Tall Order Cook

With our grandsons here this summer, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. One of the first things we had for breakfast was my favorite – Egg MacMehrling. It’s a takeoff of McDonald’s McMuffin. John and I usually have it at least once a week. It was the first item to be removed from the menu. Being a short-order cook became a tall order because I know too much. I remembered everyone’s preferences, which was paralyzing. They understood why we weren’t going to have it often when I listed the components and choices for the four of us.


English muffin – 1 barely warmed, 1 lightly toasted, 2 toasted to a rigid crispness

Butter – 2 with, 2 without

Cheese – 3 cheddar, 1 pepper Jack

Meat – 1 limp bacon, 1 crisp bacon, 1 hot sausage, 1 flexible but not there to choose

Egg – 2 with runny yolks, 2 like hockey pucks


Why anyone would cook for a living is beyond me.

Extreme Baking

Grandson Nathaniel (17) always asks if he can use our kitchen, and we fall all over ourselves saying yes. This time he wanted to design an Eclipse Cake for the upcoming total eclipse of the sun. He had only one day off before the event. As prearranged, that morning John woke him at 5:30 so they could go to the supermarket when it opened at 6. He wanted fresh lemons, and I had only tired limes on hand. When they came back, we had a quick breakfast, and he set to work. I’d like to sound a {{GONG}} when I’m proud of him.

Before lunch, the two cakes were cooling in their pans, and Nathaniel was ready to begin the filling. He graciously deferred to our schedule, eating a leisurely meal with nary a fidget in sight. {{GONG}}

I was on the other side of the house a bit later when John shouted, “Anne! Can you help us?”

I flew to the kitchen and stopped short. How on earth could I help? Nathaniel was holding one side of a layer, and John was steadying the other. The top had slipped off the bottom and broken apart. We froze, trying to decide what to do to save the cake. There was despair in Nate’s voice as he declared there was nothing to do but start over. He didn’t shout. He didn’t stomp his feet, which are big enough to set off an earthquake. He didn’t pitch a fit or throw anything. He put the layers on a cookie sheet and started over immediately. {{GONG}} {{GONG}} {{GONG}}

Hours later, the new bottom layer was on the pedestal cake plate, and he applied a firmer filling. I held my breath until the top was secure. He was willing to postpone the frosting until after supper. {{GONG}} We ate the most broken bits for dessert.

At 11 p.m. I rubbed his back and said I had to go to bed. He kept working. {{GONG}}

The next morning after walking with John, I said I dreaded to see the state of the kitchen. John said he thought things looked good when he made coffee before dawn. Nathaniel had cleaned up after himself. {{GONG}} {{GONG}}

After breakfast, the baker used his icing spatula to put his final touch on the frosting. {{GONG}} He finished and stowed the cake in the refrigerator before we got home from the week’s grocery shopping. We three ate another quarter of the broken one after lunch. Nathaniel excused himself to get ready for work. When he came back, I asked if he would pose with the old cake.

He said “Oh, no! Not with that one!” With that, he promptly sat down and smiled for the camera. {{GONG}} {{GONG}} {{GONG}} {{GONG}}

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My apologies, dear grandson. The story demanded documentation.

Logan’s Goodbye to David

We didn’t see a lot of neighbor Logan this summer. He was away with his parents several times, and we were busy with grandsons David and Nathaniel. To mark the end of this visit, Shawn and Bob invited us for a pancake supper featuring maple syrup they bought when they were in Vermont. It was bitter-sweet for me, because I know how much Logan and David enjoy playing games together. There SHOULD have been more time, but David was usually working when Logan was free.

Logan’s manners were wonderful as he sat through the leisurely meal. Finally he asked if he and David could be excused from the table. As they got up, David admitted that Logan had quietly asked him to play checkers many times. I had to take a shot of Logan’s position after they switched to a different game. One foot was on the coffee table, and I think the other was on the floor. Logan’s concentration was such that I doubt he knew I took a flash photo.

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The rest of the adults chatted for a bit at the table.

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John, Bob, Kate, and Shawn

Our daughter Kate was with us for one full day. She drove down from New Jersey to pick up David and take him to college in New York.

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Logan and the youngest of the adults played Uno for several rounds.

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Logan, Shawn, David, and Kate

When it was time to go, David and John swung Logan over their heads. In the photo, the boy is just a blur, high in the air. Nathaniel missed all this fun because he was working. That was the hallmark of our summer – juggling schedules.

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David, blur of Logan, and John

The next morning I spotted David’s final balancing act of the season. The ice cream scoop was hanging precariously over the sink. I was already missing you before you left, David. Can’t wait for you and Kate to come back!

