Paddle Ball, Anyone?
February 20, 2012
hope everyone is doing well. i think of all of the different things (jobs,kids,life) we're all doing and am amazed of the changes in the past few years.
life certainly goes on and we are certainly a strong group. so, here we are in 2012 and i'd love to get together w/everyone this year.
I'd like to get some feedback from all of you as to when would be the best time (personally, december is out)...summer comes to mind as does north carolina .
we really have time to put something together so let's get some ideas of where & when...you know we'll have lots of laughs, a few tears,good food & i'm sure a few beers, bottles of wine and who knows what else.
can't wait to hear from you-SOON!
El (aka. kid,mom,mima,lis,aunt El,favorite sister-in-law)
Email My Sister-in-Law Sent out in February, 2012 to Our Gang of 15
A July Beach Vacation - By Popular Demand
If you received this post via email, click here to get to the web-version with all the photos, links, & to share your own plant-based vacation travel tips.
Where did everyone want to rendezvous?
Everyone responded. Multiple emails & phone calls later we settled on the single week--July 21-28th-when everyone could get off of work.
We settled on the location. The South Carolina coast. Affordable. Family-friendly. Low-key. Beautiful beaches. Gentle surf. Lots & lots of bike, walking, & running paths. Within driving distance for everyone. Some longer than others.
We found three moderate-costing houses to rent (split the cost), all very near to each other. Two on the same street. Perfect!
So, how did 15 people--ages 9 months to 62, married & single, no-nesters, empty-nesters, full-nesters, hipsters & oldsters, meat-eaters & vegans, night-owls & early risers, exercisers & slackers, with lots of different interests--find vacation harmony, enjoy amazing gourmet meals & beachtime together & still find plenty of time to do their own thing?
- We rented three separate houses--kind of like "separate" togetherness.
- We didn't try to "do everything" as a group. We kept our own schedules. Got to the beach in our own sweet time (or not), when we were ready--happily intersecting with each other. Easy, breezey, no-hurrying.
- We got together for potluck dinners on most nights--but not every night! The 20- & 30- somethings had their own dinner together one night. The 50- & 60- somethings went out to a cool vegan-friendly Rasta restaurant one night. The single twenty-somethings had some night life. The full-nesters enjoyed a date night out with "free" baby sitting.
- Every dinner had something for everyone. About half of us are eating plant-based. The other half love their meat & fish. Viva la difference!
- The restaurant-goers of the group, went "out-to-lunch"--it's cheaper, with no long waits.
- Everyone was on their own vacation time. Some of us walked every morning. Some of us ran. Some of us took long bike rides. Some of us kayaked & fished. Some of us played golf. Some of us explored the local shopping scene. Some of us (like 3) got up at 5:30 am to enjoy a beach sunrise & some beach yoga. Some of us slept late. Some of us got up early.
The Officiant & Best Person. We Renewed Our Weddeding Vows Under a Chuppah Fashioned from a Sheet Held Up with Golf Clubs
Circling the Bride & Groom Under the Chuppah--What a Treat to Do It with a Grandee
A Little Yoga on the Beach?
BTW: My sister-in-law was 100% right. We shared a lot of laughs, a few tears, good food, a few beers, & some bottles of wine. Margaritas & Mojitos, too!
And more: The Lab Rat & I renewed our wedding vows (after 40+ years); we all danced on the deck to my daughter-in-law's "Perfect Play List", we walked on the beach, boogey-boarded everyday, body-surfed, played bocci & paddle ball, biked, hiked, cooked together, and screened the Lab Rat's AMAZING tear-jerker of a video featuring over 40 years of old 8mm movies & pics of long-forgotten family memories.
Accompanied by the music of our lives: Harry Chapin, Johnny Cash, John Lennon, Beatles, Moody Blues, Four Seasons, John Denver, Lovin' Spoonful, Louie Armstrong, Weavers, Simon & Garfunkel, Temptations, Ellis Paul, Frank Sinatra and more.
Unplugged. Being mostly "unplugged" from my computer for over a week was a revelatory & rejuvenating experience. What a blessing! OK, I did check my iPhone occasionally (totally addicted0, & we used our phones to "synchronize" our meet-ups.
But, no emailing. No keeping up with "the latest news". No writing. My computer was mostly untouched. The TV was barely watched.
OK, all "the girls" climbed into our king-sized bed one night to watch my SIL's neighbor's nephew (got that?) "mustache" wedding on TLC's goofball reality show, "Four Weddings". And we watched the opening ceremonies of "The Olympics".
And sweet sleep was had by all! The grandees took their naps like champs & slept straight through the night. Mostly. I got an amazing 8-9 hours of straight-through-the-night restful sleep every night. What's up with that?
Plant-Based Vacation Preparation 101
Eating plant-based is a huge game-changer when it comes to going on vacation.
Everything's more complicated & time-consuming. You can't count of fast-food, carry-out or restaurants. But, it really does get easier the longer you do it. Now it's just something I do.
