"We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost."
"We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost."
It’s a slow burn, summer—a swell of anticipation leading up to August, the last and final hurrah before the decrescendo, the ushering in of fall. My summer on the Vineyard has been full of lazy mornings on the beach and afternoons at the local coffee shop, the bitter scent of espresso enveloping my senses. Nights are for new friends, laughter, and food. The cool night air filled with the happy sound of clinking beer bottles, the clatter of forks and knives scraping against plates, delivering the last bites of food to hungry mouths.
While I’m enjoying the east coast experience, I’ve been dreaming of a hot, sticky St. Louis summer. The gentle sway of a porch swing, the subtle of hum of the ceiling fan as it stirs the hot and humid air. Cicadas sing their summer song, a swarm of white noise that’s almost hypnotic. Sweat trickling down the small of your back as you sip on a tall glass of lemonade, the condensation leaving a wet ring on the table.
No matter where I am, the east coast, the west coast, the Midwest, I always find comfort in the simple sweetness of fresh peaches. Once you bite into its pink, delicate flesh, your senses are overwhelmed by the taste of joy and summer. These simple peach shortcakes are my favorite way to celebrate the season. Tender shortcakes, warm from the oven, topped with sweet peaches and pillows of whipped cream. There truly is nothing better.
Iron Skillet Peach Shortcakes
It’s 2:04 AM and I should be sleeping. I promised two of my housemates (and myself) that I would unceremoniously drag my butt out of bed to join them in a barre class in the morning. This means I will/would have to rise in a little over five hours in order to promptly attend the 8:30 class. I have never been one to work out in the mornings, let alone on less than seven hours of sleep. Guess I won’t be getting my sweat on.
I should be curled up under my blankets, eyes closed, lost in Technicolor dreams—instead I’m sitting cross-legged on my bed, my window fan whirling humid island air around my small room, trying to quiet and organize my racing thoughts.
I’ve tried to distract myself with episodes of Orange is the New Black; an hour and a half of binge watching female inmates struggle with their own personal demons and each other. But their jailhouse drama can’t overshadow the petty drama that seems to be unfolding beyond the confines of my computer screen.
It’s amazing how people can misconstrue words or actions. Dinner for three becomes a raging house party. A pit stop to visit a friend becomes a wild night of debauchery. Multi-tasting and juggling multiple conversations leads to a tainted friendship and rampant rumors. Someone should have told me I was going back to high school.
Teenage-angst (or is it twenty-something-angst?) isn’t the only topic keeping me from embracing sleep. Big life questions are also pushing and shoving their way forward. What’s next after my time on the Vineyard? Will I be able to sit behind a desk again, unable to interact with other people? Where should I live? Do I move back to St. Louis? What about California? How can I make a grilled cheese without a working stovetop?
None of these questions can be solved over night. Not even the 90210-type antics can be quieted in 24 hours. Both take resilience and self-confidence. Both take inner-strength. Both take patience.
Unfortunately, patience has never really been one of my strong suits, at least when it comes to my personal life. When it comes to tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs, however, patience comes as easily as breathing.
There are two things I love about a good rack of ribs. 1: it’s completely acceptable to eat them with your hands. And 2: like my life, they’re messy.
You know you’re enjoying really, really good ribs when the meat falls off the bone in one bite, filling your mouth with its rich, smoky flavor. The sweet-yet-spicy sauce balances out the pork, giving each bite a surprising kick. Without shame you savor every last morsel, licking the bone and your fingers clean.
Ribs should never be rushed. They should be cooked low-and-slow over controlled heat in order to obtain that melt-in-your-mouth flavor that any good bbq-afficionado craves. You have to tend to them carefully, keeping a watchful eye, like a mother looking after her child.
Yes, life is rather messy right now, but the only thing we can do is take it one day at a time. We must have patience. If we have patience, i can guarantee our messy, complicated lives will turn into something worth savoring.
Let’s practice a little patience with a rack of ribs. Get grilling, friends.
My sister Theresa has the ultimate birthday. Across the country, people celebrate with homemade floats draped in streamers and sprinkled with confetti, plates of funnel cake, hot from the fryer, dusted with powdered sugar, and fireworks, soaring above the crowds, bursting in a kaleidoscope of color. What could be more perfect for a girl who burst into the world with as much fanfare and excitement as the 4th of July!
