My Top 8… Favorite Things for Summer

What I’m into lately…

1) William Sonoma’s White Balsamic Vinegar – Perfect for salads, but arguably even better drizzled over fresh strawberries. It’s pricy, but strong. A little goes a long way, so it should last you awhile. If you’re really adventurous, mix it with vodka, soda water, a little bit of honey and a few fresh mint leaves for a quick, refreshing summer cocktail.

2) Cambozola (available at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and many cheese shops) – I went through a brie phase last month and have been looking for something similar, but different. My friendly neighborhood cheesemonger stepped in with the suggestion of Cambozola (aka “the heroin of cheeses”). It’s the texture of camembert with some of the funk of gorgonzola. I love it drizzled with honey atop plain old water crackers and paired with…

3) Grüner Veltliner – A dry white wine produced mostly in Austria, it’s high on acid with lots of citrus and hints of white pepper. Good for people who like Sauvignon Blanc or Dry Reislings, but are looking to branch out. New producers are popping up in Hungary and New Zealand, but Austrian “gru-vees” still tend to be the most consistent. (NOTE: It’s not a natural pairing with Cambozola, but I like how the acid cuts the creaminess of the cheese, especially if the cheese is an appetizer rather than part of a dessert course.)

4) Tommy Bahama’s Backpack Beach Chair – I’ve never been a huge fan of the beach, but the beaches of the Mediterranean made a convert out of me last summer when I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Greece and Italy. Their beaches are outstanding, not in small part because the chairs are set up for you and charming young men come by with drinks, magazines and even freshly baked donuts. American beaches have a lot to learn. So, while I’ve made peace with the sand and the sun, I still can’t reconcile lugging tons of stuff to and fro. This chair is a game changer for me.

5) Hydrangeas – I’ve been slowly redecorating my house for the past year. My great room is a blend of whites and grays and I like to use ivory hydrangeas to tie it all together as a dining room centerpiece. I used to hate fresh flowers, but as long as they’re high quality blooms and you make sure to keep them in lots of water, hydrangeas can last 3+ weeks.

6) Stella McCartney’s L.I.L.Y – I’m not really into perfumes, but I love perfume samples, if that makes any sense. I was given a sample of L.I.L.Y by a very excited Sephora employee last summer, but threw it in a bag and forgot about it. I dug it out a few weeks ago while I was cleaning and have been addicted ever since. It’s a bit lighter than my usual fragrances (Dolce and Gabbana Sicily and Gucci Guilty), although it may still be too strong for some.

7) Trader Joe’s Kalamata Olive Hummus + their Flaxseed wraps + fresh veggies = fast, easy sandwich. Perfect for school, work, the beach or the backyard.

8) Harry Potter – Sure, I’ve read all the books and seen all the movies, but something about summer screams Harry Potter to me. Curled up on the back porch, getting lost in Hogwarts makes me feel, however briefly, that all is right with the world.

Honorable mentions:  Like most other people, I’ve been getting really into The World Cup. And my yearly Wimbledon binges are about to begin in earnest, so I expect my next couple of weeks of posts will surround clotted cream, hot South American soccer players and my love for Novak Djokovic. Could be worse. 😉

Donating blood

I donated blood for the first time today. There’s a constant demand for blood donors and I’ve wanted to do it for a long time. According to the American Red Cross, 41,000 blood donations are needed every day in the US alone.

For me, the whole process was pretty painless. When I got to the center, I had to answer a bunch of questions about my medical history, travel history, etc. To make sure I hadn’t been anywhere high risk, I had to go through every trip I’ve been on over the past year, down to the individual regions I visited. They had to call about some of the places I went to in Turkey, but I ended up being cleared. After that, it was pretty much like going to the doctor’s office. I guess I took a little longer than normal – I’m evidently too good a clotter for my own good. That’s actually kind of good news since I plan to start donating platelets instead of whole blood anyway. They gave me juice, cookies and a T-shirt, and I felt totally normal afterwards.

If you do decide to donate, be sure to make an appointment. Drink lots and lots of water before and try not to plan anything too stressful for after. Otherwise, it’s a pretty simple way to help out your community.

For more info about blood donation centers and drives in your area, call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

It is, in fact, deafening.

I’m currently on the receiving end of the silent treatment. Needless to say, it’s weird to have someone you lived with for ten years be completely unwilling to acknowledge your existence. Weirder still when among the last things they said to you were, “How do you want to proceed?” and “I’m happy to meet.” That was three months ago. I’d like to think I’ve been patient, but I’m hurt. Not to mention frustrated. This probably isn’t a great place to air those feelings, but some days it’s hard to be happy about profiteroles when other parts of my life are so sad.

Happiness for all?

I feel like people often approach happiness as if it’s finite, a limited resource in need of conservation. Happiness is not a zero-sum game, though: if other people are happy, that doesn’t preclude you from being happy too. Yet, if we’ve been wronged by someone else or if they have something we covet, it can feel like our happiness and theirs are mutually exclusive. If they’re happy, we may believe that our own happiness is contraindicated. That’s crap. We’re tied together, that I do believe, but we’re not tied together like that, stuck on some screwed up seesaw of animosity. Besides, being happy for people who haven’t been nice to us may be the final word in forgiveness. I’m not there every day, but I’m working on it.