An Ode to my Deck

So it’s just past 8. The sun has turned the evening sky into a soft magenta. I’m sipping dark roast coffee and, as soon as I finish this blog entry, I am going to sink my fork into a miracle of summer… but that’s an aside.

Oh, I may have forgotten to add – I’m on my deck. The deck that Royal Homes designed and included in the overall finishing package of our home. It’s lodged neatly under a roof, keeping it comfortable in the heat of the sun. Yet the lines are open to the evening breeze.

I love my deck in the early light of the morning and the waning light of dusk. In the morning, I sip my coffee, tap into my news app and stare over the edge of my tablet and watch the robins search for insects and worms in my lawn. It’s the perfect way to start the day.

But on nights like tonight, I can’t believe the beauty.

Because the Royal Home design team worked up the design – it works with the overall structure of my home. There is nothing worse than a gorgeous new home – with a deck tacked on. The team was awesome on the details, making sure the deck echoed the plan for the exterior of our home.

The team talked to us about our lifestyle, how we would use the deck and helped us design the deck right into the original plan for the home. It’s right off the family room, so it’s easy to slip into after dinner and enjoy a quiet drink. Or, when the whole family is here, we use it as an extension of our living area. The design team took into account the size of the doorway, the traffic flow to the deck and from the deck – and made sure it was close to the coffee machine and fridge.

They also paid attention to lighting and electrical. There’s nothing as frustrating as having to use my trouble light to play a game of Settlers with my grandson. But the lights were fitted into the design, giving me the choice of soft lighting for romantic moments – and brighter light for the kids. We also have electrical outlets – so when my tablet is running low, I just plug it in. No need to go inside.

Now, as I get ready to sink my fork into this amazing Pavlova – I’ll share my secret with you. Pavlova is basically a meringue with fruit (no class, my wife tells me). It is unbelievably easy to make and your friends will think you’re a dessert god. It is light and fruity and perfect in the soft light of the setting sun.

You start with 4 egg whites. Just beat them until they form soft peaks (I have no idea, that’s what it always says. Just make sure they are not stiff – that’s too much beating.) Then add superfine sugar. The trick is to make sure the sugar is fully incorporated, so the meringue isn’t gritty. I do different things. If I don’t have super fine sugar, I throw it in the blender for 30 seconds… voila – superfine sugar. Sometimes I use brown sugar – just make sure you blend it to get every single lump. The flavour profile is very different if you use brown sugar. It will have a toffee taste and the meringue will be slightly stickier. My friends love the brown sugar one! While you’re beating, add a cup of sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Beat until the egg whites are stiff and glossy. Add a bit of vanilla, a teaspoon of cornstarch – it adds a nice touch to the end product. You can also substitute cream of tartar for the cornstarch. Make sure it is well beaten.

Place baking paper on a cookie sheet. Draw a large circle or a lot of little circles – use them as your guide to placing the meringue. Fill the circles with meringue. Spread; making a slight well in the center for the filling. Bake at 250 degrees F for 1 hour – then turn off the oven and let it cool completely in the oven – don’t take it out.

Then the fun starts. Just before serving, top the meringue with fresh fruit – berries, peaches, apricots, mangos – whatever – use your imagination. I particularly like peaches that have been skinned, sliced and flamed with a bit of brandy before adding them to the dessert – seriously – it’s amazing. I often add a thin layer of rich custard or vanilla pudding before I place the fruit – but you don’t need to. Top with fresh whipped cream and you’re done.

Now, a sunset, a dark roast coffee and my Pavlov – the miracle of summer.


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