In a few short weeks, we’re headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I’ve ever seen (and he’s quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it’s remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we’ll be gone much of September, I’ve felt a bit of a ‘hurry, make all the summery things!’ feeling set in. So we’ve been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
A few weeks back we went blueberry picking with our friends John and Emily and their son, Lewis (Oliver’s best friend). While we love Bow Hill Blueberries, it was a bit of a trek this year with the little guys, so we checked out Bybee Farms instead, right at the base of Mount Si. We loaded up the car early, got a strong latte on the way out of town and pulled up just as the hot (hot, hot) sun was starting to peek out from behind the mountain.
The boys spent much of their time picking and almost immediately eating their blueberries, so we didn’t win any awards for Most Blueberries Picked, 2017. No medals, no crowns, but we did leave with almost 3 pounds and spent the weekend snacking on handfuls and sprinkling them on morning cereal. I ended up freezing a few cups, thinking I’d make a crisp or cobbler. Maybe some muffins.
But then, the ‘hurry, make all the summery things!’ feeling moved into the house and I was lying in bed drinking coconut Le Croix and reading A Year Between Friends by Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes, and stumbled across their Raspberry Ripple pops. It was a sign: 10:30 pm popsicles were in order.
If you’re not familiar with A Year Between Friends, it’s by the women who started 3191 Miles Apart, a website devoted to chronicling a friendship, mostly in photographs, from two homes across the country (Portland, OR and Portland, ME). A few times a week they each post a photo and a few words, encapsulating their day. It’s often something domestic and, perhaps, some would say insignificant but the simple moments all add up to tell the story of their lives, family, and their own friendship with one another. I’ve kept the book on my nightstand for a few months now, and dip into it as an escape and for a little inspiration surge: there are craft projects (naturally dyed baby clothes!), recipes, letters and stories — tales of family passing away, sugar cookies baked, babies born. Lives getting lived.
Maria and Stephanie wrote this recipe for raspberry pops, but I was specifically looking for something to do with our blueberries – so there you have it. But feel free to use any summer berry you like. I ended up straying from instructions a bit and cooking down the berries with sugar and lemon juice to make the mixture a bit jammier before throwing it into the food processor; this is nice, too, because it allows you to use frozen berries instead (or along with) fresh, so these can be a season-less affair.
Adapted from: A Year Between Friends
In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook down the blueberries, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of sugar for 2-3 minutes, or until berries soften and become a little jammy bit and sugar is dissolved (if using frozen berries, this will take longer). Let cool, off the heat, for 10 minutes.
In a blender or food processor, blend the berry mixture until liquified.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, remaining 3 tablespoons (40g) sugar, and vanilla extract.
Dividing evenly, layer the blueberry puree and vanilla yogurt in the pop molds until they’re nearly filled (leave 1/4-1/2 inch at the top for expansion). To create the swirls, gently poke each pop with the end of a chopstick before placing the lid on the mold and adding the popsicle sticks.
Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours. To remove the pops, run warm water over the outside of the molds and slide them out. Store in the freezer in an airtight container between layers of parchment or wax paper.
Glimpses of Spring
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
It turns out shopping for wedding dresses is nothing like they make it appear in the movies. Or at least it hasn't been for me. Angels don't sing. Stars don't explode. Relatives don't cry. There isn't a sudden heart-stopping moment that this is, in fact, "the one." To be honest, I always knew that I wasn't the kind of gal for whom angels would sing or stars would explode but I did think I'd have some kind of moment where I could tell I'd found the best dress. Instead, my mom flew into town and we spent three (yes, three!!) days shopping for dresses, and since then I've been back to the stores we visited -- and I'm more undecided than ever. Tomorrow morning I'll return with my friend Keena to try and tie this business up once and for all. Cross your fingers.
When I was single and living alone in the Bay Area, I made virtually the same thing for dinner each night. I ate meals quickly while in front of the computer. Or even worse: the television. This most often included what I call "Mexican Pizzas" which were basically glorified quesadillas baked in the oven until crispy. Sometimes, if I was really feeling like cooking, I'd whip up a quick stir-fry with frozen vegetables from Trader Joe's or a mushroom frittata using pre-sliced mushrooms. Mostly, though, it was Mexican Pizzas -- a good four or five nights a week. Today, thankfully, dinner looks a lot different. Meals in general look a lot different. How would I explain that difference? I think that ultimately how we feel about our life colors how we choose to feed ourselves and the importance that we place on preparing our own meals.
Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we're all really good at making excuses to leave the office early -- or, simply, to "work from home." I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I'd been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour -- sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat. The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver's cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I'd say. Coming home I realized we didn't have much in the fridge for lunch -- but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It's the kind of salad that's meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn't yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there's always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open -- a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.