Saturday, September 27, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains Getaway 2014: The Sequel-Part 1

As I've been promising all this week, today I am starting my series of posts reporting some of what Paula and I did on our trip to the Smoky Mountains September 17-21. This is not going to be a chronological "we did this and then we did that and then we went there" kind of thing like I did for last trip. I will be hitting the highlights and detailing specific events.  

It is common knowledge in the film industry that a sequel is never as good as the original. But not true for our late September "sequel" to our June vacation in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. 

We left home on the afternoon of the 17. Our destination was the Whispering Pines Condo complex on the parkway in Pigeon Forge; the same place we stayed in June. 

Originally, we planned on staying just 3 nights; leaving on Saturday morning. But Paula spotted a "deal" on the condo's management company's app. If a guest stayed 3 nights they could get the 4th night free. She asked about it when we checked in. The desk clerk was nice enough to make ut possible to set us up for our free 4th night. 

This is a picture I took from outside the front door of the condo we stayed in last June. The resort office is the building in the foreground. The building we stayed in on this trip is on the left. Our one bedroom condo was the one on the second floor behind the tree all the way to the left: Condo 321. 

This time around we didn't have a great view from the balcony and our bedroom was a lot more crowded because it had a king bed not a queen. Also much to our disappointment the bathroom did not have a Jacuzzi tub. As it turned out that really wasn't that much of a problem. 

Because of where our condo was we had convenient access to the indoor pool and whirlpool spa. That was a big plus. It was just down one flight of stairs and then less than 10 yards to the door of the building. We relaxed in the spa and swam in the pool several times while we were there.  Most of those times we were alone. It was nice. 

My favorite "private swim" happened on our first night at the resort. It was about 10 o'clock and still rather warm outside. First, we spent some time in the indoor whirlpool and then walked across the parking lot to the outdoor pool area.

We spent about 45 minutes just floating around and treading water in the 5 foot deep pool. We also had the chance to have the longest conversation we've had in a long time. I must say it was very nice and set the tone for a rather romantic 4 days together. 

Here's a shot of the pool at night time from the Whisperin Pine's website. It gives you an idea of the setting I'm talking about. 

We spent a lot more time at our condo on this trip than the last. That's what helped make it more relaxing. 

The other thing that helped us enjoy ourselves is that, although we made plans, we didn't put too much into any given day. 

Sure there was a lot of things we wanted to do. But since both of us like going there, we have decided that the Smoky Mountains area is going to be our "go to" getaway spot. We now don't have to try and do everything all in one visit. What we don't get to on any given trip; we can always do it the next time. 

We did a couple of "first time" things on this trip. One of them I'll be devoting an entire post to later. 

With a plethora of places to eat in the Smokies, this time we had some of our meals in restaurants we'd never been to before. 

We went to Big Daddy's pizza. It's owned by the same company that owns Bennet's Barbecue; a place we went to and loved the last time we were in Pigeon Forge. 

The pizza was good but a bit expensive. We paid $14 for a 10 inch pizza with 3 toppings. That's the size of a small but the price for a large at Papa Johns. I know that this was a table service restaurant and that's part of what we paid for. 

But the pizza was not that much better than Papa Johns to warrant the higher price. We probably won't go back. 

I did have fun playing the video version of "Deal or No Deal", Skee ball, and a free throw basketball in the arcade after we ate though. 

We also ate at a small little place called "The Cabin Cafe." It was a family owned restaurant in one of the small shopping centers along the Gatlinburg arts & crafts loop. (more on that in another part of this series) The atmosphere in the relatively small cafe was very casual and "homey." It was decorated like a Cracker Barrel complete with a shelf full of games, book, and magazines to occupy customers while they waited for their orders. The menu had a good selection of burgers and sandwiches. We split a grilled cheesesteak sandwich. It was very good. We liked this place and will probably go back again. 

The other restaurants we went to worth mentioning were successful returns to Applewood and the Old Mill Restaurant; both old favorites. We went to them for Thursday and Friday breakfast, respectively.The Old Mill redeemed itself after a not-so-good morning meal back in June. 

