Fire Up the Ninja

While I was recovering from my minor winter ailment, somehow I stumbled upon Gaz Oakley, the Avant Garde Vegan on YouTube. I’m not even sure how or why, but something mesmerized me.

I spent eight years as a vegetarian before my daughter was born and went vegan for six months back in my twenties. I never was a big fan of meat and I hated touching it. I also disapproved of factory farming practices and the use of hormones and antibiotics in our meat. Basically, I never had a problem with eating meat, but I did have a problem with the big business of food production and the amount of processed foods and chemicals in the standard American diet.

When my daughter was young, I made 90% of her baby food, most of our bread products and bought a lot of our food from local farms. Not the Farmer’s Market but the actual farms. I also gardened and preserved our food in the almost-lost art of canning.

As life got busier, I lost some of my good food habits. And I burned out a few food processors making homemade nut butters, blending dates for use in snacks and grinding my own flours. Oh and I made ridiculous amounts of hummus.

Something about Gaz and the way his cooking style incorporated the types of foods I like had me hooked. It was his high protein meal prep that truly mesmerized me and made me want to eat it all. I needed to cook again. Really cook.

And he did the things I used to do when I destroyed my blender.

So what did HE use?

A Ninja.

I read all the comments on his videos about the blender system and its comparison to a Vitamix. Now frankly, I don’t want a Vitamix. It’s a blender. I have a nice Black and Decker blender with a glass pitcher that suits me. I need a food processor.

Then I saw it at Target. The Ninja Professional. $199.

I wanted it so bad. So I made a Facebook comment. Suddenly, my family is offering to buy me a Ninja.

I had no choice.

I bought a Ninja. And started cooking again.

I have cooked for four days straight. My husband teases that I can’t make a meal without firing up the Ninja.

I am in love.

img_4742

Gaz’s Sriracha Meatballs and my spinach yogurt sauce

img_4737

Gaz’s Sriracha Meatball Mix

img_4716

Salad in the Ninja

img_4712

Breakfast smoothie

img_4709

Gaz’s Falafel, Hummus & Flatbreads

img_4704

Hummus Mix

Coffee and St. Basil’s

It is so wet in Moscow today.

We have been drenched to the bone several times already. Sigh.

So after our morning adventure, we decided on a cup of coffee and found a delightful shop with good looking pastry and the word that we recognized as Russian for coffee.

We speak a total of five words of Russian yet someone managed to order coffee and juice and cookies and a delicious poppyseed loaf. And a chocolate muffin cupcake thing.

After that it was more struggling with the rain… And dear daughter losing the hotel room key and the 500 rubles spending money I gave her.

IMG_3968Of course, I took a picture of her in the Moscow streets with her inside out umbrella.

And St. Basil’s was delightful. Gorgeous architecture. Art students drawing in the halls. Ancient coins and tools. Great music. Various examples of metal work and religious art.

 

 

Gettysburg Road Trip

I work retail. This means I rarely get predictable patterns in my schedule, several days off in a row or a regular weekend off with my family. My husband works at a local college. He never has an easy time with vacations in the summer or January because there’s always a new semester around the corner.

My daughter has reached her preteen years and we only have a certain amount of time before she won’t want to spend time with her parents.

After our very successfully trip to Barnegat solo Monday, I thought a family road trip could be a great way to spend this weekend as it may be the only weekend left in the summer where no one in the family has commitments.

We ended up in Gettysburg, using TripAdvisor to book our hotel at more or less the last minute.

The drive went smoothly. We arrived at the Gettysburg YWCA around 1 pm and (after using the restroom) retrieved the directions for the local Volkssport walks. Gettysburg has 3. We took directions for all three. Even signed up for one of the award patches since daughter has decided she would like to collect them.

IMG_3898

We immediately embarked upon Walk 1. We knew we needed to find lunch. We walked to the armory, through a residential neighborhood and into town. Gettysburg was having a town wide yard sale today so that made the initial walk very colorful.

My friend Gayle had recommended eating at the blue building in the center of town. We departed from the 5k directions to view our dining options (especially since “the blue building” had a twenty minute wait at 2 in the afternoon). We had narrowed it down to Eddie’s Texas Lunch or Thai. The family agreed on Thai, Thai Classic IV to be precise.

