The Comeback Kid: Asbury Park, NJ

Yep, summer has wound down to its unofficial close. (Feeling sad.) It’s been a really nice one, weather-wise for sure, and in other ways). BTW, it’s not just the back-to-school part that impacts me—it’s the readjusting to the schedule, bringing work home again and shorter days. (And I hate Eastern Standard Time. Just sayin’.)

Since it’s Labor Day, I figured a post about the beach would be appropriate. (And Tess’ posts about her recent visit to China might have inspired me a bit too. Hi Tess!)

Finally made it to recently refurbished Asbury Park last week. The revitalization process of this one-time East Coast resort is still in progress. Revitalization on many levels got underway in 2002.

Quick fact: At the onset of the previous century, Asbury Park’s only competitor in the beach resort department was Atlantic City.

From Wikipedia:

Quick fact: ~600,000 folks vacationed there during the annual “summer session.”

Quick fact: Musicians Bruce Springsteen and actor Danny DeVito hail from Asbury Park.

Quick fact: The very cool Stone Pony venue is opposite the boards on Ocean Avenue. Bruce Springsteen—with his E-Street band, featuring the awesome (but late) saxophonist Clarence Clemons—rocked that watering hole on many an occasion.

Find more detailed history on the origins and development of Asbury Park here. (It’s pretty cool.) The opening of the Garden State Parkway led to fewer folks needing to take a train to the beach. Legalization of gambling in Atlantic City took a lot of the traffic too—at least, that’s what Hubby says—and the addition of Sixx Flags Great Adventure Theme Park didn’t help the Asbury Park cause either.

My history with Asbury Park:

I’ve supposedly been there as a kid. I’d be lying if I said I remembered.

When my stepsons were little boys, Hubby and I did a day trip there. Honestly and sadly, it was already a ‘welfare’ and ‘ghost’ town. The Casino walkway  linked Asbury Park to Ocean Grove (“God’s square mile at the Jersey shore” and still-dry town). The cleanliness of Ocean Grove and the nice maintenance of its many Victorian mansion/beds-and-breakfast structures contrasted starkly with the littered beach and abandoned boardwalk on the other side. In the Casino, however, at least one shop remained open, but one had to wonder how long that lingering business could last. (I’m sure it didn’t.)

Asbury Park Casino
The Casino–or its skeleton–with some kind of construction work evident inside. The walkway links Asbury Park with Ocean Grove, which borders AP on its south side. The man in the center was playing a guitar and singing. The acoustics were okay.  (Photo by Hubby.)

The other day Hubby and I were looking for a day trip. I wanted to go to the  shore, but wasn’t looking to spend a day on the beach. Due to riptides and a death at nearby Sandy Hook, bathing was highly restricted anyway. (Not that the ocean has seen me in it during the past 20 years or so, but Hubby likes to dive in here and there.)

Inside the Casino walkway
Inside the Casino walkway –photo by Hubby. 

Hubby suggested Asbury Park. Since I hadn’t been near it since my fifth wedding anniversary (that would have been April 29, 2000), I jumped at the idea. I love a place that offers something new I can learn. Yes, I’m nerdy like that.

Asbury Park Casino Mural
How awesome is this mural lining the Casino walkway? The lady might have been painted 5-6 years ago. A I found it quite impressive.

The entire scene—including the ride—changes flavor frequently. One goes from the parkway to the state highway to the main drag, which isn’t necessarily the prettiest of places.

Ocean Avenue, however, has been cleaned up. (So has the beach, beautifully so, compared to how it looked the last time I went.) Several of the original buildings and hotels have been restored, or restoration is in progress.

Asbury Park beachfront
I took this photo from the north side of the restaurant overlooking the beach. Nothing relaxes me more than sitting on or near the beach when the PM breezes come in off the ocean.

There’s a retro-feel to the place, with a few typical beach-style shops and places to eat on the boards, as well as a mini-mall of sorts at the restored convention center.  (It reminded me of the North Wildwood boardwalk, which is much calmer and far less attraction-oriented than the Wildwood boards.)

