Thursday, June 30, 2011

Go 'Round Back

Steve and I are planners by nature, so of course when we knew we had a weekend coming up in Martha's Vineyard we needed to make sure we mapped out places we were going to eat. While looking through Yelp and a couple of travel books for recommended places, Steve stumbled upon this place called "Back Door Donuts".

Before I go any further, if you don't know then you should know that my husband has a weakness for baked goods. Delicious warm cookies or donuts are a huge temptation for him, and that weakness is multiplied exponentially when the words "apple fritter" or "cannoli" are involved.

So imagine the reaction when, while looking through Yelp reviews of "Back Door Donuts", that Steve had when more than one reviewer left comments that the apple fritters served at this establishment were "orgasmic". I do believe there was eye-popping and excited pointing at my laptop that had I not immediately typed furiously onto the keyboard and added it to the list we were compiling, I'm pretty sure Steve might have exploded like the old Starburst commercials. Needless to say - we were going to Back Door Donuts.

After a shared dinner at The Lookout in Oak Bluffs, we made our way over to BDD. We had checked at the front counter earlier in the day (the store is actually called "Martha's Vineyard Gourmet Bakery") and knew 7:30 PM was the magical time that they started to serve donuts & pastries. What we didn't know was where to find them; we could smell them, but didn't know where to go to get them. The nice lady at the counter told us to follow the building and head around to the back - and that we'd know where to go from there. She wasn't kidding - when we got to the back of the building, there was quite a line already formed waiting for the deliciousness.

Steve stepped out of line to snap this. You can see me across from the lady in the white t-shirt. I'm wearing a blue sweatshirt, glasses, and have a lighter blue purse handle.
I will say this about standing in a line like this: there's a feeling that comes along with. A feeling of coolness, a feeling of being in the "in-club", those who KNOW things. This isn't the kind of place that you stumble on while walking through downtown Oak Bluffs; you won't see the line while strolling by shops and restaurants because the back door is nestled between the back of a small mom & pop grocer and the small strip of shops the bakery's front is in. Basically - in order to find this place you have to KNOW about it before getting to it somehow.

After about a 10-minute wait in line, we were at the window. We ordered an apple-fritter each and shared a glazed donut. After hearing me order an apple fritter, Steve pointed at a monstrosity and commented that I should have gotten the cinnamon bun... what he didn't realize that we soon discovered is that the plate-sized object he pointed at was the famed apple fritter itself. It was seriously the size of a salad plate, was warm and gooey (but not TOO gooey), and had a smattering of fresh cinnamon apples across the top. Frankly, it looked closer to a loaf of apple monkey bread than an apple fritter... and also looked delicious, which made us excited to dig in.

Fritter sitting on Steve's lap waiting to be eaten. It's freaking huge.
We got about halfway through this beast before we had to take a break; thankfully, Steve had run into the front of the bakery and got us some waters to help wash it down. It was SO good. It was warm, sticky without making you filthy and gross feeling, had what could be the perfect amount of cinnamon, wasn't greasy but yet almost melted in your mouth. What I loved about this fritter over others is that instead of that jellied apple goo, they actually put fresh chopped apples tossed in cinnamon sugar on top. It was the perfect "garnish" to this giant, delicious fried cake. Needless to say that even after sharing dinner and purposely leaving room for this puppy, we were both incredibly full.

But the question is: was it worth it? Absolutely. We made sure that others who were walking by smelling our delicious fritters knew exactly where they could get them. One couple saw us eating them, assumed we got them from the bakery, and when the wife went inside I told the husband to get her out of there and go around to the back. He ran in after her and off they went. It was awesome helping others to be "in the know", spreading the word about the amazingness that is Back Door Donuts.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sounds of the Vineyard

Last weekend, Steve and I took a 3-day trip down to Martha's Vineyard as a late anniversary weekend. We had lots of good food, saw a lot of cool things, made an inventory of what we would want to do if we came again. One of the things we want to make sure we set time aside to see if we go to the Vineyard again I just had to share with you in the event you're planning to head down there at all this summer.

Friday night as we were recovering from our food hangover from Back Door Donuts (which will have its own post dedicated to it soon), we were walking back to our hotel past St. Andrew's Church in Edgartown when Steve paused and commented that he thought it was weird to have church services so late. There was music and lights coming through the stained glass windows and it sounded GOOD. We wandered over to the wide-open doors of the church because we wanted to see for ourselves what was going on - and we found something we wished we'd known about sooner.

