Monday, September 27, 2010

Our dear little deer.....performing for company

 We were sitting in the back yard on Labor Day with Sarah's parents, Mike and Anne, who were visiting from the U.K., our cousins Frank and Doris, and Mike and Sarah.  Doris asked if we thought we might see our little deer family while we were sitting there.  Just then, right on cue, out of the woods they came, looking for some tasty snacks.  I wouldn't dare move from my seat to get my camera.  But here was the moment, captured by Mike Baker:

Photos by Mike Baker -- thanks Mike!!

 What else is there to say?!?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Family, food and fun, Abatemarco more fond memory

Our family gathered this weekend for some late summer sun and fun on Treasure Island Drive in Amagansett.  The weather was picture perfect on Friday and Saturday so plans for fishing, clamming, crabbing, shopping, yard-saleing and beach-napping were all systems go.  Of course, all of these activities needed to coordinate with our favorite time of day -- dinner time.  Here's how it goes Abatemarco style.  There's always an "alternative" meal planned in the event of a no-fish/no-clam/no-crab afternoon.  Dinner on Friday was at Chez Fred and Natalie.  Due to the success of our great fishermen, brothers Fred and Frank and my husband Phil, the "alternative" was not necessary.  "Bluefish a la Fred" would be the main course for tonight.  But first, some calamari salad by Aunt Natalie, followed by a wonderful lobster bisque by Aunt Toni, also known as the "goddess of the greens."   Fred's bluefish was melt-in-your-mouth perfect and Aunt Natalie's Apulian potato-tomato casserole and roasted vegetable medly was the best.  Gina made a nappa cabbage and tomato salad with a super refreshing rice vinegar dressing.  Then, my favorite part of the meal, dessert by Aunt Natalie -- a rustic peach tart that tasted as great as it looked.  There were ten of us at the table -- Fred and Natalie, Frank and Toni, Dan and Natalie (our newly-weds celebrating one year on Sunday, September 12), Gina, Uncle Tono, Phil and me.  We talked about everything from militant vegans, community supported agriculture to, ahem, bed-bugs.

Saturday morning at Chez Frank and Toni began with breakfast on their lovely deck.  Fred and Natalie joined us and we planned the events for the day.  Frank put on his ClamManiac hat and clam holsters and Phil knew he was going clamming.

Our favorite "clam warden"
Fred decided to save his energy for some late afternoon fishing.  But first, we headed out to some interesting yard sales.  The first one on Bluff Road scored Fred and Natalie a little carved Chinese end table and some pretty vintage silver-plated flatware.  Toni found a Copco salad spinner for $1 and I resisted many urges for things I could really do without. 

Yard Sale on Bluff Road
We dropped Fred and Gina off and die-hard yard salers, Natalie, Toni and I drove to Montauk where Toni found a very charming pottery lamp with a pierced shade.  I couldn't resist the cute little gravy boat with the painted rose for $2.  We picked up an anniversary carrot cake at Montauk Bakery for Dan and Natalie, some odds and ends for tonight's dinner and then headed back to T.I. Drive.  When we arrived, Gina had prepared some sauteed veggies and quinoa for lunch, which was delicious.

We planned on having linguini with white clam sauce for dinner, if our hunters Frank and Phil were successful, followed by eggplant parmesan. Clamming conditions were not good, so Frank and Phil switched gears and went crabbing.  Toni and I were headed for the beach when the call came in from Frank and Phil.  "We're loaded with crabs -- put the sauce on!!"   Our dynamic duo became line man and net man and managed to get 10 good sized crabs.  The story was that these critters were begging to get caught and were practically jumping out of the water.   Off to the beach to enjoy a lovely late afternoon, while our great hunters, Fred, Frank and Phil headed out to Montauk again for more fishing.

