Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Summer of Unexpected Surprises

So, I hear that the official First Day of Summer has come... and past. (I didn't actually hear it, but rather surmised it from Friday's Google cover page... oh how many obscure holidays and forgettable birthdays would be lost without Google's homage.)

Well, I can't say that it feels much like Summer because I am, indeed, teaching Summer School. I know it sounds redundant to say teaching "Summer" School doesn't feel like "Summer" but my obvious point is that I am not yet frolicking in those "Three Reasons I Teach" that most teachers herald (June, July, August). Perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised that I am teaching summer classes considering I submitted the request to do so. However, for the past two years, the class I was assigned to teach did not have enough students enrolled and wasn't offered. This year, I mainly made "the cut" because some of the shifting around of teachers due to those leaving.  It actually worked out that I am only teaching one class, 8:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. So it is only monopolizing a few hours of my day (because let's face it, I'd be in bed until 10 otherwise), and still giving me a little "bank" for the summer months.

Last year, I made the "Summer Bucket List." I checked in on its progress a few times over the summer. Some goals I accomplished, others I did not. I did not feel particularly upset about the unmet goals- some of which I made the conscious choice to veto, yet I did feel a need to justify them here on the blog. So, I am feeling a little torn about whether or not I want to go the "Bucket List" route this year.

Rather than checking items off a list, I have had a few unexpected surprises so far, only a couple of days into the "Official" Summer season. In sitting at the kitchen table working one night, I noticed the abundance of lightning bugs outside the window. So, I decided that I wanted to make sure that I took Benjamin out one night this summer to catch fireflies. Except... my vision of this involved a whole day's worth of activities including going to the library to check out a book with fireflies... and even making firefly cookies. (What firefly cookies look like and how they were actually going to be made, I couldn't tell you... and no, I share neither genetic chromosomes nor a zip code with Martha Stewart.)

Unexpectedly though, when Jason and I returned from a Wal-Mart run Friday night, Benjamin came outside to "help" carry in the groceries, which was really an excuse to get out and explore the yard more. Without any prompting from me, he discovered on his own the bed of fireflies that nest beneath our Magnolia tree.

It was still light outside and the amount of lightning bugs was uncountable. I wish I could have captured it better on camera. Cameron came out with a Mason jar and they entrapped a bunch to watch throughout the night. If you look past the boys, you can see the small streaks of white, which are the lighted bugs.

Unfortunately, the reality of fireflies in a jar wasn't as exciting as we had imagined it would be... even after vigorously shaking the jar and blowing in the punctured holes. (I know, I know... poor bugs.)
I donned Benjamin the "Bug Whisperer" because the fireflies would just fly to him and land on his outreached hand. Jason had commented before on how he could spot a ladybug from across the yard. He is definitely "typical boy" when it comes to liking bugs... thankfully, the cuter ones. Today, his affinity for nature showed again as a butterfly landed on his finger while outside playing. Jason commented that I may be raising a Tree Hugger. That, of course, would make me very happy.
On a similar note to Tree Hugging, Jason has decided that he wants to use more in-season local produce in our menu-planning. This too, of course, is something that would make me very happy (both using fresh produce and the menu-planning... and, of course, Jason doing the cooking). Considering that we live in such a rural area, you would think this would not be a challenge... you would be wrong. Jason made a Facebook post on a local on-line yard sale kind of site asking where he could buy fresh produce since the very publicized Farmer's Market we have downtown is a total flop... unless perhaps Avon perfumes fit your Saturday morning produce shopping needs. Sadly, and rather ironically, your options for buying produce fresh from the farm are greater the further you get from the country and the closer you get to the more city-like area around here.
He did, however, get many recommendations for the Farmer's Market in Smithfield, which is about 30-40 minutes away. Saturday morning, Jason and I decided to drive out of town and check it out. I remember having driven through Smithfield once before on my daily commutes to college when we first moved here. I remember thinking then that I would really like to take the time to stroll through the town and get to know it better. That would have been over eight years ago, and I never did follow through on that idea.
I really missed out! During recent trips to Staunton for the Shakespeare class and to Harrisonburg for the Capstone English class, I raved how much I loved the towns and wanted to go back. Well, Smithfield had all that I loved about them... and more. It reminded me of St. Augustine, where we honeymooned... except without the ghost tours... and they really need a ghost tour. The downtown area has stone streets and historic buildings that are just crying for a ghost tour. Being the "Ham Capital" of Virginia (the world?) it also had a lot more PORK than the other three towns.
We stopped for lunch before hitting the Farmer's Market. I thought I had found the perfect place. It was a converted house (or maybe public building) with a funky paint job and displayed art; the menu was very fru-fru and they had an attached bakery with fresh loaves of bread for sale. However... the customer service was deplorable. From waiting forever in being acknowledged, to being told repeatedly (and rather snidely) that they were no longer serving breakfast (perhaps if we hadn't waited so long I could have gotten my crab omelet?), to sitting with nary a waitress to ever come by.
So, I called on my good friend Siri who told us that we were 0.0 miles from the next restaurant, and we looked out the window to see the Taste of Smithfield, so we ditched the pretentious café and crossed the street, which proved to be a very favorable decision.

Jason got the Pork Loin sandwich, which the chef kept the top bun off because he was so tickled the batter made it look like the shape of a pig. I got the Spinach & Bacon Quiche. We both got a side of mac & cheese... with crumbled bacon. We decided to forgo the dessert, among the offerings brownie... with bacon bits. Yeah, Smithfield? They love their pork.

The Farmer's Market was a bit smaller than I had hoped, and did not have as many produce vendors as I would have wished. However, we did finally arrive there about 30 minutes before the scheduled closing time, so I think we may have missed out on some of the offerings. The overall vibe was nice though. It was very "Street Market." There were some artisans mixed in with their crafty wear, other type food vendors, and even live music. I was much less enthralled by the meat farmers than Jason was. As  general rule, I prefer not to see pictures of my dinner grazing in green pastures before it makes it to my plate.

Overall though, Smithfield was another Unexpected Surprise for the Summer. I want to make definite plans to go back there soon and spend a leisurely day visiting all the antique stores and thrift shops and art galleries... pork consumption optional.

Thus currently, I believe my stance is not to schedule the season off a Bucket List and be open to the Unexpected Surprises this Summer has to offer.

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