30 December 2011

THE BEACH, Days 7 and 8

Bikes on the beach. It doesn't get much better than this. Ever.

28 December 2011


It's a beautiful December day. The kind of day we'd hoped for in South Carolina for Christmas. The sun is glimmering off the inland creeks and marsh ponds; the Ashley River and the Atlantic Ocean. The balmy weather and sunny morning set the mood and the pace for our adventure.

Charleston is a very short distance from Kiawah--as the crow flies. In a car traversing the variety of waterways that comprise this location, you should plan on a 30 - 40 minute drive depending on time of day and season.

On our first visit to Charleston--15 or 16 years ago--we headed that first morning to the historic district, parked the car, walked to the edge of the parking lot and boarded a horse-drawn carriage. Yep! In that order and that quickly we made a very significant step in getting to know Charleston. Our charming driver shared a wealth of information during our tour--history, scenery, gossip, humor, insider information, and opinions. So, CA and I are determined to share a similar experience with our family today.

We park the car near the College of Charleston and walk a few short blocks to Market Street, schedule a carriage ride in just over an hour, and then wander through the Slave Market. Our little girls are shoppers, so CA and DM patiently accompany their 5 girls as we move from stall to stall until we find just the right money holders--leather wallets-on-a-string for LG and KF (regretting forever after that we didn't buy one for the very competitive, almost 2 year old NJ).

We turn down East Bay, finding a cafe (with deep and comfy leather chairs) that evokes fond memories for each of us of our many, many walks through favorite cities in Central Europe--Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest.

Very soon, we walk to the appointed corner (exactly where we boarded our carriage on our first visit to Charleston) and the 7 of us settle in with 4 or 5 other visitors for a thumbnail tour of this gorgeous city. Today's carriage driver is gregarious, but not nearly as informative as we remembered from before. Still, we delight in the architecture and style, sunshine and glimpses of courtyards and gardens that are so very much Charleston.

When our tour ends and we've taken time to admire the horses, we head for Hyman's for a late lunch. It's after 1:30pm and still there's a 30 - 40 minute wait. Our little girls are patient travelers but standing on-line at this point in our day is just not a great idea, so we find our cars and drive to James Island for lunch at the Carolina Seafood Company location we remember from our second visit to Charleston.

On the drive back to Kiawah, CA and I fulfill a promise and stop by a bike shop to rent 4 adult and 1 child bike, along with appropriate child seats and helmets for our remaining days on the island. We're feeling a bit smug because we know the awesome realities of beach and trail biking on Kiawah, but so far it seems no one else has grasped the pleasures ahead.

We settle into our evening with Old Maid and some t.v. and videos. Since today is December 28th--DM + MK's 9th wedding anniversary, we've volunteered to tend the girls tonight so that they can enjoy an evening out at one of the lovely restaurants at The Sanctuary on Kiawah.

27 December 2011

BEACH, Days 4 and 5

We're gearing up as we're winding down... Relaxed into beach mode, we wander the neighborhood meeting and greeting before driving to Fresh Fields to check out the restaurant situation and grocery store--Newton Farms.

We're in love with Newton Farms. Feels like a seaside Whole Foods with lots of fresh foods, semi- and fully-prepared options. We need some sour cream, Romaine lettuce, and salsa. We're making tacos with Fritos tonight--hoped to introduce the girls to chili bellies (some call them Fritos pies) but haven't found any single-sized bags of Fritos, so we'll make Fritos Bowls.

The Subaru rolls in around 4:30pm and we have three very excited little girls ready to check-out the house and discover some presents (?). Most of our gifts to them were delivered at Thanksgiving or by mail from Lands End. But, they've been conditioned to believe that when grandparents are around, there will be gifts!

LG has a deck of Old Maid, some math dice, and a Connect Four game to share with her sisters. KF and LG have slap watches and walkie-talkies, while NJ gets a toy iPod and a bracelet. We've found scarfs for all three of our European lovelies and some sweet treats besides.

