Archive for August, 2010

Cape Cod – Day 3

Our second full day at Cape Cod featured a 30+ mile bike ride, an introduction to the seals and a croquet battle royale on the South Lawn of the Chatham Bars Inn. Today’s blog post includes rarely seen pictures from my own personal journals!

Bike Ride
On Monday, Ryan, Sam, Maria, Tim and I all rented bikes and rode along the Cape Cod Rail Trail. The Chatham Bars Inn has free bike rentals for guests– first come, first serve. Maria and Sam got their bikes first. As Ryan and I were picking up ours, Tim came down and secured the very last available bike.

I was the only one who opted for a helmet and this garnered some attention. My uncle ribbed me.

“I have a very important brain!” I said in desperate defence. The moment I said it, I knew I was in trouble.

“Are you saying we don’t?!?” Tim said with a big gotcha grin on his face, “Is your brain more important than ours?”

But the truth is, I was just scared of falling. It had been a while since I had been on a bike and this one was tall enough to make me feel even more unsteady.

Just moments after taunting me, Tim demonstrated exactly why I wanted a helmet. He peddled a mere 30 feet before his tire snagged in a crevice and he toppled over.

Tim left no ambiguity as to whether or not he was okay. As soon as he impacted the ground, he was cackling at himself. That distinct Sawyer cackle, loud and resonate. This formidable man was literally rolling on the ground laughing at himself. The recollection is still hilarious to me, even though three weeks had passed.

A passerby was standing nearby the site of Tim’s fall and she was startled by the accident. After her initial flinch, she asked a question with the most obvious of answers.

“Are you alright?”

JournalExcerpt_Tim'sFall
Journal Excerpt – My Depiction of the Fall

Tim found a way to extend the humor of the incident. Even hours later at supper he told a tale of how *I* ran him off the road. My words to him as I bike checked him with roller derby brutality were alledgedly, “I’VE GOT A HELMET!!!!”

JournalExerpt_TimsAccountOfFall
Journal Excerpt – My Depiction of Tim’s Rendition of the Fall

That was the only mishap we had and we all shared a great bike ride! This was the same bike path Ryan and I ran the day before. I was surprised with how much faster mileage goes when you are on the bike. Together, all five of us biked to the Harwick town center. I forgot to bring money, but Tim spotted me so “my brain” could have some Gatorade.

After that, we parted ways. Ryan & I kept going down the trail to Nickerson State Park. I thought the bike trail was nice before, but after the “rotary” (aka circle) in Harwick, the trail is AMAZING! It passed through beautiful forests (countless oak trees) and between crystal clear ponds. Just gorgeous.

Tony Airaghi once commended biking. He told me how it is very much like hiking and you can take in a lot of scenery. I definitely can agree. I just loved all the trees and views. And Nickerson State Park was the cream of the crop! Unlike the packed Cape Cod Rail Trail, the paved trails of the park were almost completely void of people. The bike trails in the state park were more hilly as well.

When Ryan & I first arrived at the park, I looked at a map and announced, “Hey! I want to see Cliff Pond! It sounds like there are cliffs there!”

Ryan smiled gently and I realized how unlikely my statement was. The topography was less flat than Elizabeth City, but it certainly was not “cliff material”. More likely the pond was named after some local dude with the surname “Cliff.”

But it was a destination and it was as good as anything else to bike to. As we discovered actual hills on the bike path, including one steep enough to warrant a warning sign, I got excited. Perhaps there were cliffs at Cliff Pond afterall.

We made our way near the pond and took a gravel road down to its shore.

And nope. No cliffs.

BUT– what we found was quite nice. Here this pristine pond with clear waters was mostly secluded. The children of a small family splashed in the water and a caught fish flopped around in a plastic bag. I was surprised to be at a place with such beauty and now having it swarming with humans.

Ryan and I did not bike with our cameras, so our only pictures (and a series of accidental videos we took thinking we were taking pictures) were from my camera.

