A few days over the past couple of weeks, the weather has cleared up in the late afternoon. The morning’s low grey skies and fat rain drops swept away, quite suddenly, leaving behind a clean slate of blue sky, ready to go pink with the sunset. And about that sunset? It’s getting later! Avery ate dinner the other night in our dining room, and I didn’t even have to turn on the lights. It felt huge.
There have even been a few days that were clear and bright all day long, after several days of rain. Seattle’s rain is what people talk about, but it’s these clearings that I think are worth a mention. There’s something magical about the curtain of low clouds whisking open, revealing mountains that were hidden for days. Suddenly, you see what’s started to bloom and sprout, thanks to all that rain. And the post-rain smell of freshness? The best.
On the clear afternoons, after Avery is home for the day, we’ve blown bubbles in the backyard and scrawled chalk across the driveway and pushed a red tricycle up and down (and upanddown, upanddown, upanddown …) the sidewalk. Those things haven’t been possible during the dreary months and shorter days, and doing them again has me (and Avery, too, I think) giddy.
As I mentioned in my last post, the first half of January was rough. But we’ve emerged on the other side, and, oh, is it gorgeous over here. Avery is back to smiling and belly laughing and shrieking, with some new tricks and lots of fun new words (!) added to the mix.
Kevin went out of town just when we were in the darkest part of the tunnel between where we were then and where we are now—the stretch where I wondered, melodramatically, if we’d make it out at all. After he left, my sister arrived for a visit, and things started to right themselves almost immediately. Sisters are like that, don’t you think?
The last couple of weeks have been pretty eventful for us. We spent Christmas in Minnesota, a long weekend in Palm Springs, and New Years Eve on the couch with a rented movie. Since then, Avery’s transitioned into a new childcare arrangement, and we’ve ushered in the new year, one in which we’ll add a new member to our family. Throw in some molar teething (all four! at the same time!), a sickness, and a true initiation into Seattle’s rainy season, and yes, we’ll call it an “eventful” start to 2014.
Against the recent crush of change and challenge, I’m so grateful for my trusty old January friend, the grapefruit. For its substantial weight in my hand, and for its glossy, thick rind, and for its brilliant pink flesh, and for its crescent-moon segments that fall away from its pinwheel membrane at the slice of my knife. For the way it crops up at the market every year after the holidays, promising zing and virtue and vibrant color. For the way it drapes over my morning yogurt, for its clean smell of sweet freshness, for its meaty, pucker-y bite.
This last push before Christmas always gives me a surge of energy. I know that some find it stressful, but I like the crowded stores and the long to-lists and the series of errands. Specifically, I like to be out in the thick of it. There’s a sense that we’re all in it together, getting it done amid the din of Christmas carols, and I like that.
On days like this, when running around is the game plan, I think a good, nourishing lunch is a total must. Or you’ll find yourself hip-checking someone as you jockey for position in the checkout line, or—worse—collapsing into tears. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way.
I’m going to cut right to the chase: 2014 is going to be a big one for us. Our little family of three is headed (very quickly!) toward becoming a family of four. We’re expecting a boy (!!), a little brother for Avery. He’s set to arrive this spring, and we’re really thrilled. And a little overwhelmed. And tired (because: toddlers) and behind the ball (this new baby needs a crib, too?). But, mostly, we’re overjoyed.
In many ways that are significant and off-topic-for-this-blog, this pregnancy has been different than my first. But it’s also been different in one insignificant, on-topic, fun way: I have cravings this time around! For things other than fresh fruit or hearty greens or a wedge of cheese or a bit of peanut butter. That wholesome non-sense was the stuff of my “cravings” when I was pregnant with Avery, and, frankly, I felt very cheated by the lack of pickles-and-ice cream hankerings.
For Thanksgiving this year, we’re headed to Chicago to spend the long weekend with Kevin’s family. We alternate years between celebrating Thanksgiving with my family and his. On my family’s years, tradition is king. We head to Minnesota, where my parents’ dining table is set with the holiday china, and the kitchen counter-turned-buffet is laden with, for the most part, the same dishes year after year, perfected over time. I know that I can pitch in with chopping the celery or the onions for the stuffing, and that my grandma will peel the apples for the same. And I know that my mom will handle the gravy.
