Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day weekend has come and gone and now the summer season has unofficially begun.  Blargh.

I hate summer.  Don't get me wrong, I love the extended hours of sunlight and school being out, but I hate the heat.  Actually, it's not so much the heat as the humidity.  HATE IT!  And this year, I am the one who has to host an outdoor party at the end of June.  Don't get me started...

But since I brought it up, we've begun preparations for said party (which is, of course, Redheaded Snippet's graduation party which will pretty much also be a housewarming type thing as it will likely be the first time a lot of folks see the new house for the first time in all its glory) and took advantage of the three-day weekend to do so.  And because we've been focusing on the party, we were too tired to really do much of anything for Memorial Day.  Which is probably fine.  Because I don't think centuries of brave men and women gave all they did just so we can knock ourselves out over the perfect backyard burger and American flag cupcakes.

When you have very little time and even less money, prioritization becomes the name of the game.  And we've been slowly picking our way down the list of priorities, weighing them carefully against the amount of time we've got until this party.  Now, perhaps you wouldn't think curtains in the master bedroom would be very high up there as far as graduation parties go, but I think you would if you understood that those windows look out onto an area through which any number of men may be wandering at any given time!  So Mom came over again and worked her magic with the old sewing machine.  These were more of the great-aunt's curtains that were quickly fashioned into lovely, lacy window treatments with a few snips and zips on the trusty machine.  We were tired of having to change in the bathroom!

Way less glamorous, but just as necessary, party-wise, is this rubbish bin containment field The Vicar built in just a few hours.  We're all about concealing our rubbish bins behind lattice.  And those young, little plants are lilacs that Redheaded Snippet got for me for Mothers' Day.  There was a huge lilac bush (more like a small tree, really) in the yard in the house in which my sisters and I grew up.  We played in it every day, used its glossy, wide, heart-shaped leaves as play money, and made ourselves giddy sniffing the flowers (which we were expressly forbidden to pick--that was Mom's job) when it was in bloom.  When we moved, Mom took suckers with her and planted them all around the new house.  And when we moved into our first house, the Cottage at Wits' End, she brought suckers from those to plant there.  So, for Mothers' Day, Redheaded Snippet went and dug up suckers from both our old house and Mom's house so I could have the original childhood lilacs in our new yard.  Isn't that sweet?

This was another afternoon's work for The Vicar.  Our portion of the property isn't fenced in so we've been working on a solution to contain silly Nutmeg, who has to be watched carefully every time she's let out to do her business because she will insist on going off to find The Vicar if she's left out too long.  This is the side of the yard that visitors to both the vicarage and the church office see so we were concerned about it looking nice as well as providing a bit of privacy for us.

This is the view from our patio.  That brick building is part of the church.  That's how close it is!  Though you can't see it in this photo, there is a section of lattice (to the right, behind that pine tree--visible in the left of the previous photo) that had been installed prior to our arrival.  That got us thinking about simply adding more lattice to it to make a fence with gate all the way across.  And when Mom offered to let us have her old arbor, that sealed the deal.  And before I knew it, The Vicar had it finished!  Well, it still needs a latch, some paint, and a good power-washing, but he'll have that done before this weekend!

While Mom did the curtains and The Vicar did the structural additions, I fussed and fiddled with decorative things and, dare I say it, even got a little crafty.  I dragged this cute, little, blue chair and basket of bottles up from the basement and set them out on the front step with a few planters and a cute slate sign.

I changed out the springy stuff for more summery stuff in foyer: just an old window, a stars and stripes sign, a few American flag twirly things and a bit of rusty, old flags and stars garland.  I don't have a lot of summery stuff anymore but then I do like things to be a little more bare in the summer.  Maybe I think it's going to help me feel cooler if there's not as much clutter around...

So this is where I got crafty.  Maybe crafty isn't the word.  I probably should say this is where I got crafty for me.  I saw an idea on Pinterest and decided to try and duplicate it.  Of course, now I'm looking at it critically and seeing how I could have improved it but anyway...I took an old piece of patriotic bunting I had in the basement and wrapped it around another old window I had lying around.  It took me forever to get the fabric folded and wrapped just so, which was frustrating, but I do like the finished effect.  And though it only took four staples, a staple gun was involved so, to me, that counts as crafty.

I wanted to put it out on the front porch but had woefully misjudged the amount of space on that porch.  And so it went on the antique desk on the side porch.  Which is probably for the best since that porch is covered and protected from the elements.  Who cares if the only ones who see it are those coming from the church offices or copy room, right?

Finally, it wouldn't be Memorial Day without some kind of festive, fruity new dessert, would it?  We were invited to spend the day with friends and I needed a dessert to share.  More specifically, I needed a dessert that was quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive to make.  And so I turned to my trusted America's Test Kitchen cookbook and found the perfect candidate: Summer Berry Gratin!  That's what it's supposed to look like, up there...

This is what it looked like fully assembled.  Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blackberries macerated in sugar and a pinch of salt with some bread crumbs, brown sugar, and butter crumbled on top.  Apparently, the French use stale croissants which I think would be pretty killer.  But this recipe calls for the more practical use of white bread that has been buzzed in the food processor.  I probably have croissants around more often than I have white bread but I decided to comply with the recipe.  Next time, I'll probably fiddle with the ingredients a bit...

And here it is, in all its browned, toasty, hot fruity, gratin-ed glory.  Mmm-mmm good and a success at the get-together, I must say!  Not a crumb was left at the end!  I'll definitely be bringing this one back out to play!

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