Twins

On Thursday November 20th, 1986, at 4:13 PM, Kristen Anne D’Elia was born. Two minutes later, at 4:15 PM, her brother Kenneth Michael D’Elia was born. They were born six weeks premature, and because of this, Krissi spent 18 days and Kenny spent 28 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. They were born, and spent the first weeks of their lives at Winthrop Hospital, next to the Mineola Long Island Rail Road Station, and about 3/4 of a mile from our Mineola home.

As twins growing up, they had the usual “twin” experiences. Yes, they were close, from the earliest times of their lives when they liked being together, and even seemed to be able to communicate with each other, way before the rest of us could understand what they were saying. All through school they were close, sharing friends and interests, and generally being each other’s best friend. Going to different colleges was probably a challenge for them, but they still shared in each others lives, and even today in their 30s, they are still very close and generally know everything about each other, way before their Mom and Dad do!

In January, Krissi and her husband Mike bought and moved into a condo in New Rochelle, New York. In January, Kenny and his husband Chris moved into a new apartment in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The second weekend in April, Krissi and Mike came down from New York and spent the weekend with us in Ocean City. During that visit they told us that they’d been seriously contemplating adopting a cat. About a week later, we got the first pictures of our “Grand Cat” Marzipan….Mars for short.

Last week, we spent four days in St. Petersburg with Kenny and Chris, and heard how they had been cat adoption shopping too. Just the other day, we got a text and pictures of our second “Grand Cat”!! Say hello to Saint James Foxington of Petersburg, also known as Jimmy!

So 34 years and 5 plus months since these two entered this world at Winthrop Hospital, and living some 1170 miles apart, these two are still “connected”! Welcome to the family Mars and Jimmy…may you both have great lives with your new families!

Miracle of Science – Part Three

To recap, Miracle of Science Part One was the weekend that having our Moderna Vaccine let us leave the state of New Jersey for the first time since March 14, 2020, and to journey down Interstate-95 to see our son Billy, daughter-in-law Lori, and our three wonderful Grandkids Layla, Henry, and Annabelle, who we had not seen since the end of January, 2020. Miracle of Science Part Two was the weekend that being fully vaccinated allowed our daughter Krissi and son-in-law Mike to not only come and spend the weekend in our house in Ocean City, but to be hugged and kissed by Susie and I for the first time in over a year. That takes us to Miracle of Science Part Thre

After we went down last weekend to Wake Forest, North Carolina for the dual birthday party of our two beautiful Granddaughters Layla and Annabelle, it was time to broaden our horizons, and to encompass the rest of our kids in this miracle, and towards that end, we continued our journey down Interstate 95 south, to the Sunshine State, the home of Our Boys, son Kenny and his husband Chris! We wanted to see them, we wanted to return to our Florida home of Pinellas County, and we wanted to keep our Florida visit record intact! So last Sunday, after the Saturday birthday party for Layla and Annabelle in Wake Forest, we headed south, and on Monday, we reached our goal!

Since I retired the end of January, 2016, a “winter” trip to Florida has been part of our yearly agenda so that we could sample a preview of the next summer. In 2019 and 2020, we rented a condo in Indian Rocks Beach, and immersed ourselves in the “Snow Bird” life style. Unfortunately, we had to cut our 2020 visit short due to the pandemic, and made no plans for a 2021 visit. However, now that we are fully vaccinated, and Kenny and Chris live in St. Petersburg, Florida, we decided that a brief trip was in order. We are not going to be here a month…heck we’re not going to be here a week, but we are in Florida, enjoying this early spring/summer weather, and we are with the boys

The first thing we were interested in seeing was their apartment, that we’ve only heard about and seen in pictures. Bottom line was we loved it! They have definitely put their spin on it, and with so many familiar things from our house, my Mom’s house, and Kenny’s life, we definitely knew we were on familiar ground! It was great and they feel very much at home!

After a brief visit, it was time to drive down the street and check into the hotel. We are staying in a brand new hotel, just 2 blocks away from the boys’ apartment. It’s called Tru by Hilton, and is a hotel of the new “industrial” style, but it’s very close, the room is comfortable, and the cost is zero dollars a night, thanks to Hilton points! We didn’t even get charged the $17 a night to park the car!

After we got all set in our room, the boys came over and it was time to get our evening started. The plan was that they were going to show us the area that they live in, the Central Avenue area of Downtown St. Petersburg. There are lots of new apartment buildings in the area, and an active bar scene, and looks like the perfect area for the boys. There is always something to do, and they are very much enjoying being just a couple of blocks away from it all. The boys walked us all over the area, including past Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays. By the time we got to the venue they’d planned for dinner, we were ready for a seat, and a drink. We got both!

The boys had decided our first stop of the night was going to be the Burnt Ends Tiki Bar, a beautiful roof top venue located above a bar-b-que joint (hence the name). The weather was absolutely wonderful, and it was super to be with Kenny and Chris, to be in Florida, and dining outside!

After a couple of great drinks, and some excellent appetizers, we decided to venture downstairs to Dr. BBQ to sample some of the BBQ the boys had said was so good…and it was!

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped and had another drink at a place on Central Avenue called Ferg’s Sports Bar. This incredible venue encompasses nearly two city blocks, and is ground zero for game day pre-gaming, as Tropicana Park is just a block away. It was much quieter on a non-game day Monday evening, but it was fun to sit along Central Avenue and have a drink with the boys!

