In a perfect world (which no longer exists), we’d have just wrapped up a week in London and would be now spending ten days in Paris.
Clearly COVID and Cancer got the last laugh, and big travel plans are out of the question for all of us right now.
That doesn’t mean, however, that quick (and close-by) getaways are unattainable, and twice in the last five weeks we’ve escaped to the beautiful Oregon coast for a quick break, once to our favorite tiny but quaint rental in Rockaway Beach (seen here on the right)
and then this past week to a new-to-us rental house in Lincoln City.
We’ve been fortunate to enjoy these respites from the routine; it’s so wonderful to be somewhere that’s so quiet and relatively unpopulated that you can have all this open air to yourself without worrying about mask-wearing.
Just lots of sunlight and fresh air to enjoy.
And bocce on the lawn at sunset.
I’ve noticed that every time I go away for a few days I get a little savvier as to what components make for the most pleasurable and successful trips.
In case you too are able to score a quick trip out of town to an appealing drivable rental, here are a couple things I’ve come up with that might make your getaway that much more gratifying.
ONE. Wherever you go, do as much grocery shopping as you can ahead of time.
The reasons for this are fairly obvious. By doing so, you’re not just ensuring that you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite things away from home, it will eliminate an unnecessary hassle of shopping last minute somewhere you’re not familiar (and you don’t know what mask compliance/sanitary protocols will look like at your destination).
Also, if you’re bringing almost all your own food, you don’t need to worry about finding takeout (if even available) and you don’t need to deplete shelves of vital items that perhaps locals count on for sustenance.
This past trip I made a list of possible meals I wanted to make during our time away, and this reminded me of every ingredient I either needed to pull from a local market or my own pantry.
Those berries were purchased in a six pack of local berries at New Seasons, and for four mornings in a row we were able to eat big bowls of luscious fruit. What a treat.
My generous siblings Polly and Dave had gifted us with an enormous ice cream delivery from Whole Foods not long ago, so much of that came too in a freezer bag with us, too.
TWO. If possible, do as much cooking prep work or advance work as you can.
I don’t know about you, but right about now I’m pretty tired of cooking. We order take out once every couple weeks or so, but for the most part I’m in charge of feeding this family of four three times a day, and this tether is not always an appealing one.
When I do get away, I don’t want to worry about procuring takeout from unreliable/unknown sources but I don’t want to be chained to long cooking sessions, either.
Give me easy, delicious, quick to the table offerings when I’m on vacation, and this will keep both stress levels and dirty dish counts to a minimum.
These two beach trips had us enjoying meals like simple but satisfying tacos
pastas and Caesar salads
and perhaps the biggest hit, custom Cobb Salads.
These individual salads were made with roasted chicken breasts (used in burritos the day before), two kinds of bacon (applewood smoked and Irish), soft-boiled eggs, focaccia croutons, tangy blue cheese (plus for the adults juicy cherry tomatoes and avocado) alongside iceberg lettuce, all tossed with a lemon anchovy dressing.
I couldn’t buy a salad that luxe — and because the chicken was cooked the night before (and the croutons had been made at home), all I had to do that night was cook the bacon and soft boiled eggs and toss it all together. SO GOOD.
Next time I will take my own advice and cross even more to-do items off my list ahead of time.
This time I made dressings, marinades and sauces (plus a few other things) ahead of time, but next time I will wash all the lettuces, prep the garlic toasts and maybe even show up with one completed dish for the first night (like a smoked mozzarella mac and cheese or a pot pie?).
I forgot to bake some cookies (from frozen dough) before we left but next time I will do even better and knock those out, as well.
THREE. Save favorite TV show episodes or movies you’ll want to watch together when you’re looking for a little fun free time.
We’re a big watching family (especially since David’s eating is so irregular and fraught with anxiety sometimes) and we look forward to revisiting favorites from the past (like Definitely, Maybe)
or hunkering down and experiencing something new for the first time.
Favorite films we’ve revisited over the years include: any of the Bourne or Star War movies, Fever Pitch, About Time, Forest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption, almost all of the Hitchcock movies, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Big Sick, and one of my favorite movies of all time, 12 Angry Men.
Recently the documentary 13th had come to us highly recommended so we spent one night watching that.
I highly recommend this devastating indictment of our current penal system; it’s not an easy one to watch but it’s a vital piece of filmmaking and one that will spark many (necessary) conversations.
FOUR. If you’re a worrier like me, spend the first 15 minutes after you walk into your rental to air it out (we opened up windows and all the doors) and wipe off just the most used surfaces (door knobs, handles, etc).
