Critter Alley

Critter Alley

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Girls' Road Trip-Part 2

We scrambled to find a hotel room (thank goodness for cell phones) before we began crossing over swampland (alligators, anyone?) and then the vast expanse of Lake Pontchartrain. I couldn't stop looking at the lake long enough to take pictures, so this is a borrowed shot. When we crossed, the skies were heavy with gray clouds and the lake rough as the ocean on a stormy day...enough to send a little shiver up the spine. The causeway is 23 miles long-I think one of the longest in the country.

I couldn't help but be reminded of a dog our local shelter rescued from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He was a big, sweet, goofy boy. We called him Pontchartrain (Ponch for short).

This hotel became our home base. The Hotel Mazarin is in the French Quarter. It has all the flair offered by French-Creole heritage, and here's my totally uncompensated opinion...The Hotel Mazarin is beautiful, the staff friendly and helpful, and it's located within walking distance of anything you might want to see (including a few things you might not want to see-it is close to the infamous Bourbon Street, after all) in the heart of downtown NOLA. Oh, and get this. Along with hotel keys, we were handed coupons for a free drink in the hotel bar (nice!). As an added bonus, a bountiful hot breakfast buffet including just about anything you could possibly want, is provided free to guests. If I ever go back to visit NOLA, I promise you this is where I plan to stay.

The hotel not only had fabulous drinks, but musicians good enough to prevent any of us from sitting still. We sipped and enjoyed the sounds of New Orleans. Then we ventured out to find dinner.

Peche (French for "fish"), certainly satisfied. It is a trifle pricey, but later when I researched the place I discovered it's won awards from the James Beard Foundation for culinary distinction and has excellent reviews from magazines such as Bon Appetit, the Wall Street Journal, and Southern Living. I guess there are times when girls simply must splurge.

Along an only slightly intimidating walk in the dark back to our hotel, we forced ourselves to stop in a beignet cafe. After all, you can't come to New Orleans without savoring a warm, sweet beignet, can you?

Ahhh. The perfect nightcap. Next time, I'll tell you how we spent our second day in NOLA.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Road Trip-Part 1

6:00 a.m. on the morning of the girls road trip, we clicked together our plastic cups in a toast to the beginning of a ten day journey. Ahhh! Nothing like a spicy Bloody Mary to pop open even the sleepiest eyes. 

We drove off as the sun peeped over the horizon in shades of pink and blue. Determined to make good time, we drove several solid hours until starvation and the need for a potty break called us in to a Bob Evans restaurant in Cape Girardeau. Delicious food and a clean bathroom. What more could a traveler desire?

Eager to get more miles behind us, we didn't linger over our eggs and toast. Back to the car we went, tummies full, bladders empty, and ready to roll.

After pushing through with only quick pit stops and a grab-n-go late lunch, we finally arrived at our first night's hotel stop...the Hollywood Casino in Tunica, Mississippi. This welcome respite couldn't come soon enough. Everyone was stiff-legged from sitting in cramped car position. But we soon forgot our achy muscles. Now we had diversion other than the radio. 

The hotel had numerous displays of film-making paraphernalia such as Batman's car, costumes from The Munsters television show, and a replica of a sinking Titanic. All this, and slot machines, too. Who knew?

I'm not much of a gambler, so I sat at the quarter slot machines while my co-travelers took on a few rounds at the blackjack table. They lost. I came out on top with a whopping $15 gain. Don't worry, I didn't spend it all in one day.

However, my eyes were red and bleary. The hours of driving had caught up with me and my comrades. We stumbled to our room and I can't say I remember much after that.

Except setting the alarm for 6:00 a.m. Whew!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Home Again, Home Again...

After ten days and more than 3,000 miles on the road, the girls and I are back home. As you can see, we did not pack lightly. A borrowed mini van gave us room for lots of stuff. The good news with that fact was we nearly always had whatever we needed. The bad news with that fact is we often had trouble finding it. Items shifted while we drove and at least twice when the back gate opened things all but leaped from the vehicle as though trying to escape the shenanigans within. This became more than a tad embarrassing the day we had to chase aluminum bottles of beer rolling in every direction across a parking lot. Strangers narrowed their eyes at us, no doubt suspecting we were on a wild and reckless 10:00 a.m. binge.

As it happens, we cut our trip a few days shorter than intended due to rain. It's not fun to get drenched when you're trying to see the sights. Thus Savanna, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina were spared our company. At least for now...

Traveling is fun, but it's always great to be back home. Next post, you're invited to ride along with us and see the south.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Road Trip

I love the fact that retirement gives me a chance not only to complete projects, but also to try new things. One of those new things will begin bright and early on Monday. I'm going on a road trip.

Three friends and I will be driving (perhaps not so much driving as meandering) throughout the southeast. There are a few destinations in our plan, but for the most part we have no agenda. This happy fact means if someone spies a local event or historical sight or spectacular sunset along the way, well, by golly, we're going to stop and see it. No time crunch, no pressure, no problems.

Life as it's meant to be lived--flying by the seat of our pants. Doesn't that sound awesome?

I'll be bringing my notebook to keep track of any mayhem which possibly (probably) could occur when four women are free to act on impulse. Fear not, Co-travelers. Names can always be changed to protect the guilty.

Since I'll be on the road for about two weeks (or so--who knows?) Critter Alley will be on a brief hiatus until my return.

P.S. Please consider hopping over to visit my friends at Sketching With Dogs. They are raising funds for a special little dog named Chico in need of pricey veterinary treatment.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Someone is Infanticipating!

It's finally happening. Our daughter and son-in-law are expecting a new arrival on February 22.
We got the news via a card on Father's Day. But along with the card came a stern request.