After a good night’s sleep, Tuesday’s plan was for the boys to show us around St. Petersburg some more (not on foot), and to ultimately show us where they lived for the first 6 months they were here. When they left Ocean City last July, it was to move to a furnished apartment they’d found online in St. Pete’s Beach. Although they enjoyed their time there, living in a furnished apartment without their “stuff,” they kind of felt that they were just visitors and they did not really get into a resident vibe. The area was also very transient, as most folks there were on vacation. It was a nice place, in a great location (just a little over a block from the beach), but when their 6 month lease was up, they were happy to move to their current apartment. Back in January, they rented a commercial van, drove back to Ocean City and emptied their storage unit. So now they are living with their “stuff” and loving the new location. We agreed that the beach looked interesting, but being on Central Avenue was the right neighborhood for them!

They did show us a bunch of local establishments they frequented during their time in St. Pete’s Beach, and one in particular was singled out as our lunch stop of the day! We’d been hearing about this place called Focheezy almost from the first days they were in St. Pete’s Beach. It turned out that it opened just days before the boys arrived, and from what they told us, and the pictures we’d seen, it looked like the home of the most outrageous Grilled Cheese sandwiches ever devised. Susie and I had to see what it was all about! We saw, and we tasted, and it was incredible! The sandwiches are huge, so the four of us split two sandwiches and some sides. Take a look and tell me if it doesn’t look incredible!

After lunch, we stopped and did a little shopping, and then returned to the boys apartment. A late afternoon and evening of hanging out, having a drink or two, talking and relaxing, and ordering some take-out food was the perfect way to end our second day in St. Petersburg!

Wednesday was a bit of a laid back day, with our plans for the day not starting till around lunch (or brunch) time. Unfortunately, Chris was a bit under the weather, so it was time for Kenny and Mom and Dad to venture out. Our plan was to go toTrip’s Diner, a place we’d enjoyed in 2020 when we were in Indian Rocks Beach. We were going to go to a location nearer the boys, and one that had outside dining, as the weather was superb. Unfortunately we were not the only ones that apparently had that idea, because there was a line out the door, and nary a parking space within a 2 block area! After a couple of passes, it was decided that Susie and I could have Trip’s tomorrow as we headed to Indian Rocks Beach, and we’d go with Plan B! Plan B was the Maple Street Biscuit Company on Central Avenue, and it was fantastic!!

Susie and Kenny had The Five & Dime and I had the Egg-stremely Risky Biscuit. We added Potatoes O’Ryan and something called Maple Sausage Balls, and we had a fabulous brunch! Plan B was good!!! Leftovers went home for Chris, and for safe keeping, Kenny made sure they were strapped in!

After a brief rest period back at the hotel, the four of us did a tour of the boys two favorite St. Petersburg breweries! The day was beautiful, with sunny blue skies and low humidity, and we enjoyed being outside, first at Three Daughters’ Brewery and then at Pinellas Ale Works! An interesting thing about Pinellas Ale Works…Chris is an artist, and later this year (July to September) he is going to have a showing of his work there!!

What a wonderful town St. Petersburg is, and amazingly, Susie and I both agreed that in our minds, it was a place we associated with old people, but today it is a wonderful vibrant community for young folks. We’ve loved every place we went with the boys, and see why they love where they live!! St. Petersburg is a wonderful community with lots of culture (museums everywhere), with art all over the place, with a vibrant bar and food scene, with a love of dogs, and seems like a wonderful place for Our Boys to live! We will be back, and we think they will be here for the long haul!!

On Thursday, for our last night in Florida, we were off to Indian Rocks Beach, and the place where our love of the area started back in 2018..the Holiday Inn and Jimmy Guana’s! This will be the 4th year in a row that we’ve visited IRB, unfortunately not for an extended period, like we’ve done the past two years. In fact, in this semi-post-pandemic year, this one night stay will be our shortest stay ever in IRB. Unsure about what 2022 will bring in terms of a new hip for Susie and my second new knee, our fingers are crossed that we’ll be back next year, but we were so glad that the boys joined us at the Holiday Inn, and a good time was had by all as we celebrated our last night in Florida!!

Friday morning, we were up and out of Indian Rocks Beach, and that afternoon bid a fond farewell to the Sunshine State! It had been a busy 4 nights in Florida, and we loved being with Kenny and Chris, seeing their apartment and city, and reconnecting with Our Boys! Farewell Florida…see you soon!

PS – Our stop Friday night was Darien, Georgia, and yes, we did get our shrimp at B&J’s Steak and Seafood, that we’d missed in 2020 when we “ran” home from Florida! It was wonderful as always!!! Thanks Abe!

Miracle of Science – The Return of the Road Trip Continued

Saturday Morning, April 17th

Good morning from Wake Forest, North Carolina. In case you are interested, our trip down south from Ocean City worked perfectly! We pulled out of our garage a little after 8 AM to a cool, but sunny morning, and traffic was wonderful. Ms. GPS (I’m not being sexist…she does speak to us in a female voice) took us once again all the way to Philly where we joined up to our “Mother Road”, Interstate-95 south. Susie and I timed our drivers’ exchanges to work perfectly, so that neither of us drove extensive stretches, and the Express lanes in Virginia worked perfectly. You pay extra to ride these, and it’s charged to your EzPass. They only run one direction, so you have to catch the correct schedule to be able to use them. When we got there yesterday morning, they were running south, and boy were we glad to pay extra, as the regular lanes were backed up for miles. Probably saved us close to an hour in travel time!

