There are - and always will be - summer classics that I cannot live without: those moments and experiences that I must enjoy every summer whenever possible. I've distilled them below, using Martha Stewart Living imagery (so quixotic and charming in its quality) to illustrate my essential summer moments.
COUNTRY AIR: There's just nothing like it, frankly. There is no treat finer for the lungs and the spirit than a deep intake of breath filled with clarity, fragrance and energy-giving life. And there is nowhere one can find this air but the countryside with its majestic trees, farms and fields.
DOCKSIDE DREAMING: Having been fortunate enough to grow up with a cottage never too far from home, I simply cannot do without at least one weekend of cottage life, populated by friends, family and rambunctious pets who are as pepped about the wilderness as I am. And water. There must be a body of water - whether calm or churning - to reconnect us with our acquatic origins.
CORN ON THE COBB: I mean, really. Can summer truly be called summer without corn on the cobb? I admit that I cannot control the way my eyes roll slightly back into my skull, somewhat shark-like, each time I sink my teeth into a warm, buttery cobb of golden corn, just bursting with tremendous flavour, heated liquid that runs down the chin and chunky pieces that stick between the teeth, annoyingly but gratifyingly.
SUMMER WALKS: Whether they are in the city or in a pastoral setting like the one above, summer walks are always memorable for me. I generally prefer evening or morning walks, since there is something magical about the light at these times that cannot be replicated at midday. Still, walking in the brilliance of the noon hour gives me that heady intoxication of a tropical drink without the alcohol - and the blushing complexion to match.
SANGRIA: Speaking of alcohol, I share at least one pitcher of sangria every summer with a loved one. I prefer the red wine version, full of sharp fruits like grapes and nectarines, crisp apples, blackberries, strawberries and dark cherries.
SEAWEED: You know its smell if you've ever been to the seaside: rapturously oceanic, salty and almost throat-catching in its pungency. I've never had the experience of attempting to press it onto paper, as shown above, but I vow to try it one day, since the finished imagery is stunningly intricate.
FLORAL PATTERNS: There were chairs at my grandmother's cottage that had plastic seat covers designed with orange flowers against a green backdrop of stripes and diamond shapes. It was almost psychadelic in its wildness. I still have an affinity for bold floral patterns in intense colour palettes, especially on linens. They remind me of picnics, tea towels drying in the sun or the dress of a favourite aunt.
FRUIT AND HERBS: In the summertime I have fruit every single day, since it is plentiful and fresh and inexpensive. The cool juices of a ripe peach or plum are irreplacable. And who can resist the sensual experience of devouring a slice of watermelon in the hot sun? Herbs, too, are summer companions at many meals this season: the freshness of mint and parsley, the boldness of oregano and basil. Mmm.
SUMMER TREATS: Crumbly and gooey, cobblers and crumbles are must-have desserts for me these months, especially warm and slightly carmelized under their sugary crusts. Topped with a dollop of happily melting vanilla ice cream, the experience is taken to a whole new level of satisfaction.
DINING OUTDOORS: Food tastes better outside. I came to that conclusion years ago when eating a barbecued steak under a big oak tree at a family cookout, potato salad and corn on the cobb not far from my fork. Maybe it was the gingham I was wearing or the way my senses were attacked by delight (a setting sun, a cooling breeze, a wiff of fragrant honeysuckle) but outdoor dining became a new passion. And every summer I seek it out, with memorable rewards.
SHADE: In the summer, shade is a treasure or an island of respite amid a sea of hostile sunshine. It's a lure, an invitation to sit, chill, relax and enjoy the refuge of a sunless piece of paradise. And so we seek it out, like nomads seeking an oasis, often competing for the most prime real-estate.
LEMONADE: During the summer months, lemonade becomes a food group all its own. Sugary, sour and squintingly sunny, it is liquid gold on a hot, humid day. Like many of you, I had a lemonade stand as a child, which I manned with my brother. It was nothing terribly fancy, but we always made enough to buy ourselves an ice cream cone each at the end of the day.