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Posts Tagged ‘pleasures’

Summer joys

sunset blue mussel cafe pei

I write some version of this post every year, from long lists of my summer pleasures to more coherent rhapsodies about the season. I adore fall and I have a soft spot for spring (winter and I are sometimes barely on speaking terms), but my years in the Northeast have taught me to embrace this fleeting season.

After a slow start (which nearly killed my poor, vulnerable basil plants), this summer has been golden and glorious. And I’m soaking it up.

berries red farmers market

I am walking over to the Harvard farmers’ market every Tuesday, wandering among the stalls and buying copious amounts of fresh berries, bell peppers and tomatoes. There’s even a tamale stand on occasion – a rare, authentic Tex-Mex treat. A couple of weeks ago, I tried a strawberry-basil popsicle – light, sweet and delicious.

popsicle

I am wearing sandals every single day, dresses or skirts most days, and have even found two maxidresses that don’t drag on the ground (I’m petite). I’m sporting tanned arms and legs and crisscrossing sandal tan lines on my feet. (But I am also wearing sunscreen.)

I am spending my lunch breaks in Harvard Yard with a book whenever possible. Often concurrently, I’m indulging in flavored seasonal limeade from Crema for as long as it lasts.

book limeade harvard yard summer

I’m watering the basil on my wee balcony, plucking leaves to sprinkle on pasta, scrambled eggs, homemade pizza. I am eating the occasional plate of fried calamari or fish & chips from the local clam shack, with help from the hubs.

clam box dinner quincy ma

I’m watching the sunlight move across the dining room table as I drink my morning tea – ginger peach or blackberry sage. I’m delighting in sunsets, pink and purple and gold, seen from our living-room windows and occasionally from our beach.

sunset beach boston ma

I’m delighting in houseguests and weekend trips to Rockport, then indulging in a bit of hibernation to balance it out.

rockport ma boats harbor

I’m reading like a madwoman (because when am I not?) and enjoying light fare like a beachy Greek travel memoir and a stack of mysteries.

hibernation books

I’m crossing items off my Summer Manifesto, and making a new list for August.

I’m reveling in the warm air, the wide blue skies, the green grass and blooming flowers, the feeling of ease and relaxation that only comes in these full, long, golden days.

What joys are you savoring this summer?

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apples cutting board kitchen fall

But while cooking demands your entire attention, it also rewards you with endlessly sensual pleasures. The sound of water skittering across leaves of lettuce. The thump of the knife against watermelon, and the cool summer scent the fruit releases as it falls open to reveal its deep red heart. The seductive softness of chocolate beginning to melt from solid to liquid. The tug of sauce against the spoon when it thickens in the pan, and the lovely lightness of Parmesan drifting down from the grater in gossamer flakes. Time slows down in the kitchen, offering up an entire universe of small satisfactions.”

Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl

I loved watching Reichl create and don various disguises in her attempts to go undercover as a food critic in New York City in Garlic and Sapphires. I relished the peeks into life at the New York Times and her discoveries of various dining spots. (I recognized several places she described again in her first novel, Delicious!).

But my favorite passage in the whole book, the one that stopped me cold, is the one above – when Reichl finally realizes what she’s been missing in all these meals out, and comes back to the simple, deep pleasures of the kitchen. I haven’t been cooking a lot lately, but her words made me want to spend an evening at the stove, chopping and simmering, kneading and stirring, then sharing the fruits of my labor with my husband or other loved ones.

 

peach pizza cooking kitchen

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tealuxe chaider harvard square

About once a week during October and November, I’ve stopped in at Tealuxe, in Harvard Square, for a tall cup of “chaider” – apple cider infused with chai. It combines two of my favorite fall treats in a delicious alchemy – spicy, warm, tart and sweet. And it’s only available for a few weeks each year. Once they take it off the menu, it’s gone until next fall.

During our trip to Montreal, I bought a tin of pumpkin chai at DavidsTEA, because I remembered buying (and loving) the same blend last year. I finished it off last week, and when I checked the website to see if I could restock, I couldn’t find it. It’s part of their limited-edition fall collection, so I’m out of luck until next fall. (Meanwhile, I bought a tin of Santa’s Secret, one of their special holiday blends.)

There are lots of items I enjoy the most at a certain time of year: candy corn the week before Halloween, a cup of eggnog on Christmas Eve with my dad, all the fresh raspberries I can get at the height of summer. I even drink different teas at different times of the year – fruity ones in the summer, dark spiced ones in the winter.

Most of these treats (or some version of them) are available year-round. I can replenish my tea stash any time online, or buy eggnog at the grocery store for several weeks each year. (Though I wouldn’t want to – that annual cup is enough for me.) I can even get raspberries in February, though admittedly they’re not as good as the ones I buy in July.