Billy and Lori’s house is a little crazy due to the duel girl birthday party, and in an effort to make it a little easier on us, he got us a room using points at Wake Forest’s Marriott Fairfield Inn, a couple of minutes away. We arrived at about 4:25, and we were supposed to use the digital key on the app to get in our room, but it wasn’t working on my app. He called the desk and got us a hard key, but when we went to the room, it didn’t work. I left Susie outside the door and returned to the front desk. The young man there was very apologetic and made me another which worked. Susie hit the bathroom, and I was about to do the same, when I heard another key open the door, and a couple start to enter the room! I stopped them, we compared notes and discovered that WE were in the wrong room!!! We’d turned to 134 rather than 133 across the hall, and somehow our key had worked. We quickly grabbed our stuff, apologized and went to the door across the hall. We didn’t expect the key to work, but it did, prompting me to wonder if the young man at the desk made us a MASTER KEY??? I wanted to try it on other doors, but thankfully, as she does most days in life with most of my questionable ideas, my wonderful wife of 41+ years deterred me from this questionable endeavor!

Birthday party number one for the girls was strictly a family affair at a great local Italian Restaurant that we’ve eaten at before with the kids, and because we are in the South, the temperature was perfect to eat outside on their covered patio. Lori’s Mom Kathy was there, as well as her sister Keri and husband Bill, and more kids that seemed right for the two couples! Turns out there was their 5 and a couple of friends without parents! Too much food was ordered, great fun was had with the family, and I made Annabelle laugh when the sun got low and I was using my hand to block it. Of course, since it was her second birthday, Grandpa had to keep doing that, even though the sun was no longer an issue. Nothing better than a 2 year old’s laugh; even better when she’s laughing at you!!

To be a part of this special day, and join his sisters, our wonderful 5 year old Grandson Henry lost his first tooth yesterday! When I saw Lori’s post about it on Facebook at a rest stop, I mused to Susie that the tooth that grows into this young guy’s mouth to replace the tooth he lost, will be with him till he’s an old man. I find that incredible when I look at this adorable 5 year old today! The miracles of life are all around us!

In order to give the parents a bit of time to prepare for a party that sounds like it will have about 50 kids, a Dunk Tank (for Daddy), and a Bounce House for entertainment, Grandma and Grandpa entertained Layla and Henry at the hotel, and Lori’s Mom Kathy was going to try and coral little Annabelle. Billy dropped our two charges off about 10, and a wonderful time was had by all! Grandma had the presence of mind to prepare before we left Ocean City, and had brought bags of chips and the cookie’s they most associate with us…Black and Whites. Grandma showed them how she likes to break the cookies at the point where the two icings go together, and before long, that was the only way Layla and Henry would eat theirs! I said to Susie, that they’d be showing their kids someday, and maybe their Grandkids, how their Grandma liked to eat these special cookies! Susie added yogurts and fruit from the hotel’s pantry, and experimented with making chocolate milk from regular milk and hot chocolate mix. It worked!! We played Mario Monopoly, colored on their tablets, watched Cartoons and Power Rangers on the TV, and at one point I was watching something on the TV with Henry and on her tablet with Layla! Good thing Susie says I can listen to two conversations at once, because I was able to comment to the two of them on what was happening on their respective shows! The two of them also made Grandpa download Fart Games and Whoopie cushion apps to his phone…Grandma was not pleased! All in all, a great time was had!

The party was as advertised! Young kids, young parents, a full size bounce house and an Annabelle sized one, the dunk tank, and a sand box for the real little ones. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, french fries and chips…what else could a party need? How bout an Ice Cream Truck? Yep, about halfway through the party, a bright yellow Ice Cream Truck parked at the end of their driveway, and it was cones, or cups, or ices for all! There was nothing that Lori and Billy didn’t think of! They did a wonderful job!!

The party was a wonderful success and our weekend with our beloved North Carolina Family was incredible. It was great seeing Lori’s Mom and much more of her family, meeting a lot of Billy and Lori’s friends, and watching all the kids have the time of their lives! Susie and I are truly blessed to have Lori and Billy in our life, and as far as Grandma and Grandpa are concerned, there is nothing better than spending time with our 3 favorite little people in the world…Layla, Henry, and Annabelle!

Thanks Moderna for giving us our life back!

Miracle of Science – The Return of the Road Trip

Those of you who have been following this blog, already know that its origin was way back in 2016, and was to mark Our New Adventures, as I followed Susie into retirement, and we entered the next chapter of our lives. The first blog post in February of 2016 that was entitled Road Trip (https://rnewadventures.com/2016/02/), detailed the background of our first retired road trip, a trip to Florida. After we returned from that Florida trip, we started discussing the planning for what we called Our Big Adventure, which ultimately took 9 weeks of our life, during which we traveled a grand total of 9,773.0 miles! Every night of that trip (with a couple of exceptions due to internet issues), I detailed that day’s travels, what we saw, what we ate, and what we thought. In reality, road trips are at the very core of this blog!

Over the past five years, there’s been lots of blog posts about road trips. Every winter we have journeyed at some point to Florida and have written about traveling around the state, about our 3 wonderful stays in what we consider to be our Florida home, Indian Rocks Beach, on the Gulf Coast, of trips to Disney World taking advantage of my Disney Retiree Discount, Spring Training Baseball games with our Mets, interesting places we’ve seen, and wonderful meals. This is post number 241 in this blog, and I’d have to say that being on the road has been one of our favorite blog subjects, and probably comprise a majority of our topics. But, alas, our last road trip ended very suddenly, in March of 2020 when we left Florida in a big hurry to get back to our Ocean City home, because of the Covid 19 Pandemic.

