Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm On a Boat ...

Oh relax ... it's the "clean" version and if I didn't post this while out on my first-ever cruise, I get the feeling my daughters would be rather surprised! Besides, in just a couple of hours I will be on a boat ... well, a very large ship actually but close enough!

Even though I finally did decide to bring my laptop along, I am not planning on doing any blogging for the duration of my cruise so you all get a break from my pithy ramblings for awhile. That is unless I decide to do a mobile post from either San Juan or St. Thomas were I have free 3G on my iPhone. Who knows? Maybe I'll just upload a picture of a beautiful blue-green sea because I can!

Everyone have a grand week and do try to stay out of trouble while I'm gone, okay?!? Oh, and just a reminder to the Mother Nature, I'd like all of that nasty winter weather you've been dumping on us in New England done with before I return. Thank you!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Five on Friday - The "Train" Version

Anyone who didn't see this week's theme for Five on Friday coming please raise your hand as I've got to think that it would have been way obvious. Oh, and if you thought I was going to do a seafaring sort of cruise theme then you should have your hand raised while you're reading this because you're wrong!

Nope, this week I decided to go with a train theme being as how that's exactly where I should be on this last Friday in February - sitting comfortably while looking out the window of an Amtrak car as I watch the miles roll by.  Rather than flying down to Florida for my cruise, I decided to do something I've wanted to do for a very long time and take the train instead.  Yes, it takes a lot longer but it appeals to that love of trains that I inherited from my grandfather.  As a matter of fact, I'm willing to bet that Gramp will be right there along with me in spirit for my trip from New London to Jacksonville. Y'all honestly have no idea how much I've been looking forward to this particular leg of my vacation - seriously.

So, with that, I leave you with five songs that mention trains somewhere in their title.  I could have certainly gone with a lot more than five but I hope you like the five that I ended up choosing. I'm kind of partial to Cat Stevens and The Monkees this week myself!

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If you get the chance, pop on over to Trav's Thoughts, the master of this meme, and see what he and the other FOF'ers have chosen for their Friday offerings. I can tell you that my friend Jamie from the Left Coast did her Five on Friday in my honor this week and if you click over to there you'll find some party and/or silly songs and the beverages to go with them designed to put me in the mood for my first ever cruise. What a gal! Thanks, Jamie! I'll take one of each!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Yep ... that's all I've got for today!  Feeling a little nervous, a little disorganized, and a lot discombobulated but excited about tomorrow's upcoming vacation at the same time.  Should be an interesting 16 hours at work!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ac-ci-dent, (ak′sə dənt), n.: an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance

Yesterday, as my last day off before heading south for a much-anticipated vacation, I had a rather long list of things that I needed to get done unless I wanted to find myself disorganized and discombobulated at the last minute - something that we Virgos try to avoid at all costs but which I've found myself doing more often than not these days.  In an effort to avoid that again, I had my day quite well planned out.

First up on my agenda was breakfast with my dear friend of many years, Rhonda.  We've been doing these monthly get-togethers for quite a few years now as it's a good way to make sure that no matter how busy our lives get with other things, we stay in touch.  This month we had planned to meet at one of the few places in Norwich that still serves breakfast - Taft Station on Route 12 in Taftville - at 9:30 and from there I figured I'd start ticking other things off of the list.

Going into breakfast I was feeling a little 'meh' as I hadn't slept too well the night before due to way too many things on my mind and not being able to sleep very well so I decided to skip the usual morning coffee and opt for tea instead.  Turns out that Rhonda was ordering tea also as her stomach was giving her some minor issues, too.  Ah, the joys of growing old!  Still, over tea, toast, and eggs we spent a very pleasant hour and a half together catching up and sharing.  Well, pleasant except for that minor part where she handed me a card marking the eighth anniversary of the death of my father that got me a little teared up as she wrote such lovely things like she always does.

As we were going over calendars and deciding on a date for our meeting in March where I'd be able to tell her about warm Caribbean breezes and the joys of cruise ships, our waiter (who was one of the nicest kids I'd met in a long time) came over and asked if I either of us owned a red Dodge.  Uhm ... yea ... why?  My first thought was that I had forgotten to put the parking brake on, left the thing in neutral, and that it had rolled into the field behind the parking lot but that was definitely not the case.

Turns out that a large tractor trailer had pulled into the parking lot and misjudged how far away he was from the parked cars in the lot catching Rhonda's car and pulling it into the side of mine.  Justin, the polite and helpful young waiter, said that he and his father had already called the police and that they were on the way as Rhonda and I quickly threw on our coats to head out to the parking lot to see what sort of damage had been done.

Nope, I definitely don't remember parking that close to Rhonda when I pulled in and I'm pretty sure there wasn't a tractor trailer sitting on top of her car either ...

Bud, the driver of the rig - an older gentleman from Rye, New Hampshire - was extremely apologetic and as a result of the accident his stomach was apparently in the same knots that Rhonda and mine had been in earlier!  He said that he had the sun in his eyes (which made perfect sense) and had misjudged how far over he was.  Driving a big truck with a large flatbed probably makes it darned difficult to realize that you've hooked the back end of a small Toyota and are now dragging it across the parking lot until it runs into another immovable force - a red Dodge.  Fortunately at that point he must have realized what had happened and stopped before my car ended up being pulled along also.

Ah well, I guess if I'm going to somehow be involved in an accident then Norwich is the best place possible as I still know quite a few of the police officers here from back in my old police dispatching days.  That was the case here as I knew the officer who was responding and when Officer Tony Gomes pulled up to take the accident report he greeted me with a friendly smile and a "hey, how are you doing?" to which I replied I'd definitely had better days!  Tony gathered up all of our registration and insurance cards and sat in his cruiser to write out the report while Bud, Rhonda, and I stood in the cold and commiserated over what a mess we were looking at but that it was simply an accident and nothing else and that's why they call them that.  I think that Bud was rather relieved that he wasn't dealing with a couple of hysterical females crying and screaming at him that he should have been more careful as we chatted about where he was from in New Hampshire and that he had recently taken author Dan Brown (think The DaVinci Code) out for a horse-drawn sleigh ride as he raises big draft horses at home when he's not out on the road attempting to make deliveries.

