Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Endless summer

The other day, my friend said “Summer JUST started”. I thought, wait, what, was it really June 21 last week, no, not really, hmm…. but I know what she meant: it is finally really hot, sweat-breaking hot, floating on a raft in the water hot. Your brain melts without air conditioning and it is time to take it to the beach hot. 
Summer.
There is a certain laziness to summer, which is mostly temperature induced. The brain devours light literature, the belly prefers cold water melon and ice cream, the skin cold water, and everything else is pretty much postponed. Til dinner time, when it cools down again. Days are endless, lazy, forgettable, wonderful.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Elderflower Syrup

We made it past July 4th, and that means we definitely enter summer territory. It’s been a wet and rather cold summer so far but the next two months might bring the endless sunshine and beach weather everyone has been waiting for.

The other day I finally found a recipe for elderflower syrup that has all the details right. It was just in the nick of time since my elderberry tree started to bloom.  I had tried my hands on elderflower syrup before but with less than convincing results. The syrup had no taste and was on the bitter side. I think I skimped on the citric acid and the massive amounts of sugar. This recipe, however, had the all important little detail of “cut off all the stems, really close to the flowers”. Yeah, no stems. Not even tiny ones. I also added the citric acid, which gives it a nice zing, plenty of sugar, since it is a syrup after all. The syrup is the best I’ve ever had. Elderflower Syrup Heaven!

Mixing a tablespoon of syrup with 100ml of Pinot Grigio and a can of Perrier makes for a very refreshing summer drink!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups organic granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons food-grade citric acid
  • 15 big elderflower heads, just all blossom opened, and no brown edges yet

How to:

  1. Remove any insects or debris from the elderflower blossoms. Just shake them out. Do not wash them, as they will lose a lot of flavor.
  2. Combine sugar, water, and the citric acid in a saucepan and stir until the sugar has dissolved. There is no need to bring it to a boil, it won’t even need to heat very much. Remove from heat and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.
  3. Trim the stems away from the elderflower blossoms and discard. Try to remove as much of the stems as you can.
  4. Add the blossoms to a large glass jar.
  5. Pour the cool syrup into the jar with the elderflower blossoms. Make sure that the blossoms are immersed in the syrup. Cover the jar with a lid and let it steep in the fridge for 48 hours, stirring the syrup once daily.
  6. Strain the syrup through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean jar or bottle. Store the syrup in a cool place for up to one year. Once opened, store the bottle in the fridge.
  7. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

There must be summer somewhere

It’s the Memorial day weekend, a usual jump off into summer, even here in Maine, but not this year. It seems like a flash back to winter, with a gray sky and chilly temperatures. The snow came late this winter, the winter cleared out at the end of April, and it seems like no surprise that summer is also taking its time.

I linger at home, and read. There is nothing this weekend that would be pulling me to a coastal town. Instead I watch the 3rd season of Bloodline with its wonderful Florida Keys beach scenery. With all the twist and turns only question remains: will they get away with it?

For all the BBQs that are rained out, and the campers wrapped in a down blankets in their beach chairs, drinking hot tea and eating charcoaled marshmallows, there must be sun somewhere this weekend.

Monday, May 15, 2017

180 degree turn

The weather is gray, and still rainy. It had let up for the graduating students and family photos. It still feels like winter, interrupted by the odd sunny, warm day. But it is about to change.

Every year when the parameters change, from school year to summer break, my whole outlook also makes a 180 turn. If you are a parent, imagine yourself on a 2-week kid-free, adults only cruise. Or imagine, you won the lottery. Or you are a kid in the candy store with a credit card. Typically, I would do the obvious. Say ‘yeeha!’ and jump right in, savor it to the last drop. But it’s not the best attitude. It often makes me nervous and dart around, from one cool place to the next and buy all kinds of things I don’t need. I make many memories, but I find no peace.

This year, I try a different strategy. My self talk is the following: “This is summer.” “All is possible.” “But, what is right for me, personally? what do I personally prefer, today?” This narrows down the frantic running around with the objective to experience as much as possible and a good dose of FOMO to a few selective, personal choices. There is a lot of stuff that seems attractive and cool, but it is not really the right thing, for me, right now. I would not be sorry if I missed out on it. Because, you can’t miss out on things, you don’t really want. Your friends might want them, your neighbor, your kids, your spouse, your mom. But not you. So, what’s right for you?

I already feel more relaxed and content. This seems more doable. No big plans necessary to make sure to maximize my summer. What I really want, each summer, is to just sit put on a chaise longue in my garden, and read and forget the world. Maybe, this year, I will.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The weekend

The only plan today was to sleep in and do nothing of particular importance. To take a day off from all responsibility to life, and instead just read a book. I am run down from work and too many things going on, too little sleep and crouching towards the weekend. The plan is to start out the day with a hot bath, coffee and then put on some stretchy lululemon and move on to the couch, with a cat delighted that her mom can be cozied up to for an entire day. No need for cuddles, just hanging out, stretching out, purring. Being. Cats have this down pat.

I came across this article this morning, fittingly. “Who killed the weekend?”, an account of why there is a tendency to just stuff too many things in the weekend, when maybe all we need is to not do anything particular at all.

It rains today. Even more reason to hang out on the couch and not miss a thing.

at_the_seaLR

Friday, April 28, 2017

Giant White Beans with Tomato Sauce in Instant Pot

From one weekend to the next, suddenly all lawns are green. The trees are just cusping with reddish fur, but it won’t be long until they spread their wings and connect with a pea green canopy. My blogging has recently come to a standstill when I had problems with Open Live Writer; it just would not update to the blog and I was getting tired of figuring out for the x-th time. Writing directly to Blogger was not appealing. There was also too much going on at work. Now the end of the school year is near, my house plants are on the deck and summer in Maine can’t be far. 

Last Black Friday, I went in on the deal with the Instant Pot. Over the last month, I’ve use it to make a killer tomato sauce, and it only takes 20 minutes and it tastes like it has been slow-cooking for hours. My current favorite is a combination of a large can of fire roasted tomatoes, a small can of tomato paste, a bay leaf, some fresh rosemary, sautéed onions and garlic, a 1/2 teaspoon of bouillon and a cup of Giant White Beans (I got mine on Amazon, they are imported from Greece). I set it to manual and cook it for 35 minutes, and let it release steam on its own, so it cooks at least a half hour longer. The giant white beans have just the perfect bite with the juicy, garlicky sauce. Definitely a staple recipe.

Giant_Beans