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SUMMER RULES is a series where we ask people to share with us how they’re staying safe and sane during this very different summer season; from mask suggestions to soundtrack selections, we’ll take a peek into how others are making these challenging times work.

Today we’re very stoked to touch base with Connie McDonald and Pam Weekes, founders of Levain Bakery! They’re expanding to DC in the VERY near future with a Georgetown location, and we couldn’t be more excited to have their iconic cookies right in our backyard. (For the time being, you can place online orders for delivery nationwide!)

This summer Connie and Pam have been enjoying a slower pace, taking time to read, swim, cook with local produce and more; read up on all their tips below:

Photo by Kate Previte

How do you usually feel about summer, as a season overall, and how do you feel about THIS summer, by comparison? 

We both love summer and look forward to savoring the warmth and long days, it always feels like it passes more quickly than any other season. This summer has been strange with the isolation but we’ve both had more time to enjoy it than we’ve had in many, many years.

What is your summer shaping up to look like? 

It has been an absolute gift to have this more quiet time during what is normally a very busy season.

Is there anything in particular you’re actually looking forward to this summer? 

Being able to swim outside in open salt water with no boundaries and to feel the warmth of the sun on our skin! Winters have been long in New York recently!

What are some of your tips for staying safe and sane right now?  

It is so important to wear a mask and socially distance to keep this virus from doing more damage. I (Pam) love (and need!) quiet time to stay sane so this feels like a huge luxury to have this time. I (Connie) like getting out and seeing some familiar faces albeit behind masks and from a distance!

Go-to summer wellness practice advice? Any spots in particular that have been helping you on that front? 

We appreciate being able to get outside without being bundled up! We both love biking anywhere we can, on a Citibike or on our road bikes. We’ve also been enjoying some open water swimming with most pools being closed. I (Pam) have also been taking lots of online yoga classes from my favorite teachers at Kula Yoga Project based in NYC, it’s been years since I’ve had time to take from some of these teachers so it has been a gift. We actually hatched the idea of the bakery from our time training for triathlons and after completing an Ironman distance race in 1994 opened our first location in 1995 on West 74 th St in NYC. We’ve always both strongly believed in a healthy balance of delicious fresh foods and movement!

Where did you get your mask from? And what, aside from that, has been your more or less go-to summer uniform?  

A friend made us really cute “cookie” masks from our bakery bandanas. As far as summer uniforms go, bakery tank top or t-shirt with leggings and Adidas slides or to “dress up” a fancier top with nicer leggings and nice sandals or an easy dress. Actually not too different from our pre-Covid daily bakery attire!

What (if anything) are you reading right now, and why do you recommend it? (Alternatively, just share a favorite book.) 

I (Pam) am enjoying reading more than ever, it feels like such a luxury! I just finished Rebel Chef by Dominique Crenn; her attitude, resilience and success in a male dominated industry are inspirational for anyone!

Do you have a go-to summer hang-out recipe that still works for a socially distanced gathering? And/or just a favorite general summer recipe that’s still a go-to, even now?

Anything that we can grill or make in one or two pans and then safely serve is perfect. Grilled fresh local fish with grilled local Long Island corn (the best!!), and fresh tomatoes (local beef steak or the fancier local heirloom) along with baby greens. NYC is still surrounded by amazing farms all around (on Long Island, Upstate or NJ) and the summer gives us a chance to indulge locally from start to finish in a meal. The way we’d love to eat all the time if possible.

What about a great summer cocktail or mocktail recipe? 

We are both more a glass of Rose or Prosecco people! Wainscott Main always has amazing delicious wines at all price points and from all locations including local vineyards.

What’s on your summer playlist this year, or are there three songs that are permanent summer favorites for you? 

I (Pam) have been listening more to the quiet everywhere and enjoying that. The city sounds are different right now, and out of the city, the birds, waves and quiet are really calming. I (Connie) have really been loving the new Chicks album Gaslighter, John Legend never disappoints, and I always love some good old 70’s rock.

Where do you wish you COULD GO this summer, if there were no restrictions or safety risks? 

We both really appreciate being home in the summer and enjoying the sun and warmth, saving travel for the colder months! But if we could go anywhere other than where we are now, it would be anywhere in Italy. A few years ago we both started studying Italian with some friends so we all could enjoy our travels to Italy even more!

And is there anywhere you’ve been safely going that you could recommend for people who live nearby? Any day trips or local spots worth mentioning, for example?

Any city park or local beach early on a weekday morning with a mask. It is such a beautiful time of day, and generally more quiet and less crowded than later in the day. And we always recommend a trip to your local (Levain!) bakery for a treat for yourself or to share with a friend!


Featured image by Melissa Kirschenheiter