A few weeks ago my other half and I went to a cooking class. I think the Ramsey marathon on Hulu just before Christmas was what gave me the idea. I wanted to be able to make something look just as nice as those in his classes. Even the worst of his American charges make their food look quite tempting. Neither of us were quite sure what to expect when we walked into the class. It was held in a small storefront room off of a side street in a particularly arty town nearby. There were a few other couples there, all of whom had not taken a class before either and were looking uneasily at each other with that smile reserved for parties where you don’t know anyone. That was comforting. At least we would bumble around in good company. I had sort of pictured a bunch of counters each with a tiny stove and space to prepare food. However, it was simply a large area, with a huge island for all of the students to sit around. Although there were several stoves, we all worked on one dinner together. When we received the menu, I was a little hesitant. The first item was a blue-cheese souffle. Sounded intimidating. Also as I recalled, there were eggs in souffles, and blue-cheese in this one. Hmm,not exactly my town favorites. But a chef has to prepare all sorts of food, not just what they like, right? We worked on the different courses, all with a french flavor to them. Besides the souffle, there was a braised pork tenderloin and a sort of chocolate mousse. As we cooked together, the head chef instructed us and gave us bits of advice to carry into our every day cooking. It was a lot of fun. The best part was at the end when we all sat down and enjoyed the fruits of our labor. Literally; there was fruit on the tenderloin. I was shocked to discover that the souffle was delicious. I mean, rich and smooth and just a little tangy. I didn’t know how something made from two ingredients on my naughty list could combine and make one of the most delicious appetizers I had tasted. The rest of the food matched. Especially the dessert. I would love to say it was all due to our overpowering talents in the kitchen, but I suspect a large part of that was the very able instruction of our faithful leader, not to mention the exact measurements of the ingredients already provided. We all took away a new appreciation of some simple ways to make such delicious foods, as well as overstuffed bellies. After one class like this, I think I could try a souffle on my own. But you know, I still don’t cook as well as my mom.
Despite the triple-digit temperatures which have become so common this year, summer has always been my favorite season. I actually don’t mind the triple-digits too much either, as long as there is a pool handy. Even a kiddie pool will make me happy. In the season of high humidity and temperatures which verge on oven-like, the county fairs come to town. Last year, the county fair took on a whole new meaning with my daughter involved in 4H and the small animal groups. We spent a lot of time standing in a blistering hot tent with a bunch of rabbits and guinea pigs. Not to mention an extremely antsy and bored 5-year old. It was still fun and we still went on some rides. This year however, my oldest red-head decided to forgo the fair in favor of a gymnastics class. So, I took the little one.
Here is my clumsy attempt at a picture of the fair from a distance. (I’m a writer not a photographer)
As luck would have it, it was a cool cloudy day. Yesterday was quite literally 100 degrees, and today, a breezy 78 degrees. I almost wished my oldest had decided to come to the fair, since it was so pleasant outside. But that passed as soon as I saw my youngest tearing out the door of the car in her eagerness to get to the fair. (Besides, I have seen my girls both doing acrobatics and I know they love it too much to pass up) Only two years ago the fair moved headquarters to a much bigger field with nice barns, stands for the equestrian shows, and lots of room for the rides.
We parked and found our way to the entrance of the fair, the smell of trampled grass strong. I always loved that smell because it reminded me of when my mother worked craft fairs when I was young. Since we went early, it wasn’t that crowded yet and soon enough we wandered, tickets in hand, to see what fun cheesy rides they had this year. There were several. Some I got to go on, since my daughter doesn’t grow, and come even a two-year old could ride by themselves meaning she could as well. I must say they were all pretty enjoyable. We both agreed that the boat was one of our favorites. It was one of the rides that swings up and then sideways a bunch of times.
After the rides, which were difficult to part with, we wandered over to the animal tents. I grew up being fortunate enough to go to my county’s fair as a kid. I remember the dust of the midway, the continuous roar of stock cars over the whole event, and of course the food. Now I live in a town which is on the edge of a fairly rural part of the state, so there is a big emphasis on farming and agriculture. Hey, we’re not called the Garden State for nothing. Besides officially our county fair is called the FARM fair. So yes, it has tractor pulls, sheep shearing contests, and even corn husking.
After all those rides and animal gawking, what could be better than some ice-cold root beer in an overpriced mug (souvenir of the fair of course) some cheese fries, kettle corn, and a cotton candy bigger than my daughter’s head? Nothing could be better, except a sausage sandwich. I’ll have to wait for the boardwalk for that one.
Now we are settled at home and my daughter is snug in her bed. How she can sleep after inhaling all that sugar I’ll never know. Now we have a whole year to wait for the next fair. And who knows, maybe she will even be big enough to ride the junior roller coaster.
What are your summer traditions? Do you have a favorite fair in your town?
By the way, I really hope someone caught my credit to Star Trek up there.
