Summer Staples: Grilled Shrimp and Cold Rice Salads

This post is sponsored by La Crema. You can find the recipes I talk about below on their blog right here!

Herby Shrimp and Chilled Grain Salad | Freckled Italian
Summer Staples: Grilled Shrimp and Cold Rice Salads | Freckled Italian

For as long as I can remember, my mom has been the world's most amazing hostess--she could feed a crowd with one hand tied behind her back. I think back on Thanksgiving and Christmas with a lot of lovely memories, but the ones that stick out to me the most are in the summer--Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day, or really any weekend in Virginia when the sun is out, the grill is hot, and the wine is pouring.

She also always had La Crema Chardonnay chilling in a bucket on the counter--even before I started working with them it was a staple in our house and we served it every single time people came over. (Her love for the brand and its presence in our fridge at all times both encouraged me to approach them over four years ago at Alt Summit in Salt Lake City.)

My family loves to feed people and I'm so glad it's a tradition and a passion that Rob has embraced as well--I love the idea of one day cooking a ton of food for Sophie and her friends when they're home from college every summer. Nowadays we don't do as much entertaining as I'd like to, but when we do I always stick to a few basics that I learned from my mom: flavorful but easy-to-prepare dishes that you can make or at least start ahead of time, using the grill as much as possible to get everyone outside and cook a lot of things at once if you need to, and--of course--a few bottles of La Crema. 

Summer Staples | Freckled Italian

When summer rolls around I love grilling seafood, especially shrimp. I buy the biggest ones I can find and leave the shells on so they don't fall through the grate, and I like to season them simply and then toss them in a ton of fresh herbs--I'm notorious for adding sliced green onion to everything in my kitchen, and grilled shrimp are no exception. Cilantro, dill, parsley, scallions--if it's fresh and green and you can chop it, you bet I'm going to be using it.

Summer Staples | Freckled Italian

Grilled shrimp is my go-to, but my newest favorite summer thing is a cold salad with a nice grain compontent--rice, quinoa, farro, whatever you like. I cook it and cool it and add whatever greens and veggies I have in the fridge. The recipe I shared on the La Crema blog has tomatoes, kale, and arugula, but you could add spinach and cucumbers or swap any other ingredient for something you like better. Even if you aren't entertaining, it's a great dish to throw together on a Sunday evening and enjoy throughout the week.

You can find my recipes for herby grilled shrimp and a chilled salad with rice and quinoa today on the La Crema blog. I live for autumn and often wish away the end of summer, but there's nothing like a July or August cookout with friends and family.

Summer Staples | Freckled Italian

Photos by Cue the Light.

Summer Wish List: Platforms + Wedges

Summer Wish List: Platforms + Wedges | Freckled Italian

I'll be the first to admit that summer is far from my favorite season, but I am a pretty huge fan of big chunky sandals. The wedges I've had and loved for years finally bit the dust this past season, and the other pair I have are just a little too high for everyday use, so I'm on the hunt for a good pair that I can wear with everything, from shorts to sundresses (and well into fall with leggings and jeans).

So far these are my top contenders:

  • I love the mix of black and canvas on these espadrilles.
  • These frayed beauties would look so cute with some skinny jeans.
  • Still obsessed with pretty much every pair of Swedish Hasbeens I come across, and these ones are no exception. 
  • These are a little on the dressier side but the price is definitely a bit more reasonable compared to some others.
  • Such a dainty little pair of wedges!
  • I've never tried on any Toms other than the classic flat ones but I bet these are super comfortable.
  • I didn't think I'd like the whole flat platform trend, but actually now I think I'm kind of into it.
  • These might be my least favorite that I'm linking to. They're cute but they seem like they're almost a bootie, and I'd rather just have a bootie. Maybe they're a bit more sandal-y in person.
  • I love the lace-up detail on this pair.
  • These are really cute but maybe a bit too strappy for my taste.
  • Can't go wrong with black details and a chunky heel.
  • These might be my all-time favorites in this list. I love the height, the ankle strap, the combination of brown and white. It's kind of between these and the other Chloe ones (right here).

Check out all the shoes I linked to above right down here as well, you can click around in this widget:

Which are your favorite? And do you have anything special on your summer shopping list this year? 

This post contains affiliate links.

My Summer Reading List

My Summer Reading List | Freckled Italian

Every summer I find myself at the library, checking out more books than I know what to do with. My graduate program at Hollins consisted of an intensive three months during the summer (then online throughout the regular school year), so from June through August I was always reading a ton and spending a lot of time between classes at the library on campus. I'm a big fan of fall and that new semester feeling, but there's just something so magical to me about a big stack of books in the summer.

