Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's Official...I Miss Her!

Lucy hanging with us on the patio one night last week

Lucy, that is! Our dog, The Goose.

When we first got her, I have to admit, I sort of looked forward to when we'd leave on vacation and I would get to drop her off at the kennel (Uncle Chuck's). I never felt guilty since I knew she loved being there; in fact, I felt a bit of relief/freedom from all of the responsibility that was Lucy.

Now, many things have changed since then. Over the past year or so, and especially since Clyde passed away, she's really "grown on me" (as they say). We've "bonded", I guess that is a more accurate statement. We went on our big Florida "grandparents" tour together, mom and I took her with us on our road trip to MO, and, she has, in
essence, been my constant companion.

We've worked hard together to improve her obedience and manners and (also in part to Mr. B's involvement), she's really come far.

Lucy gets her nightly olive fix!

So, this morning, I dropped her off at Uncle Chuck's. As always, she got really excited when she realized where she was (completely forgetting her manners too; also as usual). When the girl came to take her back to her "room", she went with a big grin on her face and never looked back (also as usual). I AM happy that she loves being there, that there is no drama. But, it still made me sort of sad to see her go.

Now I'm home preparing for our trip, doing this and that. I was out in the backyard watering plants and the sight of her ball and toys scattered all over sort of wrenched at my heart. Ditto when I saw her "baby" upstairs where she'd left it lying on the sitting room floor. And, as I sit here and write this entry, it is so quiet. There are no tags jingling, no rustles from her as she moves around on her bed or climbs up onto the couch; all of that.

So, yeah, it's official...I miss her...and...now...I'm truly a dog lover! At least a Lucy lover!

Mrs. B

Puerto Vallarta Bound!

Puerto Vallarta

We leave for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, tomorrow bright and early. We have a 6:00 am flight out of RDU to Dallas, then, Dallas to Puerto Vallarta (arriving there around 12:45 pm or so Margarita-time).

We've never been to PV, so, we're excited to go somewhere new. We're staying a our time share's sister resort, Villa del Palmar, Puerto Vallarta. We stayed at Villa del Palmar, Cabo, before, so we're pretty sure what to expect as far as the resort goes.
Villa del Palmar, Puerto Vallarta

I did some research on Trip Advisor, got some good tips from fellow Trip Advisor members, so, we're armed with some Intel. But, for the most part, we basically want to "chill". Eat, drink, sleep, play cards on our lanai, lay by the pool, swim in the ocean, experience some new restaurants, eat a few fresh fish tacos, duck into a few shops, etc.

So, I'll be blogging about our adventure in Puerto Vallarta when we return!

Mrs. B

Monday, June 23, 2008

Luck of the Irish...NOT

I'm not Irish, which is possibly why it seems sometimes I have zero luck.
So, yesterday; Mr. B and I were talking about how, now that the floor issue/tenant issue are resolved, there is nothing for me to fret about. Ha ha, funny.
Today, I clumsily dropped my laptop, or, rather, I carelessly dropped it, whatever. It fell off the counter onto the tile floor.
Dead as a duck hard drive.
Yeah, it's dead. I called HP, we went through a bunch of diagnostics, goner.
So, thankfully, I backed up my computer yesterday afternoon (I learned my lesson from LAST year when my OTHER computer's hard drive crashed). And, my HP is still under warranty, so, the new hard drive won't cost me anything but time and Mr. B's efforts to install everything, including my backed up files.
Still, it's frustrating. I really sort of panicked; I constantly use my computer and everything on it; files, emails, etc, etc.
THANK GOD I backed it up yesterday! I just had to say that again.
But, I'm mad at myself, because this is my fault.
Good thing we are going on vacation. When I get back, I should have my new hard drive within a few days. And, I'll be up and running on the HP again.
In the meantime, here I am again (just like last summer) borrowing Mr. B's trusty IBM (although trusty is an operative term; it was, after all, MY IBM that crashed last year!)
Ah, joy.
Well, at least now I know what I'll be fretting about for the next few weeks. Thank God it isn't something more serious.
Mrs. B

Sunday, June 22, 2008


So, before we jaunt off to Puerto Vallarta on Wednesday, I thought I'd update y'all on the things we've been dealing with over the past 1 1/2 years (some longer than others, obviously!)
The longest drawn out hassle of them all! But, I'm happy to write that, as of Friday, we signed off on the new floor. And, look ma, no swirls!

Where the worst of the swirls/smudges were...gone!

Former Idiot Tenants
Although they swore up and down that they didn't have enough money to settle with us, I guess our demands to put a deed of trust against their current house (which they all three jointly own) to secure their debt to us freaked them out sufficiently that they elected to settle with us. So, we received a nice lump sum check last week. And, no worries; the money went first to the law firm, then, the law firm cut us a check, so, the funds are good! We certainly are happy to see the tail-end of this problem. And, oh by the way, I sent an email to the PMC informing them of this happy outcome. No response.

Exploding Wine
I contacted the winery and they were very apologetic. Within two days, they'd sent me FOUR bottles of the wine we originally ordered (we didn't ask for the exploding peach crap in the first place). We drank a bottle of it last night and it seemed to be in perfect "working order"!

Now, off to brother Jon's for a quick visit (and to drop off a batch of burritos) and then on to a Durham Bulls game.


Mrs. B

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dear John

Note to my readers: I was looking for a document in one of my computer files and stumbled across this letter I'd written to my ex husband almost six years ago. I post it here (a bit edited) because I thought it was thought-provoking for several reasons. One, it shows that, despite a marriage gone bad, two people can still communicate (to some degree, it's not like I'm in contact with him now) maturely and reflect on their time together. Also, despite the fact that he was, at times, a real jerk, he didn't manage to completely screw me up; I maintained the best part of me.
Two, it's amazing to me how much of where I was (and how I got there) impacted what I ultimately did one year later (leave my job, go to Italy, move to Durham, meet Mr. B, etc.)
And, finally, how could I have ever know when I wrote that letter that the thing I wanted the most, but thought was completely impossible, would come to pass? I'm glad I'm such a pack-rat with my documents! Hey, I might find some more that will make some interesting posts!
Mrs. B

September 2002

Dear John:
If I’ve learned anything in the past year, it is to write when the mood is upon me because I never know when it will strike again and to write is something I dearly love, as well you know.

