Last week was spent with my in-laws at the beach. I grew up on one coast and lived for a very short time on the other, so the beach is not something which easily impresses me. In fact, thanks to genetics, I have my mother’s very pale skin and light eyes, so that a day at the beach means either a can of 50 SPF sunblock or the ridiculous pain of a sunburn. And I hate putting sunblock on my face…it feels so very greasy.
But since my MIL really wanted to have all of her grandchildren under one roof for the week and the trip would only cost the price of gas and one meal for the family, the trip was basically free. How in the world could I deny my son his first trip to the beach, even if I wasn’t thrilled about getting sand in everything and sweating under the South Carolina heat?
The trip definitely had its ups and downs. There were some parts that were fantastic, and some that, well, brought me to the verge of throwing a tantrum myself. So, here is my tribute to vacation, the top 5 highlights (in no actual order):
1) My husband’s homemade frozen custard
My husband doesn’t do much in the way of cooking, but one thing he does amazingly well, is make frozen custard. A few years ago his folks gave him an ice cream churn that had belonged to his grandparents. It has a wooden tub and a metal dasher that everyone vies for in order to lick it when things are mixed and done. His mother insisted he bring it along with us to the beach, and somehow we managed to find just enough room for it (and it wasn’t easy, there was not an inch of space left in that trunk).
Like I said before, my husband doesn’t experiment with much in the way of the kitchen, but he does go a little wild with the custard. I think the first batch he made was strawberry and it was good. Then he wanted to try blueberry, peach and rum raisin. The rum raisin was so powerful that it nearly knocked me out. Not something I’d want to serve to children, but all our friends wanted seconds.
When his mom first mentioned the churn, I offered up some of these great flavors. What’s better in summertime than fresh fruit ice cream? However, in an attempt to make everyone happy, my MIL insisted on plain old vanilla. I was particularly disappointed since South Carolina is known for its peaches and we had a ton of fresh ones sitting right on the counter. But, there is no reasoning with her sometimes, so vanilla it was. I did get to add some hot fudge to it and that was great. But even without it, the custard was superb.
And, a few nights later, we got our way and I started chopping peaches. I make a mean peach syrup to mix in with the custard and with some diced peaches to boot, it was the best possible treat. Everyone in the family raved about it.
2) Playing in the pool with my son. Another thing my MIL insisted upon was my son wearing the floaty bathing suit she bought him. It was pretty cute since it matched the one she bought one of his cousins. He didn’t actually need one since we had a floaty vest for him already, but she wanted to see him in it, so we agreed. I was actually upstairs with the baby when he first got in the pool but when I went down a few minutes later, my SIL was thrilled to take the little nipper and let me jump in.
My son was so adorable! He not only had the floaty bathing suit on, but he also was in a floaty ring with a snorkel in his mouth and goggles on his head (not his eyes). He refused to talk except through the snorkel, which while hard to understand, was really, really funny! I’ve never gotten to play in the pool with him before. Usually my husband takes him in, but this time, we were both in and splashing around with him. He pushed off us, “swam” to the toys we threw for him and just generally had a ball laughing and playing with us. I’m not sure we’ve ever had more fun together.
3) RB’s restaurant. The only goal my husband had for the trip was to get some good seafood. He grew up in North Carolina and fell in love with what he calls the “fish camps,” which are fairly cheap fried seafood places. The plates come piled high with shrimp, oysters, clams, fries and hushpuppies. I don’t think his BIL quite understood what he meant when he said “fish camp,” since it definitely wasn’t a cheap place to eat, but despite that, the food was stellar. My husband stuck to fried shrimp and I had a mix of shrimp and oysters.
Before we even left for the place, he told me he wanted shark for dinner. I knew there wasn’t going to be shark on the kid’s menu, but we ordered it while pointing to fried fish on the menu. The trick worked, because as soon as we got back to the beach house, all he could talk about was the yummy shark he had for dinner. We quietly told everyone the real story, which got laughs from all.
The food was quite tasty. My favorite part was definitely the hush puppies. I’d had them plenty of times in my childhood, but growing up in the Midwest, my only exposure was Long John Silvers. It wasn’t until I went to one of these “fish camps” with my husband that I found out the true joy of sweet Southern hush puppies. It’s a good thing they only brought us one basket full, because my son claimed he didn’t like them and I might have eaten my body weight in them if given the chance!
4) Watching my son play with his cousins. While I was not always enamored with the noise created by seven kids under the age of 10, especially the noise made before 7 am each morning that woke us up, my son really bonded with his cousins. Well, at least one of them. He is smack dab in the middle of my family’s group of cousins. There are three older and three younger. Even though he was nice to his younger cousins, he quite obviously thought they were babies and while he wanted to play with their toys, he wasn’t as interested in playing with the actual kids.
I think he did sort of fall in love with his only female cousin, who is 2 1/2 years older than he is. They were thick as thieves. Every game they played together. Every time one went in the pool, the other had to go in too. There were constant calls to either myself or my SIL for one to do something with the other. And, it seems to be a cry that has carried over into our non-vacation lives. Since they only live about 15 minutes from us, my son and my niece are constantly asking to play with each other. It’s really pretty cute.
5) And last, but not least: game night. I have great memories from my childhood of staying up late playing games with my folks and my grandparents. Every time we went to visit my grandparents, we ended up playing Pictionary or Chinese Checkers or some kind of card game. Many of the greatest moments from my childhood happened around my grandparents’ dining room table.
At the beach, my SIL brought a copy of Scrabble. I hadn’t played in years, but got in on the first game. That night we started the frenzy. Since there were so many of us, we had to play in teams. I partnered up with my husband and the second night we kicked some major booty. The next night I played by myself and also took home the gold. The last night we played didn’t go quite as well. I joined the game already in progress (I was putting my son to bed). My husband had played a few rounds without me and he is just not quite the strategic player I am. He’s more about the words than the score. Once I got into the grove though, I pulled us up from last place. It was neck and neck. We ended up coming in second, losing by 3 points. It was a bit disappointing, but at least we gave it our all.
Plus, I finally got them to stop consulting the dictionary before they laid their words down. Of course, I did almost have a throw down with my BIL when I mentioned to him (and his teammate my MIL) that they couldn’t use contractions or slang. He got quite annoyed with me, but luckily I had the support of all the other players, so that helped. I didn’t want to harp on the rules, but there are some basic ones that just have to be followed. And, since he is usually the rules police, I kind of liked setting him straight this time.
All in all, it was an interesting trip. As a kid we never really went on vacations with my aunts and uncles, so it was a new experience for me. I won’t say I wasn’t thrilled to be home, because to go with my top 5 list, I could probably make a top 10 annoying things about vacation list (and may still). There is, after all, no place like home.