What’s for supper? Vol. 177: Don’t call it a barbecue!

What a week! Summer is officially underway, emitting showers of sparks as it comes. If I finally figured things out, this post contains two videos.

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese on sourdough

Saturday was twelve years ago. Let’s see if I took a picture of my sandwich. 

Oh yeah!

Sometimes you takes the trouble to plates your dinner, sometimes you don’ts.

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma with vegetables, pita, and yogurt sauce; frozen grapes

It’s been too long since we shawarma’d. I marinated the meat in the morning and cooked it under the broiler, since it was too rainy to grill outside. We had the meat and onions with black and kalamata olives, feta, parsley, pita and yogurt sauce, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Frozen grapes are a splendid way to clear your head when you’re feeling hot and grumpy. Just remember to dry them off before you freeze them, or they will get a little jacket of ice. 

MONDAY
Hamburgers

I also feel like there was some vegetable involved, but I can’t prove it. What I did do was add my little portion to the worldwide onslaught of senseless food videos.

The occasion was that we have new knives like rich people, but I suffered a relapse and bought a meat chub like a poor. See, Damien and I discussed how we are now so wealthy, we no longer have to buy ground beef in opaque plastic printed with a photo of the meat allegedly inside, but can now treat ourselves to meat you can see! But on the other hand, this meat chub was so cheap.  So I tried to make the best of it.

Watch the video if only to hear Damien yelp as I severed the chub.

TUESDAY
Chicken nuggets, cheezy weezies, snap peas

We were supposed to have this meal on Wednesday, so we could do party shopping and cleaning, then have a quickie meal, and then run off to see the city fireworks. But I spent so long prepping Tuesday’s meal, I ran out of time to cook it. So we had the nuggets. I amused myself by plating it nicely. 

I AM AMUSING.

WEDNESDAY
Sesame lime chicken, cucumber salad, cherries

This chicken was a NYT recipe I simplified and messed up a little. It was tasty. Not quite as razzle dazzle as I expected, what with the lime zest, fresh ginger, and fish sauce

but a pleasant, robust flavor. I’ll put a recipe card of my version at the end. 

What made the meal was a lovely cucumber salad (recipe at the end), which I’ll be making more often throughout the summer. I really enjoyed the cool, vinegary cucumbers together with the warming honey and hot pepper. A great match for the lime and fish sauce in the chicken. 

And the cherries, first of the season, were rewardingly luscious. 

If you look closely, you can see that Corrie had put a bowl of blue Jell-o on top of her head, and then, upon hearing that I would be needing to wash her hair, she crushed a bunch of soap into her scalp to wash up. That girl tries. 

THURSDAY
July 4th cookout!

Honestly, this is the best day of the year. As many cousins as possible come, and we have three times as much food as we need.

Here’s the leftover meat, after we all ate until we went insane:

I daringly ate my burger with pepper jack cheese, and jalapeños instead of pickles. 

It’s not a barbecue, though. I have finally learned that you can’t call it a barbecue unless you spend 172 hours smoking a brisket made of an entire herd of long-horned steer. If you call anything else a BBQ, the ghost of Sam Houston will appear and strangle you with a bolo tie. Me so sorry, me just dumb New Englander who not understand what meat is! All we had was hamburgers, hot dogs, beer brats, sugar rub chicken thighs, and mahogany clams, and it was just a cookout. We also had potato salad (recipe card at the end), an avalanche of chips, watermelon, all sorts of beverages and all sorts of desserts, and Clara made so many chocolate chip cookies that, if you stacked them all up on top of each other, they’d be enough for all the cousins. All the cousins, I say!

The potato salad turned out well. People who don’t usually eat it ate it (recipe card at the end).

As many people reassured me, the kids absolutely did not care that my patriotic layered Jell-o cups didn’t turn out like the picture on the internet. I also made frozen pudding and cream cups, and we had about a bushel of corn on the cob we completely forgot to roast, and ice cream we forgot to eat, and marshmallows we forgot to toast and another watermelon that I don’t even know what happened to it.