We went to a pair of buffets on the trip. One of them, Golden Corral, was on our way out of town. Not much to say about this national chain restaurant; except I think the price is a bit high. Lunch cost us $33. There's no way we got our value for that price. But we stopped because were hungry, able to get in and out fast, and back on the road heading home. 

The other buffet was another favorite, the Wood Grill Buffet. Including this visit, we have been to this restaurant three times while visiting the Smokies. 

On this visit we were a bit tired and worn out after a long afternoon of hiking in the GSM national park. I'll be sharing that story later as well. We were on our way to a show that was just across the street from the restaurant and we were pressed for time; so it was convenient. The price for dinner at this buffet was about $15 each but the variety and taste of the food makes it worth it. 

So there you have the start of my Smoky Mountains trip report. I've got a lot more to write about including: a hike that took 3 years to complete; a night at " #1 show in the Smokies"; a return to "The Island"; a trip around "the loop" in Gatlinburg; and an attraction that really got our goat. 

Be sure to come back next time for the details.   


Thursday, September 25, 2014

One Last Moment for "The Captain"

Derek Jeter Comes Through In Last Game
I have just finished watching an instant classic memorable New York Yankees moment. 

Derek Jeter in his last at bat in his last game in Yankee Stadium hit one of his patented singles between 1st and 2nd base to drive home the a run in the bottom of the 9th. 
The Yankees win...THHHHHHHHHHHHE Yankees win!!!

Ten minutes earlier you would have never guessed that the moment was even possible. The Yankees went into the top of the 9th inning leading 5-2. But a pair of homer runs by Oriole hitters (2 run and a solo shot) off the  Yankees' closer, David Robinson, tied the game. 

You couldn't have scripted the last of the ninth any better.  A Lead-off hitter, Pierla singled. It was followed by a successful sacrifice bunt by, Brett Gardner. That set the stage for the first-pitch Jeterian single to right. 

The throw to the plate by Orioles' right fielder bounced off the catcher's glove as the pinch runner, Richardson, scored on a head-first slide; and the walk-off win was complete.  

It was an unbelievable, overwhelming, serendipitous happening that was surreal, to say the least. The moment meant everything to Yankee fans everywhere. 

After the winning run scored and the game ended the celebration began. There was the rush of his teammate to congratulate #2 on his winning hit, then their hugs to celebrate the end of his career. 

Next came the hugs from his former teammates: Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, and manager, Joe Torre. Hugs and words honoring the walk off and Jeter's career. 

After the obligatory interviews with the media on the field (MSG Network, CBS Radio, MLB Network) Jeter hugged his family. 

Following a last "Gatorade shower" by his teammates, Jeter took one more trip around the Yankee Stadium infield. He paused at the shortstop position for one last look from his place for the last 20 years. 

Admittedly atypically nervous the entire night Jeter came through in a way that superstars do. He then honored the fans with his last walk around the stadium; tipping his cap to all 49,000 in attendance. 

As a fan watching from my living room nearly 1000 miles away; my emotion could not be contained. I sat and I watched the celebration, with the tears clouding my eyes and rolling down my face. 

A bit embarrassed, despite being alone (Paula had gone to be early) but I couldn't help it. I could not believe what I had just seen; what I had just experienced. 

Derek Jeter had just given me a gift I never expected to receive. That one final "YESSSS!!" moment. He proved once and for all that he deserves the title of "Yankee and MLB baseball Legend." He also proved, and I can testify to this personally,  there IS crying in baseball. 

One last thing about the significance of the Captain's final moment. In winning the game the Yankees clinched their 22nd consecutive season with a winning record. That means Derek Jeter never played on a Yankees team with a losing season record. An accomplishment that's symbolic of the focus of his career. He was truly the epitome of the quintessential team player.  

Thank You Derek Jeter for bringing dignity, respect, a winning tradition and World Series championships back to the New York Yankees organization and fans. I will always be grateful. And, I can assure you, I will never forget that last great moment from your last game at Yankee Stadium. 

