer look at the board.

This is the table my friend Janet and I put together for the women's ministry. We bought the banner in the middle and surrounded it with photos of all the fun we have together.

A closer look at the banner.

There were some other boards too but I didn't get a photo of all of them. Needless to say, we have a lot of areas of outreach at our church. If you live in the Huntsville area and are looking for a church home, come on by to see us, we would love to have you! 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Welcome Scout!

Well, there’s a new member of the Parker family and his name is Scout. Friday night, I went with my parents to look at a puppy they were thinking about getting. In all honesty, I guess it was already decided that this little fella was going to come home with them, there was just the matter of getting all the paperwork completed and bringing him to his new home.

Saturday was my mom’s birthday and my dad grilled ribs. Our friends Naaman and Cheryl came over as did my grandparents and my brother and The Tide. I don’t think The Tide was too crazy about Scout. She growled at him when she was first sniffing of him while he was in his newly constructed play pen. Then for the rest of the night she pretty much ignored him. If Scout isn’t being held and there are a lot of folks in the room then he will whine because he wants some attention. I think The Tide was tired of his whining because when I asked her if she was ready to go home she bolted to the door rather quickly.

My dad build Scout’s play pen and at first it only had three sides with the back being placed against the hearth of the fireplace; but, Scout was a little escape artist and a third side had to be put on. He’s still working on his potty training and went pee on his pillow a couple of times while I was there on Saturday. I do not envy my parents on that potty training! Scout has a lot of energy and is going to be quite a handful for a while; but, hopefully he will bring my parents a lot of love and heal their sad hearts. Here are some photos…

Scout being held by his new mother, Deb!

Scout and Deb

Scout and Grandmamma

Scout and Cheryl

Friday, March 25, 2011

Here We Go Again?

Last Friday I wrote a post about an impromptu concert that took place next door on the previous Friday afternoon. If you read it, then you may recall that I didn’t enjoy the show.

This morning, I got up as I always do about 5:40. I went to let The Tide out and when I did, I noticed a van parked next door. I tried to get a closer look to see if there were other vans parked there, but couldn’t get a good look. I let The Tide back in and began my morning routine.

As I was leaving for work, I noticed that the van had a trailer attached and the trailer was covered in bumper stickers, and the license plates were from out of town. I have no doubt that, while this isn’t the same band that interrupted nap time, it is indeed another band staying at the home of my next door neighbor.

As I mentioned before, my neighbor works at Lowe Mill where they often have live music, which I’m sure is a fun job. What I don’t understand is why all these bands are shacking up at her house. I’ve got to tell you if working at Lowe Mill and booking bands means that you have to provide a place for the band to sleep, then that is not a job I would want to have. It’s really curious to me – maybe she is good friends with all these people, who knows? What I do know is that I wouldn’t want a house full of stinky band members staying at my house. Let’s just hope these guys keep their musical instruments to themselves.

In other news – the poll for the name of the new dog ends in a few hours. This was a quick poll. My parents are supposed to go look at the new dog this evening but to be quite honest, I’m not sure my dad is ready for a new dog. I know I wouldn’t be. If The Tide were to go on to dog heaven, I would need a while to mourn her loss before getting a new dog. Everyone is different I guess. So, maybe they will have a new dog by the weekend and maybe they won’t.

Have a great weekend, ya’ll!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Slapshot Parker - He Was A Pretty Good Dog

Yesterday was a sad day over at my parents’ house. They had to put their dog, Slapshot to sleep. He had been having a lot of seizures and as a result began having problems with walking as well as some other things. So, they decided it would be best to go ahead and put him to sleep so that he wouldn’t have to suffer any longer.

Slapshot was a gift to my mom from my dad for my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary. I would like the record to reflect that I was the one who suggested the name Slapshot. My dad always said he didn’t want an inside dog and that he was going to “have nothing to do with that dog.” But, I’m here to tell you that no sooner than that dog had arrived and he had my dad wrapped around his little paw.

Over the years, Slapshot had many nicknames, including Sam, and most recently Mule – a derivative of animal (or animule) – given to him by my dad. Slapshot brought a lot of joy to my mom. There are many times when I’m pretty sure she loved Slapshot more than my brother and me. I know he was a lot of company to her and also to my dad. My dad taught him how to sit, shake, and roll over and to “guard us!” which meant a “big” bark.

It’s really sad when our beloved pets pass on from this life. People are sad for us, especially those who also have had pets go on to pet heaven; but no one really can understand how much that pet meant to us because each pet/parent relationship is different. So, when you say a prayer today, lift up a little prayer for Deb that her spirits will be lifted and that she will always remember the good times with Slapshot.

On a lighter note, my parents will soon be getting another dog and they want your help picking out a name. The dog will be a Maltese, like Slapshot, and will be a boy. There’ a poll at the top of the blog for you to vote. You have until tomorrow afternoon to cast your lot. Happy Voting!

Here's Slapshot not a few days after he came to live with Steve and Deb.
That's a 21-year old me and my rommate at the time - Caty.

A Motley Crew - The Tide, Me, Slapshot and Deb

The Tide and Slapshot hoping for a crumb from my dad.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Don't Mind Me

It’s 100 days until the beginning of the 2011 le Tour de France, which means in 116 days, I will be in France getting ready to travel around the country for the last week of the tour! I get a little more excited each day, and also a little sadder – after all, one day closer also means it’s one day closer to the end of the trip.

I went to Barnes and Noble this past Friday because I had a gift card and a Groupon to spend. The Groupon was set to expire on April 1 so I wanted to spend it before then (obviously) and my friend Maria got me a gift card for my birthday. I didn’t have anything particular in mind and set out to peruse the store and see if anything struck my fancy.

While looking around, I found a “Drive and Learn French” two CD set for $9.97 and decided to buy it. I bought some French language software late last year but haven’t spent much time practicing with it. I mean, who really wants to sit around and practice French all night long when there are TV shows to watch and books to be read? The “Drive and Learn French” CDs takes common phrases and puts them into song, which works really well for me because I am able to retain songs better than anything else. After all, I learned the French National Anthem in high school and can still sing it word for word! I have heard that learning through song is one of the best ways to learn things so I took the $9.97 plunge and bought the CD set.

