Favorites From Greece

In an amazing stroke of luck, over the summer the stars all aligned and not only was I able to visit Paris, but I snuck in some time to visit with a few amazing folk celebrating (and participating!) a wedding in Crete. The food, the views, the weather, the hospitality (oh! the hospitality!) … Greece was amazing, and plans are currently being drawn together to return hopefully next year to meet up with our friends again. It’s so great to know people who live in such fabulous locations!

Balcony View

Dining AlFresco

Ancient Wall

Venetian Port

Secret Street

No Addresses Here

Cretean Sky

Ancient Entrance

The Leather Trail

Cheese

Wedding Recption

Sunset

Fishing at Sunset

Final Night

Favorites From France

Pantheon

Stairwell

Chocolate

To Market To Market

Rodin

Rainy Lunch

Sacre Coeur

Eiffel Chics

Eiffel At An Angle

Picnic In the Park

Metro

Notre Dame

Water Travel People

Looksy Locks

Bistro

Seine

Looksy Pathe

Parisian Alley

I waited nearly my entire life to get there. There were quite a number of attempts, none of which came to fruition. But a ten year anniversary seemed a rather opportune moment to try to align the stars, and align they all did. We even managed, serendipitously, to schedule our trip at the same time as our good friends who were also there celebrating their ten year anniversary, which made out time there even sweeter. I was a teeny bit worried that all the years of dreaming might have my raised my expectations too high, but the city lived up to all I imagined.

It might have taken ten years to get there, but it won’t take another ten to get back.

 

Ten Minute Meal :: Panzanella with Cannellini

The weather here has been a bit extreme. Unbearably hot and humid with a drying wind that burned what was left of my hydrangeas, then this week sunny, bright, and cool, with nights that required long sleeves and socks. But it’s still tomato season, and they are having their moment and should be utilized, even if I don’t feel like spending time in the kitchen.

With the start of school last week, and quite a number of adjustments to our schedule—relaxed or possibly even non-existent over the summer—this week, I’ve been a bit tapped out when dinner time rolls around. But there’s only so many days one can eat pasta or pizza, isn’t there?

Luckily, we are all fans of panzanella, which the kids call crouton salad, and we have a few variations that are the perfect thing to make when you don’t really feel like being in the kitchen. This one is my favorite version.

This here is a mix of canned and rinsed Cannellini beans, chopped ripe tomatoes (these are amazingly sweet yellow heirlooms), thinly sliced yellow bell pepper, a handful of parsley, and the leftover, sliced heart from the head of a Boston Bibb lettuce. Mixed together with the juice of two lemons, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

10min Beans N Greens

While that sits for a minute or two, I take some lovely sliced bread from a local baker, slather it with olive oil, stick it in the toaster, then stack and cut it into bite-sized chunks. This is such a time saver! Broiling takes too long, and I can’t count the number of times I burnt all the bread because I forgot it for a few extra seconds. As an added bonus the kids can help with this part while I sliced and toss the other ingredients.

Toasty Bread

First, the bread goes into the bowl… I like it to be the base to soak up all the juice from the tomatoes and lemon and olive oil.

In A Bowl

Then the other ingredients.

Lemons N Oil

Ten minutes. Well, maybe fifteen depending on how comfortable you are with a knife. Super simple, incredibly tasty, and no cooking required (toaster doesn’t count).

 

Squam :: Of Pathfinding and Salt and Hay-Scented Fern

During the summers when I was a small child, we used to drive several hours to my grandmother’s camp nearly every weekend, to a small, no-longer-mobile home placed on a small, cleared piece of property up a hill from a not-so-small river. There were, on any given weekend, a range of five to ten adults and seven or more of us little cousins. I remember that time more as a vignette than a storyboard, an abstraction of knees and heels and elbows, sharp angles and unfiltered energy covered in mosquito-bite scabs and sunburns; sweaty, our hair plastered to our foreheads as we lay on the floor of the back bedroom, a jumble of blankets and pillows, too excited to sleep, each of us filled with whispers and summer songs and scary stories.

