Saturday, July 31, 2010

Golden Kernels of Summer

Summer brings out all kinds of treasures that for the long winter months were buried under piles of gray mush: brightly colored flowers, green grass and leaves on the trees, ripe, juicy watermelons, fresh tomatoes...and those golden kernels of summer - corn.  Corn on the cob, to be exact.  It's a vegetable that is universally enjoyed, the yellow and white dots slathered in butter and sprinkled with salt.  It gets stuck in your teeth and the butter dribbles down your chin, but it is oh-so-worth-it.  Who cares if you get messy while eating it?  That's what summer foods are all about!

Any time we ate corn on the cob this summer, I would cut the kernels off for Ava and put them on her plate.  She would happily shovel in fistfuls at a time, not caring if half of them ended up on her face, in her bib, or even on the floor.  But a few days ago, she was not content with those kernels on her plate.  She wanted the REAL deal.  And so I gave it to her!
She thoroughly enjoyed those golden kernels of summer.  And it reminded me that I too need to enjoy these last bits of summer while they last, before it's time to go back to school, to teaching and making lesson plans and grading 120 essays in a reasonable time frame.  I'm going to spend an afternoon by the pool, have friends over for one last party, go out for long, leisurely lunch dates and do all I can to enjoy my final week of summer break.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jersey Top 5

Four days.  Two best friends.  A lifetime of memories!  Here is my Jersey Top 5 List:

1.  Wine 

Once I arrived and Julie got home from work, we headed straight to the Sharrott Winery, where we were greeted by a wall of perfectly arranged bottles and a chalkboard featuring all the wines you could taste.

We scanned the list, chose our favorites, munched on saltines in-between sips of fruity whites and full-bodied reds, and admired the decor.  It was relaxing and fun and a great way to kick off our long girls' weekend!

We also visited a wine bar when we stayed at the Tropicana in Atlantic City.  Situated on one of the top floors with windows on three of the four walls, it overlooked both the city and the shore.  Happy hour was between 5-7pm and offered a deal that we couldn't pass up: half-price glasses of wine and free appetizers in the form of crusty or soft breads and a selection of artisanal cheeses.

2.  Julie's "House" 

Julie lives with her cousin Rachel, Rachel's husband Rob, and their two boys...and connected to the house is another "house" where Rachel's parents live.  The entire clan shares a kitchen, and the family business is also on the property.

The backyard is full of chickens whose small chicks follow quickly behind them, two ducks whose source of water is a baby pool, a rooster that crows at any time of the day, a beautiful garden full of fresh herbs, a wide selection of peppers, zucchini and tomato plants, a large deck where we had our morning coffee, and a pool that provided us hours of lying on rafts in the sun.

Since the kitchen is the shared living space, it is always filled with people chatting, mixing up batches of margaritas, chopping vegetables for salsa, making food at random times of the day - like when Rob made his famous stuffed peppers and Julie made zucchini bread AFTER we'd already eaten dinner and chowed down on homemade ice cream.  Dishes pile up in the sink, dirty pots and pans line the counters, and the table is strewn with newspapers and coupons...but it's warm and comfortable and full of love.

Homemade salsa only lasts about 15 minutes in this house!

3. Food

Not only did we eat amazing meals at the house, we also had some great fare in the local restaurants.  One of our best meals was at a Thai place where diners are allowed to bring in their own bottles of wine.  We packed up a bottle of Reisling from the Sharrott Winery and were on our way.  I ordered my favorite, shrimp pad Thai, and Julie had a chicken curry full of Thai basil, coconut milk and spices.  It was absolutely delicious and for dessert we shared sticky rice with mango, a perfect ending to a perfect meal!

Our next best meal was at the Palm Restaurant in the Tropicana.  In the hotel information guide, it stated that the Palm was a place where A-list celebrities dined and that the walls were covered in caricatures of famous faces...although except for George Clooney, we didn't recognize most of the names and faces.

Julie ordered one of their specialty drinks, a watermelon mojito.  It was strong, fruity and minty all at the same time.

For dinner, I had a melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon, Julie had chicken piccata full of yummy, tangy capers, and we shared a large bowl of velvety mashed potatoes. 

