The Screen Door

By Shannon Boatwright 

The South. The South in the Summer.

Heavens to Betsy, the SOUTH IN THE SUMMER…!

Imagine those words literally melting off the screen here. Imagine a summer drenched in such raw heat and humidity that when you step foot outside, you literally feel like some dark witch has enveloped you in some evil spell meant to drain every ounce of water from your body, thus melting you to the core.

Welcome to the South in the summertime!

My Uncle Wayne always said, “South Carolina is the screen door to hell!”

If you’re from SC or have spent any decent amount of time in SC during the hottest days of the summer months, then you would totally relate to this statement and laugh as you shake your head in agreement.

I should be used to this heat. I grew up here in SC. I have survived many a summer here at the devil’s front door. But, I tell ya, every year I am astounded at the intense heat. Every year I find myself saying, this heat is just flat out ridiculous! How much longer until Fall?

It’s funny how us South Carolinians seem to easily forget how intensely hot the summers can get. We make it through the coldest months of winter, which mind you, are nothing compared with the cold that the northern states endure, and all we can think about is summertime. Days on the lake, days on the beach, or by the pool, the lovely warmth that envelopes your body like a picturesque postcard from the South of France. It’s something we crave during the cruelty of winter. Yet, if you live in the deep South, it’s something that once it’s here… you say to yourself, what the heck was I thinking?!

lakeI have the glorious privilege of living on Lake Murray in SC. Unless you live on one of the many beautiful beaches of SC, I have to say that days on the lake in SC are always better than days anywhere else in the deep South without water nearby. If you’re close to the lake and blessed to have the benefit of the magical weather that happens when you’re that close to a large body of water, then you know that there is this lovely misconception that it’s always cooler on the lake. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t say misconception, but it seems that just when you think it should be cooler on the lake, you’re still really right there at that screen door, like a dog panting, drooling, very impatiently waiting for the next cool breeze that might soothe your misery for one second.

The Southern heat does not discriminate. A majority of the summertime, it’s just flat out HOT, and our kind of humid heat can zap you good, stealing all of your energy, draining you to a worn out crisp. I can’t help but think of all those who have jobs that require them to work outside. I hate it for them. These are people are incredible human beings that obviously have to condition their bodies to survive this type of heat. My poor husband endures this heat daily with his job. As a UPS driver he has conditioned himself to survive working right at the screen door. And yes, those trucks have NO air conditioning. Daily he has to carry a cooler full of waters and use a hand towel to wipe all the sweat not caught by the layers of his uniform. He comes home from a 10 to 14 hour day and is literally soaked through with sweat.

Think of the soldiers that come to SC to train in this heat every day at Fort Jackson, and in full uniform at the weekly graduations from boot camp, in which thousands of family members come to town to experience the southern hot spot that is Columbia, SC. Not only do these soldiers accomplish conquering basic training, they also accomplish literally surviving training at the screen door to hell!

Bravo to all those that are able to successfully survive the South in the summertime!

heat mapThe word “oppressive” has been used so many times by our local weather men and women, that my family and I stopped counting. The words “oppressive heat” are used VERY often around these parts. And of course, SC is not the hottest place in the U.S., but as you can see by this map, we’re still in an area with a very high percentage of oppressive heat.

So as you live out the rest of our summer days, while you’re standing at the screen door, by all means do it with an ice cold drink in one hand, a fan in the other and a really good air conditioner ready to rescue you.

What Did You Do This Summer?

By Shannon Boatwright

As a teacher, it’s one of those questions you get asked a lot…as if we’re going to respond with some magical, fabulous and/or impressive descriptions of all the incredible things we experienced and accomplished over our treasured summer break.  Of course, people don’t seem to realize that some, or I should say, most teachers actually still work over the summer, whether with a second job to help fill in the terrible pay gap or whether they’re having to take chunks of their summer to take required classes in order to keep up certification and/or to reach that next pay raise level.I'm a Teacher.

In years past, I’ve had to take classes and fill my summers with studies and classwork. This past summer I decided to give myself a break. No classes, no time taken away from the break that I earned and definitely needed!

