Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day 7: Kadomatsu, shopping, jogging

I spent the morning and early afternoon with Robin, who taught me how to make kadomatsu(sp?).  This is a traditional Japanese token to give friends and family on the new year.  Made of bamboo, pine boughs, rope, and (in the modern age) tape and hot glue, the quest to make kadomatsu began with step 0: chop down a 10+-foot bamboo stalk.  So manly.  We ended up with a total of seven kadomatsu of various sizes, which we would deliver to various family members and friends in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the ladies were shopping.

After everyone had reconvened in the early afternoon, Lauren and I set off on a mission.  Lauren wanted to repeat our accidentally long run from a few days before, but this time she wanted to:
  •  Run 4.1 miles on purpose instead of 3.5 miles accidentally.
  • Start and end the run at Island Snow Shave Ice, vendor of her favorite frozen treat
So, run we did!  We both agreed that 4 miles wasn’t all that much worse than our usual 2, especially when most of the run is alongside the beautiful shore at Lanikai.

Incidentally, Island Snow also received a visit from Obama back in August, and they let their current customers KNOW IT.  The pictures and newspaper clippings posted everywhere allowed us to ORDER what Barack ordered, even to SIT where Barack sat.  Wish I could say we were above such touristy behavior.  Turns out it was pretty fun.

In the evening, Lauren and I went on a nice date, which she planned as a surprise.  We ate in a restaurant perched upstairs in the Ala Moana mall’s Niemen Marcus.  Really delicious bread to start, and my lamb shank was top-notch.  Lauren gave them an A for effort and adventurousness, but said that the flavors in her dish (pork belly with mushrooms and some other goodies) just didn’t quite mesh together correctly.  Oh well!

After dinner, we stopped by the Formaggio restaurant and wine bar for a glass of wine and a bit of live local music.  We closed the place down (at 11 or so, but still), then headed home.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Day 5: North Shore and Turtle Beach

On Sunday, Ashley and Scott were scheduled to leave.  Will and I went for a quick, short run in the morning, which was abbreviated by 1. our concern that we might miss Ash and Scottie's departures, and 2. the impending rain, and 3. our sore, sore legs following the previous day's really long run.

Back in plenty of time, we said goodbye to my sister and headed out to meet my friend Linda at Bubbies, the local ice cream store that I worked at as a high schooler.

Will and I shared a huge slice of ice cream cake with chocolate, coffee, and Oreo ice cream, topped with fudge, sitting on an oreo cookie crust:

Really delicious.  Then off to the North Shore, where Linda recommended that we go to Turtle Beach.  Here's me with a picture with Brutus, the Hawaiian Sea Turtle:

Unfortunately I'm blinking.  Will and I took a dip in Brutus' bay, listened to the local volunteer tell us about the Hawaiian Sea Turtles' lifespans and habits (Brutus here is not dead, as I initially feared, but is sunning himself on the beach -- the warmth helps him digest his food, and the UV rays kill the algae growing on his back).  Brutus is more than 25 years old, and lives at Turtle Beach with 13 other fully mature adults, and over 100 juvenile turtles.  Amazing.

From Turtle Beach we went to Haleiwa Town in search of some food:

And found Kua Aina Burger, who served us 1/3 lb hamburgers with a half of an avocado sitting on top.  Delicious!

Finally, we went to the beach and took a couple of very romantic pictures:

And we headed for home.  But our day was not done yet.  As we were leaving, we noticed that there was a screw stuck in one of our tires.  The one mechanic's shop in Haleiwa was closed, so my wonderful enterprising boyfriend set out to change our tire.  A good Samaritan also stopped by to help us, and in a surprisingly small amount of time, we were off!  Here's a successful Will celebrating his victory:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Day 4: Golfing!

Following our day of shopping, we decided to have a day of exercise.  Will and I awoke wanting to take a run, so Mom and I plotted a pretty route: start near the soccer field by Times supermarket in Kailua town, where Mom was going to run, go to Lanikai, run around the Lanikai Loop, and then return home.  Here's our route:

View Larger Map

As you can see, the route we planned was not our usual 2 miles, but instead a whopping 4.6 miles.  We got most of the way through it before Mom, concerned by our long absence, got in the car and picked us up.  Thank goodness.

Then home for lunch, and we were off for our first golf lesson at the Olomana Golf Links.

The whole group joined us for a round of 3:00 twilight golfing:

Clearly some people just rode in the golf carts.

