Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Monday, July 12, 2010

Picnic on the Porch

Some of the best summer evenings are spent with dear friends on our tiny screened porch. It never matters that we're crammed together around the table, elbows bumping, feet tangling, as we pass food and drink. Laughter comes more easily outside. The waves thunder against the ledges, rainbows arch across the cloudy sky, and later, when the candles sputter, and the last of the food disappears, the fireflies begin their dance.

Yesterday I woke early and began the preparations for a picnic on the porch. I trimmed 6 artichokes and blended herbs and lemons for their topping. I popped red quinoa, then cooked it with herbs, shallots, and fresh ginger, mixed with  a spoonful of curry. Three pounds of freshly filleted haddock were cleaned, spread atop a mound of spinach, doused with lemon juice and Pinot Grigio, dotted with butter, and readied for the oven. Jeff sliced Maine sweet Italian sausage and I skewered them with onions and red bell peppers. I baked bread chips, dished out goat cheeses, sliced cucumbers and avocados, garlic scapes, and tomatoes for a salad, and set the table. My pal Marilyn, who makes one of the best Caesar salads in the universe, volunteered to bring that part of our meal.

A storm hit us in the afternoon, misty sea spray drifted through the screens and wet the glasses, and the tablecloth threatened to kite out the window. "Dress warmly," I cautioned our friends, "it is raining and breezy, but we're NOT eating indoors." I wondered if anyone would opt to bow out of the party, but all the hearty souls arrived and the celebration began.

Jeff took this photo of us feasting. Herb Schaal, the designer of the new children's garden at the Coastal Maine Botanical garden (I'll have a post on that garden in a few days) sits beside his wife Cindy, my pal Marilyn, and Heather and Doug.

Tarts devoured, fireflies dancing, stories told, and all prepare to leave.

Thanks for stopping by. I love hearing from you and will try to answer your comments and letters.

All joys,


P.S. Last week my dear friend Elizabeth Murray, author and photographer of Monet's Passion (a newly released anniversary edition by Pomegranate Press) stopped by for a visit and supper. I am including an audio of Lizzie on NPR. Liz is the first female allowed to work in Monet's gardens at Giverny. She is  remarkable. I know you'll be inspired by her words and her work, oh, and let's not forget her TENACITY. I admire that ability to stick to it just about more than anything.
Elizabeth Murray and Toolie


Vee said...

You've got that Maine grit down pat, but you sure do eat funny. :D

Everything looks delightful and, yes, delicious, too. How wonderful to enjoy the afternoon and evening there on the porch with friends.

Off to listen to your friend who has quite an amazing story.

Vee said...

Wow! What an opportunity for E. Murray! I enjoyed listening to her describe the gardens and that awe in her voice was very evident as well as the childlike enthusiasm.

Beth said...

Hi, Sharon! I've been summering it up with my boy 24/7 and not blogging much, so it was a nice surprise to visit here today and see that you are in Maine, now. I have this wonderful book and have given copies away, as well. It is one of my favorite books and one of my favorite places. We have visited Giverny 3 times in 3 different seasons, and loved it every time. It was pouring rain during my favorite visit. The colors glowed in the gloomy day! Some of my favorite pictures in Monet's Passion are the ones of the misty late summer morning with the burning, towering dahlias lighting up the haze. love, Beth

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Vee,

Elizabeth's story is amazing. Doors were slammed in her face over and over, but she had her mind made up that she wanted to volunteer to work in the garden for a year. She had to learn French, give up her job in America, store stuff, and travel to France where she lived in an attic type space on the grounds of his garden. She was homesick and lonely, but she stuck it out. I am so proud of her.


Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Vee,

Elizabeth's story is amazing. Doors were slammed in her face over and over, but she had her mind made up that she wanted to volunteer to work in the garden for a year. She had to learn French, give up her job in America, store stuff, and travel to France where she lived in an attic type space on the grounds of his garden. She was homesick and lonely, but she stuck it out. I am so proud of her.


Sharon Lovejoy said...

oops, what is this double posting stuff going on? And, I've had lots of problems with blogger today.

This is for Beth. I am so glad you love her book too. I was there in September (for my birthday) and the sunflowers were in glory and the grand allee had nasturtiums tumbling all the way across it. When I do my talk, The Artist in the Garden-The Garden in the Artist, I show shots of these special features. Love it.

Glad to hear from you!


Farmgirl Cyn said...

Ooh! Wish I was there! You set a lovely, friendly table! No wonder no one opted out!!!

Erin | Bygone Living said...

You have such a breath-taking view... WOW! What a wonderful dinner that must have been. Wish I were there! ♥

Lori ann said...

Dear Sharon,
this must be one of the most charming posts in the entire blogosphere. I love the photos and especially the one of you at the dinner table with your apron still on. That is the prettiest table ever, and oh your view. I love the sunlight to candlelight, how could anyone miss that?? (glad to see they didn't).
Your summer looks so lovely, we have been blanketed in fog for weeks here, so be extra glad your there!

Congratulations to your friend, i want to go order this book for myself right now!


Kay's flowers said...

Hi Sharon,
Your table is lovely and the view is inspiring! I've never been to Maine and hope to visit there someday.

The menu sounds divine.

I love Monet! Here story sounds wonderful.


Lemon Verbena Lady said...

We are going to France next year and hopefully I will be back in Monet's gardens! Of all of the books I have, I don't have Elizabeth's. Have to get a copy! Like everyone said, lovely view and dinner with friends. Doesn't get better than that! You are very lucky and so am I.

Unknown said...

