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Posts from the Summer Category

by Tiffani “Endless Summer” Michele

Dear internet,

My kids went to Alaska with their Dad on their summer vacation. While they were gone, I went on mine: Peru for two weeks. I met some new people. I drank some new drinks. I saw lots of new things. I guess it was OK.

The End.

And by that, what I mean to say is:

Dear Internet,

I went to PERU for two fucking weeks!!!!!!! 14 days of magic!!!!!! 14 days of pure bliss. 14 days of immersion in a language I don’t speak and a culture I don’t understand. It was like a dream come true, only better, because in a dream come true it always ends up being too real. But this, it was like a dream come true if you were dreaming of a dream come true. 14 days of listening, watching, learning, (sometimes) crying, laughing, dancing, eating, hooping, drinking, picture taking, and just being.

I realized a lot about myself, which is always the best part of any good voyage.

I realized that my heart beats in time to the sound of a city buzzing with activity. In order: Arequipa, Lima, and Cusco.

I realized that normal activity to one person could be a completely foreign and interesting activity to someone else. I loved watching Peruvians go about their daily lives, and I formed a deep respect for their hard working, baby wearing, brightly clothed, smiling ways. I didn’t meet a Peruvian I didn’t like. Not to say they aren’t out there, but I had the good fortune to run with some pretty awesome people and watch the quiet rhythms of daily routines.

I learned that not everyone has the same uptight high levels of safety that I’ve been brought up with. For instance, refrigeration? Apparently not as necessary as I thought (as long as you don’t mind going without milk and ice).

“I’d like a pork sandwich please!” “OK, let me pull back this blanket and scoop some meat from the bone!”

Most badass schoolbus ever? This truck in the Andes. It’s safe. It has a rollbar!

I learned that while there may be no more new frontier for mankind on this earth in general, there is plenty of new territory for me to explore. And sometimes in doing the exploring, I’m left with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude, humility, and awesome.

I give you Machu Picchu–the reason for my trip and the absolute highlight.

I realized that I could never ever actually capture the sense of place that I felt there in a picture, but it didn’t keep me from trying. I ate things I never thought I’d eat (alpaca) and had drinks that completed me (pisco sour). I fell to the depths of loneliness, as one does when one is traveling alone, and then popped back out the other side into the arms of the traveling community…in which you are truly alone only if you want to be.

I soaked in lots of affirmation and love, because one thing that latin american men are not shy of is expressing lots of strong feelings that I’m unaccustomed to hearing. Of course, I didn’t buy into it. Obviously not, seeing as I base my self worth on my own identity and not on what other people say about me *cough* I’m trying *cough* but the fervor and tone is hard to ignore. After watching me hoop around to music out of my headphones, an entire group of Brazilian men in the hostel I was staying at pledged their undying love. Which is ridiculous, you can’t love someone after watching them for 5 minutes. But they believed it. And they defended their love so vigorously I let go of my American skepticism and agreed that yes, they could carry on with all that undying and unrequited love business.

But my heart? It belonged to the llamas y alpacas. More than the fiery passion of latin american men, these creatures stirred in me an inner confidence. They are so completely themselves…awkwardness and silliness and all…I couldn’t stop watching them. They trip along rocks. Careen down paths. Wander willy nilly up and down. They chew funny. Make priceless expressions of awkwardness. Who among us is more silly and awkward than me? And who is more regretful of this than I am? No one but me. But watching these animals (that I’d never seen up close in person) owning their shit was really empowering. If I can love them for their strangeness, then perhaps someone can love me for mine. In fact, maybe that someone can be me. I’m thinking that if you love llama, you’d love me by extension.

I fell in love with Peru. I fell in love with new tastes, sounds, sensations. I fell in love with life.

And that’s what I did on my summer vacation.

How has your summer been? Did you travel anywhere? Do anything new? See anything with fresh eyes? Do tell!

By Jill Greenwood

If you are a teacher, you pretty much spend your summers how you please. Some work because they want or need to. Others sit back and let the dog days wash over them. Me? I pretty much use it as a time to recharge my batteries. I don’t take on another job in the summer partially because I enjoy traveling. When my daughters were little, they would visit their grandparents in Ohio for a week each. Maybe when the girls were gone, Dave and I would sneak away to Montreal or some place quiet and just be. Usually at the end of their two weeks, I’d join them for a week and see my parents and my in-laws, often times spending a few days with Erika in Columbus. Getting that three-week “break” was enough to put most of my year in perspective, and it worked for the longest time.