Memories of a River

There are a handful of particular moments that rise above the din, but for my purposes here, it is the gestalt where I am finding my thoughts drawn. It is difficult to describe this phenomenon fully, what I picture is more of memory of a memory, a trace left behind of what has been forgotten. I believe these are the roots of nostalgia, a longing to capture those wispy threads and weave them into something more than a few frames of a short movie clip, a desire to process their meaning into something relevant to our lives as we live them now so we can preserve the ephemeral and transform it into what we believe is more concrete.

Sitting on the Dock

It is within this space where I am now processing the past week spent at Squam. I have been trying to write about the experience for the past three days, but haven’t found the right way of stringing together the words to properly convey and commit those moments to the meaning I intend. I find myself thinking about the pleasures and taste of salt, the difficulties of describing that intensity, the brightness, complexity mixed with desire, and somehow an understanding of how it all comes together without the ability to call it anything else than by what is already known. There are no simple words for it, and using metaphor is the only clumsy way in which I can imagine it might make sense.

Little Bits of Work

On Friday morning I found myself a tiny bit lost in the woods of New Hampshire, not realizing I was on the incorrect path until I found myself at the far edge of the camp. I wasn’t truly lost with the lake on my right, and I didn’t have a particular schedule so I felt little need to continually compare the forks in the road with the map I carried along. I was trying to find a way to capture the beautiful paths that led through the woods through the lens of my camera, paths that were hard to find and impossible to photograph while looking ahead, yet magically appeared under your feet with each steady-paced step.

Hidden Path

That walk was so very evocative of the woods in the backyard of my childhood and the entire placed smelled like my grandma’s camp. “Hay-Scented Fern,” my cabin mate Ivy pointed correctly toward the lacy green covered ground, but she didn’t know what she was missing in her description; she carries none of my memories of elbows and summer scabs. Her nostalgia was fed by the sounds of squeaky sliding summer doors. Olivia, by thoughts of screened-in lake-view porches for a summer’s worth of writing. Or Jenn, by the paths left on her body mapping her entry into motherhood. Only short, shared glimpses of a whole that is difficult to see, capture, or describe fully, but imbued with meaning none-the-less.

Hay-Scented Fern

And so it is with Squam. A collection of amazing women, in an incredible setting, exploring our creativity, and restoring our spirits. Each of us finding and losing and finding once more our own paths, intersecting with others, connecting through experience and stories over smoky camp fires in rustic cabins, coffee served in thimbles, and meals announced by the ringing of a bell carrying clearly over the still waters of the lake. Words that describe only the vaguest sense of what the experience actually meant to those who participated. And therein lies the crux of my problem; I am grasping at all the threads gently drifting on currents of thought, trying to tie together that which is amorphous and unwilling to be shaped by restrictive constraints of words falling inextricably in line to explain the entirety of something too abstract to properly convey.

Process Piece

Squam is the path; impossible to see beyond the length of your step or to capture through the limitations of any lens, but unfolding steadily as it was always meant to be. And we are the salt; a richness, a point of saturation in sensation, an experience that defies description, but is instantly understood by all who know it.

Be Back Soon

This is an incomplete and unworthy metaphor, this talk of salt and paths, but it the best I can manage. Perhaps the words will come to me next year—and yes, I will absolutely return—when likely I will once again find myself following an unexpected trail with an unknown destination. I will think of the friends I made; fellow mamas who pack up all the belongings and move themselves and their four children on a boat to set sail to far away islands; women who feed the hungry of their community every Tuesday for eight years with soups and salads and twelve loaves of the bread they make each week; two women who maintain their cross-coast connection through Squam every year but are willing to open their arms to welcome new friends; vibrant women who have already written two books before they’ve reached mid-life, and who will share openly their passion and talents and offer honest advice; women who are our personal icons who teach and nurture us along this path and share themselves and open their hearts (and studios) as the most amazing resources…

And I will be sure to think of salt once more.

