Monday, July 26, 2010

Happy Birthday, Maddie!

My niece, Maddie, whom I have mentioned in prior blog entries [ Meet Hurricane Maddie and New Year In North Carolina] turned 2 today and I am in Greensboro, North Carolina to help celebrate the occasion. I arrived this past Friday after a very long, 2 day drive to get here. On day 1, I stopped after 9 and 1/2 hours and spent the night at a Red Roof outside of Savannah, Georgia just as it started pouring down rain. I then finished up the meandering route the next day arriving around 2 in the afternoon. My Dad, Tracy, and his wife, Barbara, had already arrived from Indiana to spend the weekend and were in the process of babysitting the birthday girl. Maddie was a little shy when I first walked in but came around pretty quickly and soon I was her new favorite person. We played with stickers, found "Nemo", and tried out the backyard swingset. My sister-in-law, Jolene, and my brother, Keith, arrived home from work and after Maddie's exercise session at Little Gym, we picked up some pizza for a quick easy dinner and I soon called it a night.

Saturday was the birthday party. Divided into 2 separate events, the first half of the day was spent at a nearby park with lots of toddlers, snacks, and a giant, jungle animal cake. The nearby play area kept the little ones busy and water balloons and squirt bottles kept them cooled off in the record-breaking heat. By noon, the party dwindled to family-only and we headed back to the house. Keith and my Dad had smoked a pork butt the night before that was now finishing to fall-apart, smoky tenderness in the crockpot. Along with home-made cole-slaw, marinated cucumbers, 7-layer salad, maple baked beans, and fresh slices of vine-ripe German Johnson tomatoes topped with Keith's home-made mozzarella, basil, and a drizzle of olive oil - we had quite the spread for lunch. Maddie opened presents and then in a state of sensory overload and pure exhaustion finally went down for a nap while the adults lounged around in the living room conversing. After another round of cake, the already dwindled party dwindled even further bringing an end to the day's festivities.

Sunday was an easy relaxed day starting off with a quick trip to the local farmer's market for tomatoes, peaches, fresh baked bread, and other tasty treats. Lunch back at the house consisted of gourmet BLT's on the newly acquired bread with huge slices of shoulder bacon baked to perfection, crisp lettuce, and more vine-ripe tomatoes straight from someone's garden accompanied by a side dish of heirloom red peppers stuffed with shredded smoked pork, corn, onion, jalepeno, and white cheddar cheese. You wouldn't think after all that we would need to eat again for the rest of the day, but beef ribs were rubbed and thrown into the smoker and attended to for 3 hours for a yummy supper along with buttered, corn on the cob and sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.
Monday morning rolled around and as Maddie went to daycare and Keith and Jolene to work, my Dad and Barb headed back to Indiana. I took a walk, treated myself to lunch and then did a little Wal-mart shopping. The highlight of the day was yet to come when everyone arrived back at the house and after a quick dinner, Maddie blew out the candles on her cake. The cake itself was fabulous in looks, texture, and taste having come from the Delicious Bakery, but was nothing compared to witnessing the pure glee and excitement bubbling out of my 2-year old niece as she sang happy birthday to herself.
I am very glad that I was here to share and witness Maddie turning 2.

Happy Birthday, Maddie!
(& many more...)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


During the summer months in the Keys, the temperature very rarely drops below 90...even overnight! Shade becomes very important. Walking through the marina I always choose the shadiest route, but what do you do out in the mooring field when there is no shade to be found?
You just have to make your own!
Or in our case, you hire a great canvas guy to come out and measure and fit the boat with customized shade. This is Garth from Custom Canvas and he did some work for us [new black vinyl cushions inside the boat] when we first arrived in Marathon. So, he was the person we called when it was time to shade the boat.
For the most part, we had been using tarps for shade...draping them over the booms and securing them with bungee cords, but the tarps degrade quickly in the harsh UV rays and start to flake and make a huge mess. Plus, they never fit just right and can make quite a bit of noise flapping around.

The new awning is made of a material called STAMOID and is supposed to last for at least 10 years. It is highly durable, light-weight, UV resistant, extremely waterproof, and easy to clean. The awning is 2 peices that zip together on either side of the mast and the sides have flaps that drop down to keep out the rising and setting sun.

Keeping the sun off the deck keeps the boat from heating up inside and keeps it much cooler.

If you look closely at the cockpit, you'll noticed we added shade to that as well with a black, mesh fabric that blocks out 60% of the sun's rays yet lets the breeze pass through. It runs through a track on the bimini top and snaps in at the bottom for a neat, snug fit.

