Friday, August 31, 2012

Fifteen

Fifteen years ago today, in a tiny church in Maryland, Ed and I stood in front of family and friends and said our vows. We promised to love, honor, and cherish (when he wanted me to say 'obey', ha ha!). We've had an interesting journey throughout our marriage, but I think we've become stronger through time. I definitely got the right guy. I love you, Eddiebear!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Seeing My Future

My friend Jenn had surgery today, the same one I'm headed for when the semester is over. She's a trouper, even asking me to come hang out with her for a few hours tonight.

It was good to spend time just hanging out, and seeing how well she was doing. We talked about how the surgery and recovery was several hours out, and since we talk nearly every day, I'll kind of know what to expect week by week post-op. Sometimes, friends do you a really big favor unintentionally. ;)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

First Day, Part Two

Today was my first day of school...as a student, that is. A requirement of my doctoral program is two sections of Statistics. My philosophy of taking classes is to get the tough ones out of the way first, so I put getting done with Statistics my first priority.

It's not that Statistics is really hard, in fact, I enjoyed my last go round with it during my undergraduate program. That said, the majority of my classes are three credits, this is four, so logic says it must be tougher.

If tonight is any indication, maybe not.

The professor was funny, the material made a lot of sense (from my Psych Stats and Tests and Measures courses in my undergrad), and the class is comprised of mostly doctoral students. It was lively and full of laughter. The sign of people who want to learn? We kept the professor over, because we kept asking questions.

I'm feeling pretty good about this.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

First Day

It was the (delayed) first day of school. I spent half my day in front of students, and the other half wearing the tech support hat, with a little bit of admin support, too.

This felt very natural, like I'd been doing it forever. The funny part is that my boss was not on our campus today and I knew she had things to tend to, so I went about my own to-do list, figuring we'd catch up at some point. (We were friends for a few years before she approached me to teach, and we chat often.)

Apparently, she is not accustomed to this type of behavior. I came home and promptly took a nap (mainly because I didn't sleep much last night from excitement). It hit 7pm and she hadn't heard from me, so she started pinging me on Facebook. I was not at the computer, so she called me and woke me up. It was quite funny how she was asking all about my first day. I later realized because it was the first time in 18 years, she was not there for a first day of school!

It was kind of cool to have a mellow day that just felt so darn comfortable, then have the boss want to know all about it. Definitely not the norm, to be sure. I think I like the small school environment. It is a good fit all around.

Now, there are those lesson plans that I need to build, since I've focused on my other role for the past two weeks. Somehow, I think that once I get the hang of them, they won't be too bad.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Alien Concept

The difference between men and women, when presented with a dusty lamp shade.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Canceled

They canceled the first day of school!

What's weird is that I was the one who contacted the local media outlets, because while most of our parents know we follow the county schedule, the new ones may not.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Blows My Theory

After a solid run of disturbances named after relatives hitting us, meet the first named storm that is coming for us that isn't named for anyone I know.

Other than Amalah's adorable son, Ike, I know of no one in real life named Issac, just this bartender.
(Thank you, Fark). I expect him to be serving drinks as he passes by-hurricanes for everyone...

Friday, August 24, 2012

What a Week

I worked 40 hours and I'm not done, figured out the answer to a networking conundrum, met with my major professor, and I met with two other doctoral students and two professors.

I'm glad every week won't be this hectic!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tired, but in a Good Way

The job is supposed to be part time. However, all summer long, my boss would ask every other week "Would you come on board full time?" I said no every time, something that is so hard for me to do when I see a real need. The reality is I'd do it in a second, if it didn't mean my health or schoolwork would suffer.

The past two weeks have been exhausting, but exciting. Perhaps it is because I have so much variety, maybe it's due to somehow ending up doing exactly what most people with my degree seek out, or its that I have been drawing from the collective work experiences in my life. More accurately, it probably is all of the above.