And the table top I classily made out of cardboard didn’t even collapse. 

I ate a ludicrous number of steamed clams drenched in butter, onions, white wine, and lemon juice, and then wallowed around in Dark and Stormies for a while (dark rum, ginger beer, ice, and fresh lime).

And it was perfect. A wading stream and a trampoline, sparklers and glow sticks, American flags and twinkling lights, guitars, hammocks, salamanders and bug spray, fireflies, tiki torches, cheap beer, and fireworks, and my beloved family. Everyone should be so lucky.

Here’s the whole gang:

FRIDAY
Leftovers, I do believe. 

Okay, gotta go drive people around for a bit, and I will come back with the recipe cards this afternoon! 

 

5 from 1 vote
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Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add sliced or quartered onions and chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.



  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken and onions out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan. Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

5 from 1 vote
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Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

 

sesame lime chicken

Adapted from a NYT recipe. Serve with cucumber salad for a wonderful summer meal, with rice. 

Ingredients

  • 16 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or 8 breasts pounded thin)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 6 inches fresh ginger peeled and grated
  • 12 garlic cloves crushed
  • 8 limes zested and juiced (you need both)
  • 1/4 cup peanut or sesame oil
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • diced chiles (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all sauce ingredients together and pour over chicken. Let marinate at least four hours. 

  2. Remove from marinade. Grill over coals or broil in oven, turning once. 

  3. Serve with cilantro garnish and chiles, if desired. 

 

spicy cucumber salad

A spicy, zippy side dish that you can make very quickly. 

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cucumbers, sliced thin (peeling not necessary)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1+ tsp honey
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Optional:

red pepper, diced

  • 1/2 red onion diced

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Serve immediately, or chill to serve later (but the longer you leave it, the softer the cukes will get)

potato salad

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs potatoes, scrubbed (peeled if you like)
  • 3 ribs celery, stringed and chopped
  • 1 med red onion, diced
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1/8 cup olive oil

for dressing:

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Put potatoes and the three eggs in pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down, cover loosely, and simmer until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork (15 minutes or so) 

  2. Drain the potatoes. Fish out the eggs, peel, and chop them.

  3. When they are cool enough to handle, cut them into bite-sized pieces and mix them up with the olive oil. 

  4. Add the chopped eggs, celery, onion, and parsley. 

  5. Mix together the dressing ingredients and add to potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate and serve cold.  

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

 

Grilled clams or mussels in wine sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 white or red onion
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • live clams or mussels
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups white wine
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Prepare sauce: Coarsely chop the onion and sautee it in the olive oil with the red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper. 


  2. Add two sticks of butter and let them melt. Add the wine and lemon juice. 

  3. Light the fire and let it burn to coals. While it's burning down, sort and clean the shellfish, discarding any damaged or dead ones. (If they're open, tap them. If they don't close, they're dead. If they're closed, they're fine.)

  4. Lay shellfish on grill until they pop open. The hotter the fire, the shorter the time it will take - five minutes or more. 

  5. Add shellfish to sauce and stir to mix. 

Summer book swap redux!

Last year, I had a pretty good idea that we followed through on in an okayish manner. The idea was to swap book recommendations with my kids over the summer: I’d give them a good book I think they’d enjoy, and they give me a book they like and that they think I’d enjoy. I said:

I like this approach for several reasons. They will read at least some good books, of course; but also, I’ll know more about what captivates them, and we’ll have more to talk about together. They’ll know I care about what interests them. And we’ll be doing something as part of a relationship, rather than just because I’m in power and I can make them do what I want.

