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I had an amazing time last weekend just being a kid again.
Two of my favorite people in the world, Emma and Peter, were in town with their 22-month-old daughter Gabriella. She is the textbook definition of “cute kid,” and I’m pretty sure if encyclopedias still existed (remember those things?), you could look up “ideal toddler,” and her picture would be pasted all over the pages.
It was a hot summer afternoon, and Bryan and I spent most of the day soaking up the cuteness that Gabriella had to offer. Of course we spent time chatting with our adult friends, but baby-watching was so much more entertaining than anything on TV.
It was hard for me to keep up with Gabriella’s endless imagination. Who knew that pouring invisible tea and eating plastic crumpets was so fascinating?
At the same time, watching a child’s mind run wild is so humbling. Remember those days when playing with a pot, a wooden spoon, and an old shoebox could last for hours? During our time with Gabriella, we watched her:
• Cook imaginary pancakes and eggs–and if you tried to eat them before blowing on the spoon, her eyes would widen and she’d wave her hands, crying “HOT!”
• Admire a blade of grass and handle it as delicately as a baby praying mantis.
• Contently dig her wet feet deep in a pile of dirt.
• Splash around in a baby pool, completely unaware of the chill of the hose water.
• Discover countless ways to play with plastic cups: throwing them in the pool, wearing them as shoes, filling them up with water and showering herself, tossing plastic ducks into them, wearing a cup as a hat…
• Stop doing whatever she was doing outside to look up at the sky and shout, “PLANE!”
…Which is a perfect segue into how Bryan and I spent the following day–Plane watching!
Even though I have a mortgage and pay taxes, I still like to think of myself as a kid at heart. Gabriella does the happy dance when an airplane engine roars overhead–and so do I!
Bryan, fully aware of my childlike obsession with big, loud flying things, drove me last Sunday over the bridge to Pennsylvania for some real plane watching. I’ve written here before about watching planes land from Red Bank Battlefield, but that is nothing compared to being right next to the airport.
Our first stop was Fort Mifflin, an historic site from the Revolutionary War era, that just so happens to be located right next to Philadelphia International Airport.
I nearly peed myself when we first drove up to the place. I get so excited when I see planes close up! As we were driving, a jet flew right over our car, and I scrambled like a starstruck fan trying to snap a picture of a celebrity. It reminded me of being in Los Angeles, when Bryan and I were driving in LAX territory and planes zoomed directly over the highway.
We hung around Fort Mifflin for a while, snapping fun photos of plane after plane descending into the airport. We didn’t bother paying admission and actually going inside the Fort; just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we have to pretend to be interested in historical stuff. We were there for the planes!
Things got even better when Bryan told me that if we drove to the other side of the airport, we could see planes taking off. I had no idea the public could get so close to the airport and that a magical access road surrounded the entire place. Him telling me this reminded me of when my parents would say, “Hey, let’s go to Clementon Lake Amusement Park tonight!” REALLY?!?!?!
Turns out we weren’t the only ones parked next to the airport. We saw several other people there for fishing, biking, (illegal) motorbike racing, and some older guy driving his convertible around the loop, over and over again.
I plastered myself against the chain-link fence and watched planes race down the runway. I swear, no matter how technologically advanced our society gets, there is still something jaw-dropping and amazing about metal tubes with wings flying through the sky, transporting 100, 200+ people across the ocean. (As Louis CK says, “You’re sitting in a chair…in the sky.”)
Moments like this remind me that age really is just a number. I may not be able to occupy myself for 20 minutes with invisible eggs and a child-size frying pan, but I can stare up at the sky for hours, pointing at the metal birds above, shouting, “PLANE!”
Now that we’ve booked our trip to Walt Disney World, I have to work harder than ever to really live in the moment and not to get caught up in that giddy “I can’t wait!” anticipation of an upcoming vacation. There are less than 2 months to go before we board our Southwest jet to Florida, but that time frame is both agonizingly long (I want to see Goofy NOW!) and also painfully short (we return from our trip just a few weeks shy of the start of FALL!). Summer is my absolute favorite season of the year, and I don’t want to spend every gorgeous 90-degree day wishing that it was September, because once fall arrives I’ll just wish that it was summer again! You can see how this unnecessary cycle of longing just causes suffering, and you’d think after all these years of yoga and going to Tibet and pouring over Buddhist texts that I’d get the point, but the truth is–it’s a work in progress.
