Thursday, April 19, 2018

April 16 - 22, 2018, AZ

Thursday, April 19.  We drove to Casa Grande today to meet up with a dear friend and classmate of Mike's, Jim and his brother-in-law, Pete.  It's been about 3 years since I have seen either of them and Tom got to meet some more friends of mine.  We met at the Olive Garden and had some great conversation and a good lunch.

While we were in the restaurant, the wind picked up speed and it made for a dusty drive back to Mesa.  My sinuses have been feeling the effects of the high winds and blowing dust a lot lately. I've been feeling very tired and having some respiratory problems.

Tom volunteered to be the designated driver for Connie, Kathy, and I onTuesday night when we went to the annual show featuring Dale Watson and Miss Celine Lee at the Rhythm Room.  The show was excellent, although Dale did get on a rant about a nightmare that he had about his crooked pompadour, and a few people were shouting for him to play music instead of talk.  He played a good variety and a couple of duets with Celine.

Connie gave me a few photos that she took back in 2014 when we went in a road trip from San Francisco to Minneapolis, so I put them in this collage.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

April 9 - 15, 2018, CA, AZ

Wednesday, April 11.  Gypsy is sold.  Sandra, from Yuma called last Friday when we were on our way to Blythe, then we spoke again on Monday and she told me that she definitely wanted it.  She would send me a bank check with a $1,000 deposit and I agreed to hold it for her. Then she called on Tuesday and said that she would like to bring a cashier's check for the entire amount and purchase it on Thursday, unseen.  Thinking back to a few years ago, that is exactly what I did when I bought it. She had a few additional questions and will be coming tomorrow to get it.  I am feeling a bit sad, but then I had my mind made up and I am ready for the next adventure.

We have been busy getting things ready for a garage sale on Saturday and made great progress yesterday. The back bedroom is filling up with stuff that will be taken to the patio and large items are all going in the living room.  It seems like I just went through this - that's because I did - just last spring.

Whenever we are out hiking, or even walking, Tom is always kicking stones and rocks off the path, calling this activity 'trail maintenance.  On one of our last hikes, we were joking around and named him the Official Trail Maintenance Crew.  So, last week I designed a t-shirt for him and had it printed. It arrived in the mail today and he really liked it.


Sunday, April 15.  Sandra came by to get Gypsy on Thursday evening with a handful of cash and it was bittersweet seeing her go down the road behind someone else's truck.  Her plan is to take it to Colorado for the summer and ditch the heat of the valley.  She bought it sight unseen and had no doubts once she saw it.

We prepared for a garage sale and got up early Saturday morning to haul things outdoors.  We had lots of people coming by and sold about $320 worth by noon, then decided to close up. Tom returned the tables to the clubhouse and I delivered miscellaneous leftovers to the thrift store.

It was nap time.  We had to rest up to get ready for the Mexican Fiesta at the clubhouse.

The food, music, dancing, friendly conversation and laughter we just what one would expect from this place.  The band, "Guilty Pleasures" is a husband and wife team that really do a fun variety of tunes and they had the dance floor full most of the night.  I'm going to miss this place.

Today was pretty low key.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

April 2 - 8, 2018, AZ, CA

Saturday, April 7. I have a few good things to write about this week.  First, Taco Tuesday at Sharkey's with Jim and Sue, followed by music and some dancing in the courtyard at Val Vista Village for a couple of hours.  A pleasant evening and then we said goodbye until we meet again next summer somewhere in Wisconsin.

A young gal came to look at my trailer on Wednesday and she absolutely loves it. She lives in Minneapolis and will be traveling solo. The drawback is that she doesn't have a vehicle to tow it with.  She said she would let me know on Sunday, one way or another. I'm hoping she comes through, as I would feel good about Gypsy going to her.

Thursday night was special. We went to the premier of "Imaginary Bullets", a 15-minute short film starring Tom's Grandson, Lakin, at the Alamo Draft House Theater in Chandler. He had a leading role and I'm sure that his family was all very proud of him. I felt proud to be included in the event.  After the movie, the writer/director, Sean Oliver invited the two major actors, Lakin and Harley up to the stage for a question and answer period. Lakin is a natural actor he fielded questions like a trooper, not afraid to be up in front of an entire theater full of people. He is quite the kid and a real cutie with the most expressive eyes!  I feel that he may go far in the field.

     Lakin is in the center, left of the blonde gal.

