A budding idea

So, I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I like taking pictures. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the things that can get me out of the house and unglued from the computer when the mood strikes. During our vacation, my Fujifilm S700 was accidentally left on the roof of Matt’s car and got knocked the f*** out. So, there we were… at Sumter National Forest and I was close to a gorgeous waterfall (Whitewater Falls) with no camera. Painful, but the pain of hiking and the joy of traipsing through the woods soothed me. I cannot wait to get back out there and do proper justice to the majesty of Nature I beheld.

Going back to my original sentence, I like taking pictures and I’ve always been interested in the technical details of photography. In line with that, I purchased my first DSLR. This was an unplanned purchase, but it felt so right. Once I discussed my desire and possible foray into being paid to take pictures, my husband & I concluded that it would be a wise investment. Besides, used DSLRs have a decent resale price tag so I am sure that should the sad day arrive that I should sell my camera, I won’t get too shafted. I don’t plan on parting this item anytime soon unless something happens in the 30-day period during which I can return the camera & obtain a full refund. This is the 2nd biggest purchase I have ever made (after my laptop) and I don’t believe I’ll regret it. I’ve gone slightly crazy reading up on cool tricks to perform with the camera and reading about the technical aspects of taking/making pictures. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed, but the best teacher is experience. So, wish me luck! Once the camera arrives, I’ll definitely be putting it through the paces and watching the 30-day deadline. I did not make this purchase lightly and I agonized over it. I did the research and came to the conclusion that the D90 was the way to go for me.

In other news, Matt & I rode hard tonight on our bikes. The parking lots and the fields were blessedly devoid of the usual hordes of undergraduates. The weather was perfect and we just bonded. I love those moments we have and I can’t wait to capture them on camera as well. πŸ™‚ G’nite!

Dreaming of my vay-cay-tion. :)

So, it’s no secret that Matt & I are planning on getting unplugged from the world during our 5 days of roaming around. We have no set plan although we have some areas that we hope to visit. I’m looking forward to this road trip and just … being. Not working, reading news, watching TV… Just breathing and watching Matt sleep and keeping my eyes open for bears when/if we go camping. lol. Our tax refund was rather meagre this year, but it could have been worse. As a matter of fact, if I had filed alone, I would have ended up owing the government!! I need to adjust my withholding in order for me to make sure I don’t owe Uncle Sam anything when tax time comes. On the other hand, Matt appears to be overpaying (somewhat) so he was the main reason we even received a refund at all. Our plan is to spend less than $500. At first, that seems a little high or even unrealistically low, but this is a roadtrip and we will be using some serious gas. We may stay in a hotel/inn and a cheap one would be ~ $80 or more per night. In any case, our trip coincides nicely with pay periods for Matt & I. In case of any disasters, we will obviously have some extra money on us so we won’t be stranded.

Our wedding anniversary is coming up and to be perfectly honest, I feel like a newlywed around Matt. πŸ™‚ Get your mind out of the gutter. I mean, there is no shortage of “I-love-you’s” and that gives me a very warm feeling everytime. He spoils me and pretends he hates spoiling me. lol. In fact, he’s threatened to get me a shirt that reads “Spoiled Rotten”. πŸ™‚ In the heat of things, we sometimes take things for granted and with our 2nd year of marriage approaching, we will definitely take time out to remind each other of the things that matter most to us. To here’s to my wonderful and persevering husband, Matt! πŸ™‚ And many many many more years of companionship, friendship, understanding and love.

In financial news, we hit nearly hit our emergency fund goal, but life intruded i.e. medical bills, tuition bills, etc. πŸ™‚ I’m not too worried because after the month of May, I’m going to attack our savings fund with a vengeance. I’m currently moving over 30% of my take-home paycheck into our joint savings account and I’m looking forward to recovering from all the expenses we will be dealing with this month: road trip, car tune-ups, eating, etc.

In personal news, I have to make a big confession: remember how Matt taught me to ride a bike last May? Well, after a 7 or 8-month long hiatus, I finally got back on the bike. I got burned out last year really quickly because I had resorted to daily tortuous bike rides (~ 12 – 15 gruelling mile rides).  This time around, I am going to implement recovery days i.e. bike on some days and walk/run on some. Today is supposed to be a recovery day and I will attempt to stay true to that. πŸ™‚ Biking will also give me an impetus to gain some much needed weight as I will be eating more so there’s that to look forward to. lol. Biking and the overall physical activity, will allow me to build my fitness for our upcoming trip. So wish me luck with these goals.

