Thursday, February 20, 2014

#125 He Hates Surprises

When Hubby was away in LA, I decided I was fed up with him getting to stay in hotels and me being stuck with the normalcy of our home.*

*Note: I do realize the nonsense of that statement.  I'm sure Hubby would have preferred the normalcy of our home to working a 90 hour work week in LA.

I decided it was time for a mini vacation.  It didn't have to be anywhere too fancy or spectacular, just somewhere for us to get away to for a few days.  When I started to plan and saw that Valentine's Day was on a Friday, I knew that was when we needed to go away.

Then I realized that just about every other couple in the world was wanting to get away that weekend as was reflected in the limited vacancies and roof raised prices.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon a somewhat decent priced Groupon for the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court in Baltimore.  However, to get the harbor view it would have been double the price.  I decided we could manage with a view of the courtyard. 

Of course, I forgot this when we entered our room and instantly walked over to the window.  The view of the valet was a rather depressing one.  Finding out that my Groupon covered parking costs, however, cheered me up.

I quickly got over my view issues when I saw this in our room:


This may or may not have actually been the highlight of my trip.  What a relief it was to find a Keurig and k-cups rather than the travel baggies of coffee filters and prepackaged grinds.  I was just a tad ecstatic about this.

And this...


I don't know how I've managed to return to my ordinary bathroom.  Bathrooms with TVs are where it's at.  I'm sure I have major issues that haven't been diagnosed yet, but between the Keurig and this, I was giddy with excitement and we had only been in our room 1.27843 minutes.

That night, I opened a cabinet door which I assumed was hiding the refrigerator.  Not only did I find the fridge, but, beside it was a spread of candy and goodies similar to the ones Kevin McCallister finds in Home Alone 2 upon entering his hotel suite.  I shrieked, then stared at the bounty of goodness, mesmerized by its beauty.  Then I decided it must be one of those eat-it-and-you-pay-for-it deals.

Hubby later found out that it was complimentary.  There may have been a chorus of 'Hallelujah' sung out at that very moment.   

I don't know what it is about hotels, but I love them.  I love scoping out the different layouts, the horribly patterned carpet, the lack of clutter everywhere, the ice buckets, the tiny bars of soap, the room service.  A few years ago, Hubby and I ordered room service for our first time.  I felt like royalty, and was absolutely hooked.

It was only reasonable that we order room service as our Valentine's Day meal.  We got in around 9:00 pm, and knowing ahead of time that this might be our arrival time, I could only imagine that any decent restaurant in the area was going to be packed.  

I had to weigh out our options.  Let's see, making a reservation to a restaurant that we will more than likely still have to wait at least 30 minutes for, then dining elbow to elbow with strangers to a menu that has been doubled in priced and chosen to the stereotypical desires of Valentine's Day diners or a meal delivered to my room where I can eat on a cozy chair, with no other people around, in the comfort of my thermostat controlled room?* 

*Hubby kept it at a whopping 74 degrees during the day and 68 at night.  If you know my home, that there is the definition of luxury.

I'm sure you can guess what we planned to do for dinner...but this picture says it all:


I was in heaven.  I'm not going to get into the meal here, I'll save that for The Orange Strainer.

The 'where' of the trip was a complete surprise to Hubby.  He only knew that we were going away.  It wasn't until we got in the car to drive that he wanted to guess.  I was going to make him hold out until we got closer, but I'm not that mean.  

Because of the whole surprise factor, I didn't plan out anything for us to do.  I merely searched a few things in the area and gave him my findings.  I also hummed the first three words of the opening song from the show Hairspray several times: 'Good Morning Baltimorrrrrre'...I'm pretty sure it's impossible to visit this city without singing this at some point.  At least, it was for Hubby and me.

I'm going to attempt to leave all our delicious food excursions our of this post in hopes of saving them for my other blog.  It is going to be difficult though because that is, of course, how we began our first morning.*

*I'll give you a hint, we went to a bakery and had pastries, but mine wasn't exactly one you'd normally eat for breakfast.  Think Italian.

To my surprise, or possibly not because I probably have been told this at some time during our marriage, Hubby is a bit of an underwater geek.  When I mentioned the National Aquarium as one of my "Things to Do" choices, he picked it before I could finish my sentence.  We had a few hours to kill before it opened, so we drove around and right into (literally) Fort McHenry.


