5 Simple Summer Pleasures

One evening my husband and I strolled through the Beguinage in Leuven, a university town in the Flemish part of Belgium. Beguinages (or begijnhofs as they are called in Dutch) were medieval lay sisterhoods in which women led lives of piety and charity without taking permanent vows. At best, the Catholic church had an ambivalent attitude towards the beguines. Women weren’t supposed to have this much freedom or to exist independently from male control. The sisterhoods were prosecuted and labeled as heretics, but despite all of this they maintained their order. Belgium had the highest number of beguinages in the world, and about 30 remain today (albeit non-functioning). If the desire to live free from men counts, then the beguines might very well represent the earliest form of the women’s movement.

Although today Leuven’s Beguinage is a UNESCO heritage site housing university students and faculty, there is an aura of serenity pervading its narrow streets. The setting sun tints the grey cobblestones a rich gold and plays on the still water in the canals. The swallows paint delicate arabesques over the sky, making me strain my neck as I admire their graceful spins. The red geraniums spilling out of the window boxes give off their dusty metallic scent, and each tiny streets ends in a small secret garden awash in roses and privet. The beguines may have vanished, but their oasis of quiet beauty remains.

The ability to appreciate these quiet enjoyments is the main thing I’m learning since coming here. They are often just as special as anything planned on a grand scale. Slowing down takes some effort on my part, however. I walk faster than any person in the street. When we sit at an outdoor cafe enjoying a glass of beer or lait russe–a term for latte in Belgian French, I can’t help glancing at my watch. Do I have to go home already and work? To cook dinner? To make another work call? Relaxing is an art people around here practice well, but I still operate on the American concept of time. Here, on the other hand, time acquires a different (much longer and less defined) meaning, and my main adjustment lies in accepting it.

Little by little, I’m learning to cultivate quiet enjoyments. Summer offers many opportunities to create my own little rituals that allow me to take a deep breath and to recharge. They don’t require much expense or planning. My summer pleasures are the pleasures I can partake in, regardless of whether I’m busy with errands or have a whole day to myself.  This is not an exhaustive list, of course, but just a few season specific delights. The best part is that some of these pleasures can be easily shared with others.

Cologne Bath

A bath scented with cologne is something I’ve come across in old French movies and Russian novels. I finally tried it one day, and  I’ve become a cologne bath convert. You fill up the bathtub and add 2-3 Tablespoons of any citrusy cologne (something as common and inexpensive as 4711 works really well). The warmth of the water helps diffuse the scent, and the rejuvenating effect is remarkable. If you have time, the cologne bath is refreshing enough to take it in the morning. Afterwards, the scent lingers on your skin, and if you add an orange blossom scented cream such as Roger & Gallet Bois d’Orange body lotion, you don’t need a perfume. On week days, I content myself with a splash of cologne into the shower for an uplifting burst of scent, but the weekend mornings are my bath time.

A Colorful Fruit Cup for Breakfast

This simple pleasure is courtesy of my mom. She may grab a bite on the run during lunch, but her breakfasts are usually a little ceremony in themselves. Even if all she’s having is a cup of coffee and toast, she will set out her favorite plate, cup and silverware. If she has very little time in the morning, she sets the table the night before, so that all she has to do is to fill up the cup and pop a piece of bread in the toaster. But the sense of quiet enjoyment sets a nice mood for the whole day, and I can attest to this.

In the summer, I love fruit for breakfast. I mix a couple of types of fruit for different colors and textures. Apples and apricots with yogurt; pears and strawberries with kefir; raspberries and peaches with soft goat cheese–the combinations are limited only by seasonal availability. I slice and arrange fruit trying to create a still life in a cup. Beautiful, healthful, delicious. I can’t imagine a better way to start the day.

Garage Sales/Outdoor Flea Markets

I love to look at other people’s junk. A sign for a garage sale tempts me more than the advert for Barney’s 50% off clearance. I can’t say that I have a great record of bargains, other than a rose painted Limoges cup for $1 and a silver tea strainer for $10. I simply enjoy browsing through the stalls covered with chipped china, patina worn bronze candle holders and tattered books. Who is that dapper gentleman in the yellowing photo? Did this cup with an indelible lipstick stain belong to a beauty who wore marseilles waves and smeared her mouth crimson the moment she got out of bed?

