Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mark's Birthday Weekend

We decided to go back to the Yadkin Valley for one day/evening (this is where we went in January for a long weekend) to celebrate Mark's birthday.

We left home around 10 on Saturday and, after a pit stop over at brother Jon's to check up on their cat Raz (who came out for food, must have been because Mark was with me as she'd been ignoring me up to that point), we were on the road!

All told, it takes just about 2 hours to get to the start of the wineries (at least coming from that direction). We'd planned on stopping for a late breakfast/early lunch but didn't really see much that sounded good. We finally decided to eat at a Cracker Barrel. Hey, not my favorite but you can usually find something worth chowing on. Forget it! The place, at 11:15, was overflowing with people waiting for a table. 45 minute wait; no way! What IS it about this place, anyway?

So, instead, we went through a nearby Wendy's drive-thru (it seems we only eat fast food when on road trips) which meant we got to our first winery RagApple Lassie, a lot sooner than we'd thought we would.

We signed up for their wine club back in January. All told, they have really nice wines. We did a full tasting (over 15 wines; good thing they were not pouring huge tastes). Most of them we'd tried before but there were several new vintages and a new dessert-y wine called ZinSational Zen, which, although too sweet to drink a lot of, would be an excellent choice to serve with either a rich chocolate torte or a off-sweet hazelnut cake. After chatting with the folks who were also tasting (a trio of youngish women), we bought six bottles of wine and headed over to Raffaldini, about 30 minutes away.

We'd signed up for a tour with the wine maker at 2:45 (really, the impetus for our trip). We experienced a pleasant enough 45 minutes listening to him talk (no free wine samples, boo!) I always learn something. This time, it was that grapes produce better wine if they are cold when they are pressed. Apparently, the same goes for olives, hence why you typically will see "Cold Pressed" on nice bottles of olive oil.

After the tour, we went to the tasting room to pick up our wine shipment and do a tasting. The place was CRAMMED full of other tasters. Also, a wedding was about to start at 5:00 so there was some spill over with that. One of the women tasting with us was a dead-ringer for the actress who played Prissy in Gone with the Wind. I didn't feel like I could tell her that, though. They'd just released their Pino Vino II; not the best of their wines (they have a reserve Sangiovese and a Montepulciano that are both fantastic) but they'd had a recent contest regarding the label. People submitted pictures of their dog. I had seriously considered submitting Lucy but the day the winner was announced was the day The Kid graduated from high school and I knew we couldn't be there (assuming she would have won, which, given her total cuteness, she probably had an excellent chance). The dog on the new label looked like an English sheepdog.

Raffaldini routinely has some pretty decent sounding events, including fancy dinners with local and seasonal ingredients used to prepare the meal, all paired with four different wines. However, they never have any of this going on when we are there. We noticed the next one is in early October; we may try to go to that one.

Anyway, after leaving Raffaldini with our wine shipment plus a few more bottles, we went in search of the B&B. I'd reserved the room about a month earlier; not the same B&B we stayed at in January (although that one was certainly nice); rather, one a bit closer to both Raffaldini and the restaurant we planned on going to for dinner.

First, for whatever reason, Yahoo's directions were wacky this time. They had us going through someone's field to get to the main road from the winery! So, it took us a while to find the B&B, even though it is not as though Elkin, NC is a huge place!

Home Coming B&B was touted as a "Christian B&B". Frankly, that did give me some pause at first. But, we decided to chance it. What do I mean by that? Mainly, we don't like religion, any religion, thrust in our faces. I was wondering if attending church might be required before they'd feed us Sunday morning (just kidding). In the end, we figured we'd give it a try and now I'm really glad that we did as it was a perfectly delightful place, even though there were bibles all over the place and gospel music playing in the background as we ate breakfast. Their only request was that no alcohol be consumed in any of the public areas. No problem. The room was large and clean; complete with a vanity area and a good sized bathroom with a nice sunken garden tub (which we took of advantage to consume a bottle of wine out of the public eye; wink-wink).

