“You have GOT to be kidding me!  You’re going to blog about slugs???”

It’s been described as having a dry-tire surface to it.  I have to admit, as close as I got to the slug to get these pictures, I did NOT touch it!

LOL!  Yes I am!  Because I was so incredibly stunned when I saw this black stick start slithering across my driveway last week!

Meet a black-velvet featherleaf slug, which is a species of slug introduced from South America to northern Florida in the 1960s.  This website seems to have a good description, and I found some snippets of information at these other sites. 

Florida Slugs
Black-velvet featherleaf slug sightings in the Jacksonville, FL area.

The one I saw was pretty long and slender. About the length of my middle finger (3-4″?).

Here are the other pictures I got. Enjoy, if you dare!

27. May 2011 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

This week’s Friday Fill-In!  Enjoy!  And Happy Memorial Day!  Take a moment and think about what a great country we live in and how many have given their lives for the rights Americans have.

1. Do you think civilians, in general, understand the meaning of Memorial Day?

Most civilians do their best to take time to remember our nation’s servicemembers.  Something my husband and I have noticed, though, is that most Americans don’t understand the histories of Memorial Day and Veterans Day. 

Memorial Day goes all the way back to the mid-1860s, when two American Army general officers declared a “Decoration Day” for May 30th of every year, a date to decorate the fallen Civil War soldiers’ graves.  A date chosen because it wasn’t already commemorating a Civil War battle.  Memorial Day is exactly that…a day to honor the memories of those who’d served before us.

On the other hand, Veterans Day (Psst!  No apostrophe!) was first proclaimed as “Armistice Day” by Woodrow Wilson in November 1919 to commemorate the signing of the Armistice ending World War I.  In the 1950s the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day and was redesignated to honor all servicemembers, dead and alive.

2. What are your plans for the Memorial Day Weekend?

We’re having a few friends over for a barbecue.

We were hoping to have a new Intex pool set up by this weekend, but after some dialogue with our landlord, we decided that it was too much trouble and too risky a liability for a rental house.  But that’s for another blog post.  For now, feel free to browse this ad if you’d like to buy our never-assembled above-ground pool kit.

3. What skill/talent do you wish you had? submitted by The 3 Turners

I wish I could play piano.  I can play violin, but that’s it.  Treble clef, that’s it.  My oldest son’s piano recital is tomorrow night and we couldn’t be more proud of him!  I’m insanely jealous at the skill he has to play both treble and bass clefs together.  Have his right hand playing one thing, his left hand playing something else…maybe one day I’ll actually take lessons…

4. Which came first: the chicken or the egg? submitted by I Married Into The Army

Who the heck knows?

From a Book of Genesis perspective, the answer would be “chicken”.

Similarly, from an evolutionary perspective, you could consider two species breeding and coming up with a new breed — the chicken — born from the resultant egg…in that case, the egg would be first.

5. What is the best thing about your post (base)? The worst? submitted by Randomly, Robyn

The best thing about Hurlburt Field, Florida, is the warrior ethos here that is unlike anything Dave and I had ever experienced on an Air Force base. It reminds us of the two Army bases we were assigned to years ago: Fort Polk, Louisiana and Yongsan Army Garrison, Seoul, Korea (Check out the cool weather feed on the Yongsan homepage, brought to you by the 17th Operational Weather Squadron).

The worst thing?  The commute between our house and said base.  We have ONE east-west highway that connects our town with the base…and if there’s an accident on that road, you can forget about getting to the base anytime soon….

27. May 2011 · Comments Off on Blogger Problems, But Here’s a Pretty Gardenia · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

UPDATE: Whatever is going on is related to my Safari browser. So here I am using Firefox and everything seems fine. Phew!

Apparently my Blogger account (not Google account, just the Blogging part of it) is having some problems, so I will be attempting to do some blogging via e-mail, which is the only way I know how to get posts in at the moment.

This won’t look very good, and I don’t know how many pictures I can incorporate this way.
Until Blogger figures out which way is up…we’ll muddle along.

Coming soon…black-velvet slugs, garden updates and the CREPE MYRTLES are starting to bloom!
I’ll leave you with this pretty picture of a gardenia from my garden that I took last week just before I headed to Nebraska.

22. May 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Corn’s been in my mind a lot this week.

“Yeah, being in Nebraska will do that to you….”

As I was saying, some corn-related items have surfaced these past few days, not just from being here, but I guess in general.

Corn thought #1: In Florida, local corn harvests are in full swing, with our local Publix grocery store offering yellow, white and bi-color corn from a farm in Belle Glade, FL.