Once again, when I came in to pinch hit a situation, I was asked to become full time, but this time, I compromised. Whatever I can work that doesn't affect my schoolwork or my neck in a negative way, I will do. For now, that may be more hours. Eventually, it will probably be an extra five (unless there are other things they want to hand to me that I'm just not aware of yet-anything is possible!). Some of the things I am expected to do can be done on the weekends or after hours-and it may be easier to complete tasks without others in the building.

I started this week knowing that it was going to be rough physically. One doctor has said he doesn't think I should ever work more than 15 to 20 hours a week, another said I should quit working a while ago, so a 40 plus week with the current neck situation had me a bit concerned. I'm getting through it, but it was oh so hard to get up this morning. Once I get to work, though, the sense of purpose and the camaraderie puts being tired on the back burner. On the other hand, getting everyone else up and running means the other parts of my job means that next week, I'll still be setting my room up.

Maybe seeing the fruits of all the work I'm doing now with everyone else will mean that I can shoulder through next week's tired, too. :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Inanimate Object Conspiracy

Did you ever notice that your inanimate object coordinate their attacks on your bank account for when you're most vulnerable? Like, say, one car breaks down when you've got a month before your first paycheck, almost completely cleans out the account then the other one decides "hey, me too!"

This can't be just me, can it?

I was looking forward to the fact that, despite being a part time employee, I've got a paycheck coming that is for 80 hours instead of the usual 40 I'll see. Seems the other car had other plans and got a flat on the interstate today.

Yeah, the spare is a donut. This means the purchase of two new tires, because you just don't buy one. Minivan tires are NOT cheap, because that would make things simple. These tires need to be replaced ASAP if I plan on driving to Tampa for school this week and next.

There goes that most of that first week's pay. Yay

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Good Feelings

  • Helping a friend through a difficult path to her chosen career
  • Being the new person at work, but understanding the role to the point that I don't feel like a newbie
  • Making a last minute meal idea, because I'm brain fried, and having the men like it so much that they don't even want to repurpose the leftovers!
  • Getting really good at identifying rogue items installed on a computer without using the anti-virus software
  • Finding out that Chef is taking high school Spanish this year and wants me to help him practice en espanol.
  • Knowing I have a paycheck coming again soon, even if September 7th is too far away for my liking!
  • Getting all five songs right in a genre of music I don't really know when playing SongPop (like Rap, Current Hits or TV Themes...)
  • Getting four songs wrong in one of those categories and Ed comments "who are you and what have you done with my wife?"
  • Being invited to the Ph.D student reception, because it means I really am starting this thing next week

Monday, August 20, 2012

This is Sparta

Chef has come by his warped sense of humor honestly. At random times, he will say "This is Spartaaaaaa", just like Leonidas does in all the 'This is Sparta' memes.

Last week, I went to meet a friend for lunch and saw a gym on the way that amused me and I knew Chef would love it. So, in a moving car, I pointed my camera and clicked, not knowing if I'd even get a good picture.

However, Sparta will not let photographers down:
I don't know about you, but I am quite intimidated by the name and probably would be afraid to work out there. Can you imagine having a personal trainer like Leonidas?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Crispers, Lakeland

Yeah, I know I usually don't write about chain restaurants. Sometimes, though, I look through Urban Spoon and realize there is nothing at all in the comments about a place, which doesn't inspire the first timer to go check out something good, sooo...

I'm a huge fan of the place were I can get a soup and salad, or a light sandwich, places that Ed serves 'chick food'. Whatever he calls them, a chain that can consistently serve good, fresh food will earn my business quicker than a place serving frozen burgers and they take my order through a speaker. Just the way it is, and Crispers, while a chain, turns the idea of chain restaurant on its ear.

First off, their parent company is Publix, the top-tier grocery chain based here in Lakeland. They pride themselves on quality, so it's no surprise that Crispers is a well run quick-serve place. If you've never been, this is like Panera or Atlanta Bread Company-but better.

