Thursday, June 23, 2016

Jersey Shore

So, this past May, we did a quick getaway to Cape May, NJ, and we had such a lovely time exploring the town there that this year, we got a hankering to do something similar but in a different place.

As homeschoolers, we often get to travel and visit places on less crowded days (glorious!), so with it being June and school wrapping up in PA and about a week from wrapping up in NJ, we thought we should get over there before summer officially started. It was another great spring getaway.

We literally chose a place simply based on looking up available vacation rentals for the days we could be there. After finding a nice, pet-friendly place, we booked it and away we went! Turns out? We found a very nice spot just north of Seaside Heights where the TV reality show "Jersey Shore" is set. Who knew? So glad we chose a spot above it rather than in it, though we did go down to the area to check it out for kicks.

So, Mark worked Thursday morning and then got home for packing, lunch, and getting out the door. We're about 2.5 hours from the coast and I couldn't live any farther inland than that! We listened to podcasts and Hamilton and the time passed pretty quickly. Also? The new van is SO nice!

As we got closer to NJ, Kate got a text from her friend Morgan (we had invited her to meet us up at the beach for a day, but she's still in school in NJ) who was writing to say that her parents wanted to know if we wanted to meet up for dinner. Um, YES! Morgan has stayed with us several times and we've met her parents a couple of times and we always enjoy visiting with them, so we were pretty excited to get more time with them. They work in the food and restaurant industry, so they know good places and suggested a great seafood place (Crabs Claw Inn). We had a lovely time!!

Mother-Daughter Steamer Pots with Clams, Mussels, and Crabs

The whole group plus a photo-bombing waiter!

After dinner, we walked across to a frozen custard place and Nolan (Morgan's dad) treated us to our first ever "orange creme," which is basically a frozen custard creamsicle. Very yummy. We sat and visited for a while and even when we walked to our cars, we kept talking, because we were enjoying one another's company so much.

After much visiting, they headed back to their home in NJ (1.5 hours away!) and we went back to the beach house to get a little more settled. We always take games and movies/TV shows to watch as well as lots of fun food. We rarely buy a lot of processed foods, but for this beach trip, we loaded up on Pop-Tarts, because why not!

We watched some Friends episodes together and went to bed. It was hot and we were tired. And we were also excited to hit the beach the next day! Where we stayed was on a tiny strip of land with the ocean on one side and the bay on the other (we always prefer the ocean side). It was so cool. A lot of things there are being rebuilt after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. It was good to go support the area a bit.

Friday morning, Mark got up and went for a walk with Max and the dog. There's a donut shop right up the street so they got us some treats, including the famous NJ Pork Roll sandwich! Mmm-mmm, it's good. It's sort of like a Canadian bacon type of meat and it's typically served on a sandwich with egg and cheese (though Mark bought one without egg for the boys to try, as neither of them love eggs; Kate and I, however, are BIG fans).

Donuts and Pork Roll Sandwich

I took some pictures at the beach house that morning while we leisurely ate and got ready for some beach sun and fun.

That picture of sandals is also a picture of sweet Scout hiding under the couch hoping that would stop us from leaving. Unfortunately the beach where we stayed doesn't allow dogs, so she hung out at the beach house watching QVC while we took in the surf and sand. That's one of the reasons we love our fall beach trip - we go once dogs are allowed on the beach and she loves to join us. She happily sleeps in the sand under our chairs and loves, loves, loves being with us.

Here are some random shots from our first full day at the beach (oh, how I love the beach - I'm sooooo relaxed there and love to have my feet in the sand and my nose in a book):

EVERYTHING tastes better at the beach. I'm not even a fan of Italian subs, but at the beach? Yes, please! We got these yummy sandwiches at Jersey Mike's and they prepared them the traditional way with oil and vinegar and they were delicious! Sun Chips and fresh fruit are always yummy at the beach, too. Mmmm.

When we do our longer beach trips, we tend to really stock up on food (breakfasts, lunches, snacks, etc.) and then go out for dinner every night as part of our vacation. On these short visits, we take mostly snacks and sides, and treat ourselves to meals out and on the beach. We do a little online research and talk to locals to find good places to eat. There were lots of seafood and Italian (and both!) restaurants from which to choose and we were disappointed by nothing. Everything we ate this trip was delicious! (Okay, so the donuts aren't as good as the place we have here, but everything else? YUM!). Dinner at Lenny's was AMAZING.

Kate got Chicken Saltinboca and it was incredible

Mark got a delicious vegetable calzone

Max got his favorite white sausage pizza and I had a dish so good, I could cry
So my meal (not enough room in the caption to describe it) had penne pasta and asparagus tips and prosciutto all in an amazing brandy cream sauce. Oh, I could cry just thinking about it. Easily one of the best pasts dishes I've *ever* had. I'm glad the waitress mentioned it when I asked for suggestions, because it hadn't even been on my radar. The owner apparently created the dish and named it after his wife and holy cow, it's delicious. We also got an appetizer - a GIGANTIC homemade meatball and a BIG chunk of an amazing Italian sausage in an incredible Sunday sauce. YUM!

