B and I spent a 3-day weekend with 4 of my 6 siblings, their spouses and kids at a really nice vacation house on a nice big lake in southern Wisconsin - graciously shared by some family members. Two families couldn't make it, dang it. We've gotten together here for 4 consecutive years now I think - at least some subset of the 7 of us. It's no small feat assembling here. We live in Santa Barbara, Chicago, France, Hartford CT, Providence RI and Michigan.
At the lakehouse, we have a great time fishing, swimming, boating and just hanging out. I've realized our family is very good at 'just hanging out', to the dismay of some who've married in. We can hang around the kitchen or living room, elbow-to-elbow, chit-chatting and joking around for days at a time. We don't need to go off to events or shopping or movies or anything when we get together. I guess growing up in a household of 9 with one bathroom trains you to get by with minimal personal space.
B and I drove to the lakehouse on Friday. The traffic through Gary and Chicago was pretty slow at times - there are lots of major construction projects underway as usual. Dylan was great in the back of the car - sleeping and self-entertaining for 7 hours. We arrived to a house full of cool-ass people. Everyone else had been there for most of the week. I'm very jealous that they were able to spend so much time together. I know it would have been a lot of fun to spend the week. We got a quick fishing report from Michael and Chien. They'd been having fun catching bass and bluegills off the dock all week. Now, Chien is an avid and skilled fisherman, but I think his little boy Michael could fish him under the table. That boy has stamina. He has even learned to slightly exaggerate the size of the fish he caught.
My sister Maureen is our family chef - formally trained and everything. She whipped up some barbecued chicken, grilled summer squash, potatoes and rice for dinner. She also saved some icebox cake from earlier in the week for B and I. Icebox cake is a family favorite - Mom made it for us as kids. It's a refrigerated dessert made by layering chocolate pudding with graham crackers in a rectangular cake pan. It's really good and Maureen's version is even better than the original because she uses a top notch chocolate pudding recipe. She remembered to share her pudding and barbecue sauce recipes with us this time. Thanks Mo!
We sat around until pretty late on Friday night, shooting the breeze and enjoying ourselves. Maureen, Jan and Anne made tie-dyed shirts for all the women and children - even one for little 4-month old Rose. They rightly guessed that most of the men wouldn't be caught dead in one, so they saved themselves the trouble. We ended the evening with a newly-invented game of 'Admit Your Sins' using a Catholic confession-preparation pamphlet provided by our dear mother - she did not know that we'd make it into a game. B also announced her new status as an officially ordained minister in a rather casual Church of some kind. She immediately absolved all our admitted sins. Thanks B! Eventually, we went off to bed. I'm not sure how everyone fit into the house during sleeping hours. This is a 4 bedroom house and we squeezed in 10 adults and 6 children. Where the heck did everyone sleep? I don't think anyone stayed on the couches or on the porch. B and I brought cots and sleeping bags and camped out in the basement with Dylan. There must've been a pile of kids sleeping like cats somewhere.
Saturday, like Friday, was quite overcast and cool. We were able to get for some swimming, fishing and paddling anyway. A light misty drizzle was not enough to drive the boys in from the pontoon boat - even little Laurence stayed comfortable and entertained. B and Patrick got in a good long swim. Patrick is an adventurous swimmer for such a young man. And he's a good dog-walker. In the early evening, a really big, smart bass sat on the lake bottom at the dock, teasing Michael, Nick and Chien. He ignored everything they dipped in front of him. Mike B eventually got him to bite a plastic worm bounced on his nose, but the fish was careful to avoid the hook and was never in real danger of being caught. I supposed that's how he got to be so big. He did provide some entertaining stories.
Maureen made her famous marinated, grilled flank steak for dinner on Saturday, along with heavenly mashed potatoes, grilled summer squash and cukes-under-vinegar (all brought from my garden). Chien made some of his magical fried rice. For dessert, we celebrated sister Anne's and Chien's 40th birthdays with another famous Maureen delicacy - her chocolate cheesecake. She makes this regularly for many people in her life now. We all request it endlessly. Poor Maureen. It's a marvelously rich, but not too chocolatey balance. The cake part is normal unadulterated cheesecake, the crust is crushed oreo cookies and the top of the cake is covered with a semi-sweet chocolate sauce. I think I speak for our whole family, and all Maureen's friends, when I say that this is the perfect cheesecake. Welcome to 40-year-old status Anne and Chien; it's nice to have some company finally! Edie provided after-dinner entertainment with her shortened, but repeatedly repeated rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. She's such a little cutie. We stayed up late watching a Little Rascals DVD. Wow, I haven't seen those old episodes in a long time - it is amazing what your brain remembers sub-consciously - the episodes were very familiar even though I couldn't name most of the characters or describe the plot from the outset.
We said some goodbyes on Saturday night - Bill, Jan and Laurence would be leaving before dawn to catch 2 different planes to NY and MD. Anne, Chien, Michael and Nick left a bit later to catch a flight back home to CT. Joe, Mary and Edie had a later flight back to CA, but planned to make another visit in WI on the way to the airport. We helped Maureen and Mike clean the house a little, then we packed up our gear, said more sad goodbyes and headed out on the drive home.
We made it back home a lot quicker than our trip out on Friday. Dylan was again very good in the car for so long, but he really appreciated a good run-around when we got home. We had a great time with everyone and we're all grateful to the Butler family for sharing their wonderful vacation house and all it's amenities. The nieces and nephews are so much fun and I'm glad to have the chance to hang out with them every once in awhile - even when they're teething. I wish everyone could have such a cool family...
P.S. Only some of these pics are mine; others I stole from Anne...
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