This weekend was amazing. Late nights with friends on the patio, freshly made strawberry ice cream, water fights, fort building and lots of food. We could not imagine a more perfect holiday.
"Well, yes, I suppose you could use a hammer for that too, son."
Give it all away. That is how we do it.
You will have to forgive my whole "Tell it on the mountain" tone here. It's really not my intention. It's just that I have found this to be a much better place to let things funnel out, rather than in heavy traffic, while trying to explain four letter expletives to an inquisitive 5 year old. To say that I have been frustrated is a gross understatement. So I sit and type, and backspace, and type some more.
Enter kids with hammers. Instantly, I am reminded (yes, again) sometimes smashing things into oblivion really is the answer.
Hammers are good for sooo many things, it's something I learned as a kid. Nothing like pulverizing inanimate objects to teach a life lesson I say!
"How many times have we fixed this thing, with this same hammer?"
"What the hell did it even do in the first place?"
"The nails don't even hold it together anymore."
"It really serves no purpose other than constantly needing repair."
"Well, what do we do with it?"
"Smash that fucker to bits."
"Don't tell your mother I said fucker."
"Can we build a new one?"
"Not much sense in building a new one, unless you do it right."
"Can we use the hammer?"
"You do know we have more than one tool, right?"
When you are a Dad, you need lots of tools.
I like to be reminded of things. If you ask Lindsay, she would say that daily reminders are necessary for keeping our household from imploding. And, while I agree that daily reminders to bathe and mow the lawn are helpful, that's not really what I am getting at.
I'm talking sensory. I like it when small things remind you of something much bigger. Tastes and smells that bring people back to you. Like strong rural women. The ones who taught you how to take modest things and make them amazing. Reminders of where you came from, and that you're doing o.k.
1# - 1 1/2# Okra // 2 tsp. Black Peppercorn // 2 tsp. Salt // 2 tsp. Mustard seed // 2 Serrano Chili (or other hot pepper, 1/2 seeded // 4 Garlic cloves // 1/2 cup Red bell pepper (small dice) // 6 cups White vinegar // 2 cups water
2 Quart jars ( Must be quart size)
Fill each quart jar with okra. To each jar add 1 tsp. ea. of pepper, salt, mustard seed, 1 serrano, 2 garlic cloves and 1/4 cup red bell. In a large pot combine vinegar and water over high heat. When mixture is almost boiling remove from heat and fill each jar to the top. Seal with sterilized lids, cool and refrigerate for 1-2 weeks before using.
It sure feels like summer around these parts. This is the first weekend in a long time that we actually felt relaxed. There is something really great about sitting outside and watching the boys play until well after dark. Maybe it reminds us of summers when we were kids, and how special it seemed that we could be outside after the streetlights came on. Whatever the reason for the shift, we are enjoying it.
This weekend was all about digging in the dirt and being outside. Planting and getting our hands dirty, sitting on the patio and being together. By Sunday we all had that delightful feeling of exhaustion. The type that comes only from a carefree day in the sun. We are excited to have more of these days. To see the fruits of our labor in the garden, share time outdoors and stay up late on warm summer nights.
Maybe it's because of PMS. Or maybe because I have been working my ass off in the garden the last two days, but whatever the reason, I decided it was time to break out the ice cream maker. Normally I go for simple, but today I wanted something over the top. I give you coffee-banana-bourbon-chocolate chip ice cream. Need I say more?
coffee-banana-bourbon-chocolate chip ice cream
2 cups heavy cream // 1/2 cup whole milk // 1/2 cup whole roasted coffee beans, your choice *you may want to use decaf here // 1/2 cup brown sugar // 1 tablespoon butter // 2 tablespoons water //2 large bananas, cut into pieces // 2 tablespoons bourbon // squeeze of lemon juice // 1/2 cup of chocolate chips
Bring milk and cream and coffee beans to a simmer in a medium sauce pan. Turn off heat and let steep 30 minutes to an hour.
In a skillet combine sugar and water. Once the sugar begins to dissolve and bubble, add butter to the pan and heat until melted. Add the bananas and cook for a minute or two. They will start to break down and become fragrant. Now add your bourbon (carefully) and cook for another minute or two. Remove from heat and squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the mixture. You don't want so much that it alters the flavor, just enough to prevent the bananas from browning and the caramel from crystallizing.
Mix the steeped cream / milk mixture with the caramelized bourbon bananas. Chill a few hours or overnight and make the ice cream according to your maker's instructions. Once ice cream is thickened, add your chocolate chips. Enjoy!
