I love a good icy summer cocktail, and this one is one of my favorites for this time of year when it’s prime season for peaches and mint around the Carolinas.

I don’t really have a name for it. I’ve considered “Peach Better Have My Mint” or “You Wanna Peach of Me.” Or, for a more of-the-minute name, “Im-Peach Him.”

Anyway, here’s the easy recipe if you’d like to make your own. And if drinking it gives you some better name inspiration, please send it my way!

  • 2-3 ounces of Bird Dog Peach Whiskey (depends on how strong you want it)
  • One 6.8-ounce bottle of Fever-Tree Ginger Beer
  • One tablespoon of mint simple syrup*
  • Pour over ice in copper mugs, stir, add sprig of mint to garnish

*  I make my own mint simple syrup by bringing equal parts sugar and water with mint leaves to a boil and then letting it steep, straining it, and letting it cool. But you can also buy mint simple syrup that’s pretty good too.

I’ve been thinking lately about things that I miss—due to Covid—that I never could have imagined missing. Like, there’s the obvious stuff, right? You miss travel and nights out with friends and worry-free hugs. And because I’ve been pretty extreme in my social distancing, I also miss simple things like car rides with friends or saying “yes, you can take my drink order and, as a matter of fact, we would like a starter.”

But I have some weird ones too. I miss the smell of other people’s perfume or cologne. When I’m on a walk in my neighborhood and someone passes me and I can smell the scent of some fragrance, I look like a mix between a hound dog sniffing the air and a creepy serial killer longingly taking a deep breath of another human.

I had no idea how much I enjoyed being a room where people smelled like expensive perfume. 2020 is teaching me so much.

I miss other things that are probably more normal, but the level of intensity of how much I miss them may not be entirely normal. Like, I am dreaming of the day I can be in restaurant and order 8,000 refills of a fountain Diet Coke. And I would probably give a kidney to be able to feel like I could safely get a massage.

Tonight though, I was on a walk in my neighborhood and I suddenly heard the sound of a group of people cheering somewhere. It was just a brief cheer, but the amount of nostalgia that sound evoked felt like getting the breath knocked out of me. People. Together. Happy. I’ve probably heard it a thousand times before walking around my neighborhood—over summer cookouts and during NFL season and, of course, during March Madness. But I didn’t even realize I’d missed it until I heard it tonight.

These are the things I don’t think I’ll take for granted in the future—or, at least I hope not. (Don’t worry, if I’m in a crowded room and thinking “Man, I’m so happy to smell all these people,” I probably won’t say it out loud.)

So, what do you miss that you could have never predicted?

In the end you think of the beginning.

I learned yesterday that my dog, Pawley, has cancer. And as I sat in my hot car, listening to the vet use medical terms to describe the thing that will take away something I love, I wasn’t thinking about the disease. I was thinking about the day Pawley came home with me nine years ago. The way her bright white paws had looked so tiny in my hands.

When my dog Rosie died last year, she’d been very sick for several weeks before the end. And so at night, while I scratched her ears beside me in bed, I’d tell her stories of when she was a puppy. “Do you remember the first time you saw the ocean? The way you rushed in before you realized the waves were taller than you?”

In the days after I learned that Michiel died, I didn’t think of the thousands of conversations we’d had in recent weeks and months. I thought of our first day together. How it had been the summer solstice in Seattle and twilight had lingered until almost midnight. Like God stretched out time just for us—a gift for two friends whose time together would ultimately be cut too short.

When I texted a friend yesterday to tell her about Pawley, she responded “that is too much.” And that seemed about right. It is too much, isn’t it? From illness and poverty to racism and loss, there is so much in our world right now that is just too much.

I think it’s why my mind returns to beginnings. The present is too much. And those early moments are so good and pure because you can’t even imagine the heartbreak of ends like these.

So, that’s where I am now. Living in the too much and loving Pawley in the right now, but thinking of happy beginnings with tiny paws and a whole lifetime ahead.

Summer Reading List

If you’re like me, the combination of social distancing and summertime means you’re doing some extra reading. With this in mind, I’ve shared a few of my top recent picks below.

