A Barrel Full of Crackers

November 23, 2009 § 8 Comments

Ohh, you guys, I absolutely loooove Cracker Barrel.  I love the food.  I love the cute little store.  I love that no matter where you are they always look exactly the same.  My family and I used to go there all the time when they drove me back and forth from college for holidays and summers.  So imagine my happiness when I discovered that there was a Cracker Barrel right here in Albuquerque!  Sadly, Matt did not feel the same way.  He looked at the website and decided that the pictures did not look very good so he didn’t want to go there.  I guess the portions looked small to him or something (his reasoning: why pay $8 for one plate of food when you can go to a buffet and pay the same amount for as much as you want).  Whatever.  So we never went there.  Until tonight.

Today was Matt’s younger sister’s 22nd birthday, and, since she’s in town for Thanksgiving, she decided she wanted to go to Cracker Barrel for her birthday dinner with her family.   Around 5 pm, Matt called me and said “We’re going to your favorite place for Sharon’s birthday dinner if you want to come.”

“What’s my favorite place?” I say.   The answer: Cracker Barrel.  YAY!

After Matt got out of class, he came over and picked me up and we headed over to the restaurant to meet up with the rest of his family.  It took everyone a really long time to figure out what we wanted so the waiter had to come back like 3 times.  And when he finally took our order, he seemed to get totally overwhelmed with all the stuff we were asking for.  Hey, it’s not our fault your dinners come with 3 sides each plus biscuits/cornbread (which is totally awesome, by the way).  And there were only 5 of us so I don’t see how it could be that hard.  But oh well.

I ordered raspberry iced tea and Matt kept drinking it so when the waiter came to see if we needed refills, I ordered him one of his own.  He ended up really enjoying the food so perhaps his opinion of The Cracker Barrel has changed.  I didn’t get to talk to him much afterward, though, because he had to go to work straight from there.  Sad 😦

But before he left, I was able to teach him the Cracker Barrel game.  My parents actually own one of these games and I think my brother has it figured out.  Unfortunately, Matt and I do not.  I think we were able to get down to three pegs on our last try.

darn you, cracker barrel game!

(Image from here.  Where a computer program used to solve the game is dicussed. Yeah, a computer program.)

Sharon also opened her presents during dinner.  She got a TomTom, which she was very excited about, a few things from her German host family, and a German textbook.  She really likes Germany and all things German and has been over there a bunch of times.

Since Matt had to go to work, I got a ride home with his family.  Sharon programmed the TomTom in German and it told us where to go, although I had no idea what it said.  If it was in Spanish, or maybe even French, I might have understood it better.  My own personal TomTom is British.  His name is Timothy and he tells me to take the motorway.  This always amuses me.  He is fabulous.  Especially since I am terribly terribly directionally challenged.

So I had a good night.  And now just two more days of work and then THANKSGIVING!



November 17, 2009 § 3 Comments

During the past couple weeks, I’ve gotten some pretty neat stuff.

Well, I like it, anyway.

If we are safe for a year at work, we get a “safety award,” and apparently we were safe this year so I got this.

It’s a safety tool (fitting, since it’s a safety award).  It has pliers, and a nail file, and a bottle opener, and a knife, and a thing with a sander on it, and a screwdriver and some other weirdo looking stuff that I’m not sure what it’s for.  But I am sure that it will all be very important in my everyday work.  Especially the bottle opener.  It’s spiffy.

On the same day, another employee stopped by and handed out little travel kits, with pens and a stapler and hole punch, and little clippy things, and staples and a staple remover, and scissors.  I’m not really sure why we got it, but it amuses me.

I just thought I’d inform you of some of what your tax dollars are paying for these days, in case you were wondering.   But I’m not one to complain about free stuff, so, oh well.


The best thing I got though was from Matt.

Since he works and I go to school on weekends we try to come up with a schedule beforehand of when we’re going to see each other.  Sometimes I go over to his house after school and sometimes he comes over to my place a little later so that he can get a little more sleep and I can get some stuff done at home.  We usually figure out what we’re going to do after he gets out of work on Saturday morning.  This past Saturday, he sent me a text message saying he’d come over and that he had a surprise for me.

That evening, he arrived with these.

