Cruisin' to Bermuda

I will be absent all of next week as I will be on a cruise ship bound for Kings Wharf, Bermuda.  I am overdue for some relaxation, so it's going to be the perfect escape to bliss!

This post may seem reminiscent from one last year but the itinerary and the travel companions are different this go round. We are going straight out to Bermuda and will be there for two days, so I can't wait to explore more of the island (on land and underwater!) 

I'll be traveling with the Finleys (from here, here and here) and am really excited because we always have a blast on vacation.  We've been on a cruise together before, and its hard to believe that has already been 5 years ago!

We booked with Royal Caribbean and I've never been on one of their ships before, so I'm anxious to see how it ranks.  I've heard and read wonderful reviews, so I'm bouncing through the roof for it to just be Saturday already!! Anybody have Royal Caribbean input? (Side note: There is an ice-skating rink on this ship. What?!!?!!  Here's hoping I don't sprain an ankle while skating over bumpy seas.)

I hope that you all have a wonderful week!  Expect multiple posts when I get back!


Barton Hollow

Have been addicted to this all week.  Thought I'd share.  Her voice is so intensely precise and their voices complement each others so well! (and it doesn't hurt that he looks like Johnny Depp :-)~ )


My Do Good of the Month: Walk for MS

I've been needing to add "volunteer" to my personal expectations here recently.  Working at one of the largest hospital conglomerations in the country made the task so easy that I'm a little lot embarrassed that it's taken me this long to act.  I decided to give up my Saturday morning to instead give to the Walk for the MS in Milstadt, IL which was the closest walk location to home.  Last year, I was a participant in the Walk for MS at JMU while I was there for Low-Key's 10-year reunion.  This year, I helped make the event as memorable as it was for me last year for all of the participants in St Louis this year.

When we woke up Saturday morning, the weather was dreadful.  It was the perfect stay snuggled up in bed, listening to the rain fall on the roof, reading a book, snoozing through the day kinda Saturday.  I would be lying if I said I didn't consider backing out of going, but then I thought about the fact that those who are battling everyday with MS don't get a choice to have or not have MS for the day.  It was then very easy for me to crawl myself out of bed and start finding suitable rain-and-gusting-wind outdoor clothing. 

I helped set up tents, hang balloons, greet walkers, and then register the 210 participants who showed up for the walk.  It was such an amazing turnout for such a small town in the country-side of Illinois. 

I hope that I am able to volunteer again next year.  It was mentally and emotionally draining, but it was so worth it.  It's all the small things in life that make it so amazing. 


Front Flower Bed's a Bloomin'

The start of something beautiful...

...kept blooming more beauty...

 ...and right now, leaving the house every morning, and arriving home every night are quite a beautiful view.  


Veggies and Herbs 2011

Year Two of the Veggies and Herbs for Casa Del Gibbons-Stamps. 
Last year, we planted our garden in rectangular buckets on the back patio and we loved it!!  This year however, we're stepping it up a notch.....we're planting our veggies in the ground!!

The side of our house has the perfect location for this years bounty.  For a house location frame of reference, we planted on the side next to the garage, in between the side garage door entrance and the fireplace in the main living room off the kitchen.  I've never shot any pictures there before, because well, there was nothing interesting to photograph.  But there is now!!

From left to right:  Row of hot banana peppers, Row of sweet banana peppers, Row of cayenne peppers, Row of jalepenos (YUM!), big boy tomato plant with a red bell pepper plant in front, and finally a gargantuan tomato plant (they name it, not me) with a cucumber plant in front.

 Then we have our herbs! 
1st bucket: basil, oregano, and lavendar
2nd bucket: chive, dill, and flat leaf parsley
3rd bucket: rosemary and thyme and soon to get a friend from South of the Border; Senor Cilantro!
The two pots on the right have some sort of lily of the valley or there-abouts kinda flower that Terry planted.  We'll see what happens ;-)

Any of you doing a veggie garden?  Indoor or outdoor? Any other fun stuff that we weren't adventurous enough to try??


Taxes; Synonymous with Headache

I don't know how Accountants do it.  Correction: I don't understand how Accountants enjoy it! 

Federal Taxes were finished up a few weeks ago and that was all smooth sailing. 

I put off State taxes because
A) if you file them online, it's $30.99 versus filling them in and mailing it yourself is free &
B) I have to file in two states since I work in Missouri but am a resident of Illinois.

This is a loving request to all those I hold dear to me: DON'T WORK AND LIVE IN DIFFERENT STATES!!! 

What I thought was going to be 2 forms (1 filed for each state) ended up being 7 different forms that had to be completed.  Just as I thought I was seeing the finish line, BOOM another form.  I get it that the tax man wants his money, but wow what a debacle! 

Have you finished up your taxes?? (I hope so)  The deadline is tomorrow!!!!