Once the report was written, Tony told Bud to go ahead and pull his rig forward so that we could see if Rhonda's car would come unstuck and then whether or not a wrecker was going to be needed or if it was drivable.  With part of the trailer still on top of her car, the tire was rubbing against the wheel-well so the question was whether or not that was going to pop back up.  Fortunately, with a few loud scrapes and bangs it did come back up and Rhonda was able to pull her car away from where it was kissing mine and we could better assess the damage.  All things considered, mine wasn't too bad ...

but poor Bessie, Rhonda's car, had most definitely seen better days when she still had a bumper attached and taillights that weren't in laid in pieces on the ground ...

Oh dear ... at that point Justin, our helpful waiter, came out with a broom and dustpan and started cleaning up the debris and said that he'd move Rhonda's bumper over towards the back of the restaurant so that she and her husband George could come back and pick it up later as there was no way she was putting the thing in her car for her drive back to Canterbury.  He really was a super nice kid!

Tony finished writing the accident report and then handed copies around to all of us so that we could notify our respective insurance companies.  Bud assured us that his company would absolutely positively take care of any and all of the damages as it was obviously his fault; he didn't get a ticket on top of everything else as Norwich Police don't write citations on public property accidents (this I knew from my days dispatching there) and both Rhonda and I were more than fine with that.  We weren't looking to point fingers, we were just thankful that both our cars were still operable and that no one had been hurt.

Tony shook Bud's hand and then Rhonda's and after shaking mine he gave me a big hug (from which the smell of his aftershave very pleasantly lingered with me all day!) following which Bud hugged Rhonda and hugged me before he left after once again offering his sincerest apologies.  I'm pretty sure that was the biggest hug-fest I have ever heard of at an accident scene and it made me feel good to know that in spite of what had happened, we were all leaving on good terms.  Matter of fact, I gave Rhonda a big hug myself before we parted company as it sure seemed like the situation warranted it!  Heck, if you're going to be involved in an accident, that certainly seems like the way to do it!

I just have to remember that if I'm ever in a situation like that again I need to do a better job of updating my Facebook status as what I posted when it happened was a bit sketchy and I think I alarmed a few folks - including my daughters.  Oops.  My bad. It was nice to see that so many people were concerned, though and I thank you all for the good thoughts and best wishes.

As for that long list of things I needed to get done ... yea, I still need to do a bunch of them but I decided that with the day I'd already had, Jamie and I both deserved a little pampering so off we went for pedicures - a first for both of us but I'm thinking probably not the last!  The rest of the stuff is just going to have to get done at the last minute before I leave early Friday morning ... somehow!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Five on Friday Explained

Even though I had originally said that I was going to do it on Tuesday, today I'm going to explain to you how my mind ran from one song to another in my latest Five on Friday post - "The Five Degrees of Musical Progression" Version. If you find it to be confusing don't worry - I got kind of lost in there myself from time to time but it all made sense in the end!

1. Tearing Up My Heart by N'Sync is a song that Jamie has 'rediscovered' recently and has added to her iTouch for constant playing in the car. She likes to say that the song is a controversy and to a certain extent I guess it is! The song features a very young Justin Timberlake, one of the original members of N'Sync, who went on to a very successful solo career which led me to the next song.

2. 4 Minutes by Madonna features a definitely older Justin Timberlake and Timbaland. The song features distinct rhythms known as Bhaṅgṛā beats that originate from the Punjab region which is a geographical area straddling the border between Pakistan and India. The instrumentation for those beats includes brass, foghorns and cow bells - the latter which inspired my second leap.

3. (Don't Fear) the Reaper by Blue Öyster Cult was featured in a Saturday Night Live spoof of "Behind the Music" which features a recording session of the song by the band - as played by SNL actors, of course! Actor Christopher Walken appeared in the sketch as fictitious record producer Bruce Dickinson who keeps interrupting the recording session to make passionate and slightly unhinged speeches to the band and is obsessed with getting "more cowbell" into the song which is then happily provided by Will Ferrell's character. If anyone tells you "Gotta have more cowbell" you know exactly what they're talking about!

4.  Weapon of Choice by Fatboy Slim has a music video that features a very impressive dance performance by Christopher Walken.  Shot over the course of two days at the Marriot Hotel in Los Angeles, the video features Walken dancing and flying around the lobby and won six MTV awards before winning Best Video of All Time in 2002.  Walken helped choreograph the dance for the video which was directed by Spike Jonez which took me to my last musical leap.

I can't post the video as embedding is not allowed
but if you'd like to see it, click here and watch Christopher Walken make some pretty impressive moves!

5.  In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel is the song that's playing on the boom box that Lloyd Dobler is holding over his head while trying to convince Diane Court that he loves her in the movie Say Anything. Lloyd Dobler is played by John Cusack - one of my very favorite actors - who also plays the character of Craig Schwartz in Being John Malkovich which was directed by ... tada! ... Spike Jonez.

And there you have it ... my five stages of musical progression! Fellow FOFer Julia got very close to accurately guessing which musical path my mind followed which is very impressive as I wasn't sure where it was going myself at times! I'd like to thank Travis for not only hosting the Five on Friday meme but for also giving me the chance to have some fun with this set. We'll definitely have to do this again sometime!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sound(s) Nice!

Smooth Sands
The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day here in southern New England on Friday so I grabbed the camera and the kid and we made our way down to Eastern Point Beach in Groton as I had a hankering to take some semi-sea pictures. I guess that technically the Long Island Sound counts as the sea (even though it's not anything like the seas I'll be sailing here in just one short week) and it was about as close as I was going to get as I really wasn't up to trekking over to Rhode Island no matter the nice weather. Besides, there were some things I needed to take care of in the New London area.

When we got to Eastern Point the first thing that I noticed was that it was darned hazy and I could barely make out the lighthouse on the New London side of the Thames River.  I also noticed that it was a bit chillier there with the wind whipping in pretty good off of the water but it was still a darned sight warmer than it has been for months!

Ducks in the water

It sure wasn't bothering the ducks and it sure wasn't going to bother Jamie or I either as we walked out by the rocks that overlook the Sound and Jamie blatantly ignored the sign that stated that there was no climbing on the rocks allowed!  It's not like anyone pays any attention to the signs when they gather there for the annual New London fireworks display either so Jamie figured she wasn't going to get into too much trouble - besides, this is as far as she went!

