Friday, January 28, 2011

Eco Winter Reads

Happy Friday, everyone! My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up over at Design Sponge. This week I'm weighing in with a list of titles for suggested ecologically-minded winter reads. Many of them I've read, while others are on my list. All of them are chock full of fantastically inspiring information and ideas. And all of them will help temper (hopefully) winter angst and cabin fever!

May your weekend be grand, wherever it takes you. It's supposed to be over 50 degrees F here tomorrow, which, compared to the temperatures we've been shivering through, will feel like an absolute heat wave. I've no doubt there will be folks out in town in shorts. People really like to milk the warmer winter days around here...

Be well, ya'll!

*Thanks to Grace at Design Sponge for creating the amazing collages above with images via B&N.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Everything Is Amazing

So, this is what I've been thinking about lately, and talking about with Hubs. Comedian Louis K. encapsulates the sentiments we've been ruminating over perfectly-that everything is amazing and yet, no one is happy.

Watching the Edwardian & Victorian Farm videos is what really started bringing it home for me. If I want to go somewhere, I hop in my car and, a bit of time later, I'm there, with minimal expenditure of physical labor. Ditto for washing my dishes, or my clothes, or, heck, even my car if I so choose. My food is kept perpetually chilled, or frozen. Hot, luxurious water pours (cleanly!) from my bathtub spigot! I have indoor plumbing! There are strawberries available, for the taking, at my local grocer. In January.

Certainly, not everyone on Earth has access to such modern technologies. And, as I mentioned in the Edwardian & Victorian farm post, while these technologies bring their own host of other issues to contend with, they certainly offer a standard of living (not to mention type of life) never known in the history of humankind. And that, friends, is amazing.

I, for one, am quite happy.

*Apologies for the shoddy quality of the video. That's the only form the internet seems to have it in...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Baby Love

Huxley had his first baby play date yesterday. He and Ms. Trumie Rose Roberts became fast friends, similarly grunting like goats, passing gas, overeating, and being generally adorable. The parents, meanwhile, feasted on a hearty brunch, swilled a good bit of coffee, and loafed away the afternoon, chatting about all things baby and beyond.

It was time well spent, that's for certain.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Warmth From Within

My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up over on Design Sponge. Today's topic discusses two means of warming up from within-mustard baths and ginger & honey tea. I'm feeling a tickle in my throat this morning myself, so I'm about to fire up the kettle for a big 'ole pot of healing tea. Hopefully it's just some overnight sinus stuff (our house gets cold, drafty, and dry, even with the humidifier running) and will mosey along asap.

Two other friends of mine recently became moms themselves, one of which has invited us over for brunch tomorrow (I'm hoping to see the other soon-her little boy is named "Dutch", how cute it that???). I've also joined a local momma-baby group, which has been an absolute godsend for this stay-at-home-writer/mom.

I've been feeling more and more comfortable trekking out with Huxley (who is now a whopping 11 pounds, 3 ounces as of Wednesday; he turns 3 months today, so, he's still just a little guy, but he's catching up!). He seems to really like it, as well. Yesterday we snuggled him into the Ergo and walked the length of our one-mile dirt road. Half-way there he was fast asleep!

If the weather permits, my mom (Huxley's "Gigi") will resume her Sunday visits. The snow and cold weather have prevented her from visiting since Christmas Eve. A massage therapist buddy of mine might pay us a home visit then to work on my crinkled, crumpled body, which twists into a multitude of positions overnight whilst nursing Huxley (we co-sleep, which makes sleeping SO much easier).

Be well, friends!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

They're Here!

That's my kitchen table, and those are my advance copies of my two newest books.

I can't share more now but, suffice to say, you're gonna love 'em. Big time.

Coming your way March 1st.

Blue Jean Baby

Look who's finally big enough for denim! Thanks to "Aunt" Sara for the hand-me-downs!!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Good Life

I don't know who turned Jenna onto the BBC programs "Victorian Farm" and "Edwardian Farm", but it was she who first brought them to my attention on her blog. And now, I'm hooked. As in, addicted.

