Tuesday, August 23, 2011

As Summer Ends (memories, souvenirs and celebrations)

Summer, the actual season, doesn't end until mid-September, but no matter how you look at it, back-to-school time signifies the end of summer. Even if you don't have kids, this seems to be the case. Just last night, while W and I were having dinner at our favorite local pub, The Second Half, we got to talking to the owner about summer's end. He mentioned that, regardless of the nice weather that may carry deep into September (and the gorgeous patio they have for their diners to enjoy), the dining vibe changes when kids go back to school. Routines change, people get busy, sports begin practice and those long, lazy meals become more rushed.

Our summer was packed with short trips all over the place. We went to Rhode Island, and spent days at my cousin Ginny's beach house at Point Judith, then travelled through Jamestown and Bristol, and ended our stay in Providence, where we experienced Waterfire.  We took the kids to Long Beach Island, and then the Grand Cascades Lodge. Our kids also went on their own adventures, mine to California, his to Vermont and Cape May. It was busy, but also quite relaxing. In each spot, I got us an ornament as a keepsake, with the exception of Grand Cascades (they didn't sell them). We took our family Christmas photo there, so I am using it to make ornaments from that adventure.

In Long Beach Island, we took our friend Mandy's advice and stayed at the Spray Beach Inn (thanks Mandy!) Our room had a view of the ocean, and the moonlight shining on the water in the evening was breathtaking. Falling asleep to a view of the moon over the ocean is a remarkable thing. At the Inn's restaurant, there was a singer who sounded so much like Frank Sinatra that we almost wanted to check and see if he wasn't lip syncing to a CD. At one point, he came to the table with his mic and asked if we were Sinatra fans. All five of us (me, W, and the kids) replied a hearty "Yes" and then he put the mic in W's face and asked him one of his favorite Sinatra songs. <crickets> None of us remembered the names of any except New York, New York and My Way. It was pretty funny, though I did feel a bit dumb. (Had he asked my favorite Peggy Lee song, we'd have been in business!) Mol and Johnny each ordered a Maine Lobster, which is a sophisticated move for nine and ten year olds. Apparently, it was enjoyable.  Johnny ate every bit, even sucking out meat from the claws. Glorious, garlic buttered sea bugs -- the kids have good taste.

We got rained on at Fantasy Island, a carnival that is permanently housed at LBI, so we went inside to seek shelter (and some fun for the kids) in the arcade. We took pictures in a photo booth, then cashed our dollars in for quarters so that the kids could play games. After losing about $20 in quarters trying to win an Angry Birds stuffed animal for W, I found that the rain had stopped, so we went outside to check out the rides and get the kids some ice cream. During that time, we happened upon a reptile show, and got to see a live cobra, a small alligator, and a 15 lb. albino python (yellow, and aptly named banana).

We spent time in the ocean, and I can personally say that I was surprised that the kids weren't afraid to go into the water, especially since they were introduced to both Jaws (twice) and Shark Week this summer. We also toured the Barnegat Lighthouse, and though I am somewhat afraid of heights, the view from the top was so marvelous, I could have stayed all day (not to mention that I was dreading the walk back down the spiral staircase). After, we had lunch at a place our friend Kathy suggested, called Kelly's. It was our last meal before leaving the island (and after hoofing it to the top of Old Barney), and sitting in the salty looking place was as summery as it gets.

A photo of our framed photo on the wall, taken in LBI. The real photo is gorgeous and clear.
My version here is muffed up between the glass's glare and my shoddy cell camera.

A few days later we went to my new favorite hotel, ever. The Grand Cascades Lodge. My God, we had a blast. They have a biosphere filled with tropical plants and surrounded by a glass ceiling and walls. It has a jacuzzi, a steam room, and a huge pool with a giant slide that we all vigorously enjoyed. There is a snack bar that serves fresh lemonade, water, snacks and alcoholic beverages. The grounds are in the woods, and the rooms and their views are incredible. We had a full kitchen in our suite, so I chose to make breakfast every day (eggs, applewood smoked bacon, Taylor ham, and pancakes), and just eat lunch and dinner out. The restaurants on the premises were beautiful, and everyone that worked there went far beyond the call of duty to make our stay amazing.

A quick view of the biosphere, taken with my Crapberry cell.

Outside the biosphere, here's one of the outdoor pools. There was another pool that had a
whirlpool in it (not pictured), and was also beautiful, but this was our favorite.

At night, we played glow-in-the-dark mini golf, and went to the marshmallow roast (my favorite outdoor event ever s'mores.

Johnny with his roasted marshmallow.
We had such a great summer together. We spent lots of time bonding with the kids, creating memories that we will treasure for a lifetime. There are moments that were so touching, and others that were absolutely hilarious. I have to remember to write them down somewhere private (W, I smell a summer photo album with words in the works...) Our time together -- both W and I alone, and the time we got to spend with our kids, as a family -- was something I had always hoped for but never imagined actually happening or being this fantastic.

Our last hurrah for summer will be this weekend. I am curating a group photography show called Saltwater and Sand, one that has beachy photography from the work of six photographers. W is in the show, and some photos from our travels this summer (including Rhode Island and LBI) will be included. It will be the perfect end to a perfect summer.

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