This is a very nice beach house with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, lots of open spaces inside, and both a screened porch and wrap-around deck outside. While rain is predicted for tomorrow, the rest of the week sunshine and warm temperatures--maybe even into the 70s--are expected.

* * *

Not sure what time the rain begins on Tuesday, but the girls pass the morning with videos and artwork. By mid-morning we decide to ignore the weather and we all gear-up and hit the beach anyway. We just can't be at the beach and not be on the beach.

By 2:00pm the rain ends, and we drive both cars to Fresh Fields to check out the candy store. Soon, we're on the beach again enjoying the last rays of sunshine for today.

Tonight we'll have quiche and salad--a simple and satisfying meal just right for beach life.

25 December 2011


The three of us enjoy a quiet Christmas morning knowing that in just a few hours we'll each be with our grandchildren.

RvH and I have already exchanged gifts, and CA and I have limited our wrapped gifts to one each since this family vacation is our big gift. My gift from CA is a wine-red velour at-home outfit. Cozy and lovely. CA's gift is a surprise--a digital clock radio for his iPhone. And, for RvH I've found a very blingy rhinestone-studded cuff. It dazzles.

A lovely morning with sunshine and temps in the low 60s, we're out on the beach just before noon sharing this paradise with RvH. By 2:30pm her daughter-in-law and two grandchildren arrive with hugs and shouts and lots of questions.

By dinnertime CA and I have had a relaxing break and are ready to prepare the long-awaited special meal: rack of baby lamb, oven-roast potatoes, and tiny peas in a minted butter sauce. YUM!

Our little girls and parents arrive tomorrow late afternoon. We'll be together 4 or 5 days and have plans for biking on the beach and a day in Charleston where we'll take the horse and carriage tour of the historic area.

24 December 2011

ROAD TRIP, Day 2: The Beach

By 4:00pm we've parked in the carport under our Sparrow Pond Cottage. We're here! It's Christmas Eve and I've visions of preparing rack of lamb with oven roasted potatoes when we stop at the Food Lion on John's Island. RvH, CA, and I head in separate directions and quickly gather some essentials including fresh produce, milk, and a baguette to round out our pantry.

Our years of vacation rental experiences are evidenced by the bags of cooking provisions and supplies we've carried from home. We've learned to come prepared--especially this trip, as the first two days are holidays and, while no one expects a full-on feast and celebration, we've learned to come prepared with a few special foods and treats. 

(The second Thanksgiving of our marriage might have included Oscar Meyer bologna and a Banquet frozen banana cream pie... CA was beginning his Navy career and we'd moved from Newport, RI to Norfolk, VA the day before.) (And, there was the year 5 of us drove to Memphis to meet DM halfway from Houston. We spent some frustrating hours searching for an open restaurant on Thanksgiving Day before settling for a Bennigans.) 

Within the array of shopping bags in the back of the Tucson are favorite pans, knives, and utensils; dry mixes for homemade cookies, preferred crackers, jams and peanut butter. Disposable cups and plates; napkins, paper towels, and spices nestled next to Kraft's mac and cheese for the girls and libations for the adults. There's also a medium-sized cooler with cheeses, frozen chili verde, prepared beef taco meat, and the aforementioned rack of lamb from Trader Joe's. 

So, we're here and because of the vast quantities of fast food and fountain beverages we've consumed throughout today, everyone is ambivalent over a full-on meal. The rack of lamb is re-purposed for Christmas dinner. Fine by me. 

Darkness falls quickly, and early. This is an island! There is no ambient glow from a cityscape or thoroughfare. It's just plain dark. And, quiet. No beach combing tonight, but the very air we breathe is noticeably fresher, lighter, sweeter. The ocean is near; there are waves crashing just around the bend and over the dunes. Vacation has begun.

23 December 2011


An annoying and jarring alarm bellows at 3:45am. Really?!

