Ahhhh. It’s hot as Hades outside. The humidity is a wet blanket. Shirts cling, sweat beads. The tiny hairs around my girls’ faces curl tightly, while sweat forms on their noses. We all pant. You know it’s hot when the cat pants. The dog days of summer, without the dog. Too hot to cook. I think it’s time for a crab feast.
We order steamed crabs–blue crabs, hopefully from the Chesapeake Bay–from the best crab shack. I swear you can smell the salty steam through the phone. We organize before picking up crabs: the picnic table is covered in a thick layer of newspaper, the knives and mallets for prying apart crab legs are set. So are rolls of paper towels to wipe hands. There’s extra Old Bay seasoning out, just in case. Drinks — lemonade, iced tea, beer — and popsicles chill on ice in a cooler.
Crabs! Open up the triple-layered paper bag inside of a plastic bag. Careful — it’s hot. If it’s a bushel, you get a basket. Sometimes seasoned corn is on top, two per person. Beneath sweet corn, seasoning-crusted blue crabs are steamed orange. Pull out a crab and comment on its heft, which means it’s full of crabmeat. Six crabs per person, minimum.
Pull off the apron, pry off the legs. Those are set in two separate piles. Lungs and innards go with apron. Push the crabmeat out of the cartilage and savor every bite. Yummm. Once you have a good stack of legs, start gently tapping, mallet on knife, to loosen the leg and pull out the meat. Enjoy every morsel.
Pour that beer, lemonade, iced tea. Take a break from picking and take a sip. Nibble an ear of corn. When did those deviled eggs arrive? Take a bite. Take another sip. Grab a handful of chips. Bite into cool watermelon triangles and laugh over the seed-spitting contest. Girls run and giggle.
Classic tunes play in the background. The Eagles and The Steve Miller Band play in my mind as I write this. Pick up another crab and get busy. Little ones circle around the table, looking for things to eat. Sometimes crabs, sometimes not. Tiki torches keep the flies away. Cicadas sing and fireflies blink for mates.
My perfect summer day.
The last few mornings here have been decidedly chilly. Fog hovers over damp grass. Maple tree leaves turn scarlet and gold. Wake-up routines begin in darkness. This means hot chocolate mornings.
May I present the steps to the perfection of hot chocolate on a cold, damp morning:
One envelope of hot chocolate powder (often this is a store-brand item)
3/4 cup milk
In 11 oz. mug, pour contents of envelope. Add milk (we use whole organic milk, again store brand). Microwave on high for 55 seconds. Anything less than 55 seconds and the milk isn’t hot enough, anything more and hot chocolate flows over the sides, and the morning routine shifts into clean-up mode. Sticky hot chocolate bits cover the glass plate in the microwave as well as the sides of the mug, which of course means less yummy hot chocolate inside the mug. This extra step makes me want to go back to bed and try again later, when the sun is up and the fog has lifted.
Stir hot chocolate with what we call the soup spoon. This is the larger spoon in our everyday silverware drawer. It’s perfect for picking up a few of the unmelted chocolate-y bits on top of hot chocolate. Stir just enough to get the powder swirling around, but not enough to make a completely smooth mixture (smoothing the mixture is to be customized by the customer, who is getting dressed and will emerge soon). Add an ounce or two of cold water and serve immediately.
Others have tried and failed. Any deviation from these steps and that morning’s hot chocolate barista looks like a maniac. This certain barista has been serving hot chocolate with love for a decade, so I have this routine perfected. Who knew something so easy had the capacity to get complicated.
It’s funny how the little things make a big difference between right and wrong. The right mug. The right milk. The right number of seconds for heating. The correct stir. The addition of water at the end. The ratio of milky foam-powder-liquid presented. The larger spoon for dipping. It all adds up to just right, people.
Have you turned a simple routine into something complicated? Are you the only one who can make it just right? Let’s hear it!
Did you grow up on the East Coast? I did, and, in my house, every sink had a spicket. This word is spelled spigot (I only heard the word spicket — I never saw it spelled growing up). I was confused by the spelling of this term, which was like hearing “Kernel” and seeing the spelling of “Colonel” and being really confused about what was what. All this leads to shining up the thing that the rest of the English-speaking world probably knows and says: faucet. Now that I live in Ohio, I say faucet. And we know what I mean.
So today, I notice the bathroom faucets look dirty. I scrub and clean and disinfect regularly, and they look the same.
Turns out the hard water here is full of minerals that build up wherever water sits. I can see where a water droplet was, because the water evaporated and left a white outline. The outline is the mineral deposits of calcium and magnesium. All I know is that I want it gone.
I turn to vinegar.
Cleaning vinegar, to be exact. This vinegar, which is 6% acidity, is 1% stronger than the white or apple cider vinegar we ingest as food and is still safe to use as a household cleaner. This is what we have on hand (I’m not endorsing this or any particular brand).
I already use this cleaning vinegar as a fabric softener in the washing machine, so I’m confident it’ll do the job. I soak a square of paper towel with vinegar, drape the wet towel around the faucet so it’s touching all the metal and deposits, and go on an errand.
Thirty minutes later I return and … voila. The gunk wipes away and reveals shiny metal. A white spot loosens with a flick of my fingernail. Easy as pie.
Do you use cleaning vinegar? How do you use it? Comment below. Thank you!
“This cantaloupe tastes like summer,” said my oldest.
She’s so right.
