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Monthly Archives: January 2014

What I’m Digging

Happy Friday, friends! We’re moving into a weekend of temps that feel positively balmy given the weather we’ve been experiencing. The forecast calls for 56 degrees tomorrow and 58 tomorrow. That’s single pair of wool socks weather, friends! To say I’m excited about this fact doesn’t really do justice to how I feel. I. Am. Pumped!

In other non-frosty extremities news, my February column for Verve is up. Here I’m chatting about my change of heart, dietarily speaking, that happened several years ago. I also want to give a shout out to my girl Robin Plemmons. She has a feature in the magazine this month, and her story is one worth hearing.

Otherwise, here’s a smattering of this and that’s that caught my attention this week:

*Ever wanted to make your own apple cider vinegar (I have)? Here’s how!

*Speaking of vinegar, here are some great ideas for using it around the house.

*This dome house is gorgeous, cost only $200 to construct, and is sited in a forest. I’m thinking it would serve as a perfect playhouse for Huxley (or home office for me!).

*Totally making this maple & dijon pot roast.

*This round-up of the best foodie films is pretty spot on.

*Joy’s DIY vapor rub will fix whatever ails you (stuffed-up sinuses wise).

*Tiny house, you sure are pretty!

*Our oven got hooked up yesterday (!!!) and now I seriously want to break it in. I’m thinking cake is the best thing for an inaugural bake. This one, or this one. Or both, because, you know, new! oven!

*Homemade citrus salt, y’all! Get you some!

*I have a bit of a girl crush on Lorde. I do so love a kooky lady. Did you see her Grammy performance (truth: I love awards shows-all of them. Don’t judge)? She killed it. Plus, she had on, you know, all of her clothes! I like a woman that can belt out serious tunes without feeling the need to strip down. Adele, anyone? Annie Lennox? Stevie Nicks? Barbara Streisand? Exactly.

Local friends, here’s a little tip for you: Fletcher Village Bakery is completely amazing. It’s out past the airport, off of Hendersonville Rd.. We were out that way today, picking up upholstery fabric at Foam & Fabric (new couch, with new cushions, scored from a Habitat for Humanity find), and saw it across the parking lot. We popped in (I had a serious hankering for a cookie) and left with so many goodies. All natural, from scratch baking. Can’t be beat. Do pay them a visit if you find yourself out that way. You won’t be disappointed.

Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!

*I post a photo of Huxley in my What I’m Digging round-ups because, truly, he’s what his Papa and I dig the most. The tree shown above is found in the woods around our house, and has a stream coming out of its roots. Glenn took Huxley for a hike up to it on Wednesday while I stayed home and worked. Huxley was bummed that I wasn’t along for the trek, until they got to the tree and found that “faeries” had left “magic” icicles for them to enjoy! That perked him up straight away! 

Zoë Tilley Poster (+ Giveaway!!!)

I have been fascinated and intrigued by the habits of woodland creatures for as long as I can remember. I remember watching a documentary about beavers several years ago and how their work and efforts in building a home benefits not just themselves, but the entire ecosystem around them. Many woodland creatures do that-help themselves while helping others in the process, a mindset we humans would do well to abide by.

Which is why I’m over the moon about today’s giveaway. The illustrator behind the beautiful prints above contacted me last month, inquiring about the possibility of a giveaway. In her own words, “Zoë Tilley Poster is an illustrator with a deep interest in the dark and delightful natural world. She enjoys making art for children and other imaginative creatures. Her spare time (or maybe it’s research?) is spent pursuing small, furry, unkempt creatures through the thickety woods around her home.” Definitely my kind of lady!

Her drawings are made with graphite pencil on vellum-surface Bristol paper. From these, fine art prints are created using acid-free, 100% cotton rag paper, and archival pigment ink. When I saw Zoë’s drawings, how could I have refused to do a small measure giveaway? I know that bears and woodchucks and raccoons and skunks are decidedly not cuddly, in the human sense of the word. I live in a pretty rural area, rife with wildlife, and I very, very much respect the space and power of the multitudinous creatures that also call our forested cove home. They’re wonderful to observe (from a distance!), quietly and thoughtfully learning how their behaviors aid the forest. That said, if I could cuddle them, I totally would, and Zoe’s illustrations are about the most adorable, cuddly renderings of woodland creatures I know of!

