Summer is ending and as always I’m feeling bittersweet about the impending transition. I can hardly believe in two weeks I’ll have a second grader and an almost four-year-old preschooler.

Even my daughter is in awe of her rising elementary school status. She keeps saying, mom, I feel like I was just in kindergarten! Yup. I hear you, kid. Me too.

I can still see her posing shyly in front of someone else’s brownstone in Brooklyn because we were too flustered to take a picture before leaving our apartment.

kindergarten 2013

Fast forward a year, a first grader in New Hope, PA, our brand new town, walking through those double doors without me, knowing not a single person. My brave girl.

first day of first grade 2014

Now, here we are, on the cusp of another year. But first: summer.

Summer with kids is always a challenge, as well as a gift. The grinding schedule of school suddenly screeching to a halt, like a city bus we’ve been evicted from, the wheels still turning, as we stumble to find our footing.

With only 3 weeks of camp starting at the end of July, we had many days to fill, and yet, somehow, they blew by. There were touch and go moments of sanity (mine) and some freaking out (everyone’s), but here we are at the end of August, the finish line of this short season in sight, and my heart aches at the upcoming shift.

Before I began writing this post, I studied my phone calendar, trying to figure out where the time had gone. What had we done to fill those days? Did I fail to take advantage of our first summer in our new town? Scrolling through my pictures proved otherwise.

Summer Checklist Highlight Reel

1. Eat LOTS of ice cream. Check.

Dilly's Corner. No, we can't eat any of the fried gluten food, but the soft serve and Philadelphia Italian Ices are GF.

Dilly’s Corner. The soft serve is GF.

2. Go all out for the 4th of July fireworks display. Check. 

summer fourth of july

3. Go to the beach at least once, more to come. Check.

Asbury Park, NJ. Not to be missed.

Asbury Park, NJ. Not to be missed.

4. Host family gatherings and insist on very long, hug-filled goodbyes. Check. 

Farewells are not easy.

5. Spend time in nature. Check.

summer nature boy summer nature girl

6. Do a ton of arts & crafts. Check.

summer arts and crafts

Painting fairy houses on the driveway.

7. Get your nails done and let your kid pick the color. Check. 

I have to say, silver might be my new favorite shade.

Silver might be my new favorite shade.

8. Act silly. Also, take full advantage of the ice cream truck. Check. 

summer crazy

9. Go to local fairs and carnivals. ALL OF THEM. Check. 

He got the sparkly pink car. Score.

10. RELAX. Check. 

Summer relax

I love that this was taken the day AFTER the last day of school.

Turns out, we had a lot of fun this summer in the midst of craziness, whining, and all around lunacy. Basically, life as usual, but with no homework and lots of pool time. Not a bad way to spend a couple months.

Did I get much writing done? Not a ton, but more than I expected. There was my successful Highlights trip where I finished a draft of my novel, plus I wrote my first guest post series on The Gift of Writing.

But the best thing I did for myself was to surrender to summer, because fall comes around way too fast.

I’m leaving you with one of my favorite recipes to help ease you into the new season.

Cranberry Orange Muffins (Gluten Free)

cran orange w background muffins

This muffin is the perfect blend of summer and autumn. Also, completely irresistible, according to my husband’s sweet tooth. They usually disappear within a day – or less.

If you don’t have to be gluten free, check out this Food Network recipe made with white flour that inspired my creation. But if you dabble in GF, definitely give these a try. They are worth the effort.


