Late Summer Lunches

Late summer lunch.

Late summer lunch.

Part of the reason summer suppers are so late is because summer lunches are.

On weekends, I usually graze during the day, but I developed a strong craving for a Panera Bread salad which would not be denied. I was in the midst of cleaning house – my personal grooming, clothing choice, and general appearance was unacceptable.

I decided to do take-out.

Arriving home with not just lunch, but tomorrow’s breakfast (sour dough and strawberry granola yogurt), the patio beckoned.

Mexican Glass.  African tea.

Mexican Glass. African tea.

While I do now and again, I hate eating out of and with plastic.  We are, allegedly, civilized people.  Plastic is depressing.  Any meal is greatly improved by resting on a nice plate and eaten with real cutlery. 

I transferred the salad to a favorite Spanish glass plate, buttered the bread, and poured my newest iced tea experiment.

[ Note:  I did forego the linen napkin as the laundry is already piled up to the ceiling and I’m economizing.]

Using a green tea/roibos blend, I made sun tea earlier today and I’ll be doing so again. The color is gorgeous, the taste is crisp and clean, and it looked beautiful in an old Mexican glass goblet. If that’s not enough, it’s jammed pack with antioxidants and all sorts of cancer prevention substances. Next time, I’ll add orange slices.

Color, Texture, Sweet, Tangy
Color, Texture, Sweet, Tangy

The salad was amazing.  Romaine, field greens, shredded chicken breast, pecans, strawberries, dried apples, red onion, and tomatoes with a strong Italian dressing, fresh ground pepper and a bit of sea salt all made for a vivid, tasty meal.  The tea complemented it perfectly.  I donned sunglasses and lazily read until I realized the words weren’t registering.

I put the book down and gazed into space – lost in the beauty and breeze of the day. This lunch tasted like what early summer feels like – warm and cool, sweet and tangy, bright and vivid.

I’m full. Dinner is likely to be very late tonight.

Wa

Patio wa.

Patio wa.

I never thought procuring new lawn furniture cushions would rival The Great Sofa Search of 1984, but it has been an eminently frustrating experience.

Seven years ago, I got a terrific deal on patio furniture. It was one of those experiences where I kept expecting to be arrested for shoplifting on my way out of the store because the ensemble was ridiculously cheap while being well-made, sturdy and exceptionally comfortable. Ya gotta love those liquidation type stores.

I clock a lot of hours outside. I need the sun to counteract my tendency to depression and I love the surge bright light on my pineal gland invokes. I’ve taken to sitting out there anytime the temperature is above 70 and it’s not raining. Sunday mornings are often spent sprawled on the chaise with a carafe of coffee and the laptop. The patio is my second living room.

From the get-go, I despised the cushions – they were a hideous faux-Hawaiian print decidedly not suited to my Appalachian barn garden. While the furniture was well-made and luxurious, the cushions were badly made of a vinyl fabric that provoked sweat and uncomfortable sticking. I hated them.

There was nothing wrong with them, but I kept my eye out for something more suitable and comfortable. Nothing appeared.

Because they were badly made (and I’m bad about storing them away), they deteriorated quickly. The search for new cushions ramped up considerably about 4 years ago. No luck.

Three years ago, when I was considering duct tape to hold them together, I found something that might do and dragged them home. Two chaise lounge cushions and four chair cushions of a luxury thickness will fill up a full-size sedan in no time. These six cushions cost 75% of what the original patio set had cost. I hated them – wrong color, didn’t fit right, and way too much money. I took them back within a few hours.

I decided that perhaps I should just buy a new patio ensemble, sell the existing one, and avoid the cushion dilemma by buying something that didn’t require padding to begin with. Wood, I thought, would fit the ambiance and project the atmosphere I was going for.

Hah! There is no wood patio furniture for less than $700 a piece. There is no comfortable wood patio furniture. There is no wood patio furniture in a dark stain.

I turned to metal furniture with that new-fangled non-cushion stretch webbing. Nothing. If I liked it, I needed a second mortgage to buy it. I cannot believe, I just can’t, that there are people actually spending $3000 for patio furniture. That’s criminal.

Chocolate mint and merlot.

Chocolate mint and merlot.

For two years now, I have searched high and low for a solid blue patio cushion in the right size for something less than a gazillion dollars. Last year, I threw the cushions away to force myself to do something, anything, to rectify the problem. The search has been frenzied.

Several years ago, I found the cushions of my dream, but the price was beyond ridiculous and the shipping costs even sillier. I lusted after them. They were made of the same fabric used on car convertible tops, billed as quick drying, and allegedly would last forever. Periodically, I would check Amazon and Overstock to see if by some miracle. . .

Well. The miracle occurred. Last week, I was cruising Overstock for the last gasp of the June family birthdays and there they were – my convertible top, royal blue, solid colored cushions without tufting (which collects water and mildew).

I was stunned. Even more when I calculated the price for all the pieces I needed. I’ve spent more on gas searching for patio cushions than it cost to have these delivered to my door.

I was dubious. This was too easy.

I ordered them fully expecting the hassle of returning them.

The order went awry and I thought, Okay, here we go. . .knew it was too good to be true.  Overstock apologized, promised to get things moving and before I even knew they had been shipped, they were outside my front door.

I opened the first box with trepidation.

Perfect!

So little of the externals of my life have been perfect the past few years and so it took a little while to register that they were perfect. I am not only happy with them,, I’m ecstatic. The whole experience had been so free of drama, I am at a loss as to how to behave. The color is exactly right and they fit my non-standard furniture exactly right. They’re thick and comfy. The fabric feels like a thick, soft denim. I suspect that the patio ensemble is now the most comfortable furniture I own. And I feel like I stole them. I keep waiting for Overstock to call and tell me that a terrible billing error occurred.

I spent this evening sprawled first on the chaise and then in a chair, sipping Merlot, watching fireflies, and sinking deeper into the cushions.

I cogitated on stuff some more.

I’ve been actively anti-stuff for several years now. I’m hauling far more out of here than I’m bringing in. I’ve been to the mall four times in two years and, when asked, I’ve requested eminently practical stuff for gifts.

My spirit has been much improved by the de-junking of my physical life. The Japanese have a concept known as wa which is feng shui, kind of, but applied not to just the external, but to the internal as well. Anything that disrupts the harmony of the spirit, the body, or the surroundings is said to disturb the wa.

The more stuff I haul out of here, the more harmonic my wa is.

Still, wa is about harmony; it is not deprivation. Comfortable seating in my outdoor living area enhances my wa. The old cushions disrupted it.

My benchmark for new acquisitions is that it must seem like they’ve always been here. It’s how I tell that the wa is not only not disturbed, but improved.

Twilight blues.

Twilight blues.

While it may seem silly to attach such importance to patio cushions, I think it’s even sillier not to. Mindless consumption is the problem. Expecting a thing to bring happiness is the problem. Improving wa is always win/win – there is never a down side.

The timing is interesting. Had the cushions shown up a month earlier, I could not have afforded them – even as cheap as they were. Again, it sounds silly to attach such importance to patio cushions, but the right cushion showed up at exactly the right time at a price I could handle with little discomfort. All good things in time.

I’m going to quit the frenzied searching for the stuff I need. This is not the first time the right thing came along at the right time.

My wa will be further improved by this new resolution to just roll with the flow.

Carved Mahogany Wheels

My new and improved fitness area.

My new and improved fitness area.

A couple of months after the car accident wherein a utility truck tangled with me (I’m completely innocent in this one), I was persuaded to buy a recumbent bicycle. While my injuries weren’t serious, they felt like it. It was serious enough to involve weeks of physical therapy and I was tired of the constant interruption in my day to stop what I was doing and heave my aching body in the direction of the physical therapist’s office. Since a good deal of my therapy involved bicycle riding and yoga-like moves, I resolved to just get my own bike and resume my yoga practice.

The yoga went well.

Initially, I liked the bike. One of my complaints about exercise equipment is that it is ugly and noisy. The bike is ugly, but silent. (Why can’t I have something that looks like an antique bike? With a big willow basket? [Hi, Granny Sue!] Wrought iron wheels, carved mahogany pedals? Why do they have to be ugly?)

I love the silence of it. When I get it really going, it makes a whirring noise that is all white noise. Unfortunately, the effect is I pedal slower and slower the deeper into the meditative state I go.

As my recovery has unfolded, I spend less and less time on the bike. It shows. Due in part to the Misery Diet, even my flab has flab. Since bathing suit season is upon us, I’ve been trying to motivate myself to return to the bike in earnest in lieu of my lackadaisical fitness regime (mutiny?) of the past several months (okay, year).

It’s been slow getting started. I thought dusting the bike would be a good start. So. I dusted. And then admired it for a few weeks. Then it was time to dust again.

Nifty book holder and fan.

Nifty book holder and fan.

I thought a book would help. So I put a book on the book holder thingie. For another couple of weeks, I admired how clever it was to include a book holder.  Then I remembered that silly looking thing above the book is a fan.  If I do actually work up a sweat on the thing, I can air dry.  Such convenience.  (I wonder how it works on nail polish?)

Then I noticed the windows were filthy and there were cobwebs in the corner. So, I de-webbed and cleaned the windows. My they sparkle. So I sat on the stairs and admired the pristine view through the window.

While admiring the oak tree, it occurred to me that a little candlelight might not go amiss.

Candlelight is so nice to drink a nice Merlot by.

Summer twilight by Wateford.

Summer twilight by Waterford.

I’m pedaling pretty slowly in my new and improved fitness area. But I’m pedaling.  I’m pretending it’s wrought iron, intricate caning, and carved mahogany.  Every so often, I do my Queen Elizabeth wave to birds visiting the feeder for one last time before nightfall.  It’s a good day to be me.

You do things your way, I’ll do it mine. I am a hedonist.

[Maybe a fruit and cheese tray. . .some Chopin. . .mango vanilla incense. . .a butler to check my heart rate. . .]