Saturday, June 15, 2024

Saying Goodbye to the Dodge: Memories of a Family Truck

Dad's 1997 Dodge Dakota Truck Leaving Lawrence
1997 Dodge Dakota Truck Donation

Dad passed on December 30, 2014 (see Remembering) and we have had his truck since he passed. The 1997 Dodge Dakota truck mainly sat in the driveway at my parents house. Every now and again Betsy, or Mom, would start the truck to drive around the block or run it for a few minutes. Most of the time though the past few years, it would not start at all. It was time to let the truck go and put the parts to better use.

Repair Work on Dodge Dakota Truck
Repair Work on Truck
I have so many memories of the truck. It is hard to believe my Dad bought that truck in 1997. He was never a big fan of the truck as I recall through the years. It would wear the front tires down bald quickly and I am not sure how many times he had to replace the tires faster than he thought should be necessary. There were other things about the truck he was not happy about, but he kept it and did his own repairs on the truck to keep it going. 

We used the truck for working at the cabin loading the tractor in the back, hauling rock, or hauling things to or from the cabin at Lone Star Lake. The truck was his primary mode of transportation as he had Mom driving the Accord. When Dad would go somewhere, he was usually in the truck. 

I remember driving the truck with the boat hitched to Clinton Lake with friends. Or, taking the boat to the shed where we kept the boat at rental properties. Tim and I would say how nice it would be to have a lift at the dock, but Dad wanted to keep it in the shed.

We were able to donate the truck to Washburn Tech. I believe the truck is too old for recycled rides that Washburn Tech does, but they can use it for instruction, parts, or scrap. If you have an old car you are looking to part ways with, I would suggest you reach out to Recycled Rides with Washburn Tech

The truck served us for many years and held good memories. Thanks to my sister, Betsy, for the pictures included in this post. I know it was a sad day for Mom and Betsy as they watched the truck be loaded up and hauled off, but I think it is best that it is no longer rusting in the drive.


Saturday, June 08, 2024

Walks, Wuffes, and Woofs: Celebrating Oliver's 13th with a Tail-Wagging Adventure

Oliver Walking on his Birthday
Oliver Walking on his Birthday

Oliver turned 13 on June 5. It was his birthday, and we showered him with greetings throughout the day. But the true highlight was going on a walk. I have been taking him on a walk following my jogging. He is anxious while I am gone and watching for me to return. This time though when I got back, he whined three times wanting to get going on his walk. Poor guy, his birthday and he had to wait for me to get back from a jog so he could show off to the neighborhood that it was his birthday. He had a grand time walking through the neighborhood. We walked one mile and I think he could have kept going.

Action Shot On Our Walk
Action Shot While we Walk

I wanted to get a picture of us walking, so I put my phone down by a tree and captured us on our walk. Oliver was a little confused on what we were doing as I placed the phone, backtracked, and then walked forward again. We did this a few times and I think he thought I had lost my mind. Nope! Just trying to get a picture of us walking together, Oliver. 

We spotted a few other dogs on our walk. Oliver, even at 13, can still be a bit excitable around other dogs. So, I usually try to avoid other dogs as much as possible on our walks. If we start down a street and I see someone with a dog, we might change routes so we avoid the dog. Some people we meet with dogs do not understand and want to approach for our dogs to meet. He has gotten better, but still a bit of a nut when meeting other dogs. Rather embarrassing when he acts like a nut. 
Selfie with Oliver on our Walk
Selfie with Oliver on our Walk

We had a good time on our walk. A lot of sniffing, finding spots, and looking over the lay of the land. Oliver gets so excited at the mention of "walk" so of course we spell it out and he is starting to recognize when we spell it out what we are talking about. I recently started running again and in turn started walking Oliver regularly. He loves it so much that I need to make sure to walk him through the week even if I am not running. He has a happy look on his face and of course he sleeps so well on the days we do our walks.

Oliver as a Puppy Back in October 2011
Oliver October 2011

It is hard to believe our little guy is thirteen years old. I still remember him as a little puppy with a lot of energy, playing with toys, wanting belly tickles, and have a grand time. Ok, well, he still does all of that at thirteen which is fantastic. 

A quick shout out to supplements that Carrie got for Oliver a few months ago and completely changed his energy and ability to run around or jump on the couch. She saw an ad on FaceBook for Wuffes. Prior to us giving Oliver Wuffes, he had joint pain, sometimes he could not jump on the couch, and he really had no energy to play. We have been giving him Wuffes for a few months and can see a difference in how he acts and the energy he has throughout the day. Carrie usually gives him his supplement at night after his super. All she says is "want your supplement" and he knows what is happening. Gets excited and waits for his supplement to be broken out to him.

Happy Birthday, Oliver. I hope you had a great day of celebration.


Sunday, June 02, 2024

Nostalgia Through Music

Album Art from "Painted Desert Serenade" by Joshua Kadison

I enjoy Apple Music and the fact that it can give a summary at the end of the year of songs that I have listened to frequently during the year. Prior to Apple Music, I was using Rhapsody by Real. It is sometimes fun to go back to see what I was listening to in heavy rotation when I first start using Apple Music. There are top songs for each year going back to 2015. I am not sure if I was using Apple Music prior to 2015, but that's the first playlist that shows up in my history with heavy play rotation.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Carrie and I stopped at my Mom's in Lawrence. Mom mentioned she had been listening to CD I used to listen to back in the early 90s. I was curious of the name and she told me it was Painted Desert Serenade by Joshua Kadison. I had completely forgotten about the CD until it was mentioned. I searched for Joshua Kadison on Apple Music and immediately brought back memories of college. I think it was a CD that when I moved out of the house, I left at home. My Mom came across it in my old things and started listening to it in the afternoons.

Since last weekend, I have listened to the songs a few times through Apple Music. It is crazy how hearing those songs takes me back to the early 1990s. Of course this is true with other songs in the way the song can take us back to another time. 

As I look back on my prior years through Apple Music going back to 2015, I see a number of similar artists that I listen to regularly throughout each year with one being Neil Diamond but also mixed into the mix includes James TaylorBruce Springsteen, Steve Winwood, Brett Dennen, and many others that show up year after year. 

