My 41st High School Reunion

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I didn't attend my own ten year high school reunion, but this past weekend I had the pleasure of attending my dad's 41st high school reunion.

Not his 40th. His 41st. The 40th was last year but the entire class of 1976 agreed it was a total bummer so they tried for round two this year. And boy am I glad they did.

"Sounds fun, but I'll have to pass," was my initial reaction when my parents suggested I go along with them last Friday evening.

"It's not even the actual reunion, that's tomorrow! It's just a few people we know that will be having drinks at this one bar," my dad lied.

"Yes, it's just drinks! We don't really even know for sure if people will be there," my mom lied, as well.

So against my better judgment, I agreed to go along for "just drinks."

Cut to five minutes later when I'm walking into a bar with my parents to what is clearly a high school reunion for the class of 1976. All eyes suddenly turn toward the "newest people" entering the room, their faces scanning ours anxious to recognize who we might be, a reaction pretty typical for a reunion, I imagine.

And at that same moment the strangers from 1976 were recognizing my parents, I was recognizing myself. An "adult child" attending a high school reunion with her parents on a Friday night. I was wearing an off the shoulder top, tight jeans, and tall wedges- an overall look which definitely made the situation worse, as if I was saying Hey class of 1976, I'm here to impress! Let's party!

Oh God no, I thought to myself as I slunk away to the corner. But there were no safe corners to be found. '76 classmates were everywhere rehashing the good ol days. I turned to hide behind my parents but they had already left me. Perhaps to have their own high school conversations with former classmates? Or because now they were also embarrassed to be seen with the sad woman-child attending a reunion that was not her own.

I had two choices at that point. Walk the two miles back to my parents house in a town where NO ONE walks. It's just not something you do in Norfolk. I knew that if I chose this option it would entail three things:

1. catcalls from men in pickup trucks.
2. honks from teenagers being teenagers.
3. and at some point a police officer will pullover and ask me if I'm "alright and do I need a ride?" Because as stated, no one walks in this town.

Option 2: take a shot and make the best of it.

I chose option two. And you'll never guess what I learned...

Nancy Scranton lives in Overland Park now. She's doing really well and has five grandchildren! Can you believe that?  Although she doesn't get to see them as much as she'd like. She offers to go to St. Louis and babysit, but her youngest Joel, (you know Joel, right? The one with the hair) anyway his wife prefers an "au pair..." rather than Nancy. More to come on that!

And get this! Tom Paulson has a sleeve. Two of them! He started his right arm when he and his wife got married and finished his left when they got divorced. But let him tell the story, it's a real knee slapper. His bicep is obviously when things got pretty messy between the two of them.

Sheila Swanson didn't come back. Imagine that. Shiesty Sheila Swanson. Although it's Wysett now. It's her second husband... Not that that matters. She said she had a wedding to attend, but according to Facebook she was clearly at home. I don't know what that's all about, she's always acted too-cool-for-school so no shocker there.

Randy and Lynette Sleevers broke up. I know, I know. They seemed so good at the 30 year. It's always sad when high school sweethearts part ways. Apparently all of their kids left home and they realized they didn't have much in common anymore. Such a shame. They were Homecoming royalty. I'm sure you remember.

Let's see what else... Did you hear about Patricia Duvall? Major plastic surgery. It's okay. Do what you want to feel good, I personally would never alter my face. But, I have no judgement. Although I'd never do it.

Oh! And Paul Krowski and Janelle Fitz were getting very friendly by the end of the night. They're both divorcees. Paul's always been a flirt though so no one was really surprised.

Like Nancy pointed out, if it wasn't Janelle it would have been Sheila (if she would have come.) Sheila and Paul dated in high school which is interesting because Sheila and Janelle were best friends. Nancy knew those two always ran around with eachother's boyfriends. Not that Nancy cares. God no. That's probably just the wine talking.

Nancy doesn't drink much anymore because she's on some juice cleanse Joel's wife sells on Facebook. But don't get Nancy started on Joel's wife.

Are we done? We're done.

Class of 1976: 41st High School Reunion! Best one I've been to yet.

*some of the above events were made up. some were not. literally does not matter either way.* 

Lazy Girl's Guide To Sprucing Up Furniture

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What to do with the space next to our living room ... Another sitting area, or a dining room? Just another tough decision in the world of being an adult.

I can imagine myself as a kid being asked this and my response would most definitely be, WHO CARES? LET'S GO PLAY.

Unfortunately I am no longer a kid, so I do care now. I care a lot.

