Monday, August 9, 2010

Water Babies

There are few things I enjoy more than a chance to relax and unwind in a location that features a large body of water. For me, the presence of that water is a therapy of sorts...a languid lowering of my stress levels that can't be equaled. I grew up near the Ohio River and have been and will always be a water baby.

My parents always loved sitting by the river and watching the boats glide by. Their favorite spot was under the giant oak tree near the Jug ice cream shop in Newport, Ohio (they are pictured there in the post named Today). Ironically, my Mother is terrified of water and never learned to swim. Dad, as I've mentioned, was in the Navy, so he spent a considerable amount of time on boats but dog paddling was his main way of getting around in the water. Mom and Dad ensured that their kids would be adept in the water and started us in swimming lessons practically from the womb. I would indeed grow up spending every available moment at our county swimming pool in the park. We played tag; we'd walk soaking wet to Dink's concession stand for blue Freeze-Pops and Chico-Stix; we'd soak up the sun. We begged the beefy Weber boy to do a cannonball off the high dive which would douse us in the ensuing wave. We never missed the occasional midnight swims held at the pool because on those days it truly felt like we were living morning, noon and night at the Park Pool. Years later, many of us who grew up in that pool would go on to teach swimming lessons and become lifeguards and even join the county swim team. Some of my greatest memories throughout my school years would center around that Park pool.

These memories would be the foundation of a lifetime of loving the water. I would grow to love the ocean as well and have enjoyed many a beach vacation. Staring out to infinity and beyond along the ocean is never less than glorious. Water would establish itself in my life in a way that even I didn't predict, however. About 15 years ago, when I was living with my good friend Kaki, we decided to host a smallish New Year's Eve get-together. Our friend Susan suggested we invite a psychic she knew to do readings. Indeed, Rosemary did come, and when she read my tarot cards and palm, an interesting theme ran through the reading. Rosemary told me that in the next few years I would meet the love of my life and I wouldn't recognize them as that love at first but would in time. He would have blue eyes which would be fitting as the theme of our life together would be water....we would meet surrounded by water and water would be featured foremost throughout our relationship. I didn't give the reading a great deal of credence; in fact, the most outstanding feature for me was the fact that I was getting my cards read by a lesbian psychic on New Year's Eve...ooh, how sophisticated!

Indeed, a few years later, I would meet Keith to interview for a job. He had serious blue eyes and the interview was at the Lafayette Hotel, which sat at the confluence of two rivers. After a farewell party for us on a Mississippi Queen cruise on the river a year later, we left town to take jobs on Jekyll Island, Georgia....surrounded again by water. Now, nearly eleven years later, we are still together and have worked the past several years in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, a town whose entire history is built on the healing power of water and natural springs. As I've written about here, they even host a Waterfest. In time during these years, I would meet and become close with Keith's family who are such fans of the water they have boats and a lakehouse on the Lake of The Ozarks. This weekend, Keith and I along with his parents, his sister Kim, her husband Dave and their kids Sierra and Tanner and Otis The Wonder Water Dog had the best time there yet...

The weekend was a hot one, but was preceding a serious heat wave that would mercifully wait until Sunday to kick off. It was three days of lively conversation, tasty margaritas, a wicked blueberry ale and delicious food. Our food was simple and tasty lakeside treats... filling blueberry crepes with Farmland sausage or cheesy eggs and crispy bacon for breakfast. Dave's Secret Recipe Most Excellent Ribs for dinner....we had to smell those bad boys cookin' all day. We had lovely Fresh Connect KC tomatoes for our sub sandwiches on the dock as well as Fresh Connect KC watermelon on the deck at lunch. I didn't have the opportunity to cook much with my Fresh Connect KC goods this week except for one old standby crowd pleaser we've made many times...Ina Garten's Broccoli with Garlic and Soy Sauce. This time, we added Fresh Connect KC cauliflower to the recipe and it was delicious. If you'd like to add cauliflower, cut the broccoli amount in half to add. The recipe is at the end of the post.

The water theme prevailed...Tanner and Sierra would wake up in the morning, rush through breakfast to the best of their abilities, and suit up for a day in the water. Watching the newest water babies of the family enjoy hours of watery fun was very familiar....leaping and swimming and sliding and desperately wishing the day wouldn't end. By the time the end would finally arrive on a sublime sunset boat ride on the lake, they would start to drift off, exhausted from the day's wet events. There is nothing like that bone-tired feel after a day in the water...a comforting mix of exhaustion and elation with a hint of anticipation to do it all over again the very next day. Getting in the water myself was exhilarating and sad at the same time. It was wonderful to swim, tread water, or float on a raft. There were a few sadistic horseflies who tried to ruin our fun and in fact, one repeatedly attempted to land on my head. Kim thought she would help out by repeatedly smacking me in the head supposedly to get the horsefly....I swear I heard her chuckling in delight while beating me but maybe I imagined it.....

