Cold Cut

In our last post, we talked about the picnic and how we were planning to take one. We did, and it was a beautiful July day: low 80s, a light breeze, a blue sky punctuated by a few clouds, and a desert-like, for us, 30% relative humidity (wow). The main course was, as planned and mentioned in yesterday’s post, cold cut sandwiches.

Dictionary.com defines cold cuts as “slices of unheated salami, bologna, ham, liverwurst, turkey, or other meats and sometimes cheeses.” It is thought to have originated as an Americanism between 1940 and 1945.

Our ingredient choices were hard salami, turkey pepperoni, thin-sliced provolone, and slices of American cheese to be put on Italian bread hot dog buns – we called these “slider subs.” They weren’t exactly Jimmy John’s #5 slims, but they were a far cry better than the bologna on white sandwiches that Mr. Family Trivium remembered eating on childhood family road trips as cars whizzed past the interstate rest stop at 60 MPH (yes, the national speed limit was 55 MPH back then). There were sides of baby carrots, snap peas, and, yes, potato chips. Dessert consisted of M&M’s left over from Easter.

Let us know about your favorite cold cuts in the comments.

Picnic

July is typically a pretty uninviting time to spend outdoors in our neck of the woods. Too much heat. Too much humidity. Too little breeze. We’re accustomed to days with heat index values in the 100s.

July of last year was an anomaly, with uncharacteristically low humidity and many sunny days topping out in the 70s. While  today is not forecast to be that nice, it is starting out in the low 60s and expected to top out in the low 80s with a light breeze – nice. To celebrate this reprieve from the heat, and indoors, we’re planning a picnic. Given our love of food and outdoors, we’re surprised that we didn’t cover this topic earlier.

Dictionary.com defines picnic as “an excursion or outing in which the participants carry food with them and share a meal in the open air.” The word was first used between 1740 and 1750, being attributed to German “Pic-nic” or French “Pique-nique.”

In the past, Mr. Family Trivium has been know to pick up the kids from school and spontaneously stop for a Little Caesar’s pizza before heading off to one of the many local parks or nature areas for an outdoor meal and a hike.

In a throw back to Mr. Family Trivium’s childhood days where lunches on vacation road trips were eaten out of a cooler at a rest area – not a place with golden arches, we’re planning cold cut sandwiches on Italian bread.

We’d love to hear about your favorite picnic meal in the comments.

Doughnut

With our love of French toast, pancakes, and other breakfast sweets, it should be no surprise that, from time to time, we get doughnuts on our collective mind. A few times each year, we crave them so much that we actually go to Dunkin’ or Krispy Kreme or Winchell’s or, better yet, a local bakery for these sugary, fatty treats.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the doughnut as “a small usually ring-shaped cake fried in fat.” The Online Etymology dictionary indicates that the word is from American English as a compounding of “dough” and “nut” in 1809, and was first used by noted author Washington Irving. The fact that this word was coined by the writer who brought us Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, as well as popularizing “Gotham” as a reference to New York City, adds a whole new layer of whimsy onto this delicious treat.

Most of us here at Family Trivium don’t have a particular favorite doughnut, though none of us are fond of those filled with jelly. Mr. Family Trivium is particularly found of sour cream doughnuts, crullers, and cake donuts. Let us know about your favorite doughnuts in the comments.

Calamine

In our last post on chiggers, we discovered that Mr. Family Trivium has been using a course of calamine to treat the itch caused by bites from these creatures.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines calamine as “a mixture of zinc oxide with a small amount of ferric oxide used in lotions, liniments, and ointments.” The Online Etymology Dictionary, indicates that the word originated in the 1590s, from French “calamine”, Thirteenth Century Old French “calemine” or “chalemine,” Medieval Latin “calamina” which it thought to be a corrupted form of “cadmia” (zinc ore) or “calamus” (reed) in reference to the shape of the mineral.

WebMD suggests that calamine can be used for pain/itching/discomfort caused by contact with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac. As children, Mr. and Mrs. Family Trivium also remember calamine being used on bug bites and chicken pox. Mr. Family Trivium has been having good results using it on his chigger bites.

Chiggers

Mr. and Mrs. Family Trivium went their whole lives, until last summer, without having been bitten by chiggers. We’d heard about them, but had never experienced them. Last July, we traveled to a family wedding and were introduced to the experience. We thought “oh, they must be more prevalent in other parts of the country.” Then, over the weekend, Mr. Family Trivium developed the tell-tale itching and handful of tiny red bumps on his ankles.

