Archive for the ‘Life in the Big Woods’ Category

Ok, vacation. Greta and I spent some time before the trip working on a google doc (brilliant) spreadsheet to plan the meals we’d each cook and what groceries we were each bringing. I hadn’t thought of using google docs and it was perfect–I highly recommend them if you’re working on anything like an address list or planning document that a couple people might edit.


We each had a few dinners to plan, plus lunches. For breakfasts we all just had english muffins or cereal, though Greta made her famous sausage balls on my birthday!

Happy times, the lake…

Night one: Kate

I brought vegetables from the CSA–small cavolo nero leaves I had blanched ahead of time, as well as a couple summer squash. I also brought cheese, etc. Greta brought dough, since she makes pizza every friday night. The dough rested at her feet during the 9 hour (lots of stops!) trip up to the lake (Ben and I were glad to have traded the 6 hour drive from NY for the 2 hour drive from Boston), and it was a little odd to work with but tasted fine.

(This one also has basil from my happy plant on the porch!)

We had a big salad, as well.

Night two: Greta
Greta made sirloin tips (marinated in Soy Joy), cous cous and roasted asparagus. I was in charge of getting the charcoal grill going–Dad would be proud of my chimney-use skills, though we never quite mastered cooking on charcoal instead of gas!

It’s important to keep your strength up at the lake, since the days are packed with strenuous activity:

Best Lunch Ever

Ok, fine, we didn’t have the baby for lunch, but doesn’t he look edible with his cabbage leaf hat? That day we actually had grilled hotdogs and cabbage slaw, and it was awesome. (The first full day we were all swimming when we got hungry, and Chris had brought beers down to the lake so we maybe had a beer or two before lunch (yikes) (it was late!) and I tipsily made sandwiches, then put them in a ziplock bag and paddled them out to everyone, floating in floaty-chairs and the canoe out on the lake! Whee!)

Dinner three: Greta

Pork tenderloin in a dried cranberry/red wine reduction, with roasted potatoes.
Delicious. Tender and tangy and luscious. She’s something, that Greta.

Wait, maybe THIS was the Best Lunch Ever

The next day we had a whole extra tenderloin all cooked, and Greta had the brilliant idea to make BBQ pork sandwiches. We got onion rolls and barbecue sauce and OMG SO GOOD.

The boys had gone out sailing and ran into some problems, so we ate around 1:30 and they ate around…4:30? At which point I had another little snack, too.

Night four: Joint effort

We were supposed to eat halibut and other lovely things for dinner, but shockingly no one was really in the mood after the heavy, late lunches. Greta (a veritable font of brilliance) suggested breakfast for dinner, and broke out one of the FOUR 1-pound packages of bacon she’d brought. Ben made blueberry pancakes. I made mimosas. We ate around the coffee table around 9:30.

Um, the four of us ate the entire pound of bacon.

Wednesday we rented an old-school pontoon boat for the day, and rolled like old people in total floating living room comfort. The guys really enjoyed being outside:

Jack was impressed when we went back to the house for panini and salad dockside at lunchtime:

And we all swam a lot:

We ate dinner that night early, at a restaurant in town. Everyone was tired, but Jack and Greta were able to play cards for a while:

While Chris kicked back:

To be continued, with back-to-back birthday dinners…

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Hurray! We’re off to the lake for a week with our friends Chris and Greta (and, of course, baby Jack)!!

Greta and I have become crazy people with multiple shared spreadsheets planning meals, groceries and packing lists. The car is about to be fuller than it has ever been. The lake house has internet!! Ahem. So I will try to post over the course of the week.


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I spent this weekend back up in Hanover helping my brother Tom get ready to leave for a two-month trip through Europe to absorb great works of architecture. He’s a smart puppy who won a travel grant to fund this trip. Since graduating from Dartmouth last June he designed and built a new timber-framed sugarhouse for the Dartmouth Organic Farm, worked at various timber framing jobs, and worked as a cabinet maker. He’s also a great cook!

