Monday, July 29, 2013

It's good when you lose track of the days ...

There's been a beguiling mixture of rain and sun here.

Rain is good for sitting on the porch with a book and looking at this.

Sun is good for exploring.

There was a parade in there somewhere too.

Reading: Finished Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight. A random descriptive passage (chosen from many that are equally evocative):

The heat in the kitchen is breath-sucking. There are two small windows at either end of the huge tacked-together room, and stable door, which leads off to the back veranda where the dairyman (surrounded by a halo of flied) labors over the milk churn (milk spits into buckets, cream chugs into a jug; both are in danger of going off before the can reach refrigeration). The fridges, unable to compete with the heat, leak (they bleed actually: think watered-down blood from the defrosting chunks of cow) and add a fusty-smelling steam to the atmosphere. The aroma here is defrosting flesh, soon-to-be-off milk, sweating butter, and the always present salty-meat-old-vegetable effluvium of the dogs' stew toiling away on the stove. (280)

Writing: Progress on the script, and an awareness that I have a grant deadline for fiction coming up.

Dinner: There's been a lot of good food and drink, including Connecticut peach dishes #s 4-6:
          • Peach basil bourbon smash (pictured at left), which I will note was fresh seasonal cocktail of the week #2.
          • Peach pie
          • Peach barbecue sauce, made to go with grilled pork and grilled summer squash and peppers, potato salad, and melon salad.
I am particularly proud of the bbq sauce. The recipe I was using as a blueprint called for fresh ginger, lacking which I added nutmeg, a bit of curry powder, some chili powder, and a handful of raisins (it all was pureed in the blender after simmering). It all worked.

Really, when have I ever had to cope with so many peaches? And there are more left!

Soundtrack: This morning a very proud robin spent a good 30 minutes declaring itself outside my bedroom window. I know there is a nest nearby because I saw mama robin out with a gangly, spotty breasted fledgling a couple of days ago, but this is the first morning I have been aware of this serenade. Maybe this is the song of the empty nest?

Random thing: I was on the dock with Orson last night as he was winding up a mackerel trawling session and a clumsy cormorant almost ran into us as it tried to take off from the water. They do a long flapping wind up before they take the the air. It had managed to get itself aloft a couple yards from the dock, realized it was headed straight for me and dropped back into the water like a giant black feathered rock. I was worried at first that it was injured, but after some sulky paddling around it repositioned itself and took off towards the open water.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fritters and Fizzes

Morning by the fire - father and son

Second full day and the rhythms are being established. O loves to play human bellows with the fire, which burns each morning. He got his fishing in with his grandmother, and went kayaking and boating with his dad. Z went kayaking too and says that we should make it a goal to kayak every day. a good goal. She is also enchanted by the How to be the Best at Everything book David picked up at the library sale. (That was a useful library sale!) I continue to read and write, and got lots of time on my rock (will post pics of which another day)..

For breakfast David made peach fritters (Connecticut peach dish #2), and they were good.

We were joined in the afternoon by summer friends Michelle and Bob and their son C, who will keep us company and drink cocktails (see below) with us for several days.

And my father in law was heard to utter this: "The end that's in the middle is I don't know why."

Reading: The Fuller and also The Odyssey. The latter out on the rock.

Writing: Yes, in bed, on the porch, and on the rock. Making progress in draft and making realizations about how to streamline structure.

I mixed Michelle a promised belated birthday cocktail, namely
a cucumber lime gin fizz, with a cilantro garnish (apt as the gin
was Boodles, which has a coriander note in its botanicals).

Dinner: Ken and Connie brought their pizza maker to provide the appetizers. Tertia made beef stew for dinner, with a salad and good cheese bread from town. I made peach compote (Connecticut peaches dish #3) with cranberries, honey, spiced rum, and spices to go with Michelle's homemade salted caramel ice cream. It was a rainy evening, and this meal was just right.

Soundtrack: I'm big enough to admit it. I had Eddie Rabbit's I Love a Rainy Night in my head all evening.

