Twice yearly we head to a rental house in Rockaway Beach, Oregon — once in February to celebrate our beloved dog’s birthday, and again every August, a final coastal treat in the waning days of summer.
I look at the calendar throughout the year, and count the days until the next beach trip; here we are all together, play games, eat our favorite foods, and watch movies that we’ve talked about wanting to see for some time.
Like all dogs, Bailey is crazy for the beach, and even though he’s an older dog (and in some considerable pain from arthritis), he comes alive when he starts to smell that beach air.
I think we all do.
But first, as with all trips away from home, I have prep I must do to create the optimum environment away from home.
Here’s my go-to bag of rental essentials — all the things I like to bring to a vacation house in which I will be cooking.
Over the years I have learned what things make a kitchen or house more comfortable, and what items I need to make a killer meal in someone else’s kitchen.
I start with these inexpensive containers from Target.
And then turn them into this.
If I know I am cooking, I bring about five or six mini bottles — oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, cholula hot sauce, and lemon juice. With these in my arsenal, I can saute, make a vinaigrette for greens or fish, or make a light stir fry.
I also pack my favorite spices and salts — simple things that can transform a steak, potatoes, eggs, or whatever I might cook. For last night’s steak, for example, I used the garlic salt, paprika and a pinch of the Herbs de Provence with a good amount of olive oil.
Other essentials here — tablecloths, a good pan or two (rental houses usually have crappy cookware), flashlights, kitchen scissors, candles, a couple knives, a grater, and a mini first aid kit — it’s amazing how quickly a splinter, a minor scrape or tummy upset can derail a vacation if you aren’t prepared.
Because I’m an now an old hat with rental house prep, it didn’t take long to pull everything together for three days away, and so we got to the beach by lunch, leaving plenty of time to explore.
After setting up in the house, we got back in the car for a quick jaunt.
We hit the town of Wheeler, a darling little town just ten minutes away.
It’s so pretty — on one side the bay, on the other side a coffee shop, a florist, a post office, a cafe, a fabric shop, and an enormous antique mall.
Just my kind of town.
My crew was generous and allowed me almost an hour to wander the halls in search of treasures. Bailey sat just outside the door in the shade and collected dozens of pets and hugs, and we all took turns checking on him every few minutes.
While I wandered, the kids found a vintage candy machine that offered bite size chocolates.
Nickles were gathered and the lever was pulled.
While they were sampling their chocolate treasure, I was paying for mine.
I found this chocolate tin in surprisingly good shape and a lovely little Bakelite knife, just the right thing for cutting into a soft pumpkin bread. I spent twelve dollars for both, and while not cheap, I thought that was a fair price.
Afterwards, we stopped a place I heard that sells fresh crab, oysters and clams and will cook them for you on the spot.
I loved the look of this place– it reminds me of somewhere you might find in Maine.
And then back to the rental house.
To play with a kite.
Dig sand castles.
And just relax in the sun.
All that was left to do was make some dinner.
I had bought these beauties at the PSU Farmer’s Market the day before, so the appetizer was easy.
I tossed the tomatoes with a little balsamic, olive oil, basil and garlic and salt. I scooped them up on toasted Pearl Bakery Pugliese and then I was done.
Dinner was flank steak, Olympia Provisions bratwurst, roasted corn, and garlic bread.
There were seagulls outside.
And breathtaking sunsets.
At that very moment, I don’t think there was a better hammock view to be had on the whole Oregon coast.
We watched a classic, Jaws.
I remember vividly watching it when I was ten years old and how much it terrified me at the time. You see, I spent the mornings that summer sailing the Long Island Sound, the same body of water in which the film takes place and consequently the prospect of shark attacks was terrifying to me.
Forty years later, I think the movie still holds up pretty well, and the suspense in some of the scenes is formidable (and I bet you could summon that music even if you’ve never seen it).
We went to bed stuffed with great food — and a renewed respect for the ocean and its inhabitants.
And we woke up with smiles on our faces, happy knowing that two more beach days await.