Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Season's Ballet

Don surprised me by buying tickets to George Ballanchine's The Nutcracker. I'd never been to see it, but Don had been once before a long time ago. The Pennsylvania Ballet performs at the Academy of Music in downtown Philadelphia.

It usually takes between forty-five minutes to an hour to get to Philly from where we live. Notice I wrote "usually." We were going to stop on the way and eat at one of our favorite restaurants, Don Pablo's. It is located in the Deptford mall, and neither of us took the time of year into consideration. We were half an hour just trying to get off the expressway onto the exit ramp when just two miles out. Then because we had decided to go the GPS way instead of the way we knew, we got turned around in traffic (lots of traffic) until we decided to eat on the way back instead. There sure are a lot of Christmas shoppers in this down economy! Luckily, we finished most of our shopping in October.

We got there in plenty of time to have a snack at a grill across the street from the Academy. Parking cost $18! Somebody besides me is making a lot of money for concrete and painted lines. Thank goodness everything was really close to where we parked though because it was really cold.

A few things were new to me since I'd never been to a ballet. I loved the bells signaling everyone to be seated. The theater was beautiful with red and gold decor. We were seated by the door which made it nice. I don't think there was a bad seat in the house unless it was behind a beam, but I noticed no one bought tickets there. Also I noticed that someone might miss a lot of the performance if not returned to their seat in time. You are not allowed back into the theater if the performance is ongoing. I'm glad that didn't happen to me.

I'm sure most everyone knows the story of The Nutcracker, but here's a short synopsis from the playbill:

"...begins on Christmas Eve, as the Stahlbaum family and their guests gather in the parlor for a jubilant holiday celebration. The eccentric Herr Drosselmeyer arrives and enthralls the children with his antics. He presents Marie with a beautiful wooden Nutcracker doll, which breaks in a scuffle with her brother. After the party winds down and the house is silent, Drosselmeyer mends the doll and the magic begins. The grand tree begins to grow beyond the proscenium, the snow begins to fall, and Marie and her Nutcracker Prince are carried away to the Land of the Sweets where delectable dances are performed for the pair. The Dew Drop Fairy, Hot Chocolate, Coffee, Tea, Candy Canes the Marzipan Sheperdesses, Mother Ginger and her Polichinelles, the Waltz of the Flowers, and the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier entertain Marie and her Prince. After all the dances in the Land of the Sweets have concluded, they sail off into the sunset on a gilded boat as Tschaikovsky's memorable music reaches its rousing finish."

Don kept mentioning how he would love to take the girls (Emily and Bri) to see a performance one day. We both enjoyed ourselves. I had a lovely time. I really want to go back now and see some other performances.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Skipping Christmas

It's been a while since one of us last posted. I'll take the initiative to do it now. There's a really good reason though why we haven't. I don't want to call us boring for the last few weeks, but.......what can I say?

It's December, and we should be actively seeking December things to do. But really, it's not in us this year. Sometimes we skip Christmas. This happens to be one of those years. We are already looking forward to going all out next year at Christmas. Isn't that funny? We've talked about putting up a bunch of outside lights - next year. We've made plans to have a cozy Christmas just the two of us - next year. We're planning to buy a new Christmas tree - next year. We just don't feel like it this year. This sort of thing happens to us about once every four years or so. Don't worry, it's our natural state. We're strange that way.

We haven't really been bored during the last few weeks. There has just been a lot going on like paperwork that needed to be finished, car wrecks and other stuff one doesn't usually discuss. But oh, did I say car wreck? Yep, Don had an accident. He's okay and didn't have to go to the hospital or see a doctor. He even walked home from the accident. (Frodo and I walked to meet him.) Thank God all is well with that. The car can be fixed too.

When all else fails, talk about the weather, right? Well, the weather shouldn't be keeping us from walking Frodo, but apparently, it's been a good excuse. We haven't been for a good walk in a while now. Poor doggy! It's supposed to be sunny tomorrow. You can bet we will have him out on a leash then.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wedding Bells

I've been meaning to write about our trip to Tennessee for about a week now. Better late than never I guess. The main reason we went was to attend my brother's wedding in Nashville. Don and I kid that we're getting too old for these 16 to 18 hour trips. As Don would say, "Whose kidding?" To pass the time while driving, we thought it appropriate to listen to The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks on CD.

