I have always been a reader. Long, long, LONG before I was a writer, I was a voracious reader of books. Though that waned a bit in my early mothering years (still reading, one could argue, only reading books about parenting, and nursing, and baby board books), it’s been back in full force for a good year now. Aside from my monthly book club (“The Feel Good Book Club”-was there ever a greater name for a literary organization?!), I’m an avid fan of periodicals, a reader of non-fiction (my bedside table is laden with titles ranging from Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic,” to Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly,” to Janine Benyus’s “Biomimcry” to many, many more), and a devourer of pretty much anything with words on it.
As an avid reader, and now a regular writer, I feel I have a fuller, more rounded appreciation for books than ever. From spark of initial idea on down the line to printing, I’ve become acquainted first hand with the nuts and bolts of the world of book publishing. It’s no small feat to produce a book, not for the author, nor for the editor, nor for the art/publicity/sales/printing departments. It truly takes a team.
Which is why when Sasquatch Books approached me recently about receiving copies of some of their new titles, they found a profoundly ready and willing participant. Sasquatch, based in Seattle, WA, consistently produces titles that are engaging, informative, mindful, clever, and beautiful. The perfect combo of desired traits in my book-loving checklist. The stack shown on top are the titles they sent, and it’s my pleasure to introduce them to you today:
Social Animals: A Berkley Bestiary , by Ryan and Lucy Berkley.
Written and illustrated by a husband and wife team, this book is a whimsical, visual delight. Born out of prints created by Ryan and sold on Etsy, the book brings Lucy onboard to pen descriptions for a collective of well-dressed animals. Divided into chapters entitled “Social Butterflies,” Worker Bees,” Odd Ducks,” Top Dogs,” Black Sheep,” and “Lone Wolf,” the Berkley’s characters are as gregariously outfitted as they are eccentrically described. Take, if you will, the “The Quirky Quail”: As a champion of California bird causes, this quail travels the Golden State hosting luncheons and community fundraisers. When he wants to accentuate a point, he quickly bobs his head and his well-coiffed plume provides a visual exclamation point. Marketing analysis shows that the more bounce in the plume, the more donors open their wallets. Record donations poured in after an unprecedented fifty-seven bobs in a two-minute rally speech. See what I mean?
The 52 Lists Project: A Year of Weekly Journaling Inspiration, by Moorea Seal.
As a regular writer of lists (who doesn’t love a good list?!), this book speaks to my soul. These are the lists that I nearly never write, but feel deeply satisfied when I do. While writing lists on things to do for book projects, things to do around the house, things to do in advance of a gathering, etc. is great for keeping life organized and sane, it doesn’t fill the proverbial “well” like the lists in Moorea Seal’s book do. Divided by the four seasons, The 52 Lists Project is a journal for chronicling what inspires you. With prompts like “List The Words That Warm Your Spirit” (Fall), “List The Soundtrack Of Your Life Right Now” (Winter), “List The People You Most Want To Be Like” (Spring), and “List The Ways You Get Energized” (Summer), the book offers a list for each week of the calendar year. It’s also peppered throughout with lovely illustrations by Julia Manchik and photos by Julia and Yuriy Manchik. As the promotional literature for the book reads (and with which I fully agree): “With perfectly timed listing prompts that meet you where you are throughout the seasons, this journal will empower you to celebrate, enjoy, and take ownership of your own life, making each week of the year more thoughtful and vibrant.” Preach!!!!
The Rise and Fall of Oscar the Magician, by Matthew Porter.
When the title for “Magician of the Year” is at stake, all kinds of monkey business ensues. Oscar the magician and Milton the Magnificent are monkeys on a mission. Filled with vibrant, watercolor-like illustrations, this adorable book gained the mama and Huxley stamp of approval!
Theo Chocolate: Recipes & Sweet Secrets, by Debra Music and Joe Whinney.