We're really enjoying our newest boat improvement because now we've got it made in the shade living in the Florida Keys ...and we'll just leave all that sun for the tourists.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Old Kentucky Home

Jeff and I just recently made a roadtrip to our home port of Louisville, KY. According to MapQuest, it was a 1201 mile drive from the marina to Jeff's mamma's front door. We opted to drive it straight through to save time and left Monday, June 28th around 4:30 in the afternoon. The night went on without incident as we stopped periodically for food, gas, and dog walking and we took turns sleeping in the back seat...much to the dog's dismay since that meant he was allocated to the front seat and not quite as comfortable. We were less than 2 miles from the Kentucky state line when the car over-heated for the first time. I was driving, Jeff was sleeping, and the temperature light came on and sounded an alarm. We pulled over, assessed the situation, and decided we could limp on to the rest area a mile or so away.
Welcome to Kentucky!
We parked in the shade and popped the hood. Nothing was smoking or spewing so we waited a few minutes for it to cool while Jeff cruised neighboring vehicles asking for antifreeze. He was told there was a truck stop a mile or so away and surely they would have something there. We got back on the interstate, blinkers a'blazing, and made it to the next stop. Antifreeze was purchased and after a bit more cooling, we were back on the road. The car was still running hot, but we made it safely to Louisville and could deal with the problem later.
We arrived at Denise's around 4:30 in the afternoon - a full 24 hours in the car! We relaxed for a bit and let the dog run around in the fenced in backyard while we checked out the newly renovated house. Since the last time we had been to the house, walls had been knocked out to create a new, open floor plan. The kitchen, once small and cramped was now bright and roomy with new appliances and a large bar/island. The once unfinished steps to the basement had been reconfigured and carpeted to lead down to the new workout room. The formal dining room was moved to the seldom used front room of the house. Both spare bedrooms had a new look and the master bedroom was made more private and bigger by changing the entrance and adding on to the back of the house.
The house looked great!

As we brought our things in the house and started to settle into our newly redecorated bedroom, Jeff found his mail...a package he had ordered before leaving the Keys and had sent to Louisville.
He opened it up and then donned his new...
What a hoot!
What every bald guy needs...Flair Hair.
It does keep the sun off his head and it's good for a chuckle every time some unsuspecting person does a double take.

After catching up with Kelly and Denise over a few refreshments in the backyard, we had some dinner and then off to bed for some desperately needed sleep.
We slept late the next day and then started in on some of things that we intended to get done. One of the reasons for driving was so that Jeff could hand deliver the 2 pieces of yard art that he had acquired for Denise's Birthday/Mother's Day presents. After a trip to Home Depot for supplies, poles were pounded into the ground. A quick call was made to borrow a hacksaw to finish up the job...which Steve and Lisa Lindell graciously delivered...and the art work was mounted in the hosta bed in the backyard. Steve and Lisa hung around for a bit while we all reviewed Jeff's handiwork.
Aunt Karen arrived and after a pleasant evening hanging out in the backyard, we had a yummy dinner of slow simmered pot roast with carrots and mashed potatoes.
The next day brought more small chores to be accomplished. First a crack was filled in the patio and then Jeff headed to his Dad's to visit and flush the radiator. Denise prepared a delicious meatloaf for dinner and we played a somewhat noisy game of cards afterward.
The next day, the plan was to color the patio with a semi-transparent stain to brighten it up, camouflage the crack, and give it a fresh look. First step was to apply a coat of primer. While it was drying, Jeff and I made a trip to Bardstown Rd. where he visited a friend and I walked to Dot Fox, a quaint yet funky boutique, to purchase some new Rainbow Sandals. On our way back, we stopped and grabbed a sack of White Castles...because you can't just get them anywhere, you know! After a quick stop at Mom's Music to gather a few guitar supplies, we were back to finish the patio.
Once at the house, we all grabbed rollers and started to work. When my friend, Angela, called to say she was driving up the street I handed my roller to Kelly so he could take over where I left off along the edge. The color went on well and dried to a subtle, smooth finish.
Next, we sat back to admire our work and catch up with Angela who had just driven from Dayton. Sloppy Joe's were on the menu for dinner and we spent a nice evening with good conversion, Jeff playing guitar, and a pesky crossword puzzle that we all put our heads together [along with Google] to finish.

