Category Archives: my childhood

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort:First impressions

20191007_100415As often as I’ve been to Disney World and Disneyland, it wasn’t until I was in my 30’s and had kids of my own that we actually started staying on property. In all fairness, when I was a kid we were annual passholders for Disneyland and lived like 15 minutes away, so it would have been silly to stay at the Disneyland Hotel. Although, when we used to ride the monorail over there to shop, I desperately wanted to.

When we visited Disney World in my late childhood, teens and even as a fairly young adult, I had a great aunt who lived in St. Augustine, about an hour and a half away, so we always stayed for free with her rather than shell out money for a hotel. Once my aunt and I drove to Florida for a girl’s trip and decided to stay in Kissimmee, but it was a super budget trip, so we stayed way down the end of the adventure strip at just about the cheapest motel we could find so that we could focus our funds on park tickets and souvenirs.

So far I’ve stayed in a few of the Value resorts and even a Moderate, but until my latest trip with my mom and sister, I’d only ever seen the Deluxe resorts as we passed by/through them on the monorail. My family was actually supposed to stay at the Polynesian Village Resort on our very first trip, but my mother-in-law, who was booking the trip for us had waited too long and all the standard rooms were sold out. We stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter and while we loved it, I was always so sad that I hadn’t gotten to stay at the Polynesian, since it was a dream from my childhood. Luckily, my mom is all about deluxe accommodations and since it was just going to be the three of us girls, when I mentioned my desire to stay at the Polynesian, she said, “book it!”

20191007_114824From the moment I walked in, I was in love! Like everything at Disney, the theming is spot on. If you want a tropical island getaway without actually having to leave the United States, this is the place. From the tiki torches, lush vegetation, and waterfall that greet you as you get off the Magical Express (or come from the parking lot), to the statue who welcomes you as you enter the lobby (see the picture at the top of the post), to the leis the cast members give you at check in (I picked a pink one, but my mom and sister wanted purple), everything screams tropical island. Ok, maybe not screams it. There is such a relaxed vibe, which is apparent from the moment you step off the bus, that it’s more like it sighs and says, “hey, welcome to vacation, you’re gonna like it here.”

20191007_100439-1The lobby is comfy and believe me, I tested pretty much every chair in it. My flight got in about 3.5 hours before my mom and sister’s did and since our room wasn’t ready yet, I had some time to chill in the lobby. Sure, I could have gone shopping at one of the two stores (one in the lobby and one on the second floor), relaxed by one of the two amazing pools, sunned myself on the chairs on the beach facing the lagoon, played games in the arcade or even hopped on the monorail to check out the other two hotels on the Magic Kingdom monorail circuit, but I also had three sets of essays to grade, so I hunkered down in the lobby and started grading. Luckily several of the lamps in the lobby have USB ports in them and I was able to charge my phone while I waited.

Ok, so I didn’t just sit and grade. That would be a dedication I don’t have on vacation, no matter how comfy the lobby is. I graded for about 30 minutes, then wandered around the hotel for 15-20 minutes, then hunkered down for another grading session. Before doing it all again. So yeah, before my mom and sister arrived I did check out the two stores. I was on a mission to find body wash that my cousin wanted from our last trip to Disney, so I figured I might as well look while I was there. Plus, I knew I’d have to bring some kind of souvenir home for my kids, so what better time to look? I loved the name of the store on the main floor: Boutiki!

20191007_100431It was also during one of these little breaks in grading that I discovered the monorail station on the second floor. And yeah, I did take a break and ride the full circle of it. I hadn’t ridden the resort monorail since I was in my teens and although I knew it stopped at the Polynesian, Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, the Magic Kingdom, the Transportation and Ticket Center, and the Contemporary, I didn’t know the order of things nor did I really remember what the other hotels looked like. Since we were going to be using the monorail to get to The International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot twice during our trip (it was the only park we visited), I figured I should figure out the monorail before my mom arrived so she wouldn’t have to worry about it. If you want to check out the ride, you can watch it on my YouTube channel here. The video starts and ends at the Polynesain with the 3-6 minute stops cut out. The entire ride is about 25 minutes.