As you will see, it was a less-than-howling success; but some of the kids still want to do it this summer, so I’m assembling a list. Here’s what I have so far, starting with the oldest kids:

Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy
The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
Beowulf: A New Telling by Robert Nye
The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliffe
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

How did it go last summer? Here’s what I optimistically called the “first” summer book swap list:

I was supposed to read:

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham
The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

And my kids were supposed to read:

The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
The Space Merchants by C.M. Kornbluth and Frederick Pohl
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Arthur M. Miller
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Patterson
The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White

Here are my thoughts on the books I was supposed to read:

 The Wee Free Men: I either read part of it and then lost it, or else read it all and forgot most of it. I do love Terry Pratchett, but vastly prefer the Discworld books. He’s a great writer for people who love alternate universes which are disturbingly like our own; bizarre, strangely compelling characters; and very witty, sardonic turns of phrase, but who have started to notice the Douglas Adams’ world is awfully dreary after a while. I wrote a bit about Pratchett here.

The Joy Luck Club I did a quick review of this book and the next one here:

Here’s a book I avoided my whole life, because something something Oprah something, bestseller ptui ptui. You know: Lit major reasons. Well, my older girls assigned it to me, and it’s great. It’s great! It’s miraculously light on agenda and heavy on well-conceived characters, searingly memorable scenes, and a beautiful melancholy that stays with you (because you needed that). Each chapter could stand alone as a well-crafted short story. It’s not Dostoevsky, but it’s worth your time.

I recently re-read this, and it was as good as I remembered.

The House of the Scorpion 
It’s a dystopian YA novel (I know. WHERE DID I EVER FIND SUCH A THING?). The author’s vocabulary has an oddly stunted, juvenile quality to it, but the way the story unfolds is pretty skillful, and the plot is a pretty good adventure. The action takes place in Opium, a country that runs between the US and the former Mexico, where super-wealthy drug lords control the lives of everyone else, even putting brain implants on some, to make them pliant, witless slaves, and making clones of themselves to use as ever-ready organ donors. But . . . dun dun dun . . . one clone is different. Not bad at all, and unexpectedly Catholic in its ideas and also explicitly in the plot, in places.

The scene in the whale graveyard is pretty pretty good. 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I . . . never even checked this one out of the library. Sorry, Elijah.

The Luck Uglies: 
It’s written by someone who enjoys reading quirky, fascinating, fantastical story about scrappy kids solving mysteries and not even realizing that you can have anachronisms, but you have to earn them. There were pieces of good stories and good characters in there, like bits of good salami in a mushy, underseasoned pasta salad to which someone has added, for some reason, marshmallows. Still, the salami was there.

The Unwanteds: Also never got around to reading it. Sorry, Sophia.

The One and Only Ivan: It was okay. It’s a first person narrative by a captive gorilla in a very crummy zoo. It’s done skillfully, and I don’t have any actual problems with it, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. You wants a sad animal story, you reads Charlotte’s Web. The characters had enough depth to save it from being truly emotionally manipulative, but it sure waltzed right up close to that line.

Here’s the scoop on the books I gave to the kids to read last year. The number is the age of the kid when he or she read the book.

The Loved One. She (19) said it was “pretty good, kinda grim.” Can’t argue with that. Hoping she will read more Waugh.

The Space Merchants. She (18) claims I never told her to read it, and anyway, I made her read it several years ago when it was above her reading level, and she didn’t like it. She didn’t like the chicken. So there you are.

The Great Divorce. She (17) liked it! She said it was weird. She didn’t quite finish it, since we didn’t order it until near the end of summer, but she would like to get back to it. This is an accessible and entertaining but Very Important Book, and I’d really like all the kids to have it in their imaginations.

A Canticle for Leibowitz (15). He read the first part but got bogged down in the second part, which is definitely the boggiest part. I encouraged him to try again, because the third part will knock his socks off; and he says he will.

Tom Sawyer (13). He got up to the part where he got the other kid to paint the fence for him, and then he got bored and dropped it. Bum.

The Great Gilly Hopkins (11). She says she couldn’t find it. Another kid said, “I know where there’s a copy!” and the first kid said “Shut up.”

The Princess and Curdie (9). She says I actually told her to read Nightbirds on Nantucket by Joan Aikin, instead, but she didn’t actually read that, either.