Latest In Lego 4

Been really busy uploading videos from my recent trip to the Smokies to my You Tube channel today. But I'm not quite ready to post about the details but I will be soon. 

For today, it's time for another "Latest In Lego" post. It's been about a month since my last brick update. 

This edition includes pictures of the 2nd models built from a couple of 3-in-1 Creator kits and a symbol of the change of seasons, the item I bought at the Lego store on my birthday, now assembled, and a Star Wars Starfighter. 

I have decided to show you these items in a video on my You Tube channel. It's about 4 1/2 minutes long. I mention in the video that I would be posting some still pictures but I have decided not to do that. Here's the link to the video: Latest In Lego: September 2014 Edition

It's been a pretty slow month as far as new Lego products is concerned; but that will be changing soon. 

Lego VIP club members (Surprise! I am one) can get the 2014 Santa's Workshop set early and for a special price this month. 
This will make a great display come the holidays. I will order it some time in the next couple of days. 

Also, the mini-figure Series 16 that I wrote about in the first "Latest In Lego" post back in july go on sale one week from today. 

There are a lot of interesting characters in this set. "Guy In a Pig Suit" is probably my favorite, but I like all 16. 

I may make a trip to the Lego store in Nashville like I did when the Simpsons set came out. But I will more than likely go to "Toys R Us" in Bowling Green. It's a lot closer. 

Finally, a bit of a change of course in a project I started eight weeks ago. 

Remember the large quantity of Lego parts I bought at the second hand store at the beginning of August? 

While Paula and I had a lot of fun sorting them when I first got them; I wasn't as satisfied with them as I thought I would be. 

I've decided to donate them to a local children's ministry program. 

The Curbside Ministries, that I visited back in January still sends me a newsletter through email. In one of their letters the director mentioned they need Legos for the kids to play with. I have the answer to at least part of that need. 

There you have the "Latest In Legos" for September. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Tiny Dancer

I am still working on downloading the pictures and videos that will help me tell the story of our recent Smoky Mountain getaway. Until I'm finished with that I thought I'd catch up on a couple of my favorite subjects over the next couple of days. 

I'm going to start with some stories about and pictures of my favorite little girl in the world, Aria Nicole. 

Back near the end of July, Paula was going through an especially stressful time at her job. I wanted to give her something to smile about in the middle of her week so I arranged a surprise. 

I took my wife to lunch at our favorite lunch spot in Bowling Green, The Lunch Pail. I had Brandi, and Aria meet us there. Paula had a lot of fun with Aria and I took one of my favorite Aria pictures of the year. 

Like mostly all little girls these days, my granddaughter is obsessed with anything and everything that has to do with Disney's animated mega-hit, Frozen. 

At a friend's birthday party in late August Aria got to meet Anna and Elsa in person. While they are actually two local young ladies who are playing the characters; but that didn't make any difference to my granddaughter. You can't see her face but just from her body language you can tell she's fascinated with the royalty from Arendalle. 

At almost 2 1/2 years old my granddaughter is growing and changing every day. She's well on her way to becoming a "big girl" and not needing to wear diapers any more. 

Her vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds too. It's to the point that if she's around and you don't say what you don't want her to repeat. 

When she comes to visit us her favorite activity is to sit and play games on the IPad with her Nana. 

She's very good at matching shapes and colors and even knows some numbers and letters. 

On Grandparents day a couple of weeks ago after having lunch at Cracker Barrel we went to the park here in Smiths Grove and played in the sand for a while. 

Although she is becoming even more and more imaginative in her play there is no doubt that one of her favorite activities is helping in the kitchen.  She's always ready to help when she visits her "Aunt Jackie".

At the end of August, during a Sunday afternoon visit, she helped her Papa make a batch of her mama's favorite snack, brownies.

I've saved my favorite pictures for last. 

