Wednesday, July 6, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things (cont.)...

6. The Farmers' Market: It wasn’t until I moved out to California that I realized farmers' markets weren’t just a seasonal thing.  Sure they make for a lovely afternoon visit in the summer months—that’s when the produce selection is at its absolute yummiest—but it’s around all year long.  In upstate New York, we only have the farmers' market in the summer, for, perhaps, slightly obvious reasons.  For one, there is no snow on the ground (which is essential for creating favorable farmers' market conditions anywhere).  It is also the only time of year when things actually grow (and all that essentially grows is corn and zucchini but those happen to be two of my favorites…so…it works).  But, dear reader, as we all know, half of the reason for going to a given farmer’s market is for the other treats it boasts.  The Ithaca Farmers' Market, nestle near the shore of Cayuga Lake, has had some of the same vendors since I was a child.  The same families still sell the same egg rolls and chili rellenos that I merrily gobbled up in my youth (and that I am very much looking forward to eating again when I return in August).  A lot of same craftsmen and women are still there as well.  One local artist, who has had a stand there for at least a decade or so, still sells the same custom-made ceramic bowls.  It sounds kitschy, I know, but they really aren’t—they’re actually quite lovely.  My parents bought one for each me, Genny, and Scott when we were younger.  Mine was white with a whale on it and had my name written in blue glaze.  These bowls were wonderfully charming but, having being fired in the artists’ home kiln, also extremely fragile.  In an unfortunate turn of events, the stack of bowls were unceremoniously dropped by someone—and I can’t quite remember by whom but we are all equally clumsy and therefore all equally potentially culpable—and shattered on our kitchen floor.  It was tragic.  But that’s not the moral to this story (that would be depressing).  The moral is that farmers' markets are positively delightful and because summer is the only time they have them in Ithaca, they will forever be equated with summertime in my mind.

This picture I didn't take--I poached it from the internet.

7.  Mom’s Summer Activity List:  Despite all of us kids having active imaginations, there was always the potential for one of us or all of us to get bored from time to time over the summer months.  Because of this, every summer my mother would compile a list of things we kids could do.  Old favorite include:  play pioneers, go for a walk in the woods, play little mermaid (this required my sister and I to put red t-shirts over our hair), play badminton, play shipwreck, go swimming, play with super heroes (Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Green Lantern were in a perpetual love triangle), read a book, play 19th century oil tycoons (just kidding, that wasn’t one of them, although strangely enough a lot of our “plays” were set in the 19th century…).  Even now, I am sure that there is some version of the “Summer Activity List” written in my mother’s handwriting and pinned to the family bulletin board in the kitchen.  Although these days it probably says, “play video games” rather than “play 19th century detectives”…

Here we are playing pirates.

8. Picnics in the Basement: I realize, at this point, that the majority of these are based on memories from my childhood and that a good number of them are food related but just bear with me (I still have two more with which to potentially turn this all around).  Before air conditioning was a thing, at least at my parents’ house, which it wasn’t until about three or four years ago, my mother and sister and I used to have picnics in our finished basement whenever it would get too hot or muggy to eat upstairs or out on our deck.  We would sit on the floor, which was mostly carpeted, and use on our little brown and black trampoline as table.  It was, as I am sure you can imagine, just about the coolest thing ever.  And it remains to this day, one of my all-time favorite summer pastimes.

I don't have a photo documentation of our basement picnics, so here's a picture of a rose I took (that's summery, right?)

9. Swimming: Okay, so you knew this one was coming, how could you not?  I am talking about summer, after all.  I have always been a huge fan of swimming.  In fact, there is a video my parents took of us at the petting zoo while on vacation in Minnesota.  I am seven years old and sitting on a bench sulking.  My father narrates how I only wanted to go swimming and have been whining and complaining all day (and he, consequently, has a mind not to take me).  This should give you at least some indication of how much I love swimming (as I was normally a good nature child who rarely fussed about things).  I adored going to my maternal grandparents’ farm and swimming in their pool (even though it was too shallow to dive and the water was pretty much always freezing).  I also loved going to paternal grandparents’ home, where my grandfather would fill a little paddling pool (and he would do this early in the morning so that the water would be warm by the time my sister and I arrived) and would stock it full of fun toys to play with.  I also enjoyed, for a brief time, swimming in the pond near my parents’ house (which I no longer frequent due to water snakes).  Ithaca is famous for its copious gorges and (mostly illegal) swimming holes.  Ironically, Moses and I, who both grew up in Ithaca, grew up with different favorite swimming locations.  So now, whenever we are back in town for the summer together, I lobby for us to go swimming in the lake at Taughannock Park and Moses’ vote is always for 2nd or 3rd dam (which are okay, I guess).  Arguably the worst place to go swimming in Ithaca is Treman Park, because the water there is frigid.  I’m not exaggerating.  I think at its warmest its temperature is 60 degrees.  The last time I was brave enough/foolish enough to attempt to swim at Treman was a particularly hot and humid afternoon one August ago.  My mother, brothers, and I had been hiking the trails and were close by and it was so damn hot out that I coerced myself into going.  I thought: you were really young when you last swam here, maybe you were just less tolerant of cold water.  Maybe it wasn’t really that cold and if it was, it will probably feel good today.  Or maybe the last time you swam here you came early in the summer before the water had a chance to heat up.  But no.  The water never “heats up” at Treman.  My swim lasted all of about five minutes before I had to get out and warm myself on the rocks in the sun.

This is Treman.  I shiver just looking at it.
10. BBQs with friends and family: All right, it’s official.   Pretty much all of my favorite pastimes are food related—but you can’t fault me for that—because I really do love food.  And maybe it’s the subtle hint of hick in me, but I love me some good BBQ.  Moses and I do not own a grill (aside from our George Forman which we use to cook the occasional hamburger).  Instead, we are tortured by the constant aroma of BBQ wafting over from the neighbor’s house (because those Nazis have a backyard).  BBQs out here are relatively rare and I find myself, every summer, in a state of continual self-loathing over how, at one point in my life, I was actually sick of BBQ food.  Back in Ithaca, BBQs are happening non-stop over the summer.  You have a get together with friends: BBQ.  You have a birthday party: BBQ.  You have a Wednesday: BBQ.  My parents don’t even cook regular meals over the summer.  Dinners are just an endless grill-fest.  And I miss it sorely.   But, as god is my witness, I swear to you that I will one day own a grill and then my summers will finally be complete.

And here I am at a BBQ last year...


  1. The sad thing about our urban lives is the lack of yards, generally, and their accompaniments, like BBQs and being barefoot outside.

    That said, Bil just got a grill! So, we will one day have a BBQ.

  2. Yeah, I totally dropped and broke the bowls.

  3. Really, because I sort of have a memory of doing it...

  4. I remember totally wasn't me!!!

  5. You're my favorite pirate of the bunch.