Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Monday was one of those rare days when I have the house to myself and a decent stretch of time to spend as I please. Of course there was some housework, and there are people out there who think those who sweep or dust or vacuum regularly have unresolved issues, and that may be, but there’s something wonderfully centering and calming and even rejuvenating about work around the house, and how you feel after. I wouldn’t quite compare it to sex, but there is a resemblance. Especially if, on occasion, you do your housework naked. Which I am not in the habit of doing, but let me tell you, it was so hot on Monday I could have cooked pork chops on the driveway. I did have the air conditioner running for a while, but going in and out even occasionally, from 100 to 72 degrees, can make a person sick. Plus, I’m a fan of the breeze. So I turned off the AC, opened the windows, peeled off the clothes, and went to work. Cleaned the house. Top to bottom. Record time.
It was so hot. Instead of a shower right off the bat, I thought I’d have a glass of lemonade and rest a few minutes. I lay down on the carpet near the open window, the most wonderful warm wind coming in through the leaves of the willow tree. I remembered when I was young, lying on the grass beneath the willow in my neighbor’s yard and laughing and thinking how great the world was. Anyway, I must have dozed off because the next thing I heard was a gasp, and then a sound like someone inhaling a scream, and I sat up. Lord help us all. It was Mrs. Thompson from down the street, just inside the front door, wanting to borrow some flour, judging by the measuring cup in her hand and flour on her cheek.
“I thought you were dead,” she said. I was covering myself with pillows as she spoke. “I looked in and saw you on the floor…” “Oh, Mrs. Thompson,” I said. “I just finished cleaning and was resting before a shower. I’m so sorry I frightened you.” I walked kind of sideways to the bathroom where I grabbed Mr. S’s robe (I don’t own one, long story) and went back out to the living room. “Can I get something for you?” I asked. “I need flour,” she said. “Just one cup. My your house smells fresh. Like lemons. Only autumn lemons, if that is possible.”
I handed the flour to her and she thanked me and I told her she was more than welcome. I helped her down the few steps to the door, where she stopped and turned and smiled. “I used to clean the house in the nude, too,” she kind of whispered. “Those were the days.” “Yes, they were,” I said. And so are these.
These sandwiches are just plain savory, and cheesy and good.
1 can tuna or 1 can ham (grinding up SPAM works great)
4 hardboiled eggs
1 cup chopped Velveeta
1/2 cup mayo
3 T chopped onion
2 T sweet relish
1/2 of 1 small jar stuffed olives
Chop everything and mix in mayo. Spread in hamburger or hotdog buns, wrap in foil, and heat about 10 minutes at 250 or so.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Decided to head up to the cabin on Monday for a few days of swimming in the heat. We went and it was like visiting the edge of heaven for a day. Those lake cabin sunsets realign one’s mojo more evenly and efficiently than most anything in the world. Good time to do it, too. A week from today the oldest goes back to school, and in between now and then, and between then and Tuesday the 3rd of September, there are a mazillion small things to which we must tend. A box spring or some wood slats (the queen box wouldn’t fit up the steps of her small duplex and THAT was a scene worth filming), lists of needed clothes (mostly jeans as I bought the rest on sale here and there), books, toiletries, school supplies, and groceries as we ate everything at the cabin. There are forms to fill out, schedules to change (phy ed, an already filled requirement, is not on the favorites list when there’s comparative anatomy and Chinese to take), play schedules to make note of, doctor’s appointmens for an ingrown toenail to be clipped and a rather nasty growth aptly called a “wart” to be removed, hair appmts to make, etc. Name something needing doing and it’s gonna get done.
There’s a lot. Not a complaint, mind you. I’ve got it in me, for sure. And thank goodness for the busyness of it all. Takes my attention away from the little ache inside. Won’t dwell on it, but you know the one. Rises up about this time every year and probably always will. It resides in the space always there for them, the space created and stretched wide by three amazing lives, by years of hollering and boo-boos, by those agonizing questions, by all the handmade Mother’s Day cards and the bunches of daisies pulled from roadside ditches, handed to me on hot days when I was a bit too crabby to be kind. “Here, Mom. I picked these for you.” Yep, that space. The one there from day one until they are old people, and I am a bit older, and we look at each other and marvel how we came so far together, and I will say, “Who is going to get up and get more iced tea?” And we’ll laugh, and I’ll do it because I plan to have a lot of energy when I’m old and will still want to do things for my old kids.
For today, though, they can bring me the iced tea. With a lot of ice. It’s warm out, and the list isn’t getting any shorter, and I got up extra early. To meet it all with arms wide open, whatever this day will bring.
Made these for Mr. S last weekend, and I swear he nearly tipped over with joy. They’re wonderfully satisfying, and go well with a slew of appetizer-type foods, and beer. Or before a meal of teriyaki anything.
Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts
8-10 slices bacon, cut into thirds crosswise
2 8 oz can whole water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup ketchup
2 T vinegar
1/2 tsp pepper
4 cloves garlic, crushed
Mix together all but water chestnuts, bacon and brown sugar. Pour into large Ziploc bag; add chestnuts. Marinate overnight. Drain. Roll each chestnut in brown sugar, and wrap with 1/3 strip of bacon. Secure with toothpick.
Place on a broiling pan, and broil with vigilance until golden brown, turning chestnuts once or twice for evenness. Drain on paper towels. Can be prepared ahead of time and stored in refrigerator until ready to bake. For a sweeter version, simply wrap chestnuts in bacon, and baste with a mix of 3/4 cup ketchup and 3/4 cup brown sugar.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Spent the evening getting ready for my niece and nephew who spent a good part of the week with us. They’re younger than my kids, the ages where coloring and decorating cookies shaped like dogs and suns, and watching Disney movies are the most fun things, so that is what we did. It was relaxing mostly, and there was a walk or two in there, and quite a lot of laughter and a mild admonition now and then: either you simmer, or we’ll have to have a major Time Out. I forgot how good it feels when the bedtime of children rolls around and the wild moments of the day fade into a few whispers and questions in the dark.
School starts in just over two weeks, and I have to admit the feelings are quite mixed. Every year about this time for the last decade or so I’ve had this great relief when September appears out of nowhere and school starts and there is suddenly silence in the house for great stretches of the day. It’s almost embarrassing to admit how wonderful it felt each year on those first few days.
With the kids older now, and slowly making their way Away, I’m still looking forward to school, but I’m paying a bit more attention to time these last few weeks of summer vacation, savoring the moments that will not long from now fade into future deja vu. I’m thinking of the late night grocery trip with all three kids when we came home with four kinds of fruit we’ve never before eaten; the long road trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s cabin and how we sang “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Blurred Lines” at the top of our lungs; how many times we made deep fried cream cheese garlic wontons in three months; all of us falling asleep in the family room after watching “The Godfather”; inventing our version of homemade barbecued chicken pizza, or how bad those fish tacos were. A few campfires. Hiking with Mr. Sundberg. The unusual number of rashes. The rollercoasters.
Thing I’ve found is, you never know what moment will be a golden one til long after you’re in it. Could be our outing for school supplies today. Could be whatever happens tonight. School is not long off, so put away your iPods and cell phones. If your kids are grown, gather your grandchildren together. Take a walk. Make dinner together. Have a conversation. Get some paint in bright colors and some white paper and hand paint a mural of Life. Together.
Though not everyone is a fan of cucumbers, these sandwiches are surprisingly good. They’re light and filling and perfect for these hot August afternoons when turning on the oven is just not an option.
Cool Cucumber Sandwiches
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 pkg dry Ranch dressing mix
1 loaf white bread, crusts removed (or a baguette works, too)
1-2 T milk
1 cucumber, peeled if you wish, and sliced thin
Mix the cream cheese and ranch dressing mix, adding milk as needed to make it easy to spread. Depending on how much time you want to spend on these, you can just spread slices of bread w/ cream cheese mixture, cut in quarters and top with cucumber slices. The kids like to cut circles out of the bread, then spread w/ cream cheese mixture and top with cucumbers. If I’m using a baguette, I just slice, spread, top. For color, you can add a strip of red pepper or pimento, or a sprinkle of paprika.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. A stretch of quiet in the first week of August, a week of looking ahead and getting a few things done but not forgetting there are a good three weeks of summer vacation left and how are we going to spend it? We had a great meal that evening, grilled salmon and vegetables and some couscous with garlic and corn on the cob, and shortcake for dessert with peaches sautéed in butter with a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg.
While we ate, we talked about our dreams. Not night dreams, but life-ones. The kids mentioned blue Mustangs and fruit bat farms and teaching in Alaska. They talked about visiting Tanzania and Europe and an island in the Pacific where the water is that amazing blue and you can spear fish in knee-deep water. What they will name their kids one day, and dream jobs doing journalistic writing in war zones and teaching biology at the college level and writing their own books. And I talked about a bed and breakfast in an old farmhouse on a lake, or a lodge on the river with 20 rooms and a Great Room for writers and like-minded artists to meet and do their work, or a little café where the menu is one sheet of paper with about 13 things like Buttermilk Pancakes and Grilled Cheese with Bacon and Wild Rice Soup and Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.
You set your sights too high, one of them said, and I laughed. No, I said. Here’s the deal. And I told them the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus, father and son, and how Daedalus angered King Minos on the island of Crete, so they crafted wings of wax in order to fly the heck out of there. Daedalus warned Icarus to fly at a reasonable height, but Icarus got carried away (who wouldn’t?) and flew too close to the sun, which melted his wings and caused him to fall to his death.