So far I have loved it! I put it in my car Saturday and have continually listened to the first CD ever since then! Since I took French in high school and college, I know a lot of phrases and just needed a bit of a refresher and this CD set has been perfect so far. The tunes are catchy and I have caught myself singing them even when not in the car. I haven’t listened to the second CD yet – I’m trying to master the first CD still. The set also comes with a small book which has everything written out in it. This has been great for me because when I see and hear the words at the same time it makes things a whole lot easier.

So, if you happen to see me driving down the road and it looks like I’m talking to myself, just ignore me. I’m probably repeating something from the CD and if I happen to greet you in French, just go with it. Hopefully by the time July rolls around I will have retained enough language to get by for a couple of weeks anyway!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ladies' Breakfast 2011

For the past 24 years or so, the church I attend has held a Ladies’ Breakfast. The breakfast is usually in the fall and around 130 – 150 people attend. Last year because we were in the process of moving, we didn’t have a breakfast; but, this year we had our first breakfast in our new building and it was obviously held in the spring, which was also a first.

A group of ladies went up to the church building on Friday to set up for the big day. Everything looked really nice. The theme was “Light Beams for Christ” and everything was decorated with lighthouses. One of our ladies, Janet J., collects lighthouses and all but 10 of the lighthouses used to decorate for the breakfast belonged to her!

The tables ready for the breakfast

The serving lines

I arrived at the building at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday to help cook the food. I was worried that not enough people would show up to help cook, but there ended up bring a good number of about 35 people or so and the cooking went smoothly and quickly. Even the head chef’s husband showed up to help as did another man – Naaman! We cooked 500 sausages, 500 eggs, 14 hash brown casseroles, 10 pans of cinnamon apples and 500 biscuits! We prepared all that food because 250 people had signed up to come; but then only 176 or so showed up.

Cooks in the kitchen

Washing dishes - my least favorite job!

Discussin coffee - there's Naaman!

The food was delicious and everyone seemed to enjoy it. The speaker did a fine job and I think everyone really had a nice time. I was so glad Jan and Jackie came to the breakfast! They were the only two that came out of the people I invited and I was glad to have their company even though I didn’t get to see them much before things got started since I was working in the kitchen. I had the honor of leading the closing prayer and then we were dismissed with a song.

Jan, Jackie and Me

This is a lovely picture of me eating - thanks, Jackie!

After it was all over, Jan and Jackie scooted out – Jan had to be at work and I went to work helping clean up and put up. I was quite tired by the time the festivities were over, and was looking forward to getting home and taking a long nap. Needless to say there was a lot of food left over. The leftovers were wrapped up and put in the freezer, but then overnight Saturday, a breaker tripped in the kitchen and all the food in the freezers melted – including ice cream which was all over the kitchen floor. It’s a shame that all that food went to waste. I was glad I got a small amount to take home with me. I have two pieces of sausage left which I plan to put with a hot biscuit for breakfast tomorrow.

Yummy food!

More of it!

The breakfast was a great success! A big thank you goes out to all who helped make it wonderful. I look forward to many more years of Ladies’ Breakfasts’ at Chase Park!

Janet E. leading us in song.

Sweet little Anna Sims read scripture.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo: Book Review

I’m out from work today having a root canal. Sounds like a lot of fun, doesn’t it? I decided to go ahead and write this book review so you all would have something to read even though I’m out of pocket today. See, I think of my readers first.

For a long while, I kept hearing about the Stieg Larsson Millennium Trilogy books and how great they were. I’m sure you’ve seen them in the bookstore where you shop. They always seem to be some of the first books when you walk in the door – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. All of these books sounded so intriguing and the critics kept raving about how fabulous the books were; but I didn’t know anyone who had read any of them.

I had these books on my Amazon wish list for a long time but never bought them because the set I had on my list (hardback) was about $50. Then one day in January, the set was an Amazon gold box special and long story short, I got the set for around $10.

I started the first book in December and because of the holiday madness and my birthday and everything else going on, I didn’t do much reading until a couple of weeks ago when I finally had some time to actually sit down and read uninterrupted. As soon as I was able to do this, the book got GOOD! Those critics were right and I was so glad I stuck with the book rather than discarding it into an unread pile.

The plot is rather intricate and the first few chapters give a lot of background detail that is essential to the story but may seem quite boring when you are first reading. The story is about a hacker/detective (Salander) and a man (Blomkvist) who was convicted for libel against his enemy. Blomkvist is hired by another man (Vanger) who wants Blomkist to write his family’s memoir and in the process see if he can find out what happened to his young niece who is thought to have been murdered when she was 16.

Without giving too much away, Salander ends up helping Blomkvist in his investigation and they find out a lot more than they ever anticipated. There are so many twists and turns and my heart began racing while reading the story and I could not wait to find out what happened next. This book is definitely a thriller. Be warned though, there are some rather graphic sexual scenes in the book so if you are uncomfortable with reading that type of thing, then this may not be the book for you.

The book was made into a movie in Sweeden a few years ago and was remade by American director David Fincher and is set for release in the US in December of this year. I am so anxious to see this book on the big screen and hope against all hope that they do the book justice because more often than not, the book never plays out on the screen like it should in my mind.

I’ve already started on the second book and haven’t gotten very far. Since I’m helping teach class at church this quarter, I’m devoting a good majority of my free time to studying for that, but on my off weeks from teaching I am able to read a little more. If the second and third books are anything like the first, then I am definitely in for a treat.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Friday In Five Points

Wow, half the day has passed and I have written nothing. I apologize for the delay, but I have been putting out some fires here at work and haven’t had any time to write today. I had planned on a book review for today, but, I want to put up something quick since half the day is gone.

