Summer Journal: Week 8

Patience rewarded: a beautiful sunflower! There are about eight nearby that are about to burst, too. I've never grown sunflowers before but I think I'm hooked.

We took my niece to the Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival in Medical Lake on Friday night. The main attraction for us was a young woman named Kaia Kater. She sang and played banjo and brought along an upright bassist. The two of them were captivating on stage.

I also enjoyed eating this treat and making a joke about this being the only kind of drumstick at a bluegrass festival. Har har.
I also endured 13 mosquito bites as a result of this outing, with the majority of them being below the knee. Worth it. Also, topical Benadryl is amazing.

I used a few remaining apricots for a fruit-melange tart.

Before the oven:

After. Leaky but good!

I've returned - for the moment - to the art of cross-stitch. I believe this was one of the first kinds of craft I ever attempted as a kid. I tried cross-stitching a pattern that featured two cats (of course) and maybe only got through the ears. This will eventually be a pineapple if my patience doesn't get the better of me. I find it hilarious how many times I poke the needle through the back in a completely wrong place. I'm getting better, though.

Joel created a game this weekend, and we played through a couple different versions as he refines his prototype. I must admit, it's pretty fun. I'm impressed. (A little whisky on the rocks makes it even funner on a late Saturday night.)

The sun is setting earlier. The sunrise is getting later. It's all beginning to sink in.

Continuing my quest to make recipes I save from magazines, this, from the June issue of Bon Appetit. Roasted red peppers mixed with feta, shallot, thyme, garlic, salt and olive oil make for a really lovely spread.

After a smoky week, the air cleared and cooled and I soaked it all in on the bluff at the end of the street.

I'm pretty happy with the way I've kept things relatively green, alive and weeded in the front yard this summer. The roses have continually bloomed, and I'm proud to be one of the few houses in a 3-block radius whose hanging flower basket is not dead. It's a nice thing to come home to.


Summer Journal: Week 7

Is this normal behavior for day lilies? Is this a day lily?

When we went to Buenos Aires earlier this year, I bought some variegated yarn, and, as is often the case with me, I had no idea what I'd do with it after I bought it. I finally decided to make myself a shawl, striping it with a solid color. It's the most basic triangular shawl pattern, but it's the perfect thing to knit in the evenings when I'm too hot to do much else.

I'm having mascara problems. If you have a favorite drugstore mascara that doesn't smudge, let me know. I think the heat is melting mine.

Hot, smoky days. The sun looks cool in the evening on the hardwood floor.

I am really hoping this hazy condition doesn't ruin the eclipse later this month!!

Sunflower Watch 2017. Everyone else's has bloomed and mine are so slow. A watched sunflower never blooms, apparently.

A Bicicletta cocktail is the best way to use up the last ounces of Campari and best reason to open up a new bottle of white wine on a hot Friday night. Add club soda and lemon.

I love summer Margot. She never quite knows what to do with herself.

Whitworth is getting new turf installed this summer. It's fun to be here to see it all take shape, knowing that it will be a bit like magic when students return in a few weeks.

Chamomile around the house. Confession: I didn't do a great job of taking pictures this week.

You can see the haze hanging. But it's still beautiful.

Other highlights of the week included seeing Detroit, watching half of the Daughters of Destiny series on Netflix, cooking in my Instant Pot (beans and shredded chicken, separately), training my new employee, making and eating a loaf of zucchini bread, getting back on the Italian-lesson wagon, and nice long walks with Luna around the neighborhood. Probably some other stuff I'm forgetting, too.

I listened to a little bit of Glen Campbell this evening (Tuesday) upon hearing of his death. His music has always made me so melancholy in a particular way that songs from the late 1960s/early 1970s often do (like the Carpenters, Bread, Nilsson, Gilbert O'Sullivan, just to name a few). I reluctantly saw him perform a few years ago on his farewell tour - reluctantly because I knew he was declining from Alzheimer's and, combined with the fact that his music already made me feel a little sad, it seemed like a real bummer of a concert. But my cousin had a free ticket and it was a chance to hang out with her and my dad and brother, so I went. There were a few shaky moments on stage but I was touched to think about all the people in the room who were true Glen fans, my family included, there to support him in his final performances, laugh with him through his missteps and forgotten words, and jump up with applause after some impressive guitar solos. I'm glad I was there for part of it (though I left early) and even happier my dad and brother - the real fans - got to meet him in person.

Of all the Glen songs I know, there's always been something about "Witchita Lineman" that has captured my imagination. It was only a few years ago when I realized that it, along with many other Glen Campbell hits, were composed by Jimmy Webb. So I'm concluding tonight listening to Webb's "Just Across the River" album, which is more my speed, and features other favorite musicians of mine. There's a duet with Glen on there, too. It's a good one. But also, sad.


Recipe test: Adventures in vegan dessert

I take issue with vegan recipes that are labeled with non-vegan terminology. So when a vegan recipe is called "lime cheesecake," if I make it, I'm going to call it what it is: Lime-Avocado-Coconut-Cashew Icebox Dessert.

Do you still want to eat it?

I made it this weekend.