Although I'm sure when there isn't snow on the ground it is more accessible, I thought the snow added a nice touch.


We went into the museum to discover that it was free to the public for the day and that a tour group was there.  We were able to catch the tail end of their talk.  I learned just how massive the particular flag was that Francis Scott Key was referring to when he wrote "The Star Spangled Banner".  There was a replica of a piece of it in one corner of the museum, and the information explained that the whole flag would have covered one quarter of a basketball court.  The Americans wanted the British to have no difficulty recognizing who they were approaching for their fight.

How very American of them.

As we drove a little more we saw this in the distance...


I knew right away that I liked Baltimore.  How can you not like a place that has a Domino Sugars factory?  


There was also a McCormick's seasonings superstore around the corner from the aquarium that must have had every single seasoning ever created.  I kind of regretted not buying one of everything in the store just so I could have every seasoning I would ever need on hand for the random recipes I tend to make.


I'm going to the Camden Aquarium on a field trip with my class in March.  I'll save most of my aquarium pictures for a post comparing the two aquariums.  Most people in New Jersey swear that our aquarium is better, and based on the last time I was there, I think I agree.  

This was the point in our morning where I realized that my boots were soaking through to my socks, due to the lack of shoveling on the sidewalks down the way from our hotel. 

Keep in mind it was bitter cold out.  

On our way to the aquarium we had to stop in an H&M to get me dry socks because I was already considering my toes a goner.  Don't worry, they're fine now.

At the museum, right away I was mesmerized by the "Dory" fish* which were in the first humongous reef that visitors pass upon entry.

*Note: That is totally not their fishy name, but I'm too creative to call fish by their scientific names.


This turtle who was missing a flipper tugged at my heartstrings.  I wanted to take him home.


That night we went to Hampden which is a neighborhood in Baltimore with a street of cute shops.  We enjoyed ourselves and the different shops, however, the wet and cold of the day did keep us from taking in everything this little town had to offer.

On this trip, we ate more seafood than I think I have ever eaten in my entire life.  Our hotel room had a copy of Baltimore magazine which had an excellent spread on local places to get donuts, candies, cakes, etc.  

Is it bad that when I visit different cities I care more about the food and shopping they have to offer than anything else?  That is basically what our remaining 24 hours in Baltimore involved.  We searched out bakeries and dining locations while incorporating stops at different shopping areas.  Is it bad that while we were at one meal I was already scouring the internet and planning for where our next meal would be?

I hope not.  Because I loved every minute of it.      

Sunday, February 16, 2014

#124 He is My Valentine

I have always claimed Valentine's Day is not one of my favorites.  Don't worry, I'm not changing my mind, I'm just lightening my tone.

You can read about the first time I went public with this statement here: Valentine's Day 2012 and then the second time I reiterated my viewpoint here: Valentine's Day 2013.

The commercialism of this holiday is what has always gotten under my skin.  However, if I'm being completely honest (which I always prefer to be), that commercialism is what is most appealing about the holiday.  Bright pinks and reds decking the lanes of grocery stores, chocolates a plenty, and teddy bears the size of your car---they all make me bubble up inside with child-like excitement.

Then I try to be Joe Cool about the holiday and play the, "We shouldn't only show our love for one another on one day of the year" card.

Duh.  We also shouldn't only buy gifts for others on one day of the year, but I don't see anyone boycotting presents on their birthdays or Christmas.

I know a lot of people stress not losing focus on the origins of Valentine's Day.  I don't think expressing love through food, gifts, or words loses the focus, I think it enhances it.  Just a brief history about St. Valentine (who we can't be completely sure we've got the right guy since there were so many different St. Valentines during this time period---who would have known that Valentine is as common a name as John or Joe?): He was a priest in Rome who was martyred for his Christian faith (which was not allowed).  One of the taboo things he did was to marry Christian couples secretly.  

St. Valentine died defending his faith and enabling those of his faith to be brought together as man and wife.  Valentine's Day is a day we can celebrate our love, and our ability to love and be loved in a country free of persecution of our beliefs.

If you want to pick a fight with a holiday, try St. Patrick's Day.  Nowhere in the history of the life of St. Patrick does drinking, leprechauns, or little buckets of gold come in to play.*

*Note: Of course, it is still a great day to celebrate your Irish pride.

