The Summer of My Great Content

You've heard of the perfect storm....this was the perfect summer. I was recounting why with my husband just a little while ago. Quite a few factors came into play to make the summer of 2009 my most memorable yet.
I think one of the biggest reasons is that all three of my children were home. And not only were home; 2 out of 3 of them came home. There's a big difference. For many years they were home- and my daily task was to keep them entertained, drive them places, lifeguard the pool, slather on sunscreen and kiss away mosquito bites. That's all changed now as they are 21, 19 and 15 years of age respectively. And when some of them live at college and are away from me for most of the year, it's a treat to have them all back under one roof again. (and that roof better be mine if they know what's good for them.)

Secondly, since I work during the school year as the assistant librarian for two elementary schools, I don't work in the summer. It's an incredible treat. The summer of 2009 I got the chance to be a full time mom again - something I hadn't had the luxury of staying home and doing for the past 9 years. And I absolutely loved it! I find that full time mothering to older children sure is a lot easier than to toddlers.....

Thirdly, everyone seemed to have a great plan for their summer and kept really busy. My oldest took classes at community college in the mornings and worked at the supermarket in the afternoons, while playing music and hanging out with friends in the evenings. My daughter was a camp counselor and was gone all day Monday-Friday for eight weeks, which left her happy but tired in the evenings. My youngest seemed to have plenty to keep him occupied and got to sleep in late and swim and play music with friends. A bike became his new passion, and he finally hooked up with some employment late in the summer that will carry through the rest of his high school years. I'm loving the fact that he's got semi-transportation plus his own cash. Life is good.

The busy-ness of my offspring found me, at times, with free time (days) on my hands. This was truly a gift. Looking back, I believe it enabled me to have enough alone time to think, pray, reflect and ponder, which positively filled my tank. I feel like this summer I've been nourished and replenished through the time I was given with which to pay attention to my own growth and walk in this life.
I wanted to be sure I recounted this all somewhere, as it really has been a wonderful time. And as children are now literally driving away from the nest and going back to their college and high school lives that don't necessarily include me on a daily basis (although I've assured each one of them that this is possible if they would prefer it that way), I bask in the glow of warm memories of many terrific hours spent together as a family this past season.

If words can evoke memories, for our family these will always conjur up remembrances of the summer of 2009 -
Hot tub.
Mowing grass.
New patio.
Fire pit.
Community college.
Elbow Lane Day camp.
Bike riding.
Camping at Rickets Glen.
New Florida room (thanks, guys)
Wicker furniture
Six Flags Great Adventure
and once again, just because we couldn't get enough ... S'mores.
You're the best- Dad and I love you.


Mastering the Art of


After seeing the wonderfully delightful "Julie and Julia" at the movies last night, I looked at the all-too-ripe bananas in my fruit bowl this afternoon and felt duly inspired to take a turn in the kitchen and whip up some Boeuf a la Banana Bread. While it hardly compares to Mastering the Art of French Cooking, making a tasty dish selected under the option of ""Easier Than Dirt" from a widely used internet recipe site is enough to debone my duck any day.

So with recipe in hand hot off the laser jet printer, I went to work. I felt a bit like Julia in her pearls as I cleverly adapted the ingredients and directions to make it my own. Not one to keep such treasures to myself, I thought I'd share it with all of you.


2 cups all purpose flour - plus the amount that spills out of the flour sack when pouring.

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt - aka enough salt to equal 1/4 of the space the baking soda took up.

1/2 cup butter- sigh......Is there anything more delicious than butter? Yet, in today's economy, Country Crock is as greasy as the next guy. C'mere, you...

3/4 cup brown sugar- or, as much brown as you have with some of the white added in. Whatever gets you to that 3/4 line.

2 eggs, beaten- "beaten" is such a harsh term; therefore, it's optional.

2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas - when you have to shoo away the fruit flies to get to the bananas, they're ready for use in this recipe.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Hmm, did I even HAVE a 9x5 inch loaf pan? In my drawer of assorted cookery items I saw 2 9x13's, one 8x8, an 11 x 17 and a partridge in a pear tree. But where was that 9x5? Did it HAVE to be 9x5? Would it still taste good if I baked it in a 10x4? Did they even make 10 x 4? Who decided on these measurements for baking pans anyway?

