For several years in a row, our summer vacation involved camping up at Mammoth Lakes. Ten days of living in a pop-up trailer with the boys in a tent. Ten days of cooking outside, watching for bears, wading in the creek, reading, hiking, playing poker and sitting around the campfire.
But the last two years, our schedules have precluded the long camp vacation. I’m feeling nostalgic, so here are some of my favorite memories.
Our camp kitchen, and the back end of the pop-up trailer.
I miss it.
Activities include creek sculpture – hit and run art, so to speak, lol!
Wading in the creek was a great way to cool down from a hike. Then again, the hammocks were also a great way to cool down – to read, or sneak a nap.
Pre-nap, post reading, camera at the ready.
We had three hammocks, strategically placed around the campsite. Marvelous! But one of the best parts of camping was wandering along the creek, and finding pockets of enchantment, like this one.
I can’t show you the part that I love about camping, which is all the stars at night. So here’s a picture of the campfire, and how we spent hours. I am the acknowledged Fire Maven, and fiddling with the fire is my specialty.
Tim’s reading, Tom’s playing guitar, Chet’s off camera also reading, and I’m taking photos. All’s well.
Here’s the interior of the pop-up. Tim’s reading again, naturally. I think this summer we were into the Robert Jordan series of books.
The pop-up was great when the kids were small, but once they got bigger than me, we kicked them out to the tent to sleep.
But the best part of camping? I didn’t care how I looked. As long as I was cool enough/warm enough, I was all shades of happy.
Christine, in the wild. August 2011.
Quick weekend retreats to the boat in San Diego are totally awesome and they do the job of recharging my spirit, but oh, I do miss the mountains.
What’s your favorite vacation spot that you’ve been to? Where would you like to go but haven’t been yet?
Until the next time, cheers!
This time, we left on Friday afternoon. After way too much traffic, we finally pulled in, got the key to the boat, and headed straight to Filippi’s. Here’s a photo of the cool wine glasses…
The glasses hold roughly 4 ounces.
After pizza and salad and wine, we headed to the boat and collapsed. No, we hung out on deck for a bit, and THEN collapsed, lol.
Where we collapsed. No, we didn’t leave it wide open all night.
The next morning, the hubs had work to do on the boat and I went to see my dad. We had a lovely time, sitting and talking and picking lemons and tomatoes and just in general enjoying each other’s company. He’s feeling MUCH better – had a lung x-ray on Friday to make sure the pneumonia is all gone. We talked, laughed, had lunch together, and I fixed his signature lines on his email. Then he seemed tired, so I went to Starcrafts to spend time with Teresa and her sis, Donna. Spent a couple hours there (and had to buy stuff, seriously that shop is FUN) and had some time with Teresa that kind of blew my mind. She’s a spirit medium, you see, and – well, I’ll keep it to myself. But if you ever need to see a spirit medium, I highly recommend her.
So, I finally get back to the boat, change clothes and head up top with a small glass of wine. I hear such a ruckus that Tom passes me my camera, and I spend the next – gee, almost an hour – taking photos. Here’s why…
This guy was cleaning fish. Then tossing the offal into the water.
The guys on this boat caught 13 yellowtail. BIG fish.
The seagulls caught on…
Seagulls fighting over a slab of mostly yellowtail tuna skin with a bit of flesh on it.
And then another player came into the game.
The seal takes charge.
The seal would grab the slab of fish and dive with it. The birds would mill around for a bit, and without warning the seal would come up and fling it a good ten feet away – the birds would swarm, grab it, tear it, and the seal would come up from underneath them and scare them away – which enabled him to bring it up and fling it again. Was he playing with the seagulls? It certainly looked that way!
Until a no-nonsense bird landed, and decided to take over at the source.
The boss flew in to make sure he was doing it right.
Needless to say, this bird got his food.
Taking it from the seal…
Then it became a free-for-all, with the birds and the seal playing catch (or was that hide n’ seek?) – fun stuff!
Playing hide n’ seek…
But the seal tended to win…
The seal won this round…until he flung this piece of fish to the birds.
…unless the pelican did.
Pelican for the win! The seal did NOT get this piece of fish back.