What are some ways you keep track of music from your past?

I wish there was a way to look at back what I listened to as a kid, young adult, or into college. Yes, I remember some of them, but I know there are many CD's that I bought that I do not remember. Some I would like to find again that I know are in the house somewhere, but I have not been able to find them.

Until next time, have a great rest of your Sunday and a wonderful week...


Monday, May 27, 2024

The Mavericks in Kansas City and a Relaxing Weekend

The Mavericks at Knuckleheads
The Mavericks
This past weekend, Carrie and I took a long weekend trip to Kansas City to see The Mavericks perform. It was actually our second time seeing them in KC – they put on such a great show, and we already have plans to go again next year!

This time around, we met up with my brother Tim and cousin Tom for the concert. It was Tim's first time seeing The Mavericks, and we had a blast right up front – we were only about four or five people from the stage!

Tom, Tim, and John at The Mavericks
Tom, Tim, and John at The Mavericks

Opening Act at The Mavericks
Opening Act at The Mavericks

Raul Malo of The Mavericks
Raul Malo of The Mavericks

Group Photo at The Mavericks
Group Photo at The Mavericks

Selfie of Carrie and John at The Mavericks
Selfie at The Mavericks


Oliver in the Hotel Room with his Toys
Oliver in Hotel Room
Oliver enjoys hotel life

We brought our dog Oliver along with us. He actually loves staying in hotels! He enjoys relaxing in the room while we're out, but his favorite part is definitely the walks he gets throughout the day. It's hilarious to see him prance down the hallway, knowing exactly how to get in the elevator, and thinking every door we pass is "our room."

Exploring Kansas City

We arrived in Kansas City on Thursday afternoon and checked into our hotel, the Intercontinental on the Plaza. This hotel is dog-friendly, and they haven't charged us a pet fee either time we've brought Oliver.

Pancakes at The Classic Cup Cafe
Pancakes at The Classic Cup
Friday morning, we slept in and then headed to The Plaza for a late breakfast at The Classic Cup Cafe. They have a great patio, perfect for people-watching with Oliver. The pancakes were fantastic, and Carrie loved her breakfast sandwich – the homemade fries were a hit too!

After breakfast, we wandered around the shops before heading back to the hotel for a relaxing afternoon of reading, snoozing, and hanging out with Oliver.

Oliver at Breakfast
Oliver at Breakfast

Walking Oliver Late at Night
Walking Oliver Late at Night

Drinks, dinner, and good company

That evening, we met up with Erin and Greg for drinks at Chaz Restaurant and Lounge before heading to our dinner reservation at McCormick & Schmick's (always a delicious choice!). We finished the night with drinks in the bar area of our hotel.

Us on The Plaza
Us on The Plaza
Relaxing Saturday and back home

Saturday was another slow start. We grabbed coffee at Summer Moon Coffee before heading to meet Erin and Greg for lunch in Lawrence, instead of Kansas City. We dropped Oliver off at my mom's place before lunch and then spent most of the afternoon catching up with her before heading back to Topeka.

It was a fantastic weekend filled with great music, seeing family, delicious food and drinks, and beautiful weather. We made some wonderful memories, and we hope you had a great long weekend as well!


Honoring Our Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day

American Flag on Memorial Day

This Memorial Day, as I watched the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS, I was reminded of the true meaning of the holiday. The beautiful music and powerful stories paid tribute to the sacrifices made by those who died serving our country.

Tears welled up as I listened to families recount the lives and service of their sons and daughters who gave their all in combat. Their bravery and dedication ensure the freedoms we cherish today – the freedom to live our lives as we choose.

On this day of remembrance, I am deeply grateful for all those who came before us, who devoted their lives to protecting the United States from threats both foreign and domestic.

May we never forget their sacrifice.


Sunday, May 19, 2024

Royals Win on a Beautiful Friday Night!

Royals Game on May 17, 2024 Against the A's
Royals Game on May 17

Another Great Night at the Ballpark

This past Friday night, I headed to my second Royals game of the season with Greg, Eddie, and Chris. It was a beautiful evening, and the best part? The Royals pulled off a win against the A's!

We arrived early to enjoy some pre-game tailgating. It had been a while since I'd been able to do that, and it was a great way to kick things off. Greg whipped up some hot dogs, Eddie brought the beers, and Chris supplied the peanuts. All I had to do was show up and enjoy the delicious food and drinks!

Greg and John in our Seats
Greg and me in our Seats

Greg got our seats and parking permit and then we all paid him back. I thought I got a picture of Eddie, Chris, and me, but I was using the BallPark app and apparently it did not post or did not take, so I have the picture to the right of Greg and me at the game. 

Royals Perfect When I Attend (So Far!)

While I wasn't able to find a picture of everyone together (seems the BallPark app failed me this time!), I did snag one of Greg and me at the game. Interestingly, the BallPark app tracks your attendance and win/loss record for the games you go to. With two games under my belt this season, the Royals are undefeated when I'm in the stands! (Just sayin') 

Stats from BallPark App for Stadiums and Teams
Stats from BallPark App

BallPark App Fun Facts

For anyone who's been using the BallPark app for a while, like me, checking your team stats can be a fun way to relive past games. To find yours, just tap your initials in the top left corner. My profile shows I've checked in to 33 games, seen 16 different teams, and visited 3 ballparks.

The app even tells me my earliest recorded game was on June 8th, 2013 (guessing the app launched around then?). Most of my Royals game attendance came in the magical 2014 season, where I saw 10 games throughout the regular and post-season. What a ride that was! And of course, who can forget the back-to-back World Series appearances in 2014 and 2015? Carrie and I were lucky enough to attend game one of the 2015 Series – an experience I'll never forget.

Royals Win!!!!
Royals Win!!!!

Here's to More Games and Ballpark Memories!

I'm looking forward to catching more Royals games this season and adding to my BallPark app stats. Maybe I'll even visit some new ballparks in the coming years! (Though I've definitely been to more than three, some pre-date the app's existence). Those attendance records are a fun way to see how my teams perform when I cheer them on in person.

