Monday, April 16, 2012

#50 He Doesn't Mind That I'm a Foodie

I don't get to go away much. I'm pretty sure because of that I find pleasure in the simplest of places. This past weekend hubby, my older brother, Justin, his wife, Kristina, and I went to Connecticut for a wedding.

We also discovered the most awesome and wonderful fast food restaurant on the East Coast.

(I say the East Coast, because, since I don't get out much, I've clearly never really been to the West Coast, and therefore can't say factually that they don't have a comparable fast food joint).

I like to be fair to all sides.

The question bursting in your mind, I'm sure, is how we came upon such a wonder in such a short time span as a weekend, especially when we had a delicious wedding reception to go to. Well, here is the problem I am cursed to deal with every day of my life: I have a serious addiction to food. And unfortunately, it has nothing to do with survival.

I'm literally along the same lines of a lion trapped in a cage at the zoo that is fed hourly just so there never is a chance for him to be so food deprived that he decides to take his chances at leaping from his sandy plateau to the fenced area the human children are sticking their hands through to have himself a little sample.

Being in this state, the family felt it necessary to drive around our hotel in search for something small and sufficient to hold us over until dinner, yet also different from what we could get at home.

We'd almost given up hope and settled for Subway when we saw it.

What made me particularly interested was that the outside look of it reminded me of a Hardee's fast food joint. Hubby and I tried Hardee's on a family vacation out in North Carolina. That was, and will be, my first and only time experiencing their food. Their burgers were distasteful and disgusting and totally put a cramp in my style.

This, I'm sure, makes you wonder why on earth I would give a similar looking place a try.

Aside from my joy at trying something new and unavailable in my area, I also always have hope for burger joints that aren't McDonald's. Kind of like a 'root for the underdog' desire. Sometimes I get burned, but then other times I find something that delights me down to my very core.

The delight that Connecticut, exclusively Connecticut, possesses is Duchess Restaurants.

Get ready, because this is a fanciful reality that totally made my weekend.

Top three reasons this place is out-of-this-world:
1. It tastes healthier than your typical fast food joint.
*Fresh produce, poultry, and meat are delivered daily.
2. Everything I ate was delicious
*And I ate a lot.
3. There is an insane variety of options
*For fresh, fast food, it can't be beat!

Here's what I had on our first stop at Duchess:

Chicken Caesar Wrap, packed to perfection.

Seriously, I've never seen a wrap wrapped better.

Here's what my sister-in-law had:

Turkey Wrap, look at how every bite is guaranteed to have turkey in it!

(This was the moment when an adorable 70-something-year-old employee was looking over my shoulder, then turned to one of his coworkers and said with disbelief, and a little pride, "That girl over there is taking a picture of one of our sandwiches!"

Steak Sandwich that my brother ordered.

(You can't really tell it here, but there is cheese and onions on this baby!)

Hubby went with a classic turkey sandwich on wheat bread.

And yes, this was a fast food joint. Those options, alone, were enough to sell me. But, we went for breakfast the next morning, of course.

Hubby, at 10 am, got himself this:

Yes, that's right it's a cheese burger...for breakfast.

This is the point when we realized that they serve ALL their menu items ALL day long.

The rest of us went with breakfast basics, although I was dying to try one of their dinner items (such as meatloaf, chicken parm, or chicken with mashed potatoes.) Nope, not kidding.

Hash browns, full of calories and deliciousness.

Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich

(Have you ever seen sausage links look more adorable?)

Texas French Toast

Tasted as if mom had whipped it up herself in the kitchen.

Then, when we thought we had enough, my sister-in-law ordered herself a blueberry muffin and my brother got himself a chocolate chip cookie.

The muffin was given to her warm. Does it get better than this?

Why, of course it does!

This is their soft drink option:
It's called the Coca-Cola Freestyle.

I'd never met one before, but I won't soon forget it.

Here's what you do:
You put your cup in the dispensing area and pick from the wide assortment of drink types: Coca Cola, Powerade, Lemonade, Fanta, Sprite, Rootbeer, Vault, Mr. Pibb, Dasani Water...

Then, after picking the type of drink you want, you pick the flavor of that drink you want. I picked Hi-C. The flavors they had were orange (my favorite to order at McDonald's), raspberry, grape (my brother was particularly excited about this one), cherry (I was excited about this one), strawberry, fruit punch, raspberry lime, and orange vanilla.

We all pretty much fell in love with Duchess Restaurants and never wanted to leave it behind. Somewhere in the nonsense side of my brain I'm considering moving to Connecticut just to be able to live near a Duchess Restaurant.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

#49 He Does Something Extra

I can't believe I missed this, but it's better late than never.

March 21st was World Down Syndrome Day. This is the first year that the United Nations is recognizing this date. For me, for many, that is super exciting news.

My youngest brother, Jonathan, has Down syndrome. He is one of the best parts of my life, hands down. In fact, I might even say the best part of my life, but I don't want the other best parts of my life to get jealous.

The National Down Syndrome Society is looking to raise awareness and support of individuals with Down syndrome. It's taken me some time, but I'm pretty sure this might also be part of my life calling. As I was growing up, my mom would tell me I should work with children with special needs. Upon such a notion I would instantly say no, explaining that it would simply be too emotional for me.

Maybe sometimes we need to grasp things that cause us to be emotional, rather than run away from them.

I'm a firm believer that God puts specific things in our lives for reasons unique to who we are as individuals. Jonathan is in my life because I needed him. In fact, I need him a lot more than he needs me.

Everyday I marvel at who he is becoming. As I try to mother him, I get smacked in the face with the realization of how independent he is learning to be. Each day I learn more and more about the way he thinks, I see how his brain works, and recognize that he has so much to say and give to the world if the world would only give him a chance.

When I introduce Jonathan to someone or talk about him to someone who does not know him, I recognize how limited the world's knowledge on individuals with Down syndrome is. One of the first questions people will ask is, "Does he talk?". A legitimate question indeed, considering there are those who cannot, but an unfair question due to the amount of individuals with Down syndrome who can. Yes, he can talk. He can talk a lot. But, you have to be patient and selfless in order to get the answers you want.

And when that happens, I realize that his abilities have the possibility to soar to amazing heights that I once thought unreachable.

And perhaps, in all this, my part is to spread the word. To make others aware of how awesome someone with Down syndrome can be, if you allow them to be.

(Jonathan at his Special Olympics swimming competition, March 2012.)