Category Archives: my crazy family

Munchie Monday: Byrd’s cookies

byrd's cookies all.jpgLast week my family made our annual pilgrimage to Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Ok, so it’s not actually any sort of religious trip, unless you’re like my aunt and consider a trip to the beach a way to worship the sun. Ever since my daughter was a teeny tiny baby, 8 years ago, my husband’s family has headed to my SiL’s beach house in Wild Dunes (I can actually see my SiL’s house in the picture on this link) and we’ve spent a week together.

I know for many people this probably sounds like a dream. An entire week spent in a house that is not only right next door to a pool, but can also claim the ocean as its backyard, is the stuff that relaxation videos are made out of, right? Clearly anyone who thinks this has never met my in-laws.

I do not mean this post as a condemnation of my in-laws, who on an individual basis are almost entirely great people–except for that one. It is very hard to share a house, even a decent sized one with 15 other people for an entire week. The actual house only sleeps 10 people comfortably (12 with air mattresses), so thankfully four of those people didn’t actually spend the night at the house. My MiL and FiL had a hotel room at the Boardwalk Inn, which is actually right next door. Additionally, two members of my MiL’s extended family also spent the days at our beach house, but their nights at my SiL’s condo in nearby Charleston. However, for pretty much every waking hour of the day, there were 15 people in the house. Seven were children ranging from 8-14. That is a LOT of noise, especially when most of it is contained between two floors with walls that are surprisingly thin.

And don’t even get me started on the nightly “entertainment” from bands at the hotel next door.

But again, that’s not the purpose of this post. Inevitably what happens at some point during this trip, we all get more than a little sick of each other. For my family this means a trip to a matinee one day. It also means at least one lunch and one dinner (and this year one breakfast) away from the basically required family meals to have some alone time. It also means our yearly trip into downtown Charleston, where we always visit the City Market and the surrounding shops.

Despite a serious need for an extended break from everyone around Wednesday, we had a few hiccups and didn’t actually get into town until Friday, our last full day of the trip. I was excited not only to visit some absolute favorites from years past (Charleston Crab House, Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits, The Spice and Tea Exchange of Charleston, and Kilwin’s to name a few), but to discover a brand new shop I’d never seen before: Byrd’s Cookies.

Byrd’s was so new, in fact, that they didn’t even have their official signage up on the building yet. They’d been open for less than a month and had I not seen a sign on their door offering a taste test of cookies when I walked into The Spice and Tea Exchange, we might have walked right on by. I am so glad we didn’t!

Byrd’s may be new to downtown Charleston, but they have been a cookie tradition for over 90 years. They started in Savannah, Georgia with their original Scotch Oatmeal cookie and now have over a dozen varieties, all of which were available to taste test when we went in. Although I wanted to try them all, I was good and only tried about five varieties. All that I tried were really good. It was hard to make a decision about which four varieties to buy (it was buy 3 get one for $1). In the end we decided to let each person in the family pick their favorite.

My daughter picked the Key Lime cookies. These powdered sugar covered cuties are VERY sweet. They definitely have a bright, limey taste to them, with vanilla undertones as the flavor wears down. My kids and husband LOVE them. I am not quite as big of a fan, even though as a rule I love key lime. I don’t like the slightly odd feel the powdered sugar leaves on the roof of my mouth. However, I have never been a fan of powdered sugar covered treats. One of the reasons I avoid many jelly-filled donuts is because they are covered in powdered sugar. I also don’t like the little Hostess Donnettes with the powdered sugar at all. I hate being messy and I HATE when my hands have food residue on them, which I think is part of the problem. The other problem is that powdered sugar always seems to leave a bit of a residue both on my fingers and in my mouth and I am not a fan. Anyone who likes powdered sugar will probably love these cookies though.

Next up were my husband’s pick: the original Scotch Oatmeal ones. These are quite good, although they do have the tiniest hint of a dark molasses flavor to them. Not that I mind, I just wasn’t initially expecting it and it took a few cookies to grow on me. They actually remind me a bit of one of my favorite childhood cookies: Archway Iced Oatmeal cookies. Yeah, I was that strange kids who really loved oatmeal cookies. I still don’t like Oreos at all and I never crave Chips Ahoy! but give me an oatmeal cookie, with or without icing and I’m over the moon. I’ll take a soft, fresh from the oven oatmeal raisin cookie over a chocolate chip one pretty much any day. I just love the creamy sweetness of oatmeal cookies. Although these little guys are crunchy, not soft, they are still amazingly good. They have that wonderfully oaty flavor that always reminds me just a bit of nuts. They aren’t overly sweet, which I think is perfect at times. I couldn’t eat an entire bag in one sitting, but I know I will be reaching into this bag quite a bit.