The series chronicles the adventures of three modern Britons who live for a solid year in exactly the manner Victorian and Edwardian farmers once did. From clothing to farming, from cleaning methods to food processing, historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Peter Ginn and Alex Langlands tough it out in pastoral British settings, old-school style.

Their work is not for the faint of heart. From creating highly caustic quicklime to hand-washing laundry (a multi-day process Ruth eloquently describes as "flippin' hard work!"), this trio brings historical Britain to life. And while the settings and animals are beyond idyllic and bucolic, it's the labor behind processes once so strenuous that fascinates me the most (well, that and the clothes-the men's clothes, really; I just adore nice trousers and vests and a good neckerchief and would gladly step out onto the streets of Asheville any day in such a get-up).

We've really got it easy these days. Even when appliances crap out or let us down (we had a run in with our refrigerator recently and had to transfer all of our food into coolers, which we placed outdoors in the snow while the deicing happened and then, today, we had our dryer serviced, as its heating sensor was acting up), we still have the luxury of their use. Pre-electricity, all work was done by hand, or horse. Absolutely back-breaking and bruise-worthy on all fronts, looking at the incredible amount of labor then involved in the most menial of activities makes me so very appreciative to live as we do today.

It's easy to romanticize the past. I do it all the time. When confronted with it, however, in as explicit as a manner as that witnessed in these two programs, it looses its glossy grass-is-greener veneer. Only the truly wealthy of those times weren't using the sweat of their brows to just get by. And although many of today's technologies are considerably more polluting than their predecessors, they afford us a quality of life unimaginable by those living in earlier times.

We have a great deal to be thankful for. We have plenty of progress to be made, of course, in turns of cleaning up our technologies. Despite that, though, we are living in good times, times where labor-saving devices allow us to enjoy leisure and time for logic in vast quantities.

If you ever feel whiney about your current situation, check out this series. You'll count your modern blessings, while learning valuable lessons from the not-too-distant past.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Indoor Drying Racks

Happy Friday, all! My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up over at Design Sponge. Today I'm chatting about my love of indoor clothes drying racks. Save a bundle, on energy costs and carbon emissions, with these beauties!

So, we've been cloistered in again most of the week, owing to the snow. Hubs has ventured out twice for provisions and such, but, otherwise, we've just hunkered down, sipping on hot beverages, writing, cooking, and staying cozy. I'm hoping to make it to a dear friend's house tonight for her birthday dinner (she's having it catered from this place, which is so. very. good.). We'll have to see if the snow and ice on our mile-long dirt road will comply. Don't want to be slipping and sliding up the driveway with a 10 1/2-pound baby just to eat some naan, you know?

Stay warm, ya'll!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On the Radio

I know this is super short notice, but I'll be on Martha Stewart's "Morning Living with Kim & Betsey" in just over a half-hour (I was just asked to be on the show yesterday afternoon)!

If you've got Sirius XM radio, tune in at 9:30 a.m. EST while we discuss home canning in the winter.

*Image from here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snowed-in Breakfast

I started getting accustomed to long stints of being snowed-in last winter. After that first snow dump last December, we were stuck out here, sans power, for five days. As a full-time, home-based writer, staying at home is really par for the course. And so, now that winter is upon us and snow has blocked access down the one-mile dirt road to our home, we're sequestered out here once again.

I have to admit, though, that with my two guys to chat and cuddle with, a roaring wood stove, cozy pajamas for wearing to the "office" (my kitchen table) and a well-stocked pantry and fridge, I give being snowed-in two thumbs up. It's truly a glorious winter wonderland outside and there's nowhere I'd rather be.

Having a robust breakfast, cooked with love by Hubs, definitely makes the whole situation that much more enjoyable. The above plate of bliss is absolutely scrumptious. We used cheddar biscuits for the "foundation", but, lacking those, you could just as easily use toast as your vehicle (I suggest rye). Hubs has provided the recipe for this delicious repast.