Since last March, there have been zero posts about road trips (unless you consider the blog post about Sunday Traditions that included details of our usual Sunday ride around our Ocean City environs a road trip post), but now, thanks to the miracle of our Moderna Covid 19 vaccine injections, there has already been one road trip in 2021. That took place a couple of weeks ago when we left the State of New Jersey for the first time since March 14, 2020 and joined I-95 again for the first time since last March, so we could visit our North Carolina family, hug our Grandkids and our son Bill and daughter-in-law Lori, and get back to normal! As I said at the end of that blog, Thank you Moderna!

TIME FOR A REAL ROAD TRIP

So this post is just an advisory of what’s in our immediate future. On Friday, April 16th, we will once again head down the Atlantic City Expressway towards I-95 Southbound. Our first destination later that day will once again be our son Bill’s house in Wake Forest, North Carolina. You see, our two Granddaughters happen to have both been born in April – albeit 5 years and 15 days apart! Our 7 year old Layla came into this world on April 2nd, 2013, and her sister Annabelle joined the family on April 17th, 2019. This Saturday, they are going to have a joint birthday party for our two Granddaughters, and we plan to be there! Layla’s birthday happened to coincide with Easter this year, but this will be the first real birthday we get to spend with Annabelle, and Susie and I are super excited about that!

THE BIRTHDAY GIRLS – 7 AND 2 YEARS EARLIER!

Okay, so that’s part one. On Sunday, April 18th, we once again head south on Interstate 95 with Sunday’s stop at a Hampton Inn in Richmond Hill, Georgia. No, we’re not stopping there because it’s called the same as a village in Queens. There is a much more important reason…there’s a Fuddruckers in a truck stop just down the road from the hotel! So, are we driving all the way to Georgia for a hamburger we haven’t gotten since the Fuddruckers on Long Island closed many years ago?

Nope, Monday morning we are up and again headed south on I-95, and will keep going till we get to the city of St. Petersburg, in the Sunshine State, Florida! Covid cheated us out of what has become our usual summer preview, by traveling to Florida in February and March, and now fully inoculated, we need to make a brief guest appearance there to keep our record up to snuff….that, and we want to see Our Boys, son Kenny and his husband Chris who now live in Downtown St. Petersburg! We want to see their new apartment IRL, we want to see where they live, and mostly we want to be able to hug these guys! It’s only a brief 3 days stay in St. Petersburg, but it’s a start!

On Thursday the 22nd, we will head back to where it all started for us in Indian Rocks Beach, the Holiday Inn! This is where we first stayed for a couple of days back in 2018, till we met our bartender friend Lindsey, and decided to stay longer. After 4 days at the Holiday Inn, we fell in love with the town, and we are looking forward to a brief (one night) stop with the boys to say hello to our Florida home! It’s not the month we stayed in IRB last year, but at least we again get to keep our streak going, with hope for 2022!

On Friday morning, we say goodbye to Kenny and Chris, and head back to I-95 and another favorite “trip to Florida” stop, Darien, Georgia! We’ll spend the night at the Hampton Inn in town for one reason and one reason only! So we can have dinner at B&J’s Steak and Seafood! The home of the best fried shrimp we’ve ever had. It’s a Friday, so we may have a long wait, but we missed our shrimp on the way home in 2020, and we want it now!

So that’s what we will be doing the next couple of weeks, and who knows..there may even be a trip to New York for Doctors’ appointments and to see our daughter Krissi and son-in-law Mike’s new condo in New Rochelle! Watch out world…Susie and I are free, and we have mileage to put on the Honda before the lease is up!!!

To be continued….Thank you Moderna!

Miracle of Science – Part Two

Back in the end of August, we saw our daughter Krissi and her husband Mike, when Mike’s sister Sara, her husband Gabe, and teenagers Maddy and Ethan rented a house in Ocean City for a week from our neighbor Neen. It was the first time we’d seen them since they surprised me and helped me celebrate my 70th birthday back in January. As we were in the height of the pandemic, Krissi and Mike didn’t stay with us, Mike’s parents Paula and Jerry stayed at a local Bed and Breakfast, we observed social distancing by visiting together in our garage and at the beach, and we exchanged the briefest of hugs. It was something, but it wasn’t what we really wanted.

Turn the clock ahead 7+ months, and now Krissi, who is an administrator at Weill Cornell Medical Center in NYC, and Mike, who sells wine and spirits with MS Walker are both fully vaccinated. Add in the fact that Susie and I are fully vaccinated too, and it’s time for a real, old fashioned weekend with our favorite daughter and our son-in-law! Last Friday, Mike dropped Krissi off with us, while he worked some clients with one of his local salesmen Bryce, which was the beginning of a weekend they spent staying in our house! Old times were back again!

Our time together started with hugs and kisses all around, and then a good old fashioned weekend of visiting. Rather than heading here, there, and everywhere, Krissi decided on a laid back weekend, with home-cooked meals, and lots of time for visiting! She had a hankering for some grilled food, as living in their new condo in New Rochelle doesn’t give them a grilling outlet. Luckily, Susie and I had visited Costco just the day before, so Pork Chops and Pork Tenderloin Medallions were on our Mixed Grill menu. Krissi, Susie and I hit the local Acme to get the fixings for a big salad, while Mike headed off to work with Bryce, and because they looked wonderful, some grilled asparagus were added to the menu! The weather wasn’t wonderful, so I headed down to the grill, while Susie, Krissi and Mike stayed upstairs. After all was done and said, it was a great meal, accompanied by some great wine that Mike had brought for us! Earlier in the day, Krissi also joined Susie and I in our daily exercise routine, and a new chandelier was also put up over our dining room table, by Susie, Krissi, and me, but we don’t need to talk any more about that.

