06 August, 2007

Janie Two-Half (and other summer adventures)

Well, you turn two and a half only once! When my little sister Jill was two and a half, and I was, gosh, eight? she had a set of best imaginary friends. The leader of the pack was Darcy Two Half, who lived on a cloud, and got down by means of a ladder that landed her on the deck outside my parents' bedroom. Being a much more adult, mature child, I of course had no imaginary friends, but I was pretty close to the social circle woven by my sister's imagination. So this summer, since we figure it will be awhile before we're in town for the actual February birthday of my niece Jane, we decided a two-and-a-half birthday was perfectly worthy of celebration.

Sadly, having to go back to the city, Anne and David weren't able to come. And they deserved a reward for coming across the road on Saturday with paintbrushes to help us paint the Neverending Fence! Oh my goodness, that job lasted all DAY. Joel and Jane came to help, and at first it was fun, listening to Jane say, "Oh, Aunt Kristen, thank you for inviting me to help you paint your fence!" But after we had all five slaved away for two hours and found that we had finished only one bay of perhaps 14... aargh! Amazingly, at around 3 o'clock a truck pulled up by the pine tree and out hopped a strapping young man. "I'm Mark, your neighbor up the road, and I can't help but think you could use my paint sprayer." Hallelujah! He ran home and came back with a machine that simply painted the fence all by itself. "I love this thing!" John shouted. Of course it painted the grass as well, but we figure that can be cut off. Ran out of paint with four feet to go! But gorgeous, and today we'll finish it.

Anne and David came back for dinner, and we hung out late into the evening, feasting on my favorite scallop recipe and raspberries in a splash of Grenadine syrup and lemon juice (the perfect summer dessert).

Scallops with Two Parslies
(serves four very hungry painters)

1 lb spaghetti (I prefer De Cecco)

1/2 cup olive oil
4 large sea scallops per person (slice in half if very large indeed)
5 cloves garlic minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

1 large handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 large handful curly parsley, chopped
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted lightly

The sauce will cook in just the time your spaghetti needs to boil, so bring the water to a boil and put in the pasta.

Now heat the olive oil and simmer the garlic, but don't let it brown. Place the scallops in the oil and cook on high heat until they turn opaque (about three minutes), turning occasionally. Add the red peppers and salt and pepper, and take off the heat. Sprinkle the parsley on the scallops and toss gently. Drain the pasta and add to the scallops, then toss with the breadcrumbs. Delicious!


So the day for Jane's party dawned misty and grey, and I raced off to the local Hallmark store for balloons and streamers, then to the grocery for all the party food. We had no sooner tied the last balloon to the fence (the white fence!) and waved Anne and David off to the city, than up pulled Jane in her car, hands waving, very excited. From then it was off to all the things a small girl might want to do with four doting adults and a niece-worshiping nearly 11-year-old. Round after round of "ring around a rosie" on the trampoline, Jane insisting she knows how to turn a jump rope, a visit from Rollie with some semi-dead geraniums and wilting herbs that he thought I could bring back to life. There's nothing Rollie likes more than not throwing something away, and he sees in me a kindred spirit. "We can still use that for something!" John and Joel report that he told only about a dozen stories that they'd already heard, so it was a typical Rollie visit.

Then a lunch of hot dogs, plus a small milestone: Avery used a real knife for the first time! Not a knife at the dinner table, but a real-live butcher knife, to cut little ham sandwiches into triangles (crusts removed, of course!) for Jane's lunch. Only French's yellow mustard, of course, and we all felt very triumphant that Jane accepted them and ate four! I found yet another use for leftover sweet corn, but I have added some bits that will make it more interesting for you.

Sweet Corn Salad
(serves four)

four ears cooked corn, kernels cut off
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
juice of half a lemon
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 red onion, finely minced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 tsp fresh lemon thyme
1 handful fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded
handful haricots verts, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Simply mix all these ingredients and toss in a pretty bowl. I think this could also be great (and more luxurious) with shrimp or crabmeat added.


Then it was on to the nastiest cake ever, bought from the supermarket. "I think the sugar is getting to her," Jill said, as Jane's eyes started to glaze over. We had forgotten the incredible capacity of a two-and-a-half year old to REPEAT things. "Did you finish all the limeade, Daddy?" "Yes, sure did." "Show me!" Out comes the empty bottle, and then Uncle John bursts into tears. The first time, Janey was quite disturbed, but she quickly figured out what a nut her uncle is. They must have gone through the routine sixteen times. I have to say: she is a terrific sport as far as her uncle's teasing goes, even recovering pretty quickly from his growling when she started to eat her watermelon. "The watermelon did NOT say that, Uncle John!"

