The Summerhouse

Monday, July 6, 2009
Welcome to the second installment of:


I hope you all had a wonderful summer day. Other than the frustration I’ve been dealing with for the last three and a half hours over the 82 viruses that were infecting my computer, I had a great day. Both of my siblings were in town, so we had a family dinner and I made my newest summer speciality, which I’m going to share with you later in this entry.

And now it's time for some hideous 80s summer pictures as well as a few memories:

This picture was from the summer of 1981. I have no idea who was responsible for the hideous red and pink ensemble I'm wearing, or why I'm wearing a coat in the middle of summer? More of life's mysteries I guess. When I first ran across this picture I thought it must have been from the fall or winter, but since my mother keeps meticulous records of her pictures (they're in albums that are numbered, and the back of every picture says the month, year, and ages of everyone in the picture - and if anyone takes one of the pictures out for any reason we've been instructed to write the number of the photo album it came from on the back so it will never get misplaced.) So, I have no choice but to take my mothers word for it that it was in fact summer. According to my mothers records I am exactly 1 year and 9 months in that picture - I seem to have been tall for my age at that point. I guess the steady diet of Hostess products and Doritos that I was fed as a child hadn't caught up to me enough to stunt my growth yet (I will forever be convinced that I was meant to be taller than I am now.)

And here's my sister in the summer of 1985 sitting in what we called "the Olympic size pool." I'm so proud to look back and realize that even at the ages of 3 and 5 we already had a clear understanding of sarcasm - it's just never too early to learn some things. I was doing really stupid things with my hair that summer that involved the feathered look, so I'm going to spare you the trauma of having to look at a picture of me from then. Trust me dear readers, it's not good.

My earliest summer memories start around the age of 5 or 6 and involve working at my Dad's store - my parents are a big fan of child labor, or at least that's the argument we attempted to make when they had the audacity to expect us to make our own beds, clean up our own laundry, and feed the dog. Or as I put it when I was throwing a whining fit "You make us do everything around here, you're so mean" - but since we lived in a ranch it was kind of hard to throw a true Marcia Brady-style fit since there was no stairs to run up while yelling out, "I HATE EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING." But I still tried, and that's what counts. On the days when we weren't "burdened with so much work that we don't have time for fun" my Dad would take us up to his grocery store and pay us to clean the shelves. And for some reason, which defies all explanation in light of the whining I did about the jobs I had to do at home in order to earn my allowance, I found cleaning shelves fun. On second thought I do know why it was more fun, it was because my Dad has low standards (love you Dad) and so he didn't expect us to do the job as well as my Mom did with housework. At home we actually had to do the job correctly, but at the store we could work for four minutes then goof off for awhile eating junk food and trying to see if we could spot shoplifters. And then my Dad would tell us we could go get some candy of the candy rack "Like we own the place." He would also use that expression when we pulled into the parking lot Let's just pull into this first parking spot here, like we own the place, and I would laugh and think about how there's nothing more fun than having a Dad who owns a grocery store.

And now I'm actually going to talk about today's book (were you starting to think it was never going to happen?):

Today's book, "Margaret and Syl are getting married. Alas for Margaret, who views her impending union with the odious Syl in the same way a ship must view a shipwreck. Also for Mrs. Monro, Syl's mother, who harbors severe doubts about the entire male gender - not least of all her son. Alas for Lili, the high spirited temptress who is willing to do anything to prevent this disastrous misalliance, even if that means sacrificing herself. And hooray for The Summerhouse which follows the ominous weeks before Margaret's wedding through the eyes of these three highly biased narrators."

Today's book was very odd, in several different ways:

  • I couldn't place when the book was written or the time period the story was supposed to have taken place in without having to look it up. The writing style made me think that it must have been written at least a hundred years ago - there was formality to it that I find rare among books written in the present day - but it was actually written in the late 80s. I found this kind of startling because I was originally picturing the author writing this book by the lantern, and now I have to adjust and picture someone sitting at a computer wearing some hideous 80s outfit like neon green parachute pants with an oversized shirt that has enormous shoulder pads and it's just killed the lovely image I had in my head. I'm still unclear about the time period the story itself is supposed to take place in. When I looked the book up I discovered that it was turned into a movie - and I think I'm going to have to watch the movie just to find out what the time period is supposed to be because it's really bugging me that I can't figure it out.

  • There are long stretches in the book, that sometimes last for 20 pages or more, where nothing happens - and yet the parts where nothing happens were more interesting than the parts of the book where things actually do happen. I don't think I've ever read a book before where that happened.

  • I disliked all of the characters and yet I somehow still cared what happened to them. Usually when I can't stand a character I have a hard time caring what happens to them and then I quickly lose interest in the book. But in this case the opposite seems to have happened - as my disgust with the characters grew so did my interest in what was going to happen next.
Overall it was a pretty good book - although not a fun, light beach read by any means - but that wasn't really what I was aiming for with this week. My only goal really - other than to find an excuse to show really bad 80s pictures of my family - was to find books that had the word summer in the title. Why? Because I like a gimmick - that's just the kind of blogger I am.

And now it's recipe time:

Roasted Tomatoes

2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Slice tomatoes in half and place on cookie sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt, pepper, and basil. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes.
Variation: You can also make this recipe using Olive oil flavored cooking spray if you want it to be low fat.

Sometimes I serve this as a side dish and sometimes I toss it with pasta and a little bit of Parmesan cheese.