Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Yardley Continental Tavern & Cramer Bakery

On a Sunday afternoon, it was a beautiful day out (like 77 degrees), and we decided to go to downtown Yardley and have lunch at an outdoor cafe. Problem was, we had a hard time finding one, and decided to go to the Continental Tavern.

We walked in to a lot of cheering (the Eagles were playing), and the bar area was packed. We headed into the dining area and were told to choose our own table. We both had burgers - I went with the "classic" and Jonathan chose the "continental." Mine had tomato, lettuce, and a choice of cheese (I went with cheddar, as opposed to American or Monterrey Jack). Jonathan's had mushrooms and onions with swiss. Both were good, although they undercook a little (I went with "well" and had a hint of pink, while Jonathan's "medium" was a little rare in the center). The buns were fabulous! We also got shoestring fries... delicious plain! Jonathan paid $1 to have his sprinkled with Old Bay and get a side of a queso-like cheese for dipping. The dip cheese was very good.

The place specializes in burgers, but also has steaks and ribs for dinner. I'd recommend Cheeburger Cheeburger over this place for burgers, tho.

Behind the place is Cramer Bakery, which seems to cater well to the Jewish population (lots of challah bread, and specialty signs about bar/bat mitzvah cakes, etc. Jonathan got a fresh cannoli, and I went with a large (and thin) chocolate chip cookie. The cookie was among the worst I've ever bought singly, as it was dry and milky, if that makes sense. The cannoli was very sweet, and Jonathan was unable to eat it in one setting. I thought it tasted like a standard cannoli, but then again I'm not a fan. I was pretty disappointed overall with the prices of the items, since apple strudel or cake are $9.95. Apparently there's usually a lot more out there, but I guess we went on a busy day or something (?), since there weren't even any loaves of bread out. I wouldn't recommend the place, mostly since nothing has a price on it. I've yet to find a good bakery up here, but it's going to happen!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Andrew's Last Night in PA

We know a lot of people who move frequently. No surprise, since many of them are in the same program that Jonathan is in. I went to Andrew's going-away from California, and now we're seeing him off from here, too.

The night started with dinner at Applebee's in Newtown. We had a little trouble finding the place, but luckily it wasn't very busy. It was just JB, Andrew, Rob, and myself, so we got a booth near the bar. Scott, our server, was pretty fun. Nothing super-notable about the meal.

From there it was on to Shady Brook Farm for some ice cream from Uncle Dave's. I tried the Peachy Paterno (bleh), but went with the chocolate dirt (my favorite). Rob had Billionaire Chocolate (dirt without the cookies), and Jonathan and Andrew had the pumpkin (quite good, I've had it before). But after that is when the fun really began...

The surplus of "seasonal" activities up here is very exciting. I am in love with it (the idea). So, that night was the first night of the Corn Maze at The Farm School at Snipes, about seven miles from our place. And the idea intrigued me. The "bring your own flashlight and do the maze in the dark" intrigued Jonathan, and Andrew was cool with the uniqueness of the whole thing. We got there and the place was pretty dark. After following some signs we stumbled upon a barn where they press apples and bottle cider daily. We ended up being the very first people to attempt the maze for the season! This year's theme was Spaceship Earth. We received a couple pages of activities to complete while going through the maze. There were "rubbings" of the images to do and words to write down from science facts.

There were four sections (orange, blue, white, yellow), marked by colored plastic tape, that you traveled through... plus nine "word" stations, nine "picture" stations, and four "map" stations. We started out all together, but then split into two groups after a while, running into eachother twice along the way. Jonathan and I hit 6 of the word stations and two of the image stations, but all four of the maps. Andrew and Rob found four or five image stations, but less word stations. I would have liked to find all of the stations, but we had spent 53 minutes in the maze when we found the exit, and I was afraid that if we went back in it would be another hour before we found an exit again (there's one way in and one way out, but you can start in either direction). Andrew and Rob got out about eight minutes before we did, and also hit the mud, uneven ground, and standing puddles that we found. All in all, it was pretty fun, and I'd be game for trying other corn mazes in the area (there are several), but perhaps daytime would be better, LoL.

From there we went over to The Green Parrot for a bit. We caught the end of the Phillies game and part of the Boise State-Fresno State game as well. Andrew had to be up at 5am, so we called it a night around 11.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Florentino's in Downtown Newtown

Jonathan, Andrew, and I decided to have some Italian food and ended up at Florentino's. It is quite beautiful inside, and the food is hearty. However, service was quite slow and it was overpriced.