20191007_110936After I got back from my ride and did one more round of grading, I decided to explore the grounds just a bit more. My mom and sister had texted that their plane had landed and after I guided them through the airport to the Magical Express (it is easy to find, but my mom is an anxious traveler and she was tired from having been up at 4 am), I set off again. This time I just wanted to explore the beauty of the hotel. Because it is simply a beautiful hotel.

20191007_114753Thanks to Florida’s warm climate, they are able to grow tropical flowers, which are all over the grounds. Everywhere I turned, things were lush and green, which was such a departure from my home in Indiana where we were in the final throes of fall and everything was turning that red it does just before it goes brown and dead.

20191007_105444Plus there were all sorts of fun, decorative surprises as I walked the paths around the hotel. Personally, I love all the cut wood signs that helped make me believe that I was in my own little corner of a Polynesisan island. I may not have actually visited Hawaii yet (it’s my goal for 2021), but just looking around me, I felt like I was there. Everything was straight out of the movies and books I’ve read about the islands. And, it was surprisingly quiet. I realize it was about 1:30 in the afternoon and a lot of people were off exploring the theme parks, but as I wandered the paths which run the rather expansive property, I encountered few people and heard no noises that reminded me of the hectic, citified life I’d left behind. I heard the soft beating of drums and island songs pumped in by the speaker systems threaded throughout the property, but that was about it.

20191007_114812Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort really does offer the tranquility of a peaceful island vacation. Unlike the constant bustle and hum of the Value resorts, from the moment I stepped off the Magical Express, I knew I was on vacation. I felt the tension fly from my shoulders and even grading didn’t seem so ominous or overwhelming. I might not get all those essays graded, but that was ok. I was in paradise.


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Wildcard Wednesday: Flying

I took my first plane ride when I was six years old. For many people, this might not seem very impressive, but it was 1981 and people didn’t fly nearly as often. By 1982, I was flying as an unaccompanied minor 2-4 times a year and felt like an old hand in the airplane biz.

As a kid, I loved flying. Since I was flying from Indiana to California (and back again), I had nearly four hours to kill on each plane ride and I filled that time with books, games, toys and snacks…lots of delicious honey roasted peanuts. I was pretty cute back then, so I could always get the flight attendants to give me extra peanuts. In fact, one year, in large part because I was very upset to be leaving a visit with my dad in order to go back home with my mom (who I lived with 10 months out of the year), I was actually allowed to pass out all the peanuts to the passengers. One man was so appreciative he gave me a card with $5 in it. Back then, that was a heck of a lot of money for an 8 year old.

Today I am not quite as enamored of air travel. Knowledge of airplane malfunctions and crashes, no matter how statistically small, have taken their toll. That’s not to say I don’t fly. I still really love traveling, but I’m far more wary when I step on an airplane. I spend the entirety of take off and landing either praying or holding my breath and hoping all will be well. After all, statistically, malfunctions and crashes are more likely to happen at these times. Once I’m in the air I’m usually pretty ok, but the turbulence which used to remind me of the thrill of a roller coaster now has me seriously on edge.

Recently I flew to the UK. The first leg of our flight was from Indianapolis to NYC. We were in a tiny plane and actually in the completely last row of said tiny airplane. We felt every single dip and bump. It wasn’t horrible, but I spent way too much time trying to distract myself from worrying over noises, dips and shaking. Thankfully I had a student I really like sitting next to me and was surrounded by several rows of my other students, which kept things pretty much upbeat. It was the very start of our British adventure and everyone was not only wide awake, but super excited about the trip, so my nerves were mostly ok.

Our flight from NYC to Edinburgh started off pretty well. We got off the ground with no issues and even before we were airborn I found out the vast selection of in flight movies were available, so I settled back and started Game Night, a movie I’d wanted to see when it was in the theaters. Not only do international flights offer a plethora of movies, but they also feed passengers. And often. During those six hours we had two meals and a snack. I wasn’t even half way through with my first movie before the flight attendants were in the aisles offering that initial snack, which was great. I hadn’t liked the sandwich I’d had while we were laid over in NYC, so I gave it away. That bag of snack mix and Coke Zero were very welcome. Not as good as honey roasted peanuts would have been, but I understand the change.

