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I stepped outside at one o’clock today to pull a few weeds. Instead, I found an entire afternoon of work—and then some. What was I expecting? House Beautiful? I’ve been busy with work and gone almost every weekend this summer. My flowerbeds had gone to pot. Four hours later, I was ready to crawl into the house, but not before harvesting a few fruits from my labor: mint and lavender.

I’m so sad to see summer end, but if it must, then let’s celebrate what’s left of it with simple pleasures—as in mint simple syrup. So easy to make and refreshing you’ll wonder why you don’t make it more often.

Bring to a boil: one cup of water, one cup of sugar and one cup of fresh mint leaves. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and simmer for one minute. Remove the heat and steep for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid into a sterilized jar and toss the mint. It’ll keep in the fridge for weeks.

Mix a few tablespoons of mint simple syrup with sparkling water and lime juice and you’ve got yourself a thirst-quenching treat after a sweaty afternoon of yard work. It’s also great in tea, lemonade and as many mocktails as you can drink.

My syrupy treat was the big fling of the week because I’VE BEEN ON A DIET. No sugar, no dairy, no corn, no potatoes etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. More about that later.

I also harvested a small batch of lavender to make lavender oil, inspired by the lavender farm, gift cottage and outdoor café just around the corner from my parents’ house in southern Illinois.

FarmHouse Harvest Lavender serves sandwiches, lavender-tea lemonade and homemade vanilla ice cream with lavender sprinkles. Lunch is served from a vintage camper, charmingly named The anTEAque Traveler and converted into a kitchen. (I especially liked the pink hubcaps and the way the whole family pitched in to serve. I think there were five children in the owner’s family, and four were girls—one just as pretty as the next.)

Fairy garden camper Friends with fairy gardens, dig this mini camper, a close facsimile of the kitchen at FarmHouse Harvest.

Next summer, they plan to open the fields for self-pick customers, which could be really great since my paltry little harvest will only make a few ounces of infused oil. Watch out for the snakes, though. We observed two ladies strolling the fields, carefully sashaying to let a snake pass. Yikes!

Coincidentally, the 1899 farmhouse and land was once owned by one of dad’s uncles, and later on, by yet another uncle. Dad remembers the space that now houses the gift shop as a summer kitchen.

Reader/friends who grew up in southern Illinois but have moved away, I know you’ll recognize the surroundings. Notice the heart-shaped landscaping at the top of the field. This would be a lovely destination to relax with family on your next visit home.

Dining with Mom and a friend next to a lavender field was one of summer’s sweetest memories. Tell me, what happened to you this summer? Did you live well?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.