Peaches and Feta Cheese

The first time I tasted the combination of sweet watermelon and salty feta, it was a revelation. Each bit was refreshing, exhilarating and addictive. Since then I’ve been pairing feta with just about any fruit, but peaches stand out as a particularly luscious foil to the musky, salty feta. I slice peaches thickly, arrange pieces of feta over them and add a generous drizzle of olive oil. A pinch of crunchy salt flakes, and it’s ready. To enhance the milky sweetness of peaches–the same one that gives Guerlain Mitsouko its velvety touch, you can add aromatic herbs like mint, basil or tarragon.

Rose and Orange Blossom Perfumed Sheets

My grandmother dries her linens outdoors, and their scent of grass and sunshine must be one of the reasons why I sleep so well at her house. At home, we would be reported to the building association if we tried drying anything outdoors, so I  experiment by using scented waters to perfume my sheets. Orange blossom is one of my favorite scents for linens, and if you have a bottle in your cupboard–remember, I urged you to try  it in this rice pudding?–the fantasy of a Mediterranean summer can be easy to create. I add 3 Tablespoons of orange blossom water for every 1/2 cup of water, and mix it in one of those cheap spray bottles sold at gardening shops. Or try rose water for a headier variation. Just before getting into bed, I mist the water lightly over the sheet and hop under the cool, fragrant covers. Sweet dreams!

What makes you anticipate summer the most? Do you have your favorite summer rituals?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Lucas: What a wonderful list of summer pleasures. They all sound great, and they smell and taste fabulous. I’d have to try these peaches with feta, this combination sounds so weird to me that I got to try it myself.

    Yes, I also have my summer rituals. Will share them later as I’m just going out! See you later! July 26, 2012 at 8:01am Reply

    • Victoria: Pretty much all stone fruit (cherries, apricots, plums) work well with something salty, like cheese or ham. And watermelon and feta is a classic combo. July 26, 2012 at 9:07am Reply

      • Lucas: You surely are a food lover too! 🙂
        My summer rituals are going swimming early in the morning. It gives me energy kick for a whole day. And I love to go on a bike ride when it’s late afternoon. I love cycling in the forest where on a straight road I can close my eyes, feel the wind, hear birds, leaves and smell the green, woody aroma of warm forest.
        My summer pleasures are also eating ice cream, or listening to smooth jazz while drinking an ice coffee while doing some skin treatments July 26, 2012 at 11:06am Reply

        • Victoria: I really have to take up biking. You and Solanace talk about it with such passion that it makes me want to rush and rent a bike asap! 🙂

          Love your summer rituals. Today is so hot that I might indulge in some ice cream. July 26, 2012 at 12:06pm Reply

          • Lucas: What’s your favourite flavour? I love lemon ice cream and mango or grapefruit sorbets.
            My latest ice cream discovery was vanilla-almond flavour with small cookies pieces. It was so delicious, but I prefer citrus ice cream in this hot weather like today. July 26, 2012 at 12:22pm Reply

            • Victoria: I like chocolate, hazelnut, pistachio, or vanilla with chocolate chips. Here I discovered gingerbread flavored ice cream, which is so decadent. But on a hot day nothing beats lemon sorbet. July 26, 2012 at 1:16pm Reply

  • marsha: Oh Victoria, this is one of your many articles that just enchant me so much! You should write a book on how to *live well.* Since I live in the southern US and until 4 years ago, had to work in nightmarish law offices, my only summer rituals involved staying cool and avoiding migraines. Now, the law office is behind me and I am starting to work on summer rituals, spring rituals, fall rituals, etc. You will be a wonderful guide! July 26, 2012 at 8:32am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much for saying this, Marsha! Your experience of working for a law firm sounds eerily familiar. It took some time for me to figure out that I need to make some changes. My mom is terrific role model though. Her ability to keep her spirits high despite all difficulties (and she has faced many!) and to find little joys amid the routine is really incredible. She can make a holiday out of the most mundane, so if anyone should write a book on the topic, it could be her. 🙂

      And please share your discoveries too! We could all learn together. 😉 July 26, 2012 at 9:14am Reply

  • Andy: I especially like the idea of scented bedsheets—it’s similar to something I do with a lavender spray on nights when I feel a little restless. July 26, 2012 at 8:34am Reply

    • Victoria: Andy, how do you make a lavender spray? Do you just blend essential oil with water? July 26, 2012 at 9:16am Reply

      • Andy: At first, I tried just lavender eo and water, but found that it clogged the sprayer (since the essential oil was not soluble in the water). So now I put a little alcohol in the spray bottle, add the essential oil, and then shake to mix. Then I fill the rest with water, and it seems to work well. Now I even add other things like Galbanum and Hedione to the mix, which make it absolutely heavenly. July 26, 2012 at 6:06pm Reply

        • Victoria: Your mix sounds so good, Andy! Of course, now I would love to try that combination on my linens. July 27, 2012 at 7:27am Reply

  • Edward: Hi Victoria,

    I’ve been lurking here in your blog since I don’t know when. Other than your excellent reviews, I want to comment on the pictures you use to complement your writing, especially on the set you used above. They are very real, to the point that I am transported (is that the right word?) to the place you are describing. You are such a talented person and thank you for sharing that talent to us. Regards. July 26, 2012 at 9:09am Reply

    • Victoria: Edward, thank you so much for your comment and your kind words. I’m happy that you’re enjoying my photos. As much as I don’t like to have my own pictures taken, I love photographing others and well, just about anything I come across. 🙂 I’m learning, and it’s a fun process. July 26, 2012 at 9:31am Reply

      • marsi: I love your photos too! And Suzanna’s!! 😀 July 26, 2012 at 9:48am Reply

        • Victoria: Suzanna’s photo are amazing. She’s a multi-talented woman. July 26, 2012 at 11:40am Reply

        • Edward: I agree! I checked Suzanna’s Flickr and saw those impressive pictures! Really professional. 🙂 July 26, 2012 at 11:50am Reply

          • Victoria: She is! I love her landscape and cityscape photos. Each picture tells a story, which is so hard to do with that genre. July 26, 2012 at 12:15pm Reply

  • Patt: I love to go horseback riding in the summer, but after a ride I’m hot, sweaty, dirty, and smelling strongly of horse. The solution is a long shower in tepid water followed by a light toweling and generous spritzing of BBW’s Coconut Lime Verbena. Yum! (The horse gets a shower as well back at the barn.) July 26, 2012 at 9:11am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m envious of your horseback riding. I love horses and I love their scent, but I’m a bit too timid (ok, I’m a wuss!) to try horseback riding myself. So, I always admire those who do it. July 26, 2012 at 9:34am Reply

      • Patt: They are magnificent creatures. Just being in their presence is calming and grounding 🙂 July 26, 2012 at 10:49am Reply

        • Victoria: In Brussels there is a mounted police division. I love watching them ride around, policing things. 🙂 The horses look so beautiful and so well-cared for. July 26, 2012 at 12:04pm Reply

  • marsi: Hello from sunny Spain! I’m visiting my family. When I’m with them every day feels special. When I’m back in the US, I try to slow down too, but it’s hard because the pace of life is so much more hectic. Bah, it’s gettting to be that way in Spain too and with the crisis even worse.

    Anyways, here are some of my summer favorites: wearing lots of orange blossom colognes, having picnics, eating gazpacho, going bike riding.

    Wishing you and everyone here a great day! July 26, 2012 at 9:46am Reply

    • Victoria: Have a wonderful visit with your family, Marsi! I can imagine that spending a vacation with your loved one is so perfect, you hardly need to make an effort to find time for extra pleasures. 🙂

      Gazpacho is my summer addiction too! July 26, 2012 at 11:40am Reply

  • Anne Sheffield: Oh what a lovely article! It does make me want to have more rituals and definitely try peach and feta. In the south of France we have figues and goat s cheese which is deep and lovely ( more an early fall taste though). My summer rituals includes, cold showers followed by scented oil moistorizing, pretty much basil on every thing I eat, swimming in the sea as often as time allows me to, and generally each Sunday morning I take my children swimming and that day I keep the salt on my skin and my hair until the evening. Everything feels so soft after my evening shower! I also love taking the kids to the balls in the street most evening. We all get to dance with everybody, it s warm, it has a scent of lightness and worriness, everyone is happy, sunned out, old people are dancing, teenagers are having their first summer flings, young kids are playing, everybody is in the village streets, it feels very French. Enjoy your summer! X July 26, 2012 at 10:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Just reading your comment and your description of these activities makes feel more relaxed! No wonder you missed France so much when you lived in other places.

      Anne, I would be curious to hear what you think of peaches and feta. 🙂 July 26, 2012 at 11:42am Reply

  • Nikki: How wonderful, you are finding the European pace of life…we have a lovely word for this: MUESSIGGANG which means something like the pace of life being the muse for one’s life, freely interpreted. That is one of the reasons the l’age d’or in Paris between the two world wars was so seductive to Americans (and the cheap booze). There is something innate comforting in being able to sit and do nothing in peace and quiet without fear (Belgium is very safe). Winter will really teach you going inward and maybe write a novel…Even though I love the big skies of the midwest prairies and the brilliant blue of the vast western skies here in Arizona, the tidiness of small spaces in Northern Europe and the sense of order do make me feel protected in a way, not so much confined but at ease with the natural proportions. These are all on a human scale, not bombastic, but just right. Enjoy life in the slow lane…for a while. July 26, 2012 at 10:16am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m learning more new words from new, Nikki! Thank you. I’ve always ignorantly thought (and please don’t pelt me with tomatoes!) that German was such a straightforward language, lacking all of the nuances of Italian or French, but when I had to study it at the university, I’ve realized what a fool I was to think this. German poetry has such a distinctive cadence and sometimes simplicity of expression belies a very intricate meaning. July 26, 2012 at 11:47am Reply

      • Nikki: Yes, German is still the language of philosophy and very different from latin languages in both feeling as well expression, i.e. the gender of the moon is masculine in Germany while the sun is female in German, in latin languages it is the other way around because the sun is so much harsher there while the Nordic people see the sun as life giving, therefore female. Both Dutch and Flemish are old dialects of low German as is Yiddish so learning German opens up a lot of secrets of other cultures as well. I m reading Hegel right now in German and most philosophy students try to learn German to read philosophy in their original language. Being fluent in French, we are aware of the historical give and take between French and German philosophers and kings. Frederick II was fluent in French and corresponded with Voltaire, Katherine the Great, native German, fluent in French and Russian, was well versed in philosophy. Only when one sees these influences in context, as European cultural ideas, does one start understanding the breadth of knowledge inherent in all languages. German was the language of Romanticism. I love Heinrich Heine, another German who was fluent in French. Enjoy. July 26, 2012 at 12:32pm Reply

        • Victoria: I wish my German was good enough to read such complex texts. Unfortunately, I haven’t persevered with it beyond the initial college program. Your explanation is fascinating, especially about the gender of the sun and moon. July 26, 2012 at 1:49pm Reply

  • Rachel: Hello, another longtime avid reader and lurker who can’t help but join in the fun.
    I’m swooning over the photos! Thanks for a delicious and lovely post and a nice excuse to take a break from work.

    Summer = picnics for me and my DH. We also love grilling. July 26, 2012 at 10:18am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for stopping by, Rachel, and for your nice comment. I love picnics in the summer too. Even in the winter, we sometimes have a picnic on the blanket in the front of the fireplace. 🙂

      I read in the comment to Patt that you’re a pastry chef. Sounds like a fascinating (if hard!) job creating desserts and confections. July 26, 2012 at 11:54am Reply

      • Rachel: Thanks! I enjoyed it, but the hours were too much once I had my twins and had to deal with some health issues afterwards. I now bake just for my girls. 🙂 July 27, 2012 at 10:20am Reply

        • Victoria: I can just imagine! I had a friend who ran a bakery, and it seemed like such a grueling work with incredibly long hours. I love baking, but only for my friends and family. July 27, 2012 at 10:57am Reply

  • Jillie: What beautiful suggestions, Victoria! I bought a GIANT bottle of 4711 only the other day, and I now can’t wait for my bath in a few hours time to try out your idea. So simple … why did nobody else think of it? And it will be so refreshing in this stifling heat wave that we are experiencing here.

    And tomorrow I will pair some fresh soft goat’s cheese with all the strawberries I have bought – the cheese was going to go into a lasagne, but I like your idea better!

    And having just changed our bed, I am going to hunt out my orange blossom water that I keep for cooking to make a linen spray. It’s our wedding anniversary tomorrow, and I think this will give us sweet dreams tonight.

    Thank you! July 26, 2012 at 10:21am Reply

    • Victoria: When I first tried the cologne bath and realized how refreshing and uplifting it can be, I immediately regretted all of the money I used to spend on fancy salts and such. 4711 hardly costs anything, but it smells fantastic in the bath. You can also add some orange blossom water, especially if you can get an inexpensive variety from the Middle Eastern or Indian grocery store (they usually carry several brands at different prices).

      Hope that you like the combo of strawberries and goat cheese. I’m really a convert to pairing fruit with savory things. If you have any tarragon on hand, strawberries are a perfect match to its licorice taste. July 26, 2012 at 11:58am Reply

  • Absolute Scentualist: Victoria, I can’t agree with you more about the line dried sheets. This was something my mother used to do when time allowed and it is such a wonderful smell to snuggle into at bedtime. Stringing a clothes line is often on my to-do list and yet I always find other things ahead of it on that list. I really must get it done!

    One of my favorite summer simple pleasures is making fresh home made lemonade. It is delicious, relatively easy and of course tastes the best since I’ve made it myself. A few mint sprigs from the garden just make each glass and give it an old-fashioned feel. Also, experimenting with iced tea is a favorite that my daughter in particular enjoys since she and the youngest are the only “Yankee tea” drinkers in the house besides myself. But a pitcher of basic black with a couple drops of vanilla and a tiny bit of sugar or tea with fresh lemon juice are also favorites of ours. 🙂 July 26, 2012 at 10:45am Reply

    • Patt: I like your idea of iced tea with just a hint of vanilla and sugar. I need to watch my calories, and this sounds like a refreshing lo-cal beverage. July 26, 2012 at 10:56am Reply

      • Rachel: Ah, vanilla was my secret weapon when I worked as a pastry chef. I used just a touch of it in low-cal desserts to give a stronger illusion of sweetness. July 26, 2012 at 11:04am Reply

        • Patt: I’m very fond of certain vanilla fragrances as well. Luten’s Bois de Vanille and L’Artisan’s Vanilia are favorites, but I’ve found that Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanilla is just too much of a good thing! July 26, 2012 at 3:09pm Reply

          • Victoria: Spiritueuse Double Vanilla was definitely too much of a good thing for me! I like my vanilla a bit more subtle, or else woody and smoky like L’Artisan’s or Parfums de Nicolai’s Vanille Tonka. July 26, 2012 at 5:14pm Reply

          • Rachel: My daughter says that she wants a perfume that smells exactly like vanilla beans. Is there something like that? July 27, 2012 at 10:18am Reply

    • Victoria: There is nothing like the line dried sheets and no laundry detergent can give that fresh aroma. I seem to recall that in Ukraine my grandmother even dried the sheets outside in the winter. I once broke a frozen sheet in half when I was helping her take it down. 🙂

      I love your iced tea recipe. Looking at my shoebox sized fridge and wondering if I can possible fit a pitcher of tea inside… July 26, 2012 at 12:03pm Reply

      • Absolute Scentualist: The vanilla tea is a really nice lo-cal beverage and I think I might try it hot this winter, too. I also like sparkling water with a little grapefruit or lemon juice if I’m trying to drink healthy in the summer heat.

        Agreed that a drop or two of vanilla can really liven up a dessert or dish. I put it in the milk when making plain oatmeal or add a drop or two to the coffee pot before I brew some and it really is lovely. Sometimes I add a little cinnamon as well and just have fun experimenting on my poor unsuspecting family.

        If only Spiritueuse Double Vanille was too much of a good thing for me. My bank account would be happier every couple years! 😉 July 26, 2012 at 9:18pm Reply

        • Victoria: Isn’t cinnamon considered a super food? At least, according to something I read in NYTimes. 🙂 Your family is lucky to have you cooking so many interesting things for them. July 27, 2012 at 7:45am Reply

  • Alyssa: Lovely. And I like to think about your relaxing, dear V, which you surely deserve. I will be trying many of these. (And I don’t know why I haven’t done the orange and rose blossom sprays before. I used to have a rose water spray from Pre de Provence that I adored on the sheets and my skin, but of course it’s just a hydrosol!)

    I am especially enamored of your photo of the old clock. The light! And it’s almost a little parable unto itself about time… July 26, 2012 at 11:19am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m happy that you noticed the clock, my favorite capture so far. Our friend was showing us around a house he’s renovating, and the things from the previous owners were still there. I saw this cuckoo clock, and I was smitten. Wondering who bought it and why they abandoned this beauty. July 26, 2012 at 12:11pm Reply

  • Cristina: I wish I could spread this around for my patients… July 26, 2012 at 12:15pm Reply

  • maja: watermelon limeade, pistachio ice cream, cold hibiscus tea, colourful nail polishes, cloud watching and the sea for me. you sound a bit happier in Belgium now. so glad these little rituals are helping so much 🙂 thank you for sharing them.

    ps. those red geraniums are fantastic! July 26, 2012 at 12:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: The times of transition are always very hard, so I’m trying to find ways to adjust. And it’s a pleasure to share these things. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to feel recharged, if only briefly.

      When I have my own place, I also plan on growing geraniums in a window box. 🙂 July 26, 2012 at 1:53pm Reply

  • Bellatrix: This photos are so atmospheric… very nice selection…
    My pleasure are truly simple…
    – be at home on island
    – read (perfume) books
    – enjoy in summer scents
    – go out with friends
    – watching sunset on the beach
    July 26, 2012 at 2:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a beautiful view and so serene. Mmmm, imagining myself there… Thank you very much!

      What perfume books are you reading? July 26, 2012 at 4:56pm Reply

      • Bellatrix: This is my hometown. 🙂
        Currently: Perfume Lover. 🙂 July 31, 2012 at 5:28am Reply

        • Victoria: Gorgeous! Thank you so much for sharing. If you have more photos, I would love to see them. July 31, 2012 at 7:25am Reply

  • Elisa: Here is a good summer pleasure for you, which I am about to go do right now — I like to keep a lot of citrus and fresh herbs around, and make “flavored water” with them. I put a sliced up lime or lemon or orange and a couple of sprigs of basil or mint in a pitcher and fill it with water. You can keep refilling the pitcher for a couple of days. It’s super refreshing. The basil-lemon combo is my favorite — just don’t drink it right after you brush your teeth! July 26, 2012 at 3:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: I already made it! I used mint and lemon, and the water is chilling in the fridge right now. Thank you, Elisa. I’m already imagining many other combinations–tarragon and orange, Thai basil and lime, lemongrass and grapefruit, etc.! July 26, 2012 at 4:59pm Reply

      • Elisa: Let me know your favorite! This is a wonderful thing to put on the table for a dinner party.

        By the way, the Egoiste arrived and is vintage & magnificent!! July 26, 2012 at 5:07pm Reply

        • Victoria: Hurray! I’m so glad that it turned out to be good. One never knows with vintages.

          One of my aunts makes delicious herbal drinks in the summer too, but they’re sweet ones, like this recipe: . I like that your method is very straightforward and the taste is refreshing. I already had a little sip. 🙂 July 26, 2012 at 5:12pm Reply

          • Elisa: I love herbs in sweet drinks and cocktails too, but yes, this is for drinking all day with abandon, sans worry of calories and drunkenness. 🙂 July 26, 2012 at 5:16pm Reply

            • Victoria: Exactly! You can only become drunk on its perfume. The mint water I made last night was so fragrant this morning. I added some lime zest as well. A perfect refreshment on our hot day. July 27, 2012 at 7:25am Reply

  • annemariec: Oh am so going to try your cologne bath idea. Sunday afternoon is my bath time, time to relax after a busy weekend with children, before a busy weekend at work. And as for those peaches …

    live in suburban Australia and drying sheets outside is what everyone does. Of course there are plenty of apartment dwellers who may not have this opportunity, but the Hills Hoist (clothesline) in the backyard is almost a national symbol. Hills Hoists even made a brief appearance in the opening ceremony of the Olyimpics in Sydney in 2001.

    Lucky us, I guess, with all our space. July 26, 2012 at 7:51pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m smiling as I imagine the Hills Hoist. When I was growing up in Ukraine, a washing machine inside a house was pretty much nonexistent, and certainly not in the old pre-Soviet era buildings. The clothes lines were a common sight. Each apartment had their clothes line, and on weekend the entire courtyard would be a fluttering mess of sheets and underpants. I need to ask my mom if that’s still happening, but I doubt it. Everything changed so dramatically within a mere decade. July 27, 2012 at 7:40am Reply

      • annemariec: Yes, pegging out your undies for all to see may not be a pleasant idea, but when everyone does it, no-one pays any attention. And the Australian backyard does get more privacy than the courtyards you describe.

        I’m feeling nostalgic for the Hills Hoist now, although why should I? I have one myself and worship at it most days.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hills_Hoist July 27, 2012 at 6:38pm Reply

        • Victoria: 🙂 Yes, we had those too! Each family had their own. In Kiev, buildings tended to have their own courtyards, so from the avenue you won’t see the clotheslines. Once you enter the arcade leading towards the buildings, you enter a large courtyard. But then again, there is no word for privacy in either Russian or Ukrainian! July 28, 2012 at 5:41am Reply

  • Naheed: I find summer and spring the best seasons of year because the mornings in these seasons are refreshing, balmy and filled with the chirping of birds. Relating to your post about summer, I find summer afternoons to be quiet and relaxing.

    In my country summer is all about mangoes and probably this is another reason to like this season. After saying my morning prayers, I start my day with an half our session of yoga and then I love to eat a bowl of mango cut into cubes with a dusting of milk powder and honey. Just like you I like to eat peaches with a dash of salt and the same I like to do with plums. I am also going to try feta with peaches which sounds to me so yummy.

    Talking of fragrances, the scents I love the most are orange blossom, orange jasmine, jasmine and rangoon creepers. July 26, 2012 at 8:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: We’re probably starting our day with the same mangoes, which is a nice thought! At least, the mangoes I buy here come from your country. I just picked up another box today. Each mango inside was decorated with tinsel and looked like a special gift. 🙂 July 27, 2012 at 7:42am Reply

  • Daisy: What a wonderful list of summer pleasures! I love it!

    Sadly, I can’t even think about slowing down right now. I feel like time is slipping through my fingers and the date that I have to submit is coming up too quickly.

    Thankfully the weather in New York this summer has been horrifically humid and has turned the city into a sweltering mess — so no temptation to go outside at all. We have even been having hail storms. One two weeks ago left Soho strewn with nickel-sized gobs of ice!

    But reading this list transported me to a much better (and more pleasantly fragrant) place. Thank you! July 26, 2012 at 11:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: I feel for you, Daisy! The last months/weeks before the defense are always the toughest ones. But you should still take care of yourself; don’t hesitate to take a small break to give our brain some rest. You’ll manage it all splendidly, and soon we will be reading your book on food and French literature. I personally can’t wait! July 27, 2012 at 7:53am Reply

      • Daisy: Thanks, Victoria! Everyone has been so wonderful and encouraging. I feel very lucky to have such a great support system! July 27, 2012 at 4:00pm Reply

        • Victoria: Anytime! 😉

          By the way, Helene Darroze’s book has arrived, and I cannot put it down. Unfortunately, my second hand copy had no recipe leaflet inside. But the book it gorgeous–the images, recipes, writing. Thank you very much for recommending it. July 27, 2012 at 5:13pm Reply

          • Daisy: I’m so glad that you like her book! It’s remarkable, isn’t it? I was really impressed by it.

            It’s a shame that the recipe leaflet seems to have been misplaced. When I get the chance, I will try to scan mine in and send you the PDF. July 27, 2012 at 7:39pm Reply

            • Victoria: Thank you very much! There is no rush on it, whenever you have time. I should have checked with the seller, but oh well, at least the price was low and the book is in perfect condition. July 28, 2012 at 5:42am Reply

              • Daisy: No worries! I’ll let you know when I get the chance. Probably next weekend 🙂 July 28, 2012 at 2:05pm Reply

  • Judith Taufan-Paesano: Bonjour Victoria, how are you ?
    I love peaches and I miss biting into a fragrant ripe peach and have the juice running down my chin ! Infantile but oh what a pleasure. I’ve yet to try peaches and feta combo. What I normally do is to make a salad from sliced peaches and mozarella or parmesan on a bed of arugula, dressed simply with olive oil, lemon juice ( with a touch of honey sometimes ), and lots of freshly cracked black pepper. Prosciutto is optional 🙂 I also like to whip ricotta or mascarpone with a touch of vanilla and icing sugar and serve it inside the halved peaches. My Sicilian husband always reminisce about how his Nonno used to boil some young red wine with sugar and cinnamon sticks and use this liqueur to steep the peaches in for a couple of hours. By the way, have you come across another Belgian culinary quirk of combined peaches and tuna ? Seriously ! Canned peaches halves are filled with a mixture made from canned tuna mixed with mayonnaise and dijon mustard. Sometimes some chopped chives are added. Sounds awful but they are rather good. Lovely article, as usual 🙂 Bonne journee July 27, 2012 at 1:17am Reply

    • Victoria: Your peach and parmesan salad is on my list of things to make. Prosciutto and peaches is such a great combination, almost as good as prosciutto and melon. I also love your idea of steeping peaches in spiced wine, and I will be trying it as well. Thank you so much for sharing.

      I haven’t seen this Belgian peach and tuna dish, but it sounds very odd. Almost odd enough that I want to try it myself. However, Belgians are huge on mayonnaise, so I’m not surprised that it would feature heavily. What I did try and enjoyed was the stuffed tomato dish. Raw tomatoes were hollowed out and filled with the mixture of tiny shrimp and mayonnaise. Quite straightforward, but tasty. July 27, 2012 at 8:02am Reply

  • Natalie: Those photos are all so beautiful! July 27, 2012 at 1:59am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Natalie! July 27, 2012 at 8:02am Reply

  • Austenfan: I am glad you enjoyed Leuven’s Begijnhof. It’s a very special place and I love it.

    I think slowing down a little will make you more productive when you are actually working. Our minds need recharging.

    And I love the pictures! July 28, 2012 at 6:14am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much for recommending that we visit it! It was like discovering a treasure. Such a beautiful and peaceful place.

      I completely agree that we need a time out the most when we are busy and working on something very intensely. It can do wonders for being even more productive. July 28, 2012 at 3:28pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Beautiful photos, delights of food and love to share! July 28, 2012 at 10:10am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Nancy! I enjoyed writing this post and taking the photos. That was a summer pleasure in itself. July 28, 2012 at 3:27pm Reply

  • Jordan River: O Victoria, was the cologne bath post really necessary? Maybe not but it was very enjoyable! Bathed in Encre Noire then arose like a vetiver root freshly harvested and ready for anything. I love wandering in your part of the woods. Saw a spider web yesterday underneath the jasmine and it had artistically captured several blooms within it’s pattern. Frozen motion. December 23, 2012 at 3:29pm Reply

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