Summer Soup

It’s summer.  It’s hot — at least, it’s supposed to be, although lately Columbus has been unseasonably cool — so who wants to eat soup?  Who wants to spoon down piping hot liquid on a day when the temperature is up around 90?

All true . . . but there is one soup that is perfect for the summer.  I’m not talking about vegetable-intensive gazpacho, which always looks like a bad excuse to use up the odds and ends from the vegetable crisper drawer in the fridge.  No, I’m talking about the premier summer soup:  vichyssoise.  Vichyssoise, which rolls down your throat like a brisk stream of rich, creamy goodness and cools you to the very core.  G Michael’s has potato leak vichyssoise on its current summer menu, and it’s just what the doctor ordered on a hot summer’s day. 

Don’t you love it when you go to a favorite restaurant and see something that perfectly fits the circumstances and your taste buds?

In Linwood Park

On our one-day visit to Vermilion for the VHS Class of ’75 reunion, we spent the night in rooms in Linwood Park.  It’s the first time I’ve been to Linwood Park, or even heard of it, and I’ve been going to Vermilion for about 40 years.

Linwood Park describes itself as a “family park,” but it really reminds you of an old-fashioned American summer colony.  Located right on the shores of Lake Erie, it is a quiet enclave of white wooden cottages with lots of kids playing outside on the wide, shaded lawns, a nice beach, a small store, a candy store/grill/ice cream shop, and a tabernacle.  We stayed in rooms above the ice cream shop and treated ourselves to the beach before and after the reunion.

Visiting Linwood Park is like taking a throwback journey to an earlier, more relaxed, pre-cell phone and social media America, when riding bikes and playing on a playground and treating yourself to some penny candy was all a kid wanted on a fine summer’s day.  It’s hard to believe it’s still here — but it is, just like it’s been for more than 100 years.  It’s worth a visit.

High Summer Coneys

I’ve always thought of the period between the Fourth of July and Labor Day as “high summer” — when it’s bright and hot and time to consume all of the great summer foods.  Like corn on the cob, and root beer floats . . . and coneys.  So today, on our way to the library, Kish and I stopped off at Village Coney, on Whittier, for lunch.  I ordered two coneys with cheese, fries, and a Diet Pepsi and got a cookie as a bonus.  

Although I ordered two coneys, I consumed three of them when Kish decided one was enough for her.  I initially declined the extra coney, but with the lingering taste of the cheese and chili sauce of the first two coneys, which were excellent, the lure of the third coney proved to be irresistible.  The fries were really good, too.

Bring on the High Summer!

Summer Beer Selections

So, it’s July, and tonight it’s a perfect summer evening for sitting outside.  Not too hot, a little sultry . . . the kind of night where fireflies circle about lazily and a cold beer tastes mighty good against the lingering heat.

And speaking of cold beer . . . what to choose?  The local convenience store offers a surprisingly wide and diverse selection that is a far cry from the shelves of Budweiser, Schultz, and Stroh’s that I remember from my childhood.

Tonight, it’s going to be an alternation of goses and brown ales, the better to appreciate a near-perfect summer evening.

Squelching Summer Fun

When we were kids and lived on The Circle in semi-rural Bath, Ohio, a typical summer day went like this:  we got up early, ate cereal, and ran from the house to play outside with the gang of other kids in the neighborhood.  We’d ride our bikes and climb trees, play “army” and baseball and kickball, build dams and catch tadpoles in the creek that ran through the woods, and make up stupid games.  Except for stopping to eat a lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches served by one of the moms in the neighborhood — usually selected at random — we were outside and on our own all day long, and after we’d eaten dinner at home, often at the picnic table outside, we’d find our friends again and catch lightning bugs and play freeze tag until it was time for bed.  And if we were lucky enough to go somewhere for a beach vacation (in our case, to Ocean City, New Jersey), we’d dig in the sand, bury each other, and build sand castles.

fun-ways-to-celebrate-the-summer-solstice-sqI remember those long, hot summer days fondly — but if you read the expert advice given to parents these days, you’d think that our entire group of friends was unbelievably lucky to survive them without experiencing serious injury or lifelong trauma.