Snowed-in or not, I suggest you give it a go yourself. The cheese sauce alone makes it completely worth the effort.

Snowed-in Breakfast
You will need:
-2 Biscuits
-4 poached eggs (this recipe was actually featured on Food News Journal's "Best of the Blogs")
-Collard greens with turkey sausage (recipe follows)
-Cheese sauce (recipe follows)

Collard greens with turkey sausage:
You will need:
-1/4 lb turkey sausage
-1 bunch collards, stemmed and chopped
-1 cup chicken stock
-Pinch of salt and a few grinds pepper
-1 Tbsp. butter

To prepare:
1) Cook the turkey sausage in butter over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
2) Add the collards to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, stirring several times.
3) Add the chicken stock and salt and pepper.
4) Cook for about 15 minutes till the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally.

Cheese sauce:
You will need:
-4 ounces grated sharp cheddar
-4 ounces milk
-1 Tbsp. butter
-1 Tbsp. flour
-1 Tbsp. coarse prepared mustard
-A couple shakes of Worcestershire sauce
-1/4 tsp nutmeg (fresh ground preferable)

To prepare:
1) Melt the butter in a pan over medium-low heat.
2) Stir in flour and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.
3) Slowly add the milk, stirring in a bit at a time till incorporated.
4) Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
5) Continue to stir till smooth.

For full assembly:
1) Cut biscuits in half. Toast if necessary.
2) For each plate, spoon a little of the cheese sauce over the biscuit halves.
3) Next, evenly spoon the collard green mixture over the biscuit halves.
4) Spoon a little more of the cheese sauce on top of the collards.
5) Place the poached eggs on top of collards, and top with the rest of the cheese sauce.
6) Grind a little pepper on top if desired.
7) Serve and enjoy.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Baby Got Back

Oh, my, and how. Our little one is quite the prolific poop-er and pee-er, keeping this drying rack in regular rotation.

When he first came home from the hospital, he was so very wee that not one of the numerous cloth diaper systems we'd stored up for use fit. Fortunately, as he filled out, we're now able to swaddle him up in a variety of diapers, from G Diapers, to Imse Vimse, and the locally-made, Roly Poly. I like them all, for varying reasons. And Huxley? Well, he seems to be an equal opportunity cloth diaper user, making deposits with pleasure and abandon in them all!

Stay warm, ya'll. Round two of Snowpocalypse '11 is slated for tomorrow!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I Heart Barnheart

I like what I call "add water and stir" sorts of friendships, the type of friendships that, with minimal effort, result in unions that are easy, comfortable, and seem to have existed since time immemorial. Such is the case with my buddy Jenna.

A full-time graphic designer by trade, Jenna is working towards making the eventual switch to full-time steward of her farm, Cold Antler, in Jackson, NY. With her menagerie of dogs, chickens, rabbits, bees, pig (named, appropriately, "Pig") and sheep (GORGEOUS sheep, people-check 'em out here), along with a market garden, Jenna spends her days creating images for Orvis and her early mornings, nights, and weekends tending to the needs of her 6-acre homestead in Jackson. Her blog, a much-loved source of musings and inspiration by many, many readers (it's one of my routine morning blog stops) is where she candidly shares her triumphs and tragedies, her blessings and blunders with the world.

We forged a friendship over a shared love of chickens and canning, fields of green and skies of blue. We both adore October, share birthdays one day apart, and adore the Smokey Mountains. We love our homes, we love our animals, we love our pets and families and are aware of our fortune.

The photos above showcase the contents of a care package I received from Jenna several days ago. The tiny cap she hand-knit was the first thing she's ever created with milled wool from her flock. As she describes it, "-a scrappy hat for your baby; it's far from perfect, but so real." I'd argue that it's actually spot on perfect, and real in a way that only true friendships are.

You're the real deal, Jenna. True blue. This household thanks you and wishes you a world of abundance in the year ahead.

*Wondering what the deal is with "Barnheart"? Read all about it here.

