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NH Summer 2015. Precious and Fragile. (1 of 3)

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Yes, it really does look like this. It is so beautiful, it takes your breath away. Or, at least, it does mine. From the first morning I wake up there (first photo on this post), to the last sunset (last photo on this post), I am a bit breathless from the views, the sights, the colors, the landscape, the history.

Every day I’m there I’m thinking about Herman Engstrom — my great grandfather (my mother’s mother’s father) — who built this little cottage with his own two hands. We have photo albums with pictures of the early days. I imagine that the lake water was just as crystal clear as it is now, but the cottage, the dock, the well, the outdoor fireplace — Herman had to build them. And in doing that, he gifted us with a precious and fragile family legacy.

That was this year’s theme for me: precious and fragile. I wonder if Herman had any idea that his great-great-grandchildren would be swimming in those same waters? That the cottage (the place, and the experience) would be passed down like this? I know he painted it red and white because of the family’s Swedish heritage. I wonder if he could have imagined Haitian-American boys waterskiing there? Coming all the way from Pennsylvania, with their mother, his great-granddaughter, a professor. It probably would have been unimaginable to him. We can’t imagine what will become five generations down the road.

I don’t think there has ever been a summer of my life I haven’t spent at least some time there. Some years (especially my college and graduate school years), a lot of time. Some years, a lot less. But it has been a constant in my life, and in the life of five generations of my family. Kyle, Owen, and Meera know no summer without a pilgrimage to “The Cottage.” (Links here to many years’ posts.) Braydon has come to understand this place as an integral part of his life too. It is such a gift.

But it isn’t a given. It isn’t ever to be taken for granted. It is precious, and it is fragile.

It — like anything valuable and intrinsically important — needs constant care and upkeep. It takes deep commitment.

It’s impossible to try to convey it, but this year — for me — these two dozen photos take the best stab at it. I’m sure Herman Engstram could not have imagined iPhones. But these were taken by me, with my iPhone, during my ten days at the family cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. There is something about preciousness that makes me want to try to remember and solidify it — to try to make it less fragile than it is, or perhaps to try to create a keepsake knowing the reality of the fragility.

Life is so short, time is so fleeting, some things stay, but so much does not remain the same. There’s more to come, but these 24 were my best effort at capturing the gift we were given in this year’s annual visit to The Cottage.
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SUMMER 2015:

1 week of Basketball Camp x2 + Painting and Drawing Camp x1

1 week of Baseball Camp x2 + Mosaics Camp x1

5 Weeks at the Beach in the Lowcountry of South Carolina

1 Week of Summer Basketball League Championships & Start of Football

10 days at the family cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire

3232 miles in the car, up and down the East Coast

And now, as of 4pm yesterday, we’re HOME!

“It may be that the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone and come back, I’ll find it at home.” ~Rumi

Blog Break

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I found this leaf on the grass last night as I sat watching K&O at football practice. It was my first palpable reminder of how quickly fall will come. “Fall” meaning fall semester/start of school/end-of-the-bliss-of-summer. “Fall” meaning 3 weeks from now. (Gulp.)

Hopefully by the last week of August I’ll be ready. Right now, I am not.

We leave tomorrow morning for our annual pilgrimage to my family’s summer cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee. I’ll be taking a blog break while I’m there. Upon my return I’ll finish off the “Food from the Beach House” posts (I have a lot to catch up on with that, and I promise I’ll get back to it).

A goal of mine for this coming year is to be back to regular blogging. Last year I lost the overwhelming-schedule-very-hard-to-make-time-for-blogging battle; this year, I am determined to fight that battle and win!

See you soon my lovely blog readers! In the meantime: soak up those last drops of summer while you can! xoxo~Heather

July 2015 in South Carolina. The End.

