Friday, June 29, 2012

What I'm Digging

Happy Friday, friends! This weekend promises to be a scorcher. Here in the mountains of western North Carolina we might even hit 100 degrees. Yikes! We plan to hit up the Blue Ridge Parkway in search of a frigid creek or swimming hole to cool our jets in. Or, if we're feeling lazy, just fill up Huxley's baby/toddler pool, and get in it with watermelon slices, cold beer, and a happy, splashing 20 month-old.

We're also conducting a quasi experiment in our air-conditioning-less house. It cools down pretty considerably at night here in the mountains. I left all of the windows open overnight and then shut them up tight this morning. Fans are going in every room, so, we'll see if we can keep our cool (literally and figuratively-this is the one time of year, every year, I tell Hubs we need to move to the Pacific Northwest; I'm a grumpus when I'm hot).

My Small Measure post is up on Design Sponge. I'm sharing a recipe for making Beeswax Insect Repellant Candles. I wrote on the porch the other day with one of these babies going and it most assuredly does the trick!

Here's a smattering of this's and that's that caught my attention this week:
*I'll take one of each, please. 
*Three friends have now recommended this book to me, so it's high time I picked up a copy.
*Three words straight outta heaven: Berry. Buttermilk. Bundt.
*Solar dye kit (via Grace).
*Pineapple gin punch? Don't mind if I do.
*Been drinking, and loving, this local brew.
*Aspiring bloggers, order this book.
*Garlic scape pesto.
*Our friends opened a chocolate factory (the Lapsong Souchong and Malted Chocolate bars are seriously to die for).
*Make a sun print!

We're off to Short Street Cakes this evening. Robyn Jasko is doing a book signing and talk from her book Home Sweet Homegrown, which I gave away two copies of, along with a sampling of seed packets, a few weeks ago. I'll be there, providing the jams, as in, spread-it-over-a-slice-of-bread jams.

Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand (and cool!)!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Candlemaking the Natural Way (+ Giveaway!!!)

When I first met Hubs, he already owned the house we now live in. It was definitely a bachelor's pad at that point, which was actually kind of great, since it enabled us to set up the space together. As he was giving me a tour of the place, and he showed me the bathroom, I immediately noticed two things: he'd had a large, soaking, "garden" tub installed, and he had lots and lots of candles in there. For himself. A nice tub, and nice candles. "This," I thought to myself, "this right here is my kind of man."

Hubs shares my love of hot baths and candle light. We have an entire cabinet packed with tapers, columns, pillars, votives, tea lights, and every manner of candle-holding vessel imaginable. Every room in our house, aside from Huxley's room, has candles, too. When the power goes out, we're set. When evening rolls around and we're dining on the porch, candles are burning. During dinner parties and cookouts and all sorts of other get-togethers, candles are 'a blazing.

My Small Measures post tomorrow on Design Sponge will offer a tutorial on making all-natural beeswax bug-repelling candles at home. I used Rebecca Ittner's Candlemaking the Natural Way when creating the candles and can't recommend the book enough. It's packed with essential information on handcrafting beeswax, soy, and palm candles, including 31 projects to whip up, whether you're hoping to light up your own space or gift to your nearest and dearest.

Lark has graciously offered one small measure reader a copy of Candlemaking the Natural Way! You're going to love it, I promise. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below detailing your favorite way to use candles, or candlelight memory. For me, it happened two winters ago.

We lost power for 5 days and relied on our candle stash to light up the night. Though it was rough going (the forecast had called for 3-10 inches of snow, not the 17 we ended up with, so we were seriously caught off guard), huddling around the wood stove, listening to NPR play Charlie Brown's Christmas on a battery-powered radio while eating cookies from my recent cookie exchange and sipping on rum-spiked eggnog (we buried coolers in the snow outside and filled them with the contents of the refrigerator and freezer) made the whole ordeal slow, and sweet, and precious in a way I'd never have thought possible.

I'll run the giveaway for one week, concluding next Wednesday, July 4th at midnight EST. Per Lark's request, the giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Sorry, international buddies! PLEASE leave a means of contacting you in your reply, either by linking back to your blog/website (which will need somewhere on there telling me how to contact you), or by leaving your email address with your comment (if you'd like to keep your email private, just make a comment with your name and then send me your email at: ashleyadamsenglish(at)gmail(dot)com).