Until next time, have a great week and Go Royals!

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Happy Mother's Day to All the Moms Out There, Especially Mine!

Tongue Out and Sleeping
Tongue Out and Sleeping

Every year on the second Sunday of May, we celebrate Mother's Day, a day dedicated to honoring the incredible women who raised us, nurtured us, and loved us unconditionally. But where did this tradition even begin?

The origins of Mother's Day can be traced back to ancient civilizations who celebrated fertility and motherhood. In the modern era, credit for the holiday goes to Anna Jarvis of West Virginia. After her mother passed away in 1905, Anna campaigned tirelessly to create a special day to recognize the sacrifices and contributions of mothers. It wasn't until 1914 that President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother's Day an official national holiday in the United States.

Why is Mother's Day so important? Mothers are the cornerstones of our families. They are the ones who bandage scraped knees, celebrate our victories, and offer a shoulder to cry on during our defeats. They are our biggest cheerleaders, our confidantes, and our guiding lights.

This Mother's Day, I want to take a moment to express my deepest gratitude to three amazing women: 

Carrie (Wife and Mom to Oliver), you take good care of Oliver and me. Oliver wanted to wish you a Happy Mother's Day which he did with kisses first thing this morning when he saw you wake up. Oliver cannot wait to snuggle on the sofa with you to celebrate.

Mom (Nancy), thank you for your unwavering love and support throughout my life. You taught me the importance of hard work, kindness, and resilience. Your endless patience and guidance have shaped me into the person I am today. Of course Oliver had to be part of the day to help celebrate.

Joan, Happy Mother's Day! Your warmth and thoughtfulness aren't reserved for holidays – your delicious cooking and special gifts are a constant reminder of your love and support. Thank you.

To all the moms out there, Happy Mother's Day! May your day be filled with love, laughter, and appreciation. You are all truly heroes.

Saturday, May 04, 2024

Celebrating Javier's Journey to Citizenship

Javier in 2009 Riding in Limo After Being Out of Country
Javier in 2009
Our friend Javier recently achieved a major milestone – becoming a United States citizen! We've known Javier since his days attending Washburn University to get his MBA and then after he graduated with his MBA, he got a jot at Frito Lay. Back in 2009, we even went the extra mile to help him out with his house and finances while he was back in Costa Rica, ensuring things ran smoothly as he completed the process to work legally in the US.

Javier in 2024 on Way to Become a United States Citizen
Javier in 2024

Fast forward to April 27th, 2024, and the big day for Javier's citizenship ceremony finally arrived. He let us know on Thursday, and we surprised him with a trip down to Dallas, Texas to celebrate. But we weren't the only ones with a surprise up their sleeve – our friend Corrie from Houston also made the trip to celebrate with Javier! We managed to keep it a secret, making the reunion even more special.

Group of Friends with Javier to Celebrate
Group of Friends to Celebrate

Javier got us a limo to take to the ceremony that then dropped us off at Rodeo Goat for a late lunch. With Corrie coming in Saturday morning and it being a surprise for Javier, we had to ask that the limo pick Carrie and I up at the hotel which was really so Corrie could ride in the limo too. Carrie, Corrie, Jess, Brock, and Kim all went to the ceremony to celebrate Javier becoming a citizen. We all had to remain outside as the event space was small and one hundred people at a time become citizens, so there is not a lot of room available within the swearing in location. We all stayed outside of the main doors and cheered when Javier, and others, came out after becoming citizens.

Javier and John Selfie
Javier and John Selfie

I am excited for Javier to have this completed. He can now vote in the United States elections. He is able to know that his retirement will go to him and not be seized by the government through future changes. He also keeps his residency to Costa Rica which is still in our plans to some day retire to Costa Rica, so I am glad that he keeps his residency to his home country. 

Javier, Hat, and Limo
Javier, Hat, and Limo

It was an incredible experience to witness hundreds of people from all backgrounds taking this important step. The excitement was contagious as they exited the ceremony, waving American flags and met with chants of "USA! USA!"

Congrats Javier on becoming a citizen of the United States.


Saturday, April 27, 2024

Oliver Attends his First Kansas City Royals Bark at the Park Game and All is Fine

Royals Jersey on Oliver and Ready for Game
Oliver Tailgating and Ready

We have been talking about taking Oliver to Bark at the Park at the Kansas City Royals games since he was a puppy. We have never done so until this past Tuesday. I saw the date advertised a few times early in the season and we started talking about taking Oliver to his first game. Plus, it would be the first time in two years that Carrie and I would attend a game. We got it booked and planned out the night. 

It was a great time! So many dogs... I later heard there were around 900 dogs in the stadium. Oliver did really good. He barked and growled a few times in the line leading up to the gates. Once we got to our seats, he was fine until about the middle innings. Then he started sitting and growling at other dogs as they would walk by or he could see them in the stands.  Carrie took him up to the top to do his business and when he came back, he was a perfect little gentleman. 

Sluggerrr and Oliver Meet
Oliver meets Sluggerrr

Oliver met Sluggerrr at the game. We tried to get the attention of Sluggerrr as he was right next to us, but were unable to get his attention to hold Oliver to get a picture. At one point, they played "The Circle of Life" from The Lion King and in this case, Sluggerrr held up dogs on the jumbotron. It was funny although I think if that would have been Oliver, he would have been scared. 

It happened to be $1 hotdog night, so we had hot dogs for dinner. Oliver had a few bites of hotdog. We noticed some other dogs where that was their meal for the night with meat only and no bun. It was funny to watch all the different dogs and interactions.

The Royals snapped a three-game losing streak, so that was fun. We talked after the game on the way home, with a sleepy Oliver, that this might be a once-a-year thing. I really did not watch any of the first 1 - 4 innings as anxious about Oliver being good and trying to make sure he was not causing issues. 

While there were 900 something dogs there that night, there were not a lot of fans. The Royals playing well and scoring caused a few times when there were loud cheers, yelling, etc., and Oliver did not like that too much. He would coward and slink into the chair or our arms. He did great overall.