What’s the point? the kids asked. Well, I said, the point is this. Everyone knows that Icarus fell. But what we have to remember is that he also flew. He flew! If you sit on your butt and don’t follow your dreams, you’re not going to plunge to your death for sure, but you’re also never going to fly. Give that some thought. You can’t set your sights too high; just be mindful of the route you take, and don’t ever doubt that you can get there.
And that’s when the oven buzzer went off, and the shortcake was ready, and we piled it with peaches and Cool Whip and continued talking about our dreams until twilight came and the kids headed out for a walk, and I cleaned up the kitchen, thinking about what I would name my café, had I a café, and how I would line one entire wall with books and invite people to read poems on Thursday evenings, and how I’d drop little truffles in the hot chocolate and everyone would say, “Mmm.”
These bars don’t take long, and they don’t last long either. Good for a snack before a hike or after a day at the beach. Or just to eat because they are so dang good.
Special K Bars
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
In 2½ quart pan, bring the above to a slight boil.
Add 1 cup peanut butter, and mix well. Remove from heat.
Add 6 cups Special K cereal. Spread in 9×13 greased pan. (Line with foil and grease that, and you’re good to go.)
Melt 6 oz choc chips, 6 oz butterscotch chips, and 1-2 T peanut butter together in microwave, 2-3 minutes on medium. Check and stir occasionally until melted. Frost. Refrigerate, or cool on counter, and cut.
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. August is here, and with it weather we embrace — no oppressive heat or surprising cold, mild humidity, some sun and a rain shower here and there. The weekend was busy, with the road trip to the cabin and the pontoon ride that didn’t happen. It rained, and it was chilly, so we spent much of the day inside playing board games and telling stories and that, really, was alright. Something about being together in a comfortable place, with hot beefs and potatoes and cheese in the crock pot and bowls of chips all ’round and children running through now and then.
The week has been less busy, and what I would call one fine stretch of days. I’ve had more time with the kids than usual, and we went on several adventures. Shopping was one. I’m not allowed to say the word “school” yet, so I guess I’ll call it “The Thing That’s Starting Soon Where You Need Some New Clothes and Supplies and Such Shopping.” We set out on Tuesday with that in mind, anyway, but on a warm, sunny afternoon in a series of warm, sunny afternoons, it’s not easy to keep the enthusiasm going. When we got to the mall, the kids were all hungry so we went to my favorite sit-down, reasonably priced restaurant and shared some chicken wings and nachos, and after a good hour of eating and laughing, our desire to shop with purpose had been replaced by an inclination to wander about and just look around. Which we did. Had the day been closer to The Thing That’s Starting Soon Where You Need Some New Clothes and Supplies and Such, I would have been militant about the shopping part. But it wasn’t, and I wasn’t.
So we wandered together, and bumped into each other here and there along the way, and looked at knives and curtains and fine chocolates and shoes. One of the girls got her ears pierced, spur-of-the-moment, and the other decided she wants to buy a fur suit and go rollerblading through WalMart (on which I put the kibosh, as some things ought to simmer before acted upon, especially when the cost of a fur suit is involved). We ate soft serve ice cream, and tried on hats, and found ourselves, after we left the mall, in the bakery of an upscale grocery store.
Yeast donuts rolled in sugar, a Bismarck with raspberry jelly (mine), a couple Bavarian crèmes, and a mini raspberry cheesecake festooned with chocolate and berries. Enough. We piled into the car again, and rode home in a car warm from the sun, our feet tired from walking for what didn’t seem much time at all. The windows were all open as we drove, our hair whipping about, and we listened to music and talked about What’s Next. I didn’t mention the “S” word, nor did I point out how the butternut trees are turning on the tree by the ball field. I said, instead, how I thought it would be fun call Mr. Sundberg, who is out on a motivational tour, speaking on goal-oriented living, and let him know that things are alright. Then maybe sit out on the lawn awhile, and eat our donuts while watching the the sun set. And we did, and it was Fine.
A meal on a stick is the way to go in August. Here’s one version, packed with meat and vegetables, and something you’ll find yourself wanting to share with the whole neighborhood.
Grandpa’s Zesty Beef Kabobs
Cut sirloin steak (or venison) into 1-1½ inch chunks. The larger, the more tender. Marinate in mix of ½ bottle Kraft Zesty Italian dressing and 1 T barbecue sauce. Marinate in Ziploc bag 3 hours or overnight.
Alternate meat on skewers with onion, red and green pepper, mushrooms, zucchini, canned whole cooked potatoes, cherry tomatoes. Grill ’til brown on one side. Turn. Baste with marinade. Continue grilling until brown on all sides.