Grossy's Guide to Being a Vacation House Mom
One of my absolute favorite headlines from The Onion reads "Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties In Closer Proximity To Ocean." I love it so much because that's me. I'm that Mom. And nothing makes me happier.
As most of you know, my favorite way to vacation is to rent a beautiful house somewhere I love, surround myself with people I love, and spend the entire vacation pretty much never leaving the house. We buy too many groceries, we eat too much food, and we leave the oven at 350º for the majority of the trip so we're always ready for whatever the day brings.
One of the joys of renting a vacation house is that you just never know what you are gonna find when you get there. I spend hours looking at Airbnb or Vrbo searching for the perfect house with the perfect kitchen, imagining what small appliances live where and which drawer they keep the cutlery in. Despite my most erotic kitchen fantasies, I always show up to the house, do a quick inventory, and am always left audibly gasping "what the actual fuck?" at the lack of essentials that are missing. Thankfully, I have gotten my vacation rental house pack list down to a science, so no matter what, I am prepared for (mostly) anything.
Today I'm sharing three variations on what I pack to achieve iconic Vacation House Mom status: Doing The Least, Pretty Standard, and Doing the Most. I'm also including some Grossy extras (because I'm extra) to provide the The Full Grossy experience from enamelware, coolers, and reusable napkins and table cloths and cleaning supplies. All items are linked for you to find out more information about them and purchase!
Doing The Least
In my Doing The Least variation you'll find the items I bring with me on vacation no matter what. These 15 items can get me through most simple meals, ensuring that I will be comfortable in the kitchen and not have a breakdown. Plus, they're easily packed into a suitcase or a backpack so you don't have to worry about finding the room—except for the Le Creuset Dutch Oven who will need her own suitcase!
Smiley Spoon: You know they coming with me! I just love that they are always down for a smile, a chat, or a selfie. Smiley Spoon has been everywhere with me and loves to travel. In a way, they are my own personal Flat Stanley but he's also a wooden spoon, which is required for most of my recipes!
Quarter Sheet Pan: Yes, I have rented homes that do not have a baking sheet. Serial killers, I know. Thankfully a quarter sheet pan is the perfect thing to have around for a few cookies, a roasted anything, or for prep work. It also fits in most tote bags!
Maldon Sea Salt: I buy my Maldon in bulk because duh. I also keep a travel container full of it so I can grab it and go! I don't bring a big container of it, just enough to top my salads, pastas and to have as table salt during meals!
Kosher Salt: Kosher salt is extremely important to me (because pasta!) and I use a lot of it in my cooking (because pasta!). Most houses I go to have some form of it available but, I like to know that when I arrive at the house and everyone is starving and looking at me, I can make a quick pasta dish with properly salted pasta water. It helps me sleep at night!
Red Pepper: I also buy my red pepper flakes in bulk because we like to keep it spicy. I keep a travel container full of them as well so I can grab it and go! Just like the sea salt, I don't bring a big container of it, just enough to top my meals.
Unicorn Magnum Pepper Mill: Fresh cracked pepper is a non-negotiable! This specific pepper mill is also not negotiable. I fill her up to the brim with peppercorns before every trip, and she treats me right the entire time. And, despite what you just read, I can assure you this is not a sex toy.
Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons & Cups: You would think that most homes would have proper measuring cups and spoons, but girl, I have seen some shit! Somehow, some way, they will be missing the ONE cup or spoon you need, and then you end up using a quarter cup to scoop your four cups of flour for Grossy's Chocolate Chip Cookies. This is obviously unacceptable, so just pack your own and thank me later!
Citrus Juicer: This little guy is truly a kitchen legend, and I refuse to work with anyone else in the industry! Cooking, baking, making drinks—a citrus juicer is a vacation essential for so many reasons. Plus, you can let go a bit and confidently have someone take care of the juicing because seed avoidance and proper measuring is guaranteed with this tool.
Amanda Lynn (A Mandoline): No one gets the job done faster than our girl Amanda. Salads, roasted veggies, fruit pies—she makes feeding a crowd a breeze! Careful though, she will cut you so be nice :)
A Whisk: Arriving to a vacation rental that has no whisk is not a whisk I'm willing to take, so I always pack her!
Microplane: Not a vacation goes by that I do not get asked to make Grossy's Garlic Bread and Grossy's Vodka Sawce and if you wanna make a lot of people happy with minimal effort, I recommend you do the same. You cannot do it without a microplane, so throw her in the bag, babe.
Wine and Bottle Opener: Have you ever seen eight people launch into a frenzy when someone returns home from the liquor store, only to discover that there's no wine opener in the house? It's not cute! Stick this one in your sports bra if you must, but bring her.
3 Knives: You really only need 3 good knives at all times: A Classic Chef's Knife, a Serrated Bread Knife, and a Paring Knife. If you have this holy trinity on hand, you'll be a cut above the rest, always. Knives are a very personal thing, and I like the way mine feel in my hand so I always bring them with me. Plus, I know they are in ship shape and sharp. Food52 sells a great set of these 3 knives that I love!
Le Creuset Dutch Oven: Pots and pans are a BIG issue in rental houses. By that I mean, they just never have ones big enough! Having my largest dutch oven with me truly gets me through MOST of my emergencies. Beyond it's most obvious uses, I have been to known to use it as a mixing bowl, a salad bowl and a trifle bowl in desperate times! Plus, you can pack tools inside of it. Legends only!
Your Favorite Coffee: You are gonna need it, Mom.
