Sunday, June 28, 2009

It's A Family Affair

You might have noticed I've been a bit absent around here lately. That's in large part on account of the fact that my two younger sisters were visiting from Florida for the past week. 
Part of our week's activities (to be listed below) involved the final photo shoot for the Canning & Preserving book in the Homemade Living series. I took the opportunity to teach Devan and Theo the joys of water bath canning. They rocked it like only the Adams sisters can. 
In honor of the season, and North Carolina's proximity to, well, South Carolina (well known for its peaches), we made Peach & Lavender butter. The recipe is included in "Canning & Preserving" (get ready to whip up some jars yourself next Summer, as by then, you'll hopefully have your hands on my book, slated for release April 2010).  Here the girls are using an immersion blender to render the cooked chunks of peaches into a smooth, buttery sauce. 
Theo deftly removes any trapped air bubbles in the jars with the aid of a wooden chopstick. 
Devan secured the lids and screw bands, while Theo moved on to expert (and repeated) bowl licking. 
This was the first time I've taught the craft to anyone. It felt so empowering to pass on the knowledge, and inherent joy, of water bath canning. They told me on their way out this morning that they're already beginning to feel the urge to make jam out of every piece of fruit in sight. They've got the FEVER!

Here's a run down of our week together:
-Summer Solstice potluck at a friend's house
-Lavender Festival on a mountaintop, complete with chocolate lavender ice cream, baby goat petting, and lavender lemonade
-Tour of the Biltmore House and grounds, prefaced by a forest picnic in a bamboo grove; we capped the evening with dinner and "The Hangover" at Cinebarre
-Indian food at Mela, followed up by haircuts at Adorn; next, we shopped downtown, imbibed Lychee cocktails at an outdoor cafe, and gorged ourselves on Glenn's homemade pizza
-All-day Jam Session, Jar-Decorating, and Gift-Basket Creation (for the next day's photo shoot); homemade mac & cheese for dinner (YUM!)
-Photo Shoot (We were documenting a "Canning Party", where you get together with your best pals, whip up a batch of something delicious, can it, giggle, and bask in each other's wonderousness)
-Hike through a rhododendron and fern forest alongside a creek in Montreat, followed by shopping and homemade gelato in the gorgeous postage-sized town of Black Mountain (we're already looking for real estate), and a beer with an old high-school friend at an outdoor Mexican cantina 
-River tubing on the Green River, followed by a garden, bee yard, & honey extraction tour at a friend's house, cocktails at dusk, grilled food, and late-night s'mores around the fire pit

I miss them already. My older brother and his wife came up from Charlotte yesterday to enjoy the tubing and feasting. I love a house full of family. Devan, who was infinitely gracious enough to masterfully paint our upstairs hall during her visit, is already planning to return in Autumn for more house projects and sisterly fun. We're collectively plotting for my father and stepmother to relocate to the area (got that Pops?). It officially feels like Summer! 

*Small Measure: Visit local farms. In fact, this weekend, the annual Family Farm Tour was happening. I had too much going on to attend, but we actually visited one of the participating farms during the Lavender Festival. Local farm visits, especially during Summer months, are fabulous ways to harvest produce at its peak, both nutritionally and flavor-wise.  Check out pickyourown for locations of local farms in your area. 

Sunday, June 21, 2009

World's Greatest

I can't imagine a more perfect Pop. Seen here circa 1978, probably in Virginia Beach, VA. Full disclosure: I was workin' an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini that day. Thanks Mom! 
Here's my pop with his siblings, rockin' some serious hair (he's on the far right, back row). 

Dad, you know what Jimmy, Walker, Devan, Theo and I all think of you-you're a neat freak who hates dirt. Actually, while we do think that (and love you for it), our more overarching collective thought is that you are a warm, compassionate, infinitely generous, charming, nurturing man. We love you dearly. TOP OF THE POPS!!!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

From Here To Eternity

I had the exquisite pleasure this past weekend of working on and attending a gorgeous wedding in southwestern Virginia. Here's the view from behind the wedding tent. 
My extraordinarily talented pals Jessica and Meredith of Aria Floral tricked out the site like only they can. When they asked me to accompany them for the weekend and work on this treasure of a wedding, I jumped at the opportunity. While these candid camera shots I took give you no real sense of the grandiose scale of things, they do give you a sense of place. I was too busy working to grab any shots of all we did before the wedding began. The farmhouse above was restored for the wedding and will in the future serve as a parallel Inn to the restaurant. 
Turns out, the parents of the groom, Tom and Kyra Bishop, own Townhouse, a restaurant in Chilhowie, Virginia, gaining accolades by the day. In fact, they were profiled just yesterday in the New York Times. Seriously folks, you might think I'm crazy since wedding food isn't usually known to qualify for "best meal ever," but in the case of this wedding, I can tell you without question that the food prepared by chefs Karen Urie and John Shields was the best food I have ever had. Ever. Ever ever ever. And I honeymooned in Paris, Monaco, and Rome, so that's sayin' something. Chef Urie even made nougat dipped in chocolate, which is my mostest most favorite confection of all time. And mini macarons. And apricot pates des fruits. And truffles infused with raspberry..........
After leaving their posts at esteemed restaurants Trotter's and Alinea respectively, the two chefs were wooed to the middle of nowhere and given complete creative and culinary license. The food was so delicious and innovative, in fact, that Glenn and I hopping in the car this very evening for the two hour drive back to Chilhowie. Townhouse sponsors periodic benefit dinners and tonight's topic is on the plight of the honeybee. Since the theme dovetails perfectly with my next book topic, and my taste buds are crying out for more Urie and Shields, and Glenn didn't get to partake in the feasting this past weekend, away we go! In depth details forthcoming.....

