Sharing some of the tales told around my table is a lot of fun; especially some of my childhood adventures. Except for the on-going trauma and drama of being a middle child, mine was pretty much an idyllic childhood. However, I have to admit that, from time to time, my fingers hesitate on the keyboard. Although I never ran with scissors, I worry that some readers might be horrified by the easy-going nature of my childhood.
Compared to today’s moms and dads, mine were the epitome of slap-dash. We now lovingly refer to it as the Joe and Libby Nye School of Negligent Parenting. Yes, they loved my sister, brother and I. They still do; but there was no hovering or helicoptering. They didn’t shuttle us from one play date to the next and then on to a never-ending lineup of practices and lessons. They simply told us, in no uncertain terms, to turn off the television and go out to play. And we did.
That said; we were never far from watchful, caring eyes. The moms in our neighborhood were mostly stay-at-home and all their kitchen windows faced the street. These women knew each other’s children and all our quirks. They knew who took jelly with their peanut butter and who took fluff. They even knew that I was the only kid in the United States who didn’t like peanut butter sandwiches, with or without fluff or jelly. They knew who was having trouble with math and who needed to work on the beanbag toss. They tut-tutted any mishaps and applauded our successes. They still do.
These women were more or less everywhere, or at least it seemed that way. Whenever we tried to make a break from the straight and narrow, one of them would appear to give us (and our conscience) a nudge. It didn’t matter if we were throwing crab apples at the new kid, cutting the lift line at the ski hill or hitchhiking; someone’s mother always turned up. Then, gently but firmly, she would ask, “Does your mother know what you are doing?” Except in the case of hitchhiking – then it was more like, “Get in this car this minute! Does your mother know what you’re doing!?!” When we were teenagers, we were convinced that these women were nosey busybodies, a collective pain in our you know whats. Years later, we figured out that they were just looking out for us.
In the summer on Pleasant Lake, Mom and her friends gathered every afternoon at the beach. Known as The Ladies of the Beach, they pulled their beach chairs into The Circle to chat and share ideas, large and small. Yes, even in the summer, these women followed our progress, our triumphs and mishaps. We could run, but we couldn’t hide.
These Ladies were better than Homeland Security when it came to sharing information. Much better. There were daily updates on who passed their raft test, had a wicked case of poison ivy or a troublesome earache. They knew who fell off their bicycle or into the pond. When we got older, they fretted about who we were dating or if we were dateless. They wondered and worried if we were sneaking a few beers on the beach at night. Instead of sending our dads down to check, they let us experiment and suffer that first hangover.
As time went on, the Ladies of the Beach knew where we went to college and our majors. Later, they followed job changes, moves, marriages and the blessed arrival of each other’s grandchildren. When our lives became more complex, it was harder to keep track but they did their best.
Sadly, many of them are gone but we were more than fortunate to have The Ladies of the Beach in our lives. They encouraged us, cheered us and celebrated with us. An African proverb tells us that it takes a village to raise a child. On Pleasant Lake, it takes a Circle.
I wish you all a wonderful summer surrounded by friends and family. Bon appétit!
Brownies are everyone’s favorite portable dessert. Next time, swirl in cheesecake batter for a more than special treat. Enjoy!
Makes 24 brownies
Start by making the brownie layer:
14 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon espresso powder or instant coffee
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch pan.
Stirring frequently, heat the butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over very low heat. Remove the pan from heat when the butter and chocolate are almost melted. Whisk until completely melted and well combined. Cool for 10 minutes.
Whisk the sugar, espresso powder and salt into the chocolate. Whisking constantly, add the eggs one at a time. Whisk in the vanilla. Add the flour and stir until just combined. Spread the brownie batter in the prepared baking pan.
Now make the cheesecake batter and swirl it into the brownies:
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Put the cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy and well combined. Add the egg and vanilla and continue beating until smooth and well combined.
Drop dollops of cheesecake batter on top of the brownie batter and swirl with a knife.
Finally, garnish and bake:
1 cup your favorite chocolate chips, dark, semisweet or milk
Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the top of the cheesecake brownies.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick just comes out clean. Do not over bake! Cool and cut into squares.
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One Year Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter
Two Years Ago – Grilled Swordfish with Olive & Caper Salsa
Three Years Ago – Grilled Red Potatoes with Lemon-Garlic-Herb Oil
Four Years Ago – Tandoori Chicken
Five Years Ago – Blueberry Muffins
Six Years Ago – Peanut Butter Brownies
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
Do you have any special summer memories? Feel free to share. Let’s start a conversation.
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015