We made the trek on foot, a gaggle of adults and giddy kids. All the grownups speculated about the prospect of school the next day. I think we were thinking about it more than the kids. Our neighbor Paul, who's stationed here with the Australian Navy laughed, saying he's been in the Navy for nineteen years and never missed a day for weather. He's been here six months and missed five. Virginia will do that to you.
Oh, hearts beating with unadulterated joy. This is what we woke up to Saturday morning. What a dream! A dream snow fall. The excitement started on Friday as the predictions rolled in. Everywhere there was a sense of anticipation and giddiness. Neel and I went to dinner at our favorite, pre-storm restaurant, just to keep the momentum going. By the time we all tucked into bed, nothing.
I woke up around 1-2 a.m. and still nothing.
At four, when I looked out again, the rooftops were covered. We managed to stay in bed until seven, but after that I couldn't wait for Callum to finally see it. This poor Southern Californian boy yearns for snow and doesn't get enough of it here.
There were sleds to be pulled and snowballs to be thrown. (Although the real snowball fight came Sunday until someone -no names mentioned- threw a snowball at his dad and cut his eyelid. The dad had to be taken to the ER for five stitches, and even though it was a total accident and didn't happen to my family, all the moms were probably thinking, "It's all fun and games until someone gets an eye poked out.")
We couldn't get through the holidays without a little celebrating, could we? Our neighborly dinner shifted a bit to add some new friends and accommodate my inability to host this year. The table at Rebecca's was groaning with our assembled dishes.
Somehow it seems you can only say goodbye to dear friends over a meal, even if it includes bad drinks. So on Friday evening we gathered with some neighbors who are moving, and felt it keenly: how much fun we've had together and how hard it is to say goodbye.
How do these Navy families do it? Say hello/goodbye every two years or so? When these guys moved back into the house they owned on the block (after a several year absence during which all we heard was how fabulous they were) this little nubbin wasn't even born yet. And here she is, sporting the first broken bone of the family (big toe), and eating her Cherrios with a fork.
Callum was never happier than when he was in the mix of their vibrant, bustling family. He was perfectly situated between their two older boys, and while their eldest ushered him through his first lacrosse season, their second eldest was his best bud on the block. We're planning a visit this fall, and Callum asked how often we thought we might make it up to see his friends. When I said, optimistically, I thought, "Oh, maybe once or twice a year, " Callum's response was to wail, "Only once or twice a year? I can't bear it."
We take these things kinda seriously. The cocktails were from the June issue of Martha Stewart Living. They're called Gemini and were very refreshing on a night when I kept telling people I was "dewy, not sweaty." It was one of our very few muggy nights all year.
And did you get a load of those cupcakes? I am so glad that Catherine has been bitten by the cupcake baking bug this summer. Callum and I thought about them all day. Those little baby ones especially. Perfectly sized. And strawberry icing.
I love this place. It's where Catherine grew up, and I learned yesterday that her mom grew up here too. Callum and I'd come once before, before Catherine's son Elliot was born, and we've been trying to get back ever since! See the doggies welcoming us?
I had that sensation this weekend where you don't know how tired you are until you stop moving. Just couldn't do or plan another thing. We bypassed our normal mode of celebration for the fourth, which has always been one of my favorites, for laying low, but this year it worked for us.
Dinner with a friend of mine from work and her daughter on Saturday. I'm so glad she invited herself over! I can't call her a new friend, by any stretch, but we'd never socialized like this before, and it was such fun (even if she did make fun of my food covers). It's all my fault, really. I can be such a fourteen-year-old sometimes. "Why would anybody want to have dinner with us? Why would they want to drive all the way over here?"
The next morning, of course, was Breakfast at Wimbledon. A long-standing tradition from my childhood in its second year at our house. Strawberries and cream (of course), an egg and potato bake that while aesthetically pleasing, needs a little tweaking, and buttermilk biscuits with a buttery spread made of Earth Balance margarine, honey and cinnamon (hat tip to my friend Jacquie for that one, I mean really, thank you!).
