Today, in Maine, it is the most spectacular pre-fall day. Fifty-nine degrees, high blue sky. I turned on the heat in the Jeep, rolled down the windows, turned up NPR and we drove all over doing errands and walking the dog along sidewalked streets looking at houses and porches, dreaming and making plans, and feeling amazed that everything is changing again. This summer was chaotic and full of transition, but mostly it was really great. And one of the very best new things is integrating Violet into my old adventures and routines. Since I was old enough to drive and have a little money in my pocket I have spent the summer with a car full of beach blankets and chairs and empty iced coffee cups, and a bag of bathing suits and towels for spontaneous trips to the shore. Instead of going it alone, now I have a sidekick. One who chases ducks and appropriates strangers’ toys and refuses to drink from a sippy cup.
She has grown so much since June. Then, she’d hardly spent any time walking outside and was unsure of the uneven ground. Now she runs down little hills and wants to climb steep steps and scramble ahead of me at the beach. She loved splashing in the water from the first time I took her to the beach. By the end of August, she was wading in the lake up to her chest and taking both my hands so I could swoosh her around, while she laughed up to the sky. I hold her on her belly and she puts her face in and kicks. Next summer she will swim like a fish, I predict. We went a lot of places close to home, discovered woods and beaches and gardens. We walked all over town. We went to the lobster festival events, including her first parade, to the farmers market most weeks, and all the green spaces we could find. We went out of town, too. To visit my family in Connecticut and to Storyland in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Mostly, we didn’t travel far.
We were sort of stuck here doing nothing much. Reading books on rainy days and spending every other second outside until bedtime. It was the summer we became buddies. We held hands and shared sandwiches. We laughed about stuff we saw and swayed to live music and danced in the living room to our favorite songs. There are songs she wants on repeat and songs we sing when she’s in the backpack and we’re waiting for something to happen. We walked barefoot on the sand and ruined the bottoms of our dresses as the hems dipped in the ocean. We got stained with strawberries and blueberries, not so much raspberries because those make our mouths pucker. We went on swings and down slides and picked herbs and smelled flowers. Now summer is ending. Which makes me a little sad, but mostly happy, because we have classes resuming and boots to wear and all sorts of cozy events to look forward to.
I am transplanting the rosemary, the only plant I can’t kill once indoors and putting away the shorts and flip flops, closing the windows and airing out the winter comforters. It’s time for slippers in the morning. Sweaters on our early morning outings with Olivia. We had our annual Labor Day Lobster Feed and after that is over I realize I will miss sand in my hair and not wearing shoes and hot, sticky nights and her kid pajama sets with polka dot shorts. The air feels different, smells different, it’s in between and changing constantly. We have one last pint of strawberries from Beth’s in the fridge before it’s time for apples and pumpkins. I wanted to make then into a homey dessert, because none of my desserts are the kind you’d see on Cake Fancy, and I like to eat cake for breakfast.
For the strawberry topping:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup sliced strawberries
For the cake:
- 1–1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 stick butter
- 2/3 cups brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup sour cream
For the strawberry topping:
- Preheat oven to 350. Put the 2 tablespoons of butter in an 8 or 9 inch cake pan and place in the oven until it melts. Remove it from the oven, swirl the butter around. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and layer the sliced strawberries. Set aside while you make the cake.
For the cake:
- In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla extract and the egg. Pour in dry ingredients until just combined, then stir in sour cream.
- Use a large spoon to dollop the batter into the pan on top of the strawberry layer without disturbing the fruit. Spread the batter evenly and give the pan a little shake.
- Bake 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and turn onto a cake plate. Serve with freshly whipped cream, if desired.
Adapted from a recipe by Joy the Baker
- Serving Size: Serves 6