Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Talk about Last Minute Excitement!

From the Ribs on the Roanoke planners, just minutes ago:

"BREAKING NEWS ALERT!!!!!!!! just added to this years event will be an appearance from Lizard Lick Towing's Bobby Brantley, his wife Anita and Big Juicy. Be sure to drop by their tent for pictures autographs and t-shirts."

Be sure to see my last post for more info about the event!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Plymouth to Go Hog Wild with Ribs on the Roanoke

{I've been a bad blogger again...and this really doesn't count for "catching up" but since I've been working on this press release, I thought I might as well post it here as a starting point for getting the word out. At least it follows nicely my last post about things to do around here!}

Ribs on the Roanoke will feature a Car Show, live music, a horse shoe tournament, costume contest, and various other activities Saturday, October 29 in historic downtown Plymouth. The event is hosted by the Plymouth Downtown Development Association and sponsored by Tyson Automotive, The Soundside Group, and Feyer Ford.

Ribs, bar-b-que, and combination plates will start selling at 11 a.m. “We are planning 150 rib plates,” explained DDA President Cheryl Byrum, and she emphasized “It’s first come, first served as long as they last.” Hot dogs will also be available from Plymouth Cub Scouts, and starting early, the Blue & Gold Stompers Relay for Life will sell baked goods and coffee.

Registration for the Car Show starts at 8 a.m. First and second place trophies will be awarded in over 50 classes, as will specialty awards for Best Paint, Best Engine, Best Interior, Mayor’s Choice, Longest Distance, Best in Show, and Most Club Participation. The first 50 registered receive dash plaques and the first 25 t-shirts. In addition to door prizes, $350 worth of gas will be raffled.

Live music begins at 9 a.m. with “Whoever Shows Up,” a local bluegrass-style, gospel band that performs in area nursing homes, rehab centers, churches and for the occasional birthday party. “Moonshine”, a band from the Bertie Hertford county area that plays country, southern rock, rock and “anything that will keep you on your feet” will perform from 10 a.m. until noon. “One Man Blues Band” featuring Eddie Lilley of Farm Life is scheduled from noon until 2. Eddie says, “Blues just keeps me grounded,” but he also enjoys playing Rock, Country, Bluegrass, R&B and Soul. Elvis-lover Dick Feyer of Roper will round out the musical entertainment from 2-3 p.m.

The festivities will feature a horse shoe tournament. Warm up and registration is scheduled for noon with the tournament starting at 1 pm. Prizes include gift certificates from Mama’s Pizza and Rack ‘em Billiards, and there is no entry fee.

Other activities planned include a demonstration from Plymouth’s Fire Department, a costume contest, the Askew Farms “cow train”, a children’s bouncy house, and arts and crafts vendors. Winners will be announced for a coloring contest underway in the Washington County elementary schools of the “Go Hog Wild with Ribs on the Roanoke” logo.

Pre-registration for the car show is $15 or participants can register the day of the show for $20. For more information about the car show, contact Shane Tyson at 252-217-4759. Vendor applications are still being accepted. Contact Pat Sawyer at 252-202-5492 for vendor information. For all other questions, contact Cheryl Byrum at 252-945-5504.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What is there to do 'round here?

Since we moved to Plymouth, NC a little over a year ago, I've been whining - just like I did in high school - that there's nothing to do 'round here.

Well, I have to admit, I've just been lazy. Eastern NC is rich in historical attractions, outdoor activities, and adventure opportunities. I realized it was time for some of the spring activities to kick into gear - things we attended last year like Mackeys CrabBash, the Civil War Reinactment, and various outdoor music events in downtown Plymouth. I started looking online for scheduling details and stumbled upon the new website for the Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

Before we moved to Plymouth, I took advantage of various networking groups. Meetup.com was a great tool for finding all kinds of groups, from business networking to bowling to book clubs. I've browsed meetup since we've been "back home," but there are just a handful of Greenville groups that remotely interest me, and I'm looking for actvities closer to Plymouth.