I love them!  They are beautiful and very fall-ish.  He even helped me cut off the ends and arrange them in my vase, causing him to miss buying two model airplanes that he wanted on ebay.  And although I could tell he was disappointed, he didn’t get all upset about it.  I gave him a hug and told him I was sorry he missed out on the auctions, and then we went out to dinner.  I remember a little over a year ago I was wishing for a boy to give me flowers.  Now that I have one, I couldn’t be happier.

The World Outside, Before it Got Icky

November 15, 2009 § 5 Comments

Winter has arrived in New Mexico and it is cold and sad outside.  This most likely means another outdoor adventure will not be happening anytime soon.  Boo.

However!  Before Albuquerque went to total yucksville, I was able to take one last nice-day walk during my lunchtime at work.  I love my walks.  They make me feel like I am still part of the real world and not living in a closed box of oppression (aka my cubicle).

My absolute favorite place to go for lunch during the work week is a little coffee shop on Central (That’s Route 66 to you non-Albuquerqueans) called The Daily Grind.  Their lunch menu is somewhat limited, basically just sandwiches, soup and salad, but they change up their soup and sandwich specials every day so there’s always the opportunity to get something new.  The food is reasonably priced and the portions are large enough to eat half and save the rest for the next day (bonus!) This past week I got their sandwich special, which was chicken salad.  It also came with a side salad and fresh fruit.


Another nice thing about The Daily Grind is when the weather is nice I can sit outside and read The Alibi (which is available there, and other places, for free) while I’m waiting for my food.  Sadly, I don’t get to read much because the service is really quick (but that’s ok!)  Plus, their back patio is really pretty.


Really, the only thing I don’t like about them is that they don’t accept credit cards, so if I forget to go to the ATM, I’m stuck going to The Grove (overcrowded, overpriced, stale old fruit) or The Standard Diner (overpriced, slow as heck service).

After lunch I like to go out the back way and take a walk through the neighborhood.


It’s a really nice neighborhood.  A little older and not quite as New Mexico/Southwestern-ish as the rest of Albuquerque.  There are lots of deciduous trees, which remind me of Michigan.


I absolutely adore this house.  It’s painted my two favorite colors and I just think it’s so cute!


And though I’ll miss it now that it’s cold out, a nice walk around town on a pretty day full of fall leaves was just what I needed before winter.


Back in the Office

November 12, 2009 § 1 Comment

For the past 6 months, I was here.


Now, I’m here.


Just a little bit different.


My office is next to a train station.  Sometimes I feel like hopping the two barbed wire fences separating me and the train (which someone actually did once) and riding off into the distance.


I’m ready for my next adventure.

The Plan Keeps Coming Up Again

November 4, 2009 § 4 Comments

I have a plan.

For the entire month of November I am going on a diet, which I have made up myself.  Because I don’t care to follow diets made up by random people I don’t know.  This one’s for me.

I tried it out for a week last month, and it was kinda hard, even for a week.  But I’m going to stick to it.  So far (all three days) it’s been going all right.

Here’s what I came up with.

Meal 1: Cereal

Meal 2: Yogurt

Meal 3: Soup, Sandwich or Salad

Meal 4: Fruit

Meal 5: Whatever (within reason)

Rules: 1) Meals can be in any order  2) I reserve the right to substitute lunch with leftovers so I don’t waste food (because food wasting is bad!)  3) It is required to drink at least 5 glasses of water per day 4) Diet soda and ice tea are allowed

That’s all I can come up with right now.  I’ll let you know how it goes at the end of the month.

I’d also like to start some sort of exercise routine but it’s hard trying to decide what will fit into my schedule in the long run.  The only exercise I really enjoy enough to stick with is yoga.  Right now, I could start going back to my gym for yoga class, but the time is so inconvenient.  The gym is on my way home from work which would be great if the class didn’t start at 7:30 pm.  I’m not staying at work that late.  That’s just craziness.  4 pm and I’m outta there.  And when I get home… it’s just so hard  SO HARD to go out again.  And then there’s Matt.  Now that I’m home during the week, I get to spend more time with him.  I don’t want to waste that time by driving half an hour just to go to yoga class and back.

I know, I know.  Excuses excuses.  I have a couple other options.  A new yoga class just started up at my apartment complex.  I could try that for now, at least until next semester at school starts and my schedule changes again.  There’s also $5 yoga at a studio right down the street from my office.  The time’s a bit inconvenient for that too, but I might try to work something out.

