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HANDMADE GATHERINGS

 

A YEAR OF PIES!

 

HOMEMADE LIVING: HOME DAIRY

 

HOMEMADE LIVING: KEEPING BEES

 

HOMEMADE LIVING: CANNING & PRESERVING

 

HOMEMADE LIVING: KEEPING CHICKENS


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  • Such a thoughtful birthday gift from @melissaweisspottery. Been using it every morning to get sugar from the sugar bowl out for coffee. Thanks, sweet friend!
  • If you're going to help a friend with wedding planning, then this is totally the view you should have whilst doing so. Lovely afternoon sipping hard cider, eating hush puppies, and helping @shelterprotectsyou plan, with @thecuriouseye @forvillagers @toandfromwithlove and Claire Hummel at the Grove Park Inn.
  • Bonsais, I love you. @thencarboretum
  • Wild berries for breakfast, with French toast. So, so good.
  • Quilts of flowers, from yesterday's @thencarboretum excursion.
  • Misty, magical day for strolling at the N.C. Arboretum.
  • Happy Friday, friends! Got a new
  • The Land of Sky, indeed.
  • This amazing pile of all organic produce hails from Hominy Valley Organic Farm, a gorgeous plot of earth just down the road from us. Tom's prices are astoundingly good (he posts a weekly listing of what's available on his FB page). If you're in the area, Fridays are open farm days for purchasing produce. If you go, please do tell him I sent you!
  • The amazing Dave Bauer, mastermind and baker extraordinaire behind @farmandsparrow and @allsoulspizza, cradling some precious loaves for yesterday's River District Tailgate Market. Easily the best bread (and pastries, and pizza!) I have EVER had!!!
  • Warm olive salad at @allsoulspizza... That's what I'm talkin' about!
  • Amazing flora to be found up on the Parkway right now!

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Rhubarb

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You remember the t.v. show Cheers? Where Sam and Dianne and Woody and Norm and the rest of the crew would regularly convene, imbibe, gripe, revel, and otherwise enjoy the small and large stuff of life in each other’s company? Well, I’ve kind of wanted something similar in a restaurant for some time. The kind of place where the staff knows you, the food is consistently delicious, the menu seasonal and creative, and the atmosphere comfortable enough to bring a young child to. Rhubarb, friends, is that place.

After opening this past October, Chef John Fleer and his staff have consistently been hitting it out of the part time after time. I first became acquainted with the restaurant rather serendipitously. Sara Bercholz, the force behind Roost Books, was visiting this past November. She, her partner Dave, Glenn, and I were downtown in Asheville, looking for somewhere to eat. We turned a corner, saw this new place right off Pack Square, looked at the menu, and figured we’d give it a try. That fateful lunch on Black Friday sealed the deal for us. We quickly knew we’d discovered a place that could quite possibly become “ours.”

Since then, we’ve celebrated occasions both humble and grand at Rhubarb. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day meals were all had there. We also partook in a number of their Family Meals, which have since been transformed into Sunday Suppers. Every Sunday at 6:30, diners can gather at either a communal table, to pass shared bowls of food and meet (hopefully) new friends, or order a la carte, from a three-course fixed price meal ($26 adults/$13 children). Patrons will also meet one of the farmers the restaurant works with, making it a “food to farmer” experience. We were generously invited to attend  a “dry run” of the Sunday Supper two weeks ago. The menu, as is the case with most food at Rhubarb but especially at Sunday Supper, reflects what is fresh and seasonally available at area farms and farmer’s markets.

