S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat

S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image Cookie Named Desire

S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image Cookie Named Desire

I remember my first s'more. I was shy of 10 years old and at sleepaway camp in the Adirondack Mountains. The girls from my cabin, our two counselors and the hiking counselor were on a camping trip. It was late and dark out and we were all gathered around the campfire. with the sticks that we had gathered from the ground and marshmallows roasting - some falling into the fire, some in full flame. The burnt ones, I soon discovered, were the best. I loved the charred exterior and the warm, melty interior.

As we were roasting our puffy white sugary treats, graham crackers and Hershey's bars were being passed around. It seemed as though everyone but myself knew what to do with them. Put the chocolate bar on top of the cookie, then the marshmallow and another graham cracker on top. I followed along. I took a bite. I didn't love it. I've never been a fan of the Hershey chocolate bar. I've always found it to be too gritty. Chocolate should be smooth and creamy. I was a food critic even at a very young age. I prefered my s'mores without the chocolate.

Many years later I would attend an event with a make your own S'mores bar and I was reaquainted with the summertime treat. A special table was created with all the fixin's - with a much grander selection than the chalky Hershey bar.  Over the years I've had all sorts of incarnations of this summertime bonfire treat and I admit to preferring them much more so than the original one.

For my most recent Birthday I asked my daughter to make me a S'mores Ice Cream Cake a la Dairy Queen.... I wanted chocolate ice cream, Cookies and Cream ice cream, graham crackers and chocolate and marshmallow sauces. (Recipe below) My 16 year old has made incarnations of S'mores Cookies and was recently looking for some new ideas - the inspiration for this piece. For S'mores inspirations that are, in my opinion, even better than the original, read below!

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image Taste of Home.

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image Taste of Home.

    Mini S'mores Cookies

    Bite sized versions made from melted chocolate and marshmallow creme offer a slight twist on the original. For the recipe visit Taste of Home

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image Cooking Classy

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image Cooking Classy

    S'mores Bars

    Using the same ingredients as s'mores but in a bar form. The recipe calls for Hershey's chocolate. I'd personally substitute for a smoother, milkier or even dark chocolate. Cooking Classy has the recipe. Honestly, these look way more tempting than a regular ol' s'more!

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image David Lebovitz

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image David Lebovitz

    S'mores Ice Cream

    David Lebovitz, master of the dessert, has conjured up a recipe for the perfect s'mores ice cream. Of course, you can draw from his inspiration and take the easy way out. It's still good - I assure you. My grandmother was the master of doctoring up store bought ice cream and I've inherited the ability to do so as well. Of course today we can find every flavor under the sun, but it's still fun to add in your own fixin's. 

    Ingredients:
    1 container of premium vanilla ice or chocolate cream (quart) - I always buy what's on sale
    1 Container of fudge sauce
    1 Container marshmallow creme
    Chocolate chips or 1 large bar of good quality chocolate, broken into good pieces, roughly 1 1/2 cups
    10 graham crackers ground into crumbs
    6 graham crackers broken into pieces
    Quart-sized glass or plastic container, or metal mold

    Directions:
    Soften ice cream and place in a large mixing bowl
    Blend in graham cracker crumbs until smooth
    Blend in chocolate and graham pieces
    Microwave and melt chocolate syrup and marshmallow creme
    Working fast drizzle in 1/2 to 1 jar of the marshmallow creme and repeat using chocolate careful not to turn the ice cream chocolate.
    Pour ice cream into appropriate container, smoothing out the top and return to freezer for several hours until well frozen.
     

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image Love and Olive Oil

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image Love and Olive Oil

    S'mores Ice Cream Sandwich

    Homemade coconut ice cream and cookies combine with marshmallow and melted chocolate make these s'mores irresistible on a hot summer day. Brings out the kid in all of us. Recipe from Love and Olive Oil

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image Broma Bakery

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image Broma Bakery

    S'mores Ice Pot au Creme

    For those who are fans of Paleo and for those who are dairy free, Broma Bakery shares this. For those of you who aren't I'd imagine chocolate pudding, or mousse, Cool Whip or freshly whipped cream and Graham Cracker Crumbs might make a good substitute.... 

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image My Baking Addiction

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image My Baking Addiction

    S'mores Trifle

    I'm not sure I have ever met a trifle I haven't liked...  A little less Paleo, a whole lot easier, hazelnut spread, roasted marshmallows, graham cracker crumbs and strawberries. I mean really, what isn't to like here? My Baking Addiction shares her recipe.

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image

    S'mores Slutty Brownies

    At the tender age of 49 I had my first "slutty" brownie. I never understood the hype or the rage. And then I had my first bite. From then on there was no turning back. You just can't untaste the greatness of it all. While not quite a s'more they may be even better! The recipe calls for S'mores Oreos, if you can't find them I am sure the golden ones would yield a similar effect. Maybe toss in a few chocolate chips for good measure? Head on over to What's Gabby Cooking for inspiration or use your own brownie/chocolate chip cookie recipe. 

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image Seasons and Suppers

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image Seasons and Suppers

    S'mores Brownie Bars

    This brownie recipe is more along the lines of a traditional S'more but in between the layer of graham and marshmallow is a fudgy brownie. We'll need to try these soon! From Seasons and Suppers.

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image The Kitchn

    S'mores with a Twist :: 10 Recipes for your favorite summertime treat. Image The Kitchn

    S'Mores Ice Cream Cake

    (Image above - Inspired by The Kitchn)   

    You could head over to a Cookie Named Desire, or you could take a shortcut like I did using store-bought ice cream that was also on sale.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 Quarts of ice cream - I used 1 quart of chocolate and one of Cookies and cream, but feel free to use whichever you prefer
    • 1 jar of hot fudge sauce 
    • 1 jar of marshmallow sauce 
    • 1 box of graham crackers, regular or chocolate
    • 1 springform pan

    Directions:

    • Remove 1 quart of ice cream from freezer and bring it to room temperature - this works best with softened ice cream
    • When soft, scoop out the ice cream and place it into the springform pan, in a smooth and even layer, then place in the freezer for an hour or so. Meanwhile, break graham crackers into small bite-sized pieces
    • When the first layer of ice cream has hardened, remove the mold from freezer. Place the graham cracker pieces on top, covering it well. Then microwave the hot fudge sauce and pour it over the cookies, carefully to cover the entire surface. Return to the freezer for another hour or so. 
    • Repeat with the marshmallow sauce, microwaving it first to soften, then spreading it over the chocolate sauce. If the two blend, that's perfectly fine! Return to the freezer for another hour or so or until hard. 
    • When the sauces have hardened substantially, remove the other carton of ice cream from the freezer and let soften. When softened add to the chocolate layers, spreading evenly. Return to freezer overnight to set.
    • To loosen the ice cream from the mold pop the springform ring and carefully pull it away. Flip the cake over and place on a plate - the former top is now the bottom layer.
    • To remove the rest of the pan you could slip a sharp knife in between the pan and the ice cream and carefully slide the knife around, over the top of the cake. You might want to run the knife under hot water to warm the blade to make sliding easier.
    • You can decorate with more fudge, marshmallow sauce, sprinkles graham cracker pieces or cool whip

    Happy S'moring!

