Saturday, May 19, 2012

What A Week...

Sitting at Small World drinking my chai and reading my book (this week it's Brave New World), it struck me, out of the blue, that I haven't written in almost two weeks.  At first, I was a little angry with myself, but then I realized that the past week has been an absolute whirlwind, and forgave myself instantly.  I didn't realize how ridiculous the last few days have been, but in a good way - many incredibly good ways.  So grab a mug of chai, or cup of coffee, or glass of wine, and follow along with me as I relive this insane week.  Shall we start with last Friday?

Friday was spent at work and then out running around preparing for graduation (buying dress, shoes, and getting a much-needed manicure).  It also marked the birth of the latest member of the family, Helen Marie.  My Uncle Jeff "Hunky," supposed bachelor for life, married my Aunt Tonya three years ago, and had their first child Gabriel, or Baby Gabe as I shall call him for the rest of his life.  "Lenny" is their second child, and Gabe and Tonya's daughter Cloe were over the moon.  Baby Gabe is so excited to be a big brother, and not at all threatened by the little girl - not that you could be, I mean look at that those cheeks!  When I asked him if he was going to be a good big brother he told me, "Yes, I'm going to play with her and share all my toys."  I have no doubt that he is going to be an amazing big brother to that tiny, perfect baby girl.  We ended Friday night with bottle of pink bubbly popped in honor of the newest Jarive girl.  Congratulations again to Tonya, Hunk, Cloe, and Gabe!

The next morning was a very, very early one, but the excitement made waking up fairly easy.  On Saturday, May 12th, I, Claudia, officially graduated from Montclair State University.  The weather was sunny and gorgeous, though it got a little sweaty under those heavy black robes.  Even though it was hot, everyone was in high-spirits.  Beach balls were blown up and batted around the crowd, joining us all together, especially when the campus police took them away and deflated them smugly in front of us.  After the ceremony, two of my best friends and fellow English majors, and their families all went out to brunch at Toast, a small joint in town that's only open 7 to 3, and serves nothing but brunch - and God, do they do it well.  Red velvet pancakes, tofu scramble, homemade veggie burger, crab cakes benedict, Bella Nutella (nutella stuffed french toast topped with fresh strawberries and jam) and so much more.  Plus they have great vegetarian and vegan options.   After stuffing ourselves with late-morning deliciousness, we headed to the Iris Gardens for a photo-shoot, mimosas, and some hardcore bubble blowing.  It was a perfect day, and an even more perfect close to my collegiate life.

Unfortunately, I had to wake up early Mother's Day morning for work, so I wasn't able to prepare the extravagant breakfast in bed that I had been mentally planning all week.  Instead, I stopped at the store on the way home from work, picked up some orange tulips, and got home just in time to start cooking dinner.  My mom wanted something quick and easy that we could eat outside, so I whipped up a simple shrimp salad.  I used my classic base salad (the same one I use for Salmon Salad) topped with shrimp baked in a ginger-orange marinade.  I doctored up a store bought Mandarin orange ginger vinaigrette with fresh ginger, garlic, and some fresh orange zest and juice - a similar result can be made using orange marmalade, honey, ginger, garlic, and orange juice.  We paired dinner with Sunset Mimosas, a champagne cocktail created by my father and named by my mother - champagne, orange juice, a splash of tart cherry juice, garnished with fresh raspberries).  The fresh, sunny dinner was followed by a family catch to work in my mom's new softball glove.
Monday marked my fathers forty-coughmumblecough-th birthday.  After I closed at the cafe and ran home to change, the family headed out to P.F. Chang's.  Now, I'm not usually a fan of chain-franchised restaurants, but P.F. Chang's is different - the quality of food, service, and atmosphere is unlike any chain I've been to.  While they have a sizable menu, I can't help but order the same thing every time I go - a Twisted Whiskey Sour and Singapore Street Noodles (a dish that I will be attempting to recreate at some point this summer).  Fortunately, service is family style, so I got to pick at my dad's double pan-fried noodles, my mom's Ma Po Tofu, and my brother's veggie dumplings. Our waiter even threw in a few free mini desserts since it was my dad's birthday - Thanks, Matt - my favorite being a tie between the triple chocolate mousse and carrot cake. Besides the delicious food (and copious leftovers), I don't think we've all laughed as hard as we did in quite a while.  You see, when you get all of us together, we tend to get...very silly, and quite loud.  Many times our waiters don't appreciate our playful, jokey manner, but Matt handled us beautifully - even joking back a bit.  At one point, as he was packing up our leftovers, he stopped and stared at us for a second, "Are you guys really a family?  Most families that come in here just sit in silence staring at each other."  Yes, Matt, we are a family.  And yes, we actually enjoy each other's company - well, most of the time.  Monday night reminded me why I like my family (yeah, "like".  I mean, everyone loves their family, you kind of have to right?  How many people really like their family?) and why they are my best friends.

