Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer Trip Tik Day #2

Day Two was all about getting to New York and the home of my in-laws in Wappingers Falls. A shout out to Paul at home, who not only was right about the Red Roof Inn not being a bad stop over, but magically got my email working this morning just by being on the phone (whatever). It only took 2 exits around Richmond VA to find a hotel we could sleep in without being afraid. Note to self: with 3 bikes and 2 dogs, you need a place with exterior rooms and a room on the first floor. 

We suffered through the day of driving and were all extremely relieved to arrive in town by about 1:30pm Sunday. At 3pm, the family began arriving for an afternoon bbq. We met our new grand niece Skylar and our friends Rob & Carol's son, Connor. All Gene's siblings came over with kids in tow, and Gene unveiled the stained glass window of the lighthouse he made for his mother (thanks Casola Stained Glass!). I got thrown in the pool by Skylar's daddy, my nephew Buddy, and his mom Kim beat me in a pool race. Gene and Gary decided they were too old and creaky to avenge me and put Buddy in. Boy how times have changed. Angel, the resident chihuahua, was kind enough to share her territory with Elliot and Cheyenne. In fact, I'm thinking she's quite smitten with Elliot. We wrapped up the day with the obligatory game of Yatzee, where I reigned supreme. My sister-in-law Lynne was trying to cheat and "borrow" rolls from her kids. Thanks, family, for a nice homecoming.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Summer Trip Tik Day #1

It’s 2:45 pm on Day #1 of our summer road trip and I’m listening to Gene and our hitchhiker talk about A-Rod and the challenges of hitting off pitching machines, as we lay tracks through Georgia. Our first, and might I say very enjoyable, stop was a tour of the University of Florida in Gainesville guided by our beautiful young college friend, Alyse Gruenthal. We met her at Panera on Archer Road and grabbed a Starbuck’s before cruising the 20 mile speed limit through the sprawling campus. Spanish moss hanging off very old oaks and blooming magnolias lined the curving streets, as we passed the agriculture fields, sand volleyball practice, summer football and soccer camps, a huge art museum and butterfly garden, and numerous brick dorms with rows of parked bicycles. We hopped out to run into the massive football stadium, where five female swim team members stopped their training to adore little Cheyenne. We noticed the stadium is named Ben Hill Griffin, which is the same as a street in our hometown of Fort Myers. We plan to look that up at the first sign of an internet connection to learn of the significance of Mr. Griffin.

The girls begged to stop at the first sign of a Gator store to pick up some souvenir t-shirts. My Dartmouth t-shirt from last summer’s trip (yes, you’ve all seen it many times) has become such a favorite of mine that I’ve decided to be a college T collector. After some very loose directions from a blonde passerby (who Gene pegged as a sorority girl – I disagreed), we got lost on 13th Street (also named MLK). With no sign of anything remotely resembling a sorority house, we turned back and found a more reliable collegiate. The Chi Omega house was closed for the summer, but it’s a large brick home with white decorative railings reminiscent of New Orleans. The Tri-Delta house was massive and stunning, and rumor has it it’s $5 grand per semester to live there. Whew!

We enjoyed an all-around great lunch at The Swamp, recommended by more than a few of Port Charlotte’s finest judges and lawyers. As Alyse told us, it’s a favorite game day hang out with its outdoor big screen tv for those without tickets. One important note, the restaurant and particularly the restrooms were surprisingly spotless. In fact, Gene commented on the cleanliness of the entire campus. Our orders ranged from a turkey swiss panini with spinach artichoke dressing (mine) to nachos, wings and burgers. Everyone was pleased, the portions were generous, and the bill was only $54 for 5 of us. I indulged in 2 pint drafts with the express intention of my first of many road trip naps! Mission accomplished.
Dorms on campus

Taryn's future chapter house

Taryn and Alyse

Let the vacationing begin!

Our friend Tom's son T.J. (our hitch hiker) rode shotgun till N.C. 

Lunch at the Swamp

Road trip!!!

It's gonna be a long ride

Monday, June 23, 2008

Vacation Anticipation

I never really thought about the before and after of a vacation until tonight. As I think of writing this post, numerous "to do" lists go through my mind for our Saturday departure to Maine. Bags are beginning to get organized, laundry stacked for packing, doggie care arrangements, haircuts, bank trips, the emptying of fridge perishables, mail and lawn favors, electronics' battery charging, oil change and car cleaning, last minute projects at work, and so on… 

Last summer was my first two week trip since the year I flew back mid stream to pitch an account about 10 years ago. This is my second. As we move into our second decade in business together with 20 years in the industry, my biz partner and I know we can rely on each other to hold down the fort, forge ahead with confidence and let our individual knowledge and instincts give the other complete freedom to rejuvenate with our families. Being in tourism, isn't it apropos that we should also enjoy the healing powers of vacationing?

