Saturday, July 25, 2009

Vacation Tips, Volume 2

We are home from a great vacation with family. I think it was just the right amount of time. Lots of things to do and we were busy every day, but not so much time as you start really missing home. I think everyone had a great time. And, it was nice to spend some quality time with my nieces and nephews.

Last year, when we came back from Branson, I wrote a little travel tips entry so that both of you (my readers) could learn from my experiences and maybe laugh a little too. This year's version should help you as well.
  1. Driving through the Mountains is hard - If your trip involves crossing any sort of mountainous region, you may want to check a topographical map prior to mapping your route. Mountains take time to go up and down and up and down and up and down, and really aren't as fun as when you were 3. The Scenic Views are cool, but if you have the elevation sickness that sometimes effects people in my family, you're not going to be looking over those cliffs anyway. Check your maps, the flatlands may be less time, even though it takes a few more miles.

  2. Make reservations - This is not 1988. When you are driving along the highway, don't plan on finding a vacancy at any random Holiday Inn Express. There are a lot of people out on the road. They have cell phones and they have all called ahead. You're going to end up driving a lot longer than expected if you don't have a reservation.

  3. If you are good with directions, follow your instincts (especially if your navigator is a senior citizen with one good eye). Sorry, had to stick that joke in there Mom. But really, had I not been pretty sure of where we were going, we would have been going in the wrong direction many times.

  4. Don't plan the most stressful activity for the last day of your vacation. Trying to navigate Washington, D.C. streets is really better done when you are full of energy. Because really, the Capital Beltway is no fun on a Friday afternoon during rush hour (see photo above).

  5. If you bought a special map for the trip, bring it with you.

It was a great trip. I have a great family. I am so lucky, sometimes I can't believe it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vacation is almost over

We leave tomorrow. People are getting in their last card game challenges, last trips to the playground, and last visits with the horses. Tomorrow we head to D.C. for the day and then Mom and I will start home, and the others will follow on Saturday.

It has been a great vacation. I'm posting all the pictures (if you are interested) on Facebook.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Does it always rain in Shenandoah?

It's raining again. Not as bad as May, but still rain is expected every day.  I'll tell you a secret....I like it a little bit. It isn't too hot, and we still have lots of things to do, so it isn't that bad. And everything is green, what I think Ireland would look like. Everyone seems to be having a great time, especially Billy. He was so excited that he couldn't sleep. He was up early ready to have fun.

We did the family mini-golf outing today, swam, played games, and Lori and the girls made great Mexican food for dinner. 

I like it here. I could come back. It is very peaceful and the people are so nice. There were several ladies today who remembered me from May. And, I love a southern accent. You know, the kind where words like "there" and "here" are pronounced with 2 syllables. I think I could listen to that for a long time.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Long and Winding Road....leads through West Virginia

We are actually in Virginia now. And relatively well rested, given the circumstances. Yesterday was a long drive. I got up early and had lots of chores to do before leaving the house. Including doing a lawn treatment in the back yard.

After getting everything done, we left the house at 1:00, only a little later than expected. Trouble was, we kept going back (like 3 times) to get stuff that had been forgotten. I'd get two blocks away and say, "Oops, forgot to take the garbage out", and head back. Much better to go back and do that than return to a smelly house.

And then we headed off toward Kentucky. We were planning to stop in Greenup, Kentucky to visit my Mom's cousin Joe Mantz and his wife Diane. You've heard of Greenup, right? Right. They were national cheerleading champions in the 1990's if you ever kept up on that sort of thing.

Around suppertime we finally made it to Joe and Diane's house. It was so great to see them. I hadn't seen them in several years and neither had my Mom. We had a sandwich and I heard some neat stories. Joe told us about a flood in 1937 (when he was 4) and they had to bring boats to the 2nd floor windows of the house where we were sitting. It was hard for me to imagine water that high.

He and my Mom also talked about visits to their grandparents. It was interesting when they were talking about their Grandpa Jackson, I remembered my own Grandpa (his son) doing some of the same things with me. We’re all connected. It hasn’t been that long ago when I was walking and realized that there are times when I walk with the same gait as my grandfather.