Monday, February 10, 2014

#123 He Shovels

Here are the top ten things you must know about the past month of my life.  These things have literally given me brain freeze which has forbidden me to post about anything else.  I think of something wonderful to write about, but when I realize I haven't addressed these issues, I come to a stand still.


1. It has been ridiculously cold in New Jersey.

I don't know what is going on with my state.  We've experienced cold when it should be warm, and hot when it should.  We've had freezing weather one day, then fall like weather the next; we've had comfortable spring like weather followed by days that are well below freezing.

2. Hubby was away in LA when New Jersey started to get crazy cold.

While Hubby was away, I heard on the radio that the temperature has been so low in New Jersey that if you are under the age of 40, you have never experienced such temperatures before in your lifetime.

That, of course, does not take into consideration those who have visited a location that experiences these temperatures regularly.  In that case, however, I have to wonder why you were even there to start with!

I was afraid for Hubby's sake that he would miss out on this life changing experience.  Lucky for him, the cold has been persistent.

3. The school that I teach at already has four snow days to make up.

Four days!*  And winter isn't even over yet!

*I don't event want to mention the delayed openings we've had.

4. New Jersey has had more snow this year infinity times more than last year.

Out to breakfast with Hubby one Saturday morning last October I jumped like a child on Christmas morning at the sight of monster snowflakes which within moments covered the shopping plaza with a white blanket of beauty.

And that was all the snow I saw last year.

I'm not going to lie, this saddened me a little.*

*Okay, a lot.

5. We had more days off last year for hurricane weather than winter weather.

Hurricane Sandy and her vicious winds brought so many downed trees and therefore power outages that we were off three days last year because of Sandy.  It got to a point where it was actually annoying to be stuck home for another day in a row.

6. The novelty of how cold it has been in New Jersey amazed me at first.

Then I stepped outside early in the morning and after five minutes of trying to defrost my car I began to wonder where the feeling in my gloved finger tips had gone.  It was that moment that I decided I was done with the cold.*

*Let me not forget to mention that the frost was INSIDE my car because there was moisture on the floor from melted snow, etc.  Boy, wasn't that fun!

7. Although there have been enough snow storms that I could compete in the Winter Olympics event of Snow Shoveling* I have only had to shovel snow once.

We have street parking and a short distance of sidewalk to shovel, however, shoveling is shoveling.  It's a thankless task that although you start it thinking, "Golly gee, I'm going to use this instead of my workout today", by the time you have shoveled for five minutes you are ready to plop down on the snow, curse your workout, and cry like a baby.

Thank you Hubby for keeping me from having to do this too often.

*I'm working on the proposal for this event.  It seems like a 'duh' event to me.

8. For the first time in my life, I have disliked snow.

While I was attempting, horribly, to climb on top of a foot of snow to push snow off the top of my Hummer, a man across the street from me said, "You know what I think?"

Me: "What's that"

Man: "I think that when they (nods towards the bar he's shoveling for) go to pay me I'm going to say, I want a ticket to Florida. (He pauses to shovel a little more).  I'm done with this snow!"

Me: Sounds good to me.

Man: "And that'll be a ONE way ticket!"

While I wouldn't agree with the location (Let's see...Rain everyday?  Retirement capital of America?  No thanks....) I certainly shared the sentiment.  I've definitely said, "I'm tired of snow", "I hate the cold" multiple times already.

9. I've allowed myself to grow so sick of the added bite to the temperature that I've forgotten to just deal with it and try to find some beauty in it. 

I know, I know, the cold and the snow starts to give us all cabin fever, especially during a year like this.  We've been treated roughly.  We've had to bundle up.  We've had to start our cars early.  We've had to shovel and scrape.  But, let's face it, we can't change it.  If we can't change it, we might as well try to find a little beauty in it.  After all, things that are beautiful aren't always the most pleasant.

10. Gram turned 81 today.

I know this one is totally un-snow related, but let's see if I can work it in.  Last year when we threw Gram a surprise 80th birthday party it snowed the night before.  So much that I had to wear my fuzzy furry boots with my party dress so that I wasn't heel deep in snow as I filled my car with party supplies.

My Gram rocks.  If you want to know how we celebrated her birthday this year, go over to The Orange Strainer.


Final Note: You would think with a post like this that I would have beautiful pictures compiled of the snow to share with you.  Sorry to disappoint.