In the front of the room were 8 or 10 college-aged young men singing A-Capella for a crowd of about 30-50 people. They were snapping their fingers, smiling, and as only would be seen on the Vineyard were dressed in untucked blue button-down shirts, solid colored ties (each guy had a different color), khaki shorts, and no shoes. That's right - a preppy A-Capella group which we found out were appropriately named The Vineyard Sound.

We happened to come at just the right time for the end of the song "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" and let me tell you - the guy singing lead on that had so much energy and soul that you could not help but get energized with him as each word passed out of his lungs. Outside the church sanctuary stood a simple folding table with a cash box open for accepting cash and a few stacks of CD's letting everyone know that the beautiful voices coming out of the church were those of the Vineyard Sound.

Vineyard Sound is exactly what it looks like - a group of college-aged young men who sing A-Capella on Martha's Vineyard. They arrive on the island in early June, practice heavily all summer and perform around the island in various venues. If you are on the Vineyard at all this summer, make sure to check their performance schedule ahead of time and plan on stopping in to one of their shows. I know that we wish we had known about them sooner - trust me, you won't regret it. Steve and I both agree that these guys could easily be in the same league as Straight No Chaser.

Here are some YouTube videos of their performances... kind of a "Try Before You Buy" so you don't just have to take my word for it.

The 2011 Vineyard Sound performing "Southern Cross".

The 2008 Vineyard Sound performing "Signed, Sealed, Delivered". The 2011 VS are the guys we saw sing this - they were just as good, and better live.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I Don't Do Mice...

"I hear rustling... like... going through bags..."

Yesterday we discovered we had a mouse invade our kitchen. Previously we knew that they had infiltrated our attic and have caught several since we moved in last year, but not before yesterday had any made their way into the rest of the house. Steve had picked up 2 bags of toasted coconut marshmallows to make Rice Krispie treats with, opened a bag to try one, scrunched it closed, left to do a quick errand - and came back to find that 2 of them had made their way half-nibbled out onto the counter complete with a gift of a dropping from the mallow-thief.

Let me make one thing abundantly clear: I don't do mice. Steve knows this. When this happened, he reacted fast and perfectly. He upped the number of traps in the attic from 7 to 10 and we now have 4 or 5 "safe" traps in the kitchen. Mice are not allowed in my house unless I buy one from a pet store and keep it in an aquarium.

So last night at about 11:00 we were wrapping up a conversation and getting ready to head to bed when I heard it. The unmistakable sound of plastic bags being rustled around. I stiffened, pointed at the door, and announced what I heard. "I hear rustling... like... going through bags..."

Steve immediately stood and responded to my obvious concern. The memory of the bunches of spiders I have killed for him over the years came running to his mind (maybe not, I just imagine it that way) and he got into action. He's the man of the house, we had an invader, and it was unacceptable to him to have this unwanted visitor laying claim to his snacks (and spooking his wife). He headed down the stairs and I heard him stop moving so that he could stand and listen for movement. The door to the pantry opened and then I heard silence, like one of those pregnant pauses in an uncomfortable conversation.

"Uh.... this is awkward."

"What's awkward?"

"I'm staring at him. And he's staring at me."

(Knowing we had clean traps downstairs, I assumed he meant that this was happening through the plastic of the trap.) "So? Get rid of him."

"Yeah... he's not in the trap."

Our intruder had managed to climb up to the top shelf in our pantry and Steve was engaged in an old-school "Who blinks first" staring contest with the vermin. Busted.

To make the next part of the story incredibly short, he managed to trap him on the floor of our pantry, capture him, and eliminate the problem. While Steve was outside finishing the task, I went to work to sort through and get rid of any food product that had been compromised with mouse cooties. 3 bags of chips that I'd mouse-proofed, our Odwalla bars, cereal, hot chocolate... everything seemed clear. Then I saw what I thought were more awful droppings fall to the floor.

A second glance made my stomach drop. That pesky stupid vermin had chosen - of all the delicious things in my pantry - to make his snack of choice our bag of Minnesota Wild Rice. A bag of rice that Steve had brought back with him from his trip to Minneapolis last year that I was hoping to use to make a delicious creation with our CSA this summer. Farm-fresh veggies and wild rice... doesn't that sound like a comforting meal? I thought so too.

No pun intended... but that rat bastard.

Steve came upstairs and asked what the damage was. I pointed at the rice and we both vented in frustration because the wild rice that he especially was looking forward to eating was now tainted and could no longer be consumed."Why," I asked, "of all the things in our pantry did the stupid mouse choose our freaking wild rice? OF ALL THINGS?"