Anyway, after checking into the B&B, we decided to try and move our dinner RSVP up since we were about 2 hours ahead of schedule. This we were successful in doing and headed off to Twenty One and Main for a excellent dining experience. Read my review on TripAdvisor here.

Mr. B at Twenty One and Main

After a huge breakfast Sunday morning (which we were able to pre-order the night before), we were on the road home by 10 or so. On our way back to Durham, we stopped at The Kid's college (Guilford) and drove around so we could get a visual. Very, very quaint; a small campus with several brick buildings and beautiful crepe myrtle trees in full summer bloom. We didn't contact her, figuring she'd be busy bonding with her new dorm roommate (turns out she wished we had told her we were there; she would have liked to see us; oh well).

So, a pleasant weekend for the B's! But, I didn't take many pictures. Here are a few of the B&B.
Nice king-sized bed. That sign on the table contained the "no drinking in public" request. Also, there were TONS of "No Smoking" signs. No cigars on the porch here.
Goodly sized room. That's an excellent bottle of Sangiovese Riserva there on the chest!
Vanity area; site of one of the three bibles found in the room.
Mark checks out the evacuation plan; I'm in the mirror (somewhat!)

Mrs. B

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pin Up Lucy!

Click here to view these pictures larger

We decided to buy the pictures from Lucy's photo shoot so that we can do "whatever" we want with them! Just in case you didn't see them, here they are!

Mrs. B

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Monday Ramble Ramble

What a busy weekend. It seems I spent most of it in the kitchen preparing for Mr. B's (early) b-day celebration, which was a somewhat impromptu gathering. The Kid's off to college this coming Thursday; she suggested coming over yesterday to celebrate her dad's birthday, which got me to thinking, "why not invite the whole family?" Anyway, we had a great time! I'm posting a few pictures; some I took, some my (very talented semi-pro photographer SIL) Analee took.
The Kid, Mark and Jon hanging out
Birthday Boy (photo courtesy of Analee)

We had food coming out of our ears; in a mostly Mexican theme. The jalapeño poppers were SMOKIN' (click here if you want the recipe) and, in typical I Am My Mother's Daughter fashion, I made a ton of burritos, two types of rice, homemade salsa, and a cool green tomato-cuke-avocado soup (for those who could eat it). Unfortunately, my German chocolate cake did a crack-act. Too humid; should have added more flour/less water. C'est la vie; it was eaten, all the same (the rest is going to work with Mr. B tomorrow as I do NOT need it around!)
German chocolate crack-cake (photo courtesy of Analee)
Grammy doing what she does best. Holly loved my crack-cake! (photo courtesy of Analee)
Holly seems to like to play with unusual toys! Here, sitting in the cat toy from my Father and Margot (photo courtesy of Analee)
And here "riding" Great Uncle Jack's decoy duck!
The future Senator from NC! (photo courtesy of Analee)
Living the life in the "Goodliest" land of NC: Grammy, Grandpa, Kendal and Holly (photo courtesy of Analee)

As for the rest of my ramble, here it 'tis:

Speaking of The Ramble; was very sorry to learn that one of my Father's favorite haunts, Thee Ramble Inn, burned down the other day. He's taken me there at least twice, maybe more, when I've been in Florida visiting. I even have a tee shirt (as does Mr. B). The beer was always reasonable and the staff friendly. RIP, Ramble.

So, yeah, The Kid is off to college this coming Thursday. She appears to be geared up for it with the most difficult aspect of it (for now) being leaving her dog. Mr. B told her we'd come visit "from time to time" to take her out to dinner (it being about an hour and a half away; not too far from the company that I still do occasional consulting for).
The Kid and her dad

Speaking of THAT, I still am. The other day I was in the salon getting my mani/pedi and looked over to see some man slumped in one of the pedi chairs taking a nap whilst getting his pedi (you don't see this too often, BTW; men in pedi chairs). Anyway, he was a DEAD RINGER for the guy who hired me two years ago (can't believe it's been two years). Of course, what would HE be doing in Raleigh getting a pedicure? Suffice it to say, it was not him. Thank God. I don't know what I would have thought to say.