It was July 4th, 1990, one of those hot, sticky St. Louis days, the humidity so thick, you could cut it with a knife. My sister Annie and I were splashing in a wading pool at a family picnic, giggling with delight. Our carefree moment was cut short as our Aunt beckoned us inside. Dripping wet, we reluctantly grabbed our towels and ran into the house. “Your dad wants to talk to you,” she smiled as she handed me the phone. “He’s got a surprise for you!”
Shivering, I took the receiver. “Dad, we were playing in the pool!” I said, Annie’s face, cold and wet, pressed against my own so she, too, could listen in. “And Aunt Linda said we could have ice cream later. When are you and Mommy coming over?”
“That’s great!” he said with a laugh, “but I have some news for you girls. You have a new baby sister. Her name is Theresa.”
Thrilled with the notion of a new sibling, Annie and I were anxious to meet her, but our excitement and anticipation was dampened by unexpected complications. Born two months early, Theresa spent weeks in the hospital swaddled in a blue and white blanket, connected to tubes and wires, fighting to survive. All I wanted to do was hold her close, whisper hello, and sing lullabies; I took my role as Big Sister seriously and and wanted to do everything I could to help her get better and come home. But despite being so small and premature, Theresa’s spunk and energy helped her recover in record time. “She’s our little firework,” my Mom would say, as a smile would light up Theresa’s face, illuminating the entire room like fireworks brightening the night sky.
My sister Theresa is truly special, with an infectious personality, bubbly laugh and bright smile, she draws attention from everyone around her. Her bold nature and sparkling charisma deserves the perfect birthday pie.
A flaky, buttery crust filled with tart, cherries captures the patriotic spirit of the holiday. Topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, this stunning cherry pie says Happy Birthday and Happy summer all in one.
(adapted from Bon Appetit)
Let’s talk gremlins—those screeching, little voices inside your head that make you second guess everything. This second guessing usually leads to self-deprecation and big questions about your sanity. Let’s be honest, no one likes to question their sanity.
Like those furry, destructive monsters, these internal gremlins creep out of nowhere, particularly on a perfectly fine day when, for the most part, you’re feeling good about yourself and life. They start biting and clawing, tearing down all of those positive, sunny feelings. Turning the flawless view of yourself into something muted.
I’ve had to deal with my fair share of gremlins lately. Horrid little devils, gnawing at my insecurities when it comes to boys and shredding potential life decisions. Not to mention they’re having a field day with my constant pang of homesickness. I mean, really gremlins?! That’s enough!
So. How do we fight off these pesky bastards? (Pardon my language) I am a big fan of long phone calls with my sister. Her pep talks always seem to put me on the right track, helping me see how my fear and vulnerabilities are mingling together, feeding the gremlins, giving them the strength to reek havoc.
(Make sure when you’re fighting off those gremlins you put on your gremlin-fighting-face)
"You need to quiet your gremlins," she tells me. "You’re an amazing, smart capable woman. It’s ok to be vulnerable and afraid. You just need to embrace it and not let the fear overcome everything else."
She’s a wise one, my sister. And so, today, I’m embracing my vulnerabilities, accepting them, and kicking fear to the curb. What does it matter what a stupid boy thinks? Who cares what the members at the club think of my life choices? The only thing that matters is me, not the gremlins and their vicious words. I’m flawless, bitches.
What better way to celebrate your badass self—without gremlins—than with a cocktail. In the summer months I’m a huge fan of sipping on a tall glass of sangria while basking in a sun. It’s the perfect “me time” moment, the sun caressing my skin, the condensation from the glass sliding over my fingers. Each sip is savored, a boozy sweetness laced with fizzy bubbles, ending with a welcome bite.
So celebrate friends. Celebrate your badass-gremlin-fighting self.
Ordinarily I’m not much of a morning person. I’d rather stay wrapped up in bed than struggle to find the energy to greet the day. But, I’m discovering that mornings on Martha’s Vineyard are worth waking up for.
I work second shift. From 3:30 to 11 I’m hard at work doing what I love, serving perfectly cooked meals to grateful patrons. There is nothing more gratifying than watching a member’s face light up as they bite into a piece of halibut, each forkful fresh and flavorful, or the look complete bliss that washes over them as they dip their spoons into a bowl of decadent pot de crème. Knowing that each person leaves our restaurant satiated and happy is one of the greatest feelings—especially knowing that, that joy comes from food.
I was apprehensive about my schedule in the beginning, what with it being the complete opposite from my friends. But the real concern was the daunting task of filling up my off hours with “me time”.