Jamie on the rocks at Eastern Point Beach

With the sun glinting nicely off the water, I took a group of quick shots with the Nikon before deciding to snap a shot for Facebook with my iPhone - after all it would make for a good status update! I handed my Nikon to Jamie to hold while I did that and while I was taking this picture which makes it look like we there by the light of the moon rather than the sun ...

... Jamie decided to take a couple pictures of me - something I usually frown upon as we all know I'd much rather be behind the lens rather than in front of it. Still she caught my good side ...

Thank goodness Jamie got my "good" side in this one!

before she followed it up with another when I turned around ...

Look, Ma!  NO Heavy Coat!

I include it simply because a) I'm smiling, b) I wanted to show off the fact that I was wearing merely a hoodie rather than a big bulky winter coat and no gloves, and c) look at that bare ground with grass showing behind me! Granted, it's brown grass but it's still grass and it's not under two feet of snow!  No wonder I was smiling!

Feeling semi-creative I tried doing some shots of Jamie with the sun in the background to see if I could get some decent silhouettes.  I ended up with this one here and another that I posted over on my photo blog, Picturing A Moment in Time.  They aren't perfect but I think they more or less came out the way that I wanted them to.

Jamie in the Shadows

Following our chance to get some fresh air at Eastern Point, we drove over to New London where I picked up my Amtrak tickets for Friday and then with both of us getting hungry we hit up the local Olive Garden for a late lunch/early dinner before we stopped at the dreaded mall for a little bit.  Ugh ... the mall ...

Upon arriving back in Norwich I wanted to make a quick stop at WalMart for a few travel essentials and I'm glad I did as just as we were getting ready to leave a very nice lady came up to me and introduced herself.  Patricia lives in nearby Preston and is a friend on Facebook via this blog; she follows me via the Norwich Bulletin though you can barely find the link there these days! She said that she saw Jamie and I from across the store and told her granddaughter that she just had to come over and introduce herself to us. Jamie found it rather bemusing that Patricia said she recognized her first but I found that about right as there are generally more pictures of the girls or the cat here than there are of me for the reason I stated above and that's fine by me.

Patricia told me that she absolutely loved my posts on the Hawthorne Hotel as they brought back lots of memories for her as she used to live in Salem just down the road from the Hawthorne.  When she and her husband first moved there they were put up at the Hawthorne for about a month by his company until they got a house and she has very good memories from there. I'm not at all surprised as it really is a magical place in a magical town.

After wishing me a very good time on my upcoming cruise and telling me to make sure I had extra batteries for lots of pictures we parted company.  As Jamie and I went to the registers to check-out she said "Wow, Mom, you're famous" to which I just laughed as Patricia is one of the few people I've met locally that reads my blog and I've been doing this for almost five years now. Still, it was very nice to meet a "fan" and a friend; I love being able to put a real life face to someone I've met through blogging as it's things like that which really makes it all worthwhile.

Oh yes and lest I forget - the new blog look is courtesy of Friday's pictures with the quote above being dedicated to one of my co-workers who is also a member of the Navy Reserves who may be deploying soon if the Mid-East doesn't settle down some. That one's for you, Chief. And that's all I've got to say about that!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Six Sad Songs on a Saturday

This post came about rather accidentally ... I was going through my CDs last night to upload some music to the computer so that I could put it on my iPod for my train ride down to Florida this coming Friday when I came across a CD that I had burned quite a few years ago with the simple title on the case of "Angst". Ut-oh ... I had totally forgotten about that CD but as soon as it was in my hand I immediately remembered why I'd made it and obviously it wasn't because I was at a high spot in my life.

Those of you who have been with me on this blog for some time are probably quite aware that I walk around with a hole in my heart and have been doing so for years. I don't think about the guy who put it there too much these days (oh thank goodness!) but he's someone I still love and always will. He can't be with me and I can't be with him but for awhile there we were together and it was that sort of heart-in-your-mouth, forget-to-breathe kind of love that has probably inspired more sad songs than anything else when it goes wrong.

Anyhow, long story short it did go wrong and not being a songwriter or musician myself I turned to the help of those who could in one of the saddest genres of music out there - country.  The CD in question has 18 songs that put into words what my heart was feeling and I'm sure I listened to it endlessly until I finally sucked it up, pulled myself together, and put the music of my life away where I completely forgot about it until last night when I pulled it out and decided to see just how angsty I was at the time.

Wow, I'm surprised I was upright and functioning and not taking copious amounts of anti-depressants at the time! However, I can assure you that I wasn't and that today I can listen to these songs with merely a twinge of sadness and regret for what might have been but never was rather than climbing back into a large pit of darkness and despair and pulling the covers back over my head.

Life goes on, hearts sort of heal, and even though you never really forget that you have a hole in your heart, you get on with life. Of course with that said, the song at the bottom of this pile still applies from time to time though thankfully those times are further and further apart. I no longer need to burn CDs labeled "Angst" to sum up my life and can now just enjoy the music for what it is - good music by good artists who got me through a tough patch in my life.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Five on Friday - The "Five Degrees of Musical Progression" Version

Back in early January our host for Five on Friday had an earworm that ended up creating a Five on Friday set that Travis called Five Degrees of Musical Progression. All five songs in his set for the week were linked somehow or other and on the following Tuesday - after giving us a weekend to try to figure out what twists and turns that earworm took - he posted the explanation of how one song led to another. It was a lot of fun so Travis thought it might be a good idea to give all of us who participate in his meme the chance to do our own musical progression through five songs.

I had a lot of fun putting together this week's set even though it was a little tricky keeping track of where I was going with what at times!  When I tried to explain it to Jamie, who was my inspiration for the song that started the musical chain, she was totally lost and seemed to become even more confused at each turn but still gave me a kiss on the head and said "Great job, Mom!" at the end of my explanation.

So, let's see if any of you can figure out what it was that led one song into another. I'll post the explanation on Monday so be sure to come back to see how close to being right you were!  In the meantime, if you have fun with this one, be sure to pop over to Trav's Thoughts and see what some of the other FOFers came up with.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

40 in 56

I've got a short week at work but not because I'm working any less hours, I'm just working them all at once. Double, double, single gives me my entire 40-hour week all packed into the space of three days. I'm sure I'll be wiped out come 3:00 p.m. Wednesday but then I've got four glorious days off - with the exception of a quick annual OSHA refresher Sunday morning.