I don't know why I didn't think about the Chamber earlier, but just as I checked out the membership application and made up my mind to join, I noticed an event on the calender - "Hospitality Training". The description read, "Be a tourist for a day in your home county. Learn about hospitality and how it affects your business and your area."

Now, I've been saying for ages that I'm going to start writing more travel articles focused on eastern NC, so how perfect was this? And it was free!

I hustled to the chamber office to turn in my membership application, pay the dues, and to register for the training. Jennifer Arnold, Director, explained that the morning would include classroom-type sessions, and the afternoon would consist of visits to the downtown museums (how many small towns have THREE museums on a beautiful downtown waterfront?), a boat tour on the Roanoke River, and an optional airplane tour. Did I mention this was free?

The event is co-sponsored by the Chamber, the Washinton County NC Cooperative Extension, Washington County Travel & Tourism, and the Plymouth Downtown Development Assocation (search "Plymouth DDA" on facebook). Washington County Extension Director Rebecca Liverman and Hyde County Extension director Mac Gibbs co-hosted the morning sessions with a mission to "Foster economic development by improving customer service, enhancing North Carolina Pride and strengthing communities."

I wasn't surprised to learn that NC is the 6th most visited state of the US. I was surprised, however, to learn that toursim in Washington County generated $12.01 million in 2009. Thanks to our struggling economy in general, this number was actually down by almost 10% from 2008.

After the morning training sessions and lunch, Jennifer escorted us to the downtown Plymouth museums. We started at the Maritime Museum, and then crossed the street to climb to the top of the Roanoke River Lighthouse. Next stop was God's Creation Wildlife Museum, and we finished up at the Port O'Plymouth Museum. Jennifer gave us a nice introduction to each museum but left plenty for us to explore on our own at a later date.

Next we enjoyed a boat ride provided by Tom Harrison, Director of Washington County Travel & Tourism. Not only was our tour guide informative, he turned out to be a hero. Our tour was interrupted when the boat's motor sputtered to a stop. With the wind fortunately in the right direction, Tom guided us gently back to the dock. While the tour might have been shortened a bit, we finished the day with a little excitement!

Speaking of the wind, it turned out to be a bit too rough for our plane ride, but the day was a success. We finished up with ice cream at Norm's and shared suggestions with Rebecca for the next event. I'm still shaking my head that this training experience is available, right here in Plymouth, and at no charge! The event that I attended was the second hosted, and at least two more are planned. I hope more local businesses take advantage of this valuable resource. As for me, I have confirmed a long list of writing topics about something to do 'round here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Falling Behind, Catching Up

This will be one of those short, or maybe not short but rambling and disconnected, blog entries. I function in bursts of effeciency and productivity, especially when it comes to writing. Before I get too far behind on the blog, I decided to just write something.

I did finally finish and publish the hub about learning to play a musical instrument as an adult. It's the first hub I've published in nearly two years. It's also a bit more labor intensive than what I like to publish on hubpages, but I wanted to write it, and that is the beauty of writing for hubpages--I write whatever I want to write.

We also had a couple of major milestones in the Whitaker home this week - Ken turned 45 Tuesday and we 'celebrated' nine years of holy matrimony Wednesday. I thought having our anniversary the day after Ken's birthday would help us both remember it, and I guess it does, but we didn't really do anything special either day. I guess we are both just appreciating "normal" more these days, although I'm afraid we are probably getting a bit boring!

I'm going to challenge myself to do something interesting and write about it....soon.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Getting the Garden Going

I got my exercise today, that's for sure! I had help loading the 9 bags of dirt into the truck, but I unloaded myself. And dug and shoveled and pulled weeds. I moved all of the mulch and weed paper from last year's tomato/herb/cucumber bed to the front "flower bed". Over two hours of cardio and strength training.

I planted the asparagus a couple of weeks ago but did little more than churn up the very center of each bed and add a little manure. Today I have both the back asparagus bed and the "general purpose" bed ready for more planting. I put a few seeds out - carrots, radishes, cucumbers and lettuce. It might be too early, or maybe I should have started all of them inside. Whatever. I'm going with my gut. If everything dies, I'll know better next year.