My youngest sister is named Theo, so I’ve been a fan of Theo Chocolate (and gifting it to her!) ever since first hearing about the Seattle-based chocolatier. Co-founders Debra Music and Joe Whinney formed the company in 2004, motivated by a desire to show the full spectrum of what is meant by organic, fair-trade chocolate. From the farmers, to the manufacturers, to the consumers, Theo Chocolate is all about crafting an ethical, conscientious, sustainable culture around chocolate. In their book, they relay their origin story, discuss the process of making bean-to-bar chocolate, share wisdom on chocolate fundamentals, and then offer a bevy of recipes for whatever tickles your chocolate fancy. From chocolate to breakfast, to chocolate for dinner, with drinks, sweets, and savory offerings attended to as well, this book speaks to the chocolate enthusiast in everyone.
The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Homekeeping, by Erica Strauss.
I don’t know Erica Strauss personally. Before receiving a copy of this book, I had, truth be told, never even heard of her. But, oh, this book, I swear. The Hands-On Home was truly written just for me. Presenting a fresh take on modern homemaking (I love that phrase, by the way-”homemaking”), Erica’s book pretty much encapsulates all of my loves in one robust 400-page tome. Divided by the seasons, with further sub-divisions of “Cooking”, “Preserving,” “Home Care,” and “Personal Care” within each season, The Hands-On Home is full of approachable, non-toxic, natural, affordable ways to care for all realms involved in caring for a home and its inhabitants. There are year round go-to’s, as well, from homemade mayonnaise and chicken broth in “Cooking”, to yogurt and red wine vinegar in “Preserving,” and from all-purpose cleaner and scrubbing powder in “Home Care,” to tooth powder and creamy bar deodorant in “Personal Care.” Her tone is affable and conversational, and goofy at times (which this goof herself truly appreciates), the photographs by Charity Burggraaf are beautiful, and the photo and book styling are on point and timeless, all at once. Like I said, this book is a keeper.
B Is For Bear: A Natural Alphabet, by Hannah Viano.
I do very much appreciate the patience and talent of papercut artists. All of that deliberate, detailed attention, rendering elegant, beautiful images reminds me to pace myself a bit more, to move a bit slower, to breathe a bit deeper. B Is For Bear covers the alphabet, via flora, fauna, the elements, and geology. From “Aa is for Acorn,” to Ww is for Wave,” with ‘Ee is for Egret” and “Yy is for Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker” along the way, Hannah’s book sprinkles each letter with educational tidbits beside striking images (“Ff is for Fawn- Fawn is the name given to young deer, spotted here in her father’s shadow”). When she visited us back in April, Tara gifted Huxley with a copy of Hannah’s first book, “S Is For Salmon.” While that book had a Pacific Northwest focus on its content, her new book addresses creatures spread far and wide. A perfect book for any household with young readers, or anyone that loves beautiful, artful books.
Bigfoot Does Not Like Birthday Parties, by Eric Ode & Jaime Temairik.
In the town of Mossy Pockets, birthdays are a big deal. When the time comes for celebrating its resident blue-furred Bigfoot, the preparations are precise, the guests many. But the guest of honor can’t be found. Why? Because he doesn’t like birthday parties, that’s why. What a conundrum. Will he get to enjoy his special day or grump and pout about it, until the sun has set? An internal rhyme structure gives the book a wonderful rhythm, set at a pace that Huxley loved when I read it aloud. Silly, with bright, bold illustrations that appeal to children and adults alike, this book is one to treasure.
Thank you, Sasquatch Books, not just for gifting me with these wonderful books, but for putting them out into the world in the first place. Perfect for gifting, to others or to oneself, do consider adding these titles to your lives, readers. I promise you’re in for a treat!
About two months ago, we took Huxley to see the film Inside Out. It tells the story of 11 year-old Riley and the emotional roller coaster she experiences after her family relocates from the midwest to San Francisco. Her emotions Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust attempt to navigate her new experiences and keep things copacetic and tip-top from Headquarters, a quaint euphemism for her brain. It’s a pretty genius depiction, in my estimation, of a rather abstract concept. Every day, experience orbs are racked up in Riley’s memory, color-coordinated to their respective emotions. Ideally, the orbs are primarily those of joyful experiences.
All of which has what exactly to do with jars of jam and pickles and peaches and cherries and such, you might be wondering. Racking up experience orbs of joy, that’s what! When I’m canning, I’m happy. Like, really, really happy. I get in a groove, I feel the flow, I completely focus on the task at hand. And for a person that’s typically juggling many things (too many things!) at once, finding a groove/flow/focus trifecta is supremely satisfying. I’m quite certain that loads of joy memories are taking root when I’m canning.