I simply don't work well when our house is out of order, it's messes with my energy. I know that sounds weird but it does. So today my mission is to get our house set correctly, or at the very least, better than it is now.

Let's take a look at what I'm facing, shall we? Example 1: sitting room before.

Example 2: sitting room becomes dining room. ish.

Use your imagination here. (I took this pic a second ago and obviously didn't clean up anything.)

We need a more colorful rug. Recover the chairs. Add another navy chair so it's two and two. Different wall decor. Cool place settings. Cool stuff in the hutch. Cool light fixture. Basically more cool everything.

My mom purchased this mid century table and hutch for us as a Christmas gift and we love the pieces, but it needed a little sprucing up. And so I discovered Danish Oil, which is a miracle worker!

Left side shows the Danish oil, right side does not. Right side also shows my phone shadow as I'm clearly a professional furniture photographer.

Danish Oil is like the lazy girl's guide to refinishing furniture. Here's how you use it:

1. Dust/Clean furniture.
2. Pour oil on rag.
3. Wipe rag on furniture.
4. Repeat.

Some people were blessed with the DIY gene. I was not. The furthest I go with my crafting skills is using puffy paint on photo frames and then pouring glitter all over the top. I painted a dresser once and five years later every single drawer is still stuck shut. It's just not my thing.

All that said, I think my strongest decor skill is that I'm not tied to anything. If I get this room completely done and realize it doesn't work, well then we start over. It's annoying, but trial and error is the only way I get things to work around here.

So my question is... do we keep a sitting room - I'll update the white swirl chairs, possibly with these Phoebe chairs that I think are really fun.

I love our clover coffee table (seen in pic two) but it disappears where it is now, so I'm already planning to move it into our main living room (as seen below, I put it there just to "stage a pic" as bloggers say, because I'm fancy like that.) But now it will be moved for good.

PS- just saw it's on sale for only $209 now. The piece is even better in person!

Or... Or do I go all in with a mid century inspired dining room?

Pics are blurry because I grabbed them straight from Pinterest, I can't figure out how to source them as they all came from a board named "The High Boy." So if they're yours, let me know and I'll add the proper tag.

Decisions. Decisions.

I'm off to see what I can find. First stop will probably be Home Goods. Then Cb2 to day dream about these beauties. And I'll end with a stop a stop at West Elm.

Dining room or sitting room.... WHAT DO YOU THINK?

The Mystery of Dads and Air Conditioning

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Anyone else feeling that heat wave right now?

In honor of Father's Day this weekend, I'm making the trek back to Nebraska to stay at my parent's house for a few days. And I am praying the weather cools off, because "do you know what it costs to cool an old house? DO YOU?" 

A fortune.

Or "stock in the electric bill." If you don't know what that means, well neither do I. It was something I always heard growing up when I refused to shut off lights, keep fans running all day, or God forbid leave the back door open for longer than a second when the air was supposedly on.

"Were you raised in a barn?" My dad would ask, followed by, "the A.C. is running!"

Is it, dad? IS IT? Because this house feels like it's 104 degrees. 

Sorry, this is clearly a ... dare I say heated subject for me. I've been fighting the air problem at my parents house since the early 90s. Since I was about five years old and was certain my dad had sensors on the thermostat because no matter where he was in the house, or in the state of Nebraska, he somehow always knew when my little fingers were about to reach up and turn that nob down a notch.

"What are you doing?" He'd suddenly pop out of the floorboards, or the vents, who knows where he was hiding, but he knew what I was about to do. He always knew.

"Nothing," I'd lie and scamper off, once again unsuccessful at turning that magical little Honeywell nob.

In older homes the air control isn't ran by buttons, but an actual circular nob you turn left to right. I'm not sure if "nob" is the correct term, I just know Honeywell is the maker because that's what it reads in the middle and as a kid I'd always stare at it and think, "honey, well this isn't working."

In the thick of a Nebraska summer, when it was still 95 degrees and humid at 10 p.m., my sister, brother, and myself, would actually lay sheets down in my parents room and sleep on their floor, because a floor was a better option than our stifling hot beds. Also, their room was the coldest in the house... imagine that. They claim it's because their room was a part of the "new addition," but I think the verdict is still out on that one.

You ever have those childhood memories that you don't realize are really kinda weird until you look back on them 20 years later? That's one of them for me. And yet it was so completely normal at the time.

But I digress.

My parents have gotten a little better with the air. A little. I'll be able to give you a full update in about eight hours.

