The Glamour of Traveling

When I had the honor of singing the US and Canadian national anthems at Toronto’s Skydome (before Rogers amassed their billions for the naming rights) I met a woman who was to throw the first pitch. Prior to the game all of the pre game folks rehearse according to a carefully prepared and timed script.

She had to go to the mound…or many feet in front of the mound and practice throwing to the catcher. Wow, that’s hard. I was impressed she got it even near the plate. She said she had been throwing the ball to her husband for weeks to practice.

When it was my turn to practice they cued my tape and I (shudder, yes, I lip synced) sang the anthems with all my heart into a dead mic. Easy peazy lemon squeezy.

This whole process blew first pitch woman’s mind. “Wow, you sounded great! Where do you sing? Are you famous?”

“Um…I sing most often in church and I am decidedly not famous.” But, she was not buying it one bit. Not famous? Not possible. She kept at it. “How often do you sing the national anthem?” At that point I had sung for the Sabres a few times and sang at what is now Progressive Field in Cleveland for the Indians.

Of course I was famous, or so she believed. When she gushed again she declared my life must be so glamorous. By then I didn’t have the heart to tell her differently since she already didn’t believe me. Even today, whenever I clean my bathroom I think of first pitch lady and the glamour of my life.

Travel is glamorous. Traveling is not.

I write this from a hotel room in North Carolina at about 12:30 AM. A ten and a half hour journey took nearly fifteen hours today.

Apparently God picked Florida up by the Keys and shook it like a rug, flicking everyone without a Florida zip code back to the northern state where they belonged. I’m convinced that the only people left are the senior citizens and the food service folks who serve them their early bird specials.

It took 3 1/2 hours to drive through South Carolina and those that were not in their cars in post holiday gridlock were eating at the Cracker Barrel. No lie, my mom and I had to wait 20 minutes for a table at 9 PM. Thank God they have biscuits. And sweet tea. And grits.

But the trip was worth everything we experienced today because my family was mostly together last weekend (missing a nephew and family who stayed back home and a niece who was traveling through Italy).

Cousins got to make new memories, siblings and parents played Monopoly and 500 Rummy and I got to cook.

My sister and I prepared our annual seafood feast on Good Friday. The kids actually look forward to it and I don’t think we disappointed anyone. It is a hefty investment but worth the expense and time. We really kept it simple this year with only one hot side (my orzo with roasted grape tomatoes) and a “nice” salad. Our cousin brought a really cool bread bowl and cupcakes. We had a great evening.

20130414-203607.jpgHere is a quick trick for grilled shrimp: marinate them with the shells on with lemon, lots of garlic and good olive oil. Get your grill screaming hot. Instead of just one skewer, use two to create some stability. Cook each side for only a few minutes until just pink.

One of the highlights of my trip was dinner at the Chart House in Fort Lauderdale. The dinner was as good as the view. There are many of these restaurants across the country. Each one has a view of the water. My favorite is in Dana Point, California. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend it. It will be a special dinner so be prepared for a pricey a la carte menu.

From Thursday through Monday we had nine people living in a two bedroom condo. Close! But I wouldn’t trade the joy on my mother’s face when she saw an entire pew filled with her family on Easter Sunday.

No, traveling is not glamorous, but well worth the effort knowing we once again made memories of a lifetime.

Have a yummy day!

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Gramma! You know how to make ice cubes?

20120822-122817.jpgRemember these?
I saw this post on Slate and thought of a true story that happened at my mother’s condo in Florida when my college sophomore niece was about 8 years old.

My mother was making a pitcher of lemonade and used up all of the ice cubes. You see, we don’t have an ice maker in our refrigerator down there.

20120822-123235.jpgMy niece was sitting at the counter rapt by the process of filling the trays with water. With the innocence of a child she said, with awe “Gramma, you know how to make ice cubes?”

20120822-123800.jpgThe only refrigerator she knew had ice and water in the door (along with lots of artwork and pictures, of course). When my mother explained the process of making ice you would have thought she gave her the formula for cold fusion. If gramma was revered she was now idolized.

And it was as simple as making ice.

Have a yummy day…on the rocks!

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Vacation is just living life

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For several weeks I was planning on writing today’s Foodie column about calamari. Just so you know, this column is not about calamari although calamari probably has some contribution to its content (you will understand this soon).

Becoming “The Foodie” is an ironic twist for me because for the last 18 months I have been on a journey of a lifetime. I “struggled” with my weight for at least 40 years until I took responsibility for it. We all have excuses, reasons why we are the way we are and act the way we act but the simple fact is, if you eat healthy portions of good food, move your body more and try to minimize stressors that control you, you will eventually become healthier, look better and perhaps even lengthen your life.

It may be simple but it is not easy.

This column is not about weight loss, the answers to all of those burning questions we have about diet and exercise. It is about my own experience with just living my life.

As the months have passed something really special happened, quietly creeping first into my subconscious then into the daylight. Food made the beautiful transition from the thing that drove me to a thing that brings pure joy. There was a time when I would plan my day around food. What was I going to eat today? Where was I going to eat? Did I have enough cash for the drive-through or would I have to go to the cash machine. Are you going to finish that? I have to clean my plate.

Now I not only understand portion control, I can visualize the correct amount of food before I put any on my plate or begin eating at a restaurant. I have changed how I value food. Here is an example to highlight my new thinking. I want a rack of lamb at a restaurant. It is a whopping $32. In the past I would do everything but lick the plate to get my “money’s worth.” Now I eat a few ribs (meat suckers, as my friend calls them) picking up the bone and enjoying each bite, taste the side accompaniment and call it a meal. I usually bring some home or share with fellow diners. And guess what? That was worth $32 to me. It is no longer about the quantity but the actual food that I enjoy. Who knew?

Another big part of the changes I have made is changing my environment. My cupboards and refrigerator have been streamlined and I have smaller containers to store food. This helps when I bring food to work.

Now, back to my message of the day. I returned home recently from a wonderful, relaxing vacation with my husband. We spent 10 days in the Florida sunshine eating and drinking and playing golf. We went on walks (though I must admit my husband was much more devoted to the effort), spent time reading and shopping and dining at our favorite restaurants. We ate calamari just about everywhere and drank great wine.

When I got home I weighed myself. I gained seven pounds in ten days. And yet, no one died, the world did not end and I did not go into a tailspin. I did not binge eat thinking that I was a failure giving up and not worrying about the consequences.

No, I just kept living.

Eating like this is the rest of my life. It does not end when I reach any goal (which I do not have, by the way, I figure I will know when I get there) nor does it change my accomplishment of shedding 63 pounds (a little less this week ;o).

No, food and weight are not evil. I am not bad because I gained weight (I’ve already lost half of it in four days). Food is wonderful, brings happiness to all around me and gives me something joyful to talk to you about every week.

I’m just going to keep living, writing and enjoying all that we have.

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Have a yummy week!

NEXT WEEK: Is it the Calamari or is it the Dip?