We all opted for tap water, especially after noting it would be $5.50/person for mineral or sparkling water. Jonathan and I also opted for the standard bread, while Andrew paid $2.75 for garlic whole wheat bread. The bread was warm and crusty, but it was the dipping sauce that really made it delicious. It was a tomato basil sauce, and there was just enough in the dish to cover all of the bread. There was actually quite a bit given, and while I tried the garlic wheat, I'd stick with the regular.

I had the Chicken Florentino, which surprisingly came with mashed (red) potatoes and some vegetables. The plum tomatoes, fontina, and parmesan made the dish, tho. Jonathan went with the shrimp scampi in a white wine and lemon sauce (and they charged him a dollar more than the menu stated), and the shrimp were pretty large. Andrew went with one of the specials, "Bob's Plate" which was wide fettuccine noodles with shrimp, scallops, crab, and salmon in a creamy vodka sauce. It was very good and he finished it off. I was the only one to have leftovers (my chicken was really big).

The other patrons seemed to be fine with a leisurely pace (two women catching up like old friends, a single gentleman in business attire, a family with grown children, a group of wine enthusiasts), but we were slightly put off by it. Especially up here... it's not like we were in the South, LoL. Eh, it's okay, but I think I'd recommend a different place to others.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Little Dragon

Kit, Andrew's wife, was here from California for the week of Labor Day. The four of us got together a couple of times, but she and I had lunch one day at A Little Dragon, which is the closest Chinese restaurant to us (in the same plaza as our Giant Supermarket).

We got there just a few minutes after noon and the place was nearly empty. We were promptly served water and tea, and had a few minutes to go over the menu while munching on Chinese chips and a light-colored sweet-and-sour sauce. I ordered the hot garlic chicken while Kit had the chicken lo mein. Both were served with rice (we opted for the white... the fried has peas in it), but no chopsticks. I had the wonton soup (very good) and Kit had the sweet and sour soup. I was supposed to get a shrimp eggroll with mine, but it never came. The food itself was decent, although nowhere near as tasty as in California, or even at a few favorite Chinese places throughout Florida. We both had leftovers, which isn't bad considering that each meal was only $6.90 with tax. I might be willing to give the place a second try (and get something different), or just have it on reserve for a quick-and-easy wonton soup fix.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The FSU-BYU Game

We decided to go watch the game with the Seminole Club of Philadelphia. We drove about 35 minutes to get to Champps down in South Philly. It was a particularly busy day in sports, since there were other football games going on, plus a boxing match and a UFC thing.

We got there about 6:40 (7pm kickoff), and were led to a room set aside for the Seminole Club. cool. We met a few of the folks, then grabbed a table. We were very close to a couple of screens, so we were able to catch all of the big plays without anyone jumping or cheering in front of us. We had waters since we couldn't find anything to tell us if it was a "coke" or a "pepsi" place. Appetizers were half-off, which was handy. We ordered the Loaded Chips, which were huge and delicious. Fresh potato chips (slightly burnt, yum) with pepperjack, cheddar, and mozarella... with an asiago cream sauce... topped with smoked bacon, green onions, and sour cream. SOOOOOO good. We also had an order of chicken tenders (good honey mustard, the chicken tenders were average, and I would have been angry if I had paid full price).

We stayed for the entire (remarkable) game, and found out that the place began charging $15 at some point for people to come in, since the fight was on. Luckily, the FSU shirt allowed you to get in and out, haha.

It was great to watch the (amazing!) game with other fans, and there's a good possibility we'll be back. We spoke with the President and the Treasurer, but no real information was ever really given as to what the dues go toward and the benefits of joining vs. hanging with. I know someone from ResLife at FSU who went to this event, and the people at the table next to us were very friendly as well.

When we headed out, there were some issues getting away from that part of town (firetrucks and ambulances and the like), but once we were on the highway, Jonathan decided he was still kinda hungry. So we stopped for Chinese at a little place called China Moon, on Frankford Ave, I believe. He loved the egg drop soup, and thought the crab rangoon was pretty okay.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cheeburger Cheeburger

Jonathan and I felt like burgers, so we headed over toward Sesame Place, where Cheeburger Cheeburger is. Ironically, it's less than a quarter-mile from Cheeseburger in Paradise, so I'm surprised they both get a lot of business!

