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Posts Tagged ‘summer’

stripes silver flats

Summer, as I keep saying, is in full swing around here. And while I am loving the chance to wear skirts and sandals as I hang out in Harvard Yard or walk to the farmers’ market, I’ve also had a few Big Meetings lately. Between the heat, the humidity and the importance of said Big Meetings, I’ve found myself facing an all-too-familiar dilemma: what to wear?

I am not what you would call a fashionista. I grew up taking fashion advice (sometimes gracefully, sometimes grudgingly) from my trendy mom and sister (and borrowing their clothes). I still inherit hand-me-downs from either Mom or Betsy on my occasional trips home. (Those pieces often end up becoming my favorites.)

One of the things I love about working in higher education is its mostly-business-casual dress code. I do not own a suit, and I wear heels about three times a year. In the winter, my style uniform is a snap: a dress or a sweater-and-pencil-skirt combo with tights, my knee-high black boots or booties, and one of my many scarves. But summer is too hot for leggings and boots – and I struggle to feel like myself in pantyhose and blazers. So I’ve spent a little time lately figuring out my version of summer power dressing.

I suppose it’s no surprise that some of the elements I love year-round – stripes, cardigans, my favorite “brave” necklace, the silver hoop earrings I wear every day – figure into my summer power outfits. I’ve splurged on a couple of “dressier” dresses and dusted off my one pair of not-too-high black heels (though I carry my silver flats in my bag). I’ve spent more time ironing lately than I have in a long while. And I’ve remembered – again – that the most important element is confidence. I don’t need to buy designer clothes or rush out and buy a suit. I simply need to look – and feel – like the most polished version of myself.

What are your tips for summer power dressing?

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pink hydrangeas flowers

The hydrangeas are everywhere this summer.

I love watching the seasonal progression of flowers in New England every year – from crocuses to tulips and daffodils, then on to iris, peonies, roses and sunflowers. But I’ve never noticed so many hydrangeas as I have this year. We are in the thick of summer – hot, languid, blue-sky days that end with hazy pink and gold sunsets – and the daylilies and hydrangeas, vivid splashes of color, seem to pop up on every corner.

I read a long time ago on Lindsey’s blog that the color of hydrangeas is determined by the pH composition of their soil. This fascinates me, especially since there are often multicolored flowers on one plant. How does the same soil – or slight variations of it – produce so many shades of beauty? (On a walk to the beach the other night, I spotted four hydrangea plants growing in one yard – all of them sporting different-colored flowers.)

blue hydrangeas purple door

The hydrangeas also fascinate me as a metaphor. I believe place has a strong influence on who we are, and who we become. I’m a native Texan who has lived in Oxford and now in Boston, and all three places have powerfully shaped who I am. The particular terrain of each season of my life – the beautiful and difficult elements alike – also has its effect on me. Like the hydrangeas, I must draw on the gifts (and the trials, and the weather) of my environment to create something rich and beautiful. The hydrangeas can’t choose what color their flowers will be, but I can choose what I make of my life.

This summer, despite its many delights, has been a difficult season in some ways. I’m turning back to my tried-and-true comforts: tea in the morning from my favorite mug, lunches and coffee dates with friends, the words of Julia Cameron (in The Sound of Paper) about self-care and building a creative life.

As I walk through my town on Boston’s South Shore and my work neighborhood in Harvard Square, I keep noticing the hydrangeas. I love them for their beauty, but I’m coming to love them for their resilience too.

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harvard yard memorial church view

One of the perks of working at a university: life slows down a little in the summer.

Of course, there are still students around: taking courses, working in the research labs, flying in for brief seminars or leadership programs. The number of high school students goes way up after Commencement, and the tour groups are out in full force.

But some pockets of campus, like the libraries, are quieter than usual. And lately, I’ve been spending some time over at Lamont Library.

donatelli reading room lamont library harvard

Lamont is one of the undergraduate libraries, located off the southeast corner of Harvard Yard, still on the main campus but off the most-trafficked paths. It’s smaller than Widener, the university’s main library, and it feels friendlier, less grand and imposing.