And just to be safe, I'm packing a misting tent with me to set up in my old room. A room that is now a mix of my old high school memorabilia plus my dad's elliptical plus my mom's gift wrapping accessories.

Back to my parents house I go!

48 Hours In Cape Cod and Boston

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Striped Cardigan//  Espadrille Sneakers

What do you do when you basically have only 48 hours to spend in both Cape Cod and Boston?

Find all of the oysters and chowda you can and go to town. And we did just that.

I'd never been to either place before, but consider myself an expert now on both locations so I'll proceed to give you a guide on how to do it right. (Jk.) Well jk about being an expert, but I really will tell you exactly what we did because we packed a lot in and it was an awesome trip- one I'd definitely do again.

First things first. We flew into Boston Thursday night; but due to traffic, construction, and me being afraid to drive in the dark, we didn't actually get to the Cape until well after 1:30 a.m., which was less than enjoyable.

We went straight to our friend's house in Chatham and crashed. It wasn't until I woke up the next day when I was able to see we were staying in the epitome of what I've always imagined gorgeous Cape Cod homes to look like. Weathered grey shingles, brightly colored doors, perfectly aligned windows on each side, it was everything I hoped for and more. I'd visit here again simply to admire the beautiful homes.

Day 1 Plan: Hang out at the Beachcomber- a favorite spot for the locals we were told.

What actually happened: Beachcomber was randomly closed due to a fundraiser, so we drove to Provincetown, instead.

This place was awesome! We had oysters and drinks near the water, walked up and down the quaint little streets, and popped into a few boutique hotels for some chowder. I suggest stopping by The Red Inn.

Before heading back to the Lyons household, we made a pit stop so the guys could get on paddle boards while Hannah and I watched from the comfort of dry land, drinks in hand.

Day 1 evening plan: hang out at the Chatham Squire.

What actually happened: We never actually left the house after dinner because someone fell asleep early (me.) I've told you I'm a 10-hours-of-sleep kinda girl.

Day two went according to plan, for the most part. The guys golfed while Hannah and I walked the main street of Chatham and shopped a bit.

For lunch we had more oysters and chowder (probably the best chowder I've ever had in my life) at The Squire before heading into Boston.

Since we didn't get into the city until around 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, we spent the majority of our time walking around Newbury street before making our way toward Fenway.

I often rank stadiums based on their food and Fenway comes in at number one. I bought a $25 lobster roll that was worth every dollar. I would have taken a photo of said lobster roll to prove just how delicious it was, but I devoured that thing in less than thirty seconds.

And that concludes our 48 hour getaway. I wish we had more time in Boston, but Harlow was calling my name back in Chicago. If only he could travel with us...

Have you ever been to Boston? What should we do on our next trip?

Wedding Advice I Wish Someone Gave Me: Do's and Don'ts

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Last year at this time I was making daily trips to BHLDN in an effort to find last minute wedding accessories.

Jewelry, shoes, cards, gifts, what else did I need? I didn't know and that was the problem. But there was always something I came home with, swearing to myself, "this is the final wedding thing I'm buying..." (It never was.) Up until the day of our ceremony I had packages being delivered to the resort where we were staying in Steamboat.

I've stopped thinking about our wedding as much as I used to, which I'm pretty sure is a good thing. It was getting kind of unhealthy there for awhile.

The post wedding blues hit me harder than expected. I'm not sure what this says about me about as a person, probably nothing that great... I just wasn't given much warning about the come-down after it's all over, so Brides-To-Be, here I am giving you a heads up, the days, weeks, even a few months after the "best day of your life" will be kinda hard. If you're like me, you may feel a little blue and sad and you're not sure why. It's like you're homesick, or missing an old friend.

I think it's because you put so much time and effort and emotion (and daydreaming) into this one day and then boom it's over.

Almost every night last year, I would go to bed fantasizing about how great our wedding week in Steamboat would be. That's weird, yes? Probably something I shouldn't admit in public like this. But it's the truth. I just couldn't wait to have all of family and friends in the same place.

And it lived up to it.

But before I fall down the rabbit hole, my intention for this post today was to give you a quick list of Do's and Don'ts for your wedding day. Things I'm glad I did, things I wish I didn't do.

Do: get a videographer.
We went back and forth on this. Does it really matter? Is it worth? Should we just skip it...
I'm so happy we didn't skip it. The day goes by too damn fast and you'll wish you had more than just photos and memories. You can see our highlight reel here. Ross Wooten, the videographer we went with, was amazing and affordable (and he travels!)

