happy trails

IMG_2100                                             “Be Prepared.”

One week ago, Middle left for New Mexico, which is rather a long way from South Carolina.  Planning for this trip to the Philmont  Boy Scout Ranch began in October 2009.  Deposits were paid, and, in return, parents received a list of gear (probably about $1000 worth) that if their Scout (or his brother) didn’t already own, they could hope grandparents and generous others would give for Christmas gifts.  Things became more serious in January, when the next deposit was due, and a series of local (Appalachian Trail) weekend backpacking trips were planned to prepare the boys for the rigors of backcountry hiking out West.

IMG_2097            Zipping up his backpack before leaving for the airport

Running stadium steps became the Saturday morning routine.  As did cross-checking prices at various outfitters.  Boots were, literally, a big concern.  Buy them too early, and you run the risk of your Scout outgrowing them.  Buy them too late, and you run the risk of blisters and worse.  Middle’s current shoe size is the same as his age—14.  At the pre-trip physical, the pediatrician assured me that he had not yet had his growth spurt.  Hiking boots larger than a 14 are special order at best, and custom at worst.  Thankfully, he slid into a pair the week before he left, and they fit.IMG_2098Ready to go, wearing his boots and a slight look of apprehension.

Troop backpack inspections occurred weekly, along with weigh-ins.  We had one last shopping trip, and, finally, all the boxes on the list were checked.  The gear was—dare I say—lovingly laid out on the playroom floor for several days.  In typical older brother fashion, Ted offered encouraging advice as well as disparaging comments.  He was also extremely interested in the cost of everything.

So, 10 boys and three adult leaders left in the wee, small hours to catch a flight to Albuquerque.  They spent the first day exploring Indian caves and rafting on the Rio Grande.  The next day was spent checking in at Philmont, receiving their food rations, weather updates, and last-minute instructions.  Phones, ipods, and other distractions were left behind.  On Sunday morning, they set out for 10 days of wilderness hiking and camping.tooth of time

Tuesday we received a leader text that they had summitted the Tooth of Time, elevation 9003 feet.

I expect that when Middle returns next Thursday, he will be standing a bit taller as well.

The Sweet Smell of Success

Just a few days ago, I was lucky enough to find a delightful new blog to read, Beyond the Blue Ridge by VA Girl.  Please pay her a call, I think she’s a terrific addition!  One of her passions is perfume, and she already has several interesting posts on fragrance, which got me to thinking about my favorite perfume, Laila.  Have you ever heard of it?laila I found it when Mr. T&C worked for the Walt Disney Company.  We were visiting the Norway pavilion at Epcot for some event, when I chanced upon Laila and fell in love with its fresh, clean scent.  Described as the “essence of Norway,” Laila is the first perfume to be created in Norway, and is even featured on Norway’s official U.S. website Norway.org.NORPAV_1_998 Laila was not created by a traditional perfume house, but rather by a man named Geir Ness, who was trying his hand at acting in California.  He was offered some work modeling for Calvin Klein fragrances, and, according to the Laila website, he was asked if his native Norway produced any perfumes, and, if not, why didn’t he do something about that.   Reminded of hours spent with his mother collecting wildflowers, Ness decided that fragrance would be his new career.   You can read the rest of the story of Laila on the company’s website, but, my favorite parts are:

1.  Ness named his perfume Laila (pronounced Lila) for his mother, without her knowing about it, even using her signature for the product logo.  

2. After the chemists and perfumers mixed the various oils of the native mountain wildflowers, Ness took samples to everyone he knew (and many he didn’t) to get their opinions.  Something, it seemed, was still lacking.  And, what do you think that missing ingredient turned out to be?  Why, it’s probably the very thing that makes it a favorite of this Southern girl!  Watermelon!white-terrace-flower

Laila is available at Nordstrom’s, Neiman-Marcus, and, of course, Walt Disney World.   I have not been compensated by any of the above.   Personally, I’d love to purchase my next bottle in Norway!

Thumpin’ Good!

