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pineapples and palm trees

10 Years, 10 Friends, 10 Days: The Pen Pal

By | blogs, boys, friends, guest posts, links, lj, memories, milestones, new jersey, pineapples and palm trees, what have you been doing for the last 10 years? | No Comments

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Post #7 from my old favorite pen pal, Richard Hicks. He and I used to keep an e-mail chain going that must have been a hundred pages long. Richard Hicks is the type of guy who starts a blog (or multiple blogs), writes a whole bunch of cool posts, and then deletes them, so you can never go back and read your favorite ones. Well, not this time, mister. This post is staying here permanently. =)

When Lisa asked me last week to contribute a guest post for her blog’s 10th anniversary, my first thought was: Holy crap, it’s been a decade since we started blogging?  And my second thought was: Wow, it’s going to be really hard to write something that succinctly captures how awesome Lisa is, and what a great writer she is.

First, a little history: Lisa and I first met when I was in middle school, and our mutual friend Chris Tamayo invited her to our neighborhood basketball court to shoot some hoops.  Chris had a crush on Lisa, and in our adolescent dude brains we thought it would be a winning strategy to invite her over and wow her with our nonexistent awesome basketball skills.  The plan was that we’d all get on the court, and Lisa would watch Chris sink a couple of 3s, recognize him as the next John Stockton and profess her undying love for him right then and there.  If you’ve met Lisa, you know that she’s not the most physically imposing person, and watching her shoot free throws on an eight-foot basket is a lot like watching two-year-old Trick Shot Titus gazing up at the 10-foot hoop at Wichita State.  Her height disadvantage notwithstanding, she schooled us on the court that day — in both around the world and the complexities of winning a woman’s affection.

Lisa and I continued to cross paths a bit in the years that followed — mostly, again, because of mutual friends.  In high school she dated a guy named Mike, and their relationship was about as serious as a teenage relationship could be.  Mike went on to Virginia Tech after high school, and Lisa went to JMU and ended up transferring to Tech after her first year so she could be with Mike.  Mike was a great guy, and all indications were that he and Lisa would get married after college.  While Lisa and Mike were in their relationship, I was in an equally serious relationship with one of Lisa’s best friends, Jamie, and it became just as sure a bet that Jamie and I would get married after she finished college and I got settled into my first assignment in the military.  Against all odds, both relationships ended, and over time and across the miles, Lisa and I drew closer as friends — at first to try to help each other get over the breakups, and then later because I kept seeing more and more what a great person she was.

In 2004 I transferred to Japan, and during the two years I was there I kept in touch with Lisa regularly.  Just about every Saturday morning I would trek over to the Internet cafe on base to do two things: call my family and write Lisa an email.  On a weekend trip up to Nago Pineapple Park on Okinawa, I gathered up a bunch of pineapple trinkets and sent them to Lisa (the inaugural name for Lisa’s blog was actually “Ramblings of a Pineapple Enthusiast”).  When I left the military in 2006 and moved back to NJ, Lisa and I would get together whenever she was home and go for a run on the Belmar boardwalk or the running track in our hometown municipal complex.  I drove down to Virginia Beach one weekend in 2007 to visit her, and we went to a Shins concert at The Norva and bought each other T-shirts (I still have mine, but since the only size available at the concert was small [not a problem for Lisa], it was converted into a dust rag a couple of years ago).  We hung out with a couple of her friends in Virginia Beach (in my usual way of remembering dogs more than people, I don’t remember the friends’ names, but I remember that they had a boxer), and one of the friends told me in a sidebar conversation that Lisa always got him an “A” when she edited his college papers.  We agreed that she was the best writer and editor we’d ever met.  To me, she still is.

I went back to her old LiveJournal to refresh my memory for this guest post (we both started LiveJournals in 2003 — Lisa kept up with hers, and I think mine fizzled out after post #2), and as I was clicking through her post archive, memories started flooding back.  I laughed out loud at these two conversations Lisa had with her brother, Stephen: (1) “An Intelligent Conversation With My Brother”; and (2) “An Update on Stephen Getting a Job.”  Her early 2004 posts about her little cousins are all great (the guest post that her little cousins submitted last week is a must-read).  I think my all-time favorite post, though, is one Lisa wrote on Memorial Day weekend in 2004.  It captures everything about summer at the Jersey Shore that I love and miss.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a fellow fan of Lisa’s blog, and you don’t need to be assured that it’s worth your time to keep reading.  For anyone who hasn’t been fortunate enough to meet Lisa in person, and only knows her as a two-dimensional Internet person, please accept my assurance that the person behind the blog is just as smart, funny and awesome (and fashionable) as you know her to be here.  Happy 10-year anniversary, Lisa!  Keep writing!

Pineapple Passion

By | boat drinks, food, gluten free, holiday fun, jimmy buffett is my hero, lifestyle, pineapples and palm trees, product reviews, recipes, summer, tropical fruits, videos | 7 Comments

Tomorrow is National Rum Day, which was brought to my attention by my lovely friends at Cruzan when they offered to send me a sample of their new Passion Fruit Rum to celebrate the occasion. While I’m all about random spirit-inspired holidays, you know I don’t need a reason to swirl up a tropical beverage any day of the week. I’ve been especially partial to rum ever since last month’s pina colada-making vacation days at my parents’ pool, where I read Jack and Di Rum Song (and all three of Anthony Bjorklund’s other Jimmy Buffett-inspired tales). Also, since my adoption of a gluten-free diet has limited my beer drinking to a few here and there hardly any ever, I decided to finally splurge on this Margaritaville Frozen Concotion Maker I’ve been wanting for eight years. (I figured I’d register for it when I got married, but who wants to wait around for that?) =)

This particular recipe was inspired by the official Cruzan Pineapple Passion — I just tweaked it to make do with the ingredients I had on hand. (Slackers don’t serve drinks in hollowed-out pineapples, sorry.) Pineapple and passion fruit are two of all-time favorite fruity flavors (remember?), and blended with fresh lime juice and simple syrup, this frozen concoction is sweet, tart, refreshing perfection. =)

P.S. This is my first attempt at video editing. I hope you enjoy it!

