If you live in California, and drive to Canada to visit your relatives in an orange van called "The Great Pumpkin", then you are the cool cousin.
Wendy is the same age as my sister Gwen, and we always wished we could see her more often. But given that we lived in different countries, with Wendy in the west and us in the east, we did well, since they usually came every second year.
Remarkably, my sister remembers me teaching Wendy the American national anthem. (Not my country's anthem, but hers. Was I really that bossy?) As children, we went swimming together, played make-believe in the corn crib, and took turns in my grandparents' hammock. As we grew older, our relationships turned into real friendships. We travelled back and forth on our own for visits, and Wendy was a bridesmaid in Gwen's wedding. When she came to Canada in 2012, she and I drove to the Stratford Festival to see 42nd Street. We didn't stop talking for a minute on the way there, and still had lots to talk about before and after the show. Wendy is that friend who you haven't seen in a while, but when you do, it feels like you've never been apart.
That's their dad, my Uncle Alan, smiling in the background. He died much too young at the age of 45, when Erin and Shawn were teenagers. His friendly and gentle nature helped make them the people they are today.
Shawn read scripture at Gwen's wedding, and Erin read scripture at mine. By that time, they had grown into kind, thoughtful young people, and I will always be proud of them.
Next week, I'll be writing about my third set of cousins on the Bustin side - Heather and Michael, the ones I grew up with.
And yes, there's a recipe this week, at least sort of. This seven layer dip barely needs a recipe, but I made it with my youngest daughter yesterday and thought it would be a great appendix to a post about my family.
Seven Layer Dip
1 can refried beans
1/2 tsp ground cumin - or more or less to suit your taste
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar
Pico de gallo, or strained salsa
1 cup guacamole
Shredded lettuce (or olives, or green onions, or whatever you like)
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Tortilla chips to serve
Put the dip in two small dishes rather than one large one. (Once people start helping themselves, it gets messy - two smaller dishes are definitely more attractive!)
Gently heat the refried beans in a skillet, breaking it up and adding a little cumin. Spread it on the bottom layer of the dishes. Sprinkle cheddar on top, followed by pico de gallo, guacamole, lettuce and sour cream. Finish with cheddar cheese on top. Serve with chips.