A New Olympic Sport?

You get extra points if you immediately know what this image is and what it means. Until a few weeks ago, I would have had no idea  — A new kind of container for growing tomatoes? A techno-modern jewelry holder?  An industrial-minimalist magazine organizer? Good guesses. But all wrong. The orange part depicts a basket (or “disc entrapment device”) used in playing disc golf and, since this course was in the sandy wilds of north Florida, the arrows are directing you to the next hole so that you don’t get lost and subsequently carried away/eaten by hordes of mosquitoes. Do you know anything about disc golf? I was completely clueless until I hung out with my 13-year-old nephew and his mom (my sister-in-law) and dad (my brother) during our recent family beach trip. Banish all thoughts of lazily playing Frisbee with your dog — which, by the way, is never as successful as it looks on TV — because the only thing that carefree activity has in common with competitive disc golf is you throwing something. A disc-golf family like my nephew’s travels to courses and competitions the way other families take to the road for high-level baseball or softball games. When playing a course, competitors lug around backpacks filled with a couple of dozen discs and say things such as “This mid-range one is good for a hyzer flip, or should I use an overstable disc for a low-speed right backhand fade?” Since trees are the main challenge, my nephew suggested I make my first disc-golf attempt when we reached the one hole that was in the open — although you had to throw across a 700-foot-long ravine. Luckily, my brother volunteered to climb down and retrieve my discs that barely made it … well … I’d generously say 25 feet. This is serious stuff and much, much harder than it looks. I will never smile again when the subject of disc-golf at the summer Olympics comes up.

Family Vacations

You know how when you go on a vacation that involves sharing a space with a bunch of other people who are mostly related to you and there’s always a point when you declare that you absolutely positively never ever will go to the beach or anywhere else again with your cousin Michelle? The key is to be prepared. Look, you plan the food and you organize the packing and you get the car ready for the trip so do the same thing for family dynamics. You know somebody will be the Worrier and somebody will be the Worker and somebody will be the Fun-Lover, so proceed accordingly. Just make sure the Organizer does her job. Read more at my weekly newspaper column, http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100716/ARTICLES/307169994.

Travel

Fellow fans have begged me to not say this, but as a journalist I’ve sworn to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, so I have to be honest and tell you all that you’ve got to to go to Apalachicola and St. George Island, Florida, for your next vacation. Here are the things these towns are not: Big. Crowded. Noisy. Full of high-rise condos. Here are the things these towns are: Small. Quiet. Peaceful. I have to admit that there can be a crowd at the Seafood Grill in downtown Apalach if you time it wrong, but you can sit outside and watch the world go by while you wait for your table, so no worries. And with only one tiny grocery store and a handful of eateries, St. George Island is even smaller than its across-two-bridges sister town. Slow-paced and easy-going, SGI offers casual beach houses with no roof-line higher than three or four stories. If you want total relaxation with the only stressful decision having to decide between shrimp and oysters for supper, then this is your place. Visit http://www.apalachicolabay.org/ and http://www.resortvacationproperties.com/ to learn more. We were there just a couple of weeks ago, and I’m ready to go back.

Vacations

This looks like we had our car all packed up and ready for family vacation, doesn’t it? And we did … although we really hadn’t started packing yet. Fourteen folks in my family were headed to the beach in various cars and at various times and turned out Dear Husband and I had the fewest people and the most room in our car. So of course when we were all in the pre-packing stage, I told everybody, “Sure, we’ll take those chairs/boxes/bags for you if you don’t have room. No problem.” I was happy to help out and it wasn’t a problem — until I realized I’d almost offered out all available space and left only a few square inches for Husband’s and my bags. But some creative shifting freed up the necessary room. And, as usual, I overpacked, anyway. Anytime I’m lucky enough to go to the beach, I end up being totally minimalist and pulling on whatever’s easiest — T-shirts and shorts over swimsuits most of the time  — and not even caring if I’m wearing the correct white top-with-black-capris combo accented with appropriate jewelry and handbags I usually do during Real Life. (Hey, I’m a Southern girl. Appropriate handbags are in our DNA, you know.) Sadly, I forget that and always persist in carefully packing coordinated outfits that end up unworn in favor of the wrinkled three-days-in-a-row tank top. And I bet there are lots of you all who suffer from Vacation Overpacking Disorder, too. We should band together and start a support group. And of course the only cure for our afflication is — more vacation packing! Who’s with me???