Monday, August 15, 2005

The Cottage Weekend

LargeBoy and PC returned Wednesday from the family's cottage in Michigan. The cottage is in a private park nestled in an obscure little town just minutes south of South Haven. It is truly Heaven on earth. In DESPERATE need of escape, PC & I retreated there this weekend. Unfortunately, PC had to work a double shift on Friday in order to be freed up Saturday to allow for our trip. I escaped from work on Friday, ran around, worked out, napped, showered, packed, and then went to pick up PC from work. After he was off the clock, we hopped in the car and headed eastbound somewhere in the neighborhood of 11:30/midnight. The ride was relatively easy, once we managed to squeak through the construction obstacles, and we reached the cottage at 3:15 Michigan time(Michigan is an hour ahead of us, so we really made pretty good time!).

PC's brother, ET, had been at the cottage since Tuesday when he went up with PC & LargeBoy, so we figured he would still be awake when we arrived. Not seeing him in the cottage, we knew, instinctively, that we would find him down at the beach fire - at 3:15 a.m. We dropped our stuff in our room and headed through the darkness to the beach where we found ET and a few others still gathered around the fire with coolers and chairs. We talked, laughed, joked, and were very irresponsible for a while. I have found that every once in a while, we grown ups need to be irresponsible and act like teenagers or college kids to remind us that life isn't all about being stuffy and stressed and worried. So, in our irresponsibility, we hung out in the sand talking and drinking just like old friends. It was an incredible sky that night with the constellations decorating the deep darkness that was our canopy. Every once in a while, we were able to see meteors streak across the sky. I think we collectively saw about 10 or so. Those things you don't see when you live just outside the blaring lights of a big city. We finally mosied back to the cottage around 6:30 and hit the pillows as the sun was rising.

ET's fiance, SIL arrived Saturday morning - EARLY. ET & PC were, of course, out cold when she called at 7:30 a.m. to let us know she was half way, so I got the wake up call. She called periodically to let me know how close she was. This was very enouraging. I was terribly excited that she was coming to join us - thus taking some of the "fun" from the brothers for herself. Trust me, when those two get together, you're either laughing so hard you cry, or you're crying so hard you laugh. It's always good to share that fun with at least one other person. I got up and grabbed my book and read until I needed to help navigate SIL through the park. It was after sitting on the porch and talking about the brothers that we decided they had been asleep WAY too long and decided to wake them from their slumber. This was fun. Nothing exciting for me, but PC woke up to the sound of ET & SIL chasing each other through the house and tormenting each other. Clearly they are in love - one can see this demonstrated so clearly when ET is smothering SIL with his 3 day unshowered armpit...yes, true love.

I finally manged to rouse the bleary eyed, hungover, disoriented PC out of bed. We all got dressed and headed off to the sodabar to grab some lunch. The best part of the park is that there are usually two or three routes to wherever you need to go. Getting to the sodabar gave us two choices - take the Million Stairs, or walk along the beach. The Million Stairs is most definitely a shortcut, but think about it: First off, the stairs from one side to the other are not a million, but certainly feel like it by the time you finish. Secondly, disoriented, dehydrated and hungover are not the best states of being for walking a million stairs. We, therefore, opted to take the longer beach route. ET & SIL arrived before we did and had already ordered. By the time we ordered our food, they had gotten theirs and exited to the patio to eat in the open air. Prankster #1 - that would be PC - got the notion that it would be a great idea to dump a glass of ice water right into ET's lap. While attempting to pull this off, PC ended up not only dousing his brother, but pouring water all over the lunch of SIL. Since she is cooler than cool, she merely dumped the water out of her squeezy cheese and kept right on eating her cheesy fries and cheeseburger. Oh it was beyond funny. Thankfully ET & SIL had finished their lunch and headed back to the cottage before our food arrived, so their was minimal threat of immediate retaliation.

As we finished our cheeseburgers, the sun finally made an appearnce and warmed us up enough to tempt us beachward. We went back to the cottage and made our afternoon plan of attack...beach and shopping for dinner. I have a problem swimming in large bodies of water, especially when the water is cold and when pranksters like my husband and my brother in law are involved...moreso the water than the boys, though. The sun had decided to disappear, so I stayed up on the beach all bundled up while they hit the water. If you know these two, you know to expect the unexpected, and that it usually involves bare butts. I was not surprised, then, to look up from my book to see both of them holding their shorts over their heads. What was even better, however, was when ET, for some unknown reason, let go of his shorts and they flew out of his hands to go play in the undertow, leaving him bare-assed in Lake Michigan. I LOVE it when their pranks backfire on them! It makes those of us involved just that much more satisfied.

