A Walk in the Woods

A few days ago at the cottage, the rain started at something like 6:00am and didn’t let up for another twelve hours. This wasn’t a warm, soft, summer rain that invites you to go puddle stomping. No, it was a cold, drenching downpour complete with thunder and lightning; it was a preview of fall. There were a few short breaks throughout the day, but the storm didn’t let up entirely until just before sunset. After a long day inside, my parents, my kids and I couldn’t wait to get out for a walk.

Small streams and even miniature waterfalls had sprung up in the aftermath of the storm, draining all of the water that the ground couldn’t absorb towards the lake. It’s been such a wet summer that the ground became saturated extremely quickly. The girls couldn’t have been happier, though, because this meant puddles and rivulets to splash in. Frogs were out in force, coming out into the damp after the rain to catch the evening mosquitoes.

Of course, monkey see, monkey do. Thing 1 and Thing 2 insisted on bringing along some of my old cameras so that they could take pictures on our walk as well. I can think of worse things about me to imitate.

Note that the girls are covered as much as physically possible by clothing. The bugs were really bad on that walk, what with a combination of the sun going down and the rain letting up.

As so many of our nature walks do, this turned into an educational session. We identified as many birds as we could, even though I’m no birder. The bluejays, chickadees, and wrens flitted from tree to tree in front of us, and a flock of wild turkeys crossed the lawn in front of someone else’s cottage. We identified as many plants as we could as well, in my case focusing on the edible wild plants that I recognized. I’m not an expert on the subject by any means, but I am eager to learn. We did find a whole bunch of what I had always been taught were a variety of wild raspberry along the side of the road, and we picked a few ripe ones to eat. I’ve learned that these are actually called thimbleberries. I mean, I knew that they were edible, but for years I had been giving them the wrong name.

We also found a small blackberry thicket, and of course we had to pick every ripe berry we could reach. It ended up being only a couple of handfuls, but I wasn’t wearing the right gear to venture into the center of the patch. I was pricked enough by the thorns just reaching in past the edge. It was totally worth it, though, and I have mentally marked the area for future pilfering.

As we walked back to the cottage, a mist began to rise from the clearings and low-lying areas as the temperature rose very briefly before sunset.

Cottage Supper

Supper at the cottage is always an informal affair. We often come to the table in bathing suits (if we’re not freezing after coming out of the lake), or wrapped up in sweaters and woolly socks when the evening turns chilly.

Food is often served directly from the stove, but this day we were feeling especially fancy, so we placed on the table in the dishes they were cooked in.

The main part of this dinner was an easy dish that my family has always tongue-in-cheek called “slop”. Basically, you fry up some onions and garlic (or in this case, garlic scapes), add ground beef (or a ground beef/ground chicken/ground turkey mixture, depending on what we have on hand), frying until browned. Drain off the grease, add a can of cream of mushroom soup, and a can of water. Optionally, you may add cooked frozen vegetables to the mixture at this point. Boil down the soup mixture until it has the consistency of a thick gravy. Serve the meat mixture over mashed potatoes or rice.

This time we served slop with a number of vegetables on the side; I had cherry tomatoes with basil, topped with goat cheese, as well as steamed spinach. We also served Brussels sprouts and broccoli, both steamed.

Still Waters

Some days begin with a jolt, a jump out of bed, a hustle to get out the door. On the other hand, some days begin with reading in bed, a relaxed breakfast, and a trip down to the dock.

Breakfast at my parents’ rented cottage this day was eggs over easy, fried mushrooms, sliced avocado, and leftover fruit salad with a bit of maple syrup (slightly mushier than fresh, but still very tasty).

After breakfast, while the dishwasher ran (and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate having a dishwasher at the cottage, what a luxury), I strolled down to the lake to take in the view. The water was like glass, reflecting the clear blue sky.

The water was so still and clear that I could watch the small fish (probably rock bass) that enjoy the shelter of the dock and the retaining wall.

Even the canoe that passed by left barely a ripple in the lake. The canoeist waved a quiet hello to me as he passed by, and we both continued to enjoy the calm of the morning.

Perfect Moment

I don’t believe that there is such thing as a perfect day, or a perfect week. Life being what it is, you can’t expect everything to go smoothly for that length of time — but I don’t think you should expect it to. Life is full of ups and downs. However, I think it’s important to recognize and appreciate when you have a perfect moment. This was one of mine:

I was sitting on the dock at the cottage with a good book, chocolate fudge zucchini cookies, and my knitting. We’d just been for a swim in the rather-cool lake, so I was enjoying the warmth of my hoodie. The girls were enjoying some quiet time of their own on chairs beside me, Thing 1 reading a book, and Thing 2 listening to music on her headphones. For a few minutes there was calm, peace, fresh air and a gorgeous view.