And we all ended up here. I'm convinced that Jean and Paul's porch might be the happiest place on earth. We'd all been in various places for the weekend. Jean and Paul with friends, Tyler working the downtown festival, Catherine hanging with Elliot at her parents, Neel and I with friends or draped languidly over the sofa, still trying to recover, but we all ended up here. The kids were eating popsicles, Tyler hadn't eaten, so we brought him some chips and dip. Someone told Paul about Steve McNair, and Jean, Catherine and I made plans to go to the beach while Tyler and Neel talked about designing a deck. And I thought this is what the movies and the tv shows are always trying to capture. This is Friends in the coffee shop, Cheers in the Bar, and I'm so lucky because it's my life. Roll credits.
Oh God, am I ever digging June this year. The hydrangeas are finally coming in, but I think I need to add some vinegar to the soil. I like them blue more than lavender. My maternal grandmother would shake her head at me.
We're slowly settling into a summer rhythm here. Getting our bearings. We had to have a family meeting last night about it. Callum leaves at nine and has trouble checking in until all his friends go home for dinner. Part of me couldn't be more thrilled about the kind of summer he's having. Twilight games of manhunt, ping pong tournaments, running running all day long. I'll catch glimpses of packs of boys roaming from yard to yard, yesterday it was eight! But he's not as untethered as he thinks. He still needs to put his clothes in the hamper, and his laundry away, and make his bed before he leaves the house. And he can't eat lunch at his friend's house everyday. His little-big-man-ness has never been more apparent.
Like his mother, Callum's a fragile sleeper. He still, at almost ten, wakes at least once a night.
"What if I wake up at five?" He asks.
"Go downstairs and make a bowl of cereal."
"Can I play the Wii?"
"As long as you're quiet."
"What if it's four?"
By now I'm ready for this conversation to be done. "As long as you're quiet."
Last night Neel heard some noise deep in the dark, and he looked out into our unusually well-lit back yard to see Lucy-the-Beagle running the perimiter of the fence line. He knew right away that something was up. (Bear in mind that fragile sleeper that I am, I didn't hear a thing.) He came downstairs to find Callum on the sofa, a bowl of cereal in front of him, a can of seltzer in one hand and the Wii remote in the other. Violet and Thea were blissfully snuggled up with him. It was 4:10 a.m. Callum's first question was, "Was I quiet?"
He's still sleeping now. We were both really proud of him, Neel and I. He let the dogs out on his own and tended to everything quite responsibly. We tucked him in with us and chatted and snuggled for awhile. And this is why summer is so wonderful. He can sleep in, and we can figure it out, how to help him sleep better. I work mostly from home in the summer and everyone is blissed out and happy about this, right down to the dogs.
The evenings are the best. I love my work, but it's so nice to not rush in the door and immediately start thinking about dinner. We take time and settle in. Dinner simmers instead of boils. As if by one, many of the grillers on the block switched to charcoal. Isn't it funny how things like that work out? It slows things down, that's true, but you know, I don't mind.
We grilled teriyaki-and-ginger chicken sausage and pineapple, and I sauteed some squash and zucchini from the farmer's market for some pasta. See that drip of cream on my bowl? Don't you just want to swipe that up with your finger? It was gone as soon as I put the camera down!
After dinner we crossed the street to check on Callum who was right back at it in a neighbor's back yard. We ended the evening sharing a bottle of wine and some amazing dark chocolate (bunnies!) and some good conversation with these neighbors and friends. David said it, that the impromptu gatherings were the best, and he's right. We sat around their kitchen island as the big boys played lacrosse in the backyard and little-big William (he's three) brought us lightening bugs, one-by-one to see. Lightening bugs? Fireflys? Di and I like firefly, and Will opted for "firebug," and as the three of us walked home, I thought, "It's Tuesday." Plain old Tuesday.
Somewhere, on some blog I read recently (I'll have to dig around and find it.) the author asked if there was a place that was special to you that you vacationed as a kid with your family that you take your kids to now. A place that's special for you to bring your kids to. I don't have places like that. There weren't regular vacation places in my family. No mountain cabin or lake or beach house. But last night, as I was walking back home, I thought that place is summertime.