Cape Cod - Nickerson State Park - Vicky at Cliff Pond
No Cliffs at Cliff Pond

Cape Cod - Nickerson State Park - Ryan at Cliff Pond
Ryan at Cliff Pond

Lunch
We were out for about four hours and biked over thirty miles. Upon our return, we walked to downtown Chatham for lunch. We ate a a place called Battered Up. Ryan had a delicious chicken kabob and I had a yummy fried scallop cup.

Fishing Pier
After lunch, Ryan and I tried to take the Chatham Bars Inn’s free water shuttle to the North Shore. Unfortunately the last shuttle back from the North Shore leaves at 3:45 PM, so it wasn’t going to be worth it for Ryan and I to go out there to come right back. Ryan and I waited at the pier for Mom and Carolyn to return.

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - Mom and Carolyn on Boat
Mom and Carolyn Return From North Shore

When they did, we recruited my cousins Sam and Gina and then we walked down to The Chatham Fish Pier. There, I finally got to see a seal close up! I had been hearing them and seeing their little black heads poke up out of the water in the horizon. At the Fish Pier, a couple of privy seals had discovered a strategy for an easy meal.

Cape Cod - Chatham Fishing Pier - Seal
One of my First Seal Sightings!

Cape Cod - Chatham Fishing Pier - Cause and Effect
Cause and Effect – Seagull and a Stockpile of Seagull Poo

Croquet
After the Fish Pier, we walked to the South Lawn of the Chatham Bars Inn to watch “Family Croquet”. Clint and Carolyn were taking on two brothers just who just learned to play that day. Carolyn and Clint may look like tough opponents… but the two boys seem to beat them with relative ease. : )

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - Family Crochet - Carolyn and Clint with Mallets
Carolyn and Clint Pose with their Weapons

Cape Cod - Chatham Bars Inn - Family Crochet - Clint Being Evil
Actual Game

Supper
For supper, Ryan and I added ourselves on to Tim’s family’s reservations at The Tavern. I was surprised at how quickly the concierge was able to take care of my request.

“Was it the Sawyer party?” the fellow on the phone asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

“It’s already taken care of.”

Wow, now that’s service! Impressive!

Little did I know my Aunt Julie and my Uncle Chuck had also called to tag onto the reservations. When Ryan and I called, the concierge thought we were the same couple! As a result, when our party of eight showed up, the restaurant was only prepared for six. Luckily they quickly adapted. Ryan and I shared the delicious scallop entree, salad appetizers and…. yum, yum, yum– creme brulee.

Girl’s Night and BANG!
Monday night, my cousins Michelle and Jennifer had the night off as their husbands were watching their sons. So they recruited women to go out for a bit. Jennifer, Michelle, Maria, Gina, Sam and I all headed down to the Red Nun in Chatham. I found the outing very pleasant– a lot of story telling (I have pages and pages in my journal of various stories), a lot of laughter. When we returned back to the resort, I checked in with the guys. They were doing a favorite beach vacation activity– playing games. That night it was BANG! I joined them and my sister and my cousin Melanie for a quick game. It was an interesting game and educational. I didn’t realize my cousin Jack was so sneaky. I also didn’t realize my young cousin Melanie was so cut-throat. : )

Cape Cod - BANG!
Guys Playing BANG!

And that was the packed third day of our vacation!!!!

August 30, 2010 at 10:44 am 2 comments

Heart in Nature – Black Walnut

Photo courtesy of spugbrap!  A heart in the shell of a black walnut. I’m currently growing a baby black walnut, but expect it’ll be sometime before I can reenact a photo such as this. : )

Heart in nature in black walnut shell (1 of 2)
Heart in Black Walnut Shell (Photo courtesy of spugbrap)

August 26, 2010 at 12:46 pm Leave a comment

Henry Wants Bark for Life Donations

In April 2004, Henry was diagnosed with cancer.  After surgery to remove his tumor, the vet speculated that Henry had a 50% chance of living three more years.  It’ s been over six now!  Thanks to all the strides in cancer research, Henry’s gotten to have six extra birthdays.  And in those six years– hiking, camping, canoeing and other great adventures!  To help other dogs, and humans, celebrate more birthdays Henry (and Jimmie) will be participating in Bark for Life on September 11th.  It’s a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, only for dog participants!  Henry is currently soliciting donations.

