Buy gas when the guage reads 1/4 tank.

Time to fill up!
Time to fill up!


This is not a lesson I learned quickly. In fact, I was known for running out of gas. One of the first times your dad and I went out on a date was when we were in college at Western Carolina University. Since he didn’t have a car at school, I drove. We went to Sylva to see a movie. (I think it was a real classic – You Light Up My Life, but there weren’t a lot of choices in Sylva, NC.) On the way back to campus, I famously ran out of gas. Of course, your dad had no idea this was one of my bad habits.

Fortunately, we were not far from a gas station so we walked down the road, bought some gas, put it in a borrowed container from the station, and then poured it in the tank using a rolled up up road map as a funnel. And off we went – no harm done.

This was a pattern I continued for years. In fact, I’ve run out of gas on my way home from Ocala Springs twice, but not in the last 15 or so years. So take it from one who knows, keep gas in your car! Not only is it inconvenient, embarrassing, and dangerous to run out of gas, it’s also not good for your car. When the gas level gets too low, condensation forms in the tank and you do not want water in your gas since this can do some serious damage to the engine.

While this is always a good idea, it’s even more important during hurricane season since nothing would be more frustrating than

Wonder if Albert ever let the Bat-mobile drop before a 1/4 tank?
Wonder if Albert ever let the Bat-mobile drop below a 1/4 tank?

to be unable to use your car before, during, or after a storm – since stations make lack power or run out of fuel. So make a habit of filling the tank when it reaches the 1/4 level. You’ve got several months to make this a habit before hurricane season rolls around in May. And don’t get frustrated with your dear ole mom when she texts or calls to remind you to fill up due to an approaching storm. If nothing else, I may save you a few bucks since gas stations are notorious for raising prices during times of peak usage.



Burrito Bowls – My new favorite lunch!

Taking some tips from The 4-Hour Body, I decided to concentrate on eating more filling lunches to avoid snacking later in the day. The author, Timothy Ferriss, recommends eating a few foods over and over instead of eating a wide variety of foods. He suggests that concentrating on a few foods makes maintaining a diet more manageable and we don’t really need variety anyhow. While I don’t agree completely, I do agree that simplicity helps me when preparing meals. That’s why I’ve relied on frozen meals or sandwiches for lunch, but I really do not enjoy sandwiches and who needs all that bread anyway. And why am I eating frozen meals when I’m at home? Couldn’t I just quickly whip something up?

Well, last week I found the answer to the simple lunch that I love to repeat. At my request, John cooked a couple of extra chicken breasts on the grill when he was preparing dinner last Sunday. Then on Monday I cooked some rice (Uncle Ben’s 90 second microwave since I didn’t plan ahead). I heated black beans, corn, 1/2 chicken breast, and mixed them with the rice. I added a little shredded cheese and salsa and viola! I created a delicious lunch. Best of all, I had plenty of leftovers to prepare the same meal Monday through Thursday.

I know Ferriss would not be happy with all of my food choices in this recipe. Yes, he loves beans and chicken, but rice is a definite no on his plan, and I’m not sure he’d approve of corn. However, this is my body – not his – so I get to modify any way I want. So here’s recipe for Dee’s Burrito Bowl.


1/2 cup cooked rice

1/2 cup shoepeg corn

1/2 cup black beans

1/2 chicken breast

2 Tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese

3 Tablespoons salsa

Measure rice, corn, beans, and chicken and place in a bowl. Heat in the microwave approximately 90 seconds or until warm. Sprinkle with cheese and salsa. Calories: 440 (I know that may seem like too many calories for lunch, but this is filling; and you won’t be tempted to snack later in the day.)

Substituting red beans for black beans or doubling the beans in place of corn may be good changes. I know what I’ll be eating this week for lunch – more burrito bowls!

Paid Thank You Notes?

In my search for wedding invitation information I discovered many websites offering services to address invitations. Of course, many of them offered calligraphy services, but others “ink jet calligraphy” which provide computer-addressed envelopes. In fact, most of those providing invitation-addressing services use computers. However, it’s good to see there are individuals that still address invitations the old-fashioned way – by hand.

