Monday, February 28, 2011

A Family Affair

The paternal side of my family is rather large. My father was one of 8. My grandmother ('Gran') has 22 grandchildren. I have 4 siblings and 17 cousins. When get-togethers happen up around Philadelphia (where everyone aside from my dad lives), it's a big, noisy, raucous affair.

Since we live so far away, though, it doesn't happen as often as I'd like. So, I stay in touch with siblings and cousins (and second cousins and aunts and uncles) via e-mail and phone calls and Facebook. One cousin that I've remained particularly close to over the years, though we've never even lived remotely close to one another, is my cousin Keri.

Her mom, my Aunt Lynn, is arguably the most creative of my dad's siblings. A one-time designer of high-end girl's dresses, Aunt Lynn has done everything from floral design to serving as a private chef to catering events and more. She's an excellent seamstress and her three children went on to embrace the arts as adults (Keri is the only person I've ever met who double-majored in math and art, while her sister studied sculpture and her brother is a musician).

As a stay-at-home-mom to Addison, Ella and little Izzy, Keri's been looking for work that allows her to tend to her trio while satisfying her creative leanings. Enter Too Cute Custom Crafts. This new Etsy shop is full of lovely place mats, with cloth napkins, baby-sized quilts and kid-friendly fiber toys on the way. The quilt shown above was a "Nugget" gift for Huxley. It's absolutely gorgeous and one of my preferred surfaces for working on "tummy time."

Keri is running an introductory 10% off sale to get her site up and running. To redeem the discount, enter the code NEWSHOPBLOG10OFF at check out. Here's wishing Keri and her clan a world of success!

*The top image shows, from left to right, Kristy (Keri's older sister), Keri, and myself, all sitting with Gran. I don't have an exact date, but I'm guessing it's from around 1978.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Orange & Vanilla Marmalade

Hi everyone! My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up over on Design Sponge. This week I provided my recipe for Orange & Vanilla Marmalade. It's some seriously good stuff and is a fabulous means of using up all of the heavenly winter citrus fruits in season right now. What you might not be able to see in the photo above are all the flecks of real vanilla bean peppered throughout the marmalade. Those tiny beans take this topping from "tasty" to "sublime" in an instant. I'd highly recommend incorporating it into your breakfast, brunch, snacks, or night-time nibbles this weekend.

Fly & Dexter (our German Shepherd and Black Lab) head to the vet for their annual check-ups tomorrow. I'm hoping to make some progress on my newest book over the weekend, while eagerly awaiting the official publication of my third ("Home Dairy") and fourth ("Keeping Bees") this coming Tuesday. Oh, and for those of you with SiriusXM satellite radio, I'll be on Everyday Food on Martha Stewart Radio that afternoon (more details to come, soon as I get them!).

So, lots of tea-sipping, recipe testing, baby cuddling, dog-petting, husband-appreciating and more to happen around chez English this weekend. Wherever you are, whatever you end up doing, here's wishing you and yours a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Homemade Living Love

If you'd like to win copies of my books, a few bloggers are giving away copies. Thanks to Deanna over at Crunchy Chicken, who's sponsoring giveaways of both my "Keeping Chickens" and "Canning & Preserving" books, as well as to Tigress, who's got a hot-off-the-press copy of "Home Dairy" to give away.

Thanks for the love, ladies!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gifts Gone "Wild"

Last week I received an e-mail from Susan over at BlaBla Kids, saying she'd love to send Huxley a gift. I was unfamiliar with the brand, so I took a minute to check out their website. I've been contacted many times in the past by companies interested in sending me their products, and, typically, I thank them for their interest and politely turn them down. BlaBla was an exception, however, and one I'm willing to make for any small enterprise working towards ethical production of goods that resonates with me.

Based out of Atlanta, BlaBla's entire collection, including those adorable dolls (named "Bandit"-the raccoon-"McNuttie"-the squirrel-and "Wink"-the owl), is designed by Florence Wetterwald and handcrafted by Peruvian artisans using cotton and other fibers grown in Peru. Florence and her staff maintain a close relationship with their Peruvian production team, ensuring each other's mutual satisfaction and continued ethical livelihood.

