2017 marks the 10th year daughter Kristine and I have gotten together to spend the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament together enjoying a weekend of non-stop basketball games, perhaps imbibing a little more beer than usual and foods that are so good but perhaps not the usual fare for a healthy conscience person.
I always fly up the day before tip-off so I can finalize my brackets and get them posted on time. I always enter two into the pool. Packing for this weekend is always iffy. The day before I arrived the northeast was hit by Winter Storm Stella. The temperature was in the 20’s when I arrived and was glad it was a short taxi ride to her home. As the taxi made its way to Kristine’s home I enjoyed looking at the snowy landscape.
Kristine has a sweet cat named Elle who has always greeted me at the top of the stairs when I entered. However this year, I was greeted by her new dog, Paige. I was not sure how Paige would greet a strange person coming into the house so opened the door quite cautiously. What I saw when I entered was Paige standing at the top of the landing with, not one but two stuffed toys in her mouth and a low growl coming from deep in her throat. I walked up the stairs slowly with my hand extended and saying her name. By the time I got to the top of the stairs she dropped her toys and let me pat her head.
A lovely tradition Kristine started all those years ago was leaving me a tray filled with a selection of teas and snacks to enjoy while I wait for her to come home from work. Today there was something new.
Over the last several years I have brought back many, many refrigerator magnets from the far and wide places that Randy and I have traveled to. I had to smile when I looked at the plate. What made me smile? There leaning against my tea cup was an Elvis magnet. I read the note that accompanied my treats; it read:
“Viva Virginia from Aloha Elvis”. Enjoy a couple of snacks and some tea before I get home. Hope you had a good flight up here! See you this afternoon J Love, Kristine
P.S. The Elvis magnet is yours”.
Now, how cool is that!
Over these ten years things have changed a little.
The first two days are always a flurry of activity as we fill in our brackets (we never share our choices-we are very competitive), shop for food and beer supplies and make plans to visit one of our favorite sports bar to watch tip-off, get mani-pedis and shopping on Saturday and celebrating granddaughter Maddy’s birthday on Sunday.
Day two found us at Harris Teeters to pick up our food supplies for the weekend. Of course, beer was at the top of the list. We returned home and spent the rest of the morning filling out our brackets.
Kristine is a college basketball fan and uses her sports knowledge to pick the teams she believes will move along to the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four and beyond. Me, I have developed favorites over the years and depend on the little gems that are shared on ESPN the Sunday before tip-off to help choose my picks and then I keep my fingers crossed that I stay above 20 out of the over 60 that participate in the pool. That done, we spent the rest of the afternoon reminiscing about days gone by, enjoying a few beers and watching East Tennessee play Florida.
The most important game today was between Maryland and Xavier. Kristine has a soft spot for Maryland because her dad attended Maryland. Kristine donned a Maryland sweatshirt and wrapped Paige in a Maryland scarf and we settled down to start our weekend. Although I picked Xavier, I put on a Maryland tee shirt to show her some support.
Foremost on our agenda on day three was to go to a new sports bar called The Bracket Room Sports Lounge and Eatery in Arlington, Virginia. The lounge was very nice with booths, long tables and high chairs, and a three-sided bar with stools. There were televisions everywhere so there was no worry about watching the games.
The brunch menu was a wonderful mix of standards as well as huevos ranchero tacos, chicken wings, waffles, lamb lollipops, white queso dip with Bavarian pretzels and more. But, whenever I go to a sports bar for the first time I have to have a hamburger. I ordered the Juicy Cheeseburger & Fries. The burger was an all-natural farm raised, grass fed beef burger on a soft bun. I topped that with cheddar cheese, very crispy Applewood bacon, lettuce, tomato and pickles. The burger was cooked perfectly; charred on the outside, juicy on the inside and just perfect.
We stayed for a while but had to get back to the house before the Duke game. Duke is one of Kristine’s all-time favorite teams so, of course, she wore her Duke tee shirt. Very funny!
Saturday is normally our day to do girly things. We go to the Red Door and spend a few hours indulging ourselves in getting a mani-pedi and then off to the mall for a little shopping, but not this year. It was just too cold so we stayed in watching one game after another, enjoying a pizza for dinner and just hanging out.
One tradition we could not let go by the wayside is our annual get-together with daughter Jennifer and granddaughter Madalyn. It just so happens, much to my delight, that Maddy’s birthday falls on March Madness weekend.
We made arrangements for Jennifer and Maddy to meet us at the house where I surprised her with her very first ‘little blue box’ from Tiffany’s. This past Christmas Maddy asked for all things Breakfast at Tiffany’s. On our last cruise I was very escited when I learned that there was a Tiffany’s on board. Randy and I just had to run in and pick her up a little something.
She was so excited! She took such care as she first removed the box from the little blue bag and took a picture, then opened the box and took a picture and finally opened the little blue pouch to discover a lovely sterling silver chain with two Tiffany heart charms. And, yes, she took pictures of the pouch and necklace too. She is so cute!!
Then it was off to a restaurant she choose over at the Village of Shirlington. This year Maddy chose Guapo’s Fine Mexican Cuisine restaurant for her birthday celebration. The restaurant was large, colorful and filled with happy people.
What a great choice. I ordered the Huevos Rancheros and they were wonderful. The four of us spent the next two hours eating, laughing and sharing good times. When it came to dessert time, Maddy ordered the Sopaipillas. These mini warm fried puff pastries were drizzled with local honey and sprinkled with powdered sugar. In the center of the plate was a scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream with a cherry on top. The server brought four spoons so we could all enjoy. What a fun dessert. All too soon it was time to part; Jennifer and Maddy to go one way and Kristine and I another.
My last full day Kristine went off to work while I spent the day relaxing and preparing a nice meal for us to enjoy. I prepared Spicy Chicken Enchiladas and fresh salsa. Kristine and Brian loved both.
We had a great time but it did not go unnoticed that the weekend was a little more subdued than in the past. Could it be that we are getting a little older? Could there be another decade of basketball, beer and bad food in our future? We shall see.
At this point I am #4 in one bracket and #44 in the other in a field of 62. Not too bad. This year I am hoping to stay in the top ten. No matter where your bracket(s) is I wish you luck!! Enjoy the rest of the tourney.