Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mini Grammar Lesson

I must begin with another one of my famous disclaimers. While I am about to share a few quick grammar lessons (a.k.a pet peeves of mine), I do realize that I am not the grammar guru or knower-of-all-that-is-the-English language... just putting that out there.

A semi colon separates two related but independent clauses. This means that the string of words before the semi colon could stand alone as its own sentence; similarly, the words on the other side of the semi colon could also be their own sentence.

I think your blog entry looks fantastic; however, I would be sure to correct the spelling of "narcissism" before publishing.

I think there are many types of delicious chicken wings at Publix; like mardi gras, traditional, spicy garlic and extra hot.

(Key: if the words before or after the semi colon cannot be a complete thought by themselves, then it doesn't make sense to use a semi colon)

When you're describing the people in a photo, and one of those people is you, you should say "and me" instead of "and I." So if you have captions with your myspace, flikr or facebook photos, write accordingly.

Joe Bob Scatwally and me at the state fair. (Or just Joe Bob and me)


Linda Shae Twitty and I at the hotdog eating contest. (Or just Linda Shae and I)

(Key: take away the other person or people and see if the caption still makes sense. For example, "This is a picture of Ben and me" would become "This is a picture of me." Then you know you have it right.)

When you use a prepositional phrase, such as “in the classroom” or “of the choices” you use a verb that goes with the word that the prepositional phrase modifies. This may sound a little tricky, but it’s easily understood with some examples.

The students in the classroom are behaving.

The students in the classroom is behaving.

Take away “in the classroom” and it should be easy to tell which is correct. Use the verb form that goes with “students.”

The students are behaving.


The students is behaving.

And that’s it for today, kids!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Another Great Deal

My friends know this about me... I love a good deal. Maybe I get this from my mother. She and I both prefer to say about ourselves that we "like finding great deals" versus "are cheap." One of my latest obsessions that I must share is a little site called VistaPrint. Dan and I gave VistaPrint a chance when we were working on save-the-date magnets for our wedding. We were so impressed by the price ($34.99 for 100) that we decided to order some holiday cards through the site as well.

Today I gave the site a gander for a third time and decided to pick up some "thank you" notes for some of my favorite ladies that are also brides-to-be. What's nice about the site is that you can change the color schemes in some card layouts - and all are fully customizable. If you prefer, you can upload a photo (or graphic design layout) instead. The cards I picked up for the girls were $6.99 for 20 flat cards, including envelopes. I even snagged some for myself!

(low res previews of card fronts)

Who doesn't love a great note card - and for a great price?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My Own Personal Theory

A few months ago, as I rode in the car with Dan and friends, I blurted out something I'd thought before. And of course it was in the taboo conversation category - politics.

I will save my own political/personal/social convictions for another day; but I still would like to share with you the thought I said aloud that day.

"I just think that Republicans are probably more patriotic. "

Then I suppose I retreated a little and changed my theory slightly.

"Well, I bet that if you counted, Republicans are more likely to have American flags outside their homes and magnets on their cars."

Too bad I don't have my own personal Freakonomics researchers on staff at my house because I really think I'm right. I think I may also have to save my reasoning for another day, as I haven't yet crafted it into a sensible/sensical form (even in my head). 

What is it about the stereotypical (and possibly the Southern kind since that's who I am most familiar with) that makes me feel this way? I will work on some more concrete thoughts.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

My Love: the Your DeKalb Farmer's Market

Any of my friends will tell you that I cannot talk briefly about the Your DeKalb Farmer’s Market, or YDFM for short; instead, I launch into a long description of the place, why I’ve grown to love it so much and which items are “must buys.”

If I were to recall it correctly, my description usually starts something like this:

“The farmer’s market isn’t your typical farmer’s market where walk up to a vendor with fruit and ask ‘how much for a box of tomatoes?’ It’s a cooperative and subsidized market, meaning you check out the same way you would at your neighborhood Kroger or Publix (a cashier rings you up and tells you your total). The place is nearly the size of a Sam’s or Costco with plenty of fresh produce, meat and other international items of interest to boot. Each and every time I go to the farmer’s market, I can’t help but to smile, get excited about cooking and feel overall invigorated about life. It’s just that kind of place. Sort of like a less expensive Whole Foods but on steroids.”

So you might be wondering what all the YDFM carries within its large and slightly fishy-smelling corridor. Well, almost anything food-related you can imagine with the exception of some sundries (I am yet to see toilet paper, shampoo, trash bags, etc.). From cheeses and veggies to exotic seafood and hot teas, they really seem to have it all.

In my opinion, there are a handful of “must buys.”

Ravioli. One sound sums up my thoughts: “mmmmmmmm.” Made and packaged on-site like so many other YDFM items, this stuff is not only inexpensive, it’s delicious! My favorite is butternut squash with a hint of citrus; Dan goes for the wild mushroom. All options taste great, especially when topped with the YDFM’s own “tomato sage sauce,” also shelved in the refrigerated pasta area. Other fresh pastas are also worth a try (suggestion: spinach fettuccine).

Cheeses. I think I read on farmer’s market’s web site that they carry nearly 150 varieties. Two I usually pick up are buffalo mozzarella and crumbled goat cheese. I will never be able to by either from my favorite Kroger again, given that the price comparison makes me nauseous (YDFM prices are about half of those from your local grocer). Beyond these cheeses, be sure to sift through aged asiagos, matured bleus, grated romano varieties and other delicacies.