After dinner, we wanted to go get ice cream at the HIGHLY-acclaimed ice cream shop, "The Music Man" where there is a much singing of Broadway songs and parodies, and where they make someone from each table sing for their ice cream (seriously). We got there right as a show had just started so we needed to wait an hour before going back. We put our name on a list and drove around for a bit after making a quick stop back at the beach house. We got to see some cool birds as well as the sunset over the bay.

We drove around the private island in the town that has FABULOUS houses. It's also where Joe Pesci lives (one of the locals at the beach told us about that and said that he rides his bike around and everyone treats him like a regular person and that's why he likes it there so much). We had so much fun looking for him and making jokes about it while we did. We made up stories and dialogues about the people who live on the island and in those amazing houses, and had so much fun cracking ourselves up.

Then it was ice cream and show time. We LOVED it!! It was so much fun!! They made Kate sing for her ice cream, serenaded Max, made jokes about his hat. One of the musical servers borrowed Kate's hair clip and another kept feeding her ice cream while they sang to us. Another server took Max back to the freezer and through the kitchen. It was all hilarious! They started with a parody "Hello!" song from the Broadway musical, "The Book of Mormon," but instead of saying, "This book will change your life," they said, "This place will change your life" and made the song all about their restaurant, show, and ice cream. I wish I'd thought to take a picture of the menu - they had a dishes named after all kinds of shows and it was updated enough to have a Hamilton dish!

Kate, singing for her ice cream

He's wearing Kate's daisy hair pin

Serenading Max

With the cast!

We had a GREAT day and night. It was all fantastic. The food, the beach, the fun ice cream shop . . . so many laughs!! We went back to the beach house and I'm pretty sure we watched more Friends and went to bed. We'd all gotten some sun, so we put on aloe vera and slept.

The next day was another great day at the beach. It was windy at first, but eventually settled down. Oh, and before we hit the beach, we checked out the boardwalk at Seaside Heights (Home of the show "Jersey Shore") and it really fit a lot of the stereotypes - big gold chains, sideways caps with words like "BOSS!" on them written in little mirrors/sequins, fringed tie-dye shirts with the words "Jersey Girl" on them. It was awesome. We wanted pictures of the kids holding up some of the ridiculous clothing, but the shop owners were like hawks and there was never an easy way to do it, so you'll have to imagine it. We did get some greasy boardwalk food for the beach (to add to our cooler of grapes, chips, etc.), because food.

The boys even got in the water and rode the waves for a while (have I mentioned that we all got sunburned? Even with sunblock, we all got sun and burned and almost two weeks later, we continue to deal with peeling!)

Gotta get past those shells and pebbles first!

Riding the waves together!

My handsome boy

And my beautiful girl

After another great day at the beach (we played a bunch of Sueca - a Portuguese card game - on the beach both days), we went out for a fantastic Asian Fusion dinner. We were really hurting by now, so we tried to wear loose clothing and not stick to any chairs! I think you can tell in the following pictures that we got some sun!

It's cool we got seated, because the place was packed, we didn't have reservations, and there was a 45-minute wait. We were considering ordering take-out and while we looked at the menu, I wondered if something might open up for us and it did! Woot! After dinner, we went back to the apartment for pop-tarts and more Friends episodes. Oh, and we all used a whole lot more aloe vera, too.

The next morning we packed up and hit one more really well-rated local place - Lava Java! Such a cute little coffeehouse and cafe. We all got some fun drinks, and Kate and I split THE BEST breakfast sandwich we've ever had - eggs, cheese, potatoes, and pork roll. Phenomenal. Max got a chocolate chip muffin and Mark got a sandwich sans egg of course. Yummy place. Scout got to eat a bunch of delicious food, too, since they had all kinds of great outdoor seating. The beach is behind us one street in these pictures. Oh how I love being by the water like that.

The girls!

We got home and worked as a fantastic team (I have to say that our family REALLY pulls together with things like this - packing for a trip, cooking together, cleaning up, unpacking, getting ready for guests, projects, etc.) and got everything unpacked and put away, started laundry, etc. We also came home with lots of leftovers from the dinners out and that all fed us for days (Yay!).

We wanted to continue our vacation, so we played more games as a family and that night we watched The Tonys together and it was Hamilton-palooza and we loved. We had seen the horrific news out of Orlando that morning when we stopped for gas and I looked at news on my phone. The Tonys did a beautiful job being respectful and showing honor. As Lin-Manuel Miranda said, "And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love."

There is nothing I love more than spending time with my family having fun, visiting fun places, eating good food, enjoying nice weather, playing games, watching funny stuff, and goofing around together. I love them so much. This was a really nice little getaway for us and I am grateful.