Jury Duty

Friday, I was called in for jury duty, for the first time ever. Not only that, I was actually assigned to the first jury I interviewed for. I thought for a brief, shining moment that, “Oh, your husband is a law student, eh?” would get me out of having to serve, but alas, I guess I come across as a reasonable adult who is able to string several thoughts together (unlike some of the folks being interviewed alongside me). Lucky for me, we ended up just having to report Monday and wait around for 6 hours (which, for me, meant reading books about Disney World history on my Kindle) before being called into the court room to be told that the parties had reached a settlement and we could go home. Huzzah!

See you in 4 years, Queens county court system! Assuming, of course, that we’re still in the area then…

 

Project 366: January 8th-14th

January 8th
January 8th: Nostalgia Consumed

January 9th
January 9th: Warming to Mexico

January 10th
January 10th: Abandoned Aviary (Home)

January 11th
January 11th: View From Atop

January 12th
January 12th: Seas So Blue

January 13th
January 13th: Tranquility

January 14th
January 14th: Couldn’t All Be Sunshine

The weather in Mexico was beautiful. Sunshine, mid-80s, just enough humidity to rehydrate our dry winter skin. Every day we traipsed through forests, swam in the sea, and lounged on the beach and by the pool. We enjoyed evenings on our deck and mornings with the slightest of chill in the air. A few afternoons, a gentle rain broke the humidity and reminded us to get out of the sun for a little while. Perfect.

And then, just as we loaded our luggage into our rental car to drive back to the airport, it began to rain. On the hour and a half drive, it began to pour. And pour. It rained so hard, there were several inches of water on the highway. We drove cautiously; luckily, we’d left with plenty of time to spare. When we realized we were moments away from the car rental office, where we’d have to get out and do the walkaround car inspection, we pulled over. We foolishly hoped that the rain might ease so we wouldn’t have to get drenched before our long flights.

We waited on the side of the road with other drivers. An old VW campervan was in front of us, a giant tractor trailer truck behind. After a while, we looked at each other.

“It’s not going to stop, huh?” Nope. The car rental agency representative who drove us to the airport did not have the same trepidation about the weather that we did. He sped down the flooded roads, sheets of water obscuring the view through the windshield. He wove in and out of traffic, beeping at other cars that slowed him down.

By some luck, we made it to the airport without incident, though getting out of the airport would be a different matter. Nearly every flight, including ours, was delayed because of the rain. But still, if you have to have a rainy day when you’re on vacation, it might as well be the day you’re leaving anyway.

Project 366: 2012 in a Photo a Day (January 1-7)

I have undertaken, for the umpteenth time, to participate in Project 365 (which, thanks to Leap Year, is Project 366 in 2012) and take one photograph per day. I have no delusions about this mission. I do not own a fancy camera, I do not live a glamorous life, and I am rather prone to laziness and absurdity. My year in photos will probably be pretty boring to everyone who isn’t me. But I’ve taken a photo every day for these first 17 days of 2012, and have already really enjoyed looking back on the days. Of course, being on vacation for 9 days helped — traveling brings photo-taking to front of mind, and usually provides many a subject. But, I hope to go forward and continue taking at least one photo every day, and sharing them here.

I’m planning to share the photos every week, en masse, with only the titles for 6 of the photos. If I’m feeling chatty, I’ll tell the story behind one of the photos each week. I’ve also added a link to my Flickr PhotoStream, where I’ll be uploading them all, to the sidebar in case you’d like to follow along in real time.

And without further ado, the photos!

January 1-7:

January 1st
January 1st: Cozy/Wary

January 2nd
January 2nd: Family

January 3rd
January 3rd: Before the Tree Came Down

January 4th
January 4th: Miscellanea

January 5th
January 5th: Preparing to Leave/Be Left

January 6th
January 6th: Storybook Lands

January 7th
January 7th: Far/Near

For this post, I’ll refrain from telling one of the photos’ stories, since I already blabbered on at the head of the post. I’ll post the photos from the 8th-14th of January this week to catch up, and will plan to post photos each Wednesday as the year unfolds.