As you can see from their site, BlaBla's products are creative, colorful, whimsical, playful, and very well made. Naturally, it was impossible for me to choose anything, so I wrote back, thanking them for their generous offer and simply mentioning that Huxley's nursery had a "Forest" theme, to reflect the setting of our home (as well as his middle name, "Wild", which, friends, let me tell you, he is; oh is he EVER! He already literally "ROARS!!!" to get our attention). I hardly expected the immensely generous package of goodies that arrived yesterday. Along with the dolls, Susan set the hat and booties Huxley is wearing above, as well as the adorable sweater and pants, which he'll fit into around 12 months of age (next October; the timing is perfect for such an outfit!).

Thank you Susan, Florence, and everyone at BlaBla. I am beyond appreciative for the items you sent Huxley. Furthermore, I'm so very grateful for businesses such as yours, working towards offering ethical, fulfilling livelihoods for all of those involved in the items you offer. It's a business model to be both lauded and emulated.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Little Book That Could

HUGE congratulations to the photographer of my "Homemade Living" book series, Lynne Harty. As you can see above, her expert eye landed her an ADDY, the advertising world equivalent of an Oscar, for her hand in my "Keeping Chickens" book.

Muchly deserved, Lynne. Muchly deserved.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Window Cold Frames

Happy Friday, all! My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up on Design Sponge. This week I discuss making a cold frame for spring plants using old windows.

I'm super pleased with how ours turned out and can't wait to get busy filling 'er up with seedlings. I'm looking at the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalogue as I type. What a temptress! That catalogue could put me in the poorhouse if I ordered everything from it that catches my eye!

The weather has been amazing here the past few days and this weekend promises more of the same. Daffodils are starting to pop up all around our property, the birds are chirping like they've got all sorts of winter grievances to air, the frogs in our pond just started croaking today, and both of my beehives are seriously abuzz. Huxley and I just returned from a walk down our driveway to retrieve the mail and I could literally smell spring in the air.

Have a fabulous weekend, wherever it takes you!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Answer, My Friend

Is blowin' in the wind.

Gorgeous weather abounds! It's been lovely since Saturday. What a pleasure to be able to use the clothesline again. Because Huxley certain shows no signs of slowing down his, ahem, "production"!

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Funny Valentine

What a difference a year makes. One trip around the sun ago, Hubs and I trudged through our snowy driveway, dressed in our finest, to enjoy one of the most memorable meals we've ever shared, at Asheville's The Admiral. We stashed our "fancy" shoes in a satchel and made our way down the snow-covered dirt road in snow boots, guided by the dim glow offered by a fading flashlight and a sliver of moon. Once at the car, we changed into heels and loafers and set out for an epic evening.

A year later, we're enjoying over-easy eggs on rye bread with strong coffee at home in our p.j.'s with our favorite Valentine. In our home, gestures of love happen on a daily basis. They come in the form of a scratch-made plate of the best sloppy joes you have ever tasted (made with local pastured beef and served alongside purple sweet potato fries, to boot!). They're evidenced in freshly laundered clothing lovingly folded and put away. They remember each others preferences, predilections, strengths and assets and capitalize on them.

Sure, there are profound, grandiose, sweeping gestures of affection. And they're mighty appreciated. We love the little things the best, though. The hot mug of tea or coffee made every morning, doctored up in just the way he likes it. The delicious stews, seasoned with my favorite herbs. The small measures because, you know, that's what it's all about.

From we three Englishes, with love.

*Thanks to my abiding, oh so dear, much adored friend Bonner for the adorable onesie Huxley is sporting above, pictured with his Gigi (my mom) yesterday.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I'm Smitten

With this book, Grow Your Own, Eat Your Own.

Written by Bob Flowerdew (with a name like that, how could he really chose any livelihood other than gardening?!), Britain's leading organic gardener, the book is a visual and informational feast. Flowerdew discusses growing (or foraging) produce and then offers tips and recipes for preserving the harvest, via canning, rendering into liqueurs, smoking, drying, cellaring and much more. Highly recommended!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Hi, friends! My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up over at Design Sponge. Today I tempt you with a recipe for homemade chocolate peanut butter cups. Be forewarned, though. They're seriously good and, thusly, seriously addictive. My suggestion? Make the full dozen, keep 2 or 3, and give the rest away to loved ones, the mail man, complete strangers. Anyone, really, just to get them out of your house.

Have a great weekend! It should be a warm one here, so I'm looking forward to getting some sunshine, maybe having brunch with my friend/editor Nicole, and just enjoying the hints of spring in the air!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Where I Go

When I'm not writing on here, I'm taking care of this guy. Turns out, he's a real time hog. And worth every single second.