Since I knew we’d have to hit the ground running when we touched down in Scotland the next day, I tried to get some sleep. Despite having a comfy neck pillow, tons of leg room (somehow I’d managed to score a seat that had double the leg space because it was located at the end of the mid section of the plane, right in front of the bathrooms) and a sleep mask, I really couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t just because my seat didn’t recline. I’ve never been successful at sleeping on planes. There is just too much noise (even with earplugs), motion and lack of true comfort.

Although I was quite sleepy after being up for 19 hours and knowing I still had at least 12 more hours to be awake, I gave up and started watching Red Sparrow, another film I’d wanted to see in the theater. I was pretty glad my seat was not near any of my students as I could only imagine the comments I would have gotten from them about the content of the film.

We flew into Scotland during a rather nasty storm that had wind gusts of up to 50 mph. Since we were on the tail end of it, we were able to land safely, but we encountered the worst turbulence I’ve had in my 30+ years of flying. I have never once been motion sick on an airplane, but it took all my concentration not to throw up during that landing. Others on the plane were not so successful. Thankfully none of them sat near me. Unfortunately, several of them were right next to other members of my group, so once we were off the plane, I got to hear very detailed accounts of the vomiting that took place somewhere behind me.

Although the flights may be longer, I really do prefer international flights over domestic ones. I like all the little extras you get: sleep masks, earbuds, movies, extra drinks and food. The food may not be the best, but it’s also not horrible. In fact, on the flight from Heathrow to NYC, I had a truly tasty pizza twist thing. Plus, I got to watch The Greatest Showman, Thor: Ragnarok and most of Bad Moms. Sure, they were movies I’d already seen, but they kept me entertained and happy. Over seven hours on that plane felt like less than the just under two hours from NYC to Indy, mostly due to the movies.

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Throwback Thursday: Creepy dolls

all the dollsOne of my favorite things about going to visit my nana was her collection of porcelain dolls. I was obsessed with them. They decorated just about every room of her house. Every summer when I went to visit my grandparents, I found myself hanging out in the formal living room with the dolls. Not that I was really allowed to touch most of them. They were antiques after all. I was, however, allowed to sit in the room with them and make up names and elaborate stories for them.

terrifying dollsHave you figured out that there wasn’t much to do at my grandparents’ house? My grandparents were older than pretty much everyone else’s. Although my parents had had me in their very early 20’s (my mom was 20 when I was born), my grandparents didn’t adopt my mom until they were in their late 30’s. Even when my mom was a kid, toys had not been a priority for them. My mom was allowed to play with dolls, although “play” might not be the correct word as many of her dolls were very delicate and appeared to be there more for display than play. She did have a collection of Barbies that my nana kept for me to play with, but aside from a very out of tune tiny toy piano, and three baby dolls made of plastic (including the one on the left, which was known as “Kissie” because you could squeeze her cheeks to make her kiss you–just imagine this heading toward your face), the Barbies were the only toys I was really able to enjoy. Sure, I could bring my own toys, but as I was only at their house because I was visiting my dad for the summer, I didn’t even have tons of toys from his house I could bring with me.

intense stare dollThankfully what I did have was a very active imagination and a penchant for making up stories. Even with my own toys, I much preferred the elaborate back stories and plays I made up for them than I did having to play along with other kids. My Barbies, Cabbage Patch Kids and baby dolls all had intricate family relationships (with my other toys), jobs, hobbies, talents, etc. The hours I spent at home with my own toys helped me during those times I had no choice but to play on my own and truly create hours of entertainment for myself. A less creative child in that environment would have gone crazy.

But I LOVED those dolls. All of them.

As I grew older, and my nana did too, her ability to care for her precious antiques began to wane. The dolls, which had once been meticulously cared for, including regular cleaning and rotation so they didn’t get sun damaged, were neglected. It’s not that my nana no longer cared about her collections, but more that she was unable to really care for them. In her last decade of life, I’m not actually sure how often she even made it back to the formal living room where the majority of her dolls resided. Not that her house was huge, but her mobility was so limited that she rarely did more than go from bed to the the living room, with occasional stops in the bathroom or kitchen when really needed. And since she never made it back to the living room, I don’t think any of her many, many cleaning ladies did either. Why bother if the boss won’t see it?

creepy lighting dollAs a result, over the last decade I’ve watched the dolls I grew up loving and sort of playing with slowly morph into creatures from horror films.  I think the first time I saw the transition was when I introduced my husband to my nana. Although she wasn’t really up for it, I gave him the “grand tour” of the house, spending extra time in the living room and telling him how much time I used to spend playing with the dolls. He gave me a dubious look.