The Trumpet of the Swan (8). She didn’t like it. It wasn’t exciting enough. Humph! I thought it was a very exciting book, what with all the flying around, but I guess it missed the mark. At least she read it.

So it looks like either I did a better job of choosing suitable books for the older kids, or else the older kids are just better people, and the younger ones are jerks. You have to admit, I did a fantastic job of finding an image to illustrate this post, though.

Happy summer! And wish me luck as the kids assemble their list.

 

Something to report of love

It’s the end of vacation, when all the things we meant to do over the summer cascade into guilt and regret. “Tree house” and “ocean” and “art museum” come off the list; “haircut” and “school shopping” go on. We should have done more! When I was little, I remember doing more.

On the radio, I heard the end of an essay by a man trying to connect with his elderly father, a father who had been harsh and distant for decades. I gathered that the one happy childhood memory the narrator had was of their annual, extravagant beach house vacation. The kids would run and play and whoop it up, while the dad would glower and retreat to the couch to watch TV. Still, he made it happen year after year.

Now, forty years later, the man finally asked his father if he had fun on those vacations — and if not, if he hated them as much as he seemed to, why did he make such a point of taking them every year?

It turns out that the old man, now almost eighty years old, was still smarting from the sting of his childhood, from the first day of school, when the teacher would assign that dreaded essay, “What I Did On My Summer Vacation.” The only true answer would have been: “We gathered peaches to pay the landlord” or “We shot rats in the turnip field so we wouldn’t starve come winter.”

So he and his brothers would make up something to write about, something that would prove that they had been having fun like the rest of the world. He resolved that his own kids wouldn’t have to resort to fantasy. They’d do something real on summer vacation, something wonderful. Something to report.

When my kids were all little, I used to accuse myself of not so much striving to make a happy childhood for them, as striving to create evidence that they had had a happy childhood. A baby book full of carefully edited anecdotes and cute dialogue; a photo album of high points and rare good days. Maybe, day to day, they had to cower away from me and my mood swings, and maybe they longed for me to just sit down, relax, and play with them, rather than frantically crafting towers of glorious expectations, and then collapsing in tears when it all caved in under the weight of real life. Maybe so. In the words of an old guide to confession: I am unable to judge the severity of my actions.

Either way, I had some hard evidence. I could point to the salt clay figurines, the stretchy loop potholders, the quirky animal sewing cards I had made just for them, using the back of a Crispix box and my own lifeblood, and I could say, “The proof is here. Only a loving mother would have done this. Remember how I let you make muffins with me, even though you drive me crazy? Let’s laminate this photo of you petting a goat at age 2, and let’s not laminate the memory of me crying over how much money we spent to get in. You liked that goat, you liked it very much. But you won’t remember, so I need to nail it down now, to present to the judge, I mean put in your baby book. And look, you were wearing a dress that I sewed myself.

Behold, the gulf between love and intentions. Oh, the longing to love, the longing to be loved, the longing to have been loved. Oh, the clumsy swipes we take at that shining, shifting goal of happiness.

We are all, maybe, hoping to pacify the demands of the past, striving to bridge the gulf, to reach back over all those summers and tell our own selves as children, “Yes, you were happy. Here’s the proof.” We’re telling that long-dead teacher, now moldering in the grave, “You wanted an essay? You wanted to know what I did? Here’s my child, and he had fun on his summer vacation. Here’s the evidence you demanded; it’s all there.”

Here are the things I remember about my childhood, along with the vacations and the treats, the parades and the birthday parties — and also along with the mood swings and strife, the tensions and shouting, tipped-over tables slammed doors. Here are the things I remember, from summer and from winter, from the long, empty, formless days of vacation and the long, empty, formless days inside the lonely, needy heart of a child looking for some definitive proof of love:

I remember my mother putting down her book (more precious than rubies) and looking me straight in the eye when I called her name. My father pausing for a minute before he answered me, staying silent a little too long, muscling past his first impulse to criticize or refute. My big sisters praising me for so skillfully walking down the stairs with only one foot on each step, instead of two, like babies do. I remember being on rented skates and being swooped up from behind, a rescue just as the floor loomed up to pound in my face. I remember someone holding a pajama zipper away from my belly, protecting my skin as they zipped it up. I remember being protected.

