Archive for the ‘Life and other Thoughts’ Category

Blogoversary Flowers
I have enormous respect for the power of marking a year, whether it’s a birthday, New Years, an anniversary, or a blogoversary. Anniversaries of any kind give us the chance to stop and think about how we’ve spent our time in the last revolution around the sun and what we plan to do in the next one. April 22 marked my three-year anniversary of this blog, and it sort of sneaked up on me. It turns out that I haven’t logged in to this site in over a month, due primarily to a significant case of writer’s block. And photographer’s block. And kitcheneer’s block.

The truth is I have struggled over the last few months. Despite the fact that I work fewer hours, have more days off, and enjoy a kitchen filled with natural light, I’ve found myself groaning over the notion of cooking even familiar meals and not in the least bit interested in climbing atop a step stool angling for a shot. The muse that once perched on my shoulder whispering words, recipes, and stories into my eager ears seems to have folded her arms and sealed her lips. I’ve become increasingly frustrated that I can’t seem to get back into the productive rhythm to which I had grown so accustomed in North Carolina and have spent a lot of time trying to figure out why. Did I really manage to pack up everything I owned but forget to bring with me my inspiration, my drive for sharing this locavore’s story? Is it still sitting on the counter in my dimly-lit kitchen, or perhaps hiding in the grass next to my ever-fertile community garden plot?

Or did it survive the move after all, frozen but intact despite this deeply unpleasant winter, but is simply too nervous to peek its head out for fear of another frost?

Read on »

Row of peas
At the dawn of a new year, it seems that our natural tendency is to reflect. We think about what went wrong or right or good or bad over the last twelve months, sometimes celebrating a successful year, sometimes happy to close the book on a year we’d rather forget.

This year, I’ve spent my New Years Day considering not the past year, but the coming one, which starts off with a tremendous amount of change. I’ve spent the last three years in the same city, the same apartment, and the same job, but within the next two weeks, all three will be left behind and replaced with something new.

Since graduating college five years ago, this change marks my third city, my fourth move, and my fourth job hunt. Part of me finds this constant change exciting, and I wouldn’t trade it. I’ve gained a strange and wide variety of job experience, from door-to-door political canvassing, to opening a new performance venue at a major university. I’ve learned to eat locally in both the urban Mid-Atlantic and also in the prolific, fertile South. I’ve developed so many dear friends and met such interesting people, more than I ever could have hoped to meet had I stayed in one area.

Yet despite my drive for new experiences, new friends, and new places, I also ache for a sense of home and a connection to the community in which I live. I put down roots quickly and whole-heartedly as a desert ephemeral whose time to bloom is brief, immersing myself deeply in the experiences offered by each area in an effort to create home. The value I find in this is immeasurable, giving me a sense of stability despite my somewhat migrant behavior.

But it does make leaving harder. Just when I feel like I finally have close friends and enough knowledge to give someone directions by road number, it’s time to go. It’s hard to start a completely new job when you know your current one so well. It’s hard to make new friends, chatting over introductory small talk while your old friends start to move on. It’s hard to organize a new kitchen, damn it!

Read on »

Another sneak peek!
Last week, I announced my most recent project: I published a calendar for 2014 full of some of my favorite photos from the blog! To celebrate, I hosted a giveaway to one of you!

And the winner is CathieJ!

As to her favorite month, she replied, “February. Both my husband and I were born in February. I also love to stay inside during the cold snowy month and indulge in my favorite things: crafting and baking.”

Congratulations Cathie! (Please check your email so we can arrange shipping.)
Thank you to everyone who participated. I hope you’ll consider ordering a copy of the calendar, available now on Lulu! Use the discount code FBC18 to get 18% off, or FREESHIP to get free shipping!

2014 Calendar!
I can’t decide if I am more nervous or excited about sharing this with you. So bear with me.

Since I started this blog two and a half years ago, it has been solely a digital enterprise. Oh sure the cooking and the gardening and the eating exist beyond this little corner of the internet, but my writing and photography and recipes live only here. Recently I’ve been toying with the idea of bringing some of that work to life, creating something that could live on a wall or a desk or a shelf. And no, I am NOT attempting to write a cookbook: I have neither the talent nor the time to take on a project of that scale.

So how about a calendar?

Sneak peek
It seems only appropriate: the available local produce marks seasonal changes for me just as strongly as weather and leaves and hours of daylight. I’ve sifted through hundreds of photos in the last few weeks to find my favorites for each month, and I am thrilled to present the final product to you. I’ve already received a proof, and I am very happy with the result: thick pages, bright colors, and a clean, simple month design make a good calendar in my mind, and this one has all three!

So if you’ve ever wanted some 30 Pounds of Apples swag, your moment has arrived.  If you think this looks like something you want on your own wall, or something you want to give to someone else, I hope you’ll order one! I really think you’ll like it. Everyone needs a calendar, right?

PS:

I also want to give away a copy to one of you. I get so much out of this blog, but my favorite aspect continues to be the conversation, the question-asking, the story-telling from those of you reading. I’m so glad you’re here.