Okay, so that isn’t super local.  I realized that I could drive to Houston in less time than it would take me to drive to Belle Glade, which is west of West Palm Beach along Lake Okeechobee.

It’s been great having fresh corn available to us for as little as 10 cents per ear!

Corn thought #2: This week The Pioneer Woman held another Kitchen Aid Mixer giveaway, and she randomly selects the winners from the folks who answer simple questions in her comments section.  Here’s the giveaway post, and you can see how many comments it generated.  Yep, you read right…over 51,000 comments!  The question was “What’s your absolute favorite vegetable?”

The following day, she not only posted the randomly-selected winner, but she also offered the statistical distribution of what answers she received.  Number one on the list?  Corn!

Potatoes were #5 on the list, and I don’t agree with that one either.

Last summer, when Nebraska corn was available at roadside stands, I had set up a quickie poll to ask about whether corn should be treated as a starch or a vegetable at the dinner table.  My family’s inclination is to use it as a starch, although I know that school cafeterias and 2/3 of my poll respondents treat corn as a vegetable.  I wrote up the results, along with a ranting about Florida corn being available at my local Eastern Nebraska Wal Mart (and how stupid that seemed).

I think I’m going to present that poll again…I have a pretty wide range of readers now.  Look to the right of the ORIGINAL blog post (it won’t work if you’re viewing this on Facebook or via RSS/e-mail) and answer my non-scientific poll question!

Corn thought #3: Enjoy a picture the gift I bought for my boys today at Chocolaterie Stam in Papillion, NE.  They’re filled with a hazelnut chocolate creme…yum!  These chocolates give props to the first American Chocolaterie Stam store in Des Moines, IA.  Jacob asked me to bring some of these back from Nebraska for him.

Aren’t they cute?  Each one is about the size of my pinky finger.
21. May 2011 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

The mimosa trees are starting to bloom….

…or so I thought…

I have loved these pretty trees since I was a kid in southeastern Virginia…this one is blooming right up the street.

I’ll take my iPhone along on runs so I can listen to tunes, but about once a week I get distracted so much by the pretty flowers, I stop to take some pictures with the iPhone camera. It does a pretty decent job.

So I took several pictures of this “mimosa” tree and was all set to write up not just about the tree, but also about the delicious Sunday brunch staple: The Mimosa.  I’ll get to that particular Mimosa in a minute.

In case you hadn’t noticed after all these years, my posts about pretty flowers, cool trees or curious critters on this blog never lack at least a cursory round of research and web links for you to learn more.  This will be no exception.

Right away, I learned that these trees I’ve called “mimosas” for decades aren’t really  “mimosas”.  They’re Persian silk trees.  The geneses Mimosa and Albizia are both in the family Fabaceae.  Many folks are familiar with the mimosa species whose flowers quickly contract when touched.  You might know it as the “Sensitive Plant”, botanically known as the Mimosa pudica, seen in this video (you will get the gist of it in the first 10 seconds).

It seems so theraputic, doesn’t it?

Okay, okay, since the point here is that this ISN’T a mimosa, let’s focus on what this IS.

According to my buddy Wikipedia, the Persian silk tree is native to much of Asia, from Azerbaijan to China to Korea.  It was brought to the U.S. in the 18th Century as an ornamental tree and has become an invasive species in the eastern U.S., particularly in the northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.  It is commonly confused with both mimosas and acadia trees, because of the similar patterns of their respective leaves.

In true Internet-geek fashion, a short series of click-throughs led me to the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, whose mission is to manage the spread of invasive species in Florida’s natural areas.  Every two years the Council publishes a list of Florida’s invasive plants, placing each species in a Category I or Category II.  Category I is more dire, meaning the species is capable of altering a natural ecosystem if left unchecked.

The Persian silk tree is a Category I invasive species.

Nonetheless, I grew up thinking these trees are so pretty, and I won’t change my mind on that.  What I WILL change my mind about is trying to get one for my own landscaping one day.

Let’s shift gears and talk about another Florida Discovery my Dear Husband and I have made: The Mimosa.

(That’s Mimosa with a capital “M”).

Within a week or two of our arrival, our family had a hankerin’ for some seafood, and ventured out to Pensacola Beach, where we were met with several choices.  We chose a touristy joint called Crabs — We Got ‘Em.  It was Sunday early afternoon and we were given a brunch menu that included several brunch-ey entrees, and all-you-can-drink Mimosas!  We ordered right up and the Mimosas were so delicious!

Now Dave and I want to keep a bottle of inexpensive Champagne on hand just so we can enjoy them on weekend afternoons.

