It seems as if summer has flown in with the Southern breezes and out with the chilly winds off of the lake. With bundles of wedding and dinner invitations and graduation announcements, our summer was full of birthdays (seven), anniversary celebrations (three), garden parties (four), summer camps (four), barbeques, and picnics (many). From one special occasion to another, we wound our way through the summer months blissfully and graciously.
We look forward to the balmy and lazy days of summer where we allow time to stand still . In summer we slow down our pace, move our meals out of doors, and become cool, calm, and inspired. In summer a whimsical spirit restores a sense of harmony and well being to our souls and gives us a relaxed rhythm to our lives. We are adrift in a cerulean sea of playful pursuits......making this year's summer memories.
THE FORTH OF JULY
July started with a bang and a parade to the park on the lake where we celebrated the simple things in life and added traditional values to our family, . What better symbol of July forth, than decorated bicycles parked in the shade I cannot think of anything more appropriate and charming for that special day.
Once at the park we walked to the waterfall, the light house, and then down the grand staircase....it's a forth of July tradition.
And at our July 4th barbeque, we learned a new and easy way to grill hot dogs.......why did it take so long for us to figure this out? Thanks Maggie!
In the evening after dinner, with pillows and blankets in tow, we walked down to the lake to watch the fireworks. This year it was cold, but our winter jackets and blankets did not take take away from the exuberance of the moment. July forth arrived all too quickly, and was over in flash with the spark of the last firework.
ANOTHER SUMMER BIRTHDAY
We sailed smoothly forward to another summer birthday party (one of seven). Every table top begins as an empty canvas just waiting for colors and textures to be painted on it. Like many paintings, one never knows how it will turn out.......but the decorations for this birthday began with an old handmade garland, created years ago by our two daughters and five grandchildren at one of our Three-stories' summer camps.
Birthdays always dictate a special family celebration.....even when you are in that "tween" stage of the first double digit of age 10.
Of course , the birthday guest must blow out the candles. Get ready........(with a little dance).
Get set.......(move in close).
Considering that this grandson loves to dance, hates to stand still, and is always in motion, the photos were focused just enough to catch his wild excitement
ONE OF MANY SUMMER ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS
An anniversary is much like a birthday....it is a time for celebration and an excuse to have another family party. With countless old and inherited home furnishings, I am never at a loss for fresh ideas. For me, choosing a color and setting the table is all part of the meal that I am serving. Hospitality does not just begin at home; it begins in the dining room. I read somewhere that the key to successful dinning is in the chemistry of the company, and there is always great chemistry (along with noise and chaos) at our family dinner table.
While anniversaries are celebrated with a little more levity than birthdays, these events are still a refreshing treat for our Wednesday night dinners.
All winter long while using dark gem tone colors as accents, I dream of the summer months when pastels can rule the table. My favorites are light garden pinks and sea foam turquoise........this particular anniversary celebration called for pink. The day was sunny and cool with "dreamy" breezes from the lake. It was perfect in pink and white.
PICNICS IN THE PARK
And July means it's picnic time. Every Monday night we meet a large group of summer friends at the park for an evening picnic....a picnic that lasts until after dark. Seasonal goodies are shared among seasonal friends.......much like a summer home where you entertain your summer guests. It is always fun to catch up on a winter's worth of news, especially with friends that we see only in summer.
Hours before the picnic begins, a picnic friend arrives at the park to set the tables. There can be thirty picnic guests gathered around the table on any given Monday evening.
Over the years, our picnics have become quite a culinary delight. It is always sad to close the door on the night of the last picnic of the summer.
OUR SUMMER GARDEN
One of many summer highlights is always the garden tour. The tour and it's hundreds of guests is a growing event on the Upper East Side. We gardeners (with or without help), open our gardens up the last weekend in July for this wonderful summer social event. Many garden parties are held the week before the tour to make sure that every garden detail is covered. Throughout the month, our son-in-law stops by regularly to pinch, pull, and add to the garden. He has helped to make our garden a highly usable space to showcase.
With tables and chairs in every nook and corner the garden warmly invites alfresco reading, dining, or snoozing.