Watermelon is without question one of my favorite foods.  I have loved it since I was a child, and I used to eat it, quite literally, down to the white rind.  In addition to its low-calorie/high flavor appeal, watermelon reminds me of girlhood visits on my grandparents’ shady back porch, where my cousins and I would spit seeds into the dusky night while lightning bugs flickered around the white hydrangea blossoms.  A game of freeze tag almost always followed. Watermelons-595x270
In my 1960s childhood, a local grocery store chain advertised to a catchy tune that its watermelons were “thumpin’ good . . . red, ripe, and ready to eat; Cas Walker melons just can’t be beat!”   And, although, the best watermelons always came from my dad’s garden, Cas Walker was right about one thing: the best way to choose a watermelon is by the sound.  Oh sure, you can look at the stem, you can sniff for sweetness, but if you want a really good watermelon, put your ear close by and give it a thump!  If it sounds hollow, it’s a sweet ripe melon.  Trust me on this, and whenever possible buy a local watermelon; you’ll have no regrets.IMG_2093
So, once you have your perfect melon home, it’s time to slice it up.  During peak season, we eat at least one watermelon a week, and we seldom ever eat it from the rind.  I like to cut it into chunks and keep it cold to use in salads or to serve for dessert with blueberries.  IMG_2094
Slicing the melon on an old rimmed cookie sheet keeps the sticky juice from running all over the countertop.   Clean-up, as they say, is a snap!IMG_2095
And, now you’re all set with several days’ worth of watermelon in storage containers in the fridge, and a delicious fruit salad to accompany supper.IMG_2096  My favorite watermelon recipe these days is a bit of a twist on the watermelon arugula salad that had my mouth watering a couple of years ago.  It’s simply a little more family friendly—in other words, I’m the only arugula lover in this house!
watermelon-salad-550x412 Watermelon salad
baby spinach, rinsed and dried
fresh basil or cilantro, if you have either on hand, makes a nice addition
2 cups watermelon chunks
half a cup chopped peeled cucumber, optional
half a small red onion, coarsely chopped
4 ounces low-fat feta cheese, crumbled
to make the vinaigrette, whisk three parts olive oil to one part vinegar with a teaspoon of honey and a squeeze of lime juice, and a bit of kosher salt and black pepper to taste
If you want to make a statement presentation with this, serve it in triangles cut from the watermelon rind.  watermelonfeta-dg[1]            Image from Slash Food
And, now, it’s time for my nightime bowl of watermelon.  I hope the lightning bugs are out!
 I thought it was high time to bring a touch of summer to the T&C house, other than wet bathing suits, damp towels, and discarded flip flops, that is.
IMG_2078      Scallop shells gathered on Anna Maria Island, Florida take their place on the side table in the kitchen.IMG_2079Treasures found all along the Maine coast fill a bowl in the front hall, reminding us of one of our favorite family vacations.
IMG_2081Fragments of giant scallop shells and starfish (purchased) collected on Saint George Island, a most beautiful and remote spot on the Gulf.IMG_2085Olive shells, the state shell of Florida, are a sweet summer reminder of great family beach visits all over that beautiful state.
IMG_1955Add in a few bowls or vases of these beauties, and the house definitely feels like summertime.

This year we’re returning to one of Charleston’s beaches, much closer to home than our usual choice of St. George Island in Florida's Big Bend.  Middle, and Little are looking forward to the Atlantic surf instead of the tame waters of the Gulf.  The Mister and I are thinking that we are going to enjoy spending some afternoons in Charleston, despite the no-doubt torrid temperatures we will face.

For all of us in our prime

At least two of my favorite bloggers are celebrating birthdays this week—Bevy at It's a Golden Day and one of my favorite moms at Pink Martinis and Pearls, so to all of us who aren’t getting any younger, here’s a hoot of a video by funny lady Anita Renfroe. 

Happy Birthday, Girls!

