Welcome to midsummer – the middle of this strangely mild season, full of foggy days, overcast skies, and a persistent 10% chance of rain in the forecast that never materializes. Obviously, as SOON AS you buy deck chairs that you quite like, the breeze decides to pick up and the fog roll in. Ah, well. Deck chairs are also perfectly useful with a blanket in the autumn and winter…This summer has also been full of annuals that are coming up for the first time since we’ve moved to this place. We’re LOVING the surprises of flowers blooming where we’d previously thought they never would.
Since we’ve kept our gardening minimal – due to the drought – we’ve gotten our excitement out of planning for a winter garden (purple carrots! kale! kohlrabi! radishes!) and seeing a long-term plan begin. We’re growing asparagus – which is a three-year crop. You can’t really EAT them for the first couple of years, because they have to die back and reseed themselves, but the little ferny, delicate looking bright green stalks are awfully pretty. We have fourteen! T. says they’re nasty enough that the squirrels should leave them alone, too, but D. has decided to ignore the haters in the house. Our blueberry bush is not doing much this year – we didn’t expect it to really put out fruit yet, but we have high hopes for next summer. Sadly, the borage, mint, and even the roses right now have the tell-tale perfectly round bites on the leaves — we may have leafcutter bees. Honestly, we’re sympathetic to bees and are trying to be willing to give up nice-looking foliage for them, but it is a struggle.
You’ll be amused to know that D. has finally solved the issue of the jays swinging happily from the feeder and dumping it. He’s wired a brick to the base of it, and defies their little lightweight, nut-stealing selves to swing on it and dump piles of seed on the patio now. If they manage, we’ll be shocked and figure that they’ve hired a raccoon and a ladder. So far, they’re just glowering at the feeder, and refusing to eat. Typical pouting jays.
It seems impossible that the days have gone by so quickly, but they have — we’re already nearly in August, and D. is still recovered from finishing his first batch of final papers at the beginning of July for the class he taught. One more class is scheduled for August, and then he can safely say that he’ll never teach for this University again. Nothing wrong with them, just that he’s not really a fan of online education, especially the way this is set up, and, after reading a few recent articles, believes that he’s actually part of the problem in education… the huge number of adjuncts who are forced to work without benefits or reasonable pay allow universities and colleges to continue to devalue education. Since things are going well at his other job, he’s willing to give up using his PhD in the classroom for awhile longer. He’s also quite willing to get through life with never having another week of marking student essays, ever again. (Meanwhile, T. had been smugly reminiscing on why teaching the fifth grade was a much better option — until D. said “lunch duty,” and then oddly she found something else to do…)
When we’re not having wars in the backyard, or when D’s not either grading papers or photographing the awesome that is “Cat Shirt Wednesday” at the office (no, seriously. Cat. Shirt. Wednesday. Because… you never have enough cat shirts? Or Wednesdays?), we’re still in the kitchen. D. has perfected a sourdough rye bread that he bakes in an old factory pan from Wonderbread, so it’s easily fifteen inches long. Its high sides and narrow base (around four inches) make all of the slices look “professional.” Our pan was really used in a factory, but we discovered King Arthur Flour sells shorter pans which are equally as narrow for baking gluten-free bread. Apparently even the pan shape/size makes a difference there.
D. has been using our generic (non-Silpat) silicone baking sheets for a tasty new purpose – rolling sushi. We mislaid our traditional bamboo mat, and the silicone makes nice and tight sushi rolls. Now we need to perfect the rice-making technique, and we’ll be golden. Meanwhile, T. has been taking advantage of all of the berries out this season (except for cherries, which she hasn’t seen much of yet. What’s up with that?) and is attempting to use them as part of every meal. Her goal is to make this scrumptious looking strawberry cheesecake two ways – one vegan. That means experimenting with vegetarian/vegan gelling agents – and agar powder works as long as you don’t have to have leftovers. It “weeps” too much for a really stable gelled dessert.
Some people suggest chia and xanthan gum, others cornstarch. There are options – weighing the healthiest and the one that works best is the trick! Part of the fun of these experiments is eating the flops, though. Usually…
Recently we’ve been working on actually hitting some of the “tourist” areas in our neck of the woods. We FINALLY got to Greens Restaurant at the Ft. Mason Center in San Francisco. The restaurant has been open since 1979 (and at Ft. Mason since the 80′s) and somehow T’s family, who even lived in SF — and T., who was born there, never managed to go. We found an excuse – T’s mother’s birthday – and wandered over one misty morning — to find the Avon Breast Cancer Pink Ribbon walk going in full stream around Ft. Mason and the Marina. It was awful timing, awful traffic, and really, kind of typical SF summer weather, in that it was pretty cloudy and foggy – but the food was really lovely, and even the vanilla roiboos tea was rich and dark and smooth. T. has decided she now needs one of the little iron kettles that they serve in – no idea where she’s going to put it, or how she’ll use it with an electric range, but she’s putting it on her mental list.
Our final month of summer is drawing near, and we’ve reconsidered our trip to Scotland. We’ve waffled back and forth, but it really doesn’t seem like a good time to go. Between the cranky cabbies — who will be well cross after dealing with the fares from the Commonwealth Games, the difficulty in finding lodging — and the difficulty in staying with even people we like for three solid weeks, and the Referendum vote, it seems a poor idea. Visiting a country whilst it grapples with its place in the UK is the equivalent of going to visit friends while they’re trying to decide if they want a divorce – and some days they’re feeling acrimonious, while other days, they’re positively nostalgic and maudlin… and all the neighbors and relatives have stopped by to say their piece for or against. Oh, no. No, thank you. Scotland, our best to you as you do your housekeeping; we’ll catch you later in the Spring.
Which leaves us kind of at a loose end for vacationing. We’re thinking of grabbing a map and taking a road trip — a short one. We’ve got friends in the Midwest and on the East Coast whom we need to see – when they’re not having hurricanes – and we also have friends in the Canadian prairies we’d like to see. Decisions, decisions! Have map, will travel, though – and we’re looking forward to something completely new.
Until then, enjoy these summer days. Hope this is the loveliest day yet.