A Year of Picnics


The Essential Book of Homesteading
















  • All my bags are packed Im ready to go Headinghellip
  • Oh what lovely company to find several of my bookshellip
  • Redhaired blueeyed fierytempered sweetsmelling wiggleworming cuddle bug glennbenglish took thishellip
  • It is taking every shred of willpower within me nothellip
  • Today was some kind of wonderful From the myelementality necklacehellip
  • Happy Friday! Happy Groundhog Day winter still going strong! Happyhellip
  • SUPER FUN Valentines roostbooks bundle giveaway happening over themakerie! HANDMADEhellip
  • Clearly charlottecooks knows her way around a cheese board Andhellip
  • In 44 days this rascal will be 1 yearold Hehellip
  • This guy If you didnt know hed been a microhellip
  • Do you know how tremendously difficult it is to behellip
  • If you cant join em eat em! Wait thats nothellip

my sponsors

budha hill natural toysImagine Childhood
Imagine ChildhoodBlissful Belly
Sponsorship Information

blog archive

  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2009
  • 2008

Monthly Archives: April 2010

Catching My Breath

Beginner’s cheeses, including (clockwise from top left): feta, mozzarella, cottage cheese, and chevre.
Saag paneer with hot, toasty naan.
Chevre and port spread with a maple, pecan, cranberry, & rosemary topping-SO. GOOD!
Cucumber & Yogurt soup with mint and dill; perfect for the dog days of summer.
Strawberry, Chevre, and Balsamic Vinegar ice cream.

Whew! What a whirlwind week! After
landing a new part-time baking gig on Monday, I jumped headfirst into a frenzied few days of baking, cooking, prop acquiring, and equipment gathering. Bright and early Thursday morning (by which I mean, REALLY bright and early-I was up at 5:30 a.m. making a batch of curd destined to become gorgonzola), we (being my editor, photographer, creative art director-Chris Bryant of Lark Books, and myself) began a feverish race to the deadline on the third book in the “Homemade Living” series, “Home Dairy” (Lark Books, Spring 2011-also the release date of book #4, “Keeping Bees”).

Somehow or other, we did it. We took every shot necessary to complete the book, styled every dish just so, and managed to find time to nosh a few bites ourselves along the way. The book is going to be beautiful, truly. I cannot be held responsible if you should find yourself licking the pages (although I’d certainly love to hear about it!). We’ll begin work on the photographs for “Keeping Bees” in late May/early June, when we’ll start kicking out our strategic efforts all over again.

I took the week off from my “Small Measures with Ashley” column on Design Sponge so that I could focus all of my efforts of the photo shoots. Right now, I’m making frosting for this cake, to share my mother, grandmother, brother, sister-in-law (due with their first child in June-yeah!!! First grandchild for the family, too!!!) and husband this afternoon at this park after having a big family lunch here. Later tonight, I’ll be saying happy birthday to this super talented, warm-hearted, always-fashionably-turned out lady. Tomorrow, my dear friend Jenny (who just started up an awesome bicycling school) is making a split from one of her hives, which I’m hoping to stop by and watch, along with getting some work done in my garden. And then Monday morning, at 5:00 a.m., I’ll begin my time at Short Street Cakes. Maybe on Tuesday I’ll find time to catch my breath!

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Baking Up A Story

I’ve loved to bake for as long as I can remember. Two childhood memories exist at the very close edges of my baked-good memory. First, I recall whipping up an absolutely frightful sponge cake, covered in a thick, sugary, artificially-dyed red glaze, baked in a heart-shaped pan for my mother. She consumed it with gusto, complementing my efforts all the while, although I feel, with somewhat certainty, that my concoction went down like a ton of bricks, and probably tasted like them, too.

Secondly, with a much higher degree of success, I made a pecan pie. I used a pre-made Mrs. Smith’s pie crust and packed my pie with plenty of dark Karo corn syrup. It was sublime. I recall with absolute clarity impatiently waiting for it to cool. For whatever reason, I’d put it on top of the washing machine in our porch/laundry room. I kept returning again and again, yearning for it to cool to the touch so that we could all dig in.

As I’ve aged, I’ve tried my hand at all manor of baked goods. From wedding cakes to yeast breads, brownies to cookies and so much more, if it’s a baked good, I’m a fan. I’ve even channeled this affection into employment in the past, working in the production bakery kitchen of a large natural foods store and baking cakes, pies, crepes, and other baked goods when serving as manager of a local bed and breakfast. I also worked in a bakery in college, where I first developed a fine love and appreciation for challah, pain du chocolat, fresh croissants, biscotti, and much, much more.

Some passions never die. I recently read that Julia Child said that “you can never know everything about anything, especially something you love.” I adore baking. When we travel, I always want to visit the confectioners and pastry shops and bread bakers. I want to ogle the cupcakes, sample the macarons, smell the salted caramels. I pine for an artisanal donut shop in my town. Fortunately, I have an active metabolism and a high degree of self-restraint, otherwise my devotion could morph into a liability instead of an asset.

And so, it is with great enthusiasm, that I get to tell you today that I will once again be taking up whisk, mixing bowl, and oven mitt and baking professionally! My uber talented friend Jodi Rhoden and her adorable, retro, all-natural southern-style cake shop Short Street Cakes will be graciously adding me to their ranks beginning next week. Not content to simply bake some of the best wedding, special occasion, and cupcakes in town, Jodi is also embarking on a soon-to-be announced project with Lark Books (my publisher). She’s a hard-working mom (4 year-old Jasper is super cute) with a wicked palate. She’s also a total fashion plate (she can work retro dresses with unstoppable flair!) equipped with a quick wit, a hearty laugh, and some great tattoos.