“Really?” he asked. “You played in here? Why? These things are awful.”


At first I figured it was a rather typical reaction by a guy who’d never known the joy of playing with dolls. But, as I looked a bit closer, I started to see that it wasn’t my husband who had a warped sense of childhood imagination. It was my beloved dolls that were warping.

The damage wasn’t quite enough to change my love for them though. After all, I had spent so many hours of my childhood with them that I could ignore a few flaws. As my children came along and got old enough to listen to me and keep their hands off, I showed them the dolls as well. My son thought they were strange, but much like me, my daughter liked them. She wanted to play with them, but I reminded her they were delicate and she was not allowed to. To my great surprise, my nana actually gave her one of the dolls that was still in pretty good shape. It was dressed in a blue crocheted sweater that was not exactly clean, but the doll itself was lacking any major damage. My daughter cleverly named him Blue Baby. He now resides on a high shelf in her room, but I do take him down and let her play with him from time to time.

doll with cracked faceThe rest the dolls, however, were starting to develop serious damage from years of neglect and exposure to the sun. I’m sure the fact that some of them were already over 100 years old probably didn’t help. But many of them were literally cracking up. I mentioned this fact to two of my friends, who happen to be sisters, as we were out to dinner one night. We were all talking about aging parents and grandparents. She replied that she’d always found antique dolls creepy. I was surprised considering how much I’d loved them and even collected porcelain dolls myself as a kid (although they were not antique or of any real value–we got them at swap meets).

The next time I was at my nana’s house, I snapped a few pictures of some of her more degraded dolls and texted them to my friends. One of my friends loved how creepy they were and begged for more pictures. Her sister, however, sent me emojis with horrified expressions and begged me to stop giving her nightmares.

doll with receeding hairAfter that, it became a kind of game. I’d look for the creepiest of my nana’s dolls and text them to all of my friends. The creepier the doll, the better the responses. One friend told me if my nana was ever looking to get rid of them (which I knew she would never do as she still saw them as valuable), she’d like them to put out in her yard for Halloween. Another wondered if my nana’s house might have a secret opening into the gates of hell–I told her it would explain the constant smell of sulfur (her house is supplied with water from an old well). My doll texts and posts on FB became a source of great amusement and horror to my friends and family.

When I sent one of the texts to my friend who finds the dolls the most horrifying, she was appalled as it looked like the doll’s brains were coming out. It was actually just a wig separating badly from the doll, but when I looked at the picture again, I too saw something straight out of a zombie movie.

wind up crawling babyIt’s sad to see beloved memories of my childhood disintegrating. With my nana’s recent passing, the fate of the dolls gets even sadder. While I did love them in my childhood, I have no place for them in my life. Even if they were in good shape, my house just isn’t one where antiques fit in. Even her antique furniture, some of which my husband really likes, would look odd in our house. And we are definitely not a display kind of house, so even her few dolls that are in decent shape, can’t find a space here. Much to my daughter’s dismay, we’ll have to make due with just hosting Blue Baby.


Thankfully after my nana died, my mom had a company come in to take everything we didn’t want out of the house–separating into a junk pile headed for the garbage and a sale pile heading for an auction. This meant that I was saved from having to actually deny my daughter the ability to bring any of the dolls home. This was definitely important to me as one of her most coveted items was what I can only describe as baby weeping angels. I’m actually not sure which I am more terrified by, the grown up ones in the Whoniverse or baby ones I found sitting on my nana’s back patio.