Don't: Wait until the last minute to write your cards and wrap your gifts.
I did this and it was so annoying. It was the last thing I wanted to do which was unfortunate because I usually love writing cards. But I was so busy and overwhelmed, I didn't care as much as I wished I did. My suggestion- take care of all this 1-2 weeks before.

Do: give your phone to one of your bridesmaids and have her handle all incoming texts and calls the day of. Give it to someone authoritative. I've read it's poor etiquette to text a bride on her wedding day with anything other than well wishes (and I completely agree, it may sound diva like, but it's true) and yet people will still do it.

what time does this start? how do we get there? where should we park? can I get a ride? can I bring my horse? can I wear a clown outfit? I don't like chicken. is it open bar? what is a wedding?

*wedding guests, DON'T TEXT THE BRIDE on her wedding day. see how heated I get about this one? Even a year later...*

Do: plan for plenty of photo time. Plan extra, in fact. We did not and we felt rushed and this is another thing that still kinda irritates me looking back.

Don't: wear your hair down if your ceremony and reception are outdoors in the middle of the summer. But if you insist on it like I did, just don't look in a mirror... I had no idea I looked like a hot mess one hour in.
*edit: do whatever the hell you want regarding hair and makeup. only you know what makes you feel like a knockout- whatever that is, do that! 

Do: take photos with your bridesmaids on a bed drinking champagne. Why? Because it was FUN. Shorty sets from Love Ophelia and I still wear mine to this day.

In fact, make a list of the exact photos you want. Scan pinterest for your favs and send them to your photographer. (I did this.) Sound crazy? Maybe a little. But I got the shots I wanted.

Don't: restrict yourself on having fun because you don't want to look tired in your pics. Guys, that's why we have photoshop. The week leading up to our wedding I got about three hours of sleep every night because my adrenaline was pumping all day, every day. I don't regret a thing (as far as fun goes.) It was the best week of my life.

Do: mental present checks with yourself. As in, "Taylor, are you 100% present right now? If not, float back to earth, please." Sounds weird, but I did this with myself the entire week of my wedding. It forced me to be 100% in the moment. It didn't make time slow down (which I hoped it might) but it allowed me to really live in it and soak up as much as I could.

And that's about enough for today. With our one year anniversary approaching I'll probably slip back into wedding mode and write 100 more posts about it. Are we all cool with this? Great! In the meantime, if you want more wedding posts just look below!

Changes In T-Shirt Town

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

July marks three years since I created my first t-shirt.

Over the past three years I've done a lot of trial and error figuring out what works and what doesn't. Some designs sell, some don't. Some advertising is well worth it, others I've wasted money on. And most time consuming; I've played around quite a bit with different sites/platforms for hosting my shop.

I'm about 24 hours away from launching my newest site and I'm really excited to share it with you. Unlike my others, I've personally put the most time into this one, and have taught myself the backend of it so I don't have to rely on someone else all of the time.

I've spent several hours every night trying to get it just perfect. (According to me.)

That being said, it's not perfect. I was never that kid who colors inside the lines. "Attention to detail" is not my strong suit. So a web designer I am not.

I'm pretty sure certain things that have taken me 3-4 hours to get correct, would have taken someone who knows what they're doing a mere thirty minutes. But I've learned from my other sites (and other mistakes) that I have to know how to do this stuff, even if my photos aren't exactly perfect, or my text isn't completely centered... I hate to always rely on someone else to fix something basic.

My plan is to make my site as good as my talents allow for now, and then a couple weeks down the road I'll call in a professional to spruce things up a a bit.

But enough of my insecure ramblings! I've got a site to launch, so I'll brb while I finish things up. I'm hoping to be back tomorrow with a hot new website link to share with all of you. Wish me luck!

In the meantime, check out one of my new 4th of July tops (as seen above) right here. See you soon!

Ginham one piece swimsuit found here.// Gingham two-piece here.//

Chicago Summer Guide 2017

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

I love summers in Chicago, so naturally I love writing this post. The only problem is that I occasionally get overwhelmed with what to include/where to start so I'm just going to jump right in and let's see what happens.

I know one thing, this will definitely be a two-parter kind of post. Food and drink spots will come later (as that will be a harder/more in depth post for me to write because I think Chicago has the best food EVER.)

For now, let's start with my favorite daytime activities.

1. Street Festivals.
There's one every weekend and they're always a good time. Streets are closed down, tents are set up, bands play on every corner, and cold beer is served! It's as simple as googling "Chicago Street Festival + ( the weekend you're coming.)