Now this is not a bad way to start things off, is it? It didn't hurt that when I got to the car the girl in the back said, "Let's go, bitch!" Of course, she's two, and what I think she meant was, "Let's go to the beach!" I'm going to assume that's what she meant, at least.
When we got to the beach, her brother, who's four, said, "Look at those big bootys!"
Our vantage point is pretty good for watching cars come barreling through, or brake suddenly and decide not to risk it! Generally at least one will flood the engine. Good for wading too. The only tricky part? Wanting to go out to dinner that night and having to drive across two yards to do it!
Location wasn't half bad either. I sometimes look back on events like this wishing I had taken so many more pictures. Pictures of the chapel, which was stunning and intimate and filled with afternoon light. Pictures of the room where we had refreshments before the reception, pictures of the house where they held the reception. But that's why people hire actual photographers. I get to be just a guest.
Jean and I joked about grabbing a couple of tri-corner hats to wear to the ceremony, and wouldn't you know a whole quartet of fife and drummers announced the bride and groom and led us in procession to the reception. I'm sure you can see a couple of bridesmaids. Can you spot Neel and Callum too?
It was the perfect night for a garden wedding reception. Wonderful food (Holy moly there was even a taco bar, how cool is that?! Definitely Callum's favorite part of the night, and probably Neel's too.) and the sounds of happiness and laughter mingling with the music from the band.
This tender morsel was my favorite bite of the night, who can pass up a ham biscuit? And Jean and I shared that delectable concoction. Called a cosmo, but we know better. It was delicious nonetheless.
So we started talking, round the 'hood, about the idea of having regular, communal dinners. Once a week, once a month, the particulars didn't seem to matter as much as that we were making a choice to gather together to share a meal. So this week we started the first of our SOBO Sunday Suppers. And I have to stop and ask, what the heck is Neel laughing about?
We cleared the dishes away, and the kids got up and played. As Tyler said, "Dinner: dominated." We were already chatting about what to cook next Sunday. Jean and Paul and their brood didn't make it this week, but Tyler called it when he said, we know we're going to have them, and if you can get here come and join us. So, here you are SOBO, we've got it goin' on, come on over. Family of choice, all around me. I love having something to look forward to.
Our neighbor Tyler grew up on the water, and his dad still lives there. James often stops by and offers to take Callum out in the boat and teach him some rowing. This past Sunday we took him up on his offer and I tagged along too.
We met this big guy on our way back home. That black thing coming toward us? The police. Telling us to stay away. This ship was bearing natural gas and the police suggested we keep a wide berth. We were only too happy to comply.
We're back at Summer Camp this week (it's nearly killing me this go around), and Callum and I are both coming home tired and cranky (who me?). Until I have the energy for a real post, I thought I'd tide you over with some of our summer days. This first picture was taken at the bay this weekend. Just the three of us hanging in the water. The red flags were up along the oceanfront (thanks to rough surf and rip currents), so we opted for calmer waters.
I had a great morning on Saturday. Went for a run, came home, waited on the front porch for Neel to get up and make coffee. Once he did, we lingered together while Callum slept on, we chatted some and I was able to go almost cover to cover in this cookbook. What slow-paced relaxing bliss.
On Saturday evening, the 'hood traipsed over to the campus of the local university for an outdoor concert. These are free every Saturday in summer (that night was bluegrass), and a wonderful, wonderful way to spend the evening. Expect more posts from this patch of grass in the coming weeks.
Thank you, thank you to my dear friends and neighbors who rushed to our aid yesterday. Callum got trapped under our very low-to-the-ground car, and before I could dream them up (or panic too much) Superman Paul and his hero sidekicks Mark and Ed were by my side to lift the car so Callum could scoot out. In another instant Super Nurse Rebecca was there to check his scrapes and bruises. Thankfully there seems to be nothing more than that: scrapes and bruises and a very, very scared little boy. Words can not express the gratitude I feel for the friends who were instantly by our side.
