Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It had been one of those hot windy days where you see little ripples of heat on the road and everything feels dry and crackly and the word “lemon” makes you salivate. The kids had ridden their bikes over to the church parking lot where a fire hydrant had burst and water was shooting everywhere. Apparently the fire department was taking its sweet time on purpose since nearly every kid in town had shown up and was playing in the water and the small pond that had been formed.
It wasn’t unbearably hot, but by the time I’d finished washing all the windows, I was thinking a shower would feel nice. So I undressed in the mudroom, where I threw my clothes into the laundry basket, and was halfway up the stairs when I remembered the bottle of cucumber shower gel I’d picked up at the store on Friday. It was still in the car. I went back down the stairs, and instead of getting dressed, I just grabbed Mr. Sundberg’s trench coat from the mudroom closet, put it on, and went out to the garage, shutting the door behind me.
The shower gel was in the car along with some Fourth of July cookie decors and a package of thank you cards and some Orange Crush and Tootsie Rolls. I’d forgotten I’d picked up these things, and it was a lovely surprise. The fact that I’d locked myself out of the house was not. Long story short, I spent most of the afternoon in the car, waiting for Mr. Sundberg to come home from his fishing outing, paging through the car manual trying to figure out how to turn off that dang little green light on the dash, eating two-thirds of the sack of Tootsie Rolls, drinking one can of Orange Crush and opening another, and writing five thank you cards to various neighbors for produce so generously shared this spring and summer.
I don’t know how long I’d been there before I fell asleep, or how long I’d been asleep before I woke up, but when I did wake up, it took a moment. Mr. Sundberg’s car wasn’t in the garage next to mine, but the door had been opened and there was a Post-It note on the window next to me. It read, “Went to get some wine. Back in a few.” And he was.
Teriyaki Shish Kabob
Both kids and adults will love these kabobs. They’re light and tangy and lovely on a bed of rice. Serve with tropical drinks with those little umbrellas in them, and a slice of key lime or lemon pie on a hot, windy day.
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 to 2 lbs. boneless sirloin or chuck steak
Small mushrooms, zucchini wedges, water chestnuts, cherry tomatoes, pineapple chunks, onion chunks, carrots, or other vegetables of choice. Cut steak into 1 or 2 inch cubes or thin strips, as desired. In large bowl, combine corn syrup, soy, sherry, ginger, garlic and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Add steak strips and toss to coat well. Cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, several hours or overnight. Remove steak from marinade, reserving marinade. Thread steak onto shish kabob skewers alternating with vegetables. (You may parboil the mushrooms, onion and zucchini for 5 minutes before grilling, if desired.) Grill about six inches from hot coals, turning and basting with reserved marinade about seven minutes, or until done to your liking.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It wasn’t hot, either. Warm, maybe. Really warm. But nowhere near as hot as it has gotten since, Lord help us. I’ll confess. For the first time in my life, I cranked the air conditioning to “High” sometime on Monday, and that still didn’t do it. Heat everywhere, even behind the towels in the hall closet. Hot, wet heat that makes you want to fold up into a ball and fly off into orbit where there must be a lack of moisture and a dark, cool corner somewhere.
We tried just about everything. Went out and bought mini oscillating fans and plugged them in and lay on the living room floor, all four of us, with air blowing full blast up and down our faces and bodies. Mr. Sundberg walked in at lunchtime and there we were, all sprawled out and red-faced and damp. We must have looked liked victims of some kind of serial-fan-killer or something, because Mr. Sundberg let out a tiny little scream. “Aahh!” he squeaked. None of us moved at all except for our heads which we turned to look at him and say, “IT’S HOT.” He shook his head at us and went into the kitchen where I’d made a three-layer turkey and Swiss sandwich on rye and wrapped it and put it in the fridge because we’d eaten our lunch early. Popsicles. Cherry.
Today is different. Today the heat index is way the heck up there beyond sanity, and fans seem a bit silly when your internal organs are at risk. Today we head to the beach where Nature Herself has provided relief in its most practical form: cool water. Today the kids and I will immerse ourselves in one of our state’s bazillion lakes and stay there until our skin turns white and our internal organs are sufficiently cool, and while there we’ll probably talk about what we’ll do over the Fourth or maybe what we need to get for camp, or perhaps we’ll just reminisce about how much fun it was to go sledding last winter and how much fun it will be this coming winter and how it’s really not that far away, it being almost July and all, and September not long off, and once September is here, well, it’s pretty much almost winter time, don’tcha think?
Pepperoni Pasta Salad
This recipe is light and tangy and just right for a hot summer evening on the deck when you don’t feel like having dinner but you need a little something. Serve with bread and white wine and perhaps a sliver of cheesecake.
1 large package sea shells macaroni
1 can small black olives, drained
1 jar green olives, drained
1 package sliced pepperoni
1 small red onion, sliced and halved
8 ounces (or so to taste) cubed Mozzarella cheese
Fresh grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Oregano, basil, garlic, parsley, rosemary, salt, and pepper to taste.
Cook pasta; drain and cool. Combine all ingredients except Parmesan cheese. Toss in oil and vinegar. Add herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle Parmesan on top.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Not bad at all. After a long and lovely spring day, it was good to sit back and listen awhile. The kids were gone for the weekend, visiting their grandparents, without whom I might simply curl up and blow away, and Mr. Sundberg was out of town on a speaking engagement, this time on the merits of Awareness, and Clarity, its cousin.