Tales From the Pool: The Deep End

So, as you know, I have  been pondering Ted finishing up high school and heading off to college in two months—seriously, move-in day is less than two months away—and I’ve had my moments of reflection.  I have a baby book in which I carefully detailed each “first,” including all the typical ones like first tooth, first step, and so on.  It’s harder to keep track of the “lasts”; one day you just sort of realize, hey, I haven’t had to drive him anywhere in months, and then it kind of starts to sink in that somewhere in the busyness of life I must’ve spoon fed him, helped him dress, checked his homework, washed his jersey, dropped him off, watched his team play for the last time. 
I was thinking about this yesterday while sitting by our pool, watching young mothers with toddlers bobbing around in water, trying to have a conversation with one another.IMG_2087    Meanwhile, Little was practicing her diving from the blocks and coolly assessing  some older middle school girls.  And I wondered when the last time was that I had to get in the pool.  It’s been a few years, but for a while now I’ve been able to lounge and sun and read, getting in only when I wanted to cool off.  Admittedly, I have enjoyed sitting poolside leafing through magazines and glancing up only to count heads or to acknowledge a Momwatchthis moment.  Sure, occasionally I had to referee a disagreement over goggles or some such, but for the most part it was a blissful respite from the demands of the day. IMG_1876 The Mister and I took Little to the pool late Sunday afternoon.  He, of course, jumped right in and swam and played and admired all her handstands, dives, and splashes.  I read.  When he came over to dry off and stretch out for a bit, he said, “She’s going to want you to come in.”  And I said, “Oh, I don’t think so, she hasn’t said anything,” and I began to think of reasons that I didn’t want to get all wet, namely that I needed to stop at the grocery on the way home.  IMG_2086 And then, she didn’t swim over to ask me to get in with her.  For a long time.  She was just fine.  Without me.  Finally, she glided over and said teasingly, “Why don’t you come in, Mommy?  Are you afraid to get your hair wet?”  I know, sadly, from experience, that I could have begged off and she would’ve shrugged and swam away, but I think I knew that if I didn’t go in this time, it might be the last time she invited me. 
So, I walked to the edge of the deep end and jumped. Pool-Splash I’ve had enough lasts for a while.

Simple Summer Pleasures

It seems there are a few foods that are made for summertime.  I’m not talking about juicy watermelon or ripe tomatoes or even fresh corn, although my family enjoys those throughout the season.  I’m thinking more of foods that--although available year round--we set aside for summer—sort of like eggnog is only served from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.  After all,  the ingredients in eggnog are always available.  It’s the same with one of the T&C household’s favorite treats— homemade frozen bananas.  We started making these a few years ago after Little picked up a recipe for them in the grocery store.  I like to think they’re a bit healthier than ice cream bars, and they taste amazing even if you’re not crazy for banana-flavored treats. 

Start with a bunch of not-too-ripe bananas.  They shouldn’t be green, but they should not be fully yellow either.  And definitely no speckles!
IMG_2036 Find a cookie sheet or baking pan that will fit easily in your freezer and line it with waxed paper.IMG_2037
Cut the bananas in half and insert food-grade wooden popsicle sticks.  (If you are only going to be serving these to adults, you can use wooden skewers if you have them on hand.)  Place on the wax paper-lined baking pan and pop them into the freezer for half an hour or so.  (Leaving them in longer is fine, too, but you might want to cover them.)IMG_2039 While the bananas are chilling, melt one cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave oven or in a double boiler.  Microwave temperatures vary, so start with 30 seconds.  Chocolate that has been melted in a microwave holds its shape, so be careful not to burn it.  I microwave my chocolate for one minute, then add a teaspoon of cooking oil (even a light olive oil will work in a pinch) and stir until the chocolate is smooth and the oil is incorporated.IMG_2040 Remove the bananas from the freezer and quickly dunk them in the warm chocolate, which will harden immediately.  Store covered in the freezer.  A paper muffin liner slipped over the stick makes the perfect drip catcher. For young children, be sure to add sprinkles! 
What’s your favorite summer treat?

