posts tagged with 'summer'
Our maple tree gets color late in the fall; late and underwhelming. (Why couldn't the previous owners have put in a sugar maple in the middle of the lawn instead of a Norway maple?) As I look out the window now, though, it's browning leaves are colored orange by the rising sun and it looks as good as it's ever going to. Properly fall-like.
The waning days of the fall make me think of the failures of this past summer, yard-wise. One, we didn't use the hammock nearly as much as we should have. I always want to make sure it's put away when it's going to be wet out, and too often I was late putting it up again so fine days went by without anyone being able to use it. Worse, towards the second half of the summer I "temporarily" took apart the hammock stand to mow the lawn... and it never got put back together. Tragedy!
And speaking of mowing. Remember how last year I talked big about using the push reel mower all summer? Well, in the fall I got a working power mower so I could chop up leaves, then in the spring I thought I'd use it for the first pass over the fast-growing grass. That was it, the push mower never made it out of the shed all summer. The good news is the lawn is still in good shape—delightfully green. I was telling a friend the other day, "it's mostly weeds, but they're all perennial weeds so they hold their color!" But I did feel pretty guilty every time I started up that gasoline engine. Using a power mower is habit-forming, I think; you get used to those straight, even rows of cut grass and it's hard to go back to the more naturalistic effect produced by the push reel mower.
Oh well. At least we had many lovely adventures, and got to travel more than ever before, and spent lots of time swimming. Now we're looking forward to winter fun. And next summer will be perfect!
It was super hot here Friday and over the weekend. Hot enough that it was all over the news, with heat warnings and cancellations and everything. The official word was that it was dangerous to be without air conditioning, so those of us who don't have were directed to visit the mall to seek relief—and, presumably, to pick an AC unit from Sears or whatever. I'm on the record pooh-poohing similar panic around extreme cold weather, and while I don't know that I've written about it I've certainly talked about how I don't care for the heat, as a general thing. And you can bet we don't have AC. But I want to say, it wasn't that bad. I don't even think it topped 100°F.
Sure, there was some humidity. Sure, it was probably close to 100°F inside our house by Sunday afternoon. It wasn't really enjoyable. But sitting in front of the fan, or outside in the shade, was totally fine. And by this morning it was already much cooler; in fact, I needed to get up in the middle of the night to get the comforter off the floor since I was getting chilly. Right now it's 66° in Bedford and raining, and tomorrow's high is forecast at 68°. I think we survived it. And now I'm looking forward to the kids complaining about being cold tomorrow morning!
I've mentioned before about the lack of screens at our house; it remains a problem. On the one hand, we have more windows that can open downstairs—in fact, all but one of them can now!—but no more screens. Less, in fact, since Leah took the screens out of the kitchen window to improve the dishwashing view. And upstairs we've lost a couple to breakage. So as always there's a balancing act between cool air and bugs. A couple big flies are entertaining me with acrobatics as I type this. But it's not too bad: we've got some good fans upstairs, one of them with a built in fan, and we get the house cool enough overnight that the littler boys want to cuddle in blankets when they come down in the morning. Still, I think it's time to get the screens back on the kitchen windows.
We don't celebrate the summer solstice as much as we do some other astronomical moments, because Harvey's birthday is at the same time. But we're totally enjoying this midsummer thing nevertheless. The best part is of course all the evening light—so much to play outside for a couple hours after supper. The strawberries are good too. I'm hoping to get the jam done tomorrow. One disappointing thing though: today was the first weekday of summer vacation for the schoolkids here in town, and our boys were really looking forward to playing with their friends all day. But none of them were around—two families on vacation already, and one all jammed up with activities. We didn't do any activities; just read books, rode bikes, weeded, and went to the library.
No, that's not quite true... there was a little more than that. Last summer our complete formlessness was a little trying at times, so I'm trying to hold on to a bit of a schedule even as the weather calls us to wild outdoor adventures (and to lying around on the hammock...). After breakfast we spent some time thinking about how stories are structured, and then Harvey and Zion did some writing/dictating of their own accounts of playing in the rain yesterday. It was fun, and it made the rest of the delightfully relaxing day all the sweeter. A good start to the season; let's keep it going tomorrow!
