Category Archives: Summer

Summertime, or Your June Book of Days

It was in 1935 that Billie Holiday recorded a song with Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra; a song called “It’s too Hot for Words,” and though it is not the official State Song of my home state of Florida, I think perhaps it should be. And I think the sleeping woman in this iconic painting of summer understands this, too. The painting, called “Flaming June,” is by Frederic Lord Leighton.  The sun shimmering on the distant water, and its stillness, and the flush on the cheek of the sleeping woman in orange… all these things suggest that it was the very height of summer, perhaps Midsummer Day itself, when Frederic Lord Leighton painted this image in 1895. Whatever summer day it was obviously was too hot for words and, by the looks of things, too hot for pretty much anything.

And “Flaming June” is the cover star this month for your Convivio Book of Days calendar. The calendar for June is, as usual, a printable PDF. It is the month of St. Anthony of Padua’s Day on the 13th: a favorite saint of both my grandmothers and perhaps all Italian grandmothers, for that matter. And then comes Bloomsday, one of our favorite literary holidays, then Father’s Day and Juneteenth, the freedom celebration that is our newest national holiday. The solstice arrives this year on the 20th, and a few days later come the celebrations of Old Midsummer. Mostly ignored in this country, Midsummer will pass largely unnoticed. But these longest days of the year in the Northern Hemisphere are magical days, with daylight well into the evening hours. In Sweden and Germany and other places folks stay out well into those nights and there are songs to sing and dances to dance beneath a Midsommar pole and they will don flowers in their hair and laugh and love while here in the States we will just go to bed early and wake up early and go to work diligently and that is that.

Ah, but these lovely lengthy languid days are the polar opposite spoke in the Wheel of the Year to the celebrations of Midwinter, which we do celebrate most joyously. That is Christmas, when the days are short and the nights are long, and these summery days are the mirror to Christmas. Ages ago, the Church placed the birth of Christ at the Midwinter solstice and the birth of his cousin, St. John the Baptist, at the Midsummer solstice. This, for powerful symbolism: John is born at Midsummer, just as light begins to decrease. “He must increase, but I must decrease,” we read in John 3:30. Conversely, Christ is born at Midwinter, just as light begins to increase. Again, in John 8:12: “I am the light of the world.”

There are other traditional bits of magic in the air this time of year, too. While there is one school of thought that says William Shakespeare set his comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Eve of May, there is another that places it at St. John’s Eve. That’s the school of thought I subscribe to. St. John’s Eve, on the 23rd of June, mirrors Christmas Eve in that Wheel of the Year, and we all know about the particular magic of that long night. So on the short night, too.

Do with all this what you may. Go to work if you must… but honor these magical days as best you can. This is what we do, and this, I think, is a very good approach.

We’ll be open this Saturday, June 8, and next Saturday, June 15, for Father’s Day shopping (and any kind of shopping) from 11 AM to 4 PM, and, in fact, these are the hours we’ve decided to keep all year long. Unless otherwise noted, we’ll be open every Saturday from 11 to 4. We both work full time, so Saturday hours are the best we can do for now. We’ll also gladly open for you by appointment, should Saturdays not work for you. Just write us. The new shop is at 1110 North G Street, Suite D, Lake Worth Beach, FL 33460. From I-95, exit 10th Avenue North eastbound; make a left at the first traffic signal onto North A Street, then at the first stop sign, turn right onto 13th Avenue North. Cross the railroad tracks and turn right again onto North G Street. We’re a couple blocks down on your left side in a blue-roofed building. Plenty of street parking on G Street and there are a few spots in our little parking lot, too.

