I am enjoying the ultimate in decadence this morning. In my comfy pink bathrobe and lambswool bedroom slippers, I am nestled under a wool blanket that my husband bought for me one Christmas years before we were married. I've built a crackling little wood fire here in the sunroom while the front door in the main part of the house is wide open, allowing the dogs & cat to come and go at will through their flap cut into the screen door. Beside me is a quickly dwindling cup of coffee fresh off the cookstove percolator . . . and a junky white donut. Ahhhh, bliss. ;)
We had that one miserable-hot week near the end of June but, since then, it's been cool again. Lovely for humans, not so good for the garden. It's 58 degrees outside this morning and just 61 inside . . . which is why the little fire feels so good!
Outside, the first of the peony blossoms opened this morning. Tom's dad, Ernie, had quite the green thumb and always grew beautiful flowers that lined the lawns at both their house in town and out at the lake. When Tom and his brother sold the house in town following Ernie's passing two-years-ago-this-fall, we dug up two of the peonies and one teensy maple sapling from the yard. We weren't sure how they would transplant from the temperatures that they were used to in southwestern MN to northeastern MN, but they've all three been successful. The peonies didn't bloom at all last summer, their first, but I'm glad: seems they were rebuilding their core strength. Anyway, it's a real joy to see the brilliant pink of the peonies, and I always take time to give 'Ernie's tree' an extra look when I cross the front walkway between the two south-facing decks.
In the field around my garden, the Sweet William is in full bloom, and the lupines are beginning to show more pod than blossom. I've seen the Goldenrod shooting up, but no blooms yet.
There's a large bush at the entrance to my garden which I've loved since I found it a couple of years ago. Last year (or was it the year before?), I pruned it in the spring, hoping it would grow lusher and more compact. It worked - the blossoms were thick and tight. Then, the runty little yearling moose we named Morty and only saw for a few weeks, came along and chomped all the blossoms RIGHT OFF. Hmph. But, who knows? Maybe Mother Nature knew best . . . because this year, it is lush and lovely. I haven't lost any of the blossoms (knock on wood), and they are now forming berries. The only problem is that I don't know what it is! My Dad tagged it as an Elderberry, but the one resource I looked at then to identify it as such was definitely NOT accurate. Since then, though, I've found some online Elderberry references that DO look remarkably similar to it. So, Dad may have been right! (I know, should I ever have doubted him?) ;) Anyway, I'll post some pictures that I have of it on my other computer and then you all can add your two cents. If it IS elderberry . . . what can I make with it? Jam? Wine? Have any recipes you'd like to share?
Speaking of jam, the wild thimbleberry production is WAY up this year, and if the berries ever get enough sun and warmth to turn their salmony-pink, I want to pick enough to try to make jam. I know they are generally tart enough that they take a huge amount of sugar, but still . . . . Again, any recipes you'd like to share?
Hang on, my fire needs tending to . . . . (Seems I need to take out the ashes.)
My favorite husband is finally home here at Swamp River Ridge (currently enjoying the flannel sheets that a lazy Saturday morning in bed has to offer). Until last Sunday at 3:00 AM, he hadn't been home since June 20th! Following a week-long house/dog-sitting stint for him, we drove down to Minneapolis on Saturday, June 27th, for the family reunion. Sunday night, we drove back up to Duluth and stayed at a dumpy motel (yes, it IS worth the extra $20 or so for a nice place!) in order to be at the airport at 6:00 AM for his 3-stage flight to Durango, CO. (Duluth to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Denver, Denver to Durango.)
There, on June 29th, Tom began his two-week "interview" with this consulting firm based out of Houston (and Denver and Aztec, NM where he was). (And, no, we still don't know anything regarding whether or not he has the job. We're guessing that it's dependent on whether or not the company gets this particular contract in Ghana which would take 4-6 men out of "the field" in New Mexico . . . thus requiring replacements, i.e. Tom + a few others. Keep your fingers crossed!)
Anyway, he returned to Duluth on Friday, the 10th, and - after they lost his luggage somewhere in Denver (which, incidentally and we know now, is an airport infamous for losing luggage) - arrived into town just after noon on the 11th (thank you, B. duNord!).
