Monday, August 17, 2009


I am not sure how it's been so long since I updated here. Just as I am not sure how it is that when you try to buy your kid a new swimsuit, they laugh like summer already ended fifty years ago and why don't you just buy some nice back-to-school items and keep your mouth shut. Time passes strangely, and is hurried along in various ways, and I just want it to be summer forever and ever and not have that 80's MTV Don Henley "Boys of Summer" song moving its melancholy tune through my head all the time. Alas.

First things first: I posted some camping recipes, here. Because Charlotte wanted them. But honestly? I tried to make them user-friendly even for the non-campers out there. And then I posted this grilled chicken, which, truth be told, is one of my ten best-ever recipes, and is one I've actually been looking forward to posting since I started this column. It is so, so good. And finally, today, I posted a great and super-easy tomato sauce. Which Ben ate for breakfast.

We've been working, reading, playing, bickering, eating, drinking, and lounging around the window air conditioning unit. The kids have each celebrated their "Special Day" which is a long-standing summer tradition. You get one day to do whatever you like, but with a couple of ground rules: only one thing that costs money, and just the family all day. I swear it is a huge case of spin, because we end up doing stuff we would have done anyway (play board games, rent Jungle Book, go to the park, make pancakes and popcorn), but somehow it all just seems incredibly fun and thrilling when it's your *Special Day*.

What are you doing that's special? (Besides looking at my butt in that picture.)


  1. We are making stamps by drawing on those easy carve blocks and carving them out. We are making friendship bracelets. We are wishing we had air conditioning or a pool membership. We are pretending that all the money-saving we're doing is fun (like making juice ice-pops in the freezer instead of buying ice cream and rewatching movies from the library instead of renting them!). We (the big 6 and 8 year olds and I) are watching the baby go from a docile sweet little thing to a fierce, determined, always-in-motion, whiny, curious, funny, somewhat-annoying, delightful 12-month old.

    Love hearing from you! Keep posting! (8 year old boy with super long hair needs ideas for it being out of his eyes, but still, um, not in a barrette or headband. Any clues?)

  2. I just want you to know that when you follow the link to the chicken, the header says "double-delicious grilled chicken blog" as if either the chicken has its own blog, or you write a blog all about grilled chicken! I had a good giggle while I sweated profusely.
    xoxo Joanna

  3. Catherine, You totally can can tomatoes (but freezing is fine, especially if you have room in the freezer) as the acid in them pretty much protects them from getting all botulism-y. I say that as if I was getting ready to can quarts and quarts of tomatoes but I'm not. However, in my CSA freewheeling life before children days, I did can many, many jars of tomatoes and if I was going to can one thing (which I'm not) it would be tomatoes. They're so beautiful in the jars and (relatively) easy.

  4. Not a special thing here. Just waiting two more weeks for my husband to come home and the kids going back to school, which started today.
    Great recipes!

  5. Tina G5:35 PM

    Just got back from Maine on Saturday- it was spectacular. Yesterday was our 11th wedding anniversary- amazing how those years just got eaten right up in the scheme of life. Right this moment I am outside on my patio drinking a beer because it is "cooler" outside (89) than in. Hmpf. Awaiting my husband who is bringing take-out. Yay. Life is good. Will be making that chicken asap!!!!

  6. Here's what we've been up to this summer. I promise the link is not pornspam. (sounds like a nasty sandwich filling, doesn't it?!)

  7. My kids love when I spell their names out with pancakes (and my son doesn't even like pancakes). We've just been having a lazy summer--no major projects. We're going camping in Shenandoah National Park next week, though!!! Yay!

  8. LisaAnn7:17 PM

    Doing an amazing amount of reading and library visiting. We have discovered Pippi Longstocking, in all her various forms (including those badly dubbed Swedish films from the 70's that I loved as a child!) We loved her so much that we are planning a visit to the Swedish American museum here in Chicago and saving our money for a Pippi doll.
    We have also visited an unprecedented number of museums by checking out free passes from the library.
    Love your blog and your recipes. Your donut cake was a big hit!!

  9. I want it to be summer forever too Catherine!

    We are taking long bike rides after breakfast each morning, painting rocks we keep digging up in our threadbare backyard, reading Curious George books before bed, and exploring different places to swim on the weekends.

    MMM those camping recipes look delicious!

  10. Anonymous9:37 PM

    Catherine, let it be known that fellow poster Laurie AND I want it to be summer forever also, mamacita!