Last bite of steak...VERY sad.

4. The Tropicana Hotel

Julie booked a room at the Tropicana so that we could spend Sunday and Monday in Atlantic City...and it was not an original idea.  We waited for a half an hour just to check into our room!

Our view!

We headed straight for the pool on the 6th floor rooftop, where we lounged on chairs in the sun, ordered sandwiches and wraps for lunch, avoided the overpriced drinks at the pool bar (seriously, $12 for a small cup of pina colada that came out of a machine?), and got in a good dose of people-watching.

After our dinner at the Palm, we headed into the casino for a little gambling.  Julie started off with the Wheel of Fortune game, but she did not make a fortune.  It was fun to play though!

After gambling and not winning a thing, we walked around the Tropicana to find a cool bar, and we were not disappointed.  A Dam Good Sports Bar lived up to its name with TVs in every direction, a huge circular bar, pool tables, and an awesome drink special - 40 oz beers for $5.  Yes, we felt a little ghetto drinking from a 40, but hey, you couldn't beat the price!  At least we had cups to drink out of, so it wasn't TOO ghetto.

We met several people at the sport's bar, including a really nice guy named Marc - in fact, we spent the rest of the night hanging out with him, drinking, chatting, sharing a cab to a pub...and then walking back to the Tropicana at 4:30am.  Cause that's how we roll.

We also met this couple, who were having a heated discussion at 3am in the pub.  Doesn't she look thrilled?  Their story: they are best friends, but he wants more.  We overheard him tell her, "You are my muse."  Best eavesdropping ever!

We quickly struck up a conversation with them and admitted that we'd heard their conversation.  They were very good-natured about it and soon enough, we were all drinking and hanging out together.

The next morning, Julie and I were up and ready for the beach by 11am.  The hotel is right on the boardwalk, where we grabbed large slices of pizza for lunch and took in the scenery.

After lunch we rented a huge, turquoise umbrella on the beach and spent the rest of the afternoon soaking up the sun, breathing in the salty air, and plunging our feet into the cold waters of the ocean.

5.  Spending Time With My Best Friend

Honestly, what more could a girl ask for?  A four day weekend with your best friend who you only get to see two or three times a year?  Priceless!  Julie and I had such a blast.  No matter the distance between us or how long we go without catching up, we can always pick right back up where we left off.  We're already planning a time for her to come out to Indy and visit, and I will count down the days until then!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Eyes Have It

As I was sitting in the dark exam room at Best in Sight Eye Care, all I could think about was this skit from Brian Regan. 

Part of me was trying not to crack a smile, with all of those jokes in my head...and the other part of me was thinking how TRUE it is!  The tests they give you are something you don't want to mess up, and there are so many of them.  Click this button when you see the blinking light, what numbers do you see here, what's the smallest line you can read...which one do you like better, #1 or #2?  ACK!  Thankfully, I passed.  My prescription is the same, my eyes are healthy and I can live many more days taking in the beauty of this world!

Ava's eyes are healthy too, thank goodness.  When your baby is born, you hope and pray that everything will be okay - that the tiny body is pink and plump, the lungs are taking in air, and you wait with bated breath to hear those first cries.  Every mom feels this way...but think how much we really take it for granted.  Not today.  Today I count my blessings that Ava has gorgeous blue eyes she can use to take in the world around her.

I see you!

With her baby blues, Ava loves to read books.  She carries them all over the house, little cardboard books filled with simple language and bright colors.  Watching her sit down, open a book and babble away because in her mind, she IS reading it...well, as an English teacher, what could make me happier?

I also love to watch Ava play with her daddy.  She loves her dada so much...runs to greet him when he comes home from work and reaches her arms out for a big hug, sits on his shoulders as he walks around the house to distract her before dinner, feeds him Teddy Grahams and gives him sloppy kisses on the cheek.  Yep, this daddy and daughter have quite a special relationship!

And tonight, she wanted to join her dada so badly out on the deck as he grilled margarita chicken in the rain.

Today, I toast not only to my eyesight, but to my daughter's as well.  Without it, well, we wouldn't be able to see the bright side quite as much.