Friday, June 22, 2018

#477 Final Four Four


Austin side trip, San Antonio 2018
This past March/April I experienced a fun weekend in San Antonio attending the NCAA Men’s Final Four.  For some, this is a “bucket list” event, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I don’t mean for this to sound smug or as if I’m bragging, but this past Final Four was my 16th time attending this extravaganza.  It never gets old.

Most people get their Final Four tickets through the lottery system.  How have I been so “lucky” all these years?  It’s not the luck you think it is – I have access to tickets through my job.  We are told every year, “It’s a privilege, not a right.   I take that very seriously. 

My first experience was in 2000 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.  I was able to get two tickets and took my dad.  We sat in the upper level on a baseline side and we were so far away I couldn’t tell who the players were.  I could see the jersey colors, so I could tell the teams apart, but no faces or numbers.  Thank goodness I brought binoculars.   

Since then, I have attended nearly every year.

2000    Indianapolis
2002    Atlanta
2003    New Orleans
2005    St. Louis
2006    Indianapolis
2007    Atlanta
2008    San Antonio
2009    Detroit
2010    Indianapolis
2011    Houston
2012    New Orleans
2013    Atlanta
2014    Dallas
2015    Indianapolis
2017    Phoenix
2018    San Antonio

My usual crew consists of two of my high school friends (Julie and Krista) and Krista’s husband, Kenny.  A couple times people have swapped out (Alyce and Tammy), but our core group has remained consistent.  I think of it as my little Spring Break.  And as the years go by, it seems that we four are more sporadic with the time we spend together in Indy, so it’s a nice time to regroup and spend quality time together. 

with Jim Harbaugh, New Orleans, 2003

Julie and Krista with Sugarland, Atlanta, 2007
in our Carolina gear, San Antonio, 2008

with Ty and The Duck, Detroit, 2009

the girls, New Orleans, 2012

National Anthem, Atlanta, 2013
I'm BIG, Dallas, 2014
Salute Presentation, Indianapolis, 2015

We share one hotel room on these trips.  Two double beds, with the married couple in one bed and Julie and me in the other.  I mentioned this arrangement to a male friend before this year’s trip and he was shocked.  “You stay in one room?”  He said he would have to have his own room.  We’ve been friends for so long, it’s no big deal.  We are familiar with each other’s travel habits and know who takes longest to get ready in the morning.  Kenny gets his alone time by getting up early and having his coffee/reading the paper in the hotel lobby while we get ready.  We change clothes while he’s away or in the bathroom.  We’re adults and it’s never been an issue.  I do remember to bring ear plugs for Kenny’s snoring. 

Sure, we have our moments of indecisiveness (where to eat or what to do next) and getting “hangry”.  We don’t get lost too often (Julie is our navigator).  We’re on the same page sleep-wise (we like it and don’t normally stay out too late).  All-in-all, it’s the perfect set-up. 

I feel lucky that I have friends who want to go to the Final Four every year.  We all played basketball at one point in our lives.  And despite me playing the longest, Krista is way more knowledgeable than I am when it comes to players and coaches.  Especially those from her favorite team – North Carolina. 

During the years I’ve skipped (for reasons ranging from “it’s too far/expensive” to “I don’t want to go back to Houston” to "I'll stay home and go to the women's Final Four"), I enjoy seeing the TV broadcasts, complete with the compelling stories and game commentary.  But nothing compares to being there.  And due to my seniority, my seats are much better than they were way back in 2000. 

Here’s to many more years of fun adventures with my Final Four Four! 


Friday, May 25, 2018

#466 Shower The People


Over the years I’ve joked that my niece better not get married before I do.  I started saying it when she was a kid.  She’s now 25.  And she’s getting married in a week. 

She got engaged in December 2016, so I’ve had a lot of time to process it.  Immediately after it happened, I declared to a friend that I needed to get moving if I wanted to fulfill my prophesy.    


