Ah, the beauty of summer, with its never ending warm, sunshine filled days that entice us to take the long way home and drink in the cocktail of colors. Where annuals and perennials conspire with wildflowers to present us with a symphony of sights that are in a constant state of transformation is where I have chosen to reside. In fact, I have become so enraptured with this season, I have all but forgotten to share it with you.
Bijou Blanket brimming with color
Rudbekia, a staple in our garden
Queen Anne's Lace
‘Tis the season to bring the indoors out, and enjoy every moment from dawn till dusk and beyond. So, as the sun disappears and gives way to the cool breezes that usher in starry nights, Irwin and I like to add our own brand of illumination: candlelight.
What can be more enchanting on a tranquil summer evening than the warm glow of candlelight?
We know only too well how instrumental candles are in setting the proper mood either indoors or out during any season, but candlelight outdoors during summer is absolutely sublime.
A real Connection
A star is born
It is the season of infinite possibilities so use your imagination. Many found objects in your home can be the perfect vessel for a candle or tea light. An old lantern that we purchased our first summer in the house sits along side an inverted vintage capiz shell lampshade that houses a candle.
Our 1st lantern, previously owned by Betsey Johnson
While we employ a variety of candles, we particularly love using tea lights because they are small and can be placed in a wide array of vessels. Additionally, these short burning beauties are readily available and extremely inexpensive.
Shades of light
We have a collection of glasses that we taped and frosted ten years ago for a family event. We continue to enjoy them especially during the summer.
Ten years....and still going strong
And a vintage silverplate bowl we picked up at a tag sale many years ago has served a multitude of uses, most recently as a candle holder.
Vintage Silverplate shedding new light
And until a better solution comes along, it is absolutely necessary to integrate citronella candles into the mix.
Citronella helps take the bite out of a summer evening
The possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination. So make the most of every evening,
and this weekend, as the fireflies make their special brand of magic in the moonlit sky, make a little magic of your own and create a Midsummer Lights Dream.
This past Saturday night we hosted our first “Road Party” in the country and it was spectacular!It was attended by nine families including ours and was so successful, we have decided to make it an annual event.
Unlike suburban neighborhoods with streetlights and sidewalks, our road in the country is light-less and dirt. While our home is situated close to the road, most of the other homes that dot our road are nestled in the mountainside at the end of dirt driveways, many of which are a half mile long or more.
That being the case, it should come as no surprise that after ten summers in the country, we knew little, if anything about our neighbors.But all that changed last summer, when we met our new neighbor Jeanne and her dog Zippy.
Zippy and Charlie became fast friends and Charlie (as well as Irwin & myself) eagerly anticipated Zippy & Jeanne’s impromptu visits before or after their afternoon walk.Jeanne, living here full time for half the year had managed to meet more local people in her first month here, than we had met in the ten years previous and it was through her that we finally met some of our neighbors last Labor Day.
Zippy & Charlie: Best Buddies
This year Jeanne had a brilliant idea.She suggested we collaborate and host a “Road Party” to get to know more of our “hidden” neighbors. Because there is nothing we enjoy more than hosting a party, we immediately offered our home for the event.Jeanne dropped mailers in every mailbox and under every front door she could find on our half of the road (the road is over three miles long) asking people to RSVP and bring an appetizer, side or dessert.We had no idea who or what to expect and the result was more wonderful than we could have ever anticipated.
Our neighbors regardless of whether they were able to attend or not, called and emailed telling us how much they loved the idea of a road party. Despite never having any discussion about specifically what anyone was bringing, the collaboration was astounding and the resulting menu blended together seamlessly and needless to say, the buffet was plentiful.
In keeping with our slow home philosophy, we re-purposed cloth napkins and dishes that we had originally purchased and/or made for our children's B’nai-Mitzvah years ago and made a tablecloth from an upholstery fabric remnant.Using our own silverware, the only disposable items used at the gathering were about thirty plastic cups, which were recyclable.
Tableware set up: Nothing Disposable Here
Irwin took two colors of napkins from the assortment and in lieu of napkin rings, he used a roll of twine we had and rolled and tied each napkin with a simple twine bow; an easy and inexpensive touch that made tremendous visual impact.
Re-purposed napkins tied with everyday twine
Irwin then strategically placed cut flowers from our garden in vintage silver plated champagne glasses as well as a collection of vintage vases we have accumulated over the years.He supplemented our garden’s bounty with flowers Jeanne had purchased at a local farm to complete the arrangements.
