Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Team America

I'm writing this on the eve of the Annual Sanger Family Beach Trip Extravaganza (If you're feeling nostalgic, take a look back at Beach Trip Extravaganzas of yesteryears here and here.) and it will magically post later in the week while I'm likely to be sitting under an umbrella and sipping on a Firefly cocktail.

So I figured it was as good a time as any to continue the blog catch up game with our most recent family beach outing. A Mini Sanger Family Beach Trip Festivity, if you will. The little cousin of the Annual Sanger Family Beach Trip Extravaganza...

How did you spend your Fourth of July weekend? Here's how we spent ours.

Sadie ate a lot of sand.

Which sometimes made her very happy.

And sometimes made her very sad.

Liam ate a lot of pretzels, which always made him happy.

When Sadie wasn't eating sand, she could probably be found crawling in the surf. Wrong way, kid.

That's better.

Jason tried to freak out Liam by making it appear as though the beach ate his feet.

And Liam spent a considerable amount of time looking for Jason's feet.

Jenny had to take him aside for some Mommy and Me time to try and explain that the beach didn't really eat Jason's feet.

Later, during Sadie's nap time, Liam got a touch of cabin fever when he was forced to entertain himself quietly. We've all watched this video about eleventy billion times and a) can't figure out what in the world he is doing and b) are still cracking up every single time we see it.

Shhhhhhhhh. from heathers on Vimeo.

Sadie woke up from her nap on the fourth bursting with national pride and patriotism. Yay America!!!

But not even America's birthday could stop her from her usual surf crawling.

Meanwhile, Liam couldn't be much bothered with surf crawling when there was surf running to be done.

And when Liam had exhausted all beach activities, he dipped into the wonderful world of accessorizing.

I'm pretty sure this was Sadie's 3rd or 4th Independence Day costume change. She's like Lady Gaga at the Grammys!

And what better way to cap off the Fourth of July celebrations than with a...giant Corona?

Holiday beverage choice FAIL.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Discovering North Carolina...

...one teeny tiny town at a time. We find that no matter where one lives, one rarely takes full advantage of it because one always thinks "I live here. I've got time to do that later." Case in point: Jason and I have traveled through far more of the United Kingdom than most residents we know because we were there for a finite period and wanted to cram in as much as possible.

Well, we didn't want to be those people in North Carolina. When we returned from living abroad, we made a pact to try and experience the state we love so much the way a tourist might. So, in that vein, we planned a weekend jaunt to the sleepy coastal town of New Bern. But not so fast.

Upon planning our route, we happened to notice that we would be passing by Kinston - the home of one of our favorite breweries, Mother Earth. Being the craft beer geeks that we are, we stopped in for a visit.

So many choices! What ever shall we choose?

Why choose when you can have them all?

We enjoyed our tasting outdoors in the beer garden. Fun fact: The tap room at Mother Earth is 100% solar powered. Kindly notice the solar panels...

I won't lie. It was warm out. Even though we had a seat in the shade, we were very grateful for the GIANT fan providing refreshing breezes. Seriously, GIANT. This photo doesn't do it justice but the blades look like airplane propellers. I said to Jason, "That is one big ass fan."

And that was before I noticed this plaque. It really is a Big Ass Fan.

But enough of those foolish mini-beers. Back indoors, we bellied up to the bar and said "Gimme a pint glass and fill 'er up."

But Jason took it one further and said "Enough of those foolish pints. Gimme a growler and fill 'er up." It was at this point I figured we'd better pack it in and continue our drive east before he got carried away and tried to make off with a keg. The last thing I needed was Jason running down the streets of Kinston with tap lines trailing behind him. And so we left.

And so we arrived at our destination, the Aerie B&B in lovely New Bern. Quick run down on New Bern. It is named after and is the sister city of Bern, the capital of Switzerland. New Bern was founded by a Swiss gent in 17something-or-other and is the original capital of North Carolina. Also, bern means bear. (So prepare for bears.)

Why does it always impress me to no end when I am greeted by name in my holiday lodgings? Be it on paper or electronically on the tv (as is all the rage now), I just love seeing my name. Narcissistic, party of one?

That evening, upon recommendation from the innkeeper, we dined waterside and watched the sun set behind the marina. I do love a good set of flags to remind me where I am. United States. Okay. North Carolina. Got it. New Bern. Excellent. (The New Bern one is, what else, a bear. It's exactly the same as the flag for the city of Old Bern. Though outside of New Bern, I'm pretty sure they just call that one Bern.)