What I loved at the meal, and of all meals I’ve had at Rhubarb, is that it’s elegant without being stuffy. It’s never overly wrought, and always loaded with flavors that are delivered with an even, knowledgeable hand. Chef Fleer knows what he’s doing, that’s for sure-he was named one of the “Rising Stars of the 21st Century” by the James Beard Foundation and is a three-time finalist for the James Beard “Best Chef in the Southeast” award. His 15 year stint as executive chef at luxury hotel and resort Blackberry Farm (which boasts one of the top 20 restaurants in the country) in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, honing his craft at what he calls “foothills cuisine,” resulted in a chef today that knows how to make food taste the best it can possibly taste, all at a very affordable price point. The fact that he’s also the party single-handedly responsible for bringing Allen Benton’s “Benton’s Bacon” and hams to the forefront of the culinary world, making it now one of the most coveted, lauded pork today, further cements my feelings of admiration. Benton himself credits Fleer with bringing his bacon to the attention of celebrity chefs David Chang, Tom Colicchio, Thomas Keller, and John Besh. As Glenn put it “I feel like I met the guy that discovered Elvis!”

From clever cocktails to imaginative, exquisitely presented desserts, Rhubarb has it all. They’re offering their first Sunday Supper to the general public this coming Sunday. You can view the menu here. Though you might be tempted to sequester yourself at a table of your own (as is our culture’s dining custom), I invite you to step outside the familiar and rub elbows with new folks. Even if all you end up chatting about and connecting over is how sensational the food is, you’ll come away with a full, satisfied belly and a nourished soul, just as Chef hopes you do.

What I’m Digging

Thomas Train

Happy Friday, friends! Since my last round-up, a good deal of things have happened: Glenn had a birthday, we celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary, we photographed the 8th picnic for the book (which we actually happened to piggyback on top of Glenn’s birthday party-double duty, yo!), our friends Jen & Jon and their daughter Awynn came and stayed in their yome for 9 days, and Huxley completed Starseed for the school year. So much goodness!

Our little guy has been obsessed with all things ninja for months. Prior to that, he had a bit of a superhero phase, and prior to that, he was all about lawnmowers and trains and other things that go. Seemingly out of nowhere, about 3 weeks ago, he returned to his train love. Right around the same time, Jen gifted him with a massive collection of Thomas the Train tracks, trains, and characters that her daughters have since outgrown. Every day, for quite literally hours, he plays with those trains, sings songs from the show, and has entire conversations with the perennially cheeky Thomas and his cohorts.

I remembered hearing a long time ago about a Thomas the Train ride along one of the two local train routes. Thinking that perhaps that’d make a nice birthday gift for him in October, I checked online Wednesday afternoon. As fate would have it, Day Out With Thomas is currently happening up at Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock. So, we three Englishes hit the road yesterday, headed two hours north, and had an amazingly great time. I never thought I’d embrace character toys to the extent I have. But here’s the thing-Huxley really resonates with certain toys, and we’ve discovered, and quite quickly at that, that the more we resist his interests, or push against them, or try to re-route them or otherwise make them taboo, the more they turn into the thing that he must have! So, instead, we make sure there’s nothing completely out of line with our beliefs and the general paradigm to reality we’re cultivating with him. Once those criteria are met, we just sort of go with it.

In other news, Handmade Gatherings received a bit of love this week in the Huffington Post, courtesy of my friend Sharon Kitchens. Yay!

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

*Frozen treats to be enjoyed at home without an ice cream maker. It’s that time, y’all.

*Don’t mow that weed, eat/make medicine/drink it!

*Drink the Harvest=my idea of a perfect book.

*Imagine Childhood’s summer catalogue is out and it’s packed with wonderful items. To harken the season of heat, sun, and fun, they’re offering a $150 giveaway!

*Strawberry Crumble with Oats, Hazelnuts, and Elderflower.

*Excellent idea for a DIY vintage classroom posters.

*Glenn loves both hot sauce and fermented foods, so I’m doubly excited to make him some Fermented Hot Chili Sauce once our peppers start coming in.

*I first saw this hemp tunic on my friend Jenny. It’s pretty much everything I want in a shirt-natural fibers, durable construction, comfortable fit, and most importantly, pockets!

*Got a head of cauliflower? Here are 10 great ideas for what to do with it.

