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Beauty in South Carolina

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IMG_9646Meera, checking the crab trap. Feeling confident, strong, and brave. Not afraid to handle crabs.

A KyleKyle, in the beach house kitchen. Feeling adored, appreciated, and understood. Deep in thought, being heard.

IMG_9656Owen, heading out for ocean fishing. Feeling hopeful, capable, independent, and loved for his full whole self. Ready to catch the big one!


Photo of the Day: Owen’s Catch!

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IMG_9981Yesterday, off of Harbor Island beach, Owen caught a dogfish shark on his rod. He caught it using mullet fish as bait. He caught the mullet in his net cast. He also caught another dogfish shark after this. He was so proud of himself!


Food from the Beach House: Blanchards “Big Bowls”

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bb 4Longtime readers who pay attention to my food posts know how much I love the cookbook, At Blanchard’s Table: A Trip to the Beach Cookbook. Twice my parents have taken us, and my sister’s family, to Anguilla with them. And both times it’s been such a thrill for me to eat at the Blanchards restaurants. The first trip, Braydon and I had the treat of a night out just the two of us at Blanchards Restaurant. By our second trip, the Blanchards had opened their “Blanchards Beach Shack” restaurant, and we got to eat there for lunch on the beach… twice! (Thank you MorMor & MorFar!) These Blanchards restaurant experiences have been so memorable for me — these are the kind of restaurants and food concepts I love.

At Blanchards Beach Shack Kyle had what is listed on the menu as the “Big Bowl.” It is a pile of rice, beans, pico de gallo, corn salsa, cheese, etc. served, literally, in a big bowl. You can choose your protein to go on top — grilled shrimp, jerk chicken, shredded pork (there’s a whole list of options) — and it is served with a “crema” drizzled over it all. For Kyle it was love at first bite. He ordered it again the second time we went. I did not order it, but tasted his, and knew I’d try to perfect it at home. The crema seemed to be a mixture of sour cream, cilantro, and lime, and it was — in my opinion — what made the whole dish. I’ve since discovered an awesome dressing — that is a great substitute for Blanchards’ crema — sold in the produce section of our grocery store at home and in South Carolina: Bolthouse Farms Cilantro Avacado Yogurt dressing. For a quick easy dinner that replicates Blanchards Big Bowl, this does the trick.

At the beach house we don’t have big bowls to serve this in. (We are lacking serving dishes and glassware in a big way here.) So, we have to pile it on plates. But this is a super fun, casual dinner where everyone can choose their own mixture of goodness and make it the way they like it. Super duper easy and yummy for a summertime supper.

P.S. The night these photos were taken we had the “Big Bowls” with thinly sliced grilled marinated steak. You can use whatever you like or have (or nothing! Kyle likes his best vegetarian.)


  • white rice
  • 1 can black beans (rinsed and drained), 1/2 onion (chopped), 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • pico de gallo (store bought! …or… if you wanna make your own, go for it y’all!)
  • corn (at Blanchards they have a corn salsa, but I like to steam fresh corn on the cob then cut the corn kernels off just before serving)
  • shredded cheese — monterey jack, cheddar, or whatever you like
  • Bolthouse Farms Cilantro Avacado Yogurt dressing
  • anything else you choose — shrimp, leftover blackened fish, grilled steak/pork/chicken, etc.


Cook the rice. For the beans– heat a saute pan over medium heat; add veggie oil and onion, stirring a few times and cooking until the onion is translucent; add a couple of spoonfuls of the pico de gallo to the pan and cook to just heat through; add black beans and cook until warm and combined. Steam fresh corn on the cob (10 minutes), then remove and let cool. Cut corn kernels off the cobs. If you’re using an additional protein, prepare that. To make the “big bowls”: place everything on the table and let people pile up their bowls/plates the way they like. Drizzle with the dressing. Yummo!IMG_9789big bowl 1 bb 2

Food from the Beach House: Coffee Cake

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DSC_0003This is an old recipe from my mom. She used to make it when I was little, and I always loved it. Now my littles love it. I make this year-round, but for some reason it tastes even better at the beach house! We’ve been making it about once a week; Owen will eat half of the whole cake in one sitting. It never lasts more than 24 hours before being entirely gone.