So why the crammed hours this week? I switched shifts with a fellow dispatcher so he could go to a job fair in Virginia for a railroad company. Kevin loves all things train and his dream job would be working on the railroad. We've all got our fingers crossed that he comes back with good news. If not, at least he got to take an Amtrak trip so maybe that will be worth something ... maybe??

Speaking of which, in 10 days I'll be taking an Amtrak ride myself when I head south for my cruise - a vacation that can't come soon enough! Especially with the craziness of work lately. Speaking of which, I gotta go!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

High School Wrestling Ain't What It Used to Be!

After switching a shift with a co-worker earlier in the week, I had this past Thursday evening off so that I could head over to Rhode Island and take pictures of a friend's son who is on the wrestling team at Chariho High School which will most likely be the school that my grandsons attend if my son and his wife stay in their current residence.  Having never been to a wrestling match in  my entire life I wasn't exactly sure what to expect but I was willing to give it a try as it was Senior Night for the team and Matthew, Renee's son, is one of those Seniors.

Let me just say that there's a darned good reason that I stick to taking pictures of things that don't move - well, with the exception of the occasional train which is a lot easier to take pictures of then teenagers wrestling!  Now I'll be the last to tell you that I am any sort of professional with a camera and I certainly hope that I don't pretend to be but if I ever thought I was even close to that mark, Thursday night's results certainly proved otherwise!   Out of the 350+ pictures I'm lucky if there were 50 that came out halfway decent.  Between the lighting (ah, flourescents!) and the constant movement, the pictures were less than stellar but hopefully there's one or two in there that Renee likes.  I did get the all-important picture of Matthew pinning his opponent in his match but it would have been nice if some of the shots leading up to that moment had come out better.

Matthew gets the pin
Matthew "grapevines" his opponent for the win
Anyhow, all of the technical photography stuff aside, the wrestling match itself was a bit of an eye-opener as to how much things have changed since I was in high school way back in the dark ages of the late 1970's.  When I was in high school it would have been totally unheard of for a girl to be a member of the boys wrestling team but by golly, not only did Chariho have a girl on their team but so did Burrelville, the team that they were competing against.  They weren't wrestling each other either as they were in different weight classes - nope, these gals were taking on guys.  Jamie said that she'd never heard of girls being on the wrestling teams down in Florida either so maybe Rhode Island is just a bit more progressive?

The girl on the Burrelville team lost her match fairly quickly and I noticed that as she sat on the chairs on her team's side of the mat that she was pretty much left to her own devices as the guys seemed to pretty much ignore her.  I gave her lots of points for not only wrestling but also for dealing with the indifference from the rest of her team.  On the Chariho side of the mat things were totally different as Isabella, a foreign exchange student from Germany,  not only seemed to be accepted but welcomed by the guys on her team.

Matt, Nate, and Isabella
Matthew, Nate, and Isabella
When the time came for her match, Renee whispered to me that Isabella probably wouldn't win as she usually lost her matches but as she approached her partner Isabella looked like she had not only come to play but to win. No doubt the kid she was wrestling against was under pressure to not just win his match but not "lose to a girl" so he was going to be trying extra hard to wrap this thing up quickly.  Turns out that it wasn't quick or easy and it was quite the match to see!


So guess who probably got razzed unmercifully on the bus ride home after the match?  It was the closest match all night and, in my opinion, definitely the most exciting as Isabella managed to hang on for the win by a mere two points.  You could tell that she was becoming quite exhausted towards the end of the match but with the entire home-team side of the gym shouting encouragement and yelling "Isabella!  Isabella!", she managed to hold on and take the win. Heck, it was enough to make me almost jump up and cheer myself but instead I put the camera down and clapped just as loudly as everyone else as it was a darned impressive match and Isabella definitely had earned the applause - as well as a lot of admiration for even just being there.

I forget the final score but Chariho managed to win by pretty much a landslide which I guess is not too surprising considering they're at the top of their Division in Rhode Island right now.  All in all it was an enjoyable evening in spite of how the pictures did/didn't come out and I'm glad that Renee had asked me to come out - she and her husband John have a lot to be proud of in Matthew and Matthew has a lot of to proud of in his team.  Here's hoping they finish their season in that Number One spot and that Isabella wins a few more matches before the end of her season!  Not to sound cliché but YOU GO GIRL!

John, Renee, & Matthew
John, Renee, and Matthew

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday Stuff

Hanging out on a Friday nightHere I am in the midst of three days off and even though I've got lots of things to do, I've got about zero ambition to do them.  Kind of like Tesla here as he hung out next to me on the loveseat last night while we caught up on DVR'd episodes of "The Good Wife" and "The Defenders". Have I ever mentioned that I really like legal shows?

I've made some minor strides towards getting my stuff together for my rapidly upcoming cruise including buying a few new warmer weather duds and even - gasp! - ordering a pair of sandals on-line this morning.  Now whether or not I'll keep them once they arrive is another story but a couple of people have told me that if I'm going to be walking around on Caribbean beaches taking pictures then sandals are in order.  Truth be told, I figured if I just took my shoes off and walked barefoot, you wouldn't know where the white sand ended and my legs began!

When I woke up this morning I stayed in bed for a little while debating whether or not to take my laptop with me on my adventure.  Part of me says "take it, you can edit pictures even if you can't go on-line" and the other part of me says "leave it home and forget about it for a week!" For now I've convened a recess so that both parties can prepare further arguments to present to the jury before a final verdict is rendered on the matter!

While watching the weather last night, the weatherman actually said that there was going to be a warm-up later in the week rather than predicting yet another big snow storm. Boy howdy that's welcome news to my ears; I'll be happy with temperatures in the high 30's at this point! Unfortunately, though, he did mention the possibility of a little snow tomorrow as a clipper system came down from Northwest Canada. I've been around long enough to know that those "quick" clipper systems can sometimes drop anchor and dump a lot more snow than was expected so my fingers are crossed this one just passes on by.

If you're looking for something to do this weekend and are at a loss, may I suggest that you go see "The King's Speech" - a most excellent movie. Jamie and I went to go see it last Sunday and it was well worth the cost of admission. Granted, I've always been an admirer of Colin Firth so I may be biased but the rest of the movie was quite well done, too! Even Jamie liked it and she was the youngest one in the theater by quite a stretch!