Restaurants that are open to the water—with sheltered dining available should the weather dictate—are on opposite outside walls of the mall. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting on the north end, at a wooden table made from an industrial electrical wire spool, sipping from Hubby’s drink while overlooking the Atlantic.

View the convention center and theater and its outdoor seating area.

View the inside the convention center, aka, the arcade.

View Tillie, the (creepy) face (IMHO) of the Jersey Shore. Not sure if Tillie is a he or a she, but that face was painted on opposite sides of the demolished Palace Amusements building. (Tillie has been repainted onto the Wonder Bar, as a tribute to Palace Amusements. )

Asbury Park wasn’t terribly crowded. Granted, it was a Thursday. Hubby made some good points about why the area isn’t the best for the comeback the city hopes to make.

Asbury Park boardwalk
The boardwalk, taken from the Casino, which faces the north side. Think the guy on the bike–with the six-pack–posed?

(1) There are no amusements (i.e., rides or stands)—on the boards or in the immediate area—at present. (BTW, the original carousel was sold and currently resides somewhere in Myrtle Beach.) A sprinkler park, mini-golf and a store that offers crafts-for-a-cost (i.e., sand art, pottery, etc) seem to be the most entertainment for parents with younger children.

(2) Asbury Park is right on the coast. It is not a peninsula. No bay. (No striking sunset over the water, either.) No inlet. No boat traffic. No marina. That also limits chartered boating and fishing activities, I’m sure. (Point Pleasant, Seaside Heights, Long Beach Island, the Wildwoods, Cape May and other more frequented shore areas are peninsulas.)

Asbury Park carousel housing
Carousel’s housing. Although empty, it has been refurbished and occasionally used by theater group(s). Note: When Hubby and I brought my stepsons here, this structure had been turned into an indoor skateboarding park. Planks everywhere and a kid charging $8/person to use it. Innovative, but  creepy to hear a thunder-like sound coming from inside there in a relative ghost town.

On the plus side, Asbury Park is RIFE with history and nostalgia invoked  because of the preservation of its many original structures and images. One can easily imagine what it was. With a little effort and some amusements, I believe it can prosper, especially with local traffic. (I heard its downtown district is getting a shot in the arm too. That can only help.) It’s a place where I enjoyed a few hours. I definitely might not mind spending a day, or even a weekend at one of the restored hotels. Chances are, I’d wind up writing about it some more.

Asbury Park heating plant
The heating plant, designed to provide heat for winter activities at the resort’s Casino and Carousel, assuming I read the articles correctly. These were designed by the same team who designed NYC’s Grand Central Station.

Sorry I got a little long-winded, but thank you for indulging me. As someone who has some trouble letting go, I love the preservation of times past.

Have a great week,

Joanna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wimbledon Tradition: “Strawberries and Cream” (Joanna-adapted!)

In Honor of Wimbledon—“Strawberries and Cream”!

Good day friends, guests and followers,

photo (21) This li’l cutie (might be Henry, a regular) got caught red-pawed in my yard and had the nerve to look directly at the camera too. Never again in this lifetime, lol. 

rhododendron in vase Rhododendron from my front yard. Just liked how this looked and had to share! 🙂

Of course this post was supposed to be only about fruit and cream, but y’all know how easily sidetracked Joanna gets. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

So sad to watch Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer go out so early in this highly anticipated annual tournament (especially after my ranting about seeds in my previous post). End of an era? Changing of the guard?

Possibly. I’m sure though, providing a little more time between the French Open and Wimbledon Tennis Championships would so a difference make. About three weeks separate the “Channel Slams” (partly because of each’s location across the English Channel). Not exactly much time to recover from the clay court season and prepare for a ridiculously short-lived grass court season. Heck: the Australian is held the end of January. The next slam is the French, which starts the Monday before Memorial Day (U.S. A.) in May. Wimbledon follows beginning the last week of June. Then no grand-slam action until the last week of August. I’m sure there are required tournaments to be played during the hard-court season, but players can also build in a little regroup time too.  (IMHO, the scheduling officials really need to look at this. Players are human after all. Then again, what do I know?)

