We’re getting ready to set off for our big summer vacation to New England. The first stop is Boston, for the annual National Puzzlers’ League Convention. Andy’s mom is flying with us to watch the kids while we’re convention-ing, and nobody drinks my milk anymore and they mostly sleep through the night now, so this is pretty damn exciting. Convention stuff happens at night, so we’ll explore the city by day and then do lots of trivia games and solve anagrams till the wee hours of the morning. If you live in or near Boston and you like wordplay games, you should come visit us! After that, we’ll rent a car and drive to Portland, Maine to a little beach house. We’ll eat lobster rolls and look at lighthouses and do whatever else people do in Maine. Then we’re headed to Salem, one of my very favorite places (I’m a wannabe witch, after all), and then to Connecticut to see our friend Billy and eat Mrs. Larkin’s scones. It’s gonna be pretty sweet. Do you have places that you’d recommend that we visit while we’re in Massachusetts, Maine, or Connecticut? If you do, will you let me know? I have done precious little planning for this trip.
Anyway! I wanted to stop in here before we left to share photos (all taken by my sister, Helen!) of three parties we’ve held in the last couple of weeks. I gotta get on a place in 45 minutes though, so I’m gonna have to be brief. Here we go!
Party No. 1: Summer Solstice.
Caprese Salad with Spicy Goat Cheese. I saw this in a Good Housekeeping mag at my mother in law’s house and thought it sounded fantastic. I loved it.
Bean and Corn Salad. My mom made this while we were in Portland and I thought it was so great- I’ve made it several times since coming home. Fun story: I took it to a Father’s Day cookout and then accidentally left the leftovers in a cooler on the floor for 24 hours. I found it as I was putting dinner together the next day and moved it next to the bowl of scraps for the chickens, and then got distracted because Otto came over and I had to talk to him about our damn broody chicken, and asked Andy to finish putting the dinner stuff on the table. He assumed that old corn salad was part of our dinner and George devoured it. When I came back in I was horrified and said George couldn’t eat anymore because it could make him sick. He was outraged and stayed mad at me for most of the rest of the evening. I made him some more the next day. Anyway, it’s a good salad.
Grilled Chicken with Herbes de Provence. My brother Caleb makes the most incredible grilled chicken. I tried to replicate it once I got home and I feel like I got pretty close. Here’s what I did. Make the rub: mix 1/4 of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 2 tablespoons of herbes de provence (without lavender, unless you like that sort of thing), 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder, and a lot of freshly ground black pepper. Rub this all over 6 pounds of skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks, then grill over indirect heat for an hour, until the fat has rendered and dripped off and the chicken skin looks thin and roasty.
Cold Cucumber and Avocado Soup with Mango Salsa. I love this summer soup- you throw some shit in a blender and call it a day.
Lemonade Jello. The kids live for this stuff. I just buy a jug of lemonade and follow the instructions on a box of gelatin to make it extra jiggly.
These two love each other like siblings and also fight like siblings. George had a real hard time sharing anything with Phinnie during our party, but they made up by the time we were ready to build a big fire and eat some s’mores.
Squee! She is the dearest. I clench my teeth every time I look at her. Someone ought to tell her that stick is gonna be hopeless for roasting marshmallows though.
We made flower mandalas with flowers Joanna brought!
We burned sage and then threw fat pinches of mugwort and vervain into the fire to send dark and evil things far away from us.
When Andy got home, we went to the Liz Carpenter fountain so the kids could stay up late on the Solstice and took so many pictures and they were all pretty bad. Here’s one of em!
And here’s another! I have no pictures with Andy- we’ve gotta work on that.
Party No. 2: Going Away Dinner for Amanda.
Emma hosted the dinner at her beautiful house in East Austin. Since Amanda is forever bringing us gorgeous bouquets of her homegrown flowers, we decided we’d all try our hands at making some for her. Here is my large and gangly one on top of Emma’s pretty oven.
Helen made this one!
Emma grew these tomatoes! And she gave us all sack-fulls on our way out the door.
Christy made these! I probably should’ve swapped the tomato picture and this one, but I’ve only got ten minutes left to write so let’s just move on.
Helen’s Tomato, Peach, and Burrata Salad with a Fig Balsamic Drizzle. I ate fully half of this platter.
Marcarpone and Sweet Corn Lasagna. I had this for the first time at Amanda’s house and loved it so much. It’s a perfect summertime potluck offering, I think.
Some ladies and some food.
Christy’s Dark Chocolate Raspberry Torte. This is an almost-flourless chocolate cake, topped with the richest, creamiest chocolate mousse, topped with whipped cream and raspberries. It is everything good in the world.
I’m still in denial about Amanda leaving. I’m going to miss you so much, friend!
Party No.3: A Birthday Party for Christy.
The Almost-Birthday Girl! We had this party way early, because it was the only day that worked for everyone. Helen and I had a number of elaborate ideas for what we wanted to do for Christy’s birthday, but then we talked to her and she said she just wanted to go swimming at Garrison (a shitty city pool near my house) and eat some snacks on some towels. This didn’t fit into Helen’s and my vision board (we didn’t actually make a vision board) and we hated the idea. But then Helen had the idea to ask Amanda if she could ask her parents to let us use their pool for the party. Genius! There pool is a paradise- surrounded by lush palms and pride of barbados, and with a gorgeous Grecian pavillion with lovely furniture and a fireplace next to the pool. They said yes! Helen said “what a nice party Amanda is throwing for Christy!”
Cheese Plate with Amanda’s Tomato Jam. Christy loves Pure Luck goat cheese, and it was even more incredible topped with tomato jam made from Emma’s tomatoes and Amanda’s homegrown onions.
Peach and Nectarine Salad with Candied Pecans and Goat Cheese. This salad is supposed to have a lavendar syrup, which Christy loves, but then I couldn’t find any at central market, so I infused the syrup with herbes de provence instead.
Helen’s Crudites Platter. Hey, broccoli! I’ve got nothing to say here.
Flounder Ceviche with Pineapple and Ginger. I ate this for breakfast and lunch the next day. It’s so easy and it feels so fancy and tropical. I leave out the Peruvian chile stuff and just add a diced jalapeno and some pineapple.
Gluten Free Brownies. I’m out of time to write! We have to leave for the airport. So brownies!
Violet Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. My favorite egg yolk chocolate chip cookies.
Dr. Bobby! Huge thanks to Bobby and Crisitina for letting us have the most beautiful pool party! They mowed and watered and cleaned the pool area and were just wonderful.
Amanda’s Flowers. Supplemented with flowers and herbs from Joanna’s garden. Aren’t they wonderful? Everything was so pretty and perfect and we got to swim without our children for hours. I think it’s the first time I’ve been swimming without the children since I had them and it was glorious. Happy Birthday, Christy! We loved celebrating you!
And that’s it! I super have to go. I’d love to hear if you have ideas for places to eat and things to see and do in Boston, Maine, or Connecticut, please and thank you! Happy summer, friends!