Before I get to those though, I did want to mention a few others: If you’re looking for easy, lazy beach reads, Emily Giffin’s The Lies That Bind can be finished in a few delicious hours and Jennifer Weiner’s Big Summer is fun and happy.

There are several books on the current bestseller list that I’d skip—namely Elin Hilderbrands’s 28 Summers (no thanks on a depressing read about a decades-long affair) and James Patterson’s The Summer House, which is not really by James Patterson and it shows.

(Sidenote: What’s with all the books with summer in their title this summer?) Anyway, on to my recent favorites list.

51hwe011M+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

American Dirt

There’s a lot of controversy around this book primarily because there are some who claim that the author is capitalizing on immigrant trauma. I think it’s important to be aware of this before reading this novel. But I also thought this was the best book I’d read in a long, long time. It’s a gut wrenching story that’s beautifully written and a serious page-turner. I also think it brings much-needed attention to an important topic. Does it do it in a dramatic Hollywood-esque fashion? Sure. But if that’s what it takes to humanize Latin American migrants for white Americans—and, ideally, lead to a more compassionate approach to our borders—then I stand by saying I really liked this book.

51b5l6oQQdL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

Big Lies in a Small Town

I always love books that shift between the past and present day. (If you also enjoy this, I strongly recommend everything Kate Morton has ever written.) This book moves between 1940 and 2018 in a small North Carolina town. It’s a cool storyline about a part of history I knew nothing about—post office murals as part of the WPA after the Depression. It has fun plot twists and turns, but it’s the memorable characters that make this story.

515GkavUKPL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

The Night Tiger

It took me awhile to get into this one. There are a few different storylines that weave into each other, and I was several chapters in before I really understood the characters. I ultimately loved it though. It’s the story of Ji Lin, who secretly works in a dance hall and Ren, a young houseboy in search of a severed finger—and, of course, a deadly tiger. It takes place in the 1930s in Malaysia and creates really beautiful images of lush jungles and whimsical dreams.

61TaNQhwihL

Pretty Things

I really thought this book would be a fun, easy read to lump in with other summer chick lit. But this one has stuck in my head and it’s entirely because of the setting. A large portion of the book is set in an old mansion on the banks of Lake Tahoe, and the author does such a good job of painting the picture of that place that I half feel like I took a trip to Lake Tahoe this summer. (Side note: This is one of several books I’ve recently read where a main character is an Instagram influencer. Is this a trend now?)

51qS5vTXIcL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

Hideaway

I realize that no one would call Nora Roberts sophisticated literary fiction, but this book was really fun. Like, if a book could be warm tortilla chips, fresh guacamole, and an icy margarita by the pool, this was it. Sometimes Roberts can get pretty cheesy and too romantic for me, but this didn’t feel that way. It checks all her usual boxes—happy and wealthy family, beautiful people, mild intrigue, gorgeous setting, and a wholesome story. It’s the light and fluffy kind of thing we all need in 2020.

A quick Google of “Black Lives Matter Reading List” will lead you to much better sites than this one for suggestions on what to read right now to learn about racism in America and the current movement. But I wanted to share a few links to recent podcasts, videos, and books that I’ve found both informative and helpful on the subject.

Ibram X. Kendi on How to Be an Antiracist: This is a great conversation between Brene Brown and the bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist. It’s just over an hour so put on your headphones, take a walk, and consider how we can uproot racism and inequality in our society.

This Human Race: People have mixed feelings about Andy Stanley, but I love his direct and smart manner of preaching. In last week’s sermon he points out that Jesus was all about people whose lives and lifestyles didn’t look like his, and that it is imperative that we listen to those who don’t necessarily experience the world as we do.

8:46: This is probably the only link-down that will include a Dave Chappelle show next to a sermon, but I thought this Netflix special was so powerful. For half an hour Chappelle addresses police brutality, and while it will illicit a few laughs, this isn’t comedy. He’s angry. But he’s so smart and such a good speaker, that his anger only helps to propel viewers through a history lesson in violence and oppression. The line that resonated with me, as so many (white) people are now starting to say that they’re ready for the protests to end, was when Chapelle shared his reaction after watching the video of George Floyd’s murder: “When I finally watched it, I understood,” he said. “Nobody’s going home.”