Earlier this week, I stopped by my neighbor Jeff’s house to ask him if he had his Target ad from this past Sunday. My newspaper boy left out my Target ad and also my coupons from last Sunday’s delivery. I wanted the Target ad because there was a coupon for a $10 gift card with a new prescription and I have one to fill.

At any rate, Jeff and I got to talking as we always do and he asked me if I enjoyed the concert from last Friday (the 11th) and I said, “Oh my goodness, I completely forgot to blog about that!” As you may know, there is all kinds of crazy happening on my street from time to time, and last Friday was no exception.

Fridays I like to leave work a little early and do my grocery shopping, stop by the Little Rosie’s drive thru and enjoy an afternoon of TV watching or reading or napping. When I got home last Friday, I noticed there was a van with North Carolina plates in my next door neighbor’s yard (not Charlie). I recognized the van because it had been parked at my neighbor’s house overnight a couple of times previously and I had figured out that the van belonged to a band from North Carolina that played in town those two times. My neighbor, you see, works at Lowe Mill where they have live entertainment on the weekends and sometimes during the week too.

I didn’t think much of it, just realized that the band had a show in town and that the guys would be staying next door. I ate my food from Little Rosie’s and stretched out on the couch to take a quick nap since I was heading out to see RENT later that evening. About the time I closed my eyes, I heard the loudest racket of horns! Apparently this band, who had never been noisy the past two times they had stayed with my neighbor, decided to sit outside and conduct a trumpet practice for the next three hours! Now, I’m a lover of jazz music and especially love the horn section, but let me tell you, people, this was not music to my ears. The trumpet playing was so terrible I’m surprised The Tide didn’t go hide under the bed.

These guys played the same song over and over for three hours non stop and it wasn’t melodic nor was it on key! I finally sat up realizing there was no way a nap was in my future and decided to watch some TV; but I couldn’t even do that because the racket was so loud and distracting I couldn’t concentrate on the show I was watching.

Jeff didn’t care for it either as he told me this week when I stopped by. He said they were just showing out and I tend to agree with him because as many times as those guys have stayed there in the past, they have never once made such a noise! I told Jeff if those guys sounded like that in concert, I sure didn’t want to hear them play.

My visit with Jeff was great, as always – he gave me his Target ad and the coupons he didn’t cut out and also gave me a coupon for a free pint of Talenti ice cream, which is quite expensive. He had written a nasty email to the company and they sent him some coupons for some free ice cream – see writing the company works! I don’t make this stuff up!

Hopefully today won’t be quite as noisy when I get home, but if so, it’s just another Friday in Five Points! Have a great weekend, ya’ll!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cycling 101

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Hope all of you are wearing green today. Today we have a guest post from Tony – yes, that Tony. Erika wrote in and asked a general question or two about cycling and since Tony was the one who explained everything to me and got me hooked, I asked him to explain it to you. He does a great job at breaking down some of the basic cycling knowledge that many of you are probably unfamiliar with. So, I hope that you will find this post somewhat interesting. I know I did, and I’m a cycling lover! So, without further ado, I’ll turn it over to Tony…

In response to an outpouring of requests (Erika’s) as to just what the crazy sport of cycling is about, I have agreed to help Nat out by providing some sort of a cycling primer….we’ll call it Cycling 101.

To begin with, cycling as much as it may not seem so, is a team sport. Teams are based out of different countries depending on team ownership and riders from all over the world are employed by different teams based on their performance. Meaning that the best riders are the most sought after which results in them having the larger paychecks. Most teams have a melting pot of riders from countries from every corner of the world. For example the 2011 Radioshack team consists of 28 riders from 17 different countries. With this mix of nationalities it is extremely common for riders to be multilingual, sometimes speaking as many as 4-5 different languages. Within each team there is a hierarchy to the riders based on their skill and experience. Each rider is selected for the team based on what he can provide to the team. Some riders (the majority) are workers. These riders take care of the more talented riders and do whatever necessary for the good of the team. The cycling world’s name for these riders is domestique. The best riders for each team are the leaders (think Lance Armstrong), these guys are also called the “GC” guys (GC stands for General Classification which will be discussed further below). Each team’s mission is to help their GC rider or leader win the race. Each team has a director who is essentially the coach. The coach follows the group of riders on the road (also known as the peloton) in a support car calling the shots via a wireless radio that each rider carries. The support car carries extra bikes, supplies, H2O, and food.

Now that you know what consists of a team, let’s talk about the races. In cycling there are a number of different types of races. The three most common are single day races (in Europe these are known as the Classics), weeklong stage races (races that last 5-7 days with a different event scheduled for each day), and the most difficult, the Grand Tours (3 week stage races that circumnavigate an entire country). There are 3 Grand Tour races….the Giro d’Italia which occurs in May, the Tour de France which occurs in July, and the Vuelta a Espana which occurs in September. The Tour de France is by far the biggest event in cycling and can be compared to the Super Bowl, only for that it goes on for three weeks. GC riders, as mentioned above, are the riders who can compete for the week long and 3 week long stage races. These riders have to be well rounded, meaning they must be able to climb well and time trial well. (A time trial is essentially a race against the clock. Riders compete to see who can cover a given distance the fastest with no help from teammates.) Stage races have different types of stages on a given day. Some days will be mountain stages, some days will be flat stages for the sprinters, and some days are just hilly enough that breakaways can stay away from the pack and fight it out for the victory. In a stage race the rider’s time is accumulated throughout the three week event and the guy who completes the course in the least amount of time is the winner. In each race, the race organizers invite around 20-22 teams to compete. As for viewing these races….all you have to do is go to the side of the road along the route (living in Europe where most events occur helps). There are no admission fees to view cycling events and there are usually caravans that resemble parades that roll through the towns prior to the arrival of the cyclists. Mountain stages are by far the most exciting to watch in my opinion. Not only do you have the excitement of the race but you have shenanigans from the fans that have been camped out roadside waiting for the riders sometimes for days.

