Friday, February 22, 2013

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Thursday, September 22, 2011


I admit that I do not know much about the U.S. Presidents, except for the "big ones." Washington, Jefferson, Abe, FDR, etc.. To rectify this situation, I decided to read a biography of all our presidents.

When I went to the library recently, I found an entire series has been written about almost every president. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that each book was relativelyh short....less than 200 pages. Whew....I was not looking forward to 1000 pages on each president.

The first presidential biography I read was Rutherford B. Hayes. Interesting fact: he did not drink and one reason he won was the anti-booze league voted for him overwhelmingly.

I also learned it is best to read the presidential biographies in order. Too much background material from previouis presidents to provide context. I guess I need to start with Madison and work my way forward.

Northwest Beers

I am finishing my third trip to the Northwest in 3 years. I have had some excellent beers in Montana, Idaho, and eastern Washington. Here are my favorites (in case you ever come this way).

Coldsmoke (Kettle Brewing Co.): A malty, toffee flavored scotch ale. A superb beer. So good, I stuffed some in my suitcase.

Moose Drool (Big Sky Brewing): Yes, that is the name of this excellent brown ale. Also taking some home.

IPA and Creme Ale (Northern Lights Brewing, Spokane WA): Both were very good examples of their styles. Fresh and yummy.

Porter (Kootenai River Brewing, Bonner's Ferry ID): A brewpub overlooking the Kootenai river. The porter was good.....more like a "light" stout than a porter. Too much chocolate and too dark. Porters should be dark, ruby red with a hint of chocolate/toffee/caramel. They had 6 other beers on tap....I'd love to try more.

Bonus: Pizza pick of the Northwest. If you are anywhere near Libby, MT, you have to eat at the Red Dog Saloon. They have some of the best pizza ever! Also serve peanuts (and you can drop the shells on the floor). The Red Dog is outside of town so you might need to ask for directions. Roughly, go north on Hwy 37 from downtown Libby. Turn left at the sign for the landfill and Yaak (yes, the name of a town). Drive several miles. The Red Dog is on the right.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sweating While Sitting

It is brutally humid today. I am sitting at the computer getting some work done and I am sweating like a pig. Ugh! When will it end?

I need a cold, crisp beer. A PBR would go down nice, but I don't have any. Darn antiquated ABC laws!

Saturday, July 16, 2011


A few Friday's ago (before July 4th), I had enough of work for the week and left early to go hang out with the family. I got home one was there.

Not sure where they were and not wanting to hang out by myself, I headed over to FullSteam Brewery (a local microbrew). I was relaxing and enjoying my Rocket Science IPA when my cell rang. It was Shannon. Her first words were "You are sooooo busted!!!! You are having a beer at FullSteam aren't you?"

When Shannon and the kids were returning from an afternoon at the YMCA pool, they happened to drive by FullSteam brewery. Sophie exclaimed "that's Daddy's car!" as they drove by. Mom didn't believe it, but Sophie was insistent. So Shannon drove around the block. Sure enough......Shannon saw my car and then gave me a call.

It all ended well enough......Shannon and I had a beer, the kids got to run around, and I got to see everyone.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

4 Things

Since Shannon, Jacqueline and Sophie are away, here are four things I am doing (or more appropriately "not doing") on a daily basis. Someone call the police!

1. Making the bed.
2. Putting the remote controls away.
3. Putting the portable phone back into the cradle.
4. Keeping the toaster on the counter.

At least I am sweeping the floor and washing the dishes!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Orlando Trip 2011

The Thornburg family spent a week in Orlando in late June. Jon attended a conference at Walt Disney World and Shannon, Sophie, and Jacqueline came along for a mini-vacation.

Ask the kids what their favorite part of vacation was, and the answer you will receive is "the swimming pool!" Not Disney or anything else......the kid's pool at the hotel was the biggest hit. If you get them focused on Disney....their favorite ride was King Arthur's Carousel.

Ask the parents what their favorite part of vacation was, and the answer you will receive is "the ability to relax every evening while the kids were swimming."

Overall impression: A very nice vacation that provided a much needed change of pace for everyone. We are considering making it a yearly event.

Quotes of the Week
Sophie: "Whew, I played hard today!" Said after she plopped onto the couch in the hotel room after returning from the pool that evening. Mom and kids also spent the day at the Science Museum.

Jacqueline: "I'm not a 'silly willy,' I'm a little girl!" Said after I called her a "silly willy" because she was acting weird and silly in the back seat.

Most surprising Disney experience: Why don't more people use FastPass? People were standing in huge lines. We never waited for more than 10 minutes using the FastPass system. Does it take too much planning?

Our Itinerary
Monday: Drove to Orlando, with a stop in Savannah at Forsyth Park
Tuesday: Shannon and kids went to Downtown Disney, while Jon was at the conference
Wednesday: Jon worked. Everybody else went to the Orlando Science Museum
Thursday: Jon worked (again). S, J, S went to the Central Florida Zoo.
Friday: The family went to the Magic Kingdom
Saturday: Return trip to Downtown Disney for shopping and to see Cars 2.
Sunday: Returned to Durham, with another stop at Forsyth Park in Savannah.

