Back in early June, I posted a Summer Manifesto – a list of things I wanted to be sure not to miss this summer. Somehow, we’re almost through July, and the warm, golden days are flying by. So, here’s an update on the manifesto (with photos).

berry bowl strawberries blueberries summer

  • Visit the farmers’ market at Harvard – every week if possible. Buy loads of fresh produce, especially berries and tomatoes. I’m walking over to the market every Tuesday, and I have spent an obscene amount of money on raspberries and tomatoes (even for me).
  • Go to Shakespeare on the Common – they’re doing Twelfth Night this year. (It starts this weekend!)

katie cavendish beach pei

family rockport

  • Host my parents for a visit, and take them up to Cape Ann, north of Boston. That photo is a family selfie, taken in Rockport, where we had a wonderful time (details forthcoming).
  • Dig into some summer reading. (Maybe I’ll make a syllabus like Anne.) The syllabus did not happen, but the reading is definitely happening. Favorite summer reads so far include Mambo in Chinatown, All the Light We Cannot See, The Alpine Path, Parnassus on Wheels, Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy, and my third reread of To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • Drink fruity summer teas, eat Ben & Jerry’s Greek frozen yogurt, and balance it all with salads. Check, check, check (though I could use some more salads).
  • Go to an outdoor movie. (Not yet, but soon!)
  • Tour the Longfellow House, which is right down the street from my office. (Ditto.)

book limeade harvard yard summer

  • Spend lots of time outside – reading, lounging, walking, relaxing. Every lunch break, every evening, all the extra time I can. Summer is so short in New England, and the only thing to do is soak it up.

How are you savoring summer?

the bookstore lenox ma

For Once in My Life, Marianne Kavanagh
Tess and George are soul mates – but they’ve never met. As their friends try to set them up and life pulls them in different directions, they both wonder if they’ll ever find true love. Fun concept, so-so execution. An accurate but depressing portrait of feeling aimless in your 20s.

The Great Greene Heist, Varian Johnson
This book became an emblem of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. But it’s also a fun, fast-paced heist story featuring an entertaining cast of middle schoolers. Reminded me of Ally Carter’s Heist Society series, or Ocean’s 11 for teens.

All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
Marie-Laure is a blind Parisian girl living with her father, the keeper of the keys at the Natural History Museum. Werner Pfennig is a private in Hitler’s Wehrmacht, obsessed with (and good at fixing) radios. Told in alternating short chapters of stunning prose, this novel traces Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s stories until they intersect in August 1944, in the walled French city of Saint-Malo. Gorgeous, heartbreaking, full of tension and small moments of hope.

Mambo in Chinatown, Jean Kwok
I loved Kwok’s Girl in Translation and loved her second novel even more. Charlie Wong struggles to care for her younger sister while keeping her new job at a dance studio a secret from their strict father. A beautiful novel about family, tough choices, being caught between cultures, and becoming someone you never thought you could be. Gorgeous and highly recommended.

Saving Lucas Biggs, Marisa de los Santos & David Teague
I love de los Santos’ adult fiction. This middle-grade time-travel novel (co-written by de los Santos and her husband) follows the fortunes of a small Arizona mining town. Margaret O’Malley travels back to 1938, attempting to change the life of the judge who has sentenced her father to death. A sweet, thoughtful and moving story.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami
I’m not a runner, but I’ve been curious about this book for years. The parts about writing (and running in Cambridge) were far more interesting to me than the running chronology.

Mrs. Pollifax Pursued, Dorothy Gilman
After finding a teenage girl hiding in her storage closet, Mrs. Pollifax calls in her CIA connection to go undercover – to a traveling carnival. A slightly wacky plotline even for this series, but as always, Mrs. P saves the day.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

sunset blue mussel cafe pei

I’ve been thinking lately about loss. Not the deep, jagged grief occasioned by the loss of a close family member or friend, but the smaller losses, more peripheral but no less meaningful.