So I basked in the frolicking of nature (with a helping hand from man, flinging yellowtail into the water) and took over 400 photos. I was also lucky enough to get splashed by the seal! Or maybe it was another seal…there were two there, by the end of the evening. My guess is the seal had hidden some fish bits down toward the bottom, where the seabirds would not go.
All in all, it was a wonderful ending to an amazingly emotional day. Here’s another cool photo…
Tom and I ate, and drank wine, and at the end of our day, we were greeted with this lovely creature. Luckily we had the camera with us, which is NOT normal…
The Great Blue Heron. They like to haunt the piers around Shelter Cove Marina – there are four or five of them who are there before full sunrise, and always after sunset.
So even though the drive back took us almost as long as the drive there, I feel refreshed. I needed this break, and thanks to our lovely friend and my lovely husband, I got it.
May you take a break in your daily routine when you really need it. And maybe when you don’t. Sending love and hugs out to the Universe! What an amazing planet we live on!
So, this past week I did not go to RWA National Conference. Nope. I didn’t stay up too late, drink too much, have great meals with wonderful friends, hug people I don’t see often enough. I didn’t pitch novels or jump up and down with glee with friends that had successful pitches, and I didn’t get to applaud the Rita and Golden Heart winners or console the losers.
Instead, I made tomato jam and applesauce and wrote my fingers off. It doesn’t seem to be a fair trade until I realize how happy my credit card is that I didn’t go!
So, it starts with tomato plants. The 20 plants I have in my yard yielded this:
Picked July 20, 2013
(and there is plenty more where that came from) This is only 3 pounds; I had to go out and pick more. So after my post last week about tomato recipes, the hubby says well, when are we making tomato jam? And so…this weekend it was time.
After roughly chopping tomatoes (no need to skin them, thank goodness), they all went into the pot, along with chopped onion, finely chopped green apple, cumin, coriander, salt, half cup of brown sugar and one and a half cups white sugar.
Everything in the pot, all stirred up. Let’s call it pre-jam…
As it cooked down, it tasted really yummy – hint of spice plus a hint of sweet. I was excited – there were so many possibilities with this tomato mixture. You could put it on nachos, spread it on sandwiches, use it with cheese and crackers…I wondered how many jars I’d get out of the deal. I had twelve 8 ounce jars in the canner, boiling. I’d have enough to give away to friends and family, and still have some left for us. I daydreamed as the mixture cooked down.
Finally, after two hours and change and lots of stirring so it wouldn’t stick to the bottom, we had jam.
I prepped the jars, filled them, wiped the rims…then put them in the canner and followed directions.
5 jars of jam!
After fifteen minutes, I pulled out the jars and wiped them before setting them on the towel-covered counter. It wasn’t the twelve jars I was hoping for, but five jars is better than none. Next time I’ll chop seven pounds of tomatoes instead of 3.5 pounds.
Note: We had some this morning with breakfast. And I was a bit disappointed in how sweet it was (well, hello 2 cups of sugar). Next time I’ll back off on the sugar, and maybe add another onion. Or some chili pepper, for an extra kick. I’ll still use what I have on nachos and etc, as the jam is definitely tomato-y and not strawberry-e, but I’m going to go for something a little spicier.
As for the applesauce? Four pounds of apples. 2 pints of sauce (cinnamon, no sugar). Here’s the proof.
It’s a darn good thing we have more apples on the tree…
So, while I didn’t get to run myself ragged for a week in Atlanta with a whole bunch of old friends and new friends and friends I’ve yet to meet, I did soothe my inner farmer gal by harvesting what we’ve grown, and saving it for another day. Seems a fair enough trade.
Thanks so much for stopping by. Until next time, cheers!
The Summertime Garden
I love all things gardening, but what do you do when your garden rewards your patience with abundance? It’s time to get into the kitchen.
The main reason to have a kitchen garden, to my mind, is for the tomatoes. There is nothing more fragrant than a tomato plant, nothing more luscious in the mouth than a sweet tomato warm from the sun.
Unless, of course, you nom nom down on the tomatoes while you’re standing outside, and tomato juice drips down your chin…yeah, if you haven’t done that, and you have extra tomatoes on hand, then do I have some recipes for you!
