Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Life at the Lake!

Our house! There were 101 steps from the
back door to the lake! Yay for glutes!
For the past few years, the extended Saad clan has packed up for one week during the summer and headed somewhere fun for a family vacation. Two years ago, we inaugurated this tradition with a trip to the beach. Last summer, we all headed to Oregon for Grace's wedding. This summer, we decided that a trip to the lake was just the ticket!

My sister Laura found a gorgeous house on Homeaway.com that would accommodate all ELEVEN of us - a place out at Smith Lake in Alabama. Four bedrooms, three baths, gorgeous views, a private pier/boat launch, plenty of deck space for relaxing and celebrating. We packed up our fishing poles and life vests and hit the road.

On the way in, hubs, Clay and I stopped for lunch at DreamLand in Tuscaloosa. We'd heard wonderful things about this place, and the barbecue did NOT disappoint! Even from the outside, you can tell this place is legit. It's kind-of a dive, as all the best barbecue places seem to be. We sat on the back deck, where a box fan blew right on us as we admired all the different license plates tacked to the walls.

They brought out some perfect sweet tea (not too sweet) and a big stack of plain white loaf bread on a disposable plate. I got ribs with coleslaw and beans, and so did hubs. Clay had the smoked sausage (delicious), and we all split a REALLY good serving of banana pudding for dessert. The sauce here is tangy, not sweet, and the portions are huge. The meat is cooked really well - still has a bit of bite to it. For three of us, the tab came to about $45. That's a bit steep for barbecue, but we really did enjoy our stop!

Gorgeous, gorgeous view.
After that, it was on to the lake house. As soon as we arrived and settled in, we changed into our swimsuits and headed out to the water. We swam and enjoyed the afternoon until supper, when we made big plates of grilled chicken and green salad, washed down with wine. We made a grocery run that evening and bedded down, tired from a long day of traveling.

The next morning, I woke up early and made a big breakfast for everyone - pancakes, sausage and bacon. Josh had brought a jet ski out to the lake for us, and I had my first ride ever! What a thrill! Josh rode me all around the lake, and I loved feeling the wind whip through my hair and hopping over the waves when we went really fast! I rode with Ryan, too, though we did tip it a bit! I could hardly stop laughing out loud the whole time I rode that thing. Josh also pulled the boys behind the jet ski on a big float he'd bought. They loved it and thought they were the coolest things on the water!

We swam and played the rest of the day away, then grilled up steaks and baked some potatoes for dinner.  (More wine.)

I think hubs looks incredible driving the jet ski!
On Monday, we wanted a change of pace. After a big breakfast of slow-cooked eggs, toast, and fruit, we headed into Huntsville to visit the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. None of us had ever been to this attraction before, and I found it very impressive. First off, we enjoyed a temporary exhibit on black holes. We got to check in and pick our explorer name (Clay - Space Widget, Brian - Vanilla Hotshot, me - Galactic Zoom), and then examine how black holes form, evolve, etc. Then, the kids tackled the cool indoor climbing wall and rode the Mars mission simulator.

After that, we checked out a Patriot missile, the Destiny module, and Rocket Park! We saw space shuttles, Mars rovers, all kinds of missiles, and more. I even rode the Space Shot ride with Caleb and Ryan. (It's like Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios, but shorter and less heinous! I screamed, but I didn't cuss. Yay, me!)

Last of all, we headed inside the Saturn V building. This was absolutely amazing. We saw the actual shuttle and traced the history of the space race. There were TONS of interactive exhibits in this building on everything from frequencies to moon gloves to rocket testing. We even saw moon rocks and an Apollo 16 module! I was also fascinated by the hand casts they had of some of the Apollo 11 astronauts. They used these casts to make custom moon gloves for the astronauts, and you could see the men's names etched into the casts of their hands. It was a compelling detail.

The Saturn V building was amazing.
By the time we left the space center, we were starving. Urban Spoon directed us to a nearby local pizza joint, Venice Pizza. We puttered over and bellied up to pizza and subs. The food was cheap, quick and delicious! I had a Mediterranean pizza, and hubs and Ryan split some mega meat pie. Caleb chose an Italian sub, and Clay got two slices of cheese pizza with pepperoni and pineapple on top.

Satisfied, we headed home for another dip in the lake before dinner. That night, we cooked up a big pot of spaghetti, made s'mores, and watched movies.

On Tuesday, we started the day with a family photo shoot. We drove out to a nearby campground where the land slopes down to the water so we could get mom in the photo with the great lake view in the background. Grace took tons of photos of everyone, and I can't wait to see them once she's edited them! She has good ones of the whole family, of mom and dad, of the boys, of everybody.

One of the photos from the awesome
shots Grace took!
After that, we lazed around the house, rode the jet ski, and fired up the hot tub. Josh made a big cooler of his famous lake lemonade, and we slipped and floated. Caleb and I swam out to a nearby pier and back, and I drove the jet ski myself! (Though I did an ok job and didn't tip, I decided that I much prefer riding while someone else drives. Heh.) For dinner, we grilled up a batch of chicken and served it with baked beans and salad.

Wednesday was another lazy day. Dad made a giant breakfast of potatoes and eggs (I love to eat them with green onions! Yum!), and then we sat on the deck for a while, admiring the view. That afternoon, Grace, Ryan, and Brian took the boys to a nearby town for putt putt, go-kart racing and inflatables. That gave the rest of us a very quiet afternoon to relax, read and talk. Laura and I made garbage pasta that night, cleaning out the fridge, because we were leaving on Thursday.

After we packed and cleaned up the house, it was back on the road to Jackson. Hubs, Clay and I stopped in Birmingham for a break. According to my Trip Advisor app, the McWane Science Center is the second most popular attraction in Birmingham. A quick check on Groupon revealed a two-for-one admission deal for the center, so I bought it on my mobile phone, and we were off. I'm so glad we stopped here. It's four floors of awesomeness. Clay loved the Rube Goldberg ball machine at the admission desk. He could've stayed there for another 15 minutes. The main level was really crowded, but we found hardly anybody on the second and third floors. Ditto for the basement.
The McWane Science Center was off the chain.

Clay excavated dinosaur bones, wrote his name on a giant light-bright, heard the calls of local birds, explored the food chain, observed jellyfish, and just had a blast in general. We stayed there for a couple of hours, but we could have easily spent the day there. They even had a shark and sting ray touch pool!

With rumbling tummies, we turned again to Urban Spoon. A lot of diners had rated Trattoria Centrale, only a little ways from the center, as a great casual spot for lunch. After a bit of walking, we found it. So. Good. I had the prosciutto panino, layered with plenty of prosciutto, tomato, arugula, and fresh mozzarella. Brian got a gorgeous veggie pizza, and Clay had a slice of pepperoni. We split a gorgeous order of tiramisu for dessert. This was a fabulous find.

After lunch, we trundled into the car for a straight shot home. We had such a wonderful time at the lake! I can't hardly wait for our next family vacation!