Either way, win or no win, do check out Ittner's book. Candle-making is a serious blast, feeling something like alchemy as you stir the pot, watch the wax melt, and shape-shift it into the candle holder.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

When Life Hands You Eggs

 We are flush with eggs these days, chez English. More eggs than we can eat each day, which is saying something since we're all crazy about the things. There are so many eggs coming in lately that visions of custards and curds and ice cream move to the forefront of my culinary mind's eye (to reach that last goal, Hubs & Huxley just headed to the West Asheville Tailgate Market to pick up flavoring add-ins-can you say triple berry ice cream?).

However, while I might like nothing more than to slather my palate in sweetened eggy goodness, something more substantive (and savory) seemed in order. And so, we whipped up a batch of egg salad today. Hubs came across a suggestion on local greenhouse Eagledove's Facebook page recently suggesting the inclusion of baking soda when making hard-boiled eggs.

As an egg ages, the albumen in it shrinks, making it easier to separate the white from the shell after boiling. The longer you allow the eggs to age (typically at least one week, two being preferable), the easier they are to peel. Eagledove's suggestion helps to expedite this process. So, if you don't have the time to wait, or older eggs on hand when the urge (dare I say need!) to make egg salad strikes, you can still satisfy your craving without swearing at every bit of egg shell that just won't give up the ghost as you futilely attempt to peel them.

We gave the method a go. While it didn't completely make the shells slip off unencumbered, it definitely did help. We added in sweet relish (I've got a recipe in my book that was destined to go with egg salad), mayonnaise, olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, lemon juice, capers, and my all-time, hands-down favorite herb blend, Herbs de Provence (we grabbed a jar when we were at the Lavender Festival).

Generously dolloped onto toasted wheat bread, crowned with lettuce from the garden (we like chopping lettuce finely and tossing it with a bit of vinaigrette or mayonnaise when we use it in sandwiches) & slivers of dill pickle, and nestled in with some pickled okra (you can find a recipe for that in my book, too), we decided being flush with eggs is not such a bad problem to have. Not bad at all.

Best Yet Hard-boiled Eggs
The Goods:
-One dozen eggs

The Deal
1) Place a dozen eggs in a medium-sized pan.
2) Fill with cold water, at least an inch higher than the eggs.
3) Add a pinch of salt and a half teaspoon of baking soda.
4) Heat covered, over medium-high heat until the water comes to a boil.
5) Turn the burner off, and set a timer for 13 minutes.
6) About 2 minutes before the timer goes off,  prep an ice water bath by filling a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water.
6) When the timer goes off, remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and gently place them in the ice water bath.
7) After a few minutes, when they have cooled, take them out of the water.
8) Gently crack each egg before peeling it carefully, submerging the egg in the bowl of ice water as you go, which makes it easier to remove the shell and get the last little bits off.

Herbs de Provence Egg Salad
The Goods:
-1 dozen boiled eggs, diced
-3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
-2 Tablespoons olive oil
-2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
-2-3 Tablespoons sweet relish, to taste
-1 Tablespoon capers
-1 Tablespoon Herbs de Provence
-1 Tablespoon lemon juice
-1 teaspoon sea salt
-Several grinds black pepper

The Deal:
1) Combine the ingredients in a medium/large mixing bowl, stirring well to make it a bit creamy.
2) Let it sit for a few minutes before serving to give the flavors a chance to meld.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weekend Eats: Tortilla Espanola

We munched on this olive, tomato and potato bit of deliciousness just a bit ago. Hubs sliced the potatoes on a mandoline first, then lightly pan fried them in olive oil. Next went a bit of whisked eggs over the potatoes. We let those eggs set up a bit over medium-high heat, then added the remaining bit in the mixing bowl, along with the olives. The whole concoction then spent a wee bit of time in the oven under a low broiler, was cut into wedges, and then covered in chopped tomatoes.

Simple, fresh, delicious. Couldn't ask for a better way to start a Sunday. Hope your weekend is going swimmingly.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What I'm Digging

Happy Friday, friends! And happy summer, too. The season of sun, and sandals, and sweat, and soil is officially upon us. Oh. Yes.

I just got off the phone with my younger sister, Theo. She, along with my other sister, Devan, will be coming to visit usfor a week in early July. I shared with her my intentions for engaging in three definitively "summer" activities during their visit: a trip to the beach (and kiddie waterpark!!!) at Lake Lure, a berry-picking expedition somewhere in the area, and a hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway (Black Balsam is a perennial favorite). Summertime, and the living is easy, indeed!

Here's a smattering of this's and that's that caught my attention this week:
*Truly appreciate Tamar's approach to the topic of life and death and livestock
*Popsicle round-up, woo hoo!!!
*Show pollinators some love. Here, too.
*I scream, you scream, we all scream for an ice cream & a waffle maker!
*30 ways to get the littles outside this season.
*Bush girls never give up.
*Cardamom Berry Smash? Yes please!
*Rose petal granola.
*Loving Kate's "Summer On the Road" mix.
*50 ways to keep your change.
*Homemade maraschino cherries, oh my!

I'll be catching up on some writing this weekend. I hope to head to a farmer's market tomorrow, too. I've had a hankering for Dave's flaky, buttery pastries for awhile and it's high time that aching was satisfied.

Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Green & Black's (+ Giveaway!!!)

I have long maintained a love affair with chocolate. The darker, the better. If it's caramel-filled, I'm in heaven. If there are dried fruits involved, I'm swooning. I'll take it hot in a mug, snuggled into a s'more, or even just straight up. When it comes to chocolate, I'm often equal opportunity consumer.

Which is why I was so excited when one of my most beloved chocolate purveyors, Green & Black's, contacted me recently. Well known in the UK, but less so here in the States, Green & Black's is attempting to spread the word about what they do and, wisely, looking to bloggers as a means of doing so. I've actually been a huge Green & Black's fan for years and am thrilled to be able to discuss them here with you today. 

Not only is the company's chocolate exquisitely tasty, it's also organically grown. As one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world, it's so pleasing to learn of a business that understands, applauds, and employs organic cacao production methods. Green and Black's chocolate is also certified Fair Trade. This means that the farmers, their families, and all of the individuals involved in growing, harvesting and processing the chocolate are provided a fair, living wage, enabling them to thrive in their personal lives and aid their communities in the process.

While flavor of any food is a large motivation for whether or not I'll choose to eat it, growing methods and labor practices of the companies behind them are just as significant in my decision-making process. Green & Black's hits all the right notes for me, from delicious, to sustainable, to ethical.  I promote these practices at home and whenever I write about chocolate, including in the Ingredients section in my new book. The more these methods are employed, the more we collectively benefit.

Owing to all of that, I'm super pumped to offer a giveaway of Green & Black's products today! The company has generously offered 3 (!!!) small measure readers a gift package including their Ultimate Recipe Book and Classic Collection, pictured above. That's some good stuff there, folks!

All you need to do to enter the giveaway is tell me your favorite ways of eating chocolate (or, if you can't choose, one of your favorite!). I mentioned several of mine above, but I'll also add partnered with peanut butter to my roster. What about you?

I'll run the giveaway through next Wednesday, June 27th, ending at midnight EST. PLEASE leave a means of contacting you in your reply, either by linking back to your blog/website (which will need somewhere on there telling me how to contact you), or by leaving your email address with your comment (if you'd like to keep your email private, just make a comment with your name and then send me your email at: ashleyadamsenglish(at)gmail(dot)com).

Even if you don't win, do check out Green & Black's. They're a wonderful company with an even better mission. Now, if you'll pardon me, I've got a bar of Peanut & Sea Salt (I! KNOW!) that needs nibbling....

*Please note the following disclosure, provided by Green & Black's: Kraft Foods is providing the prizes for this program at no cost to me. This program is not administered or sponsored by Kraft Foods or its affiliates, but solely by Small Measure.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Recent Acquisitions

This past winter, Hubs and I set out to get our crafty on. While mine never quite materialized as I'd hoped (turns out I'm not a learn-in-a-group-setting type of knitter; I really just need someone to sit beside me, regularly, and tell me what I'm doing wrong), Hubs' certainly did.

Shown above are several of his creations. Oh, the shapes! The colors! The glazes! I just love these little "pinching bowls" he made, as he calls them. His intention in creating them, it turns out, is for me to use in photos, here on small measure and for other writing I do. He's one of the keepers, this man of mine!

For Father's Day, I purchased him an intermediate ceramics studio lab, beginning mid-July. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next. I'm starting to think there's really nothing he can't do!

Friday, June 15, 2012

What I'm Digging

Happy Friday, friends! Huxley's follow-up visit yesterday revealed that his wound is healing up swimmingly. The doctor said that, in time, it should heal over completely, permitted we keep it out of sunlight for the next 6 months. So, it'll be a summer of hats, sunscreen and bandages for the tiny Englishman!

Here's a smattering of this's and that's that caught my attention this week:
*I love a good shortbread and this one promises to deliver.  
*Get high-on dirt!
*Locally grown (from heirloom, non-GMO corn!) & distilled moonshine.
*The 7 habits of highly happy people sound good to me!
*Ten backyard camp out activities for the littles.
*Organic management for 10 common garden pests.
*It's campfire cooking time!
*Canning tricks and tips for doing your jars up nice and proper.
*Alys Fowler epitomizes my particular variety of garden fashion (plus, she knows tons about how best to toil the soil-via Bell and Star).

