Camp Gramp – the beginning of the end

In half an hour Adam and I will be kayaking in the high tides of the Bay of Fundy. Through sheer chance, here on my third day, I’ve come to realize we’re an hour ahead of my watch. This is good to find out BEFORE I’m late! It’s hard to believe mom and dad are so meltingly hot when we have yet to see temperatures above the mid 60s here.

It is a sad day when you don’t learn anything. Today we learned something. Do NOT come to Virginia in July! Oh the hotness. It was only 92, but the heat index was up on the 110 range.

Colonial Williamsburg is wonderful. The houses are amazing. The staff is such fun. They really so well with their roles. They have a spy challenge for all who want to be spies. Kay, Grey, and Thane joined me in the spy game. We had ciphers, clues, loyalists, secret passwords, the whole 9 yards. Unfortunately, we were all beet red with heat and didn’t get the whole thing finished. I was really pleased with how the kids worked on it.

It was also a comedy of errors with uncharged cell phones, etc. Papapa just couldn’t handle the heat and I was thankful to be out of the heat. I think even the intrepid children had had it. They didn’t complain when we had to bail. We came back to the camp and booted up the air conditioner. We had dessert first (you can do that at Camp Gramp) ice cream, then waited until about 8:00 p.m. when I was willing to go out and grill the hamburgers. They were really good. Everyone went to take a shower. Whether everyone took a shower or not remains a topic for debate. Let’s just say that one of the towels came back dry. (We tried, didn’t we).

Now the crew is supposed to be settling down. We will see. We have decided to go home on 81. It is a little ways out of the way, but has the advantage of mostly ruralness. I do aspire to get this thing home in one piece. It is possible we will be in Thursday night. I hope the Flynns won’t mind if we park at their house. Then the Wii game can get its outing. According to Google, we are only just over 9 hours from home. We don’t believe it! Why did it take us three days to get here?

The kids have done an extraordinary job so far. We had our first little melt down tonight and it was so well handled. They are learning to take care of themselves.

I am sitting on the floor of the RV waiting for Don to return so I can take my shower. I can hardly wait. The showers rooms are really cool!

Ah, the patter of little feet. “Gramama, somewhere in the middle of my chest there is a needle and it is exploding.” Editor’s note: That’s Grey’s latest thing. I wonder what’s up with it?! I think we need to sleep!

What a lucky grandmother I am!

Camp Gramp: the hot days

Here’s the latest update from my mom Camp Gramp!

(exclamation inappropriate to a pastor) it is hot. Hot! Hot! Hot! Even the locals are complaining. I gave a lady my place in line at the grocery store just to stay in the cool longer.

This morning was Jamestown — at one end of the Colonial Parkway. We are about a mile from the entrance, so no problem, except perhaps the vast quantity of low arch bridges which are not marked — to mention the 300′ long tunnel which I drove in the middle of and prayed for no oncoming traffic.

We went to the the visitor’s center, then out across the intriguingly named tar swamp bridge to the site of the original fort. Did I mention it was hot? We sat in the shade and fanned ourselves, discussing the wisdom of going to Yorktown, at the other end of the Colonial Parkway (see the bridges) in the heat of the afternoon. We ate lunch in the parking lot, thanking the wisdom of the Cruise America people who make it possible to boot the generator and use the air conditioner. Then we made the wise choice. Don and the children went to Minions and I went grocery shopping. Is Grey growing or something? He is hungry all the time. He was hungry 45 minutes after dinner tonight.

The evening was devoted to Yorktown. They have a lovely driving tour — did I mention the 33′ vehicle? As we started the tour the storm was about 30 miles away. As we finished, it broke over our little heads. What an interesting noise the rain makes on the roof of the RV. Carolyn says it keeps her awake.

FUNNIEST MOMENT OF THE DAY. We were driving on the Colonial Parkway and the newly literate Thane shouted, “Grandmama, it says No Passing!” Well, yes, it does say “No Passing.” But it doesn’t exactly mean we can’t pass the sign right now. He read the road signs most of the trip tonight. He also did an excellent job on one of the interpretive signs. That boy is a reader.

