Monthly Archives: July 2011

Dog days, editorials, and wading pools

Yesterday morning I asked my husband if he thought the dog’s bug bites/rash were making him feeling crummy or if it was just the heat. His response?

“Well, it IS the dog days of summer.” Groan.

He then proceeded to explain to me the origin of the phrase, “dog days of summer”. When he was in college, one of his journalism profs told the students that it was called “dog days” because during the hottest summer days, newspapers struggled to find interesting things to write about. So they wrote editorial comments on why dog owners should leash their dogs.

Okay, this sounded plausible but since my husband sometimes makes up stories just to entertain me, I’m still skeptical. I thought about checking it out on the Internet, but it was too hot.

Here’s the thing. When we get into one of these horribly hot weather ruts, it’s really easy to blame everything on the heat. Stomach is upset? It’s the heat. Headache? It’s the heat. Everyone — including the dog — is grumpy. It’s the heat. You get the idea.

Thanks to daughter number 1, who unearthed our inflatable wading pool from the garage “attic”, we have solved this problem — at least temporarily. Last night, after spending another hour moving garage sale items from my mom’s condo to her garage, we were hot and sweaty but didn’t want to waste an otherwise perfectly good evening. So we filled up the little pool and did what we used to do when our babies were tiny and going to the pool after a day of work seemed way too hard.

Ike’s still not sure he likes this idea. But we thought it was fun.

Simply in Season

Scrolling through Facebook recently, I noticed that a friend had asked for some “healthy, simple recipes” for summer meals. Very quickly, several friends suggested recipes from “Simply in Season,” a cookbook that focuses on using local, seasonal foods. It is categorized by season — spring, summer, autumn and winter — which can vary by geographical location. Though the recipes are filed under specific seasons, many use ingredients that can be found year round (but in that case, may not be locally fresh).

According to the cookbook’s authors, Cathleen Hockman-Wert and Mary Beth Lind, “recipes are living things that change with the season and with the preparer.  And while there are few completely original recipes, contributors were encouraged to submit recipes that were shaped by their own lives.”  Each recipe is accompanied by the name(s) of the contributor(s) and their hometown.

One of the first responders to the Facebook request, recommended the fajitas in the summer section. She used chicken in hers, but the recipe provides alternatives — a common thread throughout the book, as many can be adjusted for vegetarians/non-vegetarians. Likewise, many recipes suggest a variety of vegetable (i.e., what is available in your own garden, local farmer’s market or grocery store.)

To find out more about the cookbook, check out this website on “World Community Cookbooks” , where you’ll find a fruit and recipe guide, recipe of the week, related blogs, even a study guide. If you have children interested in cooking, I recommend getting them a copy of the “Simply in Season Children’s Cookbook”.  Not only will they learn to prepare food, they’ll learn where foods come from and begin to understand the concept of eating locally. Which, when you think about it, might be a good starting point for adults new to the concept!

I don’t have a favorite recipe in this cookbook, but there are certain ones I return to frequently — especially during the summer when my garden is overproducing zucchini, summer squash, basil, parsley, lovage, etc.

I can’t wait to try the current “Recipe of the Week”. Just for the record, I’ll be using parsley…for some reason, cilantro and I don’t agree. For extra protein, try the quinoa version. If you’re unfamiliar with quinoa, it’s an amino acid-rich seed that is often considered a grain. It has a fluffy, but slightly crunchy/nutty texture.

Stoplight Salad

The name refers to the colors in this tasty salad. Using grilled corn is optional but offers a lovely smoky flavor. Try this salad alongside grilled meats or as a light main dish.

Yields 6-8 cups / 1.5-2 L

2 cups / 500 ml tomatoes (chopped and drained)

2 cups / 500 ml corn

1 medium green pepper (diced)

1 medium red sweet pepper (diced)

1/4 cup / 60 ml fresh cilantro, parsley, or basil (chopped)

2 cups / 500 ml cooked black beans (optional)

Combine in a bowl.

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or lime juice

1 clove garlic (minced)

Whisk together in a separate bowl. Pour over salad. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently and serve.

Southwest variation: Omit the tomatoes and add to the dressing 11/2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, 11/2 teaspoons ground cumin, 3/4 teaspoon chili powder and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

Quinoa variation: Add 2 cups / 500 ml cooked quinoa. Serve with warm flour tortillas.

Cathi Baer, Archbold, Ohio
Laura Tiessen, Toronto, Ontario
Kristen Burkholder, Norman, Oklahoma
Marjorie Liechty, Goshen, Indiana

© 2011 Mennonite Central Committee

What’s one more boy around the house?

For the first time in many years, I’m living in a house dominated by males. Well….dominated might not be the right word, since my brothers never dominated me. I just let them think they could.