All was well until the night before the wedding. Then came the inevitable family squabbling. A certain part of my family is now not talking to another part of my family and did not attend the wedding because of mean-spirited words. (And they were very mean words that serve no purpose in repeating). It's hard being in the middle trying to make it so everyone gets along. I do have to say though that I chose a side right away. It's not on the side of those mean words either. None of it had to do with the bride and groom. So all went according to plan, thank goodness.

Enough with family quibbling. The night before the wedding, we had dinner with John, Laura and close friends and relatives at the Caney Fork Fish Camp.
It was a country restaurant with a live bluegrass band. Yes, they have a red truck in the wall. Afterward, we took a ghost tour of downtown Nashville. It was a dark and stormy night.....well actually, it kind of was. It was raining, and we took the tour around 10 PM. Don and I think we'll go back to some of the places by ourselves sometime instead of a group.

The wedding took place the next day in a cute little chapel sort of on the side of the interstate. Laura's (the bride) dress was beautiful. And the groom, John, looked quite handsome (even though he's my brother). After the wedding and outside the chapel, we heard the chapel's bells. Beautiful. We also heard honking from the cars on the interstate. Cute.
After John and Laura drove off to honeymoon bliss (airport and then a carribean cruise), Don and I, my family and friends went to a Mexican restaurant. Our favorite is Mexican. We said our goodbyes there, and had to retire to the motel for an early wakeup call.

The trip back was just as long as the trip there! Funny how that happens. Only this time we listened to
Marley and Me. It's the only time I've ever been able to get Don to listen, read, or watch a dog story. We both knew it was going to be sad, but we didn't know just how sad. It was a two tissuer! I think we both loved on Frodo a lot more after that.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Walking in Tennessee

I noticed its been a while since I last updated here. We took a trip to Tennessee last week for a wedding. Naturally we took our child (Frodo) with us. He travels really well. He sleeps in his bed in the back seat until he feels the car slowing down, then he gets up to see where we are. He also loves to crawl up onto the lap of whoever is in the passenger seat and sleeps like a little baby. He is so sweet when he does this but after a while he gets very heavy and we have to fight to get him back into his bed. He tries everything he can to stay, he wraps his front paws around your neck in a doggy hug and it makes you feel bad about putting him in the back.

While in Tennessee we were able to take a couple of walks. There is a paved trail that follows along a river. It's really a nice walk. The first day we had to hurry because it was getting late so we only walked 3 miles. The next day we walked the full length of the trail, a total of 6 miles. We were both dragging after that one. One section of the trail was a wooden deck that extended over the edge of the river it was very scenic. We met a few other dogs while walking, I think Frodo took lessons from my son's St Bernard, when we walk he has a tendency to drool very badly.

We met one dog, a black lab, that Frodo had to greet, in the process he proceeded to wipe his slobber all over the dog's nose! I was so embarrassed! Here was this beautiful black lab, with a nice shiny glop of drool streaked across his nose! Such are the adventures of walking a beagle!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Long Walks

Wow what a weekend of walking! On Saturday we did the trails around the house. I wanted to walk further but Frodo had other ideas! We still managed to walk 4.25 miles. It was a great walk the weather was perfect for it. He is so funny, he knows all the trails and he knows all the short cuts. He kept trying to take all the short cuts and I just kept walking where I wanted, but I could tell he was not a happy beagle. When we get home from these walks he gets his drink and then disappears to his favorite sleeping spot and is dead to the world for the next few hours.

