OBX: Day 5

August 26th, 2006

The last day has arrived and it was a great day to end my vacation on. After a hearty grits and country ham breakfast, we all went down to the beach and enjoyed the sun, sand and minimal surf. The group rented a kayak and people took turns paddling out to a nearby school of dolphins that came close to shore to play in the water. The beach here has fine-grained sand, so it is difficult to run in and it is tough to get rid of. “Sitting at the beach” never has really appealed to me…. don’t know why really, but it could be because I see the beach as a sandy, salty, sunburning place that makes people want to take a shower and get all that junk off of them. I also can’t just sit there. Even with a book in my hand, I think browning in the sun for the sake of browning is a very vane process that gets people burned more often than tanned. I did hang out on the beach for an hour or two, tossing the football and frisbee around and putting my legs in the shorebreak. After that, I knew I had an air-conditioned house waiting for me just a short walk away, so there’s no need to remain in the hot sun. (You can probably see why I like living in Seattle) After cooling off a bit, I went out to pick up lunch for the group, typical carolina barbecue pork sandwiches. If you’re not familiar with carolina barbecue, it is different than what the rest of the country considers barbecue. Here in North Cackilacky, they use a vinegar-based sauce, rather than a tomato-based sauce. This gives the meat (chopped/pulled pork) a tang and refreshing taste.

Fast forward to this evening and the end of the vacation bonfire on the beach. It was sorta camp-ish, where we all sat around the fire eating smores and trying to not burn our hands while holding the marshmellow skewers. It was a wonderful way to end the week and tell jokes with my old and new friends. It’s just after midnight now, but my night isn’t over. I have a flight out of Norfolk that leaves in about 5 hours and the drive is a good 2 hours (plus stops for coffee and more coffee along the way). I’ll be back in Seattle before most of you read this blog, but here in Nags Head, North Carolina, it has been a wonderful beach house experience that I hope to repeat again in the future. I’ll post pictures when I get home. I hope you all enjoyed reading about snippets of life here in the OBX and if you get the chance, I highly recommend the trip.

OBX: Day 4

August 25th, 2006

After last night’s crabfest, today was slow to get going. Everyone woke up at different times throughout the morning, so breakfast was a do-it-yourself affair. I’m not a cereal person, so a bowl of Special K or Cinnamon Toast Crunch just doesn’t do it for me. This is the south and traditional southern breakfast includes grits. The grits that we bought are called “Quick Grits”, which while convenient, are not respected by most southerners. As the movie My Cousin Vinny tells… “No self-respecting southerner uses instant grits. I take pride in my grits”. Since I wasn’t about to wait 20 minutes for real grits to soak, I settled for the quick grits. They were good, but then again, I eat grits about once every 2 years, so I really shouldn’t be a grit judge. The main activity today was a round of golf. Nags Head Golf Links was a nicely maintained course with narrow fairways and lots of wetland brush that gobbled up golf balls like it was Thanksgiving dinner. I lost many many golf balls, but somehow was still able to get 2 pars and a birdie during the day. The other guys in our group managed to hit a couple rooftops of fairway homes, but luckily no damage. I hit one shot into the parking lot of the adjacent wastewater treatment plant, thank goodness no cars were there at the time. After golf, we all had a quiet evening at the house, watching and rooting for the Eagles in a pre-season game. The sun can be brutal beating down on you all day, so chilling in a 68 degree house while the outside temp is 87 sure is a good thing. Although home in Seattle doesn’t get too hot normally, it’s going to be tough to go back to opening/closing windows to regulate temperature. Tomorrow looks to be a beach day and maybe some traditional shore activities. Until then…..

OBX: Day 3

August 25th, 2006

The thrill has gone… at least the thrill of being so close to the beach. I didn’t go to the beach today, but really, I didn’t miss it. After a breakfast of sausage gravy and biscuits, I drove back up to Norfolk to pick up my buddy John Koehler…. a good 2 hours from our beach house. Once we got back, we settled into our normal antics that keeps us busy through the day. Being that we are near the shore, we opted to get steamed crabs for dinner, a whole half-bushel. I don’t know what a bushel contains, so a half-bushel sounds like a lot…. turns out, it’s about 40 crabs, so there were plenty to go around. If you haven’t opened a crab and scooped out the meat, it’s quite easy, although I was the first to cut myself from the sharp shells that contain the oooh-so-delicious crab-meat. I thoroughly enjoyed the crab frenzy and hope everyone gets to try it out at least once. Old Bay is okay, but after awhile, I’m looking for something different. Is there nothing else that makes crabs taste good??? The rest of the night has been chill and right now there’s nobody awake as I write the last thoughts of the great day that today was. I would love to post more pictures, but I forgot the cable that connects my camera to my laptop. So, until then, all you can get are pictures from my cell phone that I can email to my flickr account. Tomorrow is golfing and definitely other fun as well, so stay tuned to upcoming posts. Happy Friday to those of you working out there…… too bad you’re working during a beautiful day in August. Wish you were here……mmmm, crabs are delicious….