And who doesn't like to spy on someone else's garden? I love to see what feats other gardeners
are exhibiting......it allows my imagination to expand and run wild. With garden maps in hand, fellow gardeners are able to walk freely through East Side gardens and to investigate the hidden treasures that are just waiting to be found behind those closed garden gates.
Grooming for a garden tour can be a little stressful at times but no garden is ever perfect. Thank goodness the rain held off and the day was cool....great weather for a walking garden tour.
When there are young children around, there is sure to be a fairy garden for them to work in.
And when a child tires of cleaning up the fairy garden, there is always the sand box to rake. On tour day, we leave the rake sitting in the sandbox for our many visitors where they can enjoy a moment of "Zen" gardening. Each and every corner of the garden revels it's own heart and soul.
THE ANNUAL ISLAND PARTY
In August, when the sun sets noticeably earlier in the evening and there is sometimes a hint of fall in the air, it is time for the annual Island Party. Neighbors encompassing three blocks, get together for an end of summer party..... where children play in the streets, adults savor good food and drink, music is loud, and the evening ends with a bonfire and marshmallow roast. We fill our old "woody" wagon with food that reminds us of summer, and head for the party....just a half block away.
When the sun begins to set, the fire pit is prepared and families gather for the last few hours of the day. The evening air is still filled with the sweet fragrances of food as the children scamper barefoot through the island grass to toast their marshmallows.
This is the best time of night....it holds an enchantment that only occurs during what my aunt called "the bewitching" hours. The bewitching hours are the hours between full darkness and midnight, the last hours of the day. My aunt always thought that children should be put to bed before the bewitching hours began, otherwise the children would be out of sorts the following day.
We may run into our neighborhood friends during the winter months, but summer is a time for renewing our bonds through our community Island Party.
IN THE KITCHEN......IT'S ALL ABOUT FOOD.
Savory and simple meals play an important part of our summer evenings. With healthy choices from farmers' markets which are located all over our city, preparing, serving, and eating meals, is a healthy family event. The evening meal served outside just before the sun goes down, seems to enhance the senses of taste and smell. I have often said that I cook my way from one season to the next, many times making notes in bed at night for our meal the next day.
Grilled flattened Chicken. A quick and very flavorful way to cook chicken is to cut it in half lengthwise (leaving it still still slightly attached) and flattening it out before placing it on the grill. Keep the chicken off of the hot coals. It takes about 30 minutes to cook.
Skip the carbs and have two servings of vegetables instead.
Exchange the chicken for grilled salmon.
One of my very favorite salads is a fresh beet salad. It's so easy to make. Saute until tender.... cubed beets and garden potatoes, chopped beet tops, sliced onions or leek (optional), and crushed garlic. When the vegetable mixture is room temperature, place it on a bed of chopped lettuce and add cold purple grapes, olive oil, and lemon juice. Healthy and delectable.
Do not forget to adorn a salad with a few edible flowers. The colors, textures and tastes of fresh vegetables and lettuces are so beautiful and it's fun to mix and match your own favorites. That's how new recipes are born.
A barbeque the old fashioned way may not be slimming or too healthy but it shouts "Summer"!
Don't forget to spend a little extra time making a weekend breakfast or brunch. I took this recipe from one of my favorite restaurants and it's a big hit in hot weather and perfect for dining on the porch.
THOSE LAST FEW DAYS OF SUMMER
When boats are getting covered for winter, when docks are being taken apart, after that last ride in the sailboat.......many families try to make those remaining days of summer last forever. We certainly do.
If in my mind I could stay in the month of June (young summer), to remember the first scent of freshly cut grass, the first summer sip of lemonade, the crocus heads gently pushing up through the dewy soil, I would be delighted. But as the newness of summer wears away I find myself forgetting those first exciting moments.
And so during the last few days before school begins, the weekend before Labor Day, I try indulge in an assortment of activities. My favorites?
Long and lazy out door lunches...... traveling away from the city....... in any direction with any destination.
I am at my best when I am with my family.
I am at my second best when I have a beautiful view surrounding me.
During those last few days of August we make our last summer memories.
I find it coincidental that this morning I should happen upon a quote from Hans Christian Anderson....."Just living is not enough,...one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower." How true!!