5 Things We’re Loving Right Now: Summer Edition 

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Dear Kristin,

It’s time for a list of our favorite things–or at least five of them! I looked back at my Five Favorite Things list from late March and saw that my number one thing was central heating. Here we are in mid-August, and my Number One Favorite Thing is electricity, having just spent the last 48 hours without it (it’s back on now, thank goodness!). A big storm blew through Durham on Tuesday, knocking down trees left and right, which resulted in downed power lines all over town. It was an extraordinarily warm day, with a heat index of 115 degrees, which meant that no one slept Tuesday night. Seriously, every person I ran into on Wednesday was running on zero Zs, because you really need it to be cooler than 85 degrees inside to sleep.

I did my best not to feel sorry for myself (I’m not in Maui facing wildfires, after all), and to that end, I turned to listmaking. Meteorologists are predicting a worse than usual hurricane season this fall, and Clifton and I need to be better prepared for power outages. Battery-operated fans would be a good start. And maybe a generator?

So yes, my first favorite thing is electricity and everything that comes with it: air-conditioning, refrigeration, hot water, etc. As for the rest of my list …

2) Getting back to the gym. I’d hoped earlier this year to up my exercise game, but I overdid it and put a hurting on my knees. So much for that plan! Last week, I joined the gym and have been enjoying some gentle workouts ever since (though I did overdo it the other day, a good reminder that moderation is key). Mostly I enjoy the fact that I’m doing something that I need to be doing if I want to stay healthy and mobile for years to come. 

3) My Wooden Tray. Earlier in the summer, I bought a barebones, simple-as-can be wooden serving tray to carry around my various writing supplies and utensils–my journal, my daybook, stationery, my many, many pens–as well as whatever books I’m reading at any given time (usually at least three). I move around a lot in my house, especially in the warmer months, when I go from the living room (where I drink my coffee) to the screened porch (before it warms up) to the front room (where I settle in for the rest of the morning). Having everything on a tray keeps me from running all over the house to find what I need at any given minute.

4) Tomatoes! After a cool May and a warm but not that hot June, the tomato plants didn’t start really producing until late July. Now we get bunches of ‘maters every day, and we eat them almost as fast as we pick them. I’ve made one tomato pie so far, and it was decadently delicious. Tomatoes and basil are the two things that get me through summer, and this has been a banner year for both.

5) Stickers and Stationery from JetPens. For my birthday in May, Clifton gave me a gift certificate for the online stationery store, JetPens. I have to confess that I’ve become a fountain pen gal. As a lefthander, I’d never had much luck with fountain pens, but a friend persuaded me to try the inexpensive Pilot Kakuno fountain pen earlier this year, and amazingly, I wrote entire pages without smearing or splattering or splotching. A miracle!

I used my birthday gift certificate to buy the slightly fancier Pilot Metropolitan pen, a bottle of beautiful peacock blue ink, and a tablet of very lovely writing paper. Heaven! More recently, I treated myself to washi tape and stickers. Maybe 59 is too old to be sticking stickers to my letters and envelopes, but they’re so adorable, I can’t help myself. I’m already composing a JetPens wishlist for Christmas. I think I have truly found my happy place.

So, what’s making you happy these days?


Dear Frances,

I’m so sorry about your power outage! It’s things like that that remind us of how good we’ve got it most of the time. You don’t appreciate electricity until it’s gone! I’m glad that the power is back and you can get some fresh food into your fridge.

I agree that now that we are in the dog days of summer, it seems like the perfect time to focus on some things that make us happy! (Actually summer makes me happy, but I seem to be in the minority on that one.) I always envy your love of pens and wish that I liked them! I keep trying and then going back to my trusty 0.7mm mechanical pencil we buy in bulk at Costco (sigh).

Here are my current faves, in no particular order.

1) Aperol Spritz

Have I talked about this one before? I discovered this cocktail last summer in Italy, when Chloe and I shyly asked our server what that orange cocktail was that all the ladies seemed to be drinking. I brought a little bit of Italy home with me and this has become my go-to summer cocktail. Here is a pretty standard recipe for it, but I use less Aperol than is called for or it’s too bitter for me.

2) Only Murders in the Building

I am so happy that this inter-generational murder mystery show is back! The relationships and dialog between Steve Martin, Selena Gomez, and Martin Short are absolutely delightful! I’m only a couple shows into Season 3, but they’ve added Paul Rudd and Meryl Streep to the cast this year and I’m already loving it.

3) Hyaluronic Acid

I recently added hyaluronic acid to my skincare routine and I feel like I can see the difference! It’s a serum that helps your skin to retain moisture, which minimizes fine lines and wrinkles. I went with an inexpensive brand that someone recommended and I’m enjoying upping my skincare routine a tiny bit. Next up: Vitamin C serum.

4) Oppenheimer

I’m jumping on this bandwagon (but not the Barbie one yet). We went to see Oppenheimer in an actual theater the other night, which is a rare treat. Now this is a 3-hour movie that didn’t start until 7:30 pm, so I was a little worried about making it through without falling asleep (especially in those cushy chairs they have in movie theaters these days!). Spoiler: staying awake was no problem. It was quite a 3-hour ride of emotions, not to mention that I learned quite a bit of history. I’m a big Cillian Murphy fan (thanks to Peaky Blinders) and he is amazing in this very complicated role of J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb. It’s worth it to see it in the theater.

5) Pizza on the grill

In our effort to keep the oven off as much as possible as we head into the hottest part of the summer (for us), we have mastered cooking pizza on the grill. To be honest, Gary has mastered it. I just make the pizzas. A few years ago we upped our pizza making game by purchasing a pizza stone and peel. Now we have the delightfully crispy crusts that I could never achieve on a cookie sheet. It took some experimenting, but we’ve got the time and temp dialed in on the grill. Saturday night is officially pizza night in our house these days. Currently my two favorite homemade pizzas are:

  • Pesto, goat cheese, and kalamata olives
  • Mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, capers, chopped garlic, and basil (with a drizzle of olive oil when it comes out)

We’d love to know what things our readers are loving right now, so please add yours to the comments!


  • Patty

    Kristen, I too love summer – it is my favorite of all the seasons!

    My top 5:
    (1) morning swim (and one of the key reasons I love summer!)
    (2) turning my second cup of morning tea into iced tea
    (3) Strange New Worlds – there have been several great rewatchable episodes this season
    (4) Smoothies – a treat when I meet Frances for ‘tea’ at a coffee shop
    (5) Not having to stop for gas since we got our new electric car

  • Lisa

    This newsletter was delightful! I live in the Midwest so I love the summer!
    My list:
    1. Sitting outside. I have my coffee outside in the morning and I often have my lunch there. I read and listen to the birds.
    2. Outdoor dining at restaurants – great opportunity for people watching!
    3. Sangria – need I say more?
    4. Evening walks with our golden retriever.
    5.The birds – our yard is filled with colorful finches and hummingbirds.

  • Vicki Holloway

    Love the lists of fav things and I need to try that cocktail, Kristin!

    Summer favs
    1. Sunshine – I don’t see it for 5 months a year so I love seeing it!
    2. Modern comforts like central air, electricity, higg speed internet
    3. Visits to far flung family because I can’t always leave town in the winter
    4. Summer festivals with live music
    5. Alone time as my husband who I love dearly travels more and I do all the things

  • Robin Leftwich

    I am NOT a summer lover. Heat is not my friend! But here’s my list.
    1. Air conditioning and fans. We do save electricity, but setting the air no lower than 78 and turning it off at 6, even if it is still 90. But the fans work overtime!
    2. Row by Row quilt kits, I finish them in a week, and they are cute, summer themed, and I feel accomplished when I finish one!
    3. Making Hawaiian Quilt blocks with fabric from Hawaii. (Ordered online, not in person, alas!)
    4. Making time to read, read, read!
    5. Grilling ribs or chicken.
    Maybe summer is not so bad after all!

  • Tracie

    Summer has been such a great season for connecting with people. Here are a few things I’m loving:
    1. A new coffee shop in our town of 770 people! We don’t have to buy coffee at a gas station anymore, and it’s a great place to gather with new friends.
    2. I had coffee with a dear friend in the small city where my husband and I raised our kids. The chatter and familiar setting filled my heart.
    3. I enjoyed an annual reunion of college dorm friends. This year one of our friends was able to join for the first time, and we all picked up where we left off decades ago. It was sweet fellowship!
    3. I watched Barbie and Oppenheimer at the theater and it was fun to be back in a theater. My sisters and I laughed through Barbie — good times!
    4. My husband encouraged me to bring four quilt tops to a longarm quilter so I can enjoy the finished quilts. I’m thrilled to have them back and ready for binding.
    5. I gave the Friends of the Library another try and I’m making new connections. I’m going to write the fall fundraising letter and asked ChatGPT for help. Wow, what a timesaver! I have a great first draft that is relevant to the demographics of our little community. Kristin, I credit you for developing my curiosity. I’ve been learning how writers can use AI as a tool.

    Happy summer, friends!

  • Colleen

    I don’t have air conditioning. I’m in Alberta where it’s usually not that hot – maybe 5 or 6 days in the summer when it gets to 30C (~85F) and the nights are cool. But this summer has been exceptionally hot so my fans have been going steady! Here is my list:
    1. My daughter and grands come out for a week. The grands are both 4 1/2 (don’t forget the half!) and just so much fun! They left yesterday and hubby and I were completely exhausted but we can’t wait for their next visit
    2. My garden. I’ve had to water it a lot but when combined with the heat it has flourished! We just started eating tomatoes and carrots and they are so delicious. I grew pumpkins for the first time and have several that are the size of soccer balls. I should be freezing my beans right now instead of doing this…
    3. The stars. We moved from the city to the country and I love looking at the stars.
    4. Road trips. My husband and I like to go for drives in the summer. We travel random secondary highways and check out the little towns along the way
    5. Barbecuing. We do various meats – haven’t tried pizza though. It makes for an easy meal, with minimal cleanup!

  • Audrey

    Fun post…

    My top five things I’m enjoying right now:

    1-watching our garden grow and now harvesting/eating/preserving

    2-sitting out in our ‘sip shack’, actually a very nice windowed gazebo my husband built

    3-lunching outside with friends

    4-booking/planning an ocean to ocean cruise through the Panama Canal for my husband’s birthday in February (it will be snowing and cold here in northeast WI, so it will be a welcomed change of weather)

    5-the anticipation of fall…

  • Frances in Wales

    Oh I love this post (and everyone’s answers! 😊)

    1. We have had more rain than sun recently, but I definitely enjoy the summer weather when it happens!

    2. Our new picnic bench – I’ve been searching for the right picnic bench for our garden since we moved here in 2018, and finally found it earlier this year (at Costco 😂). I have loved sitting out to eat and/or chat and/or read and/or just sit and enjoy

    3. Iced coffee. I’m not a coffee buff, but I appreciate a nice iced coffee

    4. Baseball. My team is playing badly right now, but I’m ever optimistic! 😂

    5. Lego. We were given a huge tub of random secondhand lego by a friend (supposedly for our son…) and I’ve been really enjoying messing around building random things – sometimes following proper instructions, sometimes of my own ‘design’ 🚛

    Bonus pick – same as Audrey, I also enjoy autumn, and anticipating all of the fabulous baking (that I never actually do! 🤣)

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