Last month I heard about the death of a family friend, a gentle man I’ve always called Uncle Harold – not a blood relative, but someone I have known and loved all my life. He was my grandfather’s close friend for many years; his wife and my grandmother talked every day until Mimi’s death, two years ago. Harold’s son and daughter grew up with my dad and uncles, and his grandson is my lifelong friend. I know my loss is small compared to that of Harold’s wife, Carmen, and their family. But his death marked another small shift in the foundations of my world, and I realized it’s happening with increasing frequency.

Last summer, when Lindsey wrote about being thirty-eight, she said, “Thirty-eight is not having any more grandparents.” At thirty, I still have two grandparents – my mom’s parents, who live in the Texas Hill Country near San Antonio. But my dad’s folks are both gone: my grandfather back in 2000, my grandmother in 2012. With Uncle Harold’s death, Aunt Carmen is the only one left of that quartet of friends, who used to spend long evenings playing card games or chatting over dinner. I don’t find myself in southwest Missouri very often any more, and I am glad Harold is no longer suffering (he struggled with Parkinson’s for years). But it makes me sad to know he isn’t there, and that Carmen is all alone.

I am starting to lose the pillars of my childhood, those relatives and family friends who were always there, who could be counted on for Christmas and birthday cards and occasional phone calls. They didn’t always share my DNA or live close by, but they made up the foundation of my early years. I have, so far, been fortunate: my parents and sister, along with my husband and his parents, are still here and healthy, and I know (without wanting to seem morbid) that there are greater losses in all our futures. But every time I hear that someone I loved has died, the foundation shifts a little, and I realize again that this is part of what it means to grow up.

Another family friend, Susan, has recently been moved to hospice care, still hovering on the periphery of life for now. She moved away after her divorce and I haven’t seen her for many years, but I remember her clearly from when I was a little girl, her dark hair and almond-shaped eyes and gentle smile. I remember when each of her three daughters joined their family: her oldest, Lauren, was born just before my sister Betsy turned four, and I remember Susan cradling her, wrapped in a yellow blanket, at Betsy’s birthday party. I used to baby-sit Lauren and her sisters in the summers, watching Disney Channel shows and making lunches and letting them brush my hair. They are now in their twenties, all long limbs and shiny blonde hair in their Facebook photos – confident, grown-up young women.

I know Susan’s family, when they lose her, will grieve far more deeply than I will. I know this is the natural cycle of things: birth and death, over and over, world without end, amen. But I will mourn her too, as I mourned Harold: not just because their deaths will leave a hole in the fabric of their families, but because the tectonic plates of my own life will shift a bit. Because even if I haven’t seen them for years, the world is a little dimmer and sadder without the people I love.

PEI: the food

I’m nearly done recapping our wonderful PEI vacation, I promise. But I couldn’t not tell you about the delectable meals we had during our time on the Island. I’m fairly certain I have never eaten so much seafood in my life. (We ate all sorts of other delicious things, too.)

On our first morning, our hosts left a plate of treats from the Olde Village Bakery outside our door:

pei pastries

Lemon bread and chocolate-chip muffins. Yes, please.

After touring Green Gables and hiking through the Haunted Wood that first day, we were starving, so we headed to the PEI Preserve Company for chicken wraps, served with tortilla chips and house-made peach and cherry salsas. We are salsa connoisseurs, so we were eager to try these variations. They were delicious.

pei preserve company interior

We topped off our lunch with the house specialty – raspberry cream cheese pie. No words necessary.

raspberry cream cheese pie pei

On Saturday, we explored Charlottetown, the Island’s capital – browsing a few bookshops and wandering around the harbour area. We stopped at Leonhard’s for cups of sweet potato soup and delicious ham sandwiches on foccaccia bread, and finished with some sort of German pastry – unpronounceable but yummy.

leonhards charlottetown pei

Later that afternoon, we visited Young Folk & the Kettle Black for some much-needed chai – which coordinated nicely with my outfit.