First of all, rest assured that I am not upset by the words you wrote; how could I be when there was so much truth in them.

I’ve told you about my journey of self-discovery these past months; why it began doesn’t matter at this point but suffice it to say that about ten months ago I found myself at an awful point. Maybe you’ve been at this place, too, or at least heard of others who have been there; the moment in time when one finds oneself looking in the mirror and not knowing the person that looked back at them. I was at a point of such incredible unhappiness, such despair, that I’d reached a dangerous place; one of not really caring what happened to me. You know me well enough to know that I’d never consider overtly harming myself but I was definitely doing myself a world of hurt by having a complete disregard for myself; a reckless abandon; all covered nicely by the outward appearance of having such a perfect life. Underneath all of the so-called wonderful things; a successful career, a beautiful home, a fabulous car; being relatively attractive, independent, scores of friends and a dedicated and loving family; underneath all of that was this person who found life to be nothing more than a series of stresses and irritants; an annoying mess that, despite all I did to try and control it, got more and more unbearable.

This person looking back at me, when I finally forced myself to really take a long hard look, was not a pleasant looking person; this person had a drawn, tired face, eyes that had no life in them and a perpetual frown on her face. This literal look in the mirror, along with a few hard knocks that came right before it, shook me. At that point, instead of continuing to give up, I made the decision to change myself; to stop trying to change everyone and everything around me and to focus on the only thing I really could control; me.

I’ve also realized that certain environments aren’t the best for me any longer; namely, to be in a fast-paced corporate environment where constant demands are upon me to do more and more, faster and faster, better and better; have contributed greatly to tearing down what’s good and decent in me and replacing it with a controlling, manipulative, mean-spirited, ungrateful little wretch. But of course I cannot just up and quit my job (or at least that wouldn’t be the most prudent thing because I could if I really thought I should) so while I work to discover what I should do next, I’ve taken my newly discovered (or re-discovered) self and tried to apply the attitude to the time I’m at work.

Maybe I’m not so unusual in that I’ve gotten to where I’m going to get with no desire to go further; in fact, although it might be puzzling to some, success is not something I crave, rather, success is something I’ve overcome.

Of course my real dream would be to be able to not work and have a simple life with some opportunities to teach others and be creative. And, because one cannot always rid themselves of all their weaknesses, I would, of course, need to find time to indulge my vanity by maintaining my figure and good health.

The very best thing would be to find someone that would be indulgent of what I want to do but not expect me to be a second class citizen (you know I could never tolerate that; and, in my journey of self-discovery, I’ve become quite clear on what I will and will not put up with in a relationship). Chances of finding this benevolent Sugar Daddy are not likely, though, so I imagine the reality will end up falling somewhere in the middle.

As for our relationship, today, as I was getting my nails done, my nail lady was telling me about her daughter’s impending marriage. Her daughter is about 23 or 24, her fiance about the same age. It sounds as if they fight quite a bit; and my nail lady was sharing some of the contents of their fights with me. Such ugly words, like: “I never should have asked you to marry me” or “I can’t stand you, here, take your stupid ring back”. Well, they are young and I guess young people say things that they don’t really mean but the problem is they can hang in the air between people and never quite go away.

I know you, like me, probably recognize two other young people in that story; I found myself thinking about all of the many hurtful things we said to each other over the years but in particular when we were in our twenties. These are things that should never be said to someone you love, even if they are said only due to immaturity. I know that you, like me, would never say things like that to anyone ever again because we’ve had the opportunity to learn from them and to see what unfortunate groundwork they can lay.

In our marriage, I started putting up walls and attempted be in such complete control. Maybe that was a way to avoid being hurt; instead of playing hard to get, I was playing hard to hurt. I wonder did we ever meet someone in the middle? Was there a time when we were both on the same page at the same time? There might have been moments; those were the good times we had.

Of course I have to wonder if you’d have the patience with me now if I were to revert back to that silly girl that couldn’t boil water without scorching a pot or who was so irresponsible she let her car engine seize up not once, but twice, due to neglect? Or how about the impractical girl who wore uncomfortable shoes to Magic Mountain and we had to run around trying to find me something comfortable to wear and we ended up with these hideous straw thongs? You sure were angry with me when I was so addle-brained; or, maybe not angry but merely frustrated and annoyed. Remember how I never saved money and ran up credit card debt like there was no tomorrow? Remember when you used to do all of the cooking because I didn’t know how because I never bothered to stick with it long enough to learn? What was better? That, or the person that ran around with a broom and dust pan in her hand constantly sweeping the floor or who got upset if she didn’t get everything on her “To Do” list done before company arrived and who spent the entire time in the kitchen trying to make everything perfect rather than spending the time with family and friends who were really only there to be with us and to enjoy our company in the first place?

I suppose the way of it is that the best person for me to be is somewhere in between the two extremes. Not rocket science but it sure took me long enough to figure it out.

I am glad you sent me such a thoughtful email and, as I started out saying, I’m not upset or angry by your words. I thank you for providing me such a great opportunity to think about it and put it into words.


I received this in an email from Margot and thought it was too funny not to share!

After a two year visit to the United States, Michelangelo's David is returning to Italy!

Thanks to his proud American sponsors,

This is what he now looks like:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Funny, But Sadly, TRUE!