    Chill Out! 12 Watermelon Recipes to help you keep your cool

    I think there is no fruit as quintessentially summertime as the watermelon. It's bright green rind, juicy, bright red fruit is perhaps the most refreshing of them all, especially on a really hot day. Watermelon is one of those things I truly crave as the temperatures rise - especially after a really intense workout when I'll go home and head for the container of cut up watermelon. My mother used to tell me that watermelon had no nutritional value, but that's not at all the case. Packed with citrine and lycopene, watermelon is 91% water and contains vitamins A, B5 and C. Furthermore watermelon is associated with lowering blood pressure and reduced insulin resistance. One study shows watermelon to reduce muscle soreness after exercise; maybe this is why I crave it after the gym? Although watermelon has a high glycemic index (it's very high in sugar and can make sugar levels spike) it is relatively low in carbohydrates and calories, at just 45 calories a cup. So go ahead and eat your watermelon! Below are a few recipes to get you to rethink this pretty pink and green fruit.

    1. Watermelon Frosé 

    (Image above)
    How Sweet It Is shares her recipe for this summer's hottest chilled beverage. Have you tried frosé yet? The icy cocktail made with rosé and watermelon is a grown-up's version of the Slushy. You will definitely want to have batches of this around at your next summertime shin-dig!

    2. Watermelon Mint Lemonade

    What do you get when you mix summer's most iconic fruit with summer's most iconic beverage, a delicious and refreshing beverage that will make you forget just how hot it is outside! Simple Vegan Blog has the recipe. 

    3. Watermelon Tomato Gazpacho

    I'm curious to try this. If done right the watermelon should enhance the tomato's natural sweetness and cut down on the acidity. I might serve it with some toasted ciabatta and whipped goat cheese.... Recipe provided by Happy Kitchen Rocks.

    4. Watermelon Bruschetta with Whipped Goat Cheese, Feta, Basil and Balsamic Drizzle

    Or you could make this - blending the flavors of the goat cheese and watermelon on a crunchy piece of bread. A fun, summery twist on the more traditional tomato bruschetta.... or as in the chilled soup above, combine the tomatoes and watermelon to create a version of your own. Recipe via Host the Toast.  

    5. Grilled Watermelon with Feta Salad

    I was skeptical of the combination but after having a bite of a beautiful watermelon and feta salad at a local restaurant last year I was sold. Although I'm a huge fan of salty and sweet I'm not really into sweet for my meals... This, however, was a game changer for me. This recipe is from Cooking for Keeps.

    6. Watermelon Feta Mint Skewers

    Bites from Bri brings us another form of the watermelon feta combination with these minted bite-sized skewers that are pop-in-your-mouth aka party-friendly. The balsamic drizzle adds some acidity to the sweet and salty combo. Try substituting a really fresh and creamy mozzarella for the feta in any of these recipes.

    7. Watermelon salad with Goat Cheese and Fennel

    This variation uses a soft, spreadable goat cheese and adds some thinly shaved fennel and apple to the top for an added layer of flavor complexity. It's quite a beautiful presentation too. This recipe is from The Hungry Cook.

    8. Cucumber, Watermelon and Feta Salad

    Cucumber is another incredibly refreshing fruit. Combining it with the melon and feta, adds another layer of texture, and lessens the sweetness of the salad, offering the perfect balance. A simple dressing made of olive oil, lime and honey makes this a perfect summertime salad. Pair it with a glass of rosé and call me over to join you! Recipe from Downshiftology.

    9. Watermelon Jicama Salad with Cilantro and Lime

    Bon Appetit Magazine brings us this twist - offering sweet with spicy and sour - refreshing with a kick!

    10. Watermelon S'mores

    A healthier and more refreshing twist on the old campfire favorite. Cool Whip and watermelon sandwiched in between two graham crackers. I would imagine these are best served immediately to prevent the graham cracker from becoming too soggy. We will be trying these for sure!

     

    Book Review - The Decorated Home, Living with Style and Joy

    It's a sunny 85 degree day in June and I finally have some time to sit down and savor THE DECORATED HOME: LIVING WITH STYLE AND JOY. As I recline on the couch on my 3-season porch, the leaves on the branches sway in the gentle breeze - I glance up to spy a couple of gigantic yellow butterflies fluttering in the distance and a couple of squirrels chasing each other up a tree. I have a lemonade on the ground next to me (the coffee table is too far a reach!) and Meg Braff's book on my lap.

    The images in THE DECORATED HOME: LIVING WITH STYLE AND JOY are as refreshing as a cold bowl sherbet on a hot summer day. Her use of vibrant pastels, bright blues, yellows, greens, pinks and corals not only evoke a sense of calm, but instill a sense of understated sophistication. Her designs are all elegant, are approachable, friendly, liveable and without pretension. 

    Everyone wants a house filled with grace and charm. Throughout the book Braff shares her inspirations and advice on creating spaces that are livable and attractive, maintaining both form and function. She explores the key elements of her look—color and pattern—and how to employ them for maximum impact.

    Known for her use of color, especially those "offbeat enough to catch your eye" Braff has an affinity for layering several hues together, as we see throughout the many pages. Of the belief that all variations needn't match exactly, she often pairs unexpected colors together to create a great impact. She considers green a neutral - a color with which all others can be paired, like a garden in full bloom, but admits to favoring one color in particular.

    However, if I had to align with one color, it would be blue. I am captivated by many shades of blue, from the soothing, expressive Prussian blues in Henri Matisse paintings to the intriguing, muted tones of the French artist Roger Muhl...