I think we'll stick close to home today. Extra snuggles may be in order.
We had dinner a few nights ago with another couple in the hood (SOBO expands its borders!), and as soon as I set foot, I was consumed with yard envy.
Follow the mulch path...
...past the corn hole...
And there you are!
Seriously folks, it's my dream yard. Of course, our back yard looks nothing like this, but that's why you have a dream yard. Neel spent Sunday morning putting in some phlox in the front yard and replanting the pots on the front porch, just as contented as a robin in newly-turned earth. And I thought, thank god. Thank god he loves to do this so much. I want it to look nice. I want to be out and enjoying our beautiful yard, but the doing of it, the making it so, is just not my thing. Neel just got started on the back when we had to clean up and head out, and our back yard has a long way to go. That means I must enjoy others while I wait.
Oh the bliss of this perfectly situated swing. The envy is kicking in pretty hard here...
Oh! There were people there too. Old friends and new. The kids played soccer and metal detector.
We ate some. Perfect cookout food. Grilled chicken and Dorito salad and Planter's Punch. The sun went down and we talked and talked. Kids climbed into laps to curl up and get cozy, and music wafted on the smoke of a cigar.
Spring evenings are here and summer is coming.
I turned down our street yesterday afternoon and it felt as if the world had burst into amazing technicolor. Like Gone with the Wind after years of black and white movies. It had a lot to do with the sunlight after all those days of gray and drizzle. But the world is bursting with color, spring has exploded all around us.
Last fall Neel planted dozens of tulips like the one above, and they are all coming up now. My favorite flower, all over our yard.
I love the azaleas too. We have these droopy, blousy-white ones in our yard, and I love their cool beauty, but get a look at these, across the street...
Here's a close-up:
The shock of all that pink in a head-high hedge leaves me absolutely giddy. I love the embarrassment of color.
As I write this, it's a regular Monday evening around here. Ina's roasted potato and fennel soup is burbling on the stove, making the house smell like licorice, a deep winter dinner on this early spring day. The dogs keep slamming into the porch as they work out the wiggles after a day cooped in the house. Callum's thrown a strawberry cheesecake popsicle from the Ice Cream Man into the freezer for after dinner and he wants nothing more than to climb a tree. I'm tired, but happy, and I realize that I'm filled with a lot of hope. My birthday is on the horizon, as is the one-year anniversary of this blog, and yeah, I have a lot of hope. Neel's home, I just now hear the slam of his car door. We're coming up on the anniversary of our first date and he's still the person I want to see most at the end of the day. In my heart, hope and gratitude walk hand in hand..
I've been knitting some too.
This sweet hat is for a baby girl born to the block about six weeks ago. Another neighbor of ours threw a shower for her on Sunday.
As sweet as "rosebud" may be, it seems a bit impractical, so I whipped up a plain old stripey to go along. Both hats are from Itty Bity Hats, my current go-to when it comes to knitting for the infant set.
There was a lot of discussion around the hood about what to wear to this baby-shower. I have learned that baby showers in the South are quite the event. What you wear is almost as important as the gift you give. Back last week when it was spring, the general consensus was pretty skirt, tee shirt and flip flops. There was a flurry of e-mails detailing all sorts of outfits (drawn, by me at least, mostly from go fug yourself) and amazing helicopter hairdos. By Sunday it was sleeting and all any of us wanted was to stay home in our sweats.
We persevered though and all wore pants.
There was some concern that a certain former neighbor of ours would be present at said shower, and we all felt that some pre-party fortification was in order. This is where we're discussing all the amazing baby-shower food we had to look forward to.
Beautiful table. Fruit salad. Cheesecake thingys.
And that's all. No decadent quiche. No chicken salad. No meatballs in sauce in a chafing dish and no crustless sandwiches. And all this time I thought chicken salad was required at baby showers.
Sigh. At least there was champagne. And all our worry about the former neighbor? She never showed.
It was still a really nice shower for a really nice person who had a girl after three rough and tumble boys. And we're really happy for her whole family.
Less than ten minutes home another flurry of e-mails: "Are you in your sweats yet? I am."