Pensacola Flashback

By | boat drinks, catch a wave, florida, food, life's a beach, lifestyle, memories, navy, pensacola, pineapples and palm trees, ruling at life, summer, take me away, the places you'll go, travel | 2 Comments

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What with Friday being National Margarita Day and all, I couldn’t help but take some time to finally go through my photos from last summer’s stay with my family at the Margaritaville Beach Hotel. I treated myself to first class seats on the two flights down (totally worth it), and set myself up for the most relaxing weekend I remember having all year. The real reason for our little reunion in Pensacola was to see my brother graduate A-School at Corry Station, but I’m not gonna lie — the salty, sandy days that followed were the highlight of our trip.

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Stephen’s graduation ceremony was early enough in the morning that we were able to spend a few hours exploring the National Naval Aviation Museum and the Pensacola Lighthouse before heading down to Pensacola Beach for a weekend of fun in the sun.

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Pensacola Beach is situated on the barrier island of Santa Rosa. It’s bordered to the south by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by the Santa Rosa Sound and Pensacola Bay, and to the east and west by Gulf Islands National Seashore.

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It’s no secret that I’m a huge Jimmy Buffett fan, so there was no question about where we were going to stay. The Margaritaville Beach Hotel is gorgeous — stately, even. The decor is inspired by a combination of Jimmy’s music and the ocean, and the overall effect is unquestionably elegant.

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The rooms were decorated in hues of blues, teals and greens, and the bed was the most comfortable one I’ve ever slept on. Our balcony offered us a view of the turquoise Gulf and the softest, whitest sand I have ever seen.

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Once we unpacked, we immediately headed down to the beach for relaxing, relaxing, and more relaxing.

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I lost track of time in a hammock strung between two palm trees on the sand, which was, quite possibly, the best place I have ever spaced out.

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I collected seashells at the water’s edge — something I haven’t done in years.

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I spent an afternoon soaking up the shade on a teak lounger under an umbrella, reading my favorite magazines and catching up with my brother.

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And then I indulged in an oh-so-refreshing shower and these lovely Tocca products, compliments of the resort.

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There was also drinking, drinking, and more drinking. Margaritas by the pool…

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Mimosas at breakfast…

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Landshark in the water…

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Mudslides on the beach…

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Champagne with dinner…

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Boat drinks with my dad…

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A little water to recover…

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And, cheers. =) I think you get the point.

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Then there were the Gulf shrimp. So delicious. I think I ate shrimp with every meal I had in Pensacola.

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Colossal Shrimp Cocktail (above) and Wild American Shrimp & Grits (below) @ The Grand Marlin. The shrimp cocktail is self-explanatory, but the Wild American Shrimp & Grits consisted of chipotle seared shrimp and local boursin cheese grits surrounded by an andouille sausage tomato stew. Amazing with a bit of a kick to it.

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Lava Lava Shrimp @ Frank & Lola Love Pensacola Café. Shrimp breaded and fried then tossed with an Asian aioli sauce. So good.

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World Famous Grits À Ya Ya @ The Fish House. Spiced Gulf jumbo shrimp top a sauté of spinach, portobello mushrooms, applewood-smoked bacon, garlic, shallots,and cream over a heaping bed of smoked Gouda cheese grits. Incredible.

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Our balcony was the perfect place to watch a storm roll in…

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…and roll out. (After a quick nap.)

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We spent a drizzly evening walking along the Portofino Boardwalk. It was a bit deserted because of the weather, but seemed like it would have been bustling on a nicer night.

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After we checked out Sunday morning, we drove east (or maybe that was west?) through the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

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Despite the clouds and kicked-up breeze, it was actually a beautiful, warm day.

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We spent about an hour walking along an empty expanse of soft, white sand with hardly anyone else in sight.

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We snapped a bunch of photos here as our weekend on the Gulf drew to a close.

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These three particular shots (below) are a reminder that these pictures don’t even do it justice. =)

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There wasn’t anyone around to take a photo of the four of us, so I Photoshopped my brother and I into a photo of my parents (below) to give to my mom for Christmas. =)

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And that’s about it. Perfect long weekend.

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Hey, Dad…can we go back? Like tomorrow? =)

Time Out

By | books, employment, food, music, pineapples and palm trees, take me away, weather | No Comments

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I always used to say, “If I’m not working, I’m on vacation.” On a 29-degree workday, the closest I could come to a tropical getaway on my lunch break was to munch on a Cuban guava pastry (pastelito de guyaba compliments of a co-worker who just returned from Key West), bundle up in a winter coat, and trudge out to my car, where I enjoyed the sounds of Caribbean music while catching some rays through the sunroof and immersing myself in Treasure Island on my Kindle for an hour. That counts, right?

Life Is Good Today

By | food, pineapples and palm trees, ruling at life, take me away, weather | No Comments

I guess everyone else thinks it’s too hot to dine outdoors today, but I’m enjoying a salad in the shade under a fan at Cheeseburger In Paradise, listening to summery tunes and reading my book. Can’t beat that. It’s like a one-hour vacation.

This crazy trip has got me feelin’: content
And I’m singin’ along to: Toes – Zac Brown Band