Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Yankees Invade Studley Virginia

The invasion began promptly at 7:49 this Tuesday evening. It was swift, complete, and beneficent in it's nature. By 8:00 our hearts were once again captured by the little spirits we call our grandchildren.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 - Studley, Virginia

Adam, Kristin, and the four little ones (Alyssa, Megan, Jami and Jonathan) arrived from Rhode Island in a flurry of excitement with their stories, hugs and kisses.

"Did we know that it is sunny above the clouds when you are flying even when it's raining on the ground?" Well yes, I guess we did, but that knowledge is so much more valuable when seen for the first time through the eyes of a 7 year old.

"Daddy had to have the window seat because last time we were on an airplane we put the shades down." Oh yes? That I can understand, why waste a good view.

"The takeoff is not as exciting as a roller coaster!" Hmmm ... depends perhaps on age and position along the life expectancy line, I expect. How about the landing?

On and on it went in the flurry that is the excitement of the first 30 minutes spent catching up on all the immediate impressions.

Everyone was hungry, and as nurturing through food is one of my favorite pastimes, I started on some grilled cheese sandwiches (Swiss and Provolone on Jewish rye, with tomato and sweet onions slices). With 8 little eyes surrounding the island cook-top I learned that one child likes everything, one doesn't like tomato, one doesn't like onion, and one cares not a whit for onion, tomato, or it appears from the taste test, Swiss or Provolone. How do you feel about the bread Jonathan?

In the second frying pan I was preparing a true southern delicacy, fried green tomatoes. Dipped in half and half, and breaded in Bookbinders crumbs, the slightly tart tomato and the sweetness of the slightly caramelized coating makes for a delicious treat. Better results - 7 out of the 8 of us thought we had arrived in heaven. Jonathan was still skeptical.

Our next culinary treat was a small saucer of olive oil, generously spiked with Piri-Piri sauce, and small chunks of french bread for dipping. Piri-Piri sauce was new to us, discovered on our recent trip to the Azores, where it is served at every post-breakfast meal. Fiery in the mouth, the heat dissipates quickly and one is left with an excitement of the taste buds that are sensitive to salt. A pleasant exprience that was enjoyed unanimously by the yankees. I brought one bottle back from the Azores and had ordered two more on-line, one for us and one for Adam and Kristin to take back with them if they enjoyed it.

Kathy searched e-bay for one of her favorite childhood books: Betty Crocker's NEW Boys and Girls Cookbook (well at least is was new in 1957). She found a copy in pristine condition, ordered it, and fortunately it arrived a few days before our visitors. As she and the girls leafed through the book there was shared excitement and anticipation, with visions of castle cakes and pear desserts dressed as mice, floating through the air. It was clear to the rest of us that there was a secret plot "a cooking."

After dinner we sat at the table and discussed expectations and desires for the upcoming week. I'm convinced that Spring is the most beautiful time of the year in Virginia with all the flowering trees and lush green buds (not to mention the abundant yellow pollen that coats everything). The forecast was for one day of drizzle followed by a steady diet of sun. I suggested that the children might like to spend some time in the woods using a variety of terrifying tools and equipment to take down some dead trees. They delighted in that idea. Adam suggested a day inside the dreary old science museum and was roundly booed. Round one to the grandparents. We tucked the children into their beds, and spent a quiet adult evening, relaxing and enjoying that special time called family.

Wednesday, April 15th 2009 - Studley, Virginia - Part 1

The day was as forecast - drizzle - enough to annoy, but not enough to really get you wet. That however did not put a damper on the kitchen activities of Kathy and company. Kristin has done a great job engaging the kids in projects, and to them making monkey bread was a sweet project with a great ending. Adam, Jonathan and I (it really just worked out that way) busied ourselves with manly endeavors in the garage until we could smell the cinnamon from the oven.

Nice job ladies.

Kathy took the girls to our local grocery store for food project supplies, while Adam, Jonathan and I headed to Home Depot for stuff and the John Deere store to look at tractors. Funny how you can spend time just looking at them - kind of like window shopping. Behind the JD store there is a huge array of big, very big, green and yellow farm equipment that we just had to drive around and wish that we could get out and climb upon. We settled for a maintenance kit for my itty-bitty tractor.

I decided to put the kids to the test immediately upon our return. I had bought 4 rolls of plastic marking tape (different colors), one for each kid and invited them to take a walk with me through the woods. Their instructions were to look for any dead trees that were still standing and tie a ribbon around it with their tape. Surprisingly, they took their mission very seriously and before we headed back to the house an hour later they had marked about 15 trees, some very large, some very small. We also discovered some cool trees. Their favorite one was actually three poplars that had grown together at the base. While we did this Adam changed the oil, filters, and spark plug on the tractor (bless his heart) and complained about the horrendous noise it was making when the parking brake was released. "What noise?" I asked, and told him I always wear ear protection. He was not amused.

With the trees marked, the kids and Kathy undertook their secret cooking projects. Adam said that he had always wanted to chop down a tree with an ax. Well we had trees that had to come down and we had an ax. This could work. Me with my chainsaw and Adam with his axe settled in for an afternoon of buzzing and whacks (sorry Mr. Moore). We tuned up with a 30 foot pine in the front yard (dropped on target) then made our way to a back acre where Jonathan had marked (green tape) a crooked old 50 foot pine that was about 2 feet in diameter. I took a notch out with the saw, then Adam started swinging. And swinging. And swinging. Kristin would bring out some kids periodically to check on progress (hoping to see it crash to the ground), but pine is tougher than it looks and this old relic was not in a giving mood.

Finally, the cut tree twisted off it's hundred-plus year old stump, and immediately caught it's top on a branch of a healthy oak, creating the hypotenuse of a right angle. There is a lot of potential energy stored in upright (or for that matter leaning) trees, and the adrenaline was flowing as we undercut 3 or 4 foot sections. It was then I realized there is a special father/son bonding that takes place when plotting an escape route. With a mighty crack the tree rotated off the branch and came to earth with a truly satisfying "WHUMP", that we felt as well as heard. Proudly we collected our tools and headed to the house to see what kind of treats Kathy, Kristen, and the kiddies had planned for us.

1 comment:

Kristin said...

very nice- great 1st day I would say! Thanks so much!!!