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My Weekly Post

A Recipe for You

Yesterday was hot most places. I saw on television where one man in Arizona fried an egg on his dashboard to demonstrate their intense heat. It is not that bad here, well, it never is. Up here on the hill, there is always a breeze and the nights are cool, 60 or maybe even 50. In the early morning, I do my gardening, deadheading and watering, pulling those relentless weeds. I love the quiet of the mornings as the sun musters itself up and over the horizon and the birds begin to talk. For me, it is like a chapel, the quiet and the feeling of well-being, the feeling of complete balance before the world gets busy and complicated.

This week, I happen to have company, my cousin George and his wife Hazel. At least once a season, they drive out from where they live in Newburyport, Massachusetts, to stay with me for a few days. George is the brother I never had. We’ve been close since we were toddlers, seems like a very long time now, through many chapters. As we like to say of old friends, we’ve got history. Similarly, he and Hazel have been married more than thirty years. Some very long time ago, George went to Jamaica where he taught English in a rural high school. He met Hazel and they’ve been together ever since, their two beautiful children, now grown and off to far horizons. The last time they came was in February. They so happened to arrive the day before a major snow storm. So we happily prepared to be snowed in and the next day, as the snow swirled around the house all day and all night, we talked, read out loud, watched the snowplow make its way past the house, made a big stew, went out into the storm on snowshoes and came back to enjoy the meal we had prepared that morning. This way, we get plenty of time to sort out family news as well as whatever adventures we have had in the interim. When we are together like this, everyone sleeps well.

George is still a high school teacher and so we had to wait for his school to end to plan for our summer visit. They arrived here on Monday afternoon, tired from the hot drive, and we sat out on the lawn, where there were good breezes, and talked about our family news and observed the mountain shifting colors as the sun sank lower. The idea of dinner was lingering as we talked on. I had made an assortment of hot weather foods for our time together: tabouli, potato pesto salad, a big salad from the garden, and my current favorite, watermelon beet gazpacho – this is the best hot weather food I know of. A couple of years ago, I was following Weight Watchers (the everlasting pendulum!) and devised a recipe that was “free” according to their method of calculating safe foods. Some foods, mostly vegetables, you can eat all you want. Watermelon happened to be on this list but how much watermelon can one person eat? I decided it could be part of a great cold soup and remembered a beet gazpacho I’d seen in the newspaper. Using that as a baseline, I put together a few more things that don’t count against you in the world of Weight Watchers. The result was a recipe that’s “free.” Eat all you want, guilt free! It’s also very refreshing in hot weather. In this hot hot time, I wanted to share the recipe with you. When I watch the weather report on television, it looks to me as if the entire country is under a heat wave. So, if you are having a hard time beating the heat, try this as a remedy.

Watermelon Beet Gazpacho
3-4 cups seedless watermelon flesh, diced
1 ½ cups cooked beets (canned, semi-drained, but fresh is better if possible)
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced (about 1 cup)
1 red bell pepper, seeded, diced (about 1 cup)
1 small jalapeño chile, seeded, minced
½ small red onion, diced (about 1 cup) (I often use half of a large Vidalia)
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
5-8 mint leaves, finely chopped
pinch of cayenne

Put everything into the blender, whirl and chill. Garnish with mint leaves and/or a daub of plain yogurt, if that appeals – not only low in cal but beautiful!

I had a big pitcher of this in the fridge so when we came in from the lawn and gathered around the table, we slurped it down and then went for more. I hope you stay cool, wherever you are. And don’t forget to save time this summer for long family visits.
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All's Right with the World

And so it is summer. The Fourth is our touchstone here, it is usually hot, at last, which was the case this past weekend. An old friend decided to escape Boston for the weekend and drove out, bearing lobster and salmon as her contribution to the celebration. There were parties on the lawn and on the deck, compliments of my neighbors, no shortage of sun and fair weather, the sky bluest of blue, light breezes. No bugs. An afternoon at the lake. Occasionally one of us would utter: we’re living in paradise! We browsed at yard sales, which were abundant. I reeled in a nearly new salad spinner ($1), a handful of linens, napkins, and grandma-style pot holders ($1), a pair of brass candlesticks ($1!), and, my triumph of the weekend, a beautifully maintained, nearly new Mantis rototiller. I have one that was given to Paul and me for our wedding – in 1984! It's lightweight and agile, able to move between rows without damage. In short, it's indispensable. Two years ago, the pull starter broke and I’ve been meaning to have it fixed ever since. But this is a much snazzier version and cost less than what the repair might have. Score one for the garden!

And of course, there were fireworks. For years I have enjoyed the luxury of living between two towns who somehow manage to stage great fireworks. The displays are usually scheduled on different nights so that I can take in two shows in the weekend. I can never get enough fireworks. Occasionally, they stage their shows on the same night and in that case, I stay home on my hill and watch both from my lawn – look south and see the bursts from Dublin, turn to the north and there is the Harrisville extravaganza, rising above the trees. Harrisville’s fireworks are staged by the volunteer firefighters, I think their favorite activity of the whole year. They set up the pyrotechnics in the cemetery which is something of a peninsula that juts into the lake. That way, the townspeople can gather on the town beach and watch the rockets explode over the water. Dublin’s show is put on by a (private) lake club situated across the road from the town’s cemetery. They launch the rockets from a barge floating in the lake and, using a remote control, set the fireworks off from the shore of their swimming beach. At dusk, townspeople begin setting up chairs and laying out blankets in the town’s cemetery, which happens to be across the road from the club. The cemetery, which is quite old, slopes upward from the road providing a perfect amphitheater for viewing the show. So, in both towns, the shows involve a lake and a cemetery. I often wonder how many other places in this country have a situation like that. Whatever, I’m glad it exists here. Because the Harrisville cemetery is roped off while the firemen engage in legal pyromania, I am more moved by the show in Dublin, as sitting among the tombstones of what are sometimes Revolutionary and Civil war heroes raises the profundity of this uniquely American tradition. This year we managed to fit in both shows. In Harrisville, chatting with friends as we were waiting for the show to begin, we reminisced about some of the better or worse shows we remembered, the time when we were almost literally carried off by the mosquitoes and especially the one a few years ago when thick fog enveloped the lake. The result was a hazy smear of color above the fog. All the booms were there but we couldn’t see the flowery explosions. “Focus!” one humorist shouted out as the fog turned pink and green. But this year there were brilliant shooting stars,chrysanthemums,curlicues that whistled all accompanied by chest-thumping reports that made the earth beneath us shudder. At the end of all this, there was a pause. We knew (hoped we knew) what was about to come -- the great finale! We were not disappointed as the entire sky appeared to be exploding in technicolor right above our heads. We laughed and shrieked right along with the children all around us. And, who knows what benevolent tax dollars led to this but, once that was done, there was another pause as we all began to rise and collect our blankets and WAIT! -- yet another, even more spectacular finale went off above us. It was all sufficiently exciting to require recovery.

Late yesterday afternoon, I bid adieu to my guest and came inside to gather my thoughts and return to “normal.” No sooner had I done that than I looked out to see a huge black cloud approaching from the west. Storm! I quickly unplugged my computer and other important electronics and closed windows, just in time for a torrential downpour and great forks of lightning. It was OK, the weekend had closed, the parties with their perfect summer weather were all over, the lobster shells had been sucked clean and put into the compost pile, the residue of the salmon had been scraped from the grill, we’d taken our harvest from the yard sales, and the fireworks, which we all declared the best ever, were already part of our individual town histories. The storm passed and I went to bed early, frogs chorusing from the pond. All was right with the world, to every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. Tomorrow, back to work. Happy summer!

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