While those two chains are known as much for the bakery offerings as their soups and salads, Crispers puts more of their energy into fresh made food options beyond the soup, salad and sandwiches. The soups are homemade, with a larger variety than the other two chains. My go to choice is the kicking crab corn chowder,
a nice, savory and creamy soup that packs a little bit of a spicy bite and plenty of claw crab meat. It a dense, but not too heavy soup that fills me up and it's a rare visit where I don't have a bowl of this sitting in front of me.

Today, I went for their signature Summer Salad, a mixed green salad that has sliced turkey, strawberries, onions, apples, candied pecans and a lemon poppyseed dressing. It also comes with gorgonzola cheese crumbles, but I have to skip the blue-veined cheeses. Still, it's bursting with flavor without the addition of cheese:
They used to serve this with a multigrain crisp as garnish, but I didn't have one today, so I'm not sure if that's gone. Still, even without the crisp, I enjoy the mixture of flavors and textures.

In addition to the many soups and salads, they serve flat breads, hot sandwiches, and pasta dishes. Another favorite of mine is their chicken salad, made creamy with the addition of yogurt. My friend Jenn got a french dip today, and I'd forgotten this treat on the menu, full of medium rare roast beef and melted mozzarella.

If you're in the mood for something sweet after your meal, there's an array of cookies, ice cream and even miniature dessert cups, so you can indulge in something without the guilt. I just wish there was one closer to campus, although I now have one close to work, so I may end up sitting with lunch and using their wi fi before heading to campus or to pick GameTeen up from school. Seriously, if you have one nearby and you haven't yet, give it a try. They prepare your food to order, the ingredients are fresh and the quality can't be beat for the price.

Crispers on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Helping Your School by Doing the Usual

It is likely that if you have school aged kids, they are in need of money. Witness all the fundraisers that kids come home with (yuck!). However, some schools understand that we're tired of trying to sell wrapping paper, magazine subscriptions, and make your own pizza kits-so they ask you to help in other ways. Some of the easy ones that GameTeen's school decided to participate in this year are:
  • Box Tops for Education-Those little pink logos are on many things I buy, even office supplies. If you're a warehouse club shopper, you can hit the motherlode-like the 6 label I found on a box of granola bars I bought last week.
  • Labels for Education-Considering how much GameTeen loves tomato soup, we have tons of Campbell's labels during the school year.
  • My Coke Rewards-Individuals can do this one, but when a school does it, they can get many things for students. GameTeen's school has been using these to get playground equipment and gym items.
In the past, they've collected Capri Sun packages too, but those can be messy.
If you don't have kids, but you have friends or family members with kids, why not collect these off the packages of things you're already purchasing? I keep a ziploc baggie in the junk drawer and collect mine all summer long, and it's really easy to do, once you get in the habit.

Just look at it this way, if you do this, it may just cut down on the knocks on your door to help out!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Hey Girl-the Back to Work Edition

My friend Trisha started a 'Hey Girl' meme with a twist, asking us to post ourselves doing mundane things. This has been my week, and next week will be more of the same.
Did you know defragging numerous hard drives is one of the seven circles of hell for a Type A personality? You do now!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Good News and Puzzling News

I met with the neurosurgeon and his resident today. The fact that I had the appointment meant that they'd reviewed my MRIs and found something significant enough to warrant their attention.

The good news? The Chiari malformation, diagnosed in 2009, has not changed at all in three years time. Yes, it causes me problems, and those issues *could* be a problem, but the current pain is more likely caused by the compression of C5-6 in my spine.

The doctor described what is going on in my neck as 'ugly', and I would say that is a most apt description.
That circle in the center of the image is my spinal cord. To the left, the white 'arm' you see is part of the spine, and you should see another one on the right side, hence calling it ugly!

However, some of the symptoms I have indicate problems lower in the cervical spine, and they are the reverse of where they should be, so this means I had to get some xrays, need to repeat the lovely EMG and nerve conduction study I did three years ago. He wants to be sure of what is going on in there before he decides how much repair work is needed.