You have to pack your own road-trip lunches---if you don't want to get stuck eating a Burger King Crispy Chicken Sandwich & Fries---like we did on our first "plant-based" vacation to Martha's Vineyard, back in the Summer of 2008. OK, we were newbies, back then.
Lesson learned. This year our road trip lunch cooler was packed with Homemade Match "Chicken" Burger Sandwiches, peanut butter muffins for Little Man, Green Smoothies, humus, pita bread, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, fruit, Heart Thrives, and McDougall Breakfast Cups for our overnight hotel stay.
Who wants to spend a lot of time on meal prep when you're on vacation? No one!
And I did not want to spend my vacation in a grocery store & cooking for a crowd. No way!
I figured out ahead of time, with the help of Son #1, my sister-in-law, & the Lab Rat, a basic plan of what some of our easiest meals could be.
- I got a list of vegan-friendly restaurants & the best grocery stores on "the island" from a very helpful HHLL reader who lives there full-time--and we enjoyed a delightful "meet-up" at her home! More on that, later.
- We came up with a meal plan for the week. Each "family" would make what they wanted for dinner & we'd share it potluck style.
- Breakfasts & lunches were on our own.
- Each family brought their own favorite staples. We would shop for fresh produce on the island. My sister-in-law & niece brought their entire weekly organic produce "shares" to share with all of us. A huge gift to us all.
Our potluck dinners were fashionably "fusion" & beyond our wildest expectations. You could NEVER eat this well in a restaurant!
Cooking together makes a huge difference--it turns work into fun. And cooking with my family is one of life's pleasures. If we didn't eat until 9:00 pm, it didn't matter. We were on "island slow time".
The non-cooks in the group pitched in with the hard work of drink-making, shopping, schlepping, clean-up, table setting, & entertaining the kids. Teamwork at its best!
My Master Shopping List
I shopped for the vacation staples TWO WEEKS before we left.
My grandson was going to be visiting with us the week before we left on vacation--plus, I still had to work that week. I didn't want to waste a minute of his all-too-short visit traipsing around grocery stores.
I figured my best bet was to bring my own staples from home for the meals we planned on making. Who knew what I'd find at "the island" grocery stores?
Besides, once this vacation started--I wanted to spend as little time as necessary at a grocery store!
I brought along only the staples we'd need to make the following meals:
- Pizzas loaded with artichokes, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, & Field Roast or Upton's Italian "Sausage"
- Breakfasts of steel-cut oats (Chocolate Oatmeal--this converts easily from crockpot to stovetop cooking by cutting the liquid down to 2 cups of soymilk & 1 cup of water), Chocolate Chia Breakfast Pudding, rolled oats, Whole Grain Muffins & peanut butter (for the kids)
- Chloe's Artichoke & Spinach Dip
- Vietnamese Ba'hn M'i Salad/Sandwiches
- Spicy Sweet Potato, Corn, Black Bean & Chorizo Lasagna
- Black Bean, Cherry Tomato Guacomole Salad (just ditch the oil in this recipe)
- Black-Eyed Pea & Sweet Potato Burgers with Buns (ditch the oil, & consider using Taylor's canned sweet potatoes for faster prep)
- Sicilian-Style Orzo Salad with Chickpeas, Walnuts & Raisins
- Fixings for a taco dinner--Upton's Chorizo & Plain Seitan, Salsa, Beans
- Lunch fixings: Tu-No salad, smoked tofu sandwiches, humus (Note: Tree of Life Smoked Tofu is not availabe everywhere, but it is fabulous & makes delicious sandwiches)
- Beach snacks.
- Drinks. Watermelon Margaritas. Mojitos.
Click here for my Master Shopping & Packing List
The Beans: Eden Brand Garbanzos, Black Beans, TJ's vacuumed-packed Black-Eyed Peas
The Spices & Herbs: This basic supply included a lot of blends that work for multiple recipes. Kelp granules, cinnamon; curry; Penzey's Cajun; Barbecue 3000 & 4/S, Greek Seasoning; sea salt; Trader Joe's South Aftican Seasoning Blend; Red Pepper flakes; cumin; vanilla; black pepper; ground fennel seed.
The Condiments: Kalamata olives, capers, sriracha sauce, jarred roasted red peppers, rice vinegar, pizza sauce, chipotle salsa, nutritional yeast, ketchup, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, Olive Tap Lemon White Reserve Balsamic Vinegar (a gift from from SIL), TJ's Fat-Free Balsamic Vinaigrette, TJ's Sesame Soy Giner Vinaigrette.
