When a quick glance at the weather report shows day after day of high 90s and triple digits, you know you’ve officially reached the dog days of summer. Fun fact: The term dog day of summer dates all the way back to ancient Greece and refers to the fact that the brightest star in Canis Major, Sirius, rose in the sky around the same time as the sun. It was believed the proximity of Sirius to the sun somehow contributed to the intensity of the heat. The intervening years of scientific developments have helped clear up that thinking but, sadly, man has yet to develop a system of eradicating the heat which means we are left to our own defenses when it comes to staying cool.
I’ll admit that it’s tempting to just declare August “Movie Madness Month” and camp out in air conditioned darkness but the mom in me knows that is probably not the most responsible decision. Woh-wooooh. Our family chooses to deal with the heat and humidity by engaging in a whole host of water-based activities which can definitely help but, eventually, the weather gets the best of us and we’re forced inside to seek a little refreshment.
Enter the Watermelon Cooler. We made the delightfully delicious discovery this year that a few pieces of watermelon combined with some ice and bubbly water make for a surprisingly refreshing summer treat. And it’s good, I mean really good. It’s also surprisingly thirst-quenching and does a remarkable job of cooling you off. It pairs beautifully with some eggs in the morning or as a mid-afternoon snack along with some popcorn or crackers and cheese.
While we’re on the subject of watermelon, let’s take a moment and review my personal favorite way to slice watermelon. I apologize if you’ve seen this a million times already. If this is new to you, you’re welcome.
After rinsing your watermelon, you start by cutting the ends off so that you’ve created flat ends. Place the watermelon on the cutting board with the sliced end side down.
Using a large sharp knife, slice the rind from top to bottom. Work your way around the melon until all rind has been removed.
Once all the rind has been removed, cut the watermelon in fourths then finish by cutting the melon into chunks or slices.
And voila! A bowl of sliced watermelon ready to devour.
If you’re willing to brave the heat and don’t mind driving, the Dallas Arboretum offers dollar days in the month of August. You can enter the park for $1 and just $1 more gains entrance to the new Children’s Garden. We went last week and can assure you it’s worth every last penny even when you factor in the $10 for parking and the money spent on gas. Outside food and drink is allowed and there are plenty of trees to choose from with acres of lush green grass which means finding the perfect spot for a picnic shouldn’t be a challenge. The 8-acre Children’s Garden is every last bit of 8,000 feet of fun with fountains to play in, a waterfall you can walk under, a tornado-simulating wind tunnel, and much, much more. If you still have a little bit of summer left, I highly recommend it. (www.dallasarboretum.org)
However you choose to beat the heat this week, whether through indoor activities or outdoor fun, here’s hoping you discover all the joy a summer day has to offer.
The Home Grown Mom’s Watermelon Cooler
4-6 slices fresh watermelon
2 cups ice
1 can bubbly water (unsweetened, whichever flavor strikes your fancy)
1/2 lime, juice and zest
1. Place ice, lime zest, lime juice, watermelon (with seeds removed), and 1/2 can of bubbly water in a blender. I recommend putting the ice in first so that it’s closest to the blade. Also, I find zesting citrus fruits prior to squeezing them helps to extract more juice. In something like this, the zest adds a nice punch of flavor so feel free to toss it on in there.
2. Pulse mixture a couple of times to help break up the ice, then blend on high until everything is combined. Add more bubbly water/watermelon to reach desired consistency.
3. Pour into glasses and serve with a straw. My son has tested it out and can assure you the stray watermelon seeds can’t go up the straw so drink to your little heart’s content.
A little note about the bubbly water, my family is thoroughly and completely addicted to it. We don’t do many sodas around our house but I do my best to keep some flavored soda water on hand. Most stores have a handful of brands and a surprising number of flavors. I’ve found Super Target really lives up to their name in this area offering berry, apple, mango, coconut, peach-pear, pink grapefruit, and the like in addition to your standard lemon and lime. In my opinion, you can’t really go wrong just be sure to read the labels because some people like to sneak in added sweeteners which you may or may not want.