Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Difference A Day Makes

Remember yesterday's post, opening with images of our golden leaf-clad ginkgo tree? Well, 'tis no more! A wild wind blew into the cove today and sent the fan-shaped leaves falling off in a slow, steady, stunningly beautiful drop, drop, drop. Reminder enough to appreciate every beautiful fleeting moment as though it were your last.

Huxley's party was heaven. Wild and wily and filled with laughter and goodness. A detailed post is coming. Until then, I'm going to go take a nap with our wild man with gratitude in my heart for an amazing community of friends and family, a smiling babe that loves to snuggle and giggle, and a ginkgo tree that gently reminds me to stop and seize the day, since tomorrow, it'll be gone.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Morning View

Some mornings out here in the cove, the view is positively breathtaking. Today is one such day.

Dazzling foliage in every direction. Fog and mist moving across the mountains in the background. Muted bits of blue sky peeking in through the clouds. Gorgeous.

The cherry on top is the fine looking pastry specimen pictured last. It's one of Dave's exquisite Apple Croissants from his bakery, Farm & Sparrow. Buttery, flaky pastry cradles local apples that are baked into caramelized perfection. Paired with a mug of hot cardamom coffee=a very happy mama.

We're in full-throttle party mode, as Huxley's "Wild Things" soiree kicks off at 4 p.m. Lots of photos to come.

Wherever you are, friends, whatever you do, may it be grand!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

To the Letter

We've been on the hunt for a decorative "H" with which to adorn the entrance to Huxley's room for some time. While we found a number of antique options, they were either too small or in a font we didn't care for. Since necessity (or preference!) is the mother of invention, Hubs took matters into his own hands. Literally.

This rad "H" is the end product of his efforts. He cut the letter out, sanded the edges, patiently drew the graphic onto the wood, and then gave the whole thing a light stain. It's perfect in my mind, and, once he can say so, I think Huxley will concur.

In his own words, here's how you, too, can make things to the letter of your liking!

*A scrap board of your choosing
*Permanent magic markers
*Minwax Golden Oak, or other light stain
*Top coat can be rub-on polyurethane or tung oil

*A saw (preferably a jigsaw)
*Sandpaper (electric palm sander even better)
*Metal objects for distressing
*Rags for rubbing on the finish

1. Choose a board, then use a pencil to draw on the shape of the letter that you want.
2. Cut out the design.
3. Distress the wood a bit using whatever metal objects that you have around (i.e. a screwdriver). Be careful not to break the letter in the process.
4. Sand down the edges, corners, and any rough spots.
5. Draw whatever pattern you like on the front face of the letter.
6. Rub on a light coat of stain with a rag, wiping off the excess.
7. Let it dry overnight.
8. Apply a clear topcoat of your choosing.
9. Let it dry then hang it wherever you like!

*Don't forget, clicking on the image makes it much, much bigger!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Your New Favorite Thing

Welcome to my new addiction. Pumpkin spice lattes. Oh, yes.

They're incredibly easy to whip up. Well, let me qualify that; you're going to need a pot to steam the milk, sugar and pumpkin in, some coffee (I use my french press for brewing), and another mixing bowl for whipping heavy cream and powdered sugar in. That said, they're easy enough to concoct, and use ingredients you're likely to already have on hand.

I used The Kitchn's recipe as the basis, and then tinkered with things, namely the amounts and type of spices used. You can use either fresh pumpkin puree or canned. The sky is the limit.

Welcome to what will undoubtedly become your new favorite thing. You're welcome.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pretzel Prowess

What goes better with an ice cold hard cider or pumpkin ale than soft pretzels? Nothing, that's what, aside from perhaps a forest clad in a dazzling array of fall foliage. Check, on both fronts. 

