Roberts Point Park

I’m in Port Aransas, falling in love with my beach house and town all over again. The weather could’t be more perfect – 50’s at night, 70’s with sunshine and blue skies during the day. The dog and I are doing the pre-season check up and supply drop off, but there’s plenty of time for some R & R too.

There’s quite a bit of deck work going on and the workers accidentally sliced my DirecTV line, so we are sans cable for the time being. That actually is better for my plans for the few days we are here anyway. Who wants to be tempted to be a couch potato when the beach is calling! The deck rails are being finished today and construction is quite noisy, so we headed into town for lunch. Emmy (the pup) and I grabbed lunch to go at Subway and had a picnic at Roberts Point Park. It’s one of my favorite places to go when in Port Aransas. The park is located adjacent to a marina with some GORGEOUS boats/yachts. It’s also Where the Pollyanna, the local shrimp boat docks.

The park is a great family play area. There is a covered pavilion with picnic tables, horseshoe pits, playgrounds for kids and soccer fields. The park is next to the ship channel, so it’s a great place for watching dolphins. Benches are set up along the sidewalk if you want to take a break, sit and watch the ships, boats, pelicans, dolphins, etc. There are almost always fisherman fishing along the wall and at the pier.

 

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We are on Airbnb!

We’re diversifying our listing exposure. While remaining on HomeAway and VRBO, we are also listing the Galveston Beach House, Las Brisas, on Airbnb. Go on over there to check it out! https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/7761435 Add us to your wish list! It will help other travelers find us.

I’d love to hear from travelers and owners if you have a favorite travel website you like best and why. When would you choose a hotel vs choose a home? Does it depend on location/number of folks/whole vs. partial place?  We’ve rented three times through VRBO for extended family gatherings in Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. All three were fantastic experiences for all ages – grandparents, aunts, uncles and kids.

And of course, we love sharing our beach houses!

 

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Las Brisas

Things to Do in Galveston during the Holidays

Galveston Dressed Up for the Holidays

For the past few years my extended family has spent the week of Thanksgiving at the beach house in Pointe West on Galveston Island. Aside from cooking and eating the usual holiday feast, here are the other things we like to do during that week and other times during the holidays on the island.

Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier

Fun family holiday events and activities in Galveston

My kids can’t get enough of the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier – an amusement park that juts out over the water. It’s is a real thrill to ride the roller coaster over the Gulf of Mexico! I tend to stick to the less thrilling rides myself, but love hearing their squeals of terror and delight. Tickets for unlimited rides are $26.99 (48″ and up) $19.99 (under 48″). Walk on passes are $10 (48″ and up) $8 (under 48″) $7 Senior Citizens (must show valid I.D.) There are places to eat on the Pleasure Pier or great restaurants with in walking distance off the Pier.

Moody Gardens

The Moody Gardens Festival of Lights runs from November 14th – January 10th, 6-10pm each night. The display has more than 1 million lights and has over 100 animated displays with sound. Tickets are $10.95 and include admission to the skating rink. Skates available to rent for $7. Moody Gardens offers discounted admission to some of their other attractions after 4:30pm with a Festival of Lights ticket. It’s been a good time for us to take the kids late in the day. The walk around the complex is easy and slow. A visit definitely gets you in the holiday spirit and there are plenty of picture taking opportunities.

There is also a much acclaimed exhibit of ice sculptures returning to Moody Gardens this year. ICE LAND runs November 14th – January 10th. Tickets are $26.95 for adults, $21.95 for seniors and $15.95 for children. You can receive a discount of $5.00 Sunday through Thursday, Nov. 15 through Dec. 17, excluding Thanksgiving Day. The theme is “SpongeBob’s Christmas Party” and boasts 65 sculptures and figurines. The event is in a 28,000 square foot chilled tent, down to 9 degrees. Parkas are available for the visit, but be sure to dress warmly!

Beyond Thanksgiving: Dickens on the Strand

Dickens on the Strand is an annual favorite in Galveston. It’s a Victorian Holiday Street Festival December 4th-6th. The event features parades, entertainment, carolers, holiday food and crafts sold by vendors in full Victorian regalia. The event is sponsored by the Galveston Historical Foundation and this year will have a “distinctive historical theme that will add new attractions and cultural experiences,” according to GHF Executive Director, Dwayne Jones (GalvestonHistory.org) There are a lot of special events during the weekend that require RSVPs – including breakfast with Charles Dickens great grand daughter cooking a traditional English breakfast and a special tour of Bishop’s Palace that opens rooms that are usually off limits. Tickets in advance are $13 or $15 at the gate. Children 7-12 are $7 in advance or $9 at the gate. If you want to dress up in Victorian attire, you can get in for half price!

Check out Galvston.com for a complete listing of other holiday events.

Holidays at the Beach

Of course, as much as we love all the things Galveston has to offer, we can’t get enough family time at the beach. Most years the kids can run around in short sleeves, play football in the yard and event get in the water. Only once in the past 4 years, did we actually have to bundle up for our family beach walks. We have great memories from times there!

