“I’m thinking of signing him up for golf camp, basketball camp, a soccer camp and maybe some swimming,” one of my well-meaning friends was saying to a group of us about a month ago. The conversation then lead to the fall, “Besides soccer, we’re putting together a flag football team if anyone wants to do it.”
The conversation continued and as I sat there listening, sipping my coffee, I thought about how different I am now as a parent as opposed to when my daughter was younger.
She was in swim lessons at six-months-old. As a toddler, she had a regular “playgroup” that met weekly. She was in Gymboree classes…for years. She could write her name before she entered preschool and ride a bike and tie her shoes before she entered Kindergarten.
For my youngest, playgroup and Gymboree aren’t even words in his vocabulary. As for some of the others, well, maybe I had been a little lackadaisical in teaching him some of those childhood milestones. So I said to my friends, “You know, I think you should count us out. We’re still working on…some basics.”
Later that day, I sat my Kindergartener down and said, “Guess what we’re going to do this summer?”
“You are going to have “Bike Camp with Mom,” “Swim Camp with Mom,” and “Tie-Your-Shoes Camp with Mom.” We’re going to start with Bike Camp. How does that sound?”
He was thrilled. Besides motherly guilt, I was feeling particularly motivated to get rid of the training wheels because I knew we’d be meeting up with his cousins at the beach for vacation soon and he just couldn’t be shown up by his three-year-old cousin who could already ride a two-wheeler.
Day one of bike camp was held in our driveway. We worked on simply gliding. Then, I taught him how to use the kick-stand, how to use the brakes, how to start and then went on to the back-braker….holding onto the back of the bike as he “rode” it up and down the driveway. Luckily, before my back gave out, I was interrupted by my neighbor driving by. She stopped. And we chatted…on and on.
In the middle of our conversation, I decided to check on my little guy. As I turned around to look for him, there he was riding his bike out of the garage. On two-wheels. By himself.
I turned to my neighbor and said, “Sandbagger.”
Then, I turned back to my guy and shouted, “Whoo! Hoo! You’re riding your bike by yourself!!!”
With a huge smile on his face, he stopped the bike, put the kickstand down and took off his helmet. Then he said to me, “Can I go back in now?”
“But buddy, you just learned to ride your bike. That’s so exciting. Don’t you want to keep practicing?”
“Well, I was in the middle of a lego war when you called me out here.” For crying out loud, his older brother would have been out here for hours practicing his new-found-skill if this had been him.
We continued our bike camp throughout the week, visiting various parks with tracks or trails and culminating with the park in our neighborhood whose trail travels over bridges, around a pond and up and down hills. He completed the required “two times around the pond” but he really just wanted to play on the playground with some friends who happened to be there.
To celebrate my little guy’s “Completion of Bike Camp,” that night I made a special dessert. Strawberry Pavlova…which he inhaled. As I watched him enjoy his dessert, I thought to myself how different my children are. How my middle guy was the kid who rode a two-wheeler at age three…because he wanted to. How my eldest could swim as a toddler and still is my fish…because she loves it.
And my little guy, well, apparently he takes on the mantra that the Rooster applies to handyman jobs from time to time, “It’s not that I can’t do it, it’s just not how I choose to spend my time.” (Although, let the record state that when the Rooster does choose to do handyman jobs, he does a mighty fine job.)
We’ll see how swimming and shoe-tying go…..
I am not a fancy dessert maker. Usually the pinnacle of my dessert making consists of ice cream with berries or every so often a pie but that’s about it. However, I was intrigued to make this dessert when I read about it in my friend Sandy’s book, The Reluctant Entertainer. And then a recent issue of our local food magazine MIX also had a recipe for it and considering that both the Rooster and I had brought home half-flats of Hood strawberries recently….well, I needed to find ways to use them up. Hood strawberries are truly the most delicious strawberry you will ever taste but…they don’t last long.
Also, I made my pavlova with a sour cream filling because I don’t like my desserts to be too sweet and trust me, it was plenty sweet…but if you’re a whipped cream purist you could always substitute that for the filling.
1/2 c egg whites (about 4) at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 c granulated sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp cider vinegar or white vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c sour cream or crème fraiche
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 pints fresh strawberries (preferably Hoods if you can find them), hulled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together your egg whites and cream of tartar. Using an electric mixer, beat them together until foamy. On medium speed, add in your granulated sugar a tablespoon at a time. Increase your speed to high and continue beating for about 3 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Fold in your cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla extract and stir just until combined.
Spoon out six half-domes of meringue onto the cookie sheet. Using the back of your spoon, press gently down on the center of each one to make a shallow well. Bake for about one hour or until your meringues lift easily off the parchment.
While your meringues are cooking, prepare your filling. Whip your sour cream, 1 tbsp sugar and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract until thick. Then, put in the refrigerator while the meringues are finishing. You can make your filling in advance but it may need some gentle re-whisking if it sits for over an hour.
Put your sliced strawberries, 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp lemon juice in a bowl. Mix together to combine and then set aside to macerate for 5-10 minutes or the duration of your meringue baking time.
When ready to serve, put each meringue on an individual plate. Spoon on some of the filling and then, top with the berries. Put out for your friends and family to “ooh and ahh” over and then….enjoy.
IMPORTANT MESSAGE: Just in case you didn’t see this message on my last post, La Pomme de Portland is just about to get a new look. My friend and web designer Kirsten Hope has been helping me create this lovely new space. It is so pretty.
The time has come for us to do the site transfer. In order to do so, my website will be down for about a week starting July 3rd. I’m letting you know this for a couple of reasons.
Fourth of July Menu
In case you’re looking for ideas, here is my Fourth of July menu:
Just spent the past week, including…and I’m not kidding here…10 hours yesterday….organizing my yard. This included weeding, weeding and more weeding, planting 15 boxwood plants I bought on-sale on the one sunny day we had this past spring and filling my planter boxes with petunias I bought back in May in a fit of momentary excitement.