What surprised me the most is that you can have a nice, fun vacation in Orlando and minimize expenses. How? Here are my tips.....(Note: tips may only be appropriate for toddlers. Older kids may have different definition of "fun.")

1. Stay at a non-Disney hotel. We stayed at an Embassy Suites just outside the park. Saved about $150 per night and had a 2 room suite. Food at the Disney hotels is outrageously priced too.
2. Choose your hotel wisely and you won't have to eat at restaurants very often. Embassy Suites is famous for its free breakfast and afternoon "manager's reception." Breakfast had a enough variety that you could eat a big one and have a light lunch. Your typical cereal, fruit, carbs (bread, bagels, muffins, etc), hot buffet, and omelette station. The Manager's Reception consisted of light appetizers and beer/wine/margaritas. Our room also had a mini-fridge and microwave. That allowed Shannon to pack lunch for everyone. We also ate dinner in the room 3 times. The kids ate microwave meals (probably exactly the same as served in restaurants) and we ate pre-packaged salads, etc.
3. To succeed at saving on meals......find the local grocery store. There is a new Winn-Dixie about 1 mile from the hotel. We purchased lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks, and other necessities (pool toys) there.
4. You don't have to visit Disney everyday (at least if you have kids younger than 5). Sophie and Jacqueline had great time at the Science Museum and Zoo. They spent 6 hours at the museum; loving every exhibit that they saw. The Zoo was not as nice as the NC Zoo (how can you compete against Animal Kingdom?). Plus it was very hot...most animals were sleeping (except the Emus, btw: extremely funny according to J&S). However, the Zoo had a train and a splash ground that provided entertainment. Total cost for admission, train rides, etc. at both: <$30. Museum/Zoo membership reciprocity is great!
5. Spend a day at Downtown Disney. Admission and parking are free. It is nice to walk around, shop (window and make purchases), and people watch. Several stores have "play stations" set-up for kids to play with toys (then beg Mom and Dad to purchase...I'm sure). There is even a water taxi that is free! (OMG!) Pack a lunch and watch some of the free entertainment (dancing, singing, etc) on the stage. Helpful tips: visit on a Tuesday and arrive before noon to avoid the crowds. For the adults: I hear Downtown Disney is quite the night spot, but I'm sure it is not cheap.
6. Finally.....find the secret, back entrance into Disney. I stumbled across this back entrance because I wanted to avoid all the traffic at the main entrance. We were pleasantly surprised to learn you don't have to pay for parking entering that way. Ask me and I will give directions.
7. One thing I would do differently next time......pack lunch when attending the Magic Kingdom.

Our costs for admission/food/rides/entertainment at Magic Kingdom versus everywhere else (including Downtown Disney) is summarized below. Souvenirs are not included. Do the math!

Magic Kingdom = $220 for 1 day
Everywhere Else = $90 for 5 days.

Random Highlights

1. Jon rented a Jeep Grand Cherokee for the trip. Nice car. We enjoyed the extra space compared to the Volvo. Sirius/XM radio impressed Shannon. Playing a movie on the laptop but running the sound thru the car speakers was pretty cool! We won't consider one though when new car shopping starts. We are going minivan!
2. I enjoyed showing Shannon our favorite stops on the drive: Forsyth Park, the McDonalds in Florence SC (breakfast on the drive down), the Denny's in SC (dinner on the way home).
3. A 12 hour drive is a great way to re-connect with your spouse. We talked most of the way down and back.
4. The 2 room suite. We could put the kids to bed in 1 room and we would stay up a little later relaxing and talking in the other.
5. Our plan for the Magic Kingdom. We had a plan for our visit, somewhat based on a book and Jon's numerous visits to Disneyland. Basically: get there early, hit your (kid's) favorite rides early (even if that means criss-crossing the's not that big), mix funs rides with shows/low key rides as the day progresses, spend the afternoon watching the parade and shopping. Also, take a stroller for all kid's younger than 6. When the kids are older, we'd probably leave around 3 PM for relaxation/dinner then return around 7 PM.

Random Lowlights

1. It was hot. I'd reconsider going June again.
2. Orlando's tap water stinks (literally and figuratively). Stock up on bottled water when at the store. Hold your breath when showering!
3. Embassy Suites charged for internet access. Come on! I thought all Hilton Hotels offered free internet.
4. Whatever happened to Disney characters randomly wandering the park for photo opportunities? Everything is now staged in specific areas at specific times with LONG lines. The spontaneity of stumbling across a character for a quick photo is gone.
5. Obesity in America is becoming an epidemic. Never more obvious than during our visit to the Magic Kingdom and daily breakfast at the hotel.