OBX: Day 2

August 24th, 2006

Day 2 in North Carolina’s “Flavor Country” (it’s a big country) was a blend of debauchery and responsibility. Waking up here begs the question, “why wake up early, since we’re on vacation”…. but somehow I was still up quite early, say 10am. After a good breakfast of leftover bbq from the night before, half the group stumbled the 200 yards to the beach and I stayed back to do a little work. Work you say?!?!? Yes, a couple conference calls and emails… not too much work. I guess time just flew and all of a sudden it was 3pm and time for lunch. I don’t know if it was typing emails that took so long, or watching Harold and Kumar visit White Castle that occupied so much of my afternoon. It got us craving for sandwiches, and given my present company of philadelphians, I went out and got a cheesesteak for lunch…mmmm, not authentically philly, but still a good substitute. When everyone got back from the beach, we piled into cabs and off to dinner. Instead of cooking, we splurged by going to a local sportsbar/karaoke/jukejoint. Food was okay, not bad for bar-food, but not better than my cheesesteak lunch. The reason for our dinner visit was karaoke. With only 40 people in the whole place, it was easy to request a song and be the next in line to sing. But this place had one problem…. No Sweet Caroline!!! AGGGHHH, what karaoke songbook doesn’t have a little Neil Diamond? We found many other things to sing, some good and some really good. Back at the beach house, we ended the night playing a french card game “Mille Bourne”, a throwback to a 1970’s game. For the 2nd night in a row, I fell asleep on the couch. I always eventually make it to my own bed after waking up in the middle of the night, but while watching Spaceballs at 4am, I must have zonked out…. can’t wait till day 3!!!

OBX: Day 1

August 22nd, 2006

Welcome to my daily blog of my vacation in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. I’m going to post about the daily activities or more likely, the lack of daily activities I have during my 1 week vacation here in the sandy shores of Nags Head (central portion of the Outer Banks). I left last night on the red-eye from Seattle, hoping to get a few hours of shut-eye before starting my trip. Turns out, there were 100 knot tail winds that got me into my Detroit layover about 45 minutes early. Thank goodness, since my 4 hour layover wasn’t already long enough (insert sarcasm here). Finally arriving in Norfolk, Virginia, I went to the Avis desk where my rental car was supposedly waiting. The guy there was dead set on getting me to upgrade to a higher class car. He mentioned how convertibles were the only true way to experience the beach and that you “only live once, so you might as well enjoy it”…. being the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of traveler, I said, “sure, a convertible it is….”, but turns out, there weren’t any available, so the guy ended up just wasting my time. I have a normal Pontiac Grand Prix now, which is plenty of car and has a cool heads-up display that tells me how fast I’m going without having to look at my speedometer. The drive from Norfolk to Nags Head is just under 2 hours, so that added a little extra travel after the 2 connecting flights. Too bad the Outer Banks doesn’t have a major airport nearby. Oh well, at least it has brew-thrus….. and if you don’t know what a brew-thru is, here’s a link.

I met up with my friends at the beach house that they have been occupying for the past 2 days. Sure enough, the house is spectacular, with an array of bedrooms and bathrooms, decks and tvs and couches galore. This is definitely going to be a relaxing week. The beach is quite flat, with no noticeable dunes that can be typically found near Kitty Hawk (where the Wright brothers first took flight). The water was mildy cool and only had 1 foot breakers right at the shore. Barely enough to even notice. However, this week isn’t about catching waves or seeing historic Wright Brother gliders. It’s about experiencing the south (as much as North Carolina offers) and kicking back from the daily stresses of work. Tonight we cooked traditional barbecue (although not carolina-vinegar style) with cole slaw and baked beans. A definite summertime menu that put us all in the right mindset to enjoy the evening activities. After a couple rounds of board games (Jenga anyone???) my tired and jet-lagged self just wants to curl up and catch up on my zzz’s that I sacrificed during last night’s red-eye flight. So ends day 1 and the exhaustive travel that it involved. Tomorrow looks to be full of more fun and I’ll let you know how that turns out.

I pick, you pick, we all pick

August 19th, 2006

U-pick farms are local produce farms that allow visitors to pick their own fruits/vegetables. Personally, I think it has it’s pros/cons… Pros are that you can pick the particular produce right off the vine/stalk/tree and get super fresh fruits & veggies. Cons are that we’re doing all the work for the farmers and it’s more trouble than just going to the grocery store. We went this morning to South 47 Farm in Redmond and picked up a good cross section of the product aisle. It’s August, so there almost everything is ready for harvest. We got some eggplant, yellow squash, blackberries, some sort of summer crisp romaine lettuce, a watermelon with an orange flesh and sweet onions. There was also a bunch of apples, broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower and a variety of leafy green things that all look like salad to me. This is totally the urban-version of gardening, where the farmer does all the work and we swoop in and pick it right when it’s ready. Good deal, as long as you know what to do with the veggies you get. Me, whatever I don’t use will slowly expire in the crisper drawer in my fridge before I get convinced to throw it away. If you have a U-pick farm in your area, I suggest you try it out before the harvest season is through for the year.

