Thursday, July 20, 2017

Duluth and a Baby Shower

The following post actually occurred at the end of May:

I went back to Minnesota this past weekend. My niece Nicole was having a baby shower and I didn’t want to miss it. She will always be more than “just a niece” to me, because she lived with us for three years during high school. She is an amazing, level headed, very strong young woman, so let me just brag on her for a little bit.

Nicole was almost her little brother’s mom through some very rough times. When they came to live with us in 2001 it was hard at first for everyone. Slowly we all adjusted to our new situation and then Nicole really blossomed. She made friends, got excellent grades, played flute in the marching band, AND was a varsity cheerleader (which took some juggling on the part of the band and the cheer squad during football games!).

When it came time to go to college, Nicole had another tough choice to make. She had always been very good at math. She had always been attracted to the medical fields, but both her father and her grandfather were engineers, and we thought it would be a good field for her too. She entered engineering school at the University of Minnesota. Her dad lived in St Paul, and that way she could be close to her father and her brother and go to a good school. 

Nicole graduated from engineering school in 2008 with a degree in chemical engineering. It was the height of the recession which was a very bad time to be looking for a job of any sort. She kept applying, and stayed in Minneapolis. She met a very nice young man named Tom. And then she got a job offer with a French oil company. She took the job, and went off to work on an oil rig in western Texas.

Nicole ended up working on an oil rig in Siberia! She was lonely, and the work wasn’t what she wanted. She started to think about medicine again, and about Tom. After nine months she quit and moved back to Minnesota.

She decided to get a nursing degree, and she and Tom moved to Duluth so that she could go to school there. She completed her nursing degree, got a job in a Duluth hospital, and got engaged. Last Thanksgiving she and Tom decided to get married, while all their surviving grandparents were there. They got married the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Several weeks later, Nicole realized she was pregnant.

So now Tom and Nicole have a new house, a new puppy, and a baby on the way. They love living in Duluth (a beautiful but chilly city) and are looking forward to being parents.

I flew into Minneapolis on Friday. Sarah had to work that morning, so I took an Uber to her office. An interesting aside, my Uber driver was deaf! Uber told me when I chose him and he held up a sign with a notepad to explain how I could communicate with him. It was novel, but no big deal.

I love Sarah’s company, Zeus Jones. They are quirky, a small, boutique ad agency. They are giving her a lot of excellent opportunities, and they are family friendly too. She can even bring Mika there sometimes, much to that little dog’s delight. 

I’ve seen pictures of their office, but it was great to see it in person. It has a lot of open space, but wasn’t noisy at all. It was possible for some people to work collaboratively and not bother others. 

I sat in their reception area, charging my phone, reading, snacking. I went across the street to Wedge and got myself a breakfast bowl with eggs, spinach, brown rice, veggies, cheese. I’m not sure if it was breakfast or lunch, since I had gotten up so early to catch my flight. At least 5 of Sarah’s coworkers came over to introduce themselves and “thank” me for Sarah! It was very flattering, to her at least! I knew some of them by name from her stories from work. It was fun to meet them for “real”.

Finally she was able to tear herself away and off we went to Duluth. Its about a 2 and a half hour drive. I drove there, because I just didn’t know if I would be fit to drive back after the shower since I was so short on sleep.

It was very warm in Minneapolis that day. The high was 88 degrees as we drove up I-35 north. As we got close to Lake Superior the temperature started dropping. It dropped 30 degrees in about 5 minutes. It was a beautiful day in Duluth, but only 58 degrees. I’m glad I brought a sweater with me!

First we went over to Nicole new house. We met Jennie their new dog, who is about seven months old. She is an already big and friendly lab/pit mix. This house is high on a hill overlooking the town. It's older, built in the 20's, but in good shape. It's a great neighborhood, near the University, with lots of families and kids.

Then we drove to the shower, in a nice neighborhood overlooking Lake Superior. I was conscious of the fact that last year around this time I ran Grandma’s Marathon nearby. I wish it had been 58F THAT day! The two young ladies hosting the shower did an amazing job. They had all kinds of snacks for us. The had all kinds of fun activities. The first thing we did was sit down at a table where waterproof markers and baby onesies in various sizes were provided. There were stencils we could use, or we could just be creative. I did one with a selection of my standard doodles, hearts, stars and wiggly lines in a variety of colors. Everyone’s onesie was different. When we were finished we hung them all on a clothesline to admire. 

Then we played a couple of shower games. One game had us decipher the name of a children’s book spelled out in emojis. I knew most of them but a couple had me stumped. Then Tom showed up to help Nicole open their presents. One of the neat things the hostesses had us do was bring children’s books instead of cards. Totally without consulting each other, Sarah brought Blueberries for Sal, and I brought Make Way for the Ducklings, both by Robert McCloskey. We were the only literary-minded guests; most people brought infant board books!

There was also a photo booth, with props, which made for lots of fun photo opportunities.

AND there was an amazing cake and cake pops too.

Then it was time to drive back to Minneapolis. By this time I was very tired so I’m glad Sarah drove back. She saved us from a couple of deer crossing the interstate right in front of us too.