Looking at my medical history, he asked me about my blood thinners, and was surprised that I'm not on them after a DVT and several vein stripping surgeries. I explained that Dr. J told me I've used all my strikes and I go to Heparin if there is another clot. He nodded at my theory that the reason I am not on them is that Coumadin and I do not work well together, and that's usually the drug of choice for people with Factor V Leiden. As with everything else, I have be be the problem patient.

The thing that I didn't catch until later is that at one point, he said to me "I don't know how you function." and I let it pass at the time. Having time to review the appointment afterwards, I think he was talking about the fact that I'm in a lot of pain constantly and I just am so damn matter of fact about it.

I really wish I wasn't. I would love to be pain-free, but I can't remember what that is like anymore. At this point, getting rid of the worst of it would be good, but realistically, there still will be several things nagging me day in and day out. I'll just be happy with reducing the 7 and 8 pain days to 2s and 3s.

Is that too much to expect?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Slow Going

I have a to-do list that I'm going through at work this week. There are about thirty laptops that have a variety of items on them, and it's my job to make sure they all have the same things, for instance:

  • Anti virus software
  • Google Chrome
  • Skype
  • Admin, Teacher and student accounts, with different levels of access
  • a defragged hard drive
Along the way, I'm picking up on things that should be on my list, but weren't and vice versa. The thing is, it is slow going. Really slow going. Frustratingly slow going. At least I have my laptop and can work on other things while the laptops are deciding what to do. Defragging hard drives is something that type A personalities should not have on their to-do lists, because it drives us bonkers.

On the plus side, it's made me realize that I am fantastic at identifying things that need to be done with our technology and make suggestions, but at the same time, I probably can accomplish about 60% of it myself. There are things I just do not know how to do because I've left it to the experts. Now, I'm the expert on site. We do have people who can do these things, but my goal by the end of the school year is to get that knowledge base to 80% of the tasks.

Meanwhile, I need to go get the info for a Nazz and price out a UPS for it, because I first suggested cloud storage and then we realized that having a physical backup on premises is a better way to go. Hard drives fail, especially on older machines, and it would seriously suck if someone lost their grade book or student's work.

And in writing this, I realize that I am doing exactly what most of my classmates were already doing in education, just on a smaller scale. Pretty cool, honestly.

But it'd be cooler if I was able to do this work in 1/3 the time!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Oh TENS, Let Me Count the Ways You Are Awesome

I may have mentioned a few times how my neck has been bothering me for months on end. Maybe just a few. Then again, I've probably done most of my talking about it on Facebook lately.

Later this week, I see the neurosurgeon about it. I was passed off by the neurologist, who warned me that the NS may prefer to do the Chiari procedure. Then, when I met with the scheduler, he explained that the NS reviews my chart and may say there is no reason to see me. He wants to see me, ergo, there's a problem.

There was a problem in that this had reached pain levels of 8's and up on a regular basis, and I forgot to ask about muscle relaxers or pain medications. (A friend with the exact same diagnosis is on a cocktail of 4 meds right now. Yikes.) So, I turned to the only thing that brought me relief when I was in physical therapy last time the pain was severe: a TENS unit.

The TENS has made the muscle pain manageable. Yes, I have had to take medication for it, but now, the pain is about a 5 or a 6. Uncomfortable, yes, but not excruciating.

The relief of the acute muscular issues from using the TENS also made it clear how the range of motion issues in my neck are not from the bulging disc. It is probably the DDD coming into play.

On the worst days, the TENS stays on all day long. Heck, last night, I slept with the TENS going, because I was uncomfortable until I put those contacts on my shoulder. I hesitate to think what the past month would have been like without this option for pain management.

So, while I am in pain, the fact that I'm not completely miserable can definitely be attributed to a little device that sends shocks to the offending muscles. You'd think it would hurt, but instead, it's helping.

While I wait to see what the NS thinks of my MRI, I'll just be over here with my little zapper...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

First Day of School

In the morning, I experience another first. My first day as a teacher.

I won't have teachers in my classroom for two weeks, but I have a mile long to-do list, some from my boss, some of my own creation. After a long break from working, it'll be nice to be back, but strange to have a different role.