Oliver Cheering on the Royals
Oliver Cheering for his Royals

I think Oliver had a great time. He had a lot of things to see that were new to him. A lot of things to sniff that were different. He behaved well for the most part. He made people around us laugh at his low growling in the middle innings. He met some people that had previously owned a Japanese Chin and remembered his name each time they walked by our row saying "Hi Oliver". Nothing traumatic happened and for that I am grateful. The anxiety levels for both Carrie and I as we were headed to the game were at high levels. It went well.

Since that game, the Royals have been doing very well. Fun to watch and now Oliver has a little extra something to connect with when we are watching at home. As for Carrie and I, we plan to make it to another 2 - 5 games through the season. I cannot wait!

Until next time, have a great rest of the weekend!


Sunday, April 21, 2024

Oliver's Night of Fear and the Case of the Mysterious Cough

Scared Oliver Hiding Behind My Chair
Oliver is Scared

Monday Night Jitters

Oliver was acting out of sorts on Monday night. He hid behind my chair and restlessly moved from one strange spot to another. Topeka was forecast for severe storms overnight, and it seems Oliver could sense the approaching weather. He was scared and wouldn't leave my side.

A Stormy Night's Rest (or Lack Thereof)

By 10 pm on Monday, Oliver had calmed down a bit. However, around 10:30 pm, a low rumble of thunder jolted us awake, followed by a bright flash and a loud crack of thunder. Oliver cautiously approached the edge of the bed, then jumped down and scurried under the dresser. Under the furniture is his go-to spot when bad weather frightens him. It seems he stayed there all night, as heavy rain and constant lightning kept him tucked away and safe.

Licking and Coughing

The storm and his anxiety caused Oliver to lick excessively – anything he could find, from the carpet to the blankets. This soon turned into a cough that lingered throughout the week. Even though Tuesday night was calm weather-wise, Oliver continued to lick and cough. Carrie and I barely slept that night due to his constant coughing. It sounded like something was stuck in his throat, but thankfully, he still ate, drank water, and even wanted treats.

Vet or No Vet?

By Wednesday or Thursday, we debated taking Oliver to the vet. His cough had improved slightly, but it hadn't completely vanished. While he wasn't keeping us awake anymore, the cough persisted. Thankfully, by Friday, his cough had subsided significantly, and he sounded much better. We decided not to take him to the vet, and in retrospect, I believe it was the right call. The excessive licking seems to have been the culprit.

Sunday Update: Back to Normal (Almost)

Today is Sunday, and after my morning walk/run, I took Oliver for his walk. He started coughing again at the beginning, but it was likely due to his excitement and leash-pulling, which are typical behaviors for him during walks. However, with the lingering cough from earlier in the week, it sounded quite dramatic – like I was walking a walrus! Luckily, it subsided quickly, and we completed our walk over a mile, hitting all his favorite spots.

An Active Week Ahead

This week promises to be a busy one for Oliver. I'll share more about his adventures next weekend's post. In the meantime, I'm off to catch the Kansas City Royals game and cheer them on!

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Seven Course Meal Prepared by Our Friend Laura with Pictures and Descriptions... So Good!

Table is Set and Ready for Fancy Dinner
Table is Set and Ready for Dinner

Our friends Laura and Jason invited us over for a fancy dinner. We received an invitation for the event a few weeks ago and we were looking forward to it as the date approached. On Saturday, April 13, we picked up Greg and Erin to head to Laura and Jason's house for dinner. A wonderful evening was had by all and here are some of the pictures of the night of what we ate. 

Laura did all the cooking and Jason ran up and down the stairs to get items from the basement. Laura had the table set for us as we arrived and made us a fancy cocktail to start the night.

Menu for Fancy Dinner
Menu for the Night

No pictures of the chef or others at the event, but I did manage to take pictures of the menu and each of the dishes. We had an enjoyable evening while Laura was cooking and preparing each dish for us. She had Jason serve the dish and made sure to direct him on how to have the dish facing when served. So fun and we had some good laughs and stories as we enjoyed the evening.

Now to start getting into the courses of the night. We had wine served with the courses with white wine to start and then transitioned to red wine as we arrived at the meat dish.

Jalapeno Popper Deviled Egg
Jalapeno Popper Deviled Egg

Amuse Bouche which was a blue cheese walnut apricot. Then we had the appetizer (picture to the left) which was Jalapeno Popper Deviled Egg and it was perfect! I ate the whole thing at once which I think was the best move to get all the flavors together.  I realized that I did not get a picture of the Amuse Bouche as I just ate it and then I started taking pictures of the food. I tell you, the Amuse Bouche was a good way to start with the food.

Creamy Broccoli Soup
Creamy Broccoli Soup

Next was the Creamy Broccoli Soup. I am not a big fan of broccoli, but this was really good. I told Carrie that I could eat broccoli all the time if we had it as soup like this dish. Delicious! 

Laura told us when she makes the soup everything from the broccoli goes into the pot. The stocks are left on the top until finally those are worked into the soup. Yes, we might need to have Carrie get this recipe from Laura so we can make this at home.

Next was the Spring Pea, Prosciutto and Burrata. Once again, a wonderful dish for the multi course meal. 

Seared Halibut with Lemon Basil Rissotto
Seared Halibut with Lemon Basil Risotto

Next was the fish dish which was a Seared Halibut with Lemon Basil Risotto. The seasoning on the fish was excellent. Erin, who does not like seafood, tried this dish and she liked this dish too. I think this is the first time I have ever seen Erin eat anything from the sea. Halibut is a good selection to have Erin enjoy as it is not fishy and this was cooked perfectly with the meat flaking off with the Lemon Basil Risotto and a bite of fish, oh my goodness, it was so good!

After fish, we had the second to last dish of the night. So, it was time to change up the wine in our glasses. We moved to a red to go along with the beef.

Red Wine Braised Beef with Garlic Parmeasan Mashed Potatoes
Red Wine Braised Beef

Pictured to the right is the Red Wine Braised Beef with Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes. The sauce with the meat and potatoes was crazy good. Jason said he likes the sauce so much that he could put it in a cup and drink it. Yes, it was that good and I completely agree with Jason that I could drink it straight.

