Simple Summer Pleasures

Simple Summer Pleasures

When I first got to Massachusetts ten years ago (how did that happen?), I was so enamored with spring and fall because all my life they had been novel, abstract concepts. Growing up in Hawaii, I loved grey, cool, rainy days. I loved any opportunity to wear a sweater (usually because of air conditioning). I loved reading books where characters took long walks with autumn leaves underfoot and ate hot things out of checkered thermoses.

Fall is still a special time—we got married in the fall, we go to Vermont in the fall, and now I even host a small blogger event in the fall—but over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate summer more and more. I used to be confused about why James was reticent about welcoming fall. He’d say, “It’s because winter is right behind it.” And, for some reason, at the time, winter didn’t bother me that much. But now, after the crazy winters we’ve had, I understand.

When I was little, my mom read us the Little House on the Prarie books, in which Laura Ingalls Wilder talks about their long, hard winters. She would probably scoff at my idea of a “hard” winter, which includes heat at the flick of a switch, four wheel drive, and my idea of “hard decisions” like whether to make pot roast or chicken noodle soup (with ingredients simply plucked from shelves and refrigerators). But winters are still very long. So long, in fact, that I’ve begun to worship summer like a true New Englander!

Simple Summer Pleasures

If we learned anything from the French while we were in Paris, it was how to take the time to enjoy simple pleasures. Summer in New England is abundant with these. It’s because of winter that even the mere act of opening the windows seems luxurious.

One of the simple things that I indulge in is podcasts, and my favorite is Happier with Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) and her sister Elizabeth Kraft. I loved their recent “Try This At Home” tip, which suggested that listeners take advantage of the “amenities” of their homes. So often, people buy homes because of their great screened in porches, swimming pools, or man caves, but in the busyness of everyday life, they forget to use them. For us, it’s our balcony.

We’ve long thought of our balcony as a bit of a joke because it’s so narrow. To fit on it, normal-sized people have to sit sideways. Kona takes advantage of our balcony all year long–in the wintertime, when she gets hot, she paws at the door so that she can go out and tromp around in the snow (her favorite!). But the humans of this household almost never go out there. I’m a lounger, so buying a bistro set never really appealed to me. But then it came to me: a hammock!

Our contractor/handyman will come and put in the hooks for us this week (our building is made up of metal and wood studs, so it seemed safer not to DIY this time). In the meantime, Kona and I have been hanging out on the balcony, armed with pillows, library books, and blankets. In fact, as I write this, she’s curled up by my feet, breathing in the cool June morning air and occasionally lifting her head to look at our neighbors walking by below. I’m drinking my coffee. For me, there is so much pleasure to be found in not being rushed.

Simple Summer Pleasures

What simple pleasures are you finding in your summer days?

Love, Joy

P.S. Registration is open for The Hello Sessions! It’s a full day of workshops, where you’ll learn about the steps you need to take to make your small business thrive, how to make great videos (without a ton of equipment or video know-how), and how to grow your social media audience through authenticity. Come learn with us in Portland this October!

Flux

Flux

Change is the name of the game these days. While we’re still in flux I’m going to be a bit tight-lipped, but suffice it to say that life has surprised us a little lately. Nothing like last summer, though.

Today is my father-in-law’s birthday–he’s turning 83–and also the one year anniversary of the day we rushed him to the hospital after he collapsed at breakfast. We later discovered that he had contracted a rare brain virus (brain injury #1). We came very close to losing him, and then, by Thanksgiving, he was nearly back to normal. Then he slipped on a patch of ice and hit his head on the concrete, leading to brain injury #2.

And today, August of 2015, he’s nearly himself again. Amazingly. Miraculously. Making bad jokes and threatening to put the cat out into the woods if he doesn’t stop shedding (and then letting the cat sleep on his shoulders). Each time we’ve visited, he’s been a little better, his memory a little more in tact. In June, I watched as he installed an air conditioner, and I could almost see the brain plasticity at work as he sorted through the steps of something he’s done every summer for years and years. The air conditioner is still working and hasn’t yet fallen out of the window, so it’s safe to say that it’s a success!

And while he doesn’t seem terribly interested in hearing it, he’s taught us about resilience–that it might seem like it’s too late to turn things around, when really, it’s just the signal of another beginning.

Love, Joy

Ice Box Cupcakes: Chocolate Nutella Strawberry Shortcakes

Ice Box Chocolate Nutella Strawberry Shortcakes | Frock Files

Whew, that’s a mouthful! (Literally!)

As most of you know, I love cake, and since today is my birthday I’m digging in with some of my favorite flavors: chocolate, strawberry, and Nutella. It’s been cool here, but I still don’t really want to turn on my oven, so these no-bake ice box cupcakes fit the bill. These bad boys are about as easy as they come.

Ingredients:

Oreos or similar sandwich cookie (These are the 365 brand from Whole Foods)
Whipped cream
Nutella
Strawberries, sliced

Ice Box Chocolate Nutella Strawberry Shortcakes | Frock Files

Instructions:

1. Line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners. Separate an Oreo, laying one half in the bottom of the cupcake liner and putting a generous dallop of Nutella on the other. Set aside.

2. Put a tablespoon of whipped cream on the bottom cookie, then layer with sliced strawberries. Place Nutella’d cookie on top.

3. Plop another 1-2 tablespoons of whipped cream over the top cookie. Refrigerate for four hours or overnight.

While the cupcakes are in the refrigerator, the cream will soften the cookies to give them a cake-y consistency. Top with strawberries when you’re ready to serve!

Ice Box Chocolate Nutella Strawberry Shortcakes | Frock Files

P.S. Love ice box cakes? Try these cute Boston Creme Ice Box Cupcakes!

Life Update: It’s August Already?!

This was July:

This Was July (2014) | Frock Files

Delicious food and gorgeous ambiance at a new restaurant called La Brasa in Somerville.

This Was July (2014) | Frock Files
This Was July (2014) | Frock Files

The biggest highlight of the month: a visit from my parents, who spoiled us (especially Kona) rotten.

This Was July (2014) | Frock Files

This Was July (2014) | Frock Files

After years of comically bad dates, my great friend Stephen finally met The One. (She’s fantastic!) Here they are, two years later. Happily ever after.

This Was July (2014) | Frock Files
This Was July (2014) | Frock Files

With these summer days flying by, we’re trying to remember to enjoy every single moment.

This Was July (2014) | Frock FilesThis Was July (2014) | Frock Files

…even though the trees have already begun to turn.

Here’s to another month of summer (fingers crossed!) fun!

P.S. More photos on Instagram! (Kona has her own account too. Because we’re those crazy dog people.)

The Easiest Salmon

Frock Files: Easy Weeknight Salmon

One of my favorite things to hear is, “I’m not a cook, but when I read blog I think, ‘I can do that!'” This salmon recipe epitomizes that sentiment.

The secret to great salmon is not doing very much to it at all. As I mentioned before, this is my favorite thing to have with a Champagne and Strawberries salad, for a light summertime dinner. For both the salmon and salad, it’s a dinner that takes fewer than 30 minutes to prepare. Hello, weeknights!

Ingredients

2 small salmon fillets
1/2 to 1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Instructions

1. Cover a baking sheet in parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. We actually use our toaster oven, because–why not?

2. Drop small chunks of butter along the length of the salmon steaks. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and pepper. Bake for 20-23 minutes. If your oven (or toaster oven) has a convection setting, reduce cooking time by 3-5 minutes. Salmon should be pink with just a bit of golden brown around the edges.

3. Serve immediately with a fresh salad! Nom.

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