Buc-ee’s or Bust

Our recent trip to Texas did not change my mind about the Lone Star State. I still have no interest in moving there (apologies to the few family members residing there), but I know now that it’s not all that bad. Once we got beyond the city limits of Houston, I discovered that there is beauty outside the concrete city limits.

Traveling westward on Interstate 10 are miles and miles of nothing,  until we reached rest stop heaven—otherwise known as Buc-ee’s.

Buc-ee’s is a rest stop with probably 100 gas pumps and “the cleanest restrooms in America.” While I am not disputing the sparkle in the loos, unfortunately, on my 10-point ranking of public bathrooms, Buc-ee’s scored a “9” because if failed to provide a changing table for the diaper-wearing crowd.

Every other item on my checklist received five stars:  Clean, neat, purse hangers, filled soap dispenser, plenty of paper towels, doors that opened out so one did not need to touch a dirty door handle upon exiting (I believed there was a hallway thereby eliminating the need for a door), good locks, plenty of room (although no room for shopping bags like at the Charleston outlets), and tight doors so no one can “peak while you leak.” Although there were no changing tables (a huge no-no for families with young children), there was museum-like artwork adorning the walls of the restroom.

Did I mention the snacks? If your stomach begins growling at you are approaching Buck-ee’s, just know that your appetite can be satiated by an assortment of goodies such as a candy selection which will make your mouth water, sandwiches, pickled quail eggs (I kid you not), cheese, dried fruit,

trail mix, candied jalapeños, an aisle of assorted popcorn, and jerky the likes of which mankind outside the state of Texas has never seen before.

 

Knowing that I had never experienced this extraordinary delicacy, Dad insisted we try some. When Dad asked the man behind the jerky deli counter for a recommendation for a jerky newbie, without skipping a beat, the jerky dispensing worker quickly ripped off a piece and handed it to me.

While I could see the appeal for some, it did nothing for me. Dad, on the other hand, purchased two different varieties—turkey jerky and teriyaki beef jerky. He spent the next hundred miles happily chomping away on his jerky.

So the next time you find yourself in the state of Texas, do not leave without experiencing the wonders of Buc-ee’s. Trust me. You will not be disappointed. And if the Christmas season is on the horizon, I suggest that you consider doing your holiday shopping at Buc-ee’s.

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Splat!

When I was a young mother, birthday cakes became increasingly more important. I remember being impressed by a neighbor who was adept at writing “Happy Birthday” on her cakes, while all my attempts looked pathetic by comparison.

During my fifth year of motherhood, I enrolled in that cake decorating course which I had written about previously (It’s all about the Cake). Now I am the recipient of cakes decorated by my children—the most recent being on my birthday this past weekend.

Dad and I went over to Kelly’s house for a birthday/Father’s Day celebration. We were sitting on the sofa chatting while the US Open was playing in the background. No one was watching Lily. Big mistake!

Suddenly, she made some innocent comment about showing me the cake her mommy had made for me, and after hearing that comment, simultaneous light bulbs went off in our heads.  Several of us leaped to our feet. By that time, the cake had somehow been removed from the counter (how Lily reached it, I really don’t know).

Lily was walking ever-so-carefully toward me, trying so hard to balance my cake in her tiny hands. Gravity was winning, and no one was able to grab it before it fell with a crash, landing upside down on the ground.

We all screamed, and Kelly, who had worked so very, very hard to decorate that cake, and chef Lily, who had proudly helped her mommy by adding the sprinkles, both began to cry. While I was sympathetic to their distress, I could not help but smile as the scene unfolded. I admit I even started to laugh.

It really wasn’t so bad. The cake was in a covered container, so it was still edible. We placed it on the kitchen table and pasted it together with icing as best as we could. Although the entire message was undecipherable—Happy Birthday Grammy (I am sometimes called Grammy by Lily)—the word Happy survived the fall.

So we repaired the cake, added the candles, and then carried on with the birthday celebration. It was still delicious. We will always remember the birthday “When I was 64!”

“Middle Age”

When I was growing up, my birthdays were much simpler than the parties of today. They were never celebrated at a park, bowling alley, gymnastic studio, game venue such as Chuckie Cheese, or a movie theater. They were all at home and were never themed—with matching invitations, plates and decorated cakes like back in your day. A few examples from your parties were Wizard of Oz, Minnie Mouse, Care Bears, Winnie the Pooh, and Beauty and the Beast.