After a while, though, it seemed like the batteries weren’t holding their charge for very long. I’d start to get tangled up in the whole, “Have I done this?” checklist mentality and pretty soon the panic of school starting again and not accomplishing a fucking thing would creep back in. So a few years ago, I decided that summers were going to be strictly for enrichment. If there was something that I saw during the school year that I wanted to do, I’d make a mental note (not going to lie – I’d write it on the palm of my hand first or text it to myself later) to add that to the summer wish list. Quilting a few years back? Sure . . . I’ll try it. Reading a classic book? OK . . . nothing ventured, nothing gained. Cooking actual food? What the hell! Sleep in until 7 AM? Ummm . . . no, can’t do it. But this enrichment thing had been working for me.

So, what have I been enriching this summer, you might ask? Well, partially thanks to a “mystery” rash – impetigo, poison ivy, algae, contact dermatitis – my July has been one of some personal soul searching and very little enriching. My weight isn’t what I would like, but more importantly, my health isn’t what I would like. And to me, that’s the an unforgivable sin. I came back from Ohio weighing the most I’ve weighed in years. I came back on the verge of depression. I came back pumped full of steroids that fuck with your chemistry. But I also came back with two huge bags full of homegrown produce. And with the attitude that my summer of enrichment was going to finish up being about me. Not about how to be a better teacher or wife or mother or sister or daughter or knitter or reader. Just about being a better me. I’m being selfish and making it all about me.

I’ve cooked more in the past week than I have all year. I’ve made two batches of refrigerator pickles (one even successfully!). My mandolin has received such a workout to transform pounds of zucchini into tiny shreds that it surely must feel like it’s in a porno for foodies. I’ve been using Pinterest to find recipes that will be easy, healthy, and satisfy a meat-lover and a meat-tolerator (I tried to quit you, Pinterest, I really did). Yesterday, after grocery shopping for the first time in a month (go ahead . . . wrap your brain around that one), I came home with two containers of Mason jars and a plan. Tiffani’s written about them in the past, and a quick spin through Pinterest has just about as many ideas as you can shake a stick at. So I decided that this summer about me would include something to get ready for the school year: making a Mason jar salad. Because once that alarm begins to ring at 4:45 AM at the end of August, a prepared lunch makes the difference between do-or-die. I think the salads took about 15 minutes to assemble, even calculating the calories for the two types. For that little amount of prep work, it’s kinda criminal that I didn’t do it sooner.

Even the pantry got an organizational makeover, with grains being stored in individual half-pints (because what was I going to do with the ten extra half-pints that I didn’t need for refrigerator oatmeal). Truth be told, they are bloody perfect. One container = one grain for dinner time. Snap a photo of the label and store it in Evernote. Calculate the calories and store it in LoseIt! Obsession? Yes, please. And I pitched shit with abandon. In the past, I’ve kept the food that was long past its sell-by date because I felt guilty about it. “Someone is starving out there, and I squandered these delicious freeze-dried cherries that were good until 2005? They’re freeze-dried . . . they still must be good!” But this time, that selfish nature that I’m embracing – rolling around in in like a pig in shit, more like it – forced me to throw it away. Chuck that salad dressing. Get rid of the relish. Mayo really does go bad. Beer actually will flatten if you don’t drink it.

There are still about four long weeks before that alarm will start blaring its tones and harassing me to solve math problems (yup . . . I use a math alarm clock to get my ass out of bed in the morning). In that time, I think I can squeeze in a few more experiments with my Mason jars. My limited storage space in the kitchen is begging for some TLC, so I’m 99% sure that I can get some magic out of them. I’ve been inspired by My New Roots to incorporate my raw and whole foods into my life, especially her Happy Crackers and Raw Cashew Dreamcake (seriously had to resist the urge to lick the monitor when I saw that one). I’m reading books I feel like just because. And if I feel like sitting and watching a marathon of The Real Housewives of New Jersey/NYC/OC/Beverley Hills/Atlanta, so be it. Perhaps they could all benefit from a few Mason jars here and there.