NOW, Henry realizes that just three months ago, I hit a lot of you up for donations for Relay for Life.  So Henry’s upping the ante.  If you give Henry a donation for Bark for Life, then Henry will send you a crochet head-hugger hat.  Just in time for sock hat season.

Henry's Bark for Life Hats
Henry Offers You Hats

Tyrek Models Bark for Life Hat
Special Thanks to Tyrek for Modeling this Hat

If you are sufficiently enticed, visit Henry’s Bark for Life Donation page. All donations are tax-deductible.

August 25, 2010 at 11:05 am 1 comment

Cape Cod – Day 2

Ryan and I started off our first full day of vacation…. with a nine mile run. We are both training for a half marathon in September. We ran along the beautiful Cape Cod Trail which is about 1.2 miles away from our hotel. Believe it or not, it is hilly compared to the terrain we are used to at home. But we found the low humidity and temperature to be very conducive to the longer runs.

In May, Ryan and I started doing the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge where anytime we do an activity, we log it to get points. I highly recommend it.  I’ve found that little website to be absolutely the best motivator. Why? It’s the point system. I want to keep up with Ryan on the points. And that’s hard! There are weekday mornings where I wake up and I see Ryan putting on his running clothes. “$(*&%!” I think. Then I get up and put on my Vibrams. I quickly learned I can’t safely postpone my exercise to the evening. If he runs in the morning, I have to run in the morning.  Otherwise, he may come home after work and want to play tennis. Then I only get points for tennis, but he gets points for tennis AND running. Grrr.

That morning at Cape Cod, Ryan and I looked at a map and decided to run three miles down the Cape Cod Rail Trail and turn around. Ryan runs faster than I. On the round trip runs, he’ll eventually pass me. After I ran by the 2.5 mile marker with no sign of Ryan, I silently celebrated my pace in my head, “Yay! I’m less than a mile behind him!” When I passed the 2.75 mile marker…. I started to realize, “Oh no…He kept going.” Sure enough, I get to the 3 mile marker and the 3.25 mile marker and still no Ryan. When I did pass him, I asked him which marker he went to.

“Four,” he said.

“I was afraid of that,” I panted.

Ryan suggested I turn around at the 3.5 mile marker. But it was futile. The decision was already made. I was going to the freaking four mile marker. I needed those points. And you know what— I am glad I did. The extra two miles flew by. I had a very pleasant run. Beautiful scenery, tons of oak trees, I even saw a large hawk pass over me. When we finished, I had completed my longest run to date. That’s quite a high!

The aftermath of the run wasn’t as pleasant. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were starving (we didn’t eat breakfast before going out). We decided to shower before eating which gave the hunger time to compound. The prices at the resort deterred us and we decided to walk into town for more reasonably priced grub. That journey was miserable. We walked in light headed and sore silence.

“This walk is worse than the run,” I finally said. Ryan agreed.

At one point, Ryan pointed to some stairs and said, “Let’s take a break.”

“Really? COOL!” my voice suddenly had spunk. 

But it turns out Ryan was only kidding. By the time I realized that, my enthusiasm had already outed me as the wuss of our twosome. D’oh. : )

We made it downtown and ate at a great place called The Captain’s Table. I had a salad and a delicious lobster bisque– the kind where you can taste the real cream in the ingredient list!  I love that!  We hit up a used bookstore, stocked up on books and then returned back to the resort.