But the point of this post is not meant to be about Eastern philosophy; rather, Western gluttony. I’m talking about FOOD, and lots of it.
I love pixie dust, nightly fireworks, Mickey Mouse, and a hotel with a geyser that erupts every hour on the hour, but one of the best parts of a Disney vacation is the eats, especially when you get your meals for free (thanks to the free dining plan offer we received as part of our package). Bryan and I love sitting down beforehand and mapping out which restaurants we want to try/return to/skip and how they all match up with which park we need to be on which day. For example, if we’re planning to see the Main Street Electrical Parade on Tuesday, then we best be eating dinner in the Magic Kingdom area that night!
The dining plan includes per person, per night: a snack, a counter service meal, and a sit-down restaurant meal.
Snacks include basic things like an espresso, popcorn, and soda, but also way more fun treats like:
Counter service meals at WDW are plentiful, with many food options (the same cannot be said for Disneyland, unfortunately). Some of our favorite, standby quick-service places include:
… Sunshine Seasons, located in The Land pavilion at Epcot, which has four different food stations with lots of options
… Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland, Magic Kingdom, where for the past 4 years I have stuck with my trusty veggie burger/Fixin’s Bar combo (I love fixins!)
… Pizzafari at Animal Kingdom and Pizza Planet at Hollywood Studios. At home I don’t like eating pizza more than once a month, but at WDW I’ll eat these babies 3 times a week:
… and finally, the Tangierine Cafe in the Morocco pavilion, Epcot.
The best part of the dining plan are the sit-down meals, of course, especially when you’re getting the plan for free. Meals can range anywhere from $20 an entree to $50 a plate (especially when you do a buffet), and the food is almost always spectacular.
Because of the free dining plan offer, reservations at the hottest restaurants are being snatched up fast, especially because Disney opens online reservations 180 days in advance of your stay. Bryan and I booked our trip with only 2.5 months to spare, so it was our priority to get our meals in order. We’ll be staying at the resort for six nights, which means we have six formal restaurant options. After much debate and menu examining, we finally narrowed down our list and made our reservations.
Isn’t the suspense killing you? (or am I the only one who gets overly excited about Disney dining?)
Four of the restaurants are repeat visits. We’ve done ’em before, we love ’em, and we keep coming back:
1. Whispering Canyon Cafe, Wilderness Lodge (our resort!). The name is ironic, because this place is loud, boisterous, zany, wacky, and loads of fun. There are horse races, ketchup wars, and servers who throw straws at you.
2. Boma, Animal Kingdom Lodge. A generous buffet of African and African-inspired foods. Lots of flavors and textures, way beyond the traditional theme-park food. Be prepared to lengthen the belt a bit after eating here.
3. Kona Cafe, Polynesian Resort (mostly for the dessert).
4. Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom. Another buffet, but this time with characters!
Our other two selections are new for us, but we’re looking forward to trying out:
5. Teppan Edo, in the Japan pavilion at Epcot; and
6. Yak & Yeti, Animal Kingdom.
Bryan and I never eat this much at home, but we’re able to do so in WDW because all we do all day is walk (in 90+ degree weather!). I wore a pedometer throughout our last trip, and our daily distances averaged between 8 and 10 miles. Plus, Disney food isn’t any old food–it’s fun! I watch my sugar intake at home, but it all goes out the window at Disney:
…Although I’ll admit, aside from being sad about leaving the Happiest Place on Earth, one of the hardest parts about coming home from WDW is going through some serious sugar withdrawal. And general food withdrawal, too! My stomach is always confused for the first few days after returning, wondering why I’m not eating 454879548 calories a day.
So with all that said, of course I am looking forward to going to Disney World and eating my brains out, but as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, now that all of our reservations are set and confirmed, the only thing I have to worry about now is enjoying the present moment, like the Jersey Devil tomato growing in our driveway:
Time to savor the moment before it’s too late!