As I said, there are plenty of great reading lists out there, but I did want to mention two books that have stuck with me around this subject. The first is The New Jim Crow. I read (and wrote about) this book a few years ago, and it completely shifted my view on our justice system. The second is Between the World and Me. This is written as a letter from Ta-Nehisi Coates to his teenage son about being black in America, and, really, this book should be required reading for every person in the country right now.

Have any other recommendations for great reads or podcasts on the subject? I’d love to hear them.

Carry

I’ve thought a lot about writing a long entry here on my support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent protests. I even began to write a few things—most of which included words about heartbreak and anger over police brutality, systemic racism, and our country’s divisive leader.

But every time I keep coming back to this verse. And I keep thinking that until we all (especially those who are white like myself) say let me help carry your burden, all those things will remain. Until we say, what breaks your heart breaks my heart, nothing will change.

Justice is about compassion for those who are hurting and action to change that. I have a lot of work to do. We all have a lot of work to do together. Now is the time to carry one another’s burdens. 

This morning I read a quote that said, “You are watching people go through withdrawal from the emotional addiction to the myth of certainty.”

And I didn’t think that was inaccurate. Because throughout the last two+ months, I keep thinking of the ways that all of this feels like a strange version of rehab where we’ve all been asked to give up our habits—good or bad—cold turkey.

Three weeks into the stay-at-home order, I started to feel a little better than the constant unease of those initial days. And at some point I started to think of the pain of those first few weeks as withdrawal symptoms. My strong addiction to busyness had meant that I was never just resting at home. And then, quite suddenly, I was always just resting at home.

For me, this time has slowly revealed how entrenched some of my bad habits had become. It took three weeks to break the busyness one. But there are more that the weeks have slowly revealed. And I’m betting others relate.

You hear a lot about the tangible things people want to continue past this time—things like spending more time with family and going on long walks with their dogs. This is what I want to bring out of this time. I don’t want to return to these habits.

I think it goes back to the quote I read this morning—the addiction is to a myth anyway. They’re all actually myths I’ve created in my own head— things like “being busy equals being happy” or “working hard will make people like you more.”

And so, while I don’t want to in any way downplay the sad and terrible side of this time— and, of course, there are many things I’m eager to return to once it’s past—my hope is that I come out of it having permanently left behind these emotional addictions to myths.

So, what about you? What bad habits has this time broken for you?

Top Ten Restaurant Experiences—Ever

Pre-Covid, I was a person who piled work trips on vacations on weekend getaways until I was exhausted and honestly just missed being home. I traveled almost frenetically—like one day there’d be a travel-shortage and I needed to stockpile the experiences.

Now, the shortage has arrived, and I feel a little like an animal that’s been storing up for hibernation. As it turns out, I may just have enough memory nuts stored for this quarantine winter. (I took that metaphor too far, didn’t I?)

So, as I find myself often daydreaming about travels I’ve taken, I thought I’d share some fun memories—and maybe a little inspiration for your next trip (once those things happen again). And, because for me, the most fun memories are always the ones around a table, I’ve created a list of my top ten favorite restaurant experiences ever.

Now, to set some parameters: These are not necessarily the restaurants with the best food—that goes to fancy pants places that everyone already knows about. These are not the craziest restaurant experiences I’ve ever had—that goes to a Thai restaurant run by a crazy Scotsman on a remote hiking path in Panama and a commune cafeteria in the Arizona desert. They’re also not the most exclusive—anytime I’ve been anywhere like that, I’m too distracted trying to spot a celebrity to actually enjoy the experience. And, finally, they’re strictly restaurants, not dining events, otherwise Outstanding in the Field would sweep the category. Ok, now, here we go:

Zsa Zsa Bistro, Rio de Janeiro

It’s been almost a decade since my visits to this bohemian restaurant in Rio’s beachy Ipanema neighborhood, but I still think about its fresh seafood tapas and innovative cocktails. It’s impossible to fully paint the picture of its atmosphere, but imagine flickering candlelight, a cosmopolitan creative crowd, open windows with a salty breeze, and poetry scrawled on the walls.

sketch, London

I see this stunning spot sometimes in movies or magazines. If you Google image it, you’ll understand why it’s impossible to miss—especially those bathroom pods. The restaurant is Michelin-starred and feels like an Instagrammer’s visual fantasy life, but it lives up to the hype. It’s the only one of Mourad Mazouz’s restaurants I’ve been to, but Momo (London) and 404 (Paris) are on my list.

