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A little of this, a little of that

By Kathy Little

Mon, Aug 25th, 2014
Posted in All Columnists

“Girls just want to have fun,” I explained to my husband when he asked about our latest girls’ weekend. For the last six years my three sisters and two nieces and myself have gone on a vacation together. Our male counterparts who used to pout about this outing have adjusted but are still puzzled about why. I thought my explanation was self-explanatory. However, my analytical husband immediately asked me to define “fun”. Then he wanted to know the “price tag for fun”.

I stalled by answering that the definition of “fun” varies from person to person. He then pinned me down by asking, specifically, what female members in my family do to have “fun”. Well that was an easy question. We talk, shop, eat, drink adult beverages, and then we talk, shop, eat, and drink adult beverages. Sometimes we vary this routine by going to a concert, a play, an amusement park or take a trolley or walking tour to learn more about the history of the area. A hot tub or swimming pool greatly enhances our “fun”!

Since our group now spans the ages from 66-21 and must be within a budget, the planning is tricky. How to keep everyone happy? Each year a different sister or niece plans the itinerary and the budget and the menus. We rent vacation homes so we can cook our own food so a dishwasher is appreciated but not necessary. Then we look for 3-4 bedrooms and 2-3 bathrooms. We travel in a sister’s seven passenger van to save on gas and so that we can talk non-stop, and do a wild grocery shopping spree before we reach our destination which is kept secret by the master planner. Not all sisters handle the suspense well! My sister, Julie, who as a child would search for all the Christmas presents, unwrap them, rewrap them and then feign surprise on Christmas Eve has a particularly difficult time with this concept.

This year we rented a lovely home outside of Prescott, Wis., so we could enjoy Stillwater, Minn. It had multiple level decks, with four bedrooms and three bathrooms and an in ground swimming pool! We could sit on the deck under an umbrella and watch the river view. We also had use of a canoe and a motorboat. This was the best rental, yet.

We ate like queens: lasagna, bacon asparagus quiche, Mediterranean quiche with sausage, black olives, and feta; blueberry French toast, wedge salads, a shrimp and crab boil plus snacks. I know you are thinking :CALORIES. I am sure we worked them all off shopping and swimming. It’s too bad that you can’t wear off calories by talking or we would all be extremely skinny! We also ate huge bowls of fresh fruits and vegetables so we were eating somewhat healthy.

This year the week-end stretched to three nights and four days and included a gourmet picnic at the St. Croix Winery with wine, of course, and an afternoon painting pottery at an art studio in Stillwater. All of this, including gas, for just $300 each! However the talking of family past and present was priceless with the older and younger comparing perspectives in a loving and playful environment.

My husband is convinced that this “weekend” will eventually stretch to a week. Besides he gets to enjoy his own brand of “fun” while I am gone: eating Polish sausage, steak, olive cheese puffs, without being nagged about “eating his fruits and vegetables”. He also got to watch a marathon of “Storage Wars” which he adores, and I despise.

In fact the wine server at the wine tasting (obviously a very bitter bachelor), implied that we were giving our male counterparts a gift by leaving them alone for a few days. He was so not funny.

My niece, Danielle, whose grandparents were farmers, brought fresh vegetables from her garden including black cherry tomatoes. These babies have almost a plum-like flavor. My family goes “nuts” for tomatoes, fresh or home canned. Since I don’t can, I use this method for preserving tomatoes.

Slow Roasted Romas

12 roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves finely chopped.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place the tomatoes cut side up in a single layer on a baking sheet. I line the sheet with parchment paper. Heat the oil in a small skillet. Add the chopped garlic and sauté one minute. Drizzle the oil and garlic over the tomatoes and sprinkle lightly with coarse/sea salt. Place the tomatoes in the oven and bake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The tomatoes should retain their shape. Let cool. These tomatoes are not quite as dried as sun-dried tomatoes. They have a distinctive texture and intensity of their own and add color to salads or pastas.

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