vacation elation: part 5 ~ delicious delectables

what a ride!

we’ve been through almost every detail of my vacation. did you feel like you were there with me? that was my intention: to describe it and share it in such a way that you felt involved. i hope that in your eyes, through my eyes and words, you were able to do just that.

so let’s get you what you want. i know you’re waiting to hear about the food. at least, that’s what Charles keeps asking for. 😀 thus far, my sharings on the meals and culinary delights has been minimal and that is for one good reason: it wasn’t that great to me. say whaaaaaat? yes, it’s true. while i have heard many legends about the food, i have to be truthful and admit that it was not all that it had been cracked up to be. i know, i know.. but let me explain.

  1. my tastes are simple. the bestie says “you have a child’s palette”. and she’s right. i have no room in my flavor saver for anything out of the ordinary and that’s a huge separation in my world.
  2. i do not like condiments. this includes most actual “condiments”, as well as the majority of dips, dressings and sauces.
  3. if i don’t know what it is, what it contains or how it was prepared, i will not consume it. period.

now, i know what you’re thinking: “what a fuddy dudd”. and you’re right! i’m the first to admit it. chef skills are wasted on me. good flavor is all i need. techniques, skills and the sheer fabulosity of five-star dining is not for me. i’m a simple girl where food is concerned and when it comes to eating out, i stand reserved. if coerced into going to a fine dining restaurant, i am usually uncomfortable — feeling pressured to enjoy the experience and “try” something but so apprehensive that i stick to any and everything that appear to resemble something i am already familiar with. i know, i know..and to think.. i once wanted to be a chef.

while the entire menu everyday was not stellar, to my boring standards, i did find the many options, the endlessness and the made-to-order dishes quite divine. i didn’t sleep that much, so every few hours i would cruise the buffet and find something to nibble on. that was the best part. there was always something. always.

i started my mornings with a made-to-order egg white omelet with peppers and a little cheese. after the first morning, i never had to say it again. the young man who fashioned this marvelous breakfast treat for me each day knew what i wanted when he saw me. i am still amazed at the service. i don’t know how he was able to remember MY request while serving two thousand nine hundred twenty-eight other people… i’d like to think it’s because i’m unforgettable (hahhahahhahhahahah). along with my beautiful HOT well done omelet i added two slices of wheat toast, strawberry yogurt and a wedge or two of both cantaloupe and honeydew. there was plenty of options for the rest of the cruise to choose from: bacon, sausage, pancakes, scrambled eggs, oatmeal with the deluxe fixins (brown sugar, raisins and the like), grits and cold cereal. that’s just what i can remember! i know there was more.

my aunt ordered her breakfast in and enjoyed it in the stateroom while preparing herself for the day. they would leave the door hanger menu each day and you could order as much as you wanted. this was not my interest, mostly because i do not like food served to me that has been under a lid — cooling off, or warming up and sweating all over itself. but! that’s just me. my aunt loved her breakfast and reminded me that i didn’t have to get up five minutes after i had laid down. hahahha. after the first two mornings, i made an effort to be up and up before 8 or 9 when the majority of the boat was attempting to dine. at that time, the omelet line would be twenty or thirty minutes long. i found my quiet early morning, poolside, breakfasts quite pleasurable. i met several like-minded diners and enjoyed first morning conversations with them.

with breakfast secured, i often went poolside to catch some morning-turned-midday sun. this is not a surprising fact. as the day wore on, the satiety would subside and the hunger would surface. i mostly skipped over the lunch buffet with the day’s masterpieces. i think i ate at the burger bar everyday. that is where my other friend would greet me with

“hello ma’am. veggie burger with cheese, right? no onion?”

how did he know that??!?!?!? there was a line of hungry folks in front of me and twice as many behind me. but no matter what, the same smile, the same question and the same acknowledging head nod. super fantastic! next to my condiment-less veggie burger i would pile golden fried chicken strips that weighed no less that half a pound each. followed by beautiful crunchy skinny french fries and topped off with a pile of chips drowned in bubblin’ hot nacho cheese. most times i would fill a plate with the little plastic cups of water and then place my plate of food on top to maximize my trip and to always have enough to share.

since i have such simple tastes and prefer the simplicity of food, i CHOOSE not to try things that i am almost certain i will not like. i know that takes the adventure out of it, but what can i say? it’s just not my style. i can assure you that i gave everything a good long glance and considered several new things. perhaps my creature of habit habits talked me out of actually taking the plunge and TRYING everything. we’ll never actually know. don’t be too disappointed. i had fun, i enjoyed myself and i didn’t starve. i also did NOT gain the expected complimentary five to ten pounds that most people gain on a cruise. yay, me!