Dearest Sharon,
It's so true about tiny spaces... being so warm and intimate and just right for a circle of close dear friends or soon to be dear friends if they are first time visitors at your lovely table!
I am intrigued by the book as well! Will have to go check it out... Looks and sounds as if you're all settled in....What wonderful company you keep!
Thank you for sharing just a peak!
Dandelion Wishes,
Deb ~

Hindsfeet said...

Oh Sharon...your feast reminds me of a scene right out of "Chocolat" with Juliette Binoche.....What an absolutely *Decadent* occasion...


Little Acorn Learning said...

Oh how lovely! I wish I could come! The menu sounds delicious too - maybe you can do a cookbook next (wink).


Gski said...

My goodness! Are you in Christmas Cove? We used to spend several summers there when we were younger. We have a very good friend who lives there now. Our last visit was three years ago. Had to pick up some Damariscotta Pottery.

Checked the garden...we have sprouts!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Sharon ~ What a delightful time was had by all. Your menu was wonderful. It just goes to show, you do not have to have a large gathering space, or perfect weather.

Hugs ~ FlowerLady

Michelle said...

Thanks for bringing me along on your evening picnic!

Kristina said...

What a lovely evening enjoyed by friends! I can't wait to read Elizabeth's story! Have a happy day!


The cottage by the Cranelake said...

Sounds like a great picnic! Fantastic food and good company, can things get better :-)

Monets garden is so beautiful. I was there many years ago.
Have a great day now!

Aunt Jenny said...

Just lovely! The menu sounded perfect and it sure looks like everyone enjoyed themselves. I adore eating outdoors..everyone should try it for sure! Maine looks so pretty!! I love reading your have such a great zest for is contagious!
Have a great week!

Unknown said...

Sharon, Thx on the head's up regarding yellow. I fondly remember your column in CL Gardener! I subscribed to CL for many years, and then CL Gardener as well. How is the weather in Maine? It's been tropical here in NJ; 102 temps last week, and now the humidity is back. Thanks again for the kind comments...Keep in touch!

Dawn said...

I am so glad I know you, Sharon. You bring such a precious touch of charm and felicity to my life.

xoxo Dawn

Zuzana said...

Oh, I LOVE your porch, what a cosy setting, with beautiful views and good friends.;) Simply lovely...
I hope you are having a great summer so far,

rebecca sweet said...

I always love reading your posts first thing in the morning, while still in bed drinking my cup of coffee. It's a lovely way to start the day - thank you!

Nan said...

What a perfect time! And I love how you wrote about all the foods you prepared. The view is just wonderful, wonderful. No bugs? Must be the ocean breeze keeps them away.

a woman who is said...

Sharon your cooking sounds as delightful as your gardening. I will have to check out your friend and her book. I have been to Giverny, and for me there were no words...just tears of inspiration.

I have photo's...someday I hope to try using my brush on some of those Monet landscapes.

Anonymous said...

I am always inspired by how you consistently make the most of life. It seems that you had a joyous time with good friends and thought of us enough to get some photos too!

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

As if anyone would bow out of a dinner party with you and Jeff. A book on Monet's Garden? Count me in my friend. I'll go take a listen too. It is one of my bucket list items to see Monet's Garden and have a long time to visit, not just breeze in and out.

Another is to visit you and have dinner again. We so enjoyed getting to know you two in person.

xoxo, Dee

Jim Long said...

The dinner, the evening and the guests, all must have been a real delight. It was fun to experience it through your words. I have a new crop of quinoa in the garden, I've not popped it before cooking, can't wait to try. The International Herb Assoc. conference has just ended and your name was brought up often by Sal Gilbertie, Betsy Wms.,Davy Dabney and others. So you were present without all the fuss of going!
Jim Long

Anonymous said...

Oh Sharon...your pic nin sounds (and looks) just wonderful...the way I like get-togethers! I would love to be one of those guests bumping elbows and tangling feet....and laughing and ejoying good conversations while the waves continue their undisturbed turbulences...just dreamy !
And thanks for the info on Elizabeth and Monet's Passion. I can's wait to hold it in my hands...and I wish I could meet both of you!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi friends,

This is to clarify what I said about "popping" quinoa. Quinoa is a seed and is a wonderful addition to your diet. Among other things it provides protein and fiber and is incredibly tasty ESPECIALLY when it is dry popped in an iron pan before cooking.

I heat a big iron pan ( NO OILS) and spread a cup or two in a thin layer and stir CONSTANTLY. The quinoa will pop and turn golden brown. Don't stop stirring or it will burn and immediately, once the quinoa is golden, remove it from the iron pan or it will continue cooking.

Sautee onions or shallots, garlic, and sliced red pepper, add a couple of cups of boiling broth or water, and cook as you would rice (on a low flame). When all liquid is absorbed, fluff with a fork.

I also cook this in place of oats for breakfast. I use milk instead of broth and add allspice and cinnamon, and sometimes vanilla and raisins.

Good luck with your popping!


suzanne said...

Dear Sharon

There is something about a porch,a country table cloth and napkins, good food, freshly picked flowers and some wonderful friends. Sharon, I understand how it is the best way to entertain in Summer. I use my veranda in Summer all the time. We over look our lovely front garden and I see you have the beauty of the ocean. These are our memories~

Thank you for your comment on my raw food journey. I will definitely try the avocado soup. They grow in abundance in Africa.

A happy weekend to you. I really do hope you have firelies..I have experienced them as a child in Zimbabwe and the awe has never left me..

Warm regards sharon

Anonymous said...

Hi Sharon, Interesting about the quinoa popping. It sounds like you had a fabulous evening with friends around the table. Such a gracious hostess. And a view to die for.

Storybook Woods said...

Well since who knows if I will ever make it to Maine, I will live vicariously through you xoxoxo Clarice

Storybook Woods said...

Well since who knows if I will ever make it to Maine, I will live vicariously through you xoxoxo Clarice