The anticipation of going on vacation is a climatic one. Mind wanderings of discovering a new place, spending time with family and friends, going to bed early and sleeping late, hiking and biking for miles, photographing the beautiful countryside, reading books for hours, tasting new flavors, and making new memories creep into your every thought. The return is as anticipatory, when you share photos with coworkers, along with the little mementos and stories you bring back of where you've been, who you've met and how a place touched your heart.

I ask you, how could there be anything about traveling you don't love???

I'll be sitting in that Adirondack chair much of the time

The Atlantic Ocean at our rental - heard the water is coooold

I hope that's the view from my room

I'll be sitting here too - see the "relax" sign on the shelf?

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Crew in Cape Coral

Last Saturday, we made the lonnnnng ride to the edge of the earth, that is, Craig and Vicki's on Pine Island Road in Cape Coral. The occasion - Gene's belated birthday or was it the Aberbach's anniversary? I've concluded that with this crew it doesn't really matter because between the 8 of our birthdays and 4 wedding anniversaries, we can make an excuse at least once a month to eat, drink and be extremely merry! And, when this gang gets together, good times roll!

Most of you know our history with these 3 couples. But for the rest, we have been travelin', raisin' kids and just plain enjoyin' life with Cheryl & Ken, Chris & Mike, and Craig & Vicki since before my little girl was a thought in our minds. Even after the arrival of children, the craziness has not yet been curbed. 

On the menu this lovely FL evening, prime rib on the grill (prepared in their fabulous new outdoor kitchen); twice baked spuds (which I resisted); brocolli and salad. Healthy, yes, delicious definitely. The General Tso's marinade on the prime rib was amazing. Does anyone know how many bottles of wine we went through - eeegads! And, like Chris said, vanilla vodka is not kind. For the record, I do NOT have the longest nose.

Many thanks to the Chief and this year's winner of So You Think You Can Dance!

Us girls

Perfectly prepared, Craig

Love this!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It Wouldn't Mean Anything

I'm taking a few minutes out of the regularly scheduled travel programming to send some love out to my hubby of two decades, Gene. I mentioned a couple posts ago about an episode in the emergency room related to Gene's heart. His mini-vaca at Healthpark Hospital yielded a couple EKG's, a few rounds of chest x-rays, multiple blood tests, a stress test and ultimately a Cardiac Catheterization. The result, a diagnosis of an electrical issue to be treated with medication for irregular heartbeat. The future plan, for Gene to wear a Holter heart monitor for a week and if the problems continue, they will schedule a different kind of heart test called an Electrophysiology Study.

The bigger prognosis for our family is the occasional crippling feeling of fear. Last night, a couple of dizzy spells led to a mini-breakdown in emotions, in which we all experienced the realization of how truly devastated we would be if something were to happen to Gene. This is a fear I am all too familiar with, having grown up with a sick father. All the spectacular destinations around the world we love to discover would mean nothing to me without my life partner. 

On a positive note, I believe our love, our faith and our friends can carry us through those scary moments. Moreover, life is meant to be seized and enjoyed to its fullest. It's the moments of fear in our lives that give us the most incredible gift of all, the ability to cherish life. 

I luv you buddy.

Baby Meet and Greet

We are starting to count the days until our road trip to Maine. 10 days and counting. We will be stopping in good 'ole Dutchess County for a couple days before our vacation rental is ready in Owls Head, Maine. First order of business will be pizza night at my sister-in-law Lynne's, where she has agreed to host a baby meet and greet for us so we can see the new crop of bambinos. 

Of Gene's 3 dearest childhood friends, 2 of them have just added new family members. First to the home plate was Rob Wilson and wife Carol, who, along with big sissy Ella, welcomed Connor on January 30th. Next up, Nick Mastrantuono, who's wife Francine gave birth to baby Jamie Joan on April 8th. Jamie joins older sister Shea, and much older siblings Shannon and Nick. In May, our nephew Buddy and his domestic partner Lisa were the youngest to make the plunge, with their first little girl Skyler. I know what you are thinking, I look way too young to be a great aunt! And for my John Jay pals out there, this is the grandchild of my sister-in-law Kim Cushing!!!!

Last night, I attended the 11th birthday dinner of my Godson, Nathan, and afterwards, Taryn and I stayed up for a little mommy/daughter gab session until about midnight. Today I feel like I've been run over by a mack truck. So the thought of night time feedings, baby strollers, car seats, diapers, and rattles is exhausting! To the young parents I say, "Good thing you're doing this now." To the more seasoned parents I say, "I'm duly impressed!"

