"Crotty News" Postings for: February 2009 !

Hi !
This month is Super Bowl Sunday (1st), Groundhog Day (2nd), Valentine's Day (14th), Presidents Day (16th), Karen's Birthday (24th) and Ash Wednesday (25th) !

    Sunday - 01 February - SUPER BOWL today! Karen & Chuck's friends, the Magers, are throwing a party at their Plantation Lakes neighborhood clubhouse, a ritzy development with beautiful lakes and gorgeous landscaping. Picked up Karen at her house. Everyone brought a dish to share. The game was excellent. Since everyone seemed to be rooting for the Steelers we rooted for the Cardinals, but to no avail. With all the noise ("kids, cats, dogs & men" as my parents' next door neighbor used to complain about) we couldn't hear most of the TV advertisements but old friend Wes Brockway came to the rescue and gave me the internet address for today's advertisements and for previous Super Bowl ads also.
For This Year's Super Bowl Ads
For Previous Years' Super Bowl Ads

    Our very first renters are arriving at the condo today. They're from Scotia, New York and seem very nice. We've not rented any home we've owned since our disasterious experience 1969-1972 while we were in England, so this is a big step forward for us. If it all works out allright we'll do it next year too. Since we're usually traveling during the January - March timeframe, this will allow us to have someone in the condo, and make enough money to defray the taxes and fees we have to pay on the condo.

    Monday - 02 February - Today is the 123rd annual Groundhog Day celebration and Punxsutawney Phil, the Groundhog, saw his shadow. So we're supposedly in for six more weeks of winter. Oh well! Drove to Conway to see our insurance agent and got our new (2004) Dodge RAM truck all squared away. When I got back home Dale's PT Cruiser had a dead battery. This happened the last time we left the PT Cruiser alone for a week or so. Took it to Pro-Tech Auto and a test revealed that the battery would take a charge but had very little "cranking power". That must have been what was wrong with it when we returned to Tampa airport from Las Vegas in November. We had the battery replaced by Pro-Tech so we shouldn't have that problem again. I also had them give the truck a detailed inspection and everything was perfect. All the fluid levels were full and very clean, and the anti-freeze was set to minus 27 degrees, so we're ready for our New England trip. While I waited I read through much of the owner's manual and found that the truck has some nice features I didn't know about, especially for comfort for the driver's seat, an overhead console that computes temperature, average miles per gallon, distance traveled and distance-to-"empty" (how far we can drive before we run out out gas), time, etc. The middle seat has two storage compartments. The rear seats fold up, with storage compartments under them, and a metal bed folds out to handle heavy items (or a small mattress). My next door neighbor came home from work, so I caught his attention ("Pssst! Pssst! :-) and he came over to check out the truck. He has a Dodge RAM also and I had told him a few weeks ago that I would be getting one. Now he wants mine ! HAH!

    Tuesday - 03 February - I had forgotten that we are actually leaving for New England on Thursday, the 5th, rather than tomorrow, so if I've been telling you the wrong date, just ignore me :-) I mailed off a set of keys to our Florida condo to the people who will be renting it in March. If this works out well we'll probably do this every year. Started to accumulate tools to carry with us in the truck. I also just found the jack under the passenger front seat, in case we have a flat.

    Wednesday - 04 February - Hey! We had SNOW on the ground here in Myrtle Beach this morning! That's unusual! Of course it didn't last long and melted away in a few hours. We're leaving tomorrow for North Carolina, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine (More SNOW!). Rene sent us an e-mail and, after looking at the map, we see that we'll only be an hour or so from Brunswick when we're in Kittery. I thought they lived WAY north of Kittery, so we're going to go visit her and the kids too! I'll take pictures! Also heard from Jay (Rene's husband). He's in the Navy and now deployed to Qatar. He says that it is "busy" over there (boring, but busy -- I know what that is like when you're overseas at a base like that). He's taking an economics class to help pass the time. He will return to the USA somewhere around May, and then he goes to school for a couple of months in San Antonio, Texas, and then to his new assignment at the Charleston, SC brig! They'll be living just south of us.

