Thursday, October 29, 2009

Maurice River Diner and Villa Rosa

On the way back from Cape May we stopped for breakfast at another diner, Maurice River Diner in Millville/Port Elizabeth. Dennis and I had omelets (served with homefries and toast) and Jonathan had a pancake-eggs-bacon-sausage-homefries plate. The portions were very large, and everything was pretty good. The diner was a very large place, but the menu wasn't as extensive as the other diner we went to.

That evening we ordered from Villa Rosa for dinner. It's one of the six Carlucci restaurants in our area, but the first that we've tried. The garlic knots were delicious (a tiny bit overpriced, maybe), but the pepperoni-and-green pepper pizza was different. The peppers tasted like french-cut green beans more than anything else, and the grease level was a bit obscene. Not bad, but not worth getting again. Carlucci's has a very good reputation, so I'm sure we'll try a couple of their other restaurants tho!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cape May, NJ

Cape May has had an interesting connotation for me in recent years. In March 2005, it was one of the two finalists for the spring break trip that Jonathan and I took together. Seattle won, and as many of you know, that's where we got engaged. Seattle is a fabulous city, and the six days we spent there were pretty awesome. This has always made me question how Cape May would have compared.

Now, March is not October, and I've done some extensive traveling in between, so there are many variables which influence my opinion. But Jonathan, Dennis, and I spent two days in Cape May a week ago, and it was adorable. It was the off-season, so many places were closed and the population of the area was only a fraction of what it is during tourist season, but we had a good time.

We drove out from our apartment about 9am, and took our time meandering over, since somehow it took us nearly 5 hours to do a 2-2.5 hour drive.We hit some roadside farm stores and drove through Dennisville on the way over. We stopped at The Southville Corner Diner and Family Restaurant. The menu was verrry extensive, and the portions very large. I had a bacon cheeseburger with fries (average), Jonathan had the prime rib sandwich (fatty but okay) and French onion soup (I'd give it a C-), and Dennis had a flounder sandwich. We arrived at the home of two of Dennis' longtime friends, Ben and Michelle. After a little bit of chatting, we went to Cape May Point State Park and walked around some. Many hawks migrate through the area, and it is also a good spot to see many other types of birds. We used binoculars to spot some great birdies. :)
hawks are so big there that they chart how many are seen each day!
We BBQ'd for dinner and then watched Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Ben has a great entertainment setup, so although the movie was a bit different, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Tuesday morning, Dennis, Jonathan, and I walked through the downtown area, had some fudge, and admired a lot of the Victorian houses.In the afternoon we went to Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area. We saw some dunes, lovely berries, and warblers.

Then to see the sunset, we drove over to a nice beach and enjoyed some wine, cheese, and grapes while watching the gorgeous sunset.
I carved a hawk jack o'lantern while Michelle made a wonderful dinner of lemony flounder and shrimp, with pesto penne and fresh bread. It was easily the thickest pumpkin I've ever seen. When Jonathan sliced open the top, the pulp nearly touched all around. After carving a little more, you had a view similar to that below.
It took me well over half an hour to widdle down the face-side to a third of an inch or so. I easily pulled out a half-gallon of pumpkin guts, which is rather astonishing to me. But in the end, the hawk turned out pretty well.
We ended the evening with How to Steal a Million and some delightful caramel cake.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday in Philadelphia

We spent most of Sunday seeing the historic places in Philadelphia.

We started off at the Liberty Bell at 10am, and it was great not to have a line and tons of people like we did last time.
Jonathan and I did some scouting while the rest of the group went for the Independence Hall tour. We found a large food court, some shops, and learned the area a little better.

We had lunch at Campo's, and totally saw it packed! The pretzels were okay, and beware that the hot mustard and cheese are not free, like the sign mentions. Instead there's a charge of $1.41 for either. Considering the pretzels are 3 for $1.35, it's a bit crazy. I had the chicken parmiagiana, it was above average. Everyone enjoyed their selections, although I should note that The Stockyard is not for everyone... it includes chicken, steak, pepperoni, bacon, marscarpone cheese, and fried onions. Sounds interesting, but it's a bit much. Jonathan had most of one, and his parents finished it off.

