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!).
*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.
*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!
Once upon a time, I was a Noxema girl. And a White Rain girl. And a Wet & Wild girl (also, a 3 Muskateers bar and Mountain Dew girl, but that’s another story for another day). This was years ago, when I was still in middle and high school and hadn’t yet had a fateful encounter with a friend who introduced me to a whole new way of living. That way of living and doing and being, it turned out, was an all-natural, chemical-free one.
That friendship, and the new approach it offered, left an indelible mark on me. After meeting Laura, I started paying more attention to both what I ate and what I put on my body. We parted ways when I was 16, and moved across the state with my mom and brother, but the lessons learned from her and her family’s orientation to life have left a lasting, life-long impression. I went on to work in a range of natural foods stores in my 20′s, and then later pursued a degree in holistic nutrition (as well as another in sociology).
These days, if you were to peek inside my fridge, pantry, bathroom shelves, or medicine cabinet, you’d find a whole bunch of realness. Real ingredients, and super simple ones, at that. My beauty regimen, if you could even really call it that, goes like this: wash face with water, pat dry, put on Burt’s Bees Repair Serum under eyes and Skin Fare during the day and The Dew (purchased from the recently shuttered Cisthene, sniff) mixed with pure coconut oil at night. Like I said, super, ultra simple. Make-up for me is a bit of Burt’s Bees Raisin Lip Shimmer and, if I’m feeling really fancy, maybe a tiny bit of mascara.
That’s why I love the products Ashley Smith of the The Tiny Farm Co. is producing. Based on a few acres in Arkansas, Tiny Farm Co. makes all-natural body and home care products, all by hand. Whether you’re looking for an all-purpose soap cleaner, pet shampoo, bar soap, lip balm, wooden spoons, knit goods (coming soon!), or fresh eggs or veggies (if you’re local), The Tiny Farm Co. has a lovely natural item for you. My personal favorite might just be their coconut oil bar soaps. Available plain or scented with lemongrass, sweet orange & pomegranate, or cedar wood, these soaps produce a thick lather and are deeply moisturizing. I speak from experience, as Ashley very generously sent me a package of goodies to sample, including three bars of soap, a tube of coconut oil lip balm (so, so good!), and some beautiful hand-burnished wooden kitchen spoons.
Now’s your chance to experience Ashley’s wonderful products for yourself! She’s offering a Tiny Farm Co. care package to one lucky small measure reader. The package, shown above, includes: one bar of Coconut Oil Lemongrass Soap, one bar of Coconut Oil Tea Tree Soap, one bottle of All Purpose Liquid Soap, one tube of Coconut Oil Lip Balm, and one set of burned spoons. How fantastic is that? To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment sharing your favorite body care product. In addition to nicely scented body soap, I really, really love bath salts. So nice to slip into the tub and soak away whatever ails you.
I’ll run the giveaway for one week, concluding May 21st, midnight EST. Please be sure to leave a means of contacting you in your reply, should you be the winner (email addresses are visible only to me when you’re logged in for commenting, unless you write it as part of your comment).
Even if you don’t win, Ashley’s got something for you. On the website, she is currently offering a free gift with any order over $25. I’m telling you, those coconut soap bars are not to be missed!
Thanks, Ashley, and best of luck to you, dear readers!
Lately I’ve been thinking about the sublime. The divine. The ineffable. The awe-inspiring. The thing(s) that transcend explanation and move and shift us, tapping deep into the recesses of our brains and pulling us out of our stupor and into ecstasy, even if only for a fleeting second. It could be the dart of a hummingbird, or appreciating the ability of an ant to move amounts vastly exceeding their own body weight. It could be the fragrance of a Lily of the Valley, and its crescendo of tender white bells. It could be the sight of your child’s hair, messy and turbulent and everywhere, unkept and tangled and yet, balanced and, even, perfect. It could be a string cover of “Such Great Heights.” Whatever it is that jolts you, and stirs you, and moves you into a moment of silent reverie, that’s what I’m interested in right now. Being stirred, within.