Since all of us are huge peanut butter fans, it was not a shock that my son picked chocolate peanut butter. These are so creamy and peanutty! With the crunch, they remind me a bit of eating a spoonful of chunky peanut butter (my favorite). The chocolate in them is subtle and really only in hints, which I don’t mind. The peanut butter is clearly the star here and that is great. I love that when I bite into them I can see real chunks of peanuts. These tiny treats are full of even tinier bits of peanut, but packed with tons of peanut flavor.

Byrd's salted caramelNot to brag, but my favorite, are without a doubt, the ones I picked: salted caramel. I know, I just had a post about salted caramel butter cookies. I also know that these days everything is salted caramel and that many people think it is way beyond cliche/overdone/boring now, but I don’t care. I am not a bit ashamed to say I LOVE these cookies. They are utterly amazing and I cannot stop eating them. They are sweeter than the peanut butter chocolate or Scotch oatmeal, but thanks to the salt, not as sweet as the Key Lime, so they are in that perfect sweet spot for me. They are buttery and delicate. They practically melt on my tongue. The caramel flavor is long lasting and simply amazing. No matter how much I try, I cannot stop eating these amazing cookies. Even though I haven’t finished the 8 oz bag yet (although I have come frighteningly close to it), I have already looked online about buying another bag. Now that I know these exist, they are a must have for me. I cannot imagine a world where my pantry is not stocked with them from now on.

Knowing that Byrd’s is now in downtown Charleston has already got me looking forward to next year’s beach vacation, even if it does mean squeezing into a house with 14 other people!

Overall:

Taste: 10/10 for salted caramel (8/10 for the others)
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 10/10 for the salted caramel (8/10 for the others)

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under addictions, chocolate, cool links, cool places, entertainment, food, good days, married life, my crazy family, my daughter, my son, products, ramblings, travel, what makes me me

Wildcard Wednesday: 4th of July

Charleston beach.jpg

This year I decided to take students to the UK during my family’s regularly scheduled trip to the beach. Since the only reason we go to the beach is because my in-laws orchestrate a big family get together there, my heart was definitely more set on the UK trip. Plus, we stay at a beach house my SiL owns, so I knew my husband’s family would be able to be a bit more flexible with the beach week. And if not, it would save me two 12 hour drives to Isle of Palms and a week in the same house with 14 other people, most of whom are only related to be me by marriage.

True to form, as soon as my MiL knew the dates I’d be going to the UK, she arranged for our beach week to be moved. It’s not the first year we’ve had to mix it up, although the other time was also to accommodate a student trip to the UK three years ago. Luckily my trip coincided with my in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary, so they were happy to move things around so we could have a big family party to celebrate this milestone. That trip was scheduled for the end of June and we just missed being at the beach on the 4th of July.

Wild Dunes is a surprisingly popular destination for the 4th of July. Since my in-laws knew two years in advance when my trip would be, it was no problem for my SiL to make sure her beach house was not rented out for the holiday week. So this year we celebrated America’s independence without any sparklers or bottle rockets as setting off fireworks is illegal on the Isle of Palms. For some reason we also didn’t have the traditional cook-out, even though there was a grill at the beach house. We had my FiL’s homemade spaghetti sauce (which I regret to say I am the only who is not a fan of it–too much meat and not enough spice), pasta, garlic bread and salad. It was a perfectly fine meal, if a little strange.

My family did celebrate our independence a bit by going out to a really awesome breakfast at Acme Lowcountry Kitchen. I cannot give them high enough praise. Truly awesome experience. Delicious food, good service, plus we got to eat on the covered patio, which was really nice. I’d been there once before with friends, but I got to introduce my husband and kids to it and they loved it. Especially my son who, despite ordering from the kid’s menu, had way more food than any of us. He was in breakfast heaven.

We spent our day walking the beach and hanging out in the nearby pool, which the kids loved. Both were insanely crowded though. We usually go to the beach over Father’s Day week and even though mid-June is way cooler than July, the beach and pool are never as packed. We actually had someone plop down in front of us on the beach (complete with three beach umbrellas and chairs), partially obscuring our view of the beach, which has never happened before. There were just a lot of people.

Although we had to buck some of our usual 4th of July traditions, we did get to see some pretty cool fireworks, even though they were a little far away. A little after 9 we headed up to the top balcony of the beach house and waited for the city display to start. It was a little slow at first and the fireworks didn’t look very impressive, mostly because they were rather far away, but as the minutes ticked by, the spectacle picked up. The finale, which didn’t happen until about 9:45 was one of the most impressive I’ve seen in awhile. It was gorgeous. My son loved the fact that several of the fireworks formed hearts. My daughter was so tired after a day at the beach and the pool that she completely slept through them!

