Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Seals make me smile

Look at that face. Nothing cheers me up more than watching animals do silly things...like falling asleep in mid-swim. So that's probably why I'm often drawn to the aquarium when I'm feeling down. After spending a couple hours laughing at the penguins, snapping pictures of Myrtle the green sea turtle and staring in awe at the giant Pacific octopus and moon jellies, I usually feel better, and this weekend was no exception.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Finally falling for fall

The days are getting shorter and chillier, but surprisingly, I'm not sad this year. In fact, I'm actually looking forward to the fall - maybe it's because I've missed the last two autumn seasons. Right now, I'm not grieving over the warm summer months or dreading the freezing cold that's to come. Instead, I'm excited for the season that's happening at this very moment. Here are some of the things I'm looking forward to most of all:
  • Homemade apple crisp and vanilla ice cream
  • Apple picking
  • Everything pumpkin - including pumpkin picking, pumpkin carving, pumpkin pie, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin candles and even pumpkin beer
  • Octoberfest
  • Halloween - especially silly costumes, candy corn and bad scary movies
  • Haunted hayrides (you're never too old for them...at least that's what I think)
  • Warm apple cider
  • Hiking
  • First frosty morning
  • Comfy sweaters (I especially like auburn, orange and green colors right now)
  • Fall festivals
  • Beautiful, colorful foliage
  • The Big E
  • Colorful, funky scarves
  • Freshly baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, a mug of chai tea, a fuzzy blanket and a cheesy Lifetime chick flick
  • Snuggling up near the fireplace
  • Cranberry truffles from Godiva
  • A REAL THANKSGIVING!! I haven't had a real thanksgiving with my family since I was 16. Since then, I've either worked or been away every year. (Last year I had my wisdom teeth taken out the day before.) So, having a truly happy Thanksgiving is my number-one priority this fall.
What are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Let's get fruity

Since my recent introduction to the blogosphere, I've spent a lot of time browsing through random blogs. I start reading one blog, which leads to another, which leads to another. Two hours later, I've learned about the famous black clams of Peru, how to make banana bread with cinnamon crumble topping and that Hot Lixx Hulahan won this year's US Air Guitar National Championship. When I'm finally done jumping from page to page, I realize I haven't made any progress on my own post.

But this time, one blogger offered some inspiration. The author of ShakesQill, sent his readers on a mission:
Pick a fruit and write about it. Orange, apple, mango, wev. You can go completely literal, or let your creativity run wild. You can write about the texture or taste of the fruit, or you can give it a personality and family. You can have a grapefruit run amok through the streets of New York squirting juice and pulp into people's eyes.
As soon as I read the word "oranges" a surge of memories immediately came to mind. Oranges are definitely not my favorite fruit. They're tasty, don't get me wrong, but I find them kind of boring. Plus, it's always so hit or miss with them - you can never tell if they're going to be sweet and juicy or dry and flavorless.

But, the thought of oranges brings back some happy memories. The first one being my grandfather - a quiet and intimidating old man whose two favorite snacks are oranges and dry roasted peanuts. As a little kid, I remember he ate oranges every night (or so it seemed) during his regular television shows (most often 20/20, Dateline and old Westerns). Sitting in his over-sized recliner, he'd flip on the small lamp on his end table, put on his reading glasses and carefully unfold a newspaper on his lap. He'd then get to work methodically peeling his orange.

But he wasn't the only one who participated in this nightly ritual. As my sister and I watched programs that were far above our maturity level, my grandma would sit between us on the couch and peel oranges for us. But she was much more diligent than most people. Once the rind was off, she separated the slices and peeled away every bit of white skin before passing out slices to us. To this day, I always think of her as I peel my oranges exactly the same way.

It took me a while to get the hang of peeling oranges. I always had a hard time getting started and used to have to ask my dad for help. Instead of using a knife, he would bite right into the rind and tear off a big section of the peel. For some reason, it always made me laugh. Eventually, I tried his technique and cringed at the bitter taste of the white rind. From that point on, even though I knew I could peel it myself, I always asked him for help anyway.

Oranges were also a popular snack throughout elementary school. In fifth grade, Mr. Rossetti brought in oranges every day for snack time. He would cut them into quarters and pass them out to everyone. And every day, we put the slices in our mouths and show off our big, orange smiles.

Today, I especially love eating oranges in the winter months - and not just because this is the peak of the orange season. I don't know if it's their vibrant orange color, cool citrus aroma or sweet juiciness, but something about them makes me feel warm and cozy. When it's cold, colorless and absolutely dreary outside, oranges remind me of sunny summer months.