Westport, thunder be damned

Lest you think I’ve needed a week to recover from the big 4-0, I was actually just enjoying summer in the jubilant manner in which summer should be enjoyed: swimming, daytripping, reading (because sometimes turning a page is all you can manage in the heat), and taking days off to do absolutely nothing, which is hard because summer is about activity and the outdoors and adventure. Winter lacks this cache so utterly it shouldn’t even be a season.

But a quick wrap up on the birthday outing to Westport. First, unless one is a multimillionaire, one may only visit Connecticut, so Opal (the Toyota) and I, set out amidst warnings of severe thunderstorms with the potential for torrential rain and hail (birthday, on!). We cruised by grand stone homes and renovated farmhouses overlooking Long Island Sound, harbors dotted with sailboats and yachts, and everywhere: ladies who lunch.

First stop: Goodwill. I’d heard magical things about this new outpost (fancy wood floors, birthday month discount) and it did not disappoint. I pounced immediately on olive-green Oxford heels while pondering why someone would buy them, wear them once (from my estimation), and then ditch them. But who cares. They were mine for $12. Maple says they match her eyes. I also scored a frilly red top and a J. Crew cardigan with glass buttons I’ve been searching for on eBay (found!). And the cutest vintage French poster that has already claimed a wall. All for 20-something buckaroos.

 

Lunch at Tarry Lodge needs minimal description to get across the majesty of cheese: lightly fried squash blossoms with goat cheese and a 4-cheese pizza that melted and crisped in less than five minutes and was consumed in less.

When the sky opened up, I was at Terrain, a heavenly nursery—the Anthropologie of plants. Lilac bushes, feathery fronds, and sunny annuals beckoned, rinsed by the rain, all of us cooled. I bought a bushy birthday plant studded with purple flowers and resisted the rustic planters, colorful metal chairs, strawberry vines—all of it.

I dipped in and out of other shops before grabbing dinner, like a tween, at Shake Shack (what’s a birthday without ice cream?) and headed home, windows rolled down on a warm summer night, lightning flashing in the distance like birthday fireworks.

 

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Birthday beach bash

Today, I turn 40 and I’m daytripping to Westport, CT, where I hear there are good consignment shops, unusual plants at Terrain (an Anthropologie offshoot) (heh heh), and a Shake Shack. Am I not easily pleased?

Still, I thought you should see some photos from the pre-birthday beach picnic where I enjoyed the most perfect beach day and picnic gathering à la the Barefoot Contessa, even if I’m not a self-made celebrity chef, married to Jeffrey, or living on Long Island. But I do have friends who can decorate a table and cook and luxuriate in a warm night at sunset. Everyone agreed we should do it again soon, so I will be turning 40 next week as well. And again in August and September. I plan to order the same weather, water temp, ocean breeze, and cupcakes.

Yard sale finds

I’m having a beach birthday bash for the big 4-0 and you know what an event like that needs in addition to good weather, waves, and well wishes? A vintage cooler. A mere $5 got me this gem, which is also appropriate for the 4th of July, no? Already I can feel my hand going numb from digging for a cold lemonade, images of a Levi’s commercial with bonfires and bikinis flashing, the minor detail of turning 40 dissolving like a sandcastle . . .

I also scored that giant vintage enamel bowl for $3 because everyone needs a giant bowl replete with chips. Haven’t you always said you need a mammoth chippy bowl? A fellow shopper said it could be a sink; not a bad idea. However, I’d like to use it as a centerpiece despite its enormity because it’s an unbelievably perfect match to these plates I’m coveting. Right? But how can I use it on the table? Help, please. Just don’t say, “Fill it with lemons” because it would pain me to watch that many lemons shrivel. Unless I use them in the lemonade . . . hey!

Dear America

Dear America,

Happy Birthday! You don’t look a day over 29, except in some parts of the country where you do. You’ve been good to me, country, and I will celebrate your birth by watching things explode in the sky and singing Yankee Doodle Dandy. Odd, yes, but for you, anything.

Patriotically,

A fellow American

Birthday bubbles

Don’t you miss the artifacts of childhood: Play-Doh, Legos, bubbles? But bring your Slinky to the steps of the library as an adult and you might find yourself being questioned by the police. My friend, however, found a nice way of incorporating play into her milestone birthday recently. She gave each guest a bottle of bubbles and after rooting around for the spindly wand, we blew bubbles off the deck.

Elevating it just a notch, we dedicated one round to the birthday girl, where we all focused on good wishes for her for the coming year (good thing it was a group effort because some of us needed to brush up on our bubble blowing skills, only managing to produce a bubble or two); then we each gave it a go for ourselves; then, after more wine, we got carried away blowing bubbles for each other and heaping dream upon dream.

Bottle of miracles

What do I want for my birthday?

My birthday is in July—in a couple of weeks, in fact, in case you need to prepare—but my mom starts asking for my wish list in say, December. She likes to shop obscenely early for Christmas too, starting around June.

Any other time of the year, I find myself browsing store windows murmuring I must have that! Asked to come up with an idea on demand though, I draw a blank not unlike the permanently confused look of our leader. I can always come up with a few book titles and look forward to my stack being replenished around now, but there’s not a lot I want. I’m trying to reduce the “stuff” I already have, so I’ve placed a moratorium on buying me things. Gift cards are my friends, especially if they’re for an experience like dinner or a movie, a massage or a class.

Of course, if you’re really asking me what I’d like then I’d have to say Sox-Yankees tickets or better yet, season tickets and countless Sox wins. Yeah, that’s it. Or, wait: a clean desk. Now that would be a gift.