Vintage silver plated champagne glass with farm flowers
More home grown flowers
Farm Flowers in our vintage vase
More local flowers in a vintage silver plated bowl
And...More local & farm flowers
our miniature roses
And the food, have I mentioned the food? Well, all of the food we prepared as well as the food that our guests brought was made with locally grown or purchased ingredients and was amazingly fresh and tasty.
My home made pasta w/arugula pesto sun dried tomatoes goat cheese and local grilled corn
Our neighbor Gloria's garden salad made form vegetables she grew in her garden (sorry for the leftovers photo)
Drinks including water, Iced tea and my special vodka cocktail
Jeanne's home made peach & plum pie made with locally grown fruit
my home made cupcakes
Charlie: Ready for guests
Although I stopped taking pictures when the guests arrived, I must list the delicious additions they contributed to the event:
A home made Ceasar salad
A home made Goat Cheese & Pesto Torta
A home made grilled summer squash salad ( squash grown in neighbor's garden)
Home made crab filled finger sandwiches
A fruit salad that included sever types of locally grown plums as well as peaches
An assortment of local artisanal cheeses
A rustic peach pie made by a local farm as well as a mixed berry pie from our local Biodynamic farm
But more than the wonderful food, the time spent getting to know our neighbors was priceless.We met new neighbors to the road as well as long standing residents; weekenders like ourselves as well as full-timers. We shared a meal as well as our love for this special place on our planet and as the evening came to a close and we cleaned up, we all agreed to do this again next year.
Glasses that we frosted for oldest son's bar mitzvah in 2001 now staples in the country
The other day our country neighbor and good friend Jeanne stopped by with her delightful dog Zippy for a collaborative dinner and we once again began the discussion of where to eat.It is not that we have no place to eat, but rather the opposite.The number of places in and around the house available for sitting and especially eating has become somewhat of a joke amongst our friends over the years.
Charlie's good friend & neighbor, Zippy
It is true, we have many places throughout the house, both indoors and out to sit and relax and…to eat.What can we say? Maybe it’s because we both come from families where food is so important, or maybe it is because in our city apartment, we have no outdoor space, and our formal dining room was eliminated years ago and combined with our living room to make way for a much-needed den.Whatever the reason, if you are looking for a place to relax or…eat, we have a place for you!
dining in the great room under ceiling fans is a great alternative on warm evenings
We love spending time in the country and when we are not working on the house, we are usually relaxing and/or entertaining at home.Irwin loves to cook and set a table so we rarely eat out and because Irwin is a creative genius whose mind is constantly churning out new ideas, it is essential that different venues are available for him to work in.
My favorite way to begin an evening: a pitcher of cocktails
Alfresco dining under a tree
Our Dining Room: A thanksgiving favorite
Most breakfasts are served in the kitchen or on the porch, where the usual fare is either my famous blueberry or banana pancakes or Irwin’s world-renowned breakfast frittata made with whatever is available in the fridge.
Our kitchen: open 24/7
the porch: No Reservation needed
irwin's famous frittata
Lunch and dinner can happen almost anywhere but always feel special.
dining on our deck is lovely in the afternoon
So, whether you are two for dinner or serving twelve, have one eating area or more, little changes can go a long way in making“at home” dining special.
We always use an abundance of candles, votives and tea lights.They add warmth and make everything sparkle and glow.
Tea light in vintage cup with fish tank gravel
light, light and more light
When possible, we use cut flowers from our garden; they are easy and inexpensive and always look and smell wonderful.
Fresh garden flowers-always a hit
We usually mix and match glassware, dishes and flatware to create interest.
This mix on our patio is fun
AND…we primarily use cloth napkins with napkin rings.I know, nobody wants to spend time ironing napkins- and the truth is, I don’t.We use lovely cotton and linen napkins that just need to be folded warm from the dryer.
Lovely napkin rings a gift from good friend Maybelline Te
Another feast cooked by non other than Irwin
I know these suggestions seem very basic and they are, but with a little imagination, you too will feel like you are dining out…at home.
Last week I read a post by my good friend, interior designer Jonathan Legate and it reminded me of an experience I had written about two years ago.In keeping with sharing the good bad & hysterical experiences of country living, I decided to go back and edit this never before published piece and share it with all of you. Enjoy!
Talk about confronting phobias head on.Tonight I came face to face with the granddaddy of all of my phobias, BATS. And I’m not talking about the kind that A- Rod swings.I am talking about the Titans of Transylvania.Those webbed- winged, blood-sucking vampire vermin of the night.