Oh well, speaking of things to do - I've got them so I'd best go do them. Have a lovely Saturday in your parts of the world no matter what you may find yourself doing ... or not!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Five on Friday - The "Sun" Version

Being that it's that time of the year when we here in New England and other frozen states really start to crave any sort of showing of the sun, I thought it might be nice to do this week's Five on Friday using songs revolving around the sun. Get it, revolving around the ... oh never mind!    Hope you enjoy this week's set and if you'd like to find more music to listen to on this mid-February Friday then be sure to visit Trav's Thoughts and check out the other participants in his fun Five on Friday meme.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Lost on Jeopardy, Baby ...

Every so often I think it's good for we as humans to be served up a healthy dose of humility and be made to feel exactly how not-smart we really are. I've taken to doing that at least once a year by taking the Jeopardy! on-line test that the show offers as part of their on-going contestant searches.

Now, not to blow my own horn or anything like that but generally speaking, I do pretty good playing along with the TV version of the show - at least I do when I get my brain to wrap itself around the answer and then for my mouth to actually then form the word(s) and it/spit them out. To actually do that has become increasingly more difficult as I wade through the brain fog that's apparently fairly normal for women of my age - annoying but normal - but I seem to know a good number of the answers, even a lot of the more obscure ones.

However, that is definitely NOT the case when I take the on-line contestant test for the show. OMG but I am a DOPE! I think out of however many questions there are, I'm lucky if I know the answer to 10 to 15 of them and even then, I'm not 100% sure on all of them. Honestly, I don't know how anyone would know the answers to the questions they ask unless you're a direct descendant of Ken Jennings!

Having put myself through the self-humiliation of taking the test again last night and knowing full well that I failed it miserably, it looks my dream of going to Hollywood and meeting Alex Trebek before taking home enough cash to pay Amanda's college tuition with some leftover for Jamie and I is going to have to be put on hold for yet another year until they offer the test again and I once again find myself looking at the screen and thinking "Seriously? People know this @#&^??"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cruising Conversation and a Campus Update

Cruise DocumentsWe're into the teens now on our cruise countdown and the reality of the whole thing is finally starting to sink in a little bit especially now that I've printed out my boarding pass and luggage tags. I don't want to say that I'm getting excited about it just yet as I don't want to become horribly obsessive and annoying and drive everyone crazy with my incessant talk about my upcoming cruise but dang ... we are getting CLOSE!

Of course, not quite close enough for me to really do anything other than look at my suitcase and think "darn, I really have nothing to wear on a cruise!"  To be honest, it's hard to think about tropical attire when one is in the midst of one of the snowiest winters ever and layers are the standard dress before venturing outside.  Short sleeves, crop pants, and summer footwear are just kind of hard to wrap my head around these days!  Soon, though ... honest!

For those who asked for an update on Amanda's situation at Montserrat ... I had an email from the Director of Residency yesterday in response to mine to him and he advised me that he met with Amanda and her roommate both yesterday and that they are working out a resolution.  He also told me that they do not tolerate bullying at the college - which I assumed was their position - and that it is being handled accordingly.  I spoke to Amanda and she seemed greatly relieved that the wheels have been put into motion for her to move to another house; it just may take some time due to logistics and all that sort of thing.  Add on the fact that moving her stuff from one house to another around two-foot high snowpiles is going to be downright tricky.  I'm hoping a trip to Beverly won't be necessary to assist but if it is, I'll do it as that's what we parents do.

In the meantime, Amanda is still staying at Juli's in Salem and from the sounds of it, loving every minute that she's there.  Apparently Juli has "a really cool house, her husband is the funniest man she's met in a long time, Juli is wonderful, and the dogs are adorable".   I am so incredibly glad that she had a safe place to land during all of this and will forever be grateful to Juli.  She has a wonderful philosophy on life that she learned from her mother that I think more of us need to adopt which (quoted from a Facebook message) is:
"What goes around comes around. Mom always said so. I like what I put out in the world to be kindness, so that hopefully when things come my way, there will be that same thing coming back to me. It has worked that way so far, so I'm sticking with it!!"
Juli's mom was a very wise woman and I've got no doubt she'd be very, very proud of her daughter for putting into practice what she taught her.  I know I'm thankful the lesson stuck and I've got no doubt that good things will be coming Juli's way!

In spite of the turmoil that all of this has caused, I'm really hoping that Amanda learns a few things from all of this like being able to stand up for herself and not let people push her around and that there are some truly wonderful people in the world who will be there for you when you need it.  A big thank you to all of my friends who offered encouragement and support; it's very nice to know you're there for us!

So ... who wants to get together sometime and do a tour of Salem with me?  I know a great historic hotel we can stay at with really comfortable beds, newly renovated bathrooms, great restaurants, and the finest General Manager to be found!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Stuff

Hey Lady, You Done Playing Zuma Blitz Yet??Hello there!

Yesterday was a complete and total pajama day with neither Jamie nor I bothering to get dressed as we weren't planning on leaving the house at all. Instead we spent the day watching movies like "Despicable Me" (cute!) on Pay-Per-View and "Queen of the Damned" (creepy!) on NetFlix.  Nothing for nothing but if NetFlix is going to offer "instant watch" only as a subscription then they need to greatly EXPAND their instant watch choices.  Their current selection is sadly lacking - seriously sadly lacking.

Last night we had thunder, lightning, lots of rain, and heavy winds for something a little different in our winter weather repertoire.  It was rather a nice change especially considering I didn't have to go out in it.  Today the sun is shining brightly but I'm afraid the forecasters aren't giving us much hope for a good week ahead.  Still, every day inches us closer to the end of winter and spring and that's a good thing!

The parking wars here at home continue with the new people upstairs blocking in the guy over the garage this morning by simply parking directly behind him instead of in the spot they're supposed to.  My car was blocked in, too, but as I'm not planning on leaving until later I wasn't too worried about it.  Unfortunately though, the other guy had to go to work but instead of laying on the offending party's doorbell to get them to move their car, he laid on mine!  Dude, you lived upstairs before you moved to over the garage - surely you know which doorbell is which, don't you??  Considering I had to do essentially the same thing and bang their door down in order to get to work this past Thursday morning when I needed their car moved that these folks would have caught on by now but apparently not.  It's just making a long nasty winter even longer and nastier.