The next day in Minneapolis was really hot again. We went shopping for leggings and summer dresses for Sarah. Erik had a graduation party to attend so we tried a new sushi place in Wayzeta, named Sushi Fix. Not only was it close to their house, but it was very good too. We took a walk along the lake after dinner. This portion of Wayzeta is really pretty, and very wealthy. Giant mansions overlook the lake. There are bike trails and parks galore.

The next day I got up early to beat the heat and run 11 miles on the Luce trail by their house. Its  a very nice trail for running with lots of wildflowers and pretty lakes along the way.

Then  later we went to the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market, saw Cathy at the Green Machine Farm Stand, and got brunch at the Golden Deli. The rest of the afternoon we just hung out and relaxed. On a quick trip to the grocery store I popped in to the Land’s End outlet store and finally got myself a new bathing suit. I bought my first ever Tankini. I am long waisted and usually the tops aren’t long enough but this one worked.

I flew home late that evening to cold rainy New England. We actually have the fireplace on. I don’t think I’ll be using that bathing suit any time soon.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

San Francisco and Sonoma - Sauvignon Blanc and a Baseball Game

Wednesday April 26

With a 6 am flight out of Logan, I am up before 3 am. Shower, dress, meditate, coffee and a clif bar, and off we go. No issues getting on our United flight. There are a fair number of empty seats, which makes us wonder if the recent fiasco with the man being dragged off a plane because he refused to give up his seat really has had an effect.

It's a 6 hour flight, long, but not impossible. We are in SFO by 9:30 am with the time change. We grab our rental car, and off we go to Sonoma for a few days. We've been to Napa a bunch of times, but never Sonoma. 

Our b&b checkin time is 3 pm, so we have lots of time to kill. We have lunch at an amazing Mexican place, El Molino Central. Then we park the car on the square, check out the visitors center. We view the old stockade, the mission, and the "country" house of General Valejo, one of the founders of Sonoma. We stroll around the square, choosing our dinner destination, and stopping for coffee at a "basque" pastry shop which is anything but. It's finally okay to check into our b&b, An Inn2Remember. 

We eat an early dinner at The Girl and The Fig, just a block from the b&b. Excellent food. I get the 3 course prix fix meal, Lee gets a bunch of apps. We're in bed by 7:45, and sleep soundly until 5:30 am. It's been a long day!

Thursday, April 27

 We have a wine tour scheduled for today with Platypus Wine Tours. We've used them in Napa and they've always been good, taking us to small family wineries and interesting and unusual places. But first it's time for a run. There's a nice bike trail to follow, and plenty of other runners out and about. The flowers are beautiful, lots of roses, just past full bloom, little goats, and of course vineyards everywhere.

The tour is fine, but not as wonderful as previous tours. I'm not sure why. The people on the tour with us are really nice, it wasn't that. I think maybe we have had our fill of California wine tours. This is the fourth time we have gone to either Napa or Sonoma and its just time for a change. We start researching bike trips in California and we're intrigued. Maybe that will be our extra activity the next time we visit Daniel.

The first winery, Petronius, is extremely beautiful, very elegant. We taste the wine in their extensive wine cave, which is chilly after the bright warm sunshine outside. They make olive oil too and we taste it as well. It is spicy and peppery, with a bit of a bite.

Lee leaves the wine purchases mainly to me. Right now he is more of a craft beer drinker. I surprise myself this year. At almost every winery I'm attracted to their Sauvignon Blanc. I end up buying a bottle at all four wineries. They will be nice to drink this summer.

After Petronius we go to a small family winery. The owner, Chris, shows us around. He's a former physics professor from an Australian winemaking family. He specializes in Shirahs, natch, and I buy a bottle. He's funny and charming. It's my favorite stop on the tour. 

The third stop is a wine tasting venue. The woman that serves us is a bit over the top, very flamboyant. She does a cool thing where she has us taste a wine, then gives us various crushed herbs to smell and has us taste it again. It alters the taste of the wine, depending on what herbs we smell before tasting.

The last winery is high on a hill with a beautiful view, but it's large, busy, crowded, and I’m really not that impressed with their wines. Plus our little guide seems half drunk, or asleep. I buy a bottle anyway, I might as well, since then they waive the tasting fee.

We eat dinner at a Portuguese tapas bar, Tasca Tasca. It's delicious, and we're exhausted. In bed again by 8:30 and we sleep a good nine hours.

Friday April 28

In the morning we head over to Petaluma. We wander around the town, check out the river, a small park, some guitars in a local music store. We eat at a little diner, Sax's , for lunch, and then start heading toward San Francisco and Daniel's apartment.

We pick Dan up at work and take him home. Kelsey comes over and we walk to the sushi place around the corner for dinner.

Saturday April 29
This morning I run 4 miles from Dan's apartment. The weather is sunny, in the 60's; it the first time I can wear shorts and a tshirt on a run since Florida. I run down 17th street to Valencia and then up Valencia to Duboce. When I hit two miles I turn around and reverse my course. 

