Tag Archives: Weather

When it’s hot, think cool

Coping with summer’s heat requires air conditioning, swimming gear and the right attitude.

Statistically, we’re smack dab in the middle of the hottest two weeks of the year in Illinois, Iowa and the southern halves of Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Coming right up, July 15 through August 1 are the hottest two weeks for the northern halves of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

If one has a mindset that these days are Old Man Winter’s answer to our prayers in March that he get the heck out of town, then one can endure the dog days of summer better.

We asked for days like this. Days like this are a gift. Days like this will be go away eventually.

That’s the right attitude. It’s hot now. But it will be cold again.

With that in mind, I’m sharing an image taken a year ago in June when my Beloved and I visited Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona is the type of town that inspires night life, so one late evening we stopped by IceBarcelona (get it? Ice? Bar? Celona? I love wordplay like that) for a drink.

On the way in, there’s a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean Sea for an al fresco cocktail, the perfect respite from the 20-degree atmosphere inside the ice bar. Patrons can borrow natty parkas and gloves. Everything, including the bar and the furniture, are made of ice; drinks are served in glasses made of ice, of course. Elaborate, seasonally changing ice sculptures decorate the place.

Naturally, it’s called the coolest bar in Barcelona.

Here’s a shot of my Beloved and I on the ice couch in front of a sculpture of an Imperial Walker (it was a “Star Wars” theme when we were there). That’s an icy cold screwdriver in my hand.

icebarcelona

Here’s to hot July days. Cheers!

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Cream of Crisper Drawer Soup, heavy on the asparagus

It’s that time of year.

No, I’m not talking about the third week in January, the worst week of the year. (Stock brokers around the country can attest to this! But no, that’s not what I mean.)

OK, well, I am. A little.

I’m talking soup. And it’s soup time because, well, it’s cold outside and a nice hot soup warms the house and the soul. (Won’t help your stock portfolio, though. Sorry.)

I talked to my mom earlier this week, and she assured me she was staying indoors (away from the bone chilling temps in central Minnesota), keeping busy. Making soup. Chili. Minestrone. Something called Barley Burger Soup (you had me at “barley,” Mom).

So I made soup for supper, even though my Beloved proclaimed “yuck” (fine, enjoy your boxed macaroni and cheese).

I’ve posted a recipe for “Cream” of Asparagus Soup in the past, but that recipe was a faux cream version. This one actually calls for a half cup of half and half. Because, why not?

I also cleaned out my fridge. Because that’s what a good soup is for. Using stuff up. Plus it turns a greenish asparagus soup into a more golden hue. Like the sun.

I hope you enjoy.

cream of asparagus carrot sweet potato soup

Cream of Asparagus & Orange Leftovers Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 leftover red pepper, chopped (bonus if it’s roasted)
  • 20-25 spears asparagus
  • 1 cup leftover baked potato and baked sweet potato (I knew I’d find a use for this!)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • Shredded parmesan to garnish

Directions:

  1. Break tough ends off asparagus and separate tips to use later. Roughly chop remainder into 1-inch pieces.
  2. Heat olive oil in a largish sauce pan and add all vegetables except asparagus tips and leftover baked potatoes. Saute until onion is translucent.
  3. Add chicken broth. Simmer for 30 minutes or so until vegetables are tender. Add potatoes 5 minutes from the end; they’re already cooked and you just need to warm them up. Add lemon zest at the very end, right before blending.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add asparagus tips and simmer for 6-8 minutes (until tips are tender). Stir in half-and-half and warm (don’t boil), and add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 2. Garnish with parmesan and fresh cracked pepper.

 

Enjoying the great outdoors … while we can

We dined al fresco this evening, and we counted ourselves lucky (I enjoyed a Chicago-style hotdog, complete with sport peppers, because it seemed like a warm weather menu choice).

It reminded me to be thankful for all things, even global warming. Which brings to mind this post from 2010…

If this is what global warming brings to the party, Midwesterners should be celebrating

Global warming isn’t all that bad. If you live in Illinois. Or Minnesota. Or anywhere else considered close to the center of a continent. 