    Thursday - 05 February - Through Sunday - 08 February
We drove to Sue & Tom Peterson's house on the 5th and stayed until saturday. They live on Lake Gaston in Macon, North Carolina, and it takes about 5 hours or so to get there from Myrtle Beach. Tom is starting up a photography business and has been doing well, selling his photographs at shows in Petersburg, VA and their local North Carolina communities. He gave us a framed photograph as a present, and we bought a large one of an eagle for Chuck & Karen's business (Eagle Web Designs). On friday we all walked around Warrenton and Roanoke Rapids, visiting various shops and seeing the sights. On Saturday the 7th we left Lake Gaston and drove just over four hours to Kathy & Tom's in Woodbine, MD. On sunday the 8th we all went into Baltimore to the Meyerhoff, where Kathy had purchased tickets for us for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's Cirque de la Symphonie. Great seats in elevated "Grand Tier Right" private boxes above, and just to the right-front, of the stage! Afterwards we went to an Irish Pub/restaurant called "Lucy's" and met our former next-door neighbors, Mike & Melissa Gallagher and their sons, for dinner. Lucy's is located in a 19th century stone bank building with huge windows, high ceilings, a small dining room in what was the cash vault, and a bar made from the old tellers' counter. The manager was from Dublin and we had a great time talking about our visit there a few years ago, and the manager knew exactly where our favorite pub (Sullivan's) was, and all the places we visited. Nice!

    Monday - 09 February - We drove 490 miles north from Woodbine to Kittery, Maine. It took about 9 hours and we arrived a bit earlier than planned so we stopped at the Weathervane Restaurant by the Kittery Outlet stores for dinner. They have the greatest onion rings! Up north they cut the onions into THIN rings, lightly batter them, and then fry them (unlike the wide, thick, greasy rings we seem to get elsewhere). Arrived at Uncle Bob's trailer on Cutts Road to find him and Aunt Dot waiting for us. Dot is taking really good care of Bob, and he looks much, much better than the last time we saw him. Nice and healthy, and he's 80 years old (doesn't look it at all)! They have a house not far from the trailer, and had warmed up the trailer for our use while we visited. Lots of snowdrifts all around, and Bob had spent a day chipping ice from the parking area for us. I really like the propane heating system in the trailer. Forced air heat, and quickly too. The "white noise" of the heating system envelopes you like a cocoon, drowning out any outside noise and makes it so easy for me to sleep. Unlike the heat pumps (seems to blow "cold air") we've had in out houses for the past decades, the forced hot air system is nice and warm as the air blasts out the vents! I should probably get one installed in our house as a secondary source of heat in the winter!

    Tuesday - 10 February - Went over to Dot & Bob's house. They have a rafter of wild turkeys that show up behind their house every day; they think that there are upwards of 30-40 of them. We didn't know what a group of turkeys was caleld so we had to look it up: a "rafter" or a "gang" are the correct terms, although some people call them a "gobble" of turkeys too. We saw about six today (I took pictures).

    Wednesday - 11 February - We took Bob & Dot with us in the truck and drove to see Rene in Brunswick, Maine. It was a nice drive and only took an hour and a half. The Garmin GPS system that Dale gave me for Christmas, two years ago, worked like a charm! Directed us right to Rene's house, no problem at all, and even detoured us to a shopping mall so Dale could buy flowers before we arrived. Rene lives in a new development of duplexes; very beautiful and right next door to the Naval Air Station where Jay is assigned. We met her daughter Autumn for the first time - she is a gorgeous little girl (see PHOTOS). Ethan came home from school later, all bundled up in his winter gear :-) Had a great visit, all too short of course.

    Thursday - 12 February - we all drove around the Kittery area and I took pictures (what else? :-) The trailer had a few things that needed to be fixed. All easy to do, and it felt good to fix all these little things for him. I tackled the telephone system first. The wires had been ripped from the outside junction box, and after I rewired the box I found that the main phone had a dead battery and the bedroom junction box had been improperly wired. Got that fixed, bought a new main phone on sale at the local CVS pharmacy, and now everything works!! The television had been working but received only three channels, all with snowy pictures. I traced the cables back to the antenna way up on a rotator on a pole, and the antenna elements were mostly broken and misaligned. So I bought a new "rabbit ear" system which immediately cleared up all the channels and actually gave us a few more TV channels. Then I wired up his new clothes dryer and vent, so we were also able to wash and dry clothes. Also replaced a defective switch over his medicine cabinet in the bathroom, so now he has lights in there.

