Welcome. The week after Labor Day is, for many, the official end of summer.
I tend to resist the way everyone rushes to close the book on summer as soon as the holiday arrives. The beaches are still open, the parks still beckoning for picnics, the grill for barbecuing. Even if children are going back to school, we still have those loose evenings and weekends in which to be our less hectic summer selves. I’ve clashed in the past with the sweaters-and-cocoa types who bravely wait out sunburn season for September when they can fully come alive, start gathering kindling and presiding over endless caldrons of stew.
This year, the “endless summer” crowd has ballooned, more people appreciating the warm weather for the freedom it offers. Fall brings new concerns, necessitating new methods of coping. We’ll devise ways to continue to be outside, to bundle up and cycle or walk to work or school. We’ll meet friends for brisk constitutionals, or, if we’re fortunate, in our own yards or courtyards with masks and blankets (or outdoor heaters). Will the Zoom happy hour resurge? Will we set up dinner co-ops (safely) and return to early quarantine activities like picking up groceries for neighbors, baking bread?
We’re working it out, and we’ll help you do the same.
In the mailbag this week, a dispatch from Caitlin in New England:
My partner and I are travel nurses, and just left a Covid assignment in Kentucky. We’re still living in our little airstream with the three dogs and avoiding the plague. We’re now working in New Hampshire and living in Vermont, awaiting fall and hiking on the rainy days so as to avoid crowded trails. We mostly stay “home” at the RV park, and, like most, are taking pleasure in the simple rituals — taking the dogs to the field for frolicking, NYT recipes to try, going to work and being thankful to have a job at all. It’s strange hunkering down like this, but we’re thankful for our portable bubble and our little family.
While you’re figuring out your fall plans, you might read this fascinating article about an experimental medication that increases height in children with the most common form of dwarfism. Or watch a terrifically satisfying video of a former NASA engineer’s efforts to squirrel-proof his bird feeder. I sampled this recipe for grilled lamb kebabs this weekend. Try it while you can still get summer peaches. And I instantly fell in love with this new cover, by Bedouine and friends, of Big Star’s classic school-days ballad “Thirteen.” That, of course, sent me off to relisten to my favorite “Thirteen” cover by Elliott Smith. Enjoy.
Tell us about your favorite cover songs. Which ones are particularly appropriate to this time? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first and last name; age; and the city or town where you live, so we can include your information if we mention your note in a future newsletter. We’re At Home. We’ll read every letter sent. As always, more ideas for living a good life at home and near it appear below.
How to deal
If your family is sheltering together right now, it may be a good time for parents and adult children to talk about financial planning. Start by going over the family’s priorities: Is independence in retirement important? How will health coverage be handled? Although these conversations may be uncomfortable, they’ll make matters much easier for children and grandchildren.
“I’ve seen more tooth fractures in the last six weeks than in the previous six years,” Tammy Chen, a dentist in Manhattan, says in a story she wrote about reopening her practice in early June. Why so many cracked teeth? Increased stress and lack of restorative sleep can lead to grinding and clenching, and our poorly set up work spaces can cause a host of musculoskeletal issues. Dr. Chen advises Epsom salt soaks and deep breathing to release tension.
Resorts and home rental agencies, eager to attract visitors now that summer’s ending, are providing work-from-home amenities, like upgraded Wi-Fi, letterhead and complimentary breakfasts delivered during video meetings. Some even offer remote learning programs and local tutors for children staying at the properties.
What to eat
It’s the end of the summer, when many of us are voraciously consuming tomatoes “as if storing sunshine for the cold months ahead,” as Alexis Weibel put it. She developed a spicy pasta recipe using cherry tomatoes, which offer taste and texture year-round.
J. Kenji López-Alt has spent 15 years trying to identify the elements that go into achieving wok hei, the elusive smoky aroma and flavor of stir-fry that he associates with a Cantonese restaurant of his youth. To get wok hei at home, he used a carbon steel wok, seared his soy sauce and made use of a camping-style fuel tank with a torch head.
And before plum season ends, try Melissa Clark’s easy recipe for sheet-pan chicken with spiced, seasonal fruit.
How to pass the time
When quarantine began, the artist Mark Bradford “went into survival mode,” canceling appointments and telling his studio assistants to stay at home. Now, his “Quarantine Paintings” are hanging in the grain tower of an old flour mill in Los Angeles, viewable only digitally.
Take a virtual road trip along Route 66. Fascinated by the American West, the photographer Luke Sharrett recently flew to Albuquerque, rented a car, and set off on the highway that John Steinbeck called “Mother Road,” taking pictures along the way.