We saw the Betsy Ross House and Christ Church and Graveyard (Ben Franklin is buried there, among others). From there we saw Franklin Court and the Franklin Museum, the Liberty Museum, and the National Constitution Center.
Desk once belonging to Benjamin Franklinthere was a room of phones... you picked one up and dialed an extension (a wall listed famous people and corresponding numbers) to hear comments about the man from various peoplethere were these figurines... speakers relayed famous conversations while spotlighting relevant historical figures

We dropped off his parents at the airport, and then we strategized the next few days. Leftover chili along with some cheese and crackers made for a yummy dinner.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Foliage in the Poconos

Jonathan's parents came into town for some fun. We took a late lunch on Friday and hopped over to Richboro and had FreshWorks. Everyone enjoyed their cheesesteaks, and we had some of their tasty fries again as well. We toured a lot of the area, had homemade chili for dinner, and called it a night around 9pm.

Jonathan's uncle Dennis drove up from Baltimore Saturday morning, and we all took off for a scenic drive in search of some gorgeous foliage. It was in the upper thirties/lower forties and raining for most of the day, but we managed to find some good areas.
We went to Bushkill Falls, known as the Niagara of Pennsylvania. There were a bunch of different trails, and they were kinda hard to follow since the map didn't quite match the actual terrain. It was beautiful, tho.
We made a stop at the Delaware Water Gap. We drove up the Pennsylvania side and down the New Jersey side, so we had a lot of nice views.
We had Cafe Graziella in Hillsborough, NJ for dinner. I had the Capellini Sinatra. Jonathan had the canneloni. His dad had the Savoya. His mom and Dennis each ordered a noodles and bolognese dish which I can no longer recall the name of. I loved mine, even the leftovers were delicious! It was an angel hair pasta with clams, scallops (the tiny ones like we catch every year), and shrimp. The Savoya was chicken with mushrooms, onion, spinach, and roasted peppers - looked delicious!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Osaka Restaurant

...and the quest for good Asian food in Pennsylvania continues! We were out running errands on a Saturday, and were over in Mount Laurel, NJ with a craving for Thai. The internet seemed to suggest Osaka Restaurant in that area, so we drove over there.

Nope. bad place. don't go there. in fact, make sure you know NOT to go there, it was horrible.

It started out fine... we were one of two tables, but it was 1:30, so late for lunch. The decor was nice, and there was a sushi bar. We ordered a simple tuna roll for an appetizer, and the tuna was a bit old. I had strange wonton soup, Jonathan had average egg drop soup. The crunchies (I don't know what they're really called... you know... the cracker-like snacks they give you) were homemade, but a bit greasy. But even at this point, they could have turned around our impression... too bad they didn't...

I ordered Chicken Chow Mein, Jonathan ordered Penang Chicken. Mine was very Moo Goo Gai Pan; we're not sure what his was. Mine had NO NOODLES, and a strange sauce. His was not curry at all, but rather a lightly-spicy chicken with peppers. Neither of us were impressed. It was also not even ten minutes after we left the place that I had to find a restroom, if you get my drift. Boo to this place... spread the word that it's bad.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Remembering Adam Emling

So this blog is primarily the things that Jonathan and I do together, or fun trips that we take individually. But today I have to hijack its purpose to remember a dear friend. He would have been 27 years old today.

I met Adam "ACE" Emling back in high school at LPA. He was in band. He took French. He loved the ocean and fishing and scuba diving. He was full of school spirit. He was hilarious. He was friendly. He gave great hugs. He had no enemies.

Adam was a year older than me, so he headed off to college when I was a senior in high school. I heard all about his freshman year at FSU when he came back for winter break. He had a great time at football games, and had joined the A Phi O service fraternity.

It wasn't until my third year at Florida State that I hung out with Adam on a semi-regular basis. He loved to bowl, and a group of us went several times. He loved the campus, and we did many of the free things in the student union. I especially remember a time at Breakfast for a Buck.

The night before Graduation Weekend (Adam and I both graduated Spring 2006), I had dinner with him. We went to Gordos, a cuban place, and we each had pressed sandwiches (I can't remember what kind anymore, but I remember that they only differed by a single ingredient or something). We talked about upcoming plans. I was staying in Tallahassee for graduate school, and Adam was leaving the area. He was among many friends I knew who were thinking of joining the Peace Corps. As we walked to our respective cars, we hugged goodbye and wished each other the best. I still can't believe that night was the last time I'd ever see him.