But back in the olden days before color TV, microwave ovens, cell phones, and home computers, we only had a plainly-iced cake with candles and occasionally, Grandma decorated our birthday cakes with M&M’s. The paper plates were white.

As the first-born in my family, I was constantly reminded of my age by my four siblings, who liked to say that I was born at the hospital in Jockey Hollow, which was the winter encampment site for Washington’s Revolutionary Army.

To this day, they like to tease me about my age. Just look at the card I received from my soon-to-be-60-year-old sister, Aunt Ar.

I am at peace with my age, particularly this year since the Beatles were nice enough to write a song for this occasion—one of my favorites I must add.

Reflecting back on my life, I must say I am happy. I have three girls, and now three boys—thanks to three lovely ladies who gave birth to those men—and two terrific grandchildren who constantly make me laugh and feel loved. Nearly forty-one years later, I am still having breakfast with the same crazy, lovable husband.

I have written two books and am working on checking my travel items off my bucket list. During the past ten months, I have knocked off Alaska and Ireland. Cuba made it in the nick of time before travel by Americans was once again forbidden. Thanks to my two-year-old hip, I hope to be able to continue traveling for many years to come. And based upon the travels of my almost 96-year-old friend Gene, I should be hitting the road for at least another thirty years!

So far, so very good!

 

 

Before the Next Funeral

When our grandfather Dan Carey was young, he would routinely visit his siblings and their growing families at their homes in Boonton. The one exception was his brother John, who lived too far away in Lake Hopatcong—at the Ice House—to join in those family gatherings.

Until his oldest sister Annie Carey Duffield’s death in 1932, Papa would take the kids to visit his family on Sundays at the Duffield house on Boonton Avenue. Grandma and Papa were living on Main Street near Boonton Avenue at the time.

He would tell Grandma that “We’re going to take a walk to Dublin,” and Grandma would stay home preparing Sunday dinner. After his sister Annie died, he moved the visits to his sister Nell and Pat Cooney’s Church Street house, which was across the street from his brother Joe and Lo Carey’s home.

As the families grew and lives got busy, those visits began to diminish. While I remember visiting Aunt Lo and Uncle Joe often, and their youngest daughter Betty was always part of our lives, I only knew of Uncle Pat because his was the home whose yard met ours—the house with the grape vines, cherry and pear trees, and the great yard for sledding.

                 

I had little knowledge of the children and grandchildren of his sisters Annie and Nell, and even less of the families of his brother Jim and John, but I later learned that many of those descendent children did and still do know their second cousins.

Ours was the largest family, with Grandma and Papa eventually having thirty grandchildren, most of whom he never knew because he died in 1959. So he saw only the first fourteen of us, and these grandchildren probably have little, if not any, recollections of him.

Grandma with 14 of her grandchildren – 1957. On couch: Rosemary, Janice, Lois, Laurie on Lois’ lap, Bobby on Grandma’s lap, Nancy holding Gail, Alan, Tommy, Billy. On floor: Tricia, Timmy, me , Maureen

In the beginning, we’d gather at each other’s homes at Christmas or for birthday parties, but in time, no one’s homes was large enough to accommodate our growing crowd. We’d get together for play dates with the cousins who were close in age to us or choose a cousin for a sleepover at Grandma’s house.

We began to splinter off and gather for weddings and then the funerals of the aunts and uncles and even a few cousins like Daniel, Lois, Billy, and Shane. Even the wedding lists could not include everyone because we are just too large. Many of you were able to get together for my mother’s birthday in January, but for the most part it is now just the funerals.

Now there is a reunion unlike any other we have ever had, which is in good old Boonton on Labor Day Weekend. This is a gathering of all the descendants of our grandfather and his siblings. It is an opportunity to meet the cousins whose names you may have heard and wondered how they fit in, cousins you may not have seen since you were young, and cousins who are complete strangers to you.

Still, it is an opportunity to connect, and I bet all those “Careys from Dublin” (gee I wish I really knew where they originated) would be thrilled to know their grandchildren and great grandchildren were interested in keeping their memories alive.