Yesterday I think I had the best idea of my whole life. Really. I decided to grab a few hoagies and the kids, and go down to the shore after work. For all those non local’s, since I’m from New Jersey, it’s always ‘down’ the shore, even if it’s actually just travelling east. I thought it would be a great idea because it was probably slightly hotter than the sun’s surface yesterday. I didn’t realize however, how nice the water would be. Going to the shore is a passion of mine. My parents started it so I can blame them. I can literally feel the stress lifting from my shoulders as soon as my toes hit the sand.
We started off, I picked the closest beach, about an hour from our house; hoping for no traffic along the way. Since its pretty deserted there wasn’t any. Even close to the beach, the road was fairly clear. It worked like a charm. By 5.15 we were installed on the beach. There were few umbrellas still up since most of the vacationers were getting ready for dinner. My youngest had come straight from her kiddie pool so she was ready to go. My oldest and I just wore shorts, not planning on getting wet.
We found a good spot and set out our impromptu picnic. Not that the girls were interested in dinner. Hoagies don’t compare to the crashing waves and sand. The water, like I said, was really nice. I let it wash around my legs as the girls frolicked and turned cartwheels in the wet sand. (Yes my oldest got her shorts soaked of course) I brought out my chair and sat, watching the girls for a good hour before we decided to eat. That’s when I decided that the beach is definitely my happy place. It had to have been the best evening we have had in a long time. We stayed for a few hours, built a castle, which got washed away in the rising tide, and finally headed home. I would love to do that every week. Maybe we will. The beach is one place which never gets boring.
Despite my 6-year-old daughters belief that Saturday would never come, it did. And then passed. But while it was there it was fun and tiring. Mostly tiring for me. As I had indicated in a previous post, the whole week was filled with pre-birthday activities. The preparations for the party went swimmingly, despite not being completely sure who was coming since half of the invites never RSVP’ed either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. After a full day friday, we got the little one to bed and my older daughter and I started on the cake. The cake, it was a project. After becoming addicted to the show “Cake Boss” this past summer, my daughters both insisted on a cake with fondant. Hence at 10 o’clock at night we were taking cake pans and cupcake tins out of the oven to cool overnight. All I can say is thank goodness the party wasn’t at my house because I didn’t have an inch of counter left in the kitchen, and you can imagine what the rest of the house looked like. After the cakes, we wrapped up some presents and both fell into bed. The next morning was bright and sunny, absolutely amazing after the weather reports had been predicting rain with mournful certainty all week. Dealing with an extremely excited 6-year-old is always exhausting. Dealing with MY over excited and normally hyper six-year-old was a feat. That’s an understatement. At least we were able to get her to watch a movie while wrestling with fondant. It really wasn’t so bad for the first time. The cake was colorful, I’ll say that. a little cartoonish if you ask me, but then I wasn’t choosing the design. It was sort of like 3 presents stacked on top of each other with different colors and then a few garish looking flowers and bows that my 9-year-old bestowed on the cake like some over zealous fairy godmother. Needless to say my birthday girl LOVED it. After that was done, we whipped ourselves to the church hall, where we feverishly put up decorations (this being at 12.30 with only a cup of tea in me) After this we raced back home, I threw some food on a plate for the kids, and breathed a sigh of relief. Now all we had to do was have the party and hope there were enough goodie bags. A few nervous moments ensued as only a few children arrived at 2, but then the rest gradually made an entrance. As is usual with children’s parties, they do tend to do what they want as opposed to what’s been planned. For them it was running around the back lawn and crawling up the treehouse like little monkeys. I shepherded the kids back inside for the ‘activity’, cupcake decorating. They were to make a cute little cupcake with the icing and sprinkles and fun things I provided and then take the cupcake home in the little sparkly take out containers. Most of them ate the cupcake. I am sure I could have done the same, they looked pretty good and gooey. Once that was done, the kids ran back outside again and my parents and I got ready to bring out the cake. Presents followed this timeless tradition as the kids dove into the fondant. By this time parents started showing up to collect their children. After successfully remembering to give them a goodie bag (for the most part) I breathed a sigh of relief as we started to clean up, with the help of one of my friends, whose daughters thankfully stayed until evening and kept my kids out of my very tired and probably sugar covered hair. However, the party was deemed a success by my daughter, and that was all that mattered. Her favorite gift seems to be one of the cards, which is a picture of a hamburger that sings a happy birthday song and a large doll I had gotten her. She solemnly thanked me for giving her a ‘new friend’ and spent most of Sunday playing the card so many times I am surprised it is still working. All in all it was quite an experience, and more than once I asked my self if it would have been easier just to have the party at some skating rink, or even pick up a cake at the store instead of making it so complicated. But I wouldn’t have traded seeing the happiness on my daughters face or hear all her little friends giggling while they spooned icing into their mouths instead of on the cupcakes. Looking back, I realize that I don’t remember the times I was angry or grumpy at my parents as a kid, or when they were in a tired or bad mood. I remember the fun times and the family gatherings. That’s what I want to give to my daughter too.