To compete well in any race each team must have a plan as to how they plan to race. The basic goal being to get their leader across the line first. In single day races the biggest challenges are to stay out of trouble (not crashing) and to stay with the front of the pack. If a rider were to miss out on a group breaking away from the peloton, he could be missing out on his chance for victory that day. In stage races you have to be smart for three weeks by staying out of trouble and not being too far back on the general classification. Another goal for the leaders in any race is to conserve as much energy as possible until the finale of the race. This is where their teammates are most important. These guys drop from the front of the group back to the cars to fetch bottles of water, chase down potential breakaways, and ride in front of the leaders so that the leaders can conserve energy by drafting. (Drafting is when a cyclist rides directly behind another cyclist so he can conserve energy by doing around 30% less work to keep the same pace as the guy in front.) In order for 9 guys to be operating on the same wavelength the director has to call the shots. The director will instruct his team on when to attack during a race and when to let other teams do the work. There is a lot of thinking that goes into the tactics from his perspective. One team can’t control every rider in the race so they have to pick and choose who they are concerned with. If a guy who has no chance in winning the overall, the director may choose to let him go from the group so that he can focus his attention on more dangerous riders who may try the same later on. Tactics are a huge part of this sport. A little luck doesn’t hurt as well.

As for shaved legs in cycling….essentially all professional cyclists and a large portion of local amateurs do shave their legs. The biggest reasons given are for ease of road rash treatment when crashes occur and for massages post race. But in my experience the main reason for this practice is simply that it is a tradition among cyclists.

Hopefully this rundown has provided some insight into the world cycling. It really is an exciting sport. Just ask Nat, she’s now hooked and has a trip booked to France for Le Tour!!

Thanks again to Tony for writing this post! There is so much more to discuss regarding cycling but hopefully this information was insightful to those of you who wanted to know a little more. If there’s anything else you would like to know about this awesome sport, leave a comment and maybe I can twist Tony’s arm and ask him to write another great post!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

RENT Review

This past Friday night, my friend Sabrina and I went to see Independent Musical Production’s (IMP) production of RENT at Merrimack Hall. IMP is a local production company that obviously specializes in musicals. They formally performed shows at Grissom High School and other locations and this was the first time they had performed at Merrimack. My parents had the tickets and had already seen the show and so they gave the tickets to me (thanks Steve and Deb!).

The show started at 7:30 and was over around 10:00 or so. Amazingly, I didn’t doze off during the show which seems to be my norm these days. I have been overwhelmingly tired lately – even before the time change.

I was familiar with the music from RENT since I have a copy of the soundtrack but had never seen the live production. I knew the premise of the story and told Sabrina beforehand that the story would be dealing with homosexuality and AIDS. Whether you approve of the lifestyle of these friends or not, the underlying theme of the story is the same no matter what your walk of life – that you can find a family amongst your friends, and that love is an important aspect of life.

I felt that this particular performance of RENT was just mediocre to be honest. It was opening night (I really have to stop going to opening night performances!) and the microphone of one of the main characters (Mark) wasn’t turned on for about the first 15 minutes or so and you could barely hear what he was singing (and we were on the front row!). There were a couple of guys with really great voices (Roger and Collins) and the girl who played Mimi just wasn’t that great in my opinion. Of course, I suppose I was comparing it to the soundtrack which I suppose is a little unfair considering the voices on the soundtrack are trained professionals. There was also one girl who had terrible facial expressions and was clearly struggling with her acting and it also looked as though she were lip syncing. Come to find out her parents are the benefactors of IMP which explains a lot. Despite some of the less that stellar singing, I was still moved by the story and even cried a bit at the end when everyone thinks Mimi is going to die.

For a local production, I suppose this version of RENT was okay. I have a feeling there are other local groups (Huntsville High) who could have done a lot better job, but what do I know? I’m just a spectator.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beware The Ides of March

I honestly have nothing to warn you about today, after all, I am no soothsayer; but ever since I first learned this phrase while studying William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, it has stuck with me. Talk about foreshadowing! So, since today, the 15th of March is indeed the Ides of March (and the date of Julius’ Caesar’s assassination), I thought it would be an appropriate title. What can I say? I can be more than a little nerdy at times.

So, today, since I don’t have much of anything specific to write about, I figured I would continue on with my random ramblings from yesterday. Erika seemed to be the only one that enjoyed it so maybe she will stop by and read again today.

My dad introduced me to a new snack recently and if you are a fan of salty snacks, then you must try these. They are called pretzel crisps and they are found in the deli section of the grocery store. They come in a variety of flavors. The garlic parmesan is my favorite. I’ve also tried the “everything” flavor and they are good too. Other flavors include plan, buffalo wing and sesame seed. There may be other flavors but these are the only ones I have seen. They are addictive too! You’ve been warned!

Pretzel Crisps - go get some!

Lately I have taken to popping popcorn on the stovetop multiple times a week; since I’ve been having problems with my #30 tooth though I haven’t popped as much because eating popcorn isn’t very easy these days. I’ve never been a big fan of microwave popcorn or microwave anything for that matter. My microwave serves as a butter melter for me – especially when I pop popcorn. What about you all? Do you pop popcorn on the stove top or are you strictly a microwave popper?

The time change has really messed up my internal clock and I can’t seem to get used to the new time. Losing that hour of sleep has been brutal on me as far as getting up in the mornings. I really don’t understand why we can’t just leave the time as it is. It’s annoying.

I recently ordered the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert on Blu-Ray from the PBS Store. The cost was outrageous on Amazon (shocked me!) and it was also on backorder. Erika called last week saying it was on PBS. Well, it wasn’t on my PBS station for some reason, but it did come on this past Sunday and PBS was selling the DVD – for $120! YIKES! Obviously most of that $120 would have been a donation to PBS. I ordered it from the PBS Store last week for $40. It is also on backorder, but it was cheaper than the Amazon price. I cannot wait until it comes in! This may be one Blu-Ray disc that I literally wear out!