The Canned Food--excluding beans: Taylor's Sweet Potatoes (nothing added), chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, artichoke hearts, mushrooms
The Staples: Eden-brand soymilk, 1 box of low-sodium vegetable broth, steel-cut oats, rolled oats, whole wheat orzo, chia seed, raw cashews, raw walnuts, Penzey's Cocoa, raisins, PB2, medjool dates, Starbuck's coffe
The Refrigerated Foods: 3 Sami's Millet Flax Pizza Crusts; Field Roast Italian Sausage; Upton's Plain, Chorizo & Italian Style Seitan, NaSoya Soft Tofu, 4 packages of Tree of Life Smoked Tofu (Regular & Hot n' Spicy); Chipotle & Regular Humus; 1/4 cup of Tahini for burgers; peanut butter for Little Man
The Breads, Buns, & Crackers: Ezekiel Sprouted Corn Tortillas, Trader Joe's Whole Wheat English Muffins, Ezekiel Sprouted Bread, Alvarado Street Bakery Sprouted Hamburger Buns, Finn Caraway Crisps, Wasa Crackers, Mary's Gone Crackers (regular & caraway), Pretzel Crisps (Sesame & Everything), plenty of Heart Thrives for emergency meals or snacks.
The Mixed Drink Fixings: Tequila & Grand Marnier
My Must-Have Kitchen Utensils
I've been in enough vacation rental condos/houses to know that "you never know how well-equipped" someone else's kitchen is going to be.
If you REALLY have a favorite "must-have" kitchen utensil--just bring your own. Better safe than sorry.
Here's what I packed:
- My VitaMix--we used it everyday. Smoothies, salsas, dressings, chia pudding, humus, etc.
- A good spatula for the VitaMix
- One really good sharp knife (oops, forgot about this one!)
- A Zester & my favorite (I use it everyday!) lemon juicer (if you don't have one of these, get one ASAP)
- Measuring spoons & cups--I'm big on measuring ingredients!
- My mini-OXO angled measuring cup--great for measuring small amounts of liquid ingredients--including mixed drinks.
- The recipes I planned on making, & 2 cookbooks--just in case plans changed. Robin Robertson's Quick-Fix Vegan & Chloe's Kitchen.
- Dobie pads for dishwashing. My own favorite dish rags for counter clean-up
- Ziploc bags, aluminum foil--so glad I did.
- I really wanted to cart my Cuisinart food processor--but, I had to draw the line.
- Lots of freezer packs
- A couple of my fave plastic containers
- Kleen Canteens
- Coffee filters
Turns out, our kitchen was well-equipped with most everything we needed. We even had a gas grill on the deck. Figures!
Mixed Meals - Something for Everyone
DInner Out - Roastfish & Cornbread's Veggie Menu - My Roasted Portobello Sandwich
Roastfish & Cornbread - The Lab Rat's Ultimate Vegetarian Po' Boy
Chloe's Warm Artichoke & Spinach Dip - My Tofu-Hating Nephew LOVED This One.
The Barefoot Contessa's Guacamole Salad (just ditch the olive oil--not needed)
My Sister-in-law's Stuffed Roasted Portobellos ala Chef Chloe
My Sister-in-Law's Roasted Artichokes - First Time for Me
Master Chef Son #1 Working on His Homemade Salsa
My SIster-in-Law's Easy Rice Paper Veggie Roll Bar with Something for Everyone - Vegan or Fish Eater
Asian Veggie Roll Ready for Eating - Three Dipping Sauces
My Niece & Nephew's Giant Loaded Salad
Fresh Grilled Fish for "Fish Tacos"
Taco Bar Fixin's - Rice & Beans, Guacamole, Marinated Cabbage, Salsa
Homemade Salsa, Homemade Creamy Chipotle "Cashew Lime" Sauce, Homemade Pickled Hot Peppers
Asian Veggie Roll, Stuffed Veggie Taco, & Salad
"Not Your Carry-Out Pizza" - Roasted Garlic, Fresh Basil, Caramelized Onions, Roasted Red Peppers, Mushrooms, Artichoke Hearts, Sauteed Spinach, Kalamata Olives & Field Roast Italian "Sausage"
"Pizza Joint" Take-Out Pizza for the Meat & Cheese Lovers in the Family
Tu-No to Feed a Crowd - Enjoyed by Miss Bean the Nine-Month Old & Omnivore Son #2
Better Forget About Restaurants with a Crowd of Fifteen - We Hit the Harborside Picnic Tables for Live Music, a Pre-Dinner Beer & Plenty of Runaround Space for the Kids
Sauteed Swiss Chard with Onions & Ginger
My Sister-in-Law's Cinnamon Roasted Organic Acorn Squash
My Nephews' Fresh Catch - Grilled Spotted Seatrout
My Sister-in-Law's Gazpacho with Sami's Millet-Flax Croutons
Your Won't Find This Combo in Any Restaurant: My Dinner Plate - Ba'han M'i, Gazpacho, Roasted Acorn Squash, & Swiss Chard
Roasted Red-Skin Potatoes with Garlic, Onions, & Penzey's Cajun & 4S Seasoning
Burgers & Fries Topped with Guacamole & Creamy Chipotle Dressing
Vacation Harmony? I Think We Pulled It Off. I'm Game for the Sequel!
Please forgive my family photo-sharing indulgences! Thanks for your patience! I totally understand, how annoying this must be.
Now--please share where you went this summer, and your own tips for helping to make plant-based vacation travel as easy as possible!
This is a work in progress for all of us.