Shortly after the pants-ing episode, it started to drizzle and I was freeeeezing. Everyone had come out of the water to rest - thankfully, ET found his shorts. After drying off and not warming up, we all decided that it was time to go to the store and get some fixin's for dinner. PC and I had already changed back into our regular dry clothes and were waiting on ET & SIL when we were graced by ET showing us his white ol' butt out the door at us. We were laughing hysterically until SIL pushed him out the door, closed and locked it. PC and I lost it. I don't think any of us have laughed that hard ever! OH GOD it was funny! Adding to the hilarity were the eyes staring at us from ET's buttocks. He and SIL had drawn these on for a mooning earlier in the day. It was almost as if, once the shock of SIL shutting the door had hit ET, the eyes on his butt made that same, "HOLY CRAP!" face that he was making!

Once we picked ourselves off the floor and ET had managed to clothe himself, it really really was time to worry about dinner. SIL had brought up some chicken breasts, so went in search of the perfect dinner for the evening. We ended up at the closest local grocery store where most of the "natives" and all of the summer "residents" go to shop. Michigan is blueberry happy. It is WONDERFUL! Right now, they are at the conclusion of the 42nd annual Blueberry Festival. It is a madhouse of blueberry goodness. Our first step into the grocery store led us immediately to a table full of all things blueberry. Blueberry scones, blueberry-everything mix, blueberry syrup, blueberry pound cake, blueberry flavoring, blueberry BEER - (interesting, to say the least), and, of course, fresh blueberries. As we were on a mission for dinner food, we settled simply on blueberry poundcake - OH. MY. GOD!!!!!!! We managed to resist and finish our shopping. Food and beverages in hand, we left our blueberry blur behind and headed back to the cottage.

Our lack of sleep was beginning to catch up with us, and we decided it was naptime. We planned to nap for an hour or two and then get up and prepare dinner. The important word in the sentence was PLANNED. Four hours later we woke to ET yelling, "WAKE UP! IT'S 9:00!!!" Were it not for the arrival of the cousin and girlfriend of the cousin (hereafter known as Corn and Burrito), pulling up in their car, we would have slept straight through til morning. Not bad, we needed the sleep, but we would have missed our last night on the beach - potentially, the last one of the summer. That would have been awful. So with Corn and Burrito at the cottage, we got reoriented and embarked on dinner. ET grilled up the chicken for us. SIL then took the chicken, cut it up, wrapped it in tomato & basil wraps, along with onions, ranch dressing, lettuce, shredded carrots, and a terribly sinful apple barbeque sauce, and then fried them up in butter....DELISH. We had corn on the cob. We had originally thought about cooking the corn on the grill, but then it was suggested that we steam it in the big ol' pot that we have up there. Corn thought that it might help to sweeten the vegetable by placing a bit of sugar in the water below. Well, as fate had it, we were not all quite awake yet - totally not paying attention to our food cooking, and soon enough, the corn was boiling over. As it turned out, somehow the water, in boiling and seeping out, had carmelized the sugar which, then, stuck the pot to the stove while, at the same time, turning the corn a nice caramel shade. (Needless to say, this was how Corn got his nickname). The corn looked a little interesting, but none of us hesitated to eat it! I don't think we'll be able to duplicate the flavor again, but it was delicious.

We finally made it down to the beach fire around midnight. Corn and PC brought their guitars. We brought our beer. Uh - oh, two nights of adult irresponsibility, whatever shall we do? We had a much cooler night than Friday and the wind had picked up. The waves were crashing on the beach much harder than the night before. The fire was burning bright , the sparks were flying and the smoke was always in someone's eyes (I HATE White Rabbits)! It made for the perfect setting for our wild night. The more we sat, the more people showed up, including one more with a guitar and another with a harmonica. We had music. It was perfect. We taught a few of the people how to play the fart game - would you believe we were the oldest ones on the beach, acting just as silly as the 20-somethings? SIL got her new nickname of "Chalupa" - to go with "Burrito" and my "Flauta". Somehow we all have food nicknames - go figure.

