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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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what i’m digging

What I’m Digging

Huxley Ice Cream
Happy Friday, friends! I’m writing you today from my dining room table, where the windows are open, rain is falling, it’s about 68 degrees outside, and I’m comfortably wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt. In mid/late July. The forecast for the next 8-9 days calls for more temps in the 70′s and low 80′s. While the mountains of western North Carolina are known for their temperate summers, this is proving to be an especially unusual one. But when I’m still sleeping under a down comforter at night, on the second floor of a house with no a.c. in the middle of summer, I have no intentions of complaining. I know parts of the midwest had mornings in the 40′s this week. Craziness. Meanwhile the Pacific northwest is hot and battling wild fires (sending these in the line of the blaze thoughts for safety and calmer winds and rain!). It’s a wacky summer, to be sure.

Since I last posted, I had a birthday. It’s funny, with the amount of entertaining I’ve been doing professionally, for my books, come my own celebratory day, I just want things to be as low key and chill as possible. We headed up to the Pisgah Inn for pancakes and stellar views, where several dear friends met up with us. Then, with our buddy Rich, we drove to Black Balsam for a hike. A mountain bald, that spot is my favorite of the hikes and views I’ve encountered on the Blue Ridge Parkway thus far. The summer I turned 30, I took a friend with me to the U.K.. After several nights in London, and one night in Glasgow, we travelled by train to the western highlands of Scotland. Pure magic, that place, and one of the few places I’ve visited that felt so very much like “home” upon arriving. Black Balsam reminds me of the Scottish Highlands (minus the black pudding and beans for breakfast, mind you). For the past three years, this has been my birthday ritual-pancakes at Pisgah Inn followed by a hike at Black Balsam (or Graveyard Fields). It is peaceful and fulfilling in a way that seems genetically appropriate-which is to say, my ancestors hail from the very part of Scotland I visited, and Scottish settlers called this region of Appalachia home long ago, so, it is well with my soul, to be here, in this place, on the day of my birth.

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

*The cabbageworms wiped out my brassicas this year, twice over. Next year (or maybe even for my fall garden), it’s all about the row cover.

*Karen Solomon has done it again, this time with a new book on Asian Pickles.

*Love the idea of making these DIY leather earrings for loved ones.

*Baking Tara’s blueberry crisp as soon as I publish this round-up.

*Got mosquitos? Battle them by planting and growing all-natural repellant plants.

*Easiest fridge dill pickles.

*Go immediately and enter this AMAZING giveaway, offering all of these things (including a full set of my Homemade Living books series!):
1) One $200 Gift Certificate to Local Harvest
2) One “Locally Grown” t-shirt, graciously donated by Fed by Threads
3) One Preserving by the Pint book, graciously donated by Marisa McClellan
4) One set of autographed Homemade Living Series books, graciously donated by Ashley English
5) One The Art of Gardening: Building Your Soil eBook, graciously donated by Susan of Learning and Yearning

*Wonderful blog post on the Evocative Power of Hands, by my dear friend Nicole.

*Tim’s Tabbouleh is infinitely adaptable to whatever inspires you at the farmer’s market or in your garden.

*Six ways to preserve summer’s bounty (there’s much more to preserving than just canning!).

*This lovely U.K.-based crafting blog is giving away 5 (!!!) copies of my book Handmade Gatherings!

*Just discovered Dig This Chick and am seriously enjoying getting to know it.

*I need some Sweet Cherry Chutney in my life.

The forecast for rain continues all weekend. Taking Huxley to a toddler ninja class in the morning. He’ll be pumped! Then we’ll likely make a beeline for the North Asheville Tailgate Market, and the Farm & Sparrow tent specifically. I dream about their pastries all week. Glenn’s younger sister, Pam, and her three children Sophie (15), Sam (12), and Zeke (8) are visiting, so the weekend will otherwise include much cousin hang time for Huxley. He loves those kids so much, calling Sam and Zeke his brothers, or, to be phonetically specific, his “brudders” (he’s remarkably gifted at enunciation, but there are a few works he says in the sweetest kid way, this being one of them. “Brek-tist”, for “breakfast”, is another. I almost don’t have the heart to correct him. He’ll say it right eventually, but for now, brudders and brektist it is!).