2. Get on the water.
I suggest renting a pontoon or a battery operated boat and taking a cruise down the river. (Go for the pontoon, the battery ones will have you swerving all over.) Daytime is great to catch some rays, but I really like an evening cruise the best to see the city all lit up right while you're in the heart of it. Google is your friend, just search "Chicago boat rentals" and you'll find everything you need.

3. Rent a paddle board or kayak.
Either to play on in Lake Michigan, or to take down the river (the kayak, not the paddle board.) This is a great way to see the city from a new view.

4. Lounge at the beach.
Especially if you're staying downtown, it's super easy to walk to the beach and lay in the sand for a few hours. (Go early, it gets super busy!) Or stop into one of the beach bars and grab a margarita.

5. Root root root for the Cubbies! Or White Sox!
A baseball game is always fun. Back in the day when the Cubbies were awful we used to stumble into a game with $10 tickets. Unfortunately (or fortunately) that doesn't happen anymore.

Just want to be in the environment on game day? Go to Wrigleyville and drink at a rooftop bar nearby. The red line will drop you off across the street from the stadium.

6. Catch a movie in the park.
Parks all over the city host free movies throughout the entire summer. Pack a blanket, snacks, beverages, and enjoy a good old fashioned movie outdoors. Find the movie schedule here.

7. Go on an architecture boat tour.
Another chance to be on the water, see the city from a new angle, and learn some cool history on the buildings downtown. This is one of my fav things to do every summer!

If you're coming with kids... (don't. Jk jk.)

8. Lincoln Park Zoo.
It's about a 10-15 minute Uber ride from downtown and it's FREE! While you're in the area, take a walk around the gorgeous neighborhoods! We lived in Lincoln Park for over five years. In the summer, it's one of the most beautiful areas in Chicago, in my opinion!

9. Maggie Daley Park.
I've never been, but according to the photos I've seen, it looks very cool. (Google it!) Chicago is also known for its clean, safe parks located all over the city- many with splash parks in the summer!

Speaking of safe, several people ask me if Chicago is indeed "safe to visit." Yes, yes it is. Downtown, or in areas where tourists flock to in the summer, it's always heavily patrolled. I live about two miles from downtown and feel safer walking around here than I ever did living in Kansas. Any time of day, there's people (and dogs!) everywhere.

Also, public transportation is a way of life here and a great way to get around. That said, I don't typically take it alone, past 10 p.m. I have friends who regularly do, and say they've never felt threatened, it's just a personal choice of mine. Do what you're comfortable with in new surroundings. I suggest downloading a rideshare app like Lyft or Uber.

What did I miss? Probably a lot. That's just a quick list of some of my favs. Next up: best patios, rooftops, and food!

Family Vacation Banter- Part III

Monday, June 5, 2017

Day 2: The Tide Really Does Change!

One of my favorite things to do on vacation is drink coffee in the morning. (Also my favorite thing to do at home, I guess.) But on vacation you get to look at new things while you drink your coffee. How fun!

So last week in North Carolina (day two of our family vacay) I walked downstairs around 7:45 a.m., excited to pour myself a cup and sit on the the porch that wrapped around the backside of the home, facing the water.

Much to my surprise, when I reached the kitchen I saw that there was a barely a cup left in the pot that had just been made. Who had already drank the entire pot I wondered the moment my dad came barreling in.

"Hey! Your mom and I are going on a walk! Want to come? It's hot outside! Feels great! We're going to walk now before it gets TOO hot. Want to come along? The neighbors have a great Airstream! Need more coffee?"

Ah. It all made sense now.

"Did you  drink that entire pot alone?" I asked, already knowing the response.

"Yup, two pots in fact. WANT TO GO ON A WALK?!"

My dad drink 5-6 pots of coffee a day. I should have known.

I poured myself the last small cup and set out on a walk with my parents. A plant walk to be exact. For the next 35 minutes of our walk my parents would proceed to point out every single plant, tree, flower, bush, ext, they could recognize. They'd even pause to take photos next to "really cool plants" in people's yards as if they were celebrities. (The plants, not my parents.)

But the real fun was only getting started! When we got back to the house and walked out onto the dock, we realized that the tide really WAS changing!

"Hey mom, look we actually have a small sliver of a beach now," I noted toward the area that was previously under water completely, now showing a bit of sand and seashells.

"Wow, we do! They said the tide changes quite a bit here. I'll get Knox and Lola so they can find some seashells."

"Hey Jade, look! There's a beach now!"

"Wow! There is!"

"Jordan, did you see we have a beach?"