We decide to try dim sum in Alameda for lunch, instead of our usual pilgrimage to Hong Kong Lounge on Geary. It's okay, but not amazing. Their dumplings are flavorful, but the dough is thicker than it should be. Oh well! We've been hearing for years that dim sum in the Oakland area is really good, so now we know. 

In the afternoon, we hop in Dan's car and try to go to Baker beach. It's a beautiful day so half of San Francisco has the same idea. There is absolutely nowhere to park so we give up and park on California around Fillmore in Pacific Heights and walk around there instead. Even the ice cream stores have lines around the block so we settle for some excellent coffee from Jane's. Probably just as well!

For dinner we go to a hot new ramen shop, Mensho. They are small and their line is long as well, but it moves pretty fast. Inside it's crowded and noisy. The waitress can barely hear us, and vice versa. First she brings two beers and one water, instead of the three beers and waters we ordered. Then she gets the ramen order wrong too. She gets Dan's right but brings Lee and me some appetizer instead of the noodle bowls we ordered. After some confusion the apps are removed and we watch Dan eat his ramen while waiting for ours. I'm annoyed, because they really don't apologize, or make any special effort to bring us the correct order promptly. The ramen itself IS very good, and unusual, with a creamy broth, and some pickled bamboo shoots that taste downright strange, especially if you bite into one all by itself instead of mixed with other flavors.

Sunday April 30

Today we decide to do something I've wanted to do ever since Daniel moved to San Francisco. We are going to a baseball game! It's the Giants vs the Padres and we don't really care about either team, but we'll root for the home team, why not? As long as the Cards aren't playing I'll root for anyone except the Yankees.

We can walk from Daniel’s apartment to the stadium, another plus. We stop along the way to pick up Kelsey. It's a beautiful sunny day, and warm for San Francisco, almost 80, which for this town is downright hot. Our tickets are in the bleachers. The Giant's stadium seems gigantic, but I think its because the only games we have gone to recently have all been in spring training stadiums. 

I waste no time getting stadium food, I'm hungry! I get a margarita, and a philly cheese steak sandwich. I'm a fan ever since the one I had after the Philadelphia marathon, but I've never had one that tasted quite as good as the one I ate after running 26.2 miles....

It's pretty hot in the bleachers. Although I have on a short sleeved shirt, I'm wearing black pants. I sure wish I had had the sense to pack shorts! My legs get really hot. I finally drape my green jacket over my legs, and that helps provide some insulation from the sun.

There are some cute little kids in front of us that are fun to watch. When my margarita is gone (it wasn't very strong) I have a beer as well. At the 7th inning stretch we sing God Bless America, City by the Bay, and Take me Out to the Ballgame, of course. No Sweet Caroline, that's just the Red Sox I guess, although they played it at the end of the Philly spring training game in February.

The score is 0-0 until around the 4th, when the Giants score twice. That's where it stays until the 9th, when the Padres tie it up. Extra innings! We last through the 11th inning and then call it a day. As we're walking home a fan tells us that the Padres won, 5-2, or something like that. Oh well! 

For dinner we go to North Beach for some really good pizza. Our waitress is adorable, and very Italian. We are excited about seeing Afrogatto on the menu (ice cream with coffee poured over it, one of the delights we had in Puglia). They have a Primativo so we order a bottle, and two pizzas, one with broccoli and sausage, one with arugula, provolone and proscutto. They are delicious and we eat every single bite!

Monday, May 1

We are up at 3 am again, for another 6 am flight. Driving to the airport, returning the rental car,  checking our box of wine, it all goes smoothly if you don't count missing our exit for the rental car return. We buy breakfast burritos and coffee. The flight is full and they are asking for volunteers to check their bags. Since we will have to wait for the box of wine anyway, we check our bags for free!

Unfortunately they make us wait on the runway for an hour before we can take off, and we get a grand tour of Boston on the other end as well before we can land. Diane kindly allows us to pick up the dogs, even though we are past the time we said we would arrive. The dogs look lovely from their baths and grooming, and we are so happy to see them! I love getting to visit Daniel, but I wish he wasn't so far away. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Florida 2017: Home Again, Home Again, Hippity Hop...

Where Are We Mama?

March 1st, Wednesday. Its still very warm. We drive the 5 hours back to Hilton Head. If we decide we want to avoid the cold still further we might stop here for 1-4 weeks in April eventually. It's a lovely RV park. We go to their restaurant for dinner. Dinner is good but not as spectacular as our brunch was back in January.

March 2nd, Thursday. It rained during the night and the temps have dropped a bit. We drive the 5 hours to Mebane, North Carolina. This RV park is in a very rural area, way out in the country. Richard is an old college friend of Lee’s. They used to play guitar together way back when. Now that Lee is retired he has taken up the guitar again, and has been practicing diligently so that he and Richard can play together. After meeting for dinner at a local Asian restaurant we go back to their house. The men go upstairs and make music, Richard’s wife Catherine and I talk. I'm a bit uneasy about the dogs, mainly Cosmo. I would be dreadfully embarrassed if someone decided they needed to pee inside! Next year we'll remember Cosmo’s belly band!

A Temporary Tattoo

The temperatures drop dramatically during the night, but they stay above freezing, so we don’t need to turn our water off, at least not yet. It's cold though. I need the heavy down quilt on the bed. 