On my commute I pass by the DCR pool in North Cambridge, a lovely free community pool of off Rindge Ave. Lovely for a brief, fleeting moment of the year, that is—because in Massachusetts they open the outdoor pools in mid-June and close them again at the end of August. And to me, this summer, that time went by impossibly fast.
Of course, when I stop to think about it I did a lot of different things this summer. And Lijah is much more mature now than he was back when he first decided the coming of warm weather was no reason not to wear fleece pants every day (in many ways; he's still rocking the pants). But even as I intellectually appreciate the passage of time as marked in those ways, this summer felt like just a blink.
Maybe it's because we hardly went to the pond at all. It was hardly hot, and the boys were always playing with friends so and resistant to going anywhere. I don't think we swam more than three or four times. Or it could be the terrible state of the garden—I've been mentally hurrying along to next year since mid-July. Or maybe it's just that I'm old now. Against 40 years, two and a half months isn't much. Oh well, that just means that winter will fly by too, and before I know it I'll be planting again. I'm sure the six-year-olds enjoyed the heck out of that pool; as for me I'll be thinking about seeds for next year.
There's so much to do in the summer. With our sort of camp, I find myself with a house full of kids all day Monday and Tuesday, which is lovely—but it doesn't leave much time to take care of the house and yard. Still, I don't think I did too badly yesterday. Besides showing the kids—ours and the two visitors—a good time, I managed a little weeding, baked bread, made pickles, and made a cake. It helps that all five kids are wonderful human beings and interacted peacefully for the seven or eight hours they were together. They also made some money selling candy and cycled around 10 miles round trip, to and from the Farmers Market in Lexington. So they didn't do too badly either!
The cake came out good too: just the thing to end our long busy day, served on our friends' back porch as it started to get dark (you see why all three boys are still sound asleep well after the sun came up this morning!). I made up the recipe; it's based on this chocolate cake, which I've made a few times and which revealed to me that buttermilk and baking powder are magic for making home-made cakes rise almost like ones from a mix. We have lots of blueberries—four of the five kids here yesterday helped pick them last week—so I decided on a blueberry variant.
Here's the recipe.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a bundt pan with plenty of butter. In a large bowl, combine
2 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4th tsp. salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
In the stand mixer, mix at medium speed
3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
Increase speed to high and beat for five minutes, until pale and fluffy. Add one at a time, beating at medium speed after each one
3 large eggs
At medium speed beat in
2 tsp. vanilla extract
zest of one lemon
Mixing at low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts alternating with two parts of
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 c. blueberries
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes.
For the glaze, combine in a medium bowl
1/3 c. melted butter
2 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Whisk until smooth and pour slowly over the cake, letting a layer dry before adding more on top (I didn't have time to maage that last part between getting back from the farmer's market and leaving for dinner at our friends' house... my one failure in an otherwise pretty successful day!).
Like we do, we celebrated Independence Day at Concord's "Picnic in the Park". Our descriptions of it over the years are so glowing that we enticed several other families out to experience it themselves, and it was nice hanging out with them a bit—but we also had some lovely family time.
Once again we biked in, all together this time, and once again we brought our tent. It's so nice both as a source of shade in the big baking field and as a home base to dump all our stuff. When we're hanging out at a picnic for five hours we need to really set up camp!
None of our experience was particularly patriotic, in any explicit way (which is fine by me!). But it was, as always, wonderfully small-town American. We did a sack race and a three-legged race.
We listened to music, enjoyed boughten popcorn and Italian ice, and jumped in the bouncy house (well, Zion and Harvey jumped; Lijah wasn't feeling it and they wouldn't let me in). Harvey decorated a little wooden train with paint and stickers. Zion and Lijah played with Julen on the playground. But the most fun of all was the fire truck and its hose. Last year I think the kids just ran in the spray; this year they were much more intimately involved.
We approached the firemen as they came back after a break, so there weren't many kids around. That meant Zion, Julen, and Lijah each got to take maybe a dozen turns with the hose; Harvey got five or six when he showed up too. They had a great time. Getting sprayed was plenty fun too.
