We're home! The past 24 hours are a bit of a blur, but thankfully I can remember the bits before that to share with you all.
On Monday we drove up to North Haledon, New Jersey, where Who's best friend from the marines lives with his wife and their German shepherd, Mika. The best friend's first and middle names are the same as Sweetie's by no coincidence, but we call him Woody (nobody in that generation seems to call each other by birth name, anyway). Their house is just like the one Sweetie and I built in the Sims 2, only with more realistic colors (no electric blue kitchen, but the guest bedroom and bath were very purple). It's two stories, with a cavernous living room that fits a Rockefeller-sized Christmas tree in the corner. Their furniture has no holes and their kitchen has the works: granite counters, built-in microwave, cute barstools, and super-deep sink (you notice things like that when you live in a crumbling 40-year-old apartment where two plates and a cup fills the entire sink). They live on a hill, so from the backyard you can see the NYC skyline in the distance.
I didn't take photos because it's not nice to sleep in someone else's house and then broadcast their private lives to strangers...but you can take my word that it was cushier than the hotel. Plus, there was Aussie shampoo/conditioner in the bathroom, which has hands-down my favorite fragrance of hair products.
On our first day, Woody's wife took us to a diner for dinner. First she asked us if we knew what a diner was. We said yes, of course--a diner is a burger joint where someone periodically cleans the tables. Apparently, that's not what "diner" means to New Englanders. The Gotham City Diner had the menu of about five restaurants smooshed together, and dinner plates the size of Luna's entire body.
(Photo from the website, because it's awkward to snap photos of your food even in front of the most understanding of hostesses)
There, the bread smelled like bread and my potato tasted like a potato. That sounds like a dismissal, but it's a compliment; most commercial bread smells like corn syrup and I've eaten one too many "potatoes" at restaurants that did not taste like potatoes. As for my vegetable "side," they literally took a crown of broccoli, boiled it, and put it on my plate whole. I only ate about half the food they presented to me, which would have made me feel guilty but the prices were shockingly reasonable. How they can survive on a business model that equates to "Offer them everything under the sun and then serve them twice as much as they can eat for ten bucks" is beyond me.
We spent the evening gossiping about Sweetie's more bizarre family members ("more bizarre" meaning 99% of them). The next morning, we woke up after our hosts had left for work and found a prettily arranged spread on the counter for breakfast. After checking the box for milk solids, I was ecstatic to see that McCann's strawberries 'n cream Irish oatmeal doesn't have lactose! The warning label says it contains milk, but only the whey, which is perfectly safe for me.
I stole some whole strawberries and plopped them in for a super-strawberry-scented bowl. I savored it perched on a high bar stool so I would have the high ground on Mika, who became my BFF every time there was food in my hand.
Note: Woody's wife pointed out while I was there that I sniff everything before I eat it. I didn't notice before, but now that I think about, everyone should smell their food more. That's where I get most of my pleasure and satisfaction from eating.
For lunch I stole more of their food.
For the record, meat and cheese from a genuine deli is 1000% yummier than meat and cheese from Kroger.
We didn't do anything substantial during the day because I was still getting over a sore throat and sinus headache and Sweetie needed to expend his energy battling off the same germs. That night Woody's son came to visit and we all went out for pizza. He works at a GameStop, which meant he and Sweetie never encountered a shortage of things to talk about. The pizza shop was called Ness, and if the plates at Gotham City were as big as Luna, the pies here were two Lunas and a half. Our hosts bought one for Sweetie and I to split, because he was the only one interested in pepperoni and I was the only one interested in olives, sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. Lots of spinach.
(Freshly reheated for today's lunch. Long live the toaster oven.)
I've been trying to eat more fruits and vegetables to help my immune system out. I "only" ate a slice and a half because my tummy was full from the Boylan root beer, which was made from honest-to-goodness yucca root. A&W, it was not.
The drive back home was uneventful, save for frequent stops to check the amount of oil in the engine. Ellie sprung a leak somewhere, and we'd rather not hear the engine die 500 miles from home. Because of these stops, the trip took longer than anticipated; we left at 9 in the morning and arrived back at 2am. Leftover slices of pizza were very welcome after 10 hours when my Christmas cash was gone and I couldn't stomach yet another round of sandwiches and fries.
After making a rush on the grocery store to fill our empty refrigerator, we could finally come home and de-stress. The most stressed out person in our family, though, was Luna, who looked like she had lost weight and neglected to groom herself while we were gone. Though we asked management to come and check on her and left plenty of food and water, she doesn't take well to strangers and, for a supposedly asocial cat, she's very dependent on human company. She followed us around mewing her throat out for hours, and told us quite plainly that we're not allowed to leave again.
Don't worry, Luna. We're not rich enough to abandon you until next year.