Last summer I tweaked my plan, as I thought I’d have a better chance to find a date for the wedding.  During a long bike ride (where I usually have best ideas) I came up with the concept of putting something on a dating site about finding a wedding date, and modeling it after the movie Wedding Date.  Something like, “Need a wedding date.  Must have a suit.  Must look good in said suit.  Must be a reasonably good dancer.  Must not get drunk at the reception.  Will not pay you $6,000, but dinner and drinks are included.  Sex is not included.  Not mandatory that you look like Dermot Mulroney, but must be reasonably handsome.  The only resemblance I have with Debra Messing is curly hair and a small chest.”  I have my full list somewhere.  I thought it was clever, although I realize most men would have no idea what I was referring to. 

I fully intended to post my idea, but…let’s just say something came up that precluded me from doing so.  Divine intervention?  Possibly.  And you know what?  I’m ok with all of this.  I think if I was in my 30s or early 40s I might have a different outlook.  Certainly still happy for Megan and Taylor.  But maybe a little sad about my personal situation(?)  At this stage in my life all I feel is excitement for them with zero thoughts of myself. 

Another cool aspect is that over the years, my friends have become friends with my brother and sister-in-law, so not only will it be a fun family affair, but my friends get to celebrate with us too. 

Earlier this year Megan asked me to host her bridal shower and I dove in head first.  I started OD’ing on Pinterest and found a photo that I wanted to re-create. 


I knew what I wanted it to look like, but I had no idea how to do it.  I started by walking around Hobby Lobby.  For an hour.  That was followed by trips to Michael's, JOANN Fabrics and a return trip to Hobby Lobby.  My first project was the sign banner.  I saw them online, but wanted to make them myself.  I bought poster board, twine, small bottles of gold glitter and black paint, letter stencils and foam “brushes.”  I cut 6”x 6” squares, painted the lettering on with black paint using the stencils, and then dabbed the gold glitter paint on the edges for effect.  Then I punched holes in the top to string the twine. 

My cousin Diane helped out with the ribbon banner.  I borrowed one from her son's wedding last summer and accented the various beige ribbons with lavender cloth strips.    



My pièce de résistance was the chair veil.  Again from the original photo.  I bought two yards each of lavender and white tulle and cut them lengthwise into two strips.  I then sewed them together on the long edge using a wide stitch.  I pulled on one of the thread strands, which made the tulle gather nicely.  I had the two lavender pieces on top, with the two white pieces underneath, so you got the fullness with just a hint of lavender.  I hand-sewed a thick, satin lavender ribbon to the tulle so I could tie it on the back of the chair.  On the side facing out, I hot-glued small, lavender artificial flowers.  So pretty! 



One of the shower games was “Words of Wisdom” where people write on a piece of paper, roll it up, and put it in a wine bottle.  The married couple then opens a bottle on each anniversary date specified.  I started out with anniversary years 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50.  When I mentioned this to my sister-in-law Lori, she said, “50?!  That’s a long time to keep track of a bottle!”  I reconsidered and cut it down to four bottles, stopping at 25.  I made my own labels and adhered them to the bottles with Mod Podge.



Our other games were to guess the bride’s age from a collage of pictures, and getting points for certain items you had in your purse.  Easy games they could complete while getting food and mingling.  


The last game was to set a timer when Megan started opening her presents.  When it went off (I re-set it every five minutes), whoever’s gift she was opening received the prize.  


My last touch was to use some leftover tulle to make a tiny veil for the pen I used to write down the gifts.  



The prizes we gave were personalized lip balm and a personalized candle tin.  So cute!  And Lori got the cutest party favors - baby whisks!  


The shower was in the afternoon, so we had desserts.  Lori made cake pops, tiny s’mores and chocolate peanut butter Ritz.  She also made a trifle.  I brought an assortment of fruits, nuts, and Megan’s co-maid of honor sent Shari’s Berries.  Our drinks were Blushing Bride Moscato strawberry lemonade (strawberry lemonade, Moscato wine and strawberry vodka), My Main Squeeze lemonade, and Sweet on You unsweetened iced tea. 



James Taylor’s song “Shower The People” states, “Shower the people you love with love.  Show them the way that you feel.”  I’m happy that I was able to shower Megan and our guests with a lovely day.  Here’s to Megan and Taylor and their upcoming nuptials.  I wish them a lifetime full of love and happiness. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

#465 Curse of the Rotisserie Chicken


Over the past three weeks I’ve eaten three rotisserie chickens.  They’ve been on sale at Fresh Thyme for $4.99.  I’ve picked them up after tennis and they’ve been an easy, relatively cheap meal – cut off some meat, sauté some vegetables, dinner is served. 