    Friday - 13 February - Drove down to Malden to see Paul & Dot and Mike & Pei! Stopped off at the Christmas Tree Shop in Saugus (where they have the sailing ship as part of the complex). This shop is really more like a Big Lots than a Christmas Tree store, and we always leave with some great buys (cheap). After an afternoon at Paul & Dot's we drove to Pei's restaurant, the "Real Lucky", and picked up tons of chinese takeout food and brough it back. The food was wonderful, and Pei makes the tastiest pork strips! I haven't had them that good (large; solid meat; no fat) since I was a teenager and used to get them at our parents' favorite chinese restauant on Pleasant St in Malden (no longer there)! Dot, Courtney, Oswaldo and baby Jayden were there too(See PHOTOs)!!

    Saturday - 14 February - Time to go! We spent a few hours cleaning the trailer, tweaking the TV and telephone wiring, etc., before we took off to see Bob and Dot, who made sure we had a great lunch before leaving. Then we were on the road to visit Alice & Charlie in Freedom, New Hampshire. They live right next to Lake Ossippee. It took about two and a half hours and we arrived to a beautiful, snowy landscape all around. This is what we were hoping for!! We LOVE snow and when they sent us pictures of the huge snowdrifts last year, we started thinking about a trip here for this year. We weren't disappointed! The roads were ploughed, with high snowbanks on each side, and the snow was still white and pristine. Charlie let me park the Dodge RAM in his garage, where I was able to unload all the shopping bags and other "stuff" from the back seats. We also had our suitcases inside our waterproof Thule cartop carrier, which we had put in the truck bed as we traveled from place to place. I took the suitcases inside the house, and then stored the Thule in the garage, so now we had an empty truck that we could drive around without worrying about our stuff. Charlie's truck was being repaired. He has a nice Ford F-150 with a tonneau cover for his truck bed, so he doesn't have to worry about snow and water piling up in the truck bed. I'm going to get one too!

    Sunday & Monday- 15/16 February - Nice leisurely days, driving around the Freedom area, seeing the nearby King Pine Resort (skiing & snowboarding slopes; tubing runs/slopes; ice skating rink), winding roads, secluded valleys, small New England communities, Purity Lake and numerous ponds. Ice fishermen had positioned many ice houses on the lakes, and several cars and trucks were parked next to them, way out on the ice in the middle of the lake!! Of course we also had to walk around the North Conway Outlet stores! Dale noticed a GREAT buy - a device that converts old 35mm slides and negatives to 5 megapixel digital pictures on your computer. I'd seen them on sale for $99 and this one was only $25 (it works beautifully too - I've already converted previously damaged, washed-out slides from Italy taken in 1978-1979)! Dale gets ten brownie points!!

    Tuesday - 17 February - We drove to North Conway to pick up Charlie's truck. Someone had driven through a red light and hit him on the driver's side. The truck looked beautiful; they did a great job. We then walked around North Conway, a great new England town. The original train station looks like it belongs in Disneyland, and it wouldn't surprise me if Disneyland had copied it. Next summer we hope to return for another visit and take one of the sightseeing train rides. They have a train museum here, including an original turntable for the engines. There are also a lot of privately-owned traincars that have been refurbished by the owners, and used as summer "cabins". Very colorful. We walked around the local stores, including the famous "Zeb's", and then to dinner at Decades Steakhouse for their "2 for TuesDay" specials. I had a GREAT new beer experience - Tuckerman's - a local ale brewed in Conway! Dinner was great too, and it's good we got there a bit early because the place was soon packed with a long waiting line. Obviously a hot spot in North Conway! Stopped off at King Pine Resort on the way home and got a few nice shots of the slopes at night.