*No indoor air conditioning (like me)? No problem. Try out these ideas for keeping your cool.

Got anything fun planned for Father’s Day? We’re going out for brunch to celebrate. I wish my dad were closer. He’s in Florida, and will be here for a quick overnight visit at the end of July. Although we chat every morning at 9:30 sharp (and have since I was 5 years old, if you can believe it!), it’s never long enough. I’d love it if he could pop over for regular weeknight dinners and family jaunts. I’ll take whatever I can get, though. Now that I’m a parent myself, I value the work my own parents did raising my older brother and I beyond description. Parenting is no joke, friends. Happy day to the fathers in your lives!

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 round-ups because, truly, he’s what his Papa and I dig the most. I was so overwhelmed with happiness for him when we arrived at the railroad yesterday that I nearly started crying. I’m such a serious sap. I get the same way at parades. When others have excitement and fervor, I vibe on it, big time! 

Preserving By the Pint (+ Giveaway!!!)

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I’m not going to lie. Sometimes, even for a seasoned canner like myself, well, I just loose my water bath mojo. My inspiration goes kaput, I stare at fresh produce wondering “what? how?” and nothing comes. Sure, things like apple butter and bread & butter pickles and sweet pickle relish and applesauce and the other usual suspects will forever be in production ’round here. No problem there. Something that switches up the routine, though, that brings back the sizzle and the thrill to the entire process is truly a godsend.

Enter Preserving By the Pint. Marisa McClellan, of the award-winning canning blog and book Food In Jars, has done it again. Just as I was when her first book came out, Marisa’s new book has me oohing, ahhing, and audibly declaring “I’m totally going to make that!” page after beautiful page. There is so much inspiration here. What I think I love the most about it, though, aside from the fact that the recipe yields are small (1-2 pints or half pints, mostly), is that it steps outside of just water bath-canned foods.

There are recipes for fermenting, for quick pickles, for syrups, for salts, for granola, for pestos, and for a medley of otherwise preserving foods in jars. There are, of course, numerous creative, delicious-sounding jams, jellies, chutneys, curds, salsa, pickles, sauces, and other water bath-canned delicacies. Also included are a number of “vehicles” for your provisions, if you will, including whole wheat biscuits, jam-glazed chicken legs, vinaigrettes, and more. It’s genius, really, and exquisitely photographed (the images shown here are photographs I took of the images in the book-they don’t really do Marisa’s photos justice, but you can at least get a sense of how lovely the real photographs are).  And that Orange Cardamom Curd on pages 176-177? Mercy. Speaking my language, you are, Ms. McClellan.

I recently had the immense pleasure of jumping the digital to real-world fence with Marisa. She was on the southern leg of her book tour and made an overnight stop and demonstration at Villagers mid-April. Long proponents of each other’s works (she’s got a guest recipe in my forthcoming beverage book “Quench”, which publishes in October!), we thought it would be fantastic to give each other real world hugs and such during her stay. Marisa stayed overnight with us and even was game enough to play ninjas with Huxley, “sparring” with him, using his ninjas “weapons”, the works. She must be an awesome aunt to her nephew, Emmett, who’s right around Huxley’s age. Marisa is true blue. She’s genuine, and smart, and quick-whitted, and easy to talk to, and all the things you hope to find in someone you’re already quite taken with online.

And, best of all, she and her publisher Running Press have generously agreed to give away a copy of Preserving By the Pint to one small measure reader. Woohoo! All you need to do to enter is tell me what you’re excited to preserve. From strawberry jam (Marisa’s recipe for a honey-sweetened version has become Huxley’s jam of choice around here!) to fermented radishes (I love this recipe of hers; we’ve incorporated the slices into everything from sandwiches to frittata), I’m excited to can pretty much everything in Preserving By the Pint. This book is a serious keeper, for sure, and since it’s arranged around the four seasons, I’ll be finding inspiration year-round.