Vacationing :: Cherry Picking

To The Sky 

Pictureskew

Apple Bins

Bounty

Getting Started

Picking With Pappy

Abundance

Ladders

Beautiful Buckets Reaching

Huge Haul

Big Barn

A few days ago, the eldest two finally finished up with school for the year, so I packed up the car, stuffed the kids and the dog in, and drove back home to Pennsylvania. After a weekend of sleeping in and catching up with family, we kicked off our newly schedule-free days with an early morning of cherry picking.

The orchard we visited opened at 7am, but the day was forecast to be rather rainy and dreary, so my dad and I decided we didn’t need to be there at the crack of dawn since we thought not many people would venture out. Well, that turned out to be a bit of a mistake. Bu the time we got there at 8.30, the place was mobbed and the sour cherries—which we love for pie baking—were completely picked through and we barely collected enough to make two pies. There was an overabundance of sweet cherries though, and we are working our way through the many pounds of them at an alarming rate, although not fast enough for my dad who claims there isn’t quite enough room in the fridge and we need to eat. more. now.

And that big haul up the page a bit, with the dozen or so 5 gallon buckets of cherries? They were collected by a group of Amish women (who obviously showed up at exactly the crack of dawn!) the total cost of which was two cherries shy of $500.00 worth. The women checking them out gave them five free fruits, which I though was a nice little bargain, but she did make them run and grab the five themselves. I wonder what deliciousness they will make with such an abundance, and I also can’t help but to be curious how they’ll pit them all.

Buck In Velvet

Black Raspberry

Rolling Hills

Big Sky

Stormish

Enclosure Path

After the cherry picking adventure was over my dad took us all to a local deer farm for a little walk. The weather was, well, it was quite unpredictable, but absolutely lovely at the same time. And the views? Let’s just say I miss the sweeping views of all those rolling hills more than I could have imagined. But then again, that ocean view of ours does make up for a bit of what we lack in purple mountain(ish) majesty.

Inlows

DriveIn Diner

Foot Longs for Lunch

After all that picking and walking we just happened to find ourselves at one of my favorite little local drive-in diners for foot-long hot dogs and malted milkshakes. I love this place and stop by every summer I come home, even though the drive-in part is a bit of misnomer; no one has come out on skates to take your orders ever since I can remember. Those are the original 50’s counter-tops by the way… not much has changed here since they opened up back in the day of car hops and greasers.

I would say overall, we’re off to a great start to our vacation!

On today’s agenda? Resting, pie making, and maybe a nap or two! The black raspberries are coming in, so I suspect there will also be some jam-making soon.

Pickled Kale Salad

This has to be my number one favorite salad at this very moment…

Pickled Kale

…well, actually, for the past  three years worth of moments. We call it the Pickled Kale Salad ’round these parts. It is not for the feint of heart or palate. It’s this recipe here, although at this point, I’m not sure I use the recommended ratios anymore, I just wing it.

Green Green Green

Of course we still use the kale…

Fresh Parmesan

and fresh parmesan.

Dressing

The dressing is incredibly acidic, which is what you need to break down that tough kale into tender little bites of deliciousness. The garlic and hot peppers really stand up to the strong flavor of these greens, so don’t be afraid of

Favorite Salad

I make this with three bunches of kale, or whatever I can grab from our garden. Unlike most green salads I’ve experienced, it actually tastes better the next day, so making a big batch is a huge time saver and gives me a few ready-to-eat meals throughout the week.

Delicious Bite

When I make it for new initiates, I tend to dial down the garlic and chili, but when it’s just the two of us (oh no, the kids don’t go for this one!), I do not tend to hold back.

One Last Look

I just finished up the last bit of this week’s batch tonight, so looks like I’ll have to make another.