The Casting Dock

Category — vacations

My favorite weekend of the year.

I say it every year. It may get old, but I don’t even care, y’all. I can’t help myself.

We have a reunion with a bunch of our college friends every summer. It’s always my most highly anticipated and crazy celebrated weekend of the year. It’s usually in Maine–the way life should be–as it was in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

But this year, our fifth year, we ventured out to our friend Whitney’s parent’s house in Maryland. Beyond idyllic, this luxurious property, ripe with a speedboat, sailboat, kayaks, pool access, swimming pond, and gorgeous lawn sits on the waterfront. It is STUNNING.

And Whit’s parents were so gracious, generous, and hospitable, not only allowing but fully embracing our invasion of their home for 4 days. It was truly a reunion for the books!

There was simply too much goodness going on to capture and adequately express, so I’m just going to hit on some of my personal highlights from the long weekend:

+ Playing blind man’s bluff in the pool with whit’s nieces and nephews. Completely unexpected highlight. I had a blast with these little munchkins and we ended up with a funny chunk of stories from the experience. My favorite part, though, was the rogue sea monster committed to his own agenda amidst the chaos of the game…see if you can spot him above…

+ Georgetown/DC monument walk at night. Always a good place for reflection.

+ Kubb, our new lawn game courtesy of our time in London with these guys. It was THE game of the weekend. Normally these weekends are replete with a myriad of games, sports, and activities, but this weekend had a far more low-key vibe. Kubb was largely our only competitive outlet…and it got pretty competitive…most notable of which was an hour and a half long game involving me as an obnoxious play-by-play announcer/trash talker, Dash self-punishing with push-ups for missed shots, Mark (AKA “the big secret”) finding remarkably thin alleys by which to miss actually knocking over pins, and ending with a rain force out while both sides still had five pins standing.

+ Simple, relaxed chat time. There’s not much that I enjoy more than just chilling around any venue with good friends and chatting. And I was delighted by hours upon hours of it this weekend. Glorious.

+ Long, lingering breakfast/coffee time. A staple of every reunion. And the perfect start to any day.

+ Tubing. Oh man, so many good memories on the boats and tubes. Mark got pretty classically stung by a jellyfish after belaboring his fear of them. Dash tubed rodeo style with a towel tied to the rope (oh-so-classic). The baby boat abruptly ran out of gas causing the front-loaded bow to take a dive. Jerry (and a few others, shockingly) enjoyed his first ever tubing experience (and he liked it! hooray! {aside from the jelly fear…}). And Dash rode rodeo style…did I mention that?…because it is CLASSIC.

+ THE OLYMPICS. So, the Olympics are amazing regardless of time or place or company, but to watch every night with a group of friends over deliciously cooked dinners and after a day spent in the sun was the absolute best capper to each night.

+ Pool Nuke-em. Again, another unexpected amazing activity. This was a highlight all around. Guys vs. girls (plus Dr. Plaster) battle to the end.

+ Bodie, the dog. She’s awesome.

+ Chatting with Mark and Whit poolside on the last night. I think we had good thoughts, Whit…I’m looking forward to watching Mark run with them…

Aside from magically transporting in the people who were unable to make it (and imparting all possible chemistry knowledge to JD so he didn’t have to be super studier pre-med student), there’s nothing I would have changed about the weekend. As I always say, I am SO thankful for this group of people and unbelievably appreciative of the time together.

Many, many, many thanks to Whit’s parents. It wouldn’t have been possible without them! And special thanks to Whit herself for being a rockin’ awesome host and doing so much behind the scenes to both prepare for the weekend (groceries! sheets! cool chalk mason jars!) and ensure it ran smoothly (filling coolers! helping us find stuff in the kitchen! coordinating plans and schedules and transportation! answering a bazillion questions! driving the baby boat {minus the unexpected bailout off the side…while still in motion…}!, etc. etc. etc.).

I know it can be a lot. You were amazing!

Until next year….my wheels are already spinning…

July 31, 2012   7 Comments

Paris: the two day tour

Following a splendid three days catching the London highlights, Jerry and I hopped on the Eurostar and raced through England, under the English Channel (slightly disconcerting!), and into the City of Love.

We had two days to catch all the hot spots. We were a couple on a mission.

Our main objective was to see everything on foot and to make sure to have ample time in the Louvre and Notre Dame. Mission Accomplished! We took the subway into the center of the city from the train station and took it back out when it was time to leave, but otherwise, everything was explored on foot. Miles upon miles. And our feet (and lower backs!) felt it.