The Drama Llama trotted dead center into Amanda's campus housing the other day and I've been dealing with some long distance problems up there.  It seems that the roommate that I thought she got along with great has made Amanda feel so bad that she couldn't stay in her own room or even in the house; said roommate even piled all of Amanda's stuff on her bed and told her she wanted her out.  I'm pretty sure she can't do that so rather than leave a disjointed mess of a voice-mail message on his phone, I sent a cool, calm, and collected email off to the Director of Residency at Montserrat telling him that I expect this mess to be cleared up ASAP.  In the meantime Amanda spent a couple nights with a friend of hers in Ipswich before moving over to stay with Juli (that would be Juli who is the General Manager of the Hawthorne Hotel) for the remainder of the weekend.  Juli is a friend on Facebook and when she read what was going on via status updates, she very generously offered Amanda a room at her home in Salem and offered to step in as a substitute parental unit if need be due to her close proximity to the college and my being all the way down here in Connecticut.  All I can say about that is WOW.  I mean seriously WOW.  And thank you, thank you, thank you to Juli!  Just goes to prove once again that there are some totally wonderful people in the world and that blogging is a great way to meet them!

As a diversion, I'm going to drag Jamie out to the movies with me this afternoon to catch a matinée showing of "The King's Speech".  I've heard from lots of different people that it's really, really good and even if it wasn't, it's got Colin Firth and I'm always up for watching Mr. Firth ply his trade on the big screen.  I'm not sure if the movie is exactly going to be Jamie's cup of tea but I figure she owes me being that I sat through "Queen of the Damned" with her yesterday! Besides, it gets her out of the house for a bit and that's all that matters!

Oh, and I've started work on an on-line photography portfolio just in case I ever decide to do something a little more serious with my photography. I'm going to be shooting a wrestling match this coming Thursday for a friend at work whose son is one of the Seniors on the team and she's apparently told another parent or two that I'm available to shoot pictures of their sons, too. Our IT guy at work who is also a DJ asked me if he'd like me to mention my services to some of his clients, too, and I said 'sure' so I guess that means I should start getting my act together. It's a work in progress but if you'd like you can check out my portfolio here. They aren't there yet but I will eventually have galleries for lighthouses and covered bridges and such, too!

Anyhow, enough blathering away at the computer! Hope your Sunday is a good one no matter where you are or what you're doing!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Of Tuna and Tiaras

In exactly three weeks I'll finally be getting a real break from this nasty winter weather we've been having here in Connecticut when I step off of the train in Jacksonville, Florida and greet Barb with a big hug before we wind our way south to West Palm Beach and a late lunch at the famous John G's with Sandy & Dick and Empress Bee & Sarge Charlie.

John G's Restaurant

The last and only time I was there was back in June when I went to Florida for Jamie's graduation from FLYCA and Bee & Charlie took us there for breakfast while we were visiting.  It was an absolutely delicious breakfast and I've already been perusing the menu to pick out what to have for lunch but I can't decide between John G's Famous Fruit Combo with Homemade Tuna Salad or The Third Dimension (a triple-decker sandwich of oven roasted turkey breast with lettuce, tomato and bacon).  If they use real honest-to-goodness turkey then my mind is made up but if they don't, I still may have to flip a coin!  No doubt I'll change my mind many times over during the next three weeks!

Of course, the train ride on Amtrak from New London to Jacksonville followed by the drive to West Palm Beach and lunch at John G's is only a precursor to an event that has been well worth waiting for - my very first-ever cruise with the aforementioned lunch companions plus Sandee & Zane from California!  We'll be shoving off from the Port of Miami on the Carnival Glory on Sunday the 27th for seven days in the Eastern Caribbean - though if you were to ask me, I still probably couldn't tell you what islands we're going to other than Puerto Rico as I'm pretty sure Barb and I are going to tour the Bacardi Factory on a shore excursion.

With everything that's been going on in life I really hadn't been paying that close of attention to how quickly the countdown timer on my blog has been counting down but when I looked at the calendar at work the other day and saw that it actually was February, it finally dawned on me just how little time I have to get ready. Sandee keeps telling me that I should be packed and sitting on my suitcases by now but I haven't even made a list yet - never mind checked it twice!

I can however happily report that I do have some of the essentials that I'm going to need for my first trip on the high seas!


For Christmas, my son and his wife got me a nice new three-piece set of luggage in a very catchy turquoise blue color that is sure to pop out from all of those dull black suitcases one sees; their very first use will be on this trip.  Along with my brand-spanking new luggage, is my first-ever tiara (fit for a Duchess!) and a smaller tiara ornament that my friend Rhonda's daughter bought for me that I'm going to put on my carry-on to indicate my royal status.  Finally, having never been on a big ship before but knowing that the short ferry ride from Fisherman's Wharf to Alcatraz Island had me quite queasy, I figured that getting transdermal patches for potential seasickness would probably be a good idea!  Like my doctor said, if I have them and don't need them then that's great but if I do need them and don't have them, that's not so great!

Before putting my tiara away in a spot that I could hopefully remember for the next three weeks, I thought I'd try it on to see how it looks being that I've never ever worn a tiara before ...


I apologize for the slight blurriness of the picture but honestly, do you know how hard it is to take a picture of yourself in the bathroom mirror while holding a camera with one hand and shooing away a cat with your other?  Not easy, my friends, not easy!  Anyhow, next time I wear my tiara it won't be accompanied by a long-sleeve t-shirt under a long-sleeve thermal fleece top but I'm pretty sure I'll still be wearing that smile - or maybe even a bigger one!

Oh yea ... most definitely a bigger one!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Five on Friday - The "Pass the Tissues Please" Version

Earlier in the week I had what I thought was a really good idea for today's Five on Friday meme but because I didn't write it down or put it in as a note on my iPhone I have completely forgotten what that really good idea was!  I'm hoping it cycles back around through my brain again and that I have the sense to write it down when it does but in the meantime I managed to come up with another idea for this week's set.  Well ... of course I did or you wouldn't be reading this, right?