Adam moved to Rochester, NY before long. Although he was a history major, he found a job at a liquor store, and liked it okay. A little over a year after I last saw him, on July 14th, 2007, Adam was killed. Adam was an innocent bystander at a restaurant, and was just caught in the line of fire when a patron tried to shoot a bouncer. Adam was shot in the stomach, and died within a few hours. He was 24 years old.

The man who shot him is serving 25 years to life for second degree murder, and 15 years to life for second degree attempted murder. Since he was 41 years old at the time of the crime and the sentences are being served consecutively, he may never see freedom again. Still, of all the people who could have been accidentally injured that night, why Adam?

I know this is a common thought that people have when someone special dies. And that it always seems like the very best people out there are the ones who end up losing their lives too soon. But Adam certainly fits that description... and may he forever be remembered as a great person by all who knew him.

There have been many events since Adam's death where his friends and family have gotten together, including a bowling event this evening in St. Lucie West. In Tallahassee, a wall was painted in his honor, a pledge class for his fraternity named for him, and a brick has been placed at the Westcott fountain. I was among the many who contributed to the brick, and last time I was in Tallahassee, I finally located and photographed it.

if you want to find it at the fountain, let me know - I can explain where it is.
one of Adam's senior pictures from high school. You can certainly see the fun in his personality with the scuba stuff AND the tux in the same image :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

where we are & what's around us, PA edition

If you've been reading since the very beginning, you'll recall I did something very similar when we first moved to California. I'm doing it again (albeit after a few months of being in PA), since it seems to help paint a mental picture.

Yardley is not as large as Mountain View, and the line between other cities is often blurred. The areas are also smaller. Within twenty minutes, we could easily be in ten or so different cities, including Fairless Hills, Newtown, Langhorne, Morrisville, Feasterville, Richboro, Levittown, Tullytown, and Bristol. Oh, and this isn't counting the fact that we can be in New Jersey in about ten minutes. Trenton is like, right there. Here's a couple of maps (one more zoomed in), you can see we're verrrry close to I-95 (we live at 'A').There's a BJ's and a Sam's about ten minutes away (they're just about a half mile apart), but our memberships with both have expired, so we spent some time walking around each store, trying to decide which we should belong to. In the end, we decided that 30 minutes isn't that far, and since we prefer Costco, we'll just drive to Mount Laurel, NJ to buy bulk items there. We've done it a few times so far, and the drive's not bad, there's no tolls, and better quality, so we'll just stick with that.

There are a TON of grocery stores around here. I have no idea why this area is so saturated with them. Giant and McCaffrey's are the closest, but there's also Pathmark, Acme, SuperFresh, ShopRite, and Genuardi's within fifteen minutes. Here are my thoughts on each... (this might be especially handy for anyone in the area... so they don't have to try them all out like I did!):

- McCaffrey's is a new, nicer store, and the produce is priced similarly to Giant. Their dry goods seem to run about a dime more, and Giant also seems to have more sales (and does double coupons all the time). McCaffrey's does have a salad bar, a sub station, and hot soups and Asian food, which Giant cannot boast. The subs are actually quite good. They also do samples of yummy things like hummus and pizza.
- Giant has some quality store-brand stuff, and carries most name-brands that we enjoy. They have Boars Head in their deli, and the set-up of the store is fairly basic, although they put breads across the aisle from refrigerated, so that's strange. They also have a kiosk to order your deli meat if you don't want to wait in line. You just punch in what you want, come back in fifteen minutes, andit's waiting for you on a little shelf.
- Acme did not impress me. The store is very large, and the set-up is awkward. It's also at a horrendous, triangular corner with only one entrance/exit. If you miss the turn going one way, you have to go past the highway and over the bridge before you can turn around (and the day I visited there was an accident on the bridge, so I got routed onto the highway going North, with just one exit left before I hit NJ). So, Acme will not be revisited.
- SuperFresh is a good store (and only a scoash farther than Giant and McCaffrey's). It's in a strip mall with Blockbuster, Hallmark, and Hair Cuttery, among other stores. They have a very large produce section, and they often run 10/$10 sales. They also have fresh soft pretzels for 50 cents, which we take advantage of nearly every time we go there. I really like the way they're set-up, and I believe it'll be a staple with Giant for our needs.
- Pathmark is an older store, and in a strange area of town (not a bad area, just an area where there isn't much else of use - aside from a ski shop and a Big Lots). It is pretty big, and decently easy to navigate. They run great sales (when I visited you could get five 12-packs of Pepsi products for just $1 each if you also purchased a $6.99 package of chips/doritos/other school-size snacks)... but it seems the other major stores run the same sales a week later... so no need to go back there.
- ShopRite seems to be much seedier than I remember as a child. The sales aren't that great, and they don't take double-coupons all the time. AND, they're kinda far away. no.
- Genuardi's seems is very similar to Safeway, as in owned by them. Still only about five minutes away, but in a direction we don't need often. Organized like Safeway, so it's hard to find what you need, LoL. And their sales aren't ideally timed (they often run F-S-S only), so they are also a no-go.