I was surprised that calligraphy is not necessarily a requirement for these hand written addressing services. Some simply offer to address your invitations using easy to read, cursive, or printing styles done by hand. You can hire someone to address invitations, save the date cards, and place cards for your wedding. They also address Christmas cards, graduation announcements, other types of invitations, and anything else that needs that personal touch. (Am I the only person who recognizes a person’s handwriting?)

The service offered that I found disturbing: writing thank you notes. Two types of services are provided for writing those “dreaded thank you notes” (their words, not mine). The client can type the message, which will be transcribed on cards so a handwritten note can be sent – I guess that’s not too bad. However, you can also pay someone to write the note from scratch – just include the name, address of the person to receive the thank you, and the gift given. The thank you note will be written, addressed, and mailed by your proxy. Have we really gotten to the point where we can’t thank those who give gifts or attend our wedding and special events?

A paid thank you note? I’d prefer your not so beautiful handwriting or even a typed message. Thank you.

Time to Blame the Teacher

blameAs teachers issue grades at the end of the first semester it’s time to prepare for the onslaught from students and parents. Those unhappy with grades will be calling and emailing demanding explanations regarding their child’s lower than expected grades.

Yes, I provided a study guide; yet, your child was unable to discuss even one of the topics covered in the lessons. I guess I should have written a script for him to read so that he would be able to succeed. Yes, I scheduled an appointment and spoke to your child personally to discuss the material on the exam. When I asked if he had any questions there were none.

When your child failed the exam, I asked if he remembered that he could use his notes. He said, “Oh, I don’t take notes. I have a really good memory.” I can tell by the score. And by the way, he should have learned the word I is always spelled with a capital letter six or seven years ago when he was in first grade. I forgot – that was the teacher’s fault, too!

If you’re a teacher, good luck with your parent conferences in the weeks to come. Insist that the students and parents accept their share of responsibility.

If you’re a parent who does not blame the teacher. Thank you!


Best 25 Super Bowl Commercials

I really have no interest in the Super Bowl this year regardless of which teams win this weekend’s games so I’ll just be watching for the commercials. If they are like those in this Best 25 Super Bowls Commercials video I won’t be disappointed.

And did you know that you can register to vote for the best ads shown during this year’s Super Bowl game? Vote for best Super Bowl ad of 2013.

It seems BudLite, Doritos, and squirrels are the main theme of the Best Super Bowl ads. Hope you enjoy!

Weigh-in Wednesday – Week 3

So far, so good! All of the holiday eating pitfalls eliminated. Over a week of logging daily food intake. And best of all, I’m back to my pre-holiday weight. In fact, I’m a couple of pounds lighter than my pre-holiday weight!

The plan for week three may be a crazy one, but one worth trying since it’s so easy and painless. I recently saw a post regarding the benefits of starting the day by drinking ice water. That reminded me of the book, The 4-Hour Body, by Timothy Ferriss which I read a couple of years ago.

Ferriss’ book focuses on a variety of activities to make significant changes in your body. His plan for losing weight is based on odd combinations of food with only limited exercise. According to his weight loss plan, you need to start the day drinking 500ml (16oz) of ice water. This is to be done immediately after waking each morning with breakfast to follow 20-30 minutes later. The ice water stimulates your body’s metabolism since your body works to raise the temperature of the water and as a result burns calories. By simply drinking eight 8oz glasses of ice water, your body burns 70 calories. I know, that’s not many, but it’s easy so I’ll give it a try. One more simple step.



Don’t Cheat or Lie!

With Lance Armstrong appearing on Oprah this week to admit to taking performance-enhancing drugs, I can officially be classified as a fool! Lance wouldn’t take drugs – after beating cancer, he would never risk his life for sport. Yeah, right! How can he possibly be doping? He’s never failed a single drug test, and he’s been the most tested athlete in history? Yeah, I fell for that one too.

