Tony and I visited South Jersey Wednesday and yesterday to celebrate my Granny Dorothy's 97th birthday, which was on Tuesday (a busy day for Tony workwise, so we couldn't make the trip that day).
Granny was in good spirits the whole time we saw her. As I approached Gran's room, I was delighted to overhear her telling someone on staff she was waiting for her grandson. That meant the receptionist had successfully conveyed my message that we were coming and that she shouldn't be given lunch because we would be taking her out.1
I had convinced myself they would have already fed her by the time we arrived, about 12:30, because their inclination is always to put a tray in front of her no matter what instructions you've given to someone who is ostensibly in a position to carry them out. The receptionist had tried putting me through to the nurse in charge of Granny's wing, and when no one picked up, she said she would make sure the staff knew about my request. And she apparently did. And they apparently listened. Hooray!
If she had already eaten, we would have taken Granny out for beers and, if she wasn't too full, dessert.
Dusting was on Granny's mind that day: dusting at the Episcopal church she attended with her family when she was growing up. Dusting for the wife of the minister at her home after church even though the family had a maid. Dad says the minister's wife asked Gran to help out so she, one of nine surviving offspring of the dirt-poor Maul family, could get a little bit of money and a nice lunch.
Granny said the minister and his wife didn't have kids, and one day the woman cried when Gran gave her a kiss and told her she loved her. My Granny has always been a sweetie.
At dinner Wednesday night, Dad told me more of the story. The minister at one point was carrying on an affair with a friend of Granny's older sister, Maude. And that caused Granny's mother to stop going to the church; she wasn't going to listen to that man telling her how to live. You go, Florence!
We took Granny to lunch at the Bennigan's—that old restaurant chain does indeed still exist—in Vineland right next to the hotel where we've been staying whenever we go to Cumberland County. She and I both had burgers and fries, though she focused on her burger and didn't touch the fries, and we shared a piece of apple cake for dessert. Tony just had a safe-for-him decaf coffee.
Here are some photos from before lunch and at the restaurant:
I took a close-up photo of the most elaborate pop-up in the book, which included a hummingbird, but I didn't check it after taking it and I see now that it's too out of focus to run here.
I posted this photo that Tony took on Facebook; so far, it's gotten 63 likes and 10 well wishes for Granny in the comments:
I posted this photo in the comments and wrote, "Granny doesn't always drink beer, but when she does, she drinks Michelob Ultra":
When we were done eating, Granny wheeled herself a good ways toward the door before Tony or I could catch up; she's used to pushing herself around the hallways at the nursing home.
We hung out with Granny some more back at the home, which is a short drive outside of Vineland, before we drove to the hotel to check in. Here's a photo of Gran counting off her and her siblings: "Ralph, Hap, Russ, Maude, Alice, Pearl, Dorothy, Bernice, and John":
In an amazing coincidence, Mark H. (the one from Virginia, not the one from New York/North Dakota) called Tony yesterday morning while we were still at the hotel to ask where Vineland was, because his mother's sister had just passed away, and that's where she lived. I'm there right now, Tony said.
Dad and Jean treated us to dinner at Winfield's Wednesday night. Because I'd had such a heavy lunch, I had a soup (Cauliflower Chowder) to start and a salad (Roasted Beet) for my main. I also picked at Dad's salad, which featured apple, along with mine.
Dad is so funny about food sometimes. "At home, I wouldn't eat an apple on a bet," he acknowledged, even though he ate a lot of the apple on the very big salad.
Tony made out fine with his house salad and steak entree. Here's another photo I ran on Facebook, of my boy at the restaurant and Dad's salad, which I had off to my left, for easy pecking:
Tony joked that I was literally going to peck at it. And I said, "Yeah, I'll scatter it on the floor," and I moved my head like a chicken pecking at cracked corn.
I ran that photo on Facebook, too, and I commented, "I swear he has more than one shirt," because he wore that shirt when we went with Dan and Paul to the gluten-free cafe, and the photo Paul took of us is now my cover photo.
At least two other tables that night had gay men seated at them, both Tony and I concluded. If it weren't for our people, many finer-dining restaurants in out-of-the-way places would be in trouble.
I kicked myself for eating all of my dessert, which was called Chocolate Custard and had a squirt of whipped cream (that looked overly whipped into almost butter) and drizzles of Bailey's Irish Cream. The custard was incredibly thick and difficult to spoon up; it was only a couple steps removed from being a solid block of chocolate. I should have eaten only about half of it, but my chocolate-loving lizard brain kicked in, and I ate the whole damned thing and regretted it later when it sat in my stomach like a rock.
Here's a good photo of Jean and Dad at the restaurant:
I also picked/pecked *cackles like a laying hen* at the roasted cauliflower on Dad's plate.
We stopped in to see Granny briefly the next morning before heading to New Hope to pick up the dogs from boarding. We'd been told we couldn't drop the dogs off until 10 at the earliest the previous morning, which is why we couldn't get to Granny's until after her usual lunchtime. Missy and Grady get all worked up when we're packing up the car and taking them for a ride, but they calm down when we get to the vet's office. They seem to enjoy staying there, though, of course, they're always happy to see us again.
That night for dinner, we had my Too Much Garlic Caeser-ish Salads, the name of which is tongue in cheek because too much garlic is an impossibility in my world:
It's only Caesar-ish because: no Parmesan, of course, and no anchovies. In addition to two cloves of garlic, I use a generous amount of Penzeys California Seasoned Pepper as well as olive oil and a little red wine vinegar in the dressing.
For our main, we had pasta with leftover Tomato-and–Red Pepper Meat Sauce I'd made on Tuesday:
I've made pasta sauce from red bell peppers several times before—not just this time—but I'm pretty sure this was the first time I made one using both tomato and bell pepper. I first cooked the pepper in oil with some salt. Then I added a carton of Pomi chopped tomatoes and pureed most but not all of the veggies smooth with my immersion blender. I cooked ground beef with onion in a frying pan and added those things to the sauce while avoiding pouring in too much of the canola oil I'd used for cooking. I seasoned the sauce with more salt and California Pepper and let it simmer while the pasta water boiled and the pasta cooked. And it was delicious.
To drink with yesterday's dinner, we had the 2014 Maestro del Pomidoro, a blend of Sangiovese (85%) and Cabernet Sauvignon, whose label oh so subtly indicates it pairs well with tomato-based foods:
You'd think that should be Pom-o-doro, huh? *shrugs* Tony and I liked it enough to buy again, especially considering it was only $8.99 plus tax.
1For whatever reason, Gran doesn't answer her phone. She just doesn't ever pick it up. So I couldn't have called her in advance and told her we were coming. And she probably wouldn't have remembered for very long anyway. I'm sure Dad had told her the day before that Tony and I would be coming the next day, but she almost certainly didn't remember him telling her that even an hour later. And maybe not even 5 minutes later. Someone or several people must have told her I was coming just before we arrived. Dad said she didn't know the day before that a bunch of people were singing "Happy Birthday" for her. She said, It must be someone's birthday. And he said, Yeah, it's yours.