Finally, the time is approaching for us to begin proceedings for removing restrictions on my conditional permanent residency. I’m dreading this process and have considered engaging the services of an attorney. However, the $1,000 price tag plus $565 in filing fees are leaving a very nasty taste in my mouth. I’ve decided that we will be doing the paperwork ourselves. It has been done in the past and we are getting our stuff together. The “paperwork” involves 1 form (I-751), but requires a lot of supporting evidence which is the bulk of the work. So, excuse me as I get back to my work. Have a great week, y’all!

Blogorrhea. :)

So sue me. I realized I had more to talk about and I hit the “write post” button. I finally bit the bullet and called an old aunt of mine. It was one of the best moves I’ve made in a long while. We had a long chat and it was our first since the new year began (I think). It’s amazing how absence does make the heart grow fonder on both sides. I definitely intend to keeping in touch and M & I are now talking about the possibility of a road trip!! It’s only about 10hrs to my aunt’s place and we could literally be there in a day! This led us (M & I) to discuss the pros and cons of taking our car vs. renting vs. Greyhound bus transportation/Air/Train, etc. Being a cheap skate, I immediately vetoed any flights because I dread losing my luggage or undergoing any TSA hassles and the obvious expensiveness of taking any air flight these days. At Delta Airlines website, it’ll cost ~ $234 per person for a roundtrip flight which is right around where I thought it would be. That’s almost ~ $500 for both of us. We are not willing to spend that much on transportation for a flight experience that will be less than fantastic. The option I’m more fond of is traveling by bus (a.k.a. Greyhound). However, I have since run a cost analysis and it seems that the Greyhound option is only ~ $100 cheaper than the air flight. Given the large number of transfers (around 2 – 3), the dinginess of the Greyhound buses coupled with the long bus ride (over 21 hrs) make this a rather unattractive option. The third and most fun option is a road trip. πŸ˜€ Now, the obvious demerits of taking our personal car on a relatively long trip (over 20hrs total) include:

  1. Racking up the mileage on a car we are trying to preserve (it’s at 158,000 miles right now). I’m talking a little under 1,300 miles total.
  2. Prohibitive gas prices may take the ‘cheapness’ out of this option. Right now, I think M gets over 22 miles per gallon. This means we will run through around 59 gallons of gas. At $5 per gallon (I suspect it might even climb higher depending on how soon we make the trip happen), the cost of fueling up the car will be the price of one person’s round-trip flight to my aunt’s state of domicile. So, our fuel budget for the entire trip will be ~ $300.
  3. The car might not like being stressed out so much (wear and tear). It’s got some issues, but M’s been working to straighten out the kinks. These adjustments would have happened with or without the road trip.

Nevertheless, the benefits of taking our personal ride include:

  1. Freedom to move around. We can rest as we please or even quit the journey without fear of losing our money. πŸ™‚
  2. We will be able to explore the areas along the trip. Ideally, this will happen on our way back when we can be more relaxed.
  3. Our car now has a bike rack which M procured from a friend of his (Addictive Cycles). It’s a used Thule bike rack to be mounted on the roof of the car and it came with the trays to hold the bikes for a very good sum of $200. We totally got a great deal on it. I mean, if we had purchased it new, we would be talking about dropping over $500 for all the parts we got with the roof rack. Check the website out! The point of this: we sure as hell are carrying our mountain bikes for some kick ass biking while we are away from home!

As you can see, the pros outweigh the cons and as my people say, the majority carries the vote! Well, not so fast. How about renting a car? Well, for starters, no roof rack on rental cars. That’s a biggie. Additionally, check out the prices for the privilege of renting their cars:

So, the only ‘advantage’ to taking a rental car is that it will save our car from the wear and tear. However, I’ve heard horror stories about people getting charged for dents and things they are pretty sure didn’t happen on their watch. I don’t want to deal with the hassle of making sure I document every ding and stain on the car before taking it out. The point: we are willing to take the risk on our old car. πŸ™‚

Enough about the road trip. M’s dad also got me a bike pedometer to track my speeds and mileage on the bicycle. It’s rather nifty and it’ll be good to help me accurately tell how much exercise I’m getting. For instance, my altered route yesterday was over 9 miles. I got my heart rate up a couple of times, but I was already tuckered out from some earlier expense of energy. M & I missed out on the group ride I had previously talked about and I felt pretty lousy about it. Still, M cheered me up and we made lemonade out of lemons. And it didn’t turn sour on us. πŸ™‚ We ended up at a bike shop (The Hub Bicycles) and got me a nice Camelbak Rogue pack (for storing water and liquids on long rides). Surprisingly, the store price of ~ $50 is actually the average price I’ve seeing online and that’s a refreshing change. M ended up getting a pair of bike shorts because he finally got tired of his threadbare shorts. πŸ˜€ Alrighty, that’s enough fodder for one day. Have a great Sunday all!