I just received the disk of Lucy's photo shoot in the mail today. I don't have the particulars on ordering the calendar yet, but, they are forthcoming. Alert to those who may be interested; they are not terribly cheap. We won't be offended if you decide not to buy one.
Lucy begging for cookie crumbs from Analee (who also took this picture!)
Lucy is probably wondering why Analee is lying on the ground with her. Analee's pictures of Lucy were just as nice as the photographer's!

KB is coming tomorrow to stretch the carpets. Again. Long story short; the carpet is buckling again, I pitched a fit, and they are coming. Hey, if you don't ask, you don't receive. Let's hope this works but I'm not that optimistic since it didn't really work the last time.

This has meant that I had to remove all the books from our SIX book cases again. This served to remind me that we have a ton of books, many of which I've not read. The Kid's bathroom is loaded up with them; it's an interesting site. I should go take a picture!

I am working on a photo book of our cruise. It's taking me a lot longer than I thought it would to compile. I did one for our trip to Orlando last fall and I really liked the way that one turned out. This one, though, is already about twice its size. I'd best hurry so it's done before we go on our NEXT cruise in January. I was able to get Royal Caribbean to honor a coupon we received after we'd booked the cruise, even though it said we had to have it when we booked. Well, they sent it as an encouragement for us to book another cruise (which we already had), so, we had done what they wanted us to, just six weeks before they sent the coupon!

How many times does this happen to me! I buy something, anything; and, the very next day, there is a coupon for it in the mail or in the paper. This time, at least, it all worked out.

Using coupons does pay. I'm already up to $500 or so saved since February, just by using coupons (and I'm not even counting the dry cleaning coupons). This will go towards our vacation(s). People who don't use coupons (or sign up for My Points) are throwing money down the drain.

We wrapped up the execution of our updated wills last week. Such a fun thing to do, but, necessary. There are a few handwritten things we need to take care of, but, at least the major part of it is done (or, rather, redone). Sigh.

I was looking through pictures of my high school's annual reunion weekend (held last weekend in San Diego) on Facebook. I can see a bunch of people's pictures, even though we are not Friends. This is because some folks have no idea how to keep their information private. Anyway, in so doing, I came across one and, lo and behold, there was a lady who'd been a great friend of mine in high school. I've tried on several occasions to get back in touch with her; but, she never replies/reaches back. This makes me somewhat sad, but, whatever. I guess some people just don't want to be found. At least found by me :-)

We're off to the Yadkin Valley this weekend for a sojourn at a few of the wineries there (including a tour with one of the wine makers), a stay at a B&B, and dinner (for Mr. B's b-day) at what is supposed to be a real nice restaurant. At least the menu looks fantastic!

Then, a family reunion in September will mean a trip to Indiana. These two outings are helping my itchy feet syndrome somewhat. Mom opined the other day that I must have gypsy blood in me. I just like to travel. Anywhere. Ok, maybe not to Oklahoma.

Our pets are all fine. Knock on wood that there hasn't been a reoccurrence of Lucy's MCT. Her fur is growing back (that which isn't falling out due to the shed season, I mean!) The cats seem happy enough. Ares has developed an odd habit of wanting to hang out in the downstairs coat closet. I swear, he is one WERIDO cat. So, I let him; otherwise, he sits outside the door and howls. He also cries and carries on in the early morning hours. I think he's got some Siamese in him. Pete and Lily are getting through the summer by hanging in the bathroom; Lily in the sink

Fantastic picture of Lily taken by Analee last night!

and Pete sprawled out on the floor. Athena and Apollo are so little compared to the other three and still freak out a bit at times when we approach them. Apollo, though, will now tolerate Mr. B because he gives him (and the rest) turkey lunch meat in the mornings. Athena always looks bug-eyed.
Athena: "Nope. I am NOT coming out from under the bed, Analee!