So, on to the giveaway details. The giveaway includes a set of these four little woodland animal art prints:

*Plump Raccoon
*A Tail and its Skunk
*Woodchuck with Chamomile
*Bear with Rosehips

Additionally, any small measure reader who purchases an item from Zoë’s Etsy shop will receive a free notecard with their order (just type “Small Measure” in the “note to seller” at purchase). How great is that?! So great. Trust me. Zoë very generously sent me a care package of the prints above, as well as a gorgeous Luna Moth card. They’ll work perfectly in Huxley’s bedroom!

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below telling me about the woodland creature you’re the most enthralled with. For me, it’s beavers. And Pileated Woodpeckers (they’re all over our woods!). And toads. And, well, all of them. Not easy to choose just one, eh, English? I’ll run the giveaway for one week, concluding February 5th, midnight EST. Do be sure to leave a means of contacting you in your comment, should you be the winner!

Even if you don’t win, do stop by Zoë’s shop and take a look around. In addition to her animal prints, she also does custom orders, such as wedding invitations, pet portraits, and more. Thanks so much, Zoë!



What I’m Digging

Happy weekend, friends! BRRR!!!! I don’t know where you are, but here in the mountains of western N.C. it is C.O.L.D! Admittedly, it’s a bit warmer than yesterday morning, when is was a good-for-noone 4 degrees when I went to let the chickens out. Not! Good! There’s a possibility for snow today, but the wind is blowing so ferociously outside at present that any wee snowflakes that might fall will have a rough go of holding fast to anything. I’m wearing 3 layers, we just cooked waffles in the waffle maker and eggs on the wood stove, and I’m writing this from Huxley’s “little guy” table in our kitchen, a table for tots, so that I can be next to the wood stove. I love cold weather, but this, admittedly, is a bit intense.

So, our oven decided to call it quits last Friday (the fact that his happened right in the middle of baking two big trays of macaroni for our dinner guests was most vexing, to say the least). It was a long time coming, honestly. I pretty much killed it when writing A Year of Pies (truth=when I pulled the very last pie for the very last pie photo shoot from the oven, the oven door fell off). We’ve been sort of gerry-rigging it ever since. Same with the stove (our range top and oven aren’t the same unit; they’re located adjacent to one another). About two years ago, the electric component that allowed the burners to light (we use propane) started making a permanent clicking sound. We unplugged the stove from its electric starter and have been just striking matches whenever we need to light the stove top (a bit of a chore but also romantic, kind of, in its own way). Honestly, I think when both appliances learned I’m starting my 8th book, they threw up their hands and walked off the job. “We’re done, lady! Enough!”

Their failings coupled with a grand sale at Sears this week, all of which resulted in a new Kenmore Elite Dual Fuel Range/Oven delivered yesterday morning. Friends, she’s a BEAUT! Five burners (one of them is for simmering)! Two side-by-side ovens (a regular size one flanked on the left by a smaller 8-inch wide oven)! A wok stand! This investment is such a highly needed tool. We’ve really been operating with a bit of a handicap, oven and stove-wise, for years now. No more! I’ll post real photos soon, once it’s all hooked up (got the propane stovetop working yesterday, courtesy of our plumber, but the outlet for the electric oven won’t be addressed until Thursday when the electrician comes out).

In other news, here’s a smattering of this and that’s that caught my attention this week:

*Ever treated kid’s fevers with essential oils? I haven’t, but I’m curious, especially given how much I already use essential oils for health and home.

*Want to become a bird watcher? Here’s how!

*Host a homemade swap party courtesy of Amanda’s expert tips.