The review for the third and final installment of the Hunger Games Trilogy is here.  I admit that I have been dawdling on writing my review of this book.  I finished it over a month ago, and actually have read another book since...and am half way through my current book, but I've been dragging my feet.  Mainly, the burying the feet underground firmly feet dragging is because I gushe and loved and thoroughly enjoyed book 1 and book 2 of this trilogy, and I sadly can't say the same for this final book of the series.  
This horrific drawing of my enjoyment level through the trilogy should be rather indicative of my feelings towards this finale.

Without giving away any of the plot (Alexa I know you still haven't read it...so no spoilers!), I was just very much in the action mindset that Catching Fire ended with and you could cut the suspense with a knife.  They had just escaped the Hunger Games, Peeta had been captured by the Capitol, and my reading adrenaline was at an all-time high.  Then right from the start of this book, it turned from action and adventure to a psychological mind-game.  I found myself begging through the entire book for the storyline to pick up and my interest to be re-piqued, but it unfortunately stayed bottomed out for me.  They had two or three events where the intensity picked up, but within 30 pages it was right back to the psychological warfare and conspiracy theories. 

The ending of the book felt like the author didn't get the time she needed to adequately explain the choices Katniss made and the effects of all her decisions. Most specifically, you don't find out who Katniss finally chooses to be with between Peeta and Gale until the Epilogue which is the last 10 pages of the book.  The author has had her reader on the edge of their seats for almost 1,000 pages to find out who Katniss chooses, and she allots 10 pages (and it really wasn't even 10 pages because they Katniss talks about her life 20 years later) to it!  There's a little piece of me that is curious if she got a hard deadline from her editors and publishers for a release date, and while she could have used an extra few months to end the trilogy well, she instead stuck to their deadlines and ended it as best she could, but VERY abruptly.

(I'm harping, I know, sorry. I'm just trying to put into words what it was that made this book the least appealing and why in comparison to the others). The colors and the visual worlds through these books is another way of explaining why Mockingjay fell short.  The first book, while gray and dismal at the beginning as they are explaining the world they live in, turned vibrant and full of colors as they entered the Games.  The second book, again a bit dreary and muted at the beginning, became full of color, high energy and dramatic visuals from half way in through the end.  This third book was gray the whole way through....maybe slight variations in tone, but gray the whole way. 

Enough of being a Debbie Downer and probably turning all of you away from Mockingjay.  I think you could definitely love this book with the pre-understanding that it turns very deep and inward for the characters and that it is a very different feel from what you've read up to this point.  I would still recommend reading Mockingjay, and hopefully with this previous knowledge, you can have a better experience with it than I did.  I will still actively rave to anyone and everyone who is looking for a new books series to read that this HAS to be their top choice, but solely from my opinion, Catching Fire was the best from the trilogy. 


Entranceway Uh-Oh

Welp, turns out I made quite a mess in the entranceway.  I take about 90% responsibility.  The other 10% falls on Lowes for selling us ceramic tiles that were all broken on the corners once I pulled off the paper wrapping holding them together.

The entranceway is made up of parque (spelling?!) 4x4 squares that attach up to the carpet and to the entrance into the front living room (Just to get a sense of where the location is in the house, from the 1st picture in the living room post, I am standing in the entranceway taking a picture into the front room).  A few months back, I was curious if the hard-wood floor was still in-tact under the parque, so I made a mess and ripped up a few tiles.  This was how guests entered for a while.....oops.

But happily, the hardwood is still there under all the glue gunk that held the parque to the ground.  Yippee!!   .......or so I thought.

Then my first tile popped going towards the front door and MUCH to my dismay.....no more wood floor.  It's a nasty sticky white sheet on top of sub-floor.  Considering that the parque was not in this pattern, we believe that they had either linoleum or some sort of pattern design in the entrance when they built it, but then added parque later (why they added the parque all the way out til past the entrance into the front room is still a mystery.....or why they added awful parque at all is the BIGGER mystery, but I digress). 

We came up with an easy enough solution though.  We would just lay down ceramic tiles up until we hit the hardwoods.  It hasn't been said before, but we are eventually going to rip up all the carpet in the hallway to expose the hardwood floors through the house again.  Great solution until we got them home and cracked (no pun intended) open the boxes only to find that EVERY. SINGLE. TILE. was broken.  This tile below is one of the excessive breaks, most were just small breaks in the corners.  But still, SUCH a pain!

This is how it sits currently.  Poor little entranceway.  I hope to work on this soon, although Terry is saying we may need to just sand and stain the wood floors first...and if that's the case it's going to be a while!  Whomp whomp.


Moley-Moley-Moley NO MORE!!

Terry set the trap Sunday night before bed.  He went out before he left for work Monday morning, and BAM!  The yard destroyer is kaput!!!! 

No real pictures because, well, it was a dead animal in a trap with sharp scissors....enough said.

Now we just have to pray he doesn't have a large family to come and reap revenge on us.  :-)

Anybody else had mole or rodent problems?