When my great aunt died in March, two deaths actually occurred: hers, and the house in which she lived.
My aunt was the last person living in the Northeast Philly rowhome that had been part of the family since the 1930s, when my great-grandparents came to America from Poland. My great-grandfather died early, my grandmother got married and moved to New Jersey, and then for several years the house was occupied by my great-grandmother and her other three children–my Uncle Cas and my Aunts Adzia and Stasia.
By the time I came into the picture, my great-grandmother, Babcia, was very sick. Most of my memories of her involve her sitting in the corner chair in the living room, colostomy bag strapped to her side.
Her English was poor, and she spoke mostly in Polish. As a small child, a very old woman with a pee bag who spoke in a foreign tongue was somewhat frightening, and I hated when she’d scold my aunts for scratching my back and letting me watch the mini-series V.
I was 6 when Babcia died. I remember several events of that day, starting from being at home and my mom asking me if I wanted to go over to Babcia’s house for the afternoon. Of course! I said, because I knew either Adzia or Stasia would give me something cool, like a new coloring book or toy. My mom warned me that Babcia was very sick; I was OK with that. What I didn’t know then as a child was that Babcia was actually dying, and my mom had gotten a call that this was the end. By the time we crossed the bridge and got into Philly, Babcia had died. I was quickly ushered upstairs into Babcia’s old bedroom (which she hadn’t used in years; she had been sleeping in a hospital bed downstairs) and was told to stay on the left side of the bed, on the floor, and play with the Valentine’s puzzle I had just gotten. Everyone was crying and running around the house looking for papers, but I was content putting together my candy heart puzzle in the “purple room,” which until then I had never been allowed in.
After Babcia died, my Aunt Adzia finally had a place to sleep. Until then, she had been sleeping on a mat in the middle of the living room (nevermind the fact that “purple room” remained vacant, but apparently it was viewed as some kind of shrine to Babcia). The front room of the house was eventually transformed into Adzia’s bedroom.
For years, the three siblings lived together in the house, and every Friday afternoon my mom, grandmom, and I (and eventually my sister) would drive over the bridge to visit them. We’d go out dinner, go shopping (usually at Ports of the World, which we termed “The Biggie” because of its massive size), and then have dessert back at the house in the kitchen.
My Uncle Cas was a man of mystery. He’d come home from work around 4:30, sleep till 8 or so, and then go out for the night with his fiancee Mary Ellen. I never understood how someone could just be going out for the night that late!
Even his bedroom was a mystery. The door was always closed, and I was warned over and over again not to go into Uncle Cas’ room. To this day, I still don’t know what made the room off-limits. Was it just plain old messy? Did he have girlie posters hanging? Was there porn stashed everywhere?
Uncle Cas was the youngest but the first of the 4 siblings to die. He didn’t know it at the time, but when he came to my wedding in 2004 and had trouble eating the food, it was because he had colon cancer.
My Aunt Stasia, the second youngest and most religious of the siblings, was the next to pass away.
Her illness was drawn out for years. At first she refused to leave the house, then the upstairs, then her bedroom. My Aunt Adzia waited on hand and foot. Her bedroom, once a fancy “beauty parlor” in my young eyes, turned into a dark and depressing psychiatric ward. She died in 2007, after nearly 5 years of never leaving the house.
My Aunt Adzia lived alone in the house for nearly 4 years after her sister’s death. Don’t ask me how an 80-something spinster who didn’t drive managed this property–located on a high-volume road just minutes from I-95–on her own. She hired someone to mow the lawn, and my mom and grandmom visited every other week to take her grocery shopping, but for the most part she kept the place spic and span with her own two hands.
Adzia was hospitalized at the end of November after collapsing in the basement bathroom.
She died in March, after almost 4 months going back and forth between the hospital and rehab. She never returned home.
After she died, my mom and grandmom spent several days a week cleaning out the house to prepare it for the market. They removed all the clothes and valuables, but most of the furniture, linens, and appliances are being sold with the house. All the photos pictured thus far are how the house remains for the new owner.
