Padre 2009

We had a nice family vacation at South Padre Island earlier this month. We had visitors again this year – Lindsey’s boyfriend Shea came along, as did Gina’s sister (and my friend) Lisa. We ate a lot of seafood, got a lot of sun, and no one killed anyone else, so I’d say it was a successful family trip.

This one was a little different, in that it was probably the last time. I’ve been to this beach and on this family vacation every summer of my entire life (I realize that for a 30-year-old that’s a little weird, but whatever). We visit Grandma, and we go to the beach for a few days, maybe we have dinner in Mexico one night, we go to church and hear Grandma sing, and then we head home. A few weeks back, we made an emergency trip to Harlingen to drive my grandmother back with us, since her house was being invaded by criminals and her belongings stolen piece by piece. She’s been living with Mom and Dad since then (I don’t think that’s the long-term plan, but it just hasn’t all shaken down yet). So we went to the beach and slept in her house without her there, and it was a little strange. I know she is in Dallas for her own protection, but I have to say, I felt a little guilty. My mom found a buyer for the house while I was still there, and she and Lindsey stayed afterward to pack it all up (they just got back Tuesday), clean it out, and leave it ready for the new owners.

It was also hard to leave her house for the last time. I had a hard time getting to sleep that night before coming home. Her bedroom, where Lindsey and I were sleeping, has a window onto the back yard. I kept seeing the moonlight peeking through the curtains, and I could hear her voice and my mother’s voice and my own 10-year-old voice singing all the moon songs we used to sing together. When I was little, in the days before the Internet and laptops and 24-7 TV-watching, we would go sit in the back yard after dinner, look at the stars, and talk and sing.

“I’m in love with the man in the moon, and I’m going to marry him soon. He will come here someday and take me away. I’m in love with the man in the moon.”

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

That was before all the voice lessons, before the choral competitions, before the musicals and choirs. It was just play, just a family being together, spending time together, having fun. I spent a lot of time in that house, and knowing it was the last time I’d see it was sad. I know I’m 30, and that I have my own wonderful life, and that soon enough I will have my own house where I can go in my own back yard and sing my own moon songs with my own children and grandchildren. But it will not be quite the same.

Here are the highlights of the beach this year. Here is Dad cleaning off all the beach stuff. Some sort of monstrous animal got into the shed and left monstrous poop all over it.

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Anyone heard of a game called Apples to Apples? Lindsey found it at the store, and everyone seemed to like it.

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We were on the 11th floor corner of the condos this year. We had a really nice wrap-around view of the beach and the bay side, which came in handy for Friday-night fireworks!

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So, apparently Gina ROCKS at Jenga. She’s like, crazy good. She eyes the piece she wants to take out, positions herself over the tower, and then WHIPS the piece out before you even see her hand move.

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We stopped by the only shop we ever go to anymore, Isla. It’s a really fabulous little boutique after which Lindsey has decided to model her someday-store. The woman who owns it is an artist, too, and she has little installation-y spots all over the place, in addition to paintings and collage-y pieces. I bought one of her pieces a while back, and I found another one I loved in the same color scheme, so I bought it.This is one of the random pieces she has scattered around the store (actually the same color scheme as the pieces I bought).

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On the last day, the four of us went down to what used to be the Radisson (Hurricane Dolly heavily damaged the building, and Radisson left, and it’s now a local hotel) to hang out in their pool and tiki bar.

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My sisters!

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8 people and a luggage rack in an elevator…we got creative.

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Since it was our last year, I wanted to get some photos from the top of the Port Isabel lighthouse. Shea climbed up there with me.

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All in all, it was a pretty great week. I actually got through some magazines I’ve been wanting to get to (Vanity Fair, Ode, and Texas Monthly), and we had a good time just hanging out in one of our favorite places. I’m sure we’ll be back to the island at some point, but for now, we’re setting our horizons on Costa Rica (if Mom can be convinced). I feel very lucky to have a family that still values spending time together after all these years, no matter how crazy we drive each other. You’d think 30 summers at the same place would get boring, but it never has. My mom’s cousin Norma had a sign in her condo that read, “If you’re lucky enough to be at the beach, you’re lucky enough!” I’d have to say, I agree.

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On Making Time to Cook

MoreWithLess

Jon bought me a cookbook years ago called “The More-With-Less Cookbook.” It’s a collection of recipes and suggestions on “how to eat better and consume less of the world’s limited food resources.” I’m not Mennonite, but I think it’s a great concept with a lot of proven health and history behind it. I’ve only used one recipe from it so far, but I was perusing it this week to see how I can use these beans we’re growing in the garden (pinto, black, garbanzo, edamame and green lentils). I’m also in crazy-debt-payoff mode and trying very hard to reduce my food budget while still enjoying my food, which is very important to me. (Some people buy Coach purses; I buy artichokes and organic bell peppers). So the answer for me right now is to plan well and cook and eat at home.

I’ve got a lot of friends out there with demanding careers or growing families that keep them extremely busy, many with both. Since it can be hard to carry on regular life even without the added aspect of cooking, I wanted to share this list of insights I found in the cookbook from busy people who feel that cooking food at home for themselves and their family is important for budget, environmental sustainability and/or health reasons, no matter the schedule. Some of these things make more sense if you have the cookbook in hand, but I think they’re still a good place to start if you think this might be important to you. Here are their tips on how to help streamline the shopping/preparation/cooking process in order to cook…and still have a life.

1. Share cooking and clean-up tasks within the household. No one person can do it alone while maintaining a working day elsewhere.

2. Community or close-proximity living styles offer further possibilities for shared cooking. Two families we know share a large house. One couple is responsible for meals on week nights while the other cooks on weekends. They also alternate dishwashing responsibilities.

3. Morning can be the most hectic time. One parent and an older child might make breakfast while the other packs lunches and helps younger children get dressed. When nutritious bread and quick-cooking cereal or granola are on hand, good breakfasts are fast.

4. Simplify the menus. Make fewer dishes but larger quantities. If the family eats bedtime snacks anyway, omit dessert, or eat dessert only on weekends.

5. Plan menus a week at a time. In the morning, you can do a few things to prepare for dinner and lose no time wondering what to fix.

6. To cut down on weekly shopping time, buy in quantity staples that do not spoil. (i.e. whole wheat flour, wheat germ, cornmeal, oil, nuts, raisins…)

7. Organize a cook-bake-freeze system. Make double or triple amounts of main dishes and baked goods on weekends. Refrigerate or freeze extra quantities in oven-proof dishes for week-night dinners. If frozen, remove dish from freezer and place in oven. Set timer to heat for dinner.

8. Make large batches of granola for ever-ready breakfasts, lunches or snacks.

9. To use soybeans or other legumes, soak and cook large amounts. Freeze in small containers or keep in refrigerator for quick use throughout the week.

10. Freeze meat in small amounts so it can be easily chopped and stir-fried with vegetables.

Father’s Day at Joe Pool Lake

We spent Father’s Day in Harlingen this year, moving my grandmother out of her house. So this last weekend, we went out to Joe Pool Lake as we had planned, and spent the day swimming, kayaking, and eating watermelon in the shade.

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Jeff and Gina brought the dogs, and he took them out in the kayak, and they had fun swimming. It was REALLY HOT, so we also did a lot of sitting in the shade.

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We had a lovely day. It was nice to be with my family, even if it was REALLY HOT. Mom did a great job of packing food and the all-important watermelon, and we had a nice lunch. The kayaking was nice, too, with a little breeze over the water. It wasn’t too crowded, so we had the whole area to ourselves. We had a great day with my dad doing what he loves to do. Happy Father’s Day, Dad – I love you!

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