June bugs

If you live in the South or have ever visited the South, you know the sound of June bugs.  It’s rather a droning, buzzing noise that can be either a lovely bit of authentic white noise (when you are rocking on a well-screened porch) or a terrifying whine (when you are letting the dog out just before bed, and one of these beetles zooms by quite close to your head!).  Either way, I’ve decided that the back-logged blog posts in my brain have escalated from an easy-to-ignore drone to a shrill siren, saying, wriiiiitewriiiiitewriiiite!  So, here I go setting the June bugs free!
First up, a brief (mostly pictures, I promise) last look at Ted’s graduation.
IMG_1972We had some friends and family over for lunch before the 4 o’clock ceremony, and I thought it would be kind of fun to display some of Ted’s high school memorabilia.    The lunch was casual, and, everything could be served chilled or room temperature, which made it really easy.IMG_1980”Carolina Caviar” is one of my favorite summer salads; it’s perfect with almost everything!  IMG_1981Parmesan chicken fingers,IMG_1982fruit salad, and   IMG_1983miniature red velvet cupcakes rounded out the simple menu.  To drink, we had Arnold Palmers, a refreshing combination of sweet iced tea and lemonade served in a big ceramic urn that Little did her best to decorate with a dry erase marker that was on its last legs.IMG_1975IMG_1979IMG_1977 Dear friends made the day even more special!IMG_1998   If we could read Little’s thought bubble, I’m sure it would simply say “Ka-ching,” as she was quite interested in the loot!IMG_2006With Little, Lovely Girlfriend, and Sweet Grandparents.IMG_2025With buddy Sumner and Lovely, after graduation.IMG_2022 Indulging me, The Mister and Middle stand awkwardly in front of the setting for the “After Party.”  About 30 of us parents hosted a party at the Overlook Grill with great food and a fun band.  Unfortunately, the Grill is an outdoor venue, and torrential rains, lightning, and thunder all crashed the party.IMG_2028 Congratulations once again to the Class of 2010.  If you saw the post about their prom, then I think you’ll agree they are the “raining” class.

August 16, 2006, or What’s in a name?

From the moment the Mister and I began to think that God might be leading us to “cut the corporate umbilical cord” and open a Go Fish store, we prayed for our children to make a healthy and peaceful transition if God led us to another city. Months later, when we were certain of our destination, we asked friends and relatives to join us as we prayed for new teachers and friends.
The morning after the moving truck pulled away from our new home, oldest son Ted and I set out for the local high school’s freshman orientation day. I drove and parked, and together we walked toward the auditorium. “Mom, I’ll be okay,” Ted assured me, as he joined the throngs of freshmen streaming inside. Suddenly, I was overcome. What had the Mister and I done? Why was I sending my child, my shy and trusting firstborn, into this school where no one even knew his name? I prayed, Dear God, this is it. Please let him meet some nice kids today. Please don’t let him disappear here.
ghs38school Established in 1888, the present building was built in 1938 and renovated in 2005.
A perceptive staffer asked if I was okay. I stammered something about my son going to high school. “Is he your first?” she asked. “Yes, and we just moved here yesterday,” I whispered. “Oh, honey, go on in and sit in the back. He’ll never know you’re there.” I sat through the principal’s welcome, the freshman guidance counselor’s welcome, and a pep rally. Next up was the student body president who asked for volunteers. When none were forthcoming, the young leader began choosing students himself. He called for Ted to come up and join the other ten or so. Several corny skits followed about life in high school, and in each, the hapless and unnamed freshmen were the brunt of the jokes.
Only Ted had not yet been chosen for a skit, making me—and I’m sure him—kind of nervous! Finally, and surprisingly, the student body president asked Ted his name. “Well, it’s our tradition to pit a freshman against a senior in the annual Red Raider cinnamon-eating contest. Are you up for that, Ted?” Ted said that he was, and a lovely cheerleader handed each boy a clear plastic cup of cinnamon and a plastic spoon. The timer started and both boys began shoveling in the dry, hot spice. Puffs of cinnamon dust were billowing out of Ted’s mouth and nose before he began coughing, and the senior (who was actually eating brown sugar) was declared the champion. The entire freshman class was told to “give it up for Ted—a great sport and example of GHS spirit.” Amid much applause, Ted was given a spirit shirt for his trouble and was escorted off the stage to get some water. The students were dismissed to their new homerooms.mccormick_ground_cinnamon
A few hours later, the Mister returned with me to pick up Ted. On the drive home, we asked all the typical questions about his classes and teachers. I confessed that I had seen him in the cinnamon contest, to which he replied, “That was crazy. All day long, kids were saying, ‘Hey, Ted!’ and asking me what it was like to eat that cinnamon. It’s like all these people I’ve never even met somehow know my name.” Thank you, God, I prayed.
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1
Happy Graduation, Ted!
Other notable GHS graduates include:
The Honorable Richard (Dick) W. Riley, 1950. Two-term SC Governor and Secretary of Education under the Clinton Administration.
Joanne Woodward, 1947. Renowned actress in film, theater, and television.
Dr. Charles H. Townes, 1931.  Scientific leader and developer of the LASER, Townes received the Nobel Prize in Physics.
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