Saying goodbye to those you love is never an easy task. The process is made more difficult when you feel as though you were robbed of time you may have shared. Last week was spent saying goodbye to one of my favorite people in the world, my granny. She was all the things one would want in a grandmother, but she was more than that to me. She was a kindred spirit.
Granny taught me to love food. She shared her love and generosity through the food she made for others. It was never just a meal at her house. This was apparent to me from an early age. I would watch her cooking for hours and hours, and it was never a chore. When she was finished, a multitude of people would descend on the food and everybody was happy. I was in awe.
She had an open door policy. If anyone ever needed anything, she would do her best to make it happen. Many wayward people and children were adopted into our family through the years. Once you belonged, you belonged forever.
For as sweet and welcoming as granny was, she was also a tough lady. I suppose growing up in the Texas panhandle, tending fields of cotton probably would toughen anyone up. She told it like it was, and lord help you if you didn't agree! I loved this side of her, just as I loved her kindness and generosity. She commanded respect because she earned it.
Her death devastated my family. She was the glue that held everyone together. A true matriarch. When I received the phone call that she had been killed in a car accident, I could not believe it. She was supposed to live to be one hundred and still baking for masses of people! I don't think any of us could fathom that her death was caused by the recklessness of two men racing on the highway.
Last week was spent traveling down to Texas to be with my family and to say farewell. It was a crazy, exhausting, emotional ride. I was worried as we drove what it would feel like when we arrived. Granny's open arms would not be there to greet me after our long drive. I panicked about an hour outside of Amarillo. I knew I had to face the reality that this trip would change everything.
I was most worried about my pa. They celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary last month, and they were a matched set. I could not imagine one without the other. Watching him grieve my grandmother's untimely death was the hardest part of the whole experience. It felt so unnatural to see my grandfather so vulnerable and heartsick.
I know that life moves forward. I know we will all recover and lead our lives like granny would have wanted. I will carry my memories of her with me always. Sitting on her lap in her rocking chair, and later watching her rock my own boys. The way she smelled of sweet onions. The magical summers at the lake, going to Dairy Queen, and her retelling of the time that I covered everything in Vaseline twice in one day. I will think of her every day for the rest of my life. I feel honored to have known her, and that her influence helped shape the person I am today.
Today is my mama's 84th birthday. All moms are special, but due to circumstances in my mom's life, she has proven to be pretty extraordinary. The amazing thing is, if you told her so, she would laugh it off and tell you anybody would have done the same. You just do what you have to do! I am grateful to this lady for so very many things, I hardly know where to begin. So I will start at the beginning.
My mom met my dad through a mutual friend in the fall of 1966. She was divorced, and he was widowed (by my biological grandmother). My mom was working as an office manager at Wham-o toys in Los Angeles, and my dad was an aerospace engineer working on the Apollo projects. She was unable to have kids, and he had three. They met, were a perfect match, and were married five months later.
Things went along, as they generally do in life. Normal ups and downs. Fast forward thirteen or fourteen years. I was a toddler, and because of my biological parents inability to care for me, I had been shuffled between my maternal and paternal grandparents for two years. At this point, my mom and dad (my maternal grandparents) took over full time care of me. They adopted me when I was six, and officially became my parents. But this was really only a formality, since they had always played that role. I did maintain a relationship with both of my biological parents, which was sometimes confusing to me. What really makes a parent?
As I have gotten older and become a parent myself, the answer is obvious. My mom was the woman who kissed me goodnight and laid with me when I was sick. She was the one who took me to eat Chinese food for the first time, and ordered hot tea in those fancy cups. The woman who bought me that huge denim purse we used to sneak bags of popcorn into the movie theater ( who would suspect a little girl with a round purse smelling of butter?) She was the one who held me all night long when we found out my biological mom died. The one who told me I dressed crazy in high school. The one who I fought with about anything and everything just because she was there.
We have grown into the relationship we have now. We have weathered many storms together, she and I. We experienced the loss of my biological mother, my dad, my aunt and my cousin. All difficult and unimaginable. Tragedies have a way of bonding people. We will always carry the loss of these loved ones with us, and there is comfort in knowing we both feel the same. But the good things in life are what we must focus on. I credit my mom for teaching me this valuable lesson. To pick yourself up and dust yourself off and live your life. No excuses.
The beauty in our lives and our relationship far exceeds any of the bad stuff. She has been with me every step of the way, encouraging me, and putting me in my place when I need it. She was with me when the boys were born, and has been there for them every minute of their lives. She welcomed John to our family with open arms (tattoos and all) and loves him like her own. She continues to live her life every day with grace and humor. She is my dear friend as well as my mom, and I love her.