We had run out of beer and, feeling very much like college students, had to make a run. Thankfully, we only needed to go back to the cottage to get more. Piece of cake, right? NOPE! We had walked down to the beach, and therefore were faced with the prospect of walking back. The park does not have any lighting other than the homes there. If people have their lights off, it is pitch black. You cannot see your hand in front of your face. ET & PC know the park like the back of their hands, but I don't, so you can imagine how relieved I was when one of the other people offered to drive us back up in his golf cart. That was an experience I have never had - let alone on pitch dark roads, especially since I was on the back of the cart!

We came back armed with beer and marshmallows and spent the rest of the night talking, playing the fart game, dodging popping sparks from the fire, experimenting to see how long an aluminum can holds its integrity in the heat of a burning fire, and tossing beer back and forth across the fire. (Real grown up, huh)? The funniest part of this was when PC tossed a fresh one across the fire to ET. Perfect throw and the can landed standing up - a perfect landing...except that it was upside down and full of sand. I'm sure that's exactly what he needed - another helping of sand to complement his beer. We had all been crunching sand for at least two nights already, ET for 5, so what's a little more?

We finally left the beach at somewhere around 5 a.m. or so and made some scrambled eggs before bed. Hey, there's no rule anywhere that dictates breakfast must be eaten after waking up instead of before going to sleep. We slept a good 4 or 5 hours before waking up again to the sound of ET and Chalupa (f/k/a SIL) walking back from their morning swim.

With ET & Chalupa back, I got PC out of bed and we headed out for lunch in South Haven. We drove into the middle of Blueberry Fest and somehow still managed to find parking. We had lunch on the top of this boat called The Idler where I'm pretty sure it was a requirement to be a blonde bimbo to be considered for employment. The food was ok, the weather was nice, and we got to watch all the different varieties of boats going up and down the river - and all of the people on them. We LOVE to people watch. We're BAAAAAD!

ET & Chalupa had arrived in town ahead of us and had hit one of the local wine shops. They suggested a trip down there after lunch to taste some of the superb wines that had already crossed their lips. So, after leaving the bimbos behind, we headed down to the wine shop. They, of course, had a blueberry wine. Initially I liked it. It was sweet and very different. We tried a mix of a white & cranbery wine. That was YUMMY. Another was a peach wine. I didn't think that I would like it, but Whoa Mama! It was really good. A nice summer wine. Sweet, but not overly sweet. Another was a red. PC liked it. I thought it was too dry, however, that's its selling point - the dryness. I prefer wine with flavor that's not going to leave me with dry mouth. We tried another and another and another, but finally decided on the blueberry, the peach, and the dry red. Next it was on to the fudge store. We are SO bad. We bought 1/2 lb of fudge (they gave us a pound), and a pound of chocolate covered pretzels. So SO bad.

We parted ways with ET & Chalupa, since we parked in different places. Before heading back, we stopped to pick up some fresh blueberries. I mean, really, could we have left The 42nd Annual Blueberry Fest withOUT "blubes"? We ended up with three pints of blubes and a bag of blueberry granola. YUMMY YUMMY in my TUMMY!

Finally, sadly, the time had come upon us to hit the road west. The ache for Michigan already setting in. We knew there was no way that we'd make it home by 5, when the kids were due back from their dad's, so we had called our moms in for back up. Our mothers had been taking care of our furry friends for us while we were gone, and were more than happy to come and spend some time with their grandchildren. After sitting through ridiculous amounts of construction obstacles, we finally ended our journey shortly after 6:oopm last night. When we walked through the door, we were met with a smell that made me feel so happy. A smell that reminded me of my Gram. Pot roast and dumplings. My all time favorite meal! We love our mothers. We thanked them for dinner, waiting for the children, and watching the pets by cracking open a couple bottles of the wine and sitting down to eat. After dinner we grabbed one of our favorite games, Apples to Apples, and played for a while, before the moms decided they were pooped and headed home. LargeBoy & Girl began Prankfest 2005, while SmallBoy, PC & I all went to bed. I was asleep by 10:30 and was actually awake (and alert) this morning.

I need to get back to Michigan in a big way. I am dying to take the kids up there. Of course, that means that I'll be going up as a parent. No beach fires for me. But, I've had several. I have to say, though, that every once in a while, it is so nice to forget that I'm a thirty-something mother of three and to just be an irresponsible, (within reason), relaxed woman. It helps every once in a while to alleviate the Mommy Guilt.

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