It's a diner in style and concept, and we were greeted by a fabulous host (who Jonathan suspects may have been an owner), who explained their menu. It's not hard, it's just big. If you want a salad or a wrap, there's a lot of options. If you want a burger you pick your size (5.5 oz, 7 oz, 10 oz, 14oz, and 20 oz), then your cheese (8 choices), and your toppings (30 toppings - ALL FREE). There's a few premium items, like sauteed onions, portabello mushrooms, and bacon - they cost extra.

Jonathan got American cheese on his, but very little else. I chose CheddarJack with tomatoes, pickles, onions, and grey poupon. Next time I'd try a different sauce (there's many), as grey poupon is a little strong for a burger. Otherwise, it was delicious, and we both brought home leftovers. We also got the "best of both basket" filled with fries (the kind with skin) and the BEST onion rings of my life. We couldn't even finish a half-order, and know next time to just get the onion rings! They have five dipping sauces for these items, and we tried three... the creamy cheese (I thought it was salty, JB liked it), the zesty horseradish (fantastic with the onion rings!), and the sweet pepper (strange aftertaste... kinda oily).

We got milkshakes to go (they have like 80 flavors!!), and I'd recommend getting them to go, since they get better after they're a little melty. I got the regular and Jonathan got the small... the regular is definitely a better deal, LoL. I had the s'mores flavor, he had the Take 5 flavor (with all of the ingredients of the candy bar). I adored mine straight through til the end, and Jonathan liked his while munching on some pretzels to balance out the sweet-salty.

Last bit to note: the tables all have laminated trivial pursuit cards to keep you occupied while you wait... and since we like that sort of thing we had a good time even before our meals got there! They have a bunch of deals, too - including platters and dinner-and-a-movie deals. We'll be back when we need a burger fix!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hot Tub Party & Nino's Pizzarama

Dani, a girl that Jonathan and I went to middle school with (and I later knew in college) lives not far from us. She invited us to an event in Horsham that certainly seemed intriguing, so we stopped by for a short bit on a Friday night. We were coming from Costco, so we couldn't stay long (groceries in the car).

The event itself was kinda like a music show. A local band, Electric Yellow, was performing. But not at a typical performance venue... they were using a hot tub store, Paradise Living. And several of the hot tubs were running. And, in true Pennsylvania style, it was BYOB. It was raining out, and we arrived about 9:35 (event began at 8:30). It was a $5 donation, but we chose not to give, since I was unable to find out much about the band ahead of time as their website was down. Since it was raining outside, nobody really felt like going into the hot tubs, but there were probably about twenty people there, waiting for the band to begin. They started playing about ten minutes later, and I would say that they are very Phish-like, in that it's mostly a "jam" feel, going along at a very ebb-and-flow rate. We didn't stay long, but it was still a very interesting concept of a party.

We stopped for a late/second dinner at Nino's Pizzarama, down the street. Jonathan had a slice of pepperoni, I had a slice of white pie (ricotta instead of marinara) with tomatoes, and we shared 4 garlic knots and a root beer. The pizza was delicious, and I was beyond thrilled at the pizza... truly brings me back to the pizza I had as a young girl. The garlic knots were good (4 for $1.35), too. The root beer is bottled and distributed nearby, with a Nino's label! Delicious, and very little carbonation. We'll remember this place, and likely return. The menu is quite large, but it is a drive!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

And Football Season has Started!

We love college football. We particularly love the Florida State Seminoles. I've missed two televised games since 2000, and Jonathan's only missed a few since he was a small boy. I'm now in my eighth season of going to live games in Tallahassee, the fourth of which where we've had season tickets.

Miami games are always exciting... not only are they a state rival, they joined the ACC a few years ago, making them even more of an enemy. In 2003, the game was in a torrential downpour that found many fans in the health center with pneumonia the next week. In 2004, as South Florida drowned in hurricane after hurricane, the game was pushed back four days, and I watched on television as Miami tried to cheat by pulling a "fourth timeout" in the game. In 2005, I was among the screaming fans who saw FSU beat Miami for the first time since our 1999 perfect season.