Remaining issues from all of these stores: I want to find where I can get delicious-yet-inexpensive baked goods! I've even tried a few straight-up bakeries to no avail. :( We're also having issues finding cheap meat. Chicken is everywhere, and pork goes on sale. But we can't get good hamburger to save our lives. There's gotta be a secret stash of it somewhere around here... there are three or four meat markets around, so I might have to try those out soon.

We've been to two local malls - Oxford Valley about ten minutes away, and Franklin Mills in Philadelphia (but verrry north Philly, almost Bensalem). Both have their ups and downs, but overall I'm very happy they're around. There's also the Neshaminy mall just two exits down, but I haven't been there yet. Target and Kmart are within 15 minutes, but WalMart and Ross are a good twenty minutes away... not that big of a deal, since I'd given up on WalMart when we lived in Cali in favor of Target. BUT, I love going to Ross on the fly, and that won't be happening since it's in a direction toward nothing else. Our Dollar Trees are amazing. Much more variety and higher-quality than in Florida. The holiday stuff is crazy cheap, I've been picking up a few things left and right, for decor and the like.

Our apartment is only two or three miles from Jonathan's work. We're no longer super-close to a train station, but we have heard a few tricks (like parking at the Princeton station is a lot cheaper than at the Trenton station) for taking the train. We'll definitely give it a go for NYC, and perhaps even Boston. Plus, after getting schooled in parking in Philly, we'll probably take it there, too.

General driving.... it's really a strange concept to be so close to a state line. Now, I lived in Tallahassee for six years, and that's only about 20 minutes from the Georgia line, but I think I only drove into Georgia once, since there wasn't a major city or anything where we crossed. Traffic around here isn't bad (although we are near an interchange for I-95 and one for Route 1), but driving in and out of Philadelphia is a hit-or-miss situation. It seems to depend more on construction than anything else (since time of day and day of week trends don't add up).

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Jack's Cold Cuts

We felt like hoagies. We were in the Bensalem area. So, we drove down Street Road (seriously the name) and pulled into the first plaza with a deli listed on the sign. And it was a good choice.

Jack's Cold Cuts
is a family-owned business. They didn't have much going on when we waltzed in, as it seemed they were preparing for a catering job (we believe someone ordered up a ton of smoked fish trays). They have deli meat available (Dietz & Watson brand), and have a variety of sandwiches you can order. It's a cross between a Jewish deli and your standard, New York-Italian deli.

I went with baked ham and swiss with dijon on a baguette (#25), and Jonathan had the Brisket with American cheese and horseradish on rye (#12). They came with pickles on the side... hand-sliced, thick circles, not-too-seedy, yummy pickles. Everything was very good. I need to get accustomed to ordering veggies upfront tho... I'm very used to the main part of the sandwich being made before being asked what else I'd like on it, but every time we go to a place up here there's no chance to add-on if you don't say it at the beginning of the order.

If you're down in that area, check it out. Bensalem in general seems to have good food (and a lot of Indian places if you're into that cuisine!).