March 3rd, Friday. Its time for a 7 mile run in the morning. It works out fine to run on the rural roads. I was a bit worried because they don't have shoulders but they don't have a lot of traffic and there is plenty of grass on the side to go to when a car comes by.

Then we meet Richard and Catherine for lunch in Mebane. Its a cute little town, and we eat at a very nice farm to table restaurant. When we get back to their house we let the dogs play in their fenced in back yard. This is great until Cosmo finds a nest of baby rabbits. After a panic-stricken few moments I message my Westie friends. They tell us to just put the baby rabbits back in the nest and they will be okay, the mama will come back and probably move them. One of the babies is dead however. Its sad but you really can’t be angry at Cosmo, its just instinct.

March 4th, Saturday. It was cold enough last night that we had to turn off our water. Better safe than sorry! Onward to Pennsylvania. The RV park we choose is outside of Allentown. They are experiencing a power failure when we arrive, which sucks. I have to bring my headlamp into the park bathroom, because its so dark! Its going down in the teens tonight, so our water stays off. Before too long their power comes back on and its cozy and warm in the RV, but we definitely need the extra heater that Lee bought as insurance against freezing pipes. 

March 5th, Sunday. Home. Its always nice to be home, but I am SO over snow! How funny to think how much it excited me when we first moved to New Hampshire. Its hard to make me happy though. While we were in Florida they had a couple good blizzardy snowstorms at home. Lee and I both were happy that we didn’t have to deal with them, but at the same time we were sort of sorry to miss them. We both said we’d like to just be there for a day to experience the weather but then go right straight back to Florida!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Florida 2017: Baseball, Dali, Beaches and Owlets!

Feb 14th, Tuesday. Happy valentine’s day. We have breakfast with the Pauls sisters and their father at Athens. Three of the sister’s visit’s have overlapped for a few days. Athens is supposed to have really good breakfasts, and it turns out that they do. Everyone else gets omelets, but I have blueberry pancakes. They are great, as is the coffee, and the bacon!

I give Lee various lotions and soaps that he likes. He gives me roses, a macaron making kit, and a westie umbrella. He outdid himself this year.

Because of our huge breakfast we have no need for lunch but I do have an afternoon ice cream cone. We go to Green Springs Bistro for dinner. The same guy is playing guitar in the background as in years past. Lee has mushroom ravioli, I have the chicken stuffed with ham, with mashed taters and stir fried veggies. Its all delicious.

On Wednesday, February 16th I take another boxing class. Only two of us attend so I really get a workout. I'm quite out of breath but my form continues to improve. A rainstorm blows through in the afternoon, then around 5 pm we go to Coastal Cantina, down the street. We sit at the bar cause it's chilly, windy and wet outside.  I have an excellent Manhattan.

Feb 17th, Thursday. Dennis and Diane come for a visit. We have lunch on the patio. The dogs are so happy to see them! We go for a bike ride and see a huge alligator in Kapok Park! And I finally see a manatee from the Safety Harbor pier! Just one, moving slowly, but finally! Lynn’s manatee curse has been broken!

Feb 19th, Sunday.  I go for the first of several bike rides over the Courtney Campbell Causeway, almost all the way to Tampa. This time I ride 18 miles. Its a beautiful foggy morning. I see lots of birds, runners and cyclists. We are well protected from the traffic, and the bike path is mostly flat except for two bridges. Afterwards we get brunch at Marker 39. Lee has chorizo and egg, I have waffles, sweet potato fries, scrambled eggs. So good.

On Monday, February 20th we go to Clearwater Beach. Its a beautiful warm day and its Washington’s birthday so the beach is more crowded than we would like. Even so the beach is great, but the traffic is terrible. It wasn’t too bad getting there, but returning home was insane. Maybe next year we should park in downtown Clearwater and try taking the water taxis.

Feb 22nd, Wednesday. My mother-in-law Joanne has arrived and we have our first truly rainy day. We head to the bahn mi restaurant Seasons for lunch but there is a power failure and it is closed. The traffic is godawful. We end up at Alesia, right outside Gulfport for lunch. It's a great Vietnamese/French restaurant but by the time we get there it is 1:30 and we are starving. We split 2 bahn mi sandwiches and 2 bowls of pho. 

Fortified, we head to the Dali museum in St Pete. Its very, very crowded and there is a huge line to get in. I guess lots of people had the same rainy day idea as we did. Even so it's a very interesting museum. Dali was weird but he also was a very good artist. The audio guide is very helpful in trying to understand his paintings. There is a Frida Kahlo exhibit too, which seems to be more about her and less about her paintings.

On Thursday February 23rd we take the dogs to Enterprise dog park one more time. They are in heaven. Cosmo gets bossy with a few males dogs, all of which don't want to argue and cede dominance to him, even a big pitbull mix that appears to be unfixed. You’re not supposed to bring unfixed dogs to a dog park, but I guess his owner must have known he was just a very meek guy. That night we go to Parts of Paris for an excellent meal.