*On the bee front, I attended what was dubbed  a "Swarm of Women Beekeepers" this past Sunday afternoon at the lovely Hawk & Ivy Bed and Breakfast just north of Asheville. Twenty-four ladies showed up with victuals and libations (can you say 'blackberry mead'?), sat in a circle, and shared about our bee experiences. Being the "new bee," I mostly listened. I did make a lady-bee friend, though, and will be visiting her home and hive in a week or so. Lots of buzzness in the works, folks! 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Party Hats Optional

Dear friends, we've made it through one year together. Small Measure is officially one year old today. Thanks for allowing me to rant about leaky roofs, perfect chocolate chip cookies, naughty dog antics, and assorted and sundry flash mob videos. I've adored making digital friends and can't wait to meet more of you and learn of your own life adventures in the year ahead. In celebration, I offer you the O.G. of party times, M.C. Hammer. Were he to be made aware of this here lil' blog 'o mine, he'd unquestionably break into spontaneous dance. Stop. Hammer time. 
*I want things like this to happen to me when I'm shopping. Or pumping gas. Or getting groceries. Or anything. Life is always better with spontaneous dancing, right?
**I'd also love to hear your thoughts about topics you'd like me to write about. Aside from gold lamé hammer pants, that is. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Dog's Life

Dexter is learning how to play fetch. At present, he's pretty terrible at it. He gets the whole chase-the-ball aspect; where he fails miserably is in the return. He gets all caught up in the ball's inherent roundness and keeps rolling it back down the knoll on which our house is situated. His repeated runs up and down said knoll, coupled with the heat of N.C. in June, turns him into one tuckered out pooch. His supine stance, squinty eyes, and bared incisors pretty much tell the entire story. Here he can be witnessed in his native environment, on what I've dubbed "the Piggy throne." 

A Package Deal

This demo at Bee Field Day was on installing a mail-order package of bees. Imagine the post office's pleasure when receiving your buzzing box of 12,000 bees. 
Here's the interior of a 10-frame hive. 
Edd Buchanan, beekeeper extraordinaire, instructs a young assistant in removing the queen package from the box. 
The intrepid bee-gal places the queen box inside the frames, after opening the candy plug that keeps her isolated. 
Finally, after a thorough smoking, Edd and his trusty gal-pal released the entire package. As I wasn't wearing bee-appropriate clothing, I hung way back on the edge of the crowd. I have never seen so many bees buzzing overhead in my life. After getting their bearings, and picking up on the scent of the queen and other bees in the hive, they eventually flew into the hive. I'm so excited to learn more about the inner world of bees and bee-keeping! I've begun the process of selecting my equipment and its inhabitants. I'll let you know when my new friends arrive! 

Yes, We Can All Just Get Along

This is absolutely amazing.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Smoke Out

I spent a few hours this weekend at a nearby 4-H Club Western North Carolina Bee Field Day. I won't complain about the fact that I was one of maybe only four folks crowding the field that didn't wear white (clad in my standard dark-colored garb, I was essentially the pinnacle of all that is visually threatening to bees). Why mention of donning bee-appropriate clothing wasn't stressed in the e-mail about the event, I don't know. Why I neglected to consider this necessary step in advance myself, I don't know. So, suffice to say, I got close, just not too close. 
Wild times got underway with a smoker lighting contest. 
Here's the rowdy line-up. 
Contestants had to have their smokers lit in advance, then pick them up, puff them three times, and place them back on the ground. Winners, and losers, were judged according to how well their smokers puffed and the longevity of the smoke. I was actually grinning like a mad woman the entire time. I don't know why (I seemed to have been plagued with an overarching lack of knowledge that day), I just was. More bee escapades to come...

Good Eats

A few remaining images from last week's photo shoot for the "Canning & Preserving" book. The fig & thyme jam snuggled up in this phyllo-wrapped baked brie had everyone's mouths watering, and Jenny, the photographer's assistant, scheming of grabbing it and running off down the street, with crumbs and gooey cheese and jam smeared all over her face. 
The rhubarb on the right was from a farm in nearby Burnsville, N.C.. The stalks on the left were just-picked from Chris's yard (Chris is the Art Director at Lark books, and the owner, along with his partner Skip, of the home where the photos were taken). After misting the rhubarb, Nicole, my editor, said it was christened with "garden sweat." I choose the euphemism "morning dew" instead. Take yer pick. 
Chris torched a glaze over a game hen to make it a bit more crispy. You'll find this little bird (Chris kept calling it "Max Headroom") alongside the recipe for Winter Squash Chutney in the book. 
Finally, Nicole juxtaposes the runnyness of liquid pectin versus the powder of dry. We had a blast. One more photo shoot to go on this book, then we'll take a breather before heading on to bee photos. And speaking of bees, I attended a bee club field day this weekend at the 4-H club. Photos and anecdotes forthcoming. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Can Do Attitude

Here are a few candid camera shots from Tuesday's photo shoot for the "Canning & Preserving" book in the "Homemade Living" series. As predicted, Ned kept us all in line. 
Artful and expert sandwich arranging (this one was for Cranberry, Rosemary, & Juniper Relish). 
It was necessary to raise the roof to get the light just so. 
The money shot. 
Are you licking the screen yet? This shot was for Blood Orange & Port Sauce. YUM! More to come on Thursday!