Steve looked at me like he was about to state the obvious. "He's a mouse. They like whole grain." 

That wasn't good enough, so I pressed harder. "Then why not the granola bars or the high fiber cereal or the oatmeal?"

Steve paused, then looked at me, shrugged, and said matter of factly:

"Mice eat organic."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Top 5: Summer Reading Suggestions

I LOVE to read. If there's anything I wish it's that I wish I had more time to do, it's read and read and read. I have always enjoyed burying myself in a book for as long as I can remember - which isn't surprising considering I learned to read at a very young age. It would drive my mom nuts sometimes when I was a kid because on a summer day I would often rather be curled up in a chair in front of a window with a book and the summer breeze than outside playing in the park. And - since today is the first day of summer, I thought it would be appropriate to throw some suggestions for summer reading out there for consideration.

So - I submit to you for consideration my...

Top 5 Summer Reading Suggestions

I'm going to throw a disclaimer out there before I dive in that I recognize that most of my choices are a lot deeper in thought than what most people choose to/prefer to read over the summer. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I tend to gravitate towards the kinds of books that make me reflect or challenge me to think on another level. That said... now I'll get started on my list for reals.

The Shack by William Paul Young: I read this book on our Jamaican vacation last year after it was recommended to me by a few different people. Basic synopsis (and I won't explain how it gets there because it will spoil the plot) is that this guy ends up getting an opportunity to spend a weekend in the woods in this old shack with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. What happens to this man, what he discovers, and how the author examines the Holy Trilogy and how we interact with It are absolutely incredible. This was absolutely one of the most powerful books I have ever read and is one that should be read alongside someone you can bounce your thoughts & ideas off of as you go through it. One warning for moms: I've been told by moms that they've either had a hard time reading this book or avoid it because of what they've heard about the story: essentially the main character loses his youngest daughter in a kidnapping while he was dealing with another crisis. (Link to book on Amazon: Click Here)

A Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks: This book I admittedly did not read during the summer; I actually read it at the gym over the winter but when I finished it knew that it could have served as a fantastic beach read. It's a Nicholas Sparks book, so you know it's going to be a good romance story from the get-go (checkmark in the beach-read column). The male character is a man who finds himself as a single dad after his wife passes away, and the female character is a single woman who just moved to town and happens to be the teacher of the male character's son. That's all you need to know - anything else is a giant spoiler. I blew threw this book in about 6 sessions of 35 minutes on the recumbent bike and enjoyed it thoroughly. Definitely a great beach or hammock read. (Link to book on Amazon: Click Here)

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: To put it simply: this is the story of the author's search to find herself after her bitter divorce funded by her publisher after she pitched the idea to them - and she admits this in the opening chapters. She decides to go around the world in search of personal joy, love, and spirituality. The book is a fantastic way to live vicariously through someone else without ever leaving your beach chair, couch, or porch swing. My favorite part of the book that will forever stick in my memory and has since changed the way I try new foods (at least!) is her description of eating and enjoying pizza while on a tour deep in the heart of Italy. I have not seen the movie yet and truthfully I am afraid that the movie didn't do the book justice and that's what I'll find out by watching it. If you haven't seen the movie yet - read the book first. It's 352 pages of the kind of adventure that a woman only dreams about. (Link to book on Amazon: Click Here)

Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum: I read this book a couple of years ago and absolutely fell in love with it. I got it as a random library book, totally unsure of what to expect. What I got was an author who seemingly loves two things: good food and rich history. The book is an account of what would happen if you were to tour the world seeking out the best chocolate, the stories of the chocolatiers, the history behind the origins of chocolate as we know it, and why it is so valued. It is beautifully written and easy to get wrapped up in as you follow this journalist's journey around the world on his quest to learn all he can about chocolate. Are you a chocolate lover who also happens to think history is neat? Read this book this summer. (Link to book on Amazon: Click Here)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Houssaini: I am fully assuming that at this point - most people have read this book or have at least heard of it. This was an absolutely moving story about two young boys from different social classes growing up in Afghanistan. It is a wonderful story about friendship through adversity and is also a great snapshot of what life is like for these two different boys from different classes in a very turbulent area of the world. I could not put this book down when I was reading it and is honestly one of the few books-turned-movie that I have not only been excited to see but was pleased when I saw how well it turned out. If you enjoy what I'll call relatively accurate cultural fiction at all - this is definitely a book to get your hands on. (Link to book on Amazon: Click Here)

There are lots of other books that I could recommend to you that I've read that would make fantastic summer reads, but these are 5 of my absolute favorites that I think are almost "must-reads". There are few books that I would read over again; all of these books are ones that I could see myself giving a second pass to. If you choose any of these - let me know what you think!