Feb 24th, Friday. In the morning I go for a one hour bike ride and then take a "core fusion" class at the spa. In the afternoon Joanne and I get 80 minute massages followed by herbal wraps. The wraps were free with an 80 minute massage so hey why not? The massage is good. She gets rid of some big knots in my shoulders. The jury is out on the herbal wrap. It smells great, but it is hot, and heavy. We lay down on a table and get covered in layers of herb-scented cloth, warm damp towels, and heat blankets. We lay there for 45 minutes and by the end I'm very well done.

Saturday, February 25th is our baseball day. We’ve got tickets to see the Phillies play the Yankees. Its a beautiful sunny day, and I’ve gotten us great seats, shady, on the first base line, close to home plate. We root for the Phillies, but not TOO hard. After all they are not the Cardinals. But they’re also not the Yankees! The Philly mascot is darling, the Fanatic. He's a sporty Big Bird. The end of the game is actually exciting. The Yankees tie it up in the top of the 9th and the Phillies score in the bottom for the win. I like spring training games!

On Sunday February 26th I go for another 20 mile bike ride on the causeway to Tampa. 10 miles still doesn't get me all the way to the city. Maybe next year. There is an awful headwind on the way out. I average less than 10 mph for the first 10 miles, 16 mph on the way back.

In the afternoon I ride my bike over to Phillips Park. I want to see if I can find the owl nest. Catherine told me where it was and how to find it. Go to the restrooms by the Indian Mound. Turn so that the restrooms are to your back. Look at the second live oak, in the crook of the trunk....why there it is! And there is a baby! I'm very excited. I tell a few people that are wondering what I'm looking at, so now the birding community is informed.

Feb 27th, Monday. Time to pack. This takes some contemplation. What clothes do I need for a 6 day trip, with the starting temps in the high 80's and the ending temps in the mid-teens? The rest goes in my large suitcase in the back of the truck. I can get to it if I really need something but it would be much better if I don't.

We take the car over to Phillips Park to look at the owl nest one more time before we go. Now it's easy to spot because there is a small gaggle of birders with binoculars and fancy cameras, murmuring and watching the mom and owlet appreciatively. I feel very fortunate to have seen this unusual sight. What a year for wildlife! An alligator, a manatee, and 
now an owl!

Most places in Safety Harbor are closed on Mondays but Whistle Stop is not. Joanne has no problem walking there but after the sun has set and its dark she does much better if Lee and I take her arms on either side, so we walk back to the house like the three musketeers!

Feb 28th, Tuesday. Bye Safety Harbor. See you next year. We have the house for two months in both 2018 and 2019. I already can't wait! Lee takes Joanne to the airport and then we drive the truck to The Villages, get the RV out of storage, and drive to our campground for the night. Grand Oaks is much much better than the place we stayed in January! It is also a carriage museum AND a huge equine center in addition to being an RV park! There are lots of places to walk the dogs, lots of room to go for a run. Its horribly hot, however, with a high of 88. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Florida 2017: Lynn Hears a Chamber Music Concert, We Visit Diane, and Go on a Walking Tour of Dunedin

Feb 4th, Saturday. Because the Best Damn Race has the streets closed until 11 I head north on Main Street and run along McMullin Booth Road for my 5 mile run. Last year I ran the races but this year I’m still recovering from Dopey so no racing for me right now. It's not as scenic but the sidewalks are wide and plentiful so it's really no problem. Later we go to a place in St. Pete called The Bikery  to make a donation to the coffee shop ACLU fundraiser. Yeah it's a coffee shop AND a bike shop. We look at bikes a bit, go to another bike shop too. We may want to upgrade our bikes but we’re not sure exactly what we want.

Feb 6th, Monday. I traipse off to a mall in Tampa for Lee's valentine’s day present. We never go to Tampa. I don't know why, it's not that far. Later in the afternoon  we take the dogs to Enterprise dog park, the best dog park I've ever seen. It is huge, with actual trails and a separate section with agility equipment. The dogs love it, and it makes us happy to watch them run their little heads off, enjoying the wide open spaces and playing with other dogs.

Feb 8th Wednesday. I take a boxing conditioning class in the morning. This year I have wraps for my hands and they seem to make a difference when I punch. This class is such a great workout, I look forward to it all year. And this year for once I seem to remember a bit so I don't have to start completely over.

In the evening I go to a Chamber music concert with Joan in St Pete. I drive the truck, which is fine except when it comes to parking. The parking lots right by the concert hall are full so we go down a couple of blocks. We find a quiet side street with plenty of parking but it's next to a park and seems dark and deserted. Neither of us know St Pete so we have no idea if it is a perfectly safe place to park there or dangerous, but we take a chance and leave the truck there.

The concert is really great. It's been awhile since I've gone to a classical music concert. Their name is The Ehnes Quartet. It's an all Beethoven program. They play 3 string quartets, one each from his early, middle and late periods. The early one contains no surprises, the middle one is very beautiful, and the late one has parts that are a little humorous, kind of like musical jokes. Especially the last movement, that seemingly pretends to end at least five times.

At intermission I try to turn on my phone but the battery has drained. I turn it back off and try not to worry about getting home. I know we need to head north, and preferably not go through Tampa. But once we get to the truck and I’m able to plug my phone back in it fires back up without any trouble.