"Cool, is that a beach?"

"Larissa, did you see how much the tide has already changed? We have sand now."

"WHOA! Check out that crab tank, it wasn't there before! The tide IS moving!" -my dad

For the next six hours, we'd observe (out loud) how much the tide changed. Until it proceeded to change the other way. And then we'd start on that. We did this for three days.


six ours later-


We are not coastal people.

Nebraska does not have a lot of oceans, so it only makes sense that this is something that would entertain us. Of course we're familiar with how tides work, this wasn't completely foreign to us, just never the less fun to watch! For example if you came to Nebraska I'm sure you'd note how much the corn grows in certain areas as opposed to others, really the same notion if you think about it.

And so for the next few days our trip consisted of morning coffee on the porch (while we watched dolphins swim just a few feet away,) days in the boat on the water, and evenings with wine back on the porch.

We'd cruise up to sand bars with other North Carolinans', set up shop for a bit, and when the water started to change we'd get back on the boat and cruise around more. We'd have lunch at beach bars and dinner back at the house. Our house came equipped with paddle boards, kayaks, a croquet set, and so much more, and we took full advantage of all.

Also, the neighbor's airstream really was cool. If you look closely you can see the cool wagon in the background, as well. My mom and I were certain he was a writer. Do you ever make up background stories about people you come across on vacation? I do all the time. I've now realized I get this from my mom.

Other than his cool automobiles, he had a quaint little cabin where he sat out on his porch everyday with his computer and typed away, (most likely writing his novel.) What else do people do on computers? They write. DUH.

Not trying to be boastful, but this was the perfect place to welcome in summer. I would go back to Wilmington and rent this exact house in a heartbeat.

And now, we work. Big things coming this week. I know I say this every week, but it's FOR REAL today. Don't believe me? Check out @taylorwolfeshop on Instagram and you'll see what we've got cooking.... Come back tomorrow for that Chicago post I promised!

The Golden Lake Days of Childhood

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fruit kabobs and baked beans.

Those are the two things I think of first when I recall my favorite summer days spent at my grandparent's lake house. There was something so novel to me about sliced watermelon, cantaloupe, and strawberries put on a stick. Sometimes my mom would even cut up small slices of kiwi, which absolutely blew my mind because it was kiwi!

I’d get mad when she’d put grapes on the skewer. Normally I loved grapes, but they weren’t fancy enough for a kabob.

My Grandma Pat's baked beans were pure heaven; a meat medley of bacon, ham, and sausage with honey glazed beans throughout. A treat she only made for summer parties at the lake.

We’d pack the cooler and drive the five miles outside of town to “Andy’s Lake.” I’d insist every time my mom point out which cabin belonged to the infamous, “Andy,” a person whom I imagined was the richest man ever to have an entire lake named after him!

My dad would usually join us a few hours later. He always had to stay home and do “lawn work,” he said. Years later, I think “lawn work” meant having a few beers alone before heading to the day-long lake party at the in-laws.

I can still hear the way the gravel would crunch under my mom’s blue Nissan Stanza as we made the turn toward my grandparent's house; the lake on one side, the Elkhorn river on the other. I saw a newspaper article once about a car accidentally driving into that river and it haunted me forever. Every time we made that curve I had to focus on the lake, fearful my mom might accidentally lose control on the gravel, sending us straight into a snake infested watery death.

I was always anxious to finally pull into the driveway because the first grandkids to arrive got their pick at the best lifejackets from the small white shed out front. No one wanted to get stuck with the enormous 1970s yellow foam jackets. I’ve never worn a koozie before, but I imagine it would be similar. I can only assume my grandparents kept those 70s monstrosities around just to punish the latecomers.

After claiming our lifejackets we’d rush the water to claim the next prizes the lake held for us, the huge yellow circular raft, the tire swing, dibs on the first tube ride!

On a humid Midwest summer day, where a simple ten minute car ride could have you sweating through your shirt, there wasn’t a better feeling than that first sprint toward the lake. Heaving yourself off the dock as far as possible, legs tucked into your arms, screaming “CANON BALL!” Free falling until you were swallowed up by the cold crisp water, a quick rush of fear as the darkness fell over you, holding you just long enough before it was time to bob back up toward the surface.

As the cousins arrived the water competitions began. Who could jump off the dock the furthest? Do a flip. A cartwheel. Stay under water the longest. We’d do anything we could to entertain ourselves while we waited for grandpa to get the “boat ready.”