Golfing took us late into the evening, and we were all pretty tired and hungry.  We headed home where Ashley and Scott cooked us all up a dinner of delicious whole wheat crusted pizza, which was especially good with a healthy serving of Tabasco sauce.

Then, our bellies full and our bodies thoroughly tired, we went to sleep.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Day 3: Ala Moana Shopping and Black Out

On the day after Christmas, we awoke early to catch the sales at Ala Moana.  The plan was to hit Macy's early so that Mom and Dad could get Aloha shirts for the two guys.  Scottie found a nice light blue shirt immediately, but Will and I contemplated for a while; we could not seem to agree on a shirt.  Then we narrowed it down to five choices, and Ashley and Scott helped us pick the perfect one.

We continued shopping for the next few hours at Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom's, and then Ward Center.  Will and Dad got tired and went home; Mom, Ashley, Scott, and I continued to shop at Nordstrom Rack, where I finally got tired and retired to a cafe, where I read a book about Maui and ate a paper package of roasted chestnuts.  Finally our day of shopping was done.  Ashley had picked up a couple of shirts, and Mom found an unprecedented 3 shirts and 3 dresses (she usually buys little to nothing).

When we came home, Mom noticed the lights were flickering, and started heating up dinner as quickly as possible.  Sure enough, at about 8 in the evening, the electricity went out.  We huddled around camp lanterns and flashlights and listened for information on the radio:

Then we started a light in the fireplace and spent the rest of the evening roasting marshmallows.  I love marshmallows, so that was just fine with me.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Day 2: Christmas Day

After waking late on Christmas day, the first thing I did was video-chat with all the family back home in Tampa.  This was actually my first time seeing Anna since she's been expecting, which was really special.  The internet is amazing.  After hanging up the video-"phone," it was time to start the day in earnest.

Having turned each island "snack" into a meal -- and each family "meal" into a feast -- Lauren and I were happy to start Christmas Day with a short jog at the Kailua High School track.  I've seen people marketing lots of exercise programs on TV, but in my mind there's nothing quite so motivating as a 75-degree Hawaii morning, with a spritz of cool rain every now and then.  There's no way to stay cooped up with weather like that calling through the window!  And it sure beats the icy rain we'd been trudging through in Mountain View recently.

After the jog, we had breakfast, napped, and opened presents:

Then (erm) napped, had a brief food-tasting of the dinner trays we'd brought from the local Chinese restaurant (had to be sure there was no poison), CAT-napped, and then it was time for dinner itself.  Another dozen or so extended family members showed up, from Lauren's mom's side this time.  We had just the right amount of Chinese food to leave everyone pleasantly stuffed.  I especially liked the eggplant with noodles and pork.  Maybe the sweetest and juiciest eggplant I've ever had.

After dinner, it was time for another tradition: the gift grab-bag.  The rules as explained by Uncle Baron were simple, with rules #1 and #2 designed to avoid another ... incident:

  2. Don't get too attached to your gift.
  3. A gift can only be stolen once per round.
And with that, we were off.  Plotting, collusion, cutthroat maneuvering, and frequent shouts of "Don't get too attached!"  All in good fun, of course.

I ended up with a gift certificate to a local shopping center where Lauren and I were planning to eat dinner anyway, and Lauren got a Dark Knight DVD.  Along the way, other things passed through our hands, like $20 in Hawaii quarters and assorted dollar coins, and a large Ken Follet book with $10 tucked inside.  (I suspect the $10 was the primary motivation for the 9-year-old who swiped that book from me.  She gave the book back (minus cash) after all was said and done).

A fun tradition that brings folks together and keeps the gift-buying overhead reasonable in a large extended family.  I also found it to be a great meditation on the fickleness of fortune and the futility of attachment to physical things.  The 9-year-olds in the game weren't quite so philosophical as the gifts left their hands.  But to be fair, my allowance is bigger than theirs.

All in all, it was a lovely and warm Christmas with a whole bunch of lovely people.  Lauren is blessed to have such a close and friendly family, and I'm honored to share Christmas with them again this year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Day 1: Christmas Eve in Kailua, Hawaii

We flew to Hawaii to spend Christmas with Lauren's family once again this year.  Lauren took a very early flight on Monday morning, with me (Will) following along on Christmas Eve.  The Exit Row Gods (great band name, that) smiled upon me, and I got to stretch my legs out as I flew from cold(ish) California to heavenly Hawaii.

