Friday, July 8, 2011

My Theme to A Summer Place

By Laura Spinella

Recently, I read a post by Alice Hoffman. It said she was going away for the summer to write. It’s seems like an appropriate time of year to escape and change venues, a seaside locale full of sunshine and inspiration, surrendering that off day to the beach if need be. It must be good to be Alice. I also read a blog where another writer, not quite as famous as Alice, decided to move to Paris for the summer. I’m sure the atmosphere there is equally divine, and, clearly, her pockets full of cash.
Things work a little differently around here. As writing time goes, summer means intruders and disruption. Granted, they are the other people who live here. But I prefer the nine months of the year when public education and college demands their attendance, thereby facilitating their absence from here. During the summer months, these people are exclusively mine, blasting reruns of Saved by the Bell three feet from my sunroom, where I write, and wanting to know if this is the last of the Gatorade. Apparently, I am the only person in my house capable of peering in the pantry and solving this burning question. This summer, we have a new distraction. When the school-is-out flag dropped, I noticed that the TV watching was limited compared to the past. I breathed a sigh of relief as Boy Meets World met with the off button at a reasonable 9:30 a.m. But it was false hope as a distinct and steady swishing sound—kind of like a mini rollercoaster—rumbled at that back of my head. It seems my fourteen-year old son, and his band of skateboarding cohorts, have seized the driveway, which, naturally, borders the sunroom. Here they have created a valley of ramps and runs where no flip or grab shall go unmastered. (What this kid could accomplish if he put half that much effort into his schoolwork) I admit, it’s good to know where he is. Grant Robert and his sweaty, tick past the tock of puberty, friends are happy to spend their summer in the safe haven of my driveway. Something tells me their parents are even happier.
My daughter, who goes to faraway college, is home too. She doesn’t skateboard. Mostly, she lets me know how unjust the world of retail is. How dare they insist that everyone show up for a staff meeting before the store opens? And do you have any idea as to the number of people willing to shop on a Saturday in July, hell bent on dismantling the wall of jeans she just folded…Let me tell you, it’s appalling. On these occasions, I look up from the sticky plot point I’m on the verge of rectifying and nod in sympathetic agreement. I smile as she stomps off and mumble, “Maybe come fall you’ll study that much harder in microbiology.”

Yesterday, the whole kit and caboodle, husband and kids, went to the beach in Rhode Island. I’m holding out for the beach in Paris, so I declined. At 9:45 in the morning there was complete silence. Well, silence except for the one boy who didn’t get the message. I spied him meandering up our driveway, skateboard in hand. Auggie, our golden-doodle who loves to put the fear of God in teenage boys, ran him off in short order. Again, I was alone. I was going to sit in my sunroom and write. Like other summers, however, I was soon reminded that once your schedule is disrupted, it’s not easily reacquired. I wasn’t in the mood; I wasn’t particularly inspired. The sunroom was too sunny, not to mention sauna-like. I took a break, went to the kitchen and discovered that we were, in fact, low on Gatorade. I put the writing aside and went to the grocery store. Hours later, the kit and caboodle returned from the beach, sandy and full of sunburn. Televisions turned on and complaining commenced, “Why did they schedule me for Sunday? I hate working Sundays!” I smiled as higher education earned another point. In between, there was surprise expressed over the Steak Salad feast I’d prepared. “When did you have time for this?” asked my eldest daughter, who is brilliant, aside from the fact that she can’t boil water. “Oh, I just felt like making it,” I replied. “After all, it is a family favorite.”

I’ve got a twin billing at the moment! Catch my 5 Do’s & Do-Over at Chick Lit Is Not Dead, where I tell you what you should do naked. Lisa and Liz are giving away 5 copies of BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. Also, the Book Club Queen is running a fun Q&A and a fabulous review, declaring it a five-crown book club read!
If you’re hungry, Steak Salad:

1lb flank steak, marinated
1lb shrimp, peeled (I marinade the shrimp in butter & lemon)
2 roasted red peppers
3 ears roasted corn, shucked
1 red onion, grilled
1 small eggplant (or any other veggie you like roasted)
1 can mandarin oranges
Feta cheese

Roast all your veggies together ahead of time, grill steak & shrimp. On a LARGE platter, arrange a bed of lettuce, sliced steak & shrimp, top with grilled veggies. Add oranges and top with cheese. Everybody here like to top it with their favorite dressing, but you can top the whole thing with one kind. Enjoy!


  1. Laura,

    I want to go to the beach to write too, but unfortunately, work and kids (for the summer) are here to distract as well. Love having the kids here (work is another story!)

    Your recipe sounds absolutely yummy! I think I'm going to try it this weekend :)

    Oh, and just started reading Beautiful Disaster. Awesome!

  2. Maria, I've tried writing at the beach. I end up sitting in the condo, or whatever, and feeling guilty b/c everyone is on the beach! I think you have to go alone! Yes! Give the steak salad a try! It comes w/ a lime/vinegaigrette dressing, but here they like to slather things in ranch dressing (5000cal steak salad!)

    Thanks so much for reading BEAUTIFUL DISASTER!! Hope you enjoy!

  3. Laura, are you sure we're not the same person? I was just lamenting this yesterday because being married to a teacher, I have EVERYONE at home. (I also have a skateboarder, but until 7/23, he's skateboarding at sleepaway camp.) They are pretty respectful of my space and I do work in the attic, which is not much of a draw for anyone (even me) but knowing that they are downstairs is distracting enough. Love your steak salad recipe! I'm off to Trader Joe's in a little while and will pick up the ingredients! Maggie

  4. Laura, you are so funny (and such a brilliant writer!). Thanks for the chuckles on this slow-moving Friday morning (when Ed was up half the night after a two hour hockey practice because he was too amped to get to sleep, which means I didn't sleep either). Good luck getting some writing in this summer. Let me know when you're heading to Paris. I might have to pack up and go with you. Or maybe we could make it a Stiletto Gang Writing Retreat. Oo la la! ;-)

  5. Ha! I am so sarcastic and jaded, if it comes out as humor, that's a bonus point! lol

    Yes, I'm all for a retreat to Paris! (my husband's been a half dozen times!)

  6. All right... hands up. Who's for Paris? We'll ditch the hubsters and just Thelma and Louise it! I don't have kids, but I do have a dog (donk, donk, if I bop you with my toy enough will you get up and play?), a husband (are we low on toilet paper?), and a business partner (Um... were you planning on getting to that thing that's due now any time soon?). We need some sort of invisible fence/sound barrier for writers!

  7. Laura, you mean sarcasm isn't humor??? I always thought it was, particularly when done well! ;-)

    Bethany, I don't have kids either, just a kid-like hubby and three felines who constantly chase each other, fling themselves upon my desk, knock all my notes to the floor, and then repeat as necessary. (Wait, that makes it sounds like Ed is involved in the chase and flinging-upon-desk, which he's not. But he does like to flop on the floor and try to engage me in conversation.) Can someone invent Force Fields for Writers? I would be the first in line!