In other news, here’s what caught my interest this week:
*Sarah’s recent trip to Europe definitely seems to have stirred her.
*The magic and appeal of outdoor schools (like Huxley’s!), or “You Can’t Bounce Off the Walls If There Are No Walls.”
*Want to eat the view? Here are 42 flowers you can eat!
*Oh, lavender, how do I love thee? Here’s how to grow it anywhere.
*My dress crush is on sale!
*Interested in helping the honeybees? These 13 organizations and initiatives are doing just that.
*How brilliant are Wright Kitchen’s food gradient images?
*I really need this hat.
For those of you celebrating Mother’s Day this weekend, I wish you, and your mama, a wonderful holiday. Relationships with our mamas are wrought with emotion, aren’t they? Some are super fantastic, while others are best left unmentioned. No matter what yours is like with your own mother, or with your children, should you be a mother yourself, I wish for you a day filled with whatever it is that you most enjoy. As for me, I’ll be celebrating with my mom and grandmother tomorrow, hopefully via a picnic at Lake Louise in Weaverville if the weather cooperates. And on Sunday, Glenn, Huxley and I will be enjoying an early brunch at Rhubarb, who began serving Saturday and Sunday brunch only a few weeks ago. 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” round-ups because, truly, he’s what his Papa and I dig the most. We visited Jack Young Greenhouses this afternoon, or what Glenn and I think of as our “happy place.” It’s so lush and abundant and affordable in there that we often go a bit crazy with our purchases. Our little guy has gone there so frequently that he seriously digs it, too.
Okay, friends. Truth time. This parenting gig? It’s hard. Really, truly, sincerely hard. Infinitely rewarding, though, because caring for them forces you, in the process, to become a better person, your “higher self”, if you will. That said, keeping your cool while they’re loosing their minds, or whining in a way that would make Urkel stand up and applaud, or just handling bathroom issues or blood sugar crashes or dirty, muddy clothes can be taxing, for anyone, even those super moms in our midst.
Because of that, I have a newfound appreciation for both of my parents, especially my mother. My parents split up with I was 1 1/2 years-old, and divorced several years later. That left mom caring full-time for both me and my 3 year-old brother (we’re 21 months apart). Caring for Huxley is challenging enough with Glenn around, but raising two toddlers, by yourself? Well, I can only imagine the tired nights and weary days mom must’ve endured. The upside is that she loved us to pieces, and still does (she likes to hold my hand and give me hugs and kisses in public, despite my protests of “Mom! I’m 37!”; I’m fairly certain I’ll be doing the exact same thing to Huxley until my very last breath).
Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday here in the states. I think Handmade Gatherings would make a fine gift to your hard-working mama, or grandmother, or wife, or sister, or baby mama, or any woman in your life with little ones, really. Shameless self promotion? Sure! But, also, as a hardworking mama myself, this is exactly the kind of gift I’d love to receive this holiday, had I not authored it.
Not only are the recipes tried-and-true, honed in my own kitchen, the entire spirit of the book is about collaboration. Busy mamas can still have epic gatherings and feasts, only in my book, they needn’t do it all themselves. Food, decor, crafts (if that’s your game-no big deal if not, just skip that component of the gathering)-it’s all pulled off together. Moms can have their get-togethers and not feel like they’re going to collapse from anxiety, fatigue, and an empty bank account once the guests depart.
To all the mamas of the world, I salute you. Mothering is hard work, and you deserve every good thing that comes your way!
Happy Friday, friends! Hope your week has been glorious. I’ve been reading, and writing, and planning, and cooking, and doing all kinds of things book-related and non. Mostly, I’ve been outside. The cold weather seems to have finally passed, so the garden and I have been having some serious one-on-one time.