Consider the “10 Rules for Summer Safety” published by parents.com.  It cautions against overexposure to the sun, heat exhaustion, doing anything around water, wearing clothing with floral patterns that might attract stinging bees, poisonous plants, and bug bites, among other things to worry about.  Some experts (including, apparently, the U.S. EPA) are very concerned about sand, whether a child is digging in it, being buried in it, or even walking on it.  And don’t even think about letting your child walk around outside barefoot!

All of these cautions about potential death-dealing problems lurking outside on that sunny summer’s day are bad enough, but what’s really troubling about these “rules” for child safety is that they presuppose that the parents are right there, at all times, making sure that the kids don’t take off their shoes or touch creek water or walk on sand or risk brushing up against what might be a poisonous plant.  We seem to have totally lost the notion that kids might actually be able to fend for themselves, and that whatever problems might occur — skinned knees, bug bites, sun burns, and the like — were a small price to pay for letting kids get lots of fresh air, have fun, engage in creative, self-directed play, and establish a little independence with their neighborhood friends.

If you took these warnings seriously, you’d decide that the best course is to just keep your kids inside, where there are fewer dangers around every corner and they can be in your line of sight at all times, as they sit watching TV, or playing video games, or tapping away on a computer.  Could it be that the worries about outdoor play that the experts have raised, and the parental response to them, have contributed to the rise in asthma, obesity, and diabetes in children who never go outside and get any exercise, sunshine, or fresh air without being lathered with sunscreen and scrutinized by helicopter parents?

Who knows more about what kids are capable of — the skittish experts of our modern world, or those Moms of the ’60s who were perfectly willing to let their kids go out and play, unattended by adults, confident that the kids could take care of themselves.  I’ll trust the practical experience of the ’60s Moms over the experts any day.

Happy Labor Day!

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As we commemorate the unofficial end of another glorious summer — and in Ohio the weather has been spectacular lately — it’s time for every American to get out and do their duty to their country.  That’s right:  it’s time to get outside and grill some meat, like our fathers and grandfathers before us.

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Dawn At The Breakers

Hey!  It’s Labor Day weekend!  What else to do but get the family together, go to an amusement park, and stand in line with thousands of other sweaty, oft-tattooed people on the verge of sunstroke?

That’s right — we’re up on Ohio’s North Coast at Cedar Point, the best roller coaster park in the world.  And after giving the park a workout last night we stayed at The Breakers, the sprawling old hotel on the sandy shores of Lake Erie that dates back to the Boardwalk Empire era.  It’s an interesting place, and Cedar Point remains a destination visit for anyone who loves to don a safety belt, shoulder harness, and lap bar and get rolled, tilted, and thrown upside down, all while careening at speeds approaching the sound barrier.

It may be September according to the calendar, but it’s still summer in our hearts.

Storm Damage

IMG_2627Summer is the season for thunderstorms in the Midwest.  Last night a strong series of cells moved through central Ohio, and the high winds did some damage.  In our neighborhood and in Schiller Park some large limbs were knocked down — including the branches that fell against the house pictured above — and I suspect that lightning struck the steeple of St. Mary Catholic Church, because the clock was stopped when I went for my walk this morning.

When the severe weather moves through, you grit your teeth, cross your fingers, and hold your quivering dog who is scared to death of thunder, hoping that no serious damage comes your way.  Last night, we were lucky.

Sunburned


Yesterday, I got sunburned.  It ‘s the first time it’s happened in a while.

We went swimming in Lake Erie on one of those days where the sun is beating down with relentless intensity, but the humidity was low, the temperature stayed in the 80s, and the water was cool.  It was a perfect day for swimming, and we floated and back stroked and paddled around on a fine summer day.

I knew I was getting some sun.  I could sense it on my back and shoulders, which are the sun’s big targets.  By the end of the day, as we enjoyed a beer at the Erie Kai saloon, I could feel the heat radiating off my skin — but it was a good feeling.

In childhood, the first sunburn of the season was an annual rite of passage.  Age and wisdom have caused me to get away from that tradition, but having a sunburn still says summer to me.

Skeeter-Proofing

Nobody likes mosquitoes under any circumstances, but these days — with the scary mosquito-borne Zika virus very much in the news, places like Brazil and Puerto Rico experiencing thousands of infected people, and Florida reporting hundreds of cases — trying to avoid their annoying bites has become especially important.