That’s a good thing, considering the wealth of glorious fruits I was generously given this summer. As part of their Canbassador initiative, the Washington State Fruit Commission and Sweet Preservation sent me shipments of their lovely stone fruits, as they’ve done over the past 5 summers. I am so, so very appreciative of this bounty. First, in June, came the cherries, nearly 20 pounds of them. Huxley and I sat out on the patio in our skivvies and de-stemmed and pitted them (for every cherry stem he removed, he ate one, making him look not unlike a zombie, a very, very cute zombie, by the time the job was done). They were rendered into cherry pickles, black pepper maraschino cherries, cherry moonshine (!!!), cherry compote, and cherry butter, as well as a sweet cherry pie. Next, in July, came the peaches. Those were transformed into spiced pickled peaches, peach lavender butter, and Marisa‘s Salted Brown Sugar Peach Jam.
If you’ve never canned before, I invite you to go for it. It’s really quite easy, and, at least in my case, a bliss-inducing experience. I put up loads of other things this summer, with many more jars to go before I put the canning pot fully away for the season. If you’re looking for tips, instruction, tutorials, recipes, or just inspiration, do check out Sweet Preservation. The website is full of helpful information for the canning novice and seasoned jar bather alike. Massive thanks, WA State Fruit Commission, for another very, very appreciated shipment of your glorious stone fruits!
Happy Friday, friends. So far today in our kitchen, we’ve made some sorghum bourbon butter pecan ice cream. For dinner, catfish and hushpuppies are in the works, likely alongside fried green tomatoes. This very second, a blueberry icebox pie is being assembled, while a strawberry crumble pie will be baked first thing tomorrow morning (both recipes from “A Year of Pies“). The ice cream and fried deliciousness is all part of recipe development and testing for my new southern pantry book while the pies will be my and Glenn’s entries at our friend Barbara Swell’s Retro Pie Contest tomorrow afternoon. I do so very much love a baking/stirring/measuring/whipping/tasting/chopping day in the kitchen!
Just a small round-up this week, of this and that’s that caught my attention:
*Butter and salt-coated radishes. So fresh. So clean. So simple. So good.
*So honored to have been included in the Garden.Kitchen.Table summit. Do yourself a favor and check it out! And if you’ve ever wondered what I look like when I’m talking to a computer screen (as dorky as you’ve likely imagined!), you can view my interview here.
*Looking forward to hosting Chris Bennett here for a few nights next week. He’s the author of Southeast Foraging, and will be giving a free lecture on foraging information from his book this coming Tuesday night at Villagers.
Alright, all that food mentioned above won’t cook itself. Back to work for me! Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!
*For this week’s “What I’m Digging” round-up, I’m sharing images of our home and property. These were taken last year, right around this time, by the wonderful Tim Robison. Tim wrote me yesterday, saying he had a bunch of images from a shoot we did together that I could have. Everything still looks almost completely the same, so I thought it would be fun to share those images here with you. Thanks, Tim!
Happy Friday, friends! As I type this, the profoundly loud, but immensely welcome, sound of drill cutting a hole into the side of our house is filling the air. A range hood that we purchased nearly a year ago (!!!) and are only just now getting around to having installed is getting duct work put through the attic. Those of you that know me personally know just how very excited this is. No more exposed wires coming out of the wall over the range, woohoo!
In other quieter, less jarring news, here’s a smattering of this and that’s that caught my attention recently:
*Nearly every post in Stony Soil Vermont reads like poetry. Brett is my kind of writer, no doubt about it.
*Sarah’s Strawberry and Honeysuckle Crush looks outta sight!
*Fantastic tips from Ashley on Meal Train Etiquette.
*I picked up some items from Melissa’s studio on Sunday for Glenn’s birthday on Monday. And then he went to her studio on Tuesday and picked up some items for our 8-year anniversary that day (the material for 8 years of marriage is pottery). It all feels very The Gift of the Magi!
*My friend Faryn told me about Field Day, dresses made out of upcycled vintage sheets. I love that they’re both environmentally friendly and adorable, not to mention have pockets (dress pockets are my JAM!).