We've got a fun weekend planned. Our beloved friends Jen, Jon and their daughter Awynn (aka "Sweet P" or just "P") are in town. They bought a yome and are putting it up this weekend down in the smaller of our two lower fields. It's their little "yome away from home", as they live in Atlanta where they both teach art at private schools.

Sunday, for Father's Day, we're making our annual pilgrimage to Mountain Farm's Lavender Festival. I LOVE that event, with its stunning mountain-top and waterfall views, baby goats, lavender-infused foods, and general pervasive fragrant goodness. To all you fathers out there, here's wishing you a wonderful day, filled with love, from your nearest and dearest. Thank you for all you do.

Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Garden Tour

It's seriously go time in the garden, friends. I recently mentioned that Hubs was whipping up a deck and pergola for us to enjoy out there. And, boy, did he ever! Never one to make something just so-so, or expected, or conventional, he fashioned a pergola to beat them all, full of whimsy and nuance and, well, "him."

We held our first photo shoot for the new book out there. Broke it in, so to speak. It's festooned with lovely hanging flower baskets right now. In time, though, we intend to grow food on it. Grapes, most likely. Muscadines and Scuppernogs (both native to the area), specifically.

I just adore it. Being out there, with a cold, frosty beer on a warm summer evening, or in the morning with a cup of hot coffee in hand and my lap top in front of me as the little guy plays next to me in the sandbox-not much beats it.

In the video below, Hubs himself walks you through a tour of our garden. Enjoy it (and his low, handsome voice; 'twas one of the first things that attracted me to him!)!!! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pies & Life & Babies

Thank you so much for all of your kind words and assurances over our Wild child. Were it not for the bandages placed front and center on his wee forehead, you'd think nothing had even happened. He's a trooper, that one. We follow up with a facial surgeon on Thursday. Fingers and toes crossed that those bandages, once removed, reveal nothing except a nice, healing wound.

I've got a few posts up other places that I thought you might enjoy reading. You can find me chatting about pie-making and country-living on Verve. There are also two seasonal pie recipes for your pleasure up over at Mrs. Wages.

Hope your Tuesday is going swimmingly!

*Image by Naomi Johnson.

Friday, June 8, 2012

What I'm Digging

Happy Friday, friends! We had a bit of a harrowing day yesterday, chez English. Things were going great. The breeze was fine, there was no humidity, the birds were chirping, life was good. Hubs was in the garden and Huxley and I were on the patio, weeding. The tiny Englishman, however, decided, all of a sudden, to climb onto a patio chair, which pitched over backwards, landing his tiny forehead right into our raised stone flower bed. I ran to him as he sat there screaming, only to turn his tiny body towards me and discover a huge, bleeding gash.

Lots of heightened emotions and an ambulance ride later, we arrived at the hospital, where he underwent a dose of ketamine, some stitches, and a CT scan to rule out head trauma (he got sick three times after coming out of sedation). He's home and on the mend now, but it was a night fraught with worry and stress and nerves and crying 'round here.

Whew. Nothing really prepares you for the profound worry that accompanies parenting. I'd never before experienced such intense agony over the thought of losing someone before yesterday. I adore Hubs, and can't imagine not having him in my life. But my child, my tiny boy, my baby. Oh, to see him cry and be in pain and worry about his little head. Well, let's just hope that was the first and last such trip we'll ever take (fingers firmly crossed!).

So, on to better and brighter things, shall we? Here's a smattering of this's and that's that caught my attention this week:
*Claudia (profiled in Home Dairy) makes a proper ricotta.
*HUGELY crushing on Whole Larder Love.
*A trifle for your troubles.
*Three cheers for foodscaping.
*Homesprout is just adorable.
*I think we need to recreate this on our patio.
*Almond cake with lemon and creme fraiche glaze. Get you some.
*Deb does strawberries just right, in biscuit and cake form.
*Grow grape leaves, and fill them with deliciousness.

Tomorrow we begin the first photo shoot for my new book. I am over the moon with excitement, especially since I'll be paired with Jen Altman, a photographer whose eye I trust with every core of my being. Also, she's just a generally righteous lady whose company I can't get enough of.

Whatever you do this weekend, wherever you go, whomever you share it with, may it be grand!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Recent Acquisitions: The Spice Bible

When you enter our home, you enter directly into the kitchen. What's technically the "rear" of the house is used as the front, while the actual "front" is fenced-in and located at the far end of a circular driveway. It's a strange orientation for a house tucked in a cove, a mile down a dirt road, but it works for us.