It's really exciting, to be honest.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

My Crazy Cat

The cat has the strangest quirk I have ever seen. He LOVES to perch himself on my shoulder.

If I'm sitting at my computer and pick him up to hold him, eventually he will wind up like this:
This was taken this morning, when he fell asleep there for a solid ten minutes, tiny kitty snores and all.

Today, I was out of the house for about six hours. He's been quite spoiled this summer, because I'm his favorite and I've been around an awful lot. (He's in for a rude awakening next week when I return to work.) The men tell me the cat was quite vocal in his displeasure that I was gone, and this is what he did less than a minute after I sat down:
We play a game with him, when I hold him and I'm talking with Ed, Ed will make like he's going to take kitty from me. Without fail, this cat climbs up on my shoulder and stays there. You'd think it would hurt, but the only problem is his long claws. He's maybe 6 pounds and the pressure actually feels good. He prefers my bad side, and will climb around to that side if he's not already there.

Friends with cats tell me they've never heard of this behavior, so I'd chalk it up to Scamp being Scamp.

What weird quirks does your cat display?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Clearing Things Out

It has been mentioned here before that we have a lot of Disney crap. Yes, I use those two words together, something that many people would not expect out of this Disney fan. However, after getting things moved into assisted living, independent living, nursing home, an estate sale before that and then back here, I've had enough with the quantity of Disney stuff in this house.

It has to go.

I'm busy eBaying things and got smart and posted on my Facebook wall, since many of my friends are also Disney fans. I linked them to my Smug Mug account pictures of a lot of it. If it saves me the time in listing things, I'm happy-and they're happy they got something they wanted.

I'm just hoping that I can chip away at this stuff, little by little and have it gone by the new year. Maybe I'll stop calling it crap when I don't have all this stuff staring me in the face!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

I Have Awesome Friends!

Over the years, I've met some wonderfully sweet people online. There are a few who are there for everything-the good, the bad, and the ugly. It goes both ways, because while they've been there for me, I do my best to be there for them.

One of the ladies I admire for her strength to put up with the crap life has handed her has been a wonderful cheerleader along my school journey. She asked me for an update on my address last week (she had the old one), and this is what I found waiting for me at the post office today:
In the box was a card congratulating me on my graduation. Jozette, you rock! Oh, and these truffles came from the Chocolate Garden in Michigan. One truffle is four bites-and I am totally heading up to Michigan for more. Yum!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

What's For Dinner Dessert Wednesday

Someone on one of the message boards I frequent mentioned Slutty Brownies last month and I tucked the information away. They sounded too good not to try.

The name supposedly comes from the fact that they're as easy as, well, you know, a slut. However, me being me, the cookie part ended up being from scratch because those are about as easy when you make them with a good mixer.

Layer One is supposed to be a package of chocolate chip cookie mix, prepared according to package directions and spread in the bottom of a 13X9 pan. I made the cookies. Next time, I'm making peanut butter chocolate chip, because that's the way I like it/
Layer Two is supposed to be Oreo-type cookies. The local supermarket chain's version are pretty darn close to the original, even to my picky Oreo taste buds. I am contemplating Nutter Butters next time, but there are no substitutes for those.
Layer Three is brownie mix made to the package instructions. Next time, mine will have coffee instead of water. Mmmmm, mocha brownies...
This is what they look like when you take them out of the oven at 30 minutes, as the directions called for.
However, mine were a mushy mess, so the kids got theirs (with ice cream) and I put them back in the oven to get ones more closely resembling the picture in the linked recipe. If you're like me, you'll know your limitations and only make them when you have extra bodies around to keep you from eating all a lot of them.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Scam Alert-Another Phishing Expedition

Many of us go through life heeding Dear Abby's advice that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Just as many of us go through life doing everything we can to stay on the right side of the law. However, there are those who are dishonest and try to prey on those two qualities. Behold, an item I found in today's mail as an example
At first quick glance, as I went through the 20 pieces of mail I had, I thought 'great, what does the government want now?', because our taxes were submitted, we don't have anything outstanding and it's too early for a SallieMae notice for my student loans.

