To the Sea, or Your Convivio Book of Days for July

It’s certainly been a hot summer for folks across North America. Here in Lake Worth, this is something to which we are accustomed, and it’s rare we have extremes… it’s just always a high in the low 90s this time of year, unless it’s been raining a lot, which it has. It’s constant and steady all summer long, and even well into fall. What does us in is the humidity. I remember a story that Bailey White wrote in which she and her mother decided to try their hands at making sun-dried tomatoes from some of their South Georgia garden bounty. South Georgia is not all that different from South Florida this time of year: hot, humid, languid. The recipe for drying the tomatoes ended with these words: Store in a cool, dry place. Bailey and Mama looked at each other. “What do they mean?” they wondered aloud.

Anyway, here it is now, July, and here is your Convivio Book of Days calendar for the month. The Dog Days of Summer, ruled by Sirius, the Dog Star, officially begin on the 3rd, as Sirius begins its annual period of rising and setting with the sun. The Ancient Greeks, watchers of the sky, observed this and deduced that Sirius, shining as brightly as it does, was amplifying and contributing to the heat of the sun, making these days the hottest of the year. In reality, it is our planet’s thermal lag; it’s a massive place, the Earth, and the Northern Hemisphere has been gradually storing heat all through the year as the days have increased in length, and though we’ve passed the solstice of Midsummer nearly two weeks ago now and days already are shorter, it takes a longer time for the planet’s temperature to balance out. And so our hottest days go on for many more weeks, despite diminishing sunlight, while in Antartica, days are growing longer, but the penguins are still huddled together, trying their best to keep warm.

What with all this heat, it seems to me a perfect time to escape to the sea. If I get up on my roof and look east, I can see the Lake Worth Lagoon, and beyond that, the Atlantic Ocean, and yet I still can’t seem to manage to get to the sea. But I’d like to, perhaps today, or tomorrow. Hence this month’s Convivio Book of Days calendar… it’s a printable PDF document, and our cover star for July is a 1932 painting by Clarice Beckett called Beach Scene. My hope is it will cool you off some just to look at it.

My mom, Millie, was keeping it cool when she was captured in a photograph fishing off a rowboat, circa 1950 or so. She’s another cover star of ours this summer, in this case for our Summer High Five Sale, in which you can use the discount code HIGH5 at checkout for $5 off your order of $35 or more. Take it to $50 and you’ll earn free domestic shipping, too. (Click on the photo to make it larger; I love her smart sunglasses and the fact that she brought her pocketbook with her.)

Mom, God bless her, has begun a new cottage industry at home this past spring. Each day she hand embroiders a flour sack towel. Now, you can call this towel what you wish: dish towel, tea towel… but Grandma, she would have called it a mappina… and not pronounced that ending A. And still to this day, in the English we speak, peppered as it is with Italian dialect words, we speak of the “mop-peen”: an essential element of any good cook’s kitchen. I tend to go through two or three mappini (the plural of mappina) each night as I cook supper: a mappina hanging on the oven door handle to handle hot pots, a mappina on the counter to wipe up spills, a mappina slung over my shoulder to dry my hands.

And so today I’m writing to let you know about our Convivio Book of Days calendar for July, but also to let you know that these mappini that my mom Millie has been embroidering by hand, stitch by stitch, since Easter: they are now on our website, available for purchase. They’re adorable. I’m so proud of her efforts. They are part of a brand new part of our online catalog we’re calling “Linens & Textiles.” Millie’s hand embroidered tea towels focus on three different themes: there are a whole bunch that deal with coffee (“Java Jive”) and more that deal with baked goods (“Baking Day”), and then another whole bunch that offer bits of wisdom of a culinary nature (“Kitchen Wisdom”).

I think you’ll be as impressed as I am with Mom’s handiwork. Her tea towels make wonderful gifts for yourself or someone else and Millie’s getting every penny we sell them for. I figure I owe her at least that for all the effort she put into raising me. You’ll find other lovely hand embroidered textiles there, too, from the extended family in Chiapas who make the protective face masks we’ve been selling since last summer. Prices on those masks, by the way, are reduced to $10. We got our last shipment of masks from them a few weeks ago, and now, I’m happy to report, they are focusing again on their traditional wares. (Hurrah for science and vaccinations!)

Everything in the catalog is part of the Summer Sale, so go, have some fun there: Click here to shop. If you can shop while you’re drifting on a pool float, I’d recommend that.

Calendar image: “Beach Scene” by Clarice Beckett. Oil on canvas, 1932 [Public domainvia Wikimedia Commons. It’s my birthday today. Here’s a memory I have in my store of such things: My guess is it’s 1970. It is the night of the 30th of June, and it is approaching midnight, and Mom & Dad have let me stay up to bring in my birthday. The Twilight Zone is playing on the TV, black & white. I’m sitting on the couch, on top of the back cushion, where clearly I should not be sitting, but they let me anyway. I’m incredibly excited that my birthday is arriving. That’s it, that’s the memory. I don’t get that excited about birthdays anymore, but maybe I should. Perhaps we all should. It might do us good.



7 thoughts on “To the Sea, or Your Convivio Book of Days for July

  1. Dee says:

    Happy Birthday,John! I think birthdays are important. Everyone has one and some people like to ignore theirs, but I don’t. I don’t have birthday cake and ice cream every year, but I still do my happy dance. I hope you will, too.

  2. Donna Read says:

    Happy,happy birthday🎂to you John! I enjoyed reading your birthday story! It was so thoughtful of your parents to understand how important it was for you to watch your birthday celebration begin during the night prior to your actual birth date. What a terrific idea!

    If we were at Real Mail I would bring you your favorite cake or pies and we would all sing happy birthday to you like we did a few years ago! Birthdays are special and how people celebrate them are fun to learn about.

    Thank you for sharing your delightful birthday story!!

  3. Marjorie Hollis says:

    Happy birthday, John! Hope it was wonderful. I love reading your book of days. Here in Maryland it’s hot and humid all summer (which I don’t like at all) but, good grief, the Pacific Northwest’s temperatures right now are ridiculous! Thank you for your lovely posts!

    • John Cutrone says:

      Thank you, Marjorie! I’m so glad you enjoy the read. I’ve spent some time in Maryland in the summer, along the Corsica River, by a cornfield (that’s where I printed our Bailey White Broadside, at the press of the Gunston Day School) and I remember it being just as hot and humid as Florida. The heatwave in the west, though, is truly terrible.

      The birthday’s been good. There was a good meal followed by key lime birthday pie, and a family celebration today with more good food. We tend to do these things over several days in my family. Thank you for your good wishes, and thank you for reading along.

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