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Tag Archive: summer

Jun 18

“You are never too old for a summer road trip” – from my archived columns first published in The Examiner, a Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper

summerroadtrip“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

A clue that I love road trips is the packed bag sitting on my closet floor, just in case the opportunity to travel cross-country or anywhere else presents itself.

I blame this trait on my parents.

You see, they loved to travel and believed that seeing unfamiliar locales via the open road was a vital part of childhood education. So do I.

Thus, that was a good enough reason for me to “suggest” quite recently that our two young adult single sons accompany us, mom and dad, on a road trip west. They have done this before and know the drill.

Yet, I worried that they are not kids anymore and might not be thrilled at the idea. My husband tried guilt to coerce them saying, “Boys, this could be the last time the four of us take a road trip together.”

I was thinking, “You have to be kidding; I plan on making them take us when we’re 88.”

Admittedly, they might have a reasonable fear of boredom and embarrassment at the idea of traveling with their parents. Yet, they embraced the road trip good-naturedly, probably because they come by wanderlust naturally.

In my youth, back in the 50s and early 60s, it was not unusual for the boys’ grandfather to come home from work on a Friday evening and announce happily, “We are going to Colorado in the morning. Do you have a bag packed?”

I learned to have mine ready.

Sometime between 3 and 5 a.m. the following morning, our family would leave our Missouri River bottom farm home for Colorado or California or other parts west (sans automobile air conditioning and thus the night travel).

For some reason, we never went east, and I have yet to figure out why. Summer after summer, we headed west toward the mountains with all our shoes piled in one open cardboard box in the back of our green woody Desoto station wagon.

Another box held a loaf of white bread and cans of Spam, apples, cookies and a jug of water for a noon picnic at a roadside park. We thought it a feast.

Those roadside parks, by the way, were usually located next to an historical marker, and I am quite certain we stopped at every one of them between Kansas City and the Pacific Ocean. That is, if my mom, a history teacher in her day job, had anything to say about it. My dad was the photographer for the trips, lining us up in front of countless such markers, and when we stopped at gas stations, he treated each of us to a bottle of soda pop (as long as we did not fight too much in the backseat).

Mostly, we read road signs and jingles, sang songs, quibbled some and laughed a lot.

A family squeezed together in a hot car on long road trips with only each other for company sears unforgettable memories into one’s psyche.

I guess I was hoping to create the same memories with our sons before they spread their wings and fly too far away.

We didn’t leave at 3 a.m., although my husband wanted to, and we did not eat Spam and white bread (it wouldn’t have surprised me if he wanted to do that, too). I never made the boys stand in front of one historical marker, although I almost did in a fleeting, nostalgic weak moment.

I guess I look at this road trip as a practice run for when we are 88 and the offspring get an urgent phone call from us asking, “Boys, do you have your bag packed? We are leaving for Colorado in the morning, and oh, by the way, will you drive us?”

Jul 14

Ice cream happiness

“My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate. That’s my philosophy.” – Thornton Wilder

In the blistering heat of summer, there’s nothing wrong with me that a little homemade ice cream won’t fix, but that is not as easy as it sounds.

You see, last summer I inadvertently ran over our ice cream maker in our driveway.

I left the container there after making some homemade vanilla and forgot about it. Backed out of the garage in a hurried run to the grocery store, and whammo!

Holy smashed ice cream maker, Batman.

The only thing salvaged was the ice cream itself, certainly not my pride.

Fast forward to this summer when everyone in our household is beginning to hanker for homemade ice cream. There is one little problem, however. I neglected to mention to them the fact that we no longer have an ice cream maker.

Let us say I covered up the crime.

What to do?

Rather than go on a shopping expedition in the 100-degree heat of mid-afternoon, I decided to make homemade ice cream the quick and easy way using ingredients one already has in the house. Best of all, no ice cream maker is needed, just plastic bags.

It’s a crazy recipe, this ice cream in a bag.