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 finally discovered our amazing community pool this week (after only 7 years of living here, sheesh!). This ice cream treat at The Hop was a post inaugural swim treat (not seen, my and Glenn’s banana splits-each of us-off camera). He begins swimming lessons there on Monday and is beyond excited to swim “like a fishie”! 

*When I’m working on a new book, as I am now, I sometimes just don’t get around to posting here as regularly as I’d like. Such is life. You can always keep up with me on Instagram, though. And if you’re not on there, you can still see my captioned images by clicking on the photos on the left column here titled “Instagram.” 

What I’m Digging

Huxley Arboretum 2
Happy Friday, friends! How’s it going in your neck of the woods. Ours is sultry, sizzling, and otherwise indicative of SUMMER! Starts tomorrow, officially, though when you live in a house without a.c., it’s felt like it for weeks now. I really can’t complain, though. At night, the temperature drops enough that between the attic fan we have constantly going to suck out hot air on the second floor and fans blasting in the bedrooms, it’s cool enough to still necessitate pulling the comforter up. So, no complaining permitted.

Historically speaking, however, I’ve never been much of a summer fan. The heat and humidity kind of make me cranky and crabby and, well, loose my mojo. I’m working hard to prevent that this year, though. I’m trying, really, really trying, to embrace the heat and be wise about working with it. A symbiosis is so much preferable to a battle, right? So, in with the ice cream, twilight cocktails, watermelon, creekside forays, kiddie pools, cold baths, and fans of every permutation and out with the griping. Can I get an amen?

To that extent, instead of my regular link-love round-up here, I’m going to share what I’m digging that’s helping me keep my cool when the mercury soars, both locally and otherwise. Here we go:

*Corn on the cob (extra butter, please!) and cold salads for dinner (both veg and meat).

*Ice cream sandwiches. We recently discovered the Three Twins and are big fans. Locally, hit up the Sunshine Sammies solar-powered ice cream truck for epic eats.

*Picnics! Yes, I’m working on a picnic book, but we also regularly picnic for pleasure. Whether a full meal or a snack of jerky, apples, chips, and iced herb tea, taking your food outside can really help change your perspective on those long, hot days.

*Huxley’s kiddie pool is pretty fantastic these days.

*The bugs have big plans come summertime, too. Here’s a great DIY for naturally repelling them.

*We hopped onto the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday for a quick jaunt. We were thinking of a hike at Graveyard Fields, but it’s closed for construction (I think they’re putting in restrooms!), Mile Marker 417‘s parking lot was crazy full (likely due to G.F. being closed), and by the time we reached Black Balsam (my most beloved post on the Parkway), it was pouring rain. No matter-the drive alone was worth getting out of the house for. The fact that the temperature at that elevation was 10 degrees cooler than that at our house made the trip exactly what we needed.

*The N.C. Arboretum was where we ultimately ended up after getting rained out on the Parkway. Such a majestic place, and a wonderful resource for learning firsthand about what grows well in our area. There’s also the permanent bonsai exhibit; I have yet to meet a bonsai I didn’t love. It’s $12/car, but only $45 for an annual pass. That’s a very reasonable rate for such an inspiring, ever changing, thriving, vibrant, learning environment.

*While not directly related to summer, I couldn’t not direct you towards my friend Melissa’s new website. I love pretty much everything this talented ceramicist makes, and think you will, too! Jen helped with the spruce up and I think it looks wonderful. Kudos to you both, friends!

*Lastly, summer calls for Ice Cream Socials! The San Jose Mercury News shared recipes from the social I included in Handmade Gatherings. If you want to make some of my Blackberry Mint Ice Cream, Boozy Maraschino Cherries, and Orange Caramel Sauce (and I assure you, you most definitely do), go check out the article (also, I want to mention that the photos used in the article are not those from the book-I think they made their own versions and took some quick photos).

Got any fun things planned for the weekend? We’re prepping all day tomorrow for a new picnic shoot on Sunday, then will be heading to our friend’s house for a cookout. After Sunday’s picnic, we’re headed to Rhubarb for the Sunday Supper I mentioned in the last blog post. If any of you end up there, please do come say “hi!” I love meeting small measure readers, and just folks that appreciate good food and the labor that goes into growing, harvesting, preparing, and serving it in general.

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 totally into the Arboretum yesterday. When a storm rolled in, cutting short our time there, he started really sorrowfully saying “I’ll miss this place, in the whole wide world, when we leave.” Our boy loves natural spaces just as much as we 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! 

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!