Sunday, March 29, 2009

No More Junk In the Trunk

Heard of Freecycle? It's the absolute best way to gift others with things you no longer want or need, and to keep them from choking up landfills. Case in point: I just today "freecycled" (it becomes a verb when you get onboard!) 1/2 of an old oil drum's worth of kerosene (used by the previous property owners to heat their greenhouses); the worn out  (not to mention torn and somewhat slimy with mold) plastic and shade cloth from said greenhouses; and the plywood and 2'x4''s used to cap the greenhouse ends. At no cost on my end, I might add. Find out if a freecyle exists near you and make your junk available to the world! Do you already Freecycle? Could you see yourself participating in such an endeavor? 
*Small Measure: Freecycle! Your trash is someone else's treasure. You'd be surprised what other folks find value in. 

*Image from 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Turn Out Your House Lights, Wherever You Are

I'm supporting this initiative sponsored by WWF (the non-profit formerly known as World Wildlife Fund), of whom I've been a long-time endorser. Here's the statement from their website: 

"This year, Earth Hour has been transformed into the world's first global election, between Earth and global warming. For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, races and backgrounds have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote-switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming. WWF are urging the world to VOTE EARTH and reach the target of 1 billion otes, which will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark 2009. This meeting will determine official government policies to take action against global warming, which will replace the Kyoto Protocol. It is the chance for the people of the world to make their voices heard."

It happens tonight, from 8:30-9:30. Make yourself a cup of tea, pour yourself a glass of wine, or, if you run with the underage set, have a plate of cookies with milk, and flick the lights off. Besides, everyone looks good in candlelight. 

*Image by

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Hotness

A few more scenes from last week's photo shoot. Here I am pulling a sweet potato souffle from the oven. It puffed up gloriously and went down the hatch scrumptiously! 
The edges browned just the way I'd hoped they would and, having NOT folded the egg whites in as fastidiously as I had the previous evening when prepping for the shoot, the souffle baked up perfectly. Hot perfection in a bowl, folks. 
Behind the scenes. I've always been intrigued by food photography and food styling and it was a real treat to see what the process of making food pretty for picture-taking involves. 
The strange thing sneaking into the frame at the top left is a blowtorch, used to sizzle up these pumpkin creme brûlées. While I can't share with you the final pictures (have to wait until publication next April), I can assure you that they are grand. You'll be licking the page, without shame or remorse. 

*Small Measure: Use cloth napkins. They're inherently more absorbent than their paper cousins, definitely more attractive, and don't need to be tossed in the garbage at the end of every feeding session. We keep a large range and use them at every meal. Once they become oil-stained, or have one too many enduring marinara streaks to be guest-worthy, I transition them to the kitchen cloth stash, which, in a similar fashion, I use instead of paper towels. Plus, they give you a polished edge, even if you're slurping up pizza in your jammies. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Setting the Stage

This week marked a huge milestone in the first two books in my series. In short, I finished. All of the text is complete. That feels absolutely enormous to write. This time last year, I was working in a doctor's office. Now, I've written two books as part of a series, with more to come, I get to work at home, in my jammies, with my furry brood (husband notwithstanding), and write about adventures in small-scale homesteading. No complaints.
We shot two photo shoots this week for the recipes in the "Raising Chickens" book. Above is creative director at Lark Books (my publisher), Chris Bryant, at whose home we took the photos. Here he can be seen in his natural environment,  tenderly working stylistic magic on zucchini and basil. 
My own lovey dove, chef extraordinaire, Glenn, doing his thing with eggs. 
The assistance of Ned, Chris's cat, was utterly indispensable. 
The best editor a gal could ever hope for, Nicole McConville. She edits, she makes exquisite art, she plays the accordion somethin' fierce, AND she washes prop dishes. Presenting the original renaissance woman. I call her "Freddy", my fusion of friend and editor (and it sounds much more benign than "Freditor," right?)
Going in for the shot. 

*Small Measure: Buy local. As much as possible, I'm placing emphasis in the book series on supporting local farmers and growers. Freshness really counts, in terms of quality and taste, not to mention supporting livelihoods and community viability in wherever it is that you call home. The eggs for this shot were as local as you can get, seeing as how they came from The Ladies. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Am the Cheese

