Monday, July 25, 2011

Our Northwoods Adventures: #2 for 2011

If you live any where near me, you've probably had the pleasure of dealing with hot, sticky summer days. Yes, you should read a little sarcasm with that comment. I love warm weather; wearing sun dresses and wide brimmed hats, working the garden and paddling the local waterways, sitting on the deck, late at night, conversing with friends. I don't love high heat and humidity together, though, and am this close to being over summer. In order to fall back in love with summer, and get a couple of days without real responsibility, Bodie and I went to the cabin.

We packed my little Rav-4 with everything needed for our 2.5 day escape: bathing suits, towels, squirt guns and lifejackets, a tricycle and a butterfly net, fishing poles and tackle bags. We had a cooler full of goodies: hot dogs, popsicles, margaritas and juice boxes. We had earthworms and waxies, jigs and Rapalas, brand new pliers and glow-in-the-dark bobbers. If my small amount of planning worked, we'd be kicking back and utterly enjoying ourselves the whole time.

And, boy, did we ever! I baked fresh corn muffins for breakfast that we covered in honey (and I washed down with a bit of coffee). We made mini pizzas with naan crust coated with cheddar cheese, bell peppers slivers and fresh, home-grown basil. We ate our favorite guilty pleasure; $1.29 ginger snaps from the Winter Co-Op.

From the moment we arrived, and practically every waking moment after, we were down by the lake. The cabin garage stock-piles countless flotation devices; from sharks to inner tubes to noodles, we had it all. If I wasn't fishing for bluegill off the end of the pier, chances are I was floating on a gigantic circular raft watching Bodie try to catch minnows in his net or splashing around in the shallows.

I woke at dawn each morning and was lucky enough to witness Friday's sunrise. The humidity had finally broken during the evening and with it came a cool front and clouds. The lake was covered in rolling steam, the sun seeming to rise multiple times after each return from behind the clouds.

There is an amazing vintage hat collection at the cabin. Apparently the Hamstra family has the same fondness for head ware that I do. My absolute favorite cabin hat is Grandma Hamstra's straw hat, one I found hanging from a nail in one of the closets last year. It has a wide brim in the front but no brim in the back, so I can leave it on while lounging on my back on a floatie. Keep your eyes peeled for one, I need one of these hats for at home. Oh, and if you look really close, you can see some of the remnants of my bike wipe out. Sprain, sprain, go away!

The cabin and its surroundings gave us respite from the summer doldrums. We cooled ourselves in the crystal clear water of Perch Lake. We gulped deep breaths of fresh, clean air. We listened to the birds sing and watched the dragon flies buzz about. We let our inner-child take over and allowed ourselves to play, giggle, chase each other with squirt guns and take naps. We took pleasure in doing nothing at all. We grilled hot dogs and caught dozens of fish. We remembered what summer is supposed to be all about; fun. Oh, what I wouldn't give to feel like I do at the cabin every day of the year! Oh, to be a kid again! Oh, to not have to work! I guess I'll have to keep dreaming.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


As I sit typing pecking (I'll explain later), I can hear countless birds singing, wind rustling the canopy of leaves above, the occasional meow or moo and not much more. Not a single car horn, siren, whistle, screech or man-made noise. Some might consider this silence.

I'm sitting just beyond the top of those steps, in the yard of an isolated farm in the rolling hills of Mount Horeb.

It   is   HOT! 

My beer is sweating almost as much as I am. (Sad but true.) The cookie in my hand reads "dunk head first", and that's what I'd love to do right now. Dunk myself, head first, mind you, in a crystal blue, spring-fed pool.  Not having such a pool near by, I'll have to settle for a late night, ice cold shower under the sprinkler while I water my own garden. Despite the heat and humidty, I am in paradise.

This weekend I have had the pleasure of farm sitting for my friends John & Kattia. Besides feeding, watering and keeping after  their three potbellied pigs, four goats, a dog, a cat, and 30 some chickens, I got to hike their trails, eat their blackberries and sit in the woods near their yurt and meditate. (Yes, you did just read that correctly. You should check out the link if you've never heard of a yurt!)

I began the weekend with a bang. Or more accurately a high velocity wipe out on a country road while going down hill and around a corner on my bike. Thus the pecking at the keys. My hand (and back, left arm, left leg and neck) are pretty banged up. Nothing is broken, besides my confidence on a bike, and I am generally OK. But, boy, oh boy, am I wishing I wouldn't have gone quite so fast down that hill!!! I'm not going to be doing much cooking or cleaning this week (poor me! thus the beer and cookies appetizer) since my left hand has a gaping hole. Oh, well, Wednesday morning Bodie and I go up North for a 3-day vay-cay. I'll have plenty of time to heal up there ... floating in an inner tube, in the middle of the lake, sipping a margarita, and reeling in bass. Oh, I can't wait!