I want to get one more bed established, but my dear sister is too busy with her own planting and settling in to her new home to get over here and help me. It's okay - I will figure out where to add some tomato plants, at the very least. Last years tomato crop was awesome, and I'm looking forward to a few additions this year.

The green stuff in this photo are my herbs that survived from last year - left to right, rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme, catnip and more rosemary. I had mint in the front flower bed last year, but it didn't make it. The veggies I planted there didn't do well either. I am giving up on that bed - I'll just spread some more mulch and let the few daffodils and tulips left by the previous residents do their thing. I figure if I can't grow mint in that spot, then I can't grow anything there.

P.S. - I almost forgot! Just as I was finishing the last little corner of weeding, I found a snake! (Shhhhh, don't tell Julia, or she might not come help me next week!) It was just a tiny little brown snake. I raked him into the shovel and moved him out of the way. Thank goodness it wasn't a big spider - my gardening days might have been over!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Meal Plan

Yesterday I wrote about lists and how I use them in three main areas of my life - work, writing and household chores. Later I was thinking about how there's an obvious, important area of life missing from that list of three - my health and well-being. I thought it was blog-worthy to note that for my longest stretch ever, I'm still following my New Year's resolution, to eat more healthy foods.

Part of my success has been to not be overly strict. Notice I didn't say "to eat only healthy foods". First, as my mother loves to point out, that would be pretty inconsistent with my nasty tobacco and alcohol habits. But I figure every little bit helps. I have given myself permission to binge on the weekends, and I've decided not to worry about the smoking until I have lost at least (mumbles a number) pounds. The last time I quit smoking for any length of time, I gained 15 pounds in two months. I'm too stupidly vain to repeat that experience right now.

But, I do believe being conscious of the food I select to nurture my body will help offset the negatives of my otherwise unhealthy choices. My primary change in behavior has been to stop buying and preparing processed foods, at least for meals. There's been no Hamburger Helper on the Whitaker dinner table in 2011. I invested in a small freezer and am stocking up on meat when it's on sale. Soon, I'm going to follow through on my intention to purchase organic meat in bulk and fill that freezer up. I am ordering produce from Soggy Bottom Produce, now that they've opened for the year. We are eating fresh and local veggies, and next week they will have strawberries! I've also been loosely following the slow-carb diet recommended by Timothy Ferriss in The 4-Hour Body. I know his books haven't gotten the best reviews, but I think a lot of his advice makes sense. (And who cares???? He is on the best seller list! You can criticize my writing all you'd like after I start making the big bucks, and I promise, I won't care. Until then, please play nice on my blog. :-0)

An important part of these new eating goals is to make yet another list. Not just a grocery list, but a meal plan. So far I really only bother about dinner. For breakfast, I generally eat eggs and spinach, sometimes with beans if there are any left over from the night before. Occassionally I substitute a protein shake. Lunch is either leftovers, a sandwich or maybe canned tuna or cottage cheese. Ken fixes his own breakfast and lunch, so dinner is my only "pressure" meal - the one that used to turn into frozen entrees or ordering a pizza after a hectic work day. Dinner was the meal that needed a plan. Again, I don't worry too much about weekends, but by Sunday night, I have a general idea of what I'm cooking the rest of the week. Here was this week's plan:

Monday - pork chops, rice, brocolli, black beans (I ended up substituting field peas and snaps that were in the freezer for the black beans)

Tuesday - turkey wings, new potatoes & spinach (prepared together in the crock pot) and red kidney beans

Wednesday - Baked salmon, seasoned with Old Bay, roasted asparagus, carrots, and black beans

Thursday - Soup (cleaning out the freezer, or "garbage soup". I used brocolli, rice, a variety of beans, carrots, and part of a London broil from the freezer, and I added some canned tomato sauce and some diced tomato, and a little water. It's really more like what Rachael Ray calls stoup, a cross between soup and stew.)