  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of one medium-sized orange (preferably a juicy one)
  • about 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (1 to 1 and a half oranges)
  • 2/3 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend (I use Better Batter)
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your flour blend has it already)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup of full-fat or low-fat sour cream
  • raw sugar to sprinkle on top of each cupcake before baking (if desired)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 12-cup muffin tin OR a jumbo 6-cup muffin tin with butter or cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Zest orange and set aside. Squeeze juice and run through a sieve to eliminate pulp and seeds. Place juice in a small saucepan with cranberries. Bring to just a simmer over medium heat. Remove pan from heat and set aside so the cranberries can cool and plump.
  3. In a large bowl, mix (by hand) butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Add the following ingredients one at a time, stirring well after each addition: eggs, vanilla, orange zest, flour, xanthan gum (if necessary), baking powder, and salt. Beat to combine. Continue stirring until the batter becomes thicker and slightly more elastic, which means the xanthan gum has been activated. Add sour cream to the batter and mix until combined.
  4. Finally, fold the cooled cranberries and orange juice into the batter. Do not over mix.
  5. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups – for those who enjoy being extra precise, use an ice-cream scooper. Top each muffin with a generous sprinkling of raw sugar if desired.
  6. Bake in the center of a preheated oven for about 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the muffin tin and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

cran orange cloe up

Eat and enjoy! They go fast…just like summer.

20 thoughts on “Bittersweet

  1. I know what you mean about summer’s ending being bittersweet. I love all of your “checks” — definitely worthy endeavors. I’ve just become GF (no celiac but a bothersome intolerance) so I’m very excited to try your recipe. Here’s to surrendering, whether it’s to summer or all the swirl that lies ahead. xo


    • Welcome to the GF club, Lisa! All members are welcome 🙂 We’re kind of veterans over here, so if you have any questions let me know. Also, if you want, check out my Recipe page which links back to a ton on my old celiac blog. This particular cranberry orange muffin is more labor intensive than most of my recipes. I tend to lean toward easy and fast, ha. But it’s still worth the effort if you like the flavors.

      And yes, here’s to surrendering, to the swirl!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Living in New England (and hearing we have a tough winter ahead) makes the ending of summer even more bittersweet. What a wonderful few months they have been. Oh well. We wouldn’t love them as much if they were here all the time. At least that’s what I tell myself.


    • I tell myself the same thing, Laurie! And I think (hope, ha) it’s true. I do love the shifting of seasons, but my naturally nostalgic outlook can’t help but feel the melancholy of it.


  3. Sounds like you had a wonderful summer, Dana. I remember going to the summer county fair when I was a kid — what a blast. I used to fill up on cotton candy and then ride the Tilt-A-Whirl. No more! I no longer have the same iron stomach. 🙂


    • Thanks Jackie, it really has been a good one. I remember loving the county fairs, too. However, I just calculated and we’ve been to FIVE fairs/carnivals this summer and that is over the top (totally my husband’s fault). The last one I went on the Tilt-A-Whirl and it was SO much faster and crazier than I remember! The next day I woke up so incredibly dizzy and even felt hungover (!) from too much inner ear craziness. No more for me, alas.


  4. Thanks for making me feel less alone. The past few weeks a sense of dread has come over me. I don’t do well with the end of summer. Even seeing the first few red leaves on the ivy around my house has me panicked. I don’t know for sure but think it’s related to seasonal disorder. But that first day of school- it’s such a hard one for me. I feel so heartbroken when I drop her off- she doesn’t really like this school and neither do i. I love our time together in the summers- doing what we want to do and still learning and loving. It feels more like real life. Once school starts, it feels like we’re just living weekend to weekend- weekdays are just a drill of morning routine, school, pick up, snack, homework, a tiny bit of play if she’s lucky, and then dinner, bath, bed. I’m feeling particularly sad tonight…


    • Julia, I can relate to this so much. I’ve also been painfully aware of the leaves beginning to fall and change. I’m sorry you don’t like your daughter’s school. That is really hard. Does she change after 5th grade? Maybe the next one will be a better fit for you both. I like my daughter’s school so far, but leaving her there at the door after a summer at home feels like a loss. Agreed: the hustle of the school year is exhausting. I’m not looking forward to it. But I hope to take some of the lessons from Rachel’s new book to heart and make the time I do have with her count. I may even try a no phone policy from 3pm to bedtime…


  5. Awww, love seeing this summer in review. We have had an incredibly busy family summer and while it’s been fun, I’m ready for school (for them). It starts on Monday! (We have also been really out of control with the ice cream around here!!)


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