20 August, 2009

a brush with the fuzz

Well, it's a first in my experience of our little uneventful Connecticut road (dirt in most places, the way we like it, to keep traffic down). I was out washing the car, something I have a strange love for, a throwback to fun with my dad, no doubt, when Avery decided it was time to go across the road to feed Anne and David's cats, her welcome job when they are away for a few days. As I was scrubbing away the filth of not only an entire summer but an entire winter AND spring in the barn under countless birds' nests, across the road she came again, saying, "They appear to have an alarm and I'm not sure what to do with it." John jumped down from the terrace and said he'd run across to help her. It was but the work of a moment for him to reappear, asking me, "Do you have Anne's number in the city? I've set off the alarm..."

Minutes later, after leaving a message for Anne who unaccountably was away from her phone in the way people you hope to find often are, the fuzz arrived. Yes, two of how many can Southbury possibly have? appeared in our road, passing up both houses at first as a result of their happy lack of acquaintance with us. I paused with a cold soapy car mitt in hand, with the certain knowledge that they would turn around and be back with us in however long it takes to shake a cat's tail. Sure enough, back they came, into Anne's driveway, and up sauntered John, friendly smile in place, with Avery lagging behind, noticeably less comfortable with the authorities as befits a near-teenager.

"All I had to do was show my driver's license and prove that we live across the road, and explain about feeding the kitties..." John said, with the same glee he used to show when he got out of a speeding ticket by having a small girl in a fancy riding costume in the back seat. "But officer, we're on our way to a horse show and we're late..."

More excitement than we're used to, although, sadly, the Officers of the Law eschewed their sirens and lights, darn it. We spent the rest of the day doing boring things like continuing to wash and vacuum the car (finding such treasures as the lost Pool Pass, although since we're there every day, the lifeguards don't even care anymore), the sunscreen that I've neglected all summer, arguing to myself that if we're out only an hour it's OK, if we're out past 4 o'clock it's OK, you name it, I've got an excuse for failing to apply sunscreen. I also found any number of American coins that had Avery found them sooner would have funded an endless number of pool treats. A dreadfully sweaty day to accomplish this task, but it was worth it to have a gorgeously clean car. Off to tennis, where we were flanked on the adjoining court by a hideously young and fit pair of high school boys, making us all the more aware of our middle-aged efforts! The worst? Once their game broke up, one of the boys STAYED and watched us! Probably he took pictures with his phone and entered us into some old people's tennis tournament and we'll get a notice in the mail. Never mind, our hearts will thank us.

A quick dip in the pool, and home for lunch. My new favorite thing? An inspiration from my inspiring husband, who looking at a bag of Fritos that we longed to dip in luxurious sour cream, said, "What would happen if you whizzed up your bean salad in the Cuisinart and made bean dip of it? Couldn't we dip Fritos in that?" And there you have it. The best bean salad, when you get tired of it, becomes quite the best reason for you to excuse buying that bag of chips. And a huge amount of your daily suggested veg, as well.

The Best Bean Salad
(serves? at least four for lunch and then dip)

1 soup-size can each black beans and haricots (small white beans), rinsed and drained
2 ears raw corn, kernels cut off (cut them into the salad bowl so they don't fly away)
handful sugar snap peas, sliced into quarters
1 red, orange or yellow pepper, diced
1 bunch scallions, sliced white and green parts
handful chives, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced WITH juice of 1 lemon and 1 tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon
fresh black pepper to taste
sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup olive oil

Simply mix everything. The reason I advise you to mince your garlic WITH the lemon juice and salt is that the process pulverizes the garlic to a mush, which is much nicer than a mince. Trust me. Mix WELL.

Now, when you have had your salad for lunch, put the rest in your Cuisinart and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, then pulse until pureed. Add as much olive oil as you need to get the texture you like. DIVINE. Serve with raw carrot and celery sticks, wedges of red cabbage, sticks of jicama, kohlrabi and turnip. PERFECT!


As you can see here, anyway, I wanted you to enjoy the last view of Red Gate Farm at Sunday's party for my mother, now safely (I hope!) back in Indiana. My parents stopped kindly in our little town on their way home yesterday to see Avery on Red Baron, jumping those high jumps, then they headed home. What a glorious visit we all had, and we tried hard to cram in enough memories to last six months, till we get together again, we hope, at Christmastime.