Thanksgiving at the beach - food, family and fun.

What’s your favorite island holiday tradition?

Hospitality: Creating Community and Welcome at Home

Hospitality, homecoming and 3 tips on how to welcome people well.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about hospitality. Probably because I’ve had house guests just about non stop since mid September! It’s been great to have friends, extended family, international colleagues, and college students at our home over the past few weeks.

Kristin Schell came to speak to our mother/daughter organization this week about hospitality. One of of the questions she asked us was “What keeps you from having people over.” So often for me it can be lack of preparedness – laundry on the couch, dishes in the sink, etc. The thought of someone judging me makes me weak at the knees. Kristin also asked us, “Someone is coming in 15 minutes, what do you do?” ACK! My worst hospitality fail was a few years ago. There were wildfires in the area that caused nearby neighborhoods to evacuate. Without hesitation, I called our dear friends and offered our home if they needed a place to stay. I was already having a large extended family group over for dinner for Labor Day, so a few more folks were easy to accommodate. What I realized however, is that one daughter’s room, the guest room (aka “the kids lounge”) and their bathroom were in no way guest ready. The rest of the house was clean and there was plenty of food but YIKES!! My friends were really grateful for a place to stay, but I decided then and there, that I didn’t want to be caught unprepared again. After the fires were contained and all the company left, we added an egg crate mattress pad to the pull out couch in the lounge, cleaned out the bathroom cabinets, got rid of old towels, bought some new towels and wash cloths, etc. You get the idea. It wasn’t a remodel but boy did we need some upkeep. I have taken that lesson to heart. I’m no Martha Stewart. I’m likely to always have something out of place, but here are a few things I’ve learned to make hospitality easier:

  1. It’s not about you the host, it’s about your guest. Stop worrying and focus on what will make the guest comfortable and feel good. You will feel good, too.
  2. Discipline and habit go a long way toward preparedness.  In our culture of multi-tasking, sometimes its hard to finish things, especially a housekeeping job because it’s practically a never ending cycle of wash, rinse, repeat. My sister’s friend sets a time for 10 minutes to “reset” her while she’s cleaning the house. Like her, I’ll fold the laundry, take it to the room, start to put it away but see something else that needs to go someplace else and it spirals out from there. The timer acts to reorient my friend to the original task at hand. With house guests for the past month, my family has gotten a great lesson in discipline and habit. The public areas in the house are staying reasonably guest ready (meaning there are no socks on/in the couch or computer cords to trip over.)  Hooray!
  3. Don’t wait for things to be perfect to invite people in. Friends, perfect is just not going to happen and that is absolutely ok. I’m always going to have laundry in the laundry room and someday I’ll get new couches. Authenticity is more welcoming than perfection.

Hospitality creates community and welcome in a world that is sorely lacking in both.

What’s your best tip for being “guest ready?”

Recipes, Remodels and DIY – Oh My!

September Round Up - My favorite home decor, remodeling and seasonal recipes found on Pinterest with links to pins and boards.

I love Pinterest.

Pinterest has actually been pretty helpful both from a business stand point as well as personal. I can spend a lot of time there looking at beach decor, holiday recipes, DIY remodel ideas, crafts and gifts. Pouring over decor over time helps me know what I like and don’t like. Collecting the pins in a board allows a style or theme to become evident. When the need arises and when it’s time to actually purchase something, I’m ready.  I like to arrange my boards with specific topics so that I can actually go back and find a pin for a meal, beverage, quote or a paint color etc. Each of my girls has a “Buy Me Something!” board which makes gift giving so easy! With the holidays coming up, I’ll be pinning a lot of great ideas to my Holidays – Coastal Thanksgiving, Holidays – Coastal Christmas and Great Meals – Holiday Recipes and looking for gift inspiration this season!

Here are a few of my favorite pins and boards:

Recipes

Follow Texas Coast Beach House’s board Great Meals – Dinner on Pinterest.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread – one of my favorite Autumn breads. Pumpkin and chocolate doesn’t sound like it should really go together but it’s delicious! My local farmers market vendor had a fantastic gluten free version of this made with sweet potatoes.

Eggs Benedict – quintessential brunch dish in my household. But we usually eat it out! Would love to surprise the family one Saturday and make it at home – maybe when the college girl comes home for Fall break.

DIY Crafts and Home Improvement

Great Coasters – good idea for gifts from SadlerHouse.net. I made a slightly different version of these for Christmas last year. I love the stamps used in this pin and think it’s great inspiration for coasters I’d like to make for the beach houses.

I love looking at remodel ideas – my wish list includes wood on my stairs and painting the kitchen cabinets…and maybe a plank wall somewhere!

Beach House Decor

Beautiful Coastal Decor in this group board. I think about beach decor year round. I always keep an eye out for fresh trends and think about ways to keep the beach houses in their best shape. I also find ways to sneak that style into my home in Austin, too.

Happy Pinning!

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

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.