Now, last summer was literally the ONLY summer that I was actually able to respond to people with something fabulous that knocked my own socks off, much less others. I never dreamed I’d be able to respond and tell folks that asked that lovely question that I’d actually gotten the opportunity to go to France and Switzerland -and it was one of the most memorable, amazing experiences of my life! Ironically last year when someone would ask what I did over the summer, I’d almost feel a bit embarrassed to say anything about my incredible trip because it so was NOT a normal travel experience for me. I’ve written a previous blog about it  Are You Experiencing One Wild and Precious Summer? You should check it out. It’s a good one for sure. I’d say it’s inspiring. 😉

But back to this summer, my summer of 2018. No fancy excursions in first-class to fantastic, far off fantasy like locations. But, I did indeed make it a great summer. (An important side-note to those reading…you don’t have to go on impressive, big time trips to create a fabulous summer for yourself!)

This summer, I utilized quality time with precious family and friends. I caught up on much needed sleep when my busy mind would allow it. I spring-cleaned and organized. We took only two short family trips – one to the mountains (See blog entry, Live Your Life!) and one recently, to the beach. And the beautiful thing…we made the most of every moment and greatly appreciated our time together. It was a summer with those I love and adore. It was a summer that allowed me the time to just be, to read, to work on future aspirations and gain personal insight.

Did I accomplish even half of what I wrote on my summer to-do wish list? Nope.

Did I accomplish other impressive things that weren’t on my list or even in my mind at the end of the insanely busy school year? Yep.

Did I gain weight and eat really well over my summer? Oh my gosh, YES. I immensely enjoyed cooking for my family, trying new recipes and sharing the yummy results of my cooking with family and friends!

Did I experience my own inner battle of deciding to accept my fuller bod and recognize my own health happiness? Actually…yes.  It’s a constant work in progress, but with every year I have the pleasure of being alive, I’m learning to accept and rejoice in not only my talents, gained knowledge and individual gifts as I age and mature, but also accept my body and rejoice in its flourishing, changing ways! (That’s of course the super positive outlook I’m feeling in this moment. I’m quite certain if you were to catch me tomorrow in the moment when I try on a piece of clothing in my closet that will inevitably be way too small, I’ll most likely respond a bit differently. Just saying. I am only human after all. We’re Only Human) 😉

So what did I do this summer?

I lived. I survived. I rested. I played. I dreamed. I rejoiced. I engaged in being ever grateful. I created. I researched. I planned for my future and the future of my family. I planned as a drama teacher/director and what I want to provide for my students.

I tried my best to appreciate every moment with those I love. I listened to the sounds of the creek in the mountains. I made sure to consciously listen to the sounds of the ocean at the beach. I made sure to play with my children – we wrestled, we fished, we created, we watched movies, we rode bikes, we swam, we played pretend with my precious little nieces & cousins, we colored, we rode ocean waves, we jumped for joy on the beach…

Did I do something totally spectacular, crazy impressive over my summer?  Maybe not in most folk’s eyes, but, I did me. I had a super summer.

Jumpin for Joy on the Beach

Now here’s to hoping people will stop asking the question, “When do you go back to school?”

Note to readers: Never ask a teacher when she or he has to go back to school. We’re on summer break. Spare us, please… pretty please.

And now, you know I have to ask…

What did YOU do this summer?

 

It’s Summertime, and the Eating is Peachy!

By:  Mary Pat Baldauf

It’s summer in South Carolina, and the local produce aisles are full of fabulous summer fruit.  As a child of the South, I grew up on fresh peaches, and there’s nothing I like better. But as someone new to healthy eating, much of it done on the run or on the go, I’ve been challenged to incorporate peaches into my daily menus.