A transylvanian Titan
Anyone who knows me knows that despite being an avid nature lover, I loathe having anything fly over my head.As far back as I can remember, I had been petrified of low flying birds.When my grandmother let my budgie, Billy Boy, out of his cage for his daily exercise, I ran out of the room screaming.Over the years, I have attempted to analyze the reason for this phobia but have not been able to come up with anything concrete.I often wonder if, as an infant, I was traumatized by a bird mobile hanging over my crib, or could it possibly be the flying spoons of soft-boiled eggs that my grandmother piloted from the bowl to my mouth each morning that set this irrational fear in motion.Perhaps it is simply because I spent the first twenty years of my life living directly under the Kennedy Airport flight patterns; whatever the reason, I am petrified of all low flying creatures especially ghoulish, rabid mosquito slurpers.
just like my billy boy
My Fright Night began quite normally enough.With Irwin in the city and my chores complete, I settled down in front of my laptop, icy cold cocktail in hand and prepared to begin my first attempt at serious writing.Before I was able to type my first word, I saw something from the corner of my eye that sent a chill down my spine.I shook my head, trying to clear the cobwebs of the cocktail when it appeared again.It was big and black with the wingspan of a stealth bomber and it was traveling through the den at what seemed like Mach 1 speed.Shockingly, just as I was about to begin writing a bat-tale, a new one was unfolding right before my somewhat bloodshot eyes.Being known to occasionally overreact, it should come as no surprise that I immediately began to freak out.I catapulted myself off the couch and barely missed the low farmhouse ceiling as a high-pitched shrill escaped my lips.I frightened myself and can only imagine what it did to the not-so little fella, who was blinded by all the lights on around the house. Thankful that my screams were not confused with a bat mating call, I did what any bat-o-phobic person would do; I began to rant and cry, calling for help from Charlie, our laid-back, Flat Coated Retriever mix.Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, he offered no support, so I immediately pulled up the hood of my sweatshirt and ran to higher ground.
A lovely summer evening....at bat-o'clock
Our master suite is located on the newer side of the house directly above the great room.It is separated from the staircase vestibule by a pair of French doors, installed in classic “local country” manner: upside down and accordingly, they do not close properly.Being a quick witted adaptive Manhattan native, I grabbed a small towel and tied it around the handles to attempt to secure them.Actually, I am sure there were about a gazillion other choices that would have been more effective, but it was the best I could come up with in my semi- catatonic state.
secured french doors
All the lights were on and my not so adorable, winged friend was charging the French doors like a “ bat out of hell” as I began to hyperventilate and mumble to myself.He seemed to be trying to leave through the porch screen door located at the bottom of the stairs and being the naturist I am, I knew that bats can fit through openings as small as an eighth of an inch so I began to pray that this winged creature of the night would exit stage left through a gap on the side of the screen door.But, that wish was not realized and my nemesis continued to swoop and fly aimlessly, crashing into walls, doors and windows.
escape route below
As I stood, peering out from my temporary safe haven I realized that, in my haste to escape, I had taken nothing with me; not my cocktail, not my computer, and most importantly, not even a phone. I was now sobbing uncontrollably and screaming “ I don’t even have a phone with me, I don’t even have a phone”, as the enormity of my dilemma set in.Irwin, who had always come to my aid during“bat-ventures”, was miles away in NYC and I was left with Charlie to deal with the situation.And what a situation it was.While I was sobbing, Count Batula was storming the palace.
The Count and I had one thing in common; his exit was paramount to both of us. As he repeatedly attempted to escape, I became his biggest fan, cheering him on and offering words of encouragement.Unfortunately his sonar must have been on the blink because he was just not able to find an escape route and resumed his erratic flight pattern.
As I stood trembling behind the French doors, my flying nemesis took off in search of an alternate egress, leaving me a window of opportunity. Understanding that I had little choice, I wrapped my hooded self in a towel for extra protection and opened the French doors (not a difficult task considering the fact that they don’t actually close).With the speed of a jaguar- okay, so maybe it was more like a highly caffeinated tortoise, I ran back to the den and retrieved a phone, my drink and my laptop and retreated once again to my tower.I took a couple of swigs of my lukewarm cocktail and waited for the pseudo-courage of the vodka to set in.
That's me...the speedy tortoise
After what seemed to be a millennium, the bat no longer appeared in the vestibule and I hoped that, like that infamous season of Dallas, it had all been a terrible dream.Armed with my trusty phone, I called my husband and sobbing uncontrollably, filled him in on my predicament.In truth, I knew that he could not help me, but I had to talk to someone and Charlie was just not interested.In fact, despite my insane behavior, he was sprawled across my bed, dozing.