    Blues evoke the ocean and air; similar to green, it takes on a neutral quality because it works so well with other colors.
    — Living with Style and Joy, Meg Braff

    Braff is a huge fan of pattern, which she infuses with her love of color, often layering and marrying several patterns together to create rich and storied spaces. 

    While there is no exact formula, layers of pattern work best when you mix scales. A small ikat on a lampshade next to a chair covered in a larger pattern creates a mix that’s visually intriguing. Aim for interest at different heights in the room; don’t concentrate all the pattern at eye level or on the the floor.”
    — The Decorated Room, Meg Braff

    Throughout the book she shares her inspirations - her love for detail, antiques, pattern, texture, Chinoiserie, as well as tips for selecting paint color, shopping, styling, and organization.  She also shares the essential elements to creating stylish bedrooms, inviting baths and breakfast rooms, and offers up suggestions for creating chic outdoor spaces.  She also shares with us the importance of finishing touches - the little extras that elevate a room’s decor from good to great.

    Coco Chanel once advised, ‘before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.’ You should do the same when decorating with pattern. Like fashion, pattern benefits from a good edit.
    — Living with Style and Joy, Meg Braff

    All of her advice comes together in an overall theme of gracious living that will be warmly welcomed by readers looking to impart polish, color, and grace to their home. Lushly illustrated with vivid images of Braff’s lively work, THE DECORATED HOME: LIVING WITH STYLE AND JOY is an inspiring, idea-filled resource for both novices and experts alike.

    Born and raised in Mississippi, interior designer Meg Braff has been praised extensively for her ingenious use of color and pattern. Now based on Long Island, Meg Braff Interiors is known for its work intop resort locations including Bermuda, Palm Beach, the Hamptons, and Newport. Braff also owns her own design shop in Locust Valley.

    THE DECORATED HOME: LIVING WITH STYLE AND JOY
    Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.
    300 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010
    Tel. (212) 387-3400 Telefax (212) 387-3535

    Cheap Thrills :: A few of my favorite (summertime) things under $50

    As a single mother to three, one of whom is off to college in the fall, I am always watching my pennies. I (almost) always think twice before I buy something and I make sure that I get the best bang for my buck. While it's true that the best things in life are free, there are a lot of great products out there that aren't expensive and really worth their weight in gold. Sometimes it's the small things that give us the greatest pleasure. On this list I have $5 flip-flops a $35 water bottle and everything in between. Each item gives me immense pleasure for a variety of different reasons. These 18 items are things that I cannot live without. 

    1. Two-Faced, Better than Sex Mascara

    I have tried everything on the market. And I do mean everything. Trying to save a few bucks I tried every drugstore mascara on the market before reaching for an old favorite high end. However, before I headed to the checkout line, I asked one of the employees at Blue Mercury for the fattest mascara on the market. Without hesitation I was introduced to Better than Sex Mascara. I got home and immediately tried it on. This mascara is as close to a set of falsies you'll ever go. One coat or three, this one pumps up the volume! About $35 (less on Amazon Prime) And worth every penny!

    2. Maybelline Master Strobing Stick

    I will have to thank my teenager for this. I found it in her make up bag one afternoon when she had gone to her dad's. I put my makeup on, added some blush and rubbed this on the top part of my cheekbones, bridge of my nose and forehead. Blended in and I had this gorgeous, dewy highlighted look. I've tried several since but this one, even when stacked up against pricier brands, remains my all time favorites. Leave it to Maybelline! This will run you less than $8.

    3. Sea Salt & Fig Eau de Cologne

    Would you believe me if I said this little diddy came from Old Navy? A fresh clean scent, like clean linen and gentle ocean breezes, this little bottle is a big surprise. I decided to spray one of the tester bottles one day when I was on the checkout line and was amazed when I smelled my wrists. I picked up the bottle and a small tube of lotion for my hands that I keep in my straw bag. The top note is strong without overwhelming, but there's not much of a base note which means it will need more frequent re-applying. About $5.

    4. Party Earrings with Tassels, Zara

    Fringe and fringe style jewelry are all the range. These fun earrings will liven up any outfit and run about $10!

    5. Votivo, White Ocean Sands

    I fell in love with this fragrance after my trip to Palm Beach in April. This was the signature scent of the Eau Hotel and Spa where. They describe it as "As the warm midsummer day drew to a close, the familiar sea salt freshness awaited their return' but this time was different; a smoke infused woodsy essence rose in gentle swirls from the beachside bonfire beckoning them to enjoy."  Candles are roughly $28 (Burns clean without harmful and black residue)

    6. Nest, Bamboo

    This was the first scent I fell in love with and still remains a favorite. I prefer crisp floral notes that are subtle. I want my home to smell clean and fresh not overly perfumed or sweet.  $40. (If you don't want to burn candles all day you might want to consider a diffuser.)

    7. Old Navy Flip Flops

    Available in a rainbow of colors, you'll want to pick up an armful! My favorites are the red, white and navy ones. I stock up on the white ones and when they start to look dirty and worn I simply toss them. I live in my flip flops during the summertime - more so than any other shoe! $5 a pair but can run as low as $1 a pair if you can hit a sale!

    8. LaCroix Sparkling Water

    These are TO DIE FOR! Available in a dozen flavors including passion fruit, grapefruit, coconut, lemon, lime and now tangerine, these effervescent beverages will help you fill your day's water quota without realizing it. My kids adore these as well. Prices vary - I can find them at my local grocery store for about $4 a case. 

    9. Honey Goat Cheese

    Liven up your cheese and charcuterie platters, switch this out for your regular goat cheese with salads, cruditées, bruschetta, etc... A slight sweetness marries perfectly with the crisp tartness of this cheese. Use this to give old favorites a new twist. You will thank me for this! Prices vary.

    10. Starbucks Shaken Teavana Teas

    I try not to spend too much money on Starbucks but on a hot day or after a particularly grueling spin class there's nothing I like as much as a shaken tea or shaken tea and lemonade blend. My favorites are the peach green tea, lemonade blend and the white iced tea lemonade blend. They're not calorie-free so I don't indulge too often, but when I do it's an incredible refreshing treat!

