Archive for the ‘Country’ Category

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My day started off right: I awoke to a blog message from Nick and Alivia, commenting on my itinerary and telling me they’re proud of me. What more could a mom want? I then enjoyed some tea and conversation with Jen’s mom and Mike before getting on the road.

I got in my car, started the engine and … what’s wrong with Aidan??? I tried to push the plug in to the car power outlet and it seemed to be jammed. I pulled it out and realized the whole thing had come undone. Mike and I both put it back together, but there was no making it work. We think it might be the fuse, but we’re not sure. Whatever it is, the fact is, I’m now GPS-less.

Luckily my phone has navigation, so I set my destination (Trish’s house just outside Charleston, South Carolina) in my phone, and then wrote down the directions. I didn’t want to tie my phone up with navigation. It wasn’t long into the journey that I started missing Aidan. I knew I’d be fine with the directions, especially now that I was on the East Coast, driving 95 much of the way – basically home turf.

But he’s more than a GPS. He’s been my co-pilot. (Sad, isn’t it?) I realized that not only does he direct me, he gives me a nudge when I’m starting to zone and reminds me when we’re two miles away from a turn. And when I make a wrong turn, he says ‘when you get a chance, chuck a u-ey.’ And when I ignore him, he yells ‘bugger!’ Quite the personality, my dear Aidan. I’m also missing the count down in miles left to go (under 300 miles, under 200 miles…) and time (less than 5 hours, less than 4 hours…), as well as the reminders about the speed limit, when no road sign is in sight but a police car is. So I’ll try to find a replacement cord when I get a chance, but until then, I have to go it alone.

As I entered Jacksonville, where I stopped for gas and a drink, I was surprised to see live Christmas trees for sale. I don’t know why, but when I think of Florida, I think fake trees, or palm trees. But there they were, just like in the snowy north. Several cars drove away with them on their roofs. And then they stopped. Suddenly we encountered the craziest traffic yet. I should’ve known it wouldn’t be good on 95. There’s tons of construction (as usual) and, what I’d forgotten, it’s Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. Everyone is travelling for the holiday. Ugh.

I slowly made my way into Georgia, thankful to be just passing through. But then I got to Savannah. My, oh my, everyone was right: I love it! Dad was right, even Scarlett’s Mammy was right. Savannah is the place to be. The old buildings, the waterfront with the riverboats, the artists, the shops, the cobblestone streets – even Nick would have liked it because there’s a Ruth Chris Steakhouse! I spent five minutes taking pictures and got back in my car. I knew any more time would just be more of a tease and I wouldn’t want to leave. I simply need to come back and spend a good few days in Savannah. And I will.

With a smile on my face, filled with a new appreciation of Georgia, I drove on to South Carolina.  I arrived at Trish’s house in Summerville, just outside Charleston, and spent a great evening with her family. It was nice to catch up – it’s been way too long since we were in the same room! And I’m really looking forward to seeing Trish’s Charleston. She wrote me the other day: ‘So I was thinking about your whirlwind Eat. Pray. Love. Charleston. tour. I call it that because we will Eat. Charleston is renowned for all of its restaurants and it will be hard to pick just one or two while you’re here. We will Pray, because Charleston is the Holy City with more churches than you can imagine. And you will Love. You will Love Charleston because it’s hard not to fall in love with this city so rich in history.’ I have the feeling she might be right – I can’t wait!

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Florida fun – Day 80

Driving from my brother’s in Port Charlotte to Orlando on Day 80, it occurred to me that I am not really doing anything touristy in Florida this trip. I feel kind of bad about that, but time just won’t allow it. So to cheer me up, I thought of my favorite things to do here (besides visiting family and friends, of course):

  • I have to start with my all time favorite: Disney. I love all things Disney. I seriously would go there every year if I could. Nick and I have visited several years in a row in the past. Sometimes just for a day, combined with other things, other times for a full week stay-and-play vacation. Nick even played basketball there, in the National competition. While I don’t have one absolute favorite site, we all love Epcot and that’s often the winner if we only have a day. Depends on my mood, though, as I sometimes need to be a kid and go to Magic Kingdom, and other times long for the movie magic of Hollywood Studios (MGM).
  • We did love going to Universal, too, although that will never beat Disney in my book.
  • While I’m on theme parks, we’ve had several fun family trips to Busch Gardens.  Less rides, more animals and nature.
  • One place I absolutely loved as a kid was the Kennedy Space Center. About the same time, the movie Space Camp came out and I wanted to attend. I’ve outgrown wanting to be an astronaut, but still really want to go back to the Space Center sometime.
  • I’ll never forget catching the frisbee that Shamu the whale threw to me at SeaWorld.
  • Red Sox spring training, of course.
  • Florida beaches, in general, are great. Yes, I think all beaches are wonderful, but Florida has beautiful sand and a great variety of shells.

Those were the top of mind items. I arrived in Orlando to see Mike and Jen (from LA) who are visiting family in Orlando and invited me to stay the night with them. Before turning in for the night I told Mike I was going to write this blog entry and asked him to tell me his favorite Florida places. He kind of snorted and shook his head, grinning. “Florida is my Atlanta,” he said. “Well, bad things don’t really happen when I’m here, but there’s not much I like about it!” Thanks Mike, but that didn’t really help. I guess you’ll have to just take my word that there are plenty of reasons to visit the Sunshine State. Oh yeah – the weather is one of them!