There’s the evidence, and I’m writing it down now. It is the end of summer. We have something to report.

***
A version of this essay originally ran under a different title at Aleteia in 2016.
Image: David Prasad via Flickr (Licensed)

 

 

Summer Book Swap: The First List!

Last week, I wrote about my idea to get everyone reading more and better books by doing a reading swap with my kids. It’s a simple plan: They read a book I think they’ll like, and I’ll read a book they think I’ll like.

Here’s what we have so far. (Note: All links are Amazon Associate links, meaning I earn a small percentage of every sale. If you click through and end up buying something else, I still earn! Thank you!)

My 19-year-old daughter has me reading The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett,

and I gave her The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh.

My 18-year-old daughter is still mulling over my assignment, but I’m probably giving her The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth.

My 16-year-old daughter got me started on The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan,

and I’m giving her The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis.

My 15-year-old son gave me The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

and I’m giving him A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

My 13-year-old son assigned me Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

and I’m giving him Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

(if you order this book, beware of abridged editions!).

My 11-year-old daughter got me started on The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham,

and I gave her The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (terrible, off-putting cover):

My 10-year-old daughter gave me The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (here’s hoping the cover is misleading)

and I’m giving her The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald (the sequel to The Princess and the Goblin.)

My 8-year-old daughter gave me The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

and I’m giving her The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White.

My five-year-old is just learning how to read, so she’s not playing, but I did order a copy of The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne for us to read together.

If your family is only familiar with the Disney version of Winnie the Pooh, do yourself a tremendous favor and get ahold of the original. The stories are so weird and hilarious, highly entertaining for parents without being condescending for kids.

And we’re off! I’ll probably follow up with a bunch of quick reviews by me and the kids, and then we’ll get a second list going. So far, so good.

Are you interested in doing a book swap with your kids this summer? What books will you give them, and which books are they giving you? Please include their ages and maybe a little bit about why the books are on the list.

Dear Teacher

How I spent my summer vacation

How I spent my summer vacation

Alas. We spent our summer swimming, watching X Files, sucking down gallons and gallons of ramen, eviscerating countless watermelons, making a meticulous survey of the entire lifework of the master cinematographer Chow Yun Fat, and creating various kinds of heartache for your long-suffering soul sister, the public librarian.

Read the rest at the Register.

***

Tick spoons are the best.

Ticks are pure evil. Pure, pure, pure, pure evil, and there are lots of them this year.  Here is a product you should have on hand. It makes it fast and easy to remove those wiggling bastards whole:

You don’t have to touch the tick at all, and the head comes right out. So much easier and less horrible than using tweezers. Tick spoon! Yay.

 

 

Oy, was I toisty! Five Summer Cocktails that Even You Can Make

galloping fish

 

It’s so important to stay hydrated in the summer. If the only way to achieve this is to drink too much and then spend the next day guzzling water to try to wash your headache away, then so be it! Therefore, in the name of health, and because Eve Tushnet’s post about ice cream sodas reminded me about drinking, here are a few of our favorite summer drinks:

***

1. THE ANGRY PIRATE

Sometimes known, by people who actually know the names of drinks, as DARK AND STORMY. (Also occasionally called STORMY NIGHT, which is actually a different drink, which please don’t drink. It sounds revolting.) Call it what you like, and keep on protesting that you’re truly, truly not trying to be cute, it’s just that your mind is going, and what’s so funny about that? Either way, it’s easy to make and very refreshing.

The recipe:
Put ice in glass. Pour in two oz. dark rum, 3 oz. ginger beer, and the juice of maybe half a lime, and stir.