Oh well, it is what it is, and Wimbledon is obviously happening without these fan-favorite past champions. It’s also going on minus a handful of top male players and women (i.e., Victoria Azarenka) out with injuries after slips and slides on the slick grass surface of the first week. Former Grand Slam champion, Wimbledon finalist, Tennis Hall of Fame and current Davis cup captain Jim Courier commented about the game being so much more aggressive now. The Wimbledon courts are still being groomed as they were about a century ago, when play was with wooden racquets and the balls didn’t move as hard and fast as they do nowadays. Hmm: very interesting point.

All Wimby 2013 facts and conjecture aside, this tourney is best known for its traditions. Wearing all white garb on the court. No play on “Middle Sunday, ”  among others.

And this one (finally): The topic of today’s post: Strawberries and Cream! A favorite, I’m sure, during every “Breakfast at Wimbledon”. Here are a few images of what theirs looks like. 0:-)

This ain’t no strawberries and whipped cream, folks. European cream is a lot different. In England, it is known as double cream, is not aerated and so thick it has be spooned as it doesn’t pour.  (This, as described by late author Laurie Colwin, in her novel Home Cooking.) I’ve had a similar Italian version (a.k.a. panna), many times over granita, similar to a “slushie” or Italian ice, in strawberry or coffee versions. Yes, many people make it here, but it just ain’t the same. (And trust, me: pure fat ain’t low in the calorie count neither.)

So: what does Joanna do? Come up with a healthy—no less tasty—version of same! (Hey, if it tastes like you’re giving something up, it’s not worth it.) And of course, it’s seriously easy-peasy.

What you’ll need (serves one person):

Fresh strawberries, hulled, or hulled and sliced. (Your choice on how many 😉 )

Roughly equal parts non-fat plain regular and Greek-strained yogurts (1/2-cup each is good, but you can adjust to taste/preference in consistency)

Vanilla (a few drops to taste)

Sugar, sugar substitute (i.e., Splenda, Stevia, etc) or honey (again, you decide how much based on how sweet you like)

Sugar-free non-dairy creamer (French vanilla or hazelnut—optional)

What to do:

Combine the yogurts, vanilla, sweetener (and non-dairy creamer); stir until smooth.

Pour over strawberries or plop them into the mix, as did I.

strawberries n cream Threw this serving together last-minute before taking off to the day job. Worked for me. 🙂

Eat and watch Wimbledon!

Mixing the yogurts creates a consistency pretty similar to that of panna and most likely, double cream. It also cuts the tartness and thickness of the Greek yogurt, while thickening up the regular yogurt. Try it and let me know what you think. Feel free to substitute blueberries, peaches—whatever your favorites are!

I also keep thinking about freezing myself some yogurt pops using this mix. Again, it’s all about consistency with NO FAT (or sugar, should you go that route).

So, what do you think? Ready to give it a try?

*You can also use pre-flavored vanillas of each or one. (Doesn’t matter which one). I stick to plain yogurts b/c the ready-made tend to be very high in sugar, and the sugar-free version is a bit too sweet for my taste.

Happy rest of Wimbledon–and the week, of course!

Joanna

Don’t Spend Your Birthday Like I Did Mine!

Hi all. Hope you enjoyed the previous weekend and, like me, are already looking forward to the next one!

Mothers day flowers 2013 My Mother’s Day Flowers–h’ain’t they purty?

Joanna bday 2013  Standard Birthday activities–on Mother’s Day 🙂

I wrote this on Saturday afternoon, while taking a break from an evaluation that shouldn’t have been as tedious to write as it turned out to be. My brain felt about to explode.

That’s how I felt Friday night too, after tentative birthday plans to get me an awesome PB and chocolate icy-cream dessert at Friendly’s wound up sidelined by unexpected trips to my local satellite emergency room.

