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Day Trip: Sullivan’s Island, Fort Moultrie, The Bench, Charleston

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Moultrie DThursday we took a day trip to Sullivan’s Island/Charleston.

Braydon and I lived for a year in Mt. Pleasant (we worked in downtown Charleston), and spent a lot of time exploring Sullivan’s and Isle of Palms. This area holds so much history — especially African-American history. Little did we know then that we’d be back doing many of the same explorations — all these 20 years later — with our African/Haitian-American kids. It is pretty profound, to say the least.Moultrie CSullivan’s Island was the point-of-entry for a huge number of the original slaves taken to the U.S.A. This makes it, in a way, the “Ellis Island” of Black America. K&O did a big section on immigration/Ellis Island this year in 4th Grade History. They even had a field trip to Ellis Island. It was stunning and eye-opening for them to make the realization that Sullivan’s Island is not in any of those history books or school curriculum.Moultrie BThere is nothing like learning African-American history in the epicenter of African-American history.Moultrie AThe primary reason for our trip, however, was to visit Fort Moultrie. Last year — for Kyle (our History Enthusiast) — we went to Fort Sumter, so this year it was Fort Moultrie. This is Kyle’s idea of a great way to spend a day.
Moultrie x Moultrie B O K Moultrie FBut after a [pretty short] span of time of happy family togetherness and everything going smoothly (i.e., Owen and Meera being diligently cooperative for the sake of their brother’s history fanaticism), things fall apart quickly on these sorts of expeditions. We’ve got one kid who has an infinite attention span for these sorts of things, and two who have the attention span of a two-year-old for these sorts of things. Braydon and I always revert to our Divide-and-Conquer strategies in these scenarios; Braydon takes Kyle to do the deep dive, and I take the terrible-twosome to do whatever we can to skim along the surface without a major meltdown.Moultrie E Moultrie MO Moultrie G Moultrie 2Moultrie K BIf you ask Kyle, he’ll say Fort Moultrie was, “awesome!” If you ask Owen and Meera, they’ll say Fort Moultrie was, “something they did for their brother.”

Next up was The Bench By the Road at Sullivan’s Island. If you don’t know about the Toni Morrison Society’s Bench By the Road Project, you really need to learn about it (click here for main webpage).

“There is no place you or I can go, to think about or not think about, to summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of slaves . . . There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath, or wall, or park, or skyscraper lobby. There’s no 300-foot tower, there’s no small bench by the road. There is not even a tree scored, an initial that I can visit or you can visit in Charleston or Savannah or New York or Providence or better still on the banks of the Mississippi.” ~Toni Morrison

Bench 1Bench 2Next, we headed into Charleston, for, of course, Sticky Fingers — our favorite bbq. It was good. Ribs, chicken, collards, corn, what could be bad??? And just to note: Owen eats a full slab of ribs on his own now.Sticky FingersSpeaking of Owen… his favorite treat in the entire world is that decadent Southern delicacy, the pecan praline. And there’s only one perfect place to get them: Market Street Sweets in Charleston. He’d been waiting a year for this. We got him 1.5 pounds. They were gone within 24 hours.Pralines 2charleston pralinesDowntown Charleston is always just so drippingly gorgeous. I love to just walk the streets and luxuriate in it. It is so overwhelmingly gorgeous that it is almost too much to take in. Braydon and I are at such a loss as to how to capture it, that we don’t even try.

We made our way down to the fountains. These have always been beloved by our kids. This year Owen and Meera played in them…Charleston fountains…while Kyle chose a different spot. This guy has a lot on his mind these days, and we can see him changing from a fountain-playing little boy to a deeply-thinking young man. It is a scary, beautiful, true joy to witness.Charleston KWe ended our day at Emanuel AME Church (I posted about that here), before heading back “home” to Harbor Island.IMG_1212 End Quote

Food from the Beach House: 4th of July Trifle!