All of our Doing The Least items stay with a few more added essentials. The Pretty Standard variation is the set of items I take with me to get me through most of my favorite vacation recipes and to handle any curve balls that the rental house may throw it at me.
A Pyrex: A pyrex isn't just for measuring, kids. I use mine for saving that magic pasta water, for making salad dressings, and for serving extra marinara on the table.
Vegetable Peeler: Peeling veggies can be a big time-suck when you are preparing a meal for a large crowd and most vacation rentals I've visited don't have one. I like having my trusted peeler with me so I know I can move fast and feed the masses faster!
Serving Spoon: Serving utensils are really important to me when putting a meal out on the table. I always pack my favorite serving spoon just in case the house doesn't have any proper serving spoons. Serving meals with cereal spoons will ruin an entire vacation for me, truly.
Tongs: These tongs make me so so happy. I use them constantly at home and they are a must for vacation houses. They just make cooking and serving food better.
Pastry Brush: I always rent a house with a grill, and nothing relaxes me more than reapplying BBQ sauce on meat as it gets charred and crisp on the coals. A silicone pastry brush is my magic wand as I master the grill 'n' chill.
The Best Vanilla Extract: Most houses have standard, run-of-the-mill vanilla extract in their pantry for you to use but not the BEST vanilla extract, so bring your own.
Magic Bullet Blender: People love to tell me I'm absolutely insane for bringing my Magic Bullet on vacation with me but sorry I can't hear you because it's kind of LOUD! Salsa, salad dressing, sauces, smoothies, whipped cream and even ground coffee beans—the ol' MB has never let me down!
Doing the Most
When I tell people I pack my whole house up and take it with me on vacation, this is kind of what I mean. These are the items that, when added on to all of the above, create the safest and most comfortable space for me to do what I love while I am on vacation from doing what I love—FEEDING MY CHILDREN!
A Baking Dish: Baking projects are my favorite way to relax, and that's what vacation is about. I always bring a solid baking dish so if I decide to make an Any Fruit Crisp (the star of most of my vacations) or some Cinnamon Rolls or a new recipe from whatever cookbook I have packed with me, I am always covered. This dish also comes in handy for serving food as well as marinating meat or fish.
Colander: There are lots of work arounds for a house with no colander, but it's a strain. When we are packing this much stuff, we absolutely pack the colander.
Chip Clips: This is more for you than them. People love chips and they love leaving bags of chips open always everywhere forever and ever. They won't use these clips, but Mom will!
Silicone Spoon and/or Spatula: The spatula situation in rental houses is always the most entertaining and the least useful. Too big, too small, too old—you never know what you're going to get, but 9 times out of 10, it's not good. I love that these are one solid piece because I'm known from losing the top in whatever I'm stirring. These keep me sane, and we want Mom sane.
Scissors: I have been in a rental house that didn't have scissors and lived to tell the tale. I don't want to talk about it—just... bring scissors.
Dried Oregano: After salts and peppers, dried oregano is most frequently used in my kitchen. I buy it in bulk as well, so it's worth packing in my bag! You may have another herb or spice you use all the time, and I say bring it along.
Great Olive Oil: We always stock the house with a good solid olive oil on our first trip to the super market and that handles the majority of the olive oil we need. But for the special moments—like that gorgeous fresh produce you bought at the farmer's market you stumbled upon—I like to be able to pull out the good stuff.
Knife Sharpener: Yes, we brought our own knives. But we can also sharpen the ones we find in the house, which I consider an act of good will and "paying it forward." Plus, I like to put everyone to work chopping away in the kitchen, so lots of good knives means lots of happy helpers!
Half Sheet Pan: It is impossible to have enough half sheet pans on a vacation. You can use use them for prep, baking, grilling, serving, and carrying your food. They are an MVP on this list, for sure!
Rainbow Sprinkles: The trips I take are often centered around celebrations—birthdays, anniversaries, being gay, or just, you know, being on vacation. I love having rainbow sprinkles on hand to make any dessert feel extra celebratory, especially a cake! I keep mine in the sprinkle container from my Baking Essentials Pantry Storage that I am totally obsessed with.
Enamelware. Ok, so if you you know me you know I love my vessels as much as I love my food. Sadly, I cannot bring my entire collection of ceramics with me on vacation, but I can take my entire collection of enamelware. It's perfect for serving food, food prep, and also comes in handy for arts and crafts moments like tie-dyeing or candle making. Enamelware is available in all shapes, sizes, and colors! Here are a few essential pieces I recommend starting your collection with.
Coolers. I am completely and utterly obsessed with coolers, you guys. I get so many amazing things locally to bring with me on my trips, and my freezer is always stocked with the most incredible meats from BelCampo Meat Co. I am also always bringing things back home from trips that were not eaten or used. We also love snacks for the car as well as coolers for day trips whist on vacation. I think you guys get it! I recommend anything from YETI, obviously.
Reusable Napkins and Table Cloths. I find that paper towel usage goes up 7,000,000% in rental homes. This can get out of hand and Is very wasteful. Plus, using anything other than a cloth napkin while eating a dinner I spent all day preparing doesn't make me happy! So here we are, packing our favorite reusable napkins and table cloths for the best vacation ever! I usually have mine made, but there are some amazing ones at my favorite sustainable shopping resource, Goldune.
That's it. Follow any of these variations and you are going to be more prepared for ultimate Vacation Mom mode than anyone. I'm sure I forgot something and will remember when it's too late, but isn't that just poetically Vacation Mom? Every vacation rental needs a House Mom, and we gotta stick together. Now go make me proud.