calm before the summer storm.

The sky went missing again.  Gone, poof, cloud-napped overnight.  In its place, a nubby wool blanket, hanging so low it's almost claustrophobic.  It's the color of old pewter and oyster shells and the very distant Pacific, just before slate sea meets steel sky.  Still, the pitter-patter on the deck is my bare feet, hands in the dirt. Highs are in the 60's, if the weatherman is to be believed, sort of optimistic, if you ask me.  The light is dim, the colors muted, rooftop-drab the new beige.  It is damp and dank and dripping.  I swapped out the sandals for rubber boots.  Shivered in my shorts.  But, every tree and bush decided to bloom at the same time!!!
I can hardly contain myself.

Oh, Ohio, I think you've made good.  I guess we're still squarely in the conditional love camp, you and I, but for bringing me this little piece of heaven, I forgive you.  I've seen your weather before, of course.  In April, when suddenly everyone swapped their woolens for slickers.  In Summer, when I've gawked, long past dark, turned backwards in my bed, all shock and awe at your thunderstorms.  They're magnificent.  Though, if you don't mind my saying so, a bit melodramatic.
But this gentle downpour business?  This is rain, Seattle-style, drizzle and sprinkle. The kind I love.  No danger of death by lightning strike, no golf ball sized hail.  Just the steady plip-plop of clouds breathing a long, damp sigh of relief.

I guess I could make noises about the sorry turn this spring's taken.  Normally I would shoot off a snarky remark about this unusually cold, overcast May.  I might at least moan and groan a little.  In my defense, I didn't whoop and holler, not once, even as I threw down 3 yards of mulch in my wellies and soaked up the soggy splendor of it all.  Though, if I were to be perfectly honest, I would also mention it wasn't yet seven and I didn't want to wake the plants.  Or the neighbors.

I've learned so much this past year, about how to survive, thrive even. I've learned to turn my usual schedule upside down.  To get out the door early, to pack my mornings with walks, weeding and planting.  To surrender the afternoons to prep for tomorrow.  To adore the instant satisfaction of a job well done on the run.  To humble up and admit there's no valor, and definitely no fun, in whining, or the awful cranky rancor of a martyr.  

I love looking back, seeing all the skills I've gained, but auto-pilot is nice. too.  And this brilliant bleak oceanscale runs in my blood.  It's instinct and inspiration all rolled into one, and all day, I am at ease, falling into one familiar routine after another.  I bust open the pantry for makeshift dinners. Curl up under a blanket with one of the year's better books.  Pull on socks.  Socks!  It's been weeks, a month even.  So once again I am padding around in whisper feet. 

If there is anything I’m tired of hearing myself say, it’s “Sorry I haven’t called/texted/remembered your birthday/been a decent friend, I’ve just been really busy.” Which is unfortunate, since it has become my personal mantra the last few months. I find myself constantly looking forward to “next week” like a beacon of hope, as though all I need to do is get through to the next few days and then I’ll have time to get organized/make a meal plan/return phone calls/write blog posts/look like I have my shit together. I have been waiting on this magical “next week” since last fall, and it has stood me up like a bad date.

I am finally starting to realize that instead of resisting the constant, unending flow of life, perhaps it’s time I started to embrace it. I may never again be the person who keeps her kitchen spotlessly clean at all times, or has all her meals planned out weeks in advance with a corresponding grocery list, and I am almost certainly going to be late with a few more birthday wishes. But maybe it’s in the pursuit of these unattainable goals that I can find my best self, even if it is less than perfect. And that may be just fine after all.

Just when I thought Spring was set in its ways, all bright skies and temps stuck in onward and upward, it interrupted itself.  Paused.  Retrenched.  Brought spluttery days of gorgeous gray.  Dove-soft skies and drippy windows.  Bought time.  Reprieve.  Calm before the summer storm.

Remember this.

I'll think back to when May marched on, right on track, fruit trees trading their pink, and pomp, for purposeful workhorse green.  Predictably.  Systematically.  Conspiratorially.  (I'm always sorry to see them go.)

But then?  The rains came, and chilly ones, too.  And with them, excuses to stay indoors. 
Light candles. Bundle up.
In May! 

Shorts were unpacked, mittens put away.  Flip-flops were worn.  Snow boots, archived.  Tank tops, worn, washed, worn again.  And then, I was reaching for hoodies.  Long sleeves. fleecy pants.  Pants?  seriously?

Tomatoes and geraniums are taking hold, and pride, alongside.  I am smug for having gotten around to getting them in.  May, turned coat, flirting with freezing.  I am recalling what pride goeth before. Oops.  And, oh well.  Runt tomatoes later are a small price to pay for gunmetal, sponge-minded skies, today.

just sayin'.

smash burgers

1 pound freshly ground beef , 80/20 fat ratio
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons juice from a pickle jar
1 1/2 teaspoons ketchup
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more if needed
4 potato rolls, preferably Martin’s brand
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 slices cheese, American or whatever you like
Four 1/4-inch-thick tomato slices
Thinly sliced pickles, if desired
4 burger-sized pieces green-leaf lettuce (I used curly green leaf lettuce)

Prepare the meat: Form the meat into four equal-sized four-ounce meat “pucks,” roughly 2 1/2 inches thick. Place them on a plate lined with plastic wrap or waxed paper and freeze for 15 minutes, but no longer. We don’t want to freeze the meat, but we’d like it to be extra-cold when it hits the pan.

Make the sauce: Combine all of the ingredients, tasting it and making any adjustments you’d prefer. A dash of hot sauce, perhaps?

Toast the buns: Heat a griddle, large cast-iron skillet (my first choice and recommendation), or large heavy stainless-steel skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter and place the buns, cut-side down, in the pan. Cook until cut sides are golden-brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Place toasted buns on four plates; you’ll keep using your griddle or skillet.

Cook the burgers: Remove patties from freezer. Increase heat to high and add 2 tablespoons oil to the griddle or skillet — you’ll need this only for your first burger batch; after you’ve made a couple or if you’re scaling the recipe up, the fat from the earlier burgers will be sufficient — heat until oil begins to smoke, at least two minutes. Working one at a time, add a patty to griddle and immediately flatten it to a 1/2-inch thickness with a heavy spatula and something with weight. Generously season with salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining patties.

Once the first side is deeply browned with crisp, craggly edges, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes for medium, flip it over. Cover with a slice of cheese, and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, until melted. Repeat process with remaining patties.

Assemble burgers: Transfer cooked patties to toasted burger buns. Spread top buns with prepared sauce. Top burgers with tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and dig in.


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