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Trifle 7So, back in 2010 I posted about this “4th of July Trifle.” People, if you have not done this yet, do it. It is so good, so easy to make (I dare say, it is even FUN to make!), and the perfect 4th of July treat to share with a crowd — or, in the case of us, to share with your little family (because. Owen.). Seriously, do this! If not for this 4th, then sometime this summer! I’m telling you: YUMMO!!!!!!

Here’s the 2010 post: CLICK HERE (and — be still my beating heart! — check out the pics of then 6-year-old Owen and 2-year-old Meera!).

This is so easy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 store-bought pound cake (people, I’m telling you, buy it! not worth making it! trust me!)
  • 2 packages vanilla Jello Instant Pudding
  • 4 cups cold milk
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • fresh blueberries
  • fresh strawberries

TO DO:

Beat together the cream, vanilla, and sugar until thick (you’re making whipped cream here; make sure it is nice and thick and creamy, but not too stiff/turning-into-butter).Trifle 1Next, follow the package instructions to make the pudding. If you buy the “Instant” kind, this should — literally — take you 2 minutes (you just mix it together with the cold milk).Trifle 2Chop/slice and wash the strawberries, wash the blueberries, and get ready to assemble.Trifle 3Layer into a big bowl (at home we have a nice clear glass trifle dish, but alas, we did not bring that with us to the beach house!) — pudding, whipped cream, berries, cake. Pudding, whipped cream, berries, cake. Repeat with as many layers as will fit into the bowl (we did 3 layers for this one). Gently press down on the pound cake layer, as you go, to flatten and press the layers together (you want it gently packed in, not a lot of air/space). Note: no need to even cut/dice the pound cake… just crumble it into big chunks right into the bowl as you’re layering it in. (Kyle really enjoyed this part! There’s something fun about crumbling up a whole cake! Zero perfectionism allowed with this trifle people!)Trifle 4Have the most artistic person in your family do a nice 4th of July design on the top with the rest of the fruit! Meera got really into this — she opted to forgo a flag this year and make a “FIREWORK!” instead. It turned out great looking!Trifle 5When it is done, stick it into the fridge for a few hours or — even better — overnight. To serve, scoop out nice big portions of this cool creamy goodness and enjoy! It will last a few days in the fridge and will get better as it sits!

HAPPY 4th OF JULY Y’ALL!
Trifle 6

Emanuel AME

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Emanuel AME 2We took a day trip to our favorite city yesterday — Charleston. We adore Charleston. For some backstory to our Charleston love affair, here is one (click), of many, posts I’ve done on Charleston in the past. It felt wrong to go to Charleston and not pay our respects to Emanual AME Church. So, at the end of our day, we went there.Emanuel AME Emanuel AME 7

The Charleston Shootings have been looming large for us in the past couple of weeks. I’ve posted about it a couple times here on the blog (here & here). We’ve been talking about it a lot in our family, and it has been weighing on our minds, especially being in South Carolina right now. Many flags are still at half mast here, and there is still — at least it seems to me — a thickness in the air around it. It is still raw here (here, in SC & here, in our family).

It was a really good experience for us to go there, and be there, see it, and feel it.
Emanuel AME 5 Emanuel AME 6 Emmanuel AME 1 Emanuel AME 8 Emanuel AME 4 Emanuel AME 3

I’m so glad we went.Emanuel AME 9

Food from the Beach House: “Kyle’s Classic” Smoothie

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smoothieA couple of weeks ago I overheard K & O talking with a bunch of their friends about their favorite foods. They were each telling each other their “Top 3 Favorite Foods.” I was totally cracking up. Because like most 10-11 year old kids, most of the boys were listing pizza, chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers. Owen and Kyle’s lists were quite different. I wasn’t surprised to hear Kyle say, “Joe’s Shanghai Soup Dumplings,” as his #1, and “Haitian Steak Frites” as his #2, but I was sort of shocked when he listed “Smoothies” as his #3. I knew he loved them, but I didn’t know he loved them that much!