On Sunday we went to a new place, its a wildlife refuge about 5 miles from the house. They had a trail there call Songbird trail and it was 4.75 miles long. With the little side trails that we did I figured we walked at least 5 miles. It was a great walk, with some rolling hills and lots of birds. We also saw 4 deer. Three of them were together right in the middle of the trail. We stood and just watched each other for about 2 minutes before they went back into the woods. Its always fun on new trails because his beagle nose is going about a mile a minute smelling all the new smells. Its amazing how strong he is for a small dog. He catches a scent and practically drags me along until the scent runs out. I also thought I saw a bobcat, not sure, but if it wasn't it was sure a big cat! I didn't stay to find out one way or another! I will probably go back there again because it was such a nice walk. They even had benches spaced out about a half mile apart in case you need a rest. The only bad thing was I picked 5 or 6 baby ticks off my clothes when I got home. I guess they fell out of trees onto me because I never left the trail to go into the brush. I guess I need to use some of the dog's flea and tick repellent!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

It's Party Time!

Don and I went to the Tech Center's gala on Thursday. It celebrated fifty years of hard work and honored the past while looking forward to the future. The Trump Marina ballroom was a good venue. Personally, I enjoyed seeing all the different gowns women wore. There were many different and unique dresses in attendance. We decided not to buy anything new for the event, but Don looked especially handsome in his suit and tie.

Congressman Frank LoBiondo along with a few past tech center directors attended (the present one too). I chose to eat salmon and Don ate chicken. All the food was very good. The band played well, but I'm not sure where they got the singer. They could have made a better chose there. Nevertheless, they were able to keep the dance floor busy. We had a lot of fun.

Don and Frodo went for a four mile walk today before I ever got out of bed. I have to make a better committment towards walking with them. Don heard gunfire while they were on the trail. Apparently, it's deer season. It freaked me out a little, but Don said they were safe as long as they stayed on the trail they were on. He said there were signs posted along the way not to shoot toward the direction of the houses. Yikes! I told him to make sure he didn't venture off the trail. Actually, maybe during hunting season, we should stick to the parks instead of trails in the woods!

We went to Ft. Dix/McGuire AFB yesterday. We usually go only about once per year. Don bought some new clothes and luggage. And I got a new overnight case. It takes about an hour to drive there. We took a different route this time with the help of Garmin. It was better than our usual ride, I think. It was more scenic anyway.

After Don's and Frodo's walk, Don and I went to breakfast together at a favorite Irish cafe. I think it's going to be a lazy Saturday.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall hum drums

The fall/almost winter hum drums have set in. I haven't been walking the dog as much or as far and I think we are both suffering for it. I did take him for about a 2 - 3 mile walk Saturday and we just made it home before the down pour. Frodo does not like walking in the rain! The first few drops and he is shaking himself and wanting to head for home. I feel really bad for him, he is going through a really bad allergy spell. He keeps scratching his nose by rubbing it on the carpet or using his paws. He loves me to scratch just under his mouth with one hand and on top of his snout with the other. I give him a benedryl when it gets to bad just so he can get some sleep, not to mention me getting some sleep.

I know there are not many people following the baseball world series this year, but living this close to Philly, I have gotten caught up in the excitement. I can't believe I stayed up until 2am Sunday to watch the game. Frodo was the only smart one, he went to bed and had a good nights sleep!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Walking Near the Rich and Famous

We took a road trip this weekend to walk the dog and see some new sights. We drove to Rhode Island, Newport to be exact. Actually we went to Raynham, Ma and spent the night there. I learned one very important fact, even on the outskirts of New York City you are going nowhere fast. Its only 292 miles to where we stayed and it took us seven hours, three just getting around NYC. Other then that the drive was beautiful with all the trees and their fall colors. Newport is pricey, so we stayed in Raynham. It was only 38 miles away. The picture is taken from the Cliff Walk in Newport. It is a 3.5 mile walk (we only did 2.6 of it, one way) that borders the Atlantic Ocean and some of the most expensive and extravagant homes that I have ever seen! Some of these homes are still owned by the likes of the Rockefeller's and Vanderbilt's. Also there is a college there that has some of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen.

We only did 2.6 of the 3.5 miles because from the point where we stopped there were lots of narrow passages with 10 - 15' drops. The path has deteriorated due to storms so walking has become very hazardous. They even have warnings posted that if you get injured, you will be there a while. Since all the direct access is from private property, the medics have to come via the same path that you are on. But as it turned out, 2.6 miles was probably just right for a little beagle. The total round trip walk to and from the car was at least 6 miles! Plus we took time to play near the ocean with him. He liked the water but was scared of the waves, even the little ones that just barely covered his paws! It's a little strange we live in New Jersey near all the Jersey beaches, and the first beach Frodo visits is in Rhode Island!