Random thing: First sighting of an osprey flying home from the water with a large fish clasped in its talons.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

There is really not much going on

Peach Crisp with Half and Half
(Connecticut peaches dish #1)

The difficulty with being in a place where there is really not much going on is that there really is not much going on. I happen to love this about the cove, and I think ZandO do too really, but the first day was a bit rough.

O wants so much to do the things he wants to do - fishing and Risk, mostly,  and kayaking - that he has a very hard time letting anyone else do what they want. Z, the socialest of sociable animals, is anxious for her summer friends to arrive on the weekend, and keyed up about the possibility of seeing her a best friend from home as she passes up the coast (this complicated by the fact that we get no cell phone reception here -- again, not something I mind on my on own). All this makes her less than gracious, and she also gets fed up with being the default playmate for her brother, in predictable and irritating ways. And David has things he wants to do too, and wishes the kids would run off and entertain themselves more. I am confident we will all find our rhythms after a day or two.

Good things happened today too. O caught an 8-inch mackerel off the dock! Z and I went out to write and draw on "my rock," but the tide was so high (supermoon high) that we couldn't get to it without a fairly serious wading expedition. So we perched on a smaller rock on shore for a good 40 minutes, each quietly doing our work and exclaiming occasionally when the waves leapt too high. Walks were taken. People went swimming.

Reading: I am consternated by my father in law, who picked up the Fuller book I am reading and spent the day getting beyond where it has taken me more than a week to read to.

In lieu of the read-out-loud books left at home (Haroun and Matilda, depending on the parent in question), we started Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones, gotten at the library sale on Monday.

Writing: Worked on my script out on the rock with Z, not on my book, working in a recycled book notebook I use when I need to carry something smallish (boards are the cover of an old children's dictionary, with the color illustrated dictionary pages interspersed among the blank pages). I think I like where the script is going. It is very short. I don't need it to go far.

But I do need to finish a draft of the book in the next two weeks. Zut alors! Can it be done?

My friend Charlie posted something recently about how his most productive time as a writer was when he had fewer friends, travelled less, and taught less.

Cousins-in-law, mostly only
ever encountered in Maine.

Dinner: Tertia made a stir fried veg and noodle dish. Cousins Ken and Connie brought some of their own house wine and a tray of yummy tidbits. We threw together a salad when I had to send Connie back to her house to get butter for the peach crisp.

Soundtrack: The classical station from Portland plays in the kitchen of the cabin most of the day.

Random thing: Z and I have been admiring all of the orb spider webs in the woods. It stayed misty so long that they seemed jewel encrusted most of the day.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Day We Arrived on the Cove (and ate in diners)

I was on the dock crabbing with Orson as soon as we unpacked the car. I saw the colors in the water first, then looked up. 

Evening Rainbow, Flood's Cove.
You can't tell from the photo, but it was actually a double
-- there was a second arc above the one visible here.

A strange half power outtage at Falk Manor drove us out for breakfast (that and the fact that we wanted to take them out to thank them), which we procured at the S&S Dugout Cafe in Southport, on Liz's recommendation.

photo Roadfood,com. Read their review.
They make their own delicious sausage -- a  fresh pork patty with spices. David and I had the hot, which really is hot, along with the house speciality fried mashed potatoes, rye toast, and two eggs over easy. Harris had the sweet, which really is sweet. O had a fine BLT, and Z had another house speciality - rare roast beef on a poppyseed roll.

After that, peach picking, of course! We left Connecticut with 2 pecks of freshly picked peaches crammed into the back of the car and dreams of pies and cobblers and fritters and salsa dancing in our heads. There was heavy rain on the Mass Pike, but all else was uneventful. We probably bought too much at the New Hampshire state store, and really I don't think it is that much of a bargain, but like moths to the flame we must visit their well-stocked aisles. And then ... too hungry to drive all the way to the cove without another meal, we stopped at the trusty Brunswick Diner, where I ate a SALAD and excellent crusty homefries mixed with other VEGETABLES, while my people had fried seafood, and who can blame them?

Photos of Brunswick Diner, Brunswick
This photo of Brunswick Diner is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Our children are becoming creatures of ritual and habit. At girls' camp recently, Z and her friends were careful to keep track of all the things they have done in years past that they had to get just-so this time. And today on pulling into the parking lot in Brunswick, Z exclaimed happily, "Oh! This is the place we always go!" and O said, "Yeah! It's the place with juke boxes on the tables!"

