July 26, 2013

on a mountain

An evening hike. A "picnic hike" Evelyn called it. Up to Lincoln Gap and onto the Long Trail until we found Sunset Rock. I'm not sure you could find a nicer view. Blissful. Although next time I'll pack the food in a backpack instead of a basket. It'll be easier to handle the steep parts with two hands.

July 25, 2013

berry days

When I was looking around for strawberries to pick at the end of a dismal, rainy season, one of the growers told me "the strawberries are terrible, but the blueberries will be fantastic." I'm not sure if that's a general truth or something he was hoping for, but either way, he got his wish. I know Maine is more generally associated with blueberries but they grow like mad here. I wish we'd thought to put in a few bushes last summer, we're hoping to get at least a few in soon so we'll have the beginnings o our own little patch next year, but for now we are picking where we can. Last night it was at a farm, this weekend I'm hoping to find more at the lake or at a friends. Frozen blueberries are a breakfast mainstay for us and if I can pick enough to last the year, I'll be a very happy girl. So far we've brought home eight quarts. And one tiny green spider.

I'm sort of torn over what to do with them. On the one hand I know we'll eat every frozen blueberry we can fit in the freezer but I'm also a fan of blueberry syrup. And while we love strawberry jam best of all, a little berry variation wouldn't hurt. I guess we'll see just how many bags I can scrounge up.

What are you picking this week?

July 24, 2013

favorite things

The lovely thing about a phone camera is the ability to capture all those moments when you don't have the time or the hands or the forethought to pull out the actual camera. And sometimes those are the best memories of all. Out of focus, off kilter, thumb in the way - doesn't matter. First taste of a Burgerville strawberry shake, seasoned traveller,  afternoon at OMSI, Powell's for the first time in six years, happy couple, silly flowergirls, Ramona's street - really really, and right down the road from the house you lived in once upon a time. Papa Haydn desserts with old friends, siblings saying goodbye at the airport, just for a week, but there were still tears. And yes, yes that is a bicycle powered mobile bar roaming the streets of Portland. You may thing Portlandia is over the top jokes and no place could really be that crazy but I'm telling you, they haven't even brushed the surface of all the weird things you see there (did you know there is a self cleaning house in Portland?)

July 23, 2013

away home

It has been six years, almost to the day, since we waved the moving truck away from our front steps, climbed on a plane and left Portland. I remember that it was clear and beautiful and a little hot and that I thought, as we flew past the crystal clear view of the mountains, that I wasn't sure about this. This leaving my home thing. Not that I hadn't done it before, but somehow it seemed harder that time.

I have a hard time explaining my love for Portland to people. Neither Will or I are "from" there in the sense that we were neither born there nor grew up there, but if you ask us where we are from, we'll both say Portland. Maybe it's because it's where we are from. The place we lived for our first years as a couple. The city where we brought our babies home from the hospital and spent sleepless nights and days trying to learn how to be parents. Portland is the birthplace not of Will and I as individuals, but of our family.

Or maybe it's like an infection, once it's in your system, it never leaves. Less eloquent, but not less true, at least for me. Wherever I go, Portland is home. I know it's the hip place to be right now. It's so cool to be a Portlander it almost makes my eyes hurt. But it's not the hip that I love. It's not even the weird that makes me crave my city (although that's fun to). It's long evenings with friends, seamless reunions after years apart, it's the never diminishing awe of flying so close to Mt. Hood you can almost see climbers scaling the rocks, it's knowing where to go without a map or even much thought and playing in parks where first steps were taken. It's the homeness of it.

It was a flying visit, this trip. My best friend, fondly known around here as Auntie Kim, got married in a flurry of family and friends and little girls in pretty yellow dresses and delicious macaroni salad.  But in between rehearsals and dinners and bachelorette parties and the wedding itself we visited old haunts and saw old friends, made new, dear ones and threw ourselves back into our city with glee. Like stepping back into your favorite shoes, already broken in and ready for adventure.

July 12, 2013

poppa time

I wish my parents lived closer all year long. It's been wonderful having them just down the road for the past month and now that we are in our last days of this trip I can already tell how strange it will be without them here. No more making crazy google-eye creatures with Nana when it's raining or big everybody-pile-in-the-car-lets-go-explore trips for a while (or having my mom here for evening knit/crochet time, which has been bliss). We are so lucky that they can come for a good long stay so I suppose I should be happy with that, but oh, how lovely it would be if they were always close by.

Earlier this week, during breaks from building a treehouse in the yard (when it wasn't raining)  and a new wall in the basement (when it was raining), my dad sat down on the floor of the sunporch with the kids and taught them how to play marbles. I remember clearly when he taught me, explaining about cats-eyes and shooter and how to hold your thumb just right for a good shot. About how the playground at his school had pre-marked circles for for marble playing and how I wished mine did too.

The low pile carpet in the sunroom made an excellent marble pitch and we've had several intense games since, and our marble collection, which was just a small bag of clear marbles, has grown into a more impressive set with a pink (naturally) shooter for Evie and a green one for Briton and some pretty, colorful marbles in the mix. Lucky us, to have a Poppa who will sprawl on the floor for a match and go hunting on a rare sunny morning in all the little shops around here till he found someone who sold marbles just to make the game that much better.

July 9, 2013

bounty, in small doses

I tend to think of preserving as something to do in large amounts. Seventeen pounds of strawberries to turn into jam, for example. Big projects. A afternoon or day that produces a year's worth of something for the store cupboard.

With my garden still limping (albeit a little better now that we've had some more sun) I'm not going to be getting any big hauls, at least not until later in the summer. So I'm making do with small amounts of produce to work with. A jar here, a jar there, a bag for the freezer, little by little, filling up the cupboard. My favorite preserving book is coming in handy for this, with lots of recipes that produce two or three jars or this or that. Roasted tomato passata, scape pesto, soup mix. Not a lot, just a few jars of each. And much more doable, as it turns out, mixed in with summer Frisbee games between rain showers and building a wall in the basement and keeping everyone busy and fed. It makes me wonder how much, over the course of a summer, I can put away, little bits at a time.

July 5, 2013

first harvest

We've had a somewhat dismal summer in terms of sunshine. I'm not really complaining, I know most of the country is broiling and we are still at the blissful highs mostly in the 70's stage of summer, which is nice but boy is it wet. The lack of sun, the lack of dry days where we can get out and take down the trees that are blocking the little sun we are getting in the garden and the crazy (CRAZY) amounts of rain mean that our garden, instead of providing the vast amounts of vegetables and herbs for eating and preserving that I dreamed about this winter, is waterlogged and looking a little sad. The only thing rocketing along are the potatoes, maybe I should have just planted potatoes.

The rain has also washed away much of the local strawberry harvest. Picking started late and ended abruptly less than two weeks later. My mom and I went out on the (surprisingly sunny) last day that any strawberry farm within driving distance was open for picking and brought home 17 pounds of berries. They aren't as sweet as I'd like, what can you expect when they didn't get much sun, and I had to go with full strength pectin instead of lemon juice or low sugar pectin because I worried about getting it to set, but an evening of topping, chopping, mashing and cooking and we are stocked for the year with 18 jars of ruby red strawberry jam. The jam shelf in my make shift-basement stair landing pantry (it's on the project list to expand the couple of shelves into a much bigger, nicer pantry soon) is half full as the strawberry joined the rest of the marmalade and a few jars of apple butter from the fall. I love seeing bursting with mason jar pantry shelves. I suspect that if I want to keep filling up my shelves with home canned goodies I'll be doing more pick-your-own and farmers market buying instead of picking from my garden, but oh well. All that rain keeps it green here, right?