Thursday, August 20, 2009

School Is Great, School Is Good. (Pesto's Not Bad, Either.)

I know full well what time of year it is.

I don’t need the news anchors at WCNC reminding me of bus stop protocol, or classroom supply lists delivered by Mike the Mailman, or menacing 6-foot-tall “Back To School” banners billowing at every shopping center to prompt me to check my iPhone calendar.

It is time, time, time for my kids to get back to school.

Yes. I love Darling Daughter and Sensational Son, and I love the time we've shared this summer. But it's time to get those bodies back on the bus. I know this, because we have now completed our unofficial tour of Charlotte medical facilities. In the past 12 weeks, we've propped our feet in nearly every waiting room within a five-mile radius.

No kidding. With school sports, school activities and duh, school work, summer's the perfect time to catch up on routine medical check-ups. Yesterday, however, when I made the mistake of tallying them all up (not a proud admission, but still) I count that the three of us have flashed our insurance cards over 30 times – for appointments at dentists, pediatricians, therapists, allergists, shamans (OK, that last is a stretch) - since school let out.

This, despite that fact that one of us was here only two-thirds of the summer. This, despite that fact that another of us was here only half the summer.

Never mind the fact that we are all -- blessedly -- pretty darn healthy. Never mind the fact that our average age is a robust 24 – not an ailing 76.

Other local businesses may be limping along, but Tar Heel doctors are not suffering due to inattention on behalf of Charlotte moms. Anytime I’ve mentioned our various schedules to another mom (two dental appointments today, orthopedist yesterday, and the orthodontist earlier in the week!), she’ll trump me with her own medical professional schedule (endodontist yesterday, neurologist the day before, and the “down there” doctor later this week!)

I can’t compete with that. And -- hoo boy -- I don’t want to.

I can also tell it's time to pack those backpacks because the kids and I are far enough into summer and are oh-so-very-familiar with each other that I'm now feeling qualified – no, indeed, compelled -- to lead a few seminars these next few days Chez Wiles, including:

How To Turn Off A Light – For advanced attendees only, this seminar will also reveal tips for darkening the wily three-way lamp and the elusive closet light.

How To Close A Door – Upon successful completion, seminar attendees will be able to securely close – and lock! – front doors, back doors, French doors, screen doors, storm doors, cabinet doors, car doors, shower doors, refrigerator doors, barn doors (“xyz!”) and the oh-so-tricky garage door.

How To Return A Carton of Milk to the Refrigerator – Should talented attendees show preternatural ability, seminar will advance further to include “How To Dispose of Empty Beverage Containers.” (Seminar progression to be determined solely by seminar leader. Results not guaranteed.)

Yep. Although my Vitamin D levels are nearly back to normal, it seems I’m still a little on edge at this late point in the season. As I step out the back door, the signs of waning summer are there. The lawn is crispy. The mosquitos are the size of flying squirrels. The 4" basil plants I set out in early April are now 24” and bolting.

I can’t control when school starts. That’s firm – August 26. And despite the latest, greatest bug repellents, zappers and barriers, I can't resolve the mosquito problem. But I can do something about that basil. An abundance of basil can lead to only one thing -- an abundance of pesto. And pesto pasta -- which everyone loves -- helps ease us ever closer to the start of school.

(Brrrrr-iiinnnngg! It that a school bell I hear? Love you, kids! Mean it! Have a good day!)

Pesto Pasta
Because I currently have it on hand, I added the bright taste of fresh parsley and mint to this pesto. A squeeze of fresh lemon or lemon zest wouldn't be out of place, either.

2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup (packed) fresh parsley (optional)
1/4 cup (packed) fresh mint (optional)
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or more, to taste)
generous grinding of black pepper

Blend all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. Gradually drizzle in olive oil, pulsing until a coarse paste forms. Taste and season as needed. Recipe makes enough to sauce about 1 1/2 pounds pasta. Use as needed, freezing remainder in tightly sealed zipper bags.
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