Strangest thing. I just looked at the calendar and it claims it's July. So weird. It was just June, I swear. In fact, I'm fairly certain we have one or two walls that still boast May. Is this what it is to be 42? Or summer? Or alive?
All of the above, then. Fair enough.
How are you?
What month is it where you are?
We are in that weird, wobbly, post-trip place, having flung ourselves to Seattle and back since last we spoke. It was good, and great, and exhausting, and wonderful, and never enough, and always plenty. And if the above and below look rather thin on the oceans-and-mountains, well. In mid-June, I plunked our week's work into this space, pending only words. Sure I'd wrap up before we skipped town. Or on the plane. Or while we were away.
Wanna hear another good one?
My own Ju-nu-ly memories are twinkling with bright lights, the way very long stretches do. A list, then, today, of some of those lovelies that rise above the sticky floors and stealth dust bunnies:
:: Meghan Cox Gurdon's perfect piece from last week's WSJ, "The Great Gift of Reading Aloud". (No link, as it takes you to a subscribers-only page, but Google "Wall Street Journal Read Aloud", and you're IN.) Gurdon captures why I make time to read-aloud, even on the latest nights, at the end of the longest days. And over breakfast, and mid-morning, and in every nook and cranny I can find. Even to my strong, stand-alone, independent readers. Because when we share a story, as Kate DiCamillo so exactly says, “We exist together in a little patch of warmth and light.”
A huge thanks to my friend Erikka for the link. Made my day.
:: Speaking of which, we just finished The League of Beastly Dreadfuls. Have you read it? Did you like it? We mostly did, and a little bit didn't. Plenty of offbeat humor, gothic detail, and enough oddball plot to keep up a rollicking clip. But much was undertaken at the outset, and it's hard to tie all those loose ends elegantly up. Still, I kind of can't wait for the sequel.
:: Two books that had my 10 year old reading up past 1 a.m., this week: The Night Gardener and The Worst Class Trip Ever. (I'm not recommending that your 10 year old read past 1 a.m. Or, for that matter, mine. Just, you know, saying.) And before that: Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures.
:: And not one to be left out: keeping my 7-year-old up well past bedtime of late: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library. (See disclosure, above.)
:: Meanwhile, I just finished A Separate Peace, which I'd somehow never read, until now. I'm still strugggling a bit with the title, having always believed it to be an "i", not an "a". But even as I come to terms with the knowledge that there's no special lego piece, no distinct slice of carrot cake, I'm basking in the afterglow of Knowles' thrumming story and exquisite, finely turned prose.
(Related: when your kids age out of read-alouds, because try as you might they eventually do, at least you can still side-by-side their assigned summer reading. Next up: Fahrenheit 451.)
:: I'm now in the middle of the second Flavia (!!!), a series I'm forcing myself to space and savor. No small feat, the spacing. But the savoring's a long-drawn-out slam-dunk.
:: Every summer, we try to do the new: new field trips, new restaurants, new skills. I've a crew of same-loving homebodies (hmmm...), so summer's our chance to bust out tiptoe toward change. On their end, among other things, we've been on a pom-pom bender, inspired by the sweet, addictive Pom-Poms! (It's about those hedgehogs...)
:: On my end, this means finally firing up Instagram (@remedialeating). Yo.
:: On screen, I believed the detractors who didn't love The Secret World of Arriety when it hit the big screen. My bad. Mary Norton's The Borrowers, brought to life in Miyazaki's signature, splendid detail? Delicious magic.
:: Then again, I'm totally with the critics on Inside Out (she said, to the three people who haven't yet seen it.) High five, Pixar.
:: I've not watched a movie on an airplane in, maybe, ever? At least in 15 years. Travelling with kids, you know. But I caught most of Spare Parts on our return trip, and WOW.