More Ways for Airlines to Rip You Off

I'm sure everyone has been reading about all of the many changes a-foot within the airline industry in order to keep them a-float. Yeah, gas is expensive, blah blah blah, but, they sure are starting to nickle and dime. Or, rather, five dollar and ten dollar. Or, maybe, fifty dollar and one hundred dollar.
First, if you don't purchase your ticket on-line, you pay a surcharge (forget the fact that sometimes it is impossible to figure things out on-line and you might need to talk to a representative). Then, a charge for special handling of large items (golf clubs, pets, etc.) Ok, that's somewhat reasonable. Then, the charge for checking a 2nd bag. Then, for checking bags at the curb. And, now, most airlines are charging to check ANY bag. Of course, you can't take much on your carry-on, so, most people HAVE to check at least one bag (especially if they are going on vacation; I don't know about you, but, I don't think I could cram 7 days of clothes and stuff into a dinky little carry-on; not to mention the difficulty in bringing on any sort of liquids).
Oh, yeah; they stopped serving any sort of "free" food (including nuts/pretzels on some flights) unless you are either in business or first or flying over 5 hours (I think) or internationally. But, don't worry, you can still get a Diet Coke or apple juice (at least for now). Oh, and many airlines now only accept credit cards for booze/food for purchase!
Anyway. As usual, I am getting off subject.
Yesterday, I sat down to make our air RSVP for our trip to San Diego this coming October. I did some preliminary searching last week and found a fairly decent flight for around $250 (plus all of those silly taxes and fuel charges so it was really closer to $290). Still, I thought it'd be MUCH worse.
Ok. Yesterday. Ready to book 'em! I decided, for kicks, to see if I could use miles to upgrade to business class. This because it is almost freaking impossible to find a flight that I want to take that I can use miles for (blackout dates, God-awful flight times, etc.)
Well, in order to use miles to upgrade (and the miles required to upgrade were not that many), you have to purchase a full-fare coach seat. Ok, so, I plugged that fare in, and, would you believe the fare went from $250 (plus taxes, etc.) to $812 (plus taxes, etc.)? And, there is usually no guarantee that one can upgrade, either. So, you pay this huge fare hoping you can upgrade, then, sorry. No upgrades available. What idiot would do that? Not this one, I can assure you!
After some more dorking around, I decided to see if it would be less expensive to fly into Ontario CA (which is actually closer to where we are staying) rather than San Diego. Well, of course, it was MORE expensive, even though it's a smaller airport and supposedly it is supposed to be cheaper to fly into less traveled airports. Still, in the long run, it probably is still cheaper because we won't have to drive the rental car quite so far. And, it is worth it to get to our end destination several hours earlier.
One good thing I discovered; on Delta, you can usually use your miles to pay down the price of your ticket. Considering how difficult (as I've said) it is to USE miles to get a "free" ticket OR to upgrade, I thought this actually might be worth it.
So, I used a considerable amount of miles to get $250 off each ticket. Which means our actual cost is pretty much nothing.
So, at the end of this long Wednesday morning rant, I actually have something positive to report about the airlines, or, at least, Delta.
Mrs. B

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Just Hanging Out

So, day one of the big floor replacement is underway. Of course, as is typical with anything to do with this floor (I do believe it is truly cursed), nothing went the way it was supposed to.
Bright and early, Keith (AKA "Elvis") showed up to tape the plastic sheeting around the living room/dining room, this in the hopes of containing wood dust/particles to those rooms. Not that this has anything to do with us, but, Keith informed me that his car was stolen a week ago (the day before he left for vacation). I have to say, this poor man has terrible luck. But, he managed to have a good time on his band tour (to somewhere in KY) anyway. And, he found out today that the insurance company is totaling his car (it was recovered in very bad shape), so that was SOME good news for him.
Anyway. The dudes that are taking up the old floor were supposed to be here between 9-11. When he called around 10 to confirm, he was told no one knew they were supposed to be at our house and no one could get there until 2. Well, he wasn't too happy, I wasn't too happy, but, what could we do?
So, he leaves. Luckily, two guys showed up at 12:45 and started to work right away. They are still here at 4:15. Thankfully, it hasn't been too loud (ear plugs help) since they didn't have to resort to using a saw to cut the wood. They've in essence been prying it up with a crow-bar and peeling it off. Still, they've had to keep the doors open so there are flies all over the place. The plastic sheeting blew off a long time ago and there is blue paint tape stuck all over the walls. Not to mention, ALL of our living room/dining room furniture is either stashed in the family room or the garage. ACK!

Our family room full of furniture

I told them that they can work as late as they need to in order to be ready to put the new floor down first thing tomorrow morning. After that, there will be a bevy of painters, inspectors, and cleaning people to check it all out. Then, we get to move all of the furniture BACK.

Progress as of 4:15 this afternoon

But, hey, we are getting our new floor.

The Goose is tired of it all!

Mrs. B

Monday, June 16, 2008

44 "Odd" Things About Me

I received this "survey" in an email from Analee. I don't really think too many of the questions are odd, per se; maybe just "little known facts"!

It's Monday, and, although I really do have plenty to blog about, it's hot and I don't feel like thinking much. So, this is a perfect entry for a Monday morning!

Mrs. B

1. Do you like blue cheese? Or, is it "bleu" cheese? In any case, yes, I like it quite a lot! My mom made an excellent blue cheese ball for our appetizer last night!

2. Have you ever smoked? Yep, I smoked on and off from age 15 (or so) to age 40 (I officially quit on June 1, 2004). I do still, on occasion, smoke a cigar, but, it's not really the same thing as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day!

3. Do you own a gun? Not any longer. The ex husband got possession of it in our divorce. Fine by me. Ok, well, I guess we do own some "old-fashioned" shot guns/riffles, but, they are more ornamental than anything else.

4. What flavor Kool Aid was your favorite? Cherry.

5. Do you get nervous before doctor's appointments? It depends on what the appointment is for. I typically get more anxious before dental appointments.

6. What do you think of hot dogs? They are okay, on occasion. They taste best when eaten at a ball game with a cold beer!

7. Favorite Christmas movie? Oh, probably "It's A Wonderful Life".

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? COFFEE!

9. Can you do push-ups? Probably not.

10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? The only one I wear with any consistency; my wedding band.

