Tuesday, August 20, 2013

An Ode to Disappearing Days

School hasn't started yet, but I'm working every day between now and then, excepting Sunday.  So as today was a day off and my last real day of summer, I took advantage of it.

At work the other evening, somehow picnics came up and one of my co-workers mentioned an excellent picnicking place called Well's Point, south of Lawrence. As it was on my way home from work, I decided to go looking for it on the drive home as another co-worker said it had a neat view of the town at night. Turns out, it's marked by a non-reflective sign set back from the road and I totally missed it in the dark. Had a nice country road drive though.

A couple hours later at approximately midnight, the idea of having a picnic there popped into my head. I didn't actively pursue the idea until slightly later while in the Thinking Stall within the Reading Room. I figured I'd just as well make good use of a free day and inexplicably decided that a breakfast picnic would really be just the thing. Never mind that by now it was at least 12:45 or 1:00am.  I gathered up all the cute things (mason jars, clementine crate, avocado-green-flowered teacup) and plotted a tasty breakfast I could make with what I had on hand.  Not wanting to pass up an opportunity to dress completely inappropriately for a situation, I also ironed a teal-to-mint ombre dress I'd finished a couple weeks ago. Somehow, all of this took until 2:15.  I checked weather.com and the sunrise was set to be at 6:39. So I set my alarm for 5:45. And, ehm, a second and third for a few minutes later.

I dredged myself out of bed at 6:00 and considered giving up the idea.  I knew I'd regret it though, so I brewed some tea, made myself presentable, packed breakfast, and tootled off.

I hit every light at red on my way out of town. Sigh. I found the park easily and was delighted to find that I could indulge my lazy early morning self and drive to the overlook (as opposed to walking as I thought I may have to) since the park opened at 6:00.

I got to the top of the tower by 6:35 and enjoyed a cup of tea while continual-shooting every second of the sunrise a la my mother.

Loose-leaf Mango tea from Clay Gourmet in Clay Center. Perfect for just
slightly chilly mornings on an overlook tower.  (Still pretty good even
without the tower.)
Lion King Sun. Looked far better in real life.

There was some serious Lion King sun going on. Bright red and moments when it was behind thin bits of cloud.... It was gorgeous. Despite a bit of foggy haziness, the overlook had a real dece ("really decent" for the uninitiated) view all around and it was worth the trip.

After the sun was full up, I settled down for a breakfast of whole wheat pita I'd made a couple days ago with butter, some DIY almond butter, and homemade strawberry jam I swiped from my parents' house, mixed fruit salad, and tea.

The spread. Mix of super-amazing deal on blueberries + homegrown
blackberries in the half-pint canning jar.  DIYed almond butter and
strawberry jam are in the other two jars.
Pita! I can't cut thirds, ok? Odd given that I grew up as one of three kids.

Color wheel fruit
Bonus Recipe!
Berry - Stone Fruit Salad
1 peach
1 plum
1/4 c. blueberries
1/4 c. blackberries

Halve peach and plum. Reserve half of each for another meal. Slice each half into 6-8 slices and dice.  Gently mix with berries. Consume.  Serves 1.
*The beauty of this recipe is its flexibility.  If you don't have cheap or foraged berries, then leave them out and have a Stone Fruit Salad. If you don't have those either, leave them out and make something else because clearly this recipe isn't going to work out for you today.

Well anyway, whoever constructed the overlook tower didn't take into account the views of anyone under 3 feet. The wall is solid wood below that height, so you may imagine my view of the area was slightly impeded.

My feet are here. Proof that I was. To the left is that ill-considered solid
wall of wood. 

 Fortunately I had brought a book along to compensate.

This book is the work of Knight Wagner, a friend of my Grandpa's who grew up not far from him in Iowa.  He lives in California now but happened to be in the area the same weekend as the family gathering in July so he showed up one day.  He and Grandpa settled in to jaw awhile and try to outdo or add to each other's stories.  You'd better believe I made a beeline for their table. Knight told my grandpa later that he was surprised I stuck around as long as I did.  Well, I've learned that if you have a couple old farmers together who are at least half with-it (and these men are all there) and willing to talk (my grandpa could and will talk to anyone and his friend appeared to be cut from the same cloth) you'd just as well settle in to be entertained. Chances are, their childhood was far more interesting than yours. They'll even give you some life lessons ou' the deal. Well, the book is a compilation of the many entertaining stories of Knight Wagner's youth and reads almost exactly like a these men talk in real life. Timelines are ignored and the book bounces through the years at random, but gracious if it isn't entertaining.

The whole spread

After finishing breakfast I decided to tromp around the park. Sadly my camera batteries decided to take that time to die.  Turns out my camera has approximately a 5 minute "low battery" warning. So no pictures. Shucks.  There was a well wood-chipped path wandering along the hill and in some areas it almost felt like being back in the timber in Iowa. Except, of course, that there was a path and the branches were trimmed.  As I was on my way to the far side of the park, I just happened to look down and there it was - MY VERY FIRST FOUR-LEAF CLOVER!  Slightly battered, yes, but oh! the excitement. It's pressing in my avocado green cookbook now.

Taken after I got home and charged my batteries.

I relaxed and read more of Knight's book for most of the day and decided to make polenta (pretty much the same as cornmeal mush) and sautéed mushrooms for supper. I thought I'd try this recipe for "fresh polenta" made from sweet corn (fresh from the freezer!) and once I'd finished, I realized I'd essentially pureed sweet corn and dumped mushrooms on it. Tasted fine, but probably not worth the work again.

Gardening update:
All the rain has helped these really take off.

I have the oddest looking cucumbers.

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