When he naps, calm and order descend, life resumes its predicable saunter, and things get done. When he doesn't nap (which is every other day, or every two days in a row), I make my plans and then watch them fall through my hands like sand.

Welcome to the motherhood. It's a fabulous place for letting go of attachment, to anything aside from the wee one.

I love it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Winter Wild Bird Care

Hi Everyone! My "Small Measures with Ashley" post is up over at Design Sponge. This week I'm chatting about winter care for wild birds. The image above shows two of our feeders, a "hopper" model on the left and a "mesh" model on the right, with a wild pollinator habitat house sandwiched in the middle. It's usually peppered with birds, but, of course, as soon as I angled my lens on the feeders, the whole motely crew scattered.

Hope you all are having a grand weekend. We took Huxley out for brunch yesterday (at Chorizo, one of our favorite spots to dine in Asheville, especially for brunch as there's almost never a wait, the portions are large, the prices are fantastic, and the food never fails to deliver), then by Malaprops to meet up with our friends Lynne, Meg, and Alisa. Friday night had us watching "The Social Network" (I'm seriously loving the score) and noshing on homemade chicken noodle soup (Hubs is finally on the other side of his week-long "man cold"). Oh, and my "Backyard Chickens" class from that morning went off without any hitches. Huxley even got into the spirit of things and, after crying with Hubs for an hour, promptly fell asleep for the next 2 1/2 hours in his swing. 'Atta boy!

We have a whole lot of nothing planned for today. Well, that's not entirely true. If Huxley naps this afternoon I'm thinking of rearranging our pantry. Non-stop thrill ride around here, I know. I function better when things are orderly and the pantry has gotten a little hairy these past few months. Hubs is off to his weekly Scrabble-A-Thon in town. It looks like it might be a sunny day, so a walk around the property with the Ergo is probably in order, as well. Essentially, a low-key, laid back day. Which is just how I like it.

Wherever you are, may your Sunday be just as lazy (or not!) as suits you.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Friday, With Ashley

Just thought I'd post a quick reminder for all the local yokels that I'll be chatting up all things "Backyard Chicken" this coming Friday at the Enka AB-Tech campus. I think there's still a few spaces available.

And, for those of you unable to attend a Friday morning course, I'll be doing the whole shebang again on February 23rd (a Wednesday) from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Asheville Mall.

For more details, go here.

Looking forward to meeting some of you real time!

*On a side note, this will be the longest I've been away from Huxley since his birth (we tried a short stint last Monday while I went to the post office for 25 minutes and I returned to a red-faced, screaming babe). I'm a bit nervous, but know that he and Hubs will be fine with one another. I'm a bit of a "hovering mother," it turns out, and I hate thinking of my wee one in tears!


This was the scene of our Christmas Eve meal. My mom and grandmother (aka "Nanny") came over and helped us dine on Hubs' fried chicken (don't worry, I'll get you the recipe; chicken this good should be shared with the world), mashed potatoes, collards, and biscuits. Served alongside sweet tea and sparkling juice (Mom is crazy about the stuff, while Nanny was triple-fisting it with a sweet tea/sparkling juice/buttermilk trifecta-wild times, I know), it was a perfect southern holiday repast.

And while it's the first of February and Christmas Eve '10 is over a month passed, I've been thinking today about just how thankful I am for that meal. I'm thankful to live where nutritious, healthy, delicious food is easy to come by. I'm thankful to live in a place and during a time of such profound abundance. I'm thankful to be at a place in my life where I can realize that abundance, to marvel at it, and to swim in gratitude for it.

Abundance and gratitude have been on my mind a good deal lately, as you might have noticed. Maybe it's because we have a beautiful baby who brings us immeasurable joy. Maybe it's because the birth was so crazy and I now feel so revitalized and happy and strong and capable. Maybe it's because I have two new books publishing next month while having the good fortune to be working on a fifth.

Or, maybe it's because, as I age, I'm more easily satisfied with the simplest of things. A hot mug of coffee. An evocative, transportive, foggy, drizzly day. A roaring wood stove. A fleet of happy cats and faithful, protective dogs. A loving spouse (who, incidentally, is deep in the throes of the "man cold," poor lamb) who is my constant companion. A hot bath with the baby.

I couldn't possibly want for more.