    Wednesday - 18 February - Today we visited the King Pine Resort. The plan was that Dale and Charlie would drive there in Charlie's truck and I would follow in our truck, because I wanted to leave early and take photos of the area. It didn't work that way because we had such a great time. Alice was going shopping and would meet us back at the house for dinner. Charlie walked Dale through the ski equipment rental process (very easy; very impressive)! It's like an assembly line. They measure you, ask your weight and then they outfit you with state-of-the-art, short skis, boots, etc. Nowdays the skis are short, and wide at the top and back. You can ski backwards as easily as forwards. I saw little kids wearing skis about two feet long, and teenagers with skis about five feet long, zipping along with ease! I walked around and got some nice photographs of Dale and Charlie, and then went to the lodge bar on the top floor, found a seat right in front of one of the many picture windows, and had an unimpeded view of all the lifts as well as the "jumps" on the hillside directly in front of me. I order a Tuckerman's Beer (GREAT Stuff). Alice & Charlie's friend Ellen then showed up so we spent the afternoon there, later joined by Charlie & Dale. It's vacation week for the schoolkids, so a lot of families were here. This small, but very nice, resort limits the tickets for their lifts and tubing runs, so you don't have huge crowds waiting for the lifts: you get to ski or snowboard or tube down the runs, instead of wasting your time in lines! Oh, tonight we're supposed to have a snowstorm. Just a little one: 10 inches or so. I told Alice that I was going to do a Snow Dance to make sure it snowed!

    Thursday - 19 February - Oh yeah! The Snow Dance worked! It's still SNOWING! We got the ten inches they predicted! All the trees are beautiful, with thousands of branches covered with 1-4 inches of snow - a winter wonderland all around us. It stopped snowing in early afternoon and the snowplow man showed up on foot. He forgot to bring a shovel on his truck, and his plow-blade got stuck in the snow somewhere up the road. He showed up an hour later and plowed out the driveway and side areas. Charlie and I then cleared the snow off the deck and stairs but not before I made a SNOWGIRL (anatomically correct of course). We all then went to King Pine and got tickets for the 5-7PM tubing session. The tubes look like colorful versions of the old car innertubes we used to blow up and use as floats for swimming in the lakes, but these are actually constructed with a hard plastic shell on the bottom half (to handle the wear and tear on hardpacked snow and ice)and canvas-like material covering the inner tube on top. Dale & I, Alice & Charlie and Ellen barrelled down the three tube runs, hollering all the way. The attendants said that we were the loudest bunch of old people they'd ever had. On our first few runs we went so fast that we rammed hard into the blow-up barrier fence, and bounced back about 50 yards up the slope. After that they banned any more "trains" since multiple tubes linked together in tandem seem to pick up too much speed! I got videos of our first two runs with my Sony camcorder! We returned home to find that my snowgirl had fallen over and was destroyed, but I do have pictures! I must have made her too top-heavy!

    Friday - 20 February - Oh, I forgot to mention that Alice & Charlie's daughter, Karen, and her family came up for a few days while we were here. Her boyfriend Steve is a chef, and he had made a spicy gumbo that is most excellent! For some reason I always thought that gumbo had fish in it, but - nope - he had all sorts of tasty sausage and veggies, and some really good hot stuff. He should bottle it and sell it in stores!

    Forcing ourselves into the truck, today's the day we depart for Maryland. I got the truck loaded and we were off around 11AM, and made good time all through NH, MA, CT, NY, NJ and DE. By the time we reached Baltimore all the traffic was off the roads and we zipped under the harbor via the I-895 tunnel and made it in to Glen Burnie to the Kings' house.

    Saturday - 21 February - Joe and I left Sharon and Dale to roam around while we went to check out the local tool store and Habitat-For-Humanity Retail store. The Dodge RAM was encrusted with salt sprayed up from the New England roads, so we went to a car wash. Then it was off to the Chesapeake Middle School to watch Jason's son, Aden, play basketball, and then dinner at the Double T Diner on Mountain Road by the Southgate Mall. Excellent - a huge, varied menu and excellent prices. Too short a visit, so we didn't get a chance to see our other friends the Hellers and Weilers this time!

    Sunday - 22 February - As the song goes, we're "on the road again"! The truck has driven beautifully on this trip, although I think I'll have the wheels checked when we return to Myrtle Beach, to make sure that they are balanced correctly (a slight shimmy). The construction around the Washington Beltway is still going on (actually it never stops :-) and the area by the new Wilson Bridge is a maze of concrete pilons that someday will become beautiful, swooping ramps and bridges. The remainder of the trip to South Carolina was uneventful -- just a lot of highway. The Dodge RAM has a 34 gallon gas tank so we don't have to stop for fuel often at all. We did stop for fuel at South Of The Border, a place that used to be delightful and pretty. Now all you see are bored and sullen young women (probably minimum wage) at the gas pumps and stores, and none of them seem to have had any training in common manners by their mammas. The entire SOB complex appears run down. A real shame since it was such an exciting place to be as a kid.

