Friday, July 31, 2009

Hot Weather Dinners

The last few days in the Pacific NW have been scorchers. Places like Seattle and Portland are experiencing 100 degrees plus while the rest of the nation seems to be enjoying mostly 75-90. Clearly there is a great big bug in the planetary punch cards because this is not the way things are supposed to run. Now would be a good time to investigate the fashionable (finally!) topic of climate change. However, I think the majority of my readers are up to speed on that one, and really I'd rather discuss the all important issue: dinner.

Making dinner when it is so hot out is not something most people want to contemplate. Not only do you not want to turn on that stove or oven, but the heat also suppresses appetite. Many solve this problem by heading for an air-conditioned restaurant. We tried that a few nights ago, and the result was an absolute herd of people with the same idea. Therefore, on a hot night, I prefer to find my own ways of coping with the food question.

The perfect solution is salad bar dinner. My mom used to do this all the time when I was growing up. On any hot day she would make things that would end up being cold by dinner time. Our house was quite comfortable in the morning and afternoon, but by evening it would be sweltering. Cold dinner served on the shaded porch was perfect.

All sorts of things might go on the menu. Dishes such as potato and broccoli salad with garlic vinaigrette, deviled eggs, sliced peaches with cinnamon, Greek salad with real feta and olives, coleslaw, and iced cucumber salad with dill were all common. She grew all the veggies in her massive garden, and harvesting was part of the fun. We (actually I should check with my brothers to see what they remember) loved these dinners because they were delicious and because they were a departure from the norm.

Did I mention that we all sat down to dinner together nearly every night? That was simply expected of every family member who was home, and we thought nothing of it. Of course you would sit down to dinner, otherwise you might not get any food. Lest this sound too sickeningly Rockwellian, I'm sure there was plenty of name calling, potty humor, and argument. Nevertheless, it was nice.

So I've made several salad suppers recently. They are not nearly as good as my mothers. Not all the produce comes from our garden, but I am inordinately pleased when I can add a handful of our own tomatoes or a few leaves of rainbow chard. If this heat continues, I may start to run out of ideas, but then we can just move over to the wonderful realm of sandwiches...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rules for Summer Living

Not long ago, we had a family dinner at our house. We ate a dinner of salads and deviled eggs, went very slowly for a walk, and even played in the sprinkler for a few minutes. It was a very enjoyable way to combat the heat. While there, Younger Niece (who often amuses herself with writing activities during boring times) gave me a list she'd been working on in the car on the way over. Here it is:

Summer Rules for Auntie J. (not my real initial)
1. Read two hours daily
2. Write a novel
3. Work on novel at least once daily
4. Make a garden grow
5. Learn to fly a rocketship
6. Play Fable 2 (video game) at least ten times a day
7. Make your Sim (another video game) character go to work in a jet
8. Make fifty gallons of blueberry jam
9. Do coffee experiaments on cats
10. Make fifty gallons of coffee and make Uncle M. drink it all in one day
I do have a list of things I need to get done before my summer break is over, but it reads something like this:
1. Dentist
2. Doctor
3. Haircut
4. Hem pants
5. Clean car
Who wouldn't prefer Younger Niece's list of goals and aspirations to my own? I'll have to call about those rocketship flying lessons ASAP.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to Be a Good Husband

Dear Men,

Do women confuse you? Do you have trouble understanding why they do the things they do? Do you often struggle to see what it is that women want from you? Do you throw up your hands in disgust and walk away? Do you wish things could be different? Do you long for the day when your wife or girlfriend is actually happy to see you on a regular basis? Well now you can! All you need is the Superior Husband Program (SHP). This program, based on the many sterling qualities of my superior husband, is centered around ten simple rules:

1. When she talks, actually listen to what she says (try, always try, to take an interest!)

2. Respect her as a person (remember, she somehow got through childhood, adolescence, education, and perhaps even a job and independent living without your help!)