I'm not really sure what prompted this week's set other than occasionally I enjoy a good sad song - even when I've got nothing to be sad about!  I'm pretty sure that I don't have anything to be sad about as I am pointedly ignoring that upcoming day when other people get flowers and chocolates and jewelry and the like and I'll be leaving for a 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise in just three short weeks so there's really nothing to be sad about, right?  Well, other than that I haven't even thought about what I'm packing for said cruise and it's going to be one of those last-minute AUGH! kind of things and that makes me sad because I'm a Virgo and I used to be so much better organized!  

Ah well, whatever the reason, enjoy these five songs and should you like to enjoy other music from Five on Friday then be sure to head on over to Trav's Thoughts and check out the other links.  Better yet, why not join in one of these Fridays?  We'd love to see you participate and listen to some of your favorite music, too!

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Yea ... I Got Nuthin'!

I've been spending so much time with that handsome red snow shovel of mine lately that I am totally worn out so until Mother Nature decides to cut my back - and the rest of New England - some slack it appears that most of my energy has been going to keeping the walkways around the house somewhat passable.  It's been a losing battle but one I'll keep fighting as long as I have to do as I promised my landlady I would.

In the meantime, I'm too wiped out to do much other than play the occasional Facebook game and maybe edit a picture or two so rather than write a post today (two paragraphs does NOT count as a post in my book!) I'm going to urge you to pop over to Picturing A Moment In Time - my other blog - and see what's going on over there.  I might have sumthin' over there ... or not depending on your definition of the word!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Cold Visit to Kent

The Road Goes Ever On and On ...As busy as it was last week, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to head over to the other side of Connecticut this past Saturday and pick up Princess Patti of Ansonia in the Valley so that we could trek through the snow in search of photographs in western Connecticut.

Truth be told, I think that we both dearly needed a Girls Day Out in order to "blow off the stink" as I put it and I'm always up for a road trip to check out new places. Besides, I wanted to take advantage of a bit of a break in the weather and see if I might be able to get any good potential photos for this year's Christmas cards; with the amount of snow we've been getting winter scenes are in abundance and then some!

Jamie decided at the last minute to go along with us as she didn't particularly want to stay home alone all day so we drove over to Ansonia and arrived around noon to pick up the Princess. From there we headed in a northwesterly direction towards the small town of Kent where I knew there was not only one of Connecticut's three historic covered bridges but also Kent Falls which is sometimes considered the highest falls in the state though it's actually a series of waterfalls and cascades that drop 250 feet over a quarter of a mile.

Patti at the "Scenic Area"We've had so much snow this year that it's made driving pretty difficult - not so much because it's on the roads but because it's piled up so high in places that cars can't see when they're accessing the road from parking lots and driveways and the like.  Patti and I had two near accidents from people backing out into the roadway before we were barely out of Ansonia and I had a chance to show off my quick brake reaction times as well as how quickly I could accelerate when I was the one doing the pulling out and couldn't see if there was anyone else coming down the road. After two road trips with me, Patti probably thinks I'm one of the world's worst drivers though she seems to do very well as a passenger and hasn't gasped once - that I know of!

We made a quick stop at a "scenic turnout" just before we got to New Milford and Patti and I both got out of the car to take some pictures of the scenic landscape laid out before us.  Or at least we tried to but when we got out of the car, the snowbanks were piled so high that it was hard to take a picture over them!   Unfortunately what I ended up with is the picture below ... a lovely view of bare branches with the foothills of the Berkshires just barely peaking through! Not exactly what I was hoping for! Even though we did see a lot of very scenic vistas on our drive, there was no place to pull over and take pictures so a lot of snow-covered barns and such went un-photographed by ourselves.

Scenic view

The Fife 'n Drum SignUpon arriving at our destination - the small town of Kent which is located along the New York border and voted the #1 2010 Top 25 Foliage Towns in New England by Yankee Magazine - the first order of business was lunch as I was getting downright hungry having skipped that most important meal of the day - breakfast!  Having done a little bit of research prior to our trip, I figured the best spot for us to do lunch was going to be the Fife 'n Drum Restaurant which is a bit of Kent history.

The restaurant, which was opened by an Italian pianist from New York City who wanted to bring a fine dining establishment to a sleepy New England village, welcomed its first customer on January 20th, 1973. That customer was Mr. Eugene Bull, Kent’s Postmaster and a member of the family who first built the covered bridge south of town. Dolph Traymon was 50-years old when he first opened the Fife n' Drum complete with a Steinway piano bar where he still tinkles the ivories. After four decades of operation it's become quite the Kent "hot spot" ... in spite of all the icicles that were hanging from its eaves on the day of our visit! And yes, the icicles were almost touching the snow that was piled up in front of the restaurant!

Icicles at the Fife 'n Drum

Dining AreaEven though it was late afternoon when we arrived, there was still a pretty good lunch crowd occupying the "David Armstrong" room where prints that are a tribute to Kent by the late local artist adorn the walls.  It was in that room that Jamie, Patti, and I found a seat and watched the black bow-tied and vested waiters cater to their customers while Dolph himself walked around the restaurant making sure that everything was in order.

In addition to this room, the Fife 'n Drum also has the "Eric Sloane" room which is the more formal side of the restaurant boasting walls that are decorated with signed artist proofs by the late New England artist Eric Sloane, an American landscape painter and author of illustrated works of cultural history and folklore. There was a private wedding party occupying that room.

On the other side of the "David Armstrong" room where we were seated is the "Glass Room" which was opened as part of the restaurant's 30th anniversary and was formerly part of the parking lot. That room was all set for what looked like a private party to come in and it looked bright and cheery in spite of the dull gray clouds outside.

Inside the Fife 'n Drum

The picture above shows a couple happily dining in front of one of the restaurant's two fireplaces with the "Glass Room" just to their right.  Just as an aside, it's not a real wood-burning fireplace but it does add ambiance to the room and the couple in front of it seemed to be quite comfy and cozy!

Jamie at the Fife 'n Drum

After placing our lunch orders (French Onion soup for Jamie and cheeseburgers for Patti and I), I took a quick picture of Jamie before I handed her the camera and asked her to take a picture of Patti and I together - something I don't normally do but I thought it might be nice to mark the occasion with a photo!

Patti & I at the Fife 'n Drum

Following that I decided to fool around with the camera a little bit in the mirrors that were to the side of us! At that point I believe that Patti was enjoying some of her cheeseburger while other patrons were enjoying the bar!

