Happy Friday, friends! Right this moment, my mom and Huxley are upstairs giggling and whispering, our German Shephard Fly is on the floor to my left snoozing gently, and every tree within view just outside the window next to me is excitedly flapping courtesy of a robust breeze. It’s chilly out, not quite 60 degrees, with a fair amount of cloud cover but just enough blue peeking thru to let you know that warmer weather is in store. My stomach is full and satisfied, bowled over by “green” eggs & ham, scrambled eggs riddled with homemade ramp and wild garlic scape pesto served alongside hot ham and my buttermilk biscuits. I’m feeling fine.
Here’s a quick little smattering of this and that’s that have caught my attention lately:
*Glenn and I both have been completely captivated by Mildred’s Lane and everything taking place there since first hearing about it several years ago. The lineup of projects on offer for 2015 is seriously stellar, especially the Attention Labs.
*Want to check out some of these female podcasters Grace suggested.
*Introduced Huxley to Enya the other night (it was bath time, and it called for Orinoco Flow). Some loves never die, like my love of Enya. Watermark was pretty much the soundtrack to my entire 15th year of life.
*While I’m reminiscing about music discovered at a pivotal age, I’ll share this little gem that I listened to obsessively. Whilst burning Nag Champa. And often practicing Martha Graham or Twyla Tharp dance moves. Because, well, because that was me at 15/16.
*Very much liking this lovely little milk bottle match striker.
*Superfolk: Discover nature everyday. I would very much to become their best friend, and walk alongside them on their wild Irish shores.
*These earrings by Amy of Agate and Elm are so, so lovely.
*Been slowly savoring my friend Tara’s new book Orchard House for the past month. Lovely prose, vivid imagery, rife with lessons on growing, both ourselves and gardens. Treat yourself to a copy.
*Have recently discovered doTerra essential oils and am very much a fan.
This weekend is full of wonderful things to do if you happen to be in the area. We look forward to both the Asheville Herb Festival and the Artisan Bread Festival all year, and both are happening this weekend. Highly recommended, despite the heavy car and foot traffic and the inevitable complete emptying of one’s wallet that ensues.
Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!
*This photo Tim Robison took of Huxley and I is from last year. Amazing how much my little buddy has changed since then, and how much he’s also remained completely the same.
There are some activities in life that are best experienced, instead of described. For example, you might have a sense of what it is to love someone, but until you’ve actually done so, you don’t fully know what love is, with its one-two punch of ecstasy and agony. Or, take the funky aroma-ed liquid that is fish sauce. You might’ve read about it in a Vietnamese cookbook, or heard your sister talk about her profound aversion to it, but until you’ve tasted it for yourself, there’s really no way to fully convey the power of fish sauce (for the record, I love the stuff).
This is the case with writing a book. I’m actively working on my 9th right now. It’s hard work, friends. There’s the enormity of holding a book’s entire concept in your mind in advance, and then figuring out how to translate your rough ideas into words that fully convey the essence of whatever it is you’re discussing. There’s a huge amount of self discipline, a fair dose of stress (every single time I send off a manuscript to my editor, I get an eye twitch that lasts for about a month, or longer. Every single time.), and an inevitable “I don’t want to work on this any more!” moment. But, in the end, there’s the book itself. It is a battle hard fought and wholly worth winning.
Four friends of mine recently crossed the finish line on their own books. Having friends that write books is kind of like having friends that also have children, if you too have kids. Or that are colleagues in a field of study that is a bit esoteric and difficult to decipher to the uninitiated. Or like being a huge fan of The Matrix (raising hand) and being able to totally geek out with fellow Matrixians (is that even a thing? It is now). You get each other. You feel each other’s victories and challenges in ways others don’t. Authors of the world, I salute you. Bringing a book to life is no joke.
**The CSA Cookbook: No-Waste Recipes For Cooking Your Way Through A Community Supported Agriculture Box, Farmer’s Market, or Backyard Bounty, Linda Ly (Voyageur Press).