11. Favorite hobby? Traveling.

12. Do you have ADD? Nope, but, I might have OCD!

13. What's one trait you hate about yourself? Well, hate is a strong word to use when describing oneself, isn't it? I would prefer to say I don't like the fact that I tend to think the worst at times. I'm trying to work on this, but, it has a positive outcome, which is, I also tend to get what I want most times because I contingency plan for the worst.

14. Middle name? Born Christina; now, it's legally my maiden name.

15. Name three thoughts at this exact moment? I'm glad I emptied that stinky trash can. I hope I'm ready for the big floor replacement starting tomorrow!

16. Name three drinks you regularly drink? Wine, water, Diet Coke.

17. Current worry? See #15!

18. Current hate right now? Well...there is that hate word again. 

19. Favorite place to be? With Mark on vacation anywhere.

20. How did you bring in the New Year? With Mark, Lucy and my (since) dearly departed Clyde.

21. Where would you like to go? To a lot of places! But, the next one we are definitely going to is Puerto Vallarta next Wednesday!

22. Name three people who will complete this? Probably nobody; maybe Kathleen.

23. Do you own slippers? Yes, lilac colored ones but I hardly wear them because they make me walk funny. I'm more of a slipper sock kind of gal or barefoot (best).

24. What color shirt are you wearing right now? White with cats on stair-masters (the back of the shirt has the rear-view of same cats).

25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? Not really. I prefer high thread count sheets or flannel in the winter. Satin sheets feel slimy to me.

26. Can you whistle? Yep!

27. Favorite color? Green.

28. Would you be a pirate? Uh, no.

29. What songs do you sing in the shower? Whatever pops into my head.

30. Favorite girls name? I don't know; a lot of them are pretty. If I got another female dog or a female cat, I'd call her Lily.

31. Favorite boys name? I tend to think of this in terms of the names for our next male cats (whenever that will be). One will be Pete, the other, maybe Dexter or Tobias or Timothy.

32. What's in your pocket right now? No pockets.

33. Last thing that made you laugh? Not sure; probably something someone said last night.

34. Best bed sheets as a child? Who knows! Who cares!

35. Worst injury you've ever had? I've been lucky, knock on wood. Maybe my broken collar bone when I was two or three (which I don't ever remember) or my root canal in 1993 (which I certainly DO remember!)

36. Do you love where you live? I love the house. I'll love it better once the floor is replaced. I'll enjoy the neighborhood more when the construction is over.

37. How many TVs do you have in your house? One TV; no cable, though! So, it's basically used to watch DVDs.

38. Who is your loudest friend? None of my friends are overly loud, but, of them, Peri is probably the most vocal!

39. How many dogs do you have? One.

40. Does someone have a crush on you? Highly unlikely! Someone does love me, though, which is a much better situation to be in.

41. What is your favorite book? I can never answer this question. There are far too many of them.

42. What is your favorite candy? It's a toss up between bubble gum (not the sugar free crap), dark chocolate, or dark chocolate with coconut.

43. Favorite sports team? The Durham Bulls.

44. What song do you want played at your funeral? Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" from his 9th Symphony.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Jacqueline and Sophie

We went over to visit with the new family this afternoon. Here is a picture of Aunt Amy with Jacqueline and Uncle Mark with Sophie.

Everyone is doing great! We were impressed with how settled in and already "normal" feeling this very new situation felt. Both dad Jon (with Jacqueline) and mom Shannon (with Sophie) were calm and collected and looked like pros already!

Mrs. B

Illusions of the King

Elvis? No, it's Keith, our KB Rep!

Y'all have read me (I just made that up; it's like "heard me", but, since y'all "listen" to me by reading my Blog, it's really "read me"!) talk about Keith, the KB Customer Service Representative who has been extremely helpful and definitely instrumental in ensuring that our hardwood floor will be replaced (this joyous event will occur this coming Tuesday-Thursday).
Anyway, I saw a lot of Keith throughout 2007 while working through this or that issues with our house. He'd mentioned to me on more than one occasion that he had his own musical show; that he performed here and there, singing mostly Elvis songs. Well, I have to admit, when I looked at him, I could see a resemblance to the older Elvis. And, Keith has a tendency to wear his shirts unbuttoned revealing his chest hair and masses of gold chains and medallions, sort of like the Elvis of, say age 45.

About a week, ago, he says to me, "Hey, my band is doing a show, you should come check it out. Look on the website for details".

Curious, I Googled Keith and came up with a lot more than I ever expected! I mean, this guy is an Elvis impersonator! Our "floor" dude! Here's his site: http://www.keithillusions.com/default.asp.
One of Keith's CDs

He even has CDs, including one of Christmas music, which, I think I'll buy (I'm always looking for different holiday music); maybe I can get him to autograph it for me :-)
I'm not being snarky here; I found a few videos of him on You Tube and he's actually quite talented and has a great voice and, I think, sounds like Elvis, especially the "older" version. The video quality ain't great, but here is one of them:

So, Tuesday when he comes over to supervise the replacement of our floors, I'll have to remember that I have a CELEBRITY in my house. Maybe he'll indulge me in a song or two!

Mrs. B

Thursday, June 12, 2008

EXPLODING with Peach Flavor...They Were Not Kidding!

So, this afternoon, my in-laws, The Kid and I were hanging around our house doing this and that waiting for Mr. B to come home. It was about 4:00; I was chopping up stuff for the risotto Mr. B planned on making later. Everyone else was sitting around the table. We all heard an odd noise, like a loud pop; then, the sound of what seemed like dog food or something spilling onto the floor. It also somewhat sounded like claws scratching against a closed door. I immediately looked for the dogs; saw Lucy, so went over to the pantry door to see if Fritz (my in-laws' dog) was inside. When I opened it, I saw liquid all over the place; on the walls, pooled on the floor, all over the boxes and cans of food in the pantry. Turns out one of the two bottles of Southern Magnolia wine from Lake James Cellars (the wine we got "by mistake"; the sweetie peach wine), had literally blown its cork and was dripping all over creation from its place on one of the top rows of our built-in wine rack.
I spent roughly 1/2 hour cleaning up sickeningly sweet smelling wine. I noticed the other bottle was about to blow, so, I took it out and put it in the backyard. Of course, I'll call the winery and demand a refund.
Can you imagine how awful it would have been had a) it been a bottle we liked b) it been a bottle of red and c) someone been in the pantry when it blew (it could have taken an eye out with the way the cork bounced all over the place).
Interestingly enough, the second bottle's cork sort of eased its way out; it didn't project itself half-way across our backyard or into one of our sun room windows.
Cheese Louise!
They were not kidding when, on its label, they wrote "EXPLODING with peach flavor!" They really meant it!
Mrs. B

