Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Avoiding and Treating Poison Ivy

I have recently written two articles about poison ivy and what you can do to avoid it and treat it. I am one of unlucky people who gets a very bad case of poison ivy when infected. One of my goals this summer is to avoid this plant under all circumstances. Last summer I had case that lasted almost two months. Not recommended summertime fun.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Gift Giving

I occasionally write for AC (Associated Content) and I thought I would post a link to my latest article. (click on the title for the full article) I am a weirdo since I actually like finding “the perfect” gift for a friend or family member. It is almost like a puzzle to me- figure out something the person will love or really needs that is at a reasonable cost. I am now also trying to make sure my gifts are environmentally friendly. I will post some gift suggestions in the future and feel free to comment with your suggestions or questions.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Stomp the Yard, Movie Review & Summary

I actually managed to watch the DVD, Stomp the Yard, yesterday after work. It was a very enjoyable movie both for the abundant dancing and the characters. The director filmed many of the dances scenes up close so you feel like you are right in the middle of the action. The main actors did a great job in their roles, and Columbus Short was very believable as the outsider and underdog. The plot is predictable but very enjoyable none the less, and I thought it was nice to see African-Americans portrayed in a positive way for a change.

The DVD extras included a filmmaker’s commentary which was interesting, a short documentary that is worth watching, deleted and extended dance scenes, and a gag reel. All of the extra are worth watching. This is definitely a movie worth seeing and I will probably buy a copy in the future. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

The movie is about a young man, DJ, who is into street dancing in LA, and his brother is killed after a competition. Later, his uncle who works for Truth College in Atlanta manages to get DJ scholarship. Needless to say he feels like he does not fit in, but has an instant attraction to a student, April, who not only has a jerk for a boyfriend but is the dean’s daughter.

The main character is asked to pledge several fraternities after they witness his dancing at a local club. Many of the fraternities compete in step dancing which is called stomping the yard. Stepping is a synchronized style of dancing that normally involves teams of dancers moving to very rhythmic steps. There is an annual competition every year in which the best step teams from all the colleges compete for bragging rights.

DJ chooses to go with a more academic fraternity who is constantly being beaten by another fraternity (where the jerk boyfriend steps of course). April ends up falling for DJ and her father is not happy about it. It also does not help the situation that DJ’s uncle married the woman who the dean dated in college.

The rival fraternity leaks to the ethics committee that DJ had been convicted for assault in case of his brother, and he is suspended from college and the step competition. The dean offers a deal to DJ that if he quits seeing his daughter, he will restate DJ back in school. DJ declines and his team goes off to the competition without him.

The dean’s daughter finds out what her father has done and he decides to reinstates DJ. Our main character shows up just in time for the final round of the step competition in which the two rival fraternities tie. There is a dance off, led by DJ and the ex-boyfriend, but of course our hero and his team wins.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Monday, June 18, 2007

Weekend Update for 6-16-07 & 6-17-07

Cucumber update: The plants are growing like crazy and have almost grown over the small metal supports that I put into the container. I have to water them quite a bit due to the really hot temperatures and lack of rain in Kentucky.

I spent a good part of the weekend watering my yard and plants, and doing some weeding. That is one of my least favorite yard chores. One of my German Shepherds is being bitten on the ears by flies so I am trying a new pest spray for animals. It is neem-oil based and is not supposed to have any dangerous chemicals so we will see how that works over the next several weeks.

I rarely go to the movies anymore but I managed to go see Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer this weekend with a friend. It was much better than the first Fantastic Four movie and a great break from an otherwise busy weekend. I would recommend it to moviegoers who like light, action movies based on comic book characters. If you want to award winning acting and script writing, go see something else. The special effects were very good and it was fast paced and a good length at about an hour and a half.

The rest of the weekend was spent doing typical house chores, running errands, and taking care of my cat, Irish, who has fatty liver disease. I have to syringe a good deal of food and protein supplements down her throat to make sure she is eating enough. Luckily one of my cat-loving friends was in town and came over three times each day to help with the feeding and to give her medicine and subcutaneous fluids. I am happy to report that Irish is doing much better than she was several weeks ago, and I am hopefully for a full recovery in several months.

I also was able to spend some time with my father and my grandfather, which is always nice. My grandfather just turned 87 and it’s only been in the last year that he has started to slow down and have health problems that are effecting how much he can do. At age 34 I would be happy to have as much energy as he has right now.

I finished out the weekend by having a good dinner and great conversation at O’Charley’s restaurant with one of my best friends Sunday night. I love their potato soup and they have really good rolls. They also make fairly good Strawberry daiquiri, which happens to be my favorite alcoholic drink.

Overall it was a good weekend that was both fun and productive, if still way too busy.

Hanna and Irish

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Gardening Adventures- Cucumbers

I have decided to pursue gardening this summer with the hopes that I will reap several benefits. The first point of this exercise is to have a beautiful yard and deck and to hopefully have some delicious vegetables and herbs. I have grown a few tomatoes and herbs in the past, but this year I am going to be more adventurous. Gardening is also good exercise and I actually enjoy getting my hands full of dirt from time to time. I also think gardening will be a good way to try and slow down a bit, since you cannot rush how fast your plants will grow.

I am mainly using containers on and around my deck for the vegetables and herbs since my two large German shepherds have pretty much claimed the rest of the backyard. I do have a large flower garden in the back that surrounds a beautiful dogwood tree, but the plants have to be fairly hardy to withstand the dogs and their obsession with the squirrels.

My first new vegetable adventure is a large container of Straight Eight cucumbers. I have 12 plants in a mixture of organic soil and compost. I planted them when there were just seedlings, but the plants are already getting quite large. I may have too many in one container. They are in full sun for most of the day and they are getting watered every night. My research on these plants suggests adding some fertilizer when the plants start to blossom and give fruit. According to most accounts, cucumbers are pretty easy to grow and should give fruit all summer long.

On Burpee’s website there is a suggestion to grow the plants on trellises to maximize space and to increase the yield, so I may see if I can find or build some small support structures to put in my pot. Cucumbers are susceptible to various bugs, disease, and fungus but I plan to use a homemade spray I make out of neem oil if any problems arise. Neem oil is quite effective to keep pests at bay, but is an organic substance that will not harm mammals. I never use any type of chemicals in my yard because of the dogs and I do not want to pollute the water table anymore that it already is.

Apparently this variety is best picked when the cucumbers are 6-8 inches long, and harvesting should encourage more fruit production. I am planning to share quite a bit if I have a good harvest since cucumbers do not last long in the refrigerator. I actually hate pickles so I won’t bother using that type of preservation technique either.

My favorite way to eat a cucumber is make a Benedictine spread to serve with crackers or other fresh veggies. Everyone has a similar recipe but this is how I like to make it…

1 fresh cucumber- peel and grate, remove some liquid in small colander
Package of cream cheese- softened
1/8-1/4 of a white or yellow onion- depending on how strong a flavor you want
Dollop of mayo- fresh is better
Dollop of sour cream
Salt/Pepper to taste
Add fresh dill, basil, chives to change up the flavor a bit
Blend everything in a blender or food processor and serve