Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Quick Hop Over To St. Louis

Every summer growing up, we went to St. Louis for a week to visit our cousins. Outside of Christmas, it was the event of the year. My cousins had a pool, a pinball machine, a pool table, endless bags of chips, a fridge stocked full of was paradise for a kid and I couldn't wait for it every year.

Almost ten years ago, one of my cousins married an amazing Spanish man and moved to Madrid. While they get back to the US fairly often, timing has never been in our favor to head back to St. Louis at the same time. Until now. Turns out my parents, Allison and I were all free the same weekend to head back to the good ol' midwest while Rachel, Gonzalo and their daughter, Renata, were visiting. It's been five years since we were all together. Even though I'm older now, the same excitement I had as a kid resurfaced and I could only think about the pool, sunshine and beers instead of sodas. See? There are some perks to getting older.

I'd gotten in late on Friday night but I sure was up early to get myself out to the pool:
Exactly the same as I remembered it. Out of all the kids, I was always the one in the pool from morning til night. You just couldn't get me out and the torch has definitely been passed on to both of my cousins' kids. I had so much fun watching them do cannonballs, back flips and, best of all, swimsuit model poses. 

There was the fashionista:
The bodybuilder:
The dancer:
There was even the pose of terror (meant to be VERY scary, people):
Models in the making, I tell you.

Sweet Gonzalo played with them all day in the pool:
Trust me when I tell you he's one of the greatest fathers I've ever seen.

The day was gorgeous. Perfect amount of coming and going clouds that made for ideal snoozing in the sun:
Some could attest to that more than others:
Don't be mad, Dad. Just capturing you in all your glory.

While I was thrilled to see everyone, I was especially excited for the time I got with sweet Renata:
She's absolutely precious. She even dealt patiently with me annoying her to speak in Spanish. That little voice! I love her.

One of my favorite traditions we carried out for years was smoking ribs. My uncle would slow smoke them all day and we'd have a feast after an afternoon full of diving board contests and going backwards down the slide. Obviously, our trip wouldn't be complete without the same tradition.

That's only the top layer of what totaled 12 racks of ribs in the smoker:      
Hot damn, that's what I call summer.

Once we all showered, it was definitely happy hour time. I can't tell you how awesome it was to catch up with Gonzalo:
Don't let so many years pass without seeing people you love. Really.

After some chatting and vino drinking, it was time for dinner:
This is some stuff I can get down with. It was a full night of conversation, (expensive!) wine drinking, good food, fun fireworks and all around important time with family. Lightning bugs were out, the lingering smell of smoke from the smoker was in the air and even a brief rain shower came along to cool things off. Really, these are things that make summer what it is for me.

Our last morning, Aunt Renata made delicious baked apple pancakes for breakfast:
I was surprisingly reserved in not asking for seconds. Pancakes and bikinis don't go well together.

Allison and I walked through Uncle Bruce's garden afterward and ate cherry tomatoes off the vine:
He's growing a lot of awesome stuff this year, even grapes. I swear, the only time I ever wish I had a house of my own is for a big, sprawling garden. He's got the most awesome irrigation system and it's so neat to see how it all works.  

The weekend was very short but sweet. I have a small family and the time together truly counts. I hope years don't pass before we all see one another again, that's for sure. I don't think I could go that long without those infamous ribs...

When I left and looked through my photos, I saw that the girls had gotten ahold of my phone and took some photos of themselves. I just want to squeeze sweet Alexandra here:
That was a happy surprise to find after the sadness of goodbyes.

I hope all of you are having a wonderful summer and cherishing the little things. That's what it's all about. 

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