The children are enjoying playing imagination games together. Don and I are lost in the midst of imaginary animals and shields, but the cousins are really enjoying themselves!

I am currently suffering the fate of women everywhere, I am doing the laundry. I have been here about 90 minutes and not a single man has darkened the door. Hmmm..

Tomorrow that fine historical landmark, the water park. Wish us luck

Imperative basil

If I ever form a rock band – which is less preposterous now than it once was – I think I will name it Imperative Basil.

Imperative. Basil.

My farm share pick up is on Fridays. In theory, this is a great idea. I’ll have all weekend – luxurious laid-out hours – to process mother nature’s bounty. A few weeks ago a note came through from our CSA saying that extra bundles of basil were for sale! $14 for 10 bundles. I thought about my great success canning pepperonata last year, and my favorite pesto/mozzarella/pepperonata sandwiches, and thought… pesto! I’ll make pesto! And I signed up for ten bunches.

A week passed.

Then I went to pick up my ten bunches. They were not ten REGULAR sized bunches. Oh no. There were ten VAST bunches. And the temperature was over 90 in my kitchen. The delicate basil had a life-span measured in hours, not days.

I managed to clear out enough room in the ‘fridge for the yards of basil. But I didn’t have lemon juice, nor did I have enough parmesan. Saturday morning, I slept in. When I got up, I had just enough time to get to the grocery store before Adam had to leave for aikido… if I didn’t stop for coffee or breakfast.

You have never in your life seen such a grumpy grocerier than I was that morning.

The next four hours of my life were spent in pesto making. There were three double batches. Twelve cups of pressed basil needed to be washed and stemmed. Pecans roasted. Jars readied. I stewed in the 90 degree heat. Adding insult to injury, I misread the pesto recipe for the first batch and added the amount of salt that was supposed to go into the WATER for the PASTA to the pesto. Doubled. Still, I labored on.

At about 2:30, the final jar of pesto was put into the freezer. Twenty one jars comprised 84 ounces. I had saved the basil. Alleluia.

Now, to save the afternoon. My plan had been to go to the beach after aikido, which I reckoned to last until 3. But at 1, my husband limped home. And by limped, I mean, limped. With only two weeks left to his aikido career, my husband managed to do something to his hamstring that involved horrible popping sounds. So there we had the oppressive heat, the imperative basil, the injured husband and the beach plans.

I corralled my children. I packed the fun bag. My husband limped around packing the food bag. I cajoled and threatened until people were covered in sunscreen – hard to rub in through the sheen of sweat. I put my children in the car. As I closed the door, I heard the rumble of thunder.

“By JOVE!” I exclaimed in fury!

My husband, bless him, pointed out it might be fun to watch the thunderstorms roll into the Atlantic from Gloucester, so we went North anyway. We drove through a deluge, with waves parting in front of the wheels of the car and lightening strikes to the East and West – the sun dimmed to twilight under the heavy burden of the falling rain. When we pulled into Good Harbor beach, they waved us through without payment. We’d driven past the bulk of the storm – assuming it to be hard on our heels – but the beachgoers were flocking out as the first drops fell.

We sprinted to the beach and tossed the children in the water, the cold and hot air like layers on a cake, the winds picking up. And we danced in the water, jumped through the waves, dove in, sluiced off, and laughed – knowing at any moment the storm would come.

Then we made the most awesome set of sand castles across a rill trickling through the saturated sand. Grey worked on the Fortress of Europe. Adam – across the channel – constructed the Fortress of Asia. I played Venetian and provided buildings to both sides, counting my profit. Thane dug holes and chased seagulls.

Then we had some lunch. I sat on a beach chair, cool winds to my back and warm sands underfoot, eating a salami sandwich on homemade bread when I was viciously, viciously attached by a seagull with bad aim. I retained my sandwich, but incurred an injury on my pointer finger. So far, I am happy to report, I have not died of mysterious seagull diseases, but in case my life is actually a Chekhov novel, beware.