Adventures in Clemmons, NC: The End

Before I wrap this up, I want to let everyone know that my sister in law/brother's baby girls arrived safely Tuesday June 10th. Sophie first, then, a few minutes later, Jacqueline. Woo hoo for the new babies and the new parents! We'll be going over to see them on Saturday once they are settled into their new home.
Ok, back to the tale of our adventures in Clemmons!

We had breakfast at the B&B Sunday morning; a nice spread of eggs, bacon, biscuits, gravy, etc. And, for whatever odd reason, two New York-style cheesecakes were also sitting there. Probably left over from the wedding reception they had at the B&B the evening before (BTW, EVERY time we've stayed at this B&B, there has been a wedding reception).

After breakfast, we headed over to the Par 3 golf course and driving range. After smacking 1/2 of a bucket of small balls (and not too well, I might add), we teed off. Now, this course was SHORT, meaning, the longest hole was 99 yards from tee to pin. For me, this was perfectly fine since I'm not yet (consistently) hitting my irons (no way could even I use a wood or a driver on this course). But, for poor Mr. B, he had a frustrating afternoon of using nothing higher than a wedge, not being able to take a full swing, and still hitting it too far. Me, I was almost always short. So, both of us got a good afternoon in of working on our short game; by the end of the day, I was chipping great and my putting was vastly improved (I needed this, too).

So, yeah, a short course, but, a cart WAS available if one wanted to ride. I can't begin to describe how silly this would have been (or looked).

After the 9th hole, we discovered the little club house there had beer! So, we had a nice cool Miller Lite (all they had) to savor on the back nine.

Mr. B trying not to be too frustrated!

Even though it was a short course, it was quite picturesque! And, after the 9th hole, the slow-poke father and son team in front of us took a break so we got in front of them which probably made everyone happy.

Mrs. B having a nice game

After golf, we headed over to the other courses/club house for the mandatory after golf beers. We sat up there looking out over the other courses, enjoying a nice cool breeze and our beers.

By this time, we were starving! So, we elected to go out to eat earlier than we normally do.

I'd found on-line before we left Durham a pub-type restaurant. I used Yahoo maps to get the directions from the park to the restaurant. We followed the directions to a tee, and, ended up at a trailer park. So, yeah, these map-things don't always work!

We stopped at a Starbucks and got the correct directions (the place was in the complete opposite direction of where we'd gone). The restaurant (now I am blanking on the name) was more than decent. They had good beer on draft and huge portions. We had a trio of dips (we were starving, like I said) and burgers. Other than a pesky fly that wouldn't leave us alone, we had a fine dinner.

Back to the B&B for cards, reading, etc. Strangely enough, there was a bag of candy on the stairs leading up to our room. One of those miniature size ones of M&Ms, Snickers, etc. Well, me thinking of Hansel of Gretel, we did NOT partake.

The next morning we had breakfast (this time the cook made it fresh for us; refer to one of my previous blog entries about tipping). Then, it was time to load up and drive back home.

So, our adventure in Clemmons NC 2008 was a huge success. I'm sure we'll do something very similar next year!

Mrs. B

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Adventures in Clemmons, NC: Part Four

I'd best finish this up as soon (my sister in law is in labor as I blog this) I'll have two much anticipated little babies to blog about :-)

So, after Buck Shoals, we hit a few wineries that now I don't really remember. We ended up at Flint Hill Vineyards, another newish winery (at least new to us) http://www.flinthillvineyards.com/ . All that we sampled there was tasty, but, in particular, they had an excellent Chambourcin that was spicy and smokey; sort of tasted like a mouthful of cigar smoke. I know that probably sounds gross to some of you, but, really, it isn't. The smoke grabs you by the throat and the wine begs to be drank with BBQ steaks, a hearty lasagna or stew, and, of course, sipped while puffing away on a fine stogie! We bought about 1/2 a case of this. The lady that was pouring (and I think she was part of the family) told us they recently opened up a restaurant at their winery were they serve "fine" food and only their wines. Might be worth trying one of these days.

Next, on to Thistle Meadow Winery http://www.thistlemeadowwinery.com/?www.catchwine.com which is one we've been to before. We like tasting at this one in particular at the Wine Festival because they are ORGANIZED. They have the tasting area sectioned off with sweetie wines on one side and drys on the other. Then, even more so; whites on the left, reds on the right. AND, they have a list of what wines are being poured in what section. Not that 1/2 of the people tasting pay attention, but, we like this set-up and, usually, there isn't a huge line for the dry reds (go figure) so we can step right up. This year, we tasted their gamut and ended up taking home a few of their Shiraz, Old Vine Zinfandel and Carmenere (A LOT of this one!)

Finally, we tasted and bought once again from Round Peak http://www.roundpeak.com/. They have a real well-rounded selection but, in particular, their "Italian" Reds are a stand-out. Unfortunately, we thought we bought and paid for their Reserve Sangiovese; but, when we opened the box the next day, it was their "normal" Sangiovese which was nice, but NOT as nice as the reserve. Luckily, they didn't charge us the reserve price. We also took home a few bottles of their buttery Chardonnay and a Nebbiolo. They were NOT pouring their Sweet Niagra, which tastes, in essence, like very good grape juice (but it's wine). We bought some a few years ago and still have one bottle; keep meaning to serve it a brunch or something cut with some Prosecco.