I’ll let you be the judge.

weeping angels

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Throwback Thursday: My nana’s basement

centipedeGrowing up, I thought my nana’s house was like a castle. From the outside, it looks huge. Or at least it did to my childish eyes. My grandparents were the only people I knew who had a formal living room that was dedicated to all of her antique dolls and furniture. All the really good antiques, the ones she didn’t want anyone to touch, were in that room. The rest of the house was also decorated with antiques, but they were the the every day common ones. Everything about her house screamed museum, which is why I found it so mesmerizing and palatial.

As an adult, I saw a very different side to the house. Yes, there were still all of the antiques, although most were more than a little worse for wear, and it still had the gigantic formal living room which even she rarely ventured into, but as a grown up, I realized how small it was. I think it might have been buying my own house, which looks small from the front, but when you walk in actually has 2000 square feet upstairs and an additional 1450 in the finished basement, that made me realize my nana’s house was kind of small.

Unlike mine, her house looks big from the outside. In fact, it looks like it is two stories. However, the second story is really just an unfinished attic that runs over 3/4 of the house (and is hot as hell AND has the most dangerous steps I’ve ever been on actually leading up to it). While the formal living room and the family room are pretty big, the rest of the rooms, including the master bedroom, are pretty small. And, there are only two bedrooms and one bathroom. It does sit on nearly an acre of land, but it’s land that is right in the middle of the small city she lives in, so suddenly the “estate” seemed pretty small.

basement stairsIn all my years visiting my nana, I knew she had a basement, which is another bit that technically makes the house seem larger than it really is. However, in all of my 43 years, I’d never actually been in it. It wasn’t until yesterday, when I went up to visit my mom and finalize some paperwork for my nana’s estate, that I ventured down there.

When my nana passed away at the end of April, my mother inherited her childhood home (my nana lived in the home for 78 of her 98 years). My mom, who lives in North Carolina, has no desire to become a landlord and definitely no desire to move back to her small hometown, so she got the house cleared out, cleaned up and put it on the market.

Even though she had professional cleaners come in and do a thorough cleaning specifically to get the house ready to go on the market, it never occurred to anyone to go down and clean up the basement. It wasn’t until the first person came to view the house and mentioned the cobwebs in the basement that the realtor asked us if we’d mind doing a little cleaning up in the basement. Wanting to help my mom, I said, “sure.”

How bad could it be?

Nana's creepy basementOH MY GOODNESS! It was a nightmare. First off, since the house had been cleared out of basically everything, we had no cleaning tools. What we had were a broom and a duster type tool. What the basement had was more layers of cobwebs than I have seen anywhere, even in professional haunted houses. How this basement didn’t have either dead bodies or psycho killer lurking in it is beyond me.

As I took hold of the broom and started to sweep away the cobwebs, I saw hundreds of insects that looked positively prehistoric hanging above my head. At first I thought they were just terrifyingly large spiders. And some of them were. But I soon realized that most of them had far too many legs to be spiders. They were centipedes. Hundreds of centipedes.

While I truly believe most of them were long dead, I forced myself not to think about it and just keep batting away at the cobwebs and hoping nothing fell on my head. While I have no direct proof anything did drop down on me, my skin was crawling the entire time. A part of me wanted to do a good job. I want this house to sell. The other part of me just wanted to throw that broom and run screaming up the stairs.

I am not usually squeamish about bugs. I trap and release spiders in my house all the time. When it rains, we get ants and I kill them, usually with my fingers, and move on. But for the rest of the night, I was positive there were bugs on me. I felt like some sort of stereotypical drug fiend on a bad trip in some horrible B movie. I just felt them crawling on me. They weren’t, of course, but that did not make my skin less itchy or my brain forget all those carcasses.

Even today I keep getting flashes of those bugs and phantom itches on my skin. I told my mom that I better be forgiven those 27 hours of labor she likes to remind me about from time to time. Just stepping into that horrid basement was a labor of love. Helping to clean it up a bit…that was above and beyond the call of daughterly duty!

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Wild card Wednesday: allergies

When I was five or six, I had a crazy allergic reaction to Mr. Bubble. My aunt was babysitting me at my dad’s house. She must have brought the bubble bath with her, because I’d never used it before. All I know was that within minutes I was howling to get out of the tub (which I NEVER did as I have always adored baths) because my skin was burning. Sure enough, I had a rash on a good portion of my body and I was itchy. She called my dad, who was on duty as an EMT, who brought the ambulance over to the apartment to check me out. I was, of course, ok, and after an antihistamine, I conked out. In the morning nothing remained of my bespectacled back side.