every night, we attended the formal captain’s dinner. this is pretty much the only reason that i was not poolside. i would retire to the room about 5 or 6 and give myself time to get pretty for dinner. i was delighted that i did because it was so much fun. there was a theme every night and each night there was a standby menu (just for folk like me) and the day’s menu holding all of the food secrets and surprises for that specific night. it might not be obvious at this point, but i pretty much stuck to the same ole things. on day two, i was spoiled ROTTEN by our server Tatiana. i arrived each night to find a cheese platter just above my place setting so that i might enjoy that huge chunk of bleu cheese with my salad. i have yet to find a bleu cheese that i enjoy as much as that one. she spoiled me to the hilt.

my favorite dinner was the vegetarian black bean enchiladas. they were truly delicious. i left thinking about them and spent a couple of days surfing the internet, the Carnival website and the cruiser blogs until i found the recipe. i have yet to make it, but you can be assured that when i do, you will know about it. they really were good and with my eccentricity where food is concerned it takes something quite amazing to knock my socks off. my socks were off! my eyes were closed and i’m pretty sure i was drooling and groaning like a toddler just getting control of her hands. they were goooooooooooooooood. but, the rest of the days… ? meh. nothing to take note of except…. dessert.

the real treat for me was the treats. i have a wicked sweet tooth. wicked. and every evening there were three new yummies to choose from. Tatiana is a dessert lover and she and i would discuss the dessert menu at length with one another before i made my choice. the best recommendation, the best choice and the best dessert was the crème brûlée. hands down. i do not have any photos of the foods i ate, but we’ll make do with this one:

ohhhhh.. the layers of deliciousness...

and while we’re at it, let’s get a definition of it:

Crème brûlée ( /ˌkrɛm brˈl/; French pronunciation: [kʁɛm bʁyle]), also known as burnt cream, crema catalana, or Trinity cream is a dessert consisting of a rich custard base topped with a contrasting layer of hard caramel. It is normally served cold. The custard base is traditionally flavored with vanilla. The earliest known reference of crème brûlée as we know it today appears in François Massialot‘s 1691 cookbook.

sweet candy and Jessica Tandy! (thank you Donna Tubbs-Brown). now. tell me, what is not delectable and inviting about that photo? tell me you don’t wanna bite it. i do! i can almost taste it right now.. that rich vanilla custard base, so smooth and flawless. covered by the thinnest layer of heaven, i mean, burnt caramelized sugar and topped with a few berries. oh lord it was good. how could you deny a recipe that’s eighty-five years older than the country we live in?? — well, that i live in??? and truth be told, this was my FIRST crème brûlée. before i dove face first into the shallow dish, i had flashback from a favorite movie, Amelie, when she discusses her love of the little nuances in life; including cracking the caramelized sugar with a spoon:

it is the impish grin that eludes to the joy contained within a crème brûlée

and immediately looks into the camera to ensure that you share her excitement.

i know that when Tatiana placed the dish before me i sighed. she said “and for you, crème brûlée” with her estonian accent and that added to the loveliness. as she walked away she said “enjoy TAH-knee-SHUH” and winked at me. i sighed again, picked up my spoon, closed my eyes and took a second to revel in the anticipation of the delight before me.

3, 2, 1 — SMACK! the crunchiness crunching and then the first bite. oh, heavenly goodness. so rich and delicious. it was everything i had hoped for and more. the joy of cracking the caramelized sugar was fun and i think i wore that same smile. i don’t know if there was conversation. i didn’t feel the boat rocking or moving as i did at every other sitting. i didn’t see or hear anything. the crème brûlée devoured me, and i in turn, devoured it. i wish i had one now.

so, all in all, i had basic breakfasts and lunches. nothing outstanding or rare. i had one memorable dinner and one unforgettable dessert. i have no complaints. at all.

my darlings! we have come to the end of this cruise adventure. the elation of the vacation has come to an end. thank you for walking slowly with me down this detailed recount of everything that i could remember. i know that i will think of more later and perhaps, there will be a part six. only time will tell. i so appreciate your time, effort and attentiveness in continuing to return for more.

the cruise is over, but the memories are forever burned into the soul of Brown Sugar Britches. this was an experience unlike any other. i am grateful for having had the opportunity. i am more grateful now that i’ve had time to simmer with the ideas and relay the awesomeness to you. until next time… do stay sweet!