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Summer in SC

We drove 810 miles to get there. We spent five weeks in the southern sun. We got bleach blonde (2 of us), and a few shades darker (5 of us), and we learned — again — that home is wherever we are together. We kayaked with dolphins, we found 636 sharks teeth, and saw a whole bunch of sunsets. We caught blue crabs in our crab trap, mullet (and squid, and shrimp, and flounder) in our cast nets, and little sharks on our fishing poles. We learned to hold fiddler crabs, we saw baby Loggerhead turtles hatching, and got stung by a jellyfish (luckily only one of us, and only once; unluckily, it was Meera). Owen grew 3 inches and gained 15 pounds. Kyle grew 3 inches and lost 5 pounds. Meera produced a huge volume of art, built countless sandcastles, and found it to be wonderfully true that her parents wouldn’t force her to be separated for a month from her beloved cat Pearl. Dash played with a ghost crab, ran like a madman on the beach, and swam in the salt water. We all slept well at night. We ate pounds and pounds of shrimp caught in the waters we view from the beach house, we slept late almost every morning, and we explored new places together. We learned a lot. We read a lot. We laughed a lot. We fought, we cried, we yelled at each other, we lost our patience and found out — once again — that five weeks alone in a remote location with only five other people makes you really, really, bond with them, and get really, really aggravated with them. We disagreed over many things, large and small. But we all agreed that we’re five very, very annoying people who are deeply imperfect and seriously flawed. We climbed palmetto trees (O), learned a lot more history (K), mastered the front-flip-into-the-pool (M), and drank wine on the beach (H&B). We were salty and sandy and happy the vast majority of the time. We agreed it’s a great place to visit, but we’d never want to live there. And that we love to travel, and we really love our home. We learned a lot. (Meera said that what she learned the most is that, “We’re happy, funny, emotional, weird people.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! We made more memories than we could ever remember. We drove 17 hours back, and came back with a zip-loc bag full of sea shells, a lot of memories, and renewed energy for the year ahead. We arrived home so much richer and so much stronger than when we had left.

It did what it was meant to do. It took us away. And it brought us back. It was a journey into ourselves, and a pushing out of our horizons. It changed us. For the better.

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” ~Mary Ritter Beard


The Long Drive Home

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that-awful-moment-when-you-realize-this-is-your-circus-and-those-are-your-monkeys-2c9ac17 hours in the car, from South Carolina to Pennsylvania. We’re a traveling circus, y’all! But I dang love this circus of mine. Never a dull moment, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.Going Home Pearl Going Home Newsworthy Nap Going Home Dash

Sea Kayaking with Dolphins II

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Kayak  dolphins(if you look at the top right of this photo you can see some dolphins. they’re super hard to capture with an iphone while sitting in a kayak floating on the open water!)

Last summer we did a sea kayaking adventure (with Eric from The Kayak Farm) that wound up being a Top Ten Life Experience and shot right to the top of our family’s list of Most Amazing Things We’ve Ever Done Together. It was awesome! So, this year, kayaking with Eric again was at the top of our Wish List for our time in South Carolina.

It was, once again this year, AMAZING.

Eric again did wonders for our family, giving us a private guided tour through the inlet between Fripp and Hunting Islands. He planned it perfectly — having us go at high tide this year (last year we went at low tide), giving us some new challenges (now that he knows us, he knows that our twinado 11-year-olds are capable of some pretty intense kayaking), and bringing us to a spot where he knows that a dolphin pod has been spending a lot of time this summer.

Highlight: At one point we were kayaking with the pod. We had dolphins swimming all around us. It seemed almost like they were putting on a show for us. I completely stopped paddling and just sat still amongst them for a while. As I sat in my kayak, on the water right in the middle of tons of dolphin activity, a mama and her baby swam right up to my kayak (literally! like, looking right up at me!), and then dove under, swam underneath my kayak, and popped up on the other side — blowing through their blow holes for me and flapping their tail fins. All within 10 feet of me (maybe 7 feet). IT WAS UNBELIEVABLY SPECTACULAR!!!

