In many ways this has been a very frustrating summer at our house -- neither of us have felt our best physically or emotionally much of the time; and then there was Fellow Traveler's tumor scare; and we've had various obligations steal our time away; and I've had the added stressor of extreme job dissatisfaction. And let's not even talk about the constant negative drumbeat of current events.
Despite this, we have found ourselves counting a number of blessings, big and little this summer. They include:
FT's nephew, who just spent a weekend with us. He's a smart, sensitive, thoughtful and wryly humorous young man who went through an incredibly difficult childhood that forced him to, more or less, grow himself up. He's also had to live through the trauma of his sister, his only other sibling, being murdered, and carries the burden of caring for and worrying about parents who've made poor life choices they're now paying for physically and otherwise. We were so happy to get to know him, and help him reconnect to his extended family history, and offer our support to him.
The recreational area that is just a hop, skip and jump from my house. When I was a kid, this was a private sportsman's club; it later became county property. We love to take the dogs here to run around, and we've also spent enjoyable times fishing and picnicing here. There's winding roads and trails; a river with an observation deck; picnic tables, barbecue grills and horseshoe pits; even a log lodge that groups can rent. I can't believe that I never took advantage of this wonderful recreational spot before.
My front porch -- another unused gem right under my nose. My parents never sat on their porch; my mother, particularly, was afraid of bugs and bats and weather. We have reclaimed my porch -- have a table and stadium chairs set up; have my houseplants, outside enjoying summer camp, nearby for ambience. It's the bestest place to drink coffee on a weekend morning.
Jones Sugar-Free Cream Soda. It rocks. It contains sucralose, which the Jones Soda folks maintain is a better tasting artificial sweetener, so if you're put off by other sugar-free beverages you might want to try this.
Chateau Chantal Naughty Red Wine. This is the actual name of the wine -- a red wine from the Grand Traverse region, which is more well known for its Rieslings and other white wines. This wine is very light, and just a teeny-tad sweet; it's actually better chilled, and as the label suggests, you can be "naughty" and pair it with fish or other light foods that are typically served with white wines.
Our grills. I am a grilling newbie; my dad would clean the cobwebs off our old charcoal grill maybe once or twice a summer for a hot dog roast, and that was it. This year, I've really gotten to enjoy experimenting with our charcoal grill -- trying different charcoals and wood chips. (A major discovery -- pork steak, usually thought of as po' food, grills up really well, especially when it's flavored by apple chips.) We've also gotten a lot of use out of my old George Foreman outdoor kettle grill, which is now on Fellow Traveler's patio; it's easy and fast and a good cooking alternative to the stove on a hot day. I'm told that I can use wood chips in "The George," as we call it...we'll have to try it out sometime.
Wasabi-coated almonds. Very addictive, especially as road food.
The Yoder kids. These are two engaging Amish lads -- Prince Valiant haircuts, straw hats, no shoes -- who sell quilts, baskets and canned goods on a well-traveled intersection not too far from Outer Podunk. The older brother is the salesperson, and a good one; the younger brother mostly looks charming, but occasionally joins in the conversation. We have bought numerous items from them and gotten to know them. This past weekend, when we were taking FT's sister and nephew around the neighborhood, we felt sorry for the boys sitting there in the heat, and on the return trip we brought them pop and Snickers bars -- their surprise and delight was itself delightful.
Putumayo music. It's funny how we go through music phases. This summer, after listening to an album by a group called Inanna, I really started wanting to listen to more world music. We listen to Music From the Coffee Lands and Music From the Wine Lands quite a lot; "Puerto Claridad," from the latter compilation, is my favorite song...quite friskifying, if you get my drift.
I'm sure I could think of more Good Things, but I'll stop now.