Deals and more deals

You guys, I think I may have taken the concept of shopping therapy a little too far. lol. Actually, I think I’ve been very restrained. I bought a cute summer dress for the princely sum of $6.41 at Old Navy and spent ~ $32 for 2 pairs of shoes (Mudd and Skechers) at Rack Room Shoes. I had earlier (about a week ago) purchased a pair of black jeans for $6.99 and a pair of knee-length jeans for ~ $13 at Old Navy. All these items were obviously on clearance, but they are pretty cool for clearance-items. I totally look forward to rocking my summer dresses.

In other news, I’ve got a bit of a feminine problem. My face is super-oily. I never noticed this in college nor did I notice this while I attended graduate school. It has only come to my knowledge because M & I, in the time-honored tradition of primates picking fleas off their partners’ backs, routinely screen each other’s face, back, et cetera for ‘anomalies’. Well, I am not used to any daily facial cleansing rituals and it is really hard for me to come to terms with the fact that my skin may need some help. So, I’ve turned to almighty Google for answers to my dilemma. Now, M firmly believes that my application of body cream to my face is the root cause of my oily facial skin. His solution (amongst some others) is to not put cream on my face. Well, that experiment not only leaves my facial skin dry, I’ve just learned that it can cause my skin to produce more oil! I’ve got to do more research although I think I may have to talk with someone to get the skinny on these things. I need to take better care of my skin. πŸ™‚

In other news, I am in love with WordPress more than ever! It gets more intuitive with each release and I hope it stays free as long as Automattic founders can hold out. πŸ™‚ I love the enhanced plugins and themes management. Now, I just need to find an awesome and hopefully free theme that will fully represent the kick-assness that is my blog. I entered into a little ride (not a race). It is for the benefit of the organization, P.L.A.C.E, which “promotes a strong accessible local food culture“. This should be interesting for several reasons being:

  1. It is a group ride
  2. I have never done a group ride of larger than 3 (me, Matt and his friend, John)
  3. I am really really nervous about doing the group road ride on my single-speed mountain bike. Apparently, I will be at a disadvantage and will have to work harder to keep up the pace if the riders feel like hitting hard. Here’s hoping that they do not. lol.

I am preparing for this by: (i) not riding today (ii) silently freaking out. It’s theoretically not a big deal, but if you understand me, you’ll know that this event means I’m putting myself out there. Rationally speaking, I am capable to of doing the ride. I guess I’ve just gotten a little psyched out (thanks M! lol). It’ll be fine because he’s riding with me so I’m definitely happier now. πŸ™‚ I’ll leave you with a picture of me on the bike. I blinked.

Highly honored

It’s funny how once the ball gets rolling, it doesn’t stop. See, after accepting one job offer, I recently got contacted again for another job interview for a research position. I turned down the invitation to interview for the job and the professor responded that he wasn’t surprised I got snapped up so quickly. Needless to say, I’m flattered and at the same time, wondrous. God has been amazing to me and my husband. I cannot thank him enough for opening doors for me at a time when lay-offs are happening left and right. I mean, I just feel so blessed right now and my husband’s family (and mine) are just so happy for me. My mother-in-law & I went to TJ Maxx to ‘celebrate’ with some shopping therapy while M & J had their midterm exam. lol. She totally spoils me and she got me some gorgeous dresses that bring “grown and sexy” to mind. I went to see my former boss and told him about the good news i.e. getting the job and they ribbed me about the job because it could possibly qualify as one of those Dirty Jobs, but I’m excited about the learning opportunity this presents. πŸ˜€

In tech news, I updated my WordPress version to 2.6 and I’m loving my Plugins management section. I mean, not having to manually activate my plugins? Genius! πŸ™‚ Upgrading was easy except for the part where my “Add Media” section of my TinyMCE editor disappeared! I mean, everything else seemed to work fine and the only thing I did different from all my other upgrades was use the gzipped version on the WordPress download site. Some plugins like Podpress and WP Polls caused my “Write Page” or “Write Post” screen to go nuts and these problems didn’t get resolved until I backed up my MySQL database and re-uploaded all the WordPress 2.6 files again. So, I’ve got all my plugins up and running & my “Add Media” screen is back. I’m also particularly excited that WordPress will support Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) because I’ve recently gotten the privacy-paranoia bee in my bonnet. Using an SSL means you cannot get snooped on by bad people. I’ve currently got The Onion Router (TOR) up and running on my PC and I use it for sensitve issues. πŸ™‚ WordPress is definitely the easiest content management system I have used and I have not had any major issues with it.


Little B is doing really well and he is going to be one tall young man. He’s got an excellent gene pool so no worries. Mrs. JW and her hubby are also doing a fantastic job of teaming up and being the best parents they can be to the little smacker. πŸ™‚ That’s my pet name for B because he smacks when he eats. I just got done riding for about 15 miles and I had M take a short video of me. I’ll upload the video and update this post. He also prepared an absolutely delicious meal of spaghetti with sauteed salmon. Can you say yummy-licious? He is quite the cook, I tell you what!

