19 August 2014

Having a real summer

Our weather has been hot, quite hot, for much of this Seattle summer.  I'm not complaining.  The hot days and warm nights really make it feel like we have four season here (which is debatable).  We've had a few days where the marine layer hasn't burned off until noon, but most days have been clear and pretty warm.  

For Father's Day, I gave Byron the gift of two weekends each month in June, July, and August, that I promised we would not schedule even one little thing. I knew he would love it.  In truth, I hadn't thought I would like it so much, myself.  But it's been outstanding.  We've had time to do whatever feels like being done.  Putter.  Play at the park.  Go get ice cream.  Make jam.  Read books.  Visit and eat.  It's all good.

For the weekends that we have scheduled things, we've had a blast too.  We spent a very fun 4th of July weekend in the woods camping at Ohanapecosh in Mt. Rainier National Park with friends.  We made it to the Timber Music Festival with Aunt Becky and Uncle Darren.  We met up with my parents at the Oregon Zoo for an afternoon.  We spent four days with dear friends on the Oregon coast in the terrific little town of Manzanita.  We also had an unexpected visit from Cousin Sadie and Aunt Jill, complete with rides on Seattle's Big Wheel, playing at the water park, and making and eating some pretty fabulous food. Last week we had some fun, mid week, with friends on Whidbey.

The point of all this being that our summer has felt like, well, summertime.  Yes, it's been hot.  But it's also been a few months where the holidays and school commitments and appointments haven't owned us.  Where we've chosen the pace and the people.  We're having a real summer, folks!

14 August 2014

Mid week

I spent the last couple days on Whidbey Island hanging out with friends, exploring Ft. Casey, taking walks in the weird August mist and fog that has appeared this week, and learning how to play banana grams. Wyatt came too and also enjoyed spending time with his friend Will, getting to sleep in his sleeping bag (albeit on a bed), and exploring the beach and fort. We were graciously invited to stay at Alumni House West with our friends Carrie and Mark. The house is an old Victorian that was part of Camp Casey back in the early 1900s but now owned by Seattle Pacific University and made available for rental to alumni and faculty of the school. With six or seven bedrooms and a dining room that seats 15, it's a perfect group getaway. I felt lucky to join the fun.

Several ferry rides later we are home, just in time for the weekend. It's good to be me.

10 August 2014

Our nonagenarian

In February, I started planning a big party for the downstairs grandpa -- for his 90th birthday.  The big event came off smoothly over Father's Day weekend.  And now I'm finally getting around to posting some details here. 

We threw him the party in British Columbia, Canada, near the town he had lived for more than 25 years prior to moving to Seattle in 2010.  We invited his family -- including cousins he hadn't seen in 40 years -- and friends, former business associates, parishioners, neighbors, and former colleagues.  All told, we mailed nearly 80 invitations.

We scheduled the hoopla for the day of grandpa's 90th birthday, which was also Father's Day this year. My parents came from Oregon to help us throw the party.  They drove to Seattle, then caravaned up to British Columbia with us to set up, cater, and host the big day.  It was nice to be able to see my dad on Father's Day this year -- although I still feel a little bad that he worked so hard. 

We held the party at the cookhouse on the historic Nicola Ranch outside of Merritt, BC.  We also rented a house at the ranch where we stayed with my mom and dad.  Grandpa stayed in town with some friends.  The little house served us well, although the creatures in the walls kind of freaked me out at night (turned out to be birds).   A large field and playground next door made the smallest among us quite thrilled. 

On the day of the party, relatives (including cousins from Alberta & Washington) and close friends started the festivities by coming for brunch at 10:30.  Toast were made and stories were told.  Pictures taken.  Then a broader group of friends began to arrive for cake and celebration around 1 p.m.  In all, more than 60 people came and went.  It was a busy, festive, and good day.  Grandpa worked the room all day -- loving every minute of it.  Happy 90th Herman!

Byron and his Aunt Lenora.
The kitchen staff -- my mom and dad.

Herman with nieces Vera and Louise.
Herman's cousins and our family.
The Prescotts, who hosted Herman for the weekend.

09 July 2014

Beans and Greens

This summer's new CSA boxes have begun arriving on a regular basis and we are so enjoying their contents.  And yesterday, the first of many 10-lb. boxes of organic fruit arrived from across the mountains.  I have cherries everywhere at the moment.  I promise a full cherry clafouti report soon.

For now, I'm talking about escarole, which arrived in our CSA box last week.  A bitter-ish green, currently in season, which tastes great sauteed.  It is especially tasty in this dish, which I adapted from a recipe in a cookbook I owned long ago -- a cookbook that's name escapes me but it was authored by Dr. Andrew Weil and Oprah's former chef, a woman named Rosie.  In any case, this preparation is still very much around and in heavy rotation at our house.

Beans & Greens
olive oil
dried red chile flakes
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 head escarole, roughly chopped (I use lacinato kale when I don't have escarole)
2 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped or sliced
3 cups cannellini beans, cooked (if from a can, rinse and drain)
1-2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 lb. dried penne pasta (or another shape you like)
About a 1/2 c. basil pesto -- homemade or purchased, whatever you like
Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Cook the pasta to al dente in a large pot of boiling water.