Do you have any books that you'd recommend to others? 
What are your thoughts on this list? 
What's on your "to-read" list this summer?

Friday, June 17, 2011

To Keep or Not to Keep...

When I was a tween and teenager, I collected troll dolls. You remember them? They had these goofy smiling faces, big noses, various outfits, and multi-colored hair. I thought they were just the cutest darned things. I got them in my stocking at Christmas, my Nana would always give me some as random gifts and at Christmas, and I would get one every so often with money I earned shoveling snow. Eventually I had so many that my stepdad painted a 6' plank white, threw it on some brackets and gave me a shelf to display them in my bedroom. I had one that had a tropical-print bikini top, a yarn "grass" skirt, and bright pink hair. That one was my favorite.

I can't believe I was able to find a picture of this thing... thank you internet!
Time passed and it was time for me to pack up my room and decide what had to get put away until I got home from college. Press-dried color guard flowers displayed in rinsed clean Snapple bottles were discarded, books were donated to the library, and the trolls were packed in a box to be put in the basement. More time passed, I finished college, my parents decided to move to Tennessee and the boxes in the basement needed attention.

It was time to decide: what got put in smaller boxes and stored at my grandparents' house until I was married and in a house - and what got sold at the yard sale. Trophies, medals, my baby book, my first Bible, pictures, autograph books with messages from friends, and a Sesame Street memory book made the cut. It was pretty difficult for me to do, but after much hemming & hawing - I decided to part ways with my beloved troll collection.

The trolls were sold for $0.25/each at the side of the road along with old VHS tapes, clothes, and read books. My favorite one was one of the first to go. What I sold for $0.25 can now be purchased on eBay for $29.99.

That last part is irrelevant, more just a point of interest.

I was thinking of this because I am coming up to a point in my life where I may have to make that decision again. In my office I have managed to collect several bears from various states & places we've been. This is all well and good... except that if God decides that children are in His plan for us at any point in time, one or both of our offices are going to need to be consolidated & cleaned out. Lots of stuff will be sold, donated, or otherwise disposed of.

I've already decided that when the time comes, the state bears will be fallen to the same fate as the trolls (save the one I got in Jamaica on our honeymoon).

The reality is that these things don't matter. I remember when Steve's grandmother was selling her house in Andover and downsizing to a condo in an active adult community, she kept telling him at her yard sale: "They're just things. They don't matter". The trolls, the bears... they are just things. They don't matter.

Do I remember all of the trolls that I had or how I got each one? No. What do I remember about the bedroom from my teenage years? I remember getting ready for school and belting out Alanis Morrisette and Green Day songs (and consequently getting asked to turn down my music most days). I remember laughing hysterically with friends at slumber parties. I remember my girlfriend Laura doing my make-up for my junior prom while we waited for my date to arrive. I remember braiding my little sisters' hair and playing games with my brother. I remember late-night phone conversations with some of my closest friends talking about life, whispering and stifling laughter so that I wouldn't wake people up.

The bears are going to be easier to let go of than the trolls were when and if the time comes. Why? Because that room is going to be for my child to be able to make his or her own memories. Their own slumber parties, getting ready for their own proms, blaring their own music that I in turn will tell them to turn down, and spending their own time learning to navigate through life.

The bears, the trolls... Grams was right: those are just things. Keeping them in a box until some magical time when I can sell them at an inflated price on eBay to someone else who likes things isn't going to better my life. What made and continues to make my life better are the moments that make me smile, laugh, cry, learn, and grow.

Keep that in mind the next time you're cleaning out a closet or a room and feel that pull on your heartstrings to keep something that will only collect dust. I will too.

"Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." (Matthew 6:19-21)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Next Track Please...

All day long I've had random music pop into my head at relatively random times. I've got no idea why or where these songs came from because they have literally nothing to do with each other. Let me give the run down of the weirdness of music from today.

This morning before I left to go to the gym while brushing my teeth. I found myself singing "...promise me son not to do the things I've done..." Now, you may be thinking "What the HECK is that song?" or if you're like me and have this bizarre eclectic mix of songs in your head... you know that it's Kenny Rogers' "Coward of the County". The question you may be thinking right now may be "Why did you think of that song while brushing your teeth?" to which I say: Right, like I know the answer.

