March 24th, 2014

Work is very frustrating lately and it’s making me reluctant to sit at home with my computer after a long day. If you don’t hear from me until later in the week, that’d be why. I’ll be fine once I get my project done. It’s just taking a lot longer than it was supposed to, due to a lack of information all around and the scope of the project changing several times. It’s a project that’s vital to the project, but involves significant amounts of guess-work, for which I will be responsible later when my guesses don’t pan out. Frustrating to create and frustrating to hold up later.

Anyway, I’ll be feeling better once I’ve got this part of it finished, but I’ll be kind of off the grid until then.

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Tags: | Posted in Living! |
March 20th, 2014

It’s been about a month since I wrote about my goals, so how about an update on that?

First, a quick reminder that my goals by June 31st are:

  1. Pay at least $200/month extra toward our debts
  2. Sew at least 1 skirt and 1 shirt
  3. Be able to play 3 chords on my guitar
  4. Be able to run 1 mile contiguously
  5. Visit Chattanooga
  6. Grow 2 plants for food/spice
  7. Look into Lean/Six Sigma certification training
  8. Learn how to make better goals

And now a rundown on how those are going thus far:

  1. On track: Progress on paying off our debts is going fine. I haven’t got an actual update on the numbers right now, but I know that we’re making steady progress on paying these off and I’m happy about it.
  2. On track: I’ve got a skirt put together that needs finishing – I would like to top stich it with a double needle and I don’t have one. And I might tear it apart a little and do a better job along the waistline because it’s just not fitting quite right. I’ve got the fabric for the shirt that I’m making for Dad, but the pattern I have is the wrong size, so I’ll be taking that back and getting the right one. I should have the skirt done by the end of the weekend and I hope to have the shirt done by the time Justin and I catch up with Mom and Dad on their April Tour of Homes.
  3. COMPLETE: I am happy to say that I have exceeded this goal already! I can play 6 chords: C, G7, F, Am, Dm, & E7! I have my second lesson with Dad tonight and I’m very excited about it! I’m listing this goal as completed, but I’m certainly not going to stop working hard at this. I’m enjoying it far too much to stop now!
  4. At risk: Exercising regularly has been, so far, my biggest goal-progress failing and I haven’t shown any significant progress. I need to put more focused energy on this.
  5. COMPLETE: The Chattanooga visit was fantastic and we very much enjoyed the city. We’re still evaluating it (or, at least, I am) and weighing the options and everything. At this point, moving is such a long ways out that this is not a significant goal.
  6. On track: The parsley is still alive! And I’m going to look more into what would need to happen in order to grow strawberries.
  7. At risk: Dad sent me a great link about Six Sigma training, but I haven’t taken the time to read it yet, so I really need to sit down and do that. Mom also mentioned professional editing and I’m going to review again why I dismissed that as an option previously. This is the other goal that I really need to put some focus into but haven’t managed to do so just yet.
  8. Tabled: I think the way I’m working on the goals that I’ve set for myself is working out just fine, so I’m letting this one go for now. I’m very pleased with the progress that I’ve been able to make, so why fuss about it?

 

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March 7th, 2014

Horray for healthy babies!!!

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March 5th, 2014

All the pictures in this post are from Rock City, which I’ll talk about in a minute. They’re the only pictures I have from Sunday and since I’ve got a bunch of them and posts with pictures are more interesting, I think, you get a lot of random pictures of rocks!

Pretty rocks!

The previous post ended with us having dinner with Nathan and Amy and Co. I’m not sure I expressed clearly how much fun that was. It was a blast! We sat at Five Guys and the kids told jokes and the adults chatted away. Ethan chatted Justin’s ear off and I talked about how much I wish we had space where the kids could visit and spend a couple days hanging out, which Audrey would love because she wants to raise animals. And on the way back to the car, Ethan asked, “How long before they move here?” And that made all of us smile, I think.

Justin and I aren’t particularly interested in having children of our own, but we’d love to have the opportunity to spoil our nieces and nephews and hang out with them!

