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June 18th, 2009

This month, we survived the high school graduation of #1 son, along with the accompanying pomp, circumstance and party. The day after the ceremony was #2 son’s 16th birthday, and I asked his permission to combine events (since I am not going to cook and clean twice, if I can avoid it).

Since he finished high school a week early, #1 was enlisted to do most of the scut work. I laid the guilt on thick, pointed out the high cost of college, and the small percentage of it that he was likely to pay by himself, and then handed him a bucket, a mop, and a Swiffer. He did a fine job, even polishing the folk art sculpture of the dead bird inside the antique birdcage in the front hall. He refused to do much with the cage itself, arguing that rust and dust were the only things holding it together.

The overall effect was good enough that one young guest asked me if that was a real dead bird.

No, dear. I only look like the sort of person who would keep a dead bird in the house. Actually, I keep live birds, just outside the door. I was a little worried about the nest full of swallows on the front porch, but they grew up and moved out three days before the party.

As it was, with fledglings lined up on the edge of the next and the two cats lined up underneath them, #1 son remarked that when it came time to fly, the first big step had better be horizontal and not vertical, or we’d be cleaning feathers off the front steps.

#2 son was ordered to help me in the kitchen.

Although I can cook, I do not consider the kitchen to be a natural environment. I (the romance author) was recently asked for a favorite recipe to post on the Harlequin Historical Myspace page.

It took me weeks to come up with anything. Mainly because I fail to follow the few recipes I have. What goes in the pot around here usually involves what is waiting at the bottom of the fridge, and what is a close approximation to the ingredients in the original cookbook recipe.

This is why my personal recipe for chili involves leftover cranberry sauce.

It was sweet.
It was red.
It was handy.

This is actually one of my successes. The failures tend to go along the lines of:

Looking good.
Tasting good.
One more ingredient…

Oh God.
Cover it with cheese. Quick. Before someone sees.

But for the graduation party, I stuck pretty close to the basics. Or at least thought I did. I have a request from a neighbor for the pulled pork recipe, which I will pass on as soon as I remember what I put in it. And I was convinced that my version of Sloppy Joes was a line by line take on Betty Crocker. But when I checked, it turned out my recipe had morphed until there was only one ingredient in common.

But after preparing 20 pounds of assorted loose meat, and enough layered salads to tip the earth slightly out of orbit on the direction of Wisconsin, I was losing interest fast. I put #2 Son in charge of making and frosting six dozen cupcakes, which I decorated with gumdrop flowers, and candy bees made from M & M’s and those lumpy black raspberry things I don’t know the names of.

But what I really wanted was a fruit salad.

I have fond memories of family gatherings in the 60’s and 70’s, with a carved watermelon boat on the buffet table. I wanted a melon boat. I have a budding engineer for a son, who is willing to watch Food Network Challenge with me. (Although he prefers any Iron Chef that involves live, or nearly live seafood).

I have knives and a melon baller.

I showed him a picture, gave him some basic instructions, and stepped out of the way.

This is what I got:

I should have been warned when he started to Google TIKI GOD. He says he could have done a better job, if we had a fresh pineapple top. He’s probably right.

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