I got up to Hanover Friday evening (after my first solo highway drive longer than 15 or 20 minutes–whee!) Tom was getting ready to grill dinner for me and for the college’s current Artist in Residence. We enjoyed sirloin, grilled asparagus, pasta with pesto and a delicious cabbage slaw.

He says he made the slaw using vegetable oil and cider vinegar with quite a bit of sugar for the dressing. I will experiment, since he wasn’t very precise with quantities! We ate leftover steak and slaw in great sandwiches the next day.

Tom has been working on a gorgeous custom fly-tying desk for a couple months, using many of the techniques he learned in timber-framing. He finished it on Friday and on Saturday we went to the woodshop to attach the top to the base and do a couple other final tasks.

Hardware and two doors will be added after he gets back from Europe. Pretty impressive, huh?

We also picked up some great book deals at the Five Colleges Book Sale, hung out with lots of Tom’s friends, finished packing up his stuff and figured out what he needed for this trip, which starts in Istanbul and finishes in Helsinki in late June. He’s packing very light (annotated version here):

Finally, almost a month ago Tom stayed at our place while we were gone for the weekend. When we came back I found this lovely handmade cutting board waiting for me–I can’t bear to use it yet; it’s leaning up against the wall in the kitchen, looking pretty:

Good luck, Tom! Safe travels…

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We move to Cambridge tomorrow. Things look like this around here:


But worse now. I apologize for the lack of posts over the last month; hopefully I will return to something approaching normal life soon!

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Wheee, back from a mini-vacation: We went to our friend Ann’s parents’ lake house in Maine for Memorial Day weekend, and basically did nothing for three days. There was kayaking and a bit of walking around, and a couple plunges in the not-as-icy-as-expected lake, but for the most part we drank wine, sat on the dock, drank coffee, sat on the dock, played silly games…



Anyway, I will be updating more soon…

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Suspicion of Ramps

I got out of the car today (I am now a licensed driver, and had just done my first solo set of errands), and was hit by a wave of onion scent. I was frantically carrying in groceries, so I didn’t think much of it, but a little while later it hit me: Ramps!

(Photo from Nosheteria)

It’s ramp season here in the Northeast, and that smell makes me suspect a crop somewhere nearby. I went outside and foraged in all the places that seemed likely, but didn’t find anything, and didn’t smell them again either.

A mystery! Too bad I didn’t find any; we’re having a dinner party tonight and it would have been fun to do a mini starter of backyard-ramps.

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Something I never thought would happen…has happened. I have bikes on the brain, and want to go out riding. You should know that my dad has bike commuted since I was a kid (I remember watching for his bike light out the window when I was 6), and my brother is really into alternative transport and bike building/repair. I, meanwhile, learned to ride when I was 8 or so, had an ok mountain bike out in Oregon, but never rode with much pleasure or regularity.

Ben loves to bike, but has ridden a totally inadequate bike from high school for years (more than 10 years), and we finally decided to get him a new bike, and to look for something for me as well. I had seen the Electra Amsterdam in Blueprint and shown it to Tom, who gave it a seal of approval, to my utter shock. (I expected him to say it was a marketing ploy, designed to suck money away from unsuspecting rubes who….well, it’s usually something along those lines; you should hear him on beginners who ride racing bikes!)

Behold, the object of my lust:
Note the chain guard, wheel cover, lovely blue shade… It is styled after the bikes used for commuting in the Netherlands, and sports a 3-speed internal gear thingy. (Very technical, right?) I also like Electra’s “flat foot” design approach–the pedals are pushed forward a bit, so when you are stopped you can put your feet on the ground.

But when we went to the bike shop they didn’t have Amsterdams, only the cruiser styles, which aren’t what I want. And they started telling me about some other options, and asking if I really wanted a 3-speed or if I’d want to be able to go up bigger hills eventually. I don’t know! Here is the 24-speed they recommended, the Suede DX w by Giant:
Hmm. More retro-styling than the other Giants I tried, and it has a cute seat, but it doesn’t conjure up images of me biking along looking extremely adorable and European, does it? Reminds me more of a little kid’s bmx bike or something. (…I don’t even know what that means.)