    11. Wolffer Estates, Summer in a Bottle Rosé

    This is hands-down my favorite rosé - I have a few that I turn to regularly, and at $22 a bottle, I do mix this up with others. This ships all away across the Long Island sound (about 10 miles or so away) from the Wolffer Estate Vineyard, a sustainable vineyard in the heart of the Hamptons. As Described by Wolffer: What distinguishes Summer in a Bottle is its fruit character. An homage to the glorious summer of 2013, Summer in a Bottle is a literal taste of the Hamptons high season. “We waited as long as possible to harvest the fruit for Summer in a Bottle. Choosing the perfect moment to pick was crucial to make this highly anticipated wine, bursting with the aromas and flavors of the seasonal fruits that reach their peak ripeness at the height of summer,” said Wölffer Winemaker/ Partner Roman Roth. It used to be hard to find, even in Connecticut, but the label is expanding and I saw this offered in Palm Beach in the springtime. 

    12. Halo Top Ice Cream

    From Halo Top Creamery, available in the US and Australia, this low-calorie, high-protein, low-sugar,  all-natural ingredients ice cream is to die for. You will have to try it to believe it! For those who prefer to eat the entire pint in one sitting, pints range from 230 - 340 calories... per pint! With amazing flavors such as peanut butter cup, lemon cake, cookies and cream, chocolate, vanilla, s'mores and more, you'll be able to indulge this summer without guilt! Roughly $5 per pint. Look at it this way, if you eat it for dinner it's a cheap and low calorie meal!

    13. Swell Water Bottles

    I never really got the hype until I tried one. They claim to keep beverages hot or cold for 24 hours and this never really meant anything to me until summertime. I accidentally left my bottle in the car for a couple of hours on a hot summer day. Normally my water would be undrinkable, not only was it cold, but the ice remained, from what I could tell, mostly unmelted. Now that summer has once again returned this is the only bottle I use. It's perfect for on the beach too! Available in a multitude of colors and designs, and in 9, 17 and 25 ounce sizes. Prices range from $25 - $45. Well worth the money. Environmentally friendly and Swell is socially and environmentally responsible. 

    14. The Sunshine Sisters, by Jane Green

    Every girl needs a good beach read! I am currently reading this book by Jane Green. I was given a copy at a wonderfully catered book launch last weekend. I'm loving it so far! 

    About the book:  Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood in the sixties to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters. Still, when Ronni discovers she has a serious illness, she calls her now-adult girls home to fulfill her final wishes. Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy are all going through crises of their own. But as their mother’s illness draws them together to confront old jealousies and secret fears, they discover that blood might be thicker than water after all. Available in Hardcover $17.09 (Amazon Prime) or Kindle, $12.99

    15. Dove Dry Shampoo

    I've tried them all. And I do mean all. This, by far the least expensive, is my favorite. It mists a white powdery substance which also gives my hair lift and volume which I very much need on a hot summer day! About $4.

    16. Alba Botanica Sunscreen

    As one who has had skin cancer I try to be diligent about covering up. I was told by my doctor, a top skin cancer surgeon at Yale New Haven Hospital that 30 SPF is the only coverage I need. He did say that I need to be diligent about re-applying, and although I need to improve, the only time I got burned this year was when I was eating lunch outside one day on a particularly warm spring day, and took off my sweater. I hadn't anticipated the sun and therefore I hadn't applied sunscreen. This is one of those "healthy" sunscreens that won't break the bank. I LOVE the way this feels on my skin, living it moist and dewy. I use this facial one all over my body. I've been able to find it for well under $10. 

    17. Cheeky Plates for Target

    Kids of ALL ages (my teenagers included!) will love these fun and whimsical plates by Cheeky for Target. Whether picnicking at the beach, poolside or inside for movie night, these plates will delight! $2.99 for each pack of 30.

    18. Raffia Cross-body Bag, Zara

    Perfect for toting sunglasses, sunscreen, cell phone, lip gloss and car keys this fun raffia bag is the perfect bag to accompany you from Beach to Café or outside Bar. $35.90

    80 Things to do this summer :: Make it a #summertoremember!

    80 Things to do this summer. Image via Indulgy

    80 Things to do this summer. Image via Indulgy

    Every summer I make a list of things I want to do - from the simplest of things like catching fireflies with my youngest to those that require more planning like taking road trips throughout New England. It's easy to fall into the daily routine of mundaneness, even in summertime. There are a few things that make the list every year that I never seem to be able to get to and yet I write them down none the less... One day I will get to these things... One day I will! I also leave room at the bottom for the things I hadn't written but have done. It's good fun to look back at the list at the end of the season. For those with kids headed off to college, and for those with young kids these lists can also help with planning. Why not include the whole family and see what ideas everyone else contributes. Feel free to use my list for inspiration and build your own from there.

    80 Things to do this summer :: Make it a #summertoremember! Image via Pinterest

    80 Things to do this summer :: Make it a #summertoremember! Image via Pinterest

    1. Make ice cream from scratch - using salt, ice + cream or an ice cream ball
    2. Make s'mores 
    3. Have a picnic dinner on the beach
    4. Wake up early and watch the sunrise from the beach (lake, etc) 
    5. Go paddleboarding
    6. Go kayaking
    7. Learn to surf
    8. Learn to sail
    9. Discover new ice cream shops 
    10. Start a visual journal with either photos or illustrations
    11. Discover new outdoor restaurants
    12. Start a quest for the best Lobster rolls 
    13. Make your own dill pickles
    14. Bake a loaf of strawberry bread for your neighbor (or keep it for yourself!)
    15. Play mini golf
    16. Go horseback riding (take a lesson!)
    17. Go ice skating
    18. Have a Christmas Party in July 
    19. Visit a local vineyard
    20. Visit a local brewery
    21. Visit a local distillery
    22. Go to a fair 
    23. Go to an amusement park
    24. Go waterskiing
    25. Go inner tubing on a lake or lazy river
    26. Climb a ropes course and go ziplining
    27. Take a nap on the porch
    28. Make Sun tea
    29. Go to a flea market
    30. Picnic at an outdoor concert
    31. Search for sea glass or shells 
    32. Have a movie marathon on a hot, steamy or rainy weekend 
    33. Start a container garden
    34. Go on a ferry or boat ride 
    35. Rent a convertible
    36. Make a "tape" with your favorite songs of the summer
    37. Visit a museum
    38. Explore a new town
    39. Stay at a local hotel for the perfect "staycation"
    40. Go to the farmer's market and make lunch or dinner with only local ingredients
    41. Visit a local botanical garden
    42. Host an outdoor movie night - (great for kids of all ages!)
    43. Create an obstacle course in your backyard (great for kids)
    44. Go on a hike
    45. Find local attractions you haven't been to and visit a few of them
    46. Make fresh Lemonade
    47. Create a scavenger hunt (great for kids)
    48. Host a Make your Own Sundae Party (great for kids and teens)
    49. Pick your own strawberries
    50. Pick your own blueberries  
    51. Bake a pie using your freshly picked berries
    52. Make your own strawberry jam (It's so much easier than you'd think!)
    53. Visit a local carnival
    54. Make your own pickles
    55. Wash a car or have teens host a car wash
    56. Set up a lemonade stand with your children 
    57. Visit a waterpark
    58. Have a water balloon fight
    59. Have a sponge ball fight
    60. Tie-dye some old T-shirts, sheets or pillow cases
    61. REVERSE tie-dye some stained shirts. The results are amazing!!
    62. Peruse a bookstore
    63. Peruse your local library
    64. Unplug for a couple of hours and lose yourself in a good book
    65. Take a floral arranging class
    66. Take a watercolor class
    67. Learn calligraphy
    68. Have breakfast on the beach
    69. Sit on the porch and watch a thunderstorm
    70. Go stargazing - be on the lookout for shooting stars
    71. Plan a family road trip
    72. Have a Christmas in July party, with decorations, music and all!
    73. Swim or go in a hot tub in a heavy summer rain (without thunder and lightning!)
    74. Perform a random act of kindness
    75. Create an inspiration board or book
    76. Learn something new
    77. Try a new sport or form of exercise 
    78. Create an obstacle course in a swimming pool
    79. Go skinny dipping at midnight
    80. Make your own fringe jeans or shorts
    80 Things to do this summer - Image via Pinterest