Finally, after some scrambling, I came up for air with a 9x5 thrust high above my head. Victory in the first step. I was feeling empowered. It must have been the pearls.

In large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.
Sounded easy enough. And in fact, this part was indeed fairly simple. Slightly confusing combining white on white ingredients, but this way I figured it didn't matter if the baking soda trumped the salt or vice versa since it all looked the same anyway. And with two hunking cups of flour as a base, there was no way anything was going to override that stuff. I mean, really, how different could three white ingredients possibly taste?

In a separate bowl....

Ok, now we're pushing it. I only have limited resources here, people.

...cream together butter and brown sugar.

Something wasn't right. Cream together butter and brown sugar? I didn't see any cream in the ingredients, and that sure that sounded like a run-on sentence to me. But after a moment, I smiled. I got it. Finally, here was my chance to read between the printer lines and let my natural cook's mind emerge preeminent. Realizing it must be a misprint from the World Wide Web, I boldly went where no chef has gone before and proceeded towards the mixing bowl with an entire cup of heavy cream. Oo la la!

I stopped in my tracks. Alas, something from my cooking school days warned me of serious misfortune should I complete the act of pouring the cream in, so I set it aside and made a mental note to write to the publisher of that recipe site and make sure he edits his wording properly from now on to avoid further near-tragedies in homes across the globe.

No butter (sorry Julia) in this house, so the tub of margarine from the fridge door made its appearance and substituted nicely. Brown sugar was severely lacking, but like I said, you add enough white to make up for it....whatever will get you to that 3/4 line....

Stir in eggs and mashed bananas til well blended.

Now see? "Stir in" is such a gentler term than "beat" and still gets the point across. I knew just what to do without having to exercise any corporal punishment. After I had my eggs successfully cracked and in the bowl with the other ingredients, it came time to add the mashed bananas. Or, as was in my case because I'm impatient and hate details, bananas hastily peeled and broken into bits and added to the bowl then cut with a knife and fork. Hmmm. Still not looking too mashed to me. So I went in for attempt number two. Pretty soon I was chasing those Tootsie-roll size chunks of bananas through egg, butter and brown sugar country with knife and fork in hot pursuit, trying to capture them and mash them after the fact. They conceded, but it got ugly. At long last, mashed they were. This method is not highly recommended.

Stir banana mixture into flour mixture;

That was close. I almost put the flour mixture into the banana mixture. To have come this far and messed it up now would have surely done something to my psyche.

Stir just to moisten.

This sounds good in theory. But moisten can be a relative term. As I began to stir together the creation I had made by putting one bowl's ingredients into another's, I realized that in order to arrive at "moisten" it was going to take some work. The more I stirred, the more dry ingredients I saw roaming around my bowl. I knew, in my intelligent mind, that somewhere in the mix there were eggs (moisture), buttery tub contributions (moisture) and overripe somewhat-mashed bananas (more moist than not). Why weren't they showing up now when they were really needed? This was their curtain call, their shining moment, their 15 minutes of fame!

Finally, I saw it all start to stick together. I wiped the sweat from my brow. Adhesion can be a beautiful thing.

Pour batter into prepared pan.

Simple enough, except in my case it was "Load dough with a thud into glass baking dish".

Bake in preheated oven for 60-65 minutes.

Gladly. Like a naughty toddler, I was ready for this bread's nap time so I could walk away and do something else for a while. Get in some ME time. Maybe after a good baking it would feel better.

Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes.

Not a chance. One whiff that I had baked something in the middle of the afternoon brought teenaged and adult children alike sauntering towards the kitchen, hanging out at the counter, chatting like they were waiting for a Septa bus to show up. What they were really waiting for was the first grab at the crusty top of the loaf - kind of like picking snow off the Alps. Just a taste here or there, trying not to burn their fingers to get a sampling, throwing out a complimentary "mmm, mmm; that's good Mom" and by the time they finally walked away and the dust settled, my once-measured 9 x 5 had shrunk to a 6 x 2.

And you know what? That's just fine with me.

My hope would be that you would try this at home. Feel free to change, alter or rearrange this recipe in any way it suits you. I sure did.

This is Beth Coulton. Bon Appetit!