It's been a LONG HOT summer. Here is hoping some refreshing changes in the weather (and other areas) will be upon us soon.

Oh and yes; seven years ago, I was just beginning my adventure in Italy (without my suitcase). I'll never regret what I did.

Mrs. B

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cruise Vacation Blog The End

27, 28 and 29 May 2019 Enchantment of the Seas Days Eight and Nine: At Sea and Time to Disembark!

27 May

Tonight is the 2nd (and last) formal night. Time to wear the black beaded! Hopefully after a week on board, I can still fit in to it.

Since today (and tomorrow) are sea days, we’ll likely not do too much except hang out by the pool, visit anyplace on board we’ve not been to yet and start the packing process (ugh). I’m sure, too, we’ll have to figure out the whole gratuity thing (they are pre-paid, so, how do we ensure our folks know we’ve got them covered?), maybe buy a souvenir (e.g., a Christmas ornament or some such) and some booze if the deals are right.


Spent the better part of the day at the pool; maybe too long, as we are now both sunburned in some strange odd spots (back of thigh, side, knee, etc.) This time, we stayed at the main pool for a change of pace. From our vantage point, we had an excellent view once again of the line dancing class

and the belly flopping contest. Quite silly but definitely amusing; two contenders tied so there had to be a “flop off”.

People up on Deck 10 watching the Belly Flop Contest in the pool below

Drink of the day was an Ocean Breeze; Placid was out there serving drinks, which meant they were extra strong.

Nice sunny day at the pool

Clear blue skies

I wandered into the Windjammer Café without my cover up on and was told (politely) to go cover up, which I did. Hey, I didn’t mind being reminded, I only wish they were a bit more consistent in enforcing their dress code policy since we have, on several occasions, seen shorts, tank tops and jeans in the main dining room at dinner (including on formal nights). This will be some of my feedback to Royal Caribbean (be consistent).

Dinner was great as usual; afterwards, we went to a karaoke show (once again observing, not participating!) and then to the Viking Crown Lounge for an après dinner drink and cigar.

Cocktails at Table 86

View outside our dining room window

Dinner 27 May 2010

As we were walking down the hallway to our stateroom, we ran into Esther, who apologized profusely for not having had the time to fashion our nightly towel creature. Sure enough, there wasn’t anything on the bed when we entered. However, a few moments later, we discovered this little guy hanging NEAR the bed. I think he’s my favorite of the cruise. And, obviously, Esther has a sense of humor!

My favorite monkey!

28 May

Alas, vacation is winding down and, unfortunately, Mr. B isn’t feeling too well this morning, so, we’ll definitely have a low-key day. Time to go get (smaller) bills in case we want to hand out extra tips (turns out we got vouchers to give to the attendants for their primary tips) and maybe hang out in the Solarium before having to pack/get ready for dinner.

I’m sitting outside now on our balcony enjoying a lovely view of the water. It’s going to be hard to give this up (and I’m trying not to fret about my looming To Do List!)


Took it slow today; just basically read and rested in the Solarium. Said good-bye at dinner to our great attendants and were happy to give them extra tips. I wonder how many people don’t tip at all? Probably far too many.

Placid from India: Our Personal Dr. Yummy

Edmond from the Philippines: Our Waiter

Clayton from Jamaica: Our Assistant Waiter

Esther from Nicaragua: Our Stateroom Attendant

Don't get stung!

29 May

In the car on our way home now. Disembarkation wasn’t too bad. We left our luggage (except for carry-ons) outside our room by midnight last night. This morning, we had breakfast in My Fair Lady (the first and only time!); sitting with a group of folks we’d not seen AT ALL the entire nine days on board, which goes to show that even the smaller ships are relatively large.