I wasted way too much time watching liars and cheaters receive accolades for their performances over the past dozen or so years. It started during the 1998 baseball season. We watched and cheered for Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as they battled for the single season home run record.  The Cardinals and Cubs captured my attention in a way major league baseball never had before. McGwire set the record with 70 home runs and Sosa earned the 1998 league MVP award for their efforts.

Then my addiction to the Tour de France began in the summer of 1999. We watched and took great pleasure in Lance Armstrong and U.S. Postal as they claimed the yellow jersey and team title. The summer of 2000 started with a repeat by Lance and U.S. Postal and concluded with Marion Jones winning five Olympic track and field medals and Tyler Hamilton taking the Olympic gold in cycling.

The first chink came later in 2000 when it was reported that Tyler Hamilton tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs following his gold medal performance, but we all defended him…waiting for an explanation or mistake. But instead, Hamilton was stripped of his medal and suspended from cycling. Then we learned Marion Jones husband’s withdrawal from the Olympic games was due to a positive test, not an injury. Of course, that didn’t mean Jones was involved and in fact, she divorced her husband because he tainted her good name.

The Tour became a must watch event every day throughout the month of July for the next six years. We cheered Lance and his teammates for all seven titles watching many of the races more than once, and then were elated in 2006 when another American cyclist took over where Lance left off. Floyd Landis and his amazing ride on day 17 resulted in an American ending the competition in the yellow jersey for eight years in a row.

We wore yellow Livestrong bands on our wrists (as did both George W. Bush and John Kerry as they campaigned for the presidency in 2004). We purchased T-shirts with the signature yellow sleeve. We read It’s Not About the Bike, Lance’s autobiography. We laughed when he hosted Saturday Night Live. We criticized Greg LeMond when he questioned Armstrong’s cycling feats and then accused him of cheating. LeMond, who we’d cheered in the 80’s when he won three Tour titles of his own, was not behaving like a champion. We accused him of being jealous of Armstrong’s success and popularity. Wasn’t it sad that he had become so bitter?

Of course, by now, both McGwire and Sosa had been identified in the MLB doping scandal and Marion Jones had tested positive for doping. She was fighting to retain her Olympic medals and the ability to continue racing. (Did you know that Marion Jones had been accused of doping all the way back to her days in high school? In fact, Johnny Cochran – O.J. Simpson’s attorney “If it does not fit, you must acquit.” – successfully had a four year ban overturned when she missed a random drug test in high school. How did I miss this?) Then Landis tested positive, and we knew that had to be a mistake…not, Floyd!

So I don’t know why I continued to defend Lance Armstrong. Yes, he had a compelling story…raised by a single mother, against all odds fought and beat cancer, won the Tour seven consecutive years; but a compelling story does not mean he’s not a cheat and liar.

It’s hard to learn a lesson here because while the saying goes, “Cheaters Never Win.” These cheaters did win. They won awards, titles, and our hearts. They were rewarded with endorsements and financial success, but nevertheless, they are cheaters. They are liars. They are an emabarrassment.

I think I’ve learned a lesson. I can’t know someone based on his or her athletic performance or appearance on a talk show. I can’t know someone based on an autobiography or news reports, and I certainly won’t be watching as Lance tries to convince us he’s good guy and misunderstood and just doing what he had to do to compete when he talks to Oprah. I’ve heard enough.

I’ll still watch sporting events and cheer for my team or a particular athlete, but I won’t defend them or buy their merchandise. I certainly won’t schedule my day around their performance. After all, they’re just doing their job. I’ll always be skeptical, and I hope you’ll be skeptical as well.

Don’t cheat. Don’t lie. You’re better than that.


No, you’re not dying – don’t use the Internet to diagnose your ailments!

I remember a series of text messages I received from Emily one afternoon when she was a student at UM. They started something like this: I have little red bumps all over my arm. This was followed by a series of other ailments. Finally she said she had some disease with at least a dozen letters. Something I’d never heard of. At this point, I knew she had been on the Internet on some medical website trying to determine the causes of each of her complaints. The final text said, I think I’m dying.