young folk kettle black charlottetown

That night, we walked (shivering) down to the village harbour for a lobster supper at Fisherman’s Wharf. You choose your entree – lobster or otherwise – pay a fixed price, then enjoy seafood chowder, mussels, fresh bread and the other delights of a (no kidding) 60-foot salad bar.

fishermans wharf pei

I’ve never tackled so much lobster at once – and I might never again. It was tasty, but overwhelming. (The chowder, however, was excellent, as were the mussels, and the strawberry shortcake at the end.)

fishermans wharf lobster

Sunday saw us heading across the river for an early lunch at the Olde Glasgow Mill. (We’d been told they had brunch, but it turns out they don’t since the management has changed.) Never mind – I loved my lobster quiche (more lobster!), and J savored his vegetable curry.

old mill glasgow pei

Before the Wailin’ Jennys concert that night, we ate dinner at the Home Place in Kensington, just down the road from Indian River (where the concert was held). Simple, tasty food, but the best part (again) was the strawberry shortcake.

strawberry shortcake pei

Since we didn’t have brunch on Sunday, we tried again on Monday, returning to the PEI Preserve Company for some delectable blueberry pancakes, bacon and eggs. They do brunch just as well as they do lunch (and pie).

brunch pei preserve company

I was determined to sample PEI’s famous Malpeque oysters, so after an unsuccessful trip to Malpeque itself (everything was still closed for the season), we ended up at Carr’s in Stanley Bridge, and I savored these beauties for lunch.

carrs oyster bar pei

My seafood-loving dad would be so proud.

Twice during our trip, we stopped at Cows Creamery in Cavendish – it’s stuck in the middle of a terribly kitschy “boardwalk,” but the ice cream is scrumptious. The apple crisp ice cream (with a caramel swirl) remains my favorite.

cows ice cream pei

Our last meal in PEI was also the best: dinner at the Blue Mussel Cafe.

blue mussel cafe pei

A sunset view over the harbour, a kind and genial owner, and the best (lightly spiced) haddock I’ve ever had.

sunset blue mussel cafe pei

The blueberry pie was so delicious that J actually sang to it.

blueberry pie pei

Needless to say, we came back completely sated (and even stopped in Portsmouth for some tacos at Vida on the way home).

If you visit PEI, one thing’s for sure: you won’t starve. (Though you might gain a few pounds.)

books by color portsmouth nh

Summer always means digging into dozens of good books. A rainy, lazy 4th of July weekend and a stack of tempting titles mean I’ve been reading even more than usual. Below, the books I’ve tackled so far this month:

Butternut Summer, Mary McNear
A story of summer, first love and second chances in a Minnesota lake town. Heartwarming and pleasant, if predictable. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 12).

Mrs. Pollifax and the Whirling Dervish, Dorothy Gilman
Mrs. Pollifax heads to Morocco, posing as the aunt of an unpleasant CIA operative. Things (as always) become complicated and she finds herself fleeing through the desert with unlikely companions. Possibly the best Mrs. P adventure yet. I could NOT put this one down.

Gutenberg’s Apprentice, Alix Christie
Christie’s novel delves into the story of Johann Gutenberg and his secret printing workshop, told through the eyes of his apprentice, Peter Schoeffer. Utterly fascinating. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 23).

The Ides of April, Lindsey Davis
I liked Enemies at Home enough to pick up the first mystery featuring Flavia Albia, a private informer in ancient Rome. Albia’s sharp tongue and the intriguing setting made this a satisfying read, though I figured out the killer before she did.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
My third read of this classic and I found it as powerful as ever. I love the vividly drawn characters, especially Scout and Atticus, and the ending makes me weep. One of the great American novels, wise and engrossing and moving.

The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career, L.M. Montgomery
I bought this slim memoir at the L.M. Montgomery homestead in Cavendish, and loved her account of her childhood and early writing ambitions. Her love for the Island comes through in every line.