After breakfast, we gathered the rest of our belongings and went to wait in one of the lounges for our number to be called. It was a pretty orderly process, although some people were getting their panties in a twist about not getting off as soon as they wanted to. These are probably the same folks who were on first thing when we boarded (ok, present company excluded since I guess we were #3 and #4 on board!)

The main hassle was going through customs only in that it took longer than it should have because several of the passengers were bringing back items from Haiti that were on the “watch” list.

All told, we were in the car and on our way by 10:00 am.

GREAT cruise, GREAT time; hopefully, we can do it again relatively soon. Oh, and our final Sea Pass bill was not as much as we thought it would be (but it was still hefty enough, even with the $200 on board credit plus the extra $100 mystery credit).

But, hey, it doesn’t cost as much to go first class…you just don’t go as often.

Mrs. B

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lucy's Photo Shoot

Yesterday was the big day for Lucy; her photo shoot for the Richmond VA 2011 SPCA Dog Calendar!

We met the photographer, Amber Dawn, in Petersburg, VA last evening around 6:30 pm. Amber picked this particular place because a) it was a bit closer for us to get to than Richmond and b) it has a quaint historic downtown area.

First, though, preparation at home!

Lucy, for whatever reason, is going through the big molt-down. Seriously, hair is dropping off her like no one's business. So, we took the shedding blade to her for about 20 minutes. After that, she got a bath (something she really does not like) in order to get the "tarnish" off her neck from her pinch collar plus to remove more hair. After, I brushed her and took off still more hair.

Around 3:30, we got into the car for the 2 hour or so ride up to Petersburg. BO-RING drive. Nothing at all to see; but, at least the drive was uneventful.

We arrived in Petersburg WAY before our scheduled 6:30 appointment. So, we found that place that we were to meet Amber, then, went to fill up on gas, hit a restroom, and find a snack.

We finally located a McDonald's (note: Amber was correct when she told us Petersburg was not a place we'd want to stay at overnight; interesting from a Civil War buff perspective, but, the town itself doesn't appear to have re-cooperated from the Civil War; very depressed). We ended up getting ice cream cones for us and a small hamburger for Lucy.

Lucy ate the hamburger in one gulp. My ice cream was dripping all over me so we decided to give it to Lucy.
Lucy probably thought; "Long ride in the car and a hamburger and ice cream. Life is good!"

Actually, she wasn't entirely sure about the ice cream at first but she finally figured out she was supposed to lick it!
We went back over to old town Petersburg and wandered around a bit waiting for Amber Dawn.
Walking around Petersburg with Dad
Lucy and Mom

When she showed up, she took several pictures of us with Lucy in front of an old house (which used to be the tourist center). Then, time to get the shots of Goosie!

All told, she took pictures in several locations, including rail road tracks, up in a large window sill of a building, more steps, and near a fire hydrant. For each location, Mark would get Lucy in position and take off her leash. I was REALLY nervous about this; I mean, Lucy OFF leash? But, she was beautifully behaved and sat right where she was supposed to. She didn't really care for sitting on the rail road tracks and was a bit uncertain about why she was up in a window sill, but, all in all, she was perfect. Amber Dawn said she was the most obedient dog she'd photographed. Seriously? OUR Lucy? I was so proud of her!

The pictures will be available for viewing in a few days; I'll make sure interested parties have the link.

The calendar itself should be available for purchase towards the end of this week; again, I'll provide details on that.

After finishing up, we got back in the car and drove home. We'd thought about staying in the area for the night but decided it wasn't worth the hassle of finding a motel that took dogs and paying the extra money for the pet fee. Plus, the drive was pretty fast and easy.

So, we were back home by 9:00 pm. A long day, but well worth it!

Mrs. B

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Friday, August 6, 2010

Amy and Mark

It WAS a long time coming, too!

Oh How the Years Go By

And they keep on going by, too.

Italian Vacation 2003

A wonderful two weeks with pal Hisaka.

Italia Verona 2003

Hard to believe this was seven years ago.

It's All About Me!

I should probably add to this one since there is now more of me.