It’s a Midsummer celebration! Official ribbon cutting with City officials on Friday June 21 at 3:30 PM, and we’ll be open all that weekend (Friday June 21 from 3 to 8 PM, Saturday June 22 from 11 AM to 7 PM, and Sunday June 23 from 10 AM to 4 PM) with lots of Midsummer fun: We’ll teach you how to make a floral crown; You can print your own letterpress printed Glad Midsommar card; Enjoy a free tasting event featuring many of our Scandinavian specialty foods, and, of course, there will be great shopping and good company. The new shop is at 1110 North G Street, Suite D, Lake Worth Beach, FL 33460. From I-95, exit 10th Avenue North eastbound; make a left at the first traffic signal onto North A Street, then at the first stop sign, turn right onto 13th Avenue North. Cross the railroad tracks and turn right again onto North G Street. We’re a couple blocks down on your left side in a blue-roofed building. Plenty of street parking on G Street and there are a few spots in our little parking lot, too.

At our online catalog right now, you may use discount code BLOSSOM to save $10 on your $85 purchase, plus get free domestic shipping, too. That’s a total savings of $19.50. Spend less than $85 and our flat rate shipping fee of $9.50 applies. CLICK HERE to shop; you know we appreciate your support immensely. And yes, you may use that $10 discount when you visit us in the store, too!

Image: “Flaming June” by Frederic Lord Leighton. Oil on canvas, 1895 [Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]. Click on each image to make them larger!



Feast of the Assumption

I’ve been reading A Poem for Every Night of the Year, edited by Allie Esiri, since the year began and doing just that: reading one poem, each night of the year, just before I shut the last illuminated lamp, before I say goodnight to all the people in the photographs on the bookcases and bureaus on my way to bed. My nightly ritual. It’s a big thick book, hardcover, lovely dust jacket, and as I sat there in my corner chair in the close and holy darkness late last night and read, it struck me that I am most definitely more than halfway through the book, and that the year is more than half done, and that even though summer here in this strange green land goes on and on, it will eventually be packing its bags, headed off to more southerly climes on the other side of the equator. We still have a lot more to get through, but the facts are plain: the Dog Days have passed (they ended on the 11th of August when Sirius, the Dog Star, ceased rising each morning with the sun), and in Italy, Ferragosto has begun. It is the height of the summer holidays, and most Italians will take off from work or close up shop and head someplace cool for a few days: to the sea, or to the mountains. It is annual pilgrimage that has its roots in Ancient Rome.

Most people in Catholic Europe will be off today, anyway: It is the Feast of the Assumption on this Fifteenth of August, so why not take a few extra summer days off, too? It’s the day my grandmother was born, in 1898, and so her parents called her Assunta. How lovely: to be named for a holiday, no? I think so, anyway. Most years, Grandma’s birthday meal would be the traditional Ferragosto supper of cuccuzza longa––an Italian edible gourd very much like zucchini––simmered with egg and parmesan and parsley with a hint of tomatoes. It can be made with zucchini, too. Perhaps you’d like to give it a try (especially at this annual time of zucchini abundance): Click here for the recipe. Have a nice summery wine on hand, like a crisp vinho verde from Portugal, and a crusty loaf, and you’ve got a summer meal that’s fit for a king (even if originated with the hearty peasantry).

I’m thinking of going to church at noon for Grandma’s birthday and for the Assumption. I’ve not been for a long while, and it’ll be time spent with Grandma and with everyone else who has come and gone in my life, and I’ll get to sing along with other folks in the congregation singing Schubert’s “Ave Maria“, and there are worse ways to pass an hour on an afternoon in late summer.

Images: Two photographs we took at the shore of Lake Maggiore in Arona, Italy, when we visited there in the summer of 2019 with my cousin Fabio, who lives in nearby Oleggio. Lake Maggiore would be an excellent Ferragosto destination!


We’ll be at the LIBRARY WAYZGOOSE FESTIVAL at Florida Atlantic University Libraries’ Jaffe Center for Book Arts on Sunday afternoon, August 27, from 12 to 6. Print activities, a paper moon photo booth, and live music all day. Free admission, free parking, and we’re supplying the doughnuts, which will also be free. I’ll tell you more about it soon, for the 24th of August (St. Bartholomew’s Day) is the traditional date for a Wayzgoose, but in the meantime, mark your calendars if you’re local and come have a good Wayzgoose time!


