And yet, as I browse through the folders on my computer, I find myself going back to the same photos.
The ones of small, simple moments. The quiet connections that become so much more when the whole family gets together only once or twice a year. I don't get enough of these.
The nice part about it, though, is that every time we have a family gathering, we're also taking a vacation. This time, we -- or should I say, Mom (thanks, Mom!) -- rented a house in Dillon Beach, a small town in Marin County that seemed to live in a cloud for the entire week we were there, but no one seemed to mind that much because we could still see the ocean from every room in the house.
My favorite was the dining room.
That long table was made for family meals, comfort foods, loud conversations. Our dinners weren't fancy or elaborate, but tried-and-true recipes that we could prepare while chatting and drinking wine: baked mac and cheese, garlic-lemon shrimp and chicken kebabs, lentil soup with sausage and chard, grilled steak, spaghetti.
But when I look back on this vacation, and flip through the photos, it won't be the food that stands out. Instead, I'll remember my two-year-old niece and my husband playing with a cup of poker chips, and the way she first said our names ("Mo!" "Gack-ey!"). Pictionary around the fire, and puzzles in the morning. Absinthe. Ping pong, vinyl albums, A Song of Ice and Fire. Searching for mussels along the shore and getting soaked by the rising tide. Happy announcements. An early morning phone call about Tim getting sicker, and the ease with which my family changed their plans and went out of their way to help Murdo get on an earlier plane home.
Simple moments that mean so much more.
Grilled Chicken and Shrimp Kebabs with Lemon and Garlic (from Bon Appetit)
24 uncooked large shrimp, unpeeled, deveined (thawed if frozen)12 chicken tenders
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel
2 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup olive oil
Thread 4 shrimp on each of 6 metal skewers; place on rimmed baking sheet. Loosely thread 2 chicken tenders on each of 6 metal skewers; place on another rimmed baking sheet.
Whisk lemon juice, lemon peel, and garlic in medium bowl; slowly whisk in oil. Season marinade with salt and pepper. Pour marinade over skewers, dividing equally. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Grill chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Grill shrimp until pink on outside and opaque in center, about 4 minutes per side. Remove kebabs from grill; serve immediately.