Back in the US…A

Around 11:30 on Saturday evening, our plane roared into LaGuardia and we were, more or less, home. Our trips to Disney World and to Mexico had been fun, but we were both nursing colds, tired of eating out, and missing our cat. When we got back to our apartment, Tessie practically leapt into our arms, and we both puttered around for a bit, letting all the pent-up energy from a day spent in various modes of transportation disperse.

We learned some important things on this vacation. It was our first major trip together, with the exception of another trip to Disney World a couple of years ago, and a short trip to visit E’s grandmother last winter. Those don’t really count, though, because I can do a Disney vacation in my sleep, and visiting family is basically like being at home in a different climate.

This vacation taught us that:

  1. Squishing two totally separate trips into one trip is really a pretty bad idea. Going to Disney World is a monster of a vacation under any circumstances. In this case, we were cramming 3 parks into 2 1/2 days, trying to contend with the half and full marathons snaking around and through those parks, negotiating the higher crowd levels that came with those marathons (and their runners and spectators), and trying to spend time with family who were also down there. Then, after those 2 1/2 days, we jumped on a plane and landed in a foreign country. Our time in Mexico was its own monster vacation, with sites to see, ruins to explore, and beaches to visit.Β Because the trips were so very different from each other, it was an entirely different beast than visiting, say, 2 European cities (even disparate ones!) in one vacation. Β If we had been smart (and interested in preserving our sanity), we would have spent an extra day or two in Florida to take the pressure off to SEE ALL THE THINGS so quickly, and saved the Mexico trip for another week or month or whatever. Unfortunately, my frugality led me to scoff at the idea of spending the extra money on flights when we were so much closer to Mexico in Florida. Frugality? I shall scoff at you, next time.
  2. All-inclusives are, generally, not for us. We got a Groupon for an all-inclusive at a price we couldn’t turn down. Otherwise, I don’t think we ever would have ended up at one. Initially we planned to use the resort as a home base for the week and venture out a lot to other areas, including the possibility of staying at another hotel or two a couple of nights (the Groupon was seriously a steal). Due to the insanity of vacation planning, that didn’t happen. The first 24 hours or so, we were feeling very out of our element in that environment, where people really go above and beyond to take care of everything for you. I know how weird this sounds. “What, you didn’t like people WAITING ON YOU HAND AND FOOT?” No. And maybe it has something to do with the socio-economic forces at play when staying at an all-inclusive resort on the beach in an area where many of the locals were moved into towns on the other side of the highway when tourism began to grow in the region, but I think we’ll avoid all-inclusives in the future. I could see visiting with a group — intergenerational family group, or a group of couples, or of friends — but for me and E, we’ll stick to regular old hotels.
  3. We should be picky when trusting a guidebook. We were led both to the least fun part of our trip (a hyper-touristy area in one of the cities near our resort) and the most astounding part of our trip (a nearly deserted, pristine beach in a nature preserve) by the same guidebook. My gut told me to avoid the former and rush to do the latter, and I should have listened to it. But I trusted the guidebook. So it goes.
  4. We are really, really glad we didn’t have a “big” honeymoon right after our wedding. The amount of work that went into planning this vacation was immense, and the last minute lead-up was, for all our planning and forethought, still pretty frantic. And that was without a giant life event standing between us and the plane ride! The further I get from our wedding, the happier I am with our decision to stay local, invest in the hotel room, and keep things blissfully quiet on our honeymoon.
  5. You really can’t have a second honeymoon. On our actual honeymoon, we were seriously in la la land the entire time. I don’t think we’ve ever been nicer to each other than we were on that trip (and that’s not to say we are terrible to each other in daily life, but rather to say that not a single temper flared, snarky comment was made, or moment of sulking happened the entirety of the trip). This vacation, which my mother kept referring to as our honeymoon, was a regular old vacation. We had a great time and it was a lot of fun, but there wasn’t the glowing buffer to keep regular life out that there was on our honeymoon.