When the kids got home Sunday, it was a good several hours before they were settled in again. There’s always laundry up the wazoo, and trinkets to put away, and the many stories to listen to and nod to and wonder about. This time around there were tales of an eighteen-inch walleye one of the kids caught, and how they cleaned it up and fried it and ate it Friday night. And there had been a trip on a pontoon boat and a lot of swimming and a meal of waffles and Grandpa’s loudest belch ever. For real.
What just about undid the kids was when I informed them of our Monday morning road trip to the dental office. Departure time: 7:45 a.m. Be there. Of course a long silence ensued, followed by various degrees of whining, bargaining and vowing: “I, personally, will never make my kids go to the dentist because it is pure torture.”
I, on the other hand, find dental visits not unlike visits to the local spa. (Where I have had the privilege to spend time only twice in my life, mind you.) You’re greeted at the door by a happy person, you read magazines while you wait, and are ushered to a soft recliner under warm lights where you may very well doze off to the sound of music. You’re offered water at some point, and a choice of flavors — grape or mint or berry — and you’re asked how you’re doing more than once.
When you leave, you feel a bit out of it, perhaps, but refreshed, and glad to be alive, and very often you’re given a parting gift and an offer to schedule a future appointment.
Nothing like a dental visit on a Monday morning to make the second week of summer vacation come alive. Just ask the kids. They’ll tell you. Spa time, only cheaper.
Some things are essential on a hot summer afternoon, and a good gooey brownie is right up there with root beer and a snorkel. Give this one a go, and see if it’s not a keeper.
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8″ square baking pan. Beat eggs in medium bowl. Gradually add sugar and vanilla. Beat well. Blend in melted butter. Gradually add flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt, blending well. Pour into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or so.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. It had been cloudy and gray all day, and raining on and off, so instead of sun, I had a lot of lights on. I know it might seem wasteful, but I like a lot of light. I like to see what I’m doing, if nothing else, but if there’s any warmth to be had, I like that, too. I like words like “glow” and “bask” and “illuminate” and if I can get a vitamin from being in the light, well, light up the ultraviolet bulb.
Don’t get me wrong. A good candle or two certainly can do the trick, especially on a dreary day. And there are certain days which call for candlelight. I light one up on days when the house smells musty after a long winter. I light a candle on days when someone I love is far away or struggling or having surgery. I light a candle on days when I’m remembering something significant to me alone, and I might not even explain it to anyone. (I light a candle every year on the date of my conception, and that’s all I’ll say about that except that it’s in December and I was born nine months to the day later.) Some days I light a candle simply because I’m feeling crappy and a flickering flame is enough to distract me into feeling better.
They say each of us has an aura about us, a kind of field of energy that reacts and expands in light and color. I don’t know for sure about this, but I swear I’ve met people who are lit up and shine, who radiate and flicker and glow, and I also know people who are burnt out and dull and, well, kind of dead. You know? ‘Minds me of a song I love. “This Little Light of Mine, / I’m Gonna Let It Shine…” Let it shine? Heck. Light up the whole prairie, Honey. For as long as ever you can.
German Potato Salad with Garlic
Twice a year I crave German food: October and June. Here’s light and tangy potato salad for a picnic hike. Enjoy with a bottle of locally brewed beer and some
Kielbasa from the butcher shop.
10 boiled potatoes, sliced (Yukon Gold or Idaho Red)
5 T oil
5 T cider vinegar
5 T water
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 c. chopped onions
5 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 tsp. sugar
Layer the potatoes and dressing in a bowl. Avoid stirring. This salad goes great with smoked sausage or Kielbasa.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’ve been enjoying kitchen time with the windows open lately. Nothing like a gentle breeze, the scent of lilacs, and the glow of a citrus candle to set the scene for an evening of baking. Throw in the “Missouri Waltz” and the News from Lake Wobegon and what more could you ask for? A wooden spoon, maybe, and a few good flour sack towels fresh out of the dryer.
My best wooden spoon is lost to me now. I broke it in half while whipping up a batch of snickerdoodle dough last week, and I felt like crying for a good hour after. I know it sounds silly to cry over a wooden spoon, but you get attached to something and you lose it, you’re bound to feel an ache. It was the same way with an old crockery bowl from my grandmother. It was medium-sized, just perfect for making pie crust and cookie bars, gray and cracked and lovely as can be. It just split in half one day out of the blue while I was mixing lemon curd, and I just stood there looking at it for a very long while before I set it gently in the garbage and went out to the porch swing where I sat for a while and watched a storm roll in and thought about my grandmother’s forearms and hands and how stubborn she was and how she never gave up.
Of course you can’t hold on to everything, and even if you could, why would you want to? I think the trick is to dwell not on what you lost but on what you gained by having had it. There isn’t much that lasts forever. Not childhood, not wooden spoons, not lilacs. Not memory, even. Things and people come and go, and you hold on to what you can, and let go of what you must. As long as you manage to laugh once in a while, and take a road trip now and then, everything ought to turn out just fine. A bit of sauerkraut on occasion wouldn’t hurt, either.
These bars are just right for picnics on windy days, or boat rides, or visits to the beach. Wrapped in individual squares, they’re very much like pecan pie to go.
White or yellow cake mix (set aside 2/3 cup)
1 stick butter, melted
Mix together above ingredients. Pat into a 9 x 13 greased pan and build up a bit on the sides.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or so.
Mix together the reserved 2/3 cup cake mix,
1 1/2 cup dark Karo syrup,
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Pour over crust. Top with 1 cup chopped pecans. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.
Let cool and cut.