I spent the following morning on bear lookout patrol.

New Bern is many things. It's pretty...

It's quirky...

And it's syrupy delicious!

That's right. It's the birthplace of Pepsi! Invented right there in this very small corner shop, which used to be a pharmacy. I don't know about you, but I, for one, am glad Mr. Bradham the pharmacist decided to goof off a little and take a break from all that tiresome pill counting.

So, in memory of old Brad, we plopped ourselves down at the counter and Jason put on his very best 1940's movie voice said "Hey mister, say, how about a couple of soda pops for me and my best gal here? She's awfully thirsty, see." Then he flipped a quarter over the counter and said "Keep the change, pal."

Oh, right. That probably didn't happen. I sometimes forget I married this guy and not Humphrey Bogart. You can see how I'd get momentarily confused though, no?

You didn't think you were getting out of New Bern without me harassing a bear/bern, did you? This one is the bear/bern version of the flags. Therefore I declared it my favorite. They were all over the city. All kinds. Dressed up in all manner of outfits. Engaged in all manner of activities.

But finally, we decided we had seen and tasted all New Bern had to offer so we hit yonder bridge there to explore foreign lands.

Jason had read somewhere that Oriental, NC (See, doesn't that sound foreign??) is ranked the number one place in NC to retire. Well, we figured there must be some pretty good reasons why people want to live out their golden years in this exotic locale. So we drove there. And we drove right through it. And didn't even realize it. And then we were all "Did we miss it?" So we turned around and tried again. Nope. Still nothing.

So Jason says to me "Get on Trip Advisor and see what are the top ten things to do here." I reply "Yes sir! Just as soon as I get even one tiny bar on my phone I'm on it."

I finally see a wee bar making a shaky appearance so I ordered Jason to stop the car and with a somewhat steady signal, I navigate to the Trip Advisor app. "Okay! Got it! The list is pulling up just now. Hmmm, this is strange. According to this, there's only one thing to do here. No, I'm serious. The top ten list just stops after number one." The number one (and only) thing to do in Oriental, NC is...sailing school. And as were not exactly outfitted in our sailing gear, we decided to pass that up.

Dejected, we got back on the road. But Jason soon noticed an odd structure that looked like two silos connected by a shack of some sort. We decided we were not leaving this town until we did something. So we turned the Mini around to find out what this place was. It was part restaurant (silo #1) and part shop (silo #2). And there was a sign in the middle (some sort of shack), which you may be barely able to make out, that read "Southern Palace".

I told Jason that we were going in that shop and we were going to buy something, anything, that said "Oriental, NC" on it. Well, we did. A jar of locally made salsa and a chip clip, which I Vanna Whited all over the parking lot. Souvenirs. DONE.

Next was a stop off at White's Farm. We had some amazing blackberries in New Bern and when I commented on them, the gentleman told me he got all of his produce at a farm about 20 minutes outside of New Bern and gave us directions on how to get there. We bought a pile of blackberries the likes of which would boggle the mind. "You can't eat all those blackberries!" Jason taunted me. I said "Watch me." They lasted exactly one week.

Next, we made our way to Washington, NC upon recommendation from someone in New Bern. It's one of those places that's worth a stop if you're passing nearby but not what I would call a destination in and of itself.

I was slightly worried when we got close to Washington and started passing restaurants that looked like meth labs. This little gem was called Garden of Eatin'. Yes, you read that right. Garden of Eatin'. Some of the other fine establishments that caught my eye were Buddy's Family Restaurant and Woogie's Seafood Shack. *shudder*

But I needn't have worried. As we approached the little river side town, I could tell it was just fine. How could I tell? Well, I started spotting these lovely decorative crabs here and there.

Soon, I realized the place was crawling with them! They were on every corner! I love a city with an animal themed public art project. The bears of New Bern! The crabs of Washington!

My favorite was the construction worker crab. Alas, it appears that "safety first" is not his motto since I noticed later, once I got the photos on the computer, that he's missing an eye. I don't even want to know what series of events led to this tragic accident.

I will admit that there wasn't a ton going on in Washington as it was a Sunday and almost everything was closed. But there were a few nice places to just stroll around and enjoy the scenery. So we strolled...

Still strolling...

More strolling... And more crabs!