Another sneak peek!

How to Win the 30 Pounds of Apples 2014 Calendar

1. Leave a comment on this post to answer this question: What is your favorite month, and why is it your favorite?
2. BONUS! To enter twice, head on over to 30 Pounds of Apples on Facebook and like the page. Then, come back to this post and leave me a comment saying you liked the Facebook page, and you’ll be entered twice. Fancy! (New likes only, but thanks to all the early adopters!)
3. Enter by 11:59pm EST on Monday, December 2. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 3.
4. Open to US residents only (sorry to my international readers, shipping is so dang expensive!)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the kitchen, it’s that failure is real. It happens a lot. I share a lot of my successes here, and I have more on the way, but I want to make sure you all are perfectly clear that I do suffer some total, utter failures in this little kitchen of mine. Sierra has been lobbying me for a while to do a post on these disasters, so I sifted through some of my unpublished recipes this week to find the best worsts.

I keep all the photos I take when I shoot recipes, sorted into folders, and let the folders sit in an “Unpublished” folder until a recipe is posted on the site. It turns out that I have almost as many unpublished recipes as published ones. Sometimes they sit unpublished because the photos are hideous, sometimes because their moment in seasonal cooking has passed, and sometimes they are abandoned on my hard drive because the recipe itself (or my execution of it) was a total failure. Here is a sampling of some of those disasters.

Maple Pecan Muffins

Maple Pecan Muffins

Pretty, right!? Ooooooh I was so looking forward to this recipe. Maple syrup, chopped fresh pecans, a thick, warm crumb supporting a pat of melting butter… how could they possibly be bad? This is one I wanna try again because seriously, I still don’t know what happened. The muffins were far too dense, flavorless, hard as hockey pucks on the outside, and crumbling to pieces when removed from the wrappers. See how the batter is sitting far below the top of the muffin wrap? They hardly raised at all! Things only got worse the second day, at which point the whole batch was virtually inedible. So much for the world’s best muffin I was hoping for.

Simple Winter Fruit Salad

Simple Winter Fruit Salad

I suppose, in terms of scope, this doesn’t totally qualify as a disaster. Just more of a meh. When I discovered that someone at my farmers market grows kiwi that ripens in early December, I flipped out. How could such an exotic fruit grow somewhere that I live? In an effort to use up fruit already in my fridge before heading to Colorado for Christmas, I decided to feature the kiwi in a little fruit salad. And in truth, it didn’t taste bad. But it was way, way, WAY too acidic. Kiwis, I discovered, are used in some areas as a substitute for tomatoes in salsas. Pomegranates and apples, of course, are also fairly tangy and acidic. The combination of the three, with nothing like a peach or banana to break them up, made this a really, really tart experience that made my mouth feel the way too many Warheads does. Not a condition I would wish on anyone else.

Read on »

Color love

Wow guys.

As the clever among you have likely already deduced, I haven’t been posting much lately. Haven’t cooked much, haven’t edited photos, haven’t written many words about food or the silly stories relating to it. I would love to say that this is due to a lengthy and lazy vacation in the far reaches of the Caribbean or the Pacific. It’s not. No remote islands lacking internet access for this lady.

I knew it had been a while, but I was stunned, frankly, to discover that my last post was a month ago. A whole month. What happened to the thirty-one days of May?

I’ve spent a couple of days reflecting on the veritable evaporation of the last month. Some of you are already familiar with the highlights: Brad graduated law school, bringing his 10-year journey in higher education to a close. Spring semester, the busiest three-months I’ve EVER worked, finally ended, and the relative calm of the summer has arrived. Brad and I took an 11-day, 3,000-mile trip to the Midwest on which we completed two major missions: find a new place to live in a city that I will be calling home by this time next year, and, bake a grooms cake and wedding cake for a pair of dear friends in Wisconsin and also be a bridesmaid in their wedding. The long, late, cool spring has transitioned into a hot, humid summer. Yesterday, after nearly forgetting it was time for this to happen, I turned 27.

Groom's Cake Small

Wedding Cake Small

The truth is that the May was full of things that pulled my time and attention away from my little corner of the internet. In the hustle and bustle of it all, there was little time to cook, and the creative energy normally required to support this blogging endeavor was diverted elsewhere out of necessity. There were actually a few moments when I sat down to try to write a post, but simply felt I had nothing to say. What tale could I possibly weave about glazed carrots, or homemade popcorn, or new potatoes when some urgent deadline was looming over my head?

I’m looking forward to getting back to it. Even after I finish writing this post, I have an afternoon full of cooking projects I can’t wait to start. My desire to write has returned. It’s a beautiful sunny day, which should make for good photos of the rhubarb, berries, garlic scapes, and other tasty treats waiting in the fridge.

I think I’ll go get started.

The sun sets

The New Year always offers such a nice, fresh start. A blank slate. New calendars, a few months with no plane tickets to buy, no approaching major holidays (or holiday parties). But I don’t exactly believe in New Years Resolutions. You can probably guess why. I don’t think I’ve ever made one that really worked. Often, my goals and resolutions are tied heavily to a season, a school year, a semester, or a show. But at this point in the year, I do like setting a few little goals for myself. Some specific, some general, some philosophical, some pragmatic.