The rain? It never came. The band of storms passed to the south. We stayed until we were played out, and headed home sandy and tired. When we got home, the breezes were cool and bracing.

We made it.

And in the winter I will remember – as I taste the oh-so-salty tang of farm-share, home made pesto – the heat and the joy and the luck of my summer.

Too darn hot

My money pit

Last week I was in Dallas, and I was complaining about the weather back home (and how it was the same as the weather in Dallas). “Yeah,” said one of the Texans, “We hear you guys have a terrible heat wave in the 90s and we just have to laugh!” Unspoken at the end of that were the pejoratives about our tenderness that no Texas gentleman would use around a lady such as myself.

I countered in a way that terrified and horrified them: “I have no AC in my house.”

They were dumbstruck, as though I’d told them I had no toilet. No air-conditioning? That puts an entirely different spin on 98 degrees with 90% humidity, my friends. Yes, it does.

Thinking about it, and I think I’ve only ever lived in one place that had AC. We lived in California for a while when I was four. My thrifty grandmother, through osmosis, somehow taught me how to manage the heat with as little AC as possible… but we still had AC in Central Valley. (Those tips, by the way, come in awfully handy right now.) Every house I’ve lived in since we took Amtrak north to the Pacific Northwest has been heated, but not air-conditioned.

This summer has been HOT. (Except for Memorial Day when it froze. I might be whining about that for the next year or two, so brace yourselves…) I think we’ve already had 10 days over 90. In my mental calculus, I usually figure that Boston will have 8 – 10 days over 90 all year, and that plenty of those days will be like 91. We actually do have window box AC units (otherwise we can’t sleep), but usually that 10 days a year just doesn’t seem worth installing central air for.

But we’re in day five of a seven day likely heat wave, and tomorrow is supposed to be the worst yet. The basement is hot. The attic is unbearable. It’s only getting down to the mid 70s at night, so the house doesn’t get a chance to cool down. (Oh! The unthought-of consequences to having good insulation! When the house gets hot, it stays hot.) Suddenly, you find yourself wondering whether an AC unit would be that expensive after all.

When I was at a formative age – around 9 – my family watched the Tom Hank’s movie The Money Pit. At the time we were living in a house built with a gorgeous view on a just fantastic plot of land. The house had a great layout. And it was about half-done. The sink in the bathroom wasn’t hooked up. The nursery was exquisite, but other bedrooms were just drywall. In my room, there was a door to what was supposed to be a porch (one assumes) but was actually a story-long fall. Needless to say, my parents were renting.

But the combination of the movie and the house have instilled a life-long terror of home maintenance in me. I lived for six years in terror that at any moment my roof would cave in and I’d have to pay gazillions of dollars to get it fixed. (I think I added about $5k a year to the estimate I was given when we bought the house, but the roof did end up costing a bundle.) When the guy redid our roof he informed us that the window sills, which we had fixed and treated to the tune of $3000 when we moved in, were completely rotted and needed to be replaced. Now I imagine water seeping into my walls and wreaking havoc. And that will be another, what? Six thousand dollars?

And then there are the bats. I had high hopes that my Very Expensive Roof would be batproof. In fact, I counted on it. I looked up at the dollar bills taped to my roof, um, I mean, my new shingles and thought, “At least there are no bats.” Then I spent an afternoon in the attic and heard the squeaky voices of my unwelcome guests. I called up The Bat Guys and attempted to sound non-hysterical in my insistence that they come IMMEDIATELY and RELOCATE THE BATS to MAYBE THE BAT HOUSE I HAD INSTALLED. So that’s another two thousand dollars.

Of course, there’s the porch project too. We’ve gotten the stain. We need to test the stain on a piece of wood before we can decide whether the stool we’ve picked out will be a good match. And then we’ll need to get about four more of the stools in order to go sit in our nice front porch.

