by Tiffani “Endless Summer” Michele
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.
And by that, what I mean to say is:
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?
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.
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.
by: Erika “trying to give Summer a chance” Ray
I guess Summer offers more than one kind of light to photograph.
I’m trying to love it.
By Jill Greenwood
Summer . . . I fall firmly in the camp of “Please, dear lord, deliver me from this heat and this humidity and please let that be sweat dripping down my ass and not an ant” as far as this season is concerned. Pretty sure that I’m one of a very select group of teachers who don’t particularly care for this season. Trust me, I’ve thought over the merits of the sun shining, but I’m convinced that my family’s genes long ago beat any kind of sun worshipping firmly out of our people. Don’t get me wrong. Plop my ass down on a beach chair in say the Bahamas, and I’ll not move for hours . . . provided that I have a) shade, b) a gentle breeze, and c) someone willing to schlep me a few drinky poos. But overall, I could take or leave summer except for one thing: ice cream.
Yes, I know you can get it year round. And, yes, I know that Ben and Jerry’s does a fine job of keeping me in the good stuff. Hell, even Graeter’s is now selling down the street from my house. But come summer, I break out my ice cream maker and make it myself with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream At Home. Which is really odd because to make the kind I love, you have to boil the milk and stir it for about four minutes. And I don’t have air conditioning of any kind. Not central air. Not window units. Not anything. So, imagine someone prone to turning red at the mere thought of the temperature going north of 75 degrees, standing in a kitchen that’s about 85 degrees, carefully stirring and whisking a pot of boiling milk. All you’re missing in this visual is the hair net to keep my shaggy bangs out of my eyes. And why don’t I need it, you might be asking? Because I’m sweating my fucking ass off and my damn hair is plastered to the sides of my cheeks, that’s why.
But we’re not done on this ice cream adventure . . . oh, no . . . not by a long shot. Next, I have to whisk the boiled milk into the cream cheese mixture (seriously, you should just buy the damn cook book; it’s genius) and then transfer it to a gallon Ziploc and let it cool for a half hour. Most sane people would take the time to sit down, sip some iced tea (or whiskey), put their feet up. But I figure, I’m already hot and sweaty and disgusting that I may as well vacuum the carpet or some ridiculous shit like that. So after it cools down – the ice cream mixture, not me (clearly) – I can have a tasty treat, right? No. Not unless you like slightly thickened milk with a little bit of flavor. Spin that baby in the actual ice cream maker for about 30 minutes. Which means I can take a shower. Again, that sanity issue creeps up, so it’s over to the sink to do those dishes (and if I don’t have air conditioning, it’s a safe bet I don’t have a dish washer; when you buy a house built when Woodrow Wilson was President, you buy it for charm . . . like a dumb ass).
When those 30 minutes are up, and you’re looking down as a mass of *almost* ice cream, it can get you a little emotional. No longer are you seeing a baggie full of nearly curdled milk. It’s gone beyond the chilled, thickened milk phase. You have bona fide ice cream . . . if you’re willing to wait about four more hours. Because right now, after the 30 minutes of spinning and churning, it’s not quite ice cream. So lick your fingers since getting the ice cream packed into a container is messy work and take a shower because you’ve sweat enough for most people in the tri-state area and put your feet up. Dream of taking that first bite. Practice your scooping technique. Figure out when you can make another batch (because the cookbook is chock full of favorites). And get ready to scream.
Why don’t I make ice cream in the fall when the temperature dips to a more acceptable level? I have no clue. There’s no good reason, at least not one that makes sense. Do you have any treats that defy rationality? Anything that you could buy much, much cheaper at the store, but for some reason, it’s worth it to sweat like a whore in church and make it? I’d love to know that there are other sanity-challenged people out there. So . . . dish it. What’s your “must have” treat of the summer?
*If you’re celebrating Independence Day, happy 4th, y’all! I’ll be the idiot at the fireworks with her fingers jammed so far in her ears that her brain will start to tingle. Hate. Loud. Noises.
by Tiffani “Living La Vida Bathing Suit” Michele
Dear, sweet, delusional, and incorrect Erika really threw down the gauntlet yesterday when she blogged “I Hate Summer“. Haterz gonna hate, I know, but she left me no choice but to retaliate with my own post, “I Love Summer” to show her the errors of her ways. Because really, I read her words in shock and awe, shaking my head and mouthing the words “nooooooo!” while raising my fists into the air like a supplicant for correct seasonal priorities. It’s nothing personal, I suppose, and nothing that can’t be fixed over a late night of beer drinking and shots of whiskey. But still. I was offended. Hating Summer?! What?! Who could possibly?! Can you even say those words together?!
I love Summer so much I want to get drunk off vodka infused watermelon, and fondle and caress it and maybe even grind up against it until we’re both tired and drunk and a little sunburned and pass out to the light of fireflies dancing around us. So here’s my own list of summery love:
1) So Much More Light! I don’t struggle to wake up early like I do in the dark hours of winter, because the sun is already shining in my window beckoning me to hop out of bed and get my party on. It shines all day long without any chance of snowstorms or weeks and weeks of gray days. It even stays light waaaaay into traditional night. There is finally enough time in the day to do everything…wake up early, get shit done by afternoon, take a little nap, wake up, and still have more than half a day’s light to play around with. Yes Please!
2) Break From Cooking! No one wants to use an oven or stove when it’s hot. That’s where grills and men come in handy. In the summer, you can hand off a plate of raw meat and it comes back to you in the form of a fresh dinner made by a man cooking on a grill. Cooking and baking goes down by at least half thanks to cold pasta salads, fruit dips, man grilling, pot luck neighbor picnics, and yogurt based foods. Being single has put a wrench into my plans, actually, but that’s what Craigslist is for. “Wanted: man who likes to grill. I will supply raw meat and veggies in exchange for a nicely grilled dinner every night. Knowledge of grilled desert recipes a plus. None of this is code for “I really mean I want to have freaky sex with a stranger”. Only those serious grillers need to contact me.”
3) Bathing Suits, Boats/Beach and Beers! If there’s any way to spend a day better than this, I don’t know what it is.
(body by hooping, y’all, and I’m not even kidding!)
4) Summer Sports Rock Hard! Fall and Winter have sports that are boring to watch, boring to play, involve lots of layers, and have a high degree of hurt involved. Touch football always ends up tackle. Hockey players wear too many layers to make it interesting for us women folk, if you know what I’m saying. Skiing also involves to many layers and way to many chances to run into trees and die of massive internal injuries. But summer is all about play! Swimming, volleyball, surfing, and skateboarding. Who doesn’t love the laid back nature of that?! All done in varying forms of dishabille. Rawr!
5) It’s Simply Magical. All my favorite memories come from the summertime. No school, no bedtime, spending time with friends, going on summer trips, eating popsicles all day long, summer loving with the star crossed boyfriend that I knew I’d never see again, lounging at the beach eating nachos and hot dogs, sun kissed hair, and fireflies. Ah, fireflies. My kids had never seen them before last week. But as we spent time with cousins in Georgia, they experienced the magic for the first time. It made my mama heart grow three sizes bigger.
Seriously. This is life, people. Magical, awesome, simple, pure. Brought to you by summer!
What are some of your favorite things about the best season ever (summer, of course)?!