Sunday, June 6, 2010

Glorious Summer & My Barefoot Boy

Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!

I was starting to fret when the sun refused to shine this late Spring / early Summer - our last - in Londontown. But finally, with only the occasional cloudy day, the British summer has pulled through magnificently for these - our last days here - and we have, gratefully and head-first - taken full advantage of it.

There have been numerous park outings, urban wanderings, and play dates at friends' homes - the latter involving babies, paddling pools, Pimms (for me) and strawberries and cucumbers (for Roman). It feels so nice to have a community here, and this glorious business of enjoying the summer with good friends is something I will dearly miss about our life in London.

While I do love the summer and the sun, and blooms and delicious and beautiful foods and moments that come with it, what I love more is watching Roman grow.

* * *

Watching Roman Grow
these last months in Londontown

He took his first real independent steps last Friday.
He's not quite walking fully yet, but he's getting there. And when he's upright and waveringly making his way in one direction or another, I can't help but feel so lucky to be able to be there to see it all. (Mostly so that one day when he's 20 I can remind him how he didn't always know how to get around on his own. :) )

He loves the sun and the water and crawling on the grass.
He chases puppies, picks (and eats) flowers, he jumps at bubbles and climbs on stumps. He tears at the grass, and hides under picnic blankets, and climbs on his "mama" when she tries to get some sunshine. He sneaks up behind me and gives me a hug, or plays with my hair and then licks my face with real pleasure and mischief.

He's never more glorious, more boy, more Roman, than when he's outside - barefoot and bold, as only summer - and a little boy - can be.

* * *

The Barefoot Boy
John Greenleaf Whittier (1855)

(Online Source)

Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim’s jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy,—
I was once a barefoot boy!
Prince thou art,—the grown-up man
Only is republican.
Let the million-dollared ride!
Barefoot, trudging at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy
In the reach of ear and eye,—
Outward sunshine, inward joy:
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!

Oh for boyhood’s painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
Health that mocks the doctor’s rules,
Knowledge never learned of schools,
Of the wild bee’s morning chase,
Of the wild-flower’s time and place,
Flight of fowl and habitude
Of the tenants of the wood;
How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the woodchuck digs his cell,
And the ground-mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole’s nest is hung;
Where the whitest lilies blow,
Where the freshest berries grow,
Where the ground-nut trails its vine,
Where the wood-grape’s clusters shine;
Of the black wasp’s cunning way,
Mason of his walls of clay,
And the architectural plans
Of gray hornet artisans!
For, eschewing books and tasks,
Nature answers all he asks;
Hand in hand with her he walks,
Face to face with her he talks,
Part and parcel of her joy,—
Blessings on the barefoot boy!

Oh for boyhood’s time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon,
When all things I heard or saw,
Me, their master, waited for.
I was rich in flowers and trees,
Humming-birds and honey-bees;
For my sport the squirrel played,
Plied the snouted mole his spade;
For my taste the blackberry cone
Purpled over hedge and stone;
Laughed the brook for my delight
Through the day and through the night,
Whispering at the garden wall,
Talked with me from fall to fall;
Mine the sand-rimmed pickerel pond,
Mine the walnut slopes beyond,
Mine, on bending orchard trees,
Apples of Hesperides!
Still as my horizon grew,
Larger grew my riches too;
All the world I saw or knew
Seemed a complex Chinese toy,
Fashioned for a barefoot boy!

Oh for festal dainties spread,
Like my bowl of milk and bread;
Pewter spoon and bowl of wood,
On the door-stone, gray and rude!
O’er me, like a regal tent,
Cloudy-ribbed, the sunset bent,
Purple-curtained, fringed with gold,
Looped in many a wind-swung fold;
While for music came the play
Of the pied frogs’ orchestra;
And, to light the noisy choir,
Lit the fly his lamp of fire.
I was monarch: pomp and joy
Waited on the barefoot boy!

Cheerily, then, my little man,
Live and laugh, as boyhood can!
Though the flinty slopes be hard,
Stubble-speared the new-mown sward,
Every morn shall lead thee through
Fresh baptisms of the dew;
Every evening from thy feet
Shall the cool wind kiss the heat:
All too soon these feet must hide
In the prison cells of pride,
Lose the freedom of the sod,
Like a colt’s for work be shod,
Made to tread the mills of toil,
Up and down in ceaseless moil:
Happy if their track be found
Never on forbidden ground;
Happy if they sink not in
Quick and treacherous sands of sin.
Ah! that thou couldst know thy joy,
Ere it passes, barefoot boy!

* * *

Some Glorious Summer Moments

Crawling in Hyde Park

Swinging in Wandsworth Park

Dangling fingers in the Paddling Pool


"If all the raindrops were lemondrops and gumdrops..."

Charming Harper.

* * *

PS: Happy Birthday Caaaa, best little sister ever.
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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Feasting in the Med: Better than Gap Yah.