Yep. I had spent most of my b-day afternoon doing some of the easier parts of the report that took up about seven hours this weekend. A coworker had dropped in. While we chatted I heard a thump that sounded like it came from upstairs. Long story short: hubby was soon calling me from the other room. He’d “blacked out” briefly after choking on coffee and hit the hardwood.

Luckily, he didn’t hit his head, but his elbow certainly didn’t look happy and he had a nice little cut just above his hip that was turning some nasty shades of purple real fast. My darling also has a cardiac history, so we trotted off to the ER. That was about 4:00 PM.

Two hours later we were told he’d be transported to the mother hospital for overnight observation. I went home to pick up a few items for the guy.

Younger son came home and headed out to garage, as per mom’s request, to check if lawnmower was inside. (Hubby had forgotten he’d already asked older son to put it away, so it seemed odd that it wasn’t in the yard when I got home.)

Yucky story short: Mom tunes in to younger son crying and shouting for help from outside the garage. (That horrid sound may never leave my ears.) He was sort of plastered to door, with the tips of the middle fingers of both his hands stuck in the hinged space between the garage panels. Thank God I’m not the panicky type and quickly lifted the door until the gap widened and he could slide his hands out. The boy hit the ground. He panicked, and as the pain set in he got a little hysterical. When his eyes started rolling back I was sure he was going to pass out. (Getting that big kid off the ground would have been a feat. ‘Nuff said.)

Calmed the kid down and headed back to same ER with him in tow. Since I’m the primary insurance holder, the registrar girls had already scanned my insurance card when hubby showed earlier. They looked at me and said, “Oh my gosh, it’s your birthday today?”

“Uh…yeah.”

Got the younger one home by nine. Older guy needed a ride to a practice for an upcoming affair he’s part of. Dropped him off and headed back to hospital to wait for hubby to be transported. Made it home a little after ten.

Here’s hoping next year’s commemoration of the day I was born is a little less dramatic. Boring works after that.

Never boring, however, is Nadal at a final on clay. We’ll take Rafa’s win in Madrid!

Have a great day and a great week,

Joanna

Today is my birthday!

Happy Friday, Happy weekend and Happy Mother’s Day to all to whom this applies!

Since the “techie” blog I wanted to post is no where near done, I had to do something. (IDK, virtual cakes just don’t cut it for me. I’m thinking about something from Friendly’s though. Bet you can’t guess. ;))

friendlys -27

Anyway, thought I’d do a quick share of some awesome music by an up and coming star! As life and a small world would have it, I went to school with his dad (who, I am VERY sad to say, passed about three years ago).

Tam’s dad was also very into his music. If memory serves me well, he loved his drums. What I remember most though, was a question he posed: if I had to lose one, would I give up my sight or my hearing?

Tam’s dad would rather not see than never be able to hear music again.

With that, I present to you Tam Justin Garcia. Take a few moments and listen to Liquid Universe. (You’ll be very glad you did!)  Then, if you would be so kind, visit his Facebook and Twitter pages and share about him some more? Thank you!

On a tennis note, Rafa Nadal topped David Ferrer in the quarterfinals at the Mutua Madrid Open! (Just cause it’s my b-day—of course! Last night my older son caught me watching another match and asked if it’s “tennis season” again. With the tennis channel, this is now a very welcome and fun year-round thing! Which also means, you may be constantly in-the-know about tennis whether you share the passion–or not! :D)

Have a great day all!

Joanna

Romance and Malware/Adware Removal

Good morning and happy Saturday everyone. Looking forward to the Madrid Tennis Open Championships getting underway! The top four men are scheduled to head up the draw. (That would be: Rafa, Roger, Nole and Andy.) VERY interested to see how it will be seeded; who will be the last man standing, as well as how it might impact Roland Garros (a.k.a., the French Open Tennis Championships) later this month. (It’s all hubby’s fault. He opted for a FIOS package that included Tennis Channel. :D)

Thanks to those of you who stopped in this past Monday! Here is a photo of the loverly flowers hunny surprised me with AFTER we promised each other no gifts, just a card. He NEVER listens 😉 and I should know better.