We sipped on wine as Laura prepared the last dish of the night. Chatting and telling stories, and one or two of us finishing off others dishes, or drinks, that had not finished their dish yet. We were all getting full but had to make room for the final dish of the dessert.

Salted Caramel Butterscotch Pot de Creme
Salted Caramel Butterscotch Pot de Creme

Yum! Yum! Yum! Perfect end to the evening of dishes. The Salted Caramel Butterscotch Pot de Creme was excellent. The sea salt on the top went well with the caramel and butterscotch. At this point, I was feeling rather full, but I wanted to make sure I made it through my own dish. I think there were some that were not finished, but I knew if I ate those too, I would be miserable.

Thank you so much to Laura for cooking for us. What a treat! Thank you to Jason for running trips to the basement and for sampling all of the dishes prior to the big night. Sounds like that was tough to do, but someone has to do the sampling and suggestions.  Thank you both for opening your home to us to enjoy a wonderful evening.

Until next time, have a great rest of your Sunday and a fantastic week.


Sunday, April 07, 2024

Celebrating 55 Wedding Anniversary with Driver and Fun at Lidia's in Kansas City

Family Photo at Lidia's in Kansas City
Family Photo at Lidia's

Joan and Eddie celebrated 55 years of marriage on Thursday. Eddie planned a trip to Lidia's on Saturday with the whole family. He got a driver to drive everyone into the restaurant and we had a wonderful time. This was our second time to Lidia's with the last time being a few years ago to celebrate Eddie's birthday at the time.

We left Topeka at 6:30 with reservations at 8, so it worked out perfectly. Saturday happened to be prom weekend in Topeka, so Eddie got us an SUV to ride in style. Worked out well and we had a good time riding into Kansas City for our celebration dinner.

Anniversary Dessert Served to Joan and Eddie
Anniversary Dessert
I realized after we got home, I did not take a lot of pictures while we were on the trip. I intended to do so, but did not get many. The pictures we did get were taken from our driver at the entrance to Lidia's. He did a good job with taking a lot of pictures to capture the moment. The only picture I snapped was of the dessert that was served to Joan and Eddie to celebrate their anniversary. 

Selfie of our Driver and Family at Lidia's in Kansas City
Selfie of Our Driver and Shirron Family
When we finished eating, there was rain and wind for us on the drive home. Glad we had SUV and driver that did a great job getting us to and from Kansas City. A memorable night to celebrate the 55 anniversary. I will remember this night and celebration as it was a wonderful evening.

Coming up this week is the celebration of Carrie as she has a birthday this week. She has not said where she wants to eat her birthday dinner, but I believe it will be a place in Lawrence. I think she is still deciding where she would like to go to celebrate.

Until next time, have a great week and watch for next weeks post about celebration for Carrie.


Sunday, March 31, 2024

Day Off of Work, Trip to Kansas City, Shopping, Food, and Fun

Lunch at Ponak's on Friday and Errands was Great!
Lunch Friday at Ponak's

I took a half day on Thursday so that I could go to my brother-in-laws, Greg, house to watch the Royals Opening Day baseball game. My father-in-law, Eddie, joined us as has been the tradition the past few years. The Royals lost 5 - 1, but he had a great time. Greg does hotdogs, wraps them in foil, and we enjoy those while watching the game. 

On Friday, I had the whole day off as I thought we might go camping but we ended up running errands in Kansas City. I was in need of new work shoes, so we went to Nordstrom Rack and Dillards to shop for shoes. I ended up with two pairs of shoes with one for work and a pair to wear on weekends or when I need a little more dress than a pair of tennis shoes. I also got two new sports coats to add to my collection, so it was a big day for me shopping. Carrie laughs because I rarely buy anything for myself and I kept saying how big of a day it was for me spending a lot on two pairs of shoes and two sports coats. 

We had fun doing our shopping and had already planned to head to Ponak's for a late lunch. I still cannot believe we just heard about this place recently. This was our third or fourth time to go to Ponak's and it was just as good as the first time. I had fajitas this time which were excellent. The guac and margaritas are really good! I highly recommend a visit to Ponak's.

Saturday turned out to a chill day for us as we did not do a whole lot. I guess we were tired from all the running around we did on Friday. I did manage to watch NCAA basketball Thursday, Friday, part of the games Saturday night. Saturday afternoon, I watched the Royals lose again. In two games, we have scored a total of two runs. Hoping to turn things around for the Sunday game this afternoon to at least get more than one run... maybe even win the game. 

For NCAA games today, more games I do not care who wins. I know I do not want UConn to win even though I have them picked in two of my brackets. It is hard to believe the NCAA basketball time is coming to an end. Baseball has started and PGA is underway. Good times!

Until next time, have a great week! Happy Easter!


Happy Easter 2024!

Happy Easter 2024!

Happy Easter! A overcast day but beautiful. Carrie and I are planning to head to Lawrence for a bit today to see my Mom and family. I tried to plan out when others would be there too, but that did not work out, so we are going around noon and see who we can while we are there. Mid-afternoon we will head back to Topeka to have dinner at Shirron family. It is going to be a great day!

I hope you have a fantastic Easter Sunday!


Sunday, March 24, 2024

Thinking of Future Camping for 2024 and Thinking Back to Past Camping Trips to When We Started in 2021

Camping Our First Year Tent Camping in 2021
Camping in 2021

Carrie and I have been camping one time so far this year (see Big Bend Post) and it was great. We are wanting to go camping so bad many more times while it is nice this spring, summer, and fall. Right now, we have one spot reserved for the summer, but we are keeping our eyes open for other dates we can camp. The places we camp over the next few months will probably be located in Kansas. Our trip to Big Bend was our first camping trip outside the state of Kansas. Yes, we want to do more camping trips outside Kansas, but I am not sure those will happen this year.

One spot I am hoping we are able to fit in this year is Wilson State Park. I hear only good things from those that have been to this location about how beautiful it is with amazing views. Wilson State Park has been on our list to visit for a few years, but it has not worked out for us to get out there to this point. I am hoping this will be the year that we are able to make it out to this beautiful spot in Kansas.