Lauren's family greeted me in early-afternoon Kailua with smiles, hugs, and a heap of very welcome leftovers to snack on.  Then, we jumped in the car to deliver presents and Christmas cheer to a few great-aunts and -uncles.

After delivering presents, we went back home for some pre-dinner napping (Will) and jogging (Super-Lauren).  Then, a dozen or so members of Lauren's extended family showed up for the annual tradition of Christmas Eve dinner and carol-singing.  There are so many talented musicians in Lauren's family!  We had multiple guitars going, a ukulele, and carefully copied sheet music for everyone.  Once again, I found myself wishing I'd practiced some of these songs beforehand.  Just a great time and a warm and wonderful tradition.

The singing finally wound down around midnight.  Once most of the revelers had left, we opened presents for and from Lauren's grandparents, who stayed late for the occasion.  What a wonderful (and full!) Christmas Eve.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Strongbadia Christmas Party 2008

After some time decorating we were finally ready for guests to arrive:

The house looked great.  I did food, Albert did lights, and Will hung the tall ornaments that you see on our windows.  Inspired by the Neiman Marcus butterflies, we used fish line, Walmart ornament hangers, and plastic blue and silver Christmas ornaments to create a "winter" scene (we decided NOT to go for red and green).  Here's a close-up of our window idea with Albert's candles in the foreground:

I also used Ellen's "lifts and lofts" idea -- place different shaped objects under a second table cloth -- to create a food table with some depth:

And here's Albert's birthday cake.  I was so excited about this new idea that I found on the back of a Betty Crocker cupcake box, and it turned out very cute -- colorful and easy to share.  However, right singing Happy Birthday, we had a miscommunication (read: Lauren did not communicate to others) and Albert told two of our friends to eat the top cupcake.  So this cake is perfect only in memory and in pictures:

We spent a while decorating.  Here's a picture of the mantle:

It was a crowded party, with about 40 total folks, and mixed Albert's friends from work, Will's friends from work, our friends from Strongbadia, and my friends all together.  At its height there was almost no place to sit:

Altogether a great time.  You can view Albert's complete pictures here on his Smugmug.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Lazy Chicken" and steamed kale

For dinner last night, Lauren picked a favorite Rachel Ray recipe, the "lazy chicken."  We also steamed some kale with bacon (thanks to The Joy of Cooking for that one).

Tasty.  Nothing much to say, except that I dream of someday being able to make one of "Rachel Ray's 30-Minute Meals" in under 30 minutes.  Our record at this point is somewhere around 60...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Uncle Chuck's sauce recipe

By popular request, here's the recipe for Uncle Chuck's spaghetti sauce:

  • 2.5 lbs ground chuck
  • Ragu spaghetti sauce, 1 lg (48 oz) and 1 medium (27.7 oz) jar.
  • 2 large onions
  • cooking sherry
  • 12-oz Hunts tomato paste
  • sugar
  • 1 box chopped fresh mushrooms
Brown beef and drain in colander.  Dice the onions.  Brown the onions in butter and 1/2 cup sherry in a large pot.  At the end of browning, add mushrooms.  Add the tomato paste, 8-12 tbsp sugar, 1/3 bottle of sherry and the Ragu.  (Use some of the sherry to rinse out the Ragu jars).  Add the meat.

Cook over LOW heat (be sure it does not burn) for several hours.

Serve over thin vermicelli.

Uncle Chuck's spaghetti sauce

When I was growing up, Uncle Chuck's spaghetti sauce was a go-to dish in Mom's kitchen.  We never got tired of it, and we didn't really understand why anyone ever put any other kind of sauce on their pasta, not when Uncle Chuck's was an option.

So, brimming with childhood memories after the trip to Georgia, and feeling ambitious after our recent culinary successes, I decided to try making the sauce myself.  I couldn't help hyping it up to Lauren, Bill, and Albert.  But after all these years ... could the sauce really hold up?

Could it?

The answer is a resounding YES.

An unprecedented quad thumbs-up for Uncle Chuck's spaghetti sauce.  It turns out that sherry and beef are like the cheat codes for sauce cooking, and this sauce is largely comprised of sherry and beef.

The oddest thing about the experience was that this sauce tasted like my birthday.  I don't just mean that the sauce was as delicious as birthdays are wonderful.  I mean that Mom made this sauce whenever she was hoping to pamper us kids (birthdays, exams, etc.).  I was surprised at how strong the association was; it hit me with the first bite.