Feb 9th, Thursday. We go visit Diane in New Port Richie. We bring sandwiches, and sit in the sun watching the dogs play. Diane's dogs look great, all clean and groomed. Our dogs have a great time playing with her dogs and running around her big yard. Then we put the dogs in the house for a nap and take our bikes to a nearby park with a huge nature preserve. We go for a 13 mile ride through the trails in the park and the surrounding area.  We bike through fields of palmetto plants and pines, with the occasional turtle sunning itself along the path.

That night we try a new restaurant. The Little Lamb is a gastropub with good food. We split  a Caesar Salad. Lee has a lamb burger and I have the short ribs. Yummy! But in retrospect it must have been very salty because I gained two pounds overnight.

Feb 10th, Friday. We go on a sunset walking tour of Dunedin. Dunedin is a larger town than Safety Harbor. It has a lot of things going on so it's a fun occasional destination. I signed us up for a walking tour of Victoria Drive, which has fancy old houses along the shore. The houses and the sunset are lovely. The light slowly fades and all the men in our group have been given lanterns to light our way in the dark. That part of the tour is fine. And our tour guide, Vinny, is very knowledgeable. He know everything about these houses and the people that built them. The problem is, he doesn't seem to know how to be a little selective in the information he imparts. He gets sidetracked with so many stories that what was billed as a 75 minute tour was still going strong at close to 2 hours when we finally told him we had to go and took our leave. The rest of the people on the tour had more stamina than we did, or maybe they had the sense to eat something beforehand. We get a carry out dinner from the Greek gyro place we like, Famous Greek Salads. Its just a little restaurant in a strip mall but the food tastes heavenly. I think Vinny and Frank, our tour guide at the Vatican, would get along great. They could just talk each other to death.

Feb 11th, Saturday. It's Dunedin’s farmers market day so back we go. There is also a crafts festival going on so there are a lot of people in town. It's crowded and there's no place to park. We almost decide to give up but finally find a place in a little park about a half mile from the market.

We walk through part of the crafts festival on our way to the market. It's is huge, and so are the crowds. The dogs are very very good, and as usual they have their own personal fan club everywhere we go. We get fruit,  veggies, bread and bagels before we hightail it out of there. We stop at the fish market on our way back to the car and get some amberjack for dinner.

Feb 12th, Sunday. Lee and I go on a bike ride, 16 miles along the Wilson Reams trail and then the Progress Parkway trail until it peters out. We cycle through a subdivision after the Progress Parkway trail ends. I know there is a road somewhere we can take to get to the Pinellas County Trail but I don't remember where it is so we turn around, taking a detour through Kapock Park on the way back. It is another beautiful day in Florida and they're having another blizzard at home. We’re not sorry to be here, not at all.

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Suitcase Adventure

I went to Minneapolis for Mother’s Day. Lee had been there since Wednesday, helping Sarah and Erik with the remodel of their master bed and bathroom. I was just going for the weekend, so on Friday, I had to go to the airport by myself. I had my suitcase and bag all packed and ready to go. I locked up the house, carried my suitcase downstairs, and put it next to the car. Then I went back upstairs, put the dog’s harnesses on and got them in the car. 

I drove to Diane’s, dropped of the dogs, and then made my way to Boston Logan. I intended to park in Economy parking, but the lot was full, so I followed the signs to overflow parking, way off by the Airport Hilton. As I was parking the car, I suddenly had a sinking sensation. I had no memory of putting my suitcase in the car. Was it in the back seat? No, of course not, the dogs had been there. Was it in the trunk? No, the trunk was empty. I had forgotten it! It was sitting in the garage back home. There was no way I could go home and get it and still make my flight. 

I called Lee as I was leaving the airport. “I can’t come. I forgot my suitcase.” He asked me if I was sure, and I said yes. He said oh that’s too bad. I hung up the phone and promptly got a call from my daughter.

“Just come, we’ll figure it out.”

“But Sarah, I don’t have any contacts except the ones I’m wearing. I don’t have my glasses! I don’t have any clothes!”

She said, don’t worry, we can go to Target, and you can borrow things of mine.

Well…okay, I said. I’m coming!

It was getting late so I didn’t try to go back to Economy Parking, but pulled into Central Parking instead. Yes I know its expensive, but it would be really stupid after all of this to miss my flight!

Central Parking was jammed packed and it took me awhile to find a place to park. I wrote down my level (4) and row (bb) and headed to terminal A. With TSA Pre it didn’t take me long to clear security and I was at my gate just as they started to board.

It was a great weekend. I went to Target that night and wandered through the store, grabbing must-haves like saline solution and a contact case, a toothbrush, floss, and a comb. I quickly selected a couple of t-shirt and maxi dresses, a pair of yoga pants, some underwear, socks, sandals and a sports bra. I grabbed a couple of t-shirts and something to sleep in, and I was set.

I was able to help some with the reno; I can paint (except for the edges) and I was a good errand-runner too! Sarah made a yummy brunch on Sunday morning, and we took her little dog Mika for a nice walk. I managed to get my daily contacts to last two full days, and I could see close-up in the morning if I held things right in front of my nose. I made the best of it, and figured, oh well! My suitcase was waiting for me at home, right?