Here's what I've got on my list this year:

  • The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri: We're reading this for my book club this month. The library actually didn't have any hard copies available so I'm listening to the audiobook, which I never really do. I like it a lot and I'm actually enjoying listening to it in the car a little at a time.
  • Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson: Next month's book club pick--I want to get a jump start on it (especially since I have the other one on CD) because I have a really bad habit of waiting until it's too late to start and then I have to speed read the books before we get together, even though I always really enjoy the stories.
  • Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality: On Care for Our Common Home by Pope Francis: I saw this in a bookstore the other day and was so intrigued by it. I haven't really identified as Catholic for a long time but I do quite enjoy Pope Francis. 
  • Theft by Finding by David Sedaris: I'm a huge Sedaris fan. I've been to two or three of his readings and my favorite part was always when he read excerpts from his diaries, so a whole book sounds like a dream come true.
  • Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother by Beth Ann Fennelly: I haven't read any pregnancy or parenting books yet but this one was recommended to me by an Instagram friend whom I really respect and am excited to start here.
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin: It's no secret that I'm obsessed with Game of Thrones. I've been meaning to read the books and since Rob and I just started re-watching from the beginning, now is as good a time as any to pick up the first book (especially since the series will be over for good so soon!)


What's on your summer reading list?

This post contains affiliate links.

Then Labor Day Came and Went

Then Labor Day Came and Went | Freckled Italian

Early yesterday morning after coming home from the gym I poured myself a hot cup of coffee and sat on the back porch, enjoying the cool 66 degree temperature and that dreamy dew that settles gently onto the grass until it burns off in the still-summer afternoon heat. Ender won't step into the wet yard unless someone goes with him so together we hopped off the deck and took a few steps around, both of us searching for the green S-shaped toy he sometimes likes to chase after if I throw it enthusiastically enough.

My birthday was on Sunday and every year it hits me with the same combination of emotions--excitement for another year and another autumn; gratitude for the past twelve months and all the people in my life who love me so well; and a healthy dose of nostalgia, every time.

I spent the earliest part of the weekend in Roanoke getting ready for my friend Raquel's wedding, and with a bridal party that consisted of both our childhood friends and college roommates, I was overwhelmed with the realization that some relationships really do stand the test of time. High school lunches on the stage of the cafeteria--for whatever reason we never sat at a table and would all sit on the floor with our backs against the wall and our lunches on our laps. We went to Miller School every summer and belted out Disney songs on early-morning trail runs in the middle of the woods.

And then we grew up a little (but not a lot) and went to college, where Caroline joined our tribe and we'd drink big disgusting bottles of Arbor Mist and drag ourselves to the dining hall for weekend brunches or big family-style pancake breakfasts in our own apartment. We've had falling outs over the years but we always found each other again and we've always been a family. 

I had a moment as I passed out sparklers to Raquel's wedding guests after the reception where I realized that no matter where we live, these people and the love we've shared for so many years can't be taken away from us. It was 11 PM on Friday night and we all stood in the center of the market downtown in Roanoke, where I grew up, and the air was cool and it felt like fall was finally on its way. The sparklers started sparkling and left that holiday haze of smoke that smells like summer and a little bit of sulfur, and for the first time I imagined us in California for however many years and felt totally at peace.

The next day we drove home to Charlotte and planned a pretty last-minute Labor Day cookout at our house with our friends down here. Everyone came and we grilled burgers and roasted s'mores and passed around the season's first pumpkin beer from NoDa Brewing Co. After everyone left, Rob and I cleaned up and kissed in our kitchen and as the sun set I felt so proud of the life we've built here.

It is going to be so hard to leave--that I know. But remembering where we came from and all the friendships we've nurtured over the years despite the distance was enough encouragement to keep me focused. California is far. But our hearts are big.

I'd like remember that when we hit the road.

New Jeans and Holiday Weekends

If Memorial Day is the beginning of summer and Labor Day is the end of it, then the 4th of July is the point at which I start thinking about autumn. I daydream about hot lattes in warm mugs, about new jeans and smart, structured jackets and that crisp smell of a cool morning.

I didn't know I didn't like summer until a few years ago--probably when we moved back to the Southeast from Minnesota. Growing up in Virginia, I understood and even felt the magic of summer every year--the muggy mornings, cicadas chirping away in the distance, fireflies flickering in the early evening. My brother and I used to set off into the streets of our suburban neighborhood for giant games of flashlight tag with our summer friends--the kids who we didn't go to school with but were inseparable from every summer vacation. No school, no worries, just pools and sprinklers and popsicles all day. I get it.

But this weekend Rob was home and we did something we don't usually do--we went clothes shopping. He and I will occasionally buy ourselves a new shirt or pair of shoes here and there, but it was a holiday weekend and there were sales and we're moving to California, so we basically bought ourselves a new wardrobe for the Bay Area. 

I've been feeling so up and down about the prospect of moving across the country, but this weekend made me feel even more hopeful than I have before. Maybe it was sweating through upper 90-degree afternoons, or maybe it was coming to the realization that I'm going to need more jeans and a new jacket for fall in California. A lot of it was just being reunited with Rob for a long weekend. But I think most of it is that part of me that always comes around this time of year--the one who doesn't want to wish the summer away, but can't seem to help it.

I am learning, a little bit more every day, to just be. That it's okay to be excited for the future, and sometimes it's okay to dread it a little bit too. Summer is here. There are friends to laugh with and rosΓ© to drink. The mosquitos will bite. But fireflies will flicker; and big, fat, pink peonies will gloriously open up in the vase you place by the kitchen sink. 

And autumn will come around eventually.