I was so glad we tacked Paris onto this trip. I had been there before and to be honest, it’s not my favorite place. Blasphemy, I know! I feel like an improper female to not just looooove Paris–it’s up there with my non-dog-loving status. I feel like those are two strikes against my womanhood. But yeah, I’m just not enraptured with Paris. It’s beautiful and I certainly appreciate that, but there are so many places I enjoy more. I think it’s because I’m not an uber romantic. Anyway, I was glad to tack it onto this trip so Jerry could see the highlights and we could check it off our collective travel list. I had a fabulous time with him, walking around and seeing the sights, but my impressions were confirmed from my last visit–I didn’t fall in love with the city.

First Stop: The Louvre

This picture tickles me for some reason. Jerry looks British to me.

The swarming mob around the Mona Lisa. You would think she was a celebrity the way people clamored to the front, cameras held high, when in reality, most people (myself included if it wasn’t for Jerome) really have no idea what actually distinguishes her from any of the other thousands of paintings in that massive place.

The Code of Hammurabi.

Even though the Louvre houses countless ancient artifacts in it’s 650,000+ square feet, this one got me. It is shockingly well preserved for being dated around 1772BC. Circularly inscribed, it depicts 282 laws from Babylonian King Hammurabi. It didn’t surpass my love for the Rosetta Stone, but it was fascinating nonetheless.

Notre Dame.

Inside Notre Dame. The detail work, as in all European cathedrals, was magnificent.

Waiting for the Eiffel Tower to light up, pre-dusk.

Pretty much every building in Paris is worthy of a photograph.

Ahhh, the City of Lights.

Jerry and I loved afternoons in the Tuileries Garden, a beautiful area just beyond the Louvre with lush greenery, gardens, and fountains strewn with an abundance of benches and chairs. A great place to relax and watch people, most of whom were either sleeping or making out. Completely acceptable in Paris to just make out hard core all over the place.

Authentic Parisian chocolate croissant and Starbucks grande cappuccino. A perfect blend of both cultures.

I couldn’t bring myself to spend 5 euros on a teeny cup of Parisian coffee. Some things we Americans just got right–large coffees being one of them! But Parisians, man, they got the bread thing right. Incredibly so. I had the best sandwich of my life here. A tiny slice of ham and cheese and the most scrumptious bread. And yeah, I had two of those croissants and a crepe. It was basically a carb fest. A delicious carb fest. Mmmmm.

Taking in the Seine. And the Louvre.

July 7, 2012   8 Comments

England: downtown London

After a truly glorious first three days with the lovely family of six, we switched gears and headed from the northern end of the city straight downtown (London city limits are quite massive!) to visit one of my best friends from high school, Mandy, and her longtime boyfriend, Oliver.

Mandy and I lived nearly inseparable lives for about 7 years. We went to (a tiny, tiny) private K-12 school and (a pretty large) church together from 5th through 12th grade, played on all the same sports teams, went to church camp together, vacationed with each other’s families (lake houses! beach trips! senior trip cruise to Mexico! visits to New England!) and virtually lived at each other’s houses for extended periods of time (well, really I was the one camping out at her house for weeks on end). Aside from my own blood family, I’m not sure there is anyone with whom I share more history than Mandy and her twin sister Ashley. For me, that alone is deeply meaningful.

It makes me feel all sappy and nostalgic just thinking about it. Aside from my (then quite crappy) family issues, there were no significant events in my life over those seven years of which Mandy was not a part.

Then came college. Mandy went north a few hours to the Dallas area and I headed up in the Boston direction. We kept in shockingly good touch for the first two or three years, talking multiple times a week and seeing each other on breaks back home, but then life kicked into high gear. Neither of us were home as often and talking on the phone became more challenging to upkeep. Since college graduation (5 years ago!) we figure we have seen each other maybe 2 or 3 times, never for extended periods of time. We chat occasionally, but not often.

So when Mandy and her boyfriend Oliver moved to London a year ago, Jerry and I figured it was high time to schedule a visit. With two great sets of friends in the same city (and a city Jerry reallllly wanted to see to boot!), it was the perfect occasion.

And similar to leg one of our journey, leg two did not disappoint.

Westminster Abbey.

Jerry and I did most of the touristy stuff together since admission tickets get pricey and Mandy and Oliver have seen all those places plenty of times, I’m sure.