We use Gosling’s Black Seal rum, but I imagine it would be fine with other brands of dark rum. And yes, we make it with ginger ale if we can’t find ginger beer, and we somehow manage to muscle our ways to the bottom of the glass.

***

2. MOJITO

Now that the craze is over and people have stopped going all “Oooh, mojito, mojito!” all the time, you can safely drink this lovely concoction just because it’s great, and not because you need to use those mason jars with pictures of mustaches on them that you bought on clearance at the G.D. Hipster Warehouse.

This one is a teensy bit more complicated, so it’s best to make a whole pitcher of it ahead of time. I have a round-bottomed, thick glass pitcher with a cobalt blue rim that makes me feel SO FANCY, and it’s perfect for a big batch of mojitos. Last time we used it, I didn’t even notice that the soles of my Tevas were puffing up like Mickey Mouse shoes because my feet were too close to the campfire. That’s how good mojitos are!And there’s so much green crap floating around in there, is practically a salad.

The recipe (this will make two drinks – expand as needed)
In a shaker, lightly muddle about 15 mint leaves. Add about an ounce-and-a-half of simple syrup, the same amount of lime juice, and three ounces of white rum and three ounces of club soda. Dump in some ice and shake. Pour unstrained into glasses. Garnish with a lime wedge and another mint sprig if you like.

UPDATE: Matt Yonke makes this suggestion, and he’s totally right:
“I highly recommend mixing all the ingredients BUT the soda first, then top each drink with soda and stir lightly. You’re bashing up all the carbonation if you shake it with the others.

That’s super essential if you’re making a pitcher since you don’t want to be drinking hours old, flat club soda at the end of the pitcher. Fresh soda in every drink makes all the difference.”

***

3. GIN AND TONIC

This is not really a summer drink, it’s just a drink for the ages. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is get most of it in the glass and you’re set. So accommodating.

The recipe:
Come on, you can figure this out.

My research: Terroir is the finest gin experience my mouth has ever known. Tanqueray is great if we have the cash. Bombay costs about the same as Tanqueray and is fine, maybe a teensy bit less smooth.  New Amsterdam is drinkable, and even comes in a surprisingly glass bottle. Seagrams, you might as well start throwing up now before you even get to the cash register.

***

4. WHISKEY SOUR

You don’t hear much about whiskey sours anymore. There’s no reason for this, especially if you have someone in the house who doesn’t really like whiskey, but on the other hand, the kids are in bed. You can get complicated with egg whites and sugared glass rims, but really you just need to make a bit of strong lemonade and throw some whiskey in there.  A maraschino cherry will just slow you down.

Now hear this: Wild Turkey tastes fine. It really does!

***

5. THE SECOND CHILDHOOD

The recipe:
Fill up a blender with ice cubes, chop ‘em up somewhat, then fill it up again with whatever kind of ice cream you like, plus a few generous glugs of Kahlua, and blend again until the ice is in little nubbins. Find a big cup and a big straw.

What, you’re too sophisticated? Shut up, I’ll make you another.

***

FOR THE KIDDIES:

6. EGG CREAM

An essential part of my rich Brooklyn heritage. Possibly an acquired taste because it’s not terribly sweet, but it’s deeply refreshing.

The recicpe:
In a tall glass, pour an inch or so of milk or cream. Squirt in a ton of chocolate syrup and mix, until it’s so sweet you’d never drink it on its own. Fill up the rest of the glass with plain seltzer (pour slowly, over a spoon if necessary, because it works up a huge head). Gulp gulp gulp. Resume complaining, “Oy, was I toisty!” 

***
I’ll let the master have the final word:

Seven Quick Takes: In Which Benny Meets Her Match

 

And we’re home from camping!  Or, “camping.” Whatever, you tent-loving masochists. It was rustic enough for me. Nobody fell in the fire, nobody got permanently lost, nobody drowned, nobody got carried off by wildlife, we didn’t need to test whether our insurance covered out-of-state ER visits, and nobody even pulled anybody’s hair until we were – get this – two minutes away from reaching home. We managed to stretch a three-hour road trip into five hours, but we made it.