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the house that keeps on giving

a house is not a home. as so elegantly sung by the late luther vandross (thanks, mama, i love you for that song). it is a structure built with the intention and desire to one day be purchased and fulfill it’s destiny to actually become a home. some houses struggle their entire existence trying to become a home. i have been blessed to know many “homes” during my time. my mama’s house, my gramma’s house and my aunt’s house– no matter where they have been or will be, will always be my home(s). but i am lucky enough to have another home. it belongs to my best friend’s parents. they have been married for twenty-five years. they are both retired but have a busy social life and still manage to take care of their parents, their kids and the Three Grandkid-teers. this is a story about the home that they made, provided and shared. a home unlike any other.

in the thirty plus years that i have been a part of their family, i suspect that i have spent years at their house. i don’t know the exact number, but it’s safe to say that it would rival the actual number of hours that i spent at my own home. for as long as i can remember, the front door has been unlocked during normal operating hours. the front yard has not changed that much, and neither has the house for that matter. the only things that i can actually recall being changed affect the aesthetics of the house: the windows, the paint, several screen doors (not for pretty, but because of big headed, strong willed canines) and the decorations. it is now as it has always been — simple, warm and inviting.

the queen of the castle is meticulous. there is a method to her madness and if you don’t know it, you’ll soon find out. she likes her things “just so” and her things like it too. they are used to her and will unknowingly tattle-tell, if and when, you misplace or abuse them. she will see what you have done before you do. confess. it’s in your best interest. the king of the castle is laid back. not much bothers him that i’ve come to find. together, they manage their household seamless and flawlessly.

i grew up across the street, hence the amount of time i spent there. it’s a great house to grow up in and i have always known that. but recently, i had the opportunity to stay there for a week. the king and queen were away on travel. they provide weekly childcare for their three youngest grandchildren. with them out of town, the responsibility fell upon Nanny. the queen’s mom. but she’s eighty-four and while she can handle herself, expecting her to care for the two toddlers is outside of the comfort range. that’s where i came in. i agreed to house/baby/granny-sit in order to ensure comfort, ease of mind and a change of pace for all involved. what an adventure. so there’s Nanny, my SweetHeart Callie, her little brother the MadMan AJ and their littler cousin the PetiteSweet Emmie. not to mention, that i had with me my effervescent and energetic four-year-old SuperBoy Kenneth and me. whew. if there was ever a place to watch and care for a senior citizen, elementary schooler, preschooler, two toddlers, three dogs, a guinea pig and a betta fish.. it’s this house. thank the lord for the house on BlahBlah Street!

let’s start with a sorta-tour of the premises. the front yard is large and accommodating. there is enough play room and comfort room to watch the kids out front. through the front door is the formal living room. it’s formal. the furniture is white and there are lots of fragile breakable ceramic and glass items in there. stay out. it’s not a request, it’s an order. just don’t go in there or be in there unless it’s christmas eve and you’re with the rest of the family opening presents. moving on.. leaving the formal living room takes you to the formal dining room. again, it’s formal. stay out. unless it’s your birthday, they’re having a party for you and it’s time to blow out the candles. the formal dining room gives way to the family dining area. it’s cozy and comfortable and centrally located. from there you can go one of two ways, into the tv room or into the kitchen. there is a den, respectively known as “the tv room” and it holds one of the four televisions in the home, the fireplace and a pool table. yes, a pool table. the bestie and i used to play pool for hours. now it’s covered with plastic and serves as the queen’s craft table. uuummmm, don’t move her stuff. 😀 i don’t want you to think that she’s mean or territorial, she’s the queen. it’s her castle and she has rules and regulations. she is extremely generous and kind. it is because of the queen that the house is able to give relentlessly. technically it’s all her, and she just uses the house to share her love.

