La Bonne Vie: A Fourth of July weekend spent with family

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By: Rachel Shenk

Photo supplied/Rachel Shenk

From covered and grey skies to lovely blue, from sticky and humid days to comfortable ones, July is bringing it on. In the city, gardens are lush with flowers, and our deck tomatoes are starting to color. At the park, it is a jungle in the back woods, and wild flowers are prolific. The raspberries are ready for picking. It could not be more perfect weather for time spent outside.

This week, we are lucky. Just as Venus and Jupiter come together and the first full moon of July arrives, our family is coming together from both sides of the country. It’s not every day we can make it happen. But as the Fourth of July creeps up, plans that were laid now become reality. From Golden, Colo., and Baltimore, Md., our daughters arrive to spend the weekend. We have had some time with our grandson. Now we also meet up with the granddog.

As I work the dough and finish shaping my pastries, I find it hard to focus only on one thing. My job requires long hours, and I cannot take time off totally on a whim. So I make peace with the time I will have to spend with the two lovelies when they get here. Our walk at the park is a little shorter tonight so we can meet up with them at the Goshen Brewing Company patio. Both our dogs are allowed on the patio there and with the weather fully cooperating, we pull up and see our clan seated together at one of the outdoor tables.

It’s time to catch up and sip beer and soak in the last rays of the sun. The dogs are cooperating and so are the other customers around us. Our grandson, Jasper, is drawing out for our son-in-law his latest play creations. Our daughters are discussing food and beer. The dogs lie mostly quiet. Jim and I interact with all as needed. But for me, I just sit there and listen and enjoy. A lot of memories are tied to these two women, and to see them now enjoying each other and basking in their own skin makes me happy. I forget the deadlines of baking, writing and normal routines.

And for these few precious hours, we are family.

One of my easy go-to recipes for summer family gatherings is an old standard: sloppy joes. The page of the cookbook I get the recipe from is well worn and opens right to the spot, though mostly these days, I know the recipe by heart or make my own additions.

Here’s to some happy gatherings your way!

Sloppy Joes

  • 2 lbs. of ground sirloin
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 c. organic catsup
  • 6 T. brown sugar
  • 6 T. vinegar
  • 2 T. Dijon stoneground mustard
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Fry the meat and onion until nicely browned. Mix the other ingredients in a small bowl. Add to the meat and onion mixture. Simmer on low about 15 minutes, until flavors blend nicely. Serve on homemade buns or bread.

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