Sunday night I flew back to Boston. It was rainy and cold, and it took me forever to find my car in Central Parking, even though theoretically I knew where it was. I think I came out a different exit in terminal A and that got me turned all around. They give you 30 minutes to leave the garage from the time you pay, and I think I cut it pretty close.

I drove down I-93 in the rain and fog, eager to get home and get my glasses out of my suitcase and throw the overused contacts in my eyes away. I turn into our driveway, get the mail out of the mailbox and look for the NYTs in the driveway. Its not there. Hmmm, that’s strange. Well sometimes they miss the delivery; I’ll have to call them in the morning.

I drive up to the garage. The NYTs in right outside the garage. Hmmmm, that’s strange too. Someone must have brought it there, because the delivery people NEVER do that. I open the garage. The suitcase isn’t there. Wait, where did I leave it? I thought I had left it right next to the car, but maybe not. Did I leave it in the basement, by the garage door? No. Upstairs? No. Somewhere odd in the house? No. Outside? NO! Did someone come up to the house, see it, and put it on the front porch or the back deck? No….. I go get a flashlight and walk down our long dark driveway in the rain, checking both sides. No suitcase.

I’m very disturbed. I have no idea where it could be. I’ve looked all over the house, in semi-logical and totally illogical places. My suitcase is gone.

Its 1:30 in the morning and I’m exhausted. I need to go to sleep and deal with this in the morning. I do what little unpacking I have, take out my contacts and dig out my old “emergency” glasses. They are really old, probably over 10 years. I can barely see out of them, but they do improve my distance vision. 

Even though I’m very tired I toss and turn all night. I’m up early too. By now I’m in recovery mode. I send my neighbors a text, asking them if they’ve seen anything odd. I start making a list of the things I’ve lost and planning how and when to replace them. I call Lee and tell him and he clearly thinks I’m losing it. So do I, but I also think someone took it. There is simply no other explanation.

On Monday I get ready to do the most urgent replacements, things like ordering new glasses and buying a razor. Late in the morning I get a phone call. Its a 603 area code but an unknown number. I answer it, just hoping against hope….

“Hi, is this Lynn Nill?”


“I think I found your suitcase on Mary Anne Avenue”

At this point the poor man can’t get another word in edgewise as I am exclaiming and thanking and babbling to beat the band. He is coming down Shore Drive and I meet him in the driveway. Its my suitcase all right, torn and covered in mud. It looks like its been dragged and beaten up. I quickly open it. Nothing inside has been disturbed or damaged, but everything is soaking wet.

I thank him over and over again, drag my suitcase up to the house and start to unpack. I’ve got to wash everything, but except for the suitcase itself, everything else is okay. I do throw away my toothbrush and my comb, however. It just seemed creepy to keep them.

it took me awhile to calm down enough to speculate on what could have possibly happened. Did someone come up the driveway for some reason and steal it, and then think better of it and throw it to the side of the road where it was hit by someone and buried in the mud? Maybe. Did someone come up the driveway and somehow get it caught on their car and drag it over to Mary Anne Avenue before it finally fell off? Maybe. The guy that returned it was a salvage guy. Maybe HE came up the driveway, saw the suitcase, threw it in his truck, left it there until Monday and then thought better of it and called me? Who knows!

I’ll never know a) what I did with the suitcase and b) what happened to it after I left it wherever I left it. I wish that suitcase could talk! Then it could write this saga as a first person narrative. Oh well. I’m just so happy it was returned. You never know how dependent you are on your glasses and contacts until they are gone…

Monday, April 17, 2017

Florida 2017: Part I in Which We Travel from New Hampshire to Safety Harbor, and Get Settled

On Friday, January 27th we loaded up the truck and the RV, and started our now annual drive to Florida for the month of February. We're trying something a little different this time. Since we have the RV, why not hitch it up and extend our winter escape by a couple of weeks on both ends? The only catch is the RV isn't winter-proof so we have to get south of anything resembling winter before we can use it. Catherine is willing to put us up for a night, so our first stop is in Fairfax, Virginia. This works well, or it should have anyway, but in our quest to avoid driving the RV through NYC and Baltimore we go wayyyy out of our way, west into Pennsylvania before crossing into Maryland and heading east. It's a beautiful drive but we probably lose an hour at least by doing so. We'll have to figure out a better route when we head home.

Saturday morning we waste no time getting back on the road. We have another long drive, this time all the way to Hilton Head Island. We arrive after dark, but Lee has no problem backing into our spot. This will be our home until Tuesday.

I take the dogs for a short walk while Lee gets the trailer set up. When I get back Lee says "we may have a problem." There is water all over the bathroom floor. We have a leak, but at first he doesn't know where it's coming from. I keep the dogs out of his way, and periodically go outside to turn the water on and then back off. He finally figures out that the leak is coming from the toilet, and eventually figures out why. When he winterized the RV he blew water out of all the tubes and valves, except one. Now we have a cracked flush valve, and no functioning toilet.

