What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Recently my whole family — all 15 of us — got together for a beach week on Santa Rosa Island, Florida. Pensacola Beach is one of my favorite places: The sand is beautiful and it’s the perfect vacation mix of fun-things-to-do versus nothing-to-d0-but-sit-on-the-sand-in-peace-and-quiet. My daughters and I spent many summer weeks here when they were younger, and in recent years we’ve dragged coerced brought Husband JP and Older Daughter’s Husband along, too. We loved introducing “our” spot to other folks in our family — Pensacola‘s blend of history, architecture, shopping, food, music and sports (baseball, surfing, paddleboarding, disc golf)  as well as all things Blue Angels meant everybody in our group found something intriguing to explore. Of course, our three younger members — age 4, 2 and 8 months — were content to stay at Family HQ and  chase crabs, dig sand and throw shells back in the surf (okay, our 8-month-old grandson wasn’t too impressed with the surf and really only wanted to eat the sand, but still). We did all the Pensacola things — ate at Peg Leg Pete’s Oyster Bar (where our 4-year-old grandson was slightly disappointed to find out that the pirates there were good pirates), McGuire’s Irish Pub (home of the best fried potatoes anywhere. Anywhere.) and Native Cafe (which we feel paternal towards since we ate there when it first opened and have stuck with it through slow service, lackadaisical service and no service because the food is that good); visited the Naval Air Museum; watched the Blue Angels perform practically in our backyard; shopped at Joe Patti’s Seafood; wandered through Fort Pickens and browsed up and down the happening Palafox Street and Palafox Market. But, of course, as with any family vacation, the highlights involved people more than places: Taking my mom to the World War II exhibit at the Naval Air Museum to see the full-sized recreated Pacific-theater camp similar to one her Seabee father lived in during the war; making sand cities with our 4-year-old grandson;  teaching our 2-year-old nephew how to “dibble, dibble, shot,” although since his parents are skilled and accomplished soccer players, he’s much better than me; playing disc golf with-our nephew watching my 13-year-old nephew and his dad zip through a disc-golf course; learning how to-stand-up paddle board watching our two daughters conquer the surf on stand-up paddle boards; getting drenched in the rain at the outdoors Palafox Market with Younger Daughter yet still eating soggy almond croissants baked by an actual French person; and riding around in a golf cart with my husband and the king of Santa Rosa Island — Santa Rosa Island Authority executive director Buck Lee. Good times, good times.

DIY Family Fun

Older Daughter and son-in-law are the most incredibly creative parents I know. I understand where my son-in-law gets that from: His parents are do-it-yourself and use-what-you-have advocates from way back. I’m not sure where Older Daughter gets it from since my idea of creativity is making peanut-butter chip instead of chocolate-chip cookies, but somehow she takes ideas from Martha Stewart and inspiration from Pinterest and, with a few fabric scraps and leftover nails, she’ll end up with something wonderful. The two of them collaborated on this fantastic backyard project that’s the talk of their neighborhood: A music station and a tunnel-maze, both made from found and recycled items. First, they collected their materials. Older Daughter hit yard sales and resale stores for the used kitchen tools that would become the musical instruments, and my son-in-law measured and cut leftover PVC pipes for the maze. They then spent much design time working out the configurations before attaching everything to the two plywood pieces they’d nailed to their fence.  The buckets in between hold spatulas, whisks, spoons and other “mallets” for music-making as well as cars and balls for the maze (which also, as almost-4-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable naturally needed only 30 seconds to figure out, works great for small water balloons.) Whenever I visit the Captain’s friends come over, I head they run straight for the backyard. Listen, I can play a mean roasting rack, accented with a really cool saucepan beat.

Come Fire-Hoop with Me. Also: Laura Bush Stole My Tomatoes

Today was the sort of day which makes me glad for the blogosphere, as most of my friends in Real World already are incredibly tired of hearing this story and so I get to bore and test the patience of share this with y’all sweet people in Blog World. Anyway, this is the story of my Very Strange Day that started out weird, got better and then ended up with Laura Bush — yes, the Mrs. President Laura Bush — stealing tomatoes from me.  You just never know.

The morning kicked off great. I woke up — always a good sign. For once it was not already 91 degrees outside by 6 a.m. and was, in fact, quite pleasant. Plus, I’d made Toddy (cold-pressed coffee) overnight and it drained perfectly for a smooth and fresh first cup of the day. Then the weirdness began, because then I powered up the laptop, logged onto Facebook … and saw a video of Older Daughter hooping with fire. Hooping. With. Fire. She’s a talented and skilled hooper, teaches several hooping classes and even makes and sells hoops with her husband. All that I know. I did not know, however, that you could actually set fire to your hoop and then hoop with it. I think I wish I still didn’t know you could do that. Older Daughter assured me, however, that she’d gone through an intense fire-safety class beforehand and there were bunches of people standing around with a fire extinguisher, a fire blanket and several wet towels. I was not reassured.

However, after that my day improved immensely. Despite me yelling at her over the phone — “Why would you think that hooping with fire is a good idea???” — Older Daughter brought 2 1/2-year-old Capt. Adorable over while she got her hair cut. The Captain and I ran up and down the backyard, tormented the kitty cats (at least, he tormented while I protected) and ate blueberries with grilled-cheese sandwiches. After they left, the magic kept rolling. I went to get a pedicure and didn’t have to wait one single minute. Then I used coupons to get freebies at a couple of my favorite mall stories and racked up some bargains in the Belk clearance rack — I don’t care what my husband anybody says, $65 for a dress and three tops is pretty good.

And then things got weird again, because we’re coming to the part where Lara Bush stole my tomatoes. All day I’d been looking forward to stopping by the farmers’ market this afternoon to pick up some heirloom tomatoes. I love these heirloom tomatoes. They’re so full of flavorful tomato goodness, I can’t even tell you. I’d run out of my latest batch a couple of days ago and couldn’t wait to replenish. But, no. No heirloom tomatoes anywhere at the market. That I could see, anyway. And when I asked Steve, the owner of the market, if he had any of these tomato treasures stashed away, he sorrowfully shook his head and pointed to a long list pinned to his bulletin board. I knew Laura Bush was coming to town to speak at a fund-raising dinner. I did not know that the chefs preparing the dinner had asked Steve to save all his best things for the menu — including my heirloom tomatoes. Hence — and how often do you get to use the word “hence” anymore? — Laura Bush stole my tomatoes. But I still think she’s a nice person. A stealer of tomatoes, but a nice person.


I’m like many of y’all — in that wonderful period when my kids are grown, my work-at-home freelance-writing hours are flexible and my night-owl husband sleeps late. This means I can — finally, after years of otherwise — enjoy an hour or so of uninterrupted peace and quiet with my morning coffee. No carpools to get ready for, no homework to finish up frantically, no wild I’ve-got-nothing-to-wear closet marathons. I love it! So on a recent morning when it seemed as if 10 people ended up in the kitchen all with Important Things To Do Right At This Very Minutes, it sort of threw me off. But we all got through it. Read more at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100122/ARTICLES/1225004 — and have a great weekend!