Once you walked in, if you'd never been here before, the first thing you'd likely notice is the sienna, pumpkin, tumeric-esque color of the room we easily spend most of our waking hours in. Hubs painted it that hue long before we met (by the way, this color-loving man of mine holds an MFA with a concentration in color theory from a fine Ivy League university-he humbly states that said degree would make a nice place mat). It is, I think, probably the best color for a kitchen I've ever encountered. That is, if you like to eat. Its earthy, spicy tone is warming and enlivening and great for stimulating the gustatory inclination. Otherwise, I hear blue shades work as appetite suppressants. But none of that here. We're eaters. And cooks. And bakers. And all-things-food-related lovers. 

This love of spices moves beyond the color choices for our walls, however, and directly into our bellies. We're crazy about spices, chez English, and use them liberally, and often. To wit-every morning, soon as we roll out of bed and meet the needs of the chorus of 4 meowing cats and 2 rowdy dogs, I fire up the kettle, head to the coffee grinder, add some beans, and toss in either cardamom seeds, a bit of cinnamon stick, or some nutmeg, depending on the day's whim.

We bake with spices, season with spices, even drink with spices. It's fitting, then, that my Pop, his wife, and my sisters gave Hubs Jane Lawson's The Spice Bible for his birthday this past Friday. A hefty tome, the book offers detailed information and culinary history on 45 global spices, from ajowan (What? Exactly.) to wolfberry. Origin, uses, pairings and 250 recipes will have us cooking up everything from Cardamom Chicken (have mercy!) to Lamb with Juniper to Saffron Panna Cotta.
So far, every recipe I've looked at has been met with a "YES!" or "We're totally making that."

The Spice Bible is a welcome addition to our culinary library. Florida family, we thank you. Next time you're visiting, we'll cook you up something nice and spicy.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Come Join Me!

Happy Monday, friends! Hope your weekend was a good one. Ours was amazing! Huxley was cool, calm and collected with his aunt Theo Friday night while we went out for our combo birthday/anniversary date. So much so, in fact, that when we arrived back home, he was fed, bathed, p.j.'ed and asleep in his swing. Go, auntie, go!!! And the meal. Oh, the meal. We sampled and oohed and ahhed our way through 9 of Curate's sensational tapas. And a pitcher of sangria. For the first sans-bebe date we've had in 19 months, it was completely and wholly worth the wait.

We're getting closer and closer to the launch of the redesign of small measure. It looks like it'll be live within a month or so. I am SO excited about the new look Alisa is putting together. She's such a gem of a designer. You should all seriously consider hitting her up yourselves should you be in need of any graphic work.

As the date of the redesign is coming more and more near, I thought I'd put it out there again that I'll be offering sponsor spaces with the new format. I'm so pleased with the response I've received so far. We'll have everything from crafters, to soapmakers, to bakers showcasing their splendid wares.

I'd love for you to join me, if you're so inclined. I've got a wide range of sponsor sizes and rates, accommodating every budget. If you'd like more information, let's chat: ashleyadamsenglish(at)gmail(dot)com.

Friday, June 1, 2012

What I'm Digging

Happy Friday, friends! 'Tis a special day, chez English. A special weekend, in fact. Today marks another glorious trip around the sun for Hubs, while tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of when we took the nuptial plunge and read our vows to each other down in our lower field. He's a man of immense talent, overflowing generosity, and profound humility, this man 'o mine. I can't imagine a better partner to go through this journey of a life with. Huxley thinks he's pretty swell, too!

Since we both work from home, and are always with our little guy, we've, believe it or not, yet to have a date for just the two of us since becoming parents. And so, with excitement in our hearts and complete confidence in the babysitting abilities of my little sister (who is visiting) in our noggins, we're headed out tonight for a fancy dinner at Curate. I can't wait to put on something pretty, make a toast to Hub's birth and the strength of our union, and then chow down.

In the meantime, here's a smattering of this's and that's that caught my attention this week:
*Anthrologie has a magazine, and they recently profiled two lovely female farmers
*The first lady wrote about the first garden.
*Homemade orange creamsicles!
*DIY nontoxic sunscreen.
*THIS tree fort!
*Loving the Lexicon of Sustainability.
*Blueberry Lemon Verbena pie, oh my!
*Create a wild pollinator habitat.
*How to take better food photos (I SO needed to learn this).
*Homemade seed bombs.
*Love this necklace.

Also, the season of s'mores is upon us. I've got a post chatting about that very thing today over on Design Sponge.

Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!