My Mom also tried to tell me about a store at the end of Powell Lane in Flatwoods, Kentucky that was a store, the post office, a gas station, and something else, and a guy changed hats depending on what he was doing. I believe the store was there, but the whole changing hats thing….I think she is confusing her life with Petticoat Junction.

We left Joe and Diane’s around 8, and planned to drive another hour or so and stop. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a vacancy. We ended up driving until midnight. I was pretty tired, but it made today very relaxing and fun. I’ll fill you in on that later.

Pictures from a busy weekend (Ketchup)

So, I'm just adding a few pictures here. Trev and I attended the U.S. National Swimming Championships in Indianapolis. Very cool event. We almost saw a world record broken by Ryan Lochte in the 200 Individual Medley. I think he is very strong in the breast stroke, so he was under world record time after his breast stroke, but lost time on the freestyle. He ended up over the record by 3/10s of a second. Very close and very exciting!

We also took a class on feltmaking. It was kind of neat. I made a purse and Trev made a picture. I'm not sure my thing is any good, as I think it already needs some repair and it has only been 2 weeks. Oh well, very interesting to learn. I'd think about doing it again, but I'd probably know a little more so that I could do it better. But it is very labor intensive for a purse.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Newsflash....It is July 12

This is an open letter to pretty much anyone who purchases fireworks for home use, but mainly the people in my neighborhood. (Mainly just a place to air my grievances, because I don't know any of them who will actually read this.)

I don't know whether you all realized it, but July 4 was like 8 days ago. I realize that is still relatively close (since I celebrated my May birthday on June 26, maybe I am being a little harsh). It isn't even in the double digits yet, but COME ON! My dogs have not been able to relieve themselves in peace after dark for 2 weeks.

So really, what is the deal? Last time I checked, there weren't any under 22 year-olds living on my side of the street, but yet you're shooting off bottle rockets every night. Bottle rockets? Really? What is the big thrill in that? And, by the way, if you are going to shoot them off, I invite you to come to the vacant lot next to me and shoot them toward YOUR house. I'm just a little tired of finding the remnants of your "fun" on my deck every morning.

Isn't there some sort of law against this?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Return of the Cook In Me

I just finished making Mixed Berry Muffins. I have not made muffins from scratch in at least 10 years. I used to make them all the time when I had people to cook for. Muffins, cake, cookies, peach cobbler from my Grandma's recipe, I was quite the baker.

I was also a pretty good cook. Not a fancy cook or anything, but good and simple food I can definitely do. When I was 24, I had just graduated and moved to Bridgewater, Massachusetts to work at Bridgewater State College. My Mom took the big trip with me and drove to the east coast with all my stuff in my new Corolla (Bruce I). She stayed with me for about a week before she flew back to Indiana. During that week, she helped me set up my new apartment and taught me how to cook a few things, mostly chicken.

I learned a few other things while I lived on the east coast, like how to cook Italian food. A lot of the students that I worked with were Italian and lived in and around Boston. A student named Lisa Federici taught me how to make Calzones, which has always been one of the top requested meals that I make. I also learned how to make pretty good Chinese food. Bridgewater was also the beginning of staff dinners for me, where I cook for large groups of hungry students. In my first "Indiana Dinner", I made Fried Chicken, homemade biscuits, Green Beans, potatoes, and brownies for about 25 people in my apartment.

Later on in Bloomington, I continued to cook for a lot of people. I had my staff to my house at least once a semester where I cooked for them (usually around 35 - 40 people). I remember grilling ribs in the snow one January because that was the requested dinner.

The funny thing is, I rarely have cooked for my family. Lately, I've been cooking a little more when I go to my brother Bob's house. I do really enjoy cooking for people and rarely get the chance and Bob and Diane seem open to try the stuff that I make. But usually for family dinners I get asked to make the salad, or now brownies. One friend who had plenty of meals at my house said to me one time, "Really, they asked you to make a salad? Don't they know?".

I'm looking forward to our family vacation later this month. I get to break out the Calzones for the family. There will be 17 of us in a cabin in Virginia. Then the secret may be out.