My friend Sara is starting an Etsy store. If you don’t know about Etsy then you might not want to visit. Etsy is a site that sells all homemade goods and it can be addictive as far as looking at and perhaps purchasing all the cute things people are selling. Sara hasn’t set the link for her store yet, but when she does, I will pass it on to you so you can take a look. She is trying to build up an inventory before she lists her items. She has some cute things, ya’ll! I’ve asked her to help me with my lack of sewing skills; but she’s raising three boys and a husband and doesn’t have a lot of spare time on her hands.

I hate to close on a sad note, but I do want to ask that you all keep my dear friend, Judy in your prayers this week. She found her husband dead at their home on Sunday afternoon. I’m not sure what the cause was; but can only assume a heart attack or stroke. Needless to say, it was very sudden and shocking. This is the third person that I knew that has died suddenly this year and each one seems more chocking that the previous. So, pelase keep Judy and her three boys in your prayers.

Thanks for stopping by today and stay tuned for a review of RENT, a book review of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and a guest post about cycling coming up in the days ahead. Have a great Tuesday and Beware The Ides of March!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Randomness For Monday

How was your weekend? Did anyone put those coupon tips to good use this weekend? Hopefully so! Since my weekend wasn’t that eventful, I thought I’d just do a quick recap/random update post, which could be good or bad. Good, because you will receive lots of useless information and bad because it may be the only information you get this week unless I can pull something out of my hat to write about.

Last Thursday, I popped into the dentist’s office to have my permanent crown put on. After chatting with the dentist for a bit, he determined that I should go ahead and have a root canal before the permanent crown is put on. I’m sure you can imagine the joy I felt! I was originally scheduled to have the root canal done in Birmingham tomorrow because no endodontist in Huntsville takes my insurance. After talking with a co-worker who had one recently, I found out that his endodontist would file our insurance and I would just have to pay $300 up front. My co-worker did the same and was reimbursed $200 since the insurance paid most of it. So, now the root canal is scheduled for next Monday, March 21.

Friday night I went to see a local production of RENT at Merrimack Hall. I won’t go into great detail about it here so that I will have at least one more thing to write about this week. Stay tuned for a review.

Saturday morning, I got my hair trimmed and went grocery shopping. Since coupons have been a big topic of discussion here recently, I have to tell you about the great deal Publix has in their ad which ends tomorrow. When you purchase $25 worth of groceries, you can get a $50 gas card for $40 with the coupon in their current ad. They run this promotion from time to time and it is usually just for BP gas, which I do not buy ever since the oil spill last summer. This tie the promotion was for any gas card. So, I got one for Shell and used it yesterday. You can’t beat $10 in free gas, especially with prices as high as they are! I hope Publix continues to put this awesome deal in their ads!

Saturday afternoon, I was supposed to meet up with Jackie and the kids to see Rango at the movie theater; but, one of the kids got sick and our plans got changed at the last minute. I don’t know why, but this movie looks so interesting to me; probably because Johnny Depp provides the voice of one of the characters.

If you have not tried the new Sonic hot dogs and you are a hot dog lover, you must go get one. You can go here and take a short quiz and get a $1 off coupon for a combo. The New York dog is so good. I seriously think I had four of them this past week! DELICIOUS people!

As far as the rest of the weekend is concerned, not much else took place. I did some house cleaning, laundry, etc. throughout the weekend and went to church yesterday. I also did some TV watching. Jackie told me about a show called, “An Idiot Abroad,” that comes on the Science Channel. I recorded all the episodes and have watched them over the course of the last couple of weeks. It took me a while to really get into this show, but once I did, I could not stop laughing. The things that come out of Karl’s mouth crack me up. I think he would be a lot of fun to hang out with. One of the things that is the funniest is that Ricky Gervais busts up laughing at everything Karl says – even if it’s not very funny. Apparently Ricky finds Karl to be one of the funniest human beings on the face of the earth.

I also finished a book recently and will write a book review on it because if you are a reader and a movie lover then you will want to read this one because I think the movie version is coming out later this year.

Back to coupons and money saving methods – right now at Viewpoints, you can write five reviews by March 21 and earn a $5 Amazon gift card. The reviews have to be a minimum of 700 characters and about something in the following categories: Home and Garden, Family and Pets (excluding toys), Health and Beauty (Excluding Food and Drink) or Computers and Electronics. This is a really great way to earn a gift card. I have done this many times and have earned probably three or four $10 gift cards. In fact, I earned one just last month and am planning on writing five reviews for this campaign to get the $5 card.

I’m sure I have a lot more uninteresting information to pass your way, but I’ll save it for another day this week when once again I don’t have much to say.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Nat’s Couponing Tips – Part Two

Today, we will continue our discussion on couponing. I hope yesterday’s post was helpful to some of you. I wanted to share with you some of the best ways to find coupons and also provide you some links to a few web sites that will help you in your quest to get more band for your buck.

The keys I use to finding coupons are as follows:

1. Buy a Sunday paper. The majority of coupons are going to be in the Sunday paper. I have a friend at work who I swap coupons with. I cut out what I want from my paper and give her what I don’t take and she does the same. I get The Huntsville Times weekend subscription which is $8 a month; I’m sure Sunday only is a little cheaper. It’s worth it to me just to get the coupons.
2. Look online – go to this site and also Red Plum, SmartSource, All You, Target as well as individual company web sites. If you see an item on sale search for a coupon.
3. Send an email to your favorite companies – It never hurts to compliment someone, even companies. I have written to companies telling them how awesome I think their products are and have received coupons for free items in return for sending a nice email.
4. Buy coupons on eBay – I have one seller that I buy from about once a month or so. She lives in Florida and often has great coupons that are not available to me. Her seller name is maumabear and her listing is usually for 100 Grocery only coupons.
5. Use a clipping service. There are a lot of clipping services out there that sell coupons for specific items. They usually cut them from the newspaper and sell them for a low price. I have never used one of these services but a lot of people do.
6. Look for coupons in the store – seasonal coupon booklets are often available as well as coupons that pull out of the blinkie machines and coupons that come from tear pads.
7. Trade with your friends and family.
8. Pick up coupons at food shows, cooking classes, and other events.
9. Take advantage of rebates. Whether it’s money back or coupon booklets from the company, rebates are a great way to aid in saving money.