There comes a time, however, when you’ve had enough.  That time came this week.  Enough of the rotisserie chicken.  Tennis is over anyway (for now) and I won’t be by Fresh Thyme all summer. 

I bring my lunch to work and as I came to the last work day I had no leftovers to bring, and no energy to be creative enough to slap lunch together.  When I hit “bottom,” I resort to my Palomino card.  It’s actually a Restaurants Unlimited card, where you collect points.  But the only restaurant covered by the card in my area is Palomino. 

I randomly applied for this free card a few years ago during a happy hour with a friend.  Then one of my committees had a celebratory dinner there not long afterward, and I collected about 300 points.  Which translated into mucho dollars on my card. 

Today I called Palomino and ordered a half rotisserie chicken panini, a half chop-chop salad, and it comes with their garlic fries.  I know…rotisserie chicken!  But it was the best-sounding sandwich they had.  I walked the 15 minutes to pick it up, and in my mind I thought, “You should open the bag and check to make sure you have the correct meal.”  What did I do?  I picked up the bag, glanced at the receipt stapled to the bag (rotisserie chick) and walked 15 minutes back to the office. 

When I opened the bag at my desk, it was the wrong meal.  Instead of getting a half rotisserie chicken panini, I had A HALF ROTISSERIE CHICKEN.  Blast!  And instead of the bill being $15 plus tax for the half and half and fries, it was $30 for the chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans, plus $10 for the half chop-chop salad.  Sigh.  I know, I didn’t “pay” for the meal, but I essentially used up two meals for that one.  (I am a frugal gal at heart!)

Maybe the rotisserie chickens are haunting me since I ate so many of their kind?  Maybe I should listen to the little voice in my head more often.  Open the carry-out bag, people.  Open the bag. 

I did have a delicious and essentially free lunch.  I am thankful for that.  And when I eat the rest of the blasted chicken for dinner tonight, I hope that really will be the last of the rotisserie chicken. 




#464 Chills and Fever


Even though I’ve been to many concerts in my life, I still have a few “must see” names on my list.  Some are permanent, as they are either deceased or no longer touring (Bee Gees, Burt Bacharach, John Denver, Tom Petty).  One is still going strong, and I made plans to see him last weekend.  That would be Sir Tom Jones. 

About 15 years ago he was performing in Fort Wayne (?).  At the time, I thought the distance was too great.  I don’t recall the particulars – the day of the week, the cost.  Regardless, I didn’t go and have not seen his tours come close to me since. 

In January I randomly did a tour search and saw he was performing at the House of Blues in Chicago.  After discussing with my friend Krista, also a Tom Jones fan, we decided to make a weekend of it.  Everything fell into place – I found a reasonably priced hotel and parking garage within blocks of the House of Blues.  Yes!  We would finally see him! 

Being the “Girl Scout” that I am (not really a girl scout, but always prepared!), I checked the Chicago weekend weather.  High 64, low in the mid 50s.  Some rain.  I brought a light sweater and an umbrella.  When we arrived Saturday afternoon, it was in the mid 40s.  Home had been in the 80s so it was a brutal slap in the face.  Darn Lake effect! 

To avoid the cold, Krista and I had an early dinner at Ēma, which is attached to the Hilton Place.  Everything we had was outstanding [asparagus risotto, pan-roasted Romanesque cauliflower, chicken kefta and king salmon (both meats were kebabs, which came with rice).  Krista had a sticky date cake for dessert.]  After a quick, brisk, windy walk to the House of Blues we stood in line for around 30 minutes until the doors opened.  I snagged our tickets at Will Call and we managed to find seats at a tall table with a decent view from the second balcony. 

For those unfamiliar with the House of Blues, most tickets are standing room only.  Not ideal.  I did get a call a few days before the show asking if I wanted to upgrade to VIP seats, which would provide reserved seating, among other things.  “How much extra is that?” I asked.  The woman replied, “It starts at $300…”  I promptly cut her off.  “Oh no, that’s not going to happen.” 

By the time I bought my tickets, the only available spots were the balconies.  Tom had postponed his HoB show from last September when he had hip-replacement surgery, so a lot of the tickets were already spoken for. 