Our place came with a deep clean guarantee but I felt better with fresh air pouring in (and our portable fans, used for sleep, helped too to circulate and add to freshness) and I like my cleaning products better than most so all we smelled afterward I zipped through was my honeycrisp apple spray (and not bleach).
The kids used that time for extra snuggles.
FIVE. Now add some of your favorite comforts from your home to add to your pleasure over the next couple days.
Whenever we drive to a rental, we bring our favorite bed pillows and luxurious throw blankets.
I also bring a stash of my go-to tablecloths (sometimes dedicated linens but soft sheets work too!) so that every meal is eaten at a pretty table.
When one gets dirty I just grab another — and they also come in handy to cover couches and chairs so they don’t get sand or dog hair on them.
I brought a half dozen so our outdoor picnic table got a boost, too.
Another upgrade I like to bring are some of my beloved Glassybabies.
For those not familiar, these hand blown votives come from a Seattle glass blower and each one is unique.
They come in hundreds of shades and are so beautiful– and with a candle lit inside they are breathtaking.
We now have six of these votive candles and we usually bring a couple on short trips with us; not only do they brighten a table during the day, they add a beautiful soft glow at night that would be impossible to replicate with whatever the rental house might have on hand.
SIX. Trust me — there are some items you’re likely to want there — have you remembered them all?
Sure pillows and blankets and snacks and all the rest are good to have on hand, but it is my experience that there are certain things I’d routinely forget before I made a master list. I now print it out anew each time and add new items depending on what I plan to make. I cross them off as they make it to the porch for car loading, and this helps so much.
Chocolate bars? Check. Kettle Corn Popcorn? Yep.
Here are other items that you do NOT want to forget.
–Flowers! Yes. Bring them. They will add so much cheer and color to wherever you’re going.
My hydrangeas are going bonkers right now so I cut a big bouquet of them right before we left and I scattered them throughout our place to enjoy. (bonus: keep those scissors in the car — they are invaluable for many small kitchen tasks).
Aren’t those vases darling? They are minty green and look vintage but they are actually plastic and while I think they came from Anthropologie, I bought them at the Bins for a pittance and I use them constantly. Their lightweight and unbreakable nature make them a natural for travel, too.
–Flashlights (great for running out to the car late at night or playing a spirited game of hide and seek once it gets dark!)
-A cup or so of olive oil (if you plan to cook you’ll be so aggravated if the cupboard is bare and you have to try to find it where you go!) and a nonstick spray (I never see it in the cupboard). Better yet, mince or puree fresh garlic, shallots and/or lemon zest and add it to that cup of oil — you will use that highly aromatic oil on almost everything savory you’re likely to eat.
–One favorite pan (like an oversized cast-iron) and one heavy-duty or industrial sheet pan (if the rental cookware is really crappy I can cook almost anything on one of the two). Bonus points: a fantastic paring knife (no rental seems to get this one right!)
-A basic first aid kit, and a small amount of medicinal-strength aloe gel (it seems like every time I go away one of us burns ourselves with either inadequate hot pads or too much sun. Make sure you’ve got ibuprofen, Pepto and a thermometer – just in case someone comes down with something unfortunate away from home.
-A chunk of Parmesan (and/or cheddar) plus a stick of butter (your pasta, baked potatoes and grilled cheeses will thank you!)
-A small speaker to play music from your phone
-A few lemons and/or limes (they will immeasurably brighten your cooking and cocktails and the former, simmered gently with a little baking soda invariably found in the fridge, will help neutralize strong cooking smells).
Also, if you have any fresh herbs growing in your garden, grab a handful and wrap them in damp paper towels and place in a Ziploc. Any dish or drink topped with fresh herbs is a bonus.
–Playing cards and a couple favorite games (I learned this the hard time when I forgot our game bag one time and we were stuck with just LIFE and Monopoly in the rental closet).
Lastly, and most importantly, if at all possible, bring a pet.
If you don’t have one, borrow one (we have a friend who takes Porter on adventures, including their mountain home).
Everything is better with a dog along for the ride
and as we all know, they help you to remember to look at — and enjoy– the small details.
Like flowers growing improbably out of driftwood trees
or small creatures brought in by the tide
or just stunning views you’re lucky enough to enjoy.
Porter is such a source of joy for us
and I know he enjoyed the time away just as much as we did.
Just a few days removed from our time away, I miss it no less now than when we were pulling away from their driveway.
So that’s it, folks.
I hope you too are able to carve out an escape during this distressing time, even for just a few moments.
Stay well and remain kind. It’s a tough time, but we must band together with an eye for a better day.