While Widener is composed mostly of dimly lit stacks (which stretch several stories underground), Lamont has a nice mix of shelves and reading rooms. It has lots of windows and more than a few quiet spaces where you can curl up in an armchair (or spread out at a desk) and spend a while working, reading or studying. (I’ve also seen a few students napping in the comfy chairs.)

farnsworth reading room lamont library harvard

I always stop to peruse the New Books shelf near the front desk on my way out, and sometimes I pop downstairs to the media stacks to check out a DVD. But Lamont is also simply a good place to perch for a few hours.

The air-conditioning hums quietly, the summer sun slants in through the windows, and the books, with their colorful spines, make a welcoming background for my work. And the views – especially from the third floor facing north – are quite lovely.

memorial church memorial hall harvard university

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pool view lounge chairs

When I was a kid, summer meant long, sun-soaked, chlorine-scented days at the local pool, where my mother flipped through magazines on a lounge chair and my sister and I turned flips and did handstands and tried all kinds of tricks off the diving board. (I never did learn to dive properly, but I could do cannonballs and jackknifes with the best of them.)

We slathered on sunscreen and let our toes get pruney from staying in the water for hours, usually until Mom called us out to eat lunch or an afternoon snack. On the weekends, my dad would go with us too, and we’d take turns riding on his shoulders or playing keep-away with a squishy Koosh ball. Once or twice, my sister’s blonde hair developed grass-green streaks from all the chlorine, and we all sported serious tan lines, despite all that sunscreen.

I don’t get much time by the pool these days, for various reasons – chiefly the demands of work and other obligations. But earlier this week, I drove out west of Boston to visit a friend who works at a health club. Its campus boasts two large, beautiful outdoor pools, and I lounged by one of them (in the shade) until she was free to join me for lunch.

book magazine poolside reading

I’d brought plenty of reading material: in addition to the novel and magazine above, I’ve been rereading To Kill a Mockingbird (again). Mid-morning, I bought a plastic cup of lemonade from the snack bar, sipping it as hazy clouds drifted across a pale blue sky. I listened to the splashes and squeals of kids playing, the rhythmic sloshing of adults swimming laps. I remembered those long-ago carefree days, when summer stretched out before us, sparkling like the summer sunlight on the water.

Just for a few hours, I had nothing else to do, nowhere else to be. It was a rare, quintessentially summery treat.

Do you get to hang out by the pool in the summertime?

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strawberry popsicle

The long, lazy summer days are finally here – but they’re slipping away alarmingly fast. It’s been a while since my last “right now” post, so I wanted to take stock of what’s happening around here in this season.

Right now, in mid-July 2015, I am:

  • starting many mornings with the Yoga Studio app and then a cup of ginger peach (or blackberry sage) tea in my favorite cobalt blue mug, a souvenir from the Ground Floor many summers ago.
  • listening to the You’ve Got Mail soundtrack (still so good), construction noise outside my apartment windows, and lots of Taylor Swift.
  • hanging out at Darwin’s a few times a week, writing and people-watching and drinking (more) ginger peach tea.

darwins cafe cup

  • making anything for dinner that doesn’t involve turning on the oven: pasta with fresh veggies, pita wraps with hummus, chicken burritos, zucchini quesadillas, a few salads.
  • eating all the summer fruits I can handle. (The berries are back at the farmers’ market, and I am one happy girl.)

strawberries

  • scheduling “coffee” dates which are really lemonade or fro-yo dates. (It’s hot!)
  • spending Sunday nights in Ryan and Amy’s backyard, where we grill various meats (and pineapple), eat guacamole and fruit and ice cream, watch the kids run around, and pet Telly, the world’s sweetest dog.

sunday night backyard

  • snuggling my friends’ new baby, Evie, whenever I get a chance.
  • loving the flowers of summer – peonies, Gerbera daisies, sunflowers. (My friend Kate says you can chart the seasons by the most popular flowers on Instagram. It’s true!)