Luscious Cherry Tomatoes
This year, we planted three beds with tomato plants. The first bed to go in had the cherry tomatoes (5 plants), the Early Girl tomatoes (3 plants), and the Roma tomatoes (2 plants). Two weeks later, we added an heirloom bed – Mr. Stripey, yellow pear, Pink Brandywine, Green Zebra, Cherokee Purple, and a Mortgage Lifter. Two weeks later, Tom decided to toss in 4 more plants – all Better Boys. So – twenty tomato plants is enough – MORE than enough – for a family of four.
Here are some of my favorite recipes using fresh, home grown (or farm stand) tomatoes.
Tomato Salad (dead easy for anyone to make!)
- Chopped fresh tomatoes (1 – 4 cups)
- Chopped fresh basil, to taste
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Black Pepper
Chop as many tomatoes as you wish. You can either make just enough for the one meal, or enough to snack on for a couple of days. Depending on how many tomatoes you use, add in the chopped basil. Drizzle with a healthy amount of extra virgin olive oil, add fresh ground pepper, and mix well. Let stand for half an hour before serving, to allow flavors to meld. Just before serving, sprinkle lightly with salt.
This can be used as a salad, or as a bruschetta topping – toast small slices of sourdough, add the tomatoes, sprinkle with some fresh grated parmesan cheese. It will last a couple of days in the refrigerator; add freshly chopped tomatoes to perk it up if needed.
The first round of tomatoes, picked about a month ago.
Toasted Tomato, Onion and Cheese Sandwich (Another easy recipe!)
- Good quality sandwich bread
- Good quality sharp Cheddar Cheese (I like Tillamook)
- Home grown tomatoes, any flavor, sliced thinly
- Thinly sliced onion, broken into rings, as desired
Like any good toasted cheese sandwich, you want to butter the outside of the bread but not the inside. Slice the cheese thin enough to melt easily, and cover one slice of bread with the cheese. Add a slice or two of tomato; top with rings of onion if desired. Add one more slice of cheese and top with the bread. Butter the outside of the top slice of bread; add to smoking hot cast iron pan, buttered side down. Butter the outside of the top slice of the bread; flip the sandwich. Press down hard with a spatula in order to melt the cheese faster without burning the bread. Once the bread is golden on both sides and the cheese is melted, the sandwich is done.
If you like, make up a bunch of these and cut them in quarters – they make terrific appetizers.
Personal Tomato Tart (Getting a little more complicated, but not too bad…)
- Sheet of frozen Puff Pastry, thawed
- 1 egg yolk
- Olive oil
- 3 to 4 different varieties of home grown tomatoes, sliced
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil
- White sugar
- Black pepper
- 1 Tlb Fresh Basil, chopped
- Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a floured surface, open puff pastry and lightly roll. Cut through pastry to make four pieces. Within each piece, cut lightly (but not all the way through) a half-inch all along the edge to make a border when cooked.
Mix together the egg yolk, a couple of teaspoons water and a couple of teaspoons olive oil (measurements don’t need to be exact). Brush egg wash over pastry; using a spatula, move pastry to a cookie sheet.
Within the border made by your cut, arrange tomato slices. They can overlap, or they don’t have to; if you didn’t grow them yourself, try the heirloom varieties at the farm stands. Orange and red are pretty together, and the different tomato flavors meld beautifully. Once all the pastries have tomatoes on them, drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkle about a quarter of a teaspoon of white sugar on top. Using a pepper grinder if you have one, grind pepper over each pastry lightly.
Put in 350 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. At that time, pull pastry out, top with fresh basil and parmesan cheese. Return to oven for another five minutes.
You can serve either hot, room temperature, or cold. Another terrific appetizer, too – make it using the entire puff pastry sheet, cut into 3″ squares after cooking, and you’ve got yourself a tasty treat.
Tomato Jam? Seriously! (Okay, you really have to like to cook!)
Saturday’s Tomato harvest – the small yellow ones are the lemon pear tomatoes, the small red ones are the cherry tomatoes, the two green and yellow striped ones toward the back are the Green Zebra, and the orangish one at the front right is the Mr. Stripey (but without stripes).