For years I refused to use any sort of bubble bath and despite Mr. Bubble’s claim that in 2008 a new company acquired the product and switched to a gentler formula, I am wary.

It’s sort of a strange allergy to have though. Whenever I’d go to medical appointments and they’d ask if I had any allergies, I’d get slightly red faced and reply, “only Mr. Bubble.” Doctors would usually smile or chuckle, assure me I’d be fine and we’d move on.

It wasn’t until I had surgery for the first time in my early 30’s that I discovered I am also allergic to Demoral. At least I think that’s what it was. In all fairness, I was pretty out of it with pain. All I know is that I had a button I could push for pain meds and when I pushed it, I was violently ill in seconds. Since I had nothing in my stomach, all I could do was dry heave. Dry heaving is bad enough, but I’d had surgery to remove some rather large fibroids and in order to get to them, they had to mess with my stomach muscles (my scar is basically a C-section scar). It was the most horrific pain I’ve ever been in. They quickly switched me over to morphine and my life improved greatly.

But, aside from Mr. Bubble and Demoral, allergies have never really bothered me, until last week.

I have no idea what toxic bit of nature my body has decided to rebel against, but on Friday I had my first bout with what far too many people regularly suffer from. It was terrible. I was so stuffed up I could barely breathe. My throat felt raw and also blocked from all the horrible mucus raging through my body. My eyes ached. My head ached. I had no energy. All I wanted to do was sleep, and I am not a napper. But I took so many naps that day.

Thankfully my kids were wonderful. They brought me many, many cups of water. They let me nap and kept as quiet as possible (without totally destroying my house). They agreed on some sort of truce, so they only yelled at each other like once the entire day.

I took some of my husband’s OTC allergy medicine, but it had almost no effect. Turns out I had managed to find an expired bottle. I didn’t realize it until the next morning when I still felt bad, although remarkably better, and went to take another pill. When I saw the expiration date, I realized why the meds had had almost no impact, so I searched through the medicine cabinet until I found a new box of allergy meds and took one. That batch actually did some good.

By Monday I felt a lot better and thought that whatever had been in the air must be out of it. Sadly, I took comfort too soon. While I am no longer miserable and have been able to breathe freely for several days now, apparently my head is still full on congested because this morning I woke with some of the worst vertigo I’ve had in years.

I don’t get vertigo that often anymore, but for awhile, it was a regular occurrence in my life. I had high strength prescription decongestants and antivert, which doesn’t so much make me less dizzy as it does put me to sleep so I don’t care about being dizzy. But since I haven’t had an attack in a few years, I no longer have either of those two and my morning was really hard. I did have some generic Sudafed, which must have helped a bit because while I still get major waves of dizzy when I move a lot (or move my head at all), by mid-afternoon I could at least function.

I really  have to get this cleared up as I leave for the UK in 6 days and there is no way I can handle a whirlwind UK tour with 18 students when I feel like the floor might fall out from under me.

Although in many ways I know I have been lucky not to suffer from these allergies for the last 43 years, I am also very put out that suddenly, at age 43, my body has decided to plot against me and develop some new allergy. Stupid allergies!

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Chocolate Monday: Baker’s Square pie

baker's square.jpgPeople grieve in many different ways. Recently, my nana, who was 98, passed away. I’m not sure I can quite explain how her death has impacted me. It’s been such a strange roller coaster of emotions for me. Nana was a difficult grandmother to have. She was the master of the back handed compliment and her passive aggressive comments about my weight over the course of my life did quite a number on my psyche.

One of my strongest memories of her was after taking me on a shopping trip (which she did every summer when I’d go and stay with her), she turned to me and said, “You know, you’d be so pretty if you just lost weight.” I tried so hard to hear the part where she thought I was at least remotely pretty, but all I could hear was the “fatty” part of it.

