I’m coming to you today with a cold stout beside me, a bowl of herb-flecked, cheesy popcorn in front of me, and a mess of chocolate near me. The house smells of homemade garam masala and ras al hanout, recipes I made today for a party in the new book. I’m wearing a cozy, navy blue wool sweater, the sun is shining, and there are two adorable kittens playing nearby. Things are good.
From myself, a young Harry Potter/Assistant Groundskeeper Carl Spackler (Huxley’s scar from his fall back in June and the glasses make up the young Harry bits while his floppy hat, plaid shirt, cuffed khakis, rain boats, wheelbarrow and Gopher are the Carl components), and a goggley-eyed Hubs, we wish you and yours a safe, happy, and sweet Halloween!
Happy Tuesday, friends. The winds are pretty fierce outside, and there’s a serious chill in the air, but, otherwise, we three Englishes are find and dandy in the cove today. Sending lots of love and light to those in the Northeast suffering the ravages of Sandy. Whew. What a whollop. The power will eventually be restored, the waters will receded, and life will regain a semblance of order. In the meantime, be safe out there.
We spent a good chunk of time this weekend with our genius chocolatier buddies, Jael & Dan Rattigan, and their two sons, Sam and Max. Saturday, owing to the last day of fare weather predicted for days and a desire to check out the scenery one last time before the wind blew every leaf still parading its splendid color away, we headed out to Hickory Nut Gap Farm. A multi-generation farm currently being run by Jamie & Amy Ager, Hickory Nut Gap offers beef, chicken, and pork raised on sustainably managed land, apples and cider, eggs, and more. Their farm store is rife with local offerings, from jams to ice cream to ceramics. The service is friendly, the food is wonderful, and the views are epic.
I also had the wonderful pleasure of bumping into Molly Hamilton. Mama of 4, a member of the extended Ager family, and the force behind Farmer Jane Soap (a small measure sponsor), we officially jumped the fence from digital to real-world acquaintances, right beside the hay maze, which, really, is as good a place as any to make new friends. Ever since Molly graciously gifted me with 4 sample bars of her goat’s milk soap, it’s been my staple item for bathing. Soft, silky, fragrant, and gentle, it has hand’s down become my soap of choice. Check it out. You’ll be glad you did, I promise.
On Sunday, we hooked up with the Rattigan clan again, this time at their home in West Asheville. They’d made some spiced pumpkin seeds, a salad of fresh lettuces and radishes, mashed sweet potatoes, a glorious apple crisp, and homemade pumpkin ice cream (heavy on the cardamom, which is just how I like it). Our friends Andy & Katherine and their daughters, Ina and Juno, brought over a brisket (picked up from the Chop Shop) and a kale & white bean salad, while their buddy Anthony arrived with his sons Gabe and Nolan and a mess of steamed N.C. shrimp. We brought a “Warming Steak & Brandy Cottage Pie”, a recipe I was working on for the new book.
The older I get, the more I want to socialize simply. Fresh air, good friends, happy kids, and hearty fare. I’ll take it.
May the week ahead bring nothing but health, happiness, and a safe home for you and yours.
Happy Friday, friends! It’s been unseasonably warm here this week. Which works fine by me. Planting kale, chard, and brussels sprouts or sipping hard cider in 70 degree weather is some kind of wonderful.
In other news, here’s a smattering of this’s and that’s that caught my attention this week:
*Fight the flu with food.
*Easy pasta from scratch.
*8 best fall foods.
*Lady Gaga is getting into the bottled water business (I hope the bottle is compostable!).
*Tanya’s blog is truly lovely.
*Christopher Kimball’s approach to food (it’s a long, but interesting read).
*Edible Selby in person!
*Pumpkin + donut=happiness.
*Really excited about this book.
We’re hoping to visit Hickory Nut Gap Farm on Sunday. It’s the last of their Harvest farm days, with face-painting, a pumpkin patch, hard cider, and more. Looks like loads of fun.
Wherever you go, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!
Since Hubs and I both work from home, our plan when we decided to have a child was to have them always be with us. For the most part, that’s been the case. While we wrote, or did projects, or cooked, or worked in the garden or the chicken coop, our little guy has always been in a sling, on our hips, crawling around on the ground, or, now, walking beside us. And it’s worked. Until lately.
Huxley wants to be outside. All. The. Time. His name means “Outdoorsman”, so, it makes sense, really. That said, when I’m trying to meet a pending December 1st deadline for the manuscript of my new book, continually heading outside to watch Huxley as he plays doesn’t really fit into my super crammed schedule.
When we learned last summer that a newly emerging eco-community called Sacred Mountain Sanctuary had developed quite literally on the mountain ridge behind our house, we were ecstatic. We looked forward to the gatherings the community intended to host, as well as the like-minded folks we might meet. And then, we learned a few months ago about a toddler program SMS had in the works.
For the past few Tuesdays, from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Huxley and Hubs have bundled up and headed over to Starseed. I get a few hours of alone time to write, Hubs gets some time with the little one, and Huxley gets some time with other children. The best part, though, has got to be the fact that the entire program takes place outdoors. That’s right-rain, snow, mud, these kids are out in it. Of course, that means careful planning on the part of the educators and parents alike, for both the curriculum and the proper attire. Colder weather and a rugged terrain mean warm coats, layers of clothes that can be peeled off should ecstatic splashing in the natural spring on the property occur (and it does, believe me!), and sturdy boots, for the kiddos and the adults.
Each session begins with a collaboratively assembled and prepared pot of soup placed over an outdoor fire. Then the Starseeds, their parents, and the teacher, Ms. Tiffany, head out into the forest to explore and learn. Later, everyone returns to eat soup, and then hear a story and perhaps do a craft.
Yesterday, the group also participated in planting a patch of goldenseal on the property, to be enjoyed in upcoming years by the residents. I love the idea of these young minds, digging, planting, and growing, right there along with the whole wide (and wild!) world. I admit, it was really hard letting him go, being out there in the woods. Of course, his Papa is there along with him, but, other moms, you know what I’m talking about. But letting go, more and more everyday, is really what parenting teaches us, isn’t it? Give them what they need, and they’ll get the confidence to go out into the world and flourish.
This coming March, Hubs, Huxley and I will be hopping on a plane and heading north, this time to Vermont. I’ve been invited to tour the Coombs Family Farms organic maple syrup operation. Along with the likes of Joy Wilson of Joy the Baker, Rebecca Crump of Ezra Poundcake, Jen Yu of Use Real Butter, and Matt Armenidez of Matt Bites, I’ll be learning about sustainable forestry and sugaring practices the company employs, along with working in some snow shoeing, Brattleboro Food Co-op visiting, country-inn respite-ing, and more. So. Much. Fun!
The lovely Sharon Kitchens of Delicious Musings is putting this all together. She’s been doing PR work for Coombs Family Farm and sent a care package of the items pictured above. That maple candy, folks, is the stuff of addictions. And after witnessing the Soule family’s sugaring process last March (we’re planning on sneaking in a little trip to Maine to see them on our trip, too!), I’ll never take the labor and love that goes into the making of maple syrup for granted again.
It’s months away, but I adore vacations, so I’m already excited. Besides, the leaves will have been gone for months by then and a change of scenery will be exactly what’s in order.
Have you been to Brattleboro or the surrounding area? Anything not to be missed? I’d love to hear about it!