As far as finding out about great deals, I am going to list the sites I follow regularly. Most of these sites I visit on a daily basis to see what kind of great deals they have uncovered. A lot of them I will visit multiple times throughout the day just to make sure I don’t miss any great deals that may quickly disappear.

The first group of sites are general money saving tip sites and have been extremely helpful to me.

Money Saving Madness – this site is devoted to all sorts of money saving tips. She posts about available coupons, sales, deal sites, etc.

Southern Savers – this is actually how I determine my grocery list for the week. She posts each of the stores sale items and coupon match-ups and you can make a printable list. It is the best site I’ve found as far as helping me at the grocery store. She also lists various specials and deals throughout the day. This is one of the most helpful sites I have found.

Birmingham Bargain Mom – this is primarily for Alabama readers as her deals primarily pertain to the Birmingham and Huntsville areas.

Simply CVS – I wasn’t much of a CVS shopper until I found this site. This site takes each week’s sale paper and will show you multiple options as to how to get a lot of items for little money using coupons, and CVS’ Extra Care Bucks.

Hey It’s Free – I love to get stuff in the mail. Hey It’s Free posts about all the free samples, magazine subscriptions, etc. that you can find out on the World Wide Web. I have gotten tons of free magazine subscriptions by following this site.

The second group of sites I want to share with you are sites that offer daily deals. These sites can really help you save money when dining out, out for a night on the town, etc.

Swagbucks – This isn’t really a daily deal site, but this is a search engine that you can use to earn “Swagbucks”. Swagbucks can then be spend in the swag store for all sorts of items from gift cards to video games. Last year around Christmas, I had saved enough Swagbucks to purchase $25 worth of Amazon gift cards which I used to buy a Christmas present or two. Basically I earned an Amazon gift card just for searching the internet. Money Saving Madness (mentioned above) often has a lot of Swagbuck tips throughout the day.

Groupon – Every day Groupon offers a deal of the day and you can sign up for email notices for your city (this is a great time to have one of those junk email accounts I mentioned yesterday. Some recent Groupon examples are $6 for $12 at Lawler’s BBQ, $15 for $30 of product at Bath and Body Works, $10 for $20 Barnes and Nobel Gift Card.

Living Social – Similar to Groupon, Living Social also offers discounts at local restaurants and venues. Recent examples are $12 for $25 at Another Broken Egg Café, $9 for two movie tickets purchased through Fandango, $24 for $60 ticket to the Huntsville Symphony, $10 for $20 Amazon gift card. P.S. If you sign up through this link you should receive a $5 credit.

*Side note – if you use Swagbucks, you can click on the “Daily Deals” tab on the left side of the page and the Groupon and Living Social deals will appear. If you purchase through the Swagbucks link, not only are you getting a great deal, but you will also earn various denominations of Swagbucks. For example, the deal for Another Broken Egg Café earned me 315 Swagbucks, just 135 short of a $5 Amazon gift card.

Baby Steals – If you are the mother of a little one or need to buy a baby shower gift, check out baby steals. They have a new deal every day starting at 10:00 a.m. Central time. These deals go quick so be sure to check it out early.

GroopDealz is a new deal site I’ve come across and it has a lot of handmade items for a discounted price. I haven’t bought anything from this site yet, but there have been some cute things listed here.

Ebates – This is an awesome way to earn some money. If you are like me then you probably buy a lot of items online. Ebates is a great way to earn money back on those purchases. All you do is sign up for an account, then each time you shop online go first to Ebates and then find the store you will be shopping at, click the link and it will take you to that store. When you make your purchase, a certain percentage will be added to your Ebates account and when you reach a certain amount, you can ash it in! How easy is that?
I think that’s all the information I have for you today. If you happen to sign up for any of the deal sites mentioned above, I would be most appreciative if you went through the link provided here in this post. I get credits for referring friends and after all, I am about maximizing my dollar, isn’t that what the whole point of this post was about?

Thanks for reading and I truly hope these tips were helpful and that you will soon be on your way to maximizing your own dollar and saving lots of money! Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Nat’s Couponing Tips – Part One

Wow, I think yesterday’s post stirred a fire in a lot of your bellies! I guess that’s a good thing. I wanted to address some of the things that were brought up in the comments section of the post. This is going to be a two part post because I wrote WAY too much. I hope it comes across well and that it will help some of you out.

As I mentioned yesterday, I use coupons all the time. I get made fun of sometimes (in a fun, joking way) because I seem to always have a coupon on hand for a product or restaurant or what have you. It’s rare that I don’t have a coupon for something when I need it. Having said that, one of the main reasons I never talk much about couponing here on this site is because there are so many great sites devoted to couponing and I actually use those sites to aid me in my quest for the lowest possible price. So, today, I wanted to reply to your comments from yesterday and also share my favorite money saving web sites with you so that you too may be able to start saving some money! It really adds up people, you would be surprised. Even my dad has started using coupons and I think he has also been impressed with the savings he has seen.

I will be the first to admit that couponing can be very time consuming if you do it right. However, if you are a TV junkie like me, then you can always cut coupons while watching TV, or if you are at the ballpark at your kids’ game, take your coupons there and cut them out or work on your grocery list. If you don’t get car sick, you can work on them while riding in the car while your husband is driving (for those of you that have husbands). You get the picture. There are lots of ways that you can multi-task and cut coupons so that it doesn’t have to take up so much of your time. When it comes to making a grocery list, focus on items that are on sale and plan your weekly menu around those items. It will save you a lot of time and money.