Podere Concori, Tuscany 

At this tiny biodynamic vineyard outside of Barga, Italy a friendly donkey named Pietro greets visitors. Lunch on the sunny patio is prepared by the winemaker’s wife and includes vegetables from their garden alongside fresh breads, cheeses, and cured meats from the nearby village—all paired with amazing wines. It’s like a dream. (If Tuscany is too far, Scribe in Sonoma offers another incredible lunch/tasting experience.)

Norma’s at The Parker, Palm Springs

If you’re into design at all, this hotel is a must-visit. And if you’re into brunch, then indulge in a decadent one on this restaurant’s airy terrace. You could splurge on the Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata for $2,000. But if you have a normal human’s bank account, I recommend the donuts with lemon custard followed by an afternoon napping in one of the hammocks around the perfectly manicured grounds.

Quince, Mallorca

This is the only spot on this list I just stumbled across without research. I was in Mallorca for a friend’s wedding (at this other insanely cool dining destination), and on our way to the beach one day we happened to walk by this colorful waterside restaurant in Porto Cristo. We ordered a ridiculous amount of salty snacks and cold wine, and spent the best lazy afternoon on its charming patio overlooking seaside cliffs.

Chat ‘N’ Chill, Exuma Bahamas

I’ve been lucky enough (through my job) to go to some super nice restaurants in the Caribbean—the truffle croque monsieur at Cheval Blanc in St. Barts will forever be in my food memory hall of fame—but my favorite island spots are always the most low key. The best way to experience Chat ‘N’ Chill is to order a cold Kalik beer at the bar, then head to the seaside conch shack for the citrusy Bahamian conch salad—and watch it be made fresh, straight from the shell.

Bar Vendome, Paris

I realize that picking the Paris Ritz for this list feels a little obvious, but I couldn’t leave this gorgeous conservatory-style restaurant off. Tucked just inside the famed opulent hotel, this sunlit terrace is the perfect escape from the city’s crowds. Personally, I can’t afford more than a glass of wine here, but there are amazing complimentary snacks with the $40 glass and isn’t it worth it just to hang out at a place once frequented by Ernest Hemingway and Coco Chanel?

Cumpanio, San Miguel de Allende

There are like 18 restaurants I’d recommend in San Miguel—including another breakfast spot called Lavanda Cafe that serves the lavender lattes of my dreams—but this little European-style bakery is my favorite. We discovered it on the first day of my first trip to San Miguel and have returned at least half a dozen times since—primarily for the perfectly sweet almond croissant. I would (and will) return to Mexico just for a morning in this bakery.

Coqui Coqui, Tulum 

There are more famous restaurants in Tulum (see Hartwood). And this small beachside hotel in Tulum’s jungle is actually known for its luxe perfumes (you know, just like you’d expect in a Mexican jungle). But I really loved its restaurant where the hotel’s minimalist design is reflected in simple beautiful dishes—everything here just feels so thoughtful and well-curated. (Interestingly, this was another place where lunch was followed by an on-site hammock nap. I sense a trend.)

Restaurant Bobby Chinn, Hanoi

I pushed this one to the end because it’s the only restaurant on the list that’s no longer open. But I wanted to include it because you can still go to Bobby Chinn’s restaurant in London and because its crazy mix of international flavors and ingredients (from a New Zealand-born French-trained chef living in Vietnam) really did make this one of my favorite dining experiences ever. We spent hours here, indulging in tapas fusions before retreating to its lounge for Egyptian shisha and French wine. Still around or not, it’ll always be one of my favorites.

