I’m sitting on the deck in the sun -- something I wondered many times this past winter and early spring if I would ever get to do again. As I sit here, the birds are singing, in particular Mr. Cardinal, and I can see Mrs. Cardinal not too far away. There are mourning doves sitting on the utility lines in front of the house and I can hear them cooing. Many people find it a sad sound, but I find it comforting -- a true sign that summer is here.

As I look around, I’m making a mental list of what needs to be done around the yard and deck. Many of them are things I can handle, but many of them will fall on my son, David, who I’m sure will be thrilled to no end.

The deck has to be washed down, along with all the house deck and pool deck furniture. I have to call the pool people and arrange for them to come and open the pool, and I have to check on what pool chemicals I’ll need to buy. David and I have plans to make raised beds for our vegetable plants and we have to decide what we want to plant and how many of each. (Not that he really cares because there aren’t too many veggies he’ll eat.)

I think it’s time to replace the clothes line that runs the length of our yard. It’s been down the last few years, but the smell of air-dried laundry and rising electricity rates are calling to me. As strange as this may sound, laundry dried outdoors smells differently with each season. I can’t explain it, but spring laundry smells cleaner, crisper than laundry baked in the sun in July and August.

I got brave this morning and took off the flannel sheets and heavy comforter on my bed and replaced them with cotton sheets and a lightweight quilt. The question is -- am I ready to ditch the sweat pants and sweatshirt I sleep in over the winter for the extra-long summer T-shirt-like nightwear? I also (gasp!) stopped wearing turtlenecks, although the jury is still out on whether to attempt short sleeves and shorts. Flip-flops and sandals are a definite.

It’s also time to start cleaning the windows in the house -- there are only 16 -- and the deck door, which is covered with dog snuffles, inside and out, that reach as high as the door handle. And did I mention taking down the curtains, washing them and rehanging them?

I’m also thinking about summer cooking and summer foods -- hamburgers and hot dogs, chicken and steak on the grill. David has already put in his order for pizza on the grill for dinner one night this week. And where by the beginning of last September, I couldn’t choke down another forkful of potato, macaroni or pasta salads, I can’t wait to make them again. I have a few new ones I want to try and I want to get better at making jerk chicken. I’ve found recipes for both a jerk marinade and a jerk seasoning.

Each summer, I have a drink that I can make in large batches for when friends and neighbors come over to swim or to just chill on the deck with us. For several years, it was a classic red wine sangria, then with college tail-gating my summer drink-by-the-pitcher became beer margaritas or regular margaritas. I have a few prospects. One came from my trip to Jamaica and a visit to the Appleton Estate. Their plan was simple -- serve a lot of rum punch, take you on a tour of the factory (which includes steep metal staircases and catwalks) and then ply you with all the rum you can drink when you end the tour. Trust me, I’m not kidding about drinking all you want!

This punch uses three bottles of rum, so it will probably be too expensive to make all the time, but for a party ... I call it a good time. I also have to figure out how to cut it in half.

Help me decide on the summer drink of choice. Send me an email with your thoughts (at mbutton@berkshireeagle.com) -- or any drink or punch recipe you like to make for a crowd!

Cheers!

Appleton Rum Punch

1 bottle Appleton Estates VX

1 bottle Coruba dark rum

1 bottle Wray & Nephew Overstock white rum

2 liters orange juice

2 liters pineapple juice

1 cup lime juice

1Ž2 cup Grenadine

Dashes Angostura bitters

Mix all together and serve over ice.

n

Another option was a punch a customer at my part-time job was buying ingredients for, a vodka-spiked lemonade.

Pink Lemonade Vodka Punch

1 12-ounce can frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed

3 12-ounce chilled bottles of beer (use pale ale or lager)

3Ž4 cup vodka, chilled

Stir all ingredients together in a pitcher or punch bowl with ice

n

And last week, Pier One sent a catalogue that had a recipe for a limeade, almost hidden on the page. I almost missed it! Of course, I might just add some tequila to it Š

Jalapeno Lemonade

11Ž3 cup fresh lime juice

2 jalapeno peppers, sliced

1 cup sugar

8 cups water

6 to 8 lime slices

Stir lime juice, jalapenos and sugar over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and steep about one hour. Strain into a pitcher and add water. Serve over ice cubes and a lime slice.