crabs a plenty
Now the task at hand was to get the crabs "ready" to go into the sauce.  This means cutting off their claws so they can't bite you and so you can clean them.  Here, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Yes, those are garden shears in that bucket!!
Tonight's dinner started with a champagne and cassis anniversary toast to Dan and Natalie.  First course, linguini with sweet crab sauce, topped with some fresh basil.  Next, the crabs.  Now the only sound heard is the cracking of claws and an occasional slurp as the sweet crab meat gets sucked out of those tasty knuckles and claws.  Delicious with a nice chilled white Trebbiano D'Abruzzo.  My eggplant parmesan was next, which my family lovingly raved about.  Frank held a raffle for the last piece which we donated to Diane, who arrived later that evening from Northampton Mass.  We topped off this delicious meal with Aunt Toni's fabulous salad of tender romaine, fresh green beans and sweet red tomatoes.  Dessert was the wonderful carrot cake from Montauk Bakery and another delicious dessert from Aunt Natalie -- peach cobbler with granola and almond butter topping.  After this delicious meal and lots of talk and laughter we said goodnight with the promise of a good-bye breakfast in the morning of Frank's famous blueberry muffins.
Aunt Toni -- "Goddess of the Greens"
Fred and Natalie (Toni's yard sale lamp in the background)
Happy First Anniversary Dan and Natalie

Diane arrives
The eggplant raffle
And the winner is.....Natalie!!
Clam warden turned muffin-man with drac-a-drac muffins
As always, we were sorry to say so long to everyone after this wonderful weekend. Aside from another very fond memory being made, we leave knowing that we are blessed with having a loving, caring and generous family.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Oh deer...a change in tune

After the deer ravaged my gorgeous hanging baskets of impatiens last year, I seriously thought about serving venison for Thanksgiving. I know some of my friends and family were appalled at the thought and some (few) applauded my campaign to shoot every deer that came near our lovingly tended plants and flowers. I heard it all – "they were here first;" "they're God's creatures;" "it's the order of life;" blah, blah, blah. OK, so we took some of this in and compromised – only planted things that were labeled "not preferred by deer," spent a small fortune on smelly repellents, even left a portable radio playing on our front steps. Phil has sprayed, sprinkled, meshed, and fenced. So, we live and let live, but I still just tolerated these creatures of God – until….

One lovely day this past spring, Phil opened the front door when a deer dashed passed him on her way into the woods. This was not unusual, but when he looked further, he saw two tiny deer on very wobbly legs-- in the mulch along our driveway. He must have spooked mama deer and so she left the babies where they were. We couldn't believe our eyes. They could only have been hours old. Just like the Bambi movie – spots and all! We were so excited to see these newborns, totally forgetting that they will eventually turn into shrub-eating beasts. Phil was so enchanted by these little ones; he gave them names – Bam and Bee. Now we wondered if mama deer would come back for her babies after being spooked by Phil. We waited for hours, checking in on the babies from a distance every so often, but no mama. We were worried. Phil called our county's Animal Control Department. They assured him that mama would come back this evening. We should keep our distance from the babies, so she wouldn't be turned off or spooked again. Well, mama did come back and now they live in and around our yard. We see them all the time and have become quite fond of them – believe it!!

Bam and Bee
Waiting for Mama
Big ears!
Mama and babes

So you think I'm now a deer lover, well I still had a few reservations until….

Last week in a rain storm I watched our mama deer just sitting on our neighbor's front lawn, hardly moving in the pouring rain. How could this be? I never see deer in the rain. I had always assumed they were lying low somewhere in the woods -- but not our mama. She just sat there in the rain for a very long time. I showered, straightened out the house, put a load of clothes in the dryer and looked out again – she was still there – not moving. It stopped raining. Another hour goes by. Now I'm worried – she has a broken leg or worse. She's going to die right there on my neighbor's lawn. OK, don't panic. Wait a little while longer before you call Animal Control. I take another look out the window (I'm obsessed with this). Now I see one little Bam or Bee coming out from the woods. She spots her mama where she sits and goes prancing happily over to her just like a puppy. She gets under mama's belly and starts to feed. Then along comes the other little one – same thing. After playing and nibbling on my neighbor's grass for a while, all three are off to who-knows-where. Tears came to me eyes. Mama wasn't sick or injured. Just doing what a mama does – waiting for her kids to come home.