I'll be honest, I haven't lost as much weight as I was hoping to. But I feel better knowing I've made a major improvement in the number of nutrients we are consuming, versus the number of perservatives. I think I'm saving money on my grocery bill, too - and that's a much welcome added bonus!

It occurs to me that my meal plan illustrates an important part of successfully using lists. I keep it simple and stay flexible. Side dishes, or entire meals, can be swapped around without causing "failure". But having a starting point, a plan, helps me navigate in a satisfying fashion. I need to remember this philosphy with my other "lists" instead of getting discouraged by a few misses here and there.

Final thought....I can't remember exactly where I read this, but did you know you are 80% more likely to do reach a goal if you write it down? Maybe that's some made-up statistic in some crazy self-help resource I studied at some point, but I'd say it's pretty close to accurate in my experience. What would you like to do today? Write it down, and let me know what happens!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Most Days, I Like Lists

I'm not sure when I first started making my own lists. I do remember the small blackboard in DauDau's kitchen that she used for her grocery list. Frequently, when there were just a few critical items on the board, like bread or milk or toilet paper, she would scribble the list onto a piece of paper and send one of us grandkids to the A&P. When I say scribble, I mean that literally. DauDau's handwriting was awful, but I can't say much. Mine might be even worse. But we could decipher her short lists, probably because they were short enough to memorize and recite rather quickly. We would cut through the yard of the house across the street and come out in the A&P parking lot. Those were the days when you could let little kids run around town unsupervised. I felt like a grownup going to the grocery store for DauDau.

Over the years I've continued to value lists. I particularly appreciate lists of "goals" in progressing my "personal growth." I'm not as consistent as I could be, that's for sure, hence my tendancy to get stuck in a rut or two. But when I'm ready for a change, out come the pens and paper, and of course the keyboard.

This week I've been making lists every night of things I want to accomplish the next day. I have lists in three basic areas - work, writing, and household chores. It's only Wednesday, and already I feel a lack of productivity. I've crossed off very little on my lists today.

I have used a work list with consistency for years. Actually make that multiple lists at work. My team has a conference call a couple of times a week (we used to meet even more often) to maintain a "priorities" list. In addition there's my inbox, and my various email folders, and our ticketing system, which all serve as lists that I check frequently to remind myself what needs to be done. I react pretty quickly to my inbox. I like moving the quick tasks to the finished folder, the equivalent of drawing a line through the grocery item that's in my cart, I suppose. But I'm realizing more and more how ineffecient that work strategy is. I need to organize my work into better priorities, and more cohesive blocks of time. I'm getting too old to multi-task as well as I used to, and recovering from even brief interruptions often means practically starting over on some tasks. I think I also need to focus more on true "goals" for work rather than "tasks". But of the three, my work lists coincide with my most successful productivity. I'm sure my employer would be happy to know that. Even as busy as I was today, and with as many interruptions and conference calls, I still hit most of the items on my priorities list.

While I want my writing to be a more defining part of my life, I've kept my writing goals fairly small this week. They have been the same for three days - editing hubs, blogging, and "starting" a new hub. I want it to "stick", so I'm hesitant to commit to the Great American Novel until I've truly established my writing habits as routine. But even the small goals seem a bit daunting. I've scribbled some ideas for hubs, but I haven't really "started" anything yet. It was 3 pm before I started this blog entry, and I haven't started my editing quota for today. But I have time - these are things I can do while Ken watches Family Guy.

I did really well on my chores Monday and Tuesday - accomplishing even more than I put on my lists. Today has been a bust. I've been busier than usual at work, so I have a really good excuse, but still, I can feel the disappointment, the temptation to submit to defeat, seeping in. I know I'm not likely to do any extra chores at night - cooking dinner and cleaning up the kitchen are enough! I knew even as I put my main three tasks on paper last night that they were probably too 'big'. I like 15 minute or less kinds of chores, and at least two of the three are more time-consuming.