And to those local cousins who still are not interested in meeting the “stranger cousins” I say this to you: Then come and gather to hang out at Johnny’s or the Fireman’s Fair or St. John’s Church on Sunday afternoon and share a few stories and a laugh or two with the cousins you all know, which are the grandchildren of Dan and Sis Carey—before the next funeral.

There is a Facebook page with the details called Carey Family from Boonton USA 2019 Reunion, or contact me at kwardamasky@hotmail.com for details.

Back to my Roots

After Galway we hopped onto a bus and headed toward Castlebar, which was the home of one of my 3x great grandmothers (A fun fact is that we have 16 sets of great-great-great grandparents). I must say, for anyone considering travel to Ireland, we were quite satisfied with Ireland’s buses. They were clean, on time, and all that we used were equipped with Wi-Fi.

During our stay in Castlebar, we were lucky to have a friend from our trip to London five years ago drive us around, and our hotel was located close enough to the town that my two-year-old hip was able to walk to dinner and the library with little effort.

While at the library, I was introduced to a woman who allowed me to view the contents of a large box containing inventor Louis Brennan’s stuff: photographs, letters, a ruler (I learned at that moment that Ireland did not go metric until 1965), his will, and a small notebook with Louis’ notes on his inventions. Dad was able to show the librarian and me how those drawings became the prototype of his gyroscope. I had a grand old time photographing the contents of that box to later add to my family tree.

We walked past Louis’ childhood home, which leaves no doubt that Castlebar’s famous inventor had once resided there.

After a lovely Chinese dinner (You probably know we are not traditionalists when dining out), we headed to the cemetery, where we noted that the Brennan grave site truly was the biggest monument in the Old Castlebar Cemetery. Sadly, so many of those buried there were children.

Louis’ wife’s family’s final resting place was sadly overgrown with tall grass and weeds. Dad was happy for the fence, because he feared I would be attacked by a critter or two if I ventured inside. There were stairs leading down to the vault at the side of our grave. Our guide told us that children used to go down there and play. (Creepy!)

The following day after a lovely breakfast at McDonald’s (I am not kidding. It was quite impressive, but more on that another time), we met our friends at the Peace Park and then were taken on a lovely tour of the Mayo Heritage Centre before heading into town for the presentation of the Bible.

More on Castlebar another time.

Off to Ireland: All Aboard to Galway

Once we finally decided to plan a trip to Ireland, I researched the best way to travel there for us. The options were to:

  • Choose one of the many tour companies, which will plan your itinerary, arrange your transportation and hotels, and provide many of your meals. My cousin Ellen choose this option and was quite happy with her trip.
  • Rent a house and car and do it all yourself, which my sister Ellen did twice and was clearly satisfied since she returned a second time. Since Dad had gone to the Emerald Isle two times on business and destroyed two tires while driving on the left on Ireland’s extremely narrow roads, he quickly nixed that idea.
  • Reserve hotels in a few locations and book several bus tours and individual tours.

We chose the third option and were extremely happy with the companies we chose, the flexibility to eat our breakfasts and dinners on our own, and loved sitting back and letting someone else do the driving

As soon as we arrived in Dublin we caught a cab to the train station, obtained our pre-purchased  tickets to Galway at a kiosk, and plopped ourselves into the very comfy seats, across from two other seats separated by a small table. I sat across from TB Tammy, who coughed and wheezed her way across Ireland while hogging all my feet room. I hoped to stay healthy.

Across the aisle sat the professor and his lovely bespectacled wife Ginger, who intently worked on their crossword puzzles in The Star “newspaper” while enjoying their morning Heineken and Bulmer beer. Dad and I sipped our coffees and I snacked on a muffin. I could tell I would love Ireland.

Galway is a great little harbor city on the west coast, where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Galway is filled with an abundance of restaurants and shops, where you can always find someone singing or dancing in the streets of the Latin Quarter. During our three-night stay, we sampled great Irish pub food such as fish and chips and shepherd’s pie, as well as delicious Indian and Thai cuisine.

 

Despite our exhaustion from our 7 1/2 hour flight across the pond, we forced ourselves to stay awake, knowing that we had a full day tour planned the next day. When we returned to our hotel, we relaxed in front of our faux fireplace with great anticipation of what was to come next.