I had no idea what this entailed back then, and to be honest, I still don’t know. Why wasn’t it already ready? It was in the water. It had fuel. I swear you could smell the tangy scent of boat gas that dripped from my grandpa's brown speedboat from our house in town, five miles away.

It was a smell I loved.

All that I knew was that we weren’t supposed to bug Grandpa Dick while he “got it ready.” He’d tinker on the boat canopy, or the lift it was on, for what felt like hours, while all of us grandkids sat on the dock and watched, our feet dangling off the edge in the water, daring crappie fish to nibble on our toes.

When we were just about to give up, he’d pull the brown boat out of its holding cell, cigar in mouth, and announce it was time! And with the summer sunlight bouncing off the dark water, reflecting back onto the boat, the sides of that brown 80s speedboat absolutely glistened. I remember thinking it actually had a coat of glitter on it when the light was just right.

Then two at a time, seated in a pink inner tube with a thin black lining on the bottom, Grandpa Dick would pull us around the small lake, circle after circle. We’d scream for our lives, and hang onto the handles until our knuckles were white, our small bodies tossed about when he’d purposely hit the big waves, or take a turn too sharp.

SLOW DOWN! I’d shout, desperately giving the universal thumbs down signal.

What’d she say? My grandpa would ask.

Speed up, they want to go faster, my brother would always respond.

Eventually our luck would wear out and the tube would hit a wave at the perfect spot and it would send us flying in the air, skidding across the top of the water like a pair of skipped rocks.

Sometimes tears were shed, sometimes they weren’t. We all knew that the worse the wipeout, the better story to tell the following summer.

When my turn was over and I’d take my seat back on the boat, wrapped in a towel most likely stolen from the local pool, my arms would throb from holding on so tightly. Goosebumps would travel down my legs as my wet cold hair blew in the wind as the boat picked up speed.  But I didn’t care. I was in my summer element.

Now it was the boy cousins’ turn around the lake.

Go faster, Grandpa. A lot faster! I’d lie as I watched with a smirk on my face as my brother was in the same fearful misery I was just in.

After everyone had their turn, or when grandpa was tired of driving the boat (whichever came first) we’d head back to shore.

My Grandma Pat would be standing on the slope of their yard, in her floral mumu and slip-on mules, with one hand on her hip, the other on her forehead shading herself from the sun trying to see the boat pull in. The look on her face usually somewhere  between a frown and smile.

“Time to eat.” She’d proclaim. “But first, I want my picture.

Grandma’s picture was the same every year. She’d insist all of the grandchildren line up from youngest to oldest. We knew not to fight it or our name would be, “M.U.D.” It always had to be grandma’s way or the highway.

I don’t ever recall my grandma actually saying a real curse word other than her beloved “M.U.D.” (always spelled out as if were in fact an actual naughty word,) but she didn’t have to, because she could throw a scowl that would make anyone back down.

After the photo, the adults would set out the food dishes they’d brought in the screened-porch area. I’d go straight for the kabobs and baked beans.

“Taylor, quit picking out all the meat!” Grandma would bark as she’d slap my hand away. I’d immediately stop. Until she wasn’t looking, at which point I went right back to scooping out the bacon and the ham.

I’d always sneak inside and ask to use two plates because I hated when my beans and fruit touched. But Grandma Pat didn’t stand for such nonsense, “It all goes to the same place, anyway. Now get back outside, you’re getting my carpet all wet.”

And so all of the kids would sit outside on our miniature lawn chairs, plates in our laps, as we ate our food as fast as our stomachs would allow, anxious to get back in the water.

For the next few hours we’d play until our hands were pruney, our backs and shoulders were crisp with sun heat, and our exhaustion levels hit the point of picking fights with each other just because we could.

As daylight disappeared the water seemed to grow annoyed with us and would suddenly turn cold, not so subtlety telling us it was time to get out. We’d stagger up the slimey water steps, desperately looking for any dry towel that remained to wrap around our shivering bodies.

The canopy on the boat lift would wave toward the brown beauty, announcing it was time to return to its bunk for the evening.

And just before the sun disappeared for good, it would make one final stretch over the water, as if signaling to us with a silent, “see ya later!”

As with all good things in life, the golden days at my Grandparent's lake house would end sooner than I would have expected. The lake home was sold, relatives moved away, such is the way life unfolds.

I sometimes wonder if there was a sneaking feeling inside all of us that knew the home at Andy's Lake wouldn't be around forever, because I really feel like we did our best to make the most of those days.

Or maybe that’s just my rose colored mumu speaking. I guess I'll never really know.

