Monday, August 20, 2012

Things to do, people to see

Shane and Matt2It was a busy weekend for the Nutwood gang!

We started Friday evening with a trip to the Cove, i.e., Coveleski Stadium, home of the South Bend Silverhawks. The Silverhawks are the Class A team for the Diamondbacks, and it’s really a nice little ballpark. Ken had arranged for an outing for his PMI group, and we also got tickets for his Mom and for Shane and Matt. We got some beers and then had our picnic dinner. The game was fun, but since none of us follow them really closely, it’s mostly just an excuse to mess around and have fun and be silly. We’re good at that! Every Friday, they do fireworks, so we ooh-ed and ahh-ed and enjoyed them a lot! (The popped collars were to tease my niece Heather, who has a major problem with popped collars!)

Our friend Andy and his parents were in town this weekend, so we met them for lunch on Saturday. It’s always great to see Andy, it was great to see his Dad again (we had met him once before when they were in town for a game and stayed with us), and it was wonderful to meet his Mom. She is just a lovely lady! It was a beautiful day, so we were able to sit outside and enjoy it. We gabbed about several things, and although I don’t often start talking politics with people whose views I don’t know, I did this time (I know Andy has a liberal bent). I sent him a message later and said I hoped I wasn’t out of line in doing that, and he said it’s always fun to talk about politics and religion! I must not have been too outrageous, because I saw his folks again today (more in a moment), and his Mom said that she’s glad Ken and I are friends with Andy. I don’t think there’s any way to take that in a bad way, do you? They are just super nice people. I look forward to seeing them again one of these days!

Andy & folks
Oh, and Andy had some tickets for us. Super excited! We love going to games, and are forever grateful for Andy’s help in getting tickets.

ND tickets
That afternoon, we just took it easy and enjoyed the gorgeous day. We both sat out on the deck and soaked up some sun, and ended up falling asleep out there!

Sunday was another relaxing day. Ken got a round of golf in, and got the lawn mowed. He revved up the chainsaw and chopped up that small oak tree that fell last week. Dinner was barbecued ribs, corn on the cob, and some cucumbers and onions. All really yummy! Watched a movie. It was a very pleasant weekend, with beautiful weather. The summer seems to be winding down, so that feeling of wanting to enjoy it as much as possible is setting in. The days are still nice, but it’s getting cooler at night. Great for sleeping, but still an indication that fall isn’t too far away. The summer has flown by! ::sigh::

Today Ken went back to work, and I headed over to Notre Dame to hear Andy speak. This was fun for me for a couple of reasons. Although I know where the stadium and pavilion and hockey arena are, as well as the performing arts center--oh, and the library, of course!--I’m not all that familiar with the campus. So I had to go online to find a map so I could locate Fitzpatrick Hall of Engineering. I had no problem, although I did ask a nice gentleman walking by if that building I was heading towards was Fitzpatrick. I was on the right track! Then it was a matter of finding the right classroom, and I had no problem. Jeez, it was such a throwback to my college days...trying to find the building, finding the classroom. For some reason, I was always nervous about that, but I always managed.

His parents were there today, and we sat together. We laughed as the room started filling up. There were the three of us, and the students were mostly clustering to our left. I said, “Three of these things are not like the other...can you guess which ones?” His Mom seemed to get a real kick out of that!

Andy did a great job with his talk. He discussed his project he helped to work on at CERN, which was about measuring and filtering aerosols, and his focus was on particulate matter. This has applications in climate science (what needs to be present so that these aerosols form?) as well as personal monitoring equipment. Andy’s research focused on particles less than 10 nanometers. Much of it was beyond me, but I have enough of a background in Chemistry that I was able to grasp the concepts. Some of his former professors were there, and they were the ones who asked the most questions after the talk. Andy had immediate answers for them, which always indicates to me that the lecturer knows their stuff. I told Ken that he seemed like a natural at the podium, very approachable, engaging, and knowledgeable. Along with his main job, he is going to be an adjunct professor at USC in Nanotechnology, and might be doing a thing here and there with Notre Dame, too. Fantastic job, Andy! Yay!

After parting ways with Andy and his folks and wishing them safe travels, I headed back to my car. I don’t feel guilty about not working out today, because I got a good walk in! It was such a beautiful day, it’s such a gorgeous campus, and I was feeling so good that I must have had a dopey smile on my face. I exchanged grins with a guy on a bike as I tried to get out of his way, smiled and waved ‘thank you’ at someone in a car who let me walk ahead of him, and even exchanged a smile and a nod with a priest that I passed. I walked by the stadium on the way back and got a couple of pictures, including one of the statue of my favorite ND football coach, Lou Holtz. When you’re there for a game, there is just a mass of humanity in front of all the statues, so I was able to get a nice shot without all the humanity!

I really need to check into going to more lectures there, because I enjoyed that thoroughly. We live about ten minutes away from one of the nation’s premier universities, so I should take more advantage of that.

Another early night tonight, because I’m picking Ken’s Mom up tomorrow to take her to her MRI appointment. Happy slumber!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I’m aliiiiive!

Ken Sheria BethWhoops, I can’t believe it’s been almost two weeks since I updated! I guess this was a needed hiatus. I’ve just been enjoying the waning summer since we got back from our recent trip. It’s only mid-August, so we should still be having some warm and humid weather, but it’s been surprisingly cool, with a hint of autumn in the air. Anyone in the Midwest knows what “a hint of autumn” means, and it’s more than a little bittersweet.

I’ll try to do a quick recap of our trip back from Florida, and get a little caught up here.