The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, Agatha Christie
Miss Marple investigates a death by poisoning at the local grand estate, using her famous blend of gossip and intuition to find the killer. Ingenious and fun – Christie makes perfect summer reading.

Ravenscliffe, Jane Sanderson
This sequel to Netherwood continues the intertwined adventures of working-class folks in a Yorkshire mining town and the local earl’s family. It’s Downton-esque in the complex upstairs-downstairs connections. Not as good as the first one, but compelling.

Kitchen Chinese, Ann Mah
I loved Mah’s memoir, Mastering the Art of French Eating, so picked up her novel, which follows Chinese-American Isabelle Lee as she tries to build a life in Beijing. Great food descriptions, but the story is predictable and Isabelle is frustratingly naive and dense. Pass (but pick up Mah’s memoir).

Mrs. Pollifax and the Second Thief, Dorothy Gilman
Mrs. Pollifax is summoned to Sicily by an SOS from an old CIA pal. Art forgery, old enemies and Interpol all come into play before a resolution is reached. A little hard to follow, but still fun.

The Prank List, Anna Staniszewski
This sequel to The Dirt Diary finds Rachel Lee determined to help her mom’s cleaning business succeed – even if drastic measures are required. I like Rachel as a narrator, but the “pranks” often cross over into sabotage. So-so.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

pei red fields blue sky

Much of the beauty of the Island is due to the vivid colour contrasts—the rich red of the winding roads, the brilliant emerald of the uplands and meadows, the glowing sapphire of the encircling sea. It is the sea which makes Prince Edward Island in more senses than geographical. You cannot get away from the sea down there. Save for a few places in the interior, it is ever visible somewhere, if only through a tiny gap between distant hills, or a turquoise gleam through the dark boughs of spruce fringing an estuary.

—L.M. Montgomery, The Alpine Path

pei beach

The colors and contrasts Montgomery writes about were everywhere on the Island – from the famous red clay soil to the vivid green of fields and trees, and the lovely blue of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Though our first two days were cloudy, the sun eventually emerged to stunning effect, and we spent much of the second half of our vacation on the beach.

katie cavendish beach pei

The Cavendish shore is a very beautiful one; part of it is rock shore, where the rugged red cliffs rise steeply from the boulder-strewn coves. Part is a long, gleaming sandshore, divided from the fields and ponds behind by a row of rounded sand-dunes, covered by coarse sand-hill grass.

The Alpine Path

pei rock shore cavendish beach

We explored both parts of the Cavendish shore, and found them equally lovely.

jer rocks cavendish beach pei

The rock shore reminded me of Anne’s first meeting with Leslie Moore in Anne’s House of Dreams. And the sandshore – red sand under a stunning blue sky – was just as breathtaking.

red sand beach pei

jer skipping rocks pei beach

sand dunes pei beach

We didn’t go all the way in the water (too cold), but I’m inclined to agree with Montgomery’s assessment: the sandshore is “a peerless spot for bathing.” (And wading, and gathering shells, and reading, and soaking up the sunshine.)

k & j pei beach

I recently reached the end of my #100happydays photo project. Here are some highlights from the final 25 days:

100happydays collage

Beach days, strawberries at the farmers’ market, watching the hubs perform with his a cappella group. An unexpected view from the seventh floor at work. Dinner on the balcony, solo soup lunches, stacks of library books, a good mail day. Lupines and concerts and red fields, from our PEI vacation.

It has occasionally been a challenge – technological or personal – to find bits of happiness for 100 days in a row. But mostly it has been a joy.

I’ve loved capturing the little things that brighten my days, sharing the photos I often snap anyway or taking the time to document moments of everyday delight. And I’ve loved sharing them – the response from friends and family, far-flung and near, has been inspiring and sweet and at times hilarious.

I may be officially “done” with documenting my happiness, but I’ll definitely continue to snap and share photos of things and people that make me smile.

What’s making you happy these days?


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