But back to the farm. I would trade places with John and Kattia in a heart beat. I adore their chicken coop turn country home. I think I benefit more from farm sitting then they do! I feel so rested when I am here. The high-paced, strees-filled city life vanishes and the slow pace of country life settles over my soul. Creature comforts become priority. You begin to notice the little things. One lone blackberry in a sea of green leaves. The tiny yellow gold-finch, perched on the feeder, watching your every move, but staying to eavesdrop for 15 minutes. The way the trees on the surrounding hillside seem to umbrella me, protecting me from whatever lurks beyond. One becomes so completely aware of their surroundings when they submit to being surrounded; stepping back from themselves to realize that they are but just a tiny piece of a greater whole. Can you tell why I love this place? It is an oasis for me. It inspires me. It comforts me. (It helps me blog!) I can only hope that everyone else has a place like this!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hey y'all! What's for dinner?

Well, for the first time in about a year I started my work-week on Monday like the majority of the country, and I have to say, it feels fantastic! There's something precious about having a Saturday AND Sunday off consecutively, waking refreshed and recharged Monday morning ready to tackle the work week with gusto.

I kicked the weekend off with making a biga for my favorite bread recipe; Cook's Illustrated's recipe for rustic Italian loaf bread. This is by far my favorite loaf; it is quite time consuming (house-bounding) to prepare but creates the most delicious tasting loaf in my repitoire (and it really isn't that hard to bake). In the book that I'm reading, 52 Loaves by William Alexander, the author struggles to create a loaf that has both a crunchy crust and a bubbly interior. Well, this loaf produces just that with a moist, chewy texture that makes me salivate just typing about it!

When I wasn't baking, I was out in the garden picking sugar snap peas and raspberries as often as they would allow me. I started a batch of liqueur from a cup of the berries and am honored to report that Bod-ers loves to eat sugar snap peas, especially if he picks them himself! We went biking to the park, swung on the tree swing and even spent Sunday on the lake, fishing and swimming. We relaxed, kicked-back, launched bottled rockets and flew balsa planes. We sipped margaritas and sampled figs (still questioning whether I like figs). We fell asleep early and slept in late (later then normal, 7:30am). I recharged my batteries after two long weeks at work. I went to work today a different woman. I had a little pep in my step (especially since I took a day off of bike commuting) and a smile on my face.

So, here we are on a Monday evening. Where I sit in the living room I can see the sun beginning to set through the maple in our front yard. The sky is dotted with clouds, hopefully allowing for a pretty sunset. Maybe if I feel motivated after dinner Harper and I will go for a walk over at Heistand and watch the sun set over the frisbee ...

Speaking of which. What's for dinner?

After a moment of pondering, I realized I have everything for the perfect summer salad. Romaine, raspberries, sugar snap peas and Italian bread. All I have to do is whip up something to dress the salad with and dinner will be done!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bootie high by the 4th of July

Well, the busy holiday weekend has come to an end I'm lucky enough to find myself home, alone (completely, oh thank god!). John and the dog are at the cabin, Bodie is at his dad's, and Scott is somewhere between Middleton and home, leaving little ol' me up to my own devices (read: doing something without a single TV turned on!). So, sitting in silence in the dimly-lit living room, I pulled out the camera, uploaded a weeks-worth of photos and realized I haven't blogged in a while.

The last week and a half has been a total blur! It all started off with an entire day devoted to inventory at work, two Sundays ago, followed by two more days of work. Intense, to say the least! That was followed by two days of gardening/mommy-ing at home, with the intentions of getting everything ready for hosting our own pre-Fourth party on Friday. Saturday was filled with more work and our friends Steve & Sarah's Rhythm & Booms party. After a night of fun I was a peach at work on Sunday, I'm sure, and an even sweeter driver on my way to pick up Bodie that evening (I managed to get lost twice on a route I've driven oodles of times!) Monday was the Fourth, at last, and Bodie and I paddled over in Cherokee Marsh early in the day while Scott was at work. We capped hell week the Fourth with a final firework viewing, perched atop a neighborhood (mosquito infested) hill, with the ability to see multiple different firework displays (none of them professional, all of them ooh-n-aah-inspiring). I wish I could say I have the next couple of days off, but oh NO! This little lady has to work straight through until Saturday. Oh, the joys of being the only regularly employed employee at a small business.

OK. Sorry about that. Enough bitching. I guess without the guys here to reprimand me I had a moment of weakness and decided to vent! Ahh ... that's a lot off my shoulders. Now the fun stuff!

I was intending for this post to be primarily an update on the garden. And up it is! There's an old rhyme that farmers, and I, use regarding the height of corn in relation to a certain early July holiday. Well, I'm proud to announce that most of my corn is bootie high by the Fourth of July! And now that I look a little closer at the photo, I realize that my little guy is really not too little any more, either (and almost boobie high. At three!).

As we continued around the garden that afternoon we sampled the first of the raspberries and even some baby sugar snap peas. In the next few days both of those should be ripening in full force. As I look out the patio door right now, I can see hundreds of magenta orbs polka dotting a lush, green thicket. The tomato plants have started to blossom and the basil is beginning to thicken up with leaves (and tastes delish! I can't wait to make pesto). The pumpkins already have thick vines meandering around the back corner of the garden, and the butternut squash and cucumbers are just starting to send vines.

Oh, all this talk of vegetables reminded me of how hungry I am. Time to go rummage through the pantry for inspiration and to enjoy my last few minutes of silence before Scott walks in the door!