There are now 20 strawberry plants, four big rhubarb plants, an asparagus bed filled with spears, sorrel that’s returning in force, and other beds containing pak choi, cauliflower, collards, red chard, kale, cilantro, and leeks. The peas and beets Huxley and I planted several weeks ago are coming up, and there’s still some red & green cabbage and broccoli waiting to be planted. All 17 of the blueberry bushes have flowers on them, and it looks like the 4 blackberry and raspberry canes will bear fruit this year. The garden is jamming and I am PUMPED!
I’ve been thinking a good deal about intangibles and indescribables lately. Those things that one simply has to experience to understand, that words fail to describe. I was talking about this yesterday with a longtime friend of mine, a fellow writer and mama. The irony that we were attempting to talk about the things that are nearly impossible to use language to detail wasn’t lost on us.
Specifically, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a parent, and to parent. None of the books you’ll read before becoming a parent quite prepare you for the intangible aspects of the task. Sure, you can read up on cloth diapering and nursing and homemade remedies for colic, but nothing describes just how tired you’ll be and how challenged and exhausted you’ll be and how amazingly, intoxicatingly in love you’ll be, because they can’t. Sometimes, I’ll see another mom looking at her child, or struggling to open the door to a store with a wiggling baby and a shopping cart, or managing a full-on thermal meltdown in public and I’ll simply know what she’s experiencing. Or I’ll look at Glenn when Huxley has done or said something incredibly kind or sweet or dear and know exactly that we’re experiencing the same, well, “heart swell” I think I’ll call it.
This also applies to relationships that aren’t parental in nature. When you meet a new friend and you just “get” each other (right, Sara?). Or when you and your partner/significant other are immersed in total silence and complete understanding as you watch a sunset. It’s a state of being, and less a state of mind. It’s when your heart becomes your head and you learn to experience life in an entirely immersive way. That. That’s what I’ve been thinking about. Again, it’s hard to think about because it’s such an epiphanic/revelatory kind of experience. Like when someone asks how you know you’ve found your true love, and you reply that you just know. I’d like more knowing, and less thinking. More oneness and less fragmentation.
Annnnnnd, in less inside the folds and contours of my brain news, here’s a smattering of this and that’s that caught my attention this week:
*Our garden has 14 raised beds (mountain clay and rocky soil don’t always make for the choicest planting!). I love these ideas for DIY beds.
*I’ve long been a Lillet fan. David Lebovitz explains the magic of this apertif.
*Great suggestions for natural remedies for embarrassing health concerns.
*This rhubarb galette will totally be happening in my kitchen.
*Speaking of rhubarb, Marissa has 10 suggestions for preserving it.
*It’s all too easy to take remarkable things for granted, once you’ve become accustomed to them. Watching these two senior women fly for the first time is so wonderful (tear jerker alert!).
*Leigh Anne is a waxed canvas ninja! Her lunch bags are gorgeous!
*Looking for a pair of open, low-heeled clogs to wear this summer with skirts and dresses. These are cute (got any other recommendations?).
*These Italian sodas are beautiful. Bet they’d be nice this summer, maybe mixed with a little something-something for cocktail hour.
Locals! Tomorrow is the Hard To Recycle event. If you’ve got some huge pieces of cardboard, or batteries, or electric bits and bobs that you just don’t know what to do with, bring them here!
I’ll be heading to Charlotte bright and early tomorrow morning with my mom and Huxley (lucky Glenn scored Faryn‘s ticket to Moogfest, so he’ll be sticking around town and having a dad’s day off; more than a wee bit envious that he gets to see M.I.A.!). We’re going to my nephew’s first birthday party and then I’ll be heading over to Park Road Books for a reading and signing. If you’re in the area, come on out and say howdy!
Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!
*I typically 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. This week, though, I decided to mix it up. We hosted our own personal book launch event for Handmade Gatherings here this past Sunday. The Good Egg is an egg-based gathering in the book, filled with potluck suggestions for egg-centered dishes, egg decor, egg crafting, and egg games. So, so much fun.