Monday, July 23, 2012

Things To Do: Summer 2012 Edition: Update and My Vacation Days

Back in this post, I listed 13 things I wanted to do this summer and have done many of them already! Plus, I'm working on even more!

To remind you, in this previous post, I checked off...

6. have a professional pedicure and then show it off in strappy sandals

I took three vacation days this week to host my two college girlfriends B and F from out-of-town. Staying for three days three nights, I entertained them from Tuesday afternoon 'til Friday morning before heading back to work. We had such a good time!

Anyway, on this vacation, I accomplished many more, including...

1. savor red red tomatoes selected at a farmer's market

I bought a couple of large and a pint full of grape tomatoes from a nearby farm stand a couple of days before my friends arrived and have been enjoying them since. So red and ripe, they are almost gone now. I used the grape-sized ones in a pasta salad, in garden salads, and offered them as part of an appetizer. I sliced the larger variety and served it as a side, even enjoying a thick slice seasoned with salt and pepper tonight.

Another activity on both my vacation and my must do list...

2. sip margaritas on my balcony with my girlfriends visiting during the middle of July

After B and F had both arrived, we really enjoyed delicious blood orange margaritas on my balcony. (I discovered the sweet blood orange in Italy, which is in season in March.) I served them in my red spiral margarita glasses from Pier 1 Imports. B brought the blood orange juice and I had purchased tequila, Grand Marnier, limes and margarita salt in preparation for this glorious event. We also killed a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa! I couldn't imagine a better way to start off our little reunion. 

Next, I grilled some burgers and served my new signature pasta salad for dinner. This summery side is another item on my fun To Do list.

9. create a pasta salad to be a signature of mine

(I will take a picture of my creation next time!)

My new pasta salad debuted with rave reviews at a family dinner on the 4th of July. Changing it just a teeny bit the second time around, I chopped each vegetable a different size this time, making it more colorful. (It takes less time than finely chopping everything too!) I'm satisfied with it now. I used rotini pasta, a red, yellow and green bell pepper, a red onion, Italian flat leaf parsley, grape tomatoes with Kraft Zesty Italian dressing and freshly-ground black pepper.

For dessert,...

5. go for a snowball with friends

This was actually more of a local specialty for my out-of-town friends. It's very popular in my hometown anyway. It seems there's a snowball stand on every corner. I directed them to the stand my local friends recommended and introduced me to and thoroughly enjoyed my favorite there again, root beer. B even tried her flavor choice with (liquid) marshmallow. 

The next day, we hit a beach about a half an hour's drive away. Another item on the list... check!

3. have a perfect beach or pool day

Photo Credit to B

This is the clay-colored sand and the view of the Bay Bridge spanning the Chesapeake Bay at Sandy Point State Park.

Photo Credit to B

It was nice to work on my tan for a couple of hours on one of those very hot days this summer. We relaxed reading magazines. This was my first opportunity to wear my new swimsuit! I also sported my pink sarong selected from a stand at Piazzale Michelangelo which overlooks Florence, Italy back in the spring of 2005.

After our time at the beach, the ladies and I ate lunch at my favorite local diner and then visited a Maryland winery, Boordy Vineyards. Each of us got to choose six wines to sample in their tasting. Even though it wasn't the right time for a tour, the employee gave us a quick one anyway. B and I drink wine regularly, but this was F's first wine tasting, so all of us had a good time. Certainly since the samples here were generous!

At the tasting, we stood in front of this row of offerings.

Back at my apartment, B made us a delicious steak dinner. Served with wine of course. She also had brought brownies she baked that were so decadent they were almost fudge! We ended the stormy night with a viewing of Letters to Juliet (which is mainly set in Italy).

The next day, we started the day with a visit to Baltimore, Maryland also known as Charm City. So, I get to cross the following off my fun little list...

4. go out of town (even if just for the day or an evening, even if just to Annapolis or Baltimore)

We explored the neighborhoods called the Inner Harbor and Little Italy. First, we browsed and shopped at the complex called Harborplace. There, I introduced them to the amazing Fire & Ice jewelry store. I think we hit every souvenir shop, delighting in the fun (Chesapeake Bay) crab items for sale. Next, we dined at the Hard Rock Cafe, which is in a historic building, the Power Plant. 

Photo Credit to B

For dessert, we patronized the Italian pastry shop called Vaccaro's in Little Italy. Primarily selling and known for dessert, they offer generous portions of cookies, cakes, cannoli, pastries, and gelato. I enjoyed a slice of chocolate cake with hazelnut-flavored cream. Everything was (and is) delicious! They even have my favorite gelato flavor and call it by its Italian name, Baci! This is chocolate and hazelnut. (Considering my choice, I suppose that's a good combo for me! And if you like Nutella, then for you too!) If you're in Baltimore, I recommend it!

B's Photo Again

My Personal Photo

A large selection of cookies. time...

After a successful shopping trip to the Ikea in College Park, Maryland, it was F's turn to make dinner. She grilled tasty teriyaki chicken. We also had a number of side dishes to finish off! And wine of course. We recorded each bottle we enjoyed in B and her husband N's beloved wine journal. Descriptions are usually quirky, so that added to the fun. 

Those are just the highlights! I believe that the three of us had such a fabulous time that this may become an annual event.

And with this checklist being such a success, maybe I should create one for every season, ensuring I truly celebrate each time of the year, not letting it slip by unmarked. It's nice to have a plan.

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