IMG_1141So what can you do, other than trying to stay away from South America and the warm, humid states for a while?  This article helpfully identifies 12 potential mosquito breeding grounds that might be found on your property.   Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing, stagnant water.  Birdbaths and inert koi ponds are obvious targets — but the water that collects in the bottom of a tire swing or on the folds on a tarp or on a kid’s toy left out in the yard might pass under the radar screen.  I did the mosquito checklist test at our house and we come out with a good score, and so far, at least, it’s been a mosquito-free summer in our backyard.  Of course, there’s not much you can do about what your neighbors might have by their fence line.

We seem to have a new, frightening public health crisis every year; this year, it’s the Zika virus, with the bites of infected mosquitoes causing microcephalic babies, birth defects, and other health conditions.  It’s not clear how far north the Zika threat might spread, but why take a chance?  An ounce of mosquito-proofing might be worth a pound of cure — and Zika virus or not, a summer without pesky mosquitoes and their itchy bites is going to be a better summer all around.

The Ol’ Swimming Hole


Kish and I took a brief detour to Maine, because it just isn’t summer without a trip to the Granite State.  On our brief visit we had the best lobster roll I’ve ever eaten — packed with absolutely fresh lobster, with a juicy, light sauce — and also ran across this dock.  Who wouldn’t feel like getting a running start and taking a jump into the cool water on a hot summer day?

Through The Sprinkler

It’s hot out today.  Kish and I were taking Kasey for a walk, wilting a bit under the harsh sunshine, when we passed a house where the owner was watering the front beds using an old-fashioned, tilt back and forth sprinkler — and the memories of childhood summers came flooding back as vividly as if they had occurred yesterday.

sprinkler-kids-lThere were five of us kids in the Webner clan.  The first house I remember living in, on Orlando Avenue in Akron, Ohio, was a tidy three-bedroom place.  Mom and Dad slept in one room, UJ and I shared another, and my three sisters shared the third.  It had a small front yard, a small back yard, and no air-conditioning.  I think there were one or two window fans and one of those rotating table fans, too.

On the hot summer days, Mom would make lemonade or Kool-Aid, and we’d get into our bathing suits even though there wasn’t a pool for miles.  She’d set up the moving sprinkler in the back yard, hold my youngest sister Jean, make sure my sister Margaret didn’t go roaming through the neighborhood, turn the water spigot, and then watch as UJ, Cath, our next door neighbor pal Janie George, and I ran through the cool sprinkler water as it slowly waved back and forth.  At first there was some hesitation at darting through the water, but the coolness felt so good that soon we’d be soaking wet, laughing and skidding and screaming and splashing each other.  The water from the sprinkler would collect on the grass, and we’d stomp around in that too, and maybe plop down a few times just to get more of the full-body watery effect.

We didn’t mind not having a pool — in fact, we really didn’t think about it, because what could be more fun than a lawn sprinkler on a hot summer day?  If we had a sprinkler right now I’d be tempted to take a few passes through it.

Asphalt Fumes

Today, as I walked to and from work, I smelled the scent of summer.  That’s because Third Street has just been repaved, and I was taking in the black, tarry aroma of asphalt.

IMG_1113I reflexively associate asphalt with summer because we lived on an asphalt street when I was a kid.  After a rugged Akron winter, come spring the cracks and holes in the street would be patched with more asphalt and a layer of tar.  When the hot summer months arrived, the asphalt would reach scorching temperatures and sprout tar bubbles, and the smell was as rich and heady as the sulphur fumes belched out by the rubber factories downtown.  You got tar on your sneakers, tar on your bare feet, and tar on your bicycle tires.

Ever since, the dark smell of tar says summer to me, just as much as the eye-watering odor of chlorine in the local pool or the mouth-watering bouquet of burgers sizzling on the grill when the Velveeta cheese is just starting to melt and drip onto the hot charcoal.  It’s as integral to the summer experience as the tinny sound of Turkey in the Straw played on the cheap loudspeaker on the roof of the ice cream truck or the smack of a fastball hitting the catcher’s mitt.

I took a deep whiff of that instantly familiar smell and barely succeeded in resisting the temptation to take off my shoes and stroll the asphalt in my bare feet, as in days gone by.  By the time I got home, I put on my shorts and sunglasses and let summer know that I was glad it was here, and ready for it, too.