I make smoothies for the boys almost every day during the summer. (And then, in the dead of winter, I make Mango Lassi for them, but that’s a whole other post for a whole other time.) Kyle’s absolute favorite smoothie is the classic Strawberry-Orange-Banana. Here’s the How To:

INGREDIENTS:

  • Bananas*
  • Frozen Strawberries (you can freeze fresh berries, which I often do; or you can just buy them frozen… which is often cheaper… check your store’s prices)
  • Orange Juice (we drink the good stuff when we’re drinking OJ straight up, but I buy jugs of cheap OJ just for smoothie making)
  • Plain Yogurt (I use Greek yogurt because I like to boost the protein content of the smoothies)

*About the bananas: You can use fresh or frozen bananas. It is Kyle’s opinion that the riper the banana, the better the smoothie. So, this is a great way to use up starting-to-turn bananas! When I have a banana (or a whole bunch) that is starting to get too ripe, I slice them all up and freeze them in freezer bags (I do 1-2 bananas per bag). This way, they’re ready to pop out of the freezer and into the blender at smoothie-making-time.

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TO DO:

Throw it all in the blender and blend it! That’s all folks. The amounts of each ingredient are dependent on what you like and how much you’re making. When I make smoothies for K&O (just the two of them), I use 2 bananas, a couple handfuls of strawberries, about 1+ cup of yogurt, and about 2 cups of OJ. If you like it more strawberry-y, use more berries; if you like it more yogurt-y, use more yogurt, etc.! Slurp up and enjoy!

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P.S. Why, yes, of course I bring my Vitamix to the Beach House! Who doesn’t?!?!  ;0

P.P.S. In all seriousness, the Vitamix is uber expensive, but uber worth it if you can swing it. It is, truly, my most valued kitchen possession.

P.P.P.S. K & O have been loving smoothies for a long time. Check out this post (click!) I wrote in 2007 (when they were just 3!). That was then (ahhh! look at my babies! and look at how small their smoothie cups were!)~smoothiesThis is now (yesterday)!IMG_9068

 

Food from the Beach House – Summer 2015

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Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 10.14.16 AMThis summer I am going to be posting a series of food posts from the beach house in South Carolina. I’m doing this for a few reasons:

  • I want to have one central, easily accessible, spot where I collect my Beach House food/recipe ideas for my own future use. Being in the Lowcountry always gets me creatively inspired. And I have to cook for my family. These two things collide for me in July and I tend to have a culinary explosion where I’m cooking like crazy, and much more creatively than usual. In the dead of winter, when I’m in a food funk, I want to be able to find my ideas easily.
  • I want a record of our Beach House Food because it is becoming a “thing” for my bambinos. There are certain foods, dishes, and culinary experiences that they’ve come to crave in July. I want them to have a “recipe book” (so to speak) in case they ever want to pursue these things themselves in the future.
  • Probably more than any other “ask,” I get requests from blog readers for me to please post more about FOOD. For a long time I had the “Food Friday” posts going (just type in “Food Friday” to the search line of our blog and you’ll see tons and tons of posts). There was a whole contingent of our readership who was following primarily for that aspect of our blog. In the past few years I’ve really let that drop a lot. I miss it, many readers miss it, and I somehow feel really invigorated to do it (plus, I have more time to do it) in July. For those of you foodie readers who are still hanging in there reading this hanging-on-by-a-thread blog— these Food from the Beach House posts will be, in large part, for you! Thanks for not giving up on me!
  • Sharing is caring. No, seriously, it is. I get 99.9999% of my ideas in life from sources external to me. This little old blog is one way for me to give back and contribute to the communal pot. xoxoxoxo

Important Notes: we do not own this beach house (we rent it!), we are only here once a year (July!), and I am by no means a Master Chef (I just cook for my peeps!).

At the end of July I will index all these posts in one centralized spot. For now, I’ll just be posting as we go.

My first Food from the Beach House post is directly below. It’s a yummy one!