All those lessons learned, I can’t wait to go on our next adventure! I’m already scheming over some small trips over the next couple of months, and dreaming up our next big trip. We’re thinking something more urban, since this vacation was all about hanging out in gorgeous beachfront locales (tough life, eh?).

In any case, I’ll have some more posts on the things we saw (including our super weird, half-abandoned hotel [see: cheap Groupon]) and fun stuff we did in the days to come. I have to keep remembering that there are places with beautiful weather and sunshine when it’s 19 degrees here in New York.

Hmmm, maybe that doesn’t actually make me feel better, per se.

Takeoff!

E and I are currently sitting in the airport waiting to board our flight to Orlando. There, we will meet 3 of my sisters, 2 of my brothers in law, and 4 of my nieces and nephews for the weekend. Then, E and I are heading to Mexico for a little getaway! I’m so excited– this is our first vacation in a few years and we are both very ready for it!

Internet service will be spotty, so just rest assured that I’ll be back! Ta ta πŸ™‚

Holiday Recipes

Every year, I try to make something that I’ve never really considered making before. Last year, it was Salted Chocolate Twix Bars (the caramel… and also the shortbread). This year, it was marshmallows. Marshmallow recipes have been floating around for a while, but I finally decided to try it after Becky mentioned that she’d made them and nothing exploded. Always a good sign. I had planned to make hot cocoa mix to go along with the marshmallows, but I gave myself permission to slack on that when we had 12 hours to go before we were scheduled to leave and I hadn’t even bought the ingredients. There’s always next year!

Alton Brown’s recipe for Homemade Marshmallows. I trust Alton Brown, generally. That said, watch the video of him making the marshmallows, it basically takes what may be a scary looking recipe and makes it seem like the easiest thing in the world. Pro tip: don’t forget the flavoring! I did on one of my batches, and they’re still good, but the vanilla ones are stellar. Also, don’t forget to warn people/vegans/vegetarians that there is gelatin in there!

Momofuku Milk Bar’s Gingersnaps. I have not been to Momofuku Milk Bar, because I am a bad New York Dweller, but that didn’t stop me from making their gingersnaps for a cookie swap with my high school friends! They were good, though I did not have success slicing them and instead had to roll them out.

Sparkling Butter Toffee Cookies. These were good, but they basically tasted like sugar cookies. I would have preferred more toffee taste, but whatever.

Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Cookies. I’ve made these a few times, and they are a real crowd pleaser. They’re super easy to throw together, are nearly impossible to screw up, and look really lovely on a cookie plate. They’re also so sweet that it’s hard to eat more than one! Bonus!

The really awesome thing about my cookie selections this year is that the dough for the gingersnaps and toffee cookies could be mixed up and then frozen until it was time to bake. So, I made all the dough in the week leading up to our departure, and did all the baking the night before we left. It was still a busy night, but rotating baking sheets in and out of the oven is simpler than trying to mix and chill and bake at the same time. I actually also made a batch of Cookie Monster’s Famous Cookie DoughΒ (Throwback!) but didn’t have time to bake it, so it’s chillin (har har) in the freezer for sometime when a sweet tooth strikes.

Lastly, we had a New Year’s Day brunch to attend yesterday, and since we were driving back into town from Connecticut that morning, I knew I had to make something that was quick and easy. I ended up making Monkey Bread for the first time ever, and let me tell you: it was delectable! I had 2 small cans of regular biscuits in my fridge, so I halved the rest of the ingredients in the recipe and put it together in a loaf pan instead of a fluted pan. When it came out of the over I overturned it onto a plate right away so the caramel would settle through the whole thing, and dusted it with powdered sugar. Definitely impressive given the amount of work that went into it. I’m sure there are plenty of recipes for making the whole thing from scratch, but this was a great fast, easy recipe to start the year with. And dangerously good!