Roughing It

In the summer of 2006, a whole passel of extended family members rented a giant house on a precipice overlooking Lake Michigan. One week, twenty Malovers, one hundred-fifty stairs down from the house to the beach, and one kitchen.

Hilarity ensued, we were told! Alas, Ryan and I could not attend but we caught the edited highlights on DVD, compliments of Uncle Steve from Cincinnati. Nobody got kicked off the island, but I'm pretty sure the footage could be used to sell a new reality television show concept. It was a cross between Big Brother and Top Chef (did I mention there were cooking competitions?), with some unmistakable Malover flair (did I mention that Uncle Greg from Detroit got everyone a commemorative switchblade?).

In 2007 the family vacation took a year off, as there were two family weddings (my cousin Danielle from Cincinnati, and me!). However, it was decreed that the Malover Family Summer Vacation would become a biennial event, making summer 2008 the second installment in the series. Like Survivor, each edition would be filmed in a different setting, but unlike Survivor there would be no cash prize for the last man standing. (If there were, the smart money would be on Uncle Greg -- he's much better with cutlery than the rest of us. And firearms.)

Malover Family Summer Vacation 2008 kicked off on a Thursday afternoon in Three Rivers, Michigan. Three Rivers is approximately 75 miles from Chicago, just over the Michiana border, and two miles east of Lake Michigan, making it an easy trip for us and for Katy, Nunzino, Lucy, and Giac; my Uncle Kevin and Aunt Neela and their girls Natalie and Kendall; my cousins Tom (a Detroit transplant) and Alexis (a Cincinnati transplant); and Alexis's beau Mark. Unlike the last vacation where everyone stayed under one roof, this time we were in single-family cabins situated around a manmade lake. Wait, I meant to type "lake." In quotation marks.

Ah, yes, as we discovered upon arrival, the magic of the Web can make a pond whose diameter is no wider than a 45-second swim look like a majestic lake. And it can make the loft in a cabin look like it can accommodate people taller than 2 1/2 feet high. But hey, we Malovers are a resourceful people. We're used to roughing it. Besides, we brought a lot of booze, and the cabins had air conditioning and cable, which more than made up for the short lofts. (I say this from the luxurious position of someone who didn't have to climb up into one to sleep, naturally.)

We didn't have any big agenda for the long weekend except the general idea that lunch and dinner would be communal affairs. Katy and Alexis chaired the Vittles Committee, and sent around this amazing sign-up sheet in advance to ensure that the entire weekend's meals wouldn't consist of 20 bags of tortilla chips and 1 jar of salsa. There were openings for several lunches and dinners, including Friday night's Olympics Dinner, in which we would cook foods representing our favorite nationalities. There was also an opening for a Landfill Ambassador, who would be responsible for bringing disposable cups, plates, napkins, and utensils.

Ryan and I chose to cook dinner on Olympics Night, representing the Central American nation of Belize. We brought back some kick-ass local spice mixes from our honeymoon this spring, so we made Belizean chicken accompanied by red beans & rice. There were many other delicious cuisines represented, including specialties from Italy, Mexico, and Greece. The entire family gathered for dinner on the gigantic screened-in porch on the back of our cabin, and then retired to the living room to watch Michael Phelps win some gold medals in Beijing. At the Hipster Cabin, my cousins Tom and Zak hosted a Beer Pong tournament. On Saturday night we repeated the experience, but with leftovers this time. Still good! Dessert consisted of an unbelievably delicious assortment of cookies baked by my cousins Ally (from Detroit) and Danielle (Cincinnati native transplanted to Boston with her new husband Ali). Just when we thought there was no room for more food, we busted out a birthday cake to honor Aunt Maryalice and Uncle Larry, whose birthdays are a few days apart.

Some discoveries we made during this vacation:

  • I love playing beach volleyball! However, I am not very good at it. What I lack in skill (mistakenly shouting "Mine!" when I meant "Not mine!") I more than make up for in team spirit.
  • We love grilling! After four days spent enjoying the magic of freshly grilled chicken and burgers, Ryan and I really want to get a grill. We can totally see ourselves living the grill-owning lifestyle. You know, grilling. Eating grilled foods.
  • We love family vacations! We had so much fun hanging out with our uncles, aunts, cousins, sister, in-laws, and little niece and nephew. We can't wait until the next family vacation in 2010!

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