Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Just When You Think You've Seen Everything...You Haven't
In my childhood bedroom I had two closets, yes TWO closets. Every girls dream, right? One closet was exclusively for clothes and shoes, jackets and covered shoeboxes filled with mementos. The other closet was filled entirely with books. I had deep shelves, and stacked books three or four high, neatly lined across. Favorite books were stored within easy reach, books I only re-read once or twice (yes, most books in my childhood were read multiple times) were placed on the higher-to-reach shelves. The bottom shelf of the closet didn’t go all the way to the floor; instead there was a gap - a perfect place for storing extra blankets or large boxes, except I used it as my secret reading place.
I grabbed a flashlight, usually snuck a snack up (sorry Mom, I know there was no snacking between meals!), and curled up in the dark closet reading about the latest Sweet Valley Twin adventures from Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, follow Dicey Tillerman crisscross the eastern seaboard in Homecoming, fight alongside Johnny Tremain and other Revolutionary War heroes, and sail along the Mississippi River with Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. One of my favorites (located on the lower shelves) was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; I always preferred the seriousness of Huck than the childish antics of Tom.
So, imagine my pleasure when I had the opportunity to attend the Huck Finn Jubilee this past Father’s Day weekend. Yes, your weekend had a BBQ and a lie-in, and celebrated Dad’s Day, and mine consisted of 1880’s style contests, Bluegrass music, and an arm wrestling contest, and well, we celebrated my dad on Saturday night with a traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner.
(Side Note: yes, you read that correct. We had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and cranberries because you can’t have turkey without cranberries. Who knows, we might be on to something here. A new tradition of sorts: Thanksgiving for Father’s Day! I think it has a nice ring to it, no? I know my Dad keeps telling me we should be giving thanks for him.)
But, the day was all sorts of wonderful, a bit weird, and extremely interesting. For example, did you know that the Victorville elementary school has a Bluegrass music class which practices 45-minutes daily? Or that playing Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher is a paid gig in which they travel around the country attending festivals and events? Or that an 1880’s authentic style contest included “Cow Chip Throwing.”
Internet, this is all news to me.
But, in all seriousness, J and I had a blast. I mean, how can you not have fun pretending to be on the banks of the Mississippi with Tom, Becky, Huck and Jim? We had drank fresh strawberry lemonade, listened to the best banjo players this side of the Rockies, watched a raft building contest, and watched soldiers from the Blue and Grey participate in a Civil War rifle demonstration (luckily this time they weren’t aiming at each other).
And, when I got home I cracked open my beloved copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and curled up on the couch. Some things never change.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Father's Day Post

Sunday is Father’s Day, and since I haven’t talked much about my goofy Dad I thought a little recognition couldn’t go amiss. Plus he’s been pestering me to write a post about The Greatest Man I Ever Knew (yes, so humble you can almost taste it). So I hereby present you with a list of my favorite memories featuring my dad, and if you would like to add your own favorite memory about your dad in the comments we can all celebrate Dad’s together. And I would have some comments which this blog is sorely lacking. Wouldn’t that be fun?

My Favorite Memories Featuring My Dad:

  • It was June 1999, and we had spent the day at Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. Family vacation and all that jazz. For dinner that evening we went back to the village of Hohenschwangau, we ate outside, and marveled at how empty the village was compared to the morning when it was packed with Japanese tourist. After a fabulous German meal (featuring schnitzel I’m sure) my dad and I decided to walk back up the steep, windy road that takes you to the backside of the castle for a photo op. It would be beautiful, softly lit by the setting sun. I don’t necessarily remember what we talked about on the long walk there and back. But, I do remember how peaceful the walk was, how stunning the castle was, and how much I knew that the moments spent together would replay in my mind countless times.

  • When we were little he used to attack my brother and I with “bellybutton kisses.” It was equal parts hilarious and endearing, and a little embarrassing. You know, just in public and stuff.

  • One summer when I was young (junior high I think?), he and my mom decided to forgo the traditional family vacation and decided to paint the entire house during his two-week “off” time. Every morning he would put in the same Fleetwood Mac CD and listen to it over and over and over. I will never think of Don’t Stop in the same way.

  • Another family vacation took place on the east coast, Washington D.C. in particular, in the summer. And boy, IT. WAS. HOT. The kind of hot that makes your clothes stick to your body, and makes you want to run for the shower the minute you step out of the air-conditioned hotel room. It was so hot that my dad decided that it was too hot to eat lunch. Plus, we had too many museums to see, and monuments to visit. No lunch. He finally caved on the third day when my brother’s stomach growled so loudly that it interrupted the US Supreme Court oral arguments.

