I’ve got my alarm clock set for 5:45. Tina’s is set even earlier because she’s on the hook for another batch of Monkey Muffins. Tomorrow’s the first day of that-which-must-not-be-named, and the that-which-must-not-be-named bus comes pretty early this year. Gabe and I spent tonight, the last of the summer, finishing up our bedtime reading of The Hobbit. We’re wondering whether we might complete The Lord of the Rings by year’s end. Rachel went to bed feeling anxious about her new year, particularly how she will fit in with the notoriously unfriendly seventh-grade girls. My hope is that a good night’s sleep and the leveling effect of a few sugary Monkey Muffins will put her tender brain back on keel.
Earlier this evening I visited the cat food aisle at Wal-Mart, and as I put my hand on the stack of Iams I was suddenly jolted by the recollection of my last trip here some months ago. At the time I was desperately (and fruitlessly) shopping for something that little Gracie would find edible, and you who read early editions of Notes will remember that we were all feeling rather heartsick and forlorn. But time ticks on, and tomorrow morning while we are enjoying Tina’s muffins, the two tiny grey tabby fur balls, Sammie (born 6/09) and Rose (5/09), now curled up in Rachel’s bed, will be voraciously gobbling Chicken Giblets with Gravy. Pictures soon.
Chris Immel, his fiancé Christèle, and Scott and Matt Weldon all came over for a pleasant dinner Wednesday night. I have been trying to get Scott and Chris together for some time. They are, after all, two of my favorite people and both live in the same town (Paris). But it takes a trip to Austin, some 7800 kilometers away, for them to finally meet. Amusingly, Scott has similarly been trying to get Matt and me together. We are both first cousins of his who live in Austin, but it took a 7800 km trip by Scott to bring us together.
In honor of uncle Stan, and because Scott hasn’t seen it done in 35 years, I thought to make the famous homemade ice cream for dessert. Apparently unaware of the technological advances of the last one-third century, Scott anticipated having to help turn a crank for a couple of hours. It’s no wonder he hasn’t been making ice cream in Paris. We were very careful to follow Stan’s recipe to the letter, even making a long-distance call to Nebraska for verification: “That’s really two tablespoons of vanilla?!” And just to be obsessive, we took an out-of-the-way trip to buy the specially prescribed $15 Watkins, only to discover we already had a nearly full bottle in the pantry. Whether the special vanilla or the Eagle Brand condensed milk made a difference I can’t say, but the response was very favorable. My apology for the intense vanilla flavor was drowned out by a chorus of “No, no, it’s delicious!” from the happy diners. Especially enthusiastic approval came from Christèle’s charming five-year-old son Théo, who, it turns out aime très bien la glace!! Théo provided a great deal of the evening’s entertainment, liberally sticking his fingers in the ice cream and chocolate sauce and chasing Teddy around the house. He and Gabe bonded well, especially for kids who don’t share a common language. Théo calls Gabe “my big, tall friend”.
It is an unhappy fact that if a “bag of ice” is on my shopping list, I will ultimately forget to purchase said some 80-90% of the time, even if I still remember as late as while I am handing my groceries to the cashier.
In other ice cream news, we bought a half-gallon tub of BlueBell Southern Blackberry Cobbler (ice cream) for an end-of-summer treat, inspired by a little note we got yesterday from Susie Hageman. Susie reports that she and Travis are back from a pleasant trip to Colorado, where they camped, hiked, fished, and enjoyed yummy bagels and ice cream from the BlueBell store. She also mentioned that she will be having some not-so-minor surgery later this month, but that the recovery time will give her a much needed chance to catch up on reading War and Peace. I think it’s a wonderful testament to Susie’s cheerful optimism that she sees even surgery as an opportunity, but I’m a little ashamed to admit that my first response to her thoughtful and carefully written note was a Homer Simpson-esque, “Mmmmmmmm…. BlueBell Ice Cream”. What’s that a testament to? BlueBell-it really is the best ice cream in the country, and the third best-selling brand, despite being available in only one third of the states.
I had to laugh at the news from Connecticut. Our precocious and charming four-year-old niece Sylvie has mastered riding a bicycle. When she discovered that older brother Byron was ceremoniously having his training wheels taken off, she demanded that hers be removed likewise, even though this meant Sandy shopping all over town for a Sylvie-sized bike that could be so modified. They really don’t make two-wheelers for four-year-olds. The humorous part is poor old Byron’s role in this. Damon and Sandy had originally thought (wrongly) that the idea of riding a bike “big boy” style might be enough to seduce B away from the video game console to which he, like many of us boys, is addicted. But the news of Sylvie’s unexpected prowess at the wheel finally did the trick. Damon would take Sylvie out for a spin, and when they came back inside Byron would demand a status report. “Is she doing better than me?” Any hint of an affirmative answer would bring a sigh from Byron and he would put down his controller and trudge outside for a lesson.
Tina auctioned off over 70 handmade crosses at church last night. I was pleased that the one I made, a little piece based on the Coventry nail cross, fetched $15 – almost as much as I spent building it. One set of donated wood crosses had a particularly moving back story. The fellow who made them only discovered his passion for woodworking after attending a seminar for the visually impaired. A diabetic, he was eager to do something creative with his failing eyesight and settled upon making pretty little wooden crosses. Even though he had never visited our church, when he heard of our auction he donated his entire collection, accompanied by a sad note that he would never make any more, as he could no longer see.
Have a nice week.