And guess what? I didn’t take a single photo! My husband took a few, but I haven’t seen them yet. There was just too much water and sand and dirt and moving around to mess with cameras much.

Here’s my seven wordy takes on our trip:

 

–1–

The happiest memories of my childhood are memories of the ocean, so I was absolutely ravenous for my kids to have the same experience. And they did! Miles and miles of sparkling blue ocean with waves big enough to toss you around; a buffeting breeze, thieving seagulls that made off with a whole bag of chips, the tugging of the sand away from your feet as the waves withdraw. They played and played and played, and the ocean played back, until our skin was glowing, our mouths and scalps were full of sand, our legs were like jelly, our fingers were salty and puckered, and our ears were full of the sound of the wind and the water. We staggered home completely sated.

Then, on another day, we tried another beach, closer to our campsite. I told the kids it was the same ocean, but it really wasn’t. This was the beach that made you realize why Poseidon was called “Earthshaker.” It was stifling hot, but the air was full of steam, so you could see past a few waves, and then .  . . the abyss. There could have been anything out there, or nothing. The waves slammed on the beach with a cracking sound, and every wave threw pale, scrabbling crustaceans onto the sand. There were no shells to collect — they had all been pulverized into bits by the pounding sea. The water was purplish, and it hissed. We stayed for a few hours until we were defeated, and then went home to rinse off at the campground, where the fresh pond water felt as gentle and mild as a giant cup of lukewarm tea. Whew!

So, kids, that was the ocean! Now they know.

 

–2– 

At one point, at the nice beach, the PA system announced that a lost child was looking for his family, and I thought, “Huh, did they say ‘Eliza’ or ‘Elijah”? Oh, well.”

Then they announced that it was Elijah, and he was ten, and still unclaimed. And I thought, “Wow, I also have a son who is ten and who is named Elijah. What a coincidence! Well, it was a popular name that year.”  I felt sorry for the mom whose son was missing.

Then I wondered where my son was.  Yarr.

 

–3–

There is staring at a TV screen and thinking about nothing for an hour, and there is staring at a campfire and thinking about nothing for an hour.  Not the same kind of staring, and not the same kind of nothing.

 

 

PIC campfire

–4–

If you are living with nine children in what is essentially Dirtville, and are taking sojourns into Sweat-and-Gritsville, with a sidetrip into World of Soot, with occasional sorties into the Land of Grime and Itch, you may find that you want to take a shower. You may discover that the state park charges you $1.25 for five minutes of hot water. PAY IT.

 

–5–

We visited the Mystic Aquarium, where a “family membership” price doesn’t mean “two adults and as many as two children, if you are so gauche as to have as many as two children.” They also let you go out for lunch and come back in without paying again. And they had great fish and whatnot to look at! We got to pet sharks, and one of their three Beluga whales did something no one else could manage over the course of the whole trip: it made Benny stop shrieking for a minute. This whale was drifting back and forth in front of the glass where the dear child was having tantrum #897,932, and it was clearly watching her very closely. She didn’t like the look in its eye, and whacked the glass. It stopped right in front of her, and it tried to eat her. Or at least it popped its toothy mouth open right in front of her face.

PIC beluga mouth

 

 

And lo, there was quiet! Good one, whale.

I’ve been to aquarium shows where the creatures are impeccably trained and the trainers are unflappable, and clearly in charge. This was not one of those shows, and it was utterly charming. The sea lions mostly did what they were told, but sometimes they acted like big dumb stubborn dogs who were confident that their trainers loved them anyway. Then there was one sea lion who just refused to participate at all, because it’s mating season, and he had better things to do. That’s what I liked about this aquarium in general: they had really neat stuff to show us, but they didn’t take themselves too seriously.

They also had something I’ve never seen before: three “mermaid purses” in special display cases, so you could see the developing embryo inside.  They were about an inch across, and you could see the tail waving back and forth like a metronome, and that little shark waited and waited, just biding its time and growing. If you looked closely, you could make out one skate’s beating heart.