I have a million and one more memories I could write up, like the day that my parents flew into Dublin, and I met them at the airport. I was never so happy to see my dad, and thrilled to show him the country that I had fallen in love with. But for today I’ll leave you these (plus, I need to save something for next year!) Dad, I hope you have a fabulous Father’s Day…and remember this post next time I accidently destroy your camera flashcard.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ode to Strawberries

Forgive me Internet, for I did not mean to write two posts about fruit in one month. Obviously I have a problem. But, have you had any strawberries lately? Oh. My. Gosh. They are delicious. I mean, I have always loved strawberries. In high school I kept the nearby fresh strawberry stand in business. Well, me and a few of my friends. I guess after high school, I left strawberries for more exotic fruit like mangoes, pineapples and white peaches. But, I recently rediscovered them. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to “Be Californian, Buy California Grown” and they are everywhere at the farmer’s market. Or maybe their sweet smell is calling me. Who knows? But, let me tell you, I am inhaling massive quantities of them.

I love them plain straight out of the fridge for a morning snack, sliced in a spinach salad for dinner, and then with mascarpone cheese for an after dinner dessert. Don’t even get me started on strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie, chocolate-covered strawberries, or strawberry cake.

Now, excuse me while I go and consume my pint of strawberries. And maybe next week I'll write about cherries?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Travel Quotes

Most people collect baseball cards, or fancy artwork, or beanie babies. (Side note: What do people collect these days?) I collect travel quotes. I have an old beat-up journal that was gifted to me many years ago in which I house all my beloved quotes. I find them in books, from friends, or other travelers. The world is full of brilliant inspirational travel quotes. They all ring true and remind me of why I love love love to travel. I read these when I’m road-weary, or (like now) when I’m itching to pack my bags and head off to a new adventure.

Like this one, for example:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain.

Or this one:

“Travel to new places...forces us to develop greater flexibility as we challenge our most cherished beliefs about the way things should be.” –Jeffrey Kottler

Some remind me that travel isn’t necessarily boarding an airplane bound for a foreign land, but is a state of mind or a way of life.

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”
– Jawaharal Nehru

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
Other quotes humble me, and remind me of how big and beautiful our world is.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
– St. Augustine

And my all-time, absolute favorite quote is the one below from On the Road. I read this (for the first of many times) on the plane heading for my semester abroad in Dublin. It fit so perfectly for the moment I was in.

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain til you see their specks dispersing? It’s the too-huge world vaulting us and it’s goodbye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
– Jack Kerouac

Just imparting a little wisdom for the week. So go pack your bags, travel, dream and grow.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Product of the week: Pineapple easy slicer
I have always loved Pineapples. In fact, when I went to Costa Rica I basically lived off fresh pineapples (and mangos, and bananas, and papayas...and other exotic fruits.) I’ve tried over and over again to eat the canned stuff, but it just doesn’t taste the same. And the frozen chunks just don’t cut it either, great for smoothies, but not as an afternoon snack, so only fresh Pineapple for me. But, Internet, they are so darn hard to cut! I would buy a pineapple, which then spent three days sitting around while I worked up the energy to cut it. Finally, two bleeding fingertips and a sticky counter later, I would have awkward pieces of yellow fruit to savor, but I was either eating the rind and core, or only getting four bites from the fruit. So basically, I never bought pineapple except for desperate times when I would shell out way too much money for a tiny cup of perfectly cubed pineapple from Whole Foods Market.

Enter the pineapple easy slicer from Williams Sonoma. Yeah sure, you can buy a cheaper, wannabe pineapple slicer from Bed, Bath and Beyond, but it’s plastic. And flimsy. And easily breakable. But, the slicer from WS is stainless steel and sturdy, and more importantly...dishwasher safe. If you watch this handy video, it explains exactly how it works. It’s easy as pie (ooh, pie...yum). The pineapple easy slicer ensures uniform rings, in order to maximize the flesh of the pineapple. And, the part they don’t mention is that you can drink the leftover juice right out of the shell – like you’re at your own private tropical resort.

So now I am buying several pineapples a week and I get to devour this sweet, juicy fruit anytime I please. (Well, in full disclosure, I buy the pineapple because I like using the nifty kitchen tool Have I ever mentioned how much I like nifty kitchen tools? I do.)

Just to set the record straight, the score is now: Sara, 1; Scurvy, 0.