Thursday, February 19, 2009

Winter Blues Begone!

Lenny and I were blessed to be able to visit my grandparents in Tampa over the inauguration weekend. We knew the DC area would be out of control, so we decided to skip town and watch the inauguration on television with the comfort of 70 degree weather in the background while DC people stood outside in arctic blast weather. We missed history in the making, but I was fine with that in exchange for this:
That was a lovely 70 degree day! Tampa had been the 80s before we got there, but the cold blast from the west that broughts temps into the teens here at home dropped Tampa to a little colder than average too. I was A-ok with that, given the home alternative!

I'd had a flight voucher with Airtran that had to be used up before the end of January. I've missed out on using up vouchers before, so I wasn't go to miss this one. Not with my affinity for travel! We got down there on a Saturday and left Tuesday night; a perfect mini-vacation! We had MLK Day off anyway, and DC areas schools were closed on Tuesday. We even got to spend the evening with Lenny's family on Friday night- his mom had graciously offered to drive us to the airport at 5 am!

When we got to Tampa, we reveled in the warmth, sunshine, and my sweet grandparents' happy faces. We had a delicious lunch at Cheesecake Factory, then headed to their house in the retirement community at Word of Life. We toured around the grounds a bit, then Lenny and I fell asleep on the couch. We were exhausted because lameo Airtran made our flights for the morning crazy. (We'd had to leave BWI at 6, arrive in Atlanta at 8, chill for three hours, then arrive in Tampa at 12:30. Thanks for the fun, Airtran!) We then went to a cool praise concert at the WOL conference center. The singer, Steve Green, was only okay, but his piano guy was incredible. He did a couple of songs on his own that were awesome, I really want a CD.

We went to church and played mini-golf the next day, then did a little shopping. Lenny and I had a blast going for a spin in my grandpa's electric bicycle golf cart. We had a delicious dinner (my Grandma's a great cook, it runs in the family) followed by these AMAZING "Lava Cakes" she made for dessert. They make non gluten-free folks jealous that gluten-free folk can eat such amazing stuff. I've tried making them twice since, but they haven't quite turned out like hers.

Monday was probably my favorite day. After a delicious breakfast we headed over to Tarpon Springs, a funky, touristy Greek town famous for sponge diving. They have the neatest little aquarium there with lots of demonstrations. I got to hold a python, and Lenny got to touch a baby shark.

The men needed an ice-cream pit stop of course, but then we went for a lovely drive and ended up at Honeymoon Beach. Walking on that beach was the highlight of the trip for me. It felt like winter at home had never existed. I am convinced that two hours holds almost all of the responsibility for my wonderful lack of winter blues this year. We ended that day with a delicious dinner at a southern bbq joint. Lenny loved the sweet tea. Ohh, bbq, I could eat you every day!
Barefoot in the water in January! I love Florida. I love my grandparents even more.

My grandparents treated us to an amazing trip the Big Cat Rescue on Tuesday. A simply wonderful place. I would give anything to be able to work somewhere like that. My grandma knows me so well, she knew I would love it. It was cold though, in the 50s and cloudy, so we went over to Chili's for a warm lunch afterward.

It really was a wonderful trip. I'm grateful for time like that with my family. Lenny and the Lloyds got to know each other better, we all had great quality time, I soaked in lots of vitamin D (something my celiac disease makes me very deficient in, and I think a huge contributor to my tendency for winter blues), we experienced new places, we spent lots of time outside, we played Dominoes, we looked at old family pictures and talked about genealogy, and overall had a splendid time. I'm going to Florida every year in January from now on.

On a side note, this is also the healthiest winter I've had in YEARS. Since the horrible two-week flu at Christmas, I've only had one little cold that my body actually fought off in 5 days.

Cost of plane ticket: $200
Value of trip to health and happiness: Priceless

Lavish Lava Cake Recipe:
Serves 6-7
1-1/2 cups Semi-sweet chocolate chips (or 8 oz. chocolate)
5 Tbsp. butter, plus butter to grease ramekins or muffin cups
1/4 C granulated sugar
2 tsp. finely ground espresso (optional)
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Generously butter six 3/4-cup size ramekins or custard cups, or 7 muffin cups.
2. In microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate and butter on medium power 1-2 minutes until butter is melted. Stir, reheating if necessary, to melt chocolate; Set aside.. Stir egg yolks and 2 Tbsp. sugar into chocolate-butter mixture. Add espresso if using
3. Place egg whites in large mixing bowl, beat until foamy. Combine remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar and cocoa powder. Gradually bat into whites until soft peaks fold over when beaters are lifted.
4. Stir 1/3 of chocolate-butter mixture into whites mixture. Gently fold in remaining chocolate mixture until completely combined. Divide evenly between cups (Can cover at this point and refrigerate up to 24 hours before baking).
5. Bake 10-12 minutes until puffy and cracks form on top. Edges should be firm and center moist between the cracks. (bake 13-16 minutes if refrigerated). Cool 3 minutes. Serve in ramekins, or run knife around edges and invert cakes onto dessert plates. Serve hot with ice cream. Dust with cocoa powder if desired.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Taylor. I don't know if you remember me, but I taught COMM 352 at Maryland. I just wanted to leave a note. Hope you don't mind. I was in Tampa-St. Pete in January also. It's home and it was so beautiful. Did you take your dog to Florida?


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