Plan a summer break in the backyard

The last week of May already. I hope you are taking advantage of each and every day of this spring season. It is hard to really enjoy spring when that old cold air keeps sneaking into our region. The flowerbeds aren’t completed, nothing is planted in the garden, the berry patches haven’t been completely cleaned out for the coming summer, and the raccoons have eaten all the newly planted asparagus. We did hear that we need to plant mint around the asparagus to keep those critters away from it and hope to do that as the new plants are put into the ground. Maybe you are doing better than we are here on the hilltop. Summer will be here and gone before I catch up if a miracle doesn’t happen. Will anyone know about these little concerns a hundred years from now? No, and that is why I am not getting too stressed about it. The intention here in Podunk Hollow is to do what is convenient and enjoyable and ignore the comments flying around here about what I haven’t done. Husband Norm is reluctantly accepting my attitude.

As we go through life, we have to accept what is thrown at us. One very sad thing was the lost battle with cancer by a very special person in my family’s life. The grandfather of two of my granddaughters was buried a week ago. Albert Bonner was a warm and loving person and his family and friends will hold his memory in their lives forever. He and Bonnie raised five children and the entire family – children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and in-laws – are a close-knit family, an example of what families should be. Rest in peace, Albert. You did a good job on this earth and your presence will be missed by all who knew you.

Last Monday, the women of Beverly Methodist Church held their annual Mother-Daughter-Friend Spring Salad Supper. Many women in the area enjoyed tables laden with all kinds of salads and desserts. A skit about the founding of Beverly, the third settlement in this area, reminded all about the pioneer history in this area. The food was wonderful – a cookbook with the recipes of all those delicious dishes would be a treasure. This is an idea worth passing on to other groups in this historic area of our country. It was a chance to see most of the neighbors, chat with friends, learn a little history, and enjoy great food. We don’t visit with others as much as we used to do and it is to our healthy benefit to do so as we grow older. Helps us live a long life, the doctors say – just don’t pick an argument.

This is a weekend to honor our veterans. The parades in every community commemorate the ultimate sacrifices so many have made so that we can live in a free country. Freedom is never free. Too often those who protect us have not been appreciated properly by our fellow citizens. Fly the flag. Be proud of being an American. Say the Pledge of Allegiance. Let a tear come to your eye as you hear “Taps.” If you don’t want to do these things, it would be better if you found some other country in which to live. If you are a true patriot, I hope you are having a wonderful Memorial Day weekend; if you aren’t, I hope you choke on your grilled American food.

Of course, this is a time to honor our family members who have passed on. It is a sobering thing to visit the cemeteries where those we loved and miss are memorialized. We have to acknowledge that we, too, will someday be gone and that is hard. Remember the happy times as the flowers are placed on the graves and know that the tear that falls is a tear of a happy memory.

Memorial weekend is also a time for us to enjoy the present and make memories for the future. Most of us will have the grill going to start the summer change of eating habits. If someone in your family thinks he/she is the best griller, let them have that privilege – it relieves you of a lot of work for the next few months. Food does seem to taste better if it is cooked outside. Be mindful of the “food-health” dangers such as letting anything made with mayo set out in the sun all afternoon. You want to enjoy the food – not get sick from food poisoning. Try to have “refrigerator foods” made up and ready to serve anytime, like a bean salad with a vinegar base. With hot dogs or hamburgers in the freezer, you can have an “outdoor” meal in minutes (if your grill is a gas one.). Try grilling summer vegetables and even fruits. The magazines this time of year are full of new ways to cook on the grill. Copy their ideas for ways to make your family favorites. The recipes today may give you some ideas to try. The Farmers’ Markets will soon be having that all-time favorite – zucchini – and it is an easy vegetable to grill (as well as to use in a hundred different ways.). Thick slices of grilled sweet onion is one of the favorites here on the hill, too. Hot weather calls for salads, so be sure to keep the fresh ingredients for those on hand for quick and refreshing meals. The iced tea pitcher is always full here in Podunk Hollow. If you make a simple syrup and keep it on hand in the fridge, it is easy to sweeten that tea to personal taste. If you like lemon in your tea, add some lemon juice to that simple syrup. Do something special each week and you will have a summer to remember. Plan on some vacation time, even if it is only camping in the back yard. Everyone needs a break in the summer. Enjoy the rest of Memorial Day Weekend as a start. Give your kids a hug. God Bless.




(From Dottie Rankin – Cape Coral, FL)

Yellow cake mix, made as package directions

1 can (20-oz.) crushed pineapple, not drained

1/2 cup sugar

1 box (6-oz.) instant vanilla pudding, made as directed on box

1 box (8-oz.) Cool Whip, thawed

Make cake as directed on box and bake in 9×13-inch prepared pan. Cool in pan on wire rack. When cool, poke holes all over with a fork. Bring pineapple and sugar to a boil in a saucepan and let cool slightly. Make pudding as directed on package. Pour pineapple over cake. Spread pudding over all and chill well. Just before serving, spread thawed Cool Whip over all.

NOTE: I use this method to make other desserts;



Chocolate cake mix

Cherry pie filling

Chocolate pudding

Cool Whip



Yellow cake mix

Pineapple, as above – optional

Lemon pie filling

Cool Whip or Meringue – quickly and lightly browned




Six medium potatoes (boiled in the jackets)

Six slices bacon

3/4 cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons flour

1 to two tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

Three-fourths cup water

1/3 cup vinegar

Boil potatoes whole just until tender. Do not overcook. Peel potatoes and slice thinly. Fry bacon slowly in skillet, and then drain on paper towels. Saut onion in bacon fat until golden brown. Blend in flour, sugar, salt, celery seeds and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring until smooth and bubbly. Stir in water and vinegar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly, until thickened and clear, about one minute. Gently stir in potatoes and the crumbled bacon pieces. Serve hot or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Then, heat thoroughly over low heat, stirring occasionally and very gently.

NOTE: I use caraway seeds instead of celery seeds and sometimes add thin slices of kosher dill pickles.



6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

3 tablespoons commercial steak sauce

2 tablespoons vinegar

1/2 cup butter or margarine

Juice of 2 lemons

Several dashes Tabasco sauce

Melt butter and then stir in all other ingredients. This sauce can be used for chicken, beef, or spareribs and since it has no sugar or tomatoes, it doesn’t scorch or char like regular sauces do during long periods of cooking.



(Also makes a good marinade)

1 pint wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons onion salt

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients and let stand several hours or overnight to blend flavors. If used as a marinade, let meat marinate for four or five hours before grilling.



1 can (6-oz.) frozen orange juice concentrate

3/4 cup water

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup wine vinegar

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon seasoned pepper

Thaw orange juice concentrate. Add remaining ingredients and stir until mixed. This is especially good on both chicken and pork. Try it on vegetables, too.

Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.