The rest of the day was low key and extremely relaxing. I sat out front and caught up on journal entries. We read our books. I worked on crosswords and we just enjoyed the down time.

For dinner, the entire family met for a Sunday night buffet at the Chatham Bars Inn. HOLY CRAP. That was the most decadent, decadent buffet. I have never seen anything like it. Ahi Tuna, Lobster, Scallops, Giant Crab Legs. They even had a whole selection of caviar, including wasabi infused tobiko! We were all just stunned as we walked past the buffet to our table. Some of us were less stunned than others. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my father poking and prodding one of the humongous lobsters on the buffet to see if it was real.

Greetings Rich People! The Sawyers Have Arrived!

August 24, 2010 at 5:00 am 2 comments

Wedding – Caterer

When I moved from Blacksburg, I expected to miss the mountains. I expected to miss my friends. What I didn’t expect to miss was the food. In Blacksburg, I had a variety of options at my disposal. I’m afraid I took that for granted. When I moved to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, I found myself deprived of past staples. Elizabeth City doesn’t have Ethiopian food. It doesn’t have Indian food. It doesn’t have Thai. As a result, when we do venture out of Elizabeth City, that’s what I want. Ethiopian, Indian or Thai. Or Chic-Fil-A. We don’t have one of those either. 🙂

In the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area, Ryan quickly introduced me to Rajput Indian Cuisine. Absolutely delicious. Everything’s so, so good. I had found my new favorite restaurant. After that, anytime we were in the market for supper in that area, we were most likely going to Rajput.


Rajput – One Taste and You’re Hooked!

When we started down the road for wedding planning, I didn’t make the connection at first… that you could actually have your favorite restaurant cater. We looked through a listing of caterers and reviewed menus and plate costs. Nothing really stuck out and worse– the whole idea of a “real wedding” was becoming more and more intimidating. Linens and flatware and silverware. Oh gosh, don’t forget the cups. That’s a lot of trouble for a meal you aren’t particularly jazzed about.

Enter Rajput and Paul Chhabra. They do full service catering! Suddenly, not only did we have a meal to look forward to…. but we had knowledgeable, unflustered Paul Chhabra in our ranks. Ryan and I didn’t know what we were doing and that was okay because Paul did know what he was doing. He took care of all those details that were so scary– the linens, the plates, the forks, the cups. He had questions we never would have thought of. He had recommendations. He had suggestions. He had answers.

He also had vision. Three weeks before the wedding, Paul and I met with Jennifer Turlington at the Virginia Living Museum for a walk through. At one point Jennifer asked where I wanted the cake table.

“Uh…..” I had no clue.

“What about right there? In front of that painting?” Paul asked.

That’s where we put it. And wow. Our nature themed cake looked so lovely in front of that backdrop.

Wedding Weekend - Reception - Bouquets and Cake (by Liza Franco)
Cake and Painting

We ended up doing a buffet dinner featuring chicken, vegetarian and vegan options. I was concerned about the children and my boss Larry, so we added in a special selection for the more finicky souls. Greg Z went into the buffet line with a plan. “Save room on your plate.” He instructed his wife, “The best stuff on a buffet is always last!” Greg stayed true to his own strategy. He kept plenty of open space on his plate, only to discover the last item was… chicken fingers and french fries. 🙂

When I arrived at the reception, I could smell the aroma of delicious Rajput food. I saw Paul and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. For months, he had squelched all my worries, alleviated all my stress and then he delivered a fabulous meal. With that, I just had to give my caterer a hug!

Paul and I had another bonding moment. At the very end of the reception as everyone started to clean up, the DJ put on Slumdog Millionaire’s Jai Ho. A young man started to dance and put on a phenomenal show. A small crowd gathered and found themselves mesmorized. Paul stood next to me and we both watched with big smiles.

“That’s my son!” he said. He said that statement with pride. It was well-founded pride.