After goodbyes and all, when I completely failed at getting pictures of anybody, we went back to the hotel to get some sleep. The floor with our room still smelled like burned popcorn, but fortunately the ventilation in our room was good enough to keep it smelling fresh in there. (Oh! And I forgot to mention that when we evacuated the night before, we both managed to have shoes on and grab our wallet/purse, but neither one of us managed to remember to grab a key to get back in! That just added to the fun, by the way.)

Sunday morning, we packed up and checked out of the hotel. We drove around town a little more, getting out of the touristy areas and trying to get a little bit lost. Justin pointed out on the way home that I never actually drove while we were in Chattanooga and he should have let me try at some point just so I could feel how it is to drive there. He kept commenting that he never felt stressed out driving. The roads are wide and well planned out, so nothing ever felt really crowded. We never really got lost, I think, because it was easy enough to figure out where things are located.

The path loops and winds around over and below itself as you walk through Rock City.

And Chattanooga seems to have this unique vibe where it’s a big-ish city, but it doesn’t feel big. And it’s artsy and a little bit hipster, but also a little bit hippy. There’s the understanding that restaurants in the area will try to use local produce whenever possible and the art on the walls of the stores will be from local artists. Justin didn’t think much of this next point, but I’m amazed that there’s a trash can at every single corner of the blocks downtown. I’m sure people still throw trash on the ground, but there’s much less of it because there’s almost always a trashcan not 50 feet away. There’s loads of parking downtown, which doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy to find, as we learned on Saturday, but you’ll have lots of places to look. And I never felt in danger anywhere downtown after dark or anywhere we drove around. I’m sure we didn’t get to the roughest parts of town, but that’s still impressive to me.

I mean, compare it to Savannah. I don’t like to go downtown after dark in Savannah because it’s not safe all the time. I’d certainly never go alone. And finding parking is awful, let alone finding parking nearby to a variety of restaurants. The buildings in Savannah are delightful and have a lot of Oldie Towne charm, which is something that Chattanooga doesn’t have. But I’d much rather have somewhere that I can feel safe than somewhere that looks cute.

After driving around for a while, we made our way to Rock City. We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into when we bought our tickets, but we figured it was worth a look. And it was beautiful, even with all the plants wintering over, an overcast sky, and a cool breeze blowing. It’s certainly an odd little park. Mostly, you walk this path that twists and turns its way through a park of plants and rocks. It doesn’t sound like much, right? But I’m sure the plants are lovely in the warmer months. And the rocks and landscape were just fantastic. There were a few spots that made me anxious as we had to squeeze through a very small gap in between two very large rock faces. But I never got stuck anywhere and the view from the top, even with an overcast sky, was breathtaking. I bet it’s amazing when the sky is clear. And the colors of all the trees in the fall must be beautiful!

This is the one that made me anxious.

The Fairyland at the end was a little odd. It was unique and I can appreciate its uniqueness. But I don’t particularly have a need to go back and see the fairy tale scenes painted in black light paints. It’s got that creepy, weird feel that I don’t enjoy so much.

Creepy little fairytale land….

We didn’t plan to be walking as much as we did, so neither of us wore the most appropriate shoes for that adventure. By the end, we were both tired, even though it’s not a long walk. Sadly, we weren’t done with our walking for the day. After heading back to the car, we made our way to the Costco on the edge of town to do some shopping. We’ve learned that there are some things that help our budget tremendously when we buy it from Costco – like ground turkey meat and granola bars and air filters and toilet paper. Man, the cost of milk, if we could regularly buy our milk there….

I bet this view is great on a clear day in the fall.

We did our shopping, put the cold items in the cooler in the car, and set off for home. The drive home was uneventful. We didn’t hit nearly the amount of traffic through Atlanta on our way south as we did heading north. We stopped for dinner along the way, but mostly just set our sights for home and made it in just about 6 hours. Justin had it timed down to the minute when we would pull into the driveway and I can’t remember what that time was right now, but I do know that he had it spot on the nose.

This pictures doesn’t do this justice, really.