New owner. It’s incredibly odd and profoundly sad to know that in three days this house–where my family lived after moving to America during the Great Depression–will no longer be part of the family. So much of my childhood was spent in that house, from those Friday night visits to weekend sleepovers when my aunts would take me out to breakfast or buy me sugary cereal like Count Chocula that was forbidden at home to late summer nights when I’d dance outside using their vast lawn as my stage. I’d color on the living room floor with the new coloring books Adzia bought for me every week, help my aunts pick out the ripe tomatoes and peppers from their garden, and eat Old London pizza at the kitchen table.
My visit to the house this weekend was my first time there since last summer–and my last visit ever. It was so weird to walk through the door and not hear my Aunt Adzia calling, “Jennifer, dollbaby!” I couldn’t decide whether having the house furnished was a good or bad thing–seeing everything the way it’s been forever was comforting as opposed to seeing each room stripped of its familiarity, but at the same time it was so strange to see everything there, minus my aunt.
I wanted to honor the house in some way before I left, and I felt it was most appropriate to dance in the living room, like I always had anytime I visited. Since my childhood, the house had a giant mirror perched behind the sofa; it was like a dance studio! I’d always be practicing pirouettes or perfecting my arabesques, checking myself out. During my younger days, I’d bring my cassette tapes over to the house and perform my dance studio recital numbers in the living room for my aunts, who’d sit on the couch and be my captive audience.
And just like in 5Rhythms, the dance always ends with Stillness.
I spent this weekend looking through a ton of old photo albums at my parents’ house and fell into a bit of a funk during my trip down memory lane. Instead of reminiscing with fondness and appreciation for what had been, I found myself longing to turn the present into the past.
Then Thais–so perfectly timed–wrote a post about her recent experiences taking yoga classes with top-notch teachers, which essentially boiled down to this message: “If you constantly wish the moment was different, you are only going to create a tense, unhappy life.”
I’m never again going to fit in a kiddie pool, believe in Santa Claus, or be held in my great aunt’s arms. That’s just the way it is. But for all those things that are no longer attainable, there are things today that are just as wonderful and deserved to be seen, acknowledged, and appreciated, things like:
The other day I finally fulfilled my desire to spend a day down the shore. I get anxious and antsy when summer weather kicks in and I have yet to see the ocean; summer is already so fleeting, and I feel like once Memorial Day hits, a countdown clock to doomsday (cold weather, dark nights) starts ticking. I have do everything NOW!
I feel very fortunate to live in such an area where I can grab a few dollar bills, spare quarters, hop in the car, and in just over an hour be surrounded by surf and sand. I was giddy on the car ride down, my anticipation and excitement doubling once I hit the rest stop on the AC Expressway.
The causeway, which links the shore points to Jersey mainland, is like the rainbow to Oz. Once you cross over the bridge, only good things lie ahead.
I made the mistake of taking off my sandals to walk from the boardwalk to the ocean. I was expecting the sand to be hot but not scorching. It was like walking on burning coals, and I nearly collapsed onto a stranger’s blanket just so I could save my feet. I could feel the heat rising from my soles to my knees to my thighs; it was an awful, awful feeling, and I thought I was going to need medical attention.
One of my most brilliant decisions of the trip was to wear running shorts for the day, the kind with the built-in underwear. It was so stinkin’ hot and humid that day, even down the shore, so I felt pretty relaxed and comfy. 🙂
I was by myself that day and didn’t have my photographer husband on hand to snap shots of me by the ocean. So I was so happy when I found a woman lying on the beach who volunteered to be my interim photog. It turns out we live only minutes away from each other! She was so friendly and encouraged me to “work it” for the camera!
In fact, I had a really great time connecting with people that day. I struck up conversations with shopkeepers, a guy playing a djembe on the boardwalk, a teenage boy who didn’t want sprinkles on his custard (“That’s so un-American!” I said), a group of seniors who needed help taking pictures with their cell phone, the owner of a hippie clothes/jewelry store who told me fascinating stories about sweat lodges and a customer from Nepal, a girl who was cheering to a group of friends on the beach:
I was a bit obsessed with taking photos of older couples too. They are cute and romantic, and it made my heart swell for my own husband.