For a while now I've been encouraging Aria to be creative by singing songs and playing the ukulele with her. I think a love for the creative arts is an important thing for her to have in her life. 

That's why I am so overjoyed that Brandi has now enrolled Aria in dance class. Yes, my precious little girl has become a ballerina.

To say she's enjoying herself at this new activity is an understatement. Here's a gallery of pictures from her first couple of classes. The look on her face says it all. 

So there you have the latest on what's happening with my granddaughter. I haven't seen her in a while but plan on rectifying that very soon. 

Also, on October 4, Paula and I will get the privilege of going with Aria and her mama & daddy to Nashville to see the newest Disney On Ice show based on Frozen. 

I can't wait to be able to show you the pictures of my tiny dancer on what promises to be a very special day.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Message of Sympathy

One of the drawbacks of having family in two different parts of the country is that you can't be with those who don't live near you very often, if ever. 

I have been blessed to have two sisters who love me enough to have traveled to visit multiple times over the last decade. However I have only been "up north" to visit them and the rest of my family (my aunt, my cousins and their families) a few times. The last time was back in 2010.

Living so far away, obviously, I can't be of part family events. One of those events I really regret missing is their annual picnic/reunion, which is usually held at Penn Pump Park in Easton. Each year when I hear or read about it I really miss being part of it. Just hanging out and catching up with family is something I've always enjoyed. The family reunion is a very happy time.

But the benefits of being a family isn't always reserved just for the "happy times." Sometimes there are very sad times when family is even more important. Over this weekend I heard the news that my Aunt Eileen's family is going through one of those sad times. 

My cousin, Roger, posted on Facebook this past Saturday that his son, Roger Jr. had passed away. What a devastating tragedy. He was only 30 years old. 

It is not my place to give the details about the loss but they really don't matter. Here is a link to his obituary. Roger Seguine Jr.  

I didn't know Roger Jr. as the man he was. The last time I remember seeing him was during a trip back to Pennsylvania 14 years ago to attend his dad's wedding. But from the comments and expressions of sympathy I've read on Facebook, he was a man of character and courage. 

Roger was an true American hero because of his service in the US military. He served in a war zone for 2 years. He was also a husband and father. I have never met his wife and children but I have seen them in pictures of both Roger Sr's Facebook page. They are a precious and beautiful family. 

I cannot imagine the anguish that my cousin, Roger Sr. and his family are going through but I can empathize with them. My son, James also served in the military and spent time in the middle east. It would be among my worst nightmares to lose him at such an young age. I can't help but think to myself, there but for the grace of God go that could be me. 

It breaks my heart that family members whom I love and care for are hurting from such a sudden tragic loss and I am not able to be there to support them.  

So I would like to take this post as an opportunity to extend my condolences to Roger Sr. and his family. No parent should have to go through what you are. I know your hearts are broken and it all seems like a bad dream. I wish I could be there to stand by you in your time of loss. But please know that you are in my prayers. I pray that God will extend to you all the comfort you need to get through these darkest of days. 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mike Williams In Person

In January of 2011, Paula and I went the then newly built South Warren High School to see Christian comedian, Jeff Allen. It was an event sponsored by the local Christian radio station. 

This past Monday night we went to see another comedian brought to town by the same station. This time it was at a local church. 

The evening started out with meeting a few of my fellow Oakland Baptist Church members for dinner at a Mexican restaurant a few doors down from the church. 

The Crossroads Church, in Bowling Green is housed in a converted (no pun intended) movie theater in a shopping plaza located at the one of the city's busiest intersections. 

We had a nice dinner and a time of "fellowship" before walking down to the church for the event.  

Like, Jeff Allen, I know Mike G. Williams' comedy from hearing it on the XM radio "Laugh USA" comedy channel. He is a very very funny man. 

He is also a missionary to the Dominican Republic. He is involved in rescuing young Dominican girls from becoming a victim of human trafficking. 

He took some time to talk about that during his time on stage. You could tell by the serious tone in his voice when he spoke about it, that he's very devoted to his ministry. 