the tv room and family dinner table are right off the best room in the house… the kitchen! i love kitchens. all kitchens. they truly are the heart of the home. besides the appliances, you’re more than likely going to find Nanny in the kitchen. she cooks and bakes constantly. you will also find any and everything you could possibly want to eat. there is always cereal. probably four different kinds as well as a variety of milks to choose from. there is a fruit basket that is never empty. the most astounding part to me is that it always has apples, oranges and bananas. how awesome and healthy is that? it makes me smile just to think about it. the children will have good eating habits, even without their knowledge or effort. there are several other items that are a staple including yogurt, jell-o, popsicles, tortilla chips, a microwave meal or six, low-fat popcorn and sandwich fixins. oh, and a fifty-gallon bag of shredded cheese. again i say, how awesome is that? and what a great place to grow up in. there is now, and has always been a ‘snack drawer’. it’s what the bestie and her brother used to pick their lunch box treats from. it’s moved locations a couple of times, but it seems to multiply when your back is turned. it is never close to empty and always full of variety. more awesomeness.

just off the kitchen is the laundry room. the house (more like the queen or Nanny) processes no less than three loads of laundry a day. everything required is conveniently placed within reach. it also has a storage area full of food. yes, more food. the kitchen is full of food and the laundry room is half food, half cleaning supplies. next you’ll enter the “front bathroom”. it’s got a pink theme. always has. it also has two doors which can be confusing and/or embarrassing, depending on what you’re doing in there when the other door opens. there are four bedrooms, one of them is a part-time office. the beds are always made and every room has a ceiling fan to ensure maximum comfort. there are four televisions and a computer in the home. everyone can pretty much watch what they want and not have to fight with or disturb another.

the backyard is complete with plastic playhouse, small swing, things with wheels and a swimming pool with diving board and slide. what could be more inviting? i know! an on hand barbecue and the pool is fenced in so there’s no need to obsess about the kids falling in. the house is constantly telling you:

“you’re safe here. take a load off. you hungry? sleepy? rest. relax, i got you.”

now, if you have yet to be impressed by what i’ve described, take a trip out the back, into the garage and down the stairs. from what i remember, the garage has never held more than one car at a time. the king has his woodcutting hobby down there and of course there’s always storage, but what will catch your eye is the stock pile of food items down there. yes, more food. it’s breathtaking. i’m sure that Sam’s Club buys from her, instead of the other way around. there is so much food. but also, the consumable products: paper towels, paper plates, napkins, plastic cups, ziploc bags and the like. they make clean up with kids quicker and easier and who doesn’t love that? there’s more detergent in the garage than on the whole block. and all of these things add to the comfort of the home. they add to the ambiance and feeling that you are cared for when you’re there and you needn’t worry.

ok, so let’s zoom back in time to the beginning of last week. the king and queen left on tuesday and my aunt dropped us off on BlahBlah Street that afternoon. my son has many allergies and when we stay away, i pack my whole house. we unloaded and started our week-long working-vacation. we entered the house and immediately were harassed by the resident dog family: candy, peachy and mickey. we greeted everyone in the house and Nanny was already cooking dinner. she had promised us a chicken dinner a few weeks earlier but got held up running errands with her grandson. on the menu was fried chicken breasts, nanny-tatoes (kinda like homefries but better), green beans and chocolate covered vanilla cake. whooo hoo! it’s great to be home. my son was too excited to eat. he loves my bestie’s kids and just wanted to be outside running a muck. the rest of us ate and let the weight of the day slip away. the backyard calls to the children. they spend the majority of their time outside. however, it was a little chilly and the sprinklers came on so we corralled them and brought them inside for a movie.

the PetiteSweet, the youngest of the group leaves around dinnertime. both boys were broken hearted. she’s a people watcher and pretty quiet. but she’s quick on her toes. it looked like the two boys were getting physical and a hand came flying her direction, not only did she block it but she responded just as fast with an almost-hit-back. you go, girl! my son had instantly become enamored with her. Callie is his first love. he followed her everywhere to the point of annoyance. they all love each other though. it’s very cute to watch. dinner, movie, baths and bed. we slept in the SweetHeart’s room. she has a guinea pig, named G-force, and he is loud at night.

something about the combination of the guinea pig, the princess bed unlike my own and the realization that no one can say “i love you” louder and more clearly than if they ask you to care for their child(ren), made me not sleep that night. i was excited and a little nervous to wake the next day and have the responsibility of “the house” on my shoulders. eventually i fell asleep and when i woke up, the bestie had gone to work, the SweetHeart was already gone to school and the MadMan was still asleep. it was just Nanny, SuperBoy and i. i found Nanny in the kitchen (duh), drinking her coffee. you can’t get close to Nanny without being offered something to eat or drink, or eat. she wanted to know what i was going to eat. was it cereal? was it toast? was it chocolate covered vanilla cake? what, what was i going to eat?