We spent our 1 ½ hour wait before the show chatting with our table mates Glen and Barbara, a nice couple from Wisconsin.  They were supposed to go to the September show and had seen Tom five times before. 

Pre-show and pre-disappointment.  

 At 8:05 p.m. Barbara what what might be keeping Tom.  And then, the “voice of God” came over the loudspeaker and announced that the show was postponed.  Barbara thought it was a joke.  Everyone was stunned.  About 10 minutes later, the voice spoke again.  No joke.  The house lights came up and the roadies started breaking down the stage.  Why, why, why??! 

We checked social media to see what had happened to Tom.  No information.  Of course, I thought I had killed him, as celebrities tend to die when I’m out of town (See Post #84).  Did he have a stroke?  A heart attack?  A family issue? 

Eventually we said goodbye to our new friends and walked back to the hotel, stopping this time at the Ēma bar to have a drink (the You’re a Peach was delicious!) and wallow in our sorrows.  Sunday afternoon Krista forwarded me an announcement on Instagram that Tom had a throat infection.  Which is ironic, since I woke up Sunday morning with a slight sore throat.  Oh, how I wish I’d caught it from him. 

So now Krista and I stand at 0-2 with our attempts to see Tom.  First time, we didn’t try.  Second time, we tried valiantly but ended up with an expensive girl’s weekend.  With a little luck, there will be a third, successful time. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

#463 For You To See The Stars


Music is a huge part of my life.  I listen to it in the car (where I am an awesome singer), at work and at home.  I especially love seeing my favorite artists live.  There’s just something about seeing them perform in person.  And when I can see them up close and peek through a tiny crack into the window of their soul, their music becomes even more personal. 

Last October I attended an Indy Acoustic Café Series concert at the Wheeler Center for the Arts featuring Radney Foster.  He was nothing short of amazing. 

I’ve been a fan of Radney since college.  He’s a country singer-songwriter who started out in the duo Foster and Lloyd.  I first heard his songs “Nobody Wins” and “Just Call Me Lonesome” in the early 90s from his album Del Rio, TX 1959.  Such soulful singing and wonderful lyrics.  Not bad on the eyes either.

He was in town in 2015 but by the time I found out about the show, it was sold out.  I was so disappointed.  I added him to my Bandsintown App so that wouldn’t happen again.  Bingo! 

To prepare for the show I listened to his repertoire on Spotify for a couple weeks leading up to the show.  He was promoting his new CD and accompanying book, both titled For You to See the Stars.  Right out of the gate, the title track made me weepy.  At work, no less.  Just beautiful.  

When concert day arrived, I couldn’t contain my excitement.  This venue is like, 100 people ya’ll.  My friend Julie went with me and we sat in the third row (I didn’t want to be too stalk-ish).  Radney played with Eddie Heinzelman (a fantastic guitarist in his own right and from Indiana).  It was an incredible show.  He sang, he told stories, he read from the book.  He has the best accent.  He’s still hot, even though the dark wavy hair that I remember has turned silver.  I teared up once more when he sang the title song.  I also got emotional at the end of the show when he sang, “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)” after explaining why he wrote it.  Of course, I had to buy the book and the CD, and after the show he hung around to sign them. 


I played his CD in my car for a couple months after the concert.  I’ve been a country music fan for over 20 years, but I don’t care for a lot of the music currently played on country stations.  After I scan the stations and can’t find anything I like (on the pop or rock stations either), it became Radney time.  It’s still in my permanent car rotation. 

Those who know me well, know that I’m a huge James Taylor fan.  Well, Radney is giving Sweet Baby James a run for his money.  I’m serious.  I will always love James, but Radney is right up there with him in my musical book.  And speaking of book, Radney’s book is amazing.  He read the story “Bridge Club” at the show and had us rolling.  “I had peed on bridge club.” 

If you are any kind of a music fan, please give Radney’s music, and specifically this CD a listen.  And please give his book of short stories a read.  With these two masterpieces, everybody wins. 

(P.S. - I am sooo late in posting this, but finally tweaked it enough and had time to do it justice.  My initial draft was incredibly long so there was much to do, along with other life happenings.  Please know that my lateness in posting in no way relates to this performance's effect on me.)