I truly believe Rajput was the turning point of our whole wedding planning process. I think it is very possible that if Rajput had not come on board, Ryan and I would have ended up with a very different, smaller event. With food to be excited about and all Paul’s expertise, we got to stay calm and relaxed and celebrate with so, so many more loved ones. Ahh, and I got Chicken Tikka Masala and decadent rice pudding to boot. 🙂

Wedding Vendor –Caterer
Rajput Indian Cuisine
http://www.rajputonline.com
742 W. 21st Street
Norfolk, VA 23517
Phone: (757) 625-4634
Email: info@rajputonline.com

August 23, 2010 at 10:57 am 6 comments

Wedding – Pi Favors

Shortly after the wedding, Ryan and I had a number of kids over to walk them through reinstalling their laptops. It was a lengthy process, so we put movies on in the background to provide some entertainment while the various progress bars ticked by. One of the movies we watched was “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. From the lack of laughter, it was safe to say the movie only appealed to me and me only. There was an exception. Near the end of the film, you can see the family arguing in the kitchen.

“Hey!” I pointed at the screen, “LOOK!”

While the characters were arguing, they were also hard at work…. wrapping wedding favors in tulle.

And that I think was the only part of the movie we ALL got a kick out of. Wrapping things in tulle was a process we were intimately familiar with. In the two weeks before the wedding, Ryan, the neighborhood kids and I made 130 chocolate Pis using ThinkGeek Ice Cube Trays. We then placed 130 chocolates on 130 little squares of purple cardstock, wrapped them in tulle and tied them with a purple ribbon.

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Ryan Struggles to Tie
Grrr… We Know What It’s Like to Wrap Things in Tulle!

We selected Chocolate Pis as wedding favors because, well, Pi is pretty geeky.  It works with science and nature.  Plus Pi made a cameo in our ceremony.

A perfect circle contains an element of infinite complexity. Like circles, your rings have no beginning and no end and in the sacred tradition of marriage, rings have come to symbolize eternal love and the endless union of body, of mind, and spirit.  The circle, like marriage, was created to be forever, and endless. Just like the number “PI”  a number that goes on without end.  To quote Lisa Hoffman, “Marriage is like PI – natural, irrational, and VERY IMPORTANT.”

Interestingly enough, the Pi Chocolates had a lot of male contributers. Khalif and Tyrek helped squirt chocolate in the molds. Tyrek cut up purple ribbons. Khalif, Armani and Ryan all helped wrap.

Here’s another surprise. While Khalif, Ryan and I all struggled at tying the ribbons, Armani, who had seemed to be pretty indifferent about the wedding, waltzes in and puts us all to shame. He was by far the most effective wrapper! His innovation– twisting the tulle before tying.

Wedding Behind the Scenes - Chocolate Pis
Growing Inventory of Wrapped Pis


Chocolate Pi at Wedding (Photo by Brian Nenninger)

Opportunity for Improvement
Our little Pis were cute and fitting, but there was an opportunity for improvement. When shopping for chocolate, I noted that almost all the selections included partially hydrogenated oils. That did not please me. So we used some Baker’s “Dipping Chocolate” instead.   It didn’t contain partially hydrogenated oils, but it melted a lot easier than the other chocolates.

This melting issue turned out to be a source of stress for me. The day before the wedding, Ryan and I loaded up two vehicles full of wedding stuff and headed up to Chesapeake Circuit Court to get our marriage license. It was a pretty warm day and as we headed into the Circuit Court, I was conscious that our vehicles would warm up. I was concerned. LUCKILY, that ginormous white wedding dress with its incredible amount of layers—- it made for perfect insulation! The chocolates not only survived that stop, but they also survived a late lunch as well.

My cousin Sam and my brother’s girlfriend Jacklyn were both helping with the wedding setup. I warned them about the easy melting. They knew to hold the little tulle contraptions by the top as they set the tables. And I do remembering mentioning to more than one person at the reception, “When you decide to eat your chocolate Pi, eat it fast!”