August highs, lows and in-between

August 17th, 2006

August is always a crazy month. Each weekend is filled with either weddings, trips, barbeques or SEAFAIR festivities. It’s only the 17th of the month and already I’m exhausted from all the excitement. Let’s see if I can provide a rundown of what’s been going on.

SEAFAIR weekend started the month off with a big bang and the loud roar of the Blue Angel overhead. For those of you not from Seattle, SEAFAIR is a annual weekend celebration where there are hydroplane boat races, aerial shows from the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, and a lot of general summer hoopla. Being close to Lake Washington, I had a couple friends over for the inaugural grill out with the aforementioned grill. It was a long day full of surf, turf and frosty beverages. Amos hid in the bathroom during the fireworks, but I made him walk out to the lookout to watch/listen to the Blue Angels fly overhead and he just stood between my knees as if to hide his ears from the noise.

A week after SEAFAIR was a wedding in Vegas for Rich and Shilpa. Rich was a roommate of mine back in Northern Virginia a few years back and he finally tied the knot. It was a great weekend at the Bellagio and the wedding was not a typical Vegas drive-thru wedding… but instead it was a elegant and classy ceremony with about 100 guests. I couldn’t believe the number of people that came. 100 guests at a local wedding is a lot, let alone 100 traveling family and friends. That just goes to show how much we all think of Rich/Shilpa… great friends they are! One low point of the weekend was me losing my cell phone. Somewhere between Ceasars and Bellagio late after the reception and party ended, I either dropped it, left it, or something, since I couldn’t find it and had to come back to Seattle. So I now have a new phone, a new carrier (T-Mobile now - Trying to help Bodmer’s company) and an insurance plan that covers my phone for lost. Thank goodness for insurance, since I’ll probably need it sooner than I think.

While I was away in Vegas, and for the next week or so, my mom has been visiting and taking care of Amos. The house has gotten cleaner, the yard has finally received some attention, and Amos is getting more pampering than he deserves. I can’t guarantee that all the yardwork will be kept up after she goes back home next week, but at least it has a shread of a chance to look halfway decent by the time Lee & Sachi get back home.

Finally, I will be going on vacation starting on Tuesday. I hope to have a day-by-day account of my vacation, which will be relaxing at a beach house in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. Not that I wanted to be handcuffed to my laptop during my vacation, but I’ll have PLENTY of time to post in-between sitting at the beach, relaxing at the beach house, and all the other R&R activities I can find. One last thing before I go on vacation is another wedding this weekend… this one for Dave and Merrick. Great friends of mine and a ball of laughs, these two are sure to throw a tremendous wedding and a definite night to remember.

Give a man grilled food and feed him for a day…

August 3rd, 2006

…give him a grill of his own and he’ll feed himself for a lifetime. Over the past few months of spring/summer, I’ve been using Lee & Sachi’s backyard gas grill to remind me of good ol’ manly outdoor cooking. Nothing fancy, just steaks, ribs, the usual sort. Well, ol’ bessy (I just named it) ain’t doin’ so well and was on it’s last legs. Even with the gas fully on, meat would barely get warm, let alone cook. I think the grill is just gettin’ old and wants to be put to pasture already.

In comes the replacement. Even though I’m just squatting till Lee/Sachi get home from their trip, I couldn’t resist getting a grill that I really liked. This must be how women feel when they need a new pair of shoes….. I first went to a few stores to scout the options, then went online to read reviews and expert opinions. After determining that the $6,000 grill (which included a sink, refridgerator, and I think a garbage disposal) was too over-the-top, I found a grill that met both my features criteria, quality criteria and price limit. Also, it was the biggest grill that would still fit in the back of my SUV. I’ll include pictures later on, but this grill is a stainless steel 5-burner, 60,000 BTUs (British thermal units), with a rotisserie and a side station burner for a sauce pan. One of the cooler things it has is a pop up light that allows me to grill at night and lights along the knobs on the front panel. The guy at Home Depot said that it should take about 45 minutes to put together…. hmmm, not really. It took me about 2 hours, but that’s probably because the 2nd hour was in the dark. Thank goodness for the pop up grill light. I had to install the light before other grill components, since the sun had gone down and i needed to see what I was doing. It’s all done now and the old grill has been put aside. I showed the grill to Sachi by using the “Amos-cam” and she’s excited about the new backyard addition…. granted, she and Lee are in Macau right now, so a new grill can hardly compare to the exitement over there. Let’s go grillin’!!!