This year, things have changed drastically. I'm no longer living in Tallahassee (which was the case for 2002-2007 seasons), and we're no longer a five-hour drive away (last year's scenario). Living in Pennsylvania, the combination of flights and drives makes choosing which games we'll attend much more serious. This one was an easy pick -it's a holiday weekend AND it's a big-name game like Miami.

We left Melbourne around 9am to drive up. We stopped at Chick-Fil-A twice to get our freebies (in case you weren't aware, they were giving out free sandwiches to anyone wearing a sports logo shirt on Labor Day), and got to our hotel a little after 2pm. Upon checking in, we couldn't get an internet signal in our room, and there was no dial tone on the phone, so we switched rooms (from the third to the first floor, and much nearer the front of the building), and had an extremely weak internet signal, but at least there was a working phone, refrigerator, and remote control in the second room. Long story short, don't bother staying at America's Best Value Inn in Tallahassee. Even the "deluxe continental breakfast" the next morning was poor.

We headed over to the baseball stadium because I needed to pick up our parking pass (the postal service wouldn't forward it to PA), then met up with CS, Trish, and Heather at Buffalo Wild Wings. It was the absolute worst service I've ever had there, and everyone agreed. The food was still good, but when you wait an hour for it and the place isn't even packed, it better be. We literally watched another table get seated after us, order, eat, pay, leave... another party seated at the same table, then order, eat, pay, and leave... a third party was seated and had received their drinks when we finally got out of there. We would have left if it wasn't for the fact that it was game day, causing many places to be full and a lot of traffic to get from A to B.

We got to the stadium about 6:10pm, after making another stop to pick up this year's True Seminole t-shirts. We wandered the Green a bit, and ran into the cheerleaders and a few basketball players, which was neat.

apparently this is the Miami equivalent to our gorgeous "Garnet and Gold Boys"
our Cheerleaders
We were in our seats about 6:40, and we were able to watch all of the pre-game festivities. In addition to a special flyover (including the "missing man" formation and a "burn"), we also had the opportunity to release helium-filled, biodegradable balloons... too bad the student section ruined that and the whole stadium didn't have the privilege of letting their own sail up and away. Of course, we had some fireworks to start off the game as well!
The game itself was interesting... and good. We weren't playing amazingly, but neither was Miami. It was a close game, and I think everyone was surprised at how many points were being scored overall. We were all a bit saddened when newbie Hopkins missed a point, but our ability to actually pull off a two-point conversion was pretty good. There have been many comparisons to the 1991 Miami-FSU game, and with good reason. But I'll never forget those final 4 plays or so, with Ponder just throwing and throwing (but to the same person, grrr!), waiting to make a catch. No catch was made, and we lost 39-34 in the end. It took us out of the Top 25, but it's early in the season, we'll come back!
Above are a couple action shots, below is part of the half-time show

Monday, September 14, 2009

Trip to Florida, September 2009

We seemed to be in Florida forever this time around, even though it was Thursday night to Tuesday afternoon. We managed to get a lot of good times in, but it sure messed us up the following week trying to get the days straight!

At the airport, we had some Villa Pizza and some pretzels. They were out of pepperoni, so I had tomato and bacon pizza... interesting. Leaving Philly, our plane took off 70 minutes late, but arrived just 10-15 minutes late, so no big worries there. Joe and DJ picked us up, and we all met Bryan at Chili's. We had a fantastic server, and gave her a big tip. I can't remember her name, otherwise I'd recommend her.

On Friday, Jonathan headed up to eat lunch with his buddies at the Cape, while Tori and I went shopping at the mall, Home Depot, and Lowe's. We both bought surprisingly little, but since she was searching primarily for a swimsuit and I was after shorts, I guess it's not bad that she got a shirt and I bought a skirt. We had lunch at a Nathan's/Kenny Rogers Roasters - her hot dog was hard on the outside, and I wasn't in love with my chicken tenders. That night six of us went to Thai Thai II on Beachside, only to be treated like dirt (in the past we've had top-notch service at all three of the local Thai Thai restaurants). We waited for more than half an hour as other patrons came after us and were seated before us. We were finally offered a plastic picnic table that they would drag inside for us to sit in the foyer of the restaurant, and when questioned about their choices, they gave us the run-around. We left, and headed over to Siam Orchid. It was okay, not the best... but we didn't have our favorite server, and the place was getting ready to close. We also had to switch tables, but I won't get into that.