Pick up any cookbook worth its salt, and you’ll find multitudes of recipes that incorporate peaches.  As a new cook, I count on those cookbooks – and Google, too – to guide me. There’s one thing those resources don’t provide, however: extra hours in the day.  If I don’t do my meal planning and preparation on Sunday, it likely doesn’t get done. That presents quite a challenge when Tuesday’s co-op bag includes plenitudes of peaches or when a friend shares their peach bounty.  This season, I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade when it comes to peaches, and I thought it may help some of you who are challenged for time and perhaps like me, challenged in the kitchen:

  • If you don’t already know this, file it away in must-have info for every Midlands resident: Georgia may call itself the “Peach State,” but South Carolina is the nation’s second largest peach producer, second only to California.
  • Not only are peaches delicious, they are nutritious! An average peach has only 40 calories and contains no fat or sodium. Peaches are also packed with lots of “good for you” nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin A, potassium, even iron.
  • There are two major types of peaches: “Freestone” and “Clingstone.”  Freestone peaches slip easily away from the pit; Clingstones, not so much.
  • Even under ideal conditions peaches will only keep for a week in a refrigerator, so for best flavor and texture, use them as soon as possible after purchase.  If you won’t be able to use them right away, cut and freeze them or they’ll soon end up, gasp, in the compost bin.
  • You don’t peel peaches, you blanch them. To blanch peaches, drop the fruit into a large pot of boiling water for about forty-five seconds. Don’t dawdle; the idea is to loosen the skin without cooking the flesh. Remove the fruit from the boiling water and drop immediately into a bowl of ice water.  The skin will now slip easily free of the flesh.
  •  Just as my grandmother did, many Southerners toss sliced peaches in lemon juice and sugar before freezing. This is one of those steps that adds both prep time and calories, so I skip this step, and my peaches have been just fine.
  • One thing I DID learn this year: when freezing peaches, just throwing freshly cut peaches into a container and freezing creates the dreaded “frozen peach clump.” Frozen peach clumps are hard to measure and even harder to use when making smoothies and other recipes calling for frozen peaches.  If time allows, this is the best way to freeze:  1)  Spread the peach slices on a baking sheet or large plate lined with parchment paper, making sure they do not touch.  2)  Cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Pop them into the freezer for a few hours or overnight.  3)  The now-frozen peaches may be easily packed into quart-sized Ziploc bags without sticking together.
  • Speaking of measuring, it takes about two medium peaches to make one cup of sliced peaches. Need a pound of peaches? That’s about three medium fruits.
  •  I don’t care for the texture of the fuzzy peach skin, so I find peaches hard to eat on the run.  For the taste of a peach with more convenient packaging, there’s nothing better than a nectarine.  Peaches and nectarines are virtually identical except for the skin — peaches are fuzzy and nectarines appear “clean shaven” or smooth in skin appearance. I recently read that nectarines are even generated from peach trees with a genetic mutation.  Nectarines can also be used in any recipe calling for peaches.
  •  I like my fresh peaches best on their own or over oatmeal or cereal, but I know there are a million ways to use them!  Please share the wealth; I’m on the lookout for peachy keen recipes, especially those that incorporate other unrefined ingredients.

When it comes to peaches, I am a definite newbie.  If you have great tips on preparing peaches, please share them!  It wasn’t until I was 43 years old that my grandmother told me how to blanch peaches, and now that she’s gone, time-proven tips like that are hard to come by!

The Kid’s Palate

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

Way before my husband and I had our beautiful daughter, we talked about what we would and wouldn’t do as parents.  We had very clear, very emphatic plans.  We would not tolerate bad behavior in public.  We wouldn’t have one of those kids who refuses to eat her dinner…this is what we’re having, enjoy it.  And we sure weren’t going to feed her Cheetos and McDonald’s…oh no, no.  Well, we’ve since learned that sometimes, as parents, we actually CAN’T control all these variables as we thought we could.  Sometimes, reality gets in the way.  Often, you have to pick your battles.  And, things change.  A lot.

We’ve done well with the public behavior.  In fact, I’d say my little one is one of the best behaved kids you’ll see in a restaurant, at a sporting event, concert, etc.  I’m proud of that.  Most of the time, she tries new foods and eats her dinner without much complaint.  But, not always.  We have managed to stave off the junk food and fast food poison pretty well, but let’s be honest, sometimes it’s a necessary evil (traveling in the middle of nowhere, but there’s always a set of those damn golden arches out there.)  And of course, things change.