I, in turn, pulled in to my folks' yard just after 2:30 that afternoon, wishing there was the time for a proper hello and "Hi, Honey! How ARE you?" after 3 weeks of being apart. Instead, it was, "Here's a razor, shaving lotion, and a toothbrush. Here are your clothes. Jump in the shower and get changed!" We all had to be at a wedding by 3:30!
Fast-forward past the large church wedding and the poor woman passing out just as the service ended. She was carried out on a stretcher. "See," I said, continuing to fan myself with my program as I had been all afternoon, my pearls sticking unpleasantly where they lay on my neck, "I TOLD you it was hot in there!" Let's hope she was suffering from nothing more than a particularly nasty hot flash, too, but given her age . . . .
Anyway, off to the 400-guests-strong reception we went. The rented tent had 5 (count 'em, F-I-V-E) peaks, it was so huge! And, allowing for seating for 400 guests, the head table, a small dance floor, an overflowing gift table, and two buffet tables . . . it was necessary! (Also, keep in mind, for comparison's sake, that the wintertime population of town is only 1,500 - 2,000 people, all tolled!)
The food, once we finally gave up waiting for our table to be properly "released" and just jumped in line, was FAB-OO-LOUS, no pun intended. Check out the website of one of my high school girlfriends, Fabulous Catering. (She's catered to some of the famous: Jessica Lange & Mikhail Baryshnikov's daughter's wedding and, just last fall, The Republican Convention. Pretty good for a small town girl who used to cook at our restaurant, huh?!) She came up to do the food, and was preparing it outside on a MASSIVE wood-fired grill. I don't know HOW she got the pounded chicken breast SO tender, but it was melt-in-your-mouth. She said she marinated it all the 6 hours up from Minneapolis, but still. It was heavenly. Word is, too, that she donated her services to the family as a wedding gift. Her folks are dear friends with the bride's parents, and her sister, who made the to-die-for wedding cakes (check her out here), was the flower girl at said parents-of-the-bride's wedding years ago.
Anyway, I digress. The yard in which the wedding reception was held and my parents' back yard share the same acreage. The parents of the groom are dear friends (their two children are identical twins). We figured that we could tell who was who at the wedding 'cause one would be in a tux . . . standing with the woman in white! But, when they were away from their respective ladies, both wearing tuxes, it was still impossible. Tom focused on their different colored sunglasses; I looked for a shiny, new wedding ring. :)
[Again, I got off on a tangent (as usual). Continuing with the story . . . .]
Months ago, the groom's father asked my dad and Tom if they would, as a wedding gift, be willing to ferry guests home / back to their motels, at the end of the night. He didn't want ANYONE drinking and driving . . . and made a speech as such at the beginning of the dinner. In addition, there's a very small Mom & Pop bus company that runs up and down the North Shore . . . who had given THEIR services as a wedding present. So, she (the "Mom" - as the "Pop" just died last year) began bussing folks around 8:00 PM. By this time, Tom, exhuasted from his past couple of weeks and most recent travel, was sound asleep on the couch in the middle room at my folks'. I, in turn, was sound asleep on their couch in the living room. Mom had changed out of her "wedding clothes" and was nearing the comfort of her jammies. Poor Dad was left to walk over, periodically, "checking in" on the situation.
The Mom & Pop bussing company stopped running when the bulk of the guests were throwing in the towel, around 10:00 PM. The remainders were the closest friends and family . . . the die-hards. Dad said that the line around the open bar never shortened, even as the majority of the guests said good-night. Finally, the DJ stopped at 1:00 AM. That was when my dad and Tom jumped into action, using Dad's two, comfy Suburbans that he had prepped just for the night. And, as it turned out, their runs were minimal and easy, both of them struggling to turn down the tips that tipsy, grateful men tried to shove into their hands. Tom ended up with a $5-er that he just couldn't return. ;)
It was a long night, especially for my dad who was kind enough to do all the "checking in", back and forth across the backyards during the evening. But, all in all, it was a special night, and it felt so good to help out friends.
By the time they both pulled into the yard after their last drops, it was 2:00 AM. Tom and I loaded the dogs into the car and headed home . . . flopping into bed at 3:00. Dawn would start breaking in about 90 minutes.
Welcome home, Honey!