The inspiration to make it came from my weekly Splendid Table email, which featured a review of the new Vegan: The Cookbook by Jean-Christian Jury. The picture of the so-called cheesecake wowed me with its bright green color flecked with darker shades of lime zest. Marble-counter backdrops also suck me into recipes. They make pretty much any food look good. In any case, I had a number of ingredients in my pantry (dates, coconuts, raw cashews) that needed to be used up, and I loved that I didn't need to turn on the oven at all, so I scheduled this into my Sunday.

This is a raw dessert. The things that hold it together and give it bulk are presumably healthy fats and oils, i.e., cashews, coconut oil, avocado; plus some healthy-seeming sugar sources, like maple syrup and dates. It's very trendy, and the ingredients don't come cheap. Even shopping at Trader Joe's, you will spend $16 on the two bags of raw cashews alone. I had to go elsewhere for the cacao nibs, which set me back another $6. This is not a sustainable lifestyle for me.

For a one-off, though, it was fun to try as I attempt to add to my repertoire of recipes to satisfy a variety of eaters. And I should say that if a show created by Lynne Rosetto Kasper, i.e., The Splendid Table, publicizes a recipe, I give it the benefit of all doubt, so I soldiered on despite any skepticism.

All in all, it was quite simple to make. I'd made a similar sort of crust for Thanksgiving a couple years ago for a vegan pumpkin pie. Dates and coconut pair well with warm spices, so I was curious how it would fare with a tangier topping. When it came to making the topping though, it seemed to be missing that vibrant green color (I was likely fooled by color correction) and the bright citrus flavor. I blame the avocado for both of these things. I froze it and later placed it in the fridge, as specified, and when it came time to cut into it, it looked even less appealing. You could see all the grainy cashew bits and it didn't look super creamy. Maybe that's just under-processing on my part. When I went in for that first bite, I was even more glad I refused to call it a cheesecake. And it most definitely needed more lime. But it wasn't bad.

I saved us a small portion to keep in the fridge and I took the rest to work. I told my coworkers what it was (not a cheesecake), sent them the link, and to my astonishment, people were actually liking it. They probably didn't love it, but everyone I talked to seemed a little surprised they liked it. One of my coworkers who is into the raw/vegan diet gave me two thumbs up. Another forwarded the recipe to a friend she knew would love it. And another thanked me for not calling it cheesecake ("It was better knowing what I was eating," she said. Exactly.)

I probably won't make this again, but it was fun to try. Let me know if you make it or if you have a favorite nutcake-disguised-as-cheesecake recipe.

Here's the link to the recipe: Lime Cheesecake


Summer Journal: Week 6

The weather has been reliably hot and dry for weeks and weeks. It's exhausting, but I'm not complaining. When I think back to last summer, I think I can easily say this one is better. For one, I'm not suffering from insomnia. For another, I'm having a really fun time.

On Thursday, I left work early to head up to Priest Lake. We stayed where we always stay: with friends at their family cabin. It's good to know people with A Place on the Lake. But truly, it's just as much about seeing them as it is spending time in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Falling asleep/waking up to the sound of rippling water, nothing better.

Cruiser the dog gets special treatment. As he should.

We took a boat ride to someone's beach and spent the better part of the afternoon there.

This family knows how to cook. Every night is something special. I consider myself lucky if I can lend a hand to the production.

We were back in Spokane on Saturday, and something about all that relaxing gave me a killer stiff neck, so I spent most of the rest of the weekend taking it even easier. It's starting to feel better now but it's been a literal pain to deal with. One thing I could do was go to the movies, to see Dunkirk, which didn't do much to ease any tension though it was good. I recommend it if you can handle war movies.

We took Luna to cool off at the Spokane River. Lots of people floating.

Saturday night found us teaming up in the kitchen to make homemade, hand-cut herbed pasta (pappardelle) with a parsley and garlic sauce. We added grilled chicken for good measure. This was a recipe I'd saved from the New York Times several months ago and it was a perfect way to use up some wilting herbs in the fridge. I'd never blended herbs into pasta dough before and it was worth it!

The pasta dough used up a bunch of egg yolks, so I saved the whites and made lemon meringues.

On Sunday night Joel made pork chops with a red wine and grape sauce. It was incredible. I threw a bunch of kale and potato onto a roasting pan and was pleasantly surprised with the results. All in all, it was a great weekend for food.

...and then I made something a little weird. I'll share the recipe with you later. But for now, be intrigued.

Carwash, desperately needed.

As if I needed another appliance, I bought one. I'm overwhelmed with the options. Maiden voyage this weekend.


Summer Journal: Week 5

How I used up some zucchini this week. Added prosciutto, pasta and basil. Recipe from Bon Appetit

We later found out it was National Hot Dog Day on the day that Joel made our own rendition of choripan. I preferred this. Smoked sausage, split lengthwise on a good bun with tomato, herby mayo, greens AND HASHBROWNS.

Apricots that were actually good!

A visit from Joel's folks before we all headed up to the cabin for the weekend. Ceviche at Zona Blanca.

Margot sidled up to her new favorite wine.

The family looks on as Luna goes on a test run on the boat.

She got her sea legs.

On Saturday morning I had some time to myself for a nice long walk.

Family photo

And then my phone died. And then I got a stomach bug on our final morning there that lasted through Monday night. I lay on the couch for hours and watched two episodes of Grantchester with the cat on my lap. I finished East of Eden (wow). I started Sherman Alexie's new memoir. And I weeded the front garden beds. Now it's back to a frenzy of getting stuff ready for another weekend away, and settling into August.