peonies

  • walking along the Charles River Esplanade about once a week. It’s green and gorgeous down there, and I am always watching for ducklings.
  • wearing dresses and skirts during the day, shorts on the weekends, sandals and comfy flats all the time.

stripes silver flats

  • watching a little Modern Family with J and an occasional episode of Veronica Mars by myself.
  • reading lots of great nonfiction – Mission High, Consider the Fork, Between You & Me – and a stack of mysteries.
  • drinking gallons of lemonade.
  • savoring lots of ice cream. We are recently obsessed with Talenti gelato.
  • thinking about another getaway with the hubs, maybe in August.

What are you up to right now?

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katie jer maine view

To celebrate being married for seven years (and because we really needed a vacation), the hubs and I recently took off for a little trip to Maine.

When we go on vacation, we like to wander and we like to eat. (I also like to sleep in and poke into every bookshop I can find. My morning-person, not-quite-so-book-nerdy husband handles both of these things with great patience.)

studio apartment rockland

We rented a tiny studio apartment in Rockland, a short walk from downtown. There was really just enough room to turn around (or snuggle on the loveseat watching Modern Family on DVD), but it was all we needed for a weekend.

rockland maine main street

Mid-coast Maine is full of little towns with ridiculously cute Main Streets. We browsed the shops in Rockland and Camden to our hearts’ content: books, toys, yarn, T-shirts, cool things carved out of wood.

camden maine harbor

The harbor views are stunning.

camden maine public library

We also explored the Camden Public Library, because I cannot resist a beautiful library.

camden maine library interior

We had a delicious dinner at In Good Company, where we shared several small plates: deviled eggs, stuffed peppers with goat cheese, crusty baguette with fancy butter and thin slices of Parmesan.

appetizers

We also had bowls of gingery carrot-beet soup, and finished with lemon cake drizzled with lemon-thyme syrup.

lemon cake

A little bit fancy and a whole lot delicious.

ocean view mt battie maine

On Saturday afternoon, we drove to the top of Mount Battie, just outside Camden, for some truly amazing harbor views.

jer mt battie view

This spot supposedly inspired Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem “Renascence.”

jer lulus ice cream

Ice cream, of course, is an important part of vacation. The wild blueberry ice cream at Lulu’s, in Rockland, was delectable. (J is enjoying strawberry-balsamic sorbet in this picture.)

Sunday was rainy, windy and cold, but we braved the elements and drove to Belfast to meet our friends Isaac and Katelyn for dinner.

friends dinner

We hadn’t seen them in a year, and we spent hours catching up on our lives, first over cups of tea, then over Italian food and glasses of red wine. The best.

We drove back on Monday (stopping in Portland for lunch), relaxed and so happy after four lovely days together.

selfie mt battie

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strawberry book breakfast

After a hot, humid end to May and a truly frigid beginning to June (two days of April-like chilly drizzle and occasional downpours), the weather is behaving a little more like summer. I’m already drinking my favorite summer teas and eating strawberries with my breakfast – but there are a hundred other things I love about summer. So here are a few I’d like to indulge in:

  • Eat all the summer fruits (rhubarb, peaches, tomatoes and every kind of berry I can find)
  • Related: go to the farmers’ market at Harvard and maybe the one over at Copley Square
  • Wear skirts and shorts as often as possible
  • Get a pedicure (or two)
  • Snuggle my friends’ baby, Evie, whom I met last week (isn’t she precious?)

katie baby evie

  • Go visit my family in Texas
  • Laugh and laugh with J at episodes of Modern Family (we’re newly hooked)
  • Go kayaking on the Charles River (I went for the first time recently, and it was fantastic)

charles river view boston sailboat

  • Drink lemonade and sangria
  • Eat lots of ice cream (and fro-yo)
  • Take lots of long walks (to counterbalance the ice cream)
  • Soak up every bit of summer sunshine – summer in New England is lovely but fleeting.

What’s on your list for this summer?

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