Thinking back to when we started camping back in May 2021. Little did I know that it would become a passion for both Carrie and me. We love the whole experience of camping so much and cannot wait until our next camping trip. As I review past trips, I wondered where we were at with our count of locations and camping trips.

We have been multiple times to Eisenhower State Park which we love. There is a good chance we will be back to Eisenhower State Park at some point this summer. We have a favorite spot there and really enjoy the trails and location. Other locations in Kansas that we have been included (links are to blog posts) Crawford State Park, Lake Milford near Junction City, HipCamp on the Saline River by Hays, KS, Council Grove, and finally Big Bend National Park in Texas.

A rough guess on number of times we have been camping would be ten times. Hoping to increase our camping number throughout the next few months. In 2022 and 2023, we had busy spring, summer, and fall seasons, so camping was difficult to work in during those years, but hoping get some more dates scheduled for this year.

Camping Trip Lake Picture from June 2021
Camping Trip in June 2021

Finding sites to camp near lakes is the best as it is so beautiful and brings back memories of being a kid hanging out at Lone Star Lake or Clinton Lake. Plus, Carrie and I are getting into trails, so we want to keep that trend going from our Big Bend trip. We are planning to do some trails in Kansas City, or even around Topeka, that look interesting. Just to keep what we started in Texas going and might even play a role in where we pick to do our camping trips for this year. Still, I am sure we will end up at some of our usual spots but also hoping to visit some new locations this year.

Until next time, have a great week. I hope you are able to find your next camping spot or do what makes you happy.


Sunday, March 17, 2024

March Madness 2024 Tournament Challenge

ESPN Tournament Challenge Picture

It is time create your entry for March Madness. It is Selection Sunday.

March Madness Hopefuls group is free to play and you can enter up to three entries. There is no password on the group, so hoping it will be an easy process to join your entries, encourage your family and friends to join, and be sure to come back after Selection Sunday to make your entries.

The directions for joining remain the same from last year. The more people in the group the more fun it is to make your selections. 
  1. Visit ESPN which will take you directly to the March Madness Hopefuls.
  2. If you are already signed into the ESPN web site, you can immediately create your bracket. If not, sign into the site and then you will be taken to the March Madness Hopefuls group or you can search for March Madness Hopefuls to join.
  3. Join the group.
  4. Repeat the above process to create additional brackets. In the March Madness Hopefuls bracket, you can have three entries.
Be sure to submit your entries by 11:00 am CST Thursday, March 21. This will make sure you get your entries submitted and have time to get them submitted. First game tips at 11:15 am on Thursday March 21. There are play-in games starting Tuesday, but you do not need to enter your picks until the field is set following Wednesday night play-in games. Make sure to enter your picks prior to 

If you have any questions or problems, please let me know.

Good luck and enjoy March Madness!

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Finished Watching Last Four of Best Picture Nominated Movies and Made My Picks

We finished our final movie of the Best Picture nominees just hours before the awards ceremony will begin. We watched four movies in the past three days. A short update as the time nears for the start of the Oscars.

Reviewing my update from February 25 (see post), we had the following movies to watch which we just finished today.

American Fiction
Carrie and I really liked this movie. I went into watching the movie not knowing a lot about it, but it was really good. No, I do not think it will win the best picture category, but it was done well. I liked the story and how the story was told.

The Zone of Interest
As I mentioned in the February 25 update, I heard about this movie on NPR one morning and knew it was going to be an interesting movie to watch. Hearing the sounds of the "camp" next door to the family was eerie as the family went on to live their lives, have their picnics, and play in their backyard that was right next door to the camp. 

Poor Things
This was an interesting movie watching the main character, who was brought back to life, learn and explore her world. I did like the movie, but so different from the other movies in the best picture category. Cast was excellent as were the costumes.

Anatomy of a Fall
This was the final movie we watched just hours before the awards ceremony is set to begin. I found this movie interesting although a little boring. I fell asleep a few times while watching. Again, this seems like a different style movie than the majority of movies in this category. I did enjoy the movie, but not one I would watch again.

Now that we have finished all of the movies, I make my pick and know that I have no insight into which is the best movie other than this is my opinion. I believe Oppenheimer will win as it has won in a number of other award ceremonies. The movie I like the best after watching all of the movies was The HoldoversThe Holdovers will win some awards, but I am not sure it will be selected for best picture in the Oscars.

I enjoy trying to watch all of the best picture nominees each year. Carrie and I try to watch other films nominated in other categories, and we were able to do a few this year. We caught a few documentaries nominated for awards as well as a few shorts and animated movies. 

Hopefully you were able to catch some of these movies prior to the big event tonight or can watch them soon. Have a great week!

Sunday, March 03, 2024

Our Trip to Big Bend National Park February 24 - March 1 with Pictures of Hikes, Food, and Wildlife. Loved Our Trip!

Casa Grande
Casa Grande

Carrie and I have been wanting to camp out-of-state for a few years at this point. All of our camping adventures have been in Kansas. A year ago, we planned to camp at Big Bend National Park and it did not work out for us to go last year. So, Carrie got us on the list to camp there this year. The spots fill up fast, so Carrie got on us on the list early. I am so happy that Carrie was able to get us on the list and reserve a spot for us months in advance. Carrie got us a spot in the Chisos Basin Campground. We are all set and looking forward to our trip.

Day 1

Stopped at Walk-On's for Dinner
Walk-On's for Dinner

We left for our camping trip on Saturday, February 24. A good 14 hours trip with stops, we decided to break it up into two days of driving. We drove the first day to Midland, TX which was about 10 hours of driving. We stopped at Walk-On's in Midland, TX for dinner the first night before retiring to the hotel. We had been to one of these places a few other times, so we knew it was good. We sat at the bar and enjoyed drinks and a meal while we chatted about our first ten hours of the drive for our trip. I always enjoy trying new beers when we are out-of-state, so I had a few local brews from Texas.