So: Great sauce.  Great memories attached.  And easy to cook, too!  I'm glad I had a chance to introduce a new batch of friends to it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Pie and a Soup (Key Lime Pie and Three Bean and Pasta Soup)

Thanks to Ellen and John, we had key limes from the Will and Anna tree, brought to Georgia and then back to California:

And to the left you can see the adorable cookbook that Ellen made for Will when he left for college.  From these key limes I made a pie:

Which looks just delicious here, but BEWARE!  I did not know that key lime juice freezes well, so I tried to use all of the key limes in the pie ... which made for a very, very tangy pie.  Part of the fun was watching people's faces about five seconds after taking that first bite.  Whew!

Also for dinner, Three Bean and Pasta soup, a recipe taken from the back of a can of Anne's Organic Soup at Whole Foods (actually the canned soup is terrible, but it gave me ideas of what to include:


Cook some pasta -- not the whole bag; it expands.  Drain and rinse.

Chop and saute in olive oil:
1 small onion
Some celery
Slices of spicy sausage

Boil for a while in chicken broth.  Then add thinly sliced potatoes.  Boil some more.  Then add cans of three beans (cannellini beans, kidney beans, pinto beans), can of crushed tomatoes, chopped kale leaves.  Heat.  Right before serving, add the pasta and heat.

Woot!  Delicious!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Martha Stewart's Summer Corn Chowder

The beautiful thing about this Martha Stewart corn chowder is that everything in it is fresh:

Fresh potatoes, fresh corn off of the cob (could not find fresh yellow corn, so I used white corn), fresh celery, poblano chili, fresh thyme from my garden.  Will suggested that we add a dash of Tabasco sauce, and that made it PERFECT.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Georgia Trip Day 5: The Georgia Pig

Day five of the Georgia trip and we were sad to see it come to an end.  I had a fantastic time meeting Will's family, eating delicious foods, and seeing a new place.

We packed up the house and prepared to leave.  The rocking chairs had to come in from the porch, and John and Ellen packed a bag of the key limes from the Will and Anna tree, which I carefully stored in my carry-on luggage.

On the way from Sea Island to the Jacksonville airport, we stopped by at the Georgia Pig, a small brown shack with pictures of Elvis Presley hanging on the walls amidst more pig paraphernalia than I could ever imagine.  It was the best BBQ I have ever eaten: a tangy pork pressed sandwich with extra BBQ sauce in squirt bottles on the table, coleslaw, baked beans, and sweet tea.  We paused to take a picture outside:

Click through and you can see the "GA Pig" sign above the rocking chairs.

We had a fantastic trip and cannot wait to return.  Love, Will and Lauren

Georgia Trip Day 4: Sea Island

A lazy Saturday in Sea Island.  The weatherman predicted rain, so we'd already squeezed in all of our outdoor activities on Friday.  That left Saturday as the perfect day for catching up on sleep.  Still woke up around 9am.  Dad had prepared "Grits Lauren," which is made with chicken stock, a little garlic, and some sauteed leeks.  Grandbetty and other grits traditionalists (like me) don't know what to make of it, but Lauren can't get enough.  More of a fancy polenta than grits at that point.  Tasty enough in my opinion, but I think Lauren would eat it every morning if she could.

After breakfast, Lauren and I again jogged down to the beach, where we ran into Lee, Betsy, and Elizabeth.  They told us that the walk along the beach to the jetty was very nice.  It didn't look too far, so off we went.

Well, objects on the beach can be much farther than they appear.  By the time we got to the jetty, we were worried about making it home in time to say goodbye to Grandbetty and the other Robinsons leaving on Saturday.  So, we ran the half-mile or so along the beach in addition to the expected run home.  Running on the beach is hard work!

We arrived home to find that we still had hours before the crew was heading back to Atlanta.  So we showered up.  Emerging from the shower, I found out that after a hard run, what Lauren wanted more than ANYTHING was ... well, it was more grits.  So we had some more grits, leftover tomato soup, some of Grandbetty's Seven-Vegetable Salad, and biscuits.

After lunch, Lauren and I visited with Grandbetty and my parents on the back porch, and snapped a few photos in the back yard:

Then, it was time to say goodbye to Grandbetty and the Lee Robinson family as they drove back to Atlanta.

After seeing them off, we headed up to the Beach Club to relax, read our books, and (in Lauren's case) down another Coke float:

We quickly ran home to change for dinner.  Here's Lauren and I on the joggling board:

We then made our way to the Lodge on St. Simon's island to listen to the bagpiper at dusk and sip cocktails.