Before you know it, August will be knocking on the calendar door, beckoning me with her alarms and her bells and her calls to the classroom. I need to cram a little bit more enrichment into my life. How are we going to do this enriching thing together? Because just about everything is more fun with a partner to share the journey. Suggest away!

by jess lewis

i can’t remember the last time i or any one in this house was bored. when i hear someone say that they’re bored, i can’t really comprehend what they mean. the word just doesn’t exist in this house. it’s especially difficult to be bored in the summer. there is always something to pop, play, capture, explore, paint, create, imagine, learn, conquer, watch, read, grow, climb, dig, sculpt, build, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (this list could go on for much longer. i’ll spare you.). it may sound chaotic, but i promise it’s not. i am anti-chaotic, moreso in the summertime. we just like our days to be filled. and that does include some down time. a lot of it actually (especially when the temperatures spike). but, that down time never, ever includes boredom (most times it involves activities that can be done lying beneath a ceiling fan).

how are you defying boredom this summer?

I’m grateful for the adventures and experiences we’re having this summer.  Sure there’s been some chaos along the way.  Grouchy days and tantrums and meltdowns…tears.  “We NEVER do what I want to do!!”  “Stop copying me!”…..”Stop copying me!!”  There’s also been a thousand moments to savor in the midst of all that.  When I look back on this summer, I want to remember this sandy little butt and how she wore this one bathing suit nonstop because it was her favorite.  I want to remember these chubby little legs that are quickly growing long and lean.  I want to remember swimming in Lake Michigan and jumping off docks and watching my son reel in his first fish.  I want to remember exploring islands and catching grasshoppers.  I want to remember the smokey smell of my children as we carry them to bed after the late night bonfire.  Yes.  We have chaos in our lives, but we also have good, good days to remember.  What have been some of your favorite memories from summer?

Photos inspired by Carmen Farrell

by Carmen Farrell

It’s been one helluva hot summer so far.   My mantra has been:  I will not complain, I will not complain, I will not complain.  See, complainers annoy me.  A lot.  Especially when they complain no matter what.  I hear them complain throughout the winter that it’s too cold, and then what do you know, the second summer hits, they complain that it’s too hot.  I suspect (and by that I mean “know for a fact”) that I’ve been one of those people in the past and it really  makes me want to punch myself in the face.  So, this summer…this super hot, muggy summer…I vowed not to complain.  6 hours out at the park with the kids, hair plastered to my forehead, shirt 4 shades darker from sweat saturation:  no complaining.

You know what’s helped?  Sangria.  And lots of it.

Are you in heat wave territory?  Tell me how you’re dealing with it.  If you need my sangria recipe, let me know.

by Erika Ray

If Summer had a bird, it’d be the Beer Can Chicken.  I’ve written about my fascination for chickens a number of times, but I’ll do it again for the O+U crowd.  A raw chicken is a beautiful little thing.  There’s so much promise and hope with a raw chicken.  A little oil, some seasoning, stuff it with a lemon, and roast.  Simple.  Put it in a clay pot.  Surround it was herbs.  Delicious.  Chop it up.  Marinate it in buttermilk.  Fry the goodness and fat right into the skin.  Sinfully good.  No matter what you do to the raw chicken, you’ll be satisfied.

But a Beer Can Chicken…  Oh goodness, she’s a sexy little beast.  She just might be the Jenna Jameson of the food world.  The Beer Can Chicken doesn’t take it laying down.  She’s upright for the crowd to ogle.  Her breasts position towards the fire.  Wings pinned back ready for the heat.  The beer bubbles and moistens her from the inside out.  She stands there ready to take it.  Fat dripping off and skin slowly sizzles.  She does all this and still makes you wait an hour before you’re allowed to rip into her.  She’s sexy.  Admit it.

It isn’t only her presentation that makes her gorgeous, but it’s also the process.  She’s got brains behind those plump breast.  Beer Can Chicken means you can have a comforting roasted chicken meal without heating the entire house!  You so want her number, don’t you?!  But wait.  Because she’s so easy and cheap, she’s better with a twin!  Doing two doesn’t take anymore time and you get a double BAM: enough leftover chicken to ensure a second meal!  Now you’re super hot for Beer Can Chicken.