The media make global warming seem like, well, the end of planet Earth. Some of that is just that bad news attracts more readers and viewers than good news, but think about it: Where do a lot of reporters, media moguls, movie producers and internet workers live? The coasts.

What areas of the country (and world) are experiencing the worst effects of global warming? The coasts.

When glaciers melt and water levels rise, folks on the coasts will lose their homes and property. When hurricanes hit, folks on the coasts suffer the consequences. When polar bears go extinct … well, I don’t know if even folks on the coasts care. Lots of creatures that once existed no longer walk the earth — dinosaurs, woolly mammoths and a lot of bugs. Frankly, I’m glad they’re not around anymore, and I really have no interest in meeting a polar bear in my back yard either. You’re big and beautiful, Mr. Bear, but good riddance.

What’s the downside of global warming for us Midwesterners?

Click here to read more.

How to eat your vegetables and keep the kitchen cool at the same time this summer

When it’s hot and humid outside, the last thing I want to do is heat up the house by turning on the oven or heating up a big pot of water. And honestly, I don’t really want to eat a huge hunk of meat covered in gravy either. Ugh. I’m sweating enough as it is without having to digest that.

As many people have found, grilling out is the solution. But so many times, my Beloved assumes the grill is only for meat. Not so. It’s great for vegetables, too, and I persuaded him to try it for lunch today.

What? A meatless meal? Yes, it is an option, even for hearty eaters. Just in case you need it, here’s my persuasion technique: Threaten to do it yourself.

“What’s for lunch?” he said.

“Grilled vegetable salad,” I said.

“I’m not eating a salad for lunch,” he said.

“Well, I am.”

“Well, I’m not grilling a bunch of vegetables.”

“Well, I will then,” and I started chopping vegetables. Before I knew it, my Beloved had started the grill. I handed him the vegetables.

“I hope it’s OK they have char marks,” he said (like that might dissuade me).

“I want char marks!”

Part of his hesitation is that I’ve been pushing entrée salads for every lunch and dinner for the past week (see point 1. grilling keeps the kitchen cool, and point 2. eating lighter keeps me cool). It was challenging to come up different types of salad (which is why I came up with “grilled vegetable salad” in the first place), but avoiding boredom stoked my creativity. Here are a few of the salads we’ve enjoyed the past few days:

  • Taco Salad (made with ground turkey — yes! you can sauté meat in a pan on the grill!)
  • Steak Salad With Blue Cheese, Candied Pecans and Dried Cranberries (I had my Beloved at the word “steak” on this one)
  • Tropical Chicken Salad with Grilled Pineapple and Shredded Coconut
  • Barbecue Chicken Salad (mm, barbecue sauce)

Thanks to my effective persuasion technique (and my Beloved’s pride about being the chief grill master in the family), we ate a delicious vegetable salad for lunch (the goat cheese wheels make it especially tasty!), and we didn’t heat up the kitchen. I couldn’t find exactly the recipe I wanted online, so I’m sharing my version here.

grilled veggies

Grilled Vegetable Salad With Goat Cheese Wheels

Ingredients:

  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 big handfuls of spinach
  • Several leaves of romaine lettuce, torn
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 ounces soft goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • Bottled salad dressing of choice (Italian or vinaigrette–balsamic vinaigrette might be nice; I used red wine vinaigrette)

Directions:

  1. Slice all vegetables 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. Drizzle with oil olive, and salt and pepper liberally. Place on a hot grill and cook for 10 minutes or so. Turn and cook the other side for 10 minutes or so. You want the vegetables to be soft but not mushy.
  2. Meanwhile, divide the spinach, romaine and tomatoes on two plates.
  3. Cut goat cheese into four chunks and form each piece into rounds. Roll edges in chopped pecans. Place goat cheese wheels on edge of greens.
  4. Remove grilled vegetables from grill, and cut rounds into quarters (don’t do this until after you’re done grilling or all your vegetables will fall through the grates of the grill). Divide grilled vegetables between plates of greens.
  5. Top with salad dressing. Serves two.

roasted vegetable salad

The sky’s the limit if you have a roof over your head

Of all life’s blessings, the roof over my head is one for which I rarely give thanks.