IMAG0466[1]

So go figure. Last night before going to bed I drafted a post. (It’s been relegated to the future.) As you’ve already figured I got sidetracked after I started working on removing the annoying Snap.Do toolbar and its default landing page. My older son must have inadvertently downloaded it while installing software for his friend’s iPhone. It looks like this and is ANNOYING AS ALL GET OUT. Not that it gave much return for taking up space, and I’ve learned it HIJACKS your browser. Kept redirecting me to its advertisers,  with some links to my queries at least halfway down the page. (I happen to like my Google, Bing! and Yahoo! search engines, thank you very much.)

search-snap-do

Okay, no biggie, right? All I have to do is go into the Control Panel and uninstall the program.

NOT!!!!

I let the 16-y/o take over. He said something about custom, Advanced Settings and who knows what else under Control Panel then wielded some digital magic.

Or so he thought.

Now I’m irritated. Off to Google, where I typed in how to disable snap.do (or something similar). Yay! for auto-complete, at least in this instance, ;), and for REAL search engines, where anyone can find answers to any topic s/he can imagine.

I wound up Malwaretips.com.

I immediately found Stelian Pilici‘s rockin’, totally free and highly detailed how-to article. He made it easy for me to get right to work. (All steps to do so for each browser are listed with lots of screen shots to guide you. Takes a few minutes, plus time to run the adware cleaner.)

I had to try a few times b/c I neglected to follow ALL the steps. I’m thinking running the AdwCleaner was the magic, but only after I’d taken the time to tweak BOTH the browsers I have enabled. That would be Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.) BTW, Stelian made sure to include a direct link to the AdwCleaner in the article I sighted.

What are the morals of this story?

1. As tempting as it seems to click ACCEPT when installing software off the net, read the terms and conditions (or at least scroll through them) first! Often there are boxes to un/check that can save you the trouble of having to remove items you don’t want later on. (On the bright side, I am now empowered with a tool to handle this sort of nonsense in the future.)

2. Don’t be afraid to look for an answer to your problem on the internet, especially if you’ve learned one or two things along the way. Be prudent before you click away, but at least read a how-to article. You might be surprised at how much you can handle on your own. (Techie stuff often appears more overwhelming and complicated than it is. BUT: Most of what I’ve learned has built on itself and/or can often be generalized to solve many problems.)

3. Save Malwaretips.com in your favorites! And don’t forget  to thank the guys, SHARE and/or even donate to help keep their VERY VALUABLE efforts going.

4. PC users in particular, run your malware and antispyware programs. Regularly! (Okay, I’m as guilty as the next person.) Dump cookies and run Disk Cleanup  And keep your anti-virus software up to date. (I’m seeing a short Part 2 to this article evolve here. Hope to have it written and up by next week.) I might actually be done!

Thanks, folks, and have a wonderful weekend!

Joanna

Red Velvet Pancakes At Home?

Hi all,

Trying to get myself back into a routine. I am so good at getting in my own way. 😛

Wow. We may have entered a new era in clay court tennis. (View the winner of “The Little French Open” here.) So mad I missed the match! (Yes, I know I can find it somewhere on line. We’ll see what time–and overloaded memory–allow.)

Let’s move on. Last week older son said something about a renowned pancake chain and a new (?) red velvet variety. Mom thinks: Hmm. Can we make this for son at home?

Anyone who REALLY knows me is in on the fact that I don’t necessarily like to cook. I do, however, enjoy trying new recipes and getting creative with adapting them.   I have a special place in my heart too, for recipes that look complicated and elegant when done, but are actually quite easy. (Make the “chef” look amazing, know what I mean? ;)).

So I hit up the internet and found a few recipes. (I SO love the world wide web.)  I wound up going with this one that I found at recipegirl.com. I invite you to go to Lori Lange’s blog for the recipe (which, actually, came from a guest blogger, Tidy Mom, a.k.a., Cheryl). Are you all with me?