Saturday was a hanging out day around the house, watching some TV and being lazy! Poor Mike was subjected to our Wedding Album when the topic of weddings came up. Then Krissi and Mike proceeded to cook us a wonderful dinner. It was a Turkey Taco Salad, with lots of wonderful vegetables. There was lots of chopping to be done, and the two of them were a perfect team! It was a great meal, and during it we watched one of their favorites on TV – The Masked Singer.

We carefully checked the weather, and although not perfect, Saturday night looked like the best chance of the weekend for some time Fire Pit time, so that’s what we did!

Sunday morning was, of course, Bagel Sunday, so orders in hand, I headed off to see my friends at Hot Bagels and More in Somers Point! As usual they were yummy!!

Again, Sunday was not a great weather day, but we were able to get out a bit with the kids and hit BF Mazzeos and Tilton Market, to both get some things for us, and for Krissi and Mike to bring home. Then it was time for Sunday Stir Stir Vodka (for Susie and I) and Gin (for Krissi and Mike). We decided that Sunday night dinner would be a hors d’oeuvres buffet of sorts, so I was called upon to make my Dad’s Stuffed Mushrooms. It was accompanied by Shrimp Cocktail from Costco, Eggplant Meatballs from BF Mazzeos, Buffalo Chicken Sausage from Bagliani’s (along with Blue Cheese Dressing from Charlies), and a charcuterie platter with delicacies from Bagliani’s and Passion Vines!

Susie and I relaxed while the kids took a walk around the neighborhood. That night we played a rousing game of “That’s What She Said,” and laughed a lot! After a good night’s sleep, about 10:30 on Monday morning Krissi and Mike headed back to their new condo in New Rochelle, where we will turn the tables and be their guests in two weeks!

It was a great weekend with our middle child (by 2 minutes) and her husband, and just another clue that our lives are returning! Stay tuned…we’ve just begun to live again – we may even have a road trip in our future!! Thanks again Moderna!

Miracle of Science – Part One

Last Saturday, April 3rd at about 8:15 AM, Susie and I pulled the Honda CRV out of our garage and headed towards the Ninth Street bridge. Just about an hour later, at 9:12 we crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge, entered the city of Philadelphia and our neighbor state of Pennsylvania. For the FIRST time since we returned from Florida on March 14, 2020, we had left the state of New Jersey! 4 states, and about 7 hours later, we pulled up in front of our son and daughter-in-law’s house in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Grandma and Grandpa were ready to spend Easter weekend with our three precious Grandkids and their Mom and Dad!

Last year, on January 30th, 2020, on our way to Florida, for what we thought was going to be a two month stay, we stopped overnight to see Billy and his family. The next morning, when we left, headed south on I-95, we expected that we’d see them again in a couple of months later on our way home from Florida. Little did we know that on January 31st, 2020, we would see Lori, Bill and Layla, Henry and Annabelle for the last time till last Saturday afternoon. At that point we knew nothing about something called Covid-19, or what America and our family would look like during a pandemic, or that we’d lose an entire year out of our Grandchildren’s lives!

Our son’s family had been at Busch Gardens for several days, and they arrived home about an half hour after we got there. It took zero time after hugs and hello kisses for the kids to put us in Grandparent mode…and we loved it after a year away! It took Annabelle a bit to warm up, but before too long she was calling us Grandma and Grandpa, and we were so happy to once again be back in our three Grandchildren’s lives! Billy and Lori went out to shop for Easter brunch, and Grandma and Grandpa had Chinese food with the kids and then settled in for a night of playing games!. From Henry and Grandpa playing with his Nintendo Switch, and Grandma and Annabelle playing with Stickers, and Grandma and Grandpa as a willing audience for Layla’s performing, up to and including watching some show called the Haunted Hendersons, we had a great night!! When Lori and Billy came home, they thanked us for watching the kids. We thanked them for giving us several uninterrupted hours with our 3 favorite people 7 and under!

Easter morning was wonderful as we watched them hunt for Easter Eggs and try and find where the Easter Bunny had hidden their Easter baskets. Then we were almost as excited as they were as they discovered what surprises were in the eggs they found, and dove into their Easter baskets!


Then it was time to check out Easter presents from Mommy and Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa, before it was time to shower and get dressed before the rest of the family arrived!

The rest of the family included Lori’s Mom Kathy, her sister Keri and husband Bill, along with their two kids Molly and Max, and Lori’s brother Sean and his girlfriend Lauren. Lots of hugs and kisses were exchanged, and we were all thankful that everybody in the house (but the kids) had had both vaccine shots! It was wonderful to once again be with family. To eat (oh what a spread Lori and Bill put out), drink, and as they say, be merry! The kids played, the adults played, and a good time was had by all!

We slept very well that night after a day spent with young kids. They were all wonderful and we were so glad to be back on track after a year of FaceTime calls! The next morning, after breakfast and getting dressed, we were off to see Bill and Lori’s new Lake House! The cars were packed, Layla and Henry rode with Grandma and Grandpa, and we departed Wake Forest for the hour and a half trip to Roanoke Rapids lake!

To say we were thrilled by where Lori and Billy’s life has taken them would be an understatement! What a wonderful life they have created for themselves, and their 3 incredible kids, and what remarkable memories they are going to create with this great Lake House! They’ve done, and had done, a lot of work already, but the vision is very clear and we loved it! It’s a 2 bedroom/ 2 bath house, but Lori came upon with this great idea to convert the upstairs bedroom to a bunk room, which is able to sleep 10 people in comfort! A great idea and we loved the execution of Lori’s idea by their handyman Oscar!