Here is the result of a long walk and playing on the beach!

He got into the car, and I don't think we heard a sound from him other then snoring for the next 2 hours. While on the trail he was able to meet many other dogs and all sorts of people. I have got to say I was a little surprised at how well he did. He is normally not well mannered as he likes to jump on people and give them kisses. But there was no jumping, and he actually listened to what we told him. The funniest part of the day happened as we passed a family on the walk. From behind us, we heard a little boy call out, "Look at the fatty dog!" There were many a shhhh's from the parents, but we were too busy laughing and acknowledging that he indeed is fat. But we are working on it for both his sake and ours!

Small video of Frodo running from the waves!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Big Yellow School Bus

I'll see if I can write this with an ear on the presidential debate. Not too easy with the first sentence even!

Don and I went to Smithville over the weekend. For those who aren't as familiar, Smithville is a small historic town inside Galloway Township. Octoberfest or Oktoberfest, depending on where you are from, is a festival held once a year. The town of Smithville has these wonderful little shops and cafes within a small village. All are within walking distance of each other. But there were so many people this year, we had to park at the shopping center located outside the village and walk through condominium complexes to get there. We encountered geese while walking through one of these complexes. They were from the village and were probably pushed out of their home for the day by people and events at the festival. There were many more geese than what you see in this picture. These particular ones were warming their bellies on the asphalt. When we got there, we could hear live music and smell all kinds of food - homemade potato chips, funnel cakes, crab cakes, shrimp, bbq, hot dogs, hamburgers, etc.

There's a bridge connecting one part of the village to another. We walked over it, but it took a few minutes because there were so many people. They have small boats fiercely peddled by event goers that can sometimes be seen floating slowly under the bridge. Don and I decided not to exert ourselves with the boats since we had to walk back to the car. Actually, any excuse would have sufficed.

We enjoyed ourselves so much we went back the next day. We didn't want to walk, so we took the shuttle which turned out to be a big yellow school bus. Don had never ridden on a school bus before. He grew up in California and was well within walking distance to all his schools.

So this was a special treat for him! It was enlightening for me too though. Buses sure have changed since I used to ride them to school. I'm showing my age now, but we didn't have seat belts, the backs of the seats were much lower and there were no radios in any of the buses I rode in as a child.

I've made it through the presidential debate and listened too. Wow. I'm good.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

New Park

This is the new park we found for our walks. Its about a 2 mile walk round trip. As you can tell I didn't take the picture, the wife is finally starting to walk with us! This was our warm up walk just to check the park out. Its a great place with some paved paths and some that go through the woods, these are Frodo's favorites and Cheryl's least favorite due to chiggers and other pests. So when she is not with us, Frodo and I will do some cross country walks. Frodo loves all the new smells, and there are lots of grey squirrels all over the park. Also we have come nose to nose with numerous other dogs, Frodo tries to make friends with all of them, but some don't want a beagle for a friend. Besides the walks Frodo loves the ride in the car to the park. He is like all dogs and loves to stick his head out the window and let his tongue flap in the breeze. Of course his ears look like a couple of sails when the wind catches them. We are going to try to walk every day for the next couple of weeks and then work into jogging. I keep telling her I'm too old for this %%^& but she doesn't believe me, so I guess we'll find out together! Actually I'm kind of looking forward to trying to get back into some shape. Since I left the military I have kind of let myself go and I know that it has affected my health. Plus the fact that I have a job where I sit on my backside for 8-9 hours a day. So I guess eventually Frodo will learn what jogging is too!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fall has sprung a leak

