A Lovely Labor Day Stay-cation

Most people leave for Labor Day. We debated and dithered. We backed and we forthed, but ultimately we decided to stay. And I’m pleased to report we had a very lovely stay-cation.

Friday
Friday night Soren and I babysat our friends’ 3-month-old son. He seemed pleased to see us at first. But when he realized our boobs don’t produce milk, he became infuriated. Crying followed by more crying followed by even harder crying. Finally, exhausted, he collapsed on my chest and slept. Poor little guy. His parents had a lovely, but short, dinner — just the two of them.

Saturday
Saturday was a lazy, hot day. After spending the morning cleaning, we met up with friends in Prospect Park for a picnic. The spread included a delicious beet salad composed of raw beets, raw carrots, raw red onion, parsley, orange juice, olive oil and lemon juice. You would think raw beets would be tough, but these were delicious, perhaps because they were matchsticked. The recipe (more or less) is here. Perfect! I may attempt it myself this weekend. After the picnic, we followed our friends back to their house for an impromptu party. They are very good at having impromptu parties because 1. they have a phenomenal back yard with an expansive garden and a fire pit, 2. six people live in their house and 3. they are masters at whipping together on-the-fly meals.

Sunday
Sunday I hit the farmer’s market. Then I came home and canned dilly beans. I added dill seeds, a clove of garlic and a hot pepper to each jar. Everything seemed to work out fine. The jars sealed with no problems. But I won’t know how they taste for a few more weeks. The beans have to sit for 4 to 6 weeks before we can enjoy them.

That evening, we took a train to Astoria to visit more friends. Brooklyn and Queens are right next to each other, but trekking from one to the other takes as long as a trans-Atlantic journey. Ok, maybe not THAT long, but at least 1.5 hours. We might as well live in different cities. Still, the trip was worth it. Thanks for a delightful evening, Sally and Kyle!

Monday
So our weekend wasn’t wholly a stay-cation. Monday our friends (who are fortunate enough to own a car) drove us to Cold Spring, a small town on the Hudson about an hour north of the city. The whole area is ringed with miles and miles of hiking trails. We chose a 5 or 6 mile loop that took us to the top of Bull Mountain (Mt. Taurus). It was a perfect day for hiking, cool with not too much sun. The views were awesome, and the greenness of the forest definitely helped ease some of the constant frenzy that comes with city living.

Our friends’ dog, Gunther, apparently felt the magic as well. In the city, he absolutely REFUSES to walk farther than a block. But he had no problem finishing this hike. He even had a chance to run off leash.

Large game was in short supply, but we did manage to see bugs, slugs, spiders and a single snake. In the Midwest, the slugs are gray and small — about the size of a jelly bean. They are disgusting, for sure, but relatively inconspicuous. The slugs in the East are brightly colored and enormous, 3 to 5 inches. I first noticed them on the sidewalks in our neighborhood.

Brooklyn slugs have leopard spots. The slugs on the trail in Cold Spring — all eleventy billion of them — were rust colored with black tentacles. Once I spotted the first one, I couldn’t stop seeing them. They were everywhere, and so were their slimy slug trails.

I told my mom about enormous eastern slugs the last time I was home, and she asked me “What are slugs for?” The question seemed enigmatic at the time, but now I realize it was a good one.

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