The weekend was a whirlwind of activity with a family cook-out and a pool party.
My Dad and his wife, Barbara, attended the family gathering as did Jeff's Aunt Sheila and Uncle Bill and Aunt Karen. The meal was fabulous with grilled chicken and tomato-basil italian sausages accompanied by my baked mac & cheese, fresh green beans slowed cooked in the crockpot with onion and country ham, summer slaw, and deviled eggs. To top that all off, Barbara made not just one, but 2, decadently rich desserts: a dark chocolate flour-less torte and chocolate pecan bars. It was a great meal and a quiet evening spent in good company.

The pool party on the other hand...not so quiet.
Hosted by Mike and Leslie Kenney at their home in Prospect, the pool party proved itself to be an exercise in drinking and debauchery - although also in good company. In attendance were Coley and Karin McDevitt, Meg and Dave Drummond, and the newly wedded Craig and Karen Kinney as well as Jeff and I and Angela. Everyone brought a little something to contribute to the party. Jeff brought Yuengling beer all the way from Florida. I picked up a delicious cheese torte from Doll's Market and a bottle of Prosecco. Meg and Dave made red, white, and blue jello shots. And never to be outdone, Coley juiced an entire watermelon with several limes to create a watermelon lime-aid that became an enticing mixer for a very, hot day in July. There were lot's of snacks and a fully stocked bar.
And the pool felt great!
Mike claimed early on that no one ever gets in the pool during pool parties, but within minutes of arriving, Jeff was diving in.
And he wasn't the only one.
Mike and Leslie's yellow lab puppy, Stella [The Yella] made quite a big splash when she was finally released from captivity and allowed to join the party.
After several rounds of Coley's watermelon lime-ade "Surprise" drinks [You wanted vodka? Surprise! It's rum. Or maybe it's the other way around...] everyone ended up in pool. After lots of laughs and a few toasts, dinner was served: a fabulous spread of cold dishes and salads. Easy, tasty, and cool.

The long, holiday weekend wrapped up with another family cookout at Dan and Allison's where Jeff got to spend some time with niece, Lainey, and nephew, Lincoln. Lincoln was a little shy, but Lainey was not, and both enjoyed checking out Jeff's station wagon. We had burgers and dogs on the grill and called it a night.

Our last night in town was spent with Tommy and Allyson Cooper on their 50 ft. Gibson Executive houseboat with guests Everett and Jimmy having snacks and cocktails but not going anywhere. When the boat rocked slightly side to side, it felt odd to be on a boat after being on dry land for over a week. Shortly after sunset, we headed for bed with plans to get on the road in the not so bright yet early morning.

We barely made it into Tennessee before the sun was high in the sky and the car was overheating again. The day before leaving for the long trip home, we had taken the car to Valvoline and had the oil changed, the radiator flushed, a headlight replaced, and all the fluids checked...apparently to no avail. We exited at Lavergne and found a Midas station where they diagnosed the problem as a broken fan clutch, fixed it, and sent us on our way. Within 5 miles down the road, the car was overheating again. We turned around and had a new water pump and thermostat installed. A test drive proved the car to be in no better shape. The mechanics spent a little more time exhausting every possible option with no results. 8 hours and $611.42 later, we decided staying there any longer was only a huge waste of time and we moved on down the road. The car was mostly fine while doing 50-55. It was going uphill that proved to be challenging. We crawled through the mountains at 20 miles an hour in the emergency lane with the blinkers on and we each breathed a sigh of relief at the top of each summit. Completely exhausted from the stressful driving, we pulled over in Dalton, Georgia for a bite of dinner and a break. We noticed a GM dealership on our way to Steak n' Shake and opted to spend the night at a nearby Travelodge and take the car to be serviced again first thing in the morning rather than risk breaking down in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere...or worse yet, smack in the middle of ghetto Atlanta.
Jeff was up early and the first one in line at the service station. He left the car and walked back to the room where we hung out in the AC and napped and read the morning away. At 11:15 they called about the car and said it was fixed. It was merely a vacuum problem that they flushed charge!
So we were back on the road. 15 minutes later we're overheating again. It was an extremely hot day and we were in the hills of Georgia. The only thing to do was trudge on through. Ac off. Windows open. 50 m.p.h. Once the sun set, we were able to go 60. In the middle of the night, I pushed it up to 70. We arrived at the marina at 5 a.m. Friday morning. We were happy to be home and there will be no more roadtrips for the station wagon.

We had a great time while visiting our old Kentucky home but it was impossible in the short time we were there to see everyone we wanted to see or spend any length of time with the people we did get to visit. For that I apologize and extend the invitation that you all are always welcome to come visit us in the Keys where you will have our undivided attention. Doesn't that sound like fun?