So what is in a Mimosa?  Very simply put, mix equal parts Champagne and chilled orange juice in a Champagne flute.  Stir and serve with a light brunch.

Enjoy some history behind this drink.  Or this history, which also mentions the “Buck’s Fizz”, which is a very similar beverage.

In our house, we enjoy “Indian River”-brand orange juice, which is found at our local Publix supermarket, at a cost comparable to other national brands, but is MUCH more delicious!

Like the glass?  One of our Vegas souvenirs from 2006.  We stayed at the Flamingo.

I don’t have any champagne flutes.

Enjoy one this weekend!
20. May 2011 · Comments Off on MilSpouse Friday Fill In #41 · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

This week’s Friday Fill-In!  Enjoy!

1. What is one of the things you always do special when your husband returns from a deployment?  submitted by Keep Calm and Soldier On

I’m not sure if I can use “always” in these answers, since my husband has only ever had two deployments to come home from…and I’ve had two deployments to come home from also.  In 1998 we returned from concurrent deployments within a few weeks of each other, and we were able to squeeze in an amazing ski vacation in Taos, NM just before we PCSed to Korea.

Otherwise, we tended to spend the first days readjusting to a life that includes more than just getting a mission done.

2. What do you do to help your spouse and/or yourself re-adjust after a deployment or long separation?  submitted by Diapers, Dogs and Deployments

We try very hard not to plan a ton of stuff.  That sounds vague and all, but we want to make sure there’s a buffer in there before we allow visitors to come into town, or we take big trips.

3. Are you a crazy coupon clipper (I’m becoming one, so share your secrets with me)? submitted by Married My Airman

Here’s my take on “Extreme Couponing” and how much of it is incompatible with a military lifestyle.

That being said, I try very hard to strike that balance of taking advantage of coupons, but not buying things we don’t need just because there’s a coupon.  You all know what I’m talking about, right?

4. What’s your most treasured memory of you and your spouse (not counting your wedding – that’s a given)? submitted by Scrubs, ACUs and One Crazy Ride

I don’t really know, we have so many.  Getting to see the joy on each others’ faces when our children were born is probably at the top of my list.

5. If you could live anywhere overseas, what would you pick and why? submitted by Little Moments Like This

I’ve been chomping at the bit for Dave to get assigned to Germany for as long as I can remember!  For some reason, it’s never happened…

[And NO, rotator flight layovers at Ramstein and Rhein-Main ABs don’t count!]

As Dave gets older and higher in rank, his opportunities in Europe really dwindle.  Since around 2000 we’ve put off any kinds of European vacations, just in case the powers-that-be feel Dave and Germany could commingle for a couple years.  But it hasn’t happened yet.  Oh well…

One thing I do know, we’re planning our 2020 trip to Obergammerau NOW!  We’d have a 17- and 15-year-old sons and I couldn’t think of a more special trip to take with your kids…when they’re old enough to understand/appreciate the Passion Plays.

19. May 2011 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Folks find it strange that I travel to and from my Reserve duty in uniform. In this week’s case, I didn’t have an official appointment as soon as I landed; I didn’t have to report to duty as soon as I landed either. Nonetheless, I have found it beneficial in so many ways.

1.) Air Force Airman Battle Uniforms (ABUs) take up a lot of space in a suitcase. Those boots take up the same space as 2-3 pair of civilian shoes! Wear the boots, bring more civilian shoes with me!
2.) Airlines that waive baggage check fees for military members take one look at you in a uniform and don’t ask any more questions. Military members don’t get charged to check a bag on a lot of carriers (such as Delta). You can produce travel orders and get the waiver even in civilian clothes, but one can just save the time by wearing the uniform.
3.) In the security line, most TSA personnel won’t make a military member look foolish by stripping off his/her coat and boots in front of everyone. Unless you have steel-toed boots, but then they ought to let you go through the aircrew line. Again, it saves time.
4.) When the airline loses your luggage and won’t deliver it until the following morning, you can report to your first day of duty in a uniform, instead of in the civilian clothing you wore on the flight…and probably slept in that night.
5.) There’s nothing to be ashamed of and I’m not wrong in wearing them. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force set guidance in December 2008 allowing official travel on civilian commercial airlines in ABUs. Some don’t agree with that guidance for assorted reasons, but since it’s allowed, it’s just easier for me.

A lot of people thank me for my service during these trips. Folks also say “Welcome Home” to me…assuming I’m coming off a rotator flight or something. I used to REALLY be embarrassed by those statements, particularly before I took my own post-9/11 deployment (albeit a short one). I used to think I didn’t deserve those statements, but since folks only see me as a representation of the entire US Air Force, I tend to take it more as their thanking the Armed Forces in general. Now I just say a simple “Thank YOU” back — since they’re paying my salary and all.