But most of the night he made us laugh. 

Paula and I sat in the front row on the right side of the stage. I wanted to make sure I got a good view. 

The night was made memorable when Mr. Williams asked if any employees of the Fruit of The Loom were in the audience. Much to my surprised Paula raised her hand. 

Mike asked her what she did and then made some jokes about it. Most of them were about the identity of underwear "inspector #7." 

A lot of his jokes I was familiar with because I've heard them on the radio; but not all of them. But even though I had heard them before actually in the audience being part of a routine I was so familiar with was somewhat surreal and very cool. 

One of the reasons I like Mike so much is that he points out some of the stupidity you find or see in every day life. He talked about: Lawn Darts, McDonald's offering braille and picture menus at their drive thru windows and the Colorado state school board banning kids from playing tag.

I liked the 2nd half of his show the most because he did musical comedy. I love musical comedy and use it in my ventriloquist act whenever I can.   

I was a little disappointed in that he didn't do my favorite of his bits. I call it the "Eagle song." You have to see it for yourself. Here's a link to the video on Mike's You Tube channel. Is you subscribe to the channel, you can see his other routines as well.
Mike Williams: The Eagle Song

We had a great time sitting there laughing at Mike's performance. It was a double dose of fun for me. I loved the opportunity to see one of my favorite comics and also got to see Paula have a good time. 

What I mean by that is with all the stress at her job these days she needs to have as much fun as she can get. For her, the laughter was good medicine. 

Because he was busy helping people buying his books and CD at his table after the show, I only got to talk with Mike briefly. I told him how much I appreciated "The Eagle song" and all his other bits on XM radio. 

I don't know if I'll ever get to see Mike Williams perform again but I would love the opportunity. I would also love the chance to sit and talk with him about his career and comedy in general. 

As we usually do Paula and I have seen several live performances in 2014. So far seeing Mike Williams has been my favorite. 

In honor of Mike Williams and his eye for and appreciation of stupidity in life, here's a link to a video on my RHFactors You Tube channel. It features one of the most tasteless toys I've ever seen. I found it at Walmart, today. A Stupid Toy

Now I know I've just started back to posting after a long lay off but I want to let you know that something else is going to be taking up my time the rest of the week. I probably won't be able to post again until early next week; for that I apologize. 

But I promise when I do get back I'll fill you in on what I've been doing and much more. TTYL

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Return To Radio

Fifteen years ago when I first moved from Pennsylvania to Kentucky one of the first jobs I got was working on weekends at a local FM radio station. It was called "The Gator."

I worked a 4 hour on-air DJ shift on Saturday and Sunday. It was my 4th job in radio but the first time I was ever on an FM station. 

While working there I met and became friends with a co-worker named Tony Rose. We had a lot of the same interests. Tops among them were professional wrestling and major league baseball. He was a Reds fan. 

I worked at "The Gator" until August 2000. While I was still there, Tony teamed up with a guy named Drew, to host a show called "Live & Local." 

It featured lots of interaction with their listeners who called in on the phone or stopped by the studio. (this was before the days of Facebook and Twitter) They also had many of the local bands come into the studio to be interviewed and play live. 

The show became very popular and still was for a while after I left the station. 

I lost touch with Tony until a couple of years ago. I met up with him again at the "stuff the bus" event.

It's an annual event Tony created. During one of the last weeks in July he spends 4 or 5 days living on a school bus parked along Campbell Lane in Bowling Green and asks the public to donate enough school supplies to fill that bus. 

Each year I started dropping by to say "hi" to Tony and make a donation. He would always be glad to see me and would invite me to come by his new radio gig (he started working at a new station in town about the mid 2000s) to see how things worked and get the "nickle tour". 

While I always intended to take him up on his offer I didn't. The reason was because his new shift was during morning drive time (6-9 am). I am not a morning person. 

I stopped by "Stuff The Bus," once again, this past July. The event has gotten bigger than it has ever been and Tony didn't have a whole lot of time to talk with me. Nevertheless it was as if we had never missed a beat from the last time I saw him. He invited me to his show again.