When you live outside of the MV bubble the idea of personal space isn’t so overwhelming. There are plenty of errands to run, places to go, people to see. But here on the Island, it’s different. If you do have errands to run they will take up exactly 30 minutes of your time. Why? Because you can’t give in to temptation at the local Target, filling your red shopping cart with non-essential items, or graze on local and organic delicacies at Whole Foods. Sure, there are boutique shops and small maritime museums to visit, but I’ve learned that once you see one, you’ve seen them all.
It took me a while, but I’ve found a rhythm, a morning routine that’s long and luxurious—a cup of hot coffee, a leisurely run in the morning sun, a light breakfast, then a few hours at the beach.
Now, I am not a beach person. You give me the option of towering, snow-capped mountains or a sandy beach, and I’ll pick towering mountains any day. However, there is something so peaceful about spending a few hours sprawled out on a beach towel, the sun warm on your skin, tiny pebbles of sand seeping between your toes. It’s easy to be lulled into a gentle sleep from the sound of the waves breaking along the shore, the methodical whoosh flowing in and out.
Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing a little picnic along with my book-of-the-week. I set myself up on my beach blanket, legs spread out with my book open on my lap, and nibble on a simple meal of sweet grapes, crusty French bread, and a bowl of chilled couscous salad.
This salad is one of my favorite picnic recipes. It’s incredible simple to put together and makes the most of in-season ingredients. Plump cherry tomatoes, sweet mini peppers, fragrant basil and salty feta cheese are all tossed together with tiny pearls of tender couscous. Add a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and you have a bright and refreshing lunch. Perfect for a beachside picnic.
Summer Couscous Salad
I have the World’s Greatest Dad.
He’s a mountain man, a grill master, an adventure seeker…
A road trip companion, a basketball guru, baseball lover…
He’s a comedian, a trickster, a romantic…
An ice cream lover, a chocoholic…
He’s my best friend.
He’s the World’s Greatest Dad
Growing up, whenever my Dad said, “Let’s go crazy!” it always meant a trip to Turner’s, the local ice cream parlor. We’d sit on a park bench, gripping our cones, swirls of vanilla and chocolate melting over our fingers as we slowly lapped at the frozen confection. It is one of my favorite memories of my Dad—a hot, muggy St. Louis summer and the perfect ice cream cone.
So, I’m celebrating my dad the only way I know how, with a scoop of ice cream. With a rich chocolate base and subtle crunch from malt balls and almonds, this decadent chocolate malted almond fudge ice cream is a Father’s Day must.
Chocolate Malted Almond Fudge Ice Cream
(adapted from David Lebovitz)
1. Slowly warm 1 cup of cream and cocoa powder in a saucepan, whisking to blend the cocoa. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer at a very low boil for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth. Add the remaining cup of cream. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and set aside.
2. Slowly warm milk, sugar, and salt in the same saucepan. In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return the egg yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan..
3. Stir the mixture constantly over the medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (170°F on an instant-read thermometer). Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the chocolate mixture until smooth, then stir in the vanilla. Stir until cool over an ice bath.
4. Let the mixture cool completely in the refrigerator over night.
5. Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to it’s instructions. Half way through the freezing process, add the whoppers and almonds.
6. Allow the ice cream to ripen in the freezer for about 3 hours before serving.
Summers are meant to be sweet and simple. No stress. No worries. No pressure. It’s about getting back to basics and indulging in those delicious, blissful moments. Whether it’s sipping lemonade while watching the sunset, or shrieking in delight as the cold ocean water lunges after you, licking at your feet as you frolic on the beach. Summer is all about embracing this quiet tranquility.
After spending a year in California, the land of perpetual 70-degree weather, it’s refreshing to watch a place emerge from its winter slumber. Bare trees explode with color, painting the skyline in a pallet of green. Flowerbeds, once quiet and brown, come alive in a flurry of dusty pinks, violet purples, and cornflower blues. Birds fill the air with tweets and chirps, signaling that a new season has arrived.
I’ve been relishing in the rebirth that’s happening around me, savoring the season with a sigh of relief—the stress of life melting away. My days off have been spent on the beach getting lost in a book, my toes in the warm sand, or with friends, laughing over heavy plates of food and cold glasses of wine as we recount the day’s events. It’s these simple moments that make up the essence of summer. Friends, food, and laughter.
A few days ago I decided to welcome summer in the only way I know how: with butter, flour and plump strawberries. Filled with summer sweetness, strawberry hand pies are a fun way to celebrate the season. Stretched out on a checked picnic blanket, you can bite into these little pies and relish in the buttery crust and tart filling. Summer lingers on your lips, tempting you to have another. Just make sure you make a few extras…I guarantee you won’t want to share.