We totally enjoyed the rest of Monday, on the large deck overlooking the lake, on the pontoon boat on the lake, and around the fire pit that night! It was a magical time, in a magical place, with 5 people that we love so much!

Tuesday morning, after some more Grandparent/Grandkid time, it was time for Susie and I to head back to Ocean City. The traffic wasn’t the greatest around Washington, DC, but what’s new about that? We safely got home, with nothing but wonderful memories of Easter, 2021! Thanks to the Miracle of Science, and the Modern vaccine that Susie and I got back in February, we were once again able to enjoy hugs and kisses from our family, and to put memories of 2020 in the background, as we move ahead to make many more new memories in 2021 of Family Time!! Stay tuned…we’ve just begun to live again!! Thanks Moderna!

Our Adventure in New Counters!

Our house on Pennlyn Place in Ocean City was built in 2001. When we bought the place in 2005, it was just 4 years old. At that point, we’d spent 20 years living in a house in Mineola that was approaching 90 years of age. Having 4 year old electrical, plumbing, cabinets, counters, etc was a new experience for us, and one that we loved. In those early years, although we loved being at the house, finances dictated that we rent out the house for 9 to 10 weeks every summer. Although we did painting and updated the furniture, we left the basic house the same. As you probably know, in 2016 I joined Susie in retirement, and in 2017 we sold the Mineola house and officially Ocean City became our home! Now it was time to make the house ours!

We’d always wanted a wine fridge, and after doing a lot of research, we bought a new “under the counter” model. This meant that it vented from the front so it could be buried under a counter. Then we added a glass doored cabinet to the end of our existing cabinets, which would hold glasses, and reside above the wine fridge. Now, all we needed to bring the whole thing together was to extend the counter over the wine fridge and under the glass cabinet!

The wine fridge and new cabinet before it got it’s glass door

The term “Builder’s Grade” denotes the quality of items that a builder puts in a house as part of the basic build. Our countertops certainly qualified as that! Built of Formica over plywood, they were serviceable, but without the cache of stone counters. In the beginning we figured that they were the perfect thing for a house that was still being rented. Unfortunately, they were also green as was the matching fireplace surround. In order to match the greens, the furniture we’d updated in our early years of ownership stayed in the green palate, even though Susie always thought that a beach house should reflect more the nature of it’s seaside environment, and blues and beiges would be much better colors. Now it was time for another updating and for a color change!

Susie did a lot of research on the type of counters she wanted, and everything she read led to manufactured quartz. That decision done, then it was time to select who we should turn to for help with this job. Once again Susie researched, checking out all the kitchen places in both Cape May and Atlantic counties. After several days of combing reviews and ratings, the answer looked obvious to her. Merlino Marble and Granite in Oceanview, NJ had by far the best reviews. Our next question was “How much was this going to cost us?” We took pictures, drew a diagram, and measured what we needed, and then we visited their showroom to see what was what.

We met with with Matt in the Merlino showroom in Oceanview, and talked about the job. He showed us what was available and took our measurements and promised he’d have a quote to us later in the day. After looking at all the samples in the showroom, we went home with 2 samples to choose from, and told him we’d be back the next day to return the samples. Remember, at this point, we still had no idea what it was going to cost us, but we’d pretty much decided that whatever it was, we would do it. That afternoon, true to his word, Matt emailed us a quote and we were surprised by how reasonable the price was. Having selected the quartz we wanted, when we returned the next day, we also told him we wanted to add in the fireplace surround. As quartz wasn’t a good material to use around the fireplace (doesn’t like heat), we walked the yard and quickly picked out a slab of marble we liked, and that worked well with the quartz we’d selected. He once again took our measurements of the fireplace surround, and using the material we’d selected, wrote up a contract.

The next step was to have the official measuring and template done. Here we had a little issue because we had to have a wall built for the far side of our wine fridge, so that it could be integrated into the cabinets. Once that was done, however, I called Charm at the Merlino office, and she sent Chris our way to do the design work. Using a laser, and computer, as well as a good old fashioned tape measure, Chris spent about an hour and a half plotting our counter tops, the island, and the fireplace surround in his cad program. This had to be exact (the reason for both the laser and computer and the tape measure back-up), as the cuts would be made in our quartz based on the design he was preparing. We were once again impressed.

This past Wednesday morning, at about 9:30 AM, Tim, Alex, and Dan showed up and first removed our old counters (goodbye green), and then started to do the prep work for the quartz installation. We had no idea that there was so much prep that had to be done, but they explained that having a good surface made the installation that much better. They used their crane to remove the old counters, and to bring the new quartz up to our porch, and in short order, our new kitchen started taking shape. When they put the first piece in place, we were thrilled, and as the work continued, our thrill level increased. The 3 guys worked very hard, with Tim taking charge of the counters and island while Dan and Alex worked on the fireplace. About 2 and3/4 hours later, the end result was nothing short of perfection, and Susie and I are thrilled at the transformation, and how our add-on cabinet and wine fridge now look like they were there since the place was built!

The entire process, from the first day we walked into the showroom took less than a month. From working with Matt and Charm at the showroom, to having Chris over to template the whole job, to the installation of our new counters, island, and fireplace surround by Tim, Alex, and Dan, Susie and I could not be happier! Everyone at Merlino was professional, and wonderful to work with! It was a real pleasure to have this job done by Merlino Marble and Granite…all home improvement stories should have such a happy ending!

BEFORE AND AFTER PICTURES

Next task is picking out and having someone install the backsplash….wish us luck!

A Member of the Family

Here’s another auto themed story for you…..