My sister, Devan, came to visit last week and brought her pretzel-making prowess with her. Truth be told, she'd never made soft pretzels before, or any pretzels for that matter, but she had them on the brain, I had a recipe I'd been wanting to try out, and the weather and our sister-to-sister skills told us that now was the time. We used Karen Solomon's recipe for soft pretzels from her amazing book Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It (its predecessor, Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It shouldn't be missed, either-I seriously love her books, and any of you DIY food fiends out there will adore them, too). 

Devan did most of the work, while I looked after Huxley. For the most part, it seemed the greatest challenge lay in kneading the dough. You've got to keep at it for 7-10 minutes, beating it into pliant, smooth submission in order to truly activate the gluten. After that, the dough is allowed to rest and rise for an hour, fashioned into a rope-like circle, and then cut out into 12 equal lengths. Those chunks are then rolled into small ropes, knotted into pretzels, and then plunged for 30 seconds into a boiling bath of 6 cups of water and 1/2 cup baking soda. Next, the pretzels are glazed with an egg beaten with 1 teaspoon of water, sprinkled with coarse salt and baked for 30-35 minutes. 

Then you must wait. Waiting, you see, is key, as it allows the pretzels to achieve their best possible texture for consumption. Admittedly, this was the most challenging part of the entire process for me, as I was in pretzel-chomping mode. It was worth the wait, though. Mad props to Devan for turning out truly stellar pretzels and for making our visit one filled with laughter, comfort, and doughy goodness. 

Give these pretzels a whirl. We tried ours with a variety of mustards, both local and otherwise. You won't be disappointed and your autumn will be that much better with a soft, homemade pretzel in hand. I guarantee it. 

*You can view more of our sisterly fun here, including the apple orchard we visited on Friday for Huxley's 1st birthday and an incredible lake-side walk and picnic we took on Sunday. 

Friday, October 21, 2011


Oh, my sweet baby boy! What a difference a year makes! I never knew I could love something so intensely, with such devotion. As I just told my sister Devan (who's visiting from Florida), motherhood is the hardest, yet most rewarding work I've ever done. 

We're off to an nearby orchard for a bit of apple-picking, donut-eating, cider-sipping, picnicing and general merriment. This is especially befitting for the little dude, as his favorite, and most often used, word is, you guessed it-"apple"!!! Photos to come! 

*We're also throwing Huxley a "Wild Things" birthday party next weekend, a bit closer to Halloween so that costumes can be on view (also, Hubs is attending the annual Asheville Scrabble Club Tournament this weekend-send him "big win" vibes, if you're so inclined...). Photos and full party details forthcoming!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Farm Anatomy (+Giveaway!!!)

Illustrator Julia Rothman is, and always has been, a city girl. Her husband, however, grew up on a farm. Visits to his family's property piqued her urban interests, ultimately resulting in the creation of her gorgeous new book Farm Anatomy (Storey).

Even if you don't pine for a farm of your own, Julia's book will tempt you. From recipes on making Dandelion Wine to illustrations detailing the parts of a pig, from instructions on how to spin yarn to drawings on building a bean trellis, she covers the spectrum of agrarian pursuits. Whether you're the dirt-under-your-fingernails type or the armchair observationist, Farm Anatomy is a captivating read.

The book is an absolute visual delight and, in my opinion, the perfect read to curl up with as we begin our long, slow climb into shorter days, longer nights and cooler weather. Julia's publisher, Storey, has graciously gifted me with a review copy of Farm Anatomy as well as one to giveaway to a small measure reader. If you'd like to be entered in the contest, simply leave a comment below with your name and a means of contacting you should you be the winner, either via a link back to your own blog/website, or with your email address. Per Storey's request, the giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only. I'll run the giveaway for one week, ending at midnight EST October 24th.

Even if you're not the winner, do check out Julia's book. It's obvious that she put an awful lot of loving attention into each and every illustration. Farm Anatomy manages to entertain, inspire and educate, all at the same time, which is no small feat. Well done, Julia. Well done.