    80 Things to do this summer - Image via Pinterest

    16 Pool Floats Guaranteed to Make a Splash this Summer!

    School's out for the summer! (Or just about to be.) A couple of years ago the pink flamingo made a splash on the home pool scene and ever since the swimming pool float is soaring to new popularity and the choices are tremendous. Fun and whimsical these will delight children of all ages - and are guaranteed to bring out your inner child. Invite your friends, invite your neighbors. Throw an impromptu BBQ party together in no time... All you need is food, pool float, water and stir!  

    For more information or to order a float simply hover over the image and click! 

    A few thoughts on turning Fifty...

    And so it is that with another blink of an eye another decade has passed. It hardly seems possible. It seems even more impossible that I am about to enter my fifth decade, though when said in those terms it doesn't seem quite as terrifying or dramatic. It's not so much about getting older and aging, but about managing my own expectations, demands and goals. It's less about fear of failure, though that does factor into it all. It is more about not seizing every opportunity that comes my way; something I have made a conscientious effort of doing throughout my 40s. I also know that my own divorce very much impacted this decade and my thoughts and fears on Fifty. 

    My 40s were filled with new experiences, new friends and a fair amount of travel. I fell in love. I met new people. I made new friends. I challenged myself. I persevered. I succeeded and I also failed a few times. I set new goals. I met some of those goals. The decade forced me to live outside of my comfort zone, which as a creature of habit who seeks the comfort and the familiarity of the everyday, was a huge gift.

    I have learned to push myself. I have learned to not doubt myself (I'm still working on that!). I have learned that comparison is the thief of joy, that experiences are much better and more interesting than any material item. I have learned that, for the most part, it can be done and that I can do it. I have learned that the struggle and the hard work can pay off. I have learned to ask for help. I have learned to say no. I have learned to say yes. I have learned not to apologize for my thoughts, views or opinions.  I have learned to compartmentalize the various aspects of my life to allow time for everything important to me. I have learned to slow down. I have learned to speed up. I have learned to be patient. (Ok, I'm still working on this one as well!) All of these are gifts, and much of this would not have happened had I not divorced and as a result I am stronger, more determined and self reliant.  

    My 40s were perhaps the greatest decade of personal growth - even more so than either my 20s or my 30s. I am eager, excited and scared to see what my 50s brings. I enter this decade with a new calm despite the great struggles that lie ahead. There is much I can fight for and work towards and there is so much that is out of my hands. With regards to the latter, I have learned to sit back and enjoy the ride as best as I can, for there's a lot of beauty out there that might otherwise be missed.

    As I sail toward 50 I can say for certain that am up for the challenges that lie ahead. I will face them head-on. I will continue to push myself physically and mentally. But there are things I want this year - this decade. I want to travel more, see more, explore more. I want to continue to meet new people, make new friends. I will continue to fight (fiercely) for my children, and for myself. I will continue to focus on myself and growing my career.  Most importantly I acknowledge the fact that I want to settle down - I want to find an inner peace - I'm working on it but I'm not there yet.

    Ten years from now, when all my children will be grown and out of the house, I want to be able to say my 50s were my best decade. I'm not too sure I can say that about my 40s. There was just too much struggle and sadness, despite the positive. Perhaps I am not yet far enough removed from this decade (I am technically still in it, after all) and my views will change down the road. 

    Five years post divorce I am still grappling to find the answers, still struggling to make ends meet, still treading in choppy waters, still dealing with an often volatile ex-husband and still trying to set my eyes on creating a successful future. In many ways I have the same struggles as a new college graduate with the additional responsibilities of three children. I will be honest and to use a term my 18 year old daughter does, I'll say it's scarfy AF, especially when I come to the realization that I am sandwiched in between 30 and 70. I am as close to 70 as I am to 30. When I turned 30 I got married, the next year I became pregnant with my daughter. The future was sunny and bright and there was a world of possibility ahead. I admit to being a little less optimistic now. Maybe it's best? I had a tendency to be too Pollyanna-ish, and not having a realistic view of things. While I still am hopeful of a happy future I am also realistic. Incredibly so. Divorce does that. 

    As I reflect on the past 10 years I have come to learn that they were the most rewarding and yet the most difficult. I was 42 when I asked for a divorce and 44 when it was finalized. Those two years of separation were brutal, the freedom that ensued was intoxicatingly freeing as I had a renewed hope for the future. The responsibilities attached with being a single parent, however, often feel like trying to stay afloat with an anchor tied to your foot. My strength has been tested over and over again and each and every time I have learned that I am stronger than I thought I ever would be, capable of more than I ever thought I would be. And so, as I look back, my limits tested on an almost daily basis, I know that I can weather any storm. And I am actually grateful for the challenges that are now behind me as I ready myself for the challenges that lie ahead. I have a renewed faith in myself and a knowledge that everything really will be alright. 