Comments like this probably make her seem like a horrible grandmother, especially since that while I was a bit overweight as a child/teen, I have never been actually obese. But comments like these are only one side of my nana (if a very, very vocal side). On the other hand, Nana played Uno for hours with me. She bought me rye toast (which I loved) and made it for me every morning for breakfast. She let me play with the antique dolls. She got me dance lessons when I wanted them. She bought me Debbie Gibson’s Electric Youth perfume and a pair of LA Gear high tops. She cried every time I had to go back home.

One thing she never let me do, however, was eat sweets. Dessert was never an option at Nana’s house. Not for me, and not for my mom when she was growing up. Like me, my mom has some major food issues and they all point directly back to Nana. Unlike me, however, my mom and my nana were never close and had a very antagonistic relationship. I could forgive my nana a lot because I only had to see her once a year when I was a kid and half a dozen as a grown up (and always on my terms). My mom was not so lucky and has a lot more baggage.

When my nana got sick, my mom flew in from North Carolina to stay with her, so when my nana passed away, Mom was staying at her house. I came up the day before the funeral to help my mom out. I had to stay the night, but Nana’s house only has two bedrooms and there was no way I was sleeping in her bed. I told my mom I was getting a hotel. She loved the idea and offered to pay for us to have a night away from everything. I think we both needed it.

On our way to the hotel, my mom spied a Baker’s Square. Neither of us had eaten at one for years, but as we neared it, my mom quietly asked if we could stop and get pie. I looked at her kind of oddly and said, “of course we can get pie.” She looked at me very seriously and said, “oh my God, we can get pie. We can get all the pie we want and we don’t have to hide it or pretend we don’t eat it or get scolded for it.” In that moment, I realized my mom was having a rather profound grown up moment. After over 60 years, she was finally 100% free to live life on her terms.

I swung into that parking lot and boldly announced: WE CAN HAVE ALL THE PIE!

And we did.

We struggled a bit with the pie menu because it is rather enormous. On any given day they have over 2 dozen pies to pick from. That is a LOT of pressure for your first true taste of freedom. We were both a little overwhelmed. I pointed out a few that sounded tempting and my mom ordered them. Then she kept ordering. Since we both wanted to try the French Silk and the Caramel Pecan Silk, I thought we might be sharing them. But no, my mom was so giddy with her new found freedom, that she ordered us both pieces. We also each got a slice of lemon pie. Mine was Lemon Supreme and hers was Lemon Meringue (I hate meringue).

We may have gotten more than a little tipsy that evening as we talked through years of pent up feelings and emotional scars. And then we started in on the pie. I placed all three of my pies in front of me and began to nibble, taking a few bites of each before switching over to the next one.

The Lemon Supreme was fantastically tart. Without all that nasty meringue to muck it up, it was pretty great. It’s basically a light cheesecakey bottom with a layer of tart lemony gel on top. Add a few dollops of whipped cream and it’s a light (it taste and texture, not calories) treat perfect for summer.

The Caramel Pecan Silk was also pretty tasty, however, it had a bit much going on with it to be truly spectacular. It looked a bit like pecan pie on the bottom layer, but didn’t have quite the taste or consistency of it. Next was a layer of what they call “supreme filling,” which is a bit cheesecake-like. It’s lighter than a full on cheesecake, but similar enough in both taste and texture to immediately remind me of one. Then there is a French Silk layer. Separately I am a huge fan of all three of these, but together they were a bit too much of a hybrid for me. Not that I didn’t eat it all eventually.

To no surprise, my absolute favorite was the French Silk. I have always been a French Silk girl. There is little I love more in life than any sort of chocolate pie, but a chocolate silk pie???? That is just heaven on a plate. And this one was really good. It was light, it was airy, it was the perfect blend of chocolate and cream. It was simply amazing. It was the only piece I actually finished that night. The other two got partially eaten and stuck in the mini fridge. Don’t worry, I made sure to eat them for breakfast.

I have to say that although I really did like the pie, my judgement may be a bit biased on this one. Those were so much more than simple slices of pie for my mom and me. They were much needed bonding and a healthy does of freedom. Turns out that freedom tastes pretty darn good.