While the pasta is cooking, using a large skillet or sauté pan, saute the onion and pepper flakes in olive oil until just getting soft. Add the greens and let them just wilt.  Add the garlic and stir everything around until the garlic is nicely fragrant but not browned.  Add the beans and about 1 cup of the broth, cover the dish but leave some space so steam can easily escape and simmer for about 3-5 minutes, until the greens are tender, beans are heated through, and the broth is reduced or gone.  Add the remaining broth and stir everything together.  Taste for salt and add some if needed. Remove mixture from the heat.

Drain the pasta, but don't rinse.  Toss the hot pasta with the pesto in a bowl.  The pasta should be generously coated with pesto.  You may need a bit more pesto or depending on pasta size/pesto texture.

To assemble: Place about 1/2 cup of the pesto-covered pasta in a shallow serving bowl.  Ladle a generous helping of the greens/beans/broth mixture over the pasta.  Top with the cheese.

Serves 4 as a main course

28 June 2014

A new summer job

Wyatt and I are enrolled in a new co-op preschool for fall 2014 -- the Woodland Park Cooperative Preschool.  The school is a place that encourages student-led play and exploratory learning.  Opportunities are provided but the kids ultimately choose what they will interact with in both an outdoor and an indoor classroom.  Our new teacher, Teacher Tom, has a big personality and a lot of experience with this kind of program.  He's hugely popular.

As part of the co-op experience, each parent gets a school job. I''ll be the chairperson for the summer session program for summer 2015 -- but, it tuns out, that means doing a number of tasks for this summer's session as well.  So starting on June 4, I began buying snacks and coordinating activities for a program I know very little about.

To get more familiar with the summer program, Wyatt and I decided to participate in Woodland Park's summer session. So for the first two weeks of June we were still attending our regular co-op and also going to summer school three mornings a week at Woodland Park.  Super fun.  Crazy busy.

The other parents and staff that I've met at Woodland Park have been terrific, and nice, and super helpful.  It's truly a team approach for all the summer tasks, so I can't complain.  And if I'm honest, diving right in with a job to do has helped me feel part of the community more quickly.  Come fall, we'll be very familiar with the place, which I kind of like.


24 June 2014

Only a paragraph

June has been a tad busy in these parts. We have ended one school and started another.  Swimming lessons have begun as a daily ritual. We made it to Canada to throw a party for grandpa's 90th birthday, complete with 50+ people who came for brunch, cake and celebration.  Had a brief visit with my mom and dad, who were rock stars for traveling to Canada with us and helping throw the party.  There's been a car accident that totaled grandpa's vehicle, despite hurting no one at all.  Colds have been had and are unfortunately lingering among us.  Every other day, we seem to pick five pounds of strawberries from the yard.  One must eat them.  I've taken grandpa on six trips to the dentist and oral surgeon, with at least 10 more to go, to essentially get his mouth renovated.  Gallstones apparently need to be removed from one of us sometime soon. Another of us is reading everything in sight, out loud. Our cat attacks my ankles and chases me down the hall on a daily basis.  I think it's her way of demanding treats and unfortunately I reinforce this behavior.  Me and my three-year-old are prepping the deck for a new coat of stain.  Elves will soon stain the deck. And then the beautiful, newly-rebuilt giant table will appear.  Somehow I became the chairperson for summer school at our new co-op.  The learning curve is a bit steep. Luckily, the sunsets from our deck have been stunning lately.  I finally handed off my co-op treasurer duties to someone new this week. We made s'mores over the charcoal barbecue on the summer solstice and licked our fingers.  And, what's more, we have perfectly spherical ice cubes in the freezer.

22 May 2014

Rhubarb galette

I am the lucky owner of a thriving rhubarb plant, having added it to my garden over a year ago now. I somehow resisted cutting stalks off the new plant last spring, and now I'm enjoying the pay off.  This week I consulted my Chez Panisse Fruit cookbook to see what to do with my bounty and decided to give the rhubarb galette a try.  Served with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, it was quite remarkable.   Even my three year old ate every last bite with barely a pause, declaring "the cookie part" to be his favorite.

Thanks to the genius of the folks at Chez Panisse (and Jacques Pépin, whom they credit), I discovered a galette dough that is so tasty it could contain, well, anything and you'd probably want to eat it. You can find the recipe I followed here.

A few notes:  I skipped the amaretti powder, but only because I didn't have any.  My crust was a bit more of a free-form than the one shown in the article.  I also chopped the rhubarb smaller and skipped the glaze.  I used only about 10 ounces of rhubarb sweetened with a generous 1/3 cup sugar to top half the recipe of the galette dough. 

The technique for making the dough is unique, but do follow it carefully.  The pastry doesn't look like much for a while, but comes together once you smoosh the pieces of dough into a ball with plastic wrap and refrigerate. 

Just for me

I am under no illusions.  I know that although they are lovely, the pictures I take of my garden are really just for me. So, my apologies for this quite selfish post.

The garden changes so rapidly once the growing season is here that I forget the just how vivid the May/June shades of green are by the time the tired August ones arrive -- unless I take a picture of course.  These pictures are from the past two weeks of May.  We've had an exquisite show of flowers and color around the place. 

Before I started gardening, I admit that I didn't appreciate the differences between May and June or between August and September.  Now I feel like there is always something unique to enjoy at the moment and also something different but good to look forward to at every part of the season.  Today, it's green and flowering everywhere with the anticipation of peonies -- and fruit!