It’s that time of year again – County Fairs are in full swing, or about to begin and those 4-H kids and parents are in high gear getting ready. When I was nine, my family bought a piece of property in the country and built a house. Along with that property came some acreage and a pasture all ready to go for every little girls’ dream . . . owning a horse! We moved only about ten minutes from our house in a small town to this new house in the country, but those ten minutes meant the world to me. I was closer to finally having a horse of my own, but it I would also be changing schools so I would have to say good-bye or see ya in a couple of years to my familiar classmates since we’d meet up again when our schools played sports against each other, and then we’d all be together again in middle school in a few years. But still, I was nervous. I had to ride the school bus for the first time ever! I had to go to a new school where I didn’t know anyone! I can still remember the very first day of school! I can even remember the outfit I wore and how I walked up the aisle on the bus and didn’t see any available empty seats and the kids seemed to be getting older and more intimidating the further back I went, so I had to turn around and walk back towards the front and then just sat down at the closest seat I could, making a girl scoot over toward the window to make room for me. I was embarrassed to even make eye contact with anyone, except for our sweet little bus driver, Mary. If I remember right, she had stopped by our house and introduced herself during the summer before school began. It was impossible to be scared of her, she sat on a big cushion so she could see over the dashboard. Once we got to school and I made my way to the classroom, I felt a little more at ease. The teachers and most of the kids were very friendly right away so I wasn’t so scared. Sometimes it’s not so bad being the new kid in class because a lot of the kids wanted to be my friend. At recess I noticed this tall girl with cool bangs and a smile that lit up her face. Her name was Ashleigh. I wanted to be that girl’s friend! Well, guess what? We became friends! We became best friends! And she and her sister had horses! Soon, I was taking riding lessons and then joined the same 4-H horse club that they were in.
The next summer, I finally did get my very own horse! A bay colored Quarter Horse. He was the sweetest boy so I thought the name Sugarboy seemed to fit him perfectly. I’m tearing up as I type this. A girl’s attachment to her horse is something special. I would have slept out in the barn with him if my parent’s had let me. So it was finally county fair time and I had been preparing all year. Riding lessons each week, working with my horse, learning different braids for his mane and tail, having flashy outfits and all the gear that comes along with showing a horse. My horse was the sweetest boy, but he was not the best in the ring. Oh, how he refused to back up on command when he was feeling stubborn. I laugh about it now, but I remember how my stomach would be in knots when we would all line up facing the judge and they would go down the line, asking each of us to back our horse up. Each time, it would be a gamble if Sugarboy would cooperate. And he sometimes was on the wrong lead when running, but he was mine and I loved him. All week during the fair, my mom and I spent the night in the tack stall next to my horse’s stall. There was no way I was leaving my boy all alone at night. One night, a drunken fool from the carnival area came stumbling in the horse barn and saw my friend’s white horse shining in the light. The fool began to open the stall door to let the horse out. My mom heard the drunk man and quickly grabbed a pitch fork and hopped out of the tack stall. I tell you, she has quick reflexes. She just jumps into action. Best lifeguard I know, no joke! She closed the stall door and threatened the man with pitchfork in hand until he stumbled off. Thankfully the horses were all ok and tucked in their stalls. I’m not sure how much sleep my mom got that week. She was on duty with her pitch fork ready to go! I couldn’t even tell you what ribbons that I brought home from the fair, but the friendships and memories will always be remembered. That tall girl on the playground back in 4th grade is still my best friend to this day! We live 2,135.43 miles apart now (I just Googled it) and only get to see each other once or twice a year, but I love her dearly and pray that my girls are lucky enough to have a lifelong friend like that one day.
With summer bringing county fairs, it also means cookouts, pool parties, and get togethers. This Summer Salad Recipe is quick and easy to throw together and is always a crowd pleaser. This recipe comes from my best friend’s mom. She made it one time when we were over at their house for a cookout and we all loved it so much that she shared the recipe. Since then, I know my mom and I have both made it so many times. It’s one of our family favorites and is so simple to make. It’s a great salad that you can make the day ahead and it is even better. If you are lucky enough to have an abundant vegetable garden, it’s a great way to use those fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from your garden.
Summer Salad (AKA Cucumber Pasta Salad)
1 16 oz pasta (tri color rotini, regular rotini or spirals is good)
2 cucumbers – peeled and chopped
2 medium to large tomatoes – diced (I used 4 Romas)
1 medium to large red or white onion – diced
1 C Sugar
1/2 C Vinegar (white, apple cider, red wine, or rice vinegar is good)
3/4 C cooking oil. (I usually use canola or vegetable oil)
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp garlic powder
1 TBS onion salt (I usually omit this because I don’t have it on hand and don’t really miss it)
1 1/2 teas black pepper or to taste
1 tsp salt or to taste
In a large bowl, combine the chopped cucumber, tomato and onion.
Cook your pasta according to package directions, just until al dente.
While that is cooking, make your dressing. Combine the sugar, oil, and vinegar in a microwave safe bowl. Whisk together. (I only made half of the recipe. That is why there is so little dressing)
Heat in microwave for a minute and then whisk in the parsley, garlic powder, onion salt if using, salt, and pepper.
Drain the pasta and rinse in cold water for a minute to cool it down quickly.
Combine the drained pasta in the bowl with the chopped vegetables.
Pour the dressing over top and stir to combine.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just stir a little before serving.
This salad is better the next day and keeps for a few days in the fridge.
Special thanks to Vicki for sharing the recipe! 🙂
This Summer Salad is a great base for lots of different flavors. You could easily change up the ingredients to add in a more Greek/Italian flavor:
Add in some black olives to the veggies.
Use Olive oil for the oil.
Use Balsamic vinegar for all or at least half of the vinegar.
Add in a tsp of basil and 1/2 teas oregano.
You could also add in some chopped fresh mozzarella. Yum!
Here’s a Handy Kitchen Helper for you. Our yard is too shady for a vegetable garden and although I’ve tried for a few years, I’ve finally given up hope of having this plentiful garden bursting with fresh veggies. And let’s be honest here, I have a black thumb that seems to kill most plants or at least put them in some sort of hiding so they won’t produce much, if at all. So I have to buy my veggies at the store or farmers market. If you’ll notice, the cucumbers are tightly wrapped in plastic in my ingredients photo. That’s how they came from the store. This was the first time I bought cucumbers wrapped like this. Well, normally when I buy cucumbers at the store and they aren’t wrapped, they seem to go bad rather quickly, usually before I use all of them and I end up tossing one or two. These stayed perfect in their plastic wrap for a week on the counter on my random produce platter before I made this salad. So if you are like me and don’t have your own garden to just pick the cucumbers as needed, I recommend finding ones in plastic wrap, or just wrapping them yourself if it will be a few days before you will be using them.