Then ice cream in real cones, with sprinkles, and finally a nap. Poor Jill had to drive all the way to work for a half-hour meeting (such are the demands on an ESPN executive!). It is amazing to me that she manages to do it all, and I must say she and Joel are the champions at treating Jane like a real person. No wonder she's so funny to be around.

While Jane slept (and John too, I must tell you, took a nap), Joel kept me company while I made the marinade for the pork fillet for dinner.

Pork Fillet with Lime and Sesame Oil
(serves four adults and two small girls)

2 pork tenderloins (they come together in a vacuum pack)
zest of four limes
juice of 2 limes
2 tbsps sesame oil
sea salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch knob ginger, minced

Mix all the ingredients and place in a ziplock bag with the tenderloins. Squeeze them around until all surfaces of the meat are coated, and keep squeezing the bag every few minutes until it's time to cook. The meat will grill best at room temperature.

Grill in a hot grill (400 degrees) for about 25 minutes, turning occasionally (about once every time you take a sip from your gin and limeade). Let the meat rest for about five minutes before slicing.


As soon as Jane (and John) woke up, it was off to Rollie's farm to see the new baby calf! She was thrilled to ride in the 1967 Land Rover we drive around in when we're at Red Gate Farm (named Quincy). "Why does this car make such a loud noise? Our car does not make this noise. Whoa!" was her running commentary in the five minutes or so it took to go around the hill to see the animals. She was a bit skeptical of the calves' licking her hands as they did Avery's, but was quite captivated by being held at arm's length and watching. "Where are the piggies?" she asked Young Rollie, but he shook his head. "We don't have pigs, sorry," and she learned instantly from this to phrase her next question differently. "Do you have any sheep?" Yep, sure enough, there were sheep and lambs. "Where are the dog and the cat?" And just then Judy came out of the house with Max the golden lab and Mr. B the grotty old white tomcat. Heaven. Typical John tormented the dog by pretending to throw the nasty dripping tennis ball for him, and finally Jane insisted that he throw it for real.

Home to pork roast, mashed potatoes and asparagus in olive oil, chocolate chip cookies, and finally it was time for Jane to go home. Waaah, we all wanted to keep her.

Well, what else has been happening? I had a fabulous lunch in the city with my darling Alyssa, at our old haunt Roc. Just my luck: Rocco himself was there, kissing me on both cheeks and asking, "Are you putting 'indeed' at the end of all your sentences yet, my darling?" Sometimes all you want is to go do the same old thing, at the same old place, with your best friend. John was so nice and took himself and Avery off to lunch on their own, so Alyssa and I could spend a couple of hours just gossiping and catching up. She's working so hard on her new company Momcierge, busily making suggestions for their clients on how to find a summer camp, plan a bar mitzvah, find stuff for visiting relatives to do in New York, you name it. I would highly recommend a visit to their website if only to see their "Summer Reading Suggestions" in the July 31 newsletter. Sign up, why not?

Why do we have so much fun? Well, part of it is going back 8 or 9 years together, with all the memories of our little girls being tiny together, and experiencing the same stories of their preschool years, countless birthday parties and ballet lessons and all the years they have spent dyeing Easter eggs and hanging Christmas ornaments with us, and all the Rosh Hoshana and Passover dinners we've had at their house, and endless games of dreidl. And familiar semi-malicious gossip and disapproval for what various other mothers are doing and saying, I'm ashamed to say. Part of the fun.

Off to meet Avery and John for a shopping spree at the summer sale at Tribeca Girls, coming away with some really cute stuff for almost nothing (especially compared to London prices, ouch).

Home again to Red Gate Farm, where our next project is the... Red Gate. It looks awful, so I'm about to head out and scrape all the nasty bits off and get it looking nice enough to go with the fence. It's beyond hot and humid here, so I'm thinking a trip to the pool will be our reward. Oh, our friends Chris and Marla have inspired us to think about putting in a pool here, if it wouldn't be too off-putting for our Southbury Land Trust colleagues to look at when they drive by. What an unbelievable luxury that would be! Although I'd feel a little pang for the sweet Ballantine Pool where we go now. We'll see. Enjoy your Tuesday...

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