May 9, 2015

April Showers Bring May Bonfires

That doesn't rhyme. Whatever. It's 4am, I'm exhausted, and really, REALLY hungry. That's actually why I'm still awake. My stomach has deemed food to be necessary before sleep.
Anyway, one of my best friends is moving this summer, and for the first time since we've been friends, she's not coming back in August. Instead, she'll be heading to Chicago for law school. While I"m super stoked about that - so many more visits to Chi-town coming up now, with promises of exploring downtown and all that twenty-something fun stuff... like finding coffee shops and book stores... because that's what we're all about - I'm super sad that I've got like a week and a half left in the same city as my twin.
And now I'm going to try not to think about that too hard, because it's FOUR IN THE MORNING and crying right now would be kind of a bad idea.

Getting back on track, I hosted a bonfire tonight. I've done a few of these, and I figured I'd share some tips I've learned the hard way. Note that these apply specifically to a bonfire on the beach in South Texas... but, you know, take from this what you want.

1. You apparently don't need a deep pit to build a nice fire - even when it's windy. In the past, we've always dug down pretty far, and made a fun little seating area... but then the fire was always too hot to use said seating. This time, my boy and one of our friends were in charge of digging... and they dug something that I could probably sit crossed-legged in and my knees would be just a tiny bit lower than the sand level (so, small compared to normal). I was VERY skeptical, but they proved me wrong. It worked great.
2. If you can let boys dig the hole and build the fire, do it. I am the first person to admit that I'm a feminist. I claim it, I own it, and I'm proud of it. HOWEVER. I'm also aware that I'm not very strong, and pretty dang clumsy. Digging a fire pit, even a small one, gives me the chance to both hurt myself right then AND be sore the next day. Building the fire - I'd rather not break a stick over my leg, or get a splinter, or even burn myself (I did that enough anyway). So yes, I'll let the boys do the hard work while I sit back with a drink and make sure Waters (Bruce's dog) doesn't try to play with a passing stranger out riding their bike or funky three wheeled scooter. That's just being smart.
3. A VW Beetle convertible trunk does not have a very big opening. Remember that when buying a cooler. That's all.
4. If it can't get sandy, don't bring it. I have so much sand in the tiny little openings in my phone, it's almost scary. Every single one of us left the beach covered in sand.
5. Let's talk about bringing drinks to the beach. So when I do bonfires, it's totally BYOBeverage. However, in the past, I've gotten 12 packs of various kinds of soda (sprite, Dr Pepper, coke), and basically let anyone that wanted a can, take it. This time, I opted for a 3L bottle of DP and a 2L bottle of coke, along with red solo cups. This was in part because Bruce talked me into it, and in part because I didn't want to mess with a zillion cans. Lesson here: deal with the cans. Because I'd so heavily stressed BYOB, and because another friend ended up bringing cans, the people that just wanted a soda picked a can and the giant bottles went mostly untouched. Looking back, that's much smarter. The opening is much smaller on a can, so your drink gets less sandy. It also has less of a chance of spilling. While the cups were better for adding alcohol (I'm 22), it would have been just as easy - if not easier - to add it to the can. Then, I'd be left with unopened cans of soda, instead of giant bottles of soda that will end up going flat before I finish it. I'm not a huge soda drinker. My point here is that if you're doing BYOB, go with cans. If you're setting up for a party in which everything's set out nicely, the bottles probably work best.
6. Also, food. I do s'mores. I really like them, but the thing I like the most is the toasty marshmallows. Nom. Anyway, when I do this, I have to get regular and gluten free graham crackers. I also split up the marshmallows into GF and nonGF bags to avoid cross contamination. My friends are pretty good about that, but far fewer nonGF people eat s'mores. (Turns out, it's because they don't want to make them, and I won't make a nonGF s'more for anyone.) Next time, I'm putting like four or five marshmallows in a snack bag, and making maybe four bags of those, instead of one bag for nonGF. That way, only a limited number of marshmallows get cross contaminated, and the rest are still safe. I've also started keeping both the marshmallows and the chocolate in the top bin of a cooler, because it's HOT in SoTx, and chocolate melts pretty easily.
Bruce brought sausages this time and several people ate those. Another friend brought hot dogs. I realized at the last bonfire that I don't actually really like hot dogs, so I'll probably pass on that one. I might try the sausage thing next time, but we'll see. Right now, my plan is set at eating before I go. And apparently, when I get home.
7. Bring a chair. It makes life so much easier. If you have pickup trucks with tailgates, or hatchbacks, that works too.
8. Coat hangers make great skewers. I'll write more about this if anyone's interested.
9. Music is good, if you can hear it over the wind. I bought a cute little speaker that packs a pretty big punch... but Travis told me that we probably wouldn't be able to hear it over the wind. After that, I didn't want to expose it to the crazy sand (see number four) for a maybe.
10. Don't forget to bring water! Every single other time, we've gotten this down fine. THIS time? None of us thought about it. A few of us had a water bottle, but nothing for refills or anyone without one. That's definitely important.
11. Take a warmer set of clothes. It's hit or miss as to whether or not I'll get so cold that I need to change out of my tank top and shorts, but you can stay a lot longer if you have that option.

There's probably something that I forgot, but that's all for now! What are your bonfire tips and tricks?