Two Pairs of Keds

"One for dress, one for everyday."


This is now.


Why not? It’s not as if there’s some limit.

Are we so afraid of it in our culture that it’s unspeakable?

You may recall my tribute post to my momma. I said an older neighbor and friend was coming over. That, I attributed to my mother befriending people of all ages. My neighbor read or heard the post and said, “That’s me. I’m the old person.”

Well, why not? Why not have friends the age your parents might be? Why not have friends your kids’ ages, if you let them live? (Just kidding, y’all. All mine are still around.)

So much in our culture sends signals: you’re too old; you’re too young; you’re not ready; you’re overdone. It strikes me that we need more relationships that cross these divides, just as we need to know and love people of different ethnicities, religions, genders, and from different places.

How dull, if my world were reduced only to women with hot flashes and plans to make for retirement. If my only conversations were about good wine and nice restaurants, adoring them as I do. I want to hear from people who are planning weddings, forecasting careers, studying their butts off, birthing babies, posting homecoming pictures, watching soccer in the rain, shopping for colleges, taking their kids shopping for colleges, downsizing their homes, thinking about assisted living.

Too much homogeneity makes people single-minded and boring. This week, alone, I have friends who are flying off Seattle to share a book they wrote with an infertility support group, who are home nursing two-year-old twins with the flu, who are creating insurance plans during open enrollment for seniors, who are turning 23 and heading to the apple orchard, and who are adjusting to graduate life in Berlin. How I savor this knowledge.

Let me note that all these examples are about women. Yes, I’ve some male friends, but it’s the dynamic relationship with women this is about. Why should we care, sisters, if we’re older, younger, sillier, fatter, quieter, or crazier? We simply thrive in human contact, through a close connection with people who care.

This is one of my favorites this week; a much younger friend is having a “Red Tent” bridal shower. I have no idea what this means to the organizers, as I only know the bride. Sure, I read the book, but since menstruation has passed me by – and thank the good Lord for that – I can only think about the gossip, the advice, the competition, the managing of men, of husbands, of wives, of women, of children, of nomadic life that took place inside its red walls.

At first, I thought it was a terrible idea, but now I’m turning a tent corner, if it means that friendships and sisterhoods are timeless.

Friends, go meet someone far, far from your age and enjoy her.



They say, “Home is where the heart is.” My mom’s ashes came home, to Greenwich, Ohio, for interment. We’re here because we recognize this place as our family seat, the place from which we originate. But, what is home? And why do our hearts long to travel there?

Home is where we grew up, where our formative years were spent, where our family lives or once lived. Home is a picture in our minds, a scent, a feeling.

Home is fleeting. As a little girl, spending one Christmas eve in my mother’s childhood home, it was the buttery, milky broth of oyster stew, a golden, glittered bell that played a Christmas carol, and resting with grandma in the living room, she in her “electric chair,” me on the couch with the flu. And the sound of Santa’s boots on the roof…or maybe, the front porch.

Home is a place to attend family and high school reunions. My Uncle Roger and I reminisced: a family reunion was a special brand of torture, where, at best, you ate really good food and played a pickup game of softball, while your parents visited with people you didn’t even know. My mom took me to these with my dress Keds, clean white tennis shoes that were only for summer reunions. Home might be eating with people in your family tree, even if you don’t know them–everyone welcome at one table.

Home is a rhythm, a dance you know so well, you don’t have to watch your feet. Even though you haven’t been there for years, you can walk the hallways and you know the creaks in the floor. If you took me to the Sweeting family barn, I could show you around, over 40 years later. Whether or not it’s still standing, it’s there. And home is a song, on a spinet piano, where your grandma wrote the names of all the notes on the keys.

Home is the sound of a tractor, an old pickup truck, calling cows in for milking, and lowing in the barn.

Home is the sweet smell of boiling applesauce and blanching corn to put up in the freezer.

Home is every hurt you hurt in childhood. It’s every highlight of youth, played back. In the deep of night, we replay our hurts and address the wrongs. But in the broad light of day, time marches on.

You make a home, when you leave your parents’ home. It, too, has its own pace, rhythm, rhyme, and reason. But our childhood home holds a magical power.

