Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Measure Of A Successful Summer. (Among Other Things, A Second Artichoke Salad)

I’m counting my blessings.

It’s Day One of Everyone’s-Back-Home, and after fewer than 24 hours, the kids are already well-immersed in friends and visiting and storytelling and outings.

After the five hour ride home from camp Friday, Darling Daughter (DD), didn’t even make it into the house before loudly reuniting with a darling friend whose mom, upon hearing the shrieks from nearly a block away, rushed over, anticipating a bike accident or at the very least, an attempted abduction, but instead, found two 12-year-olds greeting each other in the fashion fitting a four-week separation.

(Snarky Son, a.k.a. SS,  wryly observed, “I don’t get girls.” Out of context, these may be words he’ll live to regret.)

So the kids are home, and my number one activity is now: Laundry. Lots. Loads. Lurid. A few items of my own needed to be laundered as well, but there’s no way I’d subject my clothes to that mosh pit. I wouldn't even put the dog blanket in.

By the numbers, I’ve done eight super-sized loads already. The volume of dingy, dirty, soggy, sandy items expelled from the kids' footlockers was so massive, I got to micro-sort. Three loads of whites, and then, one each of navy blue, black, khaki/gray, red/pink and light green/light blue. The whites were first to be done. Sadly, despite generous dousings of Clorox, they're still dingy. But done.

Each load plainly tilts toward one child or the other. Setting aside the five sets of towels and three sets of sheets, SS took the “whites” loads in a landslide. His victory included, among other things, a baker’s dozen T-shirts (10 with printing, three without) and four and half pairs of socks. The missing sock doesn’t give me a moment’s pause. Its very absence indicates it was not the better half.

Another pair of his socks appear to have been tie-dyed at camp – mysteriously, only from the heel up. Can he explain this? Do I even want to know?

From the navy blue load, DD could claim five pairs of shorts and three tops, but still couldn’t be declared the winner. SS took the title with four shirts plus 10 pairs of shorts. Better still (from a story-telling standpoint), two of those pairs of shorts didn't originally belong to him. One pair belonged to a cabinmate, and the other to a girl he met at a dance. Don’t ask. I didn't.

When it comes to bringing home other people's goods, however, SS only takes the red ribbon. DD, our blue-ribbon-winner, brought home an expensive Vineyard Vines belt from her “Johnny” (camp code for “boyfriend”). Again, I’m not asking. I am, however, cringing every time the phone rings, anticipating calls from irate parents.

Back on the laundry front (because really, I can no longer wrap my mind around the casualness of the camp clothes-swap), SS also took the prize for the light green/light blue load, which should’ve been an easy win for DD, since these are two of her favorite clothing colors. However, 15 pairs of boxers in the load put SS over the top. In truth, though, only 10 pairs made it to the finish line – the dresser drawer. The other road-weary, limp and threadbare pairs went directly into the trash.

There's ample space for all these clean clothes in their rooms, though, because after weeding out their closets while they were gone, I carted three lawn-and-leaf-sized plastic yard bags of old clothes to the Salvation Army. So far, neither kid has detected nary a missing item.
In the midst of all this sorting, washing, drying and folding, SS was brazen enough to ask how much money I owed him for writing to me from camp.

Now, this isn’t entirely out of line. He's only 14 years old, which means his brain development is, ahem, incomplete. And yes, I had agreed to pay one dollar for each well-written letter home. However, given that four of his last four letters included the phrase they’re forcing me to write, it's safe to assume that he’s not going to rake in the big bucks.

The four-week tally? At this point, it looks like SS: 9, DD: 12. But wait. Three of the SS letters were only one sentence, which means they didn’t nearly meet the well-written criteria. Final payout: $6.00 to SS, $12.00 to DD. That's right. The kid who already has more cash than she can count (or even locate) earned double.

Add it all up, and it’s already been a fairly successful summer Chez Wiles. I even came up with not one, but two, artichoke salad recipes this past week, which means that while the kids gorge on waffles, bacon and berries for supper (for the best waffle recipe ever, from my first blog post ever, click here), I get to polish off the last of the artichokes.

That, you can count on.

Double Artichoke Salad
1 box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1 well-cleaned fresh artichoke heart, shaved or sliced thinly
1 tablespoon capers, drained
4-5 long, thin strips of parmiggiano-reggiano (use a vegetable peeler)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Boston lettuce leaves, well-cleaned and dried

For dressing
1 ½ tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
generous grinding of black pepper
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

In a large bowl (a lidded bowl helps), combine salad ingredients – except lettuce. In a separate small bowl, whisk vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper together. Gradually whisk in oil, to form an emulsion. Pour over artichokes mixture and toss well (or better still, seal with lid and shake). Spoon dressed ingredients over lettuce leaves, arranged to form a cup. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
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