And that was the end of our trip! We put away the groceries, sorted out the laundry, and settled back into the house.

We really do like Chattanooga. We’d definitely like to visit again during another season and see what it’s like when everything isn’t all dead-looking and all the water features in the city aren’t bone dry for the winter. I’m not sure how busy it gets during the “tourist season” of the year and that would be good to know. But so far, we’ve had a good impression of the city and the nearby areas. Time to do a little bit more research and planning and then head up there again, probably in the middle of April!

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March 4th, 2014

Hang on tight — this is another really long one. With photos! But DANG. LONG.

Our trip to Chattanooga was fantastic! It had it’s little hiccups, but it was all awesome in the end.

For example, we planned to set out after our chiropractor appointment on Friday morning. We got out about 8 miles before turning back around because the SD card in Justin’s tablet died, taking all our music along with it. We turned around and got another music source so we wouldn’t have to do that whole drive with only the music on my phone. 12 hours of driving would have been MISERABLE with not enough music.

Our six-hour drive that should have started around 10:00 then started closer to 12:00, which was fine; we should still have arrived around 6:00. Except we failed to consider that the route took us straight up through the middle of Atlanta during rush hour. Atlanta traffic alone backed up our arrival time from 6:00 to 8:30.

But hey, it was still fine. It actually meant that we got to experience entering the Chattanooga valley differently than we would have if it had still been dark. This way, we hit the outskirts of town, crested the hill overlooking the valley and both went “Whoa!” as we saw the city spread out along the valley below. But around the edge of the valley, we could see this arching rise of lights as the houses that overlook the city rim the tops of the nearby hills. It was really a lot more impressive to see at night than when we saw it later during the daylight hours. During the day, it just looks like a city. At night, it’s like a pond full of stars edged with fairy lights.

Okay, so I’m waxing a little poetical. Deal with it. :)

It was a big room!

Justin is looking at the maps here to figure out where we’re going to go next.

Our little kitchenette

We got into our hotel, which was lovely. I took some pictures the next day when it was light. We had a fridge and a little kitchenette that we never had a use for, but at least we had a place to store milk for Justin’s breakfast.

It’s tricky to take good pictures of rooms without a wide-angle lens. But you can get a pretty good idea about how the room looked from these, I hope.

We went out for a late dinner after getting into town. One of the things we love about downtown Chattanooga is that there are a wide variety of restaurants within walking distance. We had a choice of Thai, Italian, barbeque, Mongolian, Greek, and so many others. It was a delight to stand at a corner and go: “So, barbeque or Mediterranean?” without having to change our plans or parking at all.

The first night of our stay was unfortunately interrupted by a rude awakening at about 2:30 in the morning.

Please welcome some of Chattanooga’s finest.

That’s right, at 2:30 AM everybody in the hotel got booted from their beds and out onto the street because a girl around 13 years old on the same floor as us burned popcorn in the microwave in her room. She was part of a group of about 2 dozen girls who thought it was the funniest thing ever as we were all evacuating the building, and hopefully thought it was less amusing later on after noticing that every person in the hotel was cranky.

I did learn that I have learned my fire safety training. I got to the door of our room, smelled for smoke, and when I smelled it, touched the door to see if it was warm, all without realizing I’d done that until after the fact, and all while completely bleary-eyed because I’d been sound asleep until 2 minutes before that.

We got a later start to our morning because of being up in the middle of the night, but Saturday morning we set out to see the city. We walked a little ways from our hotel to get to the city library. We had to walk past the Tennessee Valley Authority, who has an impressively sized building.

I have no idea what the TVA actually does.

The thing we noticed about the buildings in Chattanooga is that they are pretty blocky, with a fondness for concrete, and look like they were built in the ’70s. It’s all just a little dated. It’s in good repair and everything, just not the most attractive lookings ever.

4 floors of booky goodness!