Then we drove a short distance to the Georgia Sea Grill.  Really good bread to start, then tasty fish all around the table (so they tell me), and a chicken piccata for me.

Last stop was in front of the TV at home, where we watched the movie version of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, mainly for the thrill of seeing a movie filmed largely in the house we'd just visited.

Grandbetty's Seven-Vegetable Salad recipe

A big hit with Lauren, and pretty easy to make from the sound of things:

Drain and mix:

  • 1 can LeSeurs baby English peas.
  • 2 cans cut green beans (after cutting them a bit more).
  • 1 oz. white niblit corn (canned).
  • 1 small jar pimento.
  • 3 or 4 good pieces of celery (chopped)
  • 2 packages of scallions (chopped, without the white part).
  • 1 yellow pepper (chopped).
Create marinade of:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
Warm the marinade just until sugar dissolves (don't boil).  Mix marinade with veggies.  Leave in fridge at least overnight.  Drain, then serve.  Keeps for about a week.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Georgia Trip Day 3: Sea Island

Good morning! The day started with a breakfast of biscuits, bacon, grapefruit, and oranges and the Wall Street Journal. Then off to shooting with Will, a real treat at Sea Island.

Here's Will waiting to shoot and looking very manly and handsome with that shotgun broken across his knees:

The guys at the Sea Island shooting school were very kind; Will had taken shooting lessons from Frank, a shooting school instructor who ran the place for 60 years, and one of the guys manning the front told Will that Frank and his father had been hunting buddies. It was quite manly. Our instructor, Jimmy, gave careful instructions about leaning into the gun, pointing smoothly and steadily, and keeping my right cheek tight against the top of the gun so that it would follow my line of sight.

Here's me in my tennis skirt, looking much less manly than Will, more like a ballet dancer with a big gun:

The clays flew over the golden marshes and I almost felt like a real hunter going to face the wild. Jimmy was such an expert coach that he was able to figure out that my gun moved erratically when the clays went to my left side; from this, he deduced that my right eye was stronger, and advised me to close my weaker left eye. This was so helpful that my consistency improved immediately. When I complimented Will on his excellent shooting, Will said that it was from playing video games -- and Jimmy said that, although people laugh, it's true. Video games will improve your shooting.

Then off to the tennis courts. I had never seen clay courts before, so this was new and fun -- kind of like playing on coarse, tightly packed dark green sand.  I am a terrible tennis player but love chasing after the ball so much (I swear I was a cocker spaniel in a former life) and Will is nice enough to be very patient with me.  AND I got to wear the preppiest, most pink-and-sea-green outfit in my life, and it was not a bit out of place -- people REALLY dress like this here!  I was overjoyed:

Then we showered and joined Ellen and John at the Beach Club for lunch.
The Beach Club is beautiful -- it looks something like the beach lobby at a major hotel such as the Four Seasons on Lana'i might look -- lots of beautiful open space and huge sprawling pools.  John had found some boiled peanuts and I was thrilled to eat them.  Lunch was at Big George's, named after a long-time employee of Sea Island, whom we got to meet on the way over.  George had huge black-and-white pictures all over the walls of the restaurant, some nearly lifesized, in different areas of the resort -- handing ice cream to kids, or standing in a suit under the palms, or lording over the salad bar.  It was really something.  I had a swordfish sandwich with fried green tomatoes.
Then a restful afternoon at the Beach Club.  We spent some time reading outside of the Beach Club Coffee Shop, then took a few minutes to walk down to the shoreline and look at the water.  Apparently baby Will and Anna spent many hours body surfing in this water, and Will and I spent some time reminiscing.  After a stop at the ice cream shop at my request (a rootbeer float -- a classic and still the best), we returned to the Robinson's house at Sea Island.

For dinner we went to Halyards, a nice place with delicious wine and the best steak that Will has eaten since Bern's in Florida:

All in all, a great day with lots accomplished!  Tomorrow perhaps drinks and bagpipes!

Georgia Trip Day 2: Thanksgiving Day

We had a lovely Thanksgiving Day in Sea Island.  Lauren and I began the day with an easy run to the beach - one mile each way, with a lot of beach-wandering in the middle.  Lauren's puppy-summoning superpower was evident once again, as the beach was completely empty except for a lone old man and his adorable puppy.
Lauren also marveled at some large horseshoe crabs washed up on the beach, claiming she'd never seen anything like them:
After the run, we got cleaned up and had a simple breakfast.  Dad read aloud from the Mayflower's post-Thanksgiving journal (reprinted in the Wall Street Journal each year).  Then, lots of quiet reading and working time at home until lunchtime, when the smells of Aunt Betsy's tomato soup called us to the kitchen.

