Summer is flying by, as it always seems to. Here in the US Mid-Atlantic, in the last few weeks we’ve had many hot, steamy days and extended periods of heavy rain, a weather pattern that seems more typical of South Florida. The upside is that everything in the garden is lush and colorful, especially the hydrangeas. They’re a lovely counterpoint to the chaos that reigns supreme these days, reminding me, each morning, that there is much to be happy about, that nature manages to renew itself despite our blundering foolishness, that the terrible cloud of the pandemic eventually will lift.
Enzo still commands a significant chunk of each day. He’s growing into a loving, wonderfully companionable boy, his daily “puppy crimes” notwithstanding.
Welcoming. We were lucky enough to have guests several times this summer, and each one, in turn, fell completely n love with Enzo. Hubby’s brothers Bob and John and John’s wife, my belle soeur Helena, with their sweet doggie Fiona, were the first to visit. What fun it was to see Fiona and Enzo play and cuddle together as if they’d always known each other. Next we welcomed friends from North Carolina overnight, and the next week, my darling cousin Dorothy (see Our Cousins, Our Elves) and her husband Frank.
I thank God for the company, for the fun and great conversation and, overarching all else, the sheer joy of being among family and dear friends again. We still haven’t traveled anywhere but are hoping to go north in the fall, quite possibly with Enzo in tow. He needs some road hardening first. We will see.
Reading. Every now and then I whine that I just want to lie around and read a book all day. I’ve almost done that this summer, mostly because extreme heat makes me incapable of doing much else. I’m still behind on my self-imposed Goodreads Reading Challenge, given that today is July 28, but one ought to get extra credit for tackling a tome like Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone. Special thanks to Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy for repeatedly extolling this novel’s praises. I read it slowly and luxuriously, and it was worth every second. I also loved Sally Rooney’s brilliant Normal People. Next up was the eighth novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie series, The Forgotten Affairs of Youth. I’m still plodding through the last volume of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, The Story of the Lost Child, about which I have very mixed feelings. In lazier moments, I’m reading another Bruno, Chief of Police, The Shooting at Chateau Rock. It’s a charming if not too heady series, full of good food and France, and my brain needs a little relief from time to time.
The next book in Louise Penney’s Gamache series, The Madness of Crowds, arrives in August. In this house, everything comes to a grinding halt for Inspector Gamache. Art historian/novelist Laura Morelli’s The Stolen Lady will be my September treat. I’m also anxious to read poet Ken Craft’s new collection, Reincarnation and Other Stimulants. I love a book of well-made poems every now and then, and I’ve particularly enjoyed Ken’s other published volumes.
Watching. The final episode of Detective Montalbano is airing on MHZ Choice. This series has been a beautifully faithful rendering of the Andrea Camillieri novels, thanks in part to the great respect that all behind and in front of the camera had for Camillieri. With the beloved author and several others involved in the series gone, it was, to borrow from the popular song, “time to say goodbye.” Seeing it come to an end has truly tugged at my heart. Sigh. Sigh again.
On a happier note, I can’t say enough good things about the delightful Somebody Feed Phil, featuring Phil Rosenthal, creator of Everybody Loves Raymond. A few years ago we loved watching the three episodes of I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, on PBS that no doubt presaged the current Netflix series, in which Phil and the people and food he meets along the way, all over the globe, simply shine. His comedic sensibility is brilliant (in his DNA, as the show demonstrates), his timing is flawless, and he exploits his own slightly dorky, slightly awkward persona just enough. I’ll bet he was the class clown growing up, but it’s pretty clear that he is also one of the nicest, funniest, most endearing guys on the planet, along with his entire family. Thanks to John, Helena, and Bob for pushing us to watch it.
The Heart Guy (aka Doctor, Doctor) is back on Acorn. We’re trying to curb our desire to binge right through. It’s the final season with this motley crew, and neither one of us wanted to see it end in a few compulsive days.
Cooking. Darling Grandma Gina, of the YouTube hit Buon-A-Petitti, has published Cooking with Grandma Gina. I ordered it immediately and am happy to report that it’s a complete delight, as expected. Grandma Gina’s beautiful smile and charming, old-style Italian perceptions, helped to get us through lockdown. If you haven’t seen her set bread dough to rise, give yourself a treat.
As far as my own kitchen, after spending so many satisfying hours there from March 2020 through the first quarter of 2021, I hit the wall with one of those “cooked out” periods. Yesterday, in a last-ditch attempt to motivate myself again, I cleaned and reorganized the baking pantry, then made pizza using the recipe on the King Arthur “00” Pizza Flour bag instead of my usual. It was quite a nice crust. Baking on the stone makes such a difference.
I also found a short ribs recipe that was a huge hit, on the Once Upon a Chef blog. I love all my cookbooks, but it’s so easy to search online when you’re itching to try something new. We’d planned to grill but alas, the weather didn’t cooperate, so I opted for the oven. I made the first of the summer fruit pies, blueberry and cherry, when Dorothy and Frank were here. Peach will be up next, possibly on the weekend. And that’s all I have to report at this point.
And that, dear readers, is how we’re spending our summer vacation. Thus far, at least.