Monday, August 24, 2009

Summer Favorites

My friend Melissa is brilliant! Once she asked me for some advice about sewing—the next time I talked to her, she had opened a shop on Etsy and was selling sewn items—super cute they are, too. Max and Ellie’s, check it out. She asked me to teach her to knit last December. She was the fastest student I’ve ever had. For my birthday in January, she gave me a dishcloth she had knitted, using stitches I hadn’t shown her—mind you. We share a lot more interests and have kids almost the same ages. We have had many other fun times together, but the best thing she’s done lately is to start a dinner club and invite us to be in it with two other couples we also love.

Our first meeting was at my friend Annie’s house last month and so she got to choose the theme and give us our assignments. We had a wonderful night of delicious food from friends who share many of our interests and great taste in all things culinary. The menu was over the top. I forgot my camera on that night, so I can’t share with you anything from that night, but the theme was Italy and it was so much fun.

We volunteered to host in August, because the weather would be nice enough for us to eat outside—the 10 foot orange plastic picnic table being the only place I can seat 8 for dinner. I had fun coming up with a design scheme and planning the menu and it was a magical evening. Everyone had a fabulous time.

Some of my best memories of summer come from my time spent with my Hinckley grandparents on their farm on the lakeshore in Provo. I always remember the garden groaning and the corn patch ripening quickly. Sometimes, to make a quick buck for a slurpee or some bubble gum, my cousins and I would pick a few dozen ears and sell them on the road for a dollar a dozen—it never took long. I remember lots and lots of people coming to get corn—and taking home truckloads to can or freeze. This wasn’t a U-pick operation, it was more like, my grandpa planted 3 acres of sweet corn so that he could invite anyone he wanted to come and get as much as they could use, as well as filling the freezers of the 3 families supported by this farm. This in addition to the field corn that would feed his 100 dairy cows through the next year. When it was time for dinner, often there would be more tomatoes and zucchini than anyone knew what to do with and my mom or my aunt would throw together a ratatouille to use some of it up. My grandma always had bacon in the freezer from last fall’s butchering and homemade bread. This dinner, BLTs on really good bread with ratatouille and corn on the cob that was hanging on a stalk an hour before I pull it from the boiling pot, is my idea of summer perfection.

For our dinner, I invited my friends to compliment my summer favorites with theirs.
Annie brought a plate of local cheeses, along with dates, almonds, pears and grapes. She also made some crostini (addictive) and a great spinach dip. Tannya brought a wonderful sort of Cobb salad with 2 kinds of beans, corn, grilled shrimp and avocado. And Melissa made a delicious peach cobbler and homemade brown sugar/vanilla ice cream. David did the honors on the ice cream with liquid nitrogen. At one point during the dinner, I looked across at Jake Callister who was shaking his head. Pacing oneself is always a problem when all the food is so fantastic.

To make the porch more festive, I sewed curtains to block the car from our “dining room” from fabric I asked my mom to bring the last time she came. I had just enough—a little less than 10 yards. I had to buy the PVC to hang them on at $1.53 per 10 foot length, four in total. I borrowed 15 strings of Christmas lights from a lady who has everything (Marie Bell) and David hung a false ceiling for me using nails left over from a previous project. I used cans headed for the recycling bin to make tin punch lanterns (Jonas loved helping) and glass jars that once held spaghetti sauce, peanut butter and jam were transformed into chandeliers hung on shepherd hooks with wire handles (I borrowed the hooks from Annie who works at Pottery Barn and got them on some screaming discount. David had the wire in his useful box—it was the perfect guage). The tablecloth was an interior design mistake I made a couple of years ago when I tried to make curtains for our living room. Awful hanging up—perfect for this dinner. So, necessity truly is the mother of invention. And for just a few dollars and a lot of ingenuity, I have demonstrated once again some serious girl power. And the wonder of a supportive husband.

Some fun memories of this: Jonas walking outside the morning after the curtains were hung only to turn and walk back to me to say: Mom, thank you so much for these beautiful curtains. I love them so much!

Watching David restring the lighting three times to make it high enough, low enough and spaced evenly enough.

Drilling tin can lanterns on the dryer while Jonas sat and watched and did pretend drilling on the washing machine. Then coming inside and drinking more grape juice with him so we could get more cans to make more lanterns the next day.

Lighting everything on Friday night for a dress rehearsal and LOVING it!

Blowing a string of lights by connecting 10 of them together through and extension cord.

Seeing the toile in my studio on a fabric roll and feeling scathingly brilliant for thinking to use it as a tablecloth.

My black octagon dishes were perfect and everything sparkled in all the lights.

Watching everyone leave as the lights twinkled them home.

Sitting at the picnic table under a zillion lights to read the night after the party.

Lighting everything again on Sunday just to see it one more time.

We’ll have to take it down sometime, but I wish we didn’t. I’ll start shopping for Christmas lights on clearance right away.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Family Hike

Today we wanted to go on a hike. Dave told me yesterday that what he really wanted to do today was go on a hike. We had about a zillion other things that needed to be done and I wondered if we would make it after all our errands, naps, lunch time schedules to keep, etc. and we didn’t make it until about 4:00PM leaving our house with a backpack for Jonas with a snack in it and a baby carrier for each of the parents. We drove to the place we had planned to go (Mount Pisgah) and found signs designating it as “Faerieworld” all weekend. Dave was driving the car and we both looked at each other as he made a U-turn—neither of us wanting to find fairies afoot in the environs of Eugene. I checked the map and found another couple of tall hills (there aren’t many) and we headed in that direction. We missed the turnoff to Spencer Butte from the back side and ended up on Donald heading south. I found another trail and we pulled into a small trailhead parking lot at Mount Baldy.

What ensued over the next hour was pure perfection for a hike for our family as it is now.

The trail was well-maintained and easy to walk. The inclines were not too steep nor too boring. Jonas felt challenged, but also rode in the backpack for about half of it. It wasn’t too strenuous with a baby on my back.

We saw a deer and picked and ate blackberries, both going and coming.

At the top, there was a beautiful bench carved in memory of a young lady who died a couple of years ago.We sat a while and drank water and ate our granola bars and persuaded Jonas not to go too close to the edge of the incline and entertained Maggie without letting her down to crawl.

And the vista—this is the reason I climb.

The exercise and fresh air are nice, the wildlife interesting, the fresh air invigorating, but being able to see the Cascades from the top in one direction and the lake about 15 miles away in the other made every step worthwhile. Can’t wait to go again—highly recommend this as a hike for families with small children.

On the trail and at the end with the babe on my back.