After lunch, Lauren and I grabbed a car and visited historic Fort Frederica, where Anna and I had spent many childhood afternoons wondering how the adults could spend so much time looking at old stuff.

Lots of personal touches and exposed, original home foundations made me feel surprisingly connected to people who had lived out their lives here so long ago.

On the way home from Frederica, Lauren "politely asked" if we might be able to find some coffee.  iPhone to the rescue.  We managed to find the one coffeeshop on St. Simon's Island still open at 4:30pm on Thanksgiving: Palm Coast Coffee.  And what a coffeeshop it turned out to be!  Owner had stories from prep school in Menlo Park, CA.  Coffee was amazing.  Jazz music set just the right tone.  The couches were cozy; the ocean, near.  We curled up with our books and sipped away until it was time to go home and prep for dinner.

Dinner was at the newly revamped Cloister, which switched to a buffet this year.  The buffet was expansive and delicious.  I think Lauren may have had sweet potatoes and sweet (SWEET!) tea at every single meal since arriving in Georgia.  (They're trying to make up for a lifetime deprived of those delicacies, I think).  Thanksgiving favorites of turkey+stuffing were right at home next to local treats like Brunswick stew and pralines for dessert.  Brunswick stew might have been the best I've had.

We took a short walk through the Cloister after dinner, spending a few minutes gawking at the meeting table used at the 2004 G8 summit held in Sea Island.  The Cloister has kept one room exactly as I remember from childhood, but everything else is new.  Doesn't seem much better or worse to me, just different.

Lauren, Mom, Dad, Grandbetty and I passed on the post-dinner bingo game, and headed home for some conversation and an early bedtime.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Georgia Trip Day 1: Savannah

Travel to Georgia! Yesterday Will and I spent a long time on the plane -- several hours to Cincinnati and them one to Jacksonville, Florida -- and I got to see the acrobatics of poor 6' 7" Will fold into an airplane seat for several hours.  We look pretty happy here:

But don't be fooled; Will at this point is pretty tired.  I on the other hand slept just fine for nearly the whole ride.
We rode to Sea Island in the dark, and I was struck by the golden wheat-colored marsh grass and the Spanish moss hanging from all the trees.

In the morning we travelled to Savannah, Georgia, which was very exciting because I had just finished Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, a journalist from New York who lived in Savannah and wrote character sketches of the people living there in order to give a sense of the place.
Our first stop was Mrs. Wilkes' House, a former boarding house that served such delicious food around the family-style table that visitors began just showing up for the meals.  We all sat at a huge table of about ten, with two other families, and passed around perhaps twenty dishes filled with Southern food, such as beige-colored black-eyed peas, lima beans, sweet potato mash with a little bit of spicyness, sweet sweet tea, corn biscuits, hot greens with vinegar and peppers, rice with gravy, barbeque, carrot salad, potato salad, stuffing, and of course the famous fried chicken (Mrs. Wilkes' motto: "If the colonel made chicken this good, he'd be a general.")

We had a fantastic time and left the restaurant stuffed.

Then for a walk around the town to Mercer House, which was in a book I just finished.  The author John Berendt was a journalist from New York who lived in Savannah, Georgia and wrote character sketches of the people living there in order to give a sense of the place.  The main plot of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil revolves around Mercer House, whose owner, Jim Williams, was an antique restorer who was wealthy, fashionable, and probably gay.  Williams shot and killed his young male lover in the study of Mercer House, was acquitted after trials spanning several years, and then a year later also died of a sudden heart attack in the same room.

We took a tour of the house, looking at all of Williams' beautiful antiques and glamorous party pictures, and even got to see the infamous study.  This is Will and I in front of Mercer House.

 We closed the day with a visit to a cute shop called the Paris Market that Ellen found online.  In the back of the shop next to a sunny window was a cafe, where Will and I enjoyed some (needed) caffinated drinks and I ate a gigantic lemon marshmallow.

Then back to Sea Island.  We arrived just in time to meet Will's grandmother, as well as Aunt Betsy, Uncle Lee, and cousins Elizabeth, John, and Caroline.  Ellen had a beautiful table prepared, with foliage from around the house and nearby landscapes, and we enjoyed another delicious meal of vegetables, pork, and rolls.  It was an amazing day.