Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Because I Can

What you hear in my house right now: birds, children playing outside, a plane overhead, more birds. What you don't hear: laboring air conditioners, fans, ice melting. The heat has broken and the windows are open.

What we have here is one glorious summer afternoon.

I sauntered out into the garden to see what was up. Green nicotiana getting ready to spread it's heavenly night scent. Sungold tomatoes ripening for the eating. Shasta daisies looking so summery I almost forget how invasive they will be. Oh, and the hens and chicks look like they're trying to grow themselves some shade.

I better wrap this up and saunter back out to give everything a big drink of water and a little attention. The best thing is: I don't have to go outside I want to be outside. Please, sir, I want some more.

Tomorrow's July?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Baie Dankie, Merci, Thank You, Danke,Gracias

A tree grows in Brooklyn. A fig tree to be exact and it shares the terrace with Marie and a Frenchman and a big black Dominican cat at 66 Square Feet. There is also room for David Austin roses and herbs and blueberries and perennials and annuals of every scent and color.

To celebrate her 3 years of blogging, Marie held a contest to see who could guess how many figs were growing on the little "4 feet wide by 33 inches tall" tree. Long story and many comments later, we won. We won a fantastic cookbook by Davis Tanis, "a platter of figs and other recipes". It's beautiful, it's seasonal and it's simple. Proving, as we all know, that if your ingredients are fresh and ripe you don't need to do much to make a perfect meal.

As I'm writing , I'm paging through the book and my mind says yes! to every picture I see. Cherry-Almond Clafoutis, yes! Grilled eggplant paste, yes! Also Marie has peppered the book with post-its saying yesss to her favorite recipes (she's apparently licked some pages and drooled over others but I'm determined not to mention that here). Bottom line: there is a cacophony of agreement here.

The book will be taking its first vacation with us at the beach on Fire Island in July. All we do there is cook, eat, read and talk about our next meal, so it will be a welcome guest.

Again, a big thank you from our hearts and our stomachs. Oh, and from our mother of all figs, fig tree.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Not Just For The 4th Of July Anymore

Trying to beat the heat here. Deep in a week of 90 degree days where the temperature rises a couple extra degrees every day. Today 95, tomorrow 97, wasn't I just talking blizzard conditions 4 months ago?

We dress minimally, water ourselves and the garden deeply and eat lightly. Mondays dinner from Chez Danisse was perfect. I used 13 ounces of rice noodles,extra cucumbers and carrots, and doubled up on the dressing and caramelized onions. This left extra for lunch the next day.

Tonight we got a little wild and grilled a pork tenderloin and I made a salsa with our first garden cucumber, red onion, avocado,fresh herbs, a jalapeno and grilled ears of corn. I dressed it with red wine vinegar, olive oil,salt and pepper. Toasted bread with garlic and olive oil. That's it, that was enough. Then German girl snuck back to the grill.

My apologies to any European readers here. I found her making S'mores. That's right S'mores. I myself had a teacup full of raspberry sorbet while the others tucked into mouthfuls of graham cracker, marshmallow and Ghiradelli chocolate cooked over the last dying coals.

Ok, so I ate a half. Either way, we're still hot, we're really full but we're very happy barbarians.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice

"Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful

words in the English language."

Henry James, American expat writer 1843-1916

Happy Solstice!

( the second two most beautiful words are day off)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I'm Loving It

Alison of the fabulous blog and flowers pick themselves posed the question "what ten things do you love about your weekend"? I started to respond and then realized this was a wonderful question I would love to both ask and answer here.

* Picking bouquets from my garden early in the morning.

* Watering the plants and realizing the vegetables are coming!

* Eating chunks of perfectly ripe ice cold cantaloupe.

*Drinking a iced green tea/lemonade while riding around in a pickup truck with the windows down and a big sunflower plant on the seat beside me.

*Walking into an air conditioned house with the blinds drawn and fresh sheets on the bed.

*Eating tuna salad filled with garden fresh herbs.

*Feeling rich with the new British Elle Decor and 6 library books to read.

*Having the rest of the day ahead of me to nap and read and nibble and walk through the garden and wait for #9 and #10, because my weekend just started last night.

And you?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Recipe For A Perfect Summer

Thursday and Friday were perfect summer days. There was sunshine, blue skies, white clouds, breezes and no humidity. We spent every moment we could outside.

Our table is strewn with phones and cameras, gardening gloves, books ( I just finished The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest) and glasses of our favorite new summer drink.

We make a simple lemon syrup with 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of water, zest of 2 lemons, and 1/8 tsp. of salt. Bring this to a boil, stir and boil for 5 minutes. Strain the zest from syrup ( if you're me nibble madly away at zest). Cool , then add the juice of 6 juicy lemons, stir, cover and refrigerate.. When ready to use stir in 2 tablespoons to a glass of water, sparkling or still. If you're so inclined slice in a few ripe strawberries.

Sip, savor and snap a few photographs. Start a new book.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fantasy Vs Reality

In my dream world I float around in an always clean house, delicious smells emanating from the kitchen, big garden bouquets filling every room with scent and color while sleeping dogs slumber peacefully amidst artfully arranged treasures and a sweet tempered cat grooms herself on a pillow tossed sofa.

In reality, I stumble home from a day of work (that began with a trip to the gym at 6:45am, ahem) with a handful of broken and bruised flowers that ,if they're lucky, get throw into a mason jar before they start to wilt. I put on a pot of water to cook pasta for ??? a salad maybe? The Lab is indeed sleeping, but she has poison ivy from a walk in the wilds so there is a lot of scratching/licking/gnawing going on. All the while there is a half starved looking feline glaring at the two of us through the screen door and whenever I open it up she runs away.