We had our Second Annual SOBO Progressive Dinner last night. Last year, two of us (not me!) were pregnant and we had so. much. food. Let me tell you about all the food we had last year. I think every person thought they were they only household having a party. We started with appetizers at my house, and soup and salad at Rebecca's and then HAM...WITH SIDE DISHES at Jean and Paul's and then dessert at Tyler and Catherine's. It was a bit much.
Who needs food when you can have all appetizers? We started at our house again. Callum insisted. Two different drinks. Pomegranate Martinis and our own family concoction, the Tidewater Tini (recipes follow the post). Fried Greek Cheese, some olives, and a Brie en Croute with figs and walnuts.
I am not too embarrassed to say that I was too busy eating Hot Wing Dip at Jean and Paul's take pictures of it, but their tree is beautiful, as is their newly painted dining room. Callum sang for us and played with the kids, but all the pictures of that were too personal to share in this forum.
It's a pretty amazing soup that starts with sherry in the bottom of the mug and finishes with Worchestershire and Old Bay, and drinking it out of a mug was divine. I've already put in a request for lunch left-overs, but she seems to be avoiding me...
Oh God, I love Catherine's Strawberry Trifle. The thing that was so fun about this evening is that everybody made the thing that we love them to make. For us it was the fried Greek cheese. For Jean and Paul the Hot Wing Dip. Rebecca's She Crab Coup and finally Catherine's Trifle. (Catherine put her foot down at Dorito Salad, so we let her handle dessert.) I'm sure for those of us doing the cooking, it's a little like Jimmy Buffet singing Margaritaville, but what a gift to know people so well that they have favorite recipes and they'll make them for you. Maybe next year we'll branch out, but this was very nice indeed.
It was a wonderful night, made more special by the fact that my dad had arrived in time to join in the fun. Merry, merry Christmas my neighbor family. You've brought so much light to my life, and being with you lit the darkest night of the year.
There are about a gillion pomegranate martini recipes gracing the internet these days (Thanks Al Gore!), but the Tidewater Tini is our very own. We tend to just glug in the vodka and other ingredients to taste, but I will endeavor to make some sense of it here for you. Enjoy!
1 oz vanilla vodka
2 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz triple sec.
mix with ice in a martini shaker and strain into a glass...garnish with a lemon peel or maraschino cherry.
Never say I'm such a dork that I can't hit a curve ball when it's pitched to me. No pasta with golden fennel for us last night. It's time for the Second Annual SOBO Pumpkin Carving Extravaganza.
For sustenance you start with Chinese food. I'm not sure how it happened, but Neel and I ended up with all the leftovers and didn't manage to pay for a thing. Because we're having rain (!), we moved the festivities into Tyler and Catherine's Garage-Mahal. It was the perfect fall night. Cool and windy with water dripping from the trees.
It's hard to be patient while the grown-ups sit and eat and talk, and pretty soon Callum was urging us towards the pumpkins. Jean, Paul, Zack and Mack couldn't join us this year (we missed you guys, but fully anticipate your presence at Halloween), and Callum felt keenly the responsibility that comes with being the only kid on the premises. It's. time. to. start. carving.
Rebecca spends some time thinking about her design,
but guest-carver Ryan dives right in on his first pumpkin ever.
Neel goes at our pumpkins with the precision of any good scientist. And you know, I tried to figure why I didn't get many shots of Tyler, but I think I was mostly taking action shots. Tyler, Catherine and I did a lot of supervising. Those are Tyler's legs behind Neel. He's getting something for Rebecca to make some freckles on her pumpkin. I'm telling myself that it's not based on me.
Callum has to inspect everybody's work. Here they are, all lined up together. Like neighbors.
My favorite part comes later, after all of the carving is done. Pumpkin-seed time. My spices vary from year to year and I never know exactly what I seasoned the seeds with the year before, but this year's batch was particularly good. Garlic salt for the base with a pinch on cayenne, some cumin and the smallest dash of some cinnamon. Toasted at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes for the perfect midnight snack.