"Don't tell ANYBODY until we say it's okay."

Do you know how hard it is not to say anything to anyone when you're bursting to talk? I did a pretty good job keeping my lip buttoned for a few weeks. Then I caved and told two of my gal pals. Of course they were given the same admonition..."Don't tell anyone!" Both of them were far more reliable than me and didn't say a word.

Once we finally were allowed to spill the beans, we did. Yet we were asked not to put anything on social media. Last Thursday, Daughter and SIL made the official announcement on Facebook and now I'm free to blab as much as I want.

To say I'm excited is an understatement. I've looked at baby ultrasounds, helped with the registry at Babies 'R Us, and stared at the most darling outfits I've ever seen. What a wonderful time to be retired! I'll get to help out baby and new mom as much as they need.

There's only one teeny, tiny issue. The baby's gender will remain a mystery to all (except the ultrasound technician) until he/she is born. Yep, the "reveal" will be when Baby arrives. If I only had that technician's phone number. Along with the means to successfully bribe her.

Only slightly more than 4 months to wait until we meet our new grand-baby. Will our little darling be a she or a he? We'll find out in February!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Slim Grows Up

Last June I met an adorable little orphaned raccoon. Some of you may recall my post on this masked sweetie.

Well, over the weekend I attended a spectacular bonfire and feast. Can you imagine who showed up? I promise there hasn't been a more popular guest at any party since Cinderella arrived at the ball.

Slim stole the show. He's now five months old and curious as a cat. I'm pretty sure more photos and videos were taken yesterday than would have been shot if Madonna appeared in her metallic bra.

A little spooked by all the fanfare, Slim scooted up the tallest tree to observe the star-struck crowd. He refused to come back down, despite increasingly frantic calls from his foster "Dad". It took more than 3 hours before Slim finally decided to descend. "Dad" took the unruly adolescent home where he presumably was grounded.

There will soon come a time when Slim will hear the call of the wild, and leave home to find a wife and start a family of his own. I think his "Dad" is going to have a tough time letting him go.

With plenty of food, a warm drink, and wonderful friends, who could ask for more on a crisp October night?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Dog's Life

Last weekend, my son, DIL, their pup Brady, and I participated in Trails for Tails, a fundraising event to benefit Five Acres Animal Shelter. Some of you may remember last year when we caught up with David Backes (team captain of the St. Louis Blues Hockey team) at this event. David and his wife, Kelly serve on Five Acres' Board of Directors. Sadly, we didn't get to see "The Man" this year.

A large and enthusiastic crowd turned out.

Our little group bravely started the 5K together, but Brady quickly grew weary of going the distance. He planted his butt on the trail and refused to move another step. We didn't give up. Instead we decided to carry on to the finish line.

Carry the dog on to the finish line, that is. He rode in style, with each of us taking a turn staggering along the path while carrying 24 pounds of Cairn Terrier. We finished dead last.

I think you can officially call Brady a very pampered pup.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Life After Retirement

"Hey, if you're so interested in digging, how about taking care of the litter box?"

Thursday, September 10, 2015

No Ordinary Dog

I recently read No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The Pulitzer prize winning book tells the story of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II. The Roosevelt presidency is fascinating. He and Eleanor's partnership equally so. But of course, one of my favorite small pieces in the book dealt with  Roosevelt's Scottish Terrier, Fala.

Fala came to Roosevelt as a gift from his cousin and it wasn't long before the little dog and the president were inseparable. Fala got a bone every day and Roosevelt often hand fed him. During the dark days of war, I imagine Fala's antics came as a welcome distraction in the president's life.

Fala got to hang out with other important people, too. There are photographs of him with Winston Churchill, the president of Mexico, and yes, even Ed Sullivan. Roosevelt once used Fala in a clever speech to poke fun at stories circulating about the costs of Fala traveling with the president. The speech effectively endeared him to the people and put his political opponents straight in the dog house.

After President Roosevelt passed away, Fala never seemed quite the same. Eleanor told a poignant story about Eisenhower coming to visit. Fala heard the sirens from the police escort accompanying the president. His ears perked up and he raced to meet the motorcade. Eleanor is certain Fala thought his master was returning home at last.

Fala's story is so entwined with the president's he was even memorialized with his master.

Fala died 7 years after Roosevelt at the ripe age of 12. He is buried next to the president and first lady at Hyde Park. For other charming photographs of Fala and FDR, click here.

Loyalty and utter devotion. Whether president, prince, or pauper, who can deny the connection between people and dogs?

"You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog."
                                                 ~Harry S. Truman

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What Time is It?

I can't tell you how many times I used to glance at the clock throughout my working day. It often felt like one minute took 20 minutes to pass. This week marks my third full week of retirement. Funny how things have changed. I get up and before I know it, the day is over. When evening arrives I ask myself-What did you accomplish today? What did you check off your "to-do" list?

Well, today I organized the pantry. Sounds like no big deal until I tell you my pantry is empty but the trash can is bursting at the seams. What an eye opener to discover canned goods that expired in 2010. Needless to say I didn't get around to the 6 other things I hoped to do, but at least I've saved the household from an emergency trip to a medical center.

Bogey has his own schedule. Eat, rest, play, nap, stretch, play, rest, eat, sleep. For that matter, the visiting grand-dogs follow pretty much the same routine. So far not one of them have reported any dissatisfaction with their lives to me. Are grandiose plans overrated?

Perhaps it's time to worry less about my list and more about doing what I can without sweating the little things. If a task is critical, I'll get it done. If not...well, as Scarlett O'Hara once famously said, "Tomorrow is another day".