Bringing the Beach Home

Relaxing, connecting, slow, family, fun, water, waves, sun, cook outs…..

Adirondacks on deck

These are some of the words I’d use to describe my times at the beach house. I’ve been there alone, with lots of girl friends at once and also sometimes with just one, with immediate or big extended family, with my sister and nephew, with just one of my daughters. Each time is treasured time with the people who are at the beach with me. When we get away, I think it’s sometimes easier to get in touch again with who we really are – away from the hustle and bustle of regular life that sometimes feels like it’s moving at the speed of light.

When I’m not at the beach, I long for it. While I do long for the smell of the salt in the air and the sound of the birds and the water, I’m really longing for the connection that being there allows us to have together.

So the question, as summer comes to a close, is how to capture that feeling?! That will look different for everyone, but here are a few of the things I do to “Bring the Beach Home.”

1. Beach Gear for Everyday

Beach bags – not just for the beach! One time on a return trip from the beach, we stopped at Hruska’s Bakery in Ellinger, TX. It’s an incredibly eclectic store with homemade kolaches and interesting household decorative times as well as local preserved food, worth a stop if you are in the area. I saw a cute coated burlap bag with a giant white shell stamped on it. I just couldn’t resist. I love that bag and carry a bit of beach around with me – I also thought it might be a good conversation starter with other beach goers.

shell bag

I bought some of those $18 plastic adirondack chairs (you can buy at Lowe’s or Home Depot and some of the heavier duty ones at Costco) and set them up around the yard at home. They are so inviting – great for morning coffee or a casual al fresco lunch as the days get cooler. Honestly, I do feel like I’m on vacation (ever so briefly) when I go sit down in one!

2. Trigger memories

I have an antique jar by my kitchen sink that hold black sand from a beach on the road to Hana on Maui. We took the kids there several years ago. They were in late elementary school and we had a great time of discovery there. When I look at the sand I remember our beach exploring and the curiosity and excitement we all shared.

I keep several important photos in my family room that remind us all of special times and places. I have a collage of photos from my grandmother’s 100th birthday celebration with extended family. I also have some large poster sized pictures of a sunset and the view at high tide from my uncle’s beach house. Those photos remind us we belong to each other and to take time to celebrate together.

 3. Make Hospitality a Habit

Connections are what really mean the most to me both at home and at the beach. I wrote about making Shrimp Pico de Gallo recently. Food is always a way to connect with people. We love having folks over for dinner. Making hospitality a habit doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. My dear friend Jan’s best advice about housekeeping: “If you wouldn’t notice it as you rode by on a galloping horse, don’t worry about it.”  She’s totally right. Focus on making your guests feel welcome and known and no one will notice if there is dust on the shelf or spots on the floor.

Bringing the beach home for me means maintaining those connections that are deepened there – they need to be nurtured. That doesn’t alway happen when life gets busy with carpooling to kids activities, jobs, etc. So, grab a loved one, pull up a chair (whether it’s a beach chair, Adirondack chair or a seat on the couch), stay awhile, eat something yummy and share life.

red chairs

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The Water Calls Us

This week, we take our oldest child to college. So I’m feeling a little emotional – nostalgic, scattered, happy, anxious, satisfied, excited and a host of other emotions that seem to flow intermingled throughout my days these past weeks. Many of our family trips have been to places with water (fresh or salt) – California, Massachusetts, Alabama, and of course Texas. As summer comes to a close and I look back over he past years of vacations, I’ll take you along memory lane with me.

Hotel del Coronado 2004 – My mom was dying and she wanted to see the ocean one last time. It was summer and the Gulf Coast was way too hot and she was really to frail to do too much moving around. The Del was the perfect spot – she could sit on the balcony and feel the ocean’s peace. Saltwater is good for the soul.

Hotel Del Coronado 2004

2005 Thanksgiving at Big Bend – the kids had never seen the mighty Rio Grande. Here are the girls at the Santa Elena Canyon

Girls at Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend

In 2004 we moved near Lake Travis and spent summers going down to a nearby park. This picture is from 2006. When the lake was low, the kids could pretend they were at the beach.

In 2007 we visited my uncle in Boston. We were joined up north by my sister’s family and several of our Italian cousins. My uncle rented a beach house in Hull for all of us. It was a constant party for days. The water was wicked cold, but that didn’t stop the kids from getting wet.

For a couple of years in a row, the girls and I had mother daughter camp weekends at Kamp Kickapoo with their girl scout troop and siblings. The river felt great on that hike. This is from 2007.

And as you can seem, most of our water adventures took place with friends. This is from summer 2007 on Lake Austin.

In 2008, in celebration of the kids finishing their time at a private school for kids with dyslexia, we took them to Maui. That black sand beach on the way to Hana was really an incredible site. The girls each brought home a spoonful of the black sand in a jar.

In 2009 we went to Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee – my husband’s old stomping ground. We went with dear friends and took the mother of all hikes along the river to the falls. Trail wasn’t marked but we made it. It was an adventure for sure. This photo was taken at one of the several small waterfalls in the park.