*My dear buddy Sara told me about this mama/kid sleepover idea. I’m SO into it!

*I can envision so many ways to use these metal olive baskets.

*Can you think of any finer way to treat yourself than with this collection of exotic caramels from Vosges?

*WAY out of my price range, but this moon phase dress? I mean, come! on!

*This DIY chicken treat sounds like a great way to keep chicks happy during the doldrums and scarcity that winter present. Gonna have to treat my flock to a few!

*These architectural renderings of life drawn with pencil and pen are stunning. I’d love to have some prints made and framed. Gorgeous.

*I grew up eating Moonpies. This homemade recipe of the iconic treat sounds a bit labor intensive, but totally worth the end result for a special occasion treat.

Alright, friends, here’s hoping this weekend is about a fantastic of a time as you’d like it to be. As for me, I’m going to go take a hot shower, put basically an entire jar of coconut oil over my body (dry skin, you nemesis, you!), and slip into two pairs of wool socks. Take that, polar vortex!!!

Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!

*I post a photo of Huxley in my What I’m Digging round-ups because, truly, he’s what his Papa and I dig the most. He was just as excited about our new range/oven’s arrival as we were. I left the kitchen and returned to find him thusly. Fix er’ up, little buddy! 

Time For Tea

I’ve long been a fan of winter. While the reduced daylight hours, chilly weather, and barren landscapes make many folks solemn and melancholy, I find it all wholly invigorating. That said, the stretch of days from New Year’s to the spring equinox can be loooooooong, especially when you work from home, like I do. Owing to that, we try to find ways to shake things up during the coldest, darkest time of year.

My new favorite wake ’em up, shake ’em up activity for winter has got to be, hands down, the English Tea at the Biltmore Estate. About two weeks ago, I received an email from Marissa Jamison, Public Relations Manager for Biltmore. The email detailed a number of activities the estate has going on over the winter, historically their slowest time of year. As I looked over the list, one stood out to me above the rest: the English tea offered daily at the Inn on Biltmore. I wrote Marissa back, expressing my interest, to be met in return with an offer from her to enjoy a complimentary tea for myself and a guest.

Last Thursday, Glenn and I dropped Huxley off at a friend’s house for a play date and headed over to the Inn. The only lodging located on the estate’s property, the Inn is absolutely beautiful, a modern mirror to the Biltmore house itself. Tea is held daily in the Inn’s Library Lounge, between the hours of 2:30-4:30 (reservations are required). We were shown to our table, which was situated beside the library’s floor-to-ceiling windows, ideal for taking in mountain views (or being a voyeur of the guests walking about outside, if that’s your persuasion-it’s mine!).

Our server brought over a lovely wooden box, which housed a variety of teas. We were invited to read the descriptions of the teas listed on the box cover’s interior, and open the jars to examine their contents and smell their aroma. Glenn and I both opted for black teas. I like a robust tea to accompany rich foods and the Provence style Earl Grey I chose was the ideal companion to the meal. Before tea, though, we had cocktails! No toddler + high tea=an excuse/opportunity for daytime drinking! Woohoo! Glenn enjoyed a Bellini while I had a Kir Royale. Both were made with Biltmore Estate sparkling wine and had the double whammy of being delicious while simultaneously making me feel very fine and fancy for a mid-January day, thank you very much.

Our cocktails came in tandem with an amuse bouche. The delectable bite consisted of a prosciutto-wrapped date set atop a puree of black pepper and chestnuts, dusted with foie gras powder. Creative flavor pairings that play well off of one another without feeling forced score big points with me and this little morsel hit every note. This was followed by a plate of “Delicate Bites,” as our menu defined the tiny sandwiches set before us. In the image above, beginning with the cucumber and moving clockwise, were: Shrimp Salad on Cucumber, Curried Vegetable & Goat Cheese on Rye, Herb Roasted Turkey with Cranberry, Cashew Butter with Apricot Jam, ,Smoked Salmon Deviled Egg (Holy! Moly! GENIUS!), Lamb with Lusty Monk Mustard, and Brie with Apple & Walnut.