IMG_3907

IMG_3908

Very tasty food. Child had cashew chicken. I had panang curry. Darrell had something with noodles and broccoli. And very delicious shrimp cakes and dumplings to share.

We also picked through the merchandise at the army goods store. We followed a military convoy on the way down and enjoyed seeing the various trucks and equipment in various camo patterns. At one point, child said, “there are a lot of hot guys in those trucks.”

Yup. That’s my girl.

By the end of our meal, child was very anxious to see the hotel. She’d only every stayed in a hotel once before with her girl scout troop. So, armed with cupcakes from Jimmy Cuomo’s we finished our first 5k of the weekend.

My husband and I decided to share our cupcakes, one caramel latte and one Boston creme pie. Similar to the people walking around in Civil War costume, we had our own reenactment. We repeated a scene from our wedding. But I look so much more “badass” now.

IMG_3915

My daughter can’t believe the luxury here at our two-star America’s Best Value Inn. A hairdryer. A bathtub. A closet. Extra pillows. An ice machine. A pool. She thinks this is the best place ever.

IMG_3922

As soon as I can extract her from the pool, we have a candlelight ghost tour scheduled for tonight.

Barnegat Adventure

  

My schedule suddenly opened up for a Monday— no plans for child or myself. The weekend had passed normally, which meant some of it was fun and some of it involved pre-puberty meltdowns every five minutes from my tormented eleven year old. My husband had to work, as usual, on Monday and I wanted to do *something* that would keep the child and I occupied. Preferably fun.
So, over my cup of coffee with my husband in the wee hours, I searched the AVA web site from my phone. We’re members of AVA—American Volkssporting Association, a group that sponsors self-guided walking tours of various points of interest— and our closest thing to a local chapter (Liberty Bell Wanderers).

I found walks in communities anywhere from an hour to three hours away, some in the mountains, one in Hershey, another in Lancaster, history-commemorating walks in Philadelphia, and many in New Jersey, including the shore points.

At 7 a.m., I roused the child and told her if she wanted to take a road trip and do a Volkssport Walk she needed to rise and shine. I consider volkssporting educational (reading maps, following directions, filling out paperwork, and learning about new places) and a good source of exercise since I push for the 10K walk whenever possible. Anything to keep the family moving. In my daughter’s mind, volkssporting means an interesting day, usually with a meal in a restaurant, and the chance to buy drinks at convenience stores. 

In other words, a win-win. 

I let her pick the destination. This avoids the pouting that eventually happens if “we always do what Mommy wants to do.” The first part of the equation was to narrow down the distance she wanted to travel. She told me she was willing to drive as far as D.C. That pretty much meant anything I might be willing to drive. I thought she’d want to stay a little close to home. But no. She is an adventurer at heart.

She picked Barnegat Lighthouse on Long Beach Island. The fact that she selected a beach did not surprise me, but it did somewhat surprise me that she picked Barnegat when I had offered shore points much closer to home. She opted for the 135 mile car ride. 

We didn’t set out until 7:50 a.m., and we had to stop for gas so I suppose our true start time was 8:10 a.m. We hit a bit of a travel snarl on 78E, which could be anticipated at such an hour on a Monday. It kept moving and we only “lost” about ten minutes. We hooked up with 287 and headed down to the Garden State Parkway, making our only potty stop at the Cheesequake Travel Plaza. Having never visited before, we didn’t realize there was a commuter lot and ended up parking— no exaggeration, I clocked it on FitBit— a half mile from the building. Honestly, after the first leg of our journey, the walk felt good.

We arrived on Long Beach Island about 10:30ish. We drove down the island for what felt like forever. Passing beach upon beach was like a tour in itself, like an endless array of possibilities. My daughter turned out to be an excellent navigator. 

We arrived at Kubel’s Restaurant at 11:07 a.m. The restaurant had the official walk box. It didn’t open until noon, but we didn’t exactly know that. We couldn’t find any info on the door or online so we decided to walk out to the lighthouse because the official walk had to pass the lighthouse. 

It was at this point that I realized I didn’t have my ATM card. This shouldn’t have been a shock as I never carry my ATM card. But usually I am with my husband who has his ATM card. And we were in a tourist area, heavily cash-based. I had something like $29 in toll money left and an additional $9 in our walking binder. I knew, if we climbed the lighthouse, I wanted to reward my daughter with the $15 t-shirt that required cash. 

