We did our annual family vacation this weekend. Usually we do a beach thing, but this year we rented a house on a vineyard, miles from anywhere. Getting there was a nightmare, with the main way to get there closed by mudslides and being caught in traffic for hours only to have to turn around and go back the way we came.
We did finally get there and the house made up for a lot. We’ve rented a lot of houses over the years, this one was the best equipped so far. Rental houses go from having everything to having darn near nothing, and you don’t find out until you get there which it’s going to be. Mom, sister and I each make one dinner with breakfasts and lunches being a group effort. It’s actually kind of fun cooking in a group. Much easier to get dinner on the table for a large group when you have enough people to handle each aspect.
Of necessity we spent most of our time indoors, but we did have a half day of sunshine. I went walking around the property, enjoying being outside with no other people within view. I spent half an hour sitting at the edge of a dirt road, watching and listening.
That half day made the weekend for me.
The rest of the time we sat around the house, watching the rain come down outside. We put together a couple of jigsaw puzzles, played charades and Heads Up. We’re a very exciting group. But it was actually nice not to have a big agenda. Getting everyone organized to go shopping or out to eat can end up being quite a production, especially since Mom’s in a wheelchair.
Made what Mom called 24 hour salad this weekend. I think most people would call it Ambrosia Salad, which I can’t think of without thinking of Edward Scissorhands. It consists of whipped cream and canned fruit and would never be something I would choose to make.
I also did something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I downloaded a recording app to my phone and asked Mom questions about family history and recorded the ensuing conversation. Her answer to my questions weren’t what I was expecting. Which is the point, when you think of it. We’re getting together for my nephew’s birthday on Saturday. I’m going to go a little early and see if I can get another question answered. She’s been looking so frail and feeling so poorly lately, this is not something I want to put off. I wish I’d started a long time ago. I was really happy with the way the recorder worked on my phone. It’s really easy to use. I just pushed the record button and placed the phone face down on the table between us and started talking. I was worried that it wouldn’t pick up her voice because she speaks pretty softly, but the recording was clear and easy to understand.
This little bastard (or bastardette) entirely stripped my macadamia nut tree. To be honest, I haven’t done anything with the nuts in the last couple of years. They are a major pain in the behind to crack. My husband doesn’t understand why I take my anger out on the squirrel, who’s just using what I haven’t. But my husband didn’t take the nuts from his grandmother’s house after she died, plant them and watch them grow for ten years until they actually started bearing nuts. I think I’m a little more invested in them than he is.
We have way too many birthdays in August in my family. Currently we have five. It was more when my grandparents were alive. We used to have individual parties, but that made for a really busy August, so we went to one party for all. But Mom still wants everyone to have their own cake. I think that may stem from a childhood where there was one cake per birthday month. There wasn’t much money for things like cake when she was little.
We end up with a lot of cake.
Forecast for my neighborhood today is 112, (44 C). Not my favorite time of year. Everything in the garden goes on hold and we barricade ourselves in the house, windows closed and blinds drawn. It’s a struggle to keep anything in pots alive. I’m going to move some into the planters, just so that they won’t get the reflected heat from the patio surface. Things in smaller containers just dry out so quickly that it’s hard to keep up.
Weather this hot is always disappointing to me. It makes it much more unpleasant to be outside and I really can’t plant anything, even stuff that I’ve had waiting for a while. The plants have enough stress with all the heat. Most wouldn’t survive the stress of transplanting right now. So rather than the high possibility of killing my plants, I’ll wait. But since today is the first day of summer and hot weather often lasts through the end of October here, I may be waiting a while. Impatiently.
Cooking with Mom this weekend was pizza rolls. Not really much of a cooking challenge, but tasty nonetheless.
Crescent rolls filled with a mixture of cheeses, rolled up, sliced and baked, eaten dipped in pizza sauce. We seem to be be doing a lot of pizza sorts of things. We’re going to try the tomato tart again next week with a slightly different recipe. I’ll try to remember to bring the balsamic glaze this time.
We had our first failure at the Mom and Me cooking club this weekend. A totally inedible, throw them in the trash failure.
Mom picked this recipe for us to make. It sounded good. A little sweet, a little savory. They looked just like the picture from the recipe before they went in the oven. When they came out of the oven, all of the cheese had melted out of the apricots and burned. Each piece was sitting in a puddle of charred cheese. I’m kind of thinking that the temperature in the recipe (425F for 15 – 20 minutes) is a mistake. 225 until warmed through seems like it might be a more reasonable instruction. But I’m not that good a cook. I generally make things by the book the first time around. I don’t get creative with recipes until I’ve made it once and have some idea of what I’m doing. On the plus side, I now have some mascarpone and some ricotta and I think some manicotti is in the future.
Spent most of Saturday potting up succulents. I have a hard time matching the plant to the pot sometimes. I got several nice pots from Seaside Gardens in Carpinteria. They had both long tom pots and shallow terra cotta pots. It’s hard to find anything ordinary pots at the local nurseries, so when the opportunity comes around I try to stock up. I’ve had several glazed pots that I got just because I liked them, but hadn’t put anything in them. I did my best at matching the needs of the plant to the pot. I’ve had some trouble with root rot this year because of the rains. The way my yard is set up it gets shade in the winter and sun in the summer. Not an ideal situation.
It was a beautiful day for working in the yard Saturday. Not too hot. Had several butterflies hanging around for most of the day. A couple of large monarchs floated around.
And a less countable number of gulf fritillaries. They move so fast.
The fritillary larvae are all over the place. Most of the passionflower vines that come up all over from seed are chewed leafless. I’m always tempted to put a bunch of them in my bug jar, but I’ve been resisting. The yard can only support so many, so I’ve been letting nature decide how many I have. I let all of the passion flower vine and milkweed that sprouts grow, despite the fact that they don’t add to the aesthetics of yard, being perpetually caterpillar eaten.
It’s funny how I can work in the yard all day and no one but me can tell the difference.
I have never been much of a baker. I had one little baking disaster in my 20’s where I learned that you actually have to measure correctly (twice as much baking soda as needed really doesn’t taste good) and decided it was too much work.
Until a couple of years ago when I tried actually decorating a cake. Didn’t do that much. Stuck sprinkles to the side of the cake. To my amazement, it was well received. So I did another one for my Mom’s birthday. It too, went over pretty well for a cake out of a box and frosting out of a can. When Mom asked for a cake for Easter, I had just the thing in mind. I eventually went with another recipe, but this one was where I got the idea. It was nice colors and not the usual thing. I planned well in advance and had everything ready to go.
So of course I messed it up. Used the wrong measuring cup and ended up with almost twice as much water as I needed. It took me a few minutes to figure out why the batter was so runny. I dumped, spilling it all over myself in the process, and back to the store I went to get what I need to start over. This whole experience has given me some new rules to bake by.
1. Buy twice as much as you need, that way if things go horribly wrong at least you don’t have to go back to the store.
2. Do not hurry. The picture doesn’t show that the cake is 1/2 taller on one side because I tried to make three layers and the sides of the pan touched the sides of the oven. It seems obvious in retrospect, but I didn’t think about it at the time.
3. Don’t make cream cheese icing unless you have a stand mixer or really strong arms. That stuff takes some power to mix. However, if you have either of those, it’s totally worth the effort. The cake was good, but I would eat that icing with a spoon.
On the plus side, I had some extra batter and made cupcakes. I realized as I made them, I have never made cupcakes in my life. Here I am, nearly mumblety-mumble years old, and never made a cupcake. Had to look up how long to bake them on line. Brought food into work. Something I seldom do.