Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Good Things

Last week Dean went to Backyard Medicine Camp, taught by his preschool teacher who also happens to be an herbalist. Each day after camp he would come home smelling so good, talking about calendula & catmint, plus countless other herbs he had harvested, not to mention the currants and blueberries he plucked out of her backyard. By the end of the week he had made and brought home a Ginger Decoction, Healing Herbal Salve, and Rosebud-Horehound-Lemongrass Syrup (good for colds, coughs, & fevers), plus baggies with dried herbs for a calming tea and calendula along with a recipe for a calendula tincture.

Gianna was also at a camp, which meant I was back in the world of packing lunches and snacks. Isn't it funny that while Gianna isn't an adventurous eater, Dean is, and yet he doesn't usually like the handful of things that she likes, aside from candy. Homemade hummus & carrots for her, cream cheese & red peppers for him. No sandwiches for her, peanut butter & jam for him. Pita pizzas for her, quinoa salad for him.

I once saw a comic illustration depicting the front page of a newspaper that was called something like "Happy News Times" and the headline read "8000 planes landed just fine today!" I believe there was another headline that just said "Kittens!" I feel like something like this needs to exist for real, especially now with our current government highlighting the worst in people daily, and being the worst in general. There's a wonderful children's book called Good People Everywhere that is a great counterbalance. It simply lists off the good things people are doing everyday in their daily lives and at the end asks what good thing is the reader going to do today. My kids weren't touched by it, which shows me that they are happily oblivious and don't need the reminder, which is great. Another feel-good thing I've recently discovered is a segment on the new podcast "It's Been A Minute with Sam Sanders." The Friday episode concludes with a handful of people listing off the best thing that happened to them that week. I love it!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Summer Scenes

During winter, when my garden is just flat, brown earth I think about what it looks like in the height of summer and I find myself in a bit of disbelief. 'Did it really look so lush last summer?' I think to myself. And now, here I am on the cusp of the season of abundance. The first tomato turned from green to yellow. The first squash just appeared yesterday. The green beans are blooming, soon to become 1/2" long tiny beans. We've counted 20 marble-sized figs. We've seen more butterflies this summer than ever before. A red dragonfly kept me company while I was watering the front yard earlier this week. I watched the cat doing NOTHING as a squirrel ran off with a big, ripe strawberry.

Summer is such an adjustment. The kids finally settled into a good groove of playing with each other, after three weeks of arguing alternating with complaints of boredom. They played Science Camp, boardgames, Kitty Camp, Camping, and Cafe (which can leave the kitchen quite messy). Gianna has been reading lots and lots of chapter books. It's so fun to see her love of reading develop. She also picked up her knitting needles and asked for help with them. Over the last two years I have tried to teach her to knit, only to discover that she just didn't have the patience yet for it. This time, though, she sat still and knit four rows, and then picked it up again the next morning.

Earlier this month we all switched bedrooms. I packed up my craft studio, Vincent designed and built a new bunk bed, and Gianna moved in. Dean moved into our old room and we moved into the kids' old room. I was sure that one or both of the kids would have sleep regression issues upon changing rooms, but there haven't been any problems. They both really like having their own space. And we love having a bigger room. It's big enough that I have a dresser in there just for my craft projects, so I don't have to keep all of my knitting supplies in the garage. Now I'm going through the annoying task of going though all of those supplies to decide what goes in the dresser, what goes into the garage, and what gets donated.

When our berries started to get mushy I decided it was the perfect excuse to make a cake. I made the Triple Berry Summer Buttermilk Bundt from Smitten Kitchen, although I only used two types of berries. It turned out really well. It's exactly what I want with a cup of tea in the afternoon. It will be gone by the end of the day, so I need to figure out what I'm going to make for this weekend. Maybe banana bread? I've always wanted to make these Raspberry Jam Buns from Small Victories, or basically anything from the brunch book Over Easy by Joy the Baker.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Whirlwind of June