Mr. B relaxes at picnic time

After pretty much tasting everywhere we wanted, we settled in for a big lunch of burgers and potato chips (and a bottle of Riesling from Rock of Ages). Let me tell you, this was an excellent switch to our process (eating). It definitely helped with the tipsyness and likely kept us from buying more wine than we really wanted (we ended up with enough as it was).

The crowd as seen from our spot under the shade tree

We went over our tasting notes, selected what wineries/wines/how much and, after resting a bit, went and methodically bought our wine. This year, we elected to have the wine "shipped" up to the front gate of the park where they had a tent set up for folks to pick their wine up on their way out. This made a lot of sense to us (especially after the aforementioned cart tipping over fiasco of 2006). After ordering, we went back to our tree to share a bottle of Buck Shoals Gold Mead (but, we only drank 1/2 of it because Mr. B had to "drive" to the tent and then back to the B&B).

Mrs. B enjoys some honey mead

After packing up our picnic gear, we walked to the car, drove to the tent, got our wine (we had our own table so that might tell you how much we ended up with) and went back to the B&B to settle in for the remainder of the evening/night with another picnic of good stuff that goes great with wine!

Ok, I guess I have ONE more entry to go on this; our golfing outting and our excursion to the restaurant Sunday night. But, that might have to wait for a few days!

Mrs. B

Monday, June 9, 2008

Random Thoughts for a Monday Morning

1. It's gonna be another scorcher here in North Carolina. We've had record heat (and humidity, at least that's what it seems to me) for days now. It wasn't all that long ago that I was griping about it being cold. What happened to Spring? Please don't tell me we're in for three months of this! I keep hearing people (either locals or those that have lived here long enough to consider themselves such) say, "This is very unusual for this time of the year!" My Father told me he's lived in Florida now for 10 years, and, every year, some "local" says the same thing about Florida weather. Obviously, then, every year is "unusual", which, in essence means, every year is the same, right? In any event, I do recall in 2005 it was this nasty because that was when we had a lot of out of town guests here for our wedding celebration. It was pretty damn hot and humid then, too.

2. We went to a wine club member event at Chatham Hill Winery Friday evening (this winery was at the Wine Festival in Clemmons but we didn't taste/buy any wine then since the winery is about 20 minutes away from our house). We were pleasantly surprised to find that a) we each received two free glasses of wine b) there was a buffet dinner (and a good one), not just the cheese and crackers that we expected c) they were doing a barrel tasting of a very nice Cabernet Franc (some debate between the winery workers as to whether or not it'll actually be bottled) and d) we met some interesting folks who sat down at the table with us and talked about wine, beer and traveling (three of our favorite things) all evening long.
3. Brother Jon came by Saturday to borrow Mr. B's table saw. No babies as of yet; Shannon is keeping 'em in (for now!) Jon brought us a new Highland brew to try (as he says, "It's hard to go wrong with a NC beer!); this one was no exception.
4. Saturday night we went to a Bulls game. One season it seemed that every game we went to, they won. Unfortunately, the opposite appears to be true this season. At least it was nice and warm; maybe a bit too much so. That Bud Select went down nicely. The African Childrens Choir sang The National Anthem. It was quite beautiful.
5. Yesterday was "chore" day in preparation for our upcoming visit from Mr. and Mrs. Senior B. Also, we are in the process of moving all items out of the furniture in our living room and dining room so they will be easier to move. This has not been a lot of fun but since we are getting a new floor, I won't complain too loudly.
6. We watched "There Will Be Blood" last night (NetFlix). It was a somewhat odd movie, but, worth watching due to Daniel Day-Lewis's Oscar winning performance. Next up on my "watch" list (while on the elliptical machine) is another round of "The Dog Whisperer".
7. It's HOT.
8. It's now 7:40 am and I REALLY should go work out before it's gets much hotter and I elect to bag it because it's too hot.
9. I finally hit a 40% win rate on my Hearts (card) game. I still think the bloody thing, cheats, though. I'm sure I'll start getting trounced now.
10.We had a great dinner last night (albeit sort of late since it was so HOT); grilled garlic-lime pork chops with black bean and tomato quinoa salad (the dressing for the salad was lime juice based as well). Also, Mr. B ate almost an entire bag of sauteed spinach (I had "some"). We washed it all down with a bottle of Rock of Ages Shiraz. Nice and peppery and smooth. Yum yum!
11. Have I mentioned I need to get on the elliptical machine?
Mrs. B