We kayaked through the maze-like marsh system, through and over the tall marsh grasses. Eric loves to point out the sea life and the incredible array of bird species and wildlife (he seems to know everything about all of it!), and answer Kyle’s 300.5 questions about everything sea-marsh-air-land.

We were on the water for 2.5 hours and every minute of it was a minute to savor and cherish.

Kayak 15Kayak 4Kayak 6Kayak 14Kayak 7Kayak 5Kayak 9Kayak 13Kayak 12Kayak 10Kayak 3Kayak 8Kayak dolphins 2

Food from the Beach House: Bruschetta

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Bruschetta B

The key to my husband’s heart = bruschetta. Preferably made from fresh, St. Helena Island grown, heirloom tomatoes. Preferably on toasted French bread from the Publix bakery. Preferably with a glass of crisp white wine. Seriously. See this picture above? It makes my heart sing. Because I’ve flooded his heart with bruschetta love.

This year, Braydon got a run for his money from his two sons. They’ve developed quite a love for bruschetta themselves. Next year I’m going to have to buy two baguettes.

I make this at least once each summer at the beach house. It is truly just so good. The recipe is from Ree Drummond/The Pioneer Woman, and can be found here:


Bruschetta A

Foodie Family: Saltus 2015

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Saltus 2Saltus River Grill in Beaufort, SC! We had been dreaming about it for a whole year (for backstory, see here). And it was just as dreamy as we had dreamed it would be. The folks at Saltus even gave us dessert on the house — which was, honestly, the highlight of the night for the bambinos (we rarely order dessert). Owen chose creme brulee, Kyle chose strawberry profiteroles, and Meera chose an orange creme ice cream. They were in heaven! (The highlight of my night was that glass of prosecco!) Thank you to Saltus for another magical evening in Beaufort for the J-Ms!

P.S. Best shrimp-and-grits ever ever ever anywhere anywhere!Saltus 3 Saltus 1

Another Little Trip for Kyle: Fort Freemont, Penn Center, and Red Piano Too

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Penn FF 3(if you look closely in this picture you’ll see Kyle climbing down a ladder on the side of the fort)

We took another little SC day trip for Kyle and visited Fort Freemont (for the first time), and the Penn Center and the Red Piano Too (both of which we’ve been to a few times before). All three of these sites are on St. Helena Island — only about 15 minutes from the beach house.

Fort Freemont was eery and mysterious — Kyle loved it.

Penn FF Penn FF 5 Penn FF 4 Penn FF 2

And the Penn Center always takes my breath away ~Penn Center tree

As does the Red Piano ~Red Piano

One of the things that I love most about the Lowcountry is our ability to easily give Kyle access to these sorts of experiences… and to experience them, and appreciate them, with him.

7th Annual Haiti Dinner (2015)

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Steak Frites A

This year was our 7th annual “Haiti Dinner.” We have this dinner once each summer. Haitian Steak Frites (steak au poive with pomme frites). The tradition has a cool backstory — you can find it here (click).

This dinner is right up there as K&O’s #1 top favorite meal (tied only with Joe’s Shanghai Soup Dumplings). Meera got to stay up late to have it this year, which was a big deal, and a sign of the changing times (she’s growing on up!). She absolutely loved it. In the photo below you can see her swinging her head back in delirious deliciousness. She was saying, “ooooooh myyyyyyyyy gooooooooosh I LOVE IT! Kyle and Owen, THANK YOU FOR BEING HAITIAN!”

Also in the photo is another sign of the changing times. We’ve got two tweens folks. After one bite, Owen just haaaaaad to get on his iPhone to text his friends about this special dinner. The photo he sent them (a picture of his plate; totally unfiltered and unedited here) is what he texted out.

Seven years in, some things stay the same and some things change. It was — as usual — a magical wonderful night of remembering Haiti and sharing a most amazing meal together.Steak Fritespic