    I've always been a bit of a late bloomer... maybe it was self doubt, maybe I needed time to assess the situation around me, maybe it was fear, but I vow, as I enter this new decade not to let anything prevent me from being the best that I can. After all, isn't 50 the new 30? 

    Come on Fifty, we've got this! 

    * This was written a few days earlier, before my Birthday which was on June 1st. 

    16 Books you simply must toss into your beach bag this summer

    What is it about losing yourself in a good book during the summertime that's got a magical-like quality to it? Reading once again becomes a priority, forcing us to slow down as we become immersed in new worlds and new lives with bright, colorful characters.  There's nothing as calming as the idea of curling up with a great read and a cold glass of iced tea or lemonade in the middle of the afternoon as the sun's rays grace down, illuminating the beautifully colored landscape, or curled up indoors while a heavy summer rain pours down around us. For as much as we look forward to barbeques, lawn parties and afternoons at the beach, we equally anticipate the luxury of a great summer read. Below are 16 titles that I've had my eye on, I think there's something for everyone, perfect for every beach bag.


    Into the Water, Paula Hawkins

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

    Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

    With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

    Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

    One Click - Buy here


     


    We were the Lucky Ones, Georgia Hunter

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    Inspired by the incredible true story of one Jewish family separated at the start of World War II, determined to survive—and to reunite—We Were the Lucky Onesis a sweeping novel spanning six years and five continents and a tribute to the triumph of hope and love against all odds
     
    “Love in the face of global adversity? It couldn’t be more timely.” —Glamour
     
    It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety. 
     
    As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere. 
     
    An extraordinary, propulsive novel, We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the twentieth century’s darkest moment, the human spirit can endure and even thrive. One Click - Buy here
     


    Anything is Possible, Elizabeth Strout

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    Tommy Guptill had once owned a dairy farm, which he’d inherited from his father, and which was about two miles from the town of Amgash, Illinois. This was many years ago now, but at night Tommy still sometimes woke with the fear he had felt the night his dairy farm burned to the ground. The house had burned to the ground as well; the wind had sent sparks onto the house, which was not far from the barns. It had been his fault — he always thought it was his fault — because he had not checked that night on the milking machines to make sure they had been turned off properly, and this is where the fire started. Once it started, it ripped with a fury over the whole place. One Click - Buy here

     

     


    You Don't Look Your Age: And Other Fairy Tales, Sheila Nevins

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    For readers of Nora Ephron, Anna Quindlen, and even Lena Dunham, comes a collection of stories and essays about what women of a certain age have learned—sometimes the hard way.

    In You Don’t Look Your Age, Sheila Nevins has put together an incredibly surprising, funny and poignant collection of short stories, essays, and poetry that, taken together, tell not only her life story—but the life stories of a generation of women. 

    Nevins has seen it all. A famed documentary producer (many credit her with creating the modern documentary) Nevins has always been behind the scenes. But now it’s time for her to take center stage. Nevins experienced obstacles at every path—as a daughter, a mother, and as a woman pursuing a career in an industry she loved. You Don’t Look Your Age is Nevins’ chance to tell how things really were, and are, for countless women. Topics she tackles are: frenemies, infidelity, plastic surgery, dieting, Viagra, the heartbreak of young first love, the discomforts of growing old, and a celebration in the long run of what life has to offer.

    With biting humor, charm, deep insight, wisdom, and surprising poignancy, Nevins has written that rare book that will be shared between mothers and daughters and even granddaughters.

    One Click - Buy here


    The Rules do Not Apply, Ariel Levy

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A gorgeous memoir about a woman overcoming dramatic loss and finding reinvention

    “Cheryl Strayed meets a Nora Ephron movie. You’ll laugh, ugly cry, and finish it before the weekend’s over.”—theSkimm


    When Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true.

    Levy picks you up and hurls you through the story of how she built an unconventional life and then watched it fall apart with astonishing speed. Like much of her generation, she was raised to resist traditional rules—about work, about love, and about womanhood.

    In this “deeply human and deeply moving” (The New York Times Book Review) memoir, Levy chronicles the adventure and heartbreak of being, in her own words, “a woman who is free to do whatever she chooses.” Her story of resilience becomes an unforgettable portrait of the shifting forces in our culture, of what has changed—and of what is eternal.

    One click - buy here


    Commonwealth, Ann Patchet

    The acclaimed, bestselling author—winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize—tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families' lives.

    One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating's christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny's mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

    Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

    When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.

    Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together. One Click - buy here


    The Zoo Keeper's Wife

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    The Zookeeper's Wife is a strange, but historically true story of WWII. It reveals the extraordinary efforts of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, Christian zookeepers horrified by Nazi racism, who capitalized on the Nazis' obsession with pureblood animals in order to save over 300 doomed people by hiding them in the bombed-out cages at the Warsaw Zoo. A tale of people, animals, and subversive acts of compassion.

    After their zoo was bombed, Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski managed to save over three hundred people from the Nazis by hiding refugees in the empty animal cages. With animal names for these "guests," and human names for the animals, it's no wonder that the zoo's code name became "The House Under a Crazy Star." Best-selling naturalist and acclaimed storyteller Diane Ackerman combines extensive research and an exuberant writing style to re-create this fascinating, true-life story — sharing Antonina's life as "the zookeeper's wife," while examining the disturbing obsessions at the core of Nazism. Winner of the 2008 Orion Award.

    One click - buy here


    A Separation, Katie Kitamura

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it’s time for them to separate. For the moment it’s a private matter, a secret between the two of them. As she begins her new life, she gets word that Christopher has gone missing in a remote region in the rugged south of Greece; she reluctantly agrees to go look for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she’s not even sure if she wants to find him. As her search comes to a shocking breaking point, she discovers she understands less than she thought she did about her relationship and the man she used to love. 

    A searing, suspenseful story of intimacy and infidelity, A Separation lays bare what divides us from the inner lives of others. With exquisitely cool precision, Katie Kitamura propels us into the experience of a woman on edge, with a fiercely mesmerizing story to tell.