Roofs, after all, are so commonplace they are to be expected. And they’re dull. Very dull. Usually gray or brown, maybe black. Made with shingles — the ultimately hum-drum material, or maybe cedar or tile. Installed by competent, height-defying, tight-lipped pros who appear like flies and disappear a week later, leaving a few stray nails in the yard.

But mundane or no, without a roof, every day is a bad-hair day. Or a bad day in general.

I woke at 3 a.m. last night, thankful, so thankful for the roof over my head.

It was pouring down rain. Literally pouring, like God had a bucket he couldn’t wait to empty. Lightning. Thunder. A storm for the ages. But unlike many nighttime storms observed from the comfort of the bed in my sturdy house, this storm came to the campground where I slept in a sturdy, yes, but relatively insubstantial camper.

One never goes camping but it rains. Or at least that’s how it is with me. Most camping rainstorms are day-long drizzly affairs that make everything damp and never stop until everything is packed up and you’re headed home.

This storm, however, was more hard-nosed, like a pissed off cop with a gun at a pool party (kidding! all right, already! I know all cops are not angry and overbearing! It’s a joke!).

In any case, this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill storm. And we were camping next to a river.

My Beloved’s cell phone awakened us before the drenching rain did. It warned of flash flooding.

All I could think about was a flash flood filling the valley, and us, bobbing down the river in the camper until we were splintered against a bridge pier (thank you, Voice of Doom, but our flash flooding came in the form of big mud puddles, not a jökulhlaup).

That’s when the roof started leaking. Drip, drip, drip. A persistent sort of leak. Drip, drip, drip. Reconnaissance revealed the drops were coming from a light fixture (uh-oh). Drip, drip, drip.

Sounds restful, huh?

But actually, I said a little prayer of thanks for the roof.

Because 30 yards away, a family went to bed last night.

In a tent.

I didn’t care how fiberglassy our roof was. It wasn’t canvas!

Poetry with four-letter words like ‘snow,’ ‘wind’

 A bit on Illinois Public Radio this morning reminded me April is National Poetry Month. I haven’t written much poetry in decades, but I have a manila file  of brilliance from my formative years that I somehow believed was worth lugging around from place to place. Your first clue as to its contents is its location in my file drawer: Between “drama” and “reports.”

I dipped into the narrow-margined-three-hole-punched loose leaf papers to find it filled with poetry about homework, breakups and suicide (I never was, for the record, suicidal but you’d be surprised to hear that after finding all the F-word-filled pieces among my writings).

I also found a story that made me laugh ’til I cried; it began like this: 

“Hello.”

[If that’s not an epic literary beginning, I don’t know what is.]

“My name is Negative Images. Really — Negative Margaret Images. People call me Neggy for short. My father calls my Maggy. It was my mother’s idea to call me Negative. Her name is Mary so she wanted her only daughter to have an interesting name. She didn’t name me Positive Images because … well, I guess she’s crazy.”

Crazy. Indeed. But I digress. I was rooting around for poetry, not weird teenage stories. So I shall celebrate National Poetry Month with this piece that is not suicidal or weird but appropriate for a Minnesota native who mowed the lawn yesterday for the first time this season to share at the end of April:

I hate winter:
The air drains my lungs.
The temperature thickens my blood.
The snow blinds my eyes.
The wind bites my cheeks.
The ice greases my shoes.
The fog steps on my hair.
The puddles give me a bath.
It’s almost spring.

Noble color, noble intentions

On the theory that seeing warm colors warms you up, I present this gallery of beautiful flowers on the warm side of the color wheel.

(There is no theory that viewing warm colors warms you up, but I think you’ll enjoy these images that make the most of the Rule of Thirds more than pictures of yellow snow.)

yellow flower

coral flower

red flower

fuscia flower

purple flower

Wherever men are noble, they love bright colour; and wherever they can live healthily, bright colour is given them—in sky, sea, flowers, and living creatures.

~ John Ruskin (1819–1900)