On Friday morning after finishing loading the trailer, we were on the road and headed for the Mayflower county campground in Blythe, CA where we will spend some time with Tom's sister, Geri for a few days.  We pulled into our site and realized that behind us was a couple with 3 very large pit bulls, so we walked around and picked out a few other spots, called the office, and moved to a different site.  We are getting the setup procedure down pretty well and we're finished in about a half hour.

The plan was to meet up with Geri for dinner, but I flew off the handle, snapped a nasty response to something Tom said, and got all emotional and blew that plan all to hell.  We talked through it, but I didn't feel like going so Tom went by himself and I stayed home to settle down and recover. I hate it when that happens - not often, but it does.

Today went much better. It got up to 94 degrees today but our site gave us lots of shade and a pretty strong breeze most of the day. Geri joined us and we went for a walk about and then sat around talking the rest of the afternoon and played a game of Farkel too.

We fixed fried chicken, rice pilaf, and broccoli for dinner.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

March 25 - 31, 2018, AZ

Saturday, March 31.  Early Tuesday morning, I learned that Rick passed away Monday night around 10:00 pm.  I am saddened and heartbroken but also relieved that he will struggle with life no more.  He managed to live for 64 years, in spite of the last 18 of them being a burdened with the claws of alcoholism - The Ursino Curse.  I was asked to write his obituary and here it is:

Richard Scott Ursino started his life on May 13, 1954 in Stoughton, WI and died from complications of Cancer on March 26, 2018 in Springfield, MO.

Rick is survived by his daughter, Monica (Loren) Vandever of Peoria, AZ, sisters: Rita (Dennis) Walker of Blue Springs, MO; Rose Bridge of Minneapolis, MN; Rene (Michael) Moore of Warsaw, MO, and brothers: Robert (Penny) Ursino of Grain Valley, MO; Randall (Julie) Ursino of Springfield, MO; Ronald Ursino of Wichita, KS; and Russell Radecki of Iowa City, IA and many nieces, nephews, and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, Robert and Ruth (Peckham) Ursino and brothers Rocco and Raymond Ursino.

Rick was an artistic guy who was good at sketching and drawing, taught himself to play guitar and harmonica, and had a lifelong appreciation for blues music. He was very involved in Boy Scouts and Explorers as a child and earned a trip to Washington DC with his troop. These experiences gave him a love for the outdoors and camping. He spent much of his life in the Stoughton area and relocated to Springfield, MO in 2009.

Rick endured many struggles in his life including homelessness, alcoholism, and 2 bouts with Cancer, but he kept his faith, a positive attitude, a sense of humor, and a determination to carry on. He was a loyal brother and a friend to many. His battles ended at the age of 64.

Would you know my name

If I saw you in heaven?

Would it be the same

If I saw you in heaven?

I must be strong and carry on

'Cause I know I don't belong here in heaven.

        From "Tears in Heaven" by Eric Clapton

I also worked on researching options for burying his remains with Mom and Dad at St. Ann's Cemetery in Stoughton.

Tuesday morning, I learned that my good friend, Jim McDaniel fell during the night and broke his neck. What sad news this was and the community is praying for his recovery.  Surgery on Thursday was successful in fusing the bone, although he will probably not be able to turn his head and recovery will be long.  Positive thoughts and prayers going their way.

Things like this make you realize that you just never know what could happen in a split second that can change your life forever. Especially as we get older and live in a community of people in our age group.  I believe that you just have to make the best of life and enjoy every minute that you can.

I did just that on Tuesday night when Connie, Kathy, and I went to Val Vista Village to meet up with Pat and Sue for an evening of girl talk, music by Northstar, dancing, and fun.

Last night, Tom, Arlene, and I met up with Jim and Sue, Pat and Rog at La Casa De Juana for dinner and had a very enjoyable time.  The Hoovey's head back to Wisconsin on Sunday and Chandlers leave on Thursday.  

Friday, March 23, 2018

March 19 - 25, 2028, AZ

Friday, March 23.  Today is Mike's and my 50th anniversary. I can only imagine how we would be celebrating this monumental occasion.

It is also a very sad day, as Randy was summoned to Rick's side early this morning as he had a rough night and is slipping away.  My comfort in the situation is knowing that he will no longer struggle with a life that has been very rough for him.  I wonder what my brothers would have been like if they were not controlled by alcohol.  I went and spent the afternoon with Monica and we had a very nice talk, mostly above it her fractured relationship with her dad.