It’s reassuring, for persons of faith, to believe that our earthly dwelling is not our final home. Where do we go, though? We try and try to sort it out – – heaven, nirvana, to be at one with the earth, to be eternal love. Frustrated, “we see dimly through a glass,” as Paul consoled the people of Corinth.

Home is a place to rest. Where people know you best. Where everybody knows your name. Where you don’t have to pretend. Where the complicated business of life and death happens. It’s where our earth-bound story comes to a close.

Many of us take comfort that we will be reunited with people from our earthly home. What happens, though, when we come home, isn’t ours to fret. Jesus promised many heavenly rooms – according to John’s Gospel – and by that, a variety of ways we may experience closure. Today, my mom came home.

~My comments at the interment of my mother, Julia Ann Poppens: 9/13/36 – 8/14/17.
~~Photo of stained glass at Ripley Church, Greenwich, OH. 


How many words are in a child’s goodbye?

In two days, we fly to Florida and say goodbye to my mom. I’ve known for a long while that there was no getting better for her. In my less selfish moments, I wish for her peace. There’s a little girl inside, though, who’s raging.

Both my parents will have entered life eternal without their full cognitive ability. This makes saying the words harder. I’ve decided to make a list of memories to read to her, because hospice says, though she may be resting in the drugs, she can hear. How many words will this little girl say?


Mom, I remember coloring with you on the swing set. You always outlined your figures in black, which made them look professional to a four-year-old.

You wore a headscarf and tin foil when you laid out in the sun.

You bought me two pairs of Keds every summer; one for dress and one for everyday. There’s a couple of pair in my closet right now.

You made me take dance lessons, because I was tall and you thought I would have bad posture. You were probably right. I walk straight and tall, so thank you.

You planned our vacations with fun and learning. I never plan a trip without a museum visit.

You packed our pop-up camper like a pro. On the trip to Arizona, you used the mattresses as a clothes press for each of us. Brilliant.

You loved teaching. Me, too.

You have an eye for detail. Some would call it “perfectionistic.” Okay, many would. And do. You passed this on to me, for better or worse.

You made the most beautiful presents, when I was little. You said that you and dad would stay up late before Christmas to make the packages wondrous. This lives on every holiday.

You sang all the verses of Amazing Grace. I sat pressed up against you in the pew at church and grimaced at your voice. I also sang every verse to my first colicky baby, as I walked up and down the driveway.

You took care of your mother, after she was an invalid and couldn’t marshal a farm house any longer. You never really talked about it. I believe in acts of service and I don’t believe in talking about them.

You were an amazing seamstress. You made me join 4-H for Home Economics and Sewing. I can sew a straight seam. I rip out my mistakes.

You told me I had a genius IQ. Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. But I believed you.

You let me read anything I wanted. I read The Exorcist, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and Love Story in fifth grade. I asked you what “sonovabitch” was and you told me. You gave me your childhood books, written in the vernacular from the 1930’s: Pollyanna, Heidi, and Girls of Silver Spur Ranch. This may be the greatest gift you gave me.

You were on the Altar Guild. When you are small and next to a shining, wooden communion table draped with starched lace, you are next to God.

You told me anything worth doing is worth doing well. This is your second greatest gift.

You played volleyball like a mad woman. Your pinky is crooked because of this.

You made dad paint the house on Woodlawn in three different color combinations, until you found the right one.

The only “dirty” joke you told made you laugh like a teenager. I was a teenager, at the time, and rolled my eyes. But I remember it: “Have you ever smelled moth balls?” (Yes.) “What did you do? Spread his little legs?”

We drove to Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor to do our most sophisticated shopping. And then we went to the Gandy Dancer, every time. I look at the Gandy Dancer now and think, “Wow. Why didn’t I realize this was so special?” Teenagers are a special brand of clueless.

You went all out on the holidays. We lived modestly, except for Christmas. Christmas was a wonderland. Dave and I have many differing memories of childhood, but we both remember the one with desks, bikes, a toboggan, and every toy we picked out at the Big Toy Box at Sears.

I knew something was wrong by the time I was in high school, but I thought it was fixable by a new location. Our moves to Cleveland and Jackson went okay. So I made you and dad look at different houses, because I thought it would change things. I talked to realtors on the phone. And you let me. It didn’t stop the divorce. You let me deal with it my own way. When the time came, I fought it less. I knew.