    One click - buy here


    The Big Life, Ann Shoket

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    Millennial women are changing what it means to be powerful and successful in the world―for everyone. Forever. You want The Big Life―that delicious cocktail of passion, career, work, ambition, respect, money, and a monumental relationship. And you want it on your own terms. Forget climbing some corporate ladder, you want a career with twists and turns and adventure. For you, success only matters if it’s meaningful. Ann Shoket knows the evolving values of young women more than anyone. She’s the voice behind the popular Badass Babes community, a sisterhood of young, hungry, ambitious women who are helping each other through the most complex issues around becoming who you’re meant to be. As the trailblazing editor-in-chief of Seventeen for the better part of a decade, Shoket led provocative conversations that helped young women navigate the tricky terrain of adolescence and become smart, confident, self-assured young women. Now that they are adding muscle to the frame work of their lives, she’s continuing the conversation with The Big Life.

    The Big Life is packed with actionable guidance combined with personal advice from high-profile millennial women who have already achieved tremendous success, plus intimate conversations with a cast of compelling characters and Shoket’s own stories on her quest for The Big Life. You’ll learn to tackle all of the issues on heavy rotation in your mind such as:
    · How to craft a career that’s also a passion.
    · How to get respect from a boss who thinks you’re a lazy, entitled, and self-obsessed millennial
    · Why you need a “squad” of people who support you as you build your Big Life
    · How a side hustle will make you smarter, hotter, and more in control of your destiny.
    · Why work/life balance is a sham and your need to embrace the mess.
    · How to find a partner whose eyes light up when you talk about your ambition.

    Written in Shoket’s friendly and authoritative style, The Big Life will help you recognize your power, tap into your ambition, and create your own version of The Big Life. One click - buy here. 


    On Turpentine Lane, Elinor Lipman

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    At thirty-two, Faith Frankel has returned to her claustro-suburban hometown, where she writes institutional thank-you notes for her alma mater. It's a peaceful life, really, and surely with her recent purchase of a sweet bungalow on Turpentine Lane her life is finally on track. Never mind that her fiancé is off on a crowdfunded cross-country walk, too busy to return her texts (but not too busy to post photos of himself with a different woman in every state). And never mind her witless boss, or a mother who lives too close, or a philandering father who thinks he's Chagall. 

     When she finds some mysterious artifacts in the attic of her new home, she wonders whether anything in her life is as it seems. What good fortune, then, that Faith has found a friend in affable, collegial Nick Franconi, officemate par excellence . . .  Elinor Lipman may well have invented the screwball romantic comedy for our era, and here she is at her sharpest and best. On Turpentine Lane is funny, poignant, and a little bit outrageous. 

    One click - buy here.

     

     

     


    Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life, Yiyum Li

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    Startlingly original and shining with quiet wisdom, this is a luminous account of a life lived with books. Written over two years while the author battled suicidal depression, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life is a painful and yet richly affirming examination of what makes life worth living.

    Yiyun Li grew up in China and has spent her adult life as an immigrant in a country not her own. She has been a scientist, an author, a mother, a daughter—and through it all she has been sustained by a profound connection with the writers and books she loves. From William Trevor and Katherine Mansfield to Søren Kierkegaard and Philip Larkin, Dear Friend is a journey through the deepest themes that bind these writers together.

    Interweaving personal experiences with a wide-ranging homage to her most cherished literary influences, Yiyun Li confronts the two most essential questions of her identity: Why write? And why live?

    One click - buy here.


    A Doubter's Almanac, Ethan Canin

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    Milo Andret is born with an unusual mind. A lonely child growing up in the woods of northern Michigan in the 1950s, he gives little thought to his own talent. But with his acceptance at U.C. Berkeley he realizes the extent, and the risks, of his singular gifts. California in the seventies is a seduction, opening Milo’s eyes to the allure of both ambition and indulgence. The research he begins there will make him a legend; the woman he meets there—and the rival he meets alongside her—will haunt him for the rest of his life. For Milo’s brilliance is entwined with a dark need that soon grows to threaten his work, his family, even his existence.

    Spanning seven decades as it moves from California to Princeton to the Midwest to New York, A Doubter’s Almanac tells the story of a family as it explores the way ambition lives alongside destructiveness, obsession alongside torment, love alongside grief. It is a story of how the flame of genius both lights and scorches every generation it touches. Graced by stunning prose and brilliant storytelling, A Doubter’s Almanac is a surprising, suspenseful, and deeply moving novel, a major work by a writer who has been hailed as “the most mature and accomplished novelist of his generation.”

    One click - buy here.


    13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, Mona Awad

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks—even though her best friend Mel says she’s the pretty one. She starts dating guys online, but she’s afraid to send pictures, even when her skinny friend China does her makeup: she knows no one would want her if they could really see her. So she starts to lose. With punishing drive, she counts almonds consumed, miles logged, pounds dropped. She fights her way into coveted dresses. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl? 
     
    In her brilliant, hilarious, and at times shocking debut, Mona Awad simultaneously skewers the body image-obsessed culture that tells women they have no value outside their physical appearance, and delivers a tender and moving depiction of a lovably difficult young woman whose life is hijacked by her struggle to conform. As caustically funny as it is heartbreaking, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl introduces a vital new voice in fiction.

    One click - buy here


    Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Diane Williams

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    The very short stories of Diane Williams have been aptly called “folk tales that hammer like a nail gun,” and these 40 new ones are sharper than ever. They are unsettling, yes, frequently revelatory, and more often than not downright funny. 

    Not a single moment here is what you might expect. While there is immense pleasure to be found in Williams’s spot-on observations about how we behave in our highest and lowest moments, the heart of the drama beats in the language of American short fiction’s grand master, whose originality, precision, and power bring the familiar into startling and enchanted relief.

    One click - buy here.

     

     

     


    Always Happy Hour: Stories, Mary Miller

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    Combining hard-edged prose and savage Southern charm, Mary Miller showcases biting contemporary talent at its best. Fast on the heels of her "terrific" (New York Times Book Review) debut novel, The Last Days of California, she now reaches new heights with this collection of shockingly relatable, ill-fated love stories.

    Acerbic and ruefully funny, Always Happy Hour weaves tales of young women—deeply flawed and intensely real—who struggle to get out of their own way. They love to drink and have sex; they make bad decisions with men who either love them too much or too little; and they haunt a Southern terrain of gas stations, public pools, and dive bars. Though each character shoulders the weight of her own baggage—whether it’s a string of horrible exes, a boyfriend with an annoying child, or an inability to be genuinely happy for a best friend—they are united in their unrelenting suspicion that they deserve better.