We walked with her dog, Scooter, to a nearby restaurant only to learn that they don't allow dogs on their patio, not even tied up for outside the railing.  So we walked back to her house and drove to a nearby sports pub and shared a pizza.  It has been a long and emotional day

I had 3 jobs this week and the afternoons and evenings flew by.  We met up with the Chandlers and Hooveys at Garcia's for happy hour drinks and appetizers. Good times!

My little Gypsy travel trailer is listed for sale on Craig's list and RV Trader and I have been communicating with a few people, two that will be coming for a look.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I get a decent offer.

Saturday, March 24.  Tom and I have been living together for 5 months today. Life is good with a few hiccups as is to be expected.

Our day started with a drive to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and the Lost Dog Trailhead where we hiked with Pat, Jim and Sue.  It was a 4.4 mile hike, a bit on the warm side but there was a nice breeze.  There were a lot of people on the trail, even a man on horseback.

    At Taliesen Overlook on Lost Dog Trail

    View to the east on the trail.

Tonight was our Brentwood Days dinner and music provided by the Rave Ons, a couple of gals who do a nice job of selecting good dance tunes and interacting with the crowd.  It was an early night though, we didn't stay until the end.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

March 12 - 18, 2018, AZ

Wednesday, March 14.  There has been lots of family activity in the last few weeks, because my brother, Rick is nearing the end of his life.  He was unable to continue the radiation treatments due to his weak physical state and declined chemotherapy treatment for the cancer in his lungs and an open tumor that started out about the size of a nickel and is now closer to baseball size.  It is so sad to see the deterioration and the effects that his lifestyle as an alcoholic have had on him.  The family has been rallying to be there for him and Randy has been especially helpful - actually he has done everything that needs to be done.

Randy and Julie will arrive here tomorrow for a few days of much needed R and R. I'm so looking forward to their visit!

Saturday, March 17.  Happy St. Patrick's Day!  We celebrated last night wth Randy and Julie and several of our Highlands friends.  Jan and Jim cooked corned beef and cabbage that was delicious, complimented by the usual pot luck dishes, we had a few drinks, and sat around talking and laughing for a while.  Good times!

I put a beef stew in the crockpot this morning in preparation for dinner with Randy, Julie, and Monica this evening. I was missing an ingredient for the stew, so we walked to Albertsons instead of our usual 'around the park' walk. Once our guests arrived, we had a drink out on the patio, lots of conversation before and after dinner.  It's so nice to be with family.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

March 5 - 11, 2018, AZ, Mexico

Wednesday, March 7, 2018.  We kept the trailer parked in front of the house and plugged in, unloaded only laundry and some of the food.  I had 2 cleaning jobs this week and we spent the afternoons getting ready for the next trip to Yuma.  So, this morning we were on our way after selecting a different RV park because the Escapees KOFA Koop didn't work out. They don't take reservations, sites are only available to members, are available on a first-come basis, and it is the place we really wanted to stay at. Unfortunately, we learned there were no sites available when we called this morning and had to make alternative arrangements.

I had an opportunity to do the driving between Buckeye and a Rest Area about 80 miles east of Yuma.  I was sure that I could handle it and all went well, but I wasn't in heavy traffic or having to change lanes and I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable backing it into a site.  Once Tom took the wheel again, I called the Escapees park and learned that they did have a site available, so are settled in site 56 at a members rate of $20 a day. The site is wide and long, bordered by a 2' brick wall, has plenty  of room for the camper, a generous concrete patio and a place to park the truck, and a shed for the owner's personal items.  These are leased lots and when the occupants are away, they allow them to be rented.  We are backed up to open desert and there is a very large fenced Dog run. 

Shortly after setting up, JoAnn came by to welcome us, gave us several brochures with regional information, a goody bag for Frisco, and a handmade jar opener and 2 coasters with a retro RV design.  We are impressed!  Well, not so impressed with the cable TV, antenna reception, or radio signal.  I'm good with that but it bugs the hell out of Tom. I'm fine as long as I have phone data or my hotspot is working.

Thursday, March 8.  Our first stop today was the Yuma Visitor Center and the Yuma Quartermaster Depot.  The following info is taken from their website:  "It is located on high ground above the Colorado River, the U.S. Army's warehouses held a six-month supply of clothing, food, ammunition and other goods for forts in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Texas - and were surrounded by as many as 900 mules and their teamsters.

Ocean vessels brought goods to the Gulf of California, from San Francisco where they were loaded onto steamboats for the trip upriver to Yuma. Supplies were shipped farther upriver or overland in wagons pulled by the 20-mule teams of Western lore.