“nothing right now, Nan, i’m ok.”

she continued… for at least another fifteen minutes. finally she told me:

“you’re makin’ me nervous by not eating! you want me to fix you something? i’ll fix ya whatever ya want, you know that. what can i fix? ya want some pancakes?”

“yes, Nan, pancakes would be awesome.”

“goood. i’ll start on um right now.”

she made me a stack of pancakes everyday, for four days straight! they were almost as big as the plate and drenched in butter (i love butter). she made me a stack of four, SuperBoy a stack of two and just one for the MadMan. that’s enough pancakes to satisfy an elephant and enough butter to last for the rest of 2011. death by pancakes. but you won’t catch me complaining, honestly. it was a pleasure and a delight. we should all be so lucky as to be forced to eat fresh pancakes every morning. before i could take the last bite and walk my plate into the kitchen, everything was cleaned up. i couldn’t even tell she made anything and then she was off to do the laundry while telling me to leave my plate in the sink. amazing.

Nanny allows the kids to help her do any and everything. SweetHeart is a junior chef already. she likes to be involved in all cooking processes somewhere along the way, and she doesn’t want your help, just your guidance. she can “do it”.  Nanny let’s the kids sit on the kitchen counter next to her while she instructs them accordingly. she lets the MadMan, a two-year-old, help her with the laundry. it’s the cutest and sweetest thing. he’s standing all tippy-toe on top of the tiny dryer-lent trash can and she hands him the clothes items one-by-one. she’s so patient and easy going. unless you’re refusing breakfast. i aspire to be as sweet, gentle, caring and wonderful as she is.

the days flew by pretty easy. (note: the PetiteSweet is only at the house for a few hours in the afternoon. and she didn’t make it the rest of the week. 😦 we enjoyed our day with her though. we look forward to the next time we see her.) with two boys in the house all day there is a lot of running, screaming and hitting. occasionally spitting, immediately followed by time-out. there was also a lot of “give it, gimme it, stop it” and “mine”. but all-in-all, they are like brothers and play as well as two brothers could. inside, outside, inside, outside and inside. outside. and with them, there are no inside voices. there’s one voice for the both in and outside. and it’s LOUD. they are more entertained by classic animation including tom & jerry and scooby doo than any of the newer, more impressive, pixar created movies. they love them all, but tom & jerry genuinely makes them laugh.

on the second night i proceeded to give SuperBoy a bath, once the water started running the MadMan came around the corner faster than lightning. i think all children have super-sonic hearing. especially if they hear the sounds of something they want to be doing. my son was in the tub and i was getting a towel from under the bathroom sink. i looked up and AJ was already out of his pajama pants.

“i wanna takey baff”

dammitalltohell. now there’s two of them in there. they did pretty good, there was only a quarter of an inch of water across the bathroom floor. it reminded me of this:

we pretty much did this same thing everyday. i got to start each morning with fresh pancakes. i think it was on the third day that both boys were seated and waiting. AJ said “yummy yumma”. if it had been warmer i would have braved the swimming area with the boys. there’s a hot tub that would have held the three of us comfortably. speaking of hot tub.. did i tell you that i found a rawhide dog bone, swimming pool brush head and superman in the bottom of the hot tub. i retrieved the items and gave the superman figurine back to the MadMan only to blink and see him actually throw it and watch superman hit the surface and sink to the bottom. i left him there for a day or so. 😀 as well, i found the fabulous and rootin’est tootin’est cowboy Woody in the hose attachment point of the shop vac. i present to you, exhibit a:

exhibit a

shop vac toy torture

can you see that? here.. lemme help you.

exhibit a zoom-in

the rootin'est tootin'est cowboy

the days flew by almost effortlessly. what a fun time. it wasn’t work at all. nothing out of the ordinary. i was happy to have some time away from my home, to allow my son to have an outing, to give my aunt some personal space, but also to be taken care of by the house, Nanny and the kids. they really took care of me. i left there happier and healthier. it made me grateful for all of the wonderful people that i have in my life. from Nanny all the way down to the PetiteSweet, i am loved. my aunt makes and saves a place for me and my son in her heart and in her home. she’s a saint. my bestie’s family loves me enough to entrust me with their little angels and their sweet sweet gramma’s. i am blessed! i am truly cared for. i hope that if i am ever fortunate enough to purchase a house that i will be able to turn it into a home. a home that will provide and embrace my family and friends for generations to come. a home that can cater to the elderly, small children and a variety of pets. a house that will keep on giving.