As I write this, the church bells from the cathedral down the street are chiming. I can quite vividly imagine what the laundry lines look like strung between the 2 and 3 story houses of my neighborhood, and the deep blue of the sky behind the chromatic socks and undergarments. (I have a strong suspicion that the old Polish ladies of my neighborhood amuse themselves by hanging their laundry in a gradation of colors which, when assembled, become lovely works of art.) The fireflies will be out soon; I saw my first of the season on Friday night. The mosquitoes, unfortunately, precede them. Robb has just gone off to work. And in this nearly perfect summertime moment I am thinking to myself, damn, the last few days have been really really nice.
On Thursday night, I impulsively decided on the walk home that I must make Mario Batali's Pappardelle with Peas. This is a recipe that I first saw on Luisa's food blog, The Wednesday Chef, and have made a number of times since then. In fact, the recipe lives on our refrigerator door and is warped with water stains and full of scribbles, having occasionally been used as scrap paper for jotting down phone numbers. It is, in fact, the only recipe that has a permanent place on our refrigerator door, which says a lot. Fresh pappardelle makes the dish rich and satisfying, while the macerated peas sauteed with onions and honey (oh my God yum) make the overall effect light and summery. I forgot to buy mint but had some fresh arugula from the garden, so instead of going sweet and tangy I went fresh and spicy with the garnish. I also had some ricotta on hand and decided a nice little gloop would be a lovely twist on the original. Is there any occasion when a gloop of ricotta doesn't make something better?
On Friday night, I was honored to have the company of Miss Julie, who offered to help me finish the one task left over from wedding craft day last weekend. The streamers! Julie hadn't sewn a stitch since junior high school home ec and asked specifically for a refresher course. And what's a better project in which to learn than stitching together hundreds of triangular pieces of fabric to make a banner?
Julie took to the machine like a whirling dervish, stopping only when the bobbin was fussy or something got snagged (which would cause her to leap from the chair and declare "I broke it! I broke it!", much to my amusement.) While Julie sewed, I made sure that our wine glasses were full.
And she kept on stitching until her hot pink sandals and blue toenails were covered in little triangles of fabric.
And all the while I really had nothing to do. So I talked her ear off and looped the sewn streamers up around the room and took still life photos. I must say, I particularly like this one. It's a photo of my grandparents just after they were married, with the streamers from my own wedding hanging next to them. I really do love it when the past and the present intertwine.
In between sewing, Julie and I feasted on awesome food. We made a big salad using greens from the garden. (This here's a particularly robust head of romaine we ate.) And Julie taught me how to make a classic vinagarette. You see, I'd always understood the basic ingredients--olive oil, balsamic, garlic and dijon mustard--but I didn't understand the quantities. The trick, it seems, is to put in much more mustard than you would think, which gives it a deliciously sludge-like quality. And always use fresh garlic. I'm often hesitant to eat raw garlic, but somehow in a salad setting it comes across as spicy and zingy and not at all overpowering. So basically, on Friday night I totally scored--Julie came over and finished off my wedding crafting AND taught me how to make kick-ass salad dressing (which I went on to make again both Saturday and Sunday).
Today, Robb and I tackled the tomato plants. They are growing at an alarming rate and are on the verge of becoming out of control. Last year we really let things go to hell. You see, we didn't really make sure the tomatoes were thoroughly staked until they had fruit, and at that point, you can't prop up something so unweildy and heavy. Both Robb and I took turns "wrestling" last year's tomato plants. We'd go through an entire spool of twine, thinking we finally had them under control, only to watch all of the bushes collapse on top of each other in a big mangled mess. So this year, we've got the supports in place, the twine is already twined, the dowels are dug in deep, and we are ready for tomato season. (We think.)
Which, according to these flowers that appeared last week, is upon us.
Finally, I'd like to give this cucumber plant a special mention. At this point in a cucumber plant's life, it develops these shoots that are fuzzy and sticky and whose sole purpose is to latch onto a structure in order to hold up the plant. No joke, about 20 minutes after I put a cage around this plant today, a tendril had reached up and wrapped itself around one of the cage's bars. Personally, I think that's kind of spooky. I nominate cucumbers as the weirdest plants in the garden.
But really, I just wanted to include a photo of the gnome.
All in all, a stupendous few days. This is, in my opinion, the epitome of how summer should feel.