After many winter months, it’s so refreshing to find melons at the grocery store again. We bring one home and I eye it closely. It looks quite under ripe with a green stem. However, when I rap on the side, it sounds hollow. So, I cut it open and…ahhhh. The amazingly fresh scent. So perfectly juicy. Soft enough to cut off the rind with a butter knife. The lightly sweet taste is one of the best. It really tastes like summer.
One cup of cantaloupe is low in calories and high in vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium, just to name a few benefits. Cantaloupes have a good amount of fiber and a high water content to help quench thirst and rehydrate, especially helpful on a hot day.
Some people shake a bit of salt on their melon and swear salt enhances sweetness. I think it tastes great alone or in a fruit salad. One of the best summer dinners I’ve ever had was a creamy Gorgonzola cheese sauce tossed with cantaloupe and pasta. So easy, with a bit of sweet and savory in every bite. Ever had a bowl of cubed cantaloupe with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream? Delicious.
Spring is heating up. Summer is right around the corner. Keep it simple and eat lots of yummy cantaloupe.
I pull back the blanket from the bed. Curled like a snug little bug is my girl.
“Wake up, sleepy head, time for school.” I give her an extra minute.
“Are you awake? Give yourself a long, tall stretch.” She stretches and croaks. Her eyes flutter open.
“My throat hurts.” Hmmm, I think. She says ahhh so I can peak inside. It’s a bit pink, nothing outrageous.
I kiss her forehead to see if it’s hot with fever. Nope. Hmmm. You are the third person in this house to wake up with a scratchy throat and no fever. Given the burst of flowering trees and bushes and the pollen sticking to everything outside, I bet you throat does hurt.
“Well, darling, time to gargle.” I pull clothes out of dress drawers while thinking about the small glass of salt water I have prepared in the kitchen.
“I hate to gargle!”
“Of course you do. No one likes to gargle. Have you ever heard of anyone saying their hobby is gargling?” This gets her giggling, and I tickle her belly for dramatic effect.
“Still, I’m not going to gargle. It’s gross. The salt tastes bad. I don’t know why I have to gargle.”
“Well, considering that I bet you’d like breakfast, I think you’ll want to gargle first thing.”
“Plus, we gargle to soothe sore throats and help get rid of the yucky stuff like germs. Then we spit those germs down the drain. It’s actual scientific fact, you can look it up if you want. One more thing. We don’t swallow the salt water, right?”
“Let’s go. It’s all ready for you.” Just like that, we are on our way to starting our day.
Get ready to spring forward those clocks!
Remember when you were little and your parents drove into the church parking lot just as every other car was leaving, because you forgot Daylight Saving Time? No? Just me?
I remember watching the cars stream out, listening to Hotel California on the AM radio, and feeling confused. Everyone was leaving. The sun seemed unusually high. Shadows didn’t match the time on the car’s clock or on my wrist’s watch. The song ended and the deejay announced over the airwaves, “Happy Daylight Saving Time. Did you remember to set your clocks ahead?”
No. No, we had not. I can only imagine that every other family in every other car was struggling to suppress their ungodly feelings of smugness, as they had the good fortune to remember their clocks and watches. While I certainly could read the hands of a clock, it was the first time I remember thinking of time as a truly abstract concept and how interesting (and terrifying) it was to hear that people could change it. Spring forward. Fall back. Switch on. Switch off.
Of course, today your mobile phone will reset itself automatically. However, will you reset just as easily? And, will you be kind to those who forget their morning responsibilities and time management?
So. Prepare yourself. Enjoy your weekend and, before you head for bed on Saturday, set all of the clocks one hour ahead. You’re welcome.
Last night, at my youngest daughter’s request, I searched around for an easy pretzel recipe. I wanted one that would remind me of Mellow Mushroom’s amazing pretzels. These babies are made with their pizza dough, so they are golden crunch-chewy-crusty the outside and pillowy-soft on the inside.They serve them crazy-hot with a side of yellow mustard and, man, these are good. We found ourselves there for lunch today, so we ordered the Butter and Kosher salt pretzels, mustard on the side. This should have satisfied the craving, only it didn’t. It might have made it worse. After a light dinner of veggies and hummus, I decided to tackle the craving with this recipe. http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2012/12/25/30-minute-whole-wheat-pretzels/
Frankly, I’ve been intimidated to make soft pretzels, but this recipe said it was easy. Sallysbackingaddiction was telling the truth. Thanks, Sally!
There are very few ingredients: fewer than it takes to make cookies. No, you don’t need to let the dough rise. You don’t need a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. You don’t even need a mixer. You can make it with whole wheat flour. Or not. It’s fast and easy. My dear husband wandered over and helped out with a minute or two of kneading, which prompted a few more kiddo helpers to step in and assist. Everyone had fun rolling out the dough and shaping it into pretzels. He dipped the pretzels in the boiling baking soda, which you don’t even have to do. Easy! We used parchment paper-lined baking sheets and kept a watch on the broiling and pulled them out just as they were browning. And, cleaned up. Hot, crusty, chewy, salty, soft pretzel-y deliciousness. Needless to say, the first sheet of pretzels, the salted ones, were gone before we remembered the mustard. The cinnamon-sugar with butter were ridiculously heavenly. There are just a few left. I’m already looking forward to having one with my morning coffee. Smiles!
Many thanks to Sallysbakingaddiction.com for simplifying my evening with this yummy pretzel recipe. Check out her site, it’s very inspiring.
My thought for the day: Sometimes, the simplest pleasures are the greatest.