Then it was time to make dinner.

Campfire

The formula for a perfect night at the cottage is as follows:

One small campfire, plus:

Jumbo sparklers lit in the campfire, plus:

Perfectly toasted marshmallows on green sticks, plus:

S’mores!

(For those not in the know, that’s a toasted marshmallow and a square of chocolate sandwiched between graham crackers, called “s’mores” because you always want “some more”.)

Stormy Supper

The other day we had a couple of friends over for dinner at the cottage that my parents are renting, which is always a lovely way to spend an evening. I feared that our plans may have been dashed when a harsh wind blew in from the west, raising whitecaps on the lake, and causing the power to flicker. I was afraid that I wouldn’t get the chance to finish cooking dinner before the incoming storm knocked the power out entirely, and we might have to serve our guests peanut butter and banana sandwiches and leftover salad.

Luckily, although the power went down for a few seconds here and there, it was on for long enough to prepare a decent meal — even though we kept candles lit and flashlights on hand anyway just in case. We had a plethora of leftover salads to choose from: potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw, kale and cabbage salad, and some spinach & fruit & goat cheese salad like I’d had a few days previous. I picked the spinach and macaroni salads for myself, along with a sweet mustard baked sausage, and some boiled baby potatoes.

Once the storm blew in, the wind let up a little bit, with torrential rain, lightning, and thunder taking the center stage. My photos are exposed so that it’s possible to actually see what was going on outside, but to the naked eye it was as if dusk had arrived hours early.

I felt truly lucky to be indoors watching the weather under a good, stout roof — even a roof with gutters plugged with pine needles so that the water cascaded over them instead of flowing down the pipes. Instead of enjoying a lovely dinner at the cottage watching nature’s show, we could have been on a family camping trip.

Lazy Days at the Lake

My daughters and I were able to spend some more time at the cottage that my parents rented for the summer, and we’re just loving it there. Well, okay, we could do without the occasional bold-as-brass mouse, and the scourges of mosquitoes that try to take over every day at dusk, but all that’s really to be expected when you’re out in the country. I count myself lucky that the black flies haven’t been swarming where we have been.


Thing 2 and Thing 1 fishing off of a friend’s dock further down the lake.

The girls have really developed a passion for fishing this summer, much to their grandfather’s delight. Not only that, but Thing 1 at least has caught a few pan fish, mostly sunfish, which has spurred her interest. Thing 2 hasn’t been so lucky, but I think some of that is just because she doesn’t have the patience of her older sister — and fishing is really an exercise in patience.


Gramps fishing off the same dock.

Gramps, of course, will keep fishing long after the girls have run off to explore. Accordingly, he has reeled in quite a few more fish, but we remain lucky that we don’t have to rely on any of us to fish for our dinners. Like Thing 1, his catches have mostly been small pan fish.


Thing 1, Thing 2, and Nana walking DeeDee and Cici.

I think that the highlight of the latest trip for the girls was getting to walk a friend’s dogs while the friends were out of town for the day. Deedee, an elderly black lab, and Cici, a very friendly white terrier, both really like my kids and are just very friendly animals in general. (I may have spelled their names wrong, I’ve never seen them written down.) The girls were also happy that the friend’s two cats were back in residence at their cottage; George was clamoring for attention, and Olivia, who is generally very timid, even conceded to be petted very gently and slowly for a minute or two.


Thing 1 jumping into the lake while Thing 2 looks on.

It wasn’t nearly as hot this trip, so we only went for two quick dips in the lake. While the kids had fun jumping off the dock over and over again, they didn’t last much more than fifteen minutes for each swim before their lips turned blue.


Thing 2 climbing out of the lake for another jump, while Nana treads water in the background.

We owe our ability to jump off the dock directly to our friend Randy, who is owed a huge thank-you for fixing the dock after a few close calls with rotten boards meant that we worried about stepping right through. Randy even managed to go knee-deep through the worst part of the dock during his repairs, but luckily didn’t injure himself. Not only that, he scrounged an old wooden ladder that he screwed directly to the dock, replacing the aluminum one that we had tied on previously. I’m so much happier to take the kids out swimming or canoeing when I don’t have to worry about the boards snapping underfoot!