Chickens, I don’t know about your corner of the cosmos, but where I live, it’s boiling. We seemed to have blown through spring and plunged straight into triple digit heat index with its attendant horrors. It’s too hot to even think these days, so I’m compiling some of my very FAVORITE summer indulgences. Enjoy!
First, reading. Is there anything better than lazing around on a summer day with a good book? Here are some recs:
*Suzette A. Hill’s “Bones” series. The five book series begins with A LOAD OF OLD BONES, and since it’s five rather slender books, you can have the pleasure of finishing an entire series in a very short time. It will feel like an accomplishment in a season of indolence! But it will also feel like a serious pleasure. If you’ve enjoyed the Flavia de Luce books, these should feel delightfully familiar. The setting is an English village in the 1950s, and the main character, Francis Oughterard, is a vicar who just happens to murder a parishioner at the start of the first book. It’s BRILLIANTLY done because, honestly, it’s not that easy to make readers root for a murderer. There are passages narrated by his dog and cat which I expected not to like, but they are hilariously well done and not at all intrusive. It would have been incredibly simple to overdo the animal narrations, but they are handled so deftly and with so much good humor, they were perfectly enjoyable.
*And a few books from summer lists past–Raffaella Barker’s Venetia books, HENS DANCING and SUMMERTIME, are delightful. They are contemporary novels set in Norfolk and feature a charmingly inept single mother of three. And Cathleen Schine’s THE LOVE LETTER is a summer fave. She captures the season so perfectly, I can’t imagine letting a summer go by and not reading it. Deliciously poetic. And if you want a bit of something magical, give Susan Addison Allen’s THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON a read. (I’m also immensely smitten with Gerald Durrell for warm weather reading.)
Other ways to keep cool:
*Watermelon Margaritas. I tweeted about this and got several requests for a recipe. I found it in one of Martha Stewart’s magazines and it’s very simple: bring to a boil 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Simmer for three minutes and remove from heat to let cool. (Sugar should be completely dissolved.) Blend 2 cups or so of watermelon chunks in the blender. Strain. (This is essential. Otherwise you’ll have a watermelon/tequila slushy. Which I suppose is not an entirely bad thing, but not quite a margarita, either.) Combine watermelon juice with cooled sugar syrup, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, and 3/4 cup silver tequila. Serves four. Now, personally, I prefer a traditional margarita, but I had no Cointreau or Triple Sec in the house, so watermelon it was. These go quite well with fish tacos or Nigella Lawson’s cold Chinese chicken salad.
*White cotton clothes. I seem to have amassed a collection of white cotton without meaning to. I have five skirts, a pair of shorts, two pairs of cargo pants, seven blouses, and four dresses. I’m not entirely sure this is normal unless you’re Isak Dinesen, but nothing feels more like summer than some variation on white cotton. I am particularly fond of long, petticoat-style skirts, probably because it makes me feel like I’m camping out on the Serengeti, even if I’m just doing the laundry.
*Pocket Pond. My new favorite iPhone app. Seriously. It is a tiny koi pond that you carry around on your phone. It even has nature sounds. You can make little plinking noises in the pond as if you just skimmed a stone. You can feed the koi and populate your pond with lily pads and dragonflies. (You can also kill the dragonflies and feed them to the fish if you like.) It’s incredibly relaxing.
*Lighter fragrance. I seldom wear Chanel No.5 in summer. I think it’s too much of a good thing. Right now I’m wearing Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria in Mandarine-Basilic or Frederic Malle’s En Passant. I also have a bit of L’Occitane’s Eau d’Azur left because I think mimosa is lovely in warm weather, and citrus is ALWAYS a splendid idea.
*Herbs. We always have a few pots going–one of mint, which does not play nicely with other herbs–and one mixed: lavender, rosemary, cilantro, basil, thyme, chives, oregano. To me nothing says summer like being able to crush a handful of your own sun-warmed herbs in your fingers. We always buy ours individually and plant them together in a large pot, but last week I saw fabulous mixed pots at my local market–already planted and ready to go! Even if you have a fairly brown thumb, as I do, you should be able to nurse these along for a few months.