The downside is that the recipe makes only small batches, one or two scoops at a time. I figured I could make some of several varieties, such as vanilla bean, peach, strawberry, chocolate, and something fun like pineapple or banana ice cream.

Serve two or three scoops of different flavors in a bowl, add some fresh fruit and voila, homemade ice cream without an ice cream maker.

Here are the simple steps to follow if you want to try ‘Ice Cream in a Bag’:

For each scoop, simply use one-half cup milk, 1-tablespoon sugar, and one-half teaspoon vanilla. Put into a quart-size, sealable plastic bag. Double bag it with another one so the first bag won’t break easily.

Put 4 cups of crushed or cubed ice and six tablespoons table or canning salt into a gallon-size sealable plastic bag. Add the sealed quart bag to the gallon bag with the ice and salt. Seal the gallon bag after getting rid of as much air as possible.

Wrap the bag in a towel and shake for 8 minutes. Remove the small bag, wipe off salt on the outside and scoop out the ice cream. Add fruit or syrup.

Who needs an ice cream maker anyway?

Sweet, delicious, creamy, and exceptionally cold ice cream in a bag. “Happiness condensed,” as writer Jessi Lane Adams says of ice cream.

If anyone gets suspicious and questions where the ice cream maker is, I will be too busy to answer. “I’ll have to get back to you on that,” I’ll say.

A writer named Uniek Swain came up with the perfect quip for this little pickle I’m in, and I’m using it:

“Unless your name ends in Baskin or Robbins, I really can’t fit you into my schedule right now.”

Reader’s note: if you love ice cream and want to see a funny video about it, then search on YouTube for “Ira and Barry in “City Slickers (1991) – The Challenge”. The sketch poses the question: what would be the perfect flavor of ice cream with this meal? Answer: Rum Raisin, of course.

Jul 08

When A/C goes out, so does good humour

“What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance.” –Jane Austen

Did you know that pasta can lose its shape when your air conditioning quits?

Did you know that chocolate actually turns gray in high humidity if you don’t put it in the refrigerator?

I didn’t know that either, but I found out last weekend when our air conditioning unit decided to “meet its maker” after 22 years of near perfect service.

The resulting hot and humid ordeal lasted three plus days.

It is undoubtedly written somewhere that air conditioning breakdowns are required to occur over a holiday weekend.

You guessed it—our A/C breakdown happened over the Fourth of July. We were at the Lake of the Ozarks where typically one cannot find a repairman if the fish are biting or if there is a cloud in the sky. In this case, the repairmen did his best to get there, but we were simply too far down the list of “you have to come now” service requests. He didn’t make it.

Did you know that when you live three days in record heat and humidity without A/C, your bread molds over night and everything in your house attracts dust by the bucket load?

The dust was about the only thing that hung around our house. Some guests started bailing out on the second day, and I don’t blame them at all,

Our immediate family stayed, however, and so did a cousin from Nashville and a nephew from Kansas. I really don’t know why. I was ready to leave on the second day myself.

Instead, they accepted their fate and dug in for the duration.

My solution–I jumped in the lake and stayed there until forced to come inside for food.

I did not want to cook and left that up to my cousin from the South who did. Incidently, the sweltering temperatures in the kitchen never deterred him for a second.

When the rest of us woke on the morning after the third stifling night, we found our Nashville cousin in the kitchen frying sausage to add to his homemade gravy and baking biscuits in, yes, the oven!

“Hey, good morning,” he said, “This heat isn’t so bad. The pioneers never had air conditioning, so I guess we don’t need it either.”

“Hey,” I replied, “You know what Benjamin Franklin said, don’t you? After three days, fish and visitors stink.”

I guess you could say I was a lot like Jane Austen about then and in a continual state of inelegance and bad humour.

My cousin, who always seems to be in a disgustingly good mood, laughed as he started frying up some bacon to accompany the biscuits and gravy. You gotta love it.

I went outside where there was a breeze and ate a popsickle.

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