    These women seek understanding in the most unlikely places: a dilapidated foster home where love is a liability in "Big Bad Love," a trailer park littered with a string of bad decisions in "Uphill," and the unfamiliar corners of a dream home purchased with the winnings of a bitter divorce settlement in "Charts." Taking a microscope to delicate patterns of love and intimacy, Miller evokes the reticent love among the misunderstood, the gritty comfort in bad habits that can’t be broken, and the beat-by-beat minutiae of fated relationships.

    Like an evening of drinking, Always Happy Hour is a comforting burn, warm and intoxicating in its brutal honesty. In an unforgettable style that distinguishes her within her generation, Miller once again captures womanhood in "a raw…and heartbreaking way" (Los Angeles Review of Books) and solidifies her essential role in American fiction. One click buy here


    Signals: New and Selected Stories, Tim Gautreaux

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    16 Books to toss into your beach bag this summer

    A widely celebrated novelist gives us a generous collection of exhilarating short stories, proving that he is a master of this genre as well. Once again, “he reminds us,” wrote The Miami Herald, “that great writing is a timeless art.” 

    After the stunning historical novels The Clearing and The Missing, Tim Gautreaux now ranges freely through contemporary life with twelve new stories and eight from previous collections. Most are set in his beloved Louisiana, many hard by or on the Mississippi River, others in North Carolina and even in midwinter Minnesota. But generally it’s heat, humidity, and bugs that beset his people as they wrestle with affairs of the heart, matters of faith, and the pros and cons of tight-knit communities–a remarkable cast of characters, primarily of the working class, proud and knowledgeable about the natural or mechanical world, their lives marked by a prized stereo or a magical sewing machine retrieved from a locked safe, boats and card games and casinos, grandparents and grandchildren and those in between, their experiences leading them to the ridiculous or the scarifying or the sublime; most of them striving for what’s right and good, others tearing off in the opposite direction.

    One click - buy here

    ** All descriptions provided by the individual book's publishing houses or Amazon. 

    10 Spectacular Red White & Blue Desserts for your Memorial Day or 4th of July Party

    10 Red White + Blue Desserts - American Flag Cake via Country Living

    10 Red White + Blue Desserts - American Flag Cake via Country Living

    And just like that Summer is upon us. Across the country people are planning celebrations to kick off the season. Pools will be opened and used perhaps for the first time, cars and SUVs will be packed tightly with towels, chairs and coolers filled to the brim as they travel to beaches near and far. This marks the beginning of a season note for long, leisurely laid back days, of carefree easy livin'. It's a season of nostalgia as we fondly remember running around our neighborhoods, eating popsicles, staying out late - until the sun started to set. We lit sparklers and caught fireflies in jars, played flashlight tag and roasted marshmallows on long sticks. Those of us who are parents do our best to emulate those days past. 

    This weekend, perhaps the first time for many, we will be firing up their grills for burgers, hot dogs, steak, shrimp and chicken. There'll be mounds of cole slaw, potato salad, bowlfuls of green and fruit salads, platters of corn on the cob, watermelon slices, cookies, and brownies. There will be coolers filled with water, beer and sodas, pitchers filled with chilled tea and lemonades. These are the flavors of summer. 

    Backyard food ideas are easy to come up with and the summer staples never disappoint. I do love to offer something unexpected for dessert. Although brownies and freshly baked cookies are nothing to turn one's nose up at, I like to end a meal with a memorable bang. You needn't make (or bring) anything too complicated or time consuming, unless you want to. When the weather is nice I prefer to spend less time in the kitchen. Below are some ideas both slightly complex and simple, to guarantee a happy ending to your summer holiday celebration. 

    Click on each image below for source and recipe.

    10 Red White + Blue Desserts, American Flag Dessert Pizza via Hello Bee

    10 Red White + Blue Desserts, American Flag Dessert Pizza via Hello Bee

    10 Red White + Blue Desserts, Red White and Blue Macarons via Baking Moment

    10 Red White + Blue Desserts, Red White and Blue Macarons via Baking Moment

    10 Red White + Blue Desserts, Red White + Blue Donuts via The First Year Blog

    10 Red White + Blue Desserts, Red White + Blue Donuts via The First Year Blog

    10 Red White + Blue Desserts, Easy Patriotic Bark via What the Fork

    10 Red White + Blue Desserts, Easy Patriotic Bark via What the Fork

     

    I wish you all a wonderful and safe Memorial Day Weekend! 


    And I would like to extend my most heartfelt thank you to all, living and passed, who've worked so valiantly to save our country. XO

    Happy Memorial Day - Welcome Summer!

    image via we heart it

    image via we heart it

    As I sit down to write this on a Friday in late May, it feels more like April than June. As the rain falls and the wind howls, temperatures chilly, I'm thinking more along the lines of building a fire than I am hitting the beach.  Summer will be here soon and this rain is really quite badly needed.

    Despite the temperatures here in Southern New England, the calendar tells us that this is the weekend we officially ring in summer. We hope for some clear skies, and that they last long enough so that we may fire up our grills, take a dip in the pool or even dive into the ocean.

    The kids are getting restless, having (in their opinions) spent way too much time in school already, and we can certainly use a little break ourselves. I know that I am eagerly anticipating the less harried routines, not having to rush the kids out the door at 7:00 in the morning with the mayhem that ensues. I'm looking forward to spending some time at the beach, reading in the afternoon, enjoying a glass of wine there with friends in the evening and going for long walks along the shores in the early mornings, long before my kids are awake. 

    Summer, to me, means basking in the warm rays of the sun, jumping into pools, swimming in lakes, sailing on the ocean... We'll celebrate the lazier days with cookouts and barbecues, catching fireflies and waving sparklers. We'll delight in eating ice cream and watermelon, hamburgers, hot dogs and lobster rolls, and fresh produce from the garden, farm or farmer's market. We'll unwind at the end of the day on porches, in pools, on hammocks with books and baskets of wine.

    We'll drink copious amounts of iced tea and lemonade. We'll go for long walks and run and bike for miles and miles, perhaps even stopping to picnic along the way. We'll search for pretty shells and sea glass. We'll take road trips and sight see and make new friends along the way. We'll stay up late and listen to the peepers and crickets. We'll open our windows and let the sweet, summer air inside. We'll live in sundresses, cut off shorts and flip flops. We'll nap on hammocks or on couches in screened-in porches...

    Images via Pinterest

    Oh Summertime, it will be so nice to have you back!

    I wish you all a wonderful, happy and safe Memorial Day Weekend!