I had Tuesday off, which was nice after a late night and two whiskeys.  It was a chilly, rainy morning, so I spent it cleaning the house for my dad's birthday.  I know that might not seem like a great gift (don't worry, I got him other things too), but having the dishwasher emptied, counters clean, dining and living room tidied mean that he doesn't have to worry about doing them and he can actually sit down and relax when he gets home from work.  Once the house was spick and span, I made a banana-almond-cashew-spinach-blueberry smoothie and headed out for some much needed yoga.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again: yoga has such an incredible effect on how I feel physically and mentally, I came home a wholly new person.  I've made Tuesday and Thursday honorary yoga nights, and this routine, the regular yoga practice, has already had a huge impact on me.  Not to mention that I've kept up with my diet change, and I'll be continuing with it - when something makes you feel good, why not do it?  You know what my favorite part of yoga is?  Walking to my car and the drive home afterwards.  Maybe its an endorphin high, or maybe its the fact that the anxiety is gone and my body is loose, but somehow the world looks different, I notice more, I enjoy more.  Tuesday night, walking through Princeton, I was overwhelmed by what a gorgeous evening it was. The morning rain storms created a beautiful night - the ground was still damp, the air rich and humid, fragrant of earth, leaves, and water.  The perfect night to be out, meandering through the crowds at a carnival, strolling around town and peeking in the windows of darkened shops, or quietly people watching as you walk down the boardwalk hand-in-hand with someone tall and warm.  The perfect night to pick at some funnel cake, sip on some iced tea, or lick an ice cream come.  The perfect night to sleep with your windows open, letting the gorgeous night air bring you sweet dreams - which is exactly what I did.

And Wednesday, Wednesday was the cherry on top of an incredible week.  Wednesday, I got a car; a car purchased by my mother at  eleven in the morning on a Princeton street corner.  I've always been a homebody, never that kid that needs to get away.  So when I was younger, I never yearned for a car, and for the freedom it represented.  Now that three of us have jobs and all semi-individual social lives, the car has become a bit of necessity.  However, I am starting to feel a need for  Being able to go out if a friend calls at the last minute without having to fight over the keys, or pick up an extra yoga class after work, or just being able to drive with the windows down while I sing out-loud to the music that I want to listen to.  And now, as of Wednesday, I have found that space - his name is Humphrey Bogart and he's red (my family has only ever owned red or silver cars, so he fits in perfectly).  He needs a little love, but being my brother and my first car, we don't mind at all.  Miraculously, my grandmother presented me with baby blue  fuzzy dice that she had bought when I was sixteen for when I got my license (which I did not get until I was twenty), but like any self-respecting grandmother, she saved them in the back of a closet and remembered exactly where they were for when I finally got my own car, six years later.  And let's be serous, no car is complete without fuzzy dice.

Overall, its been a wonderful week.  I didn't even realize how much so until I sat down to think about everything that's happened - momentous life events.  And then I think about how many more are to come, how this is just the beginning of summer, of a new phase in my life.  And God, I can't wait to get started.  But right now, I'm going to put my feet up, eat a plate of spaghetti with a basil-tomato-zucchini sauce, and watch a movie with my parents.

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