Up next was a cheese plate of Buttermilk Bleu (drizzled with honey and black pepper, a pairing I hadn’t considered before but now intend to employ frequently), Manchego, and Cheddar. I tried to rein it in a bit on this course, as I knew dessert was coming and I always, always save room for dessert. That blue cheese, though, wasn’t making things easy for me. It was a perfect marriage of creamy, sharp, salty, tangy, and crumbly, making it infinitely easy to take just one nibble more. So, so, sooooooo good.

By the time dessert came around, there was precious little real estate left in my stomach, to put it mildly. Nevertheless, I mustered my resolve, rallied, and went for the jugular. And by the jugular, I refer to the lemon curd. My culinary Achilles Heel, turns out, is lemon curd. Mercy. Dessert arrived on a 3-tiered silver tray, and contained these tasty treats: Maple Raisin Scones (served with house-made jam, Devonshire Cream, and the aforementioned lemon curd), Spiced Fig Poundcake, Orange Macaroons, Chocolate Chess Tart, Amaretto Truffle, and Hazelnut Raspberry Torte.

I can’t really begin to convey just what a pleasant experience the tea was. As a child, I hosted countless tea parties, some attended solely by myself and a posse of stuffed animals, some involving my brother and a friend (one who once pretended to be our butler during the tea, hand towel draped elegantly over his forearm and all), others involving my mom. Tea time is a great segue between lunch and dinner (a light dinner though, understandably!), and a fantastic means of transitioning from the work day to home life (akin to the European notion of aperitif, a word meaning both a beverage and an activity).

Sitting there, I began imagining all the friends and family I’d love to experience the Inn’s English Tea with. It was quiet and peaceful and nourishing, all at once. I’m hard pressed, really, to think of anyone that wouldn’t enjoy it. A special occasion treat, to be sure, but an affordable one ($26.95 without a cocktail, $38.95 with), if you consider what it costs to go to the movies, get a round of cocktails, or enjoy a nice meal. This winter, I invite you to treat yourself if you’re in the area and take in the tea at Biltmore. Just be sure to wear something with an elastic or unbutton-able waist. Ahem.

Here’s a listing of the other Biltmore winter activities, as detailed according to their PR department:

*Discover more at Biltmore this winter
Available at no additional charge January 13 through March 19, two new audio tours give an updated interpretation of Biltmore’s grand rooms, architecture, collection of art and antiques, as well as true stories about the Vanderbilt family, their guests and servants. For the first time, Biltmore has introduced a children’s audio tour in addition to the standard audio tour, created to give kids an imaginative connection to life in the Vanderbilt household. Biltmore’s curators and hosts narrate the standard audio tour, while the children’s tour is told from the point of view of Cedric, the Vanderbilt’s beloved Saint Bernard. Both tours follow the same route through Biltmore House for families to enjoy together. Travelers won’t want to miss a brand new area to explore in Biltmore House in 2014: the second floor living hall. This is the latest restoration project undertaken by Biltmore’s curatorial staff and reopened to the public last fall.

*Garden walks and orchid talks
More indoor enchantment awaits in the Conservatory. Possibly one of the warmest spots in North Carolina’s mountains in winter, the Conservatory is filled with thousands of tropical plants, including an expansive orchid display at its showiest peak in March. Orchids and Biltmore have a long history; in fact, some 800 orchids were on Vanderbilt’s list to be purchased for the Conservatory in 1894. Through the efforts of Biltmore’s orchid expert Jim Rogers, the estate has procured heritage varieties found on the 1894 list, now on display in the Conservatory. New educational talks are being offered in the Conservatory Mondays through Fridays, January 20 through March 19 at 11 a.m. Expert gardeners discuss the many types of orchids in bloom and topics such as Biltmore’s heritage orchids, the history of orchid cultivation, and details about the Conservatory. Growing tips and general care information will also be offered. Capacity is limited and orchid talks are free with the price of estate admission.