    Okay, it's me, Liz, one of your biggest fans, with you from the start, used to post jokes about being one of your stalkers, 2kidslife I think was my post name.... I may have hit an all time stalker/fan/adorer of you all time high, or low, depending on how you look at it... (and please do not call FBI on me!)... but, hold the phone, I actually made my password to my email account your name! Aack! Don't run scared from room! hee hee! smiley face! I actually did it in homage to your writing skills, because I myself was an English major, wrote professionally for a newspaper, and have been moving incrementally (like glacier speed!) towards writing about motherhood and life myself! So not really stalker-ish, more inspirational-ish!

    And I am finally gonna admit that I am just now slowwwly healing my broken heart over your changing to a different type of journal topic.... I'm telling ya, man, I could not even post for months, such was my grief. (do not call police!) I've been reading ya since my babies were in belly, and they are now huge gigantic six 1/2 and almost 5. I miss miss miss super duper miss your posts. I still have ben and birdy on my favorites list, and I go back sometimes to be nostalgic.

    Wait! I am actually NOT meaning to sound depressing here! Just showing ya how much I love your writing. (am I supposed to use "ya" as a writer? um, no!)

    I am so glad and happy and grateful for you that your writing is going well, and that your clan of Michael, Ben and Birdy are all happy and healthy.

    Back to your post.... wow, Catherine, I feel that exact same wierd malaise today! Wierd coincidence, I was just today telling my girlfriends that I felt that way today!

    I have been avoiding anything about "back to school" because my "baby" is going to first grade. Ouch. Ouch. Words cannot really describe my sadness, sentimental-ness, feeling of an era is ending, has ended, my boy will be gone, what's next?!, college dorm?!..... oy vay, the heartache. this milestone sucks. If anyone feels the same, know I am right there with ya.

    Catherine, keep on writing, if for no other reason than we adoring fans, sister.

    My special summer thing is that I continue to take photos, photos, photos. There can never be too many for me.

    Ugh, I just deep sighed. As I say to my husband, "Can I just go back and get to relive the last 6 years over again?!" I'm home full time, and had to wait 4 years for my babies, with the assistance of much much much fertility assistance.... so I am beyond grateful.

    Wow, wayyy too long a post to ever be tolerated!

    Love love love and hugs to you and your darling clan today.

    (If I can't figure out my google account, this will say Anonymous, but it's me, 2kidslife.)

  11. Anonymous9:43 PM

    by the way, Tina G., Happy 11th Wedding Anniversary! It will be our 11th Wedding Anniversary this month! Time does fly, you are right! August 1998 was a good year for marriages, I guess! Take care, from "2kidslife" poster Liz.

  12. Catherine. Catherine. CATHERINE! You read my mind. That roasted tomato sauce is EXACTLY what I needed. I'm excited to try it. Thanks!

  13. Man, you have such sparkle Catherine... the summer banner, lobster while camping and now pancake names... it's just so sparkly! Yours is a tough act to follow!

  14. My husband left a month ago for a 2-month artist residency and a couple of weeks after he left, the AC broke (it's been over 100 degrees for I've lost count of how many days here in Austin), the washing machine broke, our neighbor's tree branch broke and fell in our yard breaking our fence, and while rushing to get off to camp/school - because we are always late, late, late - the car wouldn't start.

    I called us both in sick, put Willa in the bike trailer (she's 3 1/2) and rode my bike to the Alamo Drafthouse for a double feature of The Princess Bride and Up with popcorn, lemonade and pizza. Stopped at the pool for a swim on our way back, then we slept together in 'the big bed,' without any pretense of trying to get Willa to sleep in her own room. It really was an awesome day. Though I did have to deal with all of the sh* in the morning.

  15. maodileo12:03 AM

    Just came back from a lake in the woods where we swam and fought the big flies, the ones that bite. Tonight, after being welcomed by a smog alert on our way to the city, the children practiced their newly acquired ability to remain under water in the bathtube. And so we renamed it "Petit lac Écho" in honor of the big one where we did exploring all week. We laughed and I just wanted to be with them for a neverending summer, oh yes. Sigh.

    Going to see the new recipes, now!

  16. Anonymous12:35 AM

    I always think of this song, every August:

    . . . chilly now, end of summer, no more shiny, hot nights . . .