Honey Almond Pistachio Cake

I don't know exactly how the idea came about, but someone (probably me, actually) somehow suggested we have a feast at my house to toast our leaving London just once more (as if I haven't had enough random boozy nights out with the girls by now). That suggestion quickly turned into a potluck Mediterranean-themed dinner involving 4 couples, Cranium, charades, and all with a common goal: to empty our liquor/wine cabinet in the blessed name of "less packing."

You'll be relieved to hear that while the Cranium and charades were inadvertently left on the backburner, we did successfully finish off the household wine-supply of 6 bottles of wine (well minus the bottle of Madeira which it would just have been crass to open given we'd already had dessert by the time we noticed it in the corner), in addition to the other 6 bottles brought over for good measure by guests. 12 bottles for 12 people: 4 precariously-sleeping-babies, 8 adults of which - 1 non-drinker, 1 breast-feeder, and 2 early-duck-outs due to a 1st birthday party the next day.
You do the math.

By the end of the night, I was feeling like maybe - just maybe - I wasn't really doing the Mediterranean's tendency toward moderate social-drinking much justice, but, frankly I didn't care.

There was singing, there was dancing, and much smoking of the hookah. Hugs and smiles and tearful-premature-goodbyes abounded. At some point I also felt it was necessary to pay tribute to my own exaggerated intoxication by bringing up a video Matt recently shared with me via one of the British assistants at his office. It's a little gem that captures some of the absurdity of the nauseating British upper classes while gently reminding us all of our own idiotic tendencies to, every once in a while, and in the name of "good fun," overdrink and, well, chunder every-wah. Ah, good times.

"You're so right - global warming. It really is an insignificant truth."**
Does this count as a douche-baggery post? :)

* * *

But on a tastier note: It was a potluck. And everyone contributed to what has now become a legendary menu in the minds of all our husbands. Unfortunately my ambition to get pictures of everything was quickly forgotten, so I only have a shot of the table beforehand. *sheepish* But here is the menu anyway, along with a recipe for one of my personal favorite contributions to the evening: Honey Almond Cake. Yum.

Mixed Olives

Feta, marinated in avocado oil, lemon oil, and chili oil
Toasted Cashew Nuts

Mains & Sides:
Fritto Misto of Calamari, Prawns & Okra
Greek meat balls with Spicy Tomato & Green Olive Sauce Tabbouleh
Baked Chickpeas and Greens
Chili & Garlic Sauteed Oyster Mushrooms
Chargrilled Cauliflower with Tomato, Dill and Capers
Marinated Romano Peppers with Buffalo Mozzarella
Fennel, Cherry tomato and Crumble Gratin


Pistachio Baklava
Chocolate-chip and Honey Cupcakes
Honey Almond Cake with Greek Yogurt

**If you don't know what a "gap year" is, please read this.

* * *

Honey Almond Cake with Greek Yogurt

Serves 10-12

honey, orange, lemon and nuts: the perfect Mediterranean dessert combo

I was inspired to make this cake after watching Jaime does Athens a couple of weeks ago. This is essentially Jaime's recipe, but I took some inspiration from a cake that I had previously made and written about (see my post Pseudo-Moroccan Orange & Almond Cake) and tweaked it to my taste.

I like this recipe better than the one I got in my Olive Magazine, actually - probably because it involves olive oil instead of butter. I also really prefer the syrup recipe for the cake, which involves lemon juice, no cinnamon and lots of fresh, whole nuts. The best part of this cake is there are no steps. You put everything in one bowl all at once, mix, pour and bake. Boom - done.

This is a huge crowd-pleaser and is a great summer dessert, especially served with a nice cold dollop of thick Greek yogurt on the side.

5 eggs
225g Greek yogurt
225g caster sugar
75g ground almonds
1 lemon, zested
1 orange, zested
150g plain flour
200g semolina
1tsp baking powder
200ml olive oil

2 lemons, 1 zested and 2 juiced
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 cup honey
2 tbsp caster sugar (optional)
1- 1 1/2 cups of whole, peeled pistachios and almonds

1. Preheat oven to 180C.

2. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.

3. Pour mixture into a 9" cake tin that has been rubbed with olive oil and then lightly floured. Bake at 180C for 35-40 minutes or until cake is firm and golden. You can also bake it in a rectangular pan as Jaime did, but I prefer round cakes.

4. Allow the cake to cool in its tin for 10-15 minutes, then place it on a large plate and allow to cool completely. Do ahead: You can make this cake 2 days ahead of time. Just wrap in cling film and leave in a cool, dry place.

5. While the cake is baking, make the syrup by combining the syrup ingredients (minus the nuts) in a small sauce pan. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer (not a heavy boil) and keep it simmering for 10-15 minutes or until the mixture is syrupy. Add the nuts at the very last minute and mix well so they are completely coated. Set aside but keep warm.

6. When the cake is completely cooled and up to a day before serving, poke copious amounts of holes all over the cake with a wooden skewer and pour the syrup and nuts all over it. Allow the syrup to soak in completely and only once everything has cooled should you put the cake in a dome.

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