*I'm part of the Farm Anatomy blog tour. While several blogs have already mentioned Juila's book, others are coming up soon. Here's a list of the full tour:

Monday, October 10, 2011: Mint

Wednesday, October 12, 2011: Growing with Plants

Friday, October 14, 2011: Things We Make

Saturday, October 15, 2011: print & pattern

Monday, October 17, 2011: small measure

Wednesday, October 19, 2011: SF Girl By Bay

Friday, October 21, 2011: Pikaland

Sunday, October 23, 2011: The Spunky Coconut

Tuesday, October 25, 2011: Reading My Tea Leaves

Wednesday, October 26, 2011: The Post Family

Thursday, October 27, 2011: Book By Its Cover

Friday, October 28, 2011: Design for Mankind

*UPDATE: Wow! You guys clearly liked this book! The lucky winner of Farm Anatomy, according to Random, is #23, Petoskystone. Thank you so very much to all that entered. I'll have another giveaway coming your way next week!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fowl Language

We had a lovely time chez English yesterday, spouting "fowl language" (again, I have to credit Kristina for this cheeky pun), noshing, and dishing all things poultry. Thank you so very much Natalie, Kirsten, Rebecca, Grace, Jenn, and Erika for making the trek out here and sharing your time, resources and lovely selves with me, Hubs and Huxley.
I thought I'd take a quick minute and show those of you that might perhaps be unfamiliar with, or new to, "molting" what it looks like. For most chickens, late summer/early autumn heralds the arrival of their annual "molt," when, just like a snake sheds its skin, they shed their feathers.
They don't look pretty during this period. Far from it. In fact, they look downright ugly, bless their hideous hearts. Some birds shed their plumage quickly, while for others it's a more drawn-out process. During this period, they typically won't be producing eggs, as the calcium that would otherwise be used to form an eggshell is going into the production of quill formation. So, don't fret if you one day notice your otherwise glorious Brahma or stunning Welsummer start to look like a sad, scrawny bird. It's totally natural. Pathetic looking, but natural, nonetheless.
In this photo you can see the barbed wire Hubs erected last winter, after a series of determined, intrepid raccoon attacks. We now refer to the coop as "Chicken Fort Knox." It's a fortress, pretty much.
Huxley decided he was tapped out on hanging exclusively with his Papa by this point in the day (we'd been chatting and eating for over 3 hours by then), so he joined me at the last leg of the coop tour.

I can't begin to truly express just how much I'm enjoying teaching classes out here. It's such a treasure to be able to put faces and personalities with some of small measure's readers. Look for more classes in late winter/early spring, when we'll do up some dairy and catch a buzz on beekeeping.

Wherever you are, whatever you're up to, may it be grand!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Recession-Proof Pasta!

Like pasta? Like saving money? Hate wasting food? Me, too, to all of it.

Here's a little wallet-friendly and delicious technique we employ chez English when we've a glut of pasta left-overs: we put 'em in a frittata.

Simply whisk together some eggs and a bit of milk, add the pasta, put the whole concoction in a buttered/oiled ovenproof saucepan, and cook over medium heat until the filling is set. Next, scatter some cheese of your choosing over the top, place the pan under the lowest broil setting of your oven and cook until the cheese is golden-brown. Allow the pan to cool slightly and then slice wedges, plate them and serve.

That's it. Easy on the taste buds and the benjamins. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cake Ladies (+Giveaway!!!)

Some of you long-time readers may recall I spent April-September of '10 working at my friend Jodi Rhoden's store Short Street Cakes. Without question, that gig was one of the best places I've ever been employed.

Considering that I was almost 14 weeks pregnant when I first hooked up with Jodi and her crew of raucous bakers, and that I was sick as a dog for some time before and thereafter, being able to say I had a great time working for her is a testament to the sort of lady she is. Not only is she a totally deft, righteous baker, Jodi is simply a great lady. She's long been active in the food rights/food security community, serving as a board member of the Bountiful Cities Project, amongst many other non-profit pursuits. She's compassionate, sympathetic and hilarious. And she's an incredible mama and wife. And friend.