I am very aware that these are their formative memories. If I think about it too hard I get all wibbly wobbly.

And then the drive up US 1 and windows opened to let in the scent of ocean and pine and kids going crazy in the back seat with anticipation of finally having arrived. When we got here, we had to visit the water and pull up a few crabs and visit the woods to check on the fairy houses. We also had a run in with a very rambunctious white standard poodle staying near the dock at the Defiance.

Reading: I sat with Z and read the Fuller book (see yesterday), while she played Minecraft. I was reading Haroun and the Sea of Stories to them at home (begun before I knew I would be teaching it this coming year), and neglected to bring it ... I need to find a local copy or break down and buy an electronic copy.

Writing: No. But Wednesday is the day.

Dinner: Tertia had a light supper of minestrone and local Borealis bread waiting for us. And a blueberry pie. I am a fortunate soul.

Soundtrack: The Sidney Bechet disk David picked up at the Westport library sale Monday was just the thing for our jaunt to the peach orchard. The Life on Mars soundtrack helped make the Mass Pike bearable, and Elvis brought us up Highway 1.

Random thing: No pictures of fairy houses yet, but crabs ...


Monday, July 22, 2013

Maine Vacation days 1&2 (not yet Maine)

Sleepy people 

Friday I finished my tenure at a job I have been working hard at for a year and a half? Two years? Five? Depends on how you count it. I stayed late to try to leave things as neatly as I could. After 11 I turned out the lights and whispered goodbye and thank you and good luck, and I drove home crying with the windows open to the humid night air. Crying because of endings, because of change, because I made this happen and I hope I have done the right thing. In one month I will begin the next thing.

Saturday was packing and shopping and attending a theater people wedding. And Sunday was the long drive to Westport to see old friends in their new(ish) house.

Along the way we ate here - food was ok, people were great.

Harris I have know for ... 24 years? ... Liz for what must be nearly 10. I was very very pregnant with O, in an elegant black prego lady dress, when I stood in their wedding party 8 years ago. Little Z tossed flower petals and after the revelry had worn her out slept on two chairs pushed together near the coat closet while we danced into the night.

And today, I slept in until 11. I really could've slept all day. We ate. We went to a library book sale, played ping pong by the estuary, swam, and ate some more. I got precipitously tired and hungry and dehydrated and low in the late afternoon but bounced back.

The rest of this trip is really more of a working vacation. Much writing and reading and planning to do. I plan to keep you posted .

Reading: Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller.

Writing: This is it. But I have a short script I have been ruminating on. Does that count?

Dinner: Harris grilled pizza and burgers and corn. Liz made a lemon yogurt cake. Also we drank their wine. It was all great, and I am fighting the impulse to feel like a mooch. Sometimes you let other people take care of you. Right?

Soundtrack: As we cleaned up after dinner, Liz asked what contemporary music I like, if any.  I insisted I am a bad person to ask. Randomly I suggested Whitehorse and The Black Keys and then realized that was funny. Dear reader, you are welcome to make other suggestions.

Random thing: O is recently obsessed with Risk, Z with building fanciful themed structures in Minecraft. These will shape the vacation .

Friday, July 5, 2013

They Both Trick You.

Ceci n'est pas un cupcake.
(Will only Kim get this joke?)

On several occasions recently I have said or done something, and David has said, "Are you going to blog about that?" (See, I am using him to do a sideways I'm-so-sorry-I-haven't-been-blogging pose. Nonbloggerasana. He's going to hate that.)

If I recall correctly, these included: my joy over realizing I could turn the raspberry ice cream I had just made into ice cream pie, the duck and kale spaghetti dish I invented, the pea pod slaw and Z as veggie crusader, my emotional reactions to Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir, and the "my city is beautiful" conversation I had with O.  I will write about that last first, and try to fill in the rest below.