Avery and I spent this hot, humid afternoon slaving over a hot stove making, I'm not kidding, desserts! Avery has become deservedly famous for her blueberry tart, recipe on her blog, and so this afternoon in advance of our dinner at our farmer friends Rollie and Judy's house, she made another. And I made another batch of lemon bars to take to Fire Island tomorrow to visit my adored friend Alyssa and her family, including Annabelle, Avery's friend since age about 2 1/2, home now from her long sojourn at summer camp! No sooner had we finished our spa-like exercise in humidity and sweating that is baking on the hottest day of the year than the next adventure arrived: giving the foster kitties to their prospective new family!

Yes, Avery succeeded in finding a potential new home for the babies. She asked at the stable when she was riding yesterday, and sure enough, the darling girl who helps her bathe the Red Baron was interested! "Just let me call my mom, who says she thinks she's allergic, but she's a total softy; she let us bring a dog home for about a day once, and seven years later he's still with us!" Sure enough, the long-suffering mother agreed to babysit the little kitties for us while we're in Fire Island, and who knows after that what might happen: if they fall in love, we've found homes for them. So they arrived in the sweltering early evening, came into the house and the room we'd set aside for their belongings (which I'd cleverly vacuumed and scrubbed so they wouldn't immediately see the messy evidence of the kids' presence), and happily took away the litter box, litter, food and the kitties themselves. Avery and I had each spent a loving half hour or so right before the handover, cuddling and encouraging them to be lovable, calm and adoptable.

"Let's call it babysitting for right now," said Karen, the mother, while Katie the barn girl and her brother Andrew quietly fell in love. "And we'll take it from there." Fingers massively crossed that, as much as we love them, we don't get them back.

Off in an instant after that (well, five minutes spent in front of a fan, changing clothes and reapplying antiperspirant, plus making cheese sauce for macaroni to take to Alyssa's family) to Rollie and Judy's for dinner. We rose above the heat to sit outside in the evening air, feeling the temperature drop as we enjoyed crudites and dip, watching trucks come in and out of the driveway containing their three stalwart boys and friends, listening to the new milking cows mooing in the distance, Max the lab and Mr. B the enormous vanilla-colored tomcat weaving in and out of our legs. I always love the atmosphere at Rollie and Judy's: crazy activity, sun-browned boys (now men, really) rushing in controlled chaos from job to job on the farm, Rollie enlisting John's help as traffic cop as a new trailer gets delivered to Young Rollie's farm down the road.

And Judy presides over all with calm, joyous appreciation of all her boys and her visitors. Calm is the word! With three boys who appeared in fewer than five years, she'd have to be. And she fed us, oh how she fed us. Glorious barbecued shredded (sliced? some of each) beef, tender in an incredibly rich sauce that I will try to glean from Judy. Perfectly crisp corn on the cob, potato salad. Avery's blueberry tart for dessert, applause all around. I must say, I'm so pleased at how she rises to being the only child, with so many adults. To questions about her school, her friends, riding, she answers graciously with funny stories and just the right amount of detail. A most satisfactory girl. And she can BAKE.

We staggered home after such sumptuous food and packed up for our adventure tomorrow. It's been YEARS since we made it to Alyssa's on Fire Island. Two years ago we were stopped by a hurricane! And last year I simply cannot remember what kept us away. But it's against my religion to let more than six months go by without Avery and Annabelle seeing each other, and it's too long this year. We'll report. If we're not in the slammer by then, I mean.


Bonnie said...

Beautiful picture of your Mom and her grandchildren. I look forward to checking your blog out - everyday.... it's so informative and enjoyable to read. Bonnie

Kristen In London said...

Thank you as always Bonnie, for your loyalty and enjoyment!

Katherine said...

Your mother is gorgeous! Wow! Those good genes certainly got passed on....I'm glad you are enjoying your summer. Love your blog. There is something very comforting about it.

xo Katherine

Kristen In London said...

is that my acting class friend Katherine, or another Katherine? Thanks for reading, no matter which Katherine you are, and I'm glad you find if comforting! I passed your compliment along to my mother who was frankly disbelieving!

Katherine said...

Hi Kristen.
Katherine Mojzsis.
Sorry I left out the last name!

Kristen In London said...

Well, hi Katherine! I hope life is treating you well... I will tell my mother who you are and then perhaps she'll believe that she's gorgeous! Aren't the little girls lovely. I'll say nothing about the generation between except that my sister is beautiful!