Have you ever been faced with a bounty of produce, either because you subscribe to a CSA, or you went a bit wild at the farmer’s market, and ended up stumped by how to use it before it goes bad? Then this is the book for you. It’s also the book for anyone that ever held lush, green carrots tops or the green rind of watermelon in their hand and felt that there must be a better final destination for them than the compost pile. In The CSA Cookbook, Linda (also known as Garden Betty on her award-winning blog) provides a wealth ideas for using up produce in delicious and innovative ways. Chapters include: The Basics, Tomatoes & Peppers, Leafy Greens, Peas & Beans, Bulbs & Stems, Roots & Tubers, Melons & Gourds, and Flowers & Herbs. I’m especially interested in her ideas for bits of produce otherwise discarded, like that gorgeous Watermelon Kimchi in the second photo. The photos are beautiful, her tone approachable and encouraging, and the recipes imminently inspiring. Get this book for yourself and anyone you know that loves cooking! And do be sure to check out the book’s beautifully filmed trailer. It’s sure to get you excited about the season of growing we’re moving into and Linda’s suggestions for making the most of it!
**Drink the Harvest: Making And Preserving Juices, Wines, Meads, Teas, and Ciders, Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest (Storey Books).
I first met Nan and DeNeice this past August, when we were set up at the same table to sign books for the annual Asheville Food & Wine Festival. But before I physically met them, I’d already heard about their book, and knew that they both lived in the area. Getting to meet them and hear about the book’s creation and process enriched my already existing admiration for what they had produced. Drink the Harvest is just the sort of book I’m most drawn to. It’s full of step-by-step process shots and clearly written instructions on how to grow, harvest, and create fruit and vegetable-based beverages. Juices, teas, syrups, wines, meads, and more are all accounted for. The artistic direction is really thoughtfully done, too, with pages that look juice-stained, as well as with backgrounds of cheesecloth and paper towels. Not least of all, I was especially excited to learn that the photography was done by husband and wife photography & food styling team Johnny and Charlotte Autry. The Autrys are the Asheville-based dynamic duo that I’ll be working with on my newest book (an image from the Drink the Harvest is the third one above). I am beyond thrilled that Glenn and I have the chance to partner with this award-winning couple! Nan and DeNeice’s book would be a lovely gift for someone that is into making homemade cocktails, or a friend that perhaps has a home with room for growing fresh produce, or anyone, really, that likes to entertain and enjoys serving homemade, from-scratch beverages to their guests.
**Sorghum’s Savor, Ronni Lundy (University Press of Florida).
If you enjoy southern foods, then it’s highly likely you’ve already heard about Ronni Lundy. Considered by many to be the current grand dame of all things edible and southern U.S., Ronni really is all she’s lauded to be, of this I can personally attest. It could be argued by many that all they really needed to know about southern food they learned from her. A founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance (of which I am a proud member), she has authored several books and written countless articles on the topic of southern foods, including her newest, Sorghum’s Savor. For those that aren’t terribly familiar with sorghum (also sometimes referred to as “sorghum syrup”), it’s a type of grass (see the 4th photo from the top), from whose canes a syrupy sweetener is rendered. Preceding WWII, it was the predominate sweetener used in the southern U.S.. Its extraction, however, is labor intensive, and declining farm labor following the war resulted in a massive decline in production. It is still very much alive and kicking, though, manufactured by a handful of small producers. Ronni schools readers on sorghum’s history and production methods in her book before offering a wealth of recipes for its use. Chapters include: Basics, Breads and Breakfast, Soups, Salads, and Dressings, Fruits and Vegetables, Main Events, Drinks and Nibbles, and Sweet Treats. As a lifelong lover of pecan pie (it’s the very first thing I ever baked, at age 8) typically put off by any version other than my own owing to its often cloying sweetness, I’m especially interested to try out Ronni’s Sorghum and Bourbon Pecan Pie. Not a drop of corn syrup in sight! This book would be ideal for anyone interested in replacing sugar in their diet with a natural sweetener, anyone that grew up on sorghum and wants more of it back in their life, or truly anyone that loves cooking and is looking for ways to expand on their ingredient offerings and culinary repertoire.
**One Hour Cheese: Ricotta, Mozzarella, Chèvre, Paneer-even Burrata. Fresh and Simple Cheeses You Can Make In An Hour Or Less!, Claudia Lucero (Workman Publishing).