But, the day is not over! I'm not giving up! I was feeling overwhelmed with work, and I knew I needed a break. I took a look at my lists and committed to getting the blog entry written. And look - only 12 minutes, and I'm almost there! I find the more I can cross off my list, the more likely I am to move to the next item.


Almost 8 p.m. now - I had to get back to work earlier. As predicated, I managed to complete my "editing hubs" task while Ken has been watching t.v. I also sent emails with interview questions for an article (and I consider that "starting"). Finally, I moved two of my house-keeping chores to tomorrow's list, and I'm post-poning the third indefinitely. I did complete a couple of chores that really should have been on today's list instead - like cleaning the litter box. You KNOW I deserve extra credit for that one!

The best thing about a list is definitely crossing things off. And I'd say the scratches on my notebook don't look too bad today after all.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Writing from Plymouth

I've been so negligent. My poor little blog has been out here in cyberspace, all alone, wondering where the readers went, wondering why no one visits anymore. It's my fault. I've been a poor hostess.

Last time I was here, I claimed I was ready for a fresh start. It's not that I lied, exactly, it's just that, well, hmmm....let's see...like I said, we moved a little over a year ago to my hometown, Plymouth. And we've just been so busy settling in, getting to know new friends, reconnecting with old friends, figuring out the social life in Plymouth...NOT.

I have been learning to play the Bass - Daddy has been teaching me. It has not been easy, but it also has not been hard enough to completely discourage me. I enjoy our weekly "practice" sessions. Julia and Aunt Judy usually come, and we have invited a few others who might eventually join in.

That's my social life in Plymouth--driving to Jamesville for music lessons. And I joined a book club last fall and a writer's group this winter (technically, I guess I'm a "founding" member of both). And of course we have the occassional family shin-dig, like Julia's birthday party weekend before last. But I miss my Raleigh area friends, our karaoke nights, the variety of restaurants we frequented, the art museums.

Ok, I lied again. I haven't been to an art museum in many years, maybe even since I was in England in 1995. But I miss the idea that they are an option in close proximity.

In spite of feeling like there's "nothing to do" around here, we do seem to stay pretty busy. But, excuses won't fix anything. It's just time, again, to try to move forward. I'm a little more convicted this time. Before I wrote this post, to get this party started, I spent some time yesterday updating a few hubs. I made a list of new article ideas. The weekly hub suggestion is DIY, and I have several projects I want to get to. Maybe I can turn one of them into a hub before the week is out.

I also posted on facebook last night to try to solicit a few folks to interview. I want to write about learning to play a musical instrument as an adult. I know "expereinced" musicians who have learned a new instrument as an adult, but I'm looking for the beginner, or the adult who had minimal experience as a child and re-learned something or picked up something new later in life. If you are interested, send me an email. If I "interview", I will write, so, help me out - keep me honest!

The other reason I feel more optimistic about "sticking with it" this time comes from finding some other really interesting blogs lately. I'll probably highlight or feature some of them more specifically, soon, but for today, the main thing they all have in common are....well, lapses. Or periodically short, and I mean very short, entries. It helps me get over the "perfectionist" in myself. I have a hard time just throwing something out here without preparation, editing, etc., etc. But isn't a blog really just a sort of public diary? I've found a few heros out there in blog land, and they've reminded me it's okay to be human and to write about it.

So here I am, again. And I plan to see you again soon - even if it's just a quick visit now and then instead of a blow-out. Here's what my typical blog entry will probably look like:

I had a very productive day today. "Productive" is relative in my world, lately, but here's what it looks like:

I checked off most of my "to-do" list for work. I checked over 10 old hubs for quick improvements. (The main thing I'm looking for on hubpages at the moment are old Amazon ads. I thought I had converted them all to ebay when Amazon changed their affiliate terms and booted North Carolina participants, but apparently I never finished that chore. I worked through 10 yesterday, too, so better than 20% through that project.) I made it through my "house hold chore" list. Laundry is caught up - that's huge! Bathrooms are "swished", Flylady style. And....drumroll, please....I finished a blog entry! :-)