If those traits alone weren't enough to intrigue you about this lady (who has full-sleeve tattoos of the Virgin Mary!), her new book will seal the deal. Cake Ladies: A Southern Tradition, is Jodi's journey into the world of cake, community, and love. Part of why she hired me was so that I could help out at the shop during the spring and summer months while she drove all over the southeast U.S., seeking out, soliciting recipes from, and interviewing women in various communities known for their go-to cake-baking prowess. She's compiled those recipes into a lovely book, filled with her time-tested suggestions for expert cake success. Having served under her tutelage, I can personally attest to just how knowledgeable she truly is. When recipes say to scrape the bowl in between beatings, they really mean it!!!

To honor Jodi and all of the sweat, tears, and butter that went into her creation (with the help of my expert editor, Nicole!), I'll be giving away a copy of Cake Ladies. To enter the contest, simply list your favorite cake (I'm a sucker for anything with caramel frosting and I've also never met a coconut cake I didn't like).  I'll run the giveaway for one week, ending next Monday at midnight EST. Lark will be sending the book out themselves to the winner and has requested the contest be open to U.S. residents only.

Even if you don't win, do check out Jodi's book. It's a gem. And if you're ever in Asheville, pop on over to the west side and visit her shop for some cupcakes or a slice. You won't be disappointed. Her life in cake is epic, and, delicious! 

UPDATE: Oops! I forgot to mention that Ashley, lucky #91, was the winner of Jodi's Cake Ladies book. Sorry! Thanks to all who entered! I loved reading all of your cake passions!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday In the Cove

Taking it nice and easy today. Huxley is snoring away in his swing beside me (perhaps dreaming of these for his birthday in less than two weeks; I can hardly believe almost a year has gone by). It's overcast outside. The dogs are barking at a hound in the woods and sitting, lazily, instead of running up the mountain to greet it.

I taught two canning demonstrations at yesterday's True Nature Country Fair. The weather was stellar and Huxley was a champ, playing with Hubs while I boiled and toiled over the water bath. It's always a treat to get out and mix and mingle with similarly minded folks. Renee was so sweet as to show up with several fig trees in tow, which I can't wait to get into the ground (lord knows I love figs-check out these babies, which I could definitely do up myself if I had a bumper crop of figs on hand). 

Thursday I popped over to Jen's house. We sipped coffee, chatted publishers and generally whiled away the morning while she whipped up an expert batch of challah as our littlest littles played. She, blessed bestower of all things lovely that she is, sent me home with a plump, golden loaf, which I rendered into an Apple, Raisin & Bourbon Bread Pudding (oh! my!) on Friday.

I'm in the throes of planning Huxley's birthday party. The date is the 29th and the theme is "Wild Things", on account of his middle name and general disposition. I think I've settled on a costume for him (let's just say he'll "bee" very cute) and am now plotting food, cake, decor and takeaway treats. Yes, I know it's only his 1st birthday. Of course he won't remember it. But I will. I am smitten and in love beyond words with this little guy and want to celebrate him at full throttle, on his big day, and everyday.

Wherever you are, whatever you're up to, I wish you a joyous, lazy Sunday and a bang-up week ahead.

OH-and do stop by tomorrow. I'll be giving away a copy of my buddy Jodi's enticing new book Cake Ladies: A Southern Tradition

*BTW, if you click on the images I post here, they get bigger-much, much bigger. You knew this, right?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mediterranean Eats (+ Gluten-Free!!!)

As promised, here's the recipe for the dish Hubs whipped up for our impromptu dinner with Ian and Kristina Saturday night. It was ready in just over 30 minutes or so and was savory and satisfying without making you feel like a lump once you put your fork down, as many grain dishes do to me.

The dish was made gluten-free, with the help of buckwheat, on Ian's behalf. We often turn to buckwheat when going gluten-free for friends. It's filling without being too heavy, possesses an incredibly pleasant nutty flavor, and has a chewy, steel-cut oat-like texture to it that I love.