The public library is quite impressive. The first floor is the adult stacks, the second floor is the children’s section, complete with a handful of hands-on activities for kids, the third floor is histories and genealogies, and the fourth floor is a “maker space” that includes a 3D printer, among other things. That floor was closed when we visited, but we spoke with a very enthusiastic children’s librarian who was very excited to talk about the library and her city.

We eventually caught the electric bus that circuits through downtown and that brought us, among other places, to the Chattanooga Choo Choo, which, as it turns out, is sort of a hotel now. But there’s still an engine with the name on it.

This isn’t carrying anybody home anymore.

After that, we stopped so I could get some coffee at a sweet little coffee shop and stuck our head into the most odd bookstore where the eclectic older woman running the shop sells more yarn than she does books and where she teaches spinning classes and the books are shelved along with huge skeins of yarn and her dogs check you at the door to see if you’re a threat.

Yarn, books, and spinning wheels!

You have no idea how much I wanted to stay there, help her get the books back in order and let her take care of her yarn while I took care of the books. The place was inappropriately called ALLBOOKS.

After this, we made our way to the Tennessee Aquarium, which is split into two buildings, one for the rivers and one for the oceans, and I took more pictures of fish than I really intended to take.

This is the river building

The aquarium is really quite impressive, though. They’ve got a sea horses galore, star fish, trout, eels, turtles of all shapes and sizes, sting rays, sturgeon, sharks, penguins, and so much more.

They have two touching tanks where you can stick your hand in the tanks with the animals and pet them. One of them is for enormous sturgeons and the other is for little sting rays and sharks. This was AMAZING and sting rays feel like wet silk, they’re smooth and soft and just the teensist bit slimy.

The top of the oceans building has glass like the river one I’ve got a picture of here and inside of that dome they have a butterfly garden where you can walk in around the butterflies.

I don’t know her, but she was being very gentle

They’re getting otters sometime this year and yes, I will pay the $20 per person just to go in and see the otters. Plus I’d get to see the turtles again and touch the sting rays again and hang out with the butterflies and once again get completely creeped out by the room filled with jellyfish. Seriously, it’s a room that’s dark except for lights under the fish tanks so the jellyfish are just floating in the dark along all the walls in the room, floor to ceiling. It’s wall-to-wall jellyfish. Creepy.

But the inside of the ocean building is mostly just a huge tank that you can walk around and under parts of and see that it’s teeming with fish of all kinds, with sea turtles and sharks and sting rays and more. It was beautiful and amazing and I wish we hadn’t been quite so tired from walking around so much because by the end we were pretty much dead on our feet and wishing to sit down for a while.

Which was what we did, actually. After leaving the aquarium, we went back to the hotel, Justin took a look at the maps of the area a little, and then we just drove around for a while, trying to get a feel for the area. We drove out to see how big the Volkswagen plant is (it’s HUGE) and the nearby towns that are to the east of town. We don’t want to live in town when we do move to where ever we move, so it’s important to understand what the country is like.

I don’t have any good pictures from our drive, but that’s mostly because I was so distracted by the landscape. It’s hilly without being mountainous, just a bit more hilly than you’d normally expect for farmland, I guess. It was a cloudy day, as you can tell from the photos already, and it’s still winter, so it’s all dead-looking and brown, but the area is quite lovely. It didn’t take long to get from downtown into the country, which means the roads are easy to get around and the suburbs don’t sprawl much. There’s a bunch of farms in the area — we saw several herds of cows.

All in all, it seemed like a place where we could buy property and feel at home pretty easily.

Heading back into town, we’d been in touch with Nathan earlier in the day to see if we could meet up for dinner and, after figuring things out with Amy, who wasn’t home when we called, they let us know they’d meet us downtown later in the evening. We had hopes to visit a local restaurant, but it turns out downtown is a popular place on Saturday nights, so we ended up at Five Guys. But we got good burgers and chatted away for a couple hours and had a really wonderful time! I was really glad that we had the opportunity to spend time with all of them. If we do move to Chattanooga (and we really do like the city), it would be a lot of fun to meet up with them more often!

This is getting really long, so I’m going to wrap up for now and continue with Sunday stuff next post.

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