In February, about a month after Michiel died, I thought I was breaking. I don’t really know another way to describe it. If you’ve lost someone you loved deeply, then you know. There’s this moment, when life feels like it should be returning to normal—and it has for everyone around you—but you know that there’s no normal to return to. Life, as you knew it, doesn’t exist anymore.

And so the feeling is one of being unmoored and adrift. It’s something shattering into sharp little pieces. And it’s being utterly and completely alone even in rooms filled with people.

One night in February I’d had friends over for wine and snacks on a Friday after work. And I laughed and told stories and then they walked out the door and I felt something break inside of me as clearly as if I’d heard the snap.

That was a very hard night.

A few days later I was talking to my mom on the phone and told her I was struggling. She invited me to come and stay with them for awhile—until I started to heal and feel a little better. I told her that I appreciated her offer, but I had a life in Charlotte I couldn’t leave. I had a job I went to daily, a social life, and other obligations. Not to mention, I had my pride—while it may have sounded tempting, running away to my parents’ home just wasn’t an option.

A month later a worldwide pandemic closed that office I went into every day, eliminated my social life, and pushed any other obligations into Zoom calls. And so, I moved into my parents’ home. And I began to heal.

Life is so peaceful here. I’m writing this from their porch, where I’ve spent countless hours listening to the breeze and wind chimes and birds chirping. Our mornings start with warm coffee and conversation in the living room in our pajamas. We go on long walks around the farm with the dogs and hug each other goodnight before bed.

It’s not all perfect. Work is stressful and my heart still hurts. But I keep thinking that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. And I wonder if there are other people who feel that way too. A friend told me the other day that being furloughed at home has meant he’d been there for his daughter’s first word and first steps. Another friend has talked about how this time has reminded her to slow down and take care of herself—for the first time ever.

I would never want to downplay the pain of what’s happening in the world right now. But I also think that I want to be grateful for every moment I’m given—and I’ve realized that I’m actually especially grateful for the moments over the last six weeks.

I’m not sure I’m jumping on board with all those hippie memes about how this was the time for the earth to take a breath. But I do know that in the strangest way this time has been an answer to prayers I didn’t even know to pray. And I’m betting I’m not alone in that feeling.

Yesterday, I clicked on an article called “6 reasons why we engage in behaviors that risk COVID-19.” I’ll be honest. I clicked on that article in hopes it would provide more material to lecture my parents on about their risky behavior. I felt certain that all six things would apply directly to them.

Unfortunately, the third thing on the list read—and this is a direct quote—”Don’t live on Cheetos.” This felt like a personal attack because I have not made a grocery store order without Cheetos since March 11.

So, obviously, I felt like ignoring that stupid article would be in everyone’s best interest.

Anyway, I share this because the details of this story really reveal my current life. While I’ve actually (secretly, don’t tell them) loved living with my parents during this time, our differences—and similarities—have presented some challenges.

For example, they take naps almost every afternoon. The other day I was in the middle of a stressful conference call for work and my dad walked in and announced that he was going to sleep and would like for someone to wake him up from his nap at 5 pm. It was 1:41 in the afternoon. I don’t need that kind of smugness in my life.

That same night, we were watching the DVR’ed Jeopardy from the previous night (as we do), and fast-forwarding through the commercials. There was a commercial for Bojangles chicken tenders. My dad yelled at my mom to hit pause. She did, never questioning him. They watched the chicken tenders commercial. Then, because they were curious about the accompanying sides, they rewound it and watched it again. And then once more because they were confused about how many tenders each order included.

I’m honestly still not exactly sure what happened there.

Our most serious dispute was last week was when my mom said that Pawley had a “weird bark.” Obviously, I was deeply offended. I told her that Pawley’s bark was beautiful and that Gabe, their male dog, had a high pitched bark that made him sound like a whiny little girl. This was a legitimate argument. It went on for some time.

You know, it’s funny because the article I mentioned at the top also said that “mental health, in particular needs your attention” right now. But, once again, I have to say that ignoring that article is really in everyone’s best interest. Because obviously we’re doing just great on the staying sane part of this quarantine.