We've promised to be at RvH's by 5:15am, and that requires that we back out of our driveway no later than 4:30am. What idiot cooked up this plan. Um-m-m... That would be me.

Hitting the road before 5:30am in order to drive 10 of the requisite 17 hours toward the South Carolina beach is logical. It's the reality that overwhelms.

Triple espresso for Marielle; a double for the ever-so (genetically) -laid-back CA. Last time we made an early morning call on RvH to drop her at the airport as we headed to Orlando in October, she was WIRED and full of graphic details of neglected and abused zoo animals somewhere in Ohio, I believe. That was also about 5:00am. 

I'm taking no chances. 3 shots of espresso won't even guarantee I'll be ready for whatever worldwide grave and tragic details FOX news has spewed in these morning hours. RvH will have had that station playing at her house since somewhere around 3:00am. She-e-e-esh. 

Spare me, please, dear Lord. Give our world only good and positive events today.

We're headed to Kiawah Island near Charleston and a few days with D+M's family, while RvH will meet up with her daughter-in-law and two grandchildren for almost a week in Beaufort. 

Ah-h, the lovely anticipation at the beginning of an adventure... Pure hope and joy fuels us throughout the day, along with too much fast food and Diet Coke. The sun shines. We reminisce; we expound. Life is rich and full and we're each filled with the "good will toward all men" appropriate to this season.

As the day unfolds, RvH claims to have never experienced a true road trip, and spends the day basking in the simple pleasures of sunshine, windmills, winding mountain vistas, and warming temperatures. We know her every delight as she "charmingly" narrates the approaching and passing moments. Hm-m-m...

We've set Knoxville, TN as our endgame for today's travels and we roll in here around 7:00pm, finding an extremely nice Holiday Inn Express with two queen beds and an Outback Steakhouse just down the road. Makes for a satisfying close to our day of travel--clean and pleasant surroundings and dependably well-prepared food. 

We'll get plenty of rest tonight and tomorrow face another 7 hours of drive time, arriving at the beach around 4:00pm.

22 December 2011


I have a new haircut. A very odd haircut. It has me puzzled. I'm remembering another frightening haircut from many years ago. My stylist had suggested I have another person in the salon cut my hair while she was on maternity leave. The other person was her niece--a stylist with a much hipper vibe. I liked the way she cut and colored my hair.

My original stylist was part of a family who may or may not have been Sicilian... Every family get together had fall-out. Eventually she quit speaking to her niece, and the young lady left the salon for a friendlier situation. I took my business to the new salon.

Eventually, the young lady followed a boyfriend to Colorado, so I (with much trepidation) returned to my original stylist for a haircut. She cut my hair. She chopped my hair. She obliterated my tresses. Not one hair on my head was longer than 1/2". I was shorn.

Did she exercise retribution for my disloyalty? I've always believed it to be so. Still I continued seeing her (successfully) for several years until she moved out of state.

Now, for many years I'd gone to a different upscale salon, paying prohibitive prices. I've had good haircuts and great color. Earlier this year I saw someone with a great haircut and highlights at the local Starbucks and asked who did her hair. It turned out that her stylist was less expensive and just minutes from my home, so I made the switch. Now this stylist is pregnant and will soon be less available, so I decided to go back to the upscale salon.

There will be no photos of my new haircut. I have been spiked and shorn. I'm not certain what is going on here, but I believe I have again had revenge enacted upon me. Can it really be true? One look in the mirror convinces me that someone really had it in for me.

For now, I am salon-less. No real problem because it will be months before I have enough hair to require a cut.

19 December 2011


Both CA and I have fallen victim to a lingering respiratory strain--he's still coughing and I can't quite rid myself of the sinus-respiratory infection that began Thanksgiving Day. Life moves on at a brisk pace, but we're still dragging our tails...

That doesn't mean I've ignored my Christmas responsibilities--just accomplishing them at a slower pace. I'm O.K. riding in the car, but actually standing upright for very long is exhausting. 

