This should be the morning we are packing up for a trip, our little one night stay. I am on vacation. I take my vacation in mid-September during the week of our wedding anniversary (49 years). Usually we go on a car jaunt somewhere, but the last couple seasons have not been kind. Last year we managed to spend a few days staying in Atlantic City.
This year all I could muster was an overnight and it wasn't easy scraping up money for that.
It was a fairly modest plan. My wife is a fan of Top Chef. She and my offspring favor a contestant named Kevin. Kevin is the executive chef of a restaurant called Rat's.
Part of the fascination is that a restaurant would have such a name. There used to be a small eatery in a nearby town called Rat's Nest, but it was in the midst of a university campus catering to students with low priced comfort food. Not the case here, according to the article, "5-Star Restaurants in New Jersey," New Jersey Monthly named it "Best of the Best and "its unappetizing name notwithstanding, Rat's is a study in culinary excellence. The French chateau inspired restaurant has been repeatedly ranked No.1 by Zagat's directory of New Jersey restaurants."
It is located in Hamilton, New Jersey on the property of an art center called "Grounds for Sculpture".
Anyway, since my wife had been expressing the desire to someday eat at this restaurant I thought this is somewhere we could go on this vacation, if I could make reservations.
Monday night I got on line and found Rat's on Open Table and I could get seating on Wednesday evening. I didn't want to drive into foreign territory where I would have to find my way home at night (I got horribly lost in upper New Jersey a couple years ago, but that's another story), I wanted to stay overnight.
Before I made the restaurant reservation, I went on line to a hotel chain to see if they had rooms nearby. (I have a frequent guest membership with this chain, although I haven't been all that frequent a guest in recent years.) They did indeed have a nice room in Cranbury, about a half hour from the restaurant, so I booked it. Then I went back and made the dinner reservation.
Things had gone very smoothly for a last minute decision, perhaps I should have taken that as a bad omen. The only hitch had been about a special tour. The Little Woman and I like art and we like gardens and we enjoy walking in gardens of art. This Grounds for Sculpture is supposed to be pretty sensational, 35 acres of art work within a landscaped setting. There was a special tour the evening we were going. It was at 5:30 and included a free appetizer for anyone dining at Rat's afterward. I called the number to register for this tour, but it must have been too late in the evening and all I got was a voice and a string of numbers. I would wait to tomorrow.
As it was, I never called the next day and this was fortunate. One less thing I had to cancel last night.
As previously stated, I am on vacation this week. We have basically been hanging about home and then trying a restaurant or two we normally don't go to because of distance or price. We had gone out to the Ship Inn last night. Our son was working a shift where he wouldn't be off until 8:00 PM. Our Eldest Daughter came in the afternoon to visit, as is usual for a Tuesday. She is studying veterinarian medicine and has an online forum every Tuesday, so she stays about to use my computer.
We went to dinner and it was very good, although there were not many patrons. I guess this economy has hurt the more upscale restaurants. There is certainly nothing at all wrong with this place as far as ambiance, decor, food or service. The only thing that could possibly be holding it back is the price.
We had our meal and got home about 8:15. Our son's car was parked on the street, which I noted, but figured he had gotten home and hadn't gone to get something to eat yet. Our daughter's car was parked where it had been when we left, a bit further down the street.
The house was very dark, but even though both their cars were there, I thought they may have gone somewhere after all. Perhaps my other daughter had stopped by and picked them up.
When I pulled in the drive I saw lamps laying along the left edge up near the car port. What is this? We have had some vandals throwing eggs at our cars this year, but now are they throwing lamps? I hadn't noticed the sofa in the front yard yet. As I say, it was dark.
About then I saw my son come down the walk toward us. I don't like coming home and having my son come out to greet us. It generally bodes trouble.
We had had a fire. The firemen had been there and sprayed it out with fire extinguishers. Fortunately, my Eldest Daughter had been there and she had looked across the room and thought, "Oh my god, there's a fire."
She went across the room and flung the sofa away from the area. It is not a light piece of furniture and my Eldest is not a big woman, she might be 5 foot 6 and weight 110 pounds. After clearing away some of our cats, she called 911 and the fire company responded very quickly. They were there in mere moments.
Our neighbor next door took my daughter in and she called my son at his job. "You have to come home right away, the house is on fire."
You can imagine his thoughts.
When we arrived everything was under control. The fire trucks were gone and the street was quiet, it is just our sofa was in the middle of our yard. The firemen had told my daughter not to bring it back into the house because even though the fire appeared to be out, it could still possibly reignite.
The firemen had opened an unscreened window in the computer room to allow a cross breeze to air the house out and the kids first thoughts were, "Oh no, did the cats get out." At that point they couldn't find any cats, all these beasts had headed for their hiding places when the firemen came in.
They went about and accounted for all the cats except Asta. I went downstairs to the rec room and I saw Mark atop a cabinet all hunkered down shaking. Hobo Joe was sitting on the cat station I had put in the corner, also hunkered down in fear. As I turned a cat came scurrying out from somewhere and I was glad to see it was Asta. All cats now accounted for. (The Kids tell me during the conflagration Hobo Joe was apparently protecting Kerouac, the little kitten.)
The sofa has pretty much had it. I know the Little Woman has been wondering about getting some new furniture, but I didn't think she'd go this far!
Actually the culprits were those lamps I had first spied in the yard, or rather, the extension cord they were plugged into. The cord was old and there was a short in it, which caused the fire. (On the right is one of the culprit lamps now assigned to the trash bin.)
If you look closely at the edge of the door you can see the marks left by the firemen when they pried it open. My Eldest daughter didn't know we kept the key to the lock hanging on the kitchen wall, so they busted in to throw all the circuit breakers to off.
Amazingly, the door lock still works. They must have stuck a pry into the frame and just pushed the door open enough to slip the lock.
We were very, very fortunate, thank the Lord, because this could have been a lot worse. Here is where the sofa used to be (the end table is moved over some, which is why the space looks so small). There is a square hole that the firemen cut out of the carpet. My wife has been replacing the carpets she had in the living room, so what you see is really under-carpet. (That is rebel on the chair, by the way.)
If my daughter had not been there and if she had not acted with the presence of mind to shove the sofa aside, the whole house may have gone up. We came out of this with a lot of excitement, but no one was hurt and we suffered only minimal damage: two lamps and a sofa basically. When I turned the circuit breakers back on last night everything in the house worked.
The biggest casualty was my vacation plans. The Little Woman felt a great deal of anxiety about going away overnight now. We can always go to Rat's or to the Grounds for Sculpture. Better to get back our ease of mind first. I went back on line last night and cancelled everything.
Today we will spend that trip money on a new sofa.
And my cursed year continues unabated.
The photos of Rat's and part of the Grounds for Sculpture are from their website. the rest of the photos are mine.