Now that he knows what's wrong Lee can turn off the water to the toilet, but we have running water in the sinks so we're okay. We can use the park's bathroom for the time being, and we have a temporary "chamber pot" for that first night.

In the morning Lee researches his options. It's Sunday so a lot of things are closed until noon. In the meantime we decide to try out the Sunday brunch at the park's restaurant. Wow! Beautiful view and amazing food. Lee has fried chicken and biscuits, I have smoked salmon and grits. Usually when we go out to eat one entree beats the others and is declared the "best" but this time they both are so good there is no clear winner. Oh and the Bloody Mary's with smoked plobano peppers are amazing too.

After brunch we decide to take the dogs to one of the dog friendly beaches so they can get some exercise. They've been cooped up in the truck for two long days and have lots of yayas that need to get out. On our way out we stop at the office to meet Lily, the thirteen year old Westie that belongs to the real estate agent for the park. She is less than thrilled by the sudden invasion by three dogs, even if they do look like her. She makes her objection known immediately and our dogs give her a wide berth.

They realtor suggests that we try Fish Haul Beach. It has a nice nature trail and lots of open beach where the dogs can run to their hearts content. It's great except Cosmo ends up back on leash before very long because he won't mind his manners with other dogs we meet that are on leash, even though he is not.

Back at the RV Lee has a solution to our broken valve problem until he can get a replacement part. The shower has a handheld nozzle and it will reach the toilet, so we can use water from the shower to flush the toilet. We are back in business!

Jan 29th, Monday. After a short run around the RV park in the morning we decide to try to take the dogs for a walk in one of the Hilton Head’s nature preserves. The only problem is they are all closed due to damage from hurricane Mathew last fall. But there seem to be nice bike paths all over the island so we park in a little pocket park and start walking along one of the paths. Totally by accident we end up at another really beautiful ocean view, Alder Beach. We leave the dogs on their leashes but walk closer to the water to watch the dolphins playing in the waves. By the time we walk back to the car we have walked over 4 miles. It's frustrating that my back and leg still hurt, off and on. I will start trying to reduce the amount of pain meds I take, but I get to a certain amount and the pain comes back. It's nerve pain, so sitting for long periods makes it worse, and walking is more uncomfortable than running.

Jan 30th, Tuesday. We head to The Villages. We are going to visit Mimi and Sel, my aunt and uncle. Mimi is my father's youngest sister. It's only a five hour drive so we take our time leaving, and get to the Wildwood  KOA Kampground by 4 pm. The people in the front office are very friendly, but this campground wins the award for worst RV park we've stayed in so far, hands down. It's crowded. The campsites are tiny, with no privacy. The lots are not level at all. The roads are sandy. I take the dogs for a walk while Lee sets things up. It's definitely a challenge to get the RV level, in fact, we appear to be in danger of rolling right off our jacks, which would be very bad. Lee moves the wheel chucks around so that we feel more secure, but it still makes me uneasy.

We drive over to Mimi and Sel's. We bring the dogs, but their sweet little dog Scooby doesn't like other dogs, especially in his own space, so we leave ours in the big soft-sided crate out in their garage. It's a chilly evening, so it's no problem. We go to dinner at a nearby restaurant. It's so nice to see them, talk, catch up on all their grandchildren and their activities. We'll see them again on our way home, but we'll stay in a different RV park!

In the morning we take the RV over to the place where we are going to store it for the month. We don't need it in Safety Harbor and we don't have a place to park it there either. So for $60 it's in a safe place and we don't have to think about it until we're on our way home.

It takes longer than we thought it would to get the RV settled in its new home. We need some lunch but the traffic around the Villages is terrible this time of year because of all the snowbirds. We finally find a Subway at a gas station. Then we can make it through the short drive to Safety Harbor.

We arrive in Safety Harbor around 3 pm. Our nice rental house looks as great as ever, and the construction next door is finished so it's nice and quiet too. We walk down to the Raw Bar for dinner. The oysters are from the gulf so we get grouper bowls instead. I get a margarita too. We're happy to be back in our second home.

When we got back to New Hampshire people asked me how we liked our vacation. But it really doesn’t feel like a vacation. Its more like Florida is just a warm, sunny, beautiful place to continue living our lives. Lee has brought his industrial sewing machine along, so he can continue working on his boat projects. I have brought my embroidery and my camera, plus I can write, bike, and take boxing and other fitness classes at the spa.  Its fun, and enjoyable, but not an earth-shaking experience. We like it this way!

In the evening of our first night we walk over to the house that Dr. Pauls is renting for the month. When my friend Catherine visited last year she enjoyed it so much that she and her sisters found a house for their father to rent for the month, and the sisters (there are four) are taking turns staying with him. Joan, the second sister, is here for the next couple of weeks. We invite them over for dinner tomorrow. Its fun having friends in town! We feed them chicken a la Becca, a family recipe that involves a cut up chicken and a tangy tomato sauce. For dessert I bought dessert bars from Joey’s Biscotti, a bakery just a couple of blocks away. They come in many different flavors and the bars are huge. Each one is like a mini cake; we can split them four ways so we can have a taste of each one.


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