With the coming of the railroad in 1877, the Depot's supply role faded and the Army closed it in 1883. But the site lived on as a telegraph and weather station and customs office - and then as the first home of the Bureau of Reclamation (U.S. Reclamation Service) and the Yuma County Water Users Association. Engineering pioneers worked from here to tame the river, building dams to prevent floods, generate power and ensure a source of water."

It was very interesting and we learned a lot and before we left, we stopped at the Back in Time Pie shop for a yummy piece of bumble berry pie with a dollop of ice cream on top.

From there, we went to the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Site and got a feeling for what it was like to be in one of the worst prisons in the US, rated right up there with Alcatraz.  Most of the buildings have been reconstructed after years of decay, exposure to the harsh weather conditions, and abandonment.

Friday, March 9.  It was another day of touring and exploring and our first stop was the town of Felicity, CA whose claim to fame is that it is the Museum of History in Granite and the Center of the World.  It is a strange place but has a very heartwarming feel about it.  You can read more on their website at We were taken into the pyramid and stood on the dot that marks the center of the world, made a wish, and were given a certificate stating that we had been there. In the future we can enter for a $3 donation.

While we were there, we walked and viewed several of the memorials (triangular shaped walls engraved with stories and pictures that tell about events and people in world history). We then climbed the 49 steps that led to the Church on the hill where we had a beautiful view of the entire place, including a new exhibit that is a concrete walled maze that will, one day, be covered with plaques that tell the story of individuals. Anyone can pay $100 and send in a photo or story, and you will be recorded as part of history for as long as the memorial stands.  

Before we left, we stopped in the gift shop and bought the children's book, "Coe, The Good Dragon at the Center of the World", the story that is the basis for the place.

We then headed south on CA 186 to the parking lot on the border at Los Algodones, Mexico.  We stopped in and got an estimate of some of the dental work that we both could us - an implant is $800, then 4 months later, the crown is added for $350 - not bad considering that Tom was recently quoted about $3,500 in Mesa.

We also stopped for some lunch and a beverage in a Cantina, then did some shopping.  Tom bought a belt and Kahlua and I bought Vanilla, antibiotics, tortillas and some Tequila.

Sunday, March 11.  Yesterday was a 'do nothing' day and we never even left the park.  We thought we might go to the pool but didn't even make it that far.  We also thought we might join the neighbors for happy hour but the chairs never came out and the OPEN sign never came on - these are serious happy hour folks that usually draw a good sized group most afternoons. Bill told me that you had to be prepared to tell tall tales if you joined them.

Today, we went to Gateway Park and walked the trail along the Colorado River and a canal. It was a nice day and a walk felt really good.

The chairs came out across the street and we joined a few folks for Happy Hour. Most of the people in this park are getting ready to leave for the season. In fact, the park is closed, starting on April 1, to everyone but those few who remain through the summer.  We didn't stay long because there is an ice cream social at 6:00 and we had to fit in some dinner before then.

We got a free scoop of ice cream because we were newcomers and got to be first in line.  Stan and Beth joined us at our table, telling us that one of their park rules was to never let newbies sit alone. They are nice folks from Canada who are world travelers and had interesting stories to tell.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

March 1 - 4, 2018, AZ

Sunday, March 4. Thursday was our day to check out some of the hiking trails in the park. After a visit to the Discovery Center to learn about the area, we took the Roadrunner trail that went along the lake, past a couple of day use areas and a huge boat ramp. We learned that there is primitive camping along the shoreline in many areas - you just pull over and park it, but have no hookups or restroom facitilities.  It was a nice walk, about 4 miles.

   Time for a break.

    Full moon over the marina.

On Friday, we took a drive to explore some of the other campgrounds and then drove out Castle Hot Springs Road until the pavement ended at the northern border of the park.  We continued on the dirt road, as Tom remembered a resort back there and wanted to see if it was still there.  And yes, it is a really cool setting that entertained several of our past presidents, the last was JFK when he was recovering from a war injury.  The sign said that it was reopening in October of this year - might be a great place to check out in the future. I did an online search and it said that 200,000 gallons of 120 degree water comes out of the hot springs daily.

   Castle Hot Springs Resort

    Castle Hot Springs Road

We stopped at a little corner bar and grill, the Wild West Saloon and had a beer and a burger on the way back home.