In 2010, my grandmother turned 100, so back to Boston we went for a delightful family reunion at my uncle’s beach house in Scituate. This beach house has remained one of our favorite places to go. So many memories and good times have been had there. It was the inspiration for us to purchase our own beach place. 

After 2010, many of our trips centered around going to the beach houses in Port Aransas and Galveston, combining business with pleasure. We’ve loved having the houses to take the girls, friends and family. They’ve provided us exactly what we had hoped for – places of joy and family memories. Sometimes it’s been a stretch and a challenge, but the moments we’ve created for the family have really been invaluable. We’ve loved hosting extended family Thanksgivings in Galveston for several years.

 

 

The next chapter will hold new things for all of us. Wherever life takes us, I know we’ll still gather by water, whether it’s at the Texas coast or elsewhere – it’s where we slowdown and share stories, laugh and renew. The water is where we are at home.

 

Vacation Meal Planning

Cocktail hour on the deck

Cocktail hour on the deck

We are headed to the coast for a few days next week. Every time I go to one of the beach houses I feel like I land at the grocery store trying to plan meals on the fly so that I don’t have to head back to the store the next day. I’m always shop from a list in my regular life, so not sure why I don’t do this for vacation! When at the houses we generally eat the same way – we always have waffles one morning and grill at least one or two nights for dinner. Sandwiches are always easy for lunches – everyone can make their own at their convenience. The menu is a bit heavy on meat options, so I’ll probably pick up some peanut butter and jelly as well as an extra salad an an alternative. Coffee and condiments are usually already stocked at the beach houses, so we’ll be set! Can’t wait! If you want to take the guesswork out of your own vacation meal planning, here’s a link to the menu. Beach meals for 4

Cookin' Out!

Cookin’ Out!

Meal Plan for 3 nights/4 days for 4 people

  Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Day 1 Traveling Traveling Out
Day 2 Waffles and scrambled eggs, berries Ham/turkey sandwiches, Fruit, sliced veg, chips Grill chicken, salad, watermelon
Day 3 Breakfast tacos (eggs, sausage, cheese) Leftovers, Ham/turkey sandwiches, fruit, sliced veg, chips Grill sausages, saute green beans, salad
Day 4 Breakfast tacos (eggs, sausage, cheese) Pack sandwiches to go Home

Snacks:

2 bags chips

Salsa

Fruit/veg variety

Drinks:

Bottle of wine

Sparkling water

2-gallon jug purified water

__________________________________________________

Shopping list:

Fruit
Blueberries

Strawberries

Bananas

Watermelon

Veg

Salad blend X 3

Tomatoes

Cucumbers

Avocados

Baby carrots

Dry

Flour blend for waffles

Chips

Tortillas

Bread

Dairy

Milk/cream

Butter

18 eggs

Grated cheddar cheese Sliced cheese

Meat

Breakfast sausage

Smoked Sausages

Sandwich meat (1.5 lb)

Peanut Butter

Jelly

Adventuring in Port A

Along with visiting San Jose Island, my sister, nephew and I ventured beyond the beaches and into Port A last week. One afternoon when the heat index was between 105 and 109 degrees, we opted to stay out of the sun and went into town to check out some Port A history. Visiting the Port Aransas Museum and the Farley Boat Works have been on my to do list for a long time, but it’s hard to convince a pack of teen girls to leave the beach! Happily, my sister and her 10 year old son were more than game, so we went into town. The Port Aransas Museum is open Thursday – Saturday 1:00pm – 5:00pm so unfortunately, we weren’t able to see it this trip. We did make it to the Farley Boat Works (open 8:30 am – 5:00 pm Tuesday – Saturday) and had a great tour by the shop manager, Frank. The Farley Boat Works opened in 1915 and was run by various family members until it closed in 1973. The original Farley Boat was crafted specifically for the tarpon fishing in Port Aransas.  The Farley Boat Works was re-established in 2011 when the site of the last shop was purchased by the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association (PAPHA) and is now part of the museum. Boat building classes are taught at FBW and this summer a camp was held for folks 12-21 to build a Surf Rider boat, which is like a cross between a kayak and a paddle board. While we were there, we saw one in mid-progress. Frank talked to us about a 12 year old boy who had recently completed his own boat. My nephew thought that was pretty cool.

Farley Boat Works

Farley Boat Works – antique boat restoration

Frank asked what else we were doing that afternoon and recommended that we head over to The Back Porch. I’d never been there so we thought we’d continue our exploration of Port A for some refreshment at the dock.

The Back Porch Bar

The Back Porch Bar

We were hooked from the moment we got there – what a great location! Right next to the marina and Woody’s Sports Center. The bar is in the middle of a large deck. The deck had plenty of covered seating, so even on this hottest of days, the temperature was great. We sat at a table, had ice cold and delicious virgin Pina Coladas and enjoyed watching the people and the boats.