The next morning, Hubs added a fried egg to the dish (over-hard for me & Huxley, over-easy for himself) for a protein-packed lunch. Some feta sprinkled on top added a little extra salt and creaminess. A perfect meal for dinner, lunch, brunch, or anytime eating is in order.

Mediterranean Beef & Buckwheat
The Goods: 
-2 cups buckwheat
-4 cups water
-2 tbsp olive oil
-1/2 onion, diced
-1 red pepper, diced
-1 carrot, diced
-2 stalks of celery, diced
-2 small Japanese eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch disks
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2 lbs lean ground beef or ground lamb
-2 tomatoes, diced
-1 cup of wine (we used rosé)
-2 tbsp lemon juice
-Zest of one lemon
-About 10 green olives, sliced
-1/4 cup currants or raisins
-1 tsp white wine vinegar
-1 handful of chopped herbs (we used mint, lemon balm, rosemary, marjoram, and cilantro)
-1 tbsp Moroccan spice mix (we like the one from Urban Accents)
-1 tbsp sea salt
-A few grinds black pepper
-Fresh cilantro, to serve (optional)

The Deal: 
-Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium-size pot, then add 2 cups of buckwheat.
-Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, then remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
-Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan; add the onion, pepper, carrot, and celery.
-Saute for about 10 minutes, then add the eggplant and garlic.
-Saute for another minute or two, then add the ground meat, and stir well.
-Brown the meat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-Add the tomatoes, the wine, and the lemon juice.
-Cook down for about 25 minutes, until most of the liquid has cooked off.
-Stir in the remaining ingredients, except for the buckwheat.
-Cook for about 5 minutes, then stir in the buckwheat and cook for an additional minute.
-Remove from the heat and serve, garnished with some fresh cilantro if you like.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Calm

Oh, man. What a week last week was! We did two of the final photo shoots for the new book, had a photo shoot out here on Friday with Anthology magazine (it was SO much fun, I can't wait to see Jen's photos!!!), and I had to get all of the copy-editing done for the new book during any fleeting free minutes I could find. In short, a whale of a week, but, overall, a whale of a good time.

Come this past weekend, then, I was ready to leave the computer and spend some much-needed face time with friends and family. Saturday morning, Hubs popped into town to get some absolutely transcendent muscadine & scuppernog croissants from our friend Dave's bakery, Farm & Sparrow. He also gathered up a few seasonal items for brunch with our friends Rene, Billy and their adorable daughter, Trumie Rose. We feasted on hot coffee, fresh apple cider (from a nearby orchard), the aforementioned croissants, black pepper bacon, herbed scrambled eggs (that included a medley of lemon balm, sage, rosemary, marjoram and thyme gathered from our yard) and a roasted vegetable hash (the same herb blend was tossed with onions, purple sweet potatoes, japanese eggplant, baby crookneck yellow squash and purple sweet peppers and roasted to perfection). 

Later that day, after our morning guests had headed on, Ian and Kristina came over to chat about an idea I've been percolating (I'll pass on more info as soon as I'm more certain about the direction of the idea...). We nursed Pumpkin Ales and Pear Ciders as Huxley romped around the living room. They ran home to feed their pups then returned for a late night dinner. Hubs whipped up some "Meditteranean Beef & Buckwheat" (recipe forthcoming) and we hung around the table as the baby drifted off to sleep, I slipped into flannel p.j.'s and the night wrapped its chilly embrace around us. 

Sunday I met up with my mom and grandmother for some outdoor romping time with Huxley. They were silly, he was full of squeals, and I was pleased to end a hectic week with a calm spirit. 

Here's wishing you a splendid October. It's my most beloved month, making me feel full of promise, inspiration and possibility. 

*Photos all courtesy of the lovely and talented Rene Treece Roberts (link above). For more brunchy cuteness, go here.