The giveaway will run for one week, concluding next Thursday, June 19th, at midnight EST. Please leave a means of contacting you in your reply, either by leaving your email address in your comment or in your comment information (which is visible only to me).

Happy canning friends, and thanks to Marisa and Running Press for helping me find my canning mojo again!

What I’m Digging

Huxley picnic 3

Happy Friday, friends! What a week it’s been! We are deep, deep, DEEP in the trenches of photographing the new book I’m working on, about picnics. While it’s obviously a whole lot of fun (I mean, picnics! In pretty settings! With good food!), it’s also been an enormous amount of work. I spent the better part of this past winter making notes and developing ideas and otherwise planning & plotting & scheming for this book, so I’m going into these 20 picnics with a pretty well carved out notion of what’s going to happen.

That said, there’s then the recipes to actually create, and shop for, and test, and re-test. There are props to purchase, or borrow. There are shoot locations to scout out. All fun, good things, but all things that take time and energy. We shot 5 picnics this month alone. Jen Altman, the book’s photographer, is also an author. She’s working on a new book of her own (also with Roost), about epic road trips. As such, she’s about to head out for all kinds of amazing travel this summer, including 10 days in Ireland next month with her best buddy, and the entire month of July away with her family. So, we’re hustling, getting as many picnics shot in and around both of our packed schedules.

Between all of that, and freelancing work, and promoting my other books, and caring for our garden, and pets, and Huxley, and the house, and trying my hardest to be a present spouse to Glenn, I am, in short, whupped. Tuckered out. Tiiiiiiiired. That’s alright, though. A rolling stone gathers no moss, right? Did I mention I have a mind to have a t.v. show, too? And a beverage book coming out in October? Oh, a children’s book series idea? And that we might like to have a second child? Gotta keep moving! Can’t stop, won’t stop this train!

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

*We attended the launch party last night for Asheville Grit, a new online magazine that serves as a collaborative collective of Asheville bloggers. I’m contributing to the publication, and am excited for all it offers. If you live here, plan to visit, or are simply interested in learning more about what people living here have to say, check it out!

*Totally have to pick up a copy of The Forest Feast.

*Gluten-free Rhubarb & Rose Cake (plus gorgeous images of flowers).

*Even if you don’t have children, this family swing project is such a good idea.

*Naturally banish bugs with these insect-repelling plants.

*Love these easy garden project ideas for kids.

*These brass hoops would go with anything.

*I love everything about Gather Journal. The writing, the recipes, the images, all of it. My sister Theo got me a subscription for my birthday last July and I’m thinking it’s a gift I’ll be renewing for myself, as well as gifting to others.

*Thinking of making boozy milkshakes this weekend (we’re having friends over tomorrow evening for burgers and shakes and a fire in the fire ring-YES!). Here’s a whole page’s worth of inspiration!

Alright, off to do a bit of housework and then hit the garden for some fertilizing love (seriously smitten with the results coming from the combo of fish emulsion and Harmony suggested to me by baker/farmer Tara Jensen). Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!

*I post an image of Huxley in my “What I’m Digging” round-ups because, truly, he’s what his Papa and I dig the most. We photographed a forest-themed picnic yesterday (you can see more images in my Instagram feed posted on the left column here), and he was seriously in heaven!  

What I’m Digging

Huxley balloons
 Happy Friday, friends! I’m back in flannel and warm slippers today, but am still able to write this outdoors, from our porch (which, by the way, is being blanketed with the most heady aroma of multiflora rose imaginable-divine!). Intense thunderstorms brought in a heap of rain yesterday, alongside colder temperatures. No complaints here.