3. Don't try to fix every problem (sometimes she just wants you to offer comfort and support)

4. Show her that you are thinking about her (this does not have to cost a lot) when you are apart.

5. Be generous with your appreciation of the things she does for you (around the house for example) and stingy with your complaints

6. Do things together both old and new (and be brave about this)

7. Pitch in! (boy can you get a lot of credit for doing chores when it's least expected)

8. Tell the truth about what you are feeling and what you want out of life

9. Stand together (do any disagreeing in private)

10. Tell her that you love her in a multitude of ways (most women really don't get tired of this!)

You can laugh, if you like, at my naïveté, but it's all true. Nobody is perfect, and M is no exception. We both have our moments. However, he truly is a superior husband, and I am still quite thrilled to be his wife. Now I'd better post this quick before I get embarrassed and lose my nerve.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stupid Summer Reading

Okay fine! I confess! I enjoy crappy magazines. In fact, during the summer I have been known to read everything from Allure to Ladies Home Journal to Redbook. The only place I draw the line is at purely gossip mags (those are only for reading at the gym or the doctor's office so I don't actually contribute any money or subscriber numbers to that yucky business) and those which focus entirely on sex (Cosmo, I used to love you, but then you became so single-minded!). Otherwise, most titles are fair game.

What is it about these magazines that is so satisfying? There is something about content that speaks to an old-fashioned part of my personality. Perhaps the articles address my insecurities. It's as if they are saying "you too can be a better wife/housekeeper/fashion plate/decorator/fitness/nut/friend/community member/etc in only ten easy steps!" My rational mind knows perfectly well what is going on, but that doesn't seem to matter. I still read all ten steps. I can hear the serious-minded women out there scoffing right now, but that is the best explanation I can offer.

I must not be alone. My grandmother, a PhD sociologist, was also a great reader of women's magazines. My father remembers her have stacks of them (a practice they would abhor) alongside her academic journals. Lest you think I might be in danger of growing soft-headed, I must defend myself by pointing out that I enjoy many serious reads such as Harpers, Discover, and The Atlantic. However, that is beside the point.

Therefore, scoff all you like, but I'll keep reading. There is nothing so summery as taking your glass of iced tea and your terrible magazine and sitting in the backyard. Also, while you are there, you might just learn some incredibly useful information about how to clean your grill, decorate with throw pillows, or be at peace with your in-laws. Who could resist wisdom like that?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

So Much More Fun Than Tupperware

Today on Spacebook I got a targeted ad for a home sales party. I'm sure you know the kind. This is where the host offers you food and maybe a few goodies, and you're supposed to buy into the fabulous products they are representing. Tupperware made this practice famous, but you now find these types of parties for everything from cleaning products to rubber stamps to designer clothes.

So why was my ad special? It was for a tuna party. Yes, tuna. Bumblebee will cheerfully send you a party packet including "recipes, goodies, great food, and an amazing party!" I don't think that ad targeting must be working very well if it is suggesting that I be the host for a tuna party. However, I don't want to be judgmental. If you feel like hosting the party, please do be my guest. Just don't invite me because I'm pretty sure I have an important, um, thing I need to do instead.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Ahh it feels good to be home! We've only been away for a week, but it feels like more due to the nature of our travels. First, several days before we left, I went into frantic Country Fair mode. The combination of camping and commercial endeavors means that you need a wide range of gear in order to get by. I spent ages building a vast pile in our family room to ensure that I didn't forget anything essential to our comforts or to the running of our booth. Of course this means I forgot lots of things.

At some point, I must go into each of these phases in detail, and with some of the photos I took. However, for the moment, here is a brief run-down of our adventure:

--- Tuesday night I washed the nieces and packed the massive pile into M's highly useful car

--- Wednesday morning we drove to Oregon stopping once for Subway (note, it was a fairly peaceful drive because I used luggage to create a tall barrier between the kids. I highly recommend this trick.)

--- Wednesday afternoon we went out to the fair and got our wristbands that allow us to stay on-site after the public gets kicked out for the night. Huge line for no discernable reason. Frantically tried to pour mosquito repellent on Elder Niece who is mildly allergic.

--- Wednesday night, we arrived at my Dad's, had a slap up dinner, and found various spots to lay our sleeping bags (it was really good to see my dad, and I'm only sorry we couldn't stay longer)

--- Thursday morning headed out to the fair with both brothers and their guests. Thus the great pack in began. This is where you carry everything from the massive pile to your booth which is located about 1/2 mile (roughly) away. Back and forth back and forth.

--- Thursday afternoon we set up our booth and our camping area which is hidden right behind. I'm happy to say that three teachers, two engineers, two economists, one editor, and two kids make a pretty good booth team.

--- Friday was a great day at the fair. We made a fair (har!) amount of money (good because we make a sizable investment in order to come each year) and I think most people had fun. The Tofu Tias and fudge (a Friday tradition) were divine.