Fooling Around with the Camera at the Fife 'n Drum

After lunch I snapped this quick picture of the icicles hanging near the front door on our way out to the car as I told Patti that I am dubbing this to be "The Year of the Icicles" as I've just never seen so many or such large ones before!  I've got to admit, I was rather pleased with this picture as I managed to capture some of the water dripping; pictures like this make me think every great once in awhile that I actually know what I'm doing with a camera!

Dripping Icicles

Leaving the Fife 'n Drum and the center of Kent behind, we backtracked a little and next made our way south  to the Bulls Bridge Scenic Area in search of covered bridge pictures.  It's actually quite easy to find as a) the bridge is located on Bulls Bridge Road right off of Route 7 and b) the height barriers on the main road are pretty much a dead giveaway!

Height bars

Fortunately there was a plowed parking area just to the other side of the bridge so as Jamie, who had said after lunch that she wasn't feeling too well and had curled up in the back seat to take a nap, continued to snooze away, Patti and I climbed out to do some 'xploring!

Patti at Bulls Bridge

Located nearby a spot where George Washington crossed the Housatonic River in 1781, the bridge was named after Jacob Bull who was given permission to erect a grist mill and iron works at this point in the early 1770's. Several bridges have stood in this same spot with the current bridge being built in 1842 in the lattice truss design. The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Bulls Bridge Covered Bridge

Queen Post trusses were added for additional support in the late 19th century and in 1969 large plate girders were installed beneath the bridge to carry the weight of the traffic.  The exterior sheathing of the bridge was extended to conceal the girders from view.

Inside of Bulls Bridge Covered Bridge

The part of the Housatonic River that runs under Bulls Bridge is quite popular with kayakers from all over - when it isn't frozen! - as there are rapids along with a waterfall and small gorge. From what I've read it's actually pretty dangerous water so those walking along the trails that encompass part of the Appalachian Trail need to be really careful. Obviously there was no way that Patti and I were going to be doing any trail hiking so we settled for taking pictures from the bridge!

Patti on Bulls Bridge
The cold, cold Housatonic River
View from Bulls Bridge Covered Bridge

To the east of the bridge is a dam and canal that is part of the Rocky River Power Station that was built in 1917 by Connecticut Light and Power in order to harness the power of the Housatonic River; it's that system which creates the waterfalls and rapids in the area.

Bulls Bridge Gate

I would be willing to be that this view is pretty spectacular in the fall with some color on all those trees! 

Bulls Bridge Historic Covered Bridge

I was rather surprised by the amount of traffic that crossed the bridge while we were there as, truth be told, Kent is kind of in the middle of nowhere and not exactly hopping and popping with tourists on cold and dreary January days.  Traffic here is especially tricky as it's a single-lane bridge and only one side has a stop sign for traffic so you really do need to proceed with caution - especially coming down the hill!

Bulls Bridge in Kent, CT

I mentioned to Patti that most of the cars that we were dodging had New York plates so I was willing to bet that we were pretty darned close to the New York border.  After taking our pictures, we climbed back into the car and headed west just to see how close we really were.  I don't think we'd gone more than a couple miles before the road surface changed and the following sign appeared:


Of course I just HAD to take a picture of the highway sign being that I am a Duchess and I had just crossed over and back into Dutchess County!  It was really only fitting.  I was kind of surprised that there wasn't some sort of sign saying one had crossed a state line but I guess you can't have one everywhere, can you? 

Kent Falls SignOnce we got our bearings and figured out which direction we needed to be going, we hopped back over the border and from Bulls Bridge we continued on our journey making our way north to Kent Falls State Park, one of the oldest state parks in Connecticut which is sometimes referred to as “The Jewel of the Inland Parks” due to its scenic view of 17 different waterfalls.   Kent Falls, a two-stage waterfall that drops approximately 70 feet through Kent Falls Gorge, is fed by wetlands from the town of Warren which eventually empties into the Housatonic River located across the street from the park in a hemlock grove.

Patti had been to Kent Falls before but this was my first time in the area and I was rather surprised how the park was located right off of the roadway. I was expecting some sort of long drive in as seems to be the norm with Connecticut State Parks but thankfully that wasn't the case this time as it was starting to get close to dark and I knew we weren't going to have a lot of time for pictures.

While Jamie continued to nap the day away in the back seat, intrepid New Haven Register reporter Patti and I climbed back out of the car and made our way towards the snow-covered falls through the snow-covered fields. Luckily someone had beaten down a path for us so as long as you stayed on it, it wasn't bad but if you stepped off you found yourself in snow up to top of your thighs - as I once found out when my boot slipped!

Kent Falls State Park

If you look closely in the right hand corner of the picture, you can see the area where the falls are - underneath all that snow! 

The Footbridge at Kent Falls State Park

This footbridge was downstream a ways from a small red bridge. 

Covered Bridge at Kent Falls State Park

Not a historic covered bridge, this cute little 37-foot pedestrian bridge which crosses Kent Falls Brook was built in 1974 as part of the state park.  

Snow-Covered Picnic Tables

There were plenty of picnic tables available! 

Ice Water, Anyone?

Ice water anyone??

Intrepid Reporter Princess Patti Photographs the Falls

I let Patti lead the way on the path just so I could take her picture without her knowing!  I'm sneaky like that!

Frozen Kent Falls
Kent Falls

As you can see, the majestic falls were pretty much frozen and with the fading light and tons of white snow it was kind of hard to get a good picture. Patti said that we should come back in warmer weather with her husband Ralph and a picnic lunch which I'd most definitely like to do.  Then we could climb the trails next to the falls and enjoy the scenery without feeling like we needed a keg-carrying Saint Bernard along for company!

Frozen creek

With the sky starting to darken even more than it already was, we trudged our way through the snow back to the car and started our drive back towards Ansonia.  We ended up going back the same way that we had traveled when we had gone on our foliage hunt in October but boy, did the scenery look different this time!  Still, it's nice to explore parts of Connecticut that I've never seen before and it's even nicer to do that exploring with a friend. In spite of the near-accidents and the cold and all that snow, I really had a good time spending the afternoon/evening with Patti and I sincerely hope we get the chance to do it again many times over. Minus the near-accidents, the cold, and the snow though!

Oh, and for the record - Jamie slept the entire way back to Norwich!