Don’t worry if Beer isn’t your thing, she’s as tasty with a soda.  Just not as classy in my opinion.  If you’ve enjoyed this little hussy, I’m preaching to the choir.  But if you haven’t, don’t be bashful, give her a whirl.  Here’s our favorite rub and recipe.  Heat up your grill and get sexy.

by Carmen Farrell

When I asked my kids what they loved best about summer, I heard their answer loud and clear:  ice cream!  Every year, come June, my kids become ice cream monsters. It’s like a switch gets flipped or something.  They’d like nothing better than to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner – diarrhea be damned.   Most days it’s an after dinner treat that we all look forward to.

The husband and I have strong opinions about our favourite ice cream flavours.  I’ve had a love affair with Mocha Almond Fudge for years, and his hands down favourite is Mint Chocolate Chip.  The kids however are quite promiscuous with their ice cream enjoyment.  They’ll take any flavour, any time, any way that they can.  One of these days I’ll get all gourmet on their ass and make my own (just like Laura, Erika and Jill do) but for now we’ll make do with what the supermarket’s got.

My only concern is whether the ice cream is killing brain cells.  Case in point:  A quick photo opp of them eating ice cream turned into a game of “who has the best ice cream beard”.  They’re either losing brain cells with each lick or these kids just don’t take my camera seriously.

 

Is ice cream YOUR favourite summer time treat?  Tell me your flavour of choice.  I’ve got another 2 months of keeping these boys satisfied and there are a ton of flavours we haven’t checked out yet.

Summer adventures. Last year at this time, I was dropping my son off at the airport to fly north with my father-in-law. He was six. He repeatedly told me he didn’t need any help at the airport. He looked thoroughly irritated when I took photos and asked for a hug before I left. I think he might have said goodbye as I walked away slowly choking back tears. Hours later I would receive a text with a photo of him sitting in the cockpit of the plane ….smiling from ear to ear. I pretty much knew at that point that he was off and running. Let’s be honest…I knew before then, but I accepted it at that point. His sister was too little to go with him last year (you should read this as…I was too terrified to be without her). This summer, however, she is GAME ON. I knew it was coming. I’ve been making excuses for months on why she shouldn’t go…she’s too young, blah blah blah. Alas, she has been talking nonstop for weeks about going to Wisconsin, swimming in the lake, going on the boat with Papa, riding her bike, and riding on the ferry from Michigan. She was doggedly determined. The past week has been filled with her repeatedly telling me, “I don’t need you Mom”. Each time she says it, it’s like a dagger through the heart…and yet I smile and I say, “You don’t need me!”…for her sake and mine. It’s a good thing, although it’s mighty painful for my mama heart. And so today I packed them in the car with their bags and bikes and pillow pets and we drove north to meet my in-laws.

The windmills mark the half way point. I find these mesmerizing no matter the season. Hypnotic.

We met at a restaurant for lunch. We hugged our hellos and the kiddos talked nonstop about riding on the ferry.

Not a single tear was shed. Lots of smiles and hugs and “I Love You’s”…reminders that they can call me as much as they need/want to. And then they were off….off on their own summer adventure over the river and through the woods to Grandma & Papa’s house. My heart ached watching them pull away. It’s the ebb and flow of parenting isn’t it? In a week, we’ll drive to pick them up and they’ll talk nonstop about everything they did and saw…and I’ll be reminded how important these trips are for them. Do your children have summer trips? Did you have any special summer adventures when you were young? I’m all ears if you feel like sharing….

by jess ‘grateful for redneck pools’ lewis

we’re trying to beat the heat any way we can around here. that includes splashing around in a lopsided pool whose water level barely grazes the top of my thighs (and i’m not tall by any means). a friend gave us this pool when they discovered it wasn’t cooperating with their lopsided yard. we didn’t really give it an option in our lumpy yard. there’s less schlepping of stuff to the pool, it’s deep enough the kids can swim (and not wear floaties) and they can jump, fly, splash and swim to their hearts content.

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