Anyway, let’s just say I’m outnumbered by the male species, 3-1. This isn’t really a problem, since two of the males are the four-legged kind. It’s just kind of strange to have conversations about “the boys”, since that’s the term my mom and I use to refer to my four brothers despite the fact that they’re all over 50. Way over.

This morning my husband stopped by my office and reported that “the boys” were spending the day in the basement with him. In between snoozing, they engage in what he refers to as “fracases”. This usually happens when the little one gets bored and entices the big one to tussle over the toy of the moment. This results in some tumbling, growling, snapping, nipping, and eventually, both collapse back into the snoozing mode.

It’s been an interesting week, learning to walk two dogs at one time, especially if only one person is doing the walking. They haven’t yet gotten the hang of walking in a straight line, which means that the leashes keep getting tangled. When two of us walk the two of them, it’s not much easier because we spend most of our time stepping over and under leashes. Kind of makes me feel like I’m back in eighth grade learning the do-si-do in square dance….only much more complicated.

Some onlookers might think we were slightly delusional in agreeing to dog-sit our granddog, Harvey, while daughter number 2 and her significant-other spend a vacation week in Wisconsin. But hey, we got off easy, since Eric’s parents got to dog-sit the other half of their menagerie, a three-year-old lab mix who is aptly named Luna. She’s on the “puppy” side of maturity.

Harvey is a loveable mutt who looks like a cross between a black lab and a dachshund. Big head, long nose, long but short body with short legs and big feet. He’s very sweet, but also a bit on the mopey side. Don’t tell his mama — she’s already worried about him. He perks up at the suggestion of food or walks. He also thinks he’s a lap dog. Our tech guy for The Bluffton Icon came over a few nights ago, sat down at the Mac, and Harvey promptly launched all himself onto Ryan’s lap. Luckily for Harvey, Ryan loves dogs and let him sit there.

Lindsay’s comment? “Oh, I forgot to tell you that when he meets someone new, he immediately wants to sit on their lap.” Really?

Ike, on the other hand, is ecstatic to have a big friend around. He’s like a little kid with an older cousin visiting….wants to do everything Harvey does, eat everything he does, and never sleeps unless Harvey’s asleep.

The best part of this? When Harvey leaves for home, Ike will sleep for a week.

Double feature: Penguins and bridesmaids

Seems like a very long time since we’ve been to a movie theater, despite the fact that we have such a great one here in town. This is not my husband’s choice. In fact, he is usually game to join me at whatever movie I mention wanting to see, including the improperly dubbed “chick flicks”. He claims that it’s simply a matter of an excuse to sit close to me; I suspect it’s more likely the promise of heavily buttered popcorn.

I think the last movie I saw (in a theater) was “Eat, Pray, Love.” I’d read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book and her sequel, “Committed.” Daughter number 2 hadn’t read the book, but since she works in a bookstore, had had plenty of exposure to it, and was eager to see it. We left Fred at home, guarding the dog, but he later saw it on DVD. AND liked it.

So…let’s see. This means that at least a year has passed since I’ve been in a theater or my memory is failing me…which is possible. There have been some movie nights at home — including my 50th viewing of “Under the Tuscan Sun”. I can’t help myself. There’s something so intriguing about the idea of buying a run-down house in Tuscany, renovating it with the help of sweet Polish immigrants, and then writing the book that’s been on the back burner forever.

Well. Things are about to change….at least briefly. Last week I asked my friend, Pete Suter, who just happens to be the Shannon Theater’s head honcho, how soon they’d be showing “Bridesmaids.”  He said that it was a toss-up between “The Zookeeper” and a double showing — “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” for the early show and “Bridesmaids” at the late show.

Well, apparently, I have more pull than I thought. Pete told me last night that I got my wish. Penguins and bridesmaids are on their way.

Here’s the glitch. I can’t stand Jim Carrey but I must have read “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” at least once a week in the summer when I was a kid. In fact, I probably still have my original hardback somewhere up in the depths of our attic. I might have to cave and pretend that Jim Carrey is someone else, just so I can see how skewed this movie version is. I’m realistic enough to know that nothing can top Richard and Florence Atwater’s 1938 tale of a poor house painter and his family who acquire a penguin from the zoo. But hey, they use real penguins in the movie and as a kid, my wish was that our family would get a penguin.

Here’s the other glitch, or quandary, if you will. Should we pull a double feature and sit through both movies at once? The bigger question is “can Mary stand to sit still for that long? And can she stay awake? Probably not. More likely, we’ll spend two evenings at the Shannon. Besides, then Fred gets a double whammy of extra buttered popcorn. That might even make up having to put up with Jim Carrey.

One more thing: Fortunately, they’ve got those new seats at the Shannon. Nothing — not even the promise of a real penguin — would coerce me to sit on those lumpy, old seats with mysterious springs popping out at the most inopportune moment.