In looking online, sour cream coffee cakes like this one are often called “Vintage Coffee Cake” or “70s Style Coffee Cake.” The original recipe I have calls for including walnuts in the crumble layers. We’ve made it with walnuts and pecans (pecans = so Southern!). But, our favorite is to make it without any nuts at all. Also, the original recipe I have calls for blending the mixture in stages for over 20 minutes total. I have found that the cake is much lighter and fluffier (and takes way less time to make) if you simply blend to combine (mixing for less than a minute).


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt — I often use lowfat Greek yogurt)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (I’ve used light brown, or dark brown — either is good)


Preheat oven to 350. Blend together the sugar, butter, and eggs. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Blend until just combined. Add in the sour cream and vanilla and blend — again, until just combined. In small bowl mix together the cinnamon and brown sugar. Butter the inside of a loaf pan (I’ve made this with various shapes of loaf pan — it’s all good — use whatever you have). Pour half the batter into the pan. Sprinkle with half the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture. Then pour the rest of the batter on top, and sprinkle the top with the rest of the cinnamon/brown sugar. Bake about 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes before digging in!

IMG_9708 IMG_9710 IMG_9714 IMG_9093 DSC_0006

Food from the Beach House: Pina Coladas!

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pina 1

The bambinos love pina coladas. Their pina-colada-loving has appeared many times on this blog. Click here for example. It is a special drink for vacations, or for special occasions, or for making occasions special. GREAT Drinks PoolReal pina coladas are so rich, you couldn’t drink more than one or two every once in a great while. But they are surprisingly easy to make. And time at the beach house is so special, that at least a couple times in July, an evening calls for coladas!

You can tweak these into lots of different flavors to suit your sweet tooth. Kyle is particularly fond of banana coladas (just replace the pineapple with a ripe fresh banana). Braydon and I love mango coladas (sub mango for the pineapple). Owen and Meera are purists and love the straight up pina coladas (“pina” = pineapple).

INREDIENTS (this makes 2 drinks):

  • 2/3 cup cream of coconut
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple (or whatever fruit you want to use: banana, mango, papaya, peach)
  • a dash or two of fresh lime juice
  • 3 cups crushed ice
  • and if you want to make it the real deal: 3 ounces rum


Blend it in a blender. That’s all folks! IMG_9787 pina 3

Food from the Beach House: Blackened Fish, Two Ways (Fillets & Sandwiches!)

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fish 2We eat a lot of fish while we’re in South Carolina. I buy fresh mahi mahi and grouper right from the dock here, and it is incredibly delicious blackened.

I started making blackened fish sandwiches to use up leftovers from blackened fish fillet dinners. But at this point I think it is safe to say that Braydon and Owen both actually would chose the sandwiches over the dinner fillets any night of the 5The recipes can be found here:


Food from the Beach House: A Lowcountry Feast

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IMG_9565This is not something we do often, and only something we could do while here in South Carolina, but at least a couple of times during our stay we like to put together a Lowcountry Feast. We did this last week for MorMor’s visit.