Claudia and I first made each other’s acquaintance back in 2009. I was working on my book “Home Dairy.” All four of the books in my Homemade Living series (Canning & Preserving, Keeping Chickens, Home Dairy, and Keeping Bees) profile individuals that are somehow engaged in the book’s topics, either for profit or pleasure. An internet search on homemade dairy products turned up Claudia and her business, Urban Cheesecraft. I ended up profiling her for the book, and we’ve remained in touch ever since. When her own book on making cheese at home came out recently, I knew I’d return the love that she’d shown me all those years ago. One Hour Cheese is a wonderfully written, beautifully photographed, clearly outlined introduction to making simple cheeses in under an hour. The book includes 16 cheeses divided under headers of Creamy and Spreadable, Firm and Chewy, and Melty and Gooey. In addition to excellent process shots (an absolute necessity for any DIY newbie, regardless of the topic, I’ve always felt), I love that Claudia includes serving suggestions for each cheese as well as a cheeseboard for all 16 offerings that asks “How Easy Is It?” and then presents information on the required skill level, how long until the cheese is ready to eat, its yield, suggested uses, recommended milk, and additional bits of information worth mentioning. I had the pleasure of actually meeting Claudia and her business associate Colleen in person a few weeks ago, when they were in town for the Mother Earth News Fair and came over for dinner. She’s just as lovely, kind, compassionate, and considerate in real life as her writing voice conveys!
Let’s hear it for the ladies! If you’re looking for new adventures in food-making, or great gift ideas for Mom, graduates, Dad, and beyond, look no further. These labors of love are guaranteed to please!
I am beyond excited to finally share some huge news with you today! Announcing my much anticipated collaboration on the “Small Measures” line at McDonald’s. Each dish, made by a real Southern grandmother in the back of all southeast US McDonald’s, will feature organic, hand-picked, seasonal, local ingredients. The menu debuts today, and is only available for a limited time.
First things first. There was thunder here early, early this morning, just before daybreak. Thunder, friends. Spring thunder is my favorite kind of thunder. Less out of context than winter thunder (which is just unnerving), and considerably less threatening and ominous than summer thunder, which always makes me (and the dog) unduly edgy. Spring thunder, you see, is a loud, reverberating promise of growth, and rebirth, and renewal. It’s as though the peepers, and the asparagus stalks, and the forsythia, and the tulips all agreed to dance and undulate and pulsate together in the soil and festively, finally banish winter. I’ll take it. Spring thunder, for the win.
We went to Florida! And saw family! And flamingoes! And banyan trees! And Mickey Mouse! We also, most inconveniently, picked up a stomach bug during the trip, but let’s just not focus on that, agreed? It was great to get away. It was lovely to see my legs and my toes again, as well, after so many months of cover. It was nice to head out without a coat. And then we came back and it snowed this past Saturday and we had to fire up the wood stove again. But, THUNDER!
Here’s what’s got me jazzed right now:
*OWL is killing it with her weekly offerings and musings. If you’re local, Susannah needs to be on your radar and on your kitchen table.
*Keeping this in mind at all times as my springtime mantra.
*I’ve been on a major spring cleaning blitz since returning home from Florida (months of life with a wood stove will do that to a person). Here’s a post I did a ways back for Design Sponge on homemade spring cleaning products. About to give my silver jewelry a much-needed cleaning.
*Glenn bought me this perfume for Valentine’s Day. Earl Grey + Bergamot. It. Is. Everything.
Whatever this week brings, just remember, thunder.
It’s been ages since I last did a round-up, so I figured no time like the present to get back in the saddle. These days it’s all about blooms and my buddy (showing me his “muscles” and his hair that I kept meaning to get cut and that has somehow, of its own accord, now morphed into a pretty amazing rendition of the hairdo Matt Damon deftly sported in Behind The Candelabra, yes? YES!). Those flowers and this face are all I need to get me out of the winter doldrums and back into my groove.
Here’s a smattering of this and that’s that have caught my attention recently:
*If you use social media at all, you should read this post.
*These easy DIY flower print paintings would be a great way to brighten up a rainy spring day.
*Glenn and I are going to our first Blind Pig dinner tomorrow night. Blind Pig is a local underground supper club. Tomorrow night’s event is a tribute to Edna Lewis, pretty much the Grande Dame of southern cooking. We are over the moon excited!
*Not just for your morning cuppa: 15 household uses for coffee grounds.
*Hoping to score some fresh-off-the-tree Meyer lemons when we head to Florida next week. Would love to use them in this Meyer Lemon Ginger Concentrate for homemade sodas.
*Really loving this moon phases necklace I purchased recently from Agate & Elm.
*Discovered N.C.-made Cackalacky beer a month or so ago. I’m not typically a canned beer fan, but this one has me in its clutches. I mean, it has ginger in it, so, as a equal-opportunity-ginger-lover, I pretty much have to like it.
It’s going to be close to 60 degrees here tomorrow. I almost don’t want to write that, as I know that a good deal of the country is still plowing thru winter weather. Hang in there!
Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!