Last summer one of my favorite people was in town for a visit. We were out to dinner, catching up and I told her that I hoped that Ryan Adams would go on tour and play a show near Memphis, TN (where she lives) so I could visit her and see him play. Fast forward to February when he announced his tour dates (no Memphis) and I get a text from her listing the California dates of his tour. A few months later we were meeting up at the airport, catching a ride to our charming bungalow in Berkeley. It was a perfect 48 hours away from home. Courtney and I have been friends since we met in Freshman English when we were 14. She is an effortless friend, like the sister I never had. (She is also a great writer; check out her books here and here!) We walked and walked and walked, chatting the whole time. The only research I did, other than buying concert tickets and finding a place to stay, was food related and it really paid off. The best meals we had were places I had recommendations for. On our first night we had a late dinner at the Chez Panisse Cafe. The food was exquisite. That apricot galette was tart and such a good contrast with the ice cream. We were staying close enough to the restaurant that we walked home in the warm night. We spent the rest of the night listening to Fleetwood Mac records that happened to be stashed in a drawer in the house. The next morning we had breakfast at La Note. Soft scrambled eggs with cream cheese on levain with roasted tomatoes -  could there be a better breakfast? The cinnamon brioche with lavender butter was crazy good too. We took the train into San Francisco where we spent the day walking, 13 miles overall. The weather was perfect, clear and 74. That evening we walked to the Greek Theater, had a beautiful night outdoors (look at that sunset!) listened to great music, and I started my Ryan Adams merchandise collection.


For our 10th wedding anniversary we finally decided to take a trip without our kids for the first time. I have travelled without them and Vincent has travelled without them, but we haven't left at the same time. My mom stayed at our house that weekend and was a super champ, taking them to the end of year celebration at Gianna's school (Dean announced that he had eaten TWO snow cones there!), made pancakes for dinner, and took them to a 5 year old's Star Wars themed birthday party. They had such a great time with her that Gianna cried when my mom went back to her house Sunday afternoon. We enjoyed the four hour train ride to Seattle and arrived in time for the complimentary wine hour at our hotel. Then we had a short walk to get dinner. Like my previous trip, I really only did research on restaurants and a place to stay. I follow a few food bloggers who live in Seattle, so I went back through their accounts to see where they liked to eat and it did not disappoint. I still think about the meal I ate at Oddfellows Cafe. I tried a Negroni for the first time (loved it) and find myself wishing I could get that hanger steak, salty mashed potatoes and garlicky green beans at least twice a month. The next day we ate breakfast at the hotel, which was quite good, and walked over to Pike Place Market. The peonies were gorgeous, the fishmongers were loud and there were tons of tourists, ourselves included, and that was enough of that. With nothing on our agenda, we caught a matinee of Wonder Woman (which caused me to unexpectedly weep tears of joy when the Amazons were on screen). Later we had drinks at Essex (with the fantastic whale wallpaper) and met up with my cousin at Delancey for some of the best pizza I've ever eaten. I have no pizza photo from that night because I was having such a good time that I left my phone in my bag, which is just as it should be. And then just like that it was Sunday and we were back on the train heading home.


The Sunday after school ended we packed up the truck and headed for the beach. It was Father's Day and camping seemed an appropriate celebration. After realizing we didn't camp enough to justify the storage fees for our camping trailer, we sold it and now are strictly yurt and cabin campers. That first day was sunny and gorgeous. Beverly Beach State Park is one of our favorite campgrounds. Sleeping in the forest with the beach one block away is pretty magical. There is this lovely passage to the beach with an archway formed by the highway overhead. Once the sun went down it got quite cold and we shivered through the night, so much so that the next day we bought a wool blanket to get us through another night. The next day we did a little whale watching, went out to lunch and, of course, ate overpriced, mediocre beach town food. Next time I'm packing lunch. On the second night I woke up in the middle of the night to Vincent, nauseous from a migraine, and rain coming down outside. We both got back to sleep, thankfully. The next morning we packed up and stopped for pancakes before driving home. Camping is always a mixed bag for me. I look forward to it, then realize how much work it is while we are doing it, never sleep well, am always ready to get home, and then think back fondly on the handful of great moments we had. The kids unconditionally love it and are never ready to go home. I'm hoping it will get a bit easier the older they get.


The month of June was bookended by Ryan Adams concerts, one on June 2nd and another June 29th. It was such a busy month that we missed strawberry picking season entirely and I basically didn't do any gardening, other than occasional watering. It's nice to be back home in the lazy days of summer, tending the garden and letting the grill do the heavy lifting for dinner.