Amy and Mark's 2006 in Review

Definitely a year of ups and downs.


Miss ya, Buggy.

Fathers and Daughters

I just felt like reposting this as it's one of my favorites!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cruise Vacation Blog Part Seven

26 May 2010 Enchantment of the Seas Day Seven: Labadee, Haiti!

Royal Caribbean has a private island on Labadee. This means that it has in essence nothing remotely resembling its original identity. That’s probably ok, considering most people on vacation don’t want to go to some miserly poor location, but, it doesn’t make for anything terribly special to remember, either. I’d read prior to leaving on vacation about Labadee; most of the reviews were along the lines of, “Yeah, get off the ship for awhile, maybe go zip-lining or ride the dragon roller coaster, but, it’s not that memorable”.

I have to agree.

We pulled in sometime around 9:00 am. It was already promising to be an extremely muggy day; overcast, with humidity dripping in the air. From the ship, the island looked like one you’d see in Disney World; “Typhoon Lagoon” or something like that.

Arriving into Labadee
Looking down from our balcony watching people getting off the ship
Mr. B with the Big Yellow Bag
Our stateroom is up there!

Once we were off the ship and roaming around, it DEFINITELY reminded me of a land at Disney World. “Haiti Haven”. But, hey, whatever. We’d really only planned on sacking out on the beach for awhile, reading, relaxing, etc.
Walking into Labadee

Someone brought us lounge chairs and we plopped down to enjoy the view of the water and watch the people zip-lining. I have to say, this does look like it might be sort of fun.

Believe it or not, Dr. Yummy was wandering around the beach offering the drink of the day (White Pearl; some sort of rum (of course) concoction that was terribly sweet). BTW, they actually broke the rum trend yesterday as the drink of the day was a Margarita.

View from our lounge chairs watching the zip-liners
Time to head back before it pours

Anyway, we had a pleasant enough afternoon but once it seemed we were about to get some rain, we high-tailed it back to the ship and to the Solarium. I was sorry we didn’t get to try some of the lunch they were serving on the island. Which brings me to a realization; after a week or so of having food and drink readily available at all times of the day and night; you find yourself not wanting to miss out on it, just in case it’s something really, really cool. Although, we DID forgo the midnight buffet (no way could I have eaten more food after just finishing up dinner at 10:30) a few nights ago and, even if I go look at whatever spread is there, I don’t usually take any of it. Except for the French fries. In “real life”, I hardly EVER eat French fries, but, for some reason, they are to die for on the ship.

Ok, I'm digressing here. Back to the Enchantment where we lazed about, safely covered from the downpour that eventually happened, out in the Solarium. Everyone on board is in extremely happy spirits, despite the fact we're on our way back to Norfolk now. But, of course, there are two full days at sea remaining.

Into our favorite place
And in our favorite spot

We went to some silly show tonight after dinner in the Spotlight Lounge called “Quest”. What made it pretty interesting, though, was that it was the audience participation that made up the entire show. Folks who wanted to “play” got together in teams of 10 or so. They were spread throughout the lounge; some up front, some on the sides, some in the way far back. The Cruise Director (who seemed to be having a terrific time) would stand in the middle of the dance floor and announce something he wanted the teams to bring him. Whatever representative from each team who got to him first got the most points, so on and so forth. The items in the “quest” started out simple enough; a Sea Pass card, a Cruise Compass (daily newsletter), etc. As the evening wore on, though, it became a tad more challenging (a man’s belt (without the man), a pair of nylons (without the woman) to the absolutely silly and inane (men wearing women’s shoes, women wearing men’s pants), etc. What was extremely amusing to watch was how much these people got into the game. They’d go running down to the dance floor, jumping over tables, people, etc., to get to the Cruise Director. Most of them were in their 20s and obviously have the time of their lives.

Suffice it to say, Mr. B and I were happy just to watch.

An aardvark. My sunglasses have been getting a lot of use!

Tomorrow…at sea!

Mrs. B