Summer 2016


Oh, my darlings. The summer is upon us! I hope that this means, in your house, some time for fun and games, and not just a big, hot slog through an impossible scheduling nightmare shadowed by a terrible feeling that the world is going to shit. Fingers crossed.

Here it means that we never see Michael, because he is picking berries. Strawberries first, and then, in a little while, blueberries. 

This is Smitten Kitchen's perfect little Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, but made with strawberries. Easy and delicious.He's been making chocolate-covered strawberries and they are so gorgeous and good.


He shows up somewhere with a box of them, shrugging, like, "Oh, these old perfect things?" and everyone is stunned into gorging. Here's his recipe: Melt 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Dip the strawberries into it. Chill on a parchment-covered tray.


You can dip banana slices instead and freeze them, and then you make theseAdd captionBut honestly? If you live near a Trader Joe's, just buy them. They are $1.99, and so, so good.

Another June thing, while we're at it: pickled radishes. So easy, and so good to add to your nachos, quesadillas, and salads. Thinly slice some red radishes and put them in a mason jar. Bring to a boil 1/2 cup each white vinegar and water with 2 teaspoons of salt, and pour this over the radishes (double or triple it if you've got a lot of radishes). Done! They're excellent after a day, but good immediately. They smell very, very bad. Like, peculiarly bad.
And before we move on to the kindss of summer fun you don't put in your mouth, one last thing: the kids got miracle fruit tablets in their Christmas stockings this past year, and they are so much fun.  They have some weird compound in them that obliterates the taste reception of sour on your tongue: after you eat one, sour things taste strangely sweet. It's not a cheap thrill by a long shot. But you can make a really fun afternoon of it by setting up little dishes of tart things (lemon and lime wedges, plain yogurt, cheddar cheese, orange juice, strawberries) and then having a tasting party. That's what we did.
Okay, onto the fun and games. First up:Kubb. We got this game one or two years ago, after playing it at a friend's house, and it is completely delightful. It's a lawn game, and you're basically trying to knock over wooden pieces with other wooden pieces, and we are forever mailing the link out to people who've played with us and want to get it. It's simple and fun and always hilarious. It's also weirdly expensive, and I truly believe that if you had a penchant for sanding, and access to some lovely hardwood, you could make it yourself.Hands to the head: The universal Kubb sign of "I knocked over the king by accident!" What I really wish I had a photo of is my mom flinging a piece into my dad's shin and the ensuing purple lump. It's not the safest game!More outdoor fun: we got Michael a Log Flume water jousting set for Father's Day. 

I will report back after we play with it, but I think we're going to like it a lot. We were inspired to get it because another current outdoor favorite thing to do is jousting. This is a great idea we got from friends, who made a jousting pole for each of their four children. Michael copied their design, using PVC pipe, pipe insulation, and upholstery foam covered in fabric. If you can hit someone with a huge, padded stick and not end up laughing hilariously, then you might be made of stone. It is an especially fun thing for large groups of teenaged boys to do, even if someone's weird mom comes out in her nightie to take a turn, cackling like a crazy old lady.

Lest you think we are all about the great outdoors, we also have some indoor game recommendations for the summer. The children above are playing the beautiful tile-laying game Lanterns, which is a current favorite of ours. 
It's a matching game crossed with a set-collecting game and, like all good games, every time you play it you feel like you're finally hitting upon the one true strategy--only to find, the next time you play it, that you weren't. It's super-pretty too, and not as hard to learn as some board games (how's that for some abstracted relativism?).

Another great game we've been playing is Cathedral. It's in the game family of Quoridor and Quarto and Gobblet--the games we refer to as "the wood games," as in, "I don't know. Maybe one of the wood games?" when someone asks you what you want to play, and there are only two of you playing. I extra-treasure this game, and if you're the dear lovely person who gave it to me at my reading in Wentham, then you know why. [Heart.]
More summer fun, at least for me, is this book:

I have mentioned Alabama Chanin's books before (here, for example), because I love her ideas and patterns. Also, even though she no longer officially recommends it, I still sew everything from fabric I cut from vast thrifted t-shirts. This wrap skirt, for example, I made from two double XL t-shirts. (Total cost: $2.)

The cat hair and flour dust are my own additions to the design, but all the little fancy stitches and beading and applique and reverse applique is well-described in the book. I've been sewing by hand again, and loving it so much. One thing, though: the book comes not with paper patterns, but with a CD. She recommends taking it to a copy shop to print out the patterns you want to use, but I (cheaply) have been using Adobe's tiling option, which means that the patterns prints as 16 or 20 or 36 pages that you then have to trim and tape together. I don't mind doing this, for some reason, but I don't imagine everyone will feel that way. Improv Sewing is another favorite of mine: a less fussy book that is full of great, inspiring ideas for sewing clothes from thrifted fabrics.

And, for actual reading, I have gotten way, deep into the Elena Ferrante books. I'd tried the first one a year ago and put it down again. Maybe it was too soon after the death of my own brilliant friend? Or maybe the style--like your obsessive friend who tells you about the guy who made her latte, only it takes her four hours just to describe how he winked at her or maybe didn't wink at her--wasn't striking me right at the time. But now I'm all in. I'm saving the fourth book for the trip we're taking in July.

Birdy DEVOURED Keris Stainton's book Starring Kitty. What did you love about it? I said, and she said, with annoying but enthusiastic vagueness, "Oh, everything." Keris's books are not widely available in the United States, but they should be. 
Okay, my loves, your turn. Summer recipes, games, books, activities? Shoot!