Where Summer Spends Winter

German weather lore suggests that the middle of May will bring each year a blast of cold weather, which very often is winter’s last hurrah until its return on the other side of the year. We’ve come to believe in Cold Sophie (or some more subtle version of her) even here in Lake Worth, which early settlers dubbed “The Town Where Summer Spends Winter.” We typically don’t get many cold days each winter––mostly they are mild and pleasant––but by the start of May we know for sure that summer is a’knocking, and yet it’s surprising how often mid May can bring just one more dose of mild temperatures. Once that fleeting day or two is gone, though, that’s it: summer is here to stay. Very often, those blissful days come right about now.

The Germans call this time Kalte Sophie: Cold Sophie. She is St. Sophia, whose feast day is celebrated on the 15th of May each year. But Sophie comes with an entourage, who, collectively, are known as the Ice Saints, or die Eisheiligen. They are St. Mamertus, whose feast day was on the 11th, St. Pancras on the 12th, St. Servatius on the 13th, and on the 14th, we remember St. Boniface, before we finally welcome in Kalte Sophie. They are known as the Ice Saints for their feast days often are accompanied by the final frost of the season, or at least a sharp drop in temperature… and if you were in a rush to get your garden planted before the Ice Saints have made their appearance, you may need to start over again once they’ve passed.

In Central Europe, particularly Slovenia, you might hear St. Sophie called Poscana Zofka… Pissing Sophie, for there, she is associated with rain. Which is probably more accurate for us here in Lake Worth, too. It is the time of year when we typically look to the skies and wonder if it will ever rain again, as we wait for our summer rainy season to kick in and quench the parched earth… making our strange land green again.

Image: Cold Sophie herself? A fresco from St. Sophia Church in Ohrid, Macedonia. Circa 11th century. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.


Mother’s Day

I’m not very good at remembering important things, but I’m really good at remembering odd things, and often with astonishing clarity. Here’s a good example: it’s me, walking into the basement kitchen one afternoon when I was a kid and finding Mom there at the kitchen counter, making supper. I was watching Bugs Bunny cartoons on TV, and by power of suggestion, I wanted a carrot. Mom stopped what she was doing, pulled a carrot from the crisper drawer for me, washed and peeled it, handed it to me, then went back to preparing dinner. I stood there, munching on that carrot, watching Mom at work, when a very important question suddenly popped into my head. So, I asked it: “What are ice cream cones made from?” My mother did not even pause in her work; she just kept going, and she gave me her answer: “Ice cream cones? They’re made from crackers, Johnny.”

Her answer was delivered with so much certainty, I figured Millie Cutrone certainly knew what she was talking about. And so I did not question it and accepted that ice cream cones were made in some process whereby saltines are crushed and pressed into cones, cones that expectantly await my chocolate ice cream. It was years before I re-examined that answer and whether I believed it or not.

I don’t know that it’s my mom’s fault that she raised a gullible kid, and if that’s one of my worser faults, then so be it. She also raised me to write thank you notes for kindnesses bestowed and to wait until everyone was seated at the table for supper and to love holidays and the traditions that come with each, so if you like this Book of Days, you should probably write my mom a thank you note yourself. It was my mom and my grandma and my sister that really instilled in me a fascination with the kitchen and that, in its way, brings me to writing about these things now. I love sharing these things with you, because of all these people who loved sharing them with me.

And here we come to the late spring day each year when we remember and honor our mothers––those we were given, and those we have chosen. And, I’d argue, all the rest of them that helped raise us: the grandmothers and great-grandmothers, sisters and aunts. To all the moms in our lives, no matter where they are: We love you. Happy Mother’s Day.

Photo: That’s me and my mom. It’s a summer evening and I’m going to guess that I’m about 3 years old, so it might just be 1967. I’d like to tell you that it was around that time that I asked about how ice cream cones are made, but I suspect I was considerably older, perhaps 6 or 7 years old, when I fell for the crackers answer.

At the catalog, two sales are in the works: First, it’s the HIGH FIVE SALE: Use discount code HIGH5 at checkout for $5 off your purchase of $35 or more… a sale we’ll run through Father’s Day in June. That’s on everything in the catalog: our own letterpress printed books and broadsides, genuine Shaker herbs and teas, all of our handmade artisan goods for all the seasons. CLICK HERE to shop.

Along with that, there’s the ongoing MASK UP SALE: We are both fully vaccinated now and so grateful for that, but we are following CDC guidelines and remaining masked in any public indoor settings where we don’t know the vaccination status of others. The masks we’re wearing are the embroidered face masks we’ve been selling that are made by an extended family in Chiapas, Mexico. They are beautiful and they are colorful and they are triple layer and buying them helps a REAL family to make ends meet. Plus they’re fun: people are always stopping me to ask me where I got my mask. Originally $16.50, our new price on them is an even $15, and for now we are offering a special: SAVE $10 when you buy any four, plus get FREE domestic shipping. Your total savings when you buy four turns out to be $24.50, our very best deal ever on protective face masks. Can you use the HIGH5 discount code with this? I honestly do not know, and if you do, it may affect your free shipping. Experiment. CLICK HERE to shop face masks, and anything else in our catalog.

Thank you for your support!


May Day, and Your May Book of Days

I like to picture the elliptical orbit of our planet around the sun as the very wheel of the year I so often talk about, and maybe that’s not so far-fetched: perhaps that is the very idea from which the the wheel originates. In this circle around the sun, we find ourselves today at the spoke of the wheel opposite where we were at Hallowe’en: there, we were halfway between autumnal equinox and midwinter solstice, and now here we are, halfway between the vernal equinox and the midsummer solstice. It is the cross quarter day known as Beltane, or, more popularly, May Day. It is a time we mostly ignore here in the States, and we are pretty good at that: ignoring sacred days. I am pretty certain it’s yet another loss we can pin on our country’s Puritan roots, for guess what? The Puritans hated May Day as much as they hated Christmas. May poles and floral nosegays, along with Christmas revelry and days of rest: all of these things were not for them. To make matters even worse, May Day in the past century became associated with labor and workers and (gasp) Communism!… so it became even further removed from the American vernacular.

As usual, I feel we are the poorer for this disconnect. May Day celebrates the height of spring, or even (by traditional reckoning of time) the start of summer. It is a time to be outdoors night and day, a time to bring wild blooms indoors (bringing in the May), a time to revel in an awakening earth. Where our thoughts and outlook at the opposite cross quarter day turned downward, beneath the earth, with May Day we emerge and focus our energies on things above the earth: we revel in greenery and flowers and we spend more time outdoors. We enter the gentle time of year, a time of brightness and light and long days in the Northern Hemisphere.

Your Convivio Book of Days calendar for May celebrates this, too. Cover star: a book illustration for May Day by Kate Greenaway, late 19th century. The calendar is a fine companion to this blog; it’s a printable PDF so you can print it and pin it to your bulletin board or stick it on the refrigerator, if you wish. Happy May!