I was able to get pretty much the entire garden planted before the storms came, which is quite exciting. At present, we have the following planted: several types of lettuce, arugula, carrots (purple ones!), beets, peas, sorrel, rhubarb, asparagus, leeks, kale, a wide variety of tomatoes, collards, red chard, cauliflower, pak choi, red & green cabbage, fennel, hot and sweet peppers, several varieties of cucumbers, Japanese eggplant, okra, broccoli, zucchini, and yellow squash. There are some pumpkins and winter squashes and marigolds to plant, but otherwise, it’s all in. Oh, and there are scads of herbs, too-cilantro, several varieties of basil, chamomile, comfrey, lemon balm, yarrow, dill, sage, Mexican & French tarragon, thyme, marjoram, oregano, rosemary (our big plant beside the house didn’t survive the polar vortex, sniff), mint, lemon verbena, stevia, holy basil, epazote, and lavender. Also, planted some  sunflowers and borage flowers.

It’s a good, big time out here, these days. I’m even learning to love the heat and humidity that this week presented earlier. That always seems to be my hangup with gardening-the heat. I get everything in, and then the heat comes and I totally wilt. This year, though, I’ve got a nice wide-brimmed hat and good gardening clogs and the intention of working in the garden before the sun crests the tree line on the mountain ridge. That’s the plan, for now. I’m beginning to think that’s part of the secret to life, lately-to just adapt and adjust and move towards the change instead of resist it. For one thing, it’s less stress inducing, and, as a result, less taxing on your body, what with all the stress hormones unleashed when we gripe and moan and complain about whatever our current situation is. I’m not advocating complacency. More like a yielding, a gentle shift in perspective. I once read a bumper sticker here in Asheville that I have since adopted as my mantra: “Bless them, change me.” We can only change our perspective, and our actions, not those of others. So, instead of saying to Glenn for the umpteenth time “It’s SOOOOOOOO hot!!!!!!!”, I’m just going to roll with it. Iced herbal teas, some blousy men’s shirts to garden in, a dip in Huxley’s pool. Just call me Cool Hand Luke.

I have a few bits of other writing to share with you today. My post in Verve is up. This month, I’m chatting about mothers and cooking and more. Also, Debbie of Tend interviewed me about Handmade Gatherings and potlucking  and homesteading and entreating and such this month.  Lastly, my recipe for Rhubarb Buttermilk Bread (from Handmade Gatherings) was selected as Just Food’s Recipe of the Month. Whoop, whoop!

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

*Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars that require only one bowl to make? I’m on it.

*I have picnics on the brain big time lately, as that’s my new book subject. Loving this roundup of dreamy picnics (thanks for sharing, Sara!).

*15 refreshing sparkling drinks for spring.

*You’re never too young to begin working on building up your cognitive reserve!

*We have a good deal of shade here on our 11 acres. Loving these suggestions for growing shade-loving (or at least shade-tolerating) plants.

*Mata Traders is a wonderful company that produces ethically crafted fair-trade garments at a very reasonable price (especially their sale items!). Loving their current dress offerings.

*Succulent cupcakes that will blow your mind (thanks to Thistle & Fern for the link).

*Prescribing parks for health=YES! (Link via Roost).

*Very excited about the remaining classes this month at Villagers (especially the Fermentation Workshop next Sunday!).

*R. Brooke Priddy is a dear friend. She and her adorable and amazingly kind husband Ryan were the models at a picnic for my book this past Monday. In addition to being an incredible all-around lady (and a 3rd generation birder, too, making her quite literally THE perfect person for a “Birdwatching Picnic”!), Brooke is an amazing clothing designer. Her speciality is gowns, especially those of the bridal and social event persuasion. She made my wedding dress back in 2007, a red silk 50′s-esque number that I love. If you need a gown, she’s your lady.

It’ll be a working weekend for me, as I’ve got another picnic to throw on Sunday. Long time readers might remember this post from last May. That’s the setting for Sunday’s picnic. I can’t wait!

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 roundups because, truly, he’s what his Papa and I dig the most. After a meal at Rhubarb recently, we headed outdoors and encountered a wonderful balloon artist. Our little man was in heaven!