When you see the back to school displays in the stores, you know that summer is half way over. Or you realize that retailers are an overzealous lot. Stores are filled with big yellow displays full of pencils, pens, pads, protractors, small refrigerators and computers. Almost anything in a store can be considered a back-to-school supply, especially when you take college kids into account.
I love this time of the year! It’s so exciting and even if your student isn’t too thrilled with the thought of inking Shakespearean quotes into their composition notebooks, or pondering the Pythagorean Theorem in their Trapper Keepers, they still want you to buy them all the cool stuff for school.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for school supply shopping. Back then, there weren’t a lot of displays to poke through, or eye-catching bins right as you walk in the door to trip over, but I still loved walking down the office supply aisle at Zayre (that’s an old name for you) or Kmart, being so careful to pick out the coolest pen (Papermate, blue) or pencil (Huskies), college-ruled paper, and the biggest, fanciest Trapper Keeper that was made. Even then, I had an obsession with keeping things organized.
Now, when I walk into a store with my 15 year old, I am absolutely astounded at what is available for kids to take to school. And frankly, I am smitten with the fact that schools send around to the retailers what they require for the kids to have on the first day. That’s such a brilliant idea. Granted, I usually have to take out a small loan on the house every July just to outfit him for school, between clothes, shoes, accessories and of course supplies, but I’m just as excited about it as he is!
Locker mirrors and organizers, book jackets in bright colors and patterns (I used brown paper bags from the grocery store…not fair), backpacks with shoulder pads…the list just goes on. I think this time however, I’m going to pick up some cool supplies for myself as well! Happy shopping!
Invitations are sent out (via letter, email, text, Twitter, or Facebook), food is purchased, adult and not-so-adult beverages are bought, music playlists are created, and the grill is primed and ready. It’s the last big party of the summer, and you are prepared. Or not.
The doubts creep in…is the pool clean? Did we spray for ants? Did we clean up after the last party (very important question!)? All in all though, this should be a great party.
We usually go on vacation right before summer ends, and typically we rent a condo or a cabin, depending on where we go. We always have a get together a day or two before we leave, because we usually vacation near family and friends. And those family and friends live by major tourist areas, so it’s an exercise in precise planning to make sure we can get everything we need without fists flying at the local Wal-Mart Supercenter.
Things can get dangerous if two people are lunging for the last pack of hamburger meat or the last three decent tomatoes. When people are stocking up on paper plates, cups, citronella, accessories and everything else that goes along with a party, things get serious!
Here’s a question to ponder. Why is it, when we know the holiday is coming up, do we wait until the LAST MINUTE to go to the store to buy what we knew two weeks ago that we needed? We’re getting close to Labor Day, I should conceivably be picking things up here and there for our BBQ that we’re having but have I? Nope.
Buns can be purchased and frozen, meat ditto, drinks bought, chips bought (with very strict instructions to the house denizens NOT to touch), etc, but I haven’t done any of that. Gee…I never realized what a procrastinator I was!
Whatever the case may be, enjoy the party, lift a drink in a heartfelt toast, don’t get too drenched by all the watery cannonballs being executed, and eat way too much!
A few blogs back, I extolled the virtues and myriad uses of Windex. It’s just one of my favorite cleaners, what can I say? Around this time of year, however, I do a mid-summer clean. It’s halfway between spring cleaning and holiday cleaning, and it’s a massive undertaking. I bring out some of the big dogs of the cleaning world. Mr. Clean, Tide, Comet, Spic and Span…these are my weapons of mass cleaning. I put on some music and get to work!
All surfaces get wiped down with a one-two punch of Spic and Span and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, the tubs, toilets, and sinks get a Comet scrub down, and the floors get a little help from an unusual source- Tide. Yep, Tide. It’s not just for laundry anymore. This stuff powers through grease and grime like you wouldn’t believe. Not that my floors are abnormally greasy or grimy, but we do have a deep fryer. Granted, you have to buy the stuff that is formulated for floors, not laundry, but it’s worth it.
We have stainless steel appliances, and fingerprints and dog nose-marks build up if I don’t swipe them down once a day (which I don’t. Don’t judge me.), so I need something with cleaning power that won’t scratch and dull the surface so I use a bit of Dawn diluted with water (like you would in your sink for those of you that still hand wash dishes) and my Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. This is for the heavy buildup. When I feel really ambitious on the weekends, I clean the appliances with Windex and then take a dry, soft cloth, put a few drops of baby oil on it, and wipe them down. Works like a charm!