Fair trade

I love to trade things — services, items of clothing, food, etc. I think this dates back to my grade school days of marble trading. What better way to get a coveted cat’s eye or crystal without any monetary output?

Last Christmas, my friend, Norm, made a pizza peel for his wife and posted a photo on Facebook. I told him I’d trade him a Nelson Steiner cane for a pizza peel. A few months later, Norm let me know that my peel was on its way to Bluffton via a mutual friend who was coming to visit his mother. Though Norm insisted I owed him nothing, I was determined to give him a cane, but the trade was not completed until a few weeks ago when Norm was visiting Bluffton. We met up at Common Grounds and the cane passed hands. So…I’ve got a peel with which to remove my hot pizza stone from the oven and Norm has a cane for….someday…when he needs it.

Before we went on vacation in June, I hired some friends’ kids to mow our yard and weed our garden. A few days later, sitting on the beach, my phone bleeped at me, signaling a text. It was my friend, JP, mom to our mowers/weeders. Would I consider a trade rather than pay? One of her sons needed two shirts to wear at the Indian Village during the recent sesquicentennial, and she wondered if I’d make the shirts in exchange. Of course!

We came home to no weeds and a mowed yard; in exchange, there were two shirts — already cut out — ready to be sewn. Here’s how that trade turned out…at least from JP’s end. I’ll admit that was not one of the easier trading projects…there was some gnashing of teeth and hair pulling before the shirts were done. But hey, it was probably no more challenging than those kids dealing with the burdock that grows wild in my garden.

Joseph in his traded shirt

Usually, I feel like I get the best end of the deal, but I’m pretty sure the other person is just as satisfied. Yesterday I posted a photo of my “field of dreams” from my garden — a particularly pretty plot of daisies that are threatening to consume our garden. Daisies are my favorite flower, so it’s not a problem for me, but my husband keeps mumbling something about splitting them up and “Wouldn’t one of your friends like some of these?”

My end of the daisy/cupcake trade

Trade you some daisies for some cupcakes

Turns out another friend, Joanna, a local baker, was planning a party for her daughter and needed some daisies. She wondered if I would trade some daisies for some cupcakes. What a silly question…who would turn down cupcakes? When she and Katherine stopped by for the daisies and my husband spied the cupcakes, his eyes lit up. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the end of his grumbling about the daisies.

Truthfully, I still think I got the best end of the deal. I even got an extra trade out of the deal — a fuzzy stem from a purple grass and a hot pink coneflower for a beautiful smile from Katherine, a delightful three-year-old.



Dress survives 50 years to appear in its second parade

In the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time clearing out my mom’s condo. This involves filtering through A LOT of old photos..literally, tens of thousands of them. I’m not making this up. There are far too many photographers in my family’s history.

Anyway, when one sorts and re-sorts so many slides, photos, albums, etc., one sees certain photos that spark a memory. So there amidst all those photos was one taken 50 years ago during Bluffton’s centennial. This particular photo is of our church’s float which featured two families — ours and Fred and Mary Amstutz and their four boys. On half of the float, sat my family, dressed in clothing of the 1860s. The Amstutzes sat on the other half, dressed in modern (1960s) clothing.

In that photo, I’m almost 5 years old, wearing a yellow calico dress and sun bonnet (think Little House on the Prairie), and sitting in a miniature rocker. Looking at the photo reminded me that the dress, apron and bonnet were stashed somewhere — probably at the bottom of my cedar trunk. I finally located the dress, but by then had lost track of the intial photo.

It seemed appropriate that since the dress had survived 50 years and several wearings by my own daughters, that someone should wear it for this summer’s sesquicentennial. But who? What distant cousin was about the right size?  Would she have any interest in giving up her comfy shorts for a dress AND apron AND sunbonnet — all of which combined, would make her a bit toasty by the of the day?

Ellie Hartzler sitting on Shelby Cluts' lap

There are some advantages to growing up in a small town where one is often related to a LOT of people. One can usually find a relative without looking too far. Sure enough…there was little Ellie Hartzler, my first cousin, thrice removed. Ellie’s mom promised to ask Ellie whether she’d like to wear the dress and — maybe — ride in a float.

As it turned out, Ellie loved the dress and, in fact, put it on early Saturday morning and wore it all day while they attended various events related to the sesquicentennial. She even got to ride in the parade on a float carrying some high school graduates (one of whom is her babysitter).

When I found her mid-parade, I thanked her for wearing the dress. Ellie grinned and held up her prize of the day — two pieces of candy she’d managed to snag from some passing float.

Eventually, the dress will find its way back to the trunk. Despite my vow to spend this summer getting rid of things, I’m not sure that dress will make the cut. Or maybe…let’s see….which daughter’s car trunk can I hide it in?