Our yard and Heavy Machinery

This weekend was Machine Rental Mayhem at the house.  I didn't snap pictures of the first major rental, but Terry brought home a chainsaw on a 10ft pole.  One of the main branches in our cherry tree in the front yard broke during the ice storm a few months back, so he cut out that branch and trimmed up the tree quite nicely.  We still have a gnarly pile of wood though in front of the house that we're still figuring out if we're going to burn or dispose. 

The second machinery was the Dominator....except that for the first 30 or so minutes, it was being an enormous monstrosity of pain and breaking down every 10 seconds.  But basically, this one completely flattened out the yard.  I dont think that I've mentioned it before (correct me if I'm wrong), but we have had a horrific time with moles in our yard.  It's like an underground circus show, and the bumps above ground were starting to become hazardous to our walking safety.  

We were hoping that this big beluga was just going to come and murder kill squish get rid of the mole for us and we kept our fingers crossed.   But by Sunday morning, that (censored) mole was already going crazy through his underground heaven.

Sunday, Terry rented an Aerator.  Essentially, aerating allows the yard to have better water absorption, nutrient absorption and it helps the process of eliminating thatch.  I had heard of this before, but had no idea what to expect.

It shoved the prongs down into the ground and pulled out sections of the grass and soil.

The aftermath, well to put it comically, looked like 500 canadian geese stopped off in our yard after a nice hearty meal.

That machine is a beast too, no joke.  Terry was exhausted when he was finished.  It was like it had a mind of it's own, and it moved at warp speed.  Terry was trying with all his might to avoid it from crashing.  He only ran into the house twice.  And he ran into the neighbors fence.  With how that monster tore through the yard though, only three run-in's was impressive.  :-)
The finale to the yard weekend was setting traps for the mole.  We WILL have a flat, pretty yard!!!


A (work) day at the Zoo

Last Friday, I went to the annual Pediatrics Research Retreat, which was held at the St Louis Zoo.  Basically, the day consisted of PhD's and MD's from the department presenting their current research to an intimate crowd of, oh, 300 Ped's researchers.  There were roughly 10 presentations along with a Keynote address from two Wash U Professor/Researchers on their ongoing research of the chimpanzee culture in the Republic of Congo Basin.  (While their research had nothing to do with anyone in Pediatrics current research, their talk was really interesting and very entertaining).
During our breaks, we went and walked around the zoo to see all the animals.  We may have missed one of the presentations because we got caught up in the penguin exhibit.....oops! :-)

Pumba (warthog)

Hungry Hyena

Amazing how fast the little guy could run considering he's already half a ton.

I caught Terry taking a snooze!!!  

Other than it being so cold, I could have stayed and watched the penguins all day.

On our sprint back to the rest of the afternoon talks, we got to see Terry again....so bashful. ;-)


NCAA Bracket Hilarity!

Turns out that I miraculously won (<---WON....yes that's Really what happened!! I'm just as flabbergasted as you are!!) Terry's work pool. 
So here's the long and short of it.  Terry knows that I am not a basketball girl.  Give me men in shoulder pads and helmets trying to kill each other any day of the year, but listening to all the shoe-squeaking, watching grown men act like they're in severe pain from being bumped just to get a Ref's foul call, and giving almost more air time to the celebrities in the crowd than the actual game is just not my idea of great sports  entertainment.  
Here's the catch; Terry knows he can lure me in to watching 3 weekends of non-stop basketball if I am entertained with something that helps me ignore the previously mentioned annoyances.  "How?" you might ask: With a bracket pool!! 
I filled a bracket out for Terry's jobsite, and another for a pool at Bechtel's home office.  Here's where a few of you who also do brackets may get mad at me.  I had NO method to my (March) madness.  While Terry read up on stats and was very calculated with his choices, I just spent two minutes going down each side of the bracket and submitted.  I wish I could say I took huge risks and had some "gut" feelings...heck, I wish I could say I chose based on picking based on school colors.  But no, no method. I started on the right side...  ya think that made all the difference?!?! 
Here were my 1st place winning picks from his jobsite:

Yup.  I came in 1st place with this sea of red bracket.  After my winning squeals ceased, I hit the point of, "Uh-oh, so should I be thrilled that I won.....or should I be embarrassed that I did this awful and still pulled out the victory." 
Terry's input was that it may be silly to think I took first with so many losses, but I still picked better than 35 other people and that is the beauty of the tournament....Anyone has the chance to win; referring both to all the basketball teams as well as everyone competing in bracket challenges.
T was a little further down on the standings, but every other year it's usually the reverse...where he is dominating.   

You may be wondering, "Well how did you do in the Bechtel home office pool?".  Well...since you're wondering....I took 3rd overall.  Guess we can't win them all.  :-D 


Happy April!!

Sorry I haven't been around much this past week!  I had a lab practical that ate up almost every minute of my free time.  Good news: I think that I aced that puppy last night!  Also Good news: I'll have more updates ( I have a bunch to update with the house!) very soon!