One last thing I like to do with tomatoes is make jam. Yes, you heard me. One year my dad had SO many tomatoes, that we made jam – and it was delicious. Sweet, yet tangy, it was just different enough that friends and relatives raved. I got the recipe from the box of pectin.
If you want more of a relish, try this Spicy Tomato Jam recipe at AllRecipes, or this fabulous (and a lot less work) recipe for Jennie’s Tomato Jam at Use Real Butter. (I think I’ll use Jennie’s this year!) The best thing about these two recipes is neither use pectin (in case you have a thing about pectin).
Are there other tomato recipes out there that you like to use? I’d love to hear from you about your summertime favorites, so drop me a line!
Until Next Time, Cheers!
In late June, Dad went off to the Western Writers of America Conference in Las Vegas with pneumonia, 9 books to pitch, and chock-full of determination. When I left him the Sunday prior to his trip, he looked tired and thin, and I worried.
Chet Cunningham, June 2011
So it was with some hesitation that I called him (after giving him time to recover from the trip) to see how the conference went.
The phone rings. Gooood evening, he says, sounding sprightly. Hey Daddy. How are you? I say. He sounds good. No, he sounds wonderful. I start to smile into the phone.
Heey, Chrissy, he says. I’m doing grrreat. Let me tell you about the conference. And he was off and running. He sounded great, better than he has in a very long time.
So, he says, my first day there, I ran into the gal that has been publishing all my big print books. Who’s that, I say. Oh, you know, he says, the big print folks. Oh shoot. Five Star. They’re a part of Five Star Publishing.
I had sent her a couple new books, he says, a few months back and hadn’t heard from her, but she said they might be on a bookcase somewhere, and to re-send. We got to talking and she told me they buy Frontier Fiction, and mysteries. I told her what I have, and she said to send them to her. That’s six books, right there, that they might like.
The closet where dad stores copies of his books. Yes, those are all his. Not all of them are digital – yet.
That’s great, daddy, I say. Your first day. Yep, he says, my first day. So I’ve been working on those, getting them ready to send to her.
And then I saw Kat Martin, he says. You know Kat, I’ve got some photos with her and your mother from previous conferences. Yes, I say. I remember Kat Martin. (She’s only written a ton of romances, lol.)
Well, he says, I was talking to her husband, Larry Jay Martin, also a long-time friend of mine. He’s a western writer, and he’s putting his up stuff on Amazon. We were talking and he asked if I had anything that hadn’t gone digital yet, and if I did to send it to him.
What did you end up sending? I ask. He laughs. Says, well, what I thought I would send him, I no longer have any computer files for. So I emailed him on Sunday night when I got home, said I didn’t have what I thought I had, but I have these other three that are digital, he says.
By now, I’m so excited for him I can barely stand it. What did he say? I ask. Well, he says, Monday morning I got an email back from him with a three book contract. And all I have to do is send him the digital files. So I did, and a day later I got a look at three possible covers for the books. I could get used to this, he says.
The jubilation in his voice was music to my ears.
Not only that, he says, but I ran into Dusty Richards, hadn’t seen him in a long time. Oh, and I talked to Cherry, he says. She is passing on my Jesse James novel, but is willing to shop around a partial of mine. Then I met another agent who also said he was intrigued by this partial idea, and he’d be happy to shop it as well.
Two agents shopping the same book? I ask. Oh no, he says. I’m sticking with Cherry, and if she doesn’t think she can do anything with it, then I’ll talk to this other guy.
It sounds like you had a wonderful time, I say. My cheeks are hurting because I’m smiling so big. And you sound healthy.
I’m doing pretty good, he says. I’m enthused, and working hard, and I made a lot of contacts at the conference so I’m really glad I went. Gotta go get back at it. You still working on that book?
Yes Daddy, still working, I say. After mutual assurances of love and missing the other, we hang up.
I wipe away a few happy tears. As much as I wanted him to stay home and recuperate, obviously going to a conference with pneumonia was the exact right thing for him. The energy and joy in his voice comes back to me, makes me smile.
I’m really glad I went, he said.
So am I, Daddy. So am I.