After looking through the rest of the junk, I took a closer look and realized that hey, this is coming to Jane. Any federal or state agency has the necessary documents to show she died last March, so why get something. Then I noticed several things were off: 1. Her name and address were handwritten. 2. The seal on the top left was not an official government seal, and there was a warning that only the addressee can open it (good luck with THAT one, folks). 3. Last I'd heard, official government mail has a federal franking on it. They don't use stamps. So take a look at the closer pictures and observe those three things that are indicators that this is not as 'official' as the sender wants you to believe.
Upon opening it, I see why all the deceptive subtefuge on the outside: it is yet another appeal to cut Jane's energy costs. I've written about the EOF/EOS energy scammers from Longwood Florida, who use the tactic that you need to contact them IMMEDIATELY about your electric bill. Yeah, right.

In this case, they insist they can provide Jane with a Free home energy conservation evaluation and can help you find the rebates to save money. Thing is-your electric company can do this for you, too. All of the things they say they'll do for you FREE you can already do yourself.

So, really, what they're trying to do is get into your home to sell you on using energy reducing products that they just so happen to have with them and can sell you at a great savings. However, those savings aren't nearly as great as they would be if you'd gone to Lowes or Home Depot and purchased comparable items.

Once again, if someone is offering something for free, equate it to being 'too good to be true' and ask yourself why they'd do it. What's the catch? To me, the fact that they have to make their solicitation look like it is something important from the government should be a huge neon sign that F.E.C.A/ Florida Energy Conservation Advisors are out to make a buck or several hundred off of you.

Oh, and if you go to the listed website, their gallery shows dozens of houses with signs for their 'agency' in the yards, as if that means that they are really providing the service they say they are. Dozens of ten dollar yard signs mean nothing-show comparison electric bills if you really are a legitimate service, F.E.C.A.

Caveat Emptor, my friends.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Smaller and Smaller World

Facebook makes the global community a smaller and smaller place.

Around this time last year, one of my friends posted something and I commented, another person commented and then we realized we knew each other from another place. Their link in common was time at Arbitron, but Ken and I had worked together years earlier, and she worked with me here in Florida, but her husband was college friends with Ken. It's not uncommon to see familiar names crop up when you 'friend' a travel writer or fellow blogger, but an everyday person? Not so much. Like one of my college friends has a younger brother who 'dated' my niece in third grade-and this was also discovered on Facebook, when Ang commented on my wall and my niece asked her how she was related to Anthony (she'd seen Ang post on both our walls.)

It happened again this weekend. My feed showed me a high school friend commented on her friend Lucinda's post-but two seconds later, the feed showed an online friend commenting on that same post. I wrote a post and found that Kim and Lucinda were childhood friends, Marci and I were high school friends, but how the two pairs of friends connected was via online means. It's kind of cool, actually.

Then there's the old fashioned small world.

As I was dropping off my tutoring students at home, my friend Jenn called me and asked if I could take her to a doctor's appointment. She was in no shape to drive, I was and off we went. (Jenn and I have identical neck issues-she's in more acute pain right now.) While there, we ran into another USF classmate.

One thing is for certain, whatever way it happens, I kind of like when does.
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Sunday, August 05, 2012

Three Weeks of Rest and Relaxation?

Today has been relaxing. I usually take a day like this after the semester is done, where I stay in the jammies all day and don't do very much. It's a welcome relief, especially right now with the neck being so problematic. I even took a break from cooking and ordered a pizza (my car is still in the shop.).

So, as is the norm lately, I was having a Facebook conversation with my boss. I've been tutoring one of her kids this summer and she broached the subject of preparing her other child for next month's ACTs. While she's definitely got the skill set to do that, she doesn't have the time-and I do. Tomorrow morning, I've got both for a few hours in computer skills and then some one on one time working on some basic ACT study tips.