Oh, and as you can see from the sunflower picture, my favorite chair is a cracked and ripped old leather club chair that we have actually patched to hold together. Try sewing into leather, sounds easy. Not.

That's my life and I wouldn't change a thing. Well I'd fatten up the cat and make the dog's poison ivy go away, but otherwise? No contest.

ps - here's a shot of the delinquent kitten:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Birds And The Berries

While I was working and weeding and cooking and sleeping, treasures were slowly making their way to me.

I had something in my attic another blogger friend would love. So I sent it to her. In return she sent me a little vintage pillow decorated with quilted birds on branches, a red hawk feather and a sweet stack of note cards printed with various nests and birds. I love them all.

In a fit of sentimentality I ordered a red currant bush from Edible Landscaping. Though we have no room for this 3 gallon plant, my childhood memories of driving out into the Michigan countryside to purchase currants from an old European woman on hot summer afternoons won out over space considerations.

Now as I type German girl is reading their catalog and planning how we can redo our garden to accommodate a variety of edible plants to include mango paw paws and lingonberries.

Luckily we have haircuts at noon and Germany playing in the World Cup at 2:30 for distraction from this line of thinking. I'm off to hide the catalog and put on some black.

Whatever your country or affiliation may you hear the magic word " goal"!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Let The Good Times Roll

I was wondering if I should post another meal so soon. Then I thought, can there ever be enough food?

This is a summer go to meal: a shrimp boil. There is a more complicated version involving sausage, onions, celery, more guests and a crazy redhead. This is best done at the beach.

But last night there were only four of us, two dogs and a breezy summer night.

So, in a large pot you steam potatoes covered with Old Bay Seasoning for 10 minutes, add corn, more Old Bay, steam another 10, then the shrimp, more seasoning, steam another 10 minutes. Make a salad, heat and slice bread, place shrimp boil in bowl and serve with cocktail sauce.

Very important to cover your table in newspaper as shrimp shells and corn cobs are discarded directly onto table. When bowl is empty roll up "tablecloth" and throw in trash.

For dessert, gelato, freshly picked raspberries and lots of laughter.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Still In Kansas

Yesterday 91 degrees by 9:oo am. I had thought to get a jump on the heat by working in the garden early, by 8:00 I had an early start on a sauna. And no ice cold water to jump into. Dogs loved me though, the human salt stick.

We broke for an indoor breakfast of eggs from the farm. Put on more sunscreen and ventured back outside. Getting hotter, mulched vegetables with straw, finished planting all annuals, German girl mowing, lab inside.

Skies turning from blue to gray and black, tornado warning, rush around putting away tools and lawnmower. Hustle inside, cat thinks she's Dorothy and refuses to join us.

An hour of rain. That's all we get. Give up on outdoors and laze around reading, dogs sleeping, cat pouting because she didn't go to Oz.

Temperature dropped, Tini brought sushi for dinner and we all moved outside again. Neighbors came by, dogs begged for but didn't like raw fish, let it drop from their mouths in horror.

Moved back indoors and read. Tini fell asleep over her New Yorker. That's it folks. That was Sunday.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Full Disclosure

Though I longed to stay home the other day and play in the garden, my day at work was not hell.

The local garden flowers are flowing in. Nigella, larkspur, fresh herbs, baptisia foliage, lambs ear, hydrangea, garden roses and we're still getting peonies from points north.

We're eating ripe cantaloupe and bags of cherries at lunch. Our driver brought us a dozen cupcakes from a new (to us) bakery in Alexandria called Buzz.

And twice a day an iced grande skim latte from Starbucks is delivered to the design table. It's not home but it's not shabby.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I Wanted

I so wanted to stay home this morning so I could smell this rose.

And eat these raspberries.

And tie up the tomatoes.

And sip my latte.

And plant the exotic love bean and other goodies.

But then I remembered there wouldn't be a here for all this if I didn't go. So I went.

P.S. All was good and everything except my latte was waiting for me when I came home :-)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Farm Daze

Just up from a nap. Busy two days, much activity, very little sleep. Everyone at work felt the same , we all swam wearily through the day.

On Monday we went to one of my spiritual homes, the farm in Maryland. Only 40 minutes away(though in an non airconditioned truck on a humid 90 degree day with a 70 pound Lab plastered to your side, 40 minutes can seem like 40 hours) it's a different world.

As we drove through the farms gates the temperature dropped at least 10 degrees. Peacocks were shrieking, magnolias blossoms were scenting the air and a freshly baked strawberry rhubarb pie, made with garden fruit, was cooling in the kitchen.

We had our usual 2 hour pre dinner stroll of Heaven's 5 acres. There were two new 7 month old Maine coon kittens playing with a frog down by the pond. We looked and asked questions and took pictures and looked some more. There are always freshly planted new beds, something new in the old beds and far too many treasures for us to take home.

We ate grilled leg of lamb, asparagus and lettuce from the garden and that pie. German girl's favorite, it was etched with her name, I didn't know if it would be shared.

We left with a truck bed full of home grown heirloom tomato and pepper plants ,an exotic love vine, scented nicotiana seedlings, African foxgloves and a host of other beauties we have no room for. We have a dozen eggs from their chickens and some more of that pie.

They'll be with us for the 4th of July. AND they'll bring their blueberry pie.We love those boys. Life is sweet.