 

–6–

We saw an ice cream parlor called “Gelato Fiasco.” We did not stop there.

 

GIF nope nope nope octopus

–7–

I love sheets.

***

Happy Fourth of July to all my American friends! We’re rained out here, which means we get an extra day to unpack and desandify ourselves before our family cookout and explodyfest tomorrow. Don’t forget to check out the other Seven Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

At the Register: We Who Are About to Camp Salute You

As I write, I may have nothing packed, nothing purchased, and nothing planned, but I do have a very tidy and detailed list of the things I am sure will go wrong on our trip. They are as follows:

  • We will run out of food and we will starve, because obviously we won’t be able to get into the car and drive to a store and buy more food. This is camping, and we are going to have to make do with sand tea and acorn kabobs.
  • Sharks. Okay, there are not going to be any sharks, but I’m afraid my kids, who somehow wore us down and got to watch Jaws, are going to be so afraid of sharks that their little brains will actually explode with anxiety. And do you know who is attracted by brain matter in the water? SHARKS.
  • We will be surrounded by such awful, noisy, inconsiderate people that we won’t be able to enjoy our awful, noisy, inconsiderate family.

Read the rest at The Register.

The bathing suit post that is not about modesty!

First of all, for that ^^, this

 

is for me.

Second of all, I agree wholeheartedly with every last word in this post in . . . the Huffington Post:

Moms, Put on That Swimsuit. The writer (who, in the picture, is not at all fat! But shefeels like she is, and that’s what counts) says:

I refuse to miss my children’s high-pitched, pool-induced giggles because of my insecurities.

I refuse to let other women’s judging eyes at the pool prevent me from exposing my kids’ eyes to the wonder of the sun glittering on the water.

I refuse to let my self-image influence my children’s.

I refuse to sacrifice memories with my children because of a soft tummy.

Because at the end of the day, it is not just about me.

It is about my kids.

I want them to remember twirling in the water with their mom.

I want them to remember splash fights together.

I want them to remember jumping off the edge of the pool into my arms.

I want them to remember that their mom was there, with them.

This resonates with me so much more than all of that “YES! YOU HAVE A BIKINI BODY! LOVE YOUR BODY, NO MATTER WHAT! YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE NOT TO BE BEAUTIFUL!”

More than once last year, I just felt too damn fat to put on a bathing suit. Just couldn’t do it. So I would go to the beach with the kids, and they would ask me to take them in the water and do that swishing thing, or catch them when they jump off the big rock — and I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a suit on.

They were crushed. It didn’t make any sense to them. Why would you not wear your swimsuit to the beach?  And they were right. Yeah, there are skinny, perky teenagers at the beach. Yeah, there are other moms who are frolicking around with their kids, and they’re wearing the same size bikinis as their toddlers. Not even with stretch marks! How do they even do that? And here I am, and I weigh more than I did when I was nine months pregnant with the youngest kid, who is now 2 1/2. How did I even dothat?

More to the point, who cares? Feel fat? Stay in the damn water. No one will see you, and you can feel light and graceful for once. Sitting on the sand getting gritty and trying to tug your shorts and tank top over your flabby bits while the kids beg you to jump in? That is a great way to have a lousy afternoon.  If you want to be attractive, have fun. Laugh and be happy. That’s beautiful, even when you’re fat.

Granted, it also helps a lot to have a suit that I don’t absolutely hate! Last year, I got the Catalina Shirred Halter Swimsuit from Walmart.com.

 

 

The fabric is a little bit chintzy, because it is a cheap suit, but the cut is so flattering, and so is the shirring. It has more support in the bust than any halter top I’ve seen; and it covers all the right spots without being a floppy swim tent.

I remember suit shopping in the 80′s! Boy, is it gratifying to have some choices for people who are neither Denise Austin nor Mother Superior. I also bought a Land’s End suit, but I actually like it less than the Walmart one.

Have you found a suit you’re happy with? Share it here!