Even the TV stations find the boardwalk worthy of broadcasting:
The insides of the shops along the boardwalk are also entertaining.
As you can see, one of the BEST parts of being down the shore is the food. Sometimes a trip to the boardwalk really isn’t so much about catching waves or feeling your toes in the sand as it is about deciding what treat to eat next.
My eating adventure began with lunch at the Bashful Banana. It’s tucked off the main drag and is one of the only places on the boardwalk where you can get vegetarian, vegan, and clean, healthy eats.
I returned to the Bashful Banana a few hours later for my second treat: their famous “Banana Whip” dessert. It tastes like custard, but it’s only frozen banana + water. No dairy, no binders, nothing but fruit. I ordered a banana + strawberry whip with peanut butter chips, walnuts, and fudge sauce made from fruit.
For dinner I hit up Mack & Manco’s. It’s sacrilege to visit Ocean City and NOT get Mack & Manco’s pizza.
My final treat was Kohr Bros. custard. Although I love the vegan options that Bashful Banana serves, I do not follow a vegan diet and do not hesitate to get a classic vanilla custard with chocolate sprinkles/jimmies.
My visit down the shore lasted from noon till about 7:15, when I reluctantly decided to walk back to my car. I passed an older couple on their cell phone, talking to a friend: “It’s a little breezy right now, but the sun is shining. It’s beautiful. It’s just a beautiful day down here.”
A day at the shore contains so many stimuli, and driving home proved just to be as engaging. I swerved to avoid a giant turtle crossing the highway, and then I drove from blue skies to what looked like the end of the world. Black clouds–not even gray–loomed in front of me, and every time lightning flashed I could see the sunny sky behind all the doom and gloom. It was wild–and scary! An intense ending to an otherwise peaceful day.
I had such a deep desire this past week to run off to the Jersey shore for a day on the boardwalk. The weather has been stellar, and had it not been Memorial Day on Monday, man, I would have wasted no time getting onto the AC Expressway and cruising down to Ocean City.
I’m not a beach bum but I do love spending a day walking the boards and taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells of the seashore. The minute I hear the sound of the steel grid of the causeway bridge under my car tires–followed by the cry of the seagulls swooping over the bay–all of my senses are fired up. There’s the smell of curly fries and chocolate fudge, the taste of Mack and Manco’s pizza, the sight of the majestic Atlantic Ocean, the sound of arcade games, and the feel of slimy sunscreen all over my body, causing my pale skin to glow.
My husband finally convinced me that Memorial Day weekend was not the time for an impromptu drive down the shore, so instead I tried to make note of all the other wonderful, non-beach-related things this past week that tickled my senses. For example:
– The sight of Hidden Mickeys in my Sunday morning breakfast, which also included the glorious smell and taste of toasted cinnamon raisin muffins, something I’ve been craving since someone in my office toasted something cinnamon-raisiny, which is the smell of the gods.
– There was the taste of that first-really-hot-day-of-the-year bottle of beer, so cold in my hand, the condensation chilling my fingers.
– While I was trying to take a picture of the baby geese in the park, I spied something even more intriguing…a snake!
– The park offered many more sensory pleasures, like the sound of the guy with the headphones singing a severely off-key version of “Kokomo.” Or the sight of planes landing across the river at Philly International. Or the sound of the air traffic controllers and pilots talking about descending and landing, because Bryan found a live feed of the transmissions from the air traffic control tower on his iPhone, and we totally dorked out for the next 30 minutes knowing which airliners would be making their approach. (Did you know the call sign for US Airways is “Cactus”?)
– After sushi, it was time to see a half-asleep baby. Even more delightful was hearing her response to her daddy’s “Thundercats!” call. So faint and so sleepy and so cutie-patootie baby-voice, she responded, “Ho!”
– On Tuesday, with its high of 95 degrees, my upstairs felt like a hot yoga studio. So I did hot (Jivamukti) yoga.