A Cool Summertime Recipe

We are in the midst of the Dog Days of Summer: they began when July was new, when Sirius, the Dog Star, began rising with the sun. Early astronomers thought the combination of Sirius rising with the sun made for the hottest days of the year. This annual phenomenon remains with us, as it does each year, until the Eleventh of August, when Sirius and the sun once again go their separate ways, thus ending the Dog Days of Summer once more.

It’s been unbearably hot just about everywhere this month. Here, too, the temperatures are running higher than normal: low to mid 90s, rather than the more typical 89 or so, and those few degrees make a big difference. As meals go, it is definitely a time for lighter fare, and today, on the approach to the ancient Roman festival of Neptunalia & Salacia (it falls on July 23), I’ve got the perfect meal to cool things down a bit, and today’s chapter of the Convivio Book of Days comes with a delicious recipe. It’s a Florida recipe that’s born somewhat out of necessity: an attempt to use up some of the local mangoes that are everywhere here come high summer.

And I know the current madness emanating from Tallahassee has not done much for our popularity (I’m with you on that), but let it be known that Florida has delivered some incredible contributions to the national cuisine: We’ve brought you hushpuppies, fried up from cornmeal and chopped onions and beer. We’ve brought you key lime pie, of course. And we’ve even brought you the half & half you pour into your coffee each morning (it was invented right here in Lake Worth at Boutwell Dairy in the early 20th century). Today’s recipe is one you can add to that list. It’s a recipe I adapted from one I picked up from my neighbor Margaret. It’s the perfect accompaniment to fish or chicken, though in this house, it’s always fish, and as such, it is perfect for Neptunalia & Salacia, when the Romans celebrated Neptune, the sea god, and his wife Salacia, goddess of the salty sea. It’s also perfect for any time you need a cooling light supper on an oppressively hot day.

M A N G O   W A T E R M E L O N   S A L S A
Best served over fish (we like haddock or mahi-mahi or snapper best). Measurements are approximate. The chopping takes some time, but if you make the salsa early in the day, the actual meal comes together at dinnertime in just a few minutes––just as long as it takes for the fish and the rice to cook.

4 mangoes, peeled and pitted
1/2 small round watermelon, preferably seedless
1 small red onion, peeled
2 jalapeño or poblano peppers
fresh cilantro
salt & pepper

Chop, into a small dice, the mangoes, the watermelon, the red onion, and the peppers and combine together in a large bowl. Take care to remove any stray watermelon seeds. I prefer a salsa that is mostly watermelon with almost as much mango, while the red onion and green peppers add their particular colors to the mix in a smaller proportion. Add chopped fresh cilantro to taste, and season with salt and pepper. Chill for at least a few hours, or overnight. Mango Watermelon Salsa will keep in the refrigerator for at least 3 or 4 days. Serve over fish that’s been baked or grilled or pan-fried. Basmati rice makes a nice accompaniment to the fish and salsa. Works equally well over chicken, and perhaps even grilled pork tenderloin.

If you have the luxury of choice, as we do here in Lake Worth, my favorite mangoes for this recipe are Haden mangoes, which we grow here, or Jewel mangoes, which grow at my family’s home nearby. There are some mangoes that have a distinct turpentine taste; I do not like those for this recipe.

Mango season here is quickly coming to a close. Our tree has completed its run for the year, as has Mom’s tree. I’ve heard it said that if you live here in South Florida and you find yourself buying mangoes from the market in summer, then you need to seriously reconsider who you call “friend.” There are so many mango trees here, almost everyone knows someone who has a glut of the fruit in July. They’re delicious, but let’s face it: you can only eat so many. Mango Watermelon Salsa is a most delicious way to get through four of them. Enjoy the meal, as you raise your glasses to each other on Neptunalia & Salacia and every summertime meal.


Enjoy $5 off your order of $35 or more when you use discount code HIGH5 at checkout. Take it to $75 and you’ll earn free domestic shipping, too. Use the deal on Millie’s Tea Towels or on anything else in the shop. Click here to shop! And if you love mangoes, you may equally love our limited edition handmade book, Putting Up Mangoes. It’s a tale I wrote about overwhelming subtropical abundance. You can even use the HIGH5 discount code for $5 off the book!