Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Off to New Jersey!

We're down in New Jersey for a couple of weeks, visiting my mom and the rest of the NJ family.  No matter how far I roam, and no matter that I lived here for only a short percentage of my life, I will always be a Jersey girl at heart.  Both my parents grew up in NJ and although we were military and traveled quite a bit, we always called NJ our home base.  My maternal grandparents' home was the place we felt comfortable and secure even though we never had a long term home of our own.  My NJ aunts, uncles and cousins were somewhat of a mystery to me because we didn't grow up with them and were unaccustomed to their ways and traditions, but they were family and I always felt like this was where I belonged.  I spent two years at McGuire AFB, attending freshman and sophomore years of high school--a mixed memory of good times and teen angst.  :)  Even after living in Texas for many years, raising my girls there and making some of the best friends ever, I never considered myself a Texan and never felt that same sense of "home" that I have in "Jersey."

After the long flights from Unalaska to Anchorage to Seattle to Philadelphia (anyone who's been reading this blog for long knows THAT drill by now!), we were picked up by Mom and my niece Becca.  It was great to see them and to catch up with news on the way home.  Of course, we had to pick up hoagies for supper--that's what we do just about every time we come in!  My sister in law Patty and nephew Billy also came by to visit that night.

Rich and I took a walk around Laurel Springs one evening--the weather has been perfect, sunny and warm and you know I love that!  Mom grew up in Laurel Springs, my grandparents lived here until they died, I lived here with two of my daughters while going to grad school, so it's definitely the one place that has provided a lot of continuity in my life.  Here are a few photos from our walk.

Welcome to Laurel Springs!
I love all the big old houses here. They have so much character and each one is unique.
Skipping down my Mom's street!  Yes, I am happy to be here!
Lots of vibrant flowers still blooming...and another nice house
Laurel Lake, where the poet Walt Whitman enjoyed his mud baths back in the day
House, tree, owl, moon

Mom belongs to a "Red Hats" ladies group and October was her month to host the rest of the gang.  Rich cooked a fabulous lunch for them and I had a great time helping serve the guests and chatting with  them about Alaska.  A fun time was had by all!

 My Aunt Jeannette, my Aunt Mary, my Mom's cousin Louise and lots of Mom's fun friends

Aunt Mary and Mom

 My Uncle Tom came by to say hi
 My cousin Timmy and his lovely wife Brandi
My Aunt Mary and me

Another night, my brother Bill, his wife Patty and Mom joined us at Jose Garces' restaurant Amada in Philadelphia.  Rich and I ate at one of Garces' restaurants in Chicago and just LOVED it so we wanted to try this one as well.  We had a great selection of small plates that we shared amongst all of us and everything was fabulous.  Jose Garces is my favorite celebrity chef these days. I am a huge fan!  :)  If you ever have a chance to eat at any of his places, don't miss out!

More to come....

Monday, October 7, 2013

20th Anniversary at the Grand Aleutian....and the Blueberry Bash

The Grand Aleutian Hotel, where Rich is Executive Chef, celebrated its 20th year with a big party for the whole community.  Of course, Rich had to work since he and his crew were turning out food for several hours.  My friends and I went for a little while and had a good time eating lots of gourmet hors d' oeuvres and chatting with everyone.

 Tammy and Melanie
 Jane and Sonia
Marisa with some goodies
 Meanwhile, back in the kitchen....

Next up, the Blueberry Bash.  Though it was not the best year for local wild blueberries, the annual event still had a good number of entries and I was lucky enough to be asked to be a judge.  My cohorts Erin and Lauren and I got to taste lots of pies and tarts in one category and candies and confections in another.  Did we draw the long straw or what?!  We were definitely on sugar overload by the time we were finished.

  Just a very small sampling of some of the items we "had" to taste

 Do we have blueberries in our teeth?
Here's the part where the judging is done, the winners are announced, and all the attendees get to eat!

Powder Run

There's been lots going on in our little town!

My friends and I participated in the 5K Powder Run for breast cancer awareness.  Well, we are not runners so we walked.  AND we were at the back of the pack, took a pit stop at Sonia's house, and then were so far behind that we turned around before we reached the halfway point.  Yes, I am admitting we did not do the whole 5K, but we COULD have.  :)   If you're not familiar with a powder run or color run, it's basically a big ole mess where people are stationed throughout the course to throw colored powder on you as you go by.  Since we were way at the end, we were spared the worst of it because many stations were about out of powder by the time we got there.

 Checking in and waiting to start
 The walkers pulling up the rear
 A bunch of pink comin' at ya!

However, at the end, we all got one big dose of color to finish off the day!

 Melanie and Sonia
A little messy, but not too bad!

We had a great turnout of women, men, students, kids, babies in backpacks and strollers, and quite a few dogs.  The Powder Run is for a cause close to my heart since I have had several friends who've dealt with breast cancer. My walk was for my friend Karen, who is doing great, and for my friend Rudene, who is no longer with us.  They have both been a big part of my life for many years and I love them dearly.  Of course, we are ever hopeful for better and better early detection and a cure.