So, without further ado, let’s get started…

Mary was the first to comment and she said this, “Amen, sister! And, since we're complaining...I don't like having to submit my name, address or email address to get a coupon. I don't want or need a bunch of junk mail or spam from a company that I might be trying for the first time. I will have to add that I don't use coupons as much as I used to since my boys have gotten older.” In a later comment, Melissa suggested, “I have a tip for when a site requires your email address to get a coupon or other offer (I hate having to do that too!!)...set up a separate email account just for 'junk' mail. When you need to enter an email address for a site that you don't want to get spam from, just give them that junk account address, and you won't have to be bothered with it when checking your regular email. Hope this is helpful :)”

This is also exactly what I do. I actually have three “junk” email addresses that I use so that I can optimize the number of deals I get. A lot of “deal sites” will allow you to have an account per email address and a lot of times you can get a credit for signing up at certain times. For example, this past Christmas, I used three different emails addresses to set-up three different accounts for a deal site. Each account I set up was given a $20 credit. In return, I ended up buying a lunch container, and two Melissa and Doug toys for a grand total of less than $5 (including shipping!). If I had paid full price, it would have been well over $75 for these items.

In addition to signing up for credits at various “deal sites”, you can also use these “junk” email addresses when signing up for coupons on company web sites. That way, you don’t have to deal with all the junk mail and spam that comes as a result of signing up for a coupon. I have found this method to work out very nicely. About once a week I will log on to my ‘junk” accounts and check out the coupon offers (if there are any) and clean out the inbox. Also, a lot of companies (like Procter and Gamble) will offer samples and special coupons on a monthly or quarterly basis but you have to have an account with them to get the samples or coupons. A ‘junk” email account is good for this situation as well.

Melissa also commented, “Hey Nat!! Great topic!! Was I that lady in front of you who spent $150 and used no coupons?!? HA! Just kidding. I would LOVE to learn how to maximize the use of coupons. I NEVER use them, but would love to. I rarely find coupons for things I want/need to buy during that particular week. And, we usually spend about $150/week. Any advice you could pass along would be great...especially for a working mom who does not have much time to plan out my grocery list/coupon usage. Help!!”

I think this is a problem that a lot of people have regarding using or not using coupons. If you are like me, then you are probably very brand loyal; sometimes, however when using coupons, we have to put our loyalties aside and just go for the best deal. As a result of being brand loyal, we sometimes won’t cut out coupons for products that we normally don’t buy. This is a lesson I had to learn myself – cut out and save all coupons, not just those you think you will use. The more coupons you keep around, the more likely you will have what you need come grocery store time.

Another way to maximize the use of your coupons is to use them when an item is on sale and also when your store doubles. I shop at Publix every week. It’s pretty much the only place I shop these days. I occasionally will buy some things at Target, especially on the week that I pick up my prescriptions; but rare and I mean really rare is the occasion that I stop by Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is a trap. You will often see things that are strategically placed and you will think, “what a deal”, and throw it in to your basket. The next thing you know, you are spending $200 and wondering how in the heck that happened. This seems to happen every time I’m at Wal-Mart so I’ve stopped going there except on the rare occasion when I need to pick up one or two things that they may not have at Publix or Target or if I need to get something on the way to work (there’s a Wal-Mart close to where I work). Wal-Mart also has a terrible coupon policy and the cashiers usually look at you like you’re the devil when you try to use a coupon there so I generally avoid Wal-Mart and I’ve been pleasantly pleased with my shopping experiences since I’ve stopped going there.

As I mentioned, I love Publix, and here’s why. Publix doubles coupons up to 50 cents (i.e. 50 cents becomes $1, 35 cents becomes 70 cents, etc). Publix takes competitors coupons. Publix often has store coupons, or Publix coupons. You can use one store, one competitor and one manufacturer coupon per item. Now, it’s not often that you will have all three, but many times, I will have a competitor and manufacturer coupon. Each Publix is different as to which competitor coupons they will take. For example, the Publix in Hampton Cove will take Earth Fare coupons, but the Publix on Whitesburg does not. So, be sure and ask at customer service before you start on your shopping venture. I like to buy the “Enjoy The City” coupon books that the schools sell because those books usually have a $5 off $50 or more at Star Market. I always spend more than $50 a week on groceries before coupons; so, each time I go to Publix, I automatically know I’m going to save $5 by presenting a Star Market coupon as a competitor coupon. Melissa, I know you live in Nashville, but I’m sure the schools there sell these books or something like them and I’m sure your Publix takes competitor coupons as well. Stacking coupons is a great way to get items for next to nothing or even free.

Publix also has Advantage Deals flyers that come out about once a month. There is a green flyer (for personal and health items) and a yellow flyer (for grocery items). Each flyer runs for a three week period and contains additional coupons and sale items.

I can’t speak for other stores, but I’m sure there are good deals there too. I’m not a fan of Kroger, but I think they double coupons as well (maybe only on certain days?).

I think this is enough about coupons for one day, how about you? Hopefully some of this information was helpful or at least a little insightful. I tried to find a good breaking point in all that I’ve written and this is the place where it seemed most suitable to stop. Tomorrow I will provide you some tips on where to find coupons and also share with you some of my favorite web sites.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I Need To Complain Today

I’m in a wee bit of a foul mood today and as a result, I thought I would do a little complaining. I can’t complain online about what put me in a foul mood so I’ll just complain about something completely unrelated yet something that gets under my skin all the same – coupons on facebook.

As many of you know, I love to use coupons. Saving money by using coupons has become a way of life for me over the past few years. I try to maximize my dollar by using coupons on as many items as possible – double coupons, store coupons, manufacturer coupons, competitor coupons, you get the picture. I’m always amazed when people don’t use coupons. Last week I was at the store and the lady in front of me bought about $150 worth of groceries and used no coupons. All I could think about was how much money she would have saved by using coupons for the items in her cart. Coupons are awesome people! I save around $20 - $40 a week on coupons. Think about how much less money I would have if I didn’t use coupons. It makes me cringe.