Fall has arrived with a vengence. It started raining yesterday and is still going strong. Its a bit of a Noreaster. We get more of these then hurricanes this far north. They blow almost as hard and can create quite a mess. It absolutely destroys walking time. I feel bad for Frodo, he doesn't understand that I don't do walks in the rain. When I come home from work he meets me at the kitchen door when I come in from the garage, he gives me a fair amount of doggy kisses, then runs and sets by the front door waiting for his walk. When I tell him "not today" his tail droops between his leg and he goes and lays down and gets the most forlorn looks. He can achieve some of the most sorrowful looks. It almost makes me look for a raincoat or umbrella, notice I said almost! For those of you who don't have pets, especially dogs, they somehow become the boss of the household, even small ones like beagles. It seems that all actions are based on what would make the dog happy. It's very apparent when it comes to bed time. He gets this wrinkled head look and comes and lays his head on your lap and lets out a big sigh. He does this a few times and if you ignore him, he drags himself to bed. When you look in on him he normally is in some pitiful position with one of his stuffed animal. I usually give in and go to bed with him. It's actually funny, it's almost to the point where I can't sleep unless he is snuggled up to me. All in all I wouldn't trade him for any amount of money!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Quite of the Morning

Frodo (my beagle) and I set out on our morning walk at about 7 am this morning. I love walking early in the morning, it is so peaceful. We live close to the Garden State Parkway, so unfortunately I do get a lot of highway traffic noise, but I can still hear most of the sounds as the forest comes alive. It seems like it starts with a single bird call and the next thing you know the whole forest is alive with the chatter of a dozen different birds. I have seen everything from Robins to Turkey Vultures. This morning we had a couple of Canadian geese honk out their warnings when they saw the dog and I coming. They like to do an early morning feeding in the soccer field behind the local high school. For some reason Frodo never seems to be interested in them, could be that his nose is too busy with other smells to pay them any attention. Did I mention that he has an incredible nose? A couple of weeks ago we were walking on the sidewalk with some trees and shrubs to our right. All of a sudden he puts on the brakes and goes lunging into the woods, I thought he had seen a critter, but no he comes out chewing a piece of bubble gum that someone had thrown away! I have no idea how he smelt that gum. I didn't let him keep it!


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Poker Pressure

I don't think there is a way to quite duplicate the nervousness and pressure I felt the first day of the tournament. As a woman, sitting down to deal cards to a table of ten men, all of whom know poker better than I do and have played for years, can be quite intimidating. I made it through without having a stroke though. Of course, I made mistakes. What new poker dealer doesn't? The table (players) helped me out with a few instances on occasion. There was the time I was so nervous I couldn't count chips down for a payout. It wound up being about 394,000 in chips. There was another time I got confused with a side pot. There's one thing about it, poker players know how much in chips they're playing with and where it's supposed to go. Oh, and one time I was supposed to shout out "Seat open, table two." Instead, I shouted, "Table open, seat two." That got a laugh from everyone. On the last day, I mucked one of seat one's cards by mistake when everyone at his end of the table folded except for him. He was in for 3,000 in chips. I had to call the floor person over. The player played the hand with one card and lost. I felt terrible, but I guess that's one of the reasons why the casino announces over the loud speaker to protect your hands if you are in the one or ten seat. The WPT (World Poker Tournament) at the Borgata is continuing through the 18th. The 16th was my last day. Don and I were only temps. Hopefully, we can work at their next tournament too.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Walking Adventure

I have a beagle, that means lots of walks and slow enough for his nose to smell every blade of grass. We went on a three mile one this morning. I love walking in the early mornings, not too hot, and more of a chance to run into some of the local wildlife. This was the case this morning, we came face to face with a couple of deer. They were a ways away but they stood watching us and we froze watching them. We all turned in opposite directions and went our separate ways. Then a while later into the walk we came across a box turtle. Now my beagle is very curious, but he is also the biggest chicken dog I have ever seen. He was almost by the turtle when he noticed movement. He went to investigate and when the turtle pulled his head back into his shell Frodo jumped straight up into the air and tried to run in the opposite direction. I finally was able to coax him into walking around the turtle, but soon as he knew he was clear he took off on a high speed sprint, thank God for 15 foot leashes. He is a very smart dog though and knows all our trails, I just ask where he wants to go and he finds the trails. I think his favorite part is going to his wading and drinking pond at the end of our walks. He never swims, just wades and drinks. This morning there was a fisherman there and he didn't hear us coming and Frodo just about gave him a heart attack. It is always an adventure with Frodo, you never know what he is going to do or get in to!