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Winter to Summer

There wasn’t much spring here in New Hampshire this year–it’s gone straight to summer, and right now it is 85 degrees. The good news is that we have nice cool nights, much like back home in Oregon, so the sleeping is still good. The birds, however, are not sleeping well–they were up at 4:30 this morning, and so was I until I found earplugs.

We were in NY last weekend, and then Ben was in Boston, so I haven’t been cooking much. I had a spartan few days, using up whatever we had around, and eating a lot of bread and jam:


Tonight, despite a late start for dinner (9:30), I am going to actually cook, and it will be a Spring Special: Halibut, asparagus and fava beans. I’ll report back with what I decide to do with it all.

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Spanakopita Fest

Last Thursday we hosted a surprise 30th birthday party for our friend Chris. Preparations involved quite a few weeks of subterfuge by his wife Ann, and we spent several days shopping and cooking before the party, all uner the guise of driving lessons for me. The week before we spent a memorable afternoon making about 90 spanakopita using Chris’s mom’s recipe.

Making a double (triple?) batch meant using a LOT of frozen chopped spinach, which we squeezed out using flour cloth (very chilly):
spinach sink

Into the spinach went a bit of egg, a lot of feta, some ricotta and cottage cheese, green onions, and….I think that’s it? I need to get the recipe from Ann. My hands proved to be the best mixing tools–this is the bowl from the Kitchenaid, for scale.
spinach mixing

The miserable thing was the folding. The phyllo was dry (Ann taught me that you must always blame the phyllo for any problems you have), so it was frustrating buttering each sheet and trying to keep it intact while layering, filling and folding the little triangles. After a few dozen we switched to an eggroll shape, which was somehow less splinter-inducing for the dough.

We popped our trays of triangles and rolls into the freezer, and once they were hard as little rocks I transferred them into ziplocks. Ann made another batch or two at another friends house, as well. The night of the party I baked them at 375 for about 45 minutes, and they were fabulous. The filling had a good bite to it, great texture and flavor, and despite being such a royal pain I had to enjoy the crispy buttery phyllo.


We ended up having decorating with Cinco de Mayo stuff, including a pinata, which Chris beat down to great effect It was all very festive.

And Ann and I put together quite a spread—and artichoke/spinach dip, the spanakopita, really great homemade hummus (heavy on the garlic and tahini), chips and salsa… Also many, many margaritas and daiquiris. Chris was very surprised and everything went great, but I have to say I prefer 6-8 people coming over for dinner, instead of the 25+ for cocktail madness. With a crowd like that I spend the whole night refilling drinks and bowls, instead of eating anything myself!

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For the second night feeding the boys, we grilled burgers and sausage and ate outside. We invited Chris and Ann over to talk marketing with the college kids, and then Brian and Liz came over to play catch and we asked them to stay, too. All 8 of us squeezed around the table on the porch, which gave it a fun party feeling. It was a little chilly to be eating outside but I don’t think any of us noticed, in part because Ann, who is always cold, was sitting by the open window to the kitchen, where I accidentally left the oven on at 480 degrees long after taking the potatoes out…

Liz mixed up some more wonder concoctions in the freezer–a sort of strawberry margarita improvisation–and the guys drank a lot of beer. We grilled 14 1/4 pound hamburgers and 10 sausages and every single one was eaten. I also made a huge salad and some oven fries, and Ann brought a delicious cake from King Arthur.

The oven fries were an experiment, and worked out remarkably well. I usually parboil potatoes that I’m trying to make crispy in the oven, and the few times I’ve skipped that I’ve regretted it (see the chicken dinner back in December where the potatoes took an extra 45 minutes to cook). But I forged ahead, cut 8 big bakers into wedges, rubbed them around in oil, salt and pepper, then baked them at 450 (later cranking it to 480) for about….45 minutes?


When I pulled them out to test them a lot of the wedges were sticking; they hadn’t crisped up enough to release from the pans. That was when I cranked the heat up. Basically just keep baking them until they release from the pan without too much trouble! I dusted them with some truffle salt (another product sample from my magazine days) before serving.


Dinner—the best shot I could get in the midst of the utter chaos (fun chaos) at the table:



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