I told would make sure I got there this year and would send him a Facebook message to arrange a good time to come in for a visit. 

The last Tuesday of August I finally kept my promise and went to visit Tony in the morning while he was working on his show. 

It's appropriately called "Tony Rose Live" and airs on what can for all intents and purposes be called the local "oldies" station, Sam 100.7FM. 

The show is unique in that it engages listeners and fans on several platforms. Of course over the radio but also on Facebook, Twitter, and on the station's website: 
We Love Sam Radio

What's unique about the show is that there's an in-studio webcam that provides a visual feed to the internet via a website called "U Stream."  You can see select videos of the show through the website listed above. Here's what the view from the webcam looks like. 

I went to the station for the first time on that August morning just expecting to sit and observe Tony and his guests. As the show went on, much to my surprise, I became part of the show. Providing feedback and interacting with Tony and the topics he was discussing. 

Later that day I saw myself on the videos online. I'm not going to give specific links to those videos but, again, if you follow the link above you can find me. Just look for videos from August 26, September 2nd & 9th.

I had such a great time with Tony that first morning that I went back the next week. And as I mentioned in yesterday's post, I went and spent the morning with Tony on my birthday. 

Tony is a really nice guy and is very gracious to allow me to be a part of his show. While I have already offered my "razor sharp" wit to help make his show better; as I get more comfortable being in the studio I may try and enhance his show even more by offering some of my other "talents." 

I've already told him I am a ventriloquist and about the magic drawing board I have. If I get real brave I may even attempt to take my ukulele with me one morning. 

If you listen to Tony's show or watch any of his videos you will see that he is in the business of allowing people or promote their events on the air as well as chatting with them as friends. That's what makes his show entertaining. 

Tony's a long time friend; something that outside of my church family is rarity for me here in Kentucky. The success he's had in the radio market in this area makes me proud to say that. He's also a great guy. 

I have been out of the radio business for more than 14 years now. I have no delusions that I could ever get back in. But radio is still in my blood, as it has been all my life. 

Getting back behind the microphone has been a lot of fun and very rewarding. Even if I never get back to the studio with Tony again, I will always treasure getting the chance to return to radio one more time.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Birthday Review

Okay, I'm back, once again, after a long time away. Thanks for coming back as well. 

Earlier this week, September 9, I celebrated my 54th birthday. Generally it was a rather ordinary day with a few exceptions. 

I talked about "Dancing With The Stars" and KFC founder Colonel Sanders' grave on a local radio station; "rented" out a theater to watch a 20 year old movie; and I got a few really cool gifts.   

Now here are the details. 

I got up early on my birthday, for the 3rd Tuesday in a row, I got up and went to visit a friend of mine from the radio business. His name is Tony Rose and he is the host of a morning drive radio show. I'll explain the details of how I know him in a future post. 

I spent a couple of hours watching him behind the station's control board entertaining his listeners, playing music, and discuss up coming events with his in-studio guests . 

I also got in on the on-the-air discussions about the topics of the day. Among them were the start of the next season of "Dancing With The Stars" and Tony's story about the time he accidentally spit on the statue near the grave of Colonel Harland Sanders. We talked about "the Colonel" because his birthday (when he was alive of course) was that day too.

I also learned that actor Hugh Grant was born in London, England, on the exact same day as I was, Friday September 9, 1960. 

At 9 o'clock Tony's show ended so I headed to my next destination. Before I left Bowling Green I went to Target to see if they had any new or unique Lego products. 

A lot of times the store has polybags of small models that you can't find anywhere else. I didn't find anything I just "had to have."

About 10 o'clock I headed down I-65 toward Nashville. I was going to the Opry Mills Mall for a couple of reasons. 

My #2 all-time favorite dramatic movie, Forrest Gump, was playing at the Regal I-Max theater for a 1-week limited engagement. I wanted to see it in the theater again. 