Saturday morning was some errands, then Jonathan's parents stopped by on their way home form Orlando. We all headed over to Joe's, as he had gotten his car stuck in a strange predicament. After that was solved, eight of us went to have lunch at Asian Gourmet, a Vietnamese place. They have a Pho Sate you can order on a scale of 1-10... Bryan advised us not to order anything above 3, and he likes the 2. We both ordered the 2 and weren't impressed. It wasn't that spicy, plus the flavoring was strange. Plus the price was pretty high for pho. After that we split up and did our own things for a bit. We decided to smoke some meat for dinner, and despite the rain had that going pretty well. We did two porks and a top round. BK drove up from Vero so there were seven of us for dinner. After dinner we went bowling, since a guiness world record was in the midst of being broken that day - for most bowlers on a single day or something. We all had coupons for one free game each, and we all bought two more and bowled straight through the midnight closing. It was a good time... although I must say that my first frame strike was not a clear indication of a good game, LoL. Instead, I never broke 75 in three games - blah. Jonathan did get a turkey tho, and that was awesome. After bowling we went to Denny's for their late-night special. DJ and I split a Grand Slam, Joe and Bryan split a Sum41wich and a slice of carrot cake, Ebad had the steak sandwich, BK had an omelet, and JB went with his usual - The Unstoppable Breakfast.

Sunday started off with a few errands, then down to Fort Pierce. We were able to see the new fence at Jonathan's parents' house and visit with some of his family. Around 6 we headed back up to Melbourne, and got the grill going for some sausages. We had a great dinner, and spent the evening just hanging out with the usual crowd and a few of our neighbors (Damian, Lis, Eddie, and Eddie's girlfriend, Judith). Then, it was off to Tallahassee on Monday morning for the game! (That'll be a different post.)

Tuesday we drove back from Tally, stopped for Arby's and to buy some Tony's from Publix, and pretty much went to the airport with Joe. We were able to grab some Qdoba at the airport (YAY!!!!), and our flight was very good (we even got exit row so there was tons of legroom).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Amish Country

We've been seeing Amish folks out and about every once in a while (although there were many at the zoo when Kyla and I were there), and were looking forward to a fuller experience.

The last weekend in August we did a day out in Lancaster, which is known for its heavy Amish population. Jonathan only had a half-day on Friday, so we packed up and drove out there for dinner and shopping on Friday. We stayed at the Hawthorn Suites in Lancaster, very close to Dutch Wonderland (a small theme park for young kids).
We had dinner at Good 'n Plenty, a local Amish place. It's a family-style restaurant, and there were seven others (two parties) at our long table. Our waitress, Michelle, was very prompt, friendly, and had a great memory. While we waited for the meal to begin, there was applesauce, chow chow, and bread on the table. The bread was plain sliced white and wheat, with several different butters, including a delicious apple butter. The applesauce was also very good... it tasted fresh. I didn't try the chow chow, which seems to be a cooked vegetable medley. We both had the lemonade, and it was terrific.

The menu changes nightly, but that night there was fried chicken, pollock, and roast beef for the main entrees. They come out in platters and get passed around the table - you can take as much of whatever you want, since the plates just keep being brought out from the kitchen. There was brown-buttered noodles, mashed potatoes & gravy, and corn as well. The noodles were great, as was the mashed potatoes. I didn't really care for the fried chicken, and the pollock was extremely buttery.

But it didn't stop there! Cherry Jello was brought out, and then peanut butter pudding. Then we were all asked which ice cream flavor we want (vanilla, chocolate, or orange sherbert), and dishes were brought out about the same time as a shoo-fly pie and a cherry rhubarb pie. Jonathan said the pudding was reallly peanut buttery, and I thought the jello was great. Chocolate ice cream was yummy and creamy, Jonathan liked the orange sherbert as well. I didn't really care for either of the pies, but Jonathan thought the shoo-fly was okay.

We hit up a few shoppes after dinner, and had a good time finding some local gifts for upcoming family birthdays and such.