Shoe shopping with you was a free-for-all. If you found your size (at that store in Sandusky), you bought them all. I can still see gold brocade slippers on your feet, and four or five 11 AAA shoe boxes stacked up, ready to go home. Ah, shoes.

You made me weed in the garden.

You made sure I had a piano when we moved to Cleveland. It saved me. And again, when I moved to Jackson. I don’t play now, but I imagine it could save me, still.

You were about 35, I think, at the time I remember you visiting with all our elderly neighbors in Norwalk. My next door neighbor, Carol, who is 81, is on her way over this evening.

Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, Nabisco Saltines, and 7-Up: your cure for the common cold.

You went back to school to learn the computer, so that you would qualify for a better job later in life. I am finishing my MA.

You ironed every little thing in your wardrobe when you were getting a divorce. All my cloth napkins are ironed and ready for service, stored in vintage picnic baskets.

In the days when Beaver Cleaver was the norm, you were a pretty damned good cook. I have a vintage cookbook collection of recipes from this time. The dishes I know how to cook from memory are yours (or Bill’s mom’s). I remember you were in a ‘Dinners for Eight’ group in the 1970’s and you made – tres exotique! – pepper steak.  There are no words to express caramel bananas, only feels.

You were before your time: you signed us up for a food co-op, so that we could eat cheese without coloring and other “whole foods.” This was somewhere in my high school memories, but the current organic movement has nothing on you.

I can still feel the summer wind on my face as we drove back from Holiday Lakes, sun-burned, ready for a treatment of Sea-Breeze, and happy.

“Bright, and bold, and ten feet tall is how I feel today. A sunflower towers above every flower and brightens the fields as she plays.” Script from a Mother’s Day performance at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Norwalk…around 1968.

Bowling at Cedar Lanes in Sandusky was a guilty pleasure. You and dad bowled. Dave and I ran around with the other kids like banshees. Didn’t you notice? I think every single employee hated our Band of Brothers. We knocked down signs. We shrieked. We terrorized the hotel pool. And afterwards, we had Tin Roof Sundaes. Bliss.

You made us take swimming lessons at the city pool. Was this for self-preservation? Or your sanity? At any rate, I ended up getting my Red Cross Life Guard certificate.

You also signed me up for tennis lessons in Cleveland through the National Junior Tennis League. Another life saver. Keep your racket back and swing level.

At an Easter Egg Hunt at the Norwalk Reservoir, in one moment I had the most eggs in my basket then, after a trip, I had the least. Eggs spilled all over the grass, competitors swooped in and got them, and I was left with nothing. This was the last group egg hunt I recall. Thanks.

You helped my Girl Scout troop go to Washington DC, when I was just out of elementary school. What were you thinking? Today, the security arrangements would fell a horse. I recently saw the article I wrote for the Norwalk Reflector and smiled.

Perms. Oh, my god, mom. My straight hair has always been the bane of my existence. To this day, I have no idea what to do with it. But I am not getting a Toni.

If Dad was the “party” in my childhood, you were the rock. I can honestly say, I seem to have decided to be the rock, in honor of you. It’s fun to be around the party crowd, but at the end of the day…at the end of a life…the rock is where it’s at. “All men are like grass. And all their glory, like the flowers of the field, withers. And the flowers fall.” (I Peter 1:24)

My inner child knows this…












Source: Let’s put to bed “Thanks for all you do.”

Let’s put to bed “Thanks for all you do.”

It’s not just me. It’s happened to you, too.

Here’s a little opinion quiz. We’ll talk about it in a bit.

  1. Have you ever had someone encourage you to start a project and say they had your back…and then, they didn’t?
  2. Have you ever waited for someone to come through, giving them – to your mind – an almost risky amount of time to deliver…and then, they didn’t deliver?
  3. Have you ever had someone change the trajectory of a shared project…without telling you?
  4. Have you, in a group or shared project/event, had someone alter the time frame to suit their needs…without seeing if it suited yours?
  5. And, as a result, do you hesitate to get involved in group settings, because you’ve been burned in the past?

Let’s say, for easy grading, that each question is worth 20 points and a “perfect” score is 100%. What’s your score? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it’s higher than you want it to be.