The first time Susie and I went to Las Vegas (well, first time since I was there as a 10 year old) was in 1999 to celebrate our 20th Wedding Anniversary. Hertz was very nice on that trip and gave us a 1999 Ford Mustang as our rental vehicle. At the time, we owned a 1986 Mustang convertible, and after driving around Vegas for a week in a brand new Mustang, the bug was in my head to think about trading our 14 year old car for a new 2000 version of the vehicle!

Back in those days, there was still a Ford dealer in Mineola, so one day in October, we went to Mineola Ford to order a 2000 Mustang convertible. I probably should have suspected something was hinky with the salesman when he wouldn’t take the ’86 Mustang in trade, but was willing to personally buy it, but we went ahead and placed an order for a Laser Red Tinted Clearcoat Mustang convertible with a charcoal cloth interior and a black convertible top.

The car was being built to order, so once the factory accepted the order, there was a couple of months wait till it was built and then shipped to the local dealer. Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I got the call that my new BLACK Mustang had been delivered! “Black,”,I said incredulously, “I ordered a Red Mustang!” I got out my order paperwork, and there it clearly showed that I had ordered a red Mustang with a black convertible top! Somehow, when the salesman (the same one I had my doubts about) put the order in, he put Black as the car color rather than Red. When I told them I didn’t want the car, they were incredulous. They said they’d try to find another one in the pipeline, see if they could trade with another dealer, and someway make me happy. Suffice it to say they didn’t do anything, other than still try and convince me to take the black car. In fact, the day I went back to the dealership to get my deposit money back, there was the car front and center in the showroom. “Don’t you want to look at your car before you leave?” the sales manager asked. “It’s not my car!” I answered as I walked out!

I was disappointed, but as we were right in the middle of the holidays, I put thoughts of a new Mustang on the back burner, until after the new year. On January 2nd, 2000 I turned 50, and 3 days later, on January 5th, 2000, Susie and I walked into Park Inn Ford in Valley Stream to place an order. We ended up at Park Inn Ford because they were affiliated with the AAA Car Buying Service, and as a member, we were guaranteed a “no haggle price”. I had spoken to a young lady at the dealership, gotten a really good price, and had come in on the evening of the 5th to write up our order. Ford was running a Free Leather Interior promotion at the time, but as our older Mustang convertible had vinyl seats, I was well aware that an open top convertible with vinyl or leather seating surfaces was like an oven on a sunny day, so I told her I wanted the standard cloth seats. “No problem,” she said, and just deducted the price of the leather from our final price quote. I stressed that the car had to be red, and we left happy. End of story, right?

Well, not exactly. The next day at work, I received a call from the son of the owner of the dealership. It turns out that the girl I was working with was very new, and when she deducted the cost of leather from the car she was quoting me, she missed that under the Free Leather Ford promotion the cost of the leather was never added to the final price, making it a $900 mistake! He asked me if I’d be willing to split the cost of the mistake with him. If I’d go up $450, he’d subtract $450 from the price of the car. He also said that he would act as my salesman for the rest of the purchase, to make sure there were no more issues (and probably to save the cost of a sale’s commission). We talked for a few minutes, and agreed to split the cost of her mistake, and a relationship was formed.

The Mustang started our relationship with the owner and Park Inn Ford, and was the first of four cars we bought from him and Park Inn Ford…sadly the dealership is no more.

Park Inn Ford

On Friday March 31st, 2000, we picked up our nice new RED Mustang convertible, so today marks her 21st year as being a part of the family! I used to say that since we ordered the car 3 days after my 50th birthday, she was my “Mid Life Crisis” car, but now that she’s still with us, I say she went from being my “Mid Life Crisis” car to my “Retirement” car. In fact, she moved to Ocean City even before we did, getting New Jersey license plates the summer of 2016, and living here since then! When this summer rolls around, it will be the 22nd summer she has been with us, and after all, isn’t summer the real time to drive a convertible!

Happy Birthday…she can legally drink more than gas as of today!

This is her winter storage spot, till it’s summer and real top down weather!

Two People I Owe

Walter and Kathy Hemerly were another married couple that worked with my Mom and Dad, as members of New York’s Metropolitan Opera Chorus. They were a fixture of my life, probably from the day that I was born, and there are several things in my life that I owe directly to them.

Number one is Ocean City. Walter was from Philadelphia, and his family owned a summer house on the 3200 block of Asbury Avenue in Ocean City. Back in the early 50s, the Met’s season was short, and the members of the chorus collected New York State Unemployment during the summer. In the summer of 1955 when I was five years old, they finally convinced my Mom and Dad to come down to Ocean City. We stayed in a guest house right next door to Walter’s family summer house, and for the next 5 years, Ocean City was where we spent our summers. Turn the clock ahead to the first year Susie and I were married, and we once again visited Ocean City, and it seemed remarkably the same as it had when I was a kid. Jump ahead to the Summer of 1983, and our first stay in Ocean City as a family with 7 month old William Ryan, and the die was cast. Since that first visit with Billy, for each of the 37 following summers, we have spent part of or all summer in Ocean City, since 2005 in our own house, and since 2017, we’ve called it home! Thanks Kathy and Walter!

The second thing I owe them is my first car!

It was a 1955 Chevrolet BelAir 2 door sedan, in green on green. It wasn’t the car pictured, but it was exactly like this one. It had a straight six cylinder engine, a three speed manual column shift transmission (referred to as 3 on the tree), non-power brakes, non-power steering, an AM radio, white wall tires, and full wheel covers, and that was it! It cost me $50 when I bought it in the spring of 1967, but I had to drive it home from their apartment in Westchester County. I had learned to drive on my folk’s new ’66 Ford Galaxie with a V/8 engine, automatic transmission and power steering, so this was going to be a big change for me. I had never driven a stick shift, but I had watched a couple of folks drive one, and was sure I was prepared. I guess I could have done more research, but I was 17 and knew all!