In other news, I’m participating in the month long writingfest otherwise known as NaNoWriMo.  And I haven’t written one speck of a novel yet.  Ok, that’s a lie.  I wrote a little bit last month because I was inspired for some reason.  But it seems that inspiration went out the window with the end of October, or the end of the field season in which I spent many hours on the road dreaming up what I’d write in aforementioned novel.  Thoughts, however, are no good unless I write them down.  I really need to kick it up a notch.

Not tonight, though.  Tonight I have to eat dinner and watch Dancing With the Stars with one very good-lookin guy.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like

October 29, 2009 § 4 Comments



This week in the Gila, it snowed.  Yes, snowed.  Not a lot.  Only about 2 inches at the most.  But still.  It’s only October, people!  It doesn’t even snow this early in Michigan, usually.  And I still had field work to do!  Snow is not exactly conducive to identifying forbs (aka flowering plants) and determining canopy cover percent.  Digging the hole wasn’t too bad, once we got down to the soil part.  But the main problem?  It was coooold.  Very very cold.  Not just in the morning, either, but all day long.  A couple times the sun would make an appearance for about 2 seconds, and just when we were starting to get excited, it went away again.  Boo sun!  And it was very windy also.

This morning we had to clip a site.  Clipping a site basically means going out to where you dug your hole and throwing a metal hoop around.  All the plants that fall within the hoop are cut with garden clippers and put in a carrying container (in our case a Wal-Mart plastic shopping bag).  The cut up plants are later weighed to calculate biomass content, or some such thing (I’m not really sure how this is done or what it involves, since I have never been a part of this process).  In order to get an accurate(?) assessment we have to do this ten times.  It is oodles of fun.  It’s even more fun when there’s snow on the ground.  Don’t believe me?  You should try it sometime.

While we were clipping, Nori said, “What a ridiculous way to end the field season.”

And with that, I am done with field work.


Don't be sad, Gila. I'll be back next year.

Don’t Try This At Home

October 25, 2009 § 3 Comments

This past week at work was our annual field review.  Last year I went but I didn’t have to present anything for it so I spent the whole time wandering around being not much use to anyone.  But this year I presented my first site for review.  What happens is our main boss comes out and looks at the sites we have chosen to see if we did a good job or not.  This can be stressful!  I didn’t have to show anything until the last day so I was somewhat prepared for what to do by my boss and Nori, who went first.  They both did a really good job and I got some experience looking around at and describing sites I had never been to before.  And I saw some pretty neat stuff.

Plains of St Augustine

Plains of St Augustine

BEAUTIFUL eluviated horizons

BEAUTIFUL eluviated horizons

At that point it hadn’t really sunk in yet that I would be the one doing the presenting very soon. By Thursday morning, I was shaking in my boots in anticipation for the events that were to come later that day, when I would be the one in the spotlight.

We started off the morning at Quemado Lake, where we met some people who usually work in an office all day.  It was the week of their leadership team meeting and they decided to go camping in the cold weather. (Believe it or not,  New Mexico does get cold this time of year)  Silly people.  Even we stayed at a hotel.  Anyway, we went up there because our bosses had to give a presentation telling them about what we do all day, because they have no idea.  Honestly, I have no idea what they do all day either, but oh well.

Then it was time to show my site.  I was nervous but I managed to explain things and answer questions with confidence (or at least what I thought was confidence).  On the site itself I had described some things that were not quite right but I just tried to explain my reasoning the best I could and admit when I knew I had done something wrong and correct my documentation where appropriate.

We were able to have some fun times as well.  It was a really great group of people, including all the usual suspects (the field soil scientists), the forest soil scientist and hydrologist (who are both awesome), the contract botanist from Arizona, and a couple student employees who came and went as time allowed.  I sat on the porch of the hotel drinking tequila and beer with my bosses and heard stories about serial killers, and pigs feet, and run-ins with the law, plus much more.  It’s great to hear from these people who have been in the business for so long because they have so much knowledge and experiences to share.

When we arrived back at the office on Friday afternoon and were taking out luggage to load back into our own vehicles, my boss told me I did a good job.  He said,  “I’ve seen some improvement, just keep trying to get better.”  I told him I was really trying and he said “I can tell.”  It was something I really needed to hear.

We also did some trundling.  This is amusing.  You should try it if you ever find yourself on a steep slope with many large boulders.  Exciting times in the woods of New Mexico.