The sad part for me was that it was Mid-August and this was not only my first swim of the year but my first real outing in the sun in quite a while. We're taught to avoid the sun these days and indeed when I first get out to enjoy it, I'm a horrific shade of pasty white at nearly the end of summer. These days, ubiquitous vampire chic practically dictates that this look is now desirable but unfortunately, in my case it's more Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man than Eric the Viking on True Blood. This weekend was a sweet taste of the familiar, though; of beloved watery moments of childhood. I miss being tan all summer and I miss it coming from the sun as opposed to a tanning bed or a spray bottle. I miss swimming for hours and hours and feeling weightless in the water and appreciating the heat of summer instead of griping about it. I miss those carefree water baby days of my youth....

The evening sun would set on our umpteenth hour at the Park Pool, the 70's tunes would echo through the park from the old jukebox....Summer breeze makes me feel fine....and we were fine, indeed.





Ina Garten's Broccoli with Garlic and Soy Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 head garlic, peeled (about 16 cloves)
  • 1 cup good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 stalks broccoli, cut into florets (8 cups of florets)(cut in half and add the rest in cauliflower if desired)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Directions

Put the garlic cloves and oil in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the garlic is browned and tender. Turn off the heat and add the red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Immediately pour into a heat-proof container to stop the cooking. Allow to cool to room temperature.

For the salad, blanch the broccoli florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 2 to 3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain well and immerse immediately into a large bowl of ice water until the broccoli is cooled. This process stops the cooking and sets the bright green color. Drain well.

In a large bowl, toss the broccoli with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup of the oil used to cook the garlic, the soy sauce, and 8 or more cloves of cooked garlic. Taste for seasonings and serve cold or at room temperature.

9 comments:

Kristy said...

Greg, I honestly cried. What a great post. Who would have thought that I would be back living a half a block away from that very swimming pool we spent our entire youth in. The 70's jukebox. Dinks. Midnight swims. And when we got old enough, being paid to babysit every kid in the county 15 hours a day while they frolicked in the water and we swung our lifeguard whistles around our fingers and then back around again. Alas, while the pool is still there, participation is dwindling. In our day it opened at 1pm and closed at 9 pm except for those magnificent midnight swims which really did last until midnight. Today the Pleasants County Park Pool still opens at 1 but even in this summer's incessant heat, management has closed the pool as early at 3 because there weren't enough swimmers there to keep it open. There is no more night swimming. Midnight swims are unheard of and I'm not sure that swimming lessons are even taught there anymore as the Middle School has a pool and swimming is part of the curriculum. It all just makes me sad.

I truly enjoyed this post and chuckled when I read about the New Year's Eve party at Kak's with the lesbian psychic. I never knew that story. Hopefully we can make it a point to always return to the water as much as possible in our coming days. Summer breeze does indeed make me feel fine. And Greg....Chico-Stix ROCK!!!!

Confounded Cook said...

Lovely comment, dear Krystalena.....those truly were the days, weren't they?

Kristy said...

Yes they were and it truly is sad that not everyone could have the childhood we did. Besties forever!

Kristy said...

P.S. Those crepes look DEEEEVINE! Now THAT'S what I call campin'!

Lisa Mandina said...

Lots of great memories, makes me think back to all the memories I have from when I was a kid, and how I wish so many things could happen again.

Kitten said...

Excellent post. As always. I 2nd the crepes. Yum.

Anonymous said...

This was such a beautiful and moving post.... Loved it!! Absolutely loved it! If you remember.... I met you and became your friend at the park pool. I asked your advice on a discussion/argument I was having with another gal there... and we became fast friends after that. Also conjured up the memory of you, me, Lara, & Taffy using our towels as capes and running all over the streets of SM. And... the beefy Weber boy comment was oh so true. I think I need to send this post to his wife so he can read it. He would love it too.

Oh..... and the water theme of your life is amazing.... what a beautiful love story.....

Confounded Cook said...

Thank you, 'Chelle. I remember that he was Ed's big brother but I can't remember his first name...

Kristy said...

Mike Weber was the "beefy" one.

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