--- Saturday was also a good day. We didn't make quite as much money, but then again we never do on Saturday. I also went to a music show with Elder Niece, M, and the two economists. Turns out everybody enjoys Beatles cover bands. One of my two most favorite aunties arrived that day too! It wouldn't be the fair without her. Cheesecake at midnight is another delectable family tradition.

--- Sunday was where everything came apart. In the morning, the thunder crashed and the rain came down, and I have never seen such a wet fair. Our booth is such that you can sort of keep things dry, but it's a constant effort. No words can describe the way the earthen path became a sea of mud. I'll just have to post the pics. It was a quite miserable day. The pack out was made far worse by the rain, the lack of people to help (several left early), and the extreme distance to the cars. I suppose what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

--- Sunday evening found us finally done with our fair exit and on the road to the Oregon coast. We stayed at the Overleaf Lodge, and enjoyed views of the ocean, clean beds, no drum tower while we were trying to sleep, and bathrooms instead of port-a-potties. It was heaven. There is nothing quite like going from the mud hell to a third floor hot tub overlooking the ocean.

--- Monday we walked on the beach, enjoyed the most amazing collection of tide pools, and relaxed.

---Tuesday we visited the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Rogue Brewery (very close together so you can make the kids and Dad happy in almost the same visit) and then drove home.

What a long strange trip it's been. Now I have the very same mountain of stuff in the family room, but it all needs serious washing. Is the fair worthwhile given all the work and discomforts? That is tough to say. The assembly of nearly the entire family is quite wonderful, and in a normal year, I think that is the deal maker. However, the mud was another thing entirely. Let's just hope it really is on a twenty year cycle (my mom and I think the last big rain at the fair was in about 1989) and we won't have to deal with anything like that again for a good long time. At least I am once again reminded of how incredibly lucky I am to live my luxurious First World life. Okay, that's as much time as I can waste on blogging. Now I really must get back to the pile.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Welcome Baby A!

Wow, you go away for a few days, and the whole world changes. It seems that my friends, R and J, had a baby just a little early while I was away. It could not have happened to a nicer couple who are honestly two of the best people I know. Luckily for the baby, J has had lots of practice on her three cute nieces. Plus, unlike many dads, R has actually had quite a bit of hands on experience as well since he was around when my nieces were babies. Baby A is sure to receive nothing but the most tender care from her parents. Welcome to the world Baby A. We are very excited to know you.

Monday, July 06, 2009

You Know It's Summer When...

1. you no longer need the dryer in order to finish the laundry (I love that sundried smell)

2. you can go for a walk AFTER dinner, and it's still sunny and beautiful outside

3. the mosquitoes come out (I just got bitten ON MY BOSSOM! How rude is that?)

4. concert season begins at all the outdoor venues (yay for picnics on the grass!)

5. you actually see the garbage get collected

6. you encounter that strange beast known as daytime television (scary!)

7. flower and veggie gardens go crazy!

8. you can stay up until the terribly exciting hour of midnight!

9. you can go to the movies midweek (see #8)

10. you get to sit in the backyard, iced tea in hand, and read your novel to your hearts content

Friday, July 03, 2009

Hooray for Franken

Forgot to mention in the last post (although I'm sure it's been done elsewhere):

Hello I'm Stuart Smalley. I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggonit I'm the junior senator from Minnesota.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Super Majority!

After eight months of finagling on the part of Republicans, a court has finally decided that Al Franken is, indeed, the winner in Minnesota. That is very exciting news for Franken and the people of his state. However, in much more important news, Franken makes senator #60 for the Democratic Party. This filibuster-proof number allows the Democrats to push through pretty much any legislation they would like. This reminds me of the days when the Republicans had the house, senate, and presidency, and they took out that wonderful "Contract on America." It's payback time! But I'm not partisan or anything!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Ho Hum Book Review

Can someone please tell me what is so hot about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? This is a newish novel by Mary Anne Shaffer, and I keep seeing rave reviews about it in all sorts of places. I read this book, and I don't get it. It's a little book about a little island. The set-up is unique and so is the title, but otherwise it is just a sort of cute little story. The reviewers are treating it like great new lit, and I really cannot see what all the fuss is about. Perhaps I've spent too many years in the YA trenches, and I just don't get "real" literature anymore. I expect something remarkable before a book goes on my best loved list.