And we had just about made it out of town when we discovered that not all crabs are as friendly as the construction worker one. Jason was accosted by the axe-wielding George Washington crab as we meandered past the historic municipal building, minding our own business, admiring the decorative elevated portico and federal-style architecture. He cannot tell a lie, but he can commit first degree assault and battery.

So I think the lesson here is stop by Washington if you get the chance. But try to go on a Saturday. And watch your back if you're near the municipal building.

We're off tomorrow for the family beach trip and to London and Copenhagen straight afterwards but I might be able to pre-order up some entries to auto-post while I'm away. Depends on how well I manage my time today. But considering I just spent 25 minutes snuggling on Elwin, I'm not off to the best start.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Blame it on the Kindle

I've always been an avid reader. Thanks to my great-aunt Kate, I was a reading machine at a very early age. I love books and everything about them. I love a brand new book and the feel of cracking the spine. I love an old book and the yellowing pages. I love coming home and seeing an Amazon box sitting in front of my door. I love walking into a book store and seeing the endless shelves.

So I was very skeptical when the Kindle first hit the market. I couldn't imagine myself cosying up on the sofa on a rainy Sunday with a...device. "It's just not the saaaaaaaame", I whined dramatically. It acts like a book but it's just not a book. You know what they say. A cat can have kittens in the oven, but that don't make 'em biscuits.

But the more I traveled, lugging stacks of books with me, the better a precious little device sounded. And the longer we spent adjusting to life in a two bedroom apartment, with stacks of read books sitting in closet corners, the better a tiny little device sounded.

Soon, my love of a clutter-free environment started to take over and I was giving e-readers some thought. Then I was all, "Think of the adorable pink leather Kindle covers!" and that was it. SOLD.

And she arrived. With her adorable pink case (with a built-in book light!!!). It was love at first sight. And I've been a reading machine since. I can't read enough. If I have five minutes to myself, I whip out the Kindle. I've made some serious cutbacks on the amount of shitty tv I watch just to make more Kindle time. Sorry Toddlers & Tiaras, you're out. Take your sad, glittery, little "participant" sash and take off out of the Des Moines Comfort Inn event room 3. I've seen enough to know that the kids are little grand supreme (with extra pepperoni!!!) crazed monsters and the moms are delusional. In every episode. Project Runway, on the other hand...you're in. You can leave the runway.

And the reason for this whole post is to tell you that you can blame my Kindle (and a crap-ton of travel) for the lack of blogging lately. I'm determined to get back on the wagon though with at least one proper post before we take off yet again on another whirlwind adventure.

Because apparently, we just can't get enough of multiple-country back-to-back trips wherein we have less than 24 hours to make a re-packing turnaround.

Monday, August 01, 2011

By land or by sea

Jason and I occasionally go through spells where we get this urge to just chuck it all in, move to the middle of nowhere and live the simple life. Somewhere no one cares or even knows the bag on your arm is by Louis Vuitton. Where no one checks the back pocket of your jeans to see what brand they are. Where a "Real Housewife" is one who makes scrambled eggs on toast every morning before jumping on her bicycle and pedaling off to work at the local coffee shop. Make just enough money to pay the bills, eat and travel a little. Wear flip flops every day of the summer and chunky fair isle sweaters every day of the winter.

This usually happens right after we've returned from a trip to somewhere like the tiny island of Ocracoke in North Carolina's beautiful Outer Banks. Which is exactly where we've been since Wednesday of last week. What I wouldn't give to be back there, sitting by Silver Lake with friends and a bottle of wine, watching the sun go down over the sound.

And when these thoughts permeate my mind, I usually spend an inordinate amount of time listening to music that reflects these ideals.

The argument for countryside:
Blow up your tv
Throw away your paper
Go to the country
Build us a home
Plant a little garden
Eat a lotta peaches
And try to find Jesus on our own

{From Spanish Pipedream by John Prine}
And for seaside:
I will live my life as a lobsterman's wife
On an island in the blue bay
He will take care of me
He will smell like the sea
And close to my heart he'll always stay

I will bear three girls all with strawberry curls
Ella, Nellie and Faye
While I'm combing their hair
I will catch his warm stare
On our island in the blue bay

Far away, far away
I wanna go far away
To a new life on a new shoreline

Where the water is blue
And the people are new
To another island
And another life

{From Far Away by Ingrid Michaelson}

Either way, it all sounds pretty good to me right about now.