The next morning we started out by going to a few more places to shop, including a farmer's market. There were some beautiful tablecloths, but since I have no idea why size future dining room table I may have, I couldn't convince myself to get one, LoL. We saw a few farms (and a LOT of corn!), and a bunch of horses-and-buggies on the road.We then went to the Intercourse Pretzel Factory, tried a few hard pretzels (herb was good, and brown butter was surprisingly delicious), and then took a tour of the facility. We didn't walk around, it was a very stationary tour. They make about 100 pounds of pretzels a day there, and only sell four flavors (herb, brown butter, salted, and sugar/spice). Herb isn't overpowering, and they mentioned that it's just a combination of the spices usually found in a spaghetti sauce, except light on the garlic. The tour ended with a lesson in pretzel twisting. I'm pretty bad at it, but Jonathan figured it out.
We then went to the September Farm Cheese Factory, but we didn't know they're only in production on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We were able to watch a video on the process of making their cheese, and it was quite cool. There were tons and tons of samples, and eventually we picked up two cheeses and a cheese slicer (which works amazingly!) among other things.

Our final stop was an Amish Information Center, where we picked up a few pamphlets and read a bunch of things. We also got a new edition of the local paper, but this one wasn't as filled with grammatical errors as the previous one.

We opted not to do a horse-and-buggy ride, but we didn't get an opportunity to tour a farm and house, which we wanted to. So, we'll be back at some point, and we'll probably consider getting Amish BBQ, since it just sounds interesting!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

V & S Sandwiches

We were in the middle of some traffic on 222 (apparently in Temple, PA) and hungry. We got off for a few minutes and pulled into a V & S Sandwiches - it sounded good enough. It ended up being a great choice! They seem to be some sort of chain, although I'm not really sure since I can't locate a company website. Either way, when we got back on the road there was no more traffic, so it was a winner all around!

I ordered a grilled ham and cheese on a "soft" roll (the choices were soft, hard, or wheat...). It came with a TON of mayo and lettuce, but I was able to scrape off most of it. The tomatoes were very good. The ham was really grilled, but still not the best. I wasn't able to figure out what type of cheese it was... either white american or provolone. I wouldn't recommend the soft roll, as my sandwich began falling apart the second time I picked it up. I got the root beer and it was good.

Jonathan went with the buffalo chicken with ranch. He also got it in a soft roll, but they scopped his out like a pita so it didn't fall apart as easily as mine. He liked it quite well, and had a rough time finishing it - it was so big! He had chocolate milk, pretty average.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I can bake a cherry pie!

Contrary to what I normally post about, we do cook at home. Lasagna is probably the most frequent meal (aside from pizza) that we make. But rarely do we do dessert, unless it's a special occasion of sorts. Don't get me wrong, I love dessert, but Jonathan lacks the sweet tooth I do and so cakes never get finished in our household.

Well, we had picked up a few pounds of Rainier cherries, a favorite of Jonathan's. They were at Costco, so we got quite a deal. We didn't get through most of them before they began to spoil, so Jonathan suggested a pie. I couldn't find a recipe that specifically mentioned this type of cherry, so I altered a regular fresh-cherry pie recipe a bit. It was also my first venture into double-crust pies as well, and I was quite nervous about it.

Pitting the cherries took about half an hour, just to get 2 1/2 cups of fruit. I hadn't thought about how long that would take when I began, but at least the top part of the crust wasn't as difficult as I had envisioned. I used the "slits" method with a smooth edge instead of a lattice or scallop edge (or anything else fancy). I also panicked that I'd burn the top crust, since the recipe called for 40 minutes in a 400-degree oven. But, it all turned out okay, and the crust held most of the way, allowing a bit of filling to seep out on one side.Cutting into it, the filling was thick, and mostly yellow (as is the flesh of a rainier cherry). Jonathan and I both found it to be delicious, and he mentioned that we should keep the recipe around for special occasions. I was pretty excited that he liked it that much... I know that he has quite high standards when it comes to cherry desserts!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

LA Fitness

Apparently the fact that we belong to gyms entertains people. I never saw this coming, but since both of us sometimes tweet about heading there (and I sometimes do tweets about running accomplishments), I've been asked where we joined this time. And I guess it makes sense to post about it, since I did in California.

We toured two gyms and checked out websites on three more before deciding on the local LA Fitness as our gym while living here. The Newtown Athletic Center was the runner-up, and while they have a fantastic facility and great classes (including adult dance classes!), the price is driven up because of how many free things they have for kids (like childcare! even if you're not at the gym!). LA Fitness also has five racquetball courts, which is a big plus for Jonathan.