This isn’t exactly the message your mom wants to see in her text messages after a hard day at work, but in this case, the messages were so outlandish that I could only laugh. Emily’s research on her symptoms came to the same conclusion you will always reach when doing medical research on the Internet…you’re dying.

See a real MD, instead of relying on WebMD!
See a real MD, instead of relying on WebMD!

I know it’s so tempting when you are experiencing chest pains or insomnia or leg cramps or whatever ails you to do a quick search on WebMD or some other site to determine the cause and seriousness of the ailment. However, it doesn’t matter what the symptoms, you will inevitably determine that you are dying, probably of some form of cancer.

A better solution to your problem is to seek the advice of a medical professional. Go the doctor, talk to the pharmacist, or talk to a nurse. If you’re concerned, the Internet is not the place to go to ease your fears. It will only make you feel worse. Not only will you still have your original symptoms to deal with but now you will also have to worry about the life threatening disease you’ve diagnosed.

For example, if I enter the symptoms from the pain in my hip, WebMD lists the following possible conditions:



Soreness from exercise


Lyme disease


West Nile Virus


DrHouseOf course, none of these were the cause of the pain. Instead, it was simply bursitis, or as dad calls it, “old lady disease”. One cortisone shot and all is well. I’m so glad I resisted the urge to google my aches and pains. That prevented worry to intensify my symptoms.

Sure it’s a good idea to learn more about the condition the doctor has diagnosed or to research the medications that have been prescribed. But, it’s not a good idea to research first. Save yourself the headaches associated with inaccurate self-diagnosis. Avoid needless worry. Medical expertise is not as easy as answering a few questions and plugging in to a template…just ask Dr. House from the Fox television series!

Avoid the temptation! Don’t be a google doctor.



Black Bean and Corn Salsa

This week we celebrate the retirement of a co-worker. To recognize this event, a reception has been planned and we’ve all signed up to provide food and drinks. My favorite easy to prepare contribution to these types of events is black bean and corn salsa, served with tortilla chips. Preparation takes only about 15 minutes, but it tastes best if refrigerated for at least eight hours so making the day ahead is perfect.


1  (15-oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained $
1  (11-oz.) can shoepeg corn, drained $
1  small green bell pepper, chopped $
2  plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped $
4  green onions, chopped $
1/4 cup  Italian vinaigrette dressing
1 tablespoon  fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons  chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon  garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon  seasoned pepper
1/2 teaspoon  chili powder
1/2 teaspoon  hot sauce
Assorted tortilla chips


Stir together black beans and next 11 ingredients in a medium bowl; cover and chill 1 to 24 hours. Serve with tortilla chips.

Another great recipe from Southern Living, December 2008.

What’s a Mother to Do?

It’s time to plan another wedding. On October 15, 2011, daughter #1 (first born, not favorite) married after a yearlong engagement. A year of planning, meeting with vendors, making decisions about location, guest lists, and wedding dress selection.

First mother of the bride experience - October 15, 2011.
First mother of the bride experience – October 15, 2011.

Now daughter #2 (second born) has set her wedding date for November of this year so it’s time to begin the serious business of planning another fall wedding. In fact, the wedding is ten months from today so what’s a mother to do?

The date’s been set, members of the bridal party have been selected, and we’ve discussed a budget and general ideas about location, style, and guests. Ideas for a wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses, and attire for the groomsmen have been collected and shared. I’ve set up an Evernote file to store any and all notes regarding wedding plans so I can access information not only from my computer but even from my phone. It’s always with me.  I wish I had known about this system for storing notes when planning the first wedding.

Our goals for the month: nail down a venue, arrange a time to look for a dress, and interview caterers. My job – insure that we stay on schedule. Offer to make calls or meet with vendors; but without pushing my ideas or nagging. I’m ready, willing, and able to be a partner in the planning process; but I’m also happy taking the back seat. After all, this is not my wedding.

Good news! The officiant and photographer have been selected! Two important items checked off the to do list, and best of all, I’m not a rookie. I’ve done this once. I’m sure I can do it again. I’m looking forward to another year of wedding planning.