Several years after the home was sold, my grandma passed away on a hot July day.

She now sits in a brown bean pot, on a bookshelf at my parent's house.

And if you think that I'm just taking this time to make an oddly inappropriate dark joke, I assure you I'm not. That's what she wanted.

And it was Grandma's way or the highway.

Family Vacation Banter

Part 1- Harry Caray's.

"Bad news," my mom texts me as I'm riding in my uber to join the rest of my family at Midway Airport last week, en route to our vacay in North Carolina.

Oh shit, I think. Jade's appendix burst again? Knox threw up in the middle of Midway (he's done this.) Lola forgot her Polly Pockets. What could it be?

"Harry Caray's is closed! Dad is pissed. It's now a White Sox bar," my mom texts again.

My parents LOVE Midway Harry Caray's. Who doesn't though, to be honest.

"So where are you waiting then?" I text back.

"Harry Caray's."

"But I thought?"

"The new one. Not called Harry Caray's. White Sox Inn? We ordered you a Bloody. "

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Wolfe family vacation 2017.

A mere twenty minutes later, I zoom through security and join my parents in Not Harry Caray's.

"Can you believe this?!" My dad says when I first walk in and find them sitting at the back table. "There's not even photos on the wall anymore. Not one!"

"Why would they do this?" My mom chimes in.

"And to think we were just here last week and everything seemed completely normal," my dad says as if he's reminiscing about an old friend, rather than an airport restaurant/bar.

One in the same, I suppose.

My sister sits between Knox and Lola, reminding Knox his screen time will be limited. He's not happy about this.  Lola is playing Polly Pockets.

The bloodys at Not Harry Caray's are $17. The server sets them down just as I walk in and they appear to be only tomato juice and vodka. Not a single garnish. This won't go over well.

"We're out of pickles, celery, and olives," the server says, sensing our disappointment with the meager $17 bland beverage, "so the bloodys will only be $8 today."

She asks if we want food and my mom says, "just an order of fried pickles."

"We're out of those too."

So we don't order any food.

The server walks away and my dad says, "This would have never happened at Harry Caray's."

We all can't help but nod in agreement.

Little do we know Harry Caray's is just the tip of the iceberg. When we walk further into the airport we'll see that Potbelly is gone, as well. If Nuts On Clark has been kicked out and my mom can't get her airport popcorn the trip will be called off right then and there.

Luckily, Nuts On Clark has survived the restaurant exodus at Midway. For NOW!

Family vacay can go on.

Part II- "This Place Reminds Me of Cape Fear, the movie."

It was a two hour flight to Raleigh, in which Harry Caray's is discussed for the majority of it, as well as our speculation as to which restaurants will go next and have all new employees been brought in?

"I've bought popcorn from the same nice woman at Clarks for years. YEARS! And she's no longer there," my mom insists. "It's a shame."

"Maybe today's her day I off?" I suggest.

"Nope. No way. She's gone."

"And I bet they're paying the new employees a lot less," my dad adds. "I just can't believe Harry Caray's is gone."

We all agree.

After a quick stop in Raleigh to see my brother's new home, we make the two hour trek to Wilmington. Upon entering the scenic coastal town we begin seeing billboards about "Cape Fear Seafood" and "Cape Fear Banking" and "Cape Fear blah blah blah."

"Oh Cape Fear! What a good movie!" My sister says.

"Yes! So good!" My mom responds.

"I don't think I've seen that one, but I've heard of it," I say, wishing I'd seen it, knowing the numerous discussions that are about to ensue.

"With Robert De Niro!"

"And he comes after the daughter."

"Nope, I haven't seen it," I say to my mom and sister, who are both in total shock I haven't seen this 90s thriller.

We get to our house near Wrightswood Beach and it's gorgeous. It's exactly what I'd imagine a North Carolina home near the water would look like. My dad, who rode in my brother's car, gets out of the car and immediately says, "This place is exactly like Cape Fear! The movie!"

"I haven't seen it."

"With Robert De Niro! And the daughter! You sure?"

"Yup," I say, once again to everyone's disappointment.

"You gotta watch it. It's so good."

Our home on the inside is even cuter than the outside.

When we arrive it's pretty grey and rainy, so we decide to go and get groceries as everyone is supposed to make dinner for the house one night.

The storm moves in just as my parents are making the dinner they chose for the evening and the kitchen lights start to flicker.

"Oh yeah, this is just like Cape Fear. The movie," my dad says excitedly.

We all agree.

Part III- The Tide Really DOES Change!

coming soon.