A week with GrandpaJuly 6, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Tags: cooking, family, Florida, movies, photos, restaurants, video
Our week with Grandpa Bob just flew by, and now that Liam’s down for his much-needed nap, I can share all the fun stuff we did. We had a lot of fun in the sun, which wasn’t James’ cup o’ tea. But he weathered it without too much complaint, despite the sunburns.
Saturday afternoon we spent at the pool, and with a little coaxing we got Liam to swim out in the deep water with daddy and grandpa. He’s still timid about leaving the steps, and he adamantly refused to go underwater. I figure he’ll have enough of that next Monday when we start up another round of swim lessons. Before I got him to leave the house, he modeled his little life jacket and swim ring for me. Of course, he wouldn’t actually wear them in the water. But at least I can see how freakin’ cute he is in them. Sigh. Maybe next summer.
On Sunday we headed to Lake Eola for the farmer’s market. I was one week too early for okra, but I picked up lots of fresh peaches, mangos, and tomatoes. Bob suggested we try brussel sprouts in lieu of okra, so we cherry-picked the smallest, most tender-looking specimens for Sunday’s dinner.
We stopped at City Fish for lunch and a refreshing microbrew. It’s one of our favorite seafood joints, and conveniently right by the market. Yum! Because Bob was staying a little longer than he has in the past (which we love, by the way!), I decided to trot out our favorite dinner recipes. Sunday we grilled our awesomely spicy Haitian VooDoo Sticks, which we serve on pita bread with cucumber, tomato, and Archer Farms Tzatziki Yogurt Dressing. Bob sliced our fresh brussel sprouts in halves and sauteed them in olive oil with minced garlic, then topped them with shredded parmesan cheese. And let me tell ya, they were to die for! I’d tried brussel sprouts as a kid and hated them, and while my sister has always told me they’re way better fresh, I didn’t quite believe her. But I stand corrected! We will definitely be adding these puppies to the menu.
On Monday, to help James recover from his scalp and shoulder sunburn (my poor white boy), we took Liam to see Pixar’s new hit, Brave. Liam was so good during the movie, only once getting up to switch from daddy’s lap to mine. The steady stream of Reese’s Pieces probably helped, too. We all thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and Liam is still talking about “the girl with the red hair” and “the bear”. I was a little concerned he’d be scared during some of the fight scenes, but he seemed just fine. In general, Liam doesn’t seem too fazed by what he sees on TV. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Tuesday we decided to trek to the beach. Last summer Bob, Liam and I had gone to Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic side. But because Liam and I had had such a fantastic time at Siesta Key, and Bob had such fond, but distant memories of Sarasota, we decided to try Clearwater on the gulf coast. Bob was jonesing for some Cuban sandwiches, so with a little googling, we found Columbia Restaurant in Clearwater. Bob remembered eating at their location in Sarasota years ago, so it was settled. We arrived just in time for lunch. We got a table right by the water, with lovely views of the inlet. We all ordered their famous Cuban Sandwiches, their 1905 Salad, and James tried the Spanish Bean soup. Best Cubans we’d ever tasted! After deciding to save half our sandwiches in the cooler for later, we indulged in dessert: James with Churros and caramel, chocolate, and guava dipping sauces; Bob with white chocolate bread pudding; and me with the Key Lime Pie. We sampled from each other’s plates, and I thought the bread pudding was the most outstanding. Best of all, as we were enjoying our meal, a couple of manatees lumbered by, and we watched them from the railing. Very cool!
Then it was on to the beach! We drove up Clearwater Beach a ways, but being July 3rd, the place was packed. We opted instead for the less crowded Sand Key, which was just south. Our waiter had told us it was a broken shell beach, so we knew it wasn’t going to be anything like Siesta Key. While the sand was disappointing, the water was not. Once you got past the small shells in the short break, you could walk quite a ways out and still keep your head above water. I’d never been that deep in the ocean with Liam before – I’ve always been nervous about taking him past the break when I’m by myself. But with Bob, James and I passing him around, it was actually quite nice. And the water was so warm! But full of seaweed – perhaps from the tropical storm that had hit that beach the previous week. Back on shore, James and I took turns building sand castles so Liam could knock them down. The sand was quite course, with an interesting salt and pepper color to it. Digging down a few inches, the shells became more apparent. I’m starting a sand collection in little glass bottles, and the Sand Key sand looks quite interesting, especially sitting next to my fine, white Siesta Key sand. I’m such a Midwesterner, I had no idea beach sand from the same general area could be so different!
For Independence Day, we stayed home and cooked another of our favorite meals, Tuscan Sausage Ragu. After dinner, we headed to downtown Avalon Park to see the fireworks. James wasn’t feeling up to going (surprise, surprise), and just as well – it was packed! I decided to park in the grass pretty far back rather than hunt for a closer spot. We checked out some of the booths, then headed back to the car in time to get our chairs out and watch the fireworks. Liam absolutely loved it! This is the first time I’ve actually taken him to see big fireworks, unless you count the time last December when I walked him in the stroller down the street far enough to see them just over the trees. He’s talked about that for months, so I figured he’d like to see them a little closer this year. When the show was over, we packed up the car, and as I was strapping Liam into his car seat, I suddenly felt like my feet were on fire! I’d stepped on a fire ant hill in the dark…in sandals. Let me tell you. That shit hurts. After much cursing and ripping off of shoes and slapping my feet like a lunatic, I managed to get myself composed enough to drive us home. In bare feet, mind you. And I had to off-road it to bypass the nasty traffic. From the back seat, Liam said, “Mommy, are you going to cry?” I told him, “Maybe. This doesn’t hurt quite so bad as childbirth, but, geez, feels like almost!” My feet were still stinging when I got home, but after slathering them with some cooling Benadryl, I took Liam to sit in the drive way and watch our neighbors shoot off roman candles. He seemed just as impressed by that as with the big fireworks. Of course.
Intent on avoiding the Disney/Universal/Sea World corridor, on Thursday we took Bob to Winter Park, a trendy, upscale area with shops and restaurants. We arrived just as the Amtrak was pulling into the train station in the adjacent park, so Liam, of course, went bananas. For lunch we stopped at our favorite Orlando restaurant, Bosphorous Restaurant, for some delicious Turkish fare. This time I tried the Moussaka – ground lamb, eggplant, and cheese served with rice. Heaven. Again we decided to save half our meal for dinner and indulge in dessert. While James and his dad enjoyed their rice puddings, it was nothing compared to the new thing I decided to try: Kunefe. It was a huge plate of shredded phyllo dough, sweet cheese, and a sweet sauce. They threw in a few whole pistachios for good measure. Wow.
Aside from eating well, we spent most of the rest of the week at home, where Liam would take grandpa upstairs and play trains. Or he’d follow grandpa out to the back porch to play in the sand box. Wherever grandpa was going, Liam was going, too. James and I got chastised for lingering too long. “Daddy, you can go now.” Or, “Mommy, go inside!” Liam wanted grandpa all to himself. After brunch at Keke’s today, we explained that we were dropping grandpa off at the airport so he could go back to Illinois. Liam pondered this a moment, then said, “But I’ll play with him tomorrow, then.” Poor kiddo. I have a feeling tomorrow morning’s going to be a tough one, explaining that grandpa isn’t here anymore. But grandpa will be back soon. We promise.