According to eMedicineHealth.com, chiggers are a juvenile form of a type of mite and they can be found in all parts of the world, preferring moist areas. It is a myth that they burrow into the skin and stay there. When a chigger inserts its mouth parts into the skin, an enzyme kills the tissue, which hardens into a “feeding tube,” known as a sylostome. Undisturbed, chiggers can feed through these tubes for several days, but they do not actually burrow into the skin.

Mr. Family Trivium did a couple of unusual things over the weekend. He mowed the lawn wearing shorts – usually, he wears long pants, though he does plenty of other yard and outdoor housework wearing shorts. He also worked most of the day Saturday, wearing shorts, at a garage sale for one of the kid’s youth organizations – he didn’t even think to use bug repellent. Regardless of where he picked them up, Mr. Family Trivium learned that we do, indeed, have chiggers in our area. It has been a rainy year, so there are plenty of moist areas to support these pests.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to never have experienced chigger bites, the best way that we know how to describe them is like REALLY itchy mosquito bites that take much longer to heal. We’ve found the best remedy for the itch to be calamine lotion, applied with a cotton swab,  a little before dressing for work, after getting home from work, and a little before bedtime.

Have you ever been bitten by chiggers? If you have, what is your favorite remedy? Please let us know in the comments.

Buffet

The other night, Mr. Family Trivium went on date with a with someone other than Mrs. Family Trivium, and at a buffet, no less. What kind of a married man goes on a date, with someone other that his spouse, and to a buffet? A guy on a father-daughter date does this!

Buffets aren’t usually suggested for dates, but when it comes to father-daughter dates, they’re great. What is a buffet? Dictionary.com defines a buffet as “a meal laid out on a table or sideboard so that guests may serve themselves” and comes from Old French between 1710 and 1720.

The venue for our date was specifically a Chinese buffet. This was the perfect place for Mr. Family Trivium and this specific daughter as they are the only two “adventurous” eaters in the house. With respect to Chinese food, everyone else under the roof is either very limited in what they will eat, or will not eat it at all. This buffet was “all-you-can-eat” and offered a large variety with two tables of prepared Chinese dishes, a salad/fruit/desert table, a sushi table, and a Mongolian Grill. Even the pickiest eater in house probably could have found something to like at this buffet.

We tried many of the prepared Chinese dishes, and a few pieces of sushi, before finishing up with fruit and desert. Hard pressed, Mr. Family Trivium’s favorite dish was probably the jalapeno chicken (curiously labeled as BBQ ribs). Ice cream and Chinese donuts aside, Daughter would pick sesame chicken.

We’d love to hear about your favorite buffet in the comments.

Doldrums

It’s hot. It’s humid. There’s not much breeze outside. Mr. Family Trivium refers to this weather as the “Summer Doldrums,” a phrase often used to describe these conditions when he was growing up.

Dictionary.com defines doldrums as “a state of inactivity or stagnation.” The Online Etymology Dictionary dates the word to 1811 and attributes the word to Old English “dol” or “foolish” with the ending fashioned after “tantrum.” Apparently, the weather is having a foolish tantrum, preventing things from happening.

There is certainly a lack of outdoor activity when the temperature approaches the century mark. It’s even too hot to walk to the pool to cool down. What is a family to do?

The weather may keep us indoors, but it’s not yet time for “back-to-school shopping,” so we’ll prepare in a different way: extra time on Khan Academy to get back into the learning groove. We’ve found it to be a great resource for learners.

The basement is a great (cool) place to hang out when the heat is on, so we might head down there and go through the stores of winter clothes to weed out what doesn’t fit anymore so it can be donated to Goodwill. The basement is also the home of the Wii – we can at least maintain some level of activity, even if not as much as at the pool or park.

How do you deal with the “Summer Doldrums?” What do you do when it’s hot, humid, and calm? Feel free to share your coping strategies in the comments.

Pancake

We sure like foods that pair well with butter and maple syrup. We’ve already given discourse on our love of French toast, but today we’re in the mood for pancakes.

Dictionary.com defines the pancake as “a thin, flat cake of batter fried on both sides on a griddle or in a frying pan; griddlecake or flapjack.” It is a compounding of the words “pan” and “cake” first used in late Middle English Between 1400 and 1450.