    -Joni Mitchell

  17. libramom10081:51 AM

    Went shopping with my sick 4 year old and overtired 3 month old to get ingredients for a portobello mushroom dinner and rice crispy treats (bc my 4 yo was SO good and I felt bad for shushing him all day, trying in vain to get the baby to sleep for more than 10 minute increments). Baby cried through dinner so my husband (who actually wanted to go running and not eat portobellos after all, until I guilted him into it) and I took turns comforting him. Supermom that I am, still made time for the treats, but absentmindedly put the hot pan on the table to scoop marshmallow mix into cereal, which 4 yo promptly burned his finger on trying to scoop out the sweet goo. Ouch, what a day! Kids are now blissfully asleep, hubby is working out and I'm writing. And tomorrow is another day, hallelujah!

    On another note entirely, Catherine, have you or would you ever teach an online writing class? I'm sure you would have many takers.

  18. It has to do with giving them the power to make the decisions for everyone. We do Special Sundays, which is the same kind of thing, each week alternating the Chooser, and they LOVE it. We do pretty normal stuff, but it seems extra special on Sundays.

  19. I got some mangoes in my CSA box this week (didn't realize they were local to Chicago, hmmm) so we made the Mango Fro-Yo pops over the weekend. My 9-year-old deemed them "too yogurty" so I added a peach to the mix. They were so delicious (despite said 9-year-old's declaration that they were "still too yogurty").

    No school till after Labor Day here so trying to soak up the last of summer. No more camp for the kiddos just lounging around. Maybe we'll squeeze in a few special days.

  20. I do the same thing, end up buying the kids swimsuits at the end of summer. Hmmmm....
    And the Boys of Summer, me too.
    The school year started last week here, but we are still taking nice afternoon walks since the weather is lovely.

  21. Um, last year in Goa we couldn't find good bathing suits so my boys ended up wearing their undies all season, which is TOTALLY acceptable here, judging from the many men on the beach in tighty whities. At least my boys were in boxers, not to mention they were six and THREE, not fifty. I also don't think the boys were aware that they were wearing undies instead of bathing suits, so shhhh.

    I want to say thank you for: the idea of a special day. Awesomeness.
    and drawing attention to your bottom in the pic, because that made me chortle.

    xo- love the pics on your food site, by the way. and the captions!

  22. Teafortwo12:55 PM

    Last time it was quinoa the day I bought a box, and now it's ripe Roma tomatoes. I was just out in the garden thinking I need to harvest a bunch tomorrow morning before the mockingbirds take them all. I love the idea of roasting the tomatoes. Tomorrow morning after getting the boy off to school, I'm all over it!

    Ah, bickering. We're doing a lot of that around here too. Preschool can't start soon enough for Boy #2.

  23. Jenni3:08 PM

    I had to tell you that we made and LOVED the chicken. You've never steered us wrong on a recipe, ever! One of my faves is still the smoky beans. mmmmm. I think I'll make this chicken recipe again soon...though my son made quite a production out of eating the marinated-once-only chicken. Really, his dramatics are getting to be too much for me. May I borrow your oh so well behaved children, just for an afternoon, so they can teach my son some manners?

  24. Catherine,
    Please tell me that you are writing a cookbook. I can only print out and holepunch so many pages. I love your column and your writing and love who you are as a mother and wife. Thanks for all your gifts.

  25. We're exploring the foresty corners of our new yard -- we have some awesome quiet, hidden areas that are just right for imaginary play.

    We're also working our way through a backlog of your Dalai Mama recipes. Mandatory green sauce, donut cake, and double-delicious chicken have all become part of the permanent rotation at our house.

    I strongly suspect that the tomato sauce will join the group. :)

  26. Glad to see I am not the only one who lets the kids use shot glasses as "little cups." Unless that's not a shot glass. In which case, I would never let my kids use shot glasses as "little cups."

  27. See now? I did not even notice that was your butt until you said so, and now I'm looking at it.

  28. Catherine, I made the tomato sauce and it was truly delicious. looked really weird. The colour was more orange and creamy, like I had added milk to it (which I didn't). Is that strange? Tasted great, but looked weird. Any idea how to make it, um, red?

  29. ah, I always forget about this blog and then come back and am so happy I did. What is wrong with me!? Helloooo... RSS Feed for 500!

    Anyhoo... this summer has been special because I have not beaten or maimed my children, but instead learned to love them even more - quirks and all.