Then we talked about my start date. Officially, my first day of work is the 20th, and I was asked if I'd come a week earlier to get all the technology elements in place. Okay, that I can do, so long as I take the 15th to see the neurosurgeon. That wasn't a problem, the only thing that it kills is my self imposed reading list to prepare for work!

Later in the conversation, she asked "What about starting this week?" Yikes! While I'd love to, my house is a wreck from the fact that I have to choose to study or do chores. Studying wins every time. While I'd love to have the paycheck again, I had to say no.

I suspect my RnR will come when I'm recovering from surgery!

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Party Like a Rock Star

Suzanne, you just earned your Master's degree, what are you going to do now?





Nap for three hours!

After attending graduation, we had an early dinner with friends, but we came home and I think all of us napped for a while! I think I'm trying to pace myself for the next five year marathon. :)

Friday, August 03, 2012

Buddy Freddy's, Plant City

The other day, I was so excited about being admitted to my doctoral program that I left campus without picking up my cap and gown. Oops. I didn't realize this until I was to Plant City. (For the non-locals, 20 miles from campus, 15 miles from home!). As I was really hungry, due to an early morning gym shop prior to that meeting, I decided that I was going to stop for some lunch first.

At exit 19 off of I-4, there are several decent restaurants to choose from for lunch. If I hadn't just had a good steak, Outback here now serves lunch, there's Applebees, Carrabba's, Sonny's and a few fast food choices, but as soon as I came off that ramp, I knew which place would be the perfect choice: Buddy Freddy's.

Buddy Freddy's is the only one left from a local chain, of southern buffets. The Johnson family started this place, Grandpa Johnson's and Fred's Southern Market, though I think they sold off the Buddy Freddy's about 20 years ago. It's all southern charm and all you can eat southern favorites. If you've got a bird like appetite, you may want to choose a place that offers a plated meal. Normally, I leave visiting a buffet to occasions when I've got my menfolk with me, but this time, I knew I was hungry enough to make it worthwhile.

I was brought to a table in the back, where a very nice woman quickly came to my table and asked my drink preference. What got me is I requested an Arnold Palmer and I was asked if I wanted it with sweet or unsweet tea-usually, places just make it with sweet, so it was nice that I was able to allow the lemonade to provide the sugar.

Their salad bar is full of fresh offerings. One four foot section has lettuce and sliced vegetables, the second section is full of the cold salads that I skip-but if you like macaroni salad, pasta salad, cottage cheese, and those types of selections, you're in luck. Me, I piled high some lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, onions and carrots and was happy as can be with the fresh tomatoes that were on that table.

After enjoying that starter, it was over to the hot section. The choices differ from day to day, but you're sure to find a dozen different vegetables, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, a fish of some sort, a beef dish, mashed potatoes and several gravies, as well as a daily special. I could have probably ended up with a plate of just the veggies, but I saw they had corned beef and I was sold.

Despite it being the end of the lunch rush and relatively few tables were occupied, the food was stocked and fresh. To me, it's like having all the choices of a Thanksgiving dinner without cooking all day, because I found candied sweet potatoes and mashed with gravy. The former was just the tiniest bit too sweet, but that may because I had chunks of brown sugar that had caramelized as a topping, but the latter was creamy and slightly buttery.

The vegetables are prepared southern style, so you will find butter and seasonings throughout. I'm fine with that, which is why I started with a decent sized salad where I could control the amount of dressing went on it. The green beans probably were made from frozen, as they had a brighter green color and decent tooth that you don't get from the canned version. The carrots were very tasty and if I'd had room, I might have gone back for more.

That corned beef had perfect seasoning, not too salty and not greasy, either. I know it's not on the buffet daily, but if it is when you're there, it's darn good and worth giving it a try.

For ten bucks, this is a good filling lunch like grandma would have made. If there had been a Golden Corral or similar buffet at the exit, I wouldn't have given it a moment's consideration, because they always seem sub-par for what you pay. On the contrary, Buddy Freddy's has good quality food, prepared fresh, friendly staff and a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere to enjoy a meal.

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