Day 2

Driving to Campsite Weather Was Beautiful
Hamlin, TX on Way to Big Bend
We slept a bit later than we had planned and got on a road should be to the campsite around 2:45. This would be a four or five hour drive to our home for the next four nights. The weather was absolutely beautiful as we made our way. The sun was shining and it was hot. As we got closer, the temperature kept going up at one point reaching up to ninety degrees. We knew that our campsite is in a lower location, so should be about ten to fifteen degrees cooler than the surrounding locations. We wanted to make sure we did not end up running out of gas as we approached as we had both read that it takes about an hour to get anywhere within the park. So, we did one last fuel up before heading to our site. 

Chisos Basin Camp Site Home
Our Campsite in Chisos Basin
A winding road from the the mountains down into our campsite in the Chisos Basin Campground. After we had set up our site, Carrie snapped the picture to the left at one point when we were returning from being out for a day. We could clearly see our tent from above as it is the orange blob in the camp ground. 

It did not take long to get our tent set up and things ready for camping. We relaxed for a bit, enjoyed some drinks, and the scenery. The picture of the Casa Grande rock from the start of this update is a picture from our tent. Spectacular views all around from our camp site during the day and at night was even better. We had a few clear nights and I have some of those pictures later.

First Night Dinner Burgers with Bacon, Baked Beans, and Chips
First Night Dinner

After relaxing for a bit and the sun going behind the mountains quickly, we decided it was time to cook dinner. We had ordered a Coleman 2-Burner Stove for this trip. We decided it would be easier to use rather than taking our Firedisc we have used on previous camping trips. For one, we can easily do coffee on the Coleman rather than our little single burner. It did work great and had some delicious coffee each morning. It also allowed us to do a little more with our cooking than what we would normally be able to do on a camp site. More on what else we cooked later.

Stars and Clouds First Night
Stars and Clouds First Night

I have to share pictures of the night sky. We debated on whether to take our telescope but in the end decided not to take it as we did not have room. I realized I forgot to take a picture of our car packed up. We did not use the roof rack for this trip as we did not want to worry about items on the roof or have to worry about them while spending the night at a hotel down there and back, so we left the telescope at home. We did have a few good nights of stargazing. The picture to the left is from our first night. The stars were out and we could see them down to the mountain tops for an hour or two after darkness. Gradually, the clouds moved in and covered up the stars, but I was able to capture the picture to the left prior to the cloud cover. The camera does not do it justice with how many stars could be seen when looking straight up or down to the horizon. Incredible!

Day 3

Santa Elena Canyon Trail
Santa Elena Canyon Trail
For those of you that know Carrie and me, we are not hikers but we like the idea of hiking. We want to do more hiking, so our plan while in Big Bend National Park was to do as many hikes as we could possibly do. For our first full day in the park, we woke up a little later than we had expected and noticed the campsite was very quiet. We would later learn that most everyone else got up around 5:30 - 6 to get out and do their hikes. This was going to be a warm day, but we planned to hike the Santa Elena Canyon Trail located on the Rio Grande River. 

Hiking on the Santa Elena Canyon Trail
Carrie on the Santa Elena Canyon Trail
We picked this trail as it was on a easier side at total round trip of 1.6 miles. Carrie had our backpacks full with plenty of water, snacks, and even a first aid kit. We made sure to take breaks to get plenty of water. Other than the heat, it was not a bad hike. The stairs were tricky but did not have any issues except for the heat.

We really enjoy walking on trails and how friendly other hikers are on the trails. Everyone says hello and sometimes stop and talk to them as they, or we, have information to share about the trail. We enjoyed that part of hiking to connect with others on the trail, but we also experience this at the campsite too. We spoke to many of our fellow campers sharing stories and even met some that were from Kansas right near our campsite.

Deer at Campsite
Deer at our Campsite
Following our hike, we went back to our home for the week. We got back there and had some time to relax, read, and enjoy some drinks before we needed to start dinner. As we were relaxing, deer emerged and got rather close to us. They were not timid at all getting rather close to us. They were interested in finding water or grass to eat rather than anything we were doing. We were taking pictures and then as the deer roamed through the campground, others were coming out of their camps to take pictures or as people were walking by to trails, we could hear them comment and snapping pictures. It was so cool! I will note that we only saw deer and then Greater roadrunner were everywhere. There were exhibits every couple of miles on the roads in the park for the roadrunner although we never stopped at one to read what they said, we did see the little guys everywhere including at our campsite.

Second Night Dinner Thai Peanut Chicken with Rice Noodles
Thai Peanut Chicken with Rice Noodles

We made Thai Peanut Chicken with Rice Noodles this night. Turned out great! Perfect way to end the day with our first hike and ready to relax. Ate we were able to finish up dishes before it got dark so we could relax. We did find that we turned into the tent earlier than most of our camping trips but this was because no open wood fires are allowed. Most everyone turns in early and this also has to do with many of them getting up early to do hikes. This night we did stay out a little later before turning in for the night. 

We did have a fun routine each night that we had planned before we left as we knew that wood fires were not allowed and that we would be spending time in our tent. We had downloaded a few movies on to the laptop prior to leaving and we set up in our tent to watch movies at night. I usually had a beer or a wine bottle to finish off while we watched the movie. It was fun and cozy in our tent.

Day 4

Pancakes and Coffee
Pancakes and Coffee
We got up early on day four of our trip and day three of camping. We used the Coleman grill to do coffee and pancakes. Oh man, the coffee is so good on in a percolator coffee pot on the stove. Carrie used a recipe a vlog we follow that uses yogurt and they were great! We plan to use the same recipe here at home as they were perfect with a nice consistency, crispy edges, and not too thick. 

Today would be another hike and one of our longer hikes for the trip. We wanted a large breakfast to give us energy to go on the The Window Trail which had the entrance right down the hill from our campsite. This trail is listed as 5.5 miles roundtrip but with the entrance right by us, that shaved off about a mile making it about 4.5 miles total round trip. We had a perfect day for this trip with a good cloud cover and a little cooler. The only thing we were concerned about is that this hike is downhill to "The Window" and then the whole way back is uphill. 

