So…How’ve You Been?

And I was doing so well there for a while, posting every few days.

Fox Theater - this picture does NOT do it justice.
Fox Theater – this picture does NOT do it justice.
We went to Atlanta for a weekend with the kids. We surprised them with tickets to see Brian Regan at Fox Theater. CootieGirl balked at first (when she saw how much CootieBoy loved BR, she decided she was not a fan anymore), but ended up having a great time. It helped that our seats were in the 2nd or 3rd row. And Fox Theater? GORGEOUS. What an amazingly beautiful venue. The trip was really just an overnight. We once again went to the Aquarium which turned out to be a big old bust. way too much money for not a lot of payoff. So we won’t be going there again. On the flip side, our hotel room was REALLY nice and we found a cute little diner to have dinner before the show.

20150404_174924We went to my parents’ house for Easter, and convinced them to let us bring the dogs. It ended up working out well – Dobby the Dog did fine even though my parents don’t have a back fence, and he showed how well-trained he is that when he went chasing after a squirrel, all I had to do was yell his name and he came right back. The dogs also did well with my sister’s kids, who are a bit younger. Her daughter, in particular, was enthralled with the dogs (they don’t have pets) and so I did have to pay attention to make sure she didn’t get them riled up or nervous around her. But it was a big success and a fun weekend with family.

Denis and I went to a cooking class in Charlotte. We went to one last year and had a lot of fun, so we thought we’d do it again. This time, the theme was Asian food and the dishes were all delicious. At one point they had a game where you had to figure out the blend of the mélange wine they were serving. I am not a wine drinker, and so I guessed purely based on his descriptions of the different kinds of wines. In the end, I won a bottle of wine for being the most correct. Irony.

IMG_20150418_112829I had my grandmother’s antique chair repaired. It was the chair she was photographed in when she got engaged to my grandfather. It was damaged in the move to South Carolina back in 2006 – two holes poked in the caning, and the center medallion not attached. In addition to that, one of the arms was not really attached anymore although as long as you didn’t touch the arm you’d never know. Anyway, it was time for it to finally be repaired, so I investigated until I found a shop in Rock Hill with a good reputation. It cost a few hundred bucks, but it looks amazing now. So happy I finally got that project off my 9-year to do list.

My empty plate.  Each course resulted in this same picture.
My empty plate. Each course resulted in this same picture.
Denis and I went to a competition dining event in Charlotte. For the past several weeks they’ve been having restaurants battle it out, using secret ingredients. The diners would then vote on the dishes to determine the winner. We went during the semi-finals round and enjoyed food prepared by Local Dish, a Fort Mill restaurant, and Block & Grinder, out of Charlotte. The mystery ingredients this year were all produced by NC farmers. Our mystery ingredients the night we went were pecans and red hen. It was a six course meal, with each restaurant making three dishes. We did not know who made what dish, and voted on everything from aroma to appearance to taste to creative use of the mystery ingredients. In the end, Local Dish won – and then subsequently made it to the finals in later rounds. Local boy makes good! The finals are sometime in October, so I look forward to hearing how Local Dish fares in the end. Either way, it was a lot of fun and we’ve decided we’ll definitely do it again next year.

20150425_202026CootieGirl turned 12 in April. TWELVE. One year shy of being a TEEN. So scary. Rather than have a big party, she opted to invite a few girls to go see a movie and then have pizza. So glad they are outgrowing the need for birthday parties and all the work those entail. She had a good time and it was nice to meet some of the 6th grade girls she has become friends with in her first year of middle school.

Denis went to NYC for a long weekend where he indulged in plenty of White Castle burgers and also got to hang out with his pals and catch up. He went to see a play, went to lots of good restaurants, and basically got his fill of NYC, however brief. While he was gone, CootieGirl and I saw the new Avengers movie and loved it. Then I fell sick for three days while he was still out of town. Fortunately, the kids are old enough to fend for themselves and so I spent most of the next few days in bed, sleeping off a 101+ fever that would not quit.

Tickets for next year’s Doctor Who convention went on sale and I managed to 1) get tix for the kids and myself, 2) get a hotel room in the convention hotel, and 3) book really cheap non-stop airfare out of Atlanta. We’ll drive down the evening before we fly out, and stay in a hotel. I found a hotel that would let me keep my car in their parking lot and take a shuttle to/from the airport before/after the trip. Needless to say the kids are VERY excited and are even now planning out what ribbons they want made and what kind of cosplay they can come up with while at the convention.

Denis and I have done some outside work at the house. We recently planted 10 hedge plants along our back fence in order to keep Dobby the Dog from barking and intimidating the young kids that live back there (he’s very fence territorial). When the 5-6 week stretch of nearly constant rain finally abated, we rented an auger and got them in the ground. They are doing really well and already not only showing new growth but flowering as well. I truly think that in a couple years they’ll be grown in enough that the dog won’t be able to see the kids anymore.

Denis powerwashing part of the back patio.
Denis powerwashing part of the back patio.
We also have done some powerwashing. We did the back patio a few weeks ago – it looks amazing now that it is cleaned off. Then last night I was in the mood to do a project that had an immediate payoff, so I had Denis get out the powerwasher again. I did most of the front sidewalk and about 1/3 of the driveway. At that point it was starting to get dark AND I couldn’t get the machine started again after refilling the gas tank, so I put it away until the weekend, when I’ll finish the job. But really – powerwashing is SO satisfying a task.

Denis and I refinanced our house. This time we opted for a 15 year mortgage. We last refinanced in 2009 and did a 30-year but put extra toward the principal. We had gotten it down to 22 years when the option to refinance for a 15-yr at a really good rate came up. We decided to go for it, and closing on the new mortgage just last week. And so now we know for sure that our mortgage will be paid off before we retire. And yes, we’re already thinking about retiring. I’ll be 46 next month – hopefully only 20 years away from retiring, if not less. Being mortgage-free for those five years before retiring will be HUGE in setting up a nice cash nest egg in addition to any pensions, 401Ks, Social Security and whatever else we have cooking at that time.

School is almost over for the kids – their last day is next week. CootieBoy finished the year with four As as his year-end average. He worked really hard and had his eye on the prize. At the beginning of the school year I told him if he made all As for the year I’d let him get a Playstation. Several months ago when it became clear that he’d reach his goal, Denis and I secretly bought the PS3 he wanted and have it sitting upstairs waiting for the last day of school. As for CootieGirl, she didn’t have an incentive in place and for the most part did well. She ends the year with two Bs for sure, and two Cs that I hope become Bs once all the grades are put in (she’s ONE POINT AWAY from being a B in those two classes). About midway through the year she decided to hide homework and not do it, and her grades suffered as a result. She could never quite recover from that and struggled for the rest of the year. She has said she wants an incentive for next year, and so her incentive is the cellphone. We were going to get one for her ANYWAY, but the incentive to KEEP the phone is to maintain an A/B average at all times. I’ve already told her that the minute she brings home a C, the phone goes away until the grade comes back up to a B.

As summer approaches, we have big plans. We’ll go to Hilton Head Island, the kids will go to camp for a week, and they’ll also go visit my parents for ten days. I’m going to see Barry Manilow in concert in June, and Denis and I are also going to see Jim Gaffigan play a show in August. There are plenty of movies the kids want to see this summer, too. We also have season passes to Carowinds, and the neighborhood pool. So I think the summer is going to just zoom on by for the Cooties.

And so that’s my update for now. Hope it was worth the wait!

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