I know that a thud of sharp knife meeting a rutabaga will punctuate the morning at some point. I know that my sister will sleep through much of the cooking. I know that my step-dad will man the turkey on the charcoal Weber on the back deck, and that my grandfather will slice the bird with the old electric knife. I know that I will help myself to an immodest amount of mashed potatoes, and I know that I’ll make the pies. I know that we’ll pose for a family photo on the front steps, shivering from the late November chill in the air.
Since I was here last, it seems a whole autumn has unfolded. In my last post, I complained about the dreariness, which was a drag, I suppose, but then so is complaining. I’m happy to report that in the weeks that have elapsed, I’ve learned to appreciate fall in Seattle. The problem, I think, is that I was expecting the Midwestern version of the season, with its lingering warm temperatures and golden sun and clear blue skies and bursts of flame-hued colors.
To be sure, I still missed all of those things. But, at the same time, there is something to be said for the way the colors on the trees here in Seattle look against a thick grey sky. I came to that realization when I took a jog around Greenlake one recent Saturday morning, with fog hovering in a ring around the lake, and mist rising from the lake’s surface. As I rounded the lake, sprays of red and gold leaves continued to materialize through the fog. It was gorgeous—so moody and somehow cozy.
I know I shouldn’t complain (already!), especially because Seattle did spring and summer so right, but the fall here in the PNW has left a little to be desired. There has been a lot of rain and the skies have been mainly gray. I suppose I should get used to it. The other day, someone commented on the “winter so far,” as in winter is happening now. It was October 2! Of course, there have been a couple of golden sunlight-drenched days here and there (like the day I took these photos), and we’ve tried to take advantage of them as much as possible.
On the other days, my cooking has gotten heavier and heartier. As in beef stew heavy/hearty. And I’m feeling drawn to the oven again. We don’t have air conditioning in our home (it’s really rare in Seattle, apparently), so I did almost no baking this summer. But the cooler air has given me the itch again.
We have three pieces of luggage, and all three of them are absolutely packed to the brim. For a four night trip. Traveling with a toddler, I tell you, is not for the faint of heart. We’re headed to a wedding in Park City this weekend, but I couldn’t leave without telling you about this roasted corn dish, which was hands-down the best summer side I made this year. I’m probably already too late for corn. But in case you’ve still got access to the good stuff, you really need to make this to send summer off right. Otherwise, next year! Definitely next year.
We were in Minnesota over the weekend, visiting my family. On Friday night, my mom had plans to make her famous bucatini with sausage and peas. A family friend was joining us and bringing a salad. And, on a whim, I decided to throw together some bruschetta, using the cantaloupe in the fridge and the slices of prosciutto that my stepdad had brought home from the Italian deli. There’s nothing new about the cantaloupe-prosciutto combination, but—for some reason—it’s been sounding wonderful to me all summer.
I gave half the melon a small dice and fried up several slices of the prosciutto, which I had cut into thin ribbons. While a sliced baguette toasted in the oven, I quick-pickled a large shallot that I’d thinly sliced, using my go-to brine, with its healthy pinch of red pepper flakes. I stirred together the diced melon, most of the fried prosciutto (I reserved about a quarter of it to scatter on top of the plate, so it would stay nice and crisp), the shallots, some thinly sliced basil, a splash of the pickling liquid, and a good swirl of olive oil. I heaped the mixture onto the toasted bread slices, and topped it all with the reserved prosciutto.
It was gorgeous and delicious … and all I had was my iPhone … and I hadn’t taken very good notes of what I was doing as I went along. I feared that I would lose this recipe to the place where on-a-whim, unrecorded recipes go to die. To avoid that fate (and before melon season is too far gone!), I snapped a camera photo (above) and pulled together an approximation of the recipe (below).