We’ve had a lovely summer in Seattle so far. For the most part, it has been sunny and warm almost every day. And even if the day starts out overcast, it ends with sun. This is a miracle—usually we don’t get any sunny or warm days until after July 4th (it’s a joke around here that our summer doesn’t start until July 5th). But this year has been different.
Girlfriend and I have been taking full advantage of the weather. We have been going to one of our local lakes (we live near 3!) each week. The closest lake to us has a diving platform with 2 diving boards—a high dive and a low dive. When Girlfriend was younger, she would spend hours at the high dive, jumping off, swimming to the platform, and waiting in line to jump off again. We haven’t been to the lake for swimming for a couple of years (although I do walk around it during the winter for exercise), but this year we’ve been going regularly. This summer, since Girlfriend has been taking gymnastics during the school year, she has been doing “front tucks” off of the high dive. A front tuck is a somersault/flip in the air. It’s something that I’ve only seen done on sports shows or by crazy teen age boys. And now Girlfriend is one of those crazy teens. She’s amazing. It’s stunning to watch her use a skill she learned in one context and transfer it to another context.
While she does her flips off of the diving board, I set myself up on the tiny beach with all of the other parents. We always travel with folding chairs during the summer, so, I sit in my folding chair, in the dappled shade of one of the many trees that line the lake, and read and knit. I look up every so often to make sure Girlfriend is still happily doing her thing. The beach has 4 or 5 lifeguards (the Parks and Rec department makes as sure as possible that the swimmers are as safe as possible), so she is well looked after. It’s a very nice way to spend a summer afternoon.
I’ve read several books this summer that I’ve really enjoyed. One of my favorites has been The Golem and the Jinni, by Helen Wecker. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a fan of golem stories. I’m not entirely sure why. I think part of the appeal is that golems, being part of the Jewish mystic tradition, are created through a combination of magic and spirituality. In The Golem and the Jinni, a female golem, Chava, arrives in 1899 New York City from Poland with no idea where she is or what she is supposed to do. At the same time, a Syrian Jinni is released from a thousand year imprisonment in an old copper flask. They eventually meet and become unlikely friends as life goes on around them. It is a smart, fascinating, fun, and very well-written book. I wanted it to last longer than it did.
Another book I really enjoyed was The Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. This book is amazing. It starts in 1960s, in a tiny port town in Italy. The town is so rocky that it is only accessible by boat. To this town arrives a mysterious American woman who is said to be dying. From here, we are on a ride that takes us back and forth between 1960s Italy, the set of the movie Cleopatra, and then to present day Hollywood, Seattle, and Idaho. All of the characters are slowly woven together in a brilliant story that, again, made me want it to go on longer.
In between lake visits and other activities, I’ve also been baking. One of my favorite things to do is to bake with fresh berries in season. We’ve had a lovely strawberry season here, which is just ending. I’ve been trying to get strawberries each time I go to the farmer’s market next door. I get enough for Girlfriend and dAhub to eat fresh, as well as some for me to bake with. I know I already have a Strawberry Cake up on the site, but I thought I’d share another one to give you options. This is a cake that I’ve adapted from the Martha Stewart website. It is simple and delicious—perfect for summer baking. One thing that is a little odd is that it is baked in a 10 inch pie pan. I happen to have a 10 inch pie pan, so this isn’t a problem for me. If you only have a 9 inch pie pan, I would recommend increasing the baking time by 5-10 minutes (because the cake will be more dense).
Strawberry Cake, Gluten-Free
-adapted from Marthastewart.com
Yield: 1- 10 inch cake
6 tablespoons (85 g; 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups (210 g) Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour mix
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (200 g) plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 extra-large egg
½ cup (120 ml) milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pint (2 cups; 475 ml) fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
extra melted butter for pan
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4. Grease a 10 inch/25 cm pie pan with melted butter. I used a Pyrex glass pie pan.
In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Place butter and 1 cup of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium high speed until light and fluffy—about 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract, beat until combined. Add egg and beat on medium high for 1 minute.
Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and milk in alternating small batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until combined.
Scrape batter into greased pan and smooth top. Place berries on top of the batter, cut side down. I try to do some sort of semi-artistic designed like a spiral.
Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar over the berries.
Bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour, until the cake is golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
Cool in pan on wire rack. Serve in wedges.
Store at room temperature for up to 3 days, loosely covered.