Our conflict is that we try to moderate consumption of sugars and refined grains, two things that are abundant on the best tasting plates of maple syrup smothered pancakes. It is the weekend though, so it’s time to indulge.

Given a choice between French Toast and pancakes, we’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite. We love both as they both tend to be covered in butter and maple syrup. It really comes down to mood on a given day. Today, pancakes are winning out. While we go get out the griddle, please feel free to let us know about your favorite hot breakfast in the comments.

Wildfire

On a recent morning, we had a view of a striking brownish streak high across an otherwise clear blue sky. It was presumably smoke from the Canadian wildfires.

Smokey Bear defines wildfire as “the term applied to any unwanted, unplanned, damaging fire burning in forest, shrub or grass” and goes on to say that it “is one of the most powerful natural forces known to people.”

Mr. Family Trivium didn’t recall having seen such a prominent indicator of a distant wildfire since the Yellowstone fires of 1988. In our more recent family visit to the park, we learned quite a bit about wildfire. They can be unforgivingly destructive, but they are also a part of nature and can bring rejuvenation.

We witnessed sobering evidence of more recent wildfires, but we also saw that after 25 years, the lodgepole pine forest had significantly recovered from the 1988 fires. In a United States Forest Service article on the species, Michelle Anderson explains that the lodgepole pines in the Rocky Mountains have cones with a resin that melts at abut 120 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that is generally only reached in the species range when a fire is present. When the resin melts, seeds are released, allowing a new generation of trees to begin their life as the forest successes.

The thought of wildfire can be scary, but we don’t let it bother us, unless there is an actual active threat where we had planned to hike or camp. After a recent local wildfire, after the fire department had declared the threat had passed, we went for a little walk in the area and were amazed by how well some of the plants handled the event. We saw things that we hadn’t seen before – things hidden by tall grass and under story brush. Nature has a lot to offer in terms of learning and pure enjoyment, so we hope that you will take your next opportunity to get out into it.

4WD

Yesterday, we discussed all-wheel drive (AWD). Our family recently acquired a vehicle with this feature for Mrs. Family Trivium, while her old four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicle was handed down to Mr. Family Trivium.

Turning again to Dictionary.com, we find four-wheel drive to be defined as “a drive system in which engine power is transmitted to all four wheels for improved traction,” with the term first known to have been used between 1925 and 1930.

We look back to our post on AWD, and Dictionary.com’s definition: “a system used in motor vehicles in which all four (or more) wheels are permanently connected to the source of power, in such a way that each wheel is able to rotate at a different speed.” We see that the difference is that AWD is permanent and allows each wheel to rotate at different speeds.

In the case of our two vehicles, the one with 4WD has a shifter for placing it into 4WD mode (there are actually 2 4WD modes, but that is the topic of another post). When it is not in 4WD, the vehicle is rear-wheel drive (RWD). This alone would have helped with the low-traction situation at camp as the 3 growing campers and gear would have been over the drive wheels. Even in the winter, in RWD mode, this vehicle was able to get around better than Mr. Family Trivium’s outgoing FWD vehicle. Mrs. Family Trivium really only needed to put it into 4WD a few times to gain traction in winter driving, like when driving in unplowed snow over 6 inched deep. With her new vehicle, there is no need to worry about engaging a different mode as the AWD system automatically sends power to the wheels with traction.

Why would a person want a vehicle with 4WD or AWD? Our family acquired our first AWD vehicle when Mrs. Family Trivium had a job where she was expected to report for work even if there was two feet of snow on the ground – she did indeed commute through this amount snow very shortly after the purchase was made. Meanwhile, Mr. Family Trivium was home bound, but had a more flexible work schedule at that time. While Mrs. Family Trivium has since moved to a different job, she is still expected to report under all weather conditions, as is Mr. Family Trivium, who is also essentially on call 24/7-365. Working on two different ends of town, two different directions from home, carpooling is inconvenient – we’ve done it.

So 4WD and AWD can hep power through deep snow, but does it have any other uses. It certainly could have helped on the steep, muddy road into camp last month. Yes, 4WD and AWD helps us get to the places where we so enjoy recreating. Mr. Family Trivium and kids are looking forward to getting to those sometimes difficult to reach trailheads during winter break this coming school year.