Cleveland, Chicago and Raleigh

Last Monday, I flew to Cleveland to visit with a new potential client. This potential client produces a magazine for highschool athletes. It was a good meeting, and I’m glad I went. Downtown Cleveland is a lot nicer looking than the airport area, and the power didn’t go out in my hotel overnight this time.

I flew home from Cleveland Tuesday night, then got up and flew to Chicago and back on Wednesday to meet with two more companies: one in the financial research and advice field, and another in the online auction business. Both meetings went well.

Then Friday morning, Christine, Jack and I got up before the sun and boarded an airplane headed for Raleigh, North Carolina.

I had two clients to meet in North Carolina (one in Raleigh and the other in Charlotte) and I figured what better excuse do we need to go visit Aunt Murrell and the rest of the Helmke family?

We arrived in Raleigh around 10:30 a.m., met Aunt Murrell and Karen at the airport, and then headed to downtown Raleigh for lunch. We ate lunch at the cafeteria at Exploris, which is where Karen teaches at the charter school and Karen’s son Tim works as an IMAX projectionist and certified technician. Tim joined us for lunch. The highlight of lunch (for me) was the sweet potato french fries… ummmm.

After lunch, the girls and Jack headed back to Aunt Murrell’s house to get settled. I headed to a meeting with my client in Raleigh. My meeting went really well.

I drove down a back road from downtown out to Aunt Murrell’s house in Clayton, which is about 20 minutes from downtown Raleigh. Let me say this: driving anywhere in North Carolina is amazing. I don’t care if you’re in the best neighborhood in town or the worst, just driving through is fun… All of the buildings are old, or are built to look old. You’ll see lots of old brick warehouse type structures, or old southern houses with large wrap around porches. Even the little shotgun houses have big porches (proportional to the house). The trailers all have porches as well, and if there isn’t a porch out front, you can be guaranteed there’s one out back.

The trees in North Carolina are all wonderful to take in. Towering pines are the dominant tree, interspersed with smaller magnolias and oaks. Kudzu is a problem in the southeast, and that includes North Carolina. It’s pretty, but it’s also not pretty … depends on your perspective I guess. There was a lot more Kudzu in North Carolina than last time we visited… but the landscape is still gorgeous.

Back to the story: on Friday night, Karen cooked us Barbeque Chicken with a home-made barbeque sauce, sweet corn-on-the-cob, fresh cantaloupe, and salad. Karen said that she was inspired by her sister Gretchen (Karen had visited Gretchen earlier that day and Gretchen was making a barbeque sauce) to make the barbeque sauce.

Jack was fed dinner by Aunt Murrell while sitting in the same high-chair that Carl, Tim, and all of the other kids in the family, ate out of at some point. Aunt Murrell told us that the high-chair came from Spain some 30 years ago.

After putting Jack to bed, we all stayed up really late just talking and catching up with each other. I think we stayed up ’till at least 1:00 a.m. Friday night.

On Saturday, we just enjoyed our weekend and relaxed most of the day… we sat around chatting, enjoyed the great outdoors in the backyard (they have a state forest that starts at the edge of their backyard), and waited for the family to come over. We also visited Patsy Aikens Designs’ Summer Closet Sale. We bought Jack some great Chez Ami clothes at a good discount and I’ve just about got Christine talked into becoming a Chez Ami consultant this fall.

Then, Saturday evening, the family came over to visit with Jack and us. We really enjoyed seeing Helen and Brad, Terry and Gretchen, and Jon and Hanna. Oh, my gosh… Jon and Hanna are so big now. It’s been 7 years since we’ve seen them, and they’re almost adults now. Jon is 17 and Hanna is 13. Jon will be a senior in highschool next year, and the editor of his school paper. Hanna is going to be a freshman at the same highschool (which she’s not 100% thrilled about, but she’ll push through that challenge I’m sure). Brad and Helen were wonderful with Jack… helping him walk and brining him his very own North Carolina bluebird stuffed animal.

Karen grilled bratwurst, hamburgers and hotdogs for dinner and we enjoyed eating out on the patio with everyone. We also had home made peach cobbler for dinner… ummmm, good.

On Sunday, Aunt Murrell and Karen taught Jack to pull up consistently, and helped him learn how to push his support across the room while walking with it. I can’t believe how fast this kid is learning new things, folks… he learned to pull up, crawl on his hands and knees, and cluck his toungue this weekend while in North Carolina.

Jon and Hanna joined us in the afternoon and we visited the Raleigh flea market at the North Carolina state fair grounds before heading to the pool. After Jon and Hanna left, Jack crawled around outside on the porch, and we all determined that the porch was a little dirty after we looked a how dirty Jack’s outfit was afterwards… here is a photo of Jack about to eat a mint leaf… you can see how dirty he is in this photo.

On Monday, I drove to Charlotte to visit a client (4 hours one way folks… bad idea, next time I’ll fly there). Christine stayed in Raleigh and learned how to make home made cards from Aunt Murrell. For dinner we ate pork tenderloin and sauteed new potatos with rosemary that Karen cooked, and we sampled a squash casserole for Aunt Murrell that she was considering making for a family that she has to cook dinner for this week. All of the food was good.

On Tuesday Gretchen and Hanna came over to visit a little more, I headed to work, and that night we met Tim out for dinner at The Irregardless Cafe. The Irregardless was really a fine place to eat. We were treated to live music while we enjoyed the light middle eastern cuisine. Jack really enjoyed the fish tank that Aunt Murrell showed him at the restaurant. Aunt Murrell and Karen gave us a little bag of North Carolina stuffs that we brough home with us… lots of little goodies that’ll help us remember our trip, and let us bring a little of North Carolina home with us.

This morning, we got up, packed, and got on a plane to come home [sidebar: cool photo from the plane]. It was a bittersweet farewell. We didn’t want to come home, but we knew we had to. We really had a good time in Raleigh with the Helmke clan.

A full set of photos from Raleigh is available here.

And here’s a video from a few clips we had on our camera:

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