After a quick tour of the area around the lighthouse onto the jetty and back. We happened upon a man fishing at the exact moment he caught a fish. We watched him unhook the fish and toss it back because it was too small. (We also saw a man with a prosthetic leg.)

  
This allowed us to see how much admission to the lighthouse would be. We stopped at the visitor’s center to use the bathroom and meandered back to Kubel’s as we were starved and thirsty.

We arrived at 12:01, got the walk box and a table and had the most amazing mac and cheese ever, baked lobster mac and cheese.

  
 It featured those thick spiral noodles with gooey cheese and a crisp top, with some grated cheese on that, and the innards had peas, cherry tomatoes and get this— diced tiny green beans. Delightful. Truly.

  
We decided to do the 10K. Our adventure took us to see the boats at the High Bar Harbor yacht club. 

   
 We deviated from the path to enjoy a 1/2 mile walk along the tip of the Atlantic Ocean, then back to the main drag. 

  
At some point we stopped at White’s Market for cold drinks. I even let the child have a black cherry Stewarts. The lady in the market gave us a paper with favorite things to do on it, and I have to say, the list tempts me to return. It’s an awesome list.

  
We also stopped at the post office to mail our start cards to the Princeton Area Walkers. 

  
We finished the day with a climb to the top of the lighthouse. 

  
After walking about 8 miles before the 217 step staircase, I have to admit my thighs protested heavily at the bottom. Might be the first time I ever had thigh cramps. They still ache a bit today.

   
 The day was fabulous and I didn’t even get that much sunburn.

  

An Ackerman Funeral

We buried my grandfather today. He would have celebrated his 91st birthday on May 24.

  
His death reminded me of many things, in part because he hadn’t spoken to me in 25 years.

I did something stupid when I was a girl, or I should say I said something disrespectful and he never forgave me. And it worked out okay, because I had my reasons for saying what I did. When I was in college, I approached him about the possibility of being civil to each other for my father’s sake but he rebuked my efforts. He flat out ignored everything I said.

I will not say he was a bad man. He was a decorated World War II veteran. He was a dedicated father to an adopted daughter with intellectual disabilities.

And he and I were once very close. We chewed a lot of Juicy Fruit together and listened to Jim Reeves cassettes. We watched the Dukes of Hazzard.

I gave my dad a pack of Juicy Fruit to slip in my grandfather’s pocket. My aunt did it. Dad couldn’t. I couldn’t. My dad asked my husband to be a pall bearer. These are all small gestures meant to heal larger rifts.

My dad told me I didn’t have to come, especially since we hadn’t talked, and the cemetary was an hour and a half away from the funeral home.

But I had never seen my grandmother’s grave. And my dad needed me. He needed all of his family.

  
You see, I know that people aren’t perfect. And I also know that my father is who he is because of his parents. Regardless of my relationship issues with my grandfather, I owe him for the gift he gave me — the wonderful man who raised me. 

And our feud is now over. Forever. And I can begin a new chapter of my life. 

My aunt, the one with disabilities, never attended a funeral before today. Not when her mom died in 1976. Not when her brother died in 2005. She chose to go to this one. 

I took a photo of her placing her rose on the casket.

  
I placed the last flower. Seemed appropriate.

Preparations for France and Russia

 
Sunday my vacation begins…

And do I ever need it.

Life has been hectic, and isn’t it always? Daughter spilled water on husband’s laptop and fried it. Husband drove through nasty pot hole and did $1400 worth of damage to the front end of the car.

I can’t find my sunglasses (prescription) and I just got a new crown that the insurance company is fighting. But hey, we’re surviving. 

Then my grandfather died Saturday night. He hasn’t spoken to me in 25 years, but it’s my father’s father and my father is one of the central people in my universe so seeing him struggle is hard.

He had considered not having a funeral, but now we’re having the traditional viewing, funeral and taking Grandpa to the cemetery. It’s going to be a long day, especially since the cemetary isn’t even in this state. 

It will be the first time I’ve ever seen the family plot, as my grandmother died when I was a baby.

And in the midst of this craziness, there’s the upcoming trip to France and Russia. So I’m thrilled to be traveling again, but part of me is simply desperate to escape.