Hanging out at The Back Porch

Hanging out at The Back Porch

While there I noticed a little window on the side of Woody’s selling food. The Harbour Lights Grill sells awesome nachos (BBQ, grilled chicken, blackened shrimp, etc) among other items. My family is partial to late night nacho runs to Cancun’s Mexican restaurant, but I’m allergic to soy and can’t eat much there because of the oil in the food. I’m happy to report that there’s no soy to be found at this little food joint, so I’m taking the family there next time we are in town. Can’t wait to go back!

Harbor Lights Grill

Harbor Lights Grill

Is the Beach Safe?

I’ve received two calls over the past week from guests concerned about the bacteria counts in the water at the coast and one about shark attacks. Heavens! Worries can sure ruin a vacation. We have had a ton of runoff from the recent rains which unfortunately is impacting the contaminate (bacterial, viral or protazoan) counts in some locations. Thank goodness for www.texasbeachwatch.com from the General Land Office. Check out the map to see the status of the water near your location. Samples are taken once a week during the peak summer season and every other week the rest of the year. When beaches have a high contaminant level, an advisory is posted and levels are supposed to be tested every 24 hours until considered safe.

The beach over July 4th weekend in Pointe West.

The beach over July 4th weekend in Pointe West.

I found this news release from the Galveston County Health Department about the hot topic (http://www.gchd.org/press/2015/July-4-beach-advisories-press-release.pdf):

Scott Packard, Galveston County Health District spokesperson states, “Advisories are not uncommon after periods of heavy rain. Rain runoff from across the state flows into rivers and streams and eventually the Gulf. It’s a natural process that sometimes briefly increases bacteria levels at a handful of testing locations.” Advisories typically last just a few days, sometimes less, and are primarily aimed the people with weakened immune systems or open cuts or wounds. In fact, it’s routine for GCHD to recommend people with such health issues to consult their healthcare provider before swimming in untreated water, anywhere, anytime. The beach water advisory is simply a reiteration of that message. “If you are a healthy adult, you have little reason for concern when such advisories are issued,” said Packard. “If you are at a beach that’s under advisory and have concerns, we simply encourage you to go a block down the street to another one of the many beaches without an advisory.”

No worries at Pointe West over the 4th of July weekend. We got in the water and had a great time!

Tropical Storm Bill – You Nearly Gave me a Heart Attack

Hurricane Season – I’m not ready.

Having a beach house on the coast isn’t for the faint of heart. We’ve already had an incredible year of storms and we are only 17 days into the 2015 Hurricane Season. The month of April was a monster and the storms over the 17th/18th resulted in two new roofs – one on each beach house!! I thought having homes in two different parts of the coast would protect us (somewhat) from doing major repairs from storms on each house at the same time. Well, not so my friends!

One of my Pointe West neighbors had a indoor security camera running and caught the storm on video. We had a mini tornado with 100 mph winds. The wind and hail in Galveston were incredible and seriously, why ANYONE would not evacuate in a hurricane, I have no idea. It was terrifying just watching the video and listening to the wind howl (yes it sounded like a train) and the hail pound and the hanging light in the foyer start to sway in the worst of of the wind. HOLY MOLY. The hail sounded like someone dumping rocks on the house. In case you are wondering, no one was at our place at the time.  Thank heaven!!  My first experience putting in a claim with TWIA and new roof and new paint job and Las Brisas is back in business thanks to Morgan Roofing and John Brock Painting.

Now all the wind and rain we had took a toll on the Port A home as well. But, sadly, that roof was just OLD and worn out and had to be replaced. Good thing that house is cute because it’s a bit of a pain. The blue roof they had to rip off, actually had been put on OVER a tan roof which also had to be ripped off, resulting in lots of extra work and a bit of a schedule delay.

The roof in progress:

Port a roof in progress

finished roof side Finished Roof back

We were very happy with Ricky at Upgraded Roofing and the job they did.  I think the grey of the roof makes the house look even more blue. Of course that gorgeous sky also helps. Perfect beach day!

And now onto Tropical Storm Bill – 16 days into the hurricane season. Seriously! I JUST put TWO NEW ROOFS on the beach houses. I was glued to the twitter feed from Galveston County OEM  (@galvcountyoem) and the Nueces County OEM (@nuecesoem) as well as the National Hurricane Center – Atlantic Ops (@NCH_Atlantic) for about 24 hours. My phone buzzed like crazy with updates. They were incredibly informative on the status of the storm. I was also in frequent communication with the guests at Las Brisas. Nothing indicated that it would be nearly as bad as the April storm, so I was not at all concerned for the guests at the house. It would be windy and rainy, but that’s about it. Gusts up to 40 mph. Luckily for all of us, the storm came ashore over Matagorda Bay – between Port Aransas and Galveston. And luckily, it moved just enough that the Galveston house received some rain, but not nearly as much as it could have been. Port A actually got more rain today, the day after the storm, than it did in the storm. My housekeeper said that some places may have received 5 inches of rain in an hour. Glad to have that new roof!!

Here’s hoping the REST of the summer is free from storms of any sort and full of sunshine.

I saw this at HomeGoods (my favorite store) this week and despite the drama and the trouble with homes on the coast, the statement is true. Let’s go to the beach!

Heaven closer