Update: I’ve finally uploaded the video (thanks Google Video!) and here it is in all its glory:

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The little things in life

For a week, I experienced an epiphany of sorts. I was happier than I had ever been and I felt freer than I’d ever been. Slowly, the harsher realities of life crept in and I slunk back (some) into the shell I’d once been in. Well, I feel the funk lifting off me today. It helps that I ‘discovered’ SH, a friend of M’s blog which is as funny as I imagined it to be  because he is one of the most down-to-earth persons I have had the good fortune of meeting. His positive attitude strikes several chords in me and I’m going to co-opt one of his trademark phrases pretty soon. Yes, life sucks, but then you paste a big smile on your face and keep it moving. You remember the good things that have also happened to you and you essentially count your blessings.

The job search is going slowly, but surely. I’d gotten a couple of applications sent in so hopefully I will receive some responses soon. I’ve got an interview scheduled during this week so I’m looking forward to that. It’ll be more of a supervisory type position, but in a science department so I’m game for it. I am looking forward to the next adventure. I’m nearing (sic) the end of my job and it was a good gig while it lasted. I think know M & I will do fine and I am optimistic that I’ll get a job in my desired field. If not, I’ll make adjustments and adapt. Who knows where adapting will lead me to. M & I are planning on getting a used roof rack from SH so that the task of loading up our bikes when we need to head out will be less painful than it is right now. I still lack the proper biking attire so I’m actively saving in order to purchase, at the very least, bike shorts which will contain the blessed padding. My poor bum has toughened up from the rides, but I still need the padding because I’m getting to the point where I can withstand longer rides i.e. 1 – 2 hrs on my single speed bicycle on moderately easy trails. My nutrition needs a little tweaking, but I’ve got a great coach in M. I’ve taken to biking like a fish takes to water and my muscles are absolutely loving this sport. My quads have never looked sexier, if I may say so meself. πŸ™‚ Now, I just need a whole horde of protective gear to save me from myself and these darned pedals I current have.

My to-be-updated biking essentials list:

i) biking shoes
(ii) biking shorts
(iii) knee pads (which I may not need if when I transition to clip-less pedals.

I’m looking forward to the summer because this will be one of the first truly ‘free’ summers I’ve had without the stress of school or a job (if I don’t have one yet and interestingly, I’m not too bothered. Yet). My sis and sister-in-law are mother-to-be and mother respectively. I’ve got a family that constantly calls me to check on my wellbeing and my husband who calls just as frequently. lol. I’ll leave you with a subtly edited picture of M & little B.

An exhilarating ride and Independence Day

Ever heard this unattributed quote: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO what a ride!”? Well, I felt like that about 2 days ago. M, John, M’s dad and I visited a state park with our bikes and we hit the trails hard. I felt that competitive spirit in me rise as I saw a couple of riders and egged on by M, I caught up to them. It was fun and I cannot wait to do those kind of long rides again. πŸ™‚

A belated happy independence day to Americans far and wide. This year’s celebration was memorable in that there was B who experienced his first 4th of July celebration after being born last week. I do wish I got a bit closer to see the fireworks. J whipped out his grilling tools and cooked up a delicious storm. I stuffed myself and I’m aching from it this morning. J’s edema during her pregnancy was apparently a whole lot because in a space of 1 week, it’s fair to say she’s dropped over 60% of her pregnancy weight which was due to water! She looks pretty darn good for a new mom. I took some pictures of the little tyke which didn’t turn out too well, sadly. However, J has invested in a Canon camera which takes fantastic pictures. My trusty old Fujifilm’s not doing too shabbily anyway. As proof, here’s a picture I took yesterday using the macro setting on the camera:

I also have to commend the WordPress authors for the ease with which I was able to insert these photos. I think it’s fair to say this version of WordPress is the best I’ve used so far.
As far as my movie watching madness, I’ve chugged through: (i) Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer: I’m glad I didn’t pay $8 to see this in the theatre. As I’m renting more movies and discovering how awful some movies are, my tolerance level for movie fluff/fillers is dropping drastically. Remember how I had to fast forward through the painful love scenes in Mr & Mrs. Smith? Well, I found myself leaving the couch and going about my business while watching Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer and only coming back when it sounded like they were on the move.
(ii) Bourne Ultimatum: I loved this movie. I’m a big Robert Ludlum fan (God rest his soul) so I definitely went into this biased. I’m glad to say this movie didn’t disappoint. If you rent this movie, make sure you check out the bonus features and watch the footage of his choreographed fight scene with Desh (an assassin in the movie). πŸ™‚

I’ll leave you with another gratuitous flower shot: