Nights (and Days) in Rodanthe


We're back from our end-of-summer trip to the Outer Banks! We rented a house on the beach with six adults and four kids and had one of the best times of our lives -- so much so that we are already planning on making this an annual thing. Our house was in Rodanthe, at the northern end of Hatteras Island, and made famous(ish) by the Nicholas Sparks movie that was filmed there. In fact, our house was right next to the house featured in the movie (which none of us had actually seen), which we realized only after a few days of wondering at people posing for photos in front of it.

 So of course we had to, too. 

Rodanthe has kind of a laid back vibe -- it's like Duck or Corolla but without the super-upscale feel, like Nags Head used to be when I visited it as a kid. Lots of houses and little shops, not too built up (yet?) The built up thing is a double-edged sword at times, though -- the nearest grocery store was almost 20 miles away and so it was a pain every time we realized we'd forgotten something (um, DIAPERS?)

Rain was called for every day of the trip, but we ended up having a good amount of beach time, nonetheless. The rain also gave us the excuse to explore a little bit more than we might have otherwise. We hit the lighthouse and a museum. The girls did a little bit of thrifting and antiquing, the guys took the kayaks out and fished. And in between the showers we did find time to check off a New Year's Resolution or two.

Flying a kite on the beach: check. 

Some other reflections from our week off: 

1. Coordinating four kids' bedtimes ain't no joke. Some nights looked like this, we let them run until they dropped.

2. Be sure to catch a bonafide Hatteras sunset or two, on the days it isn't raining. (This was the view from our kitchen window -- it made doing dishes a lot more palatable).

3. Speaking of rainy days, don't put too much stock in what the weatherman says. These pics were taken on a day with a predicted 100% chance of rain.

Yes, that is James reading the Brangelina wedding edition of People mag.

4. Driving on the beach is harder than it looks. But who doesn't like an adventure? 

5. I'm pretty sure that we have the best friends ever. At the very least, the most photogenic. 

This wasn't a true 12 in 12 since I took these photos over the course of a week. I've been slacking on this project lately, sorry sorry. Luckily Darcy and Rebecca won't let you down. Click on over to their blogs see how they spent their day in the life. 

P.S.: I have a few more Hatteras posts coming up. In the meantime, there are more photos of our trip on Instagram

Homemade Saltwater Taffy


You know how in old novels people are always spending a wild Saturday night taffy pulling with their friends? A few weeks ago, simply because we have run out of things to do, it's been a long summer, Anouk and I decided to try it. She's really into cooking lately, and I'm always up for eating something delicious. And it turns out taffy candy is a great thing to make with little ones who want to try making something a little more advanced than celery boats or Watergate salad but still beginner level. There are bubbles! Thermometers! Lots of stirring and rolling! It's kind of a gateway recipe to actual cooking.

We decided on saltwater taffy (because isn't that one of the best parts of a beach vacation?) and used the recipe found here as our jumping off point.

Funfetti Saltwater Taffy (adapted from the Cupcake Project)


1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Candy thermometer
Sprinkles of your choice


Butter a shallow baking dish. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, corn syrup, butter, water, and vanilla in saucepan, mix to combine, and set on the stove over medium-high heat. Heat until the mixture begins to boil and the candy thermometer reads 265 degrees (or the hard-ball stage, if you don't have a thermometer and are winging it, which means that a little of the hot syrup, dropped into cold water, will form a hard ball but will still flatten if you try to squish it).

NOTE: The original recipe called for a lower temperature and a softer taffy but I was worried it might not be taffy-like enough and upped the temp. The result is a very chewy candy that is the texture of a Sugar Baby -- you may want to watch out for loose teeth when eating!

Once the candy has reached 265 degrees, pour into the buttered baking dish and cover with a layer of sprinkles. When the candy cools is cool enough to handle, scoop it out onto waxed paper and begin to pull. This basically means you pull it toward you, fold it back over on itself, and do it again. Continue for about 10 minutes -- the candy will lighten in color and become harder to work as you go.

Roll the taffy into a rope and, with buttered scissors, cut into pieces, which you can then wrap in wax paper (or else they will stick together). I let Anouk do some of the cutting so we ended up with pieces of nonuniform size -- about 35-40 of them in all. We ate most of them and gave some to our friends. They went fast!

Good luck to everybody starting school today! Here's to a fabulous first day for a wonderful year.

Washed Ashore at the Virginia Aquarium


There's just about a month left to see the Washed Ashore exhibit at the Virginia Aquarium in Virginia Beach and it's one that definitely needs to be seen. The giant sculptures that make up the exhibit -- a friendly seal, giant jellyfish, massive coral reefs -- are, at a distance, beautiful and whimsical. But as you look closer and start to pick out familiar objects -- bottle caps, fishing bobbers, soda bottles -- you realize that they are all made out of trash washed up on the beach. And the scope of how polluted are oceans have become is even more striking.

We appreciated how interactive the exhibit was -- you can touch and play with most of the pieces, including a set of drums made of huge blocks of styrofoam (which was fun, but imagining these littering the shore of our favorite beaches is just mind-boggling). There were also stations scattered around the room where visitors could see the effect of all of the trash on the animals and plants that live in the ocean, and a table showing off some of the stranger things that have been pulled out of the waves (shoe skeletons, what?)

The volunteers who assembled the Washed Ashore exhibit did a great job in creating something beautiful and powerful out of something ugly and pretty awful, and in fostering awareness through art. It's definitely worth a look.

The Washed Ashore exhibit will be at the Virginia Aquarium through September 28 and is free with admission.

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