New Jersey Weekender

One of the most frequently asked questions I've gotten since moving to Grand Cayman is, "Where are you from?" It still amazes me that on an island 22 miles long with only 50,000 residents, I haven't found a stereotypical answer to that simple question. In my accounting firm of approximately 45 people, there are something like 15 nations represented when we all sit down together in the board room. Talk about some culture diversity! 

Based on my bland Northeast American accent, people can usually guess that I'm from the U.S. (or sometimes I get Canada), so I usually am more specific with my answer and respond with, "Pennsylvania."  And that's the honest truth; I'm originally from PA. But what I don't always get the chance to mention is that I spent the first seven years of my adult life living in the neighboring state of New Jersey.

Since moving to Cayman, we've returned our hometown three times, but we hadn't made it back to NJ for a proper visit (other than just driving through the state to get to NYC - a stereotype in and of itself.) So we were super excited when it worked out for us to spend a long weekend on the tail end of our last trip to the States with some very good friends in South Jersey.

Smiles from RMED; kisses from AJD.
(By the way, this post could be subtitled "collage-fest". So many snaps. So little room.)

The hand-off from N's real family to these friends-who-might-as-well-be-family took place at the King of Prussia Mall - a slice of heaven, if you ask me. Seriously, it's one of the best malls in America and cures even the most severe cases of mall-orexia. Along with boasting about a zillion stores and brands, it hosts some pretty fine dining establishments both in and around the mall. We couldn't help but succumb to the temptations of Maggiano's before heading south and east.

Warm Italian hospitality with a comfort-food menu. Leftovers are part of the meal design.
Fast-forward to the next day's lunch: Leftover Maggiano's in the comfort of one's own home.
It doesn't get any better.

We did a lot of catching up during the ride to South Jersey; we had a lot of details to share before parking ourselves on the couch and turning 100% of our attention to London's finest show.

Check out that DIY stone fireplace, and the hand-painted compass on the ceiling!
We watched the Olympics in style.
If there's anyone in my life that is even more hooked on Olympic coverage than myself, it's AJD. We were on the same page: Support every American in every event with every fiber in our beings. And heaven help the one who attempts an interruption.

Little R got in on the red-white-and-blue action the next day when we traveled to one of my favorite beaches in the U.S.: Long Beach Island. I don't know if any other beach town does family-friendly, classic-Americana, casual-but-stylish-beach better than LBI.

And it's hard for us to imagine a trip to LBI with at least one stop off at the Chegg.

The Chicken or the Egg. Your call.
In other words, out-of-this-world wings, and unforgettable breakfasts.

A Saturday morning at the Chegg equals long lines. Our late breakfast plans quickly turned into lunch plans. Little R kept herself busy pounding the pavement with Mom and chatting with Uncle N.

Finally, we had the chance to be satisfied customers once again.

Saturday morning hustle and bustle at the Chegg

The menu includes a lot of variety but is consistently good. Along with twists on breakfast like Cinnamon Roll French Toast, they serve the Buffalo Chegger - grilled chicken, egg, American cheese, and one of 15 hot sauces, which are categorized by heat. I played it safe and stuck with with the West Coast Wrap.

Cinnamon Roll French Toast; West Coast Wrap; Buffalo Chegger

The Chegg is just a couple blocks from the beach, so we waddled out from lunch over to the beautiful Jersey shore.

Don't let "reality" TV fool you; New Jersey has some gorgeous beaches, most of which are not overrun with the GTL crowd.

And although we were enjoying a day at the beach in a much more northerly location than what we're used to in Cayman, Little R still made sure we lathered up on the SPFs.

Making sure mama didn't miss a spot.

After all, if you're going to spend a good part of your day like this, a girl's got to consider the risk of sun damage.

But who am I kidding? No almost-two-year-old can sit that still for hours on end. Nope, Little R busied herself with digging and exploring and wading. There is absolutely no way to be bored at the beach.

I loved when the tide came in and left little pools of water that were perfect for tiny toes.

She even loved that feet-buried-in-the-sand feeling - typically, an acquired taste. I'd say that's at least a Level 4 Beach Skill.

By the next time I see this family, they'll have a little guy joining the party.  Prepare yourself now for that photo-laden post.

Although my beach cup rarely runneth over (I always have room for more), come dinner time, we headed back to the homestead, but not before a couple more priceless looks from this babe.

She kills me.
Back at home, we reaped the benefits of what I have come to call the 6th Love Language. A&P may have discovered it, because they absolutely own it: The love language of food.

Behold: Homemade grilled pizza with toppings like prosciutto and pears and gorgonzola.

Even the Olympics couldn't tear me away from this meal.

Not unlike her adult counterparts, Little R has made herself the sous chef extraordinaire. It won't be long before she'll be serving up gourmet fare like her parents.

In the meantime, she's sitting pretty in her dental-chairesque highchair (how appropriate), handling a fork like a pro.

I'll tattle for a second: During dinner, she was glued to the Olympic coverage.
Good girl.

And in between bites: Giggles. Endless giggles.

Sometimes even a giggle during bites. Why not. We're all family.

Family time with this NJ family was a perfect way to wind down our summer State-side tour.  

Found this cute little dress in Boquete, Panama.
After she opened it, she wanted to put it on right away.
Best reaction from  a 2-year-old ever!

I loved my quality time with Little R and both her parents, which included a bike ride around Stockton's campus and plenty of meals around the dinner table.

So while I'm glad I live in Cayman and don't regret moving away from NJ, I sure do miss these people.

I need this giggly girl to visit me again in Cayman!

Thanks for clearing your calendars for us, A&P, and for once again making us feel totally welcome and comfortable in your home. I'm just over the moon about you all - much love being sent your way!