Since the Wild Mango Queens were slated to meet at Geauga Lake's Wildwater Kingdom and my Aunt Jeanie adores water parks beyond reason, she planned to come up for the weekend so she could attend that and my Aunt Anne's 50th birthday bash, too. She arrived Friday evening and we whisked her off, at her request, to the Winking Lizard for dinner on the patio. The two of us had strawberry daiquiris (which were supposed to be margaritas but oh, well) while J had her usual beer. We shared an order of Phred's Preferred Phries (cheesy & bacony) and Jeanie had a tomato/mozzarella/basil salad, as well. Then, J chose the buffalo chicken salad (all crisp and delicious & jealousy-inducing), I had the Bo-Man's Buffalo chicken sandwich (which was really much hotter than I'd expected) and Jeanie had one of the specials, a pulled chicken BBQ sandwich. Jeanie and I both got mac & cheese with our meals and regretted it. I don't understand how mac & cheese can be so bland, but it was. It was like a mouthful of starch, like the cheese, rather than extra-sharp cheddar, was extra-flavor-removing. Just blah! We enjoyed the evening & didn't even get too eaten up by mosquitoes.
Saturday morning, J arose early and went in to work, hoping to join us at the water park later. Jeanie and I were the only Mango Queens willing to publicly humiliate ourselves by donning swimsuits, so I was glad she came up! It would have been lonesome at the park all by myself. We started out by finding suitable chairs, then went for a few rounds in the lazy river. We spent a little time riding the waves in the wave pool, then found lunch. It was rather unappetizing. Jeanie's first burger was raw and cold, the second not much better, albeit safer. My club sandwich was a much wiser choice, although the bread was absurdly dry. I few the crusts to a collection of sparrows who'd gathered around. When we'd eaten, we took our chairs into the water and enjoyed the splash of the waves as we read. She was bold enough to take the library's Sue Grafton novel into the pool! I have developed my own collection of "pool books" expressly set aside for the purpose. This one was chick lit, the best genre for pool reading, in my opinion. When we'd soaked the pages sufficiently, we indulged in some poolside treats, a strawberry daiquiri for her and the world's largest, I am certain, blue snow cone. I dripped blue everywhere and could only manage to eat about a quarter of it. I am normally quite decent at finishing snow cones, but I'd've been quite ill had I finished this one. I somewhat doubt that anyone of sound mind has ever finished one of theirs. Not only is there a ton of shaved ice, but it's surprisingly syrup-heavy. Delicious, but way too big! After we'd finished those, we noticed the time and realized that we'd be late for Anne's party if we didn't skedaddle. Since Jeanie had been almost 2 hours late for the last party we went to with Anne (and had been rather castigated for that), we were determined to be on time!
We stopped at the house to get changed and pick up J, who was napping after spending the afternoon averting an oil catastrophe at the plant. One of the guys had managed to knock several way-high-up barrels of oil askew, putting them in serious danger of spilling all over the floor and creating a colossal mess. With no small amount of derring-do, the problem was solved and she was able to head home. I felt bad dragging her out of bed, but we had such a good time at Anne's party that it was well worth it. The party was at a bar called Petey's Filling Station, decorated with all kinds of old gas pumps and advertising signs. I had the very worst margarita of my life, very much like flat Mountain Dew with tequila added, and resolved to stick to the Coke in pitchers that was flowing abundantly (although not as frequently as the beer!). It was fun to see Anne's family and Jazzbo & Anne's collection of friends, who we have seen over all these years at various celebrations. The food was delicious, really good pizza, hot wings and BBQ wings. It sat winking at us throughout the night and I was glad when they'd boxed it up so I no longer had to resist the siren call. Anne's cake was perfectly delicious, too. She won't actually be 50 until this coming weekend & kept remarking on how weird it was to celebrate a week early, but her oldest brother is in the Merchant Marines and was in town, so the timing was worked around his visit. I hadn't seen him in over 10 years and had to giggle when he introduced his 20-year-old daughter, Mavis, to us. She had actually been one of the folks who helped us move into this place! Mindful of church in the morning and J's long day, we left at a reasonable hour and hit the sack at home.
In the morning, Jeanie headed off for a visit with my second-grandma & her family while J and I went to worship at my new church. I've accepted a Director of Christian Ed position at a great little church on the East Side. The pastor had told them about me at the congregational meeting that morning, so everyone was very welcoming and excited. I was happy to have several familiar faces from my previous visits. The service was really nice and Gerald's sermon was spectacular and brave, stepping right up and naming homosexuals as "other sheep" that are part of Jesus' flock. We worshipped with the African-American Baptist congregation that shares the building & coffee hour, so I got to meet their pastor, too. He seems great. The picnic was a great deal of fun, under the big old trees out front. We had plenty of congenial company and got to laugh a lot. I was especially pleased when one of the teenage girls asked how long J and I have been together. It will be nice to be at a church that is truly open and affirming, rather than just thinking they are.
After much hilarity and good food, we left so that we could have our U date. I'd meant for us to go to a U-Pick farm and gather peaches or berries or something and then bake a pie together, but everyone seems to be between crops right now. I had located a farm that had beans to pick, just in case. In light of the lack of fruit crops, though, and the extreme heat, I gave J the option that we could make our U date be "underwater" instead and hit the water park. However, we decided that it would take us too long to get there. So, I came up with Unusual Food for our theme instead and we stopped at Whole Foods on the way home, with the goal of each picking at least one unusual food to try. I won hands-down with the Vosges Mo's Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar. I'd been reading about it in all my usual foodie magazines and knew it was their best-selling chocolate bar. I couldn't even fathom how that could not be revolting, but when I saw it, I knew it was my choice. We tried it last night and, while not totally sickening, it's not anything I'd really eat on purpose. I can only imagine that it's their bestseller because of curious folks like me. Here's a link, in case you're curious, too: http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/product/bacon_exotic_candy_bar/candy_bars_chocolate_chips
If, however, you'd like to eat Vosges chocolate that's actually good, I can vouch for both their Barcelona and Fire bars. My other unusual food was gooseberries, which I'd never had, aside from canned (which were abysmal). J had fond memories of gooseberries from when she was a kid, so I chose those over currants, which I've also never had fresh. I like the gooseberry flavor quite a bit, but the texture is a little squoogy for me so I might see about making a little batch of jam with them. J's unusual food was a kind of cheese we'd never tried, from Holland. We will probably snack on it tonight.
Once we arrived home, we discovered that our Roadrunner was again down. It's been working intermittantly all summer and I had someone out last week who purportedly fixed it, but it's still spotty. Stupid Time-Warner. J had wanted to see if there was any live music or anything fun to do at night. Lacking internet, though, I decided we'd do cocktails & snacks on the porch. I cut up an heirloom tomato, put out a bowl of tiny fresh mozzarella balls, a handful of basil, some olive oil and balsamic glaze and a baguette for our noshing pleasure. Then, I mixed up a batch of Latin Lovers for myself while J tried a Mike's Hard Pink Lemonade. We sat on the porch and enjoyed the summer, moving from eating and drinking to bubble-blowing and chalk drawing. It was a delightful evening. I'd marinated some top round steak for bistec de palomilla while we relaxed and put on the full Cuban dog for dinner. We watched Aslan be sacrified and resurrected while we ate, a lovely cap to a fun-filled weekend!