I live in Florida, where summertime means beaches, sun, 3 PM thunderstorms and key lime pie. Everyone knows about beaches and sun, and no one wants to know about clockwork thunderstorms (unless you’re a meteorologist, in which case contact me and we’ll talk) so I’m going to impart a well-guarded recipe for key lime pie that blends the best of sweet and tart. I have to make multiples of it because it’s in such demand. Hmmm, maybe I should start selling them….
If you’re really ambitious, you can make a crust for it, but I usually just buy the ready-made crusts in the refrigerated section of the grocery store (follow the directions), and I don’t use a graham cracker crust, like almost all recipes call for (what can I say, I’m a rebel) but if that’s your preference, you can definitely use that as well. The recipe below is just for the filling for a 10″, so if you have a favorite graham cracker crust recipe or if you’re a rebel like me and use a regular crust, have at it!
14 oz of sweetened condensed milk
5 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lime zest (This is optional. But try for key limes. Regular limes will do in a pinch. But it’s really optional)
½ cup Key Lime juice from key limes – one full bag typically (try not to substitute, if you can at all avoid it)
1 10″ pie crust, prepared
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine all the ingredients together, blending until smooth and thick. You can use a mixer on high or be a masochist like me and hand whip it. Once it’s to a nice consistency (think a little less than custard consistency), pour it into the prepared 10″ crust and bake for 15 minutes. Take it out, let it cool, and if at all possible, refrigerate it for about an hour (more if you can spare it. You may have a line waiting) and then top with whipped cream. If you chose to use zest (which is optional. Really), then you can sprinkle some on top of the whipped cream for show. Voila! You just made the most delicious Key Lime Pie ever. Your neighbors will be jealous. Enjoy!
What about taking the picture? Its summer time and the photo ops are perfect! Days at the lake, days at the beach, day hikes in the mountains…what could be better? I dabble in photography; besides this blog, it’s one of my creative outlets and although my specialty is landscapes, I like candids of my family and friends. Then I embarrass them by posting the pictures to my Facebook page. Let’s face it though. If you don’t have a great camera, then some of the fun goes out of it. I like digital SLR’s, as opposed to point-and-shoots. They can be heavy and cumbersome, especially if you’re shepherding your son and his two friends through Universal Studios. I’ve recently come across hybrids- combining the best of SLR’s with the best of compact digital cameras. My favorite? The Pentax Q.
The pictures it takes are crisp, clean, and perfect. You can use manual or automatic shutter and aperture settings, and the interchangeable lenses do the job of lenses twice their size. Pictures I’ve taken with it rival my Canon EOS 7D, and I would marry that camera if I could. The Canon EOS line is the user-friendly flagship of the Canon line, and has been my stand-by for a long time. I’m definitely no National Geographic photographer, so I need something that’s user-friendly and doesn’t make me feel like I’m a five year old attempting to construct a small nuclear weapon. The Canon fits my needs nicely for my contest submission photographs.
No matter the camera, whether it’s a 10$ disposable, or a 5000$ SLR, the point is to go out and take pictures! Take a picture of the dog playing in the spray of the sprinkler, or the kids dangling from trees. Catch the surf at sunrise, or the mountain tops at dusk, just get out and shoot!
Ah, summer time! Frolicking in the pool, back yard barbeques, beach day with a great book, and cocktails by citronella candle…there’s nothing better than a lazy summer day. IF you get to have a lazy summer day, that is. How about when you’re stuck at work for the 9-5 grind, surrounded by black monitors, black computers (or maybe charcoal gray), black phones…you’re supposed to love your job, not feel surrounded by a funeral dirge! Brighten up your office space, bring the sunshine in! Who can resist bright neon Post-Its? Or a neon pen to write on them with?
We can admit here, in the privacy of this blog, that there are certain times of the day where you realize that you are no longer going to get anything productive done. Usually it’s about 3-4 o’clock in the afternoon (the time that it is now in my blog-world), and your mind just starts to wander to topics not pertaining to work. Grab some construction paper and neon markers and go to town! Doodle and ignite the creativity that is currently snoozing somewhere in your subconscious. Just don’t tell your boss I told you to do so.
Last but not least, surround yourself with beauty. I know you have pictures of your kids and significant others surrounding you, and calendars with cute, fluffy animals adorning your cubicle walls (I am so guilty) but just a little extra something can bring you to your happy place with a little glance down at your desk. A mouse pad or wrist rest with a scenic seaside picture of palms swaying in a slight sea-breeze while waves lap gently at the shoreline can go a long way to revitalizing your spirit, or if the beach isn’t for you (you know who you are, lake people) then a nice desk calendar with high alpine lakes glinting like a sapphire under deep blue skies might just be for you. Whatever your happy place is, you can find something in office supplies to bring you there, and make your work day a little bit sunnier. Happy working!