So, it turns out that if I blog every day in May, it means I don't blog at all in July. Hmm.
I didn't mean to take a summer break, but I guess I did. It's not that I have a great excuse either, although I'd like to blame it on the heat and humidity sucking all coherent thought from my brain. The next post I'd planned to write was the second part of my summer reading series . . . except that I haven't read much this summer. I did listen to the two most recent Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mysteries, The Language of Bees and The God of the Hive, as well as the very charming Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. I liked The God of the Hive more than The Language of Bees, but they are all part of one story, so you really need to read/listen to both. Just yesterday, I gave in to peer pressure--or popular reading pressure, or something--and began the audio book of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (So far, so good.)
Meanwhile, I'm not sure what to do with all my previously ambitious summer reading plans, which have gone by the wayside for reasons I can't quite understand. Last summer, I was sick for most of my break and thus needed ample amounts of comfort reading--my summer reading consisted almost entirely of a re-read of the entire Harry Potter series and nearly all of Noel Streatfeild's "Shoes" books. This summer, I feel just fine, but all the books I'd lined up to read have remained unread. Still, I have a few more weeks before I go back to work, so there's still some time. A library copy of Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists, which received staggeringly positive reviews in the New York Times Book Review AND the daily NYT a few months ago, is now in my hands, so that's first on the list. I also have a library copy of Josh Kilmer-Purcell's The Bucolic Plague, which also received a good NYT review (especially the bit where the reviewer was laughing so hard while reading it on the train that her seatmate demanded that she read aloud the bit that was so funny). And Emily, just returned from a few weeks in the UK, is going to lend me her copy of One Day, which she devoured, she said, and which seems ideal summer reading for someone who hasn't read much this summer.
One thing I've done while not reading (and not cooking much of anything) is spend several days up at Lonesome Lake Hut, near Franconia, NH. (The photo above is a view of Franconia Ridge in the clouds from the hut.) Lonesome Lake is one of the 8 mountain huts run by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), which are run as "full-service" huts in the summer, meaning that guests can stay overnight and are fed breakfast and dinner. The huts are run by mostly college-age hut "croos," and many years ago, I aspired to be one. Alas, my hut career was cut short by a terribly timed broken leg (just days before I was supposed to head up to Mizpah Spring hut for the summer). My consolation prize, after a miserable summer, was getting to be the fall caretaker at Lonesome Lake. The hut is less than 2 miles from the road, making it a relatively easy hike for someone with a still gimpy leg. As the caretaker, I didn't have to cook for anyone, but I kept the hut tidy, greeted guests and attempted not to clock the guest who kept putting his feet in the oven with a cast iron frying pan. (Yes, it was cold, but still.)
This time, Alex, his friend Charlie Kellogg and I went in for about 48 hours, while the croo got to go off on a joint set of days off. (Usually, they go one at a time.) The hut was thankfully not full, and while there were moments of stress--the vast quantities of leftover lasagna, the sound of my pan of gingerbread hitting the floor--it was mostly lots of fun. (For a view of our trip, with an emphasis on flora, fauna and cool underwater photos of the lake, see Alex's rather exhaustive blog post here.)
One highlight for me was baking bread two days in a row and remembering how easy it is, even with no Kitchen Aid mixer dough hook in sight. Another was an unexpected reunion with a friend of a friend. It took us about 17 seconds to make the connection that had met at her wedding 5 years ago. She was there with her family, and we gabbed happily whenever we had a moment. Even more heartening was the message she sent after she came home, that her family liked us better than the actual croo (who were there their second night at the hut). I was quite tickled by that.
Still, hut crooing is definitely not a job for the middle-aged. There was not a single chair with a back on it in the entire hut, and I could feel it. I also felt terrible having to tell day trippers who were up that it cost about $100 a person, not $100 a room, to stay there. Yikes.
On the way home, Alex and I stopped at Slick's for ice cream. Things to know if you ever happen to be near Woodsville, NH, and in the mood for ice cream.
- The ice cream is delicious. Alex and I both got Grapenut (hard to find outside of NH, so I always feel compelled to get it when it's around), but there were a number of other tempting flavors.
- The servings are GARGANTUAN. A small is 3 scoops (for $1.75!). A large is 5. Be prepared. Although it wasn't explicitly listed, they will make "baby" cones, which seemed to be a more reasonable 2 scoops. I think if you have an actual baby with you, you might have to ask for a newborn cone.
In the meantime, there's always my local ice cream joint, Mt. Tom's, and even closer to home, my own ice cream maker, as yet unused this summer. That will definitely need to be remedied.
And now that the heat has abated a bit, I've made tentative forays back into my kitchen. I feel like I spent most of July consuming nothing but fresh lime sodas made with ginger simple syrup (highly recommended!). But in the past week or two, I've made eggplant and summer vegetable gratin and my first peach-blueberry crumble of the summer. The plan is to have another recipe, heavy on summer vegetables, up here soon.
Til then, keep your fingers crossed that my tomatoes--so far looking unblemished and plentiful--stay healthy long enough to give me the boatloads of tomatoes I will then grumble about. I hope to be so lucky.