The houses of Parliament as seen from the courtyard inside Westminster.

Big Ben. And a beautiful, sunny sky.

Tower Bridge.

I was obsessed with Tower Bridge, especially with the Olympic rings hanging. Oh how I wish we could go back in a few weeks and catch some Olympic action!

Strolling through St. James Park with Buckingham Palace in the background.

Obligatory Buckingham Palace picture.

The object of my infatuation, Tower Bridge, as seen from the White Tower at the Tower of London. I literally took dozens of pictures of this guy.

Taking in the view of St. Paul’s and the London Eye from the balcony of Mandy and Oliver’s 25th floor flat.

Yeah, it was legit.

Jerry up close and personal with the Rosetta Stone, my favorite museum artifact of the trip, at the British Museum. It’s just beyond fascinating when you think about what this baby did for our understanding of Egyptian culture. And the fact that it just sat there undiscovered for so many centuries??! Makes me wonder what other ancient artifacts are out there undiscovered!

Mandy and I sent Jerry and Oliver off to do manly things at the International War Museum one afternoon.

Guys are easy, I know, but still–I’m so glad these two got along well.

While they were warring it up, we explored the rose gardens at Regents Park. They were magnificent.

Mandy in a sea of delphinium.

Mandy, I am SO SO SO thankful for this time together.

Thankful for long, lingering dinners; leisurely strolls through London’s impressive parks; time to both catch up on life and make new memories; delicious chicken korma (devoured too quickly to capture on film); legit prosciutto and fresh bread from Borough Market (along with overhearing the old American man’s futile requests for “just a bologna and cheese sandwich” from the Italian woman at the cured meat stand); cream on everything; cooking together; joint skyping wth Ashley, baby Amelia, and your mama; waking up and enjoying breakfast and coffee in the same place; living life together again, even if only for a few days.

Let’s make it happen more frequently this decade, shall we??!!

July 6, 2012   3 Comments

England: north London and Cambridge

Jerry and I just got home last night from our 8 day trip to London and Paris. Words seem inadequate to describe how incredible this trip was for us. While I had been to both places before, Jerry had never been to either. The cities themselves would have been lovely, but we had the good fortune of visiting two sets of friends in London. Once again the value of people rose above everything else, even in such historic, beautiful places. Aside from it just being a fun trip in general, I am not sure exactly what my expectations were, but regardless, they were far exceeded. We basically had three mini-trips rolled into one, so I will post and recap accordingly.

Let’s start with pictures from part one.

We spent the first three days with our friends C&S and their four kids on the northern side of London. C was the resident director of our dorm when Jerry and I were in college. Back then they only had one and then eventually two of their now large brood and I would babysit their oldest son, only two years old at the time. I cannot say enough positive things about this family. I simply adore them.  Their children are quite possibly my favorite photographic subjects…

We spent a day with them in Cambridge where S recently finished his PhD work. In elitist Cambridge, the insider connection is essential. S showed us around St. Johns, his college, and took us for the authentic Cambridge experience–punting down the river. Jerry even tried his hand at punting and managed to not fall in or lose the pole. Impressive, in my opinion.

These two were little buddies. Just imagine this little guy, in his British accent saying, “Jerry, you’re spikey.” He then proceeded to give Jerry “a shave” with his plastic toys. Be still, my heart.

This munchkin was my little snuggle buddy. Best baby I have ever seen. Super chill. Didn’t cry AT ALL in the three days we were there. I guess that happens when you’re the fourth…

Authentic British tea and scones. A necessity.

The train conductor.

Tabletop strawberry picking. Genius.

Best way to spend a morning with this little guy on your lap.

Playing American football.

We love this family.

There could not have been a better start to our vacation. I admire so much about the way that C&S have built their lives–the way they prioritize their marriage, raise their kids, and seek God’s direction over their lives. In the midst of a highly intellectual culture, they remain authentic, generous, humble, and servant-hearted. They are consistent and patient in the way they raise their children. Time with them is always an encouragement to me, an encouragement for what is possible for my own family down the line. While I may not be able to conjure up Asian-Caucasian babies (my favorite mix!) or little British accents, C&S stand as an example that I can have smart, interesting, fun kids and a marriage that thrives despite the demands of teaching kids proper manners, reinforcing kindness in everyday tasks, and orienting little minds towards Christ and callings beyond primal selfishness.

Thank you C&S. We love you guys.

July 5, 2012   6 Comments