As we were cycling home it occurred to me that we hadn't talked at all with the boys about the meaning of the 4th of July. Did they even notice that this fair was connected to a particular holiday? Maybe not—definitely not, in Lijah's case. But how much could he understand about the Declaration of Independence, anyway? I don't think it matters. The important thing is, we're free to have a good party. Happy summer, and happy fourth day of July!
Last week was bookended by two lovely summery outings. On Monday we took advantage of the fact that school was still in session to take a homeschool swimming trip to Walden Pond with the Stevenses. After dominating the group ride together two days previously, Harvey and Ollie were excited to demonstrate that they weren't one-sport wonders—they can swim too!
(Or at least, not drown—which is the important thing to parents with smaller kids to worry about too.)
After plenty of time in the almost-midsummer sun (we Archibalds all came away a little red) we stopped by "Henry's house"—the replica of Thoreau's Walden cabin—for a visit. Zion loves it there.
Besides mugging for the camera and scaring away tourists, Zion also demonstrated a more interesting way to leave the cabin. Maybe he was thinking of what Henry would have done if a tax-collector had turned up at the front door?
As a parent I didn't know whether to be embarrassed or proud when all three of the kids from another family had to follow him out the window, to the dismay of their mom. A little bit of both.
Then on Friday we went strawberry picking at Parlee Farm. For the first time, Lijah was determined to be a helper.
Of course, that lasted about four berries in, but I appreciated the thought. Harvey was a helper, picking almost four quarts by himself. I should have a picture of him hard at work here; instead I just have these two jokers.
(We also spent some time feeding the goats and taking a hayride, pictured previously.)
Zion and Lijah redeemed themselves a little bit when it came to helping Leah process the berries that afternoon. At least I think they did; you'll have to ask Leah how much they actually helped. Zion may have done some useful work. And today Lijah helped pour the sugar as I made some of the berries into jam. It isn't all fun and play around here, you can see—though in June it's more fun than not.
We've got ourselves a pretty nice neighborhood. The boys and I came back from the pond and had about half an hour to rest before school got out and kids came knocking looking for Harvey and Zion to play. I got to hang our with Lijah for a while, then Leah came home and spent some time with him while I made supper (timed to coincide with supper next door, natch). After we ate all three boys ran off to play so Leah and I could relax on the porch for half an hour before getting to work on evening chores—dishes for her, weeding for me.
And if that doesn't all sound a little to 50s-perfection to you: yesterday the gang caught a toad to play with. Life is fine here at midsummer.
While we're starting to think about fall and school around here, we aren't ready to let go of summer yet—and the last couple days we've been working on enjoying it to the fullest! On Thursday we took a picnic up to the playground and relished in the cool evening breeze after a hot humid day. Then at the library we were delighted to stumble upon a party celebrating the end of the summer reading season, and got to enjoy a popsicle dessert—several popsicles!—and some loud crazy family entertainment from the Toe Jam Puppet Band.
I was impressed with Harvey, who raised his hand at almost all of the (many) volunteer opportunities but never got picked; with Lijah, who despite the volume and zaniness gradually moved off my lap into the second row with his brothers; and with myself when I volunteered to go up front and try hula-hooping. At least I had Lijah there to help me. Zion was cool too.
It was a beautiful cool evening, and besides the music it was super fun to hang out with lots of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. After the show lots of the families drifted over to the playground, and Harvey continued to show off his confidence as he jumped right into the game the other kids were playing. It was dark and we were tired as we biked home, but I couldn't imagine a sweeter evening.
Then yesterday we got to be part of the last day of summer camp for the year: the traditional group ride to an ice cream place. Despite the staggering humidity it was fun to ride on an urban bike path through Cambridge and Somerville, and we enjoyed delightful stops at a grassy embankment and a playground, where we had lunch.
Of course, the best stop was the last one, at JP Licks in Davis Square for ice cream. They boys said it wasn't as good as Bedford Farms, but it was still nice to share the moment with friends.
Then after a long rest time to recover we closed out the day with a lovely pizza picnic dinner with friends here on our lawn. We took the opportunity to make some farm-school co-op plans for the coming year, because there's no mistaking but that fall's around the corner; but we're loving summer while it lasts!