:: I'm reminded, whenever we're back in Seattle, of all the little, local, independent gems. Should you find yourself there, some must-stops that rank high on our list, every time: Blue Highway Games, on Queen Anne, for the most extraordinary collection of games and puzzles, anywhere, plus unwaveringly awesome staff :: Bad Woman Yarn, in Wallingford Center, where I was too paralyzed by the glory to buy myself a single skein. Stunning. :: Third Place Books, in Lake Forest Park (and Ravenna), with its expertly curated, vast selection of new and used books; its brilliant sidelines; and the adjoining Honey Bear Bakery. The latter's Coconut Layer Cake is worth the drive. Worth the cross-country flight, actually. :: Nancy's Sewing Basket on Queen Anne, a longstanding jewel of an indie fabric store, with gorgeous couturier fabrics, Japanese cottons, and more buttons and ribbons than twelve lifetimes could hold. (If you stop by, say "hulloo!" to my mom, who can sometimes be found staffing the ribbon room!) :: And of course, Trophy Cupcakes and Cafe Besalu. Beyond mention. Almost.
:: This post, by Sarah. Don't skip the poem. Every post by Sarah, really. (Never skip the poem.) Lose yourself to the archives for two hours, and you'll not have wasted a moment. Also, I want those cookies.
:: Stir. This book. You want to read this. And once read, you'll want copies in every friend's hand. To call Jess' book a memoir with recipes is to call Wendell Barry a farmer with jottings. More than anything, Stir is a manual in how to live, and love, and learn, and yes, eat. And how to take a life-threatening brain aneurysm at 28, and wrest from it grace, insight, cookies and wit. I suspect I'll have more to say about this (I'm looking at you, seared salmon and Hi-Rise macaroons!) But for now, just know Stir's among the best books I've read. Period. Congratulations, Jess.
:: Seven Spoons. To fans of Tara's long-running, stunning site, Seven Spoons' glory is no surprise. But oh, what a gift it is, to have and to hold, in our hands. Each thick ivory page rings clear with the quiet beauty, merry prose, and pitch-perfect, true dishes that are Tara's heart-swelling signature. I myself have bookmarked her glazed sesame oats (p.51), chocolate zucchini olive oil bread (p.57), pakora (p.131), everyday yellow dal (p.155), and soused tomatoes (p.193). And obviously, her Dog in a Bog (p.157). But first, her hummus with white miso (!) and embellishments (!!!!) (p.112). A gem of a cookbook, through and through.
:: This salad isn't that salad. Or from any of the aforementioned books. Or blogs. Or anything Proper or Official. Between Seattle and summer and an interesting experiment in having each child cook one dinner each week, there's been very little Proper Official Cooking. But there has been this salad, which is Wonderful Eating, which is all I ever want, anyway.
I tossed it together on a lark the day after we returned, following the traditional post-trip refrigerator purge-and-scour. I rewarded my morning's efforts with a grocery run to re-stock the barren box with my wildest dreams: two bunches of kale, beets, celery, arugula, peppers, cukes, tomatoes, apples, peaches, plums. Stuff like that. (After travelling, I generally want ALLTHEVEGETABLES, for days, because, well, see Besalu and Trophy, above.)
It's that kind of salad, supermarket-staple stuff, arugula, tomato, corn, avocado, almonds. And I love it for that, it's ease, it's unthinking. Which isn't to say it isn't immeasurably improved by high summer fare, foraged from your backyard, or close to it. Local corn so sweet it smells still of silk, and begs to be eaten crisp and raw. Tomatoes not only red, but ripe, tasting of the season's unremitting sun. These two powerhouses team up in the tangle of peppery leaves, creamy jade cubes, and almonds' inimitable crunch, to make a little edible patch of happy in the midst of the hullabaloo. I'm hooked. I'm also out of arugula. Maybe I'll score more by August-ember.
Arugula, Corn, Tomato + Avocado Salad
hearty lunch for 2; side salads for 4
4 generous cups arugula
1 heaping cup cherry tomatoes, halved (or 1 large summer beefsteak, chopped)
1 small avocado, diced
1 large, juicy ear of summer corn
1/2 red pepper, chopped (optional)
1/3 cup almonds, chopped
+ oil + vinegar + salt
In a wide, shallow salad bowl, stand corn ear on end, then shave kernels directly into bowl. Break up any big bits with your fingers. Add arugula, chopped tomatoes, chopped peppers (if using), and the avocado and almonds. Drizzle 3-4 Tbs. of your house vinaigrette (or if you're me, a broken vinaigrette: plenty of sherry vinegar, a gloss of olive oil, and plenty of fleur de sel, all asunder) over all. Toss gently, thoroughly to coat. Test for seasoning, and devour.