Friday, June 6, 2008

Adventures in Clemmons, NC: Part Three

After Black Wolf, we headed over to Lake James Cellars, http://www.lakejamescellars.com/ which is one of the wineries we discovered in 2006. Now, in all honesty, we were sort of two sheets to the wind by the time we ran into Lake James Cellars in 2006; we bought some of their wine, and, it was just fine. What I recalled about their wines was, although they did have some "fruit" ones, they were not cloyingly sweet. In fact, their Lineville Mist tasted exactly like fresh green apples. Since we know some folks that come over and visit us DO like wines on the sweeter side, we figured we'd better stock up on a few GOOD bottles of sweet wine. Lake James Cellars also has a more than decent Pinot Noir-ish dry red wine and a wine in the "ice wine" style (we finally drank the bottle we got in '06 at Easter this year). This year, we elected to buy a few bottles of the Pinot Noir-ish (they call it Shortoff Red), a few of the semi-sweet red (nice slightly chilled), the Lineville Mist and the "ice wine". That's what we THOUGHT we bought, anyway. When we opened up the box the next morning, we discovered NO ice wine, only one bottle of the Lineville Mist, and two bottles of something called Southern Magnolia, which, as it turns out, is a Chardonnay-ish wine with peach flavor. Uh, well, I guess we might make some white sangria out of that!
On to one of our new favorite places, Buck Shoals http://www.buckshoalsvineyard.com/. Man, I wish I'd thought to get a picture of the winemaker, Dana. He was something else; he looked like someone that makes booze in the "hills" of NC; think Grandpa Jones with a long grey braid, grey beard, and John Lennon glasses; rail thin and wearing old blue jeans, a plaid shirt and suspenders! That was Dana.
The Real Grandpa Jones
Imagine him with no hat and add a long grey braid and beard and you've got Dana!
Anyway, when we got over to Buck Shoals, not many other tasters were there so we had Dana all to ourselves. He was highly enthusiastic about his wines and almost giddy about pouring them for us. He was so thrilled about his new addition to his line, the blueberry mead, that he started pouring the wines all out of order. No matter. They were all really, really good. Right off the bat, we told him we didn't like sweet wines overly much to which he replied, "Well, then, I hope I can change your mind about something today!" He told us that they make their meads using honey and water and that's it. We first tried the "gold" mead (just that, honey and water); slightly chilled. I was amazed at how unsweet it was. It's hard to describe just what it DID taste like; it had a bit of a sharp honey taste but it was real mellow. Since we didn't pass out, he next gave us the blueberry mead, which turned out to be one of the standouts of the day. A little bit of tangy blueberry, a lot of that mellow honey; oh, wow. Now, I'll admit, I probably couldn't sit there and drink glass after glass of mead, but, it sure is a nice switch from "the usuals". We also tried his apple mead (frankly, he made us try everything) which WAS sort of sweet, but, he told us a lot of folks warm it up in a crock pot (like a hot cider) for the holidays. We could imagine that being fantastic, so, we bought some of that, along with the other meads and something called Vitto's Pride, which was a full-bodied red.
Dana told us that his winery is about ready to offer their own apple brandy and some other "distilled" beverages. This is one place we might have to just get into the car and visit one of these days.
So, we spent something like 20 minutes standing there talking to Dana. At one point, there was a foursome standing next to us and one of the "ladies" in the group was a real bitch on wheels. I think, in hindsight, that she was annoyed that we were standing there for so long, but, Dana didn't ignore them. This broad kept saying, "I don't want any of the sweet ones, just the dry reds!" to which he replied (as he had to me), "I hope to change your...." interrupted by "I don't THINK so!" She kept shoving hers and the other three glasses under my right elbow to put them onto the table. He would start to pour something while describing it; she'd snatch her glass away saying "I don't want THAT!" When he started talking about the meads, she said, "No! Too sweet!" one of her group standing behind her said, "What is mead?" and she said "It's really sweet, like Muscadine!" I turned to her and said, "No, it's not; it's made with honey and it is not overly sweet at all". She looked at me as if to say, "Who the hell asked YOU?" Well, I didn't care; I thought she was being rude to the poor winemaker who was so excited about his wines. Finally, she trounced off with a sniff.
You know, I don't mind the folks at the festival who line up to get all of the sweet wine. I find it amusing; but, hey, if it is what they like, that's cool. And, it is interesting to talk to the winemakers and the other patrons who know a thing or two about wine, even if some of them might be a tad snobby. But, there is nothing worse than a person who THINKS they are a wine snob but, in reality, doesn't know shit about wine.
Our other "new" favorite winery up next!
Mrs. B

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tipping Behavior

I think most folks have a fairly strong opinion on tipping and who to tip. I know I've ended up in plenty of discussions with people about this, some of the discussion have been quite lively!
In general, I am a tipper. Knowing that many of the people I tip are paid minimum wage (or sometimes even less) and rely on tips is part of the reason, but, mostly it is to "reward" good service. Tipping can certainly be used as a communication tool, too. A 15% (or more) tip to, say, a waiter in a restaurant, means "Good job! Thanks!" while a zero % tip means "You really screwed up!" I'm not really a believer in giving a tip between zero and 15%. To me, 15% is for a good job, more means excellent job; it just doesn't fit into my scheme of things to "reward" for anything less than a good job.
I will admit, though (and Mr. B will look askance at me when I do this; not because he's cheap and unfeeling but because it goes against the grain of his accountant mind) that sometimes I'll leave a bigger tip than is perhaps required because I'm trying to get rid of all the spare coins I'm hauling around in my purse. I did this a Cracker Barrel the other day; I left $2.80 which amounted to about a 30% (or maybe even more) tip. Yeah, the waitress was chirpy and friendly and efficient; but, did she deserve THAT much of a tip? Well, probably not. But, it was $2.80 for crying out loud, it wasn't like it was $22.80!
I digress.
I believe in tipping the people that provide beauty services (again, assuming they did a good job and didn't turn my hair purple or wax 1/2 of my eyebrow off my face). I've discovered over the years that if you give a decent tip, these same folks are more likely to squeeze you in "in an emergency" or stay late if you are running late, etc. With the ladies that used to to my nails, a nice tip usually meant they wouldn't charge me extra for repairs or for French manicures; sometimes, they charge me for a cheaper service than what I actually received. So, tipping can pay one back.
I'll never forget the huge argument my ex husband got into with his cousin one Thanksgiving. His cousin, Joe, was a truck driver; he delivered things like heavy TVs, appliances, etc., in NYC. Again. IN NYC. Which meant driving around those crazy streets, trying to find a place to pull the truck over, and hauling whatever it was up flights of stairs into apartments, brownstones, etc. Joe said, "Hell yeah, I expect to get some sort of tip for doing stuff like that!" The ex said, "That's what you get PAID to do, Joe! I don't get tipped when I create an especially difficult computer program!" This is where I pipped in (because I was tending to side with Joe) "Sure you do, honey, it's called a BONUS!" If looks could kill, I'd be lying six feet under right now.
So, you can imagine the fights the ex and I had about tipping, especially when it came to movers. But, I always won out because we're talking about people that are moving your things. I know, I know; to his credit, what he was saying was they are paid to do it well, it is their job; one shouldn't feel they have to give a moving van driver an extra $50 to split amongst his crew just to ensure the furniture isn't scratched or mud isn't tracked onto your brand new carpet, but, that's the game.
And, another point here is this; it doesn't have to be A LOT of money (I'm talking about the non-restaurant tipping situations now). Sometimes, I think it's the gesture that counts more than anything else.
So, yeah; I'll put my extra change or a buck into the jar at Starbucks. I ALWAYS tip bartenders/pool-side servers (you can bet they always come by asking if I want something else, too).
Over the past several days, I've noticed that I (we) seem to be the only people tipping folks that don't "automatically" get a tip. For instance, at the B&B this weekend, there was a dude in the kitchen who, every weekend morning, set up a very nice full breakfast buffet. He'd then come out and pour juice and coffee, clear away dishes, etc. On weekdays, there is no buffet set out but he cooks a full breakfast if you want one; eggs, potatoes, grits, bacon and biscuits. Well, Mr. B and I routinely put a few bucks down on the table for people such as this when we leave. I noticed that NO ONE else in that breakfast room did.
I took the dirty disgusting bird-crap covered Escape to the car wash Tuesday. I sat there and watched two guys scrub and scrub and scrub. It was taking FOREVER. Finally, one of the guys said, "We're trying to get all the bugs off for you, it won't be much longer!" I already knew I was going to tip them because I typically tip at the car wash (again, not much; maybe a buck or two). I sat there watching my fellow patrons go collect their cars. No tips from any of them.
So, I don't know; maybe due to the "economy" now (everyone is blaming everything on the price of gas), people are cutting back in a lot of ways and the first way is to stop tipping. To me, this seems a bit uncivilized; I mean, cut back on your 2nd Big Mac or something like that! If one can afford to go to B&Bs and to get their car washed by someone else, one can probably afford to leave a tip.
Ok, I will admit there has always been one instance where tipping bugs the hell out of me and that is the curbside baggage dudes. NOT because I don't want to tip them for checking my bags, putting the tags on them, and getting them safely to the airplane (it's worth a few bucks a bag to not have to wait in the huge line inside) but what irritates me is how they hold out their hand for the tip. Now, that's presumptuous!
I just read in the paper that some of these Sky Caps in other cities have sued (and won) because their airline is now charging people to check their bags at the curb, which means the patrons are less likely to leave a tip, too. They claim their airlines new practice is robbing them of income that before hand was pretty much a bird in the hand.
So, I got to thinking, would I tip them? Yeah, I probably would. Not just because I don't want my bag going to Paris when I'm going to Puerto Vallarta; mostly, because the price of the service has gone up; this shouldn't mean there shouldn't be a tip. Just like if the salon raises the prices to get a hair cut; I wouldn't stop tipping my stylist, or, if my favorite restaurant raised its menu prices, I wouldn't leave less than a 15% tip for the waiter.
Interesting times!
Mrs. B

