I'm beat. The kids and I spent the past three days spiraling out of control, spinning upside down, whirling in circles, plunging perilously close to the ground, and on occasion, emerging drenched to the skin.
Yep. We were at Universal Studios Orlando.
It was an absolute memory-maker of a trip, and we couldn't have been any luckier. Due to the divinely inspired Express Passes, lines were reasonable, if not non-existent. Service was unfailingly pleasant, and Mother Nature provided perfect weather. The food was fine, the parks hygienically clean, and the rides both thrilling and accessible.
Blah, blah, blah. Honestly, it was all good. And that's pretty astounding when you consider that I was seeking to please a relatively cautious 12-year-old girl, an absolutely incautious 14-year-old boy, and well, me.
We were lucky enough to be vacationing with several other families -- all with similarly-aged kids. Every one of us rode the scariest rides as many times as we could stomach. Not surprisingly, 14-year-old stomachs differ from those of 46-year-olds.
Even my daughter, for whom a plane ride is sufficiently adrenaline-churning (the taxi ride from the airport nearly did it for me!) took on the tallest, twirliest, zippiest, ear-popping, stomach-dropping, and undoubtedly, brain-swelling, ride -- the Incredible Hulk. She also got to celebrate her (early) birthday perched on the bar of the Hard Rock Cafe, where she and another friend were saluted. Is it too much to hope it was the last bar she's invited to dance on?
Even though this wasn't an "educational" trip -- no statues, artwork, memorials or history lectures for the kids -- I did squeeze out one essential lesson on this trip. No woman should ever shop for a bathing suit on her own.
Holy Margaritaville. How else to explain some of the, ahem, "bathing suits," I saw down by the pool?
Friends don't let friends drive drunk. Likewise, no woman would ever let another woman walk out of a dressing room -- much less onto a pool deck -- in some of the ill-fitting get-ups I saw.
A friend would say, "Let's see what else they have." Or, "That one really doesn't work to your best advantage." Or, "You know, I think that runs a bit small. Let me see if they've got it in another size -- or three -- up."
Actually, I'd like to reconsider. A friend might not get the job done. A better choice might be a daughter. Mine would never mince words.
"How do I look in this?" "Do you think this fits right?" "Does this color look good on me?"
There'd be no hesitation from my soon-to-be 12-year-old.
All I can figure is that the barely bikini-clad ladies at the pool don't have daughters. Plainly, "gross," "disgusting," and "are you serious?" are the kinds of forthright comments they'd never heard.
Harsh? Sure. But I'd far rather hear the soul-searing truth in a dressing room, than see it on the faces of hundreds of poolside strangers -- particularly on a deck laden with plenty of perfect bodies flaunting perfect suits.
I'm one of the lucky ones, though. I do have a daughter to help me out -- and she loves to share her critiques of me as freely as she loves to shop.
Before heading to the mall, though, I've got a a little section around my midriff to address. I see a lot of salads in my future, including this favorite green salad, with lots of green ingredients and lots of textures and bright flavors.
Green, Green Salad
3-4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground pepper
1 Granny Smith apple, unpeeled, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 scallion, sliced thin
1/4 cup green olives, sliced (no pimentos)
1 avocado, diced
2 stalks hearts of palm, sliced (optional)
1 bag of prewashed baby salad greens (butter and Bibb are good)
4 ounces good blue cheese, crumbled (optional)
Whisk together dressing ingredients. Stir in apple, celery, scallion, olives and hearts of palm. Gently fold in avocado (don't mash). Spoon dressed ingredients over individual servings of salad greens. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed, and serve immediately with crumbled blue cheese, if using.