Taste: 8/10
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 8/10

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Travel Thursday: NYC Firefighters

firefighters memorial.jpgI am the daughter of an amazing fire fighter. Or at least my dad was an amazing fire fighter. He had to retire about 8 years ago due to his cancer diagnosis. Although he still very much wanted to keep right on working while he battled, during his second surgery to remove the cancer, they had to take his adrenal glands and he basically lost his fight or flight response. Even though when he retired he was a fire chief and his days of running in to burning buildings were already behind him, after the surgery he no longer trusted himself to make those split second emergency decisions that could send his brothers into danger.

Even after he retired, he still did volunteer work for the local fire department from time to time. He used his extra time to build up his backyard railroad, which was rather impressive. Not only did the HO scale trains run all around the entire yard (including running through a “tunnel” he cut in the shed), but he built amazingly intricate town buildings. The most fantastic was the town’s fire department, complete with model fire trucks and ambulances. Both of my children were in complete awe of it. It may have gone to my son’s head that Pop Pop even named the town after him.

My dad’s model fire station was the last in a series of model fire trucks and ambulances he started building even before I was born. To say my dad was obsessed with all things firefighting is like saying Einstein was interested in math or that Walt Disney had a decent imagination. Growing up, our house was basically a firefighting museum. If it had to do with firefighting, my dad collected it.

One of his most extensive collections was his patch collection. Anytime my dad went anywhere, he took along fire patches from whichever department he was on (he was always on at least two–one professional and one volunteer). When we were on vacation, he would seek out fire stations, stop in, chit chat with the guys on shift and then trade patches with them. Once, when we were in Wisconsin visiting the Dells, there was an accident on the water near the cabins we were staying in. My dad stopped to see what was going on and found out they were waiting for their divers to show up to help. Despite the fact that we were on vacation, he had all of his gear with him, so he pulled out his diving gear and joined in the rescue effort. He’d already spent a few hours with the guys on the department earlier in the week and they welcomed his help. That was my dad.

Firefighting has been such a part of my life, that even though I have lived on my own for 24 years now, I still find myself almost compelled to stop into fire stations or buy fire engine knickknacks, even though my dad passed away nearly 6 years ago. I stop myself, of course, but I when I see these things, I can’t help but stop and think about how much my dad would love them.

FDNY stationWhich is why I found myself standing in front of Ladder Co. 10/Engine Co 10 across the street from the World Trade Center in NYC, just staring at the building. All I could think about was how much my dad would have loved seeing this place. I remember how devastated he was after 9/11. He actually designed a fire engine for his department (which they had made and then purchased in 2003) that honored his fellow firefighters who were killed during the attacks. He was immensely proud of that truck and I know he would have been even more in awe of this building than I was. Although I knew he would never see the photo I took of the building, I felt compelled to take the photo. He would have wanted me to. In a small way, it felt like a tribute to him.

It wasn’t until the next evening when I was on my way to O’Hara’s to have dinner with a group of colleagues that I stumbled on the FDNY Memorial Wall right around the corner from the actual station. I told everyone else they could go on ahead if they wanted to, but I had to take the time to read it and take pictures. Once again, I knew my dad would want me to. It was touching and sad. It was my greatest childhood fear realized for so many families. I had to wipe away a few tears.

O'Haras wallThankfully O’Hara’s itself was so noisy and crowded that it was hard to be sad inside it, otherwise I might have started blubbering, despite eating dinner with three near strangers. All along every surface were patches. They were a mix of firefighter, ambulance and police patches, but they were right there where I could run my hands over them and suddenly I was thrust back to my dad’s own fire station where he housed the majority of his patch collection once it got too large for our house. My dad would have been in absolutely heaven here. This wasn’t some showy tourist place, but an actually kind of divey place that actual firefighters and cops hang out at. It reminded me of the kinds of places my dad used to frequent with his buddies. The food was mediocre, but there were a bunch of different burgers and plenty of beer and the prices were very reasonable (especially for NYC). I closed my eyes and had a vision of my dad sitting at a table eating a cheeseburger and drinking an O’Doul’s while half watching a football game as one of his buddies went on about something.

I may not have been thrilled with the food, but it reminded me so much of my dad that I didn’t mind. I even had a beer in his honor. Well, ok, it was a cider, but it was as close to beer as I get, so I think it counts.


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