    Monday - 23 February - We're in Myrtle Beach. I heard from my cousin Lucille Bourque Lampier in Halifax, Nova Scotia on monday! She is going to retire from her government job on April 3rd! She is now going to concentrate on her business seling Healthy Chocolate called XOCAI (http://www.sharechoc.com). I took it easy today, resting up after the whirlwind tour to the great Northeast :-)   I now have over 250 e-mails on the computer to go through over the next few days. This afternoon I hooked up the Brookstone device and started converting a tray of my old 35mm slides from Italy. I have a couple thousand slides, most of which were stored in an unprotected, unheated strongroom in Italy, and were severely damaged by the winter dampness and cold we experienced there.

    Tuesday - 24 February - Karen's birthday today! Chuck took her to lunch; big party will be on saturday. Using Photoshop editing software, I was able to reduce or eliminate the heavy bluish tinge that covered all the slides I converted yesterday, from the first tray. Many of them are washed out (somewhat colorless), but the result is still much better than what I had before! Hopefully this 35MM slide conversion device will enable me to recover the hundreds of photos and have prints made. Coincidentally, today I received an e-mail from Mandy (Hauschild) Magnan, who was one of Kathy & Karen's friends when we were at San Vito, Italy 1977-980! She is setting up a Brindisi High School Alumni Association on Facebook and wanted to get in touch with them.

    Oh, there was a message on my cell phone from Alice in New Hampshire. She wants me to stop doing my Snow Dance because they've had another two feet of snow and MORE is predicted. (Dance dance dance) Woo woo wooo wooo! Whoo whoo whoo whoo! (Dance dance dance :-) !!! C'MON SNOW !

    Wednesday - 25 February - While we were in Kittery I found a T-shirt with the name "John Moose" printed on it along with a moose emblem. The shirt was a "take off" on T-shirts for John Deere tractors. One of my old bosses at NSA is named John Moose, so I bought it, took a picture of it and uploaded it to a web site maintained for those of us who served together in that particular NSA office. John loved it. I mailed it to him today. Bought two Mr. Lincoln rose bushes at Wal-Mart today. Mr, Lincoln bushes need very litle care and grow profusely. I'llplant them in front next week.

    Thursday - 26 February - We're trying to set up a vacation this October in Florida with Francine & Steve Fields! They'll fly out from the West Coast to Miami and we'll spend a week traveling together around Lauderdale/Miami/South Beach, the Keys, Key West, Bradenton/Tampa, Orlando, etc. Alice says that they got another 18 inches of snow and another storm is scheduled for this sunday! She wants Spring to come! (Hahaaaaa - evil smirk)! C'mon Snow!

    Friday - 27 February - Went to the Myrtle Beach Habitat For Humanity Retail Store today. I wanted to buy some more old, 56" plastic shutters that they had on racks outside. They are faded and dirty but easily cleaned up with soap and water, and then I paint them red to match our existing shutters. Big surprise! The price is now only one dollar a shutter! I was ready to pay $12 a set, like I did a month ago. So, I purchased 22 of them (11 sets) and now I'll be able to put shutters on every window, even the shed, for less than I was going to pay for just two sets! They also had some bushes in pots (a nursery either went out of business or dontated the plants). For only $5 apiece I bought four 3-gallon pots of the same hedge bushes that I've bought for much more at Lowe's and nurseries over the past two years.

    Called our condo renters. I got them just after they had departed the condo and were on their way to a Tampa hotel (they have a 5:30AM flight to New York). Edie told me that they had spent most of the day washing and cleaning the condo to make sure it was OK for our second family of renters who will arrive on the 1st or 2nd. Sure sounds like we hit the jackpot with her, and her friend Kathy & her husband!

    Saturday - 28 February - I've spent today updating the web site. Karen's birthday party is at Uno's right now, and then is moving to their house around 7PM (I'll go then). Dale has been sick with a cold all week, so she's staying home on the couch. I'm closing down now to get ready to head over.

Love,     &nbs;       Regards,
Dad & Mom     &nbs;       Barry & Dale