I took a beginning cheese-making workshop this past Saturday at an adorable creamery about 1 1/2 hours north of here. Cynthia Sharpe is the proprietor of Oak Moon Creamery and she can make cheese like nobody's business. 
We were making mozzarella, feta, and cheddar all at the same time, so I can't tell you which cheese is hanging in this bag, but I can assure you that it tasted delicious. Turns out cheddar is both a noun and a verb-to "cheddar" is to take curds that have been drained, slice them, and sort of fold, or cobble, them back onto themselves, thus forming the tell-tale grain lines that form in cheddar cheese. Who knew? Cheese-makers/mongers, that's who!
Here you can see what is called a "clean break" being cut. This is desirable and something you look for after you've added cultures and rennet to milk. It means the cheese is turning into, well, cheese-it's firming up. 
Here's Cynthia removing the curds into a flour sac-lined colander for draining off the whey. 
Some gorgeous feta, which worked it's way into zucchini, basil, and feta frittatas made for the photo shoot of recipes in my "Raising Chickens" book. Scrumdiddlyumptious!!!! The day was perfect. It started with coffee and cream from one of the attendees jersey cow. I'd like to swim in that cream, thank you very much. It is the absolute stuff of dreams. Cynthia's mom and pop showed up at lunchtime with delicious veggie soup, cornbread, and the most horde-inducing cake you can imagine-I snuck back for seconds! And got crumbs all over me as I drove away, smashing cake into my face! Yessir! My fellow cheese-patriots were a rowdy band of women from all walks of life. It was bliss. 

I'm now completely seized with cheese and dairy fever. I want a goat and I want one NOW! Imagine the possibilities-homemade cheese, fresh milk; however, if I do get a goat, and made the aforementioned dairy products, our friends would NEVER invite us over for dinner again...we'll end up being the coveted dining/eating/feasting destination. There are worse things, though. Say Cheese! 

Monday, March 9, 2009


A flowering quince about to burst forth in scandalous bloom. 
A riot of sunshine splendor. 
Crocuses creeping out of hiding. 
The forsythia can barely contain itself. 
Tip tops of trees are budding up. 

Spring is coming. Everywhere I look I see proof. Hold on, ye winter weary. The warmth is 'a comin'. 

Small Measure: Air dry your laundry. You don't need a backyard or a clothesline to showcase your business either. If you live in an apartment, simply throwing open the windows and spreading your garments over the backs of chairs or atop windowsills works splendidly. Country or suburban dwellers, well, you've got some room, no matter how diminutive, for even the most humble of taught lines to be hung. There's such easy comfort that comes from watching your things, mentionable and otherwise, blowing in the wind. Plus, it's good exercise, what with the bending over, pinning up, removing, and folding. As a bonus, you're saving money-a perk, no doubt, but definitely not the be all, end all. Clothespins up, pin onward!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Small But Meaningful

When I originally decided to begin a blog in June 2008, I had all sorts of visions of what it would be on topically. A bit on food, a bit on gardening, a bit on crazy videos I find on youtube. Mostly, though, I wanted to somehow be didactic, informative, instructive without being boring or preachy or lame. Small measure is a term that actually sums up how I feel a life should be lived. If we take small, simple measures that allow us to treat our friends, families, and planet with kindness, generosity, and empathy, the health of all will benefit. 

To that end, I'd been meaning to leave each post with a "small measure" or a "one simple thing", if you will. Something that you can easily incorporate into your life that might impose less of a burden on the world around you, whether that be in your personal relationships, your lifestyle habits, or your interaction with the natural world. Well, dears, that time has come. Mostly, the small measures will be an additional component to the posts, not the topic of the post itself. It will be the cherry on top, not the hot fudge sundae (oh, man, hot fudge sundaes...........). Feel free to offer up some small measures of your own. I'd love to know how you all move through life with grace, compassion, and thoughtfulness. And humorous small measures are certainly always welcome, as well (i.e. never feed the dog chili...). 

Small Measure: Carry a hankie (that's a handkerchief, for those of you not down with nasal cloth colloquialisms). 'Specially this time of year, when so many folks have colds. My dad has been a life-long proponent of the hankie. Of course, you'll need more than one, as they get pretty rank pretty fast, but hankies are a much sounder choice than kleenex, environmentally-speaking. Plus, there are some pretty cool ones out there, so, depending on your predilection, you could deposit your precious nasal knowledge into a camouflaged, John Deere, paisley (Pop's choice), or floral hankie. Allow the hankie to make a statement, about your environmental AND design choices. 

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

This is what being trapped at home does to a gal. I was supposed to be at a much anticipated all-day homemade dairy products workshop. Instead, an unexpected snow storm has me sequestered indoors, planning my vegetable garden empire, catching up on outdated magazines, and learning about photo booth on my mac. The workshop was rescheduled to March 14th, so I'll eventually make my debut into d.i.y. feta, ricotta, yogurt, and kefir. 
In the meantime, I'm working on a small measure feature I'd been hoping to have going some time ago. All secrets will be revealed in my next post.....'til then, it's back to breathy descriptions of cucumbers and arugula, a forthcoming mug of hot chocolate (thanks G.!!!), and assorted and sundry "effects."