One thing I’ve always talked to her about is how our taste buds can change as we get older.  Already in her short life, she’s realized this fact.  It’s really cute when it happens too, because she’ll exclaim, “Hey Mommy, my taste buds have changed!  I like this now!”  Which brings me to the July bounty of figs.

My parents have a fig tree in their backyard.  Last year, it really produced and I was so excited to share it with my daughter.  I have such fond memories of climbing my next door neighbor’s fig tree and just sitting up there eating figs until I couldn’t stand it anymore. But sadly, last summer she turned her cute little nose up at these odd, yet wonderful, little fruits.  So, imagine my surprise when two days ago she ventured out into my parents’ backyard and came back very nonchalantly snacking on a fig.  She walked in and announced, “Hey everybody the figs are ready!”  We all exchanged astonished glances.  What a difference a year makes!

So, my dad and I accompanied her out to the tree to harvest.  She loved climbing into the middle of that tree, just like I used to.  She was the keeper of the bucket too, so she was loving watching our fig volume increase.  As we chatted about fig preserves, grilled figs, figs stuffed with blue cheese & wrapped in prosciutto, she came up with a new one:  fig cobbler.  Hmmm, I have to think about that a little bit.  What a joy to see how excited she was to discover the tree ripe with fruit, picking them herself, and actually enjoying eating them this year.  See?  I told ya, those taste buds do change.

Don’t believe me?  Check this out – http://akreeats.blogspot.com/2011/07/great-tomato-break-through.html

If You Can’t Take the Heat …

By: Roshanda Pratt

I know from the title of my recent blog post you may be wondering if my brain is fried from the series of heat waves gripping South Carolina. Nope! Since it is on everyone’s mind, I thought I’d share my perspective.  First, I do not like to be hot, muggy, soupy, humid or any other adjective the weather folks like to use to describe the forecast in the southeast.  You would think I’d be used to it since my parents are from a warm climate. Who am I kidding? Trinidad & Tobago is located near the Equator. You can’t get any hotter than that!

This heat wave has been unrelenting and brutal, but WE Southerners are resilient right? This is not our first time at the rodeo. Remember the heat wave about two years ago or was that last year? Either way, as South Carolinians, we have been here before.  This is one reason why I cannot figure out why people keep talking about it.  I know it’s a hot (no pun intended) topic right now, so instead of using this space to complain – I figured I would list my top reasons why I ENJOY (insert sarcasm here) living in the south during a Heat Wave.  So here it goes:

  1. I have an excuse to stay indoors.  Actually, I am not a fan of outside for this reason: lizards, flies and anything else that is creepy and crawly.  Also, my additional excuse, chocolate still melts in the heat.  Matter of fact, you can include dark and white chocolate in that as well. (ha-ha)
  2. I have a reason to crank up the AC.  If my husband wasn’t one of those who check the thermostat, I would have it zero below Antarctica.  But he does, and when he allows me, I drop it looooow!
  3. I have a reason to eat ice-cream in moderation of course.
  4. Speaking of eating. I get a chance to partake in my favorite summer treat. WATERMELON. Yumo!
  5. I can catch up on reading, on my couch under my ceiling fan while the AC runs on blast.
  6. POOL Time with the Kiddies. ‘nuff said.
  7. Celebrations! (Family cook-out for the 4th of July, Mine, My Mom and Son’s birthday) and even though these events may involve an outside activity, I am not too far from the house or a water sprinkler.
  8. Craft time. When it’s too hot outdoors – bring the fun inside!  Here are a few of my summer projects.
  9. I enjoy hearing the weather folks talk about it and try to find different ways to describe the heat. Last time I checked, HEAT is HEAT!
  10. Lastly, family vacations to some place cool, literally!

I know we could all find reasons to complain, but why bother?  It’ll just make you, well, hotter.  My thoughts and prayers go out to all those dealing with some rather dangerous conditions.  Stay safe, drink plenty of water and avoid the outdoors as much as you can. So what say you, what is your favorite part of living in SC during this heat?

Hott Mama

Ro 🙂