After breakfast on Saturday morning, we drove to the Wild Burro trailhead and started our hike from there, a 4-mile hike out and back that provided us with some great views, a couple of stops on the shoreline so Frisco could wet his feet and slurp up the cool, clear water.

Monica came out and joined us for dinner and a campfire in the evening and we had some great conversation.  Life is a challenge for her these days, as her Dad (my brother Rick) has decided to discontinue treatment for his cancer, and he lives far away in 

Missouri.  Also, her husband left this week for a work assignment in Puerto Rico for the next 6 weeks. I feel bad for her and hope we gave her some reassurance and at least a shoulder to lean on for a while.

Today would be my brother, Rocco's 69th birthday, may he Rest In Peace.  It's hard to believe that he has been gone from us for 16 years now.

It was also pack up and leave day, we were on the road about noon, after waiting in line for to empty the tanks for almost an hour.

February 26 - 28, 2018, AZ

Wednesday, February 28.  We celebrated Tom's 69th birthday last night by meeting up with Jim and Sue and Pat and Roger for dinner at Dirtwater Springs for dinner.  Again, the service was poor, they didn't get the orders right, my chicken was underdone and their prices are high.  We barely got out of there in time to make it to Countryside RV for a night of entertainment by Maggie Mae and Stevie Ray Nelson.  Their auditorium was filled to capacity and it was a fun night of good old country music.

This morning, after a trip to Costco to pick up Tom's new glasses, we headed out to The Roadrunner Campground at Lake Pleasant where we will be spending the next few days.  Our site, #14 on the lake side has a nice view of the lake and a huge one it is! Once we got setup, we walked around get a feel for the place - the visitor center was closed and there is some construction going on right near there, blocking off some of the trails.

It's quite windy, but our site is backed by a small hill and we have plenty of sunshine.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

February 19 - 25, 2018, AZ

Monday, February 19.  The weather is supposed to be snowy and is under a winter snow advisory.  Wouldn't you know, it's my travel and I'm a bit uneasy, although I know that people around here take it all in stride.  I made a reservation for an Uber pickup at 3:00, just in case - my flight is at 6:00.

Ben and I took Charlotte to "the Works", a kids discovery museum with lots of blocks and things to build, silly mirrors and stuff like that. She had lots of fun. We stopped for lunch at Broder's Cucina, just a couple of blocks from their house, for and my meatball sandwich was yummy.

I said my goodbyes and my Uber driver showed up right on time and got me to the airport in plenty of time. I was all checked in ahead of time, so getting throughnsecurity was no problem.  I no more sat down and looked up at the screen to see my flight was delayed a half hour and then shortly after that, another half hour.  When we finally boarded, we sat on the tarmac for another hour while the plane was de-iced - three times. My plane landed at 11:00 and Tom was right there to pick me up. It sure was nice to see him again!

Saturday, February 24. It was right back to my cleaning jobs this week, starting on Tuesday morning, although my client gave me some slack and let me have a later start.  That was nice, because I was too wound up to get to sleep for a long time.   I was happy to be back in Tom's arms.  We missed each other.  And Frisco too, although I knew he was in good hands.

We hadn't been to a TGIF here in the park for a long time and Friday night, it was hosted by Jan and Jim, so we signed up and went.  They made pork chops with pineapple and strawberry chipotle sauce and, as usual, they were yummy and the side dishes contributed by residents were good too.  Dinner was followed by Karaoke, Tom went home early and I stuck around for a little while. Bruce, Jim, and Dan were the best performers, although they sang old and slow country songs.

Tonight, we had Jim and Sue and Connie over for pizza, salad, and Farkel.  It was fun with lots of lively discussion and plenty of laughter.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

February 11 - 18, 2018, MN

Monday, February 12.  I had 2 brief walks this morning, taking the kids to school and bus stop. Damn, it's cold!  Zero degrees is damned frigid cold.  Jill loaned me one of her coats and and I was wearing hat and gloves, but my face felt stiff and frozen, then my knees and feet started feeling real cold, and this was just walking Norah and Camille to their school, only 2 blocks away.

Tonight was the scramble to get them all to swimming lessons and back home and tucked into bed.  Jill fed the kids quesadillas and oranges in the car on the way there and they got bananas on the way home.  It was testing night and Camille and Norah moved up to the next level but Charlotte needs to improve her skills a bit more before she moves on.  She loves the water but it is all a matter of coordination with her. We were eating nachos for dinner at 8:30 and it wasn't long after that when I went to bed.