*The South’s “Downton Abbey”
As the fourth season of “Downton Abbey” airs on PBS this winter, fans of the show have taken note of similarities between Biltmore and the period drama hit. Thematic story lines and the era of the show overlap with the time when George and Edith Vanderbilt lived in the 250-room Biltmore House and raised their daughter Cornelia. Parallels between Biltmore and Downton Abbey can be brought to life in two specialty tours at Biltmore. During the Butler’s Tour, visitors discover how Biltmore House functioned, past and present, and learn about the work of the Vanderbilt’s domestic servants. As for the opulence upstairs, it’s easy to imagine what it would have been like to stay at Biltmore (circa 1895 to the early 1930s) with the Vanderbilts as your hosts during the Vanderbilt Family & Friends Tour. Tours are offered daily and advance registration is required. Each tour is $17 per person in addition to estate admission. Finishing an afternoon with English tea at the Inn on Biltmore Estate, complete with traditional English finger sandwiches, scones, fruit breads, and tea pastries, will round out a day in the spirit of “Downton Abbey.”

Warm-up at the Winery
A stop at Biltmore Winery is a delightful way to spend a chilly winter afternoon with free guided tours of the production facility and complimentary tastings. Specialty wine tours offered at an additional price include the Red Wine and Chocolate Seminar and the Biltmore Bubbles Tour.

Special rates at the Inn on Biltmore Estate
The four-star Inn on Biltmore Estate has special winter pricing with savings up to half off. Rooms start at $149 per night.

Grounded Magazine (+ Giveaway!!!)

I don’t know what things are like in your house, but once Huxley came along, my presence totally took a back burner to his where the grandparents are concerned. When my mother and grandmother would telephone me in the past, the conversation was primarily about what I was up to, and what events were unfolding in their lives. In-person visits were handled similarly. Now, though, phone calls involve a bit of polite conversation that serves as a prelude to the inevitable “Can I talk to my boy now?”. And visits to the house? Well, I might as well be invisible. Don’t think this is a complaint, though. To the contrary. I’m a bit of a private person, and like to keep to myself, so having the spotlight redirected onto Huxley and his every action is just fine by me!

Once children are on the scene, most of the conversations, activities, and concerns are about them. Which is great, for the most part. They’re little. They’re cute. They’re kind of helpless. We should be focusing on them! Sometimes, though, it’s nice to have the emphasis be on parenting and parents. Enter Grounded. The creative collaboration of parents Mollie & Kendall Guillemette, Grounded is an online quarterly magazine for parents. In their own words:

Grounded is a creative collaboration between Kendall and Mollie. It is an online quarterly magazine for parents and each issue of Grounded will be a collection of pieces that inspire and encourage us, pieces that are interesting, helpful, and thoughtfully crafted. Our vision for Grounded is that a diverse community of people will come together to surround and give to parents so that they in turn can give well to their children. We want this to be a place where we can look at beautiful things, hear and share stories, and gather ideas. We hope you find encouragement as passionate, creative, loving people gather.

Finally! A place for us parents, to find encouragement, inspiration, and, perhaps occasionally, commiseration (parenting is HARD!). Mollie and Kendall have very generously offered to share Grounded with small measure readers, four times over! Woohoo! Here’s the sweet deal: the giveaway includes 1 full annual subscription and 3 winter 2013 issues. That means one winner will receive a year’s subscription, and three other winners (all randomly selected) will receive winter issues, the issue currently available.

Entering the giveaway couldn’t be easier. All you need to do is click on this link and enter your email address. Doing so signs you up for Grounded‘s newsletter (which is wonderful and something you totally want in your life), as well as enters you for the giveaway. The giveaway will conclude on Sunday, January 26th, and the winners will be announced on Monday, the 27th.

Whether you end up winning or not, do check out Grounded. Mollie & Kendall have created a lovingly curated resource for parents, and it shows in every article. Thanks so much for sharing all you do with small measure, guys!