But there’s something special about treats that are literally only available for a certain time. In our have-it-now, order-online, overnight-shipping culture, the abundance of choices can be overwhelming, and it can also diminish the excitement or “specialness” of an item. (For example, if I eat mint M&Ms year-round, simply because I can, they don’t seem quite as special at Christmastime.)

In the case of the chaider and the pumpkin chai, the choice is taken out of my hands. I have to wait for them, and the waiting makes the experience that much more pleasant when it’s finally time for the treat again. It makes me feel like a kid waiting for Christmas (which does only come once a year, despite the barrage of decorations in November). The anticipation is half the fun.

What truly limited-edition treats do you enjoy?

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keep calm tea

When I lived in Oxford, I did a lot of solo traveling. At least once a month, I packed a small bag or backpack and headed off to explore a new city – Galway, Vienna, Valencia, Cardiff, Paris. Often I was traveling to meet friends, but I spent a lot of time on planes, trains and buses by myself.

These days, I tend to do two kinds of flying. There’s my annual Christmas trip to Texas, with J and at least two big suitcases in tow. We usually go for a week or so, and we make our way through crowded airports filled with tired families and long security lines. Everyone is hauling winter coats and lots of luggage, and the flights are always full. I am always thrilled to spend that time with our families, but the actual airport experience is exhausting.

The other kind of flying is the kind I indulged in recently: a solo trip to West Texas to visit my family, with only a small bag and a carry-on, at a non-crowded time of the week and year. On those mornings, I feel like a character in a Nora Ephron film, rolling my snazzy red suitcase up to the security line, my chic (if heavy) tote bag slung over my shoulder. The airport – especially if the employees are in a good mood – fairly sparkles with possibility.

When I arrived at Boston Logan for my recent trip, the security line was unusually short, and a cheerful TSA worker complimented my outfit. I had time, after I put my shoes back on, to browse the tempting racks of magazines at the newsstand, and buy a snack and a bottle of water. I even had time for a chai latte before boarding (though the nice, friendly lady spelled my name “Ketty” on the cup!). And I had a whole row to myself on the flight to Dallas. I can’t remember the last time that happened.

Air travel is less glamorous than it used to be: security is tighter, lines are longer, and the prices of everything, from checked bags to bottled water, continue to rise. But I still love walking down the terminal concourse toward my gate, pausing to scope out the week’s bestsellers at the airport bookshop or treat myself to a glossy magazine. (On my flight to Texas, I bought Yoga Journal; on the way back, I splurged on the newest InStyle.) I love glancing up at the arrival and departure monitors, which brim with the names of exotic places. Especially at a big airport like Logan, you could hop on a plane and go anywhere. The possibilities are nearly endless (as Serenity noted long ago).

After years of traveling alone regularly (if not frequently), I have a checklist of essentials: tissues, lip balm, hand sanitizer, a scarf, a water bottle, gum for takeoff and landing. I know how to pack efficiently (though I always, always bring too many books). I know my way around a number of airports, and I know where I can enjoy a last Tex-Mex meal before returning to New England (Pappasitos, in DFW Terminal A). And while my husband is an excellent travel companion, I look forward to these solo flights, where I can tailor my time in the airport to my own whims.

With the red suitcase, a yummy snack and a pile of good reading material, it can be magic.

What do you love (or not) about traveling alone?

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We have eaten a lot of ice cream this summer.

I say this as someone who does not worry (much) about eating dessert nearly every day. I figure if my meals are mostly healthy, there’s no harm in enjoying a cookie or a bit of dark chocolate or a bowl of blackberry cobbler. But this summer, it has been (mostly) too hot to turn on the oven, even for me.

I grew up eating Blue Bell, which they don’t sell in the Northeast, and last summer we ate a lot of Haagen-Dazs fruit sorbet. But this year we are completely obsessed with Ben & Jerry’s new line of Greek yogurt, since we sampled it during our Vermont trip in March. J prefers the Strawberry Shortcake flavor and I am head over heels for the Raspberry Chocolate Chunk. I’ve lost count of the pints we’ve consumed, but the number is high.

Sometimes, we bother with bowls and portions and the ice cream scoop. Much more often, we eat it straight from the carton, sitting in the living room after dinner, reading books or blogs or watching Friends, under the slight breeze of the ceiling fan.

ben & jerrys greek yogurt raspberry

Because of this, I don’t treat myself to ice cream during the workday very often. (Anyway, a scoop of ice cream in a shop costs about as much as a pint at the grocery store.) But there is an Emack & Bolio’s shop around the corner from my office, and the other day I discovered a new yogurt shop on the other side of the Common. Occasionally, it’s fun to scoop up a cup of cool sweetness at lunchtime. And during one hot, humid day in D.C., as we walked the National Mall, I spotted a frozen yogurt truck and made a beeline for it. Ahhh.

ice cream jane austen

Usually, when it comes to dessert, I’m a chocolate girl. But this summer I am (as you can see) all about the fruit ice cream, sometimes studded with chunks of chocolate. When I think back on this summer, I will remember (among other things) the sheer pleasure of spooning up that creamy, fruity sweetness almost every night, savoring it with my love, in our messy, breezy apartment with the windows open.