Alas, there was still a mishap. My friend, Tony, decided to put his chocolate Pi in his pocket to save for later.

Yeah, that didn’t quite work out as planned. He ended up with a pocket full of melted chocolate. 🙂

So the improvement I would recommend is to select a chocolate that wouldn’t melt when exposed to body heat as easily. 

August 22, 2010 at 5:00 am 7 comments

Wedding – Lowell’s Lecture and the Father Daughter Dance

When I was a young girl, one lesson my father frequently reprimanded me on was the value of commitments. “You can’t renege on a commitment!” he’d bark at me, “You can NOT renege on a commitment!”  This usually happened when I was trying to get out of a bridge game.

I was married before and when that marriage disintegrated, I returned home to stay with my parents. Although I can look back now and see with clarity the correctness of my decisions, it was extremely tough at the time. I cried almost all of the 250 mile drive to Occoquan. And when I finally arrived at my parents’ home, my stomach sank before I walked in the door. Here was this giant commitment getting reneged upon. What commitment could be more important? Most certainly, I would be disappointing my father. I braced myself for the loud opinions that were to come my way.

And I got lectured… but not about commitments. Dad expressed some strong feelings on the importance of happiness and how it isn’t something to forfeit. I cried and cried and cried.

“You only live once,” he said, “You’ve got to do what makes you happy. You’ve GOT to!”

On more than one occasion, Dad would pause his lecture and look at me absolutely dumbfounded. “Why are YOU crying?!?” To him, the situation was so clear-cut. My sadness baffled him.

I would still have internal conflicts and doubts to come, but Dad’s reaction helped immensely. I understand now why he was so opinionated. It’s so easy to see just how much happiness I had been forfeiting.

Since my sophomore year of high school my father always seemed pretty oblivious and indifferent of the comings and goings of my boyfriends. When Ryan Somma came along, my father took an unprecedented interest. And sometimes his attention was a little… awkward… like the time Dad started to grill Ryan with questions.

“Why do you have tattoos?”
“Do you go to church?”
“How are your finances?”
“Do you have a retirement fund?”
“How much is in your savings account?”
“Why did you get a divorce?”
“Did you cheat your wife?”
“Did she cheat on you?”

But then, there were the pleasant surprises.

“Vicky looks so happy,” my father reported to my mother one Thanksgiving, “It’s like night and day.”

Or the time Dad brought out his cellphone and snapped a picture of Ryan and I. He evaluated his work on his phone and smiled. “I had to get a picture of the happiest couple I know,” he explained.

When Ryan proposed, I had a rare occurrence show up in my email inbox. A very sweet, sentimental message from my father. He apparently still felt strongly about happiness. In an eight sentence email, he referred to it four times.

When you contacted me about your last marriage, I could only give general guidance. My advice to you then was that you only live once, and that you have to make the decision what would make you happy. When you are with Ryan I see just happiness. I like Ryan. Forget about the financial background check, as I suggested. You picked the perfect person for happiness. I greatly endorse Ryan to be our to-be-son-in-law. He is a very great person who will give you happiness for the rest of your life.

Lowell

When it came time to pick a song for the Father Daughter Dance, I selected an accoustic cover of Stand By Me by Jonathan David. My father was by no means the only one who supported me during my divorce. But he was the biggest surprise. I’m where I’m at now and as happy as I am in part because my father knew what was important and stood by me. I certainly hope I can do the same for him.

At the wedding reception, when my father and I stepped out on to the dance floor, the sentiment was much different than the night I was lectured on happiness. No tears were shed and actually there was very little dancing. Instead my father did what he does best– in his animated manner, he told me funny stories.

I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Wedding Weekend - Father Daughter Dance - Vicky and Dad Laugh (By Liza Franco)
Dad Cracking Me Up (By Liza Franco)

August 21, 2010 at 12:54 pm 7 comments

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