This is not really a recipe, per se, more like a pulling-together of some of the incredible bounties of the Lowcountry for one amazing supper. Every place mentioned here is within a 10-minute drive from the beach house. I hope that years from now the bambinos will remember meals like this. Here’s the HOW TO straight from Harbor Island:

1. Appetizer: Stop at “The Mainline,” the open-air bait and tackle market on the side of the road, right in the middle of Harbor Island, to buy a bag of boiled peanuts. Dump ’em in a bowl for snacking while everyone takes part in preparing the Lowcountry Feast. Watch out for Braydon and Meera — they’ll eat the whole bag themselves in one sitting.Boiled Peanuts2. Stop in at Gay Fish company for fresh shrimp and already-steamed stone crab claws. Get there early in the morning, to make sure they don’t sell out of the crab claws (they never sell out of shrimp!). They’ve come to know Owen (he’s become a regular during July), and they take special care of him — they let him pick out his own claws so that he can choose each of the dozen or two crab claws that he wants. Buy a pound of regular shrimp for the scampi, and a pound of large shrimp for peel-and-eat shrimp cocktail. To prepare the shrimp cocktail: these shrimp are too good and too fresh to do anything to them other than steam them. Throw them in a steamer tray over boiling water in a large pot. Let them steam with the top on the pot only for about 3 minutes. Pull them out, and they’re ready to go! Serve the shrimp and crab claws with fresh lemon wedges, cocktail sauce, and melted butter.Crabs and Shrimp3. See what you caught that day in the crab trap, and hope you have at least a few big blue crabs to bring home. To prepare the blue crabs: scrub them under cold running water to get them as clean as possible (but it will be tough, with them squirming snapping their claws at you and all). Using the same steamer that you just pulled the shrimp out from, drop the crabs in and douse them with a nice layer of Old Bay Seasoning. Cover and let steam for exactly 10 minutes. Pull them out, and they’re ready to eat!Crabs in the Bucket CrabsHowever… this is important: let Dash play with ’em a bit on the kitchen floor before cooking ’em.Dash Crabs 2Dash Crabs 3Dash Crabs4. Buy some tomatoes at Dempsey Farms. Some people claim that the Sea Island tomatoes are the best tomatoes in the world. I’m not sure about that, but they are so, so, so good. Pick them yourself (Dempsey Farms is a Pick Your Own Tomatoes place), or, if you don’t want to take the time, for a bit more per pound, buy the ones they picked for you. Cut them up, or slice them, and serve just as they are. I like some salad dressing on them, but the bambinos like ’em plain.Lowcountry Tomatoes5. Whip up a batch of Shrimp Scampi with that other pound of shrimp from Gay’s. Recipe is here.Scampi6. Dig in deliriously to this amazing Lowcountry treat-of-a-meal! (Peach Cobbler for dessert — if you’ve been good that day and Mama’s in a good mood — I’ll post about that recipe sometime soon!)Feast 3

Kyle, Football

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IMG_9759It has been about five years, maybe six, of constant, incessant, relentless begging, pleading, and “persuasive arguments” from both of them, but most of all from Kyle. It has been about a full decade of suspecting, somehow apprehensively knowing, that the time would come, but trying to hold it at bay nonetheless. It has been many conversations, with many people, from all sorts of perspectives on the matter. But it all comes down to two boys who — I’m fully sure — should not be held back any longer. The time has come. It has been a long time coming.

We’re letting them play football this fall.

Kyle, in particular, is beside himself with elation, excitement, and anticipation. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so excited about anything. Every day he is overflowing with thoughts and a steady stream of football-related chatter. Our boy has been waiting for this for as long as he can remember, and now he’s counting down the days. It starts August 1.

For now, it is football on the beach. Every day. We’re settling in to it, wrapping our minds around it, and even I am actually beginning to enjoy the pre-season build-up.

It is hard to own up to letting them be entirely who they are. But they are who they are. And I’m not going to stand in the way of something that is intrinsic to their core. This is them. My job is to foster their flourishing, not constrain their capacities.

So, it has been a long journey to get here. But I’m here now, and I’m all in. I don’t jump in unless it is a full body splash into the deep end of the pool. I’ll be behind my football players 100%, even if I’d never have chosen it myself, and even as I’m cringing a teeny tiny bit, I will be screaming from the stands this fall, and making them power smoothies in the morning and doing stinky laundry at night and keeping ice packs in the freezer 24×7.

And I, for one, am very curious to see what these two will do in the football arena.