Whew, it’s hot! In an effort to try a “more vintage lifestyle”, as my Dad calls it (or as my Mom calls it: “crazy”), we are making an effort to forgo air conditioning this summer. Our Brooklyn apartment faces a back corridor of gardens and has a lovely cross breeze, and our old farmhouse is situated in the ancient manner, facing due East/West, meaning that from an hour after sunrise to an hour before sunset there is no direct sunlight streaming in through the windows. While in winter I lamented not getting enough direct light to nurture an indoor lemon tree (the epitome of house-dwelling luxury to me), now that summer’s heat is upon us, I understand. This orientation means the house stays a good 10-20 degrees cooler than it is outside at all times. Brilliant old almanac readers. Still, Virginia in the summertime can be, well, let’s say “balmy”. For us, that means ceiling fans going full tilt boogie, popsicles in the freezer, bathing suit in the freezer, sprinkler in the yard, cotton nightgown on repeat. And still, we’ve been craving refreshment. So. Enter the summer tonic. We’ve made a few and we love them all, so here’s the first one concocted, a brew of the wild mint and lemon balm (brought by Mama to plant by the beehives) that spread and grow voraciously in every bed and along every treeline. Some people think of both of these plants as runaway scoundrels who hold flower beds hostage and generally take over, shooting up their leggy stems and heart shaped leaves wherever they possibly can. This invasive carpetbagging reputation is true in some respects, but when you consider the benefits of lemon balm and mint, both as flavor makers and as medicinals, the fact that they’re simply growing wild everywhere seems more like a little miracle than a problem. Here, a fast-and-loose miracle tonic recipe in action:
Lemon Balm and Mint Summer Tonic
2 cups packed mint leaves
2 cups packed lemon balm leaves
Gather a big bunch of mint, gather a big bunch of lemon balm, wash and strip leaves from stems. Fill a pot with water, add leaves, bring to a boil. Strain leaves, pour tea into half gallon mason jars, put in fridge to chill. You can also add honey if you want a little sweetness.
Once cold, serve over ice. Sit on the porch steps, try not to drink the whole batch in one sitting. Good luck.
Our little garden is chugging along—presiding over the (spotty) new lawn our landlord insisted on planting on the hottest day of the year—and weathering the stifling New York City heat (made even more mouth-breathingly hot by the hundreds of AC butts panting out the back of everyone’s brownstone, pointed at our zucchinis) surprisingly well. We pulled this ‘lil harvest on Sunday- two sweet knobby cukes, one lone, long red basque sweet pepper, two small banana peppers, and a mess of basil. Our eyes are trained on our one reddish tomato (one!), and anticipate its ripeness by the end of the week. Three meals worth of bounty isn’t too much- but it’s pretty darn good.
Aaaaaaaaand PLAY BALL! After hearing about the vintage baseball league that plays by 1864 rules out on Governor’s Island (more info here), we simply had to go. On a most gorgeous summer Saturday, Meags and Sweetheart and I packed up the bare essentials (champagne, bread, cheese, sunscreen) and hopped on the free ferry to go see some baseball. In short: it was awesome. The New York Gothams wore navy pants, pillbox hats (you can see the lineage of those wonderful throwback Pirates hats) and white tunics emblazoned with a gothic “G”. What they didn’t wear? Gloves. Maybe gloves hadn’t been invented or maybe all leather was earmarked for Union cavalry saddlebags, but by the 1864 rules, the intrepid fielders go barehanded. The old rules are slightly different— you can’t overrun first base, the pitches are underhand, the strike zone is from the head to the ankles, and (most noted) the barehanded fielders can catch the soft rag ball on one bounce and the batter’s out—but the game is the same, the joyous, methodical, rhythmic American wonder reminds you why the game took hold of us in the first place. In typical American fashion, nicknames abound (Crash, Monk, Bugs) and, perhaps the most nostalgic element, even the heckling is genteel…Can you picture a Yankee fan telling at the Red Sox “That was UNMANLY!”? All of this, on a divine day, with the newly regenerating skyline of lower Manhattan in the background? Perfection.
top and third image by Hiroko Masuike from this NYT article (we were interviewed, but didn’t make the cut…).
Back this week to the sweet, slow, fertile lands of my youth. Pimento cheese, morning swims, and lots of wine here we come, y’all.
After glimpsing them in New York harbor during fleet week, and seeing them streaming sails across the mouth of the Chesapeake, Daddy and I cruised down to Harborfest to see the stunning tall ships in all their furled glory. I told you I love ships. Gilded figureheads in the golden hour, fireworks amidst the riggings at sundown, all the ships in the harbor sounding their horns at once, a rude and glorious symphony—as from Whitman:
Chant on, sail on, bear o’er the boundless blue from me to every sea,
This song for mariners and all their ships.
ps. and a very happy birthday to Sweetheart… I can’t wait to share the celebration!
This Just In. The official theme of this summer is WANDERLUST+BASEBALL. But, really, is this anything new? Ever since my guilty twinges at not having seen a ballgame by June reached a frenzy, I’ve thrown myself into the American Pastime (more on the New York Gotham’s later this week). Last night on a wild hair, Sweetheart and I sped on the wings of the new G>7 in-station transfer out to CitiField. The Mets were taking on similar-perennial-underdogs-in-a-pretty-tough-division Orioles, and tickets were $5.70 (it was a No-Han special- in honor of Johan’s- #57- no hitter). It was, in essence, a perfect night. Bewhiskered cartoon-hounddog knuckleballer R.A. Dickey pitched a one hitter complete game (back to back on his other one hitter complete game), Sweet Ike Davis broke his epic dry-spell with his first-ever grand slam- we gave him a much deserved curtain call-, and it was 65 degrees and breezy. Also of note: Dickey’s “come to the plate” music is the Game of Thrones theme song. I don’t think I could love him more. If you build it, we will come.Images via instagram here and here.
New this year: Sweet Autumn Clematis has set up residence in the bush/bustled in the hedgerow that is right up against the outdoor shower house at the beach house (a.k.a.: the only place with power in all of Virginia after Irene). These gorgeous, simple, and— yes sweet— white flowers smell like honeysuckle crossed with jasmine and maybe just a bit of earthy beet pollen (is this what Jitterbug Perfume actually smells like??). There might not be anything more divine than showering in the dark on a full moon night with a bit of honey on the breeze. Seriously.
I came to simultaneous epiphanies the other day:
Summer is almost over! I haven’t had a lobster roll yet! AGHHHH!
No, this just won’t do. I’m a grown ass woman, master of my own destiny. So:Thankfully, sweetheart and I had already planned to head up to Connecticut to see Bruce and Bela so we decided to make a day of it, take the slow road, and have what may be one of our last adventures of the summer. Le sigh. Lobster rolls from crookedy old Lobster Landing- Connecticut style of course (meaning hot in a griddled bun and doused in butter- after all, this was the Friday before Hurricane Mothra/Irene was coming to destroy New York, so we had better have our last hurrah and make it count). Then on to a curvy route north and inland that had us cruising by scenic (and perhaps magical/gypsy headquarters) Lake Zoar for hand dipped chocolate ice cream (for sweetheart) and (for moi) all-time-summer-favorite-and-somewhat-hard-to-find, a peach milkshake. Ahhhh, summer.
Here are some Lobster Roll Rules for those of you who, like me, enjoy rules exclusively governing sandwiches.