We are making the most of these warm days and humid evenings, eating fresh tomatoes and pints of blueberries and sweet, drippy peaches from the farmer’s market, and eating dinner outside whenever possible. A few (or more) spoonfuls of ice cream is the perfect pleasure to top it all off.

What are you savoring this summer? What are your favorite ice cream flavors?

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I’ve been reading Barbara Holland’s Endangered Pleasures, a wry, hilarious series of essays on topics as diverse as Naps, Disasters, Using People, Crowds and Bad Words. (I think I saw a link to it on Sarah’s blog, though for the life of me I can’t find the post containing said link.) Holland laments the disappearance of some pleasures (such as cigarettes) and ardently defends others (such as Spending the Summer). And always, always, she advocates for savoring all the pleasures you can.

Breakfast with tea and a beloved book - a pleasure indeed.

In my life, pleasures aren’t endangered so much as overlooked – I often forget to savor the daily ones, or make time for the bigger ones. So (of course) I thought I’d make a list. Please add yours in the comments!

1. Washing my face. There’s nothing more rejuvenating at the end of a long day.
2. That burst of juice when you peel and eat a clementine, and the way your hands smell like citrus afterward – no fancy lotion required.
3. The pure abundance and possibility of a stack of books waiting to be read.
4. Dark chocolate, in any form (most recently: a dark-chocolate-dipped pretzel from a local chocolatier).
5. Flipping through a magazine at my leisure.
6. Twinkle lights. All year long, but especially now.
7. Honey coating a sore throat.
8. Perfectly painted toenails (and the fact that they STAY that way so much longer than fingernails do).
9. Browsing Etsy.
10. Casting on for a new knitting project – oh, the possibilities!
11. The comfort of returning to a favorite book or movie.
12. Mail in the mailbox. (I’m always waiting for something wonderful to arrive.)
13. Fresh herbs – green, pungent, tasty, a little wild.
14. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Muppets, in any form.
15. Sunshine, especially now when the days are so short.
16. Running down to the corner store for milk or tortilla chips or toilet paper – because it means I don’t have to drive anywhere.
17. Writing with a real (read: non-ballpoint) pen.
18. A whiff of salt air (which you can smell on our street when the wind is right).
19. Savoring my favorite long-form blogs: Good Letters and Art House America.
20. Spending unscheduled, unplugged time (or long phone talks, when the former isn’t possible) with dear ones.
21. The satisfaction of a little job done: the hole mended, the drain unclogged, the watch battery replaced.
22. Being prepared for the weather, e.g., wearing your rain boots when it actually rains.
23. A straightened slipcover (a rare thing in our house).

What’s on your list of overlooked pleasures?

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After this winter, I thought summer would never come. (I know you know that, since I whined for months about it here on the blog.) But it’s here. It’s finally here. And I am loving it. I don’t even mind the 90-degree days, because 1) they aren’t 105 degrees, such as my poor parents have been sweating through in Texas, and 2) after months of being cold around the edges, it’s lovely to be warm all the way through.

I’m reveling in every bit of delight about summer, including:

1. Bare feet/sandals/pretty toenail polish.
2. Dresses, skirts, shorts and bare legs.
3. A bit of healthy tan, though I wear the sunscreen religiously.
4. Fresh fruits – raspberries, blackberries, cherries, blueberries, peaches. YUM.
5. Haagen-Dazs fruit sorbet. J and I might be addicted.
6. Lunchtime picnics, on the Common or in the Public Garden.
7. The occasional shower and thunderstorm, with the windows open.
8. Sinking back into Harry Potter, which has always felt like a summer series to me.
9. More summer reading – I can never get enough.
10. Simple meals – pizza, pasta, salad – with fresh tomatoes and basil.
11. Our thriving balcony garden, the source of said basil.
12. Sunset dinners on said balcony.
13. Lemonade.
14. A bit of decluttering, and moving the winter coats to the hall closet.
15. The whir of ceiling and box fans.
16. Going home early on Fridays.
17. Visits from friends (this weekend!) and family (next weekend!).
18. Summer sales.
19. Open windows all the time.
20. Gelato in the North End (on my summer list).
21. Cookouts and pool time.
22. Lilies, impatiens, geraniums and other flowers.
23. The 4th of July fireworks spectacular, which lived up to its name.
24. Looking forward to more Free Fun Fridays, Shakespeare on the Common and more fun events.
25. Author events around town – looking forward to meeting Laura Harrington tomorrow night.
26. Summer music – light, bright, fun.
27. Long, long evenings full of light.
28. Blackberry, ginger peach and mango teas.
29. Farmer’s market bounty.

What are you loving this summer?

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