Category Archives: Book of Days Calendar

Driving Down, or Your September Book of Days

I’ve put on my overalls and my hat made from sabal palm fronds: September is here and it’s planting time in Lake Worth. Mind you, this is not why your newest Convivio Book of Days calendar is late. It’s late for a number of reasons. Be that as it may, here it is: your Convivio Book of Days calendar for September. Cover star this month: Swiss chard and okra from the summer garden.

Summer is not the time of year we’re supposed to be growing vegetables here in South Florida. It’s a topsy-turvy place in many ways compared to the rest of the country (no laughing, please) and gardening is one of them. We plant in September, harvest all winter long. But come May, conventional wisdom says we lay down the hoe and take a break. But it’s been a strange year, to say the least, and Seth and I, we figured if we’re going to be spending so much time at home, anyway, we may as well plant an experimental summer garden and tend to it best we can. Some crops were an utter and complete failure within a few weeks of sowing seeds: squashes, cucumbers, pole beans, celery. Others, however, well… let’s just say the okra is thriving, as are the beets and the rocket and that Swiss chard. Swiss chard, of all things! How can something so alpine-sounding do so well in the heat and humidity of a Florida summer? Things botanical will always amaze me. And I couldn’t be more pleased: I love Swiss chard. I cook it up like my mom and grandma did (and probably their moms and grandmas): chopped and boiled up in a bit of garlicky tomato, olive oil drizzled on top, seasoned with salt and pepper. Serve it up with some crusty bread, and you have a meal fit for royalty (certainly of the alpine variety).

Speaking of alpine things, it is Drive Down Day today, this 8th of September, in Switzerland and Austria: it is the Feast of the Nativity of Mary and this is traditionally the day that the sheep and cows are driven back from their summer grazing in the mountain meadows to their winter quarters in the valleys below––another sign of summer’s waning. This is done with great pomp and celebration, the animals all adorned in flowers and bells. Across the border in Italy the folks like to eat blueberries today: blue, the traditional color of Mary’s cloak, at least in Italian Renaissance paintings. Lights are illuminated in windows, and bonfires blaze. In France, Mary is celebrated today, in the midst of the grapes ripening on the vine, as Our Lady of the Grape Harvest. Bunches of grapes are brought to churches for the priests to bless and you’ll find lots of grapes this day in the hands of statues of Mary, placed there by Marian devotees and by lovers of wine and by traditionalists like me.

In this house, though it’s not traditional, but because there is so much of it, the day will certainly involve Swiss chard. I can tell you there’s nothing in the world like opening the garden gate, gathering an armful of chard, and cooking it up for lunch. A great sense of accomplishment and self sufficiency accompanies the meal, making it even more delicious. Plus it is a great portal to memory. I think of Grandpa, who always kept a garden each summer, and I think of Grandma, who cooked the harvest with Mom, and I think as well of Maria, the farmer on Franklin Avenue near our home, an old woman from Italy with rough weathered hands. We would enter her dark wooden farm stand on the driveway, Mom and me. If I remember right, the stand was painted green. Mom would gather what she wanted, and sooner or later, Maria would walk down from the house or the fields to chat as she wrapped Mom’s purchases in newspaper and jute twine. Grandpa just grew the essentials: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, flat leaf parsley, rocket. But Maria: she grew the Swiss chard.

This is September, the first of the “Ember” months, as I like to call them. Seth and I, we wish you a fine one.

Beautiful Protective Face Masks from Chiapas

We’re so excited about these new additions to our Convivio by Mail catalog: protective face masks, in all sorts of beautiful embroidered patterns, made for us by an extended artisan family in Chiapas. When their traditional source of income––tourism to Mexico––dried up this past spring, things were looking bleak. But the patriarch of the family came up with the idea of devoting their skills toward making masks, and we’re really pleased to say that the family are now doing well and they are very busy making masks. They appreciate every order that comes in, and we are so pleased to help them get their wares out into the world. Visit our catalog and you’ll find the family’s embroidered masks in floral patterns, as well as other traditional Mexican designs: Calavera (above), Frida Kahlo, Maria Bonita, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sugar Skull, and Otomi-Inspired patterns. $16.50 each plus Free Domestic Shipping with discount code BESAFE. Bonus special when you purchase four masks: we’ll take an additional 20% off and ship your domestic order for free (no discount code necessary for that offer). International orders? Contact us and we will see what we can do for you:


Print Culture, or Your August Book of Days

This month, we’re giving you a little glimpse into the Convivio Bookworks printshop––the heart of Convivio Bookworks. The presses, the movable type: letterpress and books are the core aspects of our business, and we’re celebrating them in this month’s Convivio Book of Days calendar. For in the wheel of the year, come late summer, one of August’s traditional celebrations is the Bartlemas Wayzgoose. It comes each August 24th with St. Bartholomew’s Day: a bittersweet day, reminding us of summer’s waning, for it is a celebration influenced entirely by the sun. Come Bartlemas each August, printers in England would begin bringing lanterns back into the printshop, as the sun alone no longer provided enough light. As sunlight wanes, so does the summer season.

Ah but that celebration comes on the 24th, and I will send you an invitation to our online Library Wayzgoose Festival at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts. Save the date, in fact: Monday August 24 at 7 PM Eastern Daylight Time. We’ll be posting a link on Vimeo and on Facebook, where Convivio Bookworks will be hosting a watch party. And if you can’t make it then, worry not, the video will be available afterwards, too, anytime, from wherever you are. We may not be able this year to gather together for the Library Wayzgoose Festival, but the good news is this year you can join us from anywhere.

As August begins, though, it’s time for another old celebration: Lammas. It is a cross quarter celebration, an old festival of the first harvest, also based in that same idea that summer is ripening, slowly giving way to fall. The Celts called the day Lughnasadh (LOO-na-sa). We find ourselves now at the midpoint between the midsummer solstice of June and the autumnal equinox of September. A freshly baked loaf of bread is a traditional part of the celebration. Indeed, the name Lammas descends from the Old English hlafmaesse, or “loaf mass.”

This Lammas, we wish you good health, we wish you glad tidings. We have our challenges here in Florida right now. Those of us who feel quarantining is best in the current situation, or who at least see benefits to wearing masks, see no end in sight to our isolation. It’s frustrating, and small family businesses like ours are affected disproportionately than corporate businesses. Friends of ours who own small restaurants are afraid to open. For us, pop-up shops are our livelihood, and these are not an option now, and won’t be anytime soon––not in a state that sees over 10,000 new cases of Covid-19 each day. But we stay at home and we know others who do, too, and we know that eventually, we will get through this. And, as we always do, we do the best we can. The Library Wayzgoose Festival on the 24th of August is a fine example of this, and I am so excited to share that special event with you. Mark the day. This month’s Convivio Book of Days calendar, by the way, is, as usual, a printable PDF document… and a good companion to this blog. See you on the 24th? Good.


Lago di Como, or Your July Book of Days

And now six months of the year have flown. We have passed the point of solstice––of “sun stand still,” when the sun seems to stop its motion. We had about three days then of longest days in the Northern Hemisphere, the days where we reached the apex of daylight, the number of hours of daylight remaining constant. And now, on the other side of the solstice, our days decrease in length. Just a little each day. Summer is maturing. The leaves have lost their springtime brightness and have mellowed into a deep dark green. Fruits and vegetables are coming in from the orchard and the garden. By the end of July, we’ll be welcoming Lammas Eve and the first of the harvest festivals. In the wheel of the year, the only thing that stays the same is change. The Earth constantly is rearranging.

Last year at this time Seth and I were visiting Northern Italy, Eastern Switzerland, and Western Austria. From one lake to another: Lago Maggiore, Lake Constance––the Bodensee, Lago di Como. Lake Como is our cover star this month. Here it is: your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for July. It is, as usual, a printable PDF document, and a fine companion to the Convivio Book of Days Blog.

Join me today, Wednesday July 1 (and every Wednesday) at 3 PM Eastern, for Book Arts 101: Home Edition, live on our Facebook page. Each week I spend about half an hour chatting about books, craft, design, and whatever else drifts through my head. For Episode 14 today, we’ll be focusing on Real Mail and the joy that comes with spying something special in the mailbox amongst all the bills and clutter. I’ll show you some brand new arrivals by great printers like David Wolfe of Wolfe Editions in Portland, Maine, Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. of Kennedy Prints in Detroit, and Catherine Alice Michaelis of May Day Press on Vashon Island, Washington. I’ll show you some books, too, from the Convivio Collection that have their roots in letters: books that were inspired by letters, books that are letters, books that feel like letters. Here’s a direct link to today’s live broadcast. If you can’t be there at 3, fear not: video is posted soon after the broadcast is done and is always available at our Facebook page.