Friday, October 2, 2009

Florida: Donating Blood & the FSU-USF Game

I headed to Florida a couple days before Jonathan since I had some stuff to take care of there. On Thursday afternoon, I went over to the Blood Center to donate. I've been giving for a few years now (I started when I was in college), but have been having problems with my hematocrit for about a year now. Every time I go in, it's too low. It has to be 38, and I kept getting numbers like 36, 37, even 37.5. But this time I came in with a whopping 42, the highest I've ever had. Because of that, they asked me if I'd donate just red blood cells, to which I agreed. I'd only ever done a normal donation before, and the red blood cell donations are very important. It allows them to take two units of just the red blood cells, and they actually get used without having to go to the lab and get mixed with other blood, making it a lot better for the receiver.

It was kinda neat, using the ALYX machine. It literally sucks the blood from your arm, then divides it into three sections. After a while, it starts pumping the platelets and plasma back in, but it keeps the red blood cells. Then it'll take more out (the draw) and give you back the stuff it doesn't need (the return), and it does this until it gets to a certain collection point (I donated 360 ml). You can only do this half as often as a regular "whole blood" donation, so I'm not eligible again until January (which makes me a little sad, I always like to donate around Christmas). It's a longer procedure (it took me 29 minutes... on the high end of "average"), and you get cold, which is different from a normal donation. Many people apparently don't like to do it, and won't do it more than once. I didn't mind, although I was pretty tired for the rest of the day. I'd probably do it again if I can manage to qualify (you have to have a 40 hematocrit, among other things). Plus, you do get double the perks (at our local Blood Center they give you gift cards out the wazoo).

Because the football game was a noon kickoff, we took off at 6:03am. I drove the first half, Jonathan drove the second. It was a smooth drive (we used a free rental from Avis and got a Chevy Malibu), and we rolled into Tallahassee about as early as we could, at 11:10 or so. We stopped to look for a white shirt for Jonathan (it was a "white-out" game) at Bill's, Garnet & Gold's outside shoppe, and the Seminole Sports Shop in the stadium, but there was very little to pick from. We might've given up sooner if we knew there was going to be another flyover, but we missed it. It was crazy hot, and we used nearly an entire can of aerosol sunscreen throughout the game trying to keep from burning (we actually did a really good job, all things considered). In the second half, we faced a lot of rain, and although it was nice to cool down, the moisture just hung in the air and made us (well, me) miserable. We left with 3 minutes to go, since we weren't gonna pull off a win. I really don't want to comment on the game, it was bad and let's leave it at that. The halftime shows were pretty good, and the Marching Chiefs played "Mr. Roboto," among other tunes.

I seriously take this photo at every game I go to. I love getting good shots of Osceola and Renegade. Here's one for you guys. :)the balloon release worked out a bit better this time... no students were allowed to mess it up like last timethe USF marching band. I liked how they held their tubas before playingour world renowned Marching Chiefs!!

After the game, we drove over to Heather's house. We stayed there one time last season, and it's a cute place (not the place with the amazing closets that we shared for the two years I lived in Tally for graduate school). After taking showers we headed off to my favorite locally-owned restaurant in the world, 1 Fresh Stir Fry. They now have three locations all over town. Billy, the owner, sends a personal email every Monday, telling about his week, wishing us a good one, and sharing a "code of the week" which gives the opportunity to get a free drink, veggie, topping, piece of sushi, or other fun freebie. Everything is so delicious there, really. The saddest thing about 1 Fresh? I wasn't introduced to it until Fall 2005, a good three years after moving to Tallahassee. Anyway, this week we had the "free topping" phrase, so I was able to get cilantro in addition to white cheddar (I allllllways get white cheddar). It was delicious, and I gobbled up my "half-size," savoring every bite.

From there, we made a couple of stops, then it was off to play pool at Snooker's. After about an hour, we moved on to watch football at Heather's place and play board games. We had a few rousing rounds of Scattergories (definitely an updated version of lists compared to the version at my mom's house!), then a game of Clue. Then, an order of Gumby's was needed. It's a pizza place just off-campus, and it's good & cheap. While I wasn't surprised that we ordered some, I was completely shocked at how we did it... somehow Jonathan and Heather schemed to get them to deliver outside their zone AND use a coupon which didn't exist. It worked out, and a pepperoni pizza and an order of pokey stix showed up... albeit after 70 minutes instead of the 45-60 we were originally quoted. But, these were the BEST pokey stix I've ever had, hands down. And I honestly can't tell you how many times I've had pokey stix... between RA socials, football games, and other occasions. yay.