From the few number of cars in the parking and people I saw when I walked into the mall, I could tell that this was a very slow day there. That would be a very important factor in my memorable birthday movie experience. 

I was a little earlier than I like to be for a movie but I bought my ticket anyway. I got my popcorn and soda then took the elevator to the 2nd floor of the I-Max theater. I was the first one in there with about 35 minutes before the feature started. After about 10 minutes of sitting there, I decided to make this video. My Point Of Vue: I-Max Movie Theater

I didn't shoot a "part 2" to that video as I mentioned but it turned out as I had predicted. The movie was shown just for me. 

Now I've been in a movie theater by myself several times over the years but this was probably the most unique of all of them. 

I don't know how much it usually costs to rent out the entire Opry Mills I-Max theater on any other day; but on my 54th birthday the price was $8. I had a "free ticket" coupon for a regular movie that got me half off the I-Max ticket. 

After the movie was over it was time to do the 2nd thing I wanted to do at the mall on my birthday. 

After a short drive around the mall to an entrance closer to where I wanted to go, I walked through the food court and headed toward the Lego store.  

What could be better than being in my favorite store on my birthday? I had a valid reason to buy whatever I wanted. Sky's the limit right? Not in this case. While I was there to buy something for my birthday I had to hold back. The UPS driver had already dropped off my "big" birthday gift at my house the week before. More on that later. 

As a rule, right now I am doing my best to not make any major Lego purchases until I put together the kits I already have. But I wanted to get a little something while I was there. 

After looking around a while I decided on this:

I think it's cool. I will post pictures of the actual model once I put it together. 

After my Lego store purchase, I had one more stop before heading back home. I went to the Disney Outlet store. 

My main reason for going there was to see if I could find anything that would make my granddaughter smile. But as I always do, I had to see if there were any cool Goofy t-shirts. Luckily I found one. Here's what the design looks like: 

After a brief stop in the food court to pick up a cheese steak to go for lunch; I got back on the highway and headed for Kentucky. 

The rest of my birthday was rather ordinary. After Paula got home from work (she offered to take me out to dinner but I decided that wasn't necessary given that she had worked all day) and we had eaten dinner, I had some delicious soft serve ice cream from the Carvel store. 

Overall, I had a good birthday. I got to do what I wanted to do and had a unique experience that I'll remember for a long time. My favorite part was spending just a normal night at home with my beautiful wife. 

Before I conclude this rather birthday post let me share with you a couple of the things I got as gifts from my friends and family.  

My good friends, Mark & Patty, gave me a Lego gift card. I didn't have it with me when I went to the mall because they ordered it from the website. It came in the mail the day after my birthday. But that's okay. With the "free shipping" code I have I'll be able to get something I want sent directly to my house. 

I also have the promise of a "choose what you want" Lego store experience from James, Brandi, and Aria, the next time we are at the Opry Mills mall together. 

Michael and Heather gave me the gift pictured below. It's something that's special because it's Dory is one of my favorite Disney characters. I'm sure it will be on the Disney side of my den once I get it to the point where I can set out all my stuff. 

My sister-in-law, Theresa, took the time to go to the grand opening of a local outlet store, earlier this year, stand in line, and get me this special autograph.

 Not only is Jim Bunning a former senator from Kentucky and a Hall of Famer he represents a bit more to me. Back in early 1970s when I first started liking baseball, and the Phillies were my favorite team, he was one of the organization's icons. His autograph is something I never would have gotten on my own but it's much appreciated. 

Finally, the "big" birthday gift from my wife I mentioned earlier is this: 

It's a concert ukulele, which is bigger than the soprano model I've been using. It also has an electronic pick up which means I can plug it into an amplifier when I play in public. That's something I plan on doing more of in the future. 

So there you have a review of what my birthday was like this year. As I end my 54th year and start my 55th, I am looking to make it one that will be a difference maker for me. I'm going to do that in a very specific way. But more on that in one of my next few posts. 

Thanks for coming back to the blog and thanks to all who helped make my birthday one to remember.