Cheers! ~Heather

Food from the Beach House: Super Yummy “Cheater” Supper (Chicken Skewers & Pesto Pasta)

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IMG_9083

Over the past couple of years this has become one of our staple beach house dinners. I don’t know why I don’t make it the rest of the year, I just don’t. But as a result, this has become an extra special and extra ‘beach house-y’ meal for us. The bonus is that this is super easy to make (because of a couple of built in “cheats”). The most awesome thing about this supper, however, is that if you double or triple it (like I always do), there will be lots of leftovers — which can be used in lots of different ways.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Bottle of your favorite store-bought Italian dressing (totally skimp here and buy the cheap stuff– it seems to make it even better, I swear! This– store bought dressing– is Cheat #1)
  • Chicken breasts
  • Store-bought pesto (make your own, if you really want to — I’m the first to say that homemade pesto is totally 100% worth it… in certain circumstances… unlike this circumstance… in which the store-bought kind is 100% better, I swear! This– store bought pesto– is Cheat #2)
  • Pasta — whatever shape you like. For some reason, Owen & Kyle always want this meal with thick spiral pasta (I have no clue why that is).
  • Veggies for skewering. I always use Vidalia onion for this (because they are so good here; we are so close to Georgia where they are grown), but other than that — I buy whatever is fresh and good looking. Zucchinis and bell peppers looked good at the farm stand the other day when I was shopping, so that’s what I used this time.

TO DO:

The night before you’re going to have this meal, cut the chicken into bite-sized skewer-able chunks. Place in air-tight container (or zip-loc bag). Drown in Italian dressing (you are using the dressing as a marinade).

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Place in fridge to sit overnight. See how hard this is? The chicken just sits there in the fridge while you go about your business. Marinating for the win! Tip: do not let this marinate more than 24 hours or the chicken will start to break down. IMG_9064

When you’re ready to make dinner, get to work skewering. Tip: make your kids/husbands/wives/partners/friends/enemies do this for you! Skewer the chicken so that the pieces are touching, but not too closely packed together. Cut the veggies into bite-sized, skewerable chunks. Skewer them too. Drizzle Italian dressing onto the veggie skewers.
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Meanwhile, prepare the pasta. Cook according to box directions, then, once drained, toss with the pesto. Note: for my family, I do two boxes of pasta and two containers of pesto. This is my tried-and-true favorite store-bought pesto:IMG_9076

Grill the skewers! See my little portable “travel grill”?! I love this thing. Sometime I’ll have to devote a whole post to this grill-o-mine! Anyway…. Tip: Don’t overcook the chicken! Keep it moist! The veggies will actually take longer to grill than the chicken.IMG_9078Enjoy!

LEFTOVERS: Seriously, the best part of this meal is the leftovers, which can be used in so many ways!

  • My bambinos love the pasta heated up the next day. With parmesan cheese, this is a meal unto itself for them. They love this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (really, no joke).
  • You can also just toss all the leftovers together — the pasta, the chicken, and the veggies — and warm up for another dinner.
  • But the pasta is great room-temperature, or cold, as a ‘pasta salad.’ Toss some veggies in there (cherry tomatoes and peas are my favorite for this), mix it up, and there’s a nice pasta salad for another time.
  • The chicken and veggie skewers are great cold. Eat them on their own, or on a salad…
  • …or mix with some couscous and raisins for a great easy dish (serve with a tossed salad and that’s a whole other meal).
  • Or, place the chicken and veggies in pitas, drizzle with tzatziki sauce, or simply drizzle with more of the Italian dressing, and ta-da! awesome pita sandwiches for a beach picnic!

 

The Long Drive South

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IMG_9008It is a long drive from Bethlehem, PA to Harbor Island, SC. Literally and figuratively. We made it in record time this year –(relatively quick!) — we did 8 hours the first day and 6 hours the second day (each year the kids are older these drives are easier and easier). But it is still far, far away and it feels good to go the distance.