Don't mind the weird cartoon. The sound quality was decent.

Then I went to the gym. Everything was fine... I watched the end of "Boy Meets World" and an episode of "What I Like About You" while workin' it on the arc trainer. As I was heading back to the locker room to shower, I almost dropped my water and my phone. I caught both (to which a passing trainer noted "Nice save!") and continued on my merry way when all of a sudden... "...we used to walk along the river...".

Seriously, Brain? Richard Marx? "Hazard"? At the gym?

This is apparently what I think of when I fill up my water bottle and then almost drop it on the ground. Also, at least I found the real video for this one.

I thought I was free and clear of songs popping into my head at random times until about a half an hour ago. I was hanging up the phone with a colleague talking about invoices - yes, invoices - and the system not co-operating with us when all of a sudden I start singing to myself. What this time? "You make everything glorious... and I am Yours..." At least this time it was something a bit more uplifting and you know... SOMETHING I HAVE HEARD RECENTLY.

I love this song, and it didn't freak me out when it popped into my head.

I'm not entirely sure why it is exactly that I decided this warranted a blog posting. Maybe because I needed to share with everyone the bit of crazy I experienced today? Maybe to throw a few songs over the wall that you either haven't heard or haven't heard in a while? No idea. But there it is - the randomness that is, apparently, the iPod shuffle inside my head.

Has this ever happened to you? 
What's the most random song you've had stuck in your head?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

4 Years Later...

I woke up this morning, looked out the window, and saw gray skies. I rolled over and gently touched the shoulder of the man that, 4 years ago today, I made a vow in front of God, friends, and family to commit to for the rest of my earthly life.

And that morning I woke up and saw gray skies too.

I don't remember a ton about the morning before our wedding ceremony except the pressure surrounding me to make a decision: in or out. Where would the ceremony be held? The skies were gray, mist was already falling. I needed to make a call so that the staff would know where to set up the chairs.

I'd love to tell you that I was a calm, cool bride when asked to make this decision. CLEARLY I knew the right answer since we chose our venue partially because it had a spectacular back-up location in the event of rain. CLEARLY when I started to think of my grandmother who would be in a wheelchair and my father who has balance issues and my mother-in-law who had recently had life-saving abdominal surgery and was still shaky on her feet I knew the right answer. CLEARLY I told them, without batting an eye to bring the whole thing inside.


Or not. What really happened was I panicked. Steve wasn't there with me to make the decision. I was convinced he'd be upset about bringing it in. I begged someone to let me talk to him on the phone, and all of my bridesmaids AND both mothers stood around trying to convince me that Steve would stand by my decision - I'm the bride, I'm the one there, I needed to make a call. I begged someone to let me get to a computer where I could see a radar. My mom brought me outside and showed me the mist. 9:45 - decision time - clicked closer. Finally my mom saw I needed reassurance - and SHE called Steve for me.

WE decided to bring it in... my mom as conduit, WE decided to bring it in. Was I still nervous about whether or not Steve would be upset we were inside? Sure. Was it ridiculous and as soon as I turned the corner with my stepdad holding my arm did I feel better because I saw Steve's face smiling at me with the biggest smile I'd ever seen? Absolutely.

Rain can't stop a beautiful day from happening...

See... the thing is, Steve's not just that guy I married. He's my best friend. He's my partner in crime, literally my other half. We don't make any decision without each other... well... any life-affecting decision. Any job decision. Plans. Etc. I can make it through the grocery store just fine on my own, I'm talking about the big stuff. When we have to travel for work, sometimes we feel lost for a few days while the other is gone. None of this is in an unhealthy way - we definitely manage without the other if we need to without freaking out - but rather, it's what I believe God's design for marriage was meant to be. Two become one.

We work through the hard times together with support and grace and we celebrate the happy times with smiles and laughter. Together.

It's amazing to me how intertwined two people's lives can be. Not a day goes by that I don't feel that our marriage is getting stronger, that God is growing us in ways we haven't been able and won't be able to imagine. As we look to the future, I can't wait to be old and gray alongside of Steve.

So it's fitting that it's raining on our anniversary. It's a gentle reminder that we are here for each other to weather the storms, hold each other tight, celebrate the beauty in our life, and cherish the love and deep friendship we share. To quote the song my mom sang during our reception: "Let it rain - the sun shines in my soul...".

I love you, Steve. Happy Anniversary. God certainly blessed the road that brought us together.