Apparently it is possible to get cabin fever when it’s 90 degrees.
If you’ve ever wondered what teachers do with their free time in July, here’s a snapshot:
We get up. It is 6 a.m. The sun is up, but barely. Can’t tell yet if it’s going to rain or be really hot. We go downstairs, make coffee and feed the cat in silence. Dan brings in the newspaper and we sit across from each other sipping and reading. The children are not awake yet.
“Got any money?” I ask Dan.
“Nope. But I will after I sell this tractor I’ve been working on. (Eyes the door to the garage.) I need to go outside for a minute …”
Footsteps above. They’re up.
Annabelle thunders down the stairs, carrying a blanket.
“I’m mad that you stole my idea,” she says to Oliver, throwing a scornful glance over her shoulder at him as she brushes past me toward the TV, ready to start her “Jessie” watching marathon for the day.
Oliver arrives and plants himself in front of me, hopping up and down.
“What are we doing today? Can we go to the pet store?” he asks.
“The pet store doesn’t open for four hours,” is what I tell him, because it’s true.
So the other day we all went berry picking on a set of trails located behind a retirement community near our home. Once we got past a large patch of knee-high grass and weeds where I thought surely one of us would be bitten by a snake, we came upon a thicket of bushes loaded with red raspberries glittering like jewels in the sunlight, and we started filling our buckets.
Dan and I exchanged words about which one of us was going to pick more berries and who could bake the better cobbler. We’re competitive sometimes because we have a few things in common, although a passion for small engine repair isn’t one of them. He was winning on the berry picking. He usually wins, partly because he cares more about winning. He said something to indicate that because he is from West Virginia and I’m not, officially, his cobbler would be better than mine.
Things were going too smoothly; we needed a conflict and Annabelle provided it.
A bug! Not one, but two brown bugs in her berry bucket!
I removed the bugs without studying them. Could these be ticks, I wondered. I’m not very good at identifying bugs or poisonous plants. Truth be told, I’m not very outdoorsy. I started to feel sweaty and itchy. There were berries left to be picked, but we had more than enough for a cobbler, so we started home. Bugs aside, the activity was pretty wholesome. I felt like a talking bear in a children’s book.
Back at home, Oliver filled a bowl with berries, topped it with sugar, called it his “secret recipe” and declared it delicious. Annabelle was convinced to try it. She ate about half a bowl of berries, but Oliver went back for seconds, thirds, and more servings. At age 9, he eats every hour, so it’s nice to have free berries nearby.
That night, I woke up thinking I felt a bug crawling on my neck. I sat up, went into the bathroom, and stared in the mirror, thinking of ticks. Am I being paranoid?
The next morning, Dan still hadn’t made his cobbler, so Oliver and I grabbed one of my cookbooks and got to work. Forty-five minutes later, our masterpiece was ready to eat.
The cobbler turned out better than I’d hoped; I’ve included the recipe at the end of the story.
The only trouble was that Annabelle found another one of the brown bugs in her cobbler.
“It’s bug cobbler,” Dan said.
I would have taken a picture, but of course I didn’t know when it came out of the oven that there was a bug inside which would supply the central theme of the story. The insect really didn’t ruin the deliciousness of the pastry for me, that wonderful feeling of accomplishment that you get from picking free berries and baking a cobbler from scratch with your kids. It only transformed this piece from the standard “Let Me Tell You About The Homemade Dessert I Made” blog post into the Southern Gothic version of that.
Speaking of Southern Gothic, my mom has this habit of going to a thrift store located in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia and bringing home like 16 bags of used toys at a time. She and her two friends go there once a week and fill their bags with stuff they buy for next to nothing. Then she gives the toys to my kids and they bring them home.
Well, last week she handed me four new bags of used stuffed animals and I kind of lost it. I had this little adolescent meltdown about how I have the messiest house of anyone I’ve ever met.
“Why, Mom? I just want to know why you do this. It’s been going on for like five years and I need to know why,” I said.
She responded that I was simply an ungrateful, uptight and melodramatic person. Then she started giving me a guilt trip that had something to do with pedicures, although I informed her that this was a mistake, as no one but me has painted my toenails since before Oliver was born.
Speaking of Oliver, that kid has turned every flat surface in our house into some kind of wildlife habitat. When the cat came in yesterday, he hopped right up on the coffee table and started inspecting the little terrarium home of Oliver’s fire-bellied toad. I had to put the toad on top of the China cabinet in the dining room to keep him safe from the cat. At the time, Oliver and Annabelle were with my mom. They arrived shortly thereafter and Mom handed me a sheet cake she had baked with the children. I took it and said “thank you,” feeling very mature and rational.
As soon as she left, the kids started demanding cake and chips as I attempted to prepare fish and potatoes for dinner. I had to put the cake out of reach, on top of the China cabinet, because that’s what China cabinets are for in our household – cake and fire-bellied toads.
Bug Cobbler recipe
2 1/2 cups of berries
1 cup of flour
½ cup of soft butter or margarine
¼ cup of sugar
½ cup of brown sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
1 dead brown bug (optional)
Directions: Pour berries into a greased baking dish. Mix butter, sugar, flour, and salt together until crumbly and spread over berries. Bake at 350 degrees until the topping is lightly browned.