Saturday was the Jacobs' family celebration in the Peoria area, so CA and I made a flying trip--driving there and back within a 12-hour span. 46 people, including 10 under the age of 7 years got together for small dishes and dessert. Desserts are the hallmark of my family. The entire 7-foot dining table is laden with cookies and candies--every last one homemade with love and care.

My contribution was an antipasto salad/appetizer. I figured that with all the desserts to follow, some would appreciate a quasi-healthy first course. Our favorite version is at Georgio's in Crystal Lake, so a week ago Sunday we ordered out an antipasto salad and wrote down the ingredients, prepping everything but the Romaine before leaving home. By all evidence, the antipasto was a hit, and we have enough leftover ingredients for dinner tonight. Here's the mix:

Parmesan - shaved 
Black olives
Red cabbage, shredded
Green peppers
Red onions
Genoa salami
Italian sausage

Then, our Small Group Christmas dinner was last night and I'd promised dessert, which had to be prepped and ready before we could leave for Peoria on Saturday. I made 5 cheesecakes--4" in diameter: black raspberry swirl, New York-style (plain), coconut, cappuccino, and chocolate truffle. And, I made Kahlua brownies with chocolate ganache, and also shortbread rounds--half coated with red glaze. 

Can I just say that I used to be much more efficient at this type of thing when we entertained more often? I'm rusty... After the cheesecake production, the kitchen was ready to be declared a National Disaster Area

And, am I the only person who owns multiple springform pans in at least 5 sizes? I have 4-4", 2-6", 2-8", 1-10", and one heart-shaped. Williams Sonoma has nothing on my pantry! And, let's just not discuss tart pans, 'cuz it gets too embarrassing.

Today I'm committed to my punitive online driving school requirement. (Throat clearing...) I might have gotten a ticket for distracted driving in the recent past... 4-hours of online punishment, at no small cost.

14 December 2011


photo via TripAdvisor


So much for our plans to stay home for Christmas to recover and regroup. We've booked a week on Kiawah Island, and DM's family will join us for 4 or 5 days. We're also bringing RvH along so that she can spend a week with her daughter-in-law and two grandkids. Her Marine pilot son is serving in Japan until Spring.

We're very excited as we love Charleston, and the ocean is a centering and healing necessity in our lives. It's been way too long since we were last on Kiawah.

13 December 2011


So... We need three rugs. Two in the great room--one in the main area and one in the morning room--and one for the entry .

Lots of choices, including these from homedecorators.com

[Selections have been made. I just need an educated eye to determine appropriate sizes and we're good to go!]

Great Room choice...

Morning room choice...

Entry choice...

Or, possibly one of these from Dash and Albert...

10 December 2011


No other elves need apply. 4-1/2 month old LC has the Santa's Favorite Elf spot locked down. Who can resist?...

07 December 2011


December 7, 1941

As AC, my brother-in-law, was organizing family photos today he saw a date scribbled on the back of this one--70 years ago today. Pearl Harbor Day. Stunned, he called my dad to get more information.

My 90 year-old father recalled, "I was working in Peoria (IL) and Russell was at Western Illinois University in Macomb. Lawrence was 10. I took the bus down there (Bowen, IL) and we had the picture taken on a Sunday afternoon. It wasn't until I returned to Peoria and my roommate said, 'We're almost at war.' that I learned about Pearl Harbor. It's funny that you called because I was just thinking about that photo this morning."

That's my 20 year-old dad--upper left--and 18 year-old Russell next to him. In front on the left is my grandma--Dessie Linita Todd Jacobs--with Lawrence, and grandpa--Oren Lester Jacobs.

06 December 2011


MK decides that while DM is traveling she and the little girls will bake the cookies of her childhood in Slovakia. The only real problem is that the girls mildly resent that they don't get to keep more of these cookies--destined for teachers and friends..