Meats. It is my firm belief that YDFM meats taste fresher and healthier than any I’ve picked up elsewhere. Additionally, it’s pretty cool that you can say to a butcher-area employee, “Three-fourths of a pound of tilapia, please” versus buying a less (or more)-than optimal-sized prepackaged amount. I am yet to be disappointed with any of the lamb, ground sirloin ($3.69/pound – incredible!), breakfast sauce links, scallops, shrimp, steak, ground turkey or deli meat selections I’ve picked up over the last two years. I haven’t been brave enough to try any for myself, but you can order up some goat if your tastebuds are so brave. (The farmer’s market is an “international” market, catering to and employing people from all around the world. For this reason, and because the facilities are capable, the food choices cater to the international.)

Spices. Kick your spice cabinet up several notches with the low-cost dried spices offered at the farmer’s market (don’t miss them – they’re along the far right wall, near the wine and beer area). Consider getting a few of the basics to start your collection (bay leaves, mixed Italian seasoning, oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, parsley, cracked black pepper and the like). Warning: picking up these spices at an average of $0.75/ounce will make you curse under your breath at those McCormick’s people.

Vegetables. Where else can you choose from eight varieties of eggplant? Very few, I would imagine, at least in Atlanta. Take your pick from the freshest veggies from miles around, all at much less per pound than at your local grocer. Plus, as I mentioned, the variety of produce (both traditional and exotic) will leave you breathless. I usually stock up on broccoli crowns, mushrooms, tomatoes on the vine, several types of squash, peppers and onions. When you look down at your cart full of colorful and nutritious produce, you’re destined to feel more excited about the way you eat. I know I do.

Soy products. I’ve noticed that the pricing and variety of frozen and refrigerated soy products is better than many other places. Pick up a bag of edamame (shelled or in shells—price per ounce is the same) or some extra firm tofu for an Asian-inspired stirfy noodle bowl.

Coffee. Fresh, delicious and just the way you like it. I used to be a big Starbucks brew-at-home fan, that is, until I realized I was paying $8.62 for 12 ounces of coffee. I have been pleasantly surprised and pleased with the YDFM’s coffee. I usually opt for having the coffee/tea area employees grind the coffee for me (you pick the level of grinding you would like) instead of buying the preground stuff. My addiction of choice: Columbian medium roasted with automatic drip grind, sometimes with vanilla syrup flavoring roasted in. At an average of $6/pound and very tasty, I am one happy customer. While you’re waiting for your coffee to be ground, go ahead and order some peanut butter (crunchy, creamy or crunchy creamy), almond butter or cashew butter—also ground before your eyes.

Fresh flowers at great prices, a fantastic beer and wine selection, an extra-large dessert case and a hot food/salad bar line also beef up the farmer’s market’s offerings.

While the salad dressings, canned soups, yogurts and salsas are definitely more interesting and organically-based than what you can grab at Kroger, I usually pass on these since they’re not as good of a buy.

This entry wouldn’t be complete without including a moderate amount of YDFM shopping strategy best utilized on a crowded day. When it comes to shopping in the produce aisles and nearby dried and canned foods aisles, I suggest finding a secure spot to leave your cart and heading in with open arms only. This way, you can dodge around other farmer’s market clientele and swiftly deposit new treasures into the stationary cart.

Moral of the story: it’s worth your time to make a trip to the Your DeKalb Farmer’s Market. It’s become a weekly routine for me. Just be forewarned that beautiful weather outside and visiting between noon and 5pm make for rather crowded conditions. Also, only cash, debit and check are accepted (no credit cards).

3000 East Ponce de Leon Avenue
Decatur, Georgia 30030

p.s. Thank you, Paul McKellar, for bringing me to the farmer’s market for the first time.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Frequent Flyers

Conversations may begin with, “So where are ya headed?” or bonds maybe forged over a loud crying baby. This seems to be the life of a constant traveler.

As I type during a layover in Philadelphia on my way back from Vermont to Atlanta, I am able to again take up one of my favorite hobbies: people watching. They, the other people waiting in and around the terminal that is, come in all flavors (military, young, old, foreign, business, airline employed), shapes, shades and demeanors. Some are patiently awaiting boarding by reading a book while others are visibly jumpy, nervous and seemingly remorseful that they are leaving behind loved ones or friends in a town recently visited.

My mind drifts and I think about a life in the air. For so many flight attendants, pilots, traveling salesmen and international businessmen, the skies are where they spend countless hours, days and nights. What would it be like to travel alone so often, experiencing solitude in an airport full of people or standing in a fast food restaurant line to avoid eating alone at an eat-in restaurant?

“So where ya traveling to?” And so it begins between two men sitting near one another at the airport Le Petite Bistro Express.

“Actually home to Raleigh, North Carolina,” a man answers.

“Oh really?” the other man responds. “I received my undergrad at NC State, right there in Raleigh.”

“Small world! What in?” The question fires back and genuine interest can be sensed in the inquisitor’s voice.

The back-and-forths go on for a few more minutes and a fleeting friendship is formed. It may be the first of several barely five or ten minute conversations, but it seems to beat walking, thinking and quietly anticipating the next flight destination.