And the kitchen floor could stand redoing, as could the hall carpet. And there are bees living under my porch.

All this is to say… it’s too darn hot. And it’s likely to stay too darn hot at Chez Flynn for at least another year.

Enjoy your week of summer!

It’s hot here in the greater Boston area. The last three days it’s been in the low 90s during the day, high 70s at night with the standard miserable amount of humidity. It has been a very cold summer so far. This has been our first real heat wave, and given that we’re in the middle of August, there isn’t a whole lot of really hot possibilities left. We don’t have central air conditioning — instead we have four really big, really have box ACs that we usually put in the windows — cursing and sweating — somewhere in early July. They’re so obnoxious to install and then remove that we don’t put them in until we HAVE to. And now it seems a little late. All that effort for the remaining two or three weeks where it MIGHT be that hot? Turn on the overhead fans, and suffer, says I.

Then on Saturday in his good-night nursing, Thane seemed hot. Really hot. To the touch. All that night he seemed really hot. When we finally got around to taking his temperature, even after we’d administered Tylenol, it came in at 102.4. Ouch. 90 outside. 102.4 in your body. So you’d think that Thane would be super fussy and uncomfortable. Nah. He’s mellow and going with the flow, although he is a touch fussier than usual and is completely uninterested in food. (That’s ok — you don’t need to eat a ton all the time. I do, however, wish he was more interested in beverages. I think he’s at high risk for dehydration.)

So my helpful brother installed the AC in Thane’s room. It’s already one of my favorite rooms in the house. Now, however, I am trying to talk my husband into moving our bed there.

I’m working from home with Thane today. My brother took Grey to and (will) from daycare, and is pinch-hitting with Thane while I work. His temp was down to an unmedicated 99.9 this morning and 99.4 this afternoon, so he’s clearly on the mend. I might’ve sent him to daycare this time last year, but with the swine flu rooting around, it seems like the better thing to do to keep him home. My only regret is that work has AC.

I spent most of the weekend making jam. Ok, that’s not ACTUALLY true, but it feels true. On Saturday, after swimming lessons and before our trip to the pool I made a batch of strawberry jam from $2/pint organic strawberries from the Farmer’s Market outside the YMCA in Melrose. Then I made blueberry jam from our farmshare blueberries. Then I realized I’d totally underestimated just how much sugar jam takes and my paltry 5 lb bag was completed wiped out.

Sunday, my husband and Grey picked up more sugar and pectin for me after church. I put in a second batch of strawberry jam from the farmer’s market strawberries (strawberry is the jam of choice in our household). I have plans for two to three more batches. I have peaches, but I didn’t buy QUITE enough and I’m likely to get some from our farmshare tomorrow. Also, the peaches aren’t quite ripe, so they can stand another day or two of sitting around. I’m also planning on farmshare apricot jam. I got only about half the apricots I needed, so I processed them and will hopefully get another 20 apricots this week, which should be enough. My husband has requested marmalade, which I’ve never made before, so I may give that a shot, too.

So my jam count:
2 strawberry (completed)
1 blueberry (completed – unless I get a lot more farmshare blueberrries)
1 peach (fruit obtained)
1 apricot (50% fruit obtained)
1 marmalade (speculative)

I find jamming intensely satisfying. There is something about capturing the moment – about your hard work turning these ephemeral items into the durable, delicious product that I will eat for the rest of the year, share with friends, give as gifts, and feed my family with.

It’s also something I’ve done since I was a girl. My mom has been making raspberry jam every summer since well before I was, er, 6? I know we had raspberries in Prosser, and I think she planted them in Bonner’s Ferry. Fresh homemade jam plus fresh homemade bread is one of the great delights of summer.

When I stand stirring the dark jam, the hot sugar and fruit smell permeated the kitchen, with sweat beading out and darkening the small curls on the back of my neck, hearing the “pop” of the previous batch of jam setting. Well. Those are the moments that are the last to leave you when you look back on your life.