A couple weeks ago, O got to visit what seemed like 100 different cultural institutions as part of a weeklong camp. This included the new MOCA Cleveland giant black crystal of salt building, which I have not yet visited myself. On the way down to camp the next day, he was telling me about how much you can see of the outside from inside the building. Then as we stopped at a light Little Italy, he caught sight of the big rolling chrome roof of the Peter B. Lewis building.

"Why did they make that building like that?" he asked.

"I don't know," I said. "It's not functional, you know? It's just there for you to look at. I think it makes you think about the other buildings around it differently."

"Yeah, it's like the MOCA building that way," O observed. "They both trick you."

I made small sound of agreement and kept driving. A few moments later, as we drove past MOCA, he said, "They are both really beautiful. Cleveland is a very beautiful city."

He has this incredible, innocent way of saying "beautiful" that over emphasizes the first syllable.

As we continued on and approached the botanical gardens, he observed, "The glasshouse is like that too. It does that. And it's really beautiful. And the music school," he added as we turned. "They are all so different." I pointed out the mansion that forms one wing of the historical society, and the new carousel rotunda. We discussed the merits of the new construction at the VA hospital, and finally offered up an appreciation of the planetarium as we pulled up to drop him off at the natural history museum.

"I'm glad I live in such a beautiful place," he said.


Reading: I've been reading Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, chef/owner of Prune in New York. I haven't eaten there, sadly, despite a friend's attempt to get us there the last time I was in the city. I am loving the book, which is written somewhat linearally but really operates as a serious of vivid vignettes about different experiences or lessons she has learned about food and cooking (and her messed up relationship with her mother). The vignettes almost but not quite in order. (As with most of the stuff I've been reading this year, I am interested in a writerly way in the minimal connective tissue in the text.)

And I am fascinated by Hamilton, to the point that I needed to go look her up online, outside the confines of the books, and I found weird gossip-columny stuff about her that bummed me out. Still enjoying the book, but I feel a little less like I can rely on her as a narrator. Isn't that weird? There is a lesson here.

Writing: Working hard to get this draft of the book done before I start teaching school in August. I need to become super disciplined about saying no to the world for a while. It is a race against the calendar and my own procrastinative and perfectionistic tendencies.

Also, venturing into playwriting again. More on that as it develops.

Dinner: OK, so I had some leftover duck confit from a celebratory dinner out with a friend. I wanted to use it up in a way that would have the meat as a flavor rather than the featured ingredient. I had a lot of kale on hand too, and it seemed to me that the rich, fatty duck would naturally partner well with the vegetal oomph of the kale. I thought about doing a soup -- maybe something peasant Frenchy with whited beans and some hard cheese, or something more Asian with slurpy noodles and salty tart broth -- but I went the slightly simpler route of very thinly chopped kale cooked in duck fat and then braised with onions and a little red wine. I shredded the duck meat into long bits too and added it to the kale along with a lot of black pepper and a dash of vinegar. All of this was tossed with spaghetti, with a little extra coarse salt. I only wish I had had something better than the cheap parm to sprinkle on it. Shards of crystally aged gouda maybe. Or maybe no cheese at all. It also needed a bit of fresh parsley over the top to brighten all the dark, richness. Next time.

Soundtrack: I've been lacksadaisacal about music recently. I think modern retro R&B is kind of where it's at for me, if I were forced to say. Oh, and I got to hear Pat Carney from the Black Keys make a really classy speech at the Cleveland Arts Prize shindig. He gave big props to Cindy Barber and the Beachland for making their success possible. It was cool.

Random thing: Lower Shaker Lake is becoming a place for me. I've always like the Shaker lakes, but recently I have forced myself to realize how accessible they are to me. This is somehow akin to the moment when I was living in New York when I realized the Metropolitan Museum was MINE (this involved a knish and a busload of Japanese schoolchildren. Maybe I'll tell that story someday). I stopped at the lake on my way to work the other day, just to take a brief stroll, and was rewarded with a tawny heron in flight across the length of the water and the casually ecstatic song of a grey catbird from the top of a stand of scrubby trees. I was close enough that I could see his beak move and his throat puffing up for the particularly emphatic bits.

For a little bit of history about the lake, check out this entry from the Cleveland Historical blog.