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National S’mores Day

I had no inkling there was such a thing as National S’mores Day until SIL Beth texted me that today (August 10th) was the day. When grandson Nathaniel heard the news, he agreed to keep the fire going after he grilled hot dogs and brats for our noon meal. He suggested we super-size it in honor of the day. Are you ready for this? He used the last two Moon Pies for us to split! They had been lying here for ages after everyone had tried one from the box of a dozen. In essence, they are instant S’mores, because they have a graham cracker base, marshmallow filling, and chocolate coating. Nathaniel grilled a giant marshmallow until it was gooey inside, then placed it on top of dark chocolate squares, all sandwiched by the rich Moon Pies.

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After splitting it in half, we added up the calories. If we had been allowing ourselves 1,000 calories a day, we would have used up half our allotted amount on that one item! I’m going on a strict water diet until supper time.

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Technology Tricks Nathaniel

Nathaniel had a rather exciting time at the restaurant one night.  He was doing mostly prep work for several hours. He didn’t think anything was wrong when the owner answered the telephone. The man asked if Nate’s phone number began with 123. When Nathaniel said yes, he indicated the call was for him. Nathaniel assumed Grandpa was calling for some reason. The owner said, “It’s the police.”

Nate hardly had time to wonder if someone had died or been in a car accident.

“Hello,” said Nathaniel.

“Is 123-123-1234 your telephone number?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Are you aware that you have dialed 911 over 30 times in a row?”

I probably don’t have the dialog exactly right, but it was a tense moment. Nathaniel explained it was an accident and apologized profusely. Well done, Nate!

I looked at my phone, wondering how on earth anyone could dial 9-1-1 repeatedly without knowing it. Nathaniel showed me his phone. At the bottom of his dial was “EMERGENCY CALL”. He took my phone, set a password of some sort, turned off my phone, turned it on again, and the same kind of dial appeared. This is a safety feature. Because it would take him precious seconds to unlock his phone, that screen appears so that he could call for help immediately. Somehow his phone had been turned on while in his pocket. Every time he bumped against something, an emergency call went straight to the police. They used GPS to pinpoint his position in the restaurant and called before storming the place. For some people, everyday life turns into excitement.

Wisteria Pods

I garnered much pity from writing about my battle with the wicked wisteria plant in our garden. I likened it to invasive kudzu. Some writers exaggerate kudzu’s tremendous growth by saying it can cover a car in a day. Wisteria is right behind it.

Before Brother Bob and Beth came, I said I would snip the branches that were reaching out to catch people. We wouldn’t want well-loved guests to be taken prisoner. Nathaniel got up from the table and removed the offending tendrils. Seriously, those things can grow four feet in less than a week. He stood flat-footed and cut the branches with hand clippers. I would have been on tiptoe, using the loppers to extend my reach by three feet. You may be saying to yourself that he couldn’t be three feet taller than I am. He isn’t. His shoulder is approximately 16 inches above mine. His arms, though, stretch toward the sky. Mine are earth-bound.

He came back to the table holding two pods. For all I know, they might have conked him on the head on the underside of the pergola. I saw them but hadn’t taken time to examine them. Either Nathaniel or Beth commented on the texture of the pods. They were softer than the finest velvet! We passed them around and enjoyed running our fingers over them. A few days later, Nathaniel cut one open to see what was inside.

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It didn’t take long for Nathaniel to put his own spin on the split pod.

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The two halves dropped to the deck. All of us love eating on the porch, because we brush crumbs to a crack between boards where they fall to the ground below. The screen goes all the way to the earth, so critters can’t get to them. Nathaniel’s long arm moved a bit, and then a funny look crossed his face. He was pushing the pod bits toward a crack and suddenly thought, “What if this plants a wisteria vine under the porch, and it takes over the house from the bottom up?”

We reassured him that the bean-like seed was still on the table. He convinced us that Jack and the Beanstalk must have planted wisteria seeds to get up to the ogre in the clouds. I thought about disposal of our seed. What about flushing it down the toilet? The thought wasn’t complete before I recoiled in horror. The cesspool is somewhere under the 200-year-old oak tree. In two years, I’m sure a viral wisteria could choke the mighty oak and bring it to its knees. Maybe we should burn that lethal seed the next time Nathaniel grills meat.

Watermelon Slurp

We have thanked people for bringing watermelon to our house, but I’m quite sure they didn’t know what a big hit it was. Brother Bob and Beth witnessed David’s watermelon slurp in person. A day or so later, he agreed to make a demo clip. Both grandsons love the cool summer treat, but no one can clean a rind like David. The extra sounds are bird songs and a waterfall. His manners aren’t THAT bad!