Nick, Baby Jamie, Shea and Fran Mastrantuono

Baby Skyler, definitely has the Cushing "look"!!

Robert and Connor Wilson

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hard At Work As Usual

All work and no play makes for a very unhappy girl. But, you don’t have to worry about that with my ad agency. We have fun wherever we go! On this “business” trip, our mission was to meet with the various industry partners of Florida’s Gulf Islands in Manatee County, Florida, to present them with the ohhhhss and ahhhhs of the recent web marketing campaigns we have launched with Jennifer Barbee and her company. Next task, kickoff partner sales opportunities for the annual Visitors Guide and website. Then, spend time with our clients at the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Also on the plate, time with Amy from Acqua Aveda Spa and David from Tortuga Inn and Tradewinds Resort to talk about their websites. Finally, the biggest mission – a photo shoot on the beach with the talented photographer Mary McCulley to capture a new cover for the 2009 guide book.

My trip started late, with a little side track to the emergency room with my husband, which turned into 3 days and many, many tests later including a heart catheterization. My biz partner Kimberly and our Director of Communications Jessica pinched hit for my part at the kickoff meeting, which I was disappointed to have missed. Wifely duty called and my daughter and I remained bedside until he was out of surgery. (He’s doing great, by the way.) When we arrived at Anna Maria Island Wednesday afternoon, Taryn and I had about five minutes on the bridge to take in the beauty of the island while the bridge rose and fell, in preparation of the next couple days.

Kimberly, Jenn and Amy had gone off after some final wardrobe needs for the shoot. Jessica, Drew Barbee and Drew’s 2 daughters were patiently awaiting lunch, as it was 3 pm. So I showed them to the Beach House where the margaritas began flowing. The ladies caught up to us and it was a much needed reunion between us and the Barbee’s, as we have been working side-by-side via phone and internet for the past 6 months. Face time is always a cherished event in this business.

Our accommodations this trip were arranged by Liz Andricks at A Paradise Rentals. She booked us a couple condos at the newly built Bradenton Beach Club. Our unit (#225) was beautiful, and we each made lists of items we wanted to take home with us, particularly some of the artwork. My daughter was like a kid in a candy shop when she discovered the unit had its own elevator. She quickly announced that would keep her busy for hours!

After the Beach House, and some planning for the morning shoot, we met our client Michelle and her husband Jeff at Mr. Bones, my favorite island rib joint. I’ve mentioned this place before with its cajun style menu with a twist of Indian. I got the Veggie Tikki Masala, and it made me think to give a warning to those who are not into spiced foods. Everything on this menu is FULL of flavor, so get your taste buds ready.

Thursday began at 5 am, when Kim and Jenn set off to rake part of the beach. Jenn took pics of the sunrise and the God light struck her deep in her soul. Conversations of selling their Texas ranch and moving to Florida peppered the daily chat. At 6 am, Taryn started curling Coti and Andi’s already fabulous manes, to add a touch of ringlet. Six year old Andi wanted to know why the shoot was on the beach and not on a stage – she is soooooo cute! The morning was gorgeous, a perfect day for shooting, and we picked off the shots one by one, until the sun began to get high and warm. A few of us noted the late morning sun was the less than charming part of photo shoots – as we searched for a little shade between set ups. The girls were adorable and easy to work with. We had a little trouble explaining to Andi why she couldn’t touch the fake sea turtle we were using in the shots, she just looked at us blankly when we mentioned PETA. Dakota (Coti) was like a star on Broadway, taking great direction and going from fake mommy to fake mommy like a natural. Even two daddies didn’t throw her off. Although I have to say, Adam’s little daughter Maddie did chase after him when he walked down the beach with a different wife and daughter. My cousin-in-law Ken rounded out our shoot with his great abs in a sexy shot with Jessica. He was loving every minute of the conversation surrounding his stomach.

In the afternoon, we met with David T, one of the TDC board members and owner of two awesome resorts. We shared time and a beverage at his bay side office, where we planned his annual advertising. I’m telling you, this stuff is hard work (LOL). After the daily downpour, we shot up to the Sandbar Restaurant, owned by Ed Chiles, and had an amazing sunset dinner with the Executive Director of the CVB, Larry White, outgoing Marketing Director Susan Estler and Marketing Coordinator, Michelle Stewart. Larry told mermaid stories to the girls and showered them with gifts for their modeling efforts. My country salmon dish was delicious, I loved the seasoning on it, and the wine poured with ease. What a great ending to a couple whirlwind days, hard at work as usual. Boy, do I love my job!