18. May 2011 · Comments Off on Now I Remember Why I Haven’t Rented From Avis Lately… · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,
This is what happens when I rent from Avis for the first time in over 10 years!

Greetings from yet another soon-to-be-fun-filled week of Reserve duty 🙂

Today has to have been the best flying experience I’ve had in a very long time.  Perhaps since the trip TO Disneyworld in late 2009.

0.) I fly in my uniform (that’s for another blog post) so Delta didn’t charge me for a checked suitcase.
1.) Free WiFi at Pensacola Airport.  Worked on my first-ever guest blog post for a friend, which is coming soon!
2.) Despite arriving staring at a 45 minute delay when I arrived at the gate for my Pensacola-to-Memphis leg of my trip, for the first time in my life I experienced an “un-delay” of 30 minutes of that!
3.) I arrived in Memphis at Gate A6, the next leg of my trip was at Gate A7!
4.) I arrived in Omaha 20 minutes early.

So by about 3:30pm I had my suitcase from baggage claim and was at the Avis desk to pick up my rental car.  Everything was as I reserved, but then I was asked to initial this “Fast Fuel” charge clause in my rental contract.

I read the clause.  I don’t have the contract with me as I’m writing this (it’s in the rental car out in the parking lot), but it reads something like this:

“If you drive fewer than 75 miles, save time and do not refill the tank. Avis will automatically add a $13.99 charge to the rental for fuel.”

To NOT get that charge added to your rental costs, you have to present a receipt showing that you filled the car so that the fuel gauge needle isn’t at the bottom of “F”, it’s at the top of the “F” or something like that.

I vented at the poor Avis clerk for a few minutes about the principle of assessing a charge that the customer has to work at to not have charged, i.e. making sure said customer obtains and presents the fuel receipt.  I called the charge “pure evil” and was on my way.  It wasn’t her fault.

Apparently this charge started up in September 2007 (back when it was only $10.50), and I know I haven’t rented from Avis since then.

I’m sure for those who have rented from Avis routinely, this is old news.  Perhaps you know the routine and present the receipt every time…or you always drive more than 75 miles just to ease the hassle.

Chances are, I won’t be driving more than 75 miles, although a trip or two to Trader Joe’s might do the trick to put me over the edge…

14. May 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,
Isn’t he cute????

So here’s our first watermelon. There are two of them growing right now.

This thing is TINY! We’re talking about the size of my thumbnail…see how big the blades of grass look?

Our garden is doing well, although the lack of rain has made it a struggle. Yesterday afternoon and overnight last night we received our first rainfall here since April 4th. As the heat has really turned up, we are also seeing signs of heat stress on our pumpkins and cucumbers.

I’ll take more pictures of the garden this weekend before I head out to Nebraska for more AF Reserve work.

11. May 2011 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

*Yes, this is one of the much-less-creative blog post titles.

I have an awesome watch.  I’ve had this watch since my college graduation in 1995.  It was a gift from my parents…16 years ago this week.  Yep, that’s a now-extinct Nittany Lion statue in the middle of the dial.

Best. Graduation. Gift. Ever!

Being that it’s a Seiko, it has performed incredibly for the past 16 years.  About 2 weeks ago, the watch stopped.  This has happened before, and all that means is a new battery.  I typically have to change the battery out every 18 months.

I took it to the mall to replace the battery, but the watch didn’t resume working right away.  It played dead for a day or so, then started working.

I wore it for a couple days and all seemed well; then I wore the watch when I took a run last week and it stopped again.  Probably from my sweaty arms (ewwww!).

Back to the jewelry kiosk at the mall.  The gentleman there told me that the watch needs to go to a Seiko authorized repair facility to replace some of the contacts that had gone bad.  So it will operate intermittently until I get it dealt with.

So I will put the watch in the mail (adequately insured, I promise!) this week.

In the meantime, I headed over to Kohl’s today for a replacement watch.  I had my supply of coupons and Kohl’s cash — I figured I could pick up an inexpensive basic digital watch with a stopwatch function (this might have come in handy earlier during the soccer season).  So that’s what I did:

Yeah, it’s gaudy, but I wanted to have a little fun.

Pink.  I was looking for a watch for running and this model had everything I was looking for.  I had a choice between purple, blue, orange and pink.  The blue was a very bright blue, as bold as this pink here.

Being that I have some AF Reserve drill days next week and chances are my Seiko won’t be done by then, I’ll need to think twice before putting on this new watch with my uniform.  Since it’s supposed to be conservative.

What do you think?