All of this brings me to coupons that are on facebook. First of all, I don’t understand why companies have a facebook page. I realize that most people have a facebook page, but not everyone does. I really don’t understand why companies use facebook to promote their products – I thought that’s what the company’s web site was for. As far as coupons are concerned – why would you offer coupons to your “fans” that are only on facebook? Do you not realize that you are discriminating against your “fans” that are not on facebook? You are alienating a lot of consumers out there, myself included. I don’t think consumers should be forced to join a social networking site just to obtain a coupon. Coupons, if offered, should be offered to all consumers not just the ones who have joined the latest social networking fad.

I am angered every time I click on a link only to see the coupon is available only through facebook or when I read about a new coupon being released, but only if you “like” the company on facebook. The more coupons you release on facebook, the more I want to “dislike” you out here in the real world. I wonder if these companies ever stop to think that maybe the people who need the coupons the most don’t even have access to the internet. How are those people supposed to access the coupons? Maybe the companies only want their consumers to be popular trendy people. If that’s the case, then they can count me out because I am not someone who is going to do something just because it is trendy.

Thanks for letting me vent a little bit about coupons and facebook. I find that more and more coupons are only available through facebook and it is very frustrating for someone like me who loves to use coupons but is anti-facebook.

Stay tuned for the next time I’m in a foul mood when we discuss the importance of a thank-you note.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Wedding Singer: A Review

Last Friday night, Jackie and I headed out to see Huntsville High’s production of The Wedding Singer. It was opening night and everyone seemed excited to see the show. The show started at 7:30 and we arrived a little after 7:00 and bought our tickets at the ticket booth located in the lobby of Huntsville High’s theater.

Our seats were on the last row of the front section and with the exception of the large noggin of the man in front of me, the view was really great. The floor is slanted which makes all the seats great for viewing. I didn’t have much trouble seeing around the large noggin, I just had to tilt my head to one side or the other.

The musical is based on the 1998 movie of the same name which starred Adam Sandler. The musical has the same characters and many of the same scenes, but obviously most of the dialogue is sung rather than spoken. If you are a fan of this movie, I would recommend that you go see this at Huntsville High. The students there did an amazing job with this show. I have seen other productions at HHS before and they have all been wonderful and this show was no exception.

The students did a great job in their roles, the singing, dancing, choreography, acting, etc. was all fantastic. It’s obvious that the kids have put a lot of love and hard work into making this show a success. The costumes were also great and the scenery was remarkable. I’m really not sure if there are enough adjectives to describe how great this show is. HHS productions are some of the best amateur shows I have ever seen.

The Wedding Singer continues this weekend with showing at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2:00 on Saturday afternoon. The tickets are $15 and the show lasts about two and half hours, including a 15 minute intermission. If you need something to do this weekend, go check it out, you will be so glad you did and will leave with a big smile on your face!

Monday, March 7, 2011

It's The Greatest Show On Earth!

Last Thursday night, my parents, Erika and I went to see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. The circus was in town March 2-6, and we Parkers never miss an opportunity to go and see all the latest and greatest circus tricks. My mother isn’t as much of a circus enthusiast as my dad and I; but she’s always a good sport and tags along for the fun.

The VBC is undergoing some renovations right now and so getting into the arena is always a tricky experience these days. We were escorted in through a back door where we walked past the storage crates for the flying trapeze!

Walking in the back door

The Trapeze Crate!

My dad helped my mom get settled into her spot for the show and then joined Erika and I down on the floor for the pre-circus activities. Before he got down there, Erika had the privilege of trying on a circus jacket! It matched the clothes she had on – purple is her favorite color, can you tell?

Erika and I found a seat on one of the rings watching the clowns and a hula hooper. Erika and I are pretty sure we can perform this trick with no problem at all! Ha; then again, maybe not.

My dad joined us just in time to watch a few other circus performers, including a lady that dangled in the air while swinging on a hoop of some sort and some Asian guys that performed tricks with straw hats. Then came the moment we were all waiting for – the elephant!

Every year at the circus, an elephant paints a picture. You can register to win the picture and every year my dad crosses his fingers hoping he will win and unfortunately they never draw his name; this year was no exception. Maybe I can write a letter to the circus and ask them to send him one. We watched the elephant paint a couple of pictures and also catch some sticks thrown by the clown Bibi. After the elephant performed, it was time to go to our seats so the floor could be cleared for the circus to get underway.

Catching sticks thrown by Bibi the Clown

The elephant is painting a self portrait

Painting another self portrait

The clowns got things started by beating on some trash cans and dancing around and then the ringmaster came out and sang the national anthem. After The Star Spangled Banner, the singing and dancing and performing began. This show was called Funundrum, which is the same as last year’s show and a lot of the acts were the same but there were a few different acts as well.

The tigers were one of the first acts and I always enjoy watching them perform. They are very stubborn creatures and you can tell they’d much rather being doing something else.

The tigers look like they want to eat the tiger tamer.

I like it when they stand up like this.

This guy is thanking the Lord he is still alive.

This show also had one of my very favorite acts, the Globe of Steel, or as I like to call it, The Globe of Death.

There were lots of animal acts as well, including horses, a longhorn and of course elephants. Here an elephant is carry a basket with a dog inside. The dog kept wagging his tail and my dad said the dog must be enjoying it. When I got home I asked The Tide if she would ever ride in an elephant basket… she didn’t have much to say in response other than a turn of her head.

Hook 'Em Horns!

A dog riding in an elephant basket

One of the last things I took a photo of was of this duo – he was driving a motorcycle on a tight rope and she was riding some kind of contraption underneath. She was doing flips and all sorts of things. It was pretty interesting, especially considering it was right above our heads.

Do not try this at home!
After the circus was over, mother rode a construction lift down to the street and then we headed back to the car and slowly maneuvered our way through the hordes of people so we could head back to our homes for the night.

The circus was a lot of fun this year. I’m glad we were all able to go and that Erika was able to go with us. I think everyone had an enjoyable time. It was one of the better circuses that Ringling Brothers has put on in recent years. You can read more about it here, which is a recap of the Funundrum from 2010. I look forward to the 2012 circus; but until then, may all your days be circus days!