Still. We are a TRAVELING CIRCUS! This year was even crazier, since we had not only Dash with us, but Pearl as well. This cat is seriously the best cat ever; she rode in that car like a pro the entire time as though it was no biggie whatsoever for little ‘ole her. Meera loved it.IMG_9015Kyle loves this drive — he gives us a running commentary on the historic sites and Civil War battlefields all along the route.IMG_9040Of course, the biggest mile marker of all along that east-coast-route is the South of the Border tower. Amazingly (and awesomely for us) not once has any of our three bambinos requested we stop there. Thank heavens.IMG_9041IMG_9046 IMG_9047Also awesomely for us, and thank heavens, they are all lovers of that unique southern delicacy — the hot glazed Krispy Kreme. Lucky for us, the hot light was on in Florence, SC and we got a hot glazed dozen (which were gone in less time than it took to pull on and off the highway. because. Owen.).11694298_10153525948926501_546032071_nAnd then, before we know it, we’re light years away, and we’re seeing palm trees, and bridges, and we’ve got the windows open and the marsh air is thick and the Spanish moss is almost as thick, and we know we’ve made it — to our home away from home in the Southland.

Driving through Beaufort, Owen announces proudly: “I recognize it! Visually and smellithly!” Love him!

Meera says: “This is so familiar! Spanish moss!” She’s probably the biggest lover of South Carolina of all of us. She tells us each year that we’re visiting that she wishes she lived here year-round. The mildness of it, the depth of it, all the sweet and salty and good of the Southern coast — it’s exactly Meera Grace.

All the bad of it — the hard bitter explosiveness of the South rippling just beneath the surface here, the cutting grit and edge of it — we hold it in our hands with the good and we understand it in its fullness and entirety and learn through it and from it. It is important to be on the edge of our comfort zone, on the horizon of easy, to re-center ourselves in our core and keep learning who we are vis-a-vis the rest of the big, complex world.IMG_9049 IMG_9050The beach house is awaiting, and the view off the back deck is unwavering. There is something so anchoring about this annual time-away-from-the-rest-of-the-year…IMG_9092…and there is nothing like a Lowcountry sunset to remind us of the importance of wide open spaces and expanded horizons.IMG_1151I’ll be posting from Harbor Island, South Carolina for the next five weeks. Thanks for reading y’all!

“Summer in the deep South is not only a season, a climate, it’s a dimension. Floating in it, one must be submerged.” ~Eugene WalterIMG_1155

Kyle, On the Road South, Obama’s Pinckney Eulogy, and “Up the Hill”

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 We are on the road to our Southern home away from home today.  Driving toward South Carolina, Braydon and I put on the car stereo Barack Obama’s eulogy for Clementa Pinckney. Two of our three bambinos don’t have the attention span, but one, of course, does, in large part because the speech strikes at the center of his deepest passions. Kyle listened intently to the entire thing with us from the backseat.
I have a feeling this might be — for him — one of those formative memories he’ll  always hold: that time, when he was 11, driving to South Carolina for our southern summer, listening to Obama give this speech.

There is so much that I could say, because I have a million thoughts on the speech myself, but I’m posting this for Kyle, instead, in case I’m right that he will remember this, and in case it is as formative as I think it might be for him.

Kyle’s reactions:

“I know one thing, he [Obama] did that from his core.”

“I believe we, the United States, are going uphill not downhill. For gay rights and for race — for Civil Rights — we are going up the hill. It’s a big mountain, but we’re going up it.”

“He wasn’t letting this thing go. Now we need to make something happen. We can’t just be sitting here watching this this happen. Now we need to change this thing. This thing is racism.”

From this mama: Thank you Mr. President. My boy — and all of us — needed to see you do that today. Thank you.  

Again.

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Photo taken last July, Charleston, SC

This morning I told my beautiful bambinos about the Charleston shootings. Sadly, for me, but mostly for them, we’re getting quite accustomed to these conversations. I’ve become — again, sadly — strangely adept at discussing these things in age-appropriate ways with my children. And let’s be real: when I say “these things” what I’m talking about is the tragic loss of black lives and the horrific racism all too often at the root of current events.

