Anyhoo. About that list. It's really summer now, absolutely and for true, per the calendar and my kids and two dozen darting nightlights all a-twinkle out my window. We're hitting our stride and finding our rhythm, and doing what we do when we're all together.
What that is, exactly, changes by the day, and mostly our days sort themselves out just fine. There are library trips and lots of book reading, barefoot toes and gardens to inspect, fights to pick and ways to make up, board games to play and watercolors to deploy, Slip 'n Slides to try out and peas to un-pod. And always, always, a way to justify cookies. (What, it's nearly ninety? Just add ice cream!)
But several years ago, I began hedging my bets, by means of a summer list scrawled before break. I suppose, to a stranger, it might look downright ghastly, like some power-parent's to-do list, or some poor child's worst nightmare. And although it runs on, thick and dense with ideas, it's not goals I'm itemizing, or ambitions for anyone.
It's more like a mama security blanket, a fall-back position for inspiration and spice. Jumper cables, if you will, for four wildly different folks, who sometimes need just a wee little boost. When the hum of our days takes on a little too much ho-, when the awkward pauses pile up and the engines stall, I whip out The List and start cherry-picking.
There are things just plain fun (no. 72. play frisbee; no. 81. build a gnome house) and plain old necessities (no. 2. clean office; no. 68. fix kitchen table). There are trusty old favorites (no. 32. get out the typewriter; no. 57. work a puzzle) and brand new skills (no. 80. learn to tie knots; no. 87. learn to play Go).There are ideas that take us away from home (no. 56. visit Darby Creek; no. 26. see a Woolly Mammoth), and others that keep us close (no. 1. build something with screws and scraps; no. 98. camp in our backyard). Some are sure winners (no. 51. race remote control cars; no. 78. learn 3 great knock-knocks); others, well.... (no. 90. clean out garage). Some, I've been meaning to get to all year (no. 93. positive ID poison ivy). Others, I've been meaning to get to all my life (no. 121. learn metrics; no. 46. memorize the state capitals). This is not their first appearance on The List. Nor, likely, is it their last.
There are great online projects I'm eager to try (no. 52. Carmen's salt and ice experiment; no. 104. Maya's wood boats) and old-fangled tricks I've yet to master (no. 107. learn to skip a rock). Something for sunny days (no. 40. run through the sprinkler) and also for rainy (no. 6. use every last lego in 24 hours). There's art (no. 73. paint) and there's science (no. 17. make a sun print). Ideas quiet (no. 44. read boys The Great Brain) and active (no. 8. jump rope). High tech (no. 24. place better than 12th in Mario Kart) and low (no. 10. make pasta, from scratch).
Some are stupid-simple, easy and obvious, barely worth noting except I forget (no. 4. blow bubbles; no. 41. play hide-n-seek). Others, just hard enough to keep it interesting (no. 31. make a movie; no. 19. find a katydid). And then there are the wildly, enormously ambitious, there not because I think they'll happen but because hope springs eternal (no. 11. learn 3 chords on the guitar; no. 37. paint the living room).
But heavens to Betsy, that last one is history! Happened almost as soon as I wrote it, even. It's been over a week, and still I'm pinching myself, so long have I wanted to cover up the pink. For, dear reader, our living room was pink. Or, rather, old dusty rose, which was right for the last residents but so not for us. Painting's not difficult, per se. But it's time-consuming and space-consuming and, well, so very wet. Pesky, that last one, with small kids in the house. Especially when it's the main room in your home, the one you walk into from the outside, and through all the time to get from here to there. Most especially when it includes the adjacent (*pink*) stairwell, the one that leads up to every last bedroom.
It takes a village to paint such a room, and my village turned out in
spades, while I worked. I cleaned and prepped and spackled and sanded,
draped and edged and rolled and repeated, two coats in twenty four
hours, give or take. It's all dry now, and so so much better, the same barely blue as Zoë's room. I may not set out to cross anything off, but I still sort of feel madly accomplished over this one.
There is one other that we've made a good stab at: No. 3. Eat our annual fill of strawberries. You know we've been gobbling them since Memorial Day, staining our fingers and waffles and shirts. I went to buy more at the market this morning, but the crop is waning, the few pints sold out. If you live where strawberries are still going strong, you might try this salad, if you can bear it.
I don't want to put you off it, not at all. It's just that I've never liked 'strawberry' and 'salad' to share the same sentence, much less plate. I've sampled several over the years, and to the last, they were all pretty dreadful, put together more for color than for taste, with crunchy winter berries to top it all off.
This one, however, this one I adore. If that was a vivid, spare salad for Spring, this is a lush, baroque Summer sister. Into a mess of mixed greens (butter lettuce or mesculun), you mix in heap of sliced, plump ripe red berries. Add to this a thick fistful of fresh slivered basil, a heaping half cup of salted macadamias, and a goodly smattering of blue cheese or feta, and you've a salad that smiles with every bite. There's texture to spare, buttery crunch meets tender berry, and a smashing point-counterpoint between sweet-tart fruit and sharp basil.
It's all very more-ish, and I've made it lunch more than once, and if I can swing it, I'll do so once more. No. 37 had a clear finish line; done! No. 3, not so much; always room for more... Soon leaves will give way to high summer's bounty, to salads made wholly of corn and tomatoes. Until then, if you can, you might add this one to your list.
An Early Summer Salad
Inspired by Dewey's
I cannot decide whether I like this better with or without the poppy seeds; they add a lovely crunch, and make the strawberries look like ladybugs. That said, it's just lovely without them.
I'm fond of Maytag blue cheese, for its mild, sweet character. I can't figure out how strawberries and blue cheese could work together, but they do, here. That said, a good sheep's milk feta is dreamy.
8 cups fresh young thing greens (mesculun, spinach, a little arugula would be fine)
1 loose cup fresh basil, slivered
1 heaping cup ripe-to-bursting strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup roasted, salted macadamias, roughly chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta or blue cheese (Maytag blue has my heart)
1 Tablespoon mellow vinegar (sherry, balsamic, raspberry)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. honey
3 Tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground pepper
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)
Prepare dressing: pour vinegar into an old jam jar with a lid, and add salt and honey. Swoosh several times to help dissolve, then add olive oil, pepper, and poppy seeds, if using. Seal tightly with lid, and shake madly 30 seconds or so to emulsify.
Prepare salad: Place all ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle with some of dressing (start with half), and gently toss with clean hands, several times, to dress. Taste a few leaves for flavor and seasoning, and add a bit more dressing and/or salt, if needed, and toss again to combine.
Best enjoyed out of doors, if it's pleasant, indoors if it's unbearable.