Irwin confirmed what I already knew.I was on my own with no safety net.I was forced to confront one of my greatest fears head on and despite my somewhat unstable emotional state, I was enveloped by a sense of inner calmness.I closed the vestibule light, took another sip of my cocktail and began to write this tale.In truth, I knew that after turning off the light, it was only a matter of time before the bat resumed his pursuit of freedom and although I was still shrouded in panic… and a bathroom towel, I also knew that I could not sleep until I set my airborne enemy free.
As I continued to write, I heard a gentle knock on the wall and knew that “Darth Vader” had returned.I attempted to quell my rising panic with another swig of vodka as I pondered my next step. Feeling as fearless as a marine, I formulated plan of action.I would brave the elements, run down the stairs and attempt to release him by holding open the screen door on the porch.At the time, it seemed like a simple solution.If ‘Bat-zilla” saw the open screen door, he would simply leave- end of problem.
I barricaded Charlie in my bedroom and flew down the stairs.I flung open the screen door and held it from behind as any courteous doorman would.I waited and waited as my worthy opponent continued to fly around the great room and vestibule performing feats any Blue Angel would be proud of.Unfortunately, he came nowhere near the door.As I stood, paralyzed in the cloak of darkness, a frightening thought occurred to me: I might actually be inviting more bats to enter rather than assisting the departure of this single bat.Despite this, I continued my bat-watch.When I realized that there were no bat sightings for over forty-five minutes, I closed the screen door and did something I would not have believed possible an hour before.I relinquished the role of victim and in its place, assumed the role of hunter in pursuit of prey.Allowing myself no time to reconsider, I grabbed a flashlight from the porch and mounted an expedition both in and around the house, shining the light into the darkest recesses, looking for my unwelcome guest. Although life altering, the unsuccessful mission brought me back, once again, to my screen door post, prey-less.Hunter or not, I was really tired and just wanted this adventure to come to an end.As if hearing my prayer, Sir “Bat-a-lot” reappeared and resumed his air show.Then, as suddenly as he reappeared- he was gone again and all was quiet on the screen door front.I was baffled because he had been at the top of the stairs near those shoddily installed French doors just a moment before.Where could he have possibly gone?A quick walk up the stairs answered my question.My very own flying “Fear Factor” was now on the other side of the French doors swooping over Charlie as he napped on the bed.
Blue Angels could learn a thing or two from my little winged angel
My sense of calm immediately dissipated as I envisioned Charlie being attacked by the bat. I threw open the French doors and shrieked at Charlie who followed me down the stairs and out the screen door.Now we were both on the porch holding the door open waiting for our uninvited guest to leave.It was like “déjà vu all over again” and although I can’t speak for Charlie, my patience was running thin and I was rapidly running out of steam.It was now after one a.m. and I had been dealing with this situation for over four hours.I knew I could not leave the perpetrator in the house but had no idea how to evict him.I am not a quitter by nature but enough was enough.I was ready to give up, take Charlie and sleep in the car. It was a small convertible car – but it was also a bat- free car.Anything had to have been better than this “Cat and Bat” chase.
It was just at that moment, a moment of complete and utter desperation, when it dawned on me.If The Count was not going to come to me, I was going to go to him. I went back up the stairs to watch the latest flight exhibition when I noticed “Bat Masterson” trying to escape from my room by climbing on the open window screens.I considered closing the window, trapping him between the screen and the window but could not bring myself to get that close.What if he was startled and flew right at me?Who would be there to call 911 when I started foaming at the mouth?Although like the Cowardly Lion, I too had found courage, I was not totally bonkers: I was not about to go “Rambo”.Instead, I immediately knocked out the screen from the window closest to the door, closed the door and waited.Finally, miracle of miracles,“Bat-dini” made his escape and flew out the open window.I instantly ran in and closed it and was immediately flooded with relief and awash with sheer joy.
I was absolutely giddy.I wanted to call everyone and anyone I knew and tell them that I had indeed completed my “Mission Impossible”.I yearned to shout it from the rooftop, to write it across the sky.I had beaten my foe.I conquered what I thought was an insurmountable fear.I outwitted my blind friend and won the battle.Unfortunately, it was just before two in the morning and most of the world was sound asleep so….I climbed into bed with Charlie, who had resumed his snoring, and recounted my tale to….my laptop. Just another Wednesday night in the country.