*If you’d like to travel without leaving the comfort of home, go check out my friend Nicole’s Instagram feed. She and her friend Marley spent a week in Istanbul before heading to Barcelona a few days ago. Get ready to sigh in dreamy delight.
Alright, cutting out early to check on the range hood’s progress. Then we’re off to Marshall, NC, for the 4th annual Mermaids in Marshall parade. We went last year and had so much fun. Plus, I get to dress Huxley up as a pirate, always a good thing. We’re actually heading back out to Marshall again tomorrow, for our friend Tara’s monthly wood-fired pizza night at her bakery, Smoke Signals. Think picnic blankets, toted in coolers full of beer and wine, and kiddos running around all while the aroma of smoke and fire and yeast and cheese waft through the air. So, so good.
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 Glenn and I dig the most. This photo is from a recent visit to Hole Donuts, one of his favorite destinations. And it’s highly appropriate that I’d post it today, considering that it’s National Donut Day!
For pretty much the entire day today, I’ve been repeating a phrase silently to myself. “Pay attention to what you pay attention to.” I’ve been reminding myself, with gentle nudges, to notice and note the activities and tasks that I’m most drawn to, that bring me the deepest satisfaction and joy, that feel less like work and more like, well, like living. By paying attention to what you pay attention to, to what perks you up, gets your creative juices flowing, and comes effortlessly because it’s what you desire and crave, you do yourself a huge service. You create and carve out a life that brings fulfillment, that feels like breathing, not gasping for air.
Which totally relates to how I feel about baking this pie. I’ve made it twice in the past 5 days. When I’m baking, I’m jamming. Which is to say that, for me, baking comes naturally. It’s what I most prefer to do in the kitchen. When flour and sugar and butter and fruit and flavorings mix and mingle, I’m a happy lady.
Strawberry season is seriously in affect. I picked a flat of organic strawberries at the farm down the road from me this past Friday (for only $18, friends!). This pie was the obvious and necessary means of heightening the happiness that strawberries bring me. When I’m making pie dough, I am fully present. I’m not thinking about anything other than making the pie dough, searching for the tactile and visual cues giving me the head’s up that the dough has reached its sweet spot. It’s never an effort, or a chore, or a labor. It’s an opportunity to engage all of my senses, to get me out of my ever-loving mind, and to tether me firmly to time and place. It might look like a pie, but really, its an exercise in mindfulness.
Want to Zen out on pie-making yourself? Here you go.
Strawberry Crumble Pie (from A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies)
Makes: One 9-inch pie.
You Will Need:
-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 1/4 teaspoons salt
-1 cup butter (2 sticks), chilled and cubed
-3/4 cup ice water
-1 ½ pounds strawberries, stemmed and halved
-1/3 cup cornstarch
-1/3 cup sugar
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
Make the Pie Dough:
Mix the flour and salt together in a medium-large mixing bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, incorporate the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, but with several pea and lima bean-sized butter bits in the mix. Slowly drizzle in the ice water. Stir with a mixing spoon until the dough starts to clump.
Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface and fold it together into itself using your hands. The dough should come together easily but shouldn’t feel overly sticky. Divide the dough in half and shape into two flattened disks. Wrap each dough ball in cellophane and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Prepare the crust:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator, saving the other to use within the next few days or placing it in an airtight bag in the freezer for future use. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan. Trim the crust overhang to 1-inch and crimp the edges decoratively. Prick the bottom of the crust about 6-7 times with a fork, then place the crust in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Line the piecrust with parchment and fill it with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, and then remove from the oven, leaving the oven on. Remove the dried beans or pie weights and parchment, and cool it completely before filling.
Prepare the filling:
Combine the strawberries, cornstarch and sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set aside.
Prepare the crumble topping:
Combine the flour, salt, brown sugar, and butter in a medium-size mixing bowl. Crumble together with either your hands or with a pastry cutter, leaving pea-sized chunks of butter in the mixture. Set aside.
Assemble the pie:
Pour strawberry mixture into the prepared piecrust. Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly across the surface, packing down as needed to accommodate the entire amount of the mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, until the topping is golden brown. Cool the pie at least 1 hour before serving.