Here I’ll list the two minor changes I made to Tidy Mom’s recipe. (Hubby thinks I should follow a recipe to the letter, but those who spend a lot of time in the kitchen know tweaking is often what makes a certain recipe our own.) I also went with a basic cream cheese glaze. (That recipe follows.)

Tidy Mom’s recipe calls for 2 ½ cups of flour. I’m thinking I used about 2/3 white whole wheat and 1/3 white flour.

As per Cheryl, I also used a “buttermilk substitute,” (1 ½ cups of plain non-fat yogurt mixed with 3 tbsp of milk). She linked to here for this one and other alternatives. My choice worked really well.

Finally, I added a bit more milk to thin the batter to my liking—not unusual for any pancake recipe.

Note: I saw no significant difference using liquid food coloring (less than the 1 tbsp called for, since I ran out). Some recipes suggest red food paste gives a deeper red. IDK as I have no experience to fall back on.

I happen to like preparing pancakes on a griddle, but a good (preferably non-stick) frying pan works every bit as well. Also, rubbing the griddle with a canola oiled-napkin worked better than spraying it with cooking spray. I’ve never liked the speckled appearance pancakes get with that.)

Basic cream cheese glaze (easily increased as needed):

4 oz. cream cheese* (softened)

4 oz. butter* (softened)

2-3 tbsp milk

½ cup confectioners sugar

(*I use the whipped versions. Think it makes for a lighter glaze.)

Using an electric mixer (or by hand) cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add milk and confectioners sugar. Continue mixing until glaze is as smooth as you want it. Serve over warm pancakes. Refrigerate (or try freezing) leftover glaze.

There you have it! These really were excellent, rich with flavor and brought together perfectly by the cream cheese topping—my favorite part of anything red velvet, hands down.

The finished product. Yum.
The finished product. Yum.
The finished product. Yum.

So, where do you stand on cooking? Do you follow recipes to the letter or does your brain start tweaking whenever you read one the first time? Are you a fan of pancakes? If so, what’s your favorite kind? Would you rather make reservations?

Have a great day and ttfn,

Joanna

Quick ‘N’ Healthy Tuna Salad

Hi everyone. Checking in after another busy week. Seems like there is something that has to be done every evening. Not one seems long enough.

Yes, another recipe. Came up with this one last week for some leftover tuna salad. Chances are, it’s not new, although it is to me, lol. Sorry; no photo. (Shakes head.) I always think to share the recipe AFTER I’ve put together the dish.  (At least there’s no stove-time. :))

I usually stir a 6 oz. can of tuna with mayo, onion powder (no onion breath) and a little sea salt. I top a slice of toasted multi-grain bread with cheese and half the tuna mixture and serve  it open-faced with a side salad of baby lettuces. Low-fat raspberry vinaigrette and a sprinkling of feta cheese brings it all together. Yum.

Wasn’t in the mood for that combo, since I’d had it the day before–and I was trying to skip the bread.

So:

I took the leftover tuna salad, chopped a quarter each of a red bell pepper and cucumber and stirred all together with fat-free Italian dressing. (I was out of the raspberry vinaigrette and too lazy to grab the feta from the fridge. I also love being able to add an unlimited amount of veggies to up the fill-factor w/o adding a significant amount of calories. Next time too, I might cut back the mayo or just skip it. )

Done.

Ridiculously filling and satisfying to chow down, especially for someone—like me—who prefers eating with utensils vs. biting into a sandwich.

And yes, this can easily be used to fill a pita, curl into a wrap or create an open-faced sandwich as I usually do. I imagine you can top cold pasta with it too, for an impromptu side or main dish.

I’m also thinking chicken (grilled or canned) could easily be substituted for the tuna and that either or both would could be the basis of a great appetizer: as finger sandwiches or served in a bowl surrounded by crackers, toasted pita, etc. Heck: skip the meat or fish and serve the peppers, cucumbers and feta mixed with the dressing for a vegetarian spin.

What are some of the easiest and surprisingly tasty, satisfying dishes you concocted? Share them here or link back to your site. It all works and it’s all good.

Have a wonderful weekend, folks!

Joanna