School starts tomorrow. Needless to say, I fully intend to take my summer receipt in for a refund, because we were so blatantly shortchanged. It wasn’t even subtle; once I make the final count I’m sure we’ll be at least 18 days shy and let’s not even talk about the weather. Looks like the recession’s impact is wide and deep this year.
Oh I know, the start to school is filled with promise – good teachers, friends, office supply stores (I could just stand in them all day and inhale the potential), sharpened pencils, blank notebooks, and if you’re lucky, a certain zippered cardigan you’ve been wishing for and your grandmother found for you. All very good. It’s just hard to let go of the ease of summer, particularly the unexpected visits, meals, adventures. Although I’d love it to continue into the school year, summer just seems to own the impromptu in a way that makes the other seasons a little jealous.
Last week we had a tea party with our visiting family and the girls across the street. Because it was summer, we had the time to unfurl the tablecloths and take down the old teacups, and make an afternoon of it.
We’ve also had many dinners at the park this summer – we’re close enough to one park that has open fields, picnic tables and climbing structures, which makes it a natural choice for picnic dinners. It even borders a creek that’s just right for exploring. Does it get better than that? A couple of weekends ago, we hit the park with the cousins and our friend Pam, who was visiting from the east coast. We brought in pizza and these Indian burritos we can get in town (picture your favorite Indian food wrapped up burrito-style in a big piece of naan) – mmmm.
Pam and her family were out this way for a week or so, and it was such a gift to have an evening with them. Her kids were charming, which is remarkable since their parents had basically marched them across the city and back the day before and they should in all rights have been collapsed on a sofa somewhere, moaning. They certainly didn’t get much rest here, as it was basic mayhem with all the kids running around, but it was lovely of them to swing by and we were sorry to see them go.
A couple Sundays ago, our friends Amy and Andy rang to see if we could all have dinner at their house, and we jumped at the chance, not only because we love them so, but because Amy can turn any meal into a feast. Even her laid back, last-minute meal is a celebration. Here’s a fuzzy phone shot of the appetizers that night:
Ok – so on the dish at the bottom – those are all carrots, you guys. I have to confess that even living in this cornucopia of a state, I’d never had a yellow carrot before. Amy makes a killer white bean dip that is heaven with veggies. And above that? Those heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil made their way into the most heavenly bruschetta.
Don’t you love recipes and meals that are really simple but seem like more when you put them on the table? This is my current favorite – grilled bread dinners. You take a nice loaf of bread – a wide, hearthy bread – cut some good thick slices, brush with a little olive oil and pop them on the grill. When they’re all grilled, you can pretty much put anything on them and it will taste fabulous. That night at Amy and Andy’s, we had grilled vegetables and bruschetta on the bread, and it was fantastic. I’ve also had an appetizer where the hot bread was rubbed with a cut clove of garlic and then a cut tomato, which left a film of tomato on the surface of the bread. Topped with some sea salt and maybe a little basil if you like – joy. But you could just as easily do tapenades, fish, cheeses – I’ve even had grilled bread with chocolate ganache and I’m still daydreaming about it.
Speaking of food, I got to see Julie & Julia on Sunday. Holy smokes. I expected it to be good, but Meryl Streep had me from the very first scene. She’s a delight to watch. I could have done with just the ‘Julia’ side of the story, much as I admire Amy Adams, but it was still lots of fun. So call up a friend, see it, and then eat!