The only real downside to the day was that the “entertainment” that happens at the Boardwalk Inn next door didn’t stop playing at 10 as usual. Every night during the summer there is a live band next door in the pavilion between two of the pools. The bands begin playing around 7 and have to be done by 10. Since they are outdoor and our beach house is right next to the pavilion, we can hear every single note played. One night, my son was in the bathtub and he yelled out, “Mom, they’re playing ‘Sweet Caroline!'” Then he started singing along. That’s how loud it is every night of our vacation. My husband and I have to listen to mediocre cover bands cover mostly the same songs for at least an hour every night. Even with the TV on watching Netflix, we can still hear the music.

On the 4th of July I was excited to watch an episode of Preacher and figured that the band was going to finish their set with a song or two with their remaining 10 minutes. Nope! Because it was the 4th they played until 11. We still watched Preacher, but had to rewind a few times because the choruses of “Born in the USA” and about half a dozen CCR songs were so loud. It was annoying, but I was glad they didn’t go completely cliche and play “Proud to be an American,” which every other band had played at some point leading up to the 4th.

It was definitely an interesting holiday. I’m glad we went, but I think I’ll be happy to go back to mid-June next year.

Leave a comment

Filed under cool links, cool places, entertainment, married life, my crazy family, my daughter, my son, nostalgia, ramblings, travel, what makes me me

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

Leave a comment

Filed under cool links, cool places, love, motherhood, my childhood, my crazy family, my daughter, my friends, my son, nostalgia, ramblings, what makes me me

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under bad days, my childhood, my crazy family, nostalgia, ramblings, what makes me me

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.

Overall:

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

Leave a comment

Filed under addictions, chocolate, cool links, cool places, food, my childhood, my crazy family, nostalgia, products, ramblings, what makes me me

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.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under cool links, cool places, entertainment, food, love, my childhood, my crazy family, nostalgia, ramblings, travel, what makes me me

Wildcard Wednesday: Sushi Go!

sushi go cardsLast year when I took my kids to Athens, Georgia to visit my best friend, we spent a rainy afternoon at the always delightful Rook & Pawn. Not only did we have some super tasty food (I highly suggest the grilled cheese–Rook & Pawn style), but we also played about half a dozen board and card games.

I LOVE board and card games. For as long as I can remember, I have adored gathering around a table with friends and family to play just about any kind of board, card or charade-like game out there. I like ones that require me to come up with complex strategies and be completely cut throat. I like ones that allow me to play cooperative to achieve a common goal. I like those that allow me to make a complete fool of myself with my terrible pantomime or drawing skills. I even loves those games like solitaire that I can play all by myself. Board and card games are my jam.

While we were at the Rook & Pawn, we discovered an adorable new card game called Sushi Go! None of us had ever played it before, but since it is one of the few games that was nearly age appropriate for my daughter (who was 7 at the time) and still looked like something the rest of us wanted to play, we grabbed the deck, laid out the rules and shuffled the cards.

The game is pretty easy to actually play. Depending on the number of players, each player gets dealt a certain number of cards (in the three player game we played tonight, we each got 9). Everyone looks at their hand, picks one card they want to use and sets it down, face down. Once everyone has their card placed face down, everyone reveals this card and then passes their hand clockwise.

Sounds simple enough, right?

There is strategy involved though as different card combinations earn players different points. For example, the sashimi cards pay off big: 10 points–but only if you get three of them. And, when you keep rotating hands, there is a very real chance you won’t be able to collect three. Especially if other players are also trying to collect them.

As a parent, I think this is a great game because it is simple and goes quickly, which gives kids little time to get bored. There are multiple rounds, so even if my kids don’t win the first (or second) round, since their points add up, they hold out hope to win in the end. I also love the cards themselves. And so does my daughter. The adorable anthropomorphic pieces of sushi are not only cute to look at, but they actually make my daughter care less about her score. She doesn’t quite get all the strategy to the game (it is for ages 8+ and she just turned 8 last month), but she thinks the sushi pieces are “so cute,” that she doesn’t even mind losing. And believe me, any game that doesn’t make one of my kids want to toss the board/cards (they might get that competitive streak very honestly from me–I’ve never actually tossed a board though), is pure gold.

Although we love the game and have played it on each subsequent visit to Rook & Pawn, we don’t actually own it. It wasn’t until Monday, while I was desperately looking for a gift to bring home for my kids after a trip to NYC that I saw the game in a cute mall-like kiosk and had to have it. My daughter chortled with absolute glee when she saw it on the dining room table this morning. And sure enough, as soon as we got home from school, she asked if we could play it. I made them wait until after dinner, but then we gathered together, dealt out the cards and had a lot of un.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under cool links, cool places, entertainment, good days, love, motherhood, my crazy family, my daughter, my friends, my son, products, ramblings, travel, what makes me me