Why does it seem that, these days, everyone’s talking the big talk, but very few are walking the walk? Oh, they love meaningless sayings, like “Thanks for all you do.” Or, “You’re awesome.” But they’re not standing with us at the finish line, because they lost interest, got distracted, or decided it was too much effort to be there.

There’s a lot of blame being thrown around: we rewarded a generation of people for doing nothing and now, they don’t do anything without a reward; we’re a group of wiki experts with no real expertise; we’re maniacally busy; we lack leaders who promise and deliver, so we have modeled ourselves accordingly.

There’s a lot of excuses being delivered. Some of the ones I resent the most?

  • My memory.
  • My internet.
  • My phone.
  • My schedule.
  • My life.

Why so resentful, you ask? Because, on most things, we decide.

  • We take the job. We had the job description. Can we deliver? We’d better…and to the best of our ability.
  • We are assigned group work. Whether everyone is equally yoked or not, we pull hard and we finish. When we try to avoid hard work, we all fail.
  • We offer support. That means we’re going to be there.
  • We sign up. Did you do it out of guilt? Do everyone a favor. Don’t.

Do you have a poor memory? Write yourself a list. Bad internet connection? Tons of places have free wifi. Phone funking out? Tell people to email you and, then, read your emails. Schedule too busy? Drop something. It’s not a race and no one appreciates volunteering or working with someone who’s over-committed. Life got you by the cojones? Tell somebody. Tell the team. Let us know. We don’t need the dirty details (if there are dirty details), but we need to know who’s unavailable.

Did you let someone down? Genuinely apologize.

I want to work with people who stop saying, “I don’t know how you do it,” and help me get it done. I don’t need a hollow “Thanks for all you do,” which sounds somehow resentful, as if I’ve done too much and now, the speaker wishes I hadn’t done so much.

I know quiet a few people who were raised with the phrase: “Everyone has the same number of hours in a day.” Fact.

My mom used to say, “Jeri Lynn, everybody finds the time to do the things they want to do.” True.

It’s going to take a concerted effort to move our families, our communities, and our country forward. We need everyone walking the walk together. Let’s get in step.

monkee walk.gif

The photo and the gif are from the TV show and band
The Monkees (
If you don’t know their music, you should YouTube them.
I liked the show as a kid.







To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Title Credit: Act-III, Scene-I in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.


Here’s the dream:

I am driving like someone who’s going to miss the cruise ship, the plane, the loved one at the gate.

My GPS starts losing its dynamic features. It goes from a detailed visual map, to a cartoon scene, to a blue screen. I careen onto a highway exit. I can see a drawbridge in the distance. I have to make it before the connector goes up.

On the bridge, I see that the first of the two sides extends halfway across the river. Cars have to line up, then the second half will extend so that we can creep across. This does not seem like a good system to me. In dream-like fashion, I can see the way the mechanics work from below and it’s precarious, at best.

But it’s my only way over. By the time I decide to try it, the bridge is retracting. I have to jump my car without any sort of momentum, as I see the watery gap below.

At this point, I’m no longer driving. It seems like a ferry ride, where you leave your car in the hands of a porter. Next, I’m running along a sidewalk to pick up my car, which is not in sight.

There are people handling the embarkation on this side of the bridge, very official with vests and badges, and they are explaining to me that I have no paperwork. So sorry. You can’t have your car without the proper paperwork. I know! I can imagine the reasons, but I had no time. Why can’t I get my car?

They explain that there are excise people waiting on this side for cars without paperwork. They’re quick, efficient, and they took my car. I am frustrated, stymied. I wake up.


There’s a lot going on right now.

There’s a divide. There’s a connection that I don’t want to miss. It might not be up to me. You know me, so you know that this goes against every control-freak, Type A, Virgo, oldest child ruler-of-the-world bone in my body.

So much of it’s out of my control. There are folks in official positions with whom I can’t argue. You take what you get.

I’ve recently seen a newly-coined phrase: post-traumatic election syndrome. So little is up to us, in the end, it seems.

But I hope, if I ever get a chance to pick up the dream, that I fight to reach my destination.

You’ll Never Have This Recipe, Again. [Or, Crumb Kuchen, While Women March on Washington DC]

Today’s coffee cake, Crumb Kuchen, is brought to you by the notion that you can’t go back. You will go forward, armed with the experience of kitchens past. This is a great little cake, but I can’t make it what it once was–a recipe from my mother’s college roommate, Lois Hampson, from a time when buttermilk was scarce and you’d sour milk with vinegar.

No. My cake must move forward. I take the basic ingredients and I make it my own. I like to think I’ve made it a bit better. (Truly, it’s a bit better batter.) But I’m not the only person who can make a coffee cake great. Lots of people have the same talent and wherewithal. When my family makes Crumb Kuchen, years from now, they’ll make their own version, even though they will make it because I made it before them.

You also can’t make this recipe quite the way it’s pictured because, first, I made two mistakes. When it says “a handful” of the “like pie crust” mixture, it means about 1/4 cup. I’d removed too much. Also, the original recipe assumes the baker knows you need an egg to provide structure and richness. The lowly egg creates a smoother batter (it has a magical reaction that stabilizes the air bubbles called emulsifying) and adds flavor.

I realized my omission when I couldn’t spread the batter in the baking dish. I’m that quick. So I dumped it back in the mixing bowl, added the egg, and wrote “1 egg” on my recipe card’s ingredient list. I’d lost the first round of crunchy topping, but I’d miraculously kept a precious bit, which ultimately made a better crumble.

People do that: make mistakes. No one’s perfect. Not one person. No matter how great they think they are, they are just lowly human beings. I repeat: no one can fix everyone’s mistakes. It’s called “delusions of grandeur.” Or narcissism.

I hope the younger crumb-kuchen-2people in my family realize that the only way to get a good coffee cake is (1) to actually push your sleeves up and try to make one, (2) to read a recipe that reflects the combined experience of the cooks who came before, and (3) there’s no god-like baker who will deliver to them the perfect cake. You can’t just yell, “Make coffee cake great, again!” They need to believe they can and make their own.

Cake one bakes oneself tastes better, anyways.


Crumb Kuchen
~Original Recipe: Lois Hampson | Adapted by Jeri Preston
Ingredients in bold font below.

>Preheat oven to 325º.
>Add 1 T. apple cider vinegar (or white) to 1 c. whole milk to curdle. Set aside.

In large bowl, add
2 c. unbleached flour
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. chopped pecans (or walnuts)
3/4 c. chilled butter, cut in tablespoons
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. allspice
>Cut, as you would pie dough. (If you have no experience making your own pie, a pastry cutter run through your ingredients should cause them all to crumble together and form clumps the size of peas. You can also “cut” with a fork, if you’re kitchen accessory poor.)
>Set aside 1/4 – 1/3 c. of the crumbly mixture.
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder

>Lightly beat 1 egg with a fork until broken.
>Add egg and curdled milk to all dry ingredients. Beat 2-3 minutes on medium speed.

>Butter or use baking spray on 9 x 13″ baking dish.
>Pour in batter. Spread w/ spatula if necessary.
>Sprinkle on previously saved crumble mixture.
>If desired, additional chopped nuts can be sprinkled on the top. (I used another 1/2 c. chopped pecans.)
>Bake @ 325º 30-35 minutes, until center is set. Glass pans may bake more quickly.

1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 T. milk
>Stir until dry ingredients are incorporated.
>Drizzle over slightly warm cake.









What’s Wrong?

What’s wrong? This isn’t a rhetorical question. There’s just so much garbage. It’s getting harder and harder to tell, anymore, if anything is right. But here are some things I do believe about wrongness.

  1. It’s not okay to be untrustworthy. If you can’t trust me, we can’t have a decent relationship. You will always wonder if I’m going to screw with you. You’ll wonder if I’m going to cheat you or lie to you. I should not say one thing and do another.
  2. I should admit when I’m a jerk. When I’m alone in the dark, I hope I have the courage to say, “Wow, I was a jerk. The jerkiest jerk. I hope someone will forgive me.” If I’m really courageous, I’ll actually admit it out loud. Maybe ask for forgiveness.
  3. There’s a point at which I should shut up. I once heard someone pray, “Lord, don’t let me miss a chance to be quiet.” I’ll just let that one sit.
  4. If people are depending on me, I shouldn’t let them down. Did I make a commitment to you? I am honor-bound to see it through.
  5. There are more important things than being right. Did my righteousness come at the expense of someone else? Was I smiling when I ground their face into the dirt? Then my victory is cheap.
  6. If I am afraid, I should admit it. Fear corrodes.
  7. I am not in charge here. The best I can do is be a good mensch.
  8. I probably should be last in line. I’ve had a life of comfort, privilege, and blessing.
  9. I believe there’s a heaven, a hereafter, where all my friends – Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindi, Wiccan, without faith – can meet and be one.
  10. Love is the greatest commandment. I try really, really hard to get this one right.

I know a handful of people like this. You’re probably one of them. But where did the rest of us go?

I believe there’s an evil. It’s alive and at work. It wants us to believe we’re alone.

This is what’s wrong. That awful voice started, small and insistent: “This is terrifying. This will destroy us. This cannot work.” It gathered up fear in a dust bin and poofed the collected contaminated particles into the air. They continue to accumulate and swirl.

I heard someone say, just this week, why gather people and march? What will that accomplish?

Freedom March, Selma, AL | 3.21.65

I was stunned. It’s like saying, what can one person do, combined with another person, and another, until they all hold hands and link arms and build a community? It’s our only hope. We cannot do this thing, this life, alone.

Everything I see in the media right now insists you and I are alone. I am not. You are not. They’re lying. Certain people are out and out lying.

Evil wants us to give up. That’s what’s wrong.

[P.S. Since this is basically a message to my kids, you know I love you. Now, get to it. The world needs you right now.]


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“Up North” Food for an Army

Those of us who participate in a pilgramage to a place a few hours away – here, in Michigan, that’s usually “up north” – often find an army to be fed on the other end of the journey. After standing in a remote grocery store, shelves out of stock from the crowds, twelfth in line at the cash register, I groused that there had to be a better way to spend my time. While the family was back on the lake, I brilliantly came up with “the camp bag” plan. If this helps you, toast me from your beach chair.

Camp Bags
bagsI’ll be sharing a menu, but basically, you set your menu, write it down, shop before your trip, and pack your bags by the day/meal with a tag on each one. You’ll also need a cooler bag or two. These aren’t as important to tag, because it’s all coming out upon arrival.

Post your menu on the ‘frig when you get there. This may bring to mind “Cheaper by the Dozen.” It pretty much is…for which you will thank me and Frank Gilbreth, Sr. (the motion field study engineer and protagonist.) If the army you’re feeding feels like an entire ark, you’ll like his snappy attitude:

From Cheaper by the Dozen (1950)
Man on street: Hey Noah, what are you doing with that Ark?
Frank Gilbreth: Collecting animals like the good Lord told me, brother. All we need now is a jackass. Hop in!

Oh, sure. You could be fancy and wow your army with foodie menus. I’m a fan. Here’s the question: do you want to spend the day in the kitchen or on the lake? Good answer. So, we’re going to go with the “It’s home-baked!” cookie editreply, taking advantage of ready-made items and cooking/prepping ahead.

This is not a vegetarian menu, although there are certainly enough options: vegetarian chili, veggie burgers (from the freezer section), simple salads, and a baked sweet potato bar with toppings. But that’s a song for another time. Here’s my three-day, people-coming-and-going, variable-number-to-be-fed outline (base-line: 8). One of the pleasures of this menu is that you always have enough to add another plate. The more, the merrier!

Make Ahead Day (or After Work)
It took me about an hour and a half to pull the three make-ahead dishes together, which I had going all at one time. three items blogWith two large stock pots on the stove and the oven pre-heated to 350º, this was pretty easy. Another option for your pork is to let a crock-pot do the work and leave it on throughout the day, while you’re working. The point it that you are not working yourself silly during the vacation or before it, either.

This won’t come as a revelation to experienced cooks. I’m talking to folks who have yet to be responsible for the army and want to get in on the fun.  As I’ve mentioned before, this blog is primarily to leave a cookie-crumb trail for my own kids. (Holly, Sam, and Anne, of course it’s home-baked. You know that.)

Right. I don’t have kitchen staff, either. But I find that people are very willing to do simple chores in the kitchen, especially if you explain that they’re scheduled for a certain item (refer them to the ‘frig list).menu Even little kids get into the spirit of help, setting the table or performing the ever-important kid job of husking corn (adults can follow up on corn silk quality control), if there are people bustling around and they’re part of the fun. Don’t be a martyr. Enlist the troops. Where I would use a helper, I’ve marked it “KP.” (For Kitchen Patrol. It has a nice ring, doesn’t it? More on sharing reponsibilities under Day Two: Lunch.)


Day One: Lunch
Make Ahead Day (if possible):
1. Corn relish:corn relish 1 lg. bag frozen corn and edamame (rinsed), 1 med. green pepper and red onion chopped, 1 English cucumber diced, 1 1/2 c. Italian dressing, 2 T. lemon juice and apple cider vinegar, 2 T. sugar, salt & pepper. Store in a container.
2. Chocolate chip cookies (from a tube, made ahead). They’re home-baked.

Menu. Cold cuts, sliced cheese, two bread types. Canned baked beans: KP can bake in oven one hour ahead of lunch. Fruit (we had sliced strawberries & peaches): KP can slice.

Day One: Dinner
Make Ahead Day (if possible):
Spaghetti (2 lbs. ground beef, 2 28 oz. cans (or jars) marinara, 1 6 oz. can tomato paste, 12 oz. water, two yellow onions (chopped), 4 cloves garlic (minced), seasoning to “brighten” the canned goods (2 T. oregano, basil, 1 t. fennel, 1 bay leaf). Store in container.

Menu. Two-three lbs. spaghetti noodles: KP can boil and drain. Garlic bread: KP can open freezer bag or butter baguette. Simple salad: KP can tear lettuce and chop a tomato, avacado, or boiled egg. Newman’s Original Dressing travels well. Do you have any cookies left?

Day Two: Breakfast
Menu. Bacon, eggs, toast, and o.j..  Each item has a KP assigned to it. Or you be the grill cook. Like bacon in the oven? Great. Do you have a large cast-iron or oven-proof skillet where you’re headed? Make a frittata. (Pinterest it. They’re easy.) I’m taking frozen o.j., since it’s smaller and I’m driving four hours. It doesn’t matter if it thaws, because we’re going to use it…even if it’s for Screwdrivers.

Day Two: Lunch
Sharing the responsibilities:
Don’t pass up a chance to delegate to the troops, especially if they ask. Since I like to manage (aka control) the menu, I assign things I would normally buy. My daughter’s bringing the buns & chips.

Menu. Two pkgs. Vienna hot dogs (we like Koegels, because they’re from Michigan and they’re delicious), two pkgs. buns, chips (Better Made, because they’re from Detroit and ditto). Fruit. We always take this meal to the lake. It tastes like summer heaven.

Day Two: Dinner
Make Ahead Day: Pulled barbeque pork. One 4-5 lb. pork loin. Simmer on stove top until meat is shreddable – 4-6 hours. Seasoning: 3-4 T. kosher salt, 1 T. whole black peppercorns, 4 fresh bay leaves, 2 T. fresh ginger. After cooking, trim fat before shredding. Stir in one bottle of good barbeque sauce. pulled porkI used Famous Dave’s Rich & Sassy. Because, yes, to both.

Menu. Two bags sesame hamburger buns. Potato salad (this trip, it’s my mother-in-law’s famous homemade, but if you don’t have her, you can get it from the deli). Corn on the cob, if I can find it at the Market Basket (we drive by it in Beulah): KP husking. Cherry pie.*
Note on the pie: Of course, you can get these at the bakery. When I was careening around Trader Joe’s, they had a beautiful jar of cherry pie filling and those amazing boxes of non-refrigerated whipping cream. I’m grabbing a store crust and throwing that in the oven. It’s home-baked.

Day Three: Breakfast
Menu. Sausage & scrambled eggs: KP browns the sausage, cracks & adds the eggs. Can hold in the oven for late sleepers. Bakery cake donuts and o.j.  (if we have time, we stop in Cops & Donuts in Clare).

Day Three: Lunch
Menu. Leftovers. Clean out the ‘frig. (Note: If possible, I leave one-person servings of certain items for my wonderful mother-in-law, who lives at the lake all summer. It’s not easy to make spaghetti sauce for one, but it’s great to have a freezer container,
ready to go.)


One of the best lessons I’ve learned from my mother-in-law is that things will hold a long time in the oven on low. Kick back, enjoy the view, and always serve at your leisure. Cheers.






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