Our drive down to Florida was mostly Interstate, so we could get down there quickly. On the way back, we took the back roads, which are always much more fun and interesting! We drove up along the Atlantic coast in Florida, and entered the Lowcountry of South Carolina on our way to Charleston. I was captivated by the area. There were vast landscapes of swamps, punctuated by stands of tall pines and live oaks dripping with moss. We encountered places with rundown homes and trailers, only to see working plantations a little farther down the road...a long lane lined with live oaks, just like in pictures you’ve seen!

On our journey through the Lowcountry, we stopped in Conway for lunch. It was a nice little bistro on Main Street called Crady’s. I had a delicious Turkey Caprese sandwich, and Ken had a Cordon Bleu Panini. The owner came out to talk with us, and she was a very charming lady. I wish we’d had more time in Conway, because it was a river town, and it looked like they had a fairly vibrant downtown and a riverwalk. The owner is also a baker, so we got some biscotti and a toasted macadamia nut turtle to go. Mmm, delicious!

Charleston was a charming, smallish city. We headed downtown for a bite to eat, and planned on walking around the downtown area after dinner, but when we walked out of the restaurant, it was pouring down rain! We weren’t very lucky with weather on this trip, but we know that’s a risk in August. However, we saw enough that I told Ken that I would really enjoy going back to the area for a full vacation. There is a lot of history in Charleston, and I thought the downtown area was very intriguing. I noticed gas lamps like you see in New Orleans, and mentioned that to Ken. Oddly enough, my niece Jen said that she has several colleagues who have spent quite a bit of time in Charleston, and it’s one of their favorite places. She said that it seems to be an amalgam of Cape Cod and New Orleans. That’s exactly how it struck me, too! So yes, we’ll be going back there. It looked like a really neat place to visit!

Beth and SheriaAfter that, we headed up to Raleigh, where we met our long-time blogger friend, Sheria. I’ve spent some time in Raleigh before, but it was for technical school, so I saw nothing of the city. This time we got to go downtown, to meet Sheria at a barbecue place of her picking, The Pit. There I learned the difference between sweet, tomato based barbecue that Yankees prefer (haha!) and East Carolina barbecue, where the sauce is vinegar-based. I loved the vinegar-based stuff! It was delicious. (There is also the barbecue we encountered in Memphis, which is more of a dry rub. I’m really enjoying learning about various types of barbecue!) Beyond the food, which was incredibly good, we had a wonderful time talking with Sheria. I believe we talked and laughed and visited for close to FOUR HOURS.

What a pleasure to meet someone we’ve known online for at least five years. I think I was a little nervous about meeting her, and she said she was a little bit nervous about meeting us, but I knew that if you’ve been friends with someone online for five years, chances are good that you’re going to get along in real life. And that was the case! We talked and talked, everything from life in the South to religion to lots and LOTS of politics! Time went by so quickly, and before we knew it, it was almost 10 pm. We agreed to meet up the next day for lunch, so we had a nice time together before we headed out again. That was the morning that Romney announced that Paul Ryan was his VP pick, so we had plenty to discuss! (I’ll be writing more about that soon. I’ve been posting numerous articles on Facebook about it, so that’s another reason I’ve been scarce on blog posting.) It was yet another great experience in meeting one of our blogger friends. We’ve lost track of how many we’ve met, but we have never had a bad experience! Sheria is a true gem, and I am so pleased to call her my friend. I know that Ken feels the same way!

Then we headed north again. The plan was to stay in Charleston, West Virginia, but we went a little farther past that. It had been a while since I’d been in West Virginia, and I feel that it is really one of our most beautiful states. I love the rolling hills and the low mountains of Appalachia. We’ll be heading back to that area (eastern Kentucky, to be specific) soon, for a weekend with my family.

After a lot of driving, we were happy to get home. Sheeba was also happy to have us home, and with the cooler weather, he has been Velcro Kitty, as Kim says! On my lap, curling up with us at night, following us around...he’s our special boy!

One of the cool things from Florida was our visit with my Aunt June and Cousin Greg. I believe I mentioned that previously, that we had dinner together, but I didn’t mention the present she brought me. Her and Greg collected penguins at one point, and although they got rid of most of them, they still had a couple. When Aunt June realized that I collect penguins, she brought me a couple of beauties, which you can see here. One is a gorgeous black and red glass one that sits under a glass dome. The other is a foot tall, and he is made of glass, he is a decanter, and he is a freakin’ MUSIC BOX! That is one handsome, hollow, liquid-holding, music-playing penguin! I was so delighted to see these wonderful penguins, and so grateful to my Aunt June for giving them to me. I have nothing like them, and I will find special places for these beauties. Very unique penguins, and I am very honored to have them. Thank you, Aunt June!

After a week of taking care of business, we enjoyed an evening at our local minor league ballpark with Ken’s Mom, Shane, and Matt, and then we got a pleasant surprise when we heard that our friend Andy and his parents were in town for the weekend. We met up with them for lunch today at a place near Notre Dame and had a very pleasant time sitting outside and eating and talking. Andy is giving a talk at ND on Monday, and I plan on getting directions to the place where he is talking and going to see him give a discussion about aerosols. He is doing well after his graduation, enjoying his new job, and recently made another trip to South Korea for a space camp for kids there. He was still sporting a temporary NASA tattoo. :) I want one!

That is the latest! We’re just enjoying the last month or so of summer, and it’s hard to believe that we’ll soon be heading into fall. ::sigh:: We have lots of fun things planned for September, too, and I hope we have nice weather for it. But why did the summer fly by so fast? ::double sigh::

Enjoy a rather obscure song from one of my favorite '80s compilation albums, "No Wave." This is "I'm Alive" by The Secret.