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Yes, Kelli and I were among the crazed shoppers Black Friday morning – and I do mean morning! We set our alarms for 3:30 am and were out the door by 4. Let me tell you: doing this in Florida is a heck of a lot easier than in Massachusetts. Here you can stumble outside in a t-shirt and shorts, where as you need to bundle up in the cold north. When the freezing air hits your face the second you walk out the door, you really just want to turn around and curl back into your warm bed!

Since I explained my system to Kelli, she’s dubbed me a professional Black Friday shopper. You see, I treat it like a military mission. You have absolutely no hope of surviving – let alone success – if you don’t plan carefully and follow it through. Here’s what we do:

  • Buy the biggest newspaper with the most ads on Thanksgiving day.
  • Allow plenty of time to peruse the papers, looking through each and every ad the first go round. Set aside any with items of interest.
  • After you’ve gone through the first time, grab a pen and notebook and make lists. (Note: it helps if you’ve made a list ahead of time of the people you need to buy for. You’re less likely to over spend that way.) For each store, put the store name, the opening sale times and the location. Then list the items on sale in that flier, the sale price  and if they’re on sale all day or just certain times.
  • At this point, it’s important to know what’s really a good deal. It helps to have people to call and get advice on certain items from. For example, my little brother Jake, the electronics expert. When I saw electronics we were considering, I called or texted Jake and he gave me the low down on if they were a good buy or not and if I could do better elsewhere at another time.
  • Cross out any items that aren’t great deals or that you don’t really need – don’t waste your time with them.
  • After you’ve done that for every store with items you want (and know what’s worth braving Black Friday for), compare the lists. What is the most important item on any of the lists, the biggest buy? That’s where you need to start. (Note: this is why it’s often better to do Black Friday alone, so you can zoom in on what’s most important to you, unless you both have similar needs. Otherwise, one of you has to be flexible and risk missing the deals you want. I was happy to go with Kelli and simply get what I wanted from those stores, since there weren’t any absolute die-if-I-don’t-get-it items on my list.) Make sure that it’s something that even if you only get that one item, you will feel accomplished and like it was worth going out at that time for. Because it is possible that all the other big items will be gone by the time you get your first item!
  • Another factor to consider is location – even if it’s a little further, drive to somewhere that has a lot of the stores you need close together so during those critical early morning opening hours, you’re not wasting time driving.
  • Prepare yourself: at least bring a bottle of water, all the sale fliers for the stores you are going to and, of course, your list! (Note: some stores, like Wal-Mart, will price match, so having the other fliers could save you time. But always check with someone in the store before wasting time with that. Some stores change policies for that one day.)
  • Don’t forget to clean out your car, too – you’ll need all the space you can get!
  • Depending on how important it is to you to get a certain item is how early you need to get there.

Driving into the Target parking lot at 4 am, Kelli was amazed at the throngs of people lined up, wrapping around the building, and the fact that the entire parking lot – and that of the furniture store next door – was full. We decided we’d rather be at Wal-Mart (next door) an hour early and get those more important deals than wait in line at Target.

This Wal-Mart is open 24-hours so people were already inside, waiting in lines by the items, which were mostly on shrink-wrapped pallets and guarded by Wal-Mart associates. On the way to our items of choice (Wii for Kelli and printers for me) we saw some of the other items on our list were already out, so grabbed them as we went. While waiting at the printer, the two Wal-Mart guys entertained us with stories of earlier that morning (some of the Wal-Mart stuff went on sale at midnight). One guy tried to bribe the worker: he kept offering the guy $5 to give him one of the $1 towels a few minutes early. Yes, $5 for a towel on sale for $1 – and the regular price is $3.99! There was also a fist fight that broke out between customers, and a few yelling matches.

People got antsy as the clock approached 5 am. Even though there were clearly more printers than people standing there, some started pestering the poor sales associate. Geesh – be patient people! As soon as the plastic was cut, people dove for them! I reached in, got ours, and got out of the way! The commotion coming from the tons of people by the laptops was crazy – like a concert. It started sounding like an angry mob. Kelli texted me to make sure I was ok and I assured her I wasn’t going anywhere near that! We went around, got the other items on our list (that were still available) and got out.

That’s another important thing: don’t dawdle! Stick to what’s on your list, check out and move on to the next store. The regular stuff will be there another day. This is no time for browsing!

Kelli and I were most impressed with our full (mostly of electronics) carts and the amount of money we saved. K-Mart was next, and after we got what we needed there (by 7 am), we took a few minutes break and had breakfast. We’d already done so much, everything else was simply a bonus. We did forge on, though, back to Target and visiting the mall.

We were home by noon for Steve to nap before work. I took a nap, too, and then went out again. You see, one of the things you have to watch for are stores with afternoon specials, including coupons only good after certain times. JC Penney was one of them ($15 off $75 ). The mall was much less crowded – more like a regular day – and people had calmed down. A much nicer shopping atmosphere!

Was it worth it? Absolutely! I’m almost done with my shopping, and I had a great day out with my sister-in-law. Talk about great girl-bonding! And you can’t beat the weather. I may need to be in Florida for Thanksgiving and Black Friday again next year…

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