LA Fitness is very institutional in that it's really just one gigantic room with all the machines in it, as opposed to a weights room, a cardio room, etc. The treadmills are very close together (practically touching), and the locker rooms are pretty nice. However, they don't seem to enforce a towel policy, so not all of the machines are wiped down on a regular basis. They do have hand sanitizers and spray bottles for clients to wipe down machines, but they're not always used, either. There are a lot of televisions, but the audios are all tuned to EVEN NUMBERED frequencies (like 94.8), which makes no sense. I have been messing around with it, but have yet to get any of them to work.

There are many more weights choices than at our California gym, but they're lacking an arms machine I enjoyed out there (as well as our Florida gym, which I may post about sometime if there's a lull in activity), and a calves press which I've only ever seen at the FL gym. There's also only two stretcher-things, but there were none in Cali, so I should be glad to have them back at all. Jonathan's joined two racquetball leagues/tournaments, so he'll be busy getting adjusted to new courts and styles.

We signed up for a month-to-month contract, and caught a deal on sign-up fees for only choosing the one location instead of the option that allows you to go to other LA Fitnesses across the country. We also both get a free training session, but we haven't cashed in on those yet (we never did use our free training sessions in Cali). We've been going at a few different times to figure out the ideal time to go, but it seems to vary day-to-day (particularly Mondays and Wednesdays have quite different turnouts). I'm sure it'll get more crowded over the next two months as well, since many outside-runners and such will be turning toward the gym for a warmer option, LoL.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Oxford Valley Chapel

After our most recent experiences in church-shopping, we decided on a few more clarification factors in choosing potential services. One was trying churches where the pastor has a doctorate, figuring that would provide very well-put-together sermons. The current excel spreadsheet I created (which will be expanded soon) featured three pastors in this category. Unfortunately, the first seems to have lost said pastor in the last month, and now has an interim. The second was on vacation, so we tried the third.

Oxford Valley Chapel is about ten minutes away, and very close to the hustle-and-bustle of Oxford Valley & US1. There wasn't a lot of parking, and the sanctuary was only about half-full. We were recognized as visitors upon entering the building, and warmly welcomed. We each received a "welcome packet," and I must note that it's probably the very best one I've ever seen... very friendly, warm, and handy. The associate pastor greeted us before heading to the front. Turns out that the senior pastor was on vacation, so he'd be filling in.

The service ran a little over an hour and fifteen minutes, and since the start time is 10:45, I assume 75 minutes is a typical service. Announcements took up nearly twenty minutes, which definitely signifies that this church is very active! Songs were a combination of contemporary praise and traditional hymns... but they didn't always stand up, which was strange. The songs were also clustered into two sections, and at the end of the sermon, there was a "dismissal" and no closing song. No Lord's Prayer, no friendship register, no "greet those around you." The sermon itself flowed pretty well, but the title ("Near-Sighted Christians") was difficult to discern for quite a while. The bulletin did not include an "order of events" for the service, and only mentioned 2 Peter 1 as the scripture... although we used several books and various verses, so there was a lot of jumping around.

Oxford Valley Chapel will jump down toward the bottom of the "possibilities" list, and we may try them again when the regular pastor is speaking.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Woodside Presbyterian Church

Woodside is hands-down the closest church to our apartment, at less than a 5-minute drive, door-to-door. Because of that convenience, we were kinda hoping that it would be a star in our eyes. Now, it wasn't a bad option, but we can do better.

We weren't hounded by regulars, but not one person asked our names, either. The bulletin had some basic information, but lacked some key points... like what scripture we would be referencing. The sanctuary itself was pretty, with a stone wall and a stained glass wall on either side of us, but the pews didn't include hymnals or Bibles. It was a "classic" service, but still utilized the projection screen for the lyrics, and there was a powerpoint with the sermon. There was no choir (they do seem to have one, just not in the summer), but a pianist, an organist, and a music director led the (albeit weak) singing. The sermon was VERY well-rehearsed, and he knew the powerpoint like the back of his hand... but the details, examples, and images included are excessive. We're not sure if all of his sermons are similar, or if this one had extra detail because it was part of a late-summer series.

We may give it another shot in late September, after it had moved from summer sessions to regular season... back to three services, a choir, nursery, etc. (I only point out nursery because there were A LOT of babies present at the service... at least ten under two years old!) Who knows, maybe we'll have found something else by then anyway.