The Window Trail
The Window Trail

Mountains all around as we did the walk. The above picture was early in the hike where I did a panoramic picture of where we were headed and where we had come..

Carrie at The Window
Carrie at The Window

We took a few breaks on the way to The Window. This hike is over rock, stairs, climbing up and down ledges, but it was not bad. We again took many breaks and had snacks. As we made it to The Window, we took a break to eat a late lunch consisting of snacks and water. Again, I am not sure the picture to the left gives justice to the view, but it was amazing. Carrie climbed down to get a better look and then needed some help to get up from where she had slid down get close to the view. She would later say she did not need help, but another guy there insisted and pulled her up the rock. It gave us a good laugh and she said she could have gotten back up herself.

After taking a little break, we started the journey back to the trail head and to our camp. Again, the weather was good which helped as it was all uphill. We emptied two water bottles and started on our second set of water bottles. Again, we stopped a few times to talk to fellow hikers and a few that were from our campsite that we had spoken to the day before which was cool.

Currywurst, fried potatoes, and wine for Dinner
Currywurst for Dinner

After getting back to our camp site, we were exhausted. Our feet and legs hurt from the hike the day before and then this longer hike today. Relaxed for a bit before we started making dinner. Today the menu called for fried potatoes, Currywurst, and wine. Man that was so good! We made enough for seconds and I made sure to have a second large helping. What a good way to end the day and head into the evening hours. We took our meal to a nearby picnic bench that was not being used although close to our campsite to eat and enjoy the view. Wonderful!

Turned in for the evening to watch movies and relax in our tent. The next day we had big plans but the weather was not looking good with coldness in the forecast as well as rain. We went to bed decided we would see what is was like the next day.

Day 5

Terlingua for the Day
Stop in Terlingua for the Day
Day five of our trip and day four of camping we woke early to check the weather. Colder and rain throughout the day, we decided we would sleep in a little before heading out with our alternate plans. Instead of doing a few different hikes planned for the day with one taking us into Mexico, we decided to drive about an hour away to Terlingua for the day. We stopped at a place after arriving, doing some shopping, and had a drink before touring the area further. 

A little shopping and we headed over to check out the ghost town. Not much of a ghost town, but it was interesting. A little more spread out than what I was expecting, but I am glad we were able to drive through the town. It was raining when we drove through and we might have gotten more out of it if we were able to walk to explore the town. 

We had lunch at Chili Pepper Cafe which was really good. I had a Pork Green Chili which was delicious along with a few beers. We left and Carrie drove us back toward our camp site. We decided to do a few very short hikes on the way back to camp. We did one trip which was just a .5 mile hike and second one which was about the same. Still sprinkling in the area, we did not have much planned except for the trip to Terlingua.

Us Staying Warm in our Tent
Staying Warm in Tent
We got back to our camp site about 4 pm this day and it was much colder at our campsite. We ended up talking to a new camper that was near us who had just arrived that morning. He was a nice guy but wanted to share everything with us about his trip as he had been on the road for 125 days and working his way back home to California. We ended up talking to him for about an hour as it kept getting colder and colder. We retreated into our tent to warm up and we took naps as there was not much to do other than read and warm up.

The rain picked up and the wind gradually picked up through the night. We did not leave the tent. We had plans to cook dinner that night, but ended up sleeping in the tent where we could keep warm. I listened to a book on tape, read another book, and did some sleeping.

The wind picked up through the evening with gusts up to 40 - 50 mph. At one point the wind pulled one of our tie lines out of the ground as the wind caught our rainfly like a sale. We could not locate the hammer, so we ended up pulling a large rock over and holding down the corner with the large rock on the stake. It worked great! Through the night we could hear the rain and the tent shaking back-and-forth. We kept nice and warm, but it was the wind that was the concerning factor for us through the night. The next morning, those around us that were primarily in trailers talked to us and asked if we stayed warm. Yes, we were very warm and had to kick off covers as we were hot. We told them it was the wind we were worried about through then night.

Day 6

Selfie in Front of our Tent and Site
Selfie in Front of Campsite
Our final night camping was not bad. We stayed warm but we were both disappointed that we were not able to do the longer hikes we had planned for our last full day of camping. We had discussed possibly staying one more day (leaving Friday morning instead), but after the night of weather, we decided it was best to stick with our original plans and leave Thursday.

As we were breaking down our campsite, I realized I had not taken picture of our tent or our site. So, as we were breaking down our site, I took the panoramic picture below which is where our tent stood and our view when we crawled out each morning of our tent. The selfie picture to start the Day 6 section was early in our stay and you can see our tent in the background.

Our Camp Site Post Tent Breakdown
Campsite Post Tent Breakdown

We loaded up the car, said good-byes to a few fellow campers around that we had met and left our campsite. Again, we broke the drive back into two days. We had planned to stop by Wichita Falls, TX, but every hotel there was booked solid so we ended up in Duncan, OK for the night.

Day 7

Sleepy Oliver After We Returned from Camping Trip to Big Bend National Park
Sleepy Oliver After Our Return
Last day was only for traveling. We had about five hours from Duncan, OK to Topeka, KS. We stayed in a Hampton Inn located in Duncan, OK, so we were able to have breakfast before getting on the road. The weather was nice although we could tell we were headed north as it was colder outside.We were both looking forward to getting home to see our little Oliver.

We got home about mid-afternoon. Oliver was happy to see us but also very sleepy. We spent the late afternoon and evening catching up on shows we had missed. Oliver spent his time sleeping in his bed but keeping an eye on us throughout the night.

Summary

We both want to return to Big Bend National Park. It was so pretty. We enjoyed the campsite and facilities of the campsite. Camp hosts were nice and accommodating to our needs and questions. All the guests were were friendly and as I mentioned, meeting people on the trails was fun to interact with them. We liked where we camped too, but might look at a different spot within the park for a future camping location.

To see all pictures from our trip, please visit Big Bend National Park Album on Flickr.

Thank you for reading and I hope to have a few more camping posts throughout the summer. We already have at least one spot reserved for the summer and plan to do a few others too. Until next time, enjoy the week and I hope you are able to get out to enjoy the world.