I’ll be working part-time, dabbling in all facets of the shop, from baking and decorating to running the front of the store, gathering locally-sourced ingredients from area farmers, and picking up supplies as needed. I’d wanted a bit of outside of the home work ever since completing the manuscript for my fourth book (“Keeping Bees”, Lark 2011) three weeks ago. However, after working from home exclusively for almost two years, I’ve become rather particular about what I’d like to do. Over a year ago, I’d taken Jodi a resume. Then, rather auspiciously this past Friday afternoon, she rang me up, mentioning some upcoming vacancies at the shop and wondering if I’d like to come on board.

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to get back into the kitchen. While I’m always canning, culturing, whipping, or stirring something at home (for leisure as well as for the book series), it’s another beast entirely to be in a bona fide kitchen, making cakes. CAKES! Could there be a more happiness-inducing vocation? Not only are you and your patrons on a sugar high, but you’re creating edible memories, paying delicious homage to life’s moments.

I can’t wait. And, if you’re in Asheville, come by and show Jodi and the crew some love. The cupcakes are always fresh, the coffee is stellar, and the staff is ready to see you, myself included!

Chicken Tenders

Oh! I almost forgot to mention that my “Small Measures with Ashley” post is up on Design Sponge. This week I chose to give a “quick and dirty” introduction to keeping chickens (or chicken tendering, if you will!), as the topic dovetailed with the release of my “Keeping Chickens” book (book #1 in the Homemade Living series; book #2, “Canning & Preserving” made its debut this week, too) this past Tuesday.

If you don’t yet have chickens, I’d suggest my book as a great hand-holding primer to get you started. And if you’ve already got a crew of fine feathered friends, there’s plenty in there for you, as well!

Happy Weekending, everyone!

Psst…my buddy Jenna Woginrich is giving away a copy of my book over at her phenomenal homesteading blog Cold Antler Farm. The contest runs through tomorrow evening, so stop by, tell her “howdy”, and try your hand!

Girls Gone Green

When I was young, I moved around. A lot (long story). This resulted in my attending 8 different schools. While that might have proved challenging to some, I found it as an opportunity to make friends. Lots of friends.

The first high school I attended (for all of freshman year and part of sophomore) was Fort Walton Beach Senior High, in Fort Walton Beach Florida. There, I became fast friends with three intrepid young ladies, Alicia, Jennifer, and Christie. All fastidious students, we shared a number of classes, including Honors English and Journalism. As our friendship grew, we each began to express what we’d like to do when we grew up (we were pretty precocious, not to mention more than a tad nerdy). Only 15 at the time, Jennifer knew she wanted some sort of career in the sciences, while Christie aspired to become a surgeon.

Alicia and I (and I think maybe Christie, too-that part is a bit foggy…), in addition to sharing academic interests, shared a love of theater. Once, while rehearsing for the play we both had roles in (…And Stuff by Peter Dee), Alicia and I missed curtain call. We were backstage, tears running down our cheeks, sharing our earnest, 15 year-old desires to change the world. Alicia wanted to become the first female president. I wanted to get everyone in the world to recycle. We meant it. We had conviction. We were determined, all four of us.

And so, imagine my shock when, after having lost touch with all three ladies, I recently found them on Facebook, the great uniter of our time. Turns out, Christie is a surgeon at the University of Michigan, who, just last week, performed a double liver and heart transplant (and she manages to hold down this job with young twin sons at home-take THAT, Grey’s Anatomy!). Jennifer, after attending M.I.T., now works in NYC in a science-related profession. As for Alicia, she lives and works in Washington, D.C. for the State Department, where she is a senior advisor on development projects and sometimes rubs shoulders with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Then there’s me. I’m still working hard on getting everyone in the world to recycle! ;^)

Which brings me to the real reason for today’s post, Lynn Hirshfield’s new book “Girls Gone Green” (Puffin Books). When I first received an e-mail in my inbox several weeks ago from Lynn’s publicist, I remember saying to myself, “Why does that name sound so familiar?” Turns out, Hirshfield (senior vice president of publishing at Participant Media Productions) is the award-winning television and film producer behind such tour de force pieces as “An Inconvenient Truth”, “The Kite Runner”, “Charlie Wilson’s War”, “Darfur Now”, “The Soloist”, “Food, Inc.”, “The Cove”, “The Informant!” and the PBS series “Wishbone.” She’s also an enormous proponent of environmental stewardship and is an advisory board member of “Teens Turning Green”, as well as a judge for the Environmental Media Awards and the Brower Youth Awards.

Her newest book (Hirshfield has also penned two children’s books), “Girls Gone Green“, documents young women, both famous and not, who are making profound differences environmentally. Showcasing the efforts of everyone from Hayden Panettiere (a tireless advocate for whales), to actresses Rachel McAdams, Mischa Barton, and Ellen Page (an avid gardener-who knew???) as well as a wide range of average Janes making noise in their communities (as well as their nation), the book oozes inspiration. While written for girls ages 10 and up, the stories are really largely gender neutral and would prove equally motivating for boys.

Arranged by cause (“recyclers”, “animal advocates”, “educators”, etc.), “Girls Gone Green” is an easy read, packed with clear direction and easily achievable steps for aspiring future stewards of the land and skies. Had I encountered this book at 15, I would have sighed with gratitude for knowing there were other tree-huggers like me out there. Now more than twice that age, I’m still fighting the fight, swelling with enormous pride for the growing number of compatriots to be found.

Sizzling Skillets

Have you seen the new BBC cooking show “The Delicious Miss Dahl” from Sophie Dahl? The very definition of smoldering, she positively lights up the screen. And she’s cheeky, as well (love me some cheekiness!).

And the haddock, cheese, creme fraiche omelet looks divine, to boot!

*Note to self: must ask publisher to make me look just like Ms. Dahl in all of my cooking demos and other videos….