So the day we are going to pick it up, we take the train up to Westchester, meet Walter and Kathy in their apartment building’s parking lot, give them the $50, put my new license plates on the car, and off we go. Okay…it’s harder to drive a stick shift than it looks….a lot harder! I drive around their neighborhood a bit to get a feeling for the car. I stall the engine multiple times, shift into the wrong gear, and have lots of trouble pulling away from stop lights. A lot of my issues had to do with that third pedal…the clutch pedal. See, my big issue was that I now had to drive the car from Westchester County to where we lived in Queens County. Westchester is part of the mainland of the United States, Queens is part of Long Island, an island off the coast of the United States. Island equals bridge, and bridge equals toll booth. You see my problem?

I cautiously get on the highway, and I’m doing fine as long as I don’t have to stop, but here comes the Whitestone Bridge to Queens and it’s toll bridge. Luckily there wasn’t a lot of traffic and I’m able to pick a toll booth with no line. I down shift and slow down, but I’m afraid to stop for fear of stalling and not being able to start the car again, so I toss the 35 cents toll (it was a long time ago) at the toll taker, and “accelerate” away from the booth and onto the bridge! Somehow, I made it home to Jackson Heights, parked the car (not easy to ease a standard transmission into backwards movement either), and knew I had my work cut out for me really learning how to drive all over again.

Over the next couple of weeks, I drove the car as much as I could and honestly, I got pretty good at the manual transmission. I attempted to “dress up” the 12 year old Chevy, even embarking on compounding the tired paint, till I realized I was compounding through the paint to the steel of the body. I settled for applying a racing stipe on the car, and getting a couple of new tires. The AM radio worked fine, and this was before the day of FM’s dominance, so I could listen to WABC, and all the other appropriate stations for a person my age!

My friend Richard and I were spending the summer before college working at Alexanders Department Store in Rego Park, and it had become my routine to pick Richard up at 96th Street and 34th Avenue on the mornings we worked, and for the two of us to drive to and from Rego Park together. One sunny summer morning, as we were heading east along 34th Avenue, and cresting a slight hill, I was momentarily blinded by the bright sun directly in front of us, but slowly then realized that there was a car stopped in the middle of the road. I attempted to stop, but I didn’t, and hit the back end of the stopped car and pushed it for most of a block before we both stopped in front of a school yard in Corona. Turns out that in the summer of 1967, while driving a 1955 Chevy, I hit a 1951 Chevy. I will always remember the name of the driver of the car, Mr. Lemberg Nelson, and the first words he said to me as we both stepped out of the car, “Oh my neck!”

Luckily Walter had installed seat belts in the car during his ownership, so Richard and I were belted in. However, pre-shoulder belts and air bags, I hit the steering wheel with my face, right under my nose, and although I didn’t lose any teeth, I did get 8 stitches in my upper gum. Richard had a bagel in his teeth at the time of the accident, so he had a 1967 version of an air bag and got no injuries!

Unfortunately, that was the end of my 55 Chevy, as it was not worth repairing the car based on the damage and the age and value of the vehicle. I always marveled over the fact that in the summer of 1967, while driving a 1955 Chevy, I had an accident with a 1951 Chevy. A 12 year old car hitting a 16 year old car…what are the odds. Also, if you remember from earlier in my tale, I was a neophyte stick shift driver, having had less than a month’s experience driving a 3 pedal car. For the last 54 years I have never really been 100% sure, if on that fateful morning while trying to stop the car, I hit the brake pedal OR the clutch pedal, and I guess I never will.

So those are the two big things I owe to my Mom and Dad’s co-workers, Kathy and Walter Hemmerly. My first car, that lasted less than a month, and my love for Ocean City, NJ, that has lasted a lifetime! Thanks Kathy and Walter!!

Luck of the Irish

A number of years ago, the kids gave Susie and I Ancestry DNA test kits for Christmas. We dutifully followed instructions, spit into the tube, packed it all up, and sent it off. I didn’t really have any doubt what my test would find, as I knew very well that my Dad was 100% Italian and that my Mom was not only 100% Scottish, but had even been born in Scotland and had not come to America till she was 6 years old! I don’t know if they are faster today, but back in those days, there was a couple of months wait till you got the results back. When they did come back, boy was I surprised!

Yes, the Italian and the Scottish were there, but look at what else they found!! 1% European Jewish (obviously the reason for my love of Matzo), 7% Caucasus, 7% Middle East, and (drum roll please) 25% Irish!! Who knew that after all the years of having nothing more in common with Irish folk than an apostrophe in my last name, I was now 25% Irish!!

Then, just one year later, and shortly before St. Patrick’s Day, I got the following “up date” to my DNA story!

Suddenly they had re-calculated the results, and although some of my other results were similar, now they’d lumped Ireland, Scotland, and Wales in together and highlighted Scotland! Oh well, so much for me being Irish! Goodbye St. Patrick’s Day, time to get out the “Everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but Italians” sweatshirt again!

Then this year’s DNA story showed up, and guess what…now I’m 27% Irish!

That’s it, I give up! Tired of the revolving door of ethnicity, think I’ll just go back to what I’ve always known…half Italian, half Scottish!

Either way, Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone…please don’t turn out like those drunken kids, who cut school to go to the parade in the city, that I used to spend my trip home from work with on the Long Island Rail Road! More celebrating, less throwing up on your shoes at the curb!