– It is very tempting to visit the frozen yogurt joint when it’s 65, 70 degrees out, but waiting until a 90-something degree day makes the taste of soft-serve fro-yo a bajillion times better. And oh, how quickly it melts.
– Random smells: BBQ and charcoal in backyard picnics, funnel cake stands at the May Fair, gasoline from motorboats on the Delaware River, damp wood that reminded me of my childhood summers at Camp Johnsonberg, faded sunscreen, BO.
– It’s good to see words on paper, too. Up until a few weeks ago, I couldn’t even remember the last time I was actively engaged in reading and finished a book. Then I started a regular routine of reading while walking and finished The Tipping Point and am nearly done with Realityland.
– On the walk home from the May Fair, I felt the sky open up and pour down onto my body. I was utterly drenched with nowhere to run for cover, but it was nature’s way of giving my stinky, sweaty, sticky body a refreshing bath.
– Going to the gym for my swimming workouts isn’t always easy in the fall and winter, but jumping into the pool on a hot day feels fanTAStic!
Tomorrow morning it’s only supposed to be in the mid- to upper 50s, and I will be swimming…outside. More on that sensory shock to come!
Bryan and I are obsessed with watching 24 via Netflix instant-watch. Since being burned by the series finale of LOST, we have difficulty watching shows in real-time anymore. So instead of watching something for 6 years and enduring the commercial breaks, writers’ strikes, and 9-month-long hiatuses, we’ll just wait until the show is canceled and watch it at our own leisure. That way, even if the finale stinks, we’ll only have wasted a few months, not years.
In honor of the show that’s been dominating our Wii, here are some 24-esque photos:
Whenever Bryan and I are deeply involved in a TV series like this, our ways of talking/interacting with each other begin to morph into the show’s theme and mood. For example, when we watched the entire Sopranos series from start to finish, we tended to curse more and spoke like sleazy mobsters, and when we watched Alias we went out and bought Nerf guns so we could have spy battles in our living room.
QUESTION: Do you tend to do this too? Do you get so involved in a TV show that it begins to infiltrate your language, interactions, and life?
Watching 24 before bed is NOT a good idea for me. I have terrorist-related dreams almost every night now! 😐
Namaste, and welcome to Flowtation Devices’ yoga room!
Because it’s just me and my husband living in a house with technically four bedrooms, I didn’t hesitate to convert one of the spare rooms upstairs in my personal yoga haven when we bought the bungalow six years ago.
Here’s the view from the doorway:
The sloped ceilings limit my options for yoga mat placement, because otherwise forget high-sweeping sun salutes! On the left is a little altar for little trinkets like a Tibetan charm my friend gave to me, a chocolate wrapper with an inspirational message about dance, and a stone engraved with “Remember,” which I bought during my final days at YTT. In the middle is Buddha with some prayer flags (thanks, Richard Gere!), and on the right is a props table that also includes framed photos from my 2008 Kripalu adventure. On the floor is my super-thin Prana yoga mat, which does a superb job ripping the skin off the bottom of my toes. Seriously, it’s like sandpaper! Why do I still have it?!
From this angle you see my yoga bookcase, filled with old magazines, my YTT text/notebooks, several yoga/dance/movement-related books of which I’ve read about 10%, and my framed Kripalu yoga teacher certificate. The white poster hanging on the right is a doodle from my YTT, when we were asked to draw what our future looks like. Mine includes footprints, handprints, hearts, arrows, spirals, and traffic lights. Someday I will ask my art therapist friend what that all means.
And here’s the view from the floor. Don’t mind my “Barbies of the World” collection there on the shelves. I’m not a collector-type person, but I make an exception for international Barbie dolls. Those are just a handful; the others are sitting in a storage box behind that giant wall hanging! My first pair of pointe shoes is hanging there on the left, too. 🙂
Not pictured is the fourth wall of the room, which is just a giant dresser filled with clothes. It also houses my stereo and yoga CD collection.
Thanks for visiting my little yoga space!
What every spring Saturday should be like:
Buying said kids’ artwork, because it reminds me of when I made pins and magnets out of old puzzle pieces decorated with puffy paints and fingernail polish and tried to sell them at my parents’ yard sale: