Making the Best of Summertime with Sangria Saturdays.

It can be difficult to recognize the onset 0f the summer months in a Mediterranean climate such as Israel. Gradually though you begin to notice the increasing power of the sun, the warmth of the breezeless nights and  your ever-increasing fantasies about air-conditioning.

Summer in Israel slows things down. Rushing makes you feel hotter, so you just take your sweet time going wherever you need to go. In the oven-heat, it can be hard to imagine doing anything else but finding a shady spot somewhere and lying down, sipping ice water stuffed with mint leaves.

Saturday was such a day. Too hot for the beach, too hot for a walk, too hot for anything but to make a soup-pot’s worth of cold sangria and devour a mess of freshly made  bruschetta under the lemon tree, whiling away the afternoon enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of summer.

Summer Sangria:

Bunch of fruits (I used grapes, apples, nectarines, oranges and cherries)

Brandy/whiskey

Sugar

red wine

red Lambrusco/cava/any sweet carbonated wine

Instructions:

In a large bowl/pitcher, mix the chopped up fruits with a few teaspoons of sugar (more if you like a sweeter sangria, less if you don’t)

Pour over the fruit enough whiskey or brandy to just cover the fruit. Let chill for a few hours or overnight

Pour in your wine; one bottle of red and one bottle of Lambrusco and let chill for another hour or so. Serve in cups over ice.

Tip: If you really want to be fancy, make ahead sangria ice cubes by freezing red wine in ice cube trays, dropping a little bit of chopped apple in each cube.  As the “ice” melts, it will make your drink colder AND stronger.


Simple Summer Bruschetta:

1 package grape tomatoes

Handful chopped basil

1 large red onion

2 cloves garlic

Coarse salt and fresh pepper

olive oil

Balsamic Vinegar

baguette

Instructions:

Slice each grape tomato in half and add to bowl. Finely dice the garlic and add to tomatoes. Finely chop the onion and add to bowl. Sprinkle onions with course salt and fresh ground pepper. Thinly slice the basil and add to bowl. Pour in olive oil, about 4-5 tablespoons and add 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar into the mix. Gently stir the bruschetta with a spoon. Meanwhile, slice baguette into rounds and sprinkle with olive oil. Toast slices in oven until golden brown. Top with bruschetta and eat!

Matkot and Mojitos; Beach Inauguration

The first real beach day.The sand is all uneven and gravelly from the winter storms and the sea is nowhere near the hot soup it will soon become. People start peeling off their protective winter layers and lay back absorbing the golden rays.

Plok! Plok! PlokPlok!  the sound of Israeli beach tennis (called matkot) being played on those wooden paddles is usually so annoying; now, so early in the season, it sounds like the sweet summer music it was meant to be.

PLOK!

Child’s Play.

The first real day of summer  packs the punch of an entire sunny week. You wake up early, it’s cold, then magically a few hours later the sun cranks up the volume and the world begins to warm. Everything becomes simpler. You’re with people, suddenly they are your greatest friends. You’re outside,  and suddenly you all reach the unanimous decision to walk to the park.

A word about the park. Herzliya may not be the sexiest, the popping-est, the coolest town in Israel- but by God, the Herzliya park kicks all kinds of ass. Hands down the greatest playground ever built resides here, and it is accessible only if you walk to it (or drive, but ew….cars.)

This playground was built by people who didn’t bother with petty questions like “Would a child get scared walking a rope bridge 30 feet in the air?”

or  fuddle around with ideas like ” Perhaps it would be better to make this jungle gym simpler so that children don’t fall and lose their self-esteem”.

No. These park builders created an enormous wonderland full of potential rope-burn, high swing sets, complicated ladders, dizzying heights, slides that loop and see-saws that whirl. There is even a zip line. A ZIP LINE. I remember when playgrounds in NYC used to be awesome-there was one right by my house that was huge and wooden, with all kinds of climby things and swingy things.  You could wriggle under the whole structure to conduct secret meetings with your team (you always were on a team) or hang from the beams and leap down.

That park waas demolished and replaced by a small, soulless metal “park”; all curves and no corners, the swings removed because they were a safety hazard, the slides two meager stumps that led nowhere. They destroyed the wooden wonderland because-get this- it gave kids splinters. Those splinters were a badge of honor, proving your toughness and climbing ability. Maybe the new park hurt less, but the metal it was made of was cold and unyielding.

So this summer day, drunk with sunshine, we threw our bags on the sand and raced, yes RACED to the swings, where in a diplomatic show of playground politics the current users graciously allowed us a set, jumping off and running towards the monkey bars.

Oh, the glory of swings! that feeling of power as you arch your back and kick your legs, propelling yourself higher and higher in ever-increasing arcs; that little bit of G-force when you swing down tickling your belly. Enough swings. Onwards to the slide!  up and up you climb, traversing a rope bridge that rocks in the wind, delightfully scaring the shit out of you. The slide is so high you cannot see the end, but no matter down you go and it is exactly like you are flying; the feeling so exhilarating you climb and do it all again and again and again.

Ouch. Having jumped off that last swing, we noticed our muscles beginning to protest. The backs of our thighs, the sinews of our arms were sore as if we had just worked out in the gym. We looked around us in bewilderment. How were these kids still running around? Not achy all over from that last climb to the slide?

Maybe we remembered for a brief while what it was like to be kids again. But as we limped off into the sunset, it was clear that we were kids no longer. So what, though? forget our gym memberships and our trainers, forget yoga class and spinning; we’ll just go to the park-these kids are in way better shape than we’ll ever be.

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