At the risk of over-sharing, here’s a list of some little wants, needs, goals, and plans I have for the coming year.

  1. Cultivate a garden worthy of hobbits.
  2. Go outside every day (commuting and errands don’t count, no cheating).
  3. Explore salads.
  4. Don’t let the groundhog scarf up all the baby plants in the garden this year.
  5. Don’t freak out if the groundhog scarfs up all the baby plants in the garden this year.
  6. Join a CSA.
  7. Floss, dang it.
  8. Complete my watch-all-the-Disney-animated-features-in-chronological-order-of-release project (next up: Lady and the Tramp.)
  9. Learn to cook Swiss chard. Also, eggplant.
  10. Get. A. Passport.
  11. Give generously.
  12. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in October or BUST!
  13. Throw a Harry Potter theme party.
  14. Visit my sister.
  15. Write more.
  16. Read more.
  17. Laugh till I turn a little purple more.
  18. Call my grandmas more.
  19. Send fifty surprise letters.
  20. Don’t wish away any months, weeks, days, or hours. Each is rare if not unique.

That’s probably not all. But it feels like a start. Some things to look forward to.

What’s on your mind for 2013?

In the Tulips

I have a post ready for you today. It’s about Christmas parties and cheese and marathon-holiday-cooking.

But I feel frivolous sharing. A little guilty, actually. My heart breaks for the families and friendships torn apart by yesterday’s horrifying shooting in Connecticut. It breaks for the pain that all of us feel as we hug our loved ones closer and mark one more place off the list where we thought we could feel safe.

So I’m not posting today. Recipes can wait until tomorrow. It may seem a token symbol, waiting just one day before jumping back in with a chipper and festive post, but it feels important to take a moment of silence. A moment to grieve for the victims and their families and their friends and their communities.

My thoughts are with you.

It’s sort of interesting how some posts come about. Sometimes I very specifically know I want to try a recipe, I cook and photograph that recipe, edit the photos, write a little something, and post it to the world. Other times, something comes wildly out of left field and I MUST move it to top of my posting schedule (yes, I have one) because it will either lose relevance or because I’ve made some food I desperately want to share with you.

I had no intentions of writing about this, evidenced by the fact that I took not a single photo aside from before and after shots. This post arose out of a weekend in the kitchen what was, for lack of a better word, grueling. So grueling that it threatened to bring on a veritable identity crisis for this little food blogger.

Just in case you haven’t picked up on this, I care deeply about eating locally. I started this blog, in part, to chronicle my quest toward learning what that means and figuring out just how much of my diet I could change to local fare. This has involved shopping primarily at farmers markets, foregoing produce that isn’t seasonally available, avoiding chain restaurants, starting a garden, and learning the art and science of canning to capture produce when it’s plentiful so that I can eat locally all year long.

I’d say my experience with canning up to this weekend could be firmly classified in the “dabbling” realm. For a while I just made jam. There’s a reason that jam is widely considered an entry-level canning project. Couple together berries and sugar, boil the heck out of them, and you’re left with pretty little jars in brilliant shades of ruby and purple that taste delicious on everything from toast to ice cream. I’d graduated to making a few kinds of pickles, and I tried an inaugural batch of apple sauce last fall.

But none of those things are life-sustaining. They didn’t replace any staples that I was hitherto buying from the grocery store. I’d procured a water bath canner before my apple sauce project, and I knew I wanted to go further this summer. So this weekend, I took my first real crack at canning food that could potentially replace some store-bought staples with homemade ones.

Well.

Having selected eight recipes to try (if you’re gonna turn your kitchen upside down, you might as well get a lot done) I came home from the farmers market on Saturday morning well-stocked: two pounds of okra, five pounds of peaches, two quarts of figs, several onions and peppers, large handfuls both of parsley and basil, and, most importantly, nearly sixty pounds of tomatoes. I dug every every sizable pot and bowl from my cabinets and cheerfully set to work.

Read on »

Previously: Part I: A Prologue & Part II: Um, So, What Are We Doing?

Those of you who know me well know I live by lists. Lists of lists. They help me stay focused, complete teeny tasks I might would definitely otherwise forget were they not written down. My BFA in stage management was, in large part, composed of and achieved by making calendars, schedules, and lists.

The little wedding cake (ha) I’m making sure feels a lot closer from this side of my trip home than it did from the other. I am not a professional baker and therefore do not have a mass of trusty recipes and finely honed techniques in my pocket ready to be whipped out a few days before the wedding. With that in mind, I’m spending much of my time over the next ten weeks (gulp) testing recipes, practicing decorating techniques, adapting recipes I like to high altitude (just in case I wasn’t nervous enough about how the cakes will turn out), and ensuring that I’ll have everything I need to I fly across the continent to take over my mother’s kitchen for several days of cake madness.

But hey, I have a plan. And for you fellow list-aholics – you know who you are – I couldn’t help but share.

Read on »