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Adventures in Clemmons, NC: Part Two

As Mr. B alluded to in his comment to my first post on this subject, we had a great process this time around for tasting (and ultimately buying) the wine.
While we were at the gate waiting to get in, they handed out a program of which wineries were there and where they were located. Right off the bat we were extremely disappointed to see that one of our past favorites at the festival, Rock House, was not in attendance, nor was Biltmore (no big loss since you can buy their wine in every local grocery store) or Shelton (this was another disappointment since Doc and Analee had highly recommended checking this winery out).
But, there were some other favorites there and some new ones (to us) that we thought we'd try out.
So, as earlier reported, we got into the gate, set up our picnic spot, and headed over to the wineries.
Because we were "first in the gate" and other patrons were busy getting their picnic spots arranged, there were not, at first, many people tasting. As Mr. B said, this made it far more enjoyable a) not to have to elbow our way up to the tasting tables and b) get to talk to the owners/wine makers (although not every winery we visited had informed people staffing their booths, most did).
First up was a winery that now I can't remember its name because we didn't like their wine so didn't buy any. I do remember, though, that the pourer poured the wine backwards, meaning, he started off with the dry red and moved down to the dry white (we did not want to taste any of their sweet wines). For those of you who don't know, the correct way to taste wine is from dry to sweet and typically they will begin with the dry whites, move to the semi-dry (off-dry; semi-sweet) whites, then on to the dry reds and finally end up with "dessert" wines (which is what a lot of people in NC drink like table wine...ugh) sherries, ports, etc.
We then ventured over to one we hadn't seen before called Hinnant Family Vineyards, which is located in Pine Level. http://www.hinnantvineyards.com/?www.catchwine.com Along with the standard "sweetie wines" using the predictable Muscadine grape (we heard from MANY wine makers that they don't LIKE to make sweet wine but since that is what the majority of their customers like, they do make it) they also had some dry wines. We liked (and bought) something called Norton. At first I thought that was its "brand" name and thought it was pretty funny to call a wine "Norton" but then realized I'd misunderstood the pourer when he was talking about the different grapes in the wine. I thought he was describing a meritage (or blend) of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel but what he actually said was the grape itself is called Norton and it grows well in parts of NC but mostly in VA and KY. Well, he was right; this particular wine had flavors of all three of those grapes, finishing off with the nice spiciness of a good Zinfandel. Of course, Norton was the most expensive of the lot!
Next we stopped over to say "hi" to our friends at Rock of Ages http://www.rockofageswinery.com/index.html. You might recall that this is winery that had the Cork and Pork Festival that we went to (and I blogged about) in early May. By mutual agreement, we decided there was no sense in buying a bunch of wine from the wineries we could get to easily enough from home (plus we bought enough already from Rock of Ages at their festival) but, we elected to taste their wines, anyway, since it was hot and they'd brought along their nice "stainless" Chardonnay, semi-dry Riesling, and their two semi-sweet reds that, for whatever odd reason, we like. It might be the names; "Bushy Fork Red" and "Cork and Pork"! In any case, they sure taste great when you're warm!

Then, we went over to Black Wolf for the obligatory pictures in front of their banner (we do this every year). We tasted there, too; but, were pretty disappointed in their offerings. Like so many of the other vineyards, they brought mostly sweet wines with them (because that is what sells). In years' past, they had an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon but it was nowhere to be seen on this day. Oh well, we got our pictures, at least!

More soon on our two new favorite wineries and a few of our old stand-bys.
Mrs. B