The Pirates of the Captain’s Backyard

It’s after Memorial Day. It’s the first day of June. College students are home. Teachers are done. So it doesn’t matter that the calendar insists on a June 21 starting date  — around here we know that summer already is underway. Luckily, I’ve got the best thing for summer: A 3-year-old grandson with a knows-no-limits imagination. And a big backyard. Here we’re playing pirates. His ship is the slide/treehouse on the left and mine is the slide I’m (uncomfortably) sitting on, on the right. First we had to run around the yard looking for treasure, with a lot of “arrrr, matey” and other piratey phrases. Then we got on our ships to sail toward Treasure Island, since the whole running-around-the-yard thing didn’t yield much, gold-wise. We did find a silver and red pinwheel, which pleased me much more than it did Capt. (Hook) Adorable. Since I was having trouble finding Treasure Island — didn’t pirates have GPS? — the good Captain literally jumped ship and came over to help me. Good thing, too. No telling where I might have ended up. But perhaps Treasure Island is there over that fence? Naw — it’s just the neighbors’ driveway.

And in more “welcome, summer” news, click here for some great Southern recipes for the best of hot-weather eating, from the blender to the grill to the dip bowl. No oven required.

Meat and (Fried) Potatoes

In an effort to impress y’all with how healthy and local and slow-food I am, I usually post photos of beautiful fresh vegetables that I’ve lovingly and barely cooked to release the best flavor and most nutrition. And I do eat like that. Mostly. Sometimes. Occasionally. But sometimes you just have to have meat. Such as these beautiful steaks my middle brother grilled this past weekend as the family gathered to celebrate the April 16 birthdays of our oldest and youngest members: It was my dad’s 77th and my nephew’s 1st. So, as always in the meat-atarian Wood clan, we marked the occasion with tender and juicy beef. Capt. Adorable — 3-y ear-old son of my vegetarian older daughter and her husband — could not get enough.  My husband also is a fan of meat, such as these warm and melty Philly-style sandwiches we get at United Steaks restaurant in Corinth, Miss. We’ll always say, “Remember, we can just order one sandwich and split it,” but we’ll forget that plan as soon as we’re at the counter and smell the cheese and hear the onions sizzling. But we do share our sides — I always order the hand-cut potato chips and he always orders the fries. Vegetables, you know.

Memorial Day

Welcome, summer! No matter what that silly lunar calendar says, Memorial Day weekend is the beginning of the Fun & Sun season. You’ve got food and drink and friends and family — what else do you need? Usually my outdoor entertaining consists of opening a bag of potato chips and bringing paper plates out to the deck, but folks like my friend Sharon in Huntsville, Alabama, know how to do it right. At a recent gathering in her fabulous backyard, she brought the indoors out with metal serving trays and oversized clear glass candlesticks for statement-making pillar candles decorating the wine buffet — a super idea since I usually think of light-and-disposable for outdoor eating. And, Sharon, I think I need another invitation soon so I can copy be inspired by your great ideas.