**Oh, and stay tuned for images of Peanut Sauce in his spiffy new cap....!

Winter Hair Care

Hi folks! My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up over at Design Sponge. This week I talk about homemade remedies for winter hair.

So, it's snowing again here, as I know it is in a good number of other places in the U.S. and abroad. We've only got about 1 1/2-inches right now, but much more is slated to come over the next few days. Fortunately, we've got plenty of firewood, food, and fellowship to keep us going strong!

AND...our little Hux had a weigh-in yesterday and is now a hefty 10 pounds, 1 ounce. Although that's still pretty tiny for an 11 week-old baby, he's gaining at a steady clip (around 1 1/2 ounces daily) and is looking more and more robust by the day ("Chubbers" is a new nickname...).

Wherever you are (and, by the way, thanks for letting me know where you are a few posts back; I loved learning about my global Small Measure community!), stay warm!!! We'll keep the home fires burning for you!

*Image from Lynne Harty.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I don't know about you, but I was raised in a home where manners were very big. Although my parents didn't remain together (mom and dad separated when I was 1 1/2 years old and divorced a few years later) and I lived primarily with my mother, both households placed a great deal of emphasis on politeness, graciousness, and thankfulness. I can't begin to tell you just how many times in my youth I said "Excuse me, and thank you. May I please be excused from the table?"

Being thankful (and expressing that thankfulness aloud) for things done on our behalf was paramount in my upbringing. And while it may have been done out of obligation then, it's now a trait I'm immensely grateful for as an adult, and again now as a parent. I want Huxley to be the sort of child, teen, and adult that people want to be around. I want him to be grateful for kind deeds done to him and I want him to bestow kindness onto others. In order for him to act in such a manner, it's important that his father and I cultivate that component of his character.

He's still just a wee guy, but I've begun implementing a step in the direction towards his becoming a conscientious, thoughtful, and empathic person as he ages. We do it each night and I've decided to call it our "Gratitudes." As we get into bed (he still begins each night sleeping on my chest; over the past few weeks, though, he's started wiggling mid-night, so he gets shifted beside me, facing upright, where he remains contentedly throughout the remainder of our sleep), we snuggle in, I pull the covers up over us, he cuddles his tiny head sideways under my chin, I turn on some soothing ambient music, and I begin itemizing aloud what I'm thankful for from that day. Some things are specific to me ("hot coffee"), some are related to Hubs ("Papa shoveling snow from the driveway", "Papa bringing firewood up to the house"), and some are all about him ("the Baby Gap gift card from Great-Aunt Gail").

I continue on, expressing thanks for things both mundane ("scrambled eggs for breakfast") and profound ("a fifth book deal"), until either I nod off, or I feel content and full of gratitude and Peanut Sauce has drifted off to sleep. It sets me up for an evening full of joy and thankfulness and appreciation for things both tiny and colossal in my life. I plan to keep up our "Gratitudes" for as long as Huxley enjoys them. Hopefully, in so doing I'll instill in him the same sort of profound sense of blessedness that I feel everyday, and now, every night.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Bees & Butter

Big news, folks! The third and fourth books in my Homemade Living series, "Keeping Bees" and "Home Dairy" are now available for pre-order! You can find them on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Both books will be available in print March 1, 2011, which is truly just around the corner.

I adore this series. Not just because I wrote in; in fact, not at all because I wrote it. Which is to say, the collaborative effort on the series has resulted in a collection of primers for the fledgling homesteader (and, keep in mind that "homesteader" also refers to "apartment-", "condo-", and tiny bungalow-" steader, not just those with thriving multi-acre parcels of land and log cabins) that hold your hand and guide you through the process of these food-crafting/food-keeping practices in a didactic, colorful, vibrant manner. I'd buy the whole series no matter the author.

So, spread the word! There's homemade buttermilk, ice cream, yogurt, kefir, cheese, honey, and beeswax to make, have and hold come March!

And here's wishing you a new year filled with happiness, health, and prosperity (however you define it)!