We can’t shield them from reality. And I want them to hear the truth from me first — before they overhear someone talking about it, catch a glimpse of a tv somewhere, or see the front page of a newspaper or website.

I knew I had to tell them today; I had tried to sort out my own emotions enough yesterday to prepare myself for talking with my kids about it today. So I got up early to make them their favorite muffins. And then, one by one, over muffins and milk, I had three separate conversations in our kitchen.

“I have to tell you something,” I began, and then I told them. 9 black lives lost, an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, 21-year-old white male killer, gun, police search, caught and in jail, families and communities and me mourning, racism, the battle is not over, so much progress has been made, still a long way to go, and we — each of us in our family — you and me — need to be part of the push for change-for-the-better, we need to use our lives for good. And you are so deeply and enormously loved and cherished and valued.

Kyle couldn’t contain himself as his angst spilled over. I just looked up the word “angst” to be sure it was precise. It is the perfect word for Kyle’s reaction: “Angst: a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.” This kid, more than anyone I know (for real), gets it. In a rooted, comprehensive, overwhelming way, with — as C. Wright Mills would say, a complex intersection of history and biography — he gets is.

I had barely finished my first sentence, “Kyle, sweetie, I need to tell you something horrible, on Wednesday night nine people were killed—” when he first said it, “Again?” I nodded as I continued, and he repeated it over and over in the short three minutes it took for me to tell him. “—in an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina—“—-“Again?” I’d nod and keep going, and he’d say, “Again?” and I’d nod and keep going. My throat felt constricted, like a thick choking feeling, looking him in the eyes — noticing for the millionth time how deep dark brown my boy’s eyes are, how gorgeously creamy his dark brown cheeks are — and having to tell him this sickly thing. He seems way too beautiful for this ugly truth. But I know with every part of me that I have to tell him, and I have to do it right. I finished, waiting for his response, and he said again, simply, “Again?” And I just stood there with him in a long silence. He finally said, “And in Charleston again? Why does it have to happen in Charleston? I love Charleston.”

We’ve been traveling to Charleston every summer for the past four summers. And we’ll be there again in just a few days. It is our family’s happy place. No place is unscathed.

In Charleston, 2012

Owen is much more cut and dried. There isn’t a lot of complexity to it for him. There is no gray area, things are right and things are wrong, and he calls it like it is. His reaction: “That. Is the definition of racist.”

Meera, at age seven, is and has always been the consummate family girl. There is nothing she values more than her family, and no one on earth she adores more, or craves the love and affection of more, or — as a healthy set of siblings — is more annoyed by, than her brothers. She knows no life without them, she knows no different, and the concept of racism is about as foreign and detached for her as could possibly be. If there is a white child on this planet who is less intrinsically racist than Meera, I’d be curious to meet them; there is not any tiny fraction of her that can understand how something like the Charleston shootings could possibly happen. But she understands family and she understands love and loss, and I think that she feels those things — at times like this — more powerfully than many others, at least in part because of her unique family and thus her unique perspective on life.

I felt sick to my stomach as I watched her sweet pink-cheeked face go slack and pale as I told her. The color literally drained from her. She said nothing. I asked her what she was thinking. She said, “I know this probably sounds weird, and maybe bad, but I am happy for the ones that died that they at least get to be in heaven.” I said, “That doesn’t sound weird or bad. I’m happy for that too.” I asked her if she wanted to ask anything, or say anything more. She said, “Not really.” I said, “I saw your face get really pale. Do you want to tell me about your feelings?” She said, “I was just thinking mostly about their families. I just feel so bad for the families.”

We hugged. Her pink cheeks came back. She ate a muffin and drank her milk. The boys got ready to run off to basketball camp for the day. All was ok. Sort of. Again.

In Charleston, 2011