Happy summer, friends!
Strawberry Hand Pies
Preheat over to 375. Prepare dough and roll out into a 15x12 rectangle. Cut into 6 rectangles.
Combine strawberries, lemon juice, sugar and salt in a bowl. Scoop strawberries into the center of each piece of dough. Fold the dough and crimp edges with a fork.
Gently move the hand pies to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper Brush pies with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Cut two slits into the top of each pie.
Bake pies for 30-40 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet half way through, until the pies are golden and the filling is bubbling. Remove the pies from the oven and cook on a wire rack. Serve warm.
I want to tell you a love story. Actually, it’s a friend-love story., but a love story nonetheless…
I met Nelly 8 months ago while attending a food blogger conference in Seattle. We had a strictly work-related relationship, emailing each other over blog posts and project deadlines. My perception of Nelly was very professional, and was not prepared for the young woman who introduced herself to me while I was mid-way through an impromptu olive oil tasting.
A warm smile spread across her face as she opened her arms and gave me a hug. I couldn’t believe this bubbly, infectious young woman was the same professional blogger I had been emailing. I felt an instant spark between us as we huddled together and fell into an easy conversation.
I left Seattle with such love for my new friend that keeping in touch was easy. Daily text messages, monthly phone calls, and of course emails, helped us keep our friend-love-affair alive. We constantly discussed meeting each other again, but with her in Massachusetts and me in California, the logistics were complicated.
Then life happened—life and its infinite lemons—uprooted everything and sent me back to the Midwest. Frustrated and unsure of where I should go next, I made an impulsive decision to spend the summer in Martha’s Vineyard…with Nelly. It’s been a little over one week and this move has been easier than my trip to California, because of Nelly. Despite the underlying pang of being out of my element, it’s comforting to know that I’m not alone and that I have someone in my corner.
For me, pie has always been paired with friendship. In fact, it was my friend Jeanne who spent a sunny, spring afternoon in Milwaukee teaching me the finer points of how to make pie. It takes time and patience to make a truly good pie—much like a really good friend—you can’t rush it. You have to take it one step at a time, gently cut the butter into the flower, add just the right amount of water, and bring everything together with out over working the dough, for the perfect flaky crust.
Since my arrival on Martha’s Vineyard, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Nelly’s kitchen, making use of her oven and Mary Poppins-like baking drawer. I’ve rolled out dough, melted chocolate, and creamed butter and sugar together. I’ve whipped heavy cream into soft peaks, fluffy and cloud-like, gently piling it onto a mound of chocolate mousse.
Heavenly, luscious and light, this French Silk pie was my contribution to Nelly’s family dinners. The smooth chocolate filling and buttery crust is sinfully rich, sending you instantly into a sugar coma. Some would say it’s a pie for seduction, but I like to think of it as a pie for really, really good friends.
French Silk Pie
(from the Ms. American Pie cookbook}
This pie recipe is from Beth Howard, author of Ms. American Pie.
Summer has begun. Memorial Day roared in with searing hot grills, cold beers, and color-coordinated family photos. Now we are left with neighborhood lawns littered with burnt sparklers, and kids, drunk on their first taste of summer freedom, restless in the classroom. As for me, I am settling into a new adventure.
I have decided to spend a summer on Martha’s Vineyard. However, the decision to dive into something new was not easy, especially since I was finally getting settled in California. Do I stay? Do I go? Honestly, can someone else make the decision for me? Please?!
I took to the mountains, to the woods, to the open road to think deep thoughts and debate my options while hiking through towering pine trees. As I listened to the soft thump of my boots against the ground and felt blood pump through my body as I climbed higher in elevation, I thought about my year in California. I played through each experience like a movie reel, flipping through the months, highlighting life lessons and meaningful connections. My California life was so planned, so calculated. But now, I find myself going with the wind, letting life steer me in any direction.
After jumping off the cliff (metaphorically speaking, of course), I have taken a position working at a very prestigious golf club on Martha’s Vineyard. It almost feels like I am at summer camp with so may people crammed into such a small space—loud and commanding personalities clashing together like cymbals in a symphony. I am way out of my comfort zone with no Louie and no family to lean on, but I’m pushing through insecurities and sloughing off another layer of myself.
As summer settles in, it’s going to be a season of exploration and continued self-discovery, a season of testing myself and pushing the limits. California was the first step, and now it’s time to look forward to the next chapter….