Tuesday, February 13.  Well, it's been 5 years since Mike passed away and I got my cry in this afternoon.  Damn, it wasn't supposed to be like this.  I'm going to look at photos and bring back memories of the years we had together.  I feel good that I have been able to move on and make the most of my life and I am in a happy place - I know that he would want that for me.  And now - I'll get on with the rest of my life.

I used Ben's van to run some errands today - the DMV for updated license, tags for the trailer, pick up a prescription, and get some things at the grocery store. The temps have risen to 30 today but it still felt cold because of the wind.  A high of 40 is expected tomorrow.

Thursday, February 15.  Well, we survived the anniversary of Mike's death and celebrated by having a conversation with Pat, receiving 60+ posts to his photo on Facebook, and watching the slide show of his life story that we shared at his memorial service.

The girls were all excited about Valentine's Day and came home from school with boxes full of them and Charlotte's was full of candy.  I add a pot of Zuppa Tuscana for dinner and it went over well, but not quite as well as the last time I made it.  That might have a bit to do with the candy that they ate after school.

Ben took the day off today, he actually has the next 5 days off, and once we got the kids all off to school, he and I headed to Rustica Bakery for a coffee and pastry.  Our destination was the Frederick R Weisman Art Museum on the U of M campus.  The building itself is unusual, a stainless steel and brick building designed by architect Frank Gehry. The paintings on display were made by local artists and there was a gallery with works depicting "Vanishing Ice" that made me feel sad, knowing that global warming is real and this brought it all home.  There was also an exhibit of photos of Prince and a few of his personal items.

From there, we headed to the Foxtone Music Company where a very friendly guy named Wes talked with us for a long time about creating electronic music and sound waves and the equipment used to create it.  Much of it was way over my head, but I found it to be interesting and it's a topic that Ben has a lot of interest in.

After that, we went to Minnehaha Falls so I could see them in their frozen state.  The weather has been in the 30-40 degree range yesterday and today, so there was water moving but the Falls themselves were all ice.

   Charlotte's new bob hairstyle.

Friday, February 16.  Happy 41st Birthday to my youngest son, Ben. He and Charlotte both had the day off, so we were able to spend it together. I let him sleep in and got up early to do his morning chores, like make Norah and Camille's lunches and breakfast, get the coffee going for Jill and I, and empty the dishwasher. Jill dropped the girls off at schooled once Ben got up, we headed to Rose Street Patisserie for a yummy pastry and coffee.

Our next stop was the Bakken museum, the world's only library and museum devoted to medical electricity. I learned a bit about the condition in my heart called a left bundle branch block, the part of the heart that controls the electrical signals that tell it to beat.  There were several hands-on displays that demonstrated how electricity worked and some that generated a slight shock.  There was a Frankenstein's Laboratory display that featured the author, Mary Shelley and an animated version of her telling her story, plus several other interactive displays.  Charlotte also like the Ben Franklin Laboratory. We played a cool Mind Game where two people tried to get a ball through a tube by using brain waves.  My brain was way too active to have much control and Charlotte and Ben both beat me at it.  It made me think that I should work on some relaxation techniques.

They hired a babysitter for tonight so Ben, Jill, and I could go for it for a nice dinner and it was truly enjoyable.  It has been so long since we have been able to do that.  We started at Salut for an Old Fashioned to toast Ben's birthday and in memory of Mike, then headed to Book Club Restaurant for dinner.  We shared a plate of Mussels for an appetizer andI had the steak salad that was a generous serving of assorted vegetables, pickled green beans, a nice hunk of Blue Cheese, and a tasty vinaigrette dressing.  For dessert, we shared a bread pudding.  It was such a nice evening.

Saturday, February 17.  Norah, Charlotte and I teamed up and made my Apple Oat Crisp for Ben's birthday party this morning.  After Charlotte's gymnastics class, we hung out at home for the rest of the day, working on art projects and party decorations.  

I learned from Rita that my latest great-nephew was born in Kansas City, the first son of my niece Ashley and Cher husband Chase. I haven't gotten any other details yet.

Ben made a yummy dinner of spicy shrimp, rice, and roasted broccoli and then we had the apple crisp and ice cream for dinner.  And then the party started!  The party ball (strobe lights) was turned on and the dance music turned up and we all danced and had a balloon fight. What fun!

Sunday, February 18.  Ben and the family went to an indoor water park and I opted to stay home and do my laundry and get organized for my trip back home. It was kind of nice to have quiet time.  We spent the rest of the day hanging out at home and taking it easy.