    And it's even MORE special now because school starts Wed. Thank GOD.

    I'll be back.

    PS: Where was I when you wrote for BabyCenter? I, too, wrote there for almost 3 years. Obviously you wrote before I got there, but I wish I had read your stuff when it was current. It's so fun. Bye for now! Andrea

  30. What did we do? We WITHDREW OUR KIDS FROM SCHOOL! So our summer has been busy with homeschool plans and getting their learning room ready.

    We also have been sick a lot. That's special, right?

  31. Hmmm...I had a special fight with my husband about the proper way to fold the landscaping plastic. I just think very hot summer yardwork, pregnancy hormones, and bossy husbands don't mix. But it did result in a special new Make-Up Bread & Butter Pudding recipe that is so delicious I secretly ate all the leftovers today.

  32. Hey Catherine,

    I hope my note doesn't get burried down here because now it's my turn to thank you: for inspiring our fun factory tour of Vermont! We never ate so much dairy and chocolate! And if you haven't been there, we highly recommend the Skinny Pancake in Burlington for crepes. Something tells me you'd like them. (There was yummy local bacon served with them to make them even more scrumptious).

    Also wanted to mention that I make a roasted tomato sauce very much like yours only it includes capers, whose saltiness I'm sure you'd enjoy! Great in an italian spaghetti sauce...Sadly we had to burn all our blight-ridden tomatoes at our CSA. A tragedy! I usually freeze some sauce for the winter, but alas we will be eating Contadina this year.

    Enjoy yours,

    ps: the frozen yogurt pops: Huge hit! Thank you! Mango and blueberry are tied for our favorite flavors here.

  33. Megan5:08 PM

    We made double delicious grilled chicken while we were camping, along with apple crisp in our dutch oven and roasted corn-on-the-cob. So so good. The kids can't wait to go away again, so we can make our special camping dinner.

  34. My husband is coming back TODAY and I'm making the grilled chicken. Thanks for the recipe!!!!

  35. Catherine,

    I second the online writing class recommendation. I'd sign up in a heartbeat!

  36. Megan9:07 PM

    so really, here's the thing about canning tomatoes.... (Just spent the entire day doing this---started off as special and finished up as not so...)...if you do it right, no one dies. No one gets even a little bit sick, unless maybe they are feeling a overfull. Also, the kids love peeling them, and smashing them, and throwing the rotten ones across the yard.

  37. You and your crafty cooking! Just look at that beautiful birdy-licious pancake!

    I hear you on the "Boys of Summer"-- I'm still in "the Boys are Back in Town" mode-- and I'm not ready to let go.

    And I heart your recipes AND your idea for "special day," which I promptly stole for our own use.

    This summer we spent doing a lot nothing and everything (as in, I sat my butt on the beach with a beer, and got very misty quite often at the fact that Noah is now old enough to participate in big boat sail racing all on his own. without me. in a big lake.) Oh, and I moved to a very fancy new blog site::

    Sigh. It goes so quickly, this time with our wee ones-- so here's wishing you a few more rounds of "Summer of '69" and "Jack and Diane" and "Born to Run." Um, okay. Sorry-- I've been jamming to the soft rock station lately;)

  38. Anonymous5:57 PM

    Hope you 4 are having a fun weekend, Catherine!

    From 2kidslife!

    Okay, I am a smidgy bit nervous that Michael said to you "Um, Catherine, that 2kidslife woman is wayyyyy toooooo stalkerish for me, with her admission that she uses your name for her password on her email!! You must now never again post on your blog!" :-)

    Good news, your first and last name, much like mine, are wayyy toooo looooong to be an easy password, so please rest assured, our beloved Michael, that my password is changed now, officially! :-)

    (wait, "our beloved Michael" sounds too stalkerish also! ;-)

    what is it like to have such adoring fans, Catherine the Great Writer?! :-)

    okay, cuckoo silly me signing off for now!

    (hey, other fans, is it just me, or does it feel painfully looooong since she posted her happy and funny words??!! Oh, she is busy